Toy Review: Twin Blades Batman and Mallet Smasher Joker... plus, a Rant about action figures as collectibles

I've been putting off collecting the Power Attack Batman figures for way too long. But the line is so... generic. Usually, Batman figures are representative of Batman in some other medium, like a cartoon, movie, or comic book. But with Power Attack, Mattel decided to throw caution to the wind and design a generic Batman line with no attachments to anything else, an affordable toyline that appeals to kids rather than collectors. And because Power Attack doesn't represent Batman from any cartoon, comic, or movie, I wasn't interested. But recently I've discovered that...

I'm sick of action figures that are designed to be collectibles.

Sure, any action figure is collectible, but what I really mean is that I'm sick of action figures that are designed to appeal to collectors with hyper-articulation (with the maximum number of points of articulation possible) and hyper-realism (which we'll define here as ultra-defined sculpts and paint apps, regardless of whether or not the character is "real"). But waitaminnit... how can hyper-articulation and hyper-realism be bad for toys?

Well, let's start with hyper-articulation. I've briefly mentioned my beef in previous posts, but I haven't gone into all that much detail. Basically, hyper-articulation undermines playability by making the figure more complicated to manipulate, more prone to loosening joints, and more inclined to breakage.

But wait, you may say, hyper-articulation makes a figure more fun to play with! Not exactly... it makes a figure more fun for a collector to play with. A collector digs hyper-articulation because he/she can sculpt a figure into a perfect pose for their display shelf. As long as the articulation holds long enough for a few iterations of posing, the collector is happy. And that's because as soon as the figure goes on the display shelf, it will never be touched again. But give a kid a hyper-articulation figure, and it quickly becomes a rag doll. Or, the wrist breaks off. Or, the articulated fingers can't hold a weapon. Whatever.

You might then counter that you loved GI Joe figures as a kid because of their articulation. I totally agree, and there were a lot of toys back then that were similarly awesome (I loved BraveStarr for the same reason). But remember that vintage Joes were not hyper-articulated in the modern sense. They only had 12 joints (at best), and most of those joints did not perform the ball-socket type of movement that today's collectors demand. That's because the vintage Joe articulation was engineered not to undermine the playability of the figures.

Okay, that's hyper-articulation... but what can possibly be bad about hyper-realism? For one thing, it balloons production costs and over-inflates the price of the figures, placing them out of the impulse purchase range where toys need to be for kids. But the real problem is that it makes the figures boring.

Collectors demand hyper-realism in the sense that they want the figure to be as perfect a representation of the character it's supposed to depict as possible. But that then forces the toy manufacturer to be a slave to realism, and ultimately leads to figures that are less imaginative. Think of how incredibly imaginative the vintage Playmates Ninja Turtles figures were. All that would have been lost if they Playmates tried to be "hyper-realistic" and design perfect depictions of the cartoons.

Wait... isn't this supposed to be a toy review?

Um... oh yeah. The reason I went off on that rant is that Mattel's Power Attack Batman line is a great example of how cool action figures can be if they're designed to be toys rather than collectibles. Check out Twin Blades Batman!

There are plenty of Batmans (Batmen?) with cool color schemes in this line, but I went with Twin Blades because he has that grey/blue combo that was so iconic from my childhood. (Maybe that's another example of a collector who can't think outside the box, but oh well.) This is a unique design that doesn't really represent Batman from any other medium, and I really dig this distinctly different take on the character with its dynamic body proportions and cool Bat-symbol that demands to be noticed. It reminds me a bit of the design from The Batman.

There's nothing too complicated about the paint apps, and that's great. Simple paint apps are preferable here because any washes or detailing would dilute that wonderfully toy-like color saturation.

Articulation is limited to 8 points: swivel neck, swivel shoulders, hinge elbows, swivel waist, and swivel hips. It's great for a toy, although not quite as fun as the modern TMNT articulation.

And hey, the cape is soft goods. I hate plastic capes because they restrict the figure from sitting (important for a toy that's supposed to fit in a Batmobile) and tend to pull the figure backward when it's standing. Plastic capes look great, but they just aren't practical for toys.

Batman comes with two gigantic blades which look a lot like plastic dinner knives. He holds them well and looks pretty cool doing so. The handles look like latches for some kind of missile shooter, which makes me wonder if the blades were intended to fire from something.

Et tu, Mallet Smasher Joker? This is also a different stylization than you might expect, and I love it. The paint apps work well for what they're trying to do, and there's enough color variation to make the figure visually compelling. The sculpt is distinctive and fun, and there are a few details that give the figure character (check out the smiles on the boots).

Collectors will scoff at the lack of articulation with only two real points at the neck and left shoulder. But that's because Joker has a great action feature: squeeze the legs, and he twists his waist and swings his mallet down with authority! It's a surprisingly effective action feature that is just plain fun.

Oh yeah, about the mallet. The handle slides up and down the pole, which allows for the mallet to extend outward when it comes smashing down. As you might expect, the mallet has a Joker face on the end. Joker also comes with a cardboard Batman target, which is cool enough for what it's worth.

One other thing: Batman clocks in at about $10, with Joker at $13. Not a bad price for 6"-scale figures, and certainly more toy for your buck than most collectible lines like Star Wars.

So here we have a Batman and Joker that are designed to be nothing more than toys. They're not collectibles, they don't have a lot of crazy articulation, and they don't have a bunch of detailing that makes them look like realistic little people. They're just toys... and they're great! I'll certainly be getting more from this line and my days of buying "collectible" action figures are over.

On the other hand, I fully intend to buy more Eaglemoss Batmobiles and DST Trek ships, both of which are firmly in the "collectible" realm. Oh, and none of that complaint against hyper-realism applies to PVC dinosaurs, either. I guess I see Eaglemoss Batmobiles, DST starships, and PVC dinosaurs as models rather than toys. But I will say, don't expect to see a review of Movie Masters Man of Steel Superman here. I'll be going for those fun little 3 3/4" figures, all the way!

More pics, please.

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.