I don’t collect 12″ figures. The main reason for that is my dislike of all soft goods on action figures–no fabric for me–but it’s also a cost and space issue. So when I review the 12″ Christopher Reeve Superman, which Mattel very kindly sent me a sample of, you should know you’re getting the review of a 12″ neophyte. If you want a review by a 12″ connoisseur, you’ll have to wait for Michael Crawford’s review. (There may be other good 12″ reviewers out there, but MWC is the only one I read.)
For most people, Christopher Reeve is the definitive screen Superman. He has yet to be supplanted by a Christian Bale-like performance (though it’s possible the upcoming Chris Nolan-produced, Zack Snyder-directed film might finally do so). And unlike most superhero actors, the spandex works for him. Of the original films, Superman II is my favorite, but both of the first films are pretty good, while the latter two leave quite a bit to be desired (though I must admit some fondness for the ridiculous Nuclear Man).
There hasn’t been a whole lot of Christopher Reeve Superman merchandise until recently, aside from some Mego toys in the late 1970s. But in the past two years, DC Direct has produced a statue, Mattel has this figure and soon, Hot Toys will release their own 12″ version.
Packaging: The packaging showcases the entire figure in an iconic, fists-on-hips pose. It also features the crystal podium from the Fortress of Solitude at his side, which is a nice touch for MOC collectors. The extra hands, the crystals, and the display stand are contained inside the cardboard section to Supes’s right.
The packaging is not what you’d call collector-friendly. If you’re going to open him, don’t plan on putting him back in. You’ll have to free him from countless plastic restraints, cut through lots of tape, and the display stand, once assembled, doesn’t come apart.
Design & Sculpt: DC Direct has already produced a comic-based Superman at this price point and scale (well, 13″, really), so the big draw here is that it’s Christopher Reeve as Superman. The prototype’s head sculpt shown at SDCC looked okay but not great; as you’d expect, the sculpt was a bit softened during the production process, resulting in a middle-of-the-road sculpt. The overall effect of the face is enough to get the idea that they’re going for Reeves, but it’s just off. Dr. Mrs. Ghostal described it as Brandon Routh made up to look like Reeve.
Zod and Luthor don’t have to be perfect, but the Reeve likeness was something Mattel had to nail, both in sculpting and in production. They really should have put the Four Horsemen on this one. They will inevitably be shown up by the Hot Toys version, although that figure will cost twice as much as this one.
As for the overall body, Supes is a bit more muscled than he is in the films, but that seems to be in keeping with the somewhat less realistic, more comic book-ish style of this 12″ line. But he’s not hulking, and that’s a plus.
Outfit: The blue color used for the suit looks to be a bit darker than the shade from the films and more like the Routh Superman. This is an ongoing issue with Mattel’s Superman figures, 12″ or otherwise, and it’s starting to get really annoying–whether it’s DC Licensing or Mattel behind it, what is this obsession with not letting us have a light-blue Supes?
The material chosen for the blue part of the suit is tight-fitting, but allows for plenty of movement in the articulation, and I found it didn’t get pinched too often between the joints. The cape drapes nicely over the shoulders. There is some rather obvious stitching along the edges and seams that you tend not to get with higher-end figures, but on the other hand you pay more for those higher-end figures.
I’m not certain whether or not the outfit can be removed. There are velcro snaps on the back, but the soles of the boots seem to be attached to the stitching, so I’m not sure how to get it off without removing the feet, and I’m not sure whether those are removable, so I’m not going to try.
Articulation: Here’s the articulation, as near as I could tell (since I couldn’t actually remove the suit to see it): a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, ball-and-hinge wrists, ball-and-hinge ankles, ball-and-hinge hips, a ball jointed torso, swivel biceps, and hinged elbows and knees. It’s possible he has a swivel waist, but it didn’t seem to move much and usually moved at the torso ball joint instead.
For the most part I found the articulation highly satisfying, with one exception: the head can’t look straight up, so Supes can’t look straight ahead when he flies. Given that Mattel went to the trouble of providing a great flight stand, this is a disappointing oversight.
Accessories: Superman’s big accessory is the crystal podium from the Fortress of Solitude, which includes two removable crystals (or is one of those kryptonite?). It’s a neat, well-made pack-in, and I imagine there are a few diehard Superman fans out there who will pick this set up just so they can use this with their 13″ DCD or Hot Toys Supes.
He also comes with two extra sets of hands: two “flat” hands for flying poses, and two “open” hands for using the crystals.
Finally, there’s the stand. While you can use it for plain vanilla stand-up posing, he doesn’t really need it–he’ll stand fine on his own. However, the top of the stand can be raised and lowered and the clamp can be moved on a hinge, which means you can set him up in some great flying poses. The clamp is nice and sturdy, and the stand uses gear-like teeth for its raise/lower function, so the stand will stay in place no matter how high you’ve got Supes flying.
Quality Control: I didn’t run into any QC problems, with the possible exception of a stuck/tight waist joint; again, I’m not even sure if there’s supposed to be a joint there, and even if there is, the torso joint can handle most of those posing needs.
Overall: There are two big considerations for this figure: the price point and the head sculpt.
In terms of articulation, outfit, and accessories, I think this figure is mostly on par with similarly-priced figures. From what I’ve read, the articulation is actually pretty good for a 12″ figure, and the extra hands and the crystal podium are great.
But there’s no question the head sculpt leaves a lot to be desired, especially for $60. It’s just not quite Christopher Reeve, and that’s supposed to be the big selling point for this figure. From certain angles (such as in my flying pose photo), it does look a lot like Reeve. What I’m saying is this: you might think it looks more or less like Reeve than I do, and that may determine whether or not you want to buy it.
If you decide you do want one, you can buy it here from Mattycollector.