Review > Flash, Captain Cold (Retro Action DC Super Heroes, Mattel)

I’ve often mentioned I don’t like action figures with soft goods–fabric capes, clothes, anything. Such figures could never be my “definitive” figure of a character. However, there’s something to be said for what you could call simply “fun” figures–odd, unusual, or just plain goofy figures who have a certain charm, despite not being at all what one would consider a “definitive” version of a character.

Take Mego-style figures. While Mego arguably represented the most state-of-the-art versions of characters as action figures in the 1970s, they’ve been long surpassed by the works of Kenner, Mattel, Hasbro, and DC Direct. But while your “definitive” Batman action figure might be DC Direct’s Hush version or Mattel’s Crime Stopper Batman, there’s something to be said for the appeal of more cartoonish lines like Mattel’s Retro Action DC Super Heroes–or, for that matter, Funko’s POP Heroes, any of the myriad Hasbro Heroes-style lines. I view these nuveau-Mego figures (Megeau?) more like stylized collectibles than action figures.

Moreover, I find such lines more palatable if there are preexisting “normal” lines. Mego-style figures are fine for Star Trek, DC Super Heroes, Universal Monsters and Doctor Who, which all have more traditional action figure lines available to collectors. But when your first Lost or Venture Bros. figures out of the gate are Mego-style, I’m going to be disappointed.

So, all of this is informing my perception of these two RADCSH figures Mattel sent me last month: Captain Cold and the Flash. I suspect one reason for putting the Flash and CC in this early wave is neither character received a Mego figure in the 1970s. (Captain Cold I get, but why no Flash?) The RADCSH line was developed with Mattel in conjunction with EMCE Toys, a toy company founded by two Mego fans with the express purposes of reviving the Mego style for the modern market.

Packaging: Mattel and EMCE lovingly created a packaging that is so faithful to the original Mego figures, it even features whitish “wear” in the lower left corner of the cards, something that (I’m guessing) was a common occurrence on the original toys. Whatever I think of the figures, I can’t deny the retro appeal of the packaging. The back features very ’70s-looking depictions of the heroes from the wave.

Design & Sculpt: Mattel’s Retro Action figures do not have typical Mego-style bodies, unlike most of EMCE’s other work. Instead of using the public-domain Mego body, Mattel chose to create their own proprietary body. The final result resembles their 1970s Big Jim figures, and it has both advantages and disadvantages over the typical Mego body.

The advantages include better upper body articulation (thanks to solid construction, i.e., plastic joints, rather than rubber bands) and…well, I think that’s about it. The Retro Action body has the same rubber band construction for the torso and hips that most Mego figures do. (Rubber bands in action figures may be the one thing I hate more than soft goods.) These rubber bands are often too tight, causing the figures to hunch over or lean back, or just plain fall over.

Aside from the standard bodies, the only sculpting on these figures are the heads. The trick with these Mego-style figures is to sculpt a head that isn’t too realistic-looking, or else you end up with this. But here the head sculpts, while simple, do a great job of capturing the character. The Flash has a goofy smile on his face, while Captain Cold has his trademark smirk.

Outfit & Paint: There’s not a whole lot of paint to speak of, except on the heads. Both of them aren’t quite as sharp as the usual modern standards, with quite a bit of slop around the edges. That said, if the paint were super-neat and clean, it might look a bit incongruous on such a retro-styled figure.

The outfits are quite nicely done. The Flash’s outfit is primarily a bodysuit. The chest emblem appears to be an iron-on; I’m not as sure about the lightning bolts. Unfortunately, the chest emblems have a tendency to peel when the figure is handled frequently or if you remove the outfit. (However, a trick I learned with my RADCSH Batman is that they can be easily put back on with a standard glue stick.)

The other part of the outfit, and I suppose this could count as sculpting too, are the boots. They’re custom-designed for the Flash, and they even feature his big trademark treads along the bottom.

Captain Cold’s outfit has a sheen to it that’s reminiscent of snow pants. The “shawl” and cuffs  are sharp, and the belt looks great. The boots are unique, like the Flash’s, with “frost” along the tops.

Articulation: Both figures feature what seems to be the standard RADCSH articulation: ball jointed shoulders, a ball joint at the torso and hips (all controlled through a rubber band), swivel-hinges at the wrists and ankles for a ball-joint-like range of motion, and hinges at the elbows and knees. For both of these figures, the foot articulation is mostly useless due to the thick boots.

The figures don’t feel as loose and floppy as the previous waves of these figures. The arms, obviously, are nice and tight thanks to the solid construction.

Accessories: Considering these figures are $20 a pop at Toys R Us, some accessories would be appreciated. Sadly, the Flash (who, admittedly, doesn’t have any obvious accessories) has none, but Captain Cold, in addition to his unique belt, has his trademark freeze gun. It’s molded in its classic magenta, rather than the silver used for the DCUC version.

Quality Control: There’s the aforementioned issue with the Flash’s emblem; aside from that, no problems.

Overall: I’m going to try to grade these a bit more objectively than usual. Again, I’m no fan of the Mego style, but I want to try to judge how these stack up against the other Mego figures out there.

The solid construction on the shoulders is a plus, and the outfits and accessories are about as good as the rest of the market out there. The packaging in particular is well-executed and appealing. I still hate the rubber band construction of the torso. I know that’s part of the nostalgic appeal of these toys, but I can’t help but think they’d draw more younger, more casual collectors in if they went with solid construction.

But most of all, the reason I’m giving these figures an average score is the $20 price point. At something like $15, these would be a relatively solid deal. $20 is a lot harder to swallow for a mass-produced line like this.

111/200

Comments now closed (17)

  • Other than some of those Mad Monsters and Crazy Clowns from Classic TV Toys, I just bought my first Mattel Mego styled figures this week: The Real Ghostbusters figures from Mattel. I have to say that I am quite impressed with them. I had no desire to purchase them, but the color, the head sculpts, and the unique accessories really sold me. I'm now looking for some variously colored pipe cleaners to make streams for them.

    While I'm not really interested in these, I think you wrote a good objective review that did compare these to other figures in this style, which is important. While I don't anticipate buying any of these unless they release a Barbara Gordon Batgirl, I do appreciate the vintage/retro aesthetics of them.

  • I like the fact that Flash actually looks like he'd look perfectly normal on a shelf next to the rest of the WGSH of the era. I wasn't alive in the 1970s, but I can't imagine the frustration of being a kid back then and having Mego give you Kid Flash but no Flash figure!

  • As someone who actually had Mego toys as a kid (I know – I'm old) and is really happy to see Mattel putting these out, I have to say that was good review. I'm glad to hear that they feel a bit more sturdy than the previous waves. And you're absolutely correct in your price point assessment, Poe. Twenty bucks – $22.50 here in NYC – is just too much for these.

  • The only toys I was interested in as a little kid were my Mego Super-Heroes…until Star Wars came along, but by then I was about 10, and ready to move on. I am mostly pleased with the Retro-Action line so far, but I'd like to see a new Batman, because the removeable cowl makes his head look too big! That's basically my only complaint. The improvements that Mattel made on Mego really are improvements. No mittens for gloves, which eventually would split at the seams, or get lost. Heavier rubbery boots that help the figures stand on their own. And of course character selection.

    Yes, it was very frustrating not having many of the characters that appeared on Super Friends! Particularly Lex Luthor, Flash and Green Lantern.

    Some of you guys may not like these figures because they're just for fun, or because of their soft goods, but for many of us, Retro-Action is a major nod to the ORIGINAL superheroes toyline that we grew up on (after Captain Action of course, but that was a whole other concept entirely, and not really a full toyline).

    They're actually dolls. No question about it. I suppose that's another reason to hate them, if you're so inclined.

    I believe that the Retro-Action line is going to continue in 2011 and perhaps 2012. I just hope that Mattel gets around to re-doing all the DC characters we had in yesteryear (including the Super Foes and the Super Gals), in addition to all these new characters.

    And I think we are also about ready at this point for teen characters and a Batmobile. It would be great to have a Mego-style Robin who wasn't just as tall and muscular as Batman! It would also be very cool to have a Mr. Mxyzptlk who wasn't as tall or as fat as the Penguin!

  • Ugh, those look horrendous. I'd assume if someone wanted super hero dolls they'd go the Hot Toys, Sideshow, Tonner, or even Mattel 12" and DC Direct route. But I guess nostalgia is a seductress, and if you grew up in the Mego era these have appeal for you.

    On a related note, Toyfare and Wizard Magazine–two publications that did more to try to revive Mego than any non-manufacturer I can think of–are ceasing publication.

  • I'm not a huge Mego fan myself though I can see the appeal. I would like to pick up the Luthor and Superman ones though and if anyone has either and is looking for Buzz-Off, Chief Carnivus, or Count Marzo from MOTUC let me know.

  • Great review on these two!

    I'm too young (just a little) for the nostalgia on these, but my kids LOVE them!

    My daughter's first thought on them was,"Daddy, these are like Barbies but smaller."

    It seemed like a fair description. 🙂

  • Is that the same gun mold as the DCUC Cold?

    If not does it fit his hand?

  • I've been swapping all of Mattel's Retro-Action figures onto new bodies made by Cast-Away-Toys. It gives me bicep swivel and a nicer overall look.

    If you don't want this pair, I'd gladly give them a good home (and body).

  • @Paul: Same here — Cast-A-Way makes the best re-Mego body out there for my money (though the Zica body looks promising, if a little big). The problem is, it tacks another $8 (at least) onto the cost of an already overpriced figure. It hurts a little less when buying the Mattel stuff at TJ Maxx prices, but at $20 a pop, more often than not it's just not worth the trouble and expense to replace the useless Mattel body.

    I know a lot of people are saying that the series 3 body is improved, but no one seems to address specifics — Poe, can these hold a pose at the hip, unlike the bodies on previous series?

  • @americanhyena: The gun is a new sculpt, but no, he doesn't hold it all that great owing to the generic shape of the hand.

    @Paddy Fitz: Yeah, that's exactly what they can do. The hip/torso joints are tighter.

  • @Paddy Fitz: It's not the hips. There was an additional piece of plastic in torso/crotch of the original figures. If you own Green Arrow, you may remember he worked alright.

    Somewhere in production of Arrow to Wave 1 & 2, they removed this piece. Which meant the figures were slouched over all the time.

    This piece was put back in for Wave 3. No idea why it was ever removed.

  • @Newt:

    No, it's the hips, too. I got Green Arrow when it was first released, and while it stood a little better than later releases, it still slouched a bit, and didn't hold a pose at the hip. So if the wave 3 figures work as well as Green Arrow, then they still don't work well enough.

  • @Paddy Fitz: I have Wave 3 as well. The only difference I see in the construction is the plastic piece which is inside the torso/crotch area.

    The inner rubber band is tighter because of the plastic piece, which makes them stand better. Nothing has been changed on the hip joints themselves.

    They may have tightened the bands as well, but it's the plastic piece that's making the difference.

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