Much like his arch-nemesis Batman, the Joker’s longstanding popularity is partly due to how easily he lends himself to reinvention. He can be everything from a harmless jester to a murderous psychotic, and everything in between. On screen he’s been played by such disparate thespians as Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger, and each made a memorable version that was wholly their own.
Given Heath Ledger’s bravura performance the previous year, Rocksteady Studios had to be make sure the Joker they created for Batman: Arkham Asylum was equally engaging. As with many aspects of the game, they chose to walk a line between reality and comic book fantasy, creating a Joker whose appearance and murderous behavior is in line with The Dark Knight and the darker corners of the Batman comics mythos, while casting Hamill as the voice actor. Hamill played the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, which memorably balanced the murderous Joker of the 1940s and 1970s with the laughing prankster of the 1950s and 1960s. While the Joker of Arkham Asylum never balks at a senseless murder, he’s also much quicker with a joke than Ledger’s Clown Prince of Crime.
As I mentioned in my Batman review, DC Direct seems to have pulled out all the stops for their Arkham Asylum figures. This is somewhat interesting, since two other companies (Mattel and Square Enix) are also making figures based on the games, yet DCD isn’t just trying to make a quick buck as they have with some other their other videogame lines (i.e., anything except World of Warcraft).
Packaging: The Arkham Asylum figures come in an attractive clamshell blister designed to look like Batman’s cowl. It’s closely tied to the game’s marketing art, and a nice companion to the game itself.
Design & Sculpt: Amazing. The Joker (and Scarface) were sculpted by Paul Harding, who’s done quite a bit of action figure work, but he’s outdone himself here. As you can see if you click on the pic of the in-game 3D render above, the design is very accurate to the game.
I love the head sculpt, though I feel obliged to mention that it’s not quite 100% identical to the game–the teeth are a bit too large, as are the pupils. The in-game face has more of a shark’s look. But that’s no knock against Harding–videogame faces are often difficult to capture, and I think he did a better job than Square Enix. Regardless of game accuracy though, it’s a fantastic Joker head sculpt, full of malicious character.
The figure also has a small metal chain at the hip, which is a nice touch–they could have gotten away with just sculpting it, and it adds a touch of–dare I say?–class to the figure.
Plastic & Paint: Part of what makes the sculpt stand out is the great paint applications. This is often an issue for DC Direct, but they’ve nailed it on the Joker.
The paint is tight and clean, with very few stray marks, and some light washes add just the right amount of weathering. The work on the face is particularly good, as the was lets the details come out so much more than the bright white faces of earlier Joker figures (see the comparison pic).
Some of the colors are a bit off from the game, particularly the very dark purple used for the suit. It’s practically black, which isn’t really game-accurate, but the figure still looks great.
Articulation: The articulation is interesting. He has an excellent ball and socket neck, as most DCD figures do these days (the range on their necks put most DCUC figures to shame). His arms and hips aren’t just swivels, believe it or not–the arms are ball joints, while the have a wee bit of left-and-right give to them (in terms of design they’re somewhat like the hips of Millennium MOTU figures, i.e., not H-hinges like DCUC).
He’s also got hinges at the elbows and knees, swivels at the wrists, and what appear to be restricted ball joints at the ankles. While he won’t be doing any roundhouse kicks, and some biceps swivels would have been a nice touch, he’s still one of the most articulated Jokers we’ve seen from DC Direct.
Accessories: The Joker only comes with a black display base and one other accessory, but it’s a doozy: Scarface himself. Scarface has a swivel neck and hinged shoulders and hips, which means you can get him into a sitting position. He also has a slot on his back for the Joker’s hand, and the Joker can hold him securely.
Scarface appears briefly in a display case in Arkham Asylum, and later in the Joker’s hands. Oddly enough, he also appeared in a recent issue of DC’s Arkham City comic (which takes place after the first game, obviously), looking much more like his comic version than the wooden doll shown here.
I would have liked a pistol, since the Joker wields one through much of the game, but Scarface is a great add-in.
Fun Factor: Surprisingly high for a DC Direct figure. Unlike Batman, his articulation allows for a good number of fun poses.
Quality Control: No problems.
Overall: I love this figure. The great sculpting and paint and the surprisingly decent articulation (for DC Direct), combined with my love for the Arkham Asylum/City franchise, make this possibly my favorite Joker figure yet. (As much as I hate to say it, yes, that includes the Four Horsemen’s DCUC version.)
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