(Click on any photo for a larger version.)
In the early 1990s, DC Comics was losing a lot of ground to Marvel Comics and its X-Men juggernaut. There was a perception that DC’s heroes–particularly their top three, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman–had gotten a bit long in the tooth and weren’t relevant to neither younger nor older readers anymore. And so DC did what most companies do in such a situation: they shook things up.
Superman was famously killed off in the Death of Superman, to be replaced by four “edgier” characters: the Cable-like Cyborg Superman, the “tough kid” Superboy, the ruthless Eradicator, and Steel. Batman’s back was broken and the cape and cowl went to Azrael, who had no compunctions about breaking Batman’s “no killing villains” rule. And Wonder Woman got her mantle swiped by Artemis, an errant Amazonian who proved to be–wait for it–more ruthless than Wonder Woman.
To DC’s credit, all three of these examples were ostensibly designed with the return of the original character in mind. DC hoped to remind readers what was good about the real Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. That said, if any of the ersatz Supermen, Azrael or Artemis had really taken off with readers, I have little doubt DC would have embraced them. As it is, Azrael and Steel got their own solo series for a while, Bane, Doomsday, Cyborg Superman and Eradicator became recurring supervillains, Superboy joined the Teen Titans and Artemis became a frequent back-up player in Wonder Woman.
There’s an argument to be made that all three of these storylines were sales gimmicks and featured gimmicky characters–particularly Doomsday and Bane, two supervillains who were invented just to beat Superman and Batman (Wonder Woman’s situation was a bit more complicated). Still, some of the designs were pretty interesting (if you’re capable of ignoring Joe Quesada’s Az-Bats outfit, a blasphemy that could only have been spawned by a mind infernally inspired by Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos). It’s worth noting that Artemis was often drawn in the style of the 1990s–i.e., improbably large-bosomed and voluptuous.
Since Artemis did briefly wear the official Wonder Woman uniform, she made for a good variant for the fourth wave of DC Universe Classics. Fortunately, Mattel and the Four Horsemen did more than just pop on a new head; Artemis has a good amount of new tooling to justify her purchase.
But first: who is Artemis, you may ask? A quick skim of her DC Database entry reveals an extraordinarily complicated backstory, but the short version is, she’s a member of a tribe of Amazons that split off from the original group, which includes Wonder Woman. Unlike Wonder Woman and her kin, Artemis was not (originally) immortal, and her powers were her own excellent warrior training and some enchanted items from the gods that gave her greater strength, speed and the ability to fly.
While I usually don’t spend more than sixty seconds looking at it before tearing it apart, the DCUC packaging is good. I like that the cardboard is so tight to the bubble–a concession to retailers like Wal-mart who are trying to be environmental by requesting manufacturers use less packaging (and thus, generate less trash).
And it’s always great to get a bio card on the back, and it’s nice that the package tells you which figures come with which part of the Despero Collect-and-Connect figure. In the case of Artemis, it’s particularly useful since even a lot of DC fans don’t know who she is.
Let’s face it: DC Universe Classics is as good as mass-market sculpting can get. These figures are easily on par with the more expensive product DC Direct puts out. The Four Horsemen are gifted sculptors, and they’ve managed to find a great, cohesive style for DCUC.
Artemis has an excellent head sculpt that captures her exotic looks. I actually think her facial sculpt is even better than that of Wonder Woman–it exudes attitude, whereas Diana’s facial expression is a bit blank.
The hair is also very well done. Sculpting long hair that falls realistically seems to be something the Horsemen have been working on, and the texture on the hair of Artemis and WW is superb.
Artemis also has some tooling that WW doesn’t. Her pelvis features a sculpted-on belt to hold the quiver, which is a new separate piece. The arrows are sculpted in, which is a bit disappointing but not a surprise. Artemis also has new feet featuring straps and wings; unlike Diana, Artemis cannot fly on her own, and so she needs to rely on Hermes’ enchanted sandals to get her around.
The only part of the sculpt that I might argue could be improved are the arms. WW and Artemis are extremely strong women, and I think the arms, while toned, are a bit too slender for these characters.
Plastic & Paint
It’s no secret that DCUC’s Achilles’ heel has been its very hit-and-miss record in the quality control department. Alongside duplicate limbs (such as two left forearms) or giant right hands (I’m looking at you, What’s-Happening-to-My-Body variant Robin), paint applications have also been a huge problem, as I learned firsthand with wave three.
I was lucky enough to order Artemis from Toys ‘R Us’s website, which means I had no idea what the quality of the figure I was getting would be. I got lucky; my Artemis has excellent paint work. I’m especially impressed by the paint on the head and hair–check out the eyes and lipstick in the first photo above. Again, it’s arguably even better work than Wonder Woman (and that was very good work).
While DCUC doesn’t have the same level of articulation as Marvel Legends, it has the right amount for my taste. Artemis has a ball jointed neck, ball-and-hinge shoulders, swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist, and thighs, and hinges at the elbows, knees, torso, and ankles. There’s also a touch of side-to-side movement on the ankles, allowing her to take a wider stance and remain stable. It’s all worked in quite well and doesn’t look too obtrusive.
Most importantly, the arm articulation does allow for some decent bow-and-arrow poses. And the slightly odd hand sculpts–possibly intended to hold a gun, since they may be the same sculpts used for Harley Quinn–look surprisingly like the proper grip for a bow.
Whereas Wonder Woman likes to mix it up in melee combat with her axe and shield, Artemis is more of a long-range fighter. Her only unattached accessory is her longbow. Early prototype shots showed the arrows were removable (and the bowstring itself was possibly made from some flexible material or fabric), but for the production model the arrows, bow and bowstring are all one piece. It’s a bit disappointing, since it means Artemis can’t actually hold the bow in the ready-to-fire position. Still, even a single separate arrow would have been a nice touch.
Artemis also has the Lasso of Truth on her left hip and a quiver of arrows on her right. Again, the arrows are sculpted in. The paint work on all of these accessories is rather bland–definitely not as good as the apps on the figure itself.
Of course, Artemis also comes with Despero’s right leg. I’m very fortunate I already had Wonder Woman and the leg she came with, because the leg Artemis came with had a left boot instead of a right one. Mattel’s QC problems strike again!
I didn’t originally plan on getting Artemis; I knew very little about the character and I knew she’d only worn the Wonder Woman uniform for a very brief time. But now that I’ve got her, I admit she’s won me over. She’s got enough new tooling to distinguish her from Wonder Woman, and is arguably worth the purchase for her head sculpt alone.