Despite being the archetypal superhero, Superman has a surprisingly limited rogues’ gallery. However, he does have a few heavies aside from Lex Luthor, and arguably the #2 Super-baddie is Brainiac.
We had a version of Brainiac in DC Super Heroes, based on the short-lived robot version that, despite is brief time in the comics, managed to inspire a much-loved Super Powers figure. To the best of my knowledge, the Silver Age version of Brainiac has never had an action figure until this year–suddenly he’s getting one in both DC Direct’s upcoming History of the DC Universe and here in Mattel’s DC Universe Classics “Clash in the Cosmos” two-pack.
To be fair, it’s not all that hard to see why the Silver Age Brainiac has had a hard time getting made–he’s absolutely, 100% goofy-looking. The electric pink shirt, the white polo shirt collar, the black shorts and knee socks…seriously, what was artist Al Plastino thinking when he designed this guy? I think he probably looked ridiculous even in 1958; by the late 1970s, his design was flat-out ludicrous.
However, that hasn’t stopped good writers from making Brainiac a force to be reckoned with, from his appearances as a major big bad on Justice League Unlimited to his recent retcon/reboot at the hands of Geoff Johns.
Oh, and there’s a Superman figure, too.
Vril Dox served as scientist prime for his technologically advanced home world of Colu. When he tried to take over the planet, he was punished by being disintegrated. His consciousness survived and adopted the identity of Brainiac, setting his sights on assimilating the knowledge and intelligence of all cultures in the universe, and then eradicating them. Brainiac has destroyed hundreds of worlds, including Superman’s home, Planet Krypton.
Rocketec to Earth from the doomed Planet Krypton, the infant Kal-El was adopted by the Kent family of Smallville, Kansas. Young Clark Kent grew strong and powerful under the rays of Earth’s yellow sun, developing extraordinary super powers. In adulthood, Clark used these abilities as Superman, championing truth, justice and the American way while keeping secret his true identity and acting as a reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper.
Packaging: Once again, Mattel opts for the dynamic pose–and again, I have to admit it looks really good in the package. While I do think the two-pack boxes are much too large and environmentally wasteful, I can’t deny that the figures look good in the package. However, given the mass market nature of the line and the relative simplicity of the sculpting–not to mention the fact that I suspect a fair majority of DCUC collectors open their figures–I’m not sure the dynamic posing is worth the huge packaging and the warping and weapons-gripping issues associated with it.
But since I’m not a MOC collector, I can only strive to be objective. If I were a MOC collector, the posing would look great, although the giant box may pose a space issue in terms of display. As a collector who opens his figures, I’m more concerned with the potential problems of such dynamuic posing.
Design & Sculpt: Both Brainiac and Superman and primarily re-uses. If you own the long-haired Superman, you own this one aside from the new head (which you also own if you’re lucky enough to have the Eradicator). I do think the short-haired sculpt looks really good on this body, and for those who are curious, no, the holes that were used on the Eradicator to hold his visor on are not on this figure.
Unfortunately, unless Superman’s developed some serious wrinkles on his hands, we once again we get the “glove” hands painted flesh-color that we saw on Ultraman. It’s most evident near the base of the index fingers. Also, unless you’ve got him standing at extreme attention, chest thrust far out, Superman’s cape sticks out at pretty significant angle behind him. The cape is made from the more pliable plastic we sometimes get, rather than the rock-hard type seen on the likes of Eradicator.
Sculpting wise, there’s nothing new with Brainiac other than his head and collar. Again we get the gloved hands painted flesh-color–Mattel, don’t let this happen again!
The head sculpt on Brainiac is fantastic–one of the best head sculpts we’ve seen in this line so far. The slightly-larger-than-normal forehead, the electrodes, and the little smirk are very well done, and make me wish I liked the overall figure a more.
Plastic & Paint: Superman fares well in this department. His paint applications are nice and clean, and the tampographing on his symbols on the chest and back of the cape are crisp and aligned properly. While I wish he had regular eyes instead of the red ones, the paint work on his head is good, especially the blue drybrush on his hair.
Brainiac’s head paints are sharp and the rest of his body, while plain, is fine except for his arms. The pink plastic used for his arms is very noticeably darker than that used for his torso, especially when you look at the contrast between the ball joint disc and the shoulder. It makes what would otherwise be a decent figure into one that looks too much like a toy.
Articulation: Both Superman and Brainiac have the standard DCUC articulation: a ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders, hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, swivels at the biceps, wrists, lower thighs and waist, and H-hinges at the hips for ball joint-like movement. It’s notable that this Superman can probably look up (for flying poses) better than any other Superman figure I own.
Accessories: The only accessory is Brainiac’s gun, which is the same one that came with DC Super Heroes Lex Luthor. Mystifyingly, the piece of translucent green Kryptonite that made Luthor’s gun at all cool is missing here, leaving us with a rather bland and disappointing ray gun.
Quality Control: For future reference, I’m only going to count issues with individual figures as quality control issues (and not something found on all figures, like the glove-flesh hands or the dark pink arms). I had no QC issues with my figures–the joints all rotate fine, and I didn’t notice any significant slop or errors in the paint applications.
The Superman figure, combined with the excellent Brainiac head sculpt, saves this set from being below average. Had the glove-hands issue not been present and the plastic on Brainiac’s arms matched the torso, I might have awarded an entire extra point. The Superman figure in particular is pretty cool, and will make for a good stand-in until we finally get one with normal eyes.
On the other hand, I’ll have a hard time replacing my robotic Brainiac with this one. Part of that is owing to the original comic design, of course, but the color issues and the re-used gun don’t help him much.
Given that we’ll undoubtedly be getting this same Superman with normal eyes in the near future, I can only recommend this set to diehard Brainiac fans. An enterprising customizer might want to use the head to make a DCUC-scale Alex Ross Brainiac (perhaps using the Movie Masters Scarecrow as a base).