Review > 12″ Christopher Reeve Superman (Mattel)

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.

The Mattel Superman is currently available for $60 on their Mattycollector website. You can also get a 12″ General Zod, and a Gene Hackman Lex Luthor is coming sometime in 2011.

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.

[raven 3]


Pic of the Day


Pic of the Day


  1. Poe

    @MummaGhostal: To be totally fair, you’re right–I did want a cloth coat for my Dick Tracy figure, and you made an awesome one.

  2. He-Dan

    What is a Michael Jackson head doing on a Superman?

  3. MummaGhostal

    As the Mumma who had to actually sew ( or glue or staple) the occasional cape and coat for Poe's figures when they had costume changes ( I was MUCH better at painting the new colors on the old figures!), I am happy to hear that he is no longer interested in clothes for his " guys", as I called them. And though the Dr Mrs is a brilliant knitter with extraordinary talent, I'm sure even she would weary of a new little bitty outfit every season!

  4. Thrawn

    @ FakeEyes22

    The Bruce/Rachel relationship was one of the big problems I had with the Nolan films. It's ironic to me, but the one character Nolan doesn't seem to really have a handle on is Batman himself. He made quite a few blunders with the character in my opinion.

  5. FakeEyes22

    Batman hanging a dude upside down and screaming at him? Terrifying!

    Speaking like that in a well lit room to an ally? That's wierd.

    You know what's a jerk move? Seeing your ex in a happy relationship and saying "I'm gonna quit being Batman now and you HAVE to be MY girl! You said it! No backsies! Also, your current guy will be taking care of this city instead of me while you and I live happily ever after. Because I admire him and I'm noble and heroic. Champagne?"

    It was a wierd combo of "I Believe in Harvey Dent…but I also plan on stabbing him in the back."

  6. Thrawn

    TO be clear, I love both Batman Begins and Dark Knight. But Bale isn't a very good Bruce or Batman in my opinion. He's serviceable, that's all.

    He has several line deliveries that I found horrible, and you could easily replace him in the suit with a stuntman and it wouldn't matter.

    I also can't get past his voice. He just can't do a gravelly or menacing voice apparently. They need to just let him talk regularly and alter it in post I think.

    Poe wrote:

    And as mocked as it is, the scene where he interrogates Flass in Batman Begins

    That was a good scene. A lot of my problems with Bale's Batman (aside from him) also stem from the overall portrayal of the Batman character that Nolan wrote. It has several critical flaws in my opinion. Not enough that it causes me to dislike those movies, but enough that it detracts from them.

    Keaton and Conroy are Batman. Bale is a place holder until the next actor steps up.

  7. nerdbot

    I still love Batman Begins. That scene is awesome — "Swear to me!" And I like the scene in the subway (and maybe at the docks, too?) where Batman is a blur of motion in the background.

    Overall, I think the tone of the movies creates the most 'accurate' and interesting Gotham that has been put on a screen. The art direction is spectacular. Looking at both films thus far, there is certainly a lot more to like than to dislike. And I did absolutely love Heath Ledger's Joker.

    But with The Dark Knight… [sigh] I think the brothers Nolan crammed too much into the screenplay. And Bale's death metal singer Bat-voice… ugh. I mean, I understand the motivation. It does make sense that Wayne would change his voice. It just went too far into comically ridiculous territory for me.

    Looking ahead to Dark Knight Rises, I'm hoping for two things: 1) Bale reins it in a bit; and 2) Goyer (or someone else) plays a bigger role in the final screenplay, keeping it taut and focused.

  8. Bale would be my last pick for Batman. Long before it was even being parodied, I walked out of Dark Knight disappointed because I couldn't take it serious. His Batman voice was ridiculous. To me Keaton had the right tone for Batman and Conroy's is right there with it, sounding very much alike.

    Anywho, I really wanted this figure but I'm still on the fence. The body looks off somehow and the face looks like Christopher Reeves if he died and the undertaker got ahold of him. You know how people sort of look like they did in life, but never right? That's how he looks.

    I doubt I'll ever get the Hot Toys version, but for $60 I'd like something a little closer. I'm not sure how they still managed to botch this, given all the extra time they took on Supes. It's probably their nicest of the 12 inch figures, but still a bit too far off to be a sure thing. Someone with some skills could repaint that head and I bet it would look like Reeves.

  9. Rich

    If this were $30 or so and on sale it would be worth getting to give to the kids to play with and potentially destroy (in the heat of battle of course!). But an adult collector interested in displaying a Reeve Superman would be better served by socking away $25 a month and saving up for the Hot Toys version. 1/6 Hot Toys are to action figures what Hasbro/Takara Transformers are to transformers: top shelf display true collectibles for adult toy enthusiasts. While some may scoff at the price you get alot more value from a $150 True Type Hot Toys with killer sculpt, paint, and accessories then you do from a poorly executed $70 shipped Mattel 12"er on a Ken body.

  10. Poe

    Keaton was great, but I love Bale, 30-packs-a-day-for-30-years voice and all. And as mocked as it is, the scene where he interrogates Flass in Batman Begins was the first time I really felt like I was seeing the comic Batman translated to live action.

    That said, no one has done the Bruce Wayne/Batman voice better than Kevin Conroy.

  11. He looks decent. I suspect that this may be a toy that just does not photograph well no matter what angle you use. That close-up photo doesn't do him any justice at all. I think the photo of him in a flying pose is the best out of the lot. I'm not a huge Supe's fan, but if I was, I think this would be a nice alternative to the more expensive Hot Toys version.

  12. Motorthing

    Thanks Poe – great review that pretty much decides it for me – no likeness = no sale.

    Don't get me started on Hot Toys – I've already sold all the organs I don't need to get through their Iron Man stuff so how the heck I'm going to finance this year is beyond me – it's not like Kidneys are easy to grow…….

  13. Thrawn

    Michale Keaton is still the definitive screen Batman (excluding animation). Bale is a sorry Batman, can't get past the voice mostly, but there are some other minor issues.

    His Bruce Wayne is okay, but does not compare to Keaton's. Bale's eyes look like a dullard's half the time.

    Very nice review Poe. It's disappointing about he head articulation.

    I'm also not a bog fan of 12 inch action figures. It's the space issues and cloth accessories.

  14. Fengschwing

    @nerdbot: Yeah, it also looks like someone took a Hot Toys version and put it in a telepod with a Mego and this can out the other end. The body and suit remind me of my old Mego one from when I was a kid.

    Still, I should echo the above sentiments and say this is a great review as ever Poe.

  15. nerdbot

    @Fengschwing: That’s it… he looks a bit melted. I was thinking the face looked distorted, like he was in a centrifuge. But soft and melty is more accurate. It’s sad, but I’m kind of relieved; had this been a killer representation I would have been seriously tempted. As it is, I can easily pass.

    Excellent review, by the way, Poe.

    One other thing: I, for one, still think of Michael Keaton as the definitive screen Batman. Bale’s American Psycho Bruce Wayne/muppet-voiced Batman just doesn’t cut it for me.

  16. Mecha-Shiva

    They got his profile and quarter face right ,it’s just when he looks forward where it goes wrong.I think its the weak nose,too thin and small…almost Michael Jackson-like,the nose ridge and nostrils should be rectangular and strong looking,they also didn’t express his clef chin.Paint job is awful too with the too thick eyebrows(where it makes him look like Brandon Routh) and lackluster eyes.

  17. MldMnrdReporter

    Mattel just can't do Superman any justice. It's like they don't even try.

  18. FakeEyes22

    @Jedi Creeper

    Oh holy crap you are so right about Hot Toys and their licenses. They've dropped some bombs that are going to be hard for me to ignore. Indiana Jones, espcially. I was excited for the Sideshow version, but despite Sideshow's amazing skills, that elusive Ford likeness wasn't quite captured.

    Poe! This was a nice fair review of a product you didn't even want. I think it looks decent considering that, sadly, $60 has become the low end price point for this sort of thing. The fact that Hasbro licensed another company to do the style of G.I.Joe that they invented 40+ years ago is telling of the current state of these things. Mattel seems stuck in a phase where their movie likenesses are half realistic, half toyish.

    I like how DC Direct just released a pretty decent royalty free Reeve likeness on a 6" figure by basing it on the art of someone who uses Reeve as his basis. It's on an odd Kryptonian suit, so it's custom time for lotsa folks.

  19. JediCreeper

    I got him.. I really am too big a Reeve fan not to… though I know I need to save up for the Hot Toys version.. actually, Hot Toys is going to kill me with all the licenses they've picked up… I usually stay away from 1/6 scale, but Hot Toys is beyond anything I'm used to.. I can't wait to see their version

  20. Fengschwing

    As much as I adore Superman, I'd rather pay twice as much for the Hot Toys version. His head looks…melted…

    Nice stand though.

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