Beard: ‘Batman ’66’ action figures hit ToledoWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time, toys based on the costume designs and actor likenesses of the 1966 “Batman” TV series are hitting mass-market retail shelves this month. Thanks to Mattel, one of the world’s biggest toy companies, fans of the show have good reason to celebrate their unashamed love for the camp classic.
Mattel has provided three of the six “Batman Classic TV Series” action figures to reviewers: Adam West’s Batman, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler and Burgess Meredith’s Penguin. Measuring in at 6 inches tall, the figures are fun, colorful reminders of glory days past when the Batman comic came alive two nights a week on television and enthralled both children and adults alike. Likewise, Mattel’s line of “Batman” ’66 figures should appeal to all ages of fans, so don’t be fooled by the “Adult Collector” tag on the packaging; with full articulation and no small parts, these toys are made to be played with by the whole family.
Not surprisingly, Mattel has gone with more-or-less idealized representations of the actors. Burgess Meredith’s countenance is the real standout, but there’s also no mistaking West’s and Gorshin’s distinct faces. The company has even gone so far as to attempt facsimiles of the actors’ body types, especially in West’s uniquely defined torso and skinny legs. Again, while somewhat idealized, each figure embraces the clunkiness of the 1966 show’s budgetary restraints, but Batman’s cape is a bit of a letdown, being more a rough-edged piece of common fabric rather than emulating the satiny glam of its TV counterpart. At least they remembered the Riddler’s little green slippers, though the figure’s forehead is empty of any of Gorshin’s mania-driven popping veins.
While there’s no indication that Mattel intends the six figures to make up a first wave of a recurring toy series, fans hope to see other characters join these on the store shelves. Current production also includes Cesar Romero’s Joker, Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and a variant Batman offering based on the infamous, shark-jumping episode “Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under!” That’s right; you can look forward to West in full Bat-regalia with the addition of surfer shorts and a surfboard. Robin the Boy Wonder will join his mentor in a special two-pack and Batman himself will also be spotlighted in an exclusive San Diego Comic-Con boxed “Batusi” set.
Ann Arbor resident and the Internet’s “Captain Toy” Michael Crawford sees the line as having legs, despite the immediate inclusion of all the show’s frontrunners.
“[Mattel has] done a much better job with the collector market the last few years,” he said, “and has found a way to make less profitable lines still sell through the Matty Collector website. We may not see a long-lasting series, but I’d bet we’ll get at least three waves before Mattel calls it quits.”
Crawford mentioned King Tut and the Bookworm as additional villains he’d like to see immortalized in plastic, but calls Vincent Price’s Egghead an “absolute have to have” figure. He also warns that the coming of “Batman” ’66 goodies after decades of drought might be a “flood hitting the desert” and may impact future offerings.
“When the desert gets hit with a ton of rain in a short period, it’s never pretty,” he said. “The desert can’t absorb it all — neither can the collectors. They are going to be overwhelmed by product, and have to get pretty choosy pretty quickly, which might make it appear as though the demand isn’t as great as they thought. My fear is that will negatively hurt the chances of seeing some of the lesser [Batman] characters.
“Right now I’m betting on two companies to make it the deepest — Mattel and Hot Toys. If Mattel can provide the type of quality collectors expect in a modern action figure at a reasonable price, they’ll get the lion’s share of the lower end market. Hot Toys is going to snag all those collectors that can afford their huge dollar figures, and I really have my fingers crossed that we’ll get at least 8-10 characters from them. It’s a long shot, but I could finally die happy.”
So say all of us Bat-fans.