It's no secret that I'm a fan of kid-friendly action figures, so when Mattel announced a new line of 6-inch scale DC figures called Total Heroes I was... interested, we'll say, but not quite all-in. I had grown really fond of the Power Attack Batman line, which has a fun style reminiscent of The Batman from the mid-2000s. The Total Heroes figures toned back the wacky proportions with designs that were much more conservative. That's not necessarily bad though, and I still wanted to give the new line a try. There's no better character to start with than Batman, and let's throw a little Aquaman in the mix, too.
I was tempted to just get Batman and call it a day. However, a Batman figure is difficult to screw up... chances are, it will be awesome simply because Batman himself is so awesome. But a cool Aquaman figure is more difficult to pull off for the inverse reason. To truly measure the quality of the line, I had to pick up Aquaman too.
One of the things that initially turned me off about this line is the sculpting. The faces on the prototypes look a little doofy, the elbows seem too bulbous, and the wrists look too big for the hands. Batman skirts those problems with a cowl that covers much of his face and bat-gauntlets that make the elbow-wrist thing excusable. But Bats is the only one that clearly resolves those problems, and that was another reason why I got Aquaman. I needed to determine if those issues really are deal-breakers, or if I would grow to love them as fun idiosyncrasies like I did the quirks from the Power Attack Batman line.
It turns out that once I had him in hand, I actually really liked Aquaman's head sculpt. The sculpt reminds me a lot of the cool and sharp Young Justice style. The elbow thing looks okay, since you can excuse any weirdness by saying it's caused by Aquaman's gloves. (How that will play out with figures that don't have gloves, like Superman and Flash, remains to be seen.) The wrists still look weird, but I can overlook that.
The rest of the sculpts for both are actually really cool. The costume designs have some nifty techno linework to it, much like the New 52 style. Although Aquaman has a wonderfully highly-saturated orange/green coloration, Batman sports the modern black/gray/gold costume. I would have much preferred the more colorful blue/gray/yellow style that was so prevalent in the 70's, which probably would have been more appropriate for a kid's toyline anyway.
The figures are articulated at the neck (restricted ball joint), shoulders (swivel-hinge), elbows (swivel-hinge), wrists (swivel), waist (swivel), hips (swivel-hinge), knees (hinge) and ankles (hinge). The articulation is in the Goldilocks zone: it offers a nice range of movement but it doesn't destabilize the figure like it might if it were hyper-articulated. It's right on par with the 2012 Playmates TMNT figures.
Articulated ankles are my most-hated joints because they're so often points of failure that I'd rather just not have to deal with them at all these days. They're pretty tight on Batman and Aquaman, so maybe they'll be okay. I questioned why they should be there at all, but I can see that they would be important for Flash since you'll want to put him in lots of running poses.
Hip articulation can also be a big problem, as it sometimes tries to do too much and ends up just flopping the legs around all over the place. Here the hips are just swivel-hinge joints, which should hold up okay. They're already a bit on the loose side, though... well, "loose" is too strong a term, let's say they don't offer as much resistance as I'd like.
Batman comes with an ascension gun and two batarangs, although the ascension gun looks a little too much like a real gun for Batman. Yeah, yeah, I know, Batman originally had a gun, but his opinions have since changed considerably. Also, the ascension gun doesn't offer anything in terms of play value; there's no string attached that he can climb or anything like that.
The batarangs are more appropriate, but I've always been a big hater of batarangs as accessories. They're so crazy small that it's impossible to keep track of them. Fortunately, Batman has a couple of pegs on the back of his utility belt on which you can snap the batarangs. It's a great idea that works perfectly.
Aquaman comes with a trident. (Although it has five points, so would that make it a "quintdent"?) It's cool enough I suppose, but I find myself wishing that both these guys pitched these meager trinkets in favor of unreasonably clunky accessories like those that came with Power Attack Batman figures.
Both figures cost just ten bucks. At a time when collectible figures like Marvel Legends pull $17 and MOTUC commands a whopping $27, this Total Heroes line is very appealing not only to kids but also budget-savvy collectors. Much of that cost reduction is due to the relatively limited paint apps and articulation, and I don't mind either, but DCUC fans probably won't be the target audience here.
So the Total Heroes line turned out pretty awesome after all, despite my initial reservations. I'll be getting both Superman and Flash to start my Justice League, and I hope Mattel expands the line even further. I just hope they don't go too far... if they try to make this line as expansive as DCUC or Justice League Unlimited with lots of obscure character selections, they're going to lose me fast. Mattel is already planning to offer "collector-friendly" characters on MattyCollector.com, which sounds to me like such a pain in the butt that I'm not even going to bother. The less "collectible" this line becomes, the more I'll enjoy it. We'll see how it goes!