Review: Spin Master Batman Action Figures

In the last thirty years, only Hasbro and Mattel have had the rights to make standard-scale Batman action figures. Last year, DC decided to go wild, giving McFarlane Toys the 7-inch scale at mass retail, and Spin Master most other scales between 3 and 12 inches. McFarlane, the company founded by a comics creator who has drawn Batman in the past, felt natural. But Spin Master, the company best known for Paw Patrol? That was a real wild card. And now that the first results are in, they may be what one would expect. Rather than Marvel Legends or Mattel’s prior DC Multiverse, the first Spin Master figures come in the 3-3/4 inch scale, compatible with vintage Star Wars. They’re not trying to be realistic, but with a style somewhere between comic-book and cartoon, they come designed for kid play and easy character identification. There’s also a 12-inch gimmicked Batman, but we’ll get to him.

In keeping with the trends of LOL Surprise and other “unboxing” toys, the figures include mystery accessories. Packaging is designed so the buyer peels open the front flap. This reveals a tear-away “trading card” and three cardboard boxes with pull-open flaps that reveal the weapons. Some seem very specific, like Man-Bat’s claws which fit only him. Or Joker’s chattering teeth. Others like a Mr. Freeze gun, appear common. Bat-gloves and a bat-mask are described as rare; I got the former but not the latter.

The figures Spin Master sent for review were Robin, Man-Bat, Joker, and a gold variant Batman. All have the same articulation. Cut neck, disc-ball shoulders/elbows/knees, ball-and-socket hips, and cut thighs. The lack of waist or torso joint feels notable. Figures have large hexagonal holes mid-back that will presumably plug into something later. Those with capes have the hole going through the cape as well.

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About those capes: they’re less than optimal. Made of that thin fabric which feels halfway between magazine paper and the tag on mattresses, the capes are narrow and hang low. No shoulder draping here, nor Michael Keaton posturing. It shouldn’t be possible to photograph a Batman figure such that his cape is almost completely unseen, as above. The oversized hands look slightly goofy, but they’re necessary to hold the large weapons. And again, it helps to realize these are stylized and not realistic figures.

Mostly, these little guys resemble Imaginext figures, the Fisher-Price sub-line that emphasized large playsets safe for younger kids. They seem designed to be taken to the sandbox, the bathtub, the park, or wherever. They fit in Star Wars vehicles, and weirdly, if one squints enough, the Joker looks kind of like Robert Pattinson.

The 12-inch Batman is a little different. Like so many classic ’80s toys, he is a figure designed around a gimmick. And when it works, it’s a good one. Squeeze his legs, and he draws a weapon from his belt. Squeeze again, and he wields it, it lights up, and he says a line like “The caped crusader can’t be stopped!” Repeat, and his belt rotates so he can keep switching out weapons.

At least, he does that half the time. The other half, he flings that weapon across the room, which seems not intentional. Though it may enhance the appeal for some. Like the smaller figures, he suffers from flimsy, skinny cape syndrome. Unlike them, he strikes a hunched over pose. He looks articulated, but really isn’t much, save the ability to make like the old Toy Biz Lex Luthor and hit himself in the head.

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The gimmick is elaborate and nifty, so the rest of the figure almost doesn’t matter. But he’s the type of toy we used to get for Christmas and play with a lot right away, then forget about in the toybox. Still, he’s made in the spirit of play, and purely fun figures come in short supply these days.

Bottom line: these are toys for kids. If older collectors are okay with that aesthetic, they hold up just fine. But they’re not Jim Lee-level sculpts, and never will be. Smash them together, fire plastic missiles at them; that’s what they’re for. Not displaying on a shelf.

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