The first wave of the First Appearances line is here — and the results are stunning.
When I was a kid, I didn’t think so much in terms of Golden Age and Silver Age as I did in terms of Earth-One and Earth-Two.
Earth-Two was an exotic place in the DC multiverse, not just because of colorful characters like Dr. Fate and Hourman, but because it was a sort of “What If?” world for Batfans: What if Batman married Catwoman?
What if they had a daughter?
What would Robin look like as an adult?
I was also acutely aware of those Golden Age Batman stories. Batman comics were loaded with reprints and for a budding Batexpert, I had some great material to learn from, especially the treasury-sized Famous First Editions Batman #1 and the Limited Collectors’ Edition issue that focused on Batman‘s villains.
I read these over and over and over.
Now, my Mego world, naturally, was firmly on Earth-One. But my imagination was ripe and eventually, the idea of bringing Earth-Two into play came to mind. Good thing I had more than one Batman. One Sharpie later and I had an Earth-Two Batman, chest emblazoned with a big black bat — sans yellow oval. That was the primary way you could tell the difference in those days.
Robin, for whatever reason, was designed by Mego to look more like he did in the Golden Age, so I was already set there. And off they went …
Last month, I was startled to see that Figures Toy Company was producing a line of First Appearances figures, featuring Golden Age Batman and Robin and Silver Age Batgirl. I flipped when I saw the promo pix.
My reaction was far more profound than I would have expected. This was one of my childhood Mego fantasies come to life.
I’ve long pointed out that the best thing that Figures Toy is doing is not just reproducing the original DC figures — as wonderful as that is — it’s that they’re correcting the course of Mego history — like giving us, say, Dr. Sivana to battle Captain Marvel, and promising us the Flash. That’s not even including the ultimate fantasy to a kid weaned on ’70s syndication — the Batman ’66 line.
These First Appearances figures fit right in there — giving my childhood wishes plastic form.
And a Green Cape Robin? Whoa!
So buckle yourself into the Batmobile: The initial wave is here — you can order them from FTC here, at about $25 a pop — and having them is as good as wanting them.
There are two Batmans in the set and the moaners will complain that we’re just getting repaints while FTC continues to produce other figures. Those moaners would be wrong.
Because these aren’t simple repaints, these figures bring us a whole new level of Batness.
The better of these two Batmans is the molded-mask version, based on the Caped Crusader‘s look on the back cover of Batman #1. The highlight is the black chest emblem featuring the blue batwing texture. And the belt is primarily blue, with yellow utility capsules. The trunks are also blue.
The funny thing is, of course, is that this essentially an off-model Batman. In the comics, he typically had a straight yellow belt. But it looks damn good.
Could they have put the black accent on the front of the cowl? Sure. But I don’t mind that it’s not there.
The Removable Cowl Batman is notable because A) yay! another removable cowl Batman! and B) he’s really a 1950s version of Batman. Just check out the packaging art and the chest emblem. This comes straight from 1955’s Detective Comics #225 and its Win Mortimer-drawn cover.
(This is an issue, by the way, that’s kind of presages the Silver Age. The back-up story featured the first appearance of the Martian Manhunter.)
Calling this the First Appearances line makes sense but it’s a slight misnomer where Batman is concerned, because his look in Detective Comics #27 was strikingly different from Batman #1. (That’s also a Batman I also want to see, FTC!)
Labeling quibbles aside, the packaging on these figures is gorgeous. Freed from the shackles of having to produce cards that hew closely to the Mego concept, the FTC designers let their comic flag fly, giving us backgrounds that recall the covers where these figures appeared.
Green Cape Robin is my favorite of the five because FTC actually took the time to make him. Robin never had a green cape, but he did on the covers of Batman #1, much to my childhood consternation and wonderment. I still don’t know why the DC colorist did it that way, but I suppose that Robin was such a new character, everything was still evolving.
But even though it’s off-model, it looks good. And this figure is the kind of thing a Batfanatic like me goes crazy for.
For a lot of fans, the most noteworthy element of both figures is that this is the first time we’ve ever gotten an officially produced Robin Mego in the smaller, Teen Titans scale.
Pardon the pun, but that’s huge.
Just check out how great Batman and Robin look next to each other.
These are also not simple Robin Mego repaints. The head sculpt is the same, but like in the Golden Age, his mask is thinner and, like it was on those early covers, Dick Grayson’s hair is brown. (Inside the books, he was drawn with black hair.)
There’s also a slight change in the boots. Instead of the standard Robin pixie boots, we get redesigned boots for his smaller feet. I imagine these will be the boots we’ll see when the Super Friends line comes out as well.
Now here we fast-forward to the late ’60s for the First Appearance Batgirl figure.
Black bodysuit? Check.
Two-tone texture mask that simulates Carmine Infantino‘s artwork? Check — although I wouldn’t have had a problem if they’d stuck with straight blue on the figure.
Most of the rest — cape, gloves, boots — is the same as the regular Batgirl produced by FTC, but the black bodysuit gives her such a strikingly different look that the whole thing feels exciting and fresh. (I do wonder why if they gave Batman a blue-and-yellow belt, they didn’t paint Batgirl‘s Batpurse red. But whatever.)
Again, the packaging, which recalls Detective #359, is terrific.
I tend to display my Megos out of their packages — though I do keep cardbacks and clamshells — but like the recent wave of 18-inch figures, these seem meant to be displayed in their containers. Even the backs are great.