REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS AMAZO
Mention DC Universe Classics Series 5 to most fans and collectors of Mattel's amazing line of action figures, and they'll probably cringe. The assortment was the first of the Walmart exclusives, and for whatever reason was so poorly distributed that it barely saw the light of day. The only reason I ever managed to acquire a Black Lightning and Riddler figure from this assortment (see my much earlier reviews on these two) was because of some out-of-state help. I absolutely never saw this series anywhere at any Walmart in Tucson, and it wasn't for a lack of looking.
Recently, Mattel's online collector site-store, MattyCollector.Com, offered Series 5 of the DC Universe Classics figures as a set. Each figure was individually carded, but they were only sold as a set. This was a huge and welcome service to established DCUC fans, even if there was some justified speculation as to where this supply of figures had come from. Walmart continues to carry DC Universe Classics, as well as quite a supply of far better distributed exclusive items. The Series 5 set arrived in a shipping box fully marked and largely identical to the type of shipping boxes that one might expect to see hauled out of the back room of almost any retailer. Use your imagination as to how this came about. For myself, that sort of speculation enters into the world of business dealings, and I try to avoid that sort of thing in my reviews unless it's absolutely necessary. In this case, it's not.
Frankly, I was truly delighted that, regardless of where this supply of figures had come from, that it was being made available, even if I am sometimes reluctant to mail-order toys unless there's some alternative. But there wasn't. And I didn't really mind snagging a second Black Lightning, since the one I'd gotten had an assembly problem. A spare Riddler wasn't unwelcome. And it finally allowed me to get the three that I'd never seen -- The Atom, The Eradicator, and the focus of this review -- AMAZO!
Yeah, it's kind of a cornball name. But give him a break, the character was first developed in 1960. Amazo first appeared is The Brave and The Bold #30, dated June 1960, and was created by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. He later returned as an opponent of the Justice League, first in Justice League of America #27, in 1964, and again in #112, in 1974. Further appearances right up to the present day have ensued.
So, who is Amazo? Well, first and foremost, he's an android. Androids and humanoid robots have been a popular fixture in comic books for decades. Arguably the two best known are probably DC Comics' Red Tornado, and Marvel Comics' The Vision. But they're hardly alone. Within the DC Universe, Superman has occasionally employed robotic doubles of himself, there was an Hourman android from the future, and two of Superman's adversaries, Brainiac and Metallo, are robotic or android-like in their nature. Metallo, interestingly enough, is the Collect-and-Connect figure for this wave of DC Universe Classics (see my separate review on him).
I find it interesting that fully functional humanoid robots have been such a staple part of pop culture for so long. Take it beyond comics and you start getting into characters such as Star Wars' C-3PO, Star Trek's Data, Battle Android Troopers from G.I. Joe, the Robot from Lost in Space (who perhaps pushes the "humanoid" envelope a bit, but he's well known enough to mention), and more. Heck, throw in the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz if you like. Don't even get me started on the Transformers. And yet, fully functional humanoid robots are still somewhat elusive in real life. I recall a demonstration I saw, in Walt Disney World of all places, in Epcot Center in 2004. It was of a truly functional humanoid robot called ASIMO. Really quite amazing and impressive, but clearly, real-life still has some ways to go before we see humanoid robots walking down the street.
But unlike certain other specific forms of advanced fictional technology, robots and androids seem to turn up just about everywhere they can get away with it.
And that includes Amazo. So, who is this strange android? Some online research revealed the details. And it's certainly worth mentioning that there have been multiple Amazos over the years. They do have a certainly tendency for getting trashed, and then either rebuilt, repaired, re-programmed, or just another one turned loose somewhere along the way.
Amazo was originally built by the villainous mad scientist known as Professor Ivo, who had become obsessed with the notion of immortality. The original Justice League of America, which included Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the Martian Manhunter, encountered Amazo when experiencing a sudden and mysterious loss of their super powers.
Discovering that certain long-lived creatures are being collected, the heroes located and battled Amazo, who defeats the entire team and steals their abilities. Ivo turns up as the mastermind behind the entire scheme, and using the data collected from the captured specimens, creates a potion that will bestow immortality, hoping to escape his fear of death. The plan is foiled by Green Lantern, and both Ivo and Amazo are defeated.
Amazo is later reactivated by the League to deal with an alien threat. Although the alien drains Amazo's abilities, the android's combined powers overload the alien being, as intended. The Justice League then defeats Amazo once again and return the android to storage.
Later, when the Justice League lose their powers due to the schemes of the villain Libra, the heroes reactivate Amazo, using the android to draw in their lost powers, which are eventually returned vis technology developed by Batman and the Atom.
Amazo continues to be reactivated every so often, either intentionally or by accident. Radiation from an exploding red sun in deep space somehow reaches Earth, weakening Superman considerable. The radiation also somehow revives Amazo, who defeats the remainder of the League. Amazo then seeks out Professor Ivo, wishing to be deactivated once and for all. Discovering Ivo cannot assist, Amazo plans to kill both Ivo and Superman. Superman uses a device to travel a few days into the future, when the red solar radiation has dissipated. Regaining his powers, he is able to defeat Amazo.
Later, Amazo is reactivated by longtime Justice League foe The Key, who seeks a cure for his shrunken state by using the absorbed abilities of the League through Amazo. This time, it is Hawkman who defeats the android.
Professor Ivo himself later reactivates Amazo and sends him against a less powerful incarnation of the League. The android defeats all of the new members, until he is finally stopped by veteran members Martian Manhunter and Aquaman.
A different model of Amazo turns up and battles the superteam known as the Conglomerate, as well as the hero Aztek, before being defeated and destroyed by the Resurrection Man. Another version of Amazo is pulled from the timestream by the android Hourman from the future, who wishes to meet his "ancestor". Amazo responds by attacking Hourman and copying the Worlogog, an artifact embedded within Hourman. Now having the ability to manipulate time, Amazo goes on a rampage until hurled back into the timestream as his former self by Hourman.
Another version of Amazo, that had the ability to absorb the abilities of the League on a conceptual level, overpowered over two dozen heroes, until the Atom tells Superman to announce that the team is disbanded. The premise that the League no longer exists deprives the android of purpose and it shuts down. Gotta love those weird programming glitches.
Batman and Nightwing once encountered a partial Amazo in a weapons shipment, and manage to destroy it. Another Amazo participated in the attack on Metropolis by a group of super-villains that led into the Infinite Crisis. Black Adam dealt with this particular one.
Most reently, Professor Ivo secretly downloaded Amazo's programming into the body of Red Tornado. Several members of the League battle an army of Tornado androids until discovering what's really happening. The Amazo programming asserts itself, and attacks the League despite their attempts to dismantle the android. Team member Vixen eventually destroys the Tornado body by shearing it in half. A new body is created for the Red Tornado, although the Amazo programming also downloads into that shell. The android battles the JLA until it is teleported into the gravity well of a red star.
It's not terribly likely that this is the last that's been seen of Amazo.
As to Amazo's powers and abilities, the Amazo androids use "absorption cells" developed by Professor Ivo which enable Amazo to duplicate the powers of metahumans, such as Superman's strength, Flash's speed, and so forth. Later versions are also capable of copying powered objects, such as Green Lantern's power ring. All versions of Amazo apparently retain the basic abilities of the original five members of the Justice League first encountered.
One might tend to wonder what motivates an android. Writer Mike Conroy has noted, "Amazo was a persistent thorn in the JLA's side... although his programming and own sentience have displayed no ambition towards world conquest... his very existence is a hazard to all of humanity."
So after all that, how's the figure? Visually, he certainly looks accurate to Amazo's design. And that's a matter that needs to be discussed. Professor Ivo may be some sort of mad genius who's able to build a sophisticated humanoid android and give it a certain level of sentience as well as the ability to absorb and retail the super-powers and super-powered objects of heroes whom he encounters. Fine and well. But as far as costume design is concerned, let's hope that Professor Ivo never decides to reform and try to market a line of designer clothing...
(As to what was going through the minds of Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson when they came up with this look, I'd rather not speculate.)
One good reason to bring Amazo into your collection of DC Universe Classics figures is that you'll have someone on display that makes Killer Moth look less ridiculous. Although they both wear striped pants.
Now, one might assume that an android doesn't much care what he looks like. Let's hope that's the case with Amazo. Otherwise -- well, it's no wonder he tried to kill Professor Ivo once. Amazo looks more or less human. He doesn't have an unusual skin color like Red Tornado or Marvel's Vision. It's a standard flesh tone, and a reasonably normal-looking face. Amazo does have pointed ears, about his only unusual feature apart from his clothes.
Amazo is wearing a bright red skullcap, that is pointed in the front. Now, this isn't too bad. It's the rest of the outfit that gets strange. Amazo appears to be mostly shirtless. His costume starts at about the mid-torso region, and proceeds all the way down to the feet. The costume is entirely two shades of green, alternating in horizontal stripes all the way down, except for dark green trunks. He also has green striped gauntlets on his lower arms. And there's just no getting around it -- it is pretty silly-looking, especially when offset by the red skullcap.
Some artists in more recent times have tried to modify the look a bit without losing the essential visual character of Amazo. An illustration accompanying the Wikipedia entry on the character shows that most of the stripes have been removed from the leggings, just leaving one stripe below the trunks and a few around the boots. It's a moderate help, but there's only so much you can do.
I find it interesting that when the character of Amazo was introduced in the Justice League animated series, he had a completely different look. He was basically a featureless humanoid robot that was gray from head to toe. Now, one might assume that, at the very least, all those stripes would've been a serious pain in the pen to animate. And admittedly, the animated Amazo was perhaps a little too dull. Even so...
I think about all we can do here is appreciate the fact that Mattel saw fit to accurately present Amazo in his most classic format -- and try not to snicker at the figure too much.
For looking like Amazo, the figure is actually extremely impressive. The figure uses the same "male hero" body molds that are used by quite a few DC Universe Classics figures. This design, created by the Four Horsemen design and sculpting studio, is truly excellent. It's properly heroic in design and musculature, superbly detailed, and excellently articulated. It works for a host of characters throughout the DC Universe, including Amazo. Of course, the figure has a distinctive head.
Painted detail is excellent, and brother, it can't have been easy. The striping on the mid-torso, and especially the legs, is even more extensive than that of Killer Moth, who was in the subsequent assortment, Wave 6. I've gotta figure the people at the manufacturing facility were getting real tired of striped-pantsed super-beings after these two.
Amazo's upper torso is actually molded in one of the shades of green, the lighter shade, with the bulk of it painted in flesh tone. Fortunately, it's a good match for the head and arms, which are molded in flesh tone. The rest of the torso pieces and the legs are molded in the lighter green color, except for the trunks, which are molded in the darker green. The darker green stripes are then painted on. Overall, the figure is an excellent study of color matching between plastic and paint. The lower arms are also molded in the lighter green, with a bit of flesh painted near the elbows, and the darker green stripes.
Most of the paint work is excellent. There was a little glitch around the right elbow, nothing that couldn't be fixed, and a little green streak on the helmet, which I have no idea how it got there, since there is no green on the head.
However, given that this figure comes from Wave 5, at a time when Mattel was still dealing with a fairly serious level of quality control issues that have since been distinctly minimized, I'm just pleased that the figure is assembled properly, that the articulation works, and that any paint gaffes are correctable by yours truly.
Of note is the fact that Amazo is also wearing a Green Lantern ring on his right hand, no doubt using the same mold that was used for Hal Jordan slightly earlier.
The striping is extensive. The wristbands have three dark green stripes and two light green each. The torso above the trunks has two each. The leggings have sixteen stripes each, from the bottom of the trunks to the top of the feet. That's pretty impressive, especially when you consider that Mattel managed to design the paint pattern so that one stripe on each leg managed to meet the edge of the upper leg articulation point very precisely. They did the same thing with Killer Moth, and it's a nice effect, but ol' bugface didn't have nearly as many leg stripes. Nine, from trunks to boots, on him.
Amazo has an interesting facial expression. His eyes appear entirely human, and he has something of a scowl on his face, but it's not quite as mean-looking as some villains. Of course, it's also more expressive than one would expect from an artificial life-form, as well.
Of course, the articulation of the figure is excellent. Amazo is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. About the only place where the striping is adversely affected by the articulation is the mid-torso point, but even this isn't bad when the figure is in a basic stance.
Amazo has no accessories, unless you count the Green Lantern ring which he is wearing. He comes with part of Metallo, who is the Collect-and-Connect figure for this wave, and to what degree there's any sort of irony of an action figure of an android coming with a part to a robot, I'm really not sure. Probably not the first time it's happened, either, if you think about the Droid Factory offerings in the Star Wars line.
So, what's my final word here? Okay, Amazo's sort of goofy-looking. He's hardly the only one in the DC Universe Classics line that could match that description. Odd though he may be, the character has caused no shortage of trouble for the Justice League and other heroes over the years, and certainly warrants his own action figure, and I would expect that any longtime fan of the DC Universe would be pleased to have him. The set has sold out on MattyCollector, but at least the supply has finally been turned out. There's always the secondary market for this sort of thing, and now, there's some chance that there will be more of him available.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of AMAZO definitely has my highest recommendation!