REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES ELASTI-GIRL
There is a lingering philosophy in the toy world that says -- female action figures don't sell. Personally, I find this rather debatable. Ask a G.I. Joe collector who some of the top characters are in the series. Names such as Scarlett and Baroness are bound to come up well before dozens of the hundreds of male troopers and agents that populate the line.
Princess Leia, and later, Padme Amidala, were crucial parts of the Star Wars line, even though female characters have been relatively scarce there. When they do turn up, they tend to become quite prominent. Just ask Aurra Sing, Zam Wesell, or Anakin Skywalker's young padawan, Ahsoka.
And then there's the super-hero world. Can anyone really imagine a proper DC Universe line without Wonder Woman? Fortunately, she has turned up, and over the years of the DC Universe Classics line, she brought quite a bit of company with her -- Batgirl, Supergirl, Catwoman, Power Girl, Black Canary, Mary Marvel, Cheetah -- even Jayna from the Wonder Twins!
The DC Universe Classics line is now mostly the purview of the DC Universe Signature Series line, offered through MattyCollector.Com. And Mattel, fortunately, is not averse to offering female characters in this line -- especially if they'll help to complete a certain team of characters. You know -- like the Doom Patrol.
The Doom Patrol, their wheelchair-bound leader Niles Caulder notwithstanding, is best known for its three core members -- Robotman, Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl. The first two, Robotman and Negative Man, were introduced into the DC Universe Classics line quite a few assortments ago. Elasti-Girl has had to wait her turn until now, but she's finally been made available, as a super-sized figure through MattyCollector's subscription and online ordering service.
Let's consider some of the history of the Doom Patrol, and of Elasti-Girl in particular, and then have a look at the figure.
The original Doom Patrol first appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963).
The first Doom Patrol consisted of super-powered misfits, whose "gifts" caused them alienation and trauma. The series was canceled in 1968, and Drake killed the team off in the final issue, Doom Patrol #121 (September-October 1968).
In the years after this story several subsequent Doom Patrol series were launched. Each series tried to capture the spirit of the original team, but the only character constant to all was Robotman.
The Doom Patrol first appeared when the DC title My Greatest Adventure, an adventure anthology title, was being converted to a superhero format. The task assigned writer Arnold Drake was to create a team that fit both formats. With fellow writer Bob Haney and artist Bruno Premiani, he created the Doom Patrol, a team of super-powered misfits regarded as freaks by the world at large. Doctor Niles Caulder motivated the original Doom Patrol, bitter from being isolated from the world, to use their powers for the greater good. The series was such a success that My Greatest Adventure was officially retitled The Doom Patrol beginning with issue #86.
The Doom Patrol's rogues gallery matched the strange, weird tone of the series. Villains included the immortality-seeking General Immortus, the shapeshifting Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, and the Brotherhood of Evil led by the Brain, an actual brain kept alive by technology. The Brotherhood of Evil also included the intelligent gorilla Monsieur Mallah and Madame Rouge, who was given powers similar to those of Elongated Man, with the extra attribute of a malleable face, allowing her to impersonate various people.
The Doom Patrol had two crossovers: one with the Challengers of the Unknown, teaming up to fight Multi-Man and Multi-Woman; and second with the Flash in Brave and Bold #65.
When the popularity of the book waned and the publisher canceled it, Drake ended the series in a dramatic manner: he killed off the entire Doom Patrol. In Doom Patrol #121 (September-October 1968), the Doom Patrol sacrificed their lives to save the small fishing village of Codsville, Maine. This marked the first time in comic book history that a canceled book ended by having most of its cast of main characters die.
Following this, the Doom Patrol would be resurrected with other members and in various incarnations, most of them featuring exceptionally bizarre stories, which seemed to be the niche the Doom Patrol had found. Success -- varied.
Certain events of Infinite Crisis restored the original Doom Patrol. In escaping from the dimension they had inhabited since the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superboy-Prime and Alexander Luthor created temporal ripples, which spread throughout reality, altering certain events, such as restoring Jason Todd to life.
While assisting the Teen Titans in battling Superboy-Prime, members of the Doom Patrol had flashbacks to their original history. Robotman and Niles Caulder regained memories of the previous Doom Patrol teams with which they had worked. This battle apparently undid some of Superboy-Prime's timeline changes, and resulted in a timeline incorporating all previous incarnations of the Doom Patrol, but with Rita Farr and Larry Trainor still alive. The Chief confirmed that Rita was indeed killed by Zahl's explosion. The Chief claimed that he later found her skull and treated it with synthetic proteins until her malleable body was regrown from it.
The Doom Patrol, as such, was once again active in the DC Universe, in a title of their own helmed by Keith Giffen. Hey, if you want weird...
I honestly have no idea what the team's status might be in the "New 52", nor do I particularly care. As to Elasti-Girl in particular:
Elasti-Girl, real name Rita Farr, is an Olympic swimming gold medalist turned Hollywood actress who is exposed to unusual volcanic gases while shooting a film in Africa. When Farr recovers, she discovers that she can expand or shrink her body at will — from hundreds of feet tall to mere inches in height. When she gains greater control of her powers, she discovers that she can enlarge one limb at a time.
Although not physically disfigured, Rita initially has no control over her size changes, is considered a freak and a menace, and becomes a recluse, leaving her Hollywood career in ruins. However, Rita is approached by Dr. Niles Caulder (also known as The Chief) who offers her a place among fellow "freaks" attempting to use their powers for good. As Elasti-Girl, she joins Caulder's team, the Doom Patrol. Rita falls in love with, and marries, Steve Dayton, the hero Mento. Later on, the couple adopts young Gar Logan, who would become the Teen Titans' Beast Boy.
In the JLA: Year One storyline, the Martian Manhunter tells Rita that he was something of a fan of her "chiller pictures" and that he was disappointed that she did not continue making films. Flattered, she kisses him on the cheek and later tells him that she has met Alien actress Sigourney Weaver and that she is sure he would approve of her.
Tragedy strikes when the Doom Patrol's enemies, the Brotherhood of Evil, threaten a small New England fishing village. The Patrol members elect to sacrifice themselves to save the innocents, and are killed in an explosion. It is later revealed that several members of the team actually cheated death (to appear in Doom Patrol revivals), although Elasti-Girl would remain "dead" until Infinite Crisis.
She is quoted as saying, "I remember the explosion on the island. And then nothing but darkness. Am I supposed to be dead?" in Teen Titans #32, March 2006.
When writer-artist John Byrne revived the Doom Patrol in 2004, Elasti-Girl was among the team members reintroduced, as if none of the events in prior Doom Patrol continuity had ever happened.
This situation was later explained as an after-effect of Superboy-Prime's pounding on the barrier to reality, which created ripples that changed reality for several characters, including the original Doom Patrol.
The Patrol members retain no memories of their previous lives — until Superboy-Prime breaks the Phantom Zone barrier during his battle with the Teen Titans and their allies. At that moment their minds discern visions of the previous Doom Patrols, and Rita remembers everything — her husband, her son, and her own death.
Rita is seen in issue #7 of Infinite Crisis as one of the many heroes defending the city of Metropolis from the army calling themselves the Secret Society of Super Villains. She personally battles the giant villain Giganta.
Rita makes a cameo in issue #50 of the 52 maxi-series. She is seen on a monitoring screen; she is fighting Black Adam next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Infinite Crisis ultimately retconned Byrne's reboot out of continuity, however.
The explanation for Rita's resurrection: The Chief salvaged a piece of Elasti-Girl's skull and used his technology to regrow her entire body due to its malleable form. Consequently, Elasti-Girl is very docile, and is reluctant to question the Chief. The Chief hints that her malleable form hampers her thinking abilities, leading to her lack of personal initiative which makes her dependent upon Caulder.
As he observes her interaction with the Chief, Robin suspects that the Chief has brainwashed Rita and the other Patrol members. Rita's husband, Mento, is under the control of his Mento-helmet, and believes that his wife would never love him without it.
Following their battle against the Brotherhood, the Titans and the Doom Patrol witness the Chief working to convince Kid Devil that he is a freak and that the Titans actually dislike him. This pushes the teams to confront the Chief: Mento finally removes his helmet and pointedly tells the Chief that he is no longer leader of the Patrol and if he ever again insults his wife and son, he will use his powers to destroy the Chief's intellect. Rita firmly stands behind her husband, breaking out of the Chief's control.
In the most recent Doom Patrol series, Rita changed her codename to "Elasti-Woman". It was revealed that that when the Chief regrew her he did so using protoplasm to eliminate 'weaknesses' such as bones and internal organs and therefore Rita is no longer human. When she sleeps Rita loses her human shape and reverts to a puddle of goo, having to reshape herself when she wakes up every morning, somewhat akin in some respects to Odo, the shape-shifter from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
As to her powers and abilities, Rita has the ability to expand and shrink her body. Her powers of expansion allow her to become as large as a skyscraper. She has the ability to shrink to mere inches. (During one adventure, she was exposed to a gas that caused her to reduce to a microscopic scale and enter a sub-atomic universe; that experience has not been repeated.) Rita can selectively shrink or expand parts of her body. Because of her protoplasmic physiology, Rita can regenerate any part of her body. She can reconstruct a half-blown-off face or a torn leg and regrow severed limbs.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, and I have to say I am very pleased that we finally have the complete Doom Patrol -- well, except for The Chief, and I can't really see Mattel coming up with him, and he turned out to be something of a creep anyway. Maybe we'll get Steve Dayton as Mento. There was a Justice League mail-order four-pack a while back that included Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl, and Mento, so -- anyway.
Elasti-Girl is one of the "super-sized" figures that Mattel has been offering through the subscription service, the other one to date being Rocket Red. Metron arguably fits into this category as well, since although the figure was of a standard size, Mattel needed to include his Mobius Chair -- no small accessory, this.
Not surprisingly, the figure uses at least some parts from the only other super-sized female figure to appear in the line -- Giganta. Giganta was a "Collect-and-Connect" figure from a number of waves ago, and remains easily the single most popular "C&C" figure in the entire line -- at least if the price tags on eBay are any indication. Giganta, standing ten inches in height, is also the tallest Collect-and-Connect figure in the line. Well -- now she has some company, because Elasti-Girl is the same height.
What's interesting, however, is the number of distinctive parts that Elasti-Girl has relative to Giganta. While I am certain that both figures use the same arms and upper legs, and probably lower torso, I am less certain about the upper torso. Giganta's costume, a two-piece leopard-fur outfit, was molded separately and attached to the figure. Elasti-Girl's costume, at least the upper portion, is painted directly onto the upper body. Is this the same piece that Giganta used? I'm not sure. I don't own a Giganta, and while a friend of mine does, and loaned it to me so I could make a few figure comparisons for this review, there are some things that just seem a bit rude.
The lower portions of the costumes are entirely different. Giganta's leopard-fur loincloth look continues. However, Elasti-Girl is wearing a red skirt. This is a separately created piece that was attached to the figure during assembly. However, this does leave the question -- is the lower torso piece to which the legs are attached the same as Giganta's? And once again, I have to answer -- I really don't know.
I would suspect that the answer to both of these questions, however, is "Yes", for this simple reason. Basic economics. Mattel isn't going to manufacture any new parts that it doesn't have to, and Elasti-Girl, between a new headsculpt, the skirt, and the boots, has more than enough new parts without remaking the entire torso.
Elasti-Girl's lower legs and feet are definitely new. I can say this because Giganta is barefoot. Elasti-Girl most certainly is not. She is wearing purple boots, angled upwards towards the back, that are clearly sculpted on the lower legs, not just painted on, and her feet complete the boots, even with slight high heels.
Elasti-Girl's headsculpt is excellent. It looks to me as though the Four Horsemen sculpting and design team went out of their way to craft a headsculpt that would reflect Rita Farr's one-time Hollywood career. They designed it to be that of a very attractive young woman. Her facial expression is relatively neutral. There is no angry grimace or grim determination here.
Elasti-Girl's hair is also nicely sculpted. It's brown, not quite shoulder length, a little wavy near the base, and drawn away from the face with a purple headband.
Elasti-Girl's costume, in keeping with the color scheme of the Doom Patrol, is mostly red, with white and purple trim. She is wearing a red sleeveless top that tapers down into a short red skirt. There is a white "V" shape running down the center of the front and back, to the belt. She is also wearing white gloves. The outfit is completed with a purple belt, with a silver belt buckle, and purple boots.
The entire figure has a VERY 60's look about her, which makes sense given the time period in which the character was first created. The hairstyle, the costume, all gives a definite impression of the sort of "futuristic" style that the 1960's came up with.
Painted details are excellent, especially on the face. The eyes and eyebrows are incredibly neatly painted, as is the lipstick around the mouth. The white trim down the front and back is very neatly delineated.
Obviously, Elasti-Girl is superbly articulated. She is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
Any complaints? Well -- yes. But they don't have to do with the detail of the figure so much as the assembly. The connection between the left shoulder and left bicep is a bit loose, as is the right leg at the hip. The latter can be explained somewhat assuming that the molds were indeed derived from the "Collect and Connect" figure of Giganta. There's no real excuse for the bicep. It doesn't seem to be in danger of falling off, but I won't say it isn't a cause for concern.
Ultimately, Mattel does have some quality control issues they need to deal with in their subscriber lines. Masters of the Universe Classics is having a few glitches here and there, that come down to nothing more than sloppiness that doesn't need to happen, and shouldn't be. This is why I don't like mail-ordering action figures if I don't have to. You never quite know what you're going to get until it shows up, and you can't sort through several specimens and choose the best of the lot. Unfortunately, in this case, there IS no choice.
I am delighted that Mattel has continued the DC Universe Classics line through the Signature Series -- don't get me wrong. But these figures are not inexpensive, and given the high quality that I know this line to be capable of, there really isn't any excuse for this sort of thing, and I worry about it becoming a "slippery slope" that only gets worse, which is why I am addressing it here.
Two more things I'd like to address. Elasti-Girl comes with an accessory -- a tiny, shrunken version of herself. Now, admittedly, she's better known for enlarging, which is why this figure is in the larger-size category. This little version is about 15/16" in height, not quite an inch, and it's even distinctly smaller than an Atom figure that came out a while back, which was 1-1/2" in height. What amazes me is that this tiny Elasti-Girl figure even has painted detail, and very well done, even including eyes and lips.
Brother, if Mattel can do this, then there's really no excuse for any paint sloppiness on anybody...
I would also, as I am in the habit of doing with these Signature Series figures, like to commend the artist who provided the painted illustration on the package. These are impressive masterpieces, and Elasti-Girl is no exception.
So, what's my final word? Quality issues aside, this is a really spectacular figure. I am especially impressed with the headsculpt, but the entire figure is really superb, and she does finally complete the Doom Patrol, something that collectors of this line have been hoping to see accomplished for quite some time. As for the quality issues, there's no reason to assume that all of the figures are like this. I just hope it's something Mattel can and will deal with.
But that aside, I sincerely believe that any fan of the Doom Patrol or the DC Universe in general, and certainly anyone who's been paying attention to the DC Universe Classics line, will welcome this figure into their collection.
The DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES figure of ELASTI-GIRL definitely has my highest recommendation!