REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS ERADICATOR
Say DC Universe Classics Wave 5 to most fans and collectors of Mattel's excellent line of DC Universe action figures, and they'll likely flinch. This assortment was the first of the Walmart exclusives, and for some 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.
Recently, Mattel's online collector site-store, MattyCollector.Com, offered Wave 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 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 Wave 5 set arrived in a shipping box fully marked and largely identical to the type of shipping boxes that one might expect to see brought out of the back room of most retailers that carry toys. Use your imagination as to how this came about.
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 - Atom, Amazo, and the focus of this review -- THE ERADICATOR.
Now, at first glance, you may see this figure and think, "Hey, why is Superman wearing such a different costume, what's up with the funky goggles, and why is he called "Eradicator"? Well, if you'd paid attention to the storyline that followed the legendary "Death of Superman" back in 1992, you'd know the answers to those questions. But they're still fair questions for those who might not be in the know.
Technically, this individual is not Superman. This despite a certain resemblance, which is certainly aided by the overly heroic, hands-on-hips pose that the figure was given in his package. The character is best known for being one of the four mysterious neo-Supermen that turned up following the presumed death of the Man of Steel, but his origins actually go back somewhat further than that. Some online research reveals the full backstory of this character.
The Eradicator was originally created over 200,000 years ago, and is considered an artifact of Krypton. He first appeared in Action Comics Annual #2, in 1989, and was created by Roger Stern.
In the distant past, a dying alien race created a number of containment devices in which to preserve their culture. They sent them into space with contact teams, intent on meeting other civilizations. When a small group of these aliens arrived on the planet Krypton, they were met by the militant Kem-L, who killed them and corrupted one of the devices. Its new mission was to preserve his ideal of Kryptonian culture by eradicating all others - this the device became known as the "Eradicator".
In its original form, the Eradicator resembled a small stylized rocket. Its top section was egg-like in shape, about three times the size of a standard egg, and exuded a blue glow. This was connected via four thin mounting brackets to a bright orange tail fin section of equal length. The tail section has ten equally spaced fins in the shape of an ellipse.
On Krypton, the Eradicator did all that it could over the years to protect Kryptonians, even from themselves. When a group of Kryptonian explorers left Krypton in search of a new planet to colonize, the Eradicator altered their birthing matrices, making them fatally allergic to lead. This ultimately led to the creation of the Daxamite race. To further ensure that no one left Krypton, the Eradicator alters all Kryptonians genetically so that they will instantly perish if they leave their world.
One of the surviving aliens, known as the Cleric, took the Eradicator and left Krypton with a group of followers, who sadly died soon after as a result of this genetic modification. The Cleric kept the Eradicator for 200,000 years, until he encountered Superman on Warworld. With the device, the two exchange memories, and the Cleric has a vision of Superman in combat with Mongul. The Cleric wants to save Superman's life, and the Eradicator transports Superman to the Cleric's asteroid. The Cleric notices that the device has changed to protect Krypton's sole survivor, and he and Superman use it to heal their wounds. The Cleric gives the Eradicator to Superman, and dies soon after.
After Superman returns to Earth with the Eradicator, the device causes a number of bizarre events. Superman throws the device into a crevasse in Antarctica, where it alters the ice to create the Fortress of Solitude, and possesses two scientists to create a portal to the Phantom Zone, were it draws Kryptonian artifacts into the Fortress. Superman learns of his ancestor Kem-L's modification of the device to prevent aliens from influencing Kryptonian culture, and ends up with his memory of the device erased by the Eradicator as it plans to transform Earth into a new Krypton. Superman ultimately has his memory restored and is able to stop the device. As it can only be controlled by someone from the House of El, it obeys Superman's command to shut down.
Later, the Eradicator altered Superman's psyche, turning him into the "ideal Kryptonian", and alienating his closest friends. When the Eradicator endangers Superman's adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, Superman is able to overcome the machine's programming, and throws the device into the sun. The Eradicator later returns as an energy being, and tries to turn the sun into a red dwarf star, similar to Krypton's own. Once again, the device is stopped.
But the form of the Eradicator best known, and represented by this figure, didn't come along until Action Comics #687, in June of 1993, as part of the "Reign of the Supermen" storyline. Known as "The Last Son of Krypton", the Eradicator had been recreated by the robots in Superman's Fortress after Superman's apparent demise. Eradicator created a body for itself based on Superman's, by tapping into the solar energy reserved of Superman's corpse and by creating an energy-matter flux through which it is able to grant itself a pseudo-organic form.
This experience caused Eradicator to briefly believe itself to be Superman himself, even seeming to have many of Superman's memories, which he reveals to Lois Lane when she questions him about his identity. He says he remembers their relationship, but because of his death and rebirth, he cannot be with her, as he is now only Superman, not Clark Kent anymore.
During this time, the Eradicator must wear a special visor designed to cut down visible light, since its eyes are inexplicably sensitive to it. Additionally, the Eradicator does not possess heat vision, nor can he directly absorb yellow sunlight the way Superman does. He must instead tap directly into Superman's reserves, using his body as a conduit for solar radiation.
Over the course of the story, Eradicator comes across as a particularly brutal version of Superman, showing no hesitation in killing a potential rapist, and breaking the hands of a safe-cracker. Following a fight with Steel, another of the "Supermen" to come along at this time, however, in which the armored "Man of Steel" fights to stop the Eradicator from killing potential adversaries, the Eradicator begins to reconsider his more brutal approach. That and an encounter with Guy Gardner along the way...
Eradicator relocates to Coast City, just in time for it to be destroyed by Mongul and the Cyborg Superman, who nearly destroys the Eradicator and plans to frame him for the devastation. Eradicator returns to the Fortress, only to discover that Superman, his source of power, has revived. Eradicator drains all of the power out of the Fortress, reviving himself at least partially, and returns to Coast City to aid Superman and others in defeating Mongul and the Cyborg Superman. The Eradicator is seemingly killed in an attempt to shield Superman from a lethal blast of Kryptonite-based fuel, fully recharging Superman's powers in the process as the Eradicator's mass somehow alters the kryptonite radiation to allow Superman to absorb its power.
Following Superman's return, the Eradicator's body is examined at STAR Labs, and merged with one Dr. David Connor. The merged Eradicator would then join the super-hero team known as the Outsiders, and occasionally teamed up with Superman.
Eradicator had further adventures, which included some attempts to reconcile the character with the alterations in Superman's backstory that had taken place since then. The character was seriously injured in a battle with an OMAC robot, but returned during the recent New Krypton storyline.
As to his powers and abilities, in the form represented by the figure, Eradicator's body was created from the genetic template of Superman's, giving him a physiology similar to a Kryptonian. The Eradicator possessed similar powers to Superman, including strength, speed, invulnerability, and flight. He had a weakness to bright light, however. Formerly being a program with extensive details about Krypton, he possessed extensive knowledge of Krypton, and was also extremely intelligent, and had the ability to compute and process information at incredible speed.
So, how's the figure? Really very nicely done. I have to say that, although the character had a sinister side to him (although not as much as some), I was impressed by the costume design. Now, you're NOT going to mess with Superman's look. DC Comics tried that some years later, transforming Superman into an energy being, and touting him as the "Superman of a new millennium". I sincerely believe they intended for Superman to stay as an energy being indefinitely, but -- well, at the risk of making a bad joke, he just didn't fly. Superman was restored to his proper form and has remained that way ever since.
So as the Jim Croce song suggests, "You don't tug on Superman's cape" -- and you don't mess with the rest of his wardrobe, either. That being said, this character was not in fact Superman, was never really meant to be Superman, he was just one of four individuals who was briefly believed to be Superman. Since DC Comics never had any intention of this character actually replacing Superman long-term, they could craft a different uniform and get away with it. And although I wouldn't want to see the real Superman dressed like this, I have to say that it's a cool costume design nevertheless.
The costume design is atypical, by conventional superhero costume standards (if there is such a thing anymore). At the very least, it doesn't follow the usual shirt, trunks, leggings, boots pattern. The Eradicator's costume appears to be a black bodysuit, with a very broad, Superman-blue stripe down the center of the front and back, which goes from a very high neck all the way down to the feet. There is no visible belt, trunks, or boots. The blue is wide enough to encompass about 1/2 to 2/3 of the width of the chest, and splits the legs half and half between blue and black on each leg. The arms are completely black, and cover even the hands.
Eradicator is wearing a red cape, which is heavily draped in appearance, and honestly, I wish it was a little more flexible. I've seen worse (I still haven't encountered a more "starched" cape than Mister Miracle's), but I've also encountered better. It does affect the figure somewhat, as he's not able to bring his legs back that much. He still stands well, but the cape is heavy enough so that it can be a bit of a balancing act getting him to stand up without (a) making him look like he's leaning forward because he can't bring his legs back and (b) making sure that the weight of the cape doesn't cause him to fall over backwards. However, it's not that hard, and it can be done.
The cape comes over the shoulders, and merges with a separate Superman "S" shield. This is very much in keeping with the design of the character as he appeared in the comic books. Anytime Eradicator chose to doff his cape, the "S" shield went with it. Later on, after be abandoned any pretense of being Superman, he discontinued use of the cape entirely, and for a time just wore the blue and black tights.
The head is derived from Superman himself -- no great surprise there. Honestly, I think this was a relatively easy figure for Mattel to bring together. They could use an existing Superman head, and a the standard "male hero" body molds that any number of DC Universe Classics figure utilize. This is not a criticism. Honestly, it makes perfect sense to make the figure like this, and the sculpting and design of the Four Horsemen is so superb that it can even make a partially rehash figure look impressive. The cape-and-shield combo, of course, had to be created distinctly for this figure, as did the visor.
The visor is entirely the proper shape, sort of squared off wraparound goggles, and look to have been glued to the ears. They're made from a flexible plastic, so I was able to raise them up and peek under. Eradicator's eyes have been painted red, pretty much just like the "Heat Vision" Superman figure that was sold in a two-pack with a classic Brainiac a while back.
Some people have voiced one complaint about this figure, and I think it's a legitimate one. And they also tend to lump Black Lightning in with the same complaint. They wish the goggles had been molded from transparent yellow plastic. Same with Black Lightning's eyepieces. And if you consider the fact that later figures in the line such as Booster Gold and Blue Beetle did just this, I think they have a legitimate complaint -- moreso when you take a look at the photograph of the Eradicator figure on the back of the package card, and realize that he DOES have transparent goggles, and the red-painted eyes show through it!
Now I'm not so sure about Black Lightning. From the look of the figure, the eyepieces are not separate pieces, and they're pretty small relative to Booster or Beetle. So it might not have been possible on him. But on Eradicator, it's clearly a separate piece, that could have been molded in transparent yellow. Precisely why it wasn't, I'm not sure. I have heard it said that transparent colored plastic is more expensive than opaque. But then you've got the factor that the visor was PAINTED gold. Did the painting offset the expense of molding it in transparent plastic? I don't have those answers. And I'm not saying that this is a bad figure, or a bad-looking figure. Still, it would've been nice, and no one seems to know when or why the change happened. I know a lot of collectors are inclined to blame Walmart, demanding Mattel cheap things down a bit for this first exclusive wave. But that's speculation, nothing more.
And ultimately, it's a relatively minor point on an otherwise cool figure. And since there have also been figures of the Cyborg Superman, Steel (in the precursor line "DC Super-Heroes"), and as of Wave 13, a Superboy figure, it is now possible to own all four of the major players in the "Reign of the Superman" storyline, looking very much as they appeared during that time!
Of course, articulation on the Eradicator is excellent. The figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The cape causes some hindrance, but not all that badly.
So, what's my final word here? Okay, no great surprise, this series of figures has sold out on MattyCollector. So he won't be that easy to come by. On the other hand, at least Mattel released this wave at long last, which means that the supply on the -- secondary market -- should have been increased. In other words, tracking down this figure is not impossible, and should be at least somewhat easier than it used to be.
And Eradicator does represent a character from one of the more remarkable eras in Superman's history, a time when the most legendary super-hero ever, one of the first, was thought to have died, and others stepped in to do what they could to fill an impossible void. The Man of Steel returned, and has been back ever since, but most of those who appeared during his absence have remained active to one degree or another, building their own legends along the way.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of ERADICATOR definitely has my highest recommendation!