REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE SUPER-HEROES MISTER FREEZE
Sometimes a good villain can be hard to find, even in as extensive and remarkable a line as Mattel's amazing DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS.
Consider for a moment Batman's extensive line-up of assorted lunatics that he's consistently having to put down and return to Arkham Asylum. The DC Universe Classics line has provided us with quite a number of these. The Penguin turned up in the very first assortment, and since that time we've seen The Riddler, The Joker, Two-Face, Catwoman, Clayface, Deadshot (who may have gone on to other things but started out as a Bat-villain), and even Killer Moth.
Personally, I'd love to see them give us Poison Ivy at some point. Imagine the sculpted detail on those leaves! Bane would also be interesting, although I think he'd have to be done as a "Collect and Connect". This isn't a complaint, just an observation.
Some of these figures were brought over from the previous "DC Super-Heroes" line, perhaps somewhat recolored. This includes Catwoman -- and I prefer the purple suit -- Two-Face, and Clayface. Others were created brand new for DC Universe Classics even if they had existed in the DC Super-Heroes line, such as The Joker, since the sculpting and design team that handles Universe Classics had not created the first Joker figure.
But I noticed one name missing from the group of Batman's most fearsome foes. And no, it wasn't the Scarecrow (although...). It was that frozen felon himself -- MISTER FREEZE.
He's certainly prominent enough in many forms of media. But he hadn't been brought into the DC Universe Classics line. He did, however, exist in the DC Super-Heroes line, and at a time when the Four Horsemen had started to take over and bring a greater level of detail and articulation into the concept, when it took on the moniker of "S3", which stood for "Select Sculpt Series".
I figured that this was the closest I was likely to get to a DC Universe Classics style figure of Mister Freeze, and having purchased a few other DC Super-Heroes figures and finding them entirely compatible, managed to track one down.
Let's consider the history of Mister Freeze, first of all, courtesy of some online research:
Mr. Freeze, real name Dr. Victor Fries (pronounced as Victor "Frees" or "Freeze"), was created by Bob Kane, and first appeared in Batman #121 (February 1959).
Freeze is a scientist who must wear a cryogenic suit in order to survive, and bases his crimes around a "cold" or "ice" theme, complete with a "cold gun" that freezes its targets solid. In the most common variation of his origin story, he is a former cryogenics expert who suffered an industrial accident while attempting to treat his terminally ill wife, Nora.
In the original Batman television series, Mr. Freeze was played in various episodes by George Sanders, Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach. He was voiced in Batman: The Animated Series by Michael Ansara. In the 1997 film, Batman & Robin, he was portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Originally called Mr. Zero, he was renamed and popularized by the 1960s Batman television series Over two decades later, a television adaptation of Batman revitalized him once again. Batman: The Animated Series retold Mr. Freeze's origin in a landmark episode by writer Paul Dini , introducing his terminally ill, cryogenically frozen wife, which greater explained his obsession with ice and need to build a criminal empire to raise research funds.
This backstory was also made canon in the comics and has been Fries' official origin in almost every incarnation of Batman since. This leads many fans to think of him as the most sympathetic villain.
From the time of his first appearance in 1958 onward, Mr. Freeze was portrayed as one of many near-"joke" villains (see also Killer Moth, The Mad Hatter) cast as stock enemies of Batman. Originally called Mr. Zero, the producers of the 1960s Batman television series renamed him Mr. Freeze, and the name quickly carried over to the comic books.
Nearly 30 years later, Mr. Freeze would receive another update on television. In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Heart of Ice", he was made into a more complex, tragic character. This version of Mr. Freeze was enthusiastically accepted by fans, and has become the standard portrayal for the character in most forms of media, including the comic book series itself, which previously had the character casually killed off by the Joker. Freeze was resurrected in the comic after the episode aired.
In the Pre-Crisis continuity series, it is explained that Mr. Freeze is a rogue scientist whose design for an "ice gun" backfires when he inadvertently spills cryogenic chemicals on himself, resulting in his needing subzero temperatures to survive.
Post-Crisis, Freeze was revamped utilizing Paul Dini's backstory. Dr. Victor Fries is an expert molecular biologist. As a child, he is fascinated by freezing animals. His parents, horrified by his "hobby", send him to a strict boarding school, where he is miserable, feeling detached from humanity. In college, he meets a woman named Nora, whom he falls in love with and ultimately marries.
Nora later falls terminally ill. Fries takes on a job working for a large company run by the ruthless Ferris Boyle. Fries discovers a way to put Nora into cryo-stasis (using company equipment without permission), and places her in that state hoping to sustain her until a cure could be found. Boyle finds out about the experiment and attempts to have her brought out of cryo-stasis, overruling Fries' frantic objections. A struggle ensues, in which Boyle kicks Fries into a table full of chemicals and leaves him for dead. Fries survives, but his body temperature is lowered dramatically due to mutations triggered by the chemicals; he can now only live at subzero temperatures and is thus forced to wear a special refrigerating suit to stay alive. As Mr. Freeze, he uses cryonic technology to create a gun, which fires a beam that freezes any target within its range.
His first act as a costumed criminal is to take revenge upon Boyle, a plan with which Batman interferes. Mr. Freeze fires his freeze-gun at Batman, but he dodges, causing the beam to shatter Nora's capsule. Freeze blames Batman, and swears to destroy whatever the Dark Knight holds dear.
Freeze's crimes tend to involve freezing everyone and everything he runs into so he hardly ever forges alliances with the other criminals in Gotham, preferring to work alone, although there are exceptions. In Villains United #1, Freeze has frozen everyone inside a courtroom. While using a frozen man as a chair, he talks with the Calculator, who convinces him to join the Secret Society of Super Villains. During his time with the group, he fashions for Nyssa al Ghul a sub-zero machine in exchange for the use of her own Lazarus Pit. He attempts to restore Nora to life without waiting for the adjusting needed in the pool chemicals. However, she returns to life as the twisted Lazara, and escapes. She blames her husband for her plight, and estranges herself from him.
He is usually imprisoned in Arkham Asylum when apprehended by the Batman, as he has been found insane. The facility has accommodations for his medical requirements with a refrigerated cell. He has been seen among the new Injustice League and is one of the villains featured in Salvation Run.
Like most Batman villains, Mr. Freeze plans his crimes about a specific theme; in his case, ice and cold. He freezes areas around him using special weapons and equipment, most notably a handheld "cold gun". His refrigeration suit grants him superhuman strength and durability, making him a powerful villain in Batman's rogues gallery. Some interpretations suggest that because the serum Freeze was soaked in was intended to be used for cryo-preservation, his age progression has slowed drastically.
In the Underworld Unleashed storyline, the demonic Neron grants Mr. Freeze the ability to generate subzero temperatures, no longer needing his freeze-gun or refrigeration suit. However, after his encounter with Green Lantern, Donna Troy, and Purgatory in Central Park, he reverted back to his original subzero biology. He then gained a new subzero armor and weaponry.
Mr. Freeze appears in Batman: The Animated Series played by voice-actor Michael Ansara (who also played him in the spin-offs). Ansara is also known for portraying the Klingon Kang in several incarnations of Star Trek. His unmistakable deep voice is a superb pairing with the eerie character. His appearance in the series was designed by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, at the request of series creator Bruce Timm. Mr. Freeze is introduced in the episode "Heart of Ice", which won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.
Freeze later appears in "Deep Freeze", in which he is taken from prison against his will and brought to an off-shore city named Oceana. There, he meets billionaire Grant Walker, who wants to become like Freeze so he can create a frozen world for selected residents. In return for Freeze's help, Walker promises to cure Nora. Batman and Robin arrive and try to reason with Freeze that if he helps Walker, Nora would hate him. Freeze eventually turns on Walker, pinning him to a wall. Freeze overloads Oceana's power-core, which starts the destruction of the city. Freeze stays behind to die with his wife, and they all disappear in the explosion, though the episode's end reveals that they survive, trapped in icebergs.
In the direct to video movie, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, Nora's tank is shattered and Freeze kidnaps Batgirl in order to perform a vital organ transplant. Batman and Robin thwart this plan and Mr. Freeze is then presumed killed in the explosion of his lair on an abandoned oil rig. Wayne Enterprises then finances Nora's surgery, saving her life, which Freeze overhears while watching in on researchers in the North Pole.
Mr. Freeze appears in the live-action movie Batman & Robin, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film features a largely campy interpretation of the character, although it includes the animated series version's tragic origin, but portrayed it as being a machinery accident. Throughout the movie, he spouts puns related to cold weather and temperatures. The film's characterization of Mr. Freeze, as well as Schwarzenegger's performance, was largely criticized by critics, like the rest of the film. Freeze's suit is given a complete redesign to make it distinctive from the animated series and comic book incarnations. The suit, as in the comics and animated representations, is depicted as giving Freeze enhanced strength.
There have been previous figures of Mister Freeze, most of them tied in with the modern animation. The earliest Mister Freeze figure of which I am aware was one that was offered in the third year of the Super Powers action figure line from Kenner. It features Mister Freeze in surprisingly detailed armor, for a toy line of the time, mostly blue and white, with some purple trim. It's easily one of the most distinctive Super Powers figures due to the level of sculpted detail.
Apparently Mego had in mind to bring Mister Freeze into their "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" line in the 1970's, but it never happened. Given that this was a cloth-costumed line, one tends to wonder how they would've managed the armored Freeze. Then again, they got away with Iron Man well enough.
So, how is this figure? Absolutely outstanding. This Mister Freeze figure is exactly what it should be -- the redesign from the animated series brought into the more realistic-in-appearance comic -- and action figure -- world.
The figure is actually more distinctive than I would have expected it to be. I expected it would share a lot of parts with the armored Lex Luthor figure, which also hails from the DC Super-Powers line, around the same time period. This would not have been a reason to complain. Molds are the single most expensive part of producing a toy, and any given company is going to want to get as much use out of them as possible. And, in fact, the Mister Freeze and Lex Luthor figures do share some parts. But nowhere near as many as I would have expected, and it's almost hard to tell unless you have the figures standing side by side. And even then, it's tough to be sure because of the different colors and the way they're painted.
The Lex Luthor and Mister Freeze figures share common mid-arms, from the bicep to the gauntlet top, and common legs. That's it. And whereas Luthor's armor is in its customary green and purple, Mister Freeze's black, silver, and blue armor is so dramatically different that it really does take a fairly keen eye to pick it out. The details are also painted entirely differently. Most notably, there are these sculpted ridges on the legs. They are not painted on Luthor. They are on Freeze, silver and blue against the metallic black. Where's the purple of Luthor's boots accounts for the entire lower legs and knee pads, Freeze's silver boots stop at the top of the ridges. The rest of the lower legs and knees are black.
One other noticeable difference -- the boots, from calf to foot, are reversed. They're so heavily armored (on both figures, obviously), that this actually works, and they're sufficiently different "back to front" that they really do look quite distinctive to each figure. There's these thick cables molded to the boots that are on the front of Freeze's boots, and on the back of Luthor's.
The rest of the figure -- head, torso, shoulders, and gloves, are entirely unique to Mister Freeze. And the painters either had a field day with this guy, or left with severe cases of eyestrain, one of the two.
The basic colors of Mister Freeze's armor are as follows. A metallic black torso with a silver collar and flared silver shoulders. It may be a very dark metallic blue, but it's hard to distinguish, so I'm calling it black. Metallic black shoulders. Light blue arms and abdomen. Silver gloves with metallic black hands and light blue fingertips. Silver belt. Metallic black legs, and silver boots.
But that color scheme barely begins to describe the extent of the detail on this figure, which is considerable. There are ridges, gizmos, dials, piping, tiny little rivets painted distinctive colors, you name it, all across the entire figure. It's absolutely amazing.
And there are little icicles. That's right, as if the armor detailing wasn't enough, there are little icicles on the chest, shoulders, and gauntlets of Mister Freeze. Most of them have been distinctly painted, as well.
And as if this wasn't enough, there's a sort of sprayed on "frost" effect on the upper torso and the boots, and a sort of brushed-on frost effect on the light blue arms and abdomen. I'm usually not one for "weathering" techniques, but in this instance, it works.
Now, I've spoken about the armor -- what about the man? Mister Freeze's head is very nicely sculpted. It looks entirely like a more realistic version of the animated incarnation. It's molded in light blue, and has a brushed on frost caste to it. The head is bald, the expression stern if not outright angry. Freeze is wearing his customary black goggles, complete with circular red lenses, the only real detail of color apart from the blue-black-silver found everywhere else on this figure.
The head is encased inside a clear plastic dome, which has some frost sprayed on it, as well, although Mister Freeze's head is still clearly visible. Fortunately, the frost effect looks more like a snow globe, rather than he sneezed in there or something...
Then there's the accessory. And it's a doozy. I don't usually discuss accessories all that much, but this one's impossible to miss. It's Mister Freeze's freeze gun, but really, it looks like somewhere along the way, he decided to get the super-sized model. Mister Freeze comes with this huge backpack that snaps into the back of his armor (fortunately it need not be a permanent installation). The backpack itself looks like two large, extremely high-tech cylindrical tanks, molded in silver, with little blue icicles hanging off of them, and some white frost sprayed on them. The tanks are attached at angles to a central device of some sort. Rubbery ridged piping runs from the tanks to the central piece, and a third ridged hose runs from the central device to the freeze gun itself. This unit is more like a freeze rifle. Nearly 5-1/2" in length, it's clearly gun-shaped, but looks nothing like any conventional firearm, with a fairly narrow stock and an immense barrel.
And -- I'm about 85-90% that it was originally intended to be a water-squirting device. Why do I say this? Observational evidence. Now, this is purely speculation at this point, but I'd like to think it's well-reasoned speculation. Consider the following points:
The barrel of the gun has a very small, separate aperture in it, that appears to be virtually identical to that of many small, squirting toys. Something like this is a structural necessity for such toys.
The backpack with its huge canisters is almost preposterously large. Although it is made from solid plastic, had it been made from more flexible plastic, it could readily have served as a water reservoir for the squirt gun.
There is a circular detail in the center of the backpack that could serve as either a removable "filling port", or an activation button for a presumed squirting feature. Additionally, the tops to the two canisters appear to have been molded and assembled separately. They, too, could serve as "lids" that could be removed to fill the backpack with water.
And, finally, it probably would not have taken too much to make at least the hose which extends from the backpack to the rifle, which interestingly enough is NOT ridged like the two that go from the canisters to the central part of the backpack, hollow, to allow for the flow of water.
This is all guesswork, I admit, but as I said, I am of the opinion that it's educated guesswork based on strong observational evidence. Now, assuming I'm right, what happened? Clearly the backpack does not operate as a squirting device. There are no instructions with the toy that indicate it could do so, either. I would have to surmise one of three explanations: Either it didn't work as well as expected in the prototype stage, which I consider the least likely option; Someone figured that an "action feature" like this wasn't well-suited to a line that didn't really specialize in action features; Or it would have been too expensive, which is probably the most likely explanation. Assuming it was ever the intent in the first place.
Even non-squirting, though, it's still a very impressive and well-detailed accessory, and when in the hands (and on the back) of Mister Freeze, certainly would give anyone the impression that he means business, and is carrying enough cryogenic whatever to give half of Gotham a bad chill.
As to the figure's articulation, it's very nearly on the same level as a DC Universe Classics figure, which is to be expected. The head does not move, but then the helmet isn't removable, either, so there's little reason for it to. The figure is otherwise poseable at the arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, gauntlet tops (substituting for wrists), mid torso (somewhat substituting for the waist), legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops (something even most DC Universe Classics figures don't do!) and ankles.
Any complaints? Minimal. The figure is very slightly pre-posed with regard to the mid-torso and one leg. But you practically need a microscope to tell it. Even so, this is a line that doesn't need any pre-posing. It's unfortunate that the helmet isn't removable and the head movable, but I can see the logic. The mid-torso being the same color as the head almost makes it look like Mister Freeze is pulling a "bare midriff" look -- something he can't really get away with for a number of reasons -- until you notice the armor details on the mid-torso. But it still looks a little odd. And finally, he's not quite as tall as the typical DC Universe Classics figure. Then again, who says he has to be? There are several figures that are shorter, and thanks to the Collect-and-Connect series, a number that are a good bit taller. He's close enough, certainly.
So, what's my final word here? I'm very pleased, and very impressed. Although the figure doesn't quite come from DC Universe Classics, he's a close sibling and certainly fits in well. The detail on the figure is absolutely astounding.
I suppose it's possible, if unlikely, that this Mister Freeze figure might be brought into the DC Universe Classics line in some form, perhaps in a store exclusive multi-pack or some such. However, were that to happen, I would expect such a figure to be somewhat recolored, and really, this color scheme is ideal.
And if you're a Bat-fan of any sort, doubtless you've been enjoying the host of Bat-villains that have been turning up in the DC Universe Classics line, and wouldn't mind adding this character to the collection. Please be assured that you will not be disappointed in doing so, once you've tracked one down, which, if I can manage it, then so can you.
The DC UNIVERSE SUPER-HEROES figure of MISTER FREEZE definitely has my highest recommendation!