It seems as though everyone wants to get in on the 3-3/4" world these days. G.I. Joe and Star Wars have been there for years. But now we're seeing it from a lot of others -- Indiana Jones, WWE, and now, the DC Universe.
To what degree this emphasis is a result of rising prices in our economy, I really don't know. Nor do I particularly care if the end result is cool action figures that are (a) affordable and (b) don't take up a whole lot of display space.
This is not to put down the DC Universe Classics 6" scale figures. Those remain extremely impressive, and I look forward to collecting them as new assortments become available. But the new 3-3/4" line can, and does, have a more extensive cast, for one thing.
When Mattel announced its DC UNIVERSE INFINITE HEROES collection, they also announced with it a considerable line-up of realistic-looking super-heroes and super-villains. Unlike the Justice League Unlimited line, which I also enjoy, the Infinite Heroes line was designed to present the characters in a more realistic, or at least comic-realistic, format.
One of the first ones that I picked up was GUY GARDNER, in his Green Lantern uniform.
This character has had a surprisingly complex backstory. A charitable description of Guy Gardner at times might be "loose cannon". A less charitable description might well be "psycho".
It should be noted first of all that he is not named after the astronaut Guy Gardner. Rather, he was named after fan Guy H. Lillian III and writer Gardner Fox.
Out of the current 7200 Green Lanterns, Guy is Lantern Number One of the Green Lantern Honor Guard. He has no sector designation, owing to his Honor Guard status; he is able to be in any sector.
Guy's origin dates back to 1968, even though it wasn't until the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths that the character took on greater significance.
Guy's roots lie in Baltimore, where he was raised by his parents, Roland ("Rolly") Gardner and Peggy Gardner. Rolly was an abusive alcoholic who beat Guy repeatedly. Rolly lavished attention and compliments upon Guy's older brother Mace, who, it seemed to Guy, could do no wrong in their father's eyes.
During his mid-teens, Guy finally decided that nothing he ever did was going to be good enough to win his father's affection, and as a young boy became a juvenile delinquent. Guy was straightened out from his downward spiral by his older brother, who had become a police officer. Mace's pressure and advice knocked some sense into Guy, and Guy then went to college, working his way through to support himself, and emerging from the University of Michigan with bachelor's degrees in education and psychology. One of his closest friends at U of M was John Henry Irons (later Steel). During his time at Michigan, he also became a nationally renowned football hero, but had to abandon that career due to injuries.
After college, Guy worked as a social welfare caseworker, dealing with prison inmates and their rehabilitation. He abandoned this line of work, however, fearing it brought out his innate more aggressive nature. Moving on, he became a teacher for children with disabilities.
The appointed Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814, an alien named Abin Sur, crashlanded on Earth after being mortally wounded by the villain Legion. Sur, knowing his time was limited, commanded his power ring to find someone honest and fearless enough to succeed him. The ring found two potential suitors: Guy Gardner and Hal Jordan. Jordan was nearest to the crash, so he was chosen over Gardner as the one to receive the ring. Gardner was relegated to backup status should anything happen to Jordan.
When Jordan became aware of Gardner's status as his backup, he set up a chance meeting, and the two became friends.
During an earthquake, Gardner was seriously injured, hit by a bus while attempting to rescue one of his students. Gardner surprised everyone by recuperating from this debilitating injury, which was credited greatly to his already excellent physical fitness level. During the time he was incapacitated, the Guardians recruited John Stewart to be Jordan's new backup.
Some time later, during a period where Gardner was performing his duties as a backup Green Lantern, Hal Jordan's power battery, the source of the ring's energy, exploded in his face and entrapped him in the Phantom Zone. Later alerted to Gardner's survival, Jordan and Superman were able to discern his whereabouts. Unfortunately, Gardner's bus accident, the power battery explosion, his assimilation into the zone, and the subsequent torture at the hands of residents of the Phantom Zone had affected his mind. When Gardner was released from the Phantom Zone, he was diagnosed with brain damage and was comatose for a number of years.
During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Guardians of the Universe split into two factions over how to confront the Crisis. A minority faction of six Guardians emulated their former brethren, the Controllers, by recruiting a Green Lantern to directly attack and destroy the forces of the antimatter universe. Gardner was revived by the renegade Guardians, and given a power ring not tied to the Central Power Battery on Oa, Gardner believed himself to be "the last true Green Lantern", superior to all the others, particularly Jordan. His brain damage manifested itself in the form of an arrogant, violent, and unstable new personality.
Following the Crisis, Gardner was placed into training and to temper his mind. Believing himself to be the last true Green Lantern, Gardner resented this and frequently escaped to Earth to cause trouble for the Green Lanterns there. Eventually Hal Jordan took responsibility for him, and Gardner was free to do as he pleased on Earth. During his tenure as Earth's Green Lantern, Gardner became a founding member of the Justice League International
Eventually, forced to forfeit his Green Lantern ring after a grudge fight with Jordan, Gardner set out on a quest to regain his power and identity. After tricking Lobo into assisting him, they first invaded Qward, then with the armies of Qward to Oa. There, Gardner acquired the yellow power ring of Sinestro, and assumed a new identity, simply calling himself Guy Gardner.
When Hal Jordan, under the influence of Parallax, destroyed the Green Lantern Corps, Guy Gardner led a group of heroes to Oa to find out what had happened. In battling Parallax, Guy Gardner's ring is destroyed and he was forced to find an alternate means to acquire power.
On an expedition to the Amazon with a rich entrepreneur, Gardner found a chalice in a cave. He drank from it, and became Warrior. Gardner discovered that his past was not what he thought it was. He was apparently the descendant of a space-traveling race called the Vuldarians. This discovery eventually led him to discover new powers within himself. These powers allowed him to resume his role as a superhero. His early days as Warrior saw him struggling with his newfound powers. He had difficulty changing his body into any weapon, and his transformations often caused him pain.
During the 2005 miniseries Green Lantern: Rebirth, Gardner's Vuldarian DNA is strangely overwritten by his human DNA when Parallax possesses Gardner and several Green Lanterns. Hal Jordan's ring splits in two and Gardner's ring is restored to him. Eventually, Parallax is defeated by the combined effort of all five active Green Lanterns, including Gardner. The Guardians then select Gardner as one of the senior officers of the new Green Lantern Corps.
Guy remains active with the modern Green Lantern Corps, and has chosen to move to Oa, where he, after some persuasion, was allowed to open a bar and restaurant called "Guy's Place", a sequel of sorts to his bar/ restaurant on Earth called "Warrior's".
Gardner has sometimes been thought of as a meat-headed moron with a power ring and way too much attitude, but in an interview, Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns dismissed such an interpretation. "Anyone who's read Guy Gardner for the last two years in Green Lantern or in [Green Lantern] Corps knows that he's a much better, stronger character than that. And even in the old Giffen stuff, he would probably break some rules, taunt the other heroes, and drink a beer or two, but he wouldn't be that much of an idiot. He was never that much of an idiot, and certainly not with what I'm doing with him, or with what Dave Gibbons is doing with him in Corps. He has his moments, and he's a really fun character, but he's definitely not going to be a moron. His role is not DCU Moron. His role is DCU ****kicker."
Indeed, it was even speculated that some of his more violently over the top moments were the result of his using the yellow power ring which, since the Sinestro Corps War, has been seen to be a source of aggression and fear.
So, what's the figure like? Really nicely done. Guy Gardner stands almost exactly 3-3/4" in height. This surprised me a little, since Captain Marvel (Shazam!) whom I bought at the same time, is more like 4", and I'm not entirely sure where the variance comes in.
It's fairly evident that this line will use a fair number of common body parts between its figures, but I don't really have a problem with that. Mattel does the same thing with Justice League Unlimited and DC Universe Classics. And unlike some other lines, if you've got a bunch of tights-wearing heroes, why NOT try to re-use as many of the parts as possible? Molds are expensive, and if a good basic arm, leg, or torso can be reused simply by molding and/or painting it in a different color, so be it.
That having been said, I'm fairly certain that the molds for Guy's arms and legs will turn up elsewhere. But certainly not the headsculpt.
Guy has a rather distinctive look to him. He wears his hair in a sort of bowlcut, with shorter hair beyond the "bowl" down the back of his head a bit. He also has a face which could most politely be described as rather rugged, in a rather pugnacious way, not exactly a typical heroic face. The headsculpt for the figure captures both of these elements admirably well. The haircut is as it should be and very well sculpted, as is the facial structure and expression. Paintwork is excellent, especially around the eyes. Guy's eyes are blue, with white around them. One of his eyebrows is slightly raised, in a sort of "Oh, yeah?" expression.
I should point out that of the two Guy Gardners which I saw the day I purchased this one, the other Guy had a rather serious mold crease across the face. Unless you want a nasty indentation in your Guy Gardner that should be there, check him over carefully before buying. And to Mattel -- this is a factory problem that you should deal with.
Guy Gardner's outfit is not the typical Green Lantern tights. In fact, we wears a sort of collared jacket. This has been accomplished on this figure by making a separate piece, a sort of closed vest, that looks like this part of the uniform, and sealing it to the figure. There's a seam under the right side. One might think this might result in hindered arm articulation, but it doesn't, although the arms don't quite come all the way down to his sides, and the vest looks right for the character. The molded piece also includes the belt. The vest is green with white trim, and the Green Lantern symbol.
The symbol looks good, but I regret to report that some of the detail on the vest appears to have been hand-painted. This is a practice that I speak out against, because it inevitably results in a sloppy look to the figure. Unfortunately, this is no exception, as the paint especially around the belt is very uneven. Not enough for me to disdain the entire figure, of course, but this sort of thing should really stop. There is no way to hand-paint details on a mass-produced figure and expect them to turn out consistently neatly. Stencils and sprayed-on paint must be used.
The bulk of Guy Gardner's uniform is black -- arms and pants. His gloves are white, and his boots are green. These details have all been neatly painted, although theres a couple of scuffs in the white stripe down one of his legs. However, in fairness, the white stripes, a fairly delicate detail, have been otherwise very neatly done, and this is a single glitch which, frankly, I can retouch. The white strips on both sides starts on the lower torso, and runs down the leg past the knee joint, so really, it has to be painted on five separate pieces. There is a small green circle on the back of a finger on Guy's right hand, indicative of his power ring.
Guy Gardner isn't pre-posed, although the left leg does point just a little outwards compared to the right one. Not severely, though. The articulation is excellent. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, waist, legs, and knees.
Let me address the articulation factor for a moment. There have been some toy collectors that have criticized this line for not being more articulated. Why don't the legs move outward? Why aren't the wrists and ankles articulated? What about double-jointing the elbows and knees? Why not a mid-torso point? Why not arm and leg swivels? There are other figures in this size range that have these features, why not this one?
Okay, let's consider for a moment another action figure line that does have all of those points of articulation -- WWE Build 'n' Brawl. Now, I like this line. However, the figures are $2 - $3 more expensive than the DC Universe Infinite Heroes, and I have yet to pick one up that doesn't have at least one or more REALLY floppy points of articulation.
I have no problem with an extensively-articulated action figure. But you know, it's funny. Some years back, the clarion cry from the collecting world seemed to be "Detail, detail, detail!" A figure could be a lump of plastic with two points of articulation, but if it was well detailed it was a hit. Now it seems to be "Articulation, articulation, articulation!" Fine and well -- if the figures can be made well. And it seems to me that the more articulation you put into a figure, the more assembly steps that are involved, the more something can go wrong. Especially the smaller the figure is. And I've seen it happen too often. Toy Biz's Superhero Showdown figures would be another prime example.
There's also something to be said for appearance. Mid-torso articulation points, double-joints at elbows and knees, fine -- IF you can work them well into the design of the figure. And too often, this isn't the case. I've seen way too many action figures that looked like humanoid jigsaw puzzles and had the structural stability of marionettes to jump unreservedly into the "massive articulation" bandwagon. Not anymore.
The DC Universe Infinite Heroes line may not be the most articulated action figure line in creation -- but the figures have a VERY GOOD level of articulation, they are assembled well based on the ones I've seen and purchased, and they look good. And that's what I want in my action figures.
Packaging is nicely done, and almost has an element of "cute". The backdrop on the card is a huge hand, which is reflected in the blister bubble, as well. The slogan for this line is "An army of heroes within your grasp!", and apparently the package designer took that literally. The "DC Universe Infinite Heroes" logo is across the top of the card, and at the base is the "Crisis" logo, along with the character's name, and his series and figure number.
A profile on the back gives the character's name, status, special abilities, and various "Power Scores" in areas like Strength, Intelligence, Speed, and others. This seems really boosted from a similar practice on Transformers, and I don't think Geoff Johns would be terribly pleased with Guy's intelligence score of "25".
This first assortment of figures includes Guy, Professor Zoom, the modern Atom, Black Adam, Adam Strange, Black Hand, and Shazam (Captain Marvel). Based on my observations of what limited supplies are in my area, I have yet to see Atom, Black Adam, or Black Hand (and I am hopeful of finding Black Adam), and the shelf-warmer of this assortment is clearly Adam Strange. Not only do I think this is maybe a little obscure of a character, but the one I took a close look at had a very sloppy paint job on his face.
So, what's my final word here? The DC UNIVERSE INFINITE HEROES line has a lot -- A LOT -- of potential, and I hope it performs superbly well and lasts for a very long time. There's a big wide DC Universe for this line to play with, and I'd like to see it turn out as much of it as possible. The worst thing I can say about the line is it has a few paint issues and maybe a molding issue that need to be resolved.
As for GUY GARDNER here, this is a really superb figure of a character
who -- frankly, has a rather convoluted background and in my opinion
has come back around to his best incarnation -- that of a Green Lantern
-- and has managed to put some of the more excessively acerbic aspects
of his personality to rest without losing his edge. The DC UNIVERSE
INFINITE HEROES GUY GARDNER definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!