I'd like to use this review to take a look at some of these characters, their backgrounds (at least from a comics standpoint), and the figures themselves.
DR. LIGHT - This character is currently available in a three-pack with Aquaman and Superman. I hardly think I need to go into the origins of those two characters. However, it's worth noting that this version of Aquaman has the addition of a cape, something the first version didn't, and I'd very much like to know why Mattel has been making its Superman figures lately in a skin tone that honestly looks like he's sunburned. Even the Justice Lords Superman, which uses the same body molds, doesn't look like this. I'd like to add a nice version of this better- articulated (and better "S" symbol than the early Justice League Superman figure) Superman to my collection, but I'd like to find one with a better skin tone.
Also, Dr. Light is now available on a single card, as part of the new "purple card" series.
There are essentially two Dr. Lights in the DC Universe. The better known of the two is a villain, who was given a lot more credibility and menace as a result of the events of the IDENTITY CRISIS and INFINITE CRISIS storylines. That's not the Dr. Light represented by this figure, although the two different characters do wear similar costumes.
This Dr. Light came about as a result of the original CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. This was during a time when the villainous Dr. Light was pretty much in retirement, or in jail, or in hiding, or something. Anyway, he wasn't really operative at the time. The Monitor needed a Dr. Light involved in the crisis to come, so he literally created one, granting Japanese astronomer Kimiyo Hoshi a wide range of light-based powers. Initially arrogant and condescending, she originally seemed almost as villainous as the original Dr. Light. However, over the course of the Crisis, her attitude changed, especially after the sacrifice of one of her fellow Japanese super-heroes.
According to the Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe, she is a single mother, and after a period as a well-respected member of the Justice League, she decided to devote more time to her family than to super-heroics, only emerging briefly from retirement in times of the direst need. She is currently the vice president of Kordtech's research and development division and will soon take over as president of the entire organization.
The figure is nicely done. The mostly black with white trim uniform is a superb version of the animated character, and quite outstanding given the obvious contrast of its two colors. It's also a very capable animated version of the comics character. The body mold is the standard "female body" presently being used for most Justice League female figures, with the addition of a cape, and an excellent headsculpt. Overall detail work on both the face and the uniform is very neatly done. Although the character never saw all that much time in the animated series, it's nice to see Dr. Light added to the lineup of figures.
VIXEN - This character is available on a three-pack that also features Dr. Fate and Hawkgirl. Interesting combo. Dr. Fate isn't exactly a major player, although this isn't the first time a figure of him has been offered. I've reviewed Fate in the past, but just for the record, Dr. Fate is one of the DC Universe's main masters of magic. Traditionally (and one may assume also in the animated series given the character likeness used), Dr. Fate is Kent Nelson. The helmet embodies some ethereal entity or other called Nabu that transforms Nelson into Dr. Fate when he dons the helmet. Lately, in the DC Universe, Dr. Fate has just been a disembodied helmet. That wouldn't make much of an action figure... Hawkgirl, of course, is one of the major players in the animated Justice League, or at least was up until the Thanagarian invasion. She abandoned her Hawkgirl identity after that, and was generally known simply as Shayera. She was eventually welcomed back to the team, although some members kept a wary eye on her. This figure is in the Hawkgirl costume. There is a "Shayera" version available in a different three-pack.
On to Vixen. In the comics, Vixen's real name is Mari Jiwe Macabe. Model and super-hero with animal powers, Mari ended up joining the Justice League of America under Aquaman's reorganization of the League. Later, after the League fell apart, she took a vacation, which was ruined by drug runners who killed her companions on the photo shoot. She joined the Suicide Squad to gain retribution for her friends, and ended up staying with them. She later met up with Animal Man for a time, worked briefly with the Justice League Task Force, then joined Checkmate, and later, the Ultra-Marines. There's some reason to believe she may rejoin the Justice League once again, based on some news I've heard about a forthcoming action figure assortment from DC Direct.
In the animated series, Vixen has played a surprisingly major role for someone who, in the comics, was a third-string character at best. She became romantically involved with Green Lantern John Stewart, much to the frequent consternation of Stewart's one-time paramour Hawkgirl, whom Stewart broke up with after the Thanagarian invasion (and someone put these two in the same figure three-pack? Somebody's got a sense of humor. Would've been even more hysterical if they'd thrown in Green Lantern instead of Dr. Fate...)
Vixen's "animal powers" in the animated series, and I believe also in the comics, consist of being able to call upon the primary attributes of any given animal. If she needs considerable strength, she might call upon the abilities of an elephant. That doesn't mean she'll look like one, but she'll be as strong as one. If she needs great speed, she might call upon the abilities of a cheetah.
The figure is -- decent, but could've been better. It's one of those that you sort of want to have in your Justice League collection because of the prominent role she played in the animated series, but at the same time, you also tend to believe that Mattel could've done a better job. The body is fine -- it's the same body mold as Dr. Light and most of the other female figures. It's the headsculpt that's off. It's too large and too -- tall, for lack of a better phrase. And more than a little -- bulbous. Looks like an upside down brown egg, especially in profile. The overall detail work isn't bad, and it's painted neatly, but just the overall shape of the head tends to throw the rest of it off. I've seen worse in the Justice League line, certainly, but Vixen could've, and should've, been better.
VIGILANTE - The inclusion of this particular character in the animated series was an interesting one, largely due to WHICH Vigilante was chosen for the job. Arguably the best-known modern-day Vigilante was former district attorney Adrian Chase, who as a result of a series of tragic events in his life, played out in the pages of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's Teen Titans, became a costumed hero known as Vigilante, and was essentially the DC Universe's version of The Punisher for a time. Even had his own title for a while.
That's not the Vigilante that appears in Justice League Unlimited. This Vigilante is a Western-style hero, although he does not in fact date all the way back to the Old West. He does, however, date back to the 1940's, and did spend some time in the Old West.
Once again, according to the DC Universe, 'Singing cowboy' Greg Sanders was a masked hero during the 1940s and a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. He and the other Soldiers were thrown through time in battle with the Nebula Man, Vigilante being thrown into the Old West for two decades before being rescued. He is still alive today, but retired from both super-heroics and show business.
Born in the rough Wyoming wilderness, the Sanders family was treated to tales of their heroic ancestors, such as the grandfather, Sheriff Sanders who defended the territory from Indian renegades and those who would prey on the settlers and honest people trying to scrape a living from the American West. Greg Sanders grew up feeling the draw of show business and left the prairie for the bright lights and big cities. After finding fame as "The Prairie Troubadour", Greg's father, also a sheriff, was murdered by robbers holding up a stagecoach that was transferring a gold shipment. Greg returned home and disguising himself, brought the criminals to justice. After returning to New York, he knew the skills that he had learned at his father's knee would help bring justice to a city in some ways as wild as the wilderness where he was raised. He took the name "Vigilante".
In the Fall of 1941, along with The Crimson Avenger and Wing, The Shining Knight and The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy, Vigilante and his sidekick were founding members of The Law's Legionnaires (also known as the Seven Soldiers of Victory) after stopping the machinations of the criminal mastermind The Hand and one of his hirelings, The Dummy.
After solving a case in Chinatown (a section of New York), The Vigilante soon acquired the services of a young Chinese boy, Jimmy Leong, who became his partner and was known as Stuff, The Chinatown Kid. The two, along with their friends in the Law's Legionnaires, joined the Justice Society and other unaffiliated heroes in the wartime group, All-Star Squadron, at their first general meeting in February, 1942.
In 1949, however, the Law's Legionnaires gathered together to battle Nebula-Man. In defeating the menace, one of the Legionnaires was killed and the rest were scattered throughout the timestream. The Vigilante was thrown into the Old West, where he remained for 20 years until rescued by the combined team of the Justice League and the Justice Society, to battle once more The Hand. After defeating the threat, Greg retired. His financial situation secured through wise investments of his monies over 40 years ago, and nostalgia over his film and recording career, Greg spends much of his time studying the modern "super-heroes", much to the consternation of his wife, Helen, and Victor Leong, his business advisor, and younger brother of his original sidekick.
The Vigilante is a cunning and savage opponent when provoked. Skilled in the use of the lariat and a master marksman with his Colt six-shooters, he is not above using his fists if the situation demands. His knowledge of Western lore and survival skills make him an expert tracker, and in combination with the Ju-Jitsu sills of his partner Stuff he often has the edge in hand-to-hand combat. His main mode of transport in the city is a modified motorcycle, capable of stunt work under the most gruelling of conditions. On the open plains, he uses his superior horseman skills.
Obviously this applies more to the comics version of the character than the animated, but seeing as how the animated Vigilante has never had an extensive origin revealed, it's entirely possible that, to some degree, it's applicable to him, as well, although it leaves open the question of how he can be operative today if he started in the super-hero business sixty years ago. Maybe he didn't spend as much time in the Old West and was rescued a lot later?
Vigilante has seen a fair amount of action in the animated series for a character who was certainly never one of the big names in the DC Universe. He was in one adventure that also featured Shayera and Vixen, and was also prominent in an episode where Green Arrow gathered a group of generally non-super-powered heroes to combat a super-powered menace. He comported himself well in both instances. Vigilante, not surprisingly, spoke with a considerable Texas drawl to his voice.
The figure is very impressive, especially given that, unlike the vast majority of current Justice League figures, he couldn't use the common male body mold. Vigilante doesn't wear super-hero tights. He has a fairly loose-fitting dark blue cowboy shirt, somewhat flared white slacks, and cowboy boots. The figure basically had to be designed from head to toe. The last time that happened in the line was with Rocket Red, and it doesn't happen often. It's perhaps no great surprise that the figure is fairly popular just now. He's available on a single card.
Vigilante's head sculpt is excellent, with his trademark white hat and very large red bandanna covering his lower face. The figure's accessories include a pistol in the holster, and a coiled lasso.
Even if you're not especially into Western heroes, one has to give Mattel a lot of credit for being willing to create an entirely new set of molds to turn out a really excellent figure of a decidedly lesser- known character like Vigilante. I remember reading a short adventure featuring this character in the comics in the 1960's. I would never have expected to own an action figure of him.
HUNTRESS - This figure comes in a three-pack that also includes Atom and Batman. I'm sure I don't have to explain the Dark Knight to anyone. It's a little weird seeing an Atom figure that's the same size as everybody else in the set, since Professor Ray Palmer is best known for shrinking down to microscopic size if necessary, as part of his super-hero adventures.
As for Huntress, her origin gets a little peculiar. Originally, she was Helena Wayne, daughter of the Batman of Earth-2. But that was before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which eliminated all alternate Earths. The modern Huntress is Helena Bertinelli. To some degree, the same character, but with a revised origin to remove the direct Bat-connection, and make allowances for the post-Crisis Earth.
In the revised history, Helena Bertinelli is the daughter of Guido Bertinelli, head of the Bertinelli crime family, one of the largest Mafia families in America. She grew up in the East Town of Gotham City. At age six Helena was abducted by a person known as Vince on behalf of a rival crime family. When she was returned by the police later that evening it was quite evident that the experience had taken its toll on the young girl. Where she was once an outgoing, optimistic, naive child she quickly became more serious, surreptitious and distrustful.
After the incident Helena's father decided that she was to be sent of to school far from the family. Later, however, an assassin known as Omerta the Silencer broke in and murdered her entire family. Helena only survived the attack by playing dead herself. Fortunately her bodyguard, only known as Sal, found her first and brought her to safety. He then taught her to protect herself, training her in the martial arts as well as the use of all kinds of weapons.
In order to be able to bring her family's killers to justice she decided that she had to create another identity for herself. She then designed a costume and under the identity of the Huntress she began seeking out her family's killers. Eventually she found out that Omerta was actually her family's consiglieri, a lawyer who had been employed both by Guido Bertinelli and a Mafioso known as Mandragora. Mandragora had wanted the Bertinelli fortune for himself and had ordered the hit on the family so that he could establish a major American empire himself. Having defeated Omerta and Mandragora, Helena decided to move to New York and keep on fighting crime as the Huntress.
Later, she returned to Gotham City where she continued her crimefighting career. Early on she met Robin (Tim Drake) who quickly discovered her secret identity, much to her dismay. Batman himself does not approve of the Huntress as he believes her methods to be to violent. By not accepting her as one of the family he hopes to discourage her from continuing her career as Huntress, but instead it has made more determined than ever. Though Huntress has been called in to help out on rare occasions, she mostly keeps to her own.
At one point, Batman invited her to join the JLA in an attempt to soothe her aggressive side. However, after the destruction of Gotham City and the following "No Man's Land" crisis, Huntress once again became more bitter and tough, preferring to work on her own rather than be beholden to the rules of either the Justice League or the Bat-family.
The Huntress is an ace gymnast and a master hand-to-hand combatant skilled in a number of martial arts. She is also a master of disguise. Her marksmanship is excellent, no matter how strange the weapon. The weapons in her arsenal include a variety of edged weapons, including a crossbow, throwing knives and darts.
Interestingly enough, some of this history can be applied to the animated Huntress character, at least on a basic level. She was ejected from the Justice League for excessive force and for bending the rules a few too many times. She honestly didn't care, and struck out on her own, although she later started up a partnership and even a romance with the enigmatic hero known as The Question. She's helped out the Justice League independently several times, although the core team still disapproves of her and her attitude. The feeling seems to be mutual.
Figurewise, the Huntress figure is very nicely done. The character's animated costume, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is a little skimpier than the one worn by the character in the comics, which is clearly designed to have protective elements to it, as well as convey an image of a dark threat. The animated Huntress' costume is mostly black with a purple cape, mask, and trim, but has bare arms, upper legs, and midriff. Personally, I can't see the comics Huntress dressing like this.
The headsculpt is excellent. Well designed and nicely painted. Putting her in a three-pack with a Batman figure is a nice bit of irony, too, although it's probably a good thing they have The Atom between them, although he probably wishes he could shrink down and get the heck out of there.
ELONGATED MAN - You really have to feel sorry for this guy. In the comics, he's gone from being a relatively happy-go-lucky sort, longtime distinguished member of the Justice League -- if something of a second- rate version of Plastic Man -- to being, as a result of events in IDENTITY CRISIS and INFINITE CRISIS -- a man whose wife was murdered by the ex-wife of a fellow Justice League member. As of this writing, he's a wanderer, trying to find a way to restore his wife to life.
Fortunately, none of those tragic events have played out in the animated series. If anything, Elongated Man seems to have been brought in, at least in part, because of the fact that the producers of the show couldn't get the rights to include Plastic Man, even though Plas had been a prominent member of the Justice League in recent years.
Rights can be a tricky thing. You'll notice we haven't had figures of any of the Charlton Comics-based heroes, like The Question, Captain Atom, or Blue Beetle, despite the fact that at least those first two have had far greater active roles in the Justice League animated series than some of the people we have gotten figures of (I still don't recall ANY episodes with Waverider...!). Granted all three of these characters have undergone substantial recent changes in the comics. But I fail to see why we can't have animated figures of them.
Anyway, as for Elongated Man - The character has a fair amount of history in the DC Universe. He first appeared in 1960, in the pages of "The Flash". Growing up in the small prairie town of Waymore, Nebraska, young Ralph Dibny dreamed of big-city fame and fortune. Worrying far more about being ignored than becoming a spectacle, he played the part of prankster and showoff during his entire childhood. Ralph wanted to find a way to make a career preferably in showbiz, but he couldn't sing, couldn't dance... But he was skinny! And there were those who had actually turned their skinniness into a career - the "India rubber-men" that he had always loved to watch at carnival side shows.
Training for years, but never coming close to being even half as agile as the India rubber-men, Ralph became more and more convinced that there was a trade secret behind their skills. In his late teens, he started traveling around, going from carnival to carnival and talking to "rubber-men" at every opportunity, always getting the answer that the trade secret did not exist.
However, Ralph found a peculiarity that all the contortionists had in common - they were all very fond of a soda pop called "Gingold", made from juice of the rare Gingo fruit of the Yucatán.
Ralph deduced that if the rubber-men did not drink Gingold to become stretchable, the secret might lie in the soda pop unknowingly to them. In a final attempt to solve the riddle, he distilled the raw essence of the Gingo fruit and drank it. First nothing happened, but later, when he least expected it, Ralph discovered that the extract had given him the ability to stretch his body to great lengths.
Ralph left Waymore to embark on a career on his own - not as a contortionist, but as a super-hero. He crafted a purple, elastic costume for himself and, calling himself "the Elongated Man", and headed for Central City, home of the Flash. The Flash originally believed Ralph to be a villain responsible for a series of odd robberies in the city, but after they managed to capture the real criminals together, the two heroes became lifetime friends.
By the time that Ralph hit Manhattan, he had made some money from TV shows and stage appearances. Being content with a life of fame, Ralph was one of the first super-heroes ever to reveal his identity to the world. Since this day, he always introduces himself as "Ralph Dibny - the World-Famous Elongated Man".
However, his first publicity stunt in New York was to crash the debutante ball of the rich, young, and beautiful Sue Dearbon, while checking for jewel thieves. Sue immediately became intrigued by the Stretchable Sleuth, and shortly after, this odd couple became married.
Though Ralph and Sue were different in many respects, they had one thing in common: both craved excitement and adventure. For the better part of the decade, they traveled around the world on a nearly endless honeymoon, in American small-towns and big cities, in Europe and South America, and wherever they went, Ralph always found a bizarre mystery that cried out to be solved by the effective sleuthing of the Elongated Man. Inevitably when sensing a mystery, his nose would tend to twitch. Inspired by famous detectives such as Sherlock Holmes and Hamilton Drew, Ralph refined his deductive skills during this time, becoming the master detective he is today. He thwarted the schemes of normal criminals as well as gimmicked ones such as Captain Boomerang, Master Zero, the Phantom General, the Calculator, and others.
Frequently, he worked together with the Flash, the Batman, and even the entire Justice League of America. After assisting the League on a few cases, the Elongated Man was nominated for League membership by the Flash, and the other members agreed. During his tenure with the JLA, the Ductile Detective added his light-heartedness to the team, sometimes pushing the limits, but, as the Atom once said, "he always came through in the pinch".
Behind Ralph's goofy acts and showoff mentality, one can find the traces of a mature, kind man, willing to do good. By nature, Ralph is first and foremost a detective, and detection is one of the few things he is ever serious about. Even his teammates and associates have often been surprised to hear the jokester spout off a series of brilliant analytical deductions.
Dibny is no longer a jokester in the comics, and he's not even the Elongated Man. He's destroyed his supply of Gingold, and continues to grieve his late wife even as he seeks the means to restore her to life if at all possible.
The character actually was never all that prominently featured in the animated series, however his animated likeness was an abundantly superb styling of the character from the comics.It duplicated very nicely Ralph's rather long face, and his wavy reddish hair. He is outfitted in a purple and white costume that is a dead-on match for one that he has worn during his tenure in Justice League. Some of the white paint on the left leg and the right boot is pretty sloppy, unfortunately, but otherwise no problems.
Of course the body mold is the same "standard male" set of molds used for most characters, and as such it does not actually stretch, but it's still a good likeness of this popular and well-known character, who probably deserved more time in the animated series than he actually got.
Let me conclude with this. I am truly delighted that Mattel is continuing
the Justice League Unlimited line. There's still plenty of characters,
both heroes and villains, that can be made, and it is also my hope that
there will be some future animation, which might pave the way to even
more figures. The JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED line is one of the few really
cool action figure lines presently out there, and any of it most definitely
has my highest recommendation, including the figures that I have reviewed