I don't want to put down the character, but when I think of likely candidates for being turned into action figures for Mattel's superb line of DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS action figures, the name "Killer Moth" doesn't exactly leap to the forefront. He doesn't even leap to the forefront for DC Universe Infinite Heroes. Okay - he doesn't even leap to the forefront for Justice League Unlimited, and as cool as that line is, they'll do just about anybody.
I could probably, with a little time, think of about a hundred or so characters that are more likely candidates for entry into the action figure world. And that's just from paging through my copy of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I am moderately convinced that one of the reasons Mattel decided to put this character out there was just to do someone totally unexpected and pretty bizarre. And, you've got to admit, with a costume like that, he's an attention getter. Hey, Power Rangers, Transformers, Pokemon - think YOU'VE got colorful toys? Get a load of this...
Although I had certainly heard about the character of Killer Moth, I wasn't terribly knowledgeable about his background. I knew he was a relatively obscure Batman villain and a bad dresser. Let's learn about his history:
Killer Moth is a fictional character in the DC Comics universe. He first appeared in Batman #63 published in 1951.
I honestly would've figured he was a product of the 1960's. Somebody came up with a color scheme like this in the 50's? And the early 50's? In 1951, World War II was just six years over. I've always sort of been under the impression that it was a relatively quiet time. Okay, we were involved in the Korean conflict, but somebody dressed like this isn't what I think of when I think of the 50's...
The original Killer Moth is a prisoner identified only by his prison number, 234026. While in prison, he reads a newspaper article about Batman and decides to set himself up as the "anti-Batman," hiring himself out to Gotham City's criminals to help them elude capture by police. Upon his release, he uses the hidden proceeds of his crimes to build a "Mothcave", modeled on the photos of the Batcave in the newspaper article he read.
Killer Moth also establishes a false identity, as millionaire philanthropist Cameron van Cleer. In this guise, he becomes friends with Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile, he promotes himself to Gotham's criminals using his identity as Killer Moth, giving them each an infra-red Moth-signal. In his first job, he rescues some criminals from the police and then uses his Mothmobile to defeat and capture Batman and Robin. The duo escape and lead Killer Moth to a climactic battle on Gotham Bridge, which ends when the villain plunges 1,000 feet into the river and disappears.
In his second appearance (Batman #64 March 1951) Killer Moth kidnaps Bruce Wayne and learns his secret identity. However, he is shot by other criminals and the resultant cranial injury causes amnesia. He remains a persistent enemy appearing through the Silver Age of comics. He is frequently remembered as being the first criminal Batgirl encounters in Detective Comics #359.
One has to wonder what part of this guy's psyche caused him to dress so alarmingly when trying to assume a sort of "anti-Batman" identity. I mean, the only other Batman villain to use these colors is the Joker, and at least he 's wearing them as a suit... Apparently the amnesia he suffered didn't do much for his taste. And he was a "persistent enemy" during the Silver Age? I need to find some 50's comics...
In the 1990s, in the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, Killer Moth's real identity is revealed as Drury Walker, an unsuccessful criminal whom no one takes seriously.
Okay, hold it. You're an unsuccessful criminal, your major complaint is that no one takes you seriously, and your solution to this is to put on a purple shirt, orange and green striped tights, and a green bug mask!?
He again adopts the false identity of Cameron van Cleer and the persona of Killer Moth to fight Batman. This version first appears in Batman: Shadow of the Bat #7 (December 1992), with a more detailed origin appearing in Batgirl: Year One.
In Shadow of the Bat, Killer Moth sets up a team called "the Misfits", comprising second-string Batman villains, to make another kidnap attempt on Bruce Wayne, as well as other prominent citizens. This team proves unsuccessful, turning against Moth when they realize he plans to kill the hostages.
He is one of the villains who sells their souls to the demonic Neron in Underworld Unleashed, where he asks to become feared. He is metamorphosed into a moth-like like monster called Charaxes. As Charaxes, Walker resembles a vaguely humanoid, giant brown moth. He consumes humans and spins cocoons in which to keep his prey.
You know, you have to wonder about a character who gets turned into a vaguely humanoid, giant brown moth who consumes humans (and probably flits around street lights a lot), and this is arguably an IMPROVEMENT in some respects...
In a later story, Charaxes begins laying hundreds of eggs, all of which hatch in to duplicates of Drury Walker.
Charaxes despises his progeny, but is unable to destroy them. Following his capture, these duplicates are taken into government custody. During an argument between various bodies as to what should be done with them, they attack a scientist and are killed.
At around the same time, Oracle is confronted by a criminal named Danko Twag who claims to be the "real" Killer Moth (the one she had defeated), and that Drury Walker had been an imposter. During a rant in which he claims they are going to be a team, she captures him in an energy cell and he seemingly disintegrates himself.
In Infinite Crists, Charaxes is ripped in half by Superboy-Prime during the Battle of Metropolis, and presumed deceased.
A new Killer Moth appears in Batman #652, during the Face the Face storyline wherein he displays competence in hand-to-hand combat and the ability of flight when facing Robin. He later appears working alongside fellow Gotham criminals Firefly and Lock-Up in the Gotham Underground limited series. The identity and origins of this new Killer Moth remain unrevealed.
Okay, someone ELSE actually willingly took up this identity and costume?
As to his powers and abilities, apart from the ability to withstand his own wardrobe, Killer Moth has no superhuman abilities; he relies on the vast array of equipment he has developed. Killer Moth's range of gimmicks includes a moth mobile, a moth signal, and a steel-line, which allows him to swing through the skies. He carries a cocoon gun that fires a stream of sticky threads that can totally envelop a victim. The gun can also fire a grenade.
A couple of things surprised me - and maybe I'm making a little too much fun of this character (although it's awfully hard not to with him standing on the table next to me here). One is his various modern m edia appearances. He turned up a couple of times in the Teen Titans animated series, although here he more closely resembled his Charaxes design, although he wasn't quite as ferocious.
Killer Moth is introduced as a criminal who has been bio-engineering mutant moth creatures with the intention of using them to take over the city. At the prodding of his spoiled daughter Kitten, Killer Moth uses the creatures to blackmail Robin into taking Kitten to her junior prom. His plan is foiled when Robin breaks the device which controls his moths, and Killer Moth and Kitten are taken to jail.
Killer Moth returns in the episode "Can I Keep Him?," where he turns Starfire's pet larva named Silkie into a giant moth to attack the Titans. He is eventually taken down by his own creation when Silkie decides that he prefers Starfire over Killer Moth.
Killer Moth and Kitten later become members of the Brotherhood of Evil. The two join in the final battle against the Titans in "Calling All Titans" wherein Kitten fights with a laser-whip, while Killer Moth attacks Starfire with a large swarm of moths. Since the battle ends off-screen in "Titans Together," and since Starfire later reappears inside the Brain's base to rescue Beast Boy's group along with Bumblebee and Red Star, it is assumed that either Starfire won the fight off-screen or at least was able to escape capture. Killer Moth is turned to ice when Más y Menos send him through Professor Chang's flash-freezing machine.
Killer Moth appears in the series The Batman. The character is a physically weak coffee boy for The Penguin's gang in the episode "Team Penguin". He is transformed into a massive, powerful version of Charaxes after being exposed to chemical fumes and radioactive moths dissolving into his skin during a robbery with Penguin. Moth still maintains his milquetoast personality and poor combat abilities despite his size and strength.
Killer Moth appears at the end of the first stage of the NES's Batman loosely movie-based Batman game, in a suit of flying insect-like armor. Killer Moth also appears as a boss character in the Nintendo video game Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
Killer Moth appears in Lego Batman: The Video Game as a boss and a playable character. He aids Joker's plot in poisoning Gotham City with his laughing gas. Like his namesake, in-game Killer Moth is attracted to bright lights, even trying to touch a lamp at the Joker's hideout with the others, but the Scarecrow stops him. He uses a handgun as a weapon. He also has the ability to glide using his wings.
This guy as a "boss" character? Still, I'll have to admit, the idea of "flying insect-like armor" I can just about get behind. At least it sounds better than trying to strike fear into the hearts of heroes with your abhorrent fashion sense and a cocoon gun...
Wildest of all was something I had never previously known about the character, from the 1960's Batman TV series. A short episode of the 1960s live-action Batman television series that premiered Batgirl featured Killer Moth as the villain (played by Tim Herbert), but it was never aired. It has been circulated through bootlegs.
This ties in, loosely, I suspect, to the previously stated fact that in the comics, Killer Moth was the first villain that Batgirl ever faced, in Detective Comics #359, dated January 1967, "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl", Killer Moth is Batgirl's first and main adversary after he leads her to believe that he killed Bruce Wayne. Batgirl later learns that Wayne has not died, after confronting Batman and Robin.
It's a shame the character never appeared in the 1960's live-action series. With this outfit, it was the one incarnation of Batman where he might have actually fit in rather well.
So, now that I've mocked the character to the degree that I have, how's the figure? Well, you know, I've been hearing some reports here and there that Mattel is starting to get its act together quality-control wise with regard to their action figures, especially DC Universe Classics (with Series 6, which Killer Moth is a part of) and (hopefully) Masters of the Universe Classics. While I will remain somewhat skeptical of this, especially after the fiascos I went through with Captain Atom and Lightray, if there is one small sign that maybe this is indeed the case, it's that it can't have been easy to paint the stripes on the legs of this guy as effectively as they have.
I initially thought Killer Moth used a distinctive set of body molds. Somehow, in package, he looked somewhat thinner in overall build than the standard "male hero" body molds that Mattel uses on a large percentage of their DC Universe Classics figures, a consistency which I sincerely appreciate and which I think enhances the line. But no, Killer Moth uses the same body molds. I guess if you're going to dress like this, you'd better be able to back it up with a fight if need be.
The one mystery surrounding this figure is - how in the world did they get him into his packaging. The figure, typical for DC Universe Classics figures, is mounted to an internal framework of somewhat form-fitting clear plastic, inside the outer plastic bubble of the overall package. Now here's the mystery. His wings, which are more rigid than I would have expected, are actually BEHIND this framework, and the hole in the framework is far too small for them to fit through. I had to cut this framework in order to extract the figure.
The only solution in my mind is that the small pack on his back that includes the wings would have to have been glued in place DURING the packaging process, but I didn't think that doing such was an especially workable procedure. Granted, my knowledge of toy factories is limited.
Fortunately, I was able to extract him without incident. The Killer Moth figure is a superb likeness of the comics character. His shirt is a fairly strong lavender in color. I don't want to say "dark lavender" because then that leads right into purple. And it's not really dark enough for that. But I wouldn't call it pastel, either. There's a yellow "moth" insignia on his chest, and his wings, a flat, somewhat translucent orange, are attached to his back as part of a small lavender backpack. The wings do not flap. This guy isn't Hawkman...
Killer Moth has orange gloves, a yellow belt, and his most obvious wardrobe portion is the decidedly intense orange and bright green leggings. The costume also includes orange trunks and shoes, but it's all worked together very effectively.
Topping this all off, of course, is his mask. I recall the Killer Moth appearance from Batgirl's debut, and the mask worn by the character then looked as much as anything like an egg-shaped helmet with odd eyes painted on it. The DC Universe Classics Killer Moth is a little more detailed, while not losing the design completely. The mask looks something like a helmet, but there is a distinct brow, with two decently sinister red eyes underneath, and then what looks like a beak emerging from underneath the eyes, and two small protuberances off to the sides. It bor ders on the comical, but not quite, and there's enough malice in the eyes and brow that you find yourself not quite wanting to laugh at this guy.
Topping off the helmet-mask are two small green antennae, which appear to have been molded separately and glued in with a nice degree of precision and dexterity.
Killer Moth does come with his cocoon gun, which is molded in metallic gold. It's a nicely-made piece, and almost seems incongruous with the character given its color scheme. There is a loop on the right side of the figure's belt into which the gun can be inserted.
Of course, articulation of the figure is excellent. Killer Moth is fully articulated at the head, arms, upper-arm swivel, elbow, wrist, mid-torso, waist, legs, above-knee swivel (VERY nicely blended in with the leg stripes in this instance) knees, and ankles. A good number of these articulation points have a wide range of motion, not just the standard back and forth. While I obviously cannot guarantee that every Killer Moth figure out there will be as well assembled as the one I was fortunate enough to purchase, I can say that the one I did purchase is in excellent condition, all the articulation points move well, none were stuck, and none were excessively loose. Here's hoping it's a real trend...
One additional note about the character's comic book appearances. Killer Moth put in a fairly extensive appearance in the pages of BOOSTER GOLD a number of months ago. Booster is DC's resident time-traveling hero, so while the story didn't play in sequence, the artwork was certainly up to date (as were the coloring and printing techniques), and it was interesting to see this somewhat obscure character turn up again - especially in Booster Gold, who's not exactly Mr. Serious himself.
So, what's my final word here? Okay, look, it's awfully hard to take a character who looks like this seriously. And I'll have to admit that I am not familiar with all of Killer Moth's Silver Age appearances. Maybe he really was right up there with the big names during this time, and was a real plague in Batman's universe. But let's also be honest here. He's a little hard to take seriously these days, especially with that color scheme.
But maybe that's why I like him. Maybe Killer Moth is, in a weird way (as if there'd be any other way) a small symbol of a time when comics were more fun than they sometimes are now. I do get a little tried of all the angst and blood and intrigue all the time that seems to be the order of the day far too often. Give me a fun, reasonably straightforward adventure anytime.
And, you've got to admit, Killer Moth is hard to miss in a crowd, this is likely going to be the only Killer Moth ever, and you know you want to put him in your DC Universe Classics collection (or for that matter, almost any action figure collection).
This really is a cool and interesting figure, and I am very pleased with him, and how well he's made. Hopefully in that regard, he's a sign of good things to come from the line. And just for himself, as well. The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS KILLER MOTH definitely has my highest and enthusiastic recommendation!