Yes, we are still two solid months away from the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, but we are not waiting — we have our first preview of an event exclusive in the form of the DC Club Infinite Earths Shazam!
By now I am sure you have heard the talk. The Internet is crawling with questions that run the gamut of everything from “Why that?” to “WTF?,” but months before anyone even has a chance to buy this SDCC-exclusive Shazam figure, it seems as though the decisions have been made about him, and, by and large, they are not positive. If you have the stomach for it, you can read all of the gory details as reaction played out in real time, but I will try to sum up the prevailing view if I can.
As you know, Mattel has made a habit of announcing their San Diego Comic Con exclusive figures in April each year, and, generally speaking, Masters of the Universe and DC pull the most attention from the collector sect. This year has been no different when it comes to timing and interest, but reaction to the respective exclusive choices is playing out very differently from Despondos to Blackgate. For the most part, the Rock People for MOTUC have been met with praise while Shazam here has seen mostly, well, not praise. The discontent is not even unified as several factors are playing into the overall verdict, but one thing seems clear: DC fans were hoping for something different.
So, we can talk about the choice of the nU52 Shazam until we are blue in the face. I agree that the choice seems odd since he is being marketed under the DC Club Infinite Earths banner, and I am ALWAYS one to prefer a classic character in an iconic look for my collection, but here we are. Personally, I would have been just fine if this figure was released as the exclusive for DC Unlimited, as that is the branding for all of his nU cohorts that have come before, and I certainly share in a bit of the “coulda, shoulda, woulda been” syndrome. So I get it, but at the end of the day, I don’t think that we will ever be privy to all of the reasons he has landed as the exclusive, but the fact that there was no other place for him in this year’s release schedule seems reasonable enough. The final judgement will be passed in sales numbers.
The other stickler surrounding Shazam comes in a more tangible form — his cape hood. Yes, he does have a hood in the new continuity and, yes, he does wear it sometimes, but, well, the hood on the figure is just too big. I mean, there is really no other way to say it. I have tried to position the hood and figure in different ways, but there is just no way of making it look as though it matches in size or holds naturally on his head. I cannot speculate if this was a design choice or a production issue, but there is an indentation in the back of the inside of the hood that fits his head perfectly, so I don’t think that we can assume that it was made larger in the mechanical process. The good news is that it is removable and I have a feeling that the lion’s share of the collectors out there will, if they buy him, be displaying Shazam without his hood. I will say this, though: the scale is pretty spot-on for MOTUC, if not DCUC, so customizers might be looking for some extras.
The funny thing is, past the whole hood thing, I think he is actually a really well-done figure. I mean, once I took the hood off, it was like I was dealing with a different toy altogether, and if he would have been released in the DC Unlimited line, I think we would hear more praise than not for him. He is not perfect, but I find him to be a stronger nU figure than Wonder Woman (for sure) and maybe even Superman. The overall design of the costume and Billy Batson’s features don’t deviate much from the classic design, so he had some solid starting elements. I guess if you never wore trunks in the first place, DC editorial can’t take them away from you.
His cape has gotten longer and it attaches to the front of his costume in a more traditional fashion, but the spirit of it remains the same. That can also be said of his cuffs and boots — they are more streamlined and gold now, but they still carry the overall feel of “Captain Marvel” with them. I actually really like the new lightning bolt on his chest and it has been done quite well to represent the lightning that is shown with it. It is actually a separate piece so it stands out from the figure itself and adds a bit of dimension to the standard DCUC base body.
My favorite part of the figure is his head sculpt and I think that it captures the character really, really well. In fact, for being a nU figure, it actually reminds me more of very early Captain Marvel portrayals from the 1940s. His head is slightly rounded, but he has a very strong, wide jaw; his expression is rather placid, but that keeps with the new “edginess” of the current DC branding. His hair looks good slicked straight back, and it gives him more of a feeling of “superhero” rather than looking like someone’s dad dressed up in red and a cape, a la Alex Ross. His eyes are painted to match the lightning on his chest and represent that he has the power in him (I think) for good now.
All of those things make for a pretty strong and likable rendition of the character. He is, as I said, built on a standard DCUC body and that comes with all of the strengths and weakness as usual, but it does highlight one of the things that I feel falls short. The lines on the costume are painted on, rather than being sculpted detail. It is not that it looks bad, in fact I did not know it until he was taken out of the packaging, but I was expecting the lines to be sculpted. I am positive that this was a cost-saving choice, but if that would have been done in sculpt I think it would have been even more dynamic. I know that in the pictures, the red colors don’t match up perfectly, but it is really hard to tell on the figure itself.
So yeah, this has been a bit of a weird trip. This figure is not available until mid-July in San Diego, and then in August on Matty Collector, but plenty has been said and passed down on him. I will admit that he is an odd choice for a Club IE exclusive and that there is no real saving the hood, but… if you are building a nU52 universe, once you take off the hood, he actually stands as a pretty nice figure. I think Captain Marvel fans will be pleased too, so there will be appeal there as well. Actually having the figure in hand has made me not hate him for what he represents because he is a pretty decent toy. That certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t wish we had an actual SDCC exclusive that fits the philosophy of Club IE a bit better. I know this will probably do little to sway those that have made up their minds already, but this Shazam (again, hoodless) will fit right along with the brave new world of DC figures.
*Thanks to Toy Guru and DC team for sending along ol’ Billy for a First Look, he will be invading SDCC in a little less than two months!