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DC Universe Classics – The Class of 2011

Continuing our New Year celebration, we push on with another one of our long-standing traditions – the DCUC year in review. This is kind of a weird one since now that series 20 has started to hit, 2011 is the last year for DCUC as we know it. The line is morphing into something new at retail and the Club Infinite Earths subscription begins April. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for our favorite DC figures, but we can certainly reflect upon the year that was. 2011 pulled us in a lot of directions, especially in terms of character selection, but there were certainly a lot of things to enjoy. Read on to remember 2011 and stay tuned – we have a gigantic DCUC retrospective coming in the next couple of days.

Hindsight is not 20/20. Sure, everyone seems to say it is, but it’s really not. Because you may be able to look back at a certain line of logic and pinpoint where a divergent path would be preferable, but the divergent path itself may lead to unwelcome avenues. So when looking back at the often discombobulated offerings of 2011, it’s hard to look at it with unbiased eyes.

The deadly beast of theme waves popped up this year, leading to some of the most debated waves in the line. There are some who would look at the Lantern-themed wave 17 and the Superfriends-themed wave 18 and can see nothing but what those waves could have been. If themes were what they were going for, maybe 17 could have been less about the deputies and more first stringers like Larfleeze and Atrocitus. Maybe 18 could have ditched the cartoons and worked on delivering some Freedom Fighters or All Star Squadron, or Secret Six. Maybe an all villains wave to knock out some Rogues.

Green Lantern Classics Series 2

It’s easy to play the game of “I’d rather have.” There’s not a toy fan alive that hasn’t played that game in their head, or endlessly on a forum. But it’s harder to sit back and take the actual overview of a line without the crutch of a more myopic hindsight than we’d like to admit.

So looking back at the previous year, I’m going to look less at what I’d rather have, and more at what holes have been filled.

I’ll admit this first: I skipped wave 17. I may pick it up at some point for a hopefully reduced price, but after being a completist with the line for 16 waves, I just couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm to care about wave 17. And it’s taken a large share of heat from collectors. But it wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t some demand, and there’s a healthy contingent of Fwooshers who have been eager to add them to their collection. Sure, I’d rather have had any number of characters in place of a couple of Blue Flash in the Pans, but they fulfilled a need in some collector’s shelves, so maybe it served a purpose after all. Maybe the decision to dedicate a wave to those particular versions would have been different if the endtimes hadn’t been approaching with such editorially mandated alacrity. Who knows.

DC Universe Classics Series 17

Eighteen was nearly as divisive. The shrieking chorus of the anti-Superfriend contingent was so pervasive and loud that they nearly drowned out those eager to finish off their Superfriends collection. “They’re cartoon characters!” “The cartoon was stupid!” “This is a comic line!” “You’re ugly and smell like a donkey!” “You’re inbred and dumb!”

Valid criticisms. And again, it’s easy to play the “I’d rather have” game, measuring out just how much unique tooling went into each figure and then cross-purposing that into other, more “legitimate” characters. But I look at it like this: sure, Superfriends won’t win awards for best cartoon, and the thinly veiled stereotypes and bright outfits aren’t terribly sophisticated, but there’s an entire generation of kids that were led to comics through that cartoon. Dissecting the validity of those characters based on their genesis goes against the point of toys, which is to serve as avatars of the imagination. Imagination is what separates us from animals. Well, imagination and our ability to flush our poop away. Quality of the source material is beside the point when we’re talking about imagination. Whether it’s deputy Lanterns or stereotypes in spandex, whether it’s from a comic or a cartoon, the imagination is where all of this springs from. I bought wave 18 happily, not out of devotion to the cartoon—I haven’t seen an episode in probably decades—but out of devotion to the idea behind the toys. Somewhere there was a kid in the seventies that wanted to have figures from the cartoon he was watching, and that kid finally got his wish. Would I have been happier if Samurai was Angle Man, if El Dorado was The Key, or if Black Vulcan had been Mirror Master? Sure. But they weren’t. But somebody else that could have been wishing some C-list villain was Samurai was able to check that off his wish list. So be it.

DC Universe Classics Swamp Thing

The themes continued through 19 and 20. Well, supposedly 19 was the last themed wave, but 20’s definitely got a bit of theme to it as well. Brightest Geoff Johns or something. Oh yes, DC creative director Geoff’s hand was palpable this year, not-quite invisible, and yet just out of sight in the frame. Captain Boomerang’s oddly modern-yet-now outdated figure is proof positive of his touch. And who’s been writing JSA for a while now? Yep. Him. Speaking of, 19 was indeed a JSA wave, and though there were still issues with a few characters—Atom’s height, Hawkman’s inclusion, so forth– it served up a nice chunk of much needed characters, rounding out one of the most important DC teams (along with the JLA—c’mon Ralph) a bit more.

And also there was Magog.

*cough*

Well, he’s not such a bad looking figure at all, 90’s clichés aside, and he definitely makes me want a Kingdom Come Superman somewhere down the line. The fact that he never belonged in the JSA wasn’t really his fault. So to me he’s more a Kingdom Come figure, like the Captain Atom variant than a JSA figure.

DC Universe Classics Legion of Superheroes

Then we finish off with wave 20, the last wave to be released under the DC Universe Classics name. Again, Geoff Johns’ probing finger can be felt all across this wave, each character recently appearing in his storylines or storyline offshoots. But that’s beside the point, because despite the drama behind a missing Scythe and the lackluster inclusion of a White Lantern Flash (again playing that “I’d rather have” game) this wave is essentially a vehicle to finally, finally get the much needed Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, a character almost as hotly desired as Martian Manhunter had been. At least to me. His body has been lying around all red and Flashy or what seems like forever. I remember the first time I ran across this striking, all yellow Flash in a comic well over three decades ago and how badly I needed him. Super Powers delivered a Flash, but sadly never brought his yellow counterpart, and customizing one of my own was not even within my capabilities back then. It’s taken a long time—and as of this writing will be longer—but I can’t wait to finally have a little Zoom in my life.

DC Universe Classics Series 18

So…four waves that finish up a 20 wave toyline. Respectable. But not enough. Never enough. The year could have been better in my eyes, but it could have been worse. And to others it may have been perfect. That’s the magic of toys.

But those four waves were not even close to adequately detailing all the toys we got. In addition, there were two offshoot lines focusing on two A-listers in the DC Universe.

First off Green Lantern Classics followed up what was to me a bit of a ho-hum first wave with a much better second wave. Some of the wacky Lantern mainstays like NautKeloi and Medphyll made the entire wave worth it. Add to that the uber-powerful Sodam Yat and what may be the greatest idea ever—a chipmunk wearing a lantern ring—and wave two of GLC far outstripped the first wave. If this had been followed up with wave 17 as GLC 3, I think there would have been far fewer angry fistshakers.

DC Universe Classics 2011 Two-Packs

Batman Legacy was unfortunately not as in-depth a line as Green Lantern Classics, but in its fairly diminished capacity it did manage to provide a handful of figures that fleshed out the collections in unique ways. Series 1 provided a welcome Batgirl repaint that, despite the limitations of the body, provided a canonical and necessary costume variation. Along with that, a Trenchcoat Joker with a fantastically executed headsculpt and a Golden age Batman with one of the best things that K-mart has ever provided: Bat-Mite. That’s one of those things that makes an entire line worth the price.

Batman Legacy

Wave 2 stumbled a bit, with a lackluster Batman and a Super-Powers inspired Mr. Freeze repaint that was the height of lazy offerings. Many are still clamoring for an actual Super Powers version of Freeze.

Rounding the wave out and providing a highlight, they did get it right and finally pumped out a Catman for devotees of Secret Six (a group I count myself a part of, as any self-respecting fwoosher should) the much loved and recently murdered series. Death by reboot.

In addition to these waves, there were a few single-package offerings to add a bit of spice, two of which were personal favorites, one that was a huge personal disappointment, and one which I am fairly indifferent to, but may pick up if inclined.

DC Universe Classics Series 19

First off, the favorites, and highlights of the year: the Legion of Super-heroes set. The Legion set is one of those things that make this hobby of toy collecting exciting to me. A huge, massive chunk of much-needed figures, thematically linked, all at once. An absolute necessity to any fan of the Legion, and a perfect offering that even though it numbers out to two waves at once, only makes you want more.

The second of these personal favorites is the Crime Syndicate set. An expensive item, which caused gnashing of teeth so loud that many believed it to be a locust swarm, it was also an oddly confused entity, providing no full set of any Syndicate team, but instead adding members to the two distinct versions of the team, pre and post Crisis. At one point, logic would have dictated that the remaining members would be offered at some point, otherwise what would be the point of two incomplete teams? But with things the way they are, who knows exactly when or if these teams will be completed at all? I’ll be out 20 bucks if they aren’t, so Mattel better find a way to finish these two teams along with the JSA, JLA, Metal Men, Doom Patrol, so forth, hint hint hint. But to somebody who loves the Syndicate, loves Morrison era JLA, loves the pre-crisis era, and loves this kind of crap, it was well worth the price and uncertainty.

DC Universe Classics All-Star Flash

The Mad Love set added in two slightly altered versions of Gotham’s craziest lovebirds. Joker has never been spiffier in his black, and Harley’s face looks decidedly less asphyxiated than her original figure, with the blue overspray toned down considerably. Each comes with all their accessories, making it a good set to pick up if you still need either figure.

DC Universe Classics Series 20

Finally, what was the most bittersweetly disappointing item of the year. Swamp Thing’s one of those figures that requires such an enormity of time and sculpting that you know when they get to him, they get one shot. So you would hope he’s not screwed up in any way. There’s two decisive eras of Swamp Thing: pre Moore and Post Moore. Pre-Moore’s Wrightson-rendered Swamp Thing is defined by a slicker, less mossy look, while the Moore written, Bissette drawn era is a significantly mossier version, messy, with tangles of weeds and tubers growing wildly.

First, it’s a great sculpt. It’s obviously pulling from a variety of different eras with some of the designs of the post Moore, with the face of pre-Moore, and as such it would make a great looking Swamp Thing figure if done correctly. But the simple fact—for me-is that it just wasn’t done right. The complaints have been repeated and repeated often, but for those who are scratching their heads and wondering what was wrong with him, this is a recap of general issues. For a minor-scale nazi like me, it’s too tall, a failing that was necessary to incorporate the internal mechanism to allow his odd, total coverage muxedo to function correctly. Instead of being a traditional toy, Swampy was turned into a strange Barbie-toy hybrid. Too tall, articulation-hampered, strangely hindered in so many aspects, it’s one of the most frustrating offerings Mattel has put out. I want to love a Swamp Thing figure, because between Len Wein, and Marty Pasko and Alan Moore, he’s been the centerpiece of some great work, and is an important part of the DC Universe. But this is more statue than toy, and is just hugely disappointing. But that’s just my take on him, while others may be perfectly satisfied with this one. Or not care at all. Philistines.

DC Universe Classics Crime Syndicate of Amerika

But to end on a positive note, as a statue, it’s a great one, and for a great price as well. I did get one after all, even knowing all his limitations, and he does look great standing on a shelf, away from everybody, glaring out at the world. I just hope the chance to do right by him opens up down the road.

So that was 2011 for DC Universe Classics. The end of an era, with more wild mood-swings than a manic-depressive ecstasy addict watching a 24 hour Woody Allen marathon. Our collections—much like our ulcers—have grown, the future is uncertain, the price is ever shifting, but through it all, the toys remain.

DC Universe Classics - The Class of 2011

*Thanks for reading and be sure to leave a comment about DCUC in 2011, we would love to hear your thoughts. Again, we have more DCUC retrospection coming soon.

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14 thoughts on “DC Universe Classics – The Class of 2011

  1. love the article as well as the retrospective on the whole line…..

    but i think you left out one line….the Bane series. on many other sites, Jonah Hex took top hero figure and was best hero figure of the year. i think they just squeaked into 2011, coming out most places in Jan. the figures in that series were as good as the ones reviewed, another great entry into the line, and yea Jonah Hex was badass….Azbatz ? the Creeper ? Lol….

    just my two cents, love the look back, and love your pics….they look great all in yearbook photo style!

  2. Pretty good article. Impressive to see all the DCUC produced this year in retrospect. Despite the criticisms, 17 was a great set and I did eat that up. As for the exclusives or whatnot, not so much yet, but they still are available, so who knows. I hope this is an even better year.

  3. Great article, but I’m feeling DCUC jet lag. Between the recent changes in policy regarding the figure offerings, lackluster figure choices, spotty availability at retail, and Q/C issues that have plagued the line almost since the beginning, I think I’m done with these. I’m a huge DCU fan, but something about the way Matty is handling this thing is leaving a really sour taste in my mouth. I may either take a permanent ‘vacation’ from DCUC or only pick up the occasional figure, but I’m absolutely done with purchasing entire waves.

  4. I just wanted to say that I really loved this retrospective. I’ve been a huge DCUC fan since back when it was simply ‘Batman’ with next to no articulation (and I’ve still got all the important figures from those waves haha) and am really sad to see it ending. Hopefully the series that is ‘replacing’ it will be just as good to fans of DCUC.

  5. That was a great article. I think you very concisely summed up the good and bad, and still kept the awe that comes from looking at this line as a whole.

  6. Thanks everyone, ero, I did mix up the waves, serves me right or going by memory. Also got a pm letting me know that I had called the Freedom Fighters Freedom Force so I’m really good at double checking.

  7. nice article agree with the crime syndicate not being just one version making fans add another team for mattel to complete. as for swamp thing i kind of liked the sculpt even if he looked like some parts of barbie got mixed up in the final prototype. plus love finaly having super friends figures for wanted that team in plastic when i was a kid

  8. Nice article. Are the Batman Legacy waves mixed up? Wave 1 was Freeze, Joker and modern Bats. Wave 2 was GA Batman, Catman and Batgirl.

  9. Great article. It’s easy to forget just how much the past 12 months actually brought us. That last shot says it all – whether you liked ’em all or not, the class of 2011 look great together and are fantastic additions to the amazing line that was DCUC. We were lucky to be there.

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