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DC Collectibles: Batman Animated Batcave Vignette Review and Customization

I’m a bit late to the party here, but I had to wait for a good deal on this set to review it. In fact, I’m still waiting.

Your old pal Disthunder here is a lifelong Batfan, as you well know. Starting just before Batmania kicked off in 1989, as a matter of fact. So I remember sitting in front of the JVC 30″ in the front room, catching the premiere of the Animated Series; floor seating for history being made. I was in love with the Kenner toyline- the clean lines and colors of the show were captured so perfectly in each figure. It was clear Kenner had a lot of love for the line, and the vehicles and playsets to follow- from the show accurate to the outlandishly inspired- demonstrated that love in a way that we truly only appreciate as adult collectors today.

So it may come as a surprise to some of you that I’m not an ardent fan of the DC Collectibles line, even though at times even I wonder if I’m supposed to be.

Obviously, I own some stuff from them; a couple Batmen, I tried out the Batmobile, and a few others here and there. One thing that is clear is that DCC, like Kenner, has (or at least had) massive love for this line. My issues seem to just stem from their love just not being enough to overcome their ongoing struggles with quality and pricing. I still have my original release Batman, in one piece, mostly because once people started breaking them, I stopped playing with it. DCC were gentlemen about it, and took care of their customers, but it doesn’t change that these figures were designed to look good. Play, pose, etc, that was secondary. And the Batmobile, while pretty robust, was designed with the aesthetics in the driver’s seat: It is nearly two feet of vehicle with maybe a third of it housing function. No pop-out panels, no additional accessories, like anti-vehicle mines or any of the other various ordinance this car used. They absolutely nailed the aesthetic and the scale, to a tee, but the downside of that was you got a massive 100-dollar vehicle that was really pretty spartan on features and details. It was exactly what it needed to be for the line that it’s made for. But as a kid who ran his Kenner one until the damn wheels fell off, it lacked a “wow” factor that some could argue didn’t need to be there in the first place. But I needed it.

And so we come to this Batcave set. I have honestly contemplated this purchase for months, hoping to see it come off it’s lofty release price. Suffice to say, it did not, and the secondary market has been on the rise. So I pulled the trigger, and kind of told myself we would just fix whatever shortcomings I found. After all, if you follow figure photography on Instagram these days, you regularly see talented guys pulling off amazing shots with this as a backdrop.

Out of the box, it is impressive. And very much like the Batmobile. It matches the size and style perfectly, so perfectly in fact that it borders on excessive- this base is a damn lazy Susan. The computer bank is nicely detailed and equally huge. It actually made me realize how silly the batcomputer really is in the show- how the hell does he even see those top third monitors? But as the centerpiece of the display, I’m most impressed with it. The battery storage adds another tower to the setup, and cleverly keeps the power source integrated, and that light up feature really is impressive. It’s white glow is simple, effective, and a little imposing next to figures.

But like the Batmobile, I feel like it’s a lot of wasted space for sake of scale, and it causes the pricing to get more than a little excessive, especially if you pay anything over retail. It’s hard not to acknowledge that more than half of this vignette is empty plastic space. It may be accurate, but it feels literally hollow for a piece that sold just south of 200 dollars. There is also the issue of the screens, which has been discussed in great detail. I thought mine would be new enough not to need replacements, but it’s possible mine came from older stock. Regardless, it’s a cool idea that is embarrassingly ineffective in practice.

So that was my first order of business. I picked up some glossy clear Avery sticker paper, and printed off some maps, blueprints and such to put in place. Cutting them was tedious, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not bad. And the sticker paper might not be quite as reusable, but you can still remove them pretty easily without damaging any plastic.

I realized this was going to be used with many other figures, nearly none of them animated, so I added some weathering to the consoles. I debated on changing the color to a silver or gray, and I might, but I don’t dislike the burnt red/brown of the original. Disassembly of this thing is kinda a disaster, with lots of parts glued and sealed, so that means I would need to mask all the screens to paint it- a time consuming and frustrating exercise on an already frustratingly expensive piece.

Of course, once you do that, you have to work the floor. I opted for an old cheater method: I sprayed the floor in aluminum, then covered it in “granny grate” and sprayed some flat gray over it. This is a quick and easy way to add a floor grating effect without adding parts or intensive masking. And I like the final product, it does work great with a variety of 6-inch figures, but it’s really more of a winner by default than on it’s own merit– what options does one have for a 1/12 Batcave these days? As big as it is, it’s still much easier to manage than say the BvS or Justice League sets. And it does have those beat in aesthic, if not play or value.

So in terms of recommendations, I have a tough time saying this one is worth the cash. If the Animated line is your bread and butter, that obviously moves up the utility and use in your collection, and it will dictate position  as centerpiece on sheer size alone. But even then, it’s a lot of money for what essentially becomes a shelf for Batman, Robin, Batgirl and the included Alfred. It kinda pains me to say it, but this would have been a hard sell at even half the retail price. As I have found with my last few DC Collectibles purchases, I can’t escape feeling like I’m subsidising their other lines with the purchases of these bigger items. Not something I’m fond of, but  again, if that’s something you’re already buying, maybe it will be more worth it for you.

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