REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS CAPTAIN BOOMERANG
A significant part of Wave 18 of Mattel's superb line of DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figures focuses on a group of figures derived from the popular Super Friends series from the 1970's and 1980's. In that series, a number of heroes were specifically created by Hanna-Barbera just for the show, and they have finally been rendered as action figures.
However, there are exceptions. The assortment also includes Bronze Tiger, Superman's enemy Toyman, and a long overdue addition to Flash's Rogue's Gallery of villains -- CAPTAIN BOOMERANG.
Let me say this before we get into this specific character -- I believe that if the DC Universe Classics line has suffered from one notable character deficiency, even relative to other DC-based action figure lines -- it is with regard to the Rogue's Gallery. The Flash has almost as wild a retinue of villains as the Batman -- and they're a little better organized. But to date, prior to Captain Boomerang, only two of them have seen action figure form -- Gorilla Grodd, who was the Collect-and-Connect from Wave 2, and Captain Cold, who turned up in Wave 7. It took until Wave 18 to get anybody else out?
Where is Mirror Master? Where is Weather Wizard? The Reverse Flash, Professor Zoom, has been announced for Wave 20, otherwise he would have been included in that line of questioning. Both the DC Infinite Heroes line and the Justice League Unlimited line have given us these characters. And both could be fairly readily made from the existing standard male body molds, with new heads and minimal other additions. These are characters that, to a Flash fan, are as well known, if not better known, than some of the rather obscure names that have turned up in the DC Universe Classics line. They deserve to be brought in, if at all possible.
However, for now, at least we have Captain Boomerang, so let's consider the history of the character.
Captain Boomerang -- real name George "Digger" Harkness -- was first introduced in Flash #117, in December of 1960, and was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino.
Secretly the illegitimate son of an American soldier and an Australian woman, Harkness was raised in poverty, during which time he developed great skill in making boomerangs, and in using them as weapons. As a young adult, he was hired as a performer and boomerang promoter by a toy company which was, unknown to him, owned by his biological father.
Audiences ridiculed him, however, and a resentful Harkness turned to using his boomerangs for crime. He originally became Captain Boomerang as a mascot for a toy company and briefly pretended another man was impersonating him, showing his "Parents" (really other criminals) to the Flash after Flash caught him next to a crime scene.
He nearly succeeded in killing the Flash after knocking him out with a boomerang, then tying the Flash to a giant boomerang he fired, so that it was sent into space and then fell into the ocean. However, the Flash vibrated so fast and increased the boomerang's velocity so much he was able to free himself and jail Boomerang and the other criminals.
Although Harkness lacked any superhuman abilities, he became a recurring enemy of the Flash, typically designing altered boomerangs which could produce astonishing effects - exploding boomerangs, razor-sharp edges, etc., and using them ruthlessly. He also became a staple member of the Rogues, a group of villains dedicated to opposing the Flash, who were first organized after Gorilla Grodd broke them out of jail.
Throughout the first years of the character's existence, Captain Boomerang spoke with no discernible accent. However, he has since developed a distinct Australian accent.
Years later, Harkness became a prominent if less-than-effective member of the Suicide Squad, a team of super-villains organized covertly by the government, in exchange for being pardoned for his crimes. However, Captain Boomerang's grating personality caused considerable friction among his teammates, and he was considered to be a dangerous, vicious cowardly, and undependable member of the team - dysfunctional even by the Squad's standards and the equivalent of a class clown at best.
Amanda Waller, the Squad's commander, characterized Captain Boomerang as "a jerk and a screw-up". This was not an undeserved reputation. Additionally, Harkness briefly took up the role of Mirror Master to commit robberies. However, this career was cut short when he was caught and brought to Waller, who put an end to it by tricking him into a fake assault scene where he was forced to change constantly between Mirror Master and Captain Boomerang. She rescinded the benefits Harkness had been given, including his apartment in New Orleans and his status as a voluntary member of the Squad.
Many times Harkness would have to be tricked into battle, but when faced with enemies he proved more than competent in holding up his end of the fight. However, after being revealed as the culprit behind a series of practical jokes against the Squad, Digger lost his tempter and said to Waller, "What are you going to do about it, fat lady!?" Waller dropped him from a helicopter onto a deserted island.
Later, following a breakup and reformation of the Squad, Waller had him picked up to rejoin the team. Over the following years, he would appear in the pages of Superboy with another incarnation of the Squad, and then appeared in the pages of Flash. Subsequent to this, he was one of five Rogues who were tricked by Abra Kadabra, another Flash villain who at that point was working for the demonic Neron. Ultimately, the villains were freed from Neron's power.
Fast forward to the events of the Identity Crisis mini-series. By now, Harkness is overweight, burnt-out, and considered an obsolete villain and little more than a joke in the modern world of supervillains. He regularly asks favors of the Calculator, who is passing out various contracts for super-villains.
During this time Harkness reached out to a son he had abandoned, by the name of Owen Mercer. The two begin to bond when Harkness accepts a contract to kill Jack Drake, the father of Tim Drake, a.k.a. Robin. He succeeds in his contract but is himself killed by Drake. The sudden loss of Harkness caused Mercer to take up his father's role as Captain Boomerang. Although briefly a Rogue, Mercer reformed and joined the Outsiders, and later a new version of the Suicide Squad.
In the Blackest Night crossover, Harkness appears as a Black Lantern, and ultimately, Mercer arrives and takes him away from the battle, believing he can bring his father back, not understanding the nature of the Black Lanterns. The Black Lantern Boomerang convinced Owen that he needs to feed upon the living in order to live, so Owen lures people into a pit at a construction site where the Black Lantern version of Captain Boomerang is waiting.
The Rogues track down Owen, with Captain Cold berating him on how foolish he is to believe the lies of the Black Lantern. When they discover the remains of a family nearby, Captain Cold tells Owen that "the Rogues don't kill women or children", and shoves Owen into the pit, where he is killed by the Black Lantern. A Black Lantern Ring then appears to make Owen into a Black Lantern himself. Both are encased in ice by Captain Cold, but Digger manages to escape, and joins in the battle against the heroes. However, he is one of the dozen super-beings brought back to full life by the power of the White Lantern at the conclusion of the mini-series, in full health and much better shape than he had been at the time of his death. He is immediately captured by the Flash.
During the subsequent Brightest Day storyline, Digger is given a message by Captain Cold, that if he wants to rejoin the Rogues, he has to prove it by escaping from prison on his own. This he does, finding out along the way that he has developed a super-power -- the ability to create boomerangs out of energy that explode on contact.
Captain Boomerang ends up playing a vital role in the climax to the Brightest Day storyline. At one point, he is contacted by the Entity, the source behind the White Lantern, who instructs him to throw a boomerang at Dawn Granger, a.k.a. Dove, of the team Hawk & Dove. After seeing the vision, Boomerang's powers go out of control, causing him to attack everyone, including his fellow Rogues. Afterwards, he sneaks into Iron heights prison, where Professor Zoom, who was also brought back by the White Lantern Entity, is locked up. Boomerang releases him, hoping that he might help him better understand the message he has received. However, Professor Zoom refuses and escapes, just as Boomerang is confronted by the Rogues, who beat him for freeing Professor Zoom.
Later, Harkness is contacted by the Entity once again, who tells him that he must complete his task. Harkess travels to Star City, and once within the mysterious forest that has grown there, Captain Boomerang finds Dove and throws a boomerang at her. Hawk fails to catch the boomerang, which instead is intercepted by the recently resurrected Deadman, who is killed (again!) in the process. Hawk knocks Captain Boomerang unconscious. Afterwards, the White Lantern Entity says that Boomerang has fulfilled his task, and his life is permanently restored to him, even if the outcome was not as originally intended. It was supposed to have been Hawk that should have stopped the boomerang.
To the best of my knowledge, Captain Boomerang remains at large, with his new super-power intact.
So, how's the figure? Not bad at all, really. Interestingly, there have been figures of Captain Boomerang in Mattel's other DC-based lines. One of the classic Captain Boomerang found its way into the Justice League Unlimited line. And indeed, Captain Boomerang did appear in an episode of Justice League Unlimited (although this was hardly a prerequisite for appearing in the action figure line...!). There was also a Captain Boomerang figure in the DC Infinite Heroes line, but this was actually a figure of Owen Mercer, the son of the original, admittedly not having an especially long career.
The DC Universe Classics Captain Boomerang is unquestionably the modern version of the character. And I suspect that may cause some mixed feelings on the part of some collectors, since honestly, Digger Harkness hasn't had this particular likeness for all that long. I can understand this point of view, and even agree with it to a certain degree. However, I don't really have all that much of a problem with his modern appearance.
The classic Captain Boomerang, for lack of a better description, wore a very loose-fitting bright blue tunic with white boomerangs imprinted all over it. He also had a cute little blue soldier-like cap, that also had a boomerang on it, and he wore a white scarf and black leggings. He also had fairly long, curly brown hair and sideburns, and it was little surprise that he was generally regarded as a "class clown" among villains, because he sort of looked the part as well as acted like it half the time. The costume, however iconic to the character it may have become, was a little hard to take seriously, and I suspect would have been quite the challenge for the Four Horsemen to bring into the DC Universe Classics line.
Captain Boomerang's modern costume is more serious. About all he's kept is the scarf. He's trimmed his hair, and now wears a dark blue ski cap with a boomerang on the front. His costume includes a tight-fitting dark blue shirt, black leggings, black boots with silver trim, a bandoleer of boomerangs, and a long, very dark blue coat, with black gloves.
Okay, I'll readily admit -- the long coat is pretty 90's. And the only one I thought that ever pulled off this look halfway decently was Gambit of the X-Men anyway. But it does seem that at least a third of the super-heroes in existence felt obliged to add some sort of jacket or coat to their ensemble at some point in the 90's. I think it was more a Marvel thing than a DC thing, but I don't believe DC was entirely immune to it. And I'll also admit, I never quite got it. What's the big deal about a coat or a jacket, anyway? I'd think it would hinder movement, and if it was a long coat, be a potential obstacle in battle. Then again, no one's ever likely to accuse me of being a fashion plate myself.
And, I have to admit, Captain Boomerang is a lot more serious-looking in this new outfit. As iconic as his old costume may well be, there was something about it, especially that strange little folded cap -- he looked like either a mascot for an airline -- or maybe one of the flight attendants...
The figure is very nicely done. Captain Boomerang is not a muscular powerhouse. Although prior to his return at the end of Blackest Night he was overweight and terribly out of shape, his return has left him on the slender side, which he might well have always been, it was just impossible to tell under that flowing tunic he used to wear. The figure has been given a somewhat slender but reasonably muscular build, and doesn't use any previous body molds in its design. Captain Boomerang is, as far as I can tell, an entirely unique figure.
The upper body and legs are dressed in tights. The shirt is a very dark blue, and the leggings are black. Captain Boomerang is wearing black boots, with raised silver trim around them that has a slight resemblance to bent boomerangs. He has a black belt round his waist with a wide silver buckle.
His coat, in a typical practice for many action figures -- and by no means restricted to DC -- that are wearing some sort of coat, or jacket, or robe, is a separate piece, and sleeveless, with the actual arms of the figure comprising the sleeves of the coat. The coat is the same very dark blue as the shirt. Interestingly, the band of silver boomerangs is actually part of the coat itself, and I don't see any clasps. It makes me wonder just a bit how this figure was assembled. I have to believe that the coat-and-boomerangs piece was placed over the rest of the figure, and THEN the arms were attached. It's the only way it could have worked.
The coat is very nicely detailed, showing seams and wrinkles where appropriate. The boomerangs look very decent, and painted detail is excellent, especially a series of small snaps on the black strap holding the boomerangs in place, which have been painted silver, as have the boomerangs themselves.
The arms of the figure, since they're intended to represent the sleeves of the coat, don't have clear musculature sculpted into them, but instead carry over the design of the coat, as do the gloves, and they do so very effectively. I've seen this coat method work well sometimes, and I've seen it fail on occasion. Here, it works very well. I think it helps that the shirt underneath the coat is the same color as the coat, however.
Captain Boomerang has his scarf, of course, and this is a separate piece that I suspect was put into place just before the head was snapped on. Assembly of this figure must've been loads of laughs at the factory. The scarf is nicely detailed and highly flexible. It's a little "windblown" in its design, but not overly so.
The headsculpt is excellent. Harkness has a nasty grin on his face. It's a facial expression that definitely works for the character. He's somewhat unshaven, and this is evidenced in the sculpt as well. Sculpting a limited amount of facial stubble onto an action figure is not an easy thing. It's easy to go overboard. However, kudos as always to the Four Horsemen, they did an excellent job here, and got it just right.
Captain Boomerang's hair and ski cap are also very well detailed -- especially the ski cap. It would've been easy enough, I'm sure, to have just sculpted it with vertical ridges and left it at that. But the Four Horsemen didn't do that. Each ridged area has distinct patterning within it, a back and forth diagonal pattern, very much like a real knit cap, that I suspect must have given someone at the Four Horsemen Studios a moderate case of eyestrain and cramped fingers to sculpt this level of detail, but hey, it looks great.
Painted detail is perfect. The eyes are superb, and the hair is just the right color. There really isn't all that much painted detail on the figure. A bit of dark blue and black, and a little bit of silver. But it's all very neatly done.
Any complaints? Yes, one, and it's one that I've had before. The elbows and knees are double-jointed. This is just something that does not need to be used in this action figure line. Honestly, it's something that I don't think needs to be used in any action figure line. It just ruins the look of the figure and doesn't even work that well in practice. I'm all in favor of well-articulated action figures, but when the articulation starts to have this negative an impact on the look of the figure, it's time to back off.
About the only DC Universe Classics figures that can almost get away with it, and I stress the almost, are those that are dressed in black, so the joints are barely visible to begin with. As such, Captain Boomerang can almost get away with it, as his legs are black and his arms are very dark blue, and the wrinkles of the coat almost serve as a compensator as well, as opposed to tight musculature where it would've been far more evident. He certainly fares better than most. As far as I'm concerned, Mattel has already ruined two figures with this practice -- Wave 16's Classic Robin and especially The Creeper -- and while Captain Boomerang certainly isn't as badly off as those two, it just wasn't needed.
The other negative impact this sort of thing has, especially in the DC Universe Classics line, is that it spoils the considerable level of consistency that these figures have relative to one another, something that is also aided by the use of common molds, or bucks, as they are sometimes known. Now, Captain Boomerang is just a bit outside of that (unlike The Creeper), since he's slightly more slender, and is an entirely unique figure, so I won't criticize that aspect of it that harshly. But I still hate to see this double-jointed articulation turn up. It isn't necessary, it has a very negative impact on the look of the figure, and it takes away from the high level of consistency of design that the line has. That's three strikes right there.
Otherwise, of course, the figure is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
Captain Boomerang comes with an accessory. It's a pet kangaroo. I'm kidding, of course. It's a small boomerang. It's painted silver, and molded from surprisingly flexible plastic. I'm wondering if it was popped out of the same mold as the scarf, perhaps. It's also one of the smallest accessories I've ever seen from a DC Universe Classics figure, and while Captain Boomerang is more or less able to hold it, he does not do so very tightly. This is one of those occasions where I recommend placing the accessory in a small Ziploc bag and putting the figure's name on it. The risk of loss otherwise is a bit high in my opinion.
So, what's my final word? I'm delighted to see another member of the Flash's Rogues Gallery. Ideally, I'd like to see more sometime. Characters like Mirror Master and Weather Wizard certainly deserve it. But in the meantime, I'm pleased that Mattel chose to add to the otherwise Super Friends-centric Wave 18 of their DC Universe Classics line with Suicide Squad members like Bronze Tiger and Captain Boomerang. Certainly these were also very worthwhile additions to the line.
And double-jointed articulation aside, this is really an excellent figure. I'm not sure how well the modern incarnation of Captain Boomerang has been received by the fans, but I rather like it, and this is most certainly an excellent likeness of him as such. I believe any fan of the Flash will be pleased to add this particular Rogue to their Gallery.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of CAPTAIN BOOMERANG definitely has my highest recommendation!