REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS COPPERHEAD
I'll admit that I have been first and foremost a collector of G.I. Joe, since its inception as "A Real American Hero" in 1982. Certainly there are other action figure lines that I enjoy greatly, but if one were to view my collection, there would be a certain dominance on the part of those 3-3/4" "Modern Army Action Figures", and I regard myself as well-versed on the concept, characters, background, stories, etc.
With that in mind, and as much as I enjoy Mattel's superb line of DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS action figures, it's just a little hard for me to look at one of the additions from Series 12, a super-villain by the name of Copperhead, and not ask the following question: How the heck did this guy get into Serpentor's wardrobe closet!?
There are some significant visual similarities. Both characters are dressed in snake-like outfits, with a snake-head helmet with the face showing trough the mouth of the helmet. Both costumes are primarily gold-like in color -- although Copperhead's tends more towards a tan-orange. Both costumes have snake-like scales among their details. And both have elements of green trim.
Granted, Serpentor has taken some steps to look more regal than Copperhead, which makes sense. Copperhead makes no claims of regalness. Serpentor has that upswept cobra-like piece behind his snake-head helmet, and he's also wearing a large cape. Copperhead has neither of these things. But there's still an undeniable resemblance.
As far as that goes, the name "Copperhead" itself has gotten around a bit. There is a Copperhead within the ranks of Cobra -- he's the driver of the Water Moccasin and its successor, the Sting Raider. There's been a supervillain named Copperhead in Marvel Comics.
Not surprisingly, to one degree or another, all of the characters named Copperhead have had some sort of snake-like theme. You take the name Copperhead for yourself, and it's sort of inevitable -- unless you're planning to wear a helmet made up entirely of Lincoln pennies -- which would not only look ridiculous, but they don't have as much copper in them as they used to, anyway.
I suspect that DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Hasbro, have all gotten away with the name "Copperhead" to some degree due to the fact that it is a legitimate species of snake. Actually, there's five different types of snakes called copperheads, four of which are venomous, including two that can be found in North America. The non-venomous one is native to Southeast Asia. The remaining two venomous ones are located in southern Asia, Australia, and Tasmania.
As far as the fictional characters are concerned, it might be useful to know -- which one came first? Well, in G.I. Joe, Copperhead was introduced in 1984. Serpentor, the DC Copperhead's wardrobe counterpart, was introduced in 1986. The Marvel Comics character named Copperhead was first introduced in 1975. That gives the DC Copperhead the edge, since he was first introduced in 1968! Here's some background information on the character. There have actually been TWO Copperheads in the DC Universe, one much more recent than the other.
Copperhead first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #78, (June 1968) and was created by Bob Haney and Bob Brown.
The criminal known as Copperhead first appeared in Gotham City in a snake costume. He committed numerous thefts before finally being apprehended by Batman and the first Batgirl.
Copperhead then turned to more deadly pursuits as a super-assassin, constricting victims to a suffocating death with his costume's tail. During this time, he would become obsessive about his target and think of nothing until the target was dead, which proved to be a weakness at times as he would ignore anything he did not consider immediately relevant. Copperhead used the travel opportunities his freelance career afforded him to pursue his hobby of collecting transistor radios.
Although a master contortionist, Copperhead was largely powerless without his snakeskin costume. He later sold his soul to the demonic Neron in exchange for more power, being transformed into a deadly Snake/Man hybrid. He was later killed by Manhunter, Kate Spencer.
In "Blackest Night", Copperhead has been identified as one of the deceased entombed below the Hall of Justice. He is listed as "John Doe", as his real name had never been discovered. He is revived as a member of the Black Lantern Corps. He is apparently destroyed by the combined efforts of seven Lanterns during the Black Lanterns attack on Coast City
Teen Titans #56 featured a team of villains called the "Terror Titans", legacy villains whose mantles are inherited from older villains. One of the members shown is identified as Copperhead and appears visually as the original character prior to the deal with Neron. The story did not reveal any information about the character or provide context with regard to previous stories.
In the subsequent Terror Titans miniseries, it is revealed that the second Copperhead's true identity is "Nathan Prince", and he is the only member of the Terror Titans who does not have a family connection to his predecessor. It is still unknown how Prince came to work for Clock King, who organized the group.
During The Dark Side Club's metahuman battles, the heroine TNTeena is badly injured, and Clock King tasks Copperhead with watching over her as she recuperates. Copperhead complies, and over time, falls in love with her. However, Nathan is later forced by Clock King to kill her. Nate and the rest of the Terror Titans are then sent to assist the Martyr Militia, a group of brainwashed metahumans, in destroying Los Angeles, but the tables are turned by Ravager and Miss Martian, who uses his telepathy to undo the brainwashing. The Terror Titans flee to their base, only for Clock King to kill Disruptor, and leave them to be apprehended by the metahumans. Two weeks later, Nate breaks his fellow Terror Titans out of custody, and the group swear revenge on Clock King.
Copperhead's contortionist skills allow him to fit himself into incredibly small spaces (such as chimneys). He originally wore a snake-themed costume. The suit was a weave of metallic and elastic fibers coated in vulnerable points (such as the chest) with Kevlar, making it bulletproof and impenetrable to almost any cutting edged weapon. The costume had been treated with a highly slippery water- and heat-proof silicon gel, allowing Copperhead to slide along any surface and slip out of tight spots. The tail could be stretched several feet and was strong enough to snap bone and shatter stone. The suit's helmet contained two seven-inch-long fangs which were capable of piercing human skin, and were coated in a potent neurotoxin derived from copperhead snakes. The toxin could paralyze a person almost instantly, and death would follow within 30 minutes.
Later, Copperhead sold his soul to the demonic Neron and was transformed into a human-snake hybrid. His reflexes and agility were greatly increased, and he gained venomous fangs, a forked tongue, claws, and a prehensile tail.
In "Terror Titans", Clock King mentions that the second Copperhead does not have any superpowers, meaning he utilizes a snake-themed suit, like the original once did.
So, which Copperhead have we got here represented by the DC Universe Classics figure? Based on the information provided on the package, it's the first one -- pre-Neron encounter, of course. It makes sense, since even though we don't know his real name, he's certainly been the one who was around longer, and he's managed to turn up beyond the comics. He put in several appearances in the Justice League animated series, for example, and that resulted in an action figure of him from that particular line.
So, how's the DC Universe Classics figure? Extremely impressive. Right off, though, I want to say this -- he's distinctly lacking a tail. However, given the way the lower torso and legs are constructed on DC Universe Classics figures, I think it would have been virtually impossible to have provided him with one. I'm sure that the Four Horsemen and Mattel would have done so if they could have, but I can't think of any way it could have worked. Fortunately, perhaps, there's not a lot of -- tailed characters in the DC Universe that I can think of offhand, so this is a discrepancy that shouldn't cause a lot of difficulty in the future, and I can certainly live with it here.
Apart from this, which I do not regard as a significant fallacy whatsoever, the Copperhead figure is excellent, as well as an interesting use of new and established parts.
It's no great secret that Mattel and the Four Horsemen have created a superb set of basic "male hero" body molds, which are suitable for quite a large percentage of their characters, with minimal alteration apart from color and painted details. This not only makes sense economically, but it gives the line a level of consistency that I sincerely appreciate.
Some characters require more modification than others to look properly authentic, beyond, obviously, a distinctive head. Well, Copperhead certainly has a distinctive head, which I'll discuss shortly. But one might think at first glance that his heavily scaled uniform resulted in a need for an entirely new figure, which, like some others, nevertheless matches the basic physical build of the standard molds. And indeed, some of Copperhead's body sections are distinctive to this figure -- but perhaps not quite so many as one might initially surmise.
The upper torso and arms, at least to the elbows, use the same body molds as Aquaman. I had a hunch about this from the start, and it was confirmed when I lifted the ridged neck and chest piece and saw the wide collar to Aquaman's shirt present. This is not a complaint whatsoever. The Aquaman figure, released some time ago, is excellent. The shirt is very detailed with the traditional scales, and yet also matches the physique of the standard male body design. This cannot have been easily accomplished. I can also understand Mattel wanting to get a second use out of a set of body molds that took a lot of work to put together. Hence we have Copperhead.
Now, some parts of Copperhead are unique to the figure. Since Aquaman's gloves are different than Copperhead's, the lower arms are unique. Additionally, Aquaman's leggings are not scaled. Copperhead's are, so the legs also had to be crafted specifically for this figure. That they were done so in such a way as to match both the established male body design as well as the established scale pattern of the upper body is very impressive to me.
The snake-like helmet is truly superb, and looks very much like a snake. Wouldn't surprise me if the Four Horsemen had some photos of actual snakes on hand to work from to design this. Honestly, it's even more authentic-looking than Serpentor's headpiece. It does have two white fangs protruding down from the top, but I don't believe that they work out to the equivalent of "seven inches long" as indicated in the background material on the character. That probably would've been pushing safety regulations, if nothing else. So, let's assume they're somewhat retractable. At least they are present and accounted for. There are two large, bright green, snake-like eyes in the helmet, which are very attention-grabbing and really help Copperhead's overall snake-like image.
The back of the snake-head helmet becomes scaled to match the pattern on the rest of the costume, and this tapers into a separate neck piece, also partially scaled, which has wide ridges on the front, and hangs down the chest somewhat, almost like a bib. This helps to cover up the Aquaman costume details, as well as present a more accurate look for Copperhead.
Copperhead's face is visible inside the mouth of the snake helmet. It's a rather maniacal-looking visage, with a wide open mouth of its own in a rather insane grin (admittedly not to Joker levels), and two of the teeth seem to be somewhat fanged. Of particular note is how well the eyes are painted, especially since they're generally shadowed by the protruding upper jaw of the helmet.
The trunks, gloves, and boots of Copperhead's uniform are dark green, and are not scaled. The rest of the uniform's color would probably best be described as a coppery-orange. Despite some color similarities to Aquaman, it's not as close as it sounds. Aquaman's shirt is a far brighter orange, and the green is slightly lighter. Of course, Aquaman's entire legs are green, and he has black trunks.
The scaled aspects of Copperhead's costume have been given a glossy sheen, which is really very remarkable in the right light. This is well in keeping with the character, and certainly well in keeping with the appearance of many species of snake. The glossy sheen over the scales creates a very interesting reptilian effect.
Naturally, Copperhead is superbly articulated. While he's no contortionist, unlike his comic-based counterpart, the figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
A brief note about the packaging. As of Series 12, DC Universe Classics figures commemorate the 75th Anniversary of DC, and are labeled for "Adult Collectors". I think this latter is due in large part to the fact that Mattel is choosing increasingly somewhat lesser-known characters that kids, unless they're dedicated fans of Justice League or Batman: Brave and the Bold (one can only hope), likely haven't heard of, but longtime DC fans certainly will have. There's also a second likely reason, in that the figures come packaged with a little commemorative pinback button, which is made of metal. A warning sticker on the package mentions the "functional sharp point" and stresses that the item should not be given to children under the age of four, which has always been the stated age level for DC Universe Classics, anyway.
So, what's my final word here? Copperhead is not Lex Luthor or the Joker. He's not as well known, although it's to his credit that he's managed to 'slither' out of the comic books and into the animation from time to time. He has an interesting appearance that lends itself well to the comics, and certainly to the action figure world, and Mattel and the Four Horsemen design team has definitely done an excellent job in bringing him to three-dimensional plastic life. He's a superb addition to the DC Universe Classics line -- and might also make an interesting gift to a friend who's into snakes and reptiles...
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of COPPERHEAD definitely has my highest recommendation!