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REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS DEADSHOT
By Thomas Wheeler

I have to say that I like Deadshot. Now, he's not one of the good guys. He's never been and never will be one of the good guys. He's an assassin, and he's gone up against the good guys, including Batman, on more than a few occasions. But, I rather like the guy, or perhaps more to the point, I like some of the stories he's been caught up in.

Off and on, he's been a member of the Suicide Squad. Think of them as the DC Universe version of Marvel's Thunderbolts (or vice versa, really, since the Suicide Squad came first). A group of villains pressed into doing good deeds by the government. Deadshot, in more recent years, has also been a member of the Secret Six, a team of villain mercenaries. This team first formed in the pre-Infinite Crisis mini-series "Villains United", turned up again in their own six-issue limited series, and have had an ongoing series subsequent to that for about a year and a half, and I hope it has a good long run.

"Secret Six" has a certain sense of humor. It's not as over the top as, for example, Marvel's "Deadpool", but it's got a similar flavor. You know the lead characters are villains, but by placing them center stage, they become more humanized, and they are ultimately the protagonists of the book, if not necessarily operating heroically, then at least operating on a higher level than some of the serious scumbags they come up against.

Up until Deadshot, there had been no members of the Secret Six brought into Mattel's most excellent line of DC Universe Classics action figures. Catman, the other longstanding member of the team, was up for consideration in a fan's choice poll a while back, but he and a number of others got beaten out by The Question. I have no problem with The Question, but I voted for Catman. Hopefully he'll still get made one of these days.

In the meantime, we do have Deadshot now, as part of Series 9 of the DC Universe Classics action figures. Let's start off by seeing what Wikipedia has to say about this character:

Deadshot (real name: Floyd Lawton) first appeared in Batman #59 (June/July 1950) and was created by Bob Kane, David Vern Reed and Lew Schwartz.

Okay, stop right there for a second. This stunned the heck out of me. I honestly had no idea that Deadshot went back that far. I honestly wasn't sure when the character was created, but if I'd had to guess, I would've placed him somewhere in the 1970's -- definitely not 1950!

Wikipedia continues: Within the DC Universe, Deadshot is often a hired assassin, regularly boasting to "never miss." He is capable of using a large variety of weapons, but is most frequently portrayed as using a pair of silenced, wrist-mounted guns. He initially appears in Gotham City as a new crimefighter, but is revealed to be an enemy of Batman when he attempts to replace the Dark Knight. He is sent to jail when Batman and Commissioner Gordon publicly expose his plot to become the king of Gotham's underworld.

After serving his term, Deadshot begins hiring his services out as an assassin, changing his costume from the topcoat and tails he previously wore to a red jumpsuit and distinctive metal face plate with a targeting device on the right side. He has been a major figure in the Suicide Squad in its latest two incarnations, where his skills as a marksman and his disregard for human life serve to greatly further the group's objectives.

Probably his most defining trait is a desire to die in a spectacular fashion, this being his primary motivation for joining the Squad. He feels he has no reason to continue living, and, while he does not want to commit suicide, he simply does not care if he dies.

Various reasons have been cited for this, but the most common thread in them is his parents' peculiar hatred for one another, so much so that Lawton's mother tried to hire both her sons to kill their father.

In the first Deadshot mini-series, it is explained that Floyd idolizes his brother, whom their mother convinces to kill their father. His brother locks Floyd outside, but Floyd, wishing to save his brother from a grim future, takes a rifle to shoot the gun out of his brother's hand. He is sitting in the tree branch when it breaks and Floyd accidentally shoots his brother in the head, inadvertently killing the brother he loves to save the father he hates.

Deadshot almost gets his wish to die when he confronts a Senator who is threatening to expose the Suicide Squad to the world. Having been ordered to stop his immediate superior, Rick Flag, from assassinating the senator, he kills the senator himself, citing his orders as "Stop Flag from killing the Senator. Exact words." After this he is gunned down by the police on the very steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He survives his wounds, to continue on with the Squad.

In a second mini-series released in 2005, Deadshot discovers he has a daughter, Zoe, who is being raised in a crime-filled area of Star City. Lawton decides to do right by this daughter, and embarks on a lethal war on the local gangs that plague the area. The series ends with Deadshot faking his death, having realized a normal life isn't for him, but having mostly cleared up the area and having convinced Green Arrow to patrol it more regularly.

Deadshot is featured in the Infinite Crisis storyline comic book Villains United. The Secret Six are banded together by a mysterious, shrouded character named Mockingbird (who is actually Lex Luthor) who offers a major reward for committing to the team and a severe punishment for not accepting membership. Deadshot is offered the reward of ruling North America; his punishment is to be the destruction of the neighborhood that his daughter and his daughter's mother live in.

At the end of the mini-series, the conflict ends in stalemate and Deadshot's status remains roughly unchanged from the end of his second mini-series. He remains a part of The Secret Six and is shown having reached a grudging friendship with another member, Catman. His share of the payment for the Six's mercenary work is stated to be sent in its entirety to his daughter and her mother. After the Six disband, fellow member Knockout comments in passing that he has returned to the Suicide Squad.

Deadshot and the Suicide Squad are featured in Countdown, rounding up supervillains for removal. The group encounters Pied Piper and Trickster several times, and each time fail to capture them. In Countdown To Final Crisis #24 Deadshot makes a solo effort to capture them, but the pair again elude him. In issue 22, Deadshot (breaking orders from Amanda Waller and Suicide Squad protocol) attacks Piper and Trickster on a train outside of the Rocky Mountains. Given that the supervillains are aware of Project Salvation (Salvation Run), Deadshot apparently kills The Trickster, leaving Pied Piper on his own.

In Salvation Run #2, Deadshot is tricked and sent off to the prison planet along with the last batch of criminals. Rick Flag, Jr. tells him as the Boom Tube closes that he can't have people like him on Earth. Deadshot vows that if he ever returns to Earth, he would take his revenge on Flag. After helping fight off the Parademon invasion in Salvation Run, he escapes with the surviving villains in the teleportation machine.

Deadshot, along with Scandal Savage, Bane, Rag Doll, and Catman reunite the Secret Six, having been hired to retrieve Tarantula from Alcatraz Island, and find a card which she stole from Junior, a mysterious villain who supposedly runs the entire West Coast mob. Junior has practically the entire villain community at her beck and call, all afraid of her, even those in Arkham Asylum. The Six later learn that the card in question was made by the supernatural being Neron, and reads "Get Out Of Hell Free."

Soon, the Six are attacked by a small army of super-villains, all wanting to recover the card and collect the reward of $20 million for each of the Six, under the orders of Junior. It is later revealed that Junior is in fact the sister of Secret Six member Rag Doll, and as such daughter of the first Rag Doll.

The Six escape, and head for Gotham, with Deadshot seemingly betraying them and leaving with Tarantula. The Six manage to catch up to Deadshot, only to be attacked by Junior and the collected super-villains, and the Mad Hatter, a former member of the Secret Six, who is revealed to be the one who hired them in the first place, simply so they would be killed. Tarantula sacrifices herself by pulling herself and Junior in front of the super-villains' combined attack, seemingly destroying the card along with them. However, it is later shown that Scandal is now in possession of the card.

He continues to remain with the Secret Six as of this writing.

Deadshot is portrayed as having a twisted code of ethics; as long as he's been paid for an accepted hit-job, he will always carry it out - no exceptions. Batman was unable to get him to stop threatening a witness (who refused to testify as long as Deadshot was waiting to kill him if he did) by threatening Deadshot or his family (Deadshot rightly assumed that Batman was bluffing). However, Batman ultimately did get Deadshot to abort the hit - by "freezing" the bank accounts of the one who had hired Deadshot. Unable to get paid, Deadshot publicly canceled the assassination, letting the witness go free.

In his run on Suicide Squad, writer John Ostrander delved into Deadshot's past and twisted family background. The revelation of Deadshot having a brother, whom he idolized, seemed to resonate with Deadshot's gruff (and occasionally psychotic) relationship with Rick Flag, team leader. Ostrander implied that this relationship also colored Deadshot's rivalry with the Batman, whom Deadshot had always been unable - or subconsciously unwilling - to kill. His later friendship with Catman in the Secret Six seems to continue Lawton's unwitting gravitation towards surrogate brothers.

Okay, so he's something of a sick freak. So -- how's the figure (he says, shifting subjects quickly enough to induce whiplash...)?

Well, let me make one comment of hopefully constructive criticism first. Mattel -- I realize you want your figures to look as dynamic as possible in their packages. Personally, I'd just as soon they be presented in as straightforward a stance as possible, but I can understand the marketing decision in this regard. And in the case of Deadshot, he is at least posed facing forward and can be readily inspected visually. That's a good thing.

Okay, now -- how's the figure? Extremely impressive.

For many of their figures, Mattel uses a fairly standard male body design, a set of molds, that can be utilized for a wide variety of costumed characters, as long as it is molded and painted in the proper colors and given a distinctive head. I've never had any problem with this practice on Mattel's part because (a) the design is a superb one, and (b) it given the line a certain level of consistency that I appreciate.

For other figures, Mattel has to be a little more innovative. Some characters may fit into the basic human shape common to the male heroes, but have too many raised details or other accessories to their uniforms to simply have them be painted on. Deadshot fits into this latter category.

I recall reading an interview a while back with someone at Mattel who works on the DC Universe Classics line, and he was asked which of the then-upcoming figures he was especially pleased with, and the individual noted that he particularly liked the Deadshot figure, given the amount of work that had gone into it. Well, I can see why. This is one very cool, impressive, and highly detailed figure.

The trick with figures such as Deadshot is that they have to have all of their fancy accessories and whatever, and yet still fit within the established format. I'm no sculptor or toy designer, but that honestly doesn't sound like an especially easy thing to accomplish, perhaps even moreso when one considers that, where possible, it's good economics to use existing parts (or more precisely, their molds).

As far as I can determine, the only "established" parts on Deadshot would be his shoulders, mid-torso, lower torso, and upper legs. Everything else had to be made distinctive to this figure.

Deadshot's uniform is primarily red. He has yellow gloves and boots, with substantial detailing on the boots. There are thick silver and yellow ridges around the tops, and what looks like strips of silver metal plating from the top of the boots to the toes, on the front.

Deadshot has silver wristbands, and attached to his wrists are two large circular ammunition containers, above which are the barrels of two guns. These are his wrist guns. Deadshot also has two ridged armbands around his biceps, which are metallic gold in color, the only evidence of that color on his uniform.

Deadshot is wearing a thick belt, greyish in color, with embossed yellow ridges top and bottom. Attached to his belt are two lengths of grey, to which are attached two silver pieces that look like extended gun barrels.

Deadshot's entire head is covered by a grey pullover mask. If you're curious as to what he looks like, based on the comic books, Deadshot is Caucasian, and has thick and rather unruly black hair, and tends to have a rather thick black mustache and a few days of beard growth -- which I'd think would itch like heck under the mask. He has a rather rough visage, and a nose that looks like it's been broken a few times -- probably by Batman at least once. He also tends to smoke. I don't want to think about what that mask must smell like...

The mask has a silver sighting device over the right eye, with a red lens and little black crosshairs. The sculpted detail is really amazing on this.

Deadshot's neck and a "V" area of his chest and back are protected by ridged silver metal, which looks to be underneath the red garment of his costume. There are yellow ridges between the silver and red. There is a circular detail embossed at the base of the "V" on the front, a similar cross-hair emblem to the one on his eye. His mid torso region is silver, with black lines imprinted on it, representing more ridged metal protection.

I'm not even sure that the lower torso isn't newly molded. Although identical in basic appearance to other figures, it has a copyright date of "09" on it, whereas most figures, even newer ones, still read "08", using existing molds. Maybe this is just an update.

It's easy to see why Mattel is so proud of this figure. Not only does Deadshot have significantly more sculpted detail to him than an "average" DC Universe Classics figure, but that detail is superbly well done, and even very finely painted.

Check out the boots on a Deadshot figure. The strips of silver plating have little rivets in them, not only sculpted, but painted! The gun barrels on his wrists are similarly well-detailed in both sculpt and paint. I find myself wondering just a little but how much of a tradeoff this was by not having to paint much in the way of facial detail, although the sighting device on the mask still had to be painted.

Of course, the figure is superbly well articulated. I was very pleased in this regard, to discover that none of Deadshot's articulation points were either too tight or too loose. If there has been one significant quality control issue with these figures that still needs to be dealt with, it is this. It used to be that one would encounter a figure that had one or more points that simply would not move. Attempting to get them to do so usually resulted in breakage. More recently, I've encountered some figures with parts that are far looser than they should be. There needs to be a "happy medium" here that Mattel needs to determine, and consistently apply. I realize that this is not always easy with mass-produced action figures, but it shouldn't be impossible, either.

This Deadshot figure in my possession, and I realize that your results may vary and I can't very well take this one and pass him around to all readers of this review, is what I would define as "just right". Here's a superb example of what Mattel needs to shoot for across the board.

Of course, the range of articulation includes the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel (rather cleverly concealed on Deadshot by painted black bands), knees, and ankles.

Any complaints? A minor one. The right leg is twisted a little inwards at the knee. This is not improper assembly so much as it might be how the figure was wedged into his plastic framework. I'm all for secure packaging, but when they start damaging the figure, I call that a serious problem. I don't buy these figures for the package they come in! In Deadshot's case, I think it's a correctable problem. Even so, it was worth a mention.

So, what's my final word here? Okay, Deadshot's not a very nice guy. But he IS a prominent part of the DC Universe, and has been around a lot longer than I thought he'd been. He's active in both the Suicide Squad and in the Secret Six, both popular titles, and Secret Six, at least, is a fun read, if a deliberately strange one more often than not.

Certainly the figure is prominent enough within the DC Universe to warrant a DC Universe Classics figure, and the fine sculpting and design team of the Four Horsemen have done a truly outstanding job with Deadshot, well beyond what I expected. As I said, I can see why they're especially pleased with him.

I certainly am, as well, and I believe that any DC Universe Classics fan will be, also.

The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of DEADSHOT most definitely has my highest recommendation!