REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS DR. MID-NITE
As Mattel's excellent line of DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS action figures continues, Mattel is heading further and further into the DC Universe to bring more and more of its characters into action figure form.
That's not a complaint. For example, I never would've figured we would have seen a figure of a character like DR. MID-NITE. Definitely a Golden Age character, and the Dr. Mid-Nite that's hanging around with the Justice Society these days isn't even the same individual as the original, and yet it is the classic original that we've gotten here. Which is fine with me. I have nothing against the modern Mid-Nite, and his uniform is very similar to the original's, but I like the look of the classic a little better.
Interestingly enough, as of Series 12 of the DC Universe Classics figures, the line is now being marked as for the "Adult Collector", rather than the previous marking of "4+". Part of this may be due to the presence of a little collector button included with the figures as of this assortment. It's a metal pinback button, and there's a very distinct warning on the package about an item contained within having a "functional sharp point".
However, it may also well be that Mattel realizes that there's probably not that many young kids out there, unless they're die-hard DC fans (and we could certainly use as many as possible), that even know who some of the characters present and upcoming in this line are. The average child almost certainly has some awareness of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern... Probably not so much characters like Hourman, Eclipso, The Spectre, and -- Dr. Mid-Nite. For myself, I certainly know who these characters are, and am truly delighted to be able to own such amazing action figures of them.
Let's consider the character of Dr. Mid-Nite, with a little help from some online research.
Doctor Mid-Nite was created by writer Charles Reizenstein and artist Stanley Josephs Aschmeier, and first appeared in All-American Comics #25 (April 1941).
In the history of the DC Universe, three different characters have assumed the role of Doctor Mid-Nite. All of them have been close to blind in daylight but able to see clearly in darkness, and have utilized special visors and smoky "blackout" bombs to give them the upper hand against enemies. All three have also been actual medical doctors. Two have also had sidekick owls.
Like many Golden Age heroes, Doctor Mid-Nite was a core member of the Justice Society of America. His two successors were also members of the group or joined an offshoot.
Since this figure represents the classic Dr. Mid-Nite, I'll of course focus on him.
The first Doctor, surgeon Charles McNider, was the earliest blind superhero, predating Marvel Comics' Daredevil by more than two decades.
One night, he was called to remove a bullet from a witness who was to testify against the mob. However, a mobster threw a grenade into the room, killing the witness and blinding McNider. McNider thought his days as a surgeon were over until one day, as he was recovering, an owl crashed through his window (reminiscent of the incident that inspired Batman to dress as a bat). Taking off the bandages that were covering his eyes, he found that he could see, but only in perfect darkness, his vision having been 'inverted' so that he could see in the dark like normal people see in light, and vice-versa. Using his newfound ability, he developed a special visor that let him see in light and "blackout bombs" that block out all light, and used these to fight crime. He adopted the owl, named him Hooty, and appointed him as his "sidekick". He later joined the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Squadron.
In 1951, McNider briefly took over the role of Starman after the JSA had disbanded and Ted Knight, the original Starman, had suffered a nervous breakdown.
Charles McNider's legacy apparently does not include any blood heirs. McNider's later marital status is unknown, but he suffered an agonizing event when his girlfriend Myra Mason was murdered in 1953 by his foe, The Shadower, who had discovered Mid-Nite's secret identity.
Modern Dr. Mid-Nite Pieter Cross has noted that "McNider loved [Myra]... more than he was ever willing to admit to her." McNider apparently never revealed his identity to Myra, presumably (and ironically) to keep her "safe".
At one point however, in Sogndal, Norway, McNider rescued a pregnant woman from attack and delivered her baby. This child, Pieter Cross, eventually became his modern successor, the current Dr. Mid-Nite.
Charles McNider was one of the casualties of the Zero Hour event, which claimed several Golden Age heroes. Just for reference's sake, the second Dr. Mid-Nite was an African-American female named Beth Chapel. During the onset of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Beth was blinded by an oxygen explosion in her hospital. She was rescued by Hourman's son Rick Tyler. Like McNider, Beth discovered that she too could see in the dark. She and Rick assumed the mantles of their predecessors as Doctor Midnight (note the different spelling) and Hourman. She perished during a mission to defeat the super-villain Eclipso.
The current Dr. Mid-Nite is Pieter Cross, who made his first appearance in the 3-issue prestige format limited series Doctor Mid-Nite (1999). Cross is the Norwegian-born son of a noted scientist. In fact, Pieter was delivered from his mother's womb by the original Doctor Mid-Nite, who had just saved his mother from vagrants. He was blinded following a run-in with drug runners. Like the previous bearers of the name, he found that he could only see in pitch darkness, via infrared vision (his powers can also switch to ultrasonic vision). He, too, donned a costume to fight crime. He is currently a member of the Justice Society and regarded as one of the most skilled surgeons in the DC Universe.
That's just for informational purposes. The DC Universe Classics figure is clearly that of the original Dr. Mid-Nite -- no slouch of a doctor in his own right, either, as far as that goes.
So, how's the figure? Excellent -- as well as very distinctive. I'm impressed that this much individual effort was placed into someone who, in fairness, isn't someone that would be regarded as a top-tier character.
Of course, Dr, Mid-Nite wears a super-hero costume, but certain aspects of it are not the usual form-fitting spandex that one usually expects from the super-hero set. As such, the usual set of body molds that are customarily brought together for a large percentage of the male population of DC Universe Classics figures, don't quite work here. At least not all of them, anyway. I'm reasonably certain that the upper arms and upper legs of Dr. Mid-Nite come from the usual molds. It's the rest of the figure that's unique unto itself.
Dr. Mid-Nite's costume can best be described thusly: He wears a black cowl with a yellow moon emblem on the forehead. His special goggles, rather squared-off lenses, are part of the cowl and mask. The arms and trousers of the uniform are tight-fitting and black in color. The gloves and boots are brown. Dr. Mid-Nite has a dark green cape, and a red sleeveless tunic that he wears (one assumes over a black body-suit), which has three yellow moons running down the front, and a wide black belt with a yellow buckle.
Obviously, it's the tunic, which is not entirely form-fitting, but is reasonably tight, which required the use of more unique body molds than the average DC Universe Classics figure. Both the upper and mid-torso pieces had to be sculpted with a certain amount of "fabric wrinkles", as well as the three yellow moons. Additional detailing on the tunic shows seams along the edges, as well as down the center. It's reasonable to assume that the moons are some sort of clasps for the tunic.
The tunic hangs below the waist, and so in addition to the belt, there is the remaining portion of the red tunic. An excellent match for the upper portion, it also has seams along its perimeter. For that matter, the black belt has detail work within it, making it look like somewhat textured leather.
This is hardly the first time an otherwise "standard male" figure has required special parts. One need only look back to Aquaman from one of the earliest Series of DC Universe Classics to see that, with his fancy scaled shirt. What impresses me in particular about this line is that when such needs arise, the figure is designed in such a way that his overall physical build is still an excellent match, standing alongside those figures in the line that do not require specially designed parts. This lends a consistency to the overall DC Universe Classics line that very much impresses me.
The portion of the tunic that hangs below the belt does enter the area of leg articulation, but isn't as much of a hindrance as one might expect. This is, I will admit, a growing concern to me, especially with the new "Adult Collector" label on these figures. A number of figures in Series 12, including Mary Batson (Marvel), DeSaad, Iron of the Metal Men, and thankfully to a lesser degree Dr. Mid-Nite, all have constrained articulation due to costume design necessity. While it is true on the one hand that adult collectors are less likely to "play" with these figures, the flip side of that coin is that an excellent articulation design has been a hallmark of the DC Universe Classics line, really almost before it became DC Universe Classics, in the closing series of DC Universe Super-Heroes. I would hate to see this line's articulation suffer because of a different mindset as to who it's being marketed to on the part of Mattel. While occasional compromises may be necessary, there's no reason to have to choose between accurate design and extensive articulation, especially when the articulation design is so superb. Granted, so are the likenesses.
The torso is not the only distinctive part of Dr. Mid-Nite. So are the gloves and boots. The gloves are slightly flared, and the boots have cuffs on them that Captain America would envy. While it's entirely possible for these boots and gloves to be used on other figures, who have similar uniform features, it is a variance from the "all-skin-tight body-suit" basic molds.
Dr. Mid-Nite's cape is an appropriate shade of dark green, and very nicely flexible. I was especially pleased to encounter this I recognize the fact that fabric capes would not be the best approach in this line. Therefore when a character has a cape, it must be a plastic cape for the figure. When this happens, though, I tend to have two concerns. I don't really want to see the cape "pre-posed", like it's blowing in the wind, and I want the cape to be flexible enough so that it isn't a hindrance to articulation.
Fortunately, Dr. Mid-Nite's cape is not at all pre-posed, except for an appropriate "draped" look to it. It's actually noticeably narrower than a lot of the capes in this line. Again, not a complaint. Not everybody needs to have a cape like Batman's or whatever. For Dr. Mid-Nite, it's sufficient. And it's very flexible. I was very pleased to see this, both on Dr. Mid-Nite and The Spectre, another green-cape-wearing figure in Series 12. The last time this color of cape turned up, it was on Mister Miracle, and on him, it was made out of plastic so stiff that it actually was a hindrance to the figure's articulation. Not so here on Dr. Mid-Nite, thankfully.
I honestly don't know whether to call this next item an accessory or a sidekick. As mentioned in the background information, Dr. Mid-Nite had a pet owl called "Hooty", who was more or less his inspiration to become a costumed crime-fighter. No great surprise, Dr. Mid-Nite comes with Hooty. In package, the owl is perched on his arm. Fortunately, it's not attached there. Hooty is an entirely separate piece, and very well made, especially for a bird that's about 1-1/2" in length.
Hooty is very nicely made. He looks very much like an owl. He clasps to Dr. Mid-Nite's arm by virtue of his feet and tail, which are posed in such a way to form an overall clasp that fits around the figure's wrist. The figure has excellent paint detailing on the feathers, and especially in the face.
Interestingly enough, Hooty actually does have a bit of articulation to him! This was something of a surprise to me. His head turns. Given the cranial rotation abilities of many species of real-life owls, perhaps I should have expected this. Nice touch, really. Overall, I'm very pleased with Hooty.
Of course, Dr. Mid-Nite's articulation is superb. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
Any complaints? Just a slight one. For some reason, Dr. Mid-Nite's head is very slightly askew. I'm hoping it's something I can correct, but I need to understand the assembly structure a bit better. As of this writing, I have no idea what the cause might me, and I realize it's nit-picking beyond even what I usually do. It's just a little annoying a the moment. Overall, I can't complain. The figure is well-made, well-articulated, well-detailed. The most egregious quality control issues seem to be being dealt with.
So what's my final word? I'm sincerely very impressed with this figure. Dr. Mid-Nite is a Golden Age hero, and apart from this fine line of DC Universe Classics action figures, there's no reason to think he ever would have been rendered into action figure form. Mattel seems to be giving the nod to a number of these classic heroes. Wildcat turned up a while back, and Hourman and Green Lantern Alan Scott are in the works. I'd like to think that we'd see the Jay Garrick flash someday. He's already turned up in the smaller DC Infinite Heroes line, at least.
If you're a major DC Universe fan, and enjoy action figures, these are great days. A figure of Dr. Mid-Nite -- who could have expected that? I'm glad that Mattel has added him to the DC Universe Classics line, and I'm delighted to have added him to my collection. The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of DR. MID-NITE definitely has my highest recommendation!