REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED "MUTINY IN THE RANKS" VILLAINS 6-PACK
There's something about the Justice League, even as action figures. Take their show off the air after several highly successful and impressive seasons, and the action figure line continues. Determine that most retailers are no longer interested in the line, and Target decides they'll make it an exclusive. Even MattyCollector.Com gets its own Justice League exclusives from time to time. The League endures.
And now, there's a couple of impressive new six-packs of figures, with a number of characters that were either preposterously scarce the first time around, are being introduced in new versions, or are entirely new to the League collection.
There are two such six-packs, one with heroes, called "The League United", and one with villains, called "Mutiny in the Ranks". This review will take a look at the villain set, and that set's name warrants a certain amount of explanation.
In the later episodes of "Justice League Unlimited", longtime Superman foe Lex Luthor joined a Secret Society, based strongly on the old Super Friends' "Legion of Doom", a massive team of super-villains organized by Gorilla Grodd. Luthor staged an insurrection, with the ultimate intention of launching into space to track down the last vestiges of Brainiac, with whom Luthor had had a psychic rapport at one point. Luthor was determined to restore the evil humanoid computer, but he needed help to do it.
In the final two-parter of the series, Luthor found out he'd been hoodwinked and had bitten off more than he could chew. It turned out that it wasn't Brainiac that he had restored, but the evil lord of Apokolips, Darkseid himself (although there's some indication that the mystic Tala might have had something to do with this, as she'd gotten pretty fed up with Luthor's Brainiac obsession by this time)!
Darkseid was intent on destroying Earth (and as many of its heroes as possible) with a massive invasion, in his search for the Anti-Life Equation. Heroes and villains teamed up to try to keep the destruction to a minimum, while Superman, Batman, and Luthor worked to stop Darkseid.
As much as I would have liked to have seen the Justice League Unlimited series carry on for a few more seasons, I can't exactly deny that it ended with a bang. The two-parter was nothing short of amazing.
The new figure set features no less than FIVE entirely new characters -- out of six -- who have never been presented in the JLU line before. Not even the heroes' set manages this.
Of the six, only Lex Luthor has appeared before. The others -- Tala, Devil Ray, Psycho-Pirate, Dr. Polaris, and Gentleman Ghost, are entirely new. Let's have a look at them individually.
LEX LUTHOR - Superman's arch-enemy. Originally presented as a "mad scientist" sort, Luthor was reworked in the mid-1980's as a businessman, sort of a nasty Tony Stark for the DC Universe. Certainly he was corrupt, and he hated Superman, and there was no shortage of covert illegal activity taking place within his company, LexCorp, but it was awfully difficult to pin anything on him, and when it suited his own plans and/or survival, Luthor was willing to work with the heroes, who would, if grudgingly, accept his presence. Luthor even successfully ran for President of the United States in 2000.
In more recent years, he's been gradually restored to his roots. He lost the Presidency, lost control of LexCorp, and has been distinctly more villainous, using the resources that remain to him, which are considerable, to construct armored battle suits for himself, as well as lead several incarnations of various extensive teams of super-villains, all with the specific purpose of bringing down the heroes once and for all. He no longer seems especially concerned with presenting a positive public image.
Luthor, as initially presented in the Superman animated series, was much like this revamped comic-based Luthor. He ran a massive high-tech corporation, and publicly, at least, was not overtly villainous. But much like his comic book counterpart, his obsession with Superman and the results of various schemes against the Man of Steel cost him the control of his company, and sent him down a more overtly villainous path, to the point where he ended up leading the motley band of evil-doers in various episodes of Justice League Unlimited.
Luthor is, in my opinion, the perfect villain for Superman. You're not going to readily beat Superman on a physical level. He's just too powerful. And while Superman is certainly no dunce, the only real way to get an advantage over him is to outwit him and out-think him.
Luthor, unlike Superman, has no super-powers. He is a mortal, average, human being. But he is quite probably one of the greater intellects in the DC Universe, possessed of a mind that is capable of both great organization and great innovation. He has proven his organizational skills repeatedly, not only by running LexCorp and being a decently productive President, but also by managing to keep bands of super-villains -- not exactly the most cooperative people around -- as much on the "same page" as possible for extended periods of time, working on his various schemes.
Luthor's inventiveness and innovation is clearly evident in the fact that LexCorp was, in part, a developer of high-technology devices of every conceivable sort -- including some under-the-table ones that were designed to take out Superman. Those might not have worked as planned, but give Luthor credit for a distinctly superior mind. Granted, he's as ruthless as they come.
The figure of Luthor in this set is a mild recoloration of one that was offered on a single card some time back. Luthor, when he's not wearing a business suit or a set of battle armor, has a sort of battlesuit that was initially developed in the 1970's. Prior to this, Luthor tended to wear either a suit, or prison greys. Neither of these were especially fashionable. So somebody along the way decided to give Luthor something more along the lines of a super-villain costume. It's make a resurgence in the comics recently, and consists of a purple top with a collar, green tights, green gloves, purple boots, and a belt and crossed straps over his chest with small containers, no doubt various weapons.
While the purple and green combo doesn't speak for Luthor having much fashion sense, one wonders if he picked these colors deliberately, as they are at opposite ends of the spectrum from colors in Superman's costume.
A variant of this design, which was almost entirely green, turned up in the JLU animated series, and it is this figure that has been turned out here for this set. There have been a few changes. The boots and trunks are black, and the gloves, looking distinctly higher than they were previously, are dark brown. But the rest of the costume is a rather appropriate light green, and there's a harness with a holster across the chest.
Luthor's headsculpt is excellent. What can you do, really, with a bald head? Well, you can put a facial expression on it that is one of distinct personal superiority and utter contempt for everyone else. And that's pretty much what this headsculpt is. The almost bored-looking eyes, as if it pains Luthor to have to associate with lesser beings to accomplish his goals. The faint grin on his face. The arched eyebrows. Overall, a superb likeness of the animated Luthor, capturing his personality perfectly.
TALA - The lone female in the set, and something of a mystery to me. I was completely unfamiliar with this character. I briefly thought it might have been a mispronunciation of Talia, the daughter of Ra's al Ghul, Batman's longtime foe. But no. The character didn't look that much like Talia, she clearly had considerable mystic abilities, which Talia doesn't have, and I can't imagine the DC animation team being that careless when it comes to names.
It seems that Tala is established in the DC Comics universe apart from her animated appearance. She's been a character that's given the Phantom Stranger some grief over the years (no wonder I hadn't heard of her -- never really followed his adventures very closely), and who actually first appeared in 1969!
Says Wiki: Tala is a supervillainess in the DC Comics universe. She first appeared as an adversary of the Phantom Stranger, but she is also known for her appearances on Justice League Unlimited.
First appearing in The Phantom Stranger v2 #4, Tala the Queen of Evil, was an evil mystical entity and the mistress of the Dark Circle. Her agenda often consisted in tricking mortals into doing evil deeds, or unleashing the apocalypse onto the modern world. She was, however, always frustrated by the Phantom Stranger, a mystic wanderer whom she claimed to have taken a liking to.
Tala is the mistress of her own part of Hell. Usually manipulating mortals into doing evil, she has also tried to unleash evil forces upon our world. Occasionally, she has allied herself with the Lords of Chaos or the evil sorcerer Tannarak, whom she has also been romantically involved with. Tala is an enemy of the Phantom Stranger, whom she has variously tried to destroy and seduce. She seems to have a gentler side, as witnessed in Tannarak's Nightclub 'Bewitched', where she has waited tables and chatted with Zatanna.
Wiki also has a rather extensive profile of her animated adventures:
Tala appeared on Justice League Unlimited (voiced by Juliet Landau) as one of the key members of Project Cadmus. Her role in the government black ops group is never specifically detailed, although it would be best determined that she is responsible for mystical and magical projects (like trying to reverse engineer the Annihilator, Hephaestus' living suit of armor made for Ares). While she is portrayed as a project leader, sitting at the big table, she gets trapped in a mirror by the trickery of Felix Faust and is not seen for the rest of the season. She is, at this point, not the immortal evil from the comics, but a skilled magician whose magical imprisonment at Faust's hands shows that she has limits to her powers.
Tala reappears in the Justice League Unlimited's final season, this time as a member of the Secret Society, created by Gorilla Grodd. In the episode, "Dead Reckoning", it is explained that she escaped the mirror with the help of Grodd. She has taken over Giganta's position as Grodd's female companion and also serves as the Secret Society's master of magic and mysticism.
As Lex Luthor took control of the Secret Society from Grodd, Tala quickly changed positions, swearing allegiance to Luthor and becoming his new groupie (with implications of a more intimate relationship in "The Great Brain Robbery"). In that same episode, she shows interest in the Flash (whose mind had been switched with Luthor's during a mishap with Doctor Fate), whom she implies is a much more attentive partner than Luthor, and expresses disappointment when the switch is revealed and Luthor is returned to his body. In these recent appearances, the seductive qualities that her comic version shows have come into her characterization.
In the penultimate episode of the series, Tala gets fed up with Luthor, as he is more concerned with restoring Brainiac and regaining his former godhood than her. She releases Grodd and helps him mount an insurrection against Luthor. Lex, however, defeats Grodd and, thanks to a very expensive magic amulet he purchased in case she attacked him with her magic, takes Tala prisoner. She tries to woo her way back into Luthor's good graces, but he reveals that he has other plans for her. He attaches her to a machine design to mystically draw Brainiac's essence from the debris of his asteroid base, which was destroyed in the Justice League episode "Twilight", and had intended to do so well before she staged the insurrection.
The figure is a superb likeness of the character. Tala has a rather long and narrow face, and very long, greyish-purple hair. She does not wear a traditional super-villain-type costume, but rather is dressed in what looks as much as anything like a long black evening gown. Assuming Tala is shopping at the same place where Morticia Addams buys her dresses... The dress, which is slit up the right side, is somewhat hindering to leg articulation, but at least Mattel knows these days to include display stands when female figures are involved.
Tala's face is blank-eyed, in keeping with the look of the character in the animated series, and she has upswept eyebrows and a rather sour expression on her face. Probably just had to listen to Luthor blather on about Brainiac for another hour or so. That'd get on anyone's nerves. Two interesting points of detail are the very ornate little earrings hanging from her ears, and the tattoo just below her throat. Very neatly imprinted on the figure, as much as anything, it looks like a rather stylized "T".
I think it's fair to say that Tala was probably a somewhat obscure character in the DC Universe, given more publicity than she would've otherwise had by being involved in the animated series, and now she appears as an action figure. That's pretty impressive, really.
DEVIL RAY - Here we have a somewhat unusual figure in the lot. The general consensus among fans is that the character Devil Ray, as he appeared in the Justice League animated series, was essentially an analogue to the comics character known as Black Manta, and certainly there's no denying a very strong resemblance between the two.
Assuming that Devil Ray is indeed the analogue to Black Manta, I looked up Black Manta's background on WikiPedia.
Black Manta first appeared in Aquqman #35, all the way back in 1967. However, his first origin wouldn't be given until #6 of the 1993 Aquaman series. In this origin, the boy who would become Black Manta grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and loved to play by the sea. As a youth he was kidnapped and forced to work on a ship for an unspecified amount of time. At one point he apparently saw Aquaman with his dolphin friends and tried to signal him for help but was not seen. Finally, he was forced to defend himself, killing one of his tormentors on the ship with a knife. Hating the emotionless sea (and Aquaman, whom he saw as its representative), the boy was determined to become its master.
A second origin was given in #8 of the 2003 Aquaman series. In this origin, the boy who would become Black Manta was an orphan who has autism and was placed in Gotham City's Arkham Asylum. He felt comfortable in freezing cold water, while cotton sheets were excruciatingly painful. Because the attendants at Arkham didn't know how to deal with autism, they would end up restraining him to the bed as he struggled and screamed whenever they tried putting him there. The boy was also fascinated when he saw Aquaman on television.
The boy would end up being subjected to experimental treatments. One treatment seemed to clear the boy's head, but left him violent as a result; he killed the scientist who had administered the treatment and escaped from Arkham. As an adult, the man who would become Black Manta designed a costume (primarily a black wetsuit with bug-eyed helmet that was able to shoot blasting rays from its eyes) and fashioned a high-tech submersible inspired by black manta rays. Taking the name Black Manta, he and his masked army became a force to be reckoned with, engaging in at least one unrecorded clash with Aquaman prior to his first appearance as a rival to the Ocean Master.
Wiki also explains the Devil Ray/Black Manta situation: In Justice League Unlimited a character named Devil Ray, voiced by Michael Beach, debuted as a member of the Secret Society. Devil Ray is closely based on Black Manta, right down to helmet and a suit that allowed him to breathe underwater and withstand deep-sea pressures. The suit itself heavily resembles the suit Black Manta wore in the Filmation Aquaman cartoons. According to writer Dwayne McDuffie, the reason behind the name change is because the rights to Aquaman characters were not available at the time, as they were being used for an Aquaman TV pilot. Within mainstream comics, in Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #52, the new Aquaman inquires if Black Manta is the name of a cartoon character, and is corrected "...wasn't he called Devil Ray?", a reference to the character in Justice League Unlimited.
As to his powers and abilties, based on the Black Manta profile, but let's assume it applies to Devil Ray as well, the suit is specifically designed to adapt him to an oceanic environment. It allows him complete resistance to the cold and pressure of deep sea conditions (and thus grants him a level of superhuman durability), and strength (allowing him to lift/strike with the force of 5 tons), the ability to breathe normally underwater (whether this is due to a hidden oxygen supply or its ability to extract oxygen from the water like the gills of a fish is unknown), jet boots which function in or out of water, a telepathic scrambler (used to temporarily strip Aquaman of his aquatic telepathy), and an array of weapons. Such weapons include blades, electric blasts from wrist gauntlets, miniaturized torpedoes, and energy beams from his helmet. He also has a limited degree of expertise in mechanical engineering (as he was able to manufacture his suit, weaponry, and vehicles) and some amount of hand-to-hand combat training.
The figure is very cool, and, honestly, a fair bit more interesting-looking, design-wise, than Black Manta, who is generally portrayed as wearing a featureless black diving suit with the weird oblong helmet. "Colorful" isn't exactly part of the description.
Devil Ray is a little more detailed. The costume is predominantly black, but there's some dark blue trim around the collar and down the front of the chest, some light blue trim on the lower arms and around the boots, and Devil Ray is also wearing a light blue vest that is a separate piece, on the otherwise fairly standard male body mold, that looks like it could be used for flotation or perhaps a compressed oxygen supply.
The helmet is black and nowhere near as oblong as Black Manta's, although it is nevertheless reminiscent of it. One of the things I've always wondered about Black Manta is -- how does he get his head in that thing? Or see out of it? Devil Ray's helmet, although black rather than silver, is somewhat more plausible looking, while maintaining the more or less oblong shape and wide red eyeslits.
Honestly -- it's an improvement. Black Manta was made as a DC Universe Classics figure in Wave 2 of that particular line. If for some reason DC Comics decided to give the comics character of Black Manta the costume of Devil Ray, and if Mattel decided to do an updated figure in the DCUC format, I wouldn't complain. Meanwhile, the JLU figure is very nice to have. No complaints whatsoever.
PSYCHO-PIRATE - Although the character didn't have that much of a role in the animated series, he certainly has an established reputation in the DC Comics Universe. He was a crucial player in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and was even one of the few who, after the fact, remembered that there was a Crisis in the first place.
Years later, he would once again be caught up in the Infinite Crisis, right up to the point where Black Adam caught up with him and poked his eyes out -- clean out through the back of his head. Taking most of Psycho-Pirate's head along for the ride, for that matter.
In the DC Universe, there have been two individuals named Psycho-Pirate. The first was Charles Halstead, who was introduced during the Golden Age. But that's not the Psycho-Pirate that we want to contend with.
Roger Hayden first appeared as the second Psycho-Pirate in Showcase #56, in 1965. Roger Hayden is a jailed gangster (later retconned into a young twenty-year-old who was sentenced to a year in prison for attacking his emotionally abusive psychiatrist father) who is a cellmate to Halstead. Halstead's dying wish to have a legacy prompts him to tell Hayden of a secret which he has divined in his jail years, the existence of the Medusa Masks. These golden masks bestow upon the wearer the power to project emotions onto others. Hayden finds these masks, merges them into a single faceplate and uses its powers to become a supervillain. It becomes increasingly apparent that he is addicted to absorbing others' emotions, though it causes him pain, possibly brought by the combination of all masks into one. He is eventually imprisoned after a battle with Doctor Fate and Hourman.
In the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Monitor recruits Hayden but he is abducted by the Anti-Monitor. In exchange for an entire world to play with, Psycho-Pirate becomes an accomplice to the Anti-Monitor, manipulating a captive Barry Allen, and even gviven power enough to alter the minds of the populations of three of the surviving Earths -- 4, X, and S, pitting heroes against heroes for a time. After the resolution of the Crisis, Psycho-Pirate is one of the few to have full memories of the event. Driven mad by these memories, the Psycho-Pirate is shown in last few panels of Crisis in a straitjacket.
With the Medusa Mask, Roger Hayden is able to project emotions into people. Often, it seems to intensify emotions a person already feels, no matter how small. Psycho-Pirate has also shown some sort of regeneration of body control as he is able to reform after being crushed by Power Girl, and also disguises himself as a Legion flight ring. It appears he has also returned from the destruction of his head at the hands of Black Adam.
His inclusion in the action figure set must be on the strength of his appearances in two of the major crises in the comics more than on account of his animated appearance. He barely had a cameo in JLU, seen as gathered with other villains. But he has no significant action scenes, and no lines. Even the picture on the back of the package, derived from the animated series, seems a little -- off -- relative to the other five, as though Mattel had t o scrounge for something to work with.
Psycho-Pirate's brief appearance in the animated series was notably without his Medusa Mask, and indeed, the figure doesn't include one. However, mask or not, there's no mistaking that almost comical costume. Psycho-Pirate's costume is predominantly red, with alternating, sort of "large checkerboard" patches of black, especially on the torso.
The red squares on his chest include yellow mask images, not unlike those denoting theater, with one smiling and one frowning. Psycho-Pirate also has a red cape with a high collar. The headsculpt gives the character a surprisingly determined and stern expression, which is rather interesting, since in his main comic appearances in the two Crises, Psycho-Pirate seemed more often than not confused and overwhelmed, as if he knew he was well out of his element in these cosmic adventures, but still willing to unleash his powers if given the chance.
Overall, the figure is an excellent animated take on a character who, even though he didn't have a lot of time in the animation, has nevertheless made his mark in the DC Universe, if only for the company he kept for a while.
DOCTOR POLARIS - I remember hearing a comment about this character one time. Dr. Polaris has pretty much the same powers as Magneto, from Marvel Comics' X-Men. That is to say, control of the magnetic spectrum. That's a pretty considerable power to have. So why is Magneto one of the most prominent characters in the Marvel Universe, while Dr. Polaris is a third-stringer at best?
Says Wiki of DC's rather beleaguered master of magnetism: Neal Emerson and his brother John were raised by an abusive guardian. This apparently drove Neal Emerson within himself and led to the creation of the personification of his own dark side. Emerson left the United States for a year and returned to find he was an uncle. His brother John and sister-in-law Katherine had adopted a baby and named him Grant. Emerson was not around much for his nephew over the years, but he was quite fond of the boy.
As a medical student, Neal Emerson develops a fanatical interest in magnets, despite the teasings of his classmates. Emerson is convinced exposure to magnetic fields will give him more energy. He later holds crowd-drawing lectures on "Health via Magnetism." Due to his medical background and belief in magnetism, Emerson adopts the name "Doctor Polaris." He even designs a special costume and mask to wear for his public appearances
After time Emerson came to believe he had absorbed too much magnetic energy, and unsuccessfully tries to drain off the excess energy. In desperation, Emerson tries to make a public appeal at a charity event to Green Lantern, believing Green Lantern's power ring can help him. Unfortunately, putting on the costume causes the evil persona of Doctor Polaris to take over Emerson, and he robs the box office of the proceeds instead. Polaris tries to draw a magnetic gun on Green Lantern, but is knocked unconscious by the Lantern instead. At the hospital, Green Lantern probes Polaris' mind, and learns of Emerson's evil side. Shortly thereafter, Polaris recovers and attacks Green Lantern from hiding with metal objects. The Green Lantern manages to draw Polaris out into the open and defeat him. Doctor Polaris is remanded to police custody; during that time, his "good self" resurfaces.
Later, a reformed Emerson travelled to the Earth's magnetic North pole to study it. Emerson was at the point where the lines of magnetic force converge when an earthquake plunged him into a deep crevice. At the bottom of the crevice lay a glowing blue blob. The radiation from the blob altered Emerson's perceptions, allowing him to understand the blob's intentions to dehydrate the entire Earth. Emerson was able to subconsciously influence Hal Jordan into becoming Green Lantern, but was unable to bring the Lantern to the North Pole. In desperation, Emerson created a mental duplicate of his evil alter ego. Doctor Polaris took advantage of the situation and attacked Green Lantern by blocking his power battery with a magnetic barrier. Doctor Polaris flew into Earth's orbit in order to increase the solar radiation reaching the planet. As he left the Earth's magnetic field, the barrier around the power ring faded, allowing Green Lantern to recover. Green Lantern managed to use micrometeorites to form an iron mask around Polaris' head, blocking off his vision. Back on Earth, Emerson was able to use telepathy to warn Green Lantern of the alien threat. Once Green Lantern disintegrated the blob, the mental image of the evil Doctor Polaris faded away.
Years later, Emerson's dark side returns. Returning to his old costume, Polaris takes the name of Baxter Timmons and moves to Metropolis' Suicide Slum, where he steals advanced technology from warehouses throughout the city. Polaris integrates the new magnetic circuits into his costume, as part of an attempt to gain revenge on Green Lantern. Polaris' plans are stopped through the efforts of the superhero Black Lightning.
Emerson was killed during the Infinite Crisis, and there's a new Dr. Polaris on the scene, but since the character in the animated Justice League series is clearly based on Emerson, we'll stick with that.
In Justice League Unlimited, Dr. Polaris (wearing his original costume) is seen as a member of the new Secret Society led by Gorilla Grodd; here, he is portrayed as one of the Legion's most powerful members.Polaris and the Key rescue Lex Luthor from the pursuing cops and brought him to Grodd. He, Lex Luthor, and Key raid the Blackhawks old base and battle Hawkgirl, Flash, Fire and a retired Blackhawk and are able to get away by putting the base on self-destruct which is aborted. In this episode Fire is able to weaken him by heating up the area.
Dr. Polaris returns in the episode "The Great Brain Robbery", in which he attempts to wrest control of the organization from Lex Luthor. Luthor reveals that when he augmented Polaris' powers, he installed failsafes that allow him override Polaris' powers.
Frankly, I'm pleased that the animated series chose to give Dr. Polaris his original costume, because while it has certain moderately silly components, it's preferable to the one he had later on, in my opinion.
Dr. Polaris' costume is dark blue and a dark greyish purple. The figure's head is molded as a helmet, with two extensions on either side that look more like he's been stealing headgear from Galactus, rather than Magneto. Dr. Polaris' face is fully visible, and is a rather angular face with a distinct scowl.
The arms and legs are in the purple color, and the figure is wearing a separate piece in dark blue that covers the front and back, and allows for the tapering out of the shoulders. There's a symbol on the figure's chest, an upturned magnet inside a white circle.
Dr. Polaris also has a thick belt, and blue boots and gloves. I'm pleased to see this figure of this character, who, given his power potential, I've always felt should be a lot more prominent a character in the DC Universe than he is. Maybe he doesn't have a mutant cause to rally around like Magneto, but he certainly has the power.
Finally, we come to one of the wildest figures in the entire collection:
GENTLEMAN GHOST - "Gentleman Ghost" Jim Craddock is the son of an English gentleman who abandoned both Jim and his mother, forcing them into poverty. Craddock grew up to become a notorious highwayman and robber who terrorized England in the 1800s. He journeys to the United States and encounters the gunslingers Nighthawk and Cinnamon. The hot-headed Nighthawk lynches Craddock after wrongly assuming that he sexually assaulted Cinnamon, but Craddock somehow eludes death to rise again as a phantom.
The Gentleman Ghost learns he must wander the earth until the spirit of his killer moves on to the next plane of existence. Unfortunately, Nighthawk and Cinnamon turn out to be the reincarnations of Ancient Egyptian royalty Prince Khufu and Chay-Ara: their souls (due to their exposure to the Thanagarian Nth metal) can never truly pass on. Both are eventually resurrected as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and the Gentleman Ghost becomes their recurring nemesis during the 1940s. Craddock has over the decades menaced other heroes, including Max Mercury and Stargirl, but the vengeful Ghost always returns to his main foes, the Hawks, sometimes as a foe and sometimes as a friend.
As a ghost, Craddock has several abilities. He can become intangible and pass effortlessly through solid material. He can become completely invisible. In fact, the appearance of his head as a floating hat and monocle is actually him rendering his decayed face invisible. He has been shown as being able to teleport as short a distance as a few rooms or as far as across states. Gentleman Ghost can also summon spectral weapons including a cane that shoots spectral fire and flintlock pistols. When passing through Craddock's ghostly form, people will sometimes experience an intense feeling of cold. Since this does not happen every time, it would seem that he can control this effect. Craddock can apparently track psionic energy and travel across dimensions as he did when he followed an astral tether from the Wizard to Johnny Sorrow. On certain occasions most of the manifestations of his abilities like teleportation and phasing are accompanied by a purple glow of spectral energy or transparent mist. Around the time of his prophesied return to life, he gains the power to summon and control the spirits of the dead due to his mother's spirit spending centuries recruiting them to help her son. It is unknown if he can still call upon them.
As a supernatural being, Gentleman Ghost cannot be killed and is very hard to hurt. However, those with royal blood can physically harm him and, when unaware, energy hitting him causes pain. Any weapon made of Nth metal can also harm Gentlemen Ghost as ghosts cannot pass through it.
It's that invisible head that really makes this figure interesting. Although he tends to keep his head invisible, Craddock wears a top hat and monocle. This image of a floating top hat and monocle is easy enough to accomplish in either a comic book or an animated series. Heck, CGI being what it is today, it probably wouldn't take that much to put Craddock into a live-action setting.
An action figure is another matter. And when I heard that this figure was in the works, my first thought was, understandably, "Now how in the world are they going to manage that!?"
Very effectively, as it turns out. The figure uses the body molds from a Joker figure, molded entirely in white. That's okay. Both Joker and Craddock are snappy dressers, it's just that Gentleman Ghost uses a lot more bleach. And it's close enough to Craddock's appearance to get away with it.
The figure has, essentially, no head. You can look right down the collar and see where the neck joint would be secured. There's just nothing there.
Craddock is wearing an old-style, rather Victorian-looking cape with a high collar. Ir's almost a cloak, as a secondary part of it covers his shoulders. This has been made rather stiff, but it doesn't really impede either arm or leg articulation.
Now here's how to do an invisible head that wears a hat. You bring the collar of the cape up far enough to attach the top hat to the back of the collar, and you attach the monocle to the bottom of the top hat.
It worked like a charm. And I wonder how long it took Mattel's designers to figure it out.
As one might expect from a ghost, there aren't a lot of painted details on the figure. Gentleman Ghost is molded entirely in white. There's a bit of grey trim. The inside of the cape, a line around the inside of the collar, which sort of accentuates the headless look rather neatly, the chain hanging off the monocle, and a line around the upper part of the top hat.
This is really a superb and remarkable figure, this Gentleman Ghost. It's worth mentioning that this character is also scheduled for a DC Universe Classics figure, and I can't wait to see how they pull him off in that more detailed and realistic format.
So, what's my final word on this set as a whole? Hey, if you're a DC Comics fan, or a Justice League Unlimited fan, why WOULDN'T you want this set? I think back to the days of the Batman-centric line, and how hard it was to get villains out of it. Between Kenner, Hasbro, and Mattel, I think we got about 2,437 Batman figures -- and maybe a dozen villains, tops.
Fortunately, most of Mattel's DC-based lines these days are more fair and agreeable to their casts. And here you have a new six-pack of villains, and FIVE of them are first-timers -- FIVE! How cool is that? And they're a pretty interesting line-up, too.
I remain concerned about the future of the Justice League action figure line. There are some figures that I know Mattel wants to do, and that I would very much like to have. More of the Crime Syndicate. Modern animated-style figures from the Super Friends. I want to see these happen, and I hope they will.
But in the meantime, there's still some very cool and very impressive Justice League figures to be had, and this set most assuredly qualifies. The JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED "MUTINY IN THE RANKS" 6-PACK definitely has my highest recommendation!