REVIEW: DC RETRO-ACTION SUPER-HEROES GREEN LANTERN KYLE RAYNER
If one were to name the most popular, and certainly varied, action figure company of the 1970's, that name would certainly have to be MEGO. They pretty much had the license to -- well -- everything that would be of reasonable interest in the action figure world, and even a few eyebrow raisers along the way.
Mego had both DC and Marvel -- the only time I think that's ever happened with the exception of Captain Action. And Mego produced a lot more stuff. They had Star Trek and Planet of the Apes. They had Logan's Run but it never came out. They had Flash Gordon and the Wizard of Oz, which proved surprisingly popular. They had a ton of their own stuff -- Robin Hood, Knights, Pirates, Western characters, Monsters. They even had some stuff that one wouldn't expect to find in action figures. Starsky and Hutch. Dukes of Hazzard. CHiPs. The Waltons. I mean -- The Waltons!??! Hey, popular show in its day, don't get me wrong, but not the first thing I think of for action figure potential.
The company was able to produce this level of merchandise because of a simple, basic formula. The vast majority of their product line consisted of 8" action figures that used the same handful of body molds. The bodies were very decently designed and certainly well-articulated, but were fairly simple constructs that were held together with a couple of strong rubber bands on metal hooks. I learned fairly early on how to repair them. And all that was needed to create a new character was a distinctive head -- which could be plugged into a hole in the top of the body -- and a cloth costume, which I suspect was less expensive to make than entirely new body molds.
Mego is still considered a legendary company to this day, even though it has been long out of business. There's a Mego Museum on line. There's an annual Mego collectors' convention. And several companies have been duplicating, to one degree or another, Mego's efforts from years past. The closest of these would have to be EmCe Toys, which has precisely duplicated the Mego body, and remade the popular Star Trek line of figures, even adding to it, with the likes of Sulu, Chekov, Captain Pike, and a far more accurate Gorn.
But other companies have hopped on board the Mego-esque train, as well. One of these is Mattel, which has released a line of action figures called RETRO-ACTION DC SUPER-HEROES. Although the line has pretty well run its course, and perhaps was a little too collector-oriented for its own good, it performed a considerable service by bringing out a fair host of figures that never made it into the original Mego "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" line. The DC branch of that particular line was extensive, certainly, but there were some glaring omissions, such as Flash, Green Lantern, and a number of others, who have finally gotten their chance.
Recently, Mattel turned out an entire Green Lantern assortment, figures made available one at a time over the course of several months as exclusives on MattyCollector.Com. There are two staggering ironies in this assortment, given that NO Green Lantern ever made it into the Mego line, and the fact that the vast majority of this line couldn't have made it into the original Mego line, because the characters didn't even exist back then!
Hal Jordan was not part of this assortment. He'd already made it into the Retro-Action line in the first of the retail assortments, along with a classic Sinestro.
The MattyCollector Green Lantern assortment consisted of Sinestro in his Sinestro Corps uniform, a relatively recent development in the comics; John Stewart -- complete with afro and classic Green Lantern uniform, which WOULD have been possible during the Mego days; Guy Gardner, who while he technically existed during the Mego era, was a decidedly minor character, and had certainly not picked up his modern uniform, which is how the figure is dressed, and the one character that would have really been impossible as a Mego, since he didn't even come along until 1994 -- KYLE RAYNER!
For whatever reason, this figure was delayed for several months. The stated reason was "problems with the power ring". Maybe so, but I'm a little skeptical of that. Honestly, I have no idea what the delay was, I'm just glad to finally have the figure. Given that I purchased Hal Jordan as soon as he came out, and ordered Gardner and Stewart when they became available, I would've been seriously steamed if Rayner, the fourth modern Green Lantern, had been scrapped at the last minute.
Let's consider the character of Kyle Rayner, and then have a look at the figure. Created by writer Ron Marz and artist Darryl Banks, Kyle Rayner first appeared in Green Lantern #48, in 1994, as part of the "Emerald Twilight" storyline, in which DC Comics replaced Hal Jordan with Kyle Rayner, who was the sole Green Lantern until the late 1990's.
Within the story, Hal Jordan had been driven nearly insane with the destruction of his hometown, Coast City, at the hands of Mongul and the Cyborg Superman during the "Reign of the Supermen" storyline following Superman's apparent death. Jordan sought to reconstruct Coast City using the energy of his power ring. He was summoned to Oa by the Guardians of the Universe to face punishment for using his power ring for personal goals. Enraged, Jordan cut a swath of destruction through the Green Lantern Corps, arriving on Oa, and ultimately destroying the Central Power Battery, absorbing its power and becoming the villain Parallax.
It would eventually turn out that there was a lot more to it than that, Parallax was in fact an entity of fear that had possessed Hal Jordan and was waiting for an opportunity to cut loose, which the destruction of Coast City gave him, but we would need to wait for Geoff Johns' "Green Lantern: Rebirth" story to discover this.
Before he acquired a Green Lantern power ring, Kyle Rayner was a struggling-but-gifted freelance graphic artist who lived and worked in Los Angeles. Following Hal Jordan's rampage on Oa, the last surviving Guardian of the Universe, Ganthet, made his way to Earth, and more or less chanced across Kyle Rayner in an alleyway. Ganthet's reasons, if there were any, for choosing Kyle to bear the ring have never been made completely apparent, despite an extremely distinguished career on Rayner's part, aside from Rayner having simply been in the right place at the right time. Prior to bequeathing the ring upon Rayner, Ganthet merely remarked, "You will have to do."
Initially, Rayner took possession of the ring very lightly, treating it almost as a toy. However, with the subsequent brutal murder of his girlfriend, who had been encouraging him and training him for the role of a superhero, at the hands of Major Force, Rayner began to take his new role more seriously, and as a result strove to be the best Green Lantern he could be.
Rayner grew up enamored with Superman and Batman, though he had only a passing knowledge of Earth's various Green Lanterns -- sort of like real-life movie audiences, unfortunately. This soon changed, and he found that the power ring was the ultimate expression of his considerable imagination. While in battle, he often used the ring to create constructs of just about anything his artistic mind could imagine: other superheroes, anime characters, mystical characters, huge robotic mechs, futuristic weapons, and other such designs -- no doubt keeping the comic book artists responsible for his adventures plenty busy.
After relocating to New York City, Rayner briefly joined the Titans, but eventually became a member of the Justice League. He initially clashed with the Flash - Wally West - who had worked with Hal Jordan and had reservations about Kyle as the new Green Lantern. Eventually, Wally became one of Rayner's best friends and biggest supporters. Surprisingly, another of Kyle's biggest supporters was Batman, who often treated him with more respect than he showed some other League members, including previous Lanterns. Over time, Rayner also befriended Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, as well as John Stewart and Guy Gardner, at the time former modern-day Green Lanterns.
Rayner would find himself involved in a number of large crises, two of which -- Zero Hour and Final Night -- would find him up against his now-villainous predecessor, Hal Jordan, who was now Parallax. Later on, one storyline saw Kyle Rayner briefly tossed back in time to Hal Jordan's early days, and when Kyle Rayner was returned to the present day, Hal Jordan accidentally accompanied him, thanks to the treachery of Sinestro. Thus Rayner had a chance to get to know the pre-villainous Hal Jordan, as well.
Kyle Rayner also played a significant role in the DC One Million event, being the one to learn of Starman's treachery, as well as finding himself having to contain Earth's second sun, Solaris, when it went nova.
Kyle Rayner was also the primary Green Lantern during the epic DC/Marvel crossover JLA/Avengers. His Power Battery was one of the cosmic objects from both universes that the Grandmaster and Metron sent the heroes of both worlds to capture. Among the Marvel heroes he battled, with varying degrees of success, were Scarlet Witch, Vision, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, Photon, and Quasar. At one point, he even managed to recharge his power ring with the Cosmic Cube, an object from the Marvel Universe with considerable power. During the final battle against Krona, Kyle helps attack Krona's forces with a weapon created by his ring, based on a design from Iron Man.
For a brief period, Kyle Rayner took on the role of Ion, after absorbing the energy Hal Jordan had left in Earth's sun during the Final Night storyline. With his new powers, Rayner could bend time, space, and reality, allowing himself to be in many places at once, and solve crises almost instantaneously. The drawback of being this powerful was that Rayner could no longer sleep, or separate himself from the overwhelming responsibilities he felt his powers placed upon him. Rather than sacrifice his humanity, Rayner abandoned his heightened powers, using them to recharge the Central Power Battery on the Guardians' homeworld of Oa, and re-creating the Guardians in the process.
Rayner played a major role in the "Green Lantern: Rebirth" storyline, which saw the return of Hal Jordan as Earth's primary Green Lantern. John Stewart by now had once again also become a Green Lantern, and Guy Gardner also did so over the course of the story. With the Guardians restored, the Green Lantern Corps was eventually rebuilt, with Jordan, Stewart, Gardner, and Rayner all remaining Green Lanterns. Rayner was given special status among the Guardians, who regarded him as the "torch-bearer", the Green Lantern who carried the legacy through the Corps' darkest period at that point.
Later, following the Infinite Crisis, but prior to the Sinestro Corps War, Rayner is once again empowered to his previous Ion levels, and is told by the Guardians that he will not patrol a single sector of space, as the other Lanterns do, but instead will be called upon for aid in situations that the Corps cannot handle.
During the Sinestro Corps War, Rayner discovers the truth, that Ion is in fact a cosmic energy being, that has been using Kyle Rayner as its host. Sinestro manages to extract Ion from Rayner, and installs the cosmic energy being Parallax, which once inhabited Hal Jordan, in its place. Eventually, with Jordan's help, Rayner is able to free himself from Parallax. He ultimately declines the power of Ion, which instead goes to a Daxamite known as Sodam Yat for a time. Rayner chooses instead to become a Green Lantern alongside his friends, and has remained such ever since.
As of this writing, Rayner looks to head up a new team called the New Guardians, which features members from all of the various colored Corps that have sprung up in recent years. Good luck keeping a crew like that together, brother, but I suspect it may be one of the few really interesting and enjoyable titles to come out of the otherwise abhorrent DC Relaunch.
As a Green Lantern, Rayner is semi-invulnerable, capable of projecting hard light constructs, flight, and utilizing various other abilities through his power ring, which are only limited by his imagination -- which in his case is considerable -- and willpower. Kyle's constructs are much more elaborate than those of any other Green Lanterns, often fading into view like a sketch refined into an illustration. Eventually, he has proven able to utilize his skill as an artist to manipulate the dimensions and even pigments within his constructs, making them appear so realistic that even Alan Scott was amazed at what Kyle could do.
One of the things that seems to have set Rayner apart from his fellow Green Lanterns is a substantial variety of costumes over the years -- although John Stewart was something of a clothes-horse as well, before settling on a costume that was identical to his animated counterpart in the Justice League series. When Rayner first accepted the power ring, it created a costume for him that was pretty much "standard issue", and was identical in appearance to Hal Jordan's. Being the artist that he is, Rayner only kept this costume briefly, soon designing one of his own. His costume would undergo many changes over the years, usually the result of some significant event in his life.
There is a DC Universe Classics figure of Kyle Rayner in his most recent uniform design, and it's an excellent figure and an excellent costume. The figure was part of the first assortment of the Green Lantern Classics branch of the DCUC line, and has proved to be the most popular figure from that assortment, with Star Sapphire running a close second.
However, entirely appropriately, the DC Retro-Action figure of Kyle Rayner uses the first costume that Rayner came up with on his own -- and used for a good number of years. Mattel also did this with John Stewart, giving him an afro as well as a standard Green Lantern costume, which Stewart did in fact wear for many years. Had there been a John Stewart figure produced by Mego, that is what he would have looked like.
The difference, of course, as I said earlier, is that there could not have been a Kyle Rayner figure during the days of Mego, because the character didn't even exist until 1994, well after Mego had sadly shut its doors.
So, how's the figure? Extremely cool, but before I get to that, I'd like to spend a few moments discussing the package, something I know I don't usually do in my reviews, but in this case, it's worth it.
Mattel has done a great job with the package design of their Retro-Action Super-Heroes of bringing the "Mego look" as much as possible to their packages. The figures are mounted in rectangular plastic bubbles, with not a lot of room to move, on the right side of a square-shaped card, with a red and yellow square logo at the top of the left side, and illustrations of characters within a given assortment below this, running down the left side of the cars. The illustrations are line drawings that have a certain retro feel to them. Combined with a broad white border line around the edge of the package, and the card is a definite nod to the Mego design for these figures, as they appeared in the 1970's.
As to the figure itself, Mattel has done a really impressive job of bringing Kyle Rayner's earliest look into a very effective Mego-type design. The headsculpt is excellent, although I personally think I might have made Rayner's hair a little longer or thicker. Rayner's mask with this costume was fairly ornate, and of course the Mego figures were fairly simple -- the heads were roto-molded and the amount of detail they could contain was somewhat limited. Arguably the most detailed heads they produced in any line were those from Planet of the Apes, especially Cornelius/Galen and Dr. Zaius. Nevertheless, Mattel has found a good "middle ground" with Rayner, presenting his fancy multi-faceted mask while keeping the relatively basic look of a Mego-type figure.
Kyle Rayner's earliest self-imagined costume was mostly black, with a white panel on the front and back, that had a black stripe on the front and an all-new Green Lantern emblem on the white panel, that was very distinctive, and itself alternated colors of black and green. Rayner wore green armored gauntlets, and armored-looking boots that included protective knee pads. Not the easiest thing in the world to render in a cloth uniform, let alone in something reasonably close to the Mego-style.
Oddly enough, there is a previous cloth-costumed Kyle Rayner figure in existence! Hasbro, when they had the DC license, turned one out in a 12" line that they produced at the time, which was when Kyle Rayner was still wearing this costume in the comics. Of course, Hasbro wasn't trying to emulate Mego, so the gauntlets and boots were molded in plastic, and secured to the uniform over the course of assembly.
Mego's method of doing gloves, at least once they got past the vinyl mittens of the early days that saw use on Batman, Robin, and Aquaman, was, on occasion, to color the hand in the glove color, and then use a bit of leather-like or other fabric as a sort of cuff at the end of the sleeves.
And so it has been done with Kyle Rayner, although his gloves are complex enough so that there's a bit more to it than that. His hands are molded in flesh color, but only his fingers and thumbs have been left that color. The rest of the hands, to the wrists, have been painted in a glossy green, the same color used for his mask, by the way. The sewn to the base of the sleeves of his uniform are two pieces of green, leather-like fabric, with a little slot of flesh-colored fabric along the sides, pretty much in keeping with the design of Rayner's gloves at the time. Imprinted on the second finger of Rayner's right hand is his power ring.
The gloves are nicely made from a semi-flexible green plastic, and include the knee pads. They're not overly detailed, but they're about as detailed as one would expect to find from a Mego-type figure.
Sometimes I think it'd be hilarious if one had access to a time travel machine, take a batch of these Retro-Action figures, maybe modify the packaging a bit to make them look more like they are the Mego line, and then stock all these characters that Mego never made in the racks of a store's toy department -- preferably fairly close to Mego's headquarters. But that's just my sense of humor. Basically what I'm saying is, this Kyle Rayner figure really does look like what I would have expected a Mego figure of Kyle Rayner to look like if it had been possible.
The white detailing and the emblem on Rayner's costume are all imprinted onto the fabric. Honestly, I don't have any idea how this might have been done, but it certainly worked well. The imprinted white area and emblem has a plastic-like feel to it. I'm assuming this is some sort of textile imprinting method, but I couldn't begin to explain it.
Kyle's uniform is a little more tightly-fitting than some of the Retro-Action figures I've picked up. Honestly, I'm not sure why this might be. It has two plastic snaps in the back, and I assume is removable. Except for the boots, it's a one-piece uniform, and is more or less just a black jumpsuit with the gauntlets, imprinting, and a sort of turtleneck collar added to it. Overall, it's very nicely made.
The body design isn't quite Mego. I suspect Mattel couldn't duplicate it precisely, since the precise design is being used by EmCe toys these days. It's close, but some of the proportions are just a little different. Most notable is the fact that these figures have a very narrow mid-torso, and rather wide hips. Given the distinctly tight fit of Rayner's costume, it's especially evident on him. He doesn't look bad, but he does look like he could stand to whip up a treadmill with his power ring and make some use of it.
Of course, the figure is very well articulated. Kyle Rayner is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles -- although the ankles don't really move with the boots in place. Again, just like a Mego figure.
Rayner also comes with his Power Battery, which is distinctly more ornate than most. I wasn't too surprised to discover that it's identical to the Power Battery that came with the DC Universe Classics Kyle Rayner figure. The only difference is that the DCUC version has been painted a metallic green, while the Retro-Action version is plain green. It's still an excellent design, and a good likeness of the battery.
So, what's my final word? I think it's a shame that the Retro-Action line isn't continuing, but we still got a good number of figures out of it, a majority of which had never been made during the days of Mego. Two-Face, Black Manta, Sinestro, Lex Luthor (in the 8" scale, anyway), Flash, Captain Cold, Sinestro, Martian Manhunter, Black Adam, heck, even Darkseid! And, of course, four-count-'em-four Green Lanterns!
And as a longtime Green Lantern fan, I'm pleased to have them all. Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and now -- KYLE RAYNER. And if you're a Green Lantern fan, that maybe has memories of Mego, or just likes interesting retro-type toys that you've heard about during your collecting, you'll be glad to have him, too. All of them, really.
The DC RETRO-ACTION SUPER-HEROES figure of GREEN LANTERN KYLE RAYNER definitely has my highest recommendation!