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REVIEW: TARGET EXCLUSIVE 9" SUPERMAN

This was one of those toys that a lot of people thought would never come out, myself included. And it was a source of considerable frustration for me. I've gotten burned on a lot on unreleased toys over the years of toy collecting... The entire 1995 3 3/4" G.I.Joe line-up... the fifth assortment of Iron Man figures... the second year of Visionaries and the third year of COPS... the second assortment of Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog... and perhaps most recently, the second assortment of Manimals, which should have made its way to K*B Toys, but never did. This sort of thing gets really annoying and is very disappointing for a true fan.

Last year it was announced that Target would offer two 9" DC Super-Heroes, complete with secret identity outfits. They would be Batman and Superman. The figures actually looked quite impressive in pictures, and in my opinion it was long overdue. While Hasbro's line of 9" figures based on DC Super-Heroes has never been as voluminous as Toy Biz's late and lamented same-size Famous Covers line, it's had its high points -- and its low points.

The low points have, unfortunately, included some dreadful versions of DC's two most foundational heroes. Hasbro's previous Batman figures included a Golden Age figure, exclusive to Target, that looked like he'd bleached his uniform a bit too much, and a Batman that was part of a two-pack with Robin that had auch an alarming broad grin on his face he looked like he was wearing a boxer's protective mouthpiece. To be fair, the Robin figure in that two-pack was very nicely done.

In the case of Superman, his Golden Age Target exclusive had such a huge head that he looked as though he had an unfortunate disease. They also didn't bother to hem the ends of his sleeves, which was just asking for the somewhat elastic, lightweight fabric to develop "runs" in it. Then there was the K*B Exclusive "Superman Blue" figure, from the brief time Superman was transformed into an energy being in the comics. Now, this was actually a very decent action figure. Unfortunately, it was based on one of the single most asinine stunts DC Comics has ever pulled with the Caped Kryptonian. It was thought to be a means of ushering the one-time Man of Steel into a new millennium. It lasted about a year. Which was still too long.

So, back to Target. Some months ago, the Batman figure was released. And I don't think I've reviewed it yet and I really should one of these days. It was actually very well done. But it, along with all of the other Batman toys in Target's toy department, were clearanced prior to Christmas. Apparently the overall Batman line wasn't considered a decent-enough seller to maintain it through the holiday season, and a lot of people were assuming that the line was coming to an end anyway. This was before the "Mission Masters 4" line recently came out.

Granted, Target has always been more merciless in their toy clearances than other stores. Sometimes this can work to one's advantage. But in this case, most people figured that we'd never see the 9" Superman figure, since it was a Target exclusive, ostentibly linked to the Batman line (the shelf tag even read "9" Batman/Superman"), and Target had apparently opted out of any more Bat-toys. Needless to say, I and others were not very happy about this.

But right after the holidays, when Target overhauled its toy department for the post-Christmas season, something strange happened. Batman toys returned. Here was the Mission Masters 4 assortment. And here was a new shelf tag for the 9" Batman/Superman. Might we actually get a break this time? Would this toy see the light of day?

The answer, for once, is YES! The 9" "Secret Identity" Superman turned up at Targets in mid-January. Was he worth the wait? Again, the answer is YES!

The figure is packaged dressed in his "Clark Kent" outfit, opening his shirt near a phone booth to show the famous "S" uniform underneath. Take my advice now and put the Clark Kent outfit in a safe storage area and keep the figure around as Superman. He's a lot cooler. The head is slightly large, but nowhere near as bad as the last time Supes turned up at Target, and it's a far better sculpt. The costume is an excellent royal blue and perfect red. His cape is attached to two velcro areas on his shoulders. The cape is not hemmed, but fortunately, the sleeve cuffs ARE this time around. The facial expression is one that I would describe as "heroic determination". Of course the figure is highly articulated, and very well made.

Along with the Clark Kent outfit, the figure comes with a cardboard phone booth you can assemble. Cute, but a little on the cheap side. I say -- keep the entire box, put the Kent suit in the box, and put the whole works in a safe place so you know you've got it all. But as I said, keep the figure as SUPERMAN.

Finally, the Man of Steel -- and finally, a good version of him -- can join the ranks of the various super-characters that have emerged in this excellent 9" form over the past several years. This Target exclusive 9" Superman is a most welcome toy. Hopefully he'll still be available by the time you read this, because he was flying out of the stores (something you'd rather expect Superman to do) when he appeared in mid-January.

One last note: There are some vague rumors that Hasbro is also planning figures of the Joker and the Riddler. I have been unable to specifically confirm these. I can see them doing the Riddler with the present body molds, but I would think that the Joker would be more difficult. He's not an especially muscular character. We'll see what happens. Personally, if they plan to continue this line, which I wouldn't object to at all, as long as they're done well, then I'd like to see them to the Flash. Add him to the mix, and considering that we've now got Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Martian Manhunter, you've pretty much got the Justice League of America right there -- if you add the Flash. I'd also suggest Wonder Woman, but I consider that pretty unlikely. I don't really see Hasbro creating an entirely new set of molds for what is admittedly a rather marginal line, and there haven't been any female characters for it.

Meanwhile, though, whatever future, if any, there is for the 9" DC Super-Heroes line from Hasbro, I most certainly recommend the Target exclusive SUPERMAN!