I haven't really been in the habit of collecting the various "Build-A-Figure" components offered in -- well, really, a pretty wide range of action figure lines these days. To be honest, it's very seldom that either an entire assortment of action figures in any given line appeals to me, or that the Build-A-Figure within that assortment appeals to me enough to warrant purchasing figures that I'm otherwise not that interested in. That's not to say there haven't been some interesting assemblages, and some upcoming, that have interesting Build-A-Figures. I wouldn't mind having the Marvel Legends "Nemesis" figure, for example.
But for my money, the very first "Build-A-Figure" has never been topped, and that's GALACTUS, from the Toy Biz Marvel Legends line. This massive rendition of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's ultimate cosmic character is an absolute masterpiece. He was worth the money and effort, no question about it.
Not surprisingly, Mattel's DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS line has followed the formula of the Marvel Legends "Build-A-Figure", which has continued under Hasbro. Mattel's concept is called "Collect and Connect", but it's entirely the same principle. Various body parts of a given character are sold with the individual (and need it be said, complete) figures within a particular assortment. Buy all the figures, get all the parts, and you've got the additional complete figure.
As it happened, Series 3 of the DC Universe Classics line WAS of sufficient interest in its entirety to me. This assortment featured Green Lantern, Sinestro, Nightwing, Robin, and Deathstroke -- all interesting characters. The "Collect-and-Connect" figure in this series as SOLOMON GRUNDY. While not exactly a personal favorite of mine, I was certainly aware of who the character was, he certainly has a reasonable prominence within the DC Universe, he's been around for a long time in one form or another -- so what the heck, I built him. And now I'll review him.
Let's consider the character's background first: The name "Solomon Grundy" did not originate with DC Comics. It was the name of the central character of a children's rhyme, and was presented by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps in 1842. The poem is essentially a riddle in which the life of Solomon Grundy appears to take place in the process of a single week, the answer being that each day's events represent the seven ages of man.
The name "Solomon Grundy" is believed to have been derived from the English food Salmagundi, which was integrated into the English language from the French in the 17th century, and is a salad of cooked meats, lettuce, anchovies and eggs, with other condiments. The name of the salad was corrupted in the 18th century to Solomon Gundy, particularly in the United States.
Still, however tasty the salad might be, the name itself is certainly strange enough, and apparently someone at DC Comics thought so in the mid-1940's.
Solomon Grundy first appeared in All-American Comics #61 dated October 1944. Dating back then, he technically was an "Earth-Two" character, before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and was largely an enemy of Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. The history of the character at the time is as follows:
In the late 19th century, a wealthy merchant named Cyrus Gold is murdered and his body disposed of in Slaughter Swamp, near Gotham City. Fifty years later, the corpse is reanimated as a huge shambling figure (composed partly of the swamp matter that has accumulated around the body over the decades) with almost no memory of its past life. Gold murders two escaped criminals who are hiding out in the marsh and steals their clothes. He shows up in a hobo camp and, when asked about his name, one of the few things he can recall is that he was "born on a Monday". One of the men at the camp mentions the nursery rhyme character Solomon Grundy (who was born on a Monday), and Gold adopts the moniker.
Strong, vicious, and nearly mindless, Solomon Grundy falls into a life of crime--or, perhaps returns to one as his scattered residual memories may indicate--attracting the attention of the Green Lantern, Alan Scott. Grundy proves to be a difficult opponent, unkillable (since he is already dead) and with an inherent resistance to Scott's powers (which can not affect wood, a substance of which Grundy's reassembled body is now largely composed). Their first fight ends when Grundy is hurled under a train.
Grundy is revived when a criminal scientist known as the Professor injects Grundy with concentrated chlorophyll. After this second encounter Grundy is trapped in a green plasma bubble for a time, until a freak weather occurrence releases him from his prison. His third appearance involves Green Lantern and his fellow members of the Justice Society of America tracking him across the country, depositing Grundy on the moon once he is defeated.
A subsequent battle commences when Grundy's body gravitates towards young astronomer Dick Cashmere, resulting in his assuming Cashmere's identity for a time. In this incarnation he gains intelligence he subsequently loses when Green Lantern defeats and buries Grundy in 1947. At this point, he is pulled back to 1941 by the time-traveling criminal Per Degaton, who has enlisted the aid of several supervillains to capture the Justice Society of America on December 7, 1941 (the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor). The All-Star Squadron comes to their rescue, and Grundy is then thrust back to the moon where he remains for over two decades.
He is briefly a member of the Injustice Society of the World. In the interim, he battles the combined might of both the Justice Society, and later their counterparts the Justice League, nearly to a standstill. Soon after, Grundy crosses over from his Slaughter Swamp prison on Earth-2 to Earth-1 where he encounters that Earth's Superman.
Later, after Solomon Grundy is rescued from a glacier by Alan Scott's daughter, Jade, Grundy becomes loyal to her and, for a while, is an ally of Infinity, Inc. Eventually, this affectionate relationship turns tragic as the villainous Marcie Cooper, a.k.a. Harlequin, uses her illusion powers to disguise herself as Jade. Harlequin manipulates Grundy to attack the members of Infinity Inc., one by one. Once Grundy found out that Marcie had duped him, he savagely beat her within an inch of her life. This is the beginning of the end for Infinity Inc., and for Grundy's quasi-heroic career.
Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and after Infinity, Inc. disbands,
Solomon Grundy loses his loyalty towards Jade. A clash with Alan Scott
and Jade in the pages of Green Lantern Corps Quartely ends with Grundy
turning into a statue of petrified wood. The heroes believe the threat
of Grundy to have ended once and for all, but they are mistaken. Shortly
thereafter, Grundy reappears in Gotham in the pages of
Grundy's next major appearance is in Starman, lurking in Opal City's sewers. Jack Knight befriends Grundy, who has taken on an innocent, child-like aspect. Grundy also becomes friends with previous Starman Mikaal Tomas, and dies while sacrificing himself to save Jack Knight from being crushed by a collapsing building. When Grundy appears again, he has returned to his malicious persona; the joint efforts of Jack Knight, Batman, Alan Scott, and Floro are needed to stop him.
The origins of Grundy's resurrections come from the fact that the Parliament of Trees, a high council of Plant Elementals, tried to turn him into the newest Plant Elemental. However, the process was missing one vital piece: fire, as a Plant Elemental cannot be fully created unless it died in flames. Since Grundy's death did not involve fire at all, the process is not complete, and he becomes a sort of half-functional Plant Elemental. Grundy has been seemingly destroyed on several occasions, only to rise from the swamp again in a new incarnation. Each version of Grundy has been somewhat different from the last, depending on the medium used to dispatch him (and the drawing style of the current artist. The original Grundy, for example, had prominent front teeth). Some have been truly evil; some much less so. Some versions are more mindless than others; some are actually moderately intelligent, recalling the literate, well-spoken Frankenstein monster of Mary Shelley's novel.
Among his recent appearances, Grundy hid out for a time in the Arrowcave, the long abandoned former headquarters of the Emerald Archer, Green Arrow. While searching for artifacts of his former life, Oliver and his former ward, Roy "Arsenal" Harper, stumbled onto Grundy's new hideout. Prior to Infinite Crisis, Grundy is manipulated by Gorilla Grodd via mind control into attacking Batman and Superman for President Luthor for the bounty of one billion dollars in Superman/Batman. Batman is able to stop Grundy. While no specifics are given, Solomon Grundy is also coerced into joining the Secret Society of Super Villains. He participates in the final strike against the Secret Six. Ragdoll II encounters Grundy in a doorway. Ragdoll's scarred face relates to Grundy, and Grundy goes on to turn against the Secret Society. This version of Grundy seemed moderately intelligent, although he had a tendency to yell "Born on a Monday!" a fair bit, especially when attacking several surprised members of the Society.
In subsequent issues of Justice League of America, Grundy is reborn with considerable intelligence after being killed in the Battle of Metropolis. He is revealed to be the mastermind behind the abduction of Red Tornado's robot body (it is revealed he gained this intelligence when he was reborn after being burned by Superboy-Prime at the end of the Battle of Metropolis in Infinite Crisis).
Grundy expresses a desire to stop his cycle of dying and being reborn and so it appears he enlists the help of Professor Ivo to build him an Amazo-type android body to live in forever. The Red Tornado kills Grundy with F5 tornado winds, ripping him apart.
He was most recently seen in Salvation Run. In the final issue of the miniseries, Grundy is killed during a battle with Parademons. His body, still awaiting its inevitable resurrection, is left behind when the villains leave the Hell Planet.
I've always tended to believe that Solomon Grundy was the DC Universe equivalent of the Incredible Hulk, just with an entirely different origin, a greater bent towards evil, and less media time. Grundy is most often portrayed as a dangerous, virtually unstoppable powerhouse whose primary weapons are his fists. Now, who does that sound like?
Honestly, I think even DC and Marvel are aware of the similarities. In their "Amalgam" series of titles in the mid 1990's, a spin-off series from the "DC vs. Marvel" story in which characters were combined, such as blending Superman and Captain America to make the character "Super-Soldier", Bruce Banner transformed into a huge white-skinned powerhouse called "Skulk".
Solomon Grundy has even had one live-action appearance. He was one of the villains in the generally ludicrous "Legends of the Super-Heroes" TV special in 1979, played extremely effectively (arguably moreso than most of the DC characters who were foisted into that disaster) by actor Mickey Morton. Here, Grundy was seen as a reasonably intelligent powerhouse with a short temper. The costuming and especially the makeup was surprisingly effective in presenting an accurate live-action Grundy.
The figure is also an excellent likeness of the character. One thing about these Collect-and-Connect figures -- they tend to be of characters that can't readily use common body molds, unlike some of the "fully assembled" figures in the series.
For starters, Grundy is huge, even bigger than Lobo, the San Diego ComiCon exclusive DC Universe Classics figure who topped out on the high side of 8 inches, in a line whose "standard male hero" height is around 6-1/2". Grundy is distinctly bulkier than Lobo, and stands a fraction over 9 in height when fully assembled!
The figure is an excellent likeness of the traditional renderings of the character. He has whitish-grey skin, and is dressed in a sort of Frankenstein-monster-like outfit of a dark jacket and trousers, both well worn and pretty much worn away at the sleeve and pants cuffs, heavy boots, and a worn pale shirt underneath the jacket. The clothes have holes work in them as part of the design. Sixty years ago, there'd be no question that this was the garb of some sort of mysterious monster from some hostile environment. These days it'd probably be regarded as a fashion statement.
The jacket was achieved much in the same way as I've seen this sort of thing achieved on other action figure lines, for anything from jackets to Jedi robes. It's a sort of vest, attached to the figure's torso, and the sleeves of the arms match the color of the "vest". It actually blends reasonably well, and works fairly well, although if you look straight on at the arm sockets you can see a bit of the shirt underneath.
Grundy's headsculpt is excellent. He has a somewhat sloping brow, mussed up but fairly short hair, and a dull but nasty look on his face. I also wonder just a bit if the sculptors were having a bit of fun. He almost looks too much like the Hulk. One of the Hulk's better known "standard appearances" has him with a relatively small nose and a fair distance between nose and mouth. That's how Grundy has been designed. Honestly, if you took JUST this figure's head, painted it green, the hair darker green, anybody would say it's the Hulk. This is not a criticism, just an observation. Really, I find it rather amusing, and an unintentional (?) acknowledgment of the similarity of the two characters.
I was a little concerned as to how well this figure would assemble. Since the only previous "put-together" figure that I own is Galactus, who is so huge it's not really fair to compare him to anyone else, I was a little concerned that the completed Grundy might be a little loose-jointed, since really all the assembly amounted to was snapping the arms and legs onto the torso. Well, I'm pleased to report that he's not especially loose. He stays together well, he moves well, and he holds a pose well. And as would be expected from a DC Universe Classics figure, he's certainly well-articulated, fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
Solomon Grundy's bodily proportions aren't entirely standard human. Apart from his sheer size and bulk, his arms are a little longer than normal, and his legs a fair bit shorter. Grundy has appeared like this from time to time, although again, this is something that is open to artistic interpretation. Part of me almost wonders here if Mattel might have trimmed the legs a bit, realizing that if they didn't, Grundy would've been far too big. But that's just speculation. The end result is a figure with an entirely proper monstrous look.
Overall detail on the figure is also excellent. His clothes seem appropriately ragged. His big boots are very superbly detailed, right down to the laces, which aren't tied. Hope he doesn't trip. Paintwork is also excellent. The ragged spots on his clothes are painted in the proper colors to appear to be holes, either revealing skin or shirt underneath them. The buttons of his shirt and the buckle on his belt are painted, and very neatly. For a real look at detail painting, check out his boots, which have painted laces and painted silver eyelets. His eyes are painted a rather frightening yellow, and he has some paint trim in his hair. I might've chosen to paint the detailing on his face in a shade of grey rather than black, but it's not too bad.
So what's my final word here? This is a cool figure. Granted, about
the only way you're going to get him is to round up the entirety of
Series 3 of the DC Universe Classics figures, but guess what? THEY'RE
all really cool figures, too! So get some bucks together, and go track
down Green Lantern, Sinestro, Robin, Nightwing, and Deathstroke. They're
all worthwhile. And that'll give you your own DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS SOLOMON
GRUNDY, and he has my definite enthusiastic recommendation, as well!