REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS TYR
Wave 14 of Mattel's excellent action figure line, DC Universe Classics, is a Walmart exclusive, and certainly has some interesting individuals in it. There's another of the Metal Men, Gold; there are two Golden Age heroes in it, in the form of Hourman and Green Lantern Alan Scott; there is Scott's son Obsidian, officially listed by his secret identity Todd Rice; there is Zatanna, who has recently garnered her own series in DC Comics; and from a likely alternate future, there is Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth.
And then there's the seventh figure in the series, who is one of those characters that has been added to the line largely because of his presence in Kenner's Super Powers line in the 1980's, a line remembered with great fondness by the sculpting and design team known as the Four Horsemen, who are responsible for DC Universe Classics. And yet, one has to wonder just a little bit how this guy even made it into the original Super Powers line, never mind DC Universe Classics.
His name is TYR, and don't get me wrong, he's got a cool enough look to him, and I happen to now own both the Super Powers and the DC Universe Classics versions of him. And yet, while it's certainly been established that the DC Universe Classics line will turn out an action figure of just about anybody, the same was not necessarily true of Kenner's Super Powers line, which has by now been well outstripped in population size by the modern DC Universe Classics.
To understand how Tyr might have worked his way into Super Powers in the first place, we need to go back to the 1980's and have a look at that line. When Super Powers first came on the scene in 1984, super-hero toys were a relative scarcity, although that scarcity had not been the case for very long. Throughout the 70's and marginally into the 80's, both DC and Marvel maintained a substantial super-hero presence in the toy aisles through a company called Mego, which turned out very capable, cloth-costumed, 8" action figures featuring the likes of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, and a fair host of others. Prior to this, the only real super-hero presence in the action figure world had been costume sets for a 12" action figure in the 1960's called Captain Action. It was Mego that really made individual, distinctive super-hero action figures a reality. Granted, for the most part, and understandably, Mego stuck to the A-list characters, with only a few slight eyebrow-raisers, such as Green Arrow and Conan the Barbarian, slipping in here and there.
By the early 1980's, however, despite having had a host of licenses even beyond the super-heroes, and even having had intentions of expanding those ranks on both sides of the fence with new characters, Mego was pretty much out of business. Star Wars was dominating the toy world, and there were other factors involved, but ultimately, Mego had had its time, and was on the way out.
Mattel briefly held the Marvel license, and produced a series of figures based on Marvel Comics, centering them around the Secret Wars limited series. These figures were adequate, but lacked cloth costumes, tended to use a lot of similar body parts, and by the admission of some within Mattel, were used as much as anything as a "buffer" between their new Masters of the Universe toy line, and any non-Mattel products that might creep their way over in the toy stores. The line was relatively short lived.
Kenner's Super Powers were another matter. By 1984, the then-final Star Wars movie, Return of the Jedi, had had its run, and although Kenner had some hopes of maintaining a Star Wars presence in the toy aisles, which they did for a time, they were definitely looking for something new. At this point in time, Hasbro and Kenner were not one and the same. Hasbro was setting the action figure world on its ear with G.I. Joe, Mattel was faring decently with Masters of the Universe, and Kenner was -- quite probably a little worried. As it turned out, no one had produced any action figures based on the certainly recognizable world of DC Comics, despite the fact that the "Super Friends" animated series was still airing with new episodes on Saturday mornings, and Superman himself had certainly had some successful live-action movies. There was certainly a media presence, and the characters were already well-known.
So it was that Kenner created the Super Powers line. The figures were certainly well above what Mattel had done with Secret Wars. They were individually sculpted, better articulated, those needing capes had nice little cloth capes with clip-on collars, great attention was paid to accuracy and detail, and the line was a smash hit for several years.
Well-known characters, that had also been turned out by Mego, such as Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow, were joined by characters who had never seen the light of day in the action figure world, but who certainly deserved to, including the likes of Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, and more.
As the line progressed, newer characters to the DC Universe were introduced. Notable among these were Firestorm and Cyborg, who would also be brought into the Super Friends series, now naming itself after the Super Powers line.
And then there's Tyr. How did he get in here? I think, as far as Super Powers is concerned, it was a simple matter of the action feature. Super Powers figures all had some sort of built-in action feature of one sort or another. Squeeze Superman's legs and he looks like he's throwing punches. Squeeze Green Lantern's legs and he raises his ring. Squeeze Flash's arms and his legs look like he's running. It is to the great credit of the designers of this toy line that they managed to incorporate these features into relatively small action figures (roughly 4-1/2" in height, give or take here and there) without adversely affecting the look of the figures, or even standard articulated movement.
Even so, punching arms and running legs is going to get old after a while. And I think in Tyr, Kenner saw the potential for, at least, a new action feature. Tyr has a large, cybernetic right arm, that Kenner was able to modify into a spring-loaded missile launcher. Raise Tyr's arm, and the large front section shoots out. This may have been one of the first spring-loaded launchers in an action figure product since the Boba Fett offer.
Super Powers enjoyed a healthy three-year run, and was gearing up for a forth, and, ironically enough, given DC Universe Classics' impending Green Lantern Classics spin-off, Kenner was also looking into doing a specific Green Lantern line, and possibly some other DC-related lines. Ultimately, though, the third year was the last. A real shame, too, given what they had planned for the fourth year. But such, all too often, is the nature of the toy business. Arguably, Tyr was probably the most obscure established character in the entire line, with Golden Pharaoh, who was created specifically for the line, right alongside. And he's been added to DC Universe Classics, too.
So now, Tyr has become part of Mattel's DC Universe Classics line, and if there's any question as to why, one need only take note of the fact that he doesn't come with a part of this wave's Collect-and-Connect figure, but rather, he comes with one of those transparent blue display bases with Kenner's original Super Powers logo on it, much as Golden Pharaoh, Cyclotron, and a couple of others have.
So, it is by virtue of this, as much as anything, that Tyr has made it into the modern line. But whatever the reason, he's nevertheless an interesting and dynamic-looking character, and I don't think anyone's going to complain. It is one of the great aspects of the DC Universe Classics line, that Mattel has virtually the entire DC Universe open and available to them, and they intend to take great advantage of that fact, and we get to enjoy the results. So -- why NOT do a figure of Tyr? He's as valid a character as anyone else.
Let's have a look at his background, with a little online research assistance: Tyr first appeared in 1973, and first appeared in Superboy #197. He was created by Cary Bates and legendary artist Dave Cockrum. His name is taken from Tyr, the one-handed Norse god of single combat, victory, and heroic glory, who lost his hand when it was decided that the Fenris wolf Fenrir must be shackled. Sensing deceit, Fenrir refused to be bound with a magical ribbon unless one of the gods put his hand in the wolf's mouth. Tyr agreed to do so, Fenrir was bound, but Tyr gave up any hope of playing the piano when the wolf bit off his hand. None of this really has anything to do with DC Comics' Tyr, except for the missing natural appendage, but it's an interesting comparison.
In his initial appearances, Tyr is a native of the planet Tyrraz, a mobile planet devoted to the practice of war. Due to an unspecified incident, one of his arms was replaced with a cybernetic gun. In his first appearance in Superboy #197, Tyr kidnaps Legion of Super-Heroes member Timber Wolf (who was believed by his fellow Legionnaires to have been killed), and brainwashes him into becoming an assassin. After an unsuccessful attempt to kill Earth's president, Timber Wolf manages to overcome Tyr and break his conditioning.
Tyr returns in Superboy #199. In this appearance, his gun hand gains the power to control Superboy and later, Mon-El. He was also briefly a member of the Legion of Super-Villains, and appeared in several storylines in 1984 and 1986. He can also be seen in the "Monitor Tapes" section of Crisis on Infinite Earths #10.
Following the Zero Hour reboot in the 1990's, Tyr appears as the Tyrrazian representative to the Dark Circle that ruled the Affiliated Planets. He is killed, along with the other members of the Circle, by Brainiac 4, for questioning the decision to declare war on the United Planets.
But, you can't keep a good villain down. During the Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds story, Tyr was seen among the super-villains in Superboy-Prime's Legion of Super-Villains.
Tyr also appeared in the animated Legion of Super-Heroes series, most prominently in an episode called "Lightning Storm", as a member of the Lightspeed Vanguard, operating as the group's leader in the unexplained absence of Lightning Lord.
So, yeah, he's a Legion villain, which makes his appearance in the Super Powers line that much more inexplicable from anything except a gadget standpoint, since no member of the Legion (except Superman, sort of) ever made it into that line. As for his presence in DC Universe Classics, well, along with the Collect-and-Connect figure in Wave 15 -- Validus -- he's one of two Legion villains now in the line. That Legion of Super-Heroes Twelve-Pack coming out in 2011 is going to have some adversaries ready and waiting for them.
As to his powers and abilities, Tyr is equipped with a powerful bionic gun in place of his original real right arm. This gun can fire powerful energy blasts, and can somehow control the minds of others. The gun can detach itself from Tyr's body and fly away, in the event he is captured. Which explains the spring-action capability of the original as well as anything. There's no mention of any natural superhuman abilities, so one has to assume that Tyr is otherwise a fairly typical, if rather powerfully built specimen of Tyrazzian life, and whatever strength, speed, or whatever else he might have beyond human norms is simply natural for his people in general.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, and with a surprising number of distinctive parts.
Tyr has naturally red skin, which is evident on his head, left arm, and upper legs. His basic facial structure is well within human norms, color notwithstanding. His eyebrows are slightly arched, but he doesn't have pointed ears or anything like that. He wears his hair in a mohawk. This makes two mohawks in as many assortments. OMAC's is bigger, though. Anybody sense a competition? I have no idea if Tyr's mohawk is a deliberate style or if Tyrazzians just grow them naturally. Tyr also has a pronounced bushy mustache that hangs somewhat below his chin and has been sculpted extremely effectively as such. Just about anybody else would've shaved it a bit to make the molding and painting a little easier. Credit to the Four Horsemen and Mattel for this attention to detail.
Tyr's eyes have been painted with red irises and no apparent pupils, which gives the figure a pretty creepy stare, really. His facial expression is relatively neutral. He doesn't seem angry, or crazed, or anything like that. The expression sort of reminds me of a few of the more stoic professional wrestlers I see on WWE on occasion. The ones whose basic persona is that they don't have to yell and scream and threaten. They just have to stand there, and dare you to challenge them. Tyr's expression looks like this. I think the mohawk helps.
Tyr is dressed in black, wearing a black sleeveless shirt and trunks, black glove on his left hand, and high black boots. The torso is the standard torso used for many male characters in the DC Universe classics line. To this, Mattel has added a separate collar with additional detail, in keeping with Tyr's design. This has been molded in a yellow-gold plastic, and looks like a sort of gear-shape around his neck, tapering into a narrow sort of backpack on his back, and may well be some sort of power or support system for the bionic arm, and a length of plastic down the front with some open areas in it.
Here is the one minor structural fault with the figure. It's obvious from a little tab at the tip of this piece, and an indentation in the top of Tyr's distinctive belt, that it was intended for the front piece to fit into the belt. Unfortunately, it's just not quite long enough, by a very small fraction of an inch. It's not that big of a deal, although it does sort of leave the piece hanging loose. I do NOT, however, recommend trying to glue it or otherwise fasten it into the top of the belt. It's just not quite long enough, and the only way to make it fit would be to bend Tyr at the mid-torso point and given him permanent bad posture.
Tyr's glove and boots are distinctive to the figure, and I have to give Mattel a lot of credit for their willingness to sculpt so many distinctive parts for this character. It likely would've been entirely possible to use an existing left hand and just paint the seam and trim details on it, but instead, they provided Tyr with an entirely new left hand, with these details sculpted in. So, too, is Tyr's lower arm, which has a slightly flared glove, black with a gold border and internal trim, every bit of it sculpted into the design as well as painted.
Tyr's boots are even fancier. They come up to his knees, and have wide gold borders with some sort of orange-gold oval in their fronts, and more sculpted line detail down from this, also painted in gold. The feet probably come from existing molds, but the lower legs, with the fancy high boots, are entirely distinctive to the figure.
Then, of course, there's the arm. How can you miss this thing? Entirely mechanical-looking, it starts at the shoulder with a boxy-like structure, that has a little transparent yellow cylinder emerging from it. A warning light, perhaps? Does he "beep" when he backs up, then? This boxy-like shoulder then has a somewhat cylindrical arm secured to it underneath, with no shortage of ridges, rivets, and other mechanical-looking detail. All of this has been molded in yellowish gold, and some of it has been given orange-gold painted detailing here and there.
Finally, there's the blaster at the end of the arm, a massive device that flares outward from the lower arm before tapering into a point. It has three raised areas, in the yellow-gold, and a central area -- that looks a lot like a tapered light bulb for a chandelier -- in transparent yellow.
Boy, I hope this guy wasn't right-handed before all this happened. This thing may make for a great weapon, but you're not going to be able to do much else with it.
Let's discuss articulation. As one would expect from a DC Universe Classics figure, Tyr is superbly articulated, poseable at the head, arms, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. And, of course, the "natural" arm is poseable at an upper arm swivel, elbow, and wrist.
What astounded me was -- the bionic arm is also articulated! It certainly wasn't on the Super Powers figure. Raise the arm and it fires the missile. That's about it. Then again, articulation on the Super Powers figures was more limited than on DC Universe Classics. None of them were poseable at the elbows, if nothing else. So it wasn't to be expected.
I was a little surprised to see that this Tyr had any articulation in his bionic arm, but the online references I called up to better research the character's background did show an early image of Tyr, bending the "elbow" of his bionic arm. So clearly, a reasonable range of motion was incorporated into it.
The design of the articulation for the bionic arm of the Tyr figure is a little atypical relative to the standard articulation of a DC Universe Classics figure. The arm does not move outward. But that might've been impossible without seriously adversely affecting the look of the shoulder sculpt -- a factor that I wish Mattel would take into consideration before chopping up the general sculpts to add the double elbows and knees that will start occurring in Wave 16.
Tyr's arm appears to be inserted into the standard torso socket, and that insertion point is covered by a sort of housing that is in reality an extension of the collar he is wearing. It all works together extremely well from a visual standpoint. The upper arm descends from the shoulder, and has a certain amount of rotation to it. Then we come to the elbow area. There's a slightly upturned "lip" on the upper arm, which allows the lower arm to move forward. There is also a rotational swivel built into the elbow joint, which is extremely atypical for a DC Universe Classics figure. The weapon device itself, essentially the "hand" of the figure, also rotates. Honestly, the greatest asset here is doubtless the elbow joint, which gives this massive bionic arm a fair range of motion that seems surprising for such a mechanical-looking contrivance.
Most of the paint work on Tyr is excellent. However, I have one very minor criticism -- the upper legs. Now, one of the hardest things in the world of toymaking to do is to paint any color over black. Actually, that's probably true outside the world of toymaking. It's fairly evident in Tyr's case that his upper legs were molded from black plastic, and painted red below the trunks. It works reasonably well, but they're still not quite the same red as the legs below the swivel joint. They're very slightly darker. I'm nit-picking here, and I realize that painting the trunks, with their complex hip assembly, might have resulted in its own problems, like getting stuck, but I do wonder which might have been the better way to go here. It's not that big of a deal. Overall, Tyr still looks extremely impressive.
So, what's my final word here? I'm glad Mattel has made this character. Now, admittedly, the reasons he got made are a little offbeat. It's a shocker that he was ever in the original Super Powers line, and one has to believe that the reason he was, was for the bionic arm and the action figure that could be worked into it. His presence there doubtless bumped him up a lot further on the DC Universe Classics list than he otherwise would've been. I don't think we can claim this as a result of a brief presence in the Legion animated series, or the Legion of Three Worlds comic mini-series. He's just not that prominent.
But, he is impressive, and he does have a cool and distinctive look to him, certainly, and I am pleased, whatever the reasons, that Tyr has been added to the DC Universe Classics collection. And you'll be pleased to add him to your collection as well, I'm sure.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of TYR definitely has my highest recommendation!