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Adam Strange & Starfire

DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

Mattel's answer to the rising costs of toy production seems to be genericizing all their work: leaving the fine detail work of a figure to the paint apps, and just changing out the absolutely necessary parts, like the head. This may save them money, and keep the lines alive, but it also presents some problems. We'll take a look at how some of them effect the online-exclusive Adam Strange and Starfire two-pack.

Archaeologist Adam Strange was transported to the distant planet of Rann by a random communications beam from outer space. Adam soon became the official hero of Rann, the planet's protector against strange menaces of all kinds. Though without powers, frequently outnumbered and almost always outgunned, Adam's cleverness and innovation have allowed him to overcome every menace and gain a reputation as the "thinking man's hero."

Yeah, no they haven't. Adam Strange doesn't really have a reputation as anything, because he's one of those cosmic heroes that DC has done its damnedest to completely ignore over the years. Seriously, unless it had to do with the New Gods, DC pretty much swept it under the rug. Yes, okay, the Legion of Superheroes and the Green Lantern Corps are outer-spacey, but they're still superheroes, not galactic adventurers, and so DC fell behind Marvel on the "cosmic" level.

It will come as no surprise to you that Adam Strange is built on a re-used sculpt. In this case, it's the comparatively slender Black Manta body, rather than the getting-sick-of-it-already Red Tornado. Adam's entire jetpack harness is a separate piece, so even with a fairly skinny body underneath, it bulks him way up and makes him look like a big Batman-style bruiser. They should have started smaller.

This figure shows Adam Strange in his current costume, designed by Pasqual Ferry in 2004, rather than the one he'd worn since his introduction in 1958. And that's where the problems come in: the old costume really was a smooth, skintight thing, that would have worked perfectly as a plain repaint DC Universe figure; this new costume, however, has a lot more raised elements that are now getting short shrift. At the very least, the pads on his gloves, the thin white lines on his legs and the white pads on the outsides of his feet should all be three-dimensional elements, but here they're just paint, and that's not good enough. Repainted bodies can only convey so much, and in this case, the paint apps are expected to handle things they can't.

Since there would be no way to just paint Adam's helmet onto an existing head (thankfully), his noggin is a new sculpt. The face is nice, but although it's painted, the fleshtone is very shiny and plasticy. His eyes are crisp and even, but the silver on his fin and ear-pods is rather sloppy. The gold crest on his forehead and the stars at his neck could use some better coverage, but they're not terrible. The worst area of paint is the white paint on his hips and waist, which gets really blurry.

Strange's rocket pack is detailed nicely, but since the harness isn't removable, it doesn't count as an accessory. He does get a single small gun, and it can store in a (poorly located) holster on his chest. Seriously, how would he draw that thing? It doesn't make any sense. The holster should be higher and have a greater angle, if he's actually going to have access to his gun.

Adam Strange's partner in this two-pack was apparently picked based on DC's year-long 52 story, because that's really the only time the hero of Rann has ever interacted with the Teen Titan Starfire.

To seal a peace pact, King Myand'r of Tamaran sold his daughter Koriand'r into slavery. Her imprisonment ended when scientists experimented on her and accidentally imbued her with the power to harness solar energy as destructive force. Now an inhabitant of Earth, Koriand'r is known as Starfire and has become a member of the Teen Titans.

Yes, Koriand'r and her father Myand'r. And, proving that you can never beat a dead horse too much, her sister's name is Komand'r. Thanks, ridiculous naming schemes! Nothing like putting some random apostraphes and purposeful misspellings in a plain English word and calling it alien. Greetings, Earthling! I am H'nda Sivik, from the planet D'riveway! Take me to your leaders! The excuse is that "Koriand'r" literally translates to English as "star fire," (which is also why "Komand'r" is Blackfire) but come on: it's just silly.

As unremarkable as Adam Strange was, Starfire is the real weak half of this set. In the comics, Kory is a statuesque beauty, who once worked as a fashion model. If you think an orange-skinned model is something unusual, you've obviously never seen a girl get a spray-on tan. Unfortunately, Mattel used their plain female body, so she's not even 6¼" tall and barely comes up to Adam Strange's nose. The girl stands, like, 6'12" or something, and this runty reused body is a failure. She needs another inch on her - they could have at least had the good sense to base her on the Wonder Woman mold. It's like she's in the 5½" scale of the movie toys.

The body's sculpt is still as good as it was before, but again, it doesn't adequately depict Starfire. The body is designed to represent someone wearing a costume, obviously, but Star shows a lot more skin. Her stomach is exposed, but she has no belly button, and apparently her alien physiology doesn't allow for cleavage, despite the fact that she's supposed to be one of the few people who could share clothes with Power Girl. The lower arms are new sculpts, to allow for the gloves, and there's a band molded on her left bicep. Hey, at least it's not just paint, right? Her collar is a new piece, as well.

Starfire has a very cute face, and a head of hair that's ridiculously large - but in a good way, since she's always been drawn with a giant mane. If it weren't blowing to the side, it would reach down below her finely toned butt. The hair is wild and unruly, but perhaps not as wide as it could be. But that's just... splitting hairs? [I hate you. --ed.] Her face is similarly narrow, but the paint is good: her metallic green eyes are lined carefully by black.

Below the neck, the paint isn't as good. The edges of her space-bikini aren't blurry, but neither do they really stay where they should there are splotches on her stomach breaking the lines, and gaps of orange at the joints. The edges of her bicep cuff are covered poorly, and there should be more detail at the top of her boots. The flower/jewel thing on the front of her trunks could use some more white paint, but maybe Nightwing will be happy to help her with that. One good thing we can say about both figures in this two-pack? None of their joints were broken or stuck, which was my biggest fear for this set.

So, to break it down: Adam's too big, Starfire's too small, and both of them are under-detailed because Mattel insists on using the most generic sculpts possible.

But perhaps the biggest flaw with the Mattel style of stretching their budget is that, if you listen to the things the company reps say online, they think this reuse is a good thing. Over-used parts aren't a bonus feature, they're a drawback. The good figures are good despite the fact that they use generic parts, not because of it. Starfire and Adam Strange, however? Not really good. They'd be the weak offerings in a BAF series, and they're probably not worth your money as online exclusives.

-- 03/17/09


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