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Fan-Demanded Collection

Justice League
by yo go re

At Toy Fair 2011, Scott Neitlich announced that was the final year for Justice League Unlimited, but that they'd be closing out the run with a big seven-pack on their website. He also used the phrase "card-carrying" like it was something you have to say before inhaling oxygen in order to live. He used it like his brain was wired so that he had to say it every time he blinked. He said "card-carrying" a lot, is the point we're trying to make, and he said it like it was supposed to mean something. It didn't. Neitlich delivered the line like it was a tip of the hat to the fans, but nobody on Earth knew what the hell he was talking about. Way to go, chief!

The Justice League of America was formed to tackle nearly impossible situations that require more than one hero. Many great heroes, with varying abilities, have been called into action. These 7 unusual and extraordinary superheroes exemplify the JLU, consistently rising to the challenge with strength and courage to protect the people of Planet Earth.

If you're curious, fans more industrious and obsessive than us (yes, hard as it may be to believe, such things exist) pieced it together on their own: these seven figures were the last ones needed to complete a collection of every League member ever seen on the cartoon. As for Scott's "card carrying" pun? It continued to mean nothing. On to the figures!

Possessing intangibility and the ability to blend into any background like a chameleon, Gypsy initially used her abilities to fend for herself on the streets of Detroit. However, now she uses her power to serve the Justice League.

Yes, as hinted at in that bio, Gypsy (really Cindy Reynolds) was one of the heroes who joined the Justice League during its infamous "Detroit" phase - but that's just in the comics, not the cartoon. Though she was seen in 11 episodes, she was never the focus of any story - and never even had a line of dialogue - so who knows how much of that is still true? You can make up your own backstory for her, if it bothers you so much.

JLU Gypsy is wearing the same clothes she originally wore in the comic: a stereotypically "gypsy-ish" outfit comprising a long skirt and an off-the-shoulder blouse, plus lots of gold jewelry. Hey, there's a reason customizers have long been using figures of Esmeralda from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame as the base for their Gypsy customs. Maybe you should stick with that, too, because the shirt, bracelets and necklace are all just painted on, so they don't stick out as much as they should. The skirt is a separate piece, molded with a large belt and raised red stripes around the bottom, so that's nice at least.

In both the comics and the cartoon, Gypsy had bushy black hair that fell below her shoulders. It's a bit shorter on this toy, so her head could still move. She's sculpted with hoop earrings, and a large scarf tied around her as a headband. The head's not the only new sculpt, however: she's going barefoot, and gets new legs with little individual toes.

Ace reporter Jack Ryder made the biggest mistake of his life by making The Joker angry. As punishment, the Clown Prince of Crime pushed Jack into the same vat of chemicals that had turned him into The Joker so many years ago. Jack survived, but was changed into the bizarre, outrageous Creeper!

The Creeper first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series... or at least, his alter ego, TV news reporter Jack Ryder did. He showed up a few times before becoming the Creeper, just as Harvey Dent was a regular part of the cartoon before becoming Two-Face. They had trouble because the designs kept ending up looking like the Joker, so they just made the Joker part of his animated origin.

This figure is a major disappointment. There was a Creeper figure in Kenner's BtAS line, and he was done pretty well (heck, I should know - I bought him twice, so I could make my Freakazoid! custom). This version, meanwhile, is a complete and utter mess. I'm not as familiar with the various JLU bodies as Rustin is, but I think this body is new. The limbs definitely are, by virture of the black fur running around them. For some reason though, he's weirdly small. The torso, the arms, the legs... those are all fine, but his hands and feet are stupidly petite. Maybe his giant feather boa took up too much of the budget?

The head has the same problems: it's small, small, small and looks stupid on the toy. Plus, while his eyes are outlined with black, so they'll stand out against the yellow skin, his teeth don't get the same luxury, and thus can barely be seen. If you want the Creeper, you'd be better off finding the version from 1998, even with the stylistic differences.

An imp from the fifth dimension - the same locality that Mr. Mxyzptlk calls home - the being whose description is Yz found himself trapped in an ink pen possessed by a Badhnisian High Priest. Eventually finding its way into Johnny Thunder's possession, Yz adopted the identity of Thunderbolt and put his near-limitless, interdimensional powers into the service of his new master.

The Thunderbolt is almost entirely a new sculpt: the only reused bits are the arms, and even they have never been seen exactly like this. The head is new, obviously, because there was no Superman who had three lightning bolts poking out of his scalp. Thunderbolt doesn't have legs, so below the waist he gets a tail of electricity; and since that tail is thinner than the usual hips, he gets a torso with a narrower waist.

When this set was first revealed, the Thunderbolt figure was shown cast in translucent pink plastic, but the final production figure has a solid pink spray over the head and torso to make him look more tangible (and more like the animation model). His eyes and mouth are painted white, providing a little bit of contrast. He was animated with a white outline instead of a black one, but that's beyond the scope of a simple toy.

Since he doesn't have things like "feet" or "a center of balance that can support itself in a universe where gravity also functions," Thunderbolt will need to use one of the two clear stands included with this set. And it's also worth pointing out that the way his face is sculpted makes him look very sinister. Why so scary, Thunderbolt?

His eyes damaged in an accident, physician Charles McNider soon discovered that, while blinded by light, he was now able to see in total darkness. Adopting the identity of Dr. Mid-Nite, McNider used his blackout bombs (smoke bombs that released a pitch-black smoke that only he could see through) and infrared goggles (which allowed him to see in daylight) to fight crime.

There have been several Drs. Mid-Nite, but JLU went with the original. Why? Probably because his costume was easier to animate. Also, they never bothered with having a JSA in their continuity, so him being an "old-timer" didn't really matter. He's just a guy with a specific set of powers.

Mid-Nite's costume has always looked good, and being converted to the DCAU style hasn't changed that. It's a black bodysuit beneath a red tunic and green cape. His boots and gloves are dark brown - so dark that they're hard to see against the limbs. The boots get folded cuffs at the top; is there not an equivalent "flared glove" arm? His torso is a new sculpt, to accommodate the crescent moon buttons that run down his chest. Wait, crescent moons? Does that mean Dr. Mid-Nite is a secret Muslim?! [No, because his skin's not black. --ed.]

The only skin visible on Dr. Mid-Nite is around his mouth, and it does have the appropriately pale cast of a man who spends all his time running around at night. His cowl is the same black as his arms and legs. He has another yellow moon on his forehead (facing the opposite direction from the comic version), and his ears, oddly, are the same blue as his goggles.

Roy Harper idolized Green Arrow. The superhero happened to be in Roy's hometown and was impressed when Roy quickly stopped an attempted robbery. Green Arrow nicknamed him "Speedy." Harper soon became the teenage partner of Green Arrow and established himself as one of the world's top archers. Speedy grew restless as the sidekick of Green Arrow and parted ways to strike it out on his own.

Okay, now this is interesting. Speedy was not a member of the Justice League - he was barely even a reserve member. He only appeared in a single episode, as an homage to the original Seven Soldiers of Victory (you know: Green Arrow and Speedy, Crimson Avenger, Shining Knight, Vigilante, and Star-Spangled Kid and Stripsey). But since he didn't have a JLU character model, they gave him the same costume he wore on Teen Titans, officially tying those two shows together.

The costume isn't one seen in the comics - it takes the general idea of his original red and yellow Speedy costume, but loses the Robin Hood hat and the skirt, but gives him a new utility belt and better gloves. The colors of the suit were darker on the show than on the toy, but this bridges the gap between the cartoon and the comics. He has a black S logo in a yellow circle on his chest, and a yellow quiver of arrows on his back. You know what he doesn't have, though? A bow. Or a hand capable of holding one. Kind of an oversight, there.

The figure's head is on the opposite end of the spectrum from The Creeper's - in other words, it's gigantic. Maybe that was Mattel's attempt to make him look younger (by making the body look smaller in proportion to the head), but it doesn't work. His orange hair is plastered down against his head, and the black mask makes for a really nice contrast against the skin.

Owner of the New York City newspaper, The Daily Globe-Leader, Lee Travis adopted the identity of the Crimson Avenger first to avenge the life of a friend, but decided to fight on as a superhero.

You know why I bought this set? I bought it for this figure. Crimson Avenger isn't remembered very well today, but he was the first masked hero published by DC, making him as much of an ancestor to today's superheroes as Superman himself. In fact, since from a story standpoint, Superman has only been active for a few years, Crimson Avenger is canonically the first superhero in their world. Oh, and back in our world, the book he first appeared in? Detective Comics, beating Batman to its pages by seven months! Go Crimson Avenger!

Crimson Avenger actually had two different character models for JLU - this is the first one, which looks more like his appearance in the comics, and is thus the better choice. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt, black gloves and tie, and covers it all with a red knee-length cape. The second design gave him a red hat and trenchcoat with a white cravat, which was not quite as cool a design. Considering that Crimson Avenger had no super powers or extraordinary fighting skills, we really wish the figure had guns in his hands. Wasn't there a Two-Face or something that did that?

If you peer beneath Crimson Avenger's wide-brimmed black hat, you'll seea red mask framing blue eyes, and a face with a lot of personality. There's no paint on the back of his head, other than the stripe of his mask, making him look like he's bald. Is that part of his legend as being the oldest hero around? Or just a convenient app to skip to save money?

The seventh son of a seventh son born on the year, hour, and minute of seven; Johnny Thunder is one of the few people on Earth who is capable of commanding Thunderbolt, a fifth-dimensional imp imprisoned in an ink pen. Whenever Johnny Thunder utters the magical phrase "Cei-U" (pronounced "say you"), he is able to call forth his genie, who obeys his commands and whose powers are virtually limitless. Partners until the end, both Johnny and Thunderbolt operate as crimefighters and adventurers the world over.

Yes, Johnny Thunder, the guy who controls the Thunderbolt. He only appeared in a single episode of the show - "Initiation," in one of the big crowd scenes - while the Thunderbolt appeared in two subsequent episodes. You can't really blame them for leaving him out, though, because at the end of the day he's just a guy in a suit.

Like Thunderbolt, Johnny's changed his paint apps since he was first revealed. He was originally shown in a rather vibrant green suit, but that's been toned down for the final figure, and now his clothes are more of an olive. At a glance the figure appears to use the same "suit" body that Crimson Avenger uses, but that's not quite true. Sure, the arms and legs are shared, but the torso has been slightly retooled - he has a bowtie instead of a necktie, and the coat is buttoned on the other side. Interesting choices, and they do their job of setting him apart.

Johnny Thunder is certainly a clean-cut young gentleman - he's all earnest and forthright and all that other crap being part of Generation X has drained out of us over the years. Actually, with the big, friendly smile, the close-cropped hair and the bowtie, this would be a great base for a custom Jimmy Olsen (Golden Age style, not modern).

The box the figures are sold in the same shape as the JLU six-packs you could find at Target, but the design has been changed slightly: all four sides are covered in photos of the Justice League. The entire Justice League. Remember how these are the last seven figures needed to complete the League? This box shows all the rest. Plus a few others who weren't actually on the team, like the Justice Guild of America, the Legion of Superheroes and the Doom Patrol - so really, all the good guys. And also Lobo. The packaging was designed by Frank Varela. How can we tell? He signed it! Sort of. There's a custom figure of him standing in with the rest of the crowd. Awesome!

This is a good set, if you're a total mark for Justice League Unlimited toys. Casual collectors, though, won't find much of interest here.

-- 06/14/12

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