June 21, 2013

Speed Force Fifth!: Year One(ish) In Collectibles!

Category: Collectibles, Flash History — By @ 1:34 pm

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Hey Speed Readers,

As part of our Fifth Anniversary celebration, today we will be flashing back to 2009 to take a look at the state of the Flash action figure universe five (ish) years ago. Honestly 2008 only had one semi-decent Flash release so we will be skipping ahead slightly to a year or so before I came on board. DC Direct/DC Collectibles released five different versions (how apt) of The Flash back in 2009 beginning with Wally West from the Justice League of America series. Wally was released alongside Hal Jordan, Wonder Woman, and Geo-Force in January as part of the third series of releases and was the last original sculpt that we would see of Wally West released by DC Direct:

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The sculpt was later reused for The Flash Secret Origins set the following year but that time it was Barry Allen. I have to admit that the head sculpt fits Barry a bit better than Wally in this case:

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The next Flash figure was released in March and was actually a repaint and re-release of the Justice League Classified action figure series from 2006. The figures are based on the art of Ed McGuiness from the comic book series of the same name. This new figure featured a glossier, bright red color scheme that to me screams “Wally West”:

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The figure’s cowl wings are also turned up slightly in contrast to the completely horizontal wings from the first series giving them a more angular quality that I’m used to. I’m just not a huge fan of the bulky one size fits all body type. Obviously there are tons of fans of this style as they released many other collectibles based on the art of Ed McGuiness, I’m just not one of them. Really odd though as I read the first arc or so of Justice League Classified when it first came out and I remember really liking the art overall so I’m not sure what happened in the sculpting process.

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The next figure is actually based on the art of legendary painter and comic book artist, Alex Ross. This isn’t the first Flash action figure released that was based on the art of Ross, but it is easily one of the best. Often I find Alex Ross’ ultra-realistic style to be a less than perfect fit for some characters (I’m not particularly fond of his Barry Allen) but the thing about Jay’s costume is that it really isn’t a traditional costume.  He wears a pretty plain red long sleeved t-shirt with a lightning bolt on it, and a pair of blue jeans (tights, slacks or trousers if you will). Aside from his footwear (which ranges from buccaneer boots to shoes with mercury wings on them) and his famous Mercury-inspired helmet, Jay is pretty much just wearing normal clothes. That is something that works extremely well within Ross’ style:

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I also like the fact that the figure really looks to be around 60 or so. This is the first figure we’ve gotten based on Jay in the Modern Age and frankly I find it to be refreshing. On a shelf with dozens of muscle bound dudes in spandex and armor it is nice to see Grandpa Jay rocking the helmet, still ready to jet off in a moments notice or offer some sage wisdom. The first speedster but not the last.

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The next figure came out August 26, 2009 and was kind of a response to the booming popularity of pseudo-rival, Mattel’s DC Universe Classics. DC Universe Classics featured top notch sculpts, with a bit more durability than DC Direct’s figures and with an unparalleled amount of articulation, not to mention selection. It is because of Mattel that we have figures of characters like the Doom Patrol and the Metal Men. For characters like that I have no choice but to pick Mattel, but 9 times out of 10 I will pick a DC Collectibles’ figure over a Mattel one simply because of the sculpts. The head sculpts are usually vastly superior to Mattel’s and I love the fact that a lot of DC Collectibles’ figures almost seem like miniature statues. I know that people have been clamoring for more articulation for years but honestly I think that articulation for the most part works against the sculpt. Yes, there are excellent figures from Mattel that are plenty articulated and look great but DC Direct/DC Collectibles seems to be having some trouble grasping the concept of articulation that works with the sculpt instead of against it (not sure how the new DC Collectibles 3.5 figures are in person but I’ve heard they are super-fragile).

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On that long-winded note here we have History of the DC Universe Series 2 Barry Allen. These figures are supposed to be based on the art of George Perez from the two-issue limited series, History of the DC Universe, which summarized the state of the DC Universe after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Being based on George Perez’s art is never a bad thing but the awkward placement of articulation and the stiff quality of the paint job nearly ruins what could have been an excellent figure. I can see what they were trying to accomplish but they fell way short of the mark on this one.

Last and unfortunately actually least of DC Direct’s 2009 Flash releases, I give you JLA Identity Crisis Classics Series 1 Barry Allen. 2004′s Identity Crisis was a hit and a hugely controversial story amongst fans. As controversy also leads to sales Identity Crisis was so big that they made action figures out of the “event”. This figure is a repaint and slight resculpt of the figure first released in 2006 that was actually based on Wally West. This is the second figure to be repurposed for Barry Allen and is based on Barry’s flashback appearances in Identity Crisis and the art of the dearly departed, Michael Turner:

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As you’ve probably already surmised, this is not my favorite figure. The body sculpt is as awkward as they come and while Barry’s head sculpt looks decent this time around and the cowl wings are positioned well, the first release was not quite as fortunate. This one is definitely an improvement over the original but only slightly. I know this was artist inspired but I was not one of the fans of Mike’s overly muscular style. Not bad art in the slightest just not my cup of tea:

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Now way back in 2009, Kelson, was of course, about a year into the site and I was at the time only a loyal fan. I was also a big fan of Hyperborea.org and really dug the idea of a Flash news site, something I hadn’t seen done with any sort of consistency up until then. Yes, there were Flash blogs but many were either slow to update, or just plain dead and all were pretty much lacking action figure and collectible news. But as much as I loved SF I couldn’t help but notice a lack of collectibles content here as well. So I was constantly commenting on topics bemoaning the lack of action figure and collectible news not realizing that this would lead to me writing for the site. I often say this and I always will; these past 3 years have been some of the more rewarding in my life. I actually used to call this my third job before September 2011. After that I can’t lie; my passion for the Flash waxes and wanes a lot more now but I will never stop loving and visiting this site daily. So until Kelson decides to change the focus of the site to Hoppy, The Marvel Bunny, make mine Speed Force!

-Devin