island of misfit toys: my two favorite DCAU figures

I was digging around in the garage last week and I came across one of my boxes of old toys. I was quite a toy collector in my teens and I’ve held onto a lot of of my stuff. Unfortunately I was a HORRIBLE toy collector, from a monetary standpoint- I either collected toy lines that EVERY other person collected in the ’90’s (Star Wars) or I would collect toy lines and rip the toys out of their packages the moment I got them, effectively ruining their value on the secondary market.

Anyhow, I decided that it was time to pass some of the stuff to the next generation and gave the lot to Elliot and Henry.

This is my collection of DC Animated Universe action figures. The line was started by Kenner in 1992-93 to coincide with the premiere of Batman: The Animated Series and toy companies one after another have been making figures and vehicles of the various DC superhero characters in their streamlined, cartoony style ever since.

I collected these toys mainly during my high school years and they were a fun, inexpensive hobby for me, as I was only interested in the screen-accurate sculpts. By that I mean… I would by the Superman action figure that looked like the character from the animated series. I’d skip the 30 variant Superman toys that were created (as all toys should be!) with kids in mind.

Kenner were somewhat stingy in their choices for which characters received action figures and which did not. For every one Robin action figure, they’d make 20 Arctic Blast Batman toys or whatever crazy costume and gimmick they thought would sell.

The line continues to this day, with nearly every DCAU character getting the toy treatment, with a shift in focus from being a toy line directed toward children to a line being targeted at toy collectors. I can see the appeal – I did love collecting these toys back in high school.

That being said… although I’m all for handing these toys off to my boys for some good ol’ fun, there were two DCAU action figures I just couldn’t bear to part with. Sue me!

Released relatively late in the Batman Animated run, to say that Harley Quinn, The Joker’s moll, was a fan favorite would be understating the case immensely. A character created for B:TAS, Harley has taken on a life of her own outside the cartoons- she has appeared regularly in comics and video games since her inception.

I remember stumbling upon Harley at a Kay-Bee Toys in the Middletown Galleria and absolutely freaking out over the find. Traditionally, toys of female characters are the hardest to find in any line of toys- it’s commonly believed by toy makers that boys do not want to play with a girl action figure. This scarcity lead to massive amounts of scalping on the secondary market- a toy that might have been purchased at Wal-Mart for $6 dollars would easily resell at a comic book store for five to ten times that amount!

Harley fit that bill and I scooped her up right away. She’s definitely a great toy for the time- much less articulated than the toys of today, she has five cut joints at the hips (2), shoulders (2), and head (1). She came with two weapons: a massively oversized pop gun and some sort of boxing glove machine that clips to her arm. The boxing glove gun has an action figure that you can use to knock other toys over, but it’s pretty lame. I kept most of the weapons stored away and displayed Harly on my toyshelf by herself- I’ll continue to do that.

The second toy I’m keeping is likely neither as popular or desirable as Harley- it’s The New Batman Adventures Mr. Freeze.

This was a reimagining of the classic Batman villain for a new set of Batman cartoons. I already owned the previous Mr. Freeze figure (it was a lucky flea market find) and that toy remains one of my favorite character designs ever.

As much as I prefer the character design on the old Mr. Freeze, the newer Freeze toy is just incredible. The sculpt is dead-on and all the little extras thrown in with this figure make it doubly great.

Freeze comes with his freeze ray gun (naturally) but with two other gimmicks to make the toy extra-appealing. The first doesn’t really have a function, but is neat nonetheless: the chest cavity of his body opens to reveal his robot inner-workings. Again, there doesn’t seem to be a reason behind this, besides making for a neat little extra.

This next feature just rocks- Freeze came with an extra spider-robot body. The head on the human robot is detachable and is able to be re-attached to the spider legs. It’s worth noting that not only is this a cool toy, it’s also screen accurate. In the cartoon, Mr. Freeze becomes a half-robot at some point who can do all the things this robot can.

At any rate, NBA Freeze is my favorite figure of the lot. I’m sure Henry and Elliot will get their hands on these two eventually… but I did want to hold onto ’em for a little longer.

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