Sporadica: DC Artist Alley Series
Written by productofsloth on October 25, 2018
That’s more for me than for you. I’ve missed some time due to a pesky shoulder surgery and a real life work project that has consumed most of my waking hours for the past month and a half. The schedule said 12 weeks, we made it in 8. Kind of like Han Solo made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs. We tore some shit up.
I’ve been given free rein to write about what I want to for this column, which is good for me because my interests are varied and my attention span short. It’s called ‘Sporadica’ for a reason. Namely, the lack of reason and sometimes rhyme. That’s why today’s column is a toy review.
I collect toys. A lot of Funko, but also Lego, Star Trek, and vinyl art toys. I used to be big into action figures, but they got a little stale over the years. There are only so many Batmen one can own. Also, they don’t change much over time. Batman is Batman is Batman. Winter Camo Batman isn’t really a thing, but they made one nonetheless. That’s where I drew the line and sold them all at a garage sale. Sayonara, Mr. Wayne.
And I didn’t buy another Batman toy for years.
Until DC Direct’s Artist Alley series came along.
Now, I’m not a big fan of character statues. I am familiar with Sideshow and others and they all do great work, it just doesn’t do anything for me. Characters look exactly like they look in the books. Like they stepped right off the page, which can be cool, but can also be kind of boring. Not boring, but rather, under-imagined. I don’t feel like most of these sculptures take a lot of chances with their designs. I think it has something to do with fandom’s unwillingness to accept anything outside of canon or the mainstream, so don’t rock the boat. Give the masses what they want – Jim Lee’s Batman and Todd McFarlane’s Spiderman. Hmm…that’s probably a post for a later date. For now, just accept that I don’t like comic book statues
But that changed when I saw the early teasers for DC Direct’s Artist Alley Series. This line features character designs by some very talented, outside the mainstream artists. The official DC promotional material calls them ‘cutting-edge’. Suffice to say, they are not your typical superhero artists, and their work has inspired some very not your typical statues. The first three ‘waves’ feature work by Chris Uminga (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman), Hainanu “Nooligan” Saulque (Batman, Joker, Harley), and Sho Murase (Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley). I was familiar with Uminga’s work, but not the other two. Didn’t matter, I liked everything I saw.
The biggest draw for me is the fact that they are NOT true to your typical character designs. The squared chin, musclehead aesthetic is pretty much kicked to the curb and replaced by more personal interpretations. Chris Uminga’s work is kind of ‘chibi’ style, giving each of his designs an edgy/youthfulness, like little goth-kids dressing up a superheroes for Halloween. Nooligan, has a much more urban/graffiti look, with long drawn out figures who sport tube socks and sneakers. It works on Joker, not sure about Batman, yet. Murase is hard to describe, but I’ll try, and you’ll have to Google the reference. I used to work in an actual art gallery that carried works by a guy named Erte. Very graceful, flowing lines. Kind of art-deco. That’s how I’d describe it. Like Erte. Better yet, I’ll just say ‘beautiful’.
Each figure retails for about 40 bucks (35-55 so far), stands about 7 inches tall, and is being released in multiple colorways, typically color and black and white. I’ll break these down by artist/character in a semi-checklist.
Batman: Black and Grey Modern Costume (wide release, 3000pcs), Black and White (wide release, 500pcs), Glow (Box Lunch, 1000pcs), Zombie (Hot Topic – 1000pcs), Villain-Joker (GameStop, 1000pcs), Metallic (NY Toy Fair – ???), ’66 (SDCC Entertainment Earth, 1500pcs), Flashpoint (SDCC Entertainment Earth, 750pcs), Black and Gold (SDCC Entertainment Earth, 300pcs)
Superman: Traditional Superman (wide release, 3000pcs), Black and White (wide release, 500pcs), Glow (Box Lunch, 1000pcs), Zombie (Hot Topic – 1000pcs), Villain – Lex Luthor (GameStop, 1000pcs)
Wonder Woman: Traditional Wonder Woman (wide release, 3000pcs), Black and White (wide release, 500pcs), Glow (Box Lunch, 1000pcs), Zombie (Hot Topic – 1000pcs), Villain – Cheetah (GameStop, 1000pcs)
Flash: Traditional Flash (wide release, 3000pcs), Black and White (wide release, 500pcs)
Best of the Bunch: ’66 Batman, because I grew up watching that at my grandma’s
Runner Up: Batman Joker-Villain
Batman: Traditional Batman (wide release, 3000pcs), Black and White (wide release, 500pcs), Day of the Dead (GameStop, 1500pcs)
Joker: Traditional Joker(wide release, 3000pcs), Black and White (wide release, 500pcs), Day of the Dead (GameStop, 1500pcs)
Harley: Traditional Harley (wide release, 3000pcs), Black and White (wide release, 500pcs), Day of the Dead (GameStop, 1500pcs)
Nightwing: Traditional Joker(wide release, 3000pcs), Black and White (wide release, 500pcs)
Best of the Bunch: Day of the Dead Joker is trey-booshay (trebuchet), as they say in pig-French.
Runner Up: Nightwing – The tube socks and tennis shoe look just works on this figure
Catwoman: Black and red (wide release, 3000pcs), Green metallic (wide release, 500pcs)
Harley Quinn: Black and red (wide release, 3000pcs), Green metallic (wide release, 500pcs)
Poison Ivy: Black and red (wide release, 3000pcs), Green metallic (wide release, 500pcs)
Batgirl: Black and red (wide release, 3000pcs), Green metallic (wide release, 500pcs)
Best of the Bunch: Batgirl Black and Red
Runner Up: Poison Ivy, Green Metallic – it just works.
I believe that all of Uminga’s original figures are out, as are Nooligan’s. I have yet to see Murase’s designs in store, but hopefully that changes soon. The line seems to be well received as each of the original artists have added characters to their respective portfolios. DC will release an Uminga Flash, a Nooligan Nightwing, and Murase Batgirl later this year or early next. They wouldn’t do that if they sucked, right?
And if they sucked, they certainly wouldn’t be releasing figures from other artists in 2019, now would they? I was lucky to see early designs for Joe Ledbetter (Batman, Robin, Penguin, and Catwoman) and Chrissie Zullo (Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and Hawkgirl) at SDCC. Zullo’s pieces fit right in with Chris Uminga’s. They bookend nicely. As for the Ledbetters….well, they’re a crap-shoot, to be honest. I’ve always like Joe Ledbetter’s work, I think it’s great, and these are straight up Joe Ledbetter. His designs are based on the animal the character is named for. Batman is a bat. Robin is a robin. They’re a little out there, but cool as hell. And even though I don’t like Robin, I’m going to get one of Joe’s. They’re that good. I hope they sell well and we see DC open the door to even more art toy artists in the future. Personally, I would love to see Jesse Hernandez go all Aztek on a couple of characters. But that’s me. Your tastes may vary.
I’m including photos of the ‘Best of’ pieces. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. They’re very well made. Packaging is decent. My original Uminga’s came in a window box with a magnetic cover so you could enjoy them in the box. The SDCC pieces, and the Day of the Dead, were more traditional boxes…if you want to see the figure, take them out of the box. Paint apps have been stellar. No major glitches. My black and gold Batman had the vinyl sweats when I got him, but a quick wipe-down and a day in the fresh air took care of that. Each figure comes with a print of the sketch the figure is based upon. All of them are limited runs.
If you’re into statues/figures that are different, I would advise you to check this line out. 40 bucks a figure is a little pricey for PVC, but quite reasonable for an art toy or a statue. Unless you’re a completeist, I recommend cherry-picking the lines for the ones you like the best. A complete set of Uminga’s would cost you over a grand and eat up your shelf-space.
Remember, you don’t need a zillion Batmen to be happy. That’s what garage sales are for.