Recent years have seen a glut of new nostalgia-themed action figures in the now-traditional “Star Wars scale” of 3 3/4″ tall for the average adult human male character. Funko (frequently with cohorts Super7 in tow) and Big Bang Pow! have been the vanguards of this 3 3/4″ revival, with mixed results – I’ve loved seeing that scale come back after years and years of overpriced 6″ figures becoming the norm. On the other hand, there have been some baffling choices of licenses chosen (Taxi Driver? Pulp Fiction? Boondock Saints? Really?) that were good for a laugh at the time, but ended up warming the store pegs for a good long time with no takers. In the waning days of Hastings – one of the only local brick-and-mortal sources for these figures that I had prior to the chain’s closure – Funko 3 3/4″ ReAction figures could be had for two or three dollars each, and they still weren’t moving. Funko and Super7 have now parted ways, with Super7 retaining the ReAction banner (and its Kenner-style logo), and Funko now forging ahead with figures in the same scale, but with more detail and articulation. And possibly the most exciting license that Funko has lined up for its second stab at the 3 3/4″ figure market is the classic Batman TV series.
Recent years have seen a lovely surge in nostalgia for ABC’s colorfully over-the-top 1960s TV adaptation of Batman, to my delight. I am unashamed to say that, before, during and after the Dark Knight rewriting of the character’s DNA, Adam West has and always will be “my” Batman. I know that there are more serious, grown-up, and faithful interpretations of the character… but at the end of the day, I don’t love those like I love the Batman I grew up with. The Batman I watched in afternoon reruns after school at my grandmother’s house while wolfing down grilled cheese sandwiches. That’s this guy, by the way. Funko will be releasing the first wave of Batman ’66 action figures in this scale in June, and there are two ways to get Batman…and, for now, only one way to get Robin, because supposedly Funko is playing a longer game with this range. Batman will be available individually carded, or packed in a $50-$60 box set with a classic Batmobile to scale – and the Boy Wonder.
Robin will be the star of a second wave, according to Funko, which is where we’ll also be seeing most of the show’s first-string recurring villains – the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler. Funko has released those bad guys in its superderformed-head Vinyl Pop format already, so it’s not as if the licenses are a hold-up: they’re strategically stacking the decks of each wave to try to ensure sales.
Needless to say, the lovingly detailed Batmobile makes the box set a shoo-in – Robin’s just a bonus. They could almost get away with not including Batman, since he’ll be available separately, but some collectors who have no interest in the villain characters produced in wave one may make this set the beginning and end of their bat-collections.
But this isn’t to say that Batman doesn’t have allies in the first wave. Batgirl is also on hand to help (one wonders if she might return with the Batcycle as a second wave box set). This also helps Funko avoid the “Where’s Rey?” effect – good for them. Where the TV series is concerned, Batgirl was a late addition, so it’s good to see them ensuring that she isn’t left by the wayside.
And, proving that evil comes in all kinds of packages, Catwoman is the main villain in the first wave. I have to fess up to being a bit disappointed that she comes with a weapon and not a black cat.
My favorite wave one baddie, however, has to be King Tut, as played by that late, great master of hamming it up, Victor Buono. Buono staked so much of his fame on his recurring Batman appearances that he billed some of his comedy albums as starring “the fat man from Batman”. King Tut was always one of my favorite villains on the show, and his action figure looks like it’ll have a suitably demented grin.
Another first wave delight – Roddy McDowall’s shrill, maniacal Bookworm. Many a Batman bad guy was played tongue-in-cheek, but McDowall was committed to showing that the Bookworm was truly, dangerously insane. He was just a little bit unnerving in his singular appearance on TV.
Mr. Freeze is on hand the chill out in the first wave as well…but which flavor of Mr. Freeze do you prefer? The primary action figure of the character looks to be patterned after actor Otto Preminger…
…but Funko has also revealed a “chase” figure, presumably shortpacked in comparison to the Preminger figure, which appears to be Eli Wallach’s version of Mr. Freeze.
I’ll level with you – this is the most eagerly anticipated action figure range for me for anything not Star Wars or Doctor Who related in years. This range makes me want to get two of each one – one to keep packaged, one to open and put on the shelf, fighting for the campy, colorful soul of Gotham City. And it’s my attachment to the very idea of 3 3/4″ Batman figures that has me worried. Why?
Because it’s Funko – the same Funko that gave us half of the Serenity crew in the ReAction Firefly range, but never got around to a second wave that might’ve have given us Inara, Simon, River, or Shepherd Book. The same Funko that then repeated that exact omission for its non-ReAction 6″ “Legacy” range of Firefly figures. I’m worried that we’re waiting for Funko, which has failed to reach a second wave in the past, to give us a second wave of Batman ’66. For that reason, I’ll almost certainly be snagging a Batmobile box set, for fear of Robin never arriving in single carded form.
Will the Dynamic Duo get a dual wave of action figures? Will they ever break out of their plastic? Tune in tomorrow – same Bat-site, same Bat-section.