Toy Review – DC Artists Alley James Groman Batman from DC Collectibles

Today’s review is something a little different. It’s not a toy or an action figure; this Batman is more in line with the hyper-expensive, limited run vinyl pieces that artists release. These items are not typically mass-produced and are usually very limited runs.

The artist who designed today’s subject, James Groman, has released several incredible vinyl toys this way. More on him in a minute.

This figure has more in common with those collectibles than with most of DC Collectibles’ releases, but it is still a mass-produced item. The price point reflects that, and that’s important to remember. This fella retails for $65.00, while a comparably sized independent release would likely be twice that or more. And possibly unpainted.

As for James Groman, he’s a legend in the toy industry and a personal hero of mine.

From the sadly unfunded Don’t Cuddle the Krampus Kickstarter page:

In 1986 Jim was working with the American Greetings Entertainment and Toy Concept Division: ‘Those Characters from Cleveland’, where he had a hand in the development of brands like My Pet Monster, Madballs, Care Bears, Popples, Blurp Balls, Barnyard Commandoes, and Ring Raiders.

That’s an amazing pedigree, and since then James has been continuing his work in the toy industry, as well as releasing mind-blowing projects like his Kaiju Killer.

For more on Don’t Cuddle the Krampus, check out episode 82 of the Needless Things Podcast where I interviewed Bryan Katzel of Warpo Toys.

For me the bottom line on this Batman – and the accompanying figures of Joker, Two-Face, and Killer Croc – was that I wanted a Groman vinyl toy, but have never wanted to pay the price associated with them. I think the prices that creators like Groman and Tim Clarke charge for their limited edition works of art are more than fair, but as well all know I’m as basic as can be and would rather buy ten Marvel Legends than one huge vinyl toy.

Wow. When I put it like that I feel like a real piece of trash.

So what I’m saying is that this line gives cheapskates like me the opportunity to own works of art from one of the greatest minds in the history of the toy business.

Was it a worthy addition to my Batman shelf or should I have saved my pennies for a King Korpse? Read on and find out!

THE BOX

The box is in the usual DC Collectibles pentagon shape, but larger than most and without a window. The graphics are all artwork by James Groman, which is going to make it harder than usual for me to throw this box out.

The back features an explanation of the DC Artists Alley line accompanied by a brief bio on Groman. The rest of the figures in Groman’s wave are pictured, and as you can see Batman is the least bonkers one in the set.

Even though it’s just a different color setup, I like the blueprint-style image of Batman on the side of the box.

The cardboard isn’t as sturdy as I’d like an item being shipped by Diamond to be. If you get one of these from your Local Comic Shop and the box isn’t banged up, congratulations. The interior trays, however, should protect the figure itself from damage. They’re well-designed and large enough to protect the pieces even if the box does get dented.

DSC_0095THE TOY

This Batman is a gorgeous work of art and flawlessly designed, but there are a couple of production issues that I don’t love. First, though, let’s look at the overall execution.

The sculpt is a wonder of meticulous design. Every inch of this beast’s exposed flesh is covered with scaly detail. One of the trademarks of so-called “gross-out toys” is asymmetry and there is nothing balanced on this figure, making it a visual treat for your eyes to explore. The grotesque, sculpted mismatched veins on its arms, the single boot, and the lopsided wings all compel your examination of this creation. It’s almost less about representing the character of Batman and more about warping the mythology of Batman.

The utility belt also serves as a sort of trophy belt. Evidence of victories over Bane, Riddler, and Scarecrow hang on top of detailed pouches that are likely full of items like Bat-snot, But-pus, and Bat-anti-shark repellant.

What? Not even this weirdo wants to tangle with sharks.

This Bat-freak’s left side features some enhancement in the form of armored parts – a leg brace, a boot, and a spiked gauntlet. Each of these items is full of detail and has a metallic paint job.

One of my favorite features of the figure are what look like Batarangs stuck into the character’s arms to represent Batman’s signature gauntlet fins. On the left arm they extend up onto the shoulder, creating more asymmetrical design and visual stimulation. I can just imagine this Batman yanking these out of his arm to throw at opponents, then retrieving them and jamming them right back in.

The tattered remnants of Batman’s costume suggest that this creature was once a man. There’s great-looking stitching across the various parts of the Batsuit. The torn portions are sculpted and painted to show hanging, shredded fabric.

Speaking of hanging, shredded parts, let’s take a look at that cape.

 

 

 

I don’t feel like the artist’s intention was fully realized here. The wings and the cape are, by necessity, separate pieces from the main body. The wings come packed unassembled and have to be plugged into the figure. This is fine, but the points where the wings meet the torso are unsightly and don’t blend into the profile of the figure at all. Maybe this is how James Groman envisioned them, but to me it looks ugly. If there had been recesses sculpted around the sockets so that the wings blended at least a little and didn’t look so obviously stuck-on I would have preferred that. As it is they don’t even plug fully into those sockets, leaving the connection point visible from above.

As for the cape, the point where it joins the body is terrible. Some effort was made to blend the seam into the design of the cape by creating jagged edges rather than a straight line that would disrupt the shape of the sculpt. This would be a sound design idea except that the cape was not attached exactly right, so the jagged seam is an eyesore and the cape seems to hang slightly to the left of how it’s designed to.

These things bother me. They aren’t dealbreakers and once I put the figure on the shelf I won’t notice them because you can’t see them from the front. Again – this is a mass-produced item and not a carefully curated collector piece. You get what you pay sixty-five bucks for. Other than those flaws this figure is a visual treat and a standout in my collection. And I say “flaws”; some collectors might not even perceive them as such.

THE STUFF

This is not an action figure, so it doesn’t come with anything that could really be considered accessories. The wings don’t count.

It does include a small print of James Groman’s artwork, which is cool.

DSC_0099

THE VERDICT

You can’t get a vinyl figure designed by James Groman for less than this. I nitpicked the assembly of the wings and cape, but I am still absolutely in love with this figure. When this wave was first solicited I planned to order all four characters, but over the last year I’ve been doing my best to streamline my purchasing and be far more picky about buying one-off toys and series. I do, however, collect unique Batman figures, so I ordered this one.

Now I want the rest. The sight of this figure on my shelf brings me so much joy. To know that I have this piece that was designed by the man who made so many of the best toys from my childhood is a wonderful thing.

If you’re a fan of gross-out toys or of Groman specifically, buy this Batman. And then start saving your pennies because you’re going to want the other characters as well.

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Hungry for more movies, music, and pop culture? Visit the Needless Things Archives for a decade of dorkery!

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