I bought my first Justice League figure in the summer of 2003. It was Attack Armor Green Lantern. I had been eyeing the line and once I saw that cool green translucent force field I bought in. Heck, there were only 6 characters. (Hawkgirl was ify at that point if I remember correctly.) I loved the simple lines, the clean design. Even my wife thought they were cool. "These guys are going to display well," I thought to myself. And they did. Back then.
But that was a stronger, tougher generation. That was a time when action figures could stand on their own two feet. Wish I could say the same for the sissys of today.
Lets spend a few moments looking at where the line started and where it is now – specifically, how has the Justice League / Justice League Unlimited figure’s legs and ankles devolved over the last 6 years. We’ll focus on two body types: the one that was inspired by the original Flash and the one inspired by the original Green Lantern. I use the term "inspired" because these character’s molds are not the same ones used for subsequent character’s that share a similar body type. These original figures had sculpted grooves in areas around the boots, gloves, and other areas like belts and emblems. Flash’s shoes have unique definition around the ankles and a delineated sole. Both original figures are made of quality plastic and have sufficient heft in the ankle area that keeping them upright has never been a problem for me.
Around 2005 the line exploded beyond the Big Seven. Many of the new figure’s bodies were adapted from those original styles. For instance, the Atom descended from the Flash, and Starman descended from Green Lantern. Again, they weren’t the same exact mold, as was evident by the disappearance of the sculpted grooves, but they were clearly related. It became obvious rather quickly that the ankles and feet on these new figures were thinner. I’m not sure that the plastic deteriorated at this point but the less substantial lower support began to give and figures started to fall.
Mattel acknowledged the deficiency and started adding tapered platforms to the feet of the Flash style body type figures. Aesthetics aside this did help these figures to stand but the soft plastic none-the-less often prevailed. For example, Tomar Re has the platforms yet remains one of my most unstable figures.
The figures we are getting currently that make use of the Flashesqe and Green Lanternesqe body types seem to be the most inferior of all, especially the Green Lantern style. None of the figures using this body type that I’ve gotten recently stand. And that accounts for quite a few figures: Forager, The Key, Vibe, B’wana Beast, Devil Ray, Psycho Pirate, Dr. Polaris, Mr. Terrific, and Hourman to name a few. All of these figures are problematic for me.
The fact that the right ankle on these guys is only slightly wider than 2 millimeters is a big part of the problem. Coupled with soft plastic these figures have little chance of remaining upright without some kind of assistance. Recently Mattel began offering Justice League Unlimited Action Figure Stands at the rate of 25 stands for $12. Overlooking the fact that their effectiveness in keeping figures upright is debatable they just look obnoxious and clunky to me and that flies in the face of the very reason I was attracted to this line in the first place.
Besides my routine hot/cold water treatments I have to employ various other techniques to keep my JLU collection standing at attention. For most of these difficult Green Lantern body type figures I display them in a "walking pose". The right leg is extended forward and resting on its heel. The balanced pose is pretty successful albeit ugly. Some characters (like my Forager) still refuse to cooperate and are reluctantly leaned against the back wall of my display cabinet. This is a last resort for me. I’m just not a fan of poster tack or other adhesive solutions.
I noticed that the figures included in the new 6 packs have a peg hole in one of their feet. This may be a good development. If Mattel were to offer bulk sales of the clear oval stands that are included with all female characters I would buy them. These are a lot less obnoxious to me. But I still suspect that even with a stand the figures will eventually lean into a Matrix like pose (and probably end up falling over anyway.)
Of course, the body styles based on the original Flash and Green Lantern are not the only ones with problems. My original Obsidian is made of an exceptionally soft plastic. His legs are downright rubbery. In this photo I am exerting very little pressure bending his legs. (He’d be really good at yoga.)
I guess there are lots of things that represent legitimate complaints but this is my biggest frustration with the JLU line. After getting the 2 new 6 packs last week I went about rearranging my JLU display. It finally busted the seams of my display cabinet and took over 1/2 the shelves in another. (I could have never predicted that when I picked up John Stewart 6 years ago!) As I lay in bed that night I felt my temperature rising with every "clunk" I heard. The next morning I surveyed the damage and most of my new figures with the problem ankles had bit it, often taking neighbors with them. Grrr. For a line that thrives being displayed together it sure doesn’t come easy.
I can hear Gorilla Grodd mocking me: "If you puny humans had only evolved strong ankles like me you wouldn’t be having this problem!"