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Friday, December 30, 2022

DC in the 80s wax nostalgic about Kenner's 1992 Batman The Animated Series action figures

Justin: Batman The Animated Series premiered in 1992. I would've been around 10 years old and still in elementary school.

Mark: I was in High School. I remember the commercials announcing an EVENING Batman cartoon, with the tone and imagery looking amazing. I can still remember first hearing Kevin Conroy's voice and thinking how perfect it was. I don’t remember the night it was on, but I was a Simpsons super-fan at the time, and a Batman cartoon in prime time on the same station made me super happy. After it premiered though, I remember hearing it wasn't doing well at all, and might be canceled, which upset me greatly. Luckily, they moved it to Saturday morning, and it became an all-time classic hit of a cartoon. Also, rest in peace to Kevin Conroy. He is the sound of Batman's voice when I read comics, and he was such an important part of the Batman myth.

Justin: BTAS premiered a few months after the theatrical release of Batman Returns (1992). So, from 1989 to 1992, we were getting A LOT of new Batman thrown our way (ex: comics, books, movies, toys, video games, etc...). I’m trying to remember where I was when I first watched BTAS. This was, like, 30 years ago. I probably watched it in my living room, and I’m pretty sure it played once a week on Global TV on Sunday afternoons around dinner time. I might be misremembering, though. I know it played on Global TV since I lived in Canada and we didn’t get FOX TV, yet. I also remember it being an ‘event’. Like, this was the thing you looked forward to all week and made sure not to miss.

Mark: I watched the premier, but I don’t remember going out of my way to watch it weekly. Maybe it’s because it was on Saturday nights and I was about 16, 17 at the time. So I was out. Maybe I recorded it? I didn’t get really into it until it moved to Saturday morning. By the time I went to college, it was on weekdays right next to Power Rangers, and I watched it almost everyday after classes.

Justin: Something I do remember is NOT being disappointed by the cartoon. I think everyone I knew unanimously loved it. It kind of revised all of Batman’s rogues, but kept pretty true to the source material. I think the film noir atmosphere was really what gave it that 'oomph'. When I look back, it was kind of a strange mix of 1940s gangster-era (ex: fedoras and trench coats and tommy guns) and modern technology. Oh yeah, and everyone still bombed stuff using sticks of dynamite for some reason. I think the gangster aesthetic may have been influenced by the Dick Tracy summer blockbuster that came out in 1990? Just my theory. (Danny Elfman also did the score for that film)

Mark: I think it might be the best adaptation of Batman in history. It feels like the most Batman thing. I had been reading Batman comics for 7 years by the time it came out, and I felt it was better than them. And better than what's come out since. Not saying I didn't LOVE a lot of Batman comics (Year One, Mike W Barr and Alan Davis’ Detective run, Jim Aparo's 70's Batman) but BTAS just feels like they got it "right".


Justin: Alright, so, on to the main event... discussing Kenner's BTAS action figures. While the cardbacks all say '1992', these toys were released closer to January 1993 -- several months after the cartoon debuted. I still had a pretty big collection of Kenner Super Powers figs and the BTAS were pretty close in scale, so I was eagerly watching for new Bat-villains to top up my collection. The first wave consisted of six new action figures (two different versions of Batman, a Robin, a Two-Face, a Riddler and a Penguin): 

I find it a little hard to believe that Joker didn't make the 'first wave'.

Mark: I didn’t buy any of the action figures when they came out in the 90’s. In 2000, I had an ex-girlfriend give me a Batman action figure, and I’m pretty sure it was a movie one. I had stopped watching the show, but found myself at home everyday at about 4pm, when BTAS played with the Superman cartoon. One night just looking at the Batman action figure I thought "Why don't I get more?" I became obsessed with the hour of cartoons, and buying BTAS action figures. From there I bought two of each on e-bay. One to open, and one to hang. Of the first wave, I had all of them except the Robin with the glider -- which was pricey. I'll share pictures I took of my figs in 2000.

Here is my wall of carded figures. Mostly villains:

image source: Mark Belkin

Here are a few of uncarded figs, chilling with some Superman action figs:

image source: Mark Belkin

image source: Mark Belkin

Wave 1:

source: Amazon

Justin: Combat Belt Batman. This was the OG Batman fig in the set that everyone wanted, because all the other versions of Batman after this had odd color palettes (ex: burgundy, orange, black & white camo, etc...). If you wanted the grey suit with black cowl and cape, this was your guy. As of this writing, I'm seeing unopened Combat Belt Batmen on e-bay going for an average of $300 USD. This Batman included a huge plastic utility belt (that somewhat resembled a WWF championship belt) that allowed you to clip his gadgets onto it. He also came with a grappling gun accessory (spring-loaded).

Mark: I never saw this one. I believe I got a version similar to this in the Batmobile. Looks beautiful

image source:

Justin: ...and this was the other Batman. Turbojet Batman. I see this figure being sold, loose, all the time at flea markets and yard sales... with no accessories, of course. Actually, before writing this article, I thought he was 'parachute Batman' because it looks like he's wearing parachute straps. Yeah, this was the second Batman in a six figure wave but this wasn't anything new; Kenner had started doing this with the Dark Knight Collection in 1990: just a lot of different variations of Batman in the same toyline. This was your 'jetpack Batman' -- complete with face shield and spring-loaded projectile weapon.

Mark: I never saw this one, either. They were already rare by 2000.

image source:

Justin: Here's Robin. Also known to Mark as "the one that got away"... most likely aided by that turbo glider. All kidding aside, while I already had a Super Powers Robin, I was tempted to pick this one up for his hang-glider accessory. Also, while this was the cartoon's version of 'Dick Grayson' Robin, they decided to lose the green short shorts and designed him to look more like the 'Tim Drake' Robin introduced in 1991 -- so that was appealing to me. 

On a side note: Robin didn't appear in the early episodes of BTAS, probably because the writers wanted to establish how awesome Batman was on his own before introducing Robin, so this was a subtle reveal that Robin would appear at some point. I'm a little surprised they released Robin before Joker, but I guess Kenner reasoned Batman needed a partner to pummel Riddler and Two-Face with.

Mark: No, I had this one. I never liked it and sold it. I don't think I liked Dick Grayson Robin. I much prefer Nightwing and Tim Drake Robin.

image source:

Justin: When I previously mentioned that BTAS revised some of the Bat-villains, I was mainly thinking Edward Nigma here. For the cartoon, the creators decided to go with a bowler hat and nice suit instead of the conventional green spandex outfit with question marks he was known for wearing during the Golden and Silver Age. This is a much more polished and dignified look for a villain who's all about outwitting his opponents more so than subduing them with brute force. 

Riddler's weapon accessory was a big question mark weapon that fired a spring-loaded loaded projectile and doubled as something he could use to rappel down a string for a quick getaway. Pretty clever, actually. I had a Toy Biz Riddler in the aforementioned green unitard, so I passed on this one.

Mark: I liked the revisions that the line had later, for the New Adventures season. I believe it was the last one, where they changed the animation style. The Riddler and Two Face from that are some of my favorite figures ever.

image source:

Justin: Two-Face. Man, I wanted to add a Two-Face figure to my collection sooo badly. Two-Face was still a relatively obscure character only "real" Batman fans knew about, so I didn't know if this was the only Two-Face action fig that would ever be available [keep in mind, this was several years before Batman Forever when the world would be getting a lot more exposure to Two-Face]. I spent a solid two weeks agonizing over buying him or not, since I had a pretty limited disposable income at 11 years old. 

Prior to BTAS, I was just kinda/sorta familiar with Two-Face for being a duality-themed crime boss, but the animated series really sold the idea of Two-Face to me... so I had to have one. The only sticking point was his 'animated series' aesthetic -- I really wanted a Two-Face that looked like the classic version I had seen in my 80s Batman comics. Unbeknownst to me, Toy Biz had released a 'classic-looking' Two-Face fig several years prior -- that's the one I would've wanted. Not sure what happened, but I ended up opting to not purchase him. 

Two-Face came with an awkward-looking spring-loaded projectile weapon that doubled as a roulette table to represent his dual-nature with good and evil. He also came with a little 'coin-on-a-chain' necklace accessory that everyone seems to lose after opening. When a seller tells you they have a 'loose and 100% complete' Two-Face for sale, 9 times out of 10 it won't include his necklace accessory since everyone seems to forget it ever existed.  

Mark: Two-Face was my favorite character. This may have been the very first carded figure I purchased. The Two-Face origin story for the show may be the best two-parter in cartoon history. Even better than when Cobra kidnapped Shipwreck and tricked him into thinking G.I. Joe won.

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Justin: I love the Penguin, but found this version too 'cartoony' to fit in with my DC action figure collection. What can I say? I was very OCD. Also, I was sold on the Danny Devito version of the Penguin from Batman Returns, so that's the fig I ultimately wanted. This fig came with a cloth cape. I love cloth capes on Kenner figs, but cloth capes were usually the first things kids lost [probably sucked up by a vacuum cleaner] so keep that in mind when shopping for a loose BTAS Penguin. 

His weapon accessory was a spring-loaded cannon that rested on his arm and shot an umbrella projectile, but it could be used to mount the umbrella top over his shoulder so he could 'hypnotize' his enemies. While I can see why a cannon would appeal to kids, I always liked an actual umbrella accessory (à la Super Powers or Toy Biz) for Oswald Cobblepot best.

Combing through my collection of late 90s Toyfare magazines revealed that Penguin was one of the more sought-after figs and, apparently, by 1997 a mint-on-card Penguin retailed for $90 USD. [In comparison, the second most expensive fig from the first wave was a mint-on-card Riddler going for $35 USD.]  

Mark: I very much disliked Penguin toys growing up. But I'm kind of feeling this one. If I see this at a store, I think I would pick it up.

Justin: There were two vehicles released in the first wave [that I'm aware of], as well. 


image source:

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Justin: The Hoverbat: a cool little sci-fi hovercraft contraption with a mechanical arm to pick up action figures and another mechanical arm with a rocket launcher. I actually don't remember this one -- I don't think I've ever seen it on store shelves or at flea markers. I don't remember ever seeing it in an episode, either. I'm willing to bet this vehicle was re-purposed from another Kenner sci-fi toyline? Kenner was (in)famous for doing that. Anyways, if you happen to see a loose one of these being sold, ensure it has the grey missile since that's the item that kids lost within a few days of opening it.

image source:

Justin: The second 'vehicle' was a Batcycle with a Batman permanently affixed to it. This vehicle required you to roll it forward a few times to build up momentum and then put him down and let him rip. Pressing down on Batman made his do a wheelie or something, I honestly don't remember. I'm not really a fan of vehicles with the character already attached, so I would've taken a hard pass on this.

Mark: No opinions on vehicles. Going back to He-Man, G.I. Joe and Super Powers, I never cared for vehicles. Even with Transformers, I preferred the boom box, insects or dinosaurs.

Justin: That's fair. Truthfully, vehicles would get better in the next few waves when we'd get a Batmobile, a Batplane, a Hydro Bat and a Jokermobile.


Justin: As an added bonus, if you were really serious about your BTAS action figure collection you owned the BTAS collectors case:




Justin: Apparently, this was manufactured by Tara Toy Corp. and I'm guessing it was released sometime after the second wave in 1993. Not sure of the details around this, and apparently action figure collector cases were more common than I thought.

Anyways, that wraps up this article. Maybe, someday when we're feeling ambitious, we'll move on to the second wave of BTAS action figures released in 1993. In the meantime, we're wishing you a happy 2023.

Mark: Happy New Year!

-DC in the 80s

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Cryptozoic Challenge of the Superfriends Card Game

Christmas came a bit early this year. Someone who knows me very well gifted me the Challenge of the Superfriends card game by Cryptozoic, knowing that I'm a pretty big fan of any game based on retro DC comic properties.  

Front of box

This is not a new game -- it was released in 2019 and I tried to convince Cryptozoic to send me a sample copy to review for this webzine [ha!] but had no luck. Them's the breaks. Anyone who tells you that blogging is a lucrative side hustle probably isn't referring to DC in the 80s. I like Cryptozoic and when I was experiencing an impulsive DC trading card collecting binge back in 2016 I picked up a few of their trading card sets which I reviewed here, here and here. They produce quality products, and I think they're based out of Montreal, and I know writer Martin Pasko was working with them in some capacity for a while before he passed away. Cryptozoic also created a few board games (i.e., Ghostbusters) and DC comics Deck-Building games that seemed to resonate with fans, so I was curious to see what Challenge of the Superfriends was going to be like. Truthfully, this was on my radar to pick up -- but life got in the way and I completely forgot about it. Better late than never.

Back of box

First up: this is NOT a Deck-Building game. It plays 2 to 4 players, and each player gets 10 power cards to play with throughout the game. In contrast, a Deck-Building game has players start with a small number of cards, but as the game progresses, you add cards to your deck thus altering your strategy. This just means that you only need to buy Challenge of the Superfriends to play it -- it's a complete game, and there are no expansions necessary/available. This is it.    


The game comes with 82 cards: four 10-card Player decks, one 10-card Challenge deck, and one 32-card Objective deck. The Challenge and Objective decks go in the middle. Each player picks a Player deck. You have four Player decks to choose from: Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Batman & Robin. Each Player deck has three Special cards unique to the character, while the other seven are cards that every other Player deck has as well. 

In this scenario, there are three players -- one picked the Superman Player deck, another picked the Aquaman Player deck and the third player picked the Wonder Woman Player deck.

Okay, now that each player picked a Player deck, give your 10 cards a shuffle, pick 3 for your hand and don't show anyone. Now you're ready to play.


This game is based on an old playing card game we all played as kids because we didn't really have the patience or strategic thinking to play cribbage or gin or any other games that required more complexity and understanding of statistics. It was a game called 'war' and was usually played against another opponent who had a stack of cards equal to your cards, and you'd both just simultaneously flip playing cards and the highest-valued playing card would win the 'match'. Challenge of the Superfriends is 'war', but with more reading involved.

Okay, you're all sitting at the table and paying attention? Good. Flip a number of cards from the Objective cards face-side up on the table proportional to the amount of players playing. There's two of you playing? Flip two cards face-side up. There's three of you? Flip three cards face-side up. If there's a card with a negative value face-side up on your first round, put it to the side and flip another card until all cards face-side up have positive values. Shuffle those negative value cards back into your deck. You only do this for your first round

Three players = three Objective cards flipped up. Since Grundy is worth the most points, the dominant strategy is to win Grundy by playing the most powerful card. Second place would most likely grab Manta, and third place would end up with Cheetah. 

Okay, you've got x Objective cards face-side up? And they're all positive value? Great. Each player selects a card from their 3-cards in hand, puts in face down on the table, and then you'll all flip your cards at once. Just like 'war'. And, just like 'war', the highest value card wins, and that player gets first pick of which face-side up Objective card they want to add to their score pile. 

In this case, the Superman player flipped a Green Lantern card, the Aquaman player flipped the Flash card, and the Wonder Woman player flipped the Hawkman card. Green Lantern is worth '10', so he's the highest value in play. Ordinarily, he'd win the match and get first pick.

...but wait, there's more! As Player cards are flipped, there's text on the card that needs to be resolved -- sometimes the outcome will give you a bonus, screw over an opponent, or a bit of both. Some cards are only activated if you are the first player. Sometimes this will involve giving someone (even yourself) a Challenge card. Challenge cards typically aren't good things, so try to avoid receiving them. It's usually a negative modifier or something that will make your gameplay slightly more challenging. Objective cards with negative values will also have text on them, but that only starts to be an issue round two and beyond.

Hawkman's card says that he can swap for another player's card with an even value, so...

The Wonder Woman player now has the Green Lantern card, and Superman now has the Hawkman card. The Wonder Woman player also needs to pick up a Challenge card, as per Green Lantern's card text.

One last thing: If, while flipping your Power cards, two or more players play a card with the same value then it's a tie. The tie-breaker will be whoever has the highest secondary number following their primary number. 

If the Superman player and Wonder Woman player had both played their Green Lanterns, it would've been a tie since both are equal to 10... they'd both need to compare the secondary number to determine the tie-breaker. Superman's Green Lantern has a higher secondary number than Wonder Woman's Green Lantern, so Superman would win this one. Note: both player still need to pick up a Challenge card, as per Green Lantern's text.

Okay, that's everything you need to know. Play for six rounds. and the player with the most points in their score pile at the end wins the game.


The first time I played this game, out-of-the-box, was with one other player as we were 'test-driving it', so to speak. We read the rules, and did our best to follow the gameplay as outlined in the rulebook. Our first few rounds involved a lot of reading as we were trying to determine in what order the text on various Player, Objective and Challenge cards activated (hint: some are activated 'when revealed', some are conditional, and some last until next round) and what to do if a specific scenario came up where two or more text cards contradicted each other. Thankfully, the rulebook included in the game had all the answers -- and it was only 12 small pages. After a few rounds, we quickly got the hang of the game and then it was off to the races. 

After a few games a third player joined us. Of note: it's way easier to learn this game when someone shows you how to play. The game got a lot more interesting when there were three of us playing. We weren't able to recruit a fourth player, but played a few rounds and had a good time nonetheless. I'd describe the game as spontaneous and hard to strategize for. It's really a quick, chaotic little game. 


Alright, first of all, Cryptozoic wisely decided to go with the third season of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon: there was a larger cast of villains, more heroes, and Marvin & Wendy were noticeably absent (and replaced by the far more interesting Wonder Twins). Thankfully, the third season of the cartoon also saw more of the recently-introduced Apache Chief, Black Vulcan and Samurai featured in episodes. They're ALL accounted for in this game -- so, I'm very pleased with that.

The game's 4 starting Player decks (Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Batman & Robin) make sense since these were the 'original' Superfriends. The three specials in each Power deck are aptly thematic to the characters, and the designers picked some of the most meme-worthy images. 

That Batman & Robin 'Batmobile' Special is easily one of the best specials in the game -- if you can pull it off. The key thing about this game is that you can select which card to put down AFTER seeing the flipped-up Objective cards you are 'warring' for.

At a quick glance, all villains are represented in the Objectives deck and net you points based on their notoriety -- with Lex Luthor yielding you 15 points for his capture and Toyman getting you the least (3 points).

The Objective cards that DON'T feature villains are ones based on episodes, cost you points and will do something to change gameplay. So, things like this card, based on an episode I don't remember, will cost you 10 points if you have to pick it up, but also subtracts 2 from the value of everyone's Special cards played this round when it's flipped over:

This is an Objective card with a negative modifier.

I did mention Challenge cards, and they do quirky little things to your detriment. The didn't get very creative with these -- it's just white text on a purple background:


I really liked this game and can't think of any way that it could've been improved. It wasn't terribly complex, it only took 30 seconds to set up, the cards and box were very good quality, the game didn't last very long, and the designers obviously had knowledge of the Superfriends cartoon and how the characters interacted.

While this game is probably best played with people who grew up watching the cartoon, the two other players I played with had little to knowledge of the Superfriends and enjoyed it regardless. This is one of those games you play when you're killing time -- either on a coffee break, waiting for a plane, or waiting for your dinner to get delivered.

I also think this game would also be great to play with an elementary school student who is learning about addition and subtraction and has moderate reading skills -- it definitely exercises your logical order/sequence thinking.

What could Cryptozoic possibly do to add to this? I don't know... maybe an expansion integrating characters and episodes from The Galactic Guardians? Maybe get Firestorm and Cyborg in there? Darkseid, Desaad, Kalibak and some Parademons? Maybe that scarier-looking T-800 Brainiac? Hard to say: the game seems to perfectly balanced that I'd be hesitant to add something to alter the dynamics. 

Anyways, highly recommended. I hope Cryptozoic does more with the Superfriends IP someday. 


Thursday, September 15, 2022

Interview with Gail Simone at 2022 Ottawa Comiccon

Ottawa was graced with Gail Simone's presence from September 9 to September 11, 2022, at the Ottawa Comiccon and, naturally, we just couldn't resist the opportunity to meet her in person and ask about our favorite DC books she'd co-created and/or written. 

The weekend saw a steady stream of Simone fans lining up to chat with her and get comics signed, and we felt incredibly lucky to get twenty minutes of her time. Rather than transcribe the entire 20 minute interview (a lot of it was talking about Ottawa in general), I'm just going to jump to the good bits. Since, as per usual, my interviews are all over the place, I re-structured this article so everything made chronological sense.


Gail Simone: "I grew up in a really isolated area -- outside of a very small town -- so we just didn't have access to things. But we'd go to flea markets and garage sales when those things would happen, and I was getting frustrated with things I was reading as a young girl -- y'know, the fairy tales all had to have a prince come in so that you could live happily ever after, any adventures that happened were accidental because you couldn't go out and seek them on your own. Even though I love Alice in Wonderland, she still falls down a rabbit hole accidentally. Same with Wizard of Oz, she gets taken up in a twister and taken somewhere. And so, I was at a sale and I saw a cover of a Justice League comic and Wonder Woman was on it. I had never heard of her before, I didn't know anything about her, but I could see that she was a princess and seemed like she could make her own decisions and kick butt and didn't need to be in the kind of story that I was used to reading. I was between 8 to 10 years-old at this point. Then, when I was watching Batman '66 and Barbara Gordon came on screen, and this show left quite an impression on me. It was colorful, it was loud, and there was this really smart red-headed character -- and I thought "this is a world I could get involved in" and from that point on I just read everything I could." 

Yvonne Craig as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in Batman 66


Simone: "I didn't really have anybody that I read comics with at the time, and I don't even know if anyone knew I read comics because I was a huge theatre nerd and a huge English literature nerd, and I had skipped all but one year of English in high school...but I read all the time, that's what I did. I read everything but I would put the comic behind the Hemmingway or Steinbeck so that no one could really see it -- it was my 'dirty little secret', at the time." 

Simone: "When I was getting ready to graduate from high school at 16 and I had to talk to the heads of the departments and answer questions, and the head of the English department asked me "Don't you ever read any junk? Do you only just read this stuff?" (implying Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Orwell, Twain, etc...) and I replied with "Oh no! I just love this stuff, I don't read junk!" [laughs] I never did tell them I read comics which now I wish I would've, but that's kind of what the state of people's opinions were at the time -- it would've been something else for people to make fun of me for, and in my heart I didn't want to be made fun of that for that."


Simone: "Where I'm from in Oregon we had an amazing comic book store at the time. Right around when I was  in college, I was a really big fan of Love & Rockets, ElfQuest, Frank Miller's Daredevil, Claremont's X-Men,... all of those things. I read a little sampling of everything, as I could afford it. Anything I could get a hold of. Libraries weren't carrying this stuff at the time. My buying and collecting was really sporadic at that time due to funds, I really loved the more adult and darker things that were happening: Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, Black Orchid, Hellblazer, Neil Gaiman's Sandman... all of that."  


Simone: "The Simpsons for Bongo Comics was my first actual comic book writing. I was writing a column online for Comic Book Resources (CBR), and it was getting a lot of attention in the industry... including with editors. Scott Shaw, who I'd made friends with online... I am a big fan of his Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew work... he was working for The Simpsons at the time, and he told me they were really looking for humor writers and that I should talk to them. He just kept talking about and bringing it up, and finally he told me he just gave them my number and they'd contact me. So they called me and asked me to write for them, and I was in shock. I just decided to try it because... well... how many times does someone get an opportunity like this?"

panel from a Simpsons story Gail Simone wrote.
Lil' Goodfellas from Simpsons Comics #50 published by Bongo Comics (2000)


Simone: "This was before and around the same time as my CBR column started. A group of people helped get that website together. I coined the name and a lot of people came up with the list of examples, and then the rest is history... it's now used in Hollywood and has become a trope. This was a direct reference to Green Lantern v3 #54 (1994) where GL Kyle Rayner's girlfriend is killed by Major Force and shoved in a refrigerator for the hero to discover. In the 90s I was reading a bit of everything when I could get my hands on it -- I'm not a collector and, because of the lack of availability in my area, I didn't always have consistent runs. So, yeah, I definitely remember Knightfall and Death of Superman. The death of Superman event was HUGE. But I was definitely not reading as many comics in the 90s as I was when I was younger, and that's when I sat down to wonder why...  because comics had always been a part of my life upon first discovering them. And then I started to realize that a lot of things were happening to female characters just to forward the male character's story. For example: Barbara Gordon was shot in the spine, and for a long time Wonder Woman was de-powered,...y'know, there was just so much going on like that. So I started asking the question "Is that why more women are not reading comics?", because my favorite characters weren't being treated very well during that 90s era." 

The infamous issue the website is named after.


Simone: "DC sought me out. I was at my first convention [San Diego Comicon] and signing at the Marvel Comics table (I had previously released a few Deadpool comics at the time), and Geoff Johns from DC came over and told me that he'd like me to meet the editor because they were going to be doing a Birds of Prey comic (because the television show was just about to come out). "I'd like you to meet the editor," he said, and I was like "Can you even go from a Marvel table at a convention to meet a DC editor?" Being from a small town, I didn't know the etiquette... so this was all very new to me. I ended up meeting Lysa Hawkins, who was the editor at the time, and got to know what they working looking for -- and the I pitched an idea. All from there, Birds of Prey happened."


Justin for DC in the 80s: "I was legit impressed with the amount of obscure villains that appeared in the Villains United series you wrote. We're talking C-level villains I haven't seen since the 1980s. At first I thought, wow she must have a pretty deep memory of 80s DC books and read extensively, but now I'm learning that you only read sporadically. So was that your first side quest at DC? Poring through the history of DC and reading all the Who's Who?"

Simone: [laughs] "Well... I have a decent knowledge of comics, it's just that I'm not the person who could say "in issue #102 such-and-such a character appeared"..  my brain just doesn't work that way. But the truth of that is I had a Suicide Squad pitch in at DC -- which I think every writer does because we ALL love Suicide Squad -- and they came to me and said "we're going to do a book called Villains United and we'd like you to write it? We like the way you're writing villains". I was so excited. This was going to be a really amazing assignment, I couldn't believe they were asking me to write a Suicide Squad-like book. So I started asking if I could use the Joker, the Penguin, Mister Freeze, and all of these other bat-villains in the series and the answer was NO to all of it. I thought to myself "why are they asking me to write a villains book when I'm not allowed to use any of the villains?"... and the answer was that they were being used elsewhere in stories. So, the stubborn part of me that likes to cause trouble [laughs], started thinking "How can I make this book interesting and about villains?". So I started thinking about who I could use that they wouldn't say NO to... and one of the characters was Catman." 

Catman went from a D-list bat-villain to one of the bad boys of the DCU under Simone's writing.

Simone: "I really thought that Catman could have the potential to be the best tracker/hunter in the DC universe because we didn't really have one at that time. So I pitched that. He'd been in Africa for a period of time and he's remade himself, and I gave them the pitch and they were like "whatever, Gail. This is weird." But then when [artist] Dale [Eaglesham] sent in a one-page art piece of Catman standing on a cliff in Africa, in barely-a-loin cloth, with his hair in the breeze, lookin' pretty fine [laughs], DC said "okay, now we get it." So they allowed that. And then I created Scandal Savage, Ragdoll Jr and the Parademon. So it was basically me trying to find a team of villains DC would allow me to use -- that was how the Secret Six happened."       

Justin: "How did you end up with Bane and the Mad Hatter?"

Simone: "Mad Hatter I asked for and was allowed him. For Bane, DC asked me to put him in. The film [The Dark Knight Rises] was going to be coming out eventually, and he needed to be used and built back up again. I did NOT want Bane. All I knew of Bane, at that time, was that he was a big, hulking guy that was on some sort of drug and he broke Batman's back. I just didn't see a role for him in the Secret Six. But they asked me to do it, and I kind of liked the challenge, and I thought "How could I write this character so he fits into the Secret Six and doesn't undo anything from his past characterization, but kind of builds on it?" So that's when came up with him and Scandal having that father/daughter relationship. I just wanted to add some texture to it. Now I love Bane and I love writing him."

Catman and Bane
panel from Secret Six #9 (2009)


Justin: "You wrote the All-New Atom series featuring Ryan Choi as the Atom. Just had to ask, was the Atom one of the characters you grew up reading as a youth? Did you ask for that project?"

Simone: "I didn't ask for it. Originally, Grant Morrison had a pitch in for it, but Morrison couldn't do it, so he actually asked them if they could get me to do it. And, I LOVE science. When I was a kid, if I wasn't going to be a writer, I was going to be a science teacher. I just loved science, and still do. So to be able to do a story about a town with a lot of weird science going on just really excited me. I didn't end up using that much from Grant's pitch, but I used some of it and just ran with it. I had a blast. And working with Mike Norton was amazing."


Simone: "This was something they asked me if I'd be interested in doing, and I love -- as you can tell by reading my work -- I love the psychology of characters, so I read the old issues and thought it was a pretty cool idea but wasn't real modern."

Justin: "Yeah, I remember her being a Lois Lane villain, and then later appearing in Booster Gold as a antagonist in the 80s..."

Simone: "I just felt that she needed a bit more texture and modernization. So, that's how we did that."


Simone: "Dr. Psycho [a Wonder Woman villain] has popped up in a lot of my stories. I like him because he causes a lot of problems and I like dealing with the psychology of his character so that he's not just straight-up villainous without a reason behind it." 

Simone: "Batman has great villains, and the best ones have a psychological component to them. I don't really have a favorite per se, but I was asked to write a Poison Ivy arc. I really didn't want to write Poison Ivy, either. It was just one of those characters that I didn't really have an affinity for. But then I thought "Well, what could I do to make me want to write her?" and then I started thinking about seasonal effective disorder and how it might affect Ivy with the plants and her powers and stuff, and then I was more interested in her. Now I love her. I'm writing her in other things and she's a great character to write. I just couldn't grab on to her until then." 


Simone: "I like the Firestorm character a lot and I liked what they wanted to do with him in the beginning talks of New 52, but it just wasn't working out the way I thought it would, so..."

We can't thank Agence Pink and Ottawa Comiccon enough for allowing us this opportunity to interview Gail Simone





Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Scavenging for cool stuff at the Ottawa Comiccon (2022 edition)

As mentioned in our Ottawa Comiccon 2022 wrap-up article, this was Ottawa's first REAL post-pandemic convention in the last three years and these type of events tend to not only draw in comic book vendors, but vendors who specialize in 80s awesomeness... I'm talking action figures, trading cards, movie posters, and other bric-a-brac. This is right up my alley: I love taking it all in and seeing what hidden gems I can unearth.   

I'm always on the lookout for any old action figures to add to my collection. I kept my eye out for Kenner Super Powers figs (loose or carded), but could only find one vendor selling them. A few vendors were selling loose Toy Biz DC figs, but it was figs I already owned (and mine were in better condition anyways). One vendor had a carded Toy Biz Robin for a very reasonable price ($25 CAD), but I paused on it and (unbeknownst to me) a buddy of mine scooped it up for his collection and sent me a photo the following day boasting of his score.

Nice pick up, Adrian!

There was maybe 4 or 5 vendors selling vintage actions figures from the 80s and early 90s. The other toy vendors stuck exclusively to new action figures released in the last decade or funko pop vinyls.

Before I tell you what I ultimately bought, I'll tell you what I walked away from:

1) Total Justice Black Lightning (1996 - Kenner)

Not a pic of the actual carded fig.
Image source: unknown

I've been passively collecting carded Total Justice action figs for the last two years and so far I've acquired most of the figs from series 1, 2 and 3. I still don't have Black Lightning here, but the seller was asking nearly double of what they typically go for. I understand that it was a comic convention and he probably marked up his prices to cover vendor costs, but $30 CAD was way more than I was willing to pay and rather than haggle the price with him I just moved on to something else. 

2) Legends of the Batman (1994 - Kenner)

not the actual carded figs I saw. source: unknown

At $20 CAD per fig this was a very reasonable price, especially since they still included their Skybox trading cards in the package (which can go anywhere from $3 to $10 CAD per card, depending on the seller). My issue with the Legends of the Batman figs is that, in all of the variations of Batmen in the collection, Dark Warrior Batman isn't the one I was most crazy about.  I would've easily shelled out $20 CAD for KnightsEnd or KnightQuest Batman (based on the AzBats designs from Knightfall), but couldn't justify it on a variations of Batman that probably only appeared once in an Elseworlds one-shot. As for The Riddler, well, there were other figures I wanted more (and I already own his Skybox trading card).

3) Man of Steel Deluxe Steel (1995 - Kenner)

not a photo of the actual fig I saw.
source: unknown

Among other things, Kenner's Man of Steel action figure toyline was predominantly known for having 9 different versions of Clark Kent Superman. Thankfully, they managed to sneak a version or two of Steel (John Henry Irons) into the collection. The deluxe version of Steel had a shinier finish and one of his weapons made a noise or something. Steel gives me all sorts of nostalgic vibes for the Death and Return of Superman storyline from the early 90s, but the vendor wanted $50 CAD for it. I considered it, but decided I could get more for my $50 if I looked a bit harder.

Every hardcore action figure collector knows that the REAL DEALS are found in the trenches -- especially if you have an idea of what you're looking for and have a pretty good memory of which accessories go with which figs.

I appreciate the vendors who try to sort their loose figs by toyline.

After about an hour of looking around, here are the figs I picked up:

photo source: mine

Robin from Kenner's Batman Returns toyline (far left) was only the cape, since I already owned a cape-less version of the fig. Kenner's Swamp Thing was found in the bottom of a vendor's bin of loose figures, and it was a version I didn't own yet -- so I quickly snatched that up. Mr Freeze is the 'Arnold version' from Kenner's Batman & Robin movie toyline and was actually dug out by a vendor after I told him what type of stuff I was looking for. While I told myself  I'd only stick to DC action figs before walking into the convention, Mattel's Secret Wars Kang was just too good of a price to pass over -- especially with his belt/harness-thing intact. It's too bad he didn't have any of his accessories, but hey, for the price I paid no complaints.

..and for anyone wondering, yes, I did purchase a carded fig:

photo source: mine

Of the new McFarlane Toys DC Super Powers figs, Darkseid was the only fig I was really seeking from the first wave. I've owned several different versions of Superman and Batman figs in my life, but I've never owned a Darkseid fig. Yeah yeah, I know... it's not his classic 'Super Powers Collection' design (which I would've preferred) but I'm willing to overlook that.

While rummaging through their wares, we briefly interviewed a few vendors on the last day of the event to find out what was hot and what was not...

Vendor: Ottawa Toy Hunter
Sells: A bit of everything (action figures, comic books, collectibles, memorabilia.. but mainly focusses on 80s stuff)

Darren (of Ottawa Toy Hunter) in front of a wall of Kenner Super Powers and Toy Biz Marvel figs. photo source: mine

Justin: So this is the first time in, like, 3 years you're actually in a convention again?

Darren: I've come out of semi-retirement for these shows, so it's really good to be back.

Justin: During the pandemic, how was the collector's market for vintage action figures? 

Darren: The pandemic definitely drove the market up... everyone was back home, people were getting CERB payments, and just reliving their childhood through nostalgia. I noticed a huge surge in sales for vintage toys.

Justin: So what did you see the highest demand for?

Darren: Kenner Star Wars figs from the early 80s, especially the ones from the Return of the Jedi film. G.I. Joes were extremely popular during the pandemic. I'd noticed that the value of G.I. Joes had risen tremendously, and WWF wrestling (as a whole... figs, memorabilia) had gone up. In regards to Marvel and DC toys? Marvel may rule to roost when it comes to the MCU (TV shows, movies), but when it comes to the toys, everyone LOVES DC Super Powers. Everyone has great memories -- especially of the 'Power Action' features. As a matter of fact, Todd McFarlane is reissuing the Super Powers figs and I'm hearing the sculpts are really nice. I think collectors are wishing McFarlane's figs had Power Action features, so maybe they'll start adding those in future waves. Who knows? But Super Powers are still well-loved. I sold a few this weekend. One was a loose but complete Cyclotron, who is super rare to find -- I actually picked him up in a lot in Ohio. A few loose Kenner Batman figs sold. Collectors look at the condition of the fig and if all the accessories are included. I also sold some G.I. Joes and Star Wars figs over the week-end, but no Marvel figs from the 80s or 90s yet. I just had a collector a few minutes ago looking for Transformers -- that's also been a hot toyline through all generations (G1, G2, modern) -- he was just here looking for accessories. If you're a collector, always keep your accessories. If you open it up, bag them and keep them all together.

Justin: So I also noticed you have also vehicles and playsets. Are these in big demand? Or are collectors mainly interested in single figs? Or both?

Darren: They want a bit of both. They want the figures obviously, but the vehicles and playsets so they can display their collection.

Justin: Are you noticing that collectors buy for speculative reasons hoping to flip it for more money after the new show or movie comes out? Or is the opposite where a show or movie (i.e. Masters of the Universe) inspires a collector to go seek out the old figs because they got hit with a wave of nostalgia?

Darren: There are many investors/collectors buying on speculation hoping to resell for higher when demand goes up, but there are also a lot of collectors who are buying with their son or daughter, trying to share their hobby with their kid. This really started to happen during the pandemic -- maybe they found their old toys and now they're re-living their childhood with their kids.

Justin: Can't blame them. They don't make action figures now like they did in the 80s. /stares into the sunset wistfully

Darren: With the new McFarlane Toys Super Powers, it's way cheaper to collect those then trying to track down the originals. I'm really hoping McFarlane Toys finally produces those wave 4 and 5 figs we never got due to the Super Powers Collection getting cancelled. I would love to see a Deathstroke.

Editor's note: You can find the The Ottawa Toy Hunter on Instagram.

Several other vendors we interviewed who specialized in 80s action figures and memorabilia echoed similar sentiments; all 80s vintage IPs were in demand, with G.I. Joe and Star Wars topping the list. Some vendors commented that the action figure collector market was unpredictable, citing demand for 1980s Ghostbusters action figures and playsets ebbing and flowing over the last three years [this might be due to 2021's Ghostbusters: Afterlife film renewing interest in the franchise].


I also tend to search vendor booths for DC memorabilia from the late 70s to the early 90s: coloring books, trading cards, board games, school supplies, posters, paintings, treasury editions, promo items, calendars, novelty items, paperback novels, toys... whatever looks interesting and worth blogging about.  

A few items I passed on:

1) Supergirl movie storybook (1984)

not pic of actual book I saw. image source: unknown

I totally dug Helen Slater as Supergirl and totally regret passing on this. It was full color book and included scenes from the film. I can't remember if it was softcover or hardcover. I don't know what I was thinking... I guess I was trying to be economical, but for the price the vendor was asking I should've just went for it.

2) 'The Untold Legend of the Batman' and 'The Superman Story' TOR paperbacks

I actually wrote about these in an article from 2021. For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about and doesn't feel like clicking on the link to read about it, TOR published a few black-and-white paperback-sized books reprinting a few select DC stories back in the eighties. They published seven in total and I didn't have these two. Why did I pass on them? Well, they were pretty banged up and are actually pretty common to find, so I figured there was a good chance I'd run into them again someday.     

3) Batman: The Animated Series 3-D board game (1992)

image source: Ottawa Toy Hunter

Anyone who grew up as a child in the 70s or the 80s probably remember the thrill of receiving a new board game as a Christmas or a birthday present. Board games would arguably get A LOT better in the next two decades, but we didn't know that back then and embraced them for what they were: another chance to demonstrate your superiority over your friends by totally destroying them at a game meant to foster friendship and community. I had a few board games and they received a lot of play -- most notoriously my Simpsons board game (in which I memorized all of the trivia answers) that made me absolutely insufferable to play against. So, riding the nostalgia wave of my youth, a board game based on the Batman Animated Series definitely caught my attention... the cherry on the icing being that it was a '3-D' board game:   

Just look at how much fun those kids are having on the back of the box!
image source: Ottawa Toy Hunter

Why didn't I buy this? Well, I spotted it at the beginning of the convention, but didn't really want to lug it around with me all afternoon -- so I made a mental note to swing by the vendor's booth before I left. One thing led to another and I ended up forgetting to go back. Maybe next time.

I ending up purchasing these two Golden Look-Look Books (circa early 90s and early 80s, respectively) after finding them in a vendor's big box of random books since I remember borrowing these from the school library when I was much much younger. Here's our review article on these.

image source: DC in the 80s


Every Ottawa Comiccon I've ever attended usually has at least one vendor selling vintage non-sports cards, and I tend to seek these dealers out like a rabid bloodhound. For this event I hit the motherload -- a dealer who seemed to have amassed quite a collection of non-sports trading cards after a 3-year convention hiatus:

It's hard to tell from the photo, but this a table filled with completed non-sports trading cards sets. image source: mine

I love these vendors -- you can purchase an entire non-sports trading card set (with no inserts or chases) for anywhere between $15 to $50 CAD (sometimes more, depending on the rarity and demand of the set). Are you seriously regretting sending your 1993 Valiant/Image Upper Deck Deathmate trading cards to the Salvation Army several years ago? Buy the entire set for $15 CAD. [That was a trick question -- nobody regrets throwing those out.]  Or how about a set of those 1980s Topps Wacky Packages stickers/cards you were always trying to complete? Here's the place to find them. 

Marvel Comics trading cards saw a huge jump in price during the pandemic (ex: a complete set of 1990's Marvel Universe series I went from $100 to $400 CAD, and that was without the holograms). As for DC Comics trading cards? Not so much. Actually, they seem to have gone down in price. For this reason, I have been known to leave sets on the table if I felt the vendor was asking too much and/or I already owned the set. What did I end up buying from this table? Nothing, because I was drawn to these instead:

If this isn't an impulse buy, I don't know what is.
image source: mine

My love for Topps non-sports trading cards goes back as far as I can remember. I've written about Topps products more than I care to admit. The brightly colored wax packages, the flimsy cards, the low price point, the cards that joined to form a giant puzzle... these are my favorite things to impulsively pick up, especially when they're at a $2 to $3 CAD per pack and there's a vast selection. My DC-related pick-ups from this table were:

While I already own complete sets of all of these movie trading cards, I still enjoy picking up and opening the occasional pack when I see them in the wild. What can I say? Cheap nostalgic thrills.

Also purchased from the same vendor (and once again proving that Topps would make a card trading set out of anything they thought could sell): wax packs of 21 Jump Street, ALF and Growing Pains cards:

For anyone too young to remember, 21 Jump Street was a police TV drama about young-looking undercover cops who investigated juvenile crime, ALF was a sitcom about a mild-mannered American family living with an alien, and Growing Pains was sitcom about a mild-mannered American family living with Kirk Cameron. Ah, the eighties. Out of pure anticipation to see what the trading card gods would bless me with, I had to rip these open [also, it makes for a more entertaining article].

...well, the Growing Pains pack didn't yield much. A few pics of teenage heartthrob Kirk Cameron hamming it up for the camera, and a Joanna Kerns sticker card. Well, at least I know what the completed puzzle is going to look like... a family portrait of the Seaver family... how unexpected. Truthfully, I didn't have high hopes for the set since I mistakenly confused it for Family Ties and was really hoping for some Michael J Fox cards. can't got wrong with ALF. Unfortunately I had to pry the two 'chase' cards apart (probably because they had been smushed together for the last 30+ years in the pack). ALF series 2 trading cards not only had sticker cards with puzzle backs, but special one-per-pack Bouillabaseball trading cards featuring never-heard-of characters who played a fictional game on ALF's fictional home planet. I remember the kids in my elementary school just going nuts for these and trading away REAL baseball cards to collect these. Everything else was par for the course: ALF making snappy zingers about the  least offensive things you can joke about on a prime-time family sitcom.

...21 Jump Street. I honestly don't remember ever watching this, so I'm really just in it for the Johnny Depp cards... and this set did not disappoint. Of my 5 cards, I got 2 of Johnny Depp and 1 puzzle back featuring a close-up of (what I presume to be) his throat, neck and chin. Score!


Additional wax packs I wish I had bought from that vendor:

For three measly dollars I could've had a pack of Three's Company trading cards, based on the American sitcom about the non-sexual wacky hijinks of a platonic FFM couple that ran from the late 70s/early 80s. I think they were there during my first visit to booth, but sold out when I returned. Damn. For anyone wondering, yes I looked it up and the puzzle is a portrait of the blonde roommate (Suzanne Sommers).

Back in the 90s, the only 'Bo' we had was Bo Jackson, who knew football, baseball and how to market himself, apparently. Back in the 80s, we had Bo Derek: American actress and model. Fortunately, this trading card set is about the latter. Unfortunately, the vendor wanted $5 a pack. Interestingly, this came with a little folded-up paper poster that measured about three cards tall by four cards wide.


Well, that concludes everything I picked up at the Ottawa Comiccon this year. As a side note, I'm always on the lookout for DC comics from the 1980s, but for whatever reason didn't go out of my way searching for them during this convention -- I guess I've gotten a little burned out after a year and a half of bin-diving. There were plenty of comic vendors at this event and they were all super-friendly and eager to help, but man... I was just not feeling that drive to go digging through longboxes.