Interviews Reviews Guest Stars Fanzine Misc

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.

image source:

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:

image source:

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.