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Thursday, January 19, 2023

Kenner's Batman The Animated Series action figures wave 2 (1993)

Justin: Well, we're back for round two. Or 'wave' two, rather. We discussed the first wave of BTAS action figures in this article. As per my collection of Wizard and Hero Illustrated magazines that I've combed through, I've deduced that the second wave of BTAS figures were released sometime mid-1993. Some of the wave two cardbacks read '1992', so that's a bit misleading.

Mark: When you first said Wave 2, I thought you meant the re-designs. This is the 2nd wave of the first original style.

Justin: Wave two of Kenner's BTAS toyline consisted of eight new figures (three of which were some variation of Batman), and some snazzy new vehicles... including <dramatic pause> The Batmobile.

Mark: I had the Batmobile. It never fit anywhere. It was so big.

Justin: Some vehicles and playsets released by Kenner's various toylines came packaged with a pamphlet/catalog marketing all the other rad toys they were producing in 1993. Flipping through it reminded me that Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and Aliens were some of the other "big name" toylines Kenner was hawking at the time; I'd kind of "aged out" by the time these were released but still took a passing interest when I saw them on the toy shelves. Here's a few pages from the BTAS section of the pamphlet:

page from 1993 Kenner catalog
image source: Shogi's Toy Catalog Scans

page from 1993 Kenner catalog
image source: Shogi's Toy Catalog Scans

page from 1993 Kenner catalog
image source: Shogi's Toy Catalog Scans

page from 1993 Kenner catalog
image source: Shogi's Toy Catalog Scans

page from 1993 Kenner catalog
image source: Shogi's Toy Catalog Scans

Mark: I loved the villains. I still have the Man-Bat, Two-Face, Catwoman. Also, on a date in 2001, I bought a variation of the Batcave. I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to buy a huge Batman playset while I was on a date with a girl I was courting. I don't think she really minded, but it was a pain getting it home on the subway. I regretted buying it forever. It was just so big. I'm an action figure guy. I also want that Penguin now.

Justin: Alright, so let's start with the action figures. We'll begin with the heroes and conclude with the villains. It's worth noting that, starting with this wave, Kenner's BTAS action figures were starting to get more innovative: less spring-loaded projectile accessories, and more 'power actions'.

image source: ebay.com

Justin: Infared Batman. This burgundy Batman came with a backpack accessory that fired plastic orange discs. I believe he came with two discs. This was just your standard repainted Batman fig that came with a new accessory -- Kenner did this a lot starting with the 1990 Dark Knight Collection toyline. Hey, if the kids want Batman, give them Batman. I've never seen this one on the toy shelves or at any flea markets. Of course, if I had, I probably would've overlooked him since he didn't seem that 'special' to me. All things considered, his burgundy/black color scheme wasn't terrible and remained conducive to him sulking around in the shadows -- so yeah, not the worst of the bunch. 

Mark: Not to be a Negative Ned over here, but I'm not a fan of "Let's repaint the original mold and give it a new accessory" model of toy making. Was this even ever in the cartoon? A red chest piece? Bat signals being fired? What does that even mean?


image source: ebay.com

Sky Dive Batman (left) next to Turbojet Batman (right)
source: ebay.com 

Justin: Remember in our last article when I said that Turbojet Batman looked like he was wearing parachute straps? Well, I guess someone at Kenner thought the exact same thing, since Sky Dive Batman is just a repainted Turbojet Batman, but with a parachute accessory so you could launch him in the air. They wisely opted to repaint him to bright orange so he was easier to spot when he was stuck in a tree or on the roof of a neighbor's house. He came with a cape, so even without his parachute accessory, he was still playable. Still, I wasn't very interested in this version of Batman whatsoever. 

Mark: Pass on all of these re-paints. Although, as a Dad, I do like your theory on why they paint it, so it doesnt get lost in a neighbor's tree.

image source: ebay.com

Justin: Bruce Wayne with snap-on Batman armor... I had him and loved him! He was one of the few BTAS figs I ever bought that didn't require much deliberation. Actually, it was a no-brainer: for the price of one action figure you got Bruce Wayne AND Batman. His snap-on armor looked far better than Kenner's Dark Knight Collection/Batman Returns quick change Bruce Wayne figure... who looked like a guy who bought the cheapest Batman cosplay costume he could find on Amazon. Armored-up, he looked a bit like Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns Batman. It would've been nice if he had knees so he could've sat with the rest of the Justice League at the computer console of my Hall of Justice, but I made do. I also remember using an exacto knife to remove the tip of his gun accessory so I can use it as a makeshift batarang -- I felt it was more comic accurate than Batman carrying a gun.

Finding a complete, loose Bruce Wayne with snap-on Batman armor is a bit daunting. Most of the time, people will be selling it missing some of the armor pieces and swearing to you that it's complete. You can live without the gun, but you're really going to want all six of those snap-on armor pieces [helmet + cape, 2 x arm pieces, 2 x leg pieces, and chest plate]. 

Mark: I have never seen this one, but I love it. It does have a Dark Knight fighting Superman feel to it.

image source: ebay.com

image source: ebay.com

Justin: Ninja Robin here was kind of interesting. His right arm had some extra articulation at the elbow joint so that when you squeezed his legs together it would swing downwards in a chopping motion. This is feels like a welcome throwback to Kenner's Super Powers Collection with the 'power action' feature. Ninja Robin also came with a detachable black helmet, nunchucks, a bo staff, and a black cape. Overall, I like this figure -- being a ninja is in-theme with the Batman family thing, he has a neat power action and still looks good without his helmet [but the helmet is definitely a bonus]. He was re-released in a two-pack with Ninja Batman the following year, albeit with a different paint job and accessories.

Mark: Why not just make him all black, with a little splash of red, green and yellow? Feels a tad disjointed, but I like the illustration and the helmet.


image source: ebay.com

Justin: The first female character in the BTAS toyline: Catwoman. There's some major similarities between her and Kenner's Batman Returns Catwoman if you look beyond the accessories and color scheme: she had the same 'power action' [put a whip in her right hand, push arm upwards and she'll snap it back down -- creating a 'whipping motion'], and the same pose [but was actually able to stand upright unassisted]. This version of Selina Kyle comes with a few interesting accessories... in addition to her whip, she came with 'cat claws' that you could snap onto her wrists and a little plastic cat that sat on her shoulders. While the little plastic cat actually doesn't do anything except sit there, this would be the beginning of little plastic animal accessories being included with some figs. 

I don't have much to add except that I don't run across flea markets or toy vendors selling BTAS Catwoman very often -- so that makes her pretty rare. Kenner only made one Catwoman figure in the BTAS toyline -- she and Poison Ivy were the only female figures in a collection of thirty-something action figures. 

Mark: I gave this to my wife. She wore a similar Catwoman costume to our law school Halloween Party, and I gave it to her to hang in the room she studied for the bar in. I think its a great figure, and sad that the only two female figures were Ivy and Catwoman. NO HARLEY QUINN!?!?!??!?!?! That just struck me. How is that even possible? I do remember there was a Batgirl in the updated figures.

image source: ebay.com

Justin: It's the Joker! As mentioned before, I can't believe they waited until the second wave before releasing Batman's arch-nemesis. This is very much a 'what you see is what you get' figure. It's Joker, in his classic purple suit, with an obnoxiously large water cannon. You filled his little backpack up with water, attached the cannon to his arm, and squeezed his backpack to squirt water from the cannon. [For anyone keeping track, this was the third Joker figure in the last 5 years to somehow incorporate water into his gimmick See: ToyBiz Joker and Dark Knight Collection Sky Escape Joker.] Joker also came with a little plastic gas mask that looked cool.

There was another BTAS-styled Joker that had a similar look and color scheme to him. If you're ever rummaging through a vendor's bin of loose figs, you can quickly tell the two apart because this version had a small hole in his back that his backpack could hook onto, whereas the other one doesn't.

This version of the Joker had a small hole in his back.
image source: ebay.com

 Mark: Classic joker. I never put water into the little watergun. Does it work? That gas mask is hot. Could you technically fill the watergun with gas and spray gas like a villain?



image source: ebay.com

Justin: Scarecrow. Sorely needed to fill out my Legion of Doom roster, I never bought this guy because I never saw him on the toy shelves. Scarecrow had two things going for him: first, when you shone light through the top of his hat, his red eyes lit up (a la Super Powers Collection Darkseid). Second, he had a 'thumb wheel' on his back that caused his right arm to start spinning -- if he was holding his sickle weapon accessory in his right arm it made for a very impressive 'power action' feature. Scarecrow also came with a little plastic crow accessory that could be perched on his arm. Overall, a very cool figure and I wish I had one.

Thumb wheel on the back of Scarecrow.
Image source: ebay.com

Mark: I loved this figure. He might be my favorite of the original waves. Kind of off kilter and scary. The sickle would always fall out of his hand though. That happened with a lot of the little weapons. The crow didn't want to stay on him either. Still a fun figure, my 10/10 in the collection.


image source: ebay.com

Justin: I remember Man-Bat quite vividly. Man-Bat was massive in scale compared to all the other figs (except maybe Clayface). He also included a button on his back that, when pressed, caused his wings to flap and his head to rise up. This, included with a tow cable that could be used to wrap around other figs, made for a very cool-looking and fun action figure. Interestingly, Man-Bat was one of those 'lesser know' Bat-villains that received a lot of attention in BTAS, and became an example of a character the cartoon elevated from obscure to not-so-obscure. How obscure could he have been? It's been confirmed that if Kenner's Super Powers collection toyline hadn't been cancelled in 1986, we would've gotten a Man-Bat action figure. 

Mark: This one was a favorite of my wife and daughter because it flapped. I actually got this one in the 8 villain collection that they put out. The flapping wings was an accomplishment, for sure.

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Justin: And now for the wave two vehicles. Mark previously expressed that he didn't have much interest in the non-iconic vehicles, so I'll just go through these myself:


image source: ebay.com

Bat-Signal Jet with missile attached to nose of craft.
image source: ebay.com

Justin: The Bat-Signal Jet didn't do very much; it could probably be best described as a flashlight that Batman could lie on. On yeah, and it launched a spring-loaded missile from the nose of the craft. In short, it was a very lackluster vehicle and required two AA batteries [housed under the section Batman lay on].


image source: ebay.com

Justin: One of Batman's more unique vehicles; it's the B.A.T.V.. I'm having a bit of trouble describing this... it was like a ski-doo with tractor treads, but you could slightly raise the hood of the vehicle to activate 'Battle Mode'. When you raised the hood, the front skis became 'rollerblades' and guns popped out of the hood (which also doubled as an armored shield). No matter which mode you chose, there was still a spring-loaded projectile that could be fired from the front of the vehicle. I kind of like the idea of this: the transformation from regular vehicle to attack mode. The look and feel of the vehicle kind of gives me a 'G.I. Joe' vibe. Anyways, I don't think I've ever seen this at flea markets in one whole piece -- kids were pretty rough on this toy.

'regular mode'
image source: ebay.com

'battle mode'
image source: ebay.com

I'm going to boldly guess that this vehicle was meant for Kenner's Batman Returns toyline, but for whatever reason was cancelled and re-purposed for the BTAS toyline. I'm saying this because, incidentally, there were NO snow or ice-themed villains in this wave, so why would this vehicle be relevant? However, this would've been perfect when Batman battled Oswald Cobblepot and his legion of penguins strapped with rockets. Just a wild guess, of course. The third wave would bring us a Mr. Freeze action figure and the aptly-named 'Ice Hammer' vehicle meant for thwarting Mr. Freeze. 


image source: ebay.com

Justin: The Robin Dragster. This vehicle is so stupidly rare that I've never even seen one in person -- I've never know anyone who owned one, and I've never seen it being sold by any vendors. Apparently, it was determined that this vehicle was considered a rarity shortly after its release, since my 1997 Toyfare Special lists a Mint-In-Box Robin Dragster at $310 USD and a loose Robin Dragster at $110 USD. Why does Robin even need a 4x4 off-road vehicle? I thought he was more of a motorcycle and hang-glider type of guy? Probably for the same reason Superman needs a Justice Jogger, I guess. 

This vehicle did a few things: you could pull on the cross bar at the back of the vehicle to raise it into the 'high-rider' position and make it taller, the green windshield could be pulled back to expose two guns, and there was a yellow spring-loaded batarang projectile on the back.

regular position
image source: ebay.com


'high rider' position
image source: ebay.com

weapons exposed
image source: ebay.com

FUN FACT: Both the Robin Dragster and the Joker Mobile were actually vehicles slated for Kenner's Dark Knight Collection toyline, but were cancelled and re-designed for the BTAS toyline. I only know this because I stumbled upon a 1991 Kenner catalog showcasing these exact vehicles but with different names and color schemes:

page from 1991 Kenner catalog
image source: Shogi's Toy Catalog Scans


image source: ebay.com

Justin: The heroes weren't the only ones getting vehicles. Introducing the Jokermobile... another vehicle I don't remember seeing in the BTAS cartoon. As previously mentioned, this was actually the Joker Mobile from Kenner's Dark Knight Collection, but modified to fit the BTAS aesthetic. This was a fun toy: it was a roadster that, when you slid the yellow hood back, turned into an assault vehicle exposing two anti-aircraft guns and a joker face. In addition, the lower jaw of the joker face at the front of the Jokermobile doubled as a spring-loaded projectile.

roadster mode
image source: ebay.com

attack mode
image source: ebay.com

image source: ebay.com

Justin: Saving the best for last, the second wave brought us the most iconic vehicle of the BTAS collection: the Batmobile. Really, if you had to pick only one vehicle from the entire toyline, this is the one you wanted. Curiously, there was only one Batmobile released in the BTAS toyline, making it quite a sought-after piece.

The Batmobile was made of sturdy plastic and was pretty long. It could only seat one action figure, who needed to be slid in through the top of the cockpit, and of course that figure needed to be pretty slim. As the BTAS toyline was more-or-less in scale with Kenner's Super Powers Collection and Toy Biz DC comics figs, you had quite few options on who could drive the BTAS Batmobile. As for weapons, it had little claws that extended from the front wheels, but the vehicle itself was devoid of any spring-loaded projectiles to be fired. (Imagine that!) Instead, you could extract the Launching Pursuit Jet (that neatly tucked into the driver's cockpit), which included a bomb that could be dropped. I thought this was a pretty fun toy; it kept with the sleek BTAS aesthetic and was basically two-vehicles-in-one. I actually still own one, and here's a few pics:

Claws extended from the Batmobile's two front wheels.


Crime Busters Torpedo Batman posing with the BTAS Batmobile.
The Batmobile had an ejector button that released the canopy so you could slide a driver into the cockpit.

Despite my best efforts, Torpedo Batman couldn't fit in to the cockpit -- his shoulders were too broad.
Well, so much for my original statement about all BTAS Batmen being able to drive.

I tried a few other Kenner Batmen figs from the Dark Knight Collection and none of them fit. Thankfully, Robin here from Batman Returns did the trick.

One of the more interesting things about the BTAS Batmobile was the Launching Pursuit Jet hidden inside the cockpit. There was no release button to extract it, so you had to pull it out manually. The jet had fold out wings and a little plastic bomb underneath.

My Launching Pursuit Jet is missing it's bomb, so here's what you should be looking for.
Image source: ebay.com


Justin: When buying a BTAS Batmobile from a vendor ensure the cockpit canopy isn't missing or broken, as they are the most common issue. There's a 75% chance the Launching Pursuit Jet's bomb will be missing, too. 

Mark: I never knew what to do with mine. It was a really hot design, but just so big. I used to sit the figures on it, like Robin would be in the driver's seat, and some villains would sit on the hood.

Justin: So, Mark, of all the Batmobiles from Batman '66 to 1997's Batman & Robin film, where would you rank the BTAS Batmobile? 

Mark: This is the best design ever for the Batmobile. In the comics, movies, whatever, THIS is my favorite.

Justin: For my money, it will always be the Batman 89 Batmobile. I'm also including the Batman Returns Batmobile in there, since both essentially had the same design.

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Justin: It was around this time that the only BTAS playset was released... The Batcave Command Center:

image source: nowandthencollectibles.com

Justin: The Batcave Command Centre was the exact same Batcave playset from Kenner's Batman Returns collection, just repainted and re-packaged. Kenner re-used this playset a third time when it was re-released again as the Wayne Manor Batcave playset for 1997's Batman & Robin collection (based on the film). Regretfully, I've never owned any of the three. Having never owned this, I can only speculate how it would've enriched my life. Let's take a look at all the snazzy things it did: 

image from side of box
image source: ebay.com

Based on this box, The Batcave Command Centre had 1) a chamber that allowed two action figures to swap places with each other, 2) 'break-away' skylights so Batman could come crashing through, and 3) a 'break-away' catwalk so an action figure could unwittingly fall to their doom (probably due to hubris). And then, of course, there were the other little embellishments that made it interesting: the secret entrance to the Batcave via the grandfather clock, a computer console (but how can he sit when he doesn't have knees?), a zip-line so Batman could swing through the front doors and make an entrance, a garage door for the Batmobile, and anti-gravity hooks (how do you think he gets those chiseled abs?). Yeah, I would've loved this as a kid.

I don't have the exact dimensions, but this playset was pretty large... much bigger than the ToyBiz Batcave. I mean, this thing was sprawling. Note the hinges between the sections? It's so you could fold it up and make it more compact, hence not take up so much room in the house when you put it away:

one side of the 1993 BTAS Batcave Command Centre 
image source: www.neogaf.com

The playset actually three locales in one: a Batcave, the front entrance and interior of Wayne Manor, and some sort of industrial-looking chemical plant (Ace Chemicals?).   

front of Wayne Manor when Batcave Command Centre was folded up
image source: ebay.com

Other than that, I don't really have much to add since I've never seen one in person. Based on photos I've seen, this Kenner Batcave playset appears to be far superior in quality and design than the ToyBiz Batcave. I can't tell you how rare they are or what pieces are commonly missing since I've never seen a complete one up close. In the early 2000s, Hasbro re-released the Batcave Command Centre in its Gotham City Darkstorm collection, and it seemed pretty accurate to the original (and included an exclusive Alfred action figure). BraveFortress.com wrote a review about it, and if it's as good as they say do in their review, I can see this being a real trophy piece. 

Mark: I owned the 1997 one. It was such a hassle for me to figure out what to do with it. I never knew how to display it in my small Brooklyn apartments, and whenever I moved, I always had to put it in a box so it wouldn't break in transit. I sold it at some point. I remember when I was 9 I was OBSESSED with getting Castle Grayskull from Masters of the Universe. I imagined my life would be perfect if I would just get it. My Dad got it for me for my 10th birthday, and within a week I had no idea what to do with it. Action figures I could create worlds with, playsets would somehow limit the worlds I created. Same with displays. Just me. Fun design though. Good stickers.

Justin: Yeah, as a fellow toy collector, I can totally relate to your first statement. Sometimes, playsets are like white elephants: they're too sacred to get rid of, but you don't really have the room in your living space to display them... so they end up getting packed away in storage.

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Justin: Alright, that wraps up our review of the BTAS wave two collection. I know there were deluxe BTAS figures released around this time, but we'll dedicate an article to that someday in the future (if we feel like it). Not sure how much steam Mark and I have left to cover the next few wave of this toyline, since there was, like, 6 waves of figures released.

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