Retro-Action DC Super Heroes - AQUAMAN & BLACK MANTA
More good old-fashioned figure fun...
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Mattel's Retro-Action Super Heroes return for another round with four new figures to add to your Mego-style collection. These are not re-issues, but Mattel did a superb job in bringing that old style back of "The World's Greatest Superheroes" in an updated fashion and it's how they say, good old-fashioned fun.
The second series features Batman, Two-Face, Aquaman, and Black Manta. And if you're just learning about these figures now, you're one series and one exclusive behind. Fortunately, most Toys"R"Us stores still carry the first assortment (Superman, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern, Sinestro) which leaves only the exclusive Green Arrow to snag.
The packaging styles of these figures is definitely retro, looking as if they came straight out of 1976. As much as I would prefer the earlier box styles of 1973, they did a fantastic job with the classic card and bubble. Front and back of the cards feature classic DC Comic art that really take me back to my youth. It's a great look and almost terrifying when you start ripping it out of the package. The figure itself stands in the bubble freely, just as it did in the 70s and I LOVE that. No twisty ties, no clear rubber bands, no excess plastic. Just simple open and you're ready to go. There's the instant satisfaction factor that really spoiled my generation and I'm glad Mattel stayed true to it.
The main difference between Series 1 and Series 2, aside from the different characters featured, is the color of the card backs. Series 1 was a tint of orange while Series 2 went bold with a hot pink (the original figures sported purple card backs). I don't mind the change and it makes hunting for these all the easier.
The sculpting on these figures has most definitely been updated. The vintage Mego Aquaman sported seventies sideburns. This new Aquaman retains a retro simplistic style without going overboard. Black Manta is an all new figure but still features the very retro stylings and fits in rather well.
Articulation-wise, these 8" figures aren't very advanced but perhaps that was the point. You do get a cut neck, ball-joint shoulders and wrists, elbows, waist, hips and knees at least, but the lack of a cut bicep joint prevents you from doing a good number of poses. The waist is also a bit wonky because of the body construction using the O-ring (remember your old GI Joes?). The problem with all of these figures is that the waist has a hard time staying upright due to the band inside being too tight. You basically end up with a figure that has the occasional posture problem. Sometimes though, it does fall into place so it might just need some messing around before it finds a comfortable spot. Some figures, however, may never find that perfect spot.
The fabric outfits of these figures are reminiscent of the old style but executed in a less humorous way than the vintage inspirations. Aquaman has molded hands rather than the over-sized oven mits. Both outfits have snaps in the back to keep them in place.
As far as accessories go, these Retro Heroes don't have much. Aquaman comes with his trident while Black Manta comes with removable backpack with pipes that connect to his helmet.
The cost of these figures isn't going to be a happy sight for those who bought these back in the day. Yesterday's $2 price tag has been updated to today's standard of $19.99. $19.99 was also the price of Hasbro's 12" Star Wars collection over a decade ago so that shows you just how far our dollar value has declined. What was geared ages 3+ in the 1970s has also doubled to today's 6 and up.
Still, there's no denying the charm of these doll-like action figures as they really do remind us of the "good old days". The innocence of these toys only adds to the fun, so go on: Play as if the words "politically incorrect" weren't invented yet.
Review and Photography by David Yeh
Review Samples Courtesy of Mattel