Thursday, 9 March 2017

Minifigures - The Justice League of America

While I was never as into the JLA as I was the Avengers they're still a solid bunch of guys and thanks to Lego's popularity they've been able to put out a decent amount of DC's finest in Minifigure form, even though the sets have taken a back seat to the Marvel licences in recent years as DC's cinematic fortunes have waned. Still, I've managed to amass a collection of some twenty members.


Needing no introduction, Metroplis' most whitebread hero has been available officially in both classic and Man of Steel form; I decided to go for the standard version here, in no small part due to his appearance looking like this in The Lego Movie. The simple, straight-forward costume is well rendered with the standard use of the torso waist serving nicely as the famous red underpants while some character is added by a kiss-curl in the middle of his hair and him really looking like he super-hates everyone.


Another needing no introduction, Batman was already heavily represented in Minifigure form with numerous official variants even before things exploded with the advent of the Lego Batman Movie in 2017. For some reason I fixated on getting a grey-suited version with the yellow chest logo and there's not been one; in the end I've merged parts from a knock-off of the Mighty Micros version with a Dawn of Justice version (which provided the face and normal-length booted legs) for my JLA Batman.


Not quite as widespread as the other two thirds of the JLA's Big Three, Wonder Woman has had a figure in the classic costume alongside a silver-trimmed version, a Mighty Micro and one of those Friends versions. This one does the job nicely for me, with the costume spot-on down to a special headpiece featuring Diana's headband rather than relying on a paint application on the head and also includes a neat version of her lasso.


The Barry Allen version of the Flash has gleaned a couple of Minifigures, a full-size version issued as part of the DC Superheroes sets and a short-legged Mighty Micros version. I'm not sure what exactly the story of this version, which ditches the official streamlined one-piece helmet for a big bucket-like thing with removable wings, is but I actually like the clunkiness of it over the real thing. It's worth noting that the same bootleggers love a repaint opportunity and the likes of Reverse Flash and the various different colour versions are widespread.


My interest in the Green Lantern was mainly to have him around to annoy Superman a la The Lego Movie but naturally the whole Minifigure thing's escalated at this point. The official Minifigures have been modelled seemingly more on Kyle Rayner than Hal Jordan, though this might just be a quirk of the more modern hairstyles used but considering the use of Rayner in the film is probably intentional.. It's fine by me either way; annoyingly only the 2011 Comic Con version of the figure rather than the more refined 2015 Superheroes figure has been bootlegged, which might force me into actually buying an official Minifigure, shock horror. One fun thing is that the wide range of transparent green parts available make for some fun possibilities for constructs.


Poor Aquaman, there making Namor look popular and useful. Arthur's status as the butt of decades' worth of jokes is best illustrated by this one being a genuine Lego Minifigure because it's actually about the same price as any knock-off, the 2013 release having found its' way into two DC Superheroes sets. There is also a bootleg of the Dawn of Justice version out there but the standard figure has your main Silver Age Aquaman all tucked up with his scaled chest, floppy blond hair and trident.


I've always liked J'on J'onzz and very much of the opinion that the character's never quite got the fame he deserves over the years. He's landed two official Lego Minifigures anyway; neither however has been bootlegged directly. The Chinese version instead is based on a third variant with painted pants, red upper body webbing and a different head - it's actually a much nicer look all around, topped off by the cloak and staff.


Both of Oliver's Minifigures have been heavily influenced by the modern look given in the Arrow TV series; not necessarily a problem but it would be nice to have a more retro one to fit in with JLA line-ups - there's a mouthwatering glimpse at a Silver Age version in the Lego Batman Movie but alas no sign of a release. As it is both Green Arrow figures that have been out had been bootlegged; the difference comes down to whether he has his hood up or not. 


The Atom was at the Vanguard of the Silver Age of superheroes but - like Marvel equivalent Ant-Man - hasn't quite secured the place in popular culture he probably deserves. The only official figure for Ray Palmer was an exclusive at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con; thankfully this has been bootlegged. The copy retains the very cool part-visored helmet and the high level of paint detail; weirdly this features considerable engraving on the torso which feels very odd. It doesn't really hurt the figure but it is an unusual thing to do. There are other changes, like the use of a blue head rather than red but overall it's very faithful. There's a second knock-off out that eschews the helmet in favour of a painted head, which is naturally a step backwards.


The naffness of Hawkman's concept has only been matched by how convoluted his history has been, with the character's timeline getting so disturbed that at one point DC atomised him just to put an end to it. Throughout it all he's looked like the same fantasy reject through and the one official Lego Minifigure he received is pretty much spot on with its' elaborate helmet, chest armour (including logo) and green shorts. Oddly he has fabric wings, which do help him stand out a bit from many of the other winged figures. While this version has been bootlegged whoever does these things has also put out a version with moulded golden wings similar to those seen on the Series 15 Flying Warrior Minifigure; while these are more stable and less of a cheat they are a bit boring by comparison.


Through her association with the Green Arrow and Birds of Prey Dinah's managed to stay on the cooler side of the DC universe for most of her history, despite the original costume long having given way to lots of tartier outfits which surprisingly was improved on for her appearances (represented by three different characters) in WB's Arrow TV series. The only figure she seems to have received is an unlicensed bootleg, largely based on Katie Cassidey's TV portrayal. This is a leather outfit that's all straps and cleavage (not much different to those used for some versions of the Black Widow or Catwoman) but is a lot more dignified than most of her comic get-ups from the eighties onwards. Oddly the figure doesn't have a face mask, which is more in line with the comics.


Something of an odd one, Red Tornado was never really front-line JLA material to the extend where the android currently doesn't exist in the DC universe. Presumably someone somewhere is a fan of the character, depicted here in one of its' android bodies with a high level of accuracy. It's possible it's actually a copy of a fan-made custom similar to the way some of Penzora's work has been copied; either way it's a great render of a relatively unknown character but it is also one of the less common bootleg Minifigures out there.


Good ol' Billy Batson and his copyright issues. Obviously Captain Marvel had long been in existence before he finally joined the Justice League but that didn't stop Marvel comics from somehow usurping DC's copyright (gained during a brutal legal action with creator Fawcett which also lead to the eventual creation of Marvelman/Miracleman) with Mar-Vell. This and his general Golden Age whitebread thing when DC already have Superman covering Golden Age whitebread he's never really been a major player in the modern DC universe even if he's kept around and a Minifigure is a nice surprise, Lego sneaking one out as a 2012 SDCC exclusive. Again there are bootleggers to thank for copying the no-brainer traditional costume, meaning you can pick one up for less than £220 (no, seriously, that's how much the original goes for).


Long-running and frequently killed off, Doctor Fate still has a neat set of powers and a great design despite only being an occasional member of the JLA and struggling to find much of an audience. He's another that seems to have escaped having a regular figure, though again a very good bootleg - most likely of a custom - is available. As well as good paint apps (including boots, so often neglected on figures both official and unofficial) the helmet is nicely done by a reuse of the Star Wars Clone Trooper piece. One oddity though is a flesh face with blank eyes that line up with those on the helmet but look jolly weird with the thing off.


If ever there was a sign of how noble intentions can go awry in comics it's poor old Kara. Conceived as a more mature, independent and less derivative version of Supergirl when she debuted Power Girl has never quite been able to shake the unfortunate "boob window" of her original costume or a series of escalating jokes about the size of her breasts. Various attempts to revise her costume have been met with lukewarm reception and DC have largely just accepted that the character needs to have a hole in her costume to show off her big tits. Obviously this isn't exactly Lego friendly and no official figures have come out. Penzora's filled the gap with a fairly respectful custom; the infamous window is present but with comparable delicacy to most of the official female figures while there's the usual high level of detail and a nice choice for the character's bob hairstyle.


Despite being created in the forties Plastic Man was a latecomer to the JLA but became a firm favourite after getting picked for Grant Morrison's run, with his gift for physical comedy retained while his nous were greatly expanded. This greatly improved the amount of DC media the formerly cult character appeared in and an appearance in one of the Lego video games saw a figure issued in a promotional polybag. This has since been copied relatively well despite the boots being missed off the copy; his trademark white-framed shades and a nice smirk remain however and the Superman kiss curl sets him off nicely. Interestingly there's also been a stretched bootleg using the same Toy Story extended limbs as the Reed Richards figure; this does actually retain the boots just to set off the OCD nicely.

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