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The DC Comics Action Figure Archive

The DC Comics Action Figure Archive

Author: Scott Beatty

Published by: Chronicle Books (January 20, 2008)

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

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Newly released, "The DC Comics Action Figure Archive", a hardcover reference book by Scott Beatty, is a comprehensive listing of every DC Comics action figure (with figures and dolls pre-dating even the use of the phrase "action figure"). The listing itself is complete - from A for Atom to Z for Zatanna, every action figure line is covered. Just covering every permutation of Batman - from countless comic book inspired lines, to numerous cartoon and animated series inspired lines, to the figures of no less than five live-action Batman films - had to be a Herculean task. While the "Archive" is a fun reference book that DC action figure fans will enjoy, it's not without its flaws.

The textual listings themselves are concise and complete. Essentially every figure has a few lines of action figure "who's who" - the character's name, the toy line, the company of release, the release year, the figure's scale (height in inches), the number of points of articulation (i.e., where the figures move or bend), the accessories included with the figure (from weapons to display bases), action features, and any variants (typically alternative costume color or the like). Action figure lines themselves are listed in the alphabetical listing too - but with very brief summaries of the toy lines.

Perhaps I've been spoiled by the exhaustive likes of books from my childhood like "The Superman Encyclopedia" and the microscopic examinations of heroes - and recently Megos - by Two morrow Publishing who most notably to Superman fans released "The Krypton Companion" last year. But I would have liked to have seen the book include more of the "story" of the development of different DC action figure lines.

There are some included rarities like a picture of a Wonder Woman prototype doll related to a never-made toy line for girls related to a never-made cartoon for girls that would have included not just Wonder Woman but DC heroines Ice and Dolphin as well. Or never-released mini-figures of the Shazam family including the Wizard.

My biggest gripe with the "Archive" is it does not include pictures of every action figure made. It lists every action figure alphabetically, but includes pictures of many, if not most, of them. But if I had to guesstimate, I'd say the "Archive" only includes photos of 70% or so of the figures listed in the book. Perhaps I was being naïve, but I ordered this book because I expected to see at least a thumbnail size photo of every action figure - yes, even the infinite permutations of Batman. I would have also liked to have seen more photos of figures with their packaged accessories, the packages themselves, and a more complete listing of vehicles and play sets that accompanied many of the older action figure lines.

Even in a book that didn't have photos of every single action figure, I'd have expected at a minimum for the book to have included pictures of every single DC Mego and every single Super Powers figure. If, as the book's introduction says, the present is the "Golden Age" of action figures (which the book attributes mainly to the start of DC Direct in 1998), then the Mego and Super Powers lines were the "Platinum Age".

I was disappointed that the book didn't have a picture of the very first Lois Lane action figure (part of the animated line). The very first real DC doll/figure line was Captain Action and Action Boy - basically Captain Action was a G.I. Joe type figure who came with additional outfits so he could change into Batman, Superman, Tarzan, and Aquaman among others. And of course, his sidekick Action Boy could become Robin, Aqualad, and Superboy. The pictures are included for most of these figures but not all of them.

Overall this is an enjoyable book that won't teach much to anyone but beginners in action figure collecting. While it's a fun book to add to my bookshelf, it's not a book I expect to pull out often. It's a quick read-through without the substance that would make it a must-have reference book.

One more thing of interest to fans of this website - the Acknowledgements section of the book thanks, among others, "Steve Younis at Superman Homepage". When I told Steve, he was as surprised about that as anyone. Of course I had to cajole him as I usually do into letting me acknowledge his acknowledgement. But kudos for Steve and for the website.


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