This one was always going to be hard as there are hundreds of toys based on this license and one of the best aspects of his character is how well he adapts to different interpretations. I decided against just giving you ten Batmans as with so many side by side the differences between them would be slight. Better instead to present you with different styles, different eras and different production studios for a nice, tasty range, along with a list half populated by support characters.
One runner up of note was this custom figure by Toycutter, based on the hulking, muscular Bats from Frank Miller’s seminal 1986 classic The Dark Knight Returns. I give this one extra points for being even more exaggeratedly brawny than the DC Direct version. I also love this Joker from The Brave and Bold line, based on the 1940s comic art of Dick Sprang.
At ten, appropriately seeing us out of the gate is this depiction of Adam West’s 1960s Batman from NECA. There are others based on his earliest appearances but this was the first that really captured the attention of the general public and made a household name for the caped crusader.
This version looks frighteningly realistic, as silly and camp as the show was and is fully capable of dancing the Bat-tusi.
At nine from the 2004 animated show: The Batman comes Robin from the Shadow Tek line by Mattel. Shadow Tek seems to mean bundling in a massive plastic backpack with an otherwise perfectly serviceable figure.
There have been many Robin figures over the years, but this one with its oversized head and anime-inspired hair and features does a fine job of summarizing most animated versions of Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, including The New Batman Adventures, Teen Titans and Young Justice.
Like most of the Justice League Unlimited toys it has minimal articulation and an emphasis on statuesque style with the rocket backpack added for play potential.
At eight from the 2009 video game Arkham Asylum comes Killer Croc from DC Collectibles. He is enormous and chunky with cunning articulation secreted inside gorgeously meaty textured sculpting. At 9.5” tall he towers over other Batman figures and anybody who has played that game can attest as to how scary it is to have this fellow hunting you in his dank, subterranean lair.
At seven is Nightwing, the grown up version of the first Robin, Dick Grayson. There are many excellent Nightwings out there so I was spoiled for choice on this one, but I chose Mattel’s DC Universe Classics. He has a simple but memorable and impactful costume and two escrima Filipino fighting sticks. As an analogue for Hasbros’ Marvel Legends line Mattel have produced hundreds of DC comic figures over the years, with an eye on quality of build, which makes them great for both play and display.
At six from Medicom comes a startlingly great Dark Knight Rises version of Batman himself. This is exemplary of a popular Japanese style, high on poseability short on stature. What isn’t apparent from these pictures is that this fellow is only 16cm high. He comes with five alternate hands, a grapnel gun and sonic blaster and a display stand to allow for dynamic posing.
At five from DC Direct’s 2003 Hush line, based on the artwork of Jim Lee comes Harley Quinn. Now this line is so full of beautifully rendered figures, closer to artfully sculpted yet articulated statues than a child’s plaything that it was very hard to select a best in show. Harley had only just made the trip into the comics from her animated debut so this was something of a landmark. She positively oozes mischievous menace. Notably Harley was recently re-released in the DC Collectibles label along with Joker and flight suit Batman, complete with a shiny new paint job.
remember the release of Tim burton’s Batman will know why this next one will mean so much to so many. Produced by Hot Toys and distributed by Sideshow, this, like many of their other one sixth scale deluxe figures has captured a creepy lifelike likeness of the actor in the suit, in this case Michael Keaton, the once maligned choice for the Batman role. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for the avid, serious and lucrative toy collector it doesn’t get much more special than Hot Toys. If you’re looking to start a miniature Madam Tussauds, look no further for your sourcing of movie-related figures. Keaton’s 1989 Batman costs around $250 and comes with multiple hands and gadgets and a sense of unparalleled historical significance.
At three from Play Arts Kai comes The Dark Knight Rises Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman. This Japanese figure line which cut its teeth rendering anime and video game characters has become adept at delivering slender, beautifully detailed and highly poseable collector-focused figures. At an average of $90 they’re a slightly more reasonable prospect than Hot Toys. They are constructed of PVC and measure around eight inches high. Play Arts have many other Batman-related figures including some awesome ones based on the Arkham video games and once again this one was difficult to choose from. But in terms of delivering a confident, charming, dangerous Ms. Kyle, they don’t get much better than this.
At two representing Batman: The Animated Series, maybe the most universally beloved and recognised representation of Batman voiced by the wonderful Kevin Conroy, comes this figure from DC Collectibles. As opposed to all the kid-focused toys from the 90s that swiftly spiralled into too many Batman variant costumes on Kenner’s part these modern figures bring us the characters we love in the style we remember but with modern-day sensibilities. These are new for 2014 with something like 25 points of articulation carefully secreted around their smooth forms. This is pretty much the Batman figure I’ve wanted my entire life, but if money was no object I would pick up…
Number one The Joker from The Dark Knight by Hot Toys. There is something haunting and rare about departed heroes and villains. AFR viewers may remember the Christopher Reeve Hot Toys Superman winning that Top Ten. What we have here, captured in alarming detail is Heath Ledger’s unforgettable, charismatic turn as the clown prince of crime in Nolan’s second and best Batman film. Delivering a performance this memorable etches its mark on the character forever and this figure represents the culmination of imagery surrounding this version of the character.
His striking, roving eyes are delivered here with a translucent iris parallel eyeball rolling system. He has no less than fourteen hands, with and without gloves. Multiple heads, including a chilling clown mask and his even more chilling real face. He also has a box with a simple detonator, with which to drive the citizens of Gotham insane. There’s also an updated 2.0 version available as well as figures in bank robber, police and nurse disguises. This eleven inch agent of chaos captures movie history in a way that will send a shiver down the spines of all who come across him. There is no better figure for encapsulating how the Batman mythology goes beyond The Dark Knight himself.
We hope you enjoyed this countdown. Let us know your list of ten favourites below, I’ve been Alex Shaw and we’ll be back with more Top Tens, Collector Guides and fascinating toy history very soon at Action Figure Resource.
So what do you think of this list? Which ones would you have chosen?
Let me know in the comments.