Over the decades Batman Action Figures have been produced by Mego, Kenner, Hasbro, Mattel and more recently Mc Farlanes, among many other action figure manufacturers.
Kenner especially released a vast range of colorful Batman action figures between 1990-2002 and for those of you who have already collected as many from various Kenner Batman lineups and for those of you wondering if you have missed out on anything special here is the rundown on Kenner Batman action figure series’ from start to present.
In 1990 Kenner made use of its close links with the entertainment industry to crank up a very successful launch of a brand new Batman action figure series.
The DC Direct license which seesawed between Mego, Kenner and Toy Biz was reclaimed by Kenner with the company going on to produce its first line of DC Direct action figures after four years. The first release was based on a newly designed exciting action figure range inspired by the Batman ‘Dark Night’ theme.
There were two series of The Dark Knight line produced, the first in 1990 followed by a second in 1991. This line was mainly based on the Tim Burton movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
In contrast to the upbeat but improbable variants produced in Super Powers line, the Dark Night collection from Kenner was designed on a more realistic theme befitting the super hero’s dark aura.
Also the entire collection was focused on the hero himself to the point of neglecting some important characters in the storyline. In fact it was this line that coined the phrase “Batman Syndrome”
Despite the grand hype running up to the launch and displaying of a versatile range of action figures and role play items in the Kenner Action Toy Guide for 1990 items like Jokermobile and Batcave Command Center were postponed to be produced with later action figure lines featuring Batman.
A distinguished feature in Kenner’s very first Batman line was that all figures were designed on a collector friendly flexible approach which in turn set the tone for greater success for company’s future releases featuring the dark and formidable hero.
Despite its many variations the entire Dark Knight line has remained in demand and popular with collectors. The three most collectible figures in this line were the “Deluxe Crime Master Edition” figures which came boxed and had a very limited retail distribution. By far the most valuable in the line though is the “Knockout Joker” from the second series released in 1991.
Following the switch of motion picture toy licensing rights from Toy Biz to Kenner, in 1992 Kenner produced its first Batman action figure line based on blockbuster movie Batman Returns. The figures were basically not much different to design and theme of the previous Dark Night collection.
Bruce Wayne is the rare item in this collection as it was the only Batman to have the face of Michael Keaton.
Two new villains, Catwoman and Penguin also received plastic treatment in this lineup. Catwoman became scarce on toy shelves at the time, simply due to the fat that many collectors bought multiple figures due to her brand new sculpt.
However, to the disappointment of many collectors the figure of Penguin was just a repaint job done on Kenner’s previous edition of Penguin on Super Power’s line. the Penguin often languished on toy shelves. As a result, the Penguin figure tends to be the more valuable.
The real surprise in this line however was the Penguin Commandos which have become highly collectable. At the time these were very poorly received at retail and many stores were left holding dozens of them but by the time the collectors began to take note of them most were gone.
The most sought after figure in this series though was the fresh face Tim Drake aka Robin. Robin’s action figure was designed on the latest comic book illustration. Despite not being a character in the Batman Return’s epic movie Robin’s inclusion in the movie action figure series helped in upping the entire lineups popularity considerably.
The story behind the lines is that Robin’s figure was initially designed based on an auto mechanic character from Batman Returns movie script who wore a coverall with the letter ‘R’ on it. The character ultimately did not appear in the movie and hence Kenner’s decision to transform the figure as Robin.
The most popular and valuable items in this line among collectors are the 3 Toys R Us Deluxe figures and the two electronic figures, all of which have increased substantially in value over the years.
This line was followed by a Batman Returns II line in 1994, but why this was released separately instead of just continuing the previous line remains a mystery.
Soon after the Batman Animated Series premiere, a new line of figures emerged under Kenner banner featuring characters from the popular new cartoon.
Here again, the main focus was on the brooding Dark Night himself with some interesting new versions of Robin and few other new villains included. Some of the best sculpts ever came from this line and there are several of these figures that command big prices on the secondary market, most notably The Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Catwoman, Poison Ivy and the Bane villians.
The Robin Dragster is one of the rarest though with speculation ranging from the vehicle was discontinued due to safety deficiencies, that it was made solely for the Canadian market and also that the mold was destroyed following a factory fire.
The Animated Series was set apart for its clean sculpts and bright paints imbuing a remarkable likeness to the illustrations of the Batman cartoon.
Disappointingly the second and third series of the Batman Animated line were mostly remodeling of old molds with a very few new sculpts.
Soon after the release of third lineup the Batman Animated series action figures started losing steam as by this time collector were champing for something new and exciting on Batman and his crew.
The animated series figures continued to hit airwaves despite languished collector interest. The fourth release was a comparative power-up from previous editions as it contained more figures from the support cast to complement the considerable Batman variants previously released.
The Ground Assault Batman (or is it Green Goblin?) in this series came under heavy criticism from toy reviewers and collectors alike. Many believe that Kenner had made a real blunder with this figure dressing our fearsome dark night hero in the robes of despised comical villain and archenemy of Spiderman, the Green Goblin.
Just as collectors started sending fed up signals on the animated series in 1995 Kenner changed tracks by cranking up a new series called Crime Squad. Basically a facelift on the animated lineup this collection was rich in color and entertainment value.
However, it also lacked spice and vigor as the entire collection was designed around Batman apart from the single inclusion of Robin.
Batman Crime Squad collection without the terrorizing bad guys was a significant damper, particularly from the point of young collectors.
The lineup was represented by Land Strike Batman, Air Assault Batman, Sea Claw Batman, Piranha Blade Batman, Torpedo Batman, Stealthwing Batman and Ski Blast Robin.
The series is also well known for containing some of the all-time worst plastic incarnations of the Dark Night from Kenner, e.g. Land Strike Batman made a clashing appearance looking horrific in a magma camouflage while Piranha Blade Batman with a gruesome costume (looks like another remake of Land Strike Batman) was another dead suck.
With Crime Squad failing to attract the desired punch Kenner lost no time in doing a reshuffling and renaming second series of Crime Squad as Adventures of Batman and Robin. The new series in-fact included a number of figures that scheduled but not released in the previous Batman Animated Series lineup.
This series again highlighted Kenner’s obsessive focus on the hero as the series did not include a single figure of his enemies or allies. Batman without his supporting crew and archenemies tends to takes the biting edge off any lineup hence the quick folding of this line up as well.
Kenner did not disappoint fans tempting them with a brand new line of figures considered memorable by many collectors even to-date.
Titled as Legends of Batman this impressive new collection of action figures was based on the turbulent DC Comics story line for 1993. The comics story line took a dramatic twist during this time with Bruce Wayne as Batman breaking his back causing him to handover the mantle to AzBat temporarily. The storyline was divided into three crossovers including Knightfall, Knightquest and Knightsend in which Wayne comes back on the action to the disgust of Gotham City underground players.
The collection distinguishes from the rest of Kenner Batman figurines on its hyper detail sculpting. While the intricate detailing in the figures were ultra-cool many collectors still preferred those that represented a remarkable likeness to the comic series illustrations even though they were few and far between.
When it came to Azbat action figures Kenner got their wires mixed up by producing the figures Batman Knightquest and Batman Knightsend in the wrong costumes!
Despite the screw-up in costumes both figures were bestsellers in this series as collectors recognized the elaborate uniqueness in the two figures’ costume designing.
Though many collectors eyed the Catwoman figure with anticipation it was not a solid seller due to its near impossible posability.
Nightwing fared even worse than Catwoman due mainly for his lack of impressionability and poor accessories. Like in previous editions of Batman line-ups the Joker continued to triumph as a hot seller particularly as fans welcomed the iconic weapon that accompanied this action figure.
These figures are often listed with the Legends of Batman series as they were taken from that series, however they were only available in Warner Bros stores and the header made no mention of the Legend series.
The first series was released with very little fanfare and was therefore missed by many collectors until it was too late and as a result these tend to be scarcer then later releases.
In 1996 Kenner released a new lineup of Batman action figures exclusively under Adventures of Robin and Batman. The wave was better represented with an eclectic mix of characters from the popular Batman & Robin movie released in late 90s.
The timing was perfect and the selection was impressive. The result was mega-blast sales for the entire lineup with collectors grabbing the long awaited villains they have been waiting to pit against our mystical hero. Some interesting figures included in this line up were Hoverjet Batman, Rocketpack Batman, Paraglide Batman, Bola Trap Robin, Pogo Stick Joker, Bane and Ra’s Al Ghul.
Although initially scarce and hard to find, particularly the villians, by the end of 1996 production had been significantly ramped up and they were as common as Christmas Ornaments!
The only one of these likely to increase in value and become more sought after is the Ra’s Al Ghul figure as it was the first and only figure of this character produced.
The second series continued in 1997 with even more delightful figures to rapture collectors. Second wave also brought with it the best figure for the entire series, Harley Quinn and a welcome addition by way of Machine Gun Joker.
Duo Force lacked the glamour and distinctive qualities of the earlier series. Kenner just bought the old molds out giving Batman and his accomplice Robin a new paint and strumming them with new accessories. The exceptional figure in this series was Batgirl which was a new addition for Kenner.
As the entire collection failed to spark much interest and in the absence of fresh factor the collection folded without a follow-up series.
This collection, unlike many of the others, was well received and much raved about by Batman fans making the whole line highly collectible.
The characters were designed to showcase the deathly venom of Gotham City criminals and the tremendous heroism of the Dark Night himself.
A few of the series highlights were Assault Gauntlet Batman with his ultra-cool accessories, Dark Knight Detective Batman for his perfect colors and incredible cape, the futuristic inspirational Lava Fury Batman and Shatter Blade Batman for his remarkable design.
There were two Internet Exclusive figures produced; Clayface and Shatterblade Batman.
In 1997 Kenner released a Batman Movie Collection line which was very short lived and only consisted of three double packs based on the Batman, Batman Forever and Batman Returns movies.
This series was based on the 1997 movie starring George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman and Chris O’Donnell.
Although a vast array of figures were produced for this series, including a good mixture of the villains, it was vastly over produced and therefore the figures have failed to increase in value by any significant amount.
The only figures in this series to have any real value are the 12-inch Collector’s Edition figures and the translucent blue mail-in Batman figure.
This was a newer version of Batman Animated and the entire series comprised of rather limited editions of a narrow selection of characters, particularly, the Wild Card Joker, Mad Hatter and Creeper (his very first appearance in plastic) which were rare additions found only in limited collector caches.
Though the lineup was not brimming with bad guys the ones that were included were gladly welcomed by Batman fans. The top picks in this series included Alfred, Batman’s butler and Commissioner Gordon.
The collection also featured exclusive 12” figures of Batman and an exciting lineup of paly-sets and vehicles. However, minimal articulation continued to be a drawback even in this collection though it was much compensated by simple and innovative three dimensional designs and styling for the characters.
Looking for a one of a kind collection of your favorite dark night hero? Then you should definitely get up close and personal with Kenner’s Batman Knight Force Ninjas collection.
The new line came out in 1998 featuring new sculpts and a design technique much similar to Legends of Dark Night and Legends of Batman. The designs were also inspired by the Elseworld theme.
Azrael was the rare edition in this collection making his first appearance in plastic while Killer Croc also attracted noticeable fan attention making his debut in this wave from Kenner.
The collection was aimed at showcasing the Dark Knight hero’s considerable martial arts prowess, particularly through Thunder Kick Batman and Arsenal Cape Batman that were tipped as fan favorites in this collection.
Other interesting figures included in the first series in 1998 were Karate Chop Batman, Side Strike Robin, Power Kick Batman and Killer Croc. Fist Fury Batman, Azrael, Thunder Kick Batman, Tornado Blade Riddler came out in series 2 while the two hot figures of Batman were featured in series 3 along with Hyper Crush Robin.
Mission Masters from Kenner is a vast fan collection portraying different characters with styling and designs much similar to the animated series. The entire line contributed its fair share in expanding the Batman action figure universe and elevating it to a greater level.
Some of the notable figures included in this series were Mr. Freeze and a brand new Riddler while many others were repaints making a comeback from the old Batman Animated Series.
The most notable figures in this series were the Deluxe figures which were Hydro Jet Nightwing, Silver Defender Batman, Insect Body Mr. Freeze and Rumble Ready Riddler as these had a very limited distribution and short shelve life.
With many collectors confusing the first and second series of Mission Masters with the conventional New Batman Adventures line it was time for Kenner to make a change. The third and fourth series were therefore presented under simple Batman title.
The second series was released in 1999 represented by Infrared Batman, Knight Strike Batman, Land Strike Batman, Sea Claw Batman as well as deluxe figures of Radar Batman and Skychopper Batman.
In 2000 Kenner released the third lineup of Mission Masters including an exclusive figure to be marketed only through Wal-Mart titled World of Batman.
Other interesting figures in this series were Anti Virus Bruce Wayne, Capture Cape Batman, Firewing Batman, Freestyle Batman, Highwire zip line Batman, Gotham Crusader, Inferno Extinction Batman, Knight Assault Batman, Mountain Pursuit Batman, Quick Attack Batman, RAM Batman, Sky Attack Batman and Virus Delete Batman.
With Mission Masters Series 4 Kenner continued to portray Batman in dynamic disguises covering the deepest depths of Gotham City underground to its skyscraper roof tops.
The significance of this series was that it included a number of rare figures produced as Warner Bros. exclusives. These figures included Batman, Batman vs. Riddler, Batman and Robin, Gatekeepers of Gotham City (Batman, Batgirl, Nightwing and Robin) and Batman vs. Two Face.
Shadow Blast Batman was the deluxe figure in this lineup while Lunar Attack Batman, Midnight Hunter Batman, Lunar Force Batman, Night Shadow Batman, Velocity Storm Batman and Shadow Blast Batman made-up the rest.
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