After a week of giving Hasbro some loving I thought I’d start the next week off with a look at some Mattel. Although as I mentioned in my GI Joe Week reviews, GI Joe has become my current favorite line and I have a ton of the figures, it was actually another line that I collected for many years that kept me “in the game” as it were. As a long time fan of Batman the Animated Series and the shows that followed I amassed a rather large collection of Kenner & Hasbro’s figures based on the property.

Eventually when I got out of action figure collecting I left them to collect dust. A handful of times though the animated Batman figures pulled me from my dormant hobby to pick an odd or an end here or there. I bought an animated Batmobile when I saw it for a good price, etc. Somewhere along the way the license transferred to Mattel and I picked up a couple of their figures. Then one day I saw some of the new Justice League figures. I picked up only one, a all black Batman. I thought he’d fit in well with the old BTAS figures. I believe I paid around $7 for him at Wal-Mart. I found the figure to be of decent quality but with no accessories, a high price tag and an average sculpt I wouldn’t purchase another Justice League figure for a few years.

Eventually on a trip down south I stumbled across the Mission Vision Superman & Lex Luthor two pack. The Luthor figure looked exactly as Luthor had during the run of Superman The Animated Series, so I quickly purchased it. That would be the only time I ever saw that set on the shelves. A few more years would pass before I finally started to see all the cool Justice League Unlimited figures on the shelves and decided to opt in.

Today we’re taking a look at Parasite. Why Parasite? He’s one of the last single card releases and I feel most likely one of the last figures in the line itself. Although Parasite was released several years ago his 3 Pack was one of the rarest to find, never showing up in my neck of the woods and leaving me with a gapping hole in my collection for quite some time. A few months ago these started shipping to Target and this past weekend, I bought another Parasite on clearance for under $2…

Packaging:
The Justice League figures have had a ton of different packages through the years. One of the later incarnations of the package had a really cool blue design with a bunch of heroes flying through the air (Including people that didn’t fly) that created a really awesome visual. Sometime last year or a little before the powers that be at Mattel decided to create some cross marketing by making all of their DC Universe figures have packaging that looks largely the same.

The package itself isn’t terrible although the words “DC UNIVERSE” are way larger than anything else on the card making you assume that is the name of the line, not Justice League Unlimited. Still the package isn’t particularly bad on it’s own. The issue with the package comes when you realize that all of the Mattel DC figures sport a similar package. While no one is likely to confuse a DC Universe Classics figure for a JLU toy, it’s much easier to confuse a DC Infinite Heroes figure with a JLU toy.

The two cards are almost identical in height and width and while a collector such as myself can distinguish the two of them if I have two samples to stare at, the untrained Target employee can’t. Target is the only major retailer to carry JLU anymore and this series along with the one prior to it, suffered because of the packaging. JLU sold pretty well but it was almost never stocked because of DCIH. The DCIH figures are often shoved in the JLU space and vice versa.

Aside from the major blunder with the packaging of the DCIH figures and JLU figures looking so similar, the rest of the package is decent. The back tells a little bit of a episode story and provides some shots of the character in action. That’s all well and good and it’s a nice back of the package. Unfortunately it’s a bit hard to look past the aforementioned package issue, as that’s one of the reasons JLU is in dire straits at the moment. No doubt part of the reason that I bought this figure for $1.24!

Articulation:
JLU figures have never been known for their articulation. They follow the design setup by Kenner with the old Batman the Animated Series line. That’s a good thing, believe it or not. While I don’t mind the figures with higher points of articulation, it’s pretty cool that these figures can fit in with the figures I bought in 1993 (very minor scale issues notwithstanding).

This leaves you with the Big 5 as they’ve become known. Cut head, cut shoulders and cut legs. Kenner was typically pretty smart with their cuts, sculpting the figures to have slightly bent elbows so that you could make the figure move as though it were punching or doing a variety of other actions without actually having an elbow joint. The first few Justice League figures had arms completely straight, thus eliminating a lot of play value but later ones have adopted a similar style to the old Kenner classics, including Parasite here.

Sculpt:
Part of the charm of JLU figures as well as the cartoon and the aformentioned Superman and Batman shows and toys that proceeded it is the Bruce Timm design aesthetic. The cartoons had a very stream lined look that followed over into the figures. The toys started out as “toys” but have somewhere along the way become more of a collectable. For better or worse mind you, as I still really like the toy aspect of toys. JLU follows the old trend started by Kenner and Parasite is both lifted up and brought down by the design choices.

Justice League Unlimited has to be Mattel’s favorite line in many respects. JLU is a line of about a dozen body bucks that they can constantly repaint with a newly tooled head and create new characters. Sure, at times they tool other parts but Mattel for the most part gets out on the cheap. JLU really started this trend for Mattel and now they carry it over into their other DC lines.

The major difference between what they accomplish here and how it works in DCUC is that in a JLU figure, repainting a body buck actually looks great. In DC Universe Classics it’s met with mixed results. Parasite uses one of the standard bodies but has a new head. His head looks a bit like an Easter Island statue and if you didn’t know any better you’d think this figure walked right off the screen of the Superman Animated Series.


Doing the Justice League Lean! Popular dance move of 1/3 of the JLU figures!

Of course not all is perfect in JLU land. As you can see above, the figure leans a lot. Eventually he’ll lean so much he won’t be able to stand. Herein lies the great sadness that is JLU collecting. The figures can’t stand. Some figures can, but as a general rule at least 40% of the JLU figures won’t be able to stand. Even if you can manage the balancing act for a day, a week, a month… Eventually some of them will fall. I believe it’s the only action figure line in history that actually falls over because of the Earth’s rotation.

Parasite actually stands well enough for now and he has a hole in his foot so if you have a stand you can place him on that. It’s a HUGE improvement for the figures, unfortunately it’s only been implemented in the last year or so and not every figure has it. Which means I still have thirty or forty figures who love to fall.

The paint work is decent, though not perfect. When Mattel first announced JLU would be a Target exclusive line fans wondered what quality the toys would be. Immediately we found out our answer: Cheap. The first few waves were pretty abominable with paint work that was all over the place. The paint itself appeared really cheap too, as if they were using $1 water colors on the toys. However as time has went on the paint work has improved. Although it’s still generally quite worse than it had been in the past.

The plastic on JLU figures has gotten pretty bad too, but that’s not even due to the Target exclusives. Maybe it’s the rise in the price of oil or maybe Mattel just needs to save a buck on this line but some of the figures are very rubbery. This only adds to the issues with falling over.

Accessories:
Parasite is one of my favorite Superman bad guys because he’s one of the few guys who can go toe to toe with the Man of Steel. Parasite has the ability to steal people’s powers so all he has to do is drain some of Superman’s energy. This figure includes an accessory that once came with Metamorpho and is based off the time he stole Rex Mason’s powers. It’s a odd little saw arm thing and it fits in well enough.

You can place the weapon over his arm and it’s cast in the same color plastic as Parasite. There isn’t much else you could include with this figure, so I give them credit for being creative without having to toss in a pointless accessory.

Additional Notes:
Kenner dropped the ball when it had the Superman the Animated Series line by sculpting the figures in a different style and size than the BTAS figures. Mattel has been a bit of a godsend in that sense filling out Superman’s rogues gallery slowly but surely. Once we get Metallo we’ll have almost all of the classic STAS villains with only LiveWire coming to mind as a blank spot.


Ohh the pretty colors…

Value:
These were priced at $4.99 which is about right. Unfortunately Target’s across the country have clearanced these figures out and removed the pegs for them. I hate to be one of those “the sky is falling” JLU collectors, but I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that this line is gasping it’s last breaths. The new 3 packs have not shipped to 99% of the Targets, the single card figures have no shelf space and only the new 6 packs are readily available. Even MattyCollector is having a hard time selling the JLU toys. Some Targets don’t have any space for JLU at all, which makes it tough for a Target exclusive line to thrive. I scored this guy for under $1.25. Obviously at that value he’s a 10 out 10, but you have to realize in order for me to get him at $1.24 the line has to be pretty much imploding on itself. Which leaves a sting.

Score Recap:
Packaging – 6
Sculpting – 7
Articulation – 5
Accessories – Saw Arm Attachment
Value – 7
Overall – 6 out of 10

This truly is a brilliant Parasite figure. He’s a figure I’ve waited to get my hands on for some time and he’s definitely delivered on all fronts. I find him to be one of the more visually appealing JLU figures. For the moment, he can stand, his price point is good and he’s even got an accessory. Still, I can’t in good conscience rank this figure any higher than I have for the aforementioned problems with the line in general.

In a nutshell, Parasite is a real star in terms of this line of figures but he can’t quite escape the looming inevitable failures of his brethren. The great lament of the JLU collector is that the toys are very cool and they have a great look to them, but Mattel has poorly handled the line so much through the years that it’s amazing the line continues to survive through it all. It’s enough to make even the most seasoned JLU collector think about giving up the line. Assuming you can find this guy anywhere, pick him up. If only to make a small STAS figure collection.

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