DC Universe Signature Collection: Phantom Stranger by Mattel

Last month’s Club Infinite Earths figure, Saint Walker, wasn’t exactly high on my want list. This month’s release was not only on my list, but I never thought Mattel would ever actually get around to creating and releasing him. He’s Phantom Stranger and he is exactly the kind of character that this line should be all about. Finishing teams is great, I certainly approve of that, but I can’t believe Phantom Stranger would ever have wound up on the pegs in the DCUC line. And if he did, you can bet it would he would come with a part for one hell of an essential C&C figure to make sure he sold to the masses. Sure, he’s already been available as a DC Direct release… but now he can feel right at home on my DCUC shelves… let’s take a look!

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This figure is the second release in this year’s tweaked packaging. Since last month, I’ve been forced to ditch all the packages, except for the quarterly oversized figures, so the change doesn’t bother me as much. I am, still clipping out the backs so I can save the character art and bios. Speaking of bios, I was really curious to see how Mattel would approach Phantom Stranger’s, since the true nature of the character has never been decided. I often vacillate on which of his intriguing backstories I like the most. If I were in charge, I probably would have left the bio area for him blank, because he really is that much of an enigma. But at least they didn’t suggest he was Superman and Wonder Woman’s son from the future, so I’m happy.

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Phantom Stranger is a pretty obvious kitbash. I don’t mean, if you’ve been collecting DCUC for years you’ll probably recognize some parts. No, I mean, if you subbed Club Infinite Earths last year, you will easily recognize the entire body of this figure. It would be one thing to say Phantom Stranger reuses the repainted lower half of John Constantine, but it’s another to say he uses the exact same body as Black Mask, with only a re-sculpted turtleneck to stand out as new. Of course, if you’ve also been collecting DCUC for years than you’ll take note of the fedora used for Sandman and The Question, Martian Manhunter’s cape, and a pair of hands cribbed from The Spectre. In theory, everything should work well, but when I look at him, I can’t help but see all the individual components. I think I know why, so let’s talk…

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Coloring! I think the reason the kitbash elements stand out so much has a lot to do with the figure’s coloring. While character art for Phantom Stranger varies, I think it’s the fact that the blue cape and hat clash with the black suit, which makes the reuse on this figure stand out. I’ve seen plenty of art where his ensemble matches, and I think a more uniform appearance would make the borrowed parts look more cohesive. It doesn’t help that the cape is the same color as Manhunter’s and the fedora is the same color as The Question’s. I dare say, I think I would have liked the figure more in a suit that matched the hat and cape. Sure, all the parts suit the character, but as it stands, it still looks like the figure was cobbled together in someone’s basement.

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As for the new stuff… The head sculpt is good. I had my doubts about the wash used on the face for shadow effect, but it does look good on the figure in hand. Likewise, the chain used for his medallion looks less clunky and more appropriate in person. Oddly enough, the hands, while still recycled, garner special attention as really tying the figure together. It’s the hocus-pocus aspect of the fingers, which are really expressive and really suit the character beautifully. It probably helps that Spectre was released quite a while ago and so cribbing his hands doesn’t feel so much like double dipping.

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All things being equal, Phantom Stranger is a decent enough figure. He’s a character I wanted represented on my shelf, and in fairness the figure matches the source material quite well. As a kitbash released by the biggest toy company in the world, however, he just barely manages to scrape by. I’m usually perfectly fine with Mattel sharing parts. In fact, I usually enjoy seeing how they do it and I’m often impressed by how well they pull it off. Not so much here. A straight re-use of this much of a figure that we just got last year seems like it’s going just a bit too far and there’s not enough new here to justify a $30 figure. Is it just me? Maybe the prices on these guys are starting to get to me. Oh well. Chances are I will be subbing Matty’s Filmation line, so at least that will help defray some of the shipping costs. Either way, I have a feeling that next month’s CIE release will remedy the malaise of the last two months.

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