Thursday, March 22, 2012

History of the DC Universe Capt. Atom & Black Lightning by DC Direct

I bought six of these History of the DC Universe figures from Mike's Comics N' Stuff out in Anaheim about a year ago, opening them soon after, but never got around to photographing them all. Digging through the vault recently, I resolved to do that, so here we are  :D

Like a lot of DC Direct figures, these are based on art from a specific story or artist, in this case the great George Pérez. Published in 1985 to coincide with DC's 50th anniversary, Crisis on Infinite Earths and the following History of the DC Universe book were a testament to Pérez's incredible talent, featuring every single character DC owned.  Marv Wolfman radically restructured the DC Universe's continuity in Crisis, and though planned as an epilogue to be included in that very book, History was published separately in 1986 to summarize the DC Universe's "new history", or continuity. Crisis on Infinite Earths was a lot of fun, but I found History to be hubristic and pointless. Planned to have included more characters than any DC Direct line ever, featuring characters from a variety of teams and eras as well as some renegade solo characters, DC Direct discontinued after only 4 waves/16 figures.  

In Crisis on Infinite Earths, this earlier version of Captain Atom (Allen Adam) was retconned as an Earth-4 resident, and member of  the Sentinels of Justice along with fellow heroes Blue Beetle, Nightshade, and The Question. Allen Adam was working on an experimental rocket that accidentally launched into space,   exploding in the upper atmosphere. Miraculously, Capt. Adam was able to reform his body when he returned to the ground, gaining atomic abilities such a flight, superhuman strength & durability, and energy projection blasts from his hands.

From DC Wikia.Com: "Adam and his fellow Sentinels helped fight the Anti-Monitor and his minions during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Following the Crisis, Adam helped Superman and Firestorm on a mission before he was erased from existence, replaced by the New Earth version of Captain Atom."  Anything can happen in comics!

Like Black Lightning, Crisis on Infinite Earths was my first and admittedly sparse experience with any version of Captain Atom. I picked this Series 4 Captain Atom up mostly because his colors and design appealed to me, not because he's a favorite character. The hands on these look somewhat large, and the texture/colors look really plastic without any wash or drybrushing, but I like how these really look like a toy. They really have their own style. The eyes, face, and hair are beautifully decorated, and while simple, the chest insignia and belt are flawless- really clean. His forearm swivels aren't the cleanest, but it's not a glaring issue a step back. There's a vestigial seam around the shoulders that doesn't belong but doesn't look terrible, as well. I say he's FUN  :D

Like Michael Crawford said in his review on the Series 1 Batman from this line, while DC Direct added new points of articulation with this line, but none radically improving poseability: "...the pin knees, cut forearms, swivel chest and cut shins are pretty much a complete waste, since there's little you can do with them to improve or gain any new poses."  Fair enough. The swivel chest that barely moves is somewhat of an anomaly- it doesn't ruin the figure for me,  it seems pointless. He does have a pretty good ball-jointed head though! I've read somewhere (?) recently that DC Direct is contractually obligated to this limited articulation- I don't know if it's true, but I wonder if that has anything to do with Mattel's relationship with DC Comics. Regardless, I'm fond of this superhero fellow and his Silver Age looks!

Perhaps even better is this righteous Series 2 Black Lightning- his skin tone is beautiful, complimenting the great sculpt on his exposed chest, neck & face. Just great! His closely cropped Afro really gives him a 70's vibe to me, outfitted in his debut outfit here. The lightning pattern paint apps are pretty clean, and the white portions of his outfit and mask painted in a pearlescent finish- snazzy!

Black Lightning saved some citizens from a collapsing building and helped create enough electricity to push a teammates through a temporal barrier to ten billion years in the past to defeat the Anti-Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and given brief mention in association with the Outsiders in History of the DC Universe.

Created in 1977 by writer Tony Isabella & artist Trevor Von Eeden, Jefferson Pierce was one of the first major African American heroes appearing in DC Comics. Often operating as a member of Batman's team of Outsiders, Pierce was first portrayed as having no real powers, a belt that allowing him to generate a force field and project electrical bolts, but was retconned as a metahuman who can create intense electromagnetic fields used to stun opponents, stop projectiles, and achieve limited flight. The gold medal-winning Olympic decathlete once kick started Superman's heart after a near fatal dose of Kryptonite, and has become a formidable hand-to-hand combatant under Batman's tutelage.

I had a ball shooting these two action figures! Their relative simplicity done in old-school, broad strokes, and bright, comic colors appeal to me greatly, having grown up in the 70's & 80's. You won't get nearly as diverse posing options as with a DCUC, but that didn't stop me from taking too many pictures of them  :D

* See my posts on DC Direct Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Direct Monitor and Anti-Monitor, Battle Armor Lex Luthor, & Robot Brainiac!
* Visit the DC Direct Action Figure Archive!


  1. Utterly that 1970s jumpsuit look on Black Lightning! have a vault now?!

  2. My two favorite versions of these characters and i have been tempted in picking them up two as one the local comic book shops has these sitting on there pegs for a while now.

  3. Neat! I like that look for Captain Atom; very retro!

  4. These are very cool, I especially like Black Lightning!

  5. These are very cool, I especially like Black Lightning!

  6. Those two definitely go together with their old school look.