FW Presents: Those Wonderful Toys Ep.12

Wonderful Toys is back, just in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Batman with a look at the original Toy Biz action figure line. Plus the Batmania that surrounded it all, and Chris’ collector origin!

Be sure to check out the anniversary coverage of Batman '89 on 13th Dimension, including Chris' article on the Top 13 Batman Toys from that year! www.13thdimension.com

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Clip credits:

Clips from Batman directed by Tim Burton, music by Danny Elfman and Prince

Audio clip from Spaceballs and Batman: The Animated Series

“Toyland” by Doris Day

17 responses to “FW Presents: Those Wonderful Toys Ep.12

  1. There’s so much to say about this subject that I almost don’t know where to start. I guess I’ll just go through a few quick notes as they occur to me…

    – I still have my original Batman and Joker figures from this line. I don’t have a single clue how or why they lasted this long when so many of my other toys didn’t.

    – I was always super-annoyed (like really, fist-shaking annoyed) by Joker’s head. What the hell is with that double-split curl going outwards from each other! First of all, that’s the opposite of what Jack Nicholson’s VERY FAMOUS hairline looks like. Second, NOBODY’s hair looks like that. Try to get your hair to do that; it’s ridiculous. And I was eight years old when I got that toy and I’m all like what is this bull$#@%?!! Thank got the next Batman toy line had a face that looked more like Nicholson’s (except his suit was maroon and pink–$#$%#%#!!!).

    – I probably played with that Batcave play set more than almost any other toy I ever owned. Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t use it as the Batcave. In fact, partly by accident and partly on purpose, I stripped all the computer stuff, all the railings, everything so that I was just left with this hunk of rocky gray plastic. And that became a setting for countless G.I. Joe adventures. I had the “cave” upright, upside down, on its side, reversed, every which way to give me different set ups with rocks and a pit or tunnel. I had my Long Range Recon Patrol Joes hiding from Cobra there. I had vehicle chases end on those rocks in glorious crashes and last ditch rescues. I got more mileage out of the Batcave, bereft of any Bat-ness, than with Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Masters of the Universe action combined.

    – For years my memories played tricks on me and I thought I had the Super Powers Penguin, Riddler, and Mister Freeze action figures before finally realizing/remembering they were actually the crappy versions from the Toy Biz line that came out in ’90.

    – Bob the Goon is evidence that while Batman is definitely a comic book movie, it maybe didn’t lend it self so much to a toy line.

    – I had heard that there was an alternate Batman head sculpt but never saw it before I checked out the image gallery!

    There’s probably more I could say that I’m forgetting. Anyway, it’s always a joy to hear you talking about toys, Chris! Great episode! Don’t make us wait so long before doing another one of these.

    1. – The Toy Biz figures look chintzy, but they are durable. My Batman’s Batrope gimmick still works!

      – Good point on the hairline, It’s humanly impossible, and the opposite of movie accurate! And I liked the Dark Knight Collection Joker, but yeah, whoever decided on the colors was high or something.

      – That’s really cool about the Batcave! I can totally see that. I kind of did the same thing with the Secret Wars Tower of Doom playset. It was a Cobra fortress, Darkseid’s HQ, etc. I rarely used it for Marvel play.

      – The Penguin and Mr. Freeze are VERY close to their SP counterparts. The cheaper looking plastic and paint are the only real visual giveaways. Totally understandable. And it’s weird to think Kenner DIDN’T make a Riddler (I’m not counting the South American Green Lantern repaint).

      – I guess further evidence is provided by Kenner later releasing throngs of Batmen, two Jokers, and no one else from the movie.

      – I didn’t know of the other heads until looking at an issue of Tomart’s Action Figure Guide or something like that. Somewhere along the way I picked up the squared jaw one cheap.

      Thanks for listening, and commenting! I hope to get a TWT in more often, but then there’s that Knightfall show to consider too…;-)


  2. This episode was so fun! All the TWTs are, but I loved all the extra color you gave it (ironic, considering how all the color got stripped out of Batman via the movie).

    While I was not toy collecting at the time, the Batman movie was so huge at the time I definitely had interest in the figures. But I remember being disappointed by how dull the line was, the dodgy card art, etc. In 1990 I was at the main FAO Schwarz store in NYC and they had a table of Batman movie toys. I checked it out, only to find all they had was…Bob The Goon. SIGH

    Fun Fact: This was the only podcast I had actually downloaded to my phone when I flew to California few days ago. So while my phone was on Airplane Mode, it was pretty much the only audio content I had available to listen to, So I played it, but since my flight was so early (6am), I promptly fell asleep after the first ten minutes or so. I then went back, started over, and promptly fell asleep again! I tried listening to it again on the way back from California, but this time the flight was a red eye, so I had the exact same problem!

    This is not a comment on how entertaining the show was, rather how exhausted I was each time I tried to listen. Consequently, I ended up listening to the first 10-15 minutes about 5 times, so I now have it committed to memory.

    Thanks for the episode Chris!

    1. Nice to know my droning on about toys is conducive to sleep! 😉

      Bob the Goon was welcomed into the Pegwarmers Club by Secret Wars Kang. They’re still there, hanging out with Constable Xuvio (sp) from The Force Awakens.


  3. Thanks, Chris. This episode brought back a lot of fond memories of the Batmania that surrounded the movie. I still remember excitedly explaining to my mom, an avid fan of the 60s TV series, how this movie version of Batman was going to be a lot darker (i.e., cooler) than the one she remembered. What can I say, I was a teenager at the time.

    For reasons that are lost in the mists of time, I never bought any of the Toy Biz line, but I definitely remember seeing them on the shelves. The background information you provided on these figures was fascinating, as usual.

    1. Thanks Brian! I should have mentioned that the 60s show got a shot in the arm from all of this. Adam and Burt recorded new bumpers for the show in syndication (although I never saw them in my area) and The Family Channel (formerly the Christian Broadcasting Network, later ABC Family, now FreeForm) made a big push for the show, even airing a Batman documentary they produced! I was at my lowest ebb with the show at this point, but still enjoyed watching it, even if I considered it my “kooky uncle I still loved, but was slightly embarrassed by” at the time.


  4. Well done on a great episode! This particular one really resonated with me as I was deep into Batmania when it hit. It was the first movie I remember asking to stand in line for opening night (right from school to the lineup!). And I fell hard. So, of course, I had to have all the toys. I remember getting Batman (that winch belt worked great), Joker (I used his spitting flower once, I think?) and Bob the Goon (who could kick Batman in the crotch so I thought that was hilarious). I was so desperate for more figures from this line, I remember getting excited when, after a while, they had the “extended universe” figures of Robin and Riddler in the same gold packaging. Not knowing too much about it, how many other figures did ToyBiz make that in the same gold packaging?
    Anyways, I was too naive to really understand why my SuperPowers were much better figures than the ToyBiz line but I had tons of fun with that Bat belt. Thanks again for a great trip down memory lane and I’m looking forward to what toys get covered next. I’ll pull out my Crystar Warriors in anticipation……..

    1. Thanks for listening Mike!

      In their DC Comics Super Heroes line, Toy Biz released:
      Wonder Woman
      Lex Luthor (which I covered on TWT episode 2)
      Mr. Freeze

      In the horrible series 2 (not based on the Super Powers line)
      Flash (two different versions, one with a pull back “speed cloud” to simulate the dust he left in his wake)
      Green Lantern
      Aquaman (one with all green arms)

      All had the same gold front, although the backs of Series 2 dropped the Gotham rooftop scene for generic blue backgrounds.

      I never had Crystar, so sorry, I probably won’t cover that one. I did think they looked cool, I just never pulled the trigger. But hopefully more toy shows to come!


      1. Thanks for the listings, I will check those out! I already forgot about that Lex Luthor (and TWT ep.2, oops) and Superman. I had them both, as well. I remember really liking the kryptonite ring pushing over Superman (I was easily amused by magnets) but thinking Lex was one of the stupider action figures that I had. I mean, if I had Superman, I needed to get Lex to fight, right? But all Lex does is punch himself in the head? I guess Supes can fight Skeletor or someone more menacing…….

  5. Thanks for the show, Chris. Like you, I remember the dearth of Super Hero merchandise prior to the release of the 1989 Batman movie. Of course, I collected the Super Powers and Secret Wars figures. (Hey, I had a Kang. Was mine the only one that sold?) I bought Batman and (believe it or not) Bob the Goon. I passed on the Joker because he was so inferior to the Super Powers figure. The Batman figure didn’t look that great, but, at that time, we didn’t have a lot of choices. I think the only other movie merchandising I bought, other than some books and the comics adaptation, was the ERTL Batmobile.

    Since there wasn’t much Batman merch at the time, I thought the Applause Batman that came out in 1989 was pretty nice.


    A bit of my collecting history. Prior to the release of Dark Knight Returns (which I hated), I was the only member of our little cadre of nerds that read DC. I took a lot of chiding about Batman being my favorite character, so I was an outcast among the outcasts. I really didn’t know how to react during my senior year in high school when everyone started wearing Batman T-shirts in anticipation of the movie.

    Unfortunately, the timing of 1989 Bat-mania was bad for me. The movie came out between my high school graduation and when I started college. When the flood of Batman merchandising started, I couldn’t afford to buy any.

    Oh, I don’t remember if I got the Hamilton Batman for Christmas during my senior year of high school or my first year of college. I think it was high school. It is a very nice figure and is still one of my favorites.

    1. I have the blue/gray Hamilton Batman, which I bought in 89. I got Robin a few years later, and the Joker about a decade or so ago. I’ve only seen the black “movie-style” Batman once in the wild, so nice get! The comic ones, at least, were sculpted by Tim Bruckner, who would go on to do a lot of work for DC Direct/Collectibles.

      Sorry to hear you go excluded from “the nerd group”. That’s pretty rough. I guess you showed them in 1989!


      1. I may have misspoke. I was in the cadre of nerds, but I was just the butt of jokes because I read DC. Hard to believe that a bunch of junior high guys didn’t want to read the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans, but I never could get those Marvel only guys to give it a try.

        I think I got the Hamilton Batman for Christmas 1988 and the Black suited Batman for Christmas 1989, but don’t quote me on that.

        I really do enjoy your insights and hope you’ll do more toy shows. I’m looking forward to reading your article at 13th Dimension.

        1. Sounds like your friends were true “Marvel Zombies”. I heard of this as a kid, but never knew anyone who was TOTALLY Marvel, or DC for that matter.

          The Hamilton comic Batman was marked 1988, so you may very well have! I didn’t see it until spring ’89, but mileage may vary. Thanks again for listening, and commenting!


  6. This was fun and informative as usual, Chris. Your enthusiasm is infectious and got me thinking about my own history with these figures.

    During Batmania, I sent away for the Warner Brothers catalogue you mentioned on the show. (That image of Heather Langenkamp on the bicycle is forever etched into my brain.) It was neat to get that first look at the movie toys, particularly the Batcave. For some reason, I remember there not being enough Batman figures to meet demand at first, but plenty of Joker and Bob. I was able to finally find Bats during the annual holiday vacation to Augusta, Georgia and he stayed on the card for a bit. He was eventually freed after purchasing the Toy Biz Marvel figures the following year. Ended up buying all of Toy Biz’s DC figures since Kenner Super Powers stuff was skyrocketing in price—talk about buyer’s remorse. Didn’t buy any vehicles or that cool Batcave because my parents frowned on a teenager buying toys (figures could be smuggled in pretty easily via my backpack).

    Toy Biz Batman was used for my first attempt at customizing. Tried to make a Dark Knight Returns Batman using model putty and enamel paint. The key word there is “tried.” The paint never dried and it looked like a first grader’s clay ashtray with legs. Needless to say, it did not survive the purge when I moved in with Former Mrs. Iced De #1.

    1. “first grader’s clay ashtray with leg”… now that’s funny. My early customs look like that too. In fact, I took the Dark Knight Collection Bruce Wayne and made a Reign of the Supermen Superboy figure. I also took an extra Super Powers Superman and gave him a mullet…er…long hair (sorry Michael Bailey). Both of them are pretty rough looking to me nowadays. But they remain.

      Nice to know I wasn’t the only who admired Mrs. Langenkamp from that catalog. And yes folks, Cindy is aware of this crush.


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