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Reign of the Supermen part 3: Play Arts Kai DC Variant Superman

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

It’s not too often we get requests here at the site…so while I’d planned to go through my expensive Superman figures in chronological order, well, that and I wanted to spotlight all the Play Arts Kai stuff I have in one entry (akin to how I did the two Crime Syndicate sets)...anyway, the point is REQUEST, WE GOT ONE!

We’re kinda excited about that!

So, holding true with the best laid plans of mice and men, we present Square Enix’s Play Arts Kai DC Comics Variant Superman.

Play Arts Kai in and of itself is a very interesting line of figures, typically running 8 to 9 inches in height and very well articulated, which is both a blessing and a curse (we’ll get to that later). The style of the figures runs a bit of a range. Their Robocop and Dark Knight stuff is very very realistic looking. On the other hand, their Man of Steel and Star Trek stuff are extremely anime influenced. This dichotomy, even though the franchises listed above are all movie based, in all honesty, confused the shit out of me (for example, now it looks a little weird to have my Man of Steel Superman face off against my Dark Knight Rises Batman. The DC Comics Variant Series falls into the latter camp of anime influence…very clearly and unabashedly so. And so far, most of the designs really work (although the upcoming Darkseid…well, let’s just say the Nuking the Cat first annual fund raiser will be dedicated to buying this Darkseid many, MANY sandwiches). The series started with Batman (but of course…sigh) then went to Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and Batgirl before we get to No. 6…Superman. Batgirl…gets her figure…before Superman. I feel a rant coming on…but let’s try to stay on task.

When I first started collecting Play Arts Kai stuff…there was much to worry about. See, my first purchases were Man of Steel Superman and Zod. Upon removing Zod from the box and testing out his joints…his right arm snapped off. Doing some internet research, I discovered that yeah…this really wasn’t anything new. Well, I’m pleased to say that it seems like Square Enix may have solved this problem as every DC Variant, Superman included, has had moving joints right out of the box (prior figures needed a boiling to get joints moving…oh, wait…Green Lantern needed to be boiled…but I think he’s the only one).

But high risk can yield high reward, and that’s exactly how I feel about Play Arts Kai figures in general. These things are loaded with articulation…and at no point does it interfere with the sculpt, virtually impossible to do in the 6-7 inch scale. That was my biggest complaint about Marvel Legends back in their heyday, sure, they had insane amounts of articulation…but they also looked like a plastic mass of joints. Granted, the armored look of most Play Arts Kai figures, including Superman here, is great for hiding joints and the perfect example of this is an area that well…usually doesn’t work out so well for most action figures…the crotch.

I’m talking about action figure crotches. Well, this’ll likely drive up the site traffic, won’t it? Probably not the sort of folks I’d like to have visiting…but better my website than my house.

Ahem, back on topic. Typically, companies that concern themselves mostly with sculpt tend to give us ye olde T-crotch. Legs move forward…and maybe a little backward. That’s it. (And you’re lucky to get that – read in old grandpa voice) This ends up being the old DC Direct’s solution (but DC Collectibles also still does it at times…grrr…). Mattel’s DCU Classics achieved lateral leg movement sacrificing some of the solidity of the sculpt…and some of the male characters manhood (eeeeezer he has a beeeeg one or he has nozing! – Alexander Salkind on the size of Superman’s codpiece for Superman: The Movie) while Marvel Legends solution of the ball hips…well…made the figures look like their balls were in their hips (gotta at least give ‘em truth in advertising though!). Play Arts Kai actually solved this by leaving the hip articulation as an interior mechanism with ratcheting joints covered by a soft plastic codpiece. And for the most part it works out fantastically well. The only downside? Well, it’s one men would understand. You ever have one of those days where you’re feeling good, supported…then something happens and as much as you shift, pull, push, re-adjust and so forth…it just doesn’t feel right? Yeah, your favorite DC heroes can now share that experience with you.

Since I mentioned the ratcheting, yes, most of the joints ratchet…helping you to get some pretty dynamic poses (none of which I’ve done here…for reasons I’ll go into in a bit). So, joints: neck (twice, one is the standard neck to head but also neck to body is articulated too), shoulders (three times! Around, out and back/forward. So now I can make Superman crush Batman’s head if I wanted to. You know…just sayin’…) elbows, wrists, hips, double knees, ankles and then there’s usually a joint mid-foot, again, mainly there to aid in dynamic posing (or helping your figures periodically fall down on their faces).

Then there’s the accessories. Each figure includes a stand that can be used

either to just help the figure stand (which any of the figures with high heels need) or as a flight stand. For just the standing, yes, these stands work great. For flight stuff, well, I tried it here with Superman…and first I broke it. The second stand, I got it to work…but man did Supes weeble and wobble…and I got more and more nervous! So, yeah, no dynamic flight pics for you! Superman does have an accessory that is a first for the series…a cloth cape! And it is made entirely of Awesome Sauce. The issue and benefit of the heavy plastic capes (Superman comes with one of those too) is that they serve as a third leg. But if Superman was wobbling uncontrollably with his cloth cape, pretty sure I’d have broken the stand had I used the plastic one and that’s just one example how the heavy plastic cape could limit posing. The cloth cape is edged with wire so it still proves to be poseable and can still provide the support of the “third leg”. But honestly, I just loved the look of it…and it makes the figure feel so much lighter, which for some reason is a plus for me.

Ultimately, you get what you pay for. Yes, the price is high. $90. That can be a lot to gulp down at once…and since they release these guys in pairs most of the time…even more so. But you get what you pay for…especially now that, whatever they’ve changed, the joints have become less and less of an issue with regards to breakage. In addition, it gives you a cool little peek at what would happen if DC had taken the Marvel route and gone anime with their characters (referring to the 4 series and 2 OVAs Mad House did for Marvel). In fact…yeah…make this happen Warners. I’d pay money to see these guys animated!

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