This review is a bit different. Not only are we looking at an action figure from a toy line we’ve never talked about here before, but my friend Pat is also joining us. Pt is one of my oldest, dearest friends and we’ve undertaken many regrettable projects together. Here is our latest.
If you like both Pat and myself, know that we both contributed to the TMUK/Toy-Fu Transformers Action Masters Zine I wrote about in my last post. Pat’s contribution to the zine is a comic, and if anything else included in that zine makes me laugh that hard, I promise I will literally eat my hat and then never fulfill that promise.
Let’s talk about some old Kenner Batman toys! Today we’re going on at length about Kenner’s 1992 Turbojet Batman from the Batman: The Animated Series line.
1992 Turbojet Batman and Kenner’s 90s DC Comics Toys
Dustin: I never had too many DC toys as a kid. I had Batman, Robin, Joker, Superman, and the Batmobile from the 1989 Toy Biz line (I imagine I got them closer to 1990), which I loved. That grappling hook belt on Batman is still a great gimmick. A couple years later, I got Bruce Wayne from the Batman Returns line. I loved that figure a lot, and it’s probably why I’m still obsessed with “secret identity” action figures. But, for me, that was it for DC toys until I started collecting JLU in the mid-00s.
Pat, what was your relationship with the Kenner Batman stuff as a kid? What did you have? Did you like them?
Pat: My relationship with Kenner’s Bat-products almost entirely begins and ends with Batman Returns. I had a variety of different Batmen in various states of cruel indignity, including one whose bat-ears I had snipped off with scissors in an attempt to turn them into some other character of unknown, earless identity. That was my first experience making a custom figure, and the result was a Batman toy that looked like its ears had been cut off with scissors and the remaining nubs incompetently semi-filed-down. I had the same Quick Change Bruce Wayne figure as you, Dustin, and I’ve privately told you the story of how the cowl/chest/cape component of it was accidentally flushed down the toilet. Your readers will have to imagine what happened there.
By the time Kenner’s Bat-merchandise had rolled over into a focus on Batman: The Animated Series, the Joel Schumacher Bat-movies, and the Legends of (Batman/the Dark Knight) deluxe figures, I had mostly moved on, to the Toy Biz X-Men and, equally importantly, X-Force line, and other Marvel stuff in general. My Batman-with-his-ears-clipped-off had been replaced in my heart by Venom-with-all-of-his-fingers-broken-off. When I was a kid, Marvel comics were my first choice, and DC was seen as a distinctly “lesser” option. (I’ve since significantly revised this opinion of the early-90s comics from both companies.) Between the Marvel characters, the X-Men line, expensive Generation 2 Transformers, and then come 1995, the Star Wars: Power of the Force line, Batman never really stuck around in my repertoire of “Mom, buy me this!”
Dustin: When it came to superheroes and comics, I was more into Marvel as a kid, too. I got some of the early Toy Biz Marvel Heroes and X-Men figures around the same time as those Toy Biz DC figures and used them way more. My Grandfather really liked the old 60s Batman TV show, but he was more into Marvel, too. He got me into Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Captain America, etc. He even wrapped birthday presents in Fantastic Four wrapping paper! By the time the X-Men cartoon rolled around, I was all-in on Marvel and DC got largely forgotten. I rarely bought any DC Comics, aside from a few random issues of 90s Green Lantern or whatever.
My Batman Returns figure had his cowl and armor chewed up by one of our dogs, which also sealed that figure’s fate. Before that, I often used his cape and cowl on random GI Joe figures.
But I was really enamored with Toy Biz’s X-Men and X-Force, just like you were. I also happily dipped into Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, and whatever else they did.
Kenner’s Batman toys were happily chugging along the entire time, of course. I liked Batman: The Animated Series well enough at the time (it took me until the early 00s to really appreciate it, though… I think I just really didn’t “get” the art style and more mature storytelling, because I was a square-ass kid) and probably watched Batman Forever a dozen times. But I still wasn’t really interested in the toys?
Of course, I’d still look at Total Justice and Legends of the Dark Batknight toys in catalogs and at stores. But, at that time, Batman could not compete with Storm and Cyclops.
Batman Forever came out in 1995, and I know it was a big movie for both of us. You had a few of those toys, right? Like Two-Face? What was your relationship with that movie and its merchandise? Because at that time, Kenner’s Star Wars line was big for both of us.
Pat: I think by the mid-90s, I had settled into a similar rhythm as you as far as choosing which figures to go for: I didn’t want every figure issued in a line, I didn’t need fifteen Wolverines or Luke Skywalkers, but I did want one of every character I considered “important” to building a little play-world that reflected the media I was gorging on. So I only had a few Batman Forever figures: Two-Face, Quick Change Bruce Wayne, and Quick Change Dick Grayson. I didn’t have a Jim Carrey Riddler, because I had a Legends of Batman Riddler from the variant line exclusive to the Warner Bros. Store, which had different packaging and paint decos. My Riddler was definitely jabbing syringes of Bane’s Venom steroids into his butt-cheeks regularly compared to the other three.
That all said, I loved Batman Forever then, and I still love Batman Forever now. It’s the 1960s Adam West show filtered through Tom of Finland and Wax Trax! Records, and it knew how ridiculous it was from the outset. As a child, I didn’t really have an understanding of that, but I did respond more instinctively to the movie’s desire to have FUN. (There’s a scene where they’re at the circus, and Val Kilmer is talking to Nicole Kidman, and in every one of those shots, watch Pat Hingle’s Commissioner Gordon behind them. He clearly just got told “pretend you’re watching a really amazing circus show of some kind,” and words don’t do his acting choices justice.) I really don’t have time for self-serious, verging-on-solipsistic superhero stories like the Nolan trilogy anymore.
The important part of all of this is that Two-Face (whose toy did not look very much like Tommy Lee Jones) came with an absolutely gigantic gun that stood on two legs, and had a more normal pistol molded into his hand anyway, and that Quick Change Dick Grayson’s heat-sensitive mask on/mask off gimmick just made him look like a toy whose plastic was discoloring in new and innovative ways with age. Also, Quick Change Bruce Wayne’s Batman costume was like “what if Master Chief had giant arm scimitars and was also Batman.”
As far as TAS, I’m with you there. I watched the show when it was on and I happened to be in front of the TV, but it wasn’t appointment viewing. And the toys seemed functional and plain compared to X-Men figures that were becoming more and more musclebound with each successive wave. I couldn’t really truck with action figures who didn’t have either elbow/knee articulation or their arms and legs permanently bent into strange but dynamic poses.
Dustin: I’m right there with you on Batman Forever. It was just such a fun ride. It was a go-to watch at sleepovers– even friends with super religious parents were okay with it. And that soundtrack was a game changer for me, too. Seal was obviously the big one, but that CD was the first time I heard Mazzy Star, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, and Sunny Day Real Estate. It’s also got the only U2 song I actually like on it. But, I ended up going through a phase where I disowned both Batman Forever and Batman and Robin because they weren’t “dark” or “real” enough. Once I started viewing them through an Adam West Batman lens, though, I started loving them again.
And yeah, Kenner’s DC figures were night and day. On the one hand, you had crazy pre-posed muscle people in Total Justice, and on the other hand you had straightforward, utilitarian figures like the BTAS line.
My big problem, and why I never got into them, was you’d never just find a normal Batman at the store. They were all in wild colors with crazy accessories. I just wanted a regular Batman and never found one. These days, the “plain” Batman from the BTAS line (Combat Belt Batman) goes for $50-$100, and I’m not about to pay that for a 5 POA Kenner figure.
With X-Men, you could find a normal Wolverine and Cyclops. X-Men and X-Force also gave you plenty of supporting characters, which the Batman lines did not. You always got Batman, Robin, and a villain you’d hardly ever see in stores. With the Marvel stuff, you had a huge, colorful cast you could pull from.
Another point you raised– from my time in high school and onward for many years, I had a firm rule. I only needed one version of each character. No variants, no repaints. Well, that went out the fucking window sometime in the late 00s. My life would be very different if I still observed that rule. It was probably a very good rule.
What did you think of all the crazy variants? How did you pick your “one” version of Batman or Wolverine? And how important were the supporting characters to you?
Pat: I think once I reached the stage in my life where I could admit that Tool records aren’t the masterpieces that teenage me so desperately insisted they were, the spell of “ultra dark and serious, WHAT IF BRUCE WAYNE IS THE MASK AND BATMAN IS WHO HE REALLY IS” superhero stories was broken. Over a decade later I still think back regularly to a guy in college who, when the class was going around the room and naming their favorite movies, said The Dark Knight because Heath Ledger’s Joker “had so much psychology” with no further explanation.
I actually do have a plain-Jane Batman that our mutual friend David gave me when we convened upon your old apartment for a week-long
bender hang-out session way back in 2008. I have no idea what line it’s from. I just know that it’s a regular-ass Batman in the animated style, with a rubber cape. I’d be happy to send it your way if you wanted, and I’d only charge you $49-$99 instead of ridiculous eBay $50-$100 prices.
The variant thing only really bugged me once I got old enough to take myself too seriously and do things like listen to Tool records. When I was a kid, it wasn’t so much a point of frustration as just “oh, well, I don’t want Arctic Mint Wolverine or Marine Safety Life Vest Cable, so maybe there’s something cool on the Star Trek pegs instead.” The multiple Batman Returns figures I had were ALL Batman: Gold Batman, Silver Quilted Batman, Gray and White Dazzle Camo Batman, and so on. Though I suppose my idea to cut Silver Quilted Batman’s ears off came from wanting SOME kind of different character.
Once I got to that “actually, it’s good that Undertow ends with a four-hour-long track of crickets chirping and that Ænima has skits” point, though, it became about fidelity and congruence. I was annoyed that X-Men: Water Whatever Wolverine was ALMOST totally comic-accurate except that he had the wrong shoulder pads, and that the totally comic-accurate Marvel vs. Capcom Wolverine would look completely out of step with the rest of the team. Or the Spider-Man: Electric Factory Or Something line that had the first Toy Biz Captain America in years… whose shield was this goofy-looking light-up hockey puck, not Captain America’s shield.
I think that kind of thing is one of the reasons I really stopped collecting figures with any seriousness in 1998 or 1999. I don’t really remember a proper stopping point, so much as my interests just gradually moving elsewhere, and the disconnect between the figures, which I liked, and the comics, which I loved, definitely had an effect… and so many Batmen just eventually made me bored. Money spent on action figures became money I couldn’t spend on used CDs or the new issue of SPIN. Besides, I had already been through Wizard lying to me about how much all of my comic books would be worth for most of the 1990s, so I think some part of me knew, deep down, not to let ToyFare lead me right back down that road — but others were gleefully hitting the on-ramps, which made any “first Zsasz ever in the line!” type toy harder to acquire, because scalpers and speculators were snapping up everything that wasn’t Bronco Bustin’ Spider-Man, Questionable Balloon Usage Batman, or Tab Cola Enjoying Wolverine variations.
Dustin: Thank you for explaining Tool to me. I was definitely more in Britney Spears’ camp when it came to their famous early 00s feud– I don’t think the international grindcore community has ever been as divided as it was then.
I’ve probably told you this story before, but in 2001 my crappy high school punk band was asked to play at the local CD store for the release of Tool’s album Lateralus. It was one of the worst shows we ever played, which is saying something. That was also our second guitarist’s last show before his mom made him quit the band. Anyway, the Tool audience was not excited about our sloppy 3-chord punk, to say the least. As one last grand gesture before we ended, I announced our last song was a Tool cover and we’d worked very hard on it just for the audience. People got visibly excited and actually clapped. They were on our side, finally! And then our Tool cover was just a 7 minute version of “Louie Louie.”
Toy Biz very often missed the mark in strange ways, just like you said. The X-Men Water Wars and Light Up Weapon waves were very good overall and came so close to releasing perfect versions of core characters, but they’d usually do just one aggravating thing. I also needed a new Captain America when that Spider-Man wave came out, but I skipped that figure precisely because of the dorky shield you mentioned.
I think we’ve gone on long enough in this section, so we’ll get to the review here pretty directly. Is there anything else you want to say and/or add about Kenner’s wild run of DC toys from the 1990s?
Pat: Only that the best Kenner Bat-toy is Onyx Primal, and that friends don’t let friends get really into Tool.
1992 Turbojet Batman Review
Dustin: We picked this figure to review because you had it as a kid, Pat. That gives us some extra context– namely, how you saw it at the time. I have no childhood experience with any BTAS figures, so that’s one of the main reasons I wanted you to do this.
The only DC line I’ve actively pursued (other than Lego) is the older JLU line, which was done in a similar size and style to this figure and the rest of this series from Kenner. But those figures, as cool as they could sometimes be, were lazy. I loved the look, style, and character selection, but the entire line was just a few bodies repainted a thousand times, sometimes with new heads. The figures’ limbs were gummy and they often couldn’t stand up– even with their included figure stands. Many JLU toys were sold in 3 packs, which were inexpensive, but lacked accessories entirely. Who wants a Green Arrow without his bow or a Hawkgirl without her mace? I think both kids and collectors care about those things.
My other foray into DC toys was brief– in 2014 or so, I bought four of the DC Collectibles/DC Direct Batman Animated figures. Two of them broke right out of the package. So I never bought any more of those. They are dead to me.
This figure, which was released in 1992, is the opposite of all of those negatives. It’s solid and sturdy. It stands just fine, even wearing its jetpack. The included accessories are substantial, thoughtful, and make sense for the character.
What do you think of this toy’s overall form and function? How sturdy do you remember it being, and did it ever frustrate you?
Pat: Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if Turbojet Batman was mine or my younger brother’s, though at a certain point that dividing line becomes pretty immaterial. There were some toys that were definitely and pointedly mine, and some toys that were definitely and pointedly his, and between the two was a demilitarized zone of assorted guys, trucks, and dinosaurs. This one was certainly in that space, because I don’t remember BUYING it (read: “asking my parents to buy it FOR me”) so much as just HAVING it. The big art-deco rocket pack sticks out in my memory.
But I’m with you on the overall DCAU thoughts. In the 90s, those toys seemed out of step with what was “cool” or, if not cool, at least trend-chasing. They weren’t anything more special than just… guys, with various big accessories. My main memories of the toy are, quite honestly, being frustrated that the rocket pack didn’t fit onto other figures that I liked better.
Dustin: So, that rocket pack fitting onto other figures is kind of an interesting thing to bring up. In my (admittedly limited experience), this rocket pack fits pretty well onto other Batman versions from this toy line. I wasn’t expecting that and I thought it was cool. It’s not advertised as a play feature with these toys, but the accessories can be swapped around and interchanged much more easily than I thought. I’m 100% sure this rocket pack wouldn’t work super well on a much thiccer Val Kilmer Batman, Total Justice figure, or Moon Olympics Wolverine, though. But the various rocket packs and disc shooting suits or armor that come with the few BTAS figures I have seem like they have a high level of interchangeability.
So, let’s talk about the design itself. It’s a basic Batman in show accurate colors wearing a shiny silver harness. The harness makes the rocket pack more believable. The rocket pack itself, as you mentioned, has that fantastic Art Deco Goth (Dark Deco, as the creators call it) aesthetic that BTAS made famous. It fits in beautifully with the look and feel of the show.
To me, this is probably the most “practical” of the Batman variants in this toy line. It’s a regular-ass Batman wearing his normal crimestopper pajamas and fetish hood, but also wearing a jetpack harness. This figure came out in the toy line’s first wave, so they weren’t fucking around with the crazier colors and variants quite yet.
In a toy line where the normal, vanilla Batman now costs $49-$99 Pat Dollars, this works for me as just the “normal” Batman. It’s not exact, but it’ll do. It looks great with the rocket pack and looks good even without it.
What do you think of the overall design? As a kid, obviously either you or your brother thought it was cool enough to have. What do you think of it now?
Pat: Oh, I wasn’t trying to fit the rocket pack on other Batman figures. I was trying to put it on Destro or a Stormtrooper or whatever. Too big for those guys, too small for the Toy Biz Marvel scale, there was just no winning. Because you’re right, it 100% didn’t work.
Looking back at the design of Turbojet Batman now, I’m always tempted to think of him as “Exoskeleton Batman” — like, this is Batman from Kingdom Come, wearing the full-body support system that Bruce Wayne needed to get around, minus the Darth Vader-inspired neck brace. It does pass for Normal-Enough Batman. Maybe Special Missions Batman, with web gear before it was cool to be a Tier One Operator. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the correct wraparound sunglasses to truly complete the Operator Batman look.
Dustin: He’d also need a backwards baseball cap with bat ears on it. I am fairly certain this already exists and is worn by a majority of Twitch streamers.
I kind of gave the exoskeleton thing a passing thought, as well. If I had this figure as a kid, I think that’s how I would have used it.
Speaking of use, it’s time to talk about articulation. This figure has the famous Kenner 5 points of articulation– the neck, the shoulders, and the hips. And that’s it. It’s sturdy and the joints move just fine, but there are only five of them. As a sheer toy, it works pretty well in that regard. But, like you mentioned way earlier, I always preferred toys with more articulation as a kid. I wanted knee and elbow joints. GI Joe was beloved to me because of the articulation, as was Exosquad. Even Playmates Star Trek toys and Lego minifigures had better-than-average articulation for the time. This toy’s articulation is average or below-average for the time.
I’ve been around the block with “super articulated” figures like Marvel Legends and SH Figuarts. Sometimes those figures are just too fiddly and too hard to play with. I enjoy them less now as “super articulation” lost its novelty value– it’s no longer what I seek out. But I do like some articulation, and there’s a sweet spot– I think vintage ARAH GI Joe and the G2/Beast-Era Transformers figures are that spot for me. I definitely didn’t get any dynamic poses out of this guy for photographs. I wish he moved a little bit more.
People still buy new 5POA figures and usually overpay for them, though. So I think this kind of thing still has its place.
What are your thoughts?
Pat: When I was a kid, I liked trying to stage elaborate dioramas with my figures. Suffice it to say, pretty much all of the Kenner Batman figures — whether from the movies or from the cartoon — were absolutely useless for this, unless you wanted an epic tableau of people standing with their arms out, standing with their arms up, or sitting with their legs straight out and their arms up. G.I. Joe was the best for this, but even if the Marvel figures didn’t have TOO MUCH more articulation than the Bat-line, at least they were often molded in more exciting poses, which was SOMETHING to work with, no matter how imperfect.
These days, what few toys I have sit on a shelf where their primary function is to look cool and hopefully be out of reach of my cat. Between the lack of articulation for “cool poses” and the fact that the Batman figures were usually pretty top-heavy (apparently the Batcave’s gym only has chest and arm machines), they once again fail the test for me, because I can only imagine the slightest vibration sending Turbojet Batman Turbojetting from a high shelf to the floor and then being mauled by a tabby.
No offense to anyone whose play pattern that describes.
Dustin: Fun Fact: World Renowned Artist Bruce Timm was once arrested for threatening a leg press machine with a loaded handgun.
Surprisingly, this Batman figure did not come with a loaded handgun as an accessory. Remember that Batman Game Boy game where you just jump around and shoot dudes with a gun? I’m not sure how well it’s remembered, but I played it as a child. I imagine these days it’s only played via emulation by people who helped to crowdfund “Release the Snyder Cut” billboards.
Instead of a handgun, Turbojet Batman comes with a missile launcher. It’s a simple thing that clips onto either arm and fires a yellow missile (a later variant came with a grey missile). The launcher can also clip securely onto the back of the rocket pack. You can imagine the missile itself is only used as an anti-vehicle thing, or that it’s some kind of stun/sonic/concussion projectile. If I don’t like the idea of 90s GI Joes shooting Cobra troops with rocket launchers, I sure as shit don’t like the idea of Batman shooting the Riddler with a Regular-Ass Missile.
He also comes with a fantastic art deco rocket pack that clips onto his waist. The jetpack’s thrusters can move into various positions, but they are on an axle so they move together instead of individually. The rocket pack’s helmet can swing up or down, and fits nicely over Batman’s face. The clear plastic looks very nice and I love the little Rocketeer fin.
Finally, he comes with a cape. This is a very nice cape, and is his best accessory. It clips onto his neck securely, like the old Toy Biz DC or Kenner Super Powers capes. I really miss this exact kind of cape. It has natural folds at either side, so it can either hand dramatically over his back or drape moodily over his shoulders. He can wear the cape and the rocket pack at the same time, but since the jetpack’s waist clip might ruffle the cape, I don’t use them together. For being 28 years old, this cape has held up surprisingly well. All superhero figures should have exactly this kind of cape.
Pat, please tell me what you think about Batman capes and Batman ICBM launchers.
Pat: I didn’t have a Game Boy as a kid until my brother and I specifically got ones to play Pokemon Red/Blue, so I’m going to have to take your word for it about the game. That said, if any one phrase sums up the core values of Batman to me, it’s “shooting people, with a gun.” We all know the familiar story of young Bruce Wayne witnessing his parents being gunned down by a humble mugger who was just trying to put food in front of his family, and as that young boy kneeled down in the puddles of blood dotted with stray pearls from a broken necklace, he thought: “This OWNS.”
I’m with you on the capes. On smaller figures like the Kenner Batman ones, the size of the plastic clip made it look like he was wearing both a cape AND a travel neck pillow, but that’s still preferable to molded plastic capes, especially molded plastic capes that are designed to be fluttering dramatically in the wind. Remember that 3.75” Marvel line? The Sentry toy they did had a side-splayed cape that was, like, as heavy as the figure was. Between that, his torso being so ridiculously over-muscled that his arms couldn’t move right, and the paint apps giving the Sentry his classic, fan-beloved “constantly surprised and also wearing lipstick” look, that might be one of my least favorite toys ever made.
Next to that, I can cut Bruce a break if he wants to fire a couple missiles at the Riddler because Riddler’s doing his 17th DUI. Let’s be honest, as fun as it is to read those adventures as outside observers, actually dealing with the Riddler in person would be really annoying.
Dustin: I also don’t care for that Sentry toy. I think I swapped the head from an Ultimate Thor or something onto him, but that did not fix the cape.
Alright, it’s time to wrap this up. In the context of the Kenner-style DCAU toys (and I’m filing the later Hasbro and Mattel stuff in this category, too) this is a great figure. He looks cool and his accessories are great.
Though the style isn’t exactly the same, he still fits in great with figures from The New Batman Adventures, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. You can see that in some of these photos. If you combine all of those toy lines, you get an incredible cast of characters. This is a really nice Batman to go with any of them– he’s almost a regular Batman, but has some added visual interest and cool accessories.
This toy is much higher quality than any of Mattel’s DCAU toys. It’s stable, durable, and does exactly what it’s supposed to. And that’s high praise, because I’ve handled some remarkably crummy DC toys in the past. I was pleasantly surprised with this figure. It has the old Kenner articulation but, other than that, I love it.
Closing thoughts, Pat?
Pat: If you’re going to get a Batman figure with a giant rocket pack, there’s clearly only one choice: Tec-Shield Batman from the Kenner Dark Knight Collection line, back in the Michael Keaton era. If you can’t find that one or if it costs too much money or whatever, Turbojet Batman works too.
Verdict: In the context of old Kenner DC figures or any of the DCAU toy lines, this is a fantastic figure. He looks cool, he is a totally reasonable/practical Batman, and his accessories are great. He’s not super dynamic or articulated, though. If that’s what you’re looking for, I don’t think any Kenner Batman toys are going to please you. As far as endless Batman variants go, this comparatively modest fella is among the best. Recommended.
Wrapping Up This Whole 1992 Turbojet Batman Thing
Pat, thank you for joining me. This wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without you.
I also want to give a big shout out to Inside the Batcave on Instagram. They have tons of cool photos and write ups on a huge variety of Batman figures. Going through their archives really helped me understand these old Batman figures and prepare for this review.
Turbojet Batman was repainted into Mech-Wing Batman, Paraglide Batman, Rocket Pack Batman, Sky Dive Batman, and probably several others. There are some interesting Funskool releases of this figure, too!
Do you have a soft spot for any of the more wacky and “out there” Batman variants? If so, let me know in the comments!