Another DCUC wave has arrived at IAT and that means it’s time for another Theme Week! All week long Vault and I will be taking a look at the figures from DC Universe Classics Wave 18 – the Apache Chief Wave. Today, I’m kicking things off with one my faves, Samurai!
This particular wave has caused a bit of consternation among my fellow DC toy collectors, but I am not in agreement. Even with the line’s future in an unexpected and irritating flux, I don’t think this was a wasted wave. Yes, I still need Elongated Man & Golden Age Mr. Terrific, but I’d be no less bummed if Samurai were missing from my DCUC collection. I have fond memories of the great comics from my youth just as I have fond memories of the cartoons in which Samurai appeared and even his original Super Powers toy. And yes, some of those cartoons aren’t very well done, but my character want list is full of characters that spawned from some not very well done comics too.
Samurai first appears in the The All-New Super Friends Hour when it was brought back in the late Seventies. The show was reformatted – Wendy & Marvin were dropped in favor of the Wonder Twins – and new characters were created to give the Super Friends a more “ethnically diverse” roster. It doesn’t work, as it really just shines a spotlight on a problem instead of doing anything to fix it.
Some props to Samurai though, as he outlasts all of the other additional characters. He ends up appearing in four of the seven incarnations of the cartoon, including the final one (and my favorite), Galactic Guardians, despite it’s being much closer to DC continuity than the previous cartoons. It’s likely that his longevity and current status on the show contributed to him being the only member of the Hanna Barbera Super Friends to earn a coveted spot in Kenner’s Super Powers line in 1986.
I only vaguely recall Samurai’s first cartoon appearance, helping Superman get a UFO out of a volcano, but I doubt that his origin was given in the six or seven minute short. His origin most likely came nearly a decade later when he appeared in the Super Powers comics and received a bio on the back of his Super Powers figure. That origin lists him as Toshio Eto, a history professor who was given powers when struck by a bolt of energy emanating from New Genesis (as part of a recruitment drive to thwart Darkseid). His basic power was wind manipulation (his original SP toy’s legs would unleash “Power Action Gale Force Spin” when his right arm was pressed in), but he later gained the ability to burst into flames or become invisible.* Each of these powers would be activated by speaking a broken Japanese phrase. He also wields an energy sword – which both of his figures have included. I’m not sure where the Samurai aspect comes into all this, but if Samurai were here he would tell us, as he always knew how to relate the current situation into a contrived samurai lesson in the cartoon.
* – I always thought Samurai’s powers were odd. He was basically a human wind machine which made him an analogue for DC’s Red Tornado, but his other powers were representative of other famous comic androids. His invisibility echoed Vision’s intangibility while bursting into flame calls upon Marvel’s first android, the Human Torch. I guess what I’m asking is, has anyone ever seen Samurai bleed?
If you really look at the Super Friends wave, you see that Mattel was able to put this wave together with very few new parts and still capture almost all of the costume details. Samurai needed only a unique head, tunic, and forearms, though a quick look at the picture above shows that the Classics figure could’ve used new boots as well. At first, I thought plain boots might’ve been used to be cartoon accurate, but a few other details do spawn from the vintage toy, so the boots being undetailed might have been a cost issue. I don’t know. Either way, my nostalgia is always for the toy over cartoons or cardbacks, so I would’ve been happier were boots done accurately.
It’s not a deal-breaker, because the new pieces we did get are fantastic. I love the head sculpt and the soft plastic tunic is a great upgrade for the Super Powers cloth version. One feature that I first thought was odd, but really appreciated once I realized why is that the seam on the front of the belt matches the fold/wrap on the classic toy’s belt. Continue to Page 2…