Apache Chief Week: DC
Classics Black Vulcan Review

Since I did my favorite figure yesterday, I figured I’d get my least favorite figure out of the way today. Had Black Vulcan come out looking more like the 2up, I would’ve have enjoyed his figure nearly as much as the others, but something went awry between El Segundo and China.

Below is a comparison shot of the 2up (left) and the final figure, note the brawnier buck, closed fists, sculpted gloves, inaccurate deco, and the definition in the face. Now I know that even the best factory can’t reproduce a 4H hand-painted original, but most don’t miss the mark this badly…

SuperHeroTimes.Com used their most recent Mattel Q&A to ask about Black Vulcan and were told that the changes were made by the “design team and the Four Horsemen”. Personally, I wouldn’t own up to making some of these changes. I mean, I get some of it – rounding the “ears” off to non-fragile boomerangs for safety and even going with the slimmer buck because it doesn’t really matter (and the brawnier one may have been unavailable), but the clip-on accessories just don’t look right with the open hands, the inaccurate deco and missing gloves really take away from the figure, and the softer face sculpt is just really disappointing. The 2up looked amazing* to this Black Vulcan fan and the final product just seems “meh” in comparison.

* – Ironically, as I’m writing this, Toy Guru has just reminded collectors at the Org that “prototypes are shown ALL the time for lines and then small changes often have to be made by final product” in regards to possible changes to a MOTUC Draego-Man figure. C’est la vie.

As with Samurai, Black Vulcan was another character added by Hanna-Barbera in 1977 for the sake of diversity, but he’s not exactly an original character. See, I was really interested to see the back of his box for his biographical information – which up until now, didn’t really exist. Mattel (or DC) handled it pretty deftly be leaving his origins and identity a mystery, but stating that he was still a trusted and valued member of the team. Plus, it allowed for the possibility that he really was Black Lightning.

In Black Lightning #10 (1978), Black Lightning stops an imposter Black Lightning created by the villainous, scheming Barbara Hanna. It’s a really nicely written story despite the obvious metafiction. Like any good thirty year old contract dispute, I’m not up to speed on the details, but that old issue of Black Lightning has always made Tony Isabella’s (the writer & creator of Black Lightning) feelings towards Black Vulcan pretty clear to me.

Black Vulcan was really a simple figure all things considered since his only unique piece is his head. You know, I kinda feel like my intro basically guts the usual sculpt and paint sections since I can only reiterate my previously mentioned grievances. The figure just needed a little more love. I don’t mind the occasional painted detail, but Black Vulcan would’ve been better served with the gloved hand the Four Horsemen had intended to give him and maybe even the Sinestro Corps boots to get some sculpted detail on the legs (an extra line would be present, but it’d be better than no sculpted lines at all). I can forgive the boomerangs on his head, but the tray has warped the soft plastic and combined with the soft details on the face, it just doesn’t work for me. Continue to Page 2…

17 thoughts on “Apache Chief Week: DC
Classics Black Vulcan Review

  1. Well, despite his inaccuracies, I suppose he’s lucky he got a figure at all, as opposed to [insert name of any currently missing team-builder from the JLA/JSA/Doom Patrol/Metal Men/New Gods/Teen Titans here].

  2. OK, um..

    That last pic has killed me. Completely killed me. I am now dead.


    yeah, I know, who remembers the old SNL skit anymore. 🙂

  3. Just think; you might be able to get that same kind of quality and attention to detail for $24 shipped each month if the sub goes through!

  4. The comics gods smiled down on Tony Isabella and they messed up Black Vulcan as payback. No bare neck, improvised boomerangs, open hands, slim torso. You name it, they blew it. Major fail on all counts.

    Now give us a vintage 70’s Black Lightning to further appease Isabella and us older DCUC fans in return.

    1. OTOH, it seems to me on reflection that this figure is perfect for custom work.

      I mean, both hands open! How often do we see THAT?

      When this fig becomes a peg warmer I suspect the customizing wizards will have a field day. 🙂

      Oh, wait, I am still ded. bah.

  5. I have waited so long for this figure and when I discovered he would be in Wave 18, I almost died in happiness. And even more happy I was when I finally saw the 2up.
    But every joy went away when I finally received my Black Vulcan: he didn’t seem at all with the product 4H and Mattel has shown to us. His open hands (which I hated the most), his entire head and the yellow symbol on his back and chest (it should be painted with 3 points, not 2).
    But that’s OK; if this is the only way to get my Black Vulcan….

  6. It’s his appearances on Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law that made me want this figure.
    He’s always been something of a joke, just like the rest of Superfriends Class of 77, but in the Birdman show that joke was actually funny.
    I don’t have many action figures that I have for comedy – ones that’d make me chuckle just by looking at em, but that’s why I wanted Black Vulcan. I’d make him a cup of coffee for him to be constantly spilling on his crotch and be all set.
    But he really did come out terrible. Oh well. Pass. Thanks for the excellent review and for keeping me from buying something I’d be really disappointed with.

  7. Look at the bright side. You can always give his electricity to the accessory-less Black Lightning now.

  8. I like Vulcan but he should have had an alternate figure with some pants. And give Digger his weapons off the side of his head too.

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