Really, it should be Steppenwolfs. I’m sure Mrs. Day would disapprove of my flagrant disregard of proper grammar, but it sounds better. Right?*
* – Sorry, Mrs. Day. At least I knew it was wrong!
If you’re not familiar with Steppenwolf, well, that’s not surprising. The green version first appeared in 1972’s New Gods #7 where he killed Izaya’s (Highfather’s) wife and then was, in turn, killed by Izaya. That would probably be his complete comic legacy too, had it not been for Super Powers. In the mid-80s, Jack Kirby was contracted to redesign some of his New Gods characters for the Super Powers toy line. This is where the red axe-wielding version comes into its own. This design first released as a mail-in figure (and then later on card) in the Super Powers line gave most fans their first glimpse of the character despite his appearance thirteen years earlier. Even now, a full quarter-century after the Super Powers figure (and some play in the various animated series), the character hasn’t appeared much in the comics and when he does, things don’t go well. He’s one of those fringe characters that lazy writers don’t bother to research before using and then kill as a plot device*. His ratio of appearances to deaths is probably about even.
* – My personal favorite being when he was killed by the Clock King.
Despite his low rank on the importance scale, Steppenwolf has made his way into DC Classics. His appearance in Super Powers can’t be overstated as a reason for this and it’s only appropriate that Mattel and the 4H have given us both the Kirby-created original look and his Kirby-redesigned Super Powers look. I know there’s consternation out there about the Super Powers love in the DC Classics line, but I’m right at the perfect age to revel in it. I love getting these SP versions and can’t wait for the future Super Powers Characters to be released. The red Steppenwolf was one of my most anticipated figures in this wave, but that’s not to say I wasn’t interested in the classic look too.
The thing that surprised me when Mattel did the first of these Super Powers variants was that the 4H was able to create really different looks with the same basic parts. The Steppenwolfs follow that precedent. They’re both built from the standard buck with various add-on pieces and paint doing most of the work. Green Steppenwolf features new calves, forearms, and a head as well as new softer plastic pieces for the boot tops, shoulder covers, and the cape/bandolier/skirt. These extra pieces give Steppenwolf a nice approximation of his original look.
The red version features a new head, calves, feet, hands, and forearm. Again a softer plastic is used for his shoulders and the one-piece that gives him his armored collar, bandolier, and belt. He also includes his trademark accessory, the Electro-Axe, attached to his backpack. The head sculpt on this one is particularly excellent, and when combined with the detailed armor pieces, faithfully recreates the Steppenwolf I mailed-in for as a kid and he’s quickly become one of my favorites in the DCUC line.
The paint on both figures is very good. I had no issues with the red Steppenwolf. I would’ve liked to see the axe vac-metallized of course, but they haven’t done that for anything else in the line so I can’t knock them here. The paint used looks somewhat metallic so that’ll do. On the green Steppenwolf, there was some slop on the smaller button details and yellow paint is also a tricky thing for action figures since it needs to go on thicker than other colors. It’s not really an issue, but it does make the otherwise excellent face sculpt look a little off on the green version.
Articulation is standard for these guys. The softer shoulders and skirts only block the articulation marginally and I have no complaints there. The 4H seemed to find just the right spot on the shoulders were the piece doesn’t get in the way, but still looks good. I was surprised to find that green Steppenwolf’s head articulation wasn’t blocked like recent figures. He can look up a bit and tuck his head down into the collar to cover his mouth. The red version might have better articulation too, but his armored collar blocks movement. Hopefully, we’re getting closer to figures with the head articulation restored.
I’ve gone back and forth about how to count the red Steppenwolf’s accessory. It is something he could hold, but it’s also attached. So is it part of the figure or not? On the Ghostbusters figures, I say no. So to be consistent, I’m not counting the axe as an accessory here either. Still, it’s all he needed to come with and it looks great on him so I’ve no complaints on this figure.
* – Even if it’s on the wrong side!
The green version more than picks up the slack in the accessories department. He features his sword, his whip, and his drinking horn – all faithfully crafted after his first appearance in New Gods. On the plus side, the whip is made of a very pliable plastic and is fun to whip aroud. The only drawback to this was that all of his accessories are made with the same grade of plastic, so Steppenwolf ended up with one of those trick bendy swords. One thing I would have liked to see was some hooks or sheaths to store the accessories.
Overall, I was a lot more excited about the Super Powers version going into this wave. Not only did that version exceed expectations, but the green version really wowed me too. These are both great figures. The red version is easily among my favorites in the wave (along with Cyborg Supes) and the green version isn’t far behind. The only thing I would have changed on these guys is the stand they were packaged with. Neither included a Kilowog piece and I believe Steppenwolf was planned to come with a “Super Powers Collection” stand at one point, but that was pushed back and Desaad will be the first person to get one. As it is, they both came with the regular blue stands and, as I’ve said before, those suck. Seeing pictures of the full color Super Powers stands (still on the blue oval) and the upcoming Grayskull diorama stands for MOTU, makes me dislike the blue stands even more. Mattel should develop something nicer for the DC figures.