The first Batman figures were lead figurines of Robin and Batman which were given away as carnival prizes at local fairs during the 1940s.
Ideal’s Captain Action
In 1966, the Ideal Toy Company launched a line of super hero action figures called Captain Action in response to Hasbro’s popular G.I. Joe line which followed the standard scale of 12″. The Captain Action figure came dressed with a cloth super hero costume, hat, ray gun, and sword, ready for kids to enjoy. But parents could also buy additional super hero costumes that were sold separately. Kids could take Captain Action’s costume off and replace it with one of several super hero costumes based on famous comic book characters. Also in 1966, the ABC Television Network launched a live action Batman TV series . Because of Batman’s growing success in the mid ’60s, a Batman costume was included in Captain Action’s arsenal. This Batman costume was detailed with a horizontally striped cape as well as a black and gold chest emblem (the costume set was available with both metal and decal chest emblems). Batman’s accessories included a blue Batarang, flash light, and drill, which could attach to the utility belt. In 1967, Ideal released a partner figure for Captain Action, his youthful sidekick, Action Boy. Ideal Toy’s released only three costumes for Action Boy to change into, one of them being Robin, Batman’s sidekick.
Mego’s World’s Greatest Superheroes!
In 1972, the Mego Corporation, made a landmark deal and secured the licenses to create toys for both National Periodical Publications (later DC Comics) and Marvel Comics. Similar to Ideal Toy’s Captain Action line, these figures featured cloth costumes that fans could remove. Unlike Captain Action, however, the costumes came with the figure, and were not sold separately. The bodies were a smaller 8″ size and the heads and clothing were interchangeable. During this time period, Mego released the very first ever comprehensive line of DC and Marvel character action figures and coined the term “World’s Greatest Super Heroes!” to umbrella the name for all the figures released in this line. The popularity of this line of 8″ figures created the standard scale for the 1970s and featured many Batman characters, including Batman, Robin, Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler and The Joker. The earliest Batman and Robin figures had removable masks but they were easily lost and Mego noted that it was less expensive to create a new sculpt for Batman with a molded on mask and simply painted the mask onto Robin. Mego was a true pioneer in action figure development, responsible for creating the first carded action figure (for S. S. Kresge‘s), The first exclusive figures (Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson for Montgomery Ward‘s) and expanded their line to include the 1966 Batman TV series-style Batmobile, the Batcycle. and the Batcopter, as well playsets for Batman characters such as the Batcave and the Wayne Foundation. They were offered for an entire decade from 1972 until 1983.
Realizing the success of the 8″ line of figures, and always thinking of ways to reduce costs of production, Mego Corp. released a smaller plastic line of action toys called Comic Action Heroes! in 1975 that had the costumes molded onto the figure, thus eliminating the extra cost of creating the suits. The Comic Action Heroes were the first ever all plastic smaller scale action figure. The line featured Batman, Robin, The Joker, and The Penguin as well as other DC Comics characters. Later, in 1979, Mego re-released the line under the new name Pocket Super Heroes, a name that would return more than 20 years later as part of DC Direct‘s super hero line of figures. After Mego made the fatal mistake of not securing licensing for Star Wars, Kenner Products scooped up the licensing and banked on success for the next 30 years. The figures they made were also smaller and all plastic, thus creating a new standard size and style for the action figure.
Super Powers Collection
In 1984, after Mego’s demise, the Kenner toy company, who gained great success with their Star Wars plastic figure line, was granted the rights to produce DC Comics character all-plastic dolls in 5″ scale, and soon after, the Super Powers Collection. Each figure, as the name implies, had a secret super power that would trigger when the figure’s arms or legs were squeezed. Kenner produced 3 different Super Powers lines; ending production before such rumored Batman character figures as Catwoman and Man-Bat were produced. During its time on the market, however, the Super Powers Collection managed to release action figures of Batman, Robin, The Joker, The Penguin, and Mr. Freeze as well as several other DC Comics characters. Toy shelves also reserved space for a 1980s comic book styled Batmobile and a Batcopter that would later be reproduced in black & gold for The Dark Knight Collection of 1990.
Kenner movie figures
When the feature film Batman Returns hit theaters in 1992, Kenner renamed their movie line Batman Returns. This new line included several versions of the same Batman figure sculpt as seen in the previous Dark Knight Collection line. The movie’s two villains, Catwoman and Penguin, received their own figures. Catwoman received a new sculpt, but the Penguin figure was a repainted sculpt from Kenner’s Super Power’s line. At the same time Batman Returns hit theaters, fictional teenager Tim Drake became the newest Robin in Batman comics. Because of Robin‘s rejuvenated popularity, a new Robin figure which featured a sculpt based on the newest comic book design was also introduced in the Batman Returns line even though the character was not featured in the movie. Rumors are that Robin was set to be included in Batman Returns in the form of an auto mechanic who wore the letter ‘R’ on his work coveralls, but was cut from the film before production.
Batman & Robin
For the 1997 release of Batman & Robin, the final Batman film of the ’90s, Kenner released the Batman & Robin figure line. Unlike previous movie lines, the Batman & Robin line featured several versions of the movie’s villains, not just heroes. Kenner also released several hero/villain 2-packs and 12″ figures.
Batman gets animated
Batman: The Animated Series
Shortly after the 1992 premiere of Batman: The Animated Series, Kenner produced a line of figures based on the new cartoon. Like the previous two Batman movie lines, the first few lines of figures included several versions of Batman, and also included multiple versions of Robin and new villains including Clayface, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and others. In 1993, another Batman movie was released, an animated feature film called Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Kenner produced Mask of the Phantasm figures using old Batman: T.A.S. molds and only a few new sculpts such as Jet Pack Joker and Phantasm. As time went by, Kenner’s Batman: T.A.S. line began losing steam, so Kenner retooled some of their figures, releasing Batman: T.A.S.: Crime Squad. This line had several Batman variations, but only included one Robin figure, and no villain figures. Later, Kenner renamed this line The Adventures of Batman & Robin, releasing several figures that were not released as part of the Batman: T.A.S. line, the most famous being a Harley Quinn figure, based on the popular animated series character. Like Batman: T.A.S., The Adventures of Batman & Robin line started to lose steam as well, so Kenner released The Adventures of Batman & Robin: D.U.O. Force. Despite its introduction of a Batgirl figure, the collection primarily featured repaints of old molds with new accessories and quickly folded.
The New Batman Adventures
As Hasbro bought out Kenner, a new line of action figures were produced by Hasbro based on the new animated series, The New Batman Adventures. This line featured new sculpts based on the updated animated series from the WB network. The first Creeper and Mad Hatter figures were included in this line. After the first line of figures was released, The New Batman Adventures line took on the sub title Mission Masters. This line featured new Riddler and Mr. Freeze sculpts. The second Mission Masters line featured repaints of old Batman: T.A.S. figures, including The Joker. To move away from The New Batman Adventures line, Kenner/Hasbro released the third and fourth Mission Masers lines under the basic Batman title. Included were figures from Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Kenner’s Superman Adventures line, and some Batman Beyond (see below) figures. Also included was a new comic style Bruce Wayne/Batman figure, rumble ready Riddler and an animated style insect body Mr. Freeze. Later, Hasbro released several Batman: T.A.S., The Adventures of Batman and Robin, and The New Batman Adventures repaints in the Spectrum of the Bat action figure line.
Batman: Total Justice
In 1996, Kenner started production on a new line of DC Comics character figures. This line, like Legends of Batman and Legends of the Dark Knight, featured all new sculpts of popular DC Comics characters. To appeal to buyers, Kenner produced the line under the high selling Batman title, calling the line Batman: Total Justice. This line featured not only Batman, Robin, and The Huntress, but also included other DC Comics characters including Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash and others. Even though this was the first line of DC Comics character figures released by Kenner since the Super Powers line folded 10 years earlier, some fans were disappointed. Despite remarkably detailed sculpts, the figures’ static poses and “Fractal Armor” accessories caused unhappiness. Wanting more articulation and less gimmick, some abandoned the Total Justice line, and Kenner stopped production after the release of 14 figures.
Hasbro’s DC Super Heroes
Returning to the comic roots of Mego’s Comic Action/Pocket Hero’s lines, Hasbro released a new line of 7″ plastic dolls called DC Super Heroes. Unlike the earlier Toy Biz line by the same name, this line featured new sculpts with great detail. Only one line of figures were released, though, and they were very hard to find. The reason for the short life of a great line that had many possibilities remains unclear. Hasbro also produced several 9″ Mego like figures in the DC Super Hero line as well as Target Exclusives. This occurred between 1999 and 2002, just as Mattel was taking over the line, which halted the line before it was completed. Batman figures included were the MasterPiece Batman box set with a Year One 1939 Batman Figure, Golden Age Collection featuring Batman and Robin, Silver Edition Removable Cowl Batman and Guardian of Gotham featuring a molded cowl head and a Bruce Wayne quick change. Villains offered were the Joker and Penguin.
To please fans and collectors who wanted better figures, not just repaints, DC Comics started production on their own line of action figures. These highly articulated figures, based on popular DC Comics characters, feature many Batman characters, and also feature storyline inspired character figures including Elseworld figures. DC Direct also released a new line of Pocket Super Heroes, mini action figures that kids could put in their pocket. The Pocket Super Heroes come in boxed sets, including a Batman boxed set featuring Batman, Bruce Wayne, Robin, Alfred Pennyworth, Catwoman and Two-Face.
Around the same time as Mattel took over production of Batman and DC Comics character figures, Bandai released its own line of figures based on the Cartoon Network’s animated series Teen Titans. Teen Titans: Go! features several Robin figures of different sizes. Batman, however, has no place within the cartoon or action figure collection.
After the quickly released animated line faded, Mattel released a new Batman animated line based on WB’s new animated series, The Batman. The Batman line of figures featured all new sculpts and more articulation than past animated lines. After several waves of figures hit toy shelves, Mattel renamed the line The Batman: EXP. The EXP (EXtreme Power) hero figures come with a weapon that, when a power battery is connected and turned, reveals an “extreme power” feature. When The Batman: EXP line faded, a new line of animated figures were announced. ShadowTek, a line that features new animated Robin & Killer Moth figures based on their cartoon counterparts, hit shelves in late 2006. This line also includes re-released figures from earlier lines as well, a growing Mattel staple. Later ShadowTek figures include other DC Universe heroes which appear in The Batman cartoon, including Superman, Hawkman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and Martian Manhunter. In 2007, Mattel announced a large recall of toys, including toys from The Batman toy line, which featured lead paint and/or small magnets which could choke children.
After the Four Horsemen styled Batman line folded, Mattel announced it would release more Four Horsemen styled Batman figures, as well as new Superman figures, with the new DC Comics Super Heroes line of figures. Unlike Toy Biz’s earlier line of poor quality figures by the same name, the new figures were just what DC Comic fans were waiting for. The first line of figures included Batman, Killer Croc, and the unreleased Bane and Scarecrow figures from the Four Horsemen’s previous Batman line. Used and unused molds from Mattel’s Batman line would be used in later DC Super Heroes waves of figures, including the previously released Robin and a new Azrael and Catwoman sculpt.
Mattel released an action figure line based on Young Justice. The line included characters from the Batman universe, including Robin and Batman himself.