Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Oddly Life Affirming Superman Toy

Saturday I had to go to Target to buy a new telephone.  Not a smartphone, just a $15 thing to plug into the wall.*  Whilst at the Target, I stumbled upon the latest Superman toy from Fischer-Price:

Hero World™ DC Super Friends™ VOICE COMM™ Superman™

The name your 3 year old is sure to share with you accurately as you head into the toy section.

I'm out of the action figure game unless its a Superman toy.   Despite the odd paint and plastic, this still qualifies as Superman, so I picked it up and looked at it, and this fellow, intended for kids 3-8, has kind of a weird, kid-friendly sculpt and a bunch of voice related features.   Basically, he's got some sort of chip and I guess he can interact with other figures in the line and it all seems a bit more complicated/ compelling than pulling a string and hearing the same phrase repeated over and over about a barnyard animal.

Neat enough.  But I was pleased to hear was what actually came out of Superman's mouth, so to speak.

"Why did I make these chains out of kryptonite?  OWWWWW!!!!"

This Superman doesn't talk about punching anybody or breaking things.  He's pretty much all about helping folks (quickly) and seems a bit alarmed about Lex Luthor and General Zod's whereabouts.  But, mostly, making declarative statements about leaping into action to help out at some specific emergencies and some less specific.

I like this.  It's a proactive Superman who isn't trying to teach kids 3-8 about dark vengeance or grim justice or some such.  It seems like it should be okay for superheroes to be as much about saving the day (our Superman toy blurts: "There's a truck in trouble!") as clobbering other action figures, but a lot of superhero toys don't seem designed that way.

This is the Superman toy that - when you press the little voice button - declares "This is Superman!  We need to work as a team!"  That's a fine sentiment, I think, and pretty self-aware for a piece of plastic.  I confess I feel I learned less from "Oh no!  I'll use my X-Ray Vision." but when he states "Superman here!  Super Friends, be careful!", that seems to be in the right spirit for a positive thinking super friend.  And, indeed, "There's a problem downtown!  Up, up and away!"  is kind of what I'd want to hear out of The Man of Steel.

Even something as super-heroey as "There's a problem!  At the Bank..!" isn't followed by "let's go clobber those guys at the bank!".  Nope, it's: "there's a problem".   It's something to go work on and resolve.  And, hey, if you need super speed, bullet proof skin and super breath to solve the problem, then okay.

Seriously, this thing has a bajillion pre-recorded comments.  Oddly, none of them are about his weird bib.  Superman may be off to eat spaghetti or lobster.  No one can say for sure.

Super Trivia:  1/3rd of Superman's mass is in his feet
I don't suggest I know anything about kids or how they play.  I only vaguely remember playing with action figures between ages 3 and 8, or putting on a cape and playing Batman and Superman when I was very small.  You guys can tell me better if kids like playing rescue, but I see a lot of rescue-related toy lines out there, so my tendency is to believe that a lot of kids are just as happy playing "super rescue" as "punch that guy".  Maybe a mix of both.

The voice is all sort of... hmmm...  Danny Dark, the guy who voiced Supes on the Super Friends cartoons I grew up on.

As a grown-ass-man who shouldn't be buying himself talking dolls, I was really pretty jazzed about the Superman who was not projecting some weird blend of "edgy" Superman nor milquetoast Superman asking Lex to be his friend or some such.

Marvel seems to be ruling the day in the Target toy aisle thanks to Spidey and The Avengers, but it's nice to see Superman has found a home with a younger crowd - a crowd he's appealed to for 75 years when pitched the right way.

That said, clearly the toy manufacturers are struggling with the "New" Superman look.  He looks a bit like Superman cobbling his costume together from spare parts.

*hey, person who is about to criticize me for not just using my iPhone and still having a landline - go ahead and pat yourself on the back and please (PLEASE!) pull out the stats telling me how many people no longer have a landline.  I have one.


RHPT said...

I have a landline, granted it's through the cable company.

The League said...

As is mine. I am often surprised at the gnashing of teeth when I explain that I am easier to reach, in general, via my landline than my iPhone as (a) I don't always hear my iPhone and don't always keep it near me (as you know, I live in a 2-story place), (b) I have bad reception inside my house no matter the carrier, and (c) you can reach Jamie or myself via the landline. Also (d) we have phones scattered throughout the house and can get to one in seconds.

And because its tied to the cable, caller ID tells us who is calling right on the tube. Pretty nice.

Paul Toohey said...

I'd argue that having a phone number for Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Steans is a useful concept. That way someone that just needs one of the two of you can call that number. I'd probably use a Google Voice number and some forwarding to make it happen if I ever tie the knot or what-not.

I might have to get one of these guys for my nephew. It doesn't seem they have released any "villians" yet least they don't seem to have them on Amazon.

The League said...

Yeah, that's pretty core to the concept. Most of the folks who give me static about the landline either (a) live in an apartment, and are (b) single. In which case, sure, it makes sense to only have the one line. But trying to explain to someone that calling your wife is just as useful as calling you when they aren't married? Does not compute.

The only villains so far are The Joker and Mr. Freeze, I think. Villains kids and their parents know about. I'd expect if these sell, we'll see Lex and Zod for Superman.