Reused Molds: Batman The Dark Knight Collection
1990 was a big year for Batman, The popularity from the Tim Burton movie was still riding high and Kenner had just gotten the rights from DC after Toy Biz lost them that same year. Kenner responded with The Dark Knight Collection. A Batman toyline based on the movie with a few new Bat Suits that weren’t in the movie. The commercials for the toys made the claim: “It’s Batman, like you’ve never seen him before!”….or had we?
While the Batman popularity was still really high, the movie had come out the previous summer so Kenner had to work fast to get a toyline on the shelves ASAP! To do that, Kenner did what Kenner did best in the 90’s….they reused and repurposed older toy molds.
The first catalogs that featured The Dark Knight Collection (DKC) in 1990 showed 7 figures and 6 vehicles (2 of which (The Batmobile and Batwing) would not be available until Spring 1991) along with some child sized role play items
The cardbacks showed fewer toys than the catalogs, but you got the main gist of the line. There were Batman vehicles, Role Play items, multiple Batmen and a Joker.
All of the toys in the DKC line were a massive step up from what Toy Biz had released a year or less previously. The sculpt in the basic Batman figure showed how much better it was, even if it had less articulation.
Starting off our look at the DKC line is Crime Attack Batman. This is the basic mold for most of all the different Batmen in the line (including Iron Winch Batman who I believe doesn’t have any reused parts other than the Batman body) As you can see from the comparison picture, the basic Batman mold is a retooled Batman from the 1984 Super Powers Collection line. The torsos are almost the same, the cowl and belt buckle were retooled but the muscles are the same. The legs probably got the heaviest amount of retooling with new details on the boots and the knee articulation is gone. The left arm is almost identical to the Super Powers one, while the right hand has has been modified. The head is the only part I can safely say is 100% new.
That one reused mold alone could technically make 90% of the DKC line a reused line, but there’s even more!
Next up is Wall Scaler Batman. This Batman had a more classic Blue & Grey outfit on using the modified Super Powers mold. He came with a backpack that had a removable grappling hook and a string that allowed Batman to climb up tall buildings. Given that Batman had a grappling hook gun in the movie, this seems like a natural weapon for Batman to have…..
…….However, this backpack was originally called the “Ascender” and came with Commander Jack Reily in the shortlived 1987 Sky Commanders toyline.
The clip that attaches to the figure has been widened and lowered to accommodate the larger Batman figure
The datestamp has also been changed
The next Bat Suit is the Tec Shield Batman. His Golden Suit protects him from heat and chemicals. Tec Shield Batman also comes with a flight pack.
The flight pack itself had a variant where the gold wing tips and exhaust were colored black like the rest of the pack
That color change wasn’t the first change this item received, the flight pack started out as a jet pack for the retired Silverhawk known as Condor! Condor and his jet pack (called Jet Stream) came out in 1987.
The back of the flight pack looks mostly the same, just a color change and the removal of the hinged helmet
The other side however had a lot of changes to the mold. The control handle was removed and the area it was hinged to was remolded. The connector peg was removed and a clip was added. The copyright info was also changed to reflect the new DC license.
The last Batman figure of the 1st year group is Shadow Wing Batman. This Batman had an action feature recreating the scene in the movie where Batman spreads out his cape just before leaping down from a rooftop to attack some thugs.
Shadow Wing Batman also comes with a bat that doubles as a pair of handcuffs
While the action feature recreates a scene from the 1989 Batman movie, it’s obvious that it came from the 1987 Silver Hawks leader, Quicksilver
The Bat Cuffs also appear to be a heavily modified version of another Silver Hawks toy, The bird known as Backlash, who came with the Silver Hawk Flashback. The claws section & the cuffs portion are about the only parts that are the same between the two.
The Bruce Wayne figure with quick change Bat Suit appears to not be a reused mold but it’s possible it’s another modified Super Powers Batman mold. The left hand looks almost exactly the same, but that’s about it so it’s also possible that the body is an all new mold.
Once the Bat Suit is on Bruce, it looks a little ridiculous compared to the sleeker looking Crime Attack Batman, but the aspect of being able to take the Bat Suit off and the superior Keaton head sculpt really adds to the figure
Sky Escape Joker fills out the rest of the DKC Action figures. This Joker looks a lot like Jack Nicholson’s Joker just with brighter colors, he also comes with a helicopter backpack to allow for quick getaways.
The head is new but the body is much like Batman’s body, a remolded 1984 Super Powers Joker body! Also like the Batman mold, the knee joints have been removed on Joker.
Now the helicopter pack comes from a toyline that was only a year old….Police Academy! The backpack originally came with Claw the cat burglar.
The peg that went into Claw’s back was changed to a clip for Joker
Also, the helicopter blade was modified. I assume to add more height to the blades so they wouldn’t hit Joker’s head.
The Helicopter pack and Joker body were reused again for “Plasma Glow Joker” in the 2000 World of Batman toyline
The initial launch of vehicles were pretty well reused as much as the figures had been. The first one being the Batcopter, a simple repaint of the same Batcopter from the Super Powers Collection.
Batman had a smaller Batcycle vehicle
The Batcycle had seen action the previous year as Robocop’s Robo-Cycle!
Here you can see the subtle differences between the two cycles in that Batman added wings to the sides of the cycle and the windscreen is slightly different (Please excuse the repainted blue section of the Robo-Cycle, when I opened the MISB cycle, all of the chrome had flaked off completely)
As I mentioned the wind screen is slightly different on the Batcycle. That is due to a snap on rubber piece that goes over the windscreen. When you take that part off, the front of both bikes are identical.
The Batjet is a very futuristic looking Batman vehicle, this would be due to it originally being used in the Silver Hawks series a few years prior as the Sprinthawk.
The Batjet being a repainted Sprinthawk (with retooled (or new) nose cone missile) is why Quicksilver fits into the cockpit much better than Batman does.
This would also be the reason there’s a perfect perch on top of the Batjet for Tally Hawk to sit upon.
Joker also got a small motorcycle to ride around on (and he at least looks natural riding his cycle unlike Batman does on his bike) The Joker Cycle has a giant Joker face that shoots off the front of the bike as a spring loaded missile.
Just like the Batcycle, the Joker Cycle was originally used in the Robocop and the Ultra Police toy line the previous year as the Skull Hog.
Here are both cycles, as you can see the spring loaded missile/windscreen is the major sculptural difference along with a new Joker-like paint job
Once you remove the missile, the cycles are nearly identical. The only differences are the date stamps/copyright info. The Skull Hog has the info on the front wheel sporks while the Joker Cycle has the copyright info on the exhaust pipes.
Two of the role play items were also reused molds. The most obvious one is also the oldest one. The Batman Sonic Neutralizer originally saw life wave back in 1977 as the Star Wars 3 Position Laser Rifle. In 1983 the Laser rifle was released without the stock and called the Electronic Laser Rifle, then in 1990 Kenner added a Bat Symbol to the front of it and called it the Sonic Neutralizer!
The other role play item I can find out that was a reused mold is the Batarang Blaster. This was a pump action gun that launched a missile with a giant Bat Symbol on it. The gun looks a lot like a Nerf gun but interestingly enough at this time it wasn’t a Nerf Gun…yet. The previous year in 1989 Kenner released a line called Blast Jets. These were airplanes that were launched with a pump action gun. The gun got recolored black and gold and the airplane was replaced with a Batarang for the DKC line, then 2 years later the same basic gun was released under the Nerf banner as the NB-1 Missile Blaster and then 4 years later in 1996 Nerf brought the gun back to it’s roots as the Glider Launcher, which as the name suggests had it shooting airplane like missiles again.
While a lot of people like to joke about Kenner’s Robin Hood line being made up of nothing but recycled old toys, it’s pretty clear that Batman The Dark Knight Collection started that trend. Given the DKC’s popularity, it makes a lot more sense as to why Kenner tried the same approach with the Robin Hood line in 1991.
There is one last piece I want to show off here just because it appears to be one of the most reused toy accessories spanning 7 years and technically 4 different toylines made by 3 different companies.
In the second wave of the Dark Knight Collection, we got an all new Joker called Knock Out Joker. He came with a very Joker-like bazooka with a launching boxing glove. While this looks like a natural Joker weapon, it actually originated with the SWAT Eugene Tackleberry figure from the Police Academy toyline in 1990!
(Please ignore that Sky Escape Joker is holding the bazooka, I do not actually have the Knock Out Joker figure, just his Fistzooka)
Now to elaborate further on the history of this accessory, I mentioned that it technically showed up in 4 toy lines made by 3 different companies. It started out with Kenner in the Police Academy line in 1990, then in 1991 Kenner reused it in the DKC line. In 1994 the bazooka showed up again in the Mask movie toyline with the Wild Wolf Mask figure. Now while the toyline’s packaging has the Kenner logo on it, this is after they were bought by Hasbro so the figure itself actually has Hasbro marks on it (Since Kenner was the boys toys division of Hasbro) Three years later, in 1997 Toy Island released a Mask the Animated Series toy line, the toy line had a lot of rereleased (and slightly recolored) Mask movie toys only now the figures sported Toy Island markings (I assume they bought the molds from Hasbro)