Batman Posts

We Built a List of the 14 Coolest Lego Car Kits Ever!

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The earliest Lego blocks did not lend themselves to building vehicles. In fact, wheels were kind of an afterthought at first. But as different size wheels and tires became available, all you needed to build an awesome car was some imagination and maybe a few special new bricks. There have been many automotive building sets offered over the years, but these are the coolest Lego car kits (and maybe a bus or two).

lego auto chassisTechnic Auto Chassis (Set #853) – Hard to believe this set debuted in 1977. Though the technology is a bit primitive by today’s standards, the first Technic sets were mind blowers and game-changers with their gears and side-locking bricks. This car had moving pistons, a two-speed transmission, working steering, and a few other features. Assembling it gave you the sense of how complicated a real car is. It remains one of the largest car models Lego has ever offered, even if it’s not a complete car.

lego volkswagen bus camperVolkswagen T1 Camper (10220) – The Creator series of Lego models has led to some incredibly detailed brick versions of of iconic vehicles. They’re not cheap, but they are glorious. The Volkswagen Splitty Bus is one of the most recognizable vehicles ever, and Lego captured its simple elegance with some complex engineering. The camper interior with pop top is a sight to behold.

lego mini cooperMini Cooper (10242) – Just about everything said about the VW Bus can be said about this model, except… just look at those plaid seats! Wow!

Shelby Mustang (10265) – This is one of the newest entries on the list, and one of the few American cars Lego has made. It captures just enough detail that it can’t be mistaken anything other than a ’67-68 version of the car, which is a really impressive feat.

lego friends party busFriends Pop Up Party Bus (70828)The Lego Movie and its sequel are a couple of ridiculous adventures made even more fun by the presence of models designed or inspired by kids. Among the most bonkers is this crazy party bus. It’s the product the kind of giddy imagination that makes Lego toys so popular in the first place.

lego city carSmall Car (3177) – One criticism of recent Lego vehicles designed for Minifig size is they have gotten really huge, to the point of being way out of scale. This tiny marvel looks a lot like a Smart Car, and at only 4 studs wide and 8 studs in length, it feels perfectly scaled for the Doctor Minifig which is included. Sometimes less is more!

lego cactus canyonCactus Canyon SUV (1720) – This rugged-looking compact off-roader came with all sorts of accessories that could attach to the sides, be tossed inside, or ride along with the included quad-runner. Throw in a kayak that could fit on the roof, and this was truly an adventure in a box.

lego ghostbusters ecto 1Ghostbusters Ecto-1 (21108) – On the other hand, among Lego cars that grew a bit larger in scale, this 1959 Caddy ambulance still shows remarkable restraint size-wise. And it has just enough blockiness to capture that “Lego” feel.

lego harry potter whomping willowHarry Potter Ford Anglia (75953) – The wonkiness of the Anglia’s design is captured perfectly in brick form in the Whomping Willow set. In fact, Lego has offered three slightly different versions of this car in other sets, as well as by itself (not branded as a Harry Potter set).

lego 1989 batmobile1989 Batmobile (76139, 40433) – Y’know what… to heck with proper scale for movie cars. This enormous beast, made of over 3,300 bricks, is huge and impressive. It comes with Minifigs of Batman, Vicki Vale, and the Joker and doesn’t even pretend they’re supposed to be anything more than decorative accessories.

lego burton batmobileSpeaking of accessories, this kit originally came with a bonus set, a smaller Batmobile that actually was properly scaled to those Figs. Where do you get those wonderful toys?

lego city porsche 9111974 Porsche 911 Turbo 3.0 (75895) – Scaling things back a bit, this small 911 model comes in at just 6 studs wide (and it’s based on a car with fender flares, so it should be kinda thick). There are some really clever design solutions, especially around the headlights, that make this a perfect Lego car. And it comes with tiny orange traffic cones to drive around.

Porsche 911 GT3 RS (42056) – On the other end of the 911 spectrum, some people though this gigantic model looked a bit crude for its large scale, but Porsche is really about the performance. And this model really delivers…

lego technic porsche 911 transmissionHow about a working 6-speed (!!) transmission operated by paddle shifters (!!) behind the steering wheel? Yikes! Hard to believe the humble ’77 Auto Chassis eventually led to this monster.

System I Leg Cars – The very first plastic cars made by Lego weren’t kits, but nicely proportioned HO-scale models. Apparently they didn’t think kids would want to build cars, so they considered them accessories to the houses and other buildings those kids would be creating. They did come in “garage” cases that were compatible with the bricks, however. These models were all based on European prototypes, including such classics as the VW Karmann Ghia. and T1 Bus.

lego wooden busWooden Articulated Bus – The oldest vehicles made by Lego weren’t even plastic. From the 1930s through the early 1960s, Lego made chunky wooden vechicles of all types including this bus. Wooden it be neat to see a modern plastic recreation of this one?

Lego cars span a variety of styles and complexity, providing great fun for builders of all ages. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

The Ultimate Poser: DC Sculptor Tim Bruckner Captured Iconic Moments

tim bruckner wonder woman

“The Kiss” is one of Bruckner’s finished pieces currently for sale.

A few weeks ago we introduced you to Tim Bruckner, who spent about 20 years sculpting action figures and statues for DC Direct (now known as DC Entertainment). As his career there evolved, he spent more and more time on statues instead of poseable characters. A lot goes into the decisions on how to represent a figure the best way.

“The artist or art director has decided on a pose and facial expressions before I start working,” Bruckner said. Illustrations of the basic concept, such as Superman about to kiss Wonder Woman might be done specifically for the project, or they might come from actual comics panels. “Then all I have to do is recreate that in three dimensions.”

“Some of the artists like Alex Ross, with a more realistic style, require more reference,” he said. “But Ross always had so much material to work from for any character, so it was never a problem” In addition to the specific artist’s renderings, photos of people in action poses provide clues to getting muscles and angles just right. “We have to decide what ‘makes’ the character and brings it to life.”

tim bruckner alex ross

There is no shortage of Alex Ross renderings for a sculptor to work from. This prototype is for sale by Tim Bruckner.

Tim Bruckner Green Arrow

Bruckner is offering various stages of prototypes like this paint master of Green Arrow.

In a few cases, the design might not be based on any particular comic or live version of a character. “In the Superman and Lois Lane sculpture, he’s based loosely on the Christopher Reeves era of the character,” Bruckner said. “But it’s not an actual rendering of the actor, just a new way of designing him that looks familiar to collectors.”

At that early stage of the process, Bruckner would work in clay that could be bent or adjusted slightly if someone suggested a change. After those decisions are settled, the next stage is the perfectly detailed wax figure that will ultimately serve as the basis for the molding process. Several of these early prototypes are for sale in his hobbyDB Marketplace shop.

tim bruckner supergirl

Bruckner’s sculptures have a feeling of motion, often from different directions. You can get this one directly from Bruckner on hobbyDB.

tim bruckner

This playful cat is one of the hidden structural elements that hold up a pin-up statue of Catwoman.

Unlike an action figure who will be posed by the customer, a sculpture needs to capture a moment in time but still look like it’s moving. “This pose has to stand for everything about the character,” he said. You want something that says ‘this is Green Lantern,’ and it has to be convincing. Fans will let you know.” Aside from a moment when a superhero is proudly standing in triumph, they are usually seen in action. Bruckner’s statues are well known for conveying motion, action, tension, and lightness.

That last criterion is one where Bruckner has always excelled. “You want to give the illusion of weightlessness. A character running might have just the tip of their foot touching the base of the statue. Or Superman might be just landing, with the tiniest contact point to the ground.” He is particularly fond of a statue of Green Lantern fighting Sinestro at the peak of a mountain. “Sinestro is the only one touching the ground, and he looks like he is falling, about to lose contact. Green Lantern is only supported by points where he is making contact with his foe.” Often the support comes from an unexpected direction like a cat tugging on Catwoman’s dress.

tim bruckner batman

The ivy-covered gargoyle really puts Batman in context here.

Another trick for the weightlessness is that these figures are almost never mounted on a plain base. It will be something key to the environment of the scene, or an iconic prop. Such support pieces help remove the figures from being perceived as “static.”

Despite many of these characters being wildly proportioned, strange-looking, even non-human, Bruckner believes the human connection is what makes it work. “Each pose does represent a human experience,” he said. “If an artist has done that well, the collector can put himself in that experience by looking at this piece.” Bruckner insists that pop culture can be in danger of losing that human connection but doesn’t need to. “As an artist, it has to mean something to me, or it means nothing to everyone else.”

We’ll be taking one more look at Bruckner’s work in a few weeks, much of his work before and after his DC years.

 

 

Meet Tim Bruckner, DC Action Figure and Statue Artist

Tim Bruckner DC artistRecently hobbyDB brought you the stories of some of the designers of Matchbox cars from the early 2000s. You all thought it was fascinating to learn of the people and processes behind some of our favorite toys and collectibles. In that spirit, we’d like to introduce you to Tim Bruckner, an incredible sculptor and designer who spent decades creating action figures and statues for various DC entities and other companies. We’ll be telling you about his long, fascinating career over the next few weeks. You can get a peek at his work at his hobbyDB Showcase, where there are a few rare pieces for sale (and more will be added soon!).

Bruckner started with DC Direct in 1999, and worked for them for most of the last two decades. “Every element of a sculpture says something,” Bruckner said. “The expressions, the pose, the way the clothes flow or bend… they all tell a story, and it’s my job to interpret it perfectly. An action figure will be posed by the collector, but a statue has to get it just right.”

Tim Bruckner SupermanPerhaps the most mind blowing aspect of his creations is his ability to interpret different artists’ visions of a single character into a 3-D model. “Look at Batman as rendered by Frank Miller versus the same character from Alex Ross,” Bruckner said. “My job is to make sure the character represents the look, but also the tone of their interpretation. The pose and even facial expressions are usually provided by an art director.”

Tim Bruckner CatwomanTo some, that might not sound like there’s a lot of room for creativity, but that’s part of the challenge. “I sculpt and show it to them, and keep doing that until the client is happy,” he said. Depending on the artist or the art director, there might be a couple of back and forths with minor revisions, or there might be several go-rounds with major changes. “The earlier we can make and agree on changes, the better,” he said.

A look at the sheer number of Superman or Joker sculpts he has done over the years is revealing. While there are several obvious differences between the live-action, comic book, and animated versions of characters, the different versions in each of those categories are astonishing.

He has a remarkable ability to create dynamic poses that make still figures look like and feel they are in motion. Another one of his talents includes making characters appear to “float,” by barely having them touch the ground, such as his Catwoman “Pinup” figure.

Bruckner has another take on serving the “client,” however. Several years ago, he attended the San Diego Comic-Con and watched as people looked over displays of his work, discussing the fine details, perhaps not even realizing who he was. “I watched a couple talk about which statues they wanted to spend their hard-earned money on. They were having a serious conversation about the merits of these things, and I realized in a way, DC wasn’t my client… these people are.”

Tim Bruckner prototypes

Even Bruckner’s preproduction originals and hand-painted masters look finished.

Tim Bruckner AquamanThe prototype processes are actually quite different from how it works in the world of diecast vehicles. In addition to the original wax figure, Bruckner had to determine points of articulation, how to separate the figure into multiple, moldable pieces, and even hand-painted the prototypes. “With the advent of 3-D design, that skill set is evaporating,” he said. “Hopefully digital sculpting and hand carving can coexist.”

As you might imagine, he has accumulated quite a few of these pieces over the years. Too many to properly display and curate, so he is selling some of his collection. His collection on hobbyDB has a few dozen items up for sale so far, and hundreds more will be added soon.

In addition to DC Direct/DC Entertainment, he has also worked for other toy companies including Kenner, Hasbro, and Toybiz. In a departure from his most famous 3-D work, he has done a lot of graphic design including album covers for Ringo Starr and others. He’s written books on his work and some pulp fiction as well.

Tim Bruckner Ringo StarrHe’s retired from working on this sort of thing professionally, but still spends hours every day in his studio creating. “It’s not all that different, except I’m not on deadline anymore,” he said. “It’s an odd adjustment, but a good one.”

In our next installment, Bruckner will show us some of his favorite figures from his DC days as well as a deeper look into the process of creating an action figure from wax to finish. 

Batman Vs. Superman: Whose Collectibles Are Rarer?

batman superman wonder woman

Detective_Comics 27It’s about time DC Comics fans finally receive closure to pop culture’s most burning question: if Batman and Superman got in a fight, who would win? Would Superman prevail over Batman with his superhuman strength, or would Batman be resourceful enough to exploit Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite? Many authoritative figures have chimed in on the subject, including an actual writer of Batman Vs. Superman, but we may never receive a definitive answer that pleases everyone. After all, what’s the fun in a debate that has a single right answer?

More importantly, how do they stack up in the world of collecting?

Round 1: Batman Collectibles

For collectors of rare Batman items, there’s great diversity in the collectibles you could look for, with over 2,000 collectibles in the hobbyDB database.

If you’re into novelty toys, Batman’s got you covered. From the Justice League’s Attack Armor Batman that faced a limited production run, to the 1966 Ideal Batman Utility Belt which is virtually impossible to find sealed and intact, you could spend days figuring out how many thousands of dollars can be spent on Batman toys.

mego elastic batmanPerhaps the most infamous of all Batman toys, however, is the Mego Elastic Batman. For those who don’t know, the toy company Mego produced a series of toys throughout 1979 called the “Mego Elastic Heroes,” which were functionally similar to the popular “Stretch Armstrong” toyline, but instead featured Superheroes. They were so similar to Stretch Armstrong, in fact, that Kenner filed a lawsuit against Mego for ripping off their product. By July of 1980, Mego ceased production of the Elastic Heroes, and the stage was officially set for these toys to become extremely sought after collectibles more than 30 years later.

As the rarest and most valuable item in the series, the Mego Elastic Batman has sold for as much as $15,100. Even a loose and worn Mego Elastic Batman can be worth approximately $300.

But wait: Batman collectibles get even crazier. If you ever thought of owning the very first Batman comic book, you might be looking at spending in the area of $1,380,000! If that is not rich enough for you, then we advise you to look into the original Batmobile used in the famous 1960s Batman TV series. Designed by famed auto customizer George Barris, this vintage car sold for $4.6 million at auction, trumping even older vintage cars being sold at the same venue. Regrettably, the Funko Pop Batmobile is not quite as valuable.

action comics 1Round 2: Superman Collectibles

On the surface, Superman collectibles don’t hold quite the same clout as Batman collectibles do (just over 500 items in the hobbyDB database). However, don’t take this to mean there aren’t some valuable gems to be discovered.

For instance, those who were part of the “Supermen of America” club during the 1940s had a chance of receiving an exclusive member’s ring that is considered one of the first superhero collectibles ever made. Though one of these rings was infamously turned down for sale on an episode of Pawn Stars, this same collectible has also sold for as much as $40,000 online.

And yes, there is a Mego Elastic Superman, too.

However, much like a malicious supervillain with a trick up his sleeve, the world of Superman collectibles has a secret weapon: The original Superman comic. The inaugural issue of Action Comics is a holy grail among comic book collectors, and a mint condition print of the notorious comic more than doubles the value of Batman’s Detective Comics debut. In fact, it has sold for as much as $3.2 million! Some may say that this number is still well below the vintage Batmobile described above, but remember that this issue of Action Comics sold for a mere 10 cents once upon a time. If we were to calculate an increase in value by percentage, nothing would come close to Action Comics #1. Even if you owned many of the rarest Batman toys ever made, it would still take a lot to amass a collection that is worth as much as this single comic.

superman-batman-squirt-gunsThe Verdict

In terms of which hero has the single most valuable collectible in his arsenal, it’s hard to argue with Superman’s comic book debut. Excluding one-of-a-kind movie memorabilia, nothing even comes close.

However, if we are to judge the overall spread of valuable collectibles across comics, toys, and even original sketches, Batman reigns supreme. Fact of the matter is, Batman is a more relevant superhero to modern pop culture than Superman is, and the Bat’s spread of portrayals from Adam West to Christian Bale has made the character as much of a meme machine as he is a dramatic hero. The comic book industry owes a lot to Superman for setting the foundation for the Superhero genre today, yet while we do love the Man of Steel, we can’t argue with the data: Batman is the king of collectibles.

Consider this, though… Batman has the Batmobile, the Batboat, the Batcycle, the Batcave… Superman had some sort of flying car with fists that was slower and weaker than he already was. Batman has a much larger cast of cohorts and villains, so it’s not a fair fight. There are almost as many models of various Batmobiles on hobbyDB as Superman items total.

But hey, we’re not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. Whether you’re a fan of Superman or Batman, you should enjoy everything each legend has to offer regardless of who has the more expensive collectibles. Just remember to hold off fighting fans who disagree and leave the battling to the heroes.

Earliest known officially licensed Batmobile sells at Auction

1963-Batmobile-side

…….and it looks different from what you are picturing. On December 6th, 2014, Heritage Auctions sold what is believed to be the first officially licensed Batmobile. The style of this early Batmobile resembles the 1940s and 50s DC Comics version of Batman’s ride, rather than the 1960s television show version. With a single dorsal fin and a distinctive bat nose, this little known vehicle was designed in 1960 and completed in 1963 by a 23-year-old who was experimenting with a material called fiberglass. Forrest Robinson designed the car, then built it in his family’s barn with the help of his friend, Len Perham. They started with the frame of a 1956 Oldsmobile 88 with a powerful 324 Rocket engine and completely customized it.

The 1963 Batmobile is shown in this photo released by Heritage Auctions, HA.com   

The car was originally silver until a few years after it was built, when the ABC Television series became a hit. It featured the iconic Batmobile created by legendary designer of Hollywood vehicles, George Barris.  His version of the Batmobile became part of the American culture and is the oh-so-cool rendition that we all know. Robinson soon changed his car to the new “official” Batmobile colors and it became the first car ever licensed by DC Comics. This unique car was touring as the official Batmobile at least year before any of the famous Barris Batmobiles came on the scene.

An ice cream company traveled New England and beyond, promoting their business with this first Batmobile. After a time, the car was retired and Robinson sold his prized creation for $200. It soon ended up in a New Hampshire field, where it lay deteriorating for nearly 50 years. In 2008, the car was discovered and rescued from further decay. It changed hands a few times before being completely restored. Recently the car was offered for sale by Dallas based, Heritage Auctions, the largest collectibles auctioneer in the world. It sold for $137,000.00. to an undisclosed buyer.

In case you are following Batmobile sales as they make Bat history, the more widely recognizable George Barris Batmobile sold in January of 2013. After he built it, the car remained in his possession until it was sold at auction for $4.62 Million. Holy fat-stacks Batman! Although the original Batmobile was eclipsed in price by the later one, it still looms large in the hearts of true DC Comics fans.

Last but not least, if you want to know when it comes up for sale next add the 1963 Batmobile to your hobbyDB Wishlist!