Back before the DC Reboot I was a (somewhat) regular member on the DC Message Boards. When I think back to the monthly reactions to DC Direct solicitations I'm kind of embarassed for all of us collectors. DC Direct was able to produce beautiful action figures of obscure characters (and obscure variants of major characters) consistently for roughly 13 years.. and, oh yeah, we were getting new product monthly. And what was the perpetual reaction to this brand? "Ughh they're out of scale with their figures from three years ago" and "Ughh more SuperWonderBats." Well, I've been revisiting my DC Direct collection and falling in love with them all over again. Nightwing and Flamebird were especially bemoaned, mostly because they were such obscure characters. But I think we all missed that they're pretty damn cool characters. The flawless sculpts by John G Matthews are just icing on the cake. Let's take a second look at these lovely ladies now that we've had a chance to cool down.
((Unfortunately this review requires a brief history lesson first...))
What is Kandor?
So, Kandor was once the Capitol of Superman's birth planet, Krypton. Before Krypton exploded, the entire city of Kandor was "stolen" by Brainiac and miniaturized.. basically becoming a city in a bottle. All the residents are alive and fine, just isolated and miniaturized. (if you're going to ask difficult questions like "why?," just google Brainiac). Superman stole Kandor from Brainiac and keeps it in his Fortress of Solitude where he keeps watch over it until he can someday safely restore Kandor to it's true size.
So who are Nightwing and Flamebird? Somehow, Superman found a way to miniaturize himself and enter Kandor. He always took Jimmy Olsen with him. Within Kandor, Superman did not retain any of his super powers, so Jimmy and Kal-El carried out their heroic deeds disguised as the vigilantes Nightwing and Flamebird (both names for native Kryptonian birds by the way - and modeled after Batman and Robin). These storylines were included in books like Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman Family in the early 1960s.
Hmm I've heard those names before...
Yes. In the 1980s, two DC characters, Dick Grayson (Robin) and Bette Kane (Bat-Girl) needed to adopt new heroic personas (Post-Crisis). Dick became Nightwing and Bette became Flamebird (and her first name changed to Betty). These new identities were just an homage to the names used in the Silver Age Superman stories, and had no connection to Kandor or Superman. Dick and Betty didn't even have a healthy friendship, let alone a superhero teamup. They were both affiliated with the Teen Titans.
So who are these toys of?
Flash forward to 2006. Supergirl and Power Girl have found a way to miniaturize themselves and enter Kandor like Superman and Jimmy Olsen. They find reason to adopt vigilante personas and become an updated Nightwing and Flamebird. This storyline lasted onlly three issues from Supergirl #6-8. It wasn't exactly profound, but the costumes were wicked and the Silver Age nod was very cool. This is what I loved about DC Direct; Three issues and a cool design was enough to get the green light for an action figure.
Got it? Good. Now on to the figures!
I'll begin with Power Girl as Nightwing
What I love most about this figure is how menacing the costume looks. The helmet is positively demonic and the bat-wings are awesome. They are made of a rigid, lightweight plastic.. they almost make a hollow sound when you tap them.
She is decently articulated, but the straight-forward mannequin pose is probably ideal. The wings are attached with a ball joint and are easily adjustable and removable.
She comes with an alternate Power Girl head which seems identical to the Infinite Crisis Power Girl from 2006, but with slightly less attention to detail (ie.. this paintjob is a tad sloppier)
Next up is Supergirl as Flamebird.
Flamebird is my lesser favorite of the two. I wish her helmet was slightly smaller and her wings were positioned more dynamically, but she's still an extremely interesting figure.
She has the same articulation limitations as Nightwing.
Her alternate Supergirl head seems original as far as I can tell. It's beautiful and matches the Power Girl head nicely. I think Nightwing looks better with her helmet on, and Flamebird looks better without it.
Time for some Comparison Shots!
((School's not over yet...))
What's Happened since Kara and Karen had their adventures?
Well, in 2008, there was a Brainiac storyline in Action Comics in which Kandor was restored to original size... but on Earth. This led into a great series of stories titled New Krypton which essentially dealt with the logistics of having thousands of superpowered Kryptonians living on Earth. Within these stories, a new Nightwing and Flamebird emerged. Their costumes changed numerous times, they had powers (telekinesis and pyromancy), and they were previosuly unknown Kryptonians behind the masks. They were really popular and ever had their own limited series.
Okay I'll getting yelled at to come to bed.