Toys on a Tuesday: Batman 1989 by Toy Biz

(Click on the arrows in the picture to move slides)

The year is 1989 and for the first time in a long time, we are getting to see Batman on the big screen. Now unlike the Batman, we have come to know through the Adam West TV series, this one is darker, more brooding, violent, and all-around more related to the Dark Knight of the comic books than ever before. Thanks to the dark twisted mind of Tim Burton, we get to see Batman as he truly is, and continues to be portrayed as to this day. The movie, which took a weird mixture of actors from both drama (Jack Nicholson) and comedy (Michael Keaton) genres and placed them in roles you would never think about (Joker and Batman respectively), a gothic look at Gotham City inspired by The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight comic books, and created a film that with a $48 million dollar budget, gain a return of $411.6 million dollars and created the modern movie series as we know it today.

However, what wasn't a hit was the toy line. Created and distributed by Toy Biz in the same year to make sure they capitalized on the hype of the movie, these Batman toys are low quality, even lower in the selection, and just all around not good to play with... At least the figures themselves were. The vehicles, on the other hand, were simple but at least they had variety. So let's take a look back at the official Batman movie toys from 1989 made by Toy Biz.

Batman (Michael Keaton)

Starting out with the man himself, in many ways. The Michael Keaton Batman figure is pretty straight forward. It's Batman in his black outfit that the movie made so iconic and comes with a bat-rope shooter that you could attach to a solid surface and allow Batman to dangle from the rope; as if he was climbing up the side of a building. Outside of that, there isn't much to say about this Batman figure. It's a basic figure with a single-use weapon that really doesn't do much or worked that well. The main attraction here for collectors is that it's one of 3 Batman figures for the set.

How to tell the difference: The Keaton Batman has a three-angle chin.
Current Value (Complete): $20 to $35 (ebay)
Current Value (Loose): $10 to $15 (ebay)

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Batman (Round Jaw)

The second Batman to appear here is more of a production issue than anything else. There are stories that the license for Keaton wasn't secured either right away or they didn't get it in time or something, and this version was released as a result. Having the same look and weapons that all three of these Batman figures have, it's just something to get out on the shelves in time to get them into kid's hands. After all, you can't have a Batman toy series without the main man himself right?

How to tell the difference: This Batman has a round chin.
Current Value (Complete): $30 (ebay)
Current Value (Loose): $5 to $10 (ebay)

Batman (Square Jaw)

Brought out late in the run, this version made Batman into a more comic book accurate version of the character with a very serious and stoic face. Nothing else really changed with the figure. It's the same body mold, the same weapon accessory, and the same card back. You would think that some of these would be worth more than the others, but not really. Looking at the three, most people will not notice the difference between them so you might find one a lot cheaper than the averages below if you get lucky.

How to tell the difference: This Batman has a square chin.
Current Value (Complete): $25 to $30 (ebay)
Current Value (Loose): $10 to $15 (ebay)

Batman (8-inch figure)

Taking the old MEGO style and applying it to one of the characters that helped make that line a success, this Batman figure is in the older 8-inch style complete with cloth suit and plastic head, gloves, boots and belt. The idea behind this version was that it was more poseable than the hard plastic figures, but there wasn't much articulation to the figure so the poses that this Batman could do were very limited. But this is more of a collector's item than a play toy. The dedication to the old MEGO style is one that should be done more often, honoring a figure series that brought just about every superhero to life for the first time for kids and adults alike.

Current Value (Complete): $45 to $70 (ebay)
Current Value (Loose): No Price Available

Joker (without Hair Curl)

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Jack Nicholson gave Joker one hell of a good run in the movie and it's a shame that it would take decades before we would see a figure or statue based on his iconic version be put up for sale. This version we got as the movie came out was more about the traditional comic version in terms of looks which isn't too bad. Everything from the movie version is there, the suit and hat mainly, and the face is very comic style. You also get a little device to attach to the figure's back in order to activate the gimmick: A squirting flower that is meant to represent the acid flower the character is known for. A solid figure for a classic character.

How to tell the difference: This version has a very straight hair line
Current Value (Complete): $8 to $30 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $10 to $15 (eBay)

Joker

Here we have another slight variation in looks used in the production line. Nothing changes between this version and the more common one I mentioned previously, they both have the same look in the body and gimmick too. The difference here gives this Joker a more comic book look that was used in a lot of the early appearances of the character. I'm not too sure when this version was brought out in the production of figures, but I'm guessing that it was very early since there are next to none of these on places like eBay. If you can get you hands on one of these complete on the card, then you might be holding a small fortune in your hands.

How to tell the difference: This version has a slight "Clark Kent" hair curl in the hairline
Current Value (Complete): No Price Available
Current Value (Loose): $20 (ebay)

Bob The Goon

"Bob... You... Are my number one... Guyyyyyy..." I love the delivery of that line in the movie and have used it in many podcasts over the years with a few friends. I even went as far as buying a carded Bob the Goon to send over to my friend Drew, whom I usually shared the line with, but it still sits in my collection almost 4 years later due to being lazy. Sure the condition is terrible with creases and dings all over the place, but what do you expect for something I bought at a convention for $6? Now at the time a lot of other lines were bringing out a bunch of generic goons as an army builder, but this is a rare time where the head goon gets his own figure. Though his time in the movie was brief, it's still awesome to see Bob the Goon get some spotlight.

Current Value (Complete): $20 to $30 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $8 to $10 (eBay)

The Batmobile

You can't have Batman without his iconic mode of transportation: The Batmobile. I'm not too sure what it is about this version of the car (And believe me, there have been a LOT of Batmobile variations over the years) that still stands out after all these years, but it is the one that has been the most replicated Batmobile designs in toys and collectibles, even to the point where it influenced the following few generations of Batmobiles to come... Till the Dark Knight trilogy where it got replaced by that fucking tank design that everyone now replicates. But that still hasn't dropped the collectibility of this specific car, coming in as one of the higher-priced pieces from the collection.

Current Value (Complete): $60 to $100 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $12 to $35 (eBay)

The Batmobile (with Shield Cacoon)

Here we go again, another variation of something that was mainline at the time. Being the first and more common version you'll find on the second-hand market these days, though possibly without the Cacoon Shield since the plastic got brittle and cracked/shattered over the years unless properly stored. The big appeal with this version was that Cacoon Shield though, since it was featured in the Tim Burton films as a special type of protection for the Batmobile that was never seen in other media before.

Current Value (Complete): $50 to $70 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $15 to $30 (eBay)

The Batmobile (with Turbine Sound)

One of the smaller versions of the Batmobile to be released, this version had the small gimmick of the sound of the Batmobile as it moves around. You would think that this would be some sort of battery-powered soundbox of some kind that you would switch on or off. But nope, instead, there is this cheap clicky gimmick inside of the vehicle that turns and clicks as you move the car back and forth. A bit disappointing to be honest. So it's understandable that this is one of the cheaper pieces in the collection to buy both loose and complete in the box on the second-hard market.

Current Value (Complete): $10 to $30 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $5 to $15 (eBay)

The Batmobile (Small Remote Control version)

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In the 1980s and 1990s, remote control cars were a big thing, with just about every kid wanting one. While the ones we wanted as kids were the bigger version that is coming up, but instead what most of us got was this version: A smaller, cheaper, and less exciting model that we mostly got because our parents were cheap. This version of the Batmobile only goes forwards, and even then it only goes as far as the rubber connector would allow it to. Since this wasn't the radio signal controlled car, you could only go about 2 feet before having to chase the vehicle down to keep it going. A real letdown for both Batman fans and children toys all around.

Current Value (Complete): $15 to $20 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $8 to $10 (eBay)

The Batmobile (Big Remote Control Version)

Not a huge step up from the smaller version I just mentioned in the previous slide. This RC car was still attached by a string connected to both power and send signals to the car, but the difference is that the length was about 3-4 feet long and you could actually turn the Batmobile right and left instead of just going in a straight line. Given the technology at the time, this was a decent setup though, but just not enough to give the kids at the time enough of a thrill as they wanted more of a fully mobile and unhindered Batmobile racing experience.

Current Value (Complete): $25 to $30 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $10 to $15 (eBay)

The Batcycle

A pretty simple idea that if Batman needed to get somewhere fast or somewhere that the Batmobile just could not go, then he would use the Batcycle instead. But that was more of the limited thinking that came with toy creators back in those days. If it had a car, then a cycle wasn't too far behind. They were mobile, cheap to make, and looked pretty cool to boot. However, this Batcycle isn't anything to write home about. That's why both of the main characters got one each.

Current Value (Complete): $20 to $35 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $3 to $10 (eBay)

The Batwing

While it was something that didn't get all that much screentime in the movie, but it made a huge impression on everyone who saw it. The Batwing was one of the most impressive things that came from the Batman franchise in general, let alone the movie. One of the larger vehicles in the collection, it also came with one of the bigger price tags too. But when you had a chance to get this beauty in your hands and "fly" it around, man it was something to do. You got away with this via a trigger mechanism that attached to the bottom of the Batwing, allowing you to move freely without having to hold onto the plane itself, and also use the gimmicks. A really well put together piece.

Current Value (Complete): $25 to $30 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $70 to $150 (eBay)

Joker Van

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Not too sure what it is about Batman villains and their lack of really good vehicles. You'd figure that with all the loot that they take they would invest in something more than beat-up old junkers that are just repainted things you'd find in your local second hand car dealership. In this case, Joker grabbed a generic van and painted it in his own colors and slapped his logo on it. This is something I'd expect from the likes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since they have no money but Joker had money, he ran the biggest crime gang in Gotham, and he threw money around in the parade too. But it's his choice.

Current Value (Complete): $80 to $110 (ebay)
Current Value (Loose): $20 to $70 (ebay)

Joker Cycle

Like I mentioned before about the Batcycle, the main thing back in those days was that getting a cycle of some kind was done on purpose since it would give a smaller vehicle for the figures to use and it was cheap to make, and cycles were cool. So Joker got one of his own, and unlike the Batcycle, which only had a kneecapper gimmick, at least his one had that addition of a sidecar which Bob the Goon could sit in... Then get fired out of so he could be a distraction while Joker got away scot-free.

Current Value (Complete): $25 to $60 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $10 to $25 (eBay)

The Batcave

The final item on this list is the biggest and most expensive of the lot. The Batcave is where you were meant to play a battle between Batman and Joker. In reality, you were moving figures around on a combination of plastic and cardboard that was made up to look like The Batcave. It did have some interesting features like the drop-down cage for locking up criminals, a rope climb area, a feature that involved falling rocks, and a few more things that I can't remember off the top of my head. The one thing that did annoy me was the inclusion of two seats in front of the Batcomputer; why include a second seat when there was no secondary hero character to go with Batman? We'll never know.

Current Value (Complete): $100 to $250 (eBay)
Current Value (Loose): $35 to $50 (eBay)

About The Author

Karl Smart
Senior Editor / Reviewer

The main "Australian arm" of The Outerhaven. Karl primarily spends time playing and reviewing video games while taking time to occasionally review the latest movie or piece of gaming technology.