I really wanted to limit Vintage Vault to once a week, but truth be told I don’t have much new stuff coming in right now, and the show must go on, so I had no choice but sneak another one in this week. Rather than let MASK monopolize it the whole time, today at FigureFan we’re going to take our first look at LJN’s vintage series of action figures based on TSR’s ridiculously popular Advanced Dungeons & Dragons license.
The year was 1983 and while video games were as addictive as all hell, the graphics were primitive and most games were designed to be played for short snippets of time. We kids had to look to the power of imagination and the great Gary Gygax's in order to entertain ourselves with dice-based role playing games.
Naturally AD&D was the forerunner of the time and with a vast universe of heroes, villains, and monsters, well why wouldn’t TSR license it out for action figures and toys? Of course they did, LJN got the license, and the result was a solid, albeit meandering, collection of action figures, PVC bendies, steeds, and even a playset. The figures came in many sizes, but were based (more or less) on the 4-inch scale. The figure we’re checking out today is actually closer to 6-inches. Some may believe it was a special deluxe size class, but these larger figures were actually meant to be giants. Today we’re looking at one of those giants… The Northlord Barbarian!
Northlord and the rest of the giants came carded just like the smaller figures, but they did tend to come with a lot more gear. The average AD&D figure came with a couple of accessories, but these guys came with two weapons, a shield, a removable belt and a removable helmet. They’re also amazingly cool figures for their day… and really they still are. While the figures weren’t based on the Saturday morning AD&D cartoon, many of these figures crossed over into it and had cameos. I don’t actually remember seeing the Northlord in it, but I wouldn’t doubt that showed up at some point.
Its probably been a twenty years since I last laid eyes on this figure, but even now I’m immediately impressed. He was always one of my favorites from this line, and its still easy to see why. Northlord is delightfully colorful and a pretty amazing sculpt too. The head sculpt is expressive and while the paint apps are just simple black to define his eyes and eyebrows, it still works very well, and his long blonde hair and brown headband give him some real character. Northlord’s brown tunic has sculpted scales and the reliefwork in his shoulder armor and sash is wonderfully detailed. His arm bracers have tiny scaling sculpted into them, his boots have sculpted fur and leather wrappings. Even the details on his soft, removable belt are all there. LJN poured the love into this figure in spades and nearly thirty years later it still shows.
Northlord comes with a removable helmet, which is a very nice piece all on its own. The blue, brown and yellow deco matches his armor and the sculpt is brimming with detail, from the scrollwork on the cheeks to the feathered pattern on the prominent wings. It fits right onto his head and stays in place… more or less.
Weapons, you say? Oh yes. Northlord comes with a battle axe, a broadsword, and a shield. He can hold any of the accessories in either hand quite well, and he has a loop on his belt to store whatever weapon he isn’t using at the moment. The axe has a sculpted leather wrapped handle and raised scrollwork sculpted into the axe heads. The sword is inscribed with TSR in runic style lettering, and has a very detailed yellow hilt. The shield has a raised eagle relief scupted onto the front, slong with the tiny faux rivets holding it together.
How’s about articulation? On paper, Northlord only has the standard five points we’re used to seeing in vintage figures: Shoulders, hips, and neck. But in execution, both the shoulders and the hips are all ball jointed, and that gives him a lot more movement than many figures released around his time. In fact, you can get him into some nice poses while wielding his weapons.
As we’ll see in future editions of Vintage Vault, LJN’s AD&D line wasn’t all gold. It had some flubs along the way, but the line mostly produced some very cool and very fun figures. Northlord is certainly one of the high points of the collection. He’s an absolutely beautiful display piece and a fine example of vintage action figure craftsmanship that put many other toy companies to shame. He’s a fantastic display piece and one that can hang on any of my figure shelves any day of the week.
Nice examples of Northlord are still pretty easy to find and you won’t have to raid dungeons for gold in order to afford them. In fact, so long as you don’t care about packaging, you can probably find a fairly minty and complete example for around $20-25. And that’s not bad for a 30 year old figure.