I have a tremendous amount of nostalgia for the 1981 adult cartoon anthology masterpiece, Heavy Metal. It seemed like it was always being shown on Cable TV and I must have watched it every damn time I came across it. It was like some kind of mystical taboo treasure that I knew I shouldn’t be watching, being as young as I was, but it sparked my imagination (among other things), and it was probably the very first time I discovered that cartoons weren’t just for kids. I don’t think I fully understood it until way later, but man is it a wild ride! It definitely left its mark on me and hell, I even own a UMD copy of it for my SOny PSP… so there’s a bit of humble bragging for ya! Sadly, there hasn’t been a whole lot of decent merch for this flick, which is a shame, because there are some amazing character designs. The far inferior sequel Heavy Metal 2000 or FAKK 2, or whatever the hell it calls itself, did get some action figures and a video game, but nothing great. So naturally when Executive Replicas revealed they were doing a proper 6-inch scale Taarna figure with her flying mount Avis, well I was excited! The Taarna figure is also available to pre-order, without Avis, as a limited exclusive.
The set comes in a very nice looking window box with some really iconic artwork on the back. I can never work out exactly what kind of company Executive Replicas is, but best I can tell they partner with sculptors and toy producers to release licensed product. LooseCollector is also credited on the box, and I think they are the the actual producers of the figure. I’ve featured some of Executive Replicas’ work with Phicen’s Sixth-Scale figures, but their one previous release that relates most to this one is their partnership with Coffin Comics and the 6-inch scale Lady Death figure. That figure established a cohesive line of sculpting and articulation that continues on to this release, as well as future releases which will include several more Coffin Comics and some indie comic characters. And yes, I have virtually all of those on pre-order, so they will turn up here eventually. Anyway, the packaging here is collector friendly, and while Avis requires a little assembly, everything can go back into the box with no worries. Let’s start with Taarna!
Taarna comes kitted out in her skimpy Taarakian battle armor… ah, who am I kidding? This ain’t armor. It’s barely a bikini. Either way, part of it is sculpted and other parts are just painted onto the figure. The combination works pretty well and the paint lines are reasonably sharp. There’s a little gold applied to the buckles and a gold bicep band on her left arm. Taarna also has her sculpted red boots as well as a gauntlet and shoulder armor for her sword arm. I really like the wash given to her boots and gauntlet, as it’s somewhat evocative of some of the panel art in the comics. I’m not as keen on the red blemishes scattered over her body. I’m assuming this is supposed to be bruising from battle, and in fairness Taarna takes a lot of abuse in the film, but I think I would have preferred her without these marks.
OK, here’s the weird part. The figure comes with two different heads, and I’m not sure what they are each supposed to signify. The obvious answer is one has regular hair and one has windblown hair. But the hair pieces are actually removable and can be used for either head. The eyes are different colors, the purple eye makeup is more pronounced on one, and there’s more color in the cheeks. But why? I can understand a second head with a different expression, but the differences here seem more like a minor paint variation. Even the solo Taarna exclusive only has one head to share the two hair pieces. Either way, I do prefer the first head over the second, but I don’t think either one does a great job of capturing the character likeness. Taarna often looked a lot more pissed off, and I wish at least one of these portraits portrayed that. They’re fine, but just not spectacular.
It’s not easy incorporating a lot of articulation into a figure that shows a lot of skin, unless you’re going with something like a Phicen seamless body. All in all, I think they did a nice job here. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, single hinges in the elbows, swivels in the biceps, and hinged pegs in the wrists. The legs are ball jointed up in the hips, have swivels in the thighs, double-hinges in the knees, and hinges and rockers in the ankles, although the sculpting in the ankles does curtail the range of movement there quite a bit. There’s a ball joint under the chest and the neck is double ball-jointed. This is a fun figure to pose and play with, and the joints all feel great.
Taarna comes with her gold sword with a red scabbard. The sword doesn’t sport a lot of detail in the sculpt, but it looks pretty close to the design in the film. Her relaxed hands can be swapped out to allow her to hold the sword as a lefty or a righty, and the scabbard hooks onto the belt off her left hip. The sword is fine, but the scabbard has a few little issues. For starters, the blade is a very tight fit, and I don’t feel comfortable inserting it all the way up to the hilt for fear of getting out again. The scabbard is also a curved a bit, so that might be the problem. Attaching it to the belt works OK, but I would have preferred a peg so the scabbard could be angled while she is wearing it. As it is, it can be a bit awkward and as a result, I tend to prefer to display her without it. OK, let’s move on to Avis…
Out of the box, Avis requires her wings and tail fins to be attached. The wings socket in with ball joints, which offer a bit of articulation, while the fins simply tab into place. I actually expected this to be a mostly static figure, but in addition to the wings, there’s a little bit of movement where the legs meet the body, and a decent amount of movement in the neck. Make no mistake, there isn’t a lot of poseability here, but what we get is still plenty cool. Now, it would have been really cool to get a second set of legs and a clear stand to put her into flight mode, but no doubt that would have added a lot to the cost of the set. Either way, Avis is a very solid and substantial figure with some really nice texturing all over her skin and some fine shading bringing out the details in her otherwise pale orange hide. You also get some great sculpted detail in the leg muscles and in the feet and talons.
She’s got an adorable head sculpt with big green eyes and a prominent beak. The reigns are permanently attached and are cast in soft rubbery plastic. Yup Avis is just adorable and I still find the scene where Avis gets wounded hard to watch.
Some really nice attention went into the sculpting and paint on her saddle and gear. You get a green bedroll, a pair of saddlebags, and a round thing, which might be a canteen or something. The saddle is textured to look like worn leather, and you get some nice hits of gold paint on the sculpted buckles and snaps.
Taarna can mount Avis pretty well without any assists, like a peg up her butt. Indeed, there aren’t even any stirrups for her feet, but I don’t recall there being any in the movie, nor are there any on the poster art. Her sword holding hands work perfectly for taking the reins, and she looks damn great atop her flying steed! Yup, this is surely the way she’s going to be displayed!
It feels like part of me has been waiting almost four decades for a figure set like this, and I’m mighty happy to have Taarna and Avis on my shelf, despite a few nitpicks here and there. It’s not a perfect set, but it’s still a pretty damn good one. The MSRP is $129, which feels about right for something from an old movie and a fairly small production company. Still, I really wish Executive Replicas would have gone the Phicen seamless route on this figure. Had they done her with their 6-inch scale body, they could have still included this Avis, and I think the result would have been pretty spectacular. Hell, I’d still be down for picking up a Phicen/TBLeague release of Taarna in either the 6-inch or 12-inch scale. That would be a perfect marriage! Back at the beginning, I mentioned that the Taarna figure is up for pre-order all by herself, but for whatever reason that figure is priced at $85, which is batshit crazy, especially considering this set is still pretty widely available, and you get Avis included for only $50 more.