Court of the Dead: Kier (First Sword of Death) Sixth-Scale Figure by Phicen/TBLeague

If you were poking around here yesterday, you may have caught an unfinished preview of today’s review, because I had it scheduled for the wrong day and it published before I completed it. So, here’s the real deal with the rest of the pictures and a nice edit to fix all my drunken typos. Enjoy!  

TBLeague has made a nice niche for themselves creating sixth-scale figures based on indie comic characters, as well as some really cool original concept figures. But never did I expect them to ink a deal with Sideshow Collectibles to create sixth-scale figures based on The Court of the Dead. I mean, that’s crazy. Sideshow makes sixth-scale figures. Why wouldn’t they make these themselves? Well, to be honest, I’m glad it went down this way. The designs work well with the Phicen Seamless Body and the retail cost is most certainly a good bit cheaper than if Sideshow had done them. Today I’m checking out the first release in this line. It’s the Bane of Heaven… Kier!

Here’s a quick look at the packaging, which includes a sturdy box with a tri-fold magnet lid. There is some work to be done before Kier is ready for display. It mostly involves putting on her armor pieces, so let me get her set up and we’ll have a look! But before getting to the goodies, how about some of that backstory? The Court of the Dead is the brainchild of artist Tom Gilliland and initially presented by Sideshow as a series of Premium Format statues. I have to respect the confidence it takes to do a wholly original line of PF Statues. These statues are expensive and they take up a lot of display space. I feel like a lot of people who invest in these pieces do so because of their fondness for a specific character. But Sidshow went in guns blazing by creating a universe and character backstories, and it must have paid off because they’ve released a lot of product in this line. Personally, I loved the designs, but couldn’t commit to the flagship statues. Nonetheless, when TBLeague announced the figures, I was immediately on board.

Outcast from the Heavens and raised by Death, Kier is the Valkyrie of the Dead and also known as Death’s First Sword. Oh yeah… and she is absolutely stunning. Built on one of the large busted Phicen Seamless Bodies, Kier features a rather distinctive blue-gray colored skin with blood stains on her forearms and lower legs. These stains start out with ragged red streaks and get darker until becoming black on her saturated hands and feet. Her armor pieces consist of grieves for her lower legs, a sleeve for her right forearm, pauldrons on her shoulders, and a breastplate. Meanwhile her lower modesty is covered by a sash that hangs down from a belt. Each of the armor pieces are intricately sculpted with some cool Giger-esque patterns and painted to look like ancient bronze. I particularly dig the curved blade protruding from her armor sleeve. The shoulder pieces are attached by clear rubber bands, which make them a pain in the ass to get on, but once they are they seem to stay attached by magic. She also has rather ornate wrist and bicep cuffs on her left arm.

Also part of her armor is the gorget she wears around her neck. It’s a cool piece, but it doesn’t fit as flush against her skin as I would like. Some of this is caused by the cape that ties around her neck and runs out under the gorget. Her cape is made from a heavy fabric with a brown exterior that looks to be spattered with mud. The interior has some sewn patterns that invoke themes of blood and bone. There’s a wire running through the bottom edge of the cape so that it can be shaped into different positions.

Her head sculpt is rather attractive for a Valkyrie of the Dead. The facial features are soft and smooth, but still very well defined. She bares a rather stern and determined expression, which I suppose fits an undead harvester of souls. The paint used for the eyes is much simpler than we usually get, but that’s probably because they weren’t going for that traditional spark of life that we usually get. These are just little gray pools. The eyebrows are sharp and crisp as are the gray lines that spill from her bottom lip and follow down her chin. I’m particularly impressed by the sculpting of the hairline as it looks extraordinarily realistic. This is the first TBLeague figure I’ve seen with sculpted hair, instead of their traditionally rooted coifs, and I have to say they did a damn fine job on it. The texture of the hair is very sharp as are the braids that protrude down her back, each one sculpted with ornamental hair ties painted silver.

And while it’s a shame to cover up that pretty face, Kier comes with a mask, which is perhaps best characterized in her own words, “I have two faces, that which I was given and that which I made. My true face is the one I carved with my own two hands… And if you see it, chances are you’re on your last rattle.” And it does indeed cut a fearsome visage. The mask is brilliantly held on by magnets, which make it so easy to put on and take off without fear of rubbing paint or scratching the plastic of Kier’s pretty face. The mask itself features a realistic bone finish with the Spirit Faction symbol carved into the forehead, two gnarled horns rising from the top… well, make that one and a half, and the jaw bones hanging down from the sides like a pair of grizzly earrings. The mask is formed to fit Kier’s face, perfectly lining up with her eyes and nose.

In addition to a number of different sets of hands, and an extra set of feet, Kier comes with a skull partially engulfed in translucent mystical energy. Maybe one of the souls she is harvesting? This is a horrifically realistic sculpt, all brown and gnarled and with the jawbone missing. The translucent blue plastic swirls off of it to the side and has a beautiful glow when presented in the right lighting. The top of the skull is sculpted with five finger holes, which can be used in conjunction with one of Kier’s graspy hands to make it look like she’s poked her fingers directly into the bone.

Next up, Kier has her impressive two-handed sword. I’ll confess I was a little surprised to find the blade was made of plastic, since a lot of TBLeague’s figures come with metal bladed weapons, but given the extreme length of it, they probably made the right choice from a standpoint of weight and balance. Regardless, the hilt is intricately sculpted with a bird carving as the pommel and a gnarled tangle for a crossguard. The hilt is finished with the same rich patina as Kier’s armor.

Finally, this figure comes with a diorama style base, which is akin to the ones that come with TBLeague’s Deluxe figures. It consists of a circular pedestal with jagged slate pouring up from it. The pedestal is adorned with skulls and skull medallions, and there are more skulls and bones strewn around the rocky terrain, giving you a little slice of the dark dimension on which to display the figure. And if you’ve read any of my Deluxe TBLeague reviews, you probably know what’s coming next. Yeah, there is unfortunately no way to secure the figure to the stand. No pegs or peg holes in her feet, no magnets, and no post to secure her to. Now, I had absolutely no problem getting her to stand on the display in a variety of different poses, but there’s just no way I’m going to display her like that all the time and run the risk of an inevitable shelf dive. As a result, the stand makes for some good photo ops, but it’s not something I’m going to use to display her regularly, and that’s a shame because they did put some nice work into this piece.

Kier set me back about $170, which is right in line with TBLeague’s Deluxe figures, and I have to say that’s a hell of a value. Doubly so when you can rarely ever touch a Hot Toys or Sideshow figure for under $225 these days. And most of those don’t come with big diorama-style display bases. TBLeague did an amazing job owning this design and she is going to look fantastic displayed alongside some of my other TBLeague horror gals, like Vampirella, Purgatori, and Lady Death. Not to mention I’ve already had the second of TBLeague’s Court of the Dead figures arrive, so I hope to be checking her out in a few weeks.

Marvel Comics: Domino (Exclusive) Premium Format by Sideshow

Yeah, another week of abbreviated content. I didn’t make it back on Wednesday because of real life craziness, but at least I did double up for Marvel Monday. And to make up for it a bit more, I’m tackling a big one to end off the week! Sideshow’s delectable quarter-scale Premium Format figures are the bane of my existence. They’re so big and expensive, and yet they’re so damn pretty. I shouldn’t buy them, but I always want to. I’ve only reviewed one of these beauties before, and that was the Batman Returns Catwoman I won from one of Sideshow’s contests about three years ago. Yup, people actually win those! Free is great, but as any good drug dealer knows, it’s that first free hit that hooks you. Since then I’ve picked up a few more but haven’t gotten around to reviewing them, mainly because it takes a lot of effort to gerry-rig my little photo stage to handle them. Anyway, I’d like to remedy that by starting to review some of these, and what better place to start than the one I got in this week! I’m like a kid on Christmas morning!

It’s Domino! A character that I’ve been in love with ever since lucky Neena Thurman first graced the pages of Marvel Comics. Hell, X-Force #11 from 1992 was one of the first comics I ever got CGC graded. When Sideshow solicited this one, I knew I had to have it, but not just because it’s Domino, but because the composition is so amazing. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As always the statue comes in a box massive enough to house the 20-inch tall statue and plenty of Styrofoam to protect it. The box is made up to look like a giant slot machine and has some cool touches, like X-Men stickers ripped off one side and the machine’s marquee branded after Domino herself. There’s a silver foil sticker on the bottom left corner of the front panel to denote that this one is a Sideshow Exclusive, limited to 1,000 pieces.

Inside the Styrofoam, it looks like something that’s been cocooned by spiders. As expected, there is some unwrapping and assembly required here, and this phase tends to be the most stressful of the un-boxing. Are all the parts going to be OK? Is everything going to fit together properly? In this case I’m happy to say, Yes and Yes. Assembly includes attaching the figure to the base with a key tab that protrudes from her butt. Next up, the hands (each holding a gun) gets attached and held by magnets. The slot machine arm keys into the side and attaches to the toe of Domino’s boot with a magnet, and finally the head attaches by magnet as well. When all is said and done, this is a very solid and pretty heavy piece all ready for display. I’ll also note here that there is no mixed-media in this figure, so the entire costume is part of the sculpt.

And what a display it is! Domino sits playfully on top of a leaning X-Men-themed slot machine with her legs crossed and one foot resting on the arm. She leans back to support herself with her right hand, still holding a pistol, while she draws the pistol in her left hand up near her neck and points it to the ceiling. I don’t think Sideshow has ever managed to have the base upstage the figure itself in one of these Premium Formats, this might be pretty close. In truth, they both just complicate each other tremendously well. I tend to waffle between preferring classic museum style poses and something more dynamic and action-y, but this one introduces a whole new ballgame. It’s wildly creative, it’s deliciously meta, and it understands the character so well.

Of course, this is a pretty modern look for Domino, which really just means that her traditional black cat suit is enhanced with a lot more detail and a more tactical look to it. And while we already have a Domino for the films and I wouldn’t take any of that away from the glorious Zazie Beetz, I do think that this version of Domino has a realistic quality to her, which would have worked fine for the big screen. The bulk of the suit is a delightful mix of black and blue, which comes out beautifully under the studio lights, and is enhanced with patches of exposed ribbed blue “material,” presumably to add a little flexibility. Again, it’s all sculpted, but I have no quarrel with the decision because the end results are quite spectacular. Everything from the zipper track to the stitch lines, and the subtle wrinkles here and there make for a very convincing garment, even if it is all polyresin.

The suit is covered with tactical gear, all held on by sculpted segmented belts. Her inventory includes all sorts of pouches, slots for extra magazines, empty shoulder holsters under each arm, and a futuristic looking gun strapped to her right thigh. The gun is a great example of all the detail that went into the sculpt. The hard-molded style holster is textured and features sculpted rivets that simulate holding it together. There’s a sculpted retaining strap locking the weapon into place and the weapon itself is just brimming with detail. The twin pistols in her hands enjoy all that same great attention to detail. The X-branded belt buckle breaks up the blues and blacks with a bright red glossy background.

The standard portrait is superb. Domino sports her trademark pixie cut and offers a sideways glance and a knowing smirk. It’s like she’s thinking, “My luck is going to hold out, but yours is about to change.” I love the pale coloring they used for her rather unusual skin tone and the iconic spot around her left eye is crisp. For that matter all the paint work on the face is sharp and crisp. The sculpt for her hair is intricate and almost looks like it’s layered. The hair color follows the same pattern as her suit, being black with some blue-purple highlights. The only thing that sucks about this portrait is that the Sideshow Exclusive comes with a second, and that’s going to make for some tough decisions…

The Exclusive head features longer hair, the left side of which is blowing off to the side a bit. The head is turned to face her gun and her lips are pursed. It looks fine just like this, but it’s intended to be displayed with the addition of one extra piece.

 

Add the smoke effect to the gun barrel and now she looks like she’s blowing the barrel of her pistol after having fired it. I love the way this turned out and it’s creating quite the conundrum on which look to go for. The pixie cut from the standard head is more Domino to me, but the Exclusive looks so good. Luckily they are easy to swap, so I may just wind up doing that every couple of weeks.

And that brings us to the base, which is usually not something I need to spend a lot of time on when discussing statues, but here’s the exception to that rule. This is just amazing from both a composition standpoint as well as execution. It offers an on the nose nod to Domino’s mutant power, but it has a lot of fun with it too.

Sideshow went above and beyond with the detail in the bullet-ridden one-armed bandit. It has a steel sheen to the sides and back and the sculpted bullet holes look quite realistic. The back of the unit has all the vents and bits that you would expect to find on something like this. The coloring on the upper and lower marquee are beautifully illustrated. It would have been cool if SIdeshow added some lights to this base, but I don’t think that’s something they ever do in the Premium Formats. I particularly love the bullet holes in the plastic screens that cover the top marquee and the rollers. The later of which look convincing enough that I’d swear I could pull the lever and watch them spin.

Finally, the Days of Future Cash slot-machine rests on top a pile of Deadpool-branded tokens with spent bullet casings peppered generously throughout. Under this pile of loot is a simple black circular base. Lift it up and you get a little Domino artwork along with the limitation of the statue. Mine is hand-numbered 208/1000.

It’s s funny thing buying these Premium Formats. I always go into the purchase with sweaty, nervous palms and yet I’ve yet to be disappointed with one of these pieces when they arrive. And that’s saying a lot because they sure ain’t cheap. At $585 ($570 for the regular edition), I fear these statues are creeping past my budget right when I’m starting to get into them. But it’s easy to see where the money went, as Domino makes for an impressive presence on the shelf, and I can’t find anything on the piece to even nitpick about. The sculpt, paint, and overall design came together so beautifully. I’m certainly glad I didn’t pass this one oup.

J. Scott Campbell’s Fairytale Fantasies Collection: Tinkerbell by Sideshow

My love for J. Scott Campbell’s artwork knows no bounds, but I don’t get to talk about it here on FFZ as much as I’d like to. That’s because despite the tons of Campbell’s comics and art prints in my collection, the collectible merchandise based on his art just isn’t as prolific as I would like. We’ve had some action figures from Danger Girl and Gen 13, and some statues based on his art, but that stuff seems to be few and far between. But that’s not to say Sideshow hasn’t been doing their part lately. They’ve done some very nice statues based on Campbell’s Spider-Man art, a Premium Format of Abbey Chase, which I promise I’ll get around to reviewing sooner rather than later, and now they’re working on the Fairytale Fantasy Collection, thus far releasing J. Scott Campbell’s versions of The Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, and today’s subject of review… Tinkerbell!

The statue is comprised of polyresin and reproduced in roughly one-sixth scale. Or, maybe it would be more accurate to say she’s 12-inches tall, since, being a fairy, Tinkerbell isn’t exactly people-sized. The standard statue was limited to 3500 pieces, but the Sideshow Exclusive that I’m looking at today was limited to 1500. Tink comes encased in two slabs of Styrofoam and ships in a very attractive enclosed box. The artwork on the box alone is worthy of display, and I’ve actually got a couple of prints of similar art coming to me from Campbell’s webstore. She comes mostly assembled and ready for display, the only set up required is to plug the metal foot post into the base, which was easy to do thanks to a perfect fit. This little pixie has been on my shelf for a while now, and I’m truly excited to finally get around to giving her the spotlight.

If all you need is faith, trust, and a little pixie-dust, than Sideshow must possess it all in spades, because this statue came out gorgeous! Tink stands on her tip-toes atop an ornate brass compass with one hand on her hip and the other trailing beside her. Her head is turned off to the side and her impressive wings (all 11-inches of them!) fan out behind her. The composition just exudes spunky confidence! Obviously, Campbell has branded Tink with his singular style of sex appeal, giving her legs that go on for miles and flow beautifully into the rest of her curves. I’ve always thought Campbell’s work blends well with Disney’s designs and Tink here is about as best an example that I can come up with.

Tink’s petite costume covers only the essentials and consists of two sculpted leaves, one covering her front and the other the back, and secured together with sculpted and painted laces running up each side of the makeshift dress. The dress is convincing as being something separate that’s actually worn by the figure, even though I’m pretty sure it’s just part of the sculpt. It has a plunging neckline to show off her fairy goodies up top, but comes to a point down below so as not to show off too much of her fairy goodies. On the flip-side, the dress exposes enough of her back to see where the wings connect, and makes the most minimal effort possible at hiding her pixie-tush. Tink accessorizes her costume with three simple green bands: One worn on her right bicep, another around her left ankle, and the third as a thin choker necklace. Finally, she has a sprig of ivy painted around her right thigh. Because there isn’t a whole lot to her costume, the statue gets by mostly showing smooth skin, but the detail work in the dress is very nice, and did I mention how great the curves look? Yeah, I probably did, but I’ll say it again anyway because I just love how Campbell does curves when he draws his ladies, and this statue does a fine job reproducing them in 3D.

The paint on the figure is also worthy of praise, but that pretty much goes without saying when it comes to Sideshow’s work. Most impressive to me is the skin-tone, which is so soft and warm and lifelike. A lot of that is thanks to the gradient shades used for the shadows, which looks particularly good around her knees and the arches of her feet. It’s so easy for these statues to come out looking flat and lifeless, but Tink here is anything but. Likewise, there’s a great mix of green paint used on the dress, from darker green around the edges to the more yellowish green in the middle. Because of the rather simple costume, there isn’t a lot of opportunity for slop on this figure, nor is there really any that I can see. Of course most of the detailed paint is on the portrait, so let’s go there next!

As much as Campbell has a signature way of drawing a lady’s curves, his portraits are really the trademark of his art style and it’s here where I think that style matches so well with Disney’s. The big eyes, the pouty lips, the dainty little nose, it’s unmistakably Tinkerbell, albeit with a saucier flavor than what the kids are used to seeing. Once again, the paint here is impeccable, from the emerald green pupils in her eyes to the glossy pink lips. Her short hair is secured with a painted green hair band and a few strands have escaped to fall down the left side of her face and gently kiss her chin. This is one of those times where the portrait came out every bit as good as the image we were solicited with, and these days, that’s no small feat.

My final stop on the figure is that gorgeous set of wings, and here is where most of my trepidation lay while waiting to get the figure in hand. If they were too thin, they’d look cheap and be terribly fragile. If they were too thick, they’d look unconvincing. In the end, I think Sideshow got them just right. They certainly lean toward being thick, and the golden top edges are where most of the heft can be found. The rest consist of semi-translucent plastic with patterns running through them. Each of the four wings secure firmly into her back and I have no worries about them coming loose or easily breaking off.

And that brings us down to the base, which is quite a work of art in itself. I love the fact that they used the compass as a base, as it gives a sense of scale and reinforces the fact that Tink is supposed to be tiny. There’s a crocodile motif sculpted around the side of the compass and a single ring protruding from the top. The surface that Tink is standing on is clear plastic, displaying the needle and the face of the compass beneath it. It’s pretty convincing as an actual instrument and it’s wonderful to see Sideshow put so much effort into it.

Flip the base over and you get the series logo, Tinkerbell’s name, and the hand-numbered limitation. Mine is #241/1500. As far as getting a lower number, I guess that’s not too shabby, but then I did pre-order this statue the day it went up. So, other than the smaller circulation number, what else is different about the Sideshow Exclusive?

The Exclusive also came with this metal art card and stand. The card features some of the original concept art that this statue is based on. The stand is painted gold to match the base of the statue and has a simple slot running through the middle that allows the card to stand at a bit of an angle. The colors are vibrant and I dare say this piece would be worthy of display even without the statue to go with it!

When Sideshow first showed off this series, I knew I was going to get at least one for my collection and then if budget allowed I would see what happened. And as great as all three of the statues looked, it wasn’t a hard decision on which one to go for. Tinkerbell was the one that called to me, and it was the one that had me slapping the pre-order button. And if you can’t tell by this review, I had absolutely no regrets. At $300, she’s a little more pricey than the statues I’m used to buying in this scale, but then it’s easy for me to see where the money went. The sculpt is lovely, the colors are vibrant and her beautiful golden wings make people take notice of her even from across the room. And besides, having another piece of J. Scott Campbell’s art realized in 3D form? How can I put a price on that anyway? As for the other two? Well, the first release of The Little Mermaid has sold out, so if I go for that piece it will have to be a variant. Alice in Wonderland, on the other hand, is still available, and I’m considering picking her up more and more each day.

Batman Returns: Premium Format Catwoman by Sideshow

For years now I’ve been ogling Sideshow’s Premium Format statues, but it wasn’t until Power Girl that I came close (oh, so close!) to pulling the trigger on one. I’ve managed to tell myself I didn’t have the space to collect these quarter-scaled behemoths and the fact that they run in the $400-500 price range also helped keep me away. Nonetheless, when Sideshow was running a Giveaway for the Power Girl I entered. I also entered a few more. I didn’t win Power Girl, but I sure as shit won the Batman Returns Catwoman! So, it just goes to show you, people do win these things! There was about a six month lead time before it shipped, and I was responsible to pay the shipping, which came to about $45, but eventually a mammoth box showed up at my door and I was pretty damn excited to check it out!

The statue ships in a standard Sideshow mailer and is without a doubt the largest box I have ever received containing a single collectible. My neighbors probably thought it was a new dishwasher. People who collect these things regularly probably think I’m just adorable at how impressed I was, but that’s OK, because I’m not ashamed to admit it. Inside the mailer, you get a colorful, fully enclosed box, that basically houses a massive brick of Styrofoam. Sorry for the crappy flash picture, but there was no way I could get this thing onto my photo area. It was difficult enough to get it rigged to handle the statue, let alone the box it came in.

The statue requires a bit of assembly and there are no instructions included. You can always visit Sideshow’s site if you need to download a PDF or watch a video showing the assembly. In this case it was pretty easy. The base is one solid piece, and makes up most of the whopping 12 pounds that this statue weighs. The figure itself pegs into the base via a metal rod. I’ve heard tons of horror stories about the rods on Premium Formats not going in smoothly, but this one went in fine. The arms and head attach via powerful magnets, and the whip just needs to be coiled around the body.

When all set up, Catwoman stands a respectable 22-inches tall, which puts the figure at about a quarter scale and includes around 4 or 5 inches for the impressive slab of a base. I absolutely love the pose, which has Selina leaning seductively on a corner of brickwork, one foot in front of the other, and her whip coiled around her body. I think the stance here really nails Michelle Pfeiffer’s body language in the film, while also perfectly accentuating the beautiful curves of the figure in that ever-so-tight suit.

I was a bit surprised that this figure features no mixed-media, unless you count the whip. It’s not uncommon for these PFs to feature completely stitched costumes, but Catwoman is done entirely with sculpted polystone and paintwork. I’m fine with that, especially when the outcome looks this good. The high gloss paint used on her latex outfit certainly gets the job done, creating a mirror finish like a brand new car. The individual stitches are each sculpted and painted white with the seams splitting here and there to show her skin. Even the laced strings for her corset are sculpted up and down her back. The matte finish on the boots offers a nice contrast to the rest of the gloss black.

I really dig the portrait. Her eyes are gorgeous and the paint used on her lips is shiny and crisp. Despite the high prices, it’s not unheard of to experience paint issues on PF statues, or at least that’s what I gather from years of living vicariously through reviews and message boards. I’ll confess that even though I didn’t pay for her, I was plenty nervous unwrapping the head, as well as the rest of the body, for fear of some glaring paint problem. In the end, I needn’t have worried because the paint on this lady holds up to the sticker price of the piece. There aren’t any blemishes on the finish or any askew brush strokes. I know a few people have had issues with the head not seating properly in the neck, but mine doesn’t have any play in it at all.

Another great little touch are her nails, which are patterned after their haphazard look in the film. They also happen to be pretty damn sharp! I’d also imagine that they’re probably the most delicate parts of this entire piece.

The diorama section is a piece of Gotham rooftop set upon a beveled circular base. It’s a great choice for the figure and the brickwork is extremely convincing both in appearance and even to the touch. You also get a little chimney pipe in the corner. Selina’s boots stand flush with the rooftop surface keeping her steady and sure. The bottom of the base actually features a full color illustration along with the numbering and limitation. I usually post pictures of these when reviewing statues, but with how large and heavy this thing is, there’s no way I was going to risk it. However, I will say that mine is #616 of 2,500. Ironically, that’s one of the lowest numbers I’ve ever received on one of these limited pieces. Even most of my DC Collectibles statues are in the 2,000’s.

Getting this Catwoman statue into my collection was a pretty exciting event for me. It’s my first Premium Format and it’s the first time I ever won something as amazing and valuable as this statue. Unfortunately, it’s really turned me on to these pieces and the temptation to get another is burning inside me. On the other hand, I was lucky enough to find somewhere to display this one, as I happened to have an accent table in the corner of my Den that’s perfect for her, but I can’t imagine where I would go with another. Not to mention the huge box is sitting in one of my storage closets and taking up almost half the floor space! With a retail of $450, she’s probably the most expensive single collectible I own, and I have to say I think she’s certainly worth the money. I’ll confess that I have a hell of a lot of Catwoman items in my collection, and while this isn’t the Premium Format I would have chosen to sink that much money into, I’m still very pleased to own it. Plus, she seems to have been a pretty popular piece, as Sideshow’s site is already flashing the Low Stock warning on her page.

Star Wars: C-3PO Deluxe Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow

Yeah, it’s Transformers Thursday, but I’ve got no new Transformers to look at this week, so I thought I’d go with another robot instead. This guy arrived at my door just a couple of days ago and he’s been a pretty polarizing release so far, so I wanted to bump him up on my priority list, so here we go…

I’ve been pretty firm on my decision not to get in on Sixth-Scale Star Wars figures. It’s a dark path that I really don’t want to head down for fear that it would consume all my monies and shelf space. That attitude will likely be changing when it comes to Hot Toys and The Force Awakens, but that’s a problem I’ll deal with later this Summer. As for the Original Trilogy, well I bent the rules when it came to Artoo and Threepio because they’ve been such iconic characters to me virtually my entire life. Early last year, I checked out Sideshow’s R2-D2, a solid if imperfect figure, and after a long wait his counterpart, C-3PO is finally here. Strap yourselves in, this one is going to be a long one…

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The figure comes in what seems to be standard for the SS Star Wars line. It’s an enclosed box with a nice look at the prototype of the figure (important for later!) and it’s obviously collector friendly. If you get the Exclusive then the box will have the foil sticker on the front denoting such. There are shots of the figure on the back and side panels as well.  I don’t have a lot more to say about the package so let’s just talk about the figure’s initial reception. I spent Tuesday afternoon waiting for my 3PO to arrive and I decided to do what I often do in this situation: Make a pot of coffee and read through forum posts of early impressions as they roll in. Here I was confronted with horror story after horror story of bad QC, including bad mold flashing, pistons breaking, paint scratches and chips, a head that wouldn’t come off to access the electronics, aaaand… oh yeah, the fact that it seemed like the entire run of figures had their thumbs put on backwards. Needless to say when the UPS man finally handed me my shipper box, I was pretty nervous about opening it up.

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So naturally the first thing I did was give the finish a good once over and based on what I’d been seeing from other owners, I was shocked at virtually no discernible flubs or scratches. You may think you see a scratch here or there in the pictures, but I assure you that’s just my arch nemesis, Cat Hair! No, apart from a very little bit of visible mold flashing on the right knee, this particular figure is just about spotless. There were no broken pistons or any other defects. I had indeed dodged what appeared to be a QC bullet. The thumbs? Oh, yeah. The thumbs are indeed assembled wrong. Which sadly isn’t an individual QC defect but a design flaw across the entire run. There are times when it’s obvious, but truth be told, most of the time I barely notice it. With the hands held to the sides or palms front, it’s barely an issue at all. I’ll deal more on that at the end of this Feature.

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Anyway, getting 3PO set up just requires you to pop off the head to remove the battery tab that will activate his eyes. The instructions ridiculously tell you not to pull on the head, only the neck, otherwise you may damage the figure. Frankly, I don’t see how grabbing only the neck is even possible and there are apparently a fair share of owners who have not been able to pop the head at all for fear of breaking the figure. Me? I was able to hold the figure firmly at the base of the head and just wiggle it right out, easy peasy. This lets you remove the tab and is also how you replace the batteries. Tap the back of the head, and 3PO’s eyes come to life and those peepers are pretty gorgeous. It’s a feature that really is necessary to bring 3PO to life and they nailed it. They may not look it under the bright studio lights, but in normal room lighting, they’re quite bright.

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With all the qualification behind me, I’d like to say that this guy looks pretty stunning on the shelf. The finish is obviously the worn and dirty version. This isn’t a droid you’d take to a Yavin celebration like the Tamashii version. That having been said, there’s still a nice metallic sheen to him. The gold paint looks rich and authentic, even if the realism of the oil and grease marks fall a notch or two below hitting the mark. I think it’s actually kind of cool that the weathering patterns seem to vary quite a bit from figure to figure. Some seem to have it in places where others don’t and that makes each individual figure a little more special. So long as your happy with the one you got, otherwise I guess it sucks. I don’t think the weathering looks bad at all, but with them there Hot Toys prices, Sideshow, I gotta turn my expectations up a couple of notches and so does everybody else. Oh yeah, I really dig the silver they used for the lower right leg and the rust spray on there looks outstanding.

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In terms of sculpt, I think they really nailed a lot of the aspects of the droid that other people haven’t been able to. The head, for example, looks spot on to me. The crest around the head, for example, isn’t too thick, which is one of my biggest pet peeves on 3PO figures. I’m sure there are plenty of obsessive Star Wars fans who can find plenty to nitpick, but that ain’t me. The texturing of the exposed mid section is nice, as is the paint on the wires, however, at this price, I would have liked actual wires attached to the rubber piece, but this works well enough and looks fine.

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The inner pistons on the arms actually work and look particularly nice. These are often too thick and prominent on larger scale renditions of the character. The trade off here, of course, is that they are crazy delicate. I’ve seen several pictures of them broken off in the boxes and others snapping when moving the arms. It’s hard to think of a better illustration of the fact that these are collectibles and not toys and more than a modicum of care is needed when articulating his arms. The pistons on my figure travel their channels smoothly and don’t inhibit the articulation all that much more than the original suit design intended. I do think the 3PO suit had a little bit more elbow articulation than what we got here, but not much. Moving on down below the waste, I’m particularly satisfied with the movement in the hips. I don’t dig my protocol droids to be all bow-legged and there’s enough easy play in those hip joints that you can get 3PO to stand with both feet touching. At the same time, the leg joints are all solid enough to support the figure with no worries or floppiness.

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3PO is not heavy on the accessories, which is unfortunate because of the high price point. In fact, the only accessories with the standard release are a pair of magnetic restraining bolts and the commlink. I assume they included two bolts in case you lose one, which is fairly likely since the magnets on the bolts are crazy weak. After a couple tries, I was convinced there was no magnet at all, so I tried it on R2 and it worked fine. Turns out you just have to be really accurate when you place it. The commlink is barely worth mentioning as an accessory. It’s just a tiny piece of painted plastic. Surprisingly, even with his challenged thumbs, 3PO is capable of holding it, but it takes some effort.

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The Exclusive included is the shoulder stump, which in theory just involves pulling the arm out at the shoulder and replacing with the stump. Unlike the head, my figure’s arm was an absolute bitch to remove. Getting the full arm out requires a little too much force than I’m comfortable with and putting the stump in results in a thunderous click as it locks in, making me initially think, “Oh God, how the hell am I ever going to get that out again?” It came out, but it was a bit of a fight. It’s a fantastic bonus feature and it looks great, but I doubt I’ll be doing that very often.

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Naturally, you get a stand, which is not nearly as necessary as I thought, because 3PO stands beautifully by himself. That having been said, I don’t risk displaying any of my 1:6 scale figures without a stand and Goldenrod here will be no different. The stand is as no frills as you can get. It’s just a big black hexagonal base with a post and crotch-cradle. Considering the price of the figure, it would have been nice to get something a little more fancy or maybe a stand big enough to display him and R2. I’ll probably try to hunt something down.

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So, where to come down on this figure? Quite frankly, I love it, but that affection needs to be qualified. On principle, the thumb thing is inexcusable. Either the figure should have been delayed to make a fix or Sideshow should have gotten in front of it in order to make it right for their customers before shipping. Instead, they posted pictures of the final product, complete with mis-assembled thumbs, right as they were shipping and still haven’t addressed the issue to their customers. It makes all the difference difference between being responsible toward their consumers and being blatantly unprofessional. If my figure had other issues, I’d consider doing a refund, but honestly, I love everything else about this guy so much, I’m willing to overlook what is becoming known as thumbgate. That’s not to say I don’t think some restitution isn’t in order, at least to garner some goodwill over the incident. If that sort of arrangement is forthcoming, I’ll be sure to post an addendum here.

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The other qualifier is about value. You may have noticed that I brought up price a lot during this Feature. As much as I love my shiny new protocol droid, I will say that at $230, I think this figure is grossly over priced. Sure he looks fantastic, even more so beside R2, but it’s still difficult to see where all the money went. At the $189-$200 range, I could have given 3PO my blessing, but tack another $30-40 onto that and I feel like I’m paying too much. Sure, licensing costs money and Star Wars is the hottest property there is, but Hot Toys just put out a First Order Stormtrooper with more accessories and for $20 cheaper. Now, to be clear that doesn’t mean I regret buying him, it just means I concede that I spent more than I was comfortable spending on him. Truth be told, at the end of the day, if I had had been given this figure on a trial bases, I’d still be pulling the trigger. I really do love him that much. 

Star Wars: R2-D2 Sixth-Scale Deluxe Figure by Sideshow

Sideshow has been running their Sixth-Scale line of Star Wars figures for quite some time, and I’ve managed to stay away from it… up until now. It’s bad enough that I already collect Star Wars figures in two different scales, I don’t need to add an expensive third format. There are, however, exceptions to every rule and in this case I’ve decided that I rather need a really nice Sixth-Scale R2-D2 and C-3PO on my shelf. 3PO won’t be showing up until the end of this year at the earliest, but R2 finally shipped this month after a few months delay. When I was a kid, my Dad and I spent a week building the original MPC R2-D2 model kit. I remember wanting to slap that thing together and play with it, but my Dad taught me patience and care as we spent days filing down sprue marks and painting every last piece and the result was extraordinary. It’s a great memory of my childhood and until now that was the best R2 I ever owned. I wish I still had that model and I’ve been looking for an equal to that R2 for ages now. Needless to say I was mighty excited to get my hands on this little Astromech Droid and I can’t wait to check him out.

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R2 comes in a really big box for such a small droid. Sure, he’s Sixth-Scale but for an R2 Unit that amounts to only about 6 inches or so, the box stands close to 12-inches tall and is almost as wide. It’s fully enclosed, but it does have a flap that opens to reveal a window that lets you get a good look at what’s inside. Opening the flap demonstrates why the box is so damn big because it lets you see that R2 only occupies a small portion of the space on his tray, with the rest taken up by his various accessories and extra bits. There’s a lot in this box to look at, mostly attachments, so let’s start out with the base figure…

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My first impression is that Sideshow really did their research to painstakingly recreate every little panel line and detail on this little droid. Their Sixth Scale line has come so far since the earlier days! I also want to point out how happy I am they went for a slightly weathered look. Bright and clean R2 just isn’t as interesting to me and super dirtied up rarely looks good. Nope, this is a middle-of-the-road “I’ve been on adventures” version of R2 and I like it a lot. I should also note that I had concerns about the way the dome would look in-hand and how bad those seams would be, but I needn’t have worried. The dome looks fantastic in person and again I think the worn silver works better than a bright and shiny silver would have looked. As we’ll see in a moment, R2 has tons of opening panels, but it’s hard to tell that most of them open because they sit perfectly flush with his body. I’m really thankful for that because it would have been a major “make or break” aspect of the figure for me. If you look closely enough, you can make out seems on a few panels, whereas others totally look like they’re just sculpted as part of the body. All of three of the projectors on R2’s dome are articulated, but the one on the top of my figure has a little mold flashing, which sometimes gets stuck on the grommet. As Yoda would say, “QC issues, yes… but minor they are!” 

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While he looks fantastic, getting R2 in hand gave me pause, as this is a pretty light figure and some might say flimsy feeling figure. There’s no die-cast to give him any heft and it’s obvious that he’s mostly hollow. He’s priced like a high end collectible, but he feels more like a toy, and a delicate one at that, especially as you begin to open his hatches and mess around with his features. Granted, for me value doesn’t have to equate with weight, but I know a number of collectors have been voicing unrest over some of the recent light weight Premium Format statues by Sideshow and this R2 presents a similar case. On the other hand, it’s probably a good thing the body isn’t any heavier because there’s a little play in his ankle joints and you have to balance him just right when standing on only two legs or he’s likely to lean forward or back. The shoulder joints, on the other hand, are nice and snug. R2 also features the retractable third leg. You can deploy it simply by pushing in on it and it will spring out. Push it back up and it will lock into place. All three feet have wheels on the bottom and R2 rolls splendidly across my desk, buy hopefully never off my shelf.

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The electronics in the figure features various lights situated around R2’s dome and they are easily the high point of the figure for me, simply because they are executed so well. R2 looks great standing on the shelf, but when you activate those lights he absolutely comes alive. The color change and dynamic light movements found on a few of the panels are amazing. Once more, getting it activated is as easy as tapping a certain blue panel on the dome with your finger. Tap it again and it activates his projector too. Tap it a third time and everything shuts off. There’s an On/Off switch situated under the dome, but the electronics don’t need to be reset after a while of inactivity (an annoying feature which was the only blemish on the Hot Toys RoboCop figure for me) What’s inexcusable here is the lack of any audio clips. Yes, I knew that was the case going in, but it doesn’t make the absence of sound any less disappointing. For crying out loud, Hasbro was putting sound chips in their ten dollar 3 3/4” R2 figures over ten years ago. The fact that Sideshow couldn’t do it on this $150 piece is pretty sad. I think the sound combined with the stellar lighting would have really sent this figure over the top.

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Alrighty, so let’s talk hatches and attachments and we’ll start with the body. R2 comes with Luke’s lightsaber hilt and there’s a magnet in it so you can use it to open all of R2’s chest panels. I love this feature as (most of the time) it prevents you from having to dig these open with your nail and risk damaging anything. Yes, the hinges appear very fragile, and while I did have one door come off entirely, it was easy to put back on. The two horizontal blue actuator arms swing out. The door to the left of the central vents (R2’s left) opens to reveal some sculpted and painted mechanisms. The panel to the right of the vents opens to reveal a socket to insert one of his arm attachments. The two long side panels each open and reveal swing out arms to plug in arm atachments too. Getting these arms to swing out can be a bit of a chore, but once you do they are designed to travel up and down a rail to change their height, which is a pretty cool feature. All the doors can open at once and if you got the regular retail edition (Sideshow’s Exclusive came with an extra saw blade) you can have all the included arms deployed at once. The arm attachments include his zapper, his computer interface, and his grabber arm. These arms just socket into the holes, although some don’t really stick and can be knocked out very easily. And yes, while some of these features are delicate, I still think they were done quite well.

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Moving on to the dome, there are three panels surrounding the center that open to reveal features. First, you get the periscope, which is the easiest to deploy. If you hold R2 upside down it’ll usually pop out.

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The little radar dish is a lot tougher. You have to push down on the panel to get it to pop up and swing out. Then you can use the lightsaber to push down on the dish and it will (theoretically) pop out. Unfortunately, mine was retracted backwards, which made getting it out the first time so difficult that I almost gave up for fear of breaking the thing. Lastly, if you press down on the third panel and swing it to the side it will open a compartment for the lightsaber. I had the least amount of success with this one. The panel just seems to want to keep closing on the saber and I was afraid if I dropped it in there that I’d never get it out.

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Oh, yeah, you also get a little magnetic restraining bolt… cool!

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The final feature on the dome is the rather elaborate serving tray and arm that was used by the little droid on Jabba’s Sail Barge. The serving arm hatch is opened with the lightsaber magnet and then you just peg the arm into place. The tray requires you to peg in the side pieces, which is a precarious undertaking since each level of the drink tray is secured by two rather weak posts. I can easily see these bending and snapping when applying the force needed to get those sidepieces on or taking them off to put everything back in the tray. After that you just peg in the drink cups. Once assembled, the whole thing rests very securely on R2’s shoulders and looks pretty damn great. The serving arm will rotate 360-degrees and it’s hinged in several places. I like this thing a lot, but I can’t see myself using it for display all that often.

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And we’re still not done, because R2 also comes with the table from Obi-Wan’s place with an attachable hologram of Princess Leia. You plug it into the center of the table and click one of the doo-hickeys on the side and it lights up. It’s a rather large extra for the figure and R2 displays really well with his lit projector pointed towrds it!

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I like this figure a lot, but I can see some really obvious areas for improvement, in fact three to be precise. Firstly, the figure would have benefited from some ratchets in the ankles to keep him from leaning without having to balance him. Secondly… sound chip!  In a world where you can make an electric key fob that makes R2 noises for a couple of bucks, I really question the lack of sound with this figure. If I’m not mistaken they had a sound chip in their Probe Droid, so why the hell not R2? Finally, and I hesitate to mention this because I’m rarely a champion of diecast, but some diecast in the side feet and possibly the legs would have given R2 some added heft without compromising stability. Now, all nitpicking aside I still think Sideshow did a beautiful job here and they certainly packed in enough goodies to make it worth the price, but I can see a lot of collectors feeling that R2 here is too delicate for his own good. Ah, but there’s certainly no buyer’s remorse on my end and having him on my shelf has made me all the more excited to get C-3PO later this year, assuming he can arrive on time.

GI JOE: Destro (Enemy Weapons Supplier) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow, Part 2

Alrighty, I’m back to wrap up this long overdue look at Sideshow’s Destro figure. I went really long yesterday and it’s Saturday so I’m already in overtime for the week. With those things in mind I’m going to try to be brief today while still giving all of Destro’s cool stuff their proper due. Let’s start with the weapons!

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Destro comes with his trusty chrome finish automatic pistol which fits nicely into the holster on his right hip and I’m not surprised to find that the sculpting on the weapon is every bit as good as what I’m used to seeing in Sideshow’s sixth-scale arsenals. Really, these guys do a great job on the firearms!

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The slide on the gun is articulated and pulls back to reveal a painted bullet in the chamber. The magazine is removable, again showing a painted bullet at the top. You also get two more mags, which can be stored in the ammo pouches on Destro’s left hip. It sounds like a little throwaway thing, but the ability to store extra mags on their person is one of my favorite little things about many of these Sideshow Cobras. I’m also really pleased to see that Sideshow is sticking with magnets to secure the straps on the ammo pouches and holster, rather than working snaps, which tend to tear the fragile leather. These are easy to get in and out of and I’m not afraid to use them. This is a key reason as to why I almost never take the pistol out of my Hot Toys Captain America figure. Stupid fragile snaps!

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Destro’s other weapon is his laser pistol and man do I love this thing. Some may remember that I was a little put out by the fact that Cobra Commander didn’t come with his iconic hair-dryer pistol. It’s nice to see that wasn’t the case with Destro as his primary weapon is a gorgeous sixth-scale interpretation of the laser pistol that came with the vintage figure. It’s a highly detailed and very realistic looking design or a fictional gun and it includes a scope and a detachable magazine. Everything on this weapon is beautiful right down to the coloring. Since it’s a laser gun, I’m assuming that in this case the magazine is some kind of replaceable battery. Either way Destro looks great brandishing this beauty.

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The next big item on the agenda is his MARS briefcase and this thing is just full of surprises. It’s got a matte green finish, a hinged handle and has two strong hinged catches on one side to open it up. It opens to reveal…

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A satellite guidance computer! The LCD screen graphics look really nice, but we’re not done yet, because the bottom plate lifts out to reveal…

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Yeah! A hidden compartment for his laser pistol. The gun breaks down into four pieces and each piece fits snugly into the plastic cutouts that are made to look like foam. I love this little extra as it gives Destro an option for when those sketchy arms deals go south and he needs to blast his way out.

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One of the simplest and yet coolest extras in the set is this tiny manila folder full of one-sheet blueprints for some of Cobra’s most iconic weapon systems. You get one for the HISS, one for the ASP, and one for the FANG. All three fit into the folder and the folder can be placed into the briefcase. Brilliant! I don’t know who had the idea to include something like this with the figure, but I’d sure like to shake his hand!

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To go along with the Satellite Guidance Computer, Destro comes with a PDA-style satellite tracking device. This simple piece clips onto his belt and features a graphic to simulate the LCD screen. I don’t have much else to say about this piece, but it does look nice clipped to his belt.

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The last thing I have to mention is the key. I have absolutely no idea what this is, but I’m guessing that, like the ruby medallion, this is some kind of McCullen family heirloom. It can be worn around Destro’s neck, but I have no use for it, so it’ll stay in the box.

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I mentioned yesterday that Destro is sadly the last of the sixth-scale Cobra figures that Sideshow has planned as the line is going on hiatus. As sad as that might be, I’d prefer to focus on the awesome figures that we got in this line, rather than what’s been left behind on the table. Sure, it’s always possible that Sideshow may come back and give us some more figures, but with the sad state of the GI JOE franchise right now, that sort of thing seems unlikely to happen. I would have loved a Serpentor, Scrap Iron and even a Tele-Viper to go with this collection, but as things stand, I’m sure glad that we got what we did. Sideshow did a beautiful job with these figures and I think more than anything else, they show how much the company has evolved in their craft. One things for sure, these figures will always have a place of honor secured on my display shelves. COBRA!!!!!!

 

GI JOE: Zartan (Master of Disguise) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow Toys, Part 2

And I’m back with the second half of my look at Sideshow’s spectacular Zartan figure. Yesterday I covered the figure and costume, today we’ll look at all the goodies that comes with him. Before getting into the exciting stuff, it’s worth mentioning that Zartan comes with no less than six pairs of hands. Holy shit! I’m not going to run down them all, because I think it’s boring. Suffice it to say, in addition to the accessory specific hands you get a thumbs up right hand, a pointing right hand, and a pair of fists. You also get a pair of action feet, which come in handy with dynamic poses in the absence of mid foot articulation. The hands and feet are very easy to swap out and stay in tight. You also get the standard Cobra style stand that have been included with all these figures. Ok, with that behind us… let’s go right for the jugular and check out the showpiece of Zartan’s ensemble… the ridiculously gorgeous compound bow.

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I’m not sure exactly when Zartan began using a bow. The first Zartan figure that I remember getting with a bow was sometime in the late 90’s and that bow was neon orange. Either way, the weapon has gradually become associated with the character and I think it’s a great fit. The folks at Sideshow went crazy with this accessory. It’s a very complex sculpt, from the cams and cables to the site, stabilizer, and mounted quiver. You get five arrows, four of which can clip into the quiver and you get a hand designed so that you can pose the figure knocking the extra arrow on the bow. This is an insanely great looking accessory and it is certainly the showpiece of his arsenal. It’s just amazing.

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Next up, you get the VSS Sniper Rifle and this is also a very impressive piece of sixth-scale hardware. It’s every bit the great sculpt that I’ve come to expect from Sideshow’s firearms. The magazine is, of course, removable and the tiny cartridge in the chamber is painted. Oh yeah, you also get an additional four magazines to stow in the ammo pouches on his belt. The rifle comes with a long range scope on it and there’s even a removable lens cap on the scope. God, I love that attention to detail! Also included is a laser site assembly to swap out with the scope if you want to go a little more high-tech. There’s also a flip up site on the rifle itself just in case Zartan wants to give his quarry a bit more of a sporting chance. I’m reminded of a line from Romero’s classic film, Dawn of the Dead, “The only person who could miss with this gun is the sucker with the bread to buy it!”

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Moving on to what is easily the most iconic weapon in this set, we have Zartan’s laser pistol. This piece is easily the simplest of all three of his firearms, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome. If you read my feature on Sideshow’s Cobra Commander then you may remember my lamenting the fact that his iconic hair-dryer pistol wasn’t included. I would have been just as unhappy if Zartan didn’t get his laser pistol. Despite being a sci-fi weapon, and a completely static piece, this little gun still looks realistic and is packed with detail. It also fits comfortably into the belt holster making it a nice hold out weapon for when Zartan is all out of bullets and arrows.

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Ah, but we’re still not done yet. Zartan also comes with a pair of mines very similar to the ones included with the Crimson Guard figure. These are green and can easily be stowed into the satchel included with the figure. Lastly, you get a skinning knife and sheath. I was little baffled as to where to stow this on the figure, but I found that it clips nicely onto the back of his belt. The blade looks like it’s intended to be one of those ceramic bladed knives. This piece reminds me of Major Bludd’s boot knife in that it’s an amazing little accessory and totally unnecessary. It was just thrown in there because Sideshow loves you.

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Zartan lasted quite a while at most retailers, but availability is really starting to thin out, and when Sideshow sold out, that’s what finally motivated me to get mine. With a $159 MSRP, this guy feels like an absolute steal next to the hundred and eighty dollar price points of Cobra Commander and Baroness. The complexity of Zartan’s outfit alone makes him feel like a higher valued figure, but when you start throwing in all those amazing accessories, he really feels like a great value. While all of these Sideshow Cobra figures have been excellent, right now Zartan is the favorite on my shelf.

GI JOE: Zartan (Master of Disguise) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow Toys, Part 1

I was first introduced to Zartan one fine day after school when the second GI JOE miniseries “Revenge of Cobra” premiered on a local network and I thought he was the coolest thing ever. He led a motorcycle gang, he lived in the swamp, and when he got mad his armor lit up and made lightsaber noises. He was also too badass to be an official part of Cobra. No, Zartan knew where it was at. He remained an independent contractor and got paid for jobs with little sacks of gold so that he could keep his Dreadnoks supplied with chocolate donuts and grape soda. Naturally when I got hooked on Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale Cobra figures, I had to circle back and pick up Zartan. He’s an older release, but as we’ll soon see he is still an absolutely amazing figure and possibly the best release so far. You know the deal by now. I’m going to look at the packaging, the figure, and the outfit  today and tomorrow we’ll check out the copious amount of gear included with this figure.

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As an older figure, Zartan’s box is different in some ways from Sideshow’s last three GI JOE releases. I’ll get to those differences in a moment, but the important thing to note is that the deco hasn’t changed and this box looks right at home lined up on a bookshelf with all the other boxes. I’ve praised the art design on these packages a lot in the past and I’ll continue to do so here… it’s perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. The photos of the figure give you a good idea of what you’re getting and I love the shot on the front that has Zartan hiding behind a tree, no doubt stalking a Joe who bailed out of his downed Skyhawk. Of course, the style mimics the old Real American Hero cardbacks right down to the animated explosions behind the character, the “Cobra Enemy” stamp and the file card on the back of the box. No doubt, Sideshow knows how to tug on my nostalgia strings.

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So what’s different? Zartan’s box is laid out just like the one used for the Crimson Guard. It has a magnetic flap and opens to reveal two windows, one with the gear laid out and one with the figure itself. The inside of the front flap has some specs on the included weapons and the connecting flap has information on Cobra and Zartan. This layout is absolutely glorious. When I open it up, lay it out and see all the cool shit inside, it’s just so easy to see where the money went. I really wish Sideshow had kept it for the newer releases. They may look the same closed and on the shelf, but opened up, it’s a far more impressive presentation than getting the trays stacked together like they are doing now.

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And there he is, out of the box and looking damn incredible. The first thing that needs to be said is that this is certainly not Sunbow Zartan. Throughout this line, Sideshow has borrowed design elements here and there, but in the case of Zartan, they definitely went for realism over animated and I think it works beautifully for a figure in this scale and complexity. This is a Zartan that could have been adapted directly for a live action Joe movie and worked brilliantly. But let’s not get me started on that, eh? Like so many of these figures, Sideshow manages to capture the essence of the character while still bringing a lot of original ideas to the table. Let’s start with the portrait…

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The portrait here is nothing short of fantastic, and that’s saying a lot. As a cartoon character and an action figure, I was always unsure what was going on with Zartan’s head. Was that hair or a hood? Later figures from Hasbro would reveal Zartan as a bald dude wearing a hood and I think the shaved head fits his thuggish nature. The softgoods hood falls about the head quite well and frames it to complete the likeness perfectly. The sculpt is perhaps a little softer than what we’ve seen with Major Bludd, but it’s still quite good and the smarmy smirk really gives him a lot of character. The paintwork includes the iconic tattoo mask around his eyes, which by the way are without pupils and appropriately creepy. Take off the hood and you can see the painted stubble from where he shaved. Sideshow did a great job here.

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Sunbow purists may have hoped for the more high tech armor that Zartan wore in the cartoon, but I really like what Sideshow did with this figure’s costume. The chest armor, shoulders and thigh plates are certainly inspired by the original figure, but it’s been updated for more realism. The ramshackle nature of the new armor looks as if it’s been salvaged and pieced together from vanquished foes. The chest and back plate, for example, are held on by two different types of shoulder straps and crudely laced up one side with some rope. Similarly, the shin plates look like they were added to his regular boots. And the boots! The detail in the boots is just amazing. The armor plates feature tons of sculpted scrapes and dings, proving that Zartan has been around the block a couple of times and seen plenty of action. This figure really looks like a mercenary who’s been hiding out in the swamps and updating his armor with whatever he could find. I love it! The belt features a working holster for Zartan’s pistol as well as four ammo pouches. The pouches are also functional and can hold the extra magazines for his rifle. One beautiful thing here is the use of magnetic snaps for the ammo pouches rather than having to fuss with those tiny snaps. Brilliant!

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Naturally, Zartan comes with his backpack to hold his disguises. The backpack is a hardshell type that hangs on two hooks that are part of his back plate. An extra magnet like they used for Major Bludd’s backpack would have helped here because it’s not uncommon for the hooks to slip off while posing the figure, but I still like this better than the rather fragile glued straps used for the Crimson Guard’s backpack.

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Just like the original Hasbro figure, Zartan’s backpack opens to reveal a mask, which fits pretty securely over Zartan’s face. I’ve always found this gimmick to be both cool and pretty silly at the same time. What’s really likely to happen here is that Zartan is going to put on the mask, some Cobra trooper is going to see him and say, “Oh my god, somebody killed Zartan and took his armor!” And then shoot him dead.

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The last part of Zartan’s outfit consists of this messenger bag. It’s totally unnecessary and I doubt I’ll ever display the figure with it, but I’ll never scoff at extra accessories. It’s a nicely tailored piece with functional straps and I reckon he could use it to stow the maps and files that he steals from GI JOE headquarters.

Alrighty, I’m going to break there for today. Tomorrow, we’ll check out his gear. And he has a lot of gear.

GI JOE: Cobra Commander (The Dictator) by Sideshow Toys, Part 2

As promised I’m back to wrap up my look at Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale Cobra Commander figure. Before moving on to his accessories, let’s go ahead and check out his alternate noggin.

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Naturally, the extra head is the hooded look, which the Sunbow cartoon debuted in the second mini-series, “The Revenge of Cobra.” There’s a lot to like about this design, as I do think it looks a lot more sinister. I was concerned that the hooded head on the figure would have a large disconnect between the real fabric clothing and the use of plastic for the hood. I was partially right, as that disconnect is definitely there, but I genuinely believe that there’s just no way that Sideshow could have gotten the hood to look right using softgoods and this plastic head still looks perfectly fine. It’s beautifully sculpted and is actually a soft rubber hood permanently attached to a partially sculpted head underneath. This adds a lot of convincing depth to the eyes, which look especially creepy and deranged. Still, as pleased as I am with this sculpt, the helmeted head has always been my favorite, and so I’m going to resort to using it for the bulk of the remaining photos.

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The other additional aspect of the costume is Cobra Commander’s cape and it is a beautifully done. The garment is black with a stitched crimson liner and it is a satisfyingly heavy cape that hangs wonderfully on the figure. How does it attach? Magnets! There are two plastic clasps sculpted and painted to look like bronze medallions. Each one has a magnet inside and these attract quite securely to magnets hidden in his shoulders, just under his lapels. The cape attaches effortlessly, holds on without fail, and can be removed just as easily. I hadn’t initially planned on displaying the figure with the cape, but in the end I think it’s won me over.  It just looks smashing!

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Before getting into the rest of the accessories, I did neglect to mention one of the included hands yesterday, but it’s more of an accessory so I’m including it here. This clutching hand comes with a tiny Earth permanently attached to it so Cobra Commander can symbolically hold the entire planet in the palm of his hand. Mwahahahahaha!

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Next up, we’ve got the serpent scepter and I like this piece a lot. It has a cobra head at the top made to look like chiseled bronze or brass. It even has a faux patina of tarnish on it. That combined with the wood finish on the shaft makes it a very welcome accessory for me. I usually prefer action-y Cobra Commander over the regal one, but the cape and scepter look so good, I’ll likely be displaying him with both. Damn, I really wish I had picked up the throne from a while back. Hey, third-party companies… I need one of y’all to do a big serpent throne for me. M’kay? Thanks!

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And that brings us to the weapons. Cobra Commander’s standard sidearm is a broom handled Mauser. It’s a good choice, albeit some may believe it to be rather antiquated for a modern terrorist leader. I guess it could just be this version of Cobra Commander’s thing. Maybe he carries it around as his trademark. Since the Mauser loads with a charger, there’s really no moving action or clip to remove, making this weapon a simple static piece. That having been said, Sideshow’s weapons have always been amazing, and this Mauser is no different. It’s a wonderful sculpt and it has a very convincing finish. It also fits quite well in the holster.

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If you’re getting The Commander from any old distributor, that’s where your accessories end. If, however, you choose to go through Sideshow, you get the exclusive laser pistol. It’s a sizeable weapon for a pistol and it has a nice design that looks rather futuristic, but like something that could still exist in the “real” GI JOE world. As far as exclusive pieces go, it definitely makes ordering from Sideshow worthwhile and it will likely be the weapon of choice that I display him with. Which leads me to the only real gripe I have with this figure, and it isn’t with anything that’s here, but what was omitted. Cobra Commander’s hair-dryer style pistol has always been his one iconic accessory to me and I was a little bummed out that it wasn’t included. The pistols he has are certainly nice, but I do miss his trademark sidearm. Once again, third-party companies, you need to get on this!

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And so my third figure in Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale GI JOE line turned out to be another winner. I had my doubts about this guy when he was first revealed, but I think Sideshow really delivered in the end. Is he the most impressive figure this line has offered? Nope. The Commander doesn’t have the wow factor of Major Bludd’s accessories or even the beautiful detailing of that figure’s head sculpt, but that’s largely because this character doesn’t offer the same opportunities for such complexities. The Commander does, however, pay some wonderful respects to the iconic character that he represents and in the end that’s what counts and makes me very happy to continue to collect this line. Now as far as price goes, he is pretty steep. At just under $200 shipped he is most definitely approaching Hot Toys pricing and while Major Bludd seemed like a solid value, Cobra Commander does feel like I’m paying more of a premium for what I’m getting. At $159 I would have been more content. But hey, as far as I’m concerned, old Bumper Face is worth the extra scratch. Next up in this line is The Baroness, and I’m going to try to squeeze her in sometime in the next couple of weeks.