Xena: Callisto “Callisto” by Toy Biz

I know, it’s Monday, I should be starting something new, but I wanted to knock out just one more Xena figure so we could put the entirety of this initial four figure assortment to bed. Today we’re venturing into foreign territory with a character I know nothing about. Granted, having not watched much of the show, I don’t know a lot about any of the characters, but at least I knew who Xena and Gabrielle were. All I know about Callisto is that she’s a blonde bombshell and one of the villains of the piece. After looking at three figures in this series, I’ll do my best to get through this one with a bit more brevity.

The packaging! We know what to expect by now and carded Callisto holds no surprises. The insert on the bubble tells us she comes from the self-titled episode, “Callisto” and that she comes sporting some kind of “Spinning Attack” action. The back panel shows a crappy illustration of the action gimmick at work and gives us a little synopsis of her episode. Since this is likely the last time we’ll see this packaging for a while, I’ll say once again that it’s practical and looks good, at least from the front.

Right off the bat, Callisto takes me back to the first Xena figure we looked at, and that’s a very good thing. She’s not really pre-posed, although you do need to put one leg behind the other, slightly bent at the knee, in order for her to stand on her own. The body sculpt is absolutely fantastic. Her black armor is painted with silver details and a lot of the outfit is sculpted separately and layered over the figure, which is mostly molded in flesh tone. This design makes for a great looking and very detailed figure. Callisto’s armor includes a functional sword scabbard on her back and a functional dagger sheath on her hip.

I keep waffling back and forth over Callisto’s head sculpt. On the one hand, it’s a fairly good likeness of the actress who portrays her on the show. On the other hand, she has this really goofy smile. In the end, I’m going to say I like it more than I dislike it, and perhaps even find it strangely attractive.

Also like the first Xena figure, Callisto’s action gimmick is not part of the figure, so there’s nothing to mar the figure’s adequate articulation. Her head turns side to side, her arms feature ball joints in the shoulders, her legs have cuts at the hips and her knees and ankles are hinged.

 

Callisto comes with a butt load of gear. You get a sword and dagger that fit into the functional scabbard and sheath. You also get a pole dancing fighting staff, and some kind of nunchuck style weapon that has three batons instead of two. The sword is the same one that came with the first Xena figure, and it’s a nice enough piece that I don’t mind the recycling. The dagger, on the other hand, is different from the one that came with the second Xena figure we looked at, so that’s nice. Another cool thing about Callisto is that her hands are actually sculpted to hold her weapons, so you don’t have to rely on pegging them into the figure’s hands.

You also get the base, which holds the figure’s action gimmick. It looks a lot like the base that came with the first Xena figure, which is very cool. The big difference is this one just has a couple of foot pegs on it and you wind it up, press the button and it spins the figure around. It’s a goofy gimmick, but I don’t mind since it doesn’t compromise the figure and can be used as a fantastic display stand.

Callisto offers plenty to love. She’s a great looking figure, she’s got serviceable articulation, she comes with a load of great weapons, and a killer display stand. Not every figure in this assortment was a winner, but Callisto and the first Xena can certainly hang together on my display shelf any day. They’re almost too good to be early 90’s Toy Biz product, and they certainly make me wish that Toy Biz had been able to deliver the same consistency throughout this entire line. I do have some of the second assortment in the 6-inch Collector line, but there’s only one in there that I have ever been tempted to open, so I’m not sure I’ll be looking at those any time soon. As I hinted at in the Gabrielle feature, I do have a number of the 12-inch Collector dolls action figures, and I’ll be sure to roll them out the next time things get slow around here.
Tomorrow, we’ll move on to the subject at hand for the remainder of the week. And that subject is DC Direct and Identity Crisis!

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Xena: Gabrielle “Orphan of War” by Toy Biz

Oh, Renee O’Connor, aka Gabrielle. You are just as cute as a button and you were almost… almost… enough reason for me to actually watch this series. I was probably more anxious to see how your figure turned out then any of the others in this line. Could Toy Biz possibly capture that certain something in 6-inch action figure form? Mmmm… not really.

Once again, we have the Xena action figure packaging. I don’t have a lot more to say here. The front deco is pretty good and it shows off the figure and her massive amount of gear under a huge bubble nestled in a clever little cardboard tray. There’s a sticker with the episode she’s from and the fact that she features a “Spinning Staff Attack!” The back of the card has a synopsis of the episode, “Orphan of War” and one of those crappy illustrations of the figure’s action gimmick. The card does, however, make up for the crappy illustration by putting a nice picture of Gabrielle up in the corner.

I am going to try not to be too hard on this figure in terms of likeness. We aren’t dealing with the sculptors at Diamond Select or The Four Horsemen here. Its 90’s Toy Biz, for crying out loud. And Gabrielle’s likeness probably isn’t all that easy to capture in 6-inch form. I think there’s just something about her eyes that doesn’t really jive with this figure’s vacant, slightly medicated stare. That having been said, Toy Biz was able to successfully deliver a figure of a girl that very well could be Renee O’Connor’s stunt double. We’ll have to settle for that.

It should also be noted that Gabrielle isn’t the flashiest character to reproduce. She isn’t a tall, leggy amazon and she isn’t wearing any snazzy studded leather armor. Instead, she’s just got a peasant outfit that consists of a medieval sports bra, a skirt, and boots. There’s really nothing wrong with what’s here, there’s just not as much to work with as there is with Xena. That having been said, Toy Biz tossed in some fairly good detail including the lacing on her boots and top, the deco on her belt, and the cross-thatch texture on her skirt. Overall, I’m giving Gabrielle a passing score in terms of sculpt and coloring, but just barely.
Thankfully, Gabrielle isn’t terribly pre-posed, and her articulation isn’t too bad, but sadly, not as good as the first Xena we looked at. Her head turns, her arms rotate at the shoulders, and her legs rotate at the hips, and have hinged knees and ankles. She’s got some strange stuff going on with her right arm, but that’s because of her action gimmick, so let’s check out Gabrielle’s gear and then we’ll swing back to that gimmick.

Holy hell, Gabrielle sure comes loaded for bear. Am I missing something? Was she some kind of medieval terminator? She comes with a battle axe, a staff, a dagger, a bow, a functional quiver and three arrows. Maybe Toy Biz figured that since she’s smaller and less flashy than the other figures they should load her up with an arsenal of death. The accessories are all pretty good. I like the dagger best, as it’s such a nice little piece and it fits into the sheath on her belt. The axe is cool, although I’m not sure why it’s hinged at the head. The bow is a nice try. It’s sculpted to hold the arrows, and the idea is you pull back on the string and it shoots, but it really doesn’t. She also can’t hold it very convincingly, but I give Toy Biz points for trying.

So how about that “Spinning Staff Attack?” So, you put the staff in her right hand, raise it over her head and move the lever back and forth on her back. This causes her arm to spin at that swivel cut in the middle. I’ll concede that the gimmick works, certainly much better than Xena’s“Sword Drawing Action” but it’s not worth having to put a huge lever on her back.

If you’re going to get Xena, I guess you have to have her sidekick. Gabrielle here is a good companion piece to either of the Xena figures we looked at, but apart from her overabundance of gear, there’s nothing about her that really shines. She’s solidly average, and while I think Renee O’Connor deserved better then that, this is exactly the kind of figure I would expect from late 90’s Toy Biz. No better, no worse. There was another 6-inch Gabrielle figure in the second wave, but I don’t think I own it. I’m pretty sure it was more or less the same figure with a cloak over it. I will, however, check out one of Toy Biz’s 12-inch versions of the character at some point down the line.

Tomorrow, Xena Weekend will bleed its way into Monday as we wrap it all up with a look at Callisto.

Xena: Xena “Sins of the Past” by Toy Biz

And, I’m back with more Xena goodness. In fact, with more of Xena herself. We’re checking out the other version of Xena in this initial assortment of Toy Biz’s 6-inch figures based on the campy, yet long-running TV series. Surely, this one is just a repaint? Oh no, folks, this here is an entirely new figure. I liked the last one quite a bit, so let’s see if this one fares as well.

I had some packaged shots of this figure, but they seem to have vanished from my hard drive, but if you read yesterday’s feature, you get the idea. It’s the same packaging that we saw yesterday. The only difference on the front is the sticker which declares that this is “Sins of the Past”Xena with “Sword Drawing Action.” The back of the card has a blurb about the episode, which sounds like it was the first one because Xena and Gabrielle hook up in it. And by “hook up” I mean they start traveling together. What did you think I meant? There’s another shitty illustration of the action gimmick at work and the same photos of the other figures in the 6-inch and 12-inch lines.

Ok, so let’s start with the sculpt. This figure has Xena smiling a big toothy grin and I don’t like it as much as the last Xena’s more somber and neutral expression. That having been said, the likeness is still a pretty good Lucy Lawless. The rest of the figure follows the same formula of having her outfit sculpted in separate rubbery plastic and layered on over the figure. Allow me to once again say how much I love this technique, as it adds to the depth of the figure. The armor is completely different from the last figure. It’s black instead of brown and the scrollwork and general style is all different as well. I’m kind of torn between which armor I like better. The last figure looks great, but the combination of the black with the painted silver rivets on this figure really pops. Yeah, I’m leaning toward this armor.

This version of Xena has two functional scabbards for her weapons. One is on her left hip that fits her dagger. The other runs straight down over her right shoulder and split up the middle for her “sword drawing action.” But more on that in a bit. Alas, she also has a big gimmick lever coming out of her back.

Sounds pretty good so far, right? Uh oh. We got some pre-posing going on here. Yes, this version of Xena has the terrible one-two punch to the groin of being both pre-posed and having less articulation. She’s posed to stand with her legs apart, her right arm bent up at the elbow and her left arm held almost all the way straight out with just a slight bend at the elbow. The head still turns side to side, but the shoulders are now only cut and not ball jointed and this hurts the figure a whole lot, especially with the one arm held perpetually out. The legs are still cut at the hips and hinged at the knees and ankles, but they’re clearly pre-posed to remain in a fighting stance, so there isn’t a lot of practical use you can get out of those hinges and still have the figure standing.

Before we get to the action gimmick, let’s talk about her accessories, because this figure comes with a lot of goodies. You get a sword, which is a bit different than the one that came with yesterday’s Xena. You get a very nice looking dagger. You get a whip(?), and low and behold, you actually get Xena’s chakram. Yes, I too find it ironic that “Sword Drawing” Xena comes with her chakram and the other figure doesn’t. The sword has a magnet in the hilt that is designed to go with the action gimmick, so let’s see how well that works.

Not so well!  The “Sword Drawing” action feature involves pressing a button to bring Xena’s right arm back, line up with the sword in her sheath where a magnet in the hilt connects with a magnet in the palm of her hand. Release the button and she draws her sword. In theory, this is a really cool and ambitious idea for a 6-inch figure. In practice, all that happens is her hand gets stuck on the sword because the scabbard is too tight fitting to release the sword. If you only tuck part of the sword in there, that will allow Xena to draw it, but it just winds up spinning in her palm and pointing to the ground. Not only does the gimmick not work, but the paint covering the magnet on the sword’s hilt comes off on Xena’s hand. So, yeah, it’s all pretty worthless. On the upside all you sick puppies can put the whip in Xena’s right hand, press the button and experience Xena whipping action!

Why was I so surprised by how good yesterday’s Xena figure was? It’s because it wasn’t replete with all the issues that today’s figure has. Yes, this is exactly the kind of figure that I was expecting from 90’s Toy Biz. Sub-par articulation, pre-posed, and a shitty action gimmick that actually detracts from the figure. God, I wish I could do some mixing and matching between the two figures. I’d basically take the snazzy armor from this figure and put it on the better articulated and less pre-posed body of yesterday’s Xena. Make no mistake this one is not a bad looking display piece, but she’s little better than a statue. In the end, I’m just going to wind up robbing the chakram off of this one and giving it to yesterday’s figure to make her complete.

Tomorrow… we move on to Gabrielle!

Xena: Warrior Xena “A Day in the Life” by Toy Biz

Ok, here we go. Toy Biz snagged the license to do figures for both the Hercules and the Xena TV shows, with Xena’s first action figure appearance in the Hercules line. I don’t actually own any Hercules figures, but they look pretty bad, and from what I’ve seen Toy Biz made a real effort to step things up for the Xena figures. The problem with Toy Biz is you never quite know what you’re going to get. Go back to the mid 90’s and you get the Marvel and X-Men figures, which have plenty of kitschy charm, but aren’t necessarily great figures. Fast forward to their Lord of the Rings stuff, and you have a crazy mix of passable sculpts with horrible action gimmicks to some downright excellent figures. Let’s see where Xena falls into the mix.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with the packaging.  The figure comes on a huge card with a cardboard tray on the bottom that cradles the bubble. The front of the cards are all the same with a shot of Xena on the upper right corner and Xena and Gabrielle getting up close and personal with each other on the upper left. The bottom has a bold logo for the series and there’s a sticker on the bubble that personalizes the package with the figure’s name. All of the figures in this line were tied to a specific episode, so this one is Warrior Xena from “A Day in the Life.” The sticker also indicates whatever action feature the figure had. In this case it’s “Jumping Attack Action.” The large bubble displays the figure and accessories quite nicely.

The back of the card has a shot of the character, a blurb about the episode in question, and a terrible illustration showing the action feature in motion. There are also pictures of figures available in the 6-inch and 12-inch series. The back of the card looks pretty cheesy, especially when compared to how great the front looks.

Out of the package and I’m actually very impressed with Xena’s sculpt. Sure, I’m grading on a curve. This is a 1990’s Toy Biz figure, but even still it’s got nothing to apologize for. First off, that’s not a bad Lucy Lawless likeness. The eyes could have been painted a little better, but the hair, the mouth and the cheekbones are all pretty good. Even better, most of Xena’s outfit is molded in soft plastic and layered onto the figure’s body. There’s plenty of detail in the armor, including sculpted scrollwork and laces. The result looks fantastic and gives the figure a lot of depth. I’m also happy that the figure is not pre-posed, although one leg is notably shorter than the other, so to get her to stand you do need to do some pre-posing of your own. I’m not sure if this was intentional or just a QC issue, but thanks to her joints you can get her to stand naturally.

And how about those joints? Xena’s articulation both surprises and frustrates. The surprise is there are more than the standard 5-points that I would expect. The head turns side to side, the arms are ball jointed at the shoulders and the hands swivel at the wrists. The legs rotate at the hips and have hinges in the knees and ankles. And that’s what frustrates. There’s just enough articulation here to make me wish for a little more.

There isn’t a whole lot of paintwork on this figure, but the coloring is overall great. Most of the figure is molded in flesh tone with the armor molded in brown. There are some nice silver rivets painted onto her boots, and again on her wrists and the little cape she has on her back.

Remember that “Jumping Attack” action gimmick? Well fortunately the gimmick isn’t part of the figure, but rather part of the giant base she comes with. The base is a raised pedestal with some cool carvings sculpted into it, along with a stirrup and a retractable spring loaded arm. You stand the figure with one foot tucked into the stirrup and the other on top of the spring-loaded arm (there’s a divot in the bottom of Xena’s foot so that it fits over the arm, and I’m guessing this might be why one leg is shorter than the other). Press the button in the back and Xena does in fact get launched into the air. As an action gimmick, it’s pretty lame, (unless like me, your cat attacks the figure every time she gets launched!) but the base makes for a fantastic figure display stand and just might get repurposed for one of my Indiana Jones figures.

In addition to the base, Xena comes with some weapons. You get a cool looking sword and a crossbow that fires some kind of bolo arrow, which I presume is for tripping up people’s legs. The sword is a great sculpt, right down to the wrapped grip and chipped blade. The crossbow isn’t all that bad either, at least not for what is essentially a missile launcher. Unfortunately, Xena’s hands aren’t sculpted to hold her weapons. Instead, there’s a peghole on her left hand and pegs on the sword hilt and the crossbow. You can’t get anything to stay in her right hand at all. Hey, what’s missing? Yep, easily the most disappointing thing about this figure is the absence of Xena’s iconic chakram, the bladed disc weapon she usually wields. Leaving that out is like Hasbro releasing a Luke Skywalker figure without a lightsaber. Nonetheless, if you want her chakram you need to buy a different Xena figure. Sorry Mario Xena, your chakram is in another castle! Moving on…

In case you can’t tell, I really dig this figure. Look, it’s 90’s Toy Biz and I had low expectations. But fair is fair, and Toy Biz did a great job with the likeness, the outfit, overall quality, and even the articulation and weapons aren’t bad. The action gimmick may be crap, but it redeems itself by giving you a beautiful base to display the figure on. A few more swivel cuts and toss in a chakram and this figure could have been a total homerun, instead of being just surprisingly great. I was going to move on to Gabrielle tomorrow, but hell, let’s take a look at the other Xena figure in the line and see if she holds up as well as this one.

Xena Weekend Begins!!!

And it’s a four-day weekend too! Running today through Monday, we’ll be venturing into some new territory.
First, a disclaimer! I did not watch Xena: Warrior Princess. No, seriously, I didn’t! I remember trying to watch an episode with Bruce Campbell in it, but even his delightful antics and the aggressively cute Renee O’Connor, could not get me to muscle through it. It’s not that I’m a TV snob. Hey, I’m not afraid to admit that I own the complete Buffy: The Vampire Slayer on DVD. So if ya’ll liked watching Xena, good for you, but it just wasn’t my bag. Of course, that didn’t stop me from picking up a bunch of the Xena figures that Toy Biz did back in the late 90’s. What? Resist buying hot warrior chick action figures on clearance? Not likely. I’m only human.

But yes, the scary fact is that I’ve got too many of these figures to do them all in one weekend, so I’m just going to cover four of the 6-inch Collector’s Series, all of which, I believe, are from the first series. The rest will have to wait until I’m drunk enough ready to do another Xena Weekend, or sometime when I can just sprinkle them in with the usual weekly retinue. As already mentioned, this means that this lesbian warrior madness will continue on through Monday. I’ll be back later on to kick things off with a look at the Warrior Princess herself.