Welcome to Figures & Speech, Nerdist’s regular column by, for, and about grown-ups who still play with their toys but might want to know more before they buy. From product reviews to informed editorials, these are most definitely the articles that’ll make you want to strike a pose. Click on all images to enlarge for detail.
From the moment McFarlane Toys announced their new standardized “Color Tops” cross-property figure line, I wondered what they’d do once they ran out of different colors to distinguish each series. It happened a lot sooner than I thought.
As you can see in this grouping of figures they sent for review, while Gears of War and Titanfall 2 still have the “red” and “blue” identity, newer entries in the series like Naruto and Attack on Titan have ditched the literal “color top” aspect and the standardized text orientation for more property-specific coloration and logos.
You can see on the back that they’re still numbered for the sake of completists, but while Jack Cooper, for example, is delineated as one of 8 figures in the “red” series, and Spawn one of nine in the “cyan” series (a neat McFarlane in-joke that probably only Spawn fans will get), the boxes for Naruto and Mikasa largely downplay the concept that they’re part of a cross-property line.
Interestingly enough, while the line may be standardized in terms of packaging and figure stands, the figures themselves are not, and aside from the usual McFarlane commitment to detailed, gritty sculpting, are quite different.
This starts with the packaging inserts. As you can see, the anime characters have cool visuals printed behind them, while the video game characters get more generic color saturation. One thing that is interesting, though, is that the J-hook to hang these toys from store racks is attached to the backdrop/insert, and it may make you think: can these be hung from the wall as a new way to display figures? Hold that thought, because we’ll get back to it.
It has been a loooong time since I owned a new Spawn figure, though at one time the character dominated my collection. More significant in the world of toys than he ever was in comics, Spawn changed action figures forever when Todd McFarlane decided that mainstream toy companies weren’t good enough for his creation, and that better sculpting doesn’t actually cost more than the mediocre variety. Before Spawn, it was good enough for action figures to bear a decent passing resemblance to their properties, so long as they had a fun play gimmick. After, accuracy started to really, really matter, and the gimmicks started to disappear in favor of attention to sculpt and articulation. Though in McFarlane’s case, articulation gradually mattered less and less, with later Spawn figures often being mildly posable statues in dynamic action stances.
The new Spawn is in line with those older Spawns. He’s big, hefty, highly detailed, and not very posable. His elbows do have limited hinge-and-pivot ball joints, but they’re mainly for minor pose adjustments rather than functional articulation to play with.
I’m also not entirely sure how he passed safety tests, because those spikes on his feet are SHARP. If you’re a hardcore pro-wrestler with no access to a razor, hitting yourself in the face with this toy might do the trick in your next extreme rules match.
His left wrist and boot have cut joints, as does his neck, but there’s not much else. Todd still seems to have the philosophy that articulation necessarily hurts a clean sculpt (not entirely true, as there are companies who have innovated their articulation), and Spawn is his baby, so nothing’s messing with that perfect physique (speaking of which…nice codpiece bulge. Bodes well for the Bowie Labyrinth figure).
…and maybe even some old friends now at other companies.
Naruto is a very different type of figure for McFarlane. While the company has done anime before, they’ve typically made it super-detailed in a way that doesn’t translate as well to a more cartoony style. While you can see the usual company detail in the folds of his outfit, Naruto is one of the cartooniest figures they’ve done (yes, there was that one Spawn line that tried to copy Batman: The Animated Series, but we don’t talk about that. At least I don’t).
Naruto’s stuck in a crouching stance, with cut hip and mid-thigh joints to adjust for balance, but his arms can take many action poses, with ball-jointed shoulders and elbows, and cut wrists.
Note that, like Spawn, his base has a more “quilted” texture to it than the cracked concrete texture of most previous bases.
The pouch on his butt is detachable, but you won’t want to detach it—unless you literally prefer for a hole to be there.
Mikasa Ackerman is also anime-based, but about as different from Naruto as a figure can be.
Good luck unpacking her. You’ll need it. All her tubes and hoses are threaded through the plastic tray in a manner that mandates total package destruction to get her out.
Once out, you have to put her together. Tip: be sure to carefully wrap her fingers around the swords, or she’ll drop them. Also, you see the two black pegs on each booster? One is too big to fit into the holes in her outer thigh (though maybe with some heating, it could happen). The other is too small by just a hair, and may not stay in for long.
“Attack on Titanfall” seems like an obvious thing to do, no? Honestly, given how Todd normally prefers gross monsters, I’m surprised the first Attack on Titan figure is a human. But speaking of Titanfall, I was harsh on the actual Titan set because the pilot couldn’t fit inside and was generally stuck in one pose. The larger pilot figure is just as stuck in one pose, but has an insane level of detail.
Pilot Jack Cooper has extra-articulated wrists for some reason, but his other joints are all cut joints that tend to stick, due to the large amount of paint ops on him (including a nice metallic blue on his visor).
In the old McFarlane days, I’d have picked him up just because he looks so cool. Nowadays, though, everything looks cool, so he’s probably mainly going to find favor with fans of the game who don’t actually want to play with their toys. That said, the sculpt is statue quality at a much lower price.
Gears of War 4‘s Del Walker actually comes with a bonus: an Xbox Live code for a “gear pack.” And since I’m not a gamer, I will post mine on my Twitter feed sometime randomly this weekend for the taking, with hashtag #FiguresAndSpeech.
And that’s true of the figure as well. While mildly more posable than Jack Cooper (he has hinged knees), Del is designed to be posed one way.
I can imagine people wanting to buy him for the accessory alone. But the fact that NECA also did a long-running and popular Gears of War line in approximately the same scale makes these figures more appealing to collectors, even if they’re way less articulated.
“Rock breaks scissors! Articulation defeats forced-pose!”
The quality of sculpt is consistent line-wide. But it’s weird how they decide who can be posed and who can’t.
Titanfall Titan-fell the second after this picture was taken. And Spawn was a total no-go; too heavy.
All in all, the move to more individual packaging is smart, as I’m not sure I know anybody who’s sufficiently into ALL these properties at once to want every figure.
My new Angela needed a new Spawn…but ultimately, I like her best with the older version. He’s dusty, sure, but as fixed poses go, “one-handed jump over a wall” is tough to beat for manliness.
Am I mistaken? Are you the person who wants Fear the Walking Dead, Attack on Titan, Spawn, Gears of War and Naruto figures with equal, completist fervor? Let me know in comments, or talk toys with me on Twitter.
Images: Luke Y. Thompson for Nerdist