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Figures and Speech: Superman vs. Muhammad Ali vs. Aliens

Figures and Speech: Superman vs. Muhammad Ali vs. Aliens

Welcome to Figures and 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.

NECA figures generally have great-looking packaging, but with the caveat that in order to extract said figures, you have to destroy the box completely and utterly. In the case of their new Superman vs. Muhammad Ali set, the box, made to resemble the Neal Adams comic cover from 1978, is pretty much perfection. It also looks like there might be a way to keep it intact. Did I succeed? Read on…

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First, a word on how special this set actually is. NECA technically can’t make 7-inch DC Comics figures for mass retail, as Mattel has that part of the license covered. However, the NECA people are very skilled at finding loopholes of areas in the license that aren’t covered–they made a Nintendo-style Batman upon finding that Mattel hadn’t specifically licensed the game, and they’ve done a few 7-inch movie figures under a clause that said they could be packaged as DVD bonus premiums rather than sold as individual toys. In this case, they negotiated with the Muhammad Ali estate directly.

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There are a few twist-ties to cut or untwist, and a piece of tape on Superman’s cape–a cape which has to be pulled out of a plastic slot you probably will not get it back into. But on the whole, liberating the figures from the box was fairly easy, and revealed the hidden extras: two additional sets of hands for Superman, featuring fists and flying gestures.

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NECA made a Muhammad Ali figure before, but it was a dynamically posed toy with limited articulation. This one is completely different, utilizing body parts from their Rocky movie figures. So you can have this dream match if you like:

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Superman utilizes body parts from the 7-inch Christopher Reeve Superman that was previously sold as a DVD premium. Repainted to look like comic-book art, he looks like his eyes are permanently closed, as the artwork had him squinting as if in anticipation of a punch to the face.

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Note that the stylized paint job gives him abs Reeve never had. Since his back is mostly covered with cape, it remains basic.

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Both have hidden articulation: Superman has an ab joint under his shirt, while Ali has limited hip articulation restricted by the thick shorts. Fight-wise, this gives the Man of Steel an advantage.

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It’s a fun set, but it really does look better in the box, where the plastic allows them to hold an action pose. And yes, I was mostly able to get it back in. Mostly.

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Superman and Ali were forced to fight by aliens, which gives a reason to make a very lame segue into the other (definitely NON-lame) toys NECA sent over for review.

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At the beginning of the ’90s, an Aliens cartoon for kids was proposed (yes, this was kinda normal, as Rambo and Robocop had done the same prior). The idea was that it would feature Ripley and most of the Space Marines from the movie traveling from planet to planet to wipe out xenomorph infestations. In order to sell more toys, the story kinda went wild with the notion, first brought up in Alien3, that the creatures borrow characteristics from their host animal.

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The cartoon was never produced, but the toy line by Kenner went ahead and lasted a few years, adding Predators about halfway through. Now that NECA has both toy licenses, they’ve been making ultra-realistic re-creations of some of the non-movie designs that those toys came up with. There have been a couple of “Kenner Predator” waves already, but the first three “Kenner Aliens” have just been released.

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The mantis and gorilla originally shared several body parts in the old line, and an arm-gripping action feature (the gorilla also had a soft head that could fill with water you could then have it “spit”). While they share a few basic bits here and there on the new ones–under-torso, thighs, and knees at least–they are mostly quite different, with a lot of new bits.

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Gorilla was part of the very first Kenner wave, which all came with file cards on the back; mantis and queen facehugger came later once the feature was dropped. That’s been duplicated here; they also come with reproductions of the original pack-in mini-comics, which, again, because NECA isn’t doing the line-up in the same order, are narratively out of order.

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Toys don’t get much better than this. The sculpts are full of detail, and the articulation is insane: mantis alone has five ball-joints on each arm, including its thumbs. Rather than count them all, let’s just say everything on it moves except, oddly enough, the tail.

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The vintage figure, as I mentioned, had a gripping gimmick, which you can sort-of duplicate here.

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Both have hinged mouths and extendable jaws, so being the mature adult who plays with dolls that I am, I immediately had the impulse to make them kiss.

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They almost form a heart shape. That’s cute.

You may have noticed the gorilla has two different head-domes. He’s packed with a black one like the original toy, but there’s an alternate clear one to make him more movie-ish. I prefer that one because it showcases the great detail underneath.

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The queen facehugger, honestly, feels like less of a value–she doesn’t take up much space in the package, and even though they threw in an extra, smaller one it’s still nowhere near the awesomeness of the two xenos. It is the right size, however, to possibly be a weird, exotic tropical bug, and you might be able to scare people with it just by leaving it lying around.

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Please believe me when I tell you I cannot post a picture of their undersides. If I did and your boss caught you looking, they might think you had porn on your computer. Seriously. It looks like…a certain body part. A lot.

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It looks unarticulated, but looks are deceiving. Each appendage has a tiny ball joint right at the edge of the webbing. Those won’t change its pose much, but it gives you some options. Also, the tail has a bendy wire in it. The small one has the bendy wire but not the leg joints.

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Gorilla also comes with a blue facehugger, while mantis has a green chestburster.

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Unlike its parent, this li’l guy is not translucent.

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The comics appear to be telling an alternate origin story for Newt, ending in a wonderful exclamation by Apone.

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ANYTHING BUT THE MONSTER RHINOS YOU GUYS!

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My money’s on Kal-El and Ali to beat these critters, but the real winner is NECA…and you.

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Photos: LYT for Nerdist. 

Comic artwork: Dark Horse.


Luke Y. Thompson is Nerdist’s weekend editor. Talk toys with him on Twitter @LYTrules.

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