Not all the toys I buy are brand new: a few, in fact, are downright ancient. The clearance sections of most toy and collectibles stores have figures and box sets that, for one reason or another, just didn't sell in their heyday. Similarly, Ebay and other online outlets often offer figures from way back. Today's review fits this mold: it's not exactly a "new release." However, The Clearance Bin caters to the thrifty collector, and, as such, I can't help but suspect my reflections may be of interest to those of you who stumble across similar toys on clearance or are looking to expand your collection on Ebay.
Without further ado, lets take a look at the first of many, "Retro Reviews."
Retro Review: Hellboy: Abe Sapien
So, I'd purchased Hellboy (I'm sorry: I mean, "Red") and my wife bought me a Liz Sherman for my birthday. But I'd neglected to pick up an Abe Sapien - a decision I was already regretting - and by the time I got back to Toys R Us, they were completely sold out.
Well, the two of us went into town last weekend and dropped into a few of our favorite toy stores. We returned to Toys R Us, and you better believe I swung over to where I'd originally seen these... just in case.
No such luck.
Well, we stopped by a few more spots. In the back of a comic shop, buried at the back of a peg, I noticed something blue. I pulled it out, and, wouldn't you know, it was Abe himself, from the first Hellboy film. I looked at the price tag, blinked twice, then went up the register to pay.
He was marked down to three dollars.
This is made by Mezco, of course, just like the others I've been looking at. He's in the same scale (7 inch), and fits in with the later figures fine (though his accessories, of course, are from the first movie).
Nine out of ten, and, you know something? That's being harsh.
I liked this figure from the moment I saw him, but it wasn't until I got him out of his package and looked him over carefully that I was really blown away. The level of detail is impressive, and the overall impression is simply breathtaking.
The sculpt work is spot on: Mezco spared neither time nor expense. Abe's many fins and gills are sculpted on rather than simply painted. The head sculpts (there are two) are both excellent, and the work on his palms is incredible.
Turn him around and you find the same level of care and attention was put into his back. Whoever Mezco had working on this took their job very seriously.
The paint work might even trump the sculpt. They've created a layer effect, as though his skin is partially translucent. It works incredibly well, and the effect is strikingly realistic. There's a beautiful gloss over the skin, as well, giving him a sleek, wet look. Which makes sense, since he's an amphibian.
It's difficult to look over this figure and find anywhere they didn't exceed expectations. But I have a few minor - and I mean MINOR - quibbles. First up, there's the ball jointed waist. Okay, it might be the single best use of ball jointed hips I've seen on an organic character, but they're still a tiny, tiny bit awkward.
Next, the neck looks a little odd to me. I think it's a tiny bit longer than it should be, but I wouldn't swear to that. In addition, the gills on the neck don't look quite as good as those on the rest of his body. The paint is a little sloppy here, relatively speaking. I need to add the "relatively", because this is still better work than I usually see.
Finally, the area just beneath the chest joint has a bad edge.
None of these are all that severe: at most, they're minor imperfections, and, as often as not, they were choices which allow for improved articulation, accessories, and the alternate head to work.
I'm giving Abe a score of nine. It's not a ten for two reasons: first, there are enough slight imperfections that I feel the need to leave room for improvement. And, frankly, he doesn't need the ten here: we're just getting started.
But if I ever give a realistic action figure a perfect appearance score, feel free to call me a hypocrite unless it's one hell of a toy.
Packaging and Extras: +2
The packaging is fine, though nothing exceptional:
Abe comes equipped with an impressive assortment of accessories, though. In addition to the alien amphibian, you get one of Sammael's eggs, a BPRD belt, an alternate head sculpt, and a breathing apparatus that connects with the second head (debatably, these are two pieces of the same accessory).
All of these are well made and useful. Lets start with the heads.
In addition to his "normal" head, you get one wearing goggles and reverse-scuba equipment. Between the two, I like the normal sculpt a little better, but the second works better when he's displayed with Hellboy and Liz (since, you know, he needs to breathe). I expect I'll probably wind up swapping back and forth a lot here. The level of detail on both heads is stellar: this adds a lot the figure.
The snap on piece is a little less impressive, but it's needed to complete the scuba outfit. I'd have preferred if they'd managed to combine this into a single unit, but it's not worth complaining about too much.
The BPRD belt is similar to one I got with Liz. It comes on and off a little easier, though, and it works a bit better with the character's sculpt. With Liz, I decided to display her sans belt, but I'm going the other way with Abe.
Oh, and just like with Liz, Abe's got a smaller, sculpted belt underneath.
Finally, Abe comes with a Sammael egg. Sammael, you'll recall, was the demonic creature sort of resembling a cross between a frog and a wolf which gave Hellboy some trouble in the first movie. While I don't have quite as much use for this, I appreciate the skill that went into it. It's very small and not too much to look at from a distance, but up close it's quite impressive. It's been a while since I've seen Hellboy, but this is pretty accurate to what I remember.
I'm giving Abe two bonus points here. All of the accessories are nice, and there's a healthy assortment. Really, most of this bonus is for the alternate head, which is a very nice addition.
I would have loved seeing a base, as well, since Abe has some minor issues balancing (I'll get to that in a moment), and one could ask for everything from a sidearm to a book. But, when all's said and done, you're getting a lot here.
Play and Display: +1
There's a lot to cover here, so lets get the only real problem out of the way right now: balance. Even this isn't a big issue: Abe can stand and seems to hold his balance all right, at least for a while. The problem is that, to get him to do so, you need to turn his feet outward into an awkward pose. And even then he's probably going to tumble over eventually. If possible, you'll want to give him something to hold onto or lean against.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, lets discuss this figure's articulation. There are a very large, very impressive selection of joints. In essence, if there was a place they could stick a joint that wouldn't interrupt the sculpt, they went ahead and put one there. And, in just about every situation, they found the best possible kind of joint. I don't want to try to go through every point of articulation they've fit onto this thing: that would take a very long time. Instead, I'd like to highlight a few of my favorite areas, where I think they've really gone above and beyond.
Lets start with the neck. The neck contains a ball joint at the base AND another connecting it to the changeable head. You get an astounding range of motion without damaging the incredible work done on the sculpt.
Likewise, the chest joint is an impressive point. They've gone with a ball joint, and it works surprisingly well.
Time to revisit those accessories: an alternate head sculpt is only as good as it's useful.
When I first saw this packaged, I was certain the neck popped out at the base and was replaced by the version wearing the scuba gear. Well, I was wrong. Instead, the breathing gear is hollow, so it slips over the neck and pops into the ball joint.
This means that you actually retain articulation. Even with the scuba gear, you can position his head, and somehow it all works.
Also, the heads come on and off with minimal effort. They might come out on occasion when you're posing him, but it's worth the trouble not to have to wrestle with him every time you want to change heads.
The hands also add a lot to the figure's poseability. The brilliance is in the design: the sculptor went with a finger position that looks natural at his side, in the air sensing psychic vibrations, or holding his accessories. I suppose it could have been luck, but either way it works.
If Abe's balance were slightly better - or if he came with a base - I could easily have justified two points instead of one. As it is, the articulation and versatility certainly qualifies him for a bonus point.
Special Deduction: Sticky Paint: -1
Remember how great I said the glossy paint looked? Well, there's a downside. When I first pulled it out, the surface had a slightly sticky feel. This means that a few of his joints took some work. Both the chest and the neck wouldn't budge at first, but, after some careful play, they functioned fine. Then a week passed. Now, they're stuck again. Not as bad as they were at first, but I've got a feeling if I neglect them too long (which, eventually, I almost certainly will), I could be in for trouble.
If any of the joints had been unsalvageable or had broken, this would have been a much more severe deduction. But, as it is, it was a very minor inconvenience. Lets hope it stays that way. I'd hate to have a joint break off and have to lose some articulation to superglue.
Price Tag and Final Analysis: 10+
Okay, okay, I already gave away the punchline at the opening of the article. Humor me.
I don't know exactly what the SRP was on these, but similar figures these days will set you back about $16, plus or minus. And this toy is worth it.
Let me be frank: if I'd gotten this toy a few months earlier, it would have beaten Green Lantern in my Best of The Bin hands down. I love my Hellboy and Liz figures, but Abe leaves them in the dust.
Is he perfect? Not quite. His balance is less than you'd want and, of course, there's that tacky paint. But all of that is water under the bridge: this is the best action figure I've picked up in a long, long time.
Oh, and I got him for three bucks.
There's a moral to this story, and here it is: don't forget to keep your eyes open at your local comic stores. Some of the best deals I've ever gotten were inexplicable ones offered on collectibles. I don't know WHY this guy was as cheap as he was, but I really lucked out.
If you've got any comments, feel free to leave a response at The Middle Room.