Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Captain Toy Picks...
The Top Ten Awful Sixth Scale Figures - Under $100

Date Published: 2016-10-19
Written By: Michael Crawford

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DC Direct Poison Ivy sixth scale figure

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I recently reviewed a sixth scale figure that scored far less than I had anticipated.  Disappointments like this aren't uncommon, but they have gotten rarer as the market has matured and grown.

That prompted me to consider doing my Top Ten Worst Figures list, those really awful by any standard.  As I pondered the potential candidates, I realized there were a ton, far too many to whittle it down to just ten. Looking over the candidates, the next logical divider was scale, and I thought starting with sixth scale made the most sense. But a new problem cropped up...what to do about comparing something that cost $200 to something that cost $20? Expectations are different, and if I went only by scale, the list would be populated with cheaper figures, leaving out the weaker (yet still better) high end selections.

This led to the decision to break the list by cost as well.  I chose $100 pretty arbitrarily, since that seemed to be where the reasonable comparisons ended, or at least the grouping of 'winners' became manageable. I'm assuming this means I'll also do an 'over $100' list at some point, where some of my higher end disappointments will show up. Don't expect to see anything from Hot Toys or Enterbay here today, but have no fear - they'll get their chance.

Every one of the figures on this list was bad enough to blind a weaker man. This is a list populated by older figures, because the market really has improved. We rarely get the truly awful, ugly figure in sixth scale any more. Knock on wood.

Here we go!

10 - Batman Begins, DC Direct, 2005
Back in the early aughts, DC Direct tried their hand at the burgeoning sixth scale market. This was a company that did a lot of Nerd Hummels - busts, statues, and smaller scale action figures that were an awful lot like statues. Companies like Sideshow, Medicom, and even Hot Toys were making bank, and DC Direct figured why not? They could produce something at a lower cost (this guy was around $80, more expensive than most Sideshow figures, but still less than a company like Medicom) around the popular DC licenses.

But they blew it right out of the gate, and I hated pretty much every release they produced.  Mistake one was the huge, oversized body. They went with a bulky 13" base body, rather than a traditional 12 - 12 1/2". This immediately made their releases incompatible with anything else on your shelf. They added undersized heads and oversized hands, and to make matters worse, tried using fat, bendy fingers. It was a disaster.

They did manage to produce a fair share of figures though.  I could have gone with any number of them for this list - I remember particularly despising Poison Ivy and Two-Face - but the Batman Begins figure was one of their first, and thanks to the already restrictive costume design, it was pretty much a hunk of plastic.

A quote from my original two star review - "DC Direct decided that when they got into this new market, they would swing for the fences. Too bad they aren't power hitters."

DC Direct Batman Begins 13 inch action figure

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9 - Anna Valorius, Sideshow, 2004
I never personally reviewed Anna. I have a guest review, and the reviewer liked her quite a bit. Different strokes, I suppose.

The Van Helsing movie was pretty heavily licensed, and received action figure treatment from a number of companies in a number of scales.  The Sideshow Van Helsing wasn't awful for the time period - except for the terrible shiny paint - but Anna...she was in a class by herself. I will say they tried, and had the costume been tailored for a better underlying body, things would have improved.  But there's still the massive, bobbly, Barbie doll head, an attempt at rooted hair when rooted hair wasn't being done in any sort of realistic way. It's only been in the last couple years that it's gotten close, and companies like Hot Toys, Star Ace, and Asmus are using the technique with success. But in 2004? It was big headed Barbie all the way. This atrocity was $40 - $50 back then, which was no small potatoes.

Sideshow Van Helsing Anna Valorius action figure

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8 - Pamela Voorhees, Sideshow, 2005
Sideshow is going to take some abuse on this list. I think the reason is that when they started to get real competition from foreign companies like Medicom, Hot Toys, bbi, etc. they made a mistake. They saw these other companies selling figures in the $100 0 $150 range...even up to $200 in some cases!  They raised their prices relatively quickly, going from $25, to $40, to $60, to $80, but the quality of the releases didn't match. Rather than bite the bullet and make a big jump, with a much improved body, much improved sculpts, and much improved paint, they tried to merely tweak what they were already doing. They've been tweaking ever since, and still haven't caught up.

Pam was a particularly unique example. When she was released, collectors gasped.  Between the shiny paint, which Sideshow had a real problem with during the mid 00's, and that expression...what the Hell is that expression? That doesn't even discuss the cheap, goofy looking outfit. Even if you ignore the expression and the paint, this was a classic example of major production changes from the earlier prototype.  Look at the photo on the box, then look at what we got - yea, it wasn't a perfect sculpt, but it wasn't this bad. At around $40, her price point was on par with other mid-range sixth scale figures at the time, but this head sculpt and paint job were atrocious. I was too kind back then.

For another good example, check out Faith from the Buffy series - she almost made the cut as well.

Sideshow Pamela Voorhees action figure

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7 - Barbra (NOTLD), Amoktime with Executive Replicas, 2009
There can be a pretty wide variety of reasons for a figure to truly disappoint. Sometimes it's sculpt or paint, sometimes it's merely price. And sometimes, it's the underlying body. Such was the case with Barbra, the unfortunate blonde from Night of the Living Dead.

The retailer Amoktime partnered up with Executive Replicas to produce a variety of 60's horror themed sixth scale figures. Some, like the Invasion of the Saucer Men, were a lot of fun. Unfortunately, when they released a series of female figures (Maureen Robinson, Blood of Dracula, and dear Barbra) in 2009, they got some very, very bad bodies.  The wrist pegs on these figures were falling apart right in the package.  Breathe on one of the hands, and the wrist would break. The company response was less than ideal, and collectors were not happy.

While I had trouble with all three - poor Maureen's hand was bouncing around inside the box when I received her - it's Barbra that takes the prize. While all three head sculpts were reasonable (and Maureen's is actually good), the poorly tailored costume, lack of accessories, and other articulation issues (the dopey shoe/feet were impossible to work with) made her the stand out.

Night of the Living Dead Barbra sixth scale figure

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6 - Zod, Mattel, 2009
Another company that tried to jump into the sixth scale collector market was Mattel.  They were dabbling with other collector lines, finding great success with Masters of the Universe Classics, but lesser success with lines like Ghostbusters.  The Superman license wasn't being particularly well exploited in 2009, and Mattel thought the time was right for a couple mid-price figures. Zod was about $60, which was great...except he was a $30 figure at best. Even then you'd question your sanity for buying him.

Take a head sculpt that's almost smooth, too tiny for the body, and oddly shaped, throw in a very badly tailored jumpsuit, and add in some awful boots (look at those itty bitty feet!), and you have the perfect recipe for disappointment.

General Zod sixth scale action figure

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5 - Jack Bauer, Diamond Select Toys, 2008
Yep, everyone was getting into the sixth scale market, and they were going after every license they could find.  Enterbay did a nice version of Jack Bauer and President Palmer (for the time), but he would run you $150. McFarlane had the low end covered with a 7" action figure, and he was only $15 or so. Don't even get me started on the Medicom version, but he was $120 and therefore avoids this list. And then Diamond Select Toys released their version, and at $23, he was definitely on the low end of the price curve.

And it showed in every way. The cartoony sculpt, the cheap body, the ill fitting head, the baggy, goofy clothes - he's a mess. There is an argument that can be made for cheap figures like this - think of the kids! For example, Zizzle did some terrible Jack Sparrow figures in this range, and you won't find them here on my list because they still sufficed as toys for kids. But, and this is a big but, Jack Sparrow is a license perfect for kids. 24 is not. No eight year old was going to want this figure, making it pretty obvious that the intended market was adult collectors. And no adult collector in his right mind would buy this figure. I also realize the irony in the fact that I bought it, but occasionally I take one for the team.

I think this quote from my original review sums it up nicely - "Aaaaaaaggghhhhh! It burns, it burns!"

Jack Bauer action figure

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4 - Anakin Skywalker, Hasbro, 2013 
A few years ago, Hasbro cursed us all with these super cheap 12" figures based on Star Wars. At $13 each (now down around $10), their popularity spread, and now we have the damn things for every license and from every company. I hate them.  These are nothing more than giant dog chew toys, and your kids deserve better. I will admit that the quality of the paint and sculpt has improved *slightly* since they did Anakin, but not much.  These still deserve to be a feature at the dollar store, not front and center on the pegs at Target.

Hasbro Anakin Skywalker action figure

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3 - Lara Croft Motorcycle Gear, Playmates, 2001
Another company dipping their toe in the sixth scale water back in the day was Playmates. With lots of success around TMNT, WOS, and Star Trek, they included a few 12" clothed figures for various licenses.  This rarely went well, but rarely was it as bad as it was with poor Lara Croft.

Unlike the aforementioned Jack Bauer, you also had a big price problem. Lara was a whopping $30, a pretty hefty price tag in 2001. The quality certainly didn't support it, and the articulation was shockingly bad. When a figure doesn't even hold any potential for a kit bash, you know it's bad.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider action figure

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2 - Morpheus, N2 Toys, 2001
Thanks to N2 Toys, we got some really, really terrible action figures. From Mad Max to Big Trouble in Little China, they obliterated every license they obtained. Their abuses on the Matrix license was particularly heinous, and this Morpheus...ugh. He was only $20...but that was back in 2000/2001 for God's sake! To quote my review "It's a bad sign if I tell you that the best thing about a figure is the box."

Matrix Morpheus action figure

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1 - Hannibal (A-Team), 2010
I've always wanted a great Liam Neeson sixth scale figure. We have gotten okay versions from Sideshow, but never anything that really stands out. This version from Jazwares, based on his character Hannibal in the A-Team remake, certainly does stand out. As you might expect, it's for all the wrong reasons.

Starting at the top, there's that gumball shaped head that sits poorly on a weirdly shaped neck. The skin tone doesn't even come close to matching, and the expression appears to be one of bewilderment. The body is almost completely unarticulated, with a cut neck, cut shoulders, and cut waist. Even those joints are next to worthless since the sculpted pose makes them moot.

Perhaps worst of all, they went for a sound feature. Push a button on his back, you get some gunfire, or one of two spoken lines.  One of these - "I love it when a plan comes together" - sounds like he's drunk.  Literally. No joke. It's one of the worst sound features I've ever seen.

This figure cost $20. That might seem cheap at first.  Until you consider the crappy Hasbro figures that were starting to pop up at the time of similar quality that were close to $10. Or that collector themed lines with low production numbers and higher quality, like MOTUC, were available for $20 as well. And like Jack Bauer, this figure wasn't going to ever be a hit with 8 year olds. As I said in my review "Too ugly for the collector to put on the shelf, too un-articulated and clunky for a kid to use as anything other than a door stop."

Jazwares A-Team Hannibal action figure

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In Closing...
There's my list of disappointments.  You'll notice that the ladies take a fair share, and that's because, unfortunately, most companies have treated their likenesses with less concern. Thankfully, that's been changing over the last few years, and we're finally getting female figures in this scale that don't look like some sort of mutated Barbie.

I'm considering a couple more lists of disappointments - one for the over $100 sixth scale market, and one for other action figures in general. Sadly, there's no shortage of potential picks.

So what's your list look like?

If you're enjoying this concept of Captain Toy Picks, drop me a line and let me know!

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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