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FX has had a lot of great shows - American Horror Story, The Strain, The Americans, Archer, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Justified, Rescue Me...it's a longer list than you might have realized. But one show stood out, pulling in higher ratings over the course of 7 seasons than any other - Sons of Anarchy.
We've seen a few action figures, bobble heads, and assorted other collectibles over the years, but no one has taken on the license in the sixth scale market. Considering the theme, it seems like a perfect match with most current collectors, but companies have long been wary of television licenses.
Enter Pop Culture Shock Toys, a company currently best known for their exceptional 1/4 scale statues and life size busts. They are dipping their toes into the sixth scale figure pool by picking up this license and releasing Clay and Jax as their first two figures. They announced this quite awhile ago, but have been working carefully to ensure that their first release is at an appropriate level, considering the maturity of the market and the sophistication of the buyers.
This is an early review - very early review - of the pair. You can expect the pre-order to go live shortly for the PCS exclusive versions, which are what I'm checking out tonight. There will also be a retailer standard version, with fewer accessories. I'll point out the differences in the appropriate category below.
The PCS exclusive Jax and Clay will retail for around $220, and the standard release of each at $190.
Some of the photos include a motorcycle, and yes, I know quite well that it's not a Harley but a Honda. I also realize that these two bike
companies start with the letter 'H', and that's where any real similarity ends. One of these days I'll need to come up with a sixth scale Harley,
but this Honda will have to stand in for the time being.
Packaging - N/A
This is a very early review, and packaging has not yet been completed. I'm sure it will be great - PCS always does a nice job - but for now, it's an unknown.
Sculpting - Jax ***; Clay ***1/2
As you can see in the photos, Clay actually has two portraits included with the exclusive edition. The one without the bandana, pictured below, is the standard release, while the extra head shown above has a bandana sculpted in place.
As always, I'm looking at these for realism, accuracy, and life-like qualities. Let's start with Clay, and I used several photos for my own comparisons. This screen shot has him with a slightly pensive expression, here he is enjoying a smoke, and here he is wearing the bandana in profile.
Based on these and other photos, I'm very impressed with Clay. The accuracy is extremely good, especially in the eyes and nose. Compare this photo to the one below in terms of the eyes and nose (the hair and beard are very different, so don't compare those) and you'll see how accurate these key facial features are. Way too often, sculptors cheat on the nose, but here they've captured the very unique look of Perlman's own, right down to the angle.
Realism is quite good as well, although still not quite at a Hot Toys level. The skin textures and wrinkles are realistic and accurate, and the hair style, including the mustache and soul patch, look great. The lower edge on the mustache is a little too sharply defined, but it's a minor nit on an otherwise excellent portrait.
He also has a life-like expression, rather than a mannequin appearance. They didn't go crazy with it, and Perlman/Clay is never super expressive - he tends to suffer a bit from RBF. But his serious nature and demeanor come through clearly with the chosen look. The added bandana on the second head looks great, and they altered the overall hair style to better match.
I have a niece who is a crazy SOA fan, and her opinion was that Clay's expression was 'dead balls on'. I assume this is a good thing.
Jax only has the one portrait, but it hits nicely on all three aspects as well. The accuracy is solid, and I used this photo of a relative calm expression, this stock marketing photo, and this one with a similar hair/beard length and style for my comparison.
However, I don't love Jax quite as much as Clay, largely because of the hair. I think the accuracy is good, again particularly in the nose and eyes, and the jawline and lower facial shape is solid as well. The lack of detail in the hair gets to an issue around realism more than accuracy, and it reminds me of early ThreeZero work, particularly in the Game of Thrones license. It's not uncommon for new companies starting out to have less detail in the hair stranding and style, and I think that's what is throwing off the Jax look a bit, at least to me. Thankfully, they gave him a slightly pissed but not overly dynamic expression which fits the character and also works with just about any pose.
To be fair, I did show the figures to the aforementioned SOA fan, who also happens to love Jax. Her assessment was that while the hair is a bit soft, it does do a pretty good job of mimicking his look during the first couple seasons.
Both figures stand just south of 12" tall, with Clay coming in just a bit bigger than Jax. Both have detailed sculpts on the hands, including the proper rings on any bare version.
Paint - ***
Pop Culture Shock has done some amazing paint work on their 1/4 scale statues and life size busts. But this market - and these materials - are something new to them, and will take a little time to perfect. Look at Hot Toys, and the years it took them to go from something like Rambo to something like Aldo Raine.
PCS is starting out much, much further along, thanks to the advancements in the industry to date. The paint work on all three portraits is quite life-like and realistic, especially with regards to the facial hair, eyebrows and eyes. The skin tone is even and appropriately tanned, and the transition from hair to skin is subtle and realistic.
I like the work on Clay's silver/gray hair, and it has depth and definition. I'm not digging the work on Jax quite as much, which seems to exacerbate the flat, smooth appearance of the sculpt.
All of the accessories have solid paint work as well, including the tiny rings on the hands or the face on the watch.
The other major area is the tattoos, of which both have plenty. They are all sharply printed, evenly applied, and properly positioned. But there does seem to be some smudging and staining around the edges of the applique, particularly on the back where the large SOA logo is located. The tattoos on the chest and arms were much cleaner.
PCS knows about this issue, and will look to tighten up QA on the full production run. I also have to wonder how much of this staining and dirt came from the many hands that have inspected this pair of figures before it reached my doorstep. Unlike a production figure that goes from manufacturing line to box to your doorstep, this pair have seen the miles and lots of mitts, but it is still worth noting the potential issue so PCS can monitor the production.
Articulation - ***
One of the difficult areas for small companies just getting into the market is the body. They can't really afford to engineer something brand new just for them, and what's available isn't always as good as you'd like.
That's the case here. This body is functional, and can hold decent, fluid poses. It's not at the quality of the best on the market right now, but it's worlds above where we were just a few years ago with 'off the shelf' bodies. For comparison sake, this reminds me of the body used by ZCWO and several other smaller companies right now.
There aren't as many joints as you'll find on something like a TrueType, but what's here are well designed for good mobility. The ball neck has a fairly long post, with a ball at the top and inside the lower neck, allowing for decent tilt and lean action even with Jax's longer hair. There are rotating hinge shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and the hands swap easily with little fear of damaging the wrist posts. The torso has both an ab crunch and a waist joint, although these are fairly tight, and tend to pop back to center. The legs have the usual rotating hinge thighs, and what appears to be double pin knees and very mobile hinge/rocker ankles.
I've included the shot of the bare backed Jax to show off the upper body articulation, as well as the tattoo work of course. You'll notice in this shot several things, including the knife in the sheath on his belt that both figures come with, and the metal chain attached to an actual wallet in his back pocket. You'll also notice that the waist on the pants seems awfully large - more on that in the Outfit section.
While the overall body needs an update, my only real nit is with the ankles. While they are quite mobile, they are also quite loose, and made holding some stances long term tricky. PCS is aware however, and will be looking at tightening them up.
Accessories - ****
These are the PCS Direct exclusives I'm reviewing which are only available when you order direct from Pop Culture Shock at their web store. These exclusives include a number of additional items, and I'll call out the differences as we go.
Let's start with the regular edition of Jax. He comes with a total of eight hands - a pair of fists, a pair of relaxed grips, a pair of gripping gloved, and two additional rights sculpted to hold smaller accessories like the cigarette. And yes, the regular version includes one ciggie, to Hell with cancer. All the bare hands include the rings sculpted on various fingers, as you'd expect.
Also included is a pair of dark shades, which fit fairly well, his dog tags, and a Glock pistol. Of course, the handgun has a moving ejector/slide, as well as a removable magazine. The tags are hidden under his shirt of course, but I pulled them out for the one close up just so you'd know they are there.
I forgot to include it within the accessories photo, but Jax also has a Kabar knife in a sheath on the back of his belt. You saw it in the photo of his back earlier. That's it for the regular release, and this is one of those situations where the exclusive gets oh so much more.
First, there's three more hands. He adds a pair of fists wearing gloves, as well as another gloved right in a wide grip. The exclusive is also packing quite a bit more heat, including a snub nose old school police revolver (with moving hammer), an M4A1 machine gun (with adjustable stock, adjustable front grip, and removable magazine), and a smaller machine gun that I think is a TEC-10, but looks slightly different. As you'd expect, it also has a removable magazine.
But Jax doesn't just get more weapons - he gets extra clothes as well. There's the blue plaid shirt, as well as the blue hoodie, both with the same great tailoring and quality as the regular outfit.
The inclusion of the three extra weapons and the three extra hands makes the exclusive Jax a much better deal than the regular release. The same is true with Clay.
The regular release includes eight hands, same as Jax. There's the pair of fists, the pair of relaxed grips, the pair of gloved hands, perfect for holding the guns, and a set of rights designed for various other accessories, including one to grip the cigar. And yes, just as Jax has a cigarette, Clay has a stogie. The cigar can be held in a couple different ways within the one gripping right.
The regular release also gets his own shades, a watch, and one handgun. At first I thought this was a 1911A, but I'm not positive on that one. He also has a Kabar, just like Jax, in a sheath on his belt. That might not seem like enough weapons, but that's what the exclusive is all about.
The PCS release gets both the M4A1, as well as the AKM with a spring loaded action. Like Jax, Clay also gets three more gloved hands: a pair of fists, and an additional loose grip right.
The big plus with the PCS version is the second portrait of Clay, this time wearing his trademark bandana. The addition of the sculpted bandana is the only change, but it looks terrific, and I think it's my preferred version. He can't wear the sunglasses on this head, but that's a minor price to pay.
Both figures also include a black crotch support display base, which will be a consistent feature of all future PCS 1/6th releases. It works fine of course, and I prefer the crotch support to the waist grabber. Don't you?
That's a ton of stuff, so much so that every time I thought I'd mentioned everything, I realized I'd forgotten something. Considering the value, number, and quality of the additional accessories, I'd say the exclusive releases are well worth the money.
It's also worth noting that when these figures were first shown at SDCC a couple years ago, there was some hubbabaloo over them. At the time, someone from Fox or FX was unhappy with the inclusion of weapons. Thankfully, clearer heads prevailed and the figures are outfitted appropriately based on their television persona.
And no, the bike in the photos is not included, but since it's not a Harley, you'd want something different in your display anyway.
Outfit - ****
Another area where I was really impressed is with the costumes. They consist of shoes, pants, belt, shirt, vest, and fat suit.
Okay, so it's not really a 'fat' suit, but they did add a small band of padding that velcros around the waist. It smooths out the lower half of the torso, and is the reason why the pants look so large in the earlier photo where Jax isn't wearing a shirt.
This padding works great with Clay, but it can poof up Jax a little too much. You have some other options with Jax though, thanks to the inclusion with the exclusive of a blue plaid shirt and a blue hoodie. And removing the padding couldn't be much easier, if you prefer that look.
Before we get to the exclusive extras, let's start with the regular release clothing. Jax is wearing his trademark white sneakers, while Clay has dark boots. Both are great sculpts, with minimal paint operations. Both are also wearing slightly baggy jeans - no skinny jeans for these guys - and they are actually made from a different material. Jax's is a more traditional denim, while Clay's are a softer material. Both look great, and the pockets actually work. That should be pretty apparent from the earlier mention of the wallet at the end of the chain, which is inside their back pocket.
Both have belts, and yes Jax is wearing a SAMCRO belt buckle. Both are also wearing short sleeved t-shirts, Jax in white and Clay in dark blue. The fit and tailoring is great all around, and the materials are high quality and appropriately scaled.
Then we get to the meat of this costume - the leather vests, aka 'kuttes'. PCS spent a lot of time getting these right, and it really shows. The fit is excellent, particularly around the shoulders, which allows the vest to hang naturally in just about any standing or sitting pose.The stitching is properly scaled and high quality, and the materials are extremely realistic. The vests aren't merely a copy of one another either - the proper collars for each character are represented.
Of course, the patches and pins are quite different too. The patches are exactly that in real life - sewn on patches. That means they stand out from the vest, and doing them as any sort of print, tampo, or sticker just wouldn't look right. Instead, these are cut out and attached, just like a patch would be. The patches are all straight, even, and properly positioned, and the overall visual effect is excellent. I did have the corners on the patches on Jax's chest, left side, lift up slightly on the edge, but I was able to push them back against the vest and they reattached.
The exclusive release of Jax also includes the aforementioned blue plaid shirt and hoodie. He was never without his vest, but he did wear long sleeve plaid shirts on occasion, as well as this thicker hoodie underneath. Hey, it gets chilly in the evenings.
Both have the same high quality material, tailoring, and stitching as the other clothing pieces. The plaid shirt has very small snaps, but these are metal, not plastic. These extra pieces give you a number of different looks for Jax, plus they can remove the need for the underlying padding. In my photos I kept it in place, but if you tuck in the shirt, it fills out the waist nicely.
Fun Factor - ***1/2
The body might be a tad floppy, but I was able to get it to hold and maintain most poses. This is a set that has a ton of display potential, both together and with other similar licenses. Collectors will have a great time coming up with the perfect scene on the shelf, and re-posing them over time will add to the enjoyment.
Value - **1/2
Both the costuming and accessories can hold up to scrutiny against other major players currently in the market, and with the exclusives you're getting a ton of extras, including a second portrait for Clay. Sculpting is up there as well, although I think PCS still has a way to go on the production paint application. Overall, I'd say these are very much in line with other smaller companies like Star Ace, Qmx, Asmus, and others, and as a first release are in the right ball park with an industry average price tag. If you can find a retailer at $10 - $20 lower, I'd go another half star here.
Things to Watch Out For -
Don't lose that cigarette - it's easy to do. Otherwise you should be good to go, as both heads and hands swap smoothly, and the various accessories and costume pieces are sturdy and well made.
Overall - ***1/2
As a first release from a company just getting into the market, these figures are the right way to go. Growing pains are a given, but they've knocked it out of the park on the outfits and accessories, and ensured the sculpts and paint work are meeting market expectations. I liken these to what we are seeing from Star Ace and Qmx right now, and with the right licenses and some minor improvements in the paint and body, PCS can be a real player in the field.
It's also great to see them really, really working to get this first release right, and to set the tone for future expectations. PCS has long been a company known for high quality in the statue and bust market, and it's clear they want that reputation to be mirrored in this new endeavor. They also didn't want to put these figures up for pre-order months and months before they were actually produced, a much too common and highly annoying occurrence with other companies. You can expect the turn around from pre-order to in stock to be pretty quick.
One of the things you miss with an early review like this is any potential mass production issues that might crop up, but based on what I've seen here, I think PCS is off to an excellent start. On the plus side, I can point out potential problems, like the loose ankles, and give PCS a chance to avoid them with the final production.
If you're trying to decide between the regular and the exclusive, I think it's a no brainer, assuming the exclusive is only $20 - $30 more at pre-order time. Considering the large volume of extras, go for the exclusive. C'mon, you know you want to!
Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - N/A
Sculpting - Jax ***; Clay ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ****
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***1/2
Where to Buy
Pre-orders are up for the figures at Pop Culture Shock and they will have the exclusives available only through their online store. I'm assuming the usual suspects will have them as well, including these site sponsors:
- or you can search ebay for a deal.
Related Links -
In the Sons of Anarchy theme, I've checked out the small figures of Gemma and Opie from Mezco. In a similar sixth scale vein, check out the Heisenberg/Walter White figure from ThreeZero.
You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.
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