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Review of the Penguin
Batman Returns 1/4 scale action figure

NECA Date Published:
Written By:
Overall Average Rating: 3.5 out of 4

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Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Introduction

While we have seen many incarnations of the Joker in live action films and television shows, the Penguin has been largely ignored. After Burgess Meredith did his wonderful turn as the character in the 60's TV show, we didn't see him again until the 1992 film Batman Returns, by Tim Burton. Played perfectly by Danny DeVito, he (along with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman) were a highlight of the film. Of course, those who watch Gotham know that the Penguin plays a key role once again, in perhaps his best incarnation. But there will always be a special nostalgic love for the BR design and style, at least in my heart.

NECA has been producing 1/4 scale action figures for many years, and they've really increased the breadth and depth of the offerings over the last couple. They started showing off their Oswald at SDCC in 2014, and he just started shipping in the last couple weeks.

You can pick this guy up at a number of online retailers, and I have some terrific suggestions at the end of the review. You will find him for around $100, depending on the store.

Click on the image below for a Life Size version
Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Packaging - ***
The large box is attractive, but not collector friendly. There will be snipping, cutting and destruction if you remove the entire figure and his accessories.

But as I said, it is attractive, and includes some great graphics of various campaign slogans and paraphernalia. As I was opening him up, I was so impressed with the background graphic on the interior cardboard tray (which depicts a Cobblepot for Mayor poster), that I was disappointed that they had ruined it by piercing it for the large twisty ties holding him down. And then I realized that to his left, on the side of the inner tray, was another print of the poster, this one perforated to be torn out and used in your display!  Nice work, NECA.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Sculpting - ***1/2
This portrait is designed to look like Cobblepot after he bit into the nose of the hapless but annoying campaign aid, complete with blood and ooze on his teeth and lips. Of course, this could also represent the end of the film, where he spews blood, or even when he's gnawing on a raw fish. He has blood on his face quite a few times in the flick. A good reference photo would be this one, or this one without the blood all over his mouth.

The sculpt itself is extremely good, and captures DeVito as the Penguin beautifully. I like the extreme anger in the expression, since he spent most of the movie pretty pissed off over one thing or another. The work on the teeth is particularly impressive, but the eyes, nose and overall texturing are quite good as well. It's worth noting that this is NOT the original head sculpt that we saw at SDCC in 2014. Personally, I like the original better, but they had already changed it up by the time they showed it at last summer's SDCC, so it's no surprise.

My one complaint is with the hair - there's just not enough.  I'm sure they were looking to avoid going over board in this scale, since it would be easy to end up with an unruly mane.  But he had quite a bit of the flowing locks and they didn't quite capture that here. I've included a photo from the back. The seam also seems too obvious in the photo, but that's thanks to the wonders of macro - in person, it's less obvious.

The hands look good, with the finger flippers about the right scale.  Overall internal scale is good with his limbs and torso matching up with the size of the head.  External scale works as well, with the figure standing about 15" tall, a good three inches shorter than Batman. That would put the character at 5 feet tall, which is DeVito's listed height.

The body is sculpted in the tattered long johns, black boots, and tuxedo bib and tie. Sculpted wear and tear is included at various places on the clothing, and it looks quite good, at least from a sculpting perspective.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Paint - ***
Unfortunately, we didn't quite get the prototype paint job on the final production release. I can't say I'm surprised, but it's still a bit disappointing.

I say I'm not surprised, because paint operations, being a unit cost rather than a fixed cost, tend to take a hit when it comes time for production. Budget running over a bit? Take out an operation or two, reduce the quality of the ones you've kept, and viola, back on budget!

That's not to say that the work here is bad - it's not.  The sickly skin tone is even, the eyes look great, and the best work is (once again) around the teeth, lips and gums.  On the opposite side, the blood around the mouth is slightly off, looking more like the paint it is than the blood it's trying to be.

The work on the worn, dirty underwear looks good, but I do think that some areas where the skin underneath is showing through, it looks off.  The white is simply too bright and clean, and while I understand that he would be fish belly white underneath there, the spots on his belly end up looking unpainted and out of place.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Articulation - ***
There's some key articulation here, but a couple spots are less mobile than I'd like.

I'll start with the worst offender, the neck.  The lack of any actual neck in the character design makes it tough for them to do much with it here.  The head can turn slightly side to side, but that's it.

The rotating hinge shoulders, elbows and wrists allow for some good arm poses, especially the wrists. He can raise his arms fairly high, and the round torso isn't as restrictive as I'd expected. The torso itself also has a good ball joint at the chest that allows for some tilt and lean along with the side to side turn.

The rotating hinges at the hips and knees are buried pretty deep inside the sculpted outfit, limiting them somewhat, but the rocker ankles work great. The range of movement in these ankles was a nice surprise, and allow the feet to remain flat on the ground in most stances without damaging the aesthetic of the boot sculpt.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Accessories - ***1/2
We lost an accessory, but gained several others, resulting in a positive end.

The accessory we lost was the umbrella, which he was shown with as a prototype, and which some online retailers still show or mention in the ads.  There's no umbrella. Pity.

But he does have a nice set of other goodies, including his top hat, monocle, cigarette (in a holder), extra right hand, and half eaten fish.

The top hat fits nicely on his head, and is properly scaled, often an issue for hats.  The monocle has a small clear post that fits inside a very tiny hole in the corner of his left eye - it's tough to find and a tight fit, so be very careful pushing the post into place! The cigarette holder can be held between the teeth or in the corner of the mouth, and these three extras really set off his dapper look when included with the coat. More on the coat in the next category.

The extra right hand is designed to hold things - the fish, the hat, and the cigarette are all possible. The hands swap easily, and I had no worries about breakage.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Outfit - ***
I'm including one item here, since it's cloth and quite large - his heavy overcoat.  This is supposed to be the coat we saw him wear outdoors in the snow, rather than the top coat of his tux. Here's a longer shot of the coat as well. Here's one more, just for good measure.

When we first saw this coat on the prototype (and still in many of the photos at online retailers) the fur collar was black. As you can see in the above screen shots, that wasn't accurate. The entire coat was brown, but the idea that there was some black in there was probably a result of a) the dark lighting of the movie in general and b) confusing the look with his tuxedo jacket.

This faux fur is on the collar, wrists, and pockets.  The outer layer of the rest of the coat is a soft slightly fuzzy material, while the inner lining is a more standard nylon. There's a small clasp to close the coat at the belly, and the overall quality of the cloth, stitching and production is quite high.

Still, there are a couple nits.  While the coat seems about the right size overall, the collar is pretty thick and voluminous. It tends to dwarf the head, riding higher on the sides of the face than it did in the film. I chalk this up to the inherent problems in finding materials in smaller scales that can work. Again, it's not an atrocious issue, but it is certainly noticeable.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Fun Factor - ***
This figure is a lot more fun than a statue in the same scale, simply because you'll be able to personalize the pose and look to your own tastes.  The coat and other accoutrements are easy to put on and take off, making it easy to change up his look on a regular basis.  That's another aspect of 'fun', at least when it comes to collectors.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Value - ***
Getting figures in this scale for $100 - and even slightly under, at some retailers - is a very good deal on the current market. Statues that are far smaller will cost even more, and while most statues in this scale would do better in the Paint category, they'd also cost $500 or more.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Things to Watch Out For -
It was tough to locate the tiny hole in the corner of his left eye, and even when I did, the fit was very tight for the post on the monocle. Take your time and you should be okay.

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Overall - ***1/2
I almost went three stars here - almost.  I suspect that the paint and the large lapels may be enough to pull another half star off for many people.  But as a massive bat-nerd, I have to give them credit for pulling off a great character design in one of my favorite scales.

Don't misunderstand - I'd like better paint too, and I'm betting we see some amazing repaints in the coming weeks from talented customizers. But right out of the box this guy will hold his own with the other 1/4 scale figures on the shelf, and is a welcome addition. Now if we could just get Hot Toys to go for this, instead of another Batman suit variation. Or maybe NECA could add a Nicholson Joker to their 1/4 scale series...pretty please?

Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ***1/2
Outfit - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value - ***
Overall - ***1/2

Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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Where to Buy 
Online options include these site sponsors:

- Entertainment Earth has a great price at $95.

- comes in at $100.

- has him in stock for $100.

- has him for $115.

- or you can search ebay for a deal.

Related Links -
Other Batman related 1/4 scale figures from NECA include Batman from the 1989 movie, as well as Batman and Robin from the 1966 TV Show.

Other figures from the Burton movies include the NECA video game Batman, the Hot Toys Batman, and the Hot Toys Joker, including the 'mime' version, and the Sideshow Premium Format Batman statue.

You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.

Discussion:
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Batman Returns Penguin 1/4 scale action figure by NECA

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This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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