Sideshow Premium Format
John Wayne - Western Hero

Once upon a time, Hollywood stars were glamorous icons. While occasionally they tore them up like vultures, more often than not the media and public raised them up and glorified them, not because of their tawdry lives, public scandals and own stupidity, but in spite of it. A few of these stars were able to transcend even that, and become not just celebrities, but heroes to the American people, and in some cases, the entire world.

John Wayne was just such an actor. He went from actor, to star, to celebrity, and then on to a level that few can achieve - epitomizing to the world everything that it meant to be 'American'. While his life wasn't without controversy, he was so respected as a patriotic citizen that he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 1979. Yep, he was 'da man'.

Now, I'm not a huge Wayne fan, but have always enjoyed his films. My father is much more the Wayne fan that I - give me a Clint Eastwood western any day. But when Sideshow announced that they were doing a Premium Format figure of the Duke, I knew I had to snag one. These are now shipping, are a limited run of just 1000, and cost around $250.

Packaging - **1/2
Generally, Sideshow packaging gets high marks. This one would too, if not for one fairly important issue.

It's not the exterior of the box though. The graphics are decent, and most of us are going to toss these boxes in the attic anyway. Nope, this time it's the interior foam trays.

The section designed for the base is too small for it to fit. At first I thought mine was just packed off center, and that caused the one side of the impression - which is also one side of the indentation designed to hold the back of the rifle - to get broken. But on closer inspection, I realized that this side had also been taped up, before the figure had been packed, so the factory knew the base wasn't fitting properly. The tape did not help though, and the foam is busted outward, dangerously close to damaging the lever action on the rifle. I suspect that Sideshow themselves may not have even known there was an issue, since the factory probably figured they'd just add some tape for reinforcement and they'd be good to go.

I haven't heard of anyone having breakage problems with the rifle, but it does cause some issues if you have to pack him back up for now - as I did - since you could end up damaging the statue if you aren't paying attention.

Sculpting - ****
Mat Falls has done some amazing work for Sideshow, but I think this could very well be his best so far. I'm going to cover the head, hands and rifle in this section, and I'll cover the sculpted hat and boots in the outfit category.

If you compare the head sculpt to reference photos from the film, you'll see how accurate it really is. This isn't one of those head sculpts were he passes as a reasonable Rooster Cogburn - it IS Rooster Cogburn. I think this head sculpt rivals the Obi-Wan as the best actor/character likeness they've done in the premium format style.

The hand sculpts are correctly scaled to the body (no abnormally long alien fingers or giant hands), and there's enough texture and detail to make them quite realistic. The right hand is sculpted to be perched atop the Colt revolver, which is actually a separate accessory style item. The left hand is sculpted/glued in position holding his Winchester with the trademark oversized lever action. The scale on this gun is also quite good, and it's a tricky one to capture. Winchester's tend to be smaller rifles in person than people realize, and there's often a tendency to make them too big when reproducing them as collectibles. They did a nice job getting the size correct here, especially in relation to a guy Wayne's size. Of course, I would have prefered a rifle made from metal and wood, but now we're getting out there into a whole different price point.

Paint - ****
Had the paint ops on this head sculpt been weak, they could have easily ruined the wonderful sculpt. Thankfully, that is not the case in any way. In fact, the paint work doesn't just support the great sculpt, it actually improves on it.

The hair is a nice, even gray, with extremely clean cut lines at the hairline and around the large sideburns. The eyes have a lifelike appearance, with no signs of any awful mannequin stare. The lips and eyes are slightly glossy, giving them a fleshy appearance, and just the right amount of wash is used to give the face some false shadowing and add some aging to the skin. If every Sideshow paint job was this good, there'd never be any complaints.

The work on other sculpted areas, such as the rifle and boots, is also excellent. While the rifle is just resin, the paint application makes it appear like a wood stock and blued steel. There's plenty of small detail work, and the ops are all extremely clean and consistent. 

Outfit - ****
The outfit on Wayne is outstanding, easily the best overall layered outfit on a PF to date. The only other PF that can come close in complexity is the Vader, which retailed for quite a bit more due to the light up feature.

Let's run top to bottom. His hat is sculpted, a smart move. I've never seen a hat yet made from any material that really manages to look realistic, even in a scale as large as this. The sculpt is dead on, and to add realism, includes the leather band and white 'fluffy' poof ball looking doo-dad on the left side. The leather and cloth bands match the reference photos extremelly well, and this is one of the most recognizable of all of Wayne's cowboy hats.

He has the pink hankercheif around his neck, and is wearing it a tad higher and tighter than he did in real life. You can adjust that down if you'd like, but I kept it tighter around his neck, because I thought it offset the face so much better.

There are several layers of clothing on the torso. There's the dark blue shirt, with perfectly scaled buttons, and full length sleeves. It fits the chubby under padding perfectly, and looks great. Over that is his leather vest, slightly worn and weathered, although not as much as in early prototype photos. Over all this is his brown coat, which even has leather added to the inside of the collar and cuffs, so that when they are turned down, they look just as they did in the film. Again, the buttons are perfectly scaled, and while the pockets of the jacket are for show only, they look terrific as well.

The material in all this clothing is extremely high quality, with some wonderful stitching and hemming. Inside both the vest and jacket is a separate sewn lining, again adding realism and quality in places you don't even easily see. It's touches like that which take the statue from being nice to look at from a distance, to amazing on close inspection.

Ah, I almost forgot the eye patch! I had expected a sculpted eye patch, but nope - it's leather tightly tied (and glued) in place. Adding in the actual eye patch, rather than sculpting it on, is another example of going the extra mile on this particular PF.

Then there's his pants, belt and gun belt/holster. The pants hang and fold quite naturally, and are made from a very realistic denim. Denim tends to be too thick to work well even in this scale, but they managed to find just the right kind for the job. His back pockets do appear to be actual pockets, and the tailoring and fit of the jeans is excellent.

The regular belt sits around his waist, with a cool belt buckle to keep it in place. The gun belt hangs lower, but you can adjust just how low. 

Wayne tended to wear his gun very low on his hips, and it was a trademark look for him. The belt serves as a cartridge belt as well of course, and shells of different sizes have been glued in place. In reality, all the cartridges would have likely been the same if he was actually a cowboy, since after 1873 when the .44-40 Winchester hit, most cowboys used that rifle in conjunction with the .45 Colt, and they could both chamber the same rounds. (Colt even did their single action revolver in a .44.-40 as well). But in the world of Hollywood, the different size cartridges were more common.

The holster holds the revolver just fine, although it's a tad plain. In fact, it surprised me that the holster was less realistic looking, and more toy-ish, than any other aspect of the PF. It's not a huge problem, but the one area that could have used improvement.

He has leather suspenders as well - not sure why you need suspenders AND a belt, but maybe Rooster was a careful man - and these are a little long. You can adjust where they lay across his chest and stomach to some extent because of the length, but can't adjust where they actually attach to the pants. I think the left side attaches a bit too far to the front of his body, but that's a very minor nit.

The last piece of non-sculpted clothing is his spur straps, which run over and around the boots. These are also leather, complete with metal buckles, but are a little looser and less worn than I'd like. Of the entire outfit, these and the holster are the only two pieces that don't look quite as authentic or realistic as the rest of the costume.

The boots are sculpted, with a nice pattern cut into the top, and are an appropriate scale and style. The sculpted spurs look terrific, but they are the one place where you could break the statue rather easily if you're not paying close attention.

Accessories - ***1/2
Usually, PF's don't' have much in the way of accessories, but the Duke does get his trusty six shooter. The revolver is a good sculpt, although not quite as detailed as you might expect. It's also made from resin, and I'd much rather have an all metal version, especially in this scale. I'm going to have my eyes peeled for a nice metal quarter scale reproduction - I know there out there, and if you see one around, let me know.

While the base isn't technically an accessory (since he can't stand up without it), I thought this was as good a place as any to discuss it in a little more depth. The top of the base is covered in Western soil, nicely painted and sculpted. His foot prints are sculpted into the dirt, so that when he's in place, he sinks down below the surface just slightly. While the entire base is resin, the edges are painted to appear like a hard wood - mahogany or walnut perhaps - which really fits the general Western theme extremely well. There's no name plaque either, but of course, there's no need.

Value - ***
Other PF's of this quality - including Vader and Doom - have been in the $300 - $350 range. Considering the amount of various medias used in this figure, and the overall high quality, the $250 price tag is a solid value. I'm betting that these will actually go for less in the early days on ebay, at least until they sell. But unlike Vader or Doom, dealers and 'investors' are unlikely to be buying these. Instead, the first buyers will be Wayne fans, intent on having and keeping the statue. That means that once they're gone, finding them on the secondary market will get tougher.

Things to Watch Out For - 
There's not much to worry about once he's out. He stands great on the base, with no wobble or chance of tipping short of you doing something really stupid. The metal peg also fits well into the hole, and isn't nearly as tight as some of the past ones, where damage to the base was possible.

If you do pack him back up in the box though, remember my warning about the tray. Pay attention to where the lever action on the rifle rests in relation to the adjoing tray wall of the base. Pushing the two halfs of the styrofoam together too tightly could cause the base to break through and damage the rifle.

Overall - ****
I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that this is the BEST PF Sideshow has produced so far. Now, I realize that it's not everyone's favorite license, but you have to try to put aside your feelings about the actual license for a minute and simply look at the overall quality. The idea behind the PF was to create a 'mixed media' figure, something that was more than either an action figure or a statue could be. While PF's like Lurtz, Doom, Vader or Obi-wan all have been excellent, none have quite managed to pull off the high number of different materials and body type, and do it this well. This PF shows off what the format really has to offer over a traditional statue, and for that, I consider it the best of a small group of fantastics.

Some past PF's haven't done a lot to get me excited about future PF's in the same license, either. For example, the lazy eye and simplistic outfit on Buffy did little to enthuse me for the upcoming Spike. However, if I needed any reassurance that Sideshow could do a figure like Spike justice, with his multiple layers of clothing and all important head sculpt, then John Wayne has provided that reassurance. Also, we've seen a string of largely hit PF's in recent months, including Leia, Obi-Wan and Lurtz. Now with Wayne, we're seeing that upward trend in overall quality continue. These are all good signs for fans of the format in general, even if you aren't interested in this particular character.

Now I just need a Man With No Name version of Eastwood.

Score Recap:
Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - ****
Paint - ****
Outfit - ****
Accessories - ***1/2
Value -  ***
Overall - ****

Where to Buy -
Sideshow still has them available (), but at the $250 price tag. Other online options that are a little cheaper include:

- Dark Figures has him in stock at $240.

- and if you're in the U.K., check out Forbidden Planet, where they have him for 190 pounds.

Related Links:
If you like the Premium Format, check these out:

- in the Universal Monsters line, I've reviewed the Mummy, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein and Vampyre.

- in the Star Wars line, I've done Vader, Leia, Obi-wan and Han.

- and in general, I've also covered Buffy, Jason, and Lurtz.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.
Photography by Guy Klender.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour