Live by the Sword

Sideshow Toy continues to produce unique and inventive sixth scale figures.  At Toy Fair a couple weeks ago, they announced several new additions for 2004 - Ardeth Bey, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, new licenses like Planet of the Apes and X-Files, more Bond, and more historical figures.  Their Live By The Sword series has been greatly anticipated by collectors looking for pirates, knights, and scallywags.

The first release in this series is Captain Edward Teach, known better to you and I as Blackbeard.  Easily the most famous pirate, he was aptly named for his rather frightening facial hair.  Men sure do know how to get creative with their beards, don't they?

Blackbeard is one of Sideshow's more expensive sixth scale figures at $50.  He's just starting to ship, and I have some suggestions at the end of the review of other possible retailers.

Packaging - ****
Sideshow always produces nice packaging, clearly designed for the collector's market, but once in awhile they really go out of the way.  This is one of those times.  The style of art and font match the historical period nicely, and the box is truly gorgeous.  There's a huge amount of historical text included on the inside flap, giving the uninitiated a full background on the good Captain.  And while there's a few twistie ties to replace if you should decide to put him back in the box, it's not impossible, and there's no need to damage any part of the package to get him out.

Sculpting - ****
It's pretty clear that this figure was very important to the folks at Sideshow.  You can tell when they take a special interest in a particular character, because it stands out even from their usual exceptional work.

The detail and style of the head sculpt is fantastic.  From a purely technical perspective, this is one of my favorite recent head sculpts from them.  We don't have a lot of art of the original Blackbeard to check it's complete accuracy, but he looks like he scare the crap out of your average Carnival cruise ship captain.

The best and worst feature of this head sculpt is the mouth.  He has an open mouth yell, with visible tongue.  His upper and lower teeth are also visible, and one is even missing.  The detail here is amazing, and truly realistic.

So why is it also the worst?  Well, I really like this expression, but I suspect it will be the one thing some folks take issue with.  It is one of those very specific expressions, and won't please everyone.

The beard is another area of great detail, and it is huge.  This means it reduces the range of movement for the neck, but that's acceptable to get such cool facial fuzz.

Rather than sculpted hair on his head, he has a pirate's bandana wrapped over his couture.  Unlike 90% of the people that wear them, the doo rag actually looks good on him. 

The hands are sculpted to hold the various weapons, and they work fine.  The fingers are fairly soft, allowing you to place them around the handles and triggers.

Paint - ****
The paint ops are perfect, and I couldn't possibly ask for more.  The skin tone is excellent, there's no zombie appearance in any way, and there's certainly no 'doll' effect.  Everything is clean and consistent, with straight lines and smooth colors.  There's some appropriate shading on the face to bring out the detail, and the paint work on the tongue and teeth is simply outstanding.  The tongue even has a gloss coat to give it a wet appearance!

Articulation - ***1/2
Teach sports the normal Sideshow body, with all the articulation you could want plus their cool wrists.

There's neck (restricted by the beard), ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, double jointed elbows and knees, wrists, chest, waist, ball jointed hips, cut thighs, and ankles.  The ankles on mine are a little stiffer than usual, but that's a good thing since there is no boot to help them stay stiff.

The rest of the joints are all pretty stiff, and I had no trouble getting him to stay standing without a base or display stand.

Accessories - ***1/2
Eddie has five main accessories outside of his various pieces of clothing.  There are three Queen Anne pistols (flintlocks) with working hammers, one large caliber pistol with working lock (the strike plate this time), and a very cool cutlass with a Lion's Head design on the hilt.

The guns can be placed in his hands, or slipped within his belts.  Two of the three smaller guns have clips on the back to make it easier to attach them to the belt, but one was missing - just me or is everyone's that way?  He can wield his cutlass or slip it into a loop on the back of his shoulder belt (baldric).

The sculpting on all the weapons is top notch, and the same attention to detail is paid to the paint application.  The cutlass has a very bloody blade, proving that Cappie isn't to be trifled with.

Outfit - ***1/2
Blackbeard's duds are one of the more complex outfits Sideshow has done in the last few months.  He has his billowy trousers, long stockings, buckle shoes, tricorn hat, ruffled sleeve shirt (it's a puffy shirt!), light tan waist coat, and red overcoat.  There are also three belts altogether - the regular waist belt, and two shoulder belts.

All three belts are made of a soft suede-like material.  They fit nicely, and the guns slip on and inside easily.

The overcoat is a work of art.  Made from very high quality material, well stitched and nicely tailored, there's a ton of buttons and detailing.  The waist coat shares this level of detail, and the overall effect is an impressive one.

Sideshow goes for historical accuracy, and when you see how these pants button up, you'll be thankful for zippers.  The shoes slip on and off easily enough, and there are snaps where appropriate, like the pants and sleeves.  The only thing holding this back from a perfect score is the baggy socks.  Again, they are going for historical accuracy, and these socks run up to the thighs.  However, they tend to want to droop, and I'd suggest getting a couple of those little clear rubber bands from your Star Wars figures and wrapping them around the top.  I wonder what Mr. Teach did to keep them up?

Value - **1/2
This is a beautiful figure, on par with the best of Ignite, bbi or Dragon (short of real metal weapons).  But at $50, it's still a hefty price.  Sure, Ignite's stuff costs this much, but there's those aforementioned metal weapons to consider.

At $40 he's good, $45 is still decent.  Snag him for less than $40 and he's a steal.

Overall - ***1/2
This is my favorite Sideshow figure that I've picked up in the last six months.  Sure, the Modern Horror stuff looks good, but the costumes are fairly basic.  This figure highlights the level of detail and quality that Sideshow is capable of.

Two years ago, I was pining for figures like this.  There were no pirates, knights, vikings or other historical characters on my shelf pre-19th century.  Now I have almost a dozen, and everyone is made with great quality and care.  It's a good time to be a sixth scale collector!

Where to Buy - 
You can pick him up at various on-line retailers who deal in sixth scale figures.  Choices include:

- Sideshow themselves of course, where he's in stock and $50.

Aisle Sniper has Blackbeard listed at $45.

- Alter Ego Comics doesn't have Blackbeard listed yet, but they have the second figure in this series, Vlad the Impaler, listed at just $36.

- Killer Toys also has him listed at $45.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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