NECA 300 Series 1
King Leonidas and Queen Gorgo

I'm a Spartan. Okay, so I'm not the blood kind, a have no Greek heritage, and I've never actually even visited. But as a Michigan State Spartan, I've always found the Spartans and their history fascinating.

So did the great comic author Frank Miller. He adapted one of their greatest battles - the Battle of Thermopylae - and adapted it as a terrific comic book. Uh, I mean 'graphic novel'. While not entirely historically accurate, it's nonetheless a great read.

In fact, it was such a good read (and Miller's Sin City did so well as a film adaptation) that it was picked up and turned into a movie to be released next week. It's a very highly anticipated film, and I know I'm looking forward to its release.

NECA picked up the rights to do figures based on the film, and the first four are already out. They've released King Leonidas, Queen Gorgo, the Immortal and Ephialtes. I picked up the good King and Queen this last weekend, and suspect I'll have to snag the other two now.

Packaging - ***
These come in the standard NECA clamshells, with single sheet inserts. The front graphics are based on the standard 'lemmings' poster, with unlucky Persians toppling off a cliff. The reverse shows the rest of the line up, and there's some character personalization, with large graphics of the specific character on the side and back.

Sculpting - Gorgo ****; Leonidas ***1/2
NECA has come a long way. There's no doubt about it - and this year could very well be the year they break out of the pack and become a leader in the industry. They have some major licenses, including Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter, along with Grindhouse and 300, and if they can do all of them this well, they'll be on a lot of 'best of' lists in 10 months.

I can say without any doubt in my mind that Gorgo is the most beautiful female NECA has ever produced. She has a perfect Mediterranean face, with high cheekbones and an excellent hair sculpt. No tootsie roll dreadlocks here, and the hair flows nicely over the back and shoulders.

The face structure is great, and they've given her a realistic and very regal expression. If you were lucky enough to be in this woman's presence, you'd know you were with royalty.

The body sculpt is also perfect. The long flowing white robes fold and layer just right, and while they could have cheaped out and give her no legs at all underneath there, they didn't. They also gave her cleavage that looks like a real woman - certainly a well endowed woman, but a natural beauty, one without implants. While some aspects of beauty have altered with the whims of the current culture over time, this is a woman that would be beautiful no matter what period of history.

Leonidas isn't quite as pretty, but he is a great sculpt. They've picked a warriors pose, with a wide stance. They did give him a slightly weird right foot position, up on the ball of that foot slightly, making it tough for him to stand without the base, but it doesn't hurt the overall appearance at all.

His body is muscled and solid, but there's no sign of any completely ridiculous proportions or comic book muscles. The proportions look great, either with the helmeted head or the extra uncovered head.

Of special note is the nice texturing that was added to the cape, making it appear like cloth rather than plastic. Small touches like these - and the pock marks on the metal of the helmet - add quite a bit of realism to his appearance.

Both hands are sculpted to hold accessories, but both are also made from very, very hard plastic. That means that getting the softer accessories in the hands can be a bit tricky, and you should take some care.

The scale on this is 7", with both figures standing just about that height.  Of course, since Leonidas knees are bent, he'd be slightly taller than Gorgo standing fully upright.

Paint - Gorgo ****; Leonidas ***1/2
Great sculpts can be ruined by weak paint - mediocre sculpts can be elevated with great paint. These great sculpts are married to excellent paint ops, creating almost perfect figures.

Female sculpts seem to have particular trouble with paint applications. Thankfully, Gogo's sculpt is accented with great paint work, especially the eyes and lips. They aren't too large, and there's no slop or poor edges anywhere. The skin tone is excellent, as is the hair line, making her just about as good a female figure as we've seen in ages.

Leo is almost as good, although he does have a couple minor issues. There's some evidence of inconsistency on the color of his chest, but it's certainly not as bad as if he were wearing a cheap tanning product. His nipples are definitely obvious - I think he could kill you with a nipple if need be. The cape is painted to appear dirty and worn, and the effect works extremely well.

If I were to complain about one main point, it would be the slightly shiny paint job on the helmet-less head. In reality, it appears as though there's no paint at all, and that his head (and Gorgo's head and torso) are cast in this color plastic.  It clashes a bit with the flat (and appropriate) finish on the rest of the skin. Still, that's a pretty minor nit, and most fans will be able to overlook it pretty easily.

Articulation - Leonidas **; Gorgo *1/2
Neither of these figures is super articulated by any stretch of the imagination, but there's some key joints here.

Both have ball jointed necks, and they work fairly well, allowing for some tilting side to side and back and forth. The hair on Gorgo defeats some of this usefulness, as does the helmet on the covered Leonidas head, but it's about as good as you could expect.

Leonidas also has ball jointed shoulders at the torso, which allow the arms to move out from the body and fully over the head. Gorgo does not have shoulder joints at all, which means what you see is pretty much what you get for any arm poses.

She does have a cut wrist on the right arm, along with cut arm joints on both arms. That at least means you can turn the arms a bit to get the hands just where you want them.

Leonidas has cut wrists, which gives the hands a chance to hold the weapons at various angles.

Leonidas has a cut waist joint (Gorgo does not, although it appears as though she does), and both have cut joints on their legs - Leonidas at the ankles, and Gorgo underneath the dress where the legs meet the skirt. These joints aren't particularly useful though, since Leonidas really needs the stand to remain upright, and you won't see much of Gorgo's legs.

Accessories - Leonidas ***1/2; Gorgo Bupkis
Generally, there isn't much to say in this category for most adult movie lines. And Gorgo follows that pattern.

She doesn't have any accessories, not even a base. She doesn't need one of course, with the hard plastic dress making it pretty much impossible for her to fall over. But considering all the royal goodies she could have had, it is a bit surprising.

Leonidas makes up for it though, with a great set of extras. He has the extra head, lacking the helmet. The sculpt is excellent, as mentioned earlier, although he's got that shiny face going. The heads pop on and off easy enough, and having both heads really adds to the posing possibilities. I also suspect it will make this figure in short supply, with lots of folks buying two just to display him with both heads at the same time.

He also has his trademark shield, with battle damage. The sculpt is excellent once again, and there is both a handle for his hand and a wide strap for his arm in back. I found it very difficult to get the hand over the handle because of the hard plastic they used for the hands, and gave up before I broke the handle. It wasn't necessary to keep the shield in place anyway, since the wide strap does that just fine.

What would a King of Sparta be without his weapons? Well, he could still kick your ass, but Leonidas comes with a very cool spear, along with his short sword. The sword handle comes apart at the back of the hilt, so that it can be placed in his hand and the hilt reattached. The sword doesn't fit within the permanently attached scabbard quite as well as I'd hoped, sticking out a bit at the top.

Finally, Leonidas has a base. It's a plain black base, designed to keep him standing due to that slightly odd foot pose I mentioned earlier. It works fine and is fairly unobvious in a display, but I do wish he could simply stand on his own a little better.

Fun Factor - Leonidas **; Gorgo *
These aren't toys designed for kids - and that's not too surprising considering the movie isn't for them either. But if you know a kid that loves gladiator movies, he'd like the Leonidas figure. There's no gore here, and the figure fits in nicely against other 7" characters.

Gorgo less so though, since most little boys don't yet care about women that look this good. Give it time.

Value - Leonidas **1/2; Gorgo **
I'm grading these at around $13 each. Yep, they're pretty, but without any accessories at all, Gorgo is not the greatest value for your money. Leonidas does better of course, coming off at a pretty average value for the current market.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not much. Be careful handling Gorgo's earrings, as they fall off quite easily, and take your time putting the weapons in Leonidas' very hard plastic hands, but otherwise, both figures seem quite sturdy.

Overall - ***1/2
NECA pulled out all the stops on this line. While there have been some of their Pirates that were excellent, none of them were quite this good in both paint and sculpt, and they have never managed to produce a female this gorgeous. Gorgo is going to be one to remember when picking your best of 2007 female figures next winter.  She certainly doesn't look like you'd picture a woman named 'Gorgo' would look.

I know I'll be buying the Immortal as well, but I'm still torn on Ephialtes. The sculpted pose seems a bit awkward, with him staring at something on the ground about a foot in front of him. BUt once I've seen the movie, I may find myself picking him up just to complete the set. I'm also hopeful that we'll see more figures in this series before the end of this year. While NECA hasn't laid out any additional figures for us yet, they did call this 'series 1', so one can only assume series 2 won't be too far behind.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt -  Gorgo ****; Leonidas ***1/2
Paint - Gorgo ****; Leonidas ***1/2
Articulation - Leonidas **; Gorgo *1/2
Accessories - Leonidas ***1/2; Gorgo Bupkis
Value -  Leonidas **1/2; Gorgo **
Fun Factor - Leonidas **; Gorgo *
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
I picked these up at Spencers, but I don't recommend it. At $15 each, they're way overpriced, which is the problem with Spencers on everything. Hot Topic is also getting them in, where they'll be closer to $13 or $14 tops. Online options are your best bet:

- Clark Toys has a great price on the set at just $45, or the singles for $12 - $15 each depending on the character.

- CornerStoreComics does as well, with the set for $45, and the singles in the same range.

- Likewise for Amazing Toyz, where the set is $45, and the singles are in the $13 - $14 range.

- Dark Figures has the set for $50, and the singles for $12 to $14. They also have the 12" Leonidas on pre-order for $30.

- YouBuyNow has the singles for $13 each.

- and if you're in the U.K., Forbidden Planet has them for 11 pounds each. 

Related Links -
None yet, but you can probably expect reviews of the other two figures, along with the 12" Leonidas eventually.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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