NECA Harry Potter Series 1
Harry, Voldemort, a Dementor and two Deatheaters


It's very rare these days that I'm surprised when I find an action figure on the shelf. Generally, the news goes out on expected release dates early, and you know when to start looking for certain things to hit the shelf. For example, I know that the first series of Simpsons figures from Mcfarlane should be on the shelves in the next week, two tops, so I'm already paying attention.

But once in awhile, something flies in under the radar. Something slips out early, or I was just day dreaming when the release date was mentioned. Today was one of those days. I hit the local Hot Topic, looking for Grindhouse and really expecting to find nothing, when they told me that Harry Potter figures had just came in. Woo-hoo!

NECA is really hitting the pegs hard right now, with 300, Grindhouse and now Harry Potter all eating up space. Of course, this is specialty market peg space rather than mass market, but it still is quite impressive.

This first series consists of Harry of course, but the other four figures are all about evil. There's Voldemort, along with two different Death Eaters, and a Dementor. These five figures aren't evenly packed of course, with Harry and Voldemort making up most of the case.

I picked these up at Hot Topic, as I mentioned, and was violated for a whopping $16 each. After just spending $16 each on the SOTA Land of the Dead figures, it was definitely an unpleasant experience. I have some online options below that can save you a couple bucks, if you can wait for them to be shipped.

Packaging - ***
This line is based largely on the fourth film, but there isn't any overly obvious signs of that on the card artwork. And the artwork is quite well done, going outside the usual Harry Potter style. The rest of the line up is show on the back of the card, and the interior art is actually personalized for each character, rather than being identical for all five.

There are a couple twisties for each of them, and the smell if the plasticizer will knock your socks off when you first open them, but neither should be much of a surprise.

Sculpting - Scary Deatheater, Voldemort, Harry ***1/2; Dopey Deatheather, Dementor ***;
While NECA has picked up some big licenses this year, none of them are as big as Harry Potter. I was expecting great things with the sculpts, and was only let down in a couple minor areas.

Let's start with Harry. While this is a 7" scale, Harry is smaller, and his size (about 6" with bent legs) looks very good with the other male figures (who are closer to 7 1/4").  He's slighter all around, not just shorter, with good internal proportions including his head.

The head sculpt is actually extremely good - perhaps the best slightly older Harry we've seen.  The problem is just what you'd expect...those glasses. Glasses are always a problem, and rarely have we seen anyone manage to pull them off in this scale.  These are closer than some we've seen, but they're still a bit too big.  They do have actual lenses though, which is a cool touch.

The sculpt under those glasses is extremely good.  They got the lips and nose dead on, and they went the extra mile of not just painting the scar on his forehead, but sculpting it as well.  The hair also has quite a bit of detail for this scale, and I wish some Sideshow 12" sculpts had this much fine detail work in the hair.  He also has the cut sleeve sculpted on his right forearm, with the injury to his skin painted on.

Harry is sculpted to pose opposite Voldemort, in the big final battle from the fourth film.  He can stand on his own, but the small grass base will remove any possibilities of tipping over.  While the pose he's sculpted in is pretty much the pose you're stuck with, it's at least a good pose, dynamic enough to be interesting but not over the top.

There are two Deatheaters in the set. Some places have called them 'skull' and 'human' faced, but they really are both more like skulls with minor variations. I'll be calling them Scary and Dopey, so which one I prefer should be no big surprise.

Scary has a very skull-like appearance, right down to some rotted teeth in the mouth. There's less flesh on his skull than on the other version as well.  This ghastly skull looks fantastic, and although it's clear that it's a mask, would still scare the crap out of just about anyone. The fact that they went through a lot of effort and detail work to make it obvious it's a mask - it's thick, with a clearly defined chin and eyes behind it - is the kind of touch that gives it such realism, even in this scale.

Dopey is, well, less scary. This face isn't as decayed as Scary is, with only one small area of skull exposed. The flesh is still there, and the small details showing the exposed skull and dried skin are fantastic. The quality of the sculpt isn't why he's dopey - it's that mouth. he has an "O" shaped mouth, and this odd shape quickly turns a scary expression into a dopey one. If you can only get one, go for Scary.

The body on both Deatheater's is identical, which is no big surprise. The cloth has a textured finish, and folds and wrinkles in a sensible way. The costume is actually done in layers, and the very outer layers, like the back of the hood and the strips running down the front, are done in a softer rubber than the body itself. The sculpted pose works best with Scary, who comes with both the torch and a wand and can hold both in logical ways. Dopey just has the wand, and his preposed body sculpt doesn't quite work as well.

These two can not stand on their own though, because the back foot is sculpted in a half step. Since the robes cover the feet anyway, I would have much preferred a flat footed pose that would have allowed them to stand without the base. Even with the base, their ability to stand for long periods is questionable, but I'll cover that issue more in the Accessories section.

Next up, the Dementor. I don't recall it ever being mentioned what the Demontors actually look like under the robes, but they've always had a 'feel' like they were skeletal creatures. With this version, you get somewhat of an answer, since he's nekkid under the robe from the pelvis down.

He's a skeleton alright, but lacks any legs. Instead, his spin continues through the pelvis into a bony tail. There is also the bony remnants of the creature somewhat visible through the coverings of the chest and head, but these are sculpted and painted impressions, unlike for example the Gentle Giant Dementor bust, where the actual skeleton sculpt below was visible through translucent material.

Obviously, he requires the clear stand and base to be displayed. The rod is quite thick, so wilting over time is very unlikely. The wraps on the Dementor are sculpted in a pose flowing out from the body to either side, which only works I suppose if he's lowering himself toward the ground and moving slightly to his own left. I would have preferred them flowing more behind him, rather than to the sides, implying forward movement and attack, but at least the sculpted work on the actual material is extremely good. The hooded head actually comes down over the body as a separate piece, and doesn't flow quite as naturally as I'd like.

The bony hands aren't quite skeletal, but mighty close. They are sculpted into a nice reaching pose, and look terrific. The arms are made from a very soft rubber though, not at all like you'd expect. Because of this they don't hold poses well, drooping at the joint after just a little while. Any heat is going to cause them to wilt as well, and this was the biggest disappointment for me across the whole first series. Had the Dementor had harder arms (especially the biceps), he would have easily gotten another half star in this category.

Voldemort is my favorite of the set. That's not to say he doesn't have issues, but I can overlook them more than some of the other figures.

I love the head sculpt, even with the slightly wonky grimace. It fits the particular scene in the film extremely well, and even the wild stance with arms akimbo looks great. It helps to have the wand in his hand though, as otherwise he appears to be doing some bizarre voguing...or perhaps a squirrel ran up his robes. That could be quite the issue, since Voldie is going commando here, and we all know how much squirrels like nuts.

My only complaint about his pose is the wild, overly dramatic pose of the robes in back. They are flying up - way up - and for a minute I thought he was doing some sort of Marilyn Monroe impression. It wouldn't matter much that he's going commando if it wasn't quite so apparent to anyone standing behind him. This is a case where they tried to get too dynamic in the pose, and it really doesn't work. Thankfully, you won't notice it much from the front of the figure.

He's also the only other figure that stands perfectly fine on his own, if you adjust him just right. He does have his base though, which will give you some insurance that he'll stay upright.

Paint - Voldemort ****; Scary, Harry and Dopey Deatheater ***1/2; Dementor ***;
Voldemort was my favorite sculpt, but he wasn't a four star sculpt due to the minor issues I mentioned. But he does get the full marks when it comes to this category.

Now, I have to point out that this is going to clearly depend on the one you get. When picking mine out, there was a full case in front of me, and the other Dementor I had to choose from did NOT have as good a paint job. There was more wash on his face, messing up the nose and hiding some of the very cool veins.

But if you can pick and choose like I did, you can get one that looks amazing. The veins on his head are perfect, not too light, not too dark, and there's enough to be obvious but not so many as to be busy.

The work on the eyes and teeth is excellent as well, and even the gray highlighting works. He has a similar look to the Machete figure from the Land of the Dead line (which I'll be reviewing this Sunday night), but unlike Machete, they managed to make it work.

Mister Scary face also has a very good paint application. There's just the right amount of wash on the skull, and none of it has been slopped onto the chin, neck or eyes beneath. While they went with a black on the clothing to bring out the details, the wash isn't over done or excessive, and all the cuts between colors are clean and neat on the entire figure. He doesn't have quite the level of small detail work to boost him that extra half star, but he's definitely well above average.

The Dopey version does better in this category than he did in sculpt. While I'm not any more thrilled about the open mouth expression, the paint application really can't be faulted. The exposed skull on the cheek of the mask looks excellent, and most of the small detail work is quite impressive. The exposed skin of his left wrist is a bit lighter in color than the other wrist or neck, but it's a very minor nit.

Then there's Harry. He has some scrapes and blood added to his face and neck with paint, which look a bit silly in close up photos, but work pretty well in person.  The shirt and pants are the black and white colors of his school team, right down to the red flares on his pant cuffs.  The tampo printing of the Griffendor symbol on his chest and his name on the back are both clean and neat.  

Perhaps the nicest touch in this category is the lips.  The managed to get the perfect sculpt, and the color is also just right.  I'm not quite sure why I paid this much attention to his lips though.  Ugh.

The Dementor is a bit disappointing in this category, largely because the paint work used to imply the skeleton under the robe doesn't work quite as well as I'd hoped. It's largely the shading used on the head, chest and back, and it just isn't ringing my bell. Fortunately, this is largely an issue of aesthetics rather than quality, so your mileage may easily vary.

Articulation - Deatheaters, Dementor **; Harry, Voldemort *1/2;
I may even be a big generous with this score, but I also realize that most folks buying these aren't expecting super articulated ML type figures. These are clearly intended as plastic statues that you have some slight control over.

Both Deatheaters have a ball jointed neck, but you won't get much beyond turning it due to the restrictive hood. They also have ball jointed shoulders - NECA style - but again, the sculpted robes make them function as only slightly better cut joints. Speaking of cut joints, you have those at the wrists, waist and ankles. The wrists are particularly useful, since you want to pose the wand and torch in just the right way to get the best looking set up.

The Dementor has a ball jointed neck as well, but the restrictive robes pretty much negate any extra movement. His ball jointed shoulders work better than the Deatheaters, but the soft plastic of the arms makes keeping certain poses tough. He also has cut wrists, so the hands can take a number of menacing poses.

Voldemort has a ball jointed neck, and his can actually be used to tilt forward, backward and side to side. Oh, it's not an amazing range of movement in any direction, but it does work. He lacks the ball jointed shoulders, and has simple cuts instead, and also lacks any cut wrist or arm joint. He does have the cut waist, but no leg articulation at all.

Harry a nice ball jointed neck, with the joint at the torso.  It works quite well, much better than any other in the series.  It doesn't tilt back quite as far as I wanted, but the side to side tilt was good.

He also has cut joints on both biceps and a cut waist.  There's no cuts at the shoulders though, even though it looks like there might be.  Harry has one pose - what you see is what you get.

Accessories - Scary Deatheater ***; Dopey Deatheater **1/2; Harry, Voldemort, Dementor **
The winner here is old Scary face, with his base, torch and wand. The base is sculpted with items that indicate he's at the destruction of the World Cup, and looks great. However, his feet do NOT fit properly on the sculpted areas, and there's only one foot peg even though both feet have holes. My Deatheaters are already leaning to one side, and I've had to adjust them numerous times to keep them upright in just the few hours I've had them.

He also has the torch, which is sculpted to match his forward movement. The flames are done in a nice translucent orange plastic, and it fits perfectly in his sculpted right hand. He can easily carry his basic wand in the left hand.

The Dopey version has the same base, with the same annoying problem. He also has the same wand, but it is held in his right hand above his head, since the left hand is sculpted in a splayed pose.

Voldemort has his wand as well, which is very nicely done to match the movie version. Even in this small scale (and the wands are very much to scale), it is instantly recognizable as his. He also comes with a display base from the cemetery, but it is very basic and fairly plain.

Harry comes with his wand, and another small grass base like Voldemort.  This base are quite plain, but the wand does look very much like the screen version.

Finally, there's the Dementor. His (her?) only accessory is the base with the clear rod, but this base is larger in size than any other, and sports some excellent detail work on the roots, dirt and rocks. The edge appears to be water (although this isn't as well done as some past water bases we've seen), and is clearly from the scene where Harry first frees his inner horse, er, stag.

Fun Factor - ***
These aren't intended for kids, or at least not in the sense of traditional action figures. There's less ability to pose them (although some of the crap Mattel produced in the mass market line was even less poseable), but they are certainly sturdy enough to handle normal play. The accessories are soft enough to not injure, but stiff enough to look good. Some characters, like the Deatheaters, require the bases to stand, which is a negative for kids, but in general these could easily be substituted for the weaker Mattel line for any kid with a Harry obsession.

Value - **
Here's the one category where they take a bit of a hit. It's not as bad as the Land of the Dead figures I picked up this week for $16 each, because the quality of the paint was also an issue for the LoD figures. But companies are testing the water with this higher price point, and I think that the quality will have to be stellar to convince people to be completists.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not much. The figures are surprisingly sturdy with the exception of poor Dementors floppy biceps. I already mentioned that you should pay special attention to the paint ops on the ones you buy (if you get that chance), because it did appear to me that the quality of the paint varied quite a bit from figure to figure, especially for Voldemort.

Overall - Voldemort, Scary Deatheater ***1/2; Harry, Dopey Deatheater, Dementory ***;
I really, really wanted to love these figures. In the package they blew me away, It wasn't until I had them open that some of their more glaring faults came to surface.  In the end, I placed a lot of weight on the sculpt and paint, and didn't take off as much for articulation, value and accessories as I might have.

I'm disappointed by the variation in the paint quality. I managed to pull out a good set, but I'm not sure that's going to be the case for everyone, and at this price point it needs to be. Now, I'll be beating up the Land of the Dead figures worse for this, because the paint issues there are even more glaring at the same price point, but I really had high expectations for this line.

Still, the Voldemort and Scary Deatheater are excellent. Had Voldemort had a better base, and not had that weird overly dramatic flip to the back of his robe, he could have been a four star figure. Likewise, if Scary Deatheater had fit on his base better, he would have been in the running for that extra half star as well.  Of course, there's still those pesky issues of articulation and value.

Dopey Deatheater is never going to be a favorite for me because of that expression. Having one less accessory doesn't help either, since the body, arms and base are all reused.

Finally, there's our hero Harry. As much as I love the head sculpt, those damn glasses are just too distracting.  Had they managed to capture the right size, he would have gotten a much better score.  Of course, the lack of accessories at this price point would still hold him back from four star nirvana, but let's be honest - this is easily the finest Harry action figure so far.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt -  Scary Deatheater, Voldemort, Harry ***1/2; Dopey Deatheather, Dementor ***;
Paint - Voldemort ****; Scary and Dopey Deatheater, Harry ***1/2; Dementor ***;
Articulation - Deatheaters, Dementor **; Voldemort *1/2;
Accessories - Scary Deatheater ***; Dopey Deatheater **1/2; Voldemort, Dementor **
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  **
Overall - Voldemort, Scary Deatheater ***1/2; Harry, Dopey Deatheater, Dementor ***;

Where to Buy -
As I said, I picked these up at Hot Topic, but I wouldn't recommend it. Getting them online in a set will also cost less, and increase your chances of getting all five. Online options include:

- Dark Figures has them on preorder for $60 for the set of 5.

- Clark Toys has the set on preorder for $60, or each of the 5 individually for $13.

- Amazing Toyz also has the preorder price at $13 each, or the set for $60.

- And CornerStoreComics isn't about to be left out, with the singles at $13 and the set for $60.

Related Links -
Other Harry Potter reviews include:

- there's the mini-bust series from Gentle Giant, including Ron and Hermione, Snape and Dumbledore, Dobby and Dementor, and a guest review of Harry and Sirius.

- the Noble Collection has done some nifty wands.

- just case you forgot how bad some of Mattel's figures were, here's Extreme Quidditch Harry and Dueling Club Harry.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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