Ghost Rider The Movie mini-busts
Blackheart and Mephistopheles

The Ghost Rider movie opened a few weeks ago, and I actually managed to make it to the theater to see it. This is not a common situation for me these days, but the moon and stars aligned in the proper way to allow my wife and I an evening out, and we chose to spend it seeing Ghost Rider.

We should have stayed home and watched a DVD. Any DVD. Okay, it wasn't Catwoman bad, but it was definitely a movie only Avi Arad could love. Like all super hero flicks, there's been a large share of licensed products, including some new busts from Diamond Select Toys.

There are actually three mini-busts in their Ghost Rider movie series, including GR himself riding the bike, Blackheart and Mephistopheles. I'm only reviewing the latter two tonight. The retail price for this is around $50 - $60 (ouch!), and they are both a limited edition of 3000.

Packaging - **1/2
The boxes are attractive enough, and I have always liked DST's version of a Certificate of Authenticity. The foam insert holds the busts nice and safe, and the edition number is on the bottom of the box (as well as the bottom of the bust). But there's no window to check out the actual bust itself, and you might get a bit of a surprise when you compare the final product to the photo on the packaging.

Sculpting - Meph ***; Blackheart **1/2
These were sculpted by Gentle Giant. It proclaims as much on the side of the box. Of course, like most other shops, Gentle Giant hires out their talent to produce sculpts of all kinds of lines. Unfortunately, not all these lines end up being treated with the same level of quality and respect by either them or the other company, and it hurts their image.

This pair of busts is a fine example. While not terrible sculpts, they are pretty mediocre. Part of this is due to the paint, and the fault for that rests firmly with DST. More on that in the next section though. Part of this is also clearly the sculpt itself, and that has to fall on GG's shoulders.

In this section, I'll stick with the technical aspects of the sculpts, leaving the more aesthetic aspects to the Design section. Odds are good that both of these sculpts started out as scans of the actors in costume, since that's GG's bread and butter. Scanning is a terrific technique, and can shorten the time and effort to get a great human likeness. But by itself it never gives you a great likeness, largely because scanned faces end up looking like mannequins. When they scan your face, they tell you to stay very still, and trying to hold any sort of exaggerated or emotion filled expression is verboten. But a scanned image given to a talented sculptor can be turned into an amazing piece of work.

These don't look like they were turned over to anyone though. The appear like straight scanned sculpts, with little done to them beyond the basics. Both head sculpts are accurate, but entirely expressionless. Slap a little better paint on Blackheart, pop the head on a normal sized body, and he could be modeling clothes at the local J.C. Penny's. That wouldn't be the case with Mephistopheles, but not because he doesn't look like a mannequin - he's too old and wrinkly to be used to sell clothes.

The bodies show the usual amount of detail and texturing, and the coats have a rough flow to them that gives the impression of leather. The sculpts on the three fallen angels circling Blackheart are decent, but again have expression problems, especially the two in back.

Of the two, the sculpt on Mephistopheles is slightly better. I recognize the character immediately, and there's less of a generic feel to him. Still, neither of these are much above average in this category.

Paint - Meph **1/2; Blackheart *1/2
The paint work on these didn't quite turn out the way the prototypes did, but that's not too much of a surprise I suppose.

Neither has any serious quality issues. The cuts between colors are clean, and the application of each color is consistent and even. There's no real slop, but there's no real life either.

The eyes are very dead - and not in a spooky, I'm Satan and I'm going to eat your heart sort of dead way. The eyes lack any emotion or personality, and the slack sculpted faces aren't enhanced by the paint application.

In fact, when it comes to Blackheart, the paint hurts the sculpt quite a bit. They tried to capture the pasty face appearance from the film, and even added some nifty veins at his temple and jaw. But then they threw in a rather odd looking beard, much heavier in appearance and a completely different color than what we saw on the prototype. Rather than having a sort of ashen appearance, it's some weird orange-brown color. What little evil there was in the face is pretty much stripped away by the odd looking beard.

The colors on Blackheart are a little unusual as well. Mephistopheles is predominately dressed in black. The coat is a little lighter in color than the vest and base, but not much. However, Blackheart's coat and inner shirt are clearly purple. It's very obvious in person - hair: black; vest: black: swirling base cloud: black; coat and shirt: purple? I don't remember them being purple in the movie, but I may have just erased the memory.

Design - Blackheart ***; Meph **
These two characters are the evil forces in the film. They are both seriously bad dudes, and any time they were on screen, you were supposed to cringe in fear. The 'skull and fangs under the skin' effect was actually used quite nicely in the film to get this across, along with a well placed background shadow or two. But the designs of these busts do nothing to get that same emotion across.

There isn't anything about either of these figures that's the least bit threatening. Take away the swirling elemental characters around Blackheart's base, and you're left with one guy that looks like he just needs a little more sun, and one that looks like he's gotten a little too much over the years. The bland expressions and poses do little to help the appearance, and the design of these busts is another issue that lays at the feet of Gentle Giant. They tried to give Blackheart a little oompf with the henchmen swirling around his base, but two of the three have those damn bland expressions again, and they don't do enough to save the otherwise boring appearance.

Mephistopheles lacks any sort of dynamic appearance. I like the cane, and the clear skull and colorful body look excellent. But the absolutely stock straight pose and forward blank stare makes him look like old Uncle Joe, who just entered the room and has suddenly realized he has no idea why he came into the room in the first place.

Value - *1/2
While Gentle Giant Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings busts run around $45, these guys are running around $55, with a $60 suggested retail price. Ouch! While these busts are done in a similar scale (and even sculpted by Gentle Giant), they certainly don't offer anything above and beyond that justifies such a higher price point. In fact, with the less than stellar paint and design, these can't even compare to the majority of the releases in those lines.

Things to Watch Out For -
Unfortunately, there's no window in the box, so you won't be able to see how heavy or light the painted beard is on Blackheart, or whether the zombie appearance of your busts is an issue or not. So there's not much to watch out for before buying them, and once you have them, there's not much you can do (short of throwing them at a wall) to cause you any additional grief.

Overall - **
Three thousand of each of these busts is about two thousand more than they really needed to make. Originally, I was going to give the Mephistopheles bust a slight edge over the Blackheart, because he doesn't have the awful looking beard. But then that inflated price tag kept slapping me in the face, and I realized that it simply isn't fair to put either of these busts even close to the other work currently out there in this market.

I've complained about this before with Gentle Giant, but I'm going to do it again. If they're going to farm out their sculpting talents to other companies, and then have their name used as an selling point ("sculpted by Gentle Giant!"), then they need to be more concerned with the final product. This leads to an impression in the market that they are inconsistent in their talent and quality, and isn't doing them (or us) a whole lot of good.

Score Recap:
Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt -  Meph ***; Blackheart **1/2
Paint - Meph **1/2; Blackheart *1/2
Design - Blackheart ***; Meph **
Value -  *1/2
Overall - **

Where to Buy -
Online is probably your best bet, although your LCS may get these in. Options include:

- Alter Ego Comics has them for $51 each.

- Entertainment Earth has them at $60 each.

Related Links -
How's about some other Ghost Rider reviews:

- if you pick up only one movie related toy, make it the Ultimate Ghost Rider with Flame Cycle.

- I also reviewed some of the smaller movie figures from earlier in the year.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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