The Universal - Pop-bot
threeA and Ashley Wood

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Jeff is back tonight with a look at Popbot. This is not the first time we've seen a collectible version of the character, as Sideshow released a statue many years ago (reviewed here), but I believe this is the first posable version - tell us all about him, Jeff!

Thanks as always to Mr Crawford our gracious benefactor, without whose tireless work we would never know what toys and collectibles were worth having in the first place.

Over the last couple of years the Wood/3A alliance has made a huge splash with high-end collectors, and the ripples are spreading to an ever-wider audience.

However there’s still no denying that the styling, particularly of the human like characters divides opinion, you either get it or you don’t, meaning you will either love them, or you wont.

I first became aware of the whole Ashley Wood thing when I saw one of the early Pop Bot books on a shelf in Forbidden Planet London. I liked the cover and picked it up, it looked cool, but due to the ever-decreasing dispensable income of a self-employed jobbing illustrator I then put it back! I next became aware when I saw the Sideshow Pop Bot statue, it was nice, but ultimately a little small (I love me the 1/6th scale) so as nice as the statue was, it ended up an also ran for me!

Fast-forward a few years and at last the combined talents of 3A and artist Ashley Wood finally get around to releasing the cover star of his whole universe. I did once try and describe the universes in which Wood’s characters exist (and sometimes coexist) but it became so convoluted and complex I’m not trying it again.

However, to put it succinctly and in a tidy little nut-shell we have the story of Kitty (a singing rock star cat… no, I kid you not) and Pop Bot, who is in effect the robotic minder of said cat. So, unless you want to go and seek out all the books and gem up on the complete story, let that be enough for you, at the moment it’s enough for me!

Packaging - ***1/2
When I get a box based on a character by Wood I want me a big ass picture up front by said artist on the cover, if I don’t get it, like on the Dropcloth box, reviewed here then I feel more than a little short changed. In fact I think it would be a cool idea to include a lithograph print with each figure like they did with the Tomorrows King figure I reviewed here. However, this time around we are not spoilt with a poster, but we do get a rather nice oversized box (17”x10”x6”) with a huge kick ass Ashley Wood painting splashed across the front.

It’s a striking image, unencumbered by any typography, just 100% pictury goodness. This image is on an outer sleeve that can slip off; the inner box is constructed of heavy-duty white corrugated cardboard with some minimalist typography and the 3A logo. Open this up and the figure is held securely inside, sandwiched between two vac-formed clear plastic trays, without the need for any twisties. Within you will also find a small full colour catalogue showing some of 3A’s most recent releases (I just gotta get me a fightin JC at some point), and you will also spot there is a space within the tray for a second revolver, but sadly we just get one, but as he only has one articulated hand I guess that’s a moot point anyway… more on that later!

Sculpting - ****
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when it comes to sculpting then if Ashley is happy (and lets face it, he wouldn’t have OK’d it if he wasn’t), then who am I to say he’s wrong, after all, this is his baby. But luckily it doesn’t hurt that this turned out absolutely cracking. A lot of the features on the Ashley Wood robots share similar details, but as they are all the creation of one man, and frequent his universe I guess that’s an excusable precept, but that’s not to say they are in any way ‘identical’ and I can see no re-use here at all, just distinct similarities. The sculpting duties are credited to Da Hung, I’m not sure whether this is a guy/gal or even a collective, but whatever the score the job done is outstanding.

Pop Bot has a lot of very unique characteristics about his physiology as well though; but this guy is meant to be super tall (the figure measures a very impressive 15”) so he has very long legs for a start and a trim waist going up to a wide buff chest area. From beneath this upper section a series of rubber tubes and cables loop down, spilling down over the crotch like exposed entrails. The arms are also long to match the stature of his legs, the right arm ends in a large hand with multiple jointed fingers while the left ends in a stump with a linked metal chain joined to a large hook.

This, and this alone is my major gripe with this figure. I shant be taking points away here (I’ll leave that for the accessories section!) as I knew that the figure would come this way. However, as the big painting on the front of the box features Pop Bot with two hands and two mahoosive guns, then I kinda think that’s what should be in the box (or at least an option to make him look that way). But sadly that option ain't open to us, as this version will be forever ‘hooky’, the stump holding the chain even appears to be glued on. There was a two handed (but single eyed) bright orange version made available as part of an exclusive twin pack featuring ‘Tomorrow King’- General Showa and a Popbot figure with ‘Sangreal’ written on his chest, which is French for holy grail, quite what all this means I have absolutely zero idea about (but there is a small bi-line on the inner box saying, and I quote “Many have searched, but the end is always with oneself, it is the ability to negate the quest and retrieve the grail”), but it looks shweet, and of course there was also the two handed and cycloptic Bad Bot in his black colour-way, released as a companion piece for the titular hero!

The head is quite ‘deliberately’ undersized, but this adds extra drama and emphasis to his long limbed and willowy appearance. From his back protrude four exhaust ports (at least I think that’s what they are) making this guy look like a cruel mash up between Brad Birds Iron Giant and Giger's original ALIEN (which for me is a good thing… a very good thing!).

All in all this guy looks absolutely AMAZING, and I wouldn’t even consider anything less than a full score.

Paint - ****
3A have created a beautiful colour palette and have taken ‘weathering and rust’ to a whole new level with their robotic characters. Pop Bot here shows the signs of a pretty heavy-duty existence. Where as once, when factory fresh he would have been bright orange, he now looks very far from concourse condition, with ingrained dirt, heavy corrosion and multiple oil stains, his overall look is now far more earthy and natural. The paint effects airbrushing, sponging and implied oil drips all come together wonderfully to make this guy look like a genuine antique, and that’s quite the trick, fully deserving of the full score I’ll give it.

Outfit - N/A
He’s nekkid, you can see his rusty metal ass!

Articulation - ****
One of the areas that these 3A figures shine (particularly the bots) is in the articulation department. Wood’s art lends itself perfectly to be translated into uber articulated machines of destruction. I mean, it takes a good eye and a resourceful mind to come up with an aesthetically pleasing battle bot, but the artists original paintings are so fully realised and well thought through that they have done over 80% of the work anyway. And lets face it, if an elbow is painted to look like a huge 90 degree screw/bolt engineered joint, how are ya gonna build it, and if a hip is painted to look like a massive oversized ball and cup ‘swivel’ joint how are ya gonna translate that to a solid 3D state, and if fingers appear to look like pinned hinge joints, just how in the hell are ya gonna make that work? EXACTLY!

Well, it may not be rocket science, but it’s still very impressive. The guys at 3A, well specifically ‘Da Hung’, have taken the original paintings and faithfully translated them into a fully realised multi jointed and super poseable representation of the character.

As an accurate breakdown, we have a 45 degree hinge at the mid foot, a double ball jointed post at the ankle (great range here), a pin jointed knee that can bend forward and backwards by about 40 degrees each way, large ball jointed hips, a long double ball jointed post for a waist that is disguised by the long rubber tubes hanging down. The shoulders are also like the hips large ball joints with a good circular swivelling range. The elbows are another pinned joint that can bend forwards by a full 90 degrees, next up the right hand has a ball jointed wrist and each finger has a ball joint where it joins the hand and a further two pin joints in each digit. The left ‘appendage’ isn’t a hand at all, but we have a stump linked to a free-swinging metal chain, attached to a big ‘constructionsight-lite’ crane hook at the end. Lastly there’s the neck which is yet another ‘pop-on’ ball joint allowing for a good degree of tilt and nod, ideal for injecting some much needed personality.

All in all this guy is actually made up of a series of very simple joints, so even though we are not talking about the superfine detail that we get on the likes of the Hot Toys: Terminator- Endoskeletons, what we do get is a lot more robust and able to withstand the rigors of multiple handling and re-poses, and the chosen design solutions come together wonderfully, delivering a hugely fun and poseable figure.

Accessories - ***
He comes with Kitty, a satchel to carry said pussy-tat and a huge f**k off’ revolver! The cat is very stylised to fit in with the rest of the ‘organic’ characters in the Pop Bot universe but he can sit comfortably in the zip-topped holdall that he comes equipped with. He’s set in a static sitting position which works fine here, but a little articulation, even just a tilting head could have helped give Kitty a little more personality and lot more attitude.
The gun is pretty kick ass, it has a spinning bullet chamber and a very convincing paint app, but in these enlightened times and at this large scale I would like to see the cylinder chamber flip out with a working extractor rod, removable bullets and a cockable hammer none of which this actually has.

The other huge oversight, in my most humble of opinions is that he should have come with an extra left hand and an extra revolver to hold… Hell, there’s even a space for the extra gun in the vac formed tray in the packaging! Sadly we don’t get these things, but the pieces we do get are on the whole well constructed. However to be getting those extra brownie points and that all important full score they need to work on those finer details for the articulated elements of the accessories, especially the guns.

Fun Factor - *** 1/2
If you are into the whole back story of Ashley Wood’s universes then I would imagine the fun factor is magnified by ten, but I’m strangely not yet, I’m sure when I get around to actually sitting down and reading some it’ll tick the boxes!

However, I still freaking love this figure, and I loved the Heavy TK and I loved Dropcloth, and that’s without ever having ever read a single story from the back catalogue (hey, at least I’m honest). I think its testament to the strong visual design of these characters that they stand alone as pure cool toys. Like Winson Ma’s Space Adam that I reviewed a few months back, good concept design will always be appreciated by those that have an eye for these things.

So if you have a hankerin a big, rusty, bad-ass, killer-bot for your shelf, then you can’t go wrong here, your quest for the sangreal is over (do you see what I did there?).!

Overall- *** 3/4
Close, oh so close to perfection, but for me they need to work on those accessories, and I’m still a little miffed that I don’t have the two handed option, but that may be showing my ignorance of the story. However if Pop Bot does ever have two hands within the story then it’s virtually inexcusable. That is my only real gripe though, everything else is close to perfect, and he’s an excellent bot to stand next to my Dropcloth as the difference in height and stature shows off the diversity of Wood’s creations. Now I need me a TQ, gotta have a fem fig to round out the collection.

Where to buy
Sideshow have Pop Bot in stock for $149.99 and Bad Bot for the same price.

If you are UK or European based then Onesixthbruce (who sorted mine) have both available for 89 a piece.

Alternatively eBay traders are asking for between $110 up to $170, with Bad Bot about the same and the rarer variants like ‘Ascended’ going for considerably more.

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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