Vlad the Impaler

Sideshow Toy has just released the second in their Live by the Sword series - Vlad the Impaler!  The first figure, Blackbeard, was extremely popular, and they continue with very high end costuming and accessories.

Don't know who Vlad is?  Let's see - he was a ruler of Wallachia, killed lots of enemies (tens of thousands) and more than a few of his own people, his favorite method of expunging his foes (and friends) was impaling them on a big stick, and he is supposedly the basis for the fable of Dracula.  The real person has become rather popular these days, with another figure of him being done by Mcfarlane Toys this year as part of their third Monsters series.

The box goes into far more detail on the background of dear Vlad than I ever could.  I've included some useful links at the end of the review on his history.  Suffice to say, he had anger management issues.

Sideshow's Vlad comes in two versions - the first 500 people who ordered got the version with the extra severed head to be place on the pike.  The majority - a run of 3000 - do not come with this extra accessory.  As usual, the only way to get this version was through the Sideshow site.  Either version cost $45.  

The review will actually cover the version with the extra head, but unfortunately your only option to pick one of these up now is ebay.  I do have quite a few options for picking up the regular version included at the end of the review, however.

Packaging - ****
What could I possibly complain about?  Excellent graphics, long, well written text, and a completely collector friendly package.  It simply doesn't get any better than this.

Sculpting - *** 
This score is for the head and hands of Vlad - I'll cover the accessories in that section.

The hand sculpts are fine, and he can easily hold the majority of his accessories, including the sword, mace and cup.  The fingers are soft enough to manipulate around the accessories without being to soft.

The head sculpt is...different.  Obviously, there are no digital photos of Vlad, so we rely on the next best thing - paintings done during the 15th century.  The head sculpt reproduced for this figure is very faithful to these paintings, and that's really where the issue of weirdness comes in.

Of course a painting isn't an exact representation of a human's likeness. It's influenced by the ability of the artist, the current style of art, and by the wishes of the person paying for the portrait (or threatening to impale you on a stick if they don't like it). All these issues have come together to create portraits of Vlad that aren't quite human in proportion and characteristics. I suspect this is mostly due to the style of art during this period, with certain facial features over emphasized, and others de-emphasized.

What comes out of that is a Vlad with a very large nose, very large eyes, and oddly sunken, almost deformed check bones. While his appearance matches the art extremely well, it doesn't make for a particularly realistic looking human. The head sculpt from Sideshow does it's best to capture that look, while remaining somewhat tied to actual human anatomy. However, they don't quite pull it off, and the slightly flat, squished appearance of his head gives him a slightly surreal appearance. Add the hat hair he had to have to allow the sculpted hat to fit, and he's certainly never going to be a leading man.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint application shows off the usual Sideshow accuracy.  The majority of the paint ops are on the head and accessories, and they are extremely clean all around.

The flesh tone seems a little odd, again perhaps matching up with the early paintings a little too literally.  But it's cleanly applied, and there's a nice consistency.  The eye detail is great, and the hair lines show no bleed or slop.

Articulation - ****
Do you like the Sideshow body?  Then you'll love it.  If not, you won't, and by now, with little change over the course of the last year or so, you probably know what to expect.

The ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, double jointed elbows and knees, ball jointed hips, chest, waist, special Sideshow wrists and ankles, and cut thighs all add up to plenty of articulation.  This time the body was nice and tight as well, so I had no trouble standing him in a variety of poses.

Outfit - ****
Wow!  That's the best word to describe his red, fur trimmed coat.  It's perfectly tailored, with excellent stitching and a complete lining.  The soft velour type material works perfectly in this scale.

He also has his shirt, complete with tiny buttons, and his leggings.  There's sculpted boots that fit his feet perfectly (although they can be tough to get on and off), and his sculpted hat.  The hat again matches the early paintings exactly, and that's a good thing in this case.

Accessories - **** (with head); ***1/2 (without)
Even without the nifty severed head, he comes replete with a nice selection of accessories.

Since I counted the hat as part of his wardrobe, I won't double count it here.  He does have several weapons, including his pike (that arrives in two pieces, but has a very long plastic pin to hold them together), swoard and scabbard, and mace.  There's also his goblet full of blood, and if you're one of the lucky (or smart) first 500, you get the extremely cool aforementioned noggin'.

The weapons all look great, and fit nicely in his hands.  The goblet of blood, while not necessarily historically accurate, looks great.  But the real winner here is the severed head - cast in solid plastic, it has a hole running cleanly through to allow it to be 'impaled' on the pike.  The sculpt and paint ops are fantastic.  It is quite heavy however, and I have a bad feeling that over time the pike will begin to bend.  I'm going to be watching carefully on mine to avoid such a disaster.

Fun Factor - *1/2
Unless you're planning on raising serial killers, I'd avoid giving this to kids.  Add a rather pokey sword and pike, and you've got a very un-kid friendly figure.

However, drop the severed head, and he might be a cool addition to an older child's military line up.

Value - **1/2
The detail work, especially in the outfit, is extremely nice, but the price is just a smidge too high to be a great value.  I don't feel ripped at $45 for the severed head version, but without that, it should be in the $35 - $40 range.  I have several on-line stores at the end of the review where that price is possible.

Overall - ***1/2
The "right from a painting" head sculpt and price point keep this figure from a perfect score.  I'm also assuming you'll buy the version without the extra head, although this is further proof that you should pick up the cool Sideshow exclusives when they hit if you have any interest in the figures at all.  You can always get rid of them later if they turn out to be something you don't really like.

Where to Buy - 
I don't think you'll find him in too many stores, although your local comic shop may pick some up.  Online options include:

- Sideshow has him of course, in stock for $45.  They also have pre-orders up for other figures that have special additional accessories in just about every category!

- Alter Ego Comics has him listed at $36.

- Aisle Sniper has him listed at $40.

- Southern Island has the set of four available for $35.

- Killer Toys has him listed for $40, and they have pre-orders up for the McToys version at $9.95!

There's also plenty of useful links out there if you have an interest in the history of Vlad himself:

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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