Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Vamp Darla

For fans of Buffy and Angel, there were few secondary vamps as important as Darla. Not only was she the vampire that created Angel/Angelus and figured prominently in his entire history, but she also became pregnant with his child. Her own self sacrifice for the life of that child was one of the most dramatic moments on the show.

It's no surprise then that Sideshow selected her for one of their 12" figures. They went with her vamp face, and they went with an outfit from her appearance on Buffy ("Welcome to the Hellmouth"), rather than Angel. And, as usual, there are two versions, one called an 'exclusive' and one not.

I actually bought two of these, one of each version, and when I received them, I was surprised. I normally don't buy two, I just order the exclusive. Why would I order both this time? Upon opening them I remembered why - the difference between the two is in costume, not the accessory.

The regular edition comes in a red sweater and red plaid skirt. While this is called the regular version, it is still exclusive to Sideshow's site only, and was limited to 750 figures. The 'exclusive', also only sold through Sideshow's site, has a dark blue sweater and blue plaid skirt. That one is limited to just 500. These sold at Sideshow for $45 each, but have been sold out for quite some time. You can still get on the wait list however, and these have just started shipping.

Packaging -  ***
If the Jedi Luke packaging is perfect, then these have to be slightly less than that. They are still fantastic, with excellent graphics and a nice use of text, but Darla sports that damn dental floss ties at her neck, hands and feet. I'm not a big fan, and would have preferred twisties.

The good news is that there is no long twisty back through the inner cardboard tray, and they used small plastic covers over the accessories to avoid taping them directly in. The package is fairly collector friendly, if you don't mind ditching the dental floss.

The only difference between the two packages is the 'Sideshow exclusive' sticker on the blue version.

Sculpting - ***
I suspect this figure is going to get seriously beat up over this head sculpt, but this time it's not entirely deserving.

Oh, don't get me wrong - it's not Jedi Luke good. Then again, it's not Faith bad. There are some very good points here, but a few that will effect the general opinion heavily.

Like Jedi Luke, Darla's appearance is from a very specific moment, pretty much a freeze frame of her face at a particular moment on the show. And like Jedi Luke, this means it's not particularly the best all around sculpt at capturing her general essence.

The hair sculpt is fantastic though, and not only matches up great with the look on the show at that time, but has a tremendous amount of detail and style. Work like this show that you can produce hair sculpts that are more realistic and far preferable to rooted hair.

The face is vamped out, and there's actually quite a bit of detail in the ridges and wrinkles. Some photos I've seen, using a lot of front lighting or flash, have washed out that detail, but it's actually there.

The head is actually positioned slightly downward on the neck, with the eyes looking out at the top of the sockets. Any time you want to let someone know you're pissed, just stare at them through the top of your eyes like this. It's universal body language. I like that aspect, and the paint and sculpt work well around the eyes.

The open mouth doesn't do much for me though, and is the single thing (again like Jedi Luke) that hurts the final appearance of the sculpt. The set of the mouth and teeth doesn't emote evil - she looks like a mouth breather. In combination with the eyes, it really fails to illicit fear, and instead makes her look like she didn't score too well on her SAT's.

Now, I realize this was based on a specific look from the show, and in reality, it captures it - but that's not necessarily a good thing. Going for a more fierce look in the mouth and jaw would have been a good idea, even if it didn't match up with the reality of a particular frame of film.

The hands are sculpted to work with several poses and the accessories. The right hand is specifically designed to work with the guns, while the left hand has a slightly more open style. However, you can still use this hand to hold a gun if you work at it, or it can hold the various books against her body.

The hair and the hands give this work three stars - had they not been this good, the choice of expression would have pulled her down another half star.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint improves the sculpt, always a good sign. There's no issues like glossy skin, uneven eyes, weird colors, or poor cutting between colors. the overall quality is the usual Sideshow work.

The eyes and mouth have a slightly glossier appearance, making them seem wet. This has become more common with high end toys, and is a very realistic touch.

The work on the lips is also quite good, with a slightly mottled appearance that makes them very realistic. Even the shadowing around the eyes matches up well with the source material, and this is a good example of a somewhat mediocre sculpt - due to the choice of expression - being improved by quality paint operations.

Articulation - ***
Darla comes in the small female body, and it's definitely the newer version. I didn't think vampires felt hot and cold, but Darla is certainly feeling a bit chilly.

The design of the torso actually has an effect on the costume, but instead of monkey arms, it's low breasts this time. On the small female body, the breasts tend to sit a little low on the torso. I've never seen this as a problem with past figures, and it only rears it's perky head here because of the short cut of the sweater. I'll get into this more in the next section on the outfit, but suffice to say that the short sweater doesn't work particularly well with this torso.

The joints were all nice and tight, and of course the Sideshow body has all of them you expect. Darla is missing the ball jointed neck though, due to the long hair that would have made it fairly useless.

Outfit - ***
The outfit consists of a sweater, white blouse, plaid skirt, black nylons, and black shoes. All the clothing is made from high quality material, with plenty of attention to the stitching and tailoring.

The shoes look terrific, and have a shine like patent leather. They're a soft enough rubber to be easily removed, but sturdy enough to help her stand in deep poses.

The nylons are the best I've ever seen done in this scale. The seam in back is still present, but it's not nearly as heavy and obvious as in previous attempts. The fit is tight without being strained.

The skirt and blouse are both perfectly tailored, and I'm actually quite impressed by the skirt. The pleated look is terrific, and it lays and flows nicely. This is one of the more realistic looking pieces of women's clothing that Sideshow has done.

The sweater doesn't fair quite as well, but to be honest, this is largely due to it's short length and Darla's large breasts. It tends to poof out quite a bit, and because it's short, there isn't enough length to allow it to flow back to the body tightly. There are two snaps for closers, and other than this issue with the fit across the chest, is well tailored.

While the blue 'exclusive' is the lower run, I'm suspecting that more folks will want the red clothing. Blondes just look better in red.

Accessories - ***
Darla comes with three school books, two guns (with removable clips), and the usual display stand emblazoned with the Buffy logo.

The stand is nice as usual, but fairly unnecessary, since Darla stands great on her own and has tight joints. However, if you live in earthquake territory, or just prefer to never pick your vampire chicks up off the floor, you'll appreciate its inclusion.

The books are fairly plain, basic sculpts. The paint job is pretty much single bold colors, with no inscriptions or descriptions on the books anywhere. I think she'd be carrying Biology and Western European History.

The guns are the best of the bunch, with much improved sculpts and paint. Sideshow's weapons have really improved over the years, and while they still aren't quite at the level of detail of perhaps a modern Dragon military figure, they are still more than adequate for these licensed characters. The guns have removable clips, with slip in easily but hold tight enough that you won't lose them.

Fun Factor - ***
Since she's in vamp mode, any kid with a hankering for an evil chick will enjoy this figure. Of course, if your daughter likes Princess Barbies, she's probably not going to be enamored with Darla. This is the kind of girl that would really shake up a tea party.

Darla's definitely sturdy enough for normal play, but the nylons are likely to end up getting damaged.

Value - **1/2
At $45, this figure is really $5 or maybe even $10 more than it really should be. However, the price is driven up by the extremely small run size - just 1250 for this head sculpt - and that manages to get her back into an average value area.

Things to watch out for - 
I'd be careful with those nylons - it's really easy it is to snag them. Then you have to use nail polish on the run to keep it from getting worse. Uh, or so I hear.

Overall -  * **
There are people that will really rag on this figure - but that will be mostly those that don't see her in person.  She's not photogenic, unlike Luke or George Washington, but in person she makes a far better impression.

Still, she's not terrific by any means.  The expression leaves me cold, although the technical aspects of the sculpt are solid.  The outfit is nice with the exception of the ill fitting sweater, and the accessories are solid but not exceptional.

At the end of the day, Darla won't rank in the top 5 Buffy/Angel figures that Sideshow has produced, but she won't rank in the bottom 3 either. 

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Outfit - ***
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ***
Value - **1/2
Overall -  ***

Where to Buy -
Both versions were exclusive to Sideshow's site, but you can still get on the wait list for either the red or blue versions.

You may also want to keep an eye on ebay. I suspect that this figure is going to take some abuse for the head sculpt based on photos I've seen floating around, so the initial prices on ebay may end up coming in under the retail. I don't expect that to last though, once the few figures produced actually all make it into the hands of collectors and not dealers.

If you're a big Darla fan, you also might want to check out the 6" versions done by DST. They are available through several online stores:

- Amazing Toyz has them for around $10 each, but has the 6" version of Darla in this same school girl costume on clearance for just $5!

- CornerStoreComics has them at $13 each.

- Time and Space Toys has them for around $15 each.

Related Links:
I've reviewed an awful lot of Buffy merchandise over the years, but here's some of it:

- in the Sideshow line, I've reviewed Vamp Buffy, Willow, the original Buffy and Angel, Faith, and the Gentlemen.

- there's also the 6" line from DST and MAC, including the deluxe Buffy and Faith, Drusilla and the Gentlemen, Buffy, Giles and Oz, the recent Angel wave, more of the Angel wave, Fred and Illyria, Wesley, Willow and Tara, and the very first series of Angel figures from MAC.

- there's been plenty of busts, like the Ubervamp, the four monsters from DST, the Becoming Buffy, human Spike, and Buffy vs. Dracula.

- and then there's the Palz, like the Gentlemen, the Halloween set, and series 1.

- there's also the oddball stuff, like the Buffy and Angel Christmas ornaments, the Dark Witch Willow statue, the Welcome Faith statue, or the Johnny Lightening cars.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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