12" Van Helsing, Vampire and Frankenstein

Van Helsing, starring Hugh Jackman, will be hitting theaters May 7th, but the regular sized action figures hit stores a few weeks ago.  I did a review of the Wolfman, whom I'm currently giving away in one of my prize packs in the current contest.

Jakk's now has another set of figures out, in sixth scale, including Van Helsing of course, Frankenstein, and Dracula (technically he's called Dracula Beast, but without seeing the movie I'm not sure if this is the 'real' Dracula in vampire form or just one of his vampire punks).  Each retails for about $20, and I have seen them at Toys R Us only so far.

Sideshow is also doing a series of 12" figures based on the film, including Van Helsing, and Anna Valerious (which is currently available with an additional accessory for the first 500 ordered!).  They are also doing various busts, and a huge quarter scale version of Van Helsing.

But if you're not interested in paying the big bucks Sideshow charges, the Jakk's 12" figures are the next alternative.  But are they as bad as the smaller figures, or did they pull off a miracle?  Somehow I bet it's in between...

Packaging - **1/2
There's nothing particularly exciting about these boxes, although they are fairly collector friendly.  The graphics are decent, but they don't do much to show off the qualities of the figures.  

Sculpting - Dracula, VH ***; Frank **1/2
Considering the price point, these aren't particularly awful sculpts, but they certainly won't rival Sideshow's work.

Van Helsing looks enough like Jackman to recognize him, but he appears to be retaining water.  His head is a soft hollow rubber, and that means (at least in this case) that the sculpt is softer than ideal.  His hands are fine though, and can hold his accessories.

The vampire is in his ultimate vamp state, with large wings and butt ugly face.  They've done a nice job capturing the appearance of the fanged mouth (at least based on what we've seen in the trailers), but the body sculpt lacks some of the detail you'd expect. He also has very tiny feet, a real problem if you expect him to stand with out assistance.  His sculpted hair sits on top his head like a weird cap, rather than as a clean, flowing line.  Finally, the sculpted hair takes away most of the neck articulation, and it would have been nice if his head could bend back in a flying pose.

Frank is very similar to the smaller version, although this one has a skull that opens to reveal his brain.  The head is a little small for the body, although that may match up to the source material.  His sculpt is the most detailed overall, and his plastic bits mesh well with his cloth pants.

If you buy all three, you'll also notice another issue - scale.  With all three of them using different style bodies (I'll get into more of that in the Articulation section), they could have turned out at least in reasonable scale with each other.  But Frankenstein is slightly shorter than Van Helsing, and while Dracula is closer in size, he's not particularly imposing.

Paint - **1/2
These are clearly intended for kids - or at least I hope so. As such, their paint ops are fairly basic, with less detail and fewer colors.  Frank fairs the best again, and at least most of the lines are clean and the colors consistent.  He has the greatest detail work on his face, and while there's a little slop (especially around the eyes), it's passable considering the price point.

Dracula has a rather interesting wash over his body and wings to bring out detail, but there's not that much to bring out.  Both he and Frank were close to being very good figures, but there are enough small issues that after awhile the problems are all you can see. 

Articulation - Frank **1/2; Dracula **; VH *1/2
Oddly enough, the bodies do not have the same type articulation.

Frank is easily the best.  He has neck, ball jointed shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, cut thighs, ankles and double jointed knees.  I was very surprised by the amount of articulation, and most if it works fairly well.  His only drawback is that his leg joints were very loose, making it difficult for him to hold all the poses I put him in.

Dracula is a sculpted body, so it's not surprising he has fewer joints.  He still has neck, ball jointed shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and hips.  Unfortunately, the massive weight of his wings makes using any of the lower body articulation impossible, and you'll need a stand to keep him up.

The real disappointment here though is Van Helsing himself.  He has decent upper body articulation, but rubber legs with clicky knees!  I didn't strip him down, but I'm willing to bet that he's using one of the old Hasbro 12" Starting Lineup bodies, or early Star Wars bodies.  Considering how well articulated Frank was, it was even more disappointing that the main character used such a crappy body.

Accessories - VH **; Frank, Dracula Bupkis
This is another real disappointment.  Considering how many cool weapons it looks like Van Helsing will be using in the film, we only got one pair of 'spinning tojo blades'.  These fit in his hand alright, and spin as advertised, but if I could only get a couple accessories I would have much preferred a gun or sword.

There are probably fewer logical choices for accessories for Frank and Drac, but something would have been nice, even at this price point.

Action Features - Frank **1/2; VH, Drac Bupkis
E.T., uh, Frankenstein has a light up heart.  Push his heart and it blinks.  Really.  I'm sure this makes sense in the movie.  I hope.

The other two figures have nothing in the action feature department.

Outfit - VH, Frank **1/2; Dracula Bupkis
Dracula is buck nekkid, so he doesn't get a score in this category.

Frankenstein doesn't have a lot of clothes, but his pants fit well, and work nicely with the plastic pieces of his outfit.

This is the only category where Van Helsing is actually decent.  He has a shirt, vest, pants, boots and jacket, and while not all of them are perfectly tailored (the jacket is a tad off), the quality is fairly good for the price point.  Of course, a hat would have been nice, but you can't have everything for twenty bucks.

Fun Factor - VH **; Frank, Drac ***
Kids would have more fun with the monsters this time than the hero.  That's too bad, since kid's are more likely to buy the hero.  At least Drac and Frank have some decent articulation and a healthy dose of gruesome to make them fun - VH is a stiff.

Value - VH **1/2; Frank, Drac ***
The monsters aren't a bad value at twenty bucks, considering how much the usual sixth scale figure costs.  It's nothing to write home about, but at this price I thought that there was a real chance the monsters could be used with the Sideshow Van Helsing on the shelf.

The Van Helsing is too much however, especially considering the lack of accessories and articulation.

Overall - Van Helsing **; Frank, Dracula **1/2
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Frankenstein, especially since he looked so weak in the box.  I was particularly disappointed in the quality of Van Helsing, since he looked so much better in the box.  And Dracula was pretty much what I expected.

I was really hoping that I could use the monsters with the Sideshow Van Helsing, since they haven't shown any plans for creatures of the night.  And after playing around with them for awhile, I thought that the quality was at least decent enough to give it a shot.

That was until I put them next to other Sideshow figures.  It became pretty obvious that neither was going to be tall enough, and that the Sideshow Van Helsing would be bigger than either of them.

Where to Buy - 
The only place I've found these so far is at Toys R Us.  I haven't seen the regular sized Van Helsing figures anywhere else yet either, so perhaps TRU is the only major retailer carrying these?

By the way, I was experimenting with a new background tonight, a darker solid blue.  I don't like it though.  What do you think?  Drop me a line if you feel strongly one way or the other.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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