Sideshow Toys is back with a vengeance with their Buffy/Angel sixth scale action figures. It was actually almost three years ago when Sideshow first released a Buffy with three Gentlemen, and then the license went quiet. But with the recent release of Buffy and Angel, the shipment of Spike, and the pre-orders up for Faith, Vampire Willow and The Master, the line is cooking with gas again.

The inclusion of Spike, more than any other character, was critical to this line. He's a huge fan favorite, whether he has a soul or not, and his transformation from pure evil to misunderstood vampire has been one of the best overarching story lines of both the Buffy and Angel shows.  It's no wonder that even with a fairly large run of 7500 figures, he sold out quickly at the Sideshow site.

However, you can still get him through various on-line retailers, and I have some suggestions at the end of the review.

Packaging - ****
Similar to the Buffy/Angel line, Spike's box is absolutely perfect. I can't ask for anything better! Great graphics, excellent text, and completely collector friendly. Even the display stand has been packed in the plastic insert instead of sealed to the interior box.

One thing I find particularly impressive about the photos on these boxes is that the are of the actors. This takes intestinal fortitude on the part of Sideshow, because it gives the buyer the ultimate chance to check the sculpt against the actual person. Most companies don't do this - just look at the packaging from NECA or Mcfarlane where you'll see photos
of the actual figure, not the actual person or character. Even Sideshow doesn't do this on all their figures or lines, but it shows how much faith they have in these sculpts.

Sculpting - ****
I personally think that this sculpt is one of the most impressive Sideshow has done. Done by the amazing Oluf Hartvigson, it captures the look of James Marsters perfectly, and completely avoided any sort of weird or odd expression. This perfection, while due in large part to Oluf's skill, is also a result of the appearance of the character.

Spike's face and hair have personality. That personality is far easier to capture than a character with a more generic, plain appearance (like Faith, a tough likeness to do, and one that Sideshow seems to be having trouble with). Spike's hair is short and neat, making the sculpt much simpler than Angel's, and his face has a very distinctive bone structure. That doesn't mean that in the hands of a lesser sculpture this work wouldn't have turned out sub-par, but it does mean that Oluf had great source material to work from.

There are some nits - his head does seem a tad large comparied to Buffy and Angel - but for me to complain would be a little too much like telling Mozart there are too many notes.

The hand sculpts are good, and he can hold his accessories fairly well.

Paint - **
Unfortunately, the paint doesn't work as well as I'd hoped. That detracts from what is an amazing sculpt, and is a little disappointing.

First, the good.  The skin tone, while a little on the light side, is consistent.  The off white/yellow color of the hair works fairlly well, and the eyes (although a little more blue than accurate), eyebrows, and face are all very clean and neat.  The best aspect is the inclusion of the scar, painted on, through his left eyebrow.  That's another nice example of the level of detail Sideshow provides.

Now the bad.  While the color of the hair works well, the paint ops weren't particularly clean at the hairline.  There's a lot of the yellowish white paint on the skin, and when it doesn't follow the sculpt line, creates a false, funny looking hairline.  This is due in part to using a lighter color underneath, making the roots seem lighter and the upper part of the hair darker, the exact opposite of reality.

The lips aren't as consistent in their application as usual, and it also makes for a slightly odd, out of place appearance.  I also had a stray 'scar' on the left side of Spike's nose, similar to the one in his eyebrow but clearly unintentional.

Finally, there's something up with the ears, but I'm not quite sure what it is.  Both a very bloody, for lack of a better term.  I'm not sure if it's supposed to be some kind of wash, or he just has to stop listening to all that loud rock music.

The paint ops on the hands are well done, especially the black fingernails. There's no slop, and the skin tone matches the face nicely.

Articulation - ****
It's the Sideshow male body, with all it's articulation - ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders and hips, cut biceps and thighs, double jointed elbows and knees, chest, waist, ankles and of course the super cool and useful Sideshow wrists.

Spike's hands are also removable, and they've managed to do that without causing any sort of reduction in the usefulness of the wrist articulation.

Outfit - ***
Remember the grampa waist line on Angel?  Well, Spike goes him one better.  These pants are hiked up to his chest! Okay, they aren't quite that bad, and you can improve things with some adjustment. The tailoring on the entire outfit isn't quite up to the quality I expect from Sideshow, although the materials and stitching are very good.

The coat is a very thin pleather, rather than the softer material they used for Angel.  Underneath is a red shirt, with another black shirt under that.  The black shirt is cut off at the shoulders, and the red shirt is only slightly longer, counting as a half sleeve.  That is not show accurate - the red shirt was certainly long sleeve - but with the jacket on, won't be noticed.  The black pants are belted (but the 'belt' is part of the pant itself, not a separate piece), and he has a new boot sculpt which looks terrific.  Although the belt isn't a separate piece, I like the belt as part of the pants design.  It makes it much easier to work with.

Accessories - ***
Spike is one of those Sideshow figures that came in two versions - a short run version up front with a special, exclusive accessory, and then the larger run standard figure. I'm scoring this on the standard figure, although my photos show the exclusive.

Regular Spike comes with the source of his nickname, a railroad spike, and the large cross with removable knife. He also comes with the standard display base, with the Buffy insignia. The exclusive version comes with an extra set of hands that are plain, with the finger nails painted black.

The railroad spike is decent, but fits well in the gloved hands that come with the standard version of Spike. It's a decent scale, and Sideshow avoided making it overly large and cartoony. The large cross and knife are a great sculpt, with excellent paint ops. The two halves of the cross were having a little trouble staying together when I pulled it out of the box, but it was nothing a little dab of super glue couldn't fix. The display stand is fine, but I didn't end up using it - Spike stands fine on his own.

The exclusive version comes with those normal hands, and they work well. The hands pop on and off easy enough if you're careful, and the sculpt of the gloved hands is slightly different than the regular bare hands. I don't actually recall Spike ever wearing gloves though, so the preferred appearance is with the standard hands. That makes the choice of using the normal hands as the exclusive somewhat perplexing - wouldn't it have made more sense to go with the gloves for the exclusive?  People would have bought that figure with just about any extra accessory, considering it's low production run, and the owners of the standard figure would have been much happier with the regular hands

Fun Factor - **1/2
Spike isn't much of a kid's toy, although any kid who's a big fan of Angel is going to want one. He poses well, and will go fairly well with other sixth scale baddies.

Value - **
At $40, Spike is on the expensive side. If you managed to pick up one of the exclusive versions at that price, it's not so bad, since he has the extra hands and the allure of such a low production number. But with the regular figure, the costume and paint ops aren't as good as other recent examples. If you can pick him up for closer to $30 though, you can add another star to the score.

Overall - ***
The saving grace for this figure is the exceptional head sculpt.  It really does look just like James Marsters, at least in his Spike persona.  While the rest of the figure is fairly average by Sideshow standards, the head sculpt is one of my favorites.

My big disappointment here is the paint application.  It hurt the sculpt, and that's never a good thing.  This figure is by no means awful, but could have been so much more with just a little more care with the paint brush.

Where to Buy - 
Sideshow sold out of these long ago, but there are some other on-line choices:

- Southern Island has him in stock for $35, and if you use the code MWCTOY, you'll get another 5% off!

- Killer Toys has him for $40, and has great rates for shipping.

- Time and Space Toys also has him for $40, and should be shipping him in the next few days.

It should also be noted that the Faith figure has sold out at Sideshow (although it's available for pre-order at several of the MROTW Sponsor sites), and that means that the Vampire Willow won't last much longer. The special Sideshow exclusive version of the Master (the first 500 come with a deluxe candelabra) is likely to sell out within the next day or so, so if you are interested in picking him up, I'd do it now.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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