Lord of the Rings
King of the Dead/Morgul Lord Witch King

Toybiz was known as the folks that made Marvel toys for many, many years. Sometimes this was a good thing, sometimes this was a bad thing, but it was always their claim to fame. In recent years, the good has far outweighed the bad, and with such strong lines as Spider-man Classics and Marvel Legends, they've took Best Overall Toy Company for 2002, and second place in the same category for 2003.

But it's been with the Lord of the Rings line that Toybiz has really broken away from the pack. This line will become the current generations Star Wars, sought after for many years to come. Combining great sculpting with excellent articulation and good character selection, the line has been a fan favorite for several years.

This year, Toybiz switched to a smaller packaging design, and has been re-issuing many of the earlier figures. But new figures are also getting slipped into the mix, and tonight's review covers two of those new releases - the Morgul Witch King and the King of the Dead, both from the final film. They are also both kings, and they are also both deader than Michael Jackson's career.

I picked these up at a local Wal-mart for under six bucks each, but you can also find them at Toys R Us, Target or even Meijers. One thing the LOTR line has had is great retailer support, another factor that's helped this line continue strong.

Packaging - ***
Toybiz made the switch from the big, bulky packaging to this small, simple version this year. The old version was not a favorite of mine - I gave it the Worst Packaging of 2003 award. I hate wasted space, and I hate it even more if the packaging is hard for MOCer's to store.

Neither of those are an issue any longer. While this packaging certainly isn't exciting, if it helps them to keep the price point at a rock bottom level, than I'm all for it.

Sculpting - Witch King ***1/2; Kind of the Dead ****
Wow. I had not expected these figures to be THIS outstanding. Both sport a tremendous amount of detail work, but the King of the Dead reigns supreme. They've managed to capture his head sculpt perfectly, and wisely used a wash to bring out the details in the face. While the Witch King doesn't have a face, he does have some excellent work on his robes and armor.

Unfortunately, the robes and armor don't work particularly well with the articulation. There are several areas, especially in the arms, where the two conflict enough to greatly reduce the usefulness of the articulation. But if you play around with the robes enough, you'll manage to get him into at least a few kick ass poses. He might be faceless, but he still lets you know that he'd dice and slice a Dementor with one hand tied behind his back.

Scale is another area that they've done a pretty nice job on across the line. The Morgul Lord is taller than the average LOTR figure, including the King of the Dead, and bulkier all around.

Paint - ***1/2
I mentioned the use of the wash on the King of the Dead, but not why this is important. This King is made from glow in the dark plastic from head to toe. While I love that action feature, it does mean that the details are easily lost in the milky colored plastic. The smart use of the wash helped bring out the great sculpt work without negating the coolness of the GITD feature.

There's also a paint variant on the King of the Dead. The first one I picked up, which you see photographed here, had unpainted eyes. The second one I saw had jet black, painted eyes. Something you might want to watch out for, as I suspect the unpainted is rarer - but the painted looks better.

The Witch King is your basic evil black, but he has highlights of gray, with plenty of muddy color around the bottom of his robes. Even when working with your standard evil palette of colors, they managed to give him enough variety and contrast to be visually interesting.

Articulation - Witch King ***; King of the Dead ****
The Witch King isn't poorly articulated, but as mentioned, the robes and armor tend to get in the way. He has neck, ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, ball jointed hips, cut shins (boot top), knees and ankles. Not all of them have a great range of motion, but you will be able to get him into some classic poses if you spend the time.

The King of the Dead is even better! Not only does he have a greater amount of articulation, but he has fewer encumberments (and yes, I just made that word up). The cloak is removable, and the rest of his armor and clothing doesn't get in the way of most of his joints. He has neck, ball jointed shoulders, double jointed elbows and knees, cut shins (boot top), wrists, ankles, ball jointed hips and waist. I think that covers it all...

The joints are all nice and tight as well, so that he can maintain just about any pose you put him in. They also managed to pull off this level of articulation without hurting the overall look of either figure.

Accessories - ****
Both figures come with two accessories, and both are sensible and well done. The inclusion of these types of great accessories really boosts the already excellent value as well.

Morgul Lord, or Mr. Witch King, has his sword (that fits nicely in his permanently attached scabbard), and his big ass mace. The mace has a real metal chain, but is so large that it tends to pull him over. Play around with it a bit though, and you'll hit the sweet spot where he stands just fine even with it swinging in the breeze.

The Boss of the Guys Who Are No Longer Living also sports a sword, done in glow in the dark plastic, and a soft rubber helmet. Put them on and he's ready for battle, although I'm not sure what point the armor really serves. He's already dead, right?  He also has a scabbard permanently attached to his rubber skirt.

The helmet fits his head perfectly, and the swords and mace all fit into the figures hands easily, but tightly. At this price point, they couldn't have done a better job on the accessories.

If you want to be picky, the King of the Dead actually has a third accessory, his cloak. Unlike the Witch King, his cloak is removable, and goes on and off easily, and has a nifty rope tie.

Action Feature - Witch King ***1/2; King of the Dead ****
The King of the Dead gets a cheat in this category, because I love GITD figures. Here, it works particularly well, and everything glows nicely. The Witch King went with a slightly more standard feature - the sword swinging right arm. There's a button hidden under his robes in back, and pressing it induces a karate chop motion in his right arm. It works fine, and kids will appreciate it.

Fun Factor - ****
As I mentioned earlier, these figures are to kids now what the Star Wars figures were to kids in the late 70's. They look great, and yet have all kinds of play value. Any kid who loves the films (or the books) will love these, and they won't just leave them sitting on the shelf.

Value - ****
The Lord of the Rings figures stand as the best action figure value on the market right now. At less than six bucks, no one else comes close to their articulation, sculpt, accessories and overall quality, all in a licensed product!

Overall - Witch King ***1/2; King of the Dead ****
I don't buy many LOTR figures. This was a line that I knew I had to avoid right from the start, because if I went down that path, I'd have ended up a completist. But I have picked up the occasional figure, and these two were simply must haves. I'm so impressed with the King of the Dead that he's sure to be on my short list of best male figures for this year. And if you can only get one version of the Ringwraiths, than the Morgul Lord Witch King is the way to go. These two figures are outstanding examples of the level of quality and attention that Toybiz has given to the LOTR line, but be careful - they also might be the two figures that start you down the slippery slope to buying the entire series!

And before you send me nasty emails, yes, I know I took twice as many photos of the King of the Dead as the poor Witch King. Sorry, but that glowing old coot was just so damn photogenic!

Where to Buy - 
Bricks and mortar retailers like Wal-mart, Target, Toys R Us and Meijers are just now getting these in, but they are only one or two a case. Keep your eyes peeled, and jump on them the first time you see them.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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