Napoleon Bonaparte

It amazes me how little mind we pay to history. We seem to believe that it doesn't matter, from teaching world history to our children, to the corporate boardroom where the new mantra is "the past is the past, let's just focus on the future!". In a world where everyone seems to suffer from ADD, and anything more complex than a grocery list is more written input than they can handle, is it any wonder that we seemed doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors?

I was thinking of these things as I photographed and posed my newest addition to the collection, Napoleon Bonaparte, from Ignite. Ignite hooked up with Andrea Miniatures to develop this historically accurate version of the Little Tyrant. As I reviewed the history of the time - the rise of democracy in France through the French Revolution, and Napoleon's finagling his way around the process, using external threats and internal economics to place himself Emperor - I was reminded of how often we forget about history, and how we seemed doomed to repeat it. And no, I'm not talking directly about the current political climate in the U.S., but rather about the world in general, right down to our local schools and businesses. I happen to have had some obvious examples in my own personal world recently of this kind of shortsightedness, and it struck me as I was looking at Napoleon how little we seem to learn.  If we don't teach our children the past outcomes of decisions, actions and inactions, how can we ever expect them to make good decisions themselves?

Back to Napoleon. Ignite has been moving away from doing generic historical military characters to doing more specific famous leaders from the past. A few months ago they released Julius Caesar, and they have Walter von Geroldseck coming up. No, I have no idea who Walter is (other than what Ignite tells me, that he was the Bishop of Strasburg in 1292), but he has a pretty damn cool looking set of duds.

The usual price for an Ignite figure is $75 or so. This higher price is driven by the complex outfits, and the heavy use of actual metal in the many accessories. But extra work went into Napolean, and Ignite is charging extra scratch to cover it - $135. This is being called a "European area" exclusive, and I'd assume that means US and Canadian retailers won't be getting these at a wholesale price direct from Ignite. There's no limited edition numbers on this figure that I know of.

Packaging - ***
Ignite's packaging has improved over the last few releases, becoming a bit more sturdy. There's also very little or no wasted space, and the package is very collector friendly. Only a few pieces of tape and a couple twisties keep you from the internal goodies, and you can always put everything back later if you so desire. It's not quite 100% there, but it's close.

They've also added quite a bit of text on Bonaparte, but the grammar and writing style still need a little work: "Fully articulated to position in any pose". Still, the historical information is useful. Hey, school might not be teaching your kids who this guy is, but Ignite is going to try.

Sculpting - ***1/2
Sculpting people who lived before the advent of photography is a tricky business. All we have is art to go by, and artists were hindered by two big issues. First, they were painting in the style of the time, which meant that the facial features and overall style of the portrait could be influenced by current aesthetics more than reality. Second, they were often being paid by the subject, and therefore expected to make them look not like reality, but how the subject thought they looked. A tricky proposition at best, but even worse when you consider that angering your subject could mean losing your head - literally.

We only have painted portraits by which to judge Napoleon's appearance, and there's a good amount of variance even within these. Given all that, I think this head sculpt is quite good. It backs off a bit on some of the probable exaggerations in the art, making him more 'normal' in appearance and less caricaturish. The hair sculpt has decent detail, and the expression is pompous and proud. It says "you're beneath me, and the only reason I'm tolerating your presence is because I must". And believe me, I know the look well - I got it from every girl in high school.

The head is a little small though. It's tough for sixth scale companies to get head size just right. Most end up making them too big, creating a bobble head effect. But it's possible to go the other way too, especially when there are many layers of clothing, bulking up the body more than normal because of the out of scale thickness of the clothing. That's the case here, where I think the head looks pretty good if you take away a layer of clothing, but once you have his large overcoat on over everything else, he looks an awful lot like Randy from A Christmas Story on his way to school. Had they made his head large enough to look good in every layer of clothing, it would have been bobble head city again. So yes, they're often damned if they do and damned if they don't.

The hand sculpts are much, much better than the usual Ignite kung-fu grip hands. The natural hands are small and delicate, designed for this smaller character. One is in a nice sword holding pose, while the other is slightly open. It works well for gesturing, or holding items like the snuff box or watch in the palm. The gloved hands are similar, but the gloved left hand is a little more closed than the ungloved, normal version.

It's worth mentioning his height here - about 11 1/4 inches tall - but I'll bring it up again in the Articulation section when I discuss the new body in more detail. I was very surprised to see that rather use a basic fat suit, they used a body sculpted with a pot belly. This makes the appearance of the body, even under several layers of clothes, much more realistic and less 'puffy' than a fat suit. The smaller height matches up pretty well to the believed height of Napoleon at about 5' 2". To be exactly sixth scale, he'd need to be 10.33" tall here, so in reality the figure is still about an inch (which translates to 6") too tall. Interestingly enough, there is much evidence to suggest that Napoleon was not actually considered short at all, and was of average height for his time.

Paint - ***
I'm grading this section on the work on the head and hands alone. The accessories and various attachments to the outfit (like his medals) will be discussed and graded both on sculpt and paint in the later appropriate sections. If I were including the accessory and outfit paint work here, this score would have been higher. The quality in the traditional areas of head and hands though is still above what we've seen with some previous Ignite figures, but not really at the level that this price point would indicate.

The hairline is well done, and the eyes are straight and clean. However, the skin appears to be simply cast plastic and not paint, which at this price point is a very big problem. It has that slightly cheap sheen to it, as do the ungloved hands.  There is a little blush added to give the skin a slightly more realistic look, but the paint work in combination with the rotocast head makes him seem cheaper than he is. The paint work on the gloves is decent, but does exhibit a little more variation in coverage and finish than I like for a big score.

As I said, the quality is a step up from some previous Ignite releases, but considering the $135 price point, more attention to detail was really necessary.

Articulation - ***
Ignite is using a much better body here than their earliest figures, but it still has a few issues.

All the articulation you might expect is here with one notable exception.  There's double joints, ball joints, and extra cut joints up the wazoo.  Actually, I didn't look there, but it's possible.

The wrists are even very similar to the old Sideshow wrists, and have quite a bit of movement.  The hands pop on and off pretty easily too, but don't fall off when you're handling him.

I mentioned that the body is sculpted with a pot belly, which is a huge plus for me.  There's really only two major negatives here.  The first is the lack of a ball jointed neck.  The second is the looseness of the joints.  While there's enough articulation to do some great arm poses and deep stances, the figure had a tough time holding the pose because of the loose joints.

Outfit - ***1/2
This is one of the most complete and most complex outfits I've seen on a historical figure.  It really is that good.

There's a very thin white shirt and his heavier white pants to start.  Snaps are used to close the front of the trousers, one to either side of his belly so the front flap drops down.  I suspect that's accurate to the time, and is actually pretty handy if you think about it.

There's also long white socks which can't easily be seen in the boots, but which look terrific in the shoes, if the photo on the box is any indication.  I don't plan on displaying him in the shoes though, so I didn't risk pulling the boots off only to have a hassle getting them back on.

Speaking of the boots, they're fantastic.  The sculpt is extremely realistic, and this style of riding boot were always cool to begin with.  The included spurs fit nicely over them and look great in combination.

His pants are held up by suspenders made from a hard, thin rubber like material.  There's a heavy white vest over the shirt, which he often put his hand inside, infamously.  This is decorated with buttons, but closes with a very thin strip of  velcro down the front.  The shirt, vest and other clothing has all kinds of buttons, snaps and buckles, in all the places you'd expect and a few you won't, like the back where they can't even be seen unless you undress the character.

The heavy outer coat also has several medals adorning it, along with cool buttons and epaulets.  I had a tough time keeping the epaulets over his shoulders though, which is often a problem when putting on so many layers on such a small figure.  With several layers, his clothing tends to sloop off his shoulders too much.

There's also the famous hat, made from a very hard plastic.  It fits perfectly on his head, and is not oversized.  That's surprising, since hats are almost always another failure in this scale, looking too big.  They pulled this one off perfectly though, which is critical considering how key the hat was to his look.

Finally, there's his heavy gray outer coat.  Yep, he looks like a stuffed sausage by the time you get this all on him, but it's not nearly as bad in person as I had expected it to be. The tailoring could have been slightly improved on some of these items, using a thinner material where possible, but that's the only minor nit that holds this outfit back from a four star score.

Accessories - ****
Here's a category where Ignite always shines.  There's a ton here, although there isn't as much metal as some of the Roman soldiers.

Napoleon has a small whip (underscaled, but appropriate for a decorative whip), snuff box, pocket watch (with metal chain), extra pair of gloved hands, highly detailed sword (metal!), very detailed scabbard, scabbard belt, spy glass, extra pair of dress shoes, spurs/straps, and decorative ribbon/medallion.

All of these are made from high quality materials, and some are really outstanding.  For example, the sword has some really intricate detail work on the hilt that matches up with the work on the top of the scabbard.  The metal sword fits perfectly in the scabbard, and the scabbard itself fits perfectly in the leather belt.

You'll have no shortage of items to put in his hands or on a desk next to him in your display. These are the kinds of accessories I loved as a kid, and it's terrific to see so many included with a historical figure.

Fun Factor - **1/2
While the figure is well built, I wouldn't recommend him as a toy. Ignoring the sharp metal sword, the smaller pieces are very easy to lose or break. And let's face it, he's not the most exciting character for an eight year old. However, the history buff in your family will have great fun posing him on the shelf.

Value - **
There's a lot here, there's no doubt about that. A ton of accessories and a ton of clothing, plus they went above their usual work with the likeness. Still, at $135, he's working against Medicom and Hot Toys figures, and it's one Hell of a battle. He really needs to be sub $100, to be about the right price, and the extra green is going to be something that keeps him from everyone but the diehard history buffs.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Some of the small metal parts are quite easy to break.  I did that to the hook on the belt almost immediately, and had to jury rig one out of thin wire.  The connectors for the spurs and straps are easy to bend or break as well, and extra care should be taken, especially considering how much this bugger costs.

Overall - ***
The outfit and accessories on this guy are fantastic, which should be no surprise to anyone that's bought Ignite figures in the past.  I really like the head sculpt as well, although I think more attention to the paint would have really improved the appearance of both the head and hands.  I'm happy to see the unique hand sculpts, and the fatter body is a great addition.

But at $135, they're playing with some tough customers, including Medicom and Hot Toys.  I think they're accessories and outfits are in the same league in key areas, but the floppy joints, issues with the lack of skin paint, and some tailoring issues end up pulling him down from a higher score.

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

Where to Buy -
This figure is billed as a "European area" exclusive, but I'm not quite sure what that means. I know you can get it directly from Ignite for $135.

Related Links -
Ignite does historical sixth scale figures, and I've reviewed a fair number: 

- there's the Caesar Signifer, Vexillirius, Greek Hoplight, Viking Bowman, German Knight, Knight of Outremer, Crusader and Viking, Gladiator, and my favorite, the Napolean Guard.

- Dragon has also done some early warriors, including the barbarian Atilla and the viking Olaf.

- and of course Sideshow has their Vlad the Impaler from a similar time frame.

- and if you want to check out Ignite's upcoming product, hit their website for details.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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