Tomorrow King Heavy - Popbot
3A Toys

Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Jeff checks in tonight with a look at one of the very cool 3A figures - take it away, Jeff!

A big thank you to today’s King of Toys as we move swiftly along to a Tomorrow King, or a TK as they are lovingly known, from the POPBOT universe created by Ashley Wood.

Ashley Wood, no, not the golf course! I’m talking about the illustrator, comic artist and much in demand creative director, yes THAT Ashley Wood (AW).

He has been creating quite a stir over the last couple of years, not content with being an award winning illustrator (working on such illustrious titles as Judge Dredd, Tank Girl and Spawn) he decided to set up 7174 PTY LTD with his partner the writer TP Louise, who is not only his creative partner in the form of writing the back stories for his Popbot, WWR and Lore books, but also his wife and mother to his three kids.

7174 was set up as a way of keeping artistic control of the properties AW and his wife were creating, and so in 2008 they also joined forces with ThreeZero to create 3A. This new organisation is a Hong Kong (HK) based company that would focus on the development, manufacturing, promotion and distribution of merchandise based on the creative output of 7174.
It has to be said, every aspect of AW’s output is painfully cool, from his collected books of sketches and illustrations, limited edition prints, T’s to die for and of course right through to the ultra hip action figures. But with all that sub zero coolness comes the challenge, ah yes, there is always a catch.
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys

Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys

But what catch? Well, to get hold of the most desirable pieces of merchandise you need to sign up to one of their websites and wait patiently for newsletters and alerts, then be ready to order the moment they go on sale, this is because they ship most stuff direct from HK. Of course there are also official distributors out there, like for example for Europe. I’d like to give a big thank you to Wai Man of said company for sending me this figure to look over and review. He has managed to pop my Popbot cherry if you will, and I’m hugely grateful to him for doing so… now I finally get to see what all the fuss was about.

The character I’m looking at here is one of the Tomorrows Kings, he is one of a group of renegade clones that work as soldiers of fortune under the directorship of their creator Luthor Bean Jnr, they’re famed for there autistic nature which manifests itself in their compulsive behaviour shown in a devotion to duty and seeing a mission through to absolute completion. They are also infamous for being able to down warbots with nothing more than brute force and a razor sharp Katana, of course this task is helped in that they are very agile and have an incredibly high pain threshold.

Well, it’s one thing to be able to take on a lesser bot with a blade, but sometimes your bigger foes need the big guns bringing out.

And so here we are with Heavy TK Soh… the guy for the missions where a sword just don’t cut the mustard!

Packaging - ***1/2
Although they have exacting standards right across the board, 3A are still a relatively small company that have achieved a lot in a short time. And so this piece of packaging shows some top notch typography and is blessed with some of AW’s original art for the character, it is still a relatively no frills affair in terms of actual materials and construction. It’s a basic corrugated card slip on lid over a simple oblong bottom section. This holds a vac-formed plastic tray in which the figure lays held secure by two twisties, under this are two poly bags containing the bazooka and a shell in one plus another with the weathered military style Bergen in the other. To round the whole thing off there is a rather special folded large format litho print of the Heavy TK painting used on the front, it’s a bastard sized tall skinny format, meaning you’re going to need to buy a specially made frame. I have a feeling getting into 3A products could turn into an expensive and compulsive labour of love.

It’s funny, but as I’ll explain in the sculpting section I find a lot of the imagery used here and by AW in general is strangely familiar, and that also goes for the logotype. I was just sitting here looking at it when the penny dropped, the new 3A logo is so obviously inspired by the old classic Tamiya logo , a logo burnt into my mind by too many Saturday mornings spent trawling my local model shops. Ah, the joyous folly of a wasted youth!

Sculpting - ****
The Tomorrows King model of cloned cyber-bot is also known as the Elvis Ronin, and that title seems to be inspired by his final look, this particular model goes by the individual moniker of ‘Soh’. The facial characteristics here look like a very stylised mash up of Astro Boys hair over an Asian masked young Elvis Presley that has been sketched by Jamie Hewlett… if that makes any kind of sense. Which is a kind of strange connection, because since Hewlett stopped work on Tank Girl and went off to do the Gorillaz project with Albarn, AW picked up the reigns for a while, meaning that the TK here wouldn’t look out of place in the Gorillaz universe as well, their styles are very far from the same, but elements of their sensibilities cross over well.

The thing I’ve always admired about AW’s work is that when viewing it, it all feels familiar, comfortable, like pulling on a much-loved shirt. Even though it’s all original he borrows cues from images we are all familiar with. So when you see a painting from World War Robot you feel like you’ve seen it before in a dream or some old history book. The advance of the first cisterns in WW1 or the bloody battlefields of WW2 right through to the guerrilla warfare of Vietnam or even more recent conflicts in the Middle East.

But at it’s core, it is all very much of it’s own universe. The face is like a simple mask, showing asexual Eurasian characteristics; the features are so androgynous it’s virtually identical to the Tomorrows Queens (TQ) sculpt, in fact without holding her in hand I’m still not 100% sure if it isn’t the same sculpt, but the mouth does look a little softer and the cheeks a little fuller on the TQ. The hair as I said above has elements of Astro Boy, which AW has also painted in the past (busy boy). But instead of the two upright points of Astro, it has three rear ‘mangaesque’ quiffs looking not unlike directional fins on a torpedo. The hands are sculpted in large brown gloves, with what appears to be a folded back gauntlet; in fact these hands are one of my favourite elements of the sculpt as they show a great representation of the illustrative style, in fact they make me think of Hell Boy’s the Right Hand of Doom. There’s a lovely exaggerated fluidity to their form, and beautifully observed details on the seams and stitching. So, on face value (no pun intended) he looks like a simple straightforward character to produce, but as any sculptor will tell you, getting a minimalist, simple form to look right in it’s purity can prove a difficult task, but they got it just right here.

So a full score from me, because with AW ultimately being the creative director on the production of these, and him being the creator of the artworks they are based on, then who am I to tell him they are anything less than perfect.

Perfect Popbot pop art!

Paint - ***3/4
Like every other aspect of the Popbot universe and indeed the figures created to inhabit it, the paint apps are totally original, and I mean totally original as the hand applied weathering varies from one figure to the next, making these real ‘pop art’ pieces. These don’t pretend to be or even try to be like the über realistic paint apps we have been getting from the likes of Hot Toys or Enterbay. No, the base paint apps on these are far more graphic and crisp, but they are then weathered and dirtied up to help mimic the painterly, almost impressionistic style that AW often works in.

As such the base flesh tone is a flat colour with details picked out for the simple mouth and the line of the eyes. The hair is also a flat black tone, but it’s what is painted over these base colours that really sets them apart. It’s also interesting that the weathering and implied grime aren’t just limited to the head, hands and feet, every square inch of this guy has paint applied. Not only are all his clothes given a treatment of thick muddy/grey paints that turn to dust and rub off on your hands every time you pose him, but his entire body is also painted beneath the clothes to look like he is in severe need of a hot shower.

Ultimately this is a very ‘stylised’ figure, aimed at a particular kind of collector, one whose sensibilities aren’t too far from vinyl figures. Meaning that like some of the works of Eric So or Winson Ma it won’t appeal to everyone. But to those who it does… to those that ‘get it’, they are just beautiful!

Articulation - ****
I believe I’m right in thinking this is an all new body that 3A have developed, and it poses very well indeed. It’s not quite TT good, but its damn near. The shoulders don’t have the ability to shrug in and out but apart from that it all seems pretty solid with double knees and elbows and good tight joints throughout. I think these two cool fan films here and here by Nael Brun show better how well his articulation works than my words ever will (thanks to Gimbat over on the 3A boards for pointing these out to me). But rest assured, if you are a long-time fan of hi-end figures you’ll find all you have come to expect here, and it’s all put together beautifully.

Outfit – ****
Nothing to complain about here, everything fits well and looks great. He comes wearing a long sleeved red T with white piping down the arms and an illustration of a pair of walking legs by AW on the front (no, I don’t know either, but it’s a striking image), while the back bears the logo for Funlicker, the Punk band fronted by Kitty ("Kitty is a pop star cat with a penchant for cheap prostitutes and groupies and spending money that isn't his," to quote AW directly) In fact you can find a few pointers to the Popbot universe in this interview with AW here.

He also comes in a pair of cargo/combat trousers, these have working pockets and zips throughout, they hang on the figure well with a baggy loose fit. The thick cotton used here does slightly hamper the articulation of the legs, but only for your more extreme poses. For general standing, squatting and kneeling poses they work just fine. Around his waist he as a black webbing belt with a clip buckle, from this hang four khaki pouches or varying sizes and proportions, all with working clasps or velcro tabs.

Lastly there are his shoes, these are white and orange with a good deep tread on the sole, they’re formed like a cross between wet shoes and trainers and push directly onto the ball of the foot post. This is a nice tight connection meaning some good extreme, deep poses can be achieved as long as you can find his centre of gravity. A feat that can prove much more challenging when he’s holding the huge ‘anti-bot’ bazooka and wearing the Bergen on his back, but with perseverance I even managed to get him in a high kicking pose on one leg ‘WITH’ the Bergen on.

As I mentioned in the paint section all the clothing here is highly weathered and aged. It’s a truly awesome job, making him look like he’s knelt in sump oil, rolled in a ditch and slept in a chicken shed… but sadly he smells like it too! (but more on that in the ‘Fun Factor’ section)

Accessories - ***
This TK comes with a hugely detailed military style Bergen covered in working pockets and zips, a huge bazooka, a massive shell for said bazooka and lastly a large format, folded lithograph of the box art, ideal for framing should you want (but remember to iron it gently between two sheets of brown paper before you do so!).

Both the bazooka and shell are solid sculpted items, it’s a bit of a shame the bazooka isn’t hollow so you could put the shell inside, and a little more detail on the sight scope would have been nice as well. I feel this should have either been hollow or had small lenses put at the ends to mask the ugly seam that runs right down the middle of the eyehole at both ends. However the texturing and paint weathering are so nicely applied to these items it kind of ‘almost’ makes up for it.

The Bergen is based on military models that use the BOLLE system, but I’m happy that here they have used velcro straps for ease of application on all the modular pouches. I’ve threaded enough 1/6th BOLLE webbing straps in my time to quite appreciate it being done for me straight out of the box here. You’ll find it’s quite a squeeze getting the straps over his broad shoulders, but with patience and gentle tweaking you’ll get it all into place just fine. And once it is in place the layering of the long magazine pouches hanging over the belt makes Soh here, look pretty bad ass!

Value - ***3/4
This is on sale for £74.99 ($110) at onesixthbruce, and I can’t seem to find any US distributors with him in stock, and certainly none amongst Michael’s sponsors, well except Sideshow, but they sold out. The eBay route seems to have a swing between $110 to $150 a pop (bot), which for a hand painted, limited run figure of this quality seems like a more than fair price. However, had he come with a slightly more detailed weapon and perhaps even a Katana as well, then he’d have got top spot in the blink of an eye!

Fun Factor - ***1/2
Damn, this guy is definitely fun… but it’s made me realise I just gotta have a bot to go with him… and a TQ would be pretty sweet as well. But then that would be enough… then I wouldn’t need any more… Who am I kidding!

I can sense already that this is going to be as addictive as opium, oh and that brings me onto the smell. I only mentioned the smell briefly in the ‘outfit’ section, so let me explain!

If you do pick this guy up make sure you open him in a well ventilated area as HE STINKS. I’m pretty sure it’s the paints used here on the weathering that make the heady aroma, but be warned, the wall of industrial stench that will hit your olfactory senses when you do break the seal can be pretty overpowering!

Overall - *** 3/4
For some reason these figures have people divided, the fanatics defending any criticism as if the ‘avant-garde’ arena they reside in is beyond the comprehension of other lesser mortals. While others attack them for being over stylised and ‘unscrupulously’ marketed (much like some designer vinyl) to make their ‘manufactured’ rarity part of their elusive appeal.

Well, I’m in neither camp. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be slightly pretentious, hell most of the worlds best art has come from people ahead of the game considered by their peers to be ‘pretentious’ purely because they chose to think and work in a way that wasn’t the norm, and since when was clever viral marketing a crime, c’mon we all love us some exclusive cool sh*t!

I guess what I’m saying is, these are just out there in the world to be enjoyed, if you don’t enjoy them move on. But it’s also worth noting that they are no ‘cooler’ than say ‘The Dead’ line by Sideshow… unless you choose to make them cooler in your head!

That said, I do ‘personally’ find the finished figure, when posed well on the shelf to be ‘achingly cool’, but I’m still not sure if it ‘is’ cool… or if I just think it is?

So, if a Warbot falls over in the midst of a battle, and no clones or cats are there to hear it fall… does it still make a noise?

Where to Buy -
As I have pointed out, these are very rarely the kinds of things you can stroll into a store and pick up off the shelf… unless you have some damn cool stores near you! 

In fact it’s not even that easy to get these on line at that many places, I couldn’t find him with any of Mikes sponsors except Sideshow who had him for $119.99, but you guessed it, he has sold out!

Mine was supplied by Wai Man @, and he still has a few in stock (at least he did when I wrote this). Other that that you can always try a search with Google, or chance your arm on eBay.

However you can sign up at Bambaland where you’ll get alerts as to what is available, when and how much it will be… if you can be bothered. 

I guess the response to that will be roughly 50/50… but remember, it’s a hobby… ENJOY!

Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys
Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys

Popbot Tomorrow King Heavy action figure by 3A Toys

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

This page copyright 2000 - 2010, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour