6 Faces of Madness
Billy the Kid, Vlad the Impaler, Rasputin


Mcfarlane Toys likes to cross lines.  They've done it with their sculpting and design.  They've done it with their subject matter.  Repeatedly.

So it's no surprise that they've crossed another line with their latest release of Monsters - 6 Faces of Madness.  Whether they should or shouldn't have is up to you - like art, these figures can be judged in many ways.

But what line?  Ah, these are real killers, not imaginary boogie men.  The lineup this time includes Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Bathory, Attila the Hun, Billy the Kid, Vlad the Impaler, and Rasputin.  I've gotten the last three so far, so those are the ones I'll be reviewing tonight.

First, a little background on who each of the characters are that I'm reviewing tonight:

- Billy the Kid.  Young gunfighter, rumored to have killed over 20 men, daring escape, most people think he looks an awful lot like Emilio Estevez.  Sideshow has already produced the museum quality version of this figure.  And I'm not joking - my Sideshow Billy the Kid is currently on display with the National Museum of Australia in a traveling exhibit called 'Outlawed!'.

" how am I going to pick that up."

"I love these Martha Stewart recipes!"

- Vlad the Impaler.  Vlad was a mean dude, impaling perhaps hundreds of thousands of people during his reign over Wallachia.  He's the guy that Dracula was supposedly based upon.  Interestingly enough, Sideshow has also already done a sixth scale version of him (reviewed here).

- Rasputin. Known as the 'mad monk', he was buds with the Czar of Russia.  Or more importantly, the Czar's wifey-poo, while he was off battling armies.  He was a lecherous, foul, scheming fake religious zealot, with a lot of power since he was sleeping around with most of the Russian noble women.  But it was a bad time for power in Russia, and conspirators killed him.  His claim to fame is that they had to poison, shoot and beat him before he'd finally die.

Okay, so I've been more long winded than usual - it's okay, because I have a lot of photos too.  But I wanted to bring up the subject of the Faces of Madness before I jump into the review, since it's been such a hot topic of discussion.

First, I'd like to say I'm thankful these aren't 'tortured'.  I'm not sure if it's Clive Barker's influence or not, but it seems like every non-Spawn, non-licensed line in the last couple years has been some form of S&M homage, heavy on the M.  Even here we see Rasputin involved with self mutilation and Billy the Kid wearing barbed wire on his leg, but it's not as excessive as we've seen in the past.

Second, I'm not sure what Todd was really going for with this line.  Clearly he wanted well known names that didn't cost him anything. But why pick these six? Jack the Ripper and Elizabeth Bathory fit the profile of serial killers.  Both were clearly insane.  Atilla the Hun and Vlad the Impaler are leaders in war, both very cruel (particularly to their enemies), but perhaps only insane by our current standards of social conduct.  Billy the Kid is just your average kid-gone-bad, with a heavy dose of western myth behind him.  And Rasputin?  The guy was a sleazeball, but maybe all he needed was an intervention.  Hey, he got one, Russian nobility style.

At the end of the day, I think it simply comes down to the idea that Todd thought these six people had cool potential as figures, and threw them together under a general heading, similar to the Movie Maniacs.  Is it a bad thing that they're real people?  Well, hopefully this doesn't mean that a Dahmer or Gacy figure are next, but with these six, they've become more myth than reality.  And with that, it's on to the real review.

Packaging - ****
I'm giving them four stars on the clamshells!  What the hell happened?  It's simple - the thing I've complained about has been corrected, at least for this line.

Yes, I love clamshells - easy to store, very sturdy, show off the figure, yadda yadda yadda.  But McToys never adds any sort of text to the inserts. But this time we do get a rather short, but at least somewhat informative, explanation of each of these characters.  Is it really worth a whole four stars?  Well, it might be stretching it, but I figure you have to reward someone for trying.

Sculpting - Billy ****; Rasputin ***; Vlad **
Let's face it - McToys always have amazing, detailed sculpts.  But I'm also including the design and style here, and that's where two of these take a hit.

Billy is not intended to look like Billy.  I don't have a problem with that.  Nothing wrong with going the 'interpretation' route. However, the interpretation you come up with the viewer has to like - they still have the privilege of disagreeing with your vision.

In the case of Billy, I like the vision for the most part.  The sculpted stance looks great, and the outfit - hat, jacket, pants, boots, shirt - all look very realistic.

My biggest complaint here is the sculpted weapons that are glued into various parts of his outfit.  There's a knife in one boot, a tomahawk (woefully underscale) in another, and a derringer (the only good looking one) and meat cleaver (meat cleaver?) tucked in his ammo belts.

The cleaver makes no sense - what, he's doing a little butcher work on the side? - but that's not the biggest problem it has.  All these accessories are sculpted from very soft rubber to avoid breakage, but that means that if they don't fit well, they bend at odd angles.  That's what's happened with the cleaver, with the handle bent out at an odd angle, and the blade warped.  How realistic can it possibly look?  You may want to cut it out of there completely.

Rasputin has another amazingly detailed sculpt, but I'm less thrilled with the interpretation of the character.  I can really do without another 'hang myself from by back fat' figure.  It wasn't that great the first time, and now 3 or 4 times later, it's getting old.  It's second only to peg legs as the most overused cliché at this point.

Still, the base is extremely cool, with lots of vials, beakers and flasks.  The spikes are soft rubber again though, making them warp and turn at odd angles, hurting the realistic nature of the sculpt.

BTW, the head sculpt actually looks a fair amount like the photos I've seen of Rasputin.  However, I suppose having him in a drunken orgy was probably not the direction they wanted to go, and so stretched the truth even further with this character.

Vlad is another highly detailed, painstakingly complex sculpt.  It really is astounding how much detail they can put into the armor, boots, and helmet.

But I think Vlad is the best example of where you can cross a line from cool to merely sadistic.  Let's compare this figure to Attilla, also in this series.  While his sculpt shows carnage and battle, it's him over his foes in a square up fight.  Here we see Vlad at his worst, spiking some poor peasant trapped in a cage in the ground.  Sure, he's got bulging muscles, but do you really need them to attack a person trapped in a cage?  While this type of sadism isn't as obvious perhaps as the style of some other figures, it's insidiousness is all the more disturbing.

Paint - ****
There's not a hair out of line on any of these three figures.  Some of the blood is done better than others, but for the most part it's realistic and avoids 'slop it around, I'm sure it will look good' syndrome.

As usual, there's plenty of use of various washes, and it all works here.  There's also a much wider color palette than we've seen in some Mcfarlane lines, giving the characters much more visual appeal.  They've done a nice job mixing various finishes too, using matte and gloss paints in all the right places.

Articulation - *
If you thought these were going to be highly articulated, you'll be extremely disappointed.  If you were expecting plastic statues, than the weak showing in this category will effect your overall impressions far less.

I was pretty surprised to realize Billy has the most articulation with eight points - neck, both shoulders, both wrists, both boot tops, and a cut joint on the right arm.  There's not a lot of use though with most of the joints, with very restricted movement.

Rasputin comes in second with seven points.  He has neck, one shoulder, both wrists, both legs, and waist.  Again, there's not much point to most of the joints, although the wrists/arms joints do allow you to position the beaker and test tube just right.

Vlad has the least, and he's definitely as close to statue as you can possibly get.  He has six points - waist, both wrists, one boot top, and both cut arms.  He's designed to hold one position, and that's it.  He's also a rarity in that he has no neck articulation.

Accessories - Billy, Rasputin ****; Vlad ***
For Billy and Rasputin, the accessories are outstanding.  With Vlad, they aren't bad, but not nearly the level of complexity or quantity.  That doesn't mean all is perfect though, as some crucial items are missing.

Billy comes with some weapons that are separate as well as those that I already mentioned that are glued in.  He has two rifles, one of which is a converted handgun.  The latter fits in one of the four sheaths on his back.  There's also a large knife that fits in another of these sheaths, but the second rifle does not fit well in any of them.  The sculpts on both guns are extremely nice.

The big accessory here is the coffin.  Again, they take liberties to make it look more interesting, since nobody makes a coffin out of rotted, old wood.  This one looks like it's been in the ground for years, although the body is mighty fresh.

And the body is the final touch.  Here's a guy that didn't fair well in his face off with Billy, and has the wounds to prove it.  The sculpt is appropriately gruesome, and he reminds me of the old tintypes of the times of the dead outlaw leaning against the wall of the sheriff's office for all to see.

But not all is perfect with Billy - where the hell are his handguns?  He has two holsters, clearly designed to hold them.  He has a right hand sculpted specifically to dangle over the handle of one.  They are even pictured on the packaging in the holster. Yet they are missing.  It's not that big of a mystery - there is a collector's club exclusive planned of a whole bunch of accessories for these figures, and I'm betting that's where Billy's guns ended up.

Vlad has the fewest accessories of the bunch.  You could consider the severed heads on his belt I suppose - and they do look great - but they are permanently attached.  There's also his wooden pike, that fits nicely into his sculpted hands.  There's his huge broadsword that fits into his sheath, and has an amazingly cool hilt.  You can get it to work with the hand sculpt as well, but since the right hand is sculpted closed, you'll have to cut it at the fingers to get it to fit.  And finally, there's the aforementioned base, complete with bloody hand reaching up out of a pit of blood, begging for mercy and finding none.  Ignoring my dislike of the theme, the hand is the weakest aspect of the base due to it's paint job.  It's solid red, with no sign of flesh color.  Even coming up out of a pool of the stuff, the blood would still be running off the hand, showing the skin underneath.  Instead, this looks like Vlad managed to trap a Martian.

And speaking of that collector's club pack of accessories, there's a peg hole in Vlad's base, ready to accept some sort of additionally post/severed head piece.

Rasputin has his base, the biggest accessory of the bunch. All the lab equipment is attached to the base, so you won't loose any of it, but you can't reposition it either.  There are also six rats included, some dead, some not, to place in a variety of ways around the lab.

'Putin himself has several hooks in his back, all tied together with a rope.  This rope loops over the top of the base, hanging him in the air.  The base seems sturdy enough to hold him up for an extended time without the dreaded droop.

Fun Factor - Billy **; Vlad, Rasputin Bupkis
These aren't 'fun' toys.  And for the most part, they aren't the kind of thing you want your kids playing around with. The sadism of Vlad and masochism of Rasputin is probably something you'll want them to learn on the streets when they're teenagers.

Billy might be suited for a pre-teen, if they are big fans of western lore.  Of the entire series, he's most likely to pass basic inspection by the morality police.

Value - Billy, Rasputin ***1/2; Vlad ***
.At ten bucks each, these are a great value.  Vlad doesn't have the level of big accessories that the other two do, so he's not quite as good, but he's still above average.

Overall - Billy ****; Rasputin ***1/2; Vlad **1/2
The detail work on these figures sets them apart from the average.  So does the subject matter, but that's nothing new for McToys.

Whether you appreciate the subject matter or not, you can't argue with the sculpt, paint and accessories.  I'm not fond of the sadistic stylings of Vlad, so he's my least favorite of the bunch, but that is very much dictated by my personal preferences.  Likewise, I think Billy is the best of the bunch, but I'm a huge fan of western figures in general.  I'm thankful that he didn't end up with a peg leg and hooks in his back.

Where to Buy - 
Stores that carried the previous Monsters lines should have these, like Media Play or Sam Goody. On-line:

- Killer Toys was nice enough to send these along for me to review, and has them available for $10 each or a case for $105.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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