Hellboy and Abe Sapien
From Hot 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."

Guest reviewer extraordinaire Jeff Parker checks in tonight with his look at the Hot Toys Hellboy II figures. I gave my once over on this excellent pair a little while ago, and now it's Jeff's turn - take it away, Jeff!

Hellboy, Hellboy, Hellboy so good they reviewed him thrice! But when something is this good, you just gotta indulge people… especially manic 1/6th plastic crack addicts!

Like Starsky and Hutch, Butch and Sundance or Laurel and Hardy just about everybody is enhanced when working next to a partner. OK, OK, I admit Big Red and Abe haven’t exactly captured the zeitgeist of the masses in the same way as some of the afore mentioned, but to any collectors out there who are fans of the second movie, then these are a much needed update on Sideshows earlier offerings. They were pretty impressive for the time, but a lot has happened in the last five years and now everybody’s favourite demon is back with his aquatic side kick displaying levels of detail we couldn’t’ have dreamed of back when we first got those figures.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been sensing a change in attitude towards 1/6th collecting over the last year, the quality is obviously improving, but it seems to be growing up, or perhaps evolving. It’s getting easier to see the pieces we buy, and hopefully ‘invest’ in becoming ‘pop art’, as the ‘artists’ who create them become increasingly well known… at least in certain circles.

I’ve been a fan of 1/6 figures for more years than I care to mention, if you include those lost afternoons engrossed in playing with my Action Man figures in my back yard as a kid, then it’s well over 35 years.

So, taking something of a leap forward, in the mid 90’s I rediscovered my muse, as Hasbro decided to re-boot their Star Wars licence,
Then, shortly after that I discovered Sideshow via the first Karloff Frankenstein’s monster, my wife bought it for me in London, the quality was a world away from the stuff I was used to, and I was hooked!

I started finding websites with incredibly detailed, customised figures, mostly these were one off’s, but occasionally… just occasionally they were available to buy.

The fact is, that apart from being toys, apart from being collectibles and apart from being a hi-end 1/6th dolls, some of these figures were slowly emerging as ART pieces, and demanding prices to prove it!

Now, I freely admit we are talking ‘POP’ art, as most of these were produced in incredibly small runs, but the love and attention to detail lavished on these figures elevated them far beyond the status of mere toys!

I’m sure many of the regular readers here, especially those into 1/6th will be familiar with the work displayed on the e-ureka website where some of the worlds top 1/6th artists parade their impressive wares.
The only trouble was the ‘custom’ pieces on display were made in such small numbers and to such a high quality control that they often had prices far, far beyond the reach of your average collector… but here’s where the wind is changing.

We already have the masterful Yuli turning out her jaw dropping sculpts for HT, and the ever impressive Arnie Kim producing top class work for Enterbay. However, Enterbay recently also commissioned the fantastic artist YJ Park to create their two ‘24’ figures, and now we also have Hot Toys commissioning Hiroki Hayashi, one of the worlds most respected female figure sculptors to bring Scarlett Johansen to life in all her 1/6 glory, then they have the grandmaster Kojun working on their John Connor from the new Terminator: Salvation movie and also the incredible Ishikawa figure from Goemon. And now, to top it all off, Hot Toys have also secured Gorae (SH Kim) to bring his hitherto virtually unobtainable Hellboy to a much wider audience (I coveted his original custom figure with poseable eyes for so long… but could never ‘personally’ justify the price!). We also have more of Pan Mak’s amazing work on display here with Abe Sapiene, Pan’s the guy that ‘s been behind pretty much all the Hot Toys Predators so far, and he shows an incredible eye for detail on aliens and creatures!
Now, I have all three of the original Sideshow (SS) Hellboy's released back in 2004, and I still have a lot of respect for them based on the time they were released, especially as Sideshow seemed to have quite a special relationship with the movies production at the time.

But times, and indeed quality have moved forward greatly since then, in fact quality has taken such a leap that the old SS Hellboy's, when compared to this new HT version looks akin to the difference I first noticed between them and Hasbro back when I first got SS Frankenstein’s monster.

But now onto the matter at hand, here we have Ron Perlman reprising his role as the titular Hellboy (HB), a part, it could be argued he was born to play, lets face it, even with all those facial prosthetics it couldn’t be anyone else (OK, maybe Ted Danson!).

We also have Abe Sapiene played by Doug Jones, though it has to be said it could be anyone’s face under there… what we see here is 100% Abe Sapien.

Guillermo del Torro was rightly back on directorial duties handling the sequel, for all the faults the first movie had… and lets face it … there were a few, it was more than made up for by the love, and attention to detail that were evident in every single frame of that first outing!

For me, personally The Golden Army (TGA) was a far more rewarding cinematic experience than It’s predecessor. Not only was the story more engaging, but the visual aspects were also much deeper in their realisation.

I actually feel a tinge of sadness for the movie, I loved it, I really did, and think it was a bit lost in a year that gave us Ironman, Hulk, Indy and Batman. These were all movies embraced (well, mostly) by the fans, and which all scored far better box office, which is a shame as TGA was a truly well thought through, fully realised project. The scenes in the Troll Market were so impressive, it could have been the new ‘Cantina’… but at the end of the day not enough people saw it for it to enter into the collective psyche… shame!

But whatever one thought of the movie, it was a work of cinematic purity, showcasing what an auteur del Torro is, and lets face it why else would he have been hand chosen by Jackson to direct The Hobbit… the guy has vision, a trait sadly lacking in many of the ‘jobbing’ directors for hire that have become the ‘sad’ flavour du jour in Hollywood these days. 

Packaging -
The imagery and colour palette for the movie was, rich, sumptuous and at times quite bizarre, so its fitting that the box is evocative of this in its rich reds and gold’s, showing the mechanical cogs and machinery Del Torro is so infamous for.

We get the traditional slip over sleeve with plenty of pics of the figures on the back and sides, while the front has a big close up photo of the characters face with some nicely embossed graphics. Inside we get a flap fronted 5-panel box, again with a wealth of photos and a brief bio. Inside is the tray covered with a double layer of transparent vac-formed plastic acetate, both are held secure buy 5 twisties, and lie beside their weapons and alternate hands. Taped to the back of the tray are their stands and an instruction sheet about the limitations of the new muscle body/how to fit the breathing apparatus, I’d recommend you take note of these as HB is quite unique in his functionality!

So, two nice boxes from HT yet again, but not up there with their very best work… still way above average though!

Sculpting - ****

Gorae’s work on Hellboy is already legendary amongst many hardcore 1/6 collectors, and for good reason it is simply masterful. As I said, I still like my old SS HB’s ahelluvalot… but this is just perfection. 

Starting with the head, it’s like a little facsimile of Perlman in character, it captures his heavy brow, steely gaze, and with the high pointy ears, determined lips and sawn off horns it just sums the character up so well. Gorae's original custom figure had real hair, this one is sculpted, but sculpted very well, and in the long term I think this will fair much better. This is a new head sculpt, it’s not just a repedalling of the old ‘custom classic’, in fact this is even better than that version, showing just how much Gorae’s work has improved! Then, working down, we then have a new fully developed HB body, this has some wonderful skin texturing and a thick-set muscle tone (the pectoral area actually looks more natural here than on the prosthetic Perlman wore on set, but I think this is to add more authenticity to his final look). We then have his decorative body scaring on the right shoulder, his tail and of course the Right Hand Of Doom (RHOD). This body looks fantastic, but like other muscle bodies its range of articulation is very limited compared to a regular True Type (TT), after reading the articulation instructions, and having played about with it for a while, I certainly wouldn’t want to push it too far, and it seems even more limited than either the Dutch, Billy, Rocky III or Krauser from RE 4, who are the only other ‘muscle’ bodies I own, but more on that in articulation. The RHOD is observed very nicely, it has a great stone like texture and the glyphs and carvings covering it are fantastic for the scale. The way it’s all sculpted also helps disguise where all the articulation is concealed and as far as the size goes, it looks pretty spot on… but Gorae has done this all before, so what did you expect?

Now for all the love I’m lavishing on that Gorae sculpt, and for all the anticipation I had for it, I was surprised to find Abe just managing to overtake him for my affections. I never actually bought the SS Abe, it looked nice(ish), but at the time he didn’t scream ‘buy me’ in the way HB did. To be honest I would imagine some might feel the same way this time around, but tread carefully; you might just miss an absolute gem!
Pan Mak proved he had a great eye for detail on the Predators and he continues to shine here. In many ways you could say Abe is an easier subject, but that would do him a huge disservice as the details on the face with his wide eyes, domed head and gills is fantastic. The head and neck have been done as two separate pieces, with the neck in effect being a rubber/silicone sheath that goes right down to the shoulders, under this is a specially designed solid neck post which the solid head ‘snaps’ onto. These two elements fit together perfectly and the engineering construction means has just about the best articulation at the neck since the AvP Alien. The arms have specially sculpted sleeves that fit tightly and cover all the visible joints apart from the wrists. He also has four unique hands showing his webbed fingers. He comes with the two relaxed hands fitted, but also has an extra right gun grip hand, and a fingers splayed ‘psychic reading’ hand for the left. 

So in summing up the sculpting, on HB I was hugely impressed, I just hope my photos and links can convey how cool it looks. But the RHOD and face are breathtaking, you’ll find the biggest dilemma is, do I leave the coat off to show the amazing work on the body, or do I leave it covered to show off the cool coat? 

Abe doesn’t have the instant visual impact that HB does, this is partly due to HB’s imposing frame, but it’s also because he’s bright red, Abe is the Yin to his Yang, taller, willowier and in cool blue tones. He needs closer scrutiny to pick up on all his many sublime details, but if you take the time to drink them all in you will b greatly rewarded.

I’m hoping for a follow up HB…. Maybe even a DX to encompass both movies.

We could have the broken stone sword, bandolier of bombs, alternate ‘horny’ head, his black shirt, a couple of cats, some cigars, some beers and of course the moving eyes. And I have to say, as much as I love this body, it’s more of a semi poseable statue from the waist up, so I’d love a re-developed HB TT under the black shirted version so we could get some more dynamic deep poses.

But purely from a visual aspect, the sculpting is an easy full score on both of these for me, outstanding!

Paint - Hellboy ***3/4; Abe ****
Hell boy is red… that’s about it, but don’t let that make you think they’ve taken an easy route. There is still a beautiful subtlety to the work on his eyes and the work on his hair and the slight change in tonal values on his mouth and facial lines is carried out fantastically well. There are also what appear to be some washes applied to the RHOD so as to pick out the engraving and glyphs that cover it. 

Lastly his accessorise are also very detailed, the Samaritan, belt-buckle and Big Baby have multiple areas picked out, with the decal on the Big Baby handle being a great touch, superbly detailed.

Abe on the other hand has some incredibly tight detailing. The blue mottling and paternation on his head is beautifully carried out, the subtle work on the blue graduations of the main skin tone set a marvellous canvas for all the superfine details like the cracked egg-shell effect and the wavy lines that trail back to the dark blue/grey at the top of the head. Then you have the contrast of the salmon toned gills and lower cheeks which are defined beautifully. The mouth is picked out in pink even showing a small flash of his teeth within. But the stand out detail is the eyes. These have a very complex paint app, with super… and I MEAN superfine detail work on the tiny yellow dots circling his pupils and fine dark blue veins running over the surface of the eyeball, I just hope I can get my camera to focus on the fine details. He also has some great work on his hands, and the rubber sleeves that cover the arms blending from white to blue with darker blue airbrushed stripes. Suffice to say JC Hong has done it again, and in this category Abe manages to steal HB’s cigar, it’s just a shame Red didn’t come with one as an accessory!

Articulation  - Hellboy **3/4, Abe ***1/2
Well, Hellboy has a pretty unique physiology… he’s built like brick outhouse, has a massive right paw and a tail, so lets face it, a basic True-Type would never suffice. 

So, as is the HT ethos, if the necessary body isn’t available to pull off the shelf they just create a new one. The sculpting has already been described above, and beneath that rubber body is an armature incorporating a series of joints and wires. The head can turn and tilt to the sides (but only a little) at the top of the neck, the shoulders can move forward by about 50 degrees and back by about 35, they can move up away from his sides in two ‘clicked’ ratcheted positions to a full 90 degrees, the elbows feel like it’s a thick wire inside, so I wouldn’t want to bend them repeatedly, but you can get a good 90 degree bend from them. The hands have the usual mobility, even the RHOD is well articulated at the wrist, and both the alternate hands swap out very easily.

From the hips down you get all the articulation you’re used to on a TT with the addition of a poseable tail, only hampered slightly by his thick leather (well, pleather) trousers, there’s a small degree of movement where the legs disappear into the boots, but that’s it.

However, you can still get some very cool poses, and some have even managed to coax the crouching poster pose out of him pretty convincingly… I managed it, but not convincingly!

Abe comes off much better in this category; he appears to be ‘mostly’ on a slim TT with modified arms. The feet are in effect his boots, with quite a hi-top so the ankle articulation is all but gone, but from there up the legs have the whole shebang, double knees ball jointed hips carrying up to the waist and mid torso joints. Then we get the usual TT universal shoulder joint, the specially developed upper arms still have the ability to twist inwards, but mine were pretty stiff, so take care in freeing them up. Then the elbow, no double joint here but you can still bend to 90 degrees easily. The wrists have the usual TT joint so they can achieve pretty much any angle. Lastly we get the specially engineered neck, but I went over that above. So you’ll get a much more diverse range of poses from Abe, he’s still not perfect, but is far, far better than I imagined, as when I first saw the proto's I thought he would have rubber arms.

Outfit - ****
For this outing HB has gone for a more informal look, but his limited wardrobe is still carried out very well. Firstly we get his built up ‘Frankenstein’ boots, as lets face it Perlman isn’t a huge guy, he’s credited with being between 6’ to 6’1” depending on where you look on the internet where as Doug Jones is  6’4”(officially the best height to be!). The HB figure stands 11 inches so is a whisker short for perfect 1/6 scale, but in the movie Abe is a good few inches taller, so I’m pretty happy with their respective heights when standing next to each other. 

The thing is for a ‘movie’ based figures, this is all good, but if you are a fan of Mignola’s comic book version then you always expect Red to be more of a man mountain, but this is the ‘Movie Masterpiece Series’ so there you go!

HB’s leather trousers are beautifully tailored and stitched, but the thickness of the material used does make them appear slightly bulky, it’s not a big distraction and is only evident when he’s without the coat, when fully kitted (which is how mine will be displayed) he looks just fine. I’m not going to try and strip him down as the belt is fitted so well, I’d fear never getting it to look as good again. The detail on this belt is astounding; to be honest I’d be interested to compare it to the SS Premium Format as this is handled so well.

The buckle works perfectly, and the communicator slots on well too. All six of the pouches are working with tiny push-in clasps, as is the holster for the Samaritan, lastly there’s the rosary constructed with real chains, tiny beads and a crucifix.

But I’ve saved the best for last, his coat! This fits the figure like a dream and is constructed like a fully realised, but scaled down, version of the real thing. It’s fully lined, has working pockets, perfectly scaled buttons and functioning buckles on the tiny pleather straps for the right sleeve and collar. It even has the tiny shamrock and embossed BPRD patch on the left sleeve. If you buy this figure planning to display him topless… you’ll find it a tough call, as this is a classy piece of shmutter!

Abe’s attire is more formal, but still eminently functional as well. He has military style, mid calf lace up boots over his tight neoprene style trousers, these have a long seam that goes up from the middle of the front shin sweeping up around the knee and around to the back, this traverses a working scaled zip that runs up the side of both legs, but the seam still matches up perfectly. On his top half he wears a short sleeved semi-padded neoprene shirt, this again has some incredibly well observed details, like the inverted ‘V’ shaped seams and the tiny working buckles up the sides and on the shoulders. It has his name badge on the right chest panel and a series of circular pressure couplings on both the back and front, and like Red he has a BPRD patch on his left arm.

Lastly he has a multi pocketed utility belt, which, again like his partners has all functional and opening pouches, along side a holster for his gun, this has the fastener on the inside, which was a nicely observed detail, we see Liz (who wears the same design) flip hers open in the movie, this makes closing it again a job for the tweezers, but perfectly doable. It also bears the same buckle and communicator as sported by Red. 

The whole thing fits like a dream and even though skin tight it’s no where near as restrictive as I imagined it would be, meaning I must admit to having much more fun setting up and playing with Abe over HB, he’s just so cool to pose!

Accessories - ****
To be fair, when Sideshow first released their 1/6 HB, the Samaritan that came with him was fantastic. It opened, the barrel could spin and the bullets were removable. So HT had to pull off a real doozy to trump it, and they have managed it, but only just, and by fine-tuning what came before. The detailing here is slightly finer and the bullets are better but it’s a close run race. However where this release shines is the inclusion of ol’ Red’s ‘Big Baby’. It’s kind of a cross between a shotgun, a blunderbuss with a bit of hand held elephant canon thrown in for good measure. It is replicated here beautifully, The finger guard cocking lever can pull open and the hammer at the rear can be pulled back as well, the barrel flips forward to show the chambers into which the individual shells can be placed (each one is engraved at the end with ‘suck on this’), sadly the wind-up key at the back doesn’t work, but the leatherette strap with its working buckle and clips is so well done it more than compensates. We also get the classic HT stand, but I could get him to stand just fine, so for me at least, that’s a moot point!

Abe isn’t quite in HB’s arena when it comes to packing heat, he comes with a simple pistol, but the details are still well observed, it has a sliding cocking mechanism and a removable magazine. But just because he doesn’t have the firepower of Red, don’t mean he’s lacking too badly either. He also comes with a beautifully put together toilet seat… sorry, it’s quite obvious it’s a breathing apparatus! And a great little pair of Goggles that actually stay on his face by magic… well there might be a magnet hidden in there, but it certainly looks like magic. Both these items have loads of beautifully observed details, but the glass effect areas with mimicked liquid inside look just fantastic. To fit him into the breathing rig, you just unzip his shirt enough to slip the rubber collar over his neck, once in position you zip it up again. Nowplace the slir rig over the nexk and pop the head back on. Once all is in position you’ll see two small metal wires hnging down behind, these have to be inserted into  two small metal eyelets on the back of the shirt. These both secure and support it when positione correctly. All these fine details coupled with some outstanding paint apps make Abe's goodies just as impressive as Reds, well to me anyway, the only thing missing, which would have been cool, is the section of golden crown he carries in the movie to save Princess Nuala , but everything else is here! 

Fun Factor - Hellboy ***3/4; Abe ****
I’ve said before, but I might as well reiterate, when I score in ‘fun factor’ I base my mark on how much I enjoy just having the product on my shelf, these hi-end figures are not meant to be ‘played’ with. However an ability to pose convincingly is always a bonus, and in that arena Abe takes the top spot, but only by a gnats whisker, as with a little work HB can still pose very, very well. 

Truth be told Abe might look a little lost without Red by his side, whereas Red could quite happily hold his own on any shelf, but they do make a striking duo if you decide to go the whole hog!

Value - ***1/4
Sideshow had these up for $164.99 and both are long sold out. If you shopped around you may have got them for nearer $150, if so I’d be tempted to give them another half star, I really like them that much. For the price you are paying, both show a lot of unique elements, their own set of problems have been solved on both and what you end up with is two very strong figures, both deserving consideration for figure of the tear… but what a year it’s proving to be. Next week I’m expecting my HT Godfather and original Predator, and with new figures from Go Hero and Enterbay due to land in the next few weeks there seems to be an ever growing number of amazing 1/6th figures vying for our attention, and more importantly our money. So we’re all gonna have to think long and hard about what lines are most important to us, but if you’re a Hellboy fan these are just too peachy to let go by.

Overall - ***1/2
Hot Toys just keep pumping out jaw dropping figures one after another, and these sure don’t buck the trend, both have outstanding sculpts and beautifully constructed outfits. So the only negatives holding them back are price (which isn’t excessive, but it shows the hi-end creeping up again), and the lack of articulation on HB from the waist up. Apart from that I think they are pretty amazing, and I’m surprised at just how much I’m liking Abe, I mean, I always new I’d like him, but I didn’t expect to like him more than Red… which if push comes to shove, I have to admit I kind of do. Red has more of an instant impact on the shelf as I said, but now I can’t imagine him without his partner.

Packaging - ***1/4
Sculpt - ****
Paint - Hellboy *** 3/4; Abe ****
Articulation - Hellboy **3/4; Abe ***1/2
Accessories - ****
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - Hellboy *** 3/4; Abe ****
Value - ***1/4
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
I did find Abe with two of Michael’s sponsors, but HB is only available at one, and his price is creeping higher and higher on eBay with a range between $159.99 and $228.99. Abe hasn’t hit those highs yet, but you’re still looking at between $139.99 and $200.

I can’t say I’m surprised with these prices, HB has quite a cult following, and the chance to own a ‘Gorae’ Hellboy is not to be sniffed at.

Alter Ego
HB- Sold Out
Abe- 148.49

Urban Collector
HB- $189.99
Abe- $169.99

Figures from the collection of Jeff Parker

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