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Scarabus - Regular (Gold), Dormant (Silver), and Demon Fire (Red)
Gothitropolis by the Four Horsemen

Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen


One of the things missing from today's action figure market is originality. There once was a time when an action figure line could be it's own property, without requiring a license tie-in to a block buster movie or popular comic book character. Sadly, those days are well behind us.

But that's not to say that there is no original lines left, at least not if the Four Horsemen have anything to say about it. The exceptional design team behind many of the best Mattel lines, these guys started the FANtastic Exclusives several years ago, providing fans with the opportunity to help decide everything from what characters would be produced from a wide range of designs, to what accessories would be included.

It's not a process that's been without its hiccups, however. Back in 2008, they planned to release Scarabus from the Gothitropolis universe as their San Diego Comic-Con exclusive - it was not to be. Several issues reared their ugly heads, and made it impossible for them to hit the deadline. However, they did release the Timekeepers, little evil minions of the big bad dude himself. I reviewed those little suckers here as well, and the background info in that review could be useful read for those interested in Scarabus.

One issue piled on top of another issue, and poor Scarabus kept getting pushed back. The Four Horsemen released other figures in the FANtastic Exclusive series in the intervening three years, but not Scarabus. There was much gnashing of teeth and wailing of voices amongst the geeks.

But the long wait is at last over, and 10 - yes, count them TEN - versions of Scarabus are now shipping, just in time for SDCC 2011.
Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen

There's a lot of re-use in this series, just like the other multi-figure sets we've seen from them. Of the ten figures, three are straight up color variations on Scarabus, and those are the three I'll be looking at tonight. The gold version, pictured in the first three head shots to the left, is the 'regular' version, the red, pictured in the next two head shots, is the 'demon fire' version, and the silver that's pictured in the last two head shots is the 'dormant'. There is one minor accessory difference with these three that I'll get to in a minute, but for the most part the color combinations is the differentiating factor.

The other seven figures, which I'll cover in another review, all have a swappable head of a unique animal form, as well as their own unique color schemes. They also all have their own names.

These figures aren't cheap, but they are very low editions. The Four Horsemen aren't creating these to get rich, but because of their basic love of action figures. There's really nothing else quite like this on the market today, and it's refreshing to see this sort of originality and understanding of what makes a great toy.

Before we get started, I'm going to warn you that this is a long review, both in terms of text and especially in terms of photos. There's a lot to show with these three figures, so gird your loins for a long one...

Packaging - ***1/2
The front of the packaging is fairly basic in design, but the back of the card has plenty of information on Scarabus and the world of Gothitropolis.

The other big plus here is that the packaging is collector friendly, meaning you can remove the figure with very little to no damage, and put the figure and accessories back again later, good as new. You will have to cut a few pieces of tape, and there's one twisty tie holding the figure in the tray, but the card back is removed quite easily and no real damage is necessary.

The only reason I held this figure back from the full four stars is because there are no included instructions. It's a minor quibble to be sure, but I had to play around a bit to figure out how to use the fire balls properly, and anyone not familiar with the Timekeepers is going to be pretty perplexed by the three accessories intended for them.

Sculpting - ****
The Four Horsemen do some pretty outstanding sculpting, design and fabrication work for other companies, amongst them Mattel. But if you really want to see what they can do, look at what they produce all by themselves under their own banner.

The sculpting here is simply outstanding, with tons of detail, texturing, and style. This combination of Egyptian style armor and weapons with animalistic body parts makes for one very cool design, something unlike anything we've every seen in plastic. The design steals from many themes, but the combination ends up exceptionally unique.

I'd call these 7" scale, although they are a little taller than that, coming in at about 7 1/2 inches. I expect him to be bigger than other figures in the same scale though, so putting him in the 7" scale works for me. He also fits in great with the earlier FANtastic Exclusive figures.

The figures stand great on their own of course, and the various sculpted hands work great with any pose and all the accessories.

Paint - ****
Since color is the most distinctive difference between these figures, making it bright, clean and sharp is critical. It's nice to know that they hit it out of the ball park on every count.

Some areas have a wash to bring out the finer details, like the standard gold head. Other areas, like the finely detailed armor, is done with no wash or slop at all, with clean lines and sharp consistent colors.

Which color combination you like the best is going to be highly personal, and I have my personal favorite. But I can tell you that every combination is well chosen, with the various colors complementing the others beautifully. Some are bright, some are unique, but none of them are gaudy or over the top.

Articulation - ***1/2
The Horsemen never skimp on the articulation, but they really went all out with this base body.

There's a ball jointed neck of course, but the ankles, wrists and hips all have some variation on the ball joint theme, giving them an excellent range of movement. The feet are a little restricted by the sculpt, but it's less of an issue than I expected.

There's also an ab joint (not a crunch, though), pin elbows and knees, and cut biceps and thighs. The basic body holds very natural poses, and unlike some past releases in earlier series, there are no loose or weak joints to be found. The figures stand great on their own, even in deep stances.

I deducted a half star for one reason only - the skirt is glued to the thighs, which is a good idea, since it keeps the legs and skirt moving together. However, on one of the three figures, this glue got into the cut thigh joint on the right leg, rendering it useless. Watch for that issue on yours to avoid snapping that leg when you twist it. I also suspect that this will happen on more figures than just this one, since the glue point is so close to the joint.

Accessories - ****
If you love lots of accessories - and not just extra crap, but usable, cool goodies - then you're going to love these figures.

Let's start with the faces. You can swap the face (not the head, although the head is easy to remove too) on all three of the standard Scarabus figures. The regular gold version comes with three plates - regular, demon fire, and dormant. The other two figures, the Demon Fire and Dormant versions of Scarabus, come with just two faces.

Since the silver figure is already 'dormant', both his faces have the black eyes i.e. the dormant appearance. But one has a nose, one does not. The same is true with the Demon Fire version, where the difference in the faces is whether there's a nose and horny spikes, or not.

These faces pop on and off pretty easily, but the seam is VERY tight on the face. The design was engineered perfectly to make it almost impossible to notice that the face can pop off, yet it does so smoothly.

Each figure also comes with four additional hands, giving him three full sets in total. There are two fists, two sculpted in a clutching pose (for the flaming orbs), and two designed to hold the staff. These pop on and off smoothly, and I had no fear of breaking the peg.

Because these guys are intended to go with the Timekeepers, they've added in some additional accessories for those little buggers as well. There are two pieces of armor - a helm and a new collar - as well as a spear tip for their staff. Originally there was the cool hourglass hammer head, but now you can pop on one of these deadly tips.

While those three sets of extras are identical in sculpt, they are a different color for each Scarabus. The regular version comes with jet black matte painted Timekeeper accessories, while the Dormant has a bright silver set and the Demon Fire has a gun metal gray set.

Each figure also comes with a pair of crab-like legs that attach to his back. These have disc style ball joints, making it possible to pose them in and out, up or down, you decide.

You'll notice that he also has a removable cape, since I left it off in a couple of the photos. The design on the cape is pretty ingenious as well - the fit is tight yet it's easy to remove and replace.

A guy like Scabbie can't be running around without a weapon, and he comes complete with a staff with two interchangeable heads. One has a cool translucent marble set in the center. It makes it look like the sort of staff that can emit energy bolts, frying anyone stupid enough to give this guy backtalk. The other head is a more standard spear tip, but it has another smaller translucent ball inlaid in the center. Either one looks terrific, further adding to all the potential looks this guy has.

Each version also comes with two translucent 'fire balls' of energy that are sculpted to fit over his hands. The intended way is over the back, flowing down his arm, but it is possible to coerce them into the palms as well.

All of these accessories are different colors, adding a ton of visual appeal. The color variations aren't minor, making each one quite unique on the shelf. With all these extras, there are dozens and dozens of combinations that each figure can sport.

Fun Factor - ****
Two of the best action figure lines currently on the market for sheer play value are Masters of the Universe Classics and DC Universe Classics. Both have the finger prints of the Horsemen all over them, so it should be no real surprise that a series they completely control would be excellent toys first and foremost. Great sculpts and paint, plenty of articulation, and a scale ton of accessories make these great fun. Of course, it helps that the designs are so freakin' cool!

Value - **
At about 7 1/2 inches tall and with a $30 price tag, these are definitely expensive action figures. If you think the $20 each you are paying for Masters of the Universe Classics is bad, then you'll choke on this.

And I do have to dock them a half star off average here - it's a lot of money. Of course, you aren't getting this level of quality with this massive number of accessories, and this type of paint work on even the MOTUC or DCUC lines these days, and the runs on the FANtastic Exclusives is much, much lower.

Things to Watch Out For -
I didn't have a single major issue or worry. I did have the one glued thigh joint, so take a little care when loosening up those legs, especially the right, where the skirt is attached fairly low.

Overall - ****
If you're looking for highly detailed, well painted, highly articulated, heavily accessorized action figures, then these are for you. Yep, the price point isn't easy to swallow, but isn't that far off considering the low runs and the large number of extras.

Picking my favorite of these three was easier than I thought it would be - it's the Demon Fire version. The red head sculpt didn't do much for me at first, but the gold and black armor looks fantastic, and the reddish-orange flames and orb on the staff put him over the top.

Next in line is the Dormant version. It's that silver/black combo that's doing it for me here, and the purple flames are the perfect accent.

Which means the standard gold and red Scarabus is my least favorite of the three - but he's still miles above the usual mass market action figure. There's simply no comparing this guy to something you'd find at Toys R Us or Target, so it's a waste of text to even try.

If you want further proof of just how cool these are in hand, look no further than to my own actions after receiving them. When these were finally announced as shipping, I was unsure about buying them. God knows, I already have an awful lot of stuff taking up an awful lot of space - were these exceptional enough to add to the pile? I want to be sure that when I'm eventually featured on that Hoarders show, it will at least be cool stuff I'm buried in...

And so I didn't buy any. But the fine fellows at FH sent along a set for review, and I was hooked. I immediately went back and bought the two low run special edition versions of Scarabus, one light, one dark. If that's not getting sucked in, I don't know what is.

I'll cover the other seven figures - each a variant on the theme of Scarabus, but with their own interesting swappable animal head and new colors - in the next few days.

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

Where to Buy -
The Four Horsemen sell these figures direct through their site, called the Store Horsemen. See what they did there?

You can pick them up in different ways: You can pick up any single figure for $30, there are a couple 3 packs for $90, or get a deal on the full 10 pack for $275. There are also unique low edition (100 each) variants in black and white that cost $50 each.

Related Links -
I've covered many of the past FANtastic Exclusive releases. Long ago, there was the Timekeepers, Ssejjhhorr, Xetheus, and Vaskhh. More recent, we had Allux and Izzy and the rest of the cat ladies, as well as the mutants from the same series.

Discussion:
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Scarabus action figure by the Four Horsemen


This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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