Iron Man Mark I
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."

Last week, I checked out the third Iron Man figure from Hot Toys, the MKI suit. This week, regular contributor Jeff Parker steps in with his take on this terrific figure - tell us all about him, Jeff!

Thanks as always to Michael, he beat me to the drop on this one with his fantastic review last week (sorry, I can’t compete with pics like that!), and I have to say on this occasion we are pretty much in agreement on most things, note I did say ‘most’ things, but hey, I just had to stick my two penneth in anyway, it would be rude not to round up on the Hot Toys tri-figural tour de force that is their IRONMAN series!

Next year brings us IRONMAN 2, so we can hopefully expect a whole fresh batch of new figures from the movie. I’m sure Tony will give us an update on the suit so we’ll have at least a MK4, it’s also rumoured we’ll see Warmachine and it’s pretty definite we’ll see Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, Sam Jackson as Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow (easy boys, I’m sure there will be enough of the latex clad lovely to go around).

But that’s quite enough salivating for what’s around the corner, right here, right now we’re looking at the final part in the jigsaw, we’re rounding off the holly trinity of IRONMAN outfits from the first movie… and they’ve saved the best till last… but don’t Hot Toys always do that.

We’ve already had the sleek MK2 and the iconic MK3, but both of these are manufactured by Stark once he’s back home, safe in his engineering laboratory with everything he could possibly need at his fingertips.
This is the suit that started it all, the one he constructed while captive in a cave in Afghanistan using scraps of supplies ‘ironically’ salvaged from his own imported munitions and weapons. It’s a rudimentary suit of armour, powered by the arc generator that keeps him alive, and it looks like something fresh off of Junkyard Wars… and by that I mean very cool in a deconstructed, post apocalyptic-chic, ad-hoc kind of way!

The design for the suit was brought to life once again by Stan Winston Studios. They created it’s look under the art direction of Jon Favreau, building a physical suit that could be worn by both stunt men and Robert Downey Jnr (RDJ), in fact after his first scenes wearing the MK1, RDJ said he felt like he was having a personality melt down, as it was so heavy and imposing and he’s apparently a pretty fit and non-claustrophobic guy!

The Virtual suit was created by 3D visual effects house The Embassy, who did a cracking job of making a seamless transition between the physical and virtual worlds (the MK 2 and 3 were done by ILM and The Orphanage). This was essential as there were many things the actors just could not do in the suits, and the virtual equivalent allowed for much more dynamic posturing… and of course flying! It’s also worth bearing this in mind when I tackle articulation!

But after the ultra coolness of the MK 1 and 2, can the scrap metal version have the same appeal? Oh, I think so!

Packaging - ****
The two earlier versions came in some of the coolest boxes of the year, and this one continues the same design style but with a cool new wrap. This sleeve is designed and printed to look like a Stark Industries packing crate. They’ve kept it simple and uncluttered using mimicked wood grain effect and embossing to enhance the planks and joinery. Once it’s slipped off we have the circular chest light, die cut with a magnetic seal. The outer box is designed to look like the beat up metal panels of the MK1 suit. This unwinds to reveal more pics of the figure, a brief bio and a window displaying the fully assembled figure. Inside the tray he’s held secure by 5 twisties with his stand, 2 spare hands and face plate next to him. 

These IRONMAN boxes are just about as nice as I thought a 1/6th packaging could get… until I saw the Godfather, but that’s kind of in a class of its own.

Sculpting - ***1/2 (this just covers the face!)
The human face is a wonderful thing, they’re even more individual than our finger prints… even identical twins are never truly identical. We are all genetically hard wired to search them out where ever we look. It’s the reason we see faces in clouds, trees, fires and even the moon… we want to see faces. But we are also designed to search out different characteristics in faces. It’s why we find different people attractive, and why some times you might say to a friend ‘don’t you think ‘insert name here’ really looks like ‘ insert another name here’, and while some people will agree with you, others will say ‘what the hell are you thinking’. It’s the same reason people get into such heated arguments over the quality (or lack of it) on various sculpts from various companies; we do actually see things differently!

Now, to me the head sculpts with both the MK1 & 2 were more like RDJ than this version, but to be fair this couldn’t be anyone other than him, it’s a damn fine sculpt. However, whereas with the first two he was bright eyed and bushy tailed, here he’s had rough night on the vodka shots and a day from hell… which I suppose might very well be how you’d feel if you’d been kept in a cave, with a car battery rigged up to an elector magnet stopping your heart from being pierced by a piece of shrapnel that’s still lodged in your body! 

So although this shows some solid work, and the detailing on the sweaty hair is some of the finest hair sculpting I’ve seen, to me it just doesn’t shout ‘I AM IRON MAN’ as loudly as the previous ones.

I think of RDJ as having quite a lean face, but the sweat plastered hair coming low over the forehead gives the impression of his face being rounder. The new head is permanently housed in the back part of the helmet; the front part of the helmet is separately packaged and has to be ‘snapped’ into place. There’s a small indent in the top of the head with a slot to fix to front part to, you simply push this into place…firm but gentle as always.
The funny thing is if you sit with both faces side by side, I’m relatively convinced they took the earlier (MK3) RDJ head and just reworked it with new hair and more beard growth, they are that similar, and both have his distinctive nose captured perfectly. The problem is they shouldn’t have given him more beard, he simply didn’t have any growth up the sides of his face. 

In the scene when Yinsen dies, and Stark looks towards the cave opening the heavy shadow looks beard like… but isn’t. Just moments before when Yinsen is helping Tony suit up, you clearly see he still has the trademark goatee… all be it a bit rougher around the edges… well he has been living in a cave! The other big differences are in the paint apps, and the most noticeable difference to my eyes is that the new head has far smaller iris’s and pupils, therefore making his eyes appear physically smaller… cheez, listen to me… lets get some perspective here and round it up. What I’m saying is that HT have given us another great head sculpt that is without a doubt RDJ, but to my eyes they have given us better, even in the earlier Tony Stark sculpts.

He also comes with four unique sculpted hands, two as relaxed/gesturing positions and two fisted. It’s never really explained how Stark controls the suits functions, but I always thought he would have controls in the gloves, much like the Rocketeer. Now, the control boxes were visibly evident on the Rocketeer, here they are not… but hey Tony is a very clever guy, even when working in a dark cave with limited resources he can come up with nano circuits integrated into the fabric of his gloves. 

Both the right hands here are just gloved, whilst the left ones have gloves plus a metal protective shields on the back. All the sculpting is exceptional, enhanced even further by the amazing paint apps, but more on that later.

Now, I could spend the next hour trying to wax lyrical about the sculpting on the suit… but I think that deserves to be covered in outfit!

Paint - ****
Like the two suits that came before this, they have managed to make it look very solid, and also very metallic. Where as the first two were the concourse sleek Ferraris, this is the beaten up ol’station wagon with rust and hub-caps missing, but it’s all the more fun and interesting to look at because of its faults… if you can call them faults. The overall suit/armour is a base steel/pewter colour, and to enhance all the beaten panels, nuts, bolts and lines of solder we have some absolutely sublime weathering and areas of dirt and grime. These are applied with washes and airbrushing that is even finer than many, not all, but many customisers could ever achieve. 

On top of some of these panels are areas of peeling paint, stencilled lettering and symbols, these are all made to look like they are aged and weathered with flaking and scuffed paint jobs. Quite frankly this is a remarkable application to have come out of a factory, and its testament once again to Hot Toys quality control that they can roll out multiple units, time after time with this degree of excellence. It really is virtually faultless.

The face is also handled very well; the base plastic has that waxy translucent look, over which the delicate paint apps are applied. The skin has some subtle airbrushing and the beard and hair are picked out with supreme accuracy between the division lines. The singular strands of hair that sweep across his forehead are worthy of particular note, as they are picked out so very well. The eyes here are as always well painted and catch the light well, but it has to be said… in fact I said it earlier, the iris’ do look a little small and the hyper glossy nature that has been evident on many of Hot Toys finest figures is somewhat lacking here. However the super fine work on his eyelashes has to be seen with a looking glass to be fully appreciated, so still definitely a top mark.

Articulation  - ****
OK, lets not beat around the bush, this guy has limited articulation, but have you watched the extra features on the 2 disk IRON MAN DVD, yeah, quel surprise, when you are kitted up in this outfit ‘YOUR’ ability to move is severely hampered. So, why the full score? 

Well, put simply this is a 1/6th engineering work of freakin art! I’m sure most companies would have looked at the MK1 and thought ‘Hmmmm, what can we get away with here, lets make it a solid or roto-cast figure… sure we’ll give it a little articulation at the hips and shoulders, but that’ll have to be it.

Well, thank the maker for Hot Toys. They took this on as a bona fide 1/6th project and dressed their standard True-Type in a fully realised, working suit of armour. At this point I’d like to propose a toast “to Hot Toys”... thank you! 

I had feared that even they would have to take at least some short cuts with this figure, but they have delivered something that is actually way beyond my expectations… yet again. Basically this figure just makes me smile every time I pick it up. 

So what can you realistically expect from the articulation. Both the ankles move freely in all directions, no problems there. Now we hit the armour, so you have to expect things to get restrictive, but I’m pleased to say the left knee can bend to a full 45 degrees. The right doesn’t fair quite as well, but still manages a respectable 25 degrees. The hips are pretty limited, as there is so much armour that ends up butting up to other pieces. The two drive belts (which incidentally are solid, not rubber) come quite high on the outside hips, so when you try to move the thighs out from the body they knock into the ‘ring’ of the waist armour. Apart from that, both legs can move forward by about 25 degrees and back by about 10. The waist can turn, but make sure you observe all the places it interacts with each other. There’s some good movement there as long as you are careful and don’t force anything.

The coverings for the arms have been very well thought through and engineered in such a way that it looks hugely convincing and actually manages some fine articulation.

The shoulder armour is very securely attached to the upper arm, this hampers some movement, but not greatly, you’ll still get a forward bend of about 85 degrees on both, and back by about 20 to 25, with gentle  positioning you’ll get some very convincing ‘flame thrower’ and ‘rocket launcher’ positions. The interesting thing is that these upper arm guards are not attached to the lower arm pieces, so both lower portions can turn independently making for a far larger range of movement. The left elbow can achieve a full 90 degree bend, whilst the more heavily armoured left arm can only achieve about 20. Both the wrists are on cut double pegged joints so they have the usual True Type range apart from when they interact with the armour surrounding them.
Lastly we have the head; this is on a double neck post meaning we get great articulation where it joins the body and where it joins the head, so it can tilt from side to side. Forward and right back to look up for that singular flight it managed!

So, as I say, restrictive, but I was quite frankly knocked out by how well this is all put together and you will easily get most of the iconic hero poses seen in the movie. 

Outfit - ****
Right, before I get too entrenched in describing the armour, lets talk undergarments. I was futzing with my figure attempting to tuck the rear of his welders smock into the waist of the armour when I realised he has the singlet on under there as well… It actually made me want to attempt removing the armour… well, who knows, have Hot Toys included the glowing heart as part of the base figure, OK, OK… Hot Toys …have you (I jest… or do I?).

He wears an old pair of grey trousers on his bottom half and an old pair or work boots on his feet. But as wonderful as the attention to detail on his ‘clothing’ is, it pales into virtual insignificance next to his outer shell.
His protective armour is basically built from scraps Tony salvaged from his own munitions. So it is made up of all kinds of bits and pieces with very little of it having any kind of symmetry. The complexity of all the separate elements brought together here are simply mind boggling, I seem to find a new hinge, spring or cable every time I pick it up. And the detail on the layering of the different panels, held together by rivets and lines of perfectly observed solder is jaw dropping. His chest light is beautifully realised, not only does it actually light up with an intensely bright light it also shows an amazing degree of detail… more even than some larger versions I’ve seen. There is also a small bright red light on his inside left forearm. As far as I remember this light only came on in the movie when Tony activated the gas canisters’ for his explosive flight, but hey, it’s still a very cool detail.

Some of the most impressive observations are actually on this figures back, where you’ll find the generator that backs up his miniature arc reactor, this in effect helps power the suits functions. Although there are no actual moving parts on the motor, it is just loaded with super fine detail. There’s an electro magnetic hub to the left hand side, with some kind of fuel or coolant canister on the right, between these two elements are three small cogs interconnected by a rubber drive belt, there’s also a multitude of real wires, cables and springs joining the motor to all the various other parts of the suit, and to be fair just about every other square inch is covered in just as much impressive detailing. The leg armour is worthy of special note as there are so many articulated elements, apart from the actual knee joint, both also have other parts that can lift and move. It’s kind of hard to describe, but in hand there is a lot of exploring to do. One little detail I really liked, in a nod to the suits that followed is a small panel to the extreme left of the chest, its pretty incongruous to look at, but even this is spring loaded, so when the left arm comes in from the side it gives way for more movement.

So, all in all you are looking at a figure that is loaded to the gills with details and articulated elements, it is nothing short of miraculous that HT have managed to pull off a 1/6th figure with this amount of finely observed minutiae in its sculpt, which is then enhanced even further by some astounding paint apps.

Accessories - ***
Even a figure this good has to have some weak points, but with the amount of work lavished on the armour I can live with it… and at the end of the day, what else could you give him?

So what we get is the faceplate… this isn’t really an accessory, it’s more a necessity, he’d look pretty crap without it. It just snaps into place as described above. He also has two extra gloved hands in fisted positions and finally the classic HT black figure stand, so nothing out of the ordinary, but at least the alternate hands give you some different display options.

Fun Factor -  ****
Like most HT figures, this is a delicate, finely constructed and detailed display item. However, don’t let that put you off, you don’t have to wear kid gloves every time you handle it, just don’t let any kids near it. As long as you familiarise yourself with its limitations and treat it with respect and care, you can’t go far wrong! 

This is a very different beast from MK 2 and 3, but I can safely say it’s also my favourite of the three, and I’ve had a ton of fun posing and playing with this figure.

Value - ***3/4
This has a RRP of $169.99, that is really a serious amount of money for a 1/6th action-figure… so why so close to a full score?

Well, to put it succinctly HT have pulled off yet another mini work of art with this piece. I already said the head sculpt is not one of my favourites from HT, but it is still a very solid job, and every other aspect of this figure is just beautifully handled. 

So for me, I seriously think 170 big ones is virtually on the money… sure I’d like it to be cheaper, I’d also like Isabelle Adjani to serve me breakfast dressed as a French maid, but sadly neither of these things will happen. So while I come to terms with the fact it’ll be toast and Marmite as usual tomorrow morning, I’ll just console myself by playing with my MK1 (and no, that isn’t a euphemism!).

Overall - ****
I just love this figure; everything about it (especially with the faceplate down) is just perfection.

And, yes I’m still smiling every time I pick it up; I hope it has the same effect on you.

This is one of the most impressive years I can remember in terms of 1/6th scale, and the way things are going I’ll probably find myself saying this again next year. I was blown away by the HT Godfather figure just a few weeks ago, and in terms of face sculpt, tailoring, accessories and packaging it’s gonna take a hellovalot of work to best it, could Enterbay be the company to do it?

However, in terms of engineering and just giving me a bit of personal joy, then this one is the winner, I have to admit I doubt if in twenty years from now that Favreau’s, IRON MAN trilogy (cause I’m sure that’s what it’ll be) will be remembered quite as fondly as Coppola’s, Godfather trilogy (even if the last one was a disappointment), but I’m here to talk pop culture, and pop culture can be very ephemeral… and today this is my favourite figure, who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow, and next year is another country?

Scoring Recap:
Packaging - ****
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - ****
Articulation - ****
Outfit - ****
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ***3/4
Overall - ****

Where to Buy -
Sideshow have long sold out at $169.99, but the waitlist is always an option. The only one of Michael's sponsors I could find that still have him is:

Corner Store Comics
$164.99 pre-order  

So your other avenue is to hope your local speciality store will get it in, or hit eBay where he seems to be going for between $180 and $200, and he is already very thin on the ground!

Figures from the collection of Jeff Parker

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