The Avengers - in color!

Jeff is back tonight with another great sixth scale review - the Avengers, this time in bright color!  Take it away, Jeff...

Now, although this review is primarily for the new 'In Colour' set I'm going to use it as an opportunity to give a comparison review to the first set released back in 2002 (all scores will be based on the new set); it was 'then' the first 12" articulated figures the company had released. They've since brought out a few more and if you check the web-site below you'll see they have a lot more planned, the Space Vixen (an original non licensed range) and the Tom Baker 'Dr Who' look especially sweet to me. 

If this company is a new one on you, I recommend you go read Michael's review of their Christopher Lee 'Dracula' released in 2004. But here's a potted history anyway. 

Product Enterprises (PE) has been going for some time now, over seven years in fact, famous (in the UK at least) for their cult collectables from all manner of classic British TV shows from yesteryear. I don't mind admitting a slight bias towards your smaller independent companies, where decisions on what lines to follow seem to come much more from the heart rather than the committee/boardroom/focus group. Of course it makes these companies more vulnerable, which is why they need the support of the collectors out there. But any company will only get support if they make a quality product that people 'all importantly' actually WANT! 

Product Enterprises seems to have pulled off creating the essential one-stop shop for all things classic 'Dr Who' and also carry the license for the best Gerry Anderson die-cast vehicles money can buy. Adding to this they also recently picked up the license to produce lines from many of Irwin Allen's' cult 60's shows. So if you were a fan of 'Land of the Giants', 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' or everybody’s favourite 'Lost in Space' you should check out what they have to offer on their website for a full rundown on what's available now and what will be very soon. 

Now, being a collector of 1/6 scale figures I can usually resist die-cast vehicles, but being a man of a certain age with a soft spot for ALL toys, coupled with halcyon memories from my childhood of Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, and my personal favourites UFO and Space 1999, there comes a point where even the most strong willed have to buckle and that prop sized replica copy of Lady P's car from Thunderbirds will really get your credit card twitching!

But enough of that, we're here today to look at the new 'Avengers in Colour' box set of Steed and Mrs Peel, it's the second set released of these two figures, the first was from the earlier black and white days, where Emma Peel came in a rather fetching skin-tight leather cat-suit and Steed was in a grey suit. This time around Steed has a far more sartorially elegant navy blue suit and Emma has a rather sexy (and still suitably skin tight) blue sleeveless cat-suit with matching jacket. So what's the deal, are they worth having, especially if like me you have the first set! 

Packaging - ***1/2
This is a big box, and as it has to house two figures it kind of had to be. It's also a marked improvement on the first set, there was nothing wrong with that one, it's just that this one is much better, more colourful, more pictures and a far better overall design. The first box I feel lacked colour, I know, I know that sounds like a stupid thing to say as it was trying to mimic the feel of the B/W 60's show, but as they did go to the expense of printing the box out of full-colour process (there are a couple of small colour pictures on the back) I feel an opportunity was lost to not at least use some duo-tone images on the front. That said, a lot of early 60's fashion and images were influenced greatly by the stark contrast of the B/W palette, so perhaps I'm missing the point. Although the first set was completely collector friendly with the figures held secure between two vac-formed trays, very easy to get out and very easy to replace, the new ones do have a few of our old nemesi 'the twisty ties'. It's obvious that they were needed as both figures are in poses (for the MIB'ers) that require some support, and it's a small annoyance I can live with given the overall improvement in the rest of the package. The new boxes most palpable difference is that it's now flap fronted, and a lot wider (to accommodate the sound-chip stands) and the overall quality and feel of the design is much more professional, with an injection of some much needed colour while still complimenting the original. Once you've opened the front flap you have a clear view of both figures, as there's a large window with two 'TRY ME' holes, so you can reach in and push the buttons on the sound-chipped stands. The sound quality on these is incredibly clear and will be a big bonus for all the hardcore fans.

Sculpting - Steed ****; Mrs Peel ***1/2
Like the Hammer Dracula (Christopher Lee) from last year these are sculpted by Andrew Teal, and I hope PE manage to keep a tight hold of him. Both look like the actors who portrayed the characters, with the Patrick McNee one just having the edge IMHO. That's not to say Diana Rigg isn't great too, but we all have to have a favourite and the sharpness of sculpting just seems a little finer on Steed. The sculpting seems tighter and the likenesses have been re-tooled for the new set making both even more recognizable as McNee and Rigg. I can imagine a few Bond fans out there will be getting hold of Emma to kit-bash into Mrs Bond from 'OHMSS' as Sideshow only ever gave us Pussy Galore from the early films....but what a Pussy she was! Ahem, enough of that. 

The hand sculpts on the new set are again much finer than before, Mrs Peels are the finer of the two (as you'd expect with them being women's hands) and while Steed's right hand is fine for gripping his umbrella I feel his left hand would have been better in a relaxed position (or better still with an alternate relaxed hand), that said both Steed's hands are infinitely superior to his predecessors and you always have the option of having him hold the tip of his bowler or carry the bottle of Champagne if you wish. 

Paint - Steed***1/2; Mrs Peel ***
The paint ops on the new set are great, which is a relief as I felt this was the only area the first set stumbled on a little. Don't panic though, we're not talking 'Jakks' quality or anything, it's just that for a first release of 12" figures these babies were doing soooo well and the paint ops weren't quite up there with other categories. Steed's face was strong but Emma's seemed to lack definition, and when you looked at the photos on the back of the pack you realized the prototypes had markedly better jobs done on them. Now this is something a customizer can put right in minutes, but as I always like to keep my figures as they come out of the box, it's a shame they weren't a little tighter. The ops on the new set are much stronger however, and Emma's face in particular has a much crisper and finely defined paint job. And the fine detail work on Steed's mouth, teeth and eyebrows is fantastic (no lipstick problems here, take note Sideshow!).

Articulation - ***1/2
I was impressed with the first set and the new ones are even better, both sets have swiveling heads, ball-jointed shoulders, cut biceps (except for the new Emma), double elbows and ball-jointed wrists. Then we have swiveling torsos, a twist waist for Steed (Emma's is fixed), ball hips, cut thighs, and double knees. The areas the two sets differ in are the original Steed's shoes 'were' his feet and were attached at the ankle/leg by means of a push-in-ball joint, the new Steed has actual feet with slip on Derby boots. Emma's feet/ankles seem to have a full range of movement and on the original she had feet clad in 'kinky' boots tailored from soft pleather/fabric, this time, however, she has moulded shoes/feet (much like Steed last time) with the push-in-ball joints described earlier.

Accessories - ***1/2
Both versions of Steed come with a permanently attached hat, but as Emma once said, and I quote "Always keep your bowler on in times of stress, and look out for diabolical masterminds", I for one think that's acceptable! 

In the first set Steed came with a grey collapsed umbrella and Mrs Peel had her revolver, there was a bottle of bubbly and two glasses and that was it, no stands, mind you I've never had any problems making either of them stand unsupported. 

This time Steed comes with all his signature pieces: a business card, the carnation buttonhole, a bottle of bubbly with glasses again and his trademark umbrella (now black, to go with his darker suit), and I'm pleased to say this time it can be pulled apart to become his sword stick, the only weapon that Steed needs, well apart from his rapier-like wit. And as these guys also come with stands that have sound chips featuring actual TV dialogue you can even arm him with that! Emma has her small gold revolver again, a pocket watch and fob, a copy of 'The Winged Avenger' comic and a P.U.R.R.R cat-shaped dossier, what more could they want? OK, Mrs Peel did have a lot of 'desirable' outfits on the show, so a spare change of clothes might have been nice. The flipside of course being this would have to push the price-point up so they probably got it right. But depending on the success of this range, perhaps we could have future releases of Steed's various female accomplices, Catherine Gale, Tara King and Purdy (I can live without Mike Gambit) brought out as single figures but with a more extensive wardrobe?

Outfit - ****
I really liked the outfits on the first set, but while Mrs Peel's cat-suit would have been to many her most iconic, it lacked the detail that the new suit has. On her original cat-suit the zip front and pockets were just printed on, they looked fine at this scale but to your hardcore 1/6 collectors, when you need a tiny zip, only a real tiny zip will do. I've witnessed some very fine detailing on small zips (yes, my life IS that exciting!), the Medicom Matrix Trinity and Hot Toys T-800 spring to mind. However, they were both expensive Far East imports and considering I picked up the original Avengers set for £30 (for both figures) I could live with printed zips. But as I said, the detailing this time around on the new figures is much tighter, and Mrs Peel's outfit is 'quality wise' much better, bringing to mind BBi/Takaras Cy/Cool Girl range. Steed always looked smart, but in my opinion was crying out for a darker ensemble. Now with this set you get it, you also get far sharper tailoring with all the finer points of detail particularly on the jacket looking much superior to his predecessors, and much closer attention is spent on the scale of buttons etc, but if you disagree with me you can mix and match to your hearts content.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
Will these figures appeal to many kids......hell no, to most kids these days the Avengers are Hawkeye, The Vision et al (they probably don't even remember the glory days of Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor and co), so two non super powered people from a 60's British TV show probably aren't high on their 'must have' list, but to be fair, kids were never a target audience anyway! 
However, I think these figures should appeal to a lot of other people. Firstly your collector like myself, then obviously any Avengers fans out there (to whom I would have thought they ARE must haves), but lastly I can imagine many people who just love the camp, kitsch and just plain down right ridiculous will love them too, I mean who wouldn't want two 12" talking replicas of the 60's most fabulous show on their shelf? My original set got shelf space and as these two are even better they're gonna have to go back into storage to make space for the new ones. 

A note to Product Enterprises should you read this, I'm also willing to make space for Patrick McGoohan as The Prisoner if you fancy obliging, he could be sold with a rover as an accessory, how easy would that be! 

Value - ****
Well, they retail direct from the PE site at £49.99 (about $90) which strikes me as pretty damn keen for a two-figure pack (most SST figures retail at about £30 to £40 this side of the Pond), obviously you can try on line and I've see one on sale with eBay for $73 with one day to go. So shop around (and always remember to check where your seller is based, as we all know shipping can add a lot to your final figure!).

Things to watch out for
No problems with mine, the voice chips were crisp and clear, I suppose the only thing would be careful is with Steed's sword/umbrella and try not to lose the smaller items. Another small detail many will overlook, if you pay attention to the later pages of the P.U.R.R.R document accessory you'll get to see the faces behind some of the PE creative team responsible for these figures.

Overall - ***3/4
It has to be said; there are a lot of ‘cult’ films and TV shows out there deserving to have products produced for their fans. But the sad truth is all too often there just aren’t enough fans to make these ventures profitable, like the Prisoner figure I requested earlier, I would love to see it, but I’m sadly in a group of about 500 to 1000 people. It doesn’t take too long to work out that it’s not really going to happen! I sincerely hope this Avengers set sells enough to make it possible for PE to follow it up with many, many more. PE have already tapped into Gerry Anderson, Irwin Allen, Dr Who, Hammer, Carry On, Red Dwarf and the Avengers but there’s plenty left The Saint, The Champions, Randall & Hopkirk, Man in a suitcase, Quatermass, Joe 90, The Ealing comedies, Blakes 7 (soon to be revisited, ‘a la’ Dr Who I hear!) Dan Dare, Biggles, Judge Dredd, Withnail and I, Hitchhikers Guide (not the movie, I’m thinking more re-imagined from the book) and Terry Pratchett’s Disk World, the list could go on and on. But for reasons I mentioned earlier, and as many of you have probably never heard of the some of the above, they just wouldn’t make the grade…. however I think a few would! 

Well I'm really pleased that we finally have a company in the UK producing the kinds of things I always have to pay way too much shipping on to get hold of. Their eye is fixed solidly on the rich vein of British 'cult' TV and movie back catalogues, many of which I know have a rabid fan base in the US. I just hope the distribution is such, that if you want to get hold of these products it's not too hard for you. This double pack is fantastic, and a great improvement on the original set in all categories, and if they build on this quality, future releases should be up there with the big boys. I can't wait to get my sticky mitts on the Space Vixen figure and inspect her helmet......oooer Mrs!, as she will sit along side BBi Cy-Girl Aurora's retro sci-fi spacesuit sooooo well.

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Steed ****; Mrs Peel ***1/2
Paint - Steed ***1/2; Mrs Peel ***
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ***1/2
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ****
Overall - ***3/4

Where to Buy - 
The only guaranteed place I can find them is Product Enterprises own website, but as Michael didn't have too much of a problem locating the Hammer Dracula a while ago I would hope these would be showing up in all your US specialty shops now. I've also just located them on the Cotswold collectables site where they also seem to carry the full PE range, including that very desirable 'Space Vixen' Felicity Bliss. The Avengers set is up for $89.99 but you have to become a member, and remember that shipping!

Looking over the PE website I've seen that they do have distributors all over the world, including one for North America and Canada, so if you have a local specialty importer just let them know these guys are out there. Oh!, and of course you, me and the family dog can always turn to eBay.

Figure from the collection of David Graves.

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