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Venture Brothers

Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow


Fans of the Venture Brothers (one of the best cartoons ever shown on Adult Swim) have been clamoring for action figures for years. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me who had the license or who should get the license - I'd be a Hell of a lot closer to retiring some day.

Bif Bang Pow picked up the license, and they are handling them in a very controversial way. They are using the Megoesque style bodies from Dr. Mego with cloth outfits, a very retro look that is not setting well with some collectors. They are using this same style for their Twilight Zone, Dark Shadows and Lost figures, creating some stir particularly with the latter.

I'm going to give you my general opinion of the style up front to get it out of the way, and to avoid getting bogged down with it later in the review. I love the old Megos, but I think this style only works with certainly licenses. I love it with the Phantom or with Captain Action and Dr. Evil, but think it's a huge mistake with the much more realistic Lost characters. For me, the jury is still out on the Dark Shadows line, but I think the Venture Brothers might work...people who generally hate this style are not going to be happy, however.

You can pick these up through Entertainment Earth as two packs right now.  All six of these can be ordered, and they should be fulfilling the orders as soon as the rush of SDCC wears off. The sets of two go for around $38 each, or about $19 each.
Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow
Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow
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Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow
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Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow
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Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow
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Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow
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Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow
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Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow

Packaging - ***1/2
The packaging is done in a style reminiscent of the old Mego lines of the 70's. Other characters are shown in face bubbles on the front, with some good descriptive text on the back. I love the colors and the design, and the artwork of the show matches well with the kitchsy nostalgia of the 70's.

I used a packaged shot of one of the two SDCC exclusives to show off the sticker they had that the regular figures do not.

Sculpting - Rusty ***1/2; Brock ***
I've discussed the difficulties in capturing animated characters in 3-D plastic on many occasions in the past - often, the look of the character, including internal and external scale, changes from scene to scene or even frame to frame, and the simple addition of depth can cause a the viewers perception to change. It takes real skill to create cartoon sculpts that click.

While the bodies are done in a Mego style, the heads are still sculpted to match the on screen counterparts. Dr. Rusty Venture has the funky goatee, long nose, and perpetual frown, done in a recognizable manner. The frames for the glasses are a smidge thick for this scale, but it's not bad in person, and again, far better than some of the attempts we've seen in $80 and $100 sixth scale figures.

Brock's portrait is a bit more of a caricature of an already exaggerated cartoon character. I like the work on the hair, and the chiseled jaw and expression are appropriate, but the elongated face and extremely skinny upper head don't quite match up to the on screen version.

But the real issue for most people is going to be from the neck down. The Mego style is going to be a polarizing issue, no doubt about it. As I said earlier, I don't have a negative opinion about the style itself, but it does have to be applied correctly.  I believe the Lost figures are an example where it's been done incorrectly, but I'm enjoying the Venture Brothers line.

There's something about the goofy nostalgic look that fits with the goofy, retro feel of the show. Much like any form of art, you'll either love this or hate this, and it's unlikely anyone is going to change your mind.

I will also freely admit that if given the choice between these and a 6" sculpted line similar to what we've seen companies like Mezco, Mcfarlane, Playmates or Palisades do with other cartoon properties, that I'd vote for the 6" sculpted line. But that doesn't mean I can't see the appeal of this style, and I think that it is a reasonably good match with the property.

My biggest problem with using the Mego style bodies is not with the format itself, but with the lack of flexibility in what can be done. Rusty is the perfect example - he should be skinny with a pot belly and the beginnings of a hunched back. That can be translated with a sculpted figure, but is lost when using this type of body.

It's also worth noting that Brock has a much larger torso, sculpted to match his cartoon physique.  The heads are soft and hollow, but let's hope they never gray. Both figures are scaled to fit in with 8" lines, and will look great on the shelf with past and present Mego style figures, but not much else.

Paint - ***
The paint work on both heads is fairly clean, with sharp lines on the eyebrows, teeth and eyes. Brock's hair line is a bit sloppy, and Rusty's pupils aren't quite even, but these are fairly minor issues.

For me, the bigger issue is that any time I see this type of soft, hollow rubbery plastic, which has a naturally matte and fairly unique finish, painted with high close paint, it reminds me of a dog chew toy. It's something about how the paint attaches to the softer material, and how the finish stands out so dramatically. I'm not suggesting I'd prefer the skin to be glossy, which would be a whole different problem. It's just that the material used for the head and the paint, and the type of manufacturing process, is so similar to what's done with pet toys that the comparison is inevitable. I realize it's a cost and weight issue, but I wold much prefer a solid cast head.

Articulation - ***
I've included a photo of Dr. Venture sans clothing, so you can get an idea of the underlying body. It's an improvement over the old Mego versions, but could still use some additional modernization.

The neck is a simple cut joint, but the shoulders, hips and waist are a more traditional ball joint, complete with band holding the limbs in place. The elbows, knees, wrists and ankles are all single pin joints, with a decent if not exceptional range of movement.

It's not so much the number of joints that's an issue, but the elastic band technology. This sort of attachment tends to pull the legs and arms back to a standard rest position, rather than allowing you to keep them in a particular pose. Neither of these have floppy joints, which is a great thing...but that requires a tight band for the hips and shoulders, and that means keeping them out of their steady state position can be tough.

Accessories - Dr. Venture Bupkis; Brock **
Poor Doc Venture comes with nothing extra. That's a bit of a disappointment, considering the sheer number of potential goodies the show affords.

Brock does slightly better, but only slightly. On his belt is a faux leather sheath, and a plastic knife fits inside. The knife is underscaled, but does fit in the sculpted right hand.

Outfit - ***
Both cloth outfits are fairly basic, and they have some of the scale issues you usually see in an 8" scale with clothing. Most material is simply too thick to work well at this scale, particularly when you start folding it and hemming it. You can see this most obviously around Brock's waist, but it's not as bad as we've seen in this scale on some occasions.

In fact, other than the bulky waist, Brock's pants are well tailored, and the shirt looks good. It lacks the striping around the collar, which was probably a cost measure. The small buttons on the collar look good (although I'm not sure I remember them being there in the show), and even the belt works well. At first I was worried that the buckle was real, with the leather belt slipping through it. This worried me because at this scale something like that can be quite fragile and difficult to work with. But that's not the case, as there is actually a small piece of Velcro that holds the belt together. I much prefer that option here over reality.

BTW, I liked his look with the collar up better than with the collar down (since the material is fairly thick), but I realize that he usually had it down in the show.

Rusty has the same belt, and the tailoring on his jumpsuit overall is slightly better. The collar is a little bulky, but I've seen worse on far more expensive and larger figures. The jumpsuit is held closed with the same thin Velcro, which closes tight and remains hidden.

They added the various pens and doodads to his pocket by printing them on the fabric, and added a white strip of cloth to the front to approximate the classic nerd accoutrement, the pocket protector.

Both outfits are about the right color, including the belts and shoes.

Both characters also have their wrist watch communicators, and both are a bit too large. It's more noticeable on Brock than on Rusty, and I think it's intentional to go with the rest of the old school style, but it's an area where I think the style needs to be modernized.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
Megos were fun 40 years ago...they're still fun today. This is a kid's fun though, not so much a collector fun - posing them can be a bit frustrating. Still, Megos are one of my top ten favorite toy lines of all time, and the passing of the years hasn't diminished the qualities that made them great toys.

Value - **1/2
Most mass market action figures that are 6" and larger have edged their way up to $15 and more, even at Toys R Us or Target. These are around $16 or so each, which is actually somewhat reasonable considering the limited production, collector focus, and cloth outfits.

Things to Watch Out For -
Not a thing.

Overall - ***
While I would still prefer a fully sculpted 6" action figure line for the Venture Brothers license, I have to say that the Mego style works better with this property than it does with others. The designs and settings of the show match well with the period-esque nature of the Mego, and I can certainly see why it appealed to the creators of the show. The show itself is merely a riff on 70's and 80's shows like G.I. Joe, Scooby Doo and the obvious Johnny Quest, so there's something natural about using this style to merchandise it.

That being said, a lot of fans are going to truly hate these figures. The style is a polarizing topic, and it will be interesting to see if Bif Bang Pow can convince enough collectors of the value of the ironic synergy between the style and the show.

I'll be buying the entire run, even with my reservations. They might not be my perfect vision of what this license could be, but I appreciate what they are gong for here.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - Rusty ***1/2; Brock ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Dr. Venture Bupkis; Brock **
Outfit - ***
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
Online options include these site sponsors:

- Entertainment Earth is the exclusive retailer for these, and you can pick them up in sets of two for around $38. They still have some of the SDCC exclusive two packs of the Monarch's henchmen as well.

- or you can search ebay.

Related Links -
If you're a Venture Brothers fan, your choice of collectibles has been pretty limited so far.

However, if you're a fan of the Mego style figure, you should check out the Phantom and Captain Action/Dr. Evil.

Discussion:
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Venture Brothers action figures by Bif Bang Pow


This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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