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Gentle Giant Animated Hellboy - take 2!

   

"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."

Big Guido is back, and tonight he's looking at the second version of the animated Hellboy figure from Gentle Giant to be packed with the DVD's! Give us the scoop, BG...

There’s something about Hellboy action figures that causes me to get off my “not quite as sizeable as it used” to be duff and write reviews – and in the process tick a lot of people off. As me Ol’ Scottish Granny used to say to LittleGuido, "If ye isna pishin some bluidy fuil awf, yer nae daein yer job richt!"  After the response from my last review of the 7” scale Hellboy II action figures from Mezco Toys, I have determined that I must really be doing my job right. Granny would be so proud of her LittleGuido…SNIFF…SNIFF…I do miss the Ol’ Gal so.

The vast majority of action figure reviews I’ve penned have had Hellboy as their subject matter and as such, one might infer that Guido has a special place in his heart for Ol’ Red and company…and you’d be right. Guido came to the Hellboy party rather late. It wasn’t until Graffiti Designs put out their action figure version of the comic book Hellboy way back in 2001 that I took any interest in the property. I have admired Mike Mignola’s artwork and skills as a storyteller ever since I first encountered his work back in the mid-80s. Gotham by Gaslight is one of my all-time favorite Batman adventures despite it taking place outside of regular Bat-Continuity (Heck, is there even such a thing as continuity in main stream comics anymore?).












Early ads promoting the Hellboy comic book had left me cold. I remember my first thought upon seeing Hellboy was, “Why is he wearing goggles on his head?” Little did I know that those were actually horn stumps and that the funky looking character was actually the Beast of the Apocalypse incognito. I truly regret those eight years between 1993 and 2001 that Hellboy never made it onto my pop culture radar screen. Thank goodness for the graphic novel reprints, or I might have missed the boat altogether…at least until 2004 and the release of Guilermo Del Toro’s live action take on Mignola’s creation.

At the time of the writing of this review, the sequel to Del Toro’s Hellboy is to be released in a mere 3 days on Friday, July 11, 2008. The early reviews are very good and it looks like this Hellboy outing will be even better than the first one. One of the reasons why I think this will be an even greater success at the box office is due to the greater recognition of the character by the general public. When the first movie hit theaters Hellboy wasn’t that well known outside of the circles of comic book fandom. But now, he is much more of a household word due to the two terrific animated movies that Del Toro produced during the four years between the two live-action films.

Just in time for the opening of the live-action sequel, STARZ entertainment has re-released the two animated films in a deluxe 2-Pack along with an exclusive action figure similar to the one they released as a Best Buy exclusive back in early 2007 when the second animated film, Blood and Iron, made its way to DVD. Gentle Giant managed to get the license to produce action figures and a myriad of other collectable items for the animated version of Hellboy. I was really surprised that Mezco didn’t get the nod to do these figures, as they pretty much have been the go-to vendor for Hellboy action figures since 2004. I was quite nervous about what we were going to get from Gentle Giant as their wares have been a real mixed bag over the years, especially when it comes to action figures. I needn’t have worried as their product was superb and stood up quite well when compared with the Mezco produced figures.

Even though Captain Mike has reviewed these figures previously, I felt that it was worth revisiting this line one more time to add my two cents worth and let folks that haven’t already acquired the figures or the DVDs know whether or not their money was worth laying down for this set. Soooo…now that I’ve managed to rationalize all of this to both you AND myself, let’s dig into the review!

Packaging: ***1/2
The packaging on both the DVD 2-Pack with Hellboy Animated (HBA) Figure and the Best Buy Exclusive Blood & Iron are quite similar. It looks sorta like a clamshell package that they forgot to slap a plastic back on and heat seal. Instead the whole schmear is slapped together with a colorful cardboard band holding it together. With the 2-Pack, they went one better and actually had the back of the card band be a full size backer card with some great info about Hellboy and what all is included in the pack. Finally, a nice heavy shrink-wrap keeps everything together in a nice little bundle. I would have to say this is one of the most economical and collector friendly package designs out there. It opens easily, you have access to everything without having to do any slicing or dicing and it all bundles back up and sits on the shelf lookin’ pretty until the next time you get the hankerin’ to watch the DVD or send HB out on another mission to search for things that go bump in the night.

The only draw back I can see is that the full size card back may get dog-eared over time, wear as the previous cardboard band looks as good as the day I bought it about a year and a half ago. I’m taking off a half star for the potential dog-ear issue. Outside of that I really can find no fault with it.

Sculpt: ****
This is truly a spot on sculpt of Hellboy in his animated incarnation. I love all of the wonderful texture and great details incorporated into this sculpt. Gentle Giant did a tremendous job of porting a 2-D character into our 3-D world. The pebbled skin texture is a real wonder and adds so much to what could have easily been rendered as a smooth skinned figure.

So far as the overall character design is concerned, there are few things that I’d have done differently. I’m not a fan of the tiny legs and I know I am not alone in this. I am really amazed that these legs work as well as they do on what is a really massive figure from the waist up. I will talk more about HB’s legs in the articulation area of the review. When I first saw the character model sheets for the HBA character I was really turned off by it, but it has grown on me considerably over the last couple of years and I actually have come to like it quite a bit. I really admire Mike Mignola for being so willing to let his character be ported into so many different media and allowing other artists to put there own touch on Hellboy and company. Of course, I’m sure the big, fat royalty checks don’t hurt, either. 4 Stars

Paint: ***1/2
The paint apps on my figure are quite well done, as was the paint on my Best Buy Exclusive HBA figure. Clean color breaks and subtle, airbrushed shading along with a nicely applied black wash on the Right Hand of Doom add up to high marks in the paint category for this figure. I actually had more issues with the paint on the HBA figures from the mass retail release than with these special versions. There were a few rubs on the airbrushed shading that surrounds the lower pivoting chest joint, but I was able to touch that up with a black china marker of all things. I just gently applied the waxy marker to the rubbed area and then blended it into the surrounding paint with my finger. It worked great and you can’t even see where the rub was. I also had a few blobs of stray grey paint on HB’s lower legs that I was able to gently remove and then cover back up the bright red plastic with the China Marker method again. These small flaws add up to a half star demerit in the paint category. 3 Stars 

Articulation: ****
32 points by my count and they are as follows:
Neck: ball-in-socket joint = 1
Shoulders: ML style ball joint = 4
Biceps: swivel = 2
Elbows: single pin = 2
Left Wrist: cut swivel and pin = 2
Right Hand of Doom: cut swivel and pin = 2
Chest: ball joint = 1
Waist: cut swivel = 1
Hips: ML style ball joint = 4
Thighs: cut swivel = 2
Knees: single pin = 2
Calves: cut swivel = 2
Ankles: single pin = 2
Toes: single pin = 2
Tail: cut swivels = 3

All I can say is WOW. I really like the way Gentle Giant handled the articulation of this action figure. It is the perfect balance of aesthetics, functionality and posability. The ranges of motion on all of the joints are very good, even on the single pin elbows. HBA is a really well engineered figure and a lot of time must have gone into the design and incorporation of the articulation points. Even the skinny, little legs are extremely well articulated and are capable of supporting Hellboy in a variety of poses (usually with the subtle aid of his well-articulated tail) without falling over. I have had several HBA figures on my self for 6 months without the stand and nary a one has taken header due to leg wilt. I attribute this to the ratchet joints Gentle Giant engineered into the knees, ankles and hoof-toes of Hellboy. These ratchet joints along with the high quality plastic and steel dies used in the fabrication of the action figure make Hellboy Animated an articulation wonder. 4 Stars

Accessories: ***
Hmmm…I’m in a bit of a quandary over how to address this area of the review. Should I include the DVDs as accessories or is the Hellboy figure actually an accessory to the DVDs? ACK! ACK! MY BRAIN’S SEIZIN’ UP!!! Sheesh, that hurts…I hate it when that happens. Well for the sake of my brain and ever-so-fragile grip on sanity, I will not count the DVDs as a direct accessory to the Action Figure. I’ll only count those things that actually can be used to accessorize HB hisself. So let’s see what we got here…
1 Samurai Sword
1 Big Freakin’ Gun (BFG) - a.k.a. THE SAMARITAN!
1 Interchangeable left hand
1 Cool figure stand with colorful sculpted Hellboy Animated logo on it.

Sweet! We get four nifty accessories to go with our figure, two of which are newly tooled for this release of the HBA action figure. We’ve seen HB’s gun and the perineum piercing (OUCH! Hellboy musta’ ticked-off Vlad the Impaler in a previous life! The base works great though and will definitely keep HB standin’ on those little legs for the long haul.) style logo base before, but now we get his stylin Samurai Sword from (appropriately) the Sword of Storms DVD and a specially sculpted left hand for him to hold it in. Very nice, indeed, but…there always seems to be a “but” with me which seems to really tick people off. Sorry folks, BUT I gotta go there…I have two gripes with this figure and they are as follows:

1.)    Why did Gentle Giant go with the open handed Right Hand o’ Doom (RHOD) as opposed to the closed fisted version that was packed with every other HBA figure as an accessory? The closed version is pretty darn cool and as you can see in the photos, HB’s samurai sword fits perfectly in it. I love it when I can load up my figures with multiple weapons for two-fisted mayhem. Without the closed fist version of the RHOD, Hellboy is limited to one weapon at a time – and then you have to go through the wearisome task of changing out the hands in the process! I think they should have made the closed fist RHOD the standard mitt and just dropped the open version altogether. The alternate left hand for holding the sword was a good idea and should have been included even if the RHOD could have held the sword. That way, the customer has the ultimate choice of posing options.

2.)    My next gripe is the same one I had with the Best Buy Exclusive and the mass retail versions of this figure: WHERE THE HELL IS HELLBOY’S TRENCH COAT?!!! A Hellboy figure without his trademark trench coat is like a Batman figure without his cape. It just isn’t right I’m tellin’ ya - this is especially true if you suffer with obsessive/compulsive tendencies like Ol’ Guido. I think I spent close to a hundred bucks U.S. tracking down the exclusive trench coats for all of my HBA figures. Now I have another one and he’s still missin’ his beloved trench! GAHHHH!!! Curse you, Gentle Giant!!! Make those things available for purchase on your website, DANGIT!

I’m knockin’ off a whole star for the above gripes. The only reason I’m not taking more is covered in the Value Section of this review. 3 Stars

Fun factor- ****
This figure, as was all the previous releases of it as well as the Animated Abe Sapien figure are extremely FUN TOYS. Tons of play value throughout for kids and collectors alike. One of the best action figures in my collection in my honest opinion. 4 Stars

Value: ****
I picked this up on sale for a mere $19.99 at Best Buy, which had an SRP of 22.95 listed as the original price. I have seen this elsewhere for as much as $39.99. Man, two feature length animated movies with tons of extra features and a truly great action figure with gobs of articulation and accessories for only $19.99? If that doesn’t deserve the coveted 4 Star treatment, then nothing does. It is because of this extremely good value that I let Starz/Gentle Giant slide on my aforementioned gripes in the Accessories section of the review. 4 Stars

Things To Watch Out For -
The only thing I saw was that of the six packs they had in stock, two of the figures were missing their holster and Samaritan accessory. They weren’t loose in the package and it appeared that the holster had never even been glued to the figure. The socket for the holster’s peg was clean as a whistle – no glue residue or missing paint. It looked like someone on Ol’ Chang of Guangdong Province’s assembly line fell asleep at the wheel. I keep tellin' him to let them take their coffee breaks at their workstations! The same sentiment goes for Ol’ Chang’s quality assurance guys who gave those figures a pass. I pulled them off the shelf and gave ‘em to one of the sales drones to make sure no one got stuck with a bad 2-Pack. Just make sure to look your figure over closely prior to purchase and you should be fine.

Overall: ****
This is a 4 Star action figure and even the lack of a trench coat and the closed fist Right Hand o’ Doom accessory can’t hurt it and when you add in the DVD 2-Pack, you’re in Hellboy Heaven! My only hope is that Gentle Giant will produce a second series of Hellboy Animated figures so that we can get an animated style Liz Sherman. I read somewhere on the net that a third Hellboy animated feature might be in the works and that Lobster Johnson would be appearing in it. An animated style Lobster Johnson figure…Ooooo…now that would truly be sweet indeed!

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

Where to Buy -
Guido got his at Best Buy.

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Figure from the collection of Big Guido.

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