bbi U.S. Fireman

We have a great sixth scale guest review tonight from a new guest reviewer to Michael's Review of the Week.  He simply goes by the name ToyDwarf, sort of like the Cher of toy reviews.  Take it away, man of mystery!

The September 11 tragedy brought fire rescue workers to the forefront of the public consciousness, but firemen have always held an honored place in the world of play -- right up there with cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, and soldiers. The combination of comradery, heroics, danger, Dalmatians, cool equipment, big trucks, funky hats, polished brass, red bricks, spraying water, and sirens has fueled the imagination of many a youngster. So I think it's especially appropriate that toys have played a role in our desire to honor in some small way those who make it their job to keep our homes and families safe, as they have for as long as any of us can remember.

This is only my second bbi male figure, but I had such a great time with Lucifer Sniper Assassin that I couldn't resist buying the fireman when I saw him on sale. And I wasn't disappointed.

Packaging - **1/2
The packaging is one of the most disappointing things about the figure, mostly because it's a glob of glue away from being really terrific. The graphics on the box are pretty good, showing the figure in front of a fire truck on the front and a firehouse on the back. I would have liked to have seen an explanation of some of the equipment on the back, perhaps with a little history.

Inside, the figure and equipment are displayed very nicely, and it looks like the equipment on the flap should be easy to access and replace, à la Dragon. Unfortunately, the plastic bubble is glued in place and you must tear up the box to get at anything on the flap. If you're very careful you can preserve the box enough to use it for storage. The main part of the box works as you would expect, and there's only one lightly wound twist tie to contend with on the figure. Leave out a little glue and bbi has a near-perfect box.

Sculpting - ****
What a great face! It captures a feeling of weary determination. This is one of the better sculpts I've seen on any figure because it has character from every angle. The more I look at it the more I like it. This is a face that would go well with many different themes, but it's certainly appropriate for a fireman.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint job was quite good on almost everything, but they got a little sloppy on the moustache. It isn't a really bad job, but it's such a focal point for the face that the defect stands out more. Luckily, they applied too little paint instead of too much, so it should be pretty easy to fix. As I said, they did a good job on everything else, so I wouldn't be surprised if the slight paint defect on mine was an exception.

Articulation - **1/2
The body isn't the best 1/6 scale body around, but it's pretty good. I was even able to get the figure to hold another figure aloft in a "fireman's carry" long enough to take quite a few photos. The real problem comes from the gloved hands -- they don't hold the equipment well. They're quite flexible and nicely sculpted, but the grip is too loose to grasp the axe and haligan bar in most of the ways you would want to pose the figure. The gloves either need a tighter grip or a wire skeleton that would allow the grip to be adjusted. As it is, you'll probably need to wrap the handles on the equipment to achieve a lot of the classic fireman poses. Also, the boots interfere with standing (see below). You might need to use a figure stand for long-term display.

Outfit - ****
The jacket and pants have lots of nice details and the reflective material used for the striping is perfect. The pants feature some really cool suspenders (which unfortunately don't seem to be removable). The shirt is a nice casual polo-style shirt. I was impressed that bbi did such a nice job with the suspenders and shirt, considering that they'll be covered up most of the time.

The jacket seems to have just the right shape and the hook and ring closures are really a nice touch. Unfortunately, it is very tricky getting all four clasps fastened again after you take the jacket off. Maybe it's just my ape-like hands, but it took me forever to get the thing fastened again! There are three quality, well-concealed snaps that provide terrific closure for the jacket, so re-fastening the hooks is more a matter of aesthetics than necessity.

The protective hood is well made and provides a nice look for the fireman. It's a pretty simple piece of clothing, but it's also really easy to make something like this fit the figure really badly. The boots look really cool, though they're mostly covered by the pants. They do tend to make the figure a little unstable, as they have a slight curvature sculpted into the sole. The curvature causes a rocking chair effect, but I could still get the figure to stand without too much trouble.

The pièce de résistance of the uniform is the helmet. I love the helmet! I normally would have taken away at least a half star on the problems with the coat and the boots, but the helmet makes up for that and then some. It looks fairly pedestrian at first, but upon further examination you'll notice that it has a nifty eagle head supporting the front shield and a lovely vine pattern embossed on the brim. That's the kind of attention to detail that transforms a good scale item into a great one. The helmet also has a protective eye shield that flips up and a nice adjustable chin strap. The strap seems a bit long, but it's easily trimmed.

The fireman's blue gloves have a glove insert brand name printed on them. Nice touch! He could have used some Dalmatian pattern boxers under his pants, but that's probably asking too much.

Accessories - ***1/2
The axe and the haligan bar are quite nice. The haligan bar (a large pry bar with a few extra features to help rip things open) has a slight wash that makes it seem weathered, and it wouldn't be hard to weather the axe too. The haligan bar is actually quite handy for tucking in clothing and positioning small bits of equipment on the character.

The radio seems a little fragile, but the detail is excellent. The handset extension is detachable, so you can use the radio as a handheld if you prefer. The radio has a detailed leatherette case that goes over the figure's neck and shoulder and hangs near the hip. It's a decent case, but I wish it had been made from regular cloth. The radio's antenna is made of a very flexible material. It seems appropriate for this type of antenna, but it makes the antenna difficult to straighten. The handset cord and handset are also very flexible. That's great for the cord, but it makes it difficult to hook the handset to the loop of fabric at the figure's shoulder. I had to use the haligan bar on that one! I suspect that the tab on the back of the handset will break if you attach and detach it more than a few times.

The American flag is a nice thought, but I would have preferred a cloth flag. The plastic flag is printed on both sides and has a pole that slides into a pocket sewn into the edge. The problem with using plastic is that it's very stiff and limits the posing possibilities of the flag.

Several small sheets of decals allow you to customize the helmet and uniform with letters, numbers, and American flags. I'm not sure I'm crazy about putting decals on the coat, but they should work fine on the helmet. 

The tiny key ring is a nice touch and hooks fairly securely to the coat. The individual keys move, but the key ring latch is frozen in place.

Kitbashing Potential - ***
I always like it when I get something with a figure that I think I can use with another figure, even if I don't ever actually do it. Just imagining it can be a lot of fun.

In spite of the specialized nature of this figure, it has quite a bit of kitbashing potential. The body and head sculpt would work really well with many different themes. He's a natural for a cop or a mobster, and I think I see a bit of sea captain in him. He wouldn't make a bad cowboy either, once I get that moustache filled in. Of course, you'll probably want to replace the gloved hands if you put him in another theme. The coat and pants are a little limited because of the reflective stripes and the helmet is probably not going to work outside of a fireman theme , but the shirt would work with just about any modern figure. The hood would be great for a lot of military figures. The boots are massive and cool. They'd be great for a biker -- maybe Arnold from T2? The radio would work well with any modern law enforcement or military figure. The axe and haligan bar would look great on a jeep, though the paint scheme might be a little bright for military settings. It should be just right for the GI Joe Adventure Team. The decals would work with lots of different vehicles, whether they were 1/6 scale or not. And finally the keys -- I'm saving those for my 1/6 scale Groundskeeper Willie project!

Value - ****
As I mentioned, I got mine on sale. Toy Maniacs had them for $20, but they're now out of stock. You can still find them for $25 at a few places. I wouldn't have minded paying full retail price for this figure, and that's saying a lot coming from a cheapskate like me!

Overall - ***1/2
Really a wonderful figure at a reasonable price -- bravo bbi! I might even pick up a few more and start my own ladder company. Did I mention that I love the helmet? I'm not sure how bbi's firefighter compares to other fire rescue figures, but it's up there with the best 1/6 scale figures in general. Only the problem with the gloves keeps this from being a four-star figure. There were a few other annoyances, but they were fairly minor.

Where to Buy - 
- Atlantic Toys has the firefighter listed for $25. 

- Toy Chest also has it for $25. 

- A brand new store, the Toy Boxer, has him for $26.

- Good Stuff To Go has it for $29. 

- The Toy Cellar has it for $30. 

- Bubba's Basement has it for $32. 

About the Reviewer
ToyDwarf is fairly new to the action figure addiction, but already has the urge to set up his own lab for head sculpts and custom equipment. He lives in Wyoming, not too far from where the aliens landed in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Feel free to e-mail him at if you have any comments about this review.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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