One-B29 and C-Four-NR
One of the more recent major action figure companies to close its doors was Palisades, and it was a loss to collectors everywhere. With some amazing sculpts, great paint ops, creative articulation, and fun accessories, they produced a number of excellent lines, including the Muppets, one of the best lines of the last ten years.
The former employees went hither and yon, and you can see their current influence at many other companies. Ken Lilly was the man behind many of the best lines produced by Palisades, and he has now branched out on his own, forming a company called
Ken is a tremendously creative guy, and is looking to do unique, unusual, artistic and eye catching ideas with the new company. The first of those products is called Smart Bombs, and debuted at this year's San Diego Comic Con where CMX had two exclusive sets for sale. Tonight I'll be reviewing one of those two sets, One-B29 and C-Four-NR.
But first let's talk a little about the general Smart Bombs designs themselves. There have been many famous bombs through out the ages, but none quite as famous as Fat Man and Little Boy. Little Boy was the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. These two bombs ended World War II, and altered the nature of
foreign policy - and human existence - forever.
On the scientific side, these bombs are fascinating. Little Man was a uranium based device, using what's called the 'gun method' of detonation. This method was sort of a brute force approach to atomic bomb design. It was so basic in design that it required no full test in advance for the U.S. to be assured of it's ability to work, and yet it was so unstable and dangerous that the design was never used again.
Fat Man was plutonium based, and had a much more complex - and safe - design for detonation, using smaller precisely controlled explosions to cause an implosion of the radioactive material. This same design was tweaked and reworked through out the Cold War to produced more efficient weapons.
On the human side, the devastation was undeniably ghastly. These two bombs alone killed approximately 100,000
Japanese instantly. Approximately another 100,000 were injured, and tens of thousands died over the coming months from radiation sickness and injury. It's estimated that 200 - 250,000 died as a direct result of these two bombs by the end of 1945. The scale of this immediate devastation had never been seen before, and thankfully has never been seen since.
Which brings us to the Smart Bombs. Ken has designed these based on the general physical appearance of Fat Man and Little Boy. The idea is to take that design, add a brain in the clear section at the top, and gussie them up with fancy paint jobs. In some cases, like these two, that means parodies of famous characters. In others, it will be artist envisioned original designs.
Now on to the review. I'm discussing the figures themselves first, irrespective of any political or social perspective. Once I'm done with that, at the end of the Overall section, I'll add my own thoughts on the bigger issues - you've been forewarned.
Packaging - ***
Hey, wait a minute...that's my name on the back of the package...is it too late to change this to four stars? Ken is continuing the wonderful tradition of thanking various folks on the packages, along with giving appropriate credit to the sculptors, designers, painters and others. I didn't do anything all that exciting - I bought a shirt to help fund things, and it's a damn cool shirt - but I certainly appreciate getting the nod.
However, there wasn't a lot of budget for pretty packaging. These are very basic boxes, with the name on the front and logos for CMX. The boxes are glued shut, so they aren't even collector friendly. I actually have both this set and the Fat Bat and Little Bird set, but I wanted to keep one of the boxes undamaged, so that's why you're only getting a review of this pair.
Sculpting - ***1/2
While not exact duplicates of Fat Man and Little Boy, they sculpts are close enough that there's no doubt you'll recognize them. The scale of one bomb to the other is surprisingly good, with the ratio of the height of Fat Man to Little Boy at about .77, while the ratio of the height of these miniature versions is about .81. The B29 version of Fat Man is actually a little shorter than it should be, but that's probably due to the stouter body design, making the top where the brain is housed larger in diameter than it would have been.
The sculpts on both bombs is actually more detailed than the real versions as well. The exteriors of the real things were extremely smooth, and even the rivets were much less pronounced. This extra detailing makes the Smart Bombs even more visually appealing.
The brains are a little less detailed though than I expected, and are a tad
soft and toy-like. This lack of realism could be intentional, fitting in with
the generally ironic theme, but I'd have preferred a more textured appearance.
These guys are small, small enough as to possible surprise a buyer. C-Four stands about 3.5" tall, while B29 is a smidge under 3". They'll display well with mini-mates or Mez-itz, for example, but will look quite small next to any 6 - 8" scaled figures.
Paint - ***1/2
The paint work is extremely clean and consistent, with almost no stray marks or bad tampos. While bleed and poor cutting is rarely a problem with tampo style applications, scratches and other imperfections are much more common. I'm glad to note that there are almost none here, and the consistency is quite impressive.
There's plenty of small detail work, and some of it (like the wiring at the base of C-Four) really makes the bomb stand out. I am a little disappointed in the brain colors, which seem toy-ish and basic, but other than that the paint ops are excellent.
Articulation - ***
There isn't much opportunity for articulation on what amounts to an egg or a cylinder. They gave us some though, just the same.
B29 has cut shoulders where you attach the robot arms. I suppose there could have been some sort of waist joint or joint above the fin assembly, but I'm not really sure that it would have provided much value or posing possibilities. He could have had cut wrists, but that's about the only additional joint that would have worked here.
C-Four also has cut shoulders where you attach the tube arms. And if you're wondering, I have mine on upside down in the
photo, but since they're articulated, there technically isn't a right or wrong way. I went with them pointing down, because visually that worked better for me with the frowning face. But I think pointing up is more accurate to the actual design of Little Boy.
I don't think there's much else of value you could add to C-Four in terms of articulation. You could try, and perhaps a joint above the tail would provide some use, but what's here is certainly acceptable.
Accessories - Bupkis
While the arms for both bombs come separately to be attached, they're the only arms they have, so I'm not counting them here. It is good to note however, because this means they can get more and more creative with the arms for other characters and designs.
Fun Factor - **1/2
These aren't particularly good 'toys', but then that's not what they are designed to be. However, if you have a pre-teen kid who loves Star Wars (or in the case of the other current pair, Batman), giving them a set could be accompanied by a long discussion of what they are, and what they represent. They can provide and opportunity for you to discuss your feelings on a critical world issue with your child - while it might not be fun, it could be good for both of you.
Value - **
These were Con exclusives, so you know the price is going to be above normal. At around $20 or so, they'd be about right for SDCC prices, but at $30 a pair they were a major ouch. They are quite small as well, making it tough for some folks to justify the expense. Obviously, CMX is a tiny company - you can't get any smaller without the owner missing some limbs - and that drives up the cost. These are also the first figures using the Smart Bombs molds, requiring that much of the initial fixed costs are recouped as well. And as a show exclusive, the production runs were small, limited to only 269 sets. Yes, you read that right, only 269 sets. Add all that up and you get a high price tag. Because they were so tremendously limited, the value score here doesn't take quite as big of a hit as it otherwise would.
Things to Watch Out For -
Not a thing. The paint apps look pretty consistent from what I've seen (and heard), so there's little fear of getting a bad one. The arms pop on easily enough, so breakage is probably not a major issue.
Overall - ***
I waffled around quite a bit on this score. Are these really **1/2? Or is the weight for the sculpt and paint great enough to override the poor value? And is the value really that poor in the grand scheme, when the production run is so very low? And most importantly, am I allowing my friendship with Ken to cloud my
judgment and give them a half star too much, or is my desire to be fair causing me to be extra harsh on friends just to avoid appearing biased? These are the questions I struggle with.
Okay, so it's not really all that much of a struggle per se, but I do consider these things when weighting out my final scores. In the end I stuck with ***, because I do think the quality of paint and sculpt, along with the extremely low production run, make up for the costly price. These are more art than action figure, and for some they will certainly not be their thing. Some people will look at them and simply say "huh?", while others will consider the designs uninteresting. Obviously, for them, this score is relatively unimportant anyway. And then there's the issues of what these mean to each of us.
Are these anti-war? Pro-war? Or bad taste? In reality, they're art. And that means they will be anything and everything, acting as a mirror to the viewers opinions and feelings rather than representing the same thing to everyone.
I can't speak for Ken, since what he felt when he designed them and what purpose he hopes they serve is a personal thing. I could assume of course, using my own conceptions and
judgments to color that assumption, but I'll leave that for the more rabid.
I can tell you though what they mean to me. I am terribly afraid that we've forgotten what these bombs represent. In a world where people are stupid enough to believe the Holocaust never happened, or that the U.S. never landed on the moon, there are already going to be enough people stupid enough to believe that nuclear weapons are somehow a possible solution to a conflict. They think it's like somebody else has a vest of dynamite strapped on, but we have the button. In reality, everyone has a vest of dynamite strapped on, and they all have the buttons - and once one of them pushes it, they are all going to explode.
While we can't get past the fact that there will always be some people that stupid, we can't let them become the majority. We have to remember that this genie can't be let out of the bottle again. The first time, we were children playing with an electric outlet. Oh, sure, we had some logical idea that it was going to hurt, but we had to experience it to understand it emotionally. But that was a long time ago now, and forgetting is a little too easy. If something like this disturbs you, or you find it in bad taste, that's a good thing. It means you remember and appreciate the magnitude of destruction that these little bombs represent. And if you appreciate the irony of the little brains in the top, and the silly motifs, well, all the
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2;
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Bupkis
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - **
Overall - ***
Where to Buy -
The CMX web site will be opening a store soon, but these sets are already available from them through ebay. Ken has
for $68, or singles for $35.
Related Links -
Be sure to check out the main site for Creatus
Maxiumus, and visit their forums, where there's lots of great folks and interesting discussion.
Figure from the collection of