Spawn 26
The Art of Spawn

It was 1994, and most action figure manufacturers were happily plodding along much in the same way that they had for at least 15 years. And then came Todd, and the world of action figures has never quite been the same.

By continuously raising the bar in sculpting and paint ops, Mcfarlane Toys has drastically altered the level of quality and style that both collectors and kids have come to expect. Of course, that's a double edged sword, because as they raise the bar for others, they have to leap higher as well.

Their flagship line is Spawn of course, and it's now on series 26, just hitting pegs. Starting with series 24, they began making each of the figures released in the series match the artwork of a specific issue, most often the cover art. Series 24 and 25 were actually called 'the classic comic covers', but to expand on that idea, series 26 and 27 (due out in February) are called 'the art of Spawn'. That means they aren't limited to comic covers, but can use key interiors as well.

Spawn 26 consists of 6 main figures, one deluxe boxed set, and a Collector's Club exclusive. The main line includes Spawn from the cover of Issue #7 (I.07), Spawn from the cover of Issue #8 (I.08), Tiffany from her appearance in Issue #45, Spawn from the cover of Spawn the Dark Ages #1 (Dark Ages), the Curse from his appearance in Spawn Bible, and Tremor from his appearance in Spawn Bible. 

I'll be reviewing this complete set tonight. The boxed set is Spawn and Cy-Gor battling it out, based on the issue of Spawn #57 (and how can you go wrong with a big monkey?), and the Collector's Club exclusive, sure to generate some controversy, is Billy Kincaid, the child molester/killer, in his final death pose, courtesy of Spawn in issue #5.

You should be able to find these in the next week or two max at the usual suspects - Gamestop, Electronics Boutique, Suncoast, Media Play, Meijers, etc. Retail will be around $10 - $12, depending on the store.

Packaging - ***
There should be no surprise that they went with clamshells, with the artwork on the insert.  As a matter of fact, there's no real surprise here.  The clamshells are nice though, but I'm not sure how well the art is going to stand out with series 24 and series 25 still on the pegs at many stores - you'll have to really keep your eyes open to see these, and the casual buyer may not notice them.

Sculpting - I.08 ***1/2; the rest ****
You can say what you like about the lack of articulation on many recent McToys lines.  You'll get no argument from me on that score - these really are just plastic statues.  But if you're going to make statues, then the sculpting better be amazing.  And believe me, it is.

The detail work is outstanding, and somehow it even seems better than other recent lines like Infernal Parade or Conan.  Perhaps it's just because the poses and stances are less awkward, or perhaps it's because they match the actual artwork so well, but my immediate impression on opening these up was that McToys had topped even most of their recent lines in terms of sculpt and detail.

Of the six, I have two clear favorites in this category - Tremor and the Black Knight.  Not only is the attention to detail simply amazing - look at the base and armor on the Black Knight, or the skin texture on Tremor! - but the poses they've selected are dynamic and powerful.  But if you're looking for accuracy to the cover, you may not be as happy with the Knight as I am.  It's not as big of a deal for me, but much of his sculpt varies from the actual cover art.

Let's face it - if you're collecting little plastic statues, you're really just participating in your generations version of collecting Precious Moments and Snowbabies.  If you're going to collect bric-a-brac, at least your bric-a-brac oughtta scare the hell out of all the rest of the bric-a-brac, and these two will have those cute little figurines running for their mommies.

The female figure collectors won't be disappointed in Tiffany's sculpt for the most part, although the joint line at the waist is a bit too obvious and breaks the overall look of the figure.  It's likely that this joint is required for cheaper manufacturing and assembly, not for the collector's benefit.

The Curse and I.07 are both solid designs, but don't do as much for me.  Still, the detail work and quality deserve a four star rating.

The only figure that drops slightly in this whole series is I.08.  In this version, Spawn is once again crouching, looking over the alleys he owns.  Unfortunately, he's much larger than the rest of this series, and most other recent Spawn figures!  At first you might not notice, since he's so compact overall, but it slowly becomes apparant - his head, arms, body, are all clearly larger than the usual Spawn figure, including even I.07 in this series.  I've included a picture of the figure without the cape, next to the Santa Spawn, also without his cape, so you can see the difference in the physical size.  This difference throws off the look of the figure with the rest, and I can't come up with any kind of reasonable reason why they did it.

Paint - Tremor, Knight, Tiffany, Curse ****; I.07, I.08 ***1/2
Great paint ops can make even a weak sculpt look better, and bad ops can destroy even David.  That's probably why Michelangelo didn't try painting him.

McToys does a great job on the paint ops for the most part, with clean lines, a nice use of wash where appropriate, and consistent coloring.  Once again, the Black Knight and Tremor stand out for me.  With a good variety of color, they jump off the shelf and stand out great against the usual background of black, brown and red.  The skin colors on Tremor look great, and one color smoothly transitions into the next in a very realistic manner, even though the colors are quite distinct.  And the Knight has this nifty paint on his eyes that reflects the light in such a way as to appear lit from behind - very cool.

The Curse and Tiffany are four star work, just not quite as appealing to me.  I do like the green and silver on the Curse though, almost like green and white...go Michigan State Spartans!

I wasn't quite as happy with the basic Spawns, mostly due to the work on the capes.  Both are fairly sticky, and both had a very shiny finish.  Perhaps that was to give it some contrast with the figures themselves, but it didn't seem as natural and realistic to me.  They also have a very heavy wash of black to give the impression of shadows, and it's a tad overdone.  Still, the general quality is very good, with clean lines, and nice definition between colors.

The I.07 colors are also very different from the cover art, but the figure was bathed in firelight.  I'm not sure how they could have pulled that off, and still made him look reasonable.

Articulation - *1/2
Okay, if you don't care about articulation, you can skip this section.  If you do care about articulation, then this will be the biggest failing of these figures.

These are statues, as close as you can possible get without casting them completely in a single piece.

I.08 has two joints - neck and cut left shoulder.  I.07 is a little better with left and right cut biceps, plus the right wrist, cut thighs, waist and neck.  These joints are intended to get the figure in that one perfect pose that matches the artwork, and leaving it there.

In terms of quantity, Tremor has a surprising 6 joints, but they are all close to useless.  There's neck, waist, left thigh, both wrists, and a cut right elbow.  You can pose the arms a couple ways, but that's about the only thing that looks right in multiple ways.

The Black Knight has neck, cut biceps, waist and cut knees.  Again, the arms can give you a couple poses, but that's about it.  The Curs is similar, with neck, cut right bicep and wrist, left shoulder and elbow, waist and cut knees.  His saw blade spins as well.

Tiffany has cut biceps, neck, cut thighs, and waist.  Actually, if you just go by quantity, the overall articulation of most of these figures doesn't seem that bad.  But in practice, most are almost useless, and only there to get the figures in the pose from the artwork.

Accessories - Curse, I.07 ***; Dark Ages **1/2; Tremor, Tiffany, I.08 **;
All six figures come with a small - very small - poster of the original artwork.  The poster fits in a small black stand.  Remember when the included artwork was big?  That appears to be long gone.

All the characters except Curse also come with some form of base.  What, you think I.07 and I.08 don't have bases?  What would you call capes that come completely around - or under, in the case of I.08 - their feet and keep them standing?  The cape on I.08 is also removable, but you'll have to do some serious surgery if you plan on getting the cape off of I.07.  I.08 doesn't have anything else, but I.07 comes with two large guns, which are designed to fit in his hands.

The base for the Black Knight is the best of the bunch, with some really amazingly detailed sculpting.  His feet fit perfectly, and he'll stand standing through even a California aftershock.  The Knight also comes with a sword, but be careful - if you notice, my picture shows the sword backwards.  That's because the hilt snapped inside his hand when I was putting it together, and I had to glue it in place.

The Curse doesn't have a base, but he does have two nifty little midget versions.  Both sculpts are great, and they are even articulated, the one with the cleaver on both arms, and the other on one arm.  They have trouble standing on their own though.  Hmmm - the series has six figures, one hot female, scary midgets, and one big, fat monster character.  That seems familiar... ;-)

Tiffany has the largest base, similar to the ones we've gotten with some of the other recent releases.  There are holes in the top to place the metal rod, and it turns if you move the slider on one side.  There's also a nice, large, cardboard backdrop that attaches to it.

Unfortunately, the metal rod doesn't fit well in the base.  It fits great in her knee, but isn't tight in the holes in the base, so she always leans.

She also has a sword, which was more disappointing as well.  If you get the hands lined up just right, you'll be able to fit the hilt through both, but the pegs that attach the sword to the hilt are very tiny and short, so it falls apart with the slightest breeze.  You may end up resorting to glue, since it's unlikely you'll be rearranging her once you have her in a final position. 

Fun Factor - Tremor **1/2; the rest **
I'm not sure what you'd do with these figures that would be 'fun'.  Perhaps is someone found Tremor peeking out of their cereal bowl in the morning, you might get a laugh.  And Tremor might be good for kids looking for a big, mean looking monster.  Or throwing at the neighbor's cat.  But otherwise, these really aren't designed to be toys.

Value - **1/2
I'm going to assume you're paying about ten bucks each for these. Although these aren't licensed figures, the quality of the sculpts and paint application makes that price about right, nothing exciting, but not a rip off either.  If you pick these up closer to $8 each, you can add another half star.

Overall - ***
Ah, yes - the overall score.  For everyone this will be different, and that's the beauty of discussing the various aspects separately.  If you're the kind of collector interested in sculpt and articulation first, you're going to give those categories more weight, and your overall score is going to be higher.  If you're the kind of collector that hates plastic statues, you're overall score is going to be lower because of the greater weight given to the articulation and fun factor sections.

Me, I'm someplace in between.  I can appreciate the fact that both types of figures have a place, and you can't get one figure that does both perfectly.  If you're looking for excellent sculpts, you won't be disappointed by these, especially Tremor and Black Knight.  If you're looking for a hyper-articulated Spawn, you want to skip this line.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - I.08 ***1/2; the rest ****
Paint - ****
Articulation - *1/2
Accessories - Curse, I.07 *** Dark Ages **1/2; Tremor, Tiffany, I.08 **;
Fun Factor - Tremor **1/2; the rest **
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***

Where to Buy - 
You should be able to find them at local retailers, but if you're having issues, there are on-line choices as well:

- Killer Toys has a great price at $9 each, or a set of six for just $50.

- CornerStoreComics has them for $13 each or the set for $65.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour