Rescue Captain America and Red Skull
Hot Toys

   "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."

Jeff is doing the double whammy tonight, with a look at Cap and Red Skull - tell us all about them, Jeff!

I already reviewed the Cap in his ‘main’ outfit from Captain America: The first Avenger a few months back here and even though we didn’t get a unmasked portrait I was mostly happy with the outcome. This time however we get a totally unmasked head for Steve Rogers and two head sculpts for Hydra Commandant Jonann Schmidt/Red Skull. In my previous review I already went over my thoughts on the movie, which was a solid adventure romp in the vain of Indiana Jones meets The Rocketeer with just a hint of jingoistic flag waving thrown in for good measure… but when your titular hero is called Captain America what can one expect? 

So ahead of the Golden Age version revealed at the conventions earlier this year and the hopefully soon to be released Avengers suit as well, lets take a look at the militaristic fatigues he donned when first called into action. But what is a hero without a villain, so alongside Americas finest I’ll be looking at Germany’s dastardliest in the form of Johann Schmidt… Red Skull to his friends, the sinister ex SS Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant General) who now fronts up Hydra.

I’m pretty sure most fans of the comic and indeed the G.I.Joe line of figures will know the connection between the two stories, but for those that don’t here is a brief history lesson to bring you up to speed. Initially when Hasbro were in talks about creating the G.I.Joe line with Marvel, it was mooted that captain America should front up the team, and their opponents would be Hydra, led by the evil Red Skull. However during meetings to flesh out the universe it was eventually decided to create an all-new team of super soldiers and the bad guys morphed into Cobra (still in keeping with a Nazi based, serpent inspired uber army). The rest as they say is history.

It’s a while since I did a double whammy review, but when you consider these two go together like Romney and Obama, and I received them at the same time… well, it was a no brainer, so here we go.

Packaging - Cap- ***3/4 Red- ***1/2
I recently reviewed the Lt Jim Gordon figure from The Dark Knight, who like the figure of Cap was part of the holy trinity that made up this years various convention exclusives, and the box for Cap A is in exactly the same style as Gordon’s was. It consists of a matte hessian effect slip case with a muted colour image of the character wrapping around the front to the back of the box, whilst the inside carton has a folded card overlay with window displaying an almost fully kitted up figure inside, alongside his various accessories. Like on the Gordon figure we once again get the groovy little sail-rivet on the side of the case through which we can see the icon printed on the side of the inner box (in this case the shield design). The bottom tab on the inner card overlay also has a rather nice die-cut image of the shield, a nice little detail I think you’ll agree. Inside the box the figure is as usual held securely between vac-formed plastic layers, and the build and quality throughout is fantastic.

The box for Schmidt (yeah… he’s still playing agent Smith) follows the same cues laid down by the previous Marvel universe figures, meaning it is a shoebox format with a lift of lid. The top of the box bears the Hydra crest in red against a graphic that mimics the sleeve of his leather coat, it also has the movie logo whilst the character details beneath it. Inside we have a full colour card overlay with a brief bio of the character. Then beneath this is the figure in the usual trays, and a second shallower tray is attached to the inside of the lid for his long leather coat.

Both boxes are well designed and well constructed, but the use of slightly superior materials and cute little design flourishes on the convention exclusive make it pull ahead by a nose. But looking at Red Skulls facial profile that was almost a given.

Sculpting - Cap ***3/4, Schmidt+Red ****
I like this sculpt of Evans, and when fully kitted up with the helmet and other gear it is definitely Steve Rogers as the irrepressible Captain America. I have to admit when I first saw the prototype of the figure I was concerned that there was something just a bit off with the likeness. However, as soon as I opened up the figure for the first time it hit me that the likeness was way better than I expected. The expression is strong and focussed, and the likeness is actually remarkably strong. If I did have to aim a slight criticism at the head it would be that it is perhaps a few percent too small. This is down to the fact he needs his head to fit inside that real metal helmet, and as I (and I’d hazard a guess you too) plan on displaying him in his helmet pretty much all the time, It’s not a great concern. Better a smaller head that looks convincing fully kitted up than a big head that doesn’t fit the helmet (check out this pic of Jim Gordon for proof of that!).

On the other hand the likeness of Hugo Weaving as the dastardly Johann Schmidt is just jawdroppingly spot on. I think part of this is down to the fact that Chris Evans has a rather generic and dare I say it homogenised pretty boy face, where as Weaving’s features are much more characterfull… one might even say extreme. There are some great detailed observations around the eyes and mouth and the way the hair parts and sweeps over the head is expertly executed, you will also notice a scar behind each ear (well, not so much a scar as a vent, to aid in the removal of the ‘human’ face mask, when revealing himself as Red skull. Both the human likenesses are by K.A.Kim who also did the first version of the Cap linked to above and the sublime Jim Gordon that I recently covered as well. She also created the Angelica head sculpt (I think this might make her the first person to have created the portraits for all three convention exclusives), and it shows what a great talent this sculptor Is. It also highlights how all individual artists, regardless of talent create some portraits that are stronger or weaker than others, however her recent crop of work showcases that she can consistently put out work that is the envy of much of the competition.

The head for Red Skull was the work of Jung Ju Won, and illustrates a different but equally impressive set of skills. I know people that have worked in the make up and effects departments of movie and television studios, and the thing they have told me is that as convincing as you need to make your prosthetics and make-up, when dealing with a known ‘star’ you also need to allow the actors features to be at least vaguely recognisable. They also need to be fine-tuned enough to let the actor emote and express feelings through all those layers of latex and grease paint. And here the portrait replicates near perfectly just how the character represented in the film. His look is one of permanent seething anger, with arched eyebrows (well, arched brows, any semblance hair is long since gone) and a sneering scowl that could teach John Lydon a thing or two. The cool thing is that when you examine him closely you can still Weaving coming through in the portrait, particularly around the eyes.

So we end up with three cracking sculpts, but the one that really shines of trio is the unmasked… sorry, that should actually be ‘masked’ version of Johann Schmidt… who I have a sneaky feeling might be bashed into no end of Agent Schmidt’s from the Matrix.

Paint - ****
As is generally the case with Hot Toys, you can debate till you are blue in the face as to what elements you like and what you don’t in any given portrait, and if you frequent any collectors forums you will be only too aware of this fact, it can get quite heated! But the pros and cons of the sculpting are one thing, the paint app is quite another. I don’t remember the last time I heard/read anyone complaining about the quality of a Hot Toys paint app, the reason being that they seem to pretty much dominate the market in this particular arena. Even companies putting out bigger and more expensive statues are left trailing in their wake.

So once again we get three stunning paint applications, with the two human heads perhaps being the easiest to judge. They exhibit all of the usual deft touches on the super detailed skin renditions, alongside well-applied crisp glossy eyes and delicately painted hair. This is how it’s meant to be done!

The Red Skull head is a different beast altogether, none of the regular human colouration is here, instead we have a rather sore looking angry red noggin. But even though we basically have a blood red head, JC Hong has still managed to cram in a ton of detail in the way the sinews and bone structure of the underlying head are shaded and given emphasis. It obviously works well for the character, but with a few patches of sculpted hair and some sections of flesh hanging loosely from the face it would make an awesome base for some very cool zombie bashes as well. However, I’m not here to sell the merits of ‘bash’ potential, merely to look at how good it is in representing the character, and in that respect its an all round winner.

Articulation - ***1/2
Because both these figures are fully clothed it means Hot Toys get to use a classic True Type on Schmidt, but for some reason use a muscle bod on the Cap. Hopefully you shouldn’t need any pointers on how well these bodies perform, but if you do go check out these old breakdowns here and here and I also recently did a breakdown of the muscle body here.

I have to admit I’m not quite sure why Hot Toys felt the need to use a muscle body on this occasion? It expressly tells you not to attempt undoing the leather jacket, meaning the body is never seen below all those layers. Both figures also have a skin-tight fitted singlet over the upper torso (kind of a fat suit). It appears that Schmidt utilises the slim body so the padding gives him extra bulk around the chest, while the Cap A version seems to add extra padding around his abdomen.

Ultimately both base bodies work well, but because of the slight limitations of the muscle body, particularly at the elbow and shoulder, and because the Schmidt body has to try and operate beneath all those layers (not such a problem if you don’t plan on using the coat) they both end up just shy of a full score.

Accessories - ***1/2
At first I was tempted to give Schmidt a lower score than the Cap, but after analysing the complete haul of goodies they actually seem pretty similar. Yeah the Cap has a Thompson machine gun, a pistol, a shield and real metal helmet with goggles, but Schmidt has pistol, the Tesseract (Cosmic Cube) an extra head (which in my book is always quite a biggie) and that groovy extra leather coat, so all things considered I’d say they were pretty much level pegging.

I have to admit I am liking the detail on the Thompson with its articulated elements, plus the weathering and scratches on the shield are expertly applied, but it’s that real metal helmet that is the crowning glory for this figure, even the detailing on its interior is finely observed.

He also has a selection of six hands in various poses to interact with his accessories, all are gloved and show a great degree of finish in both the way they are sculpted and painted!

The extra Red Skull head has already been described above, as has the extra leather coat, both items are supremely well made and make up the major part of his haul. We do also get the Tesseract, which is basically a small blue plastic cube… but even a simple item like this is fabricated very well and has a highly polished finish to mimic the way it looked in the movie. Lastly he has a handgun that is a fantasy weapon design, but takes all of its design cues and silhouette from the classic German Luger. He also comes with a selection of six gloved hands in various positions, and I’m particularly fond of the one designed to grip the Tesseract, very dramatic looking!

Both figures also come with the classic black oval figure stand, but both managed to stand well without them. I did notice that the Cap’s ankles can tend to slowly give way when posed in some more extreme positions, but on the whole he stays upright just fine.

Outfit - Cap ****, Schmidt ***1/2

As with the Jim Gordon figure the Cap is dressed in a pretty militaristic outfit, apart from the flash of the white star on his chest beneath his jacket and the prominent ‘A’ printed o the front of his helmet he could be a WWII motorcycle despatch rider. His outfit consists of sculpted ankle boots, gaiters, combat trousers, his Captain America under shirt, a brown leather field jacket, a webbing belt/harness combo and lastly his real metal helmet. As usual the tailoring is top notch and the way the whole outfit hangs is very convincing. Many of the pockets are working and the fine detailing on the harness and jacket is expertly observed. Take note that you are not meant to undo the zipper on the jacket, it is stated in the instructions not to do so, it looks like it would be doable, but could end in disaster, so if I were you I’d leave well alone.

Schmidt’s outfit is a whole lot more ‘fantasy’ compared to the Cap’s, looking like a classic SS outfit fashioned by Jean Paul Gaultier (or perhaps John Galliano might be more apt knowing his political leanings). It has that severe style of Nazi officer wear, but with a slightly camp theatricality.

It consists of black moulded boots, military jodhpurs (you know, the kind with the poufy upper thighs) and a tunic styled jacket with a belt. He is also equipped with a bonus ‘accessory’ item of clothing in the form of a long Gestapo type leather greatcoat (though again it has a lot of fantasy styling) and an extra belt. This is a snug fit and took some pushing and pulling to get looking right, but after a little futzing I was mostly happy. It has a number of press-studs on the front and a velcro panel on the belt. I’d advise giving the whole coat a gentle warm with a hairdryer if you have one, as it makes it far easier to handle and slip onto the figure. I did however have a devil of a job trying to get the extra belt to do up over the coat, as I couldn’t get my fingers inside the tight fitting belt to push the tiny peg of the buckle through the corresponding hole in the strap. So I chose a different tack! I did the belt up, warmed it with a hairdryer and just slipped it up over the legs and outside of the coat. This was a cinch and far easier than fiddling with the buckle. It does however mean that the outer belt doesn’t go through the belt loops on the coat, but quite frankly I don’t give a damn!

So to sum up, both outfits are well tailored and the look great, but the lived in look of the Caps fatigues have the edge, and also have far less impact on his articulation. They hang convincingly and have that authentic look that when photographed (by more talented snappers than me) he can actually look like a real person.

Schmidt’s Nazi inspired regalia is in it’s own way a more complex beast of an outfit to get right. The cut of his trousers with the twisted red piping on the seams and the complicated cut of the jacket, which also has red piping and leather panels must have been a pattern cutters nightmare. Likewise the leather coat (which also has a wire in the hem to aid posing) is of such a specific and intricate design it is a marvel that they managed to get it looking so close to the garment worn in the movie. But because of that elaborate and complicated design, combined with the layering it does mean the finished look isn’t quite as 100% convincing as the good Captains!

Value - Cap ***, Schmidt ***1/4
For some completely unfathomable reason the Cap here was the cheapest of this years three exclusive figures… only by five bucks, but hey that’s an extra brewski come Friday night. The work that has gone into this figure is definitely equal to Jim Gordon, and I might even dare say is slightly more detailed. I think of the three the Angelica figure with her intricate layered outfit, rooted hair and cool accessories is the most complex to get right. So quite why Jim and Angie are $225 and Cap is $220 is anyone’s guess, but I’ll hazard that it might be down to the licences.

Ultimately $220 is way too much for this figure, exclusive or not it shouldn’t be more that $170, but just like the Jim Gordon figure it is all relative… so let your conscience and credit card decide!

The Red Skull/Schmidt figure is still available up on the Sideshow website for $199.99 which I also think is quite a hefty amount, but compared to Cap A is ever so slightly more reasonable (especially with 2 head sculpts included). But that’s just the way it is, and as we all know it’s a rare occurrence for prices to head south, they tend to just keep heading north. And with the state of the World economy, manufacturing prices rising in China and the basic materials needed to construct these things getting ever higher (not to mention the shipping prices on container ships rocketing) it ain’t gonna change anytime soon. Well, unless Hot Toys plan to start selling direct from their own website (Hmmm, strokes chin, could there be a method to this madness). It’s a worrying trend and is visibly impacting on collectors and the choices they make. The inflated prices are a constant topic on most collecting forums, and the fact that figures of popular characters from well known licenses are hanging around for so much longer than they used to (and sometimes ending up discounted) is testament to this. Even though it had some vocal detractors, can you believe that the DX of Indy is still available over on the Sideshow site? I rest my case!

Fun Factor - ***1/2
In terms of play value, both of these seem like they would be reasonably robust should you choose to throw them around the sand box, but we all know you wont!

No, you’ll carefully unpack them, dress them up in all their extra bits and pieces, sweat a little when you have to pull Schmidt’s head off to swap over to Red Skull, and probably say a little incantation as you do so (please don’t break… please don’t break… please don’t break…). Then you’ll spend somewhere between ten minutes and three weeks deciding on the best pose to display them in. If that is an apt description of you, and you are a Captain America fan to boot, then these two are about as much fun as you can have without having to visit a ‘specialist’ website… oh hang on, you’re on one now!

Overall- Cap ***1/2, Schmidt ***1/4
Two very strong figures in every sense of the word, only let down by the astronomical prices. As always I’ve ruminated, cogitated and deliberated to arrive at my finished scores in what is the most incisive and decisive of all the categories combined. And as always there is that little voice in my head (the medication still hasn’t silenced him), which just instinctively knows what score they deserve. And even though it was a close run race, the figure of Captain America just manages to inch ahead of Schmidt, I would say by a nose, but that might be considered disrespectful to Red Skull.

I do have to admit, I can’t wait to dig Silken Floss and Hans Landa out of storage, because stood next to each other, they will make a great line up of nasty Nazi’s. It almost makes me wish I had bought Kroenen and Toht from Sideshow as well!

Where to Buy -
Captain America was an exclusive and officially only available from Sideshow where he can still be had for the full RRP of $219.99.

BBTS does also have him for a whopping $249.99.

Or you can hit eBay where he’s demanding between $240 to $340.

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

This page copyright 2000 - 2010, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour