Apexplorer + Taobao.com = Apextaobao 12” Vinyl
Winson Classic Creation
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
|Everyone loves monkeys -
monkeys in space suits are even better! Jeff checks out a cool one
tonight - tell us all about it, Jeff!
To collectors of high-end 1/6th and indeed vinyl aficionados the world
over, the name of Winson Ma will not be a new one. For the last few
years he has been producing slow but steady stream of very cool toys
and figures under his own company name Winson Classic Creation. He’s a
contemporary of the likes of Eric So, Michael Lau and used to be part
of the Brothers Worker collective alongside William Tsang and Kenny
Wong. However all good things come to an end, and after their
partnership ended Winson went on to set up his own company. A business
that though independent still collaborates with other companies to
bring his visions to the masses!
A couple of years back I reviewed his very cool figure of Space Adam in
the limited edition white colour-way. It brought together two of my
favourite things… apes and space suits, and did it in such an original
way that he remains one of my favourite figures to this day.
The style of the head was very much from the urban vinyl scene, and
this aspect, much like on the 3A human/clone figures is the aspect that
seems to divide opinion. And hey, we are all entitled to our opinions,
but to me variety is the spice of life, and if you missed out on that
figure because of ‘style’ issues you may have cut your nose off to
spite his face! That figure was produced under association with long
time collaborator Hot Toys, and the figure I am looking at today is a
collaboration with the retail behemoth Taobao.com.
|If you are not
based in China (and I’d guess a good swathe of our
readership is not… however, 您好，如果你是中国人) you may not be familiar with
the company… I wasn’t! You can find out all you need to know about its
eBay like marketing might by reading this link here.
result is Apextaobao, a mash up of Winson’s sub zero vinyl styling and
the cool detailed aesthetic of 1/6th clothing with a healthy dollop of
kawaii thrown in for good measure. Again the styling will be
contentious, but if you have an open mind and a hankering for a
big-headed ape in an orange jumpsuit, it’s your lucky day. You may need
to act with a degree of urgency however as these were made in limited
numbered runs. The orange version here has an individually numbered
edition size of just 1000 and the even rarer white suited version comes
in with a mere 500 being manufactured. So the next few months look like
a good time to be a fan of Winson Ma, not only has Apextaobao landed,
but his Apexworkbot
are due in the next few months as well… another favourite area… robots…
can Winson read my mind… or is it just a universal given
that we all
just love monkeys, apes and robots?
This is a relatively bulky figure and it comes in a pretty big box to
make sure it has a comfortable journey. The white version of the figure
came in a real wooden crate, which makes the extra $27 you pay for him
even more palatable considering his edition size was also half of this
No wooden crate here, but we do get a sturdy orange cardboard box with
a cool Photo-shopped marker style illustration on the front while the
back has a huge glossy ‘A’ against a black background with various
logos. It’s a straight forward shoebox design with a lift off lid, that
when removed reveals a sheet of black foam that can also be lifted to
show the fully constructed and clothed figure held snugly in a die-cut
foam surround. I’m liking every aspect of this box, from the bright
orange colour with the groovy illustration right through to luxury of
that foam surround. The quality of the fabrication is excellent while
still managing to maintain that oh so fashionable indie edge!
Sculpting - ****
I find it hard to know how one can judge the sculpt on vinyl figures
harshly. All you can do is bring your personal opinions to the table,
because it is all about the artist/designers vision. Unless there are
any obvious flaws in its manufacture and construction it is a very
personal thing. The features on Apextaobao are kept simple and elegant
with an unfussy minimalist purity. This makes the final look very
striking when combined with the perfection of the paint app. The torso
is rigid with sculpted shoes that are part of the unarticulated legs.
The base of the feet have all the requisite makers marks and logos,
with the left foot having a brushed steel base engraved with the
Apexplorer and Taobao.com logos alongside the number of the edition,
mine being 0267 of 1000. The arms have a cut joint at the shoulder and
another cut joint at the wrist where they are joined to his sculpted
gloved hands. The detail is again quite minimalist reducing the form of
the hand to a simple orb with a tubular groove, not unlike a LEGO mans
swollen appendage. The outside of the glove is where a little detail is
lavished on the protective ridged pads on what would be the back of the
The lion’s share of the sculpted detail that remains is on the head,
though he does have a few small details on his suit that I shall cover
in the relevant section. The head is quite frankly huge in relation to
his body and displays that this is one angry ape! Imagine the evil
monkey that lives in Chris’ closet in Family Guy but with the cute
factor turned up to 11 and you might get somewhere close to how this
guy looks. I guess his expression is actually more ‘seething with
contempt’ rather than ‘blatant aggression’, but that might have
something to with the probe attached to his brow from which a wire and
His face is held in a perfectly symmetrical heart/strawberry shape with
his pissed expression staring back at you. The eyes are half closed in
a scowl rather than anything remotely resembling sleepiness, and his
mouth also shows that this is not a monkey you want to mess with. There
is no back-story with this figure, so the reason for the mechanical
probe/tag/antennae hanging from his temple and the impressive horn that
erupts from the right side of his cranium are a mystery… and for me,
that’s a good thing! My daughters asked me why he had them. I said I
have no idea! Then they asked where is he from? I said nobody knows!
‘Oooooooooh’ they said in a collective unison. See what I mean, a
little mystery is a good thing! The rest of the oversized head is clad
in a chocolate brown ultra soft plush fur, that because of its tufted
finish is virtually seamless (meaning I know there must be some joins
within it, but I can’t see them). So, as this is a flight of
fancy direct from Winson Ma’s head direct to fully formed vinyl
reality, who am I to tell him he’s got it wrong… and as far as I’m
concerned the actual sculpting on this figure is perfect!
Vinyl figures generally demand two things. One is obviously a
minimalist sculpt, paring things back to simple but elegant forms, and
the other is an A1 perfecto paint job, so crisp you could cut yourself
on it. And this delivers an app almost as razor sharp as folded Katana
The face is a base flesh coloured plastic onto which his features are
painted with a well-defined graphic aesthetic. It’s the reason that
vinyl is so favoured in the hip design circles that it is. They are the
pop cultural equivalent of having a Faberge egg on your mantelpiece.
And the fact that no one knows who or what it is on your shelf makes it
all the more hip! They are the toy equivalent of that fantastic new
song you just downloaded from that underground band that only you and a
select few are into…yet! Of course the simile is something of a forced
one, because that song was probably downloaded for free, where as the
other classic trait of ‘designer’ vinyl figures is that they generally
carry hefty price tag. One that is steadily more inflated, dependant of
the notoriety of its creator. Just take a stroll around any Kid Robot
store and you will see a range of figures ranging in price from the
pocket money ‘blind bagged’ Dunny, up to pieces that resemble furniture
more than toys and demand a weeks wages! But I’m rambling again, I’m
here to look at the paint.
His large half disk eyes have a white outer circle and an orange iris
around jet-black pupils. Over this the graphically represented details
of highlights and shadows are applied with an almost scientific
accuracy, it’s as if some hidden code might lurk within them. I’m
especially liking the implied shadow being cast by his brow, and the
small white highlights flicked in at their edges. The shields on the
reverse of the hands are painted to mimic dark brown leather and the
edges of the boots are like a cross between walking boots and crampons.
He is also flecked with spots of black and white paint over the hands
and feet to imply some very stylised weathering.
All in all the paint is handled just as well as the sculpting is, so
for me this is another home run.
Vinyl figures generally come
with articulation ranging between none to limited, as they are usually
intended to be ornamental rather than play things. So this guy comes in
near the top end of that scale. He has a simple cut joint for a
straight forward turning motion at the shoulder and wrist, then the
head has what seems to be a ball joint that is able to turn freely and
has a limited amount of tilt. That is pretty much it, but to be honest
I think most will just want him standing, arms straight down by his
sides and staring forward… I know I do!
I guess one could argue that his rope is an accessory, but the fact he
comes with it already slung around his body means for me it is part and
parcel of his overall look… so he gets a big fat N/A here! Which is a
shame, because those that that are familiar with Winson’s work will be
fully aware of how much he enjoys designing the accessories for his
creations. An ice-axe would have been cool, or even a grappling hook,
but alas t’was not to be, ho hum!
There are of course exceptions to every rule, and I am fully aware that
there have been many vinyl figures in the past that come with some
degree of fabric clothing, but it is far more usual for the threads to
not be threads at all, and in fact be sculpted or even purely painted.
This figure does however come in a cloth outfit, consisting of a bright
orange (Winson’s signature colour) quilted snowsuit. It’s well tailored
to the specific form of this figures body and has lots of nice details
to break up that large expanse of orange. It is removable by means of
undoing a zip that runs up the back of the suit, but it’s a pretty snug
fit so I decided against trying to take it off.
It has black elasticated ankles, cuffs and collar and some cute little
features like two carabiners, one attached at the hips on either side,
a plastic rivet on the right hand side of the waist band (looks like
it’s meant to hook up to a hose) and a little Apexplorers badge on the
right hand chest. He also has the Apexploreres logo printed
in white on the left hand chest and the Taobao.com logo on the left
arm. The last detail is the coiled climbing rope I mentioned above.
It’s slung around his upper torso and is bound and tied in a very
specific way. A relatively straight forward outfit, but
expertly executed with a beautiful finish and no loose seams or stray
As I mentioned earlier, there are two versions of this guy. The one I
am reviewing here in an orange ski-suit limited to 1000 pieces @ $123
and a special edition white ski-suited version limited to 500 pieces @
$154. I admit that these are sorely lacking in the accessories
department, but considering the quality and size of the figures, that
price actually seems pretty fair to me. And for the RRP you might just
find he has more impact on the shelf than a great many other more
expensive figures. I know he is dearly loved in our household already.
Factor - ***
As I already stated above, this is not a toy that was ever intended to
be played with! However, my eight-year-old daughter has been playing
with it… (very carefully I might add) alongside her Sylvanian families (do you have them in the US?). He has
been a King Kong like figure terrorising their neighbourhood, and very
effective he was at it too.
But this needs to be viewed from a far more adult angle. So whilst it
is undeniably well put together, it lacks the dynamic ‘fun’ that comes
from a fully articulated and multi accessorised action figure. But the
fact that even when nonchalantly stood on the chest in our front room,
he draws a smile from me every time I look at it, well, that something
I am far from being fully immersed in the world of vinyl figures, but I
can quite easily see the appeal, especially when the figure is as
substantial as this one. It certainly ticks all the requisite boxes in
terms the quality of its sculpt, paint and outfit, meaning the only
sore point could be considered price. My usual arena of expertise is
1/6th scale figures, where it is increasingly hard to find a high end
example that costs less than $150, making it hard to be too harsh on a
figure that stands at the same height, comes in at $123 and has an
edition size of a mere 1000.
So, if you do still have a hankering for unique looking, orange clad,
angry ape for your shelves, look no further.
Where to Buy -
These actually seem pretty rare at the time of writing, you can
where one may crop up from time to time, or hit the Taobao.com website.
If all else fails you could try emailing Winson creation here.
This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer.
Photos and text by Jeff Parker.