Simpsons Bustups Series 1
Treehouse of Horror

Once in a blue moon I take the opportunity to rant. And yes, it's one of those times. Let's talk about the nefarious methods unscrupulous marketeers use to connive you into buying crap you truly don't need.

And I don't mean crap you don't need just because it's silly - hey, if you truly feel the need to own the Betty Crocker Bake and Fill pans, or the Six Second Abs machine, knock yourself out. You really only have yourself to blame.

No, I'm talking about weaseling you into buying multiples of the SAME DAMN THING. Two of the worst techniques are blind boxing and blind chases. And that's what I'm ranting about tonight, since the new Simpsons Bustups from Gentle Giant employ blind chases.

You might have thought these would be blind boxed - in containers in which you can't see which figure you're getting - but that is not the case. The character you see on the outside is the character you get. So far so good. But while blind boxing and be so very very bad, there are ways to make it tolerable. For instance, if all figures are packed evenly, it can promote (or at least enable) trading. Also, if the line contains figures that lend themselves to having multiples (army builders, like Stormtroopers), then getting stuck with more than one while trying to complete a set is a tad more palatable.

But the Bustups employ blind chases, the most heinous of slimy marketing tools. There are four regular figures in the line - Devil Flanders, Raven Bart and Homer, Dracula Burns, and Maggie and Kang. Each package is clearly labeled, so you know if you're getting a Maggie, Burns, etc. Ah, but to make your life just a bit more miserable and your wallet a whole lot lighter, they've included a clear green Maggie and a clear red Flanders.

Why is this worse than basic blind packaging? Because it least with general blind packaging I might end up with some variety in my extras when I'm searching for the complete set. Not here though. No, I end up with 1 Burns, 1 Homer/Bart, 7 Flanders and dozens of Maggie/Kangs. And so does everyone else.

The only thing more vile than this is blind packaging AND chase figures. I think Palisades has figured out what a truly awful idea that is.

By the way, the red Flanders appears to be fairly easy to find, but the green Kang is the tough one. I haven't seen any actual numbers anywhere though, and Gentle Giant ain't talking.

Series 2 has been announced, and they are several scenes from Springfield. Rather than try to describe them, check out the photos at Action Figure Express.

Packaging -  ****
This first series is based on the Treehouse of Horror shows, obviously. To fit within that theme, each figure comes in a very sturdy black plastic coffin, with labels on the front, sides and back.

The coffins look great, and the labels show off what figure you're getting, along with pictures on the sides of the others in the series. The labels can be removed with a little Goo Gone, and the coffins used for all kinds of other purposes. I can't guarantee the boxes for upcoming non-THOH series will be as cool, but this was a great start.

Sculpt - ****
Gentle Giant loves doing scanned figures. It's their gig. Unfortunately, I think they rely on it too much at times, and it causes their work to be inconsistent and occasionally zombie-ish.

Obviously, scanning these guys wasn't an option, and their sculpting talent was allowed to shine through. All four look terrific, with nicely designed poses right out of the shows. On top of that, the individual model pieces fit together well, and the construction is tight and almost seamless.

I can usually pick a favorite out of a full wave, but that's not the case here. All four have strong points, although I've been leaning toward Mr. Burns lately. Smithers would understand.

There's sculpt detail here like nobodies business, with even the tiniest feature added in. Great examples include the drool on Kang's mouth, or the chest fur edging on Flanders. The Simpsons aren't character designs particularly well known for their detail, but these prove that idea wrong.

Paint - ****
As good as the sculpt is, I think the paint is better. I found almost no sign of slop, bleed or over spray, and the colors are tremendously consistent and clean. Even the difficult black on yellow areas, like Maggies eyelashes or Flanders frames, are dead on. The age spots on Burns' head are just the right size, and perfectly round - it really is some amazing work.

Articulation - Bupkis
While these do come in several pieces each, that doesn't mean they are articulated. The one exception is at Kang's neck, since it can turn due to the design of the peg. Still, he really only looks good one way, looking at Maggie.

Accessories - Bupkis
There are actually a couple items here that could be called accessories - the rattle with Kang and the pitchfork with Flanders. But since they are really just another piece of the overall model, I didn't think it made sense for them to go in this category.

Fun Factor - **
These aren't really toys, and the package says for kids 8 and up. They aren't models by my definition, since models have a specific purpose - 90% of the fun is putting them together. These simply pop together, much like a Kotobukiya figure, in about 10 seconds and you're good to go.

Value - **
At $5, they're a squigh high. Now, if you're really unlucky, you'll end up paying $6 or even $7 each, and at that price you can pull another half star from this score. But I'm assuming you'll pay around $5 each, and really $4 is far more appropriate for a PVC figure of this quality in today's market.

Hard to believe that the WOS figures were just $5 when they came out! Ah, but they were a hell of a value even then.

Things to watch out for - 
Not much you can look out for when you can't see what you're buying, but fortunately the paint application and quality seems pretty consistent. I should know, since I've had the pleasure of buying a whole &#*%$& bunch of Maggie/Kangs.

Overall -  ***1/2
I almost gave these four stars, because of the excellent combination of great sculpts, excellent paint ops, nice design, and even cool packaging, but that slightly higher than normal price held me back. If they could have found a way to get these closer to four bucks, they'd be an easy four star wave.

These are the nicest Simpsons collectibles fans have gotten since the end of WOS. Can Mcfarlane do better? It will be interesting to see.  Now I just have to figure out what the hell I'm doing with these extra Kangs.

Packaging - ****
Sculpt - ****
Paint - ****
Articulation - Bupkis
Accessories - Bupkis
Fun Factor - **
Value - **
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
I've seen these at Hot Topic and Media Play/Suncoast/Sam Goody so far, and there's a regular cornucopia of options online:

- Amazing Toyz has them in stock at $5.29, or the set for $20.

- CornerStoreComics has series one in stock, at $5.29 each or the set of four for $20.

- Killer Toys has the set of four at $22, or a box of 12 for $85.

- YouBuyNow has them for $6 each, but you can select which one you'll get.

Related Links -
You know, I might have one or two other Simpsons reviews around:

- actually, I have so many, that I did a single page of all of them at one point. It's not completely up to date, but it's close.

- you can always hit the Gentle Giant site as well, where they have info on the line along with their other products.

- and if you're just looking to talk Simpsons, you should check out the finest Simpsons boards on the web at the Simpsons Collector Sector.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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