Twilight Zone custom sixth scale Rod Serling

Rod Serling action figure 12 inch

While my real influences came during the 70's, I'm really a child of the 60's, and the many older black and white television shows that predominated the few airwaves. One of my favorites was and always will be the Twilight Zone, the first 'real' science fiction show to hit television. The show ran 5 years and almost 150 episodes. Every episode was well written and acted, and the show used the concepts of sci-fi, horror and fantasy to probe deeper social issues of racism, politics, and the human condition. It was a truly ground breaking show, and it is kinda like the Simpson of sci-fi - if you think of it, TZ probably already did it.

The genius behind this show was Rod Serling. Like many great writers, Serling was prolific, working on hundreds of television episodes and films. But his baby was Twilight Zone, a show he used to discuss issues that couldn't be discussed in a regular drama.  

Like many creators and writers in Hollywood, Serling found the censorship imposed stifling. It was the 1950's, and while Serling was considered an amazing talent, he was still under the thumb of the very tight censors of the day.  Not only were many social and political elements of his stories chopped out, but there's an old story about a reference to the Chrysler building being cut because the episode was sponsored by Ford. All the monkeying around with his stories drove him nuts, so he decided to create his own show. He certainly had the clout and reputation by the late 50's to do it.

Serling found out early on that if he tried to broach delicate subjects in a conventional dramatic way, the networks wouldn't approve.  But if he used a fantastical future world or aliens or monsters to make the same points, they were far more willing to let it through. And thus Twilight Zone was born.

Serling wrote almost two thirds of the episodes himself, and hired other writers he respected for the remainder (another of my favorite authors, Richard Matheson, was a regular contributor). 
Rod Serling action figure 12 inch

Rod Serling action figure 12 inch
Rod Serling action figure 12 inch
Rod Serling action figure 12 inch
Rod Serling action figure 12 inch
Rod Serling action figure 12 inch

While the show has lived on in popularity for decades, it wasn't a huge ratings getter during it's original run, and was even cancelled twice. I supposed you can't blame Serling then for selling off all his rights to the show to CBS when it was cancelled for the third and final time - he had no real reason to believe that it would end up being such a enduring hit over the coming decades.

As you can tell, I've always been a huge fan of both Serling and the show. As an avid action figure collector, I picked up all the sixth scale figures produced for the show by Sideshow Collectibles, but the one figure missing was Mr. Serling himself.

So I set out to put together a custom figure of the man. Now, back in the day, I did a little customizing myself.  Using a base body, my handy Dremel, a little sculpey, and lots of paint, I created my share of figures that I otherwise wouldn't get from the toy makers. But it's been at least a decade since I did that kind of real customizing, and I quite largely for two reasons: a) I simply don't have the time these days and b) I pretty much sucked at it.

But I can still manage a kitbash with the best of them, if I set my mind to it.  And so I picked up a sculpted Serling head, had it painted by a pro, and popped it on a body with some clothes.  This review is a bit different than the usual, since what I'm looking at here is the head and paint, since both of these are available to you if you'd like to do the same custom.  I'll explain what I used for the rest of the figure as I go along, but everything from the neck down isn't really part of the 'review'.

Sculpting - ***1/2
For those who collect Sideshow figures, sculptor Andy Bergholtz is well known.  he did some fantastic work while collaborating with them, and now he's working under contract with DC Direct on many of their finest collectibles.

Andy did this head sculpt for Justin at JMLZone Studios, who in turn cast 50 heads. Mine is one of those 50, which quickly sold out. However, Justin is doing a second run of 50, and you can pick one up from him. Look in the Where To Buy section for details.

Andy did a beautiful job with Mr. Serling. I pilfered a number of reference photos from around the web which I included above, so you can see his appearance across a bit of an age range.

Serling didn't have extremely recognizable features, making it even tougher for Andy to get it just right.  He managed to capture the key elements, like the bushy eyebrows, long and slightly hooked nose, sharp chin, and dimples in his cheeks.

He went with a slightly inquisitive, slightly wry look, a look you might get when he paused in his weekly introduction to the show. He's looking straight ahead, but his eyes tilted up slightly, looking at you as though his head is tiled downward a bit. That was very common for him, particularly during the show intros, and was a wise choice.

Even the wrinkles match his appearance quite well.  His forehead was forever wrinkled, as though he was permanently raising his eyebrows slightly.

The scale is very good, which goes to show that many of Sideshow's bobble head issues are not the result of the original sculpt, but the result of overestimating the amount of shrinkage in the manufacturing process.

The head is cast in a very hard plastic, very resin-like, and is drilled out to fit a Buck or TT neck post.  The neck is long enough to put the head well above a shirt, tie and jacket combo, so that he doesn't look too stubby.

However, because the head is scaled to a Buck size body, you can't really mount it on a body that's the proper scale for Serling.  He was a short man, so you'll have to live with the fact that he's going to be more like 6 foot tall in relation to your other Sideshow TZ figures.

Paint - ***1/2
No matter how good Andy's sculpt is, it's nothing without an excellent paint job. You might be one of those customizers who can do your own amazing paint work, but me...I'm not. So I contacted Les Walker to help me out.

And Les did a wonderful job, which he is well known for. One of the reasons prototype figures look so much better than production figures is the hand painted nature of the work. When you're doing it by hand, and you're only doing one, it's amazing how much better the job turns out.

There's almost no slop here, and Les' skin tone is even and consistent.  There's a couple spots (one under the left eye and an area along the hatch cut hair line) where there's some minor issues, but the work is well above the average production paint job.  Cut lines are nice and clean, and he did an excellent job with the fine hair of the eye brows. He did a little crosshatching at the hair line to avoid making the break too clean and unrealistic looking, and this works well in person.

The eyes are painted in that same slightly upward gaze, and the pupils are evenly sized and properly placed. The eyes also have a slightly gloss to them, allowing them to catch and reflect the light in a very realistic way.

I had mine done in color, since the rest of the figures in the Sideshow line are as well, but if you wanted to do him up in black and white, I'm sure it would look great.  And you could use that suit from the new Amok Time zombie!

Other Info -
So let's say you're looking to pick this head sculpt up and get it painted - how do you finish your custom Serling?

Well, as I mentioned, the head is designed to work best on either a Buck or TrueType body (or one with a similar neck post). I went with a Buck, since I didn't need to go nuts with the poses, the sculpted hands work extremely well for holding a cigarette, and there are plenty of suits available that fit them.

In fact, I just picked up an extra Cigarette Smoking Man, which took care of the need for a body, suit AND cigarette all at once. Even better, you should still be able to find the Sideshow X-Files regular release CSM for as little as $20 if you hunt around.

Things to Watch Out For - 
While the CSM was the perfect solution, it can be tricky getting the heads on and off the Sideshow Buck without damaging the neck joint down inside the torso.  Be absolutely sure that you heat up both the head to be removed and the new one to go on (I just used very hot tap water) to make the swap.

Overall - ***1/2
I'm very happy with this addition to my collection, particularly since I was able to put the whole thing together for a reasonable price AND it's pretty much a certainty that I'll never get one produced by a company like Sideshow or Hot Toys.

Score Recap:
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
So where do you pick this guy up?  As I said, you can get the unpainted sculpted head from JMLZone Studios by emailing them at He only ran 50 heads originally, one of which is this one, and is doing a second and final run of 50. Yep, there will only be 100 of these out there. The unpainted head will cost $55 for one, or two for $100.

I had this head painted by Les Walker, well known for his exceptional customs. You can see his work at his site, where you can also contact him.

There are a number of other great customizers and painters out there that can finalize the head for you if you, like me, don't have the skills to paint it yourself.  Of course, if you do have said skills, you'll be all set with just the blank head.

Related Links -
Check my Search page or my All Reviews listing.  I've done so many Batman, Wonder Woman and Justice League related reviews, that I couldn't list them all here.

Want to chat about this review?  Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be discussing it!

Share this review with others! 
  Digg it!    StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!      Reddit

Rod Serling action figure 12 inch

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2000 - 2008, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour