Lady Sham - Ashley Wood's Popbot
3A 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 checks out another cool 3A figure - tell us all about it, Jeff!

OK, I like the figures that inhabit the various Ashley Wood universes, but I still know absolutely NOTHING about their back-story! Hence in the spirit of complete disclosure I admit that I have shamelessly lifted this bio of the character from the ThreeAwiki site here.

‘Lady Sham, also known as Anahita, is a leading protagonist in the Popbot comic books. With the help of her nine sisters, Lady Sham had successfully defended early Martian traders from slavers and the Mortis. Eight of her sisters died during this event, leaving only Sham and Misty Slush, who both went into hiding. As the Mortis threat renewed, however, Lady Sham found herself forced to return and fight. Her leading goals are to hunt Mr. Bridger, awaken the Benzinphtine, and have her revenge with Kitty. Lady Sham is the wife of Punk King.’(sic)

And yep, I am still totally none the wiser!

All I know for certain is that the 3A line of toys and figures seems to divide folks like no other at the moment; it really is the Marmite of collectibles! I also have to admit that my primary objective in collecting has always been to assemble as diverse a selection of well-articulated 1/6th figures as I possibly could, but then I have to confess on top of that, that I have always loved the aesthetic of much designer vinyl. However, with a home and storage unit already bursting at the seams, if I was to enter the arena of seriously collecting vinyl as well… well it might end in the divorce courts!

But with 3A I happily get the best of both worlds. The illustrious illustrations that Ashley Wood pumps out are taken by the creative team at 3A and given a treatment that sits somewhere between Jamie Hewlett’s Tank Girl and his Gorillaz style of characterisation, coupled with the classic figures that Brothers worker used to create back in the day. And it’s that very style with its extreme facial characterisations that divides collectors oh so very much!

No one seems to have a problem with the robots that frequent Wood’s worlds, as with their amazing designs, fantastic engineering, spectacular articulation and groundbreaking paint apps there really is very little to dislike! The humans… or ‘clones’ on the other hand are quite a different matter. With these characters the faces and hair are stripped down to a series of very sculptural geometric shapes, an aesthetic that I personally think looks great, but as I said it can leave some less imaginative souls bewildered.

In similar way to the fact some folks will always prefer the representational work of Dante Gabriele Rossetti over Picasso or even Michelangelo over Henry Moore, polarising the fact that tastes differ and that the more abstract fare ain’t always for everyone. Personally I love all of the above. For me eclecticism is the order of the day, and if it is for you too, you might want to read on. If however your only interest is in the latest hyper realistic portrayal of some roided up Hollywood jock with a big’ol gun you might want to move along, no seriously… on your way! By the way, I’m not being sarcastic there… well maybe just a little, but it should be immediately apparent to anyone who reads my reviews that I also like ‘roided up Hollywood jocks with a big’ol guns’ as much as the next man… that sounded so wrong!

Packaging - ***1/2
From my very limited exposure to 3A products it would seem that most follow a very simple design ethos in terms of the construction of their boxes. All the ones I have received consist of a straightforward lift off lid ‘shoe box’ design made of stiff card. Inside the figures are held securely between layers of clear vac formed plastic, and that is primarily it!

However, the thing that consistently gives this line the boost it deserves and elevates it above much of its competition is the use of the beautiful illustrations on the front. I have to say that the first time I was truly made aware of Ashley Wood was when Sideshow produced the polystone statue of Lady Sham (viewable here I had of course seen his work before on the likes of Metal Gear Solid packaging and 2000 AD comics, but I just didn’t know him as a ‘named’ artist. I really liked the look of that statue, but I rarely ‘do’ statues so it was consigned to the list of things I desired but would never buy… it’s a very long list!

It did however make me go off and research his work online, and what I found was fantastic fantasy illustration, often shot through with a healthy dose of eroticism… indeed much of his work is very much adult fare! This particular box uses a great painting of the heroine sitting in a rather alluring pose, and is also backed up with some mighty fine typography. The kind of typography (that if I were to put my snobs hat on… I actually rarely take it off) is of the quality that most discerning designers will appreciate very much.

So this isn’t one of those elaborate ‘event’ boxes that looks like it cost almost as much as the figure to produce. But what it does do is utilise a strong dose of creative graphic design in a very ‘designer’ way. And as a boxes very raison d’etre is to get the product to you in one piece and undamaged whilst also managing to look pretty, means this box wins on those fronts. And the unit price (which I shall cover further in value) reflects that making savings in the fabrication of the packaging can be passed on to the collector, and in this case has!

Sculpting - ***8/10
I have been in this territory before when I reviewed the Heavy TK figure, in as much as this also has a very stylised facial sculpt. If this method of sculptural design is not your cup of tea, you might as well leave now, because it’s an understanding and appreciation of this as an objet d’art that any intention of owning this figure hinges on.

I personally think its pretty darned cool. The whole figure has the look of a fashion illustration made real. Not only is the head impossibly cute, but her legs are impossibly long, her breasts are impossibly pert and her silhouette is impossibly perfect. The hair is formed to look almost more like a sweeping hat than hair, with bold dramatic shapes cascading around her face. A face, which has a sultry pout and slight look of disdain, this is one very aloof looking lady. Her eyes are sultry, one might even say a touch sleepy and the way the head is moulded is crisp and precise, as are the selection of three hands we get with her. The hands have long elegant fingers and come as two in a relaxed pose and one right hand in a gun grip position. There was also an exclusive black suited version of this character released at a toy fair earlier this year (which created a lot of angry collectors) which seems to have been the reason that this white and another red suited version were released in greater numbers. The red version comes with two holsters and two guns meaning you also get an extra left gun grip hand. Though I freely admit that the white one would always have been my preference regardless of scarcity.

Lastly we get to her feet, as these are also sculpted to look like they are clad in high-heeled open toed shoes that almost seamlessly graduate into those long elegant legs. I’m not averse to any physical characteristics in the female form, but a long leg, trim ankle an a finely turned clavicle have always been favourites. And even though there are no collar bones on show with this figure, you just know she’d be equipped with all three! I did find that getting her to stand in those heels could prove tricky at times, and it strikes me that the stiletto heel should have another couple of millimetres added to its length to stand better. At the moment, when the back point of the heel is on the ground the front part of the heel rocks up, rather than being flush with the ground… not good!                     

So, this category would normally be an easy full score from me, in terms of sculpting everything reeks of a quite sophisticated elegance, coupled with a healthy dose of humour, however that heel design really bugs me, just robbing it of a full score by the merest slice of a sub atomic particle!

Paint - ***
One area that 3A have dominated in the past is in their amazing ability to deliver fantastically well painted figures in their own inimitable style. The way they can make a robot look weathered, dirty and rusty has to be experienced in hand to ever be truly appreciated. Likewise their battle weary clones covered in the dirt of battle and dust of a thousand skirmishes are second to none in the way the company manage to make them look weathered and indeed weary. But that is the problem we have here, Lady Sham is pristine! And when something is designed to look this immaculate it has to be painted absolutely perfectly to pull off the look convincingly. The world of designer vinyl (which is the closest world this orbits) demands the most incredibly crisp and perfect paint app, and this I’m afraid is not up there with the best of their work!

OK, it is all very competent, and there is very little to actually complain about if you are a collector of designer high-end merchandise in the general state of affairs. But 3A have managed to create their very own yardstick by which to measure their merchandise by, and this is not quite at that apex of their past achievements. Don’t get me wrong it still looks great, but some of the transition lines between small details on the lips, eyes and hair slide lack the crisp definition one has come to expect. Of course you have to remember that the 3A ethos when painting their humanoid figures is not that of going for ultra realistic flesh tones and life-like eyes. Instead we get a stylised approach that is designed to compliment the sculpting style, and on the whole it manages that well. However, even though it manages to compliment it, it certainly doesn’t outshine it, and struggles to do it justice.

So to sum up, this is on the whole a solid application, as it doesn’t even try to look ‘real world’ it instead frequents a fantasy comic book universe that buys it some critical breathing space when an even more critical eye is passed over it. But it’s my duty, out of some twisted form of public service to pass that critical eye. And on this occasion, for the first time, I find a 3A figure that is a little wanting in the paint department!

Articulation - **1/2
I can’t tell you how well a basic 3A female body operates because-
A- The zip is sewn shut on this (so I can’t take her suit off)
B- The outfit is so darned tight I daren’t push her for any dynamic poses to test the range.

I’m sure if she were in a less restrictive suit she would fare better, but on this occasion she can barely move her legs and her arms have a fairly reasonable range. If I do ever get a 3A female that can be undressed be sure I will give you far more detail, but for now I’m more than a little disappointed!

Accessories - ***
An extra gun grip hand and the revolver (with a rotating chamber) is all we get, which is far from a great haul. However in the paintings I’ve seen of Sham that does seem to be all she needs. Maybe she is not known to handle a katana or unleash the dogs of war with a bazooka, but a little something extra might have cool. However, for the price she was available for I still consider it to be an OK deal.

Outfit - ***1/2

Lady Sham cuts quite a dramatic silhouette, and her ultra skin-tight jumpsuit fits like a second skin. But whilst it looks good it does mean that her articulation is seriously hampered, especially at the hips and knees. I guess I could push her further if I tried, but the fear of the seams popping or tearing and the danger of long term stretch marks at her major joints have kept me from doing so. The style of the suit is a simple and minimalist affair, and apart from the zip up the back (which is stitched shut at the top to stop you trying to disrobe her) it has very little detail. The seams are all clean and tidy, but it has no pockets, buckles or buttons at all. There are thumbholes at the end of the sleeves that make swapping over the hands a delicate manoeuvre, but it does mean that the sleeves are kept nice and taut, which is great for the aesthetic. One thing I am really liking is how the leg of the suit joins the foot seamlessly to the sole of the shoe, it’s a very sleek detail, but obviously means you can’t remove her feet either.

The only other detail on her outfit is the pleather holster for her oversized revolver. This is actually quite disappointing, as the way it is fabricated from the same material as the suit ends up looking rather crude. It would appear that it has been pattern cut with a pair of scissors and the edges though relatively sharp, let down the look of the finished figure. It has a flap over the top with a Velcro tab to hold it shut, and a simple sliding buckle to fasten it. Wearing one holster doesn’t disrupt her look too much, but the red suited version comes with two separate holsters rather than one double one, and from the pics I’ve seen it does end up giving her a little too much bulk around her waist.

This ends up being a fair and competent outfit rather than an outstanding one, and the minimal simplicity of the detailing does require that it be made to look 100% perfect, and sadly it just can’t quite manage it.

Value - ****+
It seems that the best way to get any of the 3A products is direct from the Gallery ThreeA or Bambaland store. I recently joined the newly refurbished online community and have to admit found the whole affair quite confusing and couldn’t actually find any products to buy at all. It was however very early days and I’m sure the early glitches will have been ironed out by now.

EDIT- I’m informed that Gallery Three A went into meltdown and retail has been moved back to Bambaland

I didn’t buy this through the store though; instead I got hold of it from a fellow collector who had one spare (thanks John Christopher, you da man). He let me have it for what it cost him plus shipping, which I rounded up to an incredibly reasonable 65! Yep, you did read that right- sixty-five English pounds sterling. This is made by 3A which is part owned by Ashley Wood meaning it will not have a hefty license to pay, but I still consider that price to be a bona fide bargain.

Yes I had a couple of minor issues with the paint, holster and general articulation, but when you take those into consideration against the price, they suddenly seem a whole lot more acceptable. I did think I could live with just having a couple of bots and one male and one female human from the Ashtroverse, but the limited articulation (because of the suit) has made me want to get hold of another female figure in a more articulation friendly outfit… watch this space!

Fun Factor - **1/2
Due to her hampered mobility this figure comes up sorely lacking in the fun department. I was hoping to be able to get some funky poses interacting with Popbot, but I shall have to be content with some relatively straightforward standing poses. Not a huge problem as it is probably what I would have decided on anyway… but I do at least like to have the option!

But the fact of the matter is, that with this series from the Popbot universe, the only two figures I really wanted were Popbot and Lady Sham. As to me (and maybe only me alone) they are the signature characters from all of Wood’s creations.

And although I derive quite a bit of fun from having these stand together on the cabinet in my dinning room I wouldn’t ever consider giving her to a child to play with, as you would end up with a very knackered dolly in a very short time!

Overall- ***1/2
This ends up neither being a sham (yeah, I couldn’t resist) or a triumph, but instead inhabits a middle ground. If I received a figure in the $150 plus bracket that was this limited in articulation I’d be pretty miffed, but the fact I scored this for 65 (inc P+P) brings it in at a very healthy $104, so to my considered opinion that is a pretty damned good price. If she had come with a few more accessories she might have even come in with a full score (taking into account that very healthy price). Thanks again JC for sorting me out.

Where to Buy -
As far as I am aware, the only place you will be able to get hold of one know is on the secondary markets either through a fellow collector on a forum or by hitting up eBay. I did have a quick perusal and discovered she was still readily available, but you will have to find something in the region of $90  up to $150. 

If like myself you are UK based you’ll find onesixthbruce carry a lot of the retail figures that aren’t Bambaland exclusives.

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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