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12" James Dean

Jeff Parker is back tonight with another 12" figure based on an American movie icon - James Dean!  Tell us all about him, Jeff! 

Well here's another one for you collectors of 'designer' toys. Now, I originally started out purely collecting Hasbro's Star Wars line of 12" figures (I don't expect I'm alone there), at first I was impressed, and as soon as each new figure came out I 'HAD' to have it (even the store exclusives, and that ain't easy being based in the U.K) but as the quality of rival manufacturers (most noticeably 'Sideshow', my wife bought me the first 'Frankenstein's monster' so I can blame her) seemed to get better and better, Hasbro's line seemed to be getting worse and worse. Now maybe this is an unfair comparison, as the price point of Hasbro stuff is 'usually' considerably less than others, but I myself would have gladly paid a few more $'s or 's in my case for a better quality figure. So I found myself diversifying, I'd regularly look up various 1/6 scale manufacturers own web sites, and also check out what was available on eBay. And so my descent began. As I began to see just how eclectic the figures available were, I discovered a virtual 'underground' of manufacturers and collectors, and though at first it's an area I thought I'd never get into ('designer toys'), it just seemed too pretentious and down right expensive. But as my collecting bug grew, I saw the quality and care put into these things, I knew there was no going back. 








And so onto this review, James Dean, by Eric So. Eric's a very sought after Hong Kong based creator of toys (if you haven't seen his 'Hellboy' vinyl figure check it out, it's a gem) and this particular figure is in an addition of 200 (small in any collectors field), but because of it's price there are still a few around. I'm particularly impressed by the fact they chose to do James Dean 'the actor' rather than in one of his movie rolls (of which there are only three anyway), and personally feel there could be a big market for a range of 'classic actors', Marlon Brando, Carey Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Audrey Hepburn, Jane Russell, Grace Kelly, and Marilyn's always worth revisiting, this list could go on and on. So how's about it Sideshow?

Packaging - ***1/2
A very smart box, simple but effective. Overall black with a gray painted front panel showing the Deanster partaking of the pleasure on nicotine. It's a kind of 'half' flapped box which opens to reveal a nice bio on the left (inside flap) and a window showing the figure. Because of the shape of the window you cant see his accessories, but once you open it up and slide the clamshell tray out all becomes apparent with the accessories lying next to him and his other accessory (the bongo drum) packaged in a separate little box. Only 2 twisty ties so getting him out ain't too big a challenge. 

Sculpting - **** 
Top marks here, one of the cleanest head sculpts I've seen in a long time, It manages to capture 'exactly' the look of James Dean, and looks effortless and completely 'unfussy'. Eric So seems to be able to strip peoples features down to their base elements and just get it right. I recently got a set of the DiD, LOTR 12" figures (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and while they have managed to do an absolutely sterling job on the costumes and accessories the head sculpts are like the polar opposite of this one, Don't get me wrong, I really like them, and while they have certainly captured something of all the actors, they seem over labored and very 'fussy' and in trying so hard to get it right, they seem to have pushed the likeness further away, but back to James, I diversify yet again.

Paint - ****
A paint job as clean as the sculpt. While there is some paint on the camera accessory, and very clean and tight it is too! the main and in deed only other area is the head. Beautifully applied with not a single bit of over painting. There's some gentle airbrushing on the chin to mimic a 5 o'clock shadow. the blue eyes are crisply painted and a couple of tones of brown have been flicked in on the eye brows. The hair is the an overall brown, but because of the quality of the sculpt and the matte paints used it still seems to come alive. Faultless.

Articulation - *** 
A great body, and again par for the course in modern 1/6th scale figures. Everything you'd expect, double jointed elbows & knees, ball jointed hips, chest and torso, and swivel ball jointed shoulders. This is however his lowest scoring area, purely because the amount of layers he's wearing severely hampers his possibility. You could remove the overcoat, but its so beautifully made I don't think you'll want to. My other quibble is the use of 'bendy' hands, some people like 'em, I'm not so keen, and it would have been nice to see an alternative hard sculpted pair. 

Accessories - ***1/2
A nice selection here. All beautifully realized. As I mentioned before, the biggest is the bongo drum which comes in it's own little box, very well put together and if I'm not mistaken I think it has a real leather skin. next is the small hold all/bowling bag, again nice to scale stitching and working zip. Then there's a replica of his twin lens reflex camera (looks like a Hasselblad) with adjustable strap, two interchangeable fittings depending on if you want the viewing plate open or shut. and penultimately we have his trademark glasses, very fragile but well made. And finally, blink and you'll miss it, a tiny cigarette with glowing tip. The only reason I deducted half a point was that when I unpacked the bongo I found the sticker running vertically around it wasn't applied tightly. So I carefully peeled it back and re-applied tightly. Not something I should have to do! I suppose a stand might have been nice as well, he can stay upright with no problems. But you wouldn't want him doing any gymnastics off your shelf!

Outfit - ****
A perfect score, but one that is only perfect after removing a garment. When you first get him out you'll notice he looks a little full, around the waist with his jacket straining at the front, and when you strip him down you'll find he's wearing a pair of padded underpants, identical to the ones Hot Toys included on their Monroe doll that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago (see 1/6 scale archive). It is beyond me why they included these, as the figure looks infinitely better without them, and once removed his trousers and jacket do up much more comfortably. His suit and black roll neck are beautifully made, however the star piece is the overcoat, it has a naval double breasted design and is fully lined with working pockets and even working buttons, though it has to be said if you find unbuttoning them tricky just wait till you button them up again. 

Fun Factor - ***
Not one for Christmas morning if your kids are into G.I.Joe, as it wont be much fun for little Johnny making G.I.James 'play the bongo's', 'Take a few snaps', 'put some things in his bag' or 'have a cigarette' when he'd rather be ridding the earth of evil with a **** off gun! But as far as just displaying him next to some other iconic figures, he's about as good as it gets.

Value - **
Well at $175.00 he ain't cheap, and most of the others I've seen on eBay are going for $200.00 plus, it remains to be seen if in years to come Eric So is as collectable as people seem to think he will be, so my advice is as always. Don't buy as an investment, buy it because you 'HAVE' to have it. If you feel you 'NEED' it in your life then the $175 doesn't hurt quite as much.

Overall - ***1/2
Despite the high price point I love this figure, and if money were no object (I wish) I'd be out there tracking down more of Eric's work (as I said before his Hellboy vinyl figure is a work of art) so taking into account all the categories, if the price had been nearer the $100 mark (not likely in an addition of 200, I know!) I'd properly have given him that all elusive perfect score.

SCORE RECAP:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - **** 
Paint - ****
Articulation - *** 
Accessories - ***1/2
Outfit - **** 
Fun Factor - ***
Value - **
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy - 
eBay, well what do you expect from me? It's where I got mine! from a trader called 'Charlesay' who also supplied my Medicom Warhol figures. I have found him on line as well @Kid robot who are selling for $229.00.


Figure from the collection of Jeff Parker.

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