Celadus (thraex class) and Astacius (retiarius class)
Kaustic Plastic

   "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."

Mr. Parker is hitting up a couple more Gladiators tonight - tell us all about them, Jeff!

Just a few weeks back I reviewed the new gladiator figure from ACI, he was based on the real historical character of Flamma, a secutor class of gladiator, and he was a solid piece of work. There’s no word yet as to whether ACI plan to follow him up with an opponent, but fear not, your prayers may have just been answered by another new kid on the block.

At the time I commented on the fact that figures based on ancient history seemed to be getting thinner on the ground these days. But like busses, then two come along! So, not only do we have an exciting new company starting up here, but they are also located in Italy (a great start when basing your figures of archaeological findings in ancient Rome and Pompeii). And they plan on bringing us a whole new range of base bodies and historically accurate figures that are built to be compatible with all the best high end stuff around at the moment.

To kick off we have the first duo of releases, and they are two different classes of gladiator. Each type of gladiator had his own specific purpose in the arena and was modelled to represent different aspects of Roman life, and these two are the thraex and retiarius class. There are some great re-enactment photos on the site here, and if you are in the mood there is further historical info here.

The thraex wore the same armour as the hoplomachi incorporating a wide rimmed helmet that covered the entire head, which was always adorned with a griffin motif on the front of the crest (this mythical creature was the companion of the ‘avenging goddess Nemesis’, or so I learnt on Wikipedia). He was equipped with a round or square shield called a parmula, and a curved sword called either a sica or falx. As protection he had two thigh-length greaves, a wide leather belt over a loincloth and a padded linen arm covering with a leather manica that was bound to his arm with ties.

The retiarius was a much less armoured warrior, with his title translating directly from the Latin as the net-fighter or net-man. His simple garb and allocated weapons were meant to represent peasant fisherman. Meaning his weapons were a large weighted net (iaculum or rete) for casting over his opponent, a three pointed spear (fuscina or tridens) for attacking at distance, then a short knife (pugio) and lastly a short four ‘spiked’ dagger (quadrens), the last two being for close quarters combat.

His armour was simple, consisting of padded linen shin coverings (if he was lucky), a wide leather belt over a loincloth or tunic, a padded arm sheath with a leather manica over the top and an ornate armoured shoulder pauldron (galerus), but he NEVER had a helmet! 

This of course left an all-important part of his anatomy completely unprotected. However, he made up for his lack of armour by being far more agile and able to move around his foe with no restriction to his vision, meaning he was still a fearsome opponent to be reckoned with, and was often victorious in the arena.

So now you have a little background as to who these two guys represent, you gotta decide which to go for… or will you just jump in and get the pair, they make pretty spectacular sparing partners. And I’d also like to recommend checking out Dunedin’s great pics over on OSW here.

Packaging - ***1/2
Kaustic Plastic are attempting to make these figures as historically accurate as they can, so the packaging has good deal of information about the gladiator ‘types’ on the inside front flap, behind the accessories tray.

The construction is like old school classic military figures, so it’s a 5 panel flap fronted box with an accessory tray fixed to the inner flap whilst the figure is held in a vac formed tray.

No twisties are needed and everything is held securely. The whole package is full colour throughout and carries plenty of pics of the kitted up figures alongside details of the accessories. So nothing truly groundbreaking, but for a new company they do the job perfectly.

Sculpting - Celadus ****, Astacius ***1/2
As far as I was originally aware these weren’t based on any specific ‘gladiators’ who actually lived. But Kaustic Plastik have obviously done some homework. I looked up the name Celadus, and there is some known graffiti scrawled on the wall of the gladiatorial training camp in Pompeii, it was written by Celadus Crescens and reads- ‘Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex’ (Celadus the Thracian makes the girls sigh). Nice attention to detail and research there.

So I then followed it up by searching for Astacius and I found this mosaic from Rome (300 A.D.), which clearly shows the retiarius twice. Once defeating Astivus the secutor and then again in a victory salute. So even though we know very little about these two fighting men, it’s nice to know they are based loosely on actual gladiators.

Celadus is my favourite of the two (with the irony being he will be displayed fully helmeted up), as his portrait is quite subtle. It’s a solid head sculpt that lends itself to a great many kit-bashes, and because of his close cropped short hair he could be used to represent any time in history. His expression is the focused and determined side of neutral and looks very natural.

Astacius is also a solid piece of work, but is far more specific to his job here as a retiarius. I did find that there are a couple of elements about this portrait that are just slightly off, and I think the major one for me are his eyes. They seem ever so slightly too high in his head. Only by a millimetre or so, but it’s enough to make him look more character specific rather than purely generic.

I have read in some places it was inspired by the Italian footballer Francesco Totti (who plays for Roma… so there is some logic in the decision) but I’m not really seeing that 100% either.  He is captured with a slight frown, eyes straightforward and a tight serious expression. He wears a sculpted headband that holds back his long hair, which is worn in a centre parting. It’s not a bad sculpt by any stretch of the imagination, but I do find Celadus to be stronger and more natural.

Paint - Celadus ****, Astacius ***3/4
We have a lot to thank Hot Toys for… well as collective of collectors and punters we do, I’m not so sure their competition feels the same way though!

You see we now have a situation where new companies like KP understand the only way they will be taken seriously is by making a product that is up there with the best the big boys have to offer in terms of quality. And while I’m not saying this is at the ultimate pinnacle of paint apps today, it is still very impressive. I have a clear favourite of the two and that is Celadus again, but it’s down to the whole package. He’s got one of those generic faces that fits being a gladiator, but could just as easily be a mafia boss or a photo-copier repair man, but whatever he ends up being he is 100% convincing and looks like a dude you could pass in the street. It’s all about quiet understatement with Celadus, while Astacius is slightly more dramatic. He could still be used for a ton of bashes, but the headband means he’d be more suited to 70’s hippies, 80’s rockers or perhaps Viet Nam vets.

The actual application is outstanding on both, especially when you factor in how young the company is and also the price they are managing to sell these at. The flesh tones are all very convincing and they have mastered the glossy wet look eye on both of them. If this is a sign of things to come, I think we have another major contender to look at, and I hope they can shift plenty of units and build on this very strong start.

Articulation - ***3/4
There’s no denying that Kaustic have been inspired by some of the recent muscular bodies to come onto the market by other companies, but it’s difficult to reinvent the wheel, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

As they have gone for a muscular physique you have to approach this with realistic expectations, but what you lose in extreme articulation is made up for in the fact that it looks good half naked (which is a very important factor for a gladiator). Just cast you mind back to the days when we had Sideshow giving us POTA slave Brent or even Crazy Horse... shudders! (I should point out I’m not knocking them, they were both solid figures for their time of release… but things do evolve, and the ‘Buck’ never suited being nekid).

I did manage to get one of Kaustic Plastiks new base bodies (with an alternate head sculpt) as well, which I plan to review separately. But for now I shall include a few basic poses to show off its range, like –

Thisthis, this, this, and indeed this.

I hope they give a flavour of its potential. The ankle has a good range and is in effect a dumbbell configuration, beaning there is a ball joint within the foot and a second in the base of the ankle. This affords a reasonably good range in all directions. The knee is a simple pegged hinge so you get a good 90 degree bend here, but the top of the knee does tend to stand just a little proud when he has it completely bent (this has been redesigned for KP’s future ‘heroic’ muscle bod to incorporate a double knee). There is a universal ball joint at the hip with a peg into the top of the thigh giving it a great range of motion in all directions and the ability to turn a full 360 degrees.

The waist and mid torso can turn and tilt, giving him the ability to slouch forward, lean to the sides and arch his back for looking up or prone positions. The shoulders are pegged and hinged universal joints, meaning they can turn a full 360 and bend out from the body by 90 degrees. They can also shrug up and down a little, but the soft vinyl that covers his upper chest and neck can make it difficult to maintain some of these more subtle and delicate poses.

The elbow is a pegged hinge with a 90-degree bend and the wrists are the now virtually standard double pegged cut ball joint (which has become the standard because it works so freakin well). Lastly there is the neck, and it’s quite a doozy of a joint to end on. I love when neck articulation works well; it’s one of the areas that really help bring figures to life. Nothing makes a figure look more fake, dead and static than having to have its head constantly upright. Some folks don’t realise just how much we move, nod, tilt and shake our heads virtually every moment of every day, and this figure is more than up to striking almost any pose with its head. I hardly ever give muscle bods much more than three and a half stars, but the neck articulation here is good enough to merit an extra ¼ star.

So to sum up it’s a great body that can be got for a great price, and it helps elevate both these figures well above my expectations for the price range they are in. It also makes me eager to see how the bulkier ‘heroic’ body will turn out.

Accessories - both ****
This is one of the areas that Kaustic Plastik look set to shine. Not only have they reproduced the ancient gladiatorial weapons accurately, but they fave made many of the parts out of actual metal.
Celadus has-

Thraex gladiator helmet

Thraex curved sword (sica)

Thraex shield (parmula)

Both the helmet and sword blade are metal. I went over the helmet above in detail, and thought there is little to say about the sword it is well replicated in the sica style as can be seen here. The blade is metal whilst the handle is moulded plastic with a large round pommel. You can find out all about Thracian ephemera and weaponry here.
He also has his parma style shield which is made of moulded plastic, but the texturing and paint app is so crisp and accurate I actually thought some of the details were metal and stuck on as sections. It has a simple grip-bar set within the concave hemisphere that is the reverse of the convex dome that adorns the centre of the front of the shield. Lastly he has a simple metal stand, and I have to admit I have been using it… I’m not proud of the fact, but the sheer weight of his armour has made it a necessity. He can stand and pose unaided, but I wouldn’t want to leave him on a shelf for a prolonged time without it.

Happily Astacius doesn’t need a stand, and because of that he doesn’t come with one. But he does come with-

Retiarius shoulder guard ‘galerus’
Retiarius trident ‘fusciana or tridens’ (die-cast metal and wood)
Retiarius small dagger ‘pugio’ (die-cast metal blade)
Retiarius special four spiked dagger ‘quadrens’ (die-cast metal blade)
Fabric weighted net ‘rete’

Put simply I can’t fault any of his extras either. Even the net, which one would think was a relatively easy item to get right but is in fact just as easily something they could have got very wrong turns out to be big and weighty, with the ‘weight’ being the all important factor so it can hang and drape to look convincing at this scale. And I’m happy to say it works well (it could perhaps do with dirtying up a bit) but it fits well with the finished look. His other weapons are metal, or in the case of his trident metal and wood. All the weapons and pieces of armour are based on actual items found at archeological sites in both Rome and Pompei, so the detailing is as accurate as can be achieved and the fine observations on the tridents prongs and the pommels on his daggers are finely executed. The trident even has a second smaller metal spear tip at the other end from the fork. For those that want to get creative and start making some extra kit bashed gladiators be sure to check out the website, as they are selling loose weapons sets and armour pieces parted out for very good prices (remember they are metal).

Outfit - Celadus ****, Astacius ***3/4
Gladiators, as we all know, favour a minimalist wardrobe. Think bare feet, loincloths and the occasional leather strap… but don’t think about it for too long!

However, even though dressed in the sparse nature they favoured for the arena, KP have still managed to make these two look pretty authentic. I have to admit I always imagine muted earthy tones when picturing gladiators, but the truth of the matter is that Romans (much like ancient Greeks) were quite adept at creating bright dyes and stains for their ceremonial clothing, and what could be more ceremonial that a gladiators robes.

And so it is that Astacius has a bright blue and red garter worn around the top of his right shin, and a deep wine coloured loincloth with an orange tasselled hem. He also has natural linen coloured padded bindings on his shins and left arm. Over the arm padding he wears his leather manica that is bound, strapped and tied at the rear and has a broad strap that fits around and over his upper chest. He also wears a wide leather belt at the waist with a simple open ended sheath for his dagger, both these pieces have large metal ‘coin like’ emblems or crests fixed to them and the belt laces up at the back through metal eyelets. Lastly we get the real metal shoulder guard (galerus), which acted like a shield against sweeping blows levelled at him from his mostly right-handed opponents. This is a heavy item that needs to be loosely undone and placed on the arm. You then pull tight the leather straps, which are laced up the back through metal eyelets, and then tie it off. The whole outfit comes together well, with my only slight miss giving being that I would have liked the colours to have been slightly more muted and weathered. I know (as I already explained) that they had bright colours, but this looks like the very first time he has worn them, and I’d have liked them to have been through the laundry a few times and perhaps even have a spattering of blood. Yes, these are the things any good customiser can and probably will do, but I always keep my figures as close to how they left the factory as I possibly can.

Now onto Celadus, who once again takes the lead for me in terms of overall coolositude. He has the same padded linen bindings on his shins and also on his arm and he also has a leather manica worn over it, but on the right hand side this time. The strap to hold it in place also goes over his chest, but he has a far smaller metal emblem on his. He wears a plain calico coloured loincloth with a bright red sash running around its top section. Over this he sports a wide leather belt with three more of the smaller metal motifs stuck to it (this also laces up the back). For added protection he also wears highly ornate large ‘real metal’ shin guards known as ‘ocrae’. These need to be laced up the back and tied off (I found the easiest way to do this is to remove the feet, they just pop off). And lastly, the ‘pièce de résistance’ his ornate thraex helmet, which is again made of solid cast metal. There is a detachable leather skullcap inside that ties under the chin; you then simply place the helmet directly onto the head.

It has some lovely detailing and complex castings run around the bands linking the different sections, as is always the case with thraex helmets it has the large traditional Griffin head as part of its crescent. Bright red real ostrich feathers spill down the back, and two small white feathers are glued to the sides. I warn you now the small white feathers are very delicate and I had to re-glue the left hand side one on mine. As much as like the fact KP used real feathers, I feel it’s one of those occasions where something moulded from plastic might have worked better.

Also be aware that when fully kitted up Celadus weighs a ton, it’s a bit like the old DiD Samurai, and even though I don’t favour figure stands this is one of those occasions where it might be prudent to utilise one, and luckily he comes supplied with a simple but sturdy metal one (like the ones you used to get with Toys McCoys figures).

Both outfits are well carried out and look to be very well researched, and even though I would have liked a little more weathering, it’s still hard to actually fault the finished product. Because as cool as these are as playthings, I can also see them adorning many a school history departments shelf and perhaps even the occasional museum display.

Fun Factor - ****
If you like some gladiatorial goodness in the form of 1/6th figures from ancient history you are being just a little spoilt for choice at the moment. First we get Flamma from ACI and now we have these two.

Kaustic have already shown preview pics of a rather spiffy Roman Legionary (viewable here) so as long as they sell well enough (and that’s up to you guys) I have a feeling we could be in for some great new historical figures over the next few years, and hopefully well into the future.

As far as fun goes these are sitting pretty, both have an impressive array of real metal extras and both pose well (which is pretty important for gladiators). And being a man of a certain age I grew up watching many a sword and sandal epic before Gladiator was even the germinating seed of a notion on Ridley Scott’s fevered brow. So if you like a little blood, sweat, dust and death, go and get them while you still can!

Value for money - Both ****
I actually consider these something of a bargain. Of course you need to equate shipping into the price, but direct from the Kaustic Plastik website Celadus is €76 (euros) (as long as the euro is still around by the time you read this). That works out at around $100 a pop (less than £70). While Astacius is €69 making him about $94 (£60)

Now considering this is a new company, with a freshly developed ‘unique’ muscular body, historically researched armour and accessories made of real metal I think it’s fair to say these guys are doing something very right!

And even though Astacius may appear the lighter equipped of the two, I still have absolutely no hesitation in awarding both a full score for value. Outfreakinstanding!

Overall- Celadus **** Astacius ***1/2
I like them both a lot, if I could have only one then Celadus sneaks ahead because of his cool metal thraex helmet, but I’m lucky I don’t have to choose.

There are a few very minor negatives here and there, but nothing at all that could be considered a deal breaker. I wish the feathers on the sides of Celadus’ helmet had been sturdier (or dare I say it, even moulded plastic) and I also wish Astacius had eyes slightly lower in his head, but hey, some people do have more extreme facial features. All in all I’d happily recommend both as sound purchases, and they have got me seriously excited to see how Valerius the Roman Legionary turns out.

Where to buy
As I said above you can buy all Kaustic Plastik products direct from their web site, Celadus is €76 whilst Astacius is a mere €69… a bargain by any other name.

If you are in the US I did find Cotswold Collectibles are carrying both figures and there was one each of them available on ebay at the time I looked, Celadus was $119 and Astacius was $98. Happy hunting.

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This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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