Animated Hellboy Series 1
Hellboy and Abe Sapien

Far too often, an animated version comes out of a popular live action film, and it stinks up the place.  Rather than the animated movie or show being as important in its own right, with the proper writing, directing and voice acting, it's seen as merely a cheap quick way to cash in on the larger cash cow.

Thankfully this was not the case (at least not yet) with the two animated films based on the Hellboy property.  The first film was very successful, successful enough to spawn a second live action movie to be released later this year.  In between the original film and this year's release, two animated films were produced: Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron.  A third is in production, titled The Phantom Claw.  With some very good writing and directing, and the original voice actors from the live action film (including Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones), the films were well above the usual quality for this type of release.

Gentle Giant has the license to produce a variety of product based on the show, including bust ups, mini-busts and action figures.  The release of Blood and Iron on DVD included an early release of the Hellboy figure (guest reviewed here), and now the regular release of series 1 has hit pegs, including Hellboy and Abe Sapien.

Packaging - ***
Gentle Giant is going with a very traditional clamshell here, which keeps things quite safe and is difficult to damage on the peg.  They're a bit large, but the graphics on the insert are nice and the show off the figure well.  There's nothing earth shattering here, but they do the job just fine.

Sculpting - ***1/2
I'm going to preface this by saying that I haven't watched either film in the last 6 months, so my comparison to the films is off stills, rather than recently seeing the animation.

While these aren't spot on, they are a very good 3-D translation.  If you look at frames from the films, you'll notice differences, like the cuts in HB's sideburns being far less deep, his horn stubs being larger in diameter, or the design of the shoulders on Abe's costume.  They aren't huge obvious differences though, and without direct comparison you are unlikely to notice them.

I also really like the texture they've given to HB's skin.  This sort of very fine orange peel look works really well for the character, and of course they have plenty of rock-like details on the Right Hand of Doom.

Both figures have hands sculpted to work with the accessories and for gesturing in a number of applicable ways.  Abe actually has two heads with two different sculpted expressions.  His normal head has his usual nonplussed expression, while the accessory head is sculpted in an open mouthed excited expression.  Yea, that's about as excited as Abe ever gets.

You know I hate it when you can't get an action figure to stand on it's own.  Interestingly enough, these do stand fine on their own even with the itty bitty spindly legs.  You'll have to use HB's tail to help, and it might take awhile to get Abe's center of gravity just right, but they do stand fine on their own.

However (and I'll mention this in greater detail in the articulation section) the knee and ankle joints on them aren't tight enough to continue to do so for long periods.  You'll really want to use the included stands for long term display.  This may be an issue for you if you don't like the look of the stands, or the fact that they have a clear plastic rod coming out of their nether regions.

It's also worth mentioning that they plastic they've used here is a much harder composition.  These aren't as soft as most mass market toys these days, which is a nice change of pace.

The line is supposedly in a 7" scale, although they seem alot closer to 6" scale.  HB is just under 7 inches tall, and Abe is just a hair over 6".  Sounds like 6" scale to me.  But due to the nature of the characters, I think you can get these to look good on the shelf with just about any superhero line in the 6 - 7" scale, be it DCUC or something from DCD.

Paint - ***1/2
Supporting the excellent sculpting is a series of excellent paint ops.

Okay, so there's not a ton of paint work on HB.  Hey, he's mostly red.  But the detailed areas that are here, like the eyes, eyebrows, belt buckle, etc, have very clean cut lines, with almost no bleed or slop.  Hellboy did have one nick on his chest due to handling (it wasn't me though - he came out of the package that way), but not for someone being a bit careless with him at the factory, his paint job is excellent.

I particularly like the shading on the red of his body.  It's not all natural shadow, as there are actually areas of the red, particularly on his arms and chest, where it's a little darker in those areas where shadows and contrast in real life would make it appear so.  It's a nice subtle touch, without the heavy handed wash that we often see.

Abe sports a ton more colors and small details.  Considering that he's an animated figure, where colors are usually limited to a handful and details are often non-existant, it's fairly impressive.  His cut lines aren't quite as clean as HB's, and there's a spot on his 'gills' where he also has a rub mark, but his paint job is certainly at a quality you'd expect for the specialty market.

When I first broke Abe out, I was a little disturbed by how glossy his entire body was.  Now, we all know he's a water creature and tends to be pretty damn glossy because of it, but it was still slightly off-putting for me at first.  It grew on me though as I was posing and shooting him, and by the time I was done it looked perfectly natural to me.

Articulation - ***1/2
It's hard to believe that Gentle Giant was involved with the recent Indiana Jones Disney Exclusive figure, where articulation was so poorly executed, and these figures, where the articulation is almost perfect.  GG is the Jekyll and Hyde of the action figure world.

Both figures have very similar if not exact articulation.  It stars out with a ball jointed neck, although the range of movement is a little restricted by the sculpt. Abe's neck is jointed both at the torso and at the base of the head, while HB's is only at the base of the head.

The also both have ball jointed shoulders and hips, with joints on both sides of the ball.  These joints work extremely well, and the HB sculpt actually gives his shoulders a GREATER range of movement than usual!  His shoulders are sculpted with a downward slope all the way to the outside of his arms.  This cut top on the shoulder means there is less shoulder to get in the way, particularly when raising the arms out from the body.

Both figures have pin chest joints, and these also have a much better range of movement than usual for this type of joint.  Unfortunately, neither has a but waist. Yes, Abe looks like he does, but I can't get him to turn to save his life.

Both figures have the same ankle and wrist joints too.  The wrists are pin joints into the arms (allowing for them to be swapped), and they also have a pin joint across the wrist at the hand.  This second pin allows the hand to bend forward and back.  Of course, the Right Hand Of Doom is slightly different, but the range of movement is similar.

The ankles are basic pin joints, allowing the foot to move forward and back.  These pins were a little weak on both figures, as were the knee joints.  Both figures have cut joints on their calves where you see the change in paint color.

The knees on Hellboy are single pin joints, while the knees on Abe are double pin.  This difference is true with the elbows as well, with single pin joints on HB and double pin on Abe.

The last similarity is with the pin joint at the half foot of both characters.  While Abe has slightly more articulated knees and elbows, Hellboy makes up for it with three cut joints on his tail.

There's more than enough articulation here to make the biggest joint junkie happy.  The only real issue is the floppiness of the knee and ankle joints.  While the plastic used is quite sturdy, the joints themselves are too loose to hold the figures up for any extended period of time, especially the top heavy HB.  You can use his tail to keep him upright without the stand, but for long term display the stands are really a must.

Accessories - ***1/2
While the price tag on these is specialty market, GG was kind enough to give us enough goodies to make it less painful.

Hellboy comes with a set of swappable hands (a half closed right and fully closed left), his gun, and a display stand.

As I mentioned above, while it's possible to get both of these characters to stand, you're going to want to use the stands.  The leg joints are just to weak to last long under the strain of the figures weight.  The stands are very cool though, with clear plastic rods to hold the figure up, and a large enough base to accommodate action poses.  Unlike most bases in this scale (and even in larger scales), the logo isn't merely printed on the base, but sculpted in relief, lifted off the base at an angle.  That's a nice touch that looks quite good.

Hellboy's swappable Right Hand Of Doom was a bit tough to get swapped, but with enough steady force it popped off.  Unfortunately, the same wasn't true for the smaller left hand.  Pulling on it started to damage the pin wrist joint (the one perpendicular to the pin that goes into the forearm), so I'm going to have to get out some needle nose pliers to eventually swap them.

He also has his large gun, Samaritan, which is a terrific looking weapon.  It is easily removed and replaced in the sturdy holster. and looks terrific in his left hand or tucked away.

Abe comes with a display stand as well, similar to HB's but with a longer plastic rod, swappable hands, swappable head and the decapitated Indian head.  Oh, and he has his gun too!  The clear rod on Abe's display stand is longer than Hellboy's of course, due to his longer legs.  This also means you can use it to pose him in some interesting jumps or action moves above the ground.

Again, the sculpting and paint on the accessories is excellent, especially Abe's gun.  It fits perfectly in his right hand, and looks much more realistic than the usual animated fair.

His hands swap perfectly, even with the tiny pins and joints.  The head swap took some serious effort though, particularly to pop the head on.  Hot water on the head first helped ease any worries about damaging the ball joint pin in the neck, and the joint is actually made from very tough plastic.

Fun Factor - ***
Had the leg joints been a little tighter and the swappable Abe head and Hellboy hands been a little easier to work with, these would have gotten another half star here.  Even with those issues - which are more likely to frustrate kids than adults - these would be a lot of fun for your average 8 year old who enjoyed the movies.

These guys aren't merely Nerd Hummels, figures that are pretty much plastic statues of pop culture icons that have not relation to actual toys.  While these figures do represent pop culture characters, they remember their roots as toys first, giving us articulation and cool accessories to go along with their terrific looks.  There are great toys that aren't all that much to look at on the shelf (like Playmobil), and you can have great plastic statues that aren't all that much to play with (pretty much anything from NECA or Mcfarlane in the last year).  These figures represent the perfect marriage of both.

Value - **1/2
These figures are actually worth the $13 - $15 you'll pay for them, something increasingly rare these days.  Now, you won't jump up and down over the great deal you got, but I didn't feel like I'd been overcharged, even at $15.  It's the combination of quality in the paint and sculpt, with the great articulation and decent number of cool accessories that keep the value up there.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Swapping the head on Abe and the hands on Hellboy can be tough, and while the plastic is harder than usual, you can still damage the joints if you start pulling all willly nilly.  Take your time, use even pressure, pull in a single straight direction, and remember that the judicious use of some hot water can be your friend.

Also, as you're fighting with the swappable parts, be aware of how you're handling those lower limbs.  Squeezing too hard on the legs while trying to put Abe's head on, for example, could result in damaging the knees or hips.

Finally, the ring and leather ribbon on the bottom of Samaritan's grip is plastic and very tiny.  As I mentioned in the Sculpt section, they've used a fairly hard plastic, much harder than you'd see in a mass market toy like this.  However, that means that the small parts like this ring are more brittle, so take care when putting the gun in or out of his hand.

Overall - ***1/2
Both of these figures are *almost* four star figures.  Had I not had the minor swapping issues, and had the legs just been a little less floppy, I would have gone the full score.  Even with those minor issues, I highly, HIGHLY recommend picking these guys up if you enjoy the films.

I almost skipped these, and I'm so glad now that I didn't.  These are easily some of the best new items that GG has done in quite some time, and a real improvement over some of their previous attempts at action figures.

There's a third figure in this series that I skipped.  It's a movie based figure, similar to the older Mezco line.  It didn't do a lot for me in the package (the expressions was bland and he seemed a bit undersized), but if you're a big fan of the movie license he might be worth checking out.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  **1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
Your local LCS may have them in at this point.  Online sponsors who carry them include:

- Circle Red doesn't have the figures, but they do have the DVD's of both movies for $17 - $18 each.

- or you can search Ebay using MyAuctionLinks.

- Related Links -
I've covered my share of Hellboy merchandise over the years:

- I mentioned the recent guest review by Poe Ghostal of the DVD release of Hellboy.

- I also have guest reviews of some of the comic based figures, including Kreigaffe #10, Lobster Johnson, and the old Graphitti Designs version.

- I have my own reviews of the comic based battle damaged Hellboy and 18" version, the stylized Extreme Hellboy, the movie 8" line  (including the Nazi Kroenen in the second series), the 18" version, and even some Mez-itz.

- also movie based, Sideshow has done several 12" figures, including Abe Sapien, Nazi Kroenen, regular Kroenen, and regular Hellboy.

- - for those into mini-busts, there's also this version that came with the release of the DVD.


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

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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