Death Jr.
GITD Wizard World Chicago

Death is Mr. Entertainment these days. You can see him on Family Guy, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, the upcoming release of the classic Monty Python film The Meaning of Life on DVD, the sadly canceled Dead Like Me on Showtime, and even now in the PSP game Death Jr. That's quite a leap in popularity for a guy with nothing more to start than a bit part in A Christmas Carol.

You can think of Death Jr. as Muppet Babies meets the Grim Reaper. The game was actually the very first publicly displayed with the PSP, back in March of 2004. It's the adventure of young DJ, the teenage son of Death, and some issues that arise when he accidentally opens Pandora's Box. Pandora is actually a friend of his, and while for most of us, messing with a teenage girl's box would simply mean a little jail time, for him it means demons and Hell beasts and other nasty repercussions.

Gentle Giant, fine purveyors of nifty statues and busts, are doing a series of action figures based on the game designs. While Gentle Giant has often done the sculpting and design work for action figures for other companies, this is their first foray into the complete package (yes, they are also doing a 12" Willy Wonka, but he isn't out yet). They are doing DJ, Pandora, DJ's dad, and The Seep in the first wave. Retail should be around $10 - $12 each, and you can expect that the game stores will be carrying them, along with Gentle Giant's own site. Current arrival dates vary from September to October, depending on who you ask, but I think we'll see them by September.

At SDCC, they had a number of the figures on display and at WWC they had the glow in the dark exclusive version of DJ available for sale. He was ten smackers at either show. I picked one up to check it out, and report back to the faithful readers. You know who you are.

Expect to see more of the little guy in other entertainment venues, since he already has a comic book going out, and Sony has optioned to do a movie.

Packaging - *
The exclusive came in a white box, with an inner plastic tray. There's a sticker on the box that declares what it is. Hey, it keeps him in one place, and fairly safe, but that's it. Not too surprising though for an exclusive of a brand new line, where the final package look might not have been determined yet.

Sculpting - **1/2
DJ is about as basic of a design as you can get. The skull isn't extremely skull like, making him a little more child-like. That's a smart move, giving him some distinction against the thousands of past versions of death, and making him a tad cuter. Gentle Giant did manage to create a version that matches up pretty well with the source material and still has some personality of his own.

The hands are sculpted to hold the accessories, and are made from a very stiff plastic, so long term you shouldn't have a problem. So with all those positive things to say, why the low score?

Pretty much one reason - the pegs to attach the figure to the included base are SCULPTED as part of his feet. Yes, you heard that right. I have no idea why they thought this was a good idea, but clearly they figured that you'd never want to display him (or God forbid, a kid would play with him) without the included base.

It's bad enough to create a figure that can't stand on it's own because of a poor center of gravity, small feet, or weak joints. It's even worse to create one that can't stand on his own because you put pegs on his heels!

This line is called a 4 - 5" scale by the literature, and DJ himself stands just under four inches tall. 

Paint - ***
In general, the ops are clean, but very basic. There's very little detail outside the eyes and teeth, and even those are done in the most simplistic manner. Of course, this is largely due to the design of the character, so you can't fault them there.

The GITD feature on the head and hands works pretty well, and he's an eerie little bugger in a dark room. The black of his jacket wasn't perfectly consistent, with some areas having a glossier finish than others, and you can't get a much more straightforward palette than black and white, but the overall appearance is solid.

Articulation - **
DJ has a cut neck, cut shoulders, cut wrists, and waist. While he's a small character, ball jointed shoulders would have been nice, and certainly a ball jointed neck was more than possible. With the odd tilt to the head that is part of the sculpt, it would have been nice to alter the angle of the head as well. Also, while the official information on this line said someplace that articulation was second to accurate sculpts, you have to be honest and admit that these aren't exactly the most detailed or complex sculpts to begin with. Adding the ball joints at the shoulder certainly wouldn't have had a tremendously negative effect on such a simple design.

Accessories - ***
There are two accessories with the exclusive version of DJ - the clear "coffin lid" stand, and his large scythe.

As I mentioned earlier, the stand is crucial since the pegs are sculpted as part of the feet. No way he's standing properly without it. The stand also has a clear support for the back of his legs, that allows him to remain standing even when holding the weapon. The stand is done in a clear plastic though, which confuses me. Why go through the trouble of making it the cool coffin lid shape, and then try to hide it's existence by making it clear? Wouldn't a nifty old wood appearance have made more sense, with perhaps the leg support done in a stone color to look like a tombstone?

The scythe is a solid sculpt, with more paint detail than the figure himself. It works well with DJ, or could be swapped out to a figure like the Scarecrow pretty easily. It's not particularly cartoony, which is a big plus, and fits nicely in his hands.

Fun Factor - **
This is actually a figure that kids might enjoy, if it weren't for those damn pegs. The designs are clearly aimed at them, it's a video game property, and it will be selling right there next to the games themselves. Fans of the game are far more likely to be buying this than general action figure collectors, so why hobble this figure, quite literally, with the pegs? Kids won't find a toy they can't stand up particularly fun.

Value - **1/2
He cost just ten bucks, which is pretty good for a con exclusive. Most have hit $15 - $20 these days, but I suspect the lower price was due to not just the lack of packaging, but the fact this was a debut of a new line. Perhaps it's more of the "first taste is free" theory of marketing.

Things to Watch Out for - 
Nothing on this version, which is always a great start.

Overall -  **1/2
If you're a big fan of the game, I would imagine you'd be looking forward to these. The basic sculpt and paint are solid, with reasonable articulation and a nice accessory. If you don't mind being forced to always use the display stand, you'll have less of an issue than I did with the pegs on his feet, and in that case I'd give this particular figure another half star overall.

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

Where to Buy -
These should end up available at most stores that carry video games, and of course there are online options:

- Killer Toys has the initial set of three (DJ, Pandora and Seep) for $38.

- Entertainment Earth has the set for $33.

Related Links -
Obviously, I don't have any other reviews yet, but there are some interesting links:

- there's the official web site for Death Jr. of course.

- you can hit the Gentle Giant site, although there's not a lot of info there on this line yet.

- and I did shoot photos of a number of the upcoming figures as part of the SDCC 2005 coverage.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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