MARVEL RETRO FIGURES (DIAMOND SELECT TOYS)
So, today, you were probably expecting to read a review of that Marvel Legends Hobgoblin I’ve been building for the last week. Well, dear reader, you’re just going to have to test your patience on that one, because I’m going to be doing a bit of a theme for the next two weeks. Aren’t I just the worst?
If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you might be unaware that a little movie called Avengers: Age of Ultron is set to be released (in the US, anyway) on May 1st. That means that there are 14 days until it’s released. So, I’ll be counting down by doing a review of a figure of each of the film’s main characters each day between now and then. Let’s kick things off with “The First Avenger” Captain America.
THE FIGURE ITSELF
Captain America is the second figure in Diamond Select Toys’ Marvel Retro Figures line, which is DST’s new line of figures based on the old Mego figures from the 70s. Cap follows Spider-Man and will be followed by Wolverine and Thor later this year. The figure is built on the line’s standard body, which is a re-fit Mego Type II body, with a few improvements by Paul “Dr. Mego” Clarke. Said body (with the addition of a head) stands roughly 8 inches tall and has 16 points of articulation. As I noted in my review of the Spider-Man figure, this version of the body has a sturdier construction than the original Mego bodies, and is even a little sturdier than DST’s previous Star Trek and Planet of the Apes retro lines. Just like Spider-Man, Captain America is essentially three figures in one. There are three complete sets, each consisting of a head, a costume, and accessories, and one body for them all to share. For the purposes of this review, I have provided two spare bodies of my own, but the actual set only has the one.
First of the three looks is Cap’s “vintage” look, which is the one that comes pre-built on the included body. He’s a recreation of the original Captain America Mego. The vintage Cap is widely remembered for the changes to his costume and his overall goofy look. This figure remains true to that. He uses the same head sculpt as the original figure. Purely looking at the sculpt of the head, it’s actually not bad. It’s a teeny bit dated, but it’s generally a fairly generic hero head. What really makes the head goofy looking is the paint, which has also been recreated here. Overall, it’s a pretty good match for the original Cap head. Some of the line work, particularly on the “shadow” of the mask, is a little fuzzy at the edges. Also, the already goofy eyes are made a little goofier by the fact that the pupils are just a tiny bit misplaced. It looks a little bit like he’s glancing to his right. The figure’s body suit is tailored to match the original, and they’ve done a pretty great job of that. It sits very nicely, and the colors of the cloth are all well-matched. The star emblem presents a bit of a problem. The original figure had a decal, which, over time, fell off of just about every single figure. On this one, it’s been replaced by a piece of thick pleather-like material. It’s an understandable change, but rather than properly affix it to the costume, it’s held on in the center with a rather simple threading. The end result is a) a fairly noticeable dot in the center of the logo and b) a logo which sticks up at the sides and doesn’t stay straight. Surely there had to be a better solution than that to get the logo to stay in place. The other essential piece of the costume is the boots. The original was notable for not having the proper buccaneer-style boots of Cap’s comic look, and that’s replicated here. The original Mego Cap boots, like all Mego boots, were molded in a thin, stiff plastic. Here, they’re done in a rubberier material, making them both sturdier and easier to get on and off the figure. This version of the figure includes the same one accessory as his vintage counterpart: his shield. The actual piece is a pretty straight re-cast of the original shield, but the decal is noticeably not as smoothly applied as the vintage one, which is too bad.
Second up is the updated take on the classic Cap design. Like Spider-Man, this figure is meant to be what a Mego Cap might look like with modern toy making technology at its disposal. To start with, the figure gets a brand-new head sculpt. This one offers a more… idealized take on Cap’s head. Where Spidey’s head felt like an evolution of the original head, this one feels more like a start from scratch. Many of the same elements are there, but placement seems better. The eyes aren’t buggy, the jaw is a little more chiseled, and the facial feature in general are a little bit more evenly place on the head, so he doesn’t have such a huge forehead going on. He also has a lot more detailing, especially on the actual mask which sports some seams along the top and a more defined set of eyeholes. The head is a little bit on the large side, and this is emphasized by the fact that the neck is perhaps a touch too long. It’s not terrible, but it is noticeable in light of Spider-Man, who had a more accurately proportioned head and neck. The paintwork on the head is pretty great. The colors are well chosen and everything is bold and mostly clean. The tailoring on the figure’s costume is tighter than the vintage one, and is actually a little too tight in a few areas. Once the costume is fully in place, it looks pretty good, but it’s a real pain getting it to that point. The material chosen for the costume is quite nice; the blues match very well with the mask and I like the scaled pattern on his upper half quite a bit. Also, the option to have him with or without the shorts is nice, though, once again, those can be a bit difficult to get on. The star is the same as the one on vintage costume, which is disappointing, but at the very least it’s consistent. This version of Cap fixes the vintage one’s issue with the boots, supplying a pair of the proper cuffed boots, grabbed, I believe, from the Mego version of Will Scarlett. They’re pretty straight forward and pretty much perfect for the character, so they’re a great choice. Cap includes three sets of sculpted hands, each sculpted with the proper gloved look for the character, and cast in a red that matches the cloth potion of the gloves. There is a pair of fists, a pair for saluting, and a pair in an open pose for shield throwing and such. Speaking of shield throwing, Cap also includes a brand-new version of his mighty shield. The rings and star are sculpted and then painted, rather than just being a sticker, resulting in a very nice final product. The figure also includes Cap’s original, pointed shield, done in a similar fashion to the round one.
Last up is Cap’s “alter ego,” Private Steve Rogers, wearing his WW2 Army uniform. The figure features a head sculpt built from the same base sculpt as the updated Captain America head, meaning they match up appropriately. According to the included booklet, this head was sculpted first and then reverse engineered into a Cap head. Truth be told, I do think this might be the stronger of the two heads. The Cap head certainly isn’t bad, but this one really feels like it gets the Mego aesthetic down and it captures the “classic” Steve Rogers look pretty much perfectly. It helps that it’s topped off with the cleanest paintwork of the three included heads; there’s pretty much not a drop out of line on this one. Steve’s outfit is made up of a shirt, pants, belt, tie, boots, and boot covers (EDIT: As an astute reader reminded me, the outfit also includes an extra set of regular flesh tone hands. They’re identical to the ones that come on the body, so I’m not certain what their purpose is, but they’re there). Getting Steve’s uniform properly assembled is certainly quite a task, and it took me a good 15 minutes to do so, but he stays together pretty well once assembled. The uniform is well-tailored and the shirt in particular has plenty of layers to it. One thing I did notice is that on my figure the boot covers had two different lengths of elastic at the bottom, which is minor, but slightly annoying. The boots are very nicely sculpted, with lots of nice little details, and they go on fairly easily. Steve’s only accessory (unless you opt to give him the pointed shield) is his helmet, which sits very nicely on his head.
Like the Spider-Man set, this set also includes a booklet with a few articles about Mego and the creation of the set. It’s a pretty fun read, so there’s certainly some value to it.
The packaging is similar to that of the first. However, there were a few changes for the better. First of all, the reproduction of the original box isn’t glued in place this time, which is much appreciated. Additionally, the extra costumes are place on mock bodies instead of being clipped in place, which avoids the small holes the Spider-Man costumes suffered. Unfortunately, the extra pieces are still blister packaged in place, so they can’t be removed without tearing up the backing.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
Growing up playing with my dad’s old Mego figures, I had one particular figure who was my favorite above the rest. That figure was Captain America. Sure, he was goofy, and inaccurate, but he was just so much fun. I would sit there at my grandparents’ house, watching my VHS copies of the 60s cartoon, holding that figure the whole time. When this line was announced and Cap was shown, there was no doubt that I was buying this figure.
Most of the time, when I get a figure, my initial reaction to the figure is rather indicative of my final opinion of said figure. In the case of Captain America, my initial reaction, especially to the updated version of the figure, was one of disappointment. I love the old Cap figure, and this one seemed to fall short of what I wanted. But then, I played around with him a bit, and I took the pictures for the review. And somewhere between taking the pictures and writing this review, I fell in love with this figure. I don’t know quite how it happened, but it did.
The set isn’t without its drawbacks. For the price they’re asking, some work could still be done on making the packaging a little bit more collector friendly and on making sure the costumes fit the figures as best they can. All that said, an admirable job was done on this figure, and I’m extremely happy to have gotten him.
*Incidentally, I had originally intended to review a completely different Cap figure today. However, this guy arrived, and I didn’t want to push him back to after the Age of Ultron prep stuff, so I bumped that one. The rest of the AoU-themed stuff will be older figures from my pre-existing collection.