With Swamp Thing being available on Mattycollector later today, I figured I’d rush his review to the front of the line. I didn’t want to write a negative review about Swamp Thing, and I didn’t, but this article isn’t exactly glowing. Still, here it is, with the positives and the negatives.
Swamp Thing is one of the great DC Characters and like most of ’em, he can’t ever seem to carry a title anymore. He’s the 1971 creation of Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson, but most fans are more familiar with his 80s revival by Alan Moore. Both begin as Alec Holland, a scientist killed for his work, only to be revived by the swamp. Wein’s version was more of a horror creature – a man fused with the swamp – while Moore reimagined him as the swamp come to life, a planet elemental with only the memories of Alec Holland. Either way, they both went on to star in DC Comics, but the most interesting thing about this character might just be his notoriety outside of the comics. Think about your favorite DC characters (not Superman or Batman, but the other lesser knowns that you love) – do they have two movies? A television show? An animated series? A video game? His own self-titled toy line? Swamp Thing has all of those, though you’d never know it if you were watching the DC solicits over the last decade. The good thing is that he’s back in the DCU and a new series will be coming out of the Relaunch, written by Scott Snyder. It’s a good time to be a Swamp Thing fan for the first time in years. There’s even this new figure…
I’m just going to come right out and say what I’m thinking about this figure, the decision to make Swamp Thing this large (which at least partially is about accommodating his rubber skin) was a bad decision. I’ve talked about getting Swamp Thing into this line for two years. He was the runner-up in our 2009 Most Requested Figure contest (beaten narrowly by Mera). So many collectors have been waiting for the perfect Swamp Thing figure, a beautifully sculpted, seven inches or so tall, figure with great articulation – that’s all we wanted. But somewhere along Mattel’s development line, the decision to go above and beyond – to make him larger, to add this new rubbery skin – came forward and Mattel essentially over-complicated something that should have been very simple. I want to like this Swamp Thing, but the negatives just outweigh the positives for me.
We’ve seen some great scale shots online, but somehow I still wasn’t prepared for how big this guy was going to be. If you have any doubts about the figure’s size, they’ll evaporate once you see the box. It’s huge! I mean, I knew he was going to be big, but I was still taken aback by the packaging.
Like most SDCC items, this figure is encased in some cool trash. In hand, Swamp Thing is glaring at you from some die cut scratches in the outer box. Inside is an insert that’s a little replica of Alec Holland’s journal and an egg-carton-like inner tray that doubles as a Swamp Thing mask (did anyone see anyone wearing those at SDCC?). Pop that sucker open, and you’re finally to your Swamp Thing figure (and his base).
After you marvel at how big he is (it’s impressive when you’re not thinking about scale) and pull the figure out of the tray, you might notice that the rubber skin feels a little… tacky. I don’t know if that’s quite the right word. He’s not sticky or oily, he’s just the tiniest bit clingy. It has been well over a hundred degrees here nearly every day and he’s been less so the longer he’s been in the air conditioning, so it may just be the weather. Really, I’m not too concerned about how long the material will last, but I do worry about dust. My house produces tons of it and I’m worried that Swamp Thing here may be more of a magnet than normal (Enterprise figures and the Headless Horsemen’s horse didn’t fare well). I may have to keep him in his packaging if the skin turns out to like holding on to it. If anything can temper your excitement, it’s having to put a toy back in its box.
After you’re done being surprised at his size, and possibly washed your hands, you can start to appreciate the best thing about this figure: his sculpt. This is exactly the sculpt I’ve been dreaming of since the notion of a DCUC Swamp Thing first crept into my head. It’s gorgeous – the Four Horsemen stepped up to the plate and delivered a great figure. The detailing is fantastic right down to the flowers, fungus, and vines. It’s safe to say this figure is a little work of art, more in the vein of Fantastic Exclusive or their previous McFarlane work than the wonderful & accurate, but less detailed, sculpts featured in the DCUC & MOTUC lines.
Visually, the rubber skin looks great too. I don’t usually have a problem with articulation lines. I’m not a fan of Hasbro ball hips or some of the more complicated Toy Biz shoulders, but most cut lines don’t bother me. That said, Swamp Thing looks cool for not having them. Nearly every joint that Swamp Thing has is obscured by the material. The hips are the only joint immediately visible and, ironically, they seem to stand out more when they’re the only ones.
The only problem with the skin and articulation is that a lot of the articulation is gone because the skin wouldn’t have survived using it. When you realize that, you begin to ask yourself if this gimmick is worth the reduced articulation. This is going to vary from individual to individual, I’ve seen folks feeling both ways on the various forums. For me, it’s not.
Swamp Thing is still far from a statue. He has most of the basics. The neck is a ball-joint with good side-to-side and some nice tilt, but he can’t look up (which, I suppose the third tallest DCUC has little reason to do). There’s also ball shoulders, an ab-crunch, the Mattel hips, and hinges at the elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. This articulation can accomplish some basic poses, but there are issues. The rubber skin brings with it a complete lack of swivel joints which is bad enough, but the rubber skin also really takes away from the knee articulation.
The easiest way to explain might be to use the ratcheting. The four internal limb hinge joints (elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles) are all ratcheted. The wrists have six positions, the elbows and ankles have five each, but the knees only have three. In other words, they hardly bend at all.
And then there’s the possibility of damage to the skin. So far, I haven’t had any issues other than a little white crease on his left elbow, similar to this picture on the Critical Mess forums.
There are some areas (I’ve found three on the front and one on the back) where I thought I might have caused tears, but they’re really the plastic figure underneath poking up to keep the skin in place. The skin will look like it’s separating around those, but it goes back to looking relatively seamless once he’s back to his normal position. I think the ratchet joints will protect his skin from tearing for the most part, but he still feels like a “be careful” figure. Continue to Page 2…