I wasn’t planning on getting into Thundercats Classics. I have no connection with the original property other than a vague awareness, but two things happened. First, I kept seeing folks insist they were awesome. Then came the e-mails, tweets, etc. asking if I was planning on reviewing them. Well, alrighty then…
I don’t really know why, but I never cared much about Thundercats as a kid. I’ve thought about why that might be, and I just don’t remember encountering the franchise that often. I tried to refresh my memory by watching some old episodes, but not even the intro song really felt familiar. Pictures of the old toys in package didn’t stir any memories either. The only thing I could vaguely remember was a Thundercats book. I’ve long since forgotten specifics, but I recall that Lion-O was being forced to ‘walk the plank’ – which was weird, because he was on a spaceship at the time. Anyway, what all that means is there’s no nostalgia in this review. This isn’t just my first Lion-O figure, it’s really my first Thundercats toy… ever. Have I been missing out?
There are three figures in the Thundercats Classics line so far. Bandai has released a regular Lion-O & Tygra to retail, and a special edition Lion-O exclusive to SDCC/TRU.Com. The latter, exclusive one is featured here. I opted to buy that version primarily because of his accessories (which I’ll cover on the next page). SDCC Lion-O is currently still available at ToysRUs.Com, but be warned, he’s a steep $39.99. I purchased him with a 20% off coupon and some Rewards dollars, so I ended up getting him closer to ‘normal’ price. He’s been a blast to own, but I don’t know if I would’ve bought him for $40 outright. At retail, I’ve seen the regular figures at TRU for $20 and Walmart for $16. Not big on TRU’s markup, but the Walmart price looks pretty nice in comparison.
After getting Lion-O out of the box, the first thing you can’t help but notice is his staggering height. I didn’t have any Thundercats toys as a kid, but I’ve seen the pics – this guy towered over most of his 80s brethren. Now, nearly thirty years later, he does so again. Thundercats toys are just destined to be bigger, I guess? I don’t really know why Bandai opted to go for an 8″ line on the Classics. Were they seeking to replicate the 80s scale issues? Did they want to keep the Classics line and the Modern line incompatible? Do they think bigger is just better? I really have no idea. In any case, he’s a stark reminder that even though the collector market would pretty much universally appreciate inter-line compatibility, it’s either not registering with toy companies or simply of no interest to them.
After you’ve sorted out if you’ve gotten smaller or your action figures have gotten bigger, the next thing you notice about Lion-O is that he’s a sturdy fella. There shouldn’t be many warped limbs in this line with this kind of construction. There’s still some softer plastic, like the middle part of the knee joint, but the overall figure feels sturdier than a lot of Mattel’s offerings.
When it comes to how much detail should be present on an action figure, I’m feeling particularly vexed of late. Does every toy need to be a mini-masterpiece in the sculpt department? I know some collectors look at the Four Horsemen’s Scarabus and judge lesser figures against it. I don’t think I can do that. While I spent a week lavishing deserved praise on Scarabus & crew, I also like the great, but not-as-detailed sculpts found on many of my beloved superhero-based figures. That said, the Thundercats add an interesting aspect to that debate. Other than basic anatomy and the appropriate costume details, there’s not much detail to be found. You won’t find fur (Thundercats are supposed to be covered in fur, right?), striations, veins, or other little imperfections. And, unlike MOTUC, where the Four Horsemen add some realism into ye olde 2D designs, this Thundercats line looks more like the figure walked off the cartoon and on to our shelves. I think that’s going to be a love it or hate it aspect to this particular line. I’ve come to appreciate it.
As it is, I’m a pretty satisfied with Lion-O’s sculpt. While the figure is all-new, there are some parts like the upper arms and legs that appear to be generic for the line (we can already see them re-used on Tygra). Specific to Lion-O are the pieces that comprise his costume and his head sculpt. The costume details are nicely done with a more defined, armored look to them along with some ribbing and rivets where needed. I like the head sculpt, though I’m not a fan of the hair. I know why it’s been done this way, but it looked weird then and it still does now.
I know just got done talking about how I don’t mind the lack of little details missing, but there is one exception: the eyes. The face looks good, but the eyes appear to be completely handled by the paint and it creates an odd effect. I’d like to see an unpainted version of this head sculpt and see if it’s as freaky as I think it’d be.
The paint is the primary feature that differentiates Lion-O from his retail counterpart. Some of the changes were for the better (this figure doesn’t have as much of a plastic/toy look), but others weren’t. I love the metallic paint on the tunic and the extra detailing in the crevices for depth. Looking at pics of the regular release, I really appreciate the wash in his hair too (there’s a joke in there, isn’t there?). I’m not so keen on the other changes though. Like the armor, the muscles are similarly defined by a wash and some extra stripes of paint, but it just doesn’t work as well. I did end up with a rather dirty version of Lion-O, so the effect might be better lighter. Also, his hands, having received no wash at all, look out of place.
That said, I’m not exactly keen on the lack of any washes on the regular version of Lion-O either. I’ve been wavering about picking one up for $16 at Walmart. There are some problems endemic to both versions – the thin paint around the collar and the incorrectly colored joints. The insert molded pieces are all pre-produced in the same color. The color matches the biceps (great), but that also causes the wrist and ankle joints to be colored incorrectly. Just in case you were might forget these were figures were made by Bandai, those orange ankles will be a constant reminder. Continue to Page 2…