Action figures have come a long way since Star Wars figures revolutionized the movie marketing industry in 1977. It used to be that collectors were satisfied with a 3 3/4-inch figure with yellow hair that we were told was Luke Skywalker, even though the tiny representation of the farm boy from Tatooine looked nothing like Mark Hamill. Still, Kenner Toys (and Hasbro eventually), kept pressing on with more and more realistic looking action figures, and fellow mass-market retailers like Mattel, along with collectible figure-makers including McFarlane Toys, Sideshow and NECA have produced some pretty impressive product over the past several years.
The great part about companies like McFarlane, Sideshow (which also distributes Hot Toys stateside) and NECA is that they continually pursue vintage film licenses, nabbing the rights to figures collectors could only dream about when the films were originally released. One of those coveted licenses that was finally freed up in the last few years is for Tim Burton's Batman from 1989 and 1992's Batman Returns, as Hot Toys has produced 12-inch figures from the first film and NECA has lassoed the 1/4 scale line and released product from both. You don't have to take more than a quick glance to realize both companies are committed to giving fans as realistic a representation of their favorite characters as possible.
NECA's latest coup is the production of two key characters from Batman Returns, releasing two different figures of Danny DeVito in the guise of The Penguin, and this week, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.
Toy reviewer MWCToys took an in-depth look at the new 16 1/2-inch tall release, noting the stunning likeness the two head sculpts (one with a her cowl intact, the other damaged) had in comparison to Pfeiffer and her piercing blue eyes.
"Both are excellent Pfeiffer portraits. The large eyes and tiny nose, the shape of the lips, even the shape of the jawline and face are just about dead on ... The damaged version has her mouth open, eyes squinted, and eyebrows lowered, with a look that says she's pissed off, no doubt about it. It also has loose strands of hair escaping from various spots on the ruptured cowl, and with a little hair product, you can get these to look pretty realistic. The undamaged cowl has a more serene, thoughtful expression, perfect for posing with Batman."
Such releases from specialty action figure makers is creating exciting times for movie and TV action figure collectors. In addition to its Batman line, NECA in the past couple of years has heavily concentrated on its Alien movie line (including the upcoming Alien: Covenant), releasing 7-inch scale Xenomorphs and key characters like Lt. Ellen Ripley, which was a particularly big development since Sigourney Weaver only in the past few years allowed for her likeness to be used for figures.
The production of female butt-kickers like Ripley and Catwoman also signals a welcome change in an industry which largely produced action figures based on male characters. Great characters are great characters no matter the gender, and fans are finally starting to get what they want after a long wait.