Saturday, 16 November 2013

Funko POP! Plague Doctor Review

Company: Funko

Series: POP! Games (Assassin's Creed)

The Background

During the time of the black plague, many doctors adopted a distinctive uniform – a bird-faced mask, accompanied by a thick leather coat. While more than a little disconcerting to the modern eye, these distinctive costumes were essentially a crude version of a modern-day hazmat suit.

Germs and disease transmission were not fully understood at the time, but their coats served as a means to insulate doctors against the infected patients that they visited. The nosecones were filled with spices and pleasant-smelling flowers, with the idea that the sweet smells would ward off airborne disease (though as would later be discovered, the plague was not airborne).  They also often carried a long stick, which was used for prodding patients to examine them, rather than touching them directly.
Plague doctors have been getting a bit of attention over the last few years. They featured quite prominently in Assassin’s Creed 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, as background characters in the main game and as a skin for multiplayer. A co-worker also informs me that they’ve appeared in an episode of True Blood, in a flashback.  

My own experience with plague doctors dates back to 1999ish, when I came across this picture in a history textbook at school. The book gave very little context for the image, and I remember feeling a curious combination of being simultaneously disturbed and fascinated. It definitely stuck with me, though – in 2010 I got a tattoo of that same image on my right shoulder.  

But plague doctor-related stuff is still relatively uncommon, so I was pretty pleased when I saw that Funko were releasing the Plague Doctor from Assassin’s Creed as part of their POP! Games series. The other characters (The Assassins Altair, Ezio, Connor and Edward) are neither here nor there to me. No, this was bought solely on the basis of being a plague doctor.

The Packaging

This is in the same basic style as all the POP!s have been – greyish box, with a cartoon of the figure on the side and front. All the other characters in the series are pictured on the back. There’s also some Animus-style details added in the background, which is keeping in the theme of the release.

Funko boxes are pretty neither here nor there to me, as they all end up in the bin anyway. But this one struck a chord with me and I seriously considered keeping the Doctor MIB – not something I do often. However, habit won out and I opened him within minutes.  I still have the box as well, and may do something with the art on it.

If you do display yours MIB, you probably already know that Funko boxes tend to use a fairly cheap cardboard and get banged-up pretty easily. Just be careful when storing.   


I’m quite satisfied with the sculpting on the whole. The key feature – the mask – looks good, with little lines of detail etched in where they probably could have got away with making a flat sculpt (e.g. the mouth, the cheeks). I also like the strap on the back of the head. I wouldn’t have missed it if it wasn’t present, but it’s a nice little touch. There’s also some subtle detailing on the robe and the gloves, all of which enhance the overall look, rather than being distracting.

I’m not sure how closely it resembles the in-game character (though from memory, it’s not a bad likeness), but as I mentioned above, I didn’t buy this for the Assassin’s Creed aspects, so matching the exact appearance wasn’t too important for me. Mileage may vary for more dedicated fans.  

There aren’t really accessories per se; however, he does have a syringe filled with a green fluid moulded to his right hand. Articulation is virtually non-existent. His head swivels on a peg, and that’s it. Still, Funko toys are display pieces, not action figures, so he doesn’t lose any marks for that.   
Funko does quite a good job of cuteifying iconic characters. But while the Plague Doctor is certainly cutesy, I wouldn’t say he’s cute. I don’t find him unsettling, but others certainly have, and I can understand why – I was definitely unsettled the first time I saw a plague doctor outfit.

I’ve bought quite a few POPs since the beginning of the year, and the paint jobs can be very hit or miss. This one is probably a bit below average for Funko. The whole fig appears to be moulded in green, with details picked out in paint, primarily brown. There’s a bit of slop onto the robe, which does give the impression that he’s been out working, I suppose.

The metallic buttons on the collar have also been done quite questionably. At least one seems to have gone around the button, rather than on it, though it’s been quite washed out. The buttons on the coat are also a little off.  
But the main thing to look out for is the goggles. Around the eyes, I can see that there’s been slop from the black detailing – which has then been less than subtly covered up with almost-matching paint. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it is disappointing.

If this were some other companies, I think I’d be quite annoyed. But I’ve come to almost expect this from Funko. It’s an area where they could really lift their game, but it still doesn’t wreck my overall enjoyment of the figure.
As for variants, I’ve only come across one in the Assassin’s Creed series thus far – Ezio in his black robe – but I’m kind of hoping for a glow in the dark variant of the Plague Doctor. I haven’t yet dipped my toes into the obscure waters of Funko variants as yet, but a release like that might just tempt me. 


"The mask isn't for you - it's to protect the people that you care about!"

I can see the Plague Doctor becoming a bit of a cult favourite with POP! collectors, whether they’re Assassin’s Creed fans or not. Most of my POP!s are superheroes, so he gains a lot of points simply by virtue of being different.  The sculpting is solid, even if the paint isn’t, and he’s an endearing little fellow. The longer I have him, the more I like him. He makes a fine addition to the collection.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Ninjas in Training – Leonardo and Donatello (Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Ninjas in Training - Leonardo and Donatello

Series: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Company: Playmates
RRP: $15

Right before I was going to publish this review, I picked up Raphael and Michelangelo as well. They won’t get a review on their own, as everything I have said (good and bad) about Donnie and Leo below applies more or less equally across all four turtles. Just substitute the words “Raph” or “Mikey” at the appropriate juncture. The main difference for myself was that Raph and Mikey are my favourite turtles, and their weapons (sais and nunchaku) are smaller, so they're less likely to warp. If you’ve got any specific questions about them, please feel free to comment below.

The Background
I had many, many toys as a kid, but the first toyline I really “collected” was the 2003 Playmates TMNT series, when I was finishing up high school. I didn’t buy every figure, but there were only a handful from the first few waves that I didn’t get – one of which was the “Toddler Turtles” 4-pack. I think it was just too difficult to find, or by the time I did come across it, I either didn’t have the money or had simply moved on in my interests.

Flash forward to earlier this year, and I discovered that there was a new TMNT series (released late 2012), as well an accompanying toyline. What I’ve since watched of the new TV series is excellent, with my main criticism being that it’s a little too “monster-of-the-week” heavy.
The new TMNT toyline, on the other hand, is a bit of a mixed bag. The turtles themselves are excellent, but the supporting cast have been all over the place, with questionable scale being a particular issue. It’s been some time since I’ve gone back and looked at the ’03 figures closely, but these ones feel a little “cheaper” overall, in quality of plastic and paint.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but availability is also a problem over here in Australia, which adds to the difficulty of collecting. The turtles and Shredder (original) are easy to find, but there are some – like Cockroach Terminator – that I’ve never seen in the wild and a number of others that I’ve encountered only once or twice. But the line does have a lot of potential, and I hope that its various issues do get resolved eventually. 
But I recently came across word that “Ninjas in training” 2-packs were beginning to hit the stores in America. Never having been able to get the Toddler Turtles 4-pack, I was definitely keen to add these new versions to my small collection of TMNT figures. The next day, a search of my local Kmart uncovered a solitary Donnie and Leo, but no sign of Raph and Mikey.

The Packaging

Keeping in style with previous releases, the backing card is purple and green. I’ve got mixed feelings about this colour scheme, but it’s certainly eye-catching. As always with blister packs, the box is not collector friendly and will need to be chucked if you open it. MOC collectors shouldn’t have any complaints – the figures are nicely displayed, and you can see all of their accessories.

The Figures Themselves

It would have been pretty easy for Playmates to use the exact same mould for all four turtles, simply painting their bandannas a different colour. Fortunately, they haven’t taken this approach – each turtle is unique, even if their poses are quite similar. Looking closely, you’ll notice that all their chest shell pieces are unique too, just as they are on their older counterparts. It’s a subtle touch, but a nice one. 
Articulation is very minimal – the shoulders are swivel hinges, and the neck is cut. The legs on both figures are in locked poses. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Marvel Superhero Squad figurines that were doing the rounds a few years ago, though these are cast in a harder plastic. There’s a cut across their bellies, but this seems to be the result of the figure being produced in a few different pieces and then stuck together. It’s not an ideal spot for the cut to be placed, but at least it’s in line with their shell plating.

Paint apps are very minimal – the turtle’s bandannas are actually moulded from separate plastic, not just painted on, as far as I can tell. Only their shells and eyes seem to really be painted, and these counts they’re both fine. A couple of highlights on the skin might have been nice, but I think Playmates is probably keeping the costs pretty low on this one.   

Donatello comes with a miniature version of his bo staff, and Leonardo comes with two toy swords, all of which are cast in beige plastic to look like wood. Some paint on the bandaged areas would have been nice, but it may have looked out of place -- I don't think any other characters in the range have paint apps on their weapons.


The weapons aren’t cast in super-soft plastic, but don’t be surprised if one or both of Leo’s swords are a little warped. I don’t think Donnie’s staff should give you any problems – it’s rounded and a little thicker, so it shouldn’t “wilt” in the same way.
I can see a lot of broken arms happening on these toys, as they’re quite thin and fragile. Be careful about who you give these to. And maybe have a replacement handy.

My last issue is a small one – a very small one, in fact. Donnie’s mouth is partially open, and you can see his distinctive gap tooth. However, they’ve decided not to put paint on it, which is slightly disappointing. Of course, if they had painted it I’d probably be complaining about paint slop… perhaps a closed mouth would have been preferable.   

These figures are okay. They’ve got a cute design, and they do look spiffy on your desk. They also look cool when paired up with their teenage counterparts. I was able to pick Leo and Donnie up for $10 (Edit: and as mentioned above, Raph and Mikey too) rather than the usual $15, and I was satisfied with them for that price – but $15 seems a little overpriced for these figures, even if there are two of them in the box. Put all four together (as Playmates previously did) and I think we would have had a more acceptable package, if not a total winner.