Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM


Last week, I showed you pictures of Formative International's (A.K.A. "SOTW") new super-articulated figure, considered by some to be a "Dragon Slayer" because of its low price. Funny thing is, I don't even know how much the figure cost because I don't look at toy price tags that much. It looked cheap, so it probably was. This week, because of the symmetry, I bring you Mattel's Max Steel under the title "Formative Slayer?". It just seemed like the thing to do, and because of that problem, I remembered to remember the price... was it...uhhhh $20? Something like that.

Seriously though, I don't think these companies are really competing with each other because they're targeting different audiences. SOTW is the bargain basement alternative to Hasbro military. Max Steel is strictly sci-fi with a TV animation tie in. He's there to separate parents from their bucks by seducing kids with a fantasy of cyborg villains, high-tech boats & cars, gizmos and gadgets, all spring-loaded with action features. Kids probably aren't buying these figures to turn him into Heinrich the Hun, so the issue of superior articulation is probably a secondary consideration for the manufacturer. That's why there are scads of figure variations, from ones with pathetic articulation to the one shown below on the right. He's the "Sky Strike" figure, and the body style is identified on the side of the box as "Ultra Action". Currently there's one other figure in the line that has this type of articulation, but I forgot what it's called-- I think it's a skateboard dude or something goofy like that?

The guy on the left is the SOTW figure (with his factory-issued Colostomy bag)-- I assume you've recovered from the previous article's grisly body pics to be able to handle seeing his face? Not a pretty picture, huh? You'd probably look that way if you had to wear that damn bag 24/7. (You can thank me for the fuzzy photo later.) As you can see, he's quite a bit taller than Max. For size reference, Max is a bit shorter than Dragon's Adam figure; if you were to put them face to face, his nosetip would fit in Adam's mouth, while Mr. SOTW would be licking Adam's eyeball... (poor Adam!) Size is a difficult thing to compare though, as you can see that Mr. SOTW's height is mainly from those long, tubular legs.

Articulation-wise, this guy's got all of what we expect in the ganged hinge legs and arms. No surprises there. And it's good, high-quality stuff with a solid and smooth feel. They even hid the hinge pins. (The 21C Super Soldier prototype has 'em exposed and they look like shit, in my most humble opinion...) The waist has ball & socket articulation, even though it's fairly limited. I think they did a good job of blending the look of it, and perhaps the different colored hip section helps with the illusion. It looks as though the neck is not articulated, but it actually is in the manner that Barbies and a lot of Japanese dolls are. You don't get quite the full range of posing possibilities with this style, but you don't have the ugly neck seam and cylindrical neck stem either (means you can detail it with muscles and veins). Max's thick neck makes the neck-head seam more apparent than some of the dolls I've seen-- it's almost invisible on a long-haired figure.

On the downside, his feet are pretty tiny... Maybe I'm too used to seeing the boats that are on most figures? Even so, they don't jive very well when compared to the size of his hands. As for the pumped up look, you either like it or you don't. Seeing as how I've been doing this to my figures in my latest projects, I can see how this figure could have saved me a lot of work. The head... well, it kind of reminds me of myself back before I became a jaded person, before the race transplant and back when I was an animation character. Oh yeah, the mechanism on his left hand is molded on and would have to grinded off (unless you want Heinrich the Hun to have some kind of technological advantage).

My verdict? Kewl!!! This guy stands as a serious contender to Dragon and the 21C Super Soldier, and should please the folks who play with their figures. The body proportioning and sculpting, even though it's exaggerated superheroic style, is excellent. Limbs don't look like tubes. He's got nipples. The figure is as durable as any other and stands well, even on the tiny feet (they were smart enough to use rigid plastic for the legs). He's mainly rigid plastic except for the spots where it improves functionality. Since the pressure-tensioned body seems to be a fact of life nowadays, I'd have to say that this guy is the best one to come down the chute so far.

Realistically, the price may be an issue for many folks. For less than 20 bucks, you can buy an Adam figure if you're only after nekkies. For what you get though, Max's price/value ratio is excellent. In addition to the figure, you get a full zippered & elasticized outfit with pockets (if you're into ugly-as-sin lime green kitsch), well-sculpted boots (they won't fit anyone else, by the way), a bizarre glider backpack (with a very cool spring-loaded wing-spreading mechanism, and of course, rockets!) and a brain bucket that has a visor which pulls forward and pivots out of the way. Plus a trading card. Goddamn!!! Unfortunately, if you don't need that stuff, you're just paying extra for a lot of neato trash. However, hope springs eternal: When the wretched TV show flops (hell, if Reboot got yanked...) we can expect to see these guys filling the bargain bins. It's chancey though, since you either have to turn toystore watching into a fulltime gig, or be really good with that "Force" thang...