Last modified: Sunday, January 7, 2001 2:25 PM

He's lean & lanky, he's green & skanky, he's Sideshow Toy's big bad boy, Frankie!


Hey man, Frankie's just a white guy underneath!
I'd gone to the store with the intention of finding some of those 21st Century Toys replacement hands so I could see if they'd be a better choice for my "Bull" figure. I had a previous opportunity to buy them, but didn't because I'm really not that fond of their figure and the hands seemed just okay and kinda largish. Of course you never know what you'll wish for down the road, which is the sole justification for buying everything you ever stumble across. "I'll take one of everything" is a great line to use whenever you're accosted by a salesperson offering assistance.

Needless to say, so I won't say it. Instead, I found Frankie: I'm not all that crazy about the Universal Monsters, preferring the Japanese giant non-scary types, despite being terrified by the "Mole People" and having read the "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine as a kid. I've since discovered that Boris Karloff as B&W Dracula is better than baseball for putting my lights out for the evening. However, I'd heard that Sideshow's Frankie had some interesting articulation and guess what: I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. Besides, he had some great wrist cuffs, and coincidentally I'd been working on a homebrew chain when I left for work this morning.

As you can see, Frankie's got articulation coming out the wazoo . In fact, he looks remarkably like 21C's Super Soldier body, shown side-by-side (in a slightly distressed condition). These are completely different sculpts (Hey, Frankie's got areolae!) and the major proportioning differences should be obvious. However, the basic design of the body's main articulation is identical: double hinged elbows & knees, the dual ball socketed torso (probably spring tensioned) and the ball-socketed shoulders. Overall, I'd have to say that Sideshow's basic design & implementation is better; at least they didn't put those giant hinge holes on the sides of the arms and legs. The hinges also seem to function more smoothly-- they don't have the click-stops that the 21C figures have. They also use more hard plastics in the limbs: I believe that soft PVC is used in the elbow/kneecap part of the hinge, between the hard plastic parts. I'm not too fond of the rounded mid-torso piece, but it's less spherical than the 21C's figure's. In my Frankie figure, the lower hip/mid torso connector is bunged up and half slipped out, so it's extremely loose. I don't think that's normal, so I won't hold it against the figure's design-- just against their Quality Control. The upper torso/arm ball socketing looks a little more appealing than 21C's-- the wider chest helps avoid the impression that he's got boobs.

There are a number of additional articulation points in this figure as well, some of them worthwhile and some of them only so-so. The biggest reason to check out this figure is the hand (and feet) articulation. Sideshow's put an additional axis of rotation between the traditional wrist hinge and the hand. This allows the hand to pose in a lot of useful positions-- like a sword fighting grip, for example. Dragon's Gerhard figure had the hand rotated 90 degrees from the standard palm up/down wrist design; Sideshow's design allows a continuously variable rotation along that axis. This is actually a pretty kewl trick, the hardest part being that the pin into the hand has to be very thin and strong since there isn't much area to work with, hinge and hand side (I've tried this before). It does compromise the wrist's appearance more than the traditional design since the forearm and hand don't have circular cross-sections. However, no one has ever produced an attractive wrist design, so this isn't much of a downside. Apparently though, this addition made it difficult to put the standard upper wrist rotation (between the hand and forearm) in at the wrist, so it was moved to the mid forearm. This does look funky, no doubt about it. That type of design compromise is mirrored throughout the limbs-- double hinges seem to require the rotation seam at mid bicep, and the same pattern is repeated in the legs. It's the thing I like least about the ultra-articulated figures since I like my figures showing lotsa skin.

The neck/head may or may not have some innovative articulation-- It's hard to tell if the slight wiggle at the head/neck seam is a Barbie-style ball joint. The neck/torso joint has an unspectacular range as well.

The biggest "huh?" innovation has got to be the toe articulation. I think this is being touted by Dragon in Neo Adam as a big deal. I've got to wonder why. The boots on most figures are too stiff to allow the toe articulation to do anything. If you've got a barefoot figure, then it just looks butt-ugly. It makes the figure less stable in a standing pose. The only uses that I can think of are in that they might help you put on a particularly stiff pair of boots, or if you wanted your figure to wear high heels. Frankie in high heels? Now that's kinky.

Overall, it's a good quality product with appropriate accessories (brain in a bottle, flowers and small base-- the wrist cuffs are outstanding) and simple, adequate costuming. The Frankie headsculpt is well rendered. Many folks will salivate over the plethora of articulation points, but in my well-honed snobbishness, I must liken that to a cheap whore wearing too much makeup... not that there's anything wrong with that! ;^) Seriously though, I do acknowledge the fact that a few wierd people have their figures wearing clothes-- ultra articulated figures are pretty good for that, IF they can stand. (I can't say whether this figure can stand or not since mine's got a slipped disk.)

By the way, the green is painted on. A little bit of acetone takes it right off the hands. Appropriately enough, Frankie is good for parts!

--Jimbob, 01/03/01


01/04/01-- This funky little diagram tries to explain what I was talking about with regards to the hand articulation. There are two rotation axes (indicated with arrows) separated by the wrist hinge (not marked, but should be easy to see). The alternate "All-In-One" design places all the articulation in one place, where it can be more easily concealed. Ideally, the hinge would be spherical as shown on side view at the far right. The hand and forearm stump would be carved with shallow concave indentations to create a smoother, more natural visual transition (and limit the hinge's range). This is a somewhat fragile assembly, since the narrow pin/ball junctions take all the stress. A more stable variation would be to have the top or lower part form two halves of the sphere--like a fork, with the other piece fabricated as a flat insert for the center slot (like Frankie's design). It was just easier to draw it this way.

The mechanical design is just a part of creating something like this-- the materials determine how the design performs, which determines whether the design is practical or not.


01/07/01-- According to David Vance via the Guestbook, Sideshow Toys also produces those whacky guys from "This is Spinal Tap" in a 12-inch format, using this same body style (though not painted green--bummer...) All three are available for approximately $70 from Suncoast Video at your neighborhood mega-mall.

I reasoned that not everyone would want to leave them as St. Hubbins et al, so I've dug deeper into "The Head Question". Surprise! The head is solid PVC, so don't bother trying to slice it open. Heat at the head's base eventually does the trick-- the PVC is solid and hard, so it takes some tugging to pop the sucker off-- if I were you, I'd wear gloves (unless you like a little pain).

Now you're all set to swap Frankie's head onto a Spinal Tap body! Groovie, huh? Oh... you want to use a non-Sideshow head? As you can see, it's not a slick, no-brainer replacement (you could tell that without this picture). The neck fits very nicely inside a vintage-sized head, although you'd have that problem of the neck length unless you trimmed the head's neck back. Jam it on, maybe fill the head with a big lump of Kwik-Tac. It would probably work, but you'd know that it was sub-par and funky. To do a slicker job, I imagine that you'd have to procure some fairly hard silicone (or flexible urethane if you use a good barrier release coating), clay up the gaps in the top of the neck pin, and pour the compound into your neck-trimmed hollow head. Use a support jig to make sure that the parts are supported in the proper relationship (upside-down, to prevent the compound from leaking out-- duh!) as the compound cures. This would give you the ball & neck shape molded into the head in a flexible material, for easy head removal. What a hassle. Kinda makes you wish they'd standardize the heads, huh?