21st Century Toys' Villainess

Last modified: Saturday, February 24, 2001 10:04 AM

Kiss me...


(Be sure to check out Jared's excellent review, which goes over the salient points of this figure. I read his before writing this; There's bound to be some unavoidable duplication in material here, but I'll try to make up the difference by being totally unfair, snide and weird... ;^)


This is another figure that's been long anticipated... 21C's first female figure. Last year around this time, back when Hasbro's Jane was the only real alternative to a Barbie, 21C teased us with pics of "Matilda" -- a black haired, black patent leather trenchcoat wearin' momma with a no-nonsense expression and an evil gun. A nice twist on "Trinity" from "The Matrix". We waited and waited... Meanwhile, lots of other femfigs hit the market, seemingly from out of nowhere. Well, this year's Toy Fair came and went, and they've just released "Jacqueline", Matilda's sister, who looks almost identical except for her blond hair and jazzy color scheme. It's kind of weird to come out with a figure defined by a relationship to a non-existant product, but that's one of the quirky, endearing things about 21C. Maybe that's why they didn't allow photos of their stuff at this year's Toy Fair? It is, after all, a toy company's perogative to change its mind.

As a result of this long wait and the introduction of alternatives-- Dragon's Winona & Neo Eve, BBI's CY Girls, Jakk's Pacific's Girl Force, Get Real Girls, Yamato/Twilight Magic Work's Kelly-- much of the excitement is diminished, and this hits the market as just one of many alternatives. For 21C, that's both good and bad. It certainly diminishes the pressure 21C would have felt to produce an outstanding figure that lived up to everyones' expectations. Now, if folks don't like it, so what? Buy another company's offering. That's the good news. The bad news is that they've lost a lot of sales to folks who would have bought anything in the face of few alternatives. How many people bought several copies of Dragon's Winona, knowing her weaknesses, simply because she was first and an alternative to Hasbro's Jane? 21 C missed that opportunity to reap all those extra bucks and complaints! A mixed blessing in their eyes, I'm sure. Well, now that she's here, let's take a look at her, under the outfit...

Yumpin' Yimminy. It's mutant Dr. Smith! It's the first female bodybuilder Joette! Those are my first impressions upon seeing the strangely seated head on her naked body and the complex interplay of light and shadowed areas... but it's not muscles that are responsible. It's the articulation and all the weird cutouts. Either 21C's been reading what I've been writing here or they haven't. Either way, this figure is excellent counterpoint to Dragon's soft-skinned "Neo Eve", and the best example of the other end of the "form versus function" spectrum that I've harped on so much recently. Rather than crush that dwarf again, let's focus on some of the details and implications of this latest example from the "more is better" school of articulation theory.

Like a huge zit planted dead center of the forehead (sorry!), the never-been-attempted-before collarbone articulation screams for your notice. You can't ignore it. It's a perverse thing, that by its very unnaturalness, draws you to look at it. And what a marvel of toy engineering it is! 21C has managed to recreate in toy form, some of the wondrous mechanics of our floating shoulderblades and collarbone. That's what permits us to raise our shoulders in the "shrug" gesture, and also to bring our arms in front of us at an acute angle. Other companies have given us less radical versions of the arms-in-front mechanism, but 21C has pulled out all the stops. If you've been waiting for a figure that could pose for a "What? Me Worry?" shrug shot, your prayers have been answered. However, if you want this figure to show a little cleavage, you're going to have to be very creative with your costuming. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), this figure is not designed to be be displayed naked or scantily clothed, unless you like a real costuming challenge. Due to the huge underarm openings when her arms are raised, even some clothed poses may prove less than appealing. Knowing Joeheads as I'm sure 21C does, it makes you wonder whether they might have a mean streak? Kidding aside, it's definitely different. With some radical customizing and silver paint you could turn this figure into a pretty neat Terminator robot babe. Still, I wonder why they didn't connect up her boobs with the assembly? It would have been entertaining to raise her shoulders and see her boobs move.

Here's how those shoulders operate: Three parts: arms, shoulder assembly and upper torso. The arms are attached to the shoulder assembly via a ball & socket: The arm ends with a socket which is pressed onto a ball end which sticks out from the inside of the cowled shoulder assembly-- looks kinda like a trailer hitch stuck inside a radar dish. That's how the arm does the usual stuff, and because it's a true ball & socket, it's more limited in its sweep range than designs with cutaways and hinges. The extra range is made up for by the articulated coupling between the shoulder and torso. Now that part's kinda weird and difficult to describe.

The inner end of the shoulder assembly (where it connects to the torso) is molded in a pin shape which runs through the torso, front to back, from collarbone to shoulderblade. It's fitted with a sleeve of clear flexible plastic to introduce some friction between the pin and channel, since they're a loose fit. This forms the main pivot axis for the shoulderblades' upward/downward swivel, limited to about 45 degrees. In addition, the channel is open to the outside for about 2/3rds of its length from the back, but closed in the front, resulting in a secondary pivot axis. This permits the pin to change the orientation of its main swivel by maybe 10 - 15 degrees. This results in the arms being able to sweep inward across the chest. It's actually not all that dramatic, and a portion of that ability comes from a cutout in the shoulder assembly, similar to the way it's accomplished in some more conventional designs. Confused? Maybe the picture at the top of this page can add to your confusion.

The other points of articulation are thankfully conservative, as far as modern figures go. The usual neck articulation is gone though, in favor of a Barbie-ish design. No doubt this was sacrificed due to room needed for the more exotic collarbone articulation. The cutouts required for the shoulders' articulation clearance make her neck look long though. As expected, the double-hinged arm and leg joints are just like their Super Soldiers' and have the cheesy exposed hinge holes. The mix of materials is identical... but I've given up whining about that. After all, who cares that dense rubber seems to be the essential ingredient for late night shelf-diving? Collectibles are supposed to stay boxed, right? So...can she stand? Hey, does a box have six faces? Actually, she stands quite well...for now. But in my experience, it's the gradual bending of the dense rubber that causes the center gravity to shift and then then down the road, seemingly without provocation, the figure shelf dives, taking with it every single fragile weapon you've got. (Good luck finding the snapped off muzzles.)

To their credit, 21C has made Jacqueline's body sculpt far more appealing than their Super Soldiers'... Yeah, it has BOOBS (ha ha). Actually though, it's a curiously attractive muscled tone female body, even though she doesn't really have a lot in the way of muscles sculpted on. It just looks that way to me. I don't know why exactly, but she looks sort of nasty. The abdomen section is exaggerated but looks much better than the corresponding pot-bellied blob stuck in the middle the Super Soldier. Females wear that slightly pot-bellied look a heckuva lot better than men. The profile views are not bad if you mentally fill in the articulation seams and imagine her with a butt. Part of this is due to the fact that they've given her substantial legs instead of the anemic longish ones that many dolls have. But she is a tall one. She's as tall as the Jakks Pacific doll, who seems to tower over most Joes. That could actually be a good thing, considering her role.

Sadly, all this is pretty much a moot point since it would be a crime to display this one nekkid on account of the mutant articulation at her upper body. I guess it's relevant since it's a foundation for outfits-- it works to good effect with fairly tight clothing, as long as it's the right material and not too tight.

As you can see, her hands are removeable although it's not easy. And there aren't handsets to swap them out with, so what's the point? Bummer, since the outstretched hand isn't really very useful for many things. Definitely use heat to put the hand back on because the pin is very thin and won't take much brute force.

I'd like to say good things about her headsculpt... those vapid eyes... the thinly tapered cheeks... hey, I'm trying! It's really not so bad-- I was expecting worse. It's very toy-like (and a toy it is). The biggest problem is the way her head connects to her neck. The chin-to-neck distance is really long. Or at least it seems that way. It could be that the part that connects to the neck doesn't go down far enough. Most figures' headsculpts continue in the back down to the chinline. On Jackie, it looks like the head has been speared onto the neck as a kind of Marie Antoinette trophy.

[On further thought, part of the visual travesty comes from the way the neck is sculpted angled forward from the upper torso. It looks most normal when the upper torso is posed arched back, at the end of its travel. That wouldn't be a problem if she had regular neck articulation. So unfortunately, the shrugging feature not only costs you cleavage exposure potential, but neck articulation. This is a poor tradeoff in my opinion since the neck articulation is pretty important for achieving expressive poses. --02/24/01]

The accessories and outfit are an integral part of this figure's character, and portray her appropriately for her role as a loud, flashy villainess; a caricature which fits in with their "Villains" line. I've no complaints about that.

They give you bunches of guns and evil weapons of fairly typical 21C quality-- not Dragon's level of detail sculpting, but good enough, with deliberately exaggerated thicknesses for strength. The really neat-o thing is the spy gun which you can break down and put in a suitcase-like thing (I think it's supposed to be a hardcase backpack). Kinda like Hasbro's vintage spy briefcase.

The red faux patent leather coat is a little stiff but that's to be expected. The jumpsuit is a black velour which handles the articulation gaps fairly well-- Unfortunately, but it can sometimes look like a strange maternity outfit when it bunches up. Due to the figure's cosmetic limitations, the outfit is well-chosen and one of the few she could tastefully wear (besides a spacesuit or fully zippered jumpsuit). The neck articulation really limits her potential roles. Since 21C serves the mass market, this limitation is probably acceptable: Most customers probably won't want to customize her to serve other roles, and some will be happy costuming her for non-gender specific roles. For customizers who had hoped for sex-kitten material, the limitation is disappointing.

It's gotta be difficult and painful for a company like 21C to read feedback from weirdo customers like me. They heard that we liked articulation, so they put in a little extra, presumably to make us extra happy so we'd stop buying competitor's products. That may appeal to some people, but I suspect it won't be the overwhelming reaction to this figure, at least among adult Joeheads once they see the tradeoff of presentable cleavage for shrugging ability. It seems as though 21C conceives of the female figure as just a variation on a male figure (a concept enlightened society seems to be pushing) whereas many adult Joeheads don't: Feminine mystique, though not tangible, is real. BBI capitalized on this insight with their CY Girls. It's probably out of their hands though. It would be awkward for a US company to defend against the perception of sexism if they marketed two different body philosophies. I'm a realist, and I know that what we may privately want isn't necessarily what flies in the enlightened public environment. That's why prostitution is the oldest profession and still illegal in most places.

They're also in the difficult position of creating a product for the mass market at low cost to make a profit. Since the customer base of the mass market is so wide-- from little undiscriminating kids to rabid demanding adults-- there's almost no way they could satisfy everyone and still make a profit, particularly in the face of nimble competition which serves a smaller and more sharply focused market. So I think they have to shoot for the middle-- the low price point and a decent product. Most of the time that fits their distribution model and incidently produces a very good base product for the adult customizer. Sometimes (like this), their distribution model is served, but we at the outer fringes are left out in the cold. Oh well, no big loss-- there are alternatives.

--Jimbob, 02/23/01

[Lest I give the impression that I hate this figure, I don't. I should say that there are lots of reasons why you should buy at least one copy of this figure-- the accessories are neat and dressed as the Jacqueline character, she would be an interesting addition to your collection. The figure itself is reason enough-- it's actually pretty well made, it poses well, and your curiosity should make you want to play around with that weird shoulder articulation in person. There's also some kind of chord she strikes at a kinky level-- just look at the picture below: She looks like a robotic sex doll! Hubba, hubba --02/24/01]

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