FANTASY SWORDS AND SANDALS, 2017

PHICEN/TB LEAGUE


WARNING! CONTAINS... awwww fuck. Too late.

1/6th scale hand-made fantasy swords & sorcery dolls/figures

We're baaaaack...

07/19/17- Muscle-bound barbarians, maidens in skimpy outfits, primitive ape-men, demons, sorceresses... Kewl! Back in the day, if you wanted Frazetta World in 1/6th scale, you had to make your own. Times have changed; nowadays, companies from far-flung countries aren't shy about showing lots of bare nekkid doll flesh-- which gets you pretty far in this genre!

Phicen/TB League has released some interesting stuff. They've acquired a number of older cult-property comic licenses (like Lady Death, Shi, Red Sonja) that can showcase the unique features of their signature "seamless" figure design (a.k.a. 1/6-scale rubber sex dolls). It's a smart move: The licenses give them something to sell besides endless releases of thong-clad generic female models with sizeable squishy boobs. Phicen is the go-to company when you've got a doll showing skin in places where articulation seams can't be hidden by clever costuming. Besides that, their figures are quite well-made and not obscenely priced (just obscenely detailed, har, har...).

They're not great fodder for customizing: You can dress 'em and change their heads (finding a color match may be challenging), but you can't make them shorter or fatter, change their boob size, or change their skin color... or repair them: There's a long-standing question about flexible materials' longevity. To Phicen's credit, they constantly work to improve their products. Nevertheless, I've seen pics online of tears in the skin of their latest version, so we're not there yet. We may never get there if it's just the nature of a dead material that can't grow or heal itself. We're made of flexible living material and we don't last forever, either.

After testing the waters with version after version of their female figures, Phicen released their male seamless figure, with Frazetta's Death Dealer being one of its first licensed products. I guess it's been out for a while since they've just announced pre-orders for several v2 "Hell on Earth" Death Dealer products, which appear to use a larger male body but with white skin weathered with blood and dirt. The "deluxe" package includes a skull-bedecked throne and four naked demoness figures. It's not based on Frazetta's Death Dealer paintings, but comes from Verotik's exceptionally gore-drenched Death Dealer comics.


PHICEN/TB LEAGUE'S DEATH DEALER

Death Dealer 1/6 scale by Phicen/TB League, on Marx Commanche horse

Death Dealer slumming on his hooptie horse from eBay.

I almost didn't buy this because of a lengthy YouTube video review. To be fair, the video was good-humored and did bring up some valid concerns that are probably relevant to many prospective buyers of this product.

To be fair to the product though: Like news, reviews should be viewed through your critical filter. Reviews reflect the author's background, abilities, perspective, and preferences. After the de rigueur unboxing ritual (yes, it comes in a nice box that probably boosts the price by a healthy margin), a review often says as much about the reviewer as it does about the product.

My advice: Don't try to figure this one out on-the-fly, while shooting a video. Take some time and figure it out.

It's Not a Snap-Tite Model: Phicen's Death Dealer has more model-like features than most modern 1/6-scale dolls. It's got more than the usual number of separate pieces that are layered on the figure to produce the look of an elaborate, detailed figure. It's similar to many of the WWII/military-genre dolls made by Dragon or DID (which can be waaay more complicated than this). Some folks will have a harder time with this, especially if they're used to dolls like Phicen's Captain Sparta (below). The ease-of-assembly could have been improved by reducing the complexity to fewer slip-on flexible castings with sculpted details. That's what manufacturers do with many toys, but that's not what this product is about.

If you've worked with the swords and sandals genre before, you'll know that the subject matter favors the use of leather straps, string, hooks, and buckles, not quick-clips, snaps, and velcro. Snaps and velcro are often used to make things easier for the customer, but they'd be anachronistic for this genre and would likely compromise the look. Strings and hooks are low-tech and accessible, but not as easy for the customer to deal with.

If you have trouble tying tiny shoelace knots, this product might not be for you: There are several parts that attach to the figure with strings. Tweezers and magnifying Optivisors are a big help. Of course, you can use any knot that you're comfortable tying, or make hooks, or just glue strings together or glue stuff to the figure. It's up to you-- whatever works for you.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for some folks is that the photosheet instructions aren't dot-to-dot. The pictures are small and black & white, and there's very sketchy text commentary. Well...this stuff ain't rocket science: If you can successfully arrive at a destination without using a GPS app, you can probably figure it out. It doesn't really matter if you do it exactly like the pictures (that are too small to see details anyway): If you don't like the way it looks, try it another way.

For example, they don't tell you that a string is needed to secure the wings of the waist guard, but it's pretty obvious. They don't tell you that you'll need to find/buy/steal or cut string from a piece with an especially long string... because it's not included! (The clue is that it's not in the box.) Yeah, it would have been nice if they'd included the string, but that shouldn't be a deal-breaker or a source of great annoyance. String is cheap.

Likewise, I wouldn't waste too much valuable angst trying to force the shoulder armor into the mounting hole of the shoulder harness; If you want them to stay put, a drop of superglue does the trick. They won't mind if you stray from the instructions.

The cape doesn't have any obvious means of attachment, but if you look at the harness, you might notice that the two buckles aren't doing anything, and that you might be able to thread the ends of the cape through them. Or you can tuck the ends under the straps, glue them, or devise some other method of attachment. If you tuck, you'll find that it's sufficient to keep the cape in place since it's lightweight and has a rough texture. You won't be able to lift the figure by the cape, but it won't spontaneously fall off. Use one of the other methods if you plan to lift it by the cape.

Yes, it's harder to assemble than other collectibles and forces the buyer to be resourceful... but worth the effort, IMO.

 

Size Matters: Some folks have complained about the figure's size-- Basically, it doesn't have "heroic presence" when posed with Phicen's female figures (and many modern male figures). That's not a surprise: Both are about 11.5" tall. I doubt that Phicen put much thought into it. Heck, they might have used the same stainless steel armature for their first male figure, just to save on development costs.

Phicen's female figures are pretty tall for a 1/6th scale female. I don't have very many box-stock female figures for comparison, but Triad's Otaku and Hot Toys' Princess Leia are about 10.75" tall. In real life, on the average, females are shorter then males.

Through time, the average height of humans (and figures) has changed. The 1964 GI Joe (who started it all) is about 11.25" tall; today, a medium-build Hot Toys male figure is about 12" tall. The Frazetta fantasy genre is presumably set in the past when on the average, people were shorter, so it would not be unreasonable for Death Dealer to be shorter than 12"/6' tall.

I did come across a character profile reference to his height as 6'3"/225 lbs, but it was on a role-playing game site where stats, real or invented, are lifeblood. I don't know if Frazetta established a canonical real-world height for the Death Dealer, but it wouldn't be necessary for his artwork: His most famous Death Dealer painting (riding the horse) doesn't show anything to deduce relative size, and his other Death Dealer paintings aren't much help either.

Nerdy shit aside, the practical reality is that most collectors will want to pose him with Phicen's female figures and will complain that he doesn't tower over them. As far as I know, Phicen doesn't make a shorter female figure, and few collectors will be willing to dress Hot Toys' Princess Leia in a swords & sandals outfit for a better display. However, Phicen makes four sizes of male figures, including a 12" "Arnold"-sized one.

Just for shits & grins, I bought one and dressed it as Death Dealer. Everything fit except the harness, but that was easily fixed by cutting the thread that joins the crossed straps at the front. The change was a little underwhelming. By itself, in costume, it looks about the same. While it's taller than the stock body, it's about the same width, so it doesn't give a huge increase in mass. It doesn't make the Death Dealer "tower over" the female Phicen figures: It makes him slightly taller than them. It does make the Marx horse look a little undersized, but it's still too small for Dragon's humongous "Horst/Blitz" horse.

Personally, I like the stock Death Dealer size, since it works well with the size of the figures that I've made-- but then, I was very conscious about size relationships when I made the figures.

People in the real world are a wide range of heights and body shapes, while the hobby tends to favor tall and trim heroic figures. This is great for some displays, but a limited dynamic range isn't as interesting or realistic when displaying a mixed group. It's up to the manufacturers to offer more diversity. That's an argument in favor of making your own (besides being fun & gratifying).

Size comparison: Phicen Death Dealer and custom female figures.

Hang out with shorter people if you want to look heroic. The female figures are about 10.5" tall.

Size Comparison: Phicen Death Dealer and custom demoness.

Sometimes you want the hero dude to be the underdog, size-wise. (Demoness is about 12" tall)

It's the reviewer's job to find something to be snarky about (a.k.a., "Raining on your parade", "Taking a dump..."). Even though I'm satisfied with the figure, I'm capable of being pretty damned snarky about things that 99.9% of collectors probably wouldn't/shouldn't care about:

  • The figure is too clean and screams to be dirtied up with pastels.
  • The buckles are too perfect and shiny, and what's with the names "Gilly" & "Hicks" stamped on them? Does the Death Dealer name his buckles (in English)?
  • The "leather" straps are made of pleather; we wants real leather from real cows.
  • His tunic is polyester knit? Really?
  • The faux chainmail skirt couldn't look more faux; we wants real metal chainmail.
  • The "cumberbund" is plastic. It should be made of leather, with metal studs and a metal horned skull decoration.
  • Ditto for all the supposedly metal pieces made of plastic. They look like plastic painted to resemble metal.
  • The axe handle looks like plastic; we wants real wood.
  • The teeth on the toothed chest decoration are lightweight plastic and don't hang properly. They should be made of a denser, heavier material.
  • The helmet's horns look like painted plastic, just like the helmet. They should be separate pieces attached to the helmet.
  • The thigh scale armor looks like... etc., etc., etc.
See? You can always find something to whine about! (For what it's worth, I did make some of the changes from my snark list, the most obvious being the chainmail skirt. The buckles were distressed because Gilly and Hicks had to go. I also added hooks to many of the string-tied things to make it easier/faster to undress the doll.)

Other observations about this figure:

Put the feet on as the last step, and exercise some care. The spurs are hard plastic and are the most fragile piece on the doll, so it's not a good idea to use them as a torque handle. They seem to be pretty sturdy, but I wouldn't push my luck.

With the fully-kitted look, there's not a lot of bare skin showing. Therefore, the seamless body doesn't contribute a great deal to the realism that comes from hiding articulation seams. Adapting the outfit to a traditional hard plastic figure wouldn't compromise much and may be worth it if you hate the way squishy figures feel when you pose them, or if the thought of deteriorated rubber sickens you, or if you want a heroic-sized Death Dealer to tower over your collection of Phicen amazons (Hot Toys' "Arnold" body-builder figure is about 12.5" tall, and taller than Phicen's).

 

1/6th scale Phicen Death Dealer modified, with M34 body

M34 size comparison with old Phicen figure

PHICEN'S "ARNOLD" (A.K.A. PL2016-M34)

I mentioned getting this to replace the shorter stock figure; what I didn't mention was that the figure comes with a pair of bare flat feet, three pairs of hands, a yellow speedo, wrist and ankle covers, and... a pair o' dicks!

Yep, dicks... cocks... penii...penes... Yee-haw! Phicen, striking a blow for male empowerment, bobbitt-style! They come in separate baggies, detached (obviously), so you can recreate the famous Mooch-Bannon Maneuver (which might otherwise be a stiff challenge). One is sculpted in a relaxed posture (so would not be up for the job); the "Achtung" posture sculpt, maybe so... with a properly receptive head-sculpt. They're both cast in the same material as the body, which works well for relaxed posture, but is way too low on the durometer scale to be an effective diamond-cutter or tent pole. (Sadly, they didn't include the turtled/cold-weather form, no doubt as a cost-savings measure.)

 


PHICEN/TB LEAGUE'S CAPTAIN SPARTA

Phicen Captain Sparta and custom armored figure.

Make everything taller than everything else: If all figures were tall, none of them would look tall.

Woo hoo! Faux-historical cheesecake: That's something that I can relate to! This was the Phicen release that got my attention. Hey, I've made stuff like that! In fact, seeing her prompted me to buy Death Dealer, which prompted me to liberate my old sword and sandals stuff from their 100+°F storage shed hell.

This is a Phicen original design, a sequel to their Sparta Warrior. It fits in with their focus on making female figures of a tall-ish nature with lots of exposed flesh, plus adds the historical dimension: We academically-minded 1/6th scale collectors do luvs our history-stuff!

I'm sorry to say that this isn't intended to depict actual historical armor with actual protective value (say wha???). It's intended to appeal to male hormones celebrate female empowerment. As with my Athena/Minerva project, it's fantasy, inspired by history. Modern historical re-enactors of Greco-Roman wars don't wear armor like this; Cosplayers do. In fact, Captain Sparta's helmet is more reminiscent of the elven helmet from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy than an actual Spartan helmet. So Phicen's Captain Sparta is like a ribald take on a fantasy fiction that was inspired by fantasy and history. Got it? My point is that criticizing this for not being historically accurate or practical armor is just... dumb. (I've seen borrowed pics of my fantasy armor in forums with actual, serious discussions about armor.)

There's not much to say or show about this product that isn't obvious from the plentiful pics that are out there on the web. I'd like her better if her hair were a more natural red, her waist wasn't so thin, and she wore a less pouffy tutu skirt. But it's an eye-catching display if you like this kind of thing, and the cool stand makes it a decent value in a world where dolls/figures have undergone massive price augmentation. It's simple to put together ("Even a collector could do it!" nyuk, nyuk). As long as you don't press your luck and leave her posed with extreme bends at the joints, she should last a long time as a theoretically poseable version of a statue. As a bonus, you can get your jollies by poking her squishy boobs (with clean gloves, of course).

1/6th scale Phicen Death Dealer modified, with M34 body

-08/12/17

 

 

 

 

MEDIEVAL INDEX