REVIEW: APE JOE'S
STARSHIP TROOPERS (DIZZY FLORES)

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

I first saw this figure when Mike Leon (of Venture Toys) posted a pic of it at the Sandbox, and gave it a rave review. Mike was known to be a very discriminating collector, so his endorsement carried quite a bit of weight. So over all the goodies and eye-candy available at the '98 San Antonio Convention, I chose to get this one figure, the work of Polo "Ape Joe" Moreno.

I've gotta admit: I am impressed! If you like sci-fi stuff, then you'll love this figure. It looks great-- the design from the film is very cool (although opinions about the film itself -ahem- vary...), and Polo has done an excellent job translating it to 1:6th scale. He uses a wide variety of materials & techniques in this, and I believe he does it all himself. That makes him something of an all-around maestro.

To go down the sales promo list, you get:

  • M3 Tactical helmet with chinstrap;
  • jacket with embroidered insignias, elbow pads and simulated zippers;
  • pants with suspenders and knee pads;
  • Hasbro GI Jane figure (a male version is available with different custom heads);
  • custom head (also available with a Hasbro head);
  • custom "gloved hands" (well... they're painted on);
  • body armor with all webbing and riveted support plates;
  • Morita automatic rifle;
  • drop-down holster with throw knife;
  • 2 ammo pouches, 1 strobe pouch, 2 large cargo pouches;
  • boots.
Whew! That's a lotta stuff.

A good portion of the accessories are cast in a semi-rigid plastic, and tinted to an appropriate base color where necessary. This means they don't need to be painted (which is never as durable as tinting). The pouches are detailed with a fabric texture, stitching and eyelets. A steel mike stem is embedded in the helmet casting, and the chinstrap is secured by a small piece of velcro. The chest armor is four separate castings (2 in front & back, glued together) connected by the ribbon webbing. Eyelets secure the plastic webbing guides to the armor. The webbing's buckles in front and back are purely decorative, and the ribbon belt which secures the pouches and the armor doesn't unlatch. Unfortunately, this means that the armor & pouches stay on-- unless you decide to customize!

Boots are one of Polo's specialties, and as you might expect, they are excellent. They are a black semi-rigid plastic, painted with a very durable purple pigment. Besides being excellent sculpts, they are cast completely bubble and void-free, and have a uniform thickness, with a very nicely finished top. That's not an easy thing to do, either!

As you can see, Polo did a wonderful job with the custom Dizzy Flores head. If you're getting the figure, you might as well spend the little extra and get it-- it's a great likeness of the actress, and far more interesting than the stock Jane head. The head appears to be solid cast in a rigid resin and glued onto the neckpin-- there's only a slight hint of a parting line which extends through the ear. The paint job is excellent and very durable.

The cloth goods are very expertly done-- Most impressive to me were the custom embroidered patches on the shoulders. I couldn't believe how well these came out! The rest of the uniform-- two pieces, is a fairly complex pattern, with black side panels, elbow pads and sleeve pockets on the blouse, and padding on the trouser knees. Like I said, the armor isn't easy to remove, so I didn't get a look at the full blouse, but it appears to have velcro fasteners, and yes-- the pants do have suspenders! The drop down holster is also pretty neat and is made of a synthetic fabric. The knife may not be removeable; or at least not easily so, since the retaining strap can't be unstrapped. The other pocket (which opens) contains a mystery piece of gear which you'll discover if you buy the figure. :^)

The only real weaknesses I can detect are in a few of the cast goods. From a distance it looks fine, but the rifle sculpt is fairly weak-- it doesn't have the smooth precision and finish that mechanical items should have. That's a pretty difficult thing to do, unless you have tools for precision milling & lathing (I would imagine). It also looks like the master pattern broke and was repaired-- although without concealing the fracture. There are also a number of pinholes in the casting-- air bubbles trapped by surface tension in some of the ribbing detail. From personal experience I know that this is one of those ugly things that seems to haunt folks without pressure casting equipment...

Despite this nitpicking, this is really an excellent figure and a worthy addition to any collector who appreciates high quality custom workmanship. It's not cheap-- $220 + $25 for the custom head -- but when you consider the amount of work that went into this figure, it's a bargain.

Polo is very forthcoming about the time that it takes to make his stuff, so don't have any illusions about this. His reputation has made him very much in demand, so between that and the demands of his "real" life-- be prepared to wait. Having said that, you should realize that it really is a privilege to order from him. Although I don't agree with the pre-payment policy for waiting list goods, I can understand how keeping track of deposits and incremental payments would add considerable complexity to a customizer's life, as well as take up a lot of time. I don't think there's an acceptable solution to this question; but since the customizer is calling the shots, you really don't have any choice.

Anyway, Polo's got a lot of other neat stuff, and more in the works for the Starship Troopers line too-- more custom heads, a Nuke launcher and a backpack radio... You can check out his great stuff at his web site.

--Jimbob 10/13/98