Ertl's Real Heroes
A review

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


Top Cop and Top Jake are the first two releases in Ertl Collectibles' Real Heroes series, "a tribute befitting our everyday real heroes". It's a unique Joe concept for these times, in that it's not military, it comes from a large company and it includes both the outfit and the figure. It also enjoys the very major bragging rights of having been designed by Don Levine and Kirk Bozigian. I believe they plan to release new figures next year as they retire the current selection.

When I first heard about this series, I wasn't particularly excited... a policeman and a fireman just didn't fit in with my collecting interests. But once people started receiving these things and raving about them at the Sandbox, I took notice... and I'm glad I did! It proved to me that sometimes the subject matter is secondary to the quality and execution of a product. Above all else, I really appreciate good stuff...

I ordered both figures about two weeks ago, and was told to expect them in 4 to 6 weeks-- so it was really an unexpected and pleasant surprise to receive something early for a change. The shipping box was small so I wondered whether they had only sent half the order-- but no, within it there were two Joe-sized boxes. Upon opening the compact boxes (with cool stylized graphics), I was amazed at how it was packed: Besides the figure, there were baggies and baggies and baggies of accessories!

I prefer Top Cop to Top Jake, but they're both excellent. Really, there's too much stuff for me to even attempt to show in pictures and describe in words... However, each figure comes with an individualized stand, a certificate of authenticity, and a small color booklet with information about the figure. And then there's the gear... There's lots of it. For example, Top Cop comes with a belt which holds a night stick, flashlight, radio, pistol, handcuffs, and a few other things. He's also got a shotgun and a scoped rifle. Then there's the stuff he's wearing, like his cap, his jacket, his trousers & shirt, tie, and boots. They also throw in a body armor vest.

I guess what really makes this set remarkable is the fact that it's all so well done, and hard to detect any obvious corner-cutting. For example, the highly-detailed badge is on both the windbreaker and the shirt. The coiled cord on the radio is fantastic! Everything is rendered very realistically in excellent choice of materials, with nothing obviously out-of-scale (except the jacket zipper, but no one has an answer for that).

For me, the most exciting thing about these guys are the figures. These are Don Levine's vintage-style Joes with a completely new headsculpt and hands. The heads are the same on both figures, and it's a very good, appropriately heroic-looking sculpt. The hands are in a class by themselves... they're the best I've seen, even better than the Captain Action hands (which appear to be, in contrast, oversized). I really like this trend and hope it continues!

My only criticisms of the figures are trivial: the patches on the uniform are printed on a stiff ribbon, and don't stick too well. The printing on ribbon looks a little out of place because the ribbons are so stiff-- I don't mind the fact that they're printed, since you get much better detail than embroidery. But they look flat (because they are!) glued on the uniform.

So... buy these great figures while you can. At present, you can order from Ertl's web site for $85 each + postage. They're definitely worth it.

That brings me to my single major grouse-- Their web site is one of the most infuriating I've run across, because it's slooooow (because it's so graphic-heavy & fancy), and difficult to navigate when you're looking for something specific. Unless you can guess how its designers decided to classify something, you're in for some major hair-pulling. An example of this: I ordered my figures from their 1-800 number (because their on-line ordering system didn't work at the time), but it wasn't easy to find that number at the site! I'm not sure if this is it, but here's a number I just found: 1-800-553-4886. Good luck!

-Jimbob, 11/21/98