OAFE: your #1 source for toy reviews
B u y   t h e   t o y s ,   n o t   t h e   h y p e .

what's new?
reviews
articulation
figuretoons
customs
message board
links
blog
FAQ
accessories
main
Twitter Facebook Google+      


Points of Articulation

Artemis
Artemis
The Toy Alphabet of Women

Hi folks, my name's Artemis, and as I write this I'm surrounded by 300 female action figures, dolls, and busts (busts as in sculpture - though I suppose it works either way). Exactly 300, I'm not rounding up or down to get a nice even number - it just turned out that way, thanks to finding the Savage She-Hulk a few days ago, and Ame-Comi Wonder Woman and Cheetah not arriving until tomorrow. Anyway, it's a collection that's been over a decade in the making, from back when I was a dirt-poor student to now when I'm a... dirt-poor ex-student. Crap. Never mind. And it's made me an expert on female action figures - at least, I maintain that I am, and since this is an article, not a debate, who's going to argue? Nobody, that's who. Unless you go do it on the forum, in which case, well, sure. Every toy enthusiast has a story to tell - here's mine, from A to Z, the Toy Alphabet of Women.

A is for...
...Arcee. Know how long it took for Arcee to get a toy made of her? Fifteen years. Fifteen years! That's long enough for the kids lusting after her when the movie came out to have grown up and discovered real women... whom they have sex with while closing their eyes and imagining Arcee. Never doubt the devotion of Transfans. Arcee's not the only one who faced an uphill battle getting her hot chassis into the hands of her cartoon-watching would-be paramours - for a long time (and often still today) it was conventional wisdom in toy manufacturing circles that "boys don't want to play with girls," (at least, until they hit puberty, then hell yeah they do). And like most conventional wisdom, it's bollocks - oh, young boys say they're not interested in girls, but like most things boys do, it's just bravado and bluster to cover their insecurity. I speak from experience - I'd never have admitted it back then, but I thought my Teela figure was about the most beautiful thing in the world... shut the hell up, I was seven! Jeez, it's a wonder I talk to you people.
B is for...
...Barbie. The original female action figure, from before there even were action figures. Depending on your inclinations, Barbie's either leading a charmed life, or severely in need of a personality makeover - she's got all the pink Corvettes and walk-in wardrobes a girl could ever need, but aside from the pretty strong implication that she's got Ken totally whipped, she's sorely lacking in spirit and ass-kickery, with special edition superheroine Barbies and the like few and far between. Luckily the whole change-the-outfit thing works just as well when it's an outfit Mattel wouldn't dream of, so Star Wars Bounty Hunter Barbie, X-Men Barbie, and Mirror Universe Terran Empire Barbie (who likely assassinated Ken to get his job) are only a wardrobe trip away. The results may not always be Cy-Girl quality (Cy-Girls being pretty much the pinnacle of Gun Barbies), but you can't beat that special feeling of personally subverting a cultural icon. Put on an Aqua CD and get to work.
C is for...
...Construct-A-Figures. Okay, they're "Build-A-Figures," but I didn't want to not mention Barbie. Like a holidaymaker touring the local brothels and coming back home with a selection of embarrassing diseases, any collector of female superhero figures will invariably amass a pile of dismembered BAF bits over time. And with the token female in the series generally being the smallest figure by volume, and thus paired with the biggest bit - torso, mostly - it's not like you can even collect enough bits in total to make a screwed-up mutant hybrid BAF. If you're feeling generous - and can afford the postage - you might as well just send them to people who need them, in the hope that someone'll return your generosity if there's ever a female BAF, and you need to call in favours to get all of her.
D is for...
...Princess Diana. There are certain ubiquitous action figures that, no matter the time or place, you can go into a store and expect to find. Superman. Batman. Spider-Man. But if it's not testicles you're interested in, pickings are a lot thinner. Wonder Woman is pretty much femininity's sole representative at the top of the action figure tree - she may not be quite as eternal on the toy store shelves as the big boys, but it's unusual for a DC line to go by without a Wonder Woman in it somewhere, and consequently she's the only female character collectors can really be spoiled for choice for. DC Direct even went against the status quo one time, and - rather than having a token girl in each series - released a Wonder Woman series that consisted of nothing but female characters. It's not often we collectors of female figures get to go into a store and clean out a whole series - treasure the feeling when it happens, no matter what it does to your wallet.
E is for...
...Elizabeth Bathory. "Educational toys" usually consist of crummy playsets that the average toddler will master in 30 seconds, but not always. Lizzie here teaches us two important lessons: firstly, real people are capable of horrific deeds - Bathory was alleged to have tortured to death between 36 and 600 girls and women (though her trial was suspect; in any case, the point stands either way, as the "virtuous" court tortured her accomplices to death on the spot). Secondly, making a toy of a woman who may well have been history's most prolific serial killer - featuring the severed heads of her victims as decoration, no less - is fine, just so long as you can't see her nipples. Who says you can't learn from toys?
F is for...
...Felicia Hardy. I dare you to read Kevin Smith's Spider-Man and the Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do miniseries and not fall in love with Felicia. And yet, with the rather stunning Marvel Select Black Cat figure now several years old, and quite difficult to find, what do we get in its place? This piece of junk - poorly sculpted, poorly painted, abysmally articulated, packaged with a whip that's several sizes wrong, and an utterly idiotic animal companion. Meanwhile Superman - who hasn't had an interesting storyline since he died in the early '90s (and even that was more spectacle than substance) - is omnipresent, and every day Mattel churns out new day-glo orange Batman variants that were never in any movie. It makes you despair, it really does.
G is for...
...Queen Gorgo. yo's already talked about Gorgo's breasts (the randy bugger), but he didn't touch on their true importance to the epic piece of cinema that is 300. Remember the bit near the beginning of the movie, where Leonidas whiles away the night by running through every position in the Kama Sutra, and Lena Headey bounces around like it's an Olympic event and she's got a gold medal in her sights? Now think about the end of the movie - was Leo coming home to his adoring and enthusiastically carnal wife? No, he was lying on some godforsaken cliff stuck full of arrows, all because that idiot System Lord Xerxes thought it'd be a good idea to get a bunch of his mates together and go pick on their neighbours. I'm dead serious, the whole point of the movie, in spite of the gleefully manic battle scenes and the several gallons of machismo pouring off the Spartans like sweat, was the tragedy of war: what a stupid, pointless thing it is that morons start fights, and then decent people have to go off and die, instead of staying home and having wild lusty sex with Lena Headey. That's why they went to the trouble of sculpting and painting every inch of Gorgo's bosom - to remind us of a fundamental message, in the hope that it would better humankind.
H is for...
...Hell. Gehenna. Tartarus. Act IV of Diablo II (the one where you actually need magical resistance for the first time in the game). To Christians it's a place of fiery torment where the sinful are punished. To the Chinese, it's a subterranean labyrinth that fortunate souls can bribe their way out of using "hell money" burned for the dead. To the ancient Egyptians it was Duat, the realm across which the sun god Ra travelled during the night, and where Anubis weighed the hearts of the dead. Generally it's not seen as a happy place, but an unconventional view put forward by the majority of underworld-derived female action figures is that it's an absolute fleshpot, knee-deep in sporty women with about a postage stamp's worth of clothing per dozen of them, and all in all makes the Playboy Mansion look like the conservative quarter of an Amish settlement. Well, lust is a deadly sin after all - makes sense the denizens of the abyss would be good at it.
I is for...
...Improbable Armor. The heaviest armor isn't always the best - sure, full plate mail will stop most blows, but there's always the chance that some lucky bastard will stick a sword into a joint and take your arm off, or draw a bead on you with a heavy crossbow. Which is why, even after full suits of armor had been invented, many veterans with the riches to afford them still put their trust in lighter partial plate, chainmail, or hardened leathers - the best way to withstand a blow is to dodge it, after all. By that logic, the average fantasy warrioress should be nigh invincible, since to judge by their action figures they habitually take to the field of battle dressed in a metalsmith's imitation of the Victoria's Secret catalogue. Mind you, if the idea is to distract the enemy, it's no doubt successful - when it comes to clouding men's minds, the Shadow's got nothing on a buxom lass in a chainmail g-string.
J is for...
...Jailbait. Bet you're thinking this'll be all Hal Jordan jokes, huh? Well, no - apart from that one. If you're browsing the figures and statues at a store that gets Japanese imports, or leafing through the import pages of Previews, you'll probably notice it's not unusual to find yourself face-to-panties with a five-year-old girl - not somewhere the average toy collector really wants to be (hopefully). It's mind-boggling how prevalent "lolicon" culture is in Japan - that's the association of prepubescent qualities with sexuality - but perhaps it shouldn't be. After all, Bratz are stupefyingly popular, on the basis of being pre-teen girl figures dressed like hookers, and they're just the tip of a western societal iceberg of the commercial sexualization of young girls. So... actually I'm a bit vague on how this relates back to action figures. Whatever, just remember that women - grown-up women - are hot as hell, and a gorgeous thirty-something vixen is worth a dozen of your cutesy teeny-boppers any day. There, that's close enough to a salient point to pass.
K is for...
...Kara Zor-L. I don't have any particular point to make about female action figures that's represented by Power Girl - I just wanna bask in her magnificence a bit. Actually, I do have a point (ha!), which is that for all that we go on about quality of sculpt and paint, versatility of articulation, inclusion of accessories and all that guff we put in to pad out reviews beyond just saying "I like it"... isn't the real joy of action figures to get a physical representation of a character you love? It's been going on for millennia, after all - Venus figurines date back as far as 26,000 years, and for all intents and purposes, are just representations of something the sculptor likes (very fat women with big tits, evidently, but when you're a hunter-gatherer society, anyone with access to enough food to get fat is clearly doing well for themselves, and to be admired). Humanity has always tied intangible concepts like fertility, security, and prosperity to artistic representations - even though a little clay statue has no material value, its meaning can be of profound importance. Fast-forward through the bronze and iron ages, Egypt, Rome, Dark Ages, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, world wars, space race, microchip revolution and the birth of Amber Benson - all the important world-changing stuff - and we're still basically the same people (we still like big tits, too). So who cares if they screwed up the stocking-legs on the 13" Collector's doll, or didn't really capture McGuinness's art style in the Superman/Batman figure - Power Girl's my hero, and while I might lament the shortcomings of some figures and praise others, they're all important to me.
L is for...
...Princess Leia. George Lucas is a sly devil, and not above rewriting history when it suits him. We all know he's talking garbage when he says Greedo fired first - or at all - but this action figure is a devious effort to manufacture evidence for one of his lesser-known revisions: that Carrie Fisher wasn't going commando under that dress. Come on, who are you kidding? Never mind visible panty line, she'd have needed a full Brazilian to pass muster. It's not just Lucas though, practically every figure with a skirt, even one that's not removable, and which you'd never be able to look up without physically picking up the figure and turning it upside-down, has a pair of panties painted onto her. Barbie, you'll be charmed to know, is flesh-tone all the way up - can't have anything interfering with the look of those gauzy skirts - but has a dot matrix texture applied to her intimate bits instead, just so no unscrupulous collectors can home-make a nude Barbie. (They do anyway - google "Barbie bondage" some time.) Still, there is one positive to come of it - if you really want to know what colour underwear Aerith Gainsborough, Lt. Uhura, or Bellatrix Lestrange wears (I was going to include She-Ra, but if you paid close attention to the cartoon you'll already know) you're only an action figure away from finding out. Assuming they're not lying about it as well.
M is for...
...Master Chief, the all-purpose high-tech soldier of the Halo series... what the hell? He's a guy, what's he doing here? Well, if you don't already know what "Red vs Blue" is, go look is up, and pay special attention to the bit about Tex. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes we collectors of female figures catch a lucky break, as a company makes one without realising it. With a little imagination that Cyberman is Yvonne Hartman, Crichton is Aeryn-inhabiting-Crichton, and that Y-Wing is Tara's souped-up TIE-killer.
N is for...
...Nothing. Nothing? Nothing?! (Anyone just imagine David Bowie saying it? Oh never mind.) Collectors of female figures need to get used to walking out of toy and specialty shops empty-handed a lot of the time. With girls being in the minority of figures to begin with, and then often shortpacked, and then (precisely because they're shortpacked) frequently snaffled by stockroom boys or eagle-eyed scalpers for marked-up sale on eBay, it's a miracle any honest toy buyer can ever find any at all. All a body can do is try to beat them at their own game: know your local stores, know when they put new product on shelves, and budget ahead so you'll have the money on hand to buy at once - the difference between a successful haul and going home lonely and disconsolate can be as little as 15 minutes in some stores. And don't feel bad about using commando-raid tactics to secure your figures - in today's market, someone is going to get in quick, and if it's not someone who wants the figure itself, it'll be someone who wants the eBay dollars.
O is for...
...Shana O'Hara. Who? GI Joe's Scarlett, that's who - yeah, "Scarlett O'Hara," guffaw guffaw. She's a capable and valued member of the GI Joe team, blah-di-blah, but the real point is that, in the pre-teenage world where owning a female action figure called one's masculinity into question, Scarlett was alright, because she's a GI Joe. Along with Lady Jaye and the Baroness, and other lines' equivalents such as Masters of the Universe's Teela, she was the "beard" for the early-blooming horny boy, and the subject of many a nascent fantasy in which she got captured by Cobra and "interrogated" by the Baroness... you get the idea (if you don't, I'm sure there's plenty of fanfic to help). She may not stack up to proto-SOTA's Plastic Fantasy range, or McFarlane's informal "Warrior Slut" line that used to pop up in every series they did, but like a boy's first glimpse of Playboy, Scarlett has a magic that endures, even after you find out how stupid the airbrushing is.
P is for...
...Sara Pezzini. Legendary Heroes was a bold idea - its detractors said it'd never last, and... well, they were right. But while it was around, it was good - oh, there were some screw-ups (I'm looking at you, Ann O'Brien), but characters from comics outside Marvel and DC rarely get figures of any note in today's competetive toy market, so for their fans it was a rare chance to get someone like Sara here, and even lesser-known characters like Body Bags's Panda (who also begins with P, so she gets to be in the photo too, yay. God those are big, I bet she has back trouble). Shocker (the company, not OAFE's Shocka) is the next in line to try its hand at the unforgiving indie comics figure market - it too will probably fizzle out in a series or two, but where else would we find a figure of Katchoo? Thank heavens for companies like this, with more enthusiasm than common sense.
Q is for...
...The Question. Actually, there isn't a Question action figure - well, there is, but it's Vic Sage, not Renee Montoya. My Batwoman figure's getting lonely up on top of the monitor. Oh, there's a Minimate version, sure, but a 6" Batwoman and a 2" blocky Question is a bit kinky even for me. Get a move on, DC Direct! (And while we're on the subject, you could do worse than make her a two-pack with that Khandaqi hottie from 52. I'm just saying. Fine, be prudish, see if I care...)
R is for...
...Rogue. No, not the X-Men one (whiny brat). I'm talking about Diablo II's Rogues, specifically the forgettable "corrupted Rogue" that was the sole female figure in the line. What the hell, people? You've got the Amazon, the Sorceress, the Assassin, Andariel, heck, even a regular Rogue who could pull double duty as a Diablo I figure, and you choose that as the figure you're going to make? Character selection is often the bane of female figures - generally limited to one or two token girls per series, and with lines having short lifespans anyway, it's all too easy to see a promising property come and go without its standout heroines ever seeing the light of day in action figure form.
S is for...
...She-Ra. We give Mattel a lot of crap for their ham-fisted mishandling of their properties, but it's nothing new - they were masters at screwing up a promising line before most of us had disposable income to call our own. Back in the day, it came to Mattel's attention that, in addition to the target market of boys, girls were watching Masters of the Universe, and buying the figures too, in significant numbers. Always ready to draw the wrong conclusion, Mattel decided it had nothing to do with MotU figures having things that Barbie didn't - like hands that could hold accessories, costumes designed for battle, not catwalks, and a general sense that there's more to life than hairstyles and boyfriends - and while Filmation produced a She-Ra tv series that was easily the equal of MotU, Mattel made a line of She-Ra figures that were nothing but stunted, half-assed Barbies, combable hair and all. It took until 2002 for a proper She-Ra figure to turn up - and thanks to Mattel again tanking the line, other awesome characters like Frosta, Huntra, and Shadow Weaver have never had figures worthy of them.
T is for...
...Together Forever. Willow and Tara (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) developed a devoted following during their three-season run as tv's best couple - and those fans got the star treatment from Diamond Select and Cinequest with the "Together Forever" two-pack. As well as repaints of the Willow and Tara figures, the set included repainted versions of their interlocking bases - now with a magic circle inscribed on them - new accessories including the famous "extra flamey" candle, and best of all, Miss Kitty Fantastico, the couple's adorable kitten. And the plastic front of the packaging even had a heart shape molded into it. For all that toy companies screw up and leave fans fuming over missed opportunities, it's nice to reflect that sometimes they get it exactly right.
U is for...
...Uhura. Action figures - along with magazines, movies, comic books, the internet, atheism, and so on - often get blamed for, among other things, encouraging unrealistic body images. That's true enough for Barbie, who's something like 20% below zero body fat, and don't get started on Bratz, who even the Martians from Mars Attacks! would be creeped out by. At least Art Asylum/Diamond Select did their bit to remind everyone of reality, by releasing their Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Uhura in the same scale as the earlier Original Series Uhura, so they could be stood side by side and compared accurately. Yes folks, they don't stay perky forever. You never know, their next move might be an even more illuminating two-pack, contrasting naked Uhura from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier with naked Uhura from Gene Roddenberry's office circa 1968 (really - where did you think Captain Kirk got that trait from?).
V is for...
...Valeera Sanguinar. Many toy fans lay grief on McFarlane for their "McStatues," but making them is a skill, and not one to be dismissed out of hand. DC Unlimited tried anyway - already inclining towards display pieces rather than heavily articulated play-based figures thanks to their DC Direct heritage, they went all-out and made the World of Warcraft line a series of plastic statues. And more to the point, they did it badly - Valeera here has a deeply flawed design that means she spends her life staring at her own foot, the sculpt is soft and ill-conceived, the paint ranges from barely adequate to truly appalling, she's got no articulation worth a damn, and - as you'll discover if you own her more than a couple of months - she's made from poor-quality plastic, and her ankles will slowly bend until she flops over forward like a zombie that's just taken a .45 round to the brain. The moral of the story? If you're going to do something, whatever it is, do it well.
W is for...
...Warrior Isis. Isis, on the other hand, is damn near all the justification McFarlane needs to keep on statuing. In many ways, she doesn't have a lot going for her - she's got no articulation worth a damn, of course, no play value whatsoever, and she doesn't even originate from any property of note, at least not unless you're a Spawn enthusiast or an ancient Egyptian, both of which are scare nowadays. All she does, all she can do, is sit there on your shelf - but she does that perfectly. In every way, she is a staggeringly beautiful work of craftsmanship - when you consider that she wasn't hand-made by devoted artisans, but was instead churned out of a factory by doubtless menial wage-slaves, it's nothing less than a miracle how good she looks. If you collect female figures, and have any interest in their pure aesthetic qualities, you need Isis. Typically then (see the "N" entry) she's a real pain to find.
X is for...
...X-rated. Between superheroes, super-soldiers, ninjas, warlords, mythical beasties and technological terrors, the average action figure collection generally contains enough belligerence to fight out Armageddon several times over. But only once have we had the opportunity to buy figures of our favourite porn stars - at least, figures that look like them, rather than ones that are inflatable and sport "realistic orifices." What happened to "make love, not war?" C'mon SOTA, get back into the business with a Digital Playgrounds Pirates line or something.
Y is for...
...Yuna. Who is Yuna? I have no idea, but I don't have a lot of action figures starting with Y, and we already used Yuffie in the Alphabet of Cool, so let's pretend that I've played whatever Final Fantasy game Yuna's from, and that she's a favourite. More importantly, I found her at a market, still in her packaging, enormously cheaper than she'd have been from a real store. With female figures being oft scarce to begin with, real collectors can't afford to pass up any venue for acquiring them, and market stallholders, with their "it fell off the back of a truck" distribution system, can stock figures you'll never find anywhere else. Hell, I got the Marvel Legends Scarlet Witch from the same place, and so far as I know she never even got sold in Australia to begin with (not to mention the goofily hilarious "Bamblebee," but he's neither here nor there with regards to women, so forget that).
Z is for...
...Zatanna. Besides the big, obvious attention-grabbing techniques of action figure manufacture, there are lots of subtle and easily-overlooked tricks that add a little ineffable "something" to figures - like putting a gloss finish on the eyes, or recessing shoulder balljoints, or separating the forefinger of a hand from the others so it can fit on the trigger of an accessory. But without a doubt the best one is the use of actual fishnet stockings. It's not just that trying to get the same effect using sculpted lines and paint invariably leads to mediocre results, or that the stockings not only retain their seamless texture if the leg is articulated beneath them, but actually help conceal the articulation - it's that they're fishnet stockings. God, I could go on about fishnets. Even my legs would look hot in fishnets, so it's no surprise that figures of Zatanna and Black Canary and their lusciously-lingerie'd ilk are worth their weight in myrrh just because of the stockings. Odd note to finish the Toy Alphabet of Women on? Maybe, but it's more fun this way.


back back
 
Report an Error 

Discuss this (and everything else) on our message board, the Loafing Lounge!


Entertainment Earth

that exchange rate's a bitch

© 2001 - present, OAFE. All rights reserved.
Need help? Mail Us!