You all know the story. Hasbro took over the Marvel Toys license, and then the world ended. No wait, I mean the other story. About a demon possessing a stunt biker and turning him into the Ghost Rider! Hero? Villain? Tortured soul? Comicbook attempt to cash in on the stunt biker craze of the '70s? Nobody knows. Ol' Skullface is getting his own movie soon, directed by Mark Steven Johnson, who you might know as the director and screenwriter of Daredevil (groan) and Simon Birch (GROAAAN!). As with most comicbook movies (with the recent notable exception of X-Men 3), there's a toyline preceding the film. Regardless of how good the movie will prove to be, the toyline seems off to a good start. Hasbro released the first two series simultaneously, giving us a few versions of the title character, plus Scarecrow, Vengeance, Blackheart, and the Caretaker.
Cursed as a Ghost Rider in the Old West,
Caretaker had long ago walked away from the battle against evil. But when Blackheart and his minions threaten to destroy the world, he joins Johnny Blaze for one last ride!
Vengeance and Scarecrow are reported to appear only in the film's accompanying video game, but the other two non GR characters in the toyline, Blackheart and the Caretaker, are definitely in the film. The latter is played by today's go-to guy for grizzled cowboys, Sam Elliott. You might have seen him as a cowboy in The Big Lebowski, or as a cowboy in Tombstone, or as "Card Player #2" (a cowboy) in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Or maybe not. Either way, he's pretty awesome. The figure captures Elliott's likeness very well, and... oh wait, maybe it's just supposed to be a hideous flaming skeleton. Well it pulls that off good, too, I suppose. It's the lack of facial hair that gives it away.
The sculpt is very good representation of a flaming skeleton cowboy.
What little we do see of the anatomy is fairly accurate. The rest of his exposed body is sculpted as flames and cast in translucent plastic. Translucent is probably the best way to go for flame effects in a plastic toy, although it does leave something to be desired. The rest of him is covered in pants, boots and a sculpted trench coat, and the clothes are looking pretty nice. The coat is tattered and ragged, with holes and snags appearing all over. The holes on the back are particularly well done, with the larger ragged holes showing tattered threads inside them.
The paint is good, where there is paint. The bone parts are a flat off-white, with a nice mucky, dirty wash. The coat and pants look dusty and caked. The translucent flames are what they are. They look pretty good when you hold them up to light, but the flames covering the chest and torso don't catch the light due to the coat. Still, if there's a better way to do flames, I haven't seen it.
The articulation is ML quality. Caretaker gets an articulated jaw (woohoo!), a peg at the top and bottom of the neck joint, balljoints in the shoulders, peg biceps, double-hinged elbows,
peg wrists, chest hinge, peg waist, balljoints in the thighs, peg thighs, balljoints in the top of the knees, hinges at the bottom of the knees, balljoints in the ankles (with pivots), and a toe hinge. The neck joint is a little strange; while it's mostly a peg joint, there is some room for wiggling the head side to side, but it's hard to get him to do things like look down. Also, note the somewhat redundant peg/hinge type balljoint in the upper knee, rather than the simple double-hinge. All the joints are tight, save for the ankles which are rather loose. It's still not too hard to get him to stand, though, thanks to the heavy pant cuffs that block the ankles from pitching too far forward.
The Caretaker is accessorized with a removable hat (woohoo again!) and a big ol' shotgun from hell.
It's got a chain motif on the bottom of the barrel and what looks like exhaust manifolds on the top. The handle looks like a bike's handlebar. Everything in between is wreathed in flames. It fires a translucent spring-loaded flame projectile. It's kinda goofy, but kinda cool, and I'm happy that the action feature is on the accessory, not the figure. If you want a more mundane shotgun, give him NECA Ash's boomstick. The hat is a nice sculpt and fits his head well. However, since it is meant to cover a skull, it doesn't fit too well on figures with flesh-covered heads.
Guess what? This is a figure of a flaming skeleton cowboy. That's all you really need to know. But, as a bonus, it's a good figure of a flaming skeleton cowboy. Great sculpt, paint, articulation, minimal action feature, and a moving jaw! No skeleton figure should be without a moving jaw, a fact Hasbro seems well aware of in its Ghost Rider movie line. They even present the figure well, on a black card with a flaming yellow spotlight right behind the toy. The edge of the blister is scalloped, to match the die-cut chain that runs down the right side. It looks great on the shelves. Even if the movie sucks (I'd say there's a 50/50 chance), there's really no excuse not to have a flaming skeleton cowboy figure in your collection.
Do you think the Ghost Rider will be good or bad? Or will it be like Daredevil, which is good but everyone picks on it? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.