Back in 2005, I was on the edge of my seat for Mezco's comic-based Hellboy toy line. My Hellboy obsession had started the previous summer, when, after reading yo go re's review of the movie Hellboy figure, I decided I needed to have one of my own (and much thanks to yo for selling me his). I eventually collected the rest of the movie figures, and when the comic line was announced in September, I started reading those, too. Soon I had surpassed Rustin Parr as OAFE's official Hellboy maniac.
However, it was a long twelve months before Mezco finally got the comic-based line into stores. By then I had lost interest in Hellboy and rekindled it perhaps a half-dozen times (as is my wont with such things). They came out so painfully late that it was almost anticlimactic for me. Almost. In the end, the figures were too good for me to be disappointed.
Mezco's Hellboy movie figures sold well.
Sadly, it seems that Hellboy's popularity among casual fans did not extend quite as far to the comic. Sales were apparently lackluster, though I do think it was a terrible (and baffling) mistake on the part of Mezco not to release a trenchcoat-wearing version of Hellboy to retail. After two waves, it seems that the line has been put to rest - or at least on hiatus - with the release of their exclusive Abe Sapien figure.
Abe is arguably the second-most popular character in the Hellboy universe (after Big Red himself). In the comic, his only "powers" are swimming well and breathing underwater. The movie gave him telepathic and clairvoyant powers, presumably to make him a bit more interesting. But I think it's Abe's lack of real super-abilities that make him so appealing to many fans - that, and his awesome Creature from the Black Lagoon-style design. The fact is, monsters are cool.
Abe Sapien was available only as an exclusive at certain conventions and via Mezco's online store and collector's club, and is limited to 3000 pieces. He comes in the same sort of clamshell packaging as the rest of the line and features brand-new art by Mignola.
Mezco's movie figure of Abe was one of the sculptural highlights of that line, and the comic version is another standout. The sculpt, based on Mignola's rough, blocky art style, is excellent. The skin is rough and textured, providing that worn look Mignola favors in his art. I do think the head is a bit too human-looking, but the sculpt is very accurate to Abe as he looked in the first Hellboy graphic novel, Seed of Destruction.
Like the movie Abe, what really makes this figure pop is the paint work. This is Hellboy colorist Dave Stewart's work rendered 3D. The fade from light to dark blue around the chest is particularly impressive, but the entire figure has some of the best paint applications I've seen on an action figure. The only odd thing about it is that I think parts of the figure (particularly the hands) may actually have been molded in blue, which wasn't done for any of the other figures in the line (as far as I could tell).
Abe is not without his faults. The first is articulation. While Abe is better articulated than many modern toys, he's disappointing compared to other figures in the line. He has a balljointed head, shoulders and hips; swivels at the biceps and waist; and hinges at the knees, ankles, elbows and wrists.
There is no forearm or wrist swivel, which is what bugged me the most. I believe this was done so the fins wouldn't be split, but it could have been done closer to the elbow (in a "Sigma 6"-style joint).
In a general sense, I found the articulation unsatisfactory. Abe's legs are molded in a somewhat awkward pose; like Roger, I can't get my Abe to stand with both feet flush to the ground, and just about any standing pose looks a little uncomfortable. A side-to-side ankle joint would have done wonders for this problem, but none of the Hellboy comic figures have had such a joint.
Abe comes with three accessories: a spear gun, a flak jacket, and a utility belt. The utility belt, like Hellboy's, is well-sculpted and looks good.
The flak jacket looks just a little oversized, due to its being an article of clothing shrunk to a 1/12th scale, but for the most part I like it.
I guess the spear is a cool accessory, but I would have greatly preferred a pistol - and a right hand shaped to hold a pistol. Remember that the comic Abe doesn't really have any special offensive super-abilities? Well, to make up for that, he became a crack shot. Abe is often seen carrying a pistol in the comics. What's more, Mezco already had a mold for one from their Lobster Johnson figure. While I guess the spear is more "ocean-oriented," I think a gun would have been a better accessory. And unfortunately, since the hands are hinged (rather than balljoints), a hand-swap with a Lobster Johnson figure isn't an option.
Overall, for a $25 exclusive figure, I found Abe Sapien just a little disappointing. The sculpting and paint work are superb. My biggest problem with Abe is the lack of a pistol, though the hinge-only wrists and slightly wonky legs are annoying too. For a diehard Hellboy fan and toy collector, Abe is a must-buy, of course - you have to complete your BPRD team, after all. But I'm afraid this figure, with its rarity and price, won't be of any help in drawing casual fans to the line.
It's recently been claimed (though not officially announced) Mezco has the rights to do figures for next summer's Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. Since we're also getting action figures based on the Hellboy animated movies as well as a bonus live-action movie figure from Gentle Giant, the toy rights situation for Hellboy is a little unclear. It's possible that Mezco has held on to the comic rights and issued Abe as a way to placate fans until they release the official third wave next year alongside the Hellboy 2 line to capitalize on the film. Or it's possible (and part of me hopes this is true) that the comic rights are up for grabs and we may soon see a 6" Hellboy as part of the Legendary Comic Book Heroes line.