Several years back I wrote a review of Art Asylum's SDCC exclusive "Mirror, Mirror" Scotty, which made me consider what makes for a good exclusive. Something new and fresh, with an independently good aesthetic that has a place within the full line's collection but does not leave a hole in it if it can't be had. As a result, its pretty hard to hit the right balance of those factors that make for a really fun (and not frustrating or aggravating) time in tracking it down. However, Jun Planning has really hit that nail squarely on the head, producing what is, for me, one of the best Comic-Con exclusives yet - Othello Jack Skellington.
Jun Planning was, for all intents and purposes, the first major merchandiser for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Sure, Hasbro released a selection of bendy action figures, dolls and plush when the film was initially released, but much like movie, the intitial reception was cold and they swiftly retreated from shelves. Several years later, though, Tokyo-based Jun came along with a goal to cater to the Japanese fanbase and began producing some truly great product.
It's my recollection that their Nightmare stuff was some of - if not the - first collector product to be imported from Japan to the U.S. in a really substantive way, and it found some very solid success in the burgeoning "cult following" status that Nightmare was beginning to sport. In fact, I believe the first imports I ever bought were three of the sets from Jun's Halloween Town Georama Puzzle. They were really cool two-piece sets, cast in resin at about 2" or 3" scale, that fit together to create a neat little Halloween Town diorama (which my then kitten promptly destroyed by walking through).
However, it was really the 12" figures that Jun pushed and were known for. Their "Colored Coffin" Jack Skellingtons featured 12" Jacks in differently hued coffins each with a different head sculpt, over twenty in all. Well, Jun Planning is returning to the license in huge way this year as worldwide licsencee, and to kick it all of is a return to their incredibly successful 12" format.
This figure presents Jack in a Shakespearean outfit
of dark green and gold not present in the film or book but still oddly appropriate to the character. Why he's called "Othello Jack" I'll never understand. "Shakespearean Jack," "Hamlet Jack," or "Thespian Jack" all seem to be more relevant titles, but truly... "what's in a name?" Call him what you will, he can still take off his head to recite Shakespearean quotations!
Jack is, in all likelihood, the same mold/sculpt as the previous 12" Jacks from Jun. He has 16 points of articulation featuring hinged knees, swivel thighs, ball-hinged hips, a swivel waist, ball-hinged shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, and balljointed wrists and head. Though the latter three points are a little restricted due to sculpted overhang on the hands and a deep recess in the head, the other points are quite good with swivels allowing for 360° of turning and hinges allowing for 180. It all conspires for a really good range of motion.
Paint is very minimal,
and consists solely of black for the eye and nostril sockets and joint detailing in the fingers. Jack is cast is an off-white bone color of plastic, which is pretty nice, though the character is whiter in the film. The bone coloring works well, though, and goes better with the costume's color palette better than white. I just wish there was a black detailing or a wash in the teeth to help delineate them from the face more. The mouth and teeth creases are very clearly sculpted in, but, as the photos can attest, don't stand out much in certain lighting.
The sculpt is fantastic! The body definitely sports Jack's proportions very well and the head is pretty dead-on. For some reason, Jack has a fairly hard-to-duplicate likeness, leaving much to be desired in several of NECA's products, but Jun Planning comes through here.
Jack is wearing an Elizabethan style frock of dark green, gold and white. The wrist-end of both sleeves feature two-layers of white, semi-traslucent ruffles while the collar is a thick affair of the same material - it's the latter that really provides 50% of period style. The other half arrives in the form of Jack's voluminous pantaloons, which are gold with thick green stripes. He has a doublet to match, while the sleeves and pants are a dark green faux-velvet. The doublet has a series of small buttons sewn along the seam but its really three tiny metal "button clasps" that keep it closed. Completing the effect are a pair of brown cloth boots and a green "velvet" cape. The cape is quite in nice in both is appropriate length (mid-thigh) and its velvet-y exterior and standard-cloth interior while the boots hide sculpted shoes cast in black plastic. The outfit is really the reason to buy the figure, its a lot of fun and is excellently executed.
Othello Jack comes with but one accessory - a three-part stand. At the bottom is an excellently sculpted base mimmicking one of NBX's core logos. Attached to that is the trunk of the base and into that slides the figural-rod. The rod can move vertically within the trunk, but it only has two real "settings" - fully retracted or three-quarters extended, the latter held inplace by a small clip that locks the rod into place in the trunk. At the head of the rod is spring-loaded, scissor-style pincers that grab around Jack's waist to hold him up.
An infamously top-heavy design, Jack really needs to the stand to remain erect, but the pincers are quite thickly designed and loose around Jack - they don't help his aesthetic much nor keep him completely upright. Hopefully, if Jun continues the 12" line, they'll redesign that element and make a stand with more height options and less obstrucive pincers. I should also note that all parts of the stand are cast in shiny black plastic. Its quite fine, but much like the teeth issue, the color hides alot of the detail in the sculpted base. It would be cool to see that cast in a stone grey and then washed in black to bring out the detail and to elict the cobblestone feel of Halloween Town.
What really makes the figure special is that he is a perfect exclusive. The outfit is handled very, very well and has a handsome look to it. More importantly, though, it's appropriate to the character.
Sure, Jack never wore it, and its frills and pantaloons elicit a laugh at first look, but think of the Bone Daddy in the film. I, for one, can very easily imagine him becoming just as excited in theatre (for what is his job but theatrics?) and wanting to bring more culture/drama to his townspeople by obsessing over The Bard. This is much like Jack's Santa Suit in that it's his vision of what the real thing, or should be, and it has a level of charm to it as a result that many toys and collectibles lack. Becuase this is a non-canon appearance, no collection will really miss it, but it hits the mark of true-to-character (just as NECA's lamentable "Vampire Jack" missed it) and any collection will only be augmented by its presence.
This was the last SDCC 2008 exclusive to be announced, about a week before the con, and as a result it didn't get the exposure as many of the other exclusives and sales seemed to be slow from what I could see. But all that means is he shouldn't be too hard to pick up now after the con. My research indicates this very figure was released, in different packaging, in 2003 as part of NBX's 10th Anniversary, which rather lessens its exclusivity, but in no way diminishes its fun factor. Based on the insane amount of product Jun Planning is... well, planning on releasing for NBX (plush, R/C, trading figures, action figures, dolls, snow globes, statues and jawdroppingly gorgeous, massive and expessive Halloween Town dioramas - and more!), "Othello Jack" is a great kick-off to the program and really shows the love, enthusiasm and understanding the company has for this beloved license! Of all the exclusive action figures and collectibles I purchased at San Diego Comic-Con 2008, "Othello Jack" is my favorite - he is pure fanboy fun!