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Wolf Man

ReAction: Universal Monsters
by yo go re

There are three dozen werewolf reviews here on OAFE. Five of those have been Universal's Wolf Man; today we're going for six.

We've previously called Funko's ReAction figures "the shallow end of the pool," but Rustin figured out the secret: the format works when the license is old. So, Twilight Zone or Alien, yes; Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Breaking Bad, no. The first Terminator, but not T2. Michael Myers, but not Pinhead. By that measure, the Universal Monsters are a prime candidate!

The Universal Monsters period officially ran from 1923 to 1960, beginning with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and ending with The Leech Woman. Of course, not every monster introduced during that time became a member of the classic pantheon, with the latest addition being 1954's Gill-man. But still, the era is appropriate for some "old"-style toys, even if this particular style hadn't been invented yet.

Unlike the Alien figures, which were based on actual vintage sculpts for a cancelled lines, the other ReAction are new sculpts merely designed to look old. The Wolf Man is really the best of Series 1. It's fully licensed by the Chaney estate, despite not having a likeness to speak of, and the sculpt of his fur is surprisingly intricate for the size.

In order to minimize the amount of prosthetics they had to put on Lon, most of his body was covered up - it's weird to see a werewolf who not only doesn't have his clothes torn to shreds, but also has his shirt buttoned all the way up. Loosen up, Wolf Man! My dog hates wearing a collar longer than necessary, there's no possible way buttoning your shirt collar can be comfortable. In 1979, Remco released a line of Mini Monsters that used Universal's "secondary" designs, rather than the A team. That figure had the shirt undone slightly, but also had a face that looked like nothing, so this one still wins. The wrinkles on his clothes are detailed quite well and he's got impressively sharp claws, so really, it's just the articulation that pegs this as a retro toy.

ReAction figures are based on the late-70s toy style, which means five points of articulation. Ironically, they could have added more articulation and still been era-appropriate: Microman was the first 3¾" toyline, introduced in 1974, and it had articulation that Western toys wouldn't see until GI Joe eight years later; if ReAction had gone that way, people would have assumed these toys were supposed to be more modern than they are. Of course, even in the '40s (where the Wolf Man originated) toys had better articulation than this. This figure has flat feet, rather than being balanced up on his toes like he should be - that was the right choice, because the Remco version did have digitigrade feet, and apparently that thing can barely stand up at all.

This past weekend at New York Comic Con, Funko offered an exclusive black and white ReAction Wolf Man in black and white packaging. And while that's truer to the original film (and also just the newest release in a whole string of b/w repaints), the color one looks better on its own. It'd be nice if the pose was a little more dynamic, but that's not what this line is about. It's about opening a tear into an alternate reality where the Universal Monsters had a fully branded toyline in 1980, and pulling the results back into our world.

-- 10/14/15

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