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Johnny Napalm

Guitar Hero
by yo go re

McFarlane Toys is a sinking ship, and has been since 2007, at least. For every decent success, there are several unqualified failures. Failures like Guitar Hero!

Johnny Napalm is the most angry, disrespectful, intense, and controversial guitarist today. Once the music starts, all his aggression suppressed by society's laws comes out on his strings. He has been labeled a lost cause, a menace to society, an anarchist, and a Guitar Legend. Johnny can incite a riot (and often does) with his mind-blowing solos and aggressive chords. His chaotic guitar playing excites audiences and keeps them screaming for more.

Johnny Napalm is pretty much the poster child for the Guitar Hero series - in that if you've never played a game, you're likely to recognize him more readily than you will any of the others. Look at the rest of Series 1: Zeus? Jon Bovi? Fat Zartan? If McToys hadn't inexplicably chosen them for Series 1 over whatever other forgettable characters the game has to offer, nobody would know them still. But Johnny Napalm? Maybe.

In honor of the multiple costumes you can dress your little rock avatar in, McFarlane flooded the market released their GH with chase repaints. Johnny, being the popular one, got three variants, each with different hair colors. Oh, and one had green pants. Woo. This one, at least, manages to really mix things up, giving us the punk rocker in full body paint. Because there's nothing punks love more than complicated stage theatrics.

Johnny's tattered pants are grey, with tears in the knees showing some sloppy paintwork to suggest skin. There's a patch on his right thigh, but it's the same color as the rest of the pants - the first of many instances on this figure where the paint apps take the lazy way out. For instance, her has a bandaid on his left shoulder and a razor blade on a necklace, but neither of them get a paint app of thir own: they're just whatever color they're pressed against. I could buy the bandage, because he may have already been wearing it when he put on his body paint, but the necklace? Not likely. He's wearing a thick black belt with large rings all the way around it, and has a real metal chain with a padlock hanging from his waist.

So far we've only talked smack about the paint, but like the Millennium Falcon, he's got it where it counts. The "skeleton" design works really well, with crisp edges in some places and nice fades in others. Johnny's entire upper body is black, but he's got white paint forming a rib cage and spine on his chest, a humerus, radius and ulna on his arms and the backs of his hands are white. Sadly, there's no paint on his back - what, shoulder blades aren't hardcore?

The Johnny Napalm figures are apparently identified by their hair color, and this one is rocking the red. Red mohawk. None of the toys have his green "liberty spikes." In keeping with the skeletal theme, the narrow head has been painted completely white, and has black detailing turning his face into a skull - a solid black triangle on the nose, crooked outlines for teeth, and airbrushed black circles around the eyes. He's got plenty of piercins, all painted black as well.

Because McToys failed to understand what made the Halo toys popular (here's a hint: to borrow a phrase, "it's the ariculation, stupid"), the movement on the Guitar Hero toys is completely unpredictable. Zeus, for instance, doesn'thave any knees. How effing stupid is that? Grah! Anyway, Johnny is on the high end of the scale, with a balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, swivel arms, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, swivel waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees and swivel ankles. That's enough to achieve pretty much any hard-rockin' pose, though the arrangement of the paint makes it clear he's only meant to be shown in one position. The figure is 6⅜" at the top of his hair-spikes.

Logically, the figure includes one accessory: his guitar. Because Guitar Hero toys without guitars would just be... well, they'd just be Hero toys, and what sense does that make? Johnny's guitar just screams "I want you to think I'm an edgy outsider," being designed to look like a graffitied ["graffiti" is a noun - the verb is "tagged," you total square --ed.] toilet seat with a giant rat coming out of it. Oh, Johnny Napalm, you're such a rebel! The strap fits over his shoulders, and the hands hold the guitar well - the left is working the neck, while the right is sculpted clutching a pick. The set includes a display base, a three-dimensional version of the GH logo.

The Guitar Hero toys failed epically. Failed like "Through the Fire and Flames" on Expert. They were in close running with Indiana Jones in the "Worst of the Year" in the '08 ToY Awards, though even the Crystal Skull toys sold faster than these. You can still find piles of these things at most retailers, since McFarlane can't afford to credit the stores so the toys can go on clearance. They even offered a full set of all the "rare" variants through the Spawn.com webstore for less than the retail price of one figure. Absolute failure, top to bottom. I picked up Johnny Napalm for five bucks at a discount chain, and at that price, he's a decent toy, though not spectacular. Definitely don't pay more than that for any of the Guitar Hero toys. Johnny'll get a spot in my Halloween displays, thanks to his skeleton paint, then go away to wait for another year.

But hey, if nothing else, at least this toy has realized punk's main goal: it's been around for years, but is definitely not a sell-out.

-- 08/05/09

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