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Jack the Ripper

Six Faces of Madness
by Rustin Parr

The Jack the Ripper case is something I've been pretty interested in for the last four or five years. It's just totally amazing that with something that has so much evidence and possible "solutions" that there are so few facts (mainly because the vast majority of the evidence, particularly that used for the countless solutions, is purely circumstantial).

One of the most popular and convincing theories is that of a royal conspiracy. This was the premise behind Stephen Knight's 1976 novel (and media event) Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, which served as the basis/jumping off point for Alan Moore's brilliant graphic novel From Hell (incalculably better than the embarrassment of a motion picture the movie was - the book is arguably my favorite comic ever). However, the other most popular theory was that it was a lone psycho, which appears to be the basis of the McFarlane Monsters Series 3 Jack the Ripper figure.

I've no problem with a lack of articulation in my figures, as long as the sculpt and design are good, and while the sculpt is great, the design is a little lacking - kinda bland and boring. I'm not really complaining here, but I think one or two points of articulation on the left arm (like bicep and/or elbow) could have allowed for more dynamic poses. As it is, he moves at a whopping five points: neck, shoulders and wrists.

I suppose another flaw to this figure is his general... inactivity. Not just in pose, but in clothing. There's really not much to look at on him, just a bunch of big empty surfaces. I like the coat a lot, but is the apron entirely necessary? It's kinda cool (and sort of harkens back the "Leather Apron" killer, which was the first name given to the Ripper - take that, history buffs!) but it would be cool if it were a removable piece. Also, the head is fairly boring. The scar works, but the bald head and dark hair don't - basically, he doesn't look like a psycho, or at least like what we would expect from McFarlane Toys.

However, despite these little flaws, the figure it still aesthetically pleasing for the most part. The only real problem with him is the ridiculous peg leg. Oooh, a bundle of sticks tied together to replace a missing leg! How threatening! How monster-ish! B.S.!!! If anything ruins this figure it's the retarded "peg-leg;" it's a perfect example of why I have little faith in McFarlane's design staff. It's a design element with no reasoning and no thought beyond "wouldn't this be scary?" (With a requisite confusion between "horrifying" and merely "gross" that McToys has been laboring under for many years now.) So this guy lost his leg from the knee down, and cobbled together this replacement himself? Yet still managed to clomp around Whitechapel killing people without getting caught.

Perhaps the biggest saving grace of the figure is his comparably large base. Any qualms with the figure will be resolved once he is set a-perch his dark and bloody street corner. I kinda wish the "brick paint" covered the entire wall, but as it does kinda give off that "illuminated by gaslamp" look, I'll go with it.

The jagged left-hand edge is a little odd, but it works. I would have preferred the window (which is cast in translucent plastic) to have been back-painted a color other than black. There are also pegs on the base that serve no real purpose other than to limit placement options, but I still really like this base. It's huge and detailed and almost worth the price alone - you can use it with any figure you own.

Accessories are a'plenty here. Jack comes with a hat that he can either wear or hold. There's also a satchel with a blood stream pouring forth from its corner. This bloodflow has posed one of the biggest problems because the plastic is so thin and weak that it's damned near impossible to find one that lines up with pool on the base. That's why I strongly urge everyone to at least check the blood streams before purchase.

In discussing this figure with yo go re, I discovered something interesting. Or better yet, frustrating... nay, infuriating! He has Jack the Ripper as well, but on his sample, the pool of blood on the sidewalk is attached to the two streams of blood, rather than being separate. The pool plugs in place with three large tabs, making for a much better presentation. Your best bet is to find one of those releases, because it looks highly superior.

Then there's a chain around Jack's waist that holds a long knife (similar to the Ripper's actual murder weapon), a scalpel, a knife, a pair of pliers, scissors and a hacksaw. The problem here is that they are all attached via metal ring to the chain. So you'll have to get in there and stretch open the ring to remove the "tool" of choice. This concerns me simply because you run the risk of damaging the ring, plus it's a damned inconvenience.

McFarlane put out a Collector's Club-exclusive accessory pack for this line (I personally like the idea of the accessory pack, though many people are quite angered by it, most notably our own Shocka [but that's nothing new]) that includes two accessories for Jack: a lamppost and an alternate head. I was really excited for both of these because the 11" lamp just adds more atmosphere and dimension to the set, plus it came out with a really cool and realistic paintjob on the lamp. Its base has different angles on each edge to allow for various positions around the base (it just sits next to it, there's no physical connection between the two).

While I thought the variant head would alleviate my problems with the regular head, that sadly was not the case. Essentially the head is the same sculpt as the regular one. The only differences are that the regular one has the giant scar and weird, unpainted hair on the crown of his head while the alternate one lacks both of those but sports a weird syphilitic sore over the right side of his cranium. The alternate head does come with a cool little leather mask (which is cast in a soft PVC and is a separate, non-removable piece - that, mixed with the very similar heads, begs the question, why even do the second head? Why not just do the mask as a removable piece?) but the problem is, while it does look cool from straight on (as packaged), it doesn't from the side, which is how the head is sculpted to be seen.

Sadly we're stuck with the same problem as with the regular head: a whole lot of uninteresting neck, cheek, and lots of hair. I do prefer the masked head to the regular one, because is it a bit more "visually stimulating," but I just can't help but wonder why, if they spent the money to do an all-new tool for the head, it wasn't a totally different sculpt? Bald or longer hair, Freddy Krueger-style scars, anything else. But such is the enigma of McFarlane Toys... ("The Todd has spoken!"). Plus the heads are incredibly difficult to remove and insert - we recommend taking a knife to the ridge on the peg, trimming it down so it's flush. The head will still stay in place, but you'll be able to swap them much more easily.

So... it may sound like I have a lot of complaints, but ultimately I do like the figure a lot. There a bunch of little nit-picks that I have, two minor problems (the overall blandness in the design and the cut bloodflow), and one regular sized problem (that damn bastard peg-leg). I really think the base makes up for the nit-picks and all in all creates very cool display piece. Like all McFarlane product, I must simply say if you like it, buy it, they just don't make anything that everyone has to own any longer (and I blame their hack designers!).

-- 10/13/04

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