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40th Anniversary Poster Figure

The Thing
by Rustin Parr

NECA has a long tradition of offering some the most surprising and fun convention exclusives for San Diego, and with 2022 seeing the return of SDCC-proper after two long years, Randy Falk and the team came back swinging. A chief example of that is this toy of the ominous figure from Drew Struzan's iconic poster for The Thing, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the movie.

The poster for the Thing has long been one of the most iconic pieces in film marketing (harkening back to a time before imagination-less executives and unadventurous audiences made mediocrely Photoshopped headshot collages the status quo) and does the near impossible of summing up the entirety of film into a single image. A human in familiar clothing, that conveys the arctic setting, but whose identity is obscured. A piercing, fragmented light pours forth from their face giving a sense of the extraterrestrial, of the unknown, of attack. All the more impressive, given that Struzan conceived and executed the painting in only 24 hours with the studio giving him no context beyond mentioning the original 1951 film.

The packing for this figure, of course, uses the poster on its front cover. While NECA's first MacReady figure also used the same poster for its cover, that figure's packaging had a foil treatment making it all shiny. Here, NECA uses a lenticular sticker for the poster, giving a slight sense of three-dimensional depth to the image. The sides and top are all flat black with the outline of the movie's logo in glossy black, which gives an appropriately ominous vibe to the box. The back features four images of the different facial configurations of the figure while the bottom has the instructions for the batteries. Opening the front flap reveals the figure and its accessory, along with a photo of the figure recreating the poster. The cardstock insert behind the tray uses some of the fractal art from the poster; though that's all mostly on the side-flaps so all you see is white behind the figure making for a somewhat bland presentation in-box.

The figure itself is deceptively simple compared to other NECA toys, but justifiably so given its source material (and NECA certainly plussed it up as much as they could). The sculpt is, as always, fantastic. The waist and legs are reused from the MacReady figure(s), and likely the underlying torso as well. The parka jacket is a new soft-PVC over that torso, and the matching arms and hands are new as well. They all sport the same great texture and realism we've come to expect from NECA. Articulation is pretty robust (but expected given the company and the shared tooling) given the figure just needs to "stand there" per the poster. We get swivel-hinged ankles, swivel calves at the boot-top, swivel-disk knees and elbows, balljointed hips, balljointed mid-torso, and swivel-disk shoulders and wrists - and most impressively, the head is balljointed too!

Everything is cast in black plastic, except underlying torso and neck which use the same skintone as MacReady. That feels a bit "off" for this particular figure, but the neck is obscured by the hood and face plates anyway. Paint is pretty simple, yet effective, as it mimics the poster art with some blue dry-bushing all over along with more prominent dry-brushing and white flecks (for snow) on the lower legs and feet. The front of the figure lacks that blue dry-brushing, though, in effort to replicate the "blown out" effect of the emanating light.

It's that very face, and head, that is the star of this particular show! Under the (removable) hood is fairly simple black noggin with two plug-holes on the front (the right being slightly larger) and two LED bulbs in the center - loosely making a face (eyes, nose and mouth!). The back of the head has a removable cover for the battery port (three 1.5v button cell batteries are included, with a plastic tab that needs to be removed between two batteries breaking the current's flow) and an on-off switch. The head has a bit of an odd shape overall, but that doesn't matter since it'll be covered. Again, I just need to marvel at the fact that technology has evolved to the point where all the electronics fit comfortably within a standard 7" scale head still with enough room to yet have an effective balljoint! I haven't the courage to try it, but I suspect that with a little effort one could even head-swap this with other NECA figures.

We get two alternate plates which plug on to the figure's "face," and thanks to the two differently sized pegs and holes getting the correct orientation is a snap. One face is a simple white oval and the other is the same but with rays of light sculpted radiating out from the oval. The rays are definitely a best-effort to replicate the effect on the poster, and while not perfect they work fine (nature of the beast when giving form to something that, by definition, has none). Both are cast in clear plastic then painted white with a subtle iridescent purple overspray for added effect. The "rays" fade from white to light blue then to clear, much like the poster. Once open and in-hand, I do kind of wish there was a third faceplate included of the simple oval but in all black for a "void" option as well.

The LEDs illuminate both faces fairly well, though the light doesn't travel out the "rays" all that well. There are also some horizontal shadows cast on the faces since the LEDS are mounted vertically rather than horizontally (the light shines "up" rather than "out," if that make sense) and with the ray-less face we also see shadows of the pegs (again, sort of making a shadow face). All things considered, I think it's fine given that the electronics fitting entirely in the head (though maybe one rectangle peg at the top than two circles on the sides could have avoided the "eye" shadows).

Getting this figure was a relative breeze. NECA offered it, along with others, for pre-order online before SDCC. While that was a bit of a madhouse, I think it helped take pressure off the onsite line since some attendees probably ordered them online anyway and/or certainly that pre-order greatly reduced the "get me one while you're there" requests. So after the first day, or really even just Preview Night, the line at NECA's booth was varied between reasonable and non-existent. Though, I imagine prices may have entered the equation here as well.

This figure sold for $50 from NECA; so once again, we enter the "cost versus value" debate. That feels like a brutally steep "iron price" for a figure like this. We're all aware of the myriad factors for why that may be justifiable, but a 43% mark-up from SRP is a really tough pill to swallow. Is this figure worth two Marvel Legends figures? Your mileage may vary. Honestly, in the months since the show I'd forgotten about the price anyway so that's not having a lasting impact on my enjoyment of the figure. For me, the sheer novelty of it existing added to the very welcome return of SDCC was enough to get me to pull the trigger on this delightful son of gun.

-- 01/25/23

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