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Xetheus Bust

Seventh Kingdom
by yo go re

Okay, so you missed your chance at SDCC, but you made a special trip to Wizard World Chicago to pick up Xetheus. You hit up three different retailers and two news sites to get the Minotaur Soldiers, and you even stayed up until midnight (and a little past) to order the Royal Guardsman. You think you've got the complete Seventh Kingdom collection. Nope, odds are good you missed one big addition.

The Four Horsemen often get requests to sell their two-ups: the "double sized" sculpts that are eventually shrunk down to become the action figures we know and love. By working in a large format that is later reduced, the sculptors can pack in more intricate detail and really make the figure pop. But that also means some detail gets lost. Think of your absolute favorite figure, the one with all that crazy detail in the sculpt, and then think about how much cooler it would look at twice the size. More than twice as cool, that's for sure. I think its coolness is squared. Or maybe even cubed.

Now, the Horsemen didn't sell a double-sized figure, but they did something almost as good: in Round 7 of the FANtastic Exclusive voting, they asked how many people would be interested in a bust, scaled to two-up size, and what they'd want the paint apps to be like.

The Xetheus bust is just a hair under 9½" tall, counting his 2½" base. The bust is waist-up, and the arms cut off in the mid shoulder. As you'd expect, the sculpt is beautiful. The leather of his vest looks a little too exaggerated, but his "sun god" breastplate is great. It really looks like armor constructed from layered metal. He no longer has the skeletal weapon holster on his back, so you can see how his leather armor laces up. Thankfully, the shoulders come down just far enough that we still get the shoulder spikes - one of the sculptural easter eggs the Horsemen included on this guy.

But even better than the armor is Xetheus' body. I'm sorry, this photo doesn't do the sculpt justice At this size, you can really appreciate the awesome job the Horsemen did. His face, neck and shoulders are covered by a fine, downy coat of hair, but it gets just the slightest bit thicker on the crown of his head and around the ears. His horns are rough, with an uneven flow that's totally organic. His skin is wrinkled wonderfully around the back of his neck, and the musculature of his face ripples subtly beneath the surface. A big vein runs up each side of his snout, and there's a scar over his right eye. All that detail is there in the regular figure, sure, but you can really drink it in on this big boy.

Part of the voting process was how people would like to see the bust painted - either full color, or a faux bronze. Obviously the bronze won, which is good: in full color, the bust was just a bust; in bronze, it's suddenly an accessory. We've got seven cows, from distant corners of the land, right? So why are they all together? Perhaps they've come to hold council, meeting in an ancient temple, in the shadow of a statue of their god. Sure, color's nice, but bronze is classic, man. This thing will look great anywhere. The pedestal base is a matte black, and has a sunbeam pattern, reflecting Xetheus' dedication to Xemnoss.

Unfortunately, the voting on the bust didn't go so great - there just wasn't enough interest to warrant going into full production. With any other company, the idea would have been shelved right then. But come on, these are the Four Horsemen; the entire FANtastic Exclusive scheme is a testament to how much they care about their fans. They still listed the bust on Store Horsemen, and took preorders for it. Since there was no point in tying up a factory to make the busts, they cast and molded them all in-house, right in their own studios.

Now, there's no fancy packaging - the bust is just bubblewrapped and surrounded by a bit of cardboard - but does that matter? No, of course not. Some folks have reported that their busts were broken, but this one showed up completely intact. He's signed on the bottom by all Four Horsemen, and numbered, too. This one is from near the end of the run: he's #17, and only about 20 were made.

Yes, busts are expensive, and no, they don't move. But by making them based on the two-up sculpt, you get all that lovely detail without having to buy an out-sized figure, and that must be worth something.

-- 12/29/06

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