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Charles Vanes and "Old Dad the Cooper"

Calico Jack's Pirate Raiders
by yo go re

Just in case there was any lingering question re: whether or not Art Asylum's new pirate-themed Minimates are an attempt to ride the rising tide caused by Pirates of the Caribbean, today we're reviewing the evil zombie pirate captain who is the enemy of our hero Jack.

The Evil Captain himself. When he is not plundering the Caribbean seas and wreaking havoc on the Spanish and English forces, he and his undead crew seek their revenge on the author of their downfall, Calico Jack.

The more of these bios I read, the more I understand why Poe got his comical 18th century bloomers in a twist over Spawn Series 22. Charles Vanes was a real guy, who preyed on French and English ships, and was executed on March 29, 1721. He almost certainly didn't come back seeking revenge afterwards, though. On the other hand, he did interact with Calico Jack, and was a total dick to everyone he met (he cheated his crews and killed enemies after they'd surrendered), so they do seem to have gotten a few things right. Still, could they not have just made up some names? Their zombie pirate powered by some ill-defined black magic wouldn't have been as frightful if his name was, I don't know, Theodore Franks?

Theodore gets that rarest of Minimate features, a new head. Yes, his entire head is a new mold for some reason. The hat, bandana, hair and beard are all permanent parts of the head. Why? Even if they wanted his beard to be bushier than paint would allow, it's not like there haven't been Minimates with separate beards before. It's just odd.

The Captain is wearing a long, fancy coat that's almost identical in color to Jack's, which seems like a poor bit of planning. The design is fairly different, but it's still a maroon coat with black lapels. His epaulets look like shark fins, and the cuffs of his coat are part of the new hands, which are molded with claws and dots on the back that are probably meant to be rings. If you remove the coat, the chest beneath is a bare ribcage partially concealed beneath a shirt. He's conspicuously wearing a necklace - if you're creating your own story, maybe that's part of what brought him back to life. Like Xykon and his phylactery.

Vanes has one accessory, a sword. It's the kind of silly, hooked, pointed, scalloped monstrosity that would only ever work in fantasy. And just like Calico Jack's blade, it faces the wrong direction. The part that any sane person would recognize as the "front" of the blade points backwards. The sword has a hand basket that makes it clear which direction he's meant to hold it, and that direction is wrong. Someone at Art Asylum or DST has to have held a sword before, right? Remember, the curved side goes toward the enemy.

When Vanes learned that Fenwick, years earlier, had been tried and convicted of being a member of Jack's Crew, he knew he would have a willing ally in his quest for revenge. Vanes uses his Dark power to raise Fenwick fromt he bottom of Port Royale harbor where he lay.

John "Old Dad the Cooper" Fenwick was listed as part of Calico Jack Rackham's crew in the printed account of Rackham's trial, but it was later clarified that while the men knew each other, they weren't on the same crew. Actually, that's the same story with Tom Brown, too. And in fact Old Dad the Cooper outlived Calico Jack, so you have to wonder exactly when this story takes place. And are they trying to imply that Jack has come back to life somehow, too?

Old Dad appears to be a black man, judging by his skintone, and he dresses very much like you'd think a pirate would: a bandana on his head, gold hoop earrings, a simple vest, bandoliers over his chest with... bullets? Stakes? Knives? Some kind of weapons tucked in there at any rate. He has a red sash worn above his normal belt, and there are tattoos on his arms. His left hand is a new piece, designed holding the "Wolverine claws" style weapon he has strapped to his arm. If you take the vest off, he just has a simple plain torso beneath - no crazy details, just a few muscles.

He's clearly lost a foot at some point, because he has a peg leg - except this one is made from the tip of a harpoon. And while it sounds cool, the harpoon-leg is about ¼" longer than the real leg, so he either has to stand with his knee bent at all times or lean ridiculously far to the side. It seems they did this to retain the knee joint, but clearly more work should have been put into this new piece to make sure it worked with the design of the standard body.

As you can see, the figure has a skull painted on his face. Ooh, very scary, no? Well, that's just a head cap, and the whole thing pulls off to reveal a perfectly clean skull beneath. What? Is he wearing a fake face? Does he take it off in battle? As far as a representation of "mystical undead pirate" goes, the best thing we can say about it is "it's better than nothing."

Beyond his claw weapon, Old Dad the Cooper is armed with an ornate blunderbuss. It looks very thick, but he actually holds the gun well. This set doesn't come with the huge arsenal of extra weapons that the last one did, but hey, they had to spend a lot of money on that new head.

I want to like these Calico Jack's Pirate Raiders Minimates. I really do. Unlike Rustin, I can recognize that the level of sculpted detail on the sets is necessary to properly convey what they're wearing, so that's not my issue with them. Rather, the problem is that so far I've opened four figures and every one of them has had some sort of problem or another, whether it's badly designed swords or bodyparts that are just the wrong size. These aren't errors that should prevent you from buying the sets, just flaws that keep them from being truly excellent.

-- 06/17/11

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