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The Rocketeer

Diamond Select
by yo go re

First it was a ReAction figure. Then it was the Legacy Collection. Now one of DST's Select figures. We just keep getting better and better Rocketeers! I guess the next step will be... One:12 Collective? Is there anything you'd like to tell us, Mezco?

The discovery of a top-secret jetpack hurls test pilot Cliff Secord into a daring adventure of mystery, suspense and intrigue. Cliff encounters an assortment of ruthless villains, led by a Hollywood screen star who's a secret spy. With the help of his actress girlfriend, the young pilot battle enormous odds to defeat his foes, who are anxious to use the device in an evil plan to rule the world.

It's kind of a shame that while Disney got all the licensing rights for the character when they made their Rocketeer movie, they never bothered to actually acquire the comic itself. Not that we want even more of an entertainment monopoly for them, but imagine if they had purchased the character after creator Dave Stevens' death, and were able to just fold him into Marvel when they bought that. A comic about the Rocketeer meeting Captain America. Tony Stark mentioning him as one of the inspirations behind Iron Man. Heck, a Rocketeer Marvel Legend! It'd be neat.

This figure was designed by Yuri Tming but sculpted by Gentle Giant, and clearly we've been absolutely spoiled by the profileration of photo-painted faces on action figures, because while I logically recognize that the likeness of the sculpt is good, emotionally it just feels "soft," like a return to the early days of laser scanning. It's not, but my brain refuses to acknowledge that fact.

The body, though, is just aces! Cliff is wearing his traditional uniform of a thick leather flight jacket and sturdy jodhpurs, and not only do the pants and jacket have different styles of wrinkles, they're sculpted with different textures! The top is very smooth, while the trousers have a pattern that is more like woven cloth. That's impressive attention to detail, and while it's not that unusual in the action figure industry these days, it's still something impressive to see (especially when so many major manufacturers are relying increasingly on a limited pool of shared molds - it's not like DST can take this mold and repaint it in different colors to be Spider-Man or something).

Speaking of paint, nobody's credited, but whoever designed it did good work. There are subtle highlights on the raised wrinkles of his coat-flap, and shading on his pants. His rocket pack and helmet has weathering to make them look like actual metal, and the helmet's eyes are solid black. We already talked a little about the paint on the human face, but just because it's not up to photo-real standards doesn't mean it's bad: for something handpainted, it's fine. We're more weired out by the fact that the helmet isn't molded as a solid piece: it's a shell over a faux head interior, presumably to create the illusion of Cliff's human chin being visible when you look at it below; that's a good isea, except the "not head" part is molded in the same gold as the helmet, and isn't painted, so the final effect is the same as if they'd just done it as one piece. Uhhh...

The Legacy Collection Rocketeer suffered from Funko's typical poor choice in plastic, meaning the joints, while plentiful, were kind of fragile. That's not traditionally a problem with DST, so for the first time we've got a figure we can freely move around and pose. The head is on a balljoint, to facilitate swapping the helmet on and off, and in this case works better than previous attempts did. It still would have been better for them to copy Marvel Legends, with a single large balljoint on a hinge in the neck, because the toy still can't tip his head back to fly. Why is that so difficult for toy companies to get? If the character's main trait is tilting his head back, let us tilt his dang head back, oh my god! Even if they had molded a second balljoint socket into the "chin" area and we had to shift the head back manually, it still would have been a better choice than this. It also would have justified the two-part molding for the helmet.

Other than that, the toy has swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a swivel waist, H-hips, swivels at the lower thigh that are rendered 100% superfluous by the Revoltech-style swivel/hinge/swivel knee joints, and swivel/hinge ankles. Everything moves well, but there are definitely some weird choices made. We'd cheerfully have given up one of the above-the-knee swivels if it meant he got a neck that actually worked.

Remember when Toys "Я" Us was a thing, and Diamond would have their fancy "Select" releases at specialty shops, then lower-priced versions there? Well, nearly the same thing is happening here, just with the stripped-down version being available at Walgreens instead of TRU. Walgreens' has the figure, his helmet, a couple exhaust plumes, and a black oval base to keep him standing - enough stuff to be a fun toy for the price. The Select release has those same jets, but also three pairs of alternate hands (bare, relaxed, one right gripping hand and one left fist), an alternate unbuttoned chest flap, a set of blueprints for the rocket, and an exhaust base tall enough to lift the figure off the ground like that old Pit of Carkoon Boba Fett (though without the angled bottom to let it tip back dynamically). The "plumes" that plug into the rocket on that big one are reinforced with metal rods, so they won't bend under the figure's weight if you want to display him like that all the time.

Big flaw, though? While the bonus right hand is shaped with the trigger finger extended, the set doesn't include a gun for him. Presumably that was Disney's mandate, not something DST chose on their own, but it's still conspicuous. Where are we supposed to find a Mauser for him, folks? At least the "fist" hand is actually him activating the trigger for the pack.

The rocket pack is a separate piece, but it's not removable - at least, not without popping off the figure's arms. See, the rocket and the straps that hold it to his body are molded as one (also the flaps on the shoulders that the straps run under), and that one piece is then slipped onto the figure during assembly before the arms are plugged in.

The pack looks just like it did in the movie, right down to the piece of gum stuck to it for luck. It's perhaps a bit too pink, but that's a minor complaint. The pack is mostly one big piece, though the actual engine exhausts are separate. We get the two engines flanking a central grill and fan assembly, but we do not seem to get the rivets that hold everything together. Like we said, the silver of the jetpack looks weathered, and the nosecones are gold.

The toy would be more fun if you could take off the jetpack and lend it out to other figures. And he should really have his gun. Plus the ability to move his head back. Okay, look, Diamond Select's Rocketeer is far from perfect, but it's also the best action figure of the character we've gotten. Even if you can't find the bigger Select version or don't want to drop the money on it, the Walgreens one is good in its own right. Someday someone may make a Rocketeer that actually hits all the right notes, but for now, DST's is the one to beat.

-- 02/11/21

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