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Billy the Kid

Six Faces of Madness
by yo go re

This may not seem like a very "on message" figure for Horror Month, but hey, don't blame us, blame Todd.

One of the most noted gunfighters of the American Wild West, Billy the Kid is described as both a cold-blooded murderer and a modern-day Robin Hood. Billy was at the epicenter of the New Mexico-based cattle wars and saw a lifetime of violence before his own demise at age 22. He's said to have killed more than 20 men in his short life.

Some of the "Six Faces of Madness" figures strove to be as historically accurate as possible, given what little information there is about the real people's appearances. Billy the Kid, meanwhile, appears to be trying to get everything wrong. Hell, the incorrectness begins right there in the bio: he was 21 when he died, not 22, and we don't know who McToys thinks is saying he killed more than 20 men, because historians generally put the number around nine. We're off to a great start already.

Billy (born Henry McCarty in Manhattan) was a 17-year-old ranch hand when he started being called "Kid," because he was a clean-faced, scrawny little dude. This figure, meanwhile, casts Billy as a grizzled, middle-aged old fart, with a face that's a cross between Thomas Jane and Mel Brooks. That's some impressive missing of the mark! Usually when somebody messes something up, it's a minor mistake, not a fundamental error from the ground up. This feels like someone didn't understand the assignment.

The body is also clearly that of an adult, not someone who was recently a teen - it has broad shoulders, a thick torso and legs, all the signifiers of long maturity. There's only one fully authenticated photo of Billy the Kid, and you can look at that and see it looks nothing at all like this toy. The clothes are generically "cowboyish," which means, if you removed the duster, the bolero hat, and the modern-style cowboy boots, you'd have a decent approximation of what The Kid was wearing in that photo: pants, shirt, vest. They stayed away from the Tortured Souls style on this one, with the only oddity being a loop of barbed wire above his left knee.

The figure has two bandoliers of bullets crossed over his chest, with a derringer tucked into one side and a meat cleaver in the other. Because these are all molded as one piece of PVC, the cleaver gets distinctly warped just by virtue of being pressed up against the body. He also has a knife in his left boot and a child-sized hatchet in the other. That, along with the feathers on his hat and the beads in his long hair, gives the character a certain Native feeling. Maybe it's because Wonder Woman just came out and Chief was awesome, but that's what McFarlane's Billy the Kid feels like. So you know what? I'm going to start displaying this figure next to Diana.

His actual accessories include two shotguns and a big knife. One of the guns is a converted revolver, with an extended barrel and a full shoulder stock, while the other has several white bandages wrapped around it. Did the gun get injured? Did someone shoot it? Guns don't kill guns, people kill guns. If that doesn't seem like very many accessories, it'll seem like even fewer once you notice all the empty holsters he has: two on his hips, and two on his back. To fill those, you'll have to buy the Accessory Pack, which includes a sniper rifle (at least, that's what's suggested by the ornate scope on top), a small shotgun, and two revolvers. That was the sacrifice we accepted in exchange for keeping prices down.

Also included in the clamshell with the figure is a bit of scenery. Or perhaps a victim. It's a body in a ramshackle coffin, presumably one of those 20+ men he killed? The box seems to be constructed from old, rotting wood, which doesn't seem accurate - why would it look this decayed before it went into the ground? The body barely fits inside, with its arms jammed together over the chest. The coffin's lid is removable, and there's a peg on one edge to match with the hole in Billy's boot, to keep him from falling over.

I remember someone floating a theory on the Spawn.com message board back when these figures were revealed that the body in the coffin was Billy the Kid, while this figure is just the man who killed him. That seems unlikely, but it does show you that everyboy except Todd could tell there was something wrong with the design as soon as they saw it.

Monsters Series 3 was released in 2004, right in the heart of the "Todd can't understand why fans want articulation" era. Like Attila, Billy can't stand by himself, thanks to the single pose the sculptors gave him. He's got a "Captain Morgan" stance, with his hand on his belt and his left leg raised. The articulation is predictably pathetic, not even worth enumerating. What you see is pretty much what you get.

As a figure of a "historical killer," McFarlane Toys' Billy the Kid is junk. As a generic cowboy, it's a little bit better, though McToys' usual flaws keep it from being anything special at all. They could have done a better design, they could have done a more interesting pose, they could have done any number of things that they didn't want to do to actually make this a good toy.

-- 10/08/17

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