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Todd the Artist

McFarlane Toys
by yo go re

When Todd McFarlane decided he wanted to turn his hot comicbook property, Spawn, into a series of action figures, he shopped the idea around to the major toy companies. Dissatisfied with what the big boys had to offer him, Todd decided to form his own company in 1994. Calling the company Todd Toys, the figures he produced (six in the initial line) were much different than the other superheroes on the market: at 5½" tall, they towered over the competition; the detail in the sculpting blew collectors away; even the accessories were cool.

Of course, by today's standards, those figures from almost a decade ago are nothing special - almost a joke. With each new line of figures, McToys has increased the level of detail and raised the bar ever higher (as I write this, Series 21 is due in a few weeks). McFarlane set out to make the best figures he could, and he's brought the entire toy industry up with him.

In 1997, Spawn hit movie screens courtesy of New Line Cinema. There was a line of figures to go along with the movie, including 3¾" sets that included figures and dioramas. In one of the sets (the Alley playset, specifically) there was, in addition to Spawn and the Violator, a tiny figure of "Todd the Bum." It seems that Todd had a cameo in the film as one of New York City's many homeless people, and so a limited number of sets with him inside were produced and were, for a while at least, quite the hot collector's item.

Fast forward a few years. With the original two-up of the itsy Todd the Bum figure lying around the office, the McFarlane Toys (Mattel made them change the name from "Todd Toys," fearing that someone somewhere would think it had something to do with Barbie's younger brother) staff decided to create something for the fans. Using the same sculpt as before, but leaving it at the 6" scale, they changed the paint scheme, packaged this figure as "Todd the Artist," and offered it as an exclusive through the McFarlane Toys Collector's Club.

I'd been interested in this figure when it was offered in the club, therefore when I saw it hanging on the peg at KB I was more than happy to purchase him. Sold in a clamshell package, Todd the Artist comes with a reproduction of an original Todd McFarlane sketch (a monster bearing the inscription "I just love monsters!"). Okay. Sure, why not? He's an artist, there's an example of his art. Makes sense. But perhaps the clamshell should've tipped me off.

Used mainly for collectors' pieces, a clamshell package is - instead of a plastic bubble on a cardboard backer like a standard blister card - all plastic, sealed on all four sides and protecting the figure well. Clamshells don't get dented or bent as easily as a blister, so it's easier to keep your carded figures mint. However, for those of us who open our figures, clamshells are nothing less than a tool of the devil himself. Get thee behind me, clamshell!

(Yeah, I know, I know, don't worry; I'll be getting to the figure itself shortly)

Since the plastic of a clamshell isn't glued to cardboard, the only way to open the package is to cut the thing open, so run and get your knives, kiddies! Once I found something with a serrated edge to slice open that plastic tomb, I at long last managed to pry Todd loose. So really, all that rambling preamble up there at the top of this review wasn't off-topic, it was... uhm... my way of helping you understand how difficult it is to actually get to this figure. Or something. Heh. Anyway.

Considering how much effort I expended trying to actually open my new toy, I expected a decent payoff. What did I get instead? The phrase "hunk of ass" springs to mind. To begin with, the figure only has four points of articulation: neck, shoulders, and waist. That's downright pathetic. Movement like that gives us such wonderfully diverse poses as "Todd turns to his right and reaches for something," "Todd turns to his right and doesn't reach for something," and "Todd turns to his left to reach for something." Wow, what a toy! The textures used to simulate cloth work well, however - his jacket looks like wool, his scarf looks like a filthy rag, and his jeans look like denim. It's good to see they did something right. The tiny Spawn logo printed on his backward-turned baseball cap is nice, too.

Between the horrible, horrible clamshell and the pitiable "movement," maybe we were never actually intended to open the figure. And that could be a plausible explanation, except for one fact: the figure's paint scheme sucks like Howard Hughes' Hoover. The colors are all drab and muddy, so we get bright pink spots for Todd's face and fingers, and the rest is an indistinguishable mess. Blah.

So we've determined that the figure is no good to play with, and no good to look at, leaving only... well, nothing. The figure's no good. It's a decent idea (an action figure of the action figure king), but poor execution. I paid two bucks for Todd the Artist on clearance, and I still don't think I got my money's worth. Unless you have specific plans for Todd in a diorama, I sincerely recommend you leave him on the shelf.

-- 02/09/02

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