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Bronze Finish Conan

Conan the Barbarian
by yo go re

First Mego gave us a comicbook Conan. Then Hasbro made toys based on the animated series. McFarlane looked to the books. Marvel Toys took care of the comics for the modern age. And now here comes NECA, taking care of the fourth version of Robert E. Howard's Cimmerian hero, the movies.

For the first time ever Arnold Schwarzenegger's portrayal of Conan the Barbarian is immortalized in action figure form. To commemorate this occasion NECA proudly presents this inaugural edition painted in a bronze finish with an exclusive display base.

Well, that takes care of that, huh? I mean, the back of the package tells you what the figure looks like, tells you about the base, and even offers a little bit of historical perspective. The only thing left to do now is throw out some meaningless numerical ratings, pepper in a few blatant typos and we can call it a day, right? Oh, wait, sorry, this is OAFE: you expect better. We crush our enemies, drive them before us, and listen to the lamentations OF THEIR WOMEN! That's what's best in life!

This is, officially, the first Conan movie toy ever made. That urban legend about a planned line based on the 1982 film that was subsequently cancelled and reborn as Masters of the Universe? Utter bunk. MotU was in production in 1981, a year before Conan the Barbarian debuted: way too soon for the toyline to have any direct connection with the movie. So even if you painted your He-Man's hair brown, it still isn't Conan, not even in a roundabout way.

NECA showed off their first Conan figure at Toy Fair 2008, with the promise of more to come. But since the line (series? assortment? there are only two figures, so it's hard to think of that as a complete offering) is scheduled for the third quarter of the year, they decided to bring something special to SDCC to help build excitement.

Bronze Finish Conan is a repaint of the "War Paint Conan" shown at Toy Fair - or, technically a "prepaint," since this one came out first. The pose is taken from the scene where Conan and his scrappy band of banditos have painted themselves up in camouflage and are skulking around Thulsa Doom's palace. Nothing ruins an orgy like an angry, half-naked barbarian barging in the door. [You're right: he should be all-naked. --ed.] It's a fairly iconic pose, not quite as famous as the "sword practice on the beach" stance, but still good.

Conan is holding his sword in his right hand, and has his left outstretched with the palm facing out, as if he's reaching to open a door or pull aside a curtain. In order to preserve the sculpt, the figure has very minimal articulation: balljointed wrists, balljointed neck, swivel waist and swivel boots. The waist seems to have a bit of play in it, but I don't think it's a balljoint - just a little loose. When his feet are flat on the ground, the figure seems to lean back precariously. Thanks to the shins, you can get his center of balance up where it should be, and he stands pretty well on the insides of his feet.

I've never seen the Conan movies, so I don't have any immediate interest in figures based on them - especially not ones that don't move. But that's why this Bronze Finish version appealed to me: it really does look like a statue, which makes the utter lack of joints believable. Bronze Finish Conan looks like a sculpture you'd see in a museum, thanks to the excellent paint work by Jon Wardell and Geoffrey Trapp. The figure's base color is bronze (duh), but there's also a smattering of teal paint catching the details of the sculpt and doing a wonderful job of making the figure look like it's been exposed to the elements for several years. The hair looks darker than the rest of the figure, but that may just be an effect of the sculpt showing more shadows.

Even in solid bronze, the likeness on this figure is superb. Honestly, it's a bit uncanny. Kyle Windrix sculpted this toy, and everything looks great. Beyond the creepy-accurate Arnold face, the musculature looks precisely like it should - of course, it helps that this was Schwarzenegger at his 'roid-fueled best, so his muscles were on full display. The textures of his clothes are great, too: the pants are thick and wrinkled, he has some kind of fur pad under his belt, his forearms are wrapped with cloth strips and there are similar ties running up his fur-trimmed boots.

Conan has one accessory that's removable, one that's permanent. His sword, more than 3½" long, has a removable pommel so you can fit it into his hand. He's also wearing his "Wheel of Pain" necklace, which hangs from a real cord and can't be removed. Well, unless you want to tear it off, like he did in the movie. Both the sword and necklace have the same aged bronze paint as the figure. The exclusive display base is a simple half-oval that's 6¼" wide and 3½" deep. There's an inch-high plaque on the front with a raised bronze version of the Conan the Barbarian logo. The base not only keeps the figure standing when his feet are flat, but also adds to the "museum quality" looks of the toy.

As both a summer exclusive and a preview for their Conan line, NECA's Bronze Finish Conan is a good offering. Not only does the nearly solid color scheme really let you appreciate the workmanship of Tankman's sculpt, but it also excuses the lack of joints. The paint makes this look like a true work of art that even non-toy-fans can admire, so even if you're not interested in the movie figures, it may be worth checking out the exclusive to see if he's up your alley.

-- 08/14/08

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