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Vampirella (Julie Strain)

by yo go re

Born a vampire and the first daughter of Lilith. In her birthplace of Drakulon, blood flowed like water in huge rivers, and Vampirella depended on this blood for sustenance. Having fled Drakulon she now searches for life-giving blood on Earth. Now on Earth, Vampirella has been given a sacred mission - to rid the Earth of all vampires, the evil offspring of her own mother. Although she requires regular feedings of blood, Vampirella does not have any of the traditional weaknesses of vampires. She is not harmed by sunlight, garlic, religious icons, nor holy water. She does possess supernatural strength, speed and ferocity. She is the only thing that stands to defend the human race from the terror that threatens to destroy it.

Debuting in 1969 in her own emponymous magazine (because a "magazine" wasn't subject to the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority), Vampirella was originally just the narrator of the stories, kind of like the Crypt Keeper or DC's version(s) of Cain and Abel. Eventually she started featuring in the stories, too, and got her super-cheesy alien origin. (The bit about Lilith didn't come in until Harris Comics bought the character in the '90s.)

In the year 2000, Moore Action Collectibles released a series of Vampirella figures - or really, one figure and a bunch of variants. It's what they do. There was plain Vampi, Vampi in a black costume and a cape, Vampi in gold... and also this one, which we'll get to in a moment.

First of all, the body. There is absolutely no one who sculpts female bodies like Clayburn Moore, and Vampirella is a stunning example of that. Her body is toned yet feminine, with wide, prominent hips and breasts that are large, but actually attach to her body in a realistic manner rather than just being lumps glued between her shoulders. Her pose is both seductive and forceful, with one leg stepping forward and higher than the other, and her hips and shoulders cocked at different angles.

The sculpt looks just as good from behind as it does from ahead. Leaving aside for the time being the fact that Vampirella has one fine ass, the back of the sculpt gives us the opportunity to appreciate the oft-overlooked muscles of the back of the thigh (aka the "hamstring," that bit of muscle that is always getting injured on atheletes) in two different levels of tension, thanks to the differing poses of the legs. Her back is also nicely realistic, with a bit of fat rather than just bodybuilder muscle - she's twisting slightly, so her body reflects that. Moore was so proud of his work back here that one of the variants actually packaged her with her backside visible.

And we're talking totally visible. Since this toy is based on the Harris Comics version of the character, not the original Warren Publishing one, the costume follows suit. Surprisingly, the character was originally designed by Trina Robbins, one of comics' finest feminists (she described it to Frank Frazetta over the phone, and he created her vision perfectly). She wanted to show a female character whose sexuality was uninhibited and unrestrained by male prudishness, but 30 years later, a sexy swimsuit had grown (or shrunk) into an oversized slingshot. "Dental floss," as Robbins called it. Here the suit disappears entirely between her cheeks, and rather than looking like a one-piece with a large oval cutout in the front, this is basically a G-string with suspenders. Her golden bat logo is painted on, and she has gold jewelry on both arms - three bangle bracelets on her right wrist, a nicely sculpted bracer on her left, a single thin band around her left bicep, and a wider cuff around her right. She has high-heeled black boots, and a white collar at the top of her costume.

The sculpt may be outstanding, but the articulation is not. Todd McFarlane may have favored sculpt over articulation, but even McToys had nothing on MAC. Vampi has absolutely no articulation in her legs or body - all she gets are swivel joints at the wrists, shoulders and neck. At least, the normal release moves at the neck; this exclusive doesn't, so let's talk about that, at last.

One of the other licenses MAC had at the time these figures came out was Heavy Metal 2000, the sequel to the 1981 cult classic. Rather than an anthology, like the first movie, this one told just a single story, and it starred B-movie actress Julie Strain. Strain has modelled as Vampirella in the past, so for this Tower Records exclusive, Moore used their relationship with Strain and experience sculpting her likeness to put her face on the existing body. The normal figure had a round, coquettish face and her hair was billowing out behind her shoulders - this version has a more severe countenance, and her hair hangs straight down, thus blocking the neck joint from moving.

I liked the normal head better, so that's definitely not why I chose this exclusive. No, that has to do with the base. Like the Buffy toys, Vampi has a big, ornate display base. In her case, it's almost necessary: the figure can stand on its own, but it's clearly not meant to.

Her base is a large chunk of earth, with grass and stones and mushrooms all over it. A thick tree limb lays across the ground, with a colorful lizard sitting on one side. At the rear of the base is a tall stone cross, suggesting a grave, and attached to the top of that is a flat disc representing the moon in the sky. It's a clever piece of design, and looks wonderfully moody. It's also numbered, which is how I know that I apparently own figure #81. A bat plugs into the other side of the cross, perching there like a bird.

The standard figure came with a base that featured very cool colors, with grey stones, a green lizard, and a blue-tinted moon. The "Harvest Moon" variant (the one with a cape and black costume) was warmer, with a red-orange moon, a red lizard, and brown stones. If only there were a way to get the regular Vampirella costume and the variant base without having to buy two figures! Oh wait, you can get this Tower Records exclusive. Other than the head, it gives us the plain outfit, and its base is identical to the Harvest Moon variant! And that, dear readers, is why I picked it.

(It also had nicer packaging - purple, making the base stand out, rather than the blue or orange the other two releases had, each of them making the moon nearly invisible behind the figure.)

All the variants of Vampi seemed to come with a different selection of accessories, chosen from a single pool. This exclusive gets an ornate crossbow, a twisty stake, and two pistols: one automatic, one revolver. The plain version just had one gun, the Harvest Moon version added some pumpkins... you get the idea. Only her left hand is molded to hold anything.

Vampirella is possibly the most successful, longest-running indie comic character around - remember, she was created in 1969, and (despite a few changes in ownership) she's still being published today. Frankly, it's surprising that this is her only action figure! And sure, it may not move, but it was sculpted by the best, and the spooky base is an excellent piece in its own right.

-- 05/23/17

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