Right now, I’m running my annual Poppies and People’s Picks awards over at Michael’s Review of the Week. What are those? Well, the Poppies are an industry award event for pop culture collectibles, where about 150 judges made up of people from companies large and small, retailers, media, artists and well known collectors get together and vote on their favorites for 2008. The People’s Picks are the same thing, only the only people judging are all the readers. You can see a list of the judges for the Poppies here, and you can vote yourself in the People’s Picks by going hiere. But hurry - you can only vote for a couple more days!
Why am I bringing that up? Because I’m going to be looking at a pair of busts today that are likely to do very well in the Best Bust category, from a company that’s likely to do very well in the Best Company category, based on a movie that’s likely to get several key Academy Award nominations. That company is Hot Toys, and if I were a gambling man, I’d say they are odds on favorites for the win this year. The movie is The Dark Knight of course, and the busts are their versions of the Joker and Batman, done in 1/4 scale.
This shipped originally last summer, if you lived overseas or had ordered them through an international dealer. If you ordered through a retailer that works with Diamond to get these, like I did, they finally just started shipping in the last couple weeks. Retail on them is around $60 - $70 for these, depending on the retailer. As always, I have some suggestions where you can pick it up at the end of the review.
If you have any questions or commments, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out my site for more reviews like this. On with the review!
Hot Toys Dark Knight 1/4 scale busts - Batman and the Joker
I review a lot of busts, generally manufactured by companies that specialize in them, like Gentle Giant or Bowen. Busts aren’t Hot Toys specialty, but they’ve made a name for themselves this year already in this facet of pop culture collectible. There’s two differences between these busts and the majority that are on the market worth noting. First, the size. As I mentioned, they are 1/4 scale, whereas most others are around 1/6 scale. Second, these are made from a hard plastic, not resin or polystone.
Packaging - ****
Of course, these come in boxes. Most busts do, and these are housed in hard foam inserts, just like the more fragle resin versions. Regular readers know I also appreciate it when there is a windo provided, so you can at least see the head of the bust, and that’s here as well.
What really sets these apart though is the colorful graphics and design. Hot Toys is stepping it up on their packaging across their various product lines - figures, busts, etc - and these are a terrific example of their better work.
Sculpting - ****
The best sculpting in the industry is coming out of Hot Toys right now, no matter what the license. Oh, they still have their occasional blip, but you can generally guarantee that if Hot Toys is doing it, it’s going to get done right.
From a purely technical perspective, both of these busts are outstanding. One of the trademarks to Hot Toys work is the texturing given to the skin that creates and almost spooky realism, and both Batman and the Joker sport that type of detailing. The light texturing to the lower face of Bale is offset by the smooth surface of the cowl, making the bust look much more like the real deal.
Of course, this skin detailing is much more obvious with the Joker, where the heavy caked make up would naturally make any wrinkles even more obvious, and in fact, the make up itself creates additional texture. This is translated perfectly here.
It also appears as though the Joker’s costume is actually built up from separate pieces of plastic, rather than a single cast hunk. This is only possible when working in plastic, and this gives both the sculpt AND the paint much sharper lines.
Both busts look not just like the characters, but the actors playing the characters. Often, one of the failings of movie character based sculpts is that they look like very accurate cosplayers dressed up like the character, but it’s tough to actually see the actor underneath. Here that’s not an issue, as both of these look very much like Bale and Ledger in the costumes. Oddly, this is true moreso for Bale than Ledger, even though only Bale’s lower face is visible. While the Ledger look is there, I do think that there’s a couple areas (like the thin lips) that aren’t quite dead on. This Ledger head sculpt is better than the work they did on the very first sixth scale Joker, but not quite as good as what we’ve now seen on their Bank Robber Joker version.
The extreme detail and texture on the head sculpts does not translate to the lower part of the overall bust. The clothing on both is smooth across the board, much like any standard bust.
Paint - ***1/2
Overall, the paint ops are much higher quality than average, even for specialty market busts. The colors are consistent and clean, and any cut lines are sharp with no overspray or slop. The work on the face’s is particularly well done, with a couple minor issues.
The couple minor issues that holds them back from a perfect score generally relate to the eyes. Both have slight eye issues, with Batman’s not qutie as clean as I’d like, and the Joker’s gaze slightly off. His right eye is slightly off gaze with his left, but it’s only on close inspection that any of this issues are noticable.
They did manage to do an excellent job with the red lips, especially on the scarring, making it look very accurate to the film. I already mentioned how building up the Joker’s body from separate pieces of plastic allows for much sharper cut lines between the paint, but it’s certainly worth mentioning again. This is possible because of the plastic construction - had these been made from polystone, they would have been a solid cast.
Articulation - Batman Bupkis; Joker ***
One feature of a plastic bust that is generally not possible with resin or polystone is the ability to add a ball jointed neck. The Batman does not have this, as his cowl would obviously not allow it. Hey, that’s why he had Lucious redesign it. But the Joker has the jointed neck, allowing you to give the bust some personality, tilting and turning the head in just the right way to recreate his look from the film in your eyes, not the eyes of the original sculptor.
Design - Joker ****; Batman ***1/2
I always include this category for statues and busts, since these are more ‘art’, and while the sculpt can be technically perfect, the design can make or break the final result.
The Joker is outstanding, and part of this is because of the articulated neck. Rather than being locked into a single appearance, you can adjust his look to your tastes. That kind of flexibility is greatly appreciated. The Batman bust doesn’t work quite as well for me, because the tilt of the head and the far away gaze makes him look a little too wistful. He appears to be contemplating that girl he knew in 8th grade, and where she might be today, when he should be contemplating how many ways he can kick the Joker’s ass.
As I mentioned earlier, these are quarter scale, making them much taller than the usual mini-bust. I’ve included a photo below of the busts with a standard Gentle Giant mini-bust, as well as the Hot Toys 1/6th scale Batman for reference. This increased size translates to a bust that stands around 10″, and allows for much greater detail than the smaller versions.
Value - **1/2
Most 1/6th scale mini-busts run around $40 - $50, and have for years now. These are larger, which would imply a slightly higher cost, although the perception for most folks is going to be that the plastic should be cheaper than polystone or resin. I’m assuming you’re paying around $60 or so, which seems about right to me. If you get up to $70 or more, you can deduct another half star fro this score.
Things to Watch Out For -
Not a thing.
Overall - Joker ****; Batman ***1/2
The sixth scale figures that Hot Toys is producing aren’t everyone’s cup of green tea. First, they are mighty expensive (the Bank Robber Joker runs around $170 right now), and second, their ‘doll’ nature isn’t something every collector is in to. These busts can be a great substitute however, particularly if you’re looking for a lower cost option.
Regular bust collectors may not appreciate the switch to a larger scale, but Hot Toys is producing similar products across a number of licenses, including Rambo and others. Once you have a few of these on the shelf, you won’t look back.
Where to Buy -
While some comic shops might carry these, your best bet is online:
- Urban Collector has them for about $60 each.
- Entertainment Earth has them for $64.
- Showpiece Collectibles has them for $68.
- CornerStoreComics has them for $68 as well.
- Things From Another World has them for $72.
- If you’re in the U.K., Forbidden Planet has them for about 53 GBP.
Related Links -
This week, I’ll be covering a number of Hot Toys Dark Knight items, so you’ll want to check my other reviews as the week progresses. I’ve already had a review of the very cool first version of their sixth scale Joker and original suit Batman.
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