Earlier this year, Poe tapped me – an action figure neophyte but the closest thing he has to a Lost historian – looking to see if I could add some color commentary to the then recently announced series of action figures based on this instant cult classic TV show (Part I, Part II). Back then, Lost fans were staring down the beginning of the end – with Lost mere weeks away from the start of its final season. So, he found me in a great mood as my mind was tripping over every last possible path the show’s creators could travel down as they finally revealed the secrets behind this fantasy island. Hungry to pick up their breadcrumb trail and chew over anything Lost-related, I was intrigued by the offer to give Poe my first-blush reaction to the concept photos of these new figures – a line that was due to launch as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in July 2010.
Before I hit the review, I need to chase a tangent which I promise will make sense in the long run.
Now, going into this season, I had broken ranks with my fellow Lost-obsessives and made peace with the fact that I didn’t need every last mystery and question to be revealed by that final, fateful episode. For starters, the writers had only 16 episodes to work with and for the sheer number of strange phenomena that has been encountered ever since Oceanic Flight 815 took the Nestea Plunge in the Fall of 2004, the only way they could possibly answer everything was to trot out that Colonel Sanders look-alike that entered stage right at the end of the second Matrix movie and proceeded to expound on twenty minutes of exposition. That not good for anybody.
No – for me – I just wanted a satisfying conclusion that provided emotional closure to this rag-tag band of characters we’ve followed for the past 6 seasons (and according the show’s chronology – through time and back again). I referred to the concept of “distant mountains.” When building a fictional world, it’s incumbent upon the writer to set a vast landscape with distant mountains just begging to be explored. And while the writer may choose to follow one particular tale in one specific corner of his world, the reader is left to wonder what’s going on in those distant mountains – and fill in the canvas with the power of imagination. Or – to put it another way – sometimes it’s the journey, and not the final destination – that proves most fulfilling. So, in short, I wanted Lost to leave me dreaming. And that’s just what they did.
And that’s just what a great action figure should do. These are the instruments of imagination. The power they hold, when unlocked by pure unbridled ingenuity and creativity – of role playing and wish fulfillment – is second-to-none. A great action figure should be your avatar – always chasing those distant mountains.
So, when Poe sent me those screen shots – knowing full well that I haven’t collected an action figure in decades (aside from a small handful of trophies picked up over the years – a Mulder here and a Crocodile Hunter there) – he was looking for me to experience this new line with virgin eyes and just give him the gut reaction.
And the horror I gazed upon haunts my dreams.
There was just something off. The figures were over-exaggerated renditions of beloved or despised characters such as Hurley, Locke, and Ben Linus and it was in that sculpting that they exuded a creepy, marionette quality. My first thought was “Thunderbirds Are Go” and then my rational brain took hold and I realized that if I ever let these devil dolls in my home, I wouldn’t last one night before Locke sprung to vibrant life and shanked me in my sleep with that mammoth Bowie knife he carried.
Well, that was then and this is now. At the time, I was simply writing about a concept – something that could still change during the slow climb from mid-winter to the warm summer days that herald SDCC. During that time, Poe reached out and got his hooks into me once again – making me promise that I would revisit these pages once the figures shipped. Again, I would gaze upon these sight unseen and then offer up my honest opinion once I had a figure or two in hand. For the purpose of this exercise, I chose Series 3, which feature the opposing forces central to Lost’s mythology – the benevolent Jacob and his Yang, The Man in Black.
A funny thing happened in the last six months. Where once these figures preyed upon my subconscious with that waxy, puppet aesthetic – they’ve now been neutered – arriving more bland and boring than the concept pics teased. And that’s probably a turn for the worse. After all, these figures are meant to inspire flights of fancy.
Sculpted by Bif Bang Pow!, the first line of figures includes three Series; with Benjamin Linus and Kate Austen in Series 1, John Locke and Hurley Reyes in Series 2 and Jacob and the Man in Black comprising the third series.
For this review, I focused on Series 3. Both characters are 8-inch models and are labeled as San Diego Comic Con Exclusives. Both Jacob and The Man in Black are dressed in their period garb – Jacob all in white and the Man in Black in mauve. (I KID! I KID!!!) The clothing is fabric and not molded to the character. Neither one comes with any accessories – in fact it looks like only Locke gets the privilege of hoisting a big-ass knife.
Now, the body designs and clothing are fairly nondescript but that’s to be expected given the subject matter. After all – these are just two dudes who have been co-habitating on an island for centuries of antagonistic jaw sessions. Aside from their obvious selection of symbolic color schemes, there’s not much to the physicality of either character to really distinguish them.
This means we’re drawn to the countenance. If we’re going to find an escape into this fantasy world, it should be through the face. After all – on Lost, it’s arguably the island that holds the mystery. Each character, even those steeped in the supernatural, look like regular Joes. So, to distinguish one from the next, it’s key to sculpt the face in a way that does justice to the “character” innate to that figure. And it’s here that Bif Bang Pow! misses the boat.
Both Jacob and The Man in Black are blanks. Bearing only the slightest physical resemblance to the actors who made those roles (Mark Pellegrino & Titus Welliver, respectively), these figure heads are bland and nondescript. Slap a suit on one of these drones and suddenly you have a fully-articulated Action Accountant – there’s just nothing in the craftsmanship that screams these are two dueling demigods.
And that’s the big shame and really renders this line pointless. Lost is a tricky title to market because the characters draw us in but there’s nothing larger than life about them. They find themselves in some pretty far out predicaments but for the most part – this is the Everyman against Grave Evil. In order to sell these characters as an action figure line, the creators are better off focusing on key moments in the series’ past and building dioramas around that. Give us Desmond in the Hatch or John Locke staring down the Smoke Monster or that final cliff-side face-off between Jack and The Man in Black. It’s the moments that made the show iconic.
Instead of chasing mountains, BifBangPow! has us regarding molehills.