In some of my more recent reviews, I’ve noted that a number of purported “super-articulated” figures tend to have one or two disappointing aspects to their articulation that detract from an otherwise great figure. For some figures, the articulation decisions are flat-out bizarre, with some joints too limited and others unnecessarily included. So I decided the time had come to issue this, Poe Ghostal’s Super-Articulation Manifesto.
Please not, this is not directed toward all action figure lines. I’m not here to argue for more articulation on action figures. I’m also not here to talk about 3.75″ or 4″ lines, which operate on a slightly different set of rules. These are guidelines for 6″-8″ lines that already aspire to great amounts of articulation, such as:
- Marvel Legends
- Star Wars Black 6″
- Mattel Movie Masters
- DC Universe Classics / Club Infinite Earths
- DC Collectibles (sometimes)
- Diamond Select
- NECA’s more recent Predator and Aliens figures as well as other lines
- Funko Legacy
Admittedly it might be a stretch to classify all these lines as “super” articulated, if you go with a very narrow early 2000s-Toy-Biz definition. But I think all of these lines are trying to provide what one could call “collector-level” articulation.
With Funko still developing their 6″ Legacy line, NECA’s articulation still evolving, and Hasbro’s Star Wars Black 6″ just gaining momentum, I though I’d gently nudge these companies to think about the best way to implement articulation for any given character.
All figures should have ball-jointed heads/necks.
If you want to call your line “super-articulated” this is mandatory (with obvious exceptions, e.g., R2D2). There are a few different options, but ball-and-socket or ball/hinge are the two most common. And on a related note…
Flying characters must always be able to look straight up.
Anything else is disappointing.
All figure should have ball-jointed shoulders.
Again, this is an obvious but non-negotiable one.
For muscled, bare-armed (or spandex-wearing) characters, swivel biceps are to be used instead of ball-hinge elbows.
Bend your arm at the elbow and make an L-shape. Tense your biceps. Now hold your elbow still and move your arm to the side. You’ll notice your biceps move in the direction of your arm, in line with your forearm. The ball/hinge elbow (colloquially known as an “elbro”) joint leaves the biceps always facing forward.
For characters wearing loose or bulky clothing, this isn’t really an issue; a ball/hinge elbow might even be a better idea than trying to work out a biceps swivel through the clothing folds. But on characters with bare arms or skintight outfits – such as superheroes - the swivel-hinge elbow looks weird and makes for awkward poses. I understand their use is often a cost-saving measure, but for muscled characters (especially those in the 6″-8″ range), ball/hinge elbows are to be avoided whenever possible.
Double-hinged knees are pointless without good thigh articulation and deep ankle articulation (or articulated toes).
As far as I’m concerned, the main motivation to give a figure double-hinged knees is so that figure can squat properly. If the thighs can’t come forward very far and/or the ankles can’t bend forward until the shins are nearly parallel to the ground while the feet are flush (or bend via a hinge joint on the ball of the foot), then the double-knee articulation is a waste of money. At best, the character seems to be doing a sumo wrestler’s squat.
The Star Wars Black 6″ Boba Fett and the recent NECA Predator body are examples where double-jointed knees were fairly useless. In both cases, the double-knees are particularly useless because the loincloth on the Predator and the pouches on Boba Fett prevent any real forward movement by the thighs. While I’d love it if the Predator could do the “gargoyle squat,” I’d happily have taken double-elbows over double-knees on both figures.
All characters who wield hand weapons (swords, guns, etc.) should have double-jointed elbows and ball-jointed/hinged wrists.
This joints are required for optimal posing with the accessories. It drives me crazy that Star Wars Black 6″ Boba Fett can’t cradle his rifle as he does in his first appearance in ESB, or hold the rifle up near his face in realistic fashion. Dutch also deserves double-jointed elbows.
More than double-jointed knees, double-jointed elbows seem to present an aesthetic issue for toymakers. I think NECA in particular doesn’t like the way double-jointed elbows break up arm sculpts, although they gave them to the Aliens Xenomorph Warrior this year.
Acrobatic characters should always have double-jointed elbows, abdomen articulation, and double-jointed knees.
I’m talking about your Spider-man, your Batman and Robin, your Jedi Luke. Beefier or less active characters (the Hulk, John Constantine) can feature less articulation, saving money on production costs for the more-articulated characters.
NECA’s basic Predator sculpts would be fantastic if they added a new torso with a ball-jointed abdomen into the retool mix. That, combined with double-jointed elbows and jointed toes, would make their Predator figures perfect.
Hips joints need to peg horizontally into the lower torso and not vertically up into the abdomen.
This is largely a Hasbro thing with Marvel Legends (although they seem to be getting better), but Marvel Select does it now and again too (such as Rhino). Since the vertical peg goes up into the torso, the pivot point changes so that front and back movement is limited to the “cone” the ball-joint is capable of covering. It can go forward (or backward), but not as far as a the horizontal peg like a t-crotch. If you want side-to-side movement, to kick the leg out at the hip, then the swivel has to be parallel to the figure’s torso, and no front or back movement is possible. It’s the new V-crotch.
Ankles must have some sort of side-to-side motion.
There are a lot of ways to do so-called “rocker” ankles – hinges, ball-and-socket, reverse-hinge plugs like Star Wars Black. However a company chooses to implement it, a super-articulated figure must be able to do wider stances.