The Power Lords has to be one of the strangest action figure lines of all time. It was developed in the early 1980s by Revell, a company known primarily for making model kits. Many of the characters and creatures were designed by Wayne Barlowe, a legendary science fiction and fantasy illustrator and creature creator for film and television.* It was a 6″-scaled line in a 3.75″ (Star Wars) and 5″ (MOTU) world. And for some reason, the figures were loaded with more articulation than would be regularly seen on any other (American) action figure line for nearly two decades.
The line was a seminal influence on the sculptors of Four Horsemen Studios – in particular Eric Treadaway (who discussed it in this interview from the second day of this blog’s existence, December 2, 2007). And so it’s not very surprising that Treadaway and the Horsemen managed to track down the owners of the Power Lords license and brokered a deal to bring the line back to the toy world.
As Cornboy explains in this podcast, the Horsemen decided to scale the line to a 4″ human rather than the 6″-ish scale of the vintage line so that they could afford to create the larger creature characters in the proper scale to the humanoids. Production costs for action figures are sky-high these days, with no relief in sight, and the Horsemen felt this was the best way to do justice to the line. I’ll admit that I wish the line were in 6″ scale. I understand why they can’t do it, but it still bums me out a bit.
Similar to what they’ve done with the Outer Space Men line, the Four Horsemen are releasing “pre-paints,” or figures using the bodies of main characters but with different paint applications than the “standard” ones. In the case of today’s review, we have two figures who are based primarily on the main character of the Power Lords franchise, Adam Power. Here we have vintage Adam Power next to the Four Horsemen’s new version:
The Horsemen also intend to produce a fully-colored “standard” Power Soldier with the rest of the “normal” editions (I believe they’re shooting for late spring 2014 but don’t quote me on that). In the meantime, they’re raising money for the line – as well as building and maintaining interest – by releasing cheaper pre-paints with fewer paint applications. The first of these releases and the subject of this review are the Power Soldier (black) and the Elite Power Soldier (white).
Design & Sculpt: It’s rare I’ll ding the Four Horsemen in the sculpting department, and this is not one of those times. For a 4″ figure, the Power Soldiers have an excellent sculpt. It’s faithful enough to the vintage design that it retains the strong late 1970s/early ’80s vibe I’ve always gotten from the line (a kind of Logan’s Run/Space: 1999/Star Wars/Battlestar Galactic/Buck Rogers in the 25th Century kind of feel).
But to get this sort of detail this sharp at this scale is impressive, particularly considering these were produced by the same factories that make Glyos figures, which tend to be light on such detailing. The work is on par with Hasbro’s best efforts in this scale, although the lack of paint applications may make them deceptively simple.
Each figure has a unique helmet sculpt, and both helmets are pretty damned neat-looking.
My one complaint about the sculpt is that on both figures, the right leg doesn’t seem to stand quite flush with the ground. There’s a bit of a lean, and I’m not sure why. I know a number of collectors who got the earlier editions had duplicated parts – two right feet, two of the same biceps – but my figures are from the second run which appear to be free of those issues. So I’m not sure why it’s happening.
Of course, an integral part of the figures’ design is the fact that they’re fully compatible with the Glyos Fit Function. Now, I am not a builder. I’ve apologized for this on numerous Glyos-related reviews and I’m done doing that. I’m not going to provide you with a bunch of alternate builds. I had LEGOs as a kid (correct me with “LEGO bricks” and I’ll tear your arm off and beat you to death with it) and enjoyed messing around with them a bit, but not much. I’m not a tinkerer. I enjoy posing action figures and developing stories about them. I prefer to think of these as action figures and review them as such.
So this is all you get. One photo of the Power Soldier using some Armorvor parts. For what it’s worth, I believe these are the first Glyos-compatible figures to offer true ball joints, although due to the design of the figures (there’s a “well” for each ball joint in the torso), you’re going to have to get creative to make them look good. Of course, there’s no shortage of creativity among Glyos collectors so I’m sure they’ll figure it out.
I’m not sure exactly what scale these figures are in. Are they in a 4″ scale? Or are they in a 3.75″ scale and the Power Lords are just kind of tall themselves, like Darth Vader? I lean toward the figures being in a 4″ scale, because otherwise the Elite is enormously bulky compared to the Stormtrooper.
It’s true the 4″ scale makes them compatible with Hasbro’s modern G.I. Joe stuff, but between the sci-fi milieu and the lesser articulation (compared to modern Joe figures), the Power Lords would be better served by being more in scale with Hasbro’s SW figures and vehicles.
Plastic & Paint: The Power Soldier is molded in black and the Elite molded in white, and as you can see from the photos, it’s definitely noticeable, and it gives both figures a bit of a toyish feel (the white Elite more than the black Soldier).
The Elite has some black paint apps, while the Power Soldier has red highlights. It gives the Elite a Star Wars Stormtrooper-ish vibe while the Elite is reminiscent of the Micronauts’ Baron Karza. Obviously you could mix and match the parts if you wanted to, although I find the final result looks like when you replace your white car’s door with one from a black car or vice versa.
Articulation: The Power Soldiers have ball-jointed necks, ball-jointed shoulders, hinged knees, swivel wrists, a swivel waist, hinged hips, hinged knees, and hinged ankles.
I have mixed feelings about the articulation. I understand it’s expensive to tool a lot of articulation these days, but I can’t help wishing for ball-jointed hips and ankles. But collectors are already balking at the $10 price point on these, and more articulation would no doubt drive the price point too high to keep the brand alive.
Accessories: Both figures come with a silver gun and staff. The gun is based on the vintage Adam Power’s weapon, and even features the same odd carrying handle at the top. While the staff is relatively simple, the gun has a nicely-detailed sculpt for the scale.
This does bring up an important point, though. The handles for the gun are cylindrical and the hands are made to hold them tightly. This isn’t the way Hasbro does things in this scale these days – their weapons tend to have normal rectangular grips of a realistic look and shape. That means the Power Lords have a hard time holding any 3.75″-4″ weapons other than their own (the only ones I’ve found that work well are those from Captain Power figures).
Quality Control: As I mentioned, the first run of these figures had a lot of problems with duplicate parts. The Horsemen are now aware of the problem and have spoken to the factory and the second run does not seem to have the same problems. The Horsemen have also been very good about sending replacement parts to those who did receive duplicates.
Overall: These figures cost $10 apiece, plus shipping. That’s about standard for a good Star Wars figure these days, and it’s particular good when you consider this is an independent toy line. If you want to try one out, the recent Slate Zone Elite pre-paint is still available on ShopFourHorsemen.com.
These are great, fun action figures. While I personally don’t go in for the building aspect, it’s a feature that adds a ton of value, especially at this price point. Anyone with kids who enjoy building should definitely give these a shot.
That said, these are pre-paints with minimal paint apps, and that holds these back from a five-raven rating. Once we get the standard versions with the full paint apps, I suspect the line will be closer to five-raven territory.
*His book Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials was a big influence on many of today’s comic book creators, special effects artists and even toy sculptors; the Four Horsemen’s Cornboy name-checked it in the aforementioned podcast. I was lucky enough to have a copy of the book as a kid. It includes illustrations of Lovecraftian horrors such as the Shoggoth and the Elder Things, as well as the demonic Overlords from Arthur C. Clarke’s excellent (if arguably depressing) Childhood’s End.