Review > Captain America & Red Skull (Marvel Select, Diamond Select)

I enjoyed the hell out of Captain America: The First Avenger. There seems to be a general consensus among geeks that Thor was a better movie, but I found Thor a bit mediocre–I walked out of the theater and forgot all about it. Captain America was a fun, funny period adventure. In a lot of ways it was a spiritual sequel to The Rocketeer, sharing a setting (WWII) and a director (Joe Johnston). Oh, and the Red Skull was ssssssmokin’.

Put another way: I had no desire to get any Thor action figures, but when I saw pics of the Marvel Select Captain America and Red Skull, I knew I had to have them. As you know, I rarely venture outside Batman for superhero-related toys these days, so clearly something about Captain America must have worked for me.

These figures arrived in comic shops this week. Diamond very kindly sent along these samples for review. And if you want to find out some behind-the-scenes info on the making of these figures, check out this featurette on

Packaging: Diamond uses a specific sort of packaging for their Select lines (be they based on comic or movie characters), and Cap and the Red Skull are no exception. You get a very large window box that showcases the entire figure and all their accessories.

There’s no question you get a great look at the figure–this is some of the most mint-on-card-collector-friendly packaging on the market today. However, there is a lot of packaging, and as you can see at any store, Select figures take up a lot of shelf space when in the package. As someone who opens everything and hates waste, I think it’d be cool if Diamond started looking into more eco-friendly packaging. But that’s besides the point–as a toy package, it works.

Design & Sculpt: As this featurette reveals, the figures were sculpted by Gentle Giant. I’m not sure whether Gentle Giant actually used a scan of the actors, as they’re known for, or created the sculpts themselves; the article seems to suggest the figures are based on pre-production materials, which suggests a “freehand” sculpt (using digital tools, however).

In terms of detail, the sculpt on Cap is very good. It looks realistic, with some great textures. It does have some minor issues with accuracy, particularly on the shoulders, which have a kind of chain-like mesh that’s different from the thicker padding on the movie version. That, along with the missing chin strap, are likely a result of Gentle Giant having only pre-production materials to work with.

As for the head sculpt–since he’s wearing a mask, it’s difficult to say whether it does or doesn’t look like Chris Evans. I can’t say I would blame Diamond if they decided to skip the likeness rights on both of these actors.

The Red Skull’s outfit isn’t nearly as intricate as Cap’s, but it still looks great. I’m a sucker for action figures of evil trenchcoat-wearing fascists (for some reason I haven’t cared to explore psychologically), and the Red Skull joins the ranks of Officer Kroenen and Major Maxim.

The make-or-break part of the Red Skull is the head. While I do like the head sculpt, I can’t say it’s 100% movie-accurate. It looks more drawn than the movie version, and a bit less human. This may be due to the pre-production issue, the likeness question, or a combination of both.

The figures are in Marvel Select scale, so they stand about 7 ¼” tall. They’re too tall for your Marvel Legends figures, but they might look good next to your NECA stuff (I’d take a pic, but my NECA figures are still packed away at the moment).

Plastic & Paint: Both figures are made from solid, durable plastic; if you don’t get any initial breakages at an articulation point (I didn’t, but more on that later) they should be fine. Cap is molded mostly in dark blue, with white used for the arms. That results in a slightly cream-like look for the arms, but the wash clears most of that up.

The paint applications on Cap are great, with some good detailing on the various straps, pouches and buckles. There’s a bit of unevenness here and there (i.e., the suspenders), but it’s negligible. He’s also got a great wash–this is a Captain America who’s already gone a few rounds with the Nazis, so his suit is looking battle-worn.

Red Skull’s paint apps are predictably less complex, but still sharp. He has some well-executed tampos of the Hydra symbol on his shoulders. The lower half of his coat is made from a pliable material that allows for a good range of motion, though I do worry that excessive posing might lead to tearing of the coat near the right hip. (Not that Red Skull is known to be a particularly acrobatic fighter.)

The only disappointment here is the Red Skull’s head. It has a heavy wash that emphasizes a lot of the muscle striations in the head sculpt, which ends up looking a lot “dirtier” than the smoother look of the movie. As this pic shows, the wash on the prototype’s head was a lot lighter, and looks better. Diamond often ends up re-releasing their Marvel Select figures, so perhaps the next release will have better paint apps on the head.

Articulation: Cap features the following articulation: a ball-and-hinge neck, ball-and-hinge shoulders, swivel wrists, ball upper abdomen, ball-and-hinge hips, swivels at the top of the thighs, ball-and-hinge ankles, double-hinges at the knees, and ball-and-hinges at the elbows. All of the joints are tight–some a bit too tight; I had to freeze him to get the right wrist and left ball joint unstuck.

Red Skull has the same articulation with a few exceptions: he has no abdomen ball joint, he has swivels at the top of his boots, and rather than being ball-and-hinge joints, his feet are “angled swivels”–kind of difficult to explain, but they do allow him to have a more wide-legged stance.

While the articulation on Cap allows for plenty of good poses, it’s not perfect. A ball-and-socket head is generally more fun than a ball-and-hinge one, which can’t cock its head to the side. A biceps swivel is always preferable to the so-called “elbrow,” and I think at this point it’s become clear that H-hinge hips are superior to ball joints unless the ball joints can be hidden under clothing. And of course, I always miss rocker ankles when they’re not there.

Accessories: Captain America comes with his shield, the M1911 pistol he’s now become associated with in the comics, and two parts of the Cosmic Cube Energy Extractor (or whatever you want call that device) display base. Red Skull comes with a Mauser pistol and two more parts of the CCEE, as I’m going to call it.

Cap’s pistol fits into his leg holster, and has some nice paint work. The shield looks great, has a nice metallic finish on the outside and good details on the inside. However, I’m disappointed with the straps. They’re not at all pliable, so while they fit very well in his right hand (the larger band goes around his forearm and the smaller on in his palm), you can’t get the smaller band around his left fist, making it difficult to have him both holding the pistol and shield. I even tried heating-and-popping off the left fist to see if I could fit the shield on and then put the fist back on, but the larger band won’t go high enough up on the forearm to allow this to work.

So while there are plenty of good poses to be had with the shield on the right hand, it’s disappointing there’s no way to get him into a good gun-and-shield pose without carefully balancing the shield on the forearm without the second strap. The shield also can’t be slung on his back in any way.

Given the fact that the CCEE is divided into four parts, the parts are really only worthwhile when you buy both figures. But if you spend the dough, you get a great display base for your figures. The device seems to be undersized compared to the film (I recall the Cube being at about chest-height, not waist-height), but it’s still a great diorama.

Quality Control: Cap’s right wrist and left hip were stuck. I got the wrist to move with little effort, but for the leg I used a small wedge from a leatherman to pry around the edges of the hip until the paint that was holding it came loose.

Overall: The appeal of Marvel Select figures lie in their detailed sculpts, big, chunky feel, great accessories and display bases, and (increasingly) good articulation, and you get all of that here. If the shield had more pliable arm straps, I’d have given Cap an extra point. Red Skull gets a 3.5 instead of a 4 due to the head wash and the lack of an extra non-display stand accessory.

It’s worth noting Hasbro will be releasing its own 6″ Captain America movie figure in the next few months. It does have the chinstrap, as well as an extra gun, and the shield can be strapped to his back, but it shares many of the same pre-production differences as the MS figure. (And that pistol looks awful.) Also, it’s a Walmart exclusive, so you might as well set up a savings account and an eBay saved search right now if you want one.

Since I don’t really have much in the way of a Marvel Legends collection anymore, I’m more than happy with these figures and the great display base.

Captain America [raven 4]

Red Skull [raven 3.5]

Where to Buy:


Odds ‘n Ends > August 26, 2011


Any questions for Mattel?


  1. Mecha-Shiva

    Nice review!The cosmic cube extractor diorama might be nicer with the 3 3/4 toyline,wish i could army build the Hydra troopers but the stores around me have stopped restocking captain america figures.I do like the 3 3/4 figures head better,just had to snip out his nose,haha!

  2. Darren

    "There seems to be a general consensus among geeks that Thor was a better movie." Wow, that's the first time I've heard that. Every nerd I've spoken to preferred Cap over Thor. I'm just glad that Marvel's movies have been so good that we can debate which one is better. You can say the same about the DC flicks! Superman Returns…., Green Lantern….., etc…….

    Thanks for the great pic's of both Cap and the Red Skull. I plan to pick up both of these figures. I wasn't sure before this review.

    • Darren

      Sorry! I meant you CAN'T say the same about DC's movies. ( I should have proof read that…) IMO most of the DC movies have been terrible.

  3. Cap was a better movie than Thor. Thor had some major third act problems.

  4. Also:

    "I’m a sucker for action figures of evil trenchcoat-wearing fascists (for some reason I haven’t cared to explore psychologically)…"

    Heh-heh. I feel somewhat the same. The Resolute Destro figure was a must-have for me:

  5. Really, people preferred Thor? Huh. That's quite surprising to me. Thor was, like, moderately cute and engaging, but had way too much CGI. Captain America made me care about someone called Captain America. The winner is clear.

    Also, I like the 4" Red Skull. And I found seven or eight of them this summer, which means it can't be that scarce, 'cause I'm not known for finding the rare stuff.

  6. Dead Man Walking

    Questions: Why are they called elbrows and why are they so despised?

  7. Red Skull has always been deemed pretty much unmakable by Toybiz, Marvel and Hasbro because of his Nazi origins. In all of Marvel Legends we got one super hard to find chase figure, and then later a crappy 2 pack version in some type of armor.

    I was thrilled that with the movie we would finally get this Marvel Select Figure and a 3 3/4 figure. Sadly the 3 3/4 figure is impossible to find, and if u do find him he sucks. Hasbro sculpted him with a nose and then painted it black. WTF is up with that? Red Skull has never had a nose…

    Now this Select figure comes out…and I love the body, but you are right that head is just way off. It doesn't look like the movie Red Skull and doesn't look like the comic Red Skull. That black paint wash just RUINS it further. Dissappointing.

    So I guess we all still have to wait for a truelly great Red Skull, maybe Hot Toys will tackle him.

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