McFarlane Toys' action figures are consistently a mixed bag.

That may sound like an oxymoron, but the way I mean it is that their toys always have certain high points and certain low-points, always the same ones. They consistently have excellent sculpting and paint jobs on their figures, but the figures typically have little posability, and frequently are extremely fragile.

McFarlane Toys was founded in 1994, to produce toys for Todd McFarlane's Spawn comic book - at the time, I believe the company was called "Todd Toys".

The original few series of Spawn toys were quite different than today's McFarlane product - they were simpler and more robust, and far less detailed. They were really quite superhero-ish, and didn't exactly fit the dark, gritty tone of the comic.

McFarlane's toys have always been for collectors, and as the years went by they became more and more display-oriented. Sculpting quality went through the roof, and joints were left out if they would compromise the sculpt. Today, McFarlane's action figures have the best sculpts of any American toys; the sculpts based on licensed characters and real people are for the most part completely accurate, and the in-house character designs, like many of the Spawn lines, are simply hyperdetailed. The paint jobs are fantastic - there are some recent figures with accessories that I would swear were made of metal if I couldn't feel how light they are.

However, the downside to the fantastic visual appeal of McFarlane's toys is in the traditional measure of a toy - playability. In short, these are more like posable statues than action figures. Many recent licensed figures are literally statues from the waist down, and most that do have joints in the legs don't have many, or any useful joints. A lot of figures have so few distinct poses that they can be listed offhand - "Standing straight, standing straight and pointing gun, pointing gun while looking other way". On top of that, McFarlane's toys are notoriously breakable. One can't expect any of their figures to survive a fall of a shelf of any considerable height, and I've had one or two break on me while taking them out of the package. (Also, the plastic smells funny.) Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and the recent "Interlink 6" and "Samurai Wars" Spawn lines have featured nice sphere-shaped universal joints made from something sturdy like ABS plastic. They have a good range of motion, and are well-hidden by armor or other parts, resulting in a toy with posability and durability uncommon to most previous McFarlane figure lines. And though I don't personally have anything from it, the Shrek toyline was by all reports as kid-friendly as the film.



I collect toys. I get annoyed when a toy breaks from something like accidentally dropping it from waist-height or trying to make it hold an extreme pose. However, I still buy McFarlane Toys' action figures. Why? Because they do good work, if you accept their product for what it is - a display item. They offer tons of subjects that one cannot find anywhere else immortalized in plastic - Rob Zombie and Metallica, the protagonists of Strange Brew and Slap Shot, characters from anime such as Armitage III and Soultaker, the ever-present Spawn figures, and their recent Movie Maniacs figures, featuring the iconic stars of various popular (mostly horror) films.



In short:
-Beautiful sculpting + realistic painting + cool subject matter = great little statues.
-Bad posability + flimsiness and breakability + funny-smelling plastic = not that great toys.

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