Monday, June 6, 2011

Sulu Now and Then Plus a Shocking Discovery

Playmates Toys was licensed to produce 12" Star Trek action figures in 1999 and 2009. I happen to have both versions of Hikaru Sulu . Here's my review on the two action figures - the appearance, the poseability, and my overall response to them. Let's start with the figures' resemblance to the actors playing the Sulu character: George Takei and John Cho.

Resemblance to Actors

1999 Sulu is modeled after the original Sulu, George Takei. Yay, Mr. Takei. Looking good. Well maybe his face looks a little bloated. I mean the action figure Sulu/George Takei. The action figure's body is top heavy and over-muscled. Nothing like Mr. Takei's. Remember though that like doll manufacturers, action figure manufacturers usually create one body for a series of similar [like all human] characters. This first Star Trek body was probably created with William Shatner in mind. But the face shape and the distinct lip shape make this figure George Takei rather than random Asian American guy. (Nothing wrong with random Asian American guys - just that this particular figure is supposed to represent George Takei. So it's good that the figure does.) The D7ana rating for Playmates' 1999 Sulu? Eight for resemblance to the actor.

2009 Sulu is modeled after the recent Sulu, John Cho. Wolf whistles and stomping of tiny feet. Consensus: John Cho is cute. What about his action figure? Oh no! Playmates, where is the likeness? Here we have a random Asian American guy. He could be John Cho, but then again, his face is too long. Shorten that face a little and draw the features in closer. The hair looks good though. So the D7ana rating for Playmates here is eight for the hair shape, seven for resemblance to the actor.

Action Figure Body

2009 Sulu has a nice lean body, yes! Score another point for Playmates. I mean to the aesthetics of their 2009 Sulu. But whoa, these are action figures, yes? So articulation and pose-ability count. Step down 2009 Sulu: your stiff elbows scarcely bend. The pendulum swings back to the 1999 Sulu. Notice how 1999 Sulu can lift his leg higher than 2009 Sulu? 1999 Sulu can bend his elbows and twist with the best of them. Bulky but flexible, easy to pose. That's charming in an action figure.

What about re-dressing? Well, as you can see, 1999 Sulu can remove his clothes and be redressed. The boots are forever though unless you kitbash, remove them and replace them with other calf-foot pair. Probably difficult to get a color and a size match. Still, boots are okay. Black boots go with almost anything. He just can't do on the beach scenes. Playmates gets a 9 for this aspect for 1999 Sulu.

And Mr. 2009 Sulu. Well, we can take off his shirt. Fairly impressive chest and torso. If you don't mind the cuts into his side to accommodate his arms. Hmmm ... his pants. Now, I'm not dropping his pants for voyeurism. No. Just want to see if we can change him out of those brown pants. Uh oh. Trouble. I would have to cut off the pants because the brown pants are fitted; they won't easily come off.

Shocking Discovery

Check what lies beneath his pants. No, I'm not talking flesh. I'm talking about texturized underwear. Apparently in rubber tire material. OMG, is this fetish wear for children? Borrow paper bag to blow into. Whiff smelling salts. Shake head. Can anyone tell me what happened between 1999 where Mr. Sulu has flesh-colored bikini by smooth shape and 2009 where Mr. Sulu has black rubbery trunks? Did they have to go to that extreme to cover up his "naughty part" - i.e. American slang for genitals?

Usually, only dolls have texturized underwear. Either action figures are fully dressed, molded plastic (the tiny ones), or the danger zone (aka male genitals)in the taller figures is covered by "implied" underwear suggested by lack of bump ala 1999 Sulu or more daringly by a smooth single, central bump. This is my first sighting of male rubber underwear. (I don't know whether you would call them fitted boxers or long-legged briefs ...) As an American though, I am shocked by this discovery of texturized underpants for male action figures. Aspirin and then a phone, please.

I need to point out that my perturbation occurs due to this finding on an action figure; dolls have long since had patterned bottoms. Mattel's Barbie, YNU Group's Mixis, others mold raised floral patterns on female nether parts - note, those are NOT diseased butts. On female figures. However, Kens and most male action figures NEVER have embossed designs on their boy bumps or their molded flesh underpants. Shocking.

Action figures should have fun, too, you think? Me, I was uncomfortable with thinking that daughters-unborn-to-me-at-this-time could encounter patterned female behinds and start demanding similar embossed tattoos for decency. (Everyone knows that white paint and/or molded panty lines are insufficient to restrain the rampant sexuality of female dolls.) Now I have to worry about sons-unborn-to-me-at-this-time demanding patterned rubber underpants. (That same everyone aforementioned knows that action figures are NEVER, EVER sexualized. No, action figures are neutral. Why the early Joes had legs attached to the bodies lacking naughty parts.)

Action Figures or Dolls

Oh and why do I keep calling these guys "action figures?" Aren't they dolls?

Meh. Yes, maybe. No ... I don't know. Yes, I do. These are action figures. You know them by these features, usually not present with male dolls or female dolls.

1. The over-sized hands and the "Get a Grip" pose of the hands. Look at Ken's hands. They are proportionate to his body. Ken's hands are fairly straight, too. At ease hands. Check 1999 Sulu's hands. OMG - what happened? Talk about ham-fisted. He could catch an asteroid with those gigantic hands. Action figure overcompensation at work there. Those hands are meant to do something. My guess? To stress the figure's maleness. Har, har, these be MEN. Men grapple with their hands. They seize things. Little passive hands, female. Big, massive hands, male.

Another possible reason? Because action figure manufacturers realize that doll collectors find the over-sized hands annoying. Over-sized fists torment anyone re-dressing the figure so afflicted. Show you what happens when you try to make a "doll" of our action figures, ho, ho.

2. Molded on shoes or boots in lieu of bare feet. Action figure manufacturers sometimes have a problem with bare feet. Or is it creating shoes? Not always ... but often enough to aggravate the doll collectors seeking to abuse action figures by re-dressing them. Anyone remember the plight of Ryan Whittaker?

There are action figures whose bare feet wear fabric and/or soft plastic shoes and boots. Then again, perhaps, the action figure manufacturers just don't want the kids or the adults to lose small accessories like shoes or boots. Maybe. Then again, it could be part of that master plan to thwart doll collectors from usurping action figures. Tsk.

What do you think?


Ms. Leo said...

This is an excellent comparison of these two toys. Your points about the hand size and the boots/feet are spot on! I do think that manufacturer of toys for boys and for girls do design different. Boys are more prone to throw a toy to make if fly or making them fight (My brother used countless pieces of toilet paper in giving his action figures capes.) and give it ruffer play. Bigger hands are easier to play with for them. Girls are taught to care for their dolls. That may explain the production style differences. One other note, the 1999 body style does have problem of breaking in half. The piece that holds the top half to the bottom have isn’t too strong.
Great Job!

limbe dolls said...

Very funny reflection on doll underwear. I have the 1999 Mr. Sulu and was always frustrated by the molded on boots. Does the jacket on the 2009 version come with the doll? I have a similar jacket that I think came with a G.I. Joe.

D7ana said...

Ms. Leo, thanks for your thoughtful response on the difference in how boys play and how girls play. Thanks for the tip about the 1999 body's frailty.

Yes, the boots are annoying, Limbe Dolls. Limiting fashion choices and plain bulky. The jacket 2009 Sulu wears is borrowed from Li Shang, Mulan's male friend. I chose it as a visual pun because I had a Japanese American figure and a Korean American figure so I thought I would add Li Shang's Chinese (by way of American fantasy) jacket. Hmmm ... that might have been overkill, lol.

Thanks also for your kind words about my writing. Always glad to please and amuse ;-D

Notcathy said...

They look good.. The appearance was nice too.. The underwear reflection was funny.. :) But in over all it was great and nice review..

pudgybudgie said...

If you get a small sharp object, you can pry the end of NuSulu's pants out of the top of his boots. They're either wedged or lightly glued, but it really wasn't too hard to get them off. No solutions for the rubber underpants, though.

D7ana said...

Thanks for your comment, Notcathy!

Thanks, Pudgybudgie! I am considering if I want to give up the pants. Hmm ... not sure.

Yes, the rubber underpants are there to stay. Too weird to think of removing them ... somewhat akin to flaying ... ick. I'll just have to keep him in pants at all times to avoid the memory of the embossed undies ;-P

miladyblue said...

I don't know why it is that manufacturers presume collectors WANT "permanent clothes" - for want of a better term - like molded on, freaky undies or boots or gloves. Jeez, give collectors some sort of option, such as extra parts to use.

Great article, though! You're spot on with regards to the faces of the Sulus.

D7ana said...

Thanks, Miladyblue! Yes, yes, yes. We want OPTIONS. No more molded on gloves or boots.

Action figure manufacturers you know who I'm addressing that complaint to.

Ha, like they'd read a collector's blog ;-P

amystika18n said...

There are some action figure companies that make figures with more crossover potential. I have my eye on a talking action figure of Mayhem from the Allstate ads, made by a company called HeroBuilders, which also has a build-your-own action figure with extra clothes that can be bought separately. In addition to the crossover potential, Mayhem's face is a good likeness of Dean Winters as Mayhem. Unfortunately, more realistic action figures can be pretty expensive-Mayhem costs $80!

D7ana said...

Hi Amystika18n! Oh, yes, some - no MANY action figures are expensive. I like to buy them nude to save $$$.

Have you ever bought any figures from HeroBuilders? They remind me of another company called Andgor. I am not saying they are frauds, but I am wary of the personalized doll markets until/unless a collector or several whom I *know* vouches for the company. Shrug.

amystika18n said...

Thanks for your concern! (Sorry if that seems impersonal-it's not meant that way. I'm commenting in a little bit of free time during finals week, and my brain's kinda fried)
I've never bought anything from HeroBuilders and don't personally know anyone who has, but the figures appear high-quality and the research (searching on Bing and Google and reading sources of all viewpoints-positive, negative, and neutral) I've done seems to indicate that the number of satisfied customers and unsatisfied customers seems to be roughly equal, so I'm inclined to be cautiously optimistic. Due to the cost and uncertainty, I plan to ask my aunt about this when my birthday gets closer-she likes to shop, likes to get me unusual gifts, and may be able to buy Mayhem and/or provide some additional insight on whether it's a good idea.

D7ana said...

Hi Amystika18n! Thanks for not taking offense. And thanks for replying when your schedule is full of academic stuff ;-)

If you order from HeroBuilders, I hope that your Mayhem figure is all that you want. I will enjoy reading about your response in your blog ;-)