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Star Sapphire

DCD Green Lantern
by Artemis

What is it with superheroine costumes? As much as we may like to retcon in justifications for their eccentricities - like Power Girl's cleavage window representing her quest for identity, insofar as it's where a superhero symbol would be if she had one, but she doesn't - at some point you just have to admit that something about gaining superpowers makes women in comic books dress like strippers. Like Klingon foreheads and Han Solo misusing "parsecs," no in-universe explanation really stands up, no matter how much you try - there's no getting away from the fact that it's purely a device used to make impressionable males buy comic books. And action figures. *cough*

Carol Ferris, ex-girlfriend of Hal Jordan, returns more powerful than ever now that she can gain force from the star sapphire jewel!

Ah yes, Carol, favourite character of mine, followed her for years... oh what's the point, I have no idea who she is. Evidently the Star Sapphire (that's an alien gewgaw, not the regular kind we have here on Earth) is actually an emotional parasite, or some such thing, that latches onto a woman scorned and provides the powers to back up their legendary fury. Yeah, not sexist at all, that. Nowadays I gather (I don't read Green Lantern, aside from one issue the adorable Cyclone made a minor cameo in) that the Star Sapphires have been converted into rings and power batteries, a la Green Lanterns', forming a new Violet Lantern Core powered by love, the same way the Green Lanterns are all about willpower. Looking at that outfit, I'm thinking they may have gotten "love" and "lust" a bit confused.

The traditional opening irrelevant rambling out of the way, let's look at the figure (and try to restrain the urge to slip a $5 into her g-string). "Star Sapphire" first appeared in 1947, but the Carol Ferris version that eventually became today's subject turned up during the sixties, which probably explains the freaky lapels. The figure is based on her most recent appearances, obviously - even in the swingin' sixties, supervillainess necklines didn't plunge that far, at least not in regular comics - combining a bit of continuity-rich kitsch with modern edgy elements, like the alienesque facial armor, to try to give her a bit of visual credibility.

Physically, she's pretty striking - she stands about 6¾" tall, and unlike most superhero figures she has a fairly narrow stance, feet close together. Her right hand is clenched into a fist, while the left is open, tense and vicious-looking, with sharp clawed fingertips and the tendons on the back of her hand visible. Her collar is a separate piece, though permanently plugged into her shoulders, and benefits from being made of that shiny, pearly white plastic that DC Direct has been quite fond of lately, with Diana Prince and Mary Marvel and the like. She also has the recessed hip joints common to many DC Direct figures, with the torso piece having a lip around the T-hips that helps conceal the articulation seam - as a result of this, and some loving sculpting work on the leg pieces, she has one of the nicest butts we've seen on an action figure in a long time. It'd be in the top five, certainly.

Her face is rather pretty - a bit of a Tia Carrera/Catherine Zeta-Jones combo, in a vague sort of way - with vivid violet eyes and lipstick. Still, largely thanks to the spiky tiara/facial armor thingy, she manages to look a bit intimidating, which is quite a feat for someone in violet thigh boots and a swimsuit with the front cut out. The sculpt on her hair is quite good, pulled sharply and evenly back by the tiara at the front, but looser as it drapes down over her back, falling with a slight wave of motion - not windswept, but as if it's moving due to her striding quickly forwards. Prototype photos showed her with two strands of hair, separate elements, falling over her face to match the art of her, but they've evidently been omitted from the final product - I don't mind, I didn't think they looked that great in the photos anyway.

Unfortunately, she's got a really big piece of flash - leftover plastic from the join in the mold - on the top of her head, a semicircular bump which looks like the remnant of the inlet tube through which the plastic entered the mold. Luckily the tiara in front of it mostly hides it from view, but it still definitely counts as a manufacturing defect that DC Direct should've put right.

Her paintwork is all quite solid, with one exception. Coverage on some areas is a little bit off, with relatively minor issues on the boot tops and around the painted skin on her stomach, around the starburst symbol - nothing that can't fairly easily be overlooked, and her primary colours are clear and consistent over the whole figure, with the painted tiara matching quite well to the cast violet colour on the rest of her body (it's a restrained version of that pearly stuff again, a good choice for this costume).

The issue is her hips, specifically the interiors of the joints. The crotch of her swimsuit is painted onto the inner edges of the thigh pieces, on either side of the T-hip central segment, and looks fine with the legs in their neutral rest pose - but if you move either leg back, you quickly find that the paint stops angling outwards towards the hip, and instead just continues vertically from where it finished up on the neutral pose, meaning it no longer lines up with the torso. Since the now-exposed "skin" area is invisible with the legs at rest, there's no reason for it not to be painted, except laziness - or lack of foresight that anyone'd use the leg articulation, which is a pretty sorry oversight. Personally I've got her striding forwards, with the left leg angled backward - it looks much more dynamic than standing still - and I've had to position her left forearm in front of the hip to hide the poor paintwork there.

Speaking of articulation, she's got the standard DC Direct set: balljoint neck, ball shoulders, pin elbows, peg hips, and pin knees. The left elbow is angled, so that raising the arm will swing it across the body, rather than going directly forwards - it plays into the "striding" pose quite well, which I assume was the intention, though that arm also works well reaching forward, as if casting/projecting energy, or whatever the Star Sapphire does. The neck is obviously limited by the long hair and high collar, but you can manage a surprising range of body language tilts out of it, considering the restrictive circumstances.

Sapphy's only accessory is the series-standard Green Lantern base, a transparent green disc with the inverse of the Green Lantern logo printed on it in off-white, so that the actual logo displays in shiny green - simple but elegant. There's a single peg, and only the right foot has a peg hole - but it's very tight. On the downside, this can cause stress to the plastic - I've actually noticed a spot of slight discolouration on the top of her right foot, the result of forcing the peg into it (you can just make it out in the photos) - but the benefit is that she can rest her weight solely on that foot, and she won't budge an inch, which lets her stride with her left foot almost off the base without risking falling.

Responding, presumably, to consumer demand for Star Sapphire in a see-through costume, DC Direct - as part of its Blackest Night tsunami of figures - shows a genie-like ability to give people what they ask for rather than what they want. (As opposed to Mattel, who do neither. Then smirk at you.)

As many women before her over the millennia, Carol Ferris was chosen to serve as the host for the queen of an immortal race of female Guardians known as the Zamorans. Sensing a dramatic shift in the emotional power spectrum of the universe with the coming Blackest Night, the Zamorans channel the power of Love through the lens of the star sapphire gem, building a corps of violet-powered agents.

At first glance - certainly at my first glance, when I saw this Blackest Night series in the Previews catalogue - Sapphy looks like a mere re-release of the earlier figure; sparklier costume, maybe, but it wouldn't be the first time a company's got into Photoshop to "enhance" their promo photos (check out the stunning metallic look cheap plastic Transformers get in their packaging photos, for instance). In which case I probably shouldn't have ordered it, but hey, I am what I am. Luckily Carol Mk2 shouldn't be judged by her Previews cover, and while she's certainly not a new figure, she's more than just a reissue.

Most obviously the hue of her costume - which is the base plastic for the entire figure neck-down - has gotten an upgrade, from magenta to a glitter-filled translucent true purple. Her skin tone is painted over the top of this, which creates an odd final look - the purple isn't truly transparent, in the sense of being easy to see through, but it's a bit too deep to just look like a weird energy-effect costume covering her presumably solid body. There's also a notable difference in the way light shines through her limbs compared to her torso - with the skin tone covering her front, and hair shielding her back, the body looks almost solid most of the time, while the thinner, more isolated limbs refract far more light.

(One minor oddity, before we get onto more weighty matters, is that the skin tone paint on her butt ends at a slightly wider costume line than the actual back of her costume, almost as if the painters were trying to create a little less visible backside back there. You'd think anyone making a figure with that much boob on show would've stopped caring about slightly revealing outfits, but there's no underestimating the knee-jerk reaction to sexy that manufacturers are capable of having.)

In terms of sculpt - with two exceptions - the figure is otherwise identical to its predecessor, with the same quirks of stance and articulation. The new bits are the right forearm/hand - which now includes a Violet Lantern Corps ring, though with no extra paint it's not that easy to make out - and the head, where the tiara is of a slightly different design and the hair has gone all eighties with far more volume than before. It's also more violently windswept than the mellow wave in the earlier Carol's hair, and between the swirl of it and the extra volume, cuts down on the range of neck movement even more than before.

Jell-O Carol gets two accessories, a base and a violet lantern. The lantern is exactly the same gizmo as was included with Arisia, just cast in the appropriate colour, but while Miss Statutory could at least balance the lantern's handle on her fingers, Carol is incapable of holding it in any manner more sophisticated than slung over her elbow like a handbag. Nice try, but replacing the other forearm with a new wrist-jointed model was really necessary here. The base is the Power of Love version of the current run of insert-colour-here Corps bases from DCD, with the inverse of the Corps symbol applied in off-white over a clear base in the Corps colour. And, as has often been the case, the figure has to stand off-center if you want the symbol facing forwards.

So let's say you have both Star Sapphires to choose from - and you're not an obsessive completist like me - which do you go home with? The original is probably in short supply by now (unless you go online, where most anything can still be found), and Blackest Night Sapphy is a respectable replacement. But once I put her on her shelf - with books behind her, so no appreciable back lighting - her costume just looks too dark for my tastes, and her earlier incarnation, with her flat painted costume, is far more comic-accurate. There are enough cosmetic differences between the two that they're not just the same figure twice over, but honestly, you only need one - I'd pick the first, but by a narrow margin.

So that's Carol Ferris, Star Sapphire - a couple of issues with her, but overall the positives outweigh the negatives, and as a display figure I've found I really appreciate having her on the shelf, regardless of knowing next to nothing about her.

-- 08/07/08


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