Spit or swallow?
"I got a thousand different feelings for you,
not a single one of them pleasant."
Are you a Clive Barker fan, or are you not? Depending on the answer to that question, he's either a genius of imagination, or a guy who invents stuff that weirdos whack off to. I'm inclined to take the middle ground: yes, his stuff is mostly tarted-up kinky masturbation fodder, but that's a sorely neglected field of human endeavour that could really do with a genius or two to help it along. Goddess knows someone needs to spark people's sexual imagination - it's not like the porn industry's any good at it.
Anyway. 2004's Infernal Parade was McFarlane's second collaboration with Barker, after 2001/2's two Tortured Souls series, and Todd's own experiment with jerking off to torture in the intervening year's Twisted Land of Oz. Like the first Tortured Souls series, each Infernal Parade figure was accompanied by a chapter of a Barker-penned novella... and like the second series, and the 12" versions of the first, the Infernal Parade figures that reached Australia were missing their fiction, so all I've got to go on are the snippets on the website. Oh well, not to worry - I'm hot/cold on Barker anyway, so it's a fair possibility I'd have thought it was rubbish, and I wasn't buying these for their storylines regardless.
Mary Slaughter is... well, due to the above difficulties, I don't really know, much. She may or may not be undead, or the soul of a murdered person, or something of the sort. She's a sword swallower by trade, but she's a mix of a number of cutting, piercing, and body modification fetishes,
being "mounted" on her display frame by way of trios of metal rods driven into her sides - locking into her ribs, presumably - and two large metal hoops, by which she hangs from the pierced skin of her shoulders. She's also sporting a number of subdermal implants, predominantly around her chest and lower abdomen, and of course the obvious plethora of tattoos, all painted cleanly and crisply over a very well-judged skin tone and finish. If you don't mind your women heavily tattooed, pierced in various places, and able to hang from the skin of their shoulders, she's got one hell of a figure.
Her outfit is almost laughably minimal. Excluding technical exceptions like Cortana, she's far and away McFarlane's nakedest figure, with her "clothes" consisting solely of a metal g-string, two metal pasties covering her nipples - eschewing the traditional glue, they're kept in place by three little claws on each, digging into the flesh of her breasts - and a collar/neck brace type arrangement. She's also got metal bands around her biceps and upper thighs, and a curious arrangement linking her ankles, suspending a wavy blade between her legs aimed upwards, and a spiked wheel between the soles of her feet. And of course, there's the sword, also wavy-bladed - though it's straightening out as it nears her lips, which suggests it may be straight lower down; obviously you can't swallow a wavy blade all the way - held delicately in her left hand.
You don't tend to look at her face much...
well, I'm sure there are people who don't look at the face of any McFarlane figure much, but in this case it's because her head's tilted way back with a sword sticking out of it, not just that she's got big tits (they're quite plausible for an action figure, in fact - well shaped, sure, but still easily within the range of realism). It's always a bit of a surprise to peer over the top of her and see how good her face is - not quite the flawless realism McFarlane would eventually reach, but good quality work nonetheless, with a lot of distinctiveness.
I don't know if the fiction elaborates on her origins more, but her face has a kind of African/Mediterranean feel that, along with her lovely dusky skin, makes me think she's from the Caribbean somewhere. Her eyes are closed - concentrating on her task,
obviously (though putting on a nicely evocative expression of ecstasy meanwhile) - showing off copper eye shadow, and she's got twin rows of implants beneath them. Her hair is braided Medusa-like, and bunched into two ponytails than hang straight down her bare back.
It's pretty redundant to talk about articulation - swivel biceps, solely for fine-tuning - so let's talk about assembly instead. The full display comes in pieces, and needs to be built around the central figure. The two supporting pylons, either side of her, mount the steel rod assembles, which can slide up and down - get them aligned properly and push the rods from the outside, and then slide into the waiting orifices in her flanks. Did that get you hot? Probably did McFarlane and Barker; hey, I'm not judging. Next the top piece goes on, all decorative metalwork, with the wavy blade a repeating motif - it plugs into cavities between the "horns" mounted on the tops of the support pylons. The hoops are rigid plastic, but being long and thin there's some flex in them, and they unplug to be worked through their holes on the top piece, and in Mary's skin.
Finally the whole lot gets stuck on its frame base, which matches the decorations on the tops of the pylons, and then that gets stuck on the wheeled "base" common to the whole Infernal Parade range.
The base's wheels and axles have to be attached, too - getting the small wheels mounted on their axles can be a bit of a pain (literally, unless you hold the spiked wheels with a cloth), and if you're not careful it's possible to damage the plastic wheels trying to force them onto the metal axles. I gave up, and - for these photos - just left one wheel half-mounted; for regular display I remove the wheels, since Mary's on top of my PC monitor and I don't want her rolling around up there if I bump the table. Each wheeled base has the performer's name and job description inscribed on it (Mary's a "spike swallower" for some reason), and sports a hoop on one end and a towbar on the other, so the figures can be strung together like a circus train.
I have to say I was quite pleased to see Mary (and her sister in sexy sin Bethany)
show up back when they did - Tortured Souls was a good line, and each of its three ladies had their own merits, but the whole Hellraiser-esque mutilation idea can only go so far before it gets repetitive. Mary was welcome move in a different direction - she's modified, not mutilated, and designed with a whole different array of sexual perversions in mind. I also very much like the sense of theatrical display present in her, with the ornate frame, the way she's built into it in an elegant rather than gory manner, even the symmetry of her torso and bent legs - she looks like some kind of pagan idol, and that fetishistic "worship me" sensibility is the reason she gets to go on top of the monitor - one of the prize positions in my crowded living space - rather than just being stuck among the crowds on the shelves.