So far, it seems like Stan Winston Creatures' partnership with NECA is a good thing. In one series, they've managed to undo all the problems that have plagued the SWC lines since the very beginning: mainly, the figures are cheaper and easier to find, which is all we ever asked for.
Originally, Stan Winston's figures were Toys Я Us exclusives. The first figures, Creature Features, were reinterpretations of old
B-Movie monsters that were short on articulation and long on price - at $15, the creatures literally gathered dust in the aisle of misfit toys. The figures had detailed bases and included a CD-ROM that gave some info about the toy, but fans just refused to pay that much for the line. Next came the Realm of the Claw, which added articulation and lost the CD, but kept the high pricetag. A few more TRU-exclusive lines followed, with similar (un)success.
Stan's finally wising up, though, as evidenced by his partnership with NECA. The figures are no longer TRU exclusives, and are already ⅓ less expensive. Toys in more stores mean more competitive prices and more chances for fans like us to try something new. The first collaboration between the two companies is the medieval-themed Blood Wolves.
A former king deposed for his treachery, Vereticus took the dark oath and now lives as part man, part vicious beast.
His goal is to reclaim the throne and put the Kingdom under the rule of the Werewolves.
Vereticus is a pretty cool-looking character: not as lupine as the rest of his pack, Vereticus dons a knight's armor to terrorize the peasantry - probably the same armor he wore as their king. The detailing on the armor is impressive, and the pieces are accurately styled. Unlike most pseudo-medieval figures, Vereticus's armor looks like something you'd see in a museum, from the shape of the metal to the cut of the tunic to the wrinkles in the chainmail. Even the weaponry - a big two-handed sword and a dagger that hangs at his belt - is nicely understated. The pommel of the sword pulls off to allow the weapon to fit into Vereticus's closed hands, but the dagger does not.
Actually, the idea of a chevalier/loup-garou has
some historical basis: Thomas Mallory, in his Morte d'Arthur, made reference to "Sir Marrok the good knyghte that was betrayed with his wyf for she made hym seven yere a werwolf." Mallory, living in the days before Curt Siodmak invented the stuff about full moons and silver, seems to be drawing on the older legend of a werewolf as someone who turns into a wolf through the use of some device, often a belt, that gave them the power to do so. Before transforming into the wolf, they hid their clothing in a safe spot; to regain human form, they had to put the clothes back on.
Marrok's wife discovered her husband's clothes and hid them, trapping him in his wolf form for seven years. Arthur found the wolf
and introduced it to court, where it demonstrated all the skills and manners of a gentleman. Confronted, Marrok's wife confessed and returned his clothes, freeing him from his enchantment.
In every line, at every turn, Stan Winston's team stands toe to toe with McFarlane's in the sculpt department. That's what happens when you've been kicking ass in the movie industry for more than 30 years. Stan's poses are less dynamic, but that's fine. Why? Because he quickly learned what Todd quickly forgot: articulation matters. Vereticus moves at the knees, thighs, hips, waist, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists and neck.
Sir Lobo has two interchangeable heads: a full-on werewolf
head and one wearing his helmet. The helm is nice, with a real working beaver - with the faceguard down, Vereticus looks like any generic knight. Raise the piece, though, and his lupine features are revealed. The wolf head is impressively detailed, with evil yellow eyes and big pointy ears. He actually looks a bit like Gary Oldman in Dracula, but it suits him.
Vereticus gets his name from the king of Wales who, legend has it, was converted by St. Patrick. Converted, yes, but not to Christianity: Pat converted him into a werewolf. St. Patty really got around in the realm of mystical powers, didn't he? Command snakes, impose curses on his enemies... it's a good thing God sent him there to convert the heathens, huh? Don't want them believing any old nonsense about sorcerers or magic, no sir!
Like most of Stan Winston's Creatures, Vereticus comes with a detailed display base. 5⅝" x 3½", the base shows the mud of a battlefield. The dirt is uneven and speckled, an axe is on the ground in the back left corner, and a shield is on the right. There are two holes in the base to accommodate the arrows included with the set
(there are three arrows, but only two holes - likely in case one should break). The base is a bit disappointing, because while there are no pegs to support the figure, the surface is uneven enough that he cannot stand securely. There are two flat spaces obviously intended to be footprints, but the articulation of the figure does not allow Vereticus to place his feet there and still have a respectable pose. Balljointed hips would have solved this problem easily.
Vereticus, overall, is a good figure, even if he doesn't fit on his base. The design of the armor is realistic enough that, with his face covered, he can serve as a generic knight, which will be great when Diamond Select Toys' Monty Python and the Holy Grail figures come out. Werewolves and knights: two great tastes that taste great together.