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Scarecrow

DC Comics
by yo go re

You ever wish that toy companies forced their marketing people to actually go into toy stores and look at the shelves? That way they'd understand that the reason their lines are failing isn't because no one wants to buy the figures, but because no one wants to buy a thousand different versions of one character. Yes, that seems like common sense, but Mattel has managed to fuck it up again. They killed He-Man, and now they're about to destroy one of the most popular licensed characters ever, Batman.

Mattel has promised to include more villains in future waves, but by this point no stores will touch the stuff - they can't sell the electric green Zap Wing Batman figures they have now, so why should they buy more? It may be too little, too late for Batman. Yes, Mattel has begun to even things out, but what good is that if the things never reach stores? Two of their greatest figures have been released, but if you live in North America, you're going to have to look overseas to find them.

Scarecrow was a great idea for a Batman villain: since Bruce uses psychological fear tactics to weaken his enemies, making him face off against a man who does the same can make for some interesting stories.

Jonathan Crane was a college professor until he was dismissed from the university for his unorthodox teaching methods - for his lecture on fear, he brought a loaded pistol to class and pulled the trigger. He was just aiming at a potted plant in the classroom, but it was enough to end his academic career. Overhearing some of the other professors ridiculing his thin frame and threadbare clothes, Crane decided to become what they called him: a living Scarecrow.

With Scarecrow set to take to the big screen in this summer's Batman Begins, it makes sense for Mattel to make a figure of him now. The Four Horsemen have done a great job with the design, creating a lean and lanky version of the character.

His costume is stitched and patched, as it should be, and his ribs and shoulder blades strain against the cloth. He's got a rope belt, and a few more lengths of rope tied around his arms and legs. His floppy, shapeless hat hides a mask that looks like nothing more than a burlap sack pulled over Crane's head, then tied at the neck to keep it in place. Look under the brim of the hat and you'll see a skeletal face carved into that surface - triangular black eyes set in prominent sockets, a hollow nose and a wicked grin partially stitched shut. It's quite creepy.

Articulation is really phenominal for a Mattel product. No, forget that - this would be good from any company. Scarecrow moves at the ankles, boot tops, knees, mid-thighs, hips, waist, neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows and wrists. 21 points from the kings of mass-market immobility? Quite the shocker! His head is a particularly impressive balljoint that allows him to look straight ahead, or drop his chin to his chest like a real scarecrow would.

In another surprise move, Mattel didn't skimp on the paint apps. The main body of the suit is an light brown with hints of orange, while the gloves, boots and mask are a lighter shade. The patches are painted individually, his hatband is a dark red, and even the ropes on the light portions of his costume are the same color as the ones on his chest and waist.

And then, on top of all that, we got a paint wash! The very thing fans have been demanding since the first new He-Man figures shipped has finally happened. And not a crappy, blotchy wash like the Summer Con exclusives have gotten, but one that actually makes the figure look better. This is from the same guys who made Mr. Freeze? I'm scared.

Scarecrow has not one but two accessories, neither of which is a rocket-launching anything. The first is a large "pitch blade," a weapon that has a curved scythe on one end and the tines of a pitchfork on the other. The blade is scarred and pitted, having obviously seen some heavy use over the years, and the fork isn't faring much better. The handle looks like real wood, and there's a bronze crow skull near the fork end.

The second accessory is a small technological skull, most likely a container for Crane's fear gas. The skull is the same brown as Scarecrow's costume, with red eyes and white teeth. There are silver canisters on each side, and all sorts of dials and buttons on the surface. It's a very nice piece, and just large enough for the figure to clutch it in his left hand.

Mattel did build an action feature into the figure, but it's probably the most unintrusive thing ever. Like many Mattel products, Scarecrow has a "twist and strike" waist that springs back to center when you turn it to the side and release. However, so that the figure didn't lose a point of articulation, Mattel gave him a second, normal waist joint below the springy one! Great holy hell, guys! Where did this come from? The pitch blade has two hand-holds, and with all his articulation, Crane can hold it just like you'd hold a real scythe. Astounding.

This is a good figure, possibly the best Mattel has made in years. There's nothing terribly wrong with it, except that most people will never see one in person. Why would mattel put so much work into a figure like this and then only release it overseas? It's criminal! It's heart-breaking! It pisses me off! If Batman and He-Man had been like this from the beginning, they'd still be in stores now. People don't want to buy crappy toys, and Scarecrow is anything but crappy.


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