Tired of seeing other companies reproducing his creations, Stan Winston decided to form a toy company of his own. The man behind the Terminator, the Predator, Pumpkinhead and the alien queen decided he'd been on the sidelines for too long. His first series was, in short, a massive failure. And that's being generous.
His second line was only slightly better. The price was still high, but at least the figures had some articulation and a cohesive backstory this time. Stan Winston had created a wild jungle kingdom that existed in a time before man, the Realm of the Claw.
A continuing battle between light and dark, the Realm of the Claw line offered six figures split between good and evil. The leaders of the warring factions were brothers Tare and Tswana.
Tswana is the future of the kingdom. But he must overcome his brother Tare's evil in order to unite the cat tribe under peaceful rule.
Tswana is a pretty cool-looking figure. A black panther, he looks very sleek and powerful. He's wearing armor that seems to consist of a lot of leather straps - sort of Greco-Roman by way of Africa, or maybe the other way around. There's chain mail over his stomach, and he's got a colorful striped loincloth hanging from his thick metal belt.
Tswana's weapons include a large axe and a wooden shield. There's a dagger on his belt, but it's a molded piece, non-removable. The shield has great detail: planks on the back are covered by leather or cloth on the front, and the rivets or nails that hold the covering in place are all painted crisply. The shield's strap is a banded trio of leather bands that cling well to his forearm.
Like all the Realm of the Claw figures, Tswana comes with two variant heads: one howling and the other more reserved. The "calm" face actually looks more like a house cat than something from the jungle, but he's still cool. This kitty moves at the head, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, chest, waist, hips, thighs and ankles, and most of that is balljoints. We get a whole lot of motion in the Realm figures.
Each Realm of the Claw figure comes with a detailed display base that represents part of their jungle home. Tswana's base is a fallen, moss-covered tree. The detail that we would later see on both the Mutant Earth and Blood Wolves figures is present here, as well, in both the sculpt and the the subtlety of the paint.
The ruthless Tare will stop at nothing to take control of the Kingdom. The only one who stands in his way is his brother Tswana.
A white panther, Tare looks much more disturbing than his brother - even his calm head has its teeth bared and eyes slit. He's got a few extremely pale stripes on his body, which suggest that maybe he's an albino rather than white. His clothes look more South American than Tswana's vaguely gladiatorial gear, and the paint job is much more complex.
In his bid to overthrow his brother, Tare has armed himself with a wicked bone-handled knife and a serrated spear, both of which are very detailed. Both Tare and his brother have bendy tails so you can pose them however you like.
Tare's base is the twin to Tswana's: again, a series of mossy fallen trees. While some companies might have just reused the existing base, Stan Winston's team made a brand-new piece that complemented the first without duplicating any of its elements.
My love of anthropomorphic toys has been well documented, so there was no way I wouldn't like the Realm of the Claw figures. In a discussion with Rustin, I commented that Realm of the Claw might just be the most narrowly focused targeted marketing ever, since these toys might as well have been made just for me. I love all six of them, but the $15 pricetag was just way too much.