Sigh... McFarlane. You were once king of the Realm of Action Figures. A god. The man who was so dissatisfied with the toy aisles he said "screw it!" and decided to make his own damn toys. And they were good. Great. For a long time, they were amazing. Expanding into licenses fanboys had previously only dreamed of. Horror! Science fiction! Awesome original properties! With brilliant (and always uncredited) sculptors like the Four Horsemen and Kyle "Tankman" Windrix, McFarlane turned action figure collecting on its head.
Then, as with all things, Rome fell. Sculptors, upset with the way things were being done, left. Licenses got crappier as the focus shifted to the more profitable (but infinitely more boring) sports lines. Articulation became minimal, then damn near non-existent. McFarlane became something of a joke to most of the toy collecting community, except for those loyal fans who clung to the last shreds of pre-posed, mundanely painted, ugly-swivel-joint and mold-line having statues. The latest nail in the coffin? McFarlane has canceled their in-house lines due to poor sales. The funny thing? The only surprise anyone felt was over the fact that the in-house (i.e., non-licensed) properties had lasted so long.
It remains to be seen what implications this news has for the mainline "Spawn" series of figures,
which is both in-house and technically a licensed property. These guys are where it all began... back in the first series: Bendy Violator, Spawn I (with board-with-a-nail-in-it accessory!), Medieval Spawn, Overtkill, and Clown (with half-eaten drumstick!). Now, just released, is the 34th series of the long-running Spawn line. Showing the complete lack of innovation these days within the company, McFarlane once again has chosen to rehash older designs. "Spawn Classics," as the series is called, re-imagines some of the most popular Spawn figures from past series. I dunno how popular "Pirate Spawn" ever was, but at least they've all got new sculpts. And it goes without saying that any fan of this line who's stuck with it since its inception is well-acquainted with the series's other offerings: Wings of Redemption Spawn, Manga Spawn, and the Poacher.
Poacher was from the Total Chaos line,
so it's iffy that he's one of "the most popular Spawn figures" as the packaging states: Total Chaos was an experiment in figures for figures' sake, without a tie-in story, perhaps the first true McFarlane "in-house" line. Fitting that the most popular figure of that line would show up here, "re-imagined" on the eve of the death of in-house at McFarlane. The first Poacher was great. I owned both versions: The single-carded figure, and the re-painted FAO Schwartz "fishtank" exclusive (which included an oversized rifle accessory). I think they're both hanging around in my closet somewhere, though they're probably both broken by now. Either way, I loved this guy. A big fat elephant, ironically called "Poacher" (get it!??), adorned with trophies of fallen enemies. It was immediately a classic design.
And now McFarlane has decided "hey, let's screw with perfection!"
I first resisted purchasing this new Poacher, mainly because it's a glorified statue (the original figure at least had some basic articulation). This is the reason I've collected very little in the way of McFarlane toys in the past few years. But I finally relented, probably because my other Poachers were broken husks. I thought he might fit in with my 7th Kingdom figures (done by former McF slaves, the Four Horsemen, who've proven they know how to work an in-house property). Unfortunately, he's a tiny bastard. He looks like a midget next to the mighty Ramathorr, and is even dwarfed by Xetheus the minotaur.
However, no one said these guys would be compatible, so I can't fault McF too much, but the original Poacher was a giant. Guess things change (price of oil and all that). And his sculpt is quite good.
This time around, the Poacher is some kind of rare four-tusked elephant, with the standard pair you'd expect, and two curved horns jutting out from his cheeks. He's adorned with tattoos all over his wrinkly body, and they're sculpted elements. He's got an armband of skulls, tusks tied to his wood plank shoulder pads, and several piercings through his substantial belly (a nice nod to the original figure). He's also holding a cyborg-eyed humanoid skull, which was an accessory of the first Poacher, but here is a sculpted element permanently affixed to the right hand. The original could be hung on one of the stones protruding from his loincloth. The biggest difference between this Poacher and his predecessor is the addition of ears. The older figure lacked ears entirely, whereas this guy has ears so big they're tied together in a sort of funky "ear ponytail" that trails down his back.
Normally, I'm unimpressed by McFarlane's paint apps
on their production figures, as they're almost always light years away from the excellent prototypes. If you can't deliver a good-looking production figure, for God's sake stop tantalizing us with amazing hand-painted prototypes! But Poacher actually looks good. His paint wash is done nicely, a slate blue-gray filling in the cracks of his pale white-gray skin. There's little slop on the tattoos, and the wood grain on his shoulder pad is particularly nice. Annoyingly, there are two metal chains that connect to the gauntlet on his left wrist, and they're clearly meant to segue into the sculpted plastic chain around said gauntlet. However, the chain sculpt is totally unpainted, even on the prototype image. What? Stupid.
Articulation is a joke. Peg joints at the neck, wrists, left bicep,
and a v-crotch in the hips. The wrists work okay, and the bicep has some potential, but the sculpt is thrown off if the joint is moved out of the initial position.
For accessories, the figure gets a big ol' sword. Odd. And disappointing. The original Poacher featured two spears, assorted bones and tusks, a cyborg skull, and (in the case of the fishtank version) a huge rifle. None of these are present here... not as accessories anyway. Instead, certain elements - like the cyborg skull - are now permanent fixtures of the figure, and all he gets is a big cutlass. The bottom of the hilt pops off so he can hold it, since God forbid his hand is sculpted in any fashion save a closed fist.
Poacher is a decent statue.
You can tell someone worked really hard on the sculpt, and the paint accentuates it nicely. However, good sculpt and decent paint do not equal a great figure. This guy doesn't move, and comes with no great accessories to speak of. And for a wicked elephant hunter, he's downright tiny. The Verne Troyer of the elephant world. A sad reminder of what McFarlane was once capable of, before "in-house" meant dragons and penis-slugs. The Poacher, as an idea, represented some real creativity. As a figure, this Poacher ain't got nothin' on its Total Chaos forebear. Track down the original fishtank version, or even the single-carded version, if you want a well-sculpted, well-accessorized elephant with some actual play value who won't be intimidated by your other giant elephant figures. This guy's a pygmy, not a Poacher.