If NECA seems to be living off the scraps of McFarlane Toys' past glory, there's a reason for that. As Todd got further and further ensconced in his own weird little world of sports and NASCAR, he lost touch with the fans who had put him where he was. So NECA grabbed the licenses and even the sculptor who was behind McToys' rise to the top.
McFarlane Phase One was the Four Horsemen. It was their somewhat cartoony - yet still dynamic - style that made those early series of Spawn figures so popular. Phase Two was Kyle "Tankman" Windrix, whose intricate detail and lifelike likenesses made licensed properties like Movie Maniacs possible.
Tankman is now the main man over at NECA, and he's getting a chance to try his hand at some great new movie properties as well as some old classics, including ones McToys had done before. The first such project gave us new versions of frightmasters Freddy and Jason, while the newest gives us the Crow.
People used to think that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes... only sometimes the crow brings that soul back to set the wrong things right.
It's probably not possible to overestimate the impact that The Crow had when it came out in 1994, both in terms of storytelling and content. The movie demonstrated the appeal of non-mainstream comics at the box office - without a Crow, there'd be no Hellboy - and its visual style is still being copied today, so it really shouldn't be too much of a surprise that NECA has decided to give us new figures.
This 10th-anniversary set, dubbed "The Crow: Reflections," goes a bit further than McFarlane's effort did, but still walks on familiar ground.
We get the Crow in his familiar iconic pose: his arms spread slightly and his head bowed, gazing out at the viewer through his stringy bangs. The only major difference between this version and McFarlane's is that NECA has put a long leather coat on him. Yes, that's something that fans were requesting for years, but is it really enough to warrant a new figure?
A mix of cloth, leather, duct tape and twine, the figure's sculptural detailing is very good, of course. The toy industry's come quite a ways in the past five years, so it just makes sense that NECA's Crow has a bit of an advantage over McFarlane's. Detail is crisper, paint is subtler (no small feat when you're dealing with a palette of black, blacker and off-black) and articulation... well, articulation's just the same.
The Crow moves at the neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, hips and ankles, which is exactly the same as McToys' version. Like we said, NECA's figure still walks familiar ground.
If those were the only changes, this probably wouldn't be a set you had to run right out and buy. But NECA thought ahead, and gave us a little bit more.
Answering another long-standing fan request, NECA gave us an Eric Draven figure to go with our Crow. Rather than just a variant with a pink face, Eric's a good figure in his own right. From the shoes to the waist, the sculpt is the same - laceless boots, torn and ripped pants, all that. Once you get above the belt the changes begin.
Instead of a jacket (or even a shirt), Eric's bare-chested. He's got his arms outstretched to reflect the pose of the Crow figure, which makes sense. This is obviously Draven after he's come back from the dead. Not only does the paint job make him look pale and ashy, but he's also sculpted with a scar on his stomach and four bullet wounds in his back.
Without the white pancake makeup, you can really appreciate the figure's likeness. Tankman didn't do the original Crow figure, but we can see that he would have done a good job. This really looks like Brandon Lee, whether painted pink or white - the same sculpt was used for both figures.
The set has a few accessories, including one to really drive home the "Reflections" part of the name. The centerpiece of the set is a 7" tall dressing table, detailed with drawers and a high-backed mirror. There's nothing in the mirrors' frames, so if you place Draven on one side and the Crow on the other, you can have him looking at himself. The top of the dresser has makeup, lipstick and a few burning candles to help make it look like an actual piece of furniture would.
Each of the figures gets one additional accessory. Eric's got the drama mask that inspired his Crow facepaint, while the Crow has his totem animal. The mask is 3/4" tall and has a cord you can use to hang it on the mirror; sadly, it won't fit the figure's face. The crow has a 2 3/4" wingspan and a plug to attach it to the figure's shoulder, just like McFarlane Toys' version. The sculpt is detailed here, showing off all the little feathers that would have been easy to hide beneath black paint.
Again, just like McFarlane, NECA included a small, unobtrusive display stand for their Crow, since the pose makes steady balancing impossible for long. The cardboard tray in the box is printed with an image of the large, round window from Eric and Shelly's apartment, looking out on a rainy night sky.
So, is NECA just another McFarlane Toys wannabe? I'm sure Todd's fans think so. They do seem to be getting some of the same licenses that McToys went through five years ago, but is that neccessarily a negative? Five years ago, McFarlane was the radical outsider who still listened to his fans, and that's not such a bad thing to copy.
So, is NECA just another McToys wannabe? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.