ADVANCE REVIEW: Super7 SDCC13 Exclusive ALIEN ReAction 2-Pack
"Discovered Sales Samples": Toy History Over Thirty Years in the Making...
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Ah, the Seventies. Such simpler toy times, when 3 3/4" action figures with five points of articulation were all you needed to stage imaginative epic toy battles. Part of the reason was pure ignorance: As a kid you just accepted the smaller scale and lack of poseability as the norm. After all, Kenner had set the gold standard with Star Wars. But mostly it boiled down to what character and movie the action figure came from. Sci-fi films like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, The Black Hole and Buck Rogers reached dizzying new heights of coolness with action figures of Hammerhead, Starbuck, Maximilian and Twiki in this kid's grubby 'lil hands. Bidi-bidi-bidi. Give me more.
One movie I always wanted 3 3/4" action figures from was 1979's ALIEN. While wanting new space-friends for my other figures to play (fight) with may sound normal, my desire for ALIEN figures was odd for several reasons. For starters, I wasn't even allowed to see the movie due to its violent R rating. Being "taboo" meant my sole fascination with the film came from poring over the ALIEN Photo Novel in the bookstore (and much later watching the film on HBO at a friend's house). More importantly, however, was the fact that only one ALIEN action figure ever existed in '79, and only briefly at that. This was the now treasured 18" Kenner ALIEN, which due to horrified parental complaints (it was the first toy based on a rated-R movie) was quickly pulled from toy store shelves.
It would be many years later when I finally acquired that towering holy toy grail. It was also about this time as an adult collector that I was shocked to learn an incredible secret: that 3 3/4" ALIEN action figures were actually planned on being made, but were canceled, no thanks to the 18" ALIEN figure controversy (thanks AliensCollection.com!). I was equally thrilled and disappointed by this discovery. It was awesome to find out that 3 3/4" ALIEN figures almost came out, but such a letdown to know that they would never be. So close, but so far away.
All this reminiscing brings me to Super 7 and their 3 3/4" ALIEN ReAction figures. The very same ALIEN action figures that were canceled back in 1979. Now recreating older toys is nothing new. Nostalgia sells, as evident in the popularity of Masters of the Universe Classics, Captain Action and the Mego revival. However, what Super 7 is doing with their ALIEN ReAction series goes beyond sweet retro nostalgia. This is toy history in the making. I can't think of another example of a toy company releasing a line of figures that were previously canceled by another company so many years ago. Hasbro's release of a real rocket-firing Boba Fett comes close, but really all fans got was an action gimmick that now worked.
Arriving between October 1 and December 31, 2013 - 34 years after they were originally planned for release - Super 7's assortment of 3 3/4" ALIEN ReAction figures bring to collectors five characters from the now classic motion picture. These include the Alien itself, or "Big Chap" as it was called on the set, the film's heroine Ripley with a flame thrower, the Nostromo's Science Officer (and psycho android) Ash, cool and collected Captain Dallas (with flame thrower), and the unfortunate first Alien victim, Kane wearing a Nostromo space suit. To celebrate this monumental (historic) release, Super 7 is offering a San Diego Comic-Con 2013 exclusive fitting for the occasion: the ALIEN ReAction "Discovered Sales Samples" 2-Pack. To be sold July 17-21 of the event at Super 7's booth #5245 priced at $40, the "Discovered Sales Samples" acts not only as an advanced in-hand sneak peek of the future series, but the way this figure set is being produced and sold fits in so well with the whole history of the unproduced toys.
The premise behind this exclusive is brilliant. As Super 7’s story goes, the figures – the Alien and Kane in unpainted “test shot” blue plastic – are supposed to represent the original 1979 prototypes. These are the type of figures Kenner would have shown to buyers at Toy Fair in the hope of having them produced. Unfortunately, the line was canceled – as shown by the large red stamp on the box and enclosed letter to the sales staff. The prototypes were then filed away and forgotten, lost to time, only to be “discovered” by Super 7 over three decades later. Like I said, it’s a brilliant concept, the illusion of these figures being vintage prototypes immediately apparent on the clever packaging.
Packed in a simple, yet effective white mailer box, the "Discovered Sales Samples" charm with retro appeal. The words "Toy Fair 1979", "Advance Promotional Sample" and "Cancelled" all play up to the pretend backstory. Especially exciting is the use of the original "ALIEN" toy logo and "ReAction Figures" typed out in a vintage Kenner logo font. Inside you'll find the two old prototypes, err, new action figure exclusives each polybagged and stamped repeatedly with "ReAction Figures" - again another homage to Kenner. Last but not least is the included sales staff letter. I won't spoil the surprise of reading this hilariously written memo in this review, but for those that don't mind, CLICK HERE. Funny stuff.
As previously mentioned, this exclusive set includes the Alien and Kane, my two personal favorite figures in the ALIEN ReAction series. While 3 3/4" scale, each figure actually stands slightly taller. Kane, due to his space helmet, measures close to 4 1/2 inches tall. The Alien, being the looming beasty of the bunch, clocks in a hair over 4 1/2". Construction on both figures is extremely solid; the blue-tinted plastic dense and durable, slightly more so than a Star Wars action figure. I can't wait for the fully painted versions of these two characters, but I really like how the sculpted detail stands out on these unpainted "prototypes". With no color to distract your eye, every detail truly pops. Don't be fooled: for two toys pretending to be from a simpler toy time, these are anything but. Unlike a true vintage toy, the sculpting on the ALIEN ReAction duo is sharp and defined. Details to note include the Alien's skull head, ribcage, and bony tail, as well as Kane's studded shoulder pads, ribbed trousers and oxygen pack.
An amazing detail on both figures is the use of clear plastic "accessories". For the Alien it's the creature's long cranial dome. Not only does the clear plastic piece allow you to view the monster's skull-like visage beneath, but it can be removed to access the lever for the Alien's action gimmick: extending inner teeth! The lunging jaw feature is both comical and cool, the thin white plastic flicking out like a frog's tongue.
It's a smart system that retains the good looks of the figure without the use of unsightly buttons or knobs. It'll look even better on the fully painted figure as the lever on the head will blend in with its bony skull. The lever is nice and firm too, meaning that the tongue won't accidentally slip back in while playing with the figure ("I'm gonna eat your Kane with my brain-sucking tongue! Hey, where'd it go?"). Speaking of brains, while the painted final production Alien will feature a glow-in-the-dark "brain", this Comic-Con exclusive does not.
Back to the subject of translucent accessories, Kane packs a clear removable space helmet. Actually the head gear consists of both clear and solid plastics, a manufacturing feat I imagine would be difficult to pull off in '79. The helmet looks incredible on the figure, cast perfectly in scale and connecting firmly with a satisfying plastic "click".
While I think most collectors will be keeping the helmet on, Kane does look rather dashing underneath the dome. Obviously at this smaller scale you're not going to get a realistic actor likeness, but the portrait of the doomed space traveler is still pretty cool, especially with the sculpted on padded headpiece. The whole Nostromo space suit design reminds me of a classic deep sea diver combined with a cosmonaut. Why a cosmonaut? Because it sounds so much cooler than astronaut.
Five points of articulation was the gold standard set by Star Wars figures in the '70s. A few toys broke that rule, such as the more flexible Black Hole and Buck Rogers figures, but they were also more prone to breaking. Five points equaled a solidly constructed action figure that could get the basics done, like blasting away the bad guys RoboCop style or pulling off a damn good impersonation of The Walking Dead. Super 7's ALIEN ReAction figures fully capture that rugged fun play style with movement at the head, shoulders and thighs. With the Alien you even get a bonus joint: a rotating tail (not to mention that wicked lunging inner jaw of brain-sucking action)!
Both figures stand great on their own, but for those attending Comic-Con Super 7 is offering a cool freebie: a pegged ALIEN ReAction action figure stand. Just swing by Super7's booth #5245 and sign up for their mailing list and you will receive a figure base for FREE!
All kidding aside, Super 7 is to be commended for so perfectly replicating a retro toy. But more importantly they are to be commended for getting these 3 3/4" ALIEN action figures made. Period. Super 7's ALIEN ReAction figures aren't just a nostalgic blast from the past... these figures are a blast from a past that never happened. This is toy history over thirty years in the making.
Super 7 will be offering an ALIEN ReAction "Early Bird Package" at Comic-Con that packs lots of fun advance pre-order goodies, such as a figure display stage (think vintage Kenner Star Wars), stickers and more (see our story HERE for full details). However, while I'll be the first in line taking advantage of that pre-order deal, I feel that the true early bird package is with these "Discovered Sales Samples". With this figure exclusive you get to take home two of these amazing figures, months before their real release. With most mass market toys retailing between $12 - $20, $40 for this limited edition set of vintage ALIEN awesomeness is money well spent. Grab your "Discovered Sales Samples" at Super7's Comic-Con booth #5245, July 17-21, while supplies last.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of Super7