I have reviewed many toys and collectibles over the years, but an action figure of myself? Never in my wildest dreams. However, here I am, pardon the innuendo, playing with myself. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe it.
HeroBuilders has been leading the charge in custom figures for sometime now, their unique service offering consumers the opportunity to own an action figure of themselves. More recently, HeroBuilders has streamlined the process for customers on the go with a free mobile app for Apple devices (an Android version is tentatively planned for next year). The app takes selfies to the next level: simply snap two pics (front and side), choose an outfit and accessory and just like that – you’re on your way to having your very own mini-me.
The app itself is very easy to use. Once installed (it takes up very little space as the workings of the app are not resident on your tablet/phone), users will be greeted to a home screen showing off the HeroBuilders’ logo, two fine custom figures and three options. “Terms/Info” provides some background on the company and the ordering process. “Hero Samples” is just that, page after page of custom figures to give you an idea of what you can create. Thankfully, the trend has changed now, with manufacturers launching slim and lightweight tablets , making it easier to carry them around.
“Make Me A Hero” is where your adventure begins. First select a race/gender (white/black male or white/black female). For those unfamiliar with the cost of a custom action figure, a pop-up message is thoughtfully provided to help ease the sticker shock. Anything personally customized comes at a price, the price for a custom HeroBuilders figure being subjective. While prices vary greatly depending on what clothing and accessories you choose, you can expect to pay a minimum of $325 for a custom figure with your likeness. That’s $50 off HeroBuilders’ website prices, a darn good incentive to using the new app.
To put that price in perspective, 3D scanning services exist that are cheaper, however the end product is far inferior to what HeroBuilders offers. Where HeroBuilders uses both traditional sculpting and 3D scanning, straight-up 3D scanned portraits look, well… scanned. The output and material is grainy at best. Factor in HeroBuilders’ use of a fully articulated 12-inch body, real cloth outfits, a multitude of accessories to choose from, and even the option for a voice chip and what you get for your money versus other custom figure services becomes clearly apparent.
With basic pricing established, it’s time to get down to business. Located at the bottom of the screen is a title bar where it says “Faces”. There are arrows left and right and if you scroll through that pallet you will find the following options:
- Faces: Here is where you can upload your portrait, OR you can choose from a variety of in-stock heads, such as the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask, killer clown, gangster and more.
- Outfits: Full outfits that you can use to dress your figure. These range from a caped superhero costume (“American Hero”), martial arts outfits (including the yellow jumpsuit worn by Bruce Lee), a sophisticated black suit or tuxedo, and even an outfit inspired by the movie A Clockwork Orange (“Clockwork”). I opted for “Urban Camo,” a casual mix of white tee and camouflage pants. To show off the flexibility of the custom figure app, I even had the shirt customized with the Figures.com logo. I have a bunch of tattoos too, another customizing option available, but a replicated arm sleeve would most likely cost as much as the real thing. I chose to skip ’em.
- Kicks: Selection of molded plastic shoes or real cloth, lace-up sneakers. I went with the latter.
- If you don’t go with an all-in-one “Outfit,”then Shirts (polos and button ups), T-Shirts (tanks and casual tees) and Pants (jeans, slacks, cargo, khakis) are for you.
- Jackets and Coats: Hoodies, leather and racing jackets.
- Accessories: Baseball bats, cell phones, watches, footballs and much more.
- Weapons: From arm blasters to lightsabers. I picked a trusty 9mm pistol to take down the toy scalpers. You’ll note that my photos also show me wearing shades and wielding a samurai sword. Both are from my personal toy collection showing how serious collectors can further customize their figure.
When you’re ready to check out, there’s even an option for a Voice Chip ($25). Located on the back of the figure, sound is recorded by using a paperclip and pressing in a small button. Release to finish your recording. Pushing a tab on the chip – easily accessed through the figure’s shirt – activates the cool feature. I channeled Duke Nukem to demonstrate the feature.
The Voice Chip really adds more personality to an already super personalized action figure. What’s great, though, is how it doesn’t interfere with the aesthetic (with shirt on) or articulation of the figure. I’m not sure what type of 1:6th scale body is being used, but it’s of solid construction (and it’s nice to see my gym workouts are paying off). While the skin tone isn’t hyper-realistic as say, a Hot Toys collectible, the joints are many, firm and fluid. All are ball-hinged joints, including the waist. I particularly like how the fingers are articulated, the index finger being separate from the rest for a perfect trigger finger.
My custom figure arrived about three weeks after I ordered, a pretty quick turnaround for something so personalized. It arrived in an elegant black window box adorned with gold trim: “HeroBuilders.com: A Division of Vicale Corporation” written at the top and proudly “Made in the U.S.A.” along the bottom. It gives a new meaning to being “Born in the U.S.A.”
So is a custom HeroBuilders figure worth it? As a one-of-a-kind item you won’t find anywhere else, totally. It doesn’t get any more unique than a custom action figure of yourself. My head sculpt is eerily impressive, even if it is more wide-eyed than my usual squint-eyed self. After all, they did have to get my personalized eye color (hazel) in there somehow. Construction-wise, the head is made of a thick rubber-like material. It can also pop off, good news for those that want to further customize themselves on another figure body.
HeroBuilders’ custom figure app makes creating a personalized figure, quite literally, a snap. The app’s clever use of the selfie phenomenon is brilliant and the over-all process of accessorizing your figure straightforward and entertaining to play around with. Heck, the app is fun all on its own, whether you plan on purchasing a figure or not.
While customers can still use HeroBuilders’ traditional website for ordering a custom action figure, the $50 in savings using the HeroBuilders’ app makes it a much more tempting choice. To get started on your own custom action figure, download the free HeroBuilders app HERE.
To read more about HeroBuilders’ custom figure app, check out our interview with company owner Emil Vicale HERE.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Sample Courtesy of HeroBuilders
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