Action Figure Review: Dark Horse Direct Exclusive Hellboy

If you’ve known me online at all, it’s hard to miss the fact that I might kind of enjoy action figures. Some. A little bit. So hard to miss, in fact, that the folks at Dark Horse have agreed to let me review one of the newer products they’re offering. From Dark Horse Direct (as in, “direct to consumer”) and 1000toys, here’s the big guy himself, Hellboy.

Look, I’m speaking in somewhat measured tones here but the truth is I was extremely excited to have this opportunity. Premium action figures (read: action figures with hundred dollar price tags) are not a thing I get to interact with on a regular basis, and due to my general preference to have a lot of characters done pretty well over a handful done perfectly, I tend to stick to the more affordable offerings. Hellboy though is one of those properties where the cast of primary characters is small enough that Dark Horse can get away with a line like this; 1:12 scale figures done in intense, careful detail.

Hellboy comes packaged in an enclosed box with a panel window so that you can see what you’re getting when you look inside; that box is further protected by a spot-gloss slipcover depicting the titular boy holding Excalibur with the faint impression of the BPRD logo laid over him. This seems designed to entice me personally, as a lover of unnecessary things like spot-gloss. Interestingly, the box does not showcase the things that make this a Dark Horse Direct exclusive and not the standard 1000toys release; namely his fully-grown Beast of the Apocalypse horns and the legendary Excalibur. They’re in there, they’re just bagged and taped to the inside back of the box, hidden behind the figure tray.

Because he’s a high-end figure, Hellboy comes with a wide spread of accessories. In addition to the previously mentioned horns, there are also his standard ground-down nubs, plus a full compliment of four interchangeable left hands in different poses. He has two interchangeable heads, one stoic and one grimacing. One extremely cool thing about the design of the horns is that not only are both versions removable, so that you can pair either style with either head, but the left and right horns have unique plug-shapes so that you don’t accidentally plug them into the wrong side.

Ever get a sudden urge to play Tetris?

There’s also his tail, packaged separately for the sake of protection, and his gun, the Good Samaritan, plus a belt-holster to stow it in. The holster does not quite function as its design indicates it should; rather than a functional folding flap and buckle fastener, those elements are merely sculpted on, with the top of the flap slit so that the gun can be inserted that way. Given that the entire holster is itself detachable, I can see why the design was done this way — the joint that attaches it to the belt is small and easy to remove, and I can envision many aggravating attempts to fiddle with a functional flap and buckle only to have the whole thing come off in my hand. Still, they could’ve gotten around that by not designing the holster as a separate piece in the first place, and further not designing the flap of that holster as another separate piece — as I was fiddling with it, the glue of the flap failed and it came off! It’s a frustrating to see it executed this way when there are many much more inexpensive figures out there that have figured this particular trick out.

Hellboy is designed to be of a relatively correct height with other six-inch figures; he stands a bit taller than that, but that’s because he’d be taller than you or I in real life. He’s also designed, anatomically, with his creator Mike Mignola’s work in mind; short skinny legs, a broad torso, and muscular arms. His Right Hand of Doom is massive — so much so that it’s good he has the tail to balance on in addition to his tiny hooved feet, because the weight of it threatens to overbalance him. The articulation on it is incredible, above and beyond even what I expected! Not only are each of the finger knuckles hinged, but the primary knuckles where they join the hand are all ball joints, allowing him not to just to bend and point his fingers, but to spread his hand wide, angle his fingers for a snap, all sorts of things! Given the level of detail here — all of his pits, scrapes and cracks are carefully realized — it’s a little disappointing to see the metal pins articulating his fingers so plainly visible, but even then I can understand their presence; plastic pegs would’ve blended better, but snapped more easily, and that’s not a thing you want in a figure with a $119.99USD price tag.

Here, you can see the sheer level of articulation in his right hand–look at that double thumb hinge!

In addition to those fingers, the Right Hand of Doom also has an extra joint of articulation at the elbow — on top of Hellboy’s standard elbow joint, shown in the photo there, there’s a hinged joint directly in the sculpt of the stone forearm, allowing him to curl his arm in ways the design wouldn’t normally allow for. It’s clever work, and hidden well by his coat so that it’s not quite so obvious about breaking the illusion of his posing.

The rest of him also shows a lot of care in the articulation — balljointed head, shoulders and hips, both a hinge and a swivel in each elbow and each ankle, plus one for his left wrist. The right wrist is also a balljoint, just severely limited by the width of the stone arm.  He also has hinge at the base of his neck and one in his abs — both of these are hidden by his torso, which is a sculpted soft plastic shell. The arms have a similar trick–soft sculpted upper arms and shoulders as one piece, hiding the hard plastic skeleton beneath. Where his torso meets his waist, there’s also a swivel, allowing him to stretch those important lower back muscles. His knees are double-hinged, and his legs also have swivel hinges both at his mid-thighs where they meet his shorts and at the tops of his…greaves? I’d call them boots, but his toes are exposed. Dark Horse, can we get a ruling?

Going back to his coat, it’s probably the one thing I’m not quite as keen on as the rest of the figure, but a lot of that is my personal bias against softgoods (aka cloth) pieces on figures. You see, you can scale down a sculpt, but there is a point where, if it’s scaled down any further, you begin to loose functionality. For instance, a Hellboy at half this size wouldn’t have those detailed, pinned finger joints, because it’s just too hard and expensive to do at that size. Similarly, you can scale down something like a cloth trench coat, but you can’t really scale down the thread it’s made with. As such, what would be normal-sized threadholes on a normal-sized coat look incongruously large against a 1:12 scale figure — why this bothers me more than, say, visible joint articulation, I can’t tell you, but it does! There’s also the fact that a scaled-down coat doesn’t hang the same on a body as a full-sized one would–you don’t really realize it when you’re wearing it, but gravity does a lot of the work of keeping a coat in place for you. It keeps your collar from, say, riding up your neck and assaulting your jawline. As you can see here, that’s lost when the coat itself weighs something like an ounce — it doesn’t have enough weight to hold itself in the proper place. Something in the design to keep that from happening — elastic straps on the inside of the coat to hold it tight to the figure, maybe — would solve an issue like this neatly, but would probably also affect the price of the final product. Something that also might’ve helped would be a bit of wire hidden in the collar — there are wires on each tail end, allowing it to flare out dramatically or wrap around his lower legs, and it’s a shame we can’t do this with the lapels. Alas, there’s no such potential solution for the matter of the weave itself, but I also freely admit I’m in the minority on softgoods pieces with figures, so you’ll probably love it!

The exclusive version of this figure is sadly sold out — Dark Horse Direct only produced enough to meet advance orders — but you can still get the regular version from a variety of places; he just won’t come with the full-length horns or Excalibur. The rest of the figure is identical and it’s really something to behold; if you’re the type of Hellboy fan to say…own deluxe omnibus editions of the comic in hardcover, you probably won’t blink twice at the cost of this thing, and you won’t regret it once it’s in your hands. There’s also an Abe Sapien and a planned Lobster Johnson on the way!

Nola Pfau

Nola Pfau

Nola is a bad influence. She can be found on twitter at @nolapfau, where she's usually making bad (really, absolutely terrible) jokes and occasionally sharing adorable pictures of her dog.

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