The crew of the Nostromomo sits around a table laughing, happy that their friend Kane is back, and thankfully alive. Even Ripley seems uncharacteristically pleasant. And then Kane falls, back on their food, and gags. Something bulges underneath his shirt. They grab his arms and try to restrain him. Once he’s still, a jet of blood shoots out of his chest. He screams, louder. Something is eating its way out of him. The rest of the crew is panicking, letting out screams of their own. In the cacophony, a Xenemorph, the inspiration for my favorite action figure the NECA seven inch Alien, is born. In my estimation, there are three factors that play into what makes favorite figures: functionality, appearance, and emotional connection.
Functionality of an action figure can be a little tricky to define, because it really depends on what you want it to do. Some people use them for decoration (you can get a look at how I use mine to make my bookshelf look cool in last week’s column, “Why We Collect”). I also photograph and play with mine, so for me the most functional action figures are posable and durable, but depending on what you do with yours, that definition will vary.
The alien can do just about anything I want. It’s got more than twenty points of articulation so you can get it into nearly any pose, and one of those points of articulation is the jaw so you can bring out the inner mouth.
The elbows on my figure have broken off, but it’s hardly the fault of the figure, considering how much I play with it.
Figures need to look like the character. We’ve all seen the figures without a passing resemblance to their inspiration (looking at you wrestling action figures). I would add that they also need to look cool on their own. For a favorite figure, someone with no familiarity with the character needs to still be impressed with the figure.
The sculpt of my alien is incredible, perfect to the H.R. Geiger character design. (If you’re as into the character as I am, there’s a soon to be published book of his concept art here). And better yet, the paint is pure black so it accentuates rather than overpowers the sculpt. In Laymen’s term, the figure looks horrifying.
Functionality and appearance only set the table for the emotional connection with the figure. There’s got be some affection for either the character or the experience of buying the figure for it to be a favorite.
I can remember the first time I saw the scene I described in the first paragraph. (If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here). One night my father drove me to Blockbuster and rented the DVD for me because he said I had to see the chestburster scene. He was so right. Alien is still one of my favorite movies, and the six-inch Alien action figure is by far my favorite figure. Without a doubt, my father and my love of Alien and Aliens play a huge role in how much I love this figure.
A Call to Action (Figures) is a weekly column published every Wednesday, chronicling my rants and raves about all things action figure. Come back next week and find out why I collect 3 and ¾ inch action figures instead of 6 inch ones.