How does toy company NECA top the NES-style Jason and Freddy action figures they released this year? Well, truthfully, they don’t. A swift stroke of genius, those toys will go down in history as NECA’s most unique and impressive offerings of 2013. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still have some treats up their sleeves this year, and their latest releases are very much in the same vein as the aforementioned 8-bit beauties – the company once again looking to the past for inspiration, and bringing something unique and different to the table.
Originally announced back in August and shipping out to retailers as of last week, their latest figures of the two biggest horror icons in the game are done up in the iconic style of MEGO, a toy company that reigned supreme back in the 1970s. MEGO specialized in highly articulated toys of licensed characters from the worlds of film, television and comic books, making history by becoming the first company to house their action figures in carded packaging. To say that MEGO revolutionized and forever changed the world of toys would quite frankly be a huge understatement, and these new figures from NECA are their way of paying tribute to the company that paved the way for them and so many others.
Both Freddy and Jason are decked out in real fabric clothing, true to the MEGO style, and even the packaging evokes the spirit of MEGO and the way they did things. While MEGO originally packaged their figures inside of boxes, they eventually made the change to the carded style that they pioneered. Fusing together their own style with MEGO’s, NECA has housed Fred and Jay inside of thick plastic shells, with card backs that feature illustrations from artist Jon Wardell. No doubt an impressive presentation, which makes the figures look great in the packaging and even provides you with some cool artwork if you decide to pop them out of their plastic prisons. The tabs on the packaging seem to indicate that they’re resealable, allowing you to take the figures out and put them back in at your leisure, but good luck with that – maybe I’m just a brute, but I found no other way to free my killer pals than to completely mangle the packaging and turn it into a shredded hunk of plastic.
But that’s enough about the packaging. We’re here to talk about the toys themselves. So let’s rip these bad boys out and take a closer look at them, shall we?!
First up we’ve got Freddy, my personal favorite horror icon. Standing 8″ tall, Freddy is depicted the way he appeared in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and he comes with his trademark hat and bladed glove. There are things I dig about this toy and things I don’t. We’ll focus on the good first…
On the plus side of things, I absolutely love that this toy is authentic to Freddy’s look in his very first outing. Though NECA did in the recent past release another toy based on the original Elm Street, every other toy company has always made Freddy look the way he did in the sequels, even when they’re advertising their figures as being based on Craven’s original. What many horror fans don’t seem to realize is that the sleeves on Freddy’s iconic Christmas sweater were originally solid red rather than striped, and the makeup design also changed a whole lot from the original to the sequels. I can’t say I blame other companies for going for the more traditional Freddy look with their figures, since it’s that look that’s most marketable, but I really appreciate the fact that NECA went screen accurate with this one.
The head sculpt on this figure is terrific, echoing David Miller’s original makeup on Robert Englund. In the original Elm Street, Freddy’s face was a bit more horrific looking than it became in the sequels, and the sculpt captures all of those details, right down to the melted right ear. The charred and peeling flesh is suitably grisly and grotesque, and I applaud NECA’s sculptor on a fine job all around. A tad bit cartoony? For sure. But that only adds to the MEGO vibe.
It’s from the neck down where things get a bit problematic…
As you probably noticed in the above pictures, Freddy’s sweater is incredibly baggy and ill-fitting, which is the major downfall of this figure for me. It may seem like a minor complaint, but the sweater looks like it’s literally swallowing Freddy’s body, and it’s an issue that unfortunately hurts the overall look of the toy. Freddy is a sleek and trim villain, and the oversized sweater makes him look a bit heftier than he should. He’s wearing an extra large, when he should be wearing a medium.
Aside from the sweater, everything else looks good. The glove is highly detailed and the pants are weathered and dirtied, as Freddy’s pants by all means should be. It’s a fine figure all around, but I can’t help but feel that it would’ve been that much cooler if the sweater was scaled down a size or two. That said, I never dreamed I’d ever have a MEGO-style Freddy figure in my collection, so I’m just grateful to NECA for that!
Retro Jason is of course based on the big guy’s appearance in Friday the 13th: Part 3 (played by the late Richard Brooker), where he acquired his iconic hockey mask from ill-fated prankster Shelly and truly became the Jason we all know and love. Also measuring 8″ tall, Jason is armed to the teeth with deadly killing implements, including an axe, a harpoon gun and his trusty machete.
Jason’s mask is removable, revealing his hideous face underneath. Much like the Freddy figure, the sculpt on Jason’s head is quite impressive, full of the lumps and deformities that were infused into the Part 3 makeup. The mask is screen-accurate to the movie and suitably weathered, and I’m happy to report that it fits on Jason’s head quite well. I’ve had issues with hockey masks on Jason figures in the past, but this one stays snugly in place when you want it to and easily comes off when you want it off. Or when Jason demands you take it off of him, I should say.
As far as the clothing goes, I really have no complaints in that department. Though the collar on Jason’s shirt is a bit goofy looking and oversized, his shirt and pants all around fit quite nicely on his body, and look like they were tailor made for him. It’s funny because you’d think NECA would give Jason the looser fitting clothing rather than Freddy, given he’s a much bulkier dude, but for whatever reason they ended up doing the opposite. Not only are Jason’s clothes the perfect fit but they’re also spiced up with some blood stains, a nice touch that makes it look like he just got done slaying another victim. Don’t worry Jason, mommy will wash those out for you. Oh wait, she’s dead. Never mind.
The coolest thing about this figure, for me, is that it looks a whole lot like an unreleased Jason figure from the 1980s. To make a long story short, toy designer Mel Birnkrant designed a whole line of toys under the MAXx FX banner, which featured parts that could be added to an ordinary Ken doll to turn him into monsters and horror movie icons. The Jason figure you see above was supposed to be a part of the line, but the whole thing ended up getting scrapped, and only the Freddy MAXx FX figure was released. In a way, we finally ended up getting that figure, after all these years!
Retro Jason is hands down the superior of the two figures, and it’s in fact my new favorite Jason figure in my collection. True, it’s not nearly as cool or unique as 8-bit Jason, but NECA did a really good job with this one, and Jason surprisingly translates quite well to the MEGO-style they were tapping into with these figures. Sorry Freddy, but Jason wins this particular battle.
You can pick up both figures from Unmasked Collectibles, for $31.99 each.
As much as I love the fact that NECA has continually been churning out unique Freddy and Jason figures in recent years, I can’t help but hope they someday decide to think even further outside of the box, and bring us figures of other characters from the two franchises. Imagine how cool it’d be to have toys of characters like Shelly, Alice Hardy, Nancy Thompson and Roland Kincaid? Perhaps the reason they haven’t done that yet is because they wouldn’t sell nearly as well as figures of Jason and Freddy, but goddamn would I love to see it!