"Lock the doors and board the windows, Lars Ümlaüt is coming for you. An intimidating presence, the Norwegian-born Ümlaüt describes himself as a force for you to be doing the reckoning with!"
And hence we were introduced to Guitar Hero’s stereotype of the Extreme/Black Metal genre. We’re not talking Hair Bands and Glam Metal. Nor does he represent the punk or alternative scene. We’re narrowing our focus to the blackest of Scandinavian Viking Death Metal! Fans rejoice, you’ve got an action figure.
WHO: Lars Ümlaüt
WHAT: Guitar Hero Series 1 | McFarlane Toys | http://www.mcfarlane.com/guitarhero/
WHERE: Toys R Us
WHY: Long a champion of proprietary lines McFarlane Toys has shifted focus a bit recently to roll out a few mainstream licensed brands, namely HALO and Guitar Hero. Targeting gaming culture seems like the natural progression of things and, hopefully, a good way to keep kids interested in action figures. Whether or not McFarlane’s core fans are on board with the new line of Guitar Hero figures may be dubious but the goal here is obviously to introduce McFarlane toys to a whole new crowd of devotees. With its immense popularity and unique (and dare I say endearing) characters, Guitar Hero seems like a good gamble.
Apparently, Toys R Us worked things out to get their hands on series 1 first. That’s where I picked up my figure of the month: Lars Ümlaüt. The figures fits into roughly a 5" scale. For articulation it has: ball joint neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, and ankles; cut elbows and knees; and a swivel waist. At one time I would say that’s a huge departure for McFarlane, but they’ve certainly changed that game with their HALO figures. Statues no more! I did have one initial disappointment: Lars’s left hand snapped off the first time I tried twisting it. Although not unheard of with action figures it was disappointing. Otherwise the sculpt, articulation, and paint apps are superb. Each figure comes with a "Guitar Hero" base and, of course, a guitar. There is a blonde hair Lars variant coming but I decided to go with the Blacker-Than-The-Blackest-Black-Times-Infinity hair version.
Yes, as I play with my Lar Ümlaüt I can’t help but reiterate some of my favorite lines from the brilliant cartoon Metalocalypse – another spoof on the Doom Metal genre. Each of the Guitar Heroes is a clever amalgamation of clichés ultimately representing various subcultures of Rock and Roll.
The names are especially symbolic. "Lars" not only harkens to the Scandinavian regional scene common to Heavy Metal but is also the first name of an icon: Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. The diacritic "ümlaüt" is a pair of dots above a vowel most commonly seen in Germanic languages. The purely decorative use of umlauts is pretty common in Heavy Metal band names. I guess it makes them look more bad-ass. Lemmy Kilmister decided to use them for Motörhead explaining, "I only put it in there to look mean."
Not only are McFarlane doing the 5" line but in 2009 they’ll be releasing a series of "Mix & Match Guitars" and a super-cute line of mini-figures. I really hope Guitar Hero is a success. I can’t help but feeling, though, that it could really use some more advertising. Kids and moms can’t just be expected to stumble across these toys in the isle. They need to know they are out there.
Now, to be honest, Lars is not the character I use when playing Guitar Hero. I roll with Casey Lynch. She just may be figure of the month May 2009.