By John Charles
Recently, I had the good fortune to once again be invited to Mezco’s headquarters in Queens, New York. There, a stone’s throw from the famous Silvercup Studios and a short ride on the 7 train from the legendary Times Square, I was greeted by Mezco’s gregarious Administrator and Director Of Special Projects; Mike Drake, or as he prefers to be called, Drake. He led me into one of Mezco’s meeting rooms and gestured towards a table upon which sat to seemingly identical busts of Hellboy. These were not busts of the animated or comic Hellboy, but of the Ron Perlman directed by Guillermo del Toro brand of Hellboy. They were magnificent. As I reached out to touch one, Drake struck my hand with a riding crop. “Not yet” whispered Drake, “first look at them carefully, tell me if you can see the difference”. He turned on an additional light and directed me towards an empty chair. I sat staring at the two seemingly identical busts. The vibrancy and life of the sculptures is uncanny, Mezco’s artists and design team seemed to have worked some form of likeness alchemy, capturing not only the technical aspect of their subject, but the elusive essence of Hellboy.
Time and time again I hear people talk of scanning as the wave of the future and the path to perfect likenesses and over and over again I see that technology fail to live up to the hype. The recent Willy Wonka figures (not by Mezco) were designed using scanning technology, and the likeness were somewhere between disinterested mannequin and ennui filled zombie. Mezco sculpts the old fashioned way, with clay and wax, using classically trained artists who rely on their tactile senses and a skill honed by what can only be years or perhaps decades of practice. After nearly twenty minutes I turned to Drake and made a feeble guess; “Are the stones on this one painted a bit more gray?” He chucked and simply replied, “Pick them up”. After nervously checking to ensure his riding crop wasn’t poised to strike, I reached for one Hellboy in each hand. The look that must have come over my face caused Drake to guffaw loudly. I was astonished. In one hand I had a Hellboy that must have weighed close to 15 pounds, in the other I had a Hellboy that was comparatively light as a feather. One Hellboy, it was explained to me, was the prototype, cast in solid resin. The other was a production sample, made of rotocast vinyl. With a simple demonstration it was proven to me that a rotocast statue could truly look as beautiful as a solid sculpture. “I want this product to speak for itself,” said Drake, “So I’m going to leave you in here alone for a bit, play with the bust and holler if you need me”.
With that he left me alone with the press release for the bust. Mezco has three main selling points for their new Hellboy “Roto-Bust” (I believe they have trademarked the term);
- It weighs considerably less than traditional busts of the same size. This may seem like a minor point but it opens up a whole host of display possibilities. Also, because the bust is made of rotocast vinyl, if a clumsy coworker knocks it off your monitor onto your keyboard, both the bust and your keyboard will survive unscathed. The weight also directly influences the second selling point;
- It costs far less than other busts and considerably less than a similar sized bust. With a MSRP of $30, Mezco’s 10 inch tall Hellboy bust cost 65% less than Bowen’s 6 inch tall $80 A.I.M. Agent Bust. It’s 40% less than Gentle Giant’s $50 Plo Koon 6 inch “mini bust”. It’s 46% less than the $55 DC Direct’s 5.75 inch tall Jade bust. Simply put, Mezco’s Hellboy bust is an amazing value. They could have easily sold if for 33% more and I still would have thought $40 was a value. Mezco’s Hellboy is literally head and shoulders above many other busts on the market at a fraction of the cost.
- Articulation. Mezco’s Hellboy Roto-Bust has three points of articulation; waist, chest, and neck. From a purely mathematical point of view this means that (big thanks to a good friend at the world renowned IEEE for doing the math for me) there are over 16,200 possible positions. Realistically, there is virtually no difference between many of these pose combinations, especially when the difference is one degree of movement, but even if you eliminate 99% of the poses as “pretty much like the other one” you get over 162 poses, and that’s 161 more than you get with the majority of busts on the market today.
So many retailers shy away from the bust market. They are afraid of breakage, or they say small items with higher price points don’t do well. With one fell swoop Mezco has blown those fears away. Breakage? Not a problem with the roto-bust. Careless customers can knock them off shelves without fear of damage. Because of their light weight, transportation costs are also lower. High price? These cost less than traditional busts and are larger too. These go beyond what retailers call “perceived value”, they represent real value. . I’ll go even further and predict that these bad boys will sell out almost instantly once the public gets to see them in person. Pictures don’t do them justice.
As I edit this, some twelve hours after my visit to Mezco, I grow concerned that it sounds a bit one sided, like I’m some overgrown fanboy. Surely, there must be something bad about the roto-bust. Some small flaw. Nothing is perfect. I’ve pondered this and I can say without reservation that Mezco’s Hellboy Roto-Bust is the best and freshest item I’ve seen in the bust category in the last five years. So many times people see something brilliant and ask themselves “That was so obvious, why didn’t I think of that?” By this time next year I predict that you will see a host of other companies copying Mezco’s roto-bust format. It’s a truly revolutionary concept; a poseable, lightweight, durable, and relatively inexpensive, yet good-looking bust. Who could ask for anything more? I know I can’t!
Mezco’s Hellboy Roto-Bust will be in stores in mid-July. Many online retailers have it available now (including Mezco itself) for pre-order. Next to Sideshow’s new metal Samaritan replica, it will be THE must have Hellboy item of 2008.