Conan the Barbarian Masterclass Set and Head (MC01) by Kaustic Plastik - Sun Aug 18, 2019 1:19 am
Hot on the heels of the Mr Toys set depicting the same character and actor, Kaustic Plastik has released its Masterclass set based on Arnold Schwarzenegger's role as Conan the Barbarian (and, more to the point, Conan the Destroyer). Both of these recent sets are partly a reprise of the old fantasy barbarian warrior sets by Kaustic Plastik, although both improve, for the most part, what had already been offered (even if providing a more limited selection of items). I will be making frequent reference to the Mr Toys set for comparison purposes, so HERE is the link to my recent review. Since this is not a complete set (it does not come with the recommended TBLeague M35 body included), I am not assigning point values to the various categories. The head for the set is sold separately, but it is also included in this review.
The set comes in a transparent plastic lid and trey on a card. The head comes in a typical sixth-scale head sculpt box, well-protected inside foam. Everything is safe and collector friendly, except of course for having to tear the plastic trey off the card.
The sculpted detail on the head and other sculpted or die-cast pieces seems to be generally very good. This is true for the tiny details on the ornate belt and on the imposing sword, but also on the headband, which is a more detailed and accurate rendition of what we saw in the film than its Mr Toys counterpart; the latter, however, had the advantage of being removable. Similarly, the head intended for this set features sculpted/molded plastic hair, whereas the Mr Toys head had "real" hair. Hair this long should never be sculpted, and this applies here. While the detail on the hair is decent, it is nowhere as fine as the gold standard set by Hot Toys and emulated quite successfully by others. The hair and headband appear to be made as separate pieces out of softer plastic glued onto the head proper, just like the recent Hot Toys Aquaman; I feel a custom modification coming up...
While the head sculpt appears to be exactly what we see on the promotional images, the paint job on it does not appear as sharp, striking, or attractive (compare HERE). I suppose this is a fairly common problem, but disappointing nonetheless. What we get is still decent, and works well enough with the recommended M35 body, even if it is a little darker than the latter. The eyes are glossy, the cheeks are rosy, the sword finally gets its proper gold-color on the ornate detail. But there are also errors or shortcuts -- the gold color on the sun (or "wheel") pendant appears rather dark, as does the the corresponding color on the sword; more obviously, the decorative elements lining the head band are all painted silverish, whereas they are supposed to alternate between silver and gold (in that respect the Mr Toys set is more accurate).
The recommended TBLeague M35 body is not significantly inhibited in its articulation by either of the two basic clothing options contained in the set, including the long pants, sleeveless leather shirt, and leather armor. Unlike Mr Toys, Kaustic Plastik did not provide an integral foot in the boots, so you will have to improvise: the TBLeague male feet are too big to fit easily in this type of footwear and I had to help myself to some bendy-toe feet from a random base body I happened to have lying around. They fit, but such makeshift solutions always result in less stability, and the top-heavy M35 is often a challenge even for its own feet and ankles; otherwise, the boots allow for excellent range of motion.
The set includes a dagger, a sword, their respective leather-like scabbards which can fit onto a belt or baldric, said baldric with a functional buckle, and various other elements that I will cover under Outfit below. The headband, which seems to be as much decorative as functional (protective), is permanently attached to the head sculpt (unlike what we got with the Mr Toys set). The dagger and sword are done in beautiful detail, and look realistic and worn, although the weathering is minimal. They do fit well into their scabbards, but the fit is very tight. The baldric is really intended for the sword scabbard, if you want your character to carry the sword on his back. As a result of good design, both the dagger and sword can hang correctly and realistically, unlike what we have had with earlier versions of the character (for example, the Mr Toys sword will sit too high if you try to "suspend" it from the side of the belt). Finally, there is the sun (or "wheel") pendant, reproduced for the very first time commercially in this scale (to the best of my knowledge). In the movie it hands from a string, centered between two pairs of fangs. The Mr Toys set attempted this, but used the wrong pendant (copying Kaustic Plastik's earlier release) which was also featured in the Conan films but was not hung alongside fangs, and used underscaled and improperly spaced fangs. All this was corrected by Kaustic Plastik in the promotional images (with the correct pendant and nicely scaled and spaced fangs), even if there it was mounted on a thicker leather strap rather than a cord. What we get, however, not only uses this thicker leather strap, but is not correctly mounted to work. The whole piece wants to ride up, the fangs want to sink into the flesh, and the pendant does not quite hang correctly. If you looked carefully at the promotional images, you might realize that what you see there was an ad hoc mock-up that looked about right; what we get in the actual set was their attempt to actually make it work -- but it does not. They should have used a cord, not a band/strap. I can feel another custom coming up... Perhaps it can be expected that one set would not include everything that was included in the two old Kaustic Plastik sets -- for example additional weapons, pendants, pouches...
The set contains enough in the way of outfit to re-create two (or more) different looks from the film -- though one of them cannot be quite right. The most iconic version would be Conan wearing his boots, fur kilt, leather or fabric codpiece, ornate belt, vambraces, and sun pendant and fangs necklace; this look can be reproduced very well indeed with the items that come with the present set. Then there is Conan wearing his boots, pants, leather sleeveless shirt (nice, but lighter than I remember it from the film), and vambraces, paired with either the ornate belt or with a fur kilt, but never (I think) both at the same time. Here we run into a problem, as the new Kaustic Plastik set departs from precedent by combining the codpiece and the belt into a single item. The codpiece is indeed more screen-accurate (it has no identical back side, just attaches to the back of the belt somehow with a strap), but it should not be permanently attached to the belt. It should be noted, that in some scenes different portions of the two basic outfits are swapped into new configurations -- for example pants added to the shirtless look. The smaller fur kilt that comes with the set is the one to be paired with the pants; there are also some tattered barbarian shorts that I do not remember on screen.
A minor problem is that in some scenes Conan appears wearing identical brown leather vambraces with darker straps wound over them. The set features only one of these (for the left arm), the other vambrace is intended to portray the one (for the right arm) covered with a myriad tiny gold-colored spikes. This is poorly recreated with a little leather piece covered rather sparsely by slightly oversized almost flat circular caps. To be screen-accurate, they should have been smaller, pointier, lighter in color, and there should have been many more of them. The present solution does not improve on Kaustic Plastik's old sets, or on the Mr Toys version, all of which are essentially the same. The added problem here is that at least three of the caps flaked off during handling before my very eyes -- and I was being relatively careful, fully expecting this problem. I should note that, aside from this, the set was remarkably free from the usual concerns with flimsy quality that accompany many of the more delicate items included in Kaustic Plastik sets. For the challenge posed by the boots, see above.
In principle, this could be as fun as any Conan set, with the added advantage of swappable outfits or elements. I was, however, repeatedly annoyed by the poorly-put-together necklace and the weak ankles resulting from the empty foot-type footwear requiring the substitution of non-TBLeague feet.
When I purchased this, it cost me about $120 for the set and another $50 for the head (USD). A fine, detailed and complex head sculpt like this is not cheap but still not unreasonable at that price. If memory serves, the price of the set is about $40 above the prices of the old Kaustic Plastik sets from several years ago. Even allowing for inflation, we don't get that much more here -- although what we get seems to be better quality, judging by my experience. If this was your only Conan or even one of two (if you get the Mr Toys one), it is still not a huge drain at $170. However, there is a good chance that you can now only find it on eBay for well over $200; without a body, that seems rather much.
Things to watch out for
Apparently less than with many other Kaustic Plastik sets. I unbuckled and buckled the ornate belt several times, and it is still in good shape. Nothing has come unglued or broken, other than the expected flaking off of caps from the vambrace for the right arm. I would still advise treating this set carefully, especially as you are likely to have a somewhat top-heavy and unstable figure when you kit it out.
I am divided on this set: there is plenty I like and plenty that disappoints me. The better quality and greater attention to detail are definite improvements; the head sculpt is nicely sculpted (though some of it should not have been sculpted) but perhaps not quite as nicely painted (even if not actually bad); the right vambrace is the only thing that is really poorly done, for the third or fourth time. We get accurate details (like the pendant), though not quite accurately mounted and not necessarily usable without further customization. I don't have a problem having to supply a body from elsewhere, but wish they would have thought of the balance and stability issue. And while they did pay attention to plenty of details, they could have gotten the outfit (belt and codpiece ensemble) right, to take proper advantage of the intended versatility of the set. To make the most of this set, you should be ready to do some customizing and/or combining with items from other sets.
Where to buy
Most places that pre-ordered this set have long sold out, but you can still find it on eBay or here:
Hobby Galaxy for $157.
For the Mr Toys set, see HERE.
I hope this has been useful. What do you think?
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