Thursday, 24 May 2012

Collectible: Zartan vs. Flint Diorama

Sideshow Toys and Hasbro have teamed up produce a collectible that my 7-year old self would have been (figuratively) drooling over.

Members of Cobra Command were always somehow cooler than the GI Joe forces. Snake Eyes was the most memorable character for the Joes. Cobra had Destro, Serpentor, Cobra Commander, and empathic twins Tomax and Xamot, to name only a handful of the better known misfits that were always causing problems for GI Joe. But Destro, Serpentor, and Cobra Commander would have been hard pressed to blend into a crowd. On that issue alone, the coolest of them all was Zartan, master of disguise, who could blend in anywhere.

Basically, he could be anyone and his 1980’s action figure featured UV plastic, where his “skin” would turn blue under the correct temperature conditions to make his abilities completely apparent.

I always wondered why the hell he sported a tank top with his abs exposed. It’s not the typical wardrobe of a master assassin and linguist. And I don’t know how rare the action figure was, but I remember wanting one. Or at least the chance to borrow my friends for a while just because the figure was so cool.

Flash forward almost 30 years and I have my hands on what is quite possibly the ultimate Zartan figure. Actually, two of them! One sports his classic costume, the other is painted in a camouflage blend that is simply awesome.

And he comes with a great big base for display purposes, too!

But let me take a step or two back to the box. This may sound like the dumbest thing in the world to say but this is one cool box. The designers managed to catch some the spirit of the ‘80s packaging, right down to the dossier cutout on the back of the box describing Zartan and the other guy that comes with Zartan, Dashiell “Flint” Faireborn.

As with the other large Sideshow pieces, one needs to slide the styrofoam “coffin” from the box and open that to get at the diorama.

Assembly is straightforward.

The central tree and “water” make up the base of the diorama and Flint and Zartan -- regular or camo -- fit easily and snuggly on the base. Optionally, the included piece of Spanish moss can be draped over the tree branch. (It’s a matter of preference, but I like the diorama without the moss.) Find a strategically lit area, ease it down into position, and enjoy!

From a distance, it’s easy to miss some of the smaller details but the overall effect makes my 7-year old self go a little weak in the knees.

The base stands about 12” tall and takes up about 10” of shelf space. The flat section, where Flint plugs into, is sculpted and painted to resemble swamp water and it does a very convincing job in that respect. The tree/stump, from top to bottom, is a cornucopia of detail: there are mushrooms and moss, the bark is life-like, and it would be easy (but not recommended) to take this outside and put it in the grass to relive the days when you created GI Joe action scenes of your own with bits of vegetation from the garden.

I spent an inordinate amount of time scanning the base for flaws, because if there were going to be shortcuts made, it would have been with something that’s gnarly and painted in dark green and brown. I didn’t find any flaws big enough to even make note of them.

Flint Vs Zartan Diorama - Sideshow ExclusiveLike Zartan, Flint stays true to the original action figure/cartoon source material. He does look kind of badass, in a clean cut, GI Joe kind of way. The sculpt and paint is flawless, and the pose is about as dynamic as a perfectly stationary figure can be. Just by looking at him, you can tell he’s looking for someone and he half-expects someone to come stabbing out from behind a dead stump to save him the trouble of burning off the leeches from his lower extremities because he’ll be dead. While Flint is about as memorable as most of the PSA’s that were played after the cartoon -- honestly, I remember Flint making only a handful of appearances in the cartoon and I don’t remember anyone caring about the action figure -- I’ll admit that his presence here fits and as I wrote before, he does look kind of badass.

On the other hand, Zartan -- hunter green motif or not -- exudes cool, even with the ridiculous t-shirt. He’s pressed up against the tree, big knife at the ready to make sure Flint never has leech problems again, with that evil look on his face...weak at the knees, folks.

The only item of warning is that you’ll need a safe storage spot for the Zartan not currently on display. Obviously, after plunking down $269.99US the last thing you want is something broken, particularly the knife, which just starts my “broken figure alarm” ringing like mad.

- Aaron Simmer