When 12″ G.I. Joe was reintroduced in the 1990s, it was tremendously popular among adult toy collectors. As a result of Hasbro’s success, the 1/6 scale military category spawned a number of different companies who, like McFarlane Toys with mass market action figures, raised the bar in sculpting and costume detail: companies like 21st Century, Sideshow Toy, Dragon Models, and Blue Box Toys/BBI. One of those companies, founded in 2000, was Hot Toys, a Hong Kong company who initially made highly detailed military figures, then branched out into highly detailed (but I believe unlicensed) pop culture figures in their Famous Type line, including Neo from The Matrix, Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible, and even George Lucas.
It’s interesting to look back on eBay at the listings for some of these early figures. At the time, they were considered groundbreaking for their realism, impressive enough that Hot Toys was able to land legitimate movie and character licenses for Asian distribution, which then grew to worldwide distribution. Since then, Hot Toys has continuously improved their figures, and their sculpting, painting, and costuming have reached near photorealism to the point where some of their product photos look like they could be movie stills. And now the older stuff, while still pretty great, isn’t quite as impressive by today’s standards.
Here is their web site if you want to see some of their current offerings… their most popular figures are probably the Iron Man-related ones. Right now, in terms of realism and quality, Hot Toys is the standard against which all other 12″ scale figures are measured… as well they should, because their figures can retail for $200 and up.
One of the Hot Toys licenses in their Movie Masterpieces line for 2006 was Superman Returns and, for that series, they produced Superman, Clark Kent, a 2-in-1 Superman/Clark Kent deluxe set, and this incredible Marlon Brando as Jor-El.
The figure comes in a box with a holofoil outer sleeve decorated with photos of the Jor-El figure inside.
The inner box is on high quality matte-finish cardboard and has even more product photos. The back shows the other figures in the line (Superman and Clark Kent) as well as detail pictures of some of the features. The head shot on the back is eerily reminiscent of this Marlon Brando Jor-El lobby card.
The figure itself is amazing. It’s a shame I’m not a better photographer, because I really am not capturing how great this figure is… Look here at Shawn Wong’s toy site for some much nicer pics. The sculpt is nearly dead on, I’d say, but the shading around his eyes looks a little too dark.
The body has a bit of padding around the middle to give their standard muscular doll body a bit more of that trademark Brando heft. And that costume is great; it’s textured, and the coat even has an internal wire in the bottom which allows you to “pose” it. It also includes a stand, though the nerd in me wants to point out that they didn’t put the hyphen in Jor-El. (What does Strunk and White have to say about the spelling of Jor-El’s name?)
It’s a great time to be a Superman collector when figures like Marlon Brando as Jor-El are being made, which would have been very hard to imagine even a decade ago. The problem with these hyper-realistic Hot Toys figures is that they ruin you. First, because they are expensive and, secondly, because they cause you to compare their quality to all other figures. Most of the time, the other figures simply fall short.