REVIEW: DC RETRO-ACTION SUPER-HEROES SINESTRO
There can be little doubt that the king of the action figure world through most of the 1970's was Mego. The company developed a basic, straight-forward, efficient, and effective way to create their action figures -- they came up with a good basic body design that wouldn't often need much modification, one that any individually-sculpted head could be easily attached to, dressed the figure in an appropriate cloth outfit, and -- done!
This process served Mego extremely well for many years, as they carved out a massive portion of the action figure market with their 8", cloth-costumed creations of -- well, just about everybody in anything that could arguably have the term "pop culture" attached to it. Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Robin Hood, Wizard of Oz, even some "in-house" creations such as various Pirates, Western characters, Knights, and more.
But the "bread-and-butter" of Mego was always the World's Greatest Super-Heroes line. Mego managed to secure the licenses for both DC and Marvel, a feat that for something as extensive as a significant action figure line would be likely impossible today. Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America -- all part of the same action figure line, all entirely compatible with each other. It was amazing.
It's little wonder that, despite the fact that we have had hosts of action figures from both the Marvel and DC Universes since Mego closed its doors, that Mego remains very highly thought of by the action figure collecting community -- especially those of us old enough to remember it.
A couple of years back, a company calling itself EmCe Toys came along, with the distinct support and participation of Mego creator Marty Abrams. They acquired the licenses to Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, recreated the precise Mego bodies and even the head molds, and took off. What they created was amazing, especially in the Star Trek line, not only re-creating the original figures, but finally giving us Sulu and Chekov, who had never been part of the original line, not to mention a vastly improved all-new Gorn.
EmCe Toys is continuing with characters from concepts that either Mego didn't consider at the time, or which didn't even exist at the time. Obviously, EmCe Toys was not able to produce figures from either Marvel or DC. Those toy licenses are currently under the auspices of Hasbro and Mattel, respectively, both of which are doing a good job with them.
But Mattel, taking a -- dare I say it -- rather classic approach with the DC license in some respects, clearly saw the value of nostalgia, as well as how popular EmCe's offerings were. They have worked with some of the people at EmCe Toys to craft a new line, called RETRO-ACTION SUPER-HEROES! These 8", cloth-costumed figures, and even their packaging, look very familiar.
And one of the first figures out of the gate, is someone that Mego never got around to, and never apparently had any plans to -- SINESTRO!
That Mego never had plans for this particular villain aren't terribly surprising. Although Sinestro's main opponent, Green Lantern, is a part of the new Retro-Action line, GL was never made by Mego. There were apparent plans to do so, but they never came to fruition. As such, there was little reason to consider Sinestro.
Secondly, in all fairness to Mego, they tended to be a little sparse on the super-villains. Not as sparse as some, admittedly. The precursor to the Mego line was arguably Captain Action, a 12" figure from the 1960's that could be dressed up as a host of other heroes -- but the only villain in the line was an in-house character named Dr. Evil, who had no additional costumes.
Mego did offer a number of villains for both the Marvel and DC sides of their World's Greatest Super-Heroes line, but they were somewhat limited in scope. Most of the DC villains were enemies of Batman -- Joker, Penguin, and Riddler, with Superman's enemy Mr. Mxyzptlk tossed in for some oddball reason. The Marvel side was even more sparse, with Spider-Man's enemies Green Goblin and The Lizard being the extent of the output. Given this, it's unlikely that Sinestro was even near the map, let alone on it.
However, Mattel's approach seems to be to have their assortments for the Retro-Action line divided into two heroes and two applicable villains. The first figure, Green Arrow, was an online exclusive. But in the first assortment, we have Superman and Lex Luthor, and Green Lantern and Sinestro. The second announced assortment features Batman and Two-Face, and Aquaman and Black Manta. Where it goes from there, as of this writing, I have no idea, but it's an interesting pattern.
So, a little history on the character of Sinestro, with a little online research assistance: Created by John Broome and Gil Kane, Sinestro first appeared in Green Lantern #7 (July-August 1961). The visual appearance of Sinestro was reportedly based upon British actor David Niven -- red skin notwithstanding.
A native of the planet Korugar in space sector 1417 (as the Guardians designate space), Sinestro's dedication to preserving order originally manifested in his previous career, an anthropologist specializing in reconstructions of ruins of long-dead civilization. One day while he was on one such site, a Green Lantern named Prohl Gosgotha crash landed into the site, injured and apparently dying. He quickly gave his ring to Sinestro, just in time for Sinestro, who barely even understood what the ring could do, to defend himself from the Lantern's pursuer, a yellow-clad Weaponer of Qward. However, Sinestro had to destroy the very ruins he had spent loving care restoring, to crush the Qwardian.
His desire for order did well by him in the Corps, and initially led him to be considered one of the greatest Green Lanterns. As the years passed, he became more and more fixated upon not simply protecting his sector, but on preserving order in the society of his home planet no matter the cost. Eventually he concluded that the best way to accomplish this was to conquer Korugar, and to rule the planet as a dictator.
When Hal Jordan joined the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro was assigned to be his instructor. Jordan was horrified at his new mentor's fascistic methods, though Sinestro maintained that his iron-fisted rule was necessary to protect his people from alien forces. During his training, Jordan helped Sinestro repel an attempted invasion of Korugar by the alien warlords known as the Khunds. When Jordan called for help from the other Green Lanterns, Sinestro's dictatorship was exposed and he was forced to appear before the Guardians for punishment. Katma Tui, the leader of a Korugarian resistance movement who felt that Sinestro's "protection" kept her people from growing as a society through contact with other alien races, was recruited as his replacement in the Corps.
For using the power of the Green Lantern to instill fear rather than combat it, the Guardians banished Sinestro to the antimatter universe -- a counterpart to the "real" universe made up of "negative matter" -- in particular, the alien world of Qward, the Antimatter counterpart of the Guardians' homeworld Oa, ruled by a race of warriors and scientists known as the Weaponers of Qward, who bore a fierce hatred of the Guardians and all Green Lanterns. By exiling Sinestro to a world ruled by evil beings who specifically hated him as a Green Lantern, the Guardians hoped to humble him. Their attempt at punishment would be a major miscalculation, however. Sinestro believed himself to have been wronged by his former masters, and now hated them just as much as the Weaponers did. Through their mutual hatred of the Guardians, Sinestro and the Weaponers became allies, with the Weaponers offering to help Sinestro gain revenge on the Guardians and the Corps.
Creating a yellow power ring for Sinestro to use, the Weaponers sent him back to the "positive matter" universe to seek his revenge. Sinestro quickly became the Green Lantern Corps' most powerful nemesis, partially due to a weakness in their power rings that prevented them from directly affecting the color yellow. Despite this, skilled Green Lanterns like Jordan, Sinestro's most hated enemy, always found ways to defeat him.
Sinestro continued to be a thorn on Green Lantern's side for many years. At this point, however, I would like to jump ahead to the events that led up to the formation of the Sinestro Corps, and Sinestro's role in that, once again courtesy of Wikipedia:
Sinestro had seemingly been killed by Hal Jordan when Jordan first became Parallax. However, what had actually been killed was a construct created by Sinestro which he operated like a puppet using his own power ring. When the Central Power Battery on Oa was destroyed, Sinestro escaped and went into hiding.
Sinestro eventually revealed the charade of his 'death' when Kyle Rayner discovered the existence of the true Parallax, the yellow being who fed off of people's fear, and revealed it to Green Arrow and the Justice League. Nearly killing the two heroes, Sinestro was stopped by the newly resurrected Hal Jordan, who reclaimed his ring and was purged of Parallax's influence. The two fought to a draw, with Sinestro escaping to the antimatter universe when his ring was damaged by Hal during the fight.
After the Battle of Metropolis during the Infinite Crisis, Sinestro retreated to the antimatter universe. Here, he encountered the Anti-Monitor and embraced the doctrine of spreading fear. With the Green Lantern Corps restarted with the return of Hal Jordan, Sinestro decided to found the Sinestro Corps, offering yellow power rings and a role in the Corps to the most feared and savage warriors of the universe.
During the Sinestro Corps storyline, as the Sinestro Corps continued to attack Green Lanterns across space, Sinestro himself returned to Korugar to confront his successor, Soranik Natu. Sinestro defeated her, but spared her life, calculating that this will force her to stay on Korugar to fulfill her responsibilities as "the Savior of Korugar."
The Sinestro Corps were eventually defeated, but this ultimately led into the discovery of the Red Lanterns, a group led by an alien known as Atrocitus, who had it in for both the Green Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps. That storyline, in turn, led to the revelation of a multitude of differently-colored Ring Corps throughout the universe, who came together during the course of the "Blackest Night" storyline, which actually saw Sinestro become the ring-bearer of the White Lantern Ring for a time.
However, the Sinestro of the 1970's was still very much an independent individual, not affiliated with any Corps whatsoever, and as one would expect, the Retro-Action figure of him reflects this.
So -- how's the figure? Well, honestly, I think the highest praise I can give these figures is to say that if Mego HAD made them in the 1970's -- those of them that they didn't, which certainly includes Sinestro -- this is what they would've looked like. And for the most part, I think I can say that about Sinestro.
Mattel has created a body that is NOT a duplicate of the original Mego body. Precisely why they have done so, I really don't know, although I would imagine that that particular design, which is still being used by EmCe Toys for their own products despite their assistance to Mattel for these new Retro-Action figures, is pretty much reserved for EmCe's use.
The new body design is a good one, although in my opinion it has one unfortunate flaw. The lower torso piece is a little too small for its own good. This results in a somewhat odd-looking physique, and somewhat loose legs. Now, Mego figures sometimes had loose parts as well, so I'm willing to excuse it for the most part. But really, the lower torso piece should have been crafted somewhat bigger. Sinestro is left looking a little bow-legged. It's not too bad, but I do believe Mattel should've tried to get a little closer to the Mego design than they did.
Sinestro's headsculpt is excellent -- and it can't have been easy to take someone like Sinestro and try to get him to match the Mego style. There's two reasons for this. For one thing, Sinestro has a notably large cranium, as well as pointed ears. Just the shape of his head isn't going to fit into any sort of standardized look. The headsculpts for many of the World's Greatest Super-Heroes were, especially in the early days, somewhat simplistic. Detail increased over the years. I think two of the best examples of this would be Mister Fantastic, who certainly looked like Reed Richards from the comics, and Thor, who was given excellent facial detail. And of course anytime Mego had to create a headsculpt based on something from the live-action world, such as Star Trek or even Planet of the Apes, they had to throw in more detail out of necessity. I'd be inclined to put Sinestro's headsculpt more in that category than the somewhat simpler-looking earlier designs of, for example, Mego's Superman and Batman.
I like the pointed ears. If I could take this figure back in time 35 years, I'd show it to Mego and tell them this is how they should've done the Star Trek Spock. Sinestro's ears are far more reasonable in size. Sinestro's large forehead, unusual hairline, and sinister little mustache have also been carried out most effectively. Paintwork is as effective as the sculpting, especially Sinestro's eyes, which have been very well done, although the blue eyes almost make him look too friendly. But, hey, most people weren't as mean in the 1970's -- not even super-villains.
Then there's the second reason Sinestro is a little tricky -- his skin color. A native of the planet Korugar, Sinestro's skin has always been portrayed as rather reddish in tone. HOWEVER, and here's where we get the tricky part, over the years, especially in recent years, that red has been somewhat muted, likely for a greater sense of realism for a character that is otherwise relatively human, or at least humanoid, in appearance, cranial size notwithstanding.
Sinestro in the 70's was colored pretty much straight red. These days he tends to be sort of a dark pink -- like a really nasty sunburn victim. What's interesting is to take the Retro-Action Sinestro and stand him next to the DC Universe Classics Sinestro. The Classics figure, taking some modern cues, is definitely paler than the Retro Sinestro, but is still redder/pinker than normal human colors. The Retro Sinestro is not a straight red, but he's definitely closer to it than the Classics Sinestro. Call it a deep magenta, and call it a good color choice on the part of Mattel.
As one would expect, Sinestro is wearing his classic uniform. His Sinestro Corps costume was decades away in the 1970's. His individual costume is mostly black, with a wide, jagged blue collar, blue trunks, high blue wristbands, blue boots, and a white and blue belt. I believe Mattel has done a good job here turning out a uniform similar to what Mego might have done had they been so inclined, but some aspects are almost too detailed. Not a complaint, just an observation.
The uniform has been made mostly from black fabric, of the same stretchy sort that the original Mego figures used, with blue trunks. The collar has been made from a leather-like material similar to a type that also turned up from time to tine during the days of Mego, most often in Planet of the Apes and Star Trek, however. Sinestro's wristbands have been carried out in much the same way as Mego did gloves for some of their figures -- leather-like pieces sewn to the bottoms of the sleeves, although in Sinestro's case they're not gloves. His hands are as red as the rest of his body.
Interestingly, Sinestro's boots are entirely unique. Had this been a Mego figure, that would've been VERY unusual. Most Mego Super-Heroes had the same style of boot. The only notable exceptions I can think of offhand are Thor, Green Goblin, and Iron Man, all of whom had very distinctive boot designs. I tend to doubt that Mego would have considered Sinestro's very slightly cuffed boots to be sufficient reason to make unique boots just for this figure, but obviously Mattel did. Again, not at all a complaint. The boots are well made and are a good fit.
The belt is a strip of leather-like plastic, white with a blue center, sewn to the costume in the back near the snaps. The costume is removable -- if you're so inclined -- and is held in place by three snaps. I was very pleased to see these. It is in keeping with how Mego used to do such costumed, but moreover, I think it looks better than a thick strip of Velcro, and it's certainly preferable to sewing the costume onto the figure where it can't be removed, as has happened in certain lines in the past.
I find myself wondering how Mego would have handled the power ring issue. It's a small but necessary detail. In Sinestro's case, Mattel handled it by giving Sinestro an entirely unique hand. His right hand is a capable reproduction of a traditional Mego hand. His left hand is clenched in a fist, and his power ring is clearly visible on the second finger.
Sinestro does come with his lantern power battery! Honestly, I'm not sure this is something Mego would've done. They might have, but they weren't that big on accessories unless it was absolutely necessary. Thor came with his hammer, Green Arrow came with some archery equipment, but accessories tended to be pretty sparse. The lantern is nicely made and looks pretty much like it could have come from the 1970's, but interestingly enough, it has an adjustable handle. That's something I really question whether it would have had way back then. One thing -- it does use the same mold as the one that the Retro Green Lantern comes with. That's definitely something Mego would've done.
Sinestro is, of course, very nicely articulated. He is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, although the boots tend to prevent that last one a bit.
These Retro-Action Super-Heroes, which are a Toys "R" Us exclusive, seem to be proving to be very popular. A supply of them blew out of my nearest TRU in rather short order, and I have heard similar reports from elsewhere. Part of me is surprised. These are very clearly a nostalgia product, directed rather specifically to those who remember the days of Mego. Apparently there's more of those out there than I would have thought.
So, what's my final word? Sinestro has greater prominence these days. Even if Mego had made Green Lantern 35 years ago, I'm not sure they would've made Sinestro. However, if they had, I suspect I would've gladly gotten him, and I had a ton of Megos as a kid and as a teen. Well, now he is part of that world, in a manner of speaking, and I am very pleased to have him. These Retro-Action Super-Heroes are not precisely like the Megos of days gone by, but they certainly evoke the memories of them, and I hope they'll be around for a long time.
The DC RETRO-ACTION SUPER-HEROES figure of SINESTRO definitely has my highest recommendation!