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Are We Not Action Figures!

by Rudy Panucci

DEV-O action figure set by NECA, $20 to $40 at specialty retailers.

If you’re a die-hard fan of the pioneering New Wave Band, DEVO, and you’re a hardcore action-figure enthusiast, then you might be happy with this new set of action figures based on the Spudboys, but unless you’re a completist, you’ll find this set sorely lacking.  Sadly, this is not an impressive set of action figures. 

From an aesthetic action-figure standpoint, the figures themselves are sub-standard.  Originally sold as a single figure with five interchangeable heads, this deluxe set comes with five complete figures, but the bodies are all identical.  They did manage to move the DEVO logo to the right side of the chest for the figure of Jerry Casale (he’s left-handed, so he had to have his logo on the other side where it wouldn’t be obscured by his guitar strap), but aside from that minor concession, these are all the same figure.  That’s not good, considering that each band member plays a different instrument.   Of course, these figures don’t come with instruments (despite what was shown in publicity shots), so that’s not an issue.

Each figure does have a whip and a red energy dome (you know, the “flowerpot hats”), but they are not very good figures.  We’re talking about a total of seven points of articulation on each figure.  That’s right, these action figures are articulated exactly like the first edition of the Marx Toys Sgt. Stony Smith. 

And I bring up Stony Smith for a reason.  The sculpting of the yellow radiation suits reminds of the clunky sculpted clothing of the early Marx 12” figures.  The likenesses of the various band members aren’t too great either.  The eight-inch height makes them compatible only with GI Joe Sigma Six figures, who don’t really strike me as DEVO fans.   Why couldn’t they do DEVO in the 1/6 scale preferred by 7 out of 10 DEVO fans who collect action figures? 

In this set you get five nearly-identical figures with different heads, five whips, five Energy Domes, and a mini-poster (so “mini” that it’s really a postcard) signed by four of the band members.   If the signatures are genuine, it’s cool having the autographs.  You don’t often get Bob 1 and Bob 2 to sign the same thing without going to a show.  At the sale price of twenty bucks, you’re paying four dollars each for these guys, which keeps the buyer’s remorse at bay, but if you paid the full MSRP of Forty dollars, or shelled out fifteen dollars for the single body with five heads, you’re probably feeling a bit scalped. 

Aside from the action figure particulars, there are other nagging problems with this set from a DEVO standpoint.   This set is supposed to represent DEVO at their peak, but they changed their look with every album, and it was only in recent years that they mixed the Yellow radiation suits with the Energy Dome helmets.   Since they did a set of five figures, NECA could have given us a little more variety:  One Yellow Suit; one “Duty Now For The Future” tech suit; One black pleather outfit with the Energy Dome: One  New Traditionalist blue outfit with plastic pompadour; and finally the black sleeveless toilet-seat-collar outfit from “Oh No It’s DEVO”. 

Five of the same style figure is cheap and pointless, and DEVO was NOT cheap and pointless.  There were plenty of cheap and pointless New Wave bands, but DEVO was not one of them.  DEVO was one of the most visually-stimulating bands of their day.  The only reason to skimp on exploiting this aspect of their popularity is NECA’s penny-pinching.   In the end, that’s sure to cost them sales.

DEVO deserved better than this.  I can only recommend this set to the die-hard fan of the group – a person who so likes the idea of DEVO action figures that they can overlook the shortcomings of the set.   The packaging is austere, but in the true DEVO tradition.  This is one action figure set that probably looks best kept in the package.