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12" Van Helsing, Dracula and Frankenstein by Jakks Pacific

By John Medeiros

This past February JAKKS showcased action figures and play sets based on Universal Pictures' Van Helsing, the new epic action-adventure from writer Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns), starring Hugh Jackman. Topping JAKKS' line are 5-inch action figures with mechanized features based on the characters in the film and 12-inch action figures with 14 points of articulation and playable working components. Both action figure assortments have highly detailed sculpts and deco, as well as REAL SCAN heads for 100% character likeness.

Considering my primary interest is 1/6th scale dolls and figures I was especially eager to see the 12" versions and was delighted when they landed on my doorstep yesterday. I was already looking forward to seeing this film and getting these great figures has only fanned the fire. I am especially pleased at how Universal has re-imagined their stable of famous monsters.

Here is the film's story from the figure boxes: "Set in the 19th. Century deep in the mountains of Carpathia lies the mysterious and mythic land of Transylvania-a vivid, epic backdrop for this tale of ultimate evil against a lone force of good: Van Helsing, on order of a secret society, travels to Transylvania to bring down Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man and joins forces with the fearless Anna Valerious out to rid her family of a generations-old by defeating the vampire."

The figures stayed in their boxes about long enough for me to read that and I soon had my own 12" Transylvania set up on my desk for close examination.

First up was the man himself, Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing. After posing and examination from various angles I think that Jakks has done a decent job of capturing the actor's likeness. It does not have the detail of the Sideshow sculpt I saw at Toy Fair, but for a $20 playline figure it is convincing enough. The body has 12 points of articulation, kind of skimpy these days, but again, this is not the $40 Sideshow collector's version. The upper body is like slimmer Max Steel with the legs being very Ken-like with bendy legs and small feet. The hands are molded black gloves. Aside from this, re-dressers and customizers should have no trouble outfitting Hugh in other outfits.

I was quite impressed with the outfit at this price point. It includes a long burgundy leatherette duster with sewn detailing and lots of straps and buckles, a black leatherette vest with matching details, gray turtleneck sweater, olive drab riding style trousers with attached black belt, tall molded detailed boots and dark gray scarf. So, what's wrong with this picture? There is no hat. In every promotional image we have been barraged with from Universal, he has been wearing a jaunty leather fedora. It seems almost like a trademark of the Van Helsing "look". It's kind of like getting an Indiana Jones doll and the hat is missing. The accessories are two spinning Tojo blades. The sewn-in Van Helsing tag in the duster is a nice touch. It is a nice collector touch in a playline figure.

Then I played a bit with the Vampire Beast figure. This is one scary looking monster. Kind of a cross between the Alien and the Devil with great hair. This is also a very heavy figure. The attachable vinyl wings span 18" and weighs almost more than the figure itself. He boasts 14 points of articulation, but there is no way this guy is posing without a stand. The ideal display would be hung from the ceiling.swooping down on his prey. The sculpting and paint detail is superb on this guy, especially the wings. No accessories.but with those spike-like teeth, what else does he need?

My favorite of the trio is Frankenstein's Monster. With 18 points of articulation, he is the most posable of the set. Plus, his big clunky shoes make him able to stand on his own in lots of positions. Like the Vampire, his body is made from new and unique molds. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the sewn-together monster flesh continued under his brown removable trousers. A nice touch is the Glowing Heart Chamber that flashes with a bright green LED when pressed. And the removable skull top is so handy when revealing his brain to your pals. I love this figure. The right leg brace is a great detail as well. Even if you plan on waiting for Sideshow's Van Helsing and should consider dropping the $20 for this fella to pose with them.