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Figura Obscura – Father Christmas

“Father Christmas, give us some money…”

It was just last year that Four Horsemen launched a subline of its popular Mythic Legions brand of action figures called Figura Obscura. Practically speaking, there’s little difference between the two lines as Mythic Legions seeks to serve as a modular line of toys based on myth and legend and that doesn’t feature licensed characters. Figura Obscura uses the same tools and approach, it’s just the character selection will apparently trend towards popular characters of folklore that don’t necessarily conform to the Mythic Legions aesthetic. The first figure was Krampus, and I loved him. The second was the Headless Horseman, and while I didn’t purchase that one, I do admit it looked awfully cool and I was tempted by it. Now, we have the third figure in the line and for it we’ve gone back to Christmas as Four Horsemen have delivered a character to pair with Krampus in the form of Father Christmas.

They sure know how to package a figure over at Four Horsemen.

Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas – whatever you want to call him, he’s certainly a known character. And he’s a character that has had some different looks and interpretations over the years and is a natural pick for such a line. And Four Horsemen delivered. The figure was announced and solicited basically within 24 hours as it was December 2nd when the figure was teased and it was made available on the Four Horsemen website the next day. I know of some who had more of a Mythic Legions mindset when the thought of a Santa was floated that included armor, battle axes, or maybe a look that resembled a wizard or something. After all, this being just the third figure in the line, expectations could be allowed to go a little wild. For me, I was just hoping for a classic, European, take on the character: robes, a satchel, a ring of holly as a crown. I’m happy to say that I basically got what I wanted. After placing an order that Saturday morning, I had to wait a mere six days to have the figure in-hand and, spoiler alert, he’s a great addition to my Christmas display.

He’s got a hood for when it gets really cold.

Father Christmas comes in the same style of box as Krampus. It’s a window box, but it’s wrapped with a thick, magnetized, cover that covers three sides of the box. Once removed, it can be used as a backdrop or just put back on the box. It has some lovely illustrations on it with a depiction of the character on the front and a quiet, snow-covered, village on the reverse. The figure itself is presented well in the box, but he’s not long for it! Once removed, Santa stands right around the 6″ mark. He’s pretty much eye-to-eye with Krampus and looks resplendent in his red robes. The tailoring on the soft goods coat is impeccable. It fits the figure well and the trim-work on it looks as good as any garment one would buy. Underneath the robe is another purple robe which is secured via Velcro on the figure’s rear. It’s basically just a thin, filler, robe to help hide the ordinary Mythic Legions body underneath which is garbed in leather armor and devoid of paint. That’s fine since he’s meant to be displayed with the soft goods. The headsculpt looks terrific though and he has this massive beard that goes all the way to his belt. The paintwork on the head is well done and I like that 4H used a wash on the hair. And I swear the right eye is shinier than the left to give it a “twinkle” effect. The only other part of the actual figure visible are the hands and feet. The hands are brown while the feet are more of a grayish, gun-metal, color which extends to the greaves that aren’t visible. He has a belt that fastens around the waist rather tight and mine was unfastened in the box, but it goes together painlessly. It’s just prone to popping off when handling the figure which can get a little annoying, but it does fit the figure well.

So are these guys friends? Enemies?

Let’s bust out the articulation on this guy now since it’s going to be the biggest weakness. The head sits on just a big ball so the only movement you get is just the head sliding around on that ball. And since this guy has a massive beard, it means he can’t look down. Range to the side is minimal as well, and looking up is hindered by the soft goods. The shoulders are just ball-hinges and they’re ball-hinges, nothing special. The elbows are single-hinged and swivel while there’s also a gauntlet swivel and a wrist swivel with horizontal hinges. Santa just has two gripping hands and I do wish he had some vertical hinges instead. There is a diaphragm joint, but it’s going to be limited by the robes, but you get some twist there. The hip articulation is fine and Santa can basically do a split if the robes are moved out of the way. He kicks forward just fine, back a little, and has some thigh rotation. The knees are single-hinged and can hit a 90 degree bend and there is a swivel there as well, but the shape of the greaves limit how far they’ll twist. The ankles rotate, hinge up and down, and also have a nice rocker. Lastly, the robe is wired so you can play around with that to create a windswept look and such. This articulation is purely basic and the soft goods hinder most of it, which is fine and expected, as far as I’m concerned. I wish the head worked better, but short of hinging the beard or something I don’t know how it could have been done much better. A joint in the lower neck would have helped, and even though I typically don’t love it, a hinge there would let him look up better. Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal. The only change I really would have preferred is to have vertical hinges on the gripping hands, but that’s it.

He has a lot of stuff, but he can also store it all which is pretty cool. Well, except for the tree.

The articulation may not impress, but this guy is designed to “wow” with the soft goods and the stuff. And this guy has a lot of stuff. For starters, we have a separate soft goods hood that can hook under the chin. You pretty much have to pull the head off to get in there, but once in place it looks solid. As a hood, it can be tough to get it just right, but 4H included a wire in it so it can be laid down flat very easily and looks great. And if you prefer the hood down look, there’s a pair of holly crowns to put on the figure’s head. As far as I can tell, they’re identical to one another so one is basically just an extra, but it’s well-sculpted and well-painted. You also get a second head and this one has a shorter beard and a fuller face. I suppose this makes him look more like a modern Santa, but I do prefer the shorter beard look and will probably display this one. Mine does have a minor paint blemish near the right temple which is unfortunate, but not something that will be visible from the shelf. Father Christmas also needs a staff and he has this long, gnarly, one that looks like old oak. It ends with a hook and from that a lantern can dangle which also looks fantastic. It’s done with transparent plastic for the glass and paint job on the weathered, “metal,” portion is great. There’s a candle inside designed to look lit, and the only thing missing is an actual light source. There’s also a small evergreen tree that’s basically flocked, which makes it a tad messy to handle. It’s mostly made of green wire and slots into a piece of sculpted, plastic, wood which in turn pegs into a snowy base. It’s not terribly convincing as a small tree, it looks like something one might find with a model train display, but it’s nice for ambience.

He’s got a sack full of toys for all the good girls and boys.

What would Santa be without toys? Not much of a Santa! This guy has quite a few to deliver this year. For starters, there’s a doll that looks like an elf. The red coat has a deep pocket on each side and the elf fits rather nicely into one. For the other, we have a trumpet which looks lovely as well, or he could just hold it. There’s a satchel that can either be hung off a shoulder or over the neck. It’s full of stuff including a bear, nutcracker, book, candy cane, drumsticks, and more. And speaking of drumsticks, they pair nicely with the drum that Santa comes with. It has a chain affixed to it with a plastic hook on the end of it which clips right onto his belt. It’s so well done too that it looks like it should produce sound like an actual drum, but it’s all plastic. Lastly, we have a sack of goodies and some of them are meant to be a surprise so I won’t spoil them. Basically, you have two toys in there and two accessories. The accessories seem like they’re geared more towards the Mythic Legions enthusiast, but that’s all I’ll say on the matter. The sack itself is more soft goods with a rope around the top. The rope is held onto the sack via some brown thread which I like as it makes it easy to secure it. I wish NECA did something similar with the Santa figures I’ve purchased from them as manipulating the bags can be frustrating.

This drum looks incredible, I just wanted to slip in another shot of it.

With the Figura Obscura Father Christmas, I do think we have ourselves a case of “What you see is what you get.” The soft goods means he’s not going to pose all that dynamically, so if you like how the figure looks in pictures here or on Four Horsemen’s website then chances are you’ll like the figure in person as well. And if you do like it, you’ll want to head over there to secure one. Last year’s Krampus did get a re-release in red which was sold elsewhere so it’s possible this figure will follow a similar path, possibly in a green robe. This version though will likely be a Store Horsemen exclusive and once it’s gone that could be it. It presently retails for $60 which is steep, but I think it’s worth it given the quality of the soft goods and the abundance of stuff in the box. I also really get excited for Christmas so your mileage may vary. Personally, I am thrilled to add this one to my collection and I’m already wondering what next year may bring.

Looking for more holiday themed toys?

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Figura Obscura – Krampus

Oh shit, look who showed up for Christmas!

Over the years, I’ve acquired quite a few action figures designed by the good people over at Four Horsemen LLC. They’ve been designing figures for companies for awhile now. My first exposure to the company was via NECA’s inaugural line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles based on their appearance in the Mirage Studios comics. Lately, I’ve been enjoying their work with Super7 as they have designed most (all?) of the figures in that company’s Ultimates series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The company has become well known as a result in the action figure community, and while sculpting work for other companies is probably satisfying work, 4H always wanted to do its own thing, so it did. The company launched an in-house line of toys called Mythic Legions. As the name implies, most of these characters are taken from myth and given a new design which is then turned into a rather impressive looking piece of plastic. Just how impressive they are I can’t say because I’ve never gotten into the line.

He even comes with a Christmas card!

My exposure to Four Horsemen changed this month, when the company did a surprise drop in a new, subline, of figures called Figura Obscura. And the chosen character to kick things off is the infamous Krampus, the demon of Christmas! Krampus has long been a character associated with Christmas largely in European countries. In the US, he’s not particularly well known, but he has seen his profile rise somewhat recently. I knew of the character as a kid, though I don’t recall ever seeing him in any pop culture setting until The Venture Brothers included in him in their Christmas special. That was back in 2003 and since then the character has shown up in American Dad! and has had his own movie. In the US, it definitely feels like some companies focus on his appearance and draw from that making him some kind of horror monster when the traditional Krampus is really just someone who punishes bad kids at Christmas. It makes sense that Santa Claus would reward the good and that there would be an entity that punishes the wicked. In many settings, Santa and Krampus are like a team, but over the years that seems to be less the case.

The 4H version of Krampus defined.

Either way, I personally think Krampus is pretty neat and his design (often fawn-like) lends itself well to toys. Obviously, I’m pretty into Christmas and I’ve always wanted to do more with Christmas action figures and when I saw this Krampus go up for sale on December 5th of this year I pounced. It was a surprise drop that I don’t think anyone was aware was coming outside of the people at Four Horsemen. The figure was offered through 4H’s Mythic Legions website twice that day, once in the morning and once in the evening. It was smart on their part as it kept the figure from selling out quickly before most people knew it even existed. I personally found out about it in between drops so I was able to grab one in the evening timeslot. It didn’t sell out super fast, which was nice, and it was an in-stock sale which is unusual for 4H as they usually follow more of a made-to-order model with their releases. The company must have felt secure that this particular figure would sell out without much issue given the seasonal nature. I also understand there’s a lot of parts reuse at play here which obviously reduces costs. Just how much, I can’t say, since this my first dip into 4H’s catalog.

Pardon my flash.

Krampus arrived about two weeks after I ordered it in resplendent packaging. He comes in a window box made of very thick cardstock that’s wrapped with a magnetic, cardboard, outer sleeve. It’s well constructed and durable, more durable than a normal box as it’s laminated. The front of which has a neat Krampus logo of sorts with a story about him on the rear and the rest is covered in blue and white and it’s a snowy scene. When you take it off, the reverse side features the artwork that also adorns the box. It’s a snowy setting at night in the wilderness where a lone cottage sits rather perilously on a cliffside. You can use this wrap as a backdrop for your figure which is a really neat idea and should serve me well as I accumulate Christmas figures.

To flash or not to flash? I’ll be mixing in photos with and without, to try and present this figure as fairly as possible.

Krampus himself sits in the window box and once removed he has immediate presence on any surface he’s placed. He stands about 7″ tall with skin featuring this deep, satin, black, paint that is really rich and cool to look at. He’s covered in it too and it’s applied cleanly. His head is quite ferocious looking as he has what I consider the traditional Krampus facial expression of an open mouth with a giant tongue flicking out. He’s quite angry looking and has two gnarly horns coming off of the back of his head. There’s a lot of sculpted fur on and around the head basically forming a mane that runs down the middle of his back. The only clothing he wears is a skirt with a leathery texture to it and some greaves and gauntlets. The armor bits have a nice, worn, metallic, texture with sharp ridges sculpted into them. His feet end in hooves and they’re fringed with fur and look terrific. Some assembly is required as he has a tail that needs to peg into his rear. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass (pun intended) to insert it as the hole is really tight (I should have bought him dinner first). I had to heat up both ends with hot water to finally get it in and when I was done I was actually surprised to see the sculpted fur on the tail cut into my thumb. Damn!

Gene Simmons wishes he had a tongue like the one on Krampus.

The look of Krampus is going to be this figure’s main attraction and 4H did a great job. I think of Krampus being covered in fur, but I like the look of the bare chest here, probably owing to the fact that I love that black paint that’s in use. His fingers are clawed, but not dramatically so, and the details on his face are incredible. Each tooth is sculpted individually and the paint is remarkably clean. The only issue I’ve run into with this figure from a presentation aspect is some paint chipping. To my surprise, it looks like the figure is cast in a white plastic and then painted, because there are some spots where the paint chipped off. Most of which is in the inner thigh by the joint so it’s not noticeable when the figure is displayed. There’s also a small one near the armor on the left leg that’s probably only noticeable when handling the figure. I don’t know why the figure wasn’t just cast in black plastic and then painted, but I’m ignorant on the costs of figure production when it comes to color choices. Obviously, white can be used for anything and then easily painted over so it could be as simple as that. Other than that one small flaw, I’m pretty pleased with how he turned out.

I guess he kept those kids in his basket too long.

Krampus needs stuff, and if you’re familiar with the legend, you know he has some specific needs at that. This figure comes with a set of loose gripping hands attached in the box, and tighter gripping hands he can swap to. The loose hands work fine with his weapon of choice, a bundle of sticks or switches, as they just rest in place. They look pretty awesome and are well-painted as they’re wrapped with sculpted tape to hold them together. I don’t know if the tighter hands are for anything specific, or just for down the road if you want to give him a weapon from something else, but they won’t hold the sticks unless you heat them up to make them more pliable. He has a pair of cuffs that can fit around his wrists and are attached via real chain. The plastic is softer so it’s not too difficult to slip them around the wrists, but if you’re concerned about breaking them you can also just pop his hands off first.

This is one demon who is going to keep his trusty basket!

Krampus also has his trusty basket. The character is supposed to wear this on his back and some versions of the character toss bad kids in there. It’s sculpted to resemble a woven basket and it has some muted green and red accents. The top is removable, and 4H loaded it with other stuff. There’s a pair of skulls, one with an articulated jaw and one without, two skeletal hands, and a leather strap. The strap seems to serve no purpose on its own and I was advised by fans of the Mythic Legions line that it’s likely included for customizers. If cut and then glued, it could be used as a belt or a shoulder strap for the basket. By default, 4H included a piece of rope with the consistency of hemp. It can be used to string the basket and then hang it off of Krampus. I ran the rope through the included slot on the basket, around each arm of Krampus, and then back through the slit. This made it tight enough to hang just fine, while also leaving room for adjustment without the need of a knot. Krampus, despite being hooved, stands fine on his own and continues to stand well even with a loaded basket on his back. The last accessory 4H included is a loop of red thread with some miniature bells strung on it. You can drape this over the head of Krampus, put them on the basket, around his waist, or even through his teeth! And they really jingle, plus the red thread adds a dash of color and is a really nice touch.

Oh you silly boy!

With all of that stuff in the box, you may be wondering how Krampus moves around. I was rather curious, myself, as I’ve wondered what 4H’s approach to articulation was. With the figures the company does for Super7, there are certain joints some consider standard that Super7 disagrees on. Namely, double joints at the knees and elbows. 4H might share the same philosophy as Krampus has single hinges at both places with swivels, but he does do something many Super7 figures don’t and that’s include a ball-joint at the waist. This gives the figure the twisting motion many want while also providing for some forward and back and a little tilt. And it’s well-engineered, as those who got the recently released Casey Jones from Super7 were treated to such a joint, but it turned out rather unsightly as the figure doesn’t sit deep enough on the ball-peg. Aside from that, Krampus is fairly typical with a ball joint at the head, ball-hinges at the shoulders, horizontal hinges at the hands, ball-jointed hips, and hinges with rocking action down at the ankles. Lastly, he has a ball-hinge at the tail. The tail is sculpted and rigid, so there’s not a lot it can do, but it has enough range to get it out of the way when posing. The amount of fur around the figure’s neck limits his head movements a bit, but he can look up and down a little and twist. The ankle rockers are also a little limited, likely owing to the fact that he has hooves, but there’s enough to support his weight and give him a wider stance, if desired. The only true shortcoming is the lack of vertically hinged wrists. I would have preferred that to horizontal, if I could only have one, though both would have been preferable. Krampus isn’t as dynamic as some figures in my collection, but I find what’s there is enough and it at least works well.

Some comparisons. First up, we have a RED Soundwave and a Super7 Leonardo, another 4H design.

Krampus is a pretty wicked design that’s going to look good whether you display him with Christmas stuff, monsters, or your Mythic Legions. He poses well enough, and best of all, he can hold his accessories without toppling over. The backdrop is an awesome little bonus too, and the only drawback I have with him is that returning him to his box would be a challenge. I really have no desire to unthread the basket nor do I want to remove that tail to get him back in his bubble. With my seasonal figures, I usually put them away after the holidays, but Krampus will likely find a new home on a shelf somewhere. And that’s not really a bad problem to have as this is a figure I want to look at year round. And if my kids start acting up, maybe I should just convince them Krampus operates like that cursed Elf on a Shelf and start moving him every morning. That will probably give them nightmares though, so maybe it’s best that I don’t.

And here he is with another fantasy character in Drizz’t from Hasbro’s very short-lived D&D line and a fellow hooved character in NECA’s Groundchuck.

If you wish to get a Krampus figure of your very own, well, I’m afraid it’s sold out. Four Horsemen made it sound like this is just the first Krampus they’re doing, so maybe he comes back next year in another form. If this is the Krampus you need then you’re going to have to pony up some extra money on the secondary market or hope someone that got one decides they don’t need it. The figure retailed for $50 which is already pricey for a 7″ action figure. While I like it, I definitely wouldn’t have much of an appetite to pay much more than that. Good luck if you’re in the market. As for the rest of you, hopefully this is the only Krampus that visits your house this Christmas!

Merry Christmas, pal!

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