And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... S.T.O.P. Vs. S.C.U.M. 3.75" Action Figures

Figure Information Names: Lady Lead, Skull Hawk, & Tank (Reco in package)
Line: S.T.O.P. Vs. S.C.U.M.
Scale: 3.75 inch
Manufacturer: Homieshop (?)
Distributer: Greenbrier International, Inc.
Year Released: 2010
Retail Price: $1.00 each

For the longest time, I utterly despised 3.75" figures. Sure, I had a couple of G.I. Joes as a kid -- but I mean that number literally, and neither of them came from the store: one was given to me by another kid in the neighborhood (seriously; why would I steal a crappy Joe?) and the other was the mail-away Steel Brigade figure that was supposed to be me. And if it hadn't been for my perpetual desire to shrink down to action figure size and participate in my toys' adventures, I don't imagine either of those Joes would have gotten much love from me during play sessions.

Recently, however, I've become much more interested in these smaller scale offerings -- in part because of the explosion of 3.75" figures that we've seen in the last couple of years. Moreover, whereas the Joes of my childhood were dinky, dumpy-looking little figures that couldn't hold a candle to the detailed sculpts of the larger Batman, X-Men, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures that commanded my attention and admiration, today's Joes boast intricate sculpts on par with those of almost any larger scale offerings. And while other companies' 3.75" wares still can't make that claim (though they still look light-years ahead of the Joes of yesteryear), they often boast another benefit: low prices. When most 6" figures are going for $13 and up, 3.75" figures for $4 and under -- which is what I typically find them for at discount stores -- seem like incredible values. I picked up the entire 7-figure series of Dragonball Evolution figures for $21 at Five Below; my Cobra ranks swelled thanks to $2 clearance prices at Target and K-Mart; and I formed an incomplete Star Trek expedition team after encountering those figures for $1 each at Dollar Tree... which is also where I found the S.T.O.P. Vs. S.C.U.M. figures spotlighted in this review.

After Armageddon and the collapse of civilization, the world fell into the hands of evil warlords known as S.C.U.M.; Special Coalition Urban Militia. In this chaotic world, S.C.U.M. prospered; infiltrating cities and leaving death, destruction, and despair in their wake.

S.C.U.M.'s mission is total anarchy on a global scale. City by city they slice through urban lands, stealing & profiting from the chaos & terror that they bring.

In time people revolted, forming their own security force code named "S.T.O.P.", the Special Tactics Operative Patrol. S.T.O.P. is tasked with freeing the world of the evil S.C.U.M. forces that have taken the world by storm. Each member of S.T.O.P. has a unique military skill & was selected to maximize damage to the enemy.

Can they survive the fight for freedom? Will they rid the world of S.C.U.M.? Only time will tell... the fate of the world is in your hands.

Whoa, a dollar store figure line with a backstory? Who'd have thought we'd see such a thing?! Okay, we've already seen such a thing, but still... and while it's a bit derivative, it's certainly more setup than was required to explain why two groups of toy soldiers are fighting; simple "good guy" and "bad guy" designations would have sufficed. So already we're off to an ambitious start -- but does that ambition yield promise in the figures themselves? Only time will tell... as you scroll down to the remainder of the review.

Packaging

Score: 7.5 / 10

Skull Hawk on cardReco cardback

This was a really disappointing category to score, since this packaging really deserves a 10. Right off the bat, you've got a card with colorful, original drawings that look pretty darned good -- and I just love the blue versus red background color schemes. And the cardback, while black and white, features that backstory text above as well as drawings of the other figures of the series and -- get this -- a clip-and-collect card featuring the backstory of the character in your possession. Yeah, Lady Lead predictably hates men, but Skull Hawk hails from the German Goth Underground culture? Awesome. Honestly, there are $20 figures that don't have this kind of love in their packaging, and these things only cost a dollar.

And yet I'm scoring them a 7.5. Why? Well... yeah. It's as if the guy who made this really cared about making a cool budget 3.75" action figure line for kids -- and while he had to forgo quite a bit of quality regarding the toys themselves in order to get the product out at the lowest possible price, he could at least ensure that the packaging reflected his true vision. So he really poured his heart into it, writing (what he thought was) an awesome backstory and crafting unique background stories for each character... but unfortunately, even with the cost-cutting measures he took throughout the production of the figures, he still didn't have enough money to pay the factory to put the completed figures onto the already printed cardbacks. And so, in order to meet the rapidly approaching deadline, the author called up his stoner nephew and arranged for the boy and his friends to package the figures for the price of two large pizzas from Domino's.

Mislabeled Lady Lead on cardReco backwards on card

Really, that's the only explanation I can come up with. I've gotten figures with two left forearms or two right calves before, but you can understand how a factory worker hastily assembling figures on a line could make that kind of mistake (not to mention how a buyer could miss it when picking figures off of the pegs). I could even understand the rampant warped limbs that these figures displayed in package; that could easily happen when packaging is made to hold a toy a certain way and the person packaging them is in a hurry or doesn't understand how to position the figure appropriately. But errors like the one female in the line -- who just happens to be kinda butch -- being consistently labeled with a guy's name and figures placed completely backwards in the package (which, given the shape of the tray and the fact that the figures' weapons are molded into their hands, also required both the left and right arms to be swapped) seem like more than simple mistakes. They seem like someone trying to be funny.

And, admittedly, it is kinda funny. I was so amused by the backwards Reco that I actually bought the figure, and it's probably the only Dollar Tree toy that I've ever gotten with intent to keep MOC. That it's funny doesn't change the fact that it diminishes the quality of the product, though, and so the score suffers as a result.

Visual Appeal

Score: 6.5 / 10

Skull Hawk, Lady Lead, and Tank (front view)Skull Hawk, Lady Lead, and Tank (rear view)

At a glance, these are some really impressive-looking figures -- especially considering the price point. They all have unique sculpts, and each sports small details like the grooves and sections of Tank's armor, the tiny skull between Lady Lead's breasts, and Skull Hawk's studded harness. These figures' sculpts aren't on the amazing level of by Hasbro's G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Pursuit of Cobra sublines, but they compare pretty favorably to almost any other 3.75" figure on the market today.

Or they would, if they weren't let down by a couple of key problems. One of them arguably isn't a huge problem at all -- that the figures' weapons are molded into their hands. Yeah, it'd be nice if these figures could go bare-fisted or exchange weapons with other 3.75" figures, but on the other hand they're made for kids who probably lose the majority of the accessories that come with Joes and other such figures. Having the weapons molded into their grip means no more lost accessories -- arguably a plus for parents sick of hearing little Johnny whine about Duke's missing machine gun or Storm Shadow's lost katana.

The other problem is much more annoying to me, even though most parents and kids won't notice it at all. Have you spotted it yet? Look more closely at the figures' legs... their lower legs, to be precise. Yep, that's not just warping from the packages! From the knee down, the figures all have two left legs -- presumably by design, as using the same tool to produce both lower legs would be cheaper. It's more than just a visual annoyance, however, since that issue (coupled with the loose articulation; we'll get to that in a bit) means that the figures have a great deal of trouble standing on their own. They're a bit less annoying in this respect if you drill holes in their feet so that they can use figure stands (they don't come with peg holes, and the pictures show them using the stands that came with the Iron Man 2 figures), but it still doesn't look very good.

And these are the BEST I could find.

And then there's the paint, specifically on the figures' faces. I picked out the best figures I could find, but I saw some truly horrific ones on the pegs as I searched -- for instance, I saw Lady Leads with eyes on their foreheads and Tanks with eyes on their cheeks. Incidentally, most of the Skull Hawks looked fairly decent (possibly because his whole face is more/less white, so one would only have to put the pupils reasonably close to his eyes for the figure to look okay), and all of the figures sport tattoos that are really well done. I'm assuming that's because they're tampographed rather than hand painted, which really makes you wish the company responsible had found a way to tampo the eyes as well. At least the figures' bodies, being mostly cast in color, aren't generally a problem -- though the Lady Leads do have the problem of the "flesh" paint on their torsos not matching the flesh-colored plastic of the head or limbs.

Also -- the screw construction. I don't generally mind this... but it becomes a problem when new figures have screws that are already rusted. Like, ew?

Articulation

Score: 6.0 / 10

Looks can be deceiving...

At a glance, it might seem like these guys have pretty comparable articulation to G.I. Joes and other 3.75" figures -- but once you get them out of the package, their shortcomings become markedly apparent. Swivel necks and shoulders are to be expected on dollar store figures, so those aren't too disappointing. The hinged elbows, however, are very much so, since their construction makes them all but useless. See, when figures lack bicep swivels, the hinge is usually facing forward -- such that figures can bend their elbows in kind of a jogging pose, which at least allows them to do things like shoot from the hip, raise their weapons towards their shoulders in varying degrees, and so forth. Here, however, the hinged elbows face to the side, which is really only useful for allowing the figures to look as if they're holding their large guns with two hands (or, in the case of Lady Lead, as if she's engaging in crossed-guns Matrix-style shooting). It does work well for that, but I think I'd rather have the normal configuration.

And although I applaud the creators for doing something new by making dollar store figures without simple swivel hips, these Joe-style T-bar ball-jointed hips are pretty useless. For one, they're super loose -- which makes it fairly difficult for the figures to stand upright (even on his stand, Tank kept pitching forward), let alone hold more involved poses. They also don't seem to have range that Joe hips have, they seem to ratchet out to one fixed point when moved laterally. I don't know whether this is because of hidden plastic flash or what, but it's certainly nowhere near as effective as the range on actual G.I. Joe figures. Speaking of range, these also have fairly limited knee articulation: while Lady Lead can get much closer to the standard 90-degree angle that one would expect out of single-hinged knees, the guys can barely pull off a 140-degree bend. It's pitiful.

Still, points for intent, and kids might not mind the loose and limited joints all that much if they're still at the stage of play that consists of holding figures by the waist and ramming them into each other. And it is possible to get the figures into some decent poses... provided you have a drill and some figure stands they can use. Even if you don't, they probably wouldn't look too bad as members of a generic 3.75" figure army, whether you took the time to stand them up on their own or used their fellow soldiers to prop them up.

Accessories

Score: N/A

Technically, these figures don't come with any accessories... but they're only a dollar, and they do have guns molded into their hands. So I don't think they deserve a 10 here, but I don't think they deserve a 0 either... and anything in between would be totally arbitrary. So I'll just refrain from scoring this category. :P

Fun Factor

Score: 6.5 / 10

Wait for it...

How much fun are the S.T.O.P. Vs. S.C.U.M. warriors? Well, that kinda depends on what you want out of an action figure. Kids -- and despite the packaging's 3+ designation, I definitely wouldn't give these to youngsters under 6 -- might enjoy them, as they'll likely be less bothered by the sculpt, paint, and articulation shortcomings and might even appreciate the weapons molded into the figures' hands. They might also really get into the backstory and individual characterization, which could further enhance their play sessions.

Older collectors, on the other hand, will probably be less enthusiastic about the toys... and might even be a bit grossed out by them. Yeah, we've mentioned their visual and articulation issues, but there's also the problem of the materials used in their construction. Honestly, these figures feel and smell like they were made out of recycled tires -- in that, with the exception of their torsos and heads, they're really, really rubbery and they flippin' stink. Also, after handling them for a short amount of time, I felt like I'd been pumping gas. They just feel nasty, and the reason I drilled the holes into their feet wasn't as much so they could stand as it was because I didn't want them touching my light tent backdrop for fear of staining it with whatever garage oils they're tainted with. Considering Lady Lead's pre-rusted screws, I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about washing them either.

That said, there are some collector uses for these guys. If you just like huge figure armies and have the requisite stands/drilling equipment, these would make fairly decent background characters. Also, if you've been tempted to embark upon outdoor photo shoots like our old pal Monte Williams used to do but don't have the guts to take your good figures out with you, these would be excellent to bring along! They don't have any accessories for you to lose; they already feel gunked up so it doesn't matter if they get dirty; and they're cheap -- so it's not a big deal if they fall into the canyon and get lost or something. The figures are probably also poisonous, so if you encountered any mountain lions you could probably feed the toys to the beasts and make your escape while their insides dissolved into tire-scented sludge.

Value

Score: 7.5 / 10

Tank with other male 3.75" figuresLady Lead with other female 3.75" figures)

Again, your personal value grade will depend upon who you're buying these for and your reasons for purchasing them. If you're getting the S.T.O.P. Vs. S.C.U.M. figures for kids to play with, the value is perfect -- you can score the entire 6-figure set for less than the cost of a new G.I. Joe at retail (sales and discount store prices notwithstanding), and a 7-year-old who doesn't care about paint jobs or articulation or poseability will probably have just as much fun with these. For collectors, the value is less impressive. Even if you just want them for background dressing, discount stores like Big Lots and Ollie's have the 25th Anniversary Joes for in the neighborhood of $4... and I'd honestly rather have one of those than four of these guys. You can also find much better toys for $5 or less at Five Below, and again those are preferable to five or fewer of these guys (in the 3.75" scale, for instance, the $3 Dragonball Evolution figures are far superior). Heck, if I only had a dollar to spend, I'd sooner buy an unarticulated dinosaur than one of these -- those sport pretty awesome sculpts themselves, and at least they don't have any other problems or gasoline grossness to diminish their coolness. That said, despite their numerous problems, it's hard to think of them as being a poor value. After all, they're only a dollar.

Review Summary

Packaging
  • Colorful, original artwork on front
  • Attractive layout with full backstory and character bios on back
  • Mislabeled figures and careless figure placement (ha ha ha...)
SCORE: 7.5 / 10
Visual Appeal
  • Figures sport attractive, unique, and fairly detailed sculpts
  • Appearance marred by duplicate lower legs and poor paint jobs on faces
  • Rusted screws are kinda gross
SCORE: 6.5 / 10
Articulation
  • Decent articulation at a glance, but...
  • Inward-facing elbow hinges only useful for pre-established gun poses
  • Loose hips make standing/posing difficult; knees have very little range
SCORE: 6.0 / 10
Accessories
  • No accessories...
  • but figures have weapons molded into their hands...
  • and only cost a buck...
  • so whatever. :P
SCORE: N/A
Fun Factor
  • Good playthings for kids 6 and up
  • Their shortcomings and gross feel might alienate collectors
  • Still, they're decent for background characters or outdoor activities
SCORE: 6.5 / 10
Value
  • Great value for kids; they'll likely enjoy these as much as costlier 3.75" figures
  • For collectors, there are all manner of superior figures for just a bit more
  • Still, these are only a buck!
SCORE: 7.5 / 10

Overall

Score: 6.5 / 10

Lady Lead will pop a cap in your headSorry, guy -- I don't think Cobra's hiring right now.

If these didn't cost a buck, I'd probably score them in the neighborhood of a 2 -- with the exception of the DC Infinite Heroes Black Canary and maybe the Star Trek movie figures, they're trash compared to pretty much every other 3.75" figure I own. Given their dollar price, however, I'm inclined to be considerably more forgiving. They do have cool packaging (attempts at humor notwithstanding), and the figures themselves manage to look okay despite their lower leg issues and pitiful paint jobs. The articulation is lame, but it does allow for some interesting poses with a bit of modification -- and with a little more effort (and some clear nail polish), one could probably tighten up the loose hips as well. And they really don't look that out of place in a collection of G.I. Joes and other 3.75" figures, so I can see how a collector on a budget might be drawn to them. Kids will probably be delighted by them.

That said -- unless you are a parent of a child between the ages of 6 and 10 -- I can't recommend these unless you really, really, really want a whole bunch of background characters to pad your scenes or need some completely expendable toys to take with you on outdoor adventures. Yeah, these figures are only a buck, but you can get figures twenty times better for just three times that price. Why date the sloppy girl who'll tolerate McDonald's dinners when you can date a supermodel who's partial to Subway? Pay the few dollars more for a superior product that won't make you feel like you've been wiping your hands on oily rags.

Rrrrrrrrawr!

I do make a slight exception for the S.C.U.M. characters, though. Unlike the S.T.O.P. males, who look quite a bit like generic Joes, the bad guys have distinctive features like Skull Hawk's mask to set them apart from the better figures on the market. This goes double for Lady Lead. There really aren't that many female figures on the shelves in the 3.75" action figure lines (to say nothing of other scales), so almost any woman is a bonus there. Moreover, in addition to being better than the guy figures in sheer virtue of her uniqueness, Lady Lead has the benefit of being on par with or better than a great deal of the female figures in other lines as well. She kicks the crap out of DCIH Black Canary, which leads me to suspect that she's better than every DCIH female (with the possible exception of the SDCC 2010 exclusive Wonder Woman, as that has improved articulation). Dragonball Evolution Bulma is the better figure of the two -- but not by much, and I'd score Lady Lead higher given her lower price. And of course Lady Lead can't compare to the G.I. Joe ladies (even the homelier ones like Rise of Cobra Cover Girl), but she does look quite different from them while seeming like she'd fit into their universe quite well. She'd make a great female Dreadnok.

-- Wes --

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