Monday, December 6, 2010

A Rightful Pegwarmer (Though Most Consumers Would Not Know It) Nite Owl The Top-heavy Figure!

The Good: Generally looks good
The Bad: Very top-heavy, Tips easily, Light on accessories
The Basics: A disappointing toy, the classic Nite Owl action figure is a poor toy for fans of Watchmen and it may safely be left to take up space in the discount bins.

When it comes to action figure toys, there are sometimes some odd choices which are never adequately explored. In the line of Watchmen figures that were released to coincide with last year's blockbuster, the choice to produce some of the classic figures from before the principle characters' timeperiod was an odd choice. I do not mean the creation of the limited edition Dr. Manhattan (click here for that review), though why that wasn't the standard version of the figure baffles me. I refer to the inclusion of "Nite Owl" (the first) and "Silk Spectre" (again, the first). These two characters had limited airtime in the movie and their roles were mostly to fill in some of the backstory. In the case of Nite Owl, the choice to make an action figure was especially odd as his presence - in this costume - is pretty much relegated to the opening credits and one other scene in the film. More often than not, Hollis Mason is shown on-screen out of his costume, as he is a retired member of the Minutemen.

This does not seem to have made a difference to the folks at DC Direct, who produced the Watchmen action figures. Unfortunately, the Nite Owl action figure is cursed with a real problem; it is top-heavy in a way that causes the figure to fall over with more ease than one is likely to have getting him to stand up. The action figure tips easily, even when it is on its display base. In addition to its obscurity as a character in the Watchmen mythos (even Big Figure or the former Moloch could have been better action figures as they had more presence within the movie) this becomes a problem that makes the figure a rightful pegwarmer. Of course, most people avoiding picking this particular figure up are doing so because it is so esoteric, but those who do buy it are likely to be disappointed beyond that.


To support the film Watchmen (click here for my review of that!), DC Direct released two series of Watchmen action figures. DC Direct was tapped because they had the ability to create a higher caliber of action figure, based on the film characters. DC Direct created only eight figures based upon the cinematic representations of the essential Watchmen characters.

Arguably one of the least visible characters in Watchmen is Nite Owl, who appeared in only a few frames. On the Director's Cut DVD release, fans have the chance to see the demise of this character, but it is his alter-ego, Hollis Mason, not Nite Owl who is killed. In the cinematic Watchmen, Nite Owl was played by Stephen McHattie and he is now immortalized in plastic thanks to DC Direct. There is only the one figure of McHattie's Nite Owl; those hoping for a Hollis Mason character will have to wait until this cult-classic gets its second or third wind (like the way Reservoir Dogs figures popped up on the market a few years ago).

Standing 6 1/4" tall to the top of his headpiece, Nite Owl is a masked avenger who basically looks like a reject from the Rugby team in a mask. The DC Direct action figure features such details as the mask over the eyes, the light helmet, the thick gloves on his hands and the crescent moon belt buckle. Nite Owl is cast with pretty extraordinary casting details, so his shirt looks somewhat protective and his briefs look downy (like an owl) which was the intent of the actual costume. Nite Owl's boots look heavy, but the figure is molded with his hands open, so one cannot even pose him punching as he was when he opened the credit sequence of the movie!

Most of Nite Owl's face is visible under the mask and helmet and it looks generally well-sculpted and generally well-colored. The lips are thin and pink, but that seems realistic and the figure looks like Nite Owl. It does not quite look like McHattie, but then he didn't look like himself in the film role, either!

The problem, though, is that the arms and chest do not look so much like McHattie either; they look like those of a bodybuilder. This does not quite fit the look of the character in the film and it makes for a problematic action figure - much the way toys of busty women become problematic. The result is a figure that tips over when on his base.


Nite Owl only comes with the standard Watchman base. The base is a 2 1/2" plastic square that raises the figure 1/2" off the display surface and most closely resembles a section of suspension bridge. The base has three holes in it, through which one of the two pegs that come with the figure may be placed. The peg is designed to go into a hole in the figure's foot and Nite Owl has a hole that fits the peg in his right foot only. The other two holes may either be filled in or left unpegged. The base also comes with a simple connector which latches together Nite Owl's base with the base of any of the other Watchmen figures; all of the bases seem to be identical.

It would have been cool if Nite Owl had come with different hands that could replace the openhanded hands this figure has. In the film, though, Nite Owl is not adorned with any accessories, though Hollis Mason does have tons of copies of "Under The Hood!"


Watchmen is an adult film and as a result, most everyone who picks these figures up will be using them for display, not play. DC Direct seemed to figure this out well in advance and the bases that the figures, like Nite Owl, come with are designed for support and display, as opposed to play.

Still, Nite Owl is a pretty cool action figure. Gifted with eleven points of articulation, Nite Owl is adequately posable for those who do put him on display. He has joints at the knees, groin socket, shoulders, elbows, wrists and neck. The joints make for a decent range of motion, with the knees and elbows being standard hinge joints. The shoulders are ball and socket joints, so Nite Owl may make most of the poses he makes in the film! As well, the head is a ball and socket joint, so he may look in a great number of directions.

Unfortunately, Nite Owl has terrible balance. His feet may not be moved out of a flatfooted position and the fact that there is only one foot-peg prevents those using this as a display piece from knocking the figure over very easily. Moreover, it must be posed flatfooted! This is annoying, as when Nite Owl topples, he easily knocks over adjacent action figures!


DC Direct seemed to gauge about the right amount of interest in the Watchmen figures and with the impending DVD release, they are re-releasing most of the figures again. This Nite Owl is one of the few figures not being re-released, as many of them remain on the shelves from the first release. DC Direct got wrong how many people would like a Nite Owl figure and that has been the bane of the cases of the second wave of Watchmen figures. This is easily available on-line in the $5.00 range and one suspects there are great deals forthcoming on this toy after the DVD hype dies down!


The first Nite Owl barely appears in Watchmen, so there is no real need for fans to hunt this figure down. But for those that do, be aware that it tips remarkably easily and if you're paying the original release price (anywhere from $14.99 - $19.99), you're overpaying!

For other Watchmen toys and memorabilia, please check out my reviews of:
Kubricks Watchmen Set B
Watchmen By Alan Moore
Watchmen: The Film Companion


For other toy reviews, be sure to check out my index page, which is updated daily, for an organized listing!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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