Saturday, June 11, 2011

Variants Of Variants, Walter Kovacs (Rorschach Variant) Action Figure Underwhelms.

The Good: Great sculpt! Collectibility, Variant accessory
The Bad: General accessories, Lack of poseability, Balance issues.
The Basics: Recommended only for the fans (who are predisposed to it anyway), the Walter Kovacs Rorschach variant action figure is a tough sell to those who don't love Watchmen!

Anyone who is likely to care enough about Watchmen to invest in the action figures from the film will already know the identity of the vigilante Rorschach. If you don't, now is the time to stop reading this review. The reason I have no compunction about spoiling that - despite the fact that reading the name will have absolutely no effect on one's appreciation of the film if one has not yet seen it - is that I strive for accuracy in my reviews and while DC Direct might be inaccurate in the way it names its figures, I shall not be. In the case of the Watchmen action figures, there is a limited edition variant of the Rorschach figure which is much more accurately called the Walter Kovacs figure.

And, honestly, there was no Watchmen figure I was more excited about getting in recently than the Rorschach variant figure . . . until it arrived. The Walter Kovacs action figure, though, is an exclusive variant and there are two main variations of the figure, a fact I was not aware of before I purchased mine. So, if nothing else, that information ought to be valuable to buyers. There is a variant that includes the police identification placard around Kovacs's neck and detailing on the face that illustrates Walter Kovacs has been roughed up by the police. Unfortunately, there is an unbruised Walter Kovacs figure that lacks the placard and is utterly inflexible when removed from the package, making for a lesser overall value to the figure and making it very difficult to recommend going through the effort and expense of tracking down the variant figure. Still, there is just enough to recommend in the Walter Kovacs figure that will please fans of the cinematic Watchmen.


To support the film Watchmen (reviewed here!), 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. In addition to the main four figures in the first line-up, there was a variant Rorschach action figure, Walter Kovacs, which was limited to five thousand pieces. This remains the second hardest to find Watchmen figure, though it is essentially a Rorschach figure with a Kovacs head popped onto it. This, though, is the fundamental problem with the variant; it feels cheap.

Arguably one of the most controversial characters in Watchmen is Rorschach, the lone vigilante still working despite the Keane Act, who was played by Jackie Earl Healey in the film and is now immortalized in plastic thanks to DC Direct. There is only the one figure Rorschach and the Walter Kovacs variant which has a total of 5000 pieces, apparently evenly split between the bruised and unbruised variants.

Standing 6 1/8" tall to the top of his head, Walter Kovacs is immortalized in his trenchcoat and purple pinstripe pants. Kovacs has no mask, despite otherwise appearing as Rorschach. The DC Direct action figure features such details as the biting blue eyes and curly red hair of the exposed vigilante. The trench coat features the flexible belt and shoulder loop. Walter Kovacs is cast with pretty extraordinary casting details, so his coat looks precisely as it did in the film with realistic coloring and apparent wear as well as amazing detailing on the cloves, scarf and face of the character. Walter Kovacs is molded in a striding pose and he looks good. He was given two fists, though the alternate hand looks great as well and the fist Walter Kovacs's right hand is in looks ready to deliver quite a punch as it is molded with a sense of tension to it!

All of Walter Kovacs's face is visible and it is an amazing sculpt and coloring job. The unbruised version has such powerful details as the strong jaw and stubble along his jaw and under his nose. The bruised version might not have any molding details - like puffiness - but does have his left eye bruised and it looks painful! Kovac's ears are even perfectly molded and the likeness to Healey is perfect. DC Direct got the sculpt absolutely right on Walter Kovacs!


Walter Kovacs comes with the standard Watchmen base, an alternate right hand and Rorschach's grappling gun. The bruised variant also comes with a placard from when Kovacs was captured by the police chained around his neck. 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 Walter Kovacs 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 Walter Kovacs's base with the base of any of the other Watchmen figures; all of the bases seem to be identical.

Kovacs's right hand - the fist - may be popped out of its socket and replaced with another hand which has the hand in a grip with a trigger finger extended. This holds Rorschach's grappling gun, though it does so with an unfortunately loose grip.

Rorschach's grappling gun is a 1 3/8" plastic replica of Rorschach's tool without the hooks extended. The gun looks amazing; the steel portions of it look weathered, the grip is black and solid and it contains amazing coloring details for the pneumatic launching portions! One wishes it actually could shoot the grappling gun!

As for the placard, that is a simple black piece of plastic that is accurate from the film. Here, though, DC Direct really crapped out on making a decent variant. Instead of Rorschach's grappling gun - which is in the standard Rorschach action figure, Walter Kovacs should have come with his sign. It makes sense the bruised version would come with the placard, but the unbruised version could have been very cool if it came with the sign Kovacs carries around on the street in every scene he is in before his capture! DC Direct, unfortunately, fell down on this one!


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 Walter Kovacs, come with are designed for support and display, as opposed to play.

On the principles, Walter Kovacs looks good, but is a pretty poor action figure. He is clearly intended to be a display piece, not a toy. This is evident by the fact that Walter Kovacs comes with only seven points of articulation. Walter Kovacs has almost no poseability and he has terrible balance when off his display. He has joints at the shoulders, elbows, wrists and neck. The joints almost all have a poor range of motion, as they are swivel joints largely inhibited by the sculpt of the coat. Even the head is only a simple swivel joint, so it may only turn from side to side, not nod up and down.

Unfortunately, Walter Kovacs has absolutely terrible balance. His feet may not be moved. Because of how the trenchcoat is molded, the legs are molded directly to the bottom of the coat and cannot be moved. Given that Walter Kovacs is molded in a stride, he has limited surface area on his feet to allow the figure to balance and moving his arms too far in any direction causes the figure to tip over. On the base, though, Kovacs does manage to stand tall.


DC Direct seemed to gauge about the right amount of interest in the Watchmen figures and with the DVD release, they re-released most of the figures again. This Walter Kovacs is not one of the figures re-released, which has kept the value of the variant figure high. This is a good piece for investors, but most collectors will want the bruised Kovacs, so be sure of which one you're getting if you're investing.


Unmasked and available beaten or unbeaten, the variant action figure of Walter Kovacs - the unmasked Rorschach - looks much better than it is out of the package. Still, there is enough for fans to get excited about, especially with the bruised version.

For other figures from Watchmen, please check out my reviews of:
Doctor Manhattan
Silk Spectre (Modern)
Silk Spectre (Classic)
Nite Owl (Modern)
Nite Owl (Classic)
Limited Edition Dr. Manhattan


For other toy reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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