I’ve talked about the Four Horsemen before but it’s been a while ago so allow me to recap. The Four Horsemen are Jim Preziosi, Eric Treadway, H. Eric Mayse and Christopher Dahlberg. They’re toy sculptors who met while employed at McFarlane Toys in the 1990s. McFarlane Toys is a company created by Todd McFarlane because he wanted control over how toys based on his comic “Spawn” were made. Todd and his company changed the game by designing toys with adult collectors in mind. I was often dismayed by how stiff many of the figures were, some of them were essentially statues, but there was no denying that they looked better than anything else on the market at the time (check out this beauty); a big reason for that was the work of the Horsemen. Todd wasn’t shy about giving the artists who designed the toys credit for their work. He would praise the individual artists in the pages of his comics and he even credited them on the toys’ packaging. He made the Horsemen into toy sculpting rock stars. I was sad to learn they were leaving McFarlane in ’99 to go off on their own but I was excited by what they were gonna do next.
Their first big gig after leaving McFarlane was redesigning the Masters of the Universe (MOTU) characters for the 2002 relaunch of the popular 80s toyline. Their updated versions of He-Man and company were much more detailed and dynamic (with a distinct anime influence) than their vintage counterparts. I loved their 2002 MOTU line because it combined the top-notch sculpting collectors had come to expect from them with the bright colors and play features that kids love. Their 2002 Kobra Khan was the very first figure I reviewed on this blog.
Sadly the 2002 MOTU line fizzled out after a couple of years but the Horsemen continued to work with Mattel on their DC and Harry Potter lines. Simultaneously the Horsemen began acquiring licenses and producing toys of established properties like the Outer Space Men as well as producing their own original toylines such as The Seventh Kingdom. Seventh Kingdom were highly detailed 6″ figures geared towards the collector’s market akin to what they had produced with McFarlane Toys in the 90s.
I really liked the look of the Seventh Kingdom figures but I had moved away from collecting darker, super-detailed, McFarlane-style toys by then. G.I. Joe and Transformers had been revived at that point and most of my collecting dollars were going towards them. Besides that, the Seventh Kingdom figures were hard to get. They were only available on the Horsemen’s website and for very limited periods of time. There was next to no marketing for the line so you really had to be in the know as to when new figures were going up for sale.
In hindsight I wish I had paid closer attention to the line and picked up a few when I had the chance. Each wave of the Seventh Kingdom features a group of animal warriors, kind of like over sized Battle Beasts. The first wave released in 2006 was made up of 7 cow warriors. They more or less all had the same body but had different heads and paint jobs to differentiate them.
Perhaps the fact that they went with all cows for wave 1 is another reason I didn’t put much effort into seeking out the Seventh Kingdom figures. The sculpts and paint jobs were great but cows don’t exactly make for the coolest animal warriors.
Wave 2 featured elephants, wave 3 jungle cats, and wave 4 goats. They snuck a rhino and a hippo into the elephant wave and those are the 2 figures I most wish I had. I’m unlikely to get them now though as my only option is the secondary market and most of them sell for $100+ on ebay.
Last year I heard that the Horsemen were using the crowd-funding site kickstarter to finance their latest wave of figures. The line was called Gothitropolis but it was completely compatible with, and essentially a continuation of, the Seventh Kingdom line. This time around it was birds. The initial figure was a raven warrior but as the campaign grew the Horsemen continued to add variant figures to the line. The added figures featured repainted raven bodies with brand new heads to represent different species of birds. The kickstarter was a huge success and the Horsemen ended up committing to 13 different Gothitropolis figures after raising over $300,000. I missed out on the kickstarter unfortunately and 11 of the figures sold out lightening fast when the Horsemen put remaining stock up for pre-order on their website for non-kickstarter supporters. Luckily I managed to place pre-orders for 2 figures before they completely sold out. It took a couple of months for them to show up but a couple of days ago Cardinus the Cardinal Warrior and Eaglus the American Eagle Warrior arrived in the mail.
Now that I have them in hand I really wish I had acted sooner and bought the whole set because these figures are amazing. From the neck down they share the exact same sculpt but the paint jobs are so different that you would never realize it. Both are wearing high collared gladiator style armour that covers their full torso as well as a loin cloth, bracelets, and knee-to-shin armour. The armour has a ton of sculpted details such as small wings on the back, a phoenix emblem on the chest, and jewels and rivets everywhere. Every time I look it over I find something else. The leg armour is very cool with a plated design. The arms and legs feature exposed feathered skin which is also very detailed. Every centimetre of these figures is impressive. For accessories each bird came with a long spear with a spiked ball on the end and a belt that is loaded with intricate treasures. They even came with 2 pairs of alternate feet/talons so you can display them flat-footed, with open attack mode feet, or with clenched perching feet.
From here on out I’ll focus on Eagalus’ unique features. His feathers are realistically painted black and brown and his feet are yellow. His armour is painted red, white, and blue and it looks fantastic. Its just screams USA. It’s a shame Stephen Colbert retired before getting a chance to place one of these on his desk. The head is totally awesome and quite realistic. The mouth is open wide as if he’s bellowing a patriotic battle cry. The beak, the eyes, and the inner mouth all feature multiple paint applications and the white feathers have a grey paint wash which adds some texture. You can tell the Horsemen didn’t cut any corners on this figure.
Eagalus’ most unique feature is his cape. None of the other Gothitropolus figures have this accessory. Its a large cloth cape made of a tattered almost American flag. The stars and stripes are present but instead of a blue box in the corner the blue area is shaped like a screaming eagle’s head. It took me a while to get the cape to sit around his neck properly but now that it’s in place it looks epic. This toy is phenomenal and an early front runner to be named my toy of the year for 2015. 10 out of 10.
I almost forgot to mention the packaging. 12 of the Gothitroplis figures feature black and purple “gothic” packaging but Eagalus came on a very patriotic red, white, and blue blister card with a small bio on the back. Best of all the packages are designed in such a way that the figures can be resealed after they’ve been opened.