AFJ REVIEW: CREATUREPLICA WAVE 1 & INTERVIEW

The word is out about CREATUREPLICA and its nothing but good. The little figure line that could is scaring a whole new generation of action figure collectors, tackling the fantastical world of urban legends & cryptozoology in the form of massive, almost 10-12" scaled plastic pieces of perfection. And they have the points of articulation that Junkies flip for making the first wave of CREATUREPLICA figures a must have. I was floored when I was first sent HORRORHOUND which basically culminates all of your childhood nightmares into one frighteningly real depiction of what may become of that pup you don't treat so well and abandoned at a shelter.

When the other three in the first wave arrived, I was set for the woods, figures in hand and ready for a photo shoot. While I am normally a Mint-On-Card collector, these babies are primed for their natural habitat or really any nature-like background. A babbling brook, a local graveyard, the ominous acreage behind the local abandoned mental institution you visited as a senior in High School vowing never to return! You can take the CREATUREPLICA figures and go to town on an amazing photo shoot that makes even a novice like me looking like I know what I am doing.

The first thing I noticed about the CREATUREPLICA figures is this: these guys did not skimp out. You get what you are paying for in spades and as I got through the heavy plastic casings of all four figures, I realized that these could probably get run over by a lightweight foreign vehicle and still remain intact. These are figures made for Junkies, specifically. They know how important packaging is to us and that sometimes, it's not the steak that sells, but the "sizzle." Another almost instant mental notation I took was the sheer weight and volume of the figures were in my hand. These figures are heavy and in-package have a tremendous amount of depth and are not the type of cases to just throw away. I made sure to use a box-cutter just so I could be certain that the entire CREATUREPLICA wave could be secured in case of a move of storage or what have you. In other words, clear a big spot in your rental unit or personal "Well of Souls," because you are going to need it for these monsters.

And that's what is important to remember with this first, very important wave of action figure goodness: these are pretty much All-American figures from the days of baseball, apple pie & Elvis. That mythological night terror that you could swear you saw when recounting the tale to your friends and family but no one believed what you saw. Whether it is the HORRORHOUND, the HIMALAYAN YETI, the NORTH AMERICAN SASQUATCH or the LOUISANA ROUGAROU, these creatures are steeped in the woods no one dares enter and somehow seem to resonate generation after generation. Now with the most advanced photographic equipment available known to man, and we are no closer to these monsters than we were 100 years ago. However, CREATUREPLICA gets Junkies one step closer to not fumbling our cameras when the beast appear and give us the opportunity to shoot these amazingly detailed figures in the light of day. Bottom line, these are the closest Junkies are going to get short of a John Hammond-like expedition to Jurassic Park.

The first wave of CREATUREPLICA figures are AVAILABLE NOW for Junkies everywhere to purchase at just $34.95 apiece. I really would not recommend something to you guys that I honestly know I would not spned my hard earned cash on; its just not me. But trust me on this, this is what Venkman, Stantz & Spengler (& Zeddemore) were talking about 32 years ago. Like required reading in an introductory class in your first year of college, having the CREATUREPLICA figures in your collection is not only recommended but necessary.

Now, before the review of the first wave of CREATUREPLICA's, let's get to meet the two key players in creating some of the most genuine, outside the box figures I have seen in years. Junkies, meet sculptor extraordinaire John St. Jean & marketing whiz Jeff Beyers, two of the nicest guys I have met in the field of toys which take my word for it, is not all child's play....even though we act like it.

AFJ: First off guys, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to give the Junkies an inside peek behind the curtain of how this all came to be. So let's start there--how did CREATUREPLICA come to be?

JSJ: Jeff found me through another industry friend, he was specifically looking to do a relic hominid/extant ape type line, specifically a Sasquatch, Yeti, Orang-Pendek, and Yowie. After talking awhile he realized I was pretty well versed in the topic of Cryptozoology and we both lurked on the fringes of different Bigfoot Facebook groups. We both agreed on a realistic style, and attention to native folklore and mythology to dictate the anatomy and feel and a reasonable degree of articulation that didn't get in the way of the aesthetic too much. We decided that the figures should relate to the most popular scales, 6 and 7" figures. We also wanted some sort of bases to represent the typical environment these creatures could be found in. So where possible we used witness reports, some of which I took myself and a fair amount of discussion to come to a decision on the look of the creatures.

JEFF: Jean,  you summed it up nicely!! All I would add is the fact that we both wanted to produce something that was as good as it could possibly be as well as hold true to the folklore. Fate brought me to your door.  How cool is it that such an awesome sculptor would have the same love of the subject?!? It was the Perfect Storm!  I'm so proud to be working with Jean and even prouder to call him a friend.  I don't have words to describe what it's like to be this proud of CREATUREPLICA.
JSJ: There really had been almost nothing produced aside MEZCO's Crypto line a number of years back, so we knew at least for the moment the field was wide open and network TV was swamped with "ghost hunter" style monster shows featuring researchers bumbling around in the dark looking through an infra-red scope. Another plus was most toy manufacturers won't touch original lines because they prefer large media based licenses that have a proven track record of financial success like MARVEL, DC, etc. As I began developing the prototypes, Jeff started showing at Horrorhound weekend to introduce our line to the horror community and we began revealing it to various Bigfoot and action figure groups and communities. We worked back and forth with the factory, finally got the product in the warehouse around December, and now we are pushing wave one with a great amount of success and working on wave two. It's great to start to see the figures pop up in stores around the world and in local stores, like my pals at Zapp! Comics in Jersey who've been one of my biggest supporters since I originally moved to NJ to work for McFarlane. It's cool to get to sculpt and produce a line I've always wanted to personally BUY, and watch it succeed where everyone told me it wouldn't sell. I love all the projects I work on, but this takes it to another level.

AFJ: Jean, how did you first find out that someone out there shared your love of the mysterious world of Cryptozoology?

JSJ: A friend of mine mentioned Jeff and that he was working on a cryptid line and looking for a sculptor. I’ve been interested in the topic since about 6th grade when I first saw a pic from the Patterson-Gimlin alleged Bigfoot video filmed in ’67. I had pitched the idea of a Cryptozoology action figure line to a few different companies and no one was interested. Generally, toy companies stay away from topics that don’t have an established track record for financial success attached to them. Now with the number of TV shows revolving around Bigfoot and monsters, the industry is primed for this type of product. Jeff had the same idea, and we immediately hit it off and began developing the first line. Around that time Jeff brought in two friends of his, Nick Epley and Craig Deere, who expressed an interest in investing in the project and lending their specialties to the company as it developed.

AFJ: When Junkies hear the word "Cryptozoology," I imagine their mind immediately goes to the legendary BIGFOOT of the Pacific Northwest. Was that the basic idea? To expand on that myth?

JSJ: Obviously, Sasquatch and the Yeti are in the forefront of any Cryptozoology discussion. I was of the mind that I didn’t want to just hit all the usual suspects in one line and then be stuck moving into obscure territory. I felt then and still do that we should investigate more obscure creatures and spread out the well-known ones throughout the successive waves.

AFJ: What is your role at CREATUREPLICA Jeff?

JB: Not sure what to put here because JSJ is the reason we are here. He is an incredible human being. I'll just give you a rundown of what I have done.

This journey started several years ago. As part of the research for the project I attended every Cryptid Convention and Show I could including the Ohio Bigfoot Conference. I became friends with the likes of Mr. Bob Gimlin who filmed the famous video shot in Bluff Creek in 1967. I really wanted to be a part of this kind of special area of interest. Having a background in Industrial Design and model fabrication it just seemed to make sense to try to do what I could to bring something in the form of an action figure based upon Folklore and witness testimony to the table and having a genius like Jean at the helm made it all possible. I work with Jean in the beginning stages of the process to determine what we are going to do. After some basic idea exchange Jean begins the process of sculpting and keeps the entire gang updated with photos etc. After the initial direction is established and the source from which the description is considered Jean takes the reins. I have painted two of our variant figures and Jean has done the rest. I man the helm at the Conventions, do the travel, for the most part, take care of the promotional work, establish contact with the vendors and maintain the best possible relationships with them. I also maintain the website and help with social media. Along with Craig and Nick we created the pathway from sculpt to product in our warehouse (and that was a year of intense learning let me tell ya) we also do all the financial and shipping duties – we pack every individual item that leaves the warehouse. The part I enjoy most is getting out there and meeting the people and seeing how they enjoy what we are doing. It is very fulfilling.

AFJ: Jean, what made this particular project special to you as an artist and something you wanted to invest your talent in?

JSJ: I’ve always been interested in the topic and monsters in general. Most companies don’t have any interest in nonlicensed original designs so this is an opportunity to create toys of creatures that in most cases have never been done, and certainly at least not done well. And to bring my aesthetic to it, rather than just being the hired gun on someone else's designs.

AFJ: What do you guys think separates CREATUREPLICA figures from figures available at big box chains?

JSJ: The main thing is that is an original property not ties to a blockbuster movie, TV show, video game or comic. While most companies will put all their effort and money into those media we want to go in the opposite direction and create cool toys for the sake of it. And while the big boys are figuring out how to make their figures smaller and cheap out on deco and bases we want to present more high-end figures of creatures everyone’s always wanted but no one’s made.

AFJ: I love that you guys really appear to have not spared any expense when it comes to packaging and size of the figures. Was that a conscious decision and a bonus of sorts to the hardcore Junkie looking for a new line to invest in?

JSJ: That was intentional. We wanted to buck the system and go against the trend toward smaller poorer quality figures, especially the “retro” 80’s figure trend, which repulses me. That I view as an excuse to make cheap crappy figures and sucker people in with cool licenses, but to each their own. I really like the Diamond Select model, great detail, and deco, cool bases and accessories. We can’t really compete in that price range yet but that line really represents what I want to do more than anything else.

JB: Yes, from the beginning all four of us wanted our products to the most impressive as they could be and we all still share that ideal and direction. We are very proud of what we have done up to this point and our future plans and projects in the works are poised to really stand out as something special.

AFJ: The CREATUREPLICA line tackles a lot of the urban legends we all know and love. What can we expect next from you guys? Are there other characters we know and love that we can expect to see?

JSJ: Our CREATUREPLICA imprint will basically cover anything or any direction we want to go in; monsters, robots, aliens. The jumping off point and initial focus in cryptids, but European folklore and mythology from many continents are all on the table as possibilities. There’s no board of directors or clueless designers pulling the strings. We’ve already announced the Wendigo and alien greys as part of wave 2. Almost anything can show up in one of our lines though!

AFJ: Where do you guys see CREATUREPLICA in 5 years?

JSJ: Hopefully still in business! This is our first real year, now that we actually have a product out so we live or die on the success of series one. So far, so good, but 5 years is a long way off. Having said that though, we’ve discussed an urban vinyl stylized line, which I have about a dozen sculpted, resin premium format statues and mini-busts, wall plaques and larger scale roto-cast figures.

JEFF: Jean,  you summed it up nicely...again!

The first wave of CREATUREPLICA figures can be bought at the majority of the popular online retailers you frequent. If your local comic shop HAS NOT heard about the line, tell them to ORDER SOME to get the word out about this incredibly original line of action figure goodness!

HORRORHOUND
This was the first beast that showed up at my door and it is quite the sight once you get through the bulletproof casing. I mean that in the best way possible by the way because you want secure casing for figures of this high a quality. While I have heard many different stories of how the HORRORHOUND came to be, it was not until CREATUREPLICA summed it all up perfectly on their expansive and comprehensive website telling the legendary tale. I had always known that the HORRORHOUND was some kind of WWII Nazi experiment gone wrong that wound up in the hands of the U.S. who brought it back to an Ohio Air Force base where upon a full moon, the beast vanished into the night and has been in the backwoods "Devil's Backbone" area haunting the Cincinnati area for decades. The true reason why WKRP was canceled revealed!

Much like Captain America being the experiment that worked, the HORRORHOUND is the exact opposite. At close to nine inches tall, a foot if you raise his arms up, the HORRORHOUND is frighteningly detailed by JSJ to the point where it actually looks like real staples were used to sew up the Hound's insides which are practically falling out of him. One of the things I am always skeptical about on niche figures is, of course, the ever-popular points of articulation and head movement. While at first glance, you almost do not even want to move the head just for the sake of preservation. However, it actually moves perfectly with just the right amount of swivel for those perfect poses. The claws on both the feet and hands are seriously claws. They are the closest you are going to get short of being a volunteer for Weapon X. The monster's legs are lanky but proportionate to the lean torso and you can really pose the figure both standing or on all fours. It looks like if he picked up speed, this hound could really take off. The paint apps are spot on with rich textures that you do not normally see in an animal-like figure and I have to think that the meticulous attention to detail was completely intentional. Below is a shot I took of the Hound in the wild!

THE HIMALAYAN YETI

We have all heard the name before. Yeti, Abominable Snowman, Dzu-Teh. Depending on where you are in the world, regular farmers to professional explorers and adventurers have tried to find the elusive monster that may or may not exist. I like to think that it does and I am certainly going to let it stay where it is and let the pros deal with it should one of them want to enter the suburbs. The frosty white monster that CREATUREPLICA has created goes by the name of THE HIMALAYAN YETI which really is the most popular and most well-known moniker of this beast. Standing at an awe-inspiring 8 & 1/4", you will swear that just by eyeballing the figure, it is ten inches easy. See, even in figure form, eyewitnesses can't get their stories straight! This iteration of the Yeti is so rooted in pop culture from the Wampa from Empire Strikes Back to DC's Gorilla Grodd most recently brought to life on The CW's The Flash.

I would pit this gem against any of the monster figures that I have in my collection and man, is this the figure for kids when it snows or what? It really will blend into the environment beautifully because it has such a natural, camouflaged look because of the brilliant paint job and mesh of colors. While the classic Yeti has many different reported encounters, mostly in Asia, the natural instinct is that the beast is a relative of some kind of ape. Its overwhelming size and jacked up shoulders make him the big man on campus of the first wave whose territory you do not want to disturb. I love that the facial expression is of a roar rather than a closed mouth. It just adds to the drama and authenticity of the piece and makes it that much scarier. Oh, and it's weighty. Real weighty. Weighty enough to know that you are holding on to something not produced in some sweatshop but with attentive care. I love the ice base too and the oversized holes in the feet of all four figures are perfect for interchanging without having to worry about any issues of breaking.

LOUISIANA ROUGAROU

I really had never heard of the LOUISIANA ROUGAROU before and did post a query on the AFJ Facebook page about it when the package arrived. I had no idea the wealth of information that was out there about this All-American ragin' Cajun. Basically, the LOUISIANA ROUGAROU is of the lycanthrope family. That's right Junkies, I'm talking about a werewolf. And if you are from the New Orleans area, you know the tale of the Rougarou all too well.

 

While there seem to be a whole lot of different but all compelling tales of the beast, the one common thread that seemed to be at the core of each encounter is that this is a wolf or dog-like monster. That is pretty much where the similarities end as the rest are embedded in local mythology depending on where you are from. The Rougarou supposedly appears in cycles and is a cautionary tale for kids to make sure and do their chores. The figure is 8 & 3/4" tall but again, with the arms up, this baby is over a foot easy. The base is a thoughtful swampy green marsh with a trophy skull for good measure. You know that face every dog makes if it you rile it up a little too much while teasing him while playing fetch? That's what the face of the CREATUREPLICA Rougarou looks like and it is spot on. While it has a similar lanky frame to the HORRORHOUND, that is where the likeness ends. This looks like an animal that is in mid-transformation (some say only a witch can turn into one or make one) and once it is fully turned, this guy can run faster than any of the Saints' running backs. I don't know how Jean does it with his sculpt and the more I learn, the more fascinated I am with it, but the teeth actually look like they have a red-pinkish stain from feasting on a recent kill. I did not even know that the mouth opened wide until I actually stuck my own fingers there to check the sharpness of the teeth! I honestly thought, "there's no way the mouth opens." With a bushy-like tail and patches of musculature over its shiny silver coat, the Louisana native is ready to howl at the moon and was most certainly born on the bayou.

NORTH AMERICAN SASQUATCH
Ahhh, the NORTH AMERICAN SASQUATCH, an American tradition. It is just about as American as you can get with the folklore going back generations to the woodsy Pacific Northwest of the country and their dense forests filled with what some call the NORTH AMERICAN SASQUATCH while a lot of folks know it by its other name, Bigfoot. I was fascinated by Bigfoot as an 80's kid, checking out any and all books from the library about the giant beast that supposedly was real and walked somewhat peacefully among the forest. The Patterson-Gimlin film was astonishing to me as a kid and after refreshing and watching the home movie in its entirety courtesy of YouTube, it still is incredible even if it is a hoax. Real or not, SASQUATCH followers continue to flock to the Pacific Northwest on expeditions to catch a glimpse of the giant beast. While the aforementioned YouTube is FILLED to the brim with amateur videos and Blair Witch wannabe's hoping to get discovered, there still is no concrete evidence that it even exists. That's what makes it such a damn entertaining All-American tale.

The TV and movie adaptations are aplenty and this is most definitely one of the key real "X-Files" that may never be solved, the idea of putting forth an action figure to match up real-life eyewitness claims was an awesome move by CREATUREPLICA. While it is the quiet, almost gentle looking giant of the four figures, its massive feet sculpted to perfection are perfect for making tracks in the dirt. The facial expression caught on the figure is one that, if we could zoom in on the Patterson-Gimlin film, one can imagine the monster making. It is a face of innocence in some kind of lost world desecrated by urban development, clinging to its last bastion of territory. However, the beast will put up a fight if infringed upon. Close to 7 & 1/2-inches tall, the NORTH AMERICAN SASQUATCH is one of the sturdiest overall builds in a figure, proportion wise that I have seen in a "horror" or "monster" type genre toy. To call them toys or even figures, is almost a disservice because of the artistry involved in putting all of the right pieces together to make this iconic work of art together. The almost orangutan looking giant-man with fur from which the human race was derived, is captured amazingly well. The soft browns and light layers, especially around the arms and feet, make it look like the figure has a real coat of fur. They smartly made separations next to those areas giving the figure a more humanoid appearance. It is a myth steeped in reality that has not been officially debunked by anyone and now you can own one!

 

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