Updated: Dec 5, 2018
Review : Clubber Lang* NECA, Rocky III Wave/Series : Rocky 40th Anniversary Series 1 Released : June 2016
*2 versions of Clubber are available in Series 1. Blue Trunks with Angry Head. Black Trunks with neutral head. This review covers both figures but at this stage we are working with the blue trunk version and will update out gallery with the alternative version in due course.
From 2012 to 2014, NECA produced a small series of Rocky figures - with characters taken from the first four films including the titular Rocky Balboa, Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed. The series has taken on almost cult status and finding any figure from this original run of clam-shelled figures will mean paying considerably over the odds.
In 2015 it was announced that NECA would return to the Rocky licence with a 40th Anniversary series of figures. Within this they would re-release figures from the original range, as well as add in brand new sculpts.
Wave 1 of this 40th anniversary range would be based on Rocky III and contain two versions of Rocky and two versions of the main protagonist, Clubber Lang.
In this review we look at the Clubber Lang figure.
The first considerably change vs the original 2012-14 range is the move to a collectors box for these 40th anniversary figures. The box is a sleek gloss black and of comparable size to other collector lines including Funko's Legacy range and Star Wars Black Series.
Starting at the front of the box, and the black background is actually made up of spotlight stars. The film and character name is presented in stark white text to the bottom right. And to the bottom left is a high shine foil stylised image of Clubber (Mr T). The window shows off the majority of the figure and wraps round the top flap, but not to either side as we sometimes see on this type of packaging. The colouring of the foil character images and the backdrop of the figure tray will apparently be changed for each series.
The two spine sides are identical with the Rocky text logo at the top, and under this the 40th Anniversary wording. In the centre is another foil image, this time of the iconic silhouette of Rocky's celebratory fist in the air pose. Under this is the character name, and confirmation of the series.
The box back is made up of the movie poster for Rocky III. To the top of this poster is a short paragraph laying down the premise of Rocky III. To the bottom of the poster is a four figure check-list detailing all the figures in the line, and on top of these is the wording "The Greatest Challenge".
Like the Rocky figure, Clubber is a hefty figure in hand - with plenty of weight compared to other modern NECA figures. He stands just over 7 inches tall with the Mohawk. This is taller than Rocky, which is how I remember the movie - although research on Google reveals Mr-T and Stallone are actually the same height.
There are two Clubber versions available in Series 1. The first, with black shorts, comes with a neutral looking head which is a great likeness to the icon that is Mr-T, and captures his moody mean look with furrowed frowning eye brows and scowling lips.
The other head, with blue shorts, is a grimacing version which can be interpreted as angry or perhaps pained if he has just taken a jaw shot from Rocky. This alternative head is not as crisp as the neutral version and looks a little blurred. The eyes are closed so there is no detail other than the eye brow, and the mouth is now open with the gum shield revealed but there isn't a clear definition between shield and teeth.
On both versions the hair is well done, including the Mohawk. All the head paint applications are neat with no obvious factory issues.
Like Rocky Balboa, the figure is predominantly cast in a skin tone over which are some detailed paint apps to bring out muscle definition and body details. This is not as pronounced as on Rocky, nor is Clubber as "shiny". All of the body proportions are really good and there isn't a lot of impact from the joints which are all done with a great deal of sympathy to the look of the figure - there is obviously nowhere to hide joints on this type of figure.
The gloves are larger than those on Rocky and this is brilliant as I had assumed they may have just been re-used. The gloves are high gloss and with stitched detail and a neat decal to the bottom edge representing the brand of the gloves.
The trunks are well detailed, plenty of folds and creases and topped off with an elasticated textured waist strap. Colouring is basic, but neat, and the word Clubber is emblazoned on the waist band on both colours of shorts.
The boots are very similar to Rocky with almost knee height stitched textured socks and then ankle height boxing boots. The boots also carry the tassels, but again look to be sculpted for Clubber and not interchanged between the other figures in the series. On the blue shorts these boots are an off white and look a bit grubby and don't capture the lace detail. On the black shorts the boots are still a white base, but now carry some stark black panels and edging.
Articulation starts with the common ball jointed head, and like Rocky this can rotate fully and look up and down - the looking up (leaning back) position being ideal for posing Clubber to be taking a punch.
Shoulder joints have a full range of movement, and there is then a single joint rotating elbow and a pegged wrist under the glove. Like Rocky this allows Clubber to get into a good selection of boxing poses, and the only gripe is the inability to bend the elbows back on themselves to get the gloves close to the face in a defensive pose.
The chest joint is lower down and hidden better on Clubber around his abdomen. And then as an extra piece of articulation there is a very loose waist joint, a joint I can't find or get to move on the Rocky figure. Combining the abdomen with the waist joint and the top torso can be ducked and dived into a variety of hunched boxing poses.
The shorts are rubber but still hold the top of the legs in a reasonably fixed position, and I don't mind this. I'd rather the trunks look realistic than NECA having tried to go with hip articulation, which I think would have made the figures look like they were fighting in adult nappies. The hips do move to widen Clubber's stance, and you can then combine this with the single knee joint to plant the legs for in-ring positioning. The ankle rockers and toe joint then allow the feet to be naturally placed, perhaps in a forward shuffle motion, although you won't get Clubber to pose like this without a stand - and thankfully there are feet holes to allow you to peg Clubber onto a stand.
Clubber is arguably a better figure than Rocky on the strength of that extra waist joint alone. He looks great, albeit with the neutral head being my preference. Some would argue that packing in two heads would have suited collectors better - but you have to look at the commerciality aspect and a project like this will only survive if NECA can maximise their investment by re-using sculpts in different options.
I give the mean and nasty Clubber Lang a 5 out of 5 and I can see him disappearing from shelves really quickly - after all unlike Rocky we know we won't see Clubber again in any of the planned 3 series.