Toy Review: NECA Universal Monsters Frankenstein and 2015 Doc Brown

Fresh from an exclusive run at Walmart, a mad scientist and a mad scientist’s creation should arrive shortly at stores everywhere. 2015 Doc Brown, from Back to the Future II, and Frankenstein‘s monster in black and white, form the Universal horror classic. (A color version can be obtained at Target.) But first, let’s get a pedantic nitpick out of the way. “Frankenstein’s monster” is an adjective, not a name. The creature, as a distinct consciousness, is Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, a son of sorts. As such, he would have the same surname: Frankenstein. So it’s his name too. Deal with it.

Frankenstein has seen toy form more times than we can count. So what does NECA have to offer that others didn’t? A few things, actually — some more relevant than others. First, he features digital face-printing. Now, obviously Boris Karloff is long-dead, so the scans have to come from archival material. This makes them slightly more cartoonish than from a live actor who can sit for it, but it’s fascinating to see the process done in grayscale.

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Three heads come in the package, along with three sets of hands and matching accessories. The idea is for three distinct looks, but by mixing and matching a collector can obviously create more. But three distinct ones, at least, seem intended. The packaged one is neutral, with the dead-face look that’s the most familiar.

The rage face pairs well with the choking hands and included shackles, which attach once his hands get popped off. (Note: the image below is color-corrected to actual black-and-white.)

And then the “happy” face matches hands that can hold the daisy accessories, which thread through his fingers to stay put pretty well.

NECA also adds more articulation than most, creating maybe the most poseable classic Frankenstein ever. Not that he needs to strike many different stances, but he can. The company has clearly been working on the issue of stiff outer clothing layers inhibiting articulation, and his jacket is super flexy, allowing the mid-torso joint a wide range. While he only has single-ball elbows and knees, that’s plenty. And in addition to his double-ball neck, there’s an additional ball joint at his shirt’s neckline.

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One surprise is how much care they’ve taken on his buttocks. Frankenstein got back.

The only sculpt nitpick here is one common to NECA. Like Michael Myers and other characters in jumpsuits, Frankenstein’s arms are sculpted with the inner sides designed to hang tightly by his sides, so they’re a bit flat on the downside. Which makes wider flailing look less accurate.

And this is particularly notable in this case because Doc Brown specifically does NOT have that issue. His sleeves are rounded, and work fine in any pose.

But then, this Doc Brown really is a masterpiece. Worth waiting for for fans who felt the 1955 version was an underwhelming debut. The 2015 outfit is one of his two most iconic looks, and it comes loaded with features. Even the box features the entire front page of USA Today from the “future” — and all the stories are readable! Some production assistant back in the ’80s probably wrote all this copy, never imagining anyone would see it. And here they are. Note: I know that NECA didn’t make this up themselves because the replica in the Playmobil set is pretty much the same.

Doc also includes a figure-sized copy of the front page, but be careful, as it is actual paper.

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Think that level of detail is impressive? Wait till you open his briefcase. This is simply some mind-blowing mini-replication, right here:

Are you not impressed? How about this: Both of Doc’s watches are removable (be careful when switching out his hands). He has two sets of hands, and three heads, though one is a repaint from the previous Doc. The heads pop off nice and easily, unlike the first round of Martys, which caused me a broken neck peg. The shiny shades don’t seem removable. Maybe a future variant will have them on his forehead.

Like Frankenstein, Doc has more mid-torso movement, showcasing the fact that NECA knows the stiff outer clothing needed improvement. He also has single-ball elbow and knee articulation, where Marty had the double elbows to try and hold the camcorder better.

One thing to be careful of: the antennae on his shoes. They’re stiff, and seem potentially quite breakable. This seems like one area where sacrificing detail for softness might have worked better. Can’t blame them for going with accuracy — just be careful how you store him.

Doc runs $34.99 at Entertainment Earth. Frankenstein costs the same. Between the two, Doc provides the most value for money. Frankenstein fans no doubt have many favorite replicas already, but if this is to be someone’s first, it covers a lot of bases. (Superhero Hype is part of Entertainment Earth’s affiliate network, and earns fees based on purchases made through site links.)

Get a closer look at more details in the gallery below. Then tell us what you think in comments.

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