COMPARISON: Kenner & Super7 18 inch ALIENS.

Now that the new Super7 ALIENS figure has been released and been reviewed, let’s take a closer look at how it compares to the original 1979 figure that inspired it.  It really is a re-issue of the older toy but it still has its own merits to stand on its own two feet with its own distinct identity.

There’s absolutely no doubt that Super7’s new figure is derived from the Kenner item.  It’s easy to note the variations and worth documenting the differences between these figures.  It is essentially the same item with minor changes and updated 21st Century production methods employed to retroactively bring this figure into the ALIENS action figure oeuvre.

Despite both figures sharing a plethora of commonality, the most substantial changes are obvious without too much inspection. While not being a ‘carbon copy’ of the older figure, the Super7 ALIENS item is definitely a member of the Kenner family – not as a true successor but in spirit and designed to appeal to a niche audience of fans.  Let’s get stuck into the analysis.

The face, hands and feet all possess alternate characteristics to serve as quick identifiers to differentiate these figures from each other.  There’s also a shift in the finish of the figure and this is not immediately noticeable and is documented below.

Some difference in the materials used in the casting of these new figures can also be observed.  Beyond those tangible differences it’s obvious that Super7 have intended this tiem to be a 21st Century alternative to the 1979 figure but in a retro ‘1986’ flavour.  Taking into consideration the figure is an officially licenced product from 20th Century Fox and not a ‘bootleg’ then its official status as such is assured.

The photographs above show the general morphology of both figures is nearly identical.  At a glance, the carapace upon the head of the Kenner figure is the major feature to determine its identity.  A lingering gaze will quickly reveal further differences to the head, hands and feet.  Beyond that, there’s not a lot of distinction between them and you would be forgiven for thinking these figures were cast from the same mould.

But they’re not.  Aside from the (unverified but highly likely to be true) accounts that Kenner destroyed all the moulds for their original figure, other subtle details throughout the newer item reveal that this is not the case.  Let’s take a closer look at some select features.  Some will be obvious.  Others less so.

Removing the carapace from the Kenner figure we can inspect the heads easier.  Looking at the faces of these figures reveals significant distinctions between them.  Kenner’s glow in the dark painted face is replaced with a smooth featureless and unpainted visage upon the Super7 item.  Gone are the eye orbits and other observable features of the skull and these omissions reflect the decision on James Cameron’s part for the design of these creatures as they appeared in the 2nd movie.

Details on the upper cranial surface have also had changes made to it.  The ovoid painted shapes of the original figure now have a greater physical depth to them and the glow in the dark paint work is limited to these depressions only.  Unlike the Kenner item, the recesses are painted along the entire length of the head.  The back of the head, which no longer supports a carapace is made smooth with the lip needed to rest the dome upon now gone.

There are other minor details present relating to the chin and jaw boasting small changes made to them; along with some small details along the side of the head that have been altered.  Other than these revisions, much of the head remains exactly the same as the original Kenner item with the trigger activated jaw operation remaining completely unchanged.

The hands are substantially different on the newer figure. The ornately detailed 6 fingered arrangement has been replaced with 5 digits and features considerably less detail. The new hands look crude and unfinished by comparison with large knuckles and an inelegant finish. This is similar to the kind of rough work we see on some of the early Tsukuda and Halcyon figures of the 1980s and 1990s where the jaw activation system was removed and made complete with little effort.  It’s a little disappointing that the same level of detail present in the original Kenner figure hasn’t been maintained with the extremities on this figure.

Also of note is the elbow spur which has been removed from the arm and replaced with a sickle like appendage attached to the forearm.  While accurate to the arms and hands of the creatures appearing in ALIENS this revision is generally unsatisfying and bland.

Comparing the feet on these figures the viewer may arrive at the conclusion that these extremities are from completely unassociated figures.  While the physical arrangement of the toes is now altered to be character accurate, the foot detailing on the new figure is completely different.  The toe count remains the same but the hallux (big toe – you learnt a new word today, right?) is now perpendicular to the rest of the foot.

Once again, the ornate sculpting is replaced with a bland soft finish. As the rest of the figure is blessed with an abundance of detail it’s disappointing the freshly modified feet don’t quite live up to the presentation.

The rest of the Super7 figure very closely emulates the original Kenner item in just about every way.  The torso, upper arms, dorsal appendages, tail and thighs all look alike and at a glance there is no apparent changes. Compare these features more closely and it becomes obvious the new figure does not share the same sets of moulds.  The set of  moulds for the Super7 figure have been generated much more recently.

Comparing the torso and thighs on both of these figures we can see that the surface details on the Kenner item are sharper and finer.  Inspecting the Super7 figure we find those same surface and edge details have been ‘eroded’ and are softer, rounder edged and less defined.  As I stated in the review for this figure, it imbues a feeling of ‘beach glass’ – the broad details are all present, but the finer textures and edges have been smoothed and rounded out to look more like polished black glass.  Of particular note are the fine texture details and edge transitions throughout the entire figure which are now softer and less delineated.

Such smoothing of details is also noticeable on Super7’s earlier released 2016 ‘Prototype’ version of this figure.  Much like the ‘Classic Toy Edition’ being compared here, the Prototype also has a glassy, smooth finish to it.  This quality of finish isn’t limited to these 2 figures either.  The integument is remarkably similar to the surface finish of the 24 inch tall Gentle Giant tribute items released in 2014 and 2015.

I haven’t yet compared the finish on both of these items directly but it wouldn’t surprise me if the moulds for the Super7 items are based on the same digital data – or similarly generated data – used to create the moulds used by Gentle Giant with 3D scanning methods.  More investigation will need to be done on my part but I’m almost convinced both Super7 iterations bear a closer relationship to the Gentle Giant pressings than to the original Kenner item.

This is speculation on my part: The use of scanned digital data is a two edged sword on these figures.  While the detailing on the figure ultimately suffers from limitations of the scanning technology process and software, it means that changes to the figure such as the head and limbs are easily executed in a 3D software package prior to the generation of fresh moulds.  Such data is also easily shared.  If one company is licenced to produce a product such as this, then the next organisation in line with the licence can easily use that data.  This is what I believe has happened between Super7 and Gentle Giant.  Once again, more research is needed to verify or deny.

Aside from the visible characteristics noted throughout this examination, the materials used on the new figure is also deserving of mention.  The original Kenner figure uses polyvinylchloride (PVC)  the main construction of the body, arms, legs and head with the hands, dorsal appendages and tail cast in urethane.  These are generally cheap and stable materials appropriate for a toy that was initially marketed at children ‘AGES 5 AND UP’.

The Super7 item has use a similar hard PVC plastic as a base.  The hands, dorsal appendages and tail cast in the same material.  Casting the entire figure in a single material throughout like this does lend a consistency to the overall figure that the original lacks and no opportunity for a softer urethane to be damaged by the harder base material.

As the original Kenner item is going to be the metric and the standard by which tribute figures such as this are going to be measured, it’s just a little disheartening to see the new figure be released without the level of detail that was oddly so much better in 1979.  This is a toy that was made nearly 40 years ago and the detail is still superior to one made today.

It’s proof of what such an accurate and detailed sculpt the original figure is.  Despite it lacking in technical areas and construction methods that have lead to so many of them losing or breaking parts over the years, it still looks better.  The Super7 item has benefited from modern and amended construction methods.  The new Super7 ALIENS figure might not look as good as the Classic vintage toy but it does have the technical benefit of not falling apart so easily nor losing loose parts so readily.

As a final appendix to this article I thought it would be fun to explore what the Super7 figure would be like if it included a head carapace.  To this end, below is a small gallery of images featuring an original ‘dome’ placed on the head of the new figure.

Have fun with these: