Customikey's Toys of Wonder

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that the format of this review is cribbed directly from the great Michael Crawford's Toy Review site.  His website is an amazing source, and I highly recommend any toy-lover check it out!

Sideshow continues to have great success with their Star Wars line.  During the 30th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, we’re reviewing the figure of Emperor Palpatine, who was introduced in ESB, but really fleshed out and came into his own in Return of the Jedi.  Emperor Palpatine is Darth Vader’s boss, the only guy in the universe who gets to push the Man in Black around, so he gets major bad-ass points for that.  In Episode III, he also went toe to toe with Master Yoda and came out shiny, so we give His Majesty double props for that feat. 
This is Sideshow’s third foray into this character, previously seen in the Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious 2-Pack, which was very well-received.  This release is the classic ROTJ version.  Let’s see how he stacks up!  I’m reviewing the exclusive version tonight, which came with an extra “grimacing” head, which really makes the figure.

Packaging - ***

Emperor Palpatine comes in the standard, Lucasfilm-approved packaging that has been seen for the past several years now.  It’s a solid, collector-friendly release, with well-rendered, if a bit dull, graphics, and a good window-display for the figure and all his accessories.
 Unlike previous releases, there is only one window displaying everything in one section, instead of two windows, one for the figure and one for the accessories.  A second window would have been a bit silly, considering how light he is on extras.  More on that later.

Sculpting - ****
The standard “relaxed” head is very well sculpted and looks like the character.  All the requisite wrinkles and bumps are there, and there’s a good bit of personality there, too.  The Emperor looks confident and very chill.  At some angles, he does look a bit kindly and a bit pensive, but we can see the effect they were going for.  It’s a perfectly good sculpt, and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best sculpts Sideshow has produced for this line.
The hands, likewise, are very well sculpted and unique to this figure.  He comes with two splayed out hands, presumably for shooting some of his signature Sith Lightning, a right hand for holding his cane, and a left “pointing” hand, which is a gesture The Emperor used several times in ROTJ.  If I have any complaints, it is that the hands seem slightly over-sized.
The exclusive “grimacing” head is a real treasure, though. 
Sideshow has a long tradition of throwing in exclusives that aren’t absolutely integral to the figure, but are cool additions nonetheless.  However, occasionally they really go the extra mile and throw something in that no figure should be without. 
The extra head that comes with the exclusive edition of this figure is absolutely vital, in my opinion.
While the regular head is well-sculpted and perfectly acceptable, the grimacing head flares with personality!  The enraged Emperor is perfectly captured, with bared teeth and furrowed brow.  As of now, the exclusive is still available via Sideshow’s site.It is also worth noting that the neck, which is a separate piece, is fully sculpted and painted as well, and really adds to the realism of the figure.

Paint - ***

The paintwork on The Emperor is even and clean, with a good wash to bring out detail, and very well delineated eyes.  No doll dot, which many collectors will appreciate, as well.
However, I had to knock off a star for a couple of bad decisions.  First, the lips are painted a lot darker than what is seen on screen.  In fact, the Emperor does not appear to have any lip color in the film, so the lipstick on the figure definitely throws off the look.  Second, Sideshow’s factory has decided to add liver spots to the Emperor’s face and hands.  The spots look more like beauty marks, and also were not part of the make-up seen on film.  The hands have excellent paint apps, with a good wash over the details, and even a bit of paint applied to the veins to make them pop a bit.  That sounds gross, doesn’t it?

Costume- ***1/2

The Emperor is dressed very simply, in a style meant to mimic the Jedi.  He has a robe, sash, and hooded cloak.  He also has short black boots, the same ones as the ROTS 2-Pack.
The robe and sash are grey and well-tailored.  The sleeves on the robe go all the way to the wrists, a relief to those of us who did not enjoy Darth Sidious’s sleeveless “frilly dress.”
The hooded cloak is likewise very well made, with an excellent choice of material that reproduces the ribbed quality of the onscreen counterpart.  Both the hood and the long sleeves are lined as well, which helps with the heft of the material and keeps backlight out.
The hood and sleeves are also wired for extra positioning, which is very important to this character, as the shape of his hood absolutely affects the realism of the likeness on this figure.
I knocked off ½ a star because, like the Darth Sidious figure, Emperor Palpatine seems to be missing his trousers.  While it does not affect the presentation of the figure, in a collectible market where many figures are starting to have undergarments as well as full costumes, the missing trousers are even more of a glaring omission.  This is doubly confusing since their ANH Obi-Wan Kenobi and even relatively minor characters like Bib Fortuna were graced with underclothes.
The costume hangs very well from the Prometheus body, though, and the missing trousers do nothing to detract from his general appearance.

Accessories- *

Unfortunately, this is where His Majesty really falls short.  And I mean that literally.  Whereas the Darth Sidious 2-pack treated us to two lightsabers (both lit and unlit versions), a Sith Holocron, a Cam Droid, and (in the exclusive version), a miniature Sith Statue, The Emperor comes with…. A cane.
The cane, in and of itself, is well sculpted and looks very much like the movie version.  However, it is far too short to be useful to the figure.  In the film, Palpatine’s cane was tall enough that he could stand erect and still be bending his elbow to set the cane on the floor. 
The Sideshow version is much too short for this, and a lot of people will be swapping it out for the less-accurate, but appropriately sized, Hasbro version.
Sideshow could have included The Emperor’s major weapon, Sith Lightning, in this set.  I fail to see how it looks any more ridiculous than the plastic ignited lightsabers.  Hasbro has pulled off Sith Lightning well enough, and even Hot Toys managed to make plastic electricity look good on their Whiplash figure, so there’s no excuse for missing the boat there.On a figure pushing $100, a too-short cane does NOT cut it.
In addition, they could have included a re-pack of Luke’s lightsaber, or even included some random Sith-y or Empire-y item not seen in the film, such as they did with Bib Fortuna (knife, drink, Jabba snack) or ANH Princess Leia (Death Star plans). 
Even a re-pack of the lightsaber he fought Yoda with in ROTS would have been welcome, as this marks the first Force-sensitive character we have received without a lightsaber!

Sideshow also released the Emperor’s Throne as a separate piece, and I think it should have been the exclusive (akin to what they did with Grand Admiral Thrawn) instead of the extra head, which many collectors will be clamoring for.

Articulation- ***

Sideshow is still battling the market with their Prometheus body.  It’s the second best body on the market, several steps behind Hot Toys’ True-Type.  Sideshow has shown pictures of an improved Prometheus, but that was not used for this release.
He poses well enough, though the hips and ankles are still very loose, and I worry about those wrist pegs.  I try to just swap out the hands onto the same two pegs, so that the second set of pegs can be held in reserve should these pegs break, as they seem really close to doing!
My issue with the Prometheus is in it’s shoulders, which are a bit too rounded, and it’s waist which doesn’t turn very well.  These limitations don’t harm The Emperor overmuch, but for more active characters like youthful Jedi or smugglers, it makes them look a bit geriatric.  The body is also slightly shorter than their buck body, making for a bit of a disconnect in the middle of the line.

Value - **
As much as I’m enjoying him, I cannot ignore the price point versus what’s in the box.  And while what is in the box is of very high quality, what is missing from the box (accessories, trousers) is glaring enough for me to dock 1 ½ stars. 

Things to Watch Out For -
Be careful of the wrist pegs when switching out hands.

Overall - ***
I’d love to give the Emperor 4 stars.  He’s been my most anticipated figure since Sideshow announced the line, and I am definitely happy with him.  The lack of accessories loses him a star overall, but fans of The Dark Side and Star Wars in general should be very happy with this very solid release.

Score Recap:

Packaging - ***

Sculpting - ****
Paint - ***
Costume – *** 1/2
Accessories - *

Articulation - ***

Value - ** 1/2
Overall - ***

You may have already guessed that I’m a huge Star Wars fan!  When I was very very young, I was in a terrible accident that put me in the hospital for a very long time.  I have a distinct memory of my parents visiting me in my room, one night after surgery, when I was unable to walk and I had IV and blood drips hooked into my arms.  I was so bored and tired and grouchy, so they brought me a big brown paper bag of Star Wars figures from home! 

I was surprised when I opened the bag to see that they had even sneaked in a few new ones!  Among these were the Max Rebo Band and The Emperor.  I was elated!  I tore open the packaging right away and was thrilled by the new and interesting figures.  For some reason, The Emperor became my favorite of all.  It is, on the surface, a rather boring toy of an old, gray man in an old gray robe, looking very worried, with two fat hands and a little black cane.  But for some reason, I really grew attached to this figure.  The Emperor himself would become my absolute favorite Star Wars character.  This was long before I knew he had any other name.  He was just the evil and enigmatic Emperor.

Twenty-six years later, and I know so much more about The Emperor.  The character and history is so much more complex than he was in my youth, but I’ve lost none of that sense of awe for him.  I even still have my little Kenner figure.

I just received notice from Sideshow that their 12” version of Emperor Palpatine is shipping soon.  I must admit, I’m really excited for this figure.  The preview images suggest a well-sculpted and clothed figure, and he even comes with his throne (something I always wished for my stiff-legged little Kenner figure).

I suspect when he arrives I’ll simply have to customize him, but that doesn’t make me less excited.  It makes me even more anxious for him to get here!  It is not often that I will buy toys for myself anymore (a subject for a future blog, perhaps), but I could not let this one pass.  I don’t often write reviews (you’d have to look pretty hard to find the ones I wrote on, but I think I’ll have to for this one!  Then it’s on to the work of making him uniquely…. Mine.

The little gray dude with the stick is the Best Figure Ever!!!
A line-up of commissions
A line-up of Commissioned heads
Ever since I tripped over the amazing forums at Sideshow Freaks (, it's been such a pleasure being able to talk at length about this interesting hobby with fellow enthusiasts.  This blog is sort of an extension of that joy.  This blog is also my opportunity to keep a continuing record of what I'm up to, both as an artist and as a collector.   

I suppose, since this is my first post, I should talk about myself a bit.  I was raised upper-middle class in a military family.  We were always doing well, and I never wanted for anything.  As such I was always well-stocked with new and interesting toys to play with.  My childhood can be measured by whatever toyline I was obsessed with at the time, from Star Wars and G.I. Joe to He-Man and Ninja Turtles.

I started customizing my toys at a very young age, popping parts off of Kenner Star Wars figures and re-arranging the limbs on G.I. Joes, adding cloth capes with safety pins attached at the neck.  I was never quite satisfied with the way toys looked out of the package, and always sought to make them just a little bit better.

This tendency really took a turn in my high school days, when I started collecting 12" figures.  It was around this time that I saw the work that Tony DiTerlizzi was doing on  His extraordinary work changed the way I looked at my collection.  I couldn't stop myself from repainting, changing bodies, adding or altering costume pieces, etc.

 It wasn't till after college, when I was married and living in NYC, that I started posting pictures of my work in online forums.  And it wasn't long after that that I began to receive messages from other collectors who "wanted their toys to look like mine!"  After doing some research, I saw that what had started as a simple hobby, could also be a tidy business, at least enough to help offset the collecting habit!

So, I've been painting on commission ever since.  My main job is as an actor (check me out at, but whenever I'm not on the road, I enjoy sitting down to a new project.  These days, I don't collect so much anymore, and my commissions usually go straight to paying for "adult things" like bills and rent.

But every now and then, something will come along that I just can't ignore.  Right now, I'm really enjoying Sideshow's 1:6 scale Star Wars line.  It's a little slice of awesome.  I'll talk more about my own collection, and the work I do for other people, and cool stuff that's caught my eye as we go.  Thanks for reading!

My signature on the inside of the neck.
My little sig!