Saturday, 19 March 2016

Art / Photography Book Review: Capturing Archetypes, 20 years of Sideshow Collectibles Art

In a rare visit to the National Library, I found a gem in the form of a Sideshow Collectibles art cum photography book - Capturing Archetypes, Twenty Years of Sideshow Collectibles Art. Now I love everything and anything to do with art books and if I had my way I would collect every one ever published, especially ones relating to sculpted figurines and movies. But for us mere mortals, limited budgets afford us the guilty pleasure of only a few a year at best. Priced at USD50, this book was beyond my budget when first released so getting to borrow it was the next best thing for me.

Below is a short video showing a glimpse of the book in a quick flip-through. It gives you a rough idea of the book's overall content. A more detailed review can be read in the following paragraphs. As with my previous YouTube videos, please select the HD option for best viewing.

First the good. Sideshow Collectibles have one of the best, if not the best, set of figurine collectibles in the market. (In my opinion, its closest rival is the Hong Kong-based Hot Toys which focuses on sixth scale figurines.) So the book already had excellent subject matters. It was just a matter of doing the figurines justice. In ways the book did just that. Some photos showcased dynamic closeups of brightly coloured and well detailed figurines while others captured creative poses in a diorama setting. There were also great shots of some of the bigger pieces' facial features with Thor being a prime example. Moreover, there were instances of good usage of space within a two-page spread which displayed both zoomed in closeups of the face and the figure as a whole e.g. Daredevil.   

Dynamic shots of figurines
Creative use of the Sideshow Collectible figurines in a diorama
Superb closeup of Thor's face, showcasing the fantastic sculpt and paint job
Wolverine is captured in a bright enough lighting to show his details in all its glory
Photographs of Daredevil show good use of both sides of the page

But there were a lot of bad photos too, infuriatingly so. My biggest beef was with the extremely dark lighting used, shifting photos from the realms of artistic to just plain bad. Chief candidate for worse photo was that of Gandalf (see below). I get and respect the artistic slant the photographer must have been aiming for. However, in such art/photography books my main wish is to see eye candy in the form of highly detailed figurines. Encasing Gandalf in near total darkness is a no-go for me. Another example was Harley Quinn which in my view should have had brighter lighting. Other complaints I had was the lazy usage of a two page spread which featured a blank page with a quote next to one with a photo of a figurine. At times, this seemed like a missed creative opportunity.   

My least favourite photograph in the book; only Gandalf's back is visible ... oh wait it's too dark to see
I love Sideshow's Harley Quinn but here the lighting is way too dark and ends up obscuring her details
This page arrangement is just plain lazy that does not do justice to the brilliant photograph on the right
Poison Ivy is a slim figure and the blank page on the right just looks like wasted space

That being said, it's worth noting that a black background can still work. When a figurine has many details as in Star Wars Boba Fett, a black background serves to focus ones eye to the figurine as well as highlight its many details. Notice however the figurine is brightly lit in this case. In addition, closeups where the colour scheme is predominantly white (Marvel Black Cat) a black background is the only way to go. Again the figure was brightly lit. And there is also always a case for dark and gloomy lighting depending on the subject matter. In the case of The Lord of the Rings characters such as Gollum and the Black Rider, the dark setting did not in any way take away from the figures. 

A detailed closeup of a figure with many things going on works wonderfully with a black background
A predominantly bright and white colour scheme on Black Cat means only a black background will do
Both Gollum (left) and the Black Rider (right) look suitably great in dark lighting

And then there are the grey areas where a photo borders between art and bad lighting. This was the category in which I felt Mystique's spread fell in. On the right page she looked great artistically while on the left the darkness started to diminish the qualities of the figurine (see below).

Mystique looks mysterious in the dark (right) but at the same time it's too dark to see details on her back (left)

Volume Two was recently released but I have yet to get my hands on it. Hopefully they will address the overall too gloomy look of the photographs. I'm a huge fan of black backgrounds. But when coupled with too many instances of low lighting, it can be a huge turnoff. So in the end it all boils down to whether I would buy a copy of this book for myself. Well, yes and no. As a fan of art books, I would love to have this book in my collection. But only at the right discounted price. There are enough flaws in it that makes the book not worth its retail cover price. For many of us, owning a Sideshow Collectibles figurine is just too expensive so the book becomes the most viable alternative.


  1. I have all their space marines.

  2. Cool. I rather like the Poison Ivy layout but there's nothing nice to say about poor Gandalf... a total dud.

    1. Yeah, you do have a point. Poison Ivy's spread looks rather good but that's mainly because the figure is excellent. Admittedly the layout can be acceptable from an artistic angle but a back view on the right page would've been nice too.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...