The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere is just hours away, and with my growing excitement at finally knowing who dies by Negan’s hand, I needed something to “feed the need”, so to speak.
As an action figure collector, my immediate response was to go play with my toys.
Now I never had any of the 6-inch TWD action figures but have a few McFarlane Construction Sets in hand. These are brick toys like Lego or Mega Bloks and involve a bit of elbow grease before you can really start “playing” with them. Like Legos, they come in sets that are scene-specific—like The Governor’s Room or Hospital Doorsa—and have about 100 to 400 pieces per set. They also come in blind bags for additional single characters and walkers, again like Lego Minifigures.
A Million Little Bricks
It’s fascinating how there’s this huge Lego phenomenon and everyone’s been part of it one way or another. Its presence is ubiquitous—from minifigures, keychains, and shirts, to big franchises like Star Wars and Batman, and even a blockbuster movie. I probably know too many people who are into Lego, and they aren’t all your stereotypical, geeky toy collectors. They are friends I’ve known since college and are professionals now, half of them women, and with tastes that cover the entire coolness spectrum. The appeal of building something out of studded bricks is just so widespread.
You do get a sense, though, that Legos are primarily for kids. Or, that maybe there’s a cooler way of doing it. That’s exactly what Todd McFarlane set off to do when he conceptualized the McFarlane Construction Sets back in 2014. He took the Lego model of brick-building to some degree and mixed it with his company’s edict of “selling toys to a 25-year-old with a straight face.”
Season 3’s The Prison
I’m no 25-year-old, but the hyper-detailing did appeal to me when I first saw a set at a Walmart back in 2014. I bought that, and then found a few stores in Greenhills that sold other sets, got a friend to import a few from Singapore, and now I’m missing maybe just one or two sets.
I already completed the Prison Tower so I figured I might as well do the whole prison the best that I can this time. I busted out the Prison Catwalk set which has an upper and lower prison cell as well as the catwalk, a pair of stairs, parts of the exterior prison wall, and sliding prison doors. I also have a couple of Lower and Upper Prison Cell sets that connect with the Prison Catwalk set, which allows a bit of customization, like getting more prison cells and extending the size of the build.
That McFarlane Look
McFarlane Toys have always had amazing detail in them, from that first line of Spawn figures to the horror-themed Movie Maniacs, with sports and music action figures manufactured in between. Some of the toys they make are controversial even, since they don’t hold back when depicting mutilation and gore. That design standard holds true for these brick sets as well.
In a 2014 interview to introduce the Construction Sets line, Todd McFarlane explained: “There's going to be a lot of components to what we're building to where you're going to have to lay another layer of bricks or tiles on it and cover up the dimples or nipples, whatever you want to call the tops of the blocks, and you cover them up with art so at the end of it it looks kind of like a diorama.”
Aside from calling the studs “nipples”, he pretty much described exactly how his bricks are a design notch higher than other brick toys. And that other layer of tiles that you cover up the studs with? They’re filled with great detail like grooves and lines and unique textures, plus a great paint job that just makes everything pop.
The one thing that Lego has McFarlane obviously beat is in buildability. There’s not enough uniformity in the bricks to build anything different from what the set’s intended end-build is. The McFarlane Construction Sets are part building sets, but are more like specific diorama sets, just built with bricks. It’s a cool concept regardless, and satisfies that desire to build even if a bit restrictive.
There’s also enough mixing and matching to be made from the Prison Cell set’s parts. Take the beds for instance. One side is designed like there’s a dirty bedsheet over it, while the other side is just plain mattress. You then place it over the frame and choose between two different ratty blankets to put on top of the bed.
The prison cell desks can also be mixed and matched. You get a brown tile with two holes that is the tabletop and then you can choose whatever you want to plug into those holes. One of my tables has Carl’s sheriff hat and gun on it, which I put inside the cell that came with the Carl figure. That was an easy choice. There’s other stuff in there that you could customize like maybe the baseball cap paired with an IV bag should probably go to Glenn’s cell, or the knife and gun to Carol’s, and so on.
Recreate your favorite scene
It’s fun to look at stills of an episode and then try to recreate the scenes via action figures—and you can pretty much do that with these sets. It’s great that the focus is on the environment which then allows you to place several characters and have them interact in different ways.
The figures themselves may not have a lot of articulation, but they’re still fairly poseable and the detail in them is so amazing, it makes you forget the scale sometimes. These are barely two inches tall and yet they look eerily similar to the TV characters they represent.
I had a lot of fun building these sets. This may sound blasphemous, but I can probably say that I had more fun constructing them than when I built some of my Lego sets. Building Legos are different because you get to use your imagination a bit more, a lot of creativity is involved, and the bricks are just perfect. With McFarlane sets, though, the source material takes precedence, it involves more accuracy than art, and the bricks aren’t pretty. Personally, I enjoy them both. But now that I'm a grown-ass TWD fan, I'd say that these McFarlane Construction Sets are the grown-ass TWD fan’s Lego hands down.