So, adding to the Spotted Hyena clan again, this time with a short-lived companion from the Schleich ‘New Heroes’ series. For those who don’t remember the series (from 2011-2013) it featured various human figures representing famous warrior-types from history (Thracian, Ninja, Samurai, etc) as well as some random gladiators, most of whom had names. There were also a few animals in the set–an enormous to-scale white Elephant (probably a Syrian elephant) and chariot pulling Rhino (was that ever a thing?) and today’s subject–a gladiator (no name, but he looks like a Mad Max character–let’s call him Maximus!) and an attendant Spotted Hyena!
The set for this hyena–they came on a standing card, item number 70079–was among the last released in the line. I recall, it was released in 2012 and I had to order it online early in 2013, and it was discontinued within a month of that. It’s too bad, because the sculptor clearly put a lot of thought and work into this spotted hyena figure.
The first noticeable thing is the paint scheme–the figure is a fairly uniform light brown except for a yellow ochre wash over the tips of the mane (frosted tips?). The extremities of the limbs and the tail are also washed in a chocolate brown; the muzzle is black. I will point out that the limbs, like the Ricolino one I discussed previously has the stepping front leg. So they got that right. Overall, not a bad representation, but it will lend itself to comparison with the 2015 version (below).
The figure has been sculpted to have a clear fur texture across the body. Care has been taken on each limb to show the muscles flexing in different ways. The main is held erect, while the tail is hanging down in a neutral position. One thing about spotted hyenas–they are famous for their androgen-enhanced females, and the associated genitals that make determining sex tricky from a distance. In the case of this figure, it has been sculpted to bear two large nipples (the correct number) and a distinct but undersized set of male-looking genitalia under the tail (not photographed)…in any other animal we could safely say ‘male’ but I would lean toward female if only because the pronounced nipples likely indicate an animal that is or was a mother. So the tragic backstory continues apace.
It’s a hard thing to miss about about this figure…it’s gaunt. Not so much the belly, but the legs are all quite skinny, with the tendons clearly visible. This is also true in the neck–there is a definite lack of flesh there. The abdomen is sunken in, such that the hips are pronounced. Even the face is narrow and drawn. This is definitely not an animal that is well taken care of–if it were any other figure, it would be disappointing; but given the theme (a fighting-arena animal) it makes sense (in a different disappointing way–disappointing in that people found/find animal blood sports entertaining. But I digress). Which of course also explains the chain-collar around the neck, which is sadly not removable without major scalpel and reconstruction work. The collar appears to disappear under the mane; I am assuming that we are to understand that the fur of the mane is over top of it.
The head of this figure is where it really shines–the whole face clearly indicates an animal that is either threatened or threatening. The wrinkles on the muzzle, the withdrawn lips to expose the molars, the back-swept ears. Again, whoever sculpted this put a lot into it–it’s a face that tells a history. The other thing that really impresses–each tooth in the mouth is separately painted. There are some missing incisors (none in the jaw) and a lower premolar on both sides, but the teeth are not generic points–the back molars are carnassials, the incisors are long and (for a toy) pointed, and the teeth are distinct and separate. Again, a lot of care went into this figure.
So how does it compare with the 2015 hyena? They are clearly very similar, which is good since they’re the same species. In side by side, the 2015 animal is clearly a much healthier individual. The limbs and hips are full, the face is thick and not drawn in, the ears are out. Yet the proportions where we could put the skeleton are almost exactly in sync. They are about the same height; the Gladiator spotted hyena stands about 5.3cm tall, although measuring along the front leg is closer to 6+ cm. Assuming 91.5cm at the shoulder (larger female height) puts the figure(s) close to 1:15 by my estimate.
In general, the 2015 looks like a better animal, but there are some sculpting details that were lost–for example, the teeth are painted as a solid white row and don’t have the same differentiated teeth. As well, even little features like the toes are sculpted more broadly. The ‘undercarriage’ is also not clearly sculpted. On the other hand, the fur texture and paint scheme are overall superior. In general, the 2015 looks like what would happen if someone rescued and cared for the 2012 spotted hyena–more or less the same animal with a fatter body, better coat, and less nervous face.
So what to say about this figure? It is clearly a detailed work of a spotted hyena, capturing a number of features to be expected from an animal in this situation (I’m pretty sure that the choice to give it a thinner, taller mohawk mane was meant to reflect its human companion, or vice versa). Even as I have been writing this I was surprised and how many little things stood out. This is probably Shleich’s best overall effort at a hyena, between the 2015 and their earlier attempts (I blogged about one of those on my personal blog here of you want to see a 90s version until we get one up here). For hyena fans it would be a great figure, but I’m honestly not sure how easy it would be to find; as I said, they were only officially available for a year, and I don’t think it was actually that long. Maybe because they weren’t that kid friendly, between the pokey teeth and the pointy weapons of the people? Not that it should go to kids anyway–there’s the current one for them. This is a collector’s piece.