Dragon / Cyber Hobby - Captain Mill (Captain Miller) - Review

Way back in January 2010, long before I was drawn into the world of 1/6th figures, a company called DID (Dragon in Dreams) released ‘Captain Miller’ of the 2nd Rangers battalion, as played by Tom Hanks in the film Saving Private Ryan.  The figure no doubt was an absolute success and their availability now is somewhat limited – in fact as I’m writing this, there is one on eBay for a little over £160.  You can still pick up a few of the loose parts if you wish to ‘kit-bash’ your own figure, and indeed there is a plentiful supply of WW2 loose parts on the market that it makes it a fairly easy task, albeit a slightly more costly one.  There is however, an apparent lack of Tom Hanks ‘Captain Miller’ head sculpts available to represent this figure.  Up until now you’ve had the DID one, which again fetches high prices as a loose item, or the custom sculpted head by an artist known as ‘Serang’, again which will set you back a few pounds.

Then, last year, something promising started to appear on the market.  Dragon announced the introduction of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ figures, and although they were not officially licensed, and the names bore a passing similarity to the character it depicted – there was finally another and cheaper source of parts available.  Up until last month, there were Sgt Horvath, Jackson, Reiben, Caparzo and of course Ryan available, then, after a long wait ‘Captain Mill’ or Captain Miller appeared on the scene.

Topics appeared on the OSW forums (of which I’m a member, 4dEFCON) debating the accuracy and the obvious comparison point was the DID figure, of which some are lucky enough to own.  But for me, at over half the price, my limited funds would only allow the purchase of this newer, and some considered inferior version.  What the hell, I purchased one.  After much searching around (you have to bear in mind, I’m in the UK so our choices are limited) I found one on eBay that after paying postage came to a total of £70.  I was happy with that, it was well over half the price of the DID model.  I knew that I may wish to swap out of a few of the items, for example it was plainly obvious it didn’t’ come with a knife, I could add that.  I didn’t want the gas mask bag anyway, and the shirt missed the insignia on the lapel that the DID version had, but still, £70 well spent.

So, after only a week, and arriving on my doorstep exactly on June the 6th, D-Day – he has arrived.  So lets take a closer look at the figure that I’d been waiting for and see if it lives up to the anticipation.

Now, before we begin, I would like to point out that I am in no way an expert on 1/6th scale figures, nor am I on the subject of WW2.  I like collecting, modifying and kit-bashing figures and displaying them in my cabinet; therefore you will have to excuse me for any inaccuracies that you feel are present in this review.  For the purposes of comparison, I will reference the DID version of Captain Miller throughout this review.  I do not own this figure, but there is sufficient material available on the Internet to draw some conclusions against the two figures.

The Box

So I haven’t purchased what I would call a ‘premium’ Dragon figure, that being a new release, in some time.  I’m well known for buying the older releases from eBay and re-bashing them somewhat to create something new.  To this end, I have no idea other than these SPR figures, what the usual quality of the Dragon packaging is, but needless to say it was well present.  To be honest, I tend not to take too much notice anyway, as I am not the kind of person who keeps their figures wrapped up, I like to get mine out of the box as soon as possible, finish them, pose them, take pictures etc then display them. 

 

The outer cover of the box depicts our ‘Captain Mill’ along with a silhouette picture of the rest of the gang mentioned previously in this review.  The ‘Cyber Hobby’ brand is splashed on ever side of the cover, but you won’t find a mention of Dragon anywhere.  Lets be very clear on this, Dragon made this figure, Cyber Hobby are just the distributor.  The rear of the outer cover shows several shots of the head sculpt, clearly enhanced by the way, as the final paint application although good, doesn’t look like it at all.  They also focus on some details regarding his weapon, his assault vest and his boots and leggings.

Sliding the outer cover off you are presented with the two part opening box held together with a Velcro fastener.  Upon opening this, you see two inner plastic trays, one on each side of the box which holds the figure and all of his accessories in place.  On the right hand side, the main figure, his helmet and an additional pair of hands.  On the left hand side, his primary weapon, his side-arm and holster, magazines, canteen and cover, assault vest, leggings, entrenching tool and cover and small pouch and bag.

The figure is already dressed in his shirt, jacket, trousers and boots.  All you need to do to complete him is add the leggings, assault vest and attach the small items and pop on his helmet.

A Closer Look

I decided at this point to take a closer look at the figure itself and the clothing items that Dragon have provided him with.  The first thing that strikes you when you take the figure out of the box is the quality of the jacket.  Not only is the quality of the material and stitching very good, but the fit is perfect.  It is secured by a small zipper which is over scale (and shouldn’t be present on the 1:1 jacket anyway), however this is for function only, for display and to cover the zip the jacket is further secured by tiny little buttons which push through the matching button holes; you’re going to need tweezers for this task!

The undershirt again is a nice piece and shows the same small buttons.  This is fixed in place by very tiny poppers which are much smaller than the usual design you see.  It is worth noting that Dragon noticed a mistake with the fit of the shirt which exposed the unpainted neck joint, they resolved this by adding a stitch near the top.  This does mean that if you wish to remove the shirt, you need to cut this stitch, and then replace it when putting the shirt back on.  Unlike the DID version of the Miller shirt, the lapel lacks the insignia, which would have been nice to see.  It is also of a slightly darker shade, but I feel the colour is actually more ‘movie accurate’.  On the box cover, Dragon unfortunately have not noticed that they’ve ‘flared’ the collar, the WRONG collar over the vest.  They’ve actually exposed the collar of the shirt in such a way, it carries a 1970’s ‘John Travolta’ disco look, whereas it should have been the collar of the jacket flared over the assault vest.   Never mind, easily fixed when you put the figure together yourself!

The trousers carry the same tiny buttons on the side pockets and waist.  No belt provided for the trousers, but they don’t need it to stay in place and you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway.  They are secured by the same tiny poppers as the shirt and are nicely weathered to show the wear and tear of battle. 

The boots are a hybrid pair, that being they are soft plastic but with real laces.  I actually like this approach as you can sometimes more accurately mould a pair of boots than you can stitch such a small item.  I also think they are more accurate than the pair of ‘rough out’ boots provided on the DID model.  +1 for Dragon so far!  They could do with a slight matt spray to take the shine off them, but other than that, I like them.  The trousers are tucked into these and will be flared over the leggings once they have been attached.

The helmet, also in this first tray is better than Dragon’s usual design, it has fabric straps on the helmet liner as opposed to being moulded, but, it is not as nice as the DID one (-1 Dragon), it’s too smooth and clean.  It’s going to need to be textured and roughed up a bit (the captain insignia and the 2nd battalion logo are too clean and precise).

Moving over to the next tray we have starting from the top the metal canteen and cover.  Obviously for Dragon there is no major re-tooling required for a vast number of their figures as many of the items remain the same throughout that period.  What I prefer over the DID version (and again, I’m basing this only on pictures so please correct me if I’m wrong) is that DID tend to use micro-velcro on their pouches, whereas Dragon are the ‘push through the hole’ type of closure.  Next to this we have the .45 calibre Colt 1911 along with two magazines, one of which will be placed inside the pistol itself.  This does leave you with a spare magazine, but unfortunately nowhere to put it, no pistol mag pouch is included as seen worn by Tom in the film; you’ll need to stuff this in one of his pockets.

 

Beyond that we have the satchel bag which will contain spare magazines, of which there will be five, and one in the rifle.  Then you have the leather (or imitation leather) holster which is much nicer than some of Dragon’s previous releases. 

Below this is the Thompson sub-machine gun, or M1A1 as it was designated.  This is a lovely piece although the imitation wood stock is a little on the shiny side.  The cocking handle is spring loaded and functions in such that it opens the ejection port.  The included sling and swivels are also of high quality.

Next there is the folding entrenching tool and cover.  This will clip onto the back of the assault vest once we put the figure together.  It kind of gets you wondering how they were supposed to reach it themselves actually?  To the left of this is the small pouch which I believe is a first aid kit which is worn at the wear of the pistol belt… (wait, did you say pistol belt?  I didn’t see one of those, did you?!  - more on that later).

The assault vest is a lovely piece, although it seems ever so slightly long in the body when compared against the film.  It is a faithful reproduction of the original, with the clasps that hold the vest onto the wearer also reproduced fairly accurately.  A word of warning, I had one of the drainage grommets at the bottom of one of the pockets fall out and disappear, and one of the buckles come off too (luckily found that one!), this was within minutes of handling it so it is fairly delicate.  The quality of the stitching on the inside wasn’t fantastic with a fair amount of loose threads, but this could have just been mine.  None of these were visible from the outside however once the vest had been placed on the figure.

To the right of the vest are the 1938 canvas leggings, and another word of caution on these – the tiny little metal clasps that hold the laces in place come off if you apply too much force when tightening the laces.  I’ve lost one and unfortunately could not find it to glue it back in place.

The ‘Belt-Gate’ Scandal

So picture this.  It is the evening of June the 6th and I’m sitting at my dining room table having just taken the pictures that you’re viewing now of all of the individual pieces.  It is now my task to finish putting together the figure so that I can write this review and share with you in all it’s splendour my new addition to the display cabinet.

I’ve put the vest on, then, looking at the pictures on the box that clearly show the pistol holster attached to the waist I become puzzled as to where to place it.  I checked and double checked the box, no pistol belt…  Hmmm… I then checked the pictures again and looked carefully at the vest to see how they had the pistol holster attached.  If it wasn’t on a belt, then it appeared to be connected in some way to the bottom of the vest.  I looked for something that I could hook the pistol holster onto, nothing.  At this point, I bought up the DID website to see how that figure had his pistol holster and other items such as the canteen attached.  Sure enough, the pistol belt is present. 

Ok, this is starting to become very clear what has happened, and I don’t like the look of this one bit.  It appears that the pictures shown on the, the pictures taken by Dragon are FAKE.  There is NOWHERE to attach the holster as displayed in the box picture.  Nor is there anywhere to attach the canteen or first aid pouch…  in fact, they don’t even show you a picture of the rear of the figure.  Why is that?  Why wouldn’t you want to show off that lovely vest and entrenching tool?   I’ll tell you why, because you’d soon work out there is nowhere to attach any of the loose items!

Infuriated, I wrote a message on the OSW forums, and it was after a few replies that I learned from some of the helpful members that the assault vest itself has grommets at the waist on several points to attach these items.  I checked, and sure enough they were there and lined up exactly.

Here is a snippet of some of that info and a useful history lesson, taken from OSW:

‘The 1.1 assault vest did indeed include the mid waist grommets for extra item's, Jonathan Gawne wrote a superb twelve page piece on the Assault Jacket in Militaria Magazine UK Edition No.6 back in July 1994 which is well worth hunting down in which he explains why those grommets didn't work the way they expected them to....
"Around the waist there are four locations of two grommet holes placed over a reinforced slit in the jacket material.  Some collectors claim this was for a belt of some sort, however there is no evidence of any type of belt in any original photographs, upon closer examination, the spacing of the grommet holes is exactly what is needed to fit the model 1910 wire belt hanger, and it is without doubt that the idea was to be able to attach equipment directly to the jacket without using a belt.  For the 1910 hanger to work, it must first come through the grommets from behind. this is easy on a standard belt because the belt is not very wide, but on the jacket there must be some means of getting the hanger through to the back of the grommets so it can slip through to the front.  This was the idea behind the reinforced slits: they were designed to allow a 1910 hanger to slip into the jacket, and then back through the grommets.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, the pattern was not properly measured, and the system just does not work.  Examination of period photographs shows canteens being clumsily hung on the grommets by one hook, or a larger slit hand cut into the jacket".

He also mentions that the 2nd Rangers at Pointe Du Hoc did not use the vest as they required a light load, a few photos do show 2nd Rangers wearing them at some point...he goes on to say these may have been abandoned vest's picked up off Omaha beach by the Rangers that landed there.... the 5th Rangers he spoke to never recalled wearing it during the Normandy campaign either.....the assault vest was delivered to troops taking part in the D-Day landings very late, they never received any instructions on the use of the vest and put things were they felt they needed them.’

(original thread here: http://www.onesixthwarriors.com/forum/sixth-scale-action-figure-news-reviews-discussion/635357-cyber-hobby-dragon-captain-mill-figure-one-furious-buyer-2.html#post1903922)

So, it seemed that the original idea was this assault vest, certainly the 1:1 version, was supposed to have these small items attached to itself, but hang on, isn’t this figure supposed to be a representation of a character in a film?  And in that film, doesn’t he have his items attached to a pistol belt?   Yes, yes he does – I checked.

My complaint therefore is that if Dragon never intended to include a pistol belt, why FAKE a picture to give the indication that there is one!?   I am extremely disappointed with Dragon on that particular point and they still have not responded to my email over a week later.

I decided at the point of doing this review that I would keep it as ‘out of the box’ as possible, but the box displays something that just isn’t feasible and as I wanted this figure to be as accurate to the film as possible, I managed to source a suitable belt – the review was back on!

Putting Together

I decided that due to the fragility of the 1938 leggings, I would remove the boots first, pull the leggings over the trousers and then put the boots back on and move everything into place.  Easily done with these boots due to the hybrid laced design.  Next it was time to attach the items to the belt (as per the film!) and attach this around his waist.  I noticed that throughout the process of manipulating the belt into the place I wanted it, that the trouser poppers came undone a number of times, as did they when I tried to put the jacket on.  It seems that although aesthetically pleasing as they’re easily hidden under the fabric, you only have to sneeze on them and they’ll pop open.  I personally will glue these on my figure as I have no intention once he’s on my shelf of pulling him apart again.

Next goes on the assault vest.  You can choose at this point whether you wish to stuff the pockets with some tissue paper or alike to give them the appearance they’re full of gear.  Take care with both the closing vest and pocket clasps as not to work the metal loops loose from the fabric.  At the back of the vest near the rear of the collar are two grommet points for attachment of the entrenching tool, the handle of which passes through the strapping below.

After placing the remainder of the magazines in the bag and passing this over his shoulder, fixing the M1A1 into his hands then putting his helmet in place you’re pretty much done!  And there is the pure simplicity of the figures from this era and a true testament to those men who carried out these dangerous missions with only a fraction of the equipment carried by the modern soldier.

    

General Impressions and Improvements

Overall I am extremely pleased with this figure.  I paid less than half the price of the DID model, and with a few minor modifications (listed below), it looks just as good.  I feel that Dragon could have made one major improvement, which I mentioned in great detail earlier in my review, and that is in the inclusion of the pistol belt.  Without it you simply cannot achieve the look of the character depicted in the film, whether it is historically accurate or not.

Some improvements that I chose to make to my figure are listed below, with the pictures of my ‘tweaked version’ being available here.

Addition of pistol belt
Addition of fighting knife
Addition of pistol magazine pouch
Addition of wrist watch
Weathering and texturing of helmet
Re-painting of Head Sculpt

So in conclusion, I would very much recommend this figure as a viable alternative to the DID Miller.  Dragon have certainly ‘upped’ their game in the head sculpt paint application however they have a long way to go yet if they wish to compete with the likes of Toys City / DAM and some of the other manufacturers who offer ‘premium’ figures at a similar price.

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