SAGA KANGAROO (KANNIGAL)

BS-Kangaroo weaponsBEAST SAGA

Yesterday was a bitter sweet day. I had a small package arrive from Japan which contained a small armored kangaroo. The kangaroo, that I have named Saga Kangaroo (Saga Roo to his friends), is officially named Kannigal. At least I think he is. Roo is part of Takara’s Beast Saga toyline which was only released in Japan. Because it was only released in Japan all of the text on the package and all of the text on the official BS website is written in Japanese. As a resident of Nova Scotia, Canada I’ve never had much reason to learn how to read Japanese. Therefore,  all the information I collect on BS figures, including the character’s names, comes from third party sources which may be less than reliable.

I was super excited about Beast Saga when Takara first unveiled it. One of my favorite 80s toylines was Takara’s Battle Beasts. While the Beast Saga figures aren’t a direct continuation of the 80s line they serve as an excellent homage/update. The two lines share many qualities but the BS figures are slightly bigger and bulkier and they feature more detailed sculpts. Beast Saga is to Battle Beasts what modern Masters of the Universe figures are to their retro counterparts or what modern G.I. Joes are to their Real American Hero predecessors.

BS-Kangaroo carded

Takara released 4 waves of Beast Saga figures in quick succession beginning in the fall of 2012. As each wave was announced I promptly pre-ordered the figures from BigBadToyStore, one of the few North American retailers importing the line. Over the course of about 6 months 38 of the 39 unique figures I ordered, along with a handful of the blind boxed clear variants, arrived in the mail.  But for some reason one pre-order wasn’t filled. The kangaroo sat in my pre-order shopping cart for months before I finally got an email from BBTS stating that they wouldn’t be stocking the item and so my pre-order was cancelled.

BS-Kangaroo card

I assumed the figure was cancelled altogether. By that time it seemed clear that the line was doomed. There hadn’t been news of any new product for months. I was disappointed to see the line end so quickly but it was especially frustrating to be robbed of the final figure. I decided to check ebay to see if any of the kangaroos had made it to market, perhaps in Japan at least, before the plug was pulled on the toyline. I found a lot of listings for unpainted prototypes and sellers were asking upwards of $30 for it. I was tempted to pick one up but opted to bide my time in hopes that I would eventually find a fully painted one at a reasonable price.

Which I finally did a few weeks ago. A Japanese seller was selling this figure for about ten bucks, and the shipping was free. I placed my order and now here he is, the final Beast Saga figure: Saga Kangaroo.

BS-Kangaroo side

I really like this toy. I’d say it probably ranks somewhere in my top 10 favorite BS figures. The Battle Beast kangaroo (Battle Kangaroo) did not rank so highly amongst my vintage BB figures. He was kind of a middle of the pack guy. I don’t recall giving him much of a personality when I played with him when I was a kid. He was just one of the rank and file troops on Battle Rhino’s team of good guys.

Like the 80s version Saga Roo has blue armor, though Roo’s is a darker shade. But unlike the original his fur is brown instead of gray. I’m honestly not sure what color real kangaroos are, I think the ones I’ve seen in real life were more gray than brown, but I’m betting they come in a variety of colors (They do, I checked. They also come in red). I think I prefer the brown fur over the gray; it’s of greater contrast to the blue armor.

BS-Kangaroo full

The sculpt on this figure is top-notch. His face is quite realistic and I like that he has a slight hunch; the posture seems apt for a kangaroo. Where the sculpt really shines is in the details and placement of the armor. He’s got two big steel clenched gloved fists which resemble boxing gloves. Most BB and BS figures either have armored legs and bare feet or a full armored boot. This guy has bare ankles and armored shoes. They remind me of those weird toe sneakers that runners wear. It makes me imagine this guy as athletic and agile. Lastly, he has a pouch in the front of his armor as every good kangaroo should. Now I realize the presence of a pouch would mean he’s actually a “she” but since the pouch is on the armor and we can’t see the actually underbelly I feel we can’t definitively identify his/her gender one way or the other. Perhaps in my Beast Saga Universe I’ll just imagine Roo as an Androgynous type, like Lancer from Robotech.

It’s sad knowing that, in all likelihood, this is to be my last Beast Saga purchase. But it’s a good figure to go out on and I’m glad to finally have him. It took me 20+ years to finish my childhood Battle Beast collection (Pugnacious Penguin was the last one I needed to acquire) and I feared this figure might elude me for many years as well. Luckily that wasn’t the case.  9 out of 10.

BS-Kangaroo pair

MAN-AT-ARMS & FAKER minis (2014)

MOTU-Faker mini pairMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE MINIS

When my first set of Masters of the Universe (MOTU) minis arrived in the mail back in March I promptly reviewed them.  The cute little things really won me over and I intended to quickly review the 2nd set once it arrived.  A new set only comes out every second month so I figured it would be pretty easy for me to stay on top of the reviews. Well somehow 3 sets of minis have been released since that first shipment (with a fifth set will be arriving in a couple of weeks) and I haven’t gotten around to reviewing a single one of them. Where does the time go?

MOTU-Faker mini full

 

I wasn’t originally sure if I’d collect all of these little guys. Sure they’re cute but they’re pretty darn expensive ($15+ per figure when you factor in the shipping! Eek) and more importantly, I don’t really NEED them. If these were the only MOTU figures available then I would NEED them but because the Classics line already does an excellent job of getting me my monthly He-Man fix these mini figures are nothing but incidentals to my true MOTU collection. But I’m a sucker and so I keep buying them. If the inaugural set of minis had included He-Man and Skeletor, as one would’ve expected, I probably wouldn’t have bought it and could have maybe avoided this whole can of worms. But because Mattel paired He-Man with my favorite MOTU character Mer-Man in that first set I couldn’t help but buy it and thus get hooked on these stupid little things.

The second set included Moss-Man and Skeletor, the third Scareglow and Stratos, and this fourth set contains Man-At-Arms and Faker. The fifth set will bring me Zodak and Beast Man. In my opinion, this fourth release is these least exciting of all the sets. I was never a big fan of He-Man’s evil android doppelganger Faker and Man-At-Arms is just a dude with a mustache and a half-suit of armor. He’s still a cool character, and a vital one, but he’s pretty boring when compared to the other Masters and Evil Warriors. I would’ve much preferred to see a Buzz-Off & Mantenna 2-pack for example.

MOTU-Faker mini duel

While Man-at-Arms and Faker may not be my favorite MOTU characters they’re by no means bad characters. I don’t think there’s a single “bad” character in the series. And these 2 figures are excellent versions of these characters.

Man-at-Arms is one of the core characters that I’m missing from the Classics line so this little guy is actually my only modern Duncan figure (Duncan’s his real name). I hope to eventually acquire a Classics version but if I don’t then I guess I’ll have to display this figure as my primary Man-at-Arms. I’ll just pretend that Skeletor cast an irreversible shrink spell on him. The sculpt is great with loads of little details. He’s got his big burly signature mustache and an angry scowl on his face and fur-lined armor full of wires and rivets. For accessories he has his trusty vintage-era club as well as the detachable blue arm cannon from the 200X version. Like all of these figures he’s top heavy but he’s posed in such a way that he stands on his own just fine. I’m painfully aware of how tough it can be to get action figures to stay standing and I’m blown away by how sturdy these mini figures are.MOTU-Man mini full

For He-Man’s evil clone Mattel could have taken the easy way out and just re-painted the already released He-Man figure but they didn’t, they sculpted a whole new figure for Faker. This is a great little figure with loads of personality. As with the mini-He-Man I think I like this version of Faker better than any previous versions. I’m not sure why but He-Man and Faker work really well in this stylized format. Faker includes an orange power sword and battle axe.

MOTU-Faker mini castleThis set included a crucial piece of the build-a-playset Castle Grayskull, the Jaw Bridge, which can be opened and closed. My mini castle has grown from a pile of stray pieces into a legitimate fortress which is nearing completion. It’s gonna look great once it’s finished.

 

 

 

It’s hard to recommend these figures when you consider the price but if, like me, you’re ordering figures from mattycollector.com on the 15th of every month anyway you might as well throw these guys in your virtual shopping cart as well. They’re cool and adorable. 8 out of 10.

DEATHLOK (2014)

Marv-Deathlok fullMARVEL UNIVERSE /AVENGERS INFINITE

Not too long ago I reviewed a Death’s Head figure from the 3 ¾” Marvel Universe line. I was super stoked about getting that figure. As a hardcore Marvel fan for nearly 30 years I’ve grown attached to many under-the-radar characters who seem like unlikely candidates to be made into action figures. Some of those characters may have only appeared in a single issue of Spider-Man and are truly obscure, while others starred in series’ that lasted several years and yet they still fall into that obscure category. The 90s produced a great number of those misfit title characters. Darkhawk, Sleepwalker, and Death’s Head all immediately spring to mind. Some short-lived 90s books also starred older characters who got a new lease on life. Silver Sable, the New Warriors, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Deathlok the Demolisher fall into that category. Between my brother and I we collected all of those C-lister books.Marv-Deathlok face

A few of those characters have been made into action figures over the years but it’s rare for a 90s misfit to get immortalized in plastic. I have a Silver Sable from the 5” Spider-Man line produced by Toy Biz in the 90s and early in the “Universe” line Hasbro gave us Darkhawk and Nova of the New Warriors. Will I ever get a Sleepwalker or a Speedball figure? I don’t know. But seeing as how I now own a figure of Death’s Head (a Marvel UK character) and “Guardians of the Galaxy” was this year’s highest grossing film I wouldn’t rule anything out.

The first Deathlok figure was included in the same Toy Biz Spider-Man line that gave me Silver Sable. Deathlok isn’t really associated with Spider-Man but he was a guest star in the popular “Maximum Carnage” storyline so that allowed Toy Biz to shoehorn him into the line. The Toy Biz figure was actually really cool, one of their better efforts, but my Toy Biz figures have been boxed up and in storage for so many years it feels like I don’t have a Deathlok figure at all. For the past several years my Marvel action figure focus has been on the G.I. Joe-sized Universe line anyway, which means any figure I already own in the larger Toy Biz scale isn’t compatible. The Universe line and the related movie lines have covered a lot of ground but there are still quite a few holes in my 3 3/4″ collection if I’m to replace my entire Toy Biz collection. Deathlok was one of the characters I most wanted to acquire in the smaller scale. It took a while but I finally have a Deathlok sized appropriately to go toe-to-toe with Snake Eyes or assassinate Rick Hunter.Marv-Deathlok guns

The original Deathlok first appeared in Astonishing Tales issue 25 released in 1974,  a good 12 years before I started reading comics.    Most of his adventures took place in books published in the late 70s and early 80s and I never became acquainted with him.  That first Deathlok was a soldier named Luther Manning who was fatally injured and reanimated as a cyborg/corpse.  I’m not exactly sure what became of him.

Manning Deathlok

Manning Deathlok

My introduction to “the Demolisher” came in 1990 when a new character, a pacifist named Michael Collins, became the new Deathlok.  Collins was employed by the evil Roxxon Oil corporation and was killed when he discovered their shady Deathlok program.  Roxxon incorporated Michael’s brain into their new version of the deadly cyborg assassin.  Roxxon assumed they could control the new Deathlok but Collins’ consciousness survived the assassination attempt and took control of the body.  He became the ultimate killing machine who refused to kill.

After an initial 4 issue mini-series the Collins Deathlok went on to have his own series which ran for 34 issues.  I collected the series up until issue 25 but I jumped ship when I became dissatisfied with the story and art.  Had I known the series would only last another 9 issues I would’ve stuck with it and completed the series.  I should probably still do that, I’m sure those final issues don’t sell for very much these days.

Collins Deathlok

Collins Deathlok

There have been  a few other Deathloks since Collins, including a young girl who goes by Deathlocket,  and brand new guy named Henry Hayes who first appeared in the Agents of Shield TV series and who has now spun-off into his own comic book series.

According to this figure’s backer card this is supposed to be the original Deathlok, Luther Manning, but as far as I’m concerned it’s Michael Collins.  The figure is kind of an amalgamation of the two characters anyway.

This figure has some serious construction issues. My guy’s ankles are gimpy and his legs are assembled in such a way that they can’t be straightened out.  I’m forced to pose him in a semi-crouching position at all times.  Also, his head always seems to want to look downward.  No matter how forcefully I push it back he ends up staring at his toes again in a matter of seconds.  These flaws in basic construction really piss me off as these figures don’t come cheap.  At least with Deathlok I feel I’m getting a little more bang for my buck than I usual do with these MU figures because he comes with a removable backpack, a rifle, and a pistol that can be holstered on his leg.

Marv-Deathlok back

Despite all its problems this figure still ends up in the win category for me.  In part because it looks really nice and in part because I love the character so much and I’m just happy he made it into the MU collection.  The head sculpt is beautifully done with some nice detail in the face and even textured hair.  The Colossus parts look just as good reused on Deathlok as they did on Death’s Head and provide for some cool texturing on the metallic limbs.  I’m sure the torso is reused from another toy but I can’t immediately place it.  The painted details such as the American Flag on the chest do a good job of making it look like a piece specific to this figure.  Speaking of paint apps, the speckled look used on the hair is awesome.

I wish this figure was better but it’s pretty damn cool anyway.  8 out of 10Marv-Deathlok aim

NOSECONE (1987)

TF-Nosecone fullTRANSFORMERS: GENERATION 1

Back in June a gentleman named Eric came across my blog and asked if I would like to take some action figures off his hands.  I gladly accepted so Eric sent me a massive box full of G.I. Joes, Transformers, and Ninja Turtles.  You can read all about it here.

Out of that massive pile of toys I have thus far only reviewed one, Dusty version 2. I figured it was time to take a look at another one.  I’d hate for Eric to think I didn’t appreciate his gift, its just that I tend to easily get distracted by all of the new toys I constantly buy.  For today’s review we’re going to take a look at the Transformer named Nosecone.TF-Nosecone art

 

 

 

Nosecone was originally released in 1987.  He is a member of the Autobot sub-team, the Technobots. The 5 Technobots could merge to form the combiner Computron.  When it came to combiner teams either my brother Doug or I would collect the entire team.  I had the Constructicons and the Protectabots and Doug and the Combaticons and the Aerialbots.  Our interest in Transformers was already waning by ’87 so we didn’t make the concerted effort to collect full combiner sets that year like we had done in the past.  Doug called dibs on the Technobots but only ever owned 2 of them, Afterburner and Lightspeed.  My Combiner choice in ’87 was the Terrorcons who formed Abominus but I only ever acquired 1 of them, Rippersnapper.

TF-Npsecone arms

One of the main reasons we lost interest in Transformer toys was because of figures like the Technobots and the Terrorcons.  The transformations on those combiner figures were so rudimentary that they could hardly be said to transform at all.  It was basically flip this and pull that and presto!  Transformed.  In robot mode their legs were nothing but a solid block of plastic and their arms often didn’t have hands or elbows and were little more than little nubs protruding from their torso.  Hasbro got lazy and we took notice.

Nosecone here is a prime example of lazy toy making.  His vehicle mode is a drill tank. Obviously not an Earth vehicle.  The first few waves of Transformers all transformed into recognizable Earth vehicles and objects.  Transformers of the late 80s often weren’t bogged down by that requirement.  The reason being that Transformers introduced later in the series never travelled to Earth and never needed to disguise themselves amongst the native population thus they retained their Cybertronian vehicle modes.  Story wise it made sense and it allowed for a wider variety of vehicles, but instead of creativity we got laziness.  Many of the vehicles didn’t look like much of anything.  Like, what is Kup exactly?TF-Nosecone tank

Weird vehicle modes wouldn’t have bothered me that much if the robot modes had been half decent but it many cases the robot modes just plain sucked.  Such is the case with Nosecone.  To transform him from a drill tank to a robot you flip the drill back and his legs forward…that’s it.  His tank treads can be pointed forward to represent arms but there’s absolutely no sculpting detail to present them as arms let alone any articulation.  He has a pea-sized head because it has to work as a peg to attach him to the other Technobots. I understand the reasoning but it looks dumb.  Everything about this toy is uninspired.TF-Nosecone side

I will say that I actually kind of like Nosecone’s rustic color palette (brown is my favorite color) but it doesn’t quite match the other Technobots which results in a patchwork Computron.TF-Nosecone combiner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As unimpressive as this figure is its presently the only vintage combiner component piece in my collection.  I had a bunch of them when I was a kid but got rid of them all ages ago.  This toy gains a few points with me for stirring memories of those long-lost Protectabots  and Terrorcons.  The toys may have sucked but that didn’t diminish the coolness of some of the characters they represented (First Aid of the Protecabots is one of my all-time favorite Transformers). The fact that Eric gifted this to me also gets Nosecone some goodwill bonus points.  All that said, I give him a 4 out of 10.

 

RED ROBIN (2014)

DC-Red Robin fullDC DIRECT: NEW 52 TEEN TITANS

I had an epic haul from BigBadToyStore show up in the mail the other day. It was such a gluttonous and self-indulgent haul that I actually felt a degree of shame as I lifted toy after toy out of the box. There was such a wealth of items all at once that I needed to take a break from opening their packages half way through. My fingers had twist tie fatigue.

The haul consisted of Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars 6” Black Series, a complete wave of Marvel Universe 4” figures consisting of Cyclops, Antman, Deathlok, Omega Red, Valkyrie, and Ares, a full wave of Transformers consisting of Night Beat, Gears, Acid Storm, Windblade, Cross Cut, and Jhiaxus, and 2 DC Direct figures: Supergirl and Red Robin. It was more action figures than a childhood Christmas.DC-Red Robin back

There were 1 or 2 duds in the Marvel Universe series (I’m looking at you Antman) but for the most part they were all great figures. I had a tough time choosing who to write about first. After some mulling I settled on Red Robin.

I’d imagine there are some people out there who really don’t like Batman’s sidekick Robin but I’ve always been a fan of the character. One of my earliest action figures was a Mego Robin doll which sadly got destroyed when I was very young. I don’t even have any recollections of playing with it. The only reason I even know that I had it was because his loose shoes and yellow cape remained in my action figure drawer for years after his demise. When Doug and I were kids running around the house we would often pretend we were super heroes. Doug was the older brother so he always got to be Batman while I was always Robin. I didn’t mind because I was a big fan of how Burt Ward portrayed him on the live action Batman show, a staple of our youth.

MEGO Robin

MEGO Robin

I was a Robin fanboy as a small child based on the TV show and the cartoons; I didn’t read comics when I was that young. And even after I started collecting comics I never followed Robin’s monthly exploits in the Batman comics because my cousin Greg converted Doug and I into devout Marvel readers. For years we bought nothing but Marvel books. It wasn’t until my childhood alter-ego Robin got his very own series for the first time in 1991 that I felt compelled to buy my first DC title.

The Robin of that title was a kid named Tim Drake who had recently been recruited by Batman. This was not the Robin I grew up on. The original Robin, the one portrayed by Ward in the 60s and who was a key member of the Super Friends from the 80s animated series, was Dick Grayson. Dick was a member of a family of trapeze artists known as the Flying Graysons. Similar to Batman, Dick tragically lost both of his parents at a young age. This resulted in Batman taking Grayson under his wing and thus the first Robin was born. Dick eventually outgrew the short shorts and graduated into the big leagues by becoming Nightwing.   That all happened before I started collecting comics.  A second Robin, Jason Todd, replaced Dick in 1983 but he got bludgeoned to death by the Joker as per the reader demand. I guess fans just weren’t ready for a new Robin at that time.

Robin Issue 1 1991

Robin Issue 1 1991

But fans were ready for a new Robin in 1989 with the introduction of Tim Drake. I don’t recall any sort of nerd rage relating to the introduction of the third Robin. He just kind of showed up and seamlessly fell into Batman continuity, overwhelmingly embraced by fans. Mind you, if the internet had existed back then I’m sure the angry nerds would’ve had something to say about the whole situation. I was really excited about the new Robin and so I got onboard with issue 1.

Tim Drake was a Robin I could get behind. He wasn’t as campy as the original and he wasn’t as unlikable as the second; plus he had pants on. I was a big fan of that first Robin mini-series and the two subsequent series as well but I kind of lost touch with the character sometime after the third series.  He went on to have his on on-going title than ran from 1993 to 2009 which is extremely impressive for a teen sidekick character.

When a fourth Robin, Batman’s biological son Damian, showed up on the scene in 2006 it was time for Tim to graduate from the sidekick role, much like Dick had done years earlier. Tim added a cowl to his costume and became known as Red Robin.DC-Red Robin hooded

I was glad to see Tim take on a new role in the DC Universe as opposed to getting killed off but I wasn’t a big fan of the hooded Red Robin costume. It was a cool outfit but it looked too grown up and was too far removed from his Robin look. Even Nightwing’s costume retained the classic Robin domino-mask. When DC implemented a line-wide reboot known as the New 52 in 2010 Red Robin got a make-over and the look you see on this action figure was the result.

I really like this design. It looks like it could be a Robin outfit but the lack of yellows and greens makes it look more mature. There’s no sign of pixie boots, underroos, or little half capes. The modern Red Robin has combat ready costume complete with combat boots and Falcon-style wings. DC-Red Robin face

This figure captures the new look beautifully. The sculpt is great throughout. The face has an air of femininity to it but it works. The costume is loaded up with straps, belts, padding, and other details. The removable folded wings have a ton of sculpted detail and they look really cool. The paintjob on this figure is nice as well.  The gold accents look great against the red and black.

My major issue with this figure is the articulation. It’s crazy that DC Direct still struggles with limited articulation even after all these years. This figure has more joints than earlier DC Direct figures and a few action poses can be achieved but it still feels quite stiff. A swivel joint at the hips or mid-torso would have helped a lot. My other minor complaint is the lack of articulation in the detachable wings. These things really should be able to spread out so Robin can glide around the house.   Folding wings can’t be too tough to pull off because I’ve seen it done successfully in a number of other lines like Marvel Universe and MOTU.  The static wings would be a huge disappointment if I was a kid playing with this thing but since I’m a grown up and he’s just a display piece it’s not a big deal to me.DC-Red Robin kick

I’m super stoked about this figure. I can’t believe it’s been 30+ years since I’ve owned a Robin action figure. I also plan to get the recently released Jason Todd as Red Hood and the upcoming Damian as Robin figures so I’m about to go from no Robins to 3 generations worth. I guess I’ll have to get me a Nightwing as well so i can have the whole gang. 10 out of 10.DC-Red Robin Batman

WOLF MAN (2014)

Wolfman-reaction fullREACTION FIGURES: UNIVERSAL MONSTERS

It wasn’t so long ago that I purchased by first “ReAction Figure” produced by Funko, the same company that makes those lovable POP! vinyl figures.  The first series was a set of 5 figures from the movie ALIEN.  Honestly, I was never a huge “Alien” fan so I didn’t care to get the 4 human characters but I did pick up the alien xenomorph.  The neat thing about that series is that it finally delivered on the promise of Alien movie figures; figures Kenner intended to release way back in 1980 but that never got produced.  The ReAction figures are modeled after the prototype images of those unproduced Kenner toys which is why they look like they’re straight out of the 70s/80s.  The kitschy retro vibe of the Alien series must’ve caught on with fans in a big way as Funko wasted no time in announcing a slew of upcoming ReAction figures.Wolfman-reaction carded

My second Reaction purchase was the Rocketeer.  One of the coolest things about these ReAction figures is the old-school packaging that harkens back to my early childhood.  As tempted as I was to open my Rocketeer so I could put his helmet on and fly him around the living room, I resisted the urge because I wanted to display him in the excellent packaging.  Both Rocketeer and Alien have been tacked up on the wall of my man-cave for a few months now.

This past week I picked up 4 more ReAction figures.  First off, I got the Crow.  The figure is actually pretty goofy looking but the Crow is my all-time favorite movie and I couldn’t pass it up.  Secondly I got 3 of the Universal Monsters.  I LOVE the Universal Monsters; always have.  My first exposure to them was probably their appearances on Saturday morning TV shows but I gained a real appreciation for them when I was older and watched all of the original films.  There were some really nice box sets released on DVD about 10 years ago that featured an original Universal Monster film, multiple sequels, and a bunch of behind the scenes bonus material.  Check ‘em out if you haven’t seen them before.  The commentaries by film historians make you appreciate the movies that much more.Wolfman-reaction side

My favorite monster has always been the Wolf Man.  I absolutely loved Lon Chaney Jr.’s portrayal of Larry Talbot and his cursed alter-ego.  Very few werewolves since have come close to matching him.  Nowadays everything is overly CG’ed and they look way too wolfy.  I feel that a proper Wolf Man  needs to retain some of his manliness, even when transformed.  The original make-up from 1941 was perfect.  I’m also a big fan of the werewolf make-up from Monster Squad and also from the 2010 Wolf Man remake.

This figure is awesome in its simplicity.  If there had been Wolf Man action figures in the 1940s they probably would’ve looked something like this.  Maybe thats assuming to much but in the 60s, 70s and 80s a Wolf Man figure would’ve looked exactly like this.  In fact, Remco released a series of Universal Monster toys in 1980 which did look a lot like this.  My brother Doug and I had a few of them but I barely remember them ( I was 2 in 1980).

1980 Remco figures

1980 Remco figures

The sculpt on the figure is quite nice and on par with that of other figures from the era this toy pays homage to.  Wolf Man would fit seamlessly into my vintage Star Wars collection.  I could use him as Chewbacca’s son Lumpawarrump (thats an actual thing).  He’s got multiple paints apps including his teeth, eyes, eyebrows, and belt and there are 5 points of articulation (neck, arms, legs).  He looks like like he’d be super fun to play with but I can’t vouch for his play value personally as I’ve opted to keep him carded.

Wolfman reaction wookie

Which brings me to the card.  It features a classic black and white image from the movie which is contrasted nicely by the bold red text and the yellow rectangle behind the figure.  Each of the Universal Monster cards has its own font style and color which I really like.  It keeps them from looking to monotone when all tacked up on the wall beside each other.  The back of the card shows the rest of the figures in the Monsters series.  My only gripe is that the cards are rather thin and most of mine have curled at the sides.

I’m a nostalgic guy and I love nostalgic things.  This figure oozes nostalgia.  Wolf Man is my second favorite ReAction figure yet, topped only by the awesome Invisible Man from the same series.  9 out of 10.Wolfman-reaction cardback

 

 

SLUG (2014)

TF-Slug fullTRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

I did something recently that I’m not proud of; I watched Transformers 4: Age of Extinction (AOE). Shame on me. I loathed the second and third films so much that despite my love for Transformers I planned to make a stand against this latest installment.  I told myself that I would never again watch another Michael Bay Transformers movie.  Fail. Turns out I’m just another sheep who will watch whatever crap Hollywood spits out at me.  At least I skipped it when it played in theatres so I can be proud that I didn’t contribute to the film’s huge box office take. But when the film came out on DVD/on-demand the other day my curiosity got the better of me. The allure of the Dinobots was too much for me to resist.TF-Slug face

If you read my AOE Scorn figure review from a few months ago (just prior to the films theatrical release) then you know that I actually really liked that figure. A ROM-esque space knight that transforms into a red spinosaurus; what’s not to like? That Scorn figure was the catalyst that first made me question my “no more Bay movies” stance. I actually considered going to see it in theaters for a while after I got that figure; but then the bad reviews came out and I came to my senses.

TF-Slug cardedAt the same time I bought Scorn I also bought this Slug figure, which transforms into a triceratops. A short while later I bought Slash, who transforms into a velociraptor. I was impressed with all of the Dinobot figures. I never expected to purchase another figure based on Bay’s movies because I generally hate the live-action look he’s fostered for the Transformers (all other criticisms of the movies aside) but the look of the Dinobot toys wasn’t typical of the movie line and so they won me over. I liked their bright colors and their medieval robot appearance.

And so, based on how cool each of those 3 figures were I figured that I might as well give Age of Extinction a chance once I saw that it was available on-demand. My expectations were already super low so it was unlikely that I’d be disappointed.  How bad could it really be?

The answer is very. Very bad. Damn those Dinobot figures, damn them all to hell.TF-Slug movie

(SPOILER ALERT) Transformers 4 was absolute garbage.  I realize everyone has different tastes, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that,  but if you feel differently about this movie than you are wrong. It was horrible to the Nth degree. Absolutely everything about it missed the mark. The acting was bad, the jokes were lame, the plot was complete nonsense, and even the special effects were pretty bad at times. I could rant and rave about all the things I hated but it’s just too easy a target so I’ll bite my tongue as best I can.

I will say this, I gave Michael Bay props for casting Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime in the first film .  It was a nice nod to old-school fans since Mr. Cullen voiced Prime in the cartoons. But at this point I wish Bay hadn’t. Optimus Prime is a dick in these movies and I hate hearing Peter Cullen recite the terrible dialogue he’s been given. It’s like when Hulk Hogan turned heel in wrestling. Another  icon of my youth has been tainted and my inner child died a little every time Optimus talked about killing someone.

1980s Slag

1980s Slag

As for the Dinobots, they’re barely in the goddamn thing.  It’s not like there wasn’t time to do more with them, the frig’n movie is 3 hours long!  Grimlock is the only one who gets any real screen time and even then I’d say he gets all of 5 minutes.  Slug and Scorn maybe get one good hit in and Slash isn’t even in the film.  The biggest offense of the movie is that there’s no explanation as to why the Dinobots transform into dinosaurs.  The movie starts with a scene of aliens visiting prehistoric earth and using some sort of terraforming device to turn everything into metal, including the fleeing dinosaurs.  And yet the Dinobots don’t seem to tie into that story at all when they finally show up for the final fight! WTF!  A logical origin story was right in front of them and they didn’t capitalize on it.  This film was clearly made by idiots.

And don’t even get me started on Optimus Prime just flying off into space at the end.  Could he always do that? Didn’t he need a jet pack to fly in one of the other movies?  Wasn’t he in hiding because he was trapped on Earth?  Whetever, f**k this movie.TF-Slug back

All that aside, I stand by my pre-film viewing assessment of the Dinobot figures.  Slag, who turned into a Triceratops, was my favorite Dinobot when I was a kid, he still is.  Triceratops were always my favorite dinosaurs so I suppose that’s why I favored Slag over the others.  Slag is very near the top of my list of classic G1 characters that I’d like a modern figure of.  Hasbro has released multiple Grimlocks over the years but for some mind-boggling reason they haven’t revisited any of the other Dinobots.  I hoped that the Dinobots inclusion in this new movie would lead to new G1 style figures but as of yet, no such luck.  I like the Dinobot movie figures we got but they don’t hold a candle to the vintage ones.  Sludge the Brontosaurus, and Snarl the Stegosaurus were nowhere to be seen in either the movie or the toy line.  Swoop the Pterodactyl was clearly the inspiration for the two-headed (wtf?) Strafe, and Slug here is obviously supposed to be a new take on Slag.  In fact, Slag’s name was changed to Slug in the comics and other media some time ago because I guess the word Slag is offensive.  This movie version is too far removed from the original Slag for me to view them as the same character so I’m content to keep calling this figure Slug and I’ll display him as a totally different character.  Meanwhile, I’ll continue to hold out hope that a decent figure of the original Slag gets released eventually.TF-Slug dino

Now onto the specifics of this figure:  I really like the color scheme.  The dark purple base with red highlights and the two tones of gray to break it up looks really nice.  It’s too bad they didn’t use these colors for the movie.  In the film, all of the Dinobots are solid gray.  The sculpt in robot mode is far from perfect but there’s lots to like.  The head is very cool.  It’s probably the most medieval looking of all the Dinobots.  The red fins on the shoulders give him a regal look and I imagine them signifying some sort of rank.  I like his pointy feet and I like his dual swords. He’s very posable which is nice as the original was pretty stiff.TF-Slug dino front

The Triceratops mode is really cool too.  He looks pretty mean and nasty.  The red fins almost look like warpaint which adds to his savage appearance.  He has a hinged jaw that’s much toothier than the original.  There’s decent articulation in dino-mode as well.  The figure does seem quite small to me and I was shocked to discover that it’s about the same size as the original when I went looking for comparrison shots online.   The old toy seemed much bigger to me but I guess that’s because I was a lot smaller when I owned it.

As a modern Slag figure this toy misses the mark.  If I rated this toy based on the movie it’s from I’d give it a 0.  But based on it’s own merits I think this is a winner.  7 out of 10.

TF-Slug compare

 

 

AGENT VENOM (2014)

Marv-Venom ML fullMARVEL LEGENDS

Anything that happened before I was born seems old and anything that has happened since me seems relatively current. I feel that way about pretty much anything. For example, the Beatles are old, and the Vietnam War is ancient history while Nirvana is modern rock and the fall of the Berlin wall can still be filed under current events. That mentality might have worked when I was young but I’m pretty old now myself (nearly 40) and I no longer think I can consider things that happened when I was a kid , or stuff that was cool when I was a teenager, as “in the now”. Regardless, I have the same perspective when it comes to comic books; everything published before I started reading them is vintage, while everything since is modern. I consider Spider-Man’s classic villains to be Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, the Vulture, Electro, and any of the other 60s/70s baddies. Some might consider Venom a classic Spidey villain but I cannot view him in the same light as I view those others because he first appeared after I started collecting, though his first appearance in 1988 came not long afterwards. Venom is 26 years old now which would  probably seem really old to some kid just getting into comics and they probably wouldn’t see any distinction between Venom and Doc Oc.   But Octopus had already been around 25 years when I bought Venom’s first appearance so to me Venom still seems like a relatively new kid-on-the-block.Marv-Venom ML art

Despite his “newness” Venom has gone through quite a few changes since he first showed up on the last page of Amazing Spider-Man issue 299. Those who think the status quo never changes in comics need only scan Venom’s Wikipedia page to know that isn’t the case. Venom was originally Eddie Brock, a failed reporter who had a beef with Peter Parker, joined with the alien symbiote that Peter once wore as a costume (that’s a whole other story). Venom was one of the few villains that knew Spidey’s secret identity so he could torment him 24 hours a day. He could have killed Mary Jane or Aunt May to get at Peter but he never did (though he threatened to) because he wasn’t an evil guy per se. Venom was never a “rob the bank” or “take over the world” type of villain, Eddie and his alien underoos just hated Peter Parker.

Marv-Venom ML back

Venom popped up regularly in the Spider-Man books after that first epic show-down, usually as a villain but sometimes as a reluctant ally. He was extremely popular with fans and he even got his own limited series’ a few times. I liked Venom but he did seem rather one-note after a while and I didn’t read most of his solo books.

Eddie had briefly lost the symbiote a couple of times over the years but never for more than an issue or two. The first real shake-up of the Venom character is when the separated symbiote was put up for evil auction and purchased by Mac Gargan, the classic Spidey villain, Scorpion. Eddie was sick of cancer at this point and was happy to be rid of the thing though he later got better and became the anti-hero, Anti-Venom (but that is, yet again, a whole other story). Mac remained Venom for several years, serving as a member of Norman Osbourne’s Thunderbolts and later, in the guise of the black-suited Spider-Man, as a member of the Dark Avengers. The Gargan Venom was a bigger jerk than the original but less insane. I enjoyed reading the adventures of Venom #2, in part, because the Scorpion was always a favorite villain of mine.Marv-Venom ML close-up

With the fall of the Dark Avengers and the dawn of the Heroic Age the Venom symbiote was forcefully commandeered by the U.S. government and Mac went back to being the Scorpion.

The government felt that if they could pair the alien with a suitable host then they could control it as a weapon. They selected Flash Thompson, the bully who used to pick on Peter Parker in high school but had since become Peter’s legless, drunk, war veteran, school teacher friend (another story for another time, don’t ya just love comics).Marv-Venom ML tentacles

Flash was dubbed “Agent Venom” and given a brand new look and an on-going series. The sleek new costume was a mix of black-suited Spider-Man and a soldier with random bits of crustacean thrown in for good measure. It was a radical change but I dug it. The long tongued, slobbery beefcake Venom had been done to death and knocked off so many times over the years that I was ready for something new. But, the toothy  beefy Venom appeared whenever Flash was away from his handlers for too long and he lost control of the symbiote. That way the book could appeal to fans of both the old and new versions of the character. It’s a shame the series got cancelled.  I bought the whole run and while it was never great it had lots of potential.  However, cancellation didn’t spell the end of Agent Venom. Flash has since went on to become a member of the Secret Avengers and more recently the Guardians of the Galaxy.Marv-Venom ML up

This Walgreens exclusive Marvel Legends figure captures the look of Agent Venom brilliantly. Apparently, it was supposed to appear in the main ML line but got pulled for some reason. Thankfully it got resurrected as a store exclusive. We don’t have Walgreens in Canada (at least not in Nova Scotia) so I had to order mine online. It’s a real shame this figure isn’t available for wide release because I’m sure anyone who collects Legends will want one.

The sculpt on this figure is great. There’s a ton of detail in every piece, from the treads on the boots to the crab shell texture of the armor.  His belt is especially cool with  sculpted pouches, a knife, grenades, a canteen, and more. Paint apps on this figure are few but it looks exactly as it should.  I’m glad they didn’t add any blue highlights as they tend to do with most black-suit Spider-Man figures. Everything is very well proportioned and the joints are well hidden despite the many points of articulation. The head sculpt is simple but very well done. Hasbro could’ve cheaped out and re-used a Spider-Man or Scarlet Spider head but this is a new piece with perfectly sized sculpted eyes. This figure looks like it leapt off the page.Marv-Venom ML snipe

For accessories Agent Venom comes with a set of symbiote tendrils that can be attached to his back. Each tendril is pliable but not posable. He also comes with 4 different guns that he can hold in his hands or in the “hands” at the end of the tendrils. Each gun is nicely sculpted and fits securely in the hands.

I really can’t say enough good stuff about this figure. Get to Walgreens or get online and grab yourself one before the prices skyrocket. 10 out of 10.

MUTAGEN MAN (2014)

TMNT-Mutagen man fullTEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

The current  TMNT toy line (2012-present) started off really strong (I loved the initial 4 turtle figures) but disappointment quickly set in for me.  Subsequent figures have had much less articulation, desired figures are very hard to find in my area until months after their release, and Playmates is not producing the characters I want to see.  We’re over 20 figures deep and we still don’t have a Bebop, Rocksteady, or any of the Frogs.  I thought I’d be collecting this line but after getting a couple of disappointing figures I decided to call it quits.

TMNT-Mutagen man back

The most recent wave of TMNT figures to hit local toy store shelves (about 6 months late) consists of Casey Jones, Squirrelanoid, Kirby Bat, and Mutagen Man. I stopped flicking through the turtle pegs a while ago for myself so I probably wouldn’t have even noticed these new figures had arrived if my pal Andrew hadn’t asked me to be on the lookout for Casey Jones.  I came across a Casey in Walmart last week and texted Andrew to see if he still wanted it.  Our friend Glen had apparently snagged one for him a few days earlier.  I considered picking Casey up for myself for a bit and even carted him around the store but ultimately decided against it.  The Kirby Bat and Squirrelanoid figures were just awful so there was nothing to even consider with them and they didn’t have any Mutagen Man so I went home figureless.

I was in Walmart again yesterday to pick up some groceries but as is the case with any man-child I had to quickly peruse the action figure aisle before I could get to the task at hand.  They didn’t have any Marvel or Transformers figures that interested me so I decided to flick through the turtles again.  I was curious to see if they maybe had a Mutagen Man in stock now.  It turned out they had one.

80s Mutagen Man

80s Mutagen Man

I never owned the original 80s Mutagen Man figure but my little brother did, or maybe it was his friend Thomas who owned it, Thomas tended to leave his toys at our house.  Regardless of who owned it, there was a Mutagen Man kicking around our house and I always thought he was cool.  He consisted of a pile of guts, complete with a brain stem and attached eyeballs, in a clear “glass” jar.  Attached to the jar-suit were a bunch of tubes and wires which I assume were keeping him alive somehow.  His limbs were muscular monster arms with discolored flesh.  All-in-all he was pretty gross.  Mutagen Man appeared in the cartoon series for an episode or two but I can’t recall any of the details.  I had to refresh my memory about him on a TMNT wiki site.  Apparently the original Mutagen Man started out as a mailman named Seymour Gutz (groan-worthy foreshadowing).  He fell into some mutagen and became the hideous Mutagen Man that we all know and love. TMNT-Mutagen man attack

Due to my fond memories of the 80s toy I thought this new version was at least worth a look.  The pictures I had seen online didn’t look all that promising but sometimes you need to see these things in the flesh, so to speak.  Upon my in-store inspection I determined that the new Mutagen Man definitely wasn’t as gross/cool as the original was but there was still enough of a gross/cool factor to warrant me throwing him in my cart.  Seeing as they only had one, and it was only $10, I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

The pile of guts in the clear containment suit remains, but the suit looks more like a garbage can now.  Most of the original’s cool details have been stripped down to a single microphone and hose on the front of the suit which I assume allows MM to speak.  The groddy zombie limbs with the mechanical braces have been replaced with globby yellow translucent arms which are supposed to represent oozing mutagen.  I don’t like this look as much but it probably makes more sense.  And while I thought this figure was just barely good enough to purchase, once I got it home and opened up my views on it softened some.  The lack of sculpted detail and articulation bug me, he’s got 6 points (at the hips, shoulders, and wrists) but oddly enough, the lack of sculpted detail also makes me like this figure.  It’s kind of elegant in it’s simplicity; like a 60s robot.  And as far as articulation goes, how much more do you really need out of a walking garbage can? TMNT-Mutagen Man side It’s like complaining your R2D2 is too stiff.

The only reason the hands are articulated is so you can screw them off and fill his arms with water or TMNT brand ooze.  The left hand has holes in it so that the ooze can seep out of it.  I’m fine with not filling his arms but I couldn’t resist filling his containment suit.  The top screws off and you can fill it with water or ooze or Kool-Aid or whatever.  I opted for a torso half-full of water.  The thick yellow ooze you can buy would hide all the cool details of the gut pile so I wouldn’t recommend using that but the water looks great and adds an element of realism.  I may have to seek out a vintage one to display next to this new one but I must admit that I’ve been one over by this new Mutagen Man figure who, according to TMNT wiki by the way, is not Seymour Gutz but a stupid chubby teenager named Timothy who suffered a similar fate.

If you see one of these bad boys you might as well pick him up, he’s kinda cool.  7 out of 10.TMNT-Mutagen Man drawing

BEBOP (POP!) (2014)

POP-Bebop fullFUNK POP!  TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

I often tend to gravitate towards the weirder characters  from movies and comics.  My favorite Star Wars character is Walrus Man and my favorite He-Man character is Mer-Man.  You might see a pattern there in that I like green, aquatic-based creatures.  So it’s rather odd that my favorite character from Ninja Turtles, a series that stars 4 green aquatic characters, is the punk-rock warthog.

I liked a lot of the TMNT heroes and villains but for whatever reason Bebop was an early favorite of mine.  I’ve told you before about how my brother Doug and I split almost all of our toy collections down the middle when we were kids.  With the turtles, I had Leonardo and Donatello while Doug had Michaelangelo and Rapheal.  For bad guys, I had Bebop and Doug had his partner Rocksteady.  We actually had that all worked out before the toys even came out because we had made paper action figures of all the characters while we waited for the real toys to come out.

When it came to other properties that we wanted toys of but for which toys were not available, like Marvel and Hockey players, we made traditional paper dolls with removable clothes.  And before you start thinking dirty thoughts, the base figures all had underwear on.  We made them paper doll-style so that they were more than just cut out drawings; they were sturdier and had removable masks and helmets and even some accessories.  Where the turtles were pretty much naked anyway the paper doll-style didn’t work for them.  So to make them more than  just cut outs we drew their limbs on separate pieces of paper from their torsos, cut them out, and attached them with brass split pins; this provided for some simple articulation.  I don’t have any of those paper ninja turtles anymore but I can still picture what most of them looked like.  My Bebop was pretty cool the way I remember it.POP-Bebop side

The 1988 Bebop action figure by Playmates was definitely an improvement over my paper version, at least in terms of durability, but I didn’t love the figure.  It was hunched over and quite ugly, the head was a different color than the body, and the sun glasses weren’t the right style or color. I always found the animated version of Bebop to be kind of cute, that action figure was not.  Despite him being my favorite TMNT character, that figure did not survive the great toy purge of my tween years.  Leo, Donnie, Mondo Gecko, and Usagi Yojimbo were the only TMNT figures I kept and still have to this day.

The turtle brand has been resurrected a couple of times over the years but I never paid enough attention to the late 90s or the mid-2000s incarnations to even know whether Bebop appeared in those versions.  I’m not sure why the latest revival of the turtles struck my fancy but I’ve been enjoying the current comics and the figures for the past 2 years.  I love the modern look of the turtles, I think it’s the best they’ve ever looked.  After getting the initial 4 turtle figures, which were excellent,  I had high hopes that other classic characters would be getting equally awesome makeovers.  Sadly, that has not been the case.

POP-Bebop back

There hasn’t yet been modern era versions of Bebop, Rocksteady, Mondo, or Usagi.  The revamped Leatherhead, Baxter Stockman, and Mutagen Man have all been disappointing, and new characters like Cockroach Terminator and FishFace have been just plain stupid.  I’m holding out hope that a wicked cool redesign of Bebop is in the works down the line.

In the meantime, Playmates did give us a new version of the 80s Bebop as part of their “Classics” line.  I picked up the figure, and it’s decent, but I think the fact that its based on the 80s toy hurts it because it suffers from a lot of the same problems, namely it’s ugly.

But just a short time later, my need for a “cuter” Bebop was fulfilled, not once, but twice.  First Kidrobot produced some cute little blind boxed TMNT figures in the same vein as the Loyal Subjects Joe and Transformers figures, and then Funko added a Bebop to their TMNT POP! line.  The Kidrobot one is alright but I love the POP! version.POP-Bebop group

I’m already a big fan of the POP! figures; I have several of them populating my work desk, but Bebop may just be my favorite of the bunch.  This figures is everything I love about Bebop distilled down into an adorable little package.  He’s got the purple mohawk/rattail (which is sculpted beautifully the way it hangs off the back of his head), the purple visor sunglasses, the hoop piercings in his nose and ear, the bullet bandolier, the turtle shell shoulder pads, the bone necklace, the grenades, the chain belt, the spiked bracelets, and his trademark red sneakers.  This figure has it all and it’s all sculpted, not painted on like with the Kidrobot version.  Funko didn’t skimp on the paint apps either.  All of those details have been painted, including each individual bullet on the bandolier. Bebop looks great from every angle.  I absolutely love it. 10 out of 10.

Today I’m going to share another tablet doodle as well as a pic of me as Bebop from Halloween 2 years ago.  Enjoy.POP-bebop drawingPOP-Bebop me

 

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