BEAST MAN (2008)

MOTUC-Beast man fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

Once I decided to review a Masters of the Universe (MOTU) Classics figure today my first impulse was to review one of my most recent purchases. I bought 3 figures in July: Flogg, Karatti, and Clamp Champ.  I looked at the 3 of them and pondered for a while which one I should write about.  Then it dawned on me that I didn’t want to write about any of them. Not to knock any of those toys, they’re all quite nice, but they’re hardly A-listers in the world of MOTU. As I sat there scanning over my MOTU collection I realized that I still have a ton of iconic characters that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.  It’s crazy to think that I’ve written 650 toy reviews and somehow managed to pass over characters like Trap Jaw, Stratos, and Teela. So today I’ve decided to go back and review a truly classic MOTU character: Beast Man.MOTUC-Beast Man backMOTUC-Beast man  face

After He-Man and Skeletor I’d say the most recognizable character from the property is Beast Man. My personal favorite MOTU character, Mer-Man, isn’t far behind him but between the two I have to give the edge to Beast Man. Back in 1982 Beast Man was one of only four toys released in the initial assortment of figures along with He-Man, Skeletor, and Man-at-Arms. My brother Doug and I split that first wave of toys as we did most things. I got He-Man and Man-at-Arms and Doug got Skeletor and Beast Man (and his own Man-at-Arms too).  Each vintage figure came packaged with a mini comic book and I can remember reading the first issue that came with my He-Man, and featured Beast Man, over and over again.  I liked Beast Man from the get go.  He was a different type of villain than Skeletor and Mer-Man, he was a physically imposing brute and in some ways he seemed more capable.  I viewed him as the Destro to Skeletor’s Cobra Commander.  Like most of the Evil Warriors Beast Man was played for laughs in the cartoon but in the mini comics he was a serious threat and that’s how we used him at playtime.MOTUC-Beast Man comic

I still think the 1982 figure holds up pretty well.  It has a very expressive and mean-looking face. It had a furrowed brow and a toothy sneer that showcased some sizable fangs.  His design was very ape-like but not so much so that you would ever mistake him for a red gorilla.  He was as much a man as he was a beast so I suppose “Beast Man” was a very apt name.  He had spiked armor on his arms and a large collared chest piece which contributed to me associating him with Destro. I was never sure if the blue patterns on his face were natural markings or war paint but they looked cool either way.  It was a great toy and I’m pretty sure Doug still has it.MOTUC-beast man toon

I didn’t get my first Beast Man figure until 20 years later when MOTU was relaunched in 2002 with a new cartoon and corresponding toy line.  Beast Man’s 2002 look made him even more imposing and savage.  He towered over other characters in the cartoon and he walked with a hunch.  All of the great design elements of the original were still there only now they were magnified. I loved my 2002 Beast Man figure.motuc-beast-man-1982

In fact I loved all of my 2002 era MOTU figures so much that I was originally quite resistant to the Classics line.  I saw the new line of figures that more closely resembled the 80s toys as a step backwards.  Other than a promotional King Grayskull figure which launched the line, Beast Man was the second Classics figure produced after only He-Man.  Beast Man got made even before Skeletor!  I didn’t purchase Classics Beast Man upon his initial release.  I was sure the Classics line was nothing more than  a nostalgic flash-in-the-pan which would quickly fade away.  But after a year of solid releases passed I realized the line was gonna be around for a while.  The first Classics figure I bought was Hordak which I got second-hand from Monster’s Comic Lounge.   Once I saw the quality of the Classics figures with my own eyes I was hooked.  I made it a mission to hunt down all of the figures I had missed.MOTUC-Beast man compare

Luckily I scored this Beast Man when Mattel made it available again on their website during a Black Friday sale so I didn’t have to pay a crazy amount for him on the secondary market.  These Classics figures are only available for a limited time on Mattel’s collector-driven website (mattycollector.com) and, usually, when they’re gone they’re gone. Once a figure sells out the prices can sky rocket on ebay.

MOTUC-Beast man face off

 

Classics Beast Man is pretty damn great.  I feel that he’s the epitome of what the Classics line is all about.  It takes everything you loved about the old toy, the 2002 toy, the comics, the cartoons, and mashes it together to create the definitive version of the character.  Somehow the Four Horseman (the sculptors who design these toys) are able to take the version of the character you always saw in your head and present it to you in plastic.  The sculpt is absolutely killer, the paint job is top notch, the articulation is good, and the whip accessory is exactly what he needs.  My only complaint is that these older Classics figures tend to have loose ankle joints.  My Beast Man is a little loosey goosey but as long as I don’t bump into the bookshelf he stays standing on his own just fine.  9 out of 10.

MOTUC-Beast Man ride

PREDAKING (2013)

TF-Predaking dragon fullTRANSFORMERS: PRIME

As I’ve stated a dozen times before, I’m generally only interested in Generation 1 (G1) Transformers. G1 Transformers are what I grew up with in the 80s; only back then they weren’t called Generation 1, they were just called Transformers. The G1 title only emerged after Hasbro revived the Transformers brand in the 90s after it had been dormant for a few years. The 90s Transformers were mostly just repaints of the 80s stuff and the packaging labelled them “Generation 2”, thus retroactively dubbing the 80s stuff Generation 1. The term G1 has evolved to mean anything Transformer related that ties into the original 80s story. Comic books published by IDW today take place in the G1 continuity. G1 is a term used by Transformers fans all the time. Oddly enough the term “Generation 2” didn’t amount to much and subsequent generations of Transformers have not followed suit with that naming pattern.TF-Predaking dragon face

I’ve also stated a dozen times that when it comes to Transformers I always preferred the ones that transformed into animals over the ones that transformed into vehicles. The Decepticon sub-team known as the Predacons consisted of 5 bots who not only transformed into beasts but could also merge to create the combiner, Predaking. I loved the Predacons but I only owned two of them as a kid, Razorclaw and Rampage, so I was never able to build Predaking. As an adult collector I considered tracking the 5 of them down (I no longer even have the two I had as a kid) but they’re quite expensive on the secondary market.

Luckily I was able to satisfy my Predaking fix by purchasing a cheap Japanese knock off which I reviewed not too long ago. It’s smaller, less detailed, and of poorer quality than the original but at least I finally had a Predaking to put on my shelf. Ideally, Hasbro would’ve released a whole new set of Predacons based on their 80s designs but that hasn’t happened yet and seems unlikely to happen anytime soon based on Hasbro’s track record.TF-Predaking dragon head-on

The most recent animated incarnation of Transformers to grace the small screen was a series called “Transformers: Prime”. I only ever watched an episode or two of Prime but I’ve heard good things. Stylistically the character designs were an amalgamation of G1 and the live-action movies. The plot also seemed to draw from various generations of Transformers.

Even though they weren’t strictly generation 1 I found myself drawn to a couple of the Prime figures because of the G1 influence. I bought the Prime Soundwave, even though he was very far removed from the original visually, because he was neat looking and had a unique alt mode. I figured I could display him on my shelf as a separate character than my G1 Soundwave. I bought the Prime Cliffjumper for basically the same reason. I bought the Prime Arcee not so much because I liked the look of her but because to date there is no G1 version of her available (which is a crime but there’s finally one coming later this year). I bought the Prime Ratchet because he looked fairly close to the G1 design and I don’t have a proper G1 Ratchet. I bought Hardshell just for the hell of it (I like bugs). So as you can see there’s some wiggle room in my stance on collecting strictly G1 Transformers.TF-Predaking dragon grab

The second season of Prime was given the subtitle “Beast Hunters”. It focused on the Autobots doing battle with a group of Decepticons with monstrous alt modes known as the Predacons. These new dragon-like Predacons were a far cry from the Rhino and Eagle Predacons I grew up with but I can’t fault Hasbro for re-using the name, it’s a good one. The leader of the Prime Predacons also had a moniker lifted from the G1 days, Predaking.TF-Predaking  dragon front

 

 

The new Predaking is big, black, and orange like the original but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. This Predaking is a single bot as opposed to being a combiner made up of multiple smaller Transformers. He transforms from a robot into a large dragon. The original Predaking didn’t transform into anything, he just broke apart; only his component pieces could transform. It would actually be pretty rad is Hasbro could pull off a transforming combiner.

This new Predaking has been released in multiple scales. I’ve seen the various versions in stores a bunch of times and have considered picking one up because of the name association to one of my G1 favorites. But, each time I considered it I managed to conclude that this character was too different from the Predaking of old and that I didn’t need him in my collection. But then I was at Winners earlier this summer with my Dad. It was father’s day and I wanted to buy him something so he suggested we go to Winners so he could check out their selection of golf hats. For those of you not familiar with it, Winners is a large discount department store. I rarely venture into Winners but when I do I often find good toys at really good prices. Dad didn’t find a hat he liked but I found this fella here for a mere $9.99.TF-Predaking dragon toon

At 10 bucks there was no way I could pass him up. Judging by the size of this thing I would’ve guessed that he usually sells for about 40 dollars but I actually spotted him in Wal-Mart  recently for $59.99!! He’s pretty tall in either mode but it’s his 21 inch wingspan that really makes him stand out. I don’t really care for his robot mode and intend to keep him in his dragon mode for display purposes, I believe the dragon mode was Predaking’s primary mode in the Prime cartoon anyway, kind of like how Grimlock was always walking around in his dinosaur mode for no particular reason in the 80s cartoons.

There’s plenty of articulation on this figure so he can be posed all kinds of ways. I actually think he may be too posable as it can be tough to “lock” him into any one position. Evey time I pick him up his legs and wings flop into a new position. I like the dragon mode face on this figure, it’s more alien than it is traditional dragon.  It actually kind of reminds me of the Godzilla villain Destroyah.  There’s an action feature on this toy where if you press down on a lever on his neck his head lunges forward and his “fire breath” lights up. In an odd move for this day and age Hasbro didn’t include a battery so I haven’t actually seen the light up feature in action.

I never even bothered to transform my Predaking into his robot mode so I can’t tell you much about it.  However I swiped a pic of it from another website and posted it below so you can check it out.  It kind of me of Megatron’s look from the live-action movies. I do like how he uses his tail as a sword.  It makes for a pretty grisly blade.

I’m still holding out hope that Hasbro will produce a set of G1 Predacons one of these days. If they do, I think that this Predaking would make an excellent addition to the team. He’s pretty cool. 7 out of 10.TF-Predaking dragon robot

VIPER v.29 (2014)

Joe-Viper v29 fullG. I. JOE : 50th ANNIVERSARY

When the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero (RAH) toy line first launched in 1982 there were 13 members of the team. Those characters are referred to now as “the original 13”. There were only 2 Cobra figures at first, a cobra infantry trooper and a Cobra officer. The code name for both of them was simply “the Enemy”. The Cobra soldiers were very similar in appearance. The both had dark blue uniforms and helmets and they both had a black balaclava covering the lower half of their face (like so). Since these were the only Cobra soldiers that existed in those early days they appeared frequently the in cartoons, comics, and commercials.

As the line expanded new specialized Cobra troops were added such as frogmen, arctic troopers, and pilots. Despite these additions the original blue-shirts remained the backbone of Cobra’s forces. That is until 1986 when a new general infantry trooper was added to Cobra’s ranks; the Viper. The Viper became the new template from which all other troopers emerged. Almost every faceless trooper released after ‘86 was some variation of the Viper: Ice-Viper, Frag Viper, Gyro-Viper, etc.Joe-Viper v29 back

The basic Viper design was much more elaborate than its blue-shirt predecessor. Their uniforms were blue, red, and black and they were loaded with sculpted details like grenades, pouches, buckles, and padding. They had full silver faceplates similar to that of Cobra Commander.  They also had goggles on their foreheads which looked cool but it never occurred to me until just now how silly that was. Were they gonna wear the goggles over their masks? The ’86 Viper’s biggest detraction was that it suffered from melon-head syndrome. That aside, it was a very cool design.

My brother Doug owned the original ’86 Viper. My first Viper was a hand-me-down from my little brother Brian (or is that considered a hand-me-up?). Brian collected Joes for a few years after Doug and I had stopped but he was never as big a fan as Doug and I. When Brian outgrew his figures I gladly welcomed them into my collection. The Viper I inherited from him was the rather ugly version 3 “Sonic Fighter” which had a rusty orange colored uniform.Joe-Viper v29 shoot

During the new sculpt years of the early 2000s I accumulated a nice little army of Vipers in various colors; classic red and blue,  red and purple, and python patrol gray and black. I really liked all those variations and overall I preferred the new-sculpt’s mold to the original.

Joe-Viper v29 sideWhen the new-sculpt figures were replaced by the modern-era figures in 2007 there were some growing pains as Hasbro worked out the bugs of the new design. The first modern-era Viper figure came out in 2008 (version 16) and was victim to some really bad design flaws. A lot of people complain about the dreaded “Duke arms” of 2007, and sure they were bad, but Duke is one guy and he’s been re-done dozens of time since with better arms. The Viper represents one of Cobra’s basic infantry divisions and I’m sure some people out there wanted to buy loads of them to build a small army. But sadly the ’08 Viper had gimpy ankles that meant he was always leaning back and he had very unnatural downward turned wrists that made it difficult to have him hold a weapon. Plus the functionally useless goggles on the helmet were sculpted separately for some reason which made them prone to fall off which made them easy to lose. I was very disappointed with the initial modern-era Viper. Several variations were released afterwards in different color uniforms but the design issues remained.

Hasbro did eventually get the Viper right in 2011 with version 28, which was released as part of the 30th anniversary line. V.28 was leaps and bounds better than v.16.  The ankles were fixed, the wrists were fixed, the goggles were permanently affixed to the helmet, and the faceplate was vac-metal.

But I was kinda burnt out on the Viper by then and couldn’t truly appreciate that figure. I felt I had enough of them in my collection and another blue and red Viper didn’t really excite me no matter how improved it was.Joe-Viper v29 pose

When I first saw pictures of this repainted 30th anniversary Viper online it still didn’t do much for me. Had it been released a couple of years ago I probably would have passed on it altogether to be honest. But the 50th anniversary assortment was just so damn small that I felt compelled to buy the whole lot.

This gray and maroon Viper came in a 3-pack with a Cobra blue-shirt trooper and a Beachhead figure, both of which are virtually (if not completely) identical to previously released figures. Overall, the “Viper Pit” set was the least exciting of the 50th anniversary packs because there was really nothing new to it. At least this Viper’s paint job was a color combination we hadn’t seen before, even if it was rather bland.Joe-Viper v29-pack

But I gotta tell ya, once my 50th anniversary figures arrived and I got them all opened up I really took a liking to this figure.  Other than the new paint job this is the exact same figure as version 28 but for some reason I was really able to appreciate the quality of the sculpt this time around.  I still think the color palette is rather drab but its good drab.  Some of the recent additions to my Cobra forces (Heat-Viper, Toxo-Viper, Repulsor) have been quite “loud” so it’s kind of nice to get a low key, more realistically colored figure. The gold used on his faceplate, goggles and cobra symbol add just enough flair to keep this figure from being boring to look at.

The head sculpt is perfect, the body is well proportioned, the articulation is good, the accessories are adequate (machine gun, pistol, and backpack) and the color is something new.  The only thing I can find to complain about is the unpainted belt.  I wish it was painted black.  It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised when you have low expectations for something and this figure delivers.  9 out of 10.

Notice the gimpy wrists and wonky goggles on the right.

Notice the gimpy wrists and wonky goggles on the right.

 

GODZILLA (2014)

Godzilla 2014 full 2GODZILLA

I am a huge Godzilla fan (have been since I was a kid) and I was super stoked about the new movie. My expectations were quite high based on the quality of director Gareth Edwards previous film, Monsters. But truthfully, even if it had been total garbage I still would have got some enjoyment out of it simply because it’s Godzilla. I even enjoy elements of the 1998 Matthew Broderick Godzilla film which is blasphemous to say is some Godzilla circles. Fortunately I won’t have to be ashamed for loving the 2014 movie because it was great.Godzilla 2014 face

I figure you’ve all seen it by now but in case you haven’t perhaps you shouldn’t read any further as I may give away some spoilers.

I’ll say again that I really enjoyed Godzilla 2014 but it was by no means the perfect Godzilla film. The most common complaint seems to be that Godzilla wasn’t in the film enough and I agree with that to an extent. However, I can appreciate that Edwards was going with a “JAWS” less-is-more approach. Also, Bryan Cranston’s mourning scientist was the most compelling character to watch and he got snuffed out way too early, to most everyone’s surprise. The film then shifted its focus onto Aaron Taylor-Johnson who play’s Cranston’s son. Johnson was likable enough but I didn’t feel any real connection to him. He just kind of meandered through the movie, encountering monsters where ever he went. There were actually a few too many coincidental monster meetings for my liking. At least following a soldier’s journey instead of a scientists’ was a nice change of pace from the Godzilla norm. Speaking of scientists, Ken Watanabe was another actor who was grossly under used in the film.Godzilla 2014 front

Now it might seem like I have a lot of complaints but I really don’t; I thoroughly enjoyed the film. But don’t take this old Godzilla geek’s word for it. I think a truer testament to the film’s success was how much my little nephews all enjoyed it. They ran out of the movie theater arguing over who was going to be Godzilla and who was going to be Muto.

Godzilla atomic 2014

Bandai’s Atomic Roar Godzilla

On the topic of Muto, the movie’s “bad” monster, why the hell aren’t there any toys of him? There’s a couple of rinky dinky ones but I want a big one. It seems foolish for there to be so many Godzilla toys available but no antagonists for him to fight. Bandai seems to hold the mainstream toy license to the film and to their credit theye produced a bunch of different style toys available at various price points, but they really need to make some other monsters. Even if Muto was off the table for some reason couldn’t they have produced new toys of Mecha-Godzilla or King Ghidora? I know my nephews would want them. I bought my sister’s kid Tyler the Atomic Roar Godzilla for his 5th birthday recently and he absolutely loved it.

But what’s good enough for a 5 year old isn’t necessarily good enough for me. I’m not a fan of the stuff Bandai has put out. The aforementioned Atomic Roar Godzilla is a big clunky toy that roars and when you pull his tail his jaw dislocates so that a large phallic blast of energy can shoot out of his mouth. As much as I wanted a toy of the new Godzilla design to add to my collection I wasn’t about to buy that kiddie Bandai stuff for myself.Godzilla 2014 back

But then I saw that Jakks was slated to release a massive 24” Godzilla figure and I thought that I might get that one if it ever showed up at my local Toys R Us. I could have ordered it online but the shipping charges on a toy that big would’ve been a nightmare. I checked back at Toys R Us frequently but they never did stock Jakk’s Godzilla which may actually be a blessing in disguise. I know myself and I know there is no way that I could resist buying a 2 foot Godzilla figure but in truth the thing would be a pain in the ass to display. My 2 foot Metroplex is awkward enough and I still haven’t found a suitable place to display my 18” Galactus and Sentinel figures.

So since the 24” Godzilla was seemingly out of reach I turned my attention to a 12” version produced by a third toy company, Neca. I figured a 12 inch toy would be much easier to deal with and it would blend in better with my current collection of movie monsters. Plus Neca’s figures are geared more towards the collector’s market so it was likely going to be of superior quality as well. I believe in quality over quality when it comes to Godzilla.Godzilla 2014 face off

I considered ordering Neca’s figure from BigBadToyStore but then my local comic shop, Strange Adventures, got one in stock. BBTS was selling theirs for $50, but when you factor in conversion to Canadian funds, shipping charges and duty fees I was expecting to pay around $80 for this thing. I figured that as long as Strange Adventures priced theirs in that same range it was economical for me to buy it from them; plus I would get to enjoy the figure right away. I asked how much they wanted for it and my pal Cal who owns the store made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Needless to say I got a great deal on this figure. Once I had him in hand I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t ordered it online because this thing is heavy as all hell. I’m sure the shipping charges would have been far worse than I initially budgeted for.

This Godzilla is a towering hunk of solid plastic. It may well be the heaviest toy I own. He’s advertised as 12” tall but once you snap his tail into place I would say he’s about 25” from nose to tail. It makes for an impressive collectible.Godzilla 2014 tail

Godzilla is well detailed and surprising well-articulated. Multiple ball joints are hidden in the seams of his scaly skin. He has joints at his head, neck, jaw, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, and waist. Most impressive is his tail which is made up of a bunch of individual parts and has a whopping 13 points of articulation of it’s own. Yet, despite all these joints he is still fairly limited in how he can be posed. You can make slight adjustments here and there, open his mouth and move his tail from side to side but ultimately you’re gonna end up with a pretty standard Godzilla pose. It’s not like he can be posed in yoga positions or anything.Godzilla 2014 worms eye

 

 

I think Godzilla was mostly gray in the movie which is the base color of this toy as well but he’s also got green highlights all over his body and a brownish belly. It may not be film accurate but it looks nice and most people think green when they think of Godzilla anyway.  he has additional paint apps  for his yellow eyes, white teeth, pink tongue, and black claws.

The overall design looks pretty close to what we saw on screen but thankfully I think the toy is actually better proportioned. I thought his head was too small and his legs were too big in the film but it doesn’t look bad here.  The legs are perhaps still a little thick but overall he’s well proportioned.

I don’t care much for electronic features in my toys but this Godzilla does have a pretty nice roar sound that is activated when you press down on a fin at the base of his tail.

This is a very nice figure . 10 out of 10.Godzilla 2014 compare

SLASH (2014)

TF-Slash fullTRANSFORMERS : AGE OF EXTINCTION

A while back I purchased a couple of Dinobot figures from the latest Transformers movie line, “Age of Extinction”.  I do not care for the live-action Transformers movies, nor do I care for the look of the Transformers in those movies.  Hasbro has released hundreds of movie based Transformers toys since 2007 and prior to my recent Dinobot purchases I had only ever bought one of them (Shockwave).  I full-on hated  Transformers 2 and 3 and when I heard Michael Bay was returning for a fourth I vowed that he wouldn’t get my money this time.  I refused to shell out another $13 to be miserable for 3 hours.  But then news came that Mr. Bay wanted to integrate the Dinobots into his new installment.  I’ll admit that my resolve wavered slightly at the thought of seeing Grimlock, Slag, Snarl, Sludge, and Swoop on the big screen but I quickly came to my senses.  I knew in my heart and soul that Bay would f**k up this movie just as badly as he had the last few, if not more so.  I again vowed that I would not pay to see this movie, no matter how many transforming dinosaurs he put in it.TF-Slash face

When the first trailer hit I was confident that I had made the right choice.  Grimlock didn’t look like Grimlock, Optimus Prime was riding him, Hound was fat and had a beard, and a new ditzy airhead had been hired to replace the previous ditzy airheads. No thanks.  But then I went to Toys R us and saw the new figures.  There were some brightly colored, neat-looking, new characters and I was intrigued.  There had never been a Spinosaurus Dinobot before and so Scorn was the one that I gravitated towards first.  I liked what I saw and ended up buying both him and Slug (the new version of Slag who was my favorite Dinobot when I was a kid).  I wrote a positive review of Scorn and in it I even stated that the figure was so good that it made me tempted to see the movie which was due out a couple of weeks later.

TF-Slash movie

But then the movie came out and the negative reviews hit the internet.  By the sounds of things it was another bloated mess with no respect for the source material and so I put my foot down and did not go.  To this day I have not seen it.  I might try to watch it once it hits netflix, at least then I can take breaks from it when I start to get bored.

Even though I liked my 2 Dinobot figures I had no interest in the other 2 that were available, Grimlock and Strafe. I did not expect to buy any more movie-based figures but I was in Toys R us this past weekend and saw this guy, Slash.  This is another new character created for the movie.  He transforms into a Velociraptor which is another first for a Generation 1 Transformer.  He was in his dino mode in the package and he looked really cool.  The thing I liked most about him was that he actually had feathers.  Ever since dinosaurs having feathers became an accepted theory I’ve wanted a toy of a feathered dinosaur.  I loved playing with rubber dinosaurs when I was a kid and I would totally buy a whole series of them if they made new ones with feathers.  Slash here is the first feathered dinosaur toy I’ve seen.  So while he may not be the most traditional dinosaur figure ever I simply couldn’t pass him up.TF-Slash dino head

His dinosaur mode is great.  It’s well articulated and has lots of nice details like fins , claws, and scales.  I love the vibrant blue, green and yellow color scheme.  He looks great when displayed next to Scorn and Slug who were both quite flamboyantly colored as well.  The translucent red eyes and uneven teeth really make him look menacing.TF-Slash back

Unfortunately, all that cool doesn’t translate into his robot mode.  When I first transformed him I was appalled at how crappy he was.  The other 2 figures set the bar fairly high and this guy looked like a total wanker.  He looks especially horrible from the back.  He suffers from the same issue as Tailgate, Shrapnel, and a lot of other modern Transformers in that the designers don’t seem to give a crap what the robot looks like from behind.  Just mash everything back there and hope no one looks.

TF-Slash dino full

 

However, my opinion of robot Slash has softened in the time it has taken me to write this review.  I’m staring at him as I write this and he’s really not so bad I suppose. One thing I do really hate though are the feathers on his upper legs.   I wish these had been tucked around back like everything else.  They just kind of sit there like he’s wearing an upside down grass skirt.  It’s just weird looking.

The head is pretty cool and maintains the medieval knight look of the others.  There are a lot of shared design elements amongst the 3 figures which adds to their appeal.  The old Dinobots were all the same colors so you knew they were a team but these guys manage to still look like a cohesive unit even though their colors are drastically different from one another.

This figure is by no means perfect but I’d say he’s worth picking up for his dinosaur mode alone.  He really only deserves a 5 or a 6 but the inclusion of feathers to his dinosaur mode bump him up to a 7 out of 10. TF-Slash group

H.E.A.T. VIPER v.3 (2014)

Joe-Heat Viper v4 fullG. I. JOE: 50th ANNIVERSARY

2 weeks ago I reviewed the original 1989 Heat Viper.  Even though that figure was released near the end of my childhood Joe collecting it became a fast favorite of mine that got more than it’s fair share of face time during my bedroom battles.  Heat Viper was easily my second favorite Cobra trooper behind Ice Viper which is why I was super stoked to see both of them included in Hasbro’s small 50th anniversary assortment this year.

Most of the 50th anniversary figures that I pre-ordered from BigBadToyStore arrived in the mail last week, the vehicle sets have apparently been delayed a couple of weeks.  Besides the 2 vehicle sets that I’m still missing the anniversary assortment consists of two 2-packs and 2 3-packs.  All of the figures are nice but half of them are straight re-issues of figures that were previously released.  Had these figures been released individually I could’ve saved myself the trouble of buying duplicates of Hawk, Low-Light, Beachhead, Blowtorch, and Cobra Trooper.  But because of the multi-figure packages I was forced to buy them all just to get the 5 figures that I really did want.Joe-Heat viper v4 blowtorch

I haven’t been into army building (buying multiples of the same figure to create squads of troopers) since the new sculpt years.  I simply don’t have room for duplicates.  But I couldn’t resist pre-ordering 2 Heat Vipers.  It’s actually the first modern era figure that I intentionally bought 2 of.  I did so for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the assortment was relatively small and the prices quite reasonable ($15 for a 2-pack) so it didn’t break the bank to do it. Secondly, I love Heat Viper so why not?  And lastly, because I’ve been reading all sorts of horror stories online about the lackluster quality of these 50th anniversary figures.  People have been saying the paint apps are all f**ked up and joints are gimpy and all sorts of things.  I didn’t want to risk only ordering 1 Heat Viper only to have a super fugly one show up in the mail.  And I was afraid they might sell out while I waited to check on the quality control of my initial order.Joe-Heat viper v4 compare full

Well, I’m happy to report that both of my Heat Vipers arrived in great shape.  In fact, all of my anniversary figures did.  I don’t know what everyone is complaining about.  Sure, the plastic is softer than we’re used to but it doesn’t really detract from the figure and, if anything, it will probably prevent breaks.

This figure shares the same body as 2011’s  Airtight version 3.  It works out really well.  Considering it has Heat Viper’s signature raised stripe up the front it’s almost as if Hasbro planned to use this torso for Heat Viper all along.  The purple stripes on the legs and arms don’t work out quite so well as they’re just painted on and there’s no sculpting to define them but they look fine regardless.  The colors they used on this figure are pretty close to those found on the original which is great.  He’s not quite as “loud” as his predecessor but this figure still really “pops” on a shelf.Joe-heat Viper v4 helmet compare

For accessories Hasbro has recreated the vintage gear fantastically.  The rocket launcher and cable appear to be exactly the same ones that the ’89 version came with.  The backpack is new but looks very close to the original and I actually think they improved on the boot missiles.  Instead of having the 6 mini missiles attach directly to pegs on the figure, these new missiles attach to removable straps around his ankles.  This way, if you lose the missiles you can take off the straps.  With the old figure you were stuck with 3 awkward pegs on each boot. He also comes with a display base which is pretty standard for modern Joes but these 50th figures have a nice gold paint app on the raised logos.Joe-Heat viper v4 back

Last but not least is the newly sculpted head.  This head is awesome.  It’s got all the cool design elements that I loved about the original but it’s more sleek.  The right side still has a rounded gray visor and the left side still has a strange ribbed design.  Where they differ is that this new one has an additional gray visor beneath the ridges of the helmet where the original had a solid yellow left side.  When I first noticed this change on pictures posted online I was disappointed.  The half visor never really made much sense from a tactical standpoint but it was partly what made Heat Viper so cool.  I feared dual visors would diminish his quirky lopsided quality and make him appear too much like Cobra Commander.  But now that I have this figure in hand I think it looks great.  It’s still a hella weird helmet design but it’s weird in a different way than the original, plus now he can actually see what he’s doing.  Besides, the dual visor look actually more closely resembles the 1989 card art, which makes me think that maybe the original toy was meant to be painted this way too.Joe-Heat viper v4 art

 

I absolutely love this figure.  But here are a couple quick gripes: When they added the second visor they did away with the plug normally found on the left side of this guy’s head.  Now his rocket launcher cable has nothing to plug into and just kind of hangs there.  Also, I don’t like his exposed neck.  I wish his collar went right up to his helmet line.  It should be noted however, that while his neck is now exposed, his chin no longer is. Those minor gripes aside, this is a killer action figure.  10 out of 10.Joe-Heat viper v4 pair sideJoe-Heat viper v4 pair

STARSCREAM (ARMADA) (2014)

TF-Starscream armada fullTRANSFORMERS : GENERATIONS

I collected the Transformers comic published by Marvel in the 1980s (well technically my brother Doug did but I read them all) but was never really impressed by them. The characters were often miscolored, there were a lot of inconsistencies and errors, and there was too much focus on the human characters for my taste. The book ran for 80 issues but Doug and I only made it to issue 33 before we lost interest and stopped buying it. We quit collecting the toys around the same time.

During the 1990s the Generation 1 Transformers that I grew up with were pretty much dormant; no comics, no cartoon, and no toys. Transformers were still around in the form of Beast Wars but that never appealed to me. I was a teenager by then and was more interested in other things.TF-Starscream armada face

But by the time the Generation 1 Transformers were revived on the printed page by Dreamwave Productions in a brand new comic series in 2002 I was 100% on board. I had gotten back into toy collecting and was feeling nostalgic for the toys of my youth. The Dreamwave comics were what I always wished the Marvel Transformers comics were like when I was a kid. They had great stories and even better art. The artwork was straight-up phenomenal actually. Every single cover could have been made into a poster. I was very upset when Dreamwave abruptly lost the license to produce Transformers comics in 2004; especially because they had stories that were left half told.

TF-Starscream armada pose

 

The license was quickly picked up by a new company called IDW in 2005. After reading their first few issues I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t care for the art, there were human kids as sidekicks, and it was a whole new continuity to learn. After being spoiled by Dreamwave, the IDW stuff simply didn’t cut it.

But that soon changed. Their character focused Spotlight issues were the first to draw me in. Soon the flagship title was picking up steam and by the time the book split into two separate on-going series’ “More than Meets the Eye” and “Robots in Disguise” I was loving the Transformers Universe crafted by IDW.TF-Starscream armada back

And these days I love how closely related the toy line is to the comics. A new toy comes out of a character you’ve never heard of, Guess what?  He’s in the very next issue. A new character appears in the comic and you find yourself wanting a figure of him, Guess what?  He’s in the very next toy assortment. I don’t know who’s pulling the strings here, if it’s the dog wagging the tail or vice-versa but I appreciate the coordination. I’d say it’s working to Hasbro’s benefit, at least  where I’m concerned, because I’m buying figures I ordinarily wouldn’t have. But I’m sure it’s more often the case that kids buying the toys are discovering the comics via the reprints included with each figure, thus benefitting IDW.  Basically, this symbiotic relationship is good for both companies and fans alike.

My most recent Transformers purchases were Tankor, Scoop, Minicon, and Starscream. The first 3 I have no childhood attachment to: The original Scoop was released in 1988 after I had stopped collecting Transformers as a kid, Tankor is from the series Beast Machines which was also after my time, and Minicon is a brand new character. As for Starscream,  I already have a perfectly good Starscream figure with his original iconic gray color scheme so what would I need a red one for. I ordinarily would have passed on this whole assortment. But after reading about these characters in IDW’s comics I wanted to own them all.TF-Starscream armada compare

Getting roped into buying unique new characters is one thing but I’m really not keen on buying needless duplicate figures. A red Starscream seemed pretty needless to me the first time i saw images of this toy online. But then, in the comics, Starscream required a new body after his old one is damaged so he’s given this one. It’s the body he inhabits as the democratically elected leader of Cybertron (sound crazy? You gotta read the comics; its great stuff). I’ve grown to really like his new look in the comics so after a while this toy didn’t seem so needless at all.

I later learned that this look is actually based on Starscream’s appearance in TRANSFORMERS: ARMADA, a anime inspired Transformers franchise from the early 2000s.  I never watched the Armada show or read the Armada comics but I suppose this new look would be a neat nod to those who did.TF-Star scream IDW

Starscream has never been known to wield blades in the past so the inclusion of  two translucent orange energon swords might seem rather odd, that is until you read the issue where he uses them to great effect against Jiaxus.

This figure is relatively well constructed and does a great job of giving us a comic accurate Starscream.  This figure is much more posable than my 2006 “Classics” version of Starscream.  I’m really impressed by the amount of articulation Hasbro is able to squeeze into their current Transformers toys.  One thing I discovered about this toy while taking pictures for this review is that the thrusters on his back can be flipped up to rest on his shoulders.  It makes him look much bulkier and dangerous. The back of his head is cast in translucent plastic which allows light to shine through and gives the impression that his eyes are glowing.  It’s a really cool effect when the light catches it just right.

TF-Starscream armada walk

 

My gray Classics Starscream will remain the default Starscream in my display as that’s the version I grew up with, but this figure could easily be displayed as just another one of his seeker henchmen. Maybe I’ll call him Bloodscream.  It’s kind of nice to have such a diverse seeker army these days. In the 80s the whole gang was the exact same figure repainted in multiple shades. My current squad all look similar but are constructed in multiple ways which adds a unique flare to each.

This is a pretty cool figure that’s worth picking up, especially if you missed out on the original Classics Starscream. 8 out of 10.TF-Starscream armada seekers

CROSS COUNTRY v.3 (2014)

Joe-Cross Country v3 fullG. I. JOE

The G.I. Joe Collector’s Club has been around for quite some time. By signing up as a member you get a monthly newsletter, discounts at the club’s online store, an exclusive action figure, and a few other perks. I signed up for the first time 3 years ago.

The free sign-up figure from my first year as a member was Footloose. That was a pretty cool figure of a character who was sorely in need of a modern-era update. But my brother Doug owned the original 1985 Footloose figure when were we kids and I never felt much of a personal connection to the character. Last year’s figure was Iceberg. He was another classic character who hadn’t yet received a modern update at the time. I owned the original 1986 Iceberg figure so he was a character that I did feel a kinship with; much more so than Footloose. Unfortunately the Club’s Iceberg figure was a bit of a mess. The parts used to build him failed to come together in a cohesive way which resulted in a gangly and disappointing version of the Joe team’s Cold Weather Survival Instructor.Joe-Cross Country v3 carded

It seems as though the Club heard the underwhelming fan response to Iceberg and stepped up their game this year. This year’s figure is not only beautifully constructed but it also fills another glaring hole in the modern-era collection.  This is the first Cross Country figure since 1993’s version 2.

I had the original 1986 Cross Country and it was a figure I really liked. Looking back at him, I’m not sure what appealed to me about Cross Country as he’s pretty dorky looking. Perhaps the fact that he came packaged with one of the coolest Joe vehicles ever, the H.A.V.O.C. (Heavy Articulated Vehicle Ordinance Carrier), made him more appealing than he would’ve been on his own.  He had a gray civil war style hat, a confederate flag belt buckle, no weapons, socks up to his knees, red hair, and a fat face with a rather dopey expression. It’s hard to imagine he ever could’ve been a favorite of mine but somehow he was.  The originality of his design was probably another part of the appeal; you’d never mistake another Joe for this North Carolina born Heavy Equipment Operator.

Joe-Cross Country v3 backCross Country version 2 had even less going for it than the original.  Gone were the silly socks but so to was the HAVOC.  Now he had acid washed jeans, an over-sized missile launcher, a large confederate flag on the back of his jacket, and bright orange accessories. I only recently acquired version 2 in my epic haul from Eric.

Cross Country was not a character I was expecting to see in the modern-era style anytime soon so I was delighted when he was unveiled by the Club a few months back.  The mock-up they showed looked leaps and bounds better than last year’s Iceberg.  I renewed my membership and waited for my figure to arrive in the mail, all the while hoping that the final product retained the quality of the mock-up.

I got an email from the Club in April telling me that my figure should arrive in the next 6 weeks.  10 weeks went by and I didn’t receive anything.  It pained me to see everyone else posting pics of their Cross Country online while it seemed mine was lost in limbo.  I contacted the Club and they promptly rushed one out to me which I received a week and a half after contacting them.  Great customer service by the Collector’s Club. Joe-Cross Country v3 face

Now that I finally have Cross Country in hand I can tell you that he is just as awesome as I hoped he would be.  I’d say that he’s easily the best sign-up figure to date.  His body is constructed of re-used parts which work really well together and do a good job of replicating the look of the original.  The proportions and articulation are spot on, no complaints.

The Club had Boss Fight Studios sculpt a brand new head and vest for this figure.  Both of these pieces are stellar.  The vest fits great and has a ton of sculpted detail like pouches, straps, zippers, and even a name badge.  The head is one of the best in the entire modern line.  It’s reminiscent of the original but adds so much more personality and realism. The red mullet and sideburns, the flat nose, and the mild smirk really bring this figure to life; it looks like a real person’s face.

For accessories Cross Country version 3 comes with a display base, a rifle, a pistol that can be holstered on his hip, and a wrench.  I’d say they all compliment the figure very well.  I am pleased as punch with this toy.  10 out of 10Joe-Cross country v3 compare

 

SHORT STACK

FF-Short Stack fullFOOD FIGHTERS

Most of my toy-related childhood memories involve my older brother Doug. We shared a bedroom well into our teens, were into all the same stuff, and we always played together. All of the major toy lines from our youth (G.I. Joe, Star Wars, WWF, etc.) we collected jointly. But as the 80s began winding down my interests and Doug’s interests began to differ. We both still liked the stuff we grew up on and continued to play with those collections together but I was also interested in collecting new toy lines while Doug was more interested in going to the roller skating rink with hopes of winning the love of Jody Trethewey (spoiler alert: he didn’t).

FF-Short Stack side

By the late 80s and early 90s I related more to my little brother Brian when it came to toy collecting. I remember the first time we saw the commercial for Mattel’s Food Fighter figures. Doug couldn’t have cared less but Brian and I were stoked about this imaginative new toy line. The premise was essentially food soldiers fighting food terrorists. It was like a wackier food-based version of G.I. Joe. One reason it appealed to me was because it reminded me of a creation of my own. As a kid I dreamed up a super hero named Captain Carrot who wasn’t much more than a carrot with a cape. The Captain patrolled the Kitchen Cosmos, protecting its denizens from the likes of the evil egg brothers and the animal cracker gang. I still think it’s a great idea for an animated series that I may have to revisit one day.

It’s a real shame that the Food Fighters never got a cartoon themselves as I imagine it would’ve been fun. Seeing the Kitchen Commandos, led by the heroic Burgerdier General, defend the counter top from the evil Mean Weener and his Refrigerator Rejects would have made for some exciting Saturday morning viewing I’m sure.

FF-kitchen-commandos

Mattel only produced a single wave of Food fighters consisting of 10 figures and 3 vehicles. If memory serves, both Brian and I got 2 figures each in our Easter basket’s one year. It’s possible that we only got one figure each initially and then got our second figures later but I’m pretty sure we got all four at once. I can say with absolute certainty that for Easter 1989 I got Mean Weener and Brian got Burgerdier General.

I recall being immediately disappointed with Mean Weener. I was expecting a toy of similar quality to a Ninja Turtle but instead I got a crappy dog toy. The Food Fighters were made of soft hollow plastic that felt super cheap. Dinky unarticulated human arms and legs were tacked onto their squishy bodies and they didn’t look natural at all. Even the paint job was poorly done. They came with very generic G.I. Joe style guns and backpacks. All that aside, I did like the design of the characters and it was a fun concept;  it was just executed poorly. It’s no real surprise that it didn’t catch on in a big way.FF-Short Stack low

This is why I think we must’ve got all four figures at once. Because I was so disappointed with Mean Weener that I didn’t feel the need to collect any more Food Fighters. However, it is possible that our parents bought us our second figures sometime later for completing a chore or something. I believe Brian’s secondary Food Fighter was Private Pizza and I think he also got Terror Taco and maybe even Major Munch eventually. My second and last Food Fighter was this pile of evil pancakes, Short Stack.

FF-Short Stack squishI really like the design of Short Stack. It’s actually a very innovative and creative sculpt. They could’ve went with a big, flat, round, walking pancake but instead we got this syrup drenched stack of pancakes. His facial features are tucked in between the layers and his nose is a big glob of syrup dripping down between his eyes. On the top of his flat head he has a black hat (as all the bad guys did) and a melting pat of butter. I say again, it’s a really neat design for a character.

Unfortunately Short Stack suffers from the same deficiency as all the other toys in the line in that he’s essentially a squeaky dog toy. The mal-proportioned human arms and legs actually look kind of creepy poking out the sides of this figure.FF-Short Stack carded

I got rid of my Food Fighter figures ages ago but I reacquired both of them this summer at a flea market. As ghetto as these toys are they are pretty neat looking and I thought they’d be fun to write about. My flea market version of Short Stack is missing his accessories and his feet are warped so he doesn’t stand very well but it’s still kind of cool to have him back in my collection. One interesting thing I learned while brushing up on my Food Fighter history for this post was that a few of the figures had variant versions. Short Stack was also available with blueberry syrup, not just this maple syrup version which is the only one I had ever seen before. 5 out of 10.FF-Short Stack duo

SHRAPNEL (SKRAPNEL) (2014)

TF-Shrapnel fullTRANSFORMERS: GENERATIONS (Legends class)

As I’ve stated in past reviews, some of my favorite Transformers were the ones who transformed into animals. It didn’t matter if it was a lion, a dinosaur, or a bug; I just found more play value in a toy that had two “living” modes as opposed to a toy with only robot and vehicle modes. The Insecticons were an especially cool faction of the Decepticons. There were 3 main Insecticons: Bombshell, Shrapnel, and Kickback. Bombshell transformed into a rhinoceros beetle with a large horn that he used to attach mind controlling cerebro-shells onto unsuspecting Autobots. My brother Doug owned the original 1985 Bombshell.

I owned Shrapnel who transformed into a stag beetle with large mandibles that generated an electricity attack. I loved the way Shrapnel was portrayed in the cartoon. All of the Insections had funky voices but only Shrapnel had a weird tick where he repeated the last word of every sentence he said: “The Autobots must die, die” “Now is the time to attack, attack”.

1985 version

1985 version

Neither of us owned Kickback who transformed into a Grasshopper and was the least interesting of the group.

I loved that original Shrapnel toy. His mandibles, legs, and weapon were chrome silver which looked great with the black, purple, and yellow color scheme that he shared with the other members of the Insecticons. I loved his robot mode though articulation was quite limited.  The transformation to bug mode was very simple which I always appreciated (complicated transformations piss me off).   His insect alt. mode was decent but had some issues. While Bombshell’s big yellow bug eyes looked great Shrapnel got stuck with unpainted solid purple eyes. Also, instead of convincing bug legs he had wheels.TF-Shrapnel art

I regret getting rid of that toy and maybe someday I’ll replace it but as an adult collector my focus has been on obtaining updated versions of the Transformer toys I had as a kid. Unfortunately Hasbro has been very slow about producing the characters I want. Thankfully third party manufactures have stepped in to fill the void by releasing unlicensed versions of in-demand characters.

In 2012, third party company, Fans Project, released their versions of the 3 Insecticons. I bought their versions of Bombshell and Shrapnel named Stormbomb and Thundershred. I passed on their Kickback named Back Fiery. It was a nice figure but since I never owned the original I don’t have the same attachment to that character and the third party toys are too expensive to buy unless you really want them.TF-Shrapnel face

The Fans Project Bombshell/Stormbomb was absolutely fantastic and I named it my toy of the year in 2012. The Fans Project Shrapnel/Thundershred, which I haven’t yet reviewed, was a very cool toy but it didn’t feel like Shrapnel to me. The face was completely different and the trademark mandibles weren’t prominently displayed on the sides of his head. For those reasons I’ve always viewed Thundershred as his own character rather than an updated Shrapnel.

Shrapnel (2014) and Thundershred

Shrapnel (2014) and Thundershred

Well it took 29 years but Hasbro has finally released their own updated version of my favorite Insecticon. He’s constructed in the same scale as other recent “legends class” mini-bot releases like Swerve, Cosmos, and Tailgate. When I first saw pics of this figure online I was extremely underwhelmed and I decided that I wouldn’t buy it.

It seemed way too small and lacking in detail. It didn’t appear to hold a candle to the vintage figure, let alone the masterpiece that is Stormbomb. How could I possibly display this toy side by side with Stormbomb my collection? Bombshell and Shrapnel were always equals in the cartoons, and in mine and Doug’s Transformers universe, so this scrawny runt of a toy simply wouldn’t be able to hold his own.

But I really wanted Tailgate and BigBadToyStore was only preselling them as a pair so I had to order Shrapnel (who they now call Skrapnel for some reason) in order to get Tailgate.  At only $10 it didn’t really bother me to spend the extra money.TF-Shrapnel pose

Now that I have this toy in hand I still think it’s too small and lacking in detail but it’s much better than I expected. This figure seems extremely tiny to me so I was very surprised to learn, while preparing for this post, that its very close to the same size as the vintage figure. I recall the old one being bigger than this but perhaps that’s because I was smaller myself back then or because the old toy was much bulkier than this. I do miss that bulkiness and chrome accents of the original. This new Shrapnel is thin and wiry and his mandibles are molded in a dull gray plastic. But this version has much more articulation than the original. The old toy’s robot mode could barely be posed at all whereas this guy can bend at the knees and elbows and has ball jointed hips and shoulders which allow for lots of diverse poses.

TF-Shrapnel bug

 

This figure wins points with me because it looks like Shrapnel whereas Thundershred fell short.  The face design is spot on and the mandibles are mounted on the shoulders/side-of-the-head as they should be.  With the exception of silver legs this figure’s colors closely match the originals.  This figure is not pretty from the back.  As with tailgate it seems like no effort went into hiding his alt mode from behind;  he’s just a jumble of legs back there.  At least the multiple legs come in handy for his alt. insect mode.  Shrapnel actually looks like an insect now with legs instead of wheels.TF-Shrapnel back

All of these legends class figures come with an even smaller Transformer who turns into the main bots’ weapon.  Shrapnel comes with Reflector, the Decepticon that turns into a camera and who was a mainstay in the early cartoons and comics but who never had a wide-released figure in America.  I’ve never owned a Reflector so it’s cool to get this itty bitty homage to the classic character.TF-Shrapnel reflector

This figure really isn’t as bad as I expected it to be.  In fact, I probably like it better than the Tailgate figure.  I actually hope Hasbro releases similar scaled version of Bombshell and Kickback so I can finally complete the team.        7 out of 10.TF-Shrapnel compare2

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