BLACK CAT (2014)

Marv-black cat full MLMARVEL LEGENDS: SPIDER-MAN

I’ve been a Marvel comics zombie since I was 8 years old. I also loved action figures back then. Not a whole lot has changed in the past 28 years. The sucky thing about being a Marvel comic/toy fan in the 1980s was that there were hardly any Marvel toys to be had. There were always Spider-Man’s available in one form or another and there was the Secret Wars toy line in 1984 but it wasn’t very expansive. As a kid I wanted a Marvel toy line that encompassed every obscure corner of the Marvel universe. My brother Doug and I filled the void by making hundreds (no joke) of paper dolls of Marvel characters.

It wasn’t until Spider-Man and the X-Men got new animated series’ in the 90s that a toy company, Toy Biz, finally stepped up to the challenge of creating a Marvel toy line that included more than just the 10 most popular characters. As more Marvel cartoons sprung up Toy Biz was there to put out a corresponding toy line for each one. Over the course of a few years I was collecting Toy Biz figures like crazy. I collected Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the Avengers. It was crazy that there were practically no Marvel figures in the 80s then suddenly in the 90s I was getting figures of characters like SwarmMarv-Black cat legends carded

Those 90s Toy Biz figures weren’t perfect but I liked them a lot. When they transitioned from the colorful animated 5” style I had been collecting to a new, darker, uber-articulated, 6” style dubbed Marvel Legends I jumped ship. The Legends figures were actually too articulated for my liking. They were so riddled with joints that they ended up looking really gimpy and they were hard to pose in neutral positions. It’s easy to hide joints on characters like Iron Man but most super heroes wear spandex and unitards don’t look so good when broken up with multiple joints. I retired from Marvel toy collecting and focused my attention on other lines. Doug, however, who had never collected the Toy Biz stuff really took to the Legends figures and has accumulated a very impressive Legends collection over the years.Marv-Black Cat posed ML

Years went by without me buying any Marvel figures but then Hasbro launched their 3 3/4” line dubbed Marvel Universe in 2009. I wasn’t sold on the idea right away but there was something appealing about Marvel figures in the same scale as my G. I. Joe and Star Wars figures. When I finally caved and bought one (Red Hulk) I got hooked and before long I was buying them all. I was excited to be collecting Marvel toys again and I loved that this new line wasn’t  focused on any one property like Spider-Man or X-Men. This was a universe wide line so Hasbro could put out figures of any character under the sun. I love getting toys of obscure Marvel characters like Winter Soldier (no longer obscure) and Rocket Raccoon (who won’t be obscure for long). I’m super stoked about the upcoming Death’s Head figure; they don’t get much more obscure than that. Marv-Black Cats ML

Doug was pretty bummed when Hasbro shifted their focus from the Legends line he’d been collecting to the smaller Universe figures.  The Universe line has flourished for the past 5 years but it now seems to be my turn to be bummed as the trend has reversed. The release of Universe figures has slowed while Marvel Legends figures have burst back onto the scene in a big way. Not only is the generic Legends line back but there are also brand specific Legends lines which tie-into the current crop of Marvel movies. I’ve been really been impressed with the look of many of the modern Legends figures. Most of the wonky joint issues of the early years seem to have been resolved and the figures actually look really nice. I was tempted to pick up a couple myself but resisted the urge. I knew the dangers of buying 1 or 2 .  The last thing I needed was to start a collection of Marvel figures in a third scale.Marv-Black cat face ML

But then I saw this Black Cat and I caved. Black Cat has been one of my favorite Marvel characters since the beginning. She beat Sabertooth to a bloody pulp in the first comic book I ever bought and she’s had her claws in me ever since.

I was very happy to get my first ever Black Cat figure when Toy Biz produced one in their 90s Spider-Man line. The articulation was limited and she was oddly short in stature but it was a nicely sculpted figure. My next Black Cat figure was produced my Marvel Select and it was a beauty. It was based on the artwork of Terry Dobson who can draw Felicia like no other. The sculpt was fantastic and it came with an elaborate display base and accessories. The only issue was its almost complete lack of articulation. It was clearly intended as a display piece and not a toy to be played with. That was fine with me as my figures are generally for display only.

As great as the Select figure was I would still have bought a 3 ¾” Black Cat figure had they made one so that she could be displayed with the rest of my Marvel Universe collection. However, the Select figure had me confident that I would never need to purchase another Black Cat figure in the larger scale. But when I saw this Legends version in Walmart the other week I simply couldn’t resist her.Marv-Black cat whip ML

This figure has a fantastic sculpt. The face is feminine and pretty and the hair is very well done. It doesn’t appear to be based on any particular artist’s rendition of the character but instead has a nice generic look that doesn’t tie her to any one specific storyline or time period. She has plenty of articulation and unlike my previous two Cat figures can be posed in multiple ways fitting of someone with catlike agility. Even though she is wearing a solid black unitard the joints are designed well enough so that they don’t ruin the visual appeal of the figure. She includes a bendy whip as well as the torso of the build-a-figure Ultimate Green Goblin which you can complete if you buy all of the figures in the wave.

Once I got this figure home and opened it up I liked it so much that I went back to Walmart the next day and bought 3 more Legends figures. I’m so predictable. 10 out of 10.

G.I. JOE CONVENTION 2014 NEWS

Happening in Texas right now is the 2014 G.I. Joe Convention.  The annual con lasts an entire weekend and consists of a sales floor along with multiple panels and activities. I’ve never been but I think I’d like to check it out sometime.  I’ve attended the last 2 Hal-Cons, which is the local sci-fi/comic convention here in Halifax, and I’ve had a good time.  I never had much interest in attending a con before  but I decided to give it a shot when Larry Hama was announced as a guest at the 2012 Hal Con.  Mr. Hama played a very large role in creating the G.I. Joe brand that I love dearly.  It was a real treat to get to talk to him, hear his stories, and even get an original sketch.

Now even though I’ve never personally attended a Joe Con, it still makes for an exciting weekend.  I check the Joe news sites regularly to catch all the latest info and gossip.  Just an hour or two ago the Collector’s Club announced their line-up for their upcoming Figure Subscription Service 3.0.  I’ve subscribed to the FSS the past 2 years and have been very pleased with the figures produced by the club.  I’ve really been looking forward to the series 3 announcement.  Now that we officially know who’s included I figured I’d throw in my 2 cents on the line-up just like I did when last year’s FSS was announced.  (All these pics were borrowed from YoJoe.com).

FSS-AlpineAlpine, the Joe team’s mountain trooper.  I already have a modern style Alpine that I’m quite happy with so the inclusion of this figure doesn’t excite me much.  This one apparently will be modeled after Alpine’s new-sculpt design.  I previously reviewed the new-sculpt Alpine which I dubbed “weekend Alpine” because of his civilian attire.  I like the look just fine but I’m not thrilled about paying a premium price for it.

FSS-BombstrikeBombstrike.  This is the figure I’m most excited about.  Bombstrike is a relatively new character created during the new-sculpt years. She is the sister of the Joe team’s Barrel Roll and Cobra’s Blackout; both of whom were included in the first FSS.  I assumed Bombstrike was a shoe-in to be included in the second FSS and was genuinely surprised when she was omitted.  I’m very happy to finally be  getting the third Stall sibling. Better late than never.

FSS-Psyche outPsyche Out.  Last years convention box set was night force themed. It was a must-buy for me because it included the first ever modern style releases of many key Joes, Psyche Out being one of them.  I was stoked to get so many great characters but was a little disappointed that they were all painted in their night force colors.  I would’ve preferred they had paint jobs to match their iconic original versions.  It’ll be nice to get Psyche Out in his classice green and red outfit.

FSS-RepeaterRepeater was another Joe who got his first ever modern figure in the Night Force box set.  Again, I guess it will be cool to get him in his classic colors.  Last years version was a big solid imposing figure, very cool.

FSS-MuskratMuskrat.  Yet another character who first appeared in last years night force set.  Again, it’ll be nice to get him in his original colors but I’m not thrilled to see so many repeat characters from last year.  Sure, I wanted these characters in their classic colors and I knew it was a safe bet that the Club would produce them eventually but I would’ve rather seen them spaced out over the next 2 subscription services and con sets.

FSS-SpearheadSpearhead. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here but Spearhead was another figure from the night force set who we’re now getting in his original colors.  The difference here is that Spearhead was a favorite Joe of mine as a kid and I REALLY want a version of him in his classic orange outfit. I liked the night force version quite a bit and I’m sure it will look great repainted.

FSS-Hit runHit & Run.  Also included in the night force set.  What’s different about this one is we already had a classically colored Hit & Run prior to the box sets release.  This new version is “new and improved” and I know some fans are excited about it but I was fine with my 2009 Hit & Run.  This figure seems pretty redundant to me.

FSS-Big BenBig Ben.  Finally another figure to get excited about.  Not that I care about Big Ben all that much but at least he’ll make for a new character on my shelf.  Ben has never been released in the modern style before.  I never owned the original or any subsequent versions of him so this shall be my first.  Let’s hope he’s as nice a surprise as Topside and Sure Fire were.

FSS-CrimsonCrimson Guard Immortal.  This guy should be pretty cool. He’s the only troop builder in FSS 3.0 so I’m sure he’ll one of the most sought after.  I never owned the original 1991 CGI but I’m a big fan of the Crimson Guard in general.  I’m looking forward to displaying this guy with Tomax, Xamot and my other CeeGees. A likely highlight of this series.

FSS-SliceSlice.  His buddy Dice was included in the first FSS so this was another no-brainer.  As with Bombstrike, I was surprised that this guy didn’t show up in FSS 2.0.  He’s an easy enough figure to produce on the cheap; just take a red ninja and slap the fencing mask that was included with Retaliation Storm Shadow in him. I actually have a make shift Slice on my shelf using that formula.  Apparently this version will have a newly sculpted head.

FSS-Night creeperNight Creeper Leader. Never had this guy when I was a kid either, he came out after my time.  But he’s a unique character and I’m more than happy to welcome him into my collection.  The design is a little goofy but so what. Bring him on. Another potential highlight.

FSS-VypraVypra.  Another unique character who I’ve never owned before. The 1998 original was just a version 1 Jinx figure repainted black.  I imagine that’s what this one will be as well, a repainted version 4 Jinx.  This will be a cheap figure for the Club to produce and I think she’ll make a cool addition to my Cobra forces. A highlight.

FSS-GolobulusSo those are the 12 figures to be included in next years FSS.  Though, as with with previous years, there will be a mystery 13th figure, the identity of which the Club does not reveal in advance.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that we might get a Golobulus which would be awesome.  It seemed unlikely before because his snake body would require alot of costly new tooling.  But, Boss Fight Studios, who do a lot of the original sculpting for the Club, revealed their upcoming Medusa figure for a separate toy line this weekend.  Her serpentine sculpting is perfect for Golobulus and given the relationship between the Club and Boss Fight I’d guess this is inevitable even if it’s not as part of the FSS.

FSS-Dr. MindbenderLastly, the Club announced their 2015 membership figure which you get for free when you renew your annual membership in the fan club; Arctic Dr. Mindbender.  It’s a weird and somewhat disappointing choice but it solidifies my belief that Golobulus is forthcoming.  Mindbender wore Arctic gear when he visited Cobra-La in the 1987 Joe movie which introduced Golobulus.

They also announced they would have a repainted SHARC available in the club store that will include a modern style Sub-Viper.  I have no need for a pricey SHARC repaint but will probably buy it if the Sub Viper is well done. FSS-Sub viper

So there you have it.  I’m not sure how I feel about this years line-up.  I wish there were more unique characters and fewer repaints but at least the repaints are ones fans have been asking for.  Overall I think it’s pretty promising.

 

HYDRON (2014)

MOTUC-Hydron fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

My March purchases from Matty Collector.com arrived in the mail the other day. The new figure being offered last month was Hydron. Never heard of him? Me neither. This guy first saw the light of day during the New Adventures of He-Man years. In between the original MOTU stuff that I grew up with in the early 1980s and the super cool MOTU revival of the 2000s came the New Adventures. Oh 1990s, you gave us some great music but you failed us in the cartoon and toys department.

The New Adventures of He-Man was a continuation/reboot of the original series. It featured He-Man and Skeletor with new designs and new associates battling it out in outer space. I can’t say with certainty that it sucked because I never watched it but it looked like it sucked. Most of the toy lines and cartoons I loved as a kid morphed into crap in the 90s. Instead of Evil Warriors like Mer-Man and Beastman, Skeletor had a team of Space Mutants like Optikk and Slushhead. And instead of Masters of the Universe like Stratos and Moss Man, He-Man hung out with Galactic Warriors like Icarus and Hydron. The rebooted show and toy line didn’t last very long and I was too old to care by then so I have zero attachment to any of the Space Mutants or Galactic Heroes. MOTUC-Hydron helmet

Even though the He-Man of the 1990s wasn’t my cup of tea I’m glad to see that particular era is covered by the Masters of the Universe Classics line. The Classics line gives us toys of characters from every corner of the MOTU mythology; from the old cartoon, the new cartoon, the mini-comics, unproduced prototypes, concept art, the live action movie, and yes, even the lame New Adventures. I’ve passed on a few of the New Adventures figures such as Karatti and Icarus, but I have purchased a couple that struck me as kinda cool looking such as Optikk and Slushhead.

Hydron would have been a figure I’d have passed on had he been the only figure available in March. I know nothing about him, have no nostalgic connection to him, and I generally don’t care much for the straight-up human characters. However, Mattel also made Fang Man available again in March. Fang Man is a character who appeared in one episode of the old Filmmation cartoon and I wanted his figure the first time it was released last year but it sold out too quickly. Since I was gonna be paying shipping charges on my 2nd chance Fang Man anyway I figured I might as well go ahead and throw Hydron into my “cart” as well. MOTUC-Hydron back

I don’t think there’s been a single figure released in the Classics line that I don’t like. Some are definitely better than others but each brings something to the table. The main thing that deters me from buying certain characters is the price. I would love to have a complete collection someday which is why I pick up characters like Hydron here when the opportunity to save a few bucks presents itself. MOTUC-Hydron face

Now that I have him in hand I actually quite like Hydron, in part, because he’s so ridiculous. The bio on the back of the card describes him as a space sea commander so his design, obviously, teeters somewhere between deep sea diver and astronaut. A deep sea diving astronaut is a dumb idea and that’s what makes it great. These off-the-wall characters and ideas is what makes the Masters of the Universe such a fun line. Having a crab man and a skeleton battle a bee man and a robot with swords and lasers on a world where they ride tigers and spaceships makes no sense whatsoever and thats why it’s f**king awesome. If this Hydron figure had existed when I was a kid I probably would’ve had a ton of fun with him. He could’ve done battle with Mer-Man in the bathtub.MOTUC-Hydron weapon

Like all MOTUC figures, Hydron is big, colorful, and durable. It seems a really crime that these figures aren’t readily available in stores where kids could see them. I can totally see my nephews having a blast with this flipper wearing spaceman. His clear helmet has a cool sleek design and is removable. The red breathing apparatus on his face is unfortunately molded in place though. Hydron came with one accessory; a really stupid looking trident/gun thing. It’s true to the original toy’s weapon but I wish Mattel had given him something cooler this time around.

The more I look at this figure the more I like him. I think he’ll fit in just fine amongst Man-E-Faces and Ram Man on my MOTU Classics shelf. 7 out of 10.MOTUC-Hydron merman

TOLLBOOTH v.2 (2014)

Joe-Tollbooth v2 fullG.I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 2.0

This is the last figure I need to review from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s second Figure Subscription Service (FSS). I normally try to review these figures as they show up in the mail but Tollbooth arrived around the time that I was moving apartments and so his review got put on the back burner.

The first and only other Tollbooth figure was released back in 1985. He came packaged with the bridge layer vehicle. The first series of Joe figures from 1982 featured mostly standard looking soldiers in realistic green uniforms. By 1985 the Joe roster was already filled with an array of brightly colored and diverse characters such as frogmen, flamethrower troopers, marines with open jackets and chest tattoos, and Native American trackers with eagle sidekicks. A figure dressed in a dull green shirt and brown slacks with nothing more than an orange hardhat as his calling card might have made an impact had he been released in that first year but by 1985 he was practically invisible. Not only was the original figure dressed blandly but the sculpt of the face made him look bored. His helmet was slumped to one side and he looked like he just didn’t care. Tollbooth was one of my least favorite Joes from those early years. Even his vehicle was useless most of the time; a tank with a retractable bridge instead of a cannon. You had to go out of your way to create situations where Tollbooth and his Bridge Layer were necessary. Joe-Tollbooth v2 face

My brother Doug owned that original Tollbooth and I was fine with that. I don’t recall him ever doing anything spectacular during our many epic battles. He was usually one of Doug’s first casualties.

I wasn’t exactly dying to get a new Tollbooth but nostalgia is a funny thing. I have grown to love or at least appreciate every Joe figure from my youth. As the modern toy line has carried on (7 years now, crazy), and more and more characters received modern styled updates, the more Tollbooth’s absence was felt. I’d love to see Hasbro and the Club eventually produce updates of every character from the Real American Hero (RAH) years of 1982-1994 but I’d like them to focus on the oldies first. Tollbooth is one of the last characters from the first three years of the RAH line to get an update. Joe-Tollbooth v2 side

If I was a kid I probably still wouldn’t care much for this figure, but as a nostalgic collector I love it. This figure does exactly want I want my modern Joe figures to do, remind me of the original toy but also blow the old one out of the water. This Tollbooth looks fantastic and completely surpasses the original in every way and yet it is completely reminiscent of that ’85 figure. All of the elements are there: green shirt, brown slacks, and orange hardhat. Only this version has far more detail and a bunch of neat accessories.

The best thing about this figure is his face. It’s a newly sculpted piece and it has a ton of personality. Tollbooth looks like an old curmudgeon and that’s exactly how I always pictured him. He looks like he would begrudgingly head out to the battlefield, dig a trench or lay a bridge or whatever was needed of him, and then go back to the barracks for a nap. The head leans forward a bit more than it should which would bother me on another figure but a slight hunch suits Tollbooth.

version 1

version 1

 

For accessories Tollbooth has a bunch of random stuff we’ve seen packaged with other figures before, but it seems to make sense when packaged with him. He’s got a sledgehammer, a pick axe, some coiled barbwire, and pylons. Guy stuff. The kind of stuff I imagine my uncle Ken lugs around with him everywhere he goes.Joe-Tollbooth v2 tools

Tollbooth was a major highlight of the second FSS for me. With the Club stepping up to fill in important omissions from the modern line such as Tollbooth here and Cover Girl from the first FSS let’s hope it means we’ll see guys like Fast Draw and Sneak Peek in FSS 3.0. If I had this blog as a kid I probably would’ve given Tollbooth a 1 or 2. But grown up me has much more of an appreciation for the vital work of this combat engineer, 8 out of 10.Joe-Tollbooth v2 back

STARVIN’ MARVIN

SP-Marvin fullSOUTH PARK

I’m a big South Park fan.  I haven’t watched the episodes on TV for years because I prefer to buy the seasons on DVD/Bluray and watch them from start to finish.  It’s a practice I started back in the day, before DVRs, to ensure that I would see every episode in order.  Nowadays I would just as soon record them and be done with it but I just can’t stop buying them now because I already own like 18 sets.  The collector side of me would lose sleep at night if I didn’t see this through until the end.  Who would’ve ever imagined the show would run for this long?  The thing is, after I watch a season I file it away on my shelf and there it stays.  Very rarely do I grab a set and watch a random episode.  Most episodes I’ve only ever seen once.  The episode featuring Starvin’ Marvin aired back in 1997.  I believe I only ever saw it the one time.  The first season episodes are especially unappealing to go back and re-watch due to the inferior animation quality.  Truthfully I barely remember this character.  I remember the episode being mildly funny but nothing extraordinary.  I mostly bought this figure a few years back because I thought it was funny looking.  I already owned figures of the 4 main characters and a few minor ones and I thought Marvin would be a nice addition to the display.  Unfortunately his legs were so scrawny that he couldn’t stand up on his own so for years I stowed him away in a box with a bunch of crappy accessories while my other South Park figures were on display for all to enjoy.

I hauled Marvin out a few months ago to take this picture for the blog.  I actually managed to get him to stand up somehow so I decided to display him with the others for the first time.  A certain ex-girlfriend of mine promptly bumped into the shelf, knocked Marvin to the floor, and broke his leg off.  So now I have a crappy broken Starvin’ Marvin figure and he’s back in the bin of accessories where he will likely never see the light of day again.  The limbs on this figure are far too skinny to attempt to crazy glue it back together.  So this was a nice looking figure but not very practical for diasplay or play.  I’m sure a kid would’ve snapped all his limbs off within minutes. I shoulda left him in the bin.  I don’t really have much else to say about the character or the toy.  3 out of 10.SP-Marvin 2SP-marvin still

TRESPASSER (2014)

PR-Trespasser fullPACIFIC RIM

One of the movies I was most excited about seeing last summer was Pacific Rim. Not only was it a monster movie inspired by Godzilla and similar Japanese Kaiju films, but it was directed by Guillermo del Toro who has directed great pictures like Hellboy, Blade 2, and Pan’s Labyrinth. Del Toro has a unique visual style and is a good storyteller so I figured we’d be treated to a monster movie like no other, a big-budget cinematic tour-de-force as opposed to the B-movie schlock we monster fans usually get.PR-Trespasser face side

I liked it, probably even more so upon my second viewing, but I was initially a bit disappointed by it. The monsters looked great but they were usually shown in the dark of night or underwater or both and it was often hard to decipher the details of their designs. I really wasn’t a fan of the robot/jaeger designs, especially the hero, Gypsy Danger. Plus I found the story dragged in parts and suffered from poor/over acting. Having said all that, the monster vs robot fights were awesome and that’s primarily what I was there to see. There hasn’t been much talk of a sequel but I hope we get one so Guillermo has a chance to improve on the first. Pacific Rim is a franchise with a ton of potential.

PR-Trespasser backPrior to their release I was just as excited about collecting the Pacific Rim action figures as I was about seeing the movie. But like the movie my initial reaction to the toys was underwhelment (if that’s a word, I know it’s not ‘cause I looked it up). The first series of figures consisted of one monster, Knifehead, and 2 robots. I always knew that I’d collect all of the monsters but I was on the fence about the robots right up until the figures were released because as I stated, I didn’t love the designs. When the toys arrived at Strange Adventures I was disappointed by their size, their lack of articulation, their shoddy paint jobs, and their high price tag. The splotchy paint apps on the robots insured that I wouldn’t be purchasing any of them. I did buy Knifehead but I definitely felt ripped off having paid thirty bucks for him.

I was hoping for big new monster toys that I could display next to my King Kong and Godzilla figures but size-wise Knifehead didn’t come close to measuring up. The sculpting on the figure was decent but it only had a few points (9) of articulation which really limited his posing possibilities. I was glad to have him, as he was my favorite monster in the film, but I questioned whether I would buy any future releases. PR-Trespasser compare

The second series featured two more robots and one more monster, Leatherback. Leatherback was larger than Knifehead, his paintjob was much more-eye catching, he had increased articulation (over 20 joints), and he had a completely unique design. Buying him was a no-brainer.

When the wave three monster figure was revealed, Trespasser, I was bummed to see that NECA had reused Knifehead’s body. The only apparent difference between Trespasser and Knifehead was a newly sculpted head. This meant that all of the improvements seen on Leatherback would be undone. I was quite sure that I would not purchase Trespasser once he showed up in stores.PR-Trespasser face

But then of course he showed up in stores and I had to have him.  This Trespasser figure is WAY better than my Knifehead figure.  The online images were deceiving.  While this figure as the same basic body design as Knifehead (the monsters are all clones so it makes sense they’d share features) it’s an entirely new sculpt.  This figure is substantially bigger, probably by 2 inches, that he ends up being even larger than the bulky Leatherback (he’s still not big enough to go toe to toe with my Godzilla or Zilla figures but it’s a good size).  This new body sculpt features 19 points of articulation, superior sculpting, and an excellent paint job.  Like Knifehead, Trespasser also has a flexible tail and a shell on his back.  Trespasser’s shell is much bigger  and really adds some bulk to the figure.  The jaw opens and closes and he looks great either way.  This dude has the freakiest face of all the figures released thus far.  While I was lukewarm on Knifehead I can wholeheartedly reccomend this figure.  Best of all, NECA has released a new and improved “battle damaged” version of Knifehead in this improved scaleso get ‘em both.  8 out of 10.PR-Trespasser group

DRAGONSKY v.3 (2014)

Joe-Dragonsky v3 fullG. I. JOE : FIGURE SUBSCRITION SERVICE 2.0

I have another figure subscription service (FSS) Joe review for you today. Along with Grand Slam and Big Bear this years final FSS shipment included the Oktober Guard’s flamethrower trooper, Dragonsky. As I mentioned in my Big Bear review the other day, the Oktober Guard are the communist equivalent of the G.I. Joe team who’ve been a part of the Real American Hero mythos since the very beginning in 1982. They first showed up in the comics, then the cartoons, and eventually the toy line. Big Bear was a late-comer to the team, having never appeared in the classic Marvel comics but Dragonsky has been there since day one. (well day two technically; Dragonsky didn’t appear until the Oktober Guard’s 2nd appearance in G.I. Joe yearbook volume 2 in 1986).Joe-Dragonsky v3 mask

I always thought Dragonsky looked like the odd man out on the team. Everyone else was wearing shades of brown and green, accessorized with furry hats and red stars but Dragonsky is running around dressed from head to toe in purple. Why purple? I don’t know. I have no idea if his uniform is inspired by any real-world soviet uniform but I don’t ever recall ever seeing anything like it. A nice dark green might’ve looked better and made him fit it with the rest of the team a bit better but purple is what he wore in the comics so purple is what we get here. Joe-Dragonsky v3 face

Weird as it may be I actually quite like the purple. There’s two different shades of purple which helps to break up the look and showcase the individual parts. If he were a standard Joe or Cobra trooper I wouldn’t have any issue with the color palette, but as a member of the Oktober Guard he does stand out considerably. Dragonsky is now the third flamethrower trooper in the modern Joe line. He was preceded by Joe members Blowtorch and Charbroil. It seems strange to me that there are now 3 guys running around barbecuing people and not one of them is a “bad guy”. I’m pretty sure flamethrowers haven’t been used by the military in quite some time. Dragonsky’s particular gear first came with Charbroil. The flamethrower itself is really nicely sculpted and has a removable translucent flame. The inclusion of the flame really elevates this figure as a display piece. I wish the flame accessory had come with the toys I owned when I was a kid; it looks hella cool. The dual canister backpack and hose that attaches to the flamethrower are pretty cool as well.  He also comes with a machine gun in case he want to kill people in a more traditional way.Joe-Dragonsky carded

This first ever Dragonsky figure was released by the club during the new sculpt years as a convention exclusive in 2005. A second version was released in 2006 in a 3-figure comic pack.  I don’t own either of them so this is my first Dragonsky.

Joe-Dragonsky v3 backThis figure does a better job than either of the previous two of replicating the look from the comics. This figure practically looks like it leapt from the page of the Yearbook. I’m sure this figure is made up of mostly re-used parts but the only one that is immediately recognizable to me is the face. Dragonsky has the same face as Airtight. I would’ve preferred a newly sculpted bald head so he looked more like his comic/version 2 counterpart but truthfully the hooded Airtight head works well and makes sense. Placing a big metal helmet directly on your bald head while running around with a blowtorch probably isn’t a good idea.Joe-Dragonsky v3 side

Plus, I’ll likely never take his helmet off anyway so who really cares what he looks like under there. The helmet looks pretty cool by the way with its large silver visor and breathing tube.

The build on this figure is nice and solid. He’s tall and imposing and his joints are firm. Like the rest of the Guard I don’t have much of a personal attachment to the character but this is a darn good toy. 8 out of 10.Joe-Dragonsky v3 artJoe-Dragonsky v3 comic

WINTER SOLDIER (2011)

Marv-Winter fullMARVEL UNIVERSE / CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

I went and saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier last Thursday. I was tempted to write a related toy review in the days leading up to the film’s release but I didn’t want to give away any spoilers. Now that opening weekend has come and gone I feel that it’s safe for me to talk about the movie. If you haven’t seen it yet maybe don’t read this review.

I thought the first Captain America movie was excellent and this is definitely a worthy successor. Though if I had to choose between them I still prefer the first one, in part, because Cap’s origin was told so damn well. Sometimes seeing an origin story that you’re VERY familiar with can be tedious. Amazing Spider-Man suffered because it rehashed the origin already told in the Tobey Maguire movies. I’ve read and watched Spider-Man’s origin so many times that I can recite it in my sleep. Cap’s origin is a different story. It’s never been done justice in a medium other than the comics. Seeing a scrawny Steve Rogers leap on a grenade to protect others gave me goosebumps back in 2011.  And seeing a live-action Red Skull was amazing. I also love that the first movie gave Cap a chance to shine in a WWII setting. Had the Avengers movie been his first big screen appearance they would’ve had to quickly gloss over that very important aspect of the character. Setting the entire first movie in the 1940s established Steve Rogers as a man from another time and laid the foundation for this sequel where he feels like a fish out of water. Marv-Winter face

The movie starts out with the introduction of Falcon. He’s a character I never really cared for before but Anthony Mackie makes him very likable right off the bat. The action quickly ramps up when Cap has to take out a boat full of pirates lead by Batroc (Georges St. Pierre). This scene reminded me of that scene from X-Men 2 when the school gets attacked and we see Wolverine really cut loose for the first time. Watching Cap single handedly thrash a boatload pirates with brutal precision had me fighting the impulse to squeal with excitement. GSP didn’t do a whole lot but he was quite good as Batroc and like Mackie, St. Pierre made me care about a character I never had much interest in before.Marv-Winter back

The movie managed to be action packed with car chases the like you would expect to find in a fast & furious flick and yet it also managed to be a spy thriller with multiple layers to peel back. The filmmakers pulled off an amazing feat by balancing the loud scenes with the quiet ones. There were plenty of moments for comic nerds to geek out to such as nods to Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and Crossbones; not to mention the mid-credit scene with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Perhaps my favorite reveal was the return of Armin Zola. His physical form is dead now but he lives on as a computer program with distorted face on a computer monitor. I hope we see him in full robot mode in the next movie.

This movie was by far my favorite of the Marvel sequels thus far. The Winter Soldier is a fascinating character and they gave you just enough of him this film to leave you wanting more. I’m glad they didn’t try to cram his entire character arc into one film. Marv-Winter side

It’s hard to imagine now but when I first got wind that writer Ed Brubaker was planning on bringing back Bucky I was hardly excited about. Bucky had always felt to me like a poor man’s Robin; Cap’s teenage sidekick in a goofy costume and a domino mask. He was one of a handful of characters in comics who actually died and stayed dead. He was dead for decades and I think most everyone wanted it to stay that way. It’s not like there were any big Bucky fans out there and reviving characters always cheapens the original death story.

But like all the other naysayers I was wrong. Ed Brubaker not only succeeded in bringing Bucky back in a cool and believable way (for comics anyway) but he turned Bucky into one of my favorite Marvel characters. Through flashback tales he made it so Bucky never sucked. Bucky was a WWII badass, doing the dirty work that even Cap didn’t want to do. And the revived modern day Bucky, a brainwashed soviet assassin now known as the Winter Soldier, was cool as hell. He gave Cap a run for his money and even snuffed out another former Cap sidekick, Nomad.Marv-Winter russian

The Winter Soldier story was epic and it lasted for years. I highly recommend you pick it up.  I’m so glad it didn’t get watered down for the film. I imagine that we will eventually see James Buchanan Barnes wearing the stars and stripes on the big screen and I cannot wait.

Like the movie, and the comic that inspired it, this Winter Soldier figure is awesome. So many of these Marvel Universe figures suck but the reason I collect them is because of figures like this. This guy is sculpted and painted beautifully. He could easily be displayed with the high-quality G.I. Joe figures of the 30th anniversary era. There are multiple paint apps including individually painted buckles and buttons. The black wash over his silver robotic arm gives it a nice weathered look.  The sculpting is also top notch. The face and hair are really well done and solidify this figure as one of my favorites from the Marvel Universe line.  He even comes with a two-toned rifle, a pistol that can be holstered on his leg, and a jet pack which I have tucked away somewhere.

Now technically this figure isn’t from the all encompassing Marvel Universe line, though there were a pair of Winter Soldier figures (a short haired and a long haired) released as part of that line in 2010.  I wasn’t a fan of those figures and at the time  wasn’t 100% committed to the MU line so I passed on them.  It was a good thing I did because this far superior figure came out one year later as part of the MU compatible Captain America toy line from the first movie.

So to recap, watch the movie, read the comic, and buy this figure.  9 out of 10.Marv-Winter evolution

GREEN LANTERN-JOHN STEWART

DC-Jon stewart fullDC DIRECT: JLA CLASSIFIED

You may recall that not too long ago I reviewed a Superwoman figure. She was part of a series of figures based on Ed McGuinness’s artwork from his run on Batman/Superman. I bought a few figures from that series when they first came out years ago and I always intended to pick up a few more. But DC figures are a fairly low priority for me so they got pushed aside while my G.I. Joe and Marvel Universe collections grew. These days those two properties are in a bit of a hiatus. Other lines I collect like Masters of the Universe, Transformers, and Beast Saga have also slowed. You’d think that I would take this opportunity to give my wallet a break and actually save some money but instead I’ve gone back to my old DC want-list and have begun filling some holes in that collection. Since acquiring Superwoman a few weeks ago I bought the McGuinness version of Zoom and just the other day I picked up this McGuinness inspired version of Green Lantern.

I’m fortunate to have multiple comic shops in my neighborhood. While all my weekly comic book shopping is done at Strange Adventures, Giant Robot Comics and Monster’s Comic Lounge are also great resources for collectables. GRC has a wall of vintage carded toys and cabinets full of loose figures at reasonable prices. MCL is your one stop shop for DC Direct figures. They have a ton of other stuff as well but their DC stock is unrivalled. I would normally have to turn to ebay to buy a DC Direct figure that’s more than 6 months old but MCL still has figures in stock dating back to the birth of the line. It’s nice to be able to walk in there and grab a figure like this on a whim without dealing with shipping costs and weeks of waiting by the mailbox.DC-Jon stewart fist

Depending on how big a Green Lantern fan you are you may or may-not recognize this guy. Most people probably think of Hal Jordan when they think Green Lantern. He’s the brown-haired white guy who works as a test pilot and is a bit of a hot head. He was recently portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in the terrible live-action GL movie. Though if you’ve seen that movie, or read the comics, you know that Hal is one of many Green Lanterns. They’re basically space cops and each one of them patrols a different sector of the universe. Hal Jordan was the first human to join the Green Lantern Corps but there have been several since. Some of them were Hal’s partners and some of them were his replacements.

This African-American GL is John Stewart. He’s been kicking around the comic books in a supporting role since 1971 but he rose in popularity when he was placed in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon as the team’s default Green Lantern. That was my introduction to the character anyway. I never really watched the cartoon and I still knew very little about GL at that time. I just figured the producers changed out Hal for John to add some diversity to the team. I really didn’t think much of it.DC-Jon stewart face

It wasn’t until I started reading Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern stories, in which he resurrected the then-dead Hal Jordan, that I began to learn the origins and significance of the various Lanterns. Johns got me totally hooked on Green Lantern, a character whom I previously had zero attachment to or fondness for. I’ve an unabashed GL fan now who collects 4 monthly GL related titles. While Hal is the star of the main Green Lantern book, John has a prominent spot in its sister-title, The Green Lantern Corps.

Over the past few years I’ve really come to like all of the various Green Lanterns, from Hal to John, to Guy to Kyle, not to mention non-human Lanterns such as Soranik Natu, and Lanterns from other color spectrums such as Atrocitus the Red Lantern or Larfleeze the Orange Lantern. You’d think having multiple characters with the exact same powers would get repetitive but the team of writers on these books have done an excellent job of giving each Lantern their own voice. John, for example, carries the weight of two dead planets on his conscience which effects the way he approaches things. DC-Jon stewart back

I don’t know why I waited so long to buy this figure. I’ve seen it hanging on the wall at MCL for years now. I’m glad i finally pulled the trigger because it is an awesome figure. The sculpt and paint look great. I especially like the face sculpt; this dude looks pissed. I’m not sure why he doesn’t have pupils, as I don’t recall seeing him drawn that way, but it looks cool. McGuinness’s exaggerated style doesn’t work for every character; the Superwoman figure was a good example of that. MCL has a figure of GL:Kyle Rayner on their pegs based on McGuinness’s art which I’ve contemplated buying many times but I don’t think the style works for Kyle either. I see Kyle as more of an every man, he’s an artist after all, not a wrestler so he shouldn’t be built like one. But McGuinness’s style works great for a big beefy character like John Stewart.

I’ll briefly mention the cons: the articulation is lacking (as it always is on DC Direct figures) and other than the display base there are no accessories, not even a lantern (fail).  For those reasons it might not be the most fun figure for a kid to play with but as a display piece, it suits me just fine. 9 out of 10.

LT. FALCON v.8 (2014)

Joe-Falcon v8 fullG.I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 2.0

Lt. Falcon’s claim to fame is his starring role in the animated G.I. Joe movie from 1987. Much like the animated Transformers movie, the Joe film’s primary purpose was to wipe the slate clean of old characters and usher in fresh faces so that Hasbro could sell more toys. Established characters like Snake Eyes and Spirit were relegated to the background while the spotlight was given to a varied cast of new recruits. The new crop of Joes included Jinx, Chuckles, Law & Order, Tunnel Rat, Sgt. Slaughter and his Marauders, and most importantly Lt. Falcon.

Falcon was introduced as Duke’s slack and cocky half-brother. The movie follows his journey from zero to hero. Don Johnson voiced the character and did a good job of conveying Falcon’s laid back attitude. Falcon’s pivotal role in the movie made his original figure a must-have for kids collecting at the time. My brother Doug got Falcon along with Chuckles, Tunnel Rat, and the Marauders. I was happy to end up with Jinx, Law, and the freaky new bad guys introduced in the movie, Cobra-LaJoe-Falcon v8 carded

Had there not been a movie that year I think Falcon could have very easily been overlooked in the action figure aisle. Most of the other characters were brightly colored with unique designs such as female ninja, military policeman with dog, and cycloptic lobster/snake man.

Lt. Falcon was kind of a throw back with his standard military dress. He had a full green camo uniform, a beret, and standard issue military weapons. There was plenty of sculpted detail and a really good face sculpt. Even though he was a goofball in the cartoon the figure had a stoic appearance which made him an even more credible squad leader than either Duke or Flint who were both sculpted with smirks for some reason. Lt. Falcon version 1 was actually a really good figure so it’s a good thing that the movie ensured that it wasn’t overlooked by kids. Not that Doug and I would have overlooked him, we bought everything back then. Joe-Falcon v8 face

A second version of Falcon was released just one year later. Version 2 was simply a repainted version 1 with a darker color scheme as Falcon was now a member of the sub-team Night Force.

There were no Lt. Falcon figures released during the new sculpt era (other than another V1 repaint convention exclusive) but I had a Flint in a green outfit which I displayed as a Falcon. I didn’t get my first actual Falcon figure until the first modern version was released in 2008 a 2-pack with Nemesis Enforcer as part of the 25th anniversary series.

That 2008 figure sucked. A lot of Joe fans complain about some of the early 25th anniversary figures, Duke especially, but I think Lt. Falcon is perhaps my least favorite anniversary figure. Bad articulation aside I just hated the face so much. It had a big chin, no neck, a small head and crappy arms. It was a big, big disappointment.

2014 & 2008

2014 & 2008

Luckily Hasbro remedied the situation just before the 25th anniversary series came to an end. They included a brand new version of Falcon in their Slaughter’s Maurauders/Renegades 7 pack in 2011. The sculpt on Marauders Falcon was leaps and bounds beyond the comic-pack version. I absolutely loved the head sculpt and the removable beret. While I would’ve preferred my default display, modern-era Lt. Falcon to be wearing his classic green camouflage outfit I was just happy to finally have a decently sculpted Falcon.

Had the club included the Marauder Falcon figure, repainted in the classic colors, in this years figure subscription service I would’ve been happy. What I didn’t need was that figure repainted in another obscure sub-team outfit. In a recent FSS shipment I received, along with Cesspool, Night Force Lt. Falcon.

2014 & 2011

2014 & 2011

If you don’t already own the Marauders version then this will make a fine addition to your collection but since I do already have the Marauders version this figure seemed kind of redundant to me. I understand why the Club opted to make Night Force Falcon; their convention set last year was Night Force themed and I’m sure there’s a handful of collectors out there who were stoked to add another Joe to their Night Force roster. I would’ve much preferred to see this FSS slot go to a unique character but as a cost saving measure I understand repaints are a necessity. However this one is even more useless to me than the Tiger Force Shipwreck and Airtight that I received in the first shipment because at least those two can be called by their foreign names and viewed as unique characters. Joe-Falcon v8 back

Having said all of that, the Night Force paint job does look really nice on this figure, superior to the Marauders look. Considering how much I liked the sculpt initially and how well this repaint turned out it’s hard to hate on it too much. A few changes were made in addition to the new paint job and I think they all enhance the figure.  This version doesn’t have the skirt on his shirt that the Marauders version did and he has new web gear which more closely resembles that of the original Lt. Falcon.  In regards to the new paint job I’m also happy that they gave this version brown hair like the original figure. The black hair that he had in the movie and on version 7 made him look too much like Flint.

It is kind of nice to have a field commander for my Night Force squad I suppose. The more I examine this figure the more I like it actually.  Had this been available at retail it would’ve been a good buy at ten bucks. What hurts the most about this figure is the hefty price tag. Despite its redundancy this figure is ultimately another win for the Club. 7 out of 10.

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