TALON (2014)

DC-Talon fullDC DIRECT

It was less than a year after I started collecting comics that Todd McFarlane took over as the primary artist on Amazing Spider-Man. I was a fan of his exaggerated cartoonish drawing style from the get go. Now, I love the more traditional look of Spider-Man developed by artists like John Romita Sr. but when I was a kid I didn’t appreciate the greats like Romita and Kirby the way I should have (I’m still not a big fan of Ditko - I really should check out more of his stuff). Romita’s art style was so synonymous with Spider-Man that to this day I view Romita’s version as the “default” Spider-Man. But when I was a kid Romita and his ilk’s drawing style struck me as old fashioned. When McFarlane came onto the book with his crazy poses, large eyes, and masses of webbing, it felt new and fresh.DC-Talon face

 

 

 

I bought all of Todd’s Spidey books and when he left Marvel to start Image Comics I loyally followed him. He put out Spawn issue 1 in 1992. I was there to pick it up the day it came out and I’ve bought every issue since. That’s over 20 years of faithfully buying Spawn every month. I’ve stuck with it through its ups and down. Todd found himself stretched too thin to continue writing, drawing, and inking the book by himself quite early on into the series because he had branched out into other ventures such as starting his toy company. He decided to stop drawing the book. This left some very big shoes to fill. Expectations were high when he handed off the art chores to a relatively unknown artist named Greg Capullo. Most people probably weren’t familiar with Greg at all but I knew him from his work on Marvel’s C-list title, Quasar.DC-Talon art

I was sad to see Todd leave Spawn but I appreciated that Capullo seemed to be doing his best Todd McFarlane impression with his pencils. Their similar styles made the transition relatively painless. Capullo stayed on the book for years and his artwork kept improving along the way. When anniversary issues would come out with multiple covers drawn by various artists I would find myself choosing Capullo’s covers over McFarlanes.DC-Talon back

Capullo left Spawn in 2004 and in 2011 he took on the high profile gig of re-launching Batman for DC as part of their “New 52” initiative. I like Batman but I’ve never felt compelled to collect his comics. That’s mostly because I grew up strictly a Marvel kid (Spawn was the exception). I did collect Batman for a couple of years in the early 200s. That was spurred on by superstar artist Jim Lee taking on the role of series artist. After Lee left I lost interest and stopped collecting.

Well here it is some 10 years later and I find myself collecting Batman once again because another superstar artist is tackling the pencils (Scott Snyder’s scripting doesn’t hurt either). Capullo has obviously developed a fan base over the years as DC Direct has launched a whole series of Batman figures based on his artwork, like they’ve done in the past with bigwig artists like Jim Lee, Alex Ross, and Ed McGuinness (That McGuinness’s Batman below).

DC-Talon fight

The first wave of Capullo style figures included Batman, Nightwing, Riddler, and a Talon. As much as I like Greg’s art I didn’t feel the need to add another Batman to my collection but I did pick up this Capullo inspired Talon. A Capullo Talon is the only Talon you’re gonna get as it’s a brand new character and this is his first ever figure.

Snyder and Capullo’s initial story arc told the tale of a secret society, the Court of Owls, that ran Gotham City from the shadows. Even Batman wasn’t aware of their existence though he had heard rumors of them as a child. It may seem a little implausible that The Court could have operated under Batman’s nose all these years, what with him being the world’s greatest detective and all, but Snyder spun a convincing yarn.DC-Talon dodge

The court itself consisted of a bunch of upper crust aristocrats who attended clandestine meetings while dressed in tuxedos and creepy round owl masks to conceal their identities. When they needed some dirty work done they sent their enforcers, the Talons. The Owls have an army of reanimated super-soldiers in cold storage which they thaw out as needed, kind of like the Winter Soldier.

DC-Talon close upOne of the Talon’s, Calvin Rose, betrayed the Court and got his own spin-off series for a while where he battled other Talon’s such as the sadistic Gotham Strangler. When I heard DC Direct was releasing a Talon figure I was hoping for the Calvin Rose version. I read his entire series and was a fan of the character. But as I discovered when images of this figure first hit the net DC Direct had opted for this nameless Talon which was the lead baddie in the main Batman book. I’m still very pleased with this figure but I hope to get a Calvin eventually. I actually like the idea of the Court of Owls so much that I would buy a bunch of these guys and build a small army.

This figure really capture’s Capullo’s style and yet it’s generic enough that it can be displayed with any other DC figure and not look out of place. I’m very impressed at how well the sculptors managed to translate him from the drawing board into 3 dimensions. He’s got plenty of sculpted details such as belts, blades, and buckles. The base color is a very nice matte black and then there are gold and silver highlights that add a bit of flair. It’s a great looking figure.DC-Talon box 1

He comes with a few different blades for accessories, and even a replica of the white owl mask worn by members of the Court  which is a nice touch but what this dude really needs is a display base. My Talon is constantly falling over and taking all the surrounding figures down with him. I finally gave up and just sat him down on the edge of the shelf.DC-Talon box 2

DC Direct has come a long way in terms of articulation. Their figures used to be stiff as boards but now they have plenty of joints. Unfortunately the joints clearly aren’t stiff enough as my DC Direct Harley Quinn is always toppling over as well.

One last thing I want to mention is the packaging this guy came in. It was a very sleek window box with some Greg Capullo artwork on the side and his name prominently displayed. I t looked so nice it was almost a shame to open it. 9 out of 10.DC-Talon sit

SAGA GIRAFFE (LONG TSURAFU) clear variant (2012)

BS-Giraffe clear fullBEAST SAGA

Let’s take a look at another Beast Saga figure. This very short lived toy line was produced by Takara in 2012. A few waves of figures, a manga comic, and an anime all came out in Japan but nothing made it across the sea to North America. Luckily, in this modern age of the internet I was able to get my hands on all of the Japanese figures relatively easily.

Each figure was available in a standard version as well as a clear variant version which came in blind boxes. I have all of the standard versions plus a handful of the clear variants. The figure I’m reviewing today is the clear version of Long Tsurafu or Saga Giraffe as I like to call him.

The standard Saga Giraffe was a very nicely sculpted figure with lots of detail. However one of the nicest aspects of that figure was its paintjob. The spotted coat on the face looked fantastic.BS-Giraffe clear side

This clear version retains all of the sculpted detail but loses all those nice paint apps. The flesh pieces (head and arms) are molded in translucent yellow plastic while the armor pieces are molded in a dark translucent blue. The 2 colors look quite nice together but the overall 2-toned look is somewhat bland.

Some of the Beast Saga figures were homages to figures from Takara’s Battle Beast toy line of the 80s. In the case of Saga Giraffe, the standard version bore a slight resemblance to the old Battle Beast, Rubberneck Giraffe, but I actually think this clear version more closely resembles the original. I suppose it’s because of the deep primary blues and yellows used; and also because Rubberneck Giraffe lacked painted spots as well.BS-Giraffe clear glow

This is a neat little toy and I’m glad Takara came up with a way for fans like me to collect additional Beast Saga figures beyond the 39 standard beasts but this piece is by no means essential to your collection. I would recommend you purchase the standard giraffe figure over this one any day unless you’re a diehard fan like myself.BS-Giraffe clear fight

For accessories, clear Tsurafu came with a sword, a shield, a trading card, and a few die for his chest launcher as all Beast Saga figures do. Nothing to write home about. 6 out of 10.BS-Giraffe clear compare

DUSTY v.2 (1988)

Joe-Dusty v2 fullG. I. JOE

Last month I told you about my epic haul where a reader of this blog mailed me a few of his old toys. The “few” toys he sent me consisted of 17 Transformers, 8 Ninja Turtles, and 168 G.I. Joes; all vintage. Of those 156 Joes, 87 of them were 100% complete meaning all of their accessories were accounted for. It was such an epic haul that I devoted a full post to it.

Well now that the box has been sorted, the weapons have been matched to the appropriate figures, and everyone has been placed, I can begin reviewing them individually. The first figure I’ve decided to tackle is Dusty version 2 from 1988.

The first Dusty figure (also included in the epic haul) was released in 1985 which was a great year for G.I. Joe. The ’85 assortment added some of the most memorable characters to the line and was brimming with diversity. Dusty was the Joe team’s Desert Trooper. He wore a tan & brown camouflage uniform, had brown paint randomly splotched on his face, and had a real cloth hood attached to his helmet. He was very unique and cool as hell. My brother Doug owned that original Dusty figure but I was always a big fan of the character too.Joe-Dusty v2 card

1988 was the year that brought us the first G.I. Joe sub-team: Tiger Force. Sub-team’s like Ninja Force and Star Brigade were all the rage in the 90s but it was still a fresh concept in the late 80s. Tiger Force was a squad of 10 established Joe figures from years prior repainted with new tiger stripe patterns. I’m not sure if the premise behind the concept was ever really fleshed out beyond “stripes are cool”. The following year Cobra formed a similar sub-team of repainted figures called Python Patrol whose uniforms and vehicles all featured a checkered pattern. It was explained in the file cards that the checkered pattern made the Python Patrol invisible to radar. It may have been silly but at least it provided a reason for the change of clothes. I don’t think the tiger stripes of Tiger Force provided similar stealth so I’m still not sure what the point of it was. Were they an elite fighting force? The best of the best? That concept didn’t really make sense because that’s what the G.I. Joe team already was. You could say that maybe they were specially trained for jungle combat, but then why include the desert and artic troopers on the team and not Recondo, the established Jungle Trooper. The truth of it is Tiger Force was just a money grab. A way for Hasbro to sell kids figures they already owned because of a flashy new paintjob. It worked on Doug and I because we bought them all up.Joe-Dusty v2 compare

You might think it would make sense for me to get Dusty version 2 since Doug already owned version 1 but that’s not how we did things. In our Joe universe Doug was Dusty, case closed. So Doug got version 2 as well and swapped out the 2 Dustys during playtime at his leisure. They were never both on the battlefield at the same time.

Dusty v2 is constructed using the exact same parts as Dusty v1. They even have the same accessories: canvas backpack and sub-machine gun with bi-pod. Tiger Force Dusty still has the cloth flap on his helmet only it’s green instead of brown this time. But his outfit isn’t nearly as nice looking as the first figures. This one is painted multiple shades of green with yellow tiger stripes on the jacket. It’s not pretty but the garish outfit isn’t my biggest problem with this figure; it’s the face.Joe-Dusty v2 back

Tiger Force Dusty doesn’t have any paint on his face and it makes him look completely different. I always pictured Dusty to be a badass but the blank stare on this round face didn’t project badassery the way the original seemed to. Although looking at version 1 now he looks much more docile than I remember too.  I think a little face paint would have done wonders for this figure. A few black or brown tiger stripes across his face would have made complete sense given the circumstances. Missed opportunity.

The lack of face paint, combined with the ugly uniform, always made this figure a dud in my eyes. But looking at it now I don’t mind it.  It’s really not bad it’s just that version 1 was so much better. 7 out of 10.Joe-Dusty v2 group

RED SHE-HULK (2014)

Marv-Red Shehulk fullMARVEL UNIVERSE/INFINITE

I was out with my buddy Guy on the weekend to go see the Dykes Vs Divas softball game which was the big kick-off event for Pride Week here in Halifax. The game was entertaining to watch but fairly one-sided. The Dykes absolutely destroyed the Divas. Though in the Diva’s defense I’m sure it isn’t easy to play baseball in a sequin gown and heels. Afterwards, we swung by the post-game barbecue being held on Gottigen Street in the north end of the city. The wait looked to be pretty long for a free hotdog so we opted to head downtown and hit up a patio elsewhere for drinks and snacks. The trek to Gottigen wasn’t a total bust though because almost directly across the street from the club hosting the bbq is Monster’s Comic Lounge. MCL is a great comic store with more toys and back-issues than anywhere else in the city but I don’t get up there too often as it’s slightly off my usual route.

Guy and I popped over for a quick look around before getting our drink on.Marv-Red shehulk flex

The first thing to catch my eye in their new release section were the Ant-Man and Cyclops figures from the latest wave of Marvel Universe (now called Marvel Infinite). Both were nice but I’ve already pre-ordered that entire wave (which also includes Valkyrie, Omega Red and Deathlok) from BigBadToyStore.com. Hopefully this means I’ll be getting an email from BBTS very shortly to let me know that my order is in stock.

So while that particular wave of Marvel Infinite figures were of little use to me it did lead me to wonder if perhaps they had the previous wave in stock as well. The previous wave contained Death’s Head, a figure I’m dying to get. However, I did not pre-order him online because BBTS often only offers pre-orders on entire waves of figures and most of the other figures in the Death’s Head wave were figures I didn’t want or need. This meant I’d have to take my chances finding him on the pegs at my local comic shop or department store which isn’t always an easy task.Marv-Red Shehulk back

I made my way over to their stock of older Marvel figures and they did in fact have the Death’s Head wave of Marvel Infinite. They had every figure from the wave EXCEPT for Death’s Head. I was extremely disappointed. The shop owner Mike was nice enough to root through his back stock but to no avail. He told me that he only recalled getting two of them and that the same dude bought them both, bastard!

Anyway, the one other figure from the Death’s Head wave that interested me was Red She-Hulk and she was there. She was priced at $17.99, a full $3.00 more than the other figures, and a good $7.00 more than she’s worth but I didn’t want to leave her behind. It’s possible that I may eventually find her at Wal-Mart for around $10 but it’s just as likely that I won’t and then I’ll end up paying $30 for her on ebay. I begrudgingly shelled out the money and stuffed Red She-Hulk in my shirt pocket.

Now it’s possible you might not have known there was a She-Hulk, let alone a red one, but indeed there are both. The first She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters, has been around since 1980. She’s Bruce Banner’s lawyer cousin who inherited his Hulk powers via a blood transfusion. She-Hulk has starred in her own on-going comic book several times and has served as a member of both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. She’s a great character in her own right; much more than a Hulk with boobs.

I’ve been collecting comics for nearly 30 years and in that time I’ve collected books starring almost every Marvel character out there, at least for a brief period of time. My brother Doug and I have each collected She-Hulk comics at one time.  But neither of us have ever once collected the Hulk;

that is until the introduction of Red Hulk in 2008.Marv-Red shehulk art

I’d never been interested in Hulk. He always seemed like a one-dimensional character (sorry Paul). And it wasn’t so much that Red Hulk struck me as multi-faceted that got me buying Hulk books for the first time ever, it was more the artwork of Ed McGuinness. Ed is at his best when drawing big musclebound brutes so Hulk was the perfect fit for him. But after buying the first few Red Hulk stories for the art I developed an attachment to the character and continued to read his book after McGuinness moved on. The Red Hulk figure based on McGuinness’s artwork was actually the first 3 ¾” Marvel Universe figure I bought.

It was during the early Red Hulk stories that Red She-Hulk was introduced. As it was with Red Hulk, Red She-Hulk’ true identity was a big mystery at first. It was later revealed that Red Hulk was General “Thunderbolt” Ross and Red She-Hulk was his daughter and Bruce Banner’s love-interest, Betty Ross. Since I never read Hulk books before I had no attachment to Betty Ross as a character and I’m fine with this development. But I’m sure there are some long-time Hulk readers that are appalled by what’s become of Betty and the General. I understand their frustration; I certainly wouldn’t want to see Mary Jane become the next Venom.Marv-Red shehulk compare

I didn’t find Red She-Hulk as interesting to read about as Red Hulk so I stopped collecting the Red Hulk book when the focus shifted to her. She is a cool looking character though and the look translates well into action figure form.

Marvel Universe figures can be hit or miss in terms of quality and Red She-Hulk is a hit. She’s a solid figure with a nice sculpt and ample articulation. She’s a straight repaint of the Green She-Hulk figure released in 2012. The change in colors make a big difference though.  With absolutely no newly sculpted pieces (well there is a belt now) they’ve managed to completely change the look of the uniform.  She’s gone from a purple bathing suit to a sleeveless black catsuit with the zipper undone halfway down her chest and it’s all done with paint.  Despite the reused parts I have zero complaints…

Except, for the price they charge for these Marvel Universe figures these days I feel accessories should be included when they make sense for the character. Red She-Hulk is known to wield a large sword that I think should’ve been included here; the 6” Marvel Legends version of Red She-Hulk came with a sword. 8 out of 10.Marv-Red Shehulk group

BIG GAY AL

SP-Al fullSOUTH PARK

It’s gay pride here in Halifax, Nova Scotia. All week long there are a ton of LGBT friendly events going on ranging from queer cinema and theater to a trans swim in a gender inclusive community pool. I always intend to take in more events than I do but most years I only get to the dykes vs diva softball game on opening weekend and the pride parade on closing weekend; this year will likely be no different. But just because I’m not out there showing my support at a bunch of events doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about the message. I’ve tried to do my small part in the past by writing up a pride-themed toy review but unfortunately I didn’t have any gay toys to write about. The closest I could find for pride 2012 was a figure of Colossus from the X-Men. The figure was of the standard Marvel Universe Colossus who is not gay, however the Colossus from the alternate reality Ultimate Universe is gay so I figured that was close enough. 

I didn’t even bother trying to write a pride-themed review in 2013 because I didn’t even have any alternate reality gays to write about.SP-Al face 

When I sat down to write this review I thought long and hard about whether I had acquired any gay toys over the past 2 years. There were Marvel Legends figures released of the 2 gay Young Avengers, Wiccan and Hulking, but I never got those. I still don’t have a Batwoman toy, and I don’t even have figures of Rewind and Chromedome who are arguably the first gay Transformers. Earlier this year a figure of Northstar from Alpha Flight was released. As the first gay superhero he would’ve been perfect but I never found that figure anywhere. I only managed to score his twin sister Aurora. Sadly, it seemed the sister of a gay character was as close as I was gonna get. I actually began writing an Aurora review when it dawned on me; I have a Big Gay Al figure!SP-Al back 

Years ago I bought the first couple waves of South Park figures released by a toy company called Mirage. I got all the main kids, Stan, Kenny, Kyle, and Cartman, along with some second tier characters like Butters, Timmy, Towelie, and Tweak. I was a big fan of that line but it was short lived. South Park toys resurfaced a few years later, this time produced by Mezco, but they weren’t to scale with the toys I already owned so I never bothered buying any of them. 

A while back, probably about a year ago, I was in Giant Robot Comics where I saw this Mirage produced Big Gay Al figure that I didn’t even know existed. He’s from a 4th wave of figures which were apparently only available online. He’s still not technically to scale with my other South Park toys but at least he’s taller than the kids so he looks alright when displayed next to them. SP-Al show

If you’re not familiar with Big Gay Al and his boyfriend Mr. Slave than I strongly encourage you hit up Netflix and check out the episodes “Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride” and “The F-Word”. Both characters are ridiculous stereotypes but they’re portrayed endearingly. 

This figure is a spot on representation of how Al looks on the show which is impressive considering the flat construction paper style of South Park. Al’s got his wild shirt, striped pants, wispy haircut, thin mustache, bangles, chest hair, a neckerchief, and a cigarette. He even came with his suitcase that was featured on the show PLUS a big gay duck. What more could you want? 

It hadn’t occurred to me before but I feel that Big Gay Al must’ve been inspired, at least in part, by John Waters. (If you don’t know John Waters then go look up some of his films since you’re on Netflix anyway).SP-Al group 

This figure has almost no articulation (head and arm swivels) but that’s pretty standard for South Park figures. The way the characters are designed doesn’t exactly lend itself to super-posability. Their joints barely move on the show so why should they move on the action figure? I think this is a great fabulous figure with some very nice sculpting and vibrant paint apps that really bring Al to life. I can’t believe I nearly forgot about him. 8 out of 10

So Happy Pride to everyone in Halifax and around the world! Please be friendly and open-minded to all of the LGBT folks in your community.SP-al horse

MEMBROS (1979)

Membros fullMICRONAUTS

I own way more action figures now than I ever dreamed I would when I was a kid but that’s not to say I didn’t have a sizable collection even back then. I had impressive assortments of G.I. Joes, Transformers, Star Wars, Battle Beasts, Masters of the Universe, and Wrestlers just to name a few. But besides those major collections, which were all kept in separate boxes in the closet or under the bed, my brother Doug and I also had our figure drawers. The figure drawer is where all the misfit toys ended up; random things that we acquired as birthday presents from friends or as impulse buys on road trips. My figure drawer was the bottom drawer of my dresser. It was home to figures like Mark, Crank, and Deeth.

This ugly red dude was another denizen of my figure drawer. This is Membros and he is from the Micronauts toy line. In case you’re not familiar with them, here’s a quick history lesson on the origin of Micronauts. Hasbro invented the first action figure in the 1960s; the 12” G.I. Joe doll. The Japanese company Takara imported the Joes into Japan where  they used the Joe body template to create translucent  figures with mechanical innards called Henshin Cyborg.  To cut costs Takara later reduced the Henshin Cyborgs to a smaller 3 3/4″ scale. The  3 3/4” figures became known as Micro-Man. The American company Mego liked what they saw and imported the Micro-Man figures stateside where they sold them under the name Micronauts. In Japan, Micro-Man figures got even smaller for a new line called Diaclone where the figures  piloted transforming vehicle toys. Hasbro later imported the Diaclone vehicles and released them under a brand new name: Transformers.Membros-carded

The first couple waves of Micronaut figures were released before I was born in the late 70s. They consisted of 3 ¾” human figures with metallic chrome heads and colorful translucent bodies.  The only Micronaut figure I ever owned was Membros and he was part of wave 4 which was released in 1979. I would’ve been about 1 year old at the time. I can’t imagine anyone buying me Membros when I was 1 seeing as he had a bunch of small parts so I probably acquired him a few years later. Then again, it was the late 70s/early 80s when kids didn’t have to wear seat belts so maybe someone did gift me Membros when I was a toddler.  That 4th wave of Micronauts was the first to feature figures designed in-house by Hasbro instead of just imported Japanese figures. The evil aliens Hasbro added to the line were quite different from the established Micronaut heroes. Membros was a buggy eyed freak with exposed guts and a removable glow-in-the-dark brain. Antros was a multi-armed purple bug man, and Repto was a faceless flying lizard dude. Doug and I each had our own Membros but Doug had the other 2 as well.

Since we never owned any heroic Micronaut figures for our aliens to battle they were sometimes integrated into our G.I. Joe play sessions. However, the most action they saw was when we would have our figure drawer battle royals. We’d dump all our misfit figures out onto Doug’s bed and they’d duke it out for supremacy by tossing other figures over the side. No bias was given, it was every man for himself, California Raisin vs Voltron Lion to the death. Membros was a middle of the pack contender.Membros breakdance

Membros is an interesting figure in that I thought he was cool but also kind of disgusting. The weird 3-toed feet, the bumpy skin, and the cartoonish yet horrific face all contributed to his cool/grossness.  He’s sculpted as if maybe he has no skin and all we’re seeing is exposed muscles and guts.  The face is really bizarre with protruding tube like eyes and large vampiric fangs.  His head has a kind of mechanical vibe to it which is odd considering how gutty the rest of him is.  The brain is sculpted in translucent glow-in-the dark plastic. I was never a big fan of the brain because I thought it looked like he had an old lady haircut.

Membros came packaged with a backpack, a couple of removable weapon hands, and a tube to connect the weapons to the pack.  The idea behind the removable hands was that you could swap them with the pieces from the other figures who also had removable hands.Membros accessories

At some point in my tweens I parted ways with Membros.  For years I’d been meaning to replace him.  In the early 2000s Palisades Toys re-released Membros in a variety of colors but they were kind of pricey.

Finally, at a flea market last month I found this Membros in a zip lock bag for $10. But it wasn’t just Membros, the bag also contained Repto, Antros, a good-guy Micronaut, and a Baron Karza horse. It was a steal at only $10.Membros face

Or so I thought until I got them home and opened the bag.  All of the figures except Membros were broken.  Repto is easily repairable but the other guys are snapped and missing limbs.  The stupid horse only has 1 leg.  So that sucked.  But at least I have a Membros again and he’s the one I really wanted. Now I may have to try and track down his accessories as he looks pretty sad with no hands. 7 out of 10.Membros group

EXTENDAR (2014)

MOTUC-Extendor fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

The latest Masters of the Universe Classics figures arrived with my mail yesterday. It takes about a month for the figures I order on the 15th of every month from mattycollector.com to arrive; one of the many joys of being Canadian. This month’s shipment included the “heroic master of extension”, Extendar, as well as the latest MOTU minis 2-pack featuring Stratos and Scareglow. The minis are adorable but I was most excited about receiving Extendar (yes, I know how dirty this all sounds. Let’s please be mature about this).MOTUC-Extendor back

The original Extendar was released late in the vintage MOTU line (1986). Neither Doug nor I owned him because we were all about G.I. Joe and Transformers by that time. Extendar was kind of a robot/knight hybrid with extending limbs. I know it sounds weird but no more so than any of the other oddities from the MOTU toy line.

When the Classics version of Extendar was announced I was pretty excited about ordering him because he was an underused vintage character who didn’t even get an updated figure in 2002 like most other MOTU characters. The Classics version would be my first chance to own an Extendar figure. I don’t have much of a nostalgic connection to the character but he seems like an essential addition to the heroic Masters anyway.

MOTUC-Extendor tallLike all MOTUC figures there’s a small bio on the back of Extendar’s blister card. It says that he was a famous athlete named Doodon who, along with his friend Theydon, was captured by Hordak who conducted a bunch of experiments on them. After being transformed into Extendar Doodon eventually escaped and joined up with He-Man. Theydon was transformed into Dragstor who went on to become a full-fledged member of Hordak’s evil Horde. We haven’t yet got a Classics version of Dragstor but his inclusion in Extendar’s backstory makes me think that he’s coming soon. Dragstor was another late release vintage figure that was ignored in the 200X series that I’d be thrilled to have in the Classics style.

The shared history of Extendar and Dragstor adds an interesting dimension to the characters which I would have loved to explore as a kid. The blister card write-up leaves me curious as to what Extendar looked like before the experiments. Was he a human or a robot? If he was an athlete why the hell did Hordak dress him up like a knight? So many questions.

1986 original

1986 original

 

This figure does a great job of recreating the look of the original. All of the stand-out features are accounted for from the pearly white armor and  the extension limbs to the insane six-pack. How many sit-ups do you have to do to get abs like that?

Paint apps are minimal but the figure looks good and remains true to the original design. Extendar has a very sharp-looking pearl white base color with gold and silver highlights and a red belt. He has a large shield on the front of his breast plate that obscures his face and gives him a medieval appearance. The face shield is made of soft rubber and can be manipulated easily but I do kind of wish it was completely removable. To get rid of it you’d have to take off all of his full chest armor. But don’t fret about not being able to see his face, that’s what his extension powers are for.

MOTUC-Extendor faceThe vintage figure had extending legs, arms, torso and neck that were extended by simply pulling them, very similar to Mekaneck’s action feature. But the Classics figures don’t have built-in action features like their vintage counterparts. Instead the 4 Horsemen (the design team) have found clever ways to replicate the various play features using swappable parts as we saw with Mecaneck and Rattlor’s necks and Mantenna’s eyeballs. Extendar came packaged with 5 silver rectangular bars with sculpted circuitry patterns. You can pop off his head, hands, and boots then add the silver bars to “extend” him. The final bar can be added at his waist. You can display him with as many or as few of the extensions as you want. At his most extended he’s quite tall. I didn’t think the effect would make such a big difference when I first saw how small the bars were but when they’re all in use Extendar becomes significantly taller.

Besides the extend-bars Extendar also came with a jousting lance and a triangular red shield. Even the red shield can be folded outwards to extend in size. It’s based on the vintage figure’s shield and it’s pretty neat but I forgot to take pictures of it. Oops.MOTUC-Extendor horse

I really dig this guy’s face sculpt. He’s kind of spooky looking. It’s not the type of face you expect to find on a heroic figure. Its painted metallic gold, has a stern angular expression and solid black eyes. He’s like the love child of Destro and C-3PO.

This is a cool figure that looks great as a display piece but would also be super fun for a kid to play with. Every time I get a new MOTUC figure I think of what a shame it is that most kids don’t even know these great toys exist. 8 out of 10.MOTUC-Extendor compare

BRAIN MOUSE

BB-Brain fullBATTLE BEASTS

To my loyal readers I apologize for my extended absences these days. Its summer and I’ve been busy drinking on patios and whatnot. This past weekend I travelled to the neighboring province of Prince Edward Island for the first time ever despite having lived just a few hours away for the past 20+ years. My buddy Miguel and I went to the capital city of Charlottetown to see the Killers along with a handful of other bands at BigRedFest. The Killers put on a fantastic show and I’ve officially transitioned from casual fan to big fan. Go see them if you get the chance.

The day before our road trip I made sure to google Charlottetown’s local comic shops. They had two; Lightning Bolt Comics and the Comic Hunter. Both shops had a healthy stock of back issues but little in the way of toys. I had hoped to return with a big score to brag about but sadly I left PEI empty handed without so much as an Anne of Green Gables action figure to share with you.

No matter, I still have plenty of toys kicking around the apartment to tell you about. BB-Brain side

Today’s figure is the oddly named Battle Beast, Brain Mouse. I’m guessing he’s supposed to be an intelligent character but since there were no Battle Beast cartoons, or other media to back that up I only have the name to go by. Since I didn’t know his name when I was a kid (none of the Battle Beast figures had names on the packages) I called him Battle Mouse.

The only problem with that was I already had a Battle Mouse. Takara released a mouse with red and blue armor in wave 2. This guy in the yellow armor didn’t come out until wave 4. I ran into a similar problem when Takara released a second rhinoceros in wave 4, having previously released one in wave 1. Usually I was able to come up with some type of naming remedy. In the case of the rhinos, my first rhinoceros remained Battle Rhino while the second one became Battle Rhinoceros. Similarly I had Battle Dog and Battle Bulldog, and Battle Anteater and Battle Aardvark. But when I got my second mouse I couldn’t think of anything to name him. I suppose I could’ve went with a specific species like Battle Deer Mouse or Battle House Mouse but instead I retroactively renamed the wave 2 figure Battle Rat and let this guy take over the name Battle Mouse. I could’ve named this one Battle Rat but he’s clearly a mouse while the wave 2 figure could really go either way. I discovered years later that the wave 2 mouse was actually named Powerhouse Mouse.

BB-Brain compareNow that I know both of their official names it seems odd that Takara would give us 2 different mice figures. Why not a rat? Or a ferret or a guinea pig or some other animal we didn’t already have? Maybe a hamster like they eventually produced in their Beast Saga line. While I would have preferred them be different species I don’t mind having the 2 mice. Both of them are pretty cool and unique. BB-Brain art

Where Powerhouse Mouse wears red and blue armor and has a blade/hook for a hand, Brain Mouse wears bright yellow armor and has a mechanical claw for a hand. Their faces are quite different with Brain having a much rounder, friendlier visage. His ears are large and round like Mickey Mouse’s as opposed to Powerhouse’s pointier ears and face.

Battle Beasts are pretty small anyway but Brain Mouse is slightly shorter than most which I like since he’s supposed to be a pretty teeny animal. There’s not a ton of detail sculpted into the yellow armor but the few that are there are nicely highlighted with green and purple paint apps.BB-Brain back

The 4th and final wave of Battle Beasts, known as Laser Beasts, were constructed slightly different than the previous 3 waves. Instead of having a heat activated rub emblem on their chest, a la Transformers, they had a clear orb in the center of their chest which you had to peer into to discover their classification (wood, fire, or water). The orb looks fine on most of the Laser Beasts but because Brain Mouse is a little smaller than the other figures the orb is a little too big and  makes him appear slightly overweight.BB-Brain gun

The other key difference between Laser Beasts and regular Battle Beasts is that instead of carrying the classic bladed weapons, Laser Beasts carry, you guessed it, lasers. Each Laser Beast has a laser that is unique to him and reflects his species. Some were more subtle than others. Brain Mouse featured one of the more conspicuous laser designs.

I think this is a great figure. Nice sculpt, nice paint job, and nice accessory. Battle Beasts rarely disappoint. 8 out of 10.

BB-Brain group

M.A.R.S. INDUSTRIES OFFICER v.1 (2009)

Joe-Mars officer v1 fullG. I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA

I can’t tell you how excited I was for the first live-action G.I. Joe movie. As a comic book nerd / sci-fi geek I get excited about a lot of movies but I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as I was for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (ROC). I closely followed every morsel of news relating to the film’s production. I’d get excited and change my facebook status to “Arnold Voslo is Zartan!” and people would reply “who is what?” But my excitement dwindled as the release date drew near. I don’t recall exactly what order this news came in but it seemed as though almost all news was bad news for a while. Channing Tatum as Duke. Meh. Marlon Wayans as Ripcord. What? Stephen Sommers directing. Did you see Van Helsing? Yeesh. And then there was the Cobra Commander reveal. What the hell?! It was a bad scene but I digress.Joe-mars officer v1 back

The first movie-based action figures released were two MARS Troopers and one MARS Officer all included in a MARS Industries 3-pack. M.A.R.S., which stands for Military Armament Research System, is the weapons company owned by Destro. Casual Joe fans may remember Destro as a high ranking member of Cobra often found at Cobra Commander’s side but in fact he wasn’t part of Cobra at all, he was just their arms dealer. Even in the old comics and cartoons Destro acted as an independent third party. He spent a lot of time hanging around Cobra headquarters but he was just there to make a buck by selling them his latest doomsday device. It was firmly established in 1988 that Destro had his own thing going with the release of the more regally dressed Destro version 2 along with the very first MARS trooper, the Iron Grenadier. For the next few years every new assortment of Joe toys featured at least one new figure to add to Destro’s growing Iron Grenadier army. He soon as his own frogmen (Undertow), pilots (Nullifier) airborne assault troopers (Annihilator) jet pack troopers (Target), and even his own General to lead them (Voltar). I was a big fan of all the various Grenadier designs.Joe-mars officer v1 group

So, when it was announced early on in the ROC production process  that the plot would focus on the birth of Cobra, with Destro being the lead villain I wasn’t overly disappointed. Sure I wanted to see Cobra’s forces on screen but I was sure there’d be plenty of time for that in the inevitable sequels. An initial movie focusing on Destro and his army still had a ton of potential because there were so many cool Grenadier designs to pool from.

But in continuing the disappointing trend of disregarding so much of the source material we got our first look at the movie Grenadiers with the release of the MARS Industries 3-pack. The outfits on these guys don’t appear to be influenced by any of the previous Grenadier designs. Instead of the slick black, red, and gold color palette and flashy designs of the original Grenadiers we got two identical guys wearing gray turtle neck sweaters with matching gray pants and one more nearly identical guy wearing a brown turtle neck sweater and matching brown pants. Underwhelming to say the least.

But I’m making them sound worse than they are. The MARS Industries figures actually aren’t bad looking figures, they just don’t look like any of the established troopers that fans wanted to see on screen.  I will say that I prefer the Officer to the two troopers.  The base figures are the same but the Officer has different webgear and a different helmet with a ranking emblem.  I also prefer the brown outfit.Joe-Mars officer v1 art

So while this figure missed the mark in regards to offering up a live-action version of a beloved Iron Grenadier figure from my childhood it still holds up on its own merits. The entire sculpt was brand new at the time; no 25th anniversary parts were used. The figure is proportionate and has decent articulation. He lacks flair but I can appreciate the realism of his design. I can totally imagine a real-world militant wearing something like this as opposed to say the orange and purple helicopter-bladed outfit of the Annihilators. The helmet fits well and is somewhat reminiscent of the blue helmets worn by the original Cobra Troopers. When placed correctly the figure’s eyes align nicely with the helmet’s eye holes. Interestingly the file card illustration on the back of the package makes it appear as though these MARS troopers were intended look much more like the movie Neo-Vipers, with a metallic alien-like face.

As I stated earlier, this figure was released in advance of the initial wave of movie figures as a sneak peek of what we could expect to see in the movie. That’s all well and good except the MARS Industries troopers and Officers never appeared in the film. At least I don’t recall seeing them and I’ve seen the film many times. It’s fairly standard practice to include figures of characters that don’t actually appear in a movie in a toyline based on that movie. Just look at all the different movie-based Transformers figures that are available out there; far more than there were actual Transformers in the movies. But it does seem weird that Hasbro would release a set of three figures that don’t appear in the movie as their “first look” at their new movie-based toyline.Joe-mars officer v1 unmasked

Along with his removable helmet and webgear the MARS Officer also comes with a submachine gun, a pistol that can be holstered in his webgear, and a large knife. Also of note is his rounded dog tag shaped display base which was kind of neat.

MARS Officer is an odd duck being a figure from a movie he never appeared in based on a cartoon he never appeared in, but he’s a decent figure. I used to really despise this figure simply because I wasn’t happy with the movie aesthetic in general. But time has made me less critical of the ROC figures. Nowadays I don’t mind him at all. 6 out of 10.

version 1 & 2

version 1 & 2

KRAKEN

Joe-Kraken fullG. I. JOE

I have never been a toy customizer.  I buy what the toy companies produce and that’s the end of it.  I’m well aware that there is a large segment of the collecting community who like to customize their own figures but that’s never been my thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be able to produce quality figures of characters that I want but the key word there is “quality”.  I’ve made a handful of custom toys over the years (example 1, example 2, example 3) but they pretty much always suck.  I simply don’t have the ability, nor frankly the drive, to produce factory quality customs so I don’t even bother trying.Joe-Kraken face

Some collector’s make their own customs by taking their figures apart and mixing and matching parts.  This saves you the trouble of painting but I’ve never really had any desire to attempt this either.  I prefer to just sit back and hope that Hasbro will eventually make the G.I. Joe and Transformers characters that I want.

However, the other day I dumped out one of my many bags of G.I. Joe accessories.  I did this so I could take a generic “accessories” picture for my  updated “about me” page.  Almost every Joe figure I buy comes with extra junk that ends up in a bag of miscellaneous accessories never to be seen again.  While I was scooping up the loose accessories after taking the photo I needed I realized that I have some pretty cool stuff going to waste; not just extra guns and knives but extra heads and webgear too.

Joe-Kraken gunsThat’s when I remembered the crappy Duke figure I had seated in one of my vehicles.  A while back I bought some loose Joe figures from Giant Robot Comics, a local comic shop on the other side of the bridge in Dartmouth.  One of the items I bought was the black SNAKE/SERPENT Armor from the “Rise of Cobra” movie line. The Snake armor can be used on a figure or on it’s own.   When i opened the armor I expected to find the rubber “skeleton” inside which is what holds all the pieces together when displayed solo but instead I found a figure inside; a really crappy figure.  I didn’t recognize the figure immediately.  It was blonde, had a black long sleeve shirt and gloves, bright green pants, and brown boots.  He didn’t have any accessories like a helmet or webgear.  I wrote him off as a crappy version of Duke that probably originally came packaged with some vehicle.  I tend to pass on a lot of Duke figures, especially when they come with vehicles.  The Duke was too plain to display on his own so I sat him in a jeep and didn’t give him a second thought.  He’s been sitting in that jeep for 2 years.Joe-Kraken walk

The sight of all the extra heads and gear made me think, “I shouldn’t let that crappy Duke go to waste. I should swap out some of his parts and arm him to customize a brand new character.” Before breaking him up I figured that I should at least identify which version of Duke it was.  It was only once I really looked at him that I realized that it wasn’t even Duke.  The head belonged to General Hawk and the body seemed to be a mish- mash of parts from other figures.  The black underwear over the green pants Superman-style was a dead give-away that this was already somebody’s crappy custom. That made me feel that much better about butchering him myself.

I popped off the Hawk head and gave him the extra masked head that came with Ultimate Duke (2013).  This was a good generic head that did not look like any recognizable Joe characters.  I gave him a Cobra Shock Trooper vest (I’m not sure why I have an extra one) then I armed him with a satchel and a couple of guns.  It was an improvement but he still looked pretty plain.  Then I came across the back tentacles that came with Nemesis Enforcer.  I thought, “why not?”.  The green of the tentacles matched his bright green pants and helped tie the figure together better. The tentacles also helped me come up with a back story and name for the character. I decided that he is a Cobra-la agent, like Nemesis Enforcer, sent to join the ranks of Cobra disguised as a human.  The name Kraken seemed like a good fit.

The last thing I gave him, just to add a little extra flare, was a coil of barbed wire around each leg.  No, it doesn’t make sense but I thought it looked kind of cool and gave me an excuse to use some otherwise useless accessories.  I think it kind of looks like Spawn’s big round boot.  So here he is, my first G.I. Joe custom.  I now have him displayed amongst my Cobra hierarchy instead of down in the Joe’s motor pool.  I know he kind of sucks but at least now I’m getting some use out of a previously wasted figure.  5 out of 10Joe-Kraken spawnJoe-Kraken boots

 

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