TOP 18 ACTION FIGURES OF 2018

A full year has passed since I last updated this blog so I guess it’s fair to say that I’m no longer a blogger; but that doesn’t mean I’m no longer a collector. I’ve been buying just as many, if not more, toys than ever and if you’d like to see what I’ve been collecting you should follow me on instagram (under the name “mikescollectionhalifax”). I post pictures of everything I buy so it’s a much more accurate reflection of my growing collection than this blog ever was. There was simply no way I could keep up with writing about every toy I bought and if I didn’t have time to write about it then you never saw it. With instagram I simply provide a few quick comments and let the pictures speak for themselves. But for my annual “best of” list I wanted to share more comments than instagram can accommodate so I have returned to the blogosphere. Before I begin I’ll lay down the usual ground rules; this list is comprised only of action figures that I actually own and that were released in 2018. That may seem limiting but even within those guidelines this list was not easy to do (I had nearly 300 figures to choose from). Just to give you an idea of what you’ll find here, I collect G.I. Joes, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, Funko POPs, Star Wars Black Series, Marvel Legends, and a few other odds and ends. Let the countdown begin…

18. The Thing: Marvel Legends – Hasbro has been absolutely killing it with their Marvel Legends line the past few years. We’re getting more figures of well-known and obscure characters than I can keep up with and the quality is almost always superb. The sculpts, the paint apps, the articulation, the build-a-figure components…all great! The only real complaint I have is that there are SO many awesome figures that they may bankrupt me. I had to leave a slew of those amazing figures off this list (Mysterio, Storm, Silver Surfer, Lizard, Cobra, Spider-Man Noir just to name a few) but a few of them could not be ignored. First up is the Fantastic Four’s Thing. Ol’ Ben Grimm here was a Walgreens exclusive in the US but fortunately EB Games carried him here in Canada so I managed to snag one. There have been plenty of Thing figures in the past but I think this one is the first to get everything right. The size, the colour, the outfit, and the shape and feel of his rocky skin are all exactly how I would want them. The fact that he has interchangeable heads (neutral and angry) and hands (open and fists) is just icing on the cake.

17. Dylamug: Masters of the Universe Classics – I consider myself to be pretty well versed in MOTU lore but my knowledge is in no way encyclopedic. For example, when Super7 announced that Dylamug would be one of their new figures this year I had no idea who he was. Apparently he appeared in 3 episodes of the She-Ra cartoon back in the 80s but I don’t remember him. Or maybe I do. There is a familiarity about him but I certainly didn’t remember any details such as his name. The fact that this figure does not scratch any particular nostalgic itch makes it all the more impressive that I like it so much. Sometimes my objective opinion is clouded by nostalgia, as later entries on this list will show, but I love this figure based solely on it’s awesomeness. The MOTU figure line is full of unique characters but most of them share the same basic construction. Dylamug however is made up of completely unique pieces so he looks nothing like any of the other figures on my MOTU shelf. The Man-E-Faces like spinning facial wheels is a super fun feature that actually works as opposed to the often simulated recreations of vintage play features. The robotic body is simple and streamlined and does a good job of making him appear animated. My favourite attribute is the clear plastic fuse bulbs on the top of his head that make him look like a legit electronic.

16. Rampart: G.I. Joe – 2018 is the final year for the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club. A lot of people really hate on the Club online but despite their often questionable decisions, inflated prices, and factory errors I’m sad to see them go. They’ve given us more Joe figures than Hasbro the last couple of years and many of them have been great. Whether Rampart is one of the great ones is debatable but this is one of those instances where nostalgia wins out over common sense. The original 1990 Rampart holds the distinction of being the last G.I. Joe figure I bought as a kid. It seems odd to me now though because, even though I was 12 at the time and should have logically been losing interest in toys, I really loved that figure and I remember playing with it a lot. I don’t know why I didn’t buy any more Joes after that. Anyway, I’m so glad the Club provided me with a modern version of him before they closed their doors. Sure it’s 100% made up of pre-existing parts including reusing Blocker’s head but the parts work really well together and it absolutely looks like Rampart even if it isn’t completely faithful to the original design.

15. Abominus: Transformers: Power of the Primes – Of the 5 Terrorcons that combine to create Abominus I only owned one of the original toys as a kid and that was Ripper Snapper. Similar to Rampart, Ripper Snapper was one of the last vintage Transformers I got as a kid so I have a specific connection to him. I loved the idea of him but unfortunately the actual toy left a lot to be desired which I found was often the case with Transformers back then. He was short and stubby and he basically had no articulation. So I was super stoked to get a bigger, better, fully articulated version in 2018. It’s not often that I like both modes of a Transformer because I’m not into vehicles  but with Ripper Snapper both modes are awesome. His robot face and colours look great on a shelf but how could you not love his legged shark monster mode. I was going to give this slot to Ripper Snapper alone but then at the last minute I decided to cheat and let him share the slot with the other 4 Terrorcons which I also acquired this year. They’re all similarly great in both configurations and their combined mode is sweet too. If not for my childhood ties to Rip/Snap, Cutthroat might’ve been my favourite as he’s all kinds of cool.

14. Mosasaurus-Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom – I was one of those kids who was really into dinosaurs. It’s a passion that never went away but it’s near impossible to keep up with all the new species they keep discovering.  The first time I “saw” a Mosasaurus was in the BBC documentary series “Waling with Dinosaurs” and I was blown away. How had I never heard of this thing before? Why weren’t there rubber toys of him available to buy anywhere? I was giddy when I first saw the trailer for Jurassic World and one of these bad boys leaps out of the water to bite a shark in half. The Indominus Rex was cool and all but I think this guy stole the show. The Mosssaurus also had a goosebump inducing scene in the trailer to the sequel but unfortunately I found Fallen Kingdom to be a let down and the trailer scene was a tease with no payoff. Mediocre movie aside this toy rules. It could’ve been a solid hunk of plastic and I would’ve loved it but the articulated fins, rubbery skin, and articulated jaw really put this thing over the top. Not to mention the size of it. I would’ve loved to have had this thing in the pool with me when I was a kid, having it attack the G.I. Joe Hovercraft or swallow up the Cobra raft. Super cool.

13. Gwendolynne Heavensbrand: Mythic Legions Advent of Decay – This year was relatively quiet for me as far as kickstarters go. In the past few years I’ve backed several campaigns and have acquired a ton of wicked figures as a result. But I don’t have anything new from either Boss Fight Studios or Marauder Task Force to share with you this year. The only “indie” toys I bought this year came courtesy of the Four Horsemen and their Mythic Legions fantasy based line.  I’m not really a fantasy guy and these figures are expensive so I keep telling myself that I’m going to stop buying them but every time the Horsemen unveil new ones I get sucked right back in. In fact I just preordered 3 of their upcoming 9″ troll figures last week. I’m mostly interested in the creatures and haven’t generally felt the need to buy the human characters. However I made an exception with Gwen because she just looks so damn good. The attention to detail is immaculate but it was the paint job that really won me over here. The gold and purple look very regal and I knew she’d be a showstopper on my shelf. The working visor on the helmet is fantastic but I appreciate that they included an alternate helmetless head as well. A slew of additional accessories make this figure a surefire win.

12. Spider-Ham: Marvel Legends – This pick is most definitely skewed by very thick nostalgia goggles. This thirty dollar toy is about 2.5″ tall and lacks any leg articulation. It’s basically a ridiculously overpriced Smurf and it has no business being on a “best action figures of the year” list. And yet, I had to resist the urge to make it number one. The same month I started collecting Spider-Man comics in 1986 I also started collecting Spider-Ham comics so I’ve loved this little dude for as long as I’ve loved comic books. I collected his whole 19 issue series, a few one-shots, and his back-up stories in Marvel Tales. But it wasn’t until 2014 that he was introduced into the “real” Marvel Universe by way of a Multi-Universe spanning storyline called Spider-verse which brought all of the various versions of Spider-Man together to fight a common foe. Now, 4 years later, he’s a prominent character in the Spider-Verse animated movie. It blows my mind that these obscure things I loved as a kid are so mainstream now. I’m very glad Hasbro didn’t make this version fat to match his appearance in the movie though as the Ham I read about as a kid was never fat. This figure is vibrant, the sculpt is great (I love the little mouth ) and it just oozes fun. I wish it moved more but I’m just thrilled that it even exists.

11. Crystal Ball: G.I. Joe – A lot of Joes fans like the militaristic aspects of the brand so characters like Crystal Ball, the Cobra hypnotist originally released in 1987, aren’t always well received. However, I was a 9 year old Canadian kid in 1987 and I didn’t give a crap whether Crystal Ball was authentic to the United States military or not; I just liked cool toys. In my opinion Crystal Ball was very cool and his lenticular hypno-sheild accessory was awesome. This updated version from the Collector’s Club is pretty close to the original and any changes they had to make due to the limited parts they had available don’t hurt him in any way. The thigh high boots that morph into his pants are kinda weird but I think it’s all believable as eccentric gypsy-wear. The Club doesn’t often spend money to have brand new parts made but thankfully they did to give Crystal Ball a unique head. I think they may have went a little overly cartoony with it but I think it adds to his eccentricity and I ultimately like it. My modern Joe shelf would not have felt complete without  Crystal Ball so this figure fills a void in both my collection and my heart.

10. Predaking: Transformers: Power of the Primes – Once again I’m cheating by lumping 5 Transformers into one slot. The difference here is though, while any of the 5 Terrorcons could have been granted slot 15, none of the individual Predacons that make up Predaking would make this list. The Predacons have been at the top of my want list for years so I was very happy when this box set was announced. That joy diminished some when I saw the price point and then it turned into straight-up sorrow when I opened the box. There are some serious flaws with these Predacons, like huge blocks of undisguised connector parts, and that really isn’t cool given the price. I don’t know why they didn’t just make all the “kibble” removable like the fists and feet. Razorclaw the lion is the only one that doesn’t piss me off. That said, the fully combined Predaking is a thing of beauty. Sure it’s hard to play with but it’s an impressive 18″ tall and with it’s bold colours and golden wings it’s more of a conversation piece than any other toy on this list.

9. Budo: G.I. Joe – The original Budo was released in 1988 and he’s another figure that likely annoyed collectors who wanted Joe to stick to it’s military roots. Budo is the Joe team’s Samurai Warrior which admittedly doesn’t make much f**king sense but I was a kid so I thought he was great in 1988 and I still think he’s great now. Hasbro gave us a modern take on him in 2013 but other than the fact that it was a samurai figure it bared little resemblance to the Budo of old. Had the Collector’s Club never taken a stab at him I could’ve rested easy at least knowing that there was some sort of modern-era Budo in my collection but I’m very thankful that the Club felt that a more vintage accurate version was needed; now I can truly sleep soundly. This figure pissed a lot of Joe fans off this year because the Club decided to glue the helmet to his head and they replaced his combat boots with socks but those things don’t really bother me. I think the new head sculpt is youthful and reminiscent of the original, the helmet is big but it looks good and the glue keeps it from falling off (which would annoy me more than the glue), the colours are bright, and he came with a good selection of bladed weapons. It’s a shame a toy this fun isn’t available in stores for kids to enjoy.

8. Deathlok: Marvel Legends – Deathlok is a rather obscure Marvel character originally created in  1974. Back then he was Luthor Manning, a reanimated soldier. However, I didn’t discover the character until Marvel rebooted him in 1990. The new version was Michael Collins, a scientist who unwillingly had his brain transplanted into the Deathlok cyborg. Thats’s the version I grew up with and as far as I’m concerned that’s who this figure represents though I think it’s technically supposed to be the Manning version. I didn’t start collecting Marvel Legends until just a few years ago but one of the first ones I bought was their first attempt at Deathlok more than a decade ago. I just thought it was such a good figure of a character I love that I had to have it even though I wasn’t collecting the line at the time. That figure may have seemed good at the time but it completely blows when compared to the modern ML figures. It would stick out like a sore thumb if I tried to display it with the current generation of figures so I’m glad Hasbro opted to revisit Deathlok this year. This figure is incredible. I know I sound like a broken record but the sculpt, the paint, the articulation, and the accessories are all perfect. I love the stoic expression on his face. This dude looks like a total badass. I’m almost tempted to buy a second one so I can display them as Manning and Michaels. It’s that good.

7. Gryshaa The Slytherer: Mythic Legions Advent of Decay – When the Horsemen revealed their “Advent of Decay” wave of figures for their second major Mythic Legions kickstarter there were over 40 new characters to choose from. The one that immediately caught my eye was Gryshaa. As I mentioned above I’m not really into fantasy stuff so Orcs and Elves don’t really do it for me but this dude did not look like a sword and sorcery based character to me. I honestly don’t know what he looks like other than Red Square with pants on. He’s slender and spooky with no visible skin. He could be a man or a woman, a skeleton, a monster, a robot…anything really. Even the brief bio included on the packaging kept things mysterious. Gryshaa is like the Boba Fett of the Mythic Legions universe. The detailing in the sculpt is top-notch and the paint work showcases all those details beautifully. The colours work really well together and the 4 different bladed accessories provide Gryshaa with ample ways to dispatch the other figures on my shelf. It’s a work of art as much as it is an action figure.

6. W.O.R.M.S: G.I. Joe – The original Worms (Weapons Ordinance Rugged Machine Specialists) figure was released in 1987 as the driver of the Cobra Maggot. The driver represented a new trooper for Cobra and the file card even said they operated in crews of 4. However, as kids my brother Doug and I only had one in our collection (and it was his). Doug opted to make Worms a unique character and, along with my Ice-Viper whom  I also deemed a unique character, they were the toughest S.O.B.s in the Cobra organization. It was silly how tough we made these guys, flipping tanks with their bare hands and whatnot. So even though I never personally owned a Worms figure as a kid I have always viewed him as a key member of Cobra. I am so glad the Club released this figure before they lost the Joe license at year’s end. Ice-Viper would’ve been so lonely on the shelf without him. Personal fondness for the character aside, this is a really sharp figure. The sleeveless jacket is a little weird but that’s a limitation of the modern-era design and not unique to Worms. I think the Club did the best they could with what they had. The torso of the jacket is a pretty close approximation of the ’87 sculpt and the addition of a real cloth ascot shows that the Club went the extra mile to be vintage accurate. I’m especially thankful that they were able to retool the original Rocketeer looking helmet rather than give us some half-assed substitute. I only wish these guys weren’t so damn expensive so that I could get one for Doug.

5. Fangor: Master’s of the Universe Classics – When Mattel stopped making MOTU Classics figures and handed the license off to Super7 I really though it would mean I could stop buying so many MOTU figures. Mattel had already made all the core characters so that left Super7 with a bunch of C-list characters to work with. To my surprise they’ve managed to make some pretty awesome figures out of those less than memorable characters. Fangor here is a perfect example. He’s a just some obscure Snake-Man that no one’s ever heard of and they’ve turned him into one of my all-time favourite MOTU figures. His design and colours are great and perfectly snakey. His accessories, include a flying snake pet, a tool set, and an interchangeable head so you can adjust the length of his fangs; all of which are awesome. This is what toys are all about.

4. Optimus Prime: Transformers: Power of the Primes – For years I’ve been looking for a definitive Optimus Prime figure. I’ve got some that look decent but the size isn’t right and the ones that look really good are just too expensive. Just this week I was eyeballing the new “Siege” version in Toys R Us and I’m thinking I may need to get it because it’s pretty great. But as of right now I’m still in the honeymoon phase with this Power of the Primes version. Not only is he the perfect size in my opinion, but he manages to transform into both the cab of the truck and the trailer without any additional pieces hanging around. It’s a good representation of the G1 look, it’s got a Matrix of Leadership accessory, and best-of-all there’s a version of Orion Pax hidden within. It has long been established that prior to being Optimus, the leader of the Autobots, he was just a dude named Orion and this is what he looked like in that form back in the 80s cartoon. I love this gimmick and as happy as I am to finally have such a great Optimus i actually have him displayed as Orion. I really love it.

3. Brontus: Mythic Legions: Coliseum  – While I was still waiting for my Advent of Decay figures to arrive, the Four Horsemen offered up a much smaller third wave of figures they dubbed “Coliseum”. I ordered 3 of the figures and they showed up months before the Decay figures did so perhaps smaller waves is the way to go. The warrior and skeleton figures were cool but nothing I hadn’t seen before. Brontus however is the first troll I’ve ordered so even though he’s mostly just a repaint of the two prior trolls he’s all new to me and he is spectacular. The trolls were too fantasy based for me but Brontus being a cyclops makes him seem more mythological and that’s more up my alley. I could totally see this 12″ brute going to battle against my Boss Fight Studios Grecian warriors and gorgons. The sculpt and paint are obviously great but the fur loin cloth, the metal chain, and the club weapon made from a troll skull all help to enhance this already amazing toy. Oftentimes I feel ripped off spending so much on action figures that fail to wow but you always get your money’s worth from the Horsemen. Cash well spent.

 

2. Mer-Man: Master’s of the Universe Classics – My favourite MOTU character has always been Mer-Man. I loved my original 80s toy, I loved my 2002 figure, and I loved both my green and blue Classics versions. I really didn’t think I needed another version of this guy but as soon as they started making cartoon accurate toys a couple years ago I’ve been anxiously awaiting for them to announce Mer-Man. I finally got my Filmation Mer-Man this year and he does not disappoint. He looks like he leapt right off of an animation cel. The head sculpt is pure joy. The colours are flat and the design is simple just as they should be for a cartoon based toy. I actually think that if you were to own only one Mer-Man figure it should maybe be this one.

 

1. Obsidian Fury: Pacific Rim: Uprising – I realize that Pacific Rim 2 wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I absolutely loved it. I appreciate how fun it is. It wasn’t bogged down by all the world building and mumbo-jumbo science of the first movie (which I also love). This is the type of film I can throw in the bluray player any day of the week and enjoy it. I’m much more of a monster guy than a robot guy so the first time I saw it I was a little disappointed to learn that the bad guy through the first 2/3s of the film was a bad robot rather than a monster. But what a robot it is. Obsidian Fury is the Darth Maul of jaegers and the filmmakers seemed to clearly acknowledge that by giving him two laser chainsaws. I think his design is super cool and it was beautifully translated into this figure by Bandai. This toy is way better than any of the jaegers neca produced for the first movie. It’s light and flexible but durable. It’s a ton of fun to pose and play with; it just feels fun. The sculpt and articulation are great and the accessories including those removable chainsaws add to its playability. It may look a little bland but these photos don’t do it justice. There’s matte black and metallic black parts, silver paint apps and translucent orange plastic on the head and accessories. This is just a really slick figure.

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Top 17 Action Figures of 2017

Happy Holidays everybody. It’s been half a year since I last posted anything on this blog but I couldn’t resist returning for my annual year-end list. I love “best of” lists and my lack of blogging is by no means indicative of a lack of new action figures. New toys have been steadily flowing into my collection all year long (if you’re interested in seeing each one as they arrive you should follow me on Instagram @mikescollectionhalifax). I had begun preparing this list weeks ago but a few last minute additions bumped a couple of great figures off the list. Therefore runner-up shout outs go to Shin Godzilla and The Will from McFarlane Toys’ Saga line. Also Admiral Ackbar from The Star Wars 6″ Black Series line. Vanessa picked him up for me this week and he’s a long-time favourite of mine that definitely would’ve made the list but I can’t rank him because she’s holding him until my birthday next month.  My only criteria for the list is that ranked toys must have been released this calendar year and I must have personally acquired them. So let’s get started…

17. Axl Rose, Funko POP!: Last year I got so many great POP figures that I had to give them their own “Top of the Pops” list. I could have easily done the same this year because I picked up a lot of new POPs and they’re all fantastic. However, this year’s  purchases weren’t nearly as diverse as last year’s ensemble. 2016 was chock full of random one-offs like Labyrinth’s Jareth, Willy Wonka, Clockwork Orange’s Alex DeLarge, Elvira, and Mr. T. but in 2017 I tended to buy full waves such as 7 Master’s of the Universe figures, all 3 Home Alone characters, all 6 Hellboy offerings, and a half dozen Batman variations. Had I made an all POP list it would’ve been practically made up entirely of MOTU and Hellboy characters and that would’ve been rather dull.  Ergo, I selected the cream of the crop and ranked them with my regular action figures. First up is Guns N’ F’N Roses frontman, Axl Rose. I’ve loved GNR since Appetite for Destruction and a few years back I had the pleasure of seeing them live here in Halifax. Axl looked more like a bloated Mickey Rourke than the wiry energetic frontman of yore (he still put on an excellent show) but this adorable little guy captures Axl in his glory days. He’s got everything you need: leather kilt, mic stand with big red mic, mandatory 80s rock bandana, forehead sunglasses, midriff exposing half-jeresey, and tour stubble. If that’s not a recipe for success I don’t know what is.

16. Bludgeon, Transformers: The original Bludgeon toy was released after I had walked away from Transformers as a kid in 1989. I don’t feel I missed out on anything though because it was a pretty stupid figure anyway; a blocky generic green and plum coloured robot with no paint apps who transformed into a blocky generic tank. What made him unique, however,  was his pretender shell, a hollow plastic husk in the shape of a frumpy biological skeleton samurai. I came to appreciate this odd character many years later by way of new Transformers comics published by Dreamwave and ID which portrayed him as a formidable and cunning foe. Those comics made me love Bludgeon and I felt I needed a decent action figure of him in my collection but I didn’t want one that looked like the crappy vintage toy. I wanted one that looked like his comic appearance where the samurai is his true visage as opposed to a costume for a boring two-toned robot. I would’ve preferred Bludgeon in the “Generation 1” style but this one, based on his stylized animated appearance from the Transformers Prime cartoon, is definitely adequate. This version clearly presents a samurai skeleton but it’s a robotic true-version rather than a pretender shell. It’s more akin to how he appears in the comics which is exactly what I wanted. As a nod to the ’89 toy Bludgeon still transforms into a tank like his vintage “inner-self” did which is cool. I’m pleased with the colours, I like the accessories and I liked the price.  I was very close to spending $125 on a third party version of this guy before this Hasbro release came along which cost less than 15 bucks. Not too shabby.

15. Dazzler, Marvel Legends: I only have a handful of Marvel Legends on this list and it was not easy to pick favourites. I bought more than 40 of these things in 2017 and they’re almost all great. Hasbro has been hitting home runs with very impressive consistency.  Sunfire, Nebula, Moonknight, Bullseye…I could go on and on. So I would understand completely if you disagree with my “top” picks. I didn’t necessarily choose them because they had the best sculpting or best articulation or best accessories. My picks are driven by character and we all gravitate towards different characters. First up is Dazzler, the disco singer with the mutant ability to blast light from her fingers…or something. I never quite understood her powers.  Dazzler first appeared in X-Men issue 130 published in 1980. From ’81 to ’85 she starred in her own self-titled series but shortly after it was cancelled she joined the X-Men as a permanent member; that’s when I was first exposed to her. The disco look had been replaced by a contemporary 80s costume that looked like something you’d see in a Jane Fonda workout video tape.  In hindsight it’s just as dated if not more so than the disco look but its the costume I grew up with so it’s the one I like best. So even though I would’ve preferred Dazzler in the exercise unitard and headband she was my favourite X-Man of that era so I’m just stoked to finally own any figure of her. I’m only aware of one other Dazzler figure and its 20 years old and atrocious. This figure finally gives dazzler her due. The sculpting is great with the flared pants and feathered hair and the accessories are great with a mic, roller skates, disco-ball necklace, and light effects. She looks amazing and I think any disco fan would want this figure on their desk whether they know she’s an X-Man or not. Daring character choices like this is what makes Marvel Legends the best toyline on the market today. 

14. Michonne, Walking Dead: This was perhaps the toughest slot to fill. That’s because I knew I would give it to a Walking Dead figure but I really struggled with which one. I’m a fan of both the comic and the TV show but I have, for the most part, steered clear of the Walking Dead action figures. One of the reasons why is they’re produced by McFarlane Toys. Now I have a ton of respect for Todd McFarlane and I used to buy his figures all the time. He played a large part in creating the adult action figure market so it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have this blog without him. But years ago I decided his hyper realistic and extremely detailed products weren’t really what I wanted to spend my money on because they’re, often times, more statues than toys. But I do still pick up his figures from time to time. In recent years I’ve bought 7 Walking Dead and 4 Saga figures. Over the past few months I more than doubled my Walking Dead collection because I purchased two convention exclusive boxsets each containing 4 figures; one focusing on good guys and the other on bad. What caught my eye about them was that they’re homages to classic G.I. Joe figures. The good guys are dressed in tiger stripped outfits as a nod to G.I. Joe’s Tiger Force and the bad guys’ outfits are cross-hatched grey and green just like Cobra’s Python Patrol. I have no idea why they did this mash-up but I thought it was super neat and had to have them. These will be some of the rare toys that I keep sealed in their packaging because the vintage G.I. Joe style card art is a big part of their appeal. All eight figures are really nice but Rick, Michonne, and Neegan were my top contenders. I went with Michonne because the colours look good and surprisingly natural on her. I love the sculpt and the artwork on the blister card is dynamic. This is a weird and wonderful addition to my collection. Conversation pieces to be sure.

13. Avalanche, G.I. Joe: It was another rough year for G.I. Joe. Not to the extent where there were no figures, there were actually about 50 figures released this year, but not a single one at retail.  I purchased nearly all of those figures and it cost me an arm and a leg to do so because they were only available through subscriptions, clubs, and conventions. The average consumer would have no idea that G.I. Joe is still plugging away which isn’t good for the brand. There were plenty of decent figures released in 2017 but seeing as nearly all of them were made up of existing parts that we’ve seen time and time again it’s hard to get too excited about any of them. For example, Sneak Peak was on my list last year and Gung-Ho the year before that and those same figures were released this year with new paint jobs but the wow factor has diminished. This year’s 15-figure convention set featured Battle Force 2000 (The Joe team’s futuristic fighting force first released in 1987) vs an army of Battle Android Troopers (BATS). Getting nine identical Bats was pretty annoying considering the cost of the damn set but at least the Collector’s Club splurged for newly sculpted heads for nearly all of the Battle Force characters. As a kid my brother Doug owned 3 BF members (Dodger, Blocker, and Blaster) and I owned the other 4 (DeeJay, Knockdown, Avalanche, and Maverick) with Maverick being my favourite. Sadly, the convention set’s Maverick is probably the weakest of the bunch. If I had to pick the strongest it would probably be one of Doug’s old guys (Blaster and Dodger are great figures) but nostalgia is a funny thing and it sways my vote to Avalanche. His design is weird and his face sculpt looks a lot like Kevin Spacey which really isn’t a good thing these days but I can’t help but dig this figure; he’s fun. The knee-high silver boots, arctic camo pattern, and white weapons all work together to create a memorable toy which is superior to the original.

12. Darkhawk, Marvel Legends: Much like Dazzler, Darkhawk is an obscure Marvel character from my youth and I never thought I’d see him in action figure form. His comic launched in 1991 at a time when Marvel was trying out all sorts of new things. His comic lasted 50 issues and then he faded to the background.  Darkhawk has popped up sporadically over the last two decades and whenever he does I’m there to share in his adventures. I collected his appearances in War of Kings, Loners, and Avengers Arena. He was always a great looking character but I found writers and artists often let him down. Hasbro produced the first ever Darkhawk figure a couple of years ago in their 3 3/4″ “Universe” line. I was pretty excited about that figure but it wasn’t perfect. Most notably the wings were held on with teeny weeny pegs which meant they weren’t really held on at all. Well this year Hasbro made a Darkhawk figure which I have no complaints about. It looks totally badass and his wings are sculpted directly to his arms in a creative way so they look great when posed standing or in action. The metallic blue plastic used for the armour is the perfect colour and the body type suits the character; not too big, not too small. Sculpting detail is minimal and there are no accessories to speak of but Darkhawk doesn’t need them. This is a figure I would’ve loved as a kid and being a grown-up doesn’t change that.

11. Big Lob, G.I. Joe: If you had told 9-year old me in 1987 that I would be placing Big Lob on my top toys of the year list in 2017 I probably would’ve said “Why? Big Lob sucks”. And I would agree, Big Lob did suck in 1987 and I can’t be the only one who felt that way because Hasbro never bothered to make a figure of him. ’87 was the year of the animated G.I. Joe movie. It introduced a group of new recruits to the Joe team. They started out as goof-offs but ended up saving the day in the end. Those rookies were Big Lob, Law, Jinx, Lt. Falcon, Tunnel Rat, and Chuckles, all of whom got released as action figures in 1987…except Big Lob. The movie also introduced Cobra La and Slaughter’s Renegades all of which got action figures in 1987. But for some reason Big Lob (and Cobra La’s Pythona) got the shaft when it came to action figures. I was mad about the lack of Pythona because I really liked her but Big Lob wasn’t missed because I thought he was annoying. However, as the years  passed it started to seem odder and odder that a Big Lob figure was never produced. The Collector’s Club finally rectified that error in 2010 when they released an O-ring version of Lob as their incentive figure that year. Problem is, not only did that figure kind of suck, but it was released 3 years into the “modern-era” of Joe figures when many collectors like myself had stopped buying O-ring vintage-style Joes. So my collection has remained Big Lobless until a few months ago when the Club finally made a modern-ea version of him. Best of all they made a great version of him. He has a newly sculpted head which is clearly inspired by how he looked in the animated movie but far less goofy. Using Roadblock/The Rock’s body gives Big Lob the height he needed but it also bulks him up so he looks like he could kick your ass. His design may be relatively simple but I think it’s perfect and exactly what this character needed and deserved after all this time.

10. Death’s Head II, Marvel Legends: Getting a Darkhawk figure may have seemed fairly unlikely a couple of years ago but at least he’d made guest appearances in several comics throughout the 2000s so it wasn’t THAT unbelievable when he hit store shelves.  Death’s Head II on the other hand?  I would’ve thought getting struck by lightening while getting attacked by a shark was more probable.  He was a flash in the pan character who showed up for a year or two in some UK Marvel books in the early 90s and then he faded into obscurity for decades.  Even now he hasn’t returned and yet somehow this action figure got the green light from someone at Hasbro. I bought all of those Death’s Head books and, even though there weren’t many of them, the character made an impact on me. For years I designed my own characters that borrowed aspects of Death’s Head II. He embodies the 90s “everything but the kitchen sink” design style which is both awful and awesome. As busy as he is (horns, dreadlocks, torn melted face, liquid metal arm, etc) I was surprised by how boring his body sculpt was once I had this figure in hand.  He needs some pouches or something. So if taken at face value this figure may not seem like “top 10” material but the sheer miracle that he exists, and my nostalgia-fueled love of the character,  guaranteed Death’s Head II a spot.

9. Slag/Slug, Transformers: It’s about f**king time. I can understand why I haven’t gotten a Big Lob or a Death’s Head II figure for 30 years. Nobody other than hardcore adult collector’s like myself were looking for them. But why on earth has Hasbro waited so god damn long to give me Dinobots!! Every kid wants a Dinobot! It’s crazy! The original Dinobots were released in 1985. Repaints were released in 1993 when Hasbro tried to relaunch Transformers with little success. But since then….nothing! I consider the mid 2000s to be the beginning of the modern era of toy collecting; toys made for grown ups that grew up in the 80s. 2002 saw the relaunch of G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe and those brands have been carrying on ever since. Generation 1 style Transformers came a few years later when Hasbro launched the “Classics” line in 2006 in the lead up to the first live-action movie. Over the years the G1 inspired line carried on alongside the stupid movie-based lines though its name changed several times to “Universe” then “Generations” then “Reveal the Shield” then “Combiner Wars” then “Titans Return” and most recently “Power of the Primes”.  That’s 11 years of Generation 1 inspired toys and other than Grimlock none of the other Dinobots got new toys. The Dinobots were introduced to the original toyline after only about two years so how on earth did it take 11 years this time?! It’s madness.  Anyway, rant aside, just this week I got a new version of Slag (now called Slug) who transforms into my favourite dinosaur, the Triceratops. This figure looks so much like the original toy that I’m beyond thrilled to finally have him in my collection again. He looks great in both modes and he’s got tons of articulation which the original lacked. Love it!

8. Lord Gr’Asp, Masters of the Universe Classics: It was a slow year for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Mattel concluded their line of website exclusive MOTU figures at the end of 2016. Things looked grim for a while before it was announced that a little company called Super7 would be picking up the license and carrying on with the Classics line in a similar fashion. But rather than make people commit to an annual subscription or scramble online for the figures they want on the 15th of every month Super7 opted to go with a made-to-order model. They offered a window where you could pre-order their upcoming figures in manageable sets of 4 to be delivered at a later date. That date was supposed to be this year but due to production delays I’m still waiting for my first 8 Classics figures from Super7. Therefore I almost had no new MOTUC figures to even consider for this list but Super7 did manage to release a couple of exclusive 3-packs late in the summer for the annual MOTU convention, Power-Con. I only ordered one, a set featuring three characters that were developed for the original line but were never released: Terroar, Lord Gra’asp, and Plasmar. They’re all made up of existing parts but they all look great and any one of them could have made this list but Lord Gr’Asp just edged out the competition. He’s got a basic body with Clawful’s claw and Sssqueeze’s head. It’s an odd mix but it’s these weird designs that makes MOTU figures so unique. The paint job is really nice, especially on the claw, and it does a good job of differentiating this guy from Sssqueeze. A reused cape from Scareglow adds just the right amount of gravitas to this weirdo.

7. Raptor, G.I. Joe: For the past 6 years I’ve signed up for the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s Figure Subscription Service where for 6 months you get 2 exclusive figures in the mail. It’s expensive and it’s all or nothing; you can’t pick and choose your favourites. Every year I question whether it’s worth it. I hum and haw for weeks but I always cave when the deadline arrives. In fact I just signed up for FSS 7 last month. The problem is that the figures aren’t always winners. There are a few each year that I don’t really need or want and they make me question whether this is the best way for me to be spending my hard earned dollars. Then a figure like Raptor lands in my mailbox and assures me I made the right choice. Raptor is a very goofy but fan-favourite character originally released in 1987. Joe fans have been clamouring for an updated version for years but considering his unique look he seemed an unlikely candidate to be successfully assembled by the Club using existing parts and, sadly, those are the only Joes we get these days. But in 2017 the Club proved us wrong with this inspired reimagining. This character is still goofy as all hell but i wouldn’t want him any other way.

6. Man-Thing, Marvel Legends: Toy Biz put out a  decent Man-Thing figure in the 90s. And they followed that up with another good one in the mid-2000s. I never had either but always wanted one. Well, I no longer need them because Hasbro’s build-a-figure Man-Thing blows those two older toys out of the swamp. This figure is so gnarly I was willing to buy four $30 figures I didn’t want (and two I did) just so I could assemble him. Man-Thing is one of those weird Marvel characters that I shouldn’t love because he never really does anything but I do. He’s a big lumbering muck monster and this figure captures that perfectly. There isn’t much in the way of paint apps here but the sculpting is very detailed. Every inch of Thingie is covered in vines, weeds, and fungi. His physique is big and lumbering with a hefty hunch which is spot on for the character. The head sculpt is the cherry on top of this mud sundae as the face vines are just the right length and the big red eyes pierce right through you.

5. Super Harley Quinn, DC Designer Series: I like the idea of Harley Quinn but I rarely like the execution. I feel she’s a great looking character with tons of potential but I almost always hate reading her comics and as of this year I can definitively say that I hate seeing her movies too. But since it’s her look that appeals to me more than anything else her crappy portrayals in film and print do not deter me from buying her action figures. I purchased 3 of them this year bringing my total to 7.  I actually had to fight the urge to buy 2 more because I really wanted all 4 Designer Series Quinns based on the artwork of Amanda Connor. Connor is one of my favourite comic artists and she’s at her best when drawing super heroines.  Its crazy that DC Collectibles still hasn’t produced a Powergirl figure based on Amanda’s pencils but hopefully that’s coming. In the meantime I’ll enjoy these renditions of Harley. I passed on Classic Jester and X-Mas Harley and opted for Space Cadet Harley and Super Harley. Both are excellent and do Connor justice but Super wins out because Space Harley’s pigtails are constantly falling out of her head which is really annoying. This figure features a neat blend on Harley’s classic and modern looks. The sculpt is excellent and the paint apps, especially around the eyes, really elevate this figure.

4. Mer-Man, Funko POP!: As I mentioned above I bought every regular release MOTU figure this year. That includes He-Man, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Stratos, Orko, and Evil-Lyn (I haven’t yet acquired the exclusive Man-at-Arms, Faker, Moss-Man, Scareglow, and Trap-Jaw figures but I likely will eventually). These new figures join Spikor and Hordak on my shelf. Each one of them is cheek-pinchingly perfect but none more so than Mer-Man. The King of the Crystal Sea has been my favourite MOTU figure for as long as I can remember, literally. One of my earliest memories involves my dad hunting the original 1982 figure down for me for Christmas. Mer-Man is such a cool character with such a great look I don’t know how he isn’t everyone’s favourite character. The colours really “pop” on this figure so he stands out on the shelf even amongst an army of other brightly hued figures. It’s a little odd that they gave him this spear instead of his trident and I wish he didn’t topple over so easily but I can look past those things because this figure warms my heart.

3. Batwoman, DC Bombshells: Batwoman has become one of my favourite DC characters since she first appeared in 2006. Her book features good story-telling and beautiful artwork more often than not plus she’s a bat character that isn’t bogged down by a half century of continuity. She’s got a great looking costume but unfortunately the only action figure of her that existed prior to 2017, released around the time of her first appearance, sucked. The mask wasn’t right and the hair was just awful. I wanted to add an action figure of her to my collection but I refused to seek that stinker out. 2018 finally promises to bring us an updated version Batwoman in her signature crime-fighting costume but 2017 tided us over with this little gem. DC Bombshells started out as a line of statues showcasing DC heroines presented as 1940s-era pin-up girls. I loved the statues but they were too rich for my blood. The line has since expanded into a comic series, Funko POPs, and action figures. I picked up a few of the figures and sadly I think a lot of the beauty of artist Ant Lucia’s designs gets lost in translation. The figures are generally okay looking but hardly a suitable placeholder for the gorgeous statues. Batwoman is the Bombshell figure that impressed me the most. It’s cool and sexy, it captures the period-piece aesthetic of the statue quite well, and it’s finally a good figure of a character I’ve been wanting for a decade. Fun accessories and a great paint job (the shadow around the eyes could’ve gone horribly wrong) helped to secure this figure a spot on my list.

2. Warlock, Marvel Legends: Holy crap, it’s a Warlock figure. I started collecting comic books at 8 years old during the summer of 1986. In September ’86 Web of Spider-Man annual #2 came out.  Here’s the official synopsis: “Warlock of the New Mutants is on a rampage in New York City! What scientific experiments have driven him over the deep end? What can Spidey do to stop the mayhem?” Warlock is a zany shapeshifting techno-organic alien who refers to himself as “self”. I can imagine that some people find him annoying and maybe I would too had I encountered him later in life. But I was introduced to him just as my young mind was being blown for the first time by the miracle of comics. I will forever love Warlock and even though it took over 30 years I am super stoked about this toy. He was the build-a-figure in a wave of X-Men figures which allowed him to be appropriately tall and even have swappable limbs. The sculpting on this figure is pure perfection, it looks like he stepped right out of the pages of that Web annual. This toy is so rad that he almost secured the number one spot.

1. Trypticon, Transformers: In 2013 and 2014 my then girlfriend, Vanessa, surprised me with such an awesome toy for Christmas that I had to change the number one toy on my list just days before years’ end.  In 2013 it was Hot Toy’s Snake Eyes and in 2014 it was Hot Toys’ Crow. Awesome presents like that lead me to propose to her this year (she said yes!). For Christmas 2017 my now fiancé Vanessa bought me two amazing toys. The first was Hot Toys Storm Shadow which will make an excellent companion piece for my Snake Eyes. He likely would’ve topped my list but due to my rules he can’t be on this list (he was released in 2013, not 2017) however I’ll do a full review of him soon. The other toy she bought me was released in 2017 though and it was a surefire list-topper. Metroplex, the 2 foot tall robot that turns into a city, nabbed my number 5 slot in 2013. But Vanessa’s gift Trypticon, the two foot tall dinosaur that turns into a city, easily takes number one this year because he a god damn dinosaur. Trypticon is an absolute beast of a toy. I have no idea where I’m going to display him. I also don’t know where to even begin talking about this toy. I never owned the original but I always wanted him because he was so big and cool. I have no doubt that this new version dwarfs the original though because the new Metroplex make the original look like a micro machine. Trypticon is 24 inches of ferocious plastic awesomeness. Plus he includes a really cool 6″ sidekick named Full-Tilt which is a great toy all on its own.

DOMINICAN WOOD SHARK

Approximately 2 years ago I went down south for the first time.  I visited Mexico for my best buddy Miguel’s wedding. While I was there I purchased a wood-carved hammerhead shark souvenir which I reviewed on this site. I hadn’t vacationed anywhere since until last month when Vanessa and I, along with Miguel, his wife Ashley, and our pal, Ryan, all spent a week in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

It was an excellent vacation. Other than some excessive rain the first day or two I have nothing to complain about.  The resort was beautiful, the food was delicious, the company was great, and the drinks were constantly flowing. We spent the majority of our time either on the beach or in the pool (I won’t subject you to those pictures) which was extremely relaxing.  A couple of years ago I never would’ve expected such a hot and lazy vacation to be up my alley but there really is something satisfying about having zero plans and never having to take out your wallet.

The only off-resort adventure we went on was an excursion to “Monkey Land” which was a monkey sanctuary crawling with 30+ spider-monkeys.  I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of monkeys.

There wasn’t much in the way of souvenirs for sale on the resort that interested me. There were lots of hats, and t-shirts, and sunglasses…the usual.  There was also loads of mama juana. If you’ve ever been to the Dominican I’m sure you’re familiar with mama juana because it’s frigin’ everywhere. The first time it was offered to me I was certain the guy was trying to sell me weed. It can be purchased as a dried herb or as a drink.

There were also plenty of wood carvings for sale in the various shops and kiosks. I considered buying a wooden car from a fast talking vendor named PJ but then I saw this great white shark and knew I had to get it instead.  I have now officially started a wood shark collection.  Anytime I see one from here on out I will buy it.

I won’t pretend to be a shark expert but this one appears to be a Great White and it seems to be perched on a pile of rocks which is a little strange.  The carving is crude and there is no etching to associate it the Dominican (though PJ offered to do it at an additional cost) but it’s a charming trinket anyway.

I rated the Mexican Shark 10 out of 10 and this shark is clearly less refined so I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.

RAPTOR v.2 (2017)

G. I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE (FSS) 5.0

The 6th and final shipment from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s  FSS 5.0 arrived a couple weeks ago.  The last 2 figures were Raptor and Steel Raven and the surprise 13th figure was G. I Jane.  Jane and Raven are both decent figures but Raptor is probably the highlight of the entire sub this year and maybe one of the best subscription figures to date.

The original Raptor was released in 1987. He was Cobra’s resident falconer and accountant. Obviously. He was a pretty odd looking character even amongst the other weird and wonderful Cobra soldiers.  He was a shirtless dude wearing a bird cowl over his head, with real cloth wings, and a pet falcon that perched on his wrist. My brother Doug owned the original when we were kids.  No later versions of Raptor were ever released so I never got a chance to acquire one for myself. Though I did eventually get my own version 1 Raptor (minus his accessories) courtesy of Eric in the Epic Haul of 2014.

This new version from the Club is the first  Raptor released in 30 years and it was worth the wait. Raptor has a loyal fan base so this was a highly demanded figure that the Club really needed to nail, and honestly, I don’t think they could’ve done any better with this release.  He’s largely made up of re-used parts from 2010’s Zartan version 20. I didn’t buy that figure at the time because I thought it looked like a poor man’s Raptor. I already had a perfectly fine Zartan figure (several of them) and I didn’t feel that I needed one dressed like a hobo and carrying a bird.  I later wished I had bought it so I could display it as Raptor because I knew my chances of ever getting a real modern-era Raptor figure were slim to none and I desperately  wanted to add him to my Cobra ranks.  I never did get Zartan v.20 though because it got rather pricey on the secondary market quite quickly.  I assume it’s because others had the same “pretend this is Raptor” idea as me.

Now I’m glad I never did get that Zartan figure because it makes this figure that much more unique looking in my collection. The head, torso, arms, and upper legs are all the same as Zartan v.20. The only body parts the club swapped out are the lower legs which they replaced with Destro v.22 legs. That Destro had weird claws on his boots for some reason (snow shoeing? rock climbing?) and they are perfect for giving Raptor the talons depicted on his card artwork. Even the original Raptor didn’t have talons like this.  The Zartan hood has been replaced by the bird cowl from the vintage Raptor. A brand new cowl would have been nice but the vintage one still works and it definitely establishes that this is undoubtably Raptor.

For accessories Raptor comes with the bird and staff that Zartan inexplicably had in 2010. The bird even has a removable hood which is awesome though it’s an accessory just screaming to get lost as it sits rather loose. He also has a pistol that can be holstered in his belt and a whistle that hangs around his neck. The pièce de résistance is the re-imagined wing harness. Rather than give us a gimpy piece of cloth like the vintage figure had, the Club has brilliantly re-used the Jungle Viper’s ghillie suit rig.  Seeing the articulated wings on Raptor you’d never know that they weren’t originally intended to be wings.  They remind me of the wings the Vulture wears in Spider-Man comics.  Needless to say, they’re much more threatening than the original’s beach towel.

This is a solid home run from the Club.  10 out of 10.

SALVO v.3 (2017)

G. I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 5.0

Shortly before I moved out of my apartment I received a package from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club containing the two latest subscription figures. Since I was already in the process of boxing up all my belongings the new Joes just got tossed into a box. I didn’t get a chance to open them until I was settled into the new house. So now, nearly a month later, I finally get to enjoy my new Darklon and Salvo.

The original Salvo was released in 1990, the year I quit collecting Joes as a kid. Rampart was the only figure I bought that year. I did think Salvo was neat looking with his bizarre helmet and massive weapons but even as a kid I thought his “The Right of Might” t-shirt was pretty cheesy.  Since I never owned the original I have no real attachment to the character. I didn’t even get version 2 when it was released in 2005 despite the fact that I was back into collecting Joes big time by then. Salvo simply wasn’t on my radar as an essential member of the team.

version 1 (1990) pic from YoJoe.com

Regardless, I was excited to hear that Salvo was slated to be included in the Club’s 5th figure subscription service. I’m happy any time I can add a unique character to my modern-era collection.  My initial excitement quickly dissipated though once the Club revealed their photoshop prototype. Salvo looked like a scrawny little wiener. I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed by the reveal. Joe fans decried the horrible figure on every G.I. Joe site on the internet.  The Club quickly responded to the backlash by promising to go back to the drawing board.  What they came back with was a huge improvement and resulted in the figure you see here today.

Improvements aside, this figure is still far from perfect.   The arms, torso, and upper legs are all reused from a Dwayne Johnson Roadblock figure which makes perfect sense given that Salvo was always drawn as a muscly tough guy in the comics and cartoon. But I wish the Club had reused the entire Roadblock body. Instead they swapped out the lower legs for those of a Channing Tatum Duke.

The lower leg swap results in Salvo having wonky knees that can’t be fully straightened and poorly angled  ankles which make it nearly impossible to keep him standing on his own. The original lower legs would have worked out just fine and made for a much more solid figure. The Club’s poor decision means I have to keep Salvo hunched and backwards on his stand to keep him standing up.Reusing the Hit & Run head from the Club’s 2013 Night Force set was an inspired choice that no one expected. There aren’t many bald heads for the Club to choose from so I think most fans were expecting to see Serpentor’s head (which probably would’ve worked out okay too). The Hit & Run head had painted hair before but there’s no sculpted hairline so it works out perfectly for a bald dude and the variation keeps Salvo from looking like a clone of Hit & Run.

 

As for Salvo’s accessories, I’m okay with the fact that the Club didn’t replicate the original’s ridiculous shoulder-mounted 5 missile rocket launcher or massive mine launcher but I know others were disappointed. The Club still managed to arm him with an oversized shoulder cannon (as seen in the prototype pic above) but it only has one spring loaded missile.  It’s an ugly weapon but Salvo can’t support the thing due to his knee and ankle problems anyway so I chucked it into the extra parts bins never to be seen again. At least he comes with a pistol that he can carry or holster on his leg so he isn’t completely defenceless. Salvo also has a briefcase as the original did, a display stand, and his iconic helmet. I really thought the Club would have to sculpt a new piece in order to recreate this distinctive feature of the original but instead they just reused Sci-Fi’s helmet and it works surprisingly well.

 

The colors on this figure are true to the original and thankfully they’re toned down from the overly bright photoshop mock-up.  The Club even made the right choice of using the 1990 font on his silly t-shirt instead of the stiff text they showed on the mock up.

I wish this figure could stand up straight and hold his weapon but as long as he’s leaning I think he’s pretty cool. I really appreciate the fact that the Club responded to fan feedback and improved this figure before going into production. Had we gotten their first attempt I’d probably give Salvo a 3 or 4 but as is I give this a figure a 7 out of 10.  

HARLEY QUINN (SPACESUIT) 2017

DC DESIGNER SERIES: AMANDA CONNER

I’ve been settled into my new house for a month now. If you saw my last post you know that most of my toys are unpacked and the man-cave is looking great. I don’t know if I’ll start posting reviews on the regular again but I’ve got a little time to kill this evening and I got a cool new figure today so I thought I’d write my first review in the new house.

Harley Quinn first appeared on Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s. I was a fan of the show, and though I didn’t watch it religiously, I liked Harley Quinn right away. She had a fun, court jester style costume which worked really well for her role as a love interest/henchman of the joker. True, she was a little annoying but her outlandish enthusiasm suited her since she was supposed to be absolutely nuts.

Harley was brought into the main DC comics universe in 1999 by way of an original graphic novel. I found the comic book version even better than the animated version.  She wasn’t as goofy and you could read her dialogue free of the annoying animated series voice. Bruce Timm’s animated jester design translated perfectly to the more detailed comic book medium courtesy of top-tier artists like Jim Lee and Terry Dodson. I had wanted to add a Harley Quinn action figure to my collection for many years but the cartoon based ones didn’t fit in with my existing DC crew and I missed out on the comic figure based on Jim Lee’s popular “Hush” storyline. She was a little too pricey for me on the secondary market and for years that Hush figure was the only 6″ Harley Quinn option.  Oh how times have changed.

I finally got my first Harley Quinn figure in 2014. It was based on her “edgy” New 52 redesign. I was happy with the figure at the time and gave it an 8 out of 10. If I were to review that figure today I’d likely give it a 4.  There are far superior options out there now, it constantly falls over, and I just don’t care much for that costume choice. A year later I got a new Harley based on her 2013 roller derby redesign. It was a much better costume which was designed by artist Amanda Conner. I was very pleased with that figure at the time and gave it a 9 out of 10. Nowadays I’d probably bump it down to a 7. The figure had a lot of good attributes, such as removable roller skates, but the weird face and stumpy neck were not among them.

In my review of Derby Harley I mentioned that I’d been hoping for figures based on Amanda Conner’s art for years and it seemed as though that was as close as I was gonna get. Well here we are just a couple of years later and DC Collectibles has offered up a whole series Harley figures based on Conner’s distinctive artwork (I’m still waiting on Power Girl though). I’m so happy to see Conner get her due. I’ve been a big fan of hers since 2002’s “The Pro”. I wish she still drew comics on the regular but it seems like she’s content just doing covers and writing these days.

I eagerly pre-ordered all 4 Conner Harley Quinns when they were offered on BigBadToyStore about a year ago. However, once the initial excitement wore off I calmed down and questioned whether I really needed 4 more Harley Quinns…because I don’t think I even like this character anymore.

 

I have tried on several occasions to read Harley Quinn comics and I just can’t get into them.  They’re stupid. Too stupid for me. I really wanted to like them because of my past affection for the character but I just can’t.  On top of that, the character’s popularity seems to have reached a critical mass and she has completely saturated the market. She’s everywhere.  But the straw that finally broke the Harley camel’s back was that goddamn turd of a Suicide Squad movie. After that I was done.  I cancelled my figure pre-orders.

Harley hate aside, I still love Amanda Conner so I told myself I’d let myself pick up 1 of the 4 figures once I saw them in store and decided on a favourite. They recently hit stores in my area and the winner was spacesuit Harley. This figure is based on a specific storyline (as are the other figures in this series) which I did not read. The entire body design is faithful to Conner’s artwork but the Conner-ness is most evident in the face. She draws such beautiful and expressive faces so this is where the sculptors really needed to nail it and I think they were successful. This type of facial sculpting is what was sorely lacking on the derby figure. The wide eyes, exuberant smile, and flowing hair all do Conner justice and the delicate paint apps seal the deal.

This figure has a vibrant paint job, plenty of articulation, and fun accessories. She comes with a display base, removable space helmet, a cork space rife with a stretchy phone-cord like rope, and some sort of evil space pizza. The pizza doesn’t mean much to me but I’m sure somebody out there will appreciate it. This figure has mended enough of the damage done by Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad that I may even allow myself to buy one more from this series. I may not feel this way forever but, as of right now, this is the Harley Quinn figure I’ve been waiting for. 10 out of 10.

MANCAVE RELOADED

I realize I’ve been pretty slack on the blogging lately so I apologize to my regular readers for the lack of content. As per usual, the dry spell isn’t due to a lack of cool new action figures, I’ve been adding to my collection weekly, it’s more a result of me being busy and lazy. The busiest thing I’ve been up to since you last heard from me was buying a house.  Big time grown up stuff.

Vanessa and I bought our first home in the neighbourhood I grew up in. I was a little reluctant to move back to the home town but it’s a pretty sweet house and it’s kind of nice to be around the corner from my folks. We’ve been here for about three weeks and I’m finally unpacked enough that I feel comfortable sharing some pics with you.

The home is a split entry and Vanessa has granted me free reign to decorate the downstairs however I please. The lower floor consists of a large den/wreck room, a bathroom, garage, storage areas, and one bedroom. I would’ve loved to fill the den with toys but our cat, Buster, can’t be trusted not to chew on things sitting on open shelves. Therefore, I had to cram almost all of my figures into the one bedroom.  It’s a little more space than I had in my last apartment but still not nearly enough to display all of my collectibles. I managed to unbox quite a bit of stuff but I still have multiple tote bins that will have to stay in storage.

In the den I have a couple of bookcases full of graphic novels and 6 plexi-glass cases of figures mounted to the wall (safe from Buster).  I plan to hang most of my nerdy art in that room as well to make it feel like my own but I haven’t done that yet. I’m still very nervous about putting holes in the walls of my new house. In my apartment I used the plexi cases to display my 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe figures. This time around I’ve opted for more variety: only one Marvel case, one Star Wars, one Gundam, one 200-era G.I. Joe, and a couple miscellaneous. 

The true man-cave/bedroom features shelving units for both modern-era Joes and Cobras. Two Transformer bookcases,  two shelves for POPs, two 3-shelf units for Masters of the Universe, one for Marvel Legends, and one for DC. I’ve got my Ninja Turtles and 6″ Star Wars Black Series figures on a couple little cases and I installed a couple of floating shelves for my Vitruvian Hacks.

Lastly I mounted three small plexi-cases of Battle Beasts then pinned a bunch of carded figures to the wall to create a boarder just like I did in the apartment. It’s coming together quite well and I’m pretty happy with the results. Tweaks will be coming over the next few months but for now the man-cave is born anew. Enjoy.

COBRA VIPER v.29 (2017)

joe-viper-v29-fullG.I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE (FSS) 5.0

When the 3 3/4″ G.I. Joe toyline launched in 1982 there were 2 bad guys available in stores, the standard Cobra Trooper and the Cobra Officer. Those guys served as Cobra’s basic infantry.  All of the troopers that followed the next few years were specialized soldiers like frogmen and arctic troopers. In 1986 Cobra’s basic infantry got an upgrade with the release of the Cobra Viper. The original Viper design was awesome and iconic. Repainted versions of the figure were released in 1989 and 1990. In 1994, the final year of the original toyline, a 4th version of the Viper was released. V.4 featured a complete redesign made up of entirely new parts. It lacked the Viper’s trademark faceplate but overall the new mold wasn’t bad. The problem with the figure was the paint job. Cobra’s signature blue and reds were replaced with an over abundance of purple and rosy orange highlights. yuck.

1994 Viper

1994 Viper

When Joe figures returned to store shelves in the late 90s/early 2000s the Viper reappeared again but Hasbro wisely went back to the original ’86 mold. Since 1997 more than 20 variations of the original Viper design have been released but Hasbro has never revisited the 1994 design.

However, the Collector’s Club saw the potential in the mold and released the ’94 figure with a slick black, red, and gold paint job in 2005 as part of their exclusive convention set. The Club named their new creation Iron Anvil, a trooper in Destro’s Iron Grenadier army. 10 years later the Club updated the Iron Anvil in the modern figure style for their 2015 box set. The Club invested cash to sculpt a modern era head featuring Iron Anvil’s recognizable breather mask. Fans speculated that it wouldn’t be long before the Club reused the head to create a modern era Viper v.4 to get the most bang for their buck.  Sure enough the Club announced that the ’94 Viper would be updated in their next FSS.

joe-viper-v29-back

My first FSS 5.0 shipment arrived last Friday. It contained Charbroil and this Viper. I didn’t think I would like this figure but to my surprise I actually think it’s pretty cool. His body, with the exception of the arms, originally belonged to 2010’s Jungle Viper. The Club already used it to great effect for their box-set Air-Devil last year and it works well here too. It’s not completely faithful to the 1994 design but I think it’s an improvement. The ’94 boots were too high and the shoulder pads are pretty dated. I’m not sure where these arms came from off the top of my head but they work really well with the body. I loved this updated head design on 2015’s Iron Anvils and it still looks very sharp even in purple. This Viper sports the same garish colors as the 1994 figure but they don’t look as bad as I expected. I think the purple is a little duller which helps.joe-viper-v29-face

For accessories Viper comes with a display base, a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol that can be holstered on his ankle, and a knife/sword that can be stored on his back. I don’t love any of the weapons but they’re not bad. Once again the Club has changed my mind about a figure I wasn’t excited about. 8 out of 10.joe-viper-v29-compare

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention, this figure has the worst G.I. Joe card art I’ve ever seen. WTF is going on with this dude?joe-viper-v29-carded

SPIDER UK (2017)

marvl-spider-uk-fullMARVEL LEGENDS

For my birthday last week my brother Doug bought me Ms. Marvel and Spider UK from the latest wave of Marvel Legends. Each of them came with a piece of a build-a-figure Sandman so, between them and the Shocker, Green Goblin and Spider-Man 2099 I recently purchased for myself, I’m only one leg away from a completed Flint Marko. That means I’ll be on the lookout for the Jackal, which is not a figure I would have bought otherwise but, since I need it to complete Sandman Hasbro is gonna get another thirty bucks out of me. Damn them and their clever ploys.

After acquiring 2099 and Shocker I was tempted to skip the rest of this wave. I love the Green Goblin as a character but I don’t like the new Legends figure, I know nothing of Ms. Marvel and I’m not interested in learning, I never liked the Jackal because he looks idiotic, Symbiote Spider-Man is rather bland and I’ve bought multiple variations of it in the past, and Spider UK is arguably  just another Spider-Man figure.marvl-spider-uk-back

However, when it comes to action figures my resolve is weak. I caved on Goblin right away because it’s likely the only Goblin we’ll get for the foreseeable future. It’s really only the face I don’t like and it may grow on me in time. When Doug asked what I wanted for my b-day I informed him that Ms. Marvel would be  suitable choice. It saved me from spending my own money on her and prevented me from missing out on her entirely. She seems to be a popular character these days so I was worried if I didn’t get her now she may be hard to find later. It was less about her and more about the crucial Sandman piece she came with (the torso). I also told him Spider UK would make a decent gift. He’s a good dude so he got me both of them.

If Spider Uk was just Peter Parker in a fancy outfit for adventures abroad I would not have wanted it. But Spider UK is actually a completely different character.  He comes from an alternate universe much like Spider-Gwen or Spider-Man 2099. His name is Billy Braddock and he’s a member of the multi-verse spanning Captain Britain Corps. Really he’s as much Captain Britain as he is Spider-Man. He supposedly has the powers of both men (minus Peter’s spider sense) which would mean he has superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, reflexes, and the ability to fly at supersonic speeds.

marvl-spider-uk-art

In 2014 there was a storyline published by Marvel Comics called Spider-Verse which saw the Spider-Men (and women) from every alternate reality team-up to battle against a group of vampire-like villains called the Inheritors. That was the storyline that introduced a bunch of new Spider-Man variations including Billy here. He was the leader of the group of misfit spider people until the one-true Spider-Man took charge. The group proved popular enough to get their own series called Web Warriors after Spider-Verse ended.  Sadly the book sucked so it was cancelled after only one year.

To the untrained eye this might look like just another Spider-Man figure but there a few key difference which set him apart.  When compared to the default Peter Parker: Spider-Man Marvel Legends action figure you’ll notice that UK is quite a bit buffer.  I believe this is a brand new body sculpt and it’s a great base for future tough guys.  Clearly Billy hits the gym more than Peter does. Also of note, the blue and red are darker shades, the web pattern is different, UK has smaller eyes, lacks red gloves and boots, has no spider emblem on his chest, and features a Union Jack pattern in his costume akin to Captain Britain. I wish he had a more CB like helmet as opposed to a standard Spidey mask to further differentiate him but there are enough differences regardless that I don’t feel like I’ve been duped into buying the same toy over again.marvl-spider-uk-britain

I probably shouldn’t like this figure as much as I do because it is so similar to the dozens of other Spider-Man toys I have but knowing there’s a unique character under the mask makes him much cooler than he would be if this were just an alternate costume.  If I were a kid I would want to play out the Spider-Verse storyline and this figure would be essential. This is a solid figure with crisp paint apps and plenty of articulation. 8 out of 10.

p.s. I apologize for the extra crappy photos today. My camera refused to agree with me.

Spider-Man size comparison

Spider-Man size comparison

SIXSHOT (2017)

tf-sixshot-fullTRANSFORMERS: TITANS RETURN

Last week I turned 39. I’ve gotten old and some days it really feels that way. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still get excited about opening new toys on my birthday. My brother Doug got me a couple of Marvel Legends and Vanessa got me Sixshot (along with a bunch of other stuff…I’m spoiled).

The original Sixshot toy was released in 1987. I never had it because I was already losing interest in Transformers by that time. I grew very attached to the characters that starred in the first couple years of the comics and cartoons like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. After many of those characters were unceremoniously killed off in the 1986 animated Transformers movie I had a hard time getting excited about their replacements. Doug and I quit collecting the Marvel comic and we stopped watching the cartoon. We got a few toys of the new characters introduced in the movie but we didn’t get any toys of characters introduced in the two subsequent seasons of the show that followed the movie.  Sixshot appeared briefly in the cartoon after we stopped watching.  Apparently he was heavily featured in the Japanese cartoon that carried on the Transformers’ story after the show was cancelled in America. I bought those Japanese cartoons on DVD a couple years ago but never got around to watching them (with the exception of the episode that featured the Battle Beasts) because they were subtitled. Maybe I’ll attempt to watch one after posting this…tf-sixshot-back

Sixshot was unique because he was the first six-changer with six distinct modes: robot, tank, spaceship, laser gun, off-road vehicle, and wolf. Prior to him the most complex bots were triple-changers like Blitzwing and Astrotrain.

Sixshot made appearances in the Marvel and Dreawwave Transformers comics but he never did anything that left an impression on me. That isn’t surprising because characterization wasn’t Marvel’s strong suit (as far as Transformers were concerned) and Dreamwave didn’t hold the license very long. Since 2005 the Transformers comic license has been held by IDW and they have produced some amazing comic books. They’ve been able to infuse so much character into these robots that many have gone from obscure toys nobody remembered to beloved fan favourite characters.

Sixshot has appeared in a number of IDW comics, including his own spotlight issue published in 2006, but I don’t feel that he’s truly received the “IDW treatment”.tf-sixshot-comic

IDW’s comics have improved so much since those first few years so I’d like to see Sixshot return for a more character-driven story. He’s a badass that turns into six things but other than that he’s still basically a blank slate. Since I didn’t grow up playing with him, and because he hasn’t been properly IDW’ed, I don’t have any attachment to this character. That’s why I was willing to leave this toy behind when I saw it at Walmart a couple of weeks ago. I had been looking high and low for the new Titans Return branded Megatron when I stumbled across Sixshot. He looked really cool but I couldn’t justify spending $60 on him. Maybe if he was a character I loved (I’ve paid much more than $60 for certain Transformers) or if there was something amazing about him I could have justified it. The fact that he transformers into six things doesn’t qualify as amazing in my book because I never transform my toys out of their robot modes anyway.  If anything, six modes is a detriment to the toy because it means the designers have to cram a bunch of stuff into it that will likely hurt the aesthetic or hinder the articulation. I hated to leave him behind though because I know all it would take is one excellent issue of the comic to make Sixshot a must-have toy. Thankfully Vanessa saved me from my conundrum by throwing him in the cart and declaring him a birthday present. She gave him to me on my actual birthday a few days later.

pics borrowed from TFwiki.net

pics borrowed from TFwiki.net

Sixshot is a “LeaderClass” toy so that means he stands about 10 inches tall; taller than most Transformers on my shelf. He’s bulky and has a good weight to him.  He’s got wide feet and his weight is evenly distributed so he stands firm and solid. Design-wise he looks great. He’s got a blocky form that is very faithful to the original toy and animated appearance. He has a faceplate so it should be hard to convey emotion but Sixshot looks suitably pissed off with his angular red eyes (see pic below). I’ve never held the original toy but apparently the only articulation it had in robot mode was at its shoulders. In that regard this figure is a marked improvement as it has articulation at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and feet. However I do find that if I mess around with his legs too much he tends to get wobbly so mine will be displayed quite statically.

tf-sixshot-head

This Sixshot was released as a “Titans Return” figure which means he’s a Titan Master. When I was a kid they were called Headmasters.  The concept is that their heads transform into even smaller robots. I thought it was a dumb idea then and I still do. Targetmasters were okay, their guns turned into robots and that felt like added value because you’re getting two characters for the price of one, but in the case of headmasters what am I supposed to do with this guy’s body once I take his head off? (I know, turn it into a car but I don’t care about vehicle modes). Sixshot’s head turns into a character named Revolver which has no articulation or paint apps and is completely pointless. Sixshot’s other accessories are two wimpy looking pipes that are supposed to be “hypersonic concussion blasters”. Meh.

Overall this is a good figure with a cool design and an attractive color scheme that separates him from the pack. But silly gimmicks, bad accessories, a high price tag, and poor quality control (the left wrist on mine doesn’t stay in place and hangs limply) drag it down a couple notches.  7 out of 10.tf-sixshot-pose