EAGALUS (2015)

Goth Eagalus full2GOTHITROPOLIS

I’ve talked about the Four Horsemen before  but it’s been a while ago so allow me to recap.  The Four Horsemen are Jim Preziosi, Eric Treadway, H. Eric Mayse and Christopher Dahlberg.  They’re toy sculptors who met while employed at McFarlane Toys in the 1990s.  McFarlane Toys is a company created by Todd McFarlane because he wanted control over how toys based on his comic “Spawn” were made.  Todd and his company changed the game by designing toys with adult collectors in mind.  I was often dismayed by how stiff many of the figures were, some of them were essentially statues, but there was no denying that they looked better than anything else on the market at the time (check out this beauty); a big reason for that was the work of the Horsemen.  Todd wasn’t shy about giving the artists who designed the toys credit for their work.  He would praise the individual artists in the pages of his comics and he even credited them on the toys’ packaging.  He made the Horsemen into toy sculpting rock stars.  I was sad to learn they were leaving McFarlane in ’99 to go off on their own but I was excited by what they were gonna do next.Goth-Eagalus carded

Their first big gig after leaving McFarlane was redesigning the Masters of the Universe (MOTU) characters for the 2002 relaunch of the popular 80s toyline.  Their updated versions of He-Man and company were much more detailed and dynamic (with a distinct anime influence) than their vintage counterparts.  I loved their 2002 MOTU line because it combined the top-notch sculpting  collectors had come to expect from them with the bright colors and play features that kids love.  Their 2002 Kobra Khan was the  very first figure I reviewed on this blog.

 

Sadly the 2002 MOTU line fizzled out after a couple of years but the Horsemen continued to work with Mattel on their DC and Harry Potter lines.  Simultaneously the Horsemen began acquiring licenses and producing toys of established properties like the Outer Space Men as well as producing their own original toylines such as The Seventh Kingdom.  Seventh Kingdom were highly detailed 6″ figures geared towards the collector’s market akin to what they had produced with McFarlane Toys in the 90s.

Goth-Eagalus cardback

I really liked the look of the Seventh Kingdom figures but I had moved away from collecting darker, super-detailed, McFarlane-style toys by then. G.I. Joe and Transformers had been revived at that point and most of my collecting dollars were going towards them.  Besides that, the Seventh Kingdom figures were hard to get.  They were only available on the Horsemen’s website and for very limited periods of time.  There was next to no marketing for the line so you really had to be in the know as to when new figures were going up for sale.

In hindsight I wish I had paid closer attention to the line and picked up a few when I had the chance.  Each wave of the Seventh Kingdom features a group of animal warriors, kind of like over sized Battle Beasts.  The first wave released in 2006 was made up of 7 cow warriors.  They more or less all had the same body but had different heads and paint jobs to differentiate them.

Goth-Eagalus back

 

 

Perhaps the fact that they went with all cows for wave 1 is another reason I didn’t put much effort into seeking out the Seventh Kingdom figures.  The sculpts and paint jobs were great but cows don’t exactly make for the coolest animal warriors.

Wave 2 featured elephants, wave 3 jungle cats, and wave 4 goats.  They snuck a rhino and a hippo into the elephant wave and those are the 2 figures I most wish I had.  I’m unlikely to get them now though as my only option is the secondary market and most of them sell for $100+ on ebay.Goth-Eagalus proto face

 

Last year I heard that the Horsemen were using the crowd-funding site kickstarter to finance their latest wave of figures.  The line was called Gothitropolis but it was completely compatible with, and essentially a continuation of, the Seventh Kingdom line.  This time around it was birds.  The initial figure was a raven warrior but as the campaign grew the Horsemen continued to add variant figures to the line.  The added figures featured repainted raven bodies with brand new heads to represent different species of birds.  The kickstarter was a huge success and the Horsemen ended up committing to 13 different Gothitropolis figures after raising over $300,000.  I missed out on the kickstarter unfortunately and 11 of the figures sold out lightening fast when the Horsemen put remaining stock up for pre-order on their website for non-kickstarter supporters.  Luckily I managed to place pre-orders for 2 figures before they completely sold out.  It took a couple of months for them to show up but a couple of days ago Cardinus the Cardinal Warrior and Eaglus the American Eagle Warrior arrived in the mail.Goth-Eagalus loincloth

Now that I have them in hand I really wish I had acted sooner and bought the whole set because these figures are amazing.  From the neck down they share the exact same sculpt but the paint jobs are so different that you would never realize it.  Both are wearing high collared gladiator style armour that covers their full torso as well as a loin cloth, bracelets, and knee-to-shin armour.  The armour has a ton of sculpted details such as small wings on the back, a phoenix emblem on the chest, and jewels and rivets everywhere.  Every time I look it over I find something else.  The leg armour is very cool with a plated design.  The arms and legs feature exposed feathered skin which is also very detailed.  Every centimetre of these figures is impressive.  For accessories each bird came with a long spear with a spiked ball on the end and a belt that is loaded with intricate treasures.  They even came with 2 pairs of alternate feet/talons so you can display them flat-footed, with open attack mode feet, or with clenched perching feet.

Goth-Eagalus wings

From here on out I’ll focus on Eagalus’ unique features.  His feathers are realistically painted black and brown and his feet are yellow. His armour is painted red, white, and blue and it looks fantastic.  Its just screams USA.  It’s a shame Stephen Colbert retired before getting a chance to place one of these on his desk.  The head is totally awesome and quite realistic.  The mouth is open wide as if he’s bellowing a patriotic battle cry.  The beak, the eyes, and the inner mouth all feature multiple paint applications and the white feathers have a grey paint wash which adds some texture.  You can tell the Horsemen didn’t cut any corners on this figure.Goth-Eagalus leg

Eagalus’ most unique feature is his cape.  None of the other Gothitropolus figures have this accessory.  Its  a large cloth cape made of a tattered almost American flag.  The stars and stripes are present but instead of a blue box in the corner the blue area is shaped like a screaming eagle’s head.  It took me a while to get the cape to sit around his neck properly but now that it’s in place it looks epic.  This toy is phenomenal and an early front runner to be named my toy of the year for 2015.  10 out of 10.

Goth-Eagalus feet

 

 

 

I almost forgot to mention the packaging.  12 of the Gothitroplis figures feature black and purple “gothic” packaging but Eagalus came on a very patriotic red, white, and blue blister card with a small bio on the back.  Best of all the packages are designed in such a way that the figures can be resealed after they’ve been opened.

Goth-Eagalus pair

 

LANDO CALRISSIAN (1997)

SW-Lando fullSTAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE

When it first dawned on me that I should do a Black History Month theme this month the first figure I thought to review was Lando Calrissian.  I put it off for a few days because I didn’t feeling like dragging out my bin of Star Wars toys but today is the day.

Lando is definitely one my favorite black characters in pop culture.  He first appeared in the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, in 1980 and returned for the final instalment of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi, in 1983.  I saw all 3 Star Wars movies in the theatre somehow.  I’m not sure if this was commonplace but I believe my local theatre re-released the original in the lead up to Empire’s release.  I don’t remember the trips to the theatre because I was like 2 or 3 years old at the time but I know it happened because my brother Doug and I spoke of it often.  He’s 2 years older than me so his memories from those days are a bit better than my own.   My point is that I’ve been a fan of Lando Calrissian for longer than I can even remember.SW-Lando empire

The actor who portrayed Lando was Billy Dee Williams.  He was fantastic in that role and I bet he’d have been stellar in most any role but I have seen him do little else.  I can recall small roles in the first Batman movie and the Ladies’ Man and more recently I saw him play himself in an episode of Modern Family but thats about it.  For that reason it’s very hard for me to look at Billy Dee and not see Lando Calrissian.  Mr. Williams came to my little town of Halifax a while back as a guest panellist at our local sci-fi/comic convention, Hal-Con.  I talked a bit about the convention in my review of  Snake Mountain which I picked up on the sales floor that year.  I wish I could tell you that Billy Dee was as smooth a talker as Lando with a bunch of great behind the scenes stories from the set but Billy seemed a little slow.  If you happened to catch him on Dancing With the Stars then you know what I’m talking about.  The moderator really had to pull answers out of him. Mind you, he was about 75 years old at the time so we have to cut him some slack.  Though at one point he did allude to hooking up with Princess Leia which was kind of funny.SW-Lando halcon

When I planned to write about a Lando figure I thought I would either review him in his iconic blue shirt and cape  from Empire or his Skiff Guard disguise from Jedi.  But as I was digging through my Star Wars bin trying to find those two I came across this figure.  I forgot all about this one.  This is Lando in an outfit he wore while hanging out at the rebel base and then attacking the Deathstar in Return of the Jedi.SW-Lando jedi

 

It’s not as instantly recognizable as the other outfits but it’s pretty cool.  This is Lando after he was made a General in the Rebel Alliance so the whole outfit is just classier than his Empire garb.  He still has a spiffy cape but its less “pimpy” than the blue one.

SW-Lando back

 

As for the figure itself, it’s fine for what it is.  I’m not a big fan of the “Power of the Force” figures of the late 90s in general.  They were more screen accurate than the vintage 80s toys but they still didn’t look great and in retrospect they don’t even have the fun “camp” factor of the originals.  This figure has 6 points of articulation (hips, shoulders, waist, and head) which is one more than the vintage figures (they didn’t swivel at the waist).  I really wish that Hasbro had given these guys some knee and elbow joints seeing as they had pulled it off with G.I. Joes 2 decades earlier.  Maybe the limited articulation was meant as an homage to the originals but to me it just seemed cheap and lazy.  His torso is too thick and his legs are a bit short but not horribly so.

SW-Lando faceThe thing I like least about this figure is the wide stance.  I’m not a fan of pre-posed figures.  I’d prefer the figure have enough articulation for me to pose him however I choose but if you’re gonna make him rigid than at least put him in a neutral position.  Hasbro really got carried away with the action poses when they were making figures for the prequels and that’s a big reason I  lost interest in collecting them.

On the plus side  the sculpt is pretty good (proportion issues aside).  I like that they sculpted so many wrinkles into his pants and jacket and the face sculpt is quite a good likeness to Billy Dee.  I also like the paint job.  The colors look good together and there are some nice painted details such as the badge on his chest and the bracelet on his wrist.

For accessories Lando has a flexible rubber cape and a blaster which I did not feel like hunting for.  This figure is totally fine as a child’s plaything but as a collector I’d like something more.  6 out of 10

 

 

ICEBERG (KRE-O)

Kreo-Iceberg fullG. I. JOE: KRE-O

Today I have a quick little review for you.  Why quick?  Because I have very little to say about this figure.  But not because it’s bad; its actually pretty great.

I love these G.I. Joe block figures and have sung their praises many times in past reviews of Tripwire, Tele-Viper, Mutt, and others. However, they all share the same body construction so there isn’t much more I can say about the design.  Where these figures really shine as individuals is in the paint jobs and accessories.

Iceberg has an awesome paint job.  All the sculpted detail of the original 1986 Iceberg figure have been accurately recreated with paint.  He’s got his powder blue vest, furry cuffs on his gloves and boots, the holstered gun on his chest, and even the red patch on his sleeve. I also like the smirk on his face.Kreo-Iceberg-ski

Hasbro is pretty crafty about recreating all the classic Joes’ signature weapons while using pre-existing pieces.  The ’86 Iceberg only came with one large white rifle but  Hasbro still managed to show some of their ingenuity with this figure.  Kre-O Iceberg has the large (ridiculously so) white gun but he also has a pair of skies (previously included with Snow Job), a removable fur collar (which is actually just the Snow Serpent’s vest reversed) and a pair of removable goggles (previously included with multiple figures).   Now Iceberg can wear his goggles up on his helmet (which was the original figure’s only option since they were sculpted as part of his helmet) or down over his eyes where they would actually be useful.

Kreo-Iceberg jump

 

The other reason this review will be short is because I previously reviewed the 1986 Iceberg as well as the 2011 abomination produced by the Collector’s Club.  In those reviews I exhausted any Iceberg stories I may have had.

So in closing, this is another great Kreon and another great black action figure.  Stay tuned for more Black History Month reviews.  8 out of 10.

Snow Buddies

Snow Buddies

B. A. BARACUS (1983)

Ateam-BA fullTHE A-TEAM

Black History Month continues with another African American toy review.  Thus far we’ve taken a look at Netossa from Masters of the Universe, Rip Cord from G.I. Joe, Thunderball from the Marvel Universe, and “The Natural” Butch Reed from WCW/WWF.  Well I’ve got a great one for you today, the pop culture icon known as Mr. T.

Technically this figure is of B.A. (Bad Attitude) Baracus, a character Mr. T played on the A-Team, but the character and the man are so intertwined in my brain  that I don’t really see any distinction between the two.  Mr. T was one of my first black role models along with Lando Calrissian from Star Wars (Gordon from Sesame Street may have edged them out by a year or two).  I’m actually not sure if I was first exposed to Mr. T on the A-Team which ran from 1983 to 1987 or from his role as Clubber Lang in Rocky III which came out in 1982.  Most likely the A-Team as it was more kid-friendly but I know I saw Rocky III when I was quite young; it was the first film of the series that I saw and I’ve been a devoted fan ever since.  Mr. T was awesome in both roles.  It was cool seeing him play both a hero and a villain.  I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it showed he had range but you don’t see many  actors playing such opposite ends of the spectrum very often.Ateam-BA Mrt

The role of Clubber gave us the classic catchphrase “I pity the fool” and hinted at Mr. T’s unique fashion sense but it was the role of B.A. where I feel we got to know the real Mr. T.  He was still a scary dude but he was kind and funny too.    He wore his trademark gold chains (and rings and bracelets) which is something he’s done in real life since his days as a bouncer.

The same year the A-Team debuted Mr. T also starred as himself  in a Saturday morning cartoon that had him solving mysteries with a bunch of kids.  It made sense to me at the time but when I watch the Mike Tyson cartoon that’s around nowadays I realize how goofy a premise it was.  I don’t remember the cartoon very well but I do remember that I loved the Mr. T cereal that featured his animated self on the box.  It was basically Cap’n Crunch in the shape of a “T”.Ateam-BA cereal

To be honest I don’t remember the A-Team all that well either.  I watched it religiously back then but I was 5 or 6 years old and that was a long time ago.  I’ve never bothered to revisit the show even when it came out on DVD.   I did watch the 2010 movie but that was pretty damn weak and made me want to re-watch the old TV show even less.  I’d rather remember it as being good.  A couple of things that I do remember about B.A. from the show is that he had an intense fear of flying and that he was a skilled mechanic.Ateam-BA back

When I was a kid I owned this B.A. figure which stands about 5″ tall.  My brother Doug owned Hannibal, the leader of the group, from the same line but we never got Face or Murdock.  It always bothered me that we only had 2 of the 4.  At least Doug owned the whole team in the smaller 3 3/4″ scale.

This figure is articulated at the knees, hips, waist, shoulders and neck.  it’s a little odd that he has knee joints and not elbow joints but I think that might have been because you could buy their van and the knee joints were necessary so he could sit down.  The sculpting on this figure is really impressive.  The face looks fairly true to life, the hair is textured, the socks are ribbed, and the necklaces have lots of little details.  The paint work is also quite nice with a good mix of colors.  I especially like the metallic gold used on the jewellery.

Since B.A. was the mechanic this figure came with a tool box that contained a bunch of tools like a saw, a wrench, pliers, etc.  I think he also came with a gun but I lost mine long ago.  The latch on my tool kit is broken but I do still have the kit and tools that I owned as a kid.  However, I actually didn’t hold onto my B.A. figure.  I’m not sure what happened to him but he probably fell victim to a yard sale in the early 90s.

Ateam-BA toolsFortunately, when a wave of A-Team nostalgia struck me a few years back I was able to acquire the whole gang relatively cheap on ebay.  It was a pretty nice feeling to finally assemble the whole 5″ team since its something I’d wanted to do since I was 5 years old.

It’s also a nice feeling to finally review this figure.  I selected Mr. T to appear on my blog banner way back when because this is such an interesting and unique figure in my collection.  It’s crazy that I hadn’t gotten around to writing his review until just now, more than 3 years in.  9 out of 10.Ateam-BA team

 

“THE NATURAL” BUTCH REED

WCW-Butch fullWCW WRESTLING

Black History Month rolls on and I have another black action figure review for you.  Today I’m taking a look at Butch Reed.

Butch Reed made his debut in the WWF in 1986.  It was shortly after that when I became familiar with him.  I don’t remember his debut as I was just getting into WWF wresting around that time. He was already an established presence when I started watching.  He fought and defeated “The Birdman” Koko B. Ware at the legendary Wrestlemania III where Hulk Hogan slammed Andre the Giant.  Apparently he went on to have memorable feuds with Tito Santana and Don “The Rock” Muraco.  I remember all the fighters but the details of the match-ups are pretty blurry to me now; I would’ve been 8 or 9 when all this was going down.  The main thing I recall about “The Natural” Butch Reed is his blonde hair.  One of the reasons I don’t remember much about him may be because his stint in the WWF was quite short; he left shortly after Wrestlemania IV in 1988.  WWF was the only wrestling promotion I cared about so when he left the organization he may as well of fallen of the face of the Earth as far as I was concerned.WCW-Butch photo

I was aware of the WCW and knew who the stars of that federation were, mostly by way of generic wrestling magazines, but I never watched it.  I knew that Butch signed with them after his WWF departure but I knew next to nothing about the path his career took.  It was actually pretty interesting to read his wikipedia page in preparation for this review and to learn about what came after the WWF and even more so what came before.WCW-Butch Pillman

 

 

From ’83 to ’86 he fought in an organization called Mid-Soutch Wrestling where he fought under the name Hacksaw.  The Nickname put him at odds with Jim Duggan, the other Hacksaw.  Mr. Duggan is the only Hacksaw I was ever familiar with because he carried that nickname with him when he entered the WWF some years later whereas Butch made the change to “The Natural”.  I only ever knew Reed as a bad guy (or “heel” in wrestling jargon) so its neat to  learn that he started out as a good guy (also known as a “face”) and the tag-team partner of the Junk Yard Dog.  After Reed became a heel in Mid-South he took on a new partner, Jim Neidhart, I guy I know as “the Anvil” from WWF.   Reed later switched back to being a face and had feuds with baddies like Ted Dibiase and Kamala.

Loved these trading cards when I was a kid.  Had the whole set.

Loved these trading cards when I was a kid. Had the whole set.

After WWF he fought in WCW as part of a masked tag-team known as DOOM along with Ron Simmons. He and Simmons were eventually unmasked and ended up feuding with each other.  Thing have been relatively quiet for Reed since he left WCW in 1992.  though he’s fought for smaller regional promotions here and there.  The best thing I learned from his wiki page is that he’s still alive.  So many wrestlers from my childhood have passed away so it’s nice to check in on a guy like this who I haven’t give much thought to for the past few decades and find out he’s alive and well.

As kids I, along with my brother Doug, managed to collect nearly the complete collection of LJN’s big rubber WWF wrestling figures.  We loved those things.  Unfortunately they never made a Butch Reed.  However, I had a double of Koko B. Ware and so I painted the double’s hair blonde and used it as Reed.  I’m not sure why I had a double of the Birdman but I may have acquied it specifically to create a custom Butch Reed…I can’t recall for sure.WCW-Butch slam

After LJN lost the WWF license Hasbro began putting out smaller articulated WWF figures which I didn’t like nearly as much as the big solid rubber ones.  Meanwhile, Galoob began releasing WCW figures right around the same time.  Galoob’s figures were solid unarticulated pieces much like the LJN figures but they were smaller and more-or-less to scale with Hasbro’s figures.  I wasn’t interested in the WCW characters who had never fought in the WWF, like Sting and the Steiner Brothers, but I was happy that Galoob finally provided me with a real Butch Reed figure.

Since this figure is of plain ol’ WCW Butch Reed, and not WWF’s “Natural” Butch Reed it doesn’t have the trademark blonde hair, but hair color aside this is a great figure.

The sculpts on the WCW figures were ahead of their time.  The likenesses are very good and the proportions are far superior to those found on the goofy Hasbro figures.  Butch’s hair is textured, he’s got veins sculpted into his arms, and his Nike sneakers have loads of nice details.

The key to a great unarticulated wrestling figure is the pose and Butch has a great one.  His arms are up and curved which is perfect for body slams, pile drivers, clotheslines, and a bunch of other essential moves.  I also like that he has one open hand and one closed fist as that allows for more possibilities as well.  Of the 3 WCW figures I have (I also have Lex Luger and Brian Pillman) Butch is my least favorite character but my favorite toy because of his great pose.  8 out of 10.

WCW-Butch compare

THUNDERBALL

Marv-Thunderball fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

I got some great new toys in this week including my second shipment from the G.I.Joe figure subscription service but before I delve into those reviews I’m gonna keep my black history month theme going here with a review of Thunderball.

Thunderball is a Marvel comics villain who’s been around since 1974. He’s a member of the Wrecking Crew along with Bulldozer and Piledriver and led by the Wrecker. The Wrecking Crew are primarily Thor and Avengers villains but I see them more as villains of the Marvel Universe in general. They pop up everywhere. Every time there’s a gang war or a villainous gathering of any sort the Wrecking Crew are there. Often times they’re just background characters used to pad group shots on splash pages. This figure, which is part of Hasbro’s 3 ¾” Marvel Universe line, was packaged in a Secret Wars themed 2-pack along with Spider-Man. 1984’s Secret Wars was one of the first company-wide comic book crossover events which are so common nowadays. Practically all of Marvel’s heroes and villains were thrown together by a cosmic being and forced to fight on an alien Battle World. It was the perfect place for the Wrecking Crew’s special brand of panel filling.Marv-Thunderball art

It’s somewhat odd that Thunderball would be paired with Spidey for the 2-pack because the Wrecking Crew aren’t generally associated with the Web Head; he’s got a big enough villain roster as it is. However my first exposure to the Wrecking Crew was in “Spectacular Spider-Man” just a few after I began collecting comics. I would have been 9 years old when I picked up Spectacular issues 125 and 126 in 1987 which featured the Wrecking Crew hunting down the same computer disc as the new Spider-Woman, Julia Carpenter. The cover to issue 125 is very dynamic and is one of my all-time favorites.Marv-Thunderball cover

My favorite member of the Crew is the Wrecker. He’s got a cool costume and he gets the most face time in comics so I feel I know him best. Thunderball was once a scientist who specialized in gamma radiation so he’s the brains of the group. The other 2 members are pretty much inter-changeable to me, just a couple of meat heads. I’m sure their individual personalities were fleshed out at some point but I didn’t read whatever book that happened in.

I like Thunderball simply because he’s a Marvel character. He’s the kind of villain who’s available to be beaten up in a few panels to add some action to the opening scenes of a comic. He’s nothing to call home about but he fills a role. Not every villain can be a Doctor Doom with plans to take over the world. You need street level guys like this for bank heists and whatnot.Marv-Thunderball reenact

I’ve never given much thought to Thunderball’s costume before but now that I’m examining it I notice that it really sucks. It’s completely generic. Full body green tights, yellow underwear over top, long gloves, buccaneer boots, and a fairly dull mask. There’s absolutely nothing interesting or defining about it. He doesn’t have a logo or even a letter on his chest. It’s weak.

Marv-Thunderball back

 

 

 

Thunderball’s calling card may not be his outfit but his weapon is one to remember.  He carries a wrecking ball on a chain. Now that’s pretty badass but even that schtick isn’t wholly original. Another Marvel villain, The Absorbing Man created in the 1960s, did it first and does it better.

As far as this actual toy goes it’s not bad. It’s a good representation of the character and it’s appropriately taller than other figures like Spider-Man. The articulation is a little wonky, as is often the case with this line, so it can be difficult to get Thunderball to stand in a neutral pose that looks natural. The wrecking ball accessrory looks cool but doesn’t always stay in his hand very well so it might take a few tries to pose him swinging it over his head or anything.  The dark paint wash over the green tights shows off the sculpted muscles and keeps this figure from looking too flat.  6 out of 10.Marv-Thunderball crew

RIP CORD v.6 (2011)

Joe-Ripcord v6 fullG. I. JOE: RENEGADES

After posting my review of Netossa the other day I realized that it was the perfect time for me to review one of the few black female figures in my collection because February is Black History Month. That got me thinking that perhaps I should review a few more black action figures before the month is through.

At first I thought I’d review a Lando Calrissian but I just boxed up my Star Wars figures the other day.  They’d been sitting out for nearly a month since the last time I hauled them out for my Storm Trooper review.  To avoid making another big mess I decided to grab one of the black figures that was readily available in my man cave.  I had a few options but I settled on a somewhat controversial one.

Ripcord was the name of a red headed G.I. Joe paratrooper released in 1984.  It was a great figure but the character really came to life in the Marvel comics written by Larry Hama. Joe-Ripcord v6 carded

 

But after one dynamic storyline involving a murdered girlfriend and a feud with Zartan Ripcord drifted into the background and never again played a major role in the series.

Which is why I was quite surprised to learn that the writers/producers of the first live action G.I. Joe movie had chosen to include him in the 2009 film Rise of Cobra.  I was even more surprised when the actor hired to fill the role was announced: Marlon Wayans.Joe-Ripcord v6 back

I couldn’t wrap my head around the decision.  I could understand if they wanted some diversity on the team and there were no black characters from the original line-up to choose from but the G.I. Joe brand has a ton of great black characters.  I could also perhaps understand the justification if Ripcord was a comedic character and Marlon best emmulated his brand of humour but historically Ripcord was not a funny character.  Or maybe if they had already locked in Marlon for some reason and it was critical to the script that his character be a paratrooper but that wasn’t the case either.  Yes, Wayans parachuted from a plane at the end of the movie but I think any Joe character would’ve been capable of a single jump.  I just didn’t get it.

Did Marlon do such a fantastic job in the role that he changed my mind?  No, but I don’t hate him in the role either.  There’s plenty to dislike about the movie, including Wayans, but all-in-all it felt like an extended episode of the cartoon.  It was fun and I enjoy it.  In the years since Rise of Cobra more and more characters I grew up with in comics and cartoons are going through changes when they appear in film and television.  In G.I. Joe both Doc and Dialtone have become women and in the Marvel movies Nick Fury and the Human Torch also went through a white-to-black change.  I’ve come to terms with these being separate interpretations of the characters.  Comic Nick Fury is comic Nick Fury and movie Nick Fury is movie Nick Fury.Joe-Ripcord v6 gun

However, the casting of Wayans as Ripcord has had ripple effects in other Joe media.  Rip Cord is now African American in the comics published by IDW and he was also black in the short-lived 2010 animated series “G.I. Joe  Renegades”.  This action figure, Rip Cord version 6, was packaged as if it were based on the stylized Renegades design but it doesn’t really resemble the animated Rip Cord or any other previous version of the character for that matter.

This Rip Cord is black but he’s completely bald and his outfit is a departure from anything we’ve seen before.  He’s got a bulky vest with a high collar, baggy pants, lots of pouches, and some slick yellow goggles.  I initially passed on this figure when it first came out because I was still hung up on the race change but I snagged it a short while later after taking a closer look at it and I’m glad I did.

Joe-Ripcord v6 face

If you can look past this being “Ripcord” its actually a wonderfully sculpted figure with a great paint job.  One area where it’s lacking is the color of the weapons.  Both his large laser rifle and his small pistol, which can be holstered on his leg, are molded in baby blue plastic.  Its an odd choice that diminishes the realism of the figure but at least they add a splash of bright color to the otherwise earthy toned figure.  The removable goggles fit on his head perfectly and the translucent plastic looks great; they’re some of the best Joe goggles I’ve ever seen.  He also came with a full paratrooper mask but that’s tucked away in my accessories bin.

I really like this figure.  I would never allow him to replace the ginger haired Ripcord on my Joe team but he makes for an excellent paratrooping protege.  8 out of 10.Joe-Ripcord v6 group

NETOSSA (2013)

MOTUC-Netossa fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

One of the greatest cartoons of all time was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (MOTU). I will always prefer robot and monster characters to human characters and one of the best things about MOTU was that all the bad guys were monsters and so were half of the good guys. The spin-off show about He-Man’s sister, She-Ra, was also a good show but inferior for a few reasons. One of those reasons would be the lack of monsters and robots on the good guy side.

She-Ra’s villains, the Horde, were arguably just as cool, if not cooler, than He-Man’s villains. Mantenna and Leech were some of my favorite vintage MOTU toys even though they were technically She-Ra characters.  Hasbro chose to include the monstrous Horde figures in their 1985 MOTU assortment which was already a well-established boy’s brand by that time. They marketed She-Ra and the other members of the Great Rebellion as a separate toy line geared towards girls called Princess of Power (POP). Neither my brother Doug nor I ever owned any POP figures; but neither did my sister. She was much more into Barbie and Jem and the Holograms.  So I wonder if perhaps Mattel would have been better off just including the girl figures in the MOTU line as well.MOTUC-Netossa back

They say that girl figures in boy’s toy lines don’t sell. That may be true in some cases but that wasn’t the case with me; some of my favorite G.I. Joe toys were girls (Zarana, Jinx, Lady Jaye, etc.). Had Hasbro opted to include the She-Ra figures as part of the MOTU line as they did with the Horde maybe I would have collected a few of them. But because they were so clearly geared towards little girls I steered clear of them. The She-Ra figures all had rooted hair and they came with combs and frilly skirts so they were as much dolls as they were action figures.

I’m glad that the POP characters were included under the umbrella of the MOTU Classics toy line which began in 2008. Especially since the members of the Great Rebellion were completely shut out of the 90s and early 2000s MOTU toy revivals.  The Classics line has given fans like myself our first opportunity in nearly 30 years to buy most of the She-Ra characters.  The Classics versions have done away with the rooted hair and frilly skirts.  The psuedo-doll features have been set aside and what we’re left with is some really nice looking action figures that blend in seamlessly with He-Man and his crew.MOTUC-Netossa face

I was super stoked to add She-Ra to my collection in 2010 and I was also very happy to add Bow (the one male POP character) in 2011 and Glimmer (She-Ra’s best pal) in 2014. However, as the MOTU Classics line went on year after year, and after most of the cool monstrous characters had already been released, the line became a little too She-Ra-centric for my tastes. It seemed we were getting a new princess figure every other month last year. I added Castaspella the spell casting girl, Entrapa the girl with the magical hair, Mermista the mermaid, and Flutterina the butterfly girl to my collection in 2014. I was so fed up with buying girlie figures that I put my foot down and passed on a handful of them including Double Trouble the spy girl, Spinnerella the ribbon girl, and Sweet Bee the bumblebee girl.MOTUC-Netossa cartoon

Most of the girl toys I opted out of purchasing were nice looking figures but it’s been many years since I’ve watched the She-Ra cartoon so I don’t even remember most of them.  At nearly $50 a pop (when you factor in the shipping to Canada) they simply weren’t worth it to me. It was a rare instance where frugal Mike won out over completest toy collector Mike.

This past November Mattycollector.com had their annual Cyber Monday sale where a bunch of previously released figures are made available again at discounted prices and with free shipping.  I figured that was my chance to scoop up a few of the POP and lackluster MOTU figures that  I’d passed on over the past year or two.  I ended up getting 2 MOTU figure, Geldor and Dekker, and 2 POP figures, Octavia and Netossa.  I was pretty happy to nab them at $20 a piece instead of the usual $27 plus shipping.  However, when they finally arrived in the mail the other day, after a lengthy delay to to strikes at the ports in L.A.,  I got saddled with a $60 customs charge.  The fine people at the Canada Boarder Services Agency decided to overvalue the contents of my shipment by 400%.  So that sucked.MOTUC-Netossa vintage

Overcharge aside, some of the figures ended up being better than I expected so I was pleased about that.  Netossa was not a character I was looking forward to but she ended up my favourite of the four.

Netossa is pronounced “Ne-TOSS-a” by the way, not “NET-ossa” as I had been saying.  I only realized my error when I looked up her animated appearance from the old POP cartoon on youtube.  I did that because I have zero recollection of this character and I wanted to familiarize myself a little before writing this review.  Apparently the character only appeared 4 times out of the 93 episodes so there wasn’t a whole lot to learn.  She’s an expert marksman and she’s good with a net.  Thats what I learned.MOTUC-Netossa accessories

 

The figure itself is very nicely sculpted an painted.  I’m sure she shares a few parts with other figures but a lot of her components are brand new.  Her bodice, skirt, and headpiece are all great looking pieces.  The headpiece looks like something a Valkyrie would wear.  The coolest part of her costume is her signature net cape.  The original 1987 toy had a real cloth cape where as this one has a soft plastic cape that looks and feels like a fly swatter.  It doesn’t really work as a net that she can use to capture her enemies but it looks great as a cape.  Her face sculpt is quite beautiful and the hair is simple yet really cool.  It looks kind of like a lion’s mane.

For accessories all she came with is a shield which is kind of dumb.  I get that her “net” is her weapon but they should have given her a sword or trident or something.  Luckily I have accumulated a ton of extra MOTU accessories so I’m sure I’ll be able to find her something.

I love the combination of blues, whites, and silvers in her outfit.  It looks particularly good against her dark skin tone.  I have very few action figures of black women in my collection (Storm from X-Men and Michonne from Walking Dead are the only 2 that come to mind) so Netossa is a very welcome addition.  9 out of 10MOTUC-Netossa group

 

 

PSYCHE-OUT v.5 (2015)

Joe-Psyche v5 fullG.I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

In my last post I reviewed Repeater version 5; one of two figures included in the first FSS 3.0 shipment.  Today I’m gonna take a look at the other one, Psyche-Out.

The first Psyche-Out was released in 1987.  I didn’t have him but my brother Doug did.  He was kind of an odd looking figure but we didn’t mind him.  That figure was repainted and rereleased in 1988 as Night Force Psyche-Out.  Neither of us owned that figure and thats partly because we didn’t know it existed.  The Night Force figures were Toys R Us exclusives.  We didn’t have a Toys R Us handy and the figures didn’t appear on the back of the packaging as most figures did so Doug and I were completely “in the dark” when it came to Night Force.  We may have skipped them anyway even if we had known they existed because we weren’t super keen on repaints. Joe-Psyche v5 carded

 

A very different looking Psyche -Out came out in ’91 but Doug and I had quit collecting the year prior so it wasn’t really on my radar either.

I got back into collecting Joes in 2002 with the launch of the new-sculpt era.  That was the first time I collected Joes on my own and not in partnership with Doug.  That meant I had to buy ALL of the figures myself.  It was expensive but kind of cool because it gave me my first opportunity to own many of the characters that Doug owned when we were kids.  Unfortunately Psyche-Out was overlooked by Hasbro during that era so I never got a version of him to call my own.  When the modern era began in 2007 I had even more opportunities to own some of Doug’s characters but sadly Psyche-Out was overlooked again.

Joe-Psyche v5 back

It wasn’t until the Collector’s Club took matters into their own hands and released Psyche-Out version 4 as part of their 2013  Convention Set that I finally got my very own Psyche-Out.  He was made up of Duke and Zartan parts with a new head sculpted by Boss Fight Studios.  The parts came together pretty well to recreate the basic look of the 1988 Night Force figure though there were a few tweaks such as short sleeves and knee pads.  I liked the figure and was glad to finally have the character in my collection but I was a bit disappointed that it was the Night Force version; a version I have no childhood attachment to.

However, for their third figure subscription service the Club has taken that 2013 figure and repainted it in the original 1987 Psyche-Out colours so I am disappointed no longer.Joe-Psyche v5 compare

 

 

This is a pretty great figure.  Everything I liked about the version 4 sculpt remains but the flashy new paint job really makes it pop.  I love seeing his bright green shirt and red earmuffs again.  I’m also very happy to see him blonde again as that’s how I knew the character growing up.  For whatever reason the Night Force versions have darker hair.  Another change brought out by the paint job is he now has full sleeves.  He’s still clearly wearing a short-sleeve shirt but now he has a long-sleeve grey shirt with black dots on beneath it.  This Under-Armour design looks pretty cool and is accurate to the original.

Joe-Psyche v5 gunBesides the paint job the other major change here is in the accessories.  This version still has a somic emitter and removable radar dishes that snap onto his arms but his gun and back pack are completely different.  I prefer this version’s gun because it’s more sci-fi looking which suits the character.  I also like that he can hold it realistically with both hands.  His back pack is a silver repaint of Zartan’s so it opens up which is neat but its not as cool as the solar-panel back pack of version 4.Joe-Psyche v5 red

 

 

 

One cool thing about his accessories is that the Convention Set figure came with red radar dishes (probably in error as the original ’88 Night Force figure had black ones while the ’87 green shirted figured had red ones) but this version comes with black dishes.  That means you can swap out the dishes and have two vintage accurate figures now.  This figure looks even better once you give him the red accessories.  8 out of 10.

REPEATER v.5 (2015)

Joe-Repeater v5 fullG.I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

They’re a little behind schedule but the first FSS 3.0 shipment from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club has finally arrived.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’ s a quick recap.  There exists a G.I. Joe fan club.  When you sign-up for an annual membership/subscription to the newsletter you get an exclusive G.I. Joe figure.  The Club also hosts an annual convention where they sell a box set of 15 exclusive figures.  These practices have been going on for over a decade. Three years ago the Club made even more exclusive figures available to fans by offering a figure subscription service as an add-on to the regular membership.  For a tidy fee members can opt to have 12 unique figures mailed out to them in pairs over the course of six months.  A bonus 13th figure is included in the final shipment.  I signed up the first 2 years and was quite pleased with the results.  Sure it’s expensive but Hasbro hasn’t been producing many Joe figures themselves lately so if you want new figures this is the way to go.Joe-Repeater v5 carded

When the line-up for FSS 3.0 was revealed last April I was a little bit disappointed but only because 5 of the announced figures were repaints of toys we just got in the previous year’s 15 figure convention set.  The Convention set was “Night Force” themed and featured a bunch of Joes that had never been released in the modern style before.  I would’ve preferred to have gotten the Joes in their classic outfits and not their darker Night Force attire but I was just happy to finally be getting modern versions of Spearhead,  Muskrat,  Psyche Out,  and Repeater.  I suppose I should have known that the Club would eventually release them in their classic colours and had that been 100% confirmed I may have passed on the set that year.  But since I couldn’t be certain that I’d get another shot at owning those figures I shelled out the $400 for the set.

Joe-Repeater v5 compareI don’t mind that the Club is releasing repaints of the Night Force Joes, in fact I’m glad they are, but I wish they had spaced them out more over the next 2 or 3 FSSs.  After dropping a few hundred on the box set it kinda hurts to drop a couple hundred more so soon afterwards on essentially the same figures.

The FSS figures ship out in an unknown order so its supposed to be a surprise when they arrive in the mail.  The surprise is always ruined in advance for me because I live in Canada so my figures show up a week or 2 after all the American members get theirs.  By the time mine show up the internet is already flooded with pics and reviews.  But here are my 2 cents anyways.  The first pair of figures was 2 of the aforementioned repaints; Psyche Out and Repeater.  Today I’ll be reviewing Repeater.Joe-Repeater v5 back

I never owned the original 1988 Repeater as a kid, my brother Doug did.  Repeater was never a character who got much time in the spotlight of either the cartoons or comics so I have very little attachment to him.  The 2013 Convention set Repeater was my first ever version of the character.  Despite my lack of nostalgic ties to him I loved the 2013 Repeater figure.  He was constructed entirely of a Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson as Roadblock body with a newly sculpted head by Boss Fight Studios.  The body was big and badass and the head was fantastic.  The face had lots of personality and the hat was well detailed.  Best of all the Leno-chin that plagued the ’88 original was gone.  The inclusion of the vest and stedi-cam machine gun, borrowed from other figures, solidified the 2013 Repeater’s status as a must-own figure.

This 2015 version is constructed of the exact same pieces so everything that was great about the Night Force version applies to this one as well.  The only difference in the actual figure is the paint job.  This one features the tan tetris-pattern camo of the 1988 figure.  The darker Night Force colours looked really good on this sculpt but this is the Repeater colour scheme I grew up with so I prefer this version by a slight margin.  I will say that I was kind of surprised they didn’t give him black hair this time around though.  It would have been more accurate to the original but the lighter brown hair looks fine.Joe-Repeater v5 gun

One thing I really like about this figure is that the Club plugged up the holes on his legs.  When this body was originally used for Roadblock it had 2 massive holsters on the legs.  They were removed when it was used for the Night Force Repeater but 2 plug holes were left in their place.  This time around a small holstered pistol and a pouch were used to hide the holes and it looks really good.Joe-Repeater v5 vintage

The other major change is in the accessories.  Gone is the massive stedi-cam gun and bullet belt.  But in their place is a pretty cool silver and black machine gun with a removable ammo pack and bi-pod. He also has a different backpack.  The new one looks really nice but the vest obscures the hole on the figure’s back so I can’t get the pack plugged in.  That kind of sucks but it’s not a big deal.

This is an awesome figure and a great way to start off FSS 3.0 especially if you didn’t already own the Night Force version.  9 out of 10.

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