Monthly Archives: December 2011
So here it is 7:00pm on New Years Eve and I’m sitting alone in my room writing about action figures. You might be thinking “no shit, what else would a guy who has a blog about his collection of action figures be doing on New Years.” Well I’ll have you know that I have a fun filled night with friends ahead of me but I just wanted to crank out one more post before I get into the booze. In honor of this night of heavy drinking I’ve decided to review the only alcoholic action figure I have, Iron Man. Most of you probably don’t know this but Iron man had a serious drinking problem for a while in the comic books and he still struggles with it to this day. When he was at his worst he had to stop being Iron man and his pal Rhodey had to fill in for him. I have many different Iron Man figures but this is the specific suit of armor that he was sporting during that dark time in his career and it is one of my favorites. Many of the suits he’s worn in recent years have been too mechanical looking and the really old ones were too clunky. This one is just right in the middle and to me is the definitive armor.
This figure was released as part of the IROM MAN 2 series of figures which is basically a subset of the larger Marvel Universe series. The figure is really nice looking with a primary metallic red paint job with a complimenting yellow. The blue reactor in his chest breaks up the colors nicely and looks better than the previously released version with a yellow reactor. The articulation is pretty basic but does the trick and his accessories are pretty neat. He comes with two translucent red pieces of plastic which act as a repulsor blast from his hand and a rocket boost from his boot. Well I’m off to go get drunk. Happy new year everyone. 7 out of 10.
This is probably one of the stranger action figures that I own. The Yak was a supporting character in the Ren and Stimpy animated television show which aired on MTV in the states and on MUCH MUSIC up here in Canada. It was one of those weird 90s era teen oriented cartoons akin to Beavis and Butthead and even the Simpsons which I remember my parents not wanting me to watch at the time. I believe the Yak appeared on a few occasions but this figure is based off of the short “Yak Shaving Day” . This minute and a half long skit featured Ren and Stimpy decorating their home with dirty diapers and filling their boots with coleslaw as is tradition when waiting for the Shaven Yak to creep into your house through your bathtub drain and shave himself in your bathroom. If you’re lucky he’ll have left you some shaving scum in the sink to treasure the next morning. So yes, somehow this retarded little skit justified an action figure, and yes I bought it.
If you can look past the sheer pointlessness of such a figure he’s actually a pretty nice toy. He’s big and heavy but his little legs support his weight quite well. He’s got some nice details such as stubble sprinkled across his body and he comes with accessories that make sense, a razor and some shaving cream. The sculptor of this piece has done a very good job at translating the 2D character into 3 dimensions and he retains the look of the original art. I challenge you to find a better shaven yak figure. 8 out of 10.
When I was a kid super-hero toys were pretty much non-existent. I never really understood this as the cast of characters available was huge and there were well established back stories for each one. Me and my brother had to resort to making paper dolls of all of our favorite Marvel super-heros. We made hundreds of those things. Not only did we make a doll of every character we came across but we kept upgrading them as our artwork improved. There were some super-hero toys released in 84 from both Marvel and DC but they only featured a handful of characters. Marvel had their Secret Wars line and DC had their Super Powers line. Neither of these lines seemed to be all that easy to find in stores otherwise I’m sure Doug and I would have had them all, the Marvel ones at least. We never cared much for DC. For my birthday one year though I received a DC Super Powers figure from a friend. The figure was Mantis, a robotic praying mantis looking character who looked super cool. This was probably bought for me less for my love of super-heros and more for my love of insects which was well known. I used to catch wireworms and aphids in our back yard and store them in jars by the dozen. One summer Doug and I actually discovered a praying mantis creeping along our wire fence. It was the biggest bug I’d ever seen and I remember him actually grabbing at my shirt from the fence with his long buggy arm. Me and Doug created a habitat for him in a fisher price fold open tool box which we stuffed full of dirt and branches and placed on our picnic table. We named him Sam and the way I remember it he stayed in that habitat for weeks when he could’ve bailed on us at anytime. So of all the bugs I had ever caught, Sam the praying Mantis is the only one that ever left a lasting impression. Maybe that’s why I loved the DC Mantis figure. I still have that figure, even though he was my only toy from that line and I knew nothing about the character he survived the “get rid of my toys” phase that most of my Star Wars, Transformers, Wrestlers and Miscellaneous toys fell victim to.
When Mattel started producing high quality DC figures a couple of years ago they vowed to reproduce all of the characters that appeared in the 80s Super Powers line. I was very happy when they got around to releasing a modernized figured of my beloved Mantis figure. In the 20 years since that birthday party I had actually gotten much more familiar with the DC Universe. I collected a bunch of DC comics but and never come across one with Mantis in it. I did know that he was a villain from the comic The New Gods which was created by the often mentioned in this blog Jack Kirby. However in the comics he appeared as a man in green spandex with a big doofy helmet. He looked nothing like the robotic bug I had played with all these years. I’m not sure where the bug design came from, as far as I can tell the guys making the Super Powers toys in the 80s just figured with a name like Mantis the character would sell better as a cool robotic bug instead of a spandexed douche bag. Anyway in 2009 when Mattel released their mantis figure they released both versions. That way comic book purists could get their doofy version and a casual DC fan like myself could get his Bug Man. The figure is great by the way. He’s bigger and more posable than the previous version. He retains a Kirby-esque look even though the man had nothing to do with this design so far as I know. The paint applications are great with air brushed shadowing to define some of the details. His knees are pretty loose though and he’s top heavy so he has a tendency to fall over which kinda sucks. It’s a very nice figure and an appreciated throw back to a character who gets very little attention. 8 out 10.
I love the weirdness of The Masters of the Universe line. It’s like the inhabitants of the island of misfits toys got mashed together into their own nonsensical toyline. A Musclebound viking riding a cat teams up with a goofy wizard, a robot elephant, a bee-man, a bird-man, and a bunch of other freaks to battle a skeleton, a fish-man, an ape-man, a sorceress, a bunch of snake people etc. to defend a medieval world full of spaceships. It’s weird. The accompanying cartoon and comic books helped make sense of how all these outcasts came together so that it worked. Out of the wide array of choices my favorite character by far is Mer-Man. I guess I have a thing for fishy green dudes as Walrus Man was my favorite star Wars character. The comic books treated Mer-Man with respect as he was actually the ruler of an underwater kingdom and quite a capable villain. Merman is usually portrayed as a bumbling idiot in the cartoons but when I played with him my version was the former, a cunning and deadly henchman of Skeletor.
As I touched on in my very first post on this blog when I reviewed Kobra Kahn there have been a few versions of the MOTU cast. The original 80s versions, the more dynamic and anime inspired 200X line, and the modern day MOTU Classics which take the best bits of the previous 2 versions and combine them. This version of Mer-Man is from the modern classics line. This is a perfect Mer-man. He looks like he should and the colors are spot on. He’s durable and heavy yet posable and playable. Most toys I collect these days are too delicate to be handled by children but the MOTU Classics could handle a few hours in the sandbox I’m sure. The original version was short and squat and he had a ridiculous face sculpt that looked nothing like how he was depicted on the package and in the cartoons. Those problems were corrected on the 200X version but that figure’s colors were brown and orange instead of yellow and he was hardly the muscleman that he used to be. This version is the perfect go between. I’ll add a pic of the 3 versions together so you can see what I mean. The accessories included are great, a trident, a sword and even a swappable head in case you prefer the weird cat-like one from the 80s. I didn’t realize until I was looking for decent pics of him on the net that his sword can actually be stored on the back of his armor when not in use which is a cool feature as I hate having a bunch of loose accessories hanging around. 10 out of 10.
Black Cat is one of my very favorite Marvel Characters, like top 5. And I know what you’re thinking but it’s not because of the two obvious reasons which are so well defined on this particular action figure. It’s true that as far as fictional characters go the Black Cat is hot. She’s always been portrayed as a real naughty girl and she’s usually drawn by artists that specialize in the female form. The main reason I like her so much is that oh so powerful nostalgia factor. Black cat appeared in the first Spider-Man comic book I ever bought. Spectacular Spider-Man 119 featured the villain Sabertooth on the hunt for Spider-Man. Sabertooth is now a well established Wolverine villain but at the time he had only fought Power Man, Iron Fist and I think Daredevil. he was a relatively new villain who Spider-Man had apparently beaten down a couple issues earlier. In this issue Sabertooth was back for revenge and tracking Spider-Man by scent. Spidey was stuck in a crowded house party and wasn’t sure how to get away unnoticed without revealing his identity to all in attendance, as Sabertooth was outside calling out Spider-Man. Luckily Spidey’s on again off again girlfriend Felicia Hardy was on the scene. She donned her Black Cat costume and single handedly defeated Sabertooth with Spider-Man looking on helplessly. This issue established her as no mere damsel in distress, she was tough, sexy and mean and for lack of a better term I was in love.
This particular figure is from the Marvel Select line which is a premium line of figures by Diamond Select Toys. They are 6″ in height and feature lots of detail and accessories. Sometimes the figures are based on a particular artist’s interpretation and this Black Cat is based on the beautiful artwork of Terry Dodson. He is one of the aforementioned masters of the female form hence the great sculpt on this figure. The figure doesn’t feature much movement but does have nice detailing in the folds on her leather catsuit and the tufts of fur accenting the boots and gloves. The face sculpt is actually pretty which isn’t easy to do on an action figure. The display base included in this figure is fantastic as well. it feature a wood floor and a wall behind it with an open window. A full size model of Spider-man is peering in at her. She includes a toy safe equipped with cash and jewels for her to steel as she is primarily a cat-burglar and a super-hero second. A great display piece which always draws people’s attention. 9 out of 10.
This is a Dalek from the British series Dr. Who. That’s all I know about it. The picture I found online which I stole for this post had him labeled as the Supreme Dalek so I’m not sure if that means he’s better than regular Daleks or what. I have vague memories of the Dr. Who series from my childhood. He was a dude with an afro and a scarf that travelled around in a phone booth like Bill & Ted. It never much appealed to me. I know the series has a huge following and that it’s been on for decades. I think 12 or 13 actors have portrayed the good Doctor who I believe hops from body to body thus explaining the casting changes. Whatever.
The only reason I have this thing is because as I mentioned in an earlier post I travelled to Europe a couple of years back. Being the nerd that I am I was determined to grab some sort of collectable from each country I visited that was representative of the area. I failed in this. I got a German language Simpsons comic in Austria and a Italian Spider-Man comic book in Italy. In Rome specifically I bought a couple of animal Gladiator figurines and in England I bought this guy. I bought a 3 pack of Daleks actually, a black one, a grey one and a silver one. I’ll try and research them a little more before I review another one of them. I found a decent sized store in England that sold Dr. Who memorabilia exclusively. It was pretty overwhelming and I had a hard time deciding what piece to buy. I thought about buying a single Dalek but I couldn’t decide on a color. I figured the 3 pack was the best was to go so that I wasn’t kicking myself when I got home for not buying a different one. This guy is cool I guess. No more or less so than R2-D2 I suppose. It’s pretty much the same idea, a garbage can on wheels. It looks like the source material and the articulation is as good as it’s gonna get on a thing like this. Its got wheels on the bottom, his head turns and all three of his phallic appendages are ball jointed (heh heh) so they can be pointed in any direction. He accomplishes his mission in that he reminds me of my trip whenever I look at him so what more can I ask for. 6 out of 10.
I feel this is where I may lose some of you. I don’t have a ton of friends that are into the same stuff I am like comic books and action figures, only 1 or 2. However most of my friends at least remember those things from their childhoods. Guys will come into my “mancave” and look around and say “oh yeah, I had that as a kid” or “I used to love those.” And if you search the internet it doesn’t take very long to find hordes of people declaring their love for Transformers, G.I. Joe and He-Man. Battle Beasts on the other hand, not so much. When I pull out my bucket of Battle Beasts most people’s reaction is “What the hell are those? I don’t remember them.” Even as kids everything I collected my brother Doug collected. Every time a new series of Joes, Wrestlers, Transformers or anything else came out me and Doug would break out the Sears wish book and do picksies on who would get who so there was no disputes down the road. Except for Battle Beasts. I was the only person I knew that collected them. They never had a cartoon or a comic to generate interest so they never really caught on. 3 waves of figures were released and then they disappeared. I’m not sure why noone else took to these things like I did. Each pack contained two animals wearing armor and 2 bladed weapons. The characters weren’t given names and had no established back story. Every time I got a new pack I would decide which one was going to be a good guy and which one would be bad.
I got my first Battle Beasts in my Easter Basket one year. 1 two pack contained a Bat and a Fox and the other a Rhino and a Ram. I decided that the Rhino would lead my good guy team and the Ram would lead the bad guys. I named each character very unimaginatively, Battle-Rhino, Battle-Ram, Battle-Fox etc. My little brother also gat a two pack that Easter which contained a Bear and a Buffalo. I remember it being a nice warm spring day and we took them out in the backyard and played with them out in the grass. Good times. I later conned him into giving me his two figures. I almost have a complete set of the Battle Beasts now but I still find one I don’t have every now and again. Despite having probably 80 of these things the Rhino remains one of my favorites. In part because he’s a rhino which is one of my favorite animals and also because he was one of my first ones and also because he just looks cool as hell. These figures are only about 2″ tall but they have a ton of detail. Rhino here has wrinkles in his skin and cool little vents and buttons on his armor. The faces of these things also had more personality than most other toys. Some of the beasts had weapons for hands and this guy has a big spiked ball which is pretty cool and came in handy when he was laying the smack down. I found out later that the Battle Beasts did have a little known back story which I’ll talk about in my next BB review but I also found out that the characters did in fact have names. This guy’s name was Rocky Rhino. I think it’s pretty gay and most of the other names are worse so he will forever be Battle-Rhino to me. 9 out of 10.
I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas when it was released in 1993 at the Penhorn mall movie theatre. I remember there was hardly anyone else there and I also remember not too many of my friends being interested in seeing it. I’m not sure who I ended up seeing it with, I’m thinking my friend Jenn and that would explain why I saw it in Dartmouth. I don’t think Nightmare was a big hit when it was originally released and that it’s fan base has grown over time. I however loved it from the get go. I was already a big Tim Burton fan having enjoyed Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice and I loved Batman and Edward Scissorhands. The weirdness of it all spoke to me, a Christmas movie starring a skeleton posing as Santa Clause and filmed completely with puppets. It’s no wonder that it wasn’t a huge mainstream success at the time as I just don’t think most people knew what to make of it. This is one of the first movies that opened my eyes up to what goes into making a movie. I understood that a movie like this would probably never have been made had Tim Burton not made a ba-jillion dollars on Batman. The quirkiness of this movie and Edward Scissorhands before it really made me realize the importance of a director’s vision and that movies like this didn’t just happen without someone really paying their dues and taking chances. Burton was a huge influence on me creatively and he was my favorite director for many years.
I think it’s great how he can take established stories like Alice in Wonderland and Sleepy Hollow and put his on stamp on them but he truly impresses me when he’s working from his own original concepts. I think Nightmare Before Christmas is probably the closest we’ll get to peering into his brilliantly twisted mind. The character designs are so unique and they were brought to life incredibly by the puppeteers. I think the Mayor is one of the funkiest and funnest designs from the film. His spinning head, bulbous body and little legs somehow all come together to create a very memorable supporting cast member. Movies like this and Toy Story lend themselves really well to toy production because the characters are themselves toys. An action figure is never going to look exactly like a real person or a 2D cartoon character but it can look exactly like a 3 dimensional puppet. This figure of the Mayor is a prefect miniature representation of the actual puppet used for filming. His proportions are spot on and the detailing is top notch. He’s got a slew of wicked accessories and he even retains the spinning head feature shown in the movie. My only gripe is displaying this guy is tough as his itty bitty legs have a hard time supporting his weight. 9 out of 10.
If you’ve never read a Danger girl comic by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell I suggest you do. Danger Girl is a light hearted summer blockbuster throwback popcorn movie jammed into a comic book. It’s equal parts James Bond, G.I. Joe and Charlie’s Angels with a little Indiana Jones thrown in for good measure. It’s everything a good homage should be, fresh and yet familiar. The writing is fun but it’s really the artwork by Campbell that elevates this book above other similar books. Campbell is a very gifted artist who conveys action very well and has a knack for drawing sexy girls so the fact that he co-created this series makes a ton of sense. Some of the mini skirts and side boob are a little gratuitous and I think a lot of people write the book off as a T and A book when it’s really so much more than that. The basic premise is that danger girl is the code name for a group of female secret agents each with a different specialty led by Deuce who’s a dead ringer for a white bearded Sean Connery. The girls have gone up against a variety of villains over the years most notably the evil Hammer Empire who are a sub-group of the Nazis. The Nazi influence is clear in this figure of Major Maxim who is the muscle and leader of the Hammer forces.
I know I say every figure on here is awesome but this one truly is balls out awesome. I think this may be the first figure from McFarlane Toys that I’ve reviewed but it won’t be the last. Actually no, the Steve Yzerman figure I reviewed was an early McFarlane toy. If you checked out my review of that toy than you already have an idea of the quality of toys they produce. Their attention to detail is unmatched. Maxim here for instance is wearing a leather coat that has a ton of texturing detail just like you would see on a real leather jacket. This figure is an impressive hunk of plastic that has a lot of weight to him. I’m a sucker for big clunky feet on my toys, partly because they look cool and partly because it keeps them from falling over and this guy delivers. Those boots look like they could stomp the shit out of my other action figures. And look at the size of his fist, not to mention his gun. This guy would f**k you up. This figure doesn’t have a ton of articulation but that actually works for this figure as I imagine him to be rather stiff and slow. The base that he comes with has an amazing cloth banner which makes him a great display piece. This figure is just plain gnarly. 10 out of 10.
Now I realize I just reviewed Ice-Viper in my last post but I figured I would go ahead and follow it up with a re-paint of the same figure so as you can get an idea of the type of thing that goes on in the world of action figure collecting. Everything about this figure is identical to the one released 20 years prior. The original Ice-Viper was released in 1987 and this guy was released by the Joe Collector’s Club in 2007. He was released in a 2 pack with a repaint of the original snow serpent, another cobra snow trooper. These figures were part of a series of environmentally themed sets where 2 members of either the G.I. Joe team or Cobra had to venture to a remote location to track down pieces of a fallen satellite. I didn’t bother with any other the other sets as they were quite expensive, most club or convention exclusive figures usually are. I had to get this one though as it was the first time my favorite figure had ever been repainted.
This new version could never better the original as the nostalgia factor is through the roof on the original where as this one has never been played with and was bought solely as a display piece. If I had had this version as a kid though I think there’s a good chance he may have dethroned version 1 as my favorite. The added camo pattern on his white uniform brings a lot of depth to the figure and solves the blandness issue that the first version suffered from. Also the blue mask is much more cobra looking as the bulk of their forces wear blue. The ugly orange highlights have been replaced by black which is a huge improvement and I think these choices up this guy’s chances of survival in the cold arctic. Red and orange don’t scream stealth in the snow. This versions eyes are more detailed but still look rather dopey. The biggest improvement is on the helmet being three toned as opposed to a solid grey chunk. Small details like painting the goggles a different color goes a long way in bringing some realism to these figures. Repaints are often done as a cash grab by the toy companies and I leave a lot of them hanging on the pegs but if all repaints were done this well I’d be a happy/broke collector. 9 out of 10.