Monthly Archives: December 2011
G.I. JOE As you may have already noticed, I love G.I. Joe. I was introduced to it in 1982 when I would have been 4 years old and I have been hooked ever since. There are so may colorful and diverse characters whose personalities have been expanded upon in hundreds of cartoons and comic books and even live-action movies. So much history has been created for these characters and their world is so action-packed and exciting how could you not want to dive right in? Well as much as I loved all the backstory that those comics and cartoons provided for me when I was kid, the story really took off once I opened up a new action figure. The figure would need to be integrated into my own personal joe universe (or joeverse if you will, which is a much maligned but often used term in the joe collecting community) and it was up to me to make up a story to bring this new character in. Many figures did not appear in the comics and cartoons so their stories had to be completely created in my mind. Not everything I came up with back then was gold but I was a kid, give me a break. Ice-Viper here was my favorite G.I. Joe figure. If there was a fire and I could only save one figure, this is who I would grab. I’m not sure why, partly it’s because he looked cool but mostly it’s due to the personality I infused him with. In the comic books Ice-Vipers were just another one of the many nameless squads of cobra troopers who had no individual personalities and were used as cannon fodder. As a kid I only had one of each type of trooper. Sometimes I would imagine them to be one of many and as they were “killed” I could continue to use that figure as another member of that particular squad. Other times I would decide that there was only one of this particular figure and that Ice-Viper (or whomever, Alley Viper and Heat-Viper were others) was their specific code name and not just a squad designation. And in my Joeverse Ice-Viper was a badass. Tougher than Storm Shadow or Firefly or any of those “named” characters, Ice-Viper was Cobra’s #1 guy. Sometimes his strength boardered on super-human which is pretty dumb but again, I was a kid. The figure itself has some pretty cool features. His only weapons were a pair of sais (like Raphael) which could be clipped onto his legs when not in use. He also had a removable helmet with goggles which could be placed atop his ski masked head. The sais were a weird choice for a snow trooper but it made him stand out to me and hinted at a martial arts background. He was packaged with the COBRA WOLF which was a super cool fictional snow vehicle that added to Ice-Viper’s appeal. Some areas where I think this figure is lacking is that the overall design is actually a bit plain and I’m unsure of what functional use some of those straps were supposed to serve. Also the eyes always seemed rather tired looking to me and would have benefited from more of a scowl. On design alone this guy might get a 7, but throw in the cool factor and the power of a child’s imagination and he gets a 10 out of 10.
So my girlfriend who had been away for the past week returned home last night. We had exchanged a few pre-Christmas presents before she left but had saved the bulk of them for her return so at midnight last night I tore into this badboy. 19 inches on planet eating bad-assery. Which oddly enough seems to be a theme this Christmas as a couple of days ago I received and reviewed Unicron, the planet eater of the Transformers universe. Now as much as I love Unicron I have to give the win to Galactus. The detailing on this thing is just excellent especially on his face. Galactus is another Jack Kirby design from the 60s similar to The Destroyer whom I also reviewed just the other day. Jack Kirby designed the best looking characters in comics and this is a much better example than the Destoyer was. The boots, the skirt, the helmet, that’s all out of Kirby’s brilliant mind. Galactus first appeared in the Fantastic Four comics when he shopped up with the intention of devouring Earth. Galactus needs to consume planets to survive and he employs heralds to search the universe for suitable planets. At this point in time the Silver Surfer was Galactus’s herald and he discovered Earth and sent word back to the boss man that he’d found a deliciously ripe planet. However the Fantastic Four managed to convince the Silver Surfer that the life on Earth was worth saving and and together they managed to fend of Galactus. I wasn’t even born when this story was originally published so I discovered it reading through back issues and re-tellings. I did collect the Silver Surfer’s solo comic book for many years though and that gave me the chance to get to know Galactus a little better and see that he was not just a monster but a man. He truly is an interesting character.
When Vanessa first asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I gave her a list which included Galactus I envisioned her buying me Galactus in his original comic book colors of bright vibrant blue and purple as he is the one I had seen kicking around the local Wal-marts. I was surprised when I opened this guy up to see she had bought me the variant version which is painted in is much darker color scheme which is how he appeared in the Marvel Ultimate Alliance video game. I gotta say now that I have this guy in hand that I love the dark colors and am glad she went with this version. It makes him look much more menacing without making any drastic changes as he is still blue and purple. The only downfall of this version is that as an add on the Galactus figure comes with a 3.75 inch version of his herald the Silver Surfer. While the original comic colored Galactus has a silver chrome Silver Surfer which is how he should appear, this darker video game inspired Galactus’s Silver Surfer is a translucent see through version which looks neat but is not comic book accurate. Silver Surfer’s skin tone aside the figure is just plain awesome. He looks very impressive standing amongst my other Marvel Universe figures. Galactus gets a perfect 10 out of 10.
This Cobra Commander figure is I believe version 48. Of those 48 I’m sure I have more than half. I don’t feel the need to buy every version that comes out as often times the variations are so small that you’d never even notice like “this one has a yellow belt and this one has a gold belt”. I’d say 24 versions of one character is plenty. The only character in my collection that might rival him in variations is the G.I. Joe ninja Snake Eyes. Part of the problem is that these are two of the best known characters from G.I. Joe and so they regularly get included in each new wave of figures that comes out. Often times I get saddled with another Cobra Commander just because I want the other figure or vehicle he’s paired with. This particular Cobra Commander is based on his look in the 2011 animated series “G.I. Joe Renegades”. I was happy to see G.I. Joe get a new cartoon this year but I didn’t much care for it personally. Every time they re-vamp and re-brand the series in fails to grab my attention because it’s just not MY G.I. Joe.
When this figure first came out I passed on it and left it on the shelf. I didn’t like his weird half face-mask and his cartoony detailing. It just didn’t look like Cobra Commander. Eventually though, that’s why I had to have him. He doesn’t look like the dozens of other Cobra Commanders that I have and that originality is appealing. I like that he looks cartoony enough to resemble the stylized animation of the cartoon but they toned it down just enough so that he blends in with my other more realistically styled Joes. His accessories are pretty standard fare, pistol, snake staff and coiled pet cobra, all stuff we’ve seen before. The inclusion of a fully helmeted head is nice though in case I want to display him looking more like his classic self. I have plenty of fully masked Commanders on display though so I think I’ll leave this one as is. It’s kind of grown on me. 7 out of 10.
I have no will power. It was a mere 24 hours ago that I reviewed my Creature from the Black Lagoon figure and in that review I hinted that my birthday was coming up and that I needed Dracula and Frankenstein to complete my collection of classic monsters. I was hoping one of my friends or family would take notice and pick me up one of them for my mid January birthday. Well never mind friends and family, I went out and bought both of them today. I had no intention of doing so, in fact I’d promised myself to take it easy on the toy purchases for a little while until my bank account had recovered from all of my holiday spending. But I woke up this morning and checked my facebook only to see that my shop STRANGE ADVENTURES was having a boxing day sale with 50% off everything. Groan. Several toys, comic books and t-shirts later here I am sitting at my desk with an empty wallet and the lord of the vampires staring blankly at me.
This Dracula is made by Diamond Select Toys, the same company that made the Creature figure I reviewed yesterday but this is from a different line. Instead of a well sculpted detail oriented action figure this Dracula is from the retro cloth series of figures. These figures are made to resemble the doll-like toys released by the MEGO company in the 70s. I had a couple of MEGOs as a kid but most of them ended up naked and in pieces. I do still have a Spock MEGO in fairly good condition. When I first saw these MEGO universal monsters advertised I knew I wanted them but they were put on the backburner as I had G.I. Joes and Superheroes to buy first. It was another big sale at the comic shop that made me take the plunge and buy my first one The Mummy and that opened the flood gates. Toys are like potato chips to me, I can never have just one. The Mummy was followed by the Wolfman and now I’ve acquired the Creature, Frank and Drac here. I would also like to have a figure of the Invisible man as he was the final key monster from Universal Studio’s golden age of monster movies but I guess I can just pretend that I have him on my shelf with the others. This Dracula figure is lacking in sculpting detail and his costume is simple. It does not closely resemble Bela Lugosi the actor who played him back in 1931 but it does capture a classic/generic Dracula look that stems from Bela’s portrayal. The biggest issue I have with this figure is how his hands are molded in vibrant flesh colored plastic while his face is painted a pale off-white. It seems like a lazy mistake that could have been easily fixed at the production level. 6 out of 10.
At first glance this thing probably looks kinda stupid. As far as giant robots from Japanese cartoons go this guy does appear to be a little on the lame side. I would totally understand that reaction. But only if you’ve never watched the animated series Robotech. Watch Robotech and then come back and view this post with the respect it deserves. Back now? Told ya, this thing is sweet. Robotech was originally a Japanese series called Macross that got brought over to the U.S. and dubbed in english, and like a lot of imported Japanese cartoons some major changes were made in the translation. I’ll save that for a later post but for now I will tell you that this battle pod was featured in the first of three chapters in what I guess you could call the Robotech trilogy. Each chapter featured a different alien race out to attack earth which had to be defended by the Robotech Defense Force (RDF). The threat in the first chapter came from the Zentradi, a humanoid race which was nearly identical to humans except for the fact that they stood about 30 feet tall. The aliens were so tall that they could fight in hand to hand combat with the RDF soldiers while they piloted their giant battle suits. Not to be undone though the Zentradi had some fancy battle suits of their own, well battle pods actually. A Zentradi soldier would cram himself into the egg shaped cockpit of this thing which made him a much more formidable opponent. The pods were loaded up with missiles and lasers and allowed the Zentradi to fight in all conditions whether it be on land or in deep space.
I never had one of these as a kid but I always wanted one. Robotech figures were very few back then but the ones you could find were pretty cool. The human figures were made in the same manner and scale as G.I.Joes so they fit right in with them and the vehicles varied in shape and size. To this day the Robotech Invid Shock Trooper remains a white whale of my collection. Some day…some day. Back to the Battle pod for now though, this guy looks great and looks identical to the animated version which I love. His posability is limited but how much movement can one really expect from a figure with no arms or a head. My only real gripe about this particular version of the battle pod is the color scheme. In the cartoons the battle pods were always white and blue, this version is based on how they looked in a movie spin off that I never saw. So while I love these colors and they look more militaristic than the blue and white it just lacks the nostalgia that I’m such a sucker for. Either way this figure shows how a weak or strange design can be elevated by strong source material. 8 out of 10.
Another Christmas toy to review, this time from my little brother Brian. He also got me a spatula in the shape of Darth Vader’s head which is pretty cool but for now let’s talk about The Destroyer. The Destroyer is a marvel universe character who’s been kicking around since the 60s. I don’t have a ton of knowledge about this guy as he was a Thor character and Thor was never a book I read growing up. I knew the gist of it which is that it’s an enchanted suit of armor created by Thor’s father Odin and it usually ends up in the wrong hands, usually Thor’s brother Loki and trys to kill Thor. Destroyer doesn’t have much of a personality but he does look cool as hell. He was designed by Jack Kirby which says it all right there, Kirby’s classic designs are pretty tough to beat. Just to give you some perspective Kirby created the Fantastic Four, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man, Silver Surfer and a billion other awesome things.
My first real exposure to this character was probably the same as you which was in the live action Thor movie. If you haven’t seen Thor yet you should definitely check it out. I thought it handled some of the far out concepts of the Thor comics very well and made them believable. In the movie the Destroyer here falls into the wrong hands ( Loki’s ) and tries to kill Thor. Of course Thor wins and everyone’s happy. The movie version looked pretty good and the CG was effective though not perfect. This little figure looks pretty good as well but he seems kind of hunched over, I wish he had more of a neck. Also his paint scheme is a little dull in the fact that the only color this guy has is his yellow eyes and other than that he’s just a solid dark gray. His belly lights up to represent him charging up to release another big energy blast from his face which is a neat feature but not one that does much for me. Brian picked this guy up for me in Toronto at the Silver Snail which is one of, if not the biggest comic store in the country. And though this figure was from the hard to find second wave of Thor movie figures and I was happy my lil bro tracked him down for me I was disappointed that out of the list of 15 or so items I asked him to look for at the Silver Snail they had none of them. Destroyer here was kind of a last resort. I’ll try not to hold that against him. 6 out of 10.
So for Christmas this year I treated myself to what is now one of the biggest action figures I own, Unicron. Unicron is a transformer that transforms not into a car, or a plane or even an aircraft carrier but a frig’n planet. Now he only stands about 3 times bigger than my other Transformers so that may not seem like much of a planet but let’s be realistic here people. If he were made to scale with the other toys he would be bigger than the apartment building I live in so they had to scale him down to 17 inches, but it is an impressive 17 inches (that’s what she said). Unicron towers over my other Transformers and I haven’t yet decided where to put him as he won’t fit on my shelves. He is truly a magnificent toy. If you’re not familiar with Unicron he first appeared in the Transformers animated movie released to theaters in 1986. The movie took place 20 years in the future which was 2005 and it brought huge changes to the Transformers universe. Almost all of the classic characters that I and every other little boy of the decade loved were killed off and most of them off screen. Even Optimus Prime got blown away in this movie and replaced by a douche-bag named Hot Rod who became Rodimus Prime after he accepted the role of new leader of the autobots. Megatron turned into Galvatron and basically the whole world of Transformers got turned upside down. No longer did they transform into recognizable modern era cars and planes but instead into weird spaceships and hover sleds and other oddities. We were introduced the the Quintesson’s who were these strange 5 faced robotic octopus egg things who apparently created the Transformers. Watching this at 8 years old gave me post traumatic stress. Of all the crazy concepts this movie introduced, one that i could get behind was Unicron, the massive world devouring roaming planet. I didn’t realize how cool it was at the time but Unicron was voiced by Orson Welles in what would be his last performance on screen. Unicron was big mean and scary and a threat that dwarfed anything that had come before. Hella cool. Of course he gets blown up in the end but they’ve found ways to integrate him back into the story lines through the comics and cartoons over the years. As a kid I never would have imagined we’d one day get a toy of this guy but here he is. They released him back in 2003 and I passed on him at the time as he was just too expensive and I wasn’t currently buying Transformers at the time. I had looked into buying him on ebay in the years since but again he was just too expensive. Well when I saw a new and improved version at my local Toys R Us while Christmas shopping this year, expenses be damned! I scooped this guy up and stuck him under the tree and then I waited with childlike anticipation for Christmas morning when I could tear into him. the tearing is now complete and he’s now sitting on my windowsill until I find him a home. He’s got light up eyes and firing missiles which is cool for the kiddies but I don’t really care about that stuff. He’s not a perfect toy but it’s a very good one who looks very much like the animated version and that’s all I really need. 9 out of 10.
So here is a brand new Christmas toy. My brother Doug surprised me with this bad-boy after he had lead me to believe that he had bought me a He-Man figure. This was a nice surprise. My brother told me he had purchased one of these for himself recently and I had expressed my jealousy as I had been eyeballing this guy for a while myself. Me and Doug shop at the same comic book store (Strange Adventures, Great shop!) and luckily they got another one in before the holidays and Doug snatched it up for me. Sea Creature (or Gill Man) was always Doug’s favorite monster as a kid where as mine was Wolf-man. Our earliest exposure to these things was probably in Scooby-Doo cartoons and then the 80s classic, “The Monster Squad”. It was hard to find decent action figures of these classic monsters when I was a kid. I think we may have had some happy meal type toys and some weird neon rubbery sea creature but they weren’t the best. But now, as with many things from my childhood, wicked cool well sculpted toys now exist. This one comes courtesy of Diamond Select Toys who have been making all kinds of cool monster toys the past few years. I already have a Wolf-man and a Mummy terrorizing my desk at work and that is probably where this guy will end up after the holidays. Dracula and Frankenstein will join them soon, I do have a birthday coming up after all.
So this figure looks great. I’m guessing most of you have never seen the actual movie from 1954 but you really should. It’s pretty campy by todays standards but it’s a fun watch. Much more enjoyable than contemporary horror films. Now while the film is in black and white in my mind’s eye I imagined the Creature to be these colors. The nice blend of greens work perfectly for him making him look very amphibian/reptilian and you’d believe he just lumbered out of a lagoon. The detailing is nice with lots of texture on his skin and the head sculpt captures the kinda goofy creepy weirdness of the original costume. I’m not thrilled with the lack of articulation on this figure as you can’t move his legs or head at all. The only real movement is in his arms. One thing that does deserve a mention here is the excellent display base he comes with. It’s primarily just a flat sandy surface but it also includes an unarticulated version of Kay Lawrence who was the Creature’s unfortunate love interest in the film. The sculpting on her is very nice and she adds a lot to this set. Thanks Doug. 6 out of 10.
So here it is the day after Christmas and I have all kinds of new Christmas toys that I’d like to talk about but those will have to wait. I started this blog only about a week ago and I put a notification on my facebook wall letting people know about my new toy blog if they wanted to check it out. I expected a couple of my close friends would read it and a handful more would give it a quick glance and never visit again. Even though I’m mostly doing this for myself it’s still nice to think that someone is reading it. Now I come from a very large family and over the holidays we have a number of get togethers, in fact I’m heading out to another one shortly. I was at one of these gatherings at my Aunt Heather’s place on Christmas Eve and I got talking to my cousin Steve. Steve’s a cool guy who’s a few years older than me and who as far as I know has little interest in action figures. So Steve tells me that he noticed my facebook post and decided to check out this blog. He ended up reading every post and he quite enjoyed it. That just made my day.
I try to write this in general enough terms that anyone can read it and not just toy enthusiasts and he made me feel that I accomplished that. Thanks Steve. So anyway, my Uncle Ken who is a big gruff manly man who kills what he eats happened to overhear us talking about the blog. He asked what we were talking about and I explained to him about how I review toys on a website and I joked to him that he should take a look. He said maybe if I reviewed power tools and chainsaws he might check it out. That’s hardly my area of expertise so in compromise I promised him that my next post would at least be about an action figure who wielded such manly tools. And so I present to you, Grizzly Gundam. Like the Gundam Rose figure I reviewed earlier represented France, this guy here represents Canada. And what better way to represent Canada than with a Lumberjack. As I’ve stated before I know very little about the back story of these toys so I won’t get into it but I do appreciate the toys themselves, and these nationality representing robots from the Mobile Fighter G Gundam series are especially fun because who doesn’t love a good stereotype.
So Grizzly Gundam, who I’ve also seen referred to as Lumber Gundam is actually pretty goofy looking. It looks like he’s wearing a metal version of an animal hide which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you did away with the skirt like middle section and painted the brown areas blue this guy would actually be pretty sweet but as is it’s just kinda dumb. In true robotic lumberjack fashion Grizzly Gundam has a massive chainsaw and a pair of axes. As far as accessories go theses are pretty cool. The axes snap onto his forearms which could be used defensively or you can place them in his hands as attack weapons. Plus his chainsaw can be snapped into place on his back when he’s not holding it so you don’t have to worry about loose accessories laying around. Personally I think Canada could design a better looking robot but what can ya do? I hope you enjoyed him Uncle Ken. (There’s no way he’s reading this) 5 out of 10.
I figured for my next post I would review another Martian Manhunter in case people who read the last post didn’t know what they were looking at. This is How Martian Manhunter is supposed to look. Though even this version is stylized to look resemble the artwork of Ed McGuinness. McGuinness is one of my favorite comic book artists who’s got a fun exaggerated cartoony style and this figure captures it pretty well. Other figures that I’ll review later in this McGuinness inspired line do an even better job. One thing I really love about some of these figures is the sheer size of them. To accurately translate McGuinness’s bulky artwork the folks at DC Direct who produce these things really delivered the goods and these guys are BIG. I’m pretty sure if I clubbed somebody with this thing it might kill them. That actually reminds me of the time that my little sister clocked me in the back of the head with a cabbage doll when we were kids. That hurt a lot.
Back To Martian Manhunter who from this point on I will refer to as J’onn. Just to give you quick background on this guy he is a shape-shifting alien named J’onn J’onzz (John Jones) who got trapped on earth and became a superhero. He’s basically got Superman powers like super strength and flight but instead of Kryptonite this guy’s weakness is fire. I don’t have much an attachment to this character myself as I never read any books he was in when I was a kid but i do know a kick-ass figure when I see one. 7 out 10.