Monthly Archives: April 2012

ZARTAN v12

G.I. JOE

Here’s another great figure from the new sculpt era of which I’ve been reviewing many figures lately.  The thing about this this era of Joe is that sometimes the term new sculpt doesn’t really apply.  I read an interesting article written by another Joe fan recently about how carelessly the community labelled the “eras” of Joe.  The original line from the 80s is easy enough.  It’s called the vintage line or more commonly the RAH (Real American Hero).  Then in 2002 new figures started coming out which fans starting calling “new sculpt” figures.  That worked out fine of course until the figures were no longer new.  And now the current figures are referred to as the modern era which also won’t work a few years from now.  So it’s a complete mess.  Oh well, someone will figure it all out one day.   So this figure heralds from the new sculpt days but as with many figures released back then, the bodies were actually the same ones used in the RAH line of the 80s.  The only thing newly sculpted about this figure is the head.  The body is made up of the same body parts of the very first Zartan figure released in 1984.  Which is fine as that body was pretty cool and the one everyone associates with Zartan.  Every time he’s reinvented with a new look it’s usually a disaster.  1993 mohawk.  Fail. 2004 touque.  Not so good.  Not that this weird cloth on his head necessarily makes for an awesome look either but that’s how we were first introduced to him so that’s how I like him.   I don’t think the animators of the original cartoon knew what to make of this hooded look either.  I believe it was often mistakenly drawn as his hair instead of the hood that it clearly was when you look at the toy and it’s packaging.

 

 

1984 original

 

 

 

This was the last Zartan figure released in the new sculpt era and I think maybe the best Zartan that had been released up to that time.  The original figure was great but it lacked the personality of which Zartan had so much of.  When the figure was first being designed I’m sure the sculptors had no idea that Zartan would become one of the most memorable characters on the show and given a back story in the comic books so important to the whole mythos of Joe.  He killed the Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow’s sensei don’t you know resulting in all kinds of ninja hijinks.  So the original figure looks rather forlorn and lacking the charisma he had shown in other media.  This figure was released in comic 3 pack along with Cobra Commander and a fugly Zarana in 2005.  The comic packs were intended to give us comic book and cartoon accurate versions of iconic Joe characters.  The figures were usually colored much brighter to emulate that animated look.  So they took the original body of Zartan which already worked so well and brightened it up.   Then they sculpted a great new head and plopped it on top.  Then they threw in some cool new weapons like a bow, quiver and individual arrows and the result was one kickass Zartan figure.  This face shows the whites of his eyes and has a sneer fitting of the sly master-of-disguise.  Good stuff.  7 out of 10.

THE CREECH

McFARLANE TOYS

The Creech is the creation of long time Spawn artist Greg Capullo.  I first became aware of Capullo when he was drawing the Marvel book Quasar.  He did a couple of other books for Marvel but wasn’t really on my radar until Todd McFarlane scooped him up to be the regular artist on Spawn.  McFarlane had been writing and drawing Spawn up to this point and he wanted to step away from the art chores to focus more on other aspects of his growing empire, like action figures. Todd wanted to find a penciler with artistic sensibilities similar to his own so that the changing of the guard wouldn’t be too jarring for fans.  I appreciated the effort as any comic fan can attest to how frustrating it is when there is a drastic change in the art on a book from one month to the next.  Capullo was a worthy successor and he only got better over time.  He remained on Spawn for the better part of the 90s and revisited the book a couple times since his departure.  In 1997 he wanted to try his hand at creating his own character and released a 3 issue mini-series entitled The Creech.  Capullo wrote and drew the mini series and it reaffirmed what we learned when Image comics first launched in 1992, artists can’t always write.  It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t good either and certainly not memorable as I’d be hard pressed to try and explain it to you.  So writing wasn’t Greg’s strong suit, so what.  He was still a hell of an artist as is evidenced by the Creech design, pure awesomesauce.  I think I’ve told you before that I like big feet on characters.  It’s not a weird fetish thing I just think big feet make for a cool solid base when designing a comic book character.  The Creech has big ol feet and enormous hands which I also like aesthetically.  Those crazy tentacles are wicked and the fact that he’s so hunched and ripped that it looks like his face is coming out of his chest is just plain cool.  It’s an original design that makes Creech stand out among the slew of other big monster designs we saw from similar artists in books like Pitt and the Tenth.  Though the Creech never made much of an impact on the comic book world, Capullo has recently taken over as regular artist on Batman so he’s doing just fine.

This figure is just rad. For all the design reasons I mentioned and because they’ve been so well translated into 3 dimensions.  This figure has a surprising amount of movement for  McFarlane offering.  He spins around completely at the waist which makes him feel more toy than statue which is always welcome.  The tentacles are all posable like pip cleaners so you can give Creech all kinds of wacky “hair cuts”.  The paint is great, the whole damn thing is great what can I say.  I’d love to see another writer take a crack at writing the Creech and giving this character a story worthy of this design.  9 out of 10.

BATMAN

DC COMICS

I always knew I had a big action figure collection but writing this blog is really making that clear to me.  I’m just a few posts away from 200 and I’ve barely scratched the surface here.  Nearly 200 posts and there’s still so many great toys to review.  Who woulda thunk that a comic collecting nerd could have made it 200 reviews deep into his toy blog and still not reviewed a Batman figure.  Well today I shall rectify that problem: I present to you the goddamn Batman.  You all know Batman’s story so there’s no need to go into all of that here.  Bit by a radioactive Bat, invisible airplane, yadda yadda yadda.  What I will briefly talk about is the source material that this particular Batman is based on; Batman the animated series.  There have been so many incarnations of Batman over the decades but I think the 90s animated series may stand out as the best.  The character designs, the look of Gotham city, the tone, the continuity, everything about it was just spot on.  Whenever a new series/movie is being made for the masses of a well-established property like this, the creators try to boil the character down to its essence.   Things may not happen in the movie exactly as they happened in the comic book but as long as the essence of the story is there and the characters remain true then it usually works.  Never before* has someone been able to take something so well known as Batman and with so many different interpretations from the uber campy 70s sitcom to the dark writings of Frank Miller, mix ‘em all together and churn out the definitive version of Batman.   I absolutely love the look of the 90s animated series.  I also like the distinctive and stylistic looks of the series’ that have come since like “The Batman” and “The Brave and the Bold” but they will all be compared to the 90s show and come up short.

Bruce Timm concept art

The look of Batman: the animated series was carried over into the Superman cartoon and then the Justice League cartoons.  This created a huge animated DC universe with a shared aesthetic.  An aesthetic that I should point out came from Bruce Timm who designed the series.  Genius.   A slew of figures sculpted in the Bruce Timm style have been released and continue to be released despite the fact that the last series to carry on that shared universe, Justice League Unlimited has been off the air for years.  Fans just love this look and want the entire DCU sculpted in this manner.  I would love to have them all too but that’s a slippery slope that I’ve managed to avoid.  The only figures I have in Bruce Timm’s signature style is this Batman figure and an accompanying Riddler that I got from McDonalds many years ago.  These figures coincided with the release of the theatrical animated series spin-off Batman:Mask of the Phantasm-which was excellent.  I remember going to see an afternoon showing and quickly regretting the decision because the place was literally packed with screaming children.  Ugh.  So what can I say about the figure.  It’s probably one of the best fast food toys I’ve ever gotten, he’s up there with the California Raisins at least.  There are bigger better versions of the animated Batman out there but I think this one holds its own.  I remember my little brother Brian having a few larger scale store bought Batmen but I thought my little guy’s proportions actually looked better.  His were always sculpted in a stiff neutral pose, which I usually like my figures to have but I really like the pose of this figure.  It’s almost neutral but he’s got a line of action running through him that gives the impression that he’s ready to strike.  Great little figure.  8 out of 10.

*Take comments like these with a grain of salt.

BRUCE

ADVENTURE PEOPLE

A few weeks ago I reviewed my generic helicopter pilot figure whom I had named Mark.  When writing my Mark post I had taken to the internet to see if I could discover the origins of this misfit figure who had been hanging around my figure drawer for as long as I can remember.  I discovered he was from a line of figures called Adventure People released by Fisher Price.  I also realized a bunch of other figures I once had and remember fondly were also Adventure People.  There were the shark hunting divers, and the deep-sea treasure hunter, and the futuristic drag racer.  Once I knew what these figures were actually called I was determined to reacquire these long lost toys from my childhood.  I hit up ebay and discovered that I was apparently not the only person looking for these things.  Some of these sets were really expensive and even loose figures were fetching far more than I expected.   The only complete shark boat I could find was over $100 plus shipping fees.  Undiscouraged I would search for adventure people deals on my nearly daily ebay visits.  After a few attempts I stumbled across a lot of 8 figures with a current bid sitting at $10, shipping was $5.  I figured I’d take a stab at it with a one-time bid of $15.  I ended up winning it for $12.50 and am now the proud owner of 8 new Adventure People, new to me at least.  The lot wasn’t comprised of any of the figures that I was hoping to reclaim from my childhood, these ones were pretty plain.  There was one in the lot that I remember Doug had when we were kids, a green skinned space man.  I’ll save him for another time though, today I’ve opted to review this middle aged gentleman.

"What's that shit on your finger?"
"What's that shit on YOUR finger?"

Yep.  This is a figure a middle aged guy, nothing more, nothing less.  He’s not based on any actor’s likeness, not a master of disguise or a ninja, he was probably at one point packaged with a mini-van and 2 kids.  Granted there was probably a camper or a tent included, he is an adventure person after all.  Despite being constructed in the late 70s or early 80s this old guy whom I think I shall name Bruce (after my dad) is keeping it real with some  nice earth tones. (which my dad would never do.  red polo shirt with yellow pants-that’s my dad)  This is the kind of figure that’s timeless,  he isn’t very stylish but his lack of style keeps him non-descript and doesn’t tie him to any particular era.  His haircut’s the same.  It looks kinda 70s-ish to me but he could rock that do today and nobody would bat an eye.  He’s in the standard Adventure Person pose with one arm bent so that he’s ready to grab the wheel of whatever adventure vehicle you want to set him in.  I like him.   He’s one of the better ones from the lot I got and I actually got 2 of him which I didn’t notice when I bid on it initially.  It was only when I was dumping the contents of the box into my lap that I said “Hey, this guys in here twice.”  But that’s cool.  The other guy can be Bruce’s equally fashion neutral twin brother Bill (like my uncle Bill).  I honestly didn’t know what I’d be able to say about this guy when I started writing but I’ve managed to write a decent amount of nonsense so I think I’ll wrap it up here.  Bruce, Bill and I are off to have an adventure.  6 out of 10.

GENERAL HAWK v2

G.I. JOE

This here is General Hawk, the leader of the G.I. Joe team.  It’s a little tricky to pin down which version of Hawk this is as sometimes he’s just Hawk, sometimes he’s General Abernathy and sometimes General “Hawk” Abernathy.   Hawk doesn’t get a whole lot of credit and is not one of the better known Joes but he’s been there since the beginning.  Hawk was one of the original 13 Joes released in 1982.  He certainly didn’t look like anyone special or anyone of authority back then.  He had the same plain green body as the other Joes and even shared the exact same head as Short-Fuze.  I had Short-Fuze as a kid and Doug had Hawk and I seem to recall us making them brothers or something because of their identical looks.   Other Joes had the same faces as well but at least their hair was usually painted different colors.  In the comic books Hawk played a commanding role but he wasn’t a General at first.  General Flagg was the big boss early on.  It wasn’t until the 2nd hawk figure was released in 1986 that Hawk started getting some respect.  Hawk finally looked like his own man.  He now had wavy brown hair and a brown bomber jacket.  This is the first version of Hawk that I had.  Before the release of that figure I think it was Doug’s Duke figure who had been leading our figures into battle.  Neither of us really cared for Duke but the cartoon portrayed him as the Joe’s leader so we followed suit.  Once I had the ’86 Hawk in my hands then control was mine!  It was now my figure who decided when the Joes would roll out into battle.  I tried not to let the power go to my head.  Hawk has carried on in his leadership role of Joe in pretty much every incarnation ever since.  In the comics published by Devil’s Due in the 2000s Hawk took a bullet and was confined to a wheelchair.   I wasn’t a fan of this development, it was a little too Professor X for my liking.  They went that route in the live action movie as well when Hawk as played by Dennis Quaid was nearly killed by Storm Shadow and confined to a chair for the second half of the film.   I prefer my Hawk to be active and able bodied but now that I think about it, it would be pretty awesome if a new Hawk figure cam with a wheelchair as an accessory. 

This particular Hawk figure is perhaps my favourite of the many versions released over the years.  It’s tough to say because I will forever love the ’86 version and the modern interpretation of that same figure.  There have been other good ones over the years too but something about this one really appeals to me.  His solid green uniform harkens back to the very first ’82 figure but isn’t quite so plain.  The face on this figure has a great expression that tells me that this guy means business.  I absolutely love the hat.  I’m not sure what you even call these hats but it looks great on Hawk.  A few Joes in the past have worn them but never as well.  This whole look seems like a throwback to WWII era soldier to me.  I could easily use this figure as a pre-Captain America Steve Rogers or even as a Russian soldier to square off against my Indiana Jones figure.  It’s such a great multi-purpose figure.  That might just be because I have no idea about this stuff.  Military aficionados might be appalled that I can swap an American General for any number of nationalities but this figure has such a great generic multi-purpose use in my eye.  Plus it still makes for a great Hawk.  This figure was released during the new-sculpt era which was plagued by goofy proportion issues but I think this figure’s proportions are just fine and it stands as a high point of that era of Joe.  One of my favorites for sure.  8 out of 10.

WAMPA

STAR WARS

Most Star Wars fans agree that Empire Strikes Back is the best of the bunch.   However I’ll bet you’d be hard pressed to get them to agree why it’s the best.  Some say it’s because of the dark tone, the introduction of characters like Yoda, Lando or Bobba Fett or maybe the shocking twist at the end.  Good reasons all.  I think what elevates Empire for me are the opening scenes that take place on the ice planet Hoth.   The snow-speeders fighting the AT-ATs is great and the imperial snow troopers are too cool for school but I’m talking about even earlier in the film than that.   I love me some creatures and the Tauntaun and the Wampa are too stellar examples of creature effects done right.  I’ve watched enough DVD extras to know how unruly these “beasts” were to work with but through fantastic editing you’d never know it.   I love old-school stop motion but seeing the Tauntauns runs across the snow dunes of Hoth does require some suspension of disbelief, it’s hardly true to life movement.  However in those close up shots where you can see their breath and hear their grunting I was sold.  I totally bought into it as a kid and I think they still hold up to my more critical adult eye.   I’m sure the same could not be said of the Wampa if he stayed in the shot for more than a second.  He was pretty sad looking and was only saved by the quick cuts.  While the tauntaun was a unique creature, familiar and believable and yet totally unlike anything we’d seen before, the Wampa’s design is pretty simple.  Ask any 5 year old to draw you a picture of a snow monster or abominable snow man and you’re gonna get a drawing that looks something like the Wampa.  Big white hairy brute-standard stuff.  That is not to say that he isn’t cool though.  If a big white hairy brute is the first thing that pops into anyone’s mind when you say snow monster, than why not design your snow monster to be a big white hairy brute.  The Wampa may very well have been my favourite new character introduced in Empire.  I guess I have a soft spot for monsters who get their arms light sabre-ed off as the same fate befell my favourite character in the original film, Walrus Man. 

Lucas re-released the original trilogy in the late 90s as re-mastered special editions in anticipation of the new trilogy which began hitting theatres in 1999.  I believe his goal was to bridge the gap between the two trilogies so the originals wouldn’t seem so dated when compared to the new stuff.  He did this by adding a bunch of new computer generated effects to the old films and cleaning up subpar shots.  He gets a lot of criticism for some of the added effects, and rightly so, but some of the more subtle effects like the windows and panoramic backgrounds added to cloud city worked out great.  Of the added footage my favourite bits were the Wampa scenes.  Finally we got some great still, full frame shots of the Wampa hunched over, tearing into that tauntaun.  Awesome.  When All six movies were released on bluray for the first time a few months ago I told myself I wasn’t gonna drop the $100 to buy these films AGAIN.  That lasted until a friend told me that in the newly released deleted footage there’s a scene where Wampas raid the rebel base on Hoth.  I went out that afternoon and $100 later I was home watching the Wampa raid that could have been.  It was pretty underwhelming actually and mostly only done on storyboards instead of actual shot footage but it was neat none the less. 

This Wampa figure is from the 90s era of figures, Power of the Force I believe they were called.  I never owned the original one and was super stoked to finally own a Wampa after so many years.  He came with a large ice pillar and a hunk of Tauntaun meat to snack on.  He’s got a removable arm feature so you can re-enact Luke’s heroic display of animal cruelty again and again.  I think this figure is great.  It looks how it’s supposed to look and that’s all I ever really wanted.  Like all Star Wars figures of the time his articulation is limited but it works out okay for this guy.   It’s not like he needs to fit into the cockpit of an X-wing or anything.  8 out of 10.

KEN PATERA

WWF

Ken Patera had an impressive career as an olympic weightlifter, powerlifter, strongman and wrestler for many years before I ever heard of him.  I was introduced to him in 1987 when the WWF began hyping his return to wrestling after serving an actual prison sentence.  In the old days he was a bad guy or “heel” as they’re known in the wrestling world.  Upon his return he felt slighted by his former manager Bobby “the Brain” Heenan and so turned against him and his gang of thugs known as the Heenan family.  Patera was now a good guy or a “face”.   I remember watching wrestling as a kid wondering who this big brute was.  He quickly won me over by strangling Heenan with a belt and swinging him around the ring.  I don’t remember much about him after that as his hype was short lived.  Injuries resulted in him leaving the WWF in 1988.   For a short while before leaving he had teamed up with another rather forgettable wrestle Billy Jack Haynes.  The Patera-Haynes tag team may not have made waves in real life but in the wrestling federation that took place on my bedroom floor, well that was a different story entirely.

Just found this pic and felt compelled to include it

I’m not sure why we decided this, Patera and Haynes were far from out favorite wrestlers, but for some reason Doug and I gifted them with super-human strength.  It may have had to do with the sheer size of the Patera figure; it was an absolute beast.  I had fatter wrestler toys and taller wrestler toys but I think Patera was the biggest.  He was just so thick and heavy with enormous arms.  He looked like he could kick the ass of all my other wrestling toys put together: So he did.  I had Patera and Doug had Haynes.  I must’ve gotten the Patera figure after that team-up was already established on TV because I don’t ever remember a time playing with Patera as a solo act.  We made the Pater-Haynes team an unstoppable force of nature.  Able to lift the entire wrestling ring up if they felt like it to crush over some unsuspecting foes head.  Not to say that they never lost, bad guys have a way of finding a face’s weakness.  A well placed foreign object always did the trick.  Patera was strong but not invincible.  As a kid I looked up to wrestlers and some of them are genuine heroes of mine.  Ken Patera is not one of those guys.  I barely remember his matches and his short stint in the WWF had little impact on me.  I did however have a ton of fun playing with him so for that Mr. Patera I’m glad you never died of a drug overdose.  7 out of 10.

DOCTOR DOOM

SUPER HERO SQUAD

This post is a bit of a cheat.   I’m only supposed to be reviewing toys in my personal collection which this one is not.  It was for a short while though.

I was in a WINNERS store a little while back.  I detest Winners.  For those not familiar it’s a big discount store with “designer” brand stuff at cheap prices.  Like a cross between a Wal-Mart and a yard sale.  That’s the vibe I get.  Just feels “dumpy”.  When the Winners stores first started opening up around here a few years ago I wanted nothing to do with them.  Then one day I was dragged into one and I discovered that they had a crummy little toy department in the corner filled with reject toys.  Amongst the rejects though I found some real gems, and have many times since.   The local Winners stores seem to get excess toys from U.S. retailers that I never would’ve expected to find here.  For example, many U.S. chains like Target and Kay-Bee have exclusive figures that I never have access to because we don’t have those stores.  I usually end up buying those toys on ebay for 2 or 3 times what they originally sold for.  Well every once and a while I’ll find one of those rare toys at Winners, and on top of that, the damn things are at discounted prices!  I’ve paid $40 on ebay for Transformers that I’ve never seen in stores only to stumble across them a few months later in Winners selling for $10.  So on  my most recent trip to Winners I found a Superhero Squad 3 pack that was actually a San-Diego Comic-Con exclusive set.  I don’t know how they end up with these things but there it was.  I think the Superhero Squad toys and cartoons are pretty cool but I haven’t yet bought any as I don’t want to open the floodgates.  You know how I can’t buy just 1 of anything.   This set had to be bought though, not only was it rare but it was adorable.  The set included the Mayor, Iron Man and Doctor Doom.  Doom is what really sold me. 

Look at this guy.  Doctor Doom is the ultimate villain in the Marvel Universe.  He’s smart, powerful, has mastered science and magic, can travel through time  and he looks badass.  That metal face, fully armored body, green hooded cape and the stylish man-skirt make for a deadly and fashionable combination.  Sometimes I wonder about characters like him, does he ever get to relax?   Does he lounge around and watch TV in all of that armor?  Well now I know the answer: yes he does.  He just throws a housecoat over top.  The coat, the slippers and the anti-Iron Man mug are just amazing.  His metal mask even has morning beard stubble.  Awwwwww.  Despite all these comforts he still looks like a cranky sonuvab**ch.  So I picked up this set and passed it along to my nephew Alex (Doug’s kid) who already has a pretty impressive Superhero Squad collection.   I made sure to snap this pic though before letting it go.  This way I won’t be tempted to start collecting yet another toy line and I get to be a good Uncle in the process.  6 out of 10.

SNAKE-EYES v10

G.I. JOE

I recently reviewed the 2002 Storm Shadow figure which helped to usher in the new sculpt era of Joes.  I’ve decided now to review his partner in crime (well partner in package) Snake-Eyes.    Traditionally Joes had always come in single packs or packaged with a vehicle.  There were a few themed multi-packs like the Crimson Twins and Cobra-La but they were rare.   When G.I. Joe was relaunched in 2002 no longer were they “G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero”, instead they were branded “G.I.Joe VS Cobra”.  To drive the versus theme home all the toys were packaged in pairs, one Joe and one Cobra.  There are pros and cons to this.   As a kid I would’ve loved to get a new member of each team with each purchase.  Drives home from the mall would’ve been way more exciting to be able to play out a  brawl between two actual characters instead of having a lone figure battle the dreaded seatbelt snake.  A negative to the paired packaging is that Hasbro has a tendency to stick one of the main Joes in every package.  So in order to pad my cobra ranks I was forced to buy multiple Dukes and Snake-Eyes.  I’m all for double packaging so long as both figures are of good quality and the same characters don’t get rehashed over and over again.  The pairing of hero vs villain works best when the two are arch enemies.  There aren’t too many cases of arch enemies in the world of Joe.  The two organizations just generally don’t get along.  If there is one true rivalry amongst the hundreds of Joes and Cobras  that’s more than business, it’s the one between Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow.  With these guys it’s personal so it makes perfect sense to pair them together in a VS package.

For some strange reason I love this figure.  It’s not a logical love, but love rarely is.  I know that this figure kind of sucks and it’s riddled with faults but I love it anyway, kinda like my girlfriend ( I don’t think she reads my blog anymore-this is a test).  The first problem is the lack of an O-ring.  I’m actually glad they’ve found a way to lose the O-ring in the modern Joe figures.  The little plastic O’s deteriorate over time and have left much of my vintage collection in ruin.  However this early attempt to lose the ring was a fail.  These early 2002 toys have what has become known by fans as a T-Crotch.  That big flat T shaped pelvis piece that the legs snap into.  This type of sculpting greatly reduces the figures ability to move realistically.  Snake-Eyes here is stuck in a permanent wide stance and can barely kick.  As I mentioned in my Storm Shadow post, this T-Crotch makes the figures seem more like Joe knock-offs than the real deal.  The other major problem here is the face.   The overly pronounced nose and lips on this figure I think are to blame for Snake-Eyes’ goofy lipped mask in the live-action movie.  Snake-Eyes has such a cool face/mask that there is no reason to dumb it up by adding sculpted lips.  I realize that the iconic 1985 Snake-Eyes figure was actually the first to add lips but they were much more subtle.  This Snakes Eyes has such detailed features that it doesn’t even look like he’s wearing a mask.  It’s like he painted his bald head black and slapped on a visor like some politically incorrect blue-man group reject trekkie.

Having said all that, why do I love this figure?  Maybe it’s just because of the timing.  Having new Joe figures come out in 2002 after such a long wait was such a treat.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder don’t you know.  I missed G.I. Joe and I was thrilled to have them back.  I was excited by the new characters like Neo-Viper to expand the mythos but they needed to be grounded by familiar faces from the past.  If it had been all new characters I would’ve written it off as another Sgt. Savage or G.I. Joe Exteme (2 failed attempts to revive the brand in the 90s)  Duke, Snake-Eyes, Cobra Commander and the others had to be there as a solid foundation on which Hasbro could build new ideas.  This version of Snake-Eyes had lots of nostalgic appeal but still seemed modern and updated at the same time.  I like the solid black of the original figure but the shades of gray here with blue highlights works quite well too without getting to loud and colourful.  The double sheath backpack accessory is great and just the over-all uniform design is just cool.  Also the clunky cheapness of these figures that made them seem like knock-offs actually made them feel tough.  This felt like a toy I could play with.  Chuck him off the deck, throw him in the sandbox, dunk him in the pool.  The lack of joints made for a sturdier more durable toy which had its own benefits.  By the end of 2002 the O-ring was back due to fan out-cry and new versions of Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow came out that more closely resembled the original incarnations.  This first wave of T-crotched new sculpt figures is the least appreciated wave in the least appreciated era of G.I. Joe.    I view them as having paved the way for all the great things that followed: the modern era figures, the comic books and the movies.  8 out of 10.

DEETH

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS

Whenever I decide to write one of these blog entries I usually do a little bit of research.  Not a ton, I just need to refresh my memory on release dates and a few other specific details that I want to get right.  Most of the stuff I spout on here like character origins and such is right out of my noggin as I always had a knack for retaining this type of information.  Ask me how to do long division however and I’m lost.  There have been a few toys that I’ve owned for years and never really known where they came from, like Turtle Man or Georgie.  So when it comes time to write about them on here I have to do some real research to see what I can dig up on them.  This is one of those figures.  Here’s what I did know about this figure, he’s from the Dungeons & Dragons series.  As many of you know Dungeons & Dragons was the first big role playing game.  I think Magic is the big one now but I really don’t know.   I’m not well versed in that stuff, it was never my scene.  The popularity of the game in the 80s resulted in the property branching out into other media.  1983 brought us a saturday morning cartoon and a toy line neither of which really tied into the game or each other.  The D & D name was really all these things had in common.  The game was set in a sword and sorcery type world where players took on the roles of knights and trolls and stuff.  The cartoon was about a group of kids that ride a D & D themed roller coaster and somehow end up trapped in the world of D & D.  They spent 2 seasons battling the evil Venger and trying to get home.  The toy line featured named characters who didn’t appear in either the game or the show.  A few of the characters did later pop up in the show but basically the toys were independent form the cartoon.  None of the main kids from the show ever got figures.  Doug and I each owned one D & D toy.  They were probably given to us by our uncle Bill who tended to give us cool oddities, things we wouldn’t have asked for on our own.  The miscellaneous figure drawer was filled with toys from aunts and uncles who didn’t know what G.I. Joes to get us.  Doug had a big burly archer/falconer and I had a brave knight.  We had long forgotten the names on the packages and since they weren’t on the cartoon and there was no internet to help us out we simply referred to them as Knight and Archer.  These guys were favorites of ours who met the Joes on a time travel adventure or two and always fared well in figure drawer battle royals.

So today I figured I’d at least find out what my brave knight’s name was.   I had it in my head that he was Braveheart, Lionheart, Strongheart or something cool and tough like that.  There was a knight named Strongheart in the line but it wasn’t this guy.  Nope, apparently my knight’s name is Deeth which is pretty crappy and unheroic.   It also turns out that my knight…is a chick.  Here’s her bio:

Deeth is a powerful fighter who is capable of defeating any and all evil doers in combat. Since childhood, she has trained as a warrior with many weapons. She is feared by many because she uses her sword of light and battle mace with lightning speed and accuracy. Deeth usually travels alone, but will always join forces with other good fighters when it is neccessary.

WTF!?  My knight figure has been a chick this whole time!  I feel so lied to.  I had wondered about the long black hair coming out from the bottom of the helmet but I always figured it was a fur collar or something.  His face never seemed overly feminine.  Couldn’t they have put some lipstick or something on him to tip me off.  Oh well.  He’ll always be a dude as far as I’m concerned.  The figure is actually pretty great, androgyny aside.  The D & D figures weren’t far behind Joes in quality.  They had lots of movement, lots of accessories, lots of paint aps and cool little action features.  Deeth has a switch on “his” back that when pressed sends his arm swinging back and forth so he can attack with his sword.  Even cooler, he has a chained weapon that swings around freely when placed in the action hand.  He also came with a shield and a cape.  This is another one of those toy lines from my childhood that when I take a second look at it now I feel compelled to hit up ebay and try to find some more.  Maybe I’ll see if I can score an actual Strongheart.  7 out of 10.