Monthly Archives: June 2012
This past week at “mike’s collection” I’ve hit a couple of small milestones. Firstly I posted my 250th post. This may not seem like a big deal to you but growing up as a comic book reader I’ve become accustomed to celebrating every small milestone. Comic companies just love to charge you an extra dollar for a hologram cover or an extra 5 pages in celebration of the comic’s 1 year anniversary, or the 50th issue, or the end of a storyline, or whatever. I try not to make a big deal of every milestone but I think 250 is quite impressive. That’s more blog posts then there are issues of Spawn and he’s been around for 20 years. The second milestone was I had my highest site views ever a couple of days ago. I don’t bother to bring it up every time but this past Wednesday I had 599 views. I still have no idea if that’s impressive or not as I’m still a blogging newbie but it seems good compared to the 7 views a day I was getting when I started this thing. Lara Croft still brings in the majority of my views, god bless Angelina Jolie and her bikini. Oddly enough my Barbapapa post from the other day has skyrocketed in views and has quickly become my 4th most viewed entry. Weird. You just never know what people are looking for.
So let’s celebrate these milestones by reviewing one of my favorite film stars: Godzilla. I’ve been holding off on reviewing this guy partly because I don’t have very many Godzilla toys and I didn’t want to review him to early and forget to say something about him and then not have another opportunity to do so. If I forget to talk about something in a Cobra Commander post I’ll just mention it when reviewing one of my dozens of other Cobra Commander figures. I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to squeeze all my Godzilla thoughts into this entry but when I was deciding on a special toy to celebrate post number two-fifty this is the first guy that came to mind.
I wouldn’t exactly say I grew up on Godzilla because truth be told I think I may have only seen 2 or 3 of his films as a kid. I seem to recall seeing King Kong vs Godzilla as a child, probably a Mothra one and I think I caught Godzilla vs the Sea Monster on TV at one point. I most likely saw Godzilla 1985 as well but I couldn`t swear by any of these. I more or less grew up fascinated by the concept of Godzilla more than the actual films. I loved big movie monsters like the Kraken, the Rancor and even the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The thought of one of them stomping all over a city was just awesome. Doug and I played the game Rampage all the time on our Commodore 64 computer, where you play simultaneously as giant monsters and the goal is to destroy buildings and eat people. Repetitive but fun. I would`ve loved Godzilla movies, games and toys as a kid but they just weren`t that easy to find so I settled for knock-offs and imitations.
It really wasn`t until the release of the American-made Godzilla movie of 1998 that I truly got to indulge my Godzilla craving. G-fans tend to bash that movie a lot but there’s no denying that it was good for the brand. All the sudden my local Blockbuster had a standee up in their store with a bunch of re-releases of the old Godzilla movies available for sale on VHS to coincide with the new films theatrical release. I bought up all they had and was finally able to appreciate the “greatness” of those films. It was my first introduction to Gigan, Megalon, Jet Jaguar, and more. The American version I actually quite enjoyed even if it didn`t really feel like Godzilla. I know they were going for a more realistic approach, making Godzilla behave more animalistic but I prefer my Godzilla to part Super Hero/Villain/Wrestler.
After the release of American Godzilla movie the Japanese studio who created Godzilla in the first place, TOHO, began pumping out a new crop of Godzilla movies. I feel these films were Godzilla at his best. The production values had gone way up as did the storytelling and acting. The campy silliness of the old movies was gone and Godzilla was ferocious again; a force of nature as he was originally intended to be. The monsters were still all played by actors in rubber suits but very convincing suits. Godzilla himself had undergone a serious makeover, he was bigger and bulkier, his fins were bigger and spikier, and his face was meaner and more detailed. I really enjoyed this run of films which culminated with 2004’s Final Wars. I only wish there had been more continuity between them. Almost every film released during this time started a new continuity that didn’t acknowledge the past films.
Despite being around since the 50s and having over 20 films to his name, finding decent Godzilla product in North America is not an easy feat. I’m sure they’re drowning in rubber Godzillas in Japan but over here only a few characters have been released. Bandai is the company who holds the rights to the character over here and their releases are sparse. They put out a few toys to coincide with the release of Final Wars a few years ago. My pal Andrew was vacationing in the US and brought me back an 8 inch figure of retro Godzilla. It was a great gift but slightly overshadowed by the fact that he had bought himself massive 12 inch figures of modern Godzilla and Mechagodzilla. I love my little Godzilla but man was I jealous of those things. A couple of years later my comic shop Strange Adventures finally got those same figures in along with a third character, Gigan. I scooped up the three of them and now I’ve got my own little Monster Island (home of Godzilla) going on atop my bookshelves.
I’ll wrap this up by actually talking about the figure. This thing is awesome. It’s big enough that he’s daunting to almost all of my other action figures. While it’s far from the proper scale, having this guy attack my G.I. Joe headquarters still makes for an epic scene of destruction. The detailing is fantastic from the scales all over his body, to the spikes on his spine and even his cute little ears. The face has a great look of anger and pissed offy-ness that says that this guy is ready to rumble. My retro Godzilla almost appears to be smiling but not this guy, he means business. I love the dark tone of green they used on this figure, it’s almost black but it suits him perfectly. Other paint apps are minimal as they should be. I dig the orange eyes. He does have joints on his arms, legs, head and tail but he really isn’t able to move all that much. He can’t exactly be posed dynamically but the movements possible in the actual rubber suit were most likely similarly restrited. Honestly I wouldn’t care if this thing didn’t move at all. Like my old rubber dinosaurs or LJN wrestlers I’d have been happy with a solid hunk of plastic to stomp my other toys with. Long live the King of Monsters! 10 out of 10.
As I write this I am 34 years old and the year is 2012. I grew up on Star Wars. I was born in 1978, Star Wars was released in 1977, Empire in 1980 and Jedi in 1983. Not to mention the 2 Ewok movie spin-offs from 1984 and 1985. Back then stop-motion was still used on a regular basis to create creature effects in the movies. I was fascinated by the Kraken in the original Clash of the Titans and I loved the Tauntauns and the Rancor from the Star Wars movies. Star Wars seemed light years ahead of everything else coming out at the time and yet it was still full of extras in bad rubber masks. Werewolves and Praying Mantis’s trying to pass for aliens. These old film making techniques were part of the films charm and some of those rubber masked extras became some of my favorite action figures. I know I’m being nostalgic but I loved those old films. I wonder if I would have the same connection with Star Wars had I been a teenager when they first came out. I’m sure I would’ve still enjoyed them but it’s unlikely that I would’ve had the bed sheets(well Doug did), curtains and beach towels. For a few years as a kid, before G.I. Joe and Transformers really blew up, I was all about Star Wars.
As I got older I would watch the films every couple of years and I always enjoyed them. It had gotten to the point where I could recite the dialogue along with all the characters. They were great films, revisited more often than most other films from my childhood but for a good decade there they weren’t all that relevant. But then George Lucas announced that he would be re-releasing the original films with new footage and added effects in preparation for the release of a brand new trilogy of prequel films. This was huge news and my interest in the brand was rekindled. I started buying up all the new “Power of the Force” figures, characters that I had owned as a kid but had since given away. The year that Episode I hit theatres, 1999,
I was studying computer animation at McKenzie College. My entire school was full of animation nerds who had grown up on Star Wars, that’s why most of us were there in the first place. I was excited about the film anyway but being surrounded by my animation classmates all day everyday fed my excitement. Anticipation had built to a fever pitch as the release date loomed closer. The whole lot of us ended up going to the midnight screening on opening night, a few people dressed for the occasion. I remember Mark all painted up as Darth Maul. He looked great but it’s odd to think that no one knew anything about the character at the time other than the fact that he had a double sided lightsaber in the trailer. When the Lucas film logo appeared on screen the theater thundered with cheers and applause. Even more so when the title “STAR WARS” began scrolling up the screen. This was an event of intergalactic proportions. Sadly we were very quickly brought back down to Earth when in the opening scene we’re introduced to Nute Gungray. A green dude with a bad Asian accent and a goofy rubber mask whose mouth didn’t match up with the dialogue. Very quickly I realized that there was a possibility that this film may not live up to my expectations.
And it didn’t. I liked lots of things about it but it was not the masterpiece I had built up in my mind. Lucas had 15 years to work on this and he gives us Jar-Jar Binks, Jake Lloyd who can’t act for s**t as young Darth Vader, piss poor dialogue, inept Battle Droids, Midi-chlorians, and plenty more to complain about. All the senate talk and trade disputes were boring. Plus you introduced maybe the coolest character ever into the Star Wars mythos and then you cut him in half at the end. WTF! But I did enjoy it. Despite all those things I just mentioned it was still a new Star Wars film and it did have some high points as well. One thing I liked was the inclusion of A-list talent. You’d never know it from the awkward dialogue they were given to speak but there were some real thespians on that film. Natalie Portman, Sam Jackson, Liam Neeson..like hello. And then of course there was Ewan McGregor who first won me over as a toilet diving junkie in Trainspotting, who would be playing a young Obi Wan Kenobi. I actually think he did a pretty good job. As I was watching him I was thinking “can I see this guy growing up to be Alec Guiness?” and I could.
Like the movie itself, the Episode I action figures came with a lot of hype. My favorite toy publication (R.I.P. Toyfare) had filled their pages with Star Wars propaganda for months leading up to their release. Many toy stores actually held midnight events for the release of the toys. The stroke of twelve brought me to my local Walmart where I bought up probably 10 figures that first night. I bought the rest soon enough. I quickly acquired a massive collection of Phantom Menace toys. I bought a decent amount of toys based on Episode II when they came out but by Episode III I had Star Wars fatigue and didn’t buy any. One of the figures I got that first night was this one, young Obi Wan. Star Wars figures weren’t known for their detail at the time as is evident here. It’s not a bad figure and even the likeness to Mr. McGregor is passable but he still looks rather flat. There may be sculpted creases in his robe but it still looks like hard plastic. His face has no personality, the whole thing just seems sterile to me. Star Wars figures today are much better but this guy here seems closer to the old 80s toys than to the well sculpted and articulated modern figures. He’s alright though and god knows I was excited to get him at the time. 5 out of 10.
<Please note: I originally had this post labelled as “Yellow Robot” until a reader pointed me towards a wikipedia page that identifies him as Braiger. As I suspected he played a vital role in a Japanese anime series about a transforming robot who policed the solar system. I’ve added the two new color pics but the rest of the post is as was originally written>
The is one of those strange nameless toys that I’ve kept with me for almost as long as I can remember. I say almost because I have very faint memories of when I first got this toy. I don’t recall where he came from but I seem to remember playing with him on the car ride home from wherever it was that we were. If I had to guess at the origins of this toy I’d say that he came from some dollar store or maybe even a gumball machine but he seems like he may have been a little too big to cram into one of those bubbles; perhaps when disassembled. There have been a few other of my old toys that I knew nothing about before sitting down to write their review, but a quick google search provided me with some interesting history on a few of them. As far as this guy goes I could find nothing. Yellow Robot. Vending Machine Robot. Break- Apart Robot. Assemble Robot. Dollar Store Robot. Bubble-Gum Robot. Gashapon Robot…nothing. I discovered all kinds of cool pics of little vending machine robots but nothing resembling this guy. Doug was at my side as usual when I got this toy. He got one also except his was blue with yellow wings, the opposite of mine. The design of his robot was more sleek and less boxy. I googled Blue Break-Apart Vending Machine Robot as well but still no luck. Maybe there’s nothing to know. Maybe some crappy vending machine company whose long since gone out of business whipped up a few plastic robots and threw them in a machine and that was that. There’s something about the design of these things though that makes me think otherwise. They both were so different in style, both cool looking and both very reminiscent of the type of robots you see in Japanese Anime. I can’t help but think that maybe they’re from a line of robots based on various old Anime cartoons. These things just seemed to be of better quality than your typical dollar store junk.
Yes I realize he’s a dinky, solid yellow vending machine toy but he’s of quality stuff as far as dinky vending machine toys goes. These designs, if blown up and painted, would blend in just fine amongst more famous robots like Voltron or Mazinger Z. This nameless little robot could possibly be based on a super well-known property from Japan that I’m just nor familiar with. They have so many famous robots over there though that I wouldn’t even know how to begin trying to find out who he is. Clearly I need some Japanese friends.
The figure itself is pretty cool for what it is. The plastic is thick and sturdy. For a figure so small there’s lots of little details in the design. The head is one of the more detailed parts. It’s got this weird half human kinda vibe to it with a mouth and eyes. Doug’s robot had a head more like Optimus Prime. Doug’s guy’s wings were also much more like a jet pack akin to the Rocketeers. My guy’s blue wings are thin with a net little design sculpted into them. There are no real moving parts on this figure but the fact that he breaks apart gives him some movement at the joints. His head can turn and his arms can swing but some leg movement would have been nice. He snaps apart into 7 pieces and they can be assembled in whatever shape you desire but anything other than his standard assembly just looks dumb. I could’ve swapped pieces with Doug’s robot but we didn’t do much of that. The swap-ability factor might have been a fun feature if I had owned a bunch of these guys in various colors. This toy is one of those odd little pieces that struck a chord with me as a kid and I have held onto it ever since. I’ve gotten rid of Transformers toys that probably cost my parent $50 and yet this little robot that would’ve cost them a quarter remains in my collection, go figure. 7 out of 10.
This is my second review of an Umbrella Academy figurine. I previously reviewed the White Violin. That was one of my very first posts and I can’t recall what I wrote so I’m sure I’ll repeat some of it here. The Umbrella Academy is comic book series published by Darkhorse Comics. To date there have only been two 6 issue mini-series released of the title but hopefully more will follow. The last series was published in 2008 so I think it’s about time for some new material. The series is written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Ba. Ba’s art is extraordinary and reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s (creator of Hellboy) style, and Way has proven himself to be a pretty great writer. Gerard Way is better known as the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. I only mention that here so that I can gush about the band a little bit. I think those guys are f**king great. Their most recent album, 2010’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is still in heavy rotation on my ipod. For that matter I’ve never stopped listening to 2004’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you’ve never given them a serious listen I recommend you do.
So the Umbrella Academy is about a group of 6 flawed super heroes who grew up together as adoptive siblings at the Umbrella Academy. All of the characters have something going for them but I think Spaceboy is my favorite. Not only because I can’t say his name without the Smashing Pumpkins song “Spaceboy” immediately popping into my head (great song) but also because he looks the coolest.
Spaceboy, or #1 as he is also known, has always had the power of super strength but after an accident resulted in his head being transplanted onto the body of a gorilla he became even stronger. It makes for a great visual as he towers over all the other characters in the book. I really wanted to post some great art work by Gabriel Ba on here to show you what I’m talking about but it was next to impossible to find any decent images online. I snapped this one pic of Spaceboy out of my own comic but it doesn’t do Gabriel justice. You really should just go out and buy the book and you’ll see what I mean.
As for the figure, this thing is just balls out awesome. It sucks that it’s not articulated at all but it makes for a gnarly display piece. The other figures in the set are small and tend to get lost in the chaos on my toy shelf but this guy has some girth to him and he demands to be noticed. The paint job is brilliant and captures the work of the comic artists in a way I didn’t think was possible. The paint apps just add so much depth and character to the figure. The sculpt is amazing too, from the dynamic pose to the retro jet pack and attached hoses. The design is very top heavy as that’s how he appears in the comics but with the attached base this figure never falls over. It really is a toy masterpiece. He only loses a point for the lack of movement. 9 out of 10.
The new sculpt era of G.I. Joe that lasted from 2002 until 2007 will probably go down in history as a pretty forgettable period for Joe; or rather it won’t go down in history at all which is really kind of a shame. The new sculpt era brought us some horribly proportioned figures, a lot of ugly redesigns, mediocre direct-to-video CGI movies with bad characterizations of well-established Joes, a flood of repaint figures, and some wonky articulation. However every era of joe has had their share of misses. The new sculpt era may have had more than others but in part that’s because of the massive amount of product released during that time. There were only 6 different versions of Snake-Eyes released in the entire first decade of RAH Joe from ’83-’94. There were 19 versions of him released during the new sculpt era between 2002 and 2006. Amongst all that average product some real gems were released. The new sculpt era brought us a whole bunch of cool new characters and some of the redesigns of classic characters were actually improvements over the originals. The plastic used was more durable during those years and some cool concepts were introduced. One of my favorite aspects of the era was the 2-packs of figures.
Today I’m going to review Switch Gears who I feel is a fine example of what was good about those years. First off he was a brand new character. I wouldn’t be interested if they relaunched G.I. Joe with all new characters as I love the characters I grew up with but I feel an infusion of new blood is necessary every now and again to keep things fresh. Switch Gears’ file card says he’s a tank driver and a tough guy and yet he didn’t come with a tank and he’s got a friendly baby-face so the description doesn’t really match the toy. Switch Gears came packaged with Cobra Commander which seems like an odd choice. Usually they seemed to make an effort to pair rival characters together like Duke with Cobra Commander or Snake-Eyes with Storm Shadow. Slapping this rookie tank driver in a 2-pack with Cobra’s top dog seems kind of lazy to me. But it was a 2-pack none the less and maybe Hasbro thought people wouldn’t buy this new character unless he was packaged with somebody important. Another thing I like about Switch Gears is that he was a part of one of those high-concept subsets. He was part of a wave of figures known as Spy-Troops where one character in each 2-pack came with a disguise so that they could infiltrate the other team. Switch Gears comes with a disguise that makes him appear to be the B.A.T. commander Overkill. Not that his disguise would actually fool anyone; he’s about as convincing as Fakor but it’s a fun feature that added some play value. Switch Gears’ overall design isn’t great. His pants are an ugly color, he’s got random non-sensical armor padding, retarded shoulder pads, and a gay vest. (pardon my double political incorrectness) Despite having all those strikes against him I still find myself liking this character. Perhaps it’s because he was one of the first new Joes introduced to the team in years. He looks like such a fresh faced young kid amongst the other Joes who in my mind are all battle hardened vets. It makes me long for the days when I was a kid and I’d get a new figure that I could introduce into the team during play, I feel I could’ve “told” some good stories with this kid and his sad attempt at impersonation. 6 out of 10.
Today I’m gonna review what is probably the second most recognizable Transformer character after Optimus Prime: Bumblebee. I feel Bumblebee always got a bad rap. He seemed to be that character that Hasbro shoehorned into the series for us kids to relate to when really all they accomplished is making him seem lame. In the cartoons he palled around with the Spike the human kid and acted very naïve and innocent. He was smaller than a lot of the other transformers, and his alt mode was a cutesy Volkswagen Beetle so we bought into the characterization of him being kind of a kid himself. The only problem with that is Bumblebee is millions of years old. Maybe robots don’t mature as fast as people but after a few million years I feel Bumblebee should have overcome his wide eyed innocence. Besides it’s not like he was living millions of years in ignorant bliss out in a meadow somewhere, this dude was a soldier in an intergalactic war. He should probably be a little “harder” than the cartoons made him out to be, all of the Autobots probably should have been for that matter. He wasn’t quite as simple in the Marvel comic book series but he did still hang around with a human kid named Buster. That kinda thing tends to lessen your credibility as a tough guy. I never didn’t like Bumblebee growing up, in fact his forced relatable-ness probably worked in making him more relatable than most of the other Transformers.
It was pretty sad when in the G.I. Joe and the Transformers comic published by Marvel in 1987, the Joes mistook Bumblebee for a threat and blew him to pieces. It made for a very memorable cover anyway.
He was later resurrected as Goldbug which didn’t really take. In modern interpretations of the Transformers comics Bumblebee and Goldbug are actually different characters. Bumblebee has appeared in almost all of the various versions of Transformers over the decades. He had the starring role in the live-action Transformers movies by Michael Bay in which he was a mute who could communicate only through radio broadcasts and he was changed (or should I say transformed) from a Volkswagen to a Camero. The change in cars really bugged me at first but I’m over it now. I still think the mute thing is dumb and do not like seeing that trait carried over into other media. Overall I’ve come to terms with the fact that the Transformers appearing on movie screens and TV screens are no longer my Transformers, they belong to the kids now. My Transformers are those known by fans as G1 or Generation 1 . That wide-eyed, kid-friendly, yellow Beetle from the 80s…that’s my Bumblebee.
Luckily I’m not forced to throw in those old 80s cartoons to revisit my Bumblebee. Thank god that in the comic book world G1 still reigns supreme. There have been comics based on the movies and the various animated series like Energon and Armada, even the long running and respected series “Beast Wars” has had comic stories published but they always seem to fall by the wayside and the G1 comics keep trucking along(more puns, yay!). Since 2006 IDW has published the Transformers comics and they’ve been doing a great job. It started out a little rocky but they soon found their footing and the comic has been a great read the past couple of years. Bumblebee is actually treated very respectfully in the modern comics. Though some of his teammates doubt and underestimate him, he was actually made the leader of the Autobots by Optimus Prime. He’s new to the role of leader so we still get to watch him grow and fumble things from time to time but he’s not portrayed as a kid any longer. I highly recommend you check out what IDW has been up to if you haven’t yet or if you’ve stepped away for a while.
As far as action figures go it took a while for Bumblebee to get some respect in that department as well. His original G1 figure was alright. It was a Japanese import as all of the early Transformers toys were. The toy line was comprised of robots from a number of different Japanese properties which were not related to one another over there. Hasbro brought them over, slapped new names and personalities on them and the Transformers were born. The fact that they came from different lines is the reason that Transformers came in such a variety of shapes and sizes which didn’t really match up. The original Bumblebee toy was from a Japanese line of penny racers or SDF (super deformed) cars hence his short and stumpy stature. As I mentioned in my previous Cliffjumper post a mix up along the way resulted in the 2 characters shipping to America in the wrong colors and with the wrong face.
Doug owned the original Bumblebee except he was a red Beetle and he had a visor and faceplate instead of the yellow paintjob and horned human-like face he was known to have in the comics and cartoon. The next Bumblebee toy was the crappy Throttlebot version known as Goldbug. It wasn’t until 2006 that Hasbro released a Bumblebee toy that finally did the character justice, this one from the Transformers Classics line. My only real complaint about this toy is that he doesn’t transform into a Beetle but instead some sort of Honda Civic kinda thing. This doesn’t bother me too much though because I never transform my Transformers anyway. This version was finally a good size (not too big, not too small), was well articulated and could be posed and even <gasp> played with, plus he had a beautiful face sculpt. I absolutely love this version of Bumblebee. He was the first Classics figure I got and I’ve bought many more since, I only wish there were more available. Other than guns Transformers usually don’t have much need for accessories but this Bumblebee actually comes with a pretty cool one, a small jet-ski on a trailer that can be towed in his car mode or you can transform it into a winged jet-pack for his robot mode. A few more decent Bumblebee figures have come since including a Cybertronian version of him inspired by the War for Cybertron video game and I even like the recently released version based off of his current appearance in Transformers : Prime. However if you own only one Bumblebee figure make it this one. 8 out of 10.
For those of you unfamiliar with MUSCLES they were a bunch of crazy looking wrestling figures about 2 inches tall and made out of solid flesh colored plastic. Later figures came in a multitude of solid colors but all of the ones I had were of the flesh colored variety. MUSCLE was an acronym for Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere. You could purchase them in a variety of ways, either in small blister packs of 4 figures, plastic garbage cans containing 10 figures or large box sets of 28 figures. Some of the likeness’ originated in Japan from a line of figures called Kinnikuman; maybe they all did but I’m not sure. A small comic strip on the back of the 28 pack named the good guy leader as Muscle-Man and the bad guy leader as Terri-Bull. Other than the names of those two characters no other information was provided. Like Battle Beasts these figures provided a clean slate on which you could weave your own web of continuity. Doug and I each owned a 28 pack of figures and a few other random ones. Doug had a garbage can set and I think we got a couple blister packs as well plus I seem to recall trading a friend for some. One thing I would’ve loved to have as a kid was a checklist of some type. I had no idea how many of these things there were to collect. Doug and I had a sizable collection but knowing the wide array of characters that my friends had that we didn’t it seemed as though there was an unlimited number of figures available. The internet would’ve come in handy.
Other kids may have used these figures to play out all kinds of adventure scenarios but Doug and I kept pretty close to the wrestling angle. We used them in the same way we played with our WWF figures. We never had the wrestling ring that was available but it kinda sucked anyway. We would use the bottom of the 28 pack as a wrestling mat and we just pretended that there were ropes. We set up elaborate tag teams and rivalries and held Wrestlemania like events. Oddly enough I don’t recall Doug ever keeping stats.
Since these characters didn’t come with names it was up to us to name them all. Honestly I can’t remember most of the names I gave these guys. I knew I wouldn’t have enough to say about each individual figure to fill an entire post so I decided to break them into groups. Some characters fought alone, some had tag-team partners that seemed super obvious and others less so and then there were a few “families”. These were groups of characters that shared certain features and so we grouped them into larger teams similar to WWF’s Degeneration X WCW’s NWO. The three characters I’ve chosen for this entry were one such family but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. You can clearly see the similarities in their costumes though so it seemed like a no-brainer to team them up. I like the teams look with the funky helmets and buckled boots. I was always impressed at the amount of detail they were able to squeeze into these figures though this group isn’t the best example of that. The only name I’m certain of in this group is the little guy on the left whom I dubbed Weakly for obvious reasons. He looks like a total wimp but I treated him as an underdog not to be trifled with. With his arms posed the way they are he’s perfectly posed to unleash a flurry of devastating blows on an unsuspecting opponent. The next guy is Scarface, also for obvious reasons. If that wasn’t his name before it sure is now. His mangled robotic face made me wonder if all of these guys were mechanical beneath their creepy face masks. I treated his as kind of a mindless brute zombie. Lastly we have a guy who I think I called Wolverine because of the little claws he has on his knuckles. Because of his crazed smile I imagined this guy to be a bit of a maniac who would go into berserker rages when pushed to the edge. They made for a cool little team, 7 out of 10.
When the 3 ¾ inch Marvel Universe line of figures launched a couple of years ago I told myself not to bother with it. I already had a pretty large Marvel collection in the 6 inch scale from a few years back anyway. The initial figures that came out didn’t do much to impress me anyway. I found they looked really scrawny and they were selling for the same price as G.I. Joes only G.I. Joes were far more detailed and came with a ton of accessories while most of the Marvel figures didn’t come with any accessories. I actually like the fact that they don’t come with accessories because very few super-heroes use accessories. Silver Surfer needs a surf board of course and Captain America needs a shield but I hate when they package Spider-Man with a hang glider just so they can charge me an extra couple of bucks for the toy. I say do away with all useless accessories but for the love of god drop the price point a buck or two. Paying $12 for a little iceman figure is kind of hard to swallow when the guy is practically a solid white stick man. It wasn’t until the Red Hulk figure came out that I was finally hooked on this line of figures. The detail and overall quality had improved greatly over the next couple of lines and the fact that they were able to capture Ed McGuinness’s art style in such a small figure is what really impressed me. There was no turning back after that, I must have 100 of these things by now.
Though Red Hulk is the figure that convinced me to collect the line he wasn’t the first figure I purchased. Oddly enough the first figure I bought was this Wolverine. To some Wolverine might seem like an obvious choice but to me. I’ve always had a kind of love/hate relationship with Wolverine. He was booming in popularity right around the time I was getting into comic books. He was absolutely everywhere and he got shoehorned into different comic books that were struggling with sales. His costume is cool and his powers are awesome but half the time he couldn’t even be bothered to bring his costume to his guest appearances. His haircut may be unique but it never struck me as cool and I hated having a casually dressed Wolverine wandering around in all of my comic books. A couple years into my comic collecting Marvel launched Wolverines first solo book. I remember reading it thinking that this was exactly what I didn’t want in a Wolverine book. He was goofing around fighting losers I’d never heard of in a boring fictional city all the while wearing a stupid eye-patch. Meh. Doug stuck it out for a while but I lost interest quickly. I also was annoyed with the whole “no memory of his past” angle. Basically, yes he looked cool but I found him to be a boring character to read about.
When I saw this figure I didn’t see all the boring over-wrought stories of him wandering around in Madripoor, I just saw a cool figure. In the comic books around this time Wolverine had joined the new X-Force team which was a stealth team assembled by Cyclops for covert missions. All of the X-Force crew wore black and silver variations of their usually costumes. It’s amazing what a little black and silver can do to make a character seem even more bad-ass than he was before. I was really digging the look and was impressed when this figure came out (the first Wolverine of the series) to see that they had opted to put him in his new and not widely recognizable X-Force costume. I wanted it just because it was so fresh but I didn’t want to rope myself into collecting a new series of figures. It then dawned on me though that I didn’t own a single Wolverine figure. Clearly I had let my hate of the character overshadow my love for him and had navigated my way through the Secret Wars, the 90s X-Men toys, and the Marvel legends without ever having owned a Wolverine toy. For a character released so often it’s almost a staggering thought that I was able to avoid owning him for so long. So I figured it was time to remedy that situation and I scooped me up this X-Force Wolverine. I think my patience paid off as this is a very nice little Wolverine. The sculpt is nice, he’s well detailed, has the just-right amount of articulation and is not overly posed. I really like the head sculpt too as the mask is just pointy enough. And the black and silver costume just seals the deal, he looks awesome. The X-Force costume has been released twice more since but this one gets points for being the first. Welcome to my collection Wolverine…I hope you survive the experience. 8 out of 10.
This is Crankcase. G.I. Joe driver of the A.W.E. Striker (All Weather/Environment). First released in 1985, he was exclusively available packaged with that vehicle. Most vehicle drivers were only available packaged with their respective vehicles and for the most part I was fine with that. Mom and Dad always came through on Christmas and Birthdays when it came to Joe vehicles. I don’t recall a single one in which I was left wanting. We had most of the vehicles produced in those first few years of Joe and the ones we didn’t have we didn’t really want. Most times how bad we wanted the vehicle really depended on how bad we wanted the included figure. The figures themselves always held much more appeal to us. It was frustrating when figures were released packaged with vehicles such as the 6 foot long air craft carrier or the space shuttle, toys that were a little out of our price range. Luckily the figures included in those sets weren’t all that cool. It was Doug that got Crankcase and his Awe-Striker back in ‘85. I liked the character and the vehicle but they weren’t anything special. The Awe-Striker didn’t hold a candle to the VAMP jeep in my mind so it always seemed second best. And Crankcase got limited exposure in the cartoons or comics so his personality was under developed and I don’t recall Doug infusing him with any interesting character traits. He was just kinda there like a lot of Joes were but he still felt integral to the team.
Crankcase was one of those characters that never got repainted or revisited for the rest of the real American Hero (RAH) days or during the new sculpt era of the early 2000s. It wasn’t until the 25th anniversary collection expanded beyond its initial concept of 25 recreations of fan favorite characters that Crankcase got another shot at glory. He was once again packaged exclusively with the Awe-Striker and was exclusively available at TARGET stores along with a handful of other midsize vehicles. Luckily my local comic shop Strange Adventures got the sets in allowing me to score new versions of vehicles like the VAMP and the SHARC. But with specialty shop convenience also comes specialty shop prices and at $30+ I opted to leave the Awe-Striker behind. I figured I’d find it cheaper eventually or at least I’d score Crankcase loose on Ebay for $10 or so as I really didn’t care about the vehicle anyway. As more and more time went by and Strange Adventures had long since sold theirs I was really kicking myself for not grabbing it when I had the chance. Loose Crankcases were nowhere to be seen and the minimum I could find the Awe-Striker set on Ebay for was $30…plus another $30 in shipping. Grrr. How many times would I make this mistake? Leaving a desired item behind to save a couple bucks in the short term only to end up paying extra for it in the long-term. This is why I’ve changed my philosophy to “buy everything”…to save money.
Well it only took about 4 years but finally I found a loose Crankcase on Ebay a couple of weeks ago. With the shipping the figure cost me nearly twenty bucks and he didn’t come with his helmet, web-gear or display base. All that time waiting to add him to my collection and now he’s not even complete and it was all just to avoid buying an Awe-Striker that I didn’t want. Ironically I purchased my first Awe-Striker a couple weeks ago. It was painted black and released with a Snake-Eyes as part of the Retaliation movie line. So Crankcase arrived in the mail the other day and his vehicle was here waiting for him. The figure itself is made up of reused parts and it doesn’t resemble the original Crankcase all that much. The original seemed older and had only a red mustache, where this new one seems younger and has a full red beard. The head is a repaint of Breaker’s head. I think the head looks better on this body as Breaker always appeared a little melon headed but I don’t see that with Crankcase. I don’t mind that his facial hair has been changed as that stuff does happen in the real world from time to time. I actually quite like this Frankenstein’ed Crankcase and am glad to finally have him join my collection after all this time. Yo Joe. 7 out of 10.
My last few Battle Beast posts have all been about figures that I recently acquired as I work towards completing my collection As of my last post I needed just two more. Well I have since purchased the lizard, leaving the penguin as the only hole in my collection; I’ll track him down soon enough. Since my last Battle Beast post there’s been some exciting Battle Beast news, the Beasts will soon be returning to store shelves. In fact two different brands of Battle Beasts will be arriving soon. IDW is launching a 4 issue Battle Beast comic which as far as I can tell features brand new characters and a brand new back story. Diamond Select Toys will be releasing a series of Battle Beast figures featuring the characters from the new comic. The toys themselves will be based off of their mini-mate figure body type. I’ll hold my judgement until I see them but I’m not thrilled with the idea of Battle Beasts being constructed out of Mini-mates. Mini-mates are generally blocky lego style figures. The more exciting Battle Beast news came out of Asia where a new game called Beast Saga is being released featuring more traditional style Battle Beast figures as game pieces. In place of the old school rub symbols, the new Beast Saga figures will have dice in their chest to be used during game play. I’m super stoked about these figures but don’t know too much about them at this point. BigBadtoystore currently as the figures available for pre-order, expected to arrive in the fall. I have of course pre-ordered all that they have available.
As exciting as it’s been hearing about the release of new figures and completing my vintage collection I thought that today I’d talk about a figure that I actually have some history with: Sly Fox; or as I knew him growing up, Battle Fox. I guess if I had to choose I would say that Battle Fox is my favorite Battle Beast. It’s actually kind of an odd choice for me. I’ve always been an animal lover, some of my favorite animals being Rhinos, Hippos, Armadillos and Squids. I have Battle Beast versions of all of those things. I probably wouldn’t rank foxes in even my top 50 favorite animals if I was to make such a list. Other Battle Beast figures that I’ve reviewed like the Rhino, have big cool weapons like claws and hooks in place of their hands, Battle Fox has no such enhancements. As far as his armor goes, Fox is one of the few Beasts to wear white armor and the design is kinda plain when compared to some of the other armors. Plus, even though I named him Battle Fox I was never 100% sure if he was even supposed to be a fox as the face is non-distinct, his fur color is pretty common, and his tail is a little stub instead of what you’d think would be a big bushy distinct white-tipped fox tail. So how on earth did this guy become my favorite Beast? Well he was the first one I got, one of them at least.
For Easter one year I received two Battle Beast 2 packs and my brother Brian got one. He got the Buffalo and the Bear, I got the Rhino and the Ram as well as the Fox and the Bat. I had seen the commercials for Battle Beasts on TV and was instantly intrigued. I asked Mom and Dad to get me some for Easter without any specific figure in mind. Once in hand the figures surpassed my expectations. The fact that they came in packs of two was an obvious plus and also it seemed like some thought was put into the pairings. No indications of good or bad or even names were provided by the manufacturer, it was all up to me. With every two pack I got I chose one Beast to be a good guy and one to be a bad guy and those two forever remained arch enemies amidst the larger struggle of the warring factions. With the first 6 figures I assigned the Rhino and the Ram as the leaders of the two teams and their characterizations were similar to that of Optimus Prime and Megatron. Brian’s figures, the Bear and the Buffalo became the strong men and second in command, generals basically. That left the Fox and the Bat to be the first of the front line soldiers. Fox became a mix of Spider-Man and Snake-Eyes. He was quick on his feet and quick-witted as well. He was a skilled fighter and acrobat. Fox and Bat both seemed like good candidates for spies as well so they held that role too. He carried so much of the weight of Battle Beast play being fun that I literally projected everything cool I could think of onto him; strong, fast, funny, skilled swordsman, stealthy, and smart. As I got more and more Beasts the ranks swelled with new personalities and specialties but none were as cool as Fox because none of them needed to be. New figures became higher ranked than Fox but none were more respected amongst the troops. This tiny little figure with the devilish smirk who’s paint is rubbing off and who only has two points of articulation is one of my favorite toys ever. 10 out of 10.