Monthly Archives: August 2012

LEGO MAN

LEGO

Believe it or not, as kids Doug and I had another sizable collection of toys that I have yet to tell you about on this blog.  Besides all of our actions figures we also had a bunch of Lego blocks.  We were never hardcore Lego kids so we didn’t have a ton of it but we had enough.  Doug collected Space Lego.  This was long before they got into aliens and water planets and all that other crazy stuff.  Doug’s was very generic space Lego.  Most of the pieces were blue and white and the men were simple little astronauts with a swirly Saturn logo on their chests.  I collected Knight Lego.  This was the very earliest of Knight Legos which predates dragons and skeletons and all that stuff.  Mine was simple Knights and Horses and Castles.   Our little brother Brian collected Pirate Lego and he ended up with the biggest collection of the three of us.

Whenever Doug and I would play Lego together it always had to be a time-travel adventure.  His spacemen would end up back in time so they could interact with my knights.  The lot of them would usually end up having to fight off rubber dinosaurs or something since we didn’t have any bad guys.  It was fun building and playing with those sets but I was the type of kid that once a set was built I never wanted to take it apart again.  It was just so much work to build that damn castle.  I think Doug and I eventually handed down all of our Legos to Brian who ended up with a nice diverse collection.  I’m not sure where it all ended up once Brian was done with it.

One of the sets I had as a kid.

This guy here is the only piece of Lego that I have left and he isn’t even one of the ones from childhood.  I swiped this guy from another kid’s science fair project in junior high.

I remember a bunch of science fair projects were sitting on the back counter in our science class.  Somebody had made the classic paper mache volcano.  They had decorated it by making a little village full of Lego men at the base of the Volcano.  In a way I suppose you could say that I rescued this guy from a pretty nasty fate of drowning in river of molten baking soda.  Me and my friends had picked a bunch of Lego men off the volcano and were goofing around with them in the back of the classroom.  We pulled them apart and swapped their pieces, that’s why this guy is kind of Frankenstein’ed with his yellow and black two-toned pants and his weird red glove.  He’s sporting one of those classic Saturn logo astronaut shirts which is pretty cool.   After I brought this guy home I gave him one of my old knight shields that I found laying around.  It’s hard to review a Lego man because what can you really say?   He’s not exactly cool looking but he is functional.   I like how his feet stick to any other Lego surface and how his head can be stuck to other pieces via the peg on top. 

But that’s what makes this guy worth talking about, that’s why I’ve held onto him all these years.  He doesn’t have a peg on top of his head.  On that fateful day in the back of science class I remember we were picking up our big heavy phone book sized Science text books and dropping them on top of our Lego men.  I’m not sure why exactly, I think the goal was to launch the figures across the room and we were competing  to see who could shoot their Lego man the farthest.  This abuse is probably why this guys face is rather worn.  So after several trips across the room my mismatched little man was placed back at the center of my desk in preparation for another voyage.  I stood him up straight, held my book flat about 2 feet above him and dropped it.  Only this time my Lego man didn’t go flying.  The book dropped square on his head and he remained standing.  We were all in shock at how perfect the drop must have been.  This teeny little Lego dude absorbed the impact and was now balancing this giant book on top of his head.  Maybe it’s not a big deal but we were amazed by it.  When we lifted the book off we found that the text book and collapsed his head peg, pushing it down into his smiley little skull.   This little man earned my respect that day and that is why I chose to rescue him from his volcanic fate and have kept him with me ever since.  I’d like to see one of those fancy new Star Wars Lego characters pull that off.  6 out of 10.

My favorite set from back in the day.

ELECTRIC EEL v1

G.I. JOE

The first Cobra frogman was released in 1985 and was just called “Eels”.  The Cobra Eels were pretty rad looking and heavily featured in the cartoon series.  Doug owned the Eels figure when we were kids and I never had one to call my own until the 25th anniversary version was released in 2008.

When the new sculpt era of Joe began in 2002 it was the first time that the G.I. Joe line was all my own.  No longer did I have to split things down the middle with Doug.  Not that I minded doing it as a kid but with the release of the new sculpt figures I was pretty stoked to finally be getting my own versions of important character  like Destro and Zartan.  When I first read about these new Joes coming out in ToyFare magazine I was super excited.  You can read more about that in my Neo-Viper review.  Where the Neo-Viper was replacing the Cobra Blueshirt as the new basic infantry trooper, the Cobra Eels were replaced by a new type of frogman known as the Moray.  I thought the Morays were a great addition to the Cobra forces.  The Moray was released in a few different paint schemes in those first couple of years and he was a favorite of mine.  Before long the new Joe toys had story concepts added to the line that were expanded on in the file cards and animated movies.  First there was the Spy Troops story line which you can read about in my Switch Gears post.  That was followed by the Valor vs Venom story which featured normal Cobra Troopers who had undergone the experimental “venomization” process which infused them with animal traits to enhance their abilities.  This story line brought us a bunch of animal themed bad guys  like Sand Scorpion, Swamp Rat, Snow Wolf, and the new frogman the Electric Eel.  The Electric Eels were former Cobra Morays who had “volunteered” for genetic altering.  Their primary enhancement was the ability to carry an electric shock in their bodies capable of knocking out  pesky Joes.

The Valor vs Venom idea wasn’t bad, I like some of the goofy sci-fi elements of the Joe line, but it was executed poorly.  First of all the CG Valor vs Venom movie that was released to promote the figures was pretty weak.  And most of the figures were straight up wonky looking.  The Electric Eel was definitely not an improvement over the Moray design.  He suffered from bad proportion issues as many figures of the time did.  His shoulders are broad and his arms are huge, his waist is skinny and basically he’s just kind of a mess.  I never liked the head design either with those breathing tubes leading to nothing.  As an accessory he came with two giant clawed hands that could be snapped onto his wrists making him look even more weirdly proportioned.   he also came with a trident which is cliche but kinda cool at the same time.

I also like that he is sculpted in translucent green plastic.  It’s not something you see a lot of in the Joe line and can be pretty cool when used sparingly.  When you attach this guy’s backpack and hit a button it shines a light into his chest which gives him a full body glow to represent his electric shock ability.  I tried to snap a pic of him glowing here but it didn’t really turn out so good.  It’s a neat idea but because of the lame figure it falls a little flat.  I would like to see Hasbro release a modern version of this guy and try it again.  This mold was released twice more in the years that followed, one in the Moray colors and one in the classic Eel colors.  It didn’t help.  5 out of 10.

IMPERIOUS LEADER

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

Beware people, I am contagious.  I’ve always been a toy collector but since starting this blog I seem to be at it with more vigor than ever before.  I’ve been buying lines outside my usual collecting habits, over-paying for things I had long since written off as too expensive, and re-buying toys that I owned as a child but had parted ways with.  It’s become a problem.  The unfortunate part of this tale is that my toy madness has begun infecting others.  My best pal Andrew has been a toy collector as long as I’ve known him as well, but a casual one.  In the past year he has bought more toys then I think he’s bought in the previous 10.  Not all my doing but my passion for collecting has definitely had an effect on the poor boy.  And then there’s my oft mentioned brother Doug.  He’s always been a collector as well but since he started reading my blog where I often lament about toys that we sold off, he’s been on a mission to reclaim those lost toys.  He’s been buying up Robotechs, Wrestlers, and other curiosities on ebay at the same rate as me over the past couple of months. 

One such nostalgia fueled search found him cruising for vintage Battlestar Galactica figures.  As kids we had a handful of figures based on the original BSG, a property which I remember next to nothing about.   I have previously reviewed my Daggit  action figure, the only figure I had kept from the line.   That particular save had nothing to do with a fondness for BSG but rather my love for adorable critters.  In that post I mentioned the other figure from the line that I had, Imperious Leader.  I even stuck a pic of the toy in the Daggit post because he was weird enough that I had to show him to you and chances were slim to none that I was ever going to seek this toy out again.

 

 

 

As it turns out I didn’t need to seek him out.  Doug bought up a “lot” of figures which landed him with 2 Imperious Leaders.  One was clothed in his lustrous sheer purple robe while the other one was  shamelessly flaunting his disgustingly nude lanky alien body.  Doug offered me up his naked one.  And so this ugly-as-all-hell figure had found its way back into my collection.  Admittedly I was kind of happy to have him back but there was no way I was going to take him home with me until he put some clothes on.

Doug handed this guy off to me a couple of weeks ago when we were both home visiting my parents, it was my dad’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Bruce.  Well it just so happens that my mother is a professional seamstress.  She’s usually making bridesmaid and prom dresses or curtains but this seemed the perfect time to try her skills at an intergalactic miniature snuggie.  For the bargain price of two dollars my mom said she would re-create the look of Doug’s clothed Imperial Leader.  She’d have done it for free but my conscience  wouldn’t allow it.  I checked in on her a couple of days later to see how it was coming along.  She told me that she had visited every fabric store in town trying to match the sheer purple/maroon material of the original robe.  She didn’t find an exact match but thought she had come pretty close.  Well my sister delivered him to me yesterday and I gotta say he looks pretty good.  At least as good as you can with a face like that.  If anyone else out there has an Imperious Leader in need of a new dress just let me know and I’ll have my mom get in touch with you, it could be a whole new revenue stream for her.

My mom’s logo. The spelling of “alterations” has since been fixed.

As for this character, I tried to find out a little bit about him  before writing this post but it turns out there’s very little to know.  This is what I found out:  he’s the leader of the evil Cylons, he’s not actually organic but he’s made to look that way, he was only shown from behind in the series because the costume  was so crappy looking.  Thats about it.

Now do you see why I needed a new dress made?

I kind of hated this toy as a kid.  8 year old me would’ve given him a 1 out of 10.  Nostalgic 34 year old me however gives him a 4 out of 10.

As he appeared in the show apparently

SPIDER-GIRL

MARVEL FAMOUS COVERS

There have been a number of Spider-Women and Spider-Girls over the years and none of them ever really seemed to catch on with comic fans.  I think part of the problem is that the Spider-Women have always been fairly far removed from Spider-Man.  Their costumes were different, the origins were different and their powers were different.  Marvel didn’t seem to understand that if they wanted a female counter part of one of their most popular male characters to be popular herself they had to follow the DC rule of making them nearly identical.  Look at Super girl and Batgirl;  their origins, costumes and powers are basically the exact same as Superman and Batman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So after years of failing to make these Spider-Women popular on their own merit Marvel finally decided to try out DC’s formula in 1998 with the creation of Spider-Girl.  However Spider-Girl isn’t just some chick that happened to also get bitten by a radioactive spider and then raid Peter Parker’s wardrobe, she is in fact the teenage daughter of the original Spider-Man and she inherited his powers.  You might be asking, Spider-Man has a kid?  And the answer is  no, not really.   Allow me to try to quickly get through this… 

During the whole clone saga debacle of the 90s which you can read about in my Scarlet Spider and Kaine posts there was a subplot about Mary Jane and Peter having a baby.  The idea was that Peter, MJ and their newborn would ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after while Peter’s blonder, hipper, bachelor-ier clone, Ben, would take over as Spider-Man.  Once Marvel realized that fans weren’t going to accept Ben and that they had to re-instate Peter they certainly didn’t want their flagship character to be some lame-o father.  He was already married and that was lame enough.  So in a very uncharacteristic/unimaginative plot twist Mary Jane lost the baby.  Now it could be argued that the baby is still alive.  After the birth, a nurse who worked for the Green Goblin  ran off with the blanketed still born as Peter and MJ wept.   It seemed an obvious set-up for a “your baby is still alive but I kidnapped her” storyline but in the nearly 15 years since, that has never happened.   And the reason why is the same reason that they offed the baby in the first place, making Spider-Man a dad changes the whole dynamic of the character and makes him less accessible to young people. 

 

 

 

But the story of Peter and Mary Jane’s daughter did not end there entirely, not exactly.  Marvel published a story called “What if Spider-Man’s daughter had lived” in their series titled “What If?”.  What If was a monthly book that told alternate versions of well known Marvel storylines showing readers what would have happened if say Kraven really had killed Spider-Man or if the Avengers had never formed.  This particular What If story took place in a world where the daughter had survived and grew up to be an ordinary teenager.  Peter retired from being Spider-Man and worked as a forensic police scientist.  All was well until the daughter, whom was named May after Peter’s deceased aunt, developed spider powers of her own which she had inherited from her father.  Usually these What if stories are one offs and have no real bearing on the Marvel Universe.  But the May Parker story was so popular that it spun off into its own ongoing title called Spider-Girl.  The series took place in an alternate reality which became known as the MC2 universe, much in the same way Mile Morales is the Spider-Man of the Ultimate Universe.  The Spider-Girl comics had a refreshing old school feel to them and the series lasted several years.

How May appeared in the early issues. Fugly, I know but…

This figure is part of the Famous Covers line released by Toy Biz in the late 90s.  They come in nice display boxes that feature the famous cover that inspired the figure on the front of the package.  The package can then be opened up like a book to reveal the figure and to read a synopsis of the issue.  The famous cover toys are more akin to dolls than action figures with their removable cloth costumes.  They’re very similar to the popular Mego dolls of the 70s.  I own 4 of these figures and I quite enjoy their retro vibe.  The Daredevil was one of the first figures I reviewed on this blog back in December.   This Spider Girl is superior to the Daredevil for a couple of reasons.  Daredevil had these big stupid rubber mitts that seemed more like boxing gloves and left him no articulation in his hands.  He couldn’t even hold his billy club, it had to be slid into a loop to hold it in place.  Spider Girl has plastic sculpted hands which looks more realistic and functional.  The only downside to this would be if you stripped her clothes off she’d be left with blue hands.  I’m happy to report that I’ve never stripped this figure so it hasn’t been an issue for me.

…she got hotter later.

 

The greatest edge that Spider-Girl has over Daredevil is a removable mask.  I love that I’m able to see her face, really solidifying that this is a May Parker figure and not just a Spider-Man with tits.  The face sculpt is fantastic.  She’s got short black hair that sweeps down over her brow.  It’s the hair cut that she had in her early appearances but I actually think the figure is much prettier than how she looked in the comics.  The costume, just like in the comics, is tailored after her uncles Spider-Man costume (Ben the clone) as opposed to her father’s more classic duds.  Now the problem with having the removable mask is that she looks like a complete a$$hole with it on.  it’s loose, frumpy and comes to a point on her head.  This figure must be displayed mask-less to keep it from being the laughing stock of your collection.

Overall I think this is a pretty great figure and most likely the only figure of this character ever to be released.  8 out of 10.

WICKET W. WARRICK

STAR WARS 

Hey guys, let me start off today by apologizing for being so long winded most of the time.  I appreciate all of you visiting the site to read my 2 cents on various action figures but I feel lately that I’ve been giving you closer to a dollar’s worth of rambling.  After the opus that was my Ollie post I’ve actually tried to pick figures that I thought I didn’t have much to say about.  When I started my Ultimate Spider-Man and Duke posts the last two days I expected to only write a couple of small paragraphs but before I knew it I had what could be the first two chapters of a nerdy novella.   Today I will try and keep it shorter to keep you coming back without demanding too much of your time.  This opening paragraph was probably a step in the wrong direction but oh well.

 

 

 

 

 

So this is Wicket, the cutest and most popular of all the Ewoks.  I’m not a big fan of the Ewoks but I can only imagine how I would feel about them had I been an adult when Return of the Jedi first came out.  I was only 5 when Jedi was released so even though the Ewoks were kind of annoying, as a kid I loved them.  I used to watch the Ewoks spin-off cartoon every Saturday morning, and I collected the Ewoks comic based on that cartoon and I watched the 2 live action Ewok movies and over again.  My mild disdain of the ‘woks only came with age.

This particular Ewok was played by midget actor (yeah I said it) Warwick Davis who was only a kid himself at the time.   Warwick has portrayed little characters in all kinds of movies since, from Leprechaun to Harry Potter.  I highly recommend you check out the series he did last year with Ricky Gervais called Life’s Too Short.  In it he plays himself as a struggling little actor.  It was hilarious and reminiscent of Curb Your Enthusiasm (one of my all-time favorite shows) 

This toy, like pretty much all of my Star Wars toys come from the Power of the Force line of the late 90s.  This figure isn’t nearly as cute as the vintage 80s Wicket I used to have but it is more accurate.  The original was far more “teddy-beary”.   The Ewoks are pretty teddy-bear like anyway but their creepy eyes and piggy little noses distinguished them from their bed dwelling plush brethren.   This version of Wicket captures is cute/but kinda ugly face quite well.  The lack of knee and elbow articulation that plagued all Star Wars figures at the time isn’t as noticeable here since his limbs are so small.  The paint and the sculpting on his furry body is pretty good.  For accessories he comes with a spear and his leathery headdress.  It’s funny how nude and inappropriate he looks when you take his hat off.  It’s like seeing Donald Duck take his shirt off, just weird.   7 out of 10.

DUKE v29 (2008)

G.I. JOE

I have reached nearly 300 posts on this blog (this is 291) and I can’t believe I’ve made it this far without reviewing a Duke figure.  Not because Duke is such a great figure that warrants being talked about but just because I have so many damn Duke figures.   Other than Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander Duke is probably the character of which I have the most different versions.  Hasbro loves this guy and insists on cramming him into our collections every chance they get.  It gets kind of old seeing new Duke figures released constantly but I guess somebody needs to be the face of G.I. Joe and who better than this blonde haired pretty boy.  Snake-Eyes being a wicked cool ninja dressed all in black seems the obvious choice but the problem with Snake-Eyes is that he doesn’t talk.  His muteness and facelessness do not make him a  good candidate for spokesman.

Duke first appeared in 1984 as the Joe’s field commander.  I was luke-warm on him from the get go.  I don’t hate Duke but I never much cared for him.  It didn’t help matters that I never owned a Duke figure as a kid, Doug did, so I don’t have any real sentimental attachment to the character either.  He always seemed to hog all the air time on the show while other favorites of mine were relegated to background shots in battle scenes.  Would it have been too much to ask for to have Lightfoot save the day or to have Spearhead get thrown into the arena of sport?  I also didn’t like how Duke was portrayed as Scarlett’s love interest in the cartoon when every real Joe fan knew that she was Snake-Eyes’ girl. 

I never heard of a Joe fan loving the character of Duke.  He’s nobody’s favorite; he’s just kind of there.  In fact I’ve grown to like him more over the years out of pity since I’ve heard him dumped on so many times.  My abundance of Dukes mostly comes from the new sculpt era of the early 2000s.  In those days figures came in 2 packs and Duke was often packaged with other characters I wanted.   Despite the sheer number of Dukes being released I never found any of them all that appealing.  They were always kind of boring.  It wasn’t until 2009 that a Duke figure that I genuinely think is cool was released.  This isn’t him.  The one I like was based on the animated film G.I. Joe: Resolute.  I’ll get to him another time.  This Duke is just one of the mediocre ones…or is he?

version 1. 1984. pic from yojoe.com

The first Duke figure released in the modern era was a disappointment.   He had his original outfit on which I appreciated because none of my 2000 era figures had that classic tan shirt look. But the color scheme was just as bland as the original.  The figure had a little pin head, pretty dull accessories and some serious articulation issues.  In fact the arms used on that Duke figure have been re-used several time on other characters and every time they re-appear the internet is flooded with nerd rage rants about those hated “Duke arms”.  Hopefully Hasbro has retired them for good by now.

This figure was released in a DVD Battle Pack in 2008.  There were a 5 Battle Packs released that year and they were a great bang for your buck.  Each pack contained multiple figures, usually some repaints of previously released toys plus a new character, and a part of the infamous MASS device.  Once you purchased all 5 packs you could assemble Cobra’s ultimate teleportation weapon.  The Battle Packs also came packaged with a DVD containing 5 episodes of the 80s G.I. Joe cartoon. 

Duke came in a pack with Alpine, Cobra Commander, a Cobra Paratrooper, a Cobra Claw glider, the MASS device component and the “Best of the ‘80s Episodes” DVD.  Alpine was the real draw to the set for me but the whole thing was pretty great.  I can always use more Cobra blueshirts so the Paratrooper was welcome, the Cobra Commander was the first of the modern era to have a chrome faceplate, and the CLAW is a great little vehicle.  The whole set was clearly inspired by the opening credit sequence of the animated movie.  In that sequence Cobra is attacking the statue of liberty.  Cobra paratroopers are everywhere and the Commander is strapped into his fang glider.  Then from out of nowhere the Joes swoop in on jet packs lead by Duke.  Duke announces the Joe’s arrival with an energetic “Yo Joe!”.   After the Joes save the day they stand atop the statue of liberty with the American flag waving behind them.   It’s a fantastic sequence, go check it out on youtubehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN034sBeF4c

Now while this Duke shares many of the same components of his less than stellar predecessor  there have been some improvements made.  First off his color scheme is much more “animated” and not nearly as bland looking.  His tan shirt is now a bright yellow.  The second and most obvious change is the head sculpt.  No longer meek and pinheaded, this Duke is ready for action.  Never before has a Joe figure appeared in mid battle-cry.  I kind of love that they gave his this crazy yelling face as it separates from the pile of other Dukes I have.  Lastly there’s his awesome accessories.  His silver display base has an American Flag on it.  Why don’t all Joes have this?  And the man has a frig’n jet pack.  How cool is that?  He’s not the first to have one but how can you go wrong with a jet pack in your arsenal.  I wouldn’t want this day-glow testosterone fueled flyboy as the only Duke in my collection but seeing as he’s just one of many I think this is a pretty sweet figure.  7 out of 10.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN

MARVEL UNIVERSE

It’s Wednesday again and that means new comic books.  I fared much better (or worse depending on how you look at it) this week than I did last week.  There were a mere 3 single issues waiting for me in my account today as opposed to the giant stack of graphic novels and action figures of last Wednesday.  It was kind of a relief to drop less than twenty bucks for a change.  My wallet needed a break and I still have plenty of reading left to do from last week’s haul anyway.  One of the books and figures I got last week was Ultimate Spider-Man.

I’ll quickly recap who and what Ultimate Spider-Man is for the uninitiated.  A little over 10 years ago now, around the time of the first X-Men and Spider-Man movies, Marvel decided they needed a fresh contemporary spin on some of their most popular characters.  They didn’t want  new fans who had discovered the characters through the movies to wander into a comic shop and be scared away by over 50 years of continuity.  So they launched a few books that took place in an alternate universe, separate from the well established Marvel Universe.  This new Ultimate universe was very similar but the characters were younger versions of themselves with updated costumes and such.  In Ultimate Spider-Man Peter Parker was still a high school kid learning how to use his new powers.  Instead of being a photographer for the Daily Bugle newspaper, he worked on their website as a student intern.  These are the type of modern updates that were made to ease new readers into the series.  The series was written by Brian Michael Bendis, a relatively low profile writer.   I had low expectations.  To my delight the series was actually quite good and I enjoyed reading the adventures of this new young Spider-Man while still being able to enjoy the continuing adventures of the older Spider-Man who I had grown up with over in Amazing Spider-Man.

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  After the Ultimate Universe had been around for a decade it no longer served its original purpose of being an easy jumping on point for new fans.  In a really shitty impulsive story line called Ultimatum, Marvel killed off a huge portion of the Ultimate Universe characters.  A short time later young Peter was killed as well.  I was actually misty eyed as I read the death of Spider-Man.  If it was the real Spider-Man I wouldn’t have been upset for I know he would come back.  But this teenage version of Spidey had outlived his purpose and I honestly believed that this was the last I would see of him.

Almost immediately Marvel began advertising the relaunch of the book now titled Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man.  It was teased that this new Spider-Man would be an all new character carrying on the legacy of the deceased Peter Parker.  The new series was to be written my Brian Michael Bendis, the same guy who had written every issue of the last series and in the decade since taking on that job had become one of the biggest names in comics.  It was soon leaked that this new Spider-Man was going to be a black kid named Miles Morales.  I new that if anyone could pull off this switch tastefully it would be Bendis but I was still super skeptical.  I did not want to like this book.  I used to love the Ultimate universe but Ultimatum had pissed me off so much I was looking for a clean break; I wanted an excuse to just walk away.

Well last week I bought the first collection of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man which contained the first 5 issues of the series.  I’m not 100% sure I’ll stick it out with this book for the long haul but I’ll definitely come back for the next collection.  It was very well done.  It was fresh and new yet familiar.  And it handled the passing of the torch very respectfully.  This book that I really wanted to hate left me misty eyed again.  God damn you Bendis for making me care about this kid.

Bendis succeeded where the Marvel Universe sculptors had failed.   The action figure I bought last week of the Miles Morales Spider-Man kinda sucks.  It’s not horrible but it’s nothing great.  The first regular Spider-Man figure I got from this line kinda sucked too.  It was too scrawny and  felt cheap and breakable.  The Marvel Universe toys have come a long way since then and some of the figures are beautifully done like the Kraven I got last week.  I got some great new versions of Spider-Man that were released as part of the new movie line that are light years beyond that original figure.   The size, sculpt, paint, detail and durability were all vastly improved. So I have no idea why they took such a large step backwards with this figure.  He’s really scrawny and bland.  It’s hard to put my finger on what it is exactly but this toy just seems to have no personality at all.  For a figure this skinny with no accessories (other than a useless backpack that went right in my junk box) I feel like I got mugged paying $16.99 plus tax.  If I was you I would suggest waiting until you find him for a discount or better yet wait for them to release a better version.  5 out of 10.

SPONSORSHIP NEWS-AUGUST

Hey gang,

I really should be throwing more updates your way as to what’s new at BigBadToyStore.com  but I get so many notifications from them about all of the cool new stuff that they get in stock that I just can’t keep up with it.  Needless to say you should be checking the site regularly.  For this update I’ll just give you a heads up about what most interests me.  Currently you can go to the site and pre-order TWO new varieties of Battle Beasts.

First off there’s the new Battle Beasts figures from Diamond Select Toys which are based on the new comic series by IDW.  I’ve read the first 2 issues and it’s been a fun read so far, you should check it out.  These figures are constructed using DST’s popular mini-mates body design.  I’m personally not a mini-mates fan and I don’t know if I’m sold on using their blocky lego-like bodies as the base for new BB figures.  However this pic proves to me that DST is able to get alot of diversity from that base design.  The human characters look like your standard mini-mates but the beast characters look pretty great.  How cool is that snake guy!?

The second type of new Battle Beasts available for pre-order technically aren’t Battle Beasts, they’re from a new line of Japanese figures called Beast Saga.  The figures are much more reminiscent of the Battle Beasts of old except with dice in their chests instead of heat sensitive rub emblems.   There are a bunch of different figures up for pre-order now that will be released in the coming months.  This military general turtle is one of the cooler looking ones.  I can’t wait to get my hands on these guys.

 

 

GEARS

TRANSFORMERS

I think I mention this in almost every Transformers post but I’ll say it again quickly here.  As kids, Doug and I had a huge Transformers collection.  Nowhere near complete but pretty damn big.  We were big fans but I was always disappointed by how many Transformer figures didn’t mirror the way that the characters looked in the cartoons and comics.  Some of the toys were fantastic and I wish I still had them but I think that lack of consistency between the comics, cartoons and toys planted in me the seeds of resentment towards the toy line.  When I was old enough that I was no longer playing with toys my Transformers got the yard sale treatment.  No more stupid headless Ironhides in my collection. But as I did with every toy line that I parted ways with, I saved a couple of my favorites.  The survivors of my Unicron extinction event like yard sale were Thrust, Windcharger and Gears.  Odd choices I know.  I do love those three characters and the figures resonated with me for some reason.  But how I kept Windcharger over characters like Shockwave, Soundwave, and my Dinobots is beyond me.

I’ve managed to resist the urge to repurchase all of my old Transformers toys but I have taken up collecting the modern era versions of those Generation 1 classic characters.  I have purchased new and improved versions of some of those toys that I parted ways with and have even upgraded my Thrust and Windcharger.  Gears is probably my favorite of those 3 figures that I held onto and is the only one yet to receive an upgraded figure.  I hope they release a new version soon so that I can display him with my modern collection but until then I’m left with just this dinky little 80s one.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit but the thing I like best about Gears is how cute he is.  While other Transformers were cool and badass, this little Gears is just adorable.  Some of the other bots that were equivalent to Gears in size like Bumblebee and Cosmos were cute but nowhere near as cute as Gears.  His short stocky design was much more appealing than Bumblebee’s scrawny legs and beer gut or Cosmo’s ghetto booty.

I also like how simple these mini-bots were to transform. Four quick movements was all it took.  Gears can go from truck to robot and back again in like 5 seconds.  I also really like his bright blue and red with silver highlights color scheme.  The toy used to have a nice chrome grill as well but I’ve long since lost mine.

I mentioned this in my 2 Windcharger reviews but one of the cartoon/toy inconsistencies that bugged me the most was when characters had completely different faces from one medium to the next.  Like Windcharger, Gears had a humanoid face in the cartoon but the toy features a much more robotic visor and mouth plate face.  I really like this robot face but I hope a newer version has the cartoon accurate face or better yet swappable faces so you can choose which one you want to display him with.

A couple of extra neat things about Gears:  He was one of the original Autobots who crash landed on Earth via the Ark space shuttle.   Because of this he got a little bit of face time in the early comics and cartoons before newer character completely pushed him out of the spotlight and into obscurity.  Those early appearances helped to make him a favorite of mine.  In issue three of the original Transformers comic book Spider-Man showed up to boost sales and he and Gears shared a moment.

In the 2000s comic publishers Devil’s Due and Dreamwave did a series of G.I. Joe and Transformers mash-up mini series’.  In one series the Transformers were made to resemble some of the most iconic of Joe and Cobra vehicles.  Gears was a Trouble Bubble.

The Gears mold was reused just a year or two after it’s original release.  It was repainted red and white  to create a new character, Swerve. I never owned the Swerve version and had absolutely no affinity for the character until very recently.  Swerve has been given a starring role this year in the Transformers comics published by IDW and he’s quickly become a favorite of mine and is now a toy that I must track down.

I had completely forgotten about it until I googled this image of Gears in his original packaging, but those early mini-bots included a free even mini-ier bot.  Doug and I had a bunch of those solid colored little robots but they had totally slipped my mind.  I may have to hit up ebay to see if I can track down Gears’s little yellow sidekick.

So while this toy is simple in design and execution I find him very fun and extremely cute to this day.  7 out of 10.

OLLIE

THE BOARDER BRIGADE

For as long as I can remember I’ve been making stuff.  I’ve got a creative itch that I just need to scratch.  As a kid I scratched it by drawing.  But I’ve never been the type of kid who was simply content to draw a dinosaur and move on.  If I was gonna draw a dinosaur I had to draw every dinosaur I could think and then give them names and a back story.  I just love sequential, episodic storytelling.  In my earliest years of school, I’m talking kindergarten and grade 1, well before I was into collecting comics, I was already creating my own comic books.  They didn’t have multiple panels per page like traditional comics so in truth they were more like children’s picture books.  I would take a Hillroy scribbler and draw a picture on each page to tell a complete story.   My earliest creations that I can recall were a fat baby and skinny baby duo that had a slapstick/three stooges vibe.  After that I created a series about a green stick man with antennas called “A Martian on Earth”.  I drew multiple adventures about the martian and I started putting multiple panels on the pages at that point so my creations began to more closely resemble comics instead of storybooks.  When I moved to Nova Scotia in grade 3 I made a new best friend in Jason Pelley.  We had similar interests and hit it off right away.  We were paired up on an assignment which we used as a launching pad to create our very own super hero, Super Bug.  Super Bug was basically a googly eyed inch worm with a red cape.  He flew around the garden defeating evil bugs from eating plants and stuff like that.  

After a while we decided we should start up our own comic book “company”.  My brother Doug and I got the ball rolling.  I was doing a Super Bug comic, writing, drawing and coloring it in colored pencils myself, and Doug started a spin off book called Super Mantis which took place in the same garden.  Super Mantis was a praying mantis in a cape and boots.  Each issue of our comics in those days was about 5 pages long and when completed we would staple them together and bask in the joy of completing another issue.  Our drawing skills were developing quickly at this point and every issue looked better than the last.  We soon decided to tackle characters that were a little harder to draw.   Doug started a book called Turtle Patrol (years before we had ever heard of the TMNT) and I started on Super Skunk who was again, just a skunk in a cape.  For a while I had an entire team of animals in capes called the Animal Team Force, kinda like a Justice League of the jungle. 

By this time Doug and I were seriously into Marvel comics and we decided to adopt the name of Marbel comics for our company.  We started creating characters by the dozens.  Creating might be a stretch because they were all just rip-offs of Marvel characters, only ours were animals.  I’m not sure if it’s because we started with animals back in the bug days and just felt we should stick with it, or if it was the influence of an all ages comic actually published by Marvel called Spider-Ham about a pig version of Spider-Man or maybe it was just because we thought we couldn’t draw realistic looking people, but whatever the reason we opted to create a fully anthropomorphic Marvel Universe.  Doug started with a book called Iron Cat, I started Spider-Ram and this is when Jason Pelley came on board with Wolverine the Wolverine.  These were followed by America Mouse, the Uncanny X-Animals, Bear-Devil, the Freaky Four and many more.  After a couple of years our Marbel Universe had become a huge expansive universe of its own with hundreds of characters,  most of whom were Marvel knock-offs  but there were a few original creations amongst them.  One of those original creations was called the Boarder Brigade.  The B. Brigade was about a group of 6 adolescent skateboarding dogs.  I wrote and drew a book simply called the Boarder Brigade which starred 3 of the kids.  Doug did a companion book called Power Pup and his Boarder Brigade which starred the other half of the gang.  Though they were separate books the characters and stories were constantly intertwined meaning I was drawing Doug’s characters all the time and he was drawing mine.  We would sit at the dining room table for hours drawing these things and were able to tell the same stories from different character’s perspectives.  The kids were intended to be around 12 years old and they were mischievous brats who were always getting into trouble.  We created a huge supporting cast of family, friends, classmates and enemies.  We even had maps of the neighborhood so we always knew what to draw in the background depending on where they were hanging out.  The Boarder Brigade had a slight super hero element to it in that the kids found a bag of magical Airwalk sneakers that actually allowed them to walk on air along with 6 golden flying skateboards.  Those fantastical elements didn’t get played up too much though, I preferred to write hanging out, slice of life type stuff.  In one issue they went to a school dance, in another had to fight a new bully and in another attend a family reunion.  Of all the comics we had drawn and written Doug and I were most proud of this little corner of the Marbel universe that we had created all on our own.

As we got a little older we were looking to challenge ourselves once again.  We decided to launch a new comic company of strictly “original” ideas and this time we were gonna do books about humans.  This new venture was called Incredible Comics.  Rather than just walk away from Marbel we decided to go out in style.  We took a group of nasty villains called the Terminators whom we had previously created and had them destroy the Marbel Universe.  Doug and I both did a Terminators 1 shot issue where the Terminators went about annihilating everyone.  All of our Marvel knock-off characters died quickly and violently.    Then to really put this thing to bed, we blew up the planet.  No more Marbel Universe, onto bigger and better things.

Our new Incredible Universe became a vast creation as well with books 20 pages long and far more detailed.  We created new original super heroes and villains by the dozens.  However we just couldn’t bear to part with the Boarder Brigade.  We launched a new Boarder Brigade series set in the Incredible Universe.  We explained their presence in out new universe as follows: when the Marbel planet blew up, the B. Brigade’s entire subdivision was sent hurtling through space like an asteroid leaving the inhabitants miraculously unharmed.  The asteroid crash landed off the coast of British Columbia on the Earth of the Incredible Universe where after some trepidation the humans welcomed these strange dog people and allowed them to stay.

Once all that was out of the way we went on telling our funny slice of life Boarder Brigade stories alongside our Incredible Super Hero adventure stories.  We carried on this way for a few more years until we just didn’t have the time and we started developing other interests.  To say good-bye we had the Terminators travel through space to this new planet where they were going to annihilate this world and all its heroes as well.  We spent years setting up the story that sadly we never finished. (as a side note I’m not done with that story yet…sure it’s been 20 years but the Incredible heroes will one day face off against the Terminators)

After the end of Incredible I moved onto self-publishing black and white comic  ‘zines and Doug tried his hand at writing a novel.  These days I scratch my creative itch by writing screenplays and this blog.  Doug however has gone back to the Boarder Brigade well and has continued their color pencil hued adventures purely to scratch his own creative itch. 

I could go on about this stuff forever but I better cut to the chase before I lose you if I haven’t already.  For as long as Doug and I have been creating characters, we’ve been trying to find ways to bring them off the page into something that we could physically play with.  We created a pretty rad Boarder Brigade board game at one point with cardboard figurines of the characters to use as play pieces.  It was your typical “Game of Life” type of deal but it was fun and we played it a lot.  When I took woodworking in junior high I attempted to make action figures of some of my characters out of wood.  I managed to crank out two wooden Boarder Brigade figures before being forced to move onto the cooking portion of home ec.   This is one of those figures which I made around 1990 or ’91.  This is Ollie who was kind of the leader of my group.  My characters were Oliver, Scott and Jenny who took on the nicknames of Ollie, Hand Plant and Invert when they started their skateboarding club.  Doug’s characters were Richard, Jeff and Peter who took on the names of Power Pup, Railslide and Half Pipe.

The B. Brigade pretty much always wore the same clothes almost as if it were their uniform.  Ollie always had on his yellow rat bones shirt and red anarchy bandanna.  He always wore sunglasses but he wore them up on his forehead to be fashionable more than he ever wore them for UV protection.  He originally always wore blue jeans but by the time I made this figure he had switched to black shorts.  This figure is a pretty close representation of how Ollie appeared on the page because all I really did was draw him on a piece of wood as it it was paper and then I cut him out.  I’m not a very handy fellow but I think I did a pretty good job with the exception of his forearms where I was unable to cut off all the extra space leaving this figure with freaky Popeye forearms.  Most of this figure’s weaknesses come from my shitty drawing.  The proportions are off and his shoulders are too wide and he’s too ripped to be a bratty skateboard kid.  Another problem with the figure is the fact that it doesn’t move at all so it’s closer to a statue or paperweight than it is to an action figure but I just wasn’t skilled enough to try to figure out how to give him working joints.  This homemade monstrosity kind of sucks but it’s likely the only Ollie figure I’ll ever own so it will have to do.  Maybe one day I’ll make a legitimate attempt to customize a real figure but until then…2 out of 10.