So it’s Wednesday again so that means new comic books. I marched up the hill to Strange Adventures on my lunch break today to pick up my weekly haul. Not a huge stack but enough to keep me busy for a while: Battle Beasts, Avengers, Dark Avengers and collected editions of Venom and Winter Soildier. I picked up my brother Doug’s books as well since he doesn’t get into the shop as frequently as me and I’ll be seeing him tonight. I’m ashamed to tell you why I’m seeing him tonight. We’re going to see The Dark Knight Rises with my Dad. There’s no shame in that of course, it’s a fantastic movie and they’re both great company. The shame comes from the fact that Doug still hasn’t seen the movie. My Dad I can forgive, but Doug? No way. I can understand him not making it to opening night or even opening weekend; he does have two young children after all and from what I understand that can keep you quite busy. But the movie has been out for two frick’n months! And Doug is more of a Batman fan than I am. I don’t even collect Batman books but Doug has for decades. Completely unacceptable.
But I digress. I’m not writing this blog today to rag on my bro. I’m writing to tell you about the action figure I picked up at the comic store today. I wasn’t planning on picking up anything but once I got there I found that they had gotten in the first wave of Rocky figures released by Neca. They had four figures to choose from, two Rockys and two Ivan Dragos. There were clean and “battle damaged” versions of both. I was torn. This might sound bizarre but I knew I was gonna pass on Rocky. I wanted Drago. I love Sly and I love the character but I just don’t feel compelled to have him on my toy shelf. At least not right now. I had passed on the entire series of Rocky figures released by Jakks a few years ago as they just didn’t grab me. Doug bought a Rocky, Drago and Hulk “Thunderlips” Hogan from that line I believe. They were decent looking and well-made and they fit in pretty flawlessly with Doug’s huge collection of wrestling figures which are also made by Jakks. I had thought about picking them up but as I said, I just wasn’t feeling it at the time. So what changed in the past couple of years? Why do I need an Ivan Drago now?
Well a month or so ago I was hanging out with my buddy Andrew who’s a film buff like myself. For some reason I brought up the Rocky franchise and he told me that he had never seen them before. What! Hadn’t seen any of them? This was a movie fail on par with Doug waiting two months to see The Dark Knight Rises. I had to remedy the situation. So a few days later I took my Rocky box set over to Andrews and took him to school. I actually really wanted him to see the 6th film, Rocky Balboa because that was the film that had sparked our conversation. I think I had been telling him about how Expendables II was only okay, which was about how I felt about the first one. He replied with something along the lines of “I’m not surprised, meh…Stallone”. I replied with “The man is Rocky for god sake. Not to mention Rambo.” I told him how I loved those franchises as a kid and was skeptical when Stallone opted to revive them both in recent years but ended up absolutely loving the final installments to both. And Stallone writes, directs and stars in them. If you’re somebody who passed on seeing Rocky Balboa because you thought it would be cheesy and played out, do yourself a favour and see it tonight.
So I wanted to put on Rocky VI for Andrew. It can be enjoyed as a stand-alone movie but I figured he’d enjoy it more if we started with the classic best picture winner that started it all. After all, the 6th one is full of call-backs to the original that would be lost on him otherwise. So we watched Rocky and as I suspected, he really liked it. Afterwards I told him that we could jump right to 6 but that it would be a mistake. I’d have loved for us to watch them all but there simply wasn’t time. We did have time to squeeze in one more instalment though so I told him it had to be Rocky IV. Not to take anything away from Rocky II and III, both are highly enjoyable movies, but Rocky IV is f**king epic. Doug and I watched Rocky IV so many times as kids it’s ridiculous. Doug had the soundtrack on cassette tape. We were used to put on the instrumental track, WAR, that plays during the final fight scene and we’d re-enact the whole thing over and over. As I watched the film with Andrew I probably drove him nuts as I sang along with every killer synth heavy 80s track that played during the montages. There are a lot of montages in that film. I can hear the songs in my head now as I type this…”Hearts on fire, strong desire…” so good. The storyline in Rocky IV is pretty light but there had already been three character building flicks by this point. Rocky IV was all about action and training montages and it was great. Watching it with Andrew for his first time refuelled my passion for the movie. Afterwards he said, “I’m surprised you don’t have an action figure of Drago.” So naturally I suddenly had to have one.
I went home and hit up ebay figuring I’d buy the same toy that Doug had. When I typed in Ivan Drago I found a bunch of people taking pre-orders on new figures being released by NECA who now had the Rocky license. They were due out soon so I figured I’d wait for them to hit shelves. Well that day was today. I had the two Dragos to choose from and it was a tough call. First there was the “clean” version. His hair was nice and sculpted, and his face and body were free of cuts and bruises. He was wearing his yellow shorts with red trim, the shorts he wore when he ended Apollo Creed. I liked it but his face seemed almost sad when it should have been either mean or emotionless. It just didn’t look quite right. My girlfriend Vanessa and Jay the clerk both voted I go with the battle damaged version and so I did.
There’s a lot to like about this figure. He’s wearing his red shorts with yellow trim which I prefer. He wore them in his fight with Rocky and they seem more Russian. The likeness of actor Dolph Lundgren is pretty well captured. This version looks appropriately angry instead of half-asleep like the other version. The only real battle damage he has is a nasty cut over his left eye. The one Rocky inflicted on him in the film.
“You cut him! You hurt him! You see? You see? He’s not a machine, he’s a man!”
The battle damaged Rocky looked way worse. His face was pounded to hamburger and he even had sculpted blood flying from his mouth as if the figure was sculpted mid punch to the face. The one thing that had me reluctant to choose this version over the clean version is the open mouth with exposed mouth guard. It doesn’t look bad and it’s grown on me more in the few hours since I bought it but I think I would’ve preferred a closed mouth. An issue I have with both Dragos and both Rockys is that they just don’t seem “big” enough. Drago’s arms are almost skinny here when in the film he seemed to be built like a tank. I wish he was a little more stacked but it’s not a major complaint. I don’t know if I’d say it any better or worse than the Jakks figure that Doug has, they’re about equal. I guess I’d recommend you go with whichever one you find first as both are nice. So until I decide to buy a Rocky figure for ol’ Ivan to duke it out with, he will be terrorizing my toy shelf unchallenged. Though I bet Galactus could take him. 8 out of 10.