Monthly Archives: October 2012

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER

UNIVERSAL  MONSTERS

Halloween week continues here at Mike’s Collection.  Now I know I promised you a week’s worth of Halloween themed reviews but guess how many Halloween themed action figures I have, very few.  Basically The Nightmare Before Christmas figures are the only ones that are officially Halloween related.  So to keep from boring you with repetitive NBX reviews all week  I’ve had to bend the definition a bit to include some other monsters.  Now I don’t know about you but nothing says Halloween to me like the original Universal Studios Monsters.  Dracula, Wolman, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon; these guys just scream (no pun intended) Halloween.  Even after 70 years they are still mainstay costumes.  Trends may come and go but these guys remain.  I had a Halloween party this past weekend and despite having music playing and a room full of chatty guests I still put on these classic flicks as background entertainment.  These black and white films feature heavy fog, old castles and full moons which set a creepy atmosphere that simply can’t be achieved by hanging a cardboard skeleton on the door and some cotton cobwebs from the light fixtures (Though that definitely helps too.  Vanessa did an excellent job decorating for the party).  I enjoy exposing these films to people who have never seen them and sadly there are a lot of those people.

One film which I didn’t put on for our party guests was the classic James Whale film adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel of the same name: Frankenstein.  The reason for that is I fully intend to sit down and enjoy a viewing of this film properly and distraction free on Halloween night and I didn’t want to catch muted glimpses of it on the weekend that would diminish the thrill.

I don’t remember the first time that I was exposed to the Universal Monsters as I was very young.  It may have been in a Halloween coloring book or maybe it was an episode of Scooby Doo.  It’s almost as if I was born with a love of these monsters instilled in me.  One of my favorite movies as a kid was “The Monster Squad”  which was about a group of kids from the suburbs having to defend their town from the evil Count Dracula and his henchmen consisting off a Wolfman,  a Sea Creature, a Mummy, and of course Frankenstein.  Having all those creatures on screen together was a mind blowing mash-up  of a monster movie that helped to solidify my love of these characters.  Wolfman was my favorite, followed by the Sea Creature, I liked Mummys when their faces were fully bandaged and Dracula is the boss so you have to like him.  Frankenstein was my least favorite monster.  He was dumb and kind of sweet but he never struck me as very cool looking.  I never really understood the hype with him.

That is until I saw the original film.  Bela Lugosi is great as Dracula and Lon Chaney Jr. is an awesome Wolfman but there’s no denying that Boris Karloff was the monster with the real acting chops.  Karloff played both Frankenstein and the Mummy and he knocked it out of the park with his performances.  He had such a great expressive face and he brought such humanity to the lumbering corpses he portrayed.  It’s true Frankenstein wasn’t as cool looking as the other monsters and wasn’t as fun to color in the coloring books but he was far more interesting to watch on screen.  For those of you who haven’t seen any of Karloff’s many films you might be surprised to know that he was the narrator of the animated Grinch who Stole Christmas which I’m sure you’ve all seen.

This figure is a recent release from Diamond Select Toys.  It may look old but that’s the intention, this line of figures is modeled after the popular Mego dolls of the 1970s.  This retro throwback style is back in fashion and many properties are being released as Megos these days.  Some of them are re-releases of Megos that actually existed in the 70s like the Star Trek figures, while others like the Universal Monsters are being released in this format for the first time.  I have the complete Monster Squad line-up now but I’m still hoping to get an Invisible Man at some point to complete the Universal team of monsters.  In the meantime I can just pretend there’s an Invisible Man figure on my shelf displayed with his monster brethren.

 

This Frankenstein figure is unfortunately my least favorite of the bunch.  And it’s for the same reason that he was my least favorite monster when I was a kid; the other guys all look cooler.  The face sculpt fails to capture Karloff’s tortured soul and the figure just ends up looking dopey.  They did a much better job of rendering Karloff on the Mummy figure.  This is by no means a bad figure though.  I actually wouldn’t expect a very accurate face sculpt on a Mego doll.  Too much detail in the face would take away from the nostalgic feel that reminds of us a simpler time when toys weren’t meant to be displayed, they were meant to be played with.  The Mego body is loaded with articulation so Frank can be posed in a number of ways.  The clothes fit him well and I love the big ol’ shoes he rocking just like he wore in the film.  The colors are good though his skin is a little too green.  The original movie was black and white and I think a grey skin tone suits him better.  I think this figure would be better had it been released in black and white as his red lips are also a little off putting.  6 out of 10.

PUMPKINHEAD

MOVIE MANIACS

It’s time for another Halloween themed toy review!  This is Pumpkinhead and he was released as part of McFarlane Toy’s Movie Maniacs line.  Movie Maniacs was a dumping ground for all sorts of horror icons of cinema who couldn’t support their own toy line.  You can’t have an entire line of Friday the 13th figures for example because other than Jason who else would people buy?  So the Movie Maniacs included the likes of Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers, and the star of my favorite film, The Crow.  Although I would totally buy action figures of T-Bird, Tin Tin and the rest of the gang from that flick if given the opportunity.  Now Pumpkinhead may not be a horror icon of the same calibre  as those other guys but he sure does look cool.

I remember seeing the box art for Pumpkinhead for years in the VHS rental section of my local corner store and being intrigued by it but I didn’t actually see it until many years after its release.  I’ve never really been much of a horror guy.  I watched my fair share of them as a kid but that was usually because I was at a sleepover or because Doug and I were sneaking up past our bedtime to watch them on the movie network.  I didn’t have any desire to watch them on my own.  And if I missed a chapter or two of Nightmare or Friday (which I’m sure I did somewhere along the way) I was fine with it.  I do have a soft spot for those slashers and was just as excited to see Freddy vs Jason as the next guy but I’m by no means a hardcore fanatic.  Monsters however are a different story, I love me some monsters. 

My favorite horror movies are the original Universal monster movies of the 30s and 40s and I enjoy movies that stick closer to that formula.  Werewolves are my absolute favorite but I find they’re rarely done right.  The Pumpkinhead cover box was so interesting to me because Pumpkinhead was a cool looking new monster, not one of the obvious go-to, seen-it-a-million-times monsters like a werewolf or vampire.  When I did eventually see the movie I remember being disappointed.  I only saw it once and it was many years ago so I’m not going to attempt to critique the film but I do remember thinking that there wasn’t nearly enough of the monster in the movie to satisfy my monster craving.  I believe the creature got more screen time in the sequel but that memory is pretty hazy too. 

But I didn’t buy this toy based on how good the movie was, I bought it because it looked awesome.  McFarlane rarely lets you down when it comes to capturing the look of a movie character.  Not only did he give us movie monsters but he also gave us a bunch of movie heros back in the day such as Terminator, Robocop and Austin Powers.  The likenesses were never a problem, it was the articulation.  I’ve mentioned on this site many times before but I did not care for the stiffness of many McFarlane figures.  Even though I don’t play with my toys I like to be able to pick them up and fiddle around with them.  McFarlane’s figures were often closer to statues than toys.  How can I fiddle with a Spawn figure when he’s sculpted in a sitting down pose?  This is ultimately why I stopped buying McFarlane figures.  Well that and the fact that he stopped making figures of anything I was interested in.

Pumpkinhead is lacking in articulation with joints at his hips, shoulders, wrists and head only but at least he’s sculpted in a fairly neutral pose.  He looks good displayed on a shelf with either action posed figures or statically posed figures.   He’s a very tall figure and towers over most of the other horror icons in the line.  The sculpt is great on the face and the body with lots of detail and texture.  The face has an appropriately evil looking scowl and the large hands are quite creepy with their long individually posed fingers.  He’s also got a long tail made of softer plastic with a wire center that allows for some good posability.   The tail also helps to balance the figure out to keep him from toppling over.  Nice subtle paint apps is the cherry on top of this sweet looking figure.  I’m pretty sure this is still the only Pumpkinhead figure ever produced so if you’re a fan of the series at all I suggest you track one down.  7 out of 10.

JACK SKELLINGTON (Pajamas)

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

It is the perfect time of year to be reviewing some Halloween themed action figures and what could be more Halloweeny than the Pumpkin King.  I instantly fell in love with Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” when it was released back in 1993.  There was just so much to like about it that I don’t know why it didn’t attract a wider audience.  The film wasn’t truly appreciated until years later.  It has now achieved cult status and has gone from under-appreciated to over-exposed.  NBX merchandise can be found everywhere and the characters faces have been slapped on everything you can imagine.  I have no less than 5 variations of NBX mugs that have been given to me as gifts over the years and a co-worker once bought me a set of NBX nesting dolls.  As a fan of the property this deluge of marketing kind of gets on my nerves.  It just feels so watered down now.  But on the other hand, I remember a time when I would have loved some NBX merchandise (namely action figures) but there were none to be found. 

I was still in my early teens when this movie came out and though I had always been a fan of movies I think it was this flick that turned me into a legitimate movie buff.  I knew what movies I liked as a kid (Die Hard, Young Guns, Bill & Ted) but I didn’t have the foggiest idea who the writers or directors were behind them.  I was familiar with Tim Burton  before but having his name above the title really drew my attention and made me aware of his “presence” in the film.  For years afterwards Tim Burton was my favorite director.  All of his films were infused with such personal style.  His other movies from around that time, Batman, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands to name a few,  are all oozing with Burton’s signature style.  But as great as all those movies were they only seemed to provide a glimpse into Burton’s warped imagination.  The Nightmare Before Christmas immersed us in his mad genius and even though he didn’t actually direct it I feel it is the most “Burton-esque” of all of his films. 

The character designs in the film are just brilliant and the model set pieces are beautiful.  The textures and shapes of the crooked buildings and the spiraling hills really draw you into this magical world.  I loved my inaugural visit to Halloween town and have enjoyed re-visiting it every time since.  I paid a visit again just last night when I put the film on as background entertainment for my halloween party.

So let me set the stage for you a bit as to what my life was like when I got this figure.  It was 1998.  I had graduated high school in ’96 and had went to university the year after.  I realized that accounting wasn’t my calling and opted not to return to university the following year.  I took a year off to work full-time and to save money while I figured out what I wanted to do.  During that year I was working at both Blockbuster Video and Pizza Hut which were directly across the street from one another.  Some days I worked 9 to 5 at one job and then I’d dart across Sackville Drive to work 5 -12 at the other.  I worked a lot that year and managed to save up a decent chunk of money which I put towards animation school the next fall.  While I was putting  most of my money aside, I was still accumulating more disposable income then I had ever had before.  I was still living with my folks rent free and was totally free of debt.  I had always collected comic books all through junior high and high school but I had almost completely walked away from action figures for the better part of a decade at this point.  Not because I had lost interest necessarily but because all the lines I liked (G.I. Joe, Transformers, Battle Beasts) were no longer around.

Well around this time the original Star Wars trilogy had been re-released to theatres and new action figures were being produced by Hasbro to gear up for the upcoming release of the prequels.  Toy Biz was producing a bunch of Marvel toys based on the Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Silver Surfer cartoons that were airing at the time.  This was also around the time that the first Gundam action figures were finding their way to North American shores.  Me with a pocket of disposable income and this influx of cool new toys did not make for a good combination.  This was the birth of me as an action figure “collector”.  Star Wars became my first major modern collection, which quickly eclipsed my childhood Star Wars collection.  I started buying every goofy variation of Spider-Man that I could get my hands on and soon my Toy Biz collection was huge.  I was back on the action figure train, full steam ahead and loving it. 

The internet was still relatively new at the time believe it or not.  We only had one computer in the house and I only ever really got to use it late at night after I’d get home from work.  My early internet use consisted of going to chat rooms based in California to ask people about up and coming punk bands which I’d then go download from Napster.  I got my first email account (which is still the one I use today) and used the Hotmail directory to reconnect with old friends.  I even used it to contact a French actress I was crushing on, Emilie Dequenne, with whom I became pen pals with for a short while.  Funny story about that shared family computer, my dad found some gay porn sites in the internet history on a number of occasions and eventually confronted my little brother about it.  Brian was still in the closet at that time and instead of confessing to looking at it he threw me under the bus telling Dad it must’ve been me looking at them during one of my late night computer sessions.  But of course dad didn’t buy it, I was way too much of a ladies man.   

I also spent my internet time marvelling at the wondrous new auction website known as ebay.  Everything I could ever hope to  buy was available to me, it was mind blowing.  I would type in searches and discover merchandise that I never knew existed.  This was even before the days of Toy focused magazines so unless I saw an item in the Sears catalogue or on the shelf of my local Toys R Us I wouldn’t have ever known about it.   Ebay introduced me to all kinds of new things to spend my money on.

The Nightmare Before Christmas was one of those properties I typed in one day.  I knew a few figures had been released back when the movie was first released and that’s what I was hoping to find but I discovered something far better.  A Japanese toy company called JUN had recently begun releasing amazingly detailed 16” Jack Skelington dolls.  There was one doll being released each month of the year.  Each one had a unique head sculpt and came packaged in a different colored coffin.  Most of the bodies were pretty much the same and featured Jack’s signature black suit but there were a couple of variations such as his Santa outfit.  I remember bidding on a number of those black suited dolls but the auctions always breached the $100 mark which was more than I was willing to spend on a toy at the time.  But oh how I wanted one.  After a few failed attempts I eventually found a version of Jack in his pajamas currently sitting at about $50.  I tossed in my bid and if memory serves I think I won him for about $75.  With the shipping from Japan he ended up costing me about $100 in total.  I remember how unsure I was of the purchase and even asked my dad whether I should do it.  My dad has always been supportive of my hobbies and basically said “go for it ” so I did.  For a long while this Jack Skellington was the signature piece of my toy collection.  In the 15 years since I’ve acquired many more signature pieces including one of those black suited Jacks but this figure holds a special place in my heart.  Today I wouldn’t think twice about blowing $100 on action figures and in fact I do it on a regular basis but this is the one toy that set the precedent for it. 

I’ve rambled on long enough so I’ll try to make my actual review quick.  This figure is stellar.  If you told me that this was one of the puppets used in the actual film I’d believe you.  The quality is outstanding.  The head sculpt is great and is still my favorite of all the various expressions that were available.  There were smiling and angry options but I just love this inquisitive frowning face.  The pajamas look just as they did in the film and I especially love the long night cap.  The figure’s joints are firm and he can hold poses well but he doesn’t stand on his own because of the scrawny legs.  It’s crazy how skinny his limbs are when you roll up his sleeves or pant legs to reveal them.  His hands aren’t articulated but they’re made of a softer plastic so you can move his fingers about without worrying about snapping them off.  His only accessory was a copy of the ”Scientific Method” book he’s seen reading in the film as he struggles to figure out Christmas.  It’s very detailed as well with finely sculpted pages that look as though they can be turned.  The text on the pages is actually a synopsis of the film.  The dark blue coffin he came in makes for a great display piece or storage unit.  An excellent figure that stands (quite literally) head and shoulders above most of the NBX merchandise out there.  If you’re a true fan, go out and buy yourself one of these JUN figures.  10 out of 10.

THE GIRL WITH MANY EYES

TIM BURTON

It’s been a full week since I posted anything so I apologize to all of my regular readers.  I had planned to do a full week of Halloween themed reviews leading up to the big day but I keep getting sidetracked by real life.   I really don’t even have time to write this review now but I felt I had to post something before you all thought I’d died or something.  Today I went to my first ever Convention, Hal-Con and that kept me pretty busy most of the day ( I’ll talk more about that later) and tonight I’m hosting a Halloween party.  Guests are scheduled to arrive in a half hour so this will have to be a quick review.

The figure I’ve picked today isn’t exactly Halloween themed but it’s close enough.  It’s a figurine of The Girl With Many Eyes, a character from Tim Burton’s book “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories.”  This was a book of poems by the director that was first published in 1997.  Each poem features a bizarre little character that could have only come from the mind of Tim Burton.  Most of the poems are only a few quick verses and some are only a few lines.  I previously reviewed a figurine of Junk Girl from another poem in the book.  Neither of these are favorites of mine so I’m not sure why I tackled them first but whatever, I’ll get to the better ones eventually.  The poem is as follows…

THE GIRL WITH MANY EYES

One day in the park

I had quite a surprise.

I met a girl

who had many eyes.

She was really quite pretty

(and also quite shocking!)

and I noticed she had a mouth

so we ended up talking.

We talked about flowers,

and her poetry classes,

and the problems she’d have

if she ever wore glasses.

It’s great to know a girl

who has so many eyes,

but you really get wet

When she breaks down and cries.

The figure looks very much like the drawing from the book, in that it’s damn ugly.  The stringy hair, the blue skin, the big feet, and oh yeah, the many eyes are all there.  I would not talk to this chick in the park.   2 out of 10.

SAGA DEER

BEAST SAGA

Regular readers of this site are aware of how excited I am about these Beast Saga figures.  I pre-ordered the first 14 figures from BigBadToyStore months ago and when they arrived in the mail last month I felt like an 8 year old on Christmas morning.  It’s not every day that you get to open up your first action figure from an exciting new toy line, let alone 14 of them.  I went from owning no Beast Saga figures to having the entire collection in a matter of minutes.  I quickly began posting reviews and have covered 5 of them so far.  Saga Deer here will be my 6th.  Now with a collection as small as this I wouldn’t normally rush through half of them as quickly as I have because I like to space out the reviews of any one toy line.  If all goes according to plan I’ll be writing this blog for years to come and wouldn’t want to exhaust all my Beast Saga reviews in a few short weeks.  The reason you see G.I. Joes so frequently is because I have so frig`n many of them that running out of Joes to review is not a concern.  When it comes to smaller lines like Ninja Turtles and California Raisins I’ve got to space them out accordingly.   The thing about these Beast Saga figures though is they are showing no signs of slowing down.  Besides the 14 I currently have, I have another 20+ figures on pre-order.  So until the excitement wears off, which it hasn’t yet, I’m gonna keep feeding you Beast Saga reviews on a regular basis.

This is Saga Deer.  I’ll quickly point out again that it isn’t his real name but I’ve taken to calling all of my BS figures “Saga _____” until someone verifies what their names actually are.  If I was forced to be more creative I think “Buck Stag” would be a pretty boss name for this guy.  I actually kind of hope that they aren’t given names and back stories as making them up myself was one of the aspects I really liked about the original Battle Beast toy line that inspired these figures.   Yet I’ve heard rumors of a potential DVD release so if that’s true then I’m sure the characters will receive proper names and some sort of storyline.  I’d love to see this toy line spin off into an animated series but it would most likely be in Japanese which kind of sucks for those of us who aren’t exactly fluent in the language.

 

Saga Deer wasn’t initially one of my favorite figures but I really like him now.  I almost feel that he would be a more fitting leader for the good guy group than Saga Lion.  Lion looks a little unstable with those crazy eyes and open mouth.  Deer looks much more calm and collected.  And sure Lion has a great green mane but does it command more respect than Deer’s epic antlers?  Of that I’m not sure.  But since I’ve already established Lion as my leader I’m not gonna shake up the status quo so soon.  But should anything ever happen to Lion, I feel that Saga Deer would fill his shoes nicely.

I like how his green and brown color scheme is reminiscent of the deer from the Battle Beasts line.  The BB deer was not a favorite of mine.  He wasn’t bad but his goggles made him seem kinda nerdy to me and his thin little deer legs didn’t do much to make him appear tough.  Even the flamingo looked tougher than him.  I think my indifference towards the Battle Beast Deer is what lead to my initial lack of enthusiasm about Saga Deer.   But now I see that Saga Deer stands on his own as a great figure.  He doesn’t suffer from scrawny leg syndrome like his ancestor and he doesn’t need goggles.  His antlers are much cooler and even his shade of green is way better.  This guy trumps the original deer in every way.  I had originally envisioned the Beast Saga figures to be the offspring of the Battle Beast figures but there’s no way I could buy into this guy being the son of the scrawny punk that is Battle Deer.  I think that in this scenario it is the original’s father who has stepped onto the battle field.

Saga Deer comes with a sword and shield and a couple of dice as is standard in the line.  I quite like his weird spiral sword.  One of the better figures of wave 1.  8 out of 10.

SNAKE-MEN

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

Yesterday a new package from Matty Collector arrived on my doorstep.  Mattycollector.com is the Mattel online store that produces online exclusive figures of characters from their most popular properties such as Masters of the Universe, Voltron, and Ghostbusters.  These toys are geared towards the collectors market as opposed to kids but ironically I think that the toys I buy from mattycollector are the ones that would most appeal to kids.  I absolutely love these MOTU Classics figures.  They’re big, durable, bright, fun, nostalgic and imaginative.  They definitely make for the most eye catching display in my man cave.   My brother Doug tells me that his 4 year old Alex is really getting into He-Man these days and so Doug has been working at getting him a complete collection of the vintage figures.  Now that Alex is so well versed in the property I’m kind of excited/terrified  for the next time he pays me a visit.  I wonder what he’ll think of these modern versions of the old toys that he’s been playing with.  Will he like these ones better?  Would I have preferred these new ones when I was his age?  I dunno, the old ones definitely have their charm but damn these new ones are cool.  Durable as the Classics figures may be I’d have to pull the “crappy uncle” routine and forbid him to play with them.  He can play with my 2002 versions if he wants.  I’m not a monster.

One of the great things about the Classics line is that it covers all past incarnations of Masters of the Universe.  Most of the figures are based on figures released during the 80s but some are based on the crappy “New Adventures of He-Man” of the 90s, some are based on the mini-comics that were included with the vintage figures, some are based on unused concept art, and some are completely new characters made in the spirit of the originals.  The new characters have been hit and miss.  One of my favorite new releases was the Palace Guards 2-pack.  That set consisted of two guards wearing the Man-at-Arms styled armor worn by all the guards in the cartoon.  These guys were always seen standing around in the background and it was really cool to be able to add a couple of no-name soldiers like this to the collection.  They even came with a variety of heads, helmets and weapons so you could have multiple combinations of guards if you decided to buy more than one set.  It’s a great set.

Well another figure 2-pack arrived in my matty shipment yesterday.  This one is also a troop-builder pack consisting of nameless soldiers intended to pad the ranks of your Eternian armies.   The army getting padded this time though is the army of snake-men led by King Hiss.   If you ask anybody who He-Man’s enemy is they’ll say Skeletor and his henchmen consisting of Mer-Man, and Beastman etc.  Skeletor was absolutely He-Man’s most memorable foe but the Masters of the Universe faced down a number of serious threats over the years.  There was Hordak who led his evil Horde consisting of Leech and Mantenna, and then there was King Hiss and his army of Snake Men.  The Snake Men were introduced late in the original incarnation of He-Man and we didn’t get to see them live up to their full potential.   In the 2002 reboot the entire third season of the show focused on the rising threat of the snake men and Skeletor and his minions were relegated to background roles. 

The Snake men had their fair share of name characters such as the King Hiss, Rattlor, Kobra Kahn, Tongue Lasher, Snake Face, and Squeeze but they were always billed as being a massive army.  The cartoon featured hundreds of nameless snake men at King Hiss’s command and this 2 pack gives you a chance to play out their slithery siege of Castle Greyskull.  The set contains a yellow snake man and an orange snake man.   The colors are actually quite similar.  Now you might be wondering why they’d go with yellow and orange instead of more obvious snake colors like green or black.  Well the snake army already has plenty of green in King Hiss and Kobra Kahn.  A black snake man would be pretty sweet but I think perhaps would go against the bright and colorful aesthetic established by previous releases.  The reason the two snake men are so close in color is because of the swappable heads.  Like the Palace guards set the Snake men set contains 4 different heads, 2 yellow and 2 orange, 1 of each with a closed mouth and 1 with an open mouth.  The heads are all very unique looking and ideally I’d like to own 2 of these sets so that I could display 4 different snake men.  The fact that you can get away with displaying the yellow heads on the orange body and vice-versa  because the colors are so similar allows for even further customization.  I prefer the closed mouths on both figures and think I will display them that way.

The orange body  is covered in rigid scales of various sizes which are painted in two different shades of orange.  The variety of colors and textures is very subtle and effective.  He’s got full chest armor which I think makes him look rather barrel chested and heroic.  He’s got a furry loin cloth and ninja turtle-esque two-toed feet.

CAPTION CONTEST!

 

 

The yellow body is smooth and free of scales though there are some boney ridges on the arms and legs.  He too has a very subtle paint wash which gives the character’s muscles added definition.  He’s sporting a half chest plate and shoulder guard and shorts.  He’s got three-toed clawed feet with shin guards.  The Eternian Palace Guard figures had identical bodies which was cool because it gave them a unified look but I’m really impressed with how different these two snake men are from one another.  They are clearly individual characters and yet they have enough similarities to seem like they’re part of a unified army.  Both have snake men logos on their chest  which are not the exact same but close enough so that you know these guys are teammates.  The set included a spear, a sword, a mace and a shield so both snake men can head into battle fully armed.  Mattel knocked it out of the park with this set, great stuff. 9 out of 10.

RECONDO v3

G.I. JOE 

This here is Recondo, the G.I. Joe team’s jungle trooper.  The original Recondo was released in the third wave of Joe figures in 1984 and I loved him.  He had a funky old school moustache, a wide brimmed safari hat, a bandaged up rifle and funky camouflage pants.  He was oozing with personality and showcased just how far the Joe line had come in just a couple short years.  The figure was later repainted in Tiger Force colors and those two versions of Recondo were the only ones released during the ”Real American Hero” years.

version 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The modern 25th anniversary style figures usually provide us with better designed versions of old favorites but I don’t feel that was the case with Recondo.  The modern version’s moustache just looks goofy and his eyes look tired and lazy.  A removable hat would usually be a good thing but the modern version’s hat comes off only to reveal a silly middle-part hair cut underneath.  The modern version failed to capture the cool factor of the original.

2009 modern version

Now in-between the classic RAH figures and the modern sculpt figures lies that oft forgotten period known as the new sculpt era.  This particular version of Recondo (version 3 ) was Hasbro’s first attempt at updating the classic character.  This version was released in 2003 and when I first saw it I was not happy.  How the hell is this supposed to be Recondo?  There’s almost nothing about this figure that ties him to the original.  All of his signature pieces have been removed.  However that drastic departure is what I eventually came to love about this figure.  Sure he doesn’t look like the Recondo of old but he’s still a great figure.

 

CD ROM! Bitch’n!

 

As much as I love the vintage figure it does come across as pretty old fashioned.  The old-timey moustache really makes Recondo seem like an out of touch relic.  This fresh faced, clean shaven version looks contemporary and much less of a stereo-type.  The safari hat has been replaced by a cap and Recondo has picked up some body armor along the way as well.  The armor provides some chest protection yet he still retains the holstered pistol and pouches of the original.  The tan shirt with rolled up sleeves and the camo pants remain as well.  So maybe this guy isn’t as different from the original as he first appeared.  The bright blue eyes and half smile really breath some life into this figure.

One element that I love about this toy that’s hard to put into words is his playability factor.  Granted I’m too old to play with toys but this figure makes me wish I wasn’t.  I love the super detailed, accessory loaded modern figures because they make great display pieces but they don’t strike me as overly fun (too many joints, too many pieces to lose, too dark).  The new sculpt era was full of bright colors and silly concepts and bad direct-to-video movies but it felt fun.  My new sculpt toys are buried away in a box in the closet these days but they’re just as fun to revisit as my vintage collection.               7 out of 10.

DR. FATE

DC SUPER POWERS COLLECTION

So this past Monday I went to Giant Robot Comics for their monthly toy trading event.  I’ve been aware that these toy swaps have been taking place for a while now but had yet to make it over for one myself.  Me and Giant Robot are separated by the second largest natural ice free harbor in the world and I do not drive a car nor a boat so getting there isn’t always easy.  I could take a bus I suppose but Halifax public transport is sketchy enough even before you cross the bridge into Dartmouth.  For this reason I only ever venture over there when I can bum a ride for a friend.  Lucky for me, my good pal Andrew also has an unquenchable thirst for new toys so I’m able to get to GRC with some frequency.

So a couple of posts ago I was whining about how much trouble it was to get a G.I. Joe Storm Rider figure.  A friend of the blog (Glenn, who went to the same high school as me but  whom I had never met formally) commented on my mike’s collection facebook page that I really should make an effort to get over to Dartmouth for the upcoming Toy Trade night as I might find some of those sought after figures.  So I recruited Andrew and away we went.  (Like Glenn, you should all go “like” the facebook page so you’ll be informed of every new post and you too can direct me to where the deals are.)

So when I got to Giant Robot I was happy to see that there were quite a few toys to pick from.  Only 3 or 4 guys actually showed up with stuff but they had a fair amount, two long tables worth.  Glenn was there who I got to officially meet and to my pleasant surprise an old friend, Jim Midgett (not an alias),was there selling off his G1 Transformers to make room for a new baby.  Right away Andrew scored two 12” Power Rangers figures from some dude who introduced himself to us but unfortunately I’ve forgotten his name.  He did tell me that he runs an ebay store called East Coast Toys and Games which I did check out.  He’s got all kinds of stuff on there so maybe you should check it out as well. http://stores.ebay.ca/East-Coast-Toys-and-Games

I sadly did not find any figures on my “need’ list.  In fact I didn’t pick up anything from lines that I currently collect.  I did take the opportunity to pick up some cheap retro odds and ends though; stuff that I thought would be fun to review for you guys.  For $2 a piece I scored figures from such diverse lines as Dukes of Hazard, Captain Power, Clash of the Titans, Dungeons & Dragons, and Robotix so stay tuned for those.

From the ebay store guy I scored a lot of 4 DC Super Powers figures.  I paid about $6 a piece for these guys which is more than I was looking to spend but seeing as he was asking for $12 a figure I bought them out of courtesy as I appreciated him coming down so low.  I got one of my favorite DC Characters, Green Arrow, and then I got 3 other guys whom I know next to nothing about:   Kalibak, Red Tornado and Dr. Fate.

I remember when the Super Powers figures were new way back when.  I didn’t collect them but I remember the line vividly as it was my introduction to many DC characters.  It’s only because of Super Powers that I even know who Red Tornado and Dr. Fate are.   The only Super Powers toy I actually had as a kid was Mantis, a pretty obscure character who, because of that toy, always felt to me like he was an important character in the DC universe.  The Super Powers line forever engrained in me who I feel are DC’s “key” characters whether they deserve that title or not.  I always thought Dr. Fate was one of the coolest looking characters from the line. 

In all the years since I first saw him though, I’ve never owned a Dr. Fate figure until now and I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a comic book featuring him.  I actually know next to nothing about him other than he’s got magic based powers.  I always saw him as the DC equivalent of Marvel’s Dr. Strange: the master of the mystic arts.  I went to Fate’s Wikipedia page to find out some details about the guy before writing this review but I found it all terribly boring.  I’m sad to report that I don’t think Dr. Fate is much more than a pretty face. 

So despite being a kinda lame character this figure is still awesome.  The bright  blue and yellow look great together and the helmet design is just killer.  I wish I had his cape but even without it he still looks cool.  The Super Powers toys were all well-proportioned and posed in a good neutral poses.  Articulation is pretty simplistic in part to allow for the punching and kicking action features.  I’m unsure what feature Dr. Fate had back in the day as his limbs don’t do much more than hang in place now.  Boring, broken and incomplete, but still awesome.  7 out of 10.

STINKOR (2002)

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

One of the things that I absolutely loved about the original Masters of the Universe figures was that the designers worked so many crazy features into the toys.  Most toy lines only had one gimmick such as transforming into vehicles or hologram stickers but the MOTU line had dozens.  The initial wave of figures pretty much all had the same feature which was the springy waist joint.  This allowed you to twist a figure at the hips in one direction and when you released him he would quickly swing around delivering a powerful roundhouse to whomever was in his way.   This feature was pretty simple but fun and effective.  I love the squeaky spring noise I can still hear in my vintage He-Mans as I twist them.  By the second wave the designers started getting really creative.  Man-E-Faces, Mekaneck, Trap Jaw and others all brought a unique new play feature to the table.  It’s hard to say which figure had the best feature but I think Stinkor ranks among the elite.  Stinkor, the skunk-man, stunk.  As a kid I had no idea how they did it but the actual Stinkor figure had a funky aroma about it that lasted for years.  It was a rather useless gimmick when actually playing with your toys but it was such a nifty and original concept that I just loved it. 

Though MOTU figures shined with their innovative features, they were pretty lacking when it came to tooling new parts for their figures.  Almost all of the figures were hulking muscle men so this allowed the designers to reuse the muscly torso and arms over and over again.  This reuse of parts would often go undetected by children like me, or more accurately I noticed but didn’t care.  As long as each character had a new head and was painted a different color I didn’t really give a crap about reused arms and legs.  This reuse of parts really only bothered me when it was a character’s face being recycled.  Reused heads always bothered me on G.I. Joes too but at least it was easier to buy into a bunch of young military guys looking similar.  When it came to MOTU figures I have no idea why they would reuse the ape inspired Beast Man to create the living plant character Moss Man.  Even stranger was the repainting of the fish character Mer-Man to create the skunk inspired Stinkor.  Not that the original Mer-Man was all that fishy looking but he certainly wasn’t skunky looking either.  It seemed a very strange choice.  The face was bug eyed with a downturned mouth full of pointy little teeth and completely devoid of a nose.  I’m sure that the designers must have imagined a more mammalian face on this guy when they first conceived of the idea.

Vintage Mer-Man and Stinkor

 

As it happens, Mer-Man was my absolute favorite MOTU character so even though it was an odd choice, I was all for painting him black and white and making him a skunk man.  I didn’t get Stinkor at the height of the line but I did get him a few years later.  Unfortunately he was missing his armor, the element that most separated him from Mer-Man.  I still have that vintage semi-nude Stinkor in my collection but his Stink is gone.  Or perhaps it’s just my sense of smell that has deteriorated. 

When MOTU made it’s long awaited comeback in 2002 I was super stoked.   Not only did we get a high quality new cartoon which added depth to characters that never had it before but we got a wicked new series of action figures to go along with it.  I have most of the 2002 line.  The line disappeared from retail fairly quickly though and I missed out on a few key characters like Teela and Ram Man.  I thought the 2002 designs were the perfect blend of fresh and new and retro and familiar.   I didn’t love Stinkor’s new origin as chronicled in the series, he was a little Mogwai looking guy that got mutated into the muscly skunk man that he is.  But I did really like the updated look once he was in full Stinkor mode.  He retained the Mer-Man-esque influence of the original but was now clearly a character of his own.  If you stood the 2002 Mer-Man next to the 2002 Stinkor you’d never know that they were both inspired by the same base figure, even though both are still recognizable and comparable to the original.

2002 Mer-Man and Stinkor

 

Unfortunately the new MOTU toy line and cartoon didn’t catch on with kids the way Mattel had hoped and both were soon cancelled.  This was a huge bummer as there were so many stories left to be told in the animated series.  They spent three seasons teasing about the coming of the Evil Horde which never came to fruition.  And so many awesome characters did not get released as action figures; including Stinkor.  The sculpting team behind the redesigns of the MOTU, the Four Horsemen, came up with an innovative way to satisfy fans even though they had lost the license to produce actions figures.  They began releasing action figure sized statues of the characters that never made it to the toy aisles.  This statue line which they called “staction figures” provided fans with 3 dimensional interpretations of such great characters as Mantenna, Mosquitor, Clawful, and of course Stinkor.

This Stinkor staction figure is sculpted brilliantly and comes with a display base so that he would look right at home in any fanboys statue collection.  However he can be removed from the base, and he even has removable accessories so he can be displayed with the previously released 2002 MOTU figures just as easily.  The figure itself doesn’t move which is a pretty big disappointment.  I’d have been even more disappointed  had I been a kid wanting to play with this thing but by 2002 I was done playing with toys and was just using them as display pieces so the lack of articulation didn’t bother me so much. 

I truly love this sculpt.  It is one of the better Horsemen designs from 2002 (though they were all good).  Stinkor is large, and scary, and posed in a hunch which indicates that he’d be even bigger than he appears if he stood upright.  His armor has been bulked up substantially including the addition of big awesome boots.  He’s got large oxygen tanks on his back that attach to his face mask which I believe allows him to tolerate his own repugnant scent.  In fact the only real downfall of this figure other than the lack of movement is the lack of stink.  8 out of 10.

PUGNACIOUS PENGUIN

BATTLE BEASTS

In my last post I reviewed Storm Rider, a G.I. Joe figure that I’d been trying to track down for months.  It took me nearly two years since his initial release before I finally got him.  That was a long two years but it’s nothing when compared to how long I’ve been trying to get my hands on this damn penguin.   Pugnacious Penguin was released as part of the third series of Battle Beasts back in 1988.  Unlike the first two series’ where the figures were released in 2 packs, series three was released as three 8-packs of figures.   I’m not sure why Hasbro went that route but it made the figures tougher for me to get.  Not only were they more scarce than the previous waves but at the higher price point it was much harder for me to convince my dad to buy me a pack for raking the leaves or whatever.  By the time Christmas and my January birthday rolled around, when I might’ve had a shot at getting an 8 pack, they were nowhere to be found.  Luckily I acquired a few of the figures through trades with friends and flea markets that year and  I had about half of wave 3 before too long.  That second half though was not so easy to come by.  Granted I could’ve bought them on ebay anytime but most people were asking way too much for them and for many years they weren’t that high on my priority list.  I picked up the occasional figure here and there and that was good enough for me.  Earlier this year my brother Doug found a guy selling Battle Beasts on Kijiji (a local classifieds site).  I scored about half of the remaining figures I needed from him.  That coupled with the news that new Battle Beast (Beast Saga) figures were coming out lit a fire under my butt to finally complete the collection.  I found the last couple figures relatively easily, that is except for the penguin.  As soon as I had vowed to purchase him, no matter the price, nobody in the world was selling him.  I was checking ebay every few days for months and noone put a penguin up for sale.  I had really hoped to complete my vintage collection before the new figures came out.  New figures had the potential to bring new fans to the property which could make the older figures more collectable and thus more expensive.  Well as you know my  first series of Beast Saga figures showed up last month and I still hadn’t acquired a Battle Beast penguin.  However just a couple weeks ago, within a day or two of scoring Storm Rider, I found a guy selling a lot of 5 Battle Beasts, penguin included.  I placed my bid and prayed that the auction wouldn’t get out of hand.  I was worried the inclusion of the 4 other beasts whom I didn’t need would drive up the bids.  Luckily that was not the case and now finally, after almost 25 years, I have Pugnacious Penguin thus completing my vintage collection of North American released Battle Beasts.  Phew.

some serious proportion issues here.

It will be a very satisfying feeling to place this guy into my Battle Beast display once I’m done with this review.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a complete action figure line before.  The satisfaction is slightly diminished by the knowledge that there are other vintage Battle Beasts out there that were only released in Japan.  I would love to get my hands on those but they sell for hundreds of dollars apiece and rarely hit the secondary market so its best if I forget about them. 

So was this figure worth the wait?  In a word, yes.  If I had really wanted to, I could’ve bought this figure ages ago but for the past two decades I’ve been more concerned with buying figures from more current collections.  Completing my Battle Beasts collection was always in the back of my mind and I always knew that I’d do it eventually.  There is a sense of accomplishment now that it’s finally done and I find myself wondering why I didn’t make it a priority years ago.

I think every single Battle Beast figure is worth owning.  Some I love and others are just alright but there are none that I dislike.  Even my least favorite ones like the porpoise and the flying squirrel still have a charm about them.  I would rank the penguin somewhere in the middle.  Maybe if I had owned him as a kid he’d get more points based on his nostalgia factor but if anything I resent him for being so difficult to find and will penalize him a few points for it.  I like penguins as much as the next guy but I find them to be a very overrated bird.  Ever since March of the Penguins came out people just can’t seem to get enough of them.    They were featured heavily in the Madagascar series and in the Jim Carrey movie, Mr. Popper’s Penguins.  I see stuffed animals of them everywhere and they just seem overexposed in general.  Sure it’s cool how the dad penguins sit on the eggs for months while the mother goes for food but do they deserve a medal for it?  Get over yourself penguins.  I’m sure every species out there does something just as quirky and charming but not all are so lucky to be featured in a full length theatrically released documentary.   So not only do I resent this guy for being so hard to track down but I also don’t like his ego.  Even his name, Pugnacious, implies that he’s got an attitude problem. 

Even if he is a jerk though, I could never stay mad at this guy.  He is pretty darn cute.  Not cute to the extreme like the Hamster I reviewed the other day but cute enough.  He’s got the cold piercing stare and no-nonsense grimace that all Battle Beast figures do but it’s his stature that makes him hard to take seriously as a threat.  I’m pretty sure that he’s the smallest Battle Beast out of the entire series of 88 figures; smaller than even the mouse or spider.  Scale has never really been factored into the Battle Beast world so I’m unsure why they opted to make this guy so petite.    The sculpt is great on this guy as is expected and I really like his armor.  It’s quite different than that of any other beast.  The lack of armor on his legs and chest almost make it appear as though he’s wearing an armored bikini of some sort.  The light and dark blues look great together and give him an appropriately cold/aquatic vibe.  A very welcome addition to mike’s collection.  7 out of 10.

Vanessa’s paintbrush interpretation. This is why I love her.