Monthly Archives: February 2013

COBRA TROOPER v.9 (2008)

Joe-Cobra troop v9 fullG.I. JOE

Well February is nearly over which also brings Black History Month to a close.   I actually had the idea back in December to spend a week in February reviewing notable black action figures but I forgot about all about it until just now.  So I’m sorry that I didn’t get to devote a whole week to the subject but at least I will get this one review done.  With most toy lines you can count on there being at least one token black guy included in the line whether it be Winston from the Ghostbusters, Lando from Star Wars or Token from South Park.  But one toy line which has always embraced diversity is G.I. Joe.  There have been African-American Joes dating back the 60s line of 12” Joes but those were before my time.  I grew up in the “Real American Hero” era of Joe.  Right from the get go, the RAH line had a positive African-American character in Stalker.  He was soon followed by Doc and Roadblock.  All of them were key players in the early Joe cartoons and comics.  Many more black characters joined the team over the years including Hardball, Alpine, Heavy Duty, and Iceberg.  Joe also had Native American, Latino and Asian members on the team.  Sure, the team was mostly white guys but there was a fair amount of diversity between them as well.  I don’t think anybody could accuse the Joes of not allowing members of any particular group on the team.Joe-Cobra troop v9 art

Cobra, on the other hand, was a completely different story.  That was one cracker ass team of terrorists.  I could be wrong but I don’t think they had a single African American on their roster for the entire RAH era.  They were willing to accept white dudes with snake tails or dressed up as birds but it does not appear as though they were accepting resumes from minorities.  I’ll be honest, I never gave it any thought back then but if I was a black kid in the 80s I would’ve been pretty disappointed to not have any representation on the most ruthless of snake themed terrorist organization.  I’m not looking to make excuses for Hasbro but I think one of the issues might have been that so many Cobra figures represented an entire squadron of soldiers.  Every Joe was an individual so that allowed for more diversity but when it comes to Cobra, there were single figures made of Heat-Viper and Ice-Viper  which were representative of the hordes of HEAT and ICE-Vipers we saw in the comics and cartoons.  If Hasbro had made the Heat-Viper figure black that might lead people to believe that all the Heat-Vipers are black.  This happened with the Rock Viper released in 1990.  He was supposed to represent all of the many Rock-Vipers and yet the figure was sculpted with a very unique mustache.  Did this mean that in order to be a Rock-Viper you had to grow this mustache?  I dunno.  That kinda stuff can confuse people.  Regardless, you’d think Hasbro could’ve come up with a black “name” Cobra character to interact with Cobra Commander and Destro.Joe-Cobra troop v9 face

That’s what brings me to this figure.  He’s not the first black Cobra and that’s what’s so great about him, he’s now one of many.  I’m quite certain the first black Cobra was Burnout released in 2003.  Though he was a Dreadnok so you could argue that he didn’t count.  That would make the first black Cobra the Cobra Infantry Trooper released in 2004.  At least in toy form.  You could argue that Destro’s son Alekander was the first as he began appearing in comics in 2001. Firefly became African-American in Devil’s Due Reloaded series and remains so in IDWs Joe comics.  In toy form Cobra now has a couple of black “name” Cobras other than the debatable Burnout in Night Adder and Shadow Tracker.  Whoever you decide to call “the first” 2004 was indeed the banner year for diversity in the Cobra ranks because Hasbro released a few trooper multi-packs meaning that no longer did one figure need to represent an entire squad.  These multi-packs gave as African American Infantry Troopers (Blue shirts) and Crimson Guards.  This figure here carries on the tradition of racially diverse troopers from multi-packs for the modern generation of Joes.

Cobra Trooper version 9 was included in the Extreme Conditions: Desert Assault Squad 7-pack released in 2008.  An Extreme Conditions winter pack was released at the same time.  The packs included one “name” Cobra to lead the squad (Major Bludd in the case of the Desert pack) and 6 environmentally specialized troopers.  One of those troopers was a flamethrower specialist who happened to be the subject of my second ever review back in December 2011.  The others were a Hostile Environment Specialist, a Cobra Officer and a couple of Crimson Guards.   This guy is billed as an Explosives Specialist. I really liked these packs.  They allowed me to army build my modern armies without buying repeat figures.  The desert set especially gave us cool new variations of familiar Cobra troops like the Crimson Guards and this guy who is basically just a standard Cobra blue shirt in tan.Joe-Cobra troop v9 back

Unfortunately this guy doesn’t quite live up to his potential.  He’s been given Tripwires accessories that date back to 1983.  The stiff molded plastic wire on his mine detector is impossible to pose correctly when it’s plugged into his mine storage back pack as it’s supposed to be.  These weapons just seem dated.  Also this figure is a mish-mash of previously released blue shirt and viper parts and the viper parts do not serve him well.  The original 25th anniversary Viper had the worst lower legs because his ankles were sculpted at an angle making it impossible for him to stand on his own.  This poor fella has inherited those legs and those problems.  I do like the inclusion of the Viper vest as it helps to establish that he’s a specialized blue shirt and not just your average grunt.  So while the figure isn’t great, I think he’s representative of a great thing.  Finally black kids can imagine themselves as one of the nameless Cobra Troopers without taking a sharpie to a vintage figure.  6 out of 10.  Hopefully I’ve done my part to contribute to Black History Month by dropping some African-American toy knowledge on ya.

RAM MAN

MOTU-Ram man fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS 

About a week ago I reviewed the MOTU Classics figure of Castle Grayskull Man.  In that review I ranted a little bit about the price of shipping on my most recent order from Mattycollector.  That most recent order, placed on February 15, consisted of Jitsu and Ram Man.  The 2 figures cost me $60.  The shipping cost me $30 and I was not happy about it, mainly because my shipping costs are usually half that.  Well a few days later I got my answer as to why it cost so much, they sent them to me express.  So instead of having to wait a month + for my figures, this shipment arrived in 6 days.  So while that was kind of a nice change it definitely wasn’t worth doubling the cost of my shipping, not to mention the $20  that the courier wanted at the time of delivery for customs charges or something.  So these two He-Man figures ended up costing me $110.  They had better be f**king amazing toys.MOTU-Ram man face

I’ll cover it more thoroughly later but I can tell you that Jitsu did not pull his weight.  It’s a decent figure but in no way is it worth the $55 I essentially paid for it.  Ram Man on the other hand is pretty damn awesome and much more worthy of such a hefty price tag.  Both of these figures have been highly anticipated by fans.  They were the two most glaring holes in the Classics Collection.  With the release of Jitsu and Ram Man this month Mattel has now released updated versions of the first 3 years of the vintage line.  While Ram Man has never bee a favorite character of mine he does feel like an essential part of any MOTU collection.MOTU-Ram-man animated

 

I’ve mentioned many times that the great thing about the vintage line was the wide range of characters and play features.  Ram Man was one of the earliest figures to adopt a play feature  beyond the spinning waist of most of the original line up.   Ram Man’s legs could be pushed up into his torso compacting him into a powder keg of ramming power.  A little button would launch Ram Man’s head forward enabling him to bust down Castle Grayskull’s jaw bridge or any other obstacles that might be in his way.  Like Meckaneck’s extending neck this was a simple but effective feature that accurately highlighted the characters unique attributes.   The problem with the feature was that the figure suffered for it.  In order to have the legs fit up inside of it the torso of the original figure had to be a big hollowed out shell.  This meant no neck or wait articulation.  The legs were sculpted as a single piece so that they could be shoved up inside.  This made for a very stiff figure with far less articulation than the standard figures in the line.  The character in the vintage cartoon was portrayed as a dim-witted dwarf whose ramming was accompanied by a cheesy “boing” sound effect.

1983 and 2002 versions

1983 and 2002 versions

In the 2002 relaunch of the series Ram Man was still kind of an idiot but he was much more of a threat to Skeletor and his Evil Warriors.  The 2002 Ram Man was actually taller than all of the other Masters, even He-Man.  The 2002 figure wasn’t really any taller than the other figures in the line but he was much thicker, really showcasing the characters girth. Ram Man is one of the few 2000 era figures that I was never able to find at retail.  I always figured I would eventually get one on ebay but since he isn’t a personal favorite I never put much effort into the hunt.  The figure had the same feature as the original, a hollowed out body so that his uni-leg could be compressed inside to create a ram effect.MOTU-Ram man compare

MOTU-Ramman animated 2002When mattycollector announced the release of a Classics Ram Man in 2013 I was pretty stoked.  Despite not being a favorite I really wanted one especially because I never got around to buying the 2002 figure released a decade earlier.  The production pictures looked promising and I was eager to add this figure to my collection.  Well now that he’s here I can tell you that I like him even more than I expected to.  If Ram Man had looked more like this back in 1983 maybe he would rank up there with my favorite Masters, Stratos and Buzz-Off.   This figure is a good solid hunk of plastic, no longer just a hollow shell posing as one.  But I was surprised by how short the figure is as the pictures made him look like he was going to be massive.  The site charged “beast” price for Ram Man so I expected a figure about the same size as other beasts like Gygor (a yellow gorilla who I really must get around to reviewing soon).  Not that Ram Man is short, he’s the same size as all of the figures, I just expected him to be taller.  I’m actually quite happy that he’s this size and it’s a good middle ground for the people who might’ve wanted a vintage dwarf sized Ram Man and those who wanted a 2000 era giant Ram Man.MOTU-Ram man back

So what makes this figure so great?  First off the head is amazing.  That scrunched up face has a ton of personality.  An alternate head was included that shows Ram Man without his helmet.  Apparently he’s blonde under there and has a metal plate covering the top of his head which helps to explain his special ability.  Ram Man appeared unmasked like this in the 2002 animated series when he wasn’t in battle.  The shoulder armor is big and bulky yet is made of soft rubber and doesn’t hinder his movement.  There’s a slot on the back that can hold his ax when he’s not using it.  The torso is nicely articulated with an excellently hidden seam.  The arms are huge with sculpted veiny details.  he’s got a skirt also made out of soft rubber which is flexible enough to allow for leg movement.  That right, Ram Man can move his legs for the first time ever.  His legs are not sculpted as a single piece like with his last 2 incarnations.  This Ram Man has two posable legs and like the torso the knee joints are hidden remarkably.  Lastly he’s got some big ol’ boots which I love.  The horsemen went above and beyond here and even sculpted skulls into his boot treads to match his belt buckle.  This figure is awesome.  It’s too bad they weren’t able to work his ramming feature into this new figure somehow but I don’t really miss it to much.  9 out of 10.MOTU-Ram man alt headMOTU-Ram man boots

RAND

Robo-Rand fullROBOTECH

I missed the last couple of days but I’m back again with another toy review.  I really do try to stay on top of this and would love to maintain the pace of one review a day but it ain’t easy.   As some regular readers know I also dabble in writing screenplays and I’m gearing up to enter a bunch of the 2013 contests.  The early submission deadline for a couple of the big competitions is March 1 so lately I’ve been devoting most of my free time to polishing up my script before sending it out into the world in 6 days.  Wish me luck.

So today I’ve decided to review another Robotech figure.  I love Robotech and have reviewed a couple of them in the past such as Rick Hunter and Zor but I only have a handful of these figures so I have to review them sparingly.  The Robotech figures came out in one solid wave of 22 figures  along with a small assortment of vehicles and then that was it.  I don’t know why Matchbox didn’t choose to stagger the line and release waves of a few figures at a time as that might have given the property more legs.  On the plus side of getting one massive wave, pretty much all of the main characters from all 3 generations of Robotech made it into the line.  If Matchbox had released a line of 6 figures and they didn’t sell well then we probably never would’ve gotten figures of characters like Rand here. Robo-Rand carded

Rand is a character from the third and final generation of the original Robotech series known as “The New Generation”.  In Japan this cartoon was a stand-alone series known as Genesis Climber Mospeada and Rand was known as Ray.  It’s been many years since I’ve watched the series but I’ll do my best to give you a little background on the character.  The third generation of Robotech starts off in a pretty bad place, the Invid have invaded and for all intents and purposes conquered Earth.  Scott Bernard is a member of the Robotech Defense Force and  the only surviving member of his crew when his spaceship is destroyed.  Scott intends to carry out his mission to destroy the Invid, all alone if he must.  He begins his long trek across a severly depopulated and depleted Earth to reach reflex point, the Invid headquarters.  Along the way he picks up a ragtag group of misfits to help him in his mission, Rand being the first.  At first Rand rubs Scott the wrong way but they soon become friends and over the course of the series Rand transforms from an aimless drifter to a seasoned warrior.  When we first meet Rand he’s wearing brown sweats and hiding in the shadows but by the end he’s flying around in his own super cool Cyclone armor blasting Invid Scouts into oblivion.  Rand was one of my favorite Robotech characters.Robo-Rand animated

I would’ve loved to own the whole series of Robotech toys when I was a kid and it doesn’t seem like it would’ve been that hard to do considering how few there were.  The problem was that Robotech figures were nearly impossible to find.  Nothing frustrated me more than seeing all of the figures advertised in the catalogue and then going to the store where we’d be lucky to find a Robotech Master (he sucks).  I actually never owned Rand as a kid.  Some of the toys that I wanted most but never got in my youth were Robotech figures.   I would’ve loved to own a Rand but he wasn’t at the top of my want list.  Topping that list was an Invid Shock Trooper which was followed by Rook, a character who I think married Rand late in the series.  In the past year I have acquired all 3 of those figures.  You may recall that my brother Doug bought me a Shock Trooper for Christmas and I picked up carded versions of Rand and Rook on ebay. Robo-Rand-cardback

I don’t usually go for carded figures, I’m the type that likes to open my toys and play with them, even if only for a minute.  Their re-sale value doesn’t factor into it.   However I don’t have enough Robotech figures to set up a proper display and if I opened Rand up and placed him on my miscellaneous shelf he’d just get lost in the clutter.  So for that reason I’ve opted to keep my Rook and Rand figures sealed and I have the packages tacked to the wall in my man cave.   This way people notice them when they enter the room and they become conversation pieces.  Plus Robotech figures had unique artwork on their blister cards so they’re nice to look at.

Now I must tell you that my love for these characters stems from the cartoon, which was amazing.  The figures however leave a lot to be desired.  A plus was they were some of the best articulated figures of the time.

A Japanese "Ray" figure.

A Japanese “Ray” figure.

 

So many lines like Star Wars were so stiff and lacking even knee joints so they couldn’t sit down.  Robotech figure construction was basically identical to that of G.I. Joe so they have swivel arms, and elastic waists, and bending knees etc.  They moved great but alas they did not always look great.   Rand here is a good example of an ugly ass figure.  His girlfriend Rook is even worse.  The way their faces are sculpted they look more like those freaky muppets from The Dark Crystal than real people.  And their outfits are sooooo boring.  I realize that this is what Rand often wore in the show but I think they should have given him his cyclone armor with a removable helmet akin to the Scott Bernard figure which was awesome.  I wish this figure was better but I’m still super stoked to finally have him after so many years.  I continue to hold out hope that some toy company somewhere will eventually get around to releasing amazing new Robotech figures.  Until then, this will suffice.  5 out of 10.

NANO-B.A.T. v1 (2013)

Joe-Nano-bat v1 fullG.I. JOE : FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the Quarrel figure from the Joe Club Figure Subscription Service (FSS).  A month or so before that I reviewed the Dice figure from the same service.  Since I’ve previously talked about the FSS in those reviews (check ‘em out if you want to know more) and because I basically reviewed this figure a few months back (with a different paint job) I really don’t have a whole lot to say.

The Cobra B.A.T. or Battle Android Trooper was first introduced in 1986.  He was released just once more during the Real American Hero vintage line in 1991.  In the new sculpt era of the early 2000s the B.A.T. was released 14 times with various designs and paint jobs.  I’ve enjoyed every incarnation of the character, even the grasshopper in bicycle shorts look of 2004.  But you can’t beat a classic and so the version 1 design remains my favorite.Joe-Nano-bat v1 art

When the B.A.T. first saw release in the modern era in 2008 I thought the designers knocked it out of the park.  If only all the 25th anniversary figures could’ve been this good.  This was the perfect update to the ’86 original.  It had all the classic bits that I loved like the swappable weapon hands and exposed chest gears but its proportions and detailing were far superior.  I loved it.  It remains a high point of those early 25th anniversary figures.  In the 5 years since its initial release the modern B.A.T. has been released at least 6 more times with a few tweaks and paint variations along the way.  This could technically be called B.A.T. version 23 but the actual number of B.A.T. variations starts to get confusing because there are also Jungle B.A.T.s and variations of Overkill, the B.A.T. leader which could be included.  We’ll stick with calling this figure Nano-B.A.T. version 1 to keep things simple.Joe-Nano-bat v1 claw

Sculpt wise the Nano-B.A.T. is identical to the other modern releases of the BAT (I’m gonna stop putting periods in the name, it’s a pain in the ass) with the exception of the upper legs.  I’m not sure why the Collector’s Club decided to switch them out but it’s barely noticeable and the new legs even have some  cool added design elements.  Like the previous BATs this figure has two hands that can be swapped out for a claw, a drill and a flamethrower, all of which are stored in his backpack.  This version also came packaged with a large laser rifle and a weird neck restraint or something.  Like the 21st version of the BAT that came in the Defense of Cobra Island 7-pack this figure includes an alternate battle damaged head and chest plate.  The battle damaged head actually looks pretty awesome but I’ll be using the “clean” head as my default.Joe-Nano-bat v1 card

The reason that this figure is a Nano-BAT instead of a regular BAT is because he’s been infused with Nanomite technology according to the file card.  The Nanomites cause the infused androids to emit an eerie green glow.  The green glow effect is simulated by sculpting the head, arms and weapons in translucent green plastic which allows light to shine through.  If the Nanomite concept sounds familiar it’s because it was a key plot point in the 2009 live action flick, The Rise of Cobra.  The movie line included green Nano-Vipers and figures came with green “nano-infused” weapons.  Apparently the Nano-BAT was intended to come out in the movie line but the line ended before Hasbro had a chance to release it.  Fans got wind of this cancelled figure and prototypes became a hot commodity on the internet.  This is what prompted the club to release their own version of the abandoned concept.Joe-Nano-bat v1 group

 

When the Collector’s Club first unveiled their FSS figures this one, along with Quarrel, were the most underwhelming.  I really like the BAT design and I’m always happy to add variations to my ranks but not at $30 a pop if I can avoid it.  This figure really seemed unnecessary and I felt it was taking up a slot that could have been used for a much better figure.  When Nano-BAT and Quarrel arrived in the mail last month I was quite surprised at how much I ended up liking them both.  The gray and green look really good together and the translucent head and arms give it a very cool look, distinct from my many other BATS.  I’ve actually come to think that this Nano-BAT figure is kind of awesome and well worth the $30.   8 out of 10.Joe-nano-bat v1 damaged Joe-Nano-bat v1 captured

DODA BODONAWIEEDO

SW-Doda fullSTAR WARS

No, Greedo hasn’t traded in his blaster for a jazz flute(though knowing how things turned out for him maybe he should have).  This is another Rodian entirely, this is Doda Bodonawieedo and he plays a mean slitherhorn.  As I’ve mentioned on this blog a few times before my favorite characters from the Star Wars universe have always been the aliens and monsters.  Nothing against farm boys and princesses but when it comes to Star Wars action figures I’ll usually buy some weird looking green skinned background character over the star of the film.  Mind you, if I was being shipped off to a desert island and I was only allowed to take 1 Star Wars figure with me and my options were Luke Skywalker or Doda Bodonawieedo I think Luke might win that battle.  As far as green skinned background characters go Doda Bodonawieedo is pretty weak, and I’m not just saying that because he’s a musician.   Max Rebo or even Sy Snootles would beat Luke in that same island contest.  I think Doda is weak largely because I have no childhood attachment to this character.  I owned action figures of obscure aliens like Ponda Baba and Ree-Yees when I was a kid and my imagination was still firing on all cylinders.  So even though those characters may not have done much on screen they were fleshed out in my mind and went on a number of intergalactic adventures in my bedroom.   I never had a figure of Doda when I was a kid so we shared no such adventures.SW-Doda movie

It actually would have been impossible for me to own a Doda figure when I was a kid,  none existed.  Not only did the toy not exist but neither did the character.  When Return of the Jedi first came out in 1983 Jabba’s house band consisted of Max on keyboards, Sy on vocals and Droopy McCool on flute.  That was it.  It wasn’t until Lucas started getting carried away adding new footage to his original trilogy in the late 90s that the 3 piece evolved into a group with more members than the Wu-Tang clan.  Uber-obnoxious front man Jow Yowza was added, along with a row of female back-up vocalists, and Droopy was given competing horn-men in Barquin D’an and Doda Bodonawieedo.

While this line-up change was a little upsetting, as I quite enjoyed the band’s original roster, it wasn’t all bad.  Greedo was one of my favorite aliens from the original trilogy.  And unlike many other cool looking aliens from the series Greedo actually got a dialogue scene (with Han Solo no less).  I loved Greedo’s strange voice and the snout movement that accompanied it.  Unfortunately that scene ended with Greedo smoldering on a table.  Though Greedo is forever lost to us the extended musical number in the Return of the Jedi special edition gave us two new Rodians to love, Doda and dancing girl, Greeata Jendowanian.  While neither of them is anywhere near as cool as Greedo it’s still cool to be able to add a couple more green snouted reptile people to my figure collection.SW-Doda group

One of the things I enjoyed most about the prequels were the senate scenes that gave us a look at new characters of the same species of well established characters.  Seeing  Aqualish senators from Ponda Baba’s home planet of Ando and Gran senators from Ree-Yees’s home planet of Kinyen was pretty neat.  And from clips I’ve seen of the Clone Wars cartoon they now have Jedi Knight versions of aliens like Muftak and Momaw Nadon.

So while it may be common now to see multiple characters from a particular alien species it was pretty uncommon back in the day.  It once seemed that every character on screen heralded from a different planet.  I’m not sure if the people at Lucas film have just run out of ideas but I like the fact that we’re seeing multiple characters born of those now famous Star Wars alien species.  I find it makes that galaxy far, far away feel a little more believable.  So often in science fiction entire races and populations are “bad”.  As a kid, seeing Walrus Man and Greedo behave like bad guys left me with the impression that all of their species would act in the same way.  But seeing their kind as senators as musicians makes the characters feel more like individuals.SW-Doda side

Doda Bodonawieedo was one of the first instances that I can recall of an established alien species being revisited in a new character so in a way I guess you could say that he taught me that a species should not be judged based on the actions of an individual.  That’s a pretty profound thing to learn from an action figure.

SW-Doda faceSpeaking of the action figure let’s get on with the review.  It kinda sucks.  No matter how many life lessons this thing teaches me it’s not gonna prevent it from sucking.  It’s a Greedo wanna-be in an orange smock who plays the clarinet.  Other than his resemblance to the beloved bounty hunter with the worst aim in the galaxy this guy has nothing going for him.  He’s stiff and is no fun to play with.  There’s no way I can imagine any kid developing a fondness for this background character like I did for Ree Yees back in the day.  His articulation is even worse than most other stiff Star Wars figures because his skirt hinders all of his leg movement.  And even if you take away his horn his hands are stuck in horn playing position thanks to no elbow articulation.SW-Doda carded

On the bright side it’s a pretty good representation of how the character looked on screen and the sculptors managed to get a fair amount of detail into the skin.  He really does look rough and scaly.   If this guy had been single carded back in the late 90s I would’ve bought him up simply because I was buying anything and everything Star Wars.  I got much pickier about which Star Wars figures I was buying after the first prequel came out.  If he had been released then I would’ve passed.  Doda was never released alone though. He was packaged with the previously reviewed Max Rebo in a 2-pack making this a “must buy”.  Sometimes you’ve gotta take the bad with the good.  3 out of 10.

CASTLE GRAYSKULL MAN

MOTU-Castle Gray skull man fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

I’ve got a gripe.  On the 15th on every month at 1pm my local time I have to rush over to the shared internet station in my work section and hope that no one else is trolling around over there because I need to visit mattycollector.com.  Mattycollector is Mattel’s retail website through which they release collector oriented action figures on a monthly basis.  They sell DC super heroes, Ghostbusters and Voltron but very rarely do any of those lines spark my interest.  What I log on for is the Masters of the Universe figures.  Since late 2008 Mattel has been releasing at least 1 new MOTU figure through the site on the 15th of each month.  For nearly two years now I’ve made it a priority to be at the internet station at 1:00pm to purchase the latest offerings.  This past Friday’s releases were Ram-Man, Jit-Su, and a re-release of Kobra Khan.  Even though I logged in right on time the Khans were already gone, apparently purchased through some sort of early-bird benefit available to subscribers.  Luckily I got Ram-Man in my virtual shopping cart before he sold out; they were gone by 8 minutes after.  I also snagged Jit-Su.  These rapid sell-outs can be frustrating and put me in a near panic as I wait for pages to load on my uber-slow work computer.   There’s nothing worse than having an item vanish from your cart as you watch a progress bar drag along.  A few characters have sold-out on me in the past including Kobra Khan on his initial release and a couple of months back I missed out on Fisto, the nemesis of Jit-Su.  So while I am frustrated to have missed out on Kobra Khan (again)  that’s not what I want to gripe about. MOTU-Castle Grayskull man face

It’s the god damn prices!  It wasn’t so long ago that the individual figures were $20 a pop.  Then they went up to $22 and larger sized beasts like Battle Cat were $30.  Still reasonable in my mind.  But as of the new year individual figures are now $27 each and beasts are $35+.  My Friday order came to $60, $27 for Jit-Su and $33 for Ram-Man.   Mild frustration but these are quality figures so I’m okay with it.  Where I feel totally screwed over is on the shipping. $28 for shipping!  The cost of a whole other figure!  Now I’m in for 90 bucks on two toys.  In December I ordered the massive Granamyr figure along with Mosquitor and the shipping was only $17.  My shipping has always been in the 15 to 18 dollar range depending on how many figures I buy.  For my shipping to double in price basically overnight is preposterous.  Maybe there was a calculation error on the site.  I think I may have to send an email to Mattel on this one.   But if it turns out to be legit I may have to stop purchasing these figures on release day and try my luck on the secondary market.  Sucks.MOTU-Castle Grayskull man full 2

Okay, rant over.  Now that that’s out of the way let’s review a figure that I ordered back on the 15th of November.  This is Castle Grayskull Man.  This figure was released as part of the 6-figure 30th anniversary series comprised of brand new characters to the MOTU mythos.  Other 30th anniversary figures included Drageo-Man, Mighty Spector, Fearless Photog, Cy-Chop, and Sir Laser-Lot.  Those last two I passed on but I may pick them up during one of mattycollector’s future sale events.

I’m all for Mattel introducing some new characters to the Classics line but the 30th anniversary experiment was over-all a miss.  Drageo –Man was the only character that I really liked from the series.  The others ranged from okay to sucks.  Castle GraySkull Man is my second favorite after Drageo-Man but there’s a sizable gap between first and second.  The thing that kills this figure for me is the hair.  I hate the hair.  I really like the concept behind the character and the overall design but that stupid yellow-green greasy hair just ruins it for me. MOTU-Castle Grayskull man shield

Castle Grayskull Man was actually designed by a fan who won a “design a  MOTU figure” contest.  A similar contest was held back in the 80s but the figure didn’t get produced for over 20 years (That would be Fearless Photog ).  So I guess Daniel Benedict should be pretty stoked to have gotten his creation made and released so quickly.  And let me just say how envious I am of Mr. Benedict.  Having an official figure made of a character you created would be awesome.  This character will be part of the MOTU mythology for all time now, perhaps appearing in cartoons and toy lines for generations to come.  Congratulations on your win sir.  If you’d like to learn more about this character, Daniel has created a facebook page and an official website entirely devoted to its creation.  I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for the next time one of these contests springs up.  In the mid 2000s a G.I. Joe fan won a similar contest and he himself got made into a G.I. Joe character.  Now that would be awesome.  And back when I was in high school my buddy Sean won a contest where he and my other friend Cal got to appear in an actual Superman comic where they “met” Superman.   How cool is it that my friends meeting Superman will remain part of the character’s history forever?  Well at least until DC decides to wipe away decades of comic history to sell a few more books to movie goers.

MOTU-Castle Grayskull man art

I’ve gotten off track again.  That’s a rant for another day.  When it comes to Castle Grayskull Man’s backstory I’m not sure if  Daniel came up with that as well or if it was someone at Hasbro but it’s a pretty neat idea.  When The actual Castle is under siege the living embodiment of its power can be summoned to defend it in the form of Castle Grayskull Man.  The figure has the familiar color scheme and brick texture that he really looks as if he just walked right out of the walls of the iconic MOTU castle.  With a new Castle Grayskull play set coming out soon a neat feature would be to sculpt a figure shaped space in the wall where CGM could be placed until needed.MOTU-Castle Grayskull man boots

This figure came with two pretty sweet looking swords though I think a weapon forged out of the same wall-like material would have been more appropriate.   So even though I hate this figure’s stupid hair I still think you should pick one up.  He’s definitely a cool addition to any Masters of the Universe collection.  7 out of 10.MOTU-Castle Grayskull man castle

SAGA PANTHER (REPERMINT)

BS-Panther fullBEAST SAGA

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.  Hopefully you all have a loved one to spend it with.  If you don’t, feel free to occupy your time reading toy reviews here at mike’s collection.  Today I’ve got a Valentine’s Day themed action figure just for you.   Well it’s not exactly Valentine’s Day themed but its got hearts on it so close enough.   This here is the panther from the Beast Saga DX Starter Set.  This is the set that I bought myself for Christmas which also included the previously reviewed Saga Whale and Saga Killer.  It also included an owl, a parrot and a wolf.  When it came time to decide which figure to review today I actually grabbed the wolf and sat down to write about him.  But just before I got started I remembered what day it was and realized that I had a much more appropriate figure to review, and it just so happened to come from the same box set.  Before I go on let me just say that I did not forget about Valentine’s Day, I just forgot about it in regards to reviewing action figures.  Me and Vanessa had a lovely evening out for dinner and then checking out the new DIE HARD movie.  And before you jump to the conclusion that I dragged her to some over-the-top action movie on Valentine’s Day I’ll have you know that it was her selection.  She’s recently developed a crush on actor Jai Courtney who plays Willis’s son in the flick.   Movie was “meh” by the way.BS-Panther card

But back to the matter at hand, let’s review this action figure.  I can sum it up in two quick words.  It sucks.  This figure is a major misstep for the Beast Saga designers and I hope it isn’t a sign of things to come.   The Battle Beast figures of the 80s all had relatively simple armor.  Simple but cool.  I like that these newer figures have more detailed armor which often times has nods to the species, like hamster wheels on the Hamster’s armor.   But gags like that run the risk of being cheesy.  The Whale from this  set had surfboard shoulder pads and a whale tail shaped weapon, those were borderline cheesy but still pretty cool.  When it comes to Saga Panther the designers showed no restraint in their cheesiness.

BS-Panther backI’m gonna make an assumption here and presume that this Panther figure is supposed to be a girl.  I’m sure my assumptions will be validated once the cartoon series gets going and a female is cast to voice this character.  Now I understand that it could be hard to show that a character is female in a line like this.  When it comes to animals, those of us who aren’t experts, often times can’t determine the sex of a creature unless we examine their junk.  I have a pet guinea pig, Winkerton, whom I have owned for 3 years and I’ll be honest, I’m still not certain if she’s actually a she.  I bought her as a baby and even the people at the pet store were unable to tell me what she was.  I was told that it’s nearly impossible to tell the sex of a guinea pig when they’re that young.  But apparently when they’re older you can tell by pressing firmly on their nether regions to see if anything emerges.  Now while I would like to know the gender of my pet I’ve never been curious enough to start poking around down there to see if Winky is hiding a winky.  So that being the case, how could I go about letting people know that my guinea pig is a girl?  By dressing her up in pink hearts and high heels apparently.BS-Panther side

Again, I realize you can’t give a panther pouty red lips, long blonde hair or giant boob but there had to have been a better way to identify her gender than this.  Frankly, this is just plain insulting.  Saga Panther has multiple pink hearts on her purple armor, she’s got a Cleopatra style headdress, and armored high-heel boots.  It looks dumb.  Even if I could get past the boots, I have no idea why anyone would want pink hearts all over their battle armor.  She even has a heart shaped shield.  And believe it or not, she does have sculpted boobs.  I don’t even want to guess at what that thing sculpted on her loin cloth is supposed to be.  I look at this figure and can do nothing but shake my head.  I don’t even like the panther face sculpt.  This is an all out fail.

I’m all for the Beast Saga line having some female characters but not if they’re gonna be ridiculous stereotypes.   This figure is definitely the weak link of the DX starter set and of the whole series thus far.   I probably would have bought her even if she was a single carded figure because I’m a completest like that but there’s no way I would recommend purchasing her to anyone.  As it is though she’s included in a 6 pack with a bunch of other great figures so any Beast Saga fan should add her to their collection by way of the box set.  2 out of 10.BS-Panther compare

ELITE ICE-VIPER v1

Joe-Elite Ice-Viper v1 fullG.I. JOE : RISE OF COBRA

Yesterday I reviewed Ice-Viper version 3, the modern update of one of my favorite childhood figures.  While I was quite disappointed with that figure initially he did grow on me over time.  It’s a dismal representation of the original Ice-Viper but it’s still a decent figure in its own right.  I do have faith that I will eventually see a proper update of the 1987 original.

Some of the things that I disliked about the updated Ice-Viper were his bland gray and white color scheme and the fact that he was wearing a ridiculously bulky jacket.  I hate to knock the guy for dressing appropriately but it was less about how the jacket looked and more about how it failed to represent the original version of the character that bothered me.  If they had just called the figure “Snow-Viper” or “Polar Trooper” I probably would’ve liked him just fine.  He’s far cooler than many of the other movie based Cobra soldiers that came out in 2009.  But by calling him Ice-Viper they set themselves up for failure, at least in my eyes, because I hold the original in such high regard.  On the flip side of that coin, had they named this figure something else, I probably would’ve bought him, admired him for a moment and then placed him at the back of my display shelf along with other Rise of Cobra rejects like the Neo-Vipers and Elite Viper where he would never be admired again.  But because his name is Ice-Viper I have him proudly displayed at the front of my shelf, and not on the generic trooper shelf but up on the higher up “name Cobra” shelf alongside characters like Cobra Commander and Storm Shadow.  As disappointed as I may be with the new look I have accepted this figure as my modern day Ice-Viper, the character I had throwing jeeps around in the 80s, so he gets treated with respect. Joe-Elite Ice-Viper v1 aim

So the figure I reviewed yesterday was Ice-Viper version 3.  The figure I’m reviewing today could be called a couple of things, Ice-Viper version 4, Ice-Viper version 3B, but most people refer to him as the Elite Ice-Viper.  From what I know, the version 3 Ice-Viper was slated for re-release with a new paint job in late 2009 but the Rise of Cobra line fizzled out before that ever happened.  But the figure had made it into the production stage and began showing up all over ebay even though it hadn’t been released at retail.  Luckily it wasn’t expensive to pick up so I was able to add this almost never-was Ice-Viper to my collection.  The changes made aren’t drastic but they’re enough to make me like this version a lot better than the standard version 3.  This figure isn’t as dull as the original version.  He’s got some nice splashes of red on his coat which really pop and liven up the mold.  Adding bright red to your costume probably isn’t a good idea if you’re going to engage in Arctic combat but military realism isn’t what appeals to me about G.I. Joe.   This version also has a  full red visor as opposed to the clear one with the weird red stripe down the middle that Version 3 had.  I already had 2 of the version 3 Ice-Vipers when this guy arrived in the mail.  As soon as I got him I knew that this would be the figure to represent my ’87 Ice-Viper and the other two could be his lackeys.  Now it seemed to make sense.  My Ice-Viper had been promoted to elite status and now leads all of the other Ice-Vipers.  I liked that the red on his outfit tied him to the original who wore a red ski mask.  This version also ditched the camo pants and instead has solid white pants with a dirty effect that I think looks pretty cool and realistic.Joe-Elite Ice-viper v1 compare

I mentioned at the end of my Ice-Viper version 3 review that I liked this figure better with his coat off, and I do, when he’s representing my main dude.  Once I got the Elite Ice-Viper I was fine with the other 2 wearing their coats around, it made Elite stand out that much more and also served as a nod to the bad-ass attitude I gave him when I was a kid.  While the other Ice-Vipers walk about in the snow all bundled up, Elite struts around in nothing but his tight sweater unfazed by the elements.  Now I wouldn’t be surprised if some Joe fans thought it ridiculous that I preferred this figure sans jacket.  The figure is rather scrawny underneath and his neck seems long and extra thin once the coat is removed.  He loses most of his sculpted details and his pants look that much wider without the poufy jacket to balance him out.  Valid points.  But I kind of love how scrawny he is.  It makes him seem that much tougher to me.  He’s not some muscle bound powerhouse, he’s a lean mean ass kicker.  The leanness of this figure makes me think of him as less of a Schwarzenegger-like strong man and more akin to Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Snatch.  I imagine him streetwise, vicious and willing to fight dirty.  As for the wide pants, I was a skateboarder as a teen so I have a fondness for big pants.  I used to buy size 42 waist pants for my 32 inch waste in order to have the baggiest pants I could.  Luckily those days pre-date the days of everyone owning digital cameras so there aren’t a ton of picture floating around.  So yeah, I like his wide leg pants.Joe-Elite Ice-viper v1 missile

I’ve really grown to like this figure and when Hasbro eventually releases a classic looking Ice-Viper it will be hard for me to then transfer the personality of “my” Ice-Viper from this figure to that.  As for accessories this guy came with the same guns and that stupid ski missile as the version 3 figure.  if you don’t have one of these already, I’d say track one down, it’s become one of my favorite figures from The Rise of Cobra series.  8 out of 10.Joe-Elive Ice-Viper vs Shockwave

ICE-VIPER v3

Joe-Ice-viper v3 fullG.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA

I’ve been talking a lot lately about the beginnings of the modern era of G.I. Joe.  When the 25th anniversary style figures started coming out in 2007  I think it was the best direction the brand could have gone in.  Some fans would rather see the Joe brand try new things like Sigma Six and Renegades (two recent flash-in-the-pan re-imaginings of the brand) and view the 25th anniversary figures as a step backwards.  I’m I’ll for introducing new characters and concepts to Joe but I don’t think that the brand should stray to far from what made it popular in the first place.  Historically, drastic departures like Sgt. Savage and G.I. Joe Extreme have failed to find an audience.  I for one was super stoked to get new versions of the characters I loved as a kid with improved articulation and sculpting.  As soon as it was announced that the initially proposed 25 figure anniversary line was going to continue beyond the initial offerings I began counting down the days until I’d see modern versions of my favorite characters.   My favorite Joe character growing up was Shockwave.  He was far from a main character in the series so I knew I might have to wait a while.  In 2009 Hasbro released a modern era Shockwave in a 2-pack with a goofy looking Destro.  I was lucky they released him when they did because he was one of the last 25th anniversary style figures to be released.  The first live action Joe movie was coming out in 2009 and so the anniversary line was pushed out of production to make room for movie-based figures.  So I got my favorite Joe but I wasn’t so lucky when it came to my favorite Cobra.Joe-Ice-viper v3 side

My favorite Cobra figure was Ice-Viper.  He was an unlikely pick as a favorite character.  First off he wasn’t a name guy like Major Bludd or Zartan.  Ice-Viper was just a Cobra trooper, there would have been tons of these guys running around Cobra’s headquarters.  Plus he’s an arctic themed trooper.  I liked snow themed Joes but they did look a little silly always running around in fur lined outfits and snow shoes when so few of my battles actually took place in the snow.  I guess the reason I liked him so much is because I just thought he was super cool looking.  He had a red ski mask with a removable helmet and goggles, ninja sais that strapped to his legs and he piloted one of the coolest Cobra vehicles of all time, The Wolf.  It probably also had something to do with the fact that I got him around the same time as I got Shockwave.  My love of one figure fueled my love of the other.  I made the two of them arch-enemies and they had strength that bordered on super-human.  I used to have the two of them throwing jeeps at each other and crazy crap like that.  My Ice-Viper was no mere trooper, he was Cobra’s resident ass-kicker.  And as much as I wanted an updated Shockwave, I just as badly wanted an updated Ice-Viper.  I actually got my wish of a modern styled Ice-Viper granted fairly quickly as he was released later in 2009, just a few months after Shockwave.Joe-Ice-viper v3 art

But what a difference a few months can make.  When Shockwave was released the 25th anniversary line was winding down but still kicking.  By the time Ice-Viper version 3 came out the “Rise of Cobra” marketing machine was in full swing.  All of the Joe figures on the store pegs were dressed in black armor, had actors likenesses and featured the movie’s darker aesthetic.   Most of the figures in the line were movie-fied versions of characters that had already been released in the modern style a bunch of times like Duke and Snake-Eyes.  But a few characters showed up in the movie line that hadn’t yet received a 25th anniversary style figure.  Cover Girl was probably the most notable character whose first ever modern figure was a crappy movie version.  My beloved Ice-Viper shared the same fate.  The name Ice-Viper was pretty much the only thing that was retained from the classic figure.  The new Ice-Viper was still an Arctic trooper but he had no red ski mask, no removable helmet, no sais, and no Wolf.  His bright and colorful white, red and gold costume had been replaced with a drab grayscale outfit in line with the movie’s boring color palette.  This was not the Ice-Viper I wished for.Joe-Snow battle1

This guy was just way too bundled up to be my powerhouse.  He has wide leg snow pants and his coat is the puffiest I’ve ever seen on a Joe.  The jacket is practically swallowing his head.  And the head looks nothing like the Ice-Viper of my youth.  He has a solid black head with a large removable visor.  But when you remove his visor you just get more blackness, not the icy stare of the original when you took off his goggles.  My old Ice-Viper was a scrapper so the sais made for perfect close combat weapons.  The bandaged rifle that version 3 comes with is kinda cool looking but not the kind of weapon my Ice-Viper would have used.  He also came with a ski-missile.  I assume this was done as an homage to the original as the ’87 figure came with the Wolf vehicle that fired ski-missiles.  However I found packaging this toy with a mere accessory salvaged from the vehicle that he used to pilot to be more of an insult that represented this guy’s fall from grace. Joe-Ice-viper v3 pair

One of the great things about the modern Joe figures is that they all have removable webgear, meaning the straps and buckles that used to be sculpted on the torsos of the old figures are now added afterwards and are interchangeable.  This saves the sculptors time and money on tooling completely new torsos all the time and is a neat swapping feature for fans that helps with customizing.  I had never really taken advantage of the removable gear before, until this figure came along.Joe-Ice-viper v3 full shirtless

 

 

I found that by removing this figure’s unwieldy jacket I immediately liked him a whole lot better.  I’ll talk more about that in my next review when I tackle the Elite Ice-Viper.  7 out of 10.

SNOW CAT

TF-Snowcat fullTRANSFORMERS : ENERGON

I think like any true nerd does, I love crossovers.  There’s nothing better than having  two characters you love cross paths.  Actually I should clarify, there’s nothing better than having two characters you love cross paths in a well told story.  God knows I’ve seen some horrible crossovers in my time.    I was one of those people who always hoped to see the Aliens battle the Predator on screen after the tease of seeing an Alien skull on display in Predator 2.  It took a long time to happen and when it finally did…blech.  Then they tried again a couple years later and the result was even worse.   Those were such horrible crossovers that they have forever tainted two excellent franchises.  I’ve seen Freddy battle Jason, Spider-Man meet Superman, Batman team-up with Spawn, and countless other crossovers over the years.  One of my favorite cross-over events is anytime that the G.I. Joes hang with the Transformers.  It’s pretty standard practice now but the first time that these two properties crossed paths it was a pretty big deal.TF-Snow Cat card art

In the 80s Marvel published both the G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.  They were the two biggest brands in boys toys at the time so it seemed a no-brainer to have the two groups meet.  Marvel published a 4 issue mini-series where that exact thing happened.  It didn’t go well for poor Bumblebee when the Joes blew him to hell for assuming him to be a threat.  There were a few crossovers in the 80s cartoons as well though they were a bit more subtle than having Bumblebee’s guts sprayed all over the place.  For example there was a human character that appeared in the Transformers cartoon on a few occasions named Marissa Faireborn who was supposed to be the adult daughter of Lady Jaye and Flint of the Joe team.  The Transformers cartoon took place in the future so they were able to make sense of it.

Nowadays IDW holds the publishing rights to both properties so like Marvel did in the 80s they’ve had the two properties cross-over a couple of times.  My favorite Joe/Transformers crossovers took place a couple years back when Devil’s Due published the Joe comics and Dreamwave published the Transformers.  The two companies managed to sort through the red tape that usually prohibits these sorts of things and they produced annual crossovers for 3 years until they lost the licenses.  Those were some really fun reads and I encourage you to track them down.  In one of the crossovers Devils Due imagined a world where the iconic Joe vehicles like HISS tanks and Rattlers were actually the Transformers characters we love.  Check out my GEARS review for a pic of him as a Cobra trouble bubble from that series.Joe-Transformers comic cover

Despite all these cross overs it wasn’t until the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con that the Joe designers first merged the two properties in toy form.  They gave us a Joe Skystriker in Starscream deco.  I thought this was amazing.  It included a Cobra Commander pilot that even had a Megatron gun that fit in his hand.  In 2012 I feel they did one better by making a Shockwave HISS tank complete with a Soundwave tape deck accessory.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with for 2013. TF-Snowcat back

Now while both of those toys fell under the G.I. Joe banner it was technically the Transformer designers that produced the first amalgamated Joe/Transformer toy a few years earlier.  This here is the Decepticon Snow Cat.  This is the only Transformer toy that I own that doesn’t have ties to the Generation 1 continuity.  I pretty strictly collect Transformer characters from that period (1984-1991).  I have no interest in Beast Wars, the live action movies or any of the other stuff that has come since.   I do occasionally buy figures from those newer lines like this Soundwave from Transformers: Prime but at least he’s a new interpretation of a G1 character.  Snow Cat comes from an anime inspired version of the Transformers called Transformers: Energon that was around back in 2004.  I’ve never seen the cartoon and know absolutely nothing about it.  Though when I saw this character online one day he immediately caught my eye.  He might’ve slipped right past me if not for the name but this guy’s alt mode is clearly that of a G.I. Joe Snow Cat.TF-snow cat animated

The Snow Cat is a fictional vehicle piloted by the Joes in Arctic missions.  The first Snow Cat toy was released in 1985 and it included Frostbite as it’s driver.   I thought it was totally awesome that Hasbro would sneak this homage to a classic G.I. Joe vehicle into the Transformers line without any acknowledgement of doing so.  This was a treat for fans in the know.  It took me a while to actually get my hands on one of these but I eventually scored one at Giant Robot Comics. TF-Snow Cat vehicle

I quite like this toy but he stands out like a sore thumb on my Transformers shelf, at least to me, because he’s the only non-G1 character on there.  His build and construction is different from all of the Classics and Generations figures that I have on display.   I like his design.  He’s built solid and he stands up on his own without problem.  The face is pretty cool looking and the colors are nicely done.  What I don’t care for is his beer gut.  I feel there must’ve been a better way to design his robot mode that wouldn’t result in him looking like,…well me.  I also find it weird that they would lend this design to a Decepticon character as opposed to an Autobot, seeing as the Snow Cat was a “good guy” vehicle.TF-Snow Cat joe

The vehicle mode is a pretty decent representation of the Joe vehicle right down to the windshield wiper.  Though I wish he had the yellow missile launcher on the back which would have absolutely cemented the connection to the original vehicle.  Belly aside, this is a cool piece of cross-over toy history that largely went unnoticed.  7 out of 10.