Monthly Archives: May 2013

BARREL ROLL v.4 (2013)

Joe-Barrel Roll v4 gliderG.I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 

In my Jinx review the other day I told you that I was expecting my final 2012 FSS shipment to arrive in the near future.   Well it showed up the very next day.  This shipment should have been extra exciting to open as it contained not only the last two FSS figures but also the mystery 13th figure.  However I was unable to resist the temptation and I spoiled the surprise for myself a week ago by checking out the reveal on the message boards.  But even without the surprise factor I was still excited to receive some new Joes.   I won’t reveal the identity of the secret figure just yet in case some of you out there are still waiting to be surprised but I’ll get to him soon.  The final two figures to ship out along with character X were T.N.T. and Barrel Roll.  If you’re an old school Joe fan you might be wondering just who the hell those guys are which is understandable.  Neither of them are characters that ever appeared in the 80s comics or cartoons and you never owned them as a kid.  T.N.T. was a foreign figure and Barrel Roll was a character introduced during the new sculpt era of the early 2000s.Joe-Barrel Roll v4 helmet 

Now the new sculpt days weren’t for everyone, I understand, but I think they get a bad rap.  Sure the figures had some proportion problems, and some of the designs were  goofy, and the computer-animated cartoons left a lot to be desired but there was some good stuff to come out of those years as well.  Firstly, I thought the comics produced by Devil’s Due at the time were great.  Many of those stories are being reprinted by IDW under the “disavowed” banner and they really deserve a look if you missed them the first time.  Secondly, the Joe vs Cobra/Spy Troops/Valour vs Venom toy lines that ran from 2002 to 2006 brought an influx of new characters to the brand.  Not all of them were great (looking at you Dr. Link Talbot) but many of them were.  Some of my favorite new characters were the Stall siblings, Barrel Roll (Dwight Stall), his younger sister Bomb Strike (Alyssa Stall), and their disenfranchised brother who joined Cobra as Black Out (Thomas Stall).  It was a nice little infusion of drama to the story being told on the characters file cards that I totally would have ran with as a kid.  I only wish that Devil’s Due had enough time to fully explore these relationships before they lost the Joe comic license.Joe-Barrel Roll v4 carded 

Barrel Roll first showed up in 2003 in the Spy Troops line.  He included a Cobra disguise and you can read all about that figure here.   At the time, Barrel Roll struck me as a fresh faced young kid fresh from basic training.  There was a second version of Barrel Roll released in 2004 which was the exact same as version 1 except he had a brown uniform instead of blue; and instead of a Cobra disguise he came packaged with a glider.  Version 3 came only 1 year later in 2005 but it seemed as though the poor kid had aged 10 years in that time.  The version 3 face looked much older and his spiky haircut had been replaced with a receding hair line.  Version 1 remained the definitive version of the character in my mind.  

version 3 (2005)

version 3 (2005)

Not too many of the characters created during the new sculpt years carried over into the modern age of Joe but Kamakura seems to be the exception.  He’s been released twice in the modern style and even showed up in the first wave of Kre-Os.  A modern Barrel Roll had not officially been released but there was a figure named Air Raid, that came packaged with the Sky Sweeper Jet as part of the Rise of Cobra toy line, who looks like he was intended to be update of Barrel Roll.  He’s got the blue outfit, the young face, and the spiky haircut.  However, according to the file card on the back of the package, Air Raid’s real name is Franklin Talltree which would actually make him the Joe character Airborne . 

Air Raid

Air Raid

But the Air Raid confusion is no longer an issue because the Collector’s Club has finally officially filled the Barrel Roll sized hole in my modern collection.  Perhaps it’s because they felt Air Raid already captured the look of Barrel Roll version 1 that the Club decided to go with versions 2 and 3 as their basis for this release.  This figure is a nice update of the brown suited Barrel Roll.  I don’t immediately recognize where all of these re-used parts came from which is a good thing.  They come together nicely to create a cool, solid, military figure.  The head doesn’t have the young spiky haired look that I would have liked; it’s closer to the old receding hairline look but I don’t mind it so much for some reason.  This version has short black hair and I actually quite like the head even tough it doesn’t scream “Barrel Roll” to me.Joe-Barrel Roll v4 back

 

Now let’s talk about his accessories.  The main one being his jet pack/glider.   This thing is pretty cool.  It’s a good size but it’s light weight enough that it doesn’t weigh him down.  The wings tuck away nicely when not in use but can easily be pulled outward to give him a mini glider similar to the one he used in the Devil’s Due comics.  The two small tail fins on the pack can be adjusted as well.  Other than that he comes with a standard display base, a pistol, a cool two-toned rifle,  and a helmet.  I do not like this helmet.  It’s a big clunky gray thing with a microphone.  It’s the ugliest Joe helmet I’ve ever seen.  It does nothing to enhance the figure and I think it makes him look “special”.  Barrel Roll will not be wearing his helmet when he makes his way into my display, safety be damned.  8 out of 10.Joe-Barrel Roll v4 fullJoe-Barrel Roll v4 side

 
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SPIDER-MAN (FF)

Marv-Spidey FF fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

I consider myself a pretty hardcore Marvel zombie.  I know more about the lives of the fictional characters that inhabit the Marvel Universe than I do many of the real people in my life.  At one point or another I’d say that I’ve collected from every corner of the Marvel U.  Sadly I cannot afford to collect all of the books all of the time and so there are some characters that I’m not as well versed on as say your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  The Fantastic Four is one of those pockets of Marvel that I’ve never spent a whole lot of time examining.  I know all the characters quite well and could tell you about all the big events in their lives, births, deaths, weddings, line-up changes etc. but I’m not up to speed on all of the minutia that takes place in the panels of their monthly book.  A big event that happened for the team a while back was the death of founding member Johnny Storm, the Human Torch.  I’m not sure exactly how that event lead to a change in the team’s name but after Johnny’s passing the team was renamed the Future Foundation.  They hung up their familiar blue outfits and put on white and black ones.  And even though they were no longer the Fantastic Four they felt compelled to replace the Torch with a new fourth member anyway.  It was Johnny’s dying wish that the team accept Spider-Man as his replacement since the two of them were old pals and so that’s what the team did.  And so for a time the book was called FF and it starred Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Thing and Spider-Man (plus a bunch of kids and Dragon Man). Marv-Spidey FF art

In order to fit in with his new team Spidey had to don a new costume as well which was primarily white with some black.  The new costume seemed like overkill to me at the time because Spidey had gotten into the habit of putting on a new outfit every other issue over in his own book.  Silly costumes worn only for an issue or two seem gimmicky to me.  However if the toy stores are going to be flooded with Spider-Man figures I’d rather see him in costumes that he actually wore at one time instead of some of the silly garbage that gets produced by Hasbro.   And sure enough, it didn’t take long for Hasbro to announce that they’d be releasing a figure of FF Spider-Man in an upcoming wave of Marvel Universe figures.  I already had plenty of Spider-Men and I didn’t like the costume anyway so I knew that it was one figure that I would be passing on. Marv-Spidey FF flex

At least that’s what I thought until I actually saw the figure hanging on the peg at Strange Adventures.  I was immediately impressed by it.  I had not been happy with any of the previously released Spider-Man figures in the 4” scale.  They all seemed to wiry and fragile.  I know some people like to think of Spidey as a perpetual teenage everyman and not a muscle bound strong man but I didn’t grow up with puny Parker;  I grew up reading about Spider-MAN.  When I came on board in the mid-80s Spider-Man was months away from getting married, he was a published author (of a photography book but still), and he was in good shape.  He wasn’t the nerd with the coke bottle glasses and the sweater vest from the 60s.  I felt that this FF figure finally showed Spider-Man as I see him, as a tough guy, because this figure looks like it could kick the ass of any of my other Spider-Man toys.Marv-Spidey FF back Marv-Spidey FF spider-men

I really like the way they added a gray wash of paint over top of the white to show off the detail in the sculpt.  It gives this figure added realism by showing depth and shadows.  The usual approach on a figure like this would have been to have a sharp contrast between the stark white and jet black.  I like pretty much everything about this figure except for the fact that I’m not a big fan of this costume in general.  I will add that some improved figures of Spider-Man in his classic red and blues have come out since but at the time this was probably the best version of Spidey in the 4” scale.  8 out of 10.Marv-Spidey FF group

JINX v.6 (2013)

joe-jinx v6 full2G.I. JOE : FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

Anybody who currently collects G.I. Joes or who reads this blog on a regular basis should know all about the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service by now.  For a fee club members could opt into a program where they would get 12 exclusive figures mailed to them in pairs over the course of 6 months.  The 12 figures were shown to collector’s in advance.  However we were told in the beginning that a mystery 13th figure would be included in the final shipment.  Well that final shipment has been mailed out and people all over America have received their mystery figure.  I haven’t received mine yet but I expect it to show up this week or next. (frig’n Canada eh?)  I will promptly review those final 3 figures once they arrive.  In the meantime I figured I should review the last of the FSS figures which I hadn’t gotten around to gabbing about yet .  The very first FSS shipment contained Dice and Jinx.  It was a very impressive way to get things started.  I like the Dice figure a lot even though I don’t have much of an attachment to the character.  Jinx on the other hand is one of my favorite Joe characters.  The reason I put off reviewing her for so long is because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to open her up.   I open 99% of my toys, even rare ones, but I do like to keep a few in their packages so that I can tack them to the wall in my man cave.  I have a small ledge on the ceiling that’s the perfect height for displaying carded figures.Joe-Jinx v6 display

Joes make for  the best figures to display on their cards because they have such nice individual card art.  Seeing as how these FSS figures are exclusives and that Jinx is a favorite of mine I thought she’d be a good figure to hang up mint on card.  I told myself that  I might switch her out with a different FSS figure down the line but I never did so there she hung…until now.  Today I decided to open up Jinx so that I could review her for you fine folks. joe-jinx v6 blades

When the initial 12 figures of the subscription service were revealed Jinx was the number one selling point to me.  I was stoked about Big Boa, Grunt, and Cover Girl but those were all characters that my brother Doug owned when we were kids.  Of the 12, only Jinx was represented a classic 80s character that I owned growing up.  And not only did I own the original but I loved it.  The original Jinx was released in 1987.  She wore a loose fitting red outfit with a chinese dragon logo on the breast.  Her only exposed skin was on her hands, the tops of her feet because she was wearing ninja slippers, and her eyes.  The rest of her face was concealed behind a red mask that came to a little point on her head.  It was a relatively simple design but I really liked it.  The only thing I might have changed was the slippers.joe-jinx v1

Version two came out in 2003 and it was simply a green repaint of version 1 with some tiger stripes added.  That figure was technically called Agent Jinx, probably for copyright reasons.  Then came Agent Jinx version 2 (or Jinx version 3 if you prefer) in 2004.  That version of Jinx was a radical redesign from the original.  She was wearing a red and black outfit that seemed inspired by the feudal period of Japanese history.   This look might have stemmed from the fact that she was dating the G.I. Joe samurai, Budu, in the comics published by Devil’s Due at the time.  The 2004 figure featured a maskless face with a long black ponytail.  One of the accessories she came packaged with was a red blindfold which was a cool nod to the 1987 animated Joe movie which starred Jinx and introduced her to the series.  In the film she showed off her ninja skills by fighting her drill sergeant, Beachhead, completely blindfolded as that was how she was trained by her blind ninja master.joe-jinx v3

When Hasbro began releasing the modern style figures in 2007 Jinx was strangely absent.  I could understand her not appearing in the first wave of figures and even the second but after a while it was ridiculous.  In my opinion Jinx and Zarana were the too most important characters not produced by Hasbro in those first few years.  Luckily the Zarana problem was solved in 2011 with a San Diego exclusive.   When the Club announced their 2012 FSS line-up a modern Jinx had still not been produced so the FSS was a no-brainer for me to purchase since it included my favorite female ninja.  I was disappointed that the new figure was based on her 2004 look instead of her classic ’87 red pajamaed look but at that point I was willing to take whatever I could get. joe-jinx special missions

The 2012 FSS ran into some production snags and the figures didn’t start shipping until many months after the original start date.  While I patiently waited for my pre-paid Jinx and the other 12 figures to arrive in the mail some interesting things happened.  First San Diego revealed their 2012 exclusive figure: red pajamed Jinx.  Secondly it was revealed that Jinx would be featured in the upcoming G.I. Joe movie sequel: Retaliation, practically guaranteeing that a movie based figure would be produced (we now know that it’s a certainty).  I don’t know if those announcements would have affected me purchasing the FSS as the Jinx figure was suddenly far less vital but regardless, I’m glad I subscribed.joe-jinx v6 back

My red pajama wearing San Diego Jinx remains carded for display so that was a big reason why I opted to open this figure up this afternoon.  I technically still didn’t have a Jinx in my Joe collection, at least not displayed with the rest of them.  I really like that San Diego Jinx because it features her classic look and they even fixed her slippers.  This FSS version makes for a very nice alternate version of the character to have on display. The figure is technically called  Kim Arashikage not Jinx.  Again I assume that this is due to copyright issues.  Rather than adding “Agent” to her code name as they had done in the past they simply put her “real name” on the card.  If the last name rings a bell it’s because it’s the name of the clan that Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow belong to.  Jinx is actually Storm Shadow’s cousin.joe-jinx v6 weapons

 

 

The body of this figure is a completely repainted version of Scarlett version 13.  They did such a good job on this new paint job that it’s barely recognizable.  On Scarlett this body looked like layered armored but on Jinx it looks like a sleek one piece catsuit.  The black and red with gold and brown highlights looks fantastic.  There’s plenty of detail in the sculpt from the sheathed knife on her shoulder, to the kneepads and various pouches.  The painted dragon crest on her breast is a nice nod to the original.  The head sculpt is brand new and it’s not bad.  I like her stern facial expression and pony tail.  What I don’t like is that it seems a wee bit to small and the result is a giraffe neck.joe-jinx v6 fulljoe-jinx v6 with jinx v4

Jinx comes with some great accessories:  a machine gun, sword and sheath, display base, nunchucks, a grappling hook and rope, a blindfold, and two forearm blades.  The forearm blades look awesome and will be my standard display weaponry.  The sheath is really cool because it straps around her leg instead of plugging into her back like we usually see.  It stays in place fine and matches the sculpted straps on the other leg.  The blindfold stays on nice and snug as well and is a cool throwback to the 2004 figure which was the inspiration for this new design.  A very nice figure overall.  8 out of 10.

RATCHET

TF-Ratchet fullTRANSFORMERS : PRIME

Allow me to reiterate my feelings on Transformers toys.  I collected them as a kid and I had a bunch of them.  Because the American toy line was made up of transforming robot figures from multiple Japanese toy lines the size and quality of the toys was not consistent.  The toys often had crappy articulation, were too delicate, or did not resemble the characters as they appeared in the cartoons and comics.  This is why I parted with 90% of my Transformer toys as a tween.  I loved the characters but the toys often failed to capture what I loved about them.  Obviously I wish I hadn’t parted with them now but what’s done is done and I’m not interested in re-acquiring all of the old toys that I used to have.  What I collect now are newer versions of those characters that I loved.  Old school purists might disagree with me but the Transformers being produced today are superior to the ones released in the 80s.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the most nostalgic guys you’ll ever meet and I have a soft spot for all of those old figures but they didn’t make for the best play things when I was a kid and they don’t make for the best display pieces now that I’m an adult.  The new figures being produced are much more articulated and most importantly they actually resemble the source material.  The problem that I have now is that the brand has been around for 30+ years and there’s a whole lot of source material out there that I’m not interested in which the toys are being based on.TF-Ratchet faceTF-Ratchet art

The best example is those god awful Michael Bay movies.  I hate the way the Transformers looked in those movies and for years I’ve had to put up with Hasbro producing figures based on Bay’s crap-tacular designs.  Years before that all of the Transformer toys being produced were based on the CG Beast Wars cartoon which I know has a big following but it was never my cup of tea.  I’m a G1 (Generation 1) fan and I’m usually pretty strict about only collecting G1 style figures.  I only wish Hasbro spent more time making toys based on the G1 designs.

Ratchet was one of the greatest G1 characters who had one of the worst G1 toys.  Ratchet is the Autobot medic who has been a part of the brand since its inception.  He had a bigger role in the Marvel comics that even Optimus Prime back in the day.  In an early story line all of the Autobots had been taken out of commission by the Decepticons except for Ratchet.  He singlehandedly saved the team, “created” the Dinobots, and even developed a personal feud with Megatron. TF-Ratchet vehicle

Ratchet has appeared in almost every incarnation of the Transformers since Generation 1 and he pretty much always transforms into an ambulance.  He was even one of the few characters chosen to appear in the live action series.

The first Ratchet figure released back in 1984 was an absolute disgrace.  It was the exact same toy as Ironhide, another prominent Transformer that has been around since day 1, only Ironhide was a red minivan while Ratchet was a white one with ambulance deco.  When they were transformed into their robot modes they didn’t have heads.  No joke,  they had no heads.  Hasbro included a face sticker which could be placed on the seat in his chest to simulate a face.  It was retarded. TF-Ratchet G1

Ever since Hasbro began producing the “Classics/Generations” figures in 2006 Ratchet has been high on my “want list”.  He’s a cool character with a lot of history and I wanted a modern figure of him based on his classic 80s look from the comics and cartoons.  Ratchet remains an important character to the mythos and is featured heavily in the current G1 inspired comics published by IDW which makes him even more desirable.  There’s nothing like reading a great story about a character to make me want to display him on my shelf.  A very nice new G1 version of the character was released under the “Transformers Universe”  banner in 2008 but unfortunately he never showed up in my local stores and he’s really expensive on the secondary market.  So my shelves have remained Ratchetless for quite some time.TF-Ratchet prime

But as of 2010 there has been a new Transformers animated show on the air called PRIME which spun out of the live action movies.  I’ve seen a couple episodes of the show and it’s not too bad and to my surprise they have some pretty cool new designs for some classic characters.  I picked up and reviewed the Prime version of Soundwave a while back not because I liked the new design necessarily but because I thought it was interesting.  I’ve also bought Prime versions of Cliffjumper and Arcee.  Around Christmas time I stumbled across this Prime version of Ratchet.  I was going to pass it by initially but after closer inspection I got to thinking that it was pretty cool.  It wasn’t as radical a departure from his G1 look as Soundwave was, in fact he retained  many of his G1 characteristics including the red pointy plate on his brow.  I decided it was better to have this Ratchet in my collection than none at all so I picked him up.  Once I got him home and opened him up I found myself really liking it.  The colors are bright and vibrant, the face is expressive, and he’s very posable.  He comes with two bladed weapons which even make him seem like a real badass for the first time ever.  I still hope to own a Ratchet figure that more closely resembles his G1 look one day but in the meantime this will definitely hold me over.  8 out of 10TF-Ratchet knives

BRUTUS BEEFCAKE

WWE-Brutus LJN fullWWF

In my last post I told you about how much I loved comic books and toys in the 80s.  Another passion of mine that developed around the same time as my love of comics was my love of wrestling.  I went to local matches at the Halifax Forum whenever I could and I sat mesmerized in front of the TV every Saturday morning to see all of the latest WWF action.  It was like a soap opera and I couldn’t bear to miss a single episode because you never knew what you might miss if you didn’t tune in.  While toys based on my favorite comic book characters were difficult to find at the time, that was not the case with my favorite wrestlers.  Toy company LJN began producing solid rubber wrestling toys in 1984 and they continued to do so until 1989 when they lost the WWF license to Hasbro.  Those 5 years of LJN figures coincided perfectly with my need for wrestling toys.  Had they been released any earlier I would’ve been too young and by the 90s I was pretty much over wrestling all together.  I bought a few of the Hasbro produced wrestling toys in the early 90s but I never really cared for them (here’s why) and I had lost interest in watching the matches on TV by then.  But during that second half of the 80s I saw a ton of great matches and collected a bunch of great toys.  And while solid figures with no articulation wasn’t ideal for super hero toys (like the Hulk I reviewed yesterday)  I thought it was perfect for wrestling toys.  Those big solid LJN toys could take a ton of abuse.WWE-Brutus young

Brutus Beefcake joined the World Wrestling Federation in 1984.  My earliest memories of him were when he was a member of the Dream Team with Greg Valentine.  My brother Doug and I were always partial to tag teams and the Dream Team was a favorite of ours early on.  They were champs for a while but they eventually lost the belts to another one of our all-time favorite teams, The British Bulldogs.  Not long after that Brutus went solo and developed his new persona, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.

As the barber, Brutus’ new schtick was putting his opponents to sleep and then cutting off their hair.  I very much enjoyed him as the barber and his popularity sky rocketed during that period.  His outfits got flashier and flashier during his barber years.  Most of them, with their long tassels and barely-there pant legs, are straight up disturbing.  But this figure came out before he had made the switch to a solo act.  This is from his Dream Team days, when his outfits, while still loud, were much tamer by comparison. WWF-Brutis-barber

This figure features Brutus in some pretty spiffy pink pants.  I don’t think that I could pull off this look but I actually think Brutus can, mind you a lot of leeway is given to wrestlers and hair metal bands.  The spotted tights made this one of the most interesting looking figures of the LJN years.  He’s also wearing his “sexy” elbow high gloves.  Sadly his trademark bow tie is absent.

The face is kind of weird looking.  The sculptors captured his smugness but he looks more like a smug Jay Leno than a smug Brutus Beefcake.  And I’m just noticing now how strange his abs look.  With these unposable figures, having a good pose was critical and Brutus has a pretty good one.  Having one arm up and one arm down allows for a variety of simulated wrestling moves.

This is one of my favorite wrestling toys.  8 out of 10.WWE-Brutus LJN face

A funny side note: My brother Doug had this best friend named Brad for a couple of years during High School.  Brad’s grandmother lived across the street from us and one day when Brad was visiting he and Doug got talking and they became pals.  Doug started spending entire weekends out at Brad’s place in Cole Harbor.  This Brad kid was OBSESSED with wrestling.  He used to tell us that his high school had a wrestling league and that he was the heavy weight champ and that he wrestled in a mask.  No schools around here have wrestling teams (as far as I know) and even if they did  it definitely wasn’t WWF style wrestling with theme music and all that crap.  And yet Brad continually told us stories of his epic matches with foreign objects and managers and all that stuff.  When Doug would sleep over at his house, Brad would greet him in the morning and say that while Doug slept he had went to an early morning match and won.  It was ridiculous and yet Doug let Brad think that we believed it all.  Brad also told us that Brutus Beefcake was his uncle and that Brad had visited him in the States a few times and that Brutus had gotten him tickets to Wrestlemania one year.  This kid was so full of shit but it was interesting to listen to.  I wonder what happened to that guy…

GRAY HULK

Marv-Gray Hulk fullMARVEL 

When I was a kid I loved toys and I loved comic books.  Sadly, back in those days it was very hard to find toys based on comic book characters.  Crazy right?  Nowadays toy stores shelves are filled with Spider-Man, the Avengers, Iron Man, Batman, Superman, and a multitude of other well-known and obscure comic book characters.  The 70s had the Mego dolls and the early 80s had DC’s Super Powers collection and Marvel’s Secret Wars  toy line.  All were great but they came out when I was very young.  By the time I was 8,9, and 10 super heroes were practically absent from the toy stores.  I started collecting comics when I was 8 and that’s when my knowledge of Marvel’s characters expanded far beyond those featured in the Spider-Man cartoons.  My brother Doug and I were completely enamored with the Marvel Universe in 1986 and were so frustrated that there were no toys of these characters for us to collect.  We got creative and took to making paper dolls of practically every character featured in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.  No joke, we made hundreds of the things.Marv-gray hulk cover1

By the mid 90s Spider-Man and the X-Men both had popular cartoon shows on television.  The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer and others also received short-lived animated series around that time and every one of those shows had supporting action figure lines produced by Toy Biz. Sadly those Toy Biz figures came along to late for Doug to enjoy.  Doug was in high school by then and had all but stopped buying toys.  I wasn’t quite ready to move on and so I bought and collected them alongside my little brother Brian.  He became my toy buying buddy for a time but he was 5 years younger than me.  He was a kid but I was in junior high and the figures were more collectibles than playthings to me for the first time in my life (not to say that Brian and I didn’t have some epic Marvel battles).Marv-gray hulk wolverine

However there was a small window of opportunity for Doug and I  to enjoy toys of our favorite Marvel characters together and that came in 1990, right around the time we were walking away from collecting G.I. Joes and Transformers.  Back then we used to walk down to our local comic shop, the Cardboard Jungle, every weekend to pick up our weekly comic book haul.  And one day in 1990 Pat (the owner) had a box of PVC ( which stands for Polyvinyl chloride, the type of plastic used to make these small unarticulated figures) Marvel figurines at the front counter.  It sucked that they didn’t move (they were move akin to Smurfs than G.I. Joes) and that the details were lacking and that the scale was all out of whack, but still, these were Marvel figures.  And it wasn’t just the main Marvel characters either, there were some oddities included in the line which a couple of Marvel zombies like Doug and I loved to see.  We bought a few that first time and we bought more of them every time Pat got in a new box.  We collected almost every one that he got in.  Doug got characters like Captain America, Rogue, Havok and Iron Man.  I had  Thing, Black Panther,  Vision, Hobgoblin and quite a few others.  One of the characters I got was this gray colored Hulk.marvel-pvc-figures-in-box-2

Casual fans who only know Hulk from his movie appearances might be wondering why Hulk is gray.  The truth is that the Hulk was originally gray in the comics but they changed him to green by the second issue due to printing issues with his original color scheme.  Hulk is green most of the time but he has reverted back to his old gray self a couple of times over the years.  He was gray for quite some time in the late 80s which I guess is the reason Marvel opted to make Hulk gray for this set.marvelfigset2

 

 

 

 

Seeing as this was my only Hulk figure back then I would’ve preferred to have a more traditional green one, just as I would have preferred to have a colored Vision as opposed to the solid white one you can see in the link above.  However I do like when toys reflect what is currently happening in the comic books I’m reading and these figures were of-the-time which is cool.  The figures were about 2.5 inches tall, Hulk is probably 3 with his arm raised the way it is.  They weren’t ideal but I was just stoked to have some real Marvel figures at the time.  Doug and I played with them quite a bit.  I seem to recall that we let these plastic figures “kill” the paper doll versions of themselves during one play session.  We set it up as if it was a bizarre Murder World scenario plotted by the X-Men villain Arcade.  Good times.Marv-Gray hulk-sale

So yeah, the figure is small, stiff, and lacking in detail.  It’s nothing special.  But at the time it was pretty great so I gotta give him points for that.  Let’s say 6 out of 10.

SAGA MANTA RAY

BS-ray fullBEAST SAGA

Hey guys, I’ve got another Beast Saga review for you today.  I got this guy in my last shipment of BS figures a short while ago.  In that post I complained about the lack of news regarding new figures.  Just to keep you up to date, BigBadToyStore has finally put new Beast Saga figures up for pre-order on their site.  There are no pictures of the new figures however so I’m going to hold off on ordering them until I know exactly what I’m buying.  I know some collectors were miffed the last time they ordered the blind packed BS figures sight unseen because they were expecting unique characters but all they ended up with were clear versions of previously released figures.  I picked up 6 of the blind packs but I’m very glad I didn’t pre-order dozens of them.  Hopefully these new pre-orders are for a fresh wave of brand new figures.BS-ray sideBS-ray side 2

The figure I’m looking at today I’ve named Saga Ray because as I’ve explained before, I’m not sure what their actual names are (I can’t read Japanese).  As you can probably tell Saga Ray is a manta ray.  I was pretty stoked to add him to my collection as there was no manta rays, sting rays or any other rays in the 80s Battle Beast line.  It’s fun to get brand new characters that aren’t forced to live-up to what came before which is the case with many of the more familiar looking beasts.  Technically there was a ray figure named Grin Reeper released in the fourth and final wave of Battle Beasts which were known as Laser Beasts.  Those figures featured glass orbs in their chests as opposed to the rub emblems seen on the previous 3 waves.  Only  12 of the Laser Beasts were ever released in north America though.  The other 24 Laser Beasts, Grin Reeper being one of them,  were only released in Japan and are extremely rare.  They show up on ebay every now and again for hundreds of dollars and I will likely never own any of them.  So, to me anyway, an armored manta ray is a new concept and a first for my collection.

Grin Reefer

Grin Reefer

The figure is quite nice.  The dark blue armor is broken up just enough by the three areas with red highlights.  The armor itself isn’t to exciting and lacks any of the fun gags that some of the other BS figures have but it’s not bad and honestly I prefer the armor when it isn’t overly kitschy.  His weapons, a sword and shield are pretty dull but adequate as well.BS-ray back

 

 

 

 

The interesting part about this figure is the head.  I failed to capture it in my pictures but on the underside, which is painted a yellowish color, he has sculpted nostrils, gills and a mouth which seems to be smiling.  The smile immediately makes me think of the school teacher manta ray from Finding Nemo.  I’m impressed that they put that much detail into what is basically his chin.  The top of the head has lots of nice detail as well with sculpted spots, fins, a tail, and what I guess are blow holes.  I really like how his “wings” are sculpted upwards as though he’s in mid-stroke.  The head also has a bunch of cool armored details around his eyes and down his spine.  The eyes themselves feature dual  paint apps which is appreciated.BS-ray art

The odd thing about this figure is that he basically looks like a manta ray plopped on top of an armored body.  With other non-legged animals like previously released snakes and fish the sculptors always tried to make it seem as though the creature had sprouted limbs and evolved into a bipedal creature.  I don’t get that impression with this figure.  If that’s what the sculptors were going for, his wings should have been on his arms and his tail should have been on his bum, but instead his head is a fully formed manta ray.  I don’t think it looks bad, it’s just odd.  Overall a pretty great figure.  8 out of 10.

QUICK KICK (KRE-O)

Kreo-Quick kick fullG. I. JOE : KRE-O

I was not planning on spending any money today.  However Vanessa and I had accumulated a fair amount of recyclables which were taking up a lot of space in our laundry room.  She was adamant that we get rid of them today but the recycling depot that we usually visit down the street isn’t open on Sundays.  So she found a depot across the bridge in Dartmouth that was open and away we went.  Once we were finished with that task and I had a fresh $7 in my pocket I suggested that we pop into Giant Robot Comics, a very nice little shop on the Dartmouth side that I don’t get to visit as often as I’d like to because of it’s location.  My reason for visiting today was not for myself but because my sister had tasked me with finding a plush Hulk for her son who’s having a birthday next weekend.

No luck on the plush Hulk unfortunately.  They had plush daleks and walking dead characters but I don’t think either of those are up Ty’s alley; he’s turning 4.  However I did notice that they had recently stocked the G.I. Joe Kre-O blind packs.  Toys R Us has an exclusive deal, at least here in Canada, to sell the Joe Kre-Os.  They hit the shelves here a couple of months ago, right around the time that Retaliation was hitting theaters.  My local Toys R Us got in all of the various vehicle sets but they didn’t get any of the blind bagged single figures.  Originally I thought I would probably only get the blind packed figures but when they failed to show-up I caved and bought all of the vehicle sets.  You may recall that I reviewed the Checkpoint Alpha set a while back.  I’ve checked back several times in hopes of finding the blind packs but to no avail. Kreo-Quick kick package

I had a lot of fun building the vehicle sets but I don’t really have the room to display them so I’m not sure that I will continue buying future assortments.  The single figures though are small and easy to display so I figured that I would collect all of them, if I could ever find them.  Well today I found them.  The single packs are blind, meaning you don’t know which character you’re getting when you buy the little cellophane packet.  Luckily there is a code on the packages that is not supposed to be known to consumers which tells you which character is inside each pack.  Thankfully Darryl  (owner of GRC) had saved me the trouble of matching up the codes to a list online because he had already labelled the blind packs himself.  If he had the entire assortment there I probably would have bought them all but since he only had seven of the twelve available figures I decided to pick a few choice characters.   I bought Joe Colton, Jinx, Scarlett and Quick Kick.Kreo-Quick kick instructions

Quick Kick was first introduced in 1985, arguably the best year ever for the G.I. Joe brand.  He was a Hollywood stunt man turned soldier who specialized in martial arts.  His portrayal in the cartoon was pretty goofy, what with his bad John Wayne impressions and all, and his comic book appearances never left a big impression on me either.  His most memorable tale from the Marvel comics was probably the one where he was killed. 😦  Kreo-Quick kick animated

And yet I always liked this character.  Yes it was silly that he was barefooted and bare-chested on the battlefield but the diversity that he brought to the team was welcome.  The more Joes that could pass for village people the better I always thought.  Quick Kick was one of those classic characters that I didn’t own for a very long time.  Doug owned the ’85 original and the character didn’t get updated during the new sculpt era.  It wasn’t until a modern sculpt version was released in 2008 that  I finally had a Quick Kick to call my own.  And now I have two.Kreo-Quick kick fight

This Lego style KRE-O Quick Kick is pretty great.  I like the smirking face and the hair piece is very well sculpted.  He’s got “working” nunchucks, a sword that can be sheathed on his back, a couple of throwing stars (which he doesn’t hold very well), a frozen fudgee bar  which comes directly from the cartoon, and a display base.  Not a bad lot of accessories for a figure that’s only about an inch tall.  The only real issue I have with the figure is that the blocky wrists and shoulders look extra weird considering that this guy is topless.  However I can forgive that type of thing on a block figure.  7 out of 10.

GRUNT v.13 (2013)

Joe-Grunt v13 fullG.I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I told you about the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club 2013 Figure Subscription Service.  They announced the upcoming line-up of figures at this year’s Joe Con.  I provided my initial thoughts on the character choices in a blog post soon after the announcement.  Not long after that the Club began revealing images of the figures.  The images succeeded in getting me more excited about the 2013 roster than I was initially.  I signed up for the 2013 FSS yesterday and was told to expect my first shipment of figures in the fall.  Hopefully they’ve ironed out all the kinks in the process.  Last year’s FSS hit some production snags and the figures didn’t start shipping until many months after the projected start date.  That’s why I’m still getting my 2012 FSS figures halfway through 2013.  But only 1 more 2012 shipment remains so I know what two figures to expect in my mailbox in the coming weeks, Barrel Roll and T.N.T.  The exciting part is that this last shipment will contain the mystery 13th figure.  My fingers are crossed for a Billy or Pythona. Joe-Grunt v13 carded

I’ve been trying to stay on top of my FSS Joe reviews because I assume people out there might be curious to see what collectors think of the 2012 figures before shelling out hundreds of bucks on the 2013 service.  Of the 10 2012 FSS figures that I’ve already received I’ve reviewed 8 of them, this review makes 9, so only Jinx remains.  I can tell you that I was very impressed by each of the 2012 figures so I strongly recommend that you sign-up for the 2013 service if you’re on the fence about it.

My April shipment of figures consisted of Cover Girl, who I reviewed a week or so ago, and Grunt.   There may have been some people out there who weren’t overly excited about Grunt (I know he looks kind of plain) but he was one of the figures I was most looking forward to getting from last year’s FSS.

The first Grunt figure was released in 1982 which was the very first year of G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero, the re-branding of the popular line of dolls from the 60s.   There were 16 figures released that first year, 13 Joes, Cobra Commander and two nameless Cobra troopers.

1982 figures (Grunt far left)

1982 figures (Grunt far left)

Those first 13 Joes have since become known as the “original 13”.  Most of those original Joes  were made up of re-used pieces.  Only Snake-Eyes (ninja dressed all in black), Scarlett (red haired chick in a blue and yellow jumpsuit), and Stalker (black guy dressed head to toe in camo and sporting a beret) immediately stood out from the pack.  The other 10 guys all looked kind of the same, at least to moms; kids could appreciate the subtle differences.

Joe-Grunt v13 declassified

Each of them were wearing very basic green uniforms  decorated only with a strap or two.  Flash and Grandslam both had red padding on their outfits which made them stand out a bit but between the 10 characters only 3 different heads were used.  Clutch, Rock n’ Roll and Breaker all had the same bearded face but they were painted with black, blonde and brown hair respectfully which made them seem different enough.  Flash and Steeler had the brown haired boyish face while Hawk and Short Fuze shared the blonde version.  Grandslam, Zap and Grunt were saddled with the older face complete with receding hairline.  Grandslam had his pads and visor to help him stand out leaving Zap and Grunt to be the two most boring of the lot.  But even Zap had a cool bazooka and in the comics and cartoon he had a mustache.  Grunt was just a kind of an ugly old guy with a rifle.  Even his name made him seem generic.Joe-Grunt v13 flight

Grunt and Clutch were later re-released in tan uniforms which helped to give them a unique look.  I owned the tan Clutch but not the Grunt.  I actually didn’t own my first Grunt figure until 2003 when the first “new sculpt” version of the character was released.  Grunt’s look had evolved quite a bit over the years.  My new sculpt versions included him in a dress uniform and even in a Cobra disguise.Joe-Grunt v13 back

When the modern sculpt era began in 2007 I was quite excited at the prospect of getting updated versions of the original 13 in their classic green uniforms.  Some of them got really nice updates (like Zap) while others got really lackluster ones (like Short Fuze, my favorite character of the bunch).  The first new sculpt Grunt was released in 2008 in a 3 pack with 2 characters whom I had no need of, Hawk and Duke, so I passed on it.  A second new sculpt Grunt was released in another 3 pack as part of the Rise of Cobra movie line.  That pack also included a couple of wankers I didn’t need and the Grunt didn’t have that classic look that I was pining for anyway, so again I passed on it.

For years my new sculpt “original 13” display was a man short.  Many times I considered buying one of the two underwhelming  Grunts that were available just to say that I had him.  Well I’m glad I waited.

Joe-Grunt v13 shootThe Collector’s Club has hooked me up with the Grunt I’ve been waiting for.  He’s not in his ’82 greens but he’s in his ’83 tans which is maybe better.  His body is made up of parts from his original 13 brethren so he still fits in just fine amongst them.  Sadly these aren’t the best parts.  Modern Joes have come a long way since 2007.  The outdated parts hurt this figure but only a little.  My favorite part about this toy is the newly sculpted head.  It’s got lots of personality but it also looks age appropriate and kind of weathered.  It’s the perfect Grunt head except for the fact that his helmet is very loose.  Grunt also came with a couple of rifles, a pistol, and knife that can be stored on his person.  As an added bonus he came with a funky glider backpack.  The pack can be folded up snug but with the click of a button the cloth wings shoot out where they can be strapped to his ankles to give him a full  gliding kit, pretty rad. I really like this figure.  It feels fresh and nostalgic all at the same time which is how any good modern joe figure should be.  8 out of 10.

ABOMINATION

Marv-Abomination MS fullMARVEL SELECT

Marv-Abomination MS artHey guys, it’s been a while since I posted anything and I apologize.  I’ve been meaning to write something, as I’ve still got plenty of toys to talk about, but there’s been a few factors keeping me away.  Mainly it’s because I’ve been spending my writing time on my screenplays.  You see, I dabble in writing scripts.  In fact, the whole reason I started this blog was to give me something quick and easy to write about when I was suffering from writer’s block.  Vanessa only lets me hide away in my man-cave for so many hours each day so I’ve been trying to make the most of that time by working out the kinks of a new story idea.  Secondly, it’s been really nice out the past couple of weeks.  I find it hard to write anything when the sun is shining in through my window.  I work best at night and when the sun doesn’t set until after 9pm that cuts into my creative time.  Lastly I’ve been a little bummed out about this whole blogging thing lately.  My readership has dropped and even my sponsorship with BigBadToyStore has ended due to lack of traffic. (I’ve offered to keep their banner up free of charge because it’s a great site and I have nothing else to put there at the moment).  It makes it a lot harder to force myself to write these reviews when it feels as though no one reads them anyway.  Of course I do have a few loyal readers whom I very much appreciate, one of them being Paul who posted on the “mike’s collection” facebook page yesterday, wondering where I’d disappeared to.  That boost of encouragement is what I needed to get off my ass and write a review tonight so here we go.Marv-Abomination MS head

Today I have for you an excellent, newly acquired collectable, “The Abomination” from the Marvel Select toy line.  Marvel Select makes some of the best Marvel figures on the market but they release so few of them each year.  If I’m gonna collect Marvel figures I want to build my Marvel Universe much quicker, which is why I collect the “Marvel Universe” figures which are released far more regularly.  I’ve picked up a few Select figures in the past like Black Cat and Iron Man but I acquired those before the Marvel Universe toy line began a few years back.  Since the inception of the Universe line all of my Marvel dollars go towards purchasing the latest 3 inch super heroes.  Whenever I see a wicked cool SELECT figure being released, such as their recent Venom, I convince myself that it won’t blend in with my current Marvel display and so I don’t need it.  That’s what I told myself when I first saw this Abomination toy, even though it was completely bad ass.Marv-Abomination MS movie

Some of you may know that the first Saturday in May every year is “Free Comic Book Day” across the nation.  A variety of comic publishers release special FCB issues to be given away by participating retailers to attract new readers to the medium.  I took my nephew Carter last year and he seemed to enjoy himself so I invited him and his little brother Ty along this year.  We started off at Strange Adventures where they had a line-up down the block.  They had games, balloon animals, a ton of free comics, and some great sales.  We all left happy.  Vanessa let the boys pick out an action figure and they both opted for a Halo figure which they both broke within 20 minutes.Marv-Abomination MS full2

Our next stop was Quantum Frontier, where they also had sales, freebies, balloons, and a barbeque.  I don’t make it up to QF very often so I took a thorough look around to see if I could take advantage of their 30% off toy sale.  They have the best selection of Marvel Select figures in the city and I found myself taking a second look at this Abomination; and damn was it ever cool.  The figure is huge and it weighs a ton.  My dad, who was also with me, saw me eyeing it and guessed that a toy of that size and detail must cost $100.  He was shocked when I told him it was only $24 and he insisted I buy it.  With the discount I only paid $16, not too shabby.  I think the boys were jealous as their broken Halo figures looked like a couple of chumps compared to the monstrosity I had just purchased.Marv-Abomination MS back

We didn’t make it to Monster’s Comic Lounge or Giant Robot Comics that day because we had to rush to make the start-time of an Iron Man 3 matinee but all-in-all it was a pretty good free comic book day.Marv-Abomination MS cover

Now let me tell you a little bit about the figure.  The Abomination is a Hulk villain who first appeared in Tales to Astonish issue 90 back in  1967.  My first real exposure to the character came in 1989 during the crossover-event “Atlantis Attacks” when he appeared in Amazing Spider-man Annual 23.  With a title like that it would be easy to think that Abomination is some sort of fish man.  His green skin and pointy ears make him look as though he could be a cousin of Mer-Man or the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  But Abomination isn’t fishy at all.  He is a KGB agent named Emil Blonsky who subjected himself to the same type of gamma radiation that transformed Bruce banner into the Hulk.  I’m not sure why he turned all reptilian looking but he succeeded in making himself bigger and more powerful than the Hulk.  The character hadn’t changed much over the past 40 years until 2008 when he was killed by the RED HULK and replaced with a newly gamma-radiated Rick Jones who became a friendlier, hipper Abomination who goes by the nickname A-Bomb.Marv-Abomination MS face-off

I almost didn’t buy this figure despite the good price and my dad’s approval because later this year both the Blonsky Abomination and A-Bomb are scheduled to be released in the 3 inch Marvel Universe scale.  However the sheer bulk of this figure won me over.  This figure dwarfs even my other Marvel Select figures.  I took a picture of him next to my Marvel Universe Hulk to give you an idea of his scale.  The sculpting is great and enhanced by the excellent paint job.  He’s well articulated throughout, though I wish his neck was ball jointed.  This is a fantastic figure with very little room for improvement.  10 out of 10Marv-Abomination MS art2