Monthly Archives: June 2013

DOCTOR DOOM

Marv-Doom fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

Dr. Doom first appeared in Fantastic Four issue 5 way back in 1962.  Another brilliant creation from the minds of Stan lee and Jack Kirby.  Doom has appeared hundreds of times since his initial appearance making him one of the most prolific villains in all of comicdom.  He is an iconic character with an iconic look.  Sure the skirt may be a little dated by today’s character design standards but the dude is European so some leeway must be given.  Even though he’s primarily a Fantastic Four villain, and I’ve never read FF on a regular basis, I’ve still read plenty of Doom stories.  This character is too big to be contained in just one title.  Over the years Doom as appeared in pretty much every series published by Marvel.  I’ve seen him fight Spidey, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Silver Surfer, Daredevil, even DC characters.  Doom doesn’t back down from nobody.Marv-Doom-Surfer Marv-Doom-Xmen

Dr. Doom was actually one of my earliest Marvel figures.  Back when I was a kid and super hero toys were a rarity, DC had their Super Powers line and Marvel had their Secret Wars line.  Neither line was very expansive and neither was easy for me to find in stores.   I had one character from each, DC’s Mantis (another Kirby creation) and Marvel’s Dr. Doom.  I remember getting Mantis as a birthday present but I can’t recall where my Doom came from.  I know I didn’t get him brand new because I never had any of his accessories, just the bare bones figure.   It was a great representation of the Latverian ruler and I still have it today. Marv-Doom face

I acquired a few more versions of Doom during the super hero abundant 90s but none of them were as good as the 80s Secret Wars version.  I collected the 5” Marvel figures produced by Toy Biz quite rabidly in the 90s but had pretty much stopped collecting super hero toys by the 2000s when the focus switched over to the overly articulated Marvel Legends line.  I didn’t care for most of the Legends figures, Doom included.  Marvel Select, who usually makes excellent figures, released a Doom a few years ago that came with a cool throne and everything but the figure itself looked a little off.  He was too short or something, not as menacing as I’d like my Doom to be.Marv-Doom secret

My interest in collecting Marvel toys on a regular basis was renewed by Hasbro’s Marvel Universe line of 4” figures.  I wasn’t sold at first, letting multiple waves pass me by, but once I started buying just my favorite characters the flood gates were opened and I began collecting them all.  This Doom figure was first released in a Secret Wars themed 2-pack with the Absorbing Man.  I wasn’t in completist mode at the time so I passed on that particular set initially.  Luckily both of those characters were later released as single carded figures and that’s when I snagged him.Marv-Doom back

I would argue that this may be the greatest Doom figure ever released.  It can be tough to compare a little figure like this to larger more detailed versions like the Marvel Select release but in this case size really doesn’t matter.  This figure nails the iconic look and is packed full of detail.  His size is actually pretty good when compared to other MU figures.  He’s bulkier and slightly taller than most of his spandex clad adversaries.  The face has just the right expression, a mix of pissed off and annoyed.  The body armor has a metallic sheen and his cloak and tunic have a cloth like texturing.  The only issue I have with the figure is one I have with many MU figures,  the articulation.  His joints are a little stiff and his arms rest kind of weird.  I don’t know why after 30 year of producing G.I. Joes in this scale Hasbro can’t seem to get the articulation right on their Marvel figures.  If I were to play with this figure this stiffness would bother me more, but seeing as I just display him it doesn’t bother me too much.  This is one of the best figures from the line.  9 out of 10.Marv-Doom pair

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ASTRO-NAUTILUS

OSM-Astro fullTHE OUTER SPACE MEN

I’ve had a few friends join me for guest reviews since I started this blog a year and a half ago but I haven’t yet had the pleasure of my lovely Vanessa’s assistance.  That may have something to do with her being a grown woman with better things to do than blog about action figures.  However she is very supportive of my hobby and has contributed to my collection on several occasions so what more could I ask for in a partner really?  Maybe I’ll convince her to join me in reviewing her plush Wrinkle dog one of these days as it’s the only toy I ever recall her reminiscing about.   A while back I did ask her to choose a figure for me to review and she surprised me by picking Sinestro of all people; and she doesn’t even like pink.  Well she wandered into my man-cave the other night while I was reviewing Horny Toad and she asked if she could select my next subject.  I told her by all means.  She surprised me once again by selecting Astro-Nautilus.  I would have expected her to pick someone cuter or at least someone she recognizes like Captain America or Optimus Prime but instead she went with the tentacled Outer Space Man from Neptune.OSM-Astro carded

Not to say that she made a bad selection because I think this guy is pretty awesome myself.  I won’t go into the history of the Outer Space Men because I already did that in my review of Xodiac (a figure which made my top 10 list last year).  I’ll just quickly say that the OSM were a vintage toy line from the 60s that was resurrected in recent years by toy sculptors extraordinaire, The Four Horsemen.  This probably won’t surprise you but there aren’t too many celebrities in the world of toy collecting.  I can talk about the guys that created the comics or starred in the movies that the figures are based on but that’s about it.  As far as the actual art of designing and creating the figures go, the Horsemen are about as big a deal as you’re gonna find.

I’ve talked before about how Todd McFarlane’s toy company came onto the scene in the early 90s and changed the face of action figures.  He didn’t shy away from the fact that he was making toys for grown-ups.  Tons of like-minded companies sprung up afterwards but McFarlane Toys led the pack.  I think the main reason that they remained number one was because of the talent they hired.  Chris Dahlberg, Eric Mayse, Eric Treadaway, and Jim Preziosi, known as the Four Horsemen hammered out one incredible action figure after another.  Even more impressive was that most of their designs were not based on established characters but were completely original.  I don’t have room to display them these days but I have a decent sized collection of McFarlane action figures and I’m sure a plenty of them came from the minds of the Horsemen.OSM-Astro-throw

The Horsemen eventually left McFarlane Toys and went on to work for Mattel.  There they designed all of the toys for the 2002 Masters of the Universe relaunch which I loved.  I think applying the Horsemen’s detailed style to a toy line designed for kids made for the perfect blend of cool and fun.  The Horsemen were later tasked with designing the Masters of the Universe Classics line which they continue to do to this day, continually churning out awesome figures each and every month since 2008.  They also design the DC  Universe Classics figures for Mattel.

Somewhere along the way they started their own company as well.  They’ve been steadily producing figures under their own banner for several years now, their most extensive line being Seventh Kingdom.  I’ve seen their Kingdom figures in magazines and on websites but I’ve never actually seen them in any of my local shops.  I assume they’re not produced in very large numbers.  The Outer Space Men are another line that they’ve been producing and selling at conventions and directly through their website store, the cleverly named Store Horsemen, for the past couple of years.osm-astro-naut concept art

Their OSM output has been fairly light over the years.  I imagine that’s because there were only ever 7 figures available in the original 1960s line-up.  Luckily there was concept art done up for additional characters so the Horsemen have been drawing from that as well.  In order to keep the line fresh in people’s minds while they take their time releasing new characters the horsemen have taken to releasing each Outer Space Man in multiple colors.  Astro Nautilus was released in the first wave of figures in 2010 and he has been released at least 6 times since in various color schemes.  This particular green skinned version that I have was a 2012 San Diego Comic Con exclusive.  The Horsemen had some available through their website and that’s where I got mine.

The packaging for these figures is very well designed in that the blister card can be slid away from the plastic bubble, freeing the figure for play or display with no damage done to the package.  You can place the figure back into the plastic, slide the card back into place, and they look good as new.  The SDCC exclusive that I have came with the signatures of all Four Horsemen on the blister card which is kind of neat.OSM-Astro group

As for the figure itself I think it’s great.  The colors on these figures are so vibrant and fun that I’ve been tempted to pick up the various colored sets so that I could display them all.  Astro-Nautilus looks great in green, but the purple and clear versions look awesome too.  He has articulation at the neck, ankles, and on all four tentacles, at the base and part way up.  The figures are a little stiffer than I would like but the swappable parts is a neat feature in place of movement.  The design is simple but that’s what you want in a 60s space alien.  For accessories he’s got a clear green trident which can be looped over his tentacles pretty snugly.  A very nice figure.  8 out of 10.

ICEBERG v.4 (2013)

Joe-Iceberg v4 fullG. I. JOE

The G.I. Joe Collector’s Club operates the way most fan clubs do, you pay a subscription fee to receive monthly newsletters full of Joe related content like comic strips, reviews, and news.  For signing up, the club rewards members buy mailing them a free exclusive figure.  The exclusive figure is a nice touch and in years past I wouldn’t have expected it to necessarily be of the same quality as the Hasbro produced Joe figures.  Some of  the exclusive figures of years past intrigued me but they didn’t wow me enough to join the club.  The Canadian membership is around $70 or so and, while they make for some nice light reading, the newsletters don’t add much value to me.  If I was going to shell out my 70 bucks it would solely be for the purpose of obtaining the figure.  My Joe collecting became a more serious hobby when the new sculpt era was launched in 2007.  I loved the new figure designs and wanted them all.  The club was a little behind the times in that regard, continuing to offer O-ring styled Joes as their exclusive membership figures.  The first modern sculpt exclusive from the club came in 2011 with Dial Tone.  Dial Tone was the Joe’s telecommunications specialist first released in 1986.  He had not yet been released in the modern style so he was in high demand.  I planned on buying him on ebay but I did not expect his price tag to skyrocket on the secondary market the way it did.  People were asking upwards of $200 for him on retail sites, they still are, which is why I still don’t own the figure. Joe-Iceberg v4 face

Lesson learned.  When the club began soliciting their 2012 subscriptions which would include a free Footloose figure ( another popular character from the 80s who had not been updated by Hasbro) I opted in.  I paid my $70, got my Footloose in the mail, and then got to enjoy 8 glossy pages of Joe goodness every month for the next year.  Other perks of Club membership is that you’re able to sign up for their Figure Subscription Service and you get discounted prices in their store.  I’d say it’s worth the money and I wish I had done it a year earlier.

Joe-Iceberg v4 back

 

When 2013 rolled around it was an easy decision to renew my membership.  The Club announced that they’d be offering up yet another popular 80s Joe who had been passed over by Hasbro in the modern sculpt era, Iceberg.  I was excited about Iceberg.  As cool as Dial Tone and Footloose were, they were both characters that my brother Doug owned when we were kids so I don’t have the same personal attachment to them as I do with Iceberg, a character that I owned.  I owned most of the snow themed Joes and Cobras in those early days: Snow Job, Frostbite, Blizzard, Snow Serpent, and Ice-Viper.  I’m not sure why this was the case, I wasn’t particularly fond of snow, but I did like all of those figures.  Every time I got to add another Joe in a parka to my ranks it made Snow Job seem like less of a weirdo sitting around the PIT in a hood and skis.

There was nothing overly exciting about ’86 Iceberg so he was rarely the hero of any of my battles but he was a solid figure and he made a great addition to my Joe team.  Hasbro has neglected their snow-based troopers in the modern age so I was glad to see the Club filling one of those holes in my collection.  But then the Club released  a picture of the prototype figure.  He looked wonky and fans called them out on it.  The Club assured fandom that the picture was just of a prototype and that the final product would differ.  Well, my Iceberg arrived in the mail a short time ago and he remains a wonky looking dude.Joe-Iceberg v4 issues

This is the kind of figure I might have expected to receive as a freebie from the Club a couple of years ago but my expectations have since been raised.  The Club has been producing some stellar figures in their FSS and convention sets lately so a bungled figure like Iceberg is much less forgivable.  The head is a retooled version of the 1986 original’s head.  Those decades old parts just don’t gel in the modern era.  The Club did the same thing with their Blackout figure, used the original figures head, and that didn’t work for me either.  At least in Iceberg’s case I liked the original head so it’s not too bad re-used here but it does come across as flat and dated, at least to me.

The real problem is the body.  Figures constructed using previously released parts is common in the toy industry.  New figures created by “kit bashing” are sometimes referred to as Franken-Joes and never has that description been more appropriate.  This figure is a monstrosity.  None of these parts work well together.  The neck is too long but at least that problem is mostly hidden by the furry shawl on his shoulders.  The legs are the nail in the coffin for this figure.  The Club used Spirit’s legs to replicate the fur trimmed boots of the original Iceberg but they are way too scrawny to carry this figure’s weight and there’s a distracting gap between his legs and his pelvis.  The paint apps on this figure are way too bright.  Stark white may have worked in the old days but this guy comes across looking plastic (for lack of a better word) when compared to other modern snow troopers in their toned down, dirtier outfits.Joe-Iceberg 4 board

One good point about this figure is his abundance of accessories.  The original only had a white rifle.  This version has multiple guns, a rocket launcher, a backpack, a snowboard, and more.  Most of the accessories, including the snowboard, can be attached to his pack, which is nice.  Unfortunately all that gear makes him too top heavy and so his gimpy legs give out.

While I am happy to finally be able to add an Iceberg figure to my modern Joe display I’m going to hold out hope that Hasbro or even the club, give us a better version in the near future.  4 out of 10.

GYRO-VIPER v1. (1987)

Joe-Gyro viper v1 fullG. I. JOE

Today’s review is going to be short and sweet.  I’ve been very busy these past few weeks with weddings, concerts, barbecues, and all of that other stuff that comes with warm weather.  I’ll be acting team leader for a couple of weeks in July while my boss is on vacation so work has been extra busy as well, having to learn his job while managing my usual workload.   Plus it’s been hot and that makes me lazy.  For all of these reasons my toy reviews have been put on the back burner.  I was going to opt out of reviewing all together tonight so I could lounge around on the couch in front of my air conditioner, but I started feeling guilty so I took a quick browse through my folder of stock photos to find a toy that I could review in about 20 minutes or so.  I found this guy.Joe-Gyro viper art

This is Gyro-Viper, released back in 1987.  The reason I chose this guy to write about is because I have very little to say about him.  He was only available as the pilot of the Cobra Mamba, some crazy-ass, triple cockpitted, purple attack chopper.  It was a cool looking vehicle which was featured in the cartoons a lot but I never owned one.  I found air and sea vehicles kind of useless most of the time when playing with my Joes, so the Mamba was never a high priority item for me.  I owned the Joe and Cobra jets, the Sky Striker and the Rattler, and when I played with them it pretty much consisted of me holding one in each hand and spinning in circles as they “chased” each other through the air.  I much preferred landing the planes and having the pilots, Ace and Wild Weasel, duke it out on land .  So while I passed on the Mamba I still wanted the Gyro-Viper.  Vehicles in general didn’t ring my bell but I was a figure completist.Joe-Gyro viper mamba

I don’t recall where I got this figure exactly, maybe at a flea market or maybe I traded a a friend a fruit roll-up or something for him, but this is what he looked like when he came into my possession.  I took care of my toys.  I was never the type to blow them up or light them on fire; I loved them, which I think is evident since I’m still sitting here writing about them at 35.  I won’t lie and say that no Joes have been injured on my watch because there have been a few.  Tiger Force Roadblock took a nasty tumble out of the aforementioned Sky Striker onto some ice which didn’t end well, my version 1 Major Bludd was lost altogether, and many brave plastic soldiers have lost thumbs and crotches.  But I have never had a man lose an entire arm before.  I don’t know what this Gyro-Viper’s previous owner did to the poor bastard but I like to think I rescued him.  I actually made a paper cast for him so he didn’t look so weird running around with a stump on the battlefield.  Yes, my poor Gyro-Viper was forced to run around on the battlefield like a regular infantryman despite the fact that he was missing an arm and didn’t come with a gun.  But I didn’t have his helicopter so what could I do.Joe-Gyro-viper v1 face

I never cared much for this figure.  It didn’t help that he was released the same year as Ice-Viper and Techno-Viper, two of my favorite viper troopers.  His flight suit was pretty dull both in detail and paint applications.  His big visored maroon helmet was decent looking but didn’t have much in the way of personality.  It was cool that it was removable but I hated that you could see his nose through his under mask.  Secto-Viper had the same problem which I corrected with a sharpie.  I probably would have done the same to this guy if he didn’t have the other helmet to cover up his face.  This guy was kind of a dud amongst my many awesome Cobra soldiers and being handicapped didn’t help him any.  Not great, but not horrible.  5 out of 10.

CABLE

Marv-Cable fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

This Marvel Universe review is being done by request of friend of the site, Sidus Ang.  Nathan “Cable” Summers was not exactly high on my list of figures to review because he was never a character that I liked very much.  I do however know quite a bit about him because he’s been forced on me a few times over the years.  I’ve talked about how I got into comics a few times on this blog but here’s a quick recap.  It was 1986 and my brother Doug and I were over at my cousin Greg’s house.  He was showing us his comic collection which seemed huge to us at the time and we were both hooked.  We were of course familiar with many of the Marvel characters by way of their cartoons and merchandising but never before had we seen mature super hero stories being told with sex and violence.  We went down to the Green Gables corner store and loitered around long enough to finally drive the kid at the counter to open up his latest shipment of comics.  I started with Spider-Man and Doug with X-Men.  We were still quite young at the time so the next ones we were drawn to were titles from Marvel’s defunct all-ages imprint called “STAR COMICS”.   I collected Spider-Ham, about a pig version of Spider-Man, The Ewoks, and Heathcliff.  Doug collected a couple licensed books, G.I. Joe and Transformers, plus the STAR title Top Dog about a detective dog.Marv-Cable face side

A mere 2 or 3 months into our new comic collecting habit Marvel celebrated their 75th anniversary by releasing all of their books with collectable covers that month.  The covers featured the star’s face in the center with a surrounding boarder made up of Marvel’s most popular heroes.  I talked more about this back in my Marvel Select Thor review.  In true collector fashion Doug and I made it a mission to buy up as many of these anniversary covered books as we could.  One of the books I picked up that month was The New Mutants issue 45.  It was about a bunch of teens that lived in Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters who were being trained as the next generation of X-Men.  Even though I wasn’t familiar with any of the characters beforehand I immediately liked the book.  It might have had something to do with the fact that this particular issue was a tie-in to the Mutant Massacre; my favorite X-Men storyline of all time.  I continued to buy the New Mutants comic for years afterwards until it ended with issue 100.  It was an oddity in my roster of books because Doug collected all of the other mutant related titles.

New Mutants was always an under-the-radar type of book with mediocre sales.  In the late 80s the series got a much-needed boost in popularity when superstar artist Rob Liefeld (yeah I know) was assigned the penciling chores.  Under Rob and writer, Louise Simonson, The New Mutants went through a radical transformation.  Team members left, new ones joined, they got new costumes, new villains were introduced, and the kids left Xavier’s school.  They found a new leader in Cable, who first appeared in New Mutants issue 87.Marv-Cable first comic

I must confess that I liked Rob’s art at the time.  But I didn’t care for all of the changes being made to the book.  Under Cable’s tutelage the kids became more militant and a lot of the book’s fun factor was lost.  It no longer felt like The New Mutants to me.  I guess that’s why they cancelled the series and relaunched it as X-Force.  Apparently being casually related to the top-selling X-Men books wasn’t good enough, they needed that giant “X” in the title to make sure readers made the connection and shelled out their cash.

There were multiple reasons why I didn’t like Cable.  One of them being that he was too old to suddenly be the star of what had previously been a teen-centric team book.  I didn’t like his design, I wouldn’t have been able to say why exactly at the time but I can now, it was too damn 90s.   Pouches, straps, massive guns, metallic arm, glowing eye…there was way too much going on and there didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to any of it.  Plus new characters started coming out of the woodwork, all with ties to Cable’s mysterious past.  Bridge, Kane, Gideon, Domino, the Wolf Pack, and the Mutant Liberation Front were all mediocre characters that popped up during that time.  I was, and still am, very loyal to my comics.  It takes a lot for me to drop a book from my pull list.  I made it to issue 15 of X-Force before I jumped ship.  Cable had taken over and ruined one of my favorite comics.Marv-Cable face

Another character that Rob Liefeld had a hand in creating during his New Mutants run, Deadpool, became a favorite character of mine once he got his own book written by Joe Kelly and drawn by the brilliant Ed McGuinness.  This was long before the character became the fan-favorite that he is now.  I collected his solo book for years until it was eventually cancelled due to decreased sales.  It was later relaunched as Cable & Deadpool.  In order for me to get my Deadpool fix every month I had to tolerate Cable hanging around.  I found Cable looked much better when drawn by other artists but no writer ever managed to make him seem interesting to me.Marv-Cable and Deadpool

For those of you not familiar with Cable, he is the time displaced son of Cyclops and Jean Grey’s demon clone Madelyn Pryor.  That’s comics for ya.  I haven’t read any Cable comics since Cable & Deadpool ended years ago so I’m not super up to date on his current status.  He had his own solo book for a while and he is now leading a new incarnation of X-Force.  The premise behind his most recent solo book was that he had taken it upon himself to protect baby Hope, the first mutant to be born since Scarlet Witch cast her no more mutant spell (don’t ask).  That is why this Cable figure has a baby strapped to his chest in case you were wondering.  The figure did come with an alternate babyless chest piece if you prefer but I like this one because it’s weirder.Marv-Cable and hope comic

So let’s talk about the figure itself.  I actually like it.  It’s a good figure of a bad character.  It’s got a ton of detail, good paint aps, the baby Hope is a nice touch, and he’s got some big (but not too big) weapons.  I think the face is especially good because it has a darker flesh tone wash over the base color which brings out a lot of the detail.  He’s also bigger than your average MU figure which is good as he was always drawn to be a pretty big guy.  This is a good example of when Hasbro does their Marvel Universe figures right.  I often feel like Hasbro cheaps out on these figures but Cable has a bunch of new tooling and it all comes together very nicely.  Color me impressed.  8 out of 10.

HORNY TOAD

BB-Frog fullBATTLE BEASTS

This here is Horny Toad.  He was released as part of the first series of Battle Beasts in 1987.  He came packaged with Sledgehammer Elephant.  I remember my first Battle Beast figures very clearly.  I got the Rhino, Ram, Fox, and Bat in my Easter Basket one year.  My little brother Brian got the Bear and Buffalo.  He wasn’t as taken with the figures as I was so he gave his to me a short time later.  Those first six figures hold a special place in my heart.  After that, the acquisition of the other 80some Beasts is kind of a blur. They came  by way of grading presents, birthdays and trades with friends. Oddly enough I don’t recall ever getting Battle Beasts for Christmas.  So while I don’t remember specific details of how or when I acquired Horny, I do know that he was one of the first figures I got after that initial Easter haul.

I sound like a broken record when I say this in every Battle Beast review, but back in the day these toys did not come with names on their packaging.  I didn’t know what any of the character’s official names were until years later.  In this case maybe it’s for the best.  At the time I named each figure  “Battle whatever”; this was Battle Frog.  My experience has always been that frogs are green and toads are brown.  It’s actually pretty disappointing that Takara never produced a brown toad Battle Beast as he would have been an obvious foe for this guy. BB-frog art

Since each Battle Beast came as a clean slate with no pre-conceived back story I was not only free to name them whatever I wanted but also to choose their allegiances and personalities.  With each 2-pack of figures I delegated one figure a good guy and one a bad guy.  Battle Frog was a good guy probably because his package mate was purple with black armor (obvious bad guy colors).  Frog was one of the best warriors on my good team.  He was stern, serious, and tough.  He was also very agile and had super leaping abilities. bb-Frog carded

I think this figure is straight up awesome; one of the best Battle Beasts ever.  First off the sculpt is very detailed with lots of cool and unique features.  The big web feet are great, and the face has a bunch of sculpted little warts.  The weapon hand isn’t as elaborate as others in the line but the fact that it’s just a plain pointy lance seems almost more brutal.  I can imagine him leaping into a crowd on the battlefield and impaling his enemies.  Death from Above.  The ear attachments and shoulder spikes add even more flavor to an already cool figure. BB-Frog back

The second thing this figure has going for it is the color.  The bright green, dark red, and  mustard yellow work great together.  It’s amazing how the designers were able to give so many of these tiny figures a unique look when considering the limited color palette and paint aps they had available.  The colors choices used here really show off the detail in the sculpt.  Battle Frog looks like no other beast in the collection.   His oddly shaped, fancy-pants, bladed weapon is pretty cool too. BB-Frog side

 

 

 

Not too long ago I watched a Japanese Transformers cartoon that featured the Battle Beasts (they’re a spin-off if you didn’t know).  I was surprised to see Battle Frog portrayed not only as a bad guy but as an army of bad guys.  A bunch of identical frogs with yellow spike hands were leaping into battle against the Autobots.  It’s funny because it makes me think of how differently I may have viewed these toys had they starred in their own cartoon series when I was a kid.  With Joes I always imagined my viper and crimson guard figures to be representative of a squad of those trooper types, so no matter how many crimson guards got thrown into the volcano I could keep on re-using that figure, where as if Zartan fell into the volcano then he was just dead.  When it came to my Battle Beasts I pictured each and every one of them as individuals.  It seems bizarre to imagine any of them as mere troop builders.  Discovering that the beasts all had real names was revelation enough for me that I don’t think I would want to know much more of their backstory even if it exists out there somewhere.  I quite like the Battle Beast Universe that I created on my own.  8 out of 10.bb-frog toon

DUKE

Joe-LS-Duke fullG. I. JOE

In my last review I covered an unconventionally sized G.I. Joe figure who was a bit bigger than your average Joe.  Well today I’m covering another oddly shaped Joe, only this time I’m going smaller.  This is the Joe team’s first sergeant Conrad “Duke” Hauser in what I guess you could call his SD mode.  SD is short for “super deformed”, a term often used to describe Japanese anime properties when big mechs are condensed down into adorable little versions of themselves so that they fit into vending machines.  The vending machine craze is apparently huge in Japan.  Their vending machine toys, known as Gashapon, are far more advanced than the junk we tend to find in our vending machines.  But in recent years the Japanese trend of buying inexpensive “blind” figures from vending machines has caught on in North America in a big way.  Although the toys tend to show up less in vending machines over here, and more in hobby shops and comic stores.  The glass counter of my local comic shop is filled with a variety of blind boxed figures that are usually priced around 5 bucks a piece.  Kids buy up the boxes, unaware of what character waits for them inside, and if they end up with a double they trade it with their friends.  The check-0ut aisle of my Toys R Us has dozens of blind packed block figures available as impulse buys including Legos, Kre-Os and Mega Bloks.  It all seems a little weird to me as I like to know what I’m buying but I suppose it isn’t all that different from me buying up packs and packs of hockey cards back in junior high.  But if you’re going to produce and sell mystery blind boxed figures I think that $5 should be about the maximum price point.  So you can imagine my surprise when I found these blind boxed Joe figures, produced by The Loyal Subjects, to be priced at $14.99. Joe-LS-box

I first saw these super-deformed Joes online a few months ago.  And while it’s hard for me to resist buying any figures associated with my favorite toy line I made up my mind then and there that I would not be collecting them.  Sure they were cool but I had recently begun collecting the cute little Kre-O versions of America’s daring, highly trained special mission force, and I already owned a few of the Joe Mighty Muggs from a couple of years back.  Between those two lines and the standard 4” line, which beats my wallet to a pulp each month, I had to say “enough is enough”.  If I didn’t stop somewhere I would be destined to rebuy the same characters over and over again for eternity as toy companies found new shapes and sizes in which to construct them.  This is also why I bit the bullet and DID NOT pre-order the amazing looking 12” G.I. Joe: Retaliation dolls from Hot Toys as much as I wanted to.  Every now and again I need to prove to myself that I control my toy collecting and not the other way around. Joe-LS-Duke face

So when I first saw the case of blind boxed Joes on the counter at Strange Adventures a few weeks ago I was already equipped with the tools I needed to pass them by.  The shocking $15 price tag reaffirmed for me that I had made a wise choice in avoiding them.  However, the guys and gals at the shop know me well and Nathan waved one of the boxes in front of me as I tried to pay for my stack of comics.

“Aren’t you going to pick up one of these?  If anyone was going to I would have thought it was going to be you.”

“yeah, but the price…”

“Don’t you at least want to see what they look like?”

“Goddamnit man, ring one up.”

I told myself buying just one wouldn’t hurt.  I actually used you people to justify it, telling myself that I should buy at least one to review for my loyal readers.  I ended up with Snake Eyes.  Most people would have been excited by that but I was hoping for Snow Job or Destro.  I placed the figure on my work desk but I already had my Mighty Mugg Snake Eyes there and it just looked weird, like Snake Eyes had a mini me.  I told my brother Doug in an email that I bought a box and ended up with Snake Eyes.  He told me that he had bought a couple of the boxes for his son, Alex, and that they were hoping to get a Snake Eyes but didn’t (He actually got Snow Job and Destro) so he offered to buy him off of me the next time we saw each other.Joe-LS-Duke back

The next time we saw each other was a surprise visit the following weekend when Doug and Alex came into town so that Doug could pick up his comics from Strange Adventures.  They called me to see if I was willing to part with my Snake Eyes as Alex was excited to get his hands on him.  Unfortunately my Snake Eyes was still on my workstation and I couldn’t get to him on a Saturday.  I accompanied them to the shop anyway and while I was there I decided that maybe I should buy one more of these blind boxed Joes.  After all, I hadn’t yet gotten around to reviewing Snake Eyes for you and I was now poised to sell him off.  So I purchased a box and ended up with…Snake Eyes.  Damn these blind boxes.  Doug agreed to buy another box on the spot and trade me whoever he got for my new Snake Eyes.  Doug’s box contained Duke and that is how he came into my possession.  Now lil’ Duke and lil’ Snake Eyes both adorn my desk in the shadow of the towering Mighty Mugg Snake Eyes and President Obama.Joe-LS-Duke compare

Okay, now let’s get to the review.  Truth be told, this is probably one of the best Duke figures I own.  This figure looks more like how I see Duke in my mind than any of the 4” Dukes in my collection.  It’s a great representation of how the character appeared in the old Sunbow cartoons.  He’s got a good stern look on his face as opposed to the aloof grin of the original 1983 figure.  His blonde flat top looks great and I like the added detail of the scar on his cheek, a detail introduced in Rise of Cobra I believe.  The uniform has everything it needs to say “Duke”, from the tan shirt to the bandolier with grenade.  The accessories are pretty decent as well.  The gray machine gun looks awesome and the green backpack fits snugly into the hole on his back.  As I wrote this I think I convinced myself to buy a couple more.  Damn it.  7 out of 10

COBRA VIPER COMMANDO v.1 (2009)

Joe-Cobra Viper Commando v1 fullG.I. JOE : RISE OF COBRA

Hey gang, I’m back after a very busy weekend.  I took Friday off from work so that Vanessa and I could drive to the neighboring province of New Brunswick.  Moncton, New Brunswick was the only Canadian stop on Everclear’s Summerland Tour.  Everclear is one of my favorite bands.  You probably remember them from their hits, Santa Monica, Wonderful, Everything to Everyone, etc.  They haven’t exactly been topping any charts for the past decade or so but their most recent album was fantastic and I encourage you to check it out if you were ever a fan of the band.  The 2013 Summerland tour is headlined by Everclear and they are joined by Live (Lightning Crashes), Filter (Take a Picture), and Sponge (Wax Ecstatic).  I’m a big Filter fan as well so this was a pretty decent line-up and worth a few hours of travel.  The concert was at the Moncton Casino which was a pretty nice venue.  We were in the front row and had a great time, all of the bands put on stellar performances.  I last saw Everclear in 1998 and they haven’t lost a step in 15 years.

Everclear's Art and Filter's Richard together!

Everclear’s Art and Filter’s Richard together!

 

Saturday I came home to attend my friend Angie’s wedding and then on Sunday I went to two BBQs, a friend’s housewarming and my family’s father’s day gathering.  So you can see why I haven’t posted anything for a few days.  But fear not,  I did acquire a few new toys over the weekend to tell you about.  On Main St. in Moncton there is a fantastic store that is actually 3 stores merged together: A DVD/Bluray rental shop, a record store, and a new/used toy store.  This was perfect for me as you already know I collect toys but I am also one of those dinosaurs who still buys his movies and music as well.  While not accessible from the  inside, the same building housed a comic shop and a skateboard shop as well.  If I lived in Moncton I would never need to visit another store, it was a one-stop-shop straight out of my dreams.  I could’ve spent a fortune in the place but I had to show some restraint as the weekend was pretty expensive already what with the gas, hotel, concert, beers, and wedding.  I managed to get out only spending 25 bucks.Joe-cobra viper commando v1 box

 

 

I bought 3 items, and oddly enough, they were all Rise of Cobra figures from the 2009 live-action Joe movie.  When that movie first came out I wasn’t impressed with the look of the characters and I shunned most of the product.  I was very happy with the 25th anniversary line of Joes which consisted of modern sculpted  classic characters in their most iconic costumes.  As pleased as I was to be getting a live-action movie, I was not impressed that the movie based toy line replaced the 25th anniversary line on store shelves.  I found the movie figures were all black, gray, and boring, so when ROC versions of characters like Hawk and Shipwreck came out I figured I didn’t need them, I already had them in their classic iconic looks.  Well the movie line was short lived and the toys soon reverted back to 25th anniversary style of figure.  In hindsight, the black and gray blip that was Rise of Cobra suddenly didn’t seem so bad and I found myself backfilling the holes in my collection.  In Moncton I picked up ROC versions of Wetsuit and Snow Serpent at half the price I would’ve paid for them back in 2009.  It was a decent little score.  The third item I bought is the subject of today’s post, Cobra Viper Commando.Joe-Cobra Viper Commando v1 back

You’ve probably noticed that very few toy lines are released in 1 format anymore.  You get the standard figure, the block figure version, the cutesy pre-school version, the 12″ doll version, etc.  Superman immediately comes to mind.  My local toy stores have recently been flooded with “Man of Steel” merchandise and the variety of shapes and sizes that you can buy Superman in is staggering.  Well when Rise of Cobra came out in 2009 the same was true of the G.I. Joe brand.  There were the standard 4″ figures, the cutesy Combat Heroes figures, the 12″ doll figures, and probably a handful of other variations.  One of the odd formats that I remember seeing in stores back then were these 6″ Action Battlers.  There were 4 available Battlers: Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Duke, and the Cobra Viper Commando.  The figures were bigger, less articulated, and more stylized than the normal Joe figures.  They also had action features, this guy for example has “rifle raising action” when you squeeze his legs together.  I would guess that they were directed towards younger kids since they had less moving parts, fewer  accessories, and the play features.  These are the kind of toys that I would usually ignore.  And I would have ignored them had this guy been painted silver and named Neo-Viper.  The other 3 Battlers were just big clunky versions of characters that I already owned dozens of times over and so I had no use for them.  This guy however was unique to the Action Battlers line.  He looks like the standard Neo-Viper from the ROC line and yet he has a gold paint job and is named Viper Commando.  This made me view the character as an individual, or maybe as an entirely different type of trooper.  Many times I debated on buying him and displaying him with my 4″ Joes as a roided out experiment of Dr. Mindbenders, or as a a robot like the BATS or SNAKES, or maybe as a normal sized guy in a large battle suit of some kind.  But seeing as he was $15 ($5 more than a regular figure) I always talked myself out of it.Joe-Cobra viper Commando v1 face

Well this Moncton store had him for $5 so I knew it was time to finally add him to my Cobra ranks.  And I’m glad I did.  In the years since ROC the look of the Neo-Vipers doesn’t bother me so much anymore and it’s never looked better than it does on this figure.  The sculpted brow really makes this guy look angry, and the line details on the mask are more clear than on the smaller figures (though I still don’t know what purpose they serve).  The chest armor has a very cool riveted texture and the gold and black paint wash looks awesome.  I love his big hands and feet too as they make him seem even more monstrous.   This doesn’t look like a “kids toy” to me at all other than maybe his big playskool looking nano-cannon.  He’s actually pretty darn cool.  I should have picked this guy up ages ago.  8 out of 10.Joe-Cobra Viper Commando v1 squad

S.A.W. VIPER v.4 (2013)

Joe-Saw viper v4 fullG.I. JOE

The first S.A.W. (semi automatic weapons) Viper was released in 1990.  My brother Doug and I had pretty much been completist collectors from 1982 to 1988.  We didn’t own all of the vehicles but between us we owned all of the carded figures.  We got most of the 1989 lineup but that was the first year that we didn’t seek out every new figure.  By 1990 we were ready to walk away.  Rampart was the only 1990 Joe I got and Undertow was Doug’s final Joe so neither of us ever owned the weird pink Cobra heavy machine gunner.  SAW Viper held no appeal to me.  He was pink and purple with a strange neon green visor.  I liked my Cobra troopers to look cool and SAW Viper didn’t fit the bill.  The same figure was released again in 2003 with a better “python patrol” paint scheme but I still didn’t like the mold and so I passed on it.  I didn’t own my first SAW Viper until 2006 when a new version was released during the DTC days.  (DTC stands for Direct to Consumer.  There was a time, just before the modern era/25th anniversary figure launched in 2007, when Hasbro had stopped releasing figures to retail outlets.  Instead they sold figures directly to consumers by way of their website).  I thought the DTC version of the SAW Viper was a big improvement over the original both in color (black and red this time) and design.  The entire figure was a repaint of a Rollbar figure, released a year earlier, but I didn’t own Rollbar so the similarities didn’t bother me.  The design was much bulkier with a padded vest which seemed more appropriate considering the Viper’s specialty.  The only element of the 2006 figure that tied it to the 1990 original was the inclusion of a removable helmet with a neon green visor.  The helmet was bigger and simpler than the original version which wasn’t an improvement.  I thought the helmet looked large, clunky and out of place on the figure.Joe-Saw viper v1

Here’s a wee bit of Saw Viper trivia for you.  A single SAW Viper killed more Joes than any other Cobra operative in the Marvel comic run.  In issue 109 (1991) a SAW Viper mowed down four Joe prisoners: Doc, Thunder, Crank Case, and Heavy Metal.  It was a pretty big deal as even in the comic, which was much more serious in tone than the cartoon, “name” Joes rarely died.  Later in that same issue another 3 popular Joes, Crazy Legs, Breaker, and Quick Kick, were killed after escaping from captivity.  That SAW Viper was supposedly killed “off-screen” by Storm Shadow but in a later story it was revealed that he lived (barely).  In order to survive he had to be rebuilt as a Cyborg and he thus became Overkill, the leader of the B.A.T.S.joe110

SAW Viper was one of the Cobra trooper types which had not been revisited by Hasbro in the modern era.  Since I never owned the original and never cared for the look of him anyway I didn’t miss him.  But earlier this week I went from having no modern SAW Vipers to having 3 of them.  A while back I had pre-ordered the 2013 Joe Con 15 figure Convention set.  This year’s set was called “Night Force: Nocturnal Fire” and it featured the Joe’s Night Force sub-team vs Cobra’s South American associates.  The Joe Con was held the first weekend of April in Indianapolis. Those who attended got to take their sets home with them that day.  Guys like me, who stayed at home, had to wait 2 months for theirs to arrive in the mail.

Joe-Con 2013 open

 

 

The set came packaged pretty much exactly the same as the 2012 set.  There was a nice sturdy box with the Night Force logo on the glossy front.  When I lifted the lid I found my certificate of authenticity and my exclusive comic book which stars the characters from the set. Beneath those lay the 15 figures packed snugly in black foam.  There were 6 members of Night Force: Repeater, Psyche Out, Spearhead, Hit & Run, Muskrat, and Charbroil.  Then there were the 3 “name” Cobra villains:  Cobra Mortal, Cobra Letal, and newcomer Crimson Asp. To finish off the set there were 2 sets of 3 identical army builders: Frag Vipers and S.A.W Vipers.  Beneath the foam were packages of weapons and file cards for each figure.Joe-Con 2013 comic

I will be reviewing each of these figures individually eventually but since this is my first review from the set I will give a quick overview of the complete package.  It’s good, not great.  The presentation is excellent and the comic was a good read.  I like the character selection for the most part but not all of the figures were executed as well as they should have been.  I have multiple production issues with my set.  My Hit & Run has no holes in his feet so he can’t be displayed on a base and he’s too top heavy to stand on his own.  My Repeater has 1 arm that can’t be bent because the paint has hardened over the joint.  My Cobra Mortal is built funny so that one leg hangs lower than the other, and I have some looseness issues with a few of the other figures.  Considering that this set cost me nearly $400 I expected more.  However none of these errors are deal breakers for me.  I still like the set but the Hit & Run issue is quite frustrating.Joe-Saw viper v4 back

As for the SAW Vipers I guess I like them okay.  This version is kind of a blend of the original and the DTC version.  He retains the hot pink and purple color scheme of the original but he’s bulked up nicely with padding like the 2006 version.  The body is mostly made up of a previously released Destro figure.  It was a good choice as that was a bulky and imposing Destro.  We’ve seen the removable vest before too but a double knife sheath has been added to the front and it’s a pretty badass addition.  SAW Viper comes with two knives, a standard dagger and a nasty looking curved blade and they both fit nicely into the sheaths.  His backpack is reminiscent of the original but nothing to get excited about.  His lone gun is pretty cool and he came with an ammo pack to boot.Joe-SAW viper v4 helmet

Everything about this figure from the neck down works for me.  Even the ridiculous colors don’t bother me that much; I like a little diversity on my toy shelf.Joe-Saw viper v4 unmasked

What I don’t like is the head.  Like the 2006 version, this SAW Viper has a removable helmet.  The helmet is actually the same one that came with the 2006 figure meaning it shares all of its flaws (big, clunky, lacking personality).  Beneath the helmet is a masked face which is much better than a Rollbar face like we got in 2006.  I wouldn’t want all 3 of my SAW Vipers to have identical faces after all, what is this the FRED program? (Joe-nerd inside joke).  Unfortunately I don’t like this balaclava style mask they’ve given him.  It just looks weird to me.  I think he looks better displayed without the clunky helmet but I would like him so much more if his mouth and nose were covered.  I actually think this would be a great figure if he had a solid ski mask, even though it would be unfaithful to the original SAW Viper design.  Since I have 3 of these guys I plan to display one with the helmet, one without, and another with a lifted helmet.  I expected to hate this figure and am quite surprised to find myself not minding it. 6 out of 10.Joe-Saw viper v4 group

 

PSYCHO MAN

Marv-Psycho man bustMARVEL : BOWEN DESIGNS

I’m going to be breaking the rules somewhat today.  I will not be reviewing an action figure as you’ve come to expect from me.  Today I shall be reviewing a statue, or more accurately a bust.  This Psycho Man bust is the first of its kind to make its way into my collection.  Many times before I have been tempted to buy statues and busts of my favorite comic book characters but I’ve always been deterred by the hefty price tags.  These things are expensive, I’m talking hundreds of dollars.  And they’re big, so finding a place to display them would be a problem as well.  My local comic shop, Strange Adventures, has two large glass display cases full of amazing statues and they’re the first thing you see when you walk in.  I love my action figures but there’s no denying that the larger, joint-free statues present the characters in the best 3D format possible, at least for display purposes.  But I came to terms with the fact that I would not be collecting statues a long time ago.  So this Psycho Man was one of the many beautifully sculpted statues that greeted me at the front door of the shop every single Wednesday.  I admired it briefly each time but quickly moved on, refusing to linger and fall in love.  I felt confident that I could resist its charms, after all, I had not been swayed by either the Baroness or Jungle Girl when they graced the display cases so what chance did this half of a weirdo stand at making me break my no statue rule.Marv-Baroness statueMarv-junglegirlstatue

Perhaps I should first tell you just who Psycho Man is as I’m sure some of you don’t know.  He is a Marvel Universe villain, most often associated with the Fantastic Four as he first appeared in their book and has battled them many times since.  As explained way back in Fantastic Four Annual 5 (1967) Psycho Man is actually a microscopic being who inhabits the microverse, a mini universe that exists in the subatomic particles that make up the main Marvel Universe.  Psycho Man encounters the FF when he decides to build himself a giant suit of armor and invade the larger Marvel Universe.  Using some weird tablet like device he was able to control the Four’s emotions, Fear, Doubt and Hate specifically.   Obviously he was defeated in the end but he has returned tho the Marvel Universe many times and battled heroes ranging from Howard the Duck to the Hulk.  And you can bet he’ll be there to stir up trouble anytime a Marvel hero gets shrunk (which happens more often than you might think).  One of my earliest exposures to the character was in an old issue of the Micronauts, a series that took place in the Microverse and, similar to G.I. Joe and Transformers, was published as a way to help sell the toys.Marv-Psycho man micronauts

Marv-Psycho man -spideyI’ve always loved Psycho Man’s strange appearance, weird origin, and goofy abilities.  You may have noticed that he is one of the select few characters that I chose to use in my website banner.  I was always happy to see him pop up in a book I was collecting.  The Psycho Man story that I recall most vividly from my childhood was a 3 parter that crossed through the 3 Spider-Man annuals in 1990 called “Spidey’s totally tiny Adventure”.  A more recent Psycho Man story that I quite liked was a re-imagining of the character in the Ultimate Fantastic Four book.  The look and attitude were similar but there was an added dimension to him, and the inclusion of the Silver Surfer as his herald was a neat twist on a classic Marvel tale.  Even though I always liked his look, I didn’t truly appreciate it until I was older and understood Jack Kirby’s role in comics.  Jack Kirby designed the best looking characters, hands down.  It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to do so but I’ve raved about Jack in reviews of other characters he created like Galactus, Darkseid, Mantis, Mr. Miracle and Destroyer.Marv-Psycho man ultimate

This bust is not based on any specific Jack Kirby artwork but it retains a Kirby-esque feel.  The costume is relatively simple but has just enough interesting elements like the circles on the shoulder high gloves and the thick banded belt to make it unique.  The way his fist is clenched at his side makes him look powerful and the way he is looking down, showing his superiority, is perfect.  The face is cold and yet his disgust is palpable with just the right amount of disdain showing on that golden face.  This is a great bust.  The only thing that would make it cooler would be if it had legs, but that would have driven up the price substantially.  As is, this bust which stands about 8 inches tall was priced at $80.Marv-Psycho man-kirby

If you are a regular reader you may recall me mentioning that my beloved Strange Adventures was moving locations at the end of April, and it has.  They have a great new shop on Lower Water Street on the Halifax water front.  However the owner, my friend Cal, still has the lease on the old location.  So for the past month and a half he’s been slowly bringing the product from the old store to the new and in the meantime offering great deals on the stuff still at the old Sackville Street location.  Psycho Man went from an intriguing 30% off to a titillating 50% off in the final days of the old shop.  But still I stood my ground.Marv-Psycho man face

Well after the sale was done and the old shop closed, Cal suggested we get together for a poker game in the shop before the lease was up.  It seemed a wonderful way to say farewell to a store I’ve been visiting weekly for nearly 20 years so I was all for it.  So this past Friday night, myself and 11 others played an epic poker tournament in Strange Adventures.  A pleasant surprise to me was that there was still a bunch of product on the shelves so I could browse around between hands.  Psycho Man remained, no one had scooped him up at 50% off, those fools.  So I asked Cal what was the best he could do on it  and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so now I own a Psycho Man bust.Marv-Psycho man back

For those of you that are curious, I came in third in the poker tournament which meant I took home $100 which isn’t bad considering I was only in for $20.  Neil took home $175 in second place and the winner was my pal Rashad who claimed $275 and will get his name placed on the tournament trophy.  It was an excellent time and I got to explore the back areas of the shop where I had never been before.  I shall very much miss the old Strange Adventures but at least I have this bust that will always remind me of it (not to mention about 5000 other toys and comics purchased there over the years).  9 out of 10.

Rishad-the big winner

Rishad-the big winner