Monthly Archives: August 2013
Arcee was part of the new generation of Transformers that were introduced in the 1986 animated Transformers movie. I’ve talked about the film plenty in older posts when I reviewed other new characters that were introduced in the film such as Cyclonus, Unicron, Kup, Quintesson, and Wheelie, so I won’t rehash it again. But in case you haven’t read those posts or seen the movie basically all of the Transformers from the first few years of the brand were killed off and a bunch of new heroes and villains were introduced to replace them. It was quite jarring at the time and it took a long time for me to embrace the new characters. The comic books published by Dreamwave and IDW have helped me with that. In the comics all of the new and old characters interact together. Even baddies like Galvatron and Scourge are unique characters now instead of being reincarnated versions of old characters as was the case in the animated universe. Once the “new cast” was no longer the “replacement cast” it was a lot easier for me to accept them. Now, some of those next generation (not to be confused with generation 2 ) characters have become favorites of mine.
Back when the movie came out the toys available in stores reflected what we saw on screen. Gone were the race cars and airplanes, replaced by cybertronian spaceships and whatchamacallits. The reason for this was because many of the new characters had never been to Earth and therefore never adopted Earth vehicle alt modes. I never owned too many of the next generation/movie toys as a kid. I had a Sharkticon and Doug had a Rodimus and Wreck-Gar but that was about it. However, if you were a fan of the new characters almost all of them were available in toy form. There was no Unicron figure in the 80s but a transforming planet was kind of tough to pull off so his omission was understandable. The Quintessons were also absent from toy stores, but again, since they were basically just hovering eggs I can imagine that Hasbro didn’t think they’d sell all that well and they were probably right. But there was another omission from the movie based toy line which was much more appalling…Arcee.
It’s not hard to figure out why Arcee didn’t get made, she was a girl, and a pink one at that. But still, as the first and, at the time, only female Transformer I feel that Hasbro could have taken a chance and released a figure of her. Who knows, maybe she would have sold like hot cakes because boys and girls would both have wanted her. I mean, there was one girl in Voltron, one girl in the Smurfs, and probably one girl in plenty of other toy lines geared towards boys, but those characters got made. Hasbro’s other major 80s property, G.I. Joe, had 5 or 6 major female characters by this time. The fact that Arcee never got a toy back in 1987 seems crazy to me.
What’s even more crazy is that to this day we still haven’t got a decent Arcee figure. She’s been released as a spider, and a big clunky car and while they may have got the colors right, those figures were a far cry from the G1 accurate Arcee that fans like myself wanted. Arcee appeared in the second live-action Transformers movie and got a toy based on that but the toy was just as brutal as the flick itself. The Arcee that I have on display on my Transformers shelf is her blue motorcycle version from PRIME. I actually like that figure but I only bought it because it seemed like I would never get a decent, cartoon-accurate one.
I should mention that there have been some nice busts and statues of Arcee released and some cool non-transforming PVC figures as well. But those aside, I think this recently released KRE-O version is the best transforming Arcee toy ever released. Granted, these KRE-O figures don’t actually transform, you need to disassemble them and rebuild them as vehicles, but that’s close enough. I picked up this blind bagged figure along with a handful of others on a recent trip to Toys R Us. Once I got her all snapped together it just reminded me what a crime it is that there are no decent figures available of this character.
I’m always surprised at how well Hasbro is able to capture the unique look of a character in Lego..er…I mean KRE-O form. I’ve built up a decent sized army of KRE-O figures these past few months and each one is unique despite them all having the same basic block body. A simple paint job and a couple of add-on pieces goes a long way in differentiating them. As you can see, Arcee has the basic block body as a base, nothing fancy, but the pink and white color scheme immediately make her identifiable as Arcee. The white helmet isn’t completely accurate to the animated look but it’s a decent approximation and the little red lips really sell it as the lone female Transformer. I like that she’s got dual pistols; I believe she wields them in the IDW books. Her vehicle mode is pretty damn cool when you consider the limitations of such a small block toy. I say hats off to Hasbro for making them “transform” at all. I’m amazed at how many variations they’ve come up with to transform one of these figures into a vehicle or an animal. This is a very cool little figure. A must-have for any Transformer or block collector. 8 out of 10.
I had originally planned to cover the Land Adventurer and his 6 wheeled ATV in a single review but I rambled on so much in my last post that I decided I’d better split it up.
Each of the three Collector’s Club exclusive Adventure Team sets that I acquired recently included one carded figure and one small vehicle. The vehicles were basically loose (taped to some cardboard) inside the wooden crate style outer packaging. I’ve always liked G.I. Joe vehicles but the figures themselves are what held the most appeal to me. As an adult collector I simply don’t have the room for vehicles so I avoid purchasing them whenever I can. That was one of the main reasons why I didn’t purchase these Adventure Team sets sooner. Had they been slightly cheaper and consisted solely of the carded figure then I would have bought them ages ago.
However, now that I have the figures and vehicles in hand I’m quite pleased with them all. The submarine packaged with the Sea Adventurer is pretty neat looking but it’s the one I have the least use for. The helicopter that came with the Air Adventurer is a re-deco’ed Cobra FANG which is sweet as I love that vehicle and I recently discovered that my original ’83 FANG is busted up beyond repair. The Land Adventurer, who was the subject of my last post, came with this stumpy little yellow contraption here, the 6-wheeled All Terrain Vehicle.
This vehicle is supposed to represent the 6 wheeled yellow bathtub that the old 12″ Adventure team used to ride around in. The two vehicles really don’t look much alike other than the fact that they’re both yellow and have 6 wheels, but I’m fine with that. I’m too young to have any nostalgic ties to the original figures but I do appreciate the lengths that the club went to to create homage vehicles. This vehicle was originally called the Battle Blitz when it was released during the new sculpt era in 2003. it was kind of a crappy vehicle then and I passed on it. I assume it was chosen to be re-used for the Adventure team solely because it has 6 wheels thus able to replicate the look of the classic vehicle to some degree.
I actually quite like the result. Painting this crappy hunk of plastic yellow and slapping the Adventure Team logo on the front does it a world of good. I can totally see 8 year old me playing with this thing in my mom’s garden. Sometimes the smallest vehicles can be the most fun.
Other than the spinning wheels this vehicle also has an adjustable antennae in the back and a front blast shield that can be flipped up or down. There are some buttons on it as well but they don’t do anything, they’re just remnants from this mold’s days as the Battle Blitz which had a “sound attack” feature.
One cool thing I discovered about the ATV is that the front opens up and there are two crates full of weapons inside. How cool is that? The Adventure Team can use this bad boy for smuggling operation should they feel so inclined. I really think that this vehicle hits the mark as far as being a fun retro throwback to the 70s. Pretty neat. 5 out of 10.
The G.I. Joe Collector’s Club has existed for several years now but I’ve only been a member for the past two. I was never sure if it was worth my cash before. Monthly newsletters didn’t interest me and their free sign-up figures had failed to impress. It wasn’t until they started their figure subscription service (FSS) that I finally fell in line. Now that I’m a member I can definitely say that it is worth your money if you’re planning on collecting all of their exclusive figures. Since joining two years ago I’ve gotten two free sign-up figures (Footloose and Iceberg), early access to their 15 figure convention sets (Iron Grenadiers and Night Force), and access to their annual 13 figure subscription service. Yes, all of that can get very expensive but if you were to try and track down those 58 exclusive figures on the secondary market you’d easily pay twice as much. Aside from the figures you also get the monthly newsletters which, while not mind-blowing, do provide a nice dose of light entertainment. Another benefit of signing up is that you get discounted prices at the club’s online store. The store doesn’t have a whole lot of product available but it’s where all of the overstock ends up after the FSS and conventions wrap up.
The year before I signed up with the club they released 4 sets of Adventure Team inspired goodness. For those of you not familiar with the Adventure Team, they were basically the last of the original 12” Joe dolls. G.I. Joe was originally conceived as a military toy in the 60s where you would purchase one doll and then you bought multiple outfits to dress him in, kind of like a Barbie. At a time when the military wasn’t so popular (Vietnam) Hasbro rebranded Joe as an adventurer more akin to Indiana Jones. He explored Mayan temples, fought with tigers, and discovered ancient artifacts. That all sounds pretty cool to me but that was before my time. I was born in 1978 and first discovered G.I. Joe in 1982 when the line was reimagined as a collection of 4” figures and vehicles under the banner “Real American Hero”. Joe was now the name of the entire team, not just a single character. I didn’t learn of Joe’s 12” origins until years later. Now, thanks to the internet, documentaries, and magazines I’m quite well versed in the early days of Joe despite being 20 years too young to have experienced it myself.
Back in 1989 I remember thinking that it was pretty cool when Larry Hama, the writer of Marvel’s Joe comic, introduced General Joe Colton into the Real American Hero universe. Colton represented the original Joe; the 12” doll from the 60s. At first he was brought in as a minor character but over the years he’s become a major part of the RAH mythos, currently commanding the team in the IDW comics, and even being portrayed by Bruce Willis in the latest live-action movie.
Of the 4 Adventure Team sets released by the Club, the one featuring the brown haired, bearded soldier dressed all in green was a must-have. The package read “Adventure Team Commander”, not Joe Colton, but I knew that it was him. The Colton pack was the only one of the sets to feature 2 figures while the other 3 featured one figure and a vehicle. The figure packaged with Colton was Dr. Venom, a classic character created by Hama for the comics, who had never been made into a figure before. I viewed them as essential to my collection. I scooped up Joe on the secondary market and Vanessa got me Dr. Venom as a gift.
I always intended to purchase the other 3 Adventure Team sets eventually but just hadn’t gotten around to it. When I joined the club I noticed that all 3 sets were still available in the store. Only the Colton/Venom set was sold out so I obviously wasn’t the only one who felt it held priority over the other sets. Knowing that the sets were available to me at the discounted club price whenever I wanted them was comforting and so I put off purchasing them for quite some time. There was always something else popping up that required my toy-collecting dollars.
Well a couple of weeks ago I got an email from the Club stating that these items were marked down for a summer sale and I decided that now was the time to finally snag them. I ordered all 3 sets and within a week and a half they were at my door.
Each set came in a small box that was designed to look like a wooden crate. I’m not sure if this design was based on the packaging from the 70s but it’s pretty cool regardless. Inside the boxes were the loose vehicles and the carded figures. The figures are displayed on awesome looking retro cards with painted art. I’ve kept both my Joe Colton and Dr. Venom on their cards for display because they’re just so cool looking. I may do the same with one or two of these figures as well but I had to open at least one to review and for that I nominated the “Land Adventurer”.
Seeing all of the figures together I was surprised to see that, other than the paint jobs, they are all exactly the same. The figures are made of the exact same body parts, they all have removable vests as their webgear and they all have identical weapons: a backpack, a rifle, and a pistol. I assumed that each figure would be somewhat unique beyond the color scheme but i was wrong. The Air Adventurer is blonde and the Sea Adventurer is a ginger so they look like unique characters. The Land Adventurer looks similar enough to the Adventure Team Commander (both have brown hair) that they could be the same guy in different outfits, that’s why I opted to open him up. No reason to have too Colton’s trapped in their plastic bubbles. Where the Commander was decked out in solid green the Land Adventurer has a crazy full-body camo outfit. It’s actually a very nice representation of his 12″ 70s counterpart. The body construction used for the Adventure Team isn’t great when compared to some of Hasbro’s more recent product but I think they’re awesome anyway. The “plainness” add to their vintage look so much so that these really seem to be 70s figures shrunk down in size.
I especially like the head sculpt. The hair is textured in such a way that it almost looks flocked. The face has a very neutral expression which also seems to harken back to the original. Each Adventurer has the same scar on his cheek so I assume that must be an initiation thing. If you’re a Joe collector who hasn’t pulled the trigger on these figures yet I highly recommend you do so. They might even still be on sale, go check it out. 8 out of 10.
Regular reader and friend of this site, Sidus Ang, pointed out to me the other day that I’ve been doing a lot of modern Joe figure reviews and he requested that I devote some attention to the new sculpt era of G.I.Joe. The period of time we Joe fans call the “new sculpt era” covers 2002 until 2006/2007. The brand had been pretty much dead since the early 90s when Hasbro decided to take another stab at it in 2002. They experimented a lot with figure construction and character design during those few years and while not all of it was successful I was just happy to have Joe figures back on the shelf.
The release of the modern sculpt/25th anniversary style figures in 2007 marked the end of the new sculpt era. While I wholly embraced the anniversary line I was little saddened at the loss of some of the wacky concepts brought about in the new sculpt days. The new sculpt line embraced the early Real American Hero days but they didn’t just rehash what had come before. The line was equally made up of brand new characters alongside familiar faces, but even the old Joes all had new costumes.
The original Alpine (the Joe team’s mountain trooper) was released in 1985; arguably the brand’s best year. I really liked my ’85 Alpine figure. He had a unique look and a unique specialty. One of the coolest things about him was his accessories. He had a pick axe, a backpack that held the axe, a grappling hook gun, and coolest of all, a set of climbing hooks on a string which he used to repel all over my bedroom. The Joes never would have reached Cobra’s mountain fortress on the top bunk if not for Alpine and his trusty climbing gear. His portrayal in the cartoon went a long way in making him a likable character as well.
This here is the second version of Alpine, released in 2004; 19 years after the original. This figure had pretty big shoes to fill and while he’s not as cool as the original he isn’t too shabby.
One of the new concepts Hasbro tried during the new sculpt era was selling figures in 2-packs. We had seen multi figure packs before but they were few and far between in the 80s and 90s. In the early 2000s 2-packs became the norm. Alpine came packaged with a new type of Cobra Trooper, the Swamp Rat. The Swamp Rats were soldiers who had undergone Dr. Mindbender’s venomization process which combined animal DNA with their own. I would have rather seen Hasbro try a little harder to match-up their 2-pack adversaries. Swamp Rat should have been packaged with Muskrat or Tunnel Rat while Alpine could have come packaged with some sort of half-man/half-mountain goat trooper.
This figure is clearly recognizable as Alpine though he has undergone some major changes. In 1985 he was only sporting a mustache whereas now he has a full beard. His uniform seems to be of a much more casual nature this time around too. He’s wearing a short sleeve shirt, a ball cap, and shorts, which doesn’t strike me as overly military. He’s even ditched his signature goggles. This could practically be a figure of weekend Alpine.
This version’s accessories are okay but not as much fun as the originals. There’s no pick axe to impale Cobras with and no backpack to hold it anyway. The hook on a rope remains, but where the original string had hooks on both ends, Alpine always had something to cling to. This version’s string only has a hook on one end and the other end just dangles . You need to tie the loose end into a knot to make any use of it. One thing I like about this figure over the original is that the rope around his chest is a separate piece which can be removed.
Later in 2004 this figure was repainted in green and brown, to more closely resemble the original 1985 figure. I appreciated the throwback but I actually kind of like the mustard shirt and red shorts of this figure. Alpine version 2 doesn’t suffer from the horrible proportion issues that plagued many new sculpt figures so all-in-all I’d say he’s one of the better figures from the era. 7 out of 10.
This here is Web-Slinging Spider or, as I knew him growing up, Battle Spider. This is one of my favorite Battle Beast figures; top five for sure. And that’s saying a lot because I love so many of the figures from this line. But the reason I love this figure so much isn’t just because he’s cool looking, it’s because of the personality I infused him with.
I don’t recall where or when I got this figure exactly but it was early on in my BB collecting days. He was a wave 1 figure; released in 1986/87. I got him second hand, I know that much because I don’t have his original weapon and I was usually pretty good about holding onto my accessories and remembering which weapon belonged to whom. Had I got this guy brand new he would have come with the large double pronged axe shown in the card art.
When I was a kid I loved getting new action figures, whether it was a Joe, a Transformer, or a Battle Beast, and then integrating them into my established team. I pretty much always knew right away whether a new addition would become a star or a supporting character in my toy universe. Somebody like Shockwave for example was a late addition to my Joe roster, not showing up until 1988, but he quickly became the hero of all my battles; always the last man standing. When it came to Battle Spider I did not spot his star quality right away. I liked him, but he was no more a stand out then say Battle Crab or Battle Snake.
It was actually a pretty simple thing that made me take special notice of this character. Because he was lacking his own weapon I turned to my pile of spares. I tended to arm my defenceless Battle Beast with whatever I had lying around that would pass as a weapon. I remember that Battle Giraffe always wielded Jabba the Hutt’s pipe on the battle field.
I happened to have a duplicate of Battle Snake’s spear but the bottom of it had snapped off. I made the most of my broken weapon by using it to arm two separate beasts. I gave the long part of the spear to Battle Rabbit and Battle Spider ended up with the stubby broken end. The small blade barely poked out of his hand. It looked like a concealed prison shiv. I started building a whole personality around that little broken blade. Spider became a master of close combat fighting. He was Battle Ram’s stealth assassin. He shot up the ranks of my bad guy team so quickly that he soon developed a rivalry with my main good guy, Sly Fox. Fox already had a rivalry with Battle Bat, but where Bat was purely evil, Spider was more of an honorable villain. Spider’s relationship with Fox was more akin to that of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. I imagined Battle Spider to be very intelligent, one-step ahead of everyone else, and he fought for Ram only to further his own agenda.
The figure itself is hella cool. The armour is colored a sort of matte purple and has little in the way of sculpted detail. He’s got one fist, with which he holds his blade, and one open hand. I always imagined him shooting webbing from his open hand like Spider-Man. The face sculpt is deadly and quite frightening. He’s got large mandibles, multiple eyes of varying sizes and then some crazy thing in his mouth. I never quite knew what to make of that mechanical thing on his face but I imagined it as sort of a spy computer that fed him information. It reminds me of the cycloptic red eye found on another one of my favorite purple toys from the 80s. I absolutely love the look of the segmented arms that protrude from his shoulders. All in all this is a great design, with great color choices. Totally kick ass. 10 out of 10.
This is the 5th Cobra Commander figure that I have reviewed for this blog. It’s quite likely that I’m going to start repeating myself when talking about this guy but whatever. Let’s talk for a moment about the character’s origins, there are multiple to choose from. In the 80s Marvel comics the Commander was a disgruntled used car salesman who felt bullied by the government. It’s a humble starting point but a relatable one. What I didn’t care for in the old comic was the Commander’s appearance when he removed his mask. He had a fu-manchu style mustache, round sunglasses and a beret. This first time we saw this look I was under the impression that it was a disguise but he appeared that way in several subsequent appearances so I’m not really sure.
In the cartoons it was revealed that he was actually a blue skinned scientist from the ancient arctic dwelling society of Cobra-La. While I am a big fan of the 1987 animated movie ( which blew my 9 year old mind with this far-out story) the Cobra-La origin never sat well with me.
There have been several more variations of the Commander’s beginnings in the years since but I think the best one so far ( all respect to Mr. Hama) is being told in the comics currently being published by IDW. The IDW Cobra Commander is ruthless and methodical. He fought his way up through the Cobra ranks as Krake. Go buy the “Cobra” series by Mike Costa and Christos Gage if you have not already done so.
This particular Cobra Commander figure is inspired by the live action movie universe. In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, we first meet the man who will be known as Cobra Commander as Baroness’s kid brother, Rex, and later as the disfigured “Doctor”. I was not a fan of this origin story at all. The ties to Duke and Baroness seemed forced and silly. I did enjoy Joseph Gordon Levitt’s over-the-top performance though. It’s not until the end of the movie that the Doctor puts on a crappy mask and declares himself the “Commander”. The costume was brutal but I held out hope that the character would be redeemed in a sequel.
Well this past summer finally brought us that sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The team behind the sequel acknowledged what had come before but quickly moved on and carved their own path for the character. The silly glass mask from ROC was replaced with the iconic silver faceplate. The Cobra Commander we got in Retaliation reminded me a lot of the IDW version which was excellent. This was the Cobra Commander I always wanted to see on screen, I only wish we saw more of him. Hopefully he’ll get more screen time in part three.
When the first wave of Retaliation figures was revealed online oh so long ago I thought this looked like an amazing figure and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on him. But when the figures hit retail the only CC to be found was decked out in solid black. The black figure wasn’t bad looking and was actually more accurate to the Commander’s appearance in the film but I had already fallen in love with the blue one shown in production photos. I later found out that the blue version was released as a short-packed variant figure which meant that for the next year I would be flicking through dozens of peg-warming wave 1 figures in hopes of finding one. Never happened. Well I recently threw in the towel and bought the blue version online.
There isn’t much to say about this figure that I didn’t already say in my review of the black version. The entire sculpt is identical and the weapons are the same too. The only difference is that the costume is now a bright royal blue instead of black. I really do like this blue version but I’ve lived with the black one for so long now that I’m not sure which one I prefer. While neither is exactly film accurate they serve as a close approximation to what appeared on screen. One thing that I really like about this sculpt is that it looks like he’s ready to charge into battle and that he could kick some serious ass. Many CC figures have a more formal, ceremonial feel. I’m fine with the Commander looking fancy when he’s giving orders to his troopers from a podium but it’s nice to see him willing to get his hands dirty every once and a while too. This costume looks militaristic, futuristic, regal, and nostalgic all at the same time. It’s awesome. 9 out of 10.
I don’t think that this is news to anyone but I spend a lot of my disposable income each month on action figures. I currently collect 4 major toy lines, all of which are subject to pricey convention pieces, rarities, and store exclusives. Besides the big four of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Marvel Universe and Masters of the Universe I also collect Beast Saga figures which are exclusively available from Japan plus I buy frequent odds and ends like Pacific Rim or Pop! figures. This leaves little room in my budget to chase down old vintage toys. But every now and again I get the urge to hit up ebay to look for figures from my youth. This usually happens when my brother Doug shows me his latest vintage toy haul and I get envious. Doug doesn’t buy nearly as much current stuff as I do (mostly just Marvel Legends and McFarlane’s Hockey) but recently he’s been completing a bunch of small vintage lines we once collected. He’s been buying lines like Buck Rogers, Dukes of Hazard, and Lone Ranger; and he’s also been filling holes in our old Star Wars, Joe and He-Man collections.
When it comes to G.I. Joe, I still have all of my childhood toys so I don’t have to worry about re-purchasing any of my old favorites. However, Doug and I collected toys in a joint effort when we were kids, each buying half of each new wave. Therefore, my vintage Joe collection is straight up embarrassing because of all of the key characters that I’m missing. Doug had Duke, Flint, Beachhead, Cobra Commander, Zartan, Serpentor, and dozens of other key characters which I don’t have. If there were one vintage toy line that I would like to shift some of my toy collecting dollars towards, it would be my Real American Hero era Joes.
A problem that I have with collecting old toys is they’re either in great shape and very expensive or dirt cheap and all busted up. I’m fine with collecting vintage toys that fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t need the best of the best but I would like to avoid broken limbs and scratched paint. If a figure is missing his guns and has loose knees I can deal with it.
Well I’ve found an online retailer who has vintage figures for sale right in my wheelhouse. They’re missing some accessories but they’re in decent shape and the price is right. I’ve picked up a handful of old Joes from him over the past few months. I usually add one or two oldies to my orders when I’m buying more current merchandise. In my most recent order from this particular retailer (which included the Karnak that I reviewed yesterday) I added this fella to my order; Recoil.
This figure is nearly 25 years old but it doesn’t seem that old to me. Any Joe figure released after I stopped collecting feels “new” to me. The year Recoil was released was the year that Doug and I decided that, for the first time since the line’s inception, we didn’t need to collect all of the figures. I never owned Recoil, never saw him in the cartoons, and don’t recall if he was ever in the comics. The character was never revisited in the new-sculpt or modern era either so I’ve never had the opportunity to get attached to him. And yet, when I saw him for sale for only a couple of bucks he seemed like an obvious purchase. I may not have been as enthusiastic but I was still collecting Joe figures in 1989 and in fact bought most of the figures released that year. I remember consciously passing on Recoil in the department stores, leaving him hanging on the pegs, and for that reason alone I do have a bit of a nostalgic attachment to this character. He blends in well with my vintage collection, unlike the neon ninjas and space men that came out in the years after I stopped collecting completely.
My “new-to-me” Recoil is actually in very good shape. His paint is good and his joints are firm, which is more than I can say for many of my old Joes who are now in pieces. I always found the look of this character a little weird, but not necessarily bad. The digital camo pattern is unique and looks pretty good and the head sculpt is nice as well. I think it’s the hat and glasses combo that make him look a little odd to me. I can’t be the first to point out that he looks like a reject from the band DEVO. Like, is that a ballcap or a helmet? And are those sunglasses or goggles?
My Recoil is missing his weapons so I can’t comment on those but I guess he came packaged with a couple of blue guns, a backpack, and a briefcase. I’ve got bags of extra guns so I’m not too heartbroken about their absence. If anything I’m glad they’re missing because otherwise he’d have been listed as “complete” and probably woulda cost me ten bucks. I may never complete a vintage collection but I think I would at least like to acquire all of the ’89 figures that I passed on. The year I bowed out seems like a good place to start. 7 out of 10.
Today I have for you yet another comic book character created by the brilliant team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. However, even legends can’t create amazing characters every time. Karnak first appeared in issue 45 of the Fantastic Four back in 1965. He is a member of the Inhumans Royal Family, along with Blackbolt, Medusa, Gorgon, Triton and others. The Inhumans are a race of people with amazing abilities with no need for a complicated origins; similar to Kirby’s New Gods and Externals. The Inhumans began as early humans who were experimented on my the alien race known as the Kree. The Kree “mutated” their human captors by exposing them the Terrigan mists, a product of the Terrigan Crystals of course. The mists gave each Inhuman unique abilities. The Kree eventually abandoned their experiment and the Inhumans were left to carry on all on their own. They set up shop on the moon where they try to keep to themselves but they often find themselves dragged into super hero shenanigans.
Karnak was actually never exposed to the Terrigan mists and his abilities are natural. He can pinpoint the weakness in anyone or anything which makes him a very skilled fighter. The Inhumans mostly tend to be associated with the Fantastic Four but they have popped up all over the Marvel Universe over the years. My earliest exposure to Karnak was actually in the pages of Daredevil which was a pretty odd pairing. DD tends to be more of a street level guy, rarely getting involved with moon dwellers but back in the 80s when John Romita Jr. was drawing the book (this was the run that turned me into a diehard JRJr. fan) ol’ hornhead ended up in hell battling Mephisto with the help of Karnak and Gorgon. It was the type of story you might expect to see in the Avengers or Fantastic Four but it was pretty far out stuff for Daredevil.
Since that time I’ve read multiple stories that featured Karnak but none of them have endeared the character to me. Even in the epic Daredevil story, Karnak did little to dazzle or leave an impression. Truth be told, I find Karnak and the rest of the Inhumans pretty boring. They’re the type of characters that I’m glad that they exist because they had density and diversity to the expanse that is the Marvel Universe. I like when Marvel characters interact but I get tired of seeing the same guys (Wolverine and Spider-Man) showing up as guest stars all the time. An appearance by the Inhumans can be a refreshing break from the status quo.
This figure was included in an Inhumans themed 3-pack which also contained the King and Queen of the lunar living people, Blackbolt and Medusa. Those 2 are by far the coolest Inhumans so Karnak was lucky to be included with them as I’m not so sure I would have bought him if he was individually packaged; at least not at full price. In fact I passed on the entire 3-pack when it first came out and bided my time until I found the figures for sale at a discounted price loose online.
This is actually a pretty great figure of this lackluster character. The articulation is plentiful but a little wonky as is often the case with these MU figures. He can be placed in lots of poses but most of them don’t look natural or comfortable. I’m sure that most of the body is made up of reused parts but where this figure shines is in the head and paint job. The head is fantastically sculpted and looks spot on to his comic book appearance. The dark green on white also captures the comic look very well and the metallic green highlights adds some texture. I dig it. 6 out of 10.
Regular readers of this blog and fellow Masters of the Universe fans are probably familiar with the current nature of collecting MOTU figures. Mattel designs a brand new figure each and every month and then sells them exclusively through their website, Mattycollector.com. This is how things have been done since 2008 when Mattel first unveiled their MOTU Classics line of figures. The Classics figures are inspired by all facets of MOTU lore, and there are more facets than you might think.
Of course there’s the original 1980s toy line. Then there’s the 2002 toy line. Each of those lines had corresponding comics and cartoons that the Mattel designers can draw from. There was the oft forgotten “New Adventures of He-Man” cartoon and toy line, and the live-action movie starring Dolph Lundgren. Aside from all of that, the designers have also created figures based on old concept art which had never seen the light of day before. To ensure that the expansion of the line isn’t completely dictated by what has come before, brand new characters are even sprinkled into the mix.
In 2012 Mattel had a 6 figure subset, known as the 30th anniversary series, integrated into the main Classics line. That series consisted completely of brand new characters. That experiment must have been a success as Mattel is trying something similar in the latter half of 2013, introducing another 6 figure subset known as the Filmation series. The characters included in the Filmation series are all characters who appeared in the classic MOTU cartoon produced by Filmation in the 80s but who never received the action figure treatment.
I loved the He-Man cartoon when I was a kid but I haven’t watched it in a long, long time. Years ago I bought the “Best of” box set which contains the top 10 episodes as selected by fans. I really wanted to enjoy them but they were just too silly for me to sit and watch at length. It was then that I decided that the cartoons were better left in my childhood and I passed on buying the complete seasons. For that reason, most of the characters included in the Filmation series are not immediately recognizable to me. When the Filmation figures were first revealed a few months back there was a hint of familiarity in the designs but I could not recall any specifics about the characters. Despite not knowing much about them, a few of the figures stood out immediately as must-buys. Icer here was one of them.
It didn’t much matter to me that Icer was from some old cartoon episode. I hope that there’s some dude out there somewhere who’s been pining for this figure for decades and whose dream has finally come true but that’s not the case with me; I just think he’s cool looking. I’ve welcomed newly created Classics characters like Drageo-Man and Castle Grayskull Man into my collection so why not this guy.
What I love about this figure is how simple it is. It’s very Masters of the Universe in that it’s a simple concept constructed out of mostly reused parts and yet a character that feels wholly unique is created. Icer is a practically naked guy made out of ice who, for some reason, is wearing fur boots, a loin cloth, and the fur trim of a hood. Does he wear these things to keep warm? That doesn’t make any sense. Does he wear them to be fashionable? That actually makes less sense. Whatever the reason for his clothing choices, I approve. A plain naked ice guy would have been kind of boring but the redundant hood and scraps of clothing give him some personality.
The really neat thing about this figure is that he’s cast in translucent blue plastic. It creates a pretty realistic ice effect. It’s not so translucent that you can see right through him but instead the plastic has a cloudy appearance. Light passes through him pretty well though which looks pretty cool. I really like this figure and I think Icer would have been a real hit with kids in the 80s. It’s a shame it took so long to get a figure made of this guy.
Icer includes a gold scepter and a large icicle for accessories. Both suit him pretty well. 9 out of 10.
This is the G.I. Joe team’s Transportable Tactical Battle Platform that was released way back in 1985. I’m not exactly sure why but I never called it that as a kid. This item was always known to me as the “Air/Sea base”. I’m not sure where I picked up that name for it but it must have been used in the cartoon, a commercial, or a department store catalogue or something. I can’t imagine that I would’ve just made it up on my own. The concept behind this platform was that the Joes could airlift it via helicopter and drop it wherever it was needed.
This piece was one of the largest and most impressive toys in my childhood toy collection. My brother Doug owned the Joe’s standard headquarters, the PIT, so it was nice to finally have a base to call my own. The PIT made for an excellent playset but I favored the platform because there seemed to be so much to do on there. On the front two corners are a double barrelled gun turret and a missile launcher equipped with 4 missiles. I always had a Joe manning each of these stations. In the back corner is a retractable hook on a rope which could be employed for multiple things. It could be used to hook a boat to the platform or swung as a weapon but most often it just served as a way for invading Cobra EELs to get onboard. For that reason, a Joe always manned the hook as well. There are two “rooms’ on the platform. The one on the right (with the hook) I suppose was intended as an armory. A removable weapons rack and a small ladder into the room were the only embellishments to the area. The rack could be loaded up with rifles but I never bothered filling it as it was a pain in the butt. I viewed the room more as a lounge where the Joes chilled out between battles.
The other room on the back left is the command center or computer room. This is probably my favorite part of the platform. It’s just a hollowed out boring square like the armory but this one comes to life when you snap on the 4-sided computer terminal which is loaded with sculpted details. On top of the computers, a sloped glass enclosure gets attached. I assume this is done to protect the computers from the elements. A chair placed at the computer terminal and a search light in the back corner finish off the room. My Mainframe figure was always in that chair and somebody else usually manned the searchlight. A thin hallway runs along the back of the platform, connecting the two rooms.
The hallway wasn’t very accessible at playtime because it ran beneath a helicopter platform that connect to the main base via a couple of curved steel girders and a ladder. The helipad greatly increased the surface area of the platform and I usually used it to station more figures as opposed to vehicles. The Joe copters were way too big to sit on the relatively small platform anyway but it worked pretty well with a Sky Hawk.
The platform also had a third and final ladder that attached to the side and lead into what would be the ocean depths. You would think that this would have been the easiest way for Cobra to swarm the platform but I found the weight of a figure usually pulled the ladder out of its slots, so the hook and rope was a studier and safer bet for enemy frogmen.
The last thing to mention are the 4 legs that the platform sits on. Each leg comes in 3 pieces that snap together to make a solid base on which to rest the platform. I loved the two toned look of the legs, I found it added to the realism of the platform. The many stickers go a long way in adding to believability of this item as well.
My air/sea base saw a lot of action when I was a kid. Most of it was on the bedroom floor but this thing also found its way into the yard, the sandbox and the kiddie pool. It was much easier to cart around than the PIT so it became our go-to mobile command center. You can probably see some of the damage that’s been done to it over the years. Mine’s not in too bad a shape but it’s far from mint. The gun and missile platforms are broken and the dock has a busted hinge. However I still have all the pieces and it can still be assembled and it still looks great. There are so many snap on pieces and sculpted details that make this an awesome set.
This will forever be one of my favorite non-figure Joe items. I was pretty stoked to be able to get it in KRE-O form recently and relive the joy of putting it together like I did on that Christmas morning nearly 30 years ago. I only wish I had room to display this set somewhere, it deserves to be seen. 10 out of 10.