Monthly Archives: April 2014
I received a comment on one of my posts the other day from a new reader who told me that he had just discovered my blog and that he spent the last 3 days reading through the whole thing. That was pretty awesome to hear. I have quite a few visitors every day, ranging from 150 to 300 in recent months, but very few ever leave comments. I’d encourage you to say hello and throw in your 2 cents on any one of my reviews. Anyway, my new friend requested that I review a Low Light figure and I aim to please so here we go…
The first Low Light figure was released in 1985, what many consider the golden year of G.I. Joe. Pretty much every figure released in ’85 was a gem and each was very unique. Low Light was the Joe team’s night spotter. His file card stated that after being lost in the woods for 3 weeks as a child “the night belonged to Low Light”. I seem to recall him being kind of a quiet and intense dude in the old cartoons, who spoke as if he were doing his best Christian Bale Batman impression.
My brother Doug owned the original Low Light. I almost always find that the first outfit a character appears in becomes his iconic appearance. New versions may come and go, and some of them may even be great, but characters always tend to go back to their classic duds; just look at Spider-Man. Within G.I. Joe there are a few exceptions to that rule. I think most people find Snake Eyes’ visored version 2 appearance to be his most memorable outfit, and the same goes for the bomber jacket wearing version 2 of General Hawk.
Low Light is probably the Joe who had the most drastic change from one version to the next. The first figure had a gray outfit with some black and red accents. He had curly blonde hair, a knit cap, and big red night-vision goggles. 1989’s version 2 was the exact same mold but painted in blocky green, blue and brown patches as that was the color palette for his new sub-team, Sgt. Slaughter’s Marauders. Version 3 released in 1991 is where things changed dramatically. Low Light received a whole new body with a mesh pattern on the torso. This was fine; dudes change their clothes. What was odd was the new head design. Gone were the iconic red goggles and knit cap (again, normal enough) but so was the curly blonde hair. Low Light version 3 had black hair and a full beard. This seemed really odd to me. Sure, guys grow beards, mine comes and goes on a whim, but fictional characters don’t usually mix things up like that very often. Can you imagine if Captain America decided to grow a mustache? It would just be weird. But even the beard I can get behind. It’s the change in hair color that really seemed weird. Was he compensating for going gray? Was he bleaching his curls when he was a young man? (I used to). I’m not sure if Hasbro was just being lazy or if they consciously thought that the character would benefit from this drastic change in appearance. Regardless, I wasn’t a fan of Low Light’s new look and neither Doug nor I bought into it.
Another bearded version was released in ’93, this one blond, and then he was back to the black beard in 2001. Hasbro was all over the place with this guy. At that point he’d been bearded longer than he had been clean shaven but because he wore his version 1 outfit in the comics and cartoon, and because that’s the only toy version of him Doug and I owned, that remained his signature look in my mind.
And luckily Hasbro finally went back to his original design with this figure, the first and only Low Light released during the new sculpt era. As with many popular characters that Doug owned when we were kids, I didn’t own my first Low Light until the new sculpt years. This version was released in 2006. I actually thought this was a great redesign for Low Light despite the fact that it was just a repaint of a Torpedo figure released in 2003. I never owned that Torpedo so this felt like a brand new figure to me. While the knit cap look was a neat idea for a land-based Torpedo figure (who usually wears a skin-tight diver’s outfit) the mold looked much more like a Low light anyway.
The plain gray uniform, with the addition of a removable black vest with a red shoulder pad, did a good job of replicating the character’s original design. I also like that that this version of Low Light had removable goggles. One really neat aspect of this figure is the map attached to his leg which has some very finely painted detail. Besides the vest and goggles he also came with a rifle with bipod and a pistol. Overall I think this is a really nice figure and it’s a shame he never made it to retail stores. By 2006 the new-sculpt era was winding down and Hasbro was only selling Joe figures direct to consumers through their website. 7 out of 10.
I know I sound like a broken record every time I review one of these Gundam toys but I’ll say it again, I don’t have a whole lot to say about them. Gundam is a property that has been around for decades in Japan but has never really caught on in North America. I’ve never seen an episode of the show. I did buy a DVD copy of the Gundam movie “Endless Waltz” about 15 years ago, around the same time I started buying these toys, but I found it boring and traded it in to Blockbuster. Unlike most of the things I collect (G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers, Star Wars) which are from my childhood, I have no connection to the Gundam mythology.
Mind you, one of my all-time favorite toy lines is Battle Beasts and I knew nothing about their backstory either. The difference being I collected Battle Beasts as a kid and I developed my own stories by playing with them all the time. Gundam figures didn’t come out in the North American mass market until I was in my late teens /early twenties so I never played with them. They were only ever display pieces to me.
Having said that, the Gundam figures by Bandai make for awesome display pieces. I was also buying a lot of McFarlane figures back in those days which were also great display pieces. The big difference between the two is that the Gundams were also amazing toys. McFarlane figures were practically statues and were marketed towards old guys who had no interest in playing with them where as Gundam was aimed at kids. The show had begun airing here in the afternoons but I don’t think it ever really caught with kids in a big way. I find that strange because I would have LOVED Gundam figures when I was a kid. They’e brightly colored, super articulated, have great weapons, and look awesome.
For a couple of years I was collecting them all. Every time they changed up a character even slightly I would go out and buy the latest incarnation. I had so many favorites that it’s tough to choose my absolute favorite, though I was always drawn to Heavy Arms. It’s much easier however to pick my least favorite, and that was this guy, Tallgeese. First off, his name is pretty weak. How can he hope to win kids over with a name like Tallgeese when he’s on a peg next to a toy named Deathscythe Hell. One name conjures up images of the grim reaper and the pits of hades and the other one conjures up images of a lanky water fowl.
Name aside, the figure’s not that bad, he just had the misfortune of being surrounded by so many cooler figures. Most of the other Gundams looked pretty similar to one another so I give Tallgeese points for at least looking original. There are no other Gundams that look like him, other than later versions of Tallgeese himself. But unfortunately it’s not a great look for a giant robot. He’s kind of like Gypsy Danger from Pacific Rim in that regard: bad name, effeminate design.
Let me stop right there for a moment. I wrote the first half of this review at work based on my memories of the figure. It is true that he was always my least favorite Gundam toy. However, I dug out my Gunadam figures to take pictures for this review and I gained a whole new appreciation for Tallgeese. I’m not sure why I wasn’t keen on him for all those years. I actually think he’s pretty awesome now. Sure he has the plumed-helmet-style head but it looks much better than I remembered it. And I recalled his legs being really thin, hence my effeminate comment, but I don’t see that now. Maybe it was his dual pink light sabers, oops, I mean beam sabers that had me remembering him as a tad girly.
This guy is stocked up well with a shield, 2 beam sabers, a huge shoulder mounted rifle, and booster rockets on his back. I actually think he might’ve come with even more accessories but I can’t recall for certain. This figure looks great, is molded in soft durable plastic, has plenty of articulation, and is able to hold most, if not all, of his gear at once. I was all set to give Tallgeese a 5 but he has won me over, 8 out of 10.
I’ve been very impressed by most of the Transformer toys produced by third party companies in the past couple of years. I’ve been collecting third party renditions of many of the small and mid-sized characters. My toy of the year for 2012 was iGears’ version of the insecticon Bombshell, whom they called Stormbomb, and last year iGears’ version of Gears (Cogz) took my number two spot. I wish I could collect more of them, especially the larger figures such as the combiners and dinobots but they’re just too damn expensive. On average the larger third party figures cost somewhere between $100 and $200. Even the smaller guys that I purchase are priced pretty steeply between $40 and $60. It makes for a very expensive hobby.
It’s not at all uncommon in toy collecting to buy a figure only to have a new and improved version come out a few months, or maybe years, later. This is why I have over 20 Snake Eyes figures. It can be annoying but it comes with the territory and it’s really not that big a deal when you’re talking about $10 G.I. Joe figures. What really frustrates me is shelling out big bucks for one of these third party figures only to have another third party company produce something better right afterwards. This seems to happen more often than not these days as if the companies are directly competing with one another. It’s the main reason why I haven’t splurged on any larger third party figures. There are often multiple versions of a character out there and I want to wait and make sure I get the very best one. Even the iGear versions of Gears and Swerve that I loved so much have potentially been topped by new versions from MakeToys. I don’t have them in hand yet to compare but they’re in the mail now.
One of my childhood Transformers that I most regret getting rid of is my Sharkticon. It’s actually kind of a weird character for me to have taken such a liking to. The Sharkticons were introduced in the 1986 animated Transformers movies alongside characters like Kup, Wheelie, Cyclonus, and Unicron. As I stated in my reviews of those figures, the movie kind of rubbed me the wrong way at the time. All of the characters we knew and loved (Optimus Prime, Megatron, etc.) were killed off and replaced with new characters. I didn’t care for the sci-fi look of the new characters and I was a little bitter about how many of my favorites characters were wiped out so unceremoniously.
I hardly collected any Transformers figures based on the movie and the later seasons of the cartoon. The only figure I owned of a character introduced in the movie was the Sharkticon. The Sharkticons were dumb brutes who didn’t speak. Newly introduced baddies, the Quintessons, would feed prisoners to the Sharkticons if found guilty of their crimes. The Sharkticons didn’t really look like sharks, seeing as they were round and had arms and legs, but I guess they got their name based on their giant mouths full of multiple rows of teeth. In their “shark” mode I thought they made for a cool looking monster, and I love me a good monster. This is why the Sharkticon was one of the last, if not the last, Transformer toy I purchased before walking away from the brand.
Now I liked the original Sharkticon toy but it suffered from the same issue that many old Transformers toys did, in that it failed to capture the look of the character from the cartoon. Sharkticon translated better than most but the original toy was short and fat, and almost cute in his robot mode.
The Shark mode was much better which is why I kept mine in Shark mode 90% of the time. It’s been nearly 30 years since Hasbro released that original Sharkticon and it’s about damn time somebody updated the thing. Within weeks of one another, both iGear and MakeToys announced they’d be releasing a 3 pack of Sharkticons in 2014. Had they been selling them as singles I probably would’ve pre-ordered one from each company but since 3 packs were my only option (which upped the price considerably) I had to choose one or the other. I went with iGear based on their track record.
Well, my iGear Sharticons, called the Shark Attack Squad, showed up in the mail the other day. I was quite surprised at how large the box was. There was really no need for that much packaging since the figures themselves aren’t very big but there was some nice original art on the box. On the back were bios of the 3 characters whom iGear has named Quint, Hooper, and Brody,as a little wink to the movie JAWS. The three toys are nearly identical except they have slightly different face sculpts when in robot mode (one is scowling, one is smiling, and one is missing an eye) and they each have three bars on their chest which are painted different colors. Each figure came with a pistol, a rifle, and a mace which serves as his tail when in shark mode.
I was a little skeptical about the quality at first as the first one I took out of the box felt a little loose and his shoulder pad immediately popped off but after fiddling around with them I’m confident in the quality of these toys. The shoulder pads are flimsy on all of them but thats my only real complaint. The colors look great. They’re very screen accurate and iGear has done away with the pink of the original toy. The multiple rows of teeth are painted a nice metallic grey though I do miss the vac metal look of the original. These Sharkticons aren’t nearly as round as the original toy. The robots look bulky but not fat. Their faces are obscured by the teeth a little more than I’d like them to be but it’s not a major issue. There’s a full range of motion and they can be displayed in multiple poses.
The shark modes look amazing. I love the big translucent yellow eyes. These guys look creepy. Their arms, legs, and antennae are all ball jointed and the jaw can be opened nice and wide. This is another big success for iGear. The price was even quite reasonable considering that 3 figures were included. I may pick up a single MakeToys Sharkticon on ebay one day if the price is right but I’ll be content if these are the last Sharkticons I ever buy. 9 out of 10.
Buck Rogers is a character that’s been around since the 1920s (almost 100 years!). He’s one of those pulp style heroes whose been engrained in my psyche since before I can remember. Like the Lone Ranger and Tarzan, I was first introduced to Buck Rogers as a baby. There have been many different versions of Buck over the past century but the version I’m most familiar with is from the TV show “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” which aired from 1979 to 1981. I was born in 1978 so I would’ve been about 3 when the show was cancelled. I barely remember it but the fact that I remember it at all leads me to assume that it must have been syndicated for a few years afterwards.
My brother Doug owned a figure of Buck Rogers himself, based on the show. The figure was rather bland looking as Buck was wearing a solid white body suit. He’s worn many things in his long history but that white jumpsuit will forever be, to me, his primary look. The figure was articulated pretty much the same as a G.I. Joe figure; that is to say, with multiple points of articulation (far superior to the Star Wars figures of the day). Doug also had a figure of Tiger Man who was a villain from the series. Tiger Man was not as cool as he sounds. He was just some bald dude with a mustache and tiger striped underwear over his pants. I remember the elastic washer inside him, which held him together, broke and he ended up in the old cigarette tin where we kept all of our fallen soldiers. Dad was sometimes able to fix figures for us by swapping parts like some kit-bashing pioneer. For example, my version 1 Snake Eyes from 1982 lost both of his thumbs so Dad swapped his arms out for some spare Cobra Commander arms we had laying around for some reason and painted them black with model paint. To the untrained eye you’d never know the difference. I’m not sure why Doug ever allowed me to do this but I painted his broken Tiger Man solid black at one point, gave him a new washer, and turned him into a custom black-costume Spider-Man. In order to get Spider’s face smooth enough to be passable I took the helmet from a CHIPS figure, placed it on Tiger Man’s head backwards and painted in black with large white eyes. It was a horrible custom but that’s what you had to do back in the 80s when there were no Marvel toys. (anyway, sorry I ruined your Tiger Man Doug)
The only figure I owned from the Buck Rogers toyline was Twiki, Buck’s robot sidekick. Twiki was an odd looking little fellow. He was child sized (played by a Midget in the show) and his head was sculpted in such a way that it resembled a kid with a pageboy haircut. He kind of looked like a robotic “My Buddy” doll. Or perhaps like the lovechild of C-3PO and R2-D2. Twiki was definitely not cool but I really liked him. I was practically an infant at the time so give me a break. I always seemed to gravitate towards the cute sidekicks on these type of shows. Remember my review of Daggit from Battlestar Galactica? And then there was B.O.B. from the Black Hole…
I always really liked that old Twiki figure and I shoehorned him into as many play scenarios as I could. It’s not like I could just play “Buck Rogers” with only 1 toy. But sadly Twiki was a yard sale casualty of my early teens. I kept all my Joes and Battle Beasts but I cleaned house on most everything else. It wasn’t long after that I regretted it. Some of the old toys I missed the most were the odds and ends like Twiki.
Doug has helped me over the years reacquire some of those old toys such as Tenticus and this Land Speed Racer but with Twiki I took the initiative to track him down all by myself. It’s mostly been since I started this blog a couple years ago that I’ve really been driven to hunt down some of my old favorites. This Twiki cost me about $25 on ebay I think. It may seem like a lot, especially considering that I probably sold mine for a quarter, but I actually thought it was a pretty good deal. Many of the old toys I once owned now sell for three digits online.
This Twiki figure is in way better shape than the one I had as a kid. His joints are tight and the sticker on his chest (which is actually a whole other robot) looks brand new. Somebody took really good care of this guy. The sculpt is surprisingly detailed. This really does blow any 80s Star Wars figure out of the water in terms of quality and likeness. The little skirt, the ridged arms, even the stupid metal haircut all look great. I’m very happy to have Twiki back in my collection. I may focus my next vintage toy hunt on B.O.B. but before I do that maybe I should look into replacing Doug’s Tiger Man. 8 out of 10.
I’ve been a Marvel comics zombie since I was 8 years old. I also loved action figures back then. Not a whole lot has changed in the past 28 years. The sucky thing about being a Marvel comic/toy fan in the 1980s was that there were hardly any Marvel toys to be had. There were always Spider-Man’s available in one form or another and there was the Secret Wars toy line in 1984 but it wasn’t very expansive. As a kid I wanted a Marvel toy line that encompassed every obscure corner of the Marvel universe. My brother Doug and I filled the void by making hundreds (no joke) of paper dolls of Marvel characters.
It wasn’t until Spider-Man and the X-Men got new animated series’ in the 90s that a toy company, Toy Biz, finally stepped up to the challenge of creating a Marvel toy line that included more than just the 10 most popular characters. As more Marvel cartoons sprung up Toy Biz was there to put out a corresponding toy line for each one. Over the course of a few years I was collecting Toy Biz figures like crazy. I collected Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the Avengers. It was crazy that there were practically no Marvel figures in the 80s then suddenly in the 90s I was getting figures of characters like Swarm.
Those 90s Toy Biz figures weren’t perfect but I liked them a lot. When they transitioned from the colorful animated 5” style I had been collecting to a new, darker, uber-articulated, 6” style dubbed Marvel Legends I jumped ship. The Legends figures were actually too articulated for my liking. They were so riddled with joints that they ended up looking really gimpy and they were hard to pose in neutral positions. It’s easy to hide joints on characters like Iron Man but most super heroes wear spandex and unitards don’t look so good when broken up with multiple joints. I retired from Marvel toy collecting and focused my attention on other lines. Doug, however, who had never collected the Toy Biz stuff really took to the Legends figures and has accumulated a very impressive Legends collection over the years.
Years went by without me buying any Marvel figures but then Hasbro launched their 3 3/4” line dubbed Marvel Universe in 2009. I wasn’t sold on the idea right away but there was something appealing about Marvel figures in the same scale as my G. I. Joe and Star Wars figures. When I finally caved and bought one (Red Hulk) I got hooked and before long I was buying them all. I was excited to be collecting Marvel toys again and I loved that this new line wasn’t focused on any one property like Spider-Man or X-Men. This was a universe wide line so Hasbro could put out figures of any character under the sun. I love getting toys of obscure Marvel characters like Winter Soldier (no longer obscure) and Rocket Raccoon (who won’t be obscure for long). I’m super stoked about the upcoming Death’s Head figure; they don’t get much more obscure than that.
Doug was pretty bummed when Hasbro shifted their focus from the Legends line he’d been collecting to the smaller Universe figures. The Universe line has flourished for the past 5 years but it now seems to be my turn to be bummed as the trend has reversed. The release of Universe figures has slowed while Marvel Legends figures have burst back onto the scene in a big way. Not only is the generic Legends line back but there are also brand specific Legends lines which tie-into the current crop of Marvel movies. I’ve been really been impressed with the look of many of the modern Legends figures. Most of the wonky joint issues of the early years seem to have been resolved and the figures actually look really nice. I was tempted to pick up a couple myself but resisted the urge. I knew the dangers of buying 1 or 2 . The last thing I needed was to start a collection of Marvel figures in a third scale.
But then I saw this Black Cat and I caved. Black Cat has been one of my favorite Marvel characters since the beginning. She beat Sabertooth to a bloody pulp in the first comic book I ever bought and she’s had her claws in me ever since.
I was very happy to get my first ever Black Cat figure when Toy Biz produced one in their 90s Spider-Man line. The articulation was limited and she was oddly short in stature but it was a nicely sculpted figure. My next Black Cat figure was produced my Marvel Select and it was a beauty. It was based on the artwork of Terry Dobson who can draw Felicia like no other. The sculpt was fantastic and it came with an elaborate display base and accessories. The only issue was its almost complete lack of articulation. It was clearly intended as a display piece and not a toy to be played with. That was fine with me as my figures are generally for display only.
As great as the Select figure was I would still have bought a 3 ¾” Black Cat figure had they made one so that she could be displayed with the rest of my Marvel Universe collection. However, the Select figure had me confident that I would never need to purchase another Black Cat figure in the larger scale. But when I saw this Legends version in Walmart the other week I simply couldn’t resist her.
This figure has a fantastic sculpt. The face is feminine and pretty and the hair is very well done. It doesn’t appear to be based on any particular artist’s rendition of the character but instead has a nice generic look that doesn’t tie her to any one specific storyline or time period. She has plenty of articulation and unlike my previous two Cat figures can be posed in multiple ways fitting of someone with catlike agility. Even though she is wearing a solid black unitard the joints are designed well enough so that they don’t ruin the visual appeal of the figure. She includes a bendy whip as well as the torso of the build-a-figure Ultimate Green Goblin which you can complete if you buy all of the figures in the wave.
Once I got this figure home and opened it up I liked it so much that I went back to Walmart the next day and bought 3 more Legends figures. I’m so predictable. 10 out of 10.
Happening in Texas right now is the 2014 G.I. Joe Convention. The annual con lasts an entire weekend and consists of a sales floor along with multiple panels and activities. I’ve never been but I think I’d like to check it out sometime. I’ve attended the last 2 Hal-Cons, which is the local sci-fi/comic convention here in Halifax, and I’ve had a good time. I never had much interest in attending a con before but I decided to give it a shot when Larry Hama was announced as a guest at the 2012 Hal Con. Mr. Hama played a very large role in creating the G.I. Joe brand that I love dearly. It was a real treat to get to talk to him, hear his stories, and even get an original sketch.
Now even though I’ve never personally attended a Joe Con, it still makes for an exciting weekend. I check the Joe news sites regularly to catch all the latest info and gossip. Just an hour or two ago the Collector’s Club announced their line-up for their upcoming Figure Subscription Service 3.0. I’ve subscribed to the FSS the past 2 years and have been very pleased with the figures produced by the club. I’ve really been looking forward to the series 3 announcement. Now that we officially know who’s included I figured I’d throw in my 2 cents on the line-up just like I did when last year’s FSS was announced. (All these pics were borrowed from YoJoe.com).
Alpine, the Joe team’s mountain trooper. I already have a modern style Alpine that I’m quite happy with so the inclusion of this figure doesn’t excite me much. This one apparently will be modeled after Alpine’s new-sculpt design. I previously reviewed the new-sculpt Alpine which I dubbed “weekend Alpine” because of his civilian attire. I like the look just fine but I’m not thrilled about paying a premium price for it.
Bombstrike. This is the figure I’m most excited about. Bombstrike is a relatively new character created during the new-sculpt years. She is the sister of the Joe team’s Barrel Roll and Cobra’s Blackout; both of whom were included in the first FSS. I assumed Bombstrike was a shoe-in to be included in the second FSS and was genuinely surprised when she was omitted. I’m very happy to finally be getting the third Stall sibling. Better late than never.
Psyche Out. Last years convention box set was night force themed. It was a must-buy for me because it included the first ever modern style releases of many key Joes, Psyche Out being one of them. I was stoked to get so many great characters but was a little disappointed that they were all painted in their night force colors. I would’ve preferred they had paint jobs to match their iconic original versions. It’ll be nice to get Psyche Out in his classice green and red outfit.
Repeater was another Joe who got his first ever modern figure in the Night Force box set. Again, I guess it will be cool to get him in his classic colors. Last years version was a big solid imposing figure, very cool.
Muskrat. Yet another character who first appeared in last years night force set. Again, it’ll be nice to get him in his original colors but I’m not thrilled to see so many repeat characters from last year. Sure, I wanted these characters in their classic colors and I knew it was a safe bet that the Club would produce them eventually but I would’ve rather seen them spaced out over the next 2 subscription services and con sets.
Spearhead. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here but Spearhead was another figure from the night force set who we’re now getting in his original colors. The difference here is that Spearhead was a favorite Joe of mine as a kid and I REALLY want a version of him in his classic orange outfit. I liked the night force version quite a bit and I’m sure it will look great repainted.
Hit & Run. Also included in the night force set. What’s different about this one is we already had a classically colored Hit & Run prior to the box sets release. This new version is “new and improved” and I know some fans are excited about it but I was fine with my 2009 Hit & Run. This figure seems pretty redundant to me.
Big Ben. Finally another figure to get excited about. Not that I care about Big Ben all that much but at least he’ll make for a new character on my shelf. Ben has never been released in the modern style before. I never owned the original or any subsequent versions of him so this shall be my first. Let’s hope he’s as nice a surprise as Topside and Sure Fire were.
Crimson Guard Immortal. This guy should be pretty cool. He’s the only troop builder in FSS 3.0 so I’m sure he’ll one of the most sought after. I never owned the original 1991 CGI but I’m a big fan of the Crimson Guard in general. I’m looking forward to displaying this guy with Tomax, Xamot and my other CeeGees. A likely highlight of this series.
Slice. His buddy Dice was included in the first FSS so this was another no-brainer. As with Bombstrike, I was surprised that this guy didn’t show up in FSS 2.0. He’s an easy enough figure to produce on the cheap; just take a red ninja and slap the fencing mask that was included with Retaliation Storm Shadow in him. I actually have a make shift Slice on my shelf using that formula. Apparently this version will have a newly sculpted head.
Night Creeper Leader. Never had this guy when I was a kid either, he came out after my time. But he’s a unique character and I’m more than happy to welcome him into my collection. The design is a little goofy but so what. Bring him on. Another potential highlight.
Vypra. Another unique character who I’ve never owned before. The 1998 original was just a version 1 Jinx figure repainted black. I imagine that’s what this one will be as well, a repainted version 4 Jinx. This will be a cheap figure for the Club to produce and I think she’ll make a cool addition to my Cobra forces. A highlight.
So those are the 12 figures to be included in next years FSS. Though, as with with previous years, there will be a mystery 13th figure, the identity of which the Club does not reveal in advance. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that we might get a Golobulus which would be awesome. It seemed unlikely before because his snake body would require alot of costly new tooling. But, Boss Fight Studios, who do a lot of the original sculpting for the Club, revealed their upcoming Medusa figure for a separate toy line this weekend. Her serpentine sculpting is perfect for Golobulus and given the relationship between the Club and Boss Fight I’d guess this is inevitable even if it’s not as part of the FSS.
Lastly, the Club announced their 2015 membership figure which you get for free when you renew your annual membership in the fan club; Arctic Dr. Mindbender. It’s a weird and somewhat disappointing choice but it solidifies my belief that Golobulus is forthcoming. Mindbender wore Arctic gear when he visited Cobra-La in the 1987 Joe movie which introduced Golobulus.
They also announced they would have a repainted SHARC available in the club store that will include a modern style Sub-Viper. I have no need for a pricey SHARC repaint but will probably buy it if the Sub Viper is well done.
So there you have it. I’m not sure how I feel about this years line-up. I wish there were more unique characters and fewer repaints but at least the repaints are ones fans have been asking for. Overall I think it’s pretty promising.
My March purchases from Matty Collector.com arrived in the mail the other day. The new figure being offered last month was Hydron. Never heard of him? Me neither. This guy first saw the light of day during the New Adventures of He-Man years. In between the original MOTU stuff that I grew up with in the early 1980s and the super cool MOTU revival of the 2000s came the New Adventures. Oh 1990s, you gave us some great music but you failed us in the cartoon and toys department.
The New Adventures of He-Man was a continuation/reboot of the original series. It featured He-Man and Skeletor with new designs and new associates battling it out in outer space. I can’t say with certainty that it sucked because I never watched it but it looked like it sucked. Most of the toy lines and cartoons I loved as a kid morphed into crap in the 90s. Instead of Evil Warriors like Mer-Man and Beastman, Skeletor had a team of Space Mutants like Optikk and Slushhead. And instead of Masters of the Universe like Stratos and Moss Man, He-Man hung out with Galactic Warriors like Icarus and Hydron. The rebooted show and toy line didn’t last very long and I was too old to care by then so I have zero attachment to any of the Space Mutants or Galactic Heroes.
Even though the He-Man of the 1990s wasn’t my cup of tea I’m glad to see that particular era is covered by the Masters of the Universe Classics line. The Classics line gives us toys of characters from every corner of the MOTU mythology; from the old cartoon, the new cartoon, the mini-comics, unproduced prototypes, concept art, the live action movie, and yes, even the lame New Adventures. I’ve passed on a few of the New Adventures figures such as Karatti and Icarus, but I have purchased a couple that struck me as kinda cool looking such as Optikk and Slushhead.
Hydron would have been a figure I’d have passed on had he been the only figure available in March. I know nothing about him, have no nostalgic connection to him, and I generally don’t care much for the straight-up human characters. However, Mattel also made Fang Man available again in March. Fang Man is a character who appeared in one episode of the old Filmmation cartoon and I wanted his figure the first time it was released last year but it sold out too quickly. Since I was gonna be paying shipping charges on my 2nd chance Fang Man anyway I figured I might as well go ahead and throw Hydron into my “cart” as well.
I don’t think there’s been a single figure released in the Classics line that I don’t like. Some are definitely better than others but each brings something to the table. The main thing that deters me from buying certain characters is the price. I would love to have a complete collection someday which is why I pick up characters like Hydron here when the opportunity to save a few bucks presents itself.
Now that I have him in hand I actually quite like Hydron, in part, because he’s so ridiculous. The bio on the back of the card describes him as a space sea commander so his design, obviously, teeters somewhere between deep sea diver and astronaut. A deep sea diving astronaut is a dumb idea and that’s what makes it great. These off-the-wall characters and ideas is what makes the Masters of the Universe such a fun line. Having a crab man and a skeleton battle a bee man and a robot with swords and lasers on a world where they ride tigers and spaceships makes no sense whatsoever and thats why it’s f**king awesome. If this Hydron figure had existed when I was a kid I probably would’ve had a ton of fun with him. He could’ve done battle with Mer-Man in the bathtub.
Like all MOTUC figures, Hydron is big, colorful, and durable. It seems a really crime that these figures aren’t readily available in stores where kids could see them. I can totally see my nephews having a blast with this flipper wearing spaceman. His clear helmet has a cool sleek design and is removable. The red breathing apparatus on his face is unfortunately molded in place though. Hydron came with one accessory; a really stupid looking trident/gun thing. It’s true to the original toy’s weapon but I wish Mattel had given him something cooler this time around.
This is the last figure I need to review from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s second Figure Subscription Service (FSS). I normally try to review these figures as they show up in the mail but Tollbooth arrived around the time that I was moving apartments and so his review got put on the back burner.
The first and only other Tollbooth figure was released back in 1985. He came packaged with the bridge layer vehicle. The first series of Joe figures from 1982 featured mostly standard looking soldiers in realistic green uniforms. By 1985 the Joe roster was already filled with an array of brightly colored and diverse characters such as frogmen, flamethrower troopers, marines with open jackets and chest tattoos, and Native American trackers with eagle sidekicks. A figure dressed in a dull green shirt and brown slacks with nothing more than an orange hardhat as his calling card might have made an impact had he been released in that first year but by 1985 he was practically invisible. Not only was the original figure dressed blandly but the sculpt of the face made him look bored. His helmet was slumped to one side and he looked like he just didn’t care. Tollbooth was one of my least favorite Joes from those early years. Even his vehicle was useless most of the time; a tank with a retractable bridge instead of a cannon. You had to go out of your way to create situations where Tollbooth and his Bridge Layer were necessary.
My brother Doug owned that original Tollbooth and I was fine with that. I don’t recall him ever doing anything spectacular during our many epic battles. He was usually one of Doug’s first casualties.
I wasn’t exactly dying to get a new Tollbooth but nostalgia is a funny thing. I have grown to love or at least appreciate every Joe figure from my youth. As the modern toy line has carried on (7 years now, crazy), and more and more characters received modern styled updates, the more Tollbooth’s absence was felt. I’d love to see Hasbro and the Club eventually produce updates of every character from the Real American Hero (RAH) years of 1982-1994 but I’d like them to focus on the oldies first. Tollbooth is one of the last characters from the first three years of the RAH line to get an update.
If I was a kid I probably still wouldn’t care much for this figure, but as a nostalgic collector I love it. This figure does exactly want I want my modern Joe figures to do, remind me of the original toy but also blow the old one out of the water. This Tollbooth looks fantastic and completely surpasses the original in every way and yet it is completely reminiscent of that ’85 figure. All of the elements are there: green shirt, brown slacks, and orange hardhat. Only this version has far more detail and a bunch of neat accessories.
The best thing about this figure is his face. It’s a newly sculpted piece and it has a ton of personality. Tollbooth looks like an old curmudgeon and that’s exactly how I always pictured him. He looks like he would begrudgingly head out to the battlefield, dig a trench or lay a bridge or whatever was needed of him, and then go back to the barracks for a nap. The head leans forward a bit more than it should which would bother me on another figure but a slight hunch suits Tollbooth.
For accessories Tollbooth has a bunch of random stuff we’ve seen packaged with other figures before, but it seems to make sense when packaged with him. He’s got a sledgehammer, a pick axe, some coiled barbwire, and pylons. Guy stuff. The kind of stuff I imagine my uncle Ken lugs around with him everywhere he goes.
Tollbooth was a major highlight of the second FSS for me. With the Club stepping up to fill in important omissions from the modern line such as Tollbooth here and Cover Girl from the first FSS let’s hope it means we’ll see guys like Fast Draw and Sneak Peek in FSS 3.0. If I had this blog as a kid I probably would’ve given Tollbooth a 1 or 2. But grown up me has much more of an appreciation for the vital work of this combat engineer, 8 out of 10.
I’m a big South Park fan. I haven’t watched the episodes on TV for years because I prefer to buy the seasons on DVD/Bluray and watch them from start to finish. It’s a practice I started back in the day, before DVRs, to ensure that I would see every episode in order. Nowadays I would just as soon record them and be done with it but I just can’t stop buying them now because I already own like 18 sets. The collector side of me would lose sleep at night if I didn’t see this through until the end. Who would’ve ever imagined the show would run for this long? The thing is, after I watch a season I file it away on my shelf and there it stays. Very rarely do I grab a set and watch a random episode. Most episodes I’ve only ever seen once. The episode featuring Starvin’ Marvin aired back in 1997. I believe I only ever saw it the one time. The first season episodes are especially unappealing to go back and re-watch due to the inferior animation quality. Truthfully I barely remember this character. I remember the episode being mildly funny but nothing extraordinary. I mostly bought this figure a few years back because I thought it was funny looking. I already owned figures of the 4 main characters and a few minor ones and I thought Marvin would be a nice addition to the display. Unfortunately his legs were so scrawny that he couldn’t stand up on his own so for years I stowed him away in a box with a bunch of crappy accessories while my other South Park figures were on display for all to enjoy.
I hauled Marvin out a few months ago to take this picture for the blog. I actually managed to get him to stand up somehow so I decided to display him with the others for the first time. A certain ex-girlfriend of mine promptly bumped into the shelf, knocked Marvin to the floor, and broke his leg off. So now I have a crappy broken Starvin’ Marvin figure and he’s back in the bin of accessories where he will likely never see the light of day again. The limbs on this figure are far too skinny to attempt to crazy glue it back together. So this was a nice looking figure but not very practical for diasplay or play. I’m sure a kid would’ve snapped all his limbs off within minutes. I shoulda left him in the bin. I don’t really have much else to say about the character or the toy. 3 out of 10.
One of the movies I was most excited about seeing last summer was Pacific Rim. Not only was it a monster movie inspired by Godzilla and similar Japanese Kaiju films, but it was directed by Guillermo del Toro who has directed great pictures like Hellboy, Blade 2, and Pan’s Labyrinth. Del Toro has a unique visual style and is a good storyteller so I figured we’d be treated to a monster movie like no other, a big-budget cinematic tour-de-force as opposed to the B-movie schlock we monster fans usually get.
I liked it, probably even more so upon my second viewing, but I was initially a bit disappointed by it. The monsters looked great but they were usually shown in the dark of night or underwater or both and it was often hard to decipher the details of their designs. I really wasn’t a fan of the robot/jaeger designs, especially the hero, Gypsy Danger. Plus I found the story dragged in parts and suffered from poor/over acting. Having said all that, the monster vs robot fights were awesome and that’s primarily what I was there to see. There hasn’t been much talk of a sequel but I hope we get one so Guillermo has a chance to improve on the first. Pacific Rim is a franchise with a ton of potential.
Prior to their release I was just as excited about collecting the Pacific Rim action figures as I was about seeing the movie. But like the movie my initial reaction to the toys was underwhelment (if that’s a word, I know it’s not ‘cause I looked it up). The first series of figures consisted of one monster, Knifehead, and 2 robots. I always knew that I’d collect all of the monsters but I was on the fence about the robots right up until the figures were released because as I stated, I didn’t love the designs. When the toys arrived at Strange Adventures I was disappointed by their size, their lack of articulation, their shoddy paint jobs, and their high price tag. The splotchy paint apps on the robots insured that I wouldn’t be purchasing any of them. I did buy Knifehead but I definitely felt ripped off having paid thirty bucks for him.
I was hoping for big new monster toys that I could display next to my King Kong and Godzilla figures but size-wise Knifehead didn’t come close to measuring up. The sculpting on the figure was decent but it only had a few points (9) of articulation which really limited his posing possibilities. I was glad to have him, as he was my favorite monster in the film, but I questioned whether I would buy any future releases.
The second series featured two more robots and one more monster, Leatherback. Leatherback was larger than Knifehead, his paintjob was much more-eye catching, he had increased articulation (over 20 joints), and he had a completely unique design. Buying him was a no-brainer.
When the wave three monster figure was revealed, Trespasser, I was bummed to see that NECA had reused Knifehead’s body. The only apparent difference between Trespasser and Knifehead was a newly sculpted head. This meant that all of the improvements seen on Leatherback would be undone. I was quite sure that I would not purchase Trespasser once he showed up in stores.
But then of course he showed up in stores and I had to have him. This Trespasser figure is WAY better than my Knifehead figure. The online images were deceiving. While this figure as the same basic body design as Knifehead (the monsters are all clones so it makes sense they’d share features) it’s an entirely new sculpt. This figure is substantially bigger, probably by 2 inches, that he ends up being even larger than the bulky Leatherback (he’s still not big enough to go toe to toe with my Godzilla or Zilla figures but it’s a good size). This new body sculpt features 19 points of articulation, superior sculpting, and an excellent paint job. Like Knifehead, Trespasser also has a flexible tail and a shell on his back. Trespasser’s shell is much bigger and really adds some bulk to the figure. The jaw opens and closes and he looks great either way. This dude has the freakiest face of all the figures released thus far. While I was lukewarm on Knifehead I can wholeheartedly reccomend this figure. Best of all, NECA has released a new and improved “battle damaged” version of Knifehead in this improved scaleso get ’em both. 8 out of 10.