Monthly Archives: May 2014
I recently wrapped up my reviews of the 2014 G.I. Joe Convention Set figures. Each year the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club hosts a convention and each year they release a box set of figures available exclusively to Con attendees and online Club members. I have purchased the sets for the past 3 years. The 2012 Oktober Guard themed set “Operation Bear Trap” was my first, followed by 2013’s Night Force themed set “Nocturnal Fire”. Both were excellent sets but I only got around to reviewing a figure or two from each one. With 2014’s “Zombie Initiative” set I decided to review all of the figures right away, over the span of about 2 weeks. After that flurry or reviews I was a little burnt out on writing about action figures, especially G.I. Joes. I intended to take a little break from Joes but then a reader suggested that I finish my reviews of the previous 2 box sets, especially the Nocturnal Fire set. His reasoning was that many of the figures from that set (5 of them) are being re-released with new paint decos as part of the Club’s upcoming Figure Subscription Service 3.0; which you’d know if you read my Convention News post. He suggested a review of those figures would be helpful to people on the fence about buying the upcoming repaints. I’m always happy to oblige a reader so here we go…
The 5 figures slated to get new paint jobs are Repeater, Muskrat, Psyche Out, Hit & Run, and Spearhead. All of those characters were originally released in 1987/88 and then rereleased in darker Night Force colors in 1988/89. When the Nocturnal Fire set came out in 2013 none of those characters (with the exception of Hit & Run) had been released in the modern style; this made them a highly sought after bunch. But, even though the characters were in high demand, and pretty well constructed for the most part, I was a little disappointed to be getting them in their Night Force colors. When we were kids my brother Doug and I owned the original versions of all those characters. We never owned any of the repainted Night Force 2-packs (we didn’t know they even existed until years later) so I have no nostalgic connection to the darker uniforms. If I’m being honest, some of the Night Force costumes look better and more realistic but I’m a sucker for the brighter original colors. I’m betting there are some fans out there who passed on the pricey 2013 set, even though they may have really wanted updated versions of those characters, simply because of the Night Force decos. Those who skipped the set were probably banking on the Club to eventually release the figures in their original colors. And, as we found out last month when the FSS 3.0 line-up was announced, those people were right.
The Night Force versions of these characters have grown on me over the past year but I am happy to be getting classically attired versions soon. I’m most looking forward to the version 1 styled repaints of Spearhead and Psyche Out. That’s probably because their black and brown Night Force colors are considerably different than the orange camo and neon green versions I grew up with. The FSS repaint that I’m least looking forward to is Repeater.
Repeater is a fine character. The original 1988 toy was a pretty straight forward looking military figure. He had no zany quirks or animal sidekicks. His relative plainness paired with the fact that Doug owned the original, not me, has left me with barely any memories of the character. Before prepping to write this review, if you had stopped me on the street and asked me to describe the original Repeater figure (happens all the time) I don’t think I could’ve done it. I remember he wore a cap and had black hair but that’s about it. I couldn’t even remember what color the original figure was. I was thinking green but it turns out I was confusing him with Leatherneck. I can still match up the guns and backpacks to most of my childhood Joe figures (Doug’s included) but for some reason I barely have any recollection of Repeater. Maybe I had a bad Repeater experience at one point and chose to go through an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”-like memory erasing procedure.
My lack of connection to the character aside, the 2013 Convention Set figure was awesome. This figure consists of a repainted Roadblock body with a new head on top. But with the removal of the leg holsters, the change in skin color, and the different web gear, you’d barely notice those 2 figures had the same body. The vest comes from an entirely different version of Roadblock and when placed on this body does a very good job of simulating the look of the original Night Force Repeater figure. Using a Dwayne Johnson Roadblock body as the base for this figure gives Repeater some serious girth. He’s a big imposing dude when displayed with other Joes. I love how modern Joe figures have different body sizes, it really adds to a character’s uniqueness.
The newly sculpted head is fantastic in it’s simplicity. He’s got a neutral expression and a great looking RANGER cap. I like that they didn’t give him the big Jay Leno chin of the original. My only gripe about the head is that they changed his hair color to a light brown.
For accessories Repeater has a display base, a knife that can be sheathed on his ankle, a big ammo case backpack, a belt of ammunition, and a 2 piece steady cam gun which as an absolute monster of a weapon. It’s no wonder that Repeater beefed up so much since the 80s lugging this beast around.
The original Repeater wore a tan outfit with olive green highlights and a tetris-eaque camo pattern. That’s the version we’ll be getting in the FSS later this year. This version has brown pants, a black shirt, and a green vest and hat. In this case I think I prefer the Night Force colors. I can’t imagine the FSS version being an improvement over this one but we’ll find out soon enough. If you don’t have this figure you really should track it down on ebay or consider buying the repainted version once it’s available. Had the original Repeater figure been this good I never would’ve forgotten him. 8 out of 10.
I don’t mind the first Transformers movie. I didn’t like the way the Transformers looked, especially the Decepticons who all looked the same to me; and I didn’t like Optimus Prime saying “my bad”, or Bumblebee pissing on a guy’s head, or Jazz’s hip hop inspired attitude. But there was some funny jokes, some cool effects, a few genuine geek-out moments, and a serviceable story. I’ve rewatched it a few times since and still enjoy it. It used to be the default bluray I’d put on to show everyone how crisp bluray looked a few years back when it was still a cool new format. I was willing to give the strange new world of bug looking Transformers a go. But I didn’t buy any of the movie related toys. I like my Transformers a little boxier. The movie based versions were all jagged and uber-detailed but lacked personality. I did however collect the movie-universe prequel and sequel comics and I was actually looking forward to the second film.
Then the second film came out. I f**king hated it. And I hated the third one even more. I’ve only seen them each once so they blur together in my mind but they offended me to my core with their extreme crappyness. They were bloated non-sensical garbage. I hated all of the new characters they introduced and they ruined every classic Transformer they brought into the fold. Jetfire? Devestator? yeesh. I did actually end up buying one of the toys based on the third movie though. Shockwave was always a favorite of mine and a classic looking version of him had yet to be released at the time and his movie version actually was kinda cool. At least he was still purple and cycloptic. Beyond that though I vowed never to buy another craptacular movie-based toy.
After the third movie I was very hopeful that a new director would take over the franchise. But then news broke that Michael Bay wanted to come back a fourth time and that he wanted to use the Dinobots. Yay, more of my favorite characters ruined. I had very low expectations for the film. When the trailer hit the internet I watched it and thought, “meh”. Grimlock looked kinda weird but I expected that. The oddest change was that Swoop now seemed to have two heads.
I didn’t know how the Dinobots would look in their robot modes until the toys were revealed online. Grimlock looked retarded and Strafe (not Swoop after all) didn’t look much better. Honoring my no movie-based toys vow was shaping up to be just as easy as ever.
But then I was in Toys R Us this week buying a birthday present for my nephew Tyler who was turning 5 (I bought him a Godzilla which he loved, go Uncle Mike!). Toys R Us had a massive Transformers display stocked up with the new movie toys. The display was overflowing with crappy looking Optimus Primes, Bumblebees, Grimlocks, Drifts, and Hounds (poor Drift and Hound, they look so sucky now). They also had Slug, the Dinobot who transforms into my favorite dinosaur, the Triceratops. When I was a kid the triceratops character was named Slag and I loved him. The original Slag toy is one of the ones I most regret getting rid of. I picked up the “Slug” figure to examine it in disgust. How could they make my favorite Dinobot so small and purple? But a funny thing happened while I was hating on it, I realized it was a robot that turned into a Triceratops. And it was a pretty cool looking figure to boot. It didn’t have the same overly detailed bug-like look of the other movie toys. If anything I thought he looked like some sort of Space Knight. I rationalized that I could display him in my collection as a brand new character “Slug”; he didn’t have to be a replacement of Slag. Once I made up my mind that I had to have him I figured the other toys maybe warranted a closer look too. My initial instinct on most of them was correct but I was immediately drawn to a brand new character, a red Spinosaurus named Scorn.
Jurassic Park 3 introduced me and most everyone else to the Spinosaurus and after seeing it the Spinosaurus immediately sky rocketed to the top of my favorite dinosaur list. I thought it was so damn cool that I went out and bought my first plastic dinosaur figure in about 30 years. So I was already sold on Scorn’s alt mode but when I saw his robot mode displayed on the back of the package I was even more impressed. This guy looked awesome. I hope to god these characters actually look like this in the film because it gives me the faintest bit of hope that I might end up enjoying this movie. Had you asked me 2 weeks ago if I thought there was any chance this movie would be good I would have said no with confidence, but these 2 dinobot figures have lit a teeny tiny fire of excitement in my belly.
Where Scorn is a brand new character I know nothing about him. His backer card says ” Scorn has the jaws of a dino and the personality of a tank. He’s a rumbling, thundering war hammer on legs.” That’s not much to go on but I guess he sounds pretty cool. He’s got an Autobot symbol on his chest so at least I know he’s a good guy.
The dinosaur mode is great. Its easily identifiable as a spinosaurus and he’s easily distinguishable from any other Transformer. Each of the spines on his back come to a separate point and are painted in a nice two-toned pattern. The tail is soft and rubbery which allows for some movement but not too much. The jaw is hinged so you can make chomp down on any Decepticons foolish enough to cross his path. I only wish the figure was bigger. He’s not very intimidating at this size.
The robot mode is really cool as well. Like Slug he has a very Space Knight like face. I like Scorn’s better though as it looks more akin to classic Transformers. He’s got bulky shoulders and his dino lower jaw adds bulk to his hips which keep him evenly weighted. His feet are designed in such a way that he stands up fine on his own. He has one regular arm with which he can hold his sword accessory. His other arms is a giant spear made up of the tail. I would’ve preferred he had two regualr arms with a removable tail that could be held as a spear but he looks cool regardless. His large spiny fin splits into two and provides a regal wing-like design on his back. The colors used on both Skorn and Slug are really nice as well. A part of me wishes they had the classic gray and gold Dinobot color scheme but there’s no denying they look sharp in red and purple. The orange highlights and baby blue visor add just the right amount of contrast to keep Skorn from looking too dull.
Growing up I was strictly a Marvel kid. Between my brother Doug and I we collected the majority of the books published by Marvel in the 80s. It’s not that we didn’t like the DC characters it’s just that our cousin Greg turned us onto Marvel and that’s what we stuck with. It’s not like I had a ton of disposable income to blow on multiple publishers when I was 8 anyway. I knew Batman and Superman quite well because of their movies and TV shows and we did have a couple of their comics kicking around. But when it came to the rest of the DC characters I was really only familiar with them by way of the Super Friends cartoon. As I got older I learned more about them by reading Wizard magazine and Comic Shop News. I never commited to actually collecting a DC series until Robin got his own mini series in 1991. I always gravitated towards Robin as a kid and the idea of him having his own book intrigued me. The next DC character that struck my fancy was the Cassandra Cain Batgirl who got her own series in 2000. Around the same time Kevin Smith launched a new Green Arrow series which got me buying that character. Ever since, I’ve collected at least 1 or 2 DC books at any given time. I’ve collected Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and a variety of others.
Green Lantern was never a character I had any interest in but around 2007/2008 I kept hearing what an amazing book it had become now that Geoff Johns was writing it. I eventually gave into the hype and gave it a try and immediately became a huge fan. Because of Johns’ dynamic take on the character I now have a wealth of GL graphic novels plus I currently collect 4 monthly Lantern related books. Geoff has moved on now but he got me so invested in the character that I’ll probably be a fan and reader for many more years to come.
Aquaman was another character I knew little about and didn’t have much interest in. I didn’t think he was a joke or a lame character as some people do, I just never had a good reason to give his books a try. Well when DC relaunched all of their comics in 2011 as “the New 52”, and they gave the Aquaman series to Geoff Johns, I finally had a good reason to check it out. I figured if the guy could make me love Green Lantern he could make me love Aquaman too. Johns was also the writer of the relaunched Justice League comic in 2011 and I read that first. I wasn’t a big fan of that book so that had me a little worried about his Aquaman. Though I don’t really think my dislike of the JL book was so much Johns’ fault as it was due to my general dislike of the New 52 concept. I bought the first 6 issue collection of Aquaman and I liked it. I liked the second volume as well. I recently finished reading the third and I think Johns has finally found his stride with the series. The third volume, which actually crossed over with the JL book, was very entertaining. It read like a big Hollywood blockbuster. If you’ve never given Aquaman a chance I would recommend you check it out.
I bought this figure a few years back, before the New 52, when the extent of my Aquaman knowledge was still only what I picked up in magazines and remembered from the old cartoons. This doll retailed for $75 dollars at my local comic shop, Strange Adventures. It sat there for quite some time as you can imagine. It might be there still if not for the insane sale that the shop has every fall. They used to have a sale on their back issues each September where one day they’d be 10% off, the next day 20%, and the next day 30%. This went on until the comics were 90% off! You’d think everyone would wait until day 9 to buy anything but if you wanted to beat the crowd you might cave and buy the books you want at 40% off. I was usually comfortable buying at 60% off, it was still an insane deal and there was plenty of good stuff left. Well for a year or two, about 5 or 6 years ago, Strange Adventures offered the same sale on EVERYTHING IN THE STORE. I went on 60% off day and spent like $300 but went home with like $800 worth of swag. It was an epic score.
However I was at work a few days later, on what would have been 90% off day, and I started wondering whether I had missed anything. I decided to pop into the shop on my lunch break. The place was practically stripped bare by that point but atop a spinner rack I saw this lonely Aquaman doll still untouched. I grabbed a few graphic novels along with this shimmering aquatic hero and made my way to the cash register. This 13 inch deluxe collector’s figure produced by DC Direct cost me $7.50.
It wouldn’t take much for me to say this figure was worth the money I spent on it but it really is a nice figure. I never would have paid $75 for it but I’d say he’s easily worth $40. This toy really is more of a doll than an action figure and I’m fine with that classification. It stands an inch taller than most of my other similar collectables which measure in at the standard 12″ height. I’m not sure why DC Direct went the 13″ route. The extra height might make these figures seem slightly fancier but it puts them out of scale with most other dolls. Aquaman is freakishly tall when displayed next to the Rocketeer or a Storm Trooper.
This figure is well articulated and very posable. He has a mid torso joint not found on most dolls but similar to the joint found on modern 4″ G.I. Joe figures. The head sculpt is very well done with a nice expression that seems to change depending on the angle you look at him. It’s a very classic, generic looking Aquaman. I don’t believe it’s based on any particular artist’s rendering or any specific time period. The costume is awesome and ridiculous at the same time. Aquaman has never had the coolest uniform, orange shirt with a sweeping neckline, and green footie tights, but this toy doesn’t shy away from the absurdity. The pants and shirt are made from a glimmering metallic looking material that picks up and reflects light beautifully. The shirt has an intricate scale pattern and the back of the legs have some really cool fins. He has interchangable hands so you can display him with clenched fists or open hands with posable fingers. I display him with one of each so he can hold his trident accessory in the posable hand. The trident is taller than he is and it looks awesome. Like it’s owner, the golden trident is also very shiny. Aquaman also comes with an adjustable black display base which props him up nicely. The base has an Aquaman logo that you can only spot in certain light; it’s subtle and classy, a base worthy of the King of Atlantis.
This is it, my final figure review from the 2014 G.I. Joe Convention Set: Zombie Initiative. This year’s set featured a small squad of Joes fighting to prevent a potential zombie outbreak caused by Cobra’s mysterious Compound Z. Because of the toxic nature of Compound Z the Joe squad was appropriately comprised of the Eco-Warrior sub-team while the Cobra forces were a blend of lab technicians, hostile environment troopers, and of course zombies. I wasn’t completely sold on the set at first but I must admit that after scrutinizing each and every figure it has won me over.
What had me so jazzed about Clean Sweep and Ozone was that they were established characters who hadn’t yet received the modern figure treatment. It can be cool to get variations of popular characters from time to time but I much prefer seeing new faces. Speaking of faces, Ozone has a very unassuming one, just like his pal Clean Sweep. Both of them look like they could work in my office. Ozone is rocking a beard, some nappy helmet hair, and a pissed-off scowl. It’s a brand new head and I really like it. Not every Joe needs to a square jawed Adonis. Apparently the reason why Ozone and Clean Sweep look as average as they do is because they were modeled after a couple of average guys who worked at Hasbro back in the day. I wonder if they regard having their face on a Joe figure as a kitschy novelty or as the huge honor I would take it as. I would absolutely love to have a G.I. Joe with my face. I’ve actually considered getting one, there are plenty of capable customizers out there, but the main reason I haven’t is because I don’t have a definitive “Mike look”. I tend to change up my haircut a lot and I shave my beard regularly. It seems silly to invest in a curly haired, clean shaven Mike figure only to then shave my head and grow a beard. I wouldn’t want to become a slave to the toy’s grooming choices just to maintain a resemblance. Plus, I’m not exactly in G.I. Joe worthy shape these days. I probably wouldn’t fit behind the wheel of the VAMP if they gave me an accurate beer gut. I can only imagine trying to squeeze myself into a Trouble Bubble or a Buzz Boar.
Sorry to ramble on like that but I think I’m running out of things to say about these Convention figures.
Other than the newly sculpted head this Ozone figure is made up of existing parts. The part choices all come together very well to create a look true to the original 1991 Ozone figure. I don’t think I ever would have thought to use Snake Eyes’ shin guarded legs or the Retaliation Cobra Trooper’s webgear had I attempted to customize my own Ozone. The paint job really sells it and ties everything together. I sometimes moan about the bright colors used on the 90s figures but I love this color combination. Ozone would look great displayed with Joes, Super Heroes, or even Star Wars figures. The outfit is cool and yet non-descript. I guess that’s why Hasbro was able to repurpose the original figure into an astronaut with nothing more than a fresh coat of paint. I never owned the 1991 figure but I have one of the Star Brigade repaints from ’92. It was a hand me down (up?) from my little brother.
For accessories Ozone has Airtight’s backpack and vacuum thing which look really nice sculpted in this shade of blue. He also has a pistol that can be holstered on his hip, a little oxygen mask and a display stand. The coolest accessory is the newly sculpted helmet. This thing looks completely rad and it fits perfectly. I like it so much that it doesn’t even bother me that the Club repainted it green and slapped it on Eco-Flint instead of giving him a unique helmet. I actually like that it ties them together and creates a more unified look for the Eco-Warriors team. This is one of the top 2 or 3 figures in an overall very nice 15-figure collection. If you passed on the boxed set this should be one of the individual figures you seek out on the secondary market…or hold out hope that the Club repaints it in Star Brigade colors and includes him in a future subscription service. 9 out of 10.
The first Outback figure was released in 1987 and it was a nice one. He was buff and wore a tight white T-shirt that said “survival” which made sense seeing as he’s the Joe team’s survival training instructor. He was a rugged looking fellow with shaggy red hair and a bushy red beard to match. My brother Doug had the original Outback figure and I think he was one of Doug’s favorites. I know I always liked him. I think a large part of his appeal was that he was one of the “new” characters fortunate enough to be given a starring role in one of Larry Hama’s Joe comic storylines. With the constant influx of new toys Larry was forced to shoehorn a lot of Joes and Cobras into his stories and many of them ended up as little more than background characters. Larry did a great job of infusing new figures with individual traits and personalities in the limited space he had on the file cards but it was always better when a Joe got the spotlight in one of Larry’s comics.
Ripcord is one of the Joes who most notably received a big bump in popularity based solely on his comic book appearances. The particular storyline that gave Outback a chance to shine took place in the main book’s sister title G.I. Joe: Special Missions. I remember the cover vividly, Outback was crouched beneath a snowdrift hiding from a squad of bad guys just above him. He was only wearing his signature survival T-shirt and his icy breath threatened to reveal his position. The cover was so vivid you could practically feel the tension and the bitter cold. I barely remember the interior of the book but the cover alone was enough to make me a big Outback fan.
Outback had a few makeovers in the 90s and 2000s (his hair even went white for a time) but returned to his original look in the modern era. Version 6 released in 2009 was my first Outback figure and a decent version of the character. The face had much more detail than his vintage counterparts but his body seemed far too skinny for an outdoorsy mountain man. The lack of removable web gear (which practically all modern-era figures have) further reduced his bulk. I wish Hasbro had gone with one of the buffer body molds, like the one used for Roadblock. While that 2009 figure wasn’t perfect he was good enough for me.
Which is why I wasn’t very excited about this figure at first. It didn’t look like a bad figure when I first saw pictures of it online, it just didn’t look like classic Outback. I have a deep rooted nostalgia for the era of G.I. Joe that I grew up with (1983- 1989). So when the modern style/25th anniversary line was announced back in 2007 I was stoked about getting high quality updates of the characters I grew up with wearing their iconic version 1 uniforms. I know some collectors might rather see updated, more realistic versions of old characters but I like the sometimes cheesy 80s uniforms.
For that reason I actually passed on a lot of the modern figures that many fans rave about. The Pursuit of Cobra and 30th anniversary waves are prime examples. Some of the figures produced during those years looked fantastic. We got cool updated versions of Spirit, Recondo, Duke, Dusty, Firefly, and more but I passed on them all. I try to avoid doubles of characters when I can and in each of those cases I felt that I already had a more iconic version of the character (even though the iconic versions were usually inferior to the newer figures in regards to articulation, design, and accessories).
This version of Outback (the 8th) is a prime example of the kind of figure I likely would have passed on had I seen it at retail. It’s a cool figure with lots of neat accessories but it doesn’t look like the classic 1987 Outback so I’d have been content to keep on displaying the 2009 version as my default Outback. But since this figure was included in a box set with other figures I wanted I ended up with him anyway. But I gotta tell ya, he’s really grown on me over the past 2 weeks that he’s been sitting on my desk waiting to be reviewed.
Many parts of this figure, including the head, were originally found on Snow Job version 7 released in 2010 as part of the aforementioned Pursuit of Cobra line. It was a figure I passed on, again, because I already had a figure (2008’s Snow Job version 3) which was truer to the character’s original look. If I did own Snow Job version 7 I wouldn’t like this Outback very much because they’d look too similar and all I’d see is Snow Job when I looked at it. But since I don’t own that Snow Job, I don’t immediately make that association when I look at this figure.
It does seem a little weird that Outback would be wearing big goggles, a cap and earmuffs but this Outback is dealing with a Zombie Apocalypse so anything goes. It’s probably a good idea actually to cover up your ears and other easily biteable parts. The padded forearms make sense for the same reason. I can totally imagine a guy dressed like this showing up in the Walking Dead; a survivalist who’s been on his own for a long time. His backpack is loaded with removable accessories perfect for just such a situation: a gas can, a radio, and multiple bladed weapons. Most of these items came with the POC Snow Job figure so if you already own that figure you wouldn’t be as impressed with this wide array of survival gear but since this stuff is all brand new to me I think it’s really neat.
Overall, I don’t feel this figure was necessary and while it’s well suited for a zombie invasion I don’t generally like the idea of zombies mixing with Joes. However if you are a fan of updated versions of classic characters then this is a nice figure which is superior to the 2009 Outback in a lot of ways. I don’t mind that I got saddled with it at all. 7 out of 10.
Let me start this review by telling you that this character’s name is pronounced Shabang. I really think that if you’re going to give a character a goofily spelled name like this then you should provide a phonetic spelling along with it. I always thought this guy’s name was pronounced Te-Je-Bang. Actually, that’s not even true. “Te-Je-Bang” is how I pronounced it but I always figured it was wrong. But who could I ask? How was I supposed to know that a T with a J make an SHA sound? I only just found out the proper pronunciation of this guy’s name a couple of months ago when the Club was kind enough to provide a phonetic spelling when they first announced that he was going to be included in this year’s convention set.
I can’t think of any other G.I. Joe examples of this but it happened to me all the time as a kid who read a ton of comics. I never knew how to pronounce a ton of the creator’s names. I thought “Leifeld” was “Lee-Field” and “Bushema” was “Bue-Scheme-A” and so on. Creators are one thing but there’s nothing more frustrating than discovering you’ve been reading a character’s name wrong for years. I was calling Magneto “Magnet-O” for a decade before I finally heard him referred to as “Mag-Neat-O” in the 90s X-Men cartoon. That boggled my mind. Magnet-O makes way more sense. And there were half a dozen characters in the New Mutants book that I was reading improperly.
Anyway, the first T’Jbang figure was released in 1992 as part of the Ninja Force subset. I had quit collecting Joes by then so I never owned that figure and didn’t have to suffer through calling him Te-Je-Bang during battles. My little brother Brian was into collecting Joes by then though and I’m sure his buddy Thomas must’ve had this guy. I wonder if they were saying it properly.
I didn’t like the Ninja Force figures for a bunch of reasons:
1. They were ninjas. The ninja thing has always been a part of the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero mythology but for years there were only 2 or 3 ninjas. Having a whole squad of them was overkill and it watered down the whole storyline thus diminishing Snake Eyes uniqueness.
2. The figures had action features which meant they weren’t as posable and that their legs and arms would spring out when you didn’t want them to. I was perfectly capable of moving my Joe figures myself and didn’t need the added gimmick.
3. The gimmicks didn’t stop there. We also had color change ninjas who borrowed their shtick from the Eco-Warriors. I have previously reviewed a crappy color changing version of Bushido.
I had zero interest in Ninja Force figures back in the day and I wasn’t thrilled when they took over the old Marvel G.I. Joe comic either, even if it was only for a few issues. I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt that way as IDW promptly snuffed out the lot of them quite unceremoniously in their comic book continuity.
T’Jbang was never revisited after that initial figure, until now, 22 years later. I still don’t like the idea of a ton of ninjas running around but my view on the 90s sub-sets has softened over the years. I wasn’t exactly needing the Ninja Force nor the Eco-Warriors characters but once they were announced as this year’s convention figures I wasn’t opposed to the idea. At least they were new characters to add to my collection instead of more rehashed Dukes and Snake Eyes.
I ended up really liking the Eco-Warriors (even Flint who was a rehashed character) and T’Jbang is another pleasant surprise. The body is made up of reused parts and he has a newly sculpted head. The head is fantastic and very true to the original figure. It would make for a great Iron Fist custom. the chosen body parts also work really well together, so much so that you’d swear they were intended for T’Jbang. All of the key elements of the original figure are hear from the shin and wrist guards to the padded breast plate. The plate sits nicely but the wrist guards do slide around a bit more than I’d like. The shin guards are sculpted on. The torso was originally used for a Storm Shadow figure and it has lots of nice sculpted details like muscles, veins and scars. The bright colors really pop and link him to the other Joes in the set fairly well.
For accessories T’Jbang comes with a display stand, a backpack which can store some of his weapons but doesn’t stay on his back very well, a couple of sword thingies like the original figure came with, a nunchuk thing, and a crossbow. I have to admit he’s really cool and now I’m kind of hoping for updates of the rest of the Ninja Force. 8 out of 10.
I’m almost through my marathon of reviews for the 2014 G. I. Joe Con exclusive box set. I only have 3 of the 15 figures left to go after this. So far I’ve covered the entire Cobra side (Toxo-Viper (x3), Toxo-Zombie (x3), Lab-Rat (x2), Repulsor, and Dawg) and a couple of the Joe’s Eco-Warriors (Flint and Clean Sweep). I have one Eco-Joe left to review, Ozone. It makes sense that all those figures would be lumped together. They were all based on the 1991/1992 environmentally themed Eco-Warriors sub-set. But in order to round out the 15-figure line-up the collector’s club needed to pad the set with some additional characters. When the selection of characters was announced there was some head scratching going on in the Joe community because the additional figures seemed to come completely out of left field. I admit that I too thought it was a pretty random group of Joes to lump together at first.
But once I got the set in hand, and read the accompanying comic book, it all fell into place for me. The theme of the set this year isn’t “Eco-Warriors”, it’s “Zombie Initiative”. Cobra has unleashed their toxic Compound Z out into the world and it’s turning people into zombies. Sending the guys with gas masks and hazmat suits into the fray makes sense. But it also makes sense to send in the Joe team’s survival expert, Outback and a master of silent weapons, like T’Jbang. We all know zombies are attracted to loud noises so heavy artillery may not be the best way to go in this situation. The only figure whose presence is still kind of hard to explain is the Steel Brigade Commander.
The concept of the Steel Brigade Trooper was first introduced in 1987. It was a promotion advertised on the packaging of Joe toys that year where if you collected enough Flag Points (found on the boxes and card backs) you could mail-away for this exclusive figure. The mail away figure concept dates back to the earliest days of the Real American Hero figures with hooded Cobra Commander being the first in 1984.
The idea behind the Steel Brigade is that YOU were the Steel Brigade. When you ordered the figure you provided your name and birthdate and you chose whether you wanted to be martial arts expert or whatever and then Hasbro would send you a figure with a personalized filecard and a selection of weapons to match the specialty you had chosen. The Steel Brigade trooper was covered from head to toe so he could’ve been anybody under that helmet. I didn’t actually order the figure from Hasbro so I never got the personalized file card but I did end up with a Steel Brigade trooper from a flea market or something.
I really liked the original Steel Brigade trooper. I was always a fan of Joes with masks and helmets that covered their faces; I thought they looked cooler. I never imaged my Brigade trooper to be me. I saw him as a unique character whom I named Blackout (a name that Hasbro has since stolen from me).
In 1992 Hasbro apparently offered a repainted version of the original Steel Brigade trooper as another mail away exclusive. I had quit buying Joes by then and wasn’t aware of the 2nd Steel Brigade trooper until I got back into buying Joes in the early 2000s. I thought the repaint looked cheap and ugly. Where the original wore tan pants, a powder blue sweater and an olive vest with a gray helmet, the repainted version wore harsh primary blue and green with a gold helmet.
Hasbro released their first modern take on the Steel Brigade in 2011. The concept of YOU being the Steel Brigade was gone. Now they were just the faceless support team of the Joes. Some people don’t like the idea of nameless troops being members of the Joes. We’ve seen various versions of “green shirts” (the equivalent to Cobra’s blue shirts) over the years and I understand why some people don’t like them. We’ve always been told that G.I. Joe was an elite fighting force. If you were the best of the best you got selected to join and were given a code name. The idea of a bunch of nameless cannon fodder troops running around calling themselves Joes goes directly against that.
However, as good as the Joes are they would be extremely outnumbered without getting some kind of support. Cobra has dozens of various Viper squadrons to battle against. I’m all for the idea of good soldiers being upgraded to green shirts, then to Steel Brigade troopers, and then to official code named G.I. Joes.
I thought the 2011 Steel Brigade figure was awesome. The sculpt looked great, the proportions were better than on the melon-headed original, and he came loaded with a ton of weapons. Coolest of all was his helmet was removable to reveal a Beachhead-style masked face beneath.
This new convention set figure uses the same upper half as its 2011 predecessor with a pair of legs borrowed from another figure and he’s been repainted in the ugly 1992 colors. This was not a figure I was clamoring for. One of the main reasons the 1987 and 2011 Steel Brigade figures were so great was because of their subdued realistic color palette. I can totally imagine those figures patrolling the deserts of Iraq or Afganistan. This crazy gold helmeted version doesn’t make sense in any environment that I can think of.
The fact that they made this an individual character, the Steel Brigade Commander, instead of just another trooper makes me like him more. It helps to justify his strangely colored costume. One guy might have a bad sense of fashion as opposed to an entire squad. The plus side of his color choices is that they link him into the rest of the Joes in the convention set quite well. There’s an abundance of blues, greens, and yellows amongst the 6 Joes which helps make them feel like a cohesive unit.
This is one of my least favorite figures in the set but he’s by no means bad. I loved this Steel Brigade mold the first time I saw it and even though this paint job isn’t my cup-of-tea, it’s still a nice base figure. He comes with a nice array of accessories as well (4 guns, a backpack, a knife, and a rocket launcher). Now that I have this Steel Brigade Commander I kind of want to build a small squad of Steel Brigade troopers for him to boss around. 6 out of 10.
I saw a Thursday night advance screening of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 the other week, as any loyal Marvel nerd would, but I didn’t want to post my thoughts on it until after everyone had gotten a chance to see it. It’s been a week and a half now and I feel safe in assuming that the type of people who read action figure blogs are the type of people who go see new Spider-Man movies on their opening weekends. If you haven’t seen it yet you may want to skip this post because I’m gonna drop some serious spoilers.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 SPOILER ALERT! There, that was your final warning.
I hated this f***ing movie. Well maybe hate is a strong word but it definitely wasn’t good. But I’ll try to focus on the good points first. Spider-Man looked the best he’s ever looked on screen. The costume from the first Amazing Spider-Man movie looked kind of off to me with its beady yellow eyes. This new version has wide, crisp white eyes that look great. The rest of the costume is fine as well. Some of the moments between Peter and Gwen were sweet. There were a couple of jokes that worked such as an abrupt email response from the still unseen J. Jonah Jameson. That’s about it. Those were the things I liked.
What didn’t I like? Where to begin? The tone of this film was all over the place going from sad and sentimental to teen rom-com sweet to over the top popcorn action. Sometimes a blend of action and comedy and romance can work. It doesn’t here. I felt like at least 2 completely separate mediocre films had been mashed together. There was far too much slo-mo “bullet time” and it didn’t look good. I found many of the special effects scenes were lacking and looked more like a video game instead of real life. I won’t out right bash the effects as some of them looked decent, the best ones are usually the ones you don’t notice anyway.
Also, Peter was a blubbering wuss most of the time yet he was still cool enough to high five his teacher at his graduation ceremony and run around with his skateboard. I realize this “cool outcast” Peter is probably more realistic and more relatable to todays teens than the 4-eyed geek, sweater vest wearing version of the comics, but it’s not working for me. Give me Tobey’s aloof emo Peter over this dude with the One Direction haircut any day. I didn’t mind Andrew Garfield in the first movie but he’s worn out his webbed welcome in my eyes.
Emma makes a fine Gwen but I don’t care for Sally Field’s Aunt May. They’re pretty much the only non-villain supporting characters in the film. There is a lengthy flashback about Peter’s parents that felt like a waste of time. The parent storyline was dumb and, even in the over-the-top, suspension-of-disbelief-required world, unbelievable. His dad has a secret lab under the tracks in an abandoned subway tunnel? Give me a break. Ultimately the parent thread didn’t amount to much so I don’t know why they wasted so much time on it.
The villains: Norman Osborne? Sucked. Rhino? Sucked. Harry Osborne? Sucked. Electro? Oh my god how he sucked. Electro was the worst thing about the movie. Jamie Foxx played Max Dillon like Jim Carrey played Edward Nigma. His performance made me cringe. He was awful, just awful. And how can they keep getting the Goblin so wrong? Dress a guy up like he’s an orc from Lord of the Rings. He’d look cool and scary and most importantly, like a goblin. I found this version actually worse than the Rami/Dafoe version. And at least in the original trilogy they built the Peter and Harry relationship over 3 films, here the whole thing is crammed into the second act. And I like Chris Cooper and I’m almost certain they intend to revive him in one of the upcoming sequels but I’m praying they don’t. Let’s just lay these horrible Green Goblins to rest and move onto the Hobgoblin.
The climactic death of Gwen at the end was sad. I felt my eyes welling up. Spider-Man is important to me and this is one of a handful of moments that truly defined him and it has never been seen on screen before. I felt his anguish and that made me mad. This movie hadn’t earned my tears. You can’t feed me two hours of shit and then win my approval by playing to my emotional connection to this character in the last 10 minutes. I hope Mark Webb is sent packing after this. I’ve enjoyed some of his music videos and 500 days of summer was alright but he has produced 2 subpar Spidey movie now and it’s time to go. Film review: 2 out of 10.
This Spider-Man action figure is nowhere near as bad as the movie but it’s not great either. This figure is not associated with the movie. I don’t plan on buying any Amazing Spider-Man 2 related merchandise. I had considered getting an Electro but I am no longer interested. This figure was released multiple times during the first year of Hasbro’s 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe line. I wouldn’t have bought it on it’s own but I got stuck with it twice when buying a Secret Wars 2-pack to get Thunderball and in an Amazing Friends 3-pack to get Iceman and Firestar. It’s very posable but the joints are kind of weird and his neck is pointed in a wonky position. The paint job is nice with a black wash highlighting the sculpted web detail in the red parts of the costume. Better Spider-Man figures have been released since so if you can avoid this one do so. 5 out of 10.
When it comes to collecting Star Wars toys I’ve always been partial to the aliens, robots, and monsters. I usually tell people that Walrus Man is my favorite Star Wars character. How could a boring human character ever hope to win out over a guy with giant tusks on his face in the eyes of a young boy who’s allowed to pick just one figure? If that boy is me the tusk faced dude wins every time.
I always thought Walrus Man looked super cool, even when he wore flippers and a bathing suit. In fact it was that ridiculous original 1980s figure that endeared the character to me so much. Had the original toy actually resembled the character as he appeared on screen he probably never would’ve become my favorite. Walrus Man may have only been in one brief scene of the movie but he had a starring role whenever I played with my toys. Those “expanded universe” tales that happened on my bedroom floor turned what was essentially a background character into an essential player in the rebel/empire conflict.
With a new trilogy in the pipeline and talk of multiple spin-offs it’s fun to imagine the possibility of a solo Walrus Man movie, or a Greedo movie, or a Hammerhead movie. But if I’m being honest with myself I know those movies would most likely suck. As an audience we like to be able to relate to our hero and I don’t find Walrus Man particularly relatable. Plus the entire movie would have to be subtitled. The fact of the matter is that those aliens and monsters that I love so much are better off in supporting roles. The heroing should be left to guys like Han Solo.
Han was the personification of cool to me as a kid, and probably to most guys my age. Not only was he a space pirate/ smuggler, he was cocky, he got the girls, he had a cool ride, and he was also Indiana Jones in his spare time. Trilogies, or even sequels, weren’t nearly as popular back then as they are now and Harrison Ford was the star of the two biggest ones; the man was a pimp.
There were multiple Han figures available in the vintage Star Wars line. My brother Doug had Han in his classic white shirt and black vest as well as Han in his Hoth snowgear. I had this Han which is decked out in a blue jacket and brown pants; an outfit he wore in the Empire Strike Back. I always thought this was the best Han Solo figure. The snow one was nice too but kind of limited in its use. I never cared for the black vested Han because he looked too scrawny. This Han was much better proportioned and the outfit looked better, even if it wasn’t as iconic.
The actor likeness is pretty bad, as was the case with all 80s Star Wars figures. I don’t know if it anything to do with Kenner not having the rights to the actors’ likenesses or maybe the sculptors just weren’t trying that hard. Han has a very generic look to him and could have easily been used as a civilian figure when playing G.I. Joe. The articulation is horrible too. Five point articulation (arms, legs, neck) is pretty much the worst articulation you can have. It’s the next step up from zero. It’s the bottom-of-the-barrel, dial-up internet, Amazing Spider-Man 2 of articulations. But in the early 80s 5 points was the norm (until G.I. Joe blew up and changed the game) so I won’t dwell on it.
I got rid of this Han figure along with 90% of my other Star Wars figures back when I was like twelve. I hadn’t given any thought to replacing them once I started collecting toys again as an adult because I had accumulated a ton of modern Star Wars figures in the 90s and 2000s that are just gathering dust in a box. But then last summer my local comic shop, Strange Adventures, acquired a vintage collection and offered up the figures for $5 a pop. I bought a couple aliens to display on my work desk but I ended up so charmed by them that I went back and bought some of the less interesting human characters a couple of days later. This Han was one of them.
The figure is really rather plain but that’s part of it’s charm. There’s just something really nostalgic and lovable about these stiff old Star Wars figures. I suppose that’s why companies like Gentle Giant and ReAction Figures are capitalizing on this retro style these days. By modern standards this figure would not score well but taking it for what it is it’s kind of great. 7 out of 10.
Animal sidekicks have been a big part of G.I. Joe since 1984 when Junkyard the dog was included with Mutt and Freedom the eagle was included with Spirit. Snake Eye’s wolf Timber and Shipwreck’s parrot Polly followed a year later. Since that time we’ve seen multiple dogs, a bobcat, a warthog, a barracuda, a stingray, a vulture, a crocodile, a scorpion, and of course cobras.
This here is the latest addition to the G.I. kennel, Dawg. It’s not a very creative name but my first dog’s name was Girl so I’m not gonna judge. Dawg is actually lucky to have any name at all. Plenty of the animals I listed above were packaged with Cobra figures but unlike the Joes, Cobras never named their pets. I think Dawg may be the first officially named Cobra animal.
In the comic book that came with the 2014 G.I. Joe convention set, Dawg is shown to be a normal pooch in the beginning. Normal might be a stretch because he’s pretty vicious, but at least he’s in one piece. During a brawl Dawg locks onto the Steel Brigade Commander’s arm and Steel Brigade is forced to take him out. Dawg’s owner Repulsor is understandably distraught by this. He retrieves Dawg’s body and flees with it.
The next time we see Dawg he’s been revived with Compound Z and he’s looking much worse for wear. This figure does a good job of portraying the undead dog in all his mutilated glory without being too gory. The sculpt is detailed with lots of battle damage including a bulging eye and exposed ribs. The almost florescent blue compound Z really pops against the solid black and makes for a very eye-catching little toy.
There’s no articulation on this figure which was to be expected. Joe animals never had any articulation for 25 years. However Croc Master’s last croc had a hinged jaw and the most recent Timber had a ball joint neck. A little movement would have been nice but it’s not really a big deal. This is a nice figure that definitely adds value to the convention set. I can imagine some people seeking Dawg out on the secondary market and maybe nothing else. 5 out of 10.