Monthly Archives: January 2015

CATWOMAN (2014)

DC-Catwoman fullDC COLLECTIBLES DESIGNER SERIES

A while back I reviewed the Talon figure from wave 1 of DC Collectibles’ Batman toyline based on the artwork of Greg Capullo. Just before Christmas I acquired my second figure from the line, wave 2’s Catwoman. I really liked the look of Talon but due to some articulation issues (his loose ankles mean he’s constantly falling over) he was not a contender for my “best of 2014” year-end list. Since I hadn’t picked up any of the other wave 1 figures it seemed as though the Capullo line, despite being beautifully sculpted by Jonathan Matthews (the same guy who did the amazing New Gods figures based on Jack Kirby’s artwork), was sadly going to be shut out of my list. However, Catwoman swooped in just days before the deadline and clinched the number 5 spot.

Giant Robot Comics had a “buy 2 get 1 free” sale on for Boxing Day so Doug and I popped in (along with the rest of his family) to check it out.

DC-Catwoman face

First off let me say that I’m used to shopping for toys alone; or perhaps with an embarrassed girlfriend in tow. I am not used to shopping for toys with Toddlers. I don’t know how Doug does it.  His youngest, Luke, is an awesome little dude but he is the epitome of the terrible twos. While Doug dealt with the tantrum I went about my business browsing the latest action figures. The pegs were freshly stocked with the latest “Capullo Batman” and “Son of Batman” figures. I went with Catwoman and Batgirl from the Capullo series and for my freebie I snagged a Zatana from DC Collectibles’ New 52 line. I was very tempted to pick up the Damian Wayne Robin figure too but if I did that then I’d have to either put one of my original picks back or pick out two more figures to take advantage of the savings. Seeing as it was the day after Christmas I couldn’t justify carting 6 new figures home so I stuck with my original three picks. As luck would have it my pal Andrew ended up getting me Damian for my birthday 2 weeks later so stay tuned for that review.DC-Catwoman whip

I was super stoked to get this figure. Much like the Supergirl and Robin (until a few months ago) Catwoman was an essential DC character of which I did not yet own an action figure. I don’t have a massive DC collection but it’s about 40 strong so it seems crazy that none of those characters were represented. Not only are they important characters in the DC universe but they’re also some of my favorites. There have been many versions of each of them released in the past but none of them matched my expectations.   The HUSH Catwoman released in 2004 and based on Jim Lee’s art was probably the best version of the character prior to this but even that one wasn’t quite up to snuff. The face was too cartoony or something.

This Greg Capullo inspired Catwoman finally gives us what I would consider a definitive version of the character.

DC-Catwoman Batman

The sculpt is rally impressive. The costume is relatively simple but it should be. A cat burglar shouldn’t have a whole lot of bells, whistles, and bright colors.  She’s wearing a sleek black cat suit with a zipper down the front and some buckles on her boots. The design is enhanced by a number of subtly sculpted wrinkles and folds in the material. The body is very curvy and feminine but doesn’t suffer from any outlandish proportions as is sometimes the case with female figures. Impressively she’s wearing high heeled boots yet she stands up on her own quite well. I haven’t had to pick her up from the floor once.

DC-Catwoman back

The head sculpt is also beautiful in its simplicity. She has a black cowl with ears, gold and silver goggles, and a neutral facial expression.  I praised the Supergirl figure for not having bright red lipstick which Catwoman does have however this is a much more seductive character so it makes sense. You can’t see her eyes through the oversized cat-eyed goggles but the gold paint glistens in such a way that from certain angles the lenses almost look translucent.  If I were to complain about one thing it would be that they painted her nostrils. It looks fine but it makes them more pronounced than they need to be.

The articulation on this figure is decent but it could be better. Her legs only go forward and back with no side-to-side movement and she has no torso articulation at all.  Personally I prefer aesthetic over functionality for most of my figures since I just display them anyway but a character like this should be a little more flexible.  Although, DC’s earlier figures were so stiff that Catwoman is plenty nimble by comparison.

For accessories she has a whip as any good cat-themed bad girl should. It’s made of soft rubber so it hangs realistically and looks good no matter how you pose it.

I highly recommend you get this figure but if by some chance you can’t track one down don’t fret. A new series of figures based on the artwork of Jae Lee (Jim’s brother) is due out later this year and the Catwoman is very similar to this one. 10 out of 10.

DC-Catwoman catfight

TELE-VIPER (KRE-O)

Kreo-Televiper fullContinued from Part 3

G.I. Joe KRE-O

The most recent version of Tele-Viper is the KRE-O brick figure released in a wave 5 blind pack.

Don’t worry, this is the last Tele-Viper review I’ll subject you to for a while. I have other Tele-Vipers in my collection but I promise to wait at least a year  before I tackle another one. Besides, I’ve pretty much run out of things to say about Cobra’s communications specialists after the last 3 consecutive reviews.

The reason I wanted to review this last figure is because I wanted to go out on a high note. The original Real American Hero Tele-Vipers were alright. The new-sculpt era Tele-Vipers were vastly superior, and the modern sculpt versions hit a new low. But this little buildable figure proves that even the crappiest character can bounce back with the right toy. Clearly the original Tele-Viper design still has legs because this Kreon is totally classic and totally awesome.Kreo-Televiper back

As with the recently reviewed Kre-O  Tripwire Hasbro has managed to take a mediocrely designed vintage character and create an amazing little brick version that’s faithful to the classic while avoiding all the original’s shortcomings.

All Kre-O figures have the same body construction so there’s no room to screw up the proportions or articulation. The big head, gimpy wrists and crooked ankles that plagued its predecessors are nowhere to be found on this figure.

Kreo-Televiper bubble

 

 

 

Hasbro could’ve screwed this guy up by giving him a big doofy helmet but fortunately they gave him some slimmer fitting headgear more akin to the new-sculpt era design. All of the details on this figure are simply painted on the flat body and there aren’t even that many of them but it looks awesome. I’m consistently impressed at how well the painters are able to reproduce the sculpted details of the original figures so perfectly on these little bodies.

For accessories Kre-O Tele-Viper comes with a big backpack which is clearly inspired by the 1985 pack. He also has a hand held device that connects to the pack via a bendy rubber hose. I assume this is supposed to be the scanner that came with the original figure but it could very easily be viewed as a weapon. Whatever it is it’s ridiculously over-sized but that’s the norm for this line and part of its charm. Figures like this make me wish this line could last for years. Sadly I think we may have seen the last of them, at least for a while. 10 out of 10.Kreo-Televiper group

TELE-VIPER v.6 (2008)

Joe-Televiper v6 fullContinued from Part 2

G.I. JOE

As much as I was enjoying the fun and colorful kid-friendly new-sculpt figures of the early 2000s I was pretty excited when the 25th anniversary line of G.I. Joes was revealed in 2007. A slightly larger, more detailed, collector-oriented Joe line was exactly what the doctor ordered for me at the time. The launch of the 25th anniversary figures gave birth to what has become known as the modern-era of G.I. Joe which is still going today 8 years later.

I embraced the modern-era whole-heartedly from the start.  I completely stopped shopping for vintage and new-sculpt figures and focused solely on the modern ones.  For years now they’ve been my only Joe figures on display.  For the most part I’ve been quite pleased with the modern-era toys.   Often times they’re the best versions ever released of certain characters.

Unfortunately that is not the case with Cobra’s communications specialists.Joe-Televiper v6 face

The new-sculpt Tele-Viper figures released in 2003, 2004, and 2005 were all great. I loved how they fixed all of the problems that bothered me about the original ’85 figure. The modern Tele-Viper, released in 2008, brings back all the original’s problems and then some.   It’s a real shame that my numerous new-sculpt Tele-Vipers are sitting in storage while this waste of plastic walks free.

Joe-Televiper v6 backThe 2008 Tele-Viper version 6 shares a body with Viper version 16 released earlier that same year. It sucks that two potentially really cool figures got dragged down by the same crappy body. First off, the ankles are designed in such a way that the figure can’t stand upright. This means it’s always leaning back which is a nightmare for display purposes. The other major issue with this body are the arms. The default position of the wrists is a gimpy un-human downward bend. Neither the Tele-Viper or the Viper look right holding a weapon or even just standing in a neutral pose. The lazy re-use of the Viper’s arms also means that the Tele-Viper now has wrist guards, an element never seen on any previous incarnations. These guys are computer jockeys so the guards make little sense unless they’re  supposed to prevent carpel tunnel syndrome. Bad lower legs and arms aside the rest of the torso is adequate but nothing to call home about. At least the Tele-Viper’s removable vest is true to the original’s quilted design which helps to distinguish this figure from the Viper which sports a completely different vest.

I could maybe look past all the flaws of the body if the head of this figure was awesome but it’s not. It’s a pretty good homage to the original 1985 head sculpt but I never cared for that head. It was too big and round, the helmet looked unwieldy, and there was a dopey-looking open mouth. All those same issues can be found on this head too. The mouth doesn’t look as much like it’s just hanging open but instead it’s sculpted in a toothy sneer that looks as if the Tele-Viper just smelled something rotten.Joe-Televiper v6 box

There have been 3 variations of the modern Tele-Viper since this figure came out and none of them have impressed me. Hopefully an improved version will be released eventually but what I’d prefer to see is a modern-era update of the new-sculpt Tele-Viper.

This figure also falls short in the accessory department in that he basically has none. He came packaged in a box set with Breaker, the RAM motor cycle, and a Trouble Bubble. His only accoutrements are a display base and the removable vest, neither of which really count. Hasbro couldn’t even splurge for a scanner.  Weak. 4 out of 10.Joe-Televiper v6 group

TELE-VIPER v.5 (2005)

Joe-Televiper v5 fullG.I. JOE

continued from part 1

The new-sculpt era, which ran from 2002 to 2007, is an underappreciated few years of G.I. Joe’s history. The original 3 3/4″ toy line was cancelled in 1994. There were repaints of old figures released in ’97, ’98, 2000 and 2001 but they were pretty underwhelming for the most part. Hasbro was just letting the brand coast along for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t until 2002 that Hasbro decided to give G.I. Joe another  legitimate chance at success. Newly sculpted figures came out, new animated movies were released, and G.I. Joe got plastered all over things like bed sheets and birthday hats just like in the brand’s heyday in the 80s. I thought it was a great time to be a Joe fan. Unfortunately many of the new figures suffered from wonky proportions and bad redesigns.

The Tele-Viper suffered neither.

In 2003 we got out first new-sculpt Tele-Viper and I thought it was fantastic.  All the issues I had with the original 1985 design had been fixed. The outfit was similar but the blue and purple colors were reversed and a bunch of additional grey highlights were added such as on the belt and boots which gave the appearance of a much more detailed figure. The head was a good size and the helmet had been redesigned into a much sleeker item that didn’t envelop the whole head like sparring headgear. The open mouth was gone too. The new sculpt Tele-Viper looked pissed with an angry sneer on his face. I could actually imagine these guys being tough. I never thought that about the original.Joe-Televiper v5 back

In 1989 the ’85 Tele-Viper was repainted in Python Patrol colors to ill effect. In 2004 the ’03 Tele-Viper followed suit and got a Python Patrol make-over of it’s own; only it looked great. Hasbro stuck to muted grays for the base outfit and kept the signature cross-hatched Python camo to a minimum.

In 2005 the new-sculpt Tele-Viper was repainted in a third and final variation. The ’05 version featured the familiar blue jumpsuit and purple vest of the original except this time there was some gold and orange peppered in as well.  Even though I wasn’t a big fan of the original Tele-Viper I really liked seeing this  classic color palette ton the new-sculpt figure. As good as the ’03 and ’04 versions were the 2005 Tele-Viper version 5 is my all-time favorite Tele-Viper.

I was into army building during the new sculpt years so I bought multiple version 5 tele-Vipers. I had a diorama set up on folding card tables in my apartment and all my various Cobra Trooper types were displayed in individual squads. I made a point to have a Tele-Viper in each squad for communication purposes.  The Tele-Viper had gone from being a lame character my brother owned when we were kids to the backbone of my Cobra forces.Joe-Televiper v5 face

This version has the same bulky backpack as the original, a shoulder-mounted antennae, a removable microphone for his helmet, a radio, and instead of a useless scanner like the original had this version has a rifle and a pistol.

I loved this figure when I first got it and I still do. I think it has aged very well over the past 10 years. I hope that one day fans will come to appreciate the new-sculpt era figures, at least the good ones like Tele-Viper.  Until that day comes I would suggest you scoop up a few of these guys online while they’re still cheap. 10 out of 10.

I really should have dusted these guys off before taking these pics.

I really should have dusted these guys off before taking these pics.

TELE-VIPER v.1 (1985)

Joe-Televiper v1 fullG.I. JOE

When my older brother Doug and I were kids we split our collecting down the middle. When a new wave of G.I. Joes came out we would take turns doing picksies of the figures we would each collect over the next several months based on either the images on the back of the packages or in the Christmas catalogue. When the first Tele-Viper figure came out in 1985 he was one of Doug’s picks. I was fine with that because I thought it was a pretty dorky looking figure. The Tele-Vipers are an important division of Cobra’s operation and they were featured heavily in the animated series but that doesn’t necessarily make them cool.

The file card on the packaging described them as “Radio Telecommunications Operators of the COBRA ground forces. They carry a standard modular radio pack that contains as a main unit a VHF transceiver equipped with an automatic frequency hopper, a crypto unit and passive jamming and anti-jamming devices. The Tele-Viper helmet contains high resolution earphones with overload dampers and two sets of voice actuated microphones. The interior of the helmet offers and alternative LED readout triggered through the optional computer pack. Optional transmission modes include microwave beam and laser–Both available as add-ons to the basic pack.”Joe-Televiper v1 art

Got all that? I don’t know what most of that means but it sounds important. In the cartoon they were usually manning the computer terminals at Cobra headquarters. We never had the Terrordrome playset so we had to settle for computer terminals made out of Kleenex boxes and toilet paper rolls.

One of the more interesting features of the Tele-Vipers was the LED readout on the helmet described in the file card. It was utilized often in the cartoon to show words crawl across the Tele-Vipers’ goggles. It was usually words like “intruder” or “danger” but I seem to recall seeing an “ouch’ scroll across one of their goggles after they got punched in the face. It makes you wonder if the display was connected to their thoughts somehow which is kind of weird.Joe-Televiper v1 side

 

 

The Tele-Viper’s outfit consisted of a loose-fitting blue jumpsuit with a quilted purple vest over top. The body design was okay but I really wasn’t a fan of the head sculpt. It just seemed too big and round. The mouth and nose were exposed and I always found the look on the face to be kind of stunned. The mouth just seems to be hanging open like Napoleon Dynamite. I think the figure would have benefitted from a good scowl.

I disliked the face so much that when I acquired a Tele-Viper of my own a couple of years after Doug got his I took a blue marker and colored in his face and hands.  I was hoping some gloves and a full face mask would up  his cool factor but instead it just made him appear to have blue skin, like he’d been chewing on a pen. As far as customs go it was a fail.Joe-Televiper v1 back

 

Luckily I scored a second Tele-Viper last year in my epic haul so the blue one is no longer the only one in my collection.

For accessories the Tele-Viper came with a bulky backpack, a scanner, and a hose to connect the two. Doug and I were never quite sure what to make of the Scanner. Was he supposed to use it to check prices on produce? I think we ended up treating it as a sonic weapon of some kind. Regardless of how you used the scanner it was a pretty goofy looking accessory.  He probably should have come with a pistol or rifle to go along with it.

I consider this figure to be a classic but I’m still not a big fan. 6 out of 10.Joe-Televiper v1 pair

MIKE MILLS (2014)

Simpsons-Mills fullTHE SIMPSONS: GREATEST GUEST STARS

Continued from Part 2

Okay, so now that I’ve rambled on about R.E.M. for 2 posts I’m finally ready to start reviewing the figures.  These toys are based on the group’s appearance in the 2001 episode titled “Homer the Moe”.  In the episode Moe changes his tavern into a chic Euro-bar.  Homer retaliates by opening his own bar in his garage.  He gets R.E.M. to come play “Its the End of the World as We Know it” by telling them they’re playing to benefit the rainforest.  I barely remember the episode but the synopsis on the back of the packages jogged my memory.  They do have a drummer in the scene but apparently the band decided to have the animators include one of their session drummers rather than include their former drummer Bill Berry into the show.  It’s a shame as I’d kind of like to have all four founding members.  On the plus side his exclusion saved me twenty bucks.Simpsons-Mills side

All 3 figures do a great job of replicating the look of the band from the episode.  They translated from 2D to 3D very well.  All of the figure only have 3 points of articulation.  They turn at the shoulders and at the waist.  This was the standard articulation for most of Playmates’ Simpsons figures so this line blends in with that one flawlessly, which is appreciated, but I do wish they could turn at the hips and neck as well.

Simpsons-Mills animated

 

 

The Michael Stipe figure is the one I wanted most because he’s the front man and the member I know the most about but it’s the plainest of the bunch. He’s wearing blue jeans that are bunched up a bit around his shoes and have seams up the side.  His T-shirt is plain purple.  His head sculpt is not recognizable as Michael Stipe but it works within the limits of the Simpsons style.  He has small dots painted on his head and around his mouth to give the appearance of stubble which actually works pretty well.  For accessories he has a grey and black microphone.  I’d give Michael Stipe a 7 out of 10.Simpsons-Mills back

The guitarist, Peter Buck, is in the middle of the pack for me.  It’s a much more interesting figure to look at than the Michael Stipe.  Peter is wearing a black suit with an open jacket and an off-white dress shirt underneath.  The shirt has a big sculpted collar which I like.  The head sculpt isn’t necessarily a dead ringer for Peter Buck but at least you can tell this is supposed to be somebody.  It’s a unique looking face in the Simpsons universe.  His shaggy black hair is well sculpted.  For accessories he’s got a nice-looking black guitar with brown, silver and white paint apps.  The guitar is removable and is held in place by a small peg on the strap which plugs into his back.  The only issue I have with this figure is that he can barely stand on his own.  His feet are positioned in such a way that he’s leaning back too much and he’s too top heavy to stay upright.  It is possible for him to stand on a perfectly flat service but I just know I’m gonna have issues with him toppling over and taking the rest of the band down with him.  The bad stance keeps him at a 7 out of 10Simpsons-Mills photo2

Bass player Mike Mills is actually my favourite of the bunch.  He’s by far the most unique looking.  He’s got purple pants and a blue button-up shirt.  The shirt has a wild pattern on it that is probably supposed to be floral but it also reminds me of the Simpsons clouds from the start of the show.  I wonder if that was intentional.  Mills has been known to wear some crazy stuff so this shirt suits him quite well.  The head sculpt is really great.  I would say that this figure is recognizable as Mike Mills, provided you know who Mike Mills is.  Its got wavy blonde hair and dark rimmed glasses with clear plastic lenses.  Even the nose and lip shape look the most true to the real guy out of the 3 figures.  He comes with a removable two-toned brown bass guitar with silver highlights.  He looks great and he stands just fine on his own.  9 out of 10.Simpsons-Mills photo1

Simpsons-Mills guitar

Overall this is a fun set of figures and I’m glad I decided to pick them up.Simpsons-REM group

 

PETER BUCK (2014)

Simpsons-Buck fullTHE SIMPSONS: GREATEST GUEST STARS

Continued from Part 1.

Simpsons action figures have been around a long time now. The show has been on for 26 years which gave Playmates ample time to release figures of practically every denizen of Springfield while they held the toy license. Now that Neca has the license to produce Simpsons toys they’re going a different route. They’re specifically making figures of the many celebrities who have visited Springfield over the years. It’s an eclectic mix of people who’ve lent their voices and likenesses to the show. I was somewhat tempted to buy both the Tony Hawk and Bret Hart figures when I saw them but I resisted. I enjoy the Simpsons but I’ve never been a die-hard fan and I really didn’t want to open another collecting can of worms. However, I was tempted again when I saw Neca released all three members of R.E.M. in Simpsons format. There was front man Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Michael Mills (in case you’re wondering, R.E.M. never permanently replaced the founding drummer Bill Berry after he left the band in 1997).Simpsons-Buck photo

R.E.M.’s a fairly popular band who have been around for a long time but I don’t know anyone who claims to be a hardcore R.E.M. fan. For that reason they seem like an odd selection for Neca to include in their Simpsons’ line. Just off the top of my head I would think that Green Day might’ve been a better choice. That trio has a younger following thats more likely to collect toys and the guys in the band are more colorful to look at. On the other hand, magicians Penn and Teller were included in the same wave and imagine R.E.M. at least have a larger fan base than those guys.

Simpsons-Buck back

 

I really considered buying the Michael Stipe figure when I saw it at my local comic shop, Strange Adventures. It just seemed so random that a Michael Stipe figure would even exist. The fact that it was a Simpsonized version of him made it more desirable because having a lifelike version of him standing on my desk amongst a sea of cartoony super heroes would’ve just seemed weird. I assumed the figure would sit gathering dust on Strange Adventure’s shelf for years so I felt no need to pounce on it. To my surprise it sold within a couple of weeks. When I realized I missed my chance at owning it I thought “meh”.

But the figure lingered in the back of my mind.

When I was placing an order on BigBadToyStore recently I decided to check and see if they had Michael Stipe available so I could add him to the haul. They didn’t. So I thought I’d check ebay. I found a couple on there but people were asking $50 for the thing. Wha? Now I was cursing myself for not buying it at Strange when I had the chance. Who’d have thought a Michael Stipe action figure would be so damn collectible. There was no way I was paying that much for it so I forgot it and moved on.Simpsons-REM carded

This past Thursday my sister Katie scored box-seat tickets to see our local hockey team, the Halifax Mooseheads. She invited me along to catch the game at 7:00pm. The stadium is just up the street from my office downtown so I saw no sense in taking the hour-long bus ride all the way home after work only to turn right around and take it back. To kill the 2 hours of downtime I went up to a comic shop I don’t get to visit that often, Monster’s Comic Lounge. They have a ton of cool stuff but I was most excited to find they had the entire wave of celebrity Simpsons figures priced at $20 a piece. I wasn’t about to let Stipe slip through my fingers again so I snatched him up.

Simpsons-REM group photo2

As I continued to browse around the store I kept re-examining the toy in my hand. I began to have second thoughts. I don’t actually think it looks all that much like Michael Stipe. He’s skinny and bald and he has a microphone but those traits alone don’t make him easily identifiable. Couldn’t they have at least given him the star T-shirt?  I realized that as soon as I took him out of the package which identified him by name he would become completely anonymous. I was planning to put him on my desk at work and I just knew that everyone who stopped by and saw him would say “who the hell is that?”Simpsons-Buck side

 

 

I realized my options were to either leave him behind or to buy the whole band. I figured having a dude with a guitar on either side of him would make it clear who he was. I stated my case to the shop owner Mike and asked if he could cut me a deal on the three of them. Mike doubted anyone would recognize these figures regardless but he hooked me up anyway and knocked $15 off the price.

Continue to Part 3Simpsons-REM cardbacks

MICHAEL STIPE (2014)

Simpsons-Stipe fullTHE SIMPSONS: GREATEST GUEST STARS

As a kid I remember hearing R.E.M. tunes on the radio; songs like “The One I Love”, “It’s the End of the World As We Know it”, and “Orange Crush”. I never minded their music but I never imagined they’d be a band that I’d be “into”. I was a little metal head when I was young so I listened to bands like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and Twisted Sister. But when I morphed into a teenager my musical tastes changed. Metal began to feel dated and out of touch. I simply couldn’t relate to Vince Neil and David Lee Roth. I was drawn into the grunge and alternative scene and began listening to bands like Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Radiohead. Along the way R.E.M. was always there in the background releasing radio-friendly hit after radio-friendly hit like “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People”.

Simpsons-Stipe back

 

 

I took more notice of the band with the release of their 1992 album, Automatic for the People. It contained the hits “Man on the Moon”, “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight”, “Drive”, and “Everybody Hurts”; all good songs and there were some decent music videos to go along with them. The video for Drive is an all-time favorite of mine. Regardless, I still had a hard time seeing R.E.M. as “cool”.

That changed in 1994 with the release of the album Monster. I was watching MuchMusic (Canada’s MTV) as I did a lot as a teenager. Alternative music had officially become mainstream by then so the Pumpkins, Green Day, and Weezer were in heavy rotation. I vividly recall MuchMusic’s debut of the video for “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”, the first single from Monster. The band is in a barn with frontman Michael Stipe standing in the foreground and the other 3 guys in the back. Stipe is so close to the camera that his head is out of frame.  All you can see is his lean body wearing a plain T-shirt with a star in the center.Simpsons-REM video

A signature REM twangy static guitar riff opens the track and Michael just stands there.  Even when the vocals kick in we don’t get to see his face.  It’s only when the chorus arrives that the camera zooms out to reveal he has shaved his head completely bald. I don’t know why but to me he was instantly cool. The combo of a great song, a cool shirt and the new look won me over. They did not look or sound like the Shiny Happy People band.Simpsons-REM group photo

Once a band wins me over I remain loyal. I continued to buy R.E.M. albums until they broke up in 2011 (there were 6 after Monster) and I went back and collected their entire back catalogue too (there were 8 albums before Monster). Monster remains my favorite but the follow-up, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which features the songs “E-Bow the Letter” and “Leave” ranks highly as well.

The more I learned about Mr. Stipe the cooler I thought he was.Simpsons-Stipe face

He’s been a producer on some films I really like and he’s collaborated with some of my favorite musicians like Placebo and Coutney Love (he’s even the godfather of Kurt and Courtney’s kid). But as much as I love Michael Stipe I never really felt the need to own an action figure of him. One of the reasons I got into alternative music is because the artists seemed like real people I could relate to. One downside to being so “normal” is that you’re not nearly as interesting to look at as someone like Marilyn Manson. No matter how good their music is Pearl Jam will never sell as many lunch boxes as KISS.

 

I promise I will eventually get around to talking about the action figure. Please continue on to Part 2.

Simpsons-Stipe Homer

DIALTONE v.8 (2009)

Joe-Dialtone v8 frontG. I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA

I’m a big fan of “modern-era” G.I. Joe figures. I’ve been supporting the line since it launched in 2007. I’m a near-completest meaning I try to buy at least one version of every unique character released. I have multiple versions of many characters but I don’t feel the need to buy every single version of Duke and Snake Eyes Hasbro puts out.  They’re often nearly identical and there are literally dozens of them. There was a lapse in my near-completest commitment in 2009. The first live-action G.I. Joe movie, Rise of Cobra (ROC) had hit theatres and so the 1980s inspired 25th anniversary line, which had been going strong for 2 years, went into hiatus. It was replaced by a line of compatible ROC figures featuring designs inspired by the film. I had little interest in the ROC figures. I found them bland and I already had, in my opinion, better versions of most of the characters. I bought 1 of each of the main characters like a Channing Tatum Duke and a Marlon Wayans Ripcord and that was it. I had even less interest in secondary characters like Shipwreck who were added to the ROC line even though they didn’t appear in the movie.Joe-Dialtone v8 back

I recall seeing a 5-pack of figures at Toys R Us one day in 2009 that featured a number of characters I would’ve loved to have in the modern style since they hadn’t yet been included in the 25th anniversary line. Other than a redundant Zartan the set included ROC inspired versions of Law, Repeater, Footloose, and Dial Tone (none of whom appeared in the movie). All of those characters were well-established Joes who each had a unique look in the 80s. The set was priced at around $25 or $30 which would have been a great deal had the set actually contained desirable versions of those in-demand characters. But instead we got what felt like a slap in the face to long-time Joe fans. Law and Footloose were both were semi-passable versions of their old selves but instead of unique colorful outfits they had boring brown camouflage uniforms. Repeater and Dial Tone were wearing equally boring brown uniforms but worse than that Repeater went from being a white guy with dark hair to a bald black guy and Dial Tone went from being a moustachioed dude in a beret to a woman. These were not the characters I grew up with and they weren’t even very good figures on their own merit. It was an easy pass for me.Joe-Dialtone v8 computer

The ROC line wrapped up after about a year and Hasbro went back to releasing more classically-inspired figures which I was happy about and thus went back to collecting with vigor. In the years that followed Hasbro and the Collector’s Club released much better versions of all of the characters from that 5-pack set based on their original designs. I got a Footloose in his classic leafy green camo as my free gift for joining the Club, I got a Caucasian Repeater in my 2013 Convention set, and I got a respectable Law as part of Hasbro’s Renegades line. The Club released a moustachioed, beret-wearing Dial Tone as well but sadly I missed out on it. Hopefully I’ll score one for a decent price eventually.

In general I’ve warmed to the ROC figures over the past 6 years. I actually regret not picking up more of them when I could have. I’ve purchased a few of them on the secondary market but I’m not willing to pay too much for them because I still feel that most are not essential to my collection. However there is one particular figure that I passed on which has haunted me; the female Dial Tone.Joe-Dialtone v8 gun

In the comics published by IDW they chose to have the female Dial Tone be a member of the team instead of the guy with the moustache that everybody likes. I’m not sure why they went that route but they’ve made lots of questionable decisions since they obtained the license to publish Joe books. However, the more issues I read featuring lady Dial Tone the more she grew on me. I began to see her as a unique character who could co-exist in the same universe as her male counterpart. When I made the decision to add her to my collection I figured I’d pop onto ebay and pick-up that 5-figure set I passed on in 2009. I was sure I could find a way to integrate black Repeater and the other guys into my collection too.

Joe-Dialtone v8 cardWhen I saw what those sets were selling for online I was appalled. They ranged from $130 to $200! Since I really didn’t care about the others I chose to find a Dial Tone being sold individually. To my horror I found loose Dial Tones were selling for $50 and up plus shipping. Cripes! She wasn’t worth that much to me so I put her on the back burner. I went back and searched every few months to see if I could find an affordable one but had no such luck. But a couple of weeks ago I found one for $35 plus $8 shipping and I snatched her up. She arrived in the mail the other day.

As you can see, there’s nothing spectacular about this figure. It’s relatively plain in both design and color. The body is a repaint of ROC Covergirl’s body which is a well-proportioned, decently-articulated, generic female figure. The only distinguishing design element is a sculpted name badge on the chest.Joe-Dialtone v8 comic

 

Her head is a repaint of Agent Helix’s noggin. I’m not a fan of reused heads but the brown hair goes a long way to differentiate Dial Tone from Helix who had blonde hair with black streaks. It’s a good head but I think they could have feminized it more by adding some color to the lips.  Adding removable glasses, like the ones she wears in the comics, would have been excellent.

For accessories Dial Tone has a display base, a rifle, and a laptop computer. Her file card is interesting in that she has the same last name, Morelli, as the male Dial Tone. Apparently it was established in the ROC video game that the two are siblings.

I’m glad that I finally have this figure in my collection but damn I wish I just picked up that set in 2009. 7 out of 10.Joe-Dialtone v8 group

STORM TROOPER (2014) black series

SWB-Storm fullSTAR WARS BLACK SERIES

The 3 ¾” Star Wars figures are my largest collection not currently on display. I have a ton of vintage G.I. Joes not on display too but at least most of those characters are represented in my modern G.I. Joe display. When it comes to Star Wars I have loads of late 90s/early 2000s era figures sitting in a bin in my closet and those characters have no visual representation in my collection. If I wanted to display Storm Troopers all over my desk I could do that because I have a bunch of them but Star Wars just hasn’t been a priority to me for many years.

Even though my Star Wars fervour dwindled with the release of the prequels I still very much enjoy the original trilogy. I’d like to have all of my Star Wars figures displayed but there simply isn’t enough room in my mancave. I could choose to display a few of my favorites but I’m an all or nothing type of guy. If I don’t have room to display all of them, including lame senator figures, then great looking characters like Hammerhead and Lak Sivrak suffer the consequences and remain in storage too.SWB-Storm face

I was intrigued by Hasbro’s 6” Star Wars Black Series figures when I first saw them but I promised myself that I wouldn’t go crazy collecting them. The characters look really nice in the larger scale but the last thing me and my wallet need is to start collecting another toyline with the potential to be massive. I told myself I would be very selective about which figures I collect.

SWB-Storm backThus far I have Greedo, Darth Maul, Boba Fett, and Jabba the Hutt. With such a small collection I’m able to find room to display them all. I’ve been tempted to pick up a Luke or a Han since they’re the main characters but I’ve avoided that slippery slope so far. My older brother Doug isn’t  nearly as choosy as I am when it comes to these and is buying most of the Black Series figures. For Christmas he suggested I get him either Dath Vader or a Storm Trooper. Both are nice looking figures but I had opted to skip them for myself. I bought Doug the Storm Trooper online and told him “that he probably shouldn’t buy one for himself.” I guess I didn’t make myself clear because he bought one the next day when he saw it at Toys R Us. He hadn’t seen one at retail anywhere before and he said he couldn’t take the chance of leaving it behind on the off chance that I hadn’t actually gotten him one. So I ended up buying him something else for Christmas and accepted that the Storm Trooper would be joining my collection once it arrived in the mail.SWB-Storm gang

The Storm Trooper showed up just before the holidays. I tossed him under the tree as a gift to myself and opened him on Christmas morning. I was immediately impressed by this toy. The sculpting and proportions are perfect, there’s decent articulation (could be better), he has a laser rifle and a laser pistol that can be holstered on his hip, and the white armor is as crisp as new fallen snow.  It just looks fantastic.SWB-Storm sit

 

This figure is superior to my smaller Storm Troopers by a long shot and it’s even better than my 12” doll. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is so great about this figure but it is exceedingly cool. This figure has opened up a can of Storm Trooper worms for me because I now want to collect all of the variations: Biker Scouts, Sand Troopers, Clone Troopers, etc.

I think this is the best looking Storm Trooper figure ever released. Only the articulation limits keep it from being a perfect 10.  9 out of 10.SWB-Storm Trooper rifle