Monthly Archives: September 2015
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (RAH) and Transformers have always been closely intertwined. Both properties launched in the early 80s with cartoons produced by Sunbow, comics produced by Marvel, and toys produced by Hasbro. The first time the two properties officially converged was in the “G.I. Joe and the Transformers” 4-issue mini-series published by Marvel in 1986. In the mid 2000s several more Joe vs Transformers comic book mini-series were produced by the companies who held the licenses at that time, Dreamwave and Devil’s Due. Currently there is an ongoing Joe/Transformers crossover book published by IDW.
In recent years the G.I. Joe and Transformers Collector’s Clubs have collaborated to produce the first official crossover toys. They released exclusive mash-up box sets for the San Diego Comic Con in 2011, 2012, and 2013. 2011 gave us a Joe Sky Striker painted to look like Starscream, in 2012 it was a HISS tank version of Shockwave, and in 2013 it was a Jetfire Sky Striker and a Hound Vamp (plus this Bludgeon and a few others figures). An unofficial crossover toy was released a few years earlier in the form of the Decepticon, Snowcat.
So while official comic book and toy crossovers have become commonplace, the two properties have never officially met in the world of animation. However, there have been a few unofficial interactions.
In season 3 of the Transformers, which was set in the far flung future of 2005, links between the two cartoons were hinted at but never overtly acknowledged. For example, in the episode “Only Human” a mysterious masked man in a long trench coat named “Old Snake” hatched a plot against the Transformers. If the solid chrome face plate and the serpentine name were too subtle for you to realize that Old Snake was an older version of Cobra Commander the fact that he was voiced by Chris Latta should have eliminated all doubt.
Season 3 also introduced a new human female character to the cast of Transformers. Her name was Marissa Faireborn. In the Joe cartoon it was well established that Flint a.k.a. Dashiel Faireborn and Lady Jaye were a couple. It was widely accepted by fans that Marissa was intended to be their daughter all grown up (since the Joe cartoon was set in 1985).
Well the Joe and Transformers Collector’s Clubs have teamed up yet again to create two new sets of mash-up figures based on those unofficial crossover characters from season 3 of the Transformers cartoon. Both sets recently went up for sale (along with Sub-Viper and his Wave Crusher) exclusively in the Clubs’ online stores. I ordered all of them of course.
The Old Snake figure comes with a couple of “Prime” Soundwave figures repainted to look like Battle Android Troopers (BATS). I wouldn’t have bought the Soundwave-BATS on their own but I suppose they’re kind of neat and I don’t mind that they were included with Old Snake even though they bumped up the price considerably. It’s a nice set which I’ll review sometime soon. Today I’m gonna be reviewing the Marissa Faireborn set.
Marissa came packaged with a motorcycle named Afterbreaker who is intended to be the Autobot Afterburner (Hasbro must have lost the rights to the original name). I must confess that I find this set pretty underwhelming. It’s a real shame when the Club fumbles the ball because it sucks to pay big money for mediocre figures. This figure and bike sets sells for $42US plus about $10 in shipping which costs me about $70 Canadian. Ouch.
While Old Snake was a one-episode novelty character who is neat to have, Marissa Faireborn was an important recurring cast member who is integral to any Transformers collection. I was quite excited at the prospect of getting a G.I. Joe-style figure of her when the Club first announced they’d be producing this toy. I wasn’t blown away when images of the figure were first shown online but it had potential. She was made up entirely of reused parts (Scarlett, Baroness , and Cover Girl) which is standard practice for Club exclusives but I really would’ve liked to see them splurge for a new and unique head sculpt for this character. There are only a handful of female characters in the Joe toyline so when one of their heads get re-used its very noticeable. I can’t not see Cover Girl when I look at this figure. This head, with its windblown hair, first appeared on the new-sculpt Cover Girl in 2006. It was based on specific Cover Girl artwork from the Devil’s Due Joe comic. The head was re-used by the Club for a modern-era Cover Girl as part of their 2013 figure subscription service. It’s too closely associated with Cover Girl to be re-used for another character in my opinion. Having said that, if the club HAD to re-use a female head then this was the best choice. It features a great feminine sculpt and it looks more like the Marrissa from the cartoon than any Scarlett or Baroness head would have. As for the body, I have no real problems with it. It’s a surprisingly good representation of the jumpsuit she wore on the show. The paint job is simple but it’s nice and clean. The biggest problem I have with this figure is how the head and body fit together. Marrissa has a giraffe neck and it looks ridiculous.
For accessories Marissa has a pistol, a jet pack, what appears to be a flamethrower that connects to the pack via a hose, and a display base. She has a G.I. Joe base which is fine but it would have been pretty cool if they gave her a display base with an Autobot logo.
As for Afterburner, its a pretty crappy toy but its not the total piece of garbage it used to be. This bike originally came out as part of the G.I. Joe Retaliation toy line. Three sets of characters with motorcycles were released in that line. I passed on Snake Eyes and Flint and their clunker cycles. The only one I bought was Firefly because I halfheartedly wanted the figure and he just so happened to come with the “Wheel Blaster Bike”; aptly named because it could blast you with a projectile wheel. Both the figure and the bike were cheap and ugly. I disliked the bike so much that I think I threw it out or gave it to my nephew which says a lot because I don’t like to part with anything. It’s almost funny, in a sad sort of way, that I ended up buying it again, and this time at a premium price. Thanks a lot Collector’s Club.
A couple of things I disliked about the original Blaster Bike was that it didn’t look like a real-world motorcycle and the orange color scheme didn’t fit with Firefly’s character. I actually referred to it in my first review as an “orange space bike”. That lack of realism actually kind of works here because the original Afterburner didn’t look like a real motorcycle either; he was a 2-wheeled Cybertronian sci-fi bike and this hunk of junk is actually a decent representation. The orange color scheme even works this time because the original Afterburner toy released in 1987 was fugly orange too. He was one of the 5 Technobots that combined to form Computron. My brother Doug owned him when we were kids so I actually do have some fondness for the character.
This set has its share of problems it’s still kind of a fun concept and an appreciated nod to hardcore fans of both properties. Marrissa Fairborn: 6 out of 10. Afterburner: 3 out of 10.
It’s been about a month now since I’ve posted a toy review. That’s the longest break I’ve taken since I started this blog back in 2011. For that I apologize to my loyal readers. I’ve been neglecting the site for two main reasons.
1. I’m a little burnt out on writing about action figures. I’ve gotten so many great toys this summer but blogging about them was starting to feel more like a chore than a hobby.
2. I want to focus my creative energy elsewhere for a while. I used to write books and comics and screenplays but now whenever I sit down to write I end up blogging and its becoming a distraction. I’ve decided to tackle comics again. I’m working on reviving a book I used to make in high school, Costello Island. I’ve actually reviewed a couple home-made Costello Island toys on this blog over the years (Lance, Chiliwac, Philipae).
So you’ll see fewer reviews from me for the foreseeable future but I haven’t given up on blogging completely. I’m sure I’ll get the urge to ramble on about toys every now and again…like today for example.
Last Thursday stores all over America (and probably beyond) held midnight events to celebrate the release of the new Star Wars merchandise based on the upcoming film, Episode VII:The Force Awakens. I didn’t bother to attend but I went to a similar event when the Phantom Menace toys came out in ’99. I haven’t been an avid Star Wars figure collector for years and I really don’t want to get caught up in the hype again. I figured I’d probably buy a few of the 6” Black Series figures eventually but I wasn’t in any big rush to acquire them. As for the smaller 3 ¾” figures, I planned to ignore them completely. I already have way too many Star Wars figures in that scale sitting in bins in my closet.
I finally ventured into a local toy department yesterday; nearly a week after the “Force Friday” event. I could see the Star Wars display from across the store as there was a bunch of new signage to draw the eye. A fairly large section of the toy aisle had been devoted to the stuff and I couldn’t help but wonder, “How come G.I. Joe never gets this type of marketing support? Ho-hum”. There were lots of glowing lightsabres and a variety of other merchandise available but very little in the way of action figures which is the only thing I was interested in. There were a few pegs of 3 ¾” figures but I was disappointed to see the Black Series pegs were completely barren. The Star Wars fanboys and scalpers (and maybe even a few kids) had cleaned the place out.
I thumbed through the pegs of the small figures out of curiosity. Nothing caught my eye until I came across a lone Storm Trooper. At least I thought it was a Storm Trooper until I lifted him from the back of the peg and examined him. It turns out he’s a “First Order Flame Trooper”. Neat. As much as I loved the standard Storm Troopers from the original Star Wars I preferred the variations seen in the next two movies. The Snow Trooper from Empire is one of my absolute favorite Star Wars character designs. It’s one of only 3 figures that I kept from my vintage childhood collection (Walrus Man and Ree-Yees being the other two). My brother Doug had an affinity for the Speeder Bike Troopers from Jedi and we were both fans of the AT-AT Drivers. This Flame Trooper reminded me of my beloved Snow Trooper and I had to have it. My plan to ignore the 3 ¾” figures went out the window pretty fast.
I’ll start with the negatives. Articulation. This figure only has 5-points of articulation; the bottom of the barrel for action figures. He has swivel joints at his hips and shoulders and a ball-jointed neck. Star Wars figures have traditionally only had 5-points, from the originals of the 80s right up to the modern figures of the 2000s so I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just disappointing because in recent years Hasbro increased the posability of their Star Wars figures by adding joints at the elbows and knees. It’s a shame to see them take a step backwards in quality but that seems to be the trend these days to cut costs. That said, I complained about the articulation to Doug and he replied with “Yeah, but don’t you rave about ReAction figures?” Touche. My only other gripe is that this figure doesn’t stand on his own and he doesn’t come with a display base.
Now for the good stuff. I love this design and the sculpt. This figure looks really cool. It fresh yet familiar. The body is very reminiscent of the classic Storm Trooper look except the chest plate covers more area. The head is the piece that makes this figure stand out. He’s got a sliver of a visor but otherwise it’s a featureless helmet. He doesn’t have the “mouth” of the original which is probably why he reminds me of the Snow Troopers. For accessories he has a backpack with a hose that attaches to his flame thrower. Both accessories are two-toned and they attach to him firmly. He also came with a stupid round hunk of plastic which apparently joins with the stupid pieces packaged with other figures to form a crappy robot or something. My piece ended up in the spare parts bin almost immediately.
Lastly I’ll mention the package is quite nice with some original artwork unique to the character. I’m glad I picked this little guy up and I’ll definitely buy him in the larger scale too if Hasbro makes one. 9 out of 10.