Monthly Archives: October 2015
After a slew of non-G.I. Joe reviews I’ve decided its time to revisit my favourite toy line. A couple of months ago I received my 2015 Joe Con box set in the mail. It’s a set I waited many months for and that cost me over 400 hard-earned dollars, so you’d think I would’ve been eager to tell you all about the 15 figures included within, yet I failed to review a single one. Time to remedy that.
The theme of this year’s set was Tiger Force vs the Iron Grenadiers. The Grenadiers are Destro’s personal army. Tiger Force is a sub-team of G.I. Joe that wears tiger-striped uniforms and drives around in tiger-striped vehicles. Why? I don’t know. It was a concept introduced in 1987, most likely as a way for Hasbro to save money by rereleasing old figures with new paint jobs, and it caught on with some fans.
I’m not a Tiger Force fanboy personally but I don’t mind the concept. Some of the Tiger Force repaints from the 80s were pretty cool and it’s kind of fun to see the Tiger Force trend continue. (It would be a lot more fun if I could buy these figures for $10 a piece at Walmart instead of shelling out a half-grand for them online but let’s not dwell on that. Rant over).
The first figure from the Con set that I’ve decided to review is Sgt. Sabretooth a.k.a. Wreckage. This is the first figure that the Collector’s Club revealed images of after they announced the theme of this year’s set and it’s the one that hooked me. I’d love to collect every Joe figure but I’m not rich and every now and again I have to pass on something. When I heard the 2015 Con set was going to be Tiger Force vs the Iron Grenadiers I actually thought I would pass on it. I knew the Tiger Force guys would most likely be striped repaints of characters I already have and I got most of the Grenadiers I wanted in the 2012 box set which featured Destro’s crew vs the Oktober Guard. But then I saw this figure and I knew I’d be buying the set.
Certain characters capture my imagination and make me feel like a kid again and Sabretooth happens to be one of them. Unless you’re a hardcore Joe fan (and maybe even if you are) you’ve probably never heard of this guy before. That’s because there’s very little to hear.
When I got back into collecting G.I. Joes in 2002 with the launch of the new-sculpt era I had a handy new tool at my disposal, the internet. The world wide web opened up new avenues of collecting that didn’t exist when I was a kid. I no longer had to rely on brick and mortar stores to stock the figures I wanted. Almost all of my Joe purchases were done through ebay back then. No longer was my brother Doug the only guy I could talk Joe with. There were fan sites and message boards filled with like-minded people willing to gab about Joe minutia. And my knowledge of the Joe brand was no longer limited to what was printed on the backs of the packages. I learned all kinds of new things about G.I. Joe courtesy of the internet. One of the most interesting things I discovered was that there were figures released exclusively in foreign countries like Brazil and Argentina. It was also intriguing to learn about abandoned ideas and unused concepts. For example…
In the late 80s one of the planned Tiger Force characters was a guy named Sabretooth. He was a green and yellow striped repaint of the Cobra saboteur, Firefly. It seemed a strange idea to take such an iconic Cobra figure and repaint him as a new Joe character but the uniform and mask were generic enough and it was one of the better-sculpted early figures so why not. Images of Sabretooth made it into a pre-sales catalogue but the figure was never released. Why? Who knows.
In 2003 Hasbro finally released the mysterious figure in a Toys -R-Us exclusive Tiger Force themed 5-pack. The figure was true to the abandoned 80s concept in that it was a Tiger Force repaint of the 1984 Firefly version 1 but the uniform colour was changed from green to black and his name was changed from Sabretooth to Wreckage. I really wanted that figure but that Toys-R-Us set was quite pricey and I wasn’t yet in the habit of dropping obscene amounts of money on toys so I never got it.
With this new figure Hasbro has rectified the colour and name changes of ’03. From head to toe this figure is a repaint of the “Ultimate” Firefly released as part of the Retaliation movie line in 2013. That figure featured a really nice sculpt but the paint job was too dull for me. Firefly is known for his distinctive gray-on-gray camo and that figure’s camo pattern was so subtle that it looked like the figure was painted a solid single shade of gray. The mask actually was solid gray. The dismal paint job failed to impress me so that figure was relegated to the back of the shelf.
The Sabretooth paint job, on the other hand, looks excellent on this figure and it makes me appreciate the sculpt in a way I never did before. There’s so much going on here from the textured boots and the flashlight on his leg to the ribbed turtle neck sweater. The flashy green, yellow, brown, and orange colour scheme really make those details pop. The paint job is clearly Tiger Force but its unique enough that this figure stands out even on a shelf full of Tiger attired Joes.
For accessories he comes with Firefly’s classic backpack (not even ultimate Firefly came with that), Recondo’s wrapped rifle, removable webgear, a knife and pistol that can be sheathed/ holstered on his legs, and two display stands. One says Wreckage and the other says Sabretooth so you can choose to display him with the name you like best.
This character has never appeared in any media so other than the little bit of info provided on his file card (his name is Dillon Moreno and he’s from LA) he’s a clean slate. He’s a unique character with no pre-established history and those are some of the reasons that I really wanted him. The Joe line needs new characters to stay fresh and I love adding new Joes to my ranks, especially when they’re as cool as this guy. 10 out of 10.
In my recent review of Hobgoblin I told you how I had to buy six figures I didn’t necessarily want in order to get all the pieces required to assemble Hobgoblin. The figure I wanted the least from that assortment was this one, Ultimate Black Widow; or Spider-Woman as the packaging states. I don’t think she’s ever actually gone by the name Spider-Woman but there are so many spider powered girls swinging around these days and they’re constantly changing their names and costumes so it’s easy to get confused. Let’s recap:
First there was Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) who first appeared in 1977. For a long time she was the only spider-powered lady so things were easy to keep straight. Then there was a second Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter) introduced in 1984. Two characters with the same name, a little confusing but manageable. In 1996 a third Spider-Woman was introduced (Mattie Franklin). Then in ’98 we got our first Spider-Girl (May Parker). She was Spider-Man’s daughter from an alternate reality but just to confuse things further she recently travelled to the mainstream Marvel Universe and changed her name to Spider-Woman. A second Spider-Girl (Anya Corazon who went by the name Arana for a while) was created in 2004. Meanwhile, in another alternate reality known as the “Ultimate” Universe there existed a teenage version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He died in battle with the Ultimate Green Goblin but prior to his death (and later resurrection) Ultimate Peter got cloned into a girl. The clone took the name Jessica Drew (not to be confused with non-Ultimate Jessica Drew) and started superheroing under the name Black Window (not to be confused with other Black Widows Natasha Romanov or Yelena Bolova). New additions to the spider lady roster include a chick named Silk and a web-slinging version of Gwen Stacy called Spider-Gwen (but only we readers call her Spider-Gwen, people in the comic world refer to her as yet another Spider Woman).
So you see how it can get confusing.
The spider hero concept has been absolutely beaten to death ( Don’t even get me started on the dozens of male variations) but I can usually still find something to like about each character. But in the case of Ultimate Jessica Drew/Black Widow I can find nothing. The fact that she’s a clone of Peter just seems creepy to me. If I remember correctly she even has all of Peter’s memories so she’s quite literally Peter Parker in a girl body. It’s just weird. Mind you, her strange origin could lead to some interesting stories about cloning and gender identity but I don’t believe any writers have bothered to delve to deep into her character. The fact that she’s super boring to look at doesn’t help her case.
It’s clearly tough to design an iconic costume for a female spider character. Most of the ladies mentioned above have changed their costumes numerous times. My favorite of the bunch is probably the black and white costume worn by Julia Carpenter. Spider-Gwen’s is pretty cool too and I’m a fan of May’s costume even though it’s the exact costume Ben Reilly (another clone of Peter) wore when he was Spider-Man for a while. Of all the many various spider lady costumes I think Ultimate Black Widow’s is one of the worst. It’s just so damn dull. A solid maroon unitard with white eyes and a white spider on the chest is just lazy. It’s essentially a rip-off of Spidey’s black costume.
I’m sorry to say this but I think Marvel needs to kill this character off. There’s absolutely nothing original about her. Her DNA is lifted from Peter, her name is lifted from Jessica, her codename is lifted from Natasha, her costume is lifted from Venom, and her origin is lifted from Ben. There are too many spider women running around and somebody needs to go. Marvel already took Mattie off the board and Jessica should be next.
As for the actual Marvel Legends figure, its fine but nothing to call home about. The body is made up of the exact same parts as the the previously released Arana. From the neck down they’re identical. It’s a well-proportioned body and it has lots of articulation. It actually has so many joints that it can be a little tough to make her look normal when just standing upright. The left leg in particular is quite awkward. The head sculpt is the only new piece. It’s satisfactory but I just don’t like the character so it’s hard to get excited about her flowing brown hair, as nicely sculpted as it may be.
I probably should’ve just bought the Hobgoblin leg I needed loose on ebay for $10 rather than wasting $30 buying this figure to get it but the die-hard Marvel fan in me kind of wanted this figure. The reason being, despite all that stuff I said bout her not being original, she is technically a unique character who has never been made into a toy before and I can’t resist adding unique characters to my Marvel Universe. What can I say, I’m a sucker. 4 out of 10.
I buy almost all of the Masters of the Universe Classics figures produced by Mattel. I log onto the MattyCollector website on the 15th of just about every month to buy the latest offerings. Unfortunately, some of the figures have sold out very quickly and as a result I’ve missed out on a few key characters. Mattel offers a subscription service to ensure collectors like myself don’t miss any of the figures but I’ve never subscribed for the following reasons:
-Paying for the full-year subscription makes for a very expensive lump sum payment.
-I’d be locked into buying every single figure, even though not all of the figures are announced by the subscription deadline, meaning I could be committing to some real duds.
-And Mattel doesn’t allow for combined shipping between subscription figures and non-subscription purchases made on the site.
However, outside of the annual subscription that locks you into buying 15+ figures, Mattel has begun offering mini-subscriptions that only lock you into buying 6 figures. The mini-subs focus on a specific group of characters within the MOTU mythology that may not appeal to the fandom at large. For example, last year they ran a subscription for the mini-figure 2 packs. Prior to that they ran mini-subs for obscure filmation characters and for brand new characters to celebrate the brand’s 30th anniversary. I’ve considered subbing a few times but I never made the commitment until their latest min-sub which focuses on 200X characters.
The “200X” title refers to the MOTU animated series and toy line that launched in 2002 to much acclaim. I was a HUGE fan of the cartoon which ran for 2 seasons (39 episodes) and I loved the stylized toys and statues based on the anime-inspired character designs. A few of the new characters that were created for the 200X show have made their way into the Classics toy line (i.e. Chief Carnivus and Lord Dactys) but by and large the Classics line has focused on the vintage MOTU mythology. The 200X mini-sub consists of 6 figures based on characters that first appeared in the 200X cartoon and who have never been made into toys before. I chose to sub for the following reasons:
-All six figures hd been revealed by the subscription deadline and they all looked awesome.
-Mattel offered an option for the figures to ship out in bundles of 3 rather than 1 at a time so I was able to save on shipping. Also, they billed in instalments rather than in one large lump sum.
-And subscribers got a free bonus gift.
The 6 figures were reason enough to warrant subscribing but the bonus gift was like the cherry on top that sealed the deal. The bonus gift is a pack of 6 alternate heads in the 200X style intended for previously released MOTU Classics figures. Some characters looked drastically different from their vintage counterparts when redesigned for the 200X line and these new heads allow you to display “Classics” versions of those dynamic reimaginings.
I’ll start with Buzz-Off because he’s one of my favorite MOTU characters. I’ll forever love the vintage look because I grew up with it but the 200X redesign was undeniably cooler. It was much leaner and more angular and the long antennae provided a truer bug-like appearance. It was less cutesy and more badass. The 200X Buzz-Off figure looks awesome displayed on my shelf but unfortunately I’m quickly running out of shelf space so my 200X collection may soon end up boxed up to make room for more current toy lines. This new head will take some of the “sting” out of boxing up my 200X Buzz-Off because now I can display my Classics Buzz-Off with this 200X-style head. However, I’m not 100% sure I’ll do that because the vintage style head has a nostalgic charm about it that makes me smile. Also the 200X head doesn’t quite look natural on the bulkier body of the Classics figure; plus the bright banana yellow used on this new head doesn’t match up as nicely with the more mustardy yellow of the body and original head. I really like them both and I’d almost rather try to find another Buzz-Off for cheap so I can display him both ways rather than choose.
Next up is Clawful. Apparently some people hate the big bushy black eyebrows of the original Classics head. I personally don’t mind my Clawful looking like Eugene Levy but this new 200X head is a really nice update regardless. The change isn’t as drastic as the Buzz-Off redesign but what they changed were improvements. The new head has more ridges and protrusions and the eyes are less cartoonish. I’m undecided if I’ll make the change on Clawful because I like the new and the old heads but they’re not different enough to warrant buying another figure so I can display both.
Sy-Klone was probably my least favorite MOTU character when I was a kid. He was at least in my bottom five. That changed with the 200X series. He went from being a total goofball to a badass samurai courtesy of an impressive redesign. I thought his portrayal in the 200X animated series was awesome and it really fleshed out the character. I was a big fan of the 200X toy as well. If not for his 200X make-over I probably wouldn’t have even bothered to buy the Classics version of Sy-Klone; I disliked him that much. However, I did buy the Classics version when it came out in 2011 but it’s been relegated to the back of the shelf because it looks like the goofy vintage version that I never liked. This new 200X-inspired head isn’t as good as the actual 200X head but its a big improvement over the 2011 head. The 200X Sy-Klone was clearly Asian but his ethnicity seems to have been undone for this new head which is unfortunate. In Sy-Klone’s case I will absolutely swap out the old head for this new one and he may actually work his way to the front of the shelf as a result.
I never owned the vintage Roboto which was disappointing because I always thought it was a neat figure with it’s see-thru chest and working gears. I did get the 200X version though and it was even better than the original. It still had the chest and gears gimmick but the overall design had been bulked up and pimped out. I love my 200X Roboto. The Classics version was released in 2010, before I had committed to collecting the line, so I didn’t buy it. I regret that decision now because I became a big fan of the line soon afterwards and have tried to collect them all and yet Roboto still eludes me. For that reason this 200X-style Roboto head isn’t much good to me because I don’t have a body to put it on. I will get that figure eventually though and I will definitely put this head on it. The original Roboto looked more like a knight where as this one is very much science-fiction. I love the sloped visor and the articulated jaw. It’s such a great looking head that maybe I’ll pop it onto someone else untilI track down a Roboto.
Like Clawful, Grizzlor isn’t a character I needed updated. I’m fine with his Classics head and the vintage figure that inspired it. I liked the 200X redesign as well but the only major change was the addition of a yellow ring around his face. I’m not sure what purpose it was supposed to serve, maybe just to keep his hair out of his face, but it looked cool regardless. It reminds me of the headgear boxers wear when training or that odd headpiece Shatterstar from X-Force wears. The actual face on the new head is smaller and there are fewer sculpted details in the face; he’s not as wrinkly. I find its more ape-like than the original. I might’ve considered swapping out the old head for the new one but unfortunately the rooted hair on the new head doesn’t quite match the hair on the body so I think I’ll stick with the original.
Lastly is Snout Spout, the crown jewel of this collection. Like Sy-Klone, the original Snout Spout was a dork. He had a big round robot elephant head sitting atop a man’s body and he looked ridiculous. I never owned it but my little brother Brian did oddly enough. it may have been the only He-Man figure he owned. Snout Spout never appeared in the 200X cartoon and he never got a 200X figure but he did get a statue and it was amazeballs.
The 200X redesign cranked Snout Spout up from a 3 to an 11. He was still a dude with a robotic elephant head but the proportions were way better and the design was much sleeker and meaner looking. I loved that statue and I was totally bummed that I never managed to get one (They were very tough to find in my area). Well I’m bummed no longer because Mattel has given me this awesome new 200X-inspired Snout Spout head. This thing is a beast. The original head looks like Babar while this new head looks like Darth Vader with a trunk (not exactly, I’m just saying it’s hella cool). I wish the nose were articulated but other than that this thing is perfect.
The Heads of Eternia set is a great add-on and I’m glad I subscribed in order to get it. I may only swap out 2 or 3 of the heads but those heads do wonders for those 2 or 3 figures. It’s unfortunate that the Classics bodies don’t really mesh well with the 200X heads in general but I’m happy to see Mattel acknowledge this brief but excellent era of MOTU. I hope to see another one of these sets in the future, a 200X Leech would be insane. 8 out of 10.
Build-a-Figures have to be one of the best and worst things to happen to toy collecting in recent years. If you’re buying all of the figures in a toy line anyway then getting parts to build an additional figure packaged with each toy is pretty rad. Unfortunately, none of the lines that I collect as a completist (or near-completist at least) such as G.I. Joe, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, and Marvel Universe, have build-a-figures so there are no “free” figures for me. As luck would have it the only toy line making use of the concept at present is one that I only collect casually; Marvel Legends. By casually I mean I only buy figures of characters that I REALLY want and generally they’re characters who haven’t already been released in the smaller 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe scale. My small Marvel Legends collection consists of characters like Agent Venom, Anti-Venom, Machine Man, and Arana. All characters omitted from the “Universe” line.
One of the most recent waves of Marvel Legends featured a figure that I REALLY wanted, the Hobgoblin. I already own multiple Hobgoblin figures but I really wanted this particular one and it just so happened to be the wave’s build-a-figure. This is why build-a-figures can be the worst. I didn’t really want any of the other figures from the wave but I needed them all in order to get the 6 separate piece required to build the Hobgoblin. So of course I ended up buying an entire wave of figures I otherwise wouldn’t have. Damn you Hasbro.
Ever since I was a little kid the Green Goblin was my favorite Spider-Man villain. That likely stemmed from watching re-runs of the 70s cartoon and seeing him on various merchandise. I’ve had this toy for as long as I can remember. Sadly, by the time I started collecting comic books at 8 years old the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, was long dead. His son Harry took up the mantle a couple of times but he was never as good a villain and even he eventually died too.
However, it was right around the time that I started collecting comics that a new character was introduced, the Hobgoblin. A mystery man discovered one of Norman’s old hideouts filled with goblin gear and decided to become a super villain. He changed the color of the costume, donned a hood, and immediately became a huge thorn in Spidey’s side. In many ways the Hobgoblin was even cooler than his predecessor the Green Goblin. His costume made him look as though he was a yellow skinned goblin wearing blue chainmail on his arms and legs as opposed the Green Goblin’s costume which gave the appearance of a green-skinned goblin with bare arms and legs. Also the hood allowed for artists to draw Hob with only his red eyes showing in an otherwise black void of a face. It was a much creepier visage than the long purple sleeping cap and luscious eyelashes worn by Norman. Plus the Hobgoblin was a rational and cunning villain instead of a total whack job like the Green Goblin.
After a few red herrings and retcons the original Hobgoblin’s identity was revealed to be Roderick Kingsley. I have an old 5” Toy Biz produced Hobgoblin figure which I feel represents the Kingsley version quite well. The second Hobgoblin was Jason Macendale. If I’m being honest he was a lesser Hobgoblin but I was a big fan of the character anyway because Macendale was formerly the villain known as Jack-O-Lantern (one of my all-time favorite characters who’s slated to get his own Marvel Legends figure soon). The Macendale Hobgoblin was more maniacal and his costume was tattered (especially after getting possessed by a demon but that’s a story for another time). I have a couple Hobgoblin figures that I feel are decent representations of the Macendale version.
This new Legends figure of the Hobgoblin is neither of those guys. This is Phil Urich, nephew of Ben Urich who is a long-standing supporting character in both Spider-Man and Daredevil comics. Phil actually had his own series for a while in the mid-90s back when he was a heroic Green Goblin. Just as Kingsley had done many years earlier, Phil stumbled upon one of Norman’s old hideouts but instead of using the goblin gear for evil he decided to become a super hero. I quite enjoyed the series and was sad to see it end after only 13 issues. Thankfully Phil return years later in a team book called the Loners.
I still don’t understand why Phil went bad all of the sudden and decided to become the new Hobgoblin but that’s what he did in 2011 courtesy of writer Dan Slott. The Urich version of Hobby was quite different from the previous versions. He had a much more “Lord of the Rings” look about him and he had wings instead of the usual glider. I didn’t care for the unexplained change in attitude but I was happy to see the character being utilized and I really liked Phil’s new costume. It didn’t hurt that artist extraordinaire, Humberto Ramos, was the one to design it. He had given Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin a similar LOTR make-over a few years earlier (Norman was back from the dead by then. Oh, comics.).
So this figure is the first and thus far only version of the Phil Urich Hobgoblin which is why I wanted it despite already owning multiple Hobgoblin figures. To get it I had to buy Anti-Venom, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Black Widow, Daredevil, and Spider-Girl. I actually wanted Anti-Venom so that was fine and the Spider-Girl figure is pretty cool too. Spider-Man, Daredevil and 2009 are all decent figures but I have multiple versions of those guys and I didn’t need them. I don’t have any figures of the Black Widow but I really don’t like the character and did not want to buy it (This isn’t the Russian red-head we’re talking about by the way, this is a female clone of teenage Peter Parker from an alternate universe with the unimaginative costume and she sucks). I wanted a complete Hobgoblin though so I bought them all and so this bonus “free” figure ended up costing me over $150 to build. The price point hurts but this figure does not disappoint.
This sculpt on this figure is amazing. There are so many great details on the body like the buckles on the boots, the chainmail in the skirt, and the padding in the chest but its the face that is truly stellar. He’s got an evil scowl and an open mouth with individually sculpted jagged teeth. It’s very true to Ramos’s artwork. This figure is loaded with articulation such as double jointed knees and elbows and ball jointed limbs so he can be posed all sorts of ways. For accessories he has a flame sword sculpted in translucent yellow plastic, a separate de-flamed version of the sword’s hilt, a pumpkin bomb and a killer set of wings that he wears like a knapsack. I really wish he had been available as a single packed figure that way more people could enjoy him and I would’ve saved some money but other than that I can find nothing to complain about. I love it. 10 out of 10.
I use this blog to write about my toy collection, hence the title “Mike’s Collection”. It’s the only blog I have. I don’t have a diary/journal type of blog where I can talk about slice-of-life type things so I hope you don’t mind if I veer off topic this one time to talk about something non-toy related. I want to talk about my guinea pig, Winkerton. I don’t mean to imply at all that Winkerton was a part of my collection by writing about her on this blog. She was my beloved pet and friend and she passed away in my arms a few hours ago.
My family had a dog named Girl when I was very young but for most of my life we had cats when I was growing up. Our first cat was Cloudy and she was gifted to my brother Doug from our grandfather. Then my sister Angie got Thunder and later my sister Katie got Drizzle who was later followed by Tux. The first pets I owned that I could really call my own (with the exception of some fish) were four white mice. Their names were Artie, Vince, Trent, and Ozzie. They were cute but quite vicious towards one another so I eventually had to keep them all in separate cages. I enjoyed having a small animal ever present in my room to talk to but the mice were not a very affectionate bunch. I never felt like they recognized or knew me. I considered getting a rat because my friend Ross had one and it seemed much more aware then my mice did but I knew my mom would freak out if I ever tried to bring a rat into the house. After perusing the pet stores I decided that a guinea pig might be what I was looking for. They weren’t as skittish as mice, didn’t have long creepy tails like rats, they weren’t as stinky as ferrets, and they weren’t as boring as hedgehogs. It was some years after my mice were all gone that my then girlfriend Toni got me a guinea pig for Christmas. I named her Wheels.
Wheels was an awesome guinea pig who loved to curl up in the pouch of my hoodies and watch movies with me. She was quite affectionate. After a while I felt bad that she was all alone in her cage so I got her a companion whom I named Widget. There was an adjustment period but I like to think they became friends before too long. Widget had lots of personality. I used to put her on the floor of my apartment and she would chase me around like we were playing tag. I probably went overboard when I bought a third pig whom I named Waffles. A week or two after I bought Waffles she had a baby and I now suddenly had 4 guinea pigs in one cage. My 3 pigs were all girls and the baby was a boy who would be sexually active in a matter of weeks so I had to find another home for him quickly before I found myself with a dozen guinea pigs. Toni and I had split by then and I had moved into a bachelor apartment but she offered to take the baby off my hands. She named him Baby and he lived a good life.
After 4 years together Wheels passed away. Widget passed away about a year later. She was also around 4 years old. Both went quickly and quietly. It was at about the 4-year mark for Waffles too when she got sick. Unlike the others she hung in there for more than a week before she passed. I took her to the vet and got her medication but it killed me to watch her suffer like that. After she was gone and I found myself pigless for the first time in about 6 years I decided I would not be getting another.
Waffles’ death occurred shortly after a 4 year relationship ended. I was pretty down in the dumps already and coming home to an empty apartment everyday didn’t help. If you weren’t aware, guinea pigs actually make a lot of noise. They squeak all the time and sometimes its almost like they’re singing. They shuffle around in their wood chips and they click on the water bottles. I had become so accustomed to those sounds over the years that once they were gone completely the silence was deafening. I lasted about a week before I went looking for a new guinea pig companion. I found Winkerton.
I had originally planned to break the W-names pattern and name her Pinkerton after my favorite Weezer album but at the last minute I decided on Winkerton to honour the pigs that came before her. Having another living thing to talk to in my bachelor apartment meant the world to me during that rough patch. My action figures are great and I love them but they’ll never love me back. I’m pretty sure Winkerton did. Her cage was on my computer desk and she always pressed her nose up to the glass to see what I was doing whenever I was on the computer. She liked it when I petted her and she never shied away from attention. We were quite close in those early days and I took her out of the cage all the time.
After a while I met Vanessa and we moved in together. We got a large 2-bedroom apartment which was a nice upgrade from the bachelor. Winkerton got her own table next to the patio door. I hope she liked it there because she got lots of sunlight and had a view of the outside but the days of watching me at the computer were gone. I still talked to her often and went over to pet her frequently but I never spent any real time over by her table. I feel bad about that. Even when Vanessa and I separated for a while and I moved into my current apartment I relied on Winkerton to keep me company but I didn’t take her out of her cage as much as I should have. She loved running around the floor and exploring the place. I may not have been as attentive an owner as I should have been the last little while but I still think she was happy.
I was out at Vanessa’s last night and I returned home this afternoon to find Winkerton on her side and breathing heavily. I wrapped her in a towel and held her while she trembled and wheezed until she was gone. It was tough. My eyes are still red and my cheeks are still wet. She was with me longer than any of my previous guinea pigs and she saw me through tougher times. It’s Thanksgiving today in Canada and I’m thankful that she held on long enough for me to see her off. Had I returned home to find her already gone I’d be plagued with guilt for a long time to come.
Winky was a great pet. I don’t plan on replacing her anytime soon but if the silence gets too loud again you never know. It’s already too quiet in here. Rest in peace Winkerton. Thanks for indulging me guys, back to toys next time.
When the first wave of Star Wars “The Force Awakens” figures hit stores a couple of weeks ago I went looking for the 6” Black Series figures. Those are the only Star Wars figures I’ve been interested in collecting for the last couple of years and I’m even selective with those. I didn’t plan on buying any of the smaller figures even though I have been known to occasionally pick one up from time to time (i.e. Darth Malgus and Savage Opress). All of the Black Series figures were sold out so rather than come home empty handed I caved and bought the 3 ¾” First Order Flame Trooper. The figure was severely lacking in articulation but I liked the design. The uniform was sort of an amalgamation of the original Storm Trooper and the original Snow Trooper. The Snow Troopers from Empire Strikes Back were my favorite type of Imperial soldier when I was a kid. I liked their elongated masks which I thought made them look like ghosts.
I went to Walmart again the other day and my timing must have been good because it looked as though they had freshly stocked their toy shelves. Not only did they have all of the 6″ Black Series figures (I bought Kilo Ren) but they also had a bunch of small figures I hadn’t seen before. Since I had already broken the seal with the Flame Trooper I found myself tempted to buy a bunch of them. It took some willpower but I eventually settled on two, the First Order Storm Trooper and the First Order Snow Trooper.
I have done my best to avoid spoilers for this movie. I’ve watched the trailers but that’s it. I haven’t even bothered to look at pictures of the upcoming toys. I knew there were new Storm Troopers in the movie because of the trailer but discovering the Flame Trooper in the toy aisle a few weeks back was a cool surprise. Seeing an updated Snow Trooper on my most recent shopping trip was an even cooler surprise. After getting the Flame Trooper and seeing how its design was inspired by the original Snow Trooper I assumed that alone was enough of a nod to the Empire’s cold weather specialists. I did not expect that the Snow Troopers themselves would also get a “First Order” make-over.
I must say that I really like all of these new trooper designs. They aren’t too far removed from the original iconic designs and they’re all similar enough to each other to make for a cohesive looking team. I don’t like this new Snow Trooper design as much as the original but it seems like a logical evolution of the outfit and it’s still pretty cool.
The uniform is quite similar to that of the Flame Trooper except this guy has a lid (for lack of a better word) on his helmet. It looks like it could perhaps be a 2-piece helmet akin to Darth Vaders. Another unique element of the Snow Trooper uniform is the long skirt. I don’t know what purpose it serves but I guess I’m glad they kept it for consistency since the original Snow Trooper also had a skirt. I wish the skirt was a separate piece rather than being sculpted to his legs because it looks fine when he’s standing but it looks pretty goofy when you move his legs. On the plus side at least the skirt can’t get misplaced. My 80s Snow Trooper lost his skirt quite quickly.
As with the Flame Trooper and pretty much every other Star Wars figure this guy has a lousy 5-points of articulation, his legs, arms, and head move. At least the head is ball-jointed to allow for plenty of head movement. For accessories the Snow Trooper comes with a pretty cool rifle and some other piece of garbage which is going directly into my spare parts bin.
There’s not much to talk about paint-wise but what few apps there are were done well. The overall sculpt is quite nice and I think it will look even better when a 6” version of this guy comes out. I’ll definitely pick up the larger version when I get a chance but I’m still happy I snagged this guy in the meantime. Spending ten bucks on a toy is like a breath of fresh air after paying twenty to thirty dollars for all my Transformers and Marvel figures; and don’t even get me started on the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe figures that I can only buy online.
In summation, I dig this little figure. It was ten dollars well spent. Absolutely zero buyer’s remorse which is rare these days. 8 out of 10.
Tarzan and Mowgli never impressed me much but I’ve always liked the concept of a “jungle girl”. What’s not to like about a buxom blonde swinging through the jungle wrestling apes? I’d say the only thing better is a buxom blonde swinging through the jungle wrestling dinosaurs. What can I say, I’m a fan of both hot girls in loin cloths and prehistoric worlds so when you put them together you can’t lose. My first exposure to such a thing was most likely the movie One Million Years BC starring Raquel Welch. Nova from the original Planet of the Apes was another loin-cloth laden maiden that I was exposed to when I was young.
Not only does this genre appeal to me on the big screen but also in comic book form. That is why I’ve always been a fan of Shanna the She-Devil, a Marvel character whose been around since the early 70s. Before my time she started out as a solo act but by the time I started reading comics in the 80s she was married to Marvel’s lord of the jungle, Ka-Zar. After that she tended to play second fiddle to her slightly more popular husband. The two of them, along with their trusty sabre-tooth tiger sidekick Zabu, ruled over the Savage Land; a prehistoric jungle hidden in Antartica.
Shanna’s 1972 solo book only lasted 5 issues and after that she was relegated to occasional guest star status. Shanna hadn’t been featured prominently in any Marvel books for decades when a strange thing happened in the mid-2000s; there was a sudden surge of jungle girl books seemingly out of nowhere. Shanna got her own 7-issue mini-series at Marvel in 2005, and then Sheena (a classic jungle girl from the 1940s) got her own mini-series from Devil’s Due Publishing and then a brand new jungle girl, imaginatively named “Jungle Girl”, appeared shortly afterwards in a mini-series published by Dynamite. It was a good time to be a jungle girl fan but it could’ve been a great time if more effort had went into the books.
The Shanna book was written and drawn by Frank Cho. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Cho do yourself a favour and look up some of his artwork.
I happen to own one of his art books titled “Apes and Babes” which is always a joy to flip through. He’s been working pretty steadily in mainstream comics since 2005 but he first came to my attention a few years earlier when he was writing and drawing the daily newspaper strip, Liberty Meadows. If you don’t recall the strip, it featured a gorgeously-rendered brunette caring for a bunch of wacky cartoon animals. It was far from my favorite strip but I appreciated his drawing skills which were leaps and bounds beyond those of most other newspaper cartoonists.
I was excited about the Shanna book when it was announced. Not only for Cho’s artwork but also because it was a chance for a C-list character to really shine. I was quite surprised to discover after reading the first issue that the series was not about Shanna the She-Devil, the wife of Ka-Zar, but some other blonde in a fur bikini who was bio-engineered in a Nazi lab in the Savage Land. A group of men who crash land there discover her and name her Shanna. This was a puzzling choice. Why not create a new character or use the existing one? It was a little confusing trying to figure out how this story fit into the Marvel Universe at large. Was there two Shannas now or was the story not even set in the standard Marvel Universe? Despite the confusion I still enjoyed the series. The artwork was beautiful but the story was generic and dialogue was sparse (so as not to clutter up the many splash pages of Shanna posed provocatively) which made it difficult to get attached to any of the characters.
A second Shanna mini-series followed in 2007 without Cho attached. Instead, Cho opted to go create “Jungle Girl” (who was pretty much the exact same character as his rebooted Shanna) and publish through Dynamite. I assume he did this for creative control reasons. The second Shanna series was equally underwhelming stroy-wise and without Cho the artwork failed to impress either.
in 2013 Cho returned to draw Shanna in a Wolverine storyline set in the Savage Land but it oddly featured the original Shanna (Ka-Zar’s wife) not the new girl Cho created in ’05. It seems the present Shanna the She-Devil is an amalgamation of the two characters.
This Shanna figure was included in the most recent wave of 3 ¾” Marvel Infinite figures. I picked her up at Walmart about a week ago. My patience is wearing thin with this line because I don’t feel the quality matches the price. I also bought the Vulture figure from the same wave and it’s a piece of junk. Thankfully this Shanna figure did not disappoint me. I actually think this is a pretty great action figure. The sculpting is really nice and the paint job too. Her eye and lip paints apps are perfect so it makes me wonder why so many modern G.I. Joes produced by Hasbro are so sloppy. The figure is well articulated but doesn’t have any torso joints. I’m okay with that because multiple joints can often detract visually from a figure with so much skin showing. The previously released Marvel Legend Shanna is a prime example of that.
The only accessory she comes with is a large dagger which can be sheathed on her belt. I’m happy to get any accessory considering so few of these Marvel figures come with add-ons but it would’ve been nice to get a spear and maybe even a little dinosaur too. If nothing else she should come with a display base. The fact that Hasbro has stopped including display bases really pisses me off. I wouldn’t care if they did away with the personalized bases to save on costs but a generic black base should come standard.
(This is my 800th post! Thanks for reading guys.)
I’ve reviewed a few combiner components from Hasbro’s new “Combiner Wars” toyline in recent months but this is my first full combiner review. If you don’t know what a combiner is they’re the big robots you get when you combine a bunch of smaller robots. The very first combiner, released in 1985, was Devestator who was made up of a group of robots who individually transformed into construction vehicles so naturally they were called the Constructicons. Soon after Devestator’s release Hasbro released several more combiners and within two years there were nearly a dozen of them. Despite the crowded field Devestator was always considered the biggest and baddest of all the combiners.
I owned the original Devestator when I was a kid. I loved the idea of the toy and it looked pretty cool but it was nearly impossible to play with. That first combiner toy didn’t stay combined as well as advertised. All it took was a single punch from Optimus Prime and the guy would crumble to pieces. Another thing that bothered me about Devestator, and Transformers toys in general, was the scale. In the cartoons and comics Devestaor was huge and rightfully so because he was made up of 6 massive pieces of heavy equipment but the Devestator toy wasn’t much taller than Soundwave who transformed into a tape deck.
Regrettably I got rid of nearly all of my childhood Transformers when I thought I outgrew them; Devestator included. When I started collecting Transformers again in the mid 2000s I found myself buying up new versions of all the toys I once owned as a kid. I still wish I had the originals but the new ones were superior in several ways such as better sculpting, increased articulation, and the likenesses were much truer to the comics and cartoons. I eventually purchased new versions of almost every vintage Transformer I once owned but for some reason Hasbro held back on releasing new versions of any of the combiners. I had to make do with my Lego version of Devestator. It took a decade or so but Hasbro finally launched a combiner focused toyline in 2015. Now I’m getting more combiner toys than I know what to do with. In the past few months not only have I collected new versions of the Aerialbots, Stunticons, and Protectobots, but now even Transformers who were never part of a Combiner team before, like Iron Hide and Arcee, are getting in on the action.
Once “Combiner Wars” was announced I knew it wouldn’t be long before they got around to releasing a new version of Devestator and, sure enough, a Constructicons box-set recently hit stores. Unlike the other combiner figures that you have to buy individually, the Constructicons came packaged together in a huge box. At retail I think it might be exclusive to Toys R Us stores but I ordered mine online from BigBadToyStore. All combiners are made up of one big robot that forms the head and torso and 4 smaller robots that form the limbs; except for Devestator. He’s made up of 6 robots and they’re all big. This means that Devestator is huge even when compared to other combiners. He’s closer in size to Metroplex now instead of Soundwave. The scale is still completely out of whack but at least Devestator is finally BIG. I can get past a plane being the same size as a car but one thing that was never acceptable was a dinky little Devestator.
I won’t bother getting into reviewing the separate pieces today because I’ll talk about each Constructicon individually another time. Today I just want to review Devestator as a whole. I will say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The individual figures are decent (some are better than others) but I feel they all got a little shortchanged. Some are lacking basic articulation like elbow joints, paint apps and stickers are minimal, and some of the sculpting benefits the combined form but not the individual. For example, Long Haul is the dump truck who makes up the lower torso. I know he needed to be thick since he’s the key piece holding Devestator together but the thickness doesn’t serve him well as an individual character, he looks like a little fatty with stubby limbs. Regardless of the individual issues the combined Devestator is a thing of beauty.
For some reason, in the Combiner Wars toyline Hasbro has swapped out an original member of each combiner group for a new character seemingly for no reason other than to piss off old-school fans. Hasbro could have spited Devestator fans in the same way by reducing him down to a 5 piece robot instead of 6 or they could have swapped out an original group member for a new one but thankfully they didn’t do either of those things.
Devestator is made up of all six original Constructicons and while their individual looks may have changed a bit the combined design is very true to the original. The entire build, and most importantly the face, looks just how it should. I have zero complaints about the look of the figure. However his greatest weakness remains his sturdiness. The individual figures lock together quite well so I have no fear of him falling apart on his own. Mine has been assembled for several weeks now with no problems. He’s definitely better constructed than the original but I’m still not sure he could withstand any rugged play. His Scrapper leg is his most frustrating component as his weight is supposed to rest on the shovel as if it was his toes but it slides out of place very easily when you move him around. His articulation isn’t too bad but the more you move him around the less sturdy he feels.
The color scheme is purple and green throughout just like the classic version which makes for a nice cohesive look that isn’t found on other combiners. For accessories he has a massive purple cannon (don’t snicker) which is the same size or bigger than most other Transformers in my collection.
This toy isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn cool. Almost all of my issues with this set have to do with the individual Constructicons and not the combined form and since I’m likely going to keep him combined those issues don’t matter so much. This set is pretty expensive at $140 but I’d still say that Devestator is a must-have figure for any Transformers fan so if you see one grab it. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll find one for 25% off like my brother did today. 9 out of 10.