Category Archives: Comics

Top 17 Action Figures of 2017

Happy Holidays everybody. It’s been half a year since I last posted anything on this blog but I couldn’t resist returning for my annual year-end list. I love “best of” lists and my lack of blogging is by no means indicative of a lack of new action figures. New toys have been steadily flowing into my collection all year long (if you’re interested in seeing each one as they arrive you should follow me on Instagram @mikescollectionhalifax). I had begun preparing this list weeks ago but a few last minute additions bumped a couple of great figures off the list. Therefore runner-up shout outs go to Shin Godzilla and The Will from McFarlane Toys’ Saga line. Also Admiral Ackbar from The Star Wars 6″ Black Series line. Vanessa picked him up for me this week and he’s a long-time favourite of mine that definitely would’ve made the list but I can’t rank him because she’s holding him until my birthday next month.  My only criteria for the list is that ranked toys must have been released this calendar year and I must have personally acquired them. So let’s get started…

17. Axl Rose, Funko POP!: Last year I got so many great POP figures that I had to give them their own “Top of the Pops” list. I could have easily done the same this year because I picked up a lot of new POPs and they’re all fantastic. However, this year’s  purchases weren’t nearly as diverse as last year’s ensemble. 2016 was chock full of random one-offs like Labyrinth’s Jareth, Willy Wonka, Clockwork Orange’s Alex DeLarge, Elvira, and Mr. T. but in 2017 I tended to buy full waves such as 7 Master’s of the Universe figures, all 3 Home Alone characters, all 6 Hellboy offerings, and a half dozen Batman variations. Had I made an all POP list it would’ve been practically made up entirely of MOTU and Hellboy characters and that would’ve been rather dull.  Ergo, I selected the cream of the crop and ranked them with my regular action figures. First up is Guns N’ F’N Roses frontman, Axl Rose. I’ve loved GNR since Appetite for Destruction and a few years back I had the pleasure of seeing them live here in Halifax. Axl looked more like a bloated Mickey Rourke than the wiry energetic frontman of yore (he still put on an excellent show) but this adorable little guy captures Axl in his glory days. He’s got everything you need: leather kilt, mic stand with big red mic, mandatory 80s rock bandana, forehead sunglasses, midriff exposing half-jeresey, and tour stubble. If that’s not a recipe for success I don’t know what is.

16. Bludgeon, Transformers: The original Bludgeon toy was released after I had walked away from Transformers as a kid in 1989. I don’t feel I missed out on anything though because it was a pretty stupid figure anyway; a blocky generic green and plum coloured robot with no paint apps who transformed into a blocky generic tank. What made him unique, however,  was his pretender shell, a hollow plastic husk in the shape of a frumpy biological skeleton samurai. I came to appreciate this odd character many years later by way of new Transformers comics published by Dreamwave and ID which portrayed him as a formidable and cunning foe. Those comics made me love Bludgeon and I felt I needed a decent action figure of him in my collection but I didn’t want one that looked like the crappy vintage toy. I wanted one that looked like his comic appearance where the samurai is his true visage as opposed to a costume for a boring two-toned robot. I would’ve preferred Bludgeon in the “Generation 1” style but this one, based on his stylized animated appearance from the Transformers Prime cartoon, is definitely adequate. This version clearly presents a samurai skeleton but it’s a robotic true-version rather than a pretender shell. It’s more akin to how he appears in the comics which is exactly what I wanted. As a nod to the ’89 toy Bludgeon still transforms into a tank like his vintage “inner-self” did which is cool. I’m pleased with the colours, I like the accessories and I liked the price.  I was very close to spending $125 on a third party version of this guy before this Hasbro release came along which cost less than 15 bucks. Not too shabby.

15. Dazzler, Marvel Legends: I only have a handful of Marvel Legends on this list and it was not easy to pick favourites. I bought more than 40 of these things in 2017 and they’re almost all great. Hasbro has been hitting home runs with very impressive consistency.  Sunfire, Nebula, Moonknight, Bullseye…I could go on and on. So I would understand completely if you disagree with my “top” picks. I didn’t necessarily choose them because they had the best sculpting or best articulation or best accessories. My picks are driven by character and we all gravitate towards different characters. First up is Dazzler, the disco singer with the mutant ability to blast light from her fingers…or something. I never quite understood her powers.  Dazzler first appeared in X-Men issue 130 published in 1980. From ’81 to ’85 she starred in her own self-titled series but shortly after it was cancelled she joined the X-Men as a permanent member; that’s when I was first exposed to her. The disco look had been replaced by a contemporary 80s costume that looked like something you’d see in a Jane Fonda workout video tape.  In hindsight it’s just as dated if not more so than the disco look but its the costume I grew up with so it’s the one I like best. So even though I would’ve preferred Dazzler in the exercise unitard and headband she was my favourite X-Man of that era so I’m just stoked to finally own any figure of her. I’m only aware of one other Dazzler figure and its 20 years old and atrocious. This figure finally gives dazzler her due. The sculpting is great with the flared pants and feathered hair and the accessories are great with a mic, roller skates, disco-ball necklace, and light effects. She looks amazing and I think any disco fan would want this figure on their desk whether they know she’s an X-Man or not. Daring character choices like this is what makes Marvel Legends the best toyline on the market today. 

14. Michonne, Walking Dead: This was perhaps the toughest slot to fill. That’s because I knew I would give it to a Walking Dead figure but I really struggled with which one. I’m a fan of both the comic and the TV show but I have, for the most part, steered clear of the Walking Dead action figures. One of the reasons why is they’re produced by McFarlane Toys. Now I have a ton of respect for Todd McFarlane and I used to buy his figures all the time. He played a large part in creating the adult action figure market so it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have this blog without him. But years ago I decided his hyper realistic and extremely detailed products weren’t really what I wanted to spend my money on because they’re, often times, more statues than toys. But I do still pick up his figures from time to time. In recent years I’ve bought 7 Walking Dead and 4 Saga figures. Over the past few months I more than doubled my Walking Dead collection because I purchased two convention exclusive boxsets each containing 4 figures; one focusing on good guys and the other on bad. What caught my eye about them was that they’re homages to classic G.I. Joe figures. The good guys are dressed in tiger stripped outfits as a nod to G.I. Joe’s Tiger Force and the bad guys’ outfits are cross-hatched grey and green just like Cobra’s Python Patrol. I have no idea why they did this mash-up but I thought it was super neat and had to have them. These will be some of the rare toys that I keep sealed in their packaging because the vintage G.I. Joe style card art is a big part of their appeal. All eight figures are really nice but Rick, Michonne, and Neegan were my top contenders. I went with Michonne because the colours look good and surprisingly natural on her. I love the sculpt and the artwork on the blister card is dynamic. This is a weird and wonderful addition to my collection. Conversation pieces to be sure.

13. Avalanche, G.I. Joe: It was another rough year for G.I. Joe. Not to the extent where there were no figures, there were actually about 50 figures released this year, but not a single one at retail.  I purchased nearly all of those figures and it cost me an arm and a leg to do so because they were only available through subscriptions, clubs, and conventions. The average consumer would have no idea that G.I. Joe is still plugging away which isn’t good for the brand. There were plenty of decent figures released in 2017 but seeing as nearly all of them were made up of existing parts that we’ve seen time and time again it’s hard to get too excited about any of them. For example, Sneak Peak was on my list last year and Gung-Ho the year before that and those same figures were released this year with new paint jobs but the wow factor has diminished. This year’s 15-figure convention set featured Battle Force 2000 (The Joe team’s futuristic fighting force first released in 1987) vs an army of Battle Android Troopers (BATS). Getting nine identical Bats was pretty annoying considering the cost of the damn set but at least the Collector’s Club splurged for newly sculpted heads for nearly all of the Battle Force characters. As a kid my brother Doug owned 3 BF members (Dodger, Blocker, and Blaster) and I owned the other 4 (DeeJay, Knockdown, Avalanche, and Maverick) with Maverick being my favourite. Sadly, the convention set’s Maverick is probably the weakest of the bunch. If I had to pick the strongest it would probably be one of Doug’s old guys (Blaster and Dodger are great figures) but nostalgia is a funny thing and it sways my vote to Avalanche. His design is weird and his face sculpt looks a lot like Kevin Spacey which really isn’t a good thing these days but I can’t help but dig this figure; he’s fun. The knee-high silver boots, arctic camo pattern, and white weapons all work together to create a memorable toy which is superior to the original.

12. Darkhawk, Marvel Legends: Much like Dazzler, Darkhawk is an obscure Marvel character from my youth and I never thought I’d see him in action figure form. His comic launched in 1991 at a time when Marvel was trying out all sorts of new things. His comic lasted 50 issues and then he faded to the background.  Darkhawk has popped up sporadically over the last two decades and whenever he does I’m there to share in his adventures. I collected his appearances in War of Kings, Loners, and Avengers Arena. He was always a great looking character but I found writers and artists often let him down. Hasbro produced the first ever Darkhawk figure a couple of years ago in their 3 3/4″ “Universe” line. I was pretty excited about that figure but it wasn’t perfect. Most notably the wings were held on with teeny weeny pegs which meant they weren’t really held on at all. Well this year Hasbro made a Darkhawk figure which I have no complaints about. It looks totally badass and his wings are sculpted directly to his arms in a creative way so they look great when posed standing or in action. The metallic blue plastic used for the armour is the perfect colour and the body type suits the character; not too big, not too small. Sculpting detail is minimal and there are no accessories to speak of but Darkhawk doesn’t need them. This is a figure I would’ve loved as a kid and being a grown-up doesn’t change that.

11. Big Lob, G.I. Joe: If you had told 9-year old me in 1987 that I would be placing Big Lob on my top toys of the year list in 2017 I probably would’ve said “Why? Big Lob sucks”. And I would agree, Big Lob did suck in 1987 and I can’t be the only one who felt that way because Hasbro never bothered to make a figure of him. ’87 was the year of the animated G.I. Joe movie. It introduced a group of new recruits to the Joe team. They started out as goof-offs but ended up saving the day in the end. Those rookies were Big Lob, Law, Jinx, Lt. Falcon, Tunnel Rat, and Chuckles, all of whom got released as action figures in 1987…except Big Lob. The movie also introduced Cobra La and Slaughter’s Renegades all of which got action figures in 1987. But for some reason Big Lob (and Cobra La’s Pythona) got the shaft when it came to action figures. I was mad about the lack of Pythona because I really liked her but Big Lob wasn’t missed because I thought he was annoying. However, as the years  passed it started to seem odder and odder that a Big Lob figure was never produced. The Collector’s Club finally rectified that error in 2010 when they released an O-ring version of Lob as their incentive figure that year. Problem is, not only did that figure kind of suck, but it was released 3 years into the “modern-era” of Joe figures when many collectors like myself had stopped buying O-ring vintage-style Joes. So my collection has remained Big Lobless until a few months ago when the Club finally made a modern-ea version of him. Best of all they made a great version of him. He has a newly sculpted head which is clearly inspired by how he looked in the animated movie but far less goofy. Using Roadblock/The Rock’s body gives Big Lob the height he needed but it also bulks him up so he looks like he could kick your ass. His design may be relatively simple but I think it’s perfect and exactly what this character needed and deserved after all this time.

10. Death’s Head II, Marvel Legends: Getting a Darkhawk figure may have seemed fairly unlikely a couple of years ago but at least he’d made guest appearances in several comics throughout the 2000s so it wasn’t THAT unbelievable when he hit store shelves.  Death’s Head II on the other hand?  I would’ve thought getting struck by lightening while getting attacked by a shark was more probable.  He was a flash in the pan character who showed up for a year or two in some UK Marvel books in the early 90s and then he faded into obscurity for decades.  Even now he hasn’t returned and yet somehow this action figure got the green light from someone at Hasbro. I bought all of those Death’s Head books and, even though there weren’t many of them, the character made an impact on me. For years I designed my own characters that borrowed aspects of Death’s Head II. He embodies the 90s “everything but the kitchen sink” design style which is both awful and awesome. As busy as he is (horns, dreadlocks, torn melted face, liquid metal arm, etc) I was surprised by how boring his body sculpt was once I had this figure in hand.  He needs some pouches or something. So if taken at face value this figure may not seem like “top 10” material but the sheer miracle that he exists, and my nostalgia-fueled love of the character,  guaranteed Death’s Head II a spot.

9. Slag/Slug, Transformers: It’s about f**king time. I can understand why I haven’t gotten a Big Lob or a Death’s Head II figure for 30 years. Nobody other than hardcore adult collector’s like myself were looking for them. But why on earth has Hasbro waited so god damn long to give me Dinobots!! Every kid wants a Dinobot! It’s crazy! The original Dinobots were released in 1985. Repaints were released in 1993 when Hasbro tried to relaunch Transformers with little success. But since then….nothing! I consider the mid 2000s to be the beginning of the modern era of toy collecting; toys made for grown ups that grew up in the 80s. 2002 saw the relaunch of G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe and those brands have been carrying on ever since. Generation 1 style Transformers came a few years later when Hasbro launched the “Classics” line in 2006 in the lead up to the first live-action movie. Over the years the G1 inspired line carried on alongside the stupid movie-based lines though its name changed several times to “Universe” then “Generations” then “Reveal the Shield” then “Combiner Wars” then “Titans Return” and most recently “Power of the Primes”.  That’s 11 years of Generation 1 inspired toys and other than Grimlock none of the other Dinobots got new toys. The Dinobots were introduced to the original toyline after only about two years so how on earth did it take 11 years this time?! It’s madness.  Anyway, rant aside, just this week I got a new version of Slag (now called Slug) who transforms into my favourite dinosaur, the Triceratops. This figure looks so much like the original toy that I’m beyond thrilled to finally have him in my collection again. He looks great in both modes and he’s got tons of articulation which the original lacked. Love it!

8. Lord Gr’Asp, Masters of the Universe Classics: It was a slow year for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Mattel concluded their line of website exclusive MOTU figures at the end of 2016. Things looked grim for a while before it was announced that a little company called Super7 would be picking up the license and carrying on with the Classics line in a similar fashion. But rather than make people commit to an annual subscription or scramble online for the figures they want on the 15th of every month Super7 opted to go with a made-to-order model. They offered a window where you could pre-order their upcoming figures in manageable sets of 4 to be delivered at a later date. That date was supposed to be this year but due to production delays I’m still waiting for my first 8 Classics figures from Super7. Therefore I almost had no new MOTUC figures to even consider for this list but Super7 did manage to release a couple of exclusive 3-packs late in the summer for the annual MOTU convention, Power-Con. I only ordered one, a set featuring three characters that were developed for the original line but were never released: Terroar, Lord Gra’asp, and Plasmar. They’re all made up of existing parts but they all look great and any one of them could have made this list but Lord Gr’Asp just edged out the competition. He’s got a basic body with Clawful’s claw and Sssqueeze’s head. It’s an odd mix but it’s these weird designs that makes MOTU figures so unique. The paint job is really nice, especially on the claw, and it does a good job of differentiating this guy from Sssqueeze. A reused cape from Scareglow adds just the right amount of gravitas to this weirdo.

7. Raptor, G.I. Joe: For the past 6 years I’ve signed up for the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s Figure Subscription Service where for 6 months you get 2 exclusive figures in the mail. It’s expensive and it’s all or nothing; you can’t pick and choose your favourites. Every year I question whether it’s worth it. I hum and haw for weeks but I always cave when the deadline arrives. In fact I just signed up for FSS 7 last month. The problem is that the figures aren’t always winners. There are a few each year that I don’t really need or want and they make me question whether this is the best way for me to be spending my hard earned dollars. Then a figure like Raptor lands in my mailbox and assures me I made the right choice. Raptor is a very goofy but fan-favourite character originally released in 1987. Joe fans have been clamouring for an updated version for years but considering his unique look he seemed an unlikely candidate to be successfully assembled by the Club using existing parts and, sadly, those are the only Joes we get these days. But in 2017 the Club proved us wrong with this inspired reimagining. This character is still goofy as all hell but i wouldn’t want him any other way.

6. Man-Thing, Marvel Legends: Toy Biz put out a  decent Man-Thing figure in the 90s. And they followed that up with another good one in the mid-2000s. I never had either but always wanted one. Well, I no longer need them because Hasbro’s build-a-figure Man-Thing blows those two older toys out of the swamp. This figure is so gnarly I was willing to buy four $30 figures I didn’t want (and two I did) just so I could assemble him. Man-Thing is one of those weird Marvel characters that I shouldn’t love because he never really does anything but I do. He’s a big lumbering muck monster and this figure captures that perfectly. There isn’t much in the way of paint apps here but the sculpting is very detailed. Every inch of Thingie is covered in vines, weeds, and fungi. His physique is big and lumbering with a hefty hunch which is spot on for the character. The head sculpt is the cherry on top of this mud sundae as the face vines are just the right length and the big red eyes pierce right through you.

5. Super Harley Quinn, DC Designer Series: I like the idea of Harley Quinn but I rarely like the execution. I feel she’s a great looking character with tons of potential but I almost always hate reading her comics and as of this year I can definitively say that I hate seeing her movies too. But since it’s her look that appeals to me more than anything else her crappy portrayals in film and print do not deter me from buying her action figures. I purchased 3 of them this year bringing my total to 7.  I actually had to fight the urge to buy 2 more because I really wanted all 4 Designer Series Quinns based on the artwork of Amanda Connor. Connor is one of my favourite comic artists and she’s at her best when drawing super heroines.  Its crazy that DC Collectibles still hasn’t produced a Powergirl figure based on Amanda’s pencils but hopefully that’s coming. In the meantime I’ll enjoy these renditions of Harley. I passed on Classic Jester and X-Mas Harley and opted for Space Cadet Harley and Super Harley. Both are excellent and do Connor justice but Super wins out because Space Harley’s pigtails are constantly falling out of her head which is really annoying. This figure features a neat blend on Harley’s classic and modern looks. The sculpt is excellent and the paint apps, especially around the eyes, really elevate this figure.

4. Mer-Man, Funko POP!: As I mentioned above I bought every regular release MOTU figure this year. That includes He-Man, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Stratos, Orko, and Evil-Lyn (I haven’t yet acquired the exclusive Man-at-Arms, Faker, Moss-Man, Scareglow, and Trap-Jaw figures but I likely will eventually). These new figures join Spikor and Hordak on my shelf. Each one of them is cheek-pinchingly perfect but none more so than Mer-Man. The King of the Crystal Sea has been my favourite MOTU figure for as long as I can remember, literally. One of my earliest memories involves my dad hunting the original 1982 figure down for me for Christmas. Mer-Man is such a cool character with such a great look I don’t know how he isn’t everyone’s favourite character. The colours really “pop” on this figure so he stands out on the shelf even amongst an army of other brightly hued figures. It’s a little odd that they gave him this spear instead of his trident and I wish he didn’t topple over so easily but I can look past those things because this figure warms my heart.

3. Batwoman, DC Bombshells: Batwoman has become one of my favourite DC characters since she first appeared in 2006. Her book features good story-telling and beautiful artwork more often than not plus she’s a bat character that isn’t bogged down by a half century of continuity. She’s got a great looking costume but unfortunately the only action figure of her that existed prior to 2017, released around the time of her first appearance, sucked. The mask wasn’t right and the hair was just awful. I wanted to add an action figure of her to my collection but I refused to seek that stinker out. 2018 finally promises to bring us an updated version Batwoman in her signature crime-fighting costume but 2017 tided us over with this little gem. DC Bombshells started out as a line of statues showcasing DC heroines presented as 1940s-era pin-up girls. I loved the statues but they were too rich for my blood. The line has since expanded into a comic series, Funko POPs, and action figures. I picked up a few of the figures and sadly I think a lot of the beauty of artist Ant Lucia’s designs gets lost in translation. The figures are generally okay looking but hardly a suitable placeholder for the gorgeous statues. Batwoman is the Bombshell figure that impressed me the most. It’s cool and sexy, it captures the period-piece aesthetic of the statue quite well, and it’s finally a good figure of a character I’ve been wanting for a decade. Fun accessories and a great paint job (the shadow around the eyes could’ve gone horribly wrong) helped to secure this figure a spot on my list.

2. Warlock, Marvel Legends: Holy crap, it’s a Warlock figure. I started collecting comic books at 8 years old during the summer of 1986. In September ’86 Web of Spider-Man annual #2 came out.  Here’s the official synopsis: “Warlock of the New Mutants is on a rampage in New York City! What scientific experiments have driven him over the deep end? What can Spidey do to stop the mayhem?” Warlock is a zany shapeshifting techno-organic alien who refers to himself as “self”. I can imagine that some people find him annoying and maybe I would too had I encountered him later in life. But I was introduced to him just as my young mind was being blown for the first time by the miracle of comics. I will forever love Warlock and even though it took over 30 years I am super stoked about this toy. He was the build-a-figure in a wave of X-Men figures which allowed him to be appropriately tall and even have swappable limbs. The sculpting on this figure is pure perfection, it looks like he stepped right out of the pages of that Web annual. This toy is so rad that he almost secured the number one spot.

1. Trypticon, Transformers: In 2013 and 2014 my then girlfriend, Vanessa, surprised me with such an awesome toy for Christmas that I had to change the number one toy on my list just days before years’ end.  In 2013 it was Hot Toy’s Snake Eyes and in 2014 it was Hot Toys’ Crow. Awesome presents like that lead me to propose to her this year (she said yes!). For Christmas 2017 my now fiancé Vanessa bought me two amazing toys. The first was Hot Toys Storm Shadow which will make an excellent companion piece for my Snake Eyes. He likely would’ve topped my list but due to my rules he can’t be on this list (he was released in 2013, not 2017) however I’ll do a full review of him soon. The other toy she bought me was released in 2017 though and it was a surefire list-topper. Metroplex, the 2 foot tall robot that turns into a city, nabbed my number 5 slot in 2013. But Vanessa’s gift Trypticon, the two foot tall dinosaur that turns into a city, easily takes number one this year because he a god damn dinosaur. Trypticon is an absolute beast of a toy. I have no idea where I’m going to display him. I also don’t know where to even begin talking about this toy. I never owned the original but I always wanted him because he was so big and cool. I have no doubt that this new version dwarfs the original though because the new Metroplex make the original look like a micro machine. Trypticon is 24 inches of ferocious plastic awesomeness. Plus he includes a really cool 6″ sidekick named Full-Tilt which is a great toy all on its own.

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MARKO (2016)

saga-marko-fullSAGA

A couple of posts ago I reviewed the Nico Minoru Marvel Legends figure from Hasbro. Nico was co-created by Brian K. Vaughan, the writer of the series she starred in called Runaways.  That was the title that introduced me to Mr. Vaughan. I really liked that series and I really enjoyed his run on Ultimate X-Men that followed. That prompted me to check out some of his original books such as Y: The Last Man and Pride of Baghdad. It’s fair to say that I’d become a fan but not enough of one to buy just anything with his name on it.  In 2012 he launched a new creator-owned series called Saga through Image Comics. The cover of the first issue featured a dude with goat horns with his arm around a chick with butterfly wings breastfeeding a baby. My first impression was that it didn’t look like something I needed to read. But because I was a fan of his previous work I kept my ears open for positive buzz thinking that if I heard good things I would check it out.

Well, it didn’t take long before the word was out that Saga was a hit. It quickly garnered a ton of critical acclaim and began racking up awards.saga-marko-cover

Upon its release I bought the first trade paperback which collected issues one to six.  A few pages in I was hooked. I’ve been collecting the series ever since and now have all six TPBs presently available containing the first 36 issues. It can be frustrating waiting 6 + months between collections but each one is such a satisfying read when I finally get it. I go through each new one in a single sitting. The characters are just so well written and believable despite the fact that the universe they inhabit is completely nuts. Saga can be quite graphic at times, sexually and violently, which was a surprise but that’s part of the appeal; it’s a grown up book and you have no idea what’s going to happen from one page to the next. Vaughan makes you fall in love with characters only to abruptly kill them off later. Sometimes narrative years pass between issues and background characters get thrust into the spotlight. A fellow named “The Will” was an early favorite of mine. He was a bad ass bounty hunter; part Han Solo part Boba Fett. Then he went through a transformation that you don’t often see in comics during one of the time jomps; he got really fat. Plumping up a main character might not seem like a big deal but could you imagine picking up the new issue of Batman and being told three years had passed and now Batman is obese? Bold choices like that keep Saga interesting. Never once have I felt like the book was getting stale.

saga-marko-back

The subject of this review, Marko, is one of the main characters in Saga. He’s a “moonie” from the satellite called Wreath that orbits the planet Landfall. The moon and the planet are at war with one another and the two sides loathe one another. Marko is a captive when the series starts. One of the Landfallians tasked with guarding him is Alana. The two fall in love,  she helps him escape, they go on the lam together, adventure ensues. I really can’t say enough good things about this book. I just think you should check it out because its a super fun read.

I should also mention that it looks amazing. Artist Fiona Staples absolutely kills it every issue. I wasn’t familiar with her before reading this book but now I’d follow her anywhere. Last year she got me to start reading Archie comics for the first time since I was a little kid.

Saga features so many unique and colorful characters that it would make for an incredible action figure line. Unfortunately, seeing as it’s an independent title for mature readers, chances of anyone producing Saga action figures seemed awfully slim.saga-marko-face

 

 

So imagine my surprise when I heard that there was going to be a Marko and Alana 2-pack available exclusively at 2016 San Diego Comic Con. When I learned the toys were being produced by McFarlane Toys it made more sense. McFarlane are the guys that make action figures based on the Walking Dead, the most successful independent comic for mature readers of all time. I’ve avoided collecting Walking Dead figures for the most part but Marko fits in perfectly with the few I do have.  The scale and the level of detail are a perfect match.saga-marko-attack

 

 

Marko features his trademark outfit consisting of jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a jacket. The outfit is very comic book accurate with the exception of his hoodie which seems to vanish on the figure. The green hood can be seen on his back and the sleeves poke out from his jacket cuffs but there’s no sign of it on his torso. It’s kind of a weird omission but not a big deal. overall, the sculpting and the paintwork both look great. The black paint wash really brings out all the wrinkly details. Marko’s got quite a bit of articulation and the joints are well hidden but his posability is still rather limited. It’s hard to display him in any pose beyond just standing still which is pretty standard for a McFarlane figure. The head sculpt is awesome but I wish there were alternate smiling or bearded versions. This Marko looks a little sour. For accessories he comes with a sword and sheath that can be plugged into  his leg. I really dig this figure and I’m very happy to add Marko and Alana to my collection. I hope McFarlane doesn’t produce too many more Saga figures as I’m trying to cut back on my toy purchases but I’d love to add a few more characters to my shelf: The Will, Lying Cat, the Stalk, Upsher, Doff, Prince Robot IV… 8 out of 10.

VENOM-The Symbiote (1997)

Marv-Venom Sym fullSPIDER-MAN: VENOM

Venom is a character that was first introduced in Amazing Spider-Man issue 300, written by David Michelinie and drawn by Todd McFarlane, way back in 1988. I bought that issue off the rack and I remember it well. It was actually issue 299 where we got our first look at Venom. Mary Jane had just returned home to her apartment when she saw who she thought was her hubby Spider-Man standing in the corner. Spidey was wearing his black costume in those days so all that could be seen in the shadows were the large white eyes of the mask and the white spider logo on his chest. As MJ approached the shadowy figure he stepped out into the light and Mary Jane and readers alike were shocked to discover that it wasn’t Spider-Man in the corner but a hulking new villain wearing an identical costume with an evil sneer full of pointed teeth . Todd McFarlane drew the f**k out of that Venom reveal.  I was on the edge of my seat waiting for issue 300 to come out so I could learn all about this new character.Marv-Venom Sym reveal

 

That first Venom story was great. The return of Venom story, also drawn by McFarlane and written by Michelinie, that began in issue 315 and ran for several issues was pretty good too.  Soon after that Eric Larsen took over the art chores on Amazing Spider-Man.  I like Larsen but Venom’s already exaggerated features became ridiculously amplified. His jaw stretched down to his chest and his tongue was all over the place. Micheline was still writing the character but Venom quickly became an over exposed one-note character and I got bored of seeing him. Other readers seemed to enjoy him though because his popularity continued to grow.Marv-Venom Sym carded

 

As a result, Marvel turned Venom into an anti-hero and gave him his own book. He starred in his first solo mini-series titled “Lethal Protector” in 1993. I bought the first issue but didn’t bother to collect the whole thing. I completely ignored the many Venom mini-series’ that followed (Death Trap, Funeral Pyre, The Madness, The Enemy Within, etc.). Those comics watered down the character even further by having Venom’s alien costume spawn a bunch of offspring which grew into a bunch of Venom knock-offs of various colours ( Scream, Lasher Phage, Agony, Riot, Hybrid, etc.). Venom and his flock proved so popular that they even got their own spin-off toyline from Toy Biz in the late 90s. Since I wasn’t buying the Venom books I had zero attachment to those multi-coloured clones and therefore wasn’t interested in buying their toys. My little brother had a few of them though.Marv-Venom Sym back

I did however buy one figure from the venom toyline and it was this funky version of Venom himself. The package describes it as “Venom the Symbiote”. Venom has changed up his look a few times ( i.e Agent Venom) but I don’t ever recall him looking this bizarre. I know for certain that he never looked like this in a Spider-Man comic but I can’t say for sure that he didn’t sport this look in one of his solo comics. It is a very other-wordly take on Spidey’s alien nemesis.

I’m not sure if the fact that this toy is call “the symbiote” is meant to imply that this is Venom without Eddie Brock inside. That would make more sense as the symbiotic black suit always takes on a much more alien appearance when separated from its human host. However, the hostless symbiote usually looks more like a blob of goo. This Venom is more Xenomorph than it is Barbapappa. Perhaps it’s supposed to be the symbiote merged with a monster of some kind. I don’t know this figure’s origins  but I don’t really care. I just thought this was a damn cool looking toy back when I bought it back in the 90s and I still do today.Marv-Venom Sym hands

Most of Toy Biz’s Marvel figures stood about4 to 5 inches tall. This guy is about 8”. He doesn’t always look it because of the way his double-jointed legs are designed to give him a hunch but when stood straight up he towers over other figures in the line.

The head sculpt on this thing is just crazy looking. It’s long and flat with weird bunny ears and the entire thing is  is lined with individually sculpted teeth. He’s like a clam from hell. It’s extremely cool but I think it could have been even cooler if the mouth opened.  The body is lean and muscly with randomly armored and veiny bits.  His torso and neck seem to have a bio-mechanical vibe.   I should also mention that he has a tail; thats new for Venom.  Its long and curved with boney spikes running the full length.  It’s articulated  at the base only which is unfortunate because this thing would look great posed in different ways.Marv-Venom Sym legs

There isn’t much to say paint-wise but I like the addition of some greys to the character.  They break up the solid white and black colour scheme you would expect to find on a Venom figure. I also like how the boney parts aren’t just solid white.  There’s a splash of yellow on all them which make them appear weathered.

My favorite things about this figure are the appendages. The arms, especially the hands, are just awesome. Each finger is a pointy bone protrusion that is the stuff of nightmares. His hands are sculpted with open palms and spread fingers which gives him a very wide grip. This guy could choke slam Galactus with those bad boys. This figure’s feet are just insane and very H.R. Giger-esque.  Instead of toes his feet come to long thick boney points. Could you imagine getting kicked by this guy? Ouch.  It’s just all kinds of cool.Marv-Venom Sym compare

 

This figure doesn’t make much sense and it doesn’t look anything like the Venom everyone knows but as far as random oddities go this thing is killer. 10 out of 10.Marv-Venom Sym tall

THE PHANTOM (POP!) (2015)

POP-Phantom fullFUNKO POP!

Hey gang, it’s been more than a month now since I’ve posted a review so I apologize for the lack of new content. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon as I’m still feeling a little burnt out on this endeavour, and I’m hoping to focus my creative energy on another project soon, but I do plan on posting a handful of reviews before the end of the year. That’s’ because the end of the year brings with it my annual “top 10 action figures of the year” list and that’s my favorite post to write (I love lists). I feel any toy that makes my best-of list should be a toy that I’ve previously reviewed. So in preparation I’ve decided to start reviewing some of the great figures I’ve purchased this year that have yet to be showcased.POP-Phantom boxed

 

2015 may have been the biggest year yet for Funko’s POP! vinyl figurines. These things are everywhere. All of my local comic shows are overflowing with them. In-store displays are stacked floor to ceiling and new ones seem to come out every week. I imagine the bubble will burst on these things soon but for the moment they remain insanely popular. I could easily go all-in collecting these adorable figures but I do my best to show restraint. Currently I own 21 of them which might sound like a lot to some people but I think I’m doing pretty good considering how many different figures are available. I’ve picked up 3 new ones in the past few weeks and each of them is a contender for my top 10 list. I’ll try to review them all by month’s end but for today I’ve opted to take a look at The Phantom.

POP-Phantom backThe Phantom is an old-timely pulp hero from 1930s comic strips. I first became aware of him courtesy of the 1996 live-action movie starring Billy Zane. It wasn’t a great movie but it was pretty good and at the time good super hero movies were few and far between. The 90s oddly enough introduced me to a multitude of pulp heroes via live-action flicks such as The Shadow, Dick Tracy, and the Rocketeer (who was actually a new character with a pulp feel). I liked Dick Tracy and the Shadow well enough but it was the Rocketeer and the Phantom that really resonated with me. The Rocketeer for obvious reasons; he looks rad and he fights Nazis. You can’t go wrong with a jet pack, a leather jacket, a bitchn’ helmet, and Betty Page for a girlfriend.

The Phantom’s appeal isn’t as immediately evident. He’s a dude in a purple onesie with striped briefs overtop. He’s a super hero with no super powers and he lives in the middle of the jungle. The whole concept is rather strange and yet I was completely won over by the movie and it turned me into a fan for life. I’ve gobbled up every nugget of Phantom-ness I could find since then; sporadic comic book publications, a short-lived animated series, and even a direct-to-video live action sequel. Phantom toys have been just as elusive as lasting Phantom media. Prior to obtaining this POP! figurine the only Phantom toy in my collection was a 4” figure produced by Galoob in 1986. A Mego-style doll was released by Castaway Toys about a decade ago and I’d love to have it but it’s pricey and rare. So while this POP! figure may not be the most elaborate figure its still pretty cool awesome to add a new Phantom toy to my collection.  Now that Funko has the Phantom license hopefully they’ll release more versions. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have as many Phantoms as I do Rocketeers.POP-Phantom side

As I said above, this toy is pretty simple so there isn’t a whole lot I can say about it. There are no accessories and no articulation save for a neck swivel. Most POP! figures have the same basic body type which I’ve covered in previous reviews so there isn’t much new to be said about the sculpting either. But this figure makes the most of its few uniquely sculpted bits. He’s got his skull belt buckle, his rings, and his dual holstered pistols. What more could you ask for really? This figure is immediately recognizable as The Phantom (provided you know who The Phantom is) regardless of the lack of sculpted details and that’s a win as far as I’m concerned.

This is a fun and colorful figure of an underrated character.  I can find nothing to complain about. For what it is, this figure is a solid 10 out of 10.POP-Phantom compare

THE SEANCE

UA-Seance fullUMBRELLA ACADEMY

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite was 6-issue mini-series published by Dark Horse Comics in 2007.  It was followed by another mini-series, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas, in 2008.  Since then things have been pretty quite at the Academy.

I was initially drawn to the series because it was written by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way (I’m a fan). I really enjoyed his writing on the series so I was disappointed that he didn’t produce any other comic work for a long time.  It wasn’t until 2013’s “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” that we got another Way penned series.  More recently he wrote a Spider-Man one-shot for Marvel.

Umbrella Academy was about a group of 7 super powered individuals who were raised together as adopted siblings.  Some went on to becomes heroes, others became villains, and one of them was dead before we even got there.  I remember I enjoyed both series’ and I lent them out to friends a fair bit back when they first came out.  However, its been quite a few years since I’ve read them myself so I confess the details of the stories are a bit fuzzy in my mind;  perhaps I’ll give them another read soon.UA-Seance back

As good as the writing was I think it was primarily Gabriel Ba’s art that made the book feel special.  If a more traditional styled comic book artist had drawn the series I don’t think I would hold it in nearly as high regard.  Gabriel’s art (and Dave Stewarts’s colors) were captured beautifully in a set of 6 PVC figures released by Dark Horse in 2009 (the dead sibling wasn’t included).  The figures came in a clear umbrella-topped dome which was a pretty neat piece on its own.  I have previously reviewed 2 figures from the set; the White Violin, and my favorite UA character, Space Boy.  Today I’m taking a look at The Seance.

The Seance was the most goth emo character in a world full of goth emo characters.  He had his hair swept down over one side of his face, he wore a black trench coat, he chain smoked cigarettes, he had a ghostly white complexion, and he was always moody.  He also had the words “Hello” and “Good-bye” tattooed on the palms of his hands; I can’t recall if there was any significance to that.  His super powers were the ability to levitate and talk to the dead so long as he didn’t have shoes on.

UA-Seance face

 

The Seance was not one of my favorite characters from the series however this figure is a very nice rendition of him.  The sculpting, and even more so the paint work on these UA figures really make them look like they just stepped off of the page.  I’ve seen lots of bad shadowing painted on figures but the shadowing on these toys is brilliant.  My over saturated camera shots don’t do the paint apps justice.UA-Seance package

 

 

I really like the pose chosen for this figure.  He’s standing with his shoulders back, a cigarette in hand, and his jacket flowing behind him.  It shows off all the good design elements of this character.  Unfortunately it also draws attention to what I would consider a major design flaw, that big white diaper he’s wearing.  I know it’s standard practice for super heroes to wear their underwear over their tights but these shorts are too big and too white for the Seance to pull this look off. Superman he is not.

There’s a lot to like here, its one of the nicer figures in the set but since I’m not a big fan of the character, and because he’s wearing a diaper, he loses some serious points.  5 out of 10.UA-Seance art

THE CROW (Hot Toys) (2014)

HT-Crow all HOT TOYS

Hoy Toys makes amazing action figures.  They could technically be categorized as dolls because they’re 12 inches tall and have removable cloth clothing; akin to Barbie and the like.  However, Hot Toys’ products are really in a league of their own.  I have plenty of 12 inch “dolls” in my collection produced by various companies, including Hasbro who invented the original 12″ action figure with the release of G.I. Joe in the 1960s, and none of them come close matching the quality of this figure.  The basic body construction is similar to what has come before but it’s the fine attention to detail by all of the artists involved in the making of this figure that elevates it above your average collectible.  It’s very cool that each artist (sculptor, painter, costume designer, etc.) is credited on the back of the box.HT-Crow face

Hot Toys wasn’t on my radar when they started out making military figures in the year 2000 but genre fans like myself really took notice when they expanded into comic book and movie lines.  My first Hot Toys doll was the 2009 Joker from the Dark Knight.  Opinions may vary but I feel it was that Joker figure that really put Hot Toys on the map.  The likeness to Heath Ledger was unreal and the detail in the costume and accessories was unlike anything that had come before.  But as amazing as that figure was I never would have shelled out the $200+ asking price.  The only reason I acquired it is because I scored a wicked good deal from my pal Cal at Strange Adventures.  Hot Toys has gone on to release amazing dolls of the Avengers, Christopher Reeves as Superman, Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and a bunch more characters that I would love to own.  I even find myself drooling over figures from movies that I didn’t even like that much like Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Tonto, or Adrian Brody as Royce from Predators.  However the price deterred me every time I considered ordering one. HT-Crow box

The first Hot Toys figures to shake my fiscal resolve was their line of G.I. Joe: Retaliation figures.  I hummed and hawed many times to my girlfriend as to whether I should pull the trigger on Snake Eyes.  She eventually made the decision for me and bought me Snake Eyes for Christmas last year.   That figure did not disappoint and remains one of the best pieces in my entire collection.  I had planned to buy their Storm Shadow doll to compliment my Snake Eyes soon afterwards but a few things sidetracked that purchase. I moved apartments, I ordered my G.I. Joe Convention set and figure subscription service which aren’t cheap, I was asked to be my buddy’s best man in Mexico, and I backed a couple of action figure kickstarters, so my disposable income was stretched pretty thin.  On top of all that Hot Toys unveiled their new Crow figure early in the year.  As much as I wanted Storm Shadow I knew that the Crow would have to be my next Hot Toys purchase when I finally scraped together enough cash.

HT-Crow hair

As it turned out, I didn’t need to save the cash because Vanessa spoiled me again this Christmas by surprising me with this figure.  She wanted to get me something special and she really nailed it with the Crow.  It was a late addition to my top 14 toys of 2014 list but it ended up on top.

I’m a big fan of the Crow franchise.  I own all of the comics and I own all of the movies. I’ve watched the TV show, collected the action figures and listened to the soundtracks.  Some of it has been pretty bad but I can find something to like in all of it and that all stems from my unwavering love for the original 1994 film starring Brandon Lee.HT-Crow window

I had been a comic collector for years when The Crow movie came out but the comic that inspired the movie had slipped passed me.  I was 11 years old and a devout Marvel reader when the original Crow series came out in 1989.  Plus it was released by an independent publisher (Caliber) so I wouldn’t have come across it in any mainstream comic publications.  My local comic shop at the time (the Cardboard Jungle) may not have even stocked it for all I know.  But honestly, a black and white gothic love story probably wouldn’t have appealed to me at that point in my life anyway.  However, when the movie came out in ’94 I was 16 years old and it was right up my alley.

HT-Crow sit

The first Crow movie blew my mind.  I rented it several times from the corner store at the bottom of my street and I searched high and low for a VHS copy to own.  My mom scored a previously viewed copy from Ambassador video (the clerks wore crappy tuxedos) and gave it to me for Christmas.  I watched it repeatedly and eventually replaced it with a DVD copy.  I eventually replaced my DVD with the 2-disc special edition DVD and I later replaced that with the Bluray.

There isn’t any one thing about the movie that makes me love it so much but it’s a combination of things: the simple revenge plot, the unique villains, the gothic cityscape, the alternative music soundtrack, the great supporting actors, the dialogue, and most of all Brandon Lee.  I don’t know if he would have went on to become a big star but he knocks it out of the park in the role of Eric Draven: the Crow.HT-Crow full

 

The fact that he was tragically killed due to an accident on set while making the movie adds that much more weight to an already impressive performance.  Listening to the character talk about how “nothing is trivial” is quite heart breaking.

HT-Crow face1

Hot Toys has done a fantastic job of capturing Brandon Lee in his signature role with this figure.  The head sculpt is phenomenal. The gritted teeth smile is a look seen on a few occasions in the movie and was a good choice for a facial expression.  The paint applications on the face make it look like actual make up on skin and the glossy paint on the eyes reflect light in an eerie sort of way.  The hair is multi-layered and looks great too.HT-Crow back

The body sometimes looks a little lanky when the coat is removed but Brandon was pretty lean in the film so it’s too far off from being screen accurate.  When he’s wearing the coat I have no problems with the body.  He’s wearing a tight black top with multiple bullet holes and he has mock electrical tape and actual twine wrapped around him as well.  The pants are faux leather with a button fly and some tape and twine patchwork also.  It’s all very accurate to the costume from the movie.  The loose fitting boots with the floppy tongues look exactly like the ones he wore in the movie but it would have been nice if Hot Toys had went the extra mile and added real laces.  When his pant legs ride up in certain poses you can see he has bare ankles.  I’m not a fan of the bare ankled look as you may recall from my Ron Burgundy doll review.  However, the bare feet under the boots is film accurate as well.

HT-Crow guitar

For accessories the Crow has his black leather jacket which he removed from his first victim, Tin Tin.  The jacket is faux leather with lots of nice details like a belt, buttons, and bullet holes.  Theres some wire piping in the jacket so you can sculpt it to some degree, in case you want it flowing behind him instead of just hanging.  It fits him great.

He also has a guitar which is very cool.  It has a removable leather strap and real strings.  None of the knobs can be turned unfortunately. He also has the engagement ring he bought for Shelly on a string around his neck and 4 alternate hands in case you want to display him with closed fists or gripping hands.HT-Crow bird

Of course he also has a crow sidekick.  The crow is a solid sculpted piece and it looks quite nice.  All the feathers are well detailed and different black paints were used for his eyes and talons.  Both Eric and the bird come with their own display stands.  Eric’s is the standard Hot Toys base which works great my cupping his crotch.  The bird’s stand isn’t nearly as successful.  A clear rod plugs into the bird’s butt and then attaches to a small black base which isn’t as wide as it should be to support the bird.  I really think they should have made it so the bird’s rod plugged into Eric’s base.  I also wish they rigged something up so the bird could sit on his shoulder.HT-Crow bird butt

The final accessory isn’t really an accessory at all, it’s really just part of the box.  Hot Toys included an extra sheet of cardboard that looks like the circular window from Eric and Shelly’s apartment, the one Eric got thrown through.  It’s a really nice touch and they even went so far as to put broken “glass” with blood stains in the window.

This is a fantastic figure of perhaps my favorite movie character of all time.  If you’re as big a Crow fan as me you need to pick this up or get your girlfriend to do it for you.  11 out of 10.

HT-Crow collection

LEATHERHEAD (2013)

TMNT-Leatherhead fullTEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

I first got into comics in 1986 when I was 8 years old.  It was my cousin Greg that turned my brother Doug and I onto them and we were instant Marvel Fanboys.  Even though we grew up loving characters like Batman and Superman we didn’t spend a  cent on DC books.  We were Marvel zombies all the way.  Marvel and DC were the big 2, and every other comic book publisher was dwarfed by them.  As a kid I was barely aware of the smaller companies out there so the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, published by Mirage Studios, was completely off my radar.  I don’t even know if the Cardboard Jungle would have carried those books.  Apparently those original turtle books were quite dark as they were intended to parody some of the darker toned comic books being written at the time by the likes of Frank Miller.  My friend Shaun (whom we called Spanky) ended up buying some of those old black and white turtle books after the brand became a huge phenomenon and I remember reading them and thinking they were pretty bleak.  I recall one issue had a mutated leech named bloodsucker who was really freaky.

In the original Turtles series Leatherhead was a sewer alligator who, after he was mutated, befriended the turtles.  He wore nothing but some bandages wrapped around his forearms.  Since I hadn’t read the original comics, I never knew this.  I didn’t realize the character dated back that far.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia.TMNT-Leatherhead comic

I got into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles around the same time that most other kids my age did, when Archie Comics began publishing their own more kid-friendly comics and the cartoon hit the air waves in the late 80s.  The first time I ever saw the character Leatherhead was when he was introduced into the animated series.  The animated version was an alligator from the Florida everglades who swam into some mutagen and became a Crocodile Dundee like tracker with a Cajun accent.  If memory serves, this version of Leatherhead was a straight-up bad guy who didn’t do any paling around with the turtles.TMNT-Leatherhead 80s

I never got the Leatherhead action figure from the 80s.  In part because I grew out of my turtle phase rather quickly and in part because I thought that figure sucked.  The 1989 Leatherhead was oddly contorted and it was hard to tell whether he was supposed to be bipedal or walk on all fours; he was just kind of awkwardly hunched.  He wore a floppy hat, a hairy vest and blue jeans, and he carried a shotgun and a bear trap.  It was a a weird figure.TMNT-Leatherhead face

The 2012 Ninja Turtle revival has brought us, in my opinion, the best ever Turtle figures so my fingers were crossed that improved versions of some of the baddies and secondary characters would soon follow.  The new versions of Shredder, April, Splinter, and Krang didn’t give me much hope but then they released a pretty sweet new version of Metal Head so I remained optimistic.  I’m still waiting for improved versions of Be-Bop and Baxter Stockman (the fly version) but in their most recent wave of figures Playmates has given us this brand new Leatherhead.TMNT-Leatherhead side

How does it compare to the original?  Well, it’s way better.  Gone are all the cliched accessories and silly clothing.  Instead we get a stripped down mean-ass looking version of the character.  The new animated series  adopted the origin story from the original comics with Leatherhead being an ally of the turtles and he’s back to wearing nothing but bandages.  I loved the bandaged feet and hands on the new turtle figures and I love it on Leatherhead; they just look cool.  This Leatherhead is hunched but clearly bipedal so he doesn’t look like such a freak amongst the other figures.  The sculpting on this figure is great with plenty of detail in the scales and teeth.  I love the beady yellow eyes and the black circles surrounding them.  This figure looks menacing.TMNT-Leatherhead grab

The figure isn’t perfect though.  His articulation is sorely lacking.  He has joints at the arms, legs, head and tail and that’s it.  No movement in the  elbows, knees, waist, or torso.  A few extra joints in the tail would’ve been a nice touch as well.  Also this figure is quite small.  The snap on tail makes him a decent length but he’s only about as tall as Michelangelo.  In the cartoon Leatherhead towers over the turtles so I wish they had opted to make this guy a deluxe sized figure.

Overall I dig it. Nice sculpt, nice paint.  7 out of 10.

TIGER

Tiger fullINCREDIBLE COMICS

A while back I reviewed a chunk of wood that I had attempted to carve into the shape of an action figure back in junior high.  It was one of my many attempts over the years at creating a custom action figure of one of my original creations.  The wood man was an attempt at bringing Ollie to life, a character from my comic book The Boarder Brigade.  You may also recall a baked clay custom figure that I made of Chiliwac, the ant character from my comic book Costello Island.  A book that I used to self-publish when I was in high school.  I won’t rehash my entire comic book making history as you can read most of that in the Ollie post if you’re curious about it but in a nutshell I’ve been creating characters for as long as I can remember; alongside my brother.  Doug and I started out making “Marbel” comics in elementary school.  Those book consisted of us turning popular Marvel characters into animal versions of themselves, like Iron Man into Iron Cat.Tiger comic jump

 

By the time we were tweens we decided to create our own original comic book universe from scratch.  We called out new “company” Incredible Comics.  The Incredible Universe was similar to the Marvel and DC Universes in that it was populated with human super heroes and villains battling it out in the “real world”.  For some reason we set all of our stories in Victoria, British Columbia even though we’d never been there.  Each of our comics were 20 pages long.  Doug and I each created our own characters and we made our own comics from start to finish.  We’d spend hours sitting across from each other at the dining room table doing our own thing.  I wrote, drew and colored full issues by myself and Doug did the same.  The interaction came in when our books crossed over with one another.  We had an established continuity and timeline that we made sure to adhere to.  Over the span of a few years Doug and I had created dozens of characters and around 15 books each.Tiger covers

My flagship character was Tiger.  He was kind of a cross between Spider-Man and Wolverine.  Doug’s flagship character was Lynx and he basically had the exact same powers as Tiger: super strength, super speed, super smell, cat instincts, and claws.  We made sure to tie their origin stories together in order to explain the similarities in their powers.  Doug created a villain named Catsmaster who was kidnapping drifters and performing cat DNA experiments on them for some reason.  Lynx was one such unfortunate drifter.  My character, James Rand was just an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time.  One of Catsmaster’s irradiated cats, a tiger, got loose and bit James thus granting him Tiger Powers. Tiger side

I managed to cram a lot of information into that first issue of Tiger.  On page 1 he sees a crashed truck and an escaped tiger.  On page 2 he’s bit and discovers he has powers.  On page 3 he decides to become a super hero and he buys a costume.  On page 4 he stops a bank robbery killing 2 bank robbers in the process and he doesn’t bat an eye.  Things carry on that way through the special oversized 30 page first issue.  Not only is the writing atrocious but the art is pretty ridiculous as well.  One thing I find amusing about the issue is I used one of my dinky cars ( which I thought was a generic car) as the model  for all the cars in the comic so everybody is driving Camaros.

I’m much prouder of issue two as my drawing and writing skills had improved but it’s still nothing to call home about.  In that issue Tiger decides to make a change to his costume.  He ditches the tiger head style mask he wore in issue one for a more standard Spider-Man style spandex mask with tiger stripes.  I mainly did that so that “readers” would know that he was in fact a human and not some half-man half-tiger dude;  that was Marbel territory.

custom box frontIssue 3 was the last issue of Tiger that I completed and it ended on a cliffhanger.  Tiger pays a visit to the city’s crime lords, Paycheck and Afterdeath and they offer him a bundle of money to start working for them.  Did he take the money?  Well it’s been nearly 20 years already so I think I can let that plot thread dangle a little longer.

Anyway, I better get on with this toy review.  Andrew bought me an action figure customizing kit for my birthday.  It included 3 bodies, 5 different types of heads, 3 capes and some alternate hands.  It also included paints and brushes and a sheet of stickers.  When I unwrapped this present I knew immediately that I would be tackling some of my Incredible heroes as they are still near and dear to me.custom box open

 

There was one fully masked face that I knew I would use for Tiger.  I thought I’d better practice on another figure first as I didn’t want to f**k up my main character.  There was a Captain America style half-masked face which I thought would work well on my villain “The Skunk”.  Skunk used toxic gases to subdue his enemies.  He first appeared in Pulsar issue 1 but reemerged in Tiger issue 3.  He attempts to use knock-out gas to capture Tiger but our hero takes him out with a shot to the gut.

I painted Skunk’s head and body separately and they both turned out pretty good.  Other than some skin tone around his mouth the character is only black and white so relatively easy to paint.  I was pretty happy with the results, that is until I tried to attach the head to the body.  The damn peg wouldn’t go into the neck hole and I had to wrestle with it for 5 minutes.  When I was done the paint was smeared everywhere and the figure’s torso was cracked.  I cannot endorse the quality of the product.Tiger comic vs skunk

When it came time to paint Tiger I made sure to attach the head before I started painting.  Tiger is a relatively easy paint job as well because the majority of his costume is white, meaning I didn’t have to paint it at all.  I gave him his red boots and gloves then added the orange and black tiger print to his chest and head.  It turned out pretty good.  The only real issue arose when I tried to dab some white paint on his head for his eyes.  The provided brush isn’t very fine so he’s got some big blotchy eyes right now.  I might attempt to fix it later but it’ll have to be good enough for now.

The body type is decent and it’s to scale with G.I. Joes and Marvel Universe figures so I can display him amongst them.  The articulation is pretty good but I’m too scared to pose him out of fear of rubbing his paint off.  These things definitely would not make good play toys, at least not using the products provided.  Maybe with some better paint and a sealer this thing could endure some handling.  As is I will delicately place this guy in a display case.  It’s far from perfect but it’s the best custom action figure that I’ve ever made and it’s of a character I created when I was 11 years old so that’s pretty cool.  I give this figure an extremely biased 10 out of 10.

Tiger vs Skunk (salvaged as best I could)

Tiger vs Skunk (salvaged as best I could)

 

SPACEBOY

UMBRELLA ACADEMY

This is my second review of an Umbrella Academy figurine.  I previously reviewed the White Violin. That was one of my very first posts and I can’t recall what I wrote so I’m sure I’ll repeat some of it here.  The Umbrella Academy is comic book series published by Darkhorse Comics.  To date there have only been two 6 issue mini-series released of the title but hopefully more will follow.  The last series was published in 2008 so I think it’s about time for some new material.  The series is written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Ba. Ba’s art is extraordinary and reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s (creator of Hellboy) style, and Way has proven himself to be a pretty great writer.  Gerard Way is better known as the lead singer of My Chemical Romance.  I only mention that here so that I can gush about the band a little bit.  I think those guys are f**king great.  Their most recent album, 2010’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is still in heavy rotation on my ipod.  For that matter I’ve never stopped listening to 2004’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.  They may not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you’ve never given them a serious listen I recommend you do.

So the Umbrella Academy is about a group of 6 flawed super heroes who grew up together as adoptive siblings at the Umbrella Academy.   All of the characters have something going for them but I think Spaceboy is my favorite.  Not only because I can’t say his name without the Smashing Pumpkins song “Spaceboy” immediately popping into my head (great song) but also because he looks the coolest.  

Spaceboy, or #1 as he is also known, has always had the power of super strength but after an accident resulted in his head being transplanted onto the body of a gorilla he became even stronger.   It makes for a great visual as he towers over all the other characters in the book.  I really wanted to post some great art work by Gabriel Ba on here to show you what I’m talking about but it was next to impossible to find any decent images online.  I snapped this one pic of Spaceboy out of my own comic but it doesn’t do Gabriel justice.  You really should just go out and buy the book and you’ll see what I mean.

As for the figure, this thing is just balls out awesome.  It sucks that it’s not articulated at all but it makes for a gnarly display piece.  The other figures in the set are small and tend to get lost in the chaos on my toy shelf but this guy has some girth to him and he demands to be noticed.  The paint job is brilliant and captures the work of the comic artists in a way I didn’t think was possible.  The paint apps just add so much depth and character to the figure.  The sculpt is amazing too, from the dynamic pose to the retro jet pack and attached hoses.  The design is very top heavy as that’s how he appears in the comics but with the attached base this figure never falls over.  It really is a toy masterpiece.  He only loses a point for the lack of movement.  9 out of 10.

HELLBOY

HELLBOY 2

I really enjoyed both Hellboy movies.  For those of you who haven’t watched them I recommend that you go check them out.  If you did check them out and weren’t impressed I would recommend you go read the comic book series.  As passionate as the director Guillermo Del Toro was about the comics and as big a fan as he was of the source material, the movies failed to translate the Hellboy “feel” to screen.  The movies were a fun enjoyable ride but the comics are an absolute pleasure to read.  The first movie’s story focused around Hellboy’s origins and borrowed heavily from the comics.   You’d think that would be a good thing, and I understand why they went that route but the problem is that even in the 10+ years of Hellboy comics they haven’t yet explained his origins.  The movie tried to give too much information in one 2 hour dose.  Hellboy’s tale (no pun intended) is better told in smaller doses, with important bits sprinkled about his monster fighting adventures.  In Hellboy 2 Del Toro opted to go the route of most of Hellboy’s comic book adventures, with him being a character who’s basically along for the ride as some epic battle to determine the fate of mankind plays out on a grand scale around him.  I was very much anticipating the release of the second film.  In the weeks leading up to the film’s release I remember stopping into Strange Adventures on my way to work .  It was my routine Wednesday visit and I was expecting a fresh stack of comics, what I was not expecting was one of the coolest toys ever.  The shop had received their Hellboy 2 action figures but these were not your typical 6 inch collectables, nor were they even your typical deluxe 12 inch display pieces, these were colossal 18″ masterpieces.  There were 3 or 4 Hellboy’s to choose from all basically the same but with different facial expressions and accessories.  I admired the figures for quite a while before convincing myself that the $75 price tag was just too much for me to spend on a toy.  I bought my comics and left.  I made it around the corner before the voice in my head said ” Those are so cool.  They’ll probably sell out right away and then you’ll end up buying one on ebay for $200″.  

I turned around having now convinced myself that I was actually saving myself money by buying one.  I opted for the Hellboy with the most neutral expression.  It did kind of suck seeing those Hellboys sit at the shop for weeks watching as they were eventually sold off at half price but such is the life of a collector.  I’m still glad I bought this figure but the love affair has passed.  It is currently boxed up as I don’t have anywhere to display something of this size at the moment.

Hauling it out to photograph for this review did reignite the fire a little bit though.  I stand by my initial impression that this is a beast of a toy and a king among action figures.  The detailing on this thing is fantastic from head to toe, from the laces on his boots, the wrinkles in his pants, the cracks in his stone hand to the incredible likeness to the actor who portrayed him, Ron Pearlman.  Just the belt on this guy is stunning.  It’s got pouches, a weathered BPRD buckle, a beaded rosary, a lucky horseshoe and a working gun holster.  The gun accessory is also wicked detailed with moving parts including a spinning chamber.  The big duster jacket is made of a pleathery material and is full of straps and buckles and a big mean collar.  Hellboy’s shirt can zipped or unzipped depending on how much chest you like seeing on your demonic super-heroes.  The tail is made of a softer pliable plastic that feels pretty cool.  With so many great features you would think i would have this displayed proudly atop a bookshelf somewhere.   Eventually I’ll find a home for it but I think the biggest strike against this figure is that it’s Movie Hellboy.   I liked Movie Hellboy, but I didn’t love him.  If this was an 18″ Comic Hellboy you’d better believe I’d find somewhere to stick him.   That aside, this thing is awesome.  10 out of 10.