Category Archives: Marvel

TOP 18 ACTION FIGURES OF 2018

A full year has passed since I last updated this blog so I guess it’s fair to say that I’m no longer a blogger; but that doesn’t mean I’m no longer a collector. I’ve been buying just as many, if not more, toys than ever and if you’d like to see what I’ve been collecting you should follow me on instagram (under the name “mikescollectionhalifax”). I post pictures of everything I buy so it’s a much more accurate reflection of my growing collection than this blog ever was. There was simply no way I could keep up with writing about every toy I bought and if I didn’t have time to write about it then you never saw it. With instagram I simply provide a few quick comments and let the pictures speak for themselves. But for my annual “best of” list I wanted to share more comments than instagram can accommodate so I have returned to the blogosphere. Before I begin I’ll lay down the usual ground rules; this list is comprised only of action figures that I actually own and that were released in 2018. That may seem limiting but even within those guidelines this list was not easy to do (I had nearly 300 figures to choose from). Just to give you an idea of what you’ll find here, I collect G.I. Joes, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, Funko POPs, Star Wars Black Series, Marvel Legends, and a few other odds and ends. Let the countdown begin…

18. The Thing: Marvel Legends – Hasbro has been absolutely killing it with their Marvel Legends line the past few years. We’re getting more figures of well-known and obscure characters than I can keep up with and the quality is almost always superb. The sculpts, the paint apps, the articulation, the build-a-figure components…all great! The only real complaint I have is that there are SO many awesome figures that they may bankrupt me. I had to leave a slew of those amazing figures off this list (Mysterio, Storm, Silver Surfer, Lizard, Cobra, Spider-Man Noir just to name a few) but a few of them could not be ignored. First up is the Fantastic Four’s Thing. Ol’ Ben Grimm here was a Walgreens exclusive in the US but fortunately EB Games carried him here in Canada so I managed to snag one. There have been plenty of Thing figures in the past but I think this one is the first to get everything right. The size, the colour, the outfit, and the shape and feel of his rocky skin are all exactly how I would want them. The fact that he has interchangeable heads (neutral and angry) and hands (open and fists) is just icing on the cake.

17. Dylamug: Masters of the Universe Classics – I consider myself to be pretty well versed in MOTU lore but my knowledge is in no way encyclopedic. For example, when Super7 announced that Dylamug would be one of their new figures this year I had no idea who he was. Apparently he appeared in 3 episodes of the She-Ra cartoon back in the 80s but I don’t remember him. Or maybe I do. There is a familiarity about him but I certainly didn’t remember any details such as his name. The fact that this figure does not scratch any particular nostalgic itch makes it all the more impressive that I like it so much. Sometimes my objective opinion is clouded by nostalgia, as later entries on this list will show, but I love this figure based solely on it’s awesomeness. The MOTU figure line is full of unique characters but most of them share the same basic construction. Dylamug however is made up of completely unique pieces so he looks nothing like any of the other figures on my MOTU shelf. The Man-E-Faces like spinning facial wheels is a super fun feature that actually works as opposed to the often simulated recreations of vintage play features. The robotic body is simple and streamlined and does a good job of making him appear animated. My favourite attribute is the clear plastic fuse bulbs on the top of his head that make him look like a legit electronic.

16. Rampart: G.I. Joe – 2018 is the final year for the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club. A lot of people really hate on the Club online but despite their often questionable decisions, inflated prices, and factory errors I’m sad to see them go. They’ve given us more Joe figures than Hasbro the last couple of years and many of them have been great. Whether Rampart is one of the great ones is debatable but this is one of those instances where nostalgia wins out over common sense. The original 1990 Rampart holds the distinction of being the last G.I. Joe figure I bought as a kid. It seems odd to me now though because, even though I was 12 at the time and should have logically been losing interest in toys, I really loved that figure and I remember playing with it a lot. I don’t know why I didn’t buy any more Joes after that. Anyway, I’m so glad the Club provided me with a modern version of him before they closed their doors. Sure it’s 100% made up of pre-existing parts including reusing Blocker’s head but the parts work really well together and it absolutely looks like Rampart even if it isn’t completely faithful to the original design.

15. Abominus: Transformers: Power of the Primes – Of the 5 Terrorcons that combine to create Abominus I only owned one of the original toys as a kid and that was Ripper Snapper. Similar to Rampart, Ripper Snapper was one of the last vintage Transformers I got as a kid so I have a specific connection to him. I loved the idea of him but unfortunately the actual toy left a lot to be desired which I found was often the case with Transformers back then. He was short and stubby and he basically had no articulation. So I was super stoked to get a bigger, better, fully articulated version in 2018. It’s not often that I like both modes of a Transformer because I’m not into vehicles  but with Ripper Snapper both modes are awesome. His robot face and colours look great on a shelf but how could you not love his legged shark monster mode. I was going to give this slot to Ripper Snapper alone but then at the last minute I decided to cheat and let him share the slot with the other 4 Terrorcons which I also acquired this year. They’re all similarly great in both configurations and their combined mode is sweet too. If not for my childhood ties to Rip/Snap, Cutthroat might’ve been my favourite as he’s all kinds of cool.

14. Mosasaurus-Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom – I was one of those kids who was really into dinosaurs. It’s a passion that never went away but it’s near impossible to keep up with all the new species they keep discovering.  The first time I “saw” a Mosasaurus was in the BBC documentary series “Waling with Dinosaurs” and I was blown away. How had I never heard of this thing before? Why weren’t there rubber toys of him available to buy anywhere? I was giddy when I first saw the trailer for Jurassic World and one of these bad boys leaps out of the water to bite a shark in half. The Indominus Rex was cool and all but I think this guy stole the show. The Mosssaurus also had a goosebump inducing scene in the trailer to the sequel but unfortunately I found Fallen Kingdom to be a let down and the trailer scene was a tease with no payoff. Mediocre movie aside this toy rules. It could’ve been a solid hunk of plastic and I would’ve loved it but the articulated fins, rubbery skin, and articulated jaw really put this thing over the top. Not to mention the size of it. I would’ve loved to have had this thing in the pool with me when I was a kid, having it attack the G.I. Joe Hovercraft or swallow up the Cobra raft. Super cool.

13. Gwendolynne Heavensbrand: Mythic Legions Advent of Decay – This year was relatively quiet for me as far as kickstarters go. In the past few years I’ve backed several campaigns and have acquired a ton of wicked figures as a result. But I don’t have anything new from either Boss Fight Studios or Marauder Task Force to share with you this year. The only “indie” toys I bought this year came courtesy of the Four Horsemen and their Mythic Legions fantasy based line.  I’m not really a fantasy guy and these figures are expensive so I keep telling myself that I’m going to stop buying them but every time the Horsemen unveil new ones I get sucked right back in. In fact I just preordered 3 of their upcoming 9″ troll figures last week. I’m mostly interested in the creatures and haven’t generally felt the need to buy the human characters. However I made an exception with Gwen because she just looks so damn good. The attention to detail is immaculate but it was the paint job that really won me over here. The gold and purple look very regal and I knew she’d be a showstopper on my shelf. The working visor on the helmet is fantastic but I appreciate that they included an alternate helmetless head as well. A slew of additional accessories make this figure a surefire win.

12. Spider-Ham: Marvel Legends – This pick is most definitely skewed by very thick nostalgia goggles. This thirty dollar toy is about 2.5″ tall and lacks any leg articulation. It’s basically a ridiculously overpriced Smurf and it has no business being on a “best action figures of the year” list. And yet, I had to resist the urge to make it number one. The same month I started collecting Spider-Man comics in 1986 I also started collecting Spider-Ham comics so I’ve loved this little dude for as long as I’ve loved comic books. I collected his whole 19 issue series, a few one-shots, and his back-up stories in Marvel Tales. But it wasn’t until 2014 that he was introduced into the “real” Marvel Universe by way of a Multi-Universe spanning storyline called Spider-verse which brought all of the various versions of Spider-Man together to fight a common foe. Now, 4 years later, he’s a prominent character in the Spider-Verse animated movie. It blows my mind that these obscure things I loved as a kid are so mainstream now. I’m very glad Hasbro didn’t make this version fat to match his appearance in the movie though as the Ham I read about as a kid was never fat. This figure is vibrant, the sculpt is great (I love the little mouth ) and it just oozes fun. I wish it moved more but I’m just thrilled that it even exists.

11. Crystal Ball: G.I. Joe – A lot of Joes fans like the militaristic aspects of the brand so characters like Crystal Ball, the Cobra hypnotist originally released in 1987, aren’t always well received. However, I was a 9 year old Canadian kid in 1987 and I didn’t give a crap whether Crystal Ball was authentic to the United States military or not; I just liked cool toys. In my opinion Crystal Ball was very cool and his lenticular hypno-sheild accessory was awesome. This updated version from the Collector’s Club is pretty close to the original and any changes they had to make due to the limited parts they had available don’t hurt him in any way. The thigh high boots that morph into his pants are kinda weird but I think it’s all believable as eccentric gypsy-wear. The Club doesn’t often spend money to have brand new parts made but thankfully they did to give Crystal Ball a unique head. I think they may have went a little overly cartoony with it but I think it adds to his eccentricity and I ultimately like it. My modern Joe shelf would not have felt complete without  Crystal Ball so this figure fills a void in both my collection and my heart.

10. Predaking: Transformers: Power of the Primes – Once again I’m cheating by lumping 5 Transformers into one slot. The difference here is though, while any of the 5 Terrorcons could have been granted slot 15, none of the individual Predacons that make up Predaking would make this list. The Predacons have been at the top of my want list for years so I was very happy when this box set was announced. That joy diminished some when I saw the price point and then it turned into straight-up sorrow when I opened the box. There are some serious flaws with these Predacons, like huge blocks of undisguised connector parts, and that really isn’t cool given the price. I don’t know why they didn’t just make all the “kibble” removable like the fists and feet. Razorclaw the lion is the only one that doesn’t piss me off. That said, the fully combined Predaking is a thing of beauty. Sure it’s hard to play with but it’s an impressive 18″ tall and with it’s bold colours and golden wings it’s more of a conversation piece than any other toy on this list.

9. Budo: G.I. Joe – The original Budo was released in 1988 and he’s another figure that likely annoyed collectors who wanted Joe to stick to it’s military roots. Budo is the Joe team’s Samurai Warrior which admittedly doesn’t make much f**king sense but I was a kid so I thought he was great in 1988 and I still think he’s great now. Hasbro gave us a modern take on him in 2013 but other than the fact that it was a samurai figure it bared little resemblance to the Budo of old. Had the Collector’s Club never taken a stab at him I could’ve rested easy at least knowing that there was some sort of modern-era Budo in my collection but I’m very thankful that the Club felt that a more vintage accurate version was needed; now I can truly sleep soundly. This figure pissed a lot of Joe fans off this year because the Club decided to glue the helmet to his head and they replaced his combat boots with socks but those things don’t really bother me. I think the new head sculpt is youthful and reminiscent of the original, the helmet is big but it looks good and the glue keeps it from falling off (which would annoy me more than the glue), the colours are bright, and he came with a good selection of bladed weapons. It’s a shame a toy this fun isn’t available in stores for kids to enjoy.

8. Deathlok: Marvel Legends – Deathlok is a rather obscure Marvel character originally created in  1974. Back then he was Luthor Manning, a reanimated soldier. However, I didn’t discover the character until Marvel rebooted him in 1990. The new version was Michael Collins, a scientist who unwillingly had his brain transplanted into the Deathlok cyborg. Thats’s the version I grew up with and as far as I’m concerned that’s who this figure represents though I think it’s technically supposed to be the Manning version. I didn’t start collecting Marvel Legends until just a few years ago but one of the first ones I bought was their first attempt at Deathlok more than a decade ago. I just thought it was such a good figure of a character I love that I had to have it even though I wasn’t collecting the line at the time. That figure may have seemed good at the time but it completely blows when compared to the modern ML figures. It would stick out like a sore thumb if I tried to display it with the current generation of figures so I’m glad Hasbro opted to revisit Deathlok this year. This figure is incredible. I know I sound like a broken record but the sculpt, the paint, the articulation, and the accessories are all perfect. I love the stoic expression on his face. This dude looks like a total badass. I’m almost tempted to buy a second one so I can display them as Manning and Michaels. It’s that good.

7. Gryshaa The Slytherer: Mythic Legions Advent of Decay – When the Horsemen revealed their “Advent of Decay” wave of figures for their second major Mythic Legions kickstarter there were over 40 new characters to choose from. The one that immediately caught my eye was Gryshaa. As I mentioned above I’m not really into fantasy stuff so Orcs and Elves don’t really do it for me but this dude did not look like a sword and sorcery based character to me. I honestly don’t know what he looks like other than Red Square with pants on. He’s slender and spooky with no visible skin. He could be a man or a woman, a skeleton, a monster, a robot…anything really. Even the brief bio included on the packaging kept things mysterious. Gryshaa is like the Boba Fett of the Mythic Legions universe. The detailing in the sculpt is top-notch and the paint work showcases all those details beautifully. The colours work really well together and the 4 different bladed accessories provide Gryshaa with ample ways to dispatch the other figures on my shelf. It’s a work of art as much as it is an action figure.

6. W.O.R.M.S: G.I. Joe – The original Worms (Weapons Ordinance Rugged Machine Specialists) figure was released in 1987 as the driver of the Cobra Maggot. The driver represented a new trooper for Cobra and the file card even said they operated in crews of 4. However, as kids my brother Doug and I only had one in our collection (and it was his). Doug opted to make Worms a unique character and, along with my Ice-Viper whom  I also deemed a unique character, they were the toughest S.O.B.s in the Cobra organization. It was silly how tough we made these guys, flipping tanks with their bare hands and whatnot. So even though I never personally owned a Worms figure as a kid I have always viewed him as a key member of Cobra. I am so glad the Club released this figure before they lost the Joe license at year’s end. Ice-Viper would’ve been so lonely on the shelf without him. Personal fondness for the character aside, this is a really sharp figure. The sleeveless jacket is a little weird but that’s a limitation of the modern-era design and not unique to Worms. I think the Club did the best they could with what they had. The torso of the jacket is a pretty close approximation of the ’87 sculpt and the addition of a real cloth ascot shows that the Club went the extra mile to be vintage accurate. I’m especially thankful that they were able to retool the original Rocketeer looking helmet rather than give us some half-assed substitute. I only wish these guys weren’t so damn expensive so that I could get one for Doug.

5. Fangor: Master’s of the Universe Classics – When Mattel stopped making MOTU Classics figures and handed the license off to Super7 I really though it would mean I could stop buying so many MOTU figures. Mattel had already made all the core characters so that left Super7 with a bunch of C-list characters to work with. To my surprise they’ve managed to make some pretty awesome figures out of those less than memorable characters. Fangor here is a perfect example. He’s a just some obscure Snake-Man that no one’s ever heard of and they’ve turned him into one of my all-time favourite MOTU figures. His design and colours are great and perfectly snakey. His accessories, include a flying snake pet, a tool set, and an interchangeable head so you can adjust the length of his fangs; all of which are awesome. This is what toys are all about.

4. Optimus Prime: Transformers: Power of the Primes – For years I’ve been looking for a definitive Optimus Prime figure. I’ve got some that look decent but the size isn’t right and the ones that look really good are just too expensive. Just this week I was eyeballing the new “Siege” version in Toys R Us and I’m thinking I may need to get it because it’s pretty great. But as of right now I’m still in the honeymoon phase with this Power of the Primes version. Not only is he the perfect size in my opinion, but he manages to transform into both the cab of the truck and the trailer without any additional pieces hanging around. It’s a good representation of the G1 look, it’s got a Matrix of Leadership accessory, and best-of-all there’s a version of Orion Pax hidden within. It has long been established that prior to being Optimus, the leader of the Autobots, he was just a dude named Orion and this is what he looked like in that form back in the 80s cartoon. I love this gimmick and as happy as I am to finally have such a great Optimus i actually have him displayed as Orion. I really love it.

3. Brontus: Mythic Legions: Coliseum  – While I was still waiting for my Advent of Decay figures to arrive, the Four Horsemen offered up a much smaller third wave of figures they dubbed “Coliseum”. I ordered 3 of the figures and they showed up months before the Decay figures did so perhaps smaller waves is the way to go. The warrior and skeleton figures were cool but nothing I hadn’t seen before. Brontus however is the first troll I’ve ordered so even though he’s mostly just a repaint of the two prior trolls he’s all new to me and he is spectacular. The trolls were too fantasy based for me but Brontus being a cyclops makes him seem more mythological and that’s more up my alley. I could totally see this 12″ brute going to battle against my Boss Fight Studios Grecian warriors and gorgons. The sculpt and paint are obviously great but the fur loin cloth, the metal chain, and the club weapon made from a troll skull all help to enhance this already amazing toy. Oftentimes I feel ripped off spending so much on action figures that fail to wow but you always get your money’s worth from the Horsemen. Cash well spent.

 

2. Mer-Man: Master’s of the Universe Classics – My favourite MOTU character has always been Mer-Man. I loved my original 80s toy, I loved my 2002 figure, and I loved both my green and blue Classics versions. I really didn’t think I needed another version of this guy but as soon as they started making cartoon accurate toys a couple years ago I’ve been anxiously awaiting for them to announce Mer-Man. I finally got my Filmation Mer-Man this year and he does not disappoint. He looks like he leapt right off of an animation cel. The head sculpt is pure joy. The colours are flat and the design is simple just as they should be for a cartoon based toy. I actually think that if you were to own only one Mer-Man figure it should maybe be this one.

 

1. Obsidian Fury: Pacific Rim: Uprising – I realize that Pacific Rim 2 wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I absolutely loved it. I appreciate how fun it is. It wasn’t bogged down by all the world building and mumbo-jumbo science of the first movie (which I also love). This is the type of film I can throw in the bluray player any day of the week and enjoy it. I’m much more of a monster guy than a robot guy so the first time I saw it I was a little disappointed to learn that the bad guy through the first 2/3s of the film was a bad robot rather than a monster. But what a robot it is. Obsidian Fury is the Darth Maul of jaegers and the filmmakers seemed to clearly acknowledge that by giving him two laser chainsaws. I think his design is super cool and it was beautifully translated into this figure by Bandai. This toy is way better than any of the jaegers neca produced for the first movie. It’s light and flexible but durable. It’s a ton of fun to pose and play with; it just feels fun. The sculpt and articulation are great and the accessories including those removable chainsaws add to its playability. It may look a little bland but these photos don’t do it justice. There’s matte black and metallic black parts, silver paint apps and translucent orange plastic on the head and accessories. This is just a really slick figure.

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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.

SPIDER UK (2017)

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For my birthday last week my brother Doug bought me Ms. Marvel and Spider UK from the latest wave of Marvel Legends. Each of them came with a piece of a build-a-figure Sandman so, between them and the Shocker, Green Goblin and Spider-Man 2099 I recently purchased for myself, I’m only one leg away from a completed Flint Marko. That means I’ll be on the lookout for the Jackal, which is not a figure I would have bought otherwise but, since I need it to complete Sandman Hasbro is gonna get another thirty bucks out of me. Damn them and their clever ploys.

After acquiring 2099 and Shocker I was tempted to skip the rest of this wave. I love the Green Goblin as a character but I don’t like the new Legends figure, I know nothing of Ms. Marvel and I’m not interested in learning, I never liked the Jackal because he looks idiotic, Symbiote Spider-Man is rather bland and I’ve bought multiple variations of it in the past, and Spider UK is arguably  just another Spider-Man figure.marvl-spider-uk-back

However, when it comes to action figures my resolve is weak. I caved on Goblin right away because it’s likely the only Goblin we’ll get for the foreseeable future. It’s really only the face I don’t like and it may grow on me in time. When Doug asked what I wanted for my b-day I informed him that Ms. Marvel would be  suitable choice. It saved me from spending my own money on her and prevented me from missing out on her entirely. She seems to be a popular character these days so I was worried if I didn’t get her now she may be hard to find later. It was less about her and more about the crucial Sandman piece she came with (the torso). I also told him Spider UK would make a decent gift. He’s a good dude so he got me both of them.

If Spider Uk was just Peter Parker in a fancy outfit for adventures abroad I would not have wanted it. But Spider UK is actually a completely different character.  He comes from an alternate universe much like Spider-Gwen or Spider-Man 2099. His name is Billy Braddock and he’s a member of the multi-verse spanning Captain Britain Corps. Really he’s as much Captain Britain as he is Spider-Man. He supposedly has the powers of both men (minus Peter’s spider sense) which would mean he has superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, reflexes, and the ability to fly at supersonic speeds.

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In 2014 there was a storyline published by Marvel Comics called Spider-Verse which saw the Spider-Men (and women) from every alternate reality team-up to battle against a group of vampire-like villains called the Inheritors. That was the storyline that introduced a bunch of new Spider-Man variations including Billy here. He was the leader of the group of misfit spider people until the one-true Spider-Man took charge. The group proved popular enough to get their own series called Web Warriors after Spider-Verse ended.  Sadly the book sucked so it was cancelled after only one year.

To the untrained eye this might look like just another Spider-Man figure but there a few key difference which set him apart.  When compared to the default Peter Parker: Spider-Man Marvel Legends action figure you’ll notice that UK is quite a bit buffer.  I believe this is a brand new body sculpt and it’s a great base for future tough guys.  Clearly Billy hits the gym more than Peter does. Also of note, the blue and red are darker shades, the web pattern is different, UK has smaller eyes, lacks red gloves and boots, has no spider emblem on his chest, and features a Union Jack pattern in his costume akin to Captain Britain. I wish he had a more CB like helmet as opposed to a standard Spidey mask to further differentiate him but there are enough differences regardless that I don’t feel like I’ve been duped into buying the same toy over again.marvl-spider-uk-britain

I probably shouldn’t like this figure as much as I do because it is so similar to the dozens of other Spider-Man toys I have but knowing there’s a unique character under the mask makes him much cooler than he would be if this were just an alternate costume.  If I were a kid I would want to play out the Spider-Verse storyline and this figure would be essential. This is a solid figure with crisp paint apps and plenty of articulation. 8 out of 10.

p.s. I apologize for the extra crappy photos today. My camera refused to agree with me.

Spider-Man size comparison

Spider-Man size comparison

SPIDER-MAN 2099 (2017)

marvl-2099-fullMARVEL LEGENDS

Way back in 1992 Marvel decided to launch a comic book series about a future Spider-Man set in the year 2099. They also launched 2099 books focusing on the Punisher, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and others. Spider-Man 2099 was the only one I was interested in so I never read any of the other titles. Though years later, long after it was cancelled, I was drawn into collecting Ghost Rider 2099.  I may have given the other 2099 books a chance back in the day had I actually liked Spidey 2099 but unfortunatley I didn’t. I really liked the concept of a future Spider-Man facing off against future versions of his greatest villains, there was lots of potential there, but I found it poorly executed. Peter David co-created the character with artist Rick Leonardi and he wrote 44 of the 46 issues. I appreciate that Spider-Man 2099 was David’s creation but I feel another writer could have made the stories more interesting so I wish someone else had gotten the opportunity to take a stab at it. I don’t say that lightly as Peter David has written some amazing comics, including the first Spider-Man comic I ever bought (Spectacular Spider-Man 119) that featured Black Cat vs Sabertooth which I still love to this very day.marvl-2099-back

 

The Spider-Man of 2099 is Miguel O’Hara, a latino fella who works for a shady mega-corporation called Alchemax. When he tries to quit his job (upon discovering the shadiness) his boss doses him with something which leads to a series of unfortunate events; the end result being Miguel gets spider powers. It’s been 25 years since I read those comics but as I recall Miguel spent the next bunch of issues battling against Alchemax, a robot cowboy, some lame Thor worshipping cult, and crappy future Vulture. The stories never wowed me and Leonardi’s art didn’t help matters (though I’ve really enjoyed some of his other work too). It takes a lot for me to quit collecting a comic (I just quit Spawn after collecting 267 consecutive issues…it also launched in 1992) but I dropped Spider-Man 2099 after only 12 issues. Even though the book didn’t live up to my expectations I always had a fondness for Miguel O’Hara and hoped to see him back someday.

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He’s had a few scattered appearances over the years but Spidey 2099 finally got a second shot at his own on-going series in 2014. I added it to my pull-list at Strange Adventures but unfortunately it was still written by Peter David and it was still hella-boring. Regardless, I stuck it out until the series was cancelled a year later. I  got back on board when a third series was launched shortly afterwards under Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different!” campaign. The third series featured Miguel wearing a brand new costume but that was about the only new thing about the series.  It was still written by David and it continued on with the same boring storylines from volume 2.  I bought it for a while but quit a couple of months ago. However, I just recently learned that Mr. David is the writer of a new Scarlet Spider book launching this spring. I haven’t seen anything official but that probably means that a new writer is getting a shot at 2099 or, more likely, 2099 has been cancelled again.  In either case I may jump back on board to see how things pan out.

 

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Even though the books have never been very good in my opinion the character has always looked really cool. He wore the same costume from 1992 right up until the All-New, All-Different relaunch in 2015. It consisted of a metallic blue bodysuit with a red skull design and a web cape. Miguel supposedly had the costume in his closet because he wore it to a day of the dead festival once. It wasn’t a particularly spidery outfit but it looked great. I especially loved the mask with the open eye design. I have purchased several Spider-Man 2099 figures over the years in various sizes (12″, 6″, 5″, 3 3/4″) and they’re all sporting that same costume.

I don’t usually like costume changes for the sake of costume changes, it’s almost always a marketing gimmick to get fans to buy more comics and merchandise, but when I saw the All-New, All-Different redesign of Spider-Man 2099 I was sold.  I guess I was ready for a change after all these years and I loved the bold contrast of the red, white, and black design. It retains all the best elements of the original, such as the open eyes, the abstract skull logo, and the Batman-esque arm spikes, but it just feels so…new and different. As soon as I saw the promotional art I thought this costume would make a great action figure but I didn’t imagine the book would last long enough to warrent Hasbro actually making it into a toy. As it turns out the book probably is doomed but thank goodness we got this action figure beforehand.marvl-2099-compare

Hasbro has been absolutely killing it with their Marvel Legends figures for the past few years. I went from only owning a handful of them to buying a new bookshelf just to house them in a matter of months. I named 3 of them on my best of list for 2016 but honestly I could’ve filled the whole list with them. I feel that this Spidey I acquired a few days ago is an early shoe-in for my 2017 list.

This figure feature an excellent sculpt. It’s not as slim as the previous Spider-Man 2099 Marvel Legend which is a good thing. The extra bulk makes him look much tougher and I feel Miguel should look more dangerous than Peter Parker: Spider-Man. The articulation is spot on  with rocker ankles, double jointed knees and elbows, ball jointed hips, shoulders, and neck, swivel joints at the boots, thighs, wrists, and forearms…what more could you want? The paint apps are beautiful with crisp white paint on the torso, metallic red on the logo, and a few bright blue highlights all on greyish-black base. Everything about this figure is awesome. Some extra hands or an unmasked head might’ve been nice (the only accessory he came with was a build-a-figure Sandman arm) but who needs accessories with a figure this good. 10 out of 10.

P.S. It’s my birthday in an hour so I should have new toys to tell you about soon. 🙂

TOP 16 ACTION FIGURES OF 2016

It’s time once again for my annual “best of” list; a tradition I began in 2012. I posted fewer toy reviews this year than I ever have before but that does not mean I purchased fewer action figures. My collection continued to grow by leaps and bounds in 2016 and as always it was very difficult for me to pick my favourites but pick them I did. The only criteria I had for toys to be named on this list was that they must have been released in 2016 and I must have acquired them personally. So without further ado let’s get started…

2016-sneak-peek16. TIGER FORCE SNEAK PEEK-I only have two G.I. Joe figures on my list this year so Sneak Peek may seem like an odd choice in the eyes of many Joe fans. We got a lot of excellent G.I. Joes this year between the 50th anniversary series, the Figure Subscription Service, and the Collector’s Club box set and I’d bet that most people would place Sneak Peek near the bottom of their “best of” lists. Not only is he completely made up of rehashed pieces, including one of the most over used heads in the biz, but this figure doesn’t even recreate the classic 1987 Sneak Peek we all owned as kids.  Instead the Club gave us an updated version of the lesser known European exclusive Tiger Force repaint. So why is this figure on my list?  Well, I simply love Sneak Peek.  The character was a favourite from my youth and one I’ve been clamouring to see updated since the beginning of the modern era 9 years ago. The reused parts work well together in my opinion and I quite like the face regardless of its familiarity. If the Collector’s Club had sculpted a new head for this figure I probably wouldn’t like it as much because they’d likely make it pudgy and round to match the vintage figure. I didn’t expect to like this Tiger Force paint job as much as I do but I think it’s a great mix of colours so I find myself really enjoying this more obscure deco.

2016-vultak15. VULTAK-The Masters of the Universe Classics line has been killing it since 2008 providing fans with awesome new versions of the property’s numerous iconic characters. But after so many years it was inevitable that the line would lose steam and fizzle out. In past years I bought Mattel’s latest MOTU offering on the 15th of every month as soon as it went up for sale exclusively on their website. I couldn’t afford to wait because new toys sold out almost immediately. Nowadays toys of obscure characters remain on sale for months so there’s no sense of urgency.  I didn’t purchase a single MOTU figure this year until they were discounted during Mattel’s Black Friday sale. Even though my excitement for the toyline has waned a bit there’s nothing more exciting than opening up a new box of He-Man figures from Mattel. My Black Friday shipment contained 6 figures (none of them well known characters) and they were all awesome.  Vultak is like a slap in the face reminding me why I loved MOTU in the first place. He’s like a mix of Marvel’s Vulture, Thundercats’ Panthro, and MOTU’s Hordak.  He’s bright, he’s big, he’s fun, and he’s awesome.

2016-rod-drill14. ROD DRILL-Hasbro’s Transformers were my jam growing up but I also enjoyed Tonka’s line of transforming robots called Go-Bots. I had a handful of the toys and while they weren’t as complex as Transformers their simplicity and their silly names made them charming. The line has been officially dead since 1987 but in the past couple of years some third-party companies have produced unofficial homages of Go-Bot characters. You may recall that DX9’s remake of Cy-Kill (named Salmoore) nabbed the number two slot of my best of 2014 list. I love seeing old Go-Bots characters revived after so many years. My fingers are crossed for new versions of my childhood favourites Cop-tur, Loco, and Water Walk. If those characters are ever to be reproduced it will likely be by way of a company called Action Toys. They’ve been doing a great job of  releasing spiffy new updates of classic Go-Bots. Vanessa got me Rod Drill for Christmas. He’s Action Toy’s version of Screwhead who transforms into a drill tank. This figure is immediately recognizable as Screwhead as they share of the same physical characteristics but Rod Drill is a far superior figure. He’s a bit larger and far more posable. He’s not as nice as update as Salmoore was but Rod Drill’s price point is a little easier to swallow.

2016-snowtrooper13. SNOWTROOPER-Everybody loves the generic Stormtroopers from Star Wars but as a kid I held the Snowtroopers from the Empire Strikes Back in much higher regard. My brother Doug and I both owned a Stromtrooper but he also owned the AT-AT Driver and the Biker Scout. I suppose that’s why the Snowtrooper was the only Stormtrooper variation that felt like mine because it was the only one he didn’t have. My original 1980s Snowtrooper was one of three vintage Star Wars figures I held onto when I got rid of my collection in my teens. There’s something about that long featureless mask that always appealed to me; I thought it looked more like a ghost than a soldier. I already have a very cool 12″ version of the Snowtrooper plus multiple 3 3/4″ figures but it was still at the top of my want list when I started collecting the 6″ Black Series figures. I just got this figure a week ago and he did not disappoint.  It’s not exactly what I was expecting because it’s far more “dirty” than previous versions.  The base uniform is more beige than white and his boots and skirt are speckled with grime. It looks really cool though so I don’t have any complaints.

2016-valkyries

 

12. MARAUDER VALKYRIESLast year I named the Marauder Task Force in my number six spot. I didn’t name a specific figure as I used the slot as more of a catch all for the whole wave of interchangable soldier figures produced by Marauder Gun Runners via a Kickstarter campaign. MGR put out variations of those same figures with new parts added this year so they could have easily made my list again. I’m a big fan of the yellow “Shock-Ops” and orange “Hazard Ops” they released this year. However they overshadowed those releases with the launch of their all-female Valkyries line this year via another Kickstarter. Thus far I have four complete figures in hand with another shipment on the way. These figures look excellent. MTF has given us a multitude of hair styles and colours, gear, and accessories so you can make unlimited figure variations. I wish Hasbro put this much care into their G.I. Joes. Hasbro has given us some pretty fugly ladies over the years but MTF has given us a squad of attractive ladies with realistic proportions. I can’t recommend these figures enough.  The only reason they’re not higher is that their tiny accessories don’t stay in place unless glued which is a pain in the ass and I have no childhood connection or elaborate backstory to latch onto.

2016-namor11. NAMOR-What a year for Marvel Legends. Hasbro pumped out 7 waves of figures this year. It was just a couple of years ago that I was writing on this blog that I had no interest in collecting 6″ Legends because I was committed to collecting the 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe figures. I found Legends to be gangly and awkward looking.  Well Hasbro has upped their game big time and now I’m buying Legends figures every other week. I bought over 50 Marvel Legends figures this year and I’m continually impressed. I could have made a top 16 list of Marvel Legends figures alone and I still would have had to exclude a bunch of stellar toys. To pick only a choice few for this multi-line list truly was difficult. After a great deal of thought the first Legend I’ve chosen to spotlight is Marvel’s King of Atlantis, Namor the Sub-Mariner.  When I first started collecting comics as a kid I didn’t like Namor. He struck me as an arrogant Mr. Spock flying around in his underwear. I’m not sure when that changed but somewhere along the way I really fell in love with Namor. His arrogance actually makes him a lot of fun to read.  The fact that he started wearing pants probably helped too. Truthfully, I don’t even mind the green speedo in the comics but it just doesn’t make for a very interesting action figure.  My 3 3/4″ Namor is a testament to how boring that design can be.  This Walgreens exclusive Namor is sporting a much cooler black and blue costume with a nice metallic sheen.  The elbows are a little weird and the trident looks dumb but those issues are out weighed by the phenomenal head sculpt. Depending on the angle you look at him he can appear regal, smarmy, pissed, or playful. This is the finest Namor ever produced.2016-k-2so

 

10. K-2SO– When I reviewed this figure a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t yet seen Star Wars Rogue One. Now that I have I like this figure even more. K-2S0 was a real scene stealer in the movie.  He was tough, sarcastic and funny and i was really bummed when things weren’t going his way.  I’m glad I picked this figure up when I did as I imagine it will be in high demand now that everyone has seen the movie. This figure just looks and feels cool.  As soon as I opened him up I wanted to pose him and fiddle around with him. He’s built nice and sturdy for such a lean figure. This sculpt, paint apps, and articulation are all great. No complaints.2016-batman

 

 

9. BATMAN-Putting Batman on a “best of” list seems like such a no-brainer that it’s almost a waste of a slot. He has such a cool and iconic design that you’d think it would be a snap to design an amazing Batman figure, right? So why are there so many terrible Batman figures? Have you walked down the action figure aisle lately? It’s full of Batmen and most of them look like crap. I feel bad for kids that think those are the only Batman figures available. If only they’d venture into a comic book shop like Strange Adventures they’d discover a whole new world of awesome action figures geared towards adult collectors. For example, DC Collectibles line of designer action figures based on the artwork of Darwyn Cooke. I bought the Supergirl, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn from this line and any one of them could be on this list but I think Batman edges the others out. This figure depicts Darwyn’s contemporary version of the dark knight as seen in stories like EGO. I think this figure is a wonderful tribute to a brilliant artist who we sadly lost this year. It makes me emotional every time I look at it.

2016-pythona8. PYTHONA- I wanted a Pythona figure SO BAD in 1987. She was one of the new characters introduced, and heavily featured, in the animated G.I. Joe movie released that year yet she got completely snubbed by Hasbro. Her absence from the ’87 line-up seemed like a huge oversight to me. Big Lob was similarly snubbed but I didn’t like him as much. He’s finally getting a figure courtesy of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club in 2017 but 2016 was Pythona’s year…finally. She was the free membership figure you got this year when you signed up as a member of the Club. It’s been a 30 year wait so thankfully the Club delivered a stellar figure to make the wait all seem worth it. Pythona’s got a very nice newly sculpted head with a removable ponytail which allows her to  don the hood of her cloak. The intricate facial paint is well done too.  The Club has been doing a great job making figures of characters long desired by fans, like Dr. Venom and Billy, but Pythona is the one I’ve wanted the most so I’m very glad the Club didn’t cut any corners. Awesome figure.

2016-gorgon7. RINGNECK GORGON-I backed a Kickstarter campaign by Boss Fight Studios back in 2014 to help them launch their own line of figures called Vitruvian HACKS. Those figures finally arrived in 2016.  I received over 30 figures and honestly I could have put each and every one of them on this list. BFS has constructed some of the nicest action figures I’ve ever seen in their Mythology themed HACKS line. Series one primarily consists of ancient warriors and gorgons. The construction of the gorgons alone is a thing of beauty to say nothing of the sculpting, painting, and accessories. The way their multi-jointed tails allow for them to be posed  in an upright position without the aid of a display base is amazing. I have seven gorgons including Medusa.  She seemed like the obvious choice for this list if I were to showcase just one gorgon but I just so happen to prefer the purple and orange colour scheme of the ringneck. I also prefer her closed mouth. This figure is perfect and I can’t wait to see what BFS does next.

2016-cap-britain6. CAPTAIN BRITAIN-Picking Marvel Legends for this list was really tough. I thought that Nico would make my list for sure. Silk, Black Panther, and Deadpool all seemed like shoe-ins as well. I wasn’t even sure I would buy this Captain Britain and I certainly didn’t expect I’d like him more than those other figures but here he is. CB was included in the most recent Captain America wave. The only figure I planned to buy from the wave was Eel. I really like Captain Britain as a character but this figure doesn’t feature my preferred costume so I planned to skip it. While in Chicago the other week I found the Cap wave in a comic shop (I haven’t found them here at home yet) and there was Eel. I picked him up and looked over his scrawny physique. Then I saw Captain Britain out of the corner of my eye practically bulging out of his packaging. I picked him up and was immediately won over.  See ya later, Eel. This Cap looks tough as nails. The standard “bulky” body is perfectly sized for him and the unique Captain Britain parts really look great.  The buckled boots, the wrapped forearms, the sunken eyes in the helmet, I love it all. Throw in an excellent and eye-grabbing paint job and you have yourself a winning action figure.

2016-venom5. VENOM– Next up is another Marvel Legends figure, Venom. I’m not even a big Venom fan yet this is the second time he’s made my “best of” list in just three years. 2014 saw the release of an awesome Agent Venom. This year we got two other versions of the character.  There was the large build-a-figure Space Knight Venom which looks neat but whom I have no affinity for because I didn’t read any of the short-lived Space Knight comics. The second 2016 release was this classic Venom. This toy looks like it leapt from the page of the character’s first appearance as drawn by Todd McFarlane.  It makes me very nostalgic for that late 80s era of Spider-Man. The body is the exact same one that was used for Captain Britain and it works wonderfully for Venom too. He has standard “sock” feet and open clawed hands. I’m not sure if those parts are reused or not.  The one piece that is definitely unique is the head and thats the piece that really elevates this figure.  The head sculpt looks so good that I can’t imagine anyone ever making a better Venom figure than this.

2016-talos4. TALOS-This is another figure from Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS line. It was exclusive to Kickstarter supporters so I don’t think you’ll ever be able to buy it from their online store. That’s a real shame because this is one of the nicer looking figures from the assortment. Most of the warrior figures share the same parts, they’re just painted differently. I don’t think there are any parts on this figure that can’t be found elsewhere. For example, Talos has the same bearded head as Leonidas and the same armor as the Myrmidon Warrior but what makes them unique to Talos is the bronze paint job. The figure is painted entirely in bronze with a green patina to add realism. It looks amazing; like a little metal statue. Whether you want to display this guy as a statue or some sort of living bronze warrior he really should be a part of your collection.

2016-malleus

 

3. MALLEUS 2016 saw the release of the Four Horsemen’s newest toy line called Mythic Legions.  It’s a fantasy-based line full or Orcs, Trolls, and Knights. I couldn’t afford to go all-in on their 2015 kickstarter but I did pitch in by pre-ordering 4 of the 34 available figures. My quartet arrived in June 2016 and all of them are awesome but Malleus is my favourite. This figure is amazing in every category. The sculpting, the painting, and the accessories are all incredible (the dual axes are sick!). He’s very well articulated right down to a movable jaw. The 6″ scale really allows the Horsemen to show off.  Originally I thought I might display Malleus as a minion of Skeletor but the level of detail on the Legions figures far surpasses that of MOTU figures so there isn’t much consistency there. If I had the space and the money I’d love to own all the Mythic Legions figures but if my collection never grows beyond the four I have  I’m confident that I have the best one right here. 

2016-tailgate2. TAILGATE/REAREND-Many times on this blog I’ve told you how great James Roberts’ “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” comics are. I think its the best comic on the stands. He has a way of making you fall in love with characters you never thought you’d care about. One of the stars of the book is a little Transformer named Tailgate. I never owned the Tailgate toy as a kid because he was just a crappy repaint of Wheelcharger, a Transformer who I really liked. Well Roberts has made Tailgate a far more interesting character than Wheelcharger ever was and so I desperately wanted an action figure that reflected his comic book appearance. Hasbro obliged me with this turd in 2014. Thankfully, a third party company called Make Toys answered my prayers this year. Because this is an unofficial release they can’t call him Tailgate so Make Toys has dubbed him Rearend. It’s a silly name but who cares, everyone knows this is Tailgate. This figure is quite small so it may be hard to justify the large price tag but thankfully Vanessa got him for me for X-mas so I didn’t have to. I’m actually glad he’s the size that he is because its true to the character. The likeness to the comic book art is perhaps the best I’ve seen yet.  This toy truly look like an Alex Milne drawing some to life. I love it.2016-underworld

 

1. UNDERWORLD WARRIOR-You shouldn’t be surprised that one of Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS figures tops my list. Almost every figure in this line is a showstopper. The paint work, sculpting, accessories, articulation, and customization possibilities launched HACKS straight to the top of the heap of quality action figure lines. Every toyline should strive to be this good.  As soon as my box of HACKS arrived it was almost a certainty that one of them would top my list this year. The trouble was in deciding which one.  I thought it would be harder to choose but I actually arrived at my answer quite easily. The Underworld Warrior was the figure that appealed to me the most when the concept art was first revealed at the launch of the kickstarter and once I had the figure in my hands I felt it lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It’s not the most detailed or innovative figure of the bunch but it sure does look damn cool.2016-group

 

 

 

NICO MINORU (2016)

marvl-nico-fullMARVEL LEGENDS

In publishing, an imprint is a trade name under which work is published. A single publishing company may have multiple imprints for material that appeals to different demographics. In comics, Vertigo is one of the most well-known imprints; it’s where DC publishes its mature reader content. In 2003 Marvel launched a new imprint called Tsunami that was supposed to appeal to fans of Japanese Manga comics which were growing in popularity at the time. The Tsunami line of books mostly featured established Marvel characters, like Venom, presented with an anime inspired twist. The only one that caught my attention initially was Human Torch. I’ve never been a huge Torch fan (the Thing is my Fantastic Four member of choice) but I was intrigued by the concept of a Johnny Storm solo book and the stylized artwork really appealed to me (though it struck me as more graffiti than Manga). The artist, Scottie Young, has since become a huge name in comics. I liked the series but it only lasted 12 issues.marvl-nico-torch

Because I enjoyed the Tsunami take on the Human Torch I figured I should reconsider some of the other books in the line. I read up on them and the one that piqued my interest was a title called Sentinel. It was about a kid named Juston that finds a crashed Sentinel, one of the mutant-hunting giant robots from the X-Men comics, and befriends him. It was essentially a new take on the Iron Giant which is one of my all-time favorite movies. It was a concept with potential but I was still reluctant to buy it because I found the artwork too cutesy. I went to my go-to comic shop Strange Adventures I asked my pal Cal if he’d heard good things. He told me that I could find out for myself and he gave me a reprint that collected the first two issues in a single book. I liked it and continued to collect the book until it was cancelled (none of the Tsunami books lasted very long). Even better than Sentinel though was a series called Runaways, the first two issues of which were also included in that reprint Cal gave me. I likely never would have picked up Runaways on my own because it didn’t look like anything special but it really was a unique and captivating story. The writer/co-creator, Brian K Vaughan, has also become a comic book superstar in the years since Runaways by way of original works like Y-The Last Man and Saga.marvl-nico-team-art

Runaways was about a group of teens that didn’t have a whole lot in common with each other than the fact that their parents got together every year and dragged them along. In issue one the kids snoop around while their parents are meeting and they discover that their parents are actually an evil criminal organization called The Pride. The kids freak out and runaway together, hence the title. In time they discover that each of them has inherited their parents supervillain abilities.marvl-nico-back

 

My favorite character was the Japanese-American Nico Minoru who inherited magical powers from her wizard parents. Using the “Staff of One” Nico is able to cast spells akin to Harry Potter. However,  an interesting twist on Nico’s abilities is that she can cast each spell only once.

After 3 different on-going volumes and a couple of limited series together the Runaways went their separate ways. Nico next appeared in Avengers Arena, a series where various young heroes were abducted by Arcade and forced to fight each other to the death a la The Hunger Games. After that she appeared in Avengers Undercover and nowadays she can be found in the girl power book, A-Force. I have followed Nico through the various titles and I’m pretty stoked to now be getting her in action figure form.

The Runaways all seemed like unlikely candidates to ever be made into toys. They’re super heroes but they don’t have code names or costumes. They just look like normal kids.marvl-nico-art

 

Nico’s Gothic attire kind of passes for a costume I suppose which is probably why she’s the first one to make the plunge into plastic. I’m sure Chase Stein and Molly Hayes have just as many loyal fans as Nico but Hasbro probably has doubts that an action figure of a shaggy haired stoner in a t-shirt or a little girl in a bunny hat would fly off the shelves. The rest of the Runaways may work better as a comic-con exclusive set aimed at hard-core comic fans (though I hope that isn’t the case because that would be hella expensive).marvl-nico-arm

 

I don’t recall Nico having any ties to Doctor Strange so I’m guessing she got thrown into the good Doctor’s Marvel Legends assortment simply because of her magic-based powers. I’m totally fine with that but some Doctor Strange fans may gripe that she’s stealing a slot that should go to a character more relevant to the Doc, like his disciple and  girlfriend, Clea.

I expected this figure to borrow a lot of parts from other recently released female teens such as Silk and Spider Gwen but there appears to be mostly new parts.  Her legs are probably reused but she has these fantastic multiple buckle boots that are original. Both parts of her torso feature sculpted bits of her corset so I think those are new too. Her arms don’t feature any noteworthy sculpting but the paint job is very intricate on her lace sleeves. Her skirt is a separate piece that sits nicely and does not hinder articulation.  Lastly there’s her head which is amazing. The paint job is spot on with black lipstick and  eerie reflective pink eyes. It’s a very pretty face and the hair, which is a separate rubbery piece also looks great. I’m impressed by how well the sculptors were able to translate Nico’s spikey ‘do from the printed page into three dimensions.marvl-nico-side

For accessories Nico come with the Staff of One.  It’s rather plain looking with no paint apps and it seems shorter than it should be.  However there’s a cool translucent purple smoke effect that wraps around the staff and adds some pizzazz.   She also comes with with a an alternative left arm that features a translucent effect below the elbow to recreate how she appears in the comics when casting spells.

I have zero complaints. Not only is this a great figure in its own right but it’s also a breath of fresh air after a number of repetitive Marvel Legends waves. Nico look like no one else on your shelf and I think she is a must-have. 10 out of 10.marvl-nico-coven

 

ELECTRO (2016)

MarvL-Electro fullMARVEL LEGENDS

The last few months have brought a steady stream of new Marvel Legends releases.  I just purchased Rogue and Havok from the latest X-Men wave when a week later another Spider-Man wave hits.  I still haven’t come across the recent Captain America wave and the Dr. Strange series is right around the corner. Hasbro is relentless with these things and they’ve clearly got their hooks in me because, yet again, I purchased an entire wave in a single outing.  Doing so saves me from hunting down individual figures for months but man does it ever hurt the wallet.

The newest Spider-Man wave consists of Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Silk, Hobgoblin, another Spider-Girl, and Electro. Plus they all came with parts to build a Space Knight Venom. It’s a solid wave but I find myself asking “Didn’t I just buy a Spider-Man/Spider-Girl/Hobgoblin/Venom?”  Yes.  Yes I did. Multiple times.MarvL-Electro face

Since the other characters in the wave are all a little over-exposed I’ve decided to take a look at Electro first.

Electro is a classic Spidey villain who first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man issue issue 9 published in 1964 and he’s been a thorn in Web-Head’s side ever since. Originally he wore a green costume with yellow lighting bolts running up and down the arms and legs and a crazy mask I can only describe as a lightening star. It was the kind of over-the-top design that could only work in comic books. Electro has made some alterations and ditched the mask in recent years but elements of the original costume remain. Electro first shed the mask in a 2009 storyline called “The Gauntlet” in which many of Spidey’s classic villains received power upgrades to make them feel like real threats again since many had been relegated to punchlines for years. Electro’s increased electrical powers came with a newly scarred face; a burn mark with the same star pattern as his mask.

MarvL-Electro back

This action figure is the first time that Electro’s modern look has been translated into action figure form. I was dead set against the change at first but the gritty artwork of Paul Azaceta eased me into it. Over the years the bald look has grown on me.  As much as I like the original, I must admit that it was hard to take Electro seriously in that mask. The shaved head and scarred face provides a more street-level, less theatrical look that makes Electro more menacing.

I already have Classic Electro figures from the  3 3/4″ Marvel Universe and 5″ 90s Spider-Man toy lines so it’s refreshing to get a new take on the character for this 6″ figure. The head sculpt is very well done and perfectly adapts the comic book look without directly homaging any artist in particular. He’s got a furrowed brow and gritted teeth. He looks pissed off and scary. He has solid metallic blue eyes that reflect light to give the look of beady white pupils. It’s a very effective paint job that make his eyes seem to follow you around the room.MarvL-Electro hand

The body is the same one we’ve seen a few times already for characters like Spider-Man.  It’s lean and muscular. At first I thought it was a little too lean for Electro but he’s never really been a bulky bad guy so I concluded that it actually works quite well. It’s got loads of articulation that allows for many poses. The paint job is relatively simple but looks crisp and vibrant. The black pants is not something we’re used to seeing but as with the head I’m glad to get something a little more contemporary.

MarvL-Electro mask

My only gripe about this figure is the hands.  He has powered-up blue electric hands which would be fine if he had swappable regular gloved hands but he doesn’t.   Many poses look odd with the blue tendril fingers.  Some Legends figures get up to three pairs of alternate hands so I can’t imagine why Hasbro didn’t provide one extra pair with Electro.  Complaints aside the translucent hands are kind of neat looking.

Thankfully he does come with one accessory (besides the build-a-figure Venom piece), an alternative head sporting the star mask.  If you want a classic Electro this head gets you pretty close.  It’s features a beautiful sculpt and I think it’s sized just right. The smirk looks more mischievous then it does angry and I like that. Ditko-era Electro shouldn’t be too scary.  It’s awesome to have the masked option but I’m going to display mine with the modern look. The hands knock this figure down a peg but its still a solid 7 out of 10.MarvL-Electro zap

 

JACK-O-LANTERN (2016)

MarvL-Jacko fullMARVEL LEGENDS

In my last post I reviewed the first ever Jack-O-Lantern figure which was released by Toy Biz in 1998. Today I’m going to review the brand new 2016 Jack-O-Lantern figure produced by Hasbro.

Before I start talking about the actual figure allow me to continue my history lesson on the character. In the last post we left off after Jason Macendale had ceased being Jack-O-Lantern in order to assume the guise of the Hobgoblin after he’d had the Goblin murdered.  Things only got more complicated from there.

Macendale sold his soul to a demon in order to gain enhanched powers.  As a side effect Macendale began to turn into a demon and go insane. He was later separated from the demon entity which went on to become a Spider-Man villain in it’s own right named Demogoblin. Macendale went back to being a mercenary and he was later cybernetically enhanced by the mad scientist named Gaunt.  Despite the enhancements he found himself in prison where he was killed in his cell by the original Hobgoblin who apparently hadn’t been as murdered as Macendale originally thought. End of the line for the original Jack-O-Lantern 😦MarvL-Jacko back

His pumpkin headed alter-ego lived on though through a number of confusing resurrections. A second Jack-O-Lantern who looked the exact same as the original first showed up in Captain America issue 396 in 1992. That guy made a handful of appearances before getting his head blown off by the Punisher during the Civil War storyline in 2006. This Jack later returned as a super natural character in the vein of the Headless Horseman but Ghost Rider re-killed him. End of the line for the second Jack-O-Lantern.

In the Spider-Man comics another Jack-O-Lantern showed up in 1996. This version went by the name Mad Jack and used a lot of Mysterio’s illusions because he/she/they had ties to the original Mysterio.  I don’t feel like explaining their whole stupid backstory but supposedly they were both killed off panel so we don’t have to worry about them anymore.

MarvL-Jacko art

Most recently, a brand new Jack-O-Lantern was introduced in the Agent Venom series written by Rick Remender.  This guy was a sadistic kid raised by the new Crime Master (another updated version of a classic Spidey villain).  The new Jack wore a costume that was significantly different than those worn by his predecessors.  He traded in the green spandex for a black costume covered in belts and buckles.  He also swapped out the classic bouncing disc for a rocket powered broomstick like the one the Green Goblin flew around on in his early appearances.  The new Jack-O-Lantern’s appearance had a creepy Halloween vibe to it that I quite liked.  Remender wrote him with personality and it was the first time in a long time that a Jack-O-Lantern received some character development so I actually like him as an individual character and not just as a Macendale knock-off. During an battle in their feud, Venom tossed a grenade into Jack’s pumpkin helmet horribly disfiguring him so that he had a sort-of pumpkiny face even without his mask on.  It was a neat idea that further distinguished this version from the others.  I hope this version sticks around for a while.MarvL-Jacko head

This brand new Jack-O-Lantern figure was included in the latest wave of Marvel Legends; a Spider-Man focused line with an Absorbing Man build-a-figure. As I mentioned in my Spider-Gwen review a couple weeks ago, I scored the entire wave of seven figures from Strange Adventures thanks to my pal, Dave Howlett who manages the place (Sidebar: Dave does a lot of cool stuff online and in print. Check out his comic, Slam-A-Rama, or his podcast, Living Between Wednesdays).

I would’ve preferred a classic 1980s Jason Macendale Jack-O-Lantern Marvel Legends figure but getting this version is pretty great too. The head on this figure is exactly what I wished my 1998 figure looked like. It’s got the small triangle eyes, the big grin with the 4 pointed teeth, and no nose. It looks awesome. The flame effect is really well done too with some translucent plastic on the back of the head as well as flames coming out of the eyes.

MarvL-Jacko broom

For the body Hasbro has reused the body of Ghost from their Thunderbolts boxset which was a San Diego Comic Con exclusive a couple of years ago. Surprisingly this body works just as well, if not better, for Jack than it did for Ghost. When I compare this figure to the Jack-O-Lantern drawings in the Venom comic I’d swear this figure was designed specifically to match the art. The body is lean and lanky with lots of belts and buckles and long creepy fingers. The addition of a new belt seals the deal. I have zero complaints about the reused body.

For accessories Jack comes with a piece of the Absorbing Man, a pumpkin bomb, a gnarly scythe weapon, and his rocket broomstick. Finally, Jack-O-Lantern has his conveyance. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a Marvel Legends version of the original Jack-O-Lantern (complete with his hover disc) but in the meantime this figure fills my Jack-O-Lantern figure needs. 10 out of 10.MarvL-Jacko venom

JACK-O-LANTERN (1998)

Marv-Jacko fullTOY BIZ: SPIDER-MAN

This is part 1 of a 2-part review. Originally I had planned to review my new Marvel Legends Jack-O-Lantern figure today but since I was hauling out my 90s figure for a comparison shot I decided I might as well review him too.

I know I say lots of characters are favourites of mine but Jack-O-Lantern truly is one of my favourite comic book characters. I started collecting comics at 8 years old.  The very first comic I bought was Amazing Spider-Man 281. It featured Spidey and Silver Sable facing off against the Sinister Syndicate; a group comprised of Beetle, Hydro-Man, Boomerang, Rhino, and Speed Demon.  You’d think that would be enough to make for an action packed issue but the B-story was even better…

The Hobgoblin was Spider-Man’s arch nemesis at the time and he had just framed Spider-Man’s friend Flash Thompson for his crimes.Marv-Jack art

So Flash was awaiting trial while the real Goblin was at large and scheming with the Kingpin. Jack-O-Lantern was a bad guy on the rise trying to establish himself in New York’s underworld. After first appearing in Machine Man’s book in ’81, Jack tangled with Spider-Man a couple of times but he had never been a major player in Spidey’s rogues gallery. In this issue he determined that breaking the Hobgoblin out of prison was a way to make a name for himself and get into the Goblin’s good graces. He liberates Flash not realizing that he’s actually screwing up the real Hobgoblin’s plan. Gobby goes after him and the two villains end up in a glider dog fight over the streets of New York.  Jack takes a beating but actually gets the better of Hobgoblin and makes his escape.  I was hooked.

Marv-Jacko 284

I absolutely loved Jack-O-Lantern’s design. He had dark green tights with a lime green chainmail leotard over top, buccaneer boots, a flaming pumpkin on his head and he bounced around on a hovering yellow disc.  I know it sounds ridiculous but it looked super cool I swear. Just glance over at the cover to issue 284 when a gang war erupted stemming from Jack-O-Lantern’s criminal ambitions. How can you not love this guy?

Jack-O-Lantern, whose real name was Jason Macendale, cemented his place as one of Spidey’s main villains when he had the Hobgoblin assassinated in issue 289 and then took over his identity.  It was a total baller move pulled off by what was considered a low level villain.  I hated to see Jack’s flaming pumpkin disappear from the comic pages mere months after discovering him but I loved seeing the character grow into a real threat as the new Hobgoblin.Marv-Jacko back

This figure was released by Toy Biz in 1998 as part of it’s Spider-Man toy line based on the 90s cartoon.  Macendale never actually appeared in the show as Jack-O-Lantern so I was surprised, but delighted, that this figure was even made.  I’d wanted a Jack-O-Lantern figure desperately as a kid so it was cool to finally be getting one even if it was a couple of years after I graduated high school.

This figure is still pretty cool looking even 18 years after its release.  There’s some really nice sculpting in the face and plenty of detail in the chainmail torso yet the figure manages to retain a look inline with the other animation-based toys.  The colors are vibrant and the translucent flame on the back of the head effectively captures the comic-book look.  It’s fair to say that I was happy with this figure. However it wasn’t without it’s problems…Marv-Jacko carded

This figure has really over-sized weirdly sculpted arms and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.  They either hang at his side like a couple of salamis or you have to pose him like he’s constantly scratching at his crotch.  A swivel joint at the wrists or forearms would have helped this figure dramatically.

Why doesn’t the paint on his boots and gloves match the chainmail bathing suit?  They’re supposed to.  I appreciate that Toy Biz put a brown paint wash on the torso to show off the sculpted detail but it makes for a dark and weathered chest piece that looks odd with the clean and neon-bright limbs.Marv-Jacko face

Jack came packaged with a big pink bug that spit pumpkins.  Lots of Toy Biz figures came with big useless accessories that I immediately tossed into a spare parts bin never to be seen again. If you want to pack big useless missile-launching bugs with characters like Spider-Man, Swarm, and Tarantula in order to appeal to little kids I’m fine with that; those characters wouldn’t need accessories anyway. But don’t give a bug to Jack-O-Lantern if it means robbing him of his trademark pogo ball.  Stupid decision.

Marv-Jack madLastly, as nice as this face sculpt is, it does not look like Jack-O-Lantern…at least not the original version. Macendale usually had two triangle eyes and a smile with 4-pointy teeth.  It was a very simple design which I have replicated on plenty of real pumpkins over the years.  This face is too detailed.  It’s got too many teeth, too many wrinkles, its eyes are too emotive, and worst of all it has a nose.  This is not the Macendale Jack that I love.  This is the face of the imposter who ripped off his gimmick many years later and went by the name Mad Jack.  I’d be fine with getting a Mad jack figure but not at the expense of an original Jack-O-Lantern figure.

As you can see, I have mixed feelings about this figure but at the time I was sure it was the only Jack-O-Lantern figure I’d ever get so I made peace with its problems and rejoiced that I had it at all. 7 out of 10.

 

 

SPIDER-GWEN (2016)

MarvL-Gwen fullMARVEL LEGENDS

Last year there was a storyline that spanned many Spider-Man related comic books called “Spider-Verse”. The premise was that a group of vampire-like dudes called the Inheritors were traveling to various dimensions and sucking the life force out of each dimension’s version of Spider-Man. Once the “real” Spider-Man got wind of this he teamed up with all the other spider-pwered men and women from across the multi-verse to defeat the Inheritors. I didn’t think it was great, largely because the inheritors are rather bland villains, but there was a fair amount of fun to be mined from the premise. Spider-Verse featured appearances by every Spider-Man you can think of including the 60s animated Spider-Man, Star Comics’ Peter Porker: Spider-Ham, and the black & white newspaper strip Spider-Man. It also brought back all of the transformed and mutated versions of Spidey we’ve seen over the years such as Cosmic Spider-Man and Spider-Hulk. There was no shortage of Spider-Men to pick from and yet the writers and artists went ahead and created a bunch of new variations anyway like Spider-Punk and Lady-Spider. One of the new spider people was from an alternate reality where it was Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, that got bit by the radioactive spider instead of him. The result was Spider-Gwen. She didn’t actually call herself that in the comic because that would make her secret identity obsolete but that was the title of the book that introduced her. In Gwen’s world she goes by the name Spider-Woman (yes, another one).MarvL-Gwen back

 

Spider-Gwen’s costume design was really cool and quite different from any spider costume we’d seen before. She caught on with fans immediately and within weeks of her introduction you could find pictures of multiple Spider-Gwen cosplay outfits online. She was given a fairly large part to play in the Spider-Verse saga and as soon as it wrapped up Marvel gave Gwen her own on-going series. She’s also a member of the ensemble cast featured in the new team book Web Warriors which features a bunch of the other fan favorite spider heroes from Spider-Verse. It’s fair to say that Spider-Gwen is a bit of a phenomenon. I think she looks cool but I haven’t bothered to read her solo series. I picked up her introduction story and the first issue of her on-going but they failed to reel me in. At this point I feel I’ve read a few too many variations of a teenaged spider-hero coming of age. Even alternate reality versions of established Spidey villains used to be fun but now they feel played out. That said, I’m glad Spider-Gwen has found an audience and I’m sure it’s exciting for younger fans who haven’t seen these storylines a hundred times before.

MarvL-Gwen face

 

 

Spider-Gwen’s popularity is further evidenced by how quickly Hasbro produced an action figure of her. She was included in their latest Spider-Man themed wave of Marvel Legends which features an Absorbing Man build-a-figure. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this wave so I was pretty excited last week when my pal Dave over at Strange Adventures Comic Shop texted me to say they had them in stock and he was giving me the first crack at them. I said I wanted them all and he gave me a good deal which was awesome (you rule, Dave). That text saved me from hunting these figures down one-by-one all over the city and it enabled me to build a complete Absorbing Man. Dave also hooked me up with the final pieces I needed to complete my Rhino and Hulkbuster build-a-figures so my Marvel Legends shelf just got a whole lot more crowded.MarvL-Gwen art

I’m very pleased with how Spider-Gwen turned out. The body is the same one we’ve seen on fellow teenaged spider-powered females like Spider-Girl, Black Widow, and Arana. The eye-catching paint job distinguishes this figure from the others though. The stark contrast of black and white always looks good and the powder blue webs on the purple areas looks really sharp. The removable hood is sculpted very nicely and it sits proportionately on her shoulders.

As an added bonus Spider-Gwen has a couple of awesome accessories. She has an alternate unmasked head which is something I wish all figures included. Why don’t I have a Peter Parker or a Mayday head? My new clone Spider-Man figure would be so much cooler if it had an alternate Ben Reilly head. I hope the inclusion of Gwen’s unmasked head is a trend we see continued. I would’ve preferred a long haired John Romita style Gwen but the head provided is a pretty good representation of the Emma Stone Gwen which isn’t a bad substitute. Another neat little extra detail is that Gwen includes a downed hood that can be put around her neck with the unmasked head. Lastly, she came with Absorbing Man’s ball and chain which is a must-have for any respectable Absorbing Man figure. This Spider-Gwen is a home run which I’m sure will please her legions of new fans. 9 out of 10.MarvL-Gwen group