Category Archives: McFarlane

Top 17 Action Figures of 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GLENN RHEE

WD-Glenn fullWALKING DEAD

I don’t consider myself a zombie fan and yet I enjoy my fair share of zombie related things. Walking Dead is one of them. I got into the comic book series about 2 years into the run. I was skeptical of it when it first came out because it was black and white, it was published by Image which I found to be hit or miss with their new series’ and it was written by a relatively unknown writer named Robert Kirkman.

At some point a friend of mine recommended I read the Image series Invincible which is also written by Kirkman. I was reluctant about that one as well because it looked fairly generic and unoriginal but I gave it a try. At least it was about a super hero which was more in my wheelhouse than a zombie book. To my surprise I really liked Invincible. It looked like a generic super hero book because it embraced all the comic book clichés but then it flipped them into something new and fresh. Based on the strength of Invincible I decided to give Walking Dead a try. I bought the first graphic novel, got hooked, and quickly got caught up on the series. Both Walking Dead and Invincible have now crossed the 100 issue threshold (not many books do) and they’re still going strong. I recommend you check them both out.WD-Glenn carded

When the Walking Dead TV series was announced I thought it had the potential to be pretty cool but I was skeptical. I watched the first episode and thought it was okay but I missed the second or third one and I just lost interest. I came back for season 2 though and found myself hooked again. Netflix got me up to speed on everything I missed and I’ve been tuning in for new episodes every applicable Sunday since.WD-Glenn face

Around the same time that the show came out McFarlane Toys began releasing Walking Dead action figures. I was skeptical yet again. As big a fan I am of the comic and the show I didn’t feel that I needed action figures of these characters. I had pretty much given up on collecting McFarlane toys anyway. I used to really appreciate their attention to detail and realism but after a while I grew tired of their stiff and gory figures. They hardly had any articulation so they were essentially statues and they lacked the fun factor of G.I. Joe and Transformers. Nearly all of my McFarlane stuff went into storage.

When the Walking Dead figures actually came out I was impressed by them. They were smaller than the company’s usual products (thus easier to display and more affordable to collect), featured loads of articulation and, as expected, featured stellar likenesses. Coolest of all was that McFarlane simultaneously released two series’ of figures, one based on the show and one based on the comic. Additionally, some of the figures were available in color or variant black and white editions. I had no desire to start collecting them but I bought the black and white Rick based on the show and the full color Michonne from the comic. I thought that was enough to scratch my Walking Dead action figure itch. And it was…for a while.WD-Glenn back

Online the other day I came across a black and white 2-pack of Rick and Andrea from the comic. They looked really cool and I thought it would be neat to have black and white versions of both TV and comic book Rick. Once that thought entered my head I then thought it might be a good idea to see what other characters were now available since I hadn’t been paying much attention to the toyline for the past year or two.

On my weekly Wednesday visit to Strange Adventures today I flipped through their pegs of Walking Dead toys. I was very impressed by the likenesses on the most recent wave of figures. Tyrese and Glenn especially looked like they just leaped off of the TV screen. It was payday, my comic book haul was light, and it was a few days before my birthday. All seemed like good reasons to treat myself to an action figure. I went with Glenn.

WD-Glenn head

Glenn is a character I liked in the comics but whom I liked a whole lot more after Steven Yeun was cast in the role. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Yeun in anything else before but he’s extremely likable as Glenn. How could anyone not like Glenn? He’s the nicest, most heroic and selfless character on the show and his on-screen girlfriend is smoking hot to boot.

This figure bears an uncanny resemblance to the actor. The sculpting is top notch throughout this figure but the face is the most impressive part. I’m not sure if it was laser scanned or sculpted from scratch but it’s a phenomenal job either way. Everything from the wrinkles in his shirt to the hem on his jeans to the treads of his boots is impressive. The paint job only enhances the great sculpt with its realism. There’s a subtle paint wash over all the clothes so you can tell he’s been through some grimy situations.WD-Glenn attack

For accessories he has a machine gun, a bloody metal pole, a swat vest, and a knife and pistol which can be sheathed and holstered on his belt. He also has an alternate head that’s all beat up. They could have just bruised up the face they already had but this is a brand new sculpted head with battle damage and scuffed up hair.

Articulation is lacking at the hips (there won’t be any splits or front kicks from Glenn) but it’s pretty good everywhere else including his wrists and ankles. I really dig this figure and after examining it closely for this review I know it won’t be long before I grab a few more.  I only wish it was a bit smaller so it was to scale with other 3 3/4″ figures.  As is, Walking Dead figures are basically in a scale all their own.  9 out of 10.

WD-Glenn sizes

WINGS OF REDEMPTION SPAWN

McF-Spawn wings fullSPAWN

Some changes in the staffing I think are to blame (I’ll miss you Dave) but for some reason my local comic book shop forgot to set aside the last 2 issues of Spawn for me.  I notified them of the oversight and Cal, the owner and my friend, assured me that he would track them down for me.  So last Wednesday I went to the shop to get Spawn 229 and I found 227 and 228 waiting for me as well.    I’ve been collecting Spawn monthly since the first issue launched over 20 years ago and I realized that this was the single largest infusion of new Spawn material for me to read in well, ever.  I sat down with them all last night and it was a good read with a lot of dangling plot threads getting tied up.  We finally had the full origin story of the new Spawn, Jim Downing.  I’m glad that the character’s creator, Todd McFarlane is writing the book again these days and that he’s able to tie the current story into stuff he wrote way back in those early years when he was writing and drawing the book himself.  I know Spawn readership isn’t nearly what it was back in the 90s but I would encourage anyone to give it a look.  It’s gotten away from its super hero beginnings and has become much darker and character driven than most books on the market.  I think issues 185 and 201 would both make good jumping on points to those new to the character.  185 introduced the new Spawn and 201 was the beginning of his second story arc. McF-Spawn wings cover

All that reading made me realize that it has been a while since I reviewed a Spawn related toy, or any McFarlane produced figure for that matter.  So today I figured I’d review one of my favorite old Spawn figures before delving into G.I. Joe: Retaliation countdown week.  This figure is called Wings of Redemption Spawn for obvious reasons.

For those not familiar with the character here’s a quick recap.  Al Simmons was a mercenary.  He got killed.  He went to hell.  He sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being sent back to Earth so that he could be with his wife again.  The devil screwed him.  Al came back to earth looking like a rotting corpse and 5 years had elapsed since his death.  Al’s wife had remarried his best friend and they had a kid together.   Al’s new life sucked.  Hell provided Al with a living symbiotic costume that turned him into the Hellspawn, in hopes that he would lead their army against heaven.  Al refused to be anybody’s puppet and became an enemy to both the armies of Hell and Heaven.  A lot of other stuff went on over the course of those first 184 issues but eventually Al had the last laugh by taking himself out of the game altogether with a plasma blast to the head.  That’s when Jim’s story began.  I won’t spoil any of that for you though because you’re gonna go read it,  right?

McF-Spawn wings faceThe Spawn toy line was filled with variations of Spawn that never appeared in the comic books.  The comics told Al’s story but through his adventures we learned that a new Spawn is born every couple hundred years or something.  So toys like Viking Spawn and Mandarin Spawn may well have been versions of Spawn that existed  in generations past.  Spawn never really had big angelic wings in the comics.  At least not that I recall, maybe for a panel or two, but this figure is based off of actual comic artwork.  The iconic cover of Spawn issue 77 depicts Spawn with these glorious wings.  I believe the cover was more metaphorical than representative of anything that actually happened in the book.  It did look                                                                                                             cool as hell though.

McF-Spawn wings bat

This figure captures the amazing Greg Capullo artwork from the cover perfectly.  The Spawn costume is very textured with a ton of etched in details.  The wings are big and full and look far better than most plastic wings we see on action figures.  The paint apps accentuate all of these features.  McFarlane is not one to skimp on details when it comes to his action figures.  He is one to skimp on articulation however and this figure suffers from that just like every other McFarlane toy I’ve ever reviewed.   This thing barely moves at all and is really more of a statue than a figure.  However it’s meant for adult fans who just want to display this on their desk, it’s not intended for children to play with.  So for that reason I tend not to hold the lack of articulation against McFarlane in the same way I would fault Hasbro for presenting us with a Joe that doesn’t move. Ahem.

McF-Spawn wings flightThis figure was a hit with fans (I’m guessing.  I can’t back up that statement at all)  and I think a big reason for that is because it’s a cool variation of THE Spawn, of Al Simmons Spawn.  Most versions of Al featured him in his signature red cape and spiked boots in various poses.  Then there were the alternate timeline Spawns but fans didn’t have any back stories to associate with those toys.  This was a new version of the Spawn we loved but he stood out from all the other Spawns on the shelf.  The figure was later released with variant bat wings, then again in a larger format, and then again in a whole new dynamic pose.  This is what leads me to believe that fans really like this look for the character.

McFarlane hasn’t put out any new Spawn figures in years.  Instead he focuses all his attention on Sports, Halo and now Walking Dead.  I can appreciate that he needed to step away from Spawn for a while but I really hope we get some new figures sometime soon, perhaps with increased articulation.  I’ve got a few Al Spawns but I need a Jim Spawn for my collection now. 7 out of 10.

PUMPKINHEAD

MOVIE MANIACS

It’s time for another Halloween themed toy review!  This is Pumpkinhead and he was released as part of McFarlane Toy’s Movie Maniacs line.  Movie Maniacs was a dumping ground for all sorts of horror icons of cinema who couldn’t support their own toy line.  You can’t have an entire line of Friday the 13th figures for example because other than Jason who else would people buy?  So the Movie Maniacs included the likes of Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers, and the star of my favorite film, The Crow.  Although I would totally buy action figures of T-Bird, Tin Tin and the rest of the gang from that flick if given the opportunity.  Now Pumpkinhead may not be a horror icon of the same calibre  as those other guys but he sure does look cool.

I remember seeing the box art for Pumpkinhead for years in the VHS rental section of my local corner store and being intrigued by it but I didn’t actually see it until many years after its release.  I’ve never really been much of a horror guy.  I watched my fair share of them as a kid but that was usually because I was at a sleepover or because Doug and I were sneaking up past our bedtime to watch them on the movie network.  I didn’t have any desire to watch them on my own.  And if I missed a chapter or two of Nightmare or Friday (which I’m sure I did somewhere along the way) I was fine with it.  I do have a soft spot for those slashers and was just as excited to see Freddy vs Jason as the next guy but I’m by no means a hardcore fanatic.  Monsters however are a different story, I love me some monsters. 

My favorite horror movies are the original Universal monster movies of the 30s and 40s and I enjoy movies that stick closer to that formula.  Werewolves are my absolute favorite but I find they’re rarely done right.  The Pumpkinhead cover box was so interesting to me because Pumpkinhead was a cool looking new monster, not one of the obvious go-to, seen-it-a-million-times monsters like a werewolf or vampire.  When I did eventually see the movie I remember being disappointed.  I only saw it once and it was many years ago so I’m not going to attempt to critique the film but I do remember thinking that there wasn’t nearly enough of the monster in the movie to satisfy my monster craving.  I believe the creature got more screen time in the sequel but that memory is pretty hazy too. 

But I didn’t buy this toy based on how good the movie was, I bought it because it looked awesome.  McFarlane rarely lets you down when it comes to capturing the look of a movie character.  Not only did he give us movie monsters but he also gave us a bunch of movie heros back in the day such as Terminator, Robocop and Austin Powers.  The likenesses were never a problem, it was the articulation.  I’ve mentioned on this site many times before but I did not care for the stiffness of many McFarlane figures.  Even though I don’t play with my toys I like to be able to pick them up and fiddle around with them.  McFarlane’s figures were often closer to statues than toys.  How can I fiddle with a Spawn figure when he’s sculpted in a sitting down pose?  This is ultimately why I stopped buying McFarlane figures.  Well that and the fact that he stopped making figures of anything I was interested in.

Pumpkinhead is lacking in articulation with joints at his hips, shoulders, wrists and head only but at least he’s sculpted in a fairly neutral pose.  He looks good displayed on a shelf with either action posed figures or statically posed figures.   He’s a very tall figure and towers over most of the other horror icons in the line.  The sculpt is great on the face and the body with lots of detail and texture.  The face has an appropriately evil looking scowl and the large hands are quite creepy with their long individually posed fingers.  He’s also got a long tail made of softer plastic with a wire center that allows for some good posability.   The tail also helps to balance the figure out to keep him from toppling over.  Nice subtle paint apps is the cherry on top of this sweet looking figure.  I’m pretty sure this is still the only Pumpkinhead figure ever produced so if you’re a fan of the series at all I suggest you track one down.  7 out of 10.

JUGGERNAUT

ULTIMA ONLINE

When McFarlane Toys first started making action figures they focused mostly on Spawn figures.  Makes sense since Todd McFarlane created both Spawn and the toy company.  After  he had mastered his craft with his own creations he expanded into doing a variety of licensed toy lines.  McFarlane toys produced figures for properties such as The Simpsons, Danger Girl, Movie Maniacs, Sleepy Hollow, Austin Powers, and they did a variety of original lines as well.  One of the licensed properties they took a stab at was Ultima Online, an apparently very popular Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game or MMORPG.  I may be a comic nerd and a toy nerd and a movie nerd and probably a few other types but one thing I’m not is a gaming nerd.  I never got into it.  I remember early role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons from my youth but they never held any appeal to me.  I even had a Marvel Universe role playing game but could never be bothered to learn how to play it.  It amazes me how popular they are to this day.  I can’t go into most of my local comic shops without fighting my way through a crowd of geeks salivating over the latest Magic cards.  To each their own I guess.

McFarlane released 6 figures based on Ultima Online in 2002.  Normally these things wouldn’t be on my radar but I am a toy collector and a cool toy is a cool toy.  I didn’t care for the other 5 figures but this guy caught my eye when he showed up the comic store shelves.  He didn’t look like any other toy I had and so I had to have him.

I have no idea at all about the source material that he’s based on so I can’t talk much about that.  I did google him before writing this to see what his video game counter-part actually looked like and I gotta say the McFarlane guys did a pretty good job on this figure.  The colors and proportions are right on but the details are amped on the action figure.  The face is super creepy with a mummified look to it.  The paint apps make him appear old and rusty  just like the video game version.  There’s a ton of wires and hoses on the figure as well which helps to sell this creature as something that could actually exist in a real world.  Things like the wire grill on his shoulder mounted light show the McFarlane sculptors attention to even the tiniest detail.  One downside of this figure is that because his bottom half is a giant wheel he doesn’t stand up straight on his own.  There was a small clear plastic “crutch” included with him to make him easier to display but I find it falls out of place fairly easily and the figure ends up on his side.  7 out of 10.

SPAWN

SPAWN

This is Spawn.  Spawn is a comic book character created by Todd McFarlane.  The comic is published by Image Comics and the first issue was released in 1992.  The 90s is often slagged as being the worst decade in comics history and in many ways it was.  It’s hard to say who’s to blame for what became of the comic book industry in the 90s, everyone involved really.  The publishers flooded the market with books, many of them total crap.  Because of all the crappy writers and artists working at the time, the good ones really stood out.  Artists like Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld became the rock starts of the comic book industry.  Books drawn by these guys and a few others flew to the top of the sales charts.  Sales records were being broken regularly as these artists were given the chance to pencil brand new books starring the characters that made them famous.  A new book titled just “Spider-Man” (adjective free) which was drawn and written by McFarlane was a huge success.  That was followed up by the launch of a new adjective-free “X-Men” book with art by Jim Lee which to this day remains the bestselling comic book of all time.  One of the reasons books were selling in such high numbers was because of gimmick covers.  Comics were increasingly being released with multiple variant covers, some packaged bagged with trading cards, some glowed in the dark, some were large fold outs and some had holograms.  I was one of those suckers who bought multiple copies of Spider-Man 1, X-Men 1, X-Force 1, and every issue of the various Robin mini-series’.  This is where the fans are to blame.  The super-star artists suddenly had egos and decided to jump ship at Marvel and start their own comic book company which was unheard of at the time.  They launched Image Comics which was a huge success right out of the gate.  The artists wrote and drew the adventures of their original creations.  That was the philosophy of Image that separated them from Marvel and DC, artists retained the rights to their own creations.  That’s all well and good, it’s just unfortunate that most of their creations sucked.  Fans quickly saw through the flashy splash pages and cover variants and realized most of these guys couldn’t write for s**t.  I didn’t make it past the third issue of any Image book…except for Spawn.

It’s been 20 years since the launch of Image Comics and only two books have lasted since the beginning, Erik Larson’s The Savage Dragon and Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.  Most of the other launch titles didn’t last 10 issues, Spawn just released its 220th issue.  Todd had stepped away from writing and drawing the book for a while but he has returned as the writer in recent years and is taking the book in an exciting new direction.  In his absence he put talented writers and artists on the book so that the title could maintain its monthly schedule as opposed to some of the other creators who just walked away from their books leaving stories unfinished indefinitely and screwing over fans who had invested in the books.  I have mad respect for Todd McFarlane.   When some of those other creators left Marvel in the early 90s, they were followers;  Todd was a leader.  He stuck to his guns and did what he set out to do.  He published a quality book on a regular schedule and he made the public aware of his character.  He got a live-action movie produced and a high quality adult oriented HBO animated series on the air that was ahead of its time.  He was approached by a ton of companies wanting to license Spawn’s image and plaster him on bed sheets and what not but Todd decided to keep a tight rein on his character and retained control of how the world would experience “Spawn”.

One of his most notable decisions was when he turned down offers from Toy companies wanting to produce Spawn action figures.  Todd wanted assurances that the Spawn toys would be done the way he wanted them done.  When no toy company could agree to his terms he started his own toy company.  Another unheard of move.  And like his comic book, his toy company was successful right out of the gate.  He made better toys.  This figure is from the initial wave of Spawn figures.  The early figures may not look like much now but at the time it was a real shift in the toy industry.  These were some of the first action figures really geared towards adults.  As the line progressed that became more evident.  The first wave still had some attempts at child friendly peripherals such as the Spawn alley playset and the Violator Monster Rig.  One thing i really like about the early figures is that they’re still figures that a child could play with.  As the line became geared more towards the collectors articulation decreased.  This figure while not loaded with articulation has all the basic movements you’d want in a figure: hips, knees, shoulders, head, etc.  The paint job is nice and crisp.  Later figures got much more detailed paint apps but I like the strong solid designs on this figure.  The oversculpt is quite nice and the accessories were pretty cool.  He came with a board to whack people with, various chains to attach to his costume, and a very cool articulated cape.  Todd has gotten away from making Spawn toys the past few years and focused now on properties like sports, Halo and Walking Dead.  It’s been a blessing on my wallet but I do hope he goes back to the Spawn well soon; this is a nice figure but I’m ready for an update.  6 out of 10.

ABBEY CHASE

DANGER GIRL

The comic book industry as a whole sometimes catches some flak for over sexualizing women.  The female characters are often drawn with proportions that would make a Barbie doll scoff and say, “That’s just unrealistic.”  Their breasts are bulbous, gravity defying spheres and their costumes leave little to the imagination.  You’d be hard pressed to find a male hero with even exposed arms where as their female counter parts are running around in thong bathing suits.  But such is the nature of the beast and I think most of the time people are overreacting.  Of course we comic fans like our super heroines to be drawn sexy.  And to be fair, the proportions depicted on the male heroes are pretty far-fetched as well, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be as ripped as Colossus.   It’s a fantasy so I say just leave it be.

However there are some books , usually published outside the big two (Marvel and DC) that are pretty blatant T & A books.  Books that feature heroines in torn school girl outfits, or bondage gear and who are always placed on the cover so that the viewer gets an “up skirt” shot or something.  Yep, there are lots of panties to be seen in the comic book world if that’s what you’re into.   I enjoy a drawing of a pretty girl as much as the next guy but I read comic books for the stories.  If I was solely looking for barely dressed cartoon characters I’m sure the internet could provide them.   Therefore I have no interest in buying shameless T & A books.  When I first saw the series Danger Girl I wrote it off as one of “those” books.   There was no denying artist J. Scott Campell’s  talent, the covers were tantalizing  and caught your eye but I was sure there would be nothing of substance inside.  I don’t recall what it was exactly that made me finally decide to check out the series.  Campbell may have been doing work for Marvel by this time and I was really falling in love with his art.  Or it may have been that a trusted friend recommended it to me, or it might have just been that the brightly colored and expertly designed covers finally got the better of me and I caved.   A good number of the books released by independent publishers are plagued by delays.  A reason for that is the artists often write, draw, ink and color their own books and they just can’t keep up with the demands of releasing a monthly book.  As I recall the first Danger Girl series was 7 issues long and in a perfect world would have started and finished within a 7 month span.  However delays resulted in months of lag time between issues.  In order to get readers up to speed on the series before the final issues were released, the publisher put out prestige format reprints that contained 2 issues each and had pin ups and character designs in the back.  I picked up the first 2 reprint books and this was my introduction to Danger Girl.

It was awesome.  Perhaps not overly original but that was partly what made it so instantly appealing.  It borrowed heavily from Indiana Jones, James Bond, and G.I. Joe.  All properties I loved but were currently dead in the water.  The Joe resurgence, Crystal Skull and Daniel Craig were still years away at this point.  I could tell that Campbell and writer Andy Hartnell had grown up loving the same stuff as me.  The nods to those established properties I mentioned were almost so blatant that at times I felt like I was reading a G.I. Joe meets James Bond cross-over.  The fun and familiar story telling accompanied by Campbell’s  fantastic artwork made for a really enjoyable read.  I have been a loyal DG devotee ever since, even after Campbell left the book to pursue other projects.  I’ve come to love the characters, especially Abbey Chase.

Abbey is the leader of the Charlie’s Angels like group who take orders from Deuce, a Sean Connery doppelganger.  She was recruited into the established team in that first mini-series.  A little raw at first, Abbey soon became the quintessential Danger Girl.  She’s beautiful, smart, skilful and fun.  That last bit is important as the series doesn’t take itself too seriously.  When McFarlane released his series of Danger Girl figures I was blown away by the quality.  The line consisted of the 3 main girls and Major Maxim who I previously reviewed.  They are all beautiful figures but Abby is probably my favourite of the bunch.  The figure itself captures the look of Campbell’s artwork brilliantly.  Abbey has that playful smirk on her face and that glimmer of naughtiness in her eye.  Her hair hangs over her face and she’s got her signature mole on her cheek.  The physique and proportions are great.  The McFarlane crew really outdid themselves on the figures display base.  Her name is there along with a Mayan ruin, ferns, bamboo rods and snakes, it’s just awesome.   The figure is lacking when it comes to articulation, having only a few joints.  She wouldn’t be much fun to play with but as a display piece she is stellar.  9 out of 10.

THE CREECH

McFARLANE TOYS

The Creech is the creation of long time Spawn artist Greg Capullo.  I first became aware of Capullo when he was drawing the Marvel book Quasar.  He did a couple of other books for Marvel but wasn’t really on my radar until Todd McFarlane scooped him up to be the regular artist on Spawn.  McFarlane had been writing and drawing Spawn up to this point and he wanted to step away from the art chores to focus more on other aspects of his growing empire, like action figures. Todd wanted to find a penciler with artistic sensibilities similar to his own so that the changing of the guard wouldn’t be too jarring for fans.  I appreciated the effort as any comic fan can attest to how frustrating it is when there is a drastic change in the art on a book from one month to the next.  Capullo was a worthy successor and he only got better over time.  He remained on Spawn for the better part of the 90s and revisited the book a couple times since his departure.  In 1997 he wanted to try his hand at creating his own character and released a 3 issue mini-series entitled The Creech.  Capullo wrote and drew the mini series and it reaffirmed what we learned when Image comics first launched in 1992, artists can’t always write.  It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t good either and certainly not memorable as I’d be hard pressed to try and explain it to you.  So writing wasn’t Greg’s strong suit, so what.  He was still a hell of an artist as is evidenced by the Creech design, pure awesomesauce.  I think I’ve told you before that I like big feet on characters.  It’s not a weird fetish thing I just think big feet make for a cool solid base when designing a comic book character.  The Creech has big ol feet and enormous hands which I also like aesthetically.  Those crazy tentacles are wicked and the fact that he’s so hunched and ripped that it looks like his face is coming out of his chest is just plain cool.  It’s an original design that makes Creech stand out among the slew of other big monster designs we saw from similar artists in books like Pitt and the Tenth.  Though the Creech never made much of an impact on the comic book world, Capullo has recently taken over as regular artist on Batman so he’s doing just fine.

This figure is just rad. For all the design reasons I mentioned and because they’ve been so well translated into 3 dimensions.  This figure has a surprising amount of movement for  McFarlane offering.  He spins around completely at the waist which makes him feel more toy than statue which is always welcome.  The tentacles are all posable like pip cleaners so you can give Creech all kinds of wacky “hair cuts”.  The paint is great, the whole damn thing is great what can I say.  I’d love to see another writer take a crack at writing the Creech and giving this character a story worthy of this design.  9 out of 10.

HEADLESS HORSEMAN

SLEEPY HOLLOW

I used to tell people without hesitation that my favourite director was Tim Burton.  It seemed like for a few years there he could do no wrong.  I was a fan of Tim Burton before I even realized it.  As a kid I loved Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, BeetleJuice and Batman but I didn’t put any thought into who was making those films at the time.  It was probably Edward Scissorhands that really made me take notice.  That surreal pastel neighbourhood with the crazy trimmed hedges contrasted by the creepy old gothic house at the top of the hill was one of the first visuals that made me say, whoever filmed this has a very distinctive vision.  Once I became aware of Tim Burton’s style I could spot it a mile away.  This movie also made me appreciate the brilliance of Johnny Depp.  Before Scissorhands he was just that guy from the stupid movie Crybaby that my little sister watched over and over again.  (I later came to appreciate Depp’s performance in that film, as well as the trashy charm of the director of that film, John waters)  Depp pulled off Edward Scissorhands so well that he officially became my new favourite actor.  Sorry Christian Slater.  I followed both Burton’s and Depp’s careers from there on out never missing a project.  Each time they teamed up together was an absolute delight.  Reunited first in the underappreciated film Ed Wood and then again in Sleepy Hollow.

Horse riding version

This is where I would normally start talking about the Sleepy Hollow figure but  I’m going to stay on (off?) topic for a second though.    After what seemed to the perfect symbiotic Hollywood relationship producing great films together year after year in the 90s and into the 2000s what the hell happened to these two?  Their latest offerings have been getting worse and worse that I actually think they should be banned from working together again.  Corpse Bride?  Weak: like Nightmare before Christmas’s red-headed step child.  Sweeny Todd:  Looked great, I’ll give them that, but the music…ugh.  Charlie and the Chocolate factory:  Gene Wilder any day please and thank you.  Alice In Wonderland:  Sucked.  And now Dark Shadows is set for release soon and looks to be another train-wreck.  Johnny still manages to sneak out decent movies here and there, Public Enemies and Rum Diaries but Burton seems to have run out of gas completely.  I hope he proves me wrong someday, the sooner the better. 

Anyway, this figure is from the last good pairing of the two: Sleepy Hollow.  Depp was his usual quirky charming self and made for an excellent Ichabod Crane.  The creepy gothic style of the town buried in perpetual fog was classic Burton.  The Headless Horseman who is the ghoul at the heart of this tale was full on awesome.  In the scenes where he had a head he was played by the ever-creepy Christopher Walken who’s even creepier with a mouth full of shark teeth.  In the scenes where he was sans head he was played by the amazing Ray Park (Darth Maul/Snake-Eyes) which made for some sweet sword play.  This figure by McFarlane toys is a great representation of the character.    There was another version available, mounted on his demonic steed which was pretty cool but as is the problem with many McFarlane toys it was built almost more as a model than a toy.  The horse riding version couldn’t be removed from his horse without having super weird looking horse riding leg syndrome.   He would forever be cursed to ride that horse and isn’t this dude cursed enough already?  I opted to go with this standing version.  This figure really shows off the detail of the costume with its chainmail and leather.  The Horseman came with everything you would want him to, a couple of heads to lug around, an axe, and optional heads to place on his shoulders, either that of Mr. Walken or a skull which represents the character mid-transformation.  I wish he was more posable but at least his pose is nice and neutral and good for display.  6 out of 10

RICK GRIMES

THE WALKING DEAD

I’m pretty sure I mentioned before that I wasn’t a zombie guy, it must have been on the Zombie-Viper post.  The truth is I just didn’t realize I was a Zombie guy because in the past few years I’ve accumulated a decent collection of Zombie movies, comics and now toys.   I used to see zombies as just those lame corpses shuffling along looking for brains to eat or backing up MJ for a killer dance number.  I just didn’t find the concept interesting. Movies like 28 days later and the new Dawn of the Dead had begun to change my mind but not enough for me to care when I heard about this new zombie comic coming out from Image comics.  I glanced at it and dismissed it, a black and white indie book-this won’t last long.  But it did, it lasted for quite a while and I kept hearing good things.  One day Strange Adventures had the first 4 trades (collections of 6 single issues) in a discount box for $10 a piece.  I figured I would finally see what the hype was all about so I picked up the first one.  I read it in one sitting and went back the next day to buy the other 3.  In less than 24 hours I absorbed the first 24 issues of the series and I was hooked.  I’ve been on board ever since and now have 15 of those collections.  Whenever a new one is released it’s the first thing I read out of my stack and I power through it cover to cover which I rarely do with collected editions.  The premise of the series is basically-what happens in those zombie movies after the credits roll.  The heroes survived the initial outbreak but there’s still a world of zombies out there and life has to go on.  The series focuses on the people but the zombies remain an ever looming background threat and you just never know when the shit is gonna hit the fan.

When I heard there was going to be a tv series based on it I had mixed feelings.  Could they pull it off?  Would it be riddled with cheesy effects?  Would it last long enough to explore this world to the extent the comic has?  Well the first season debuted and I thought it was pretty good.   It was well casted and the zombies looked good though the digital blood effects left something to be desired.  The problem with adaptations like this is since I’ve read the books I already know what’s gonna happen.  And yet when the series strayed from the book I didn’t like it.  “This isn’t supposed to happen! grrr.”  The season finale didn’t impress me so I wasn’t sure I was gonna bother with season 2.   Well season 2 started up again this past fall and just wrapped up last Sunday.  And I gotta tell you the tv series has it’s hooks in me now just like the comic book.  I love that I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I have a general idea which is fun but then they throw you these curveballs like, “he’s not supposed to die! WTF!”

McFarlane toys released two series of Walking Dead figures a few months ago.  Like the comic and the show I resisted at first.  They looked cool and all but I just didn’t need to start buying something else.  Well after the wicked season finale last week I suddenly felt compelled to go buy some. <little spoiler> Michonne is one of the main characters in the comic series and she shows up looking totally bad ass in the final scene of season 2 and that’s what made me say “I need that Michonne figure”.  So that’s what I did, I went and bought Michonne.  But then I started thinking well if I’m gonna buy Michonne  then I gotta buy Rick Grimes, the star of the series.  I had a few Rick’s to choose from:  There’s a version based on his comic book appearance and then there’s also a tv series accurate version which looks like actor Andrew Lincoln.

Full Color version

I went with the tv version.  But then I had to decide if I wanted the standard full color version or the black and white variant.  After much back and fourth I opted for the black and white version.  The stark paint scheme is accented by some red blood spatter on the figure’s shirt and face like he just blew the head off of a walker at close range.  The actor likeness is great which isn’t unusual for a McFarlane product but these figures are smaller at 4″ than their usual 6″+ offerings.  He comes with a bunch of accessories, guns, grenade, phone and baseball bat.  I can’t comment too much on the articulation as I haven’t opened mine yet and I’m not sure I will.  Since he’s kind of an oddity in my collection I may just tack him to the wall in package.  McFarlane isn’t known for having the best articulation though as their figures are more like models than toys.  This guy does appear to have more joints than most other McFarlane toys though.  7 out of 10.