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SUPERMAN: JIM LEE BLUELINE EDITION (2016)

dc-superman-blueline-fullDC COLLECTIBLES

I have way too many Spider-Man and Iron Man toys. I know this. As a loyal Marvel reader for the past 30 years I have seen those characters wear a multitude of costumes and for some reason I feel compelled to own an action figure of each new look. It’s a problem. Conversely, I have never been a diehard DC fan. I really like some DC characters but I buy their books much more selectively. I tend to stick to critically acclaimed stories. There are exceptions to this rule but generally good stories do not feature alternate costumes. For that reason I’ve had very little exposure to short-lived, one-off DC costumes. Electric Blue Superman? Never read it. Bearded hook-hand Aquaman? Never read it. Knightfall Batman? Never read it. I suppose that’s why I’ve managed to avoid buying multiple action figures of DC characters. I’ve only ever felt the need to collect one iconic version of each. One Superman, one Batman, etc. Unfortunately that plan has been unravelling lately because of DC Collectibles’ designer action figures based on the specific artistic styles of various pencilers.

Ed McGuinness, Jim Lee, Jae Lee

Ed McGuinness, Jim Lee, Jae Lee

For a long time my Ed McGuinness inspired Superman figure was all I needed. Then last year DC Collectibles released a Jae Lee inspired figure which I couldn’t pass up. Next year they’ll probably put out a John Romita Jr. Superman that I’ll be powerless against but this year the Superman I got roped into buying was based on the artwork of Jim Lee.dc-superman-blueline-art

Jim Lee is one of those superstar artists that made a big splash in the comic book industry in the early 90s with his dynamic drawings. He was best known for his work on X-Men before he left Marvel and co-founded Image comics where he focused his creative energies for the next 10 years.

It was a pretty big deal when, after a decade primarily working on his creator-owned material, Jim Lee came back to mainstream comics in 2003. Rather than return to Marvel Jim opted for DC where he drew the 12–issue Batman run titled “Hush”. Hush has plenty of flaws but its undeniably a fun book. Writer Jeph Loeb crammed every Batman character he could think of into those 12 issues and it was a real treat seeing Lee put his unique stamp on each one of them. A series of Hush action figures released in 2004 is one of the earliest examples of DCs artist inspired toylines. Hush was a huge sales success for DC and it got me buying Batman comics on the regular for the first time ever.

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Lee followed up Hush with a Superman story written by Brian Azzarello called “For Tomorrow” in 2004. Lee’s art corralled me into collecting Superman comics for the first time as well. However, the story lacked the event feel of Hush and it was pretty forgettable. Story aside, it looked really nice and Jim Lee proved he could draw one hell of a Superman.

Lee returned to drawing the last son of Krypton on a monthly basis for the relaunch of the Justice League comic in 2011 as part of DC’s New 52 initiative. The New 52 Superman was younger than the Superman Lee drew in “For Tomorrow” and he had a different costume (lots of pointless lines and no more undies). An action figure featuring the New 52 look was released in 2012 but it didn’t interest me because I like my Superman old school. The figure was most likely based on Jim Lee’s artwork to a degree but it wasn’t specifically marketed as such and I don’t think great pains were made to capture his style.dc-superman-blueline-color

A couple of months ago DC Collectibles released this “Jim Lee Blueline Edition”  Superman figure similar to the Blueline Batman they released as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in 2015.  The concept is that these figures capture the look of a Jim Lee pencil sketch before it’s inked and colored. I think it’s a pretty neat idea so I promptly purchased this Superman from BigBadToyStore when it went up for pre-order. A Blueline Wonder Woman is planned for later this year which I also considered pre-ordering but I’ve decided not to because I like how unique this Superman looks in my collection.

This figure features the exact same build as the previously released New 52 Superman except its molded in solid white plastic.  The only paint apps are the grey lines that represent Jim Lee’s pencils. I think this makes for a far more visually striking figure than the colour version. The pencil lines make the sculpt look more detailed than it really is. The colored version was mostly just sold blue without any sort of muscle definition.  This version’s muscles are very well defined courtesy of Lee’s etchings. I initially thought this figure shared the same head as the color version as well but after closer inspection I believe this is a newly sculpted head.  I don’t think the folks at DC Collectibles could get this figure to look so different using paint apps alone.  This version looks like the pre-New 52 Superman featured in stories like Hush and For Tomorrow rather than the 2011 Justice League Superman which is A-OK in my book. This version appeares to have a squarer jaw and a more recognizable Superman swirl in his hair.dc-superman-blueline-face

The articulation leaves a little something to be desired, especially when compared to Marvel Legends, but it’s pretty standard for DC figures. He moves at the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and neck. It’s a rather rigid figure but I’m fine with that as this is clearly a display piece for collectors; I don’t think too many kids would choose this version to play with over the full color version.

This is a great looking toy that does Jim Lee justice. I think it totally nails the concept of a sketch brought to life in 3 dimensions. I don’t usually talk a lot about packaging in my reviews but it should be noted that this toy came in an amazing box with a magnetic seal, a unique shape, and a bunch of Jim Lee artwork. The box itself is worthy of being displayed. Good work DC Collectibles. 9 out of 10.

 

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MARKO (2016)

saga-marko-fullSAGA

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

GREEN LANTERN (2006)

DC-Green Lantern NF fullJLA: THE NEW FRONTIER

I received a shipment of 45 awesome Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. figures earlier this week and I had planned to post a couple reviews this weekend.  I may still get to them tomorrow but today I want to talk about this Green Lantern figure instead. Though that’s not entirely true. What I really want to talk about is the man whose artwork this figure is based on, Darwyn Cooke.

Last night before I went to bed I read online that Darywn Cooke had cancer. This morning I woke up and read that he had passed away.  That really sucked.

Darwyn was one of my favorite comic book artists and he was a great writer too.  I had seen his artwork a couple of times in single issues of Spider-Man and X-Force but it wasn’t until my friend Dave at Strange Adventures put a copy DC: A New Frontier in my hands a decade ago that I truly appreciated Cooke’s genius.  He wrote and drew the out-of-continuity tale set at the end of the Golden Age of comics and it is one of the best comics I’ve ever read.  Like Star Wars or Indiana Jones it made me nostalgic for a time I never personally knew.  Even when it was brand new it felt classic and timeless.  You could tell Darwyn really loved super heroes and he respected the history of the characters.DC-Green lantern NF back

He had a cartoony style and his drawings looked clean and effortless. I suppose that’s why his style translated into animation so well when New Frontier was adapted into an animated movie.  All of DC’s animated movies are direct-to-video but I had the pleasure of seeing a theatrical screening of New Frontier with Darwyn in attendance.  That’s because he lived here in Nova Scotia and was a good friend to the guys at Strange Adventures. They even attended his wedding in Las Vegas a few years back.  Darwyn was a regular at the shop and its many events like Free Comic Book Day.  Even though I was a huge fan of his work I don’t like playing the role of fanboy so I never stood in line for an autograph even though I had many opportunities to do so.  But one day he was in the shop just hanging out when I was there shopping. We were the only customers in the store at the time.  I bought a hardcover copy of his book Parker: The Hunter and I asked him if he’d mind signing it.  He graciously did so and even drew a little sketch on the inside cover. I talked about that and included a picture in this previous post.

I didn’t know the man but some of my good friends knew him well and I know they’re hurting today.  So I would just like to pass along my condolences to his friends and family and my friends Dave, Cal, Sean, Ben, Kate, etc.DC-Green Lantern NF unmasked

As for this figure, it was produced by DC Direct in 2006 in the first wave of figures based on Darwyn’s mini series. There were a total of 9 figures released over two waves.  In hindsight I should have bought them all but I only picked up three: Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Dr. Fate. Though there is another series of figures based on Darwyn’s art coming out soon and I already have them pre-ordered on BigBadToyStore.  Green Lantern was one of the main stars of New Frontier.  I never cared for the character before then but it made me like him and opened my mind up enough to try his on-going series that had been relaunched around the same time.  I’ve been a Green Lantern collector ever since and he’s now one of my favorite DC characters.DC-Green Lantern NF green

I think the sculptor did a brilliant job of capturing Darwyn’s style.  The figure is blocky and angular yet sleek and dynamic.  The head sculpt is especially impressive with that smug smirk on his face and windblown hair.  Plus I love the retro costume design that looks like an old-timey bathing suit.

For accessories, Green Lantern came with his lantern, an unmasked head, and a New Frontier display base.  The base is much bulkier than most which gives the figure the appearance of a mini statue.  I appreciate the inclusion of the unmasked face but I prefer the masked one.

This is a great figure based on the artwork of a guy who by all accounts was a great man and indisputably a great artist.  Rest in Peace Darwyn Cooke.  10 out of 10.DC-Green Lantern NF groupDC-Green Lantern NF art

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.

 

 

SUPERMAN (2015)

DC-Superman Lee fullDC COLLECTIBLES DESIGNER SERIES: JAE LEE

Vanessa got me a bunch of cool stuff for Christmas this year including five action figures but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing any of them until now. Four of them were Star Wars Black Series figures and the odd man out was this Superman figure by DC Collectibles.

I’m a DC fan but the figures are generally a low priority in my toy collection. I grew up a hard-core Marvel kid so I’ll happily waste a ton of money collecting of all the random D-list Marvel figures but with DC I tend to stick mostly to mainstream characters. I also try to avoid multiple versions of the same character. I don’t mind owning dozens of Spider-Man and Iron Man variations but when it comes to DC heroes like Flash or Green Lantern I try to find the single most iconic and cool figure available and leave it at that. For the past 10 years the one Superman figure in my modern toy collection has been the DC Direct 2005 version based on Ed McGuinness’s artwork from the Public Enemies (PE) storyline. I love McGuinness’s exaggerated cartoony style and I thought the DC Direct sculptors captured it beautifully in their PE line. Many great Superman figures have been released since then but none of them could dethrone the beefy squinty-eyed McGuinness version.DC-Superman lee face

However, my one version rule went out the window when DC Collectibles unveiled this beauty based on the artwork of Jae Lee. I wouldn’t say it dethrones the McGuinness version because they’re so different but it was definitely a must have for me. I can’t recall the first time I saw Jae Lee’s artwork, he’s done a smattering of work for both Marvel and DC since the 90s, but I know when I became a fan. In 2004 he illustrated a Transformers/G.I. Joe crossover for Dreamwave, a Canadian company that published Transformers books for a few years in the early 2000s. The story was set in WWII which was an interesting concept but it was Lee’s pencils that really left an impression on me. Everything was so dark and mysterious and the period-accurate character redesigns were amazing.DC-Superman lee compare

In 2013 DC launched a new Superman/Batman team-up book with Lee as the primary artist. That series is what inspired DC Collectibles to release a wave of figures based on Lee’s unique take on four DC icons; Batman, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, and Superman.

This figure may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It looks like Lee’s pencils have leapt off the page and I’d have thought that would’ve been near impossible to pull off given his unconventional style. I think the New-52 era costume looks great as rendered by Lee. There’s a lot more line work for him to play with than there would have been on the classic tights. The head sculpt is very well done too and the paint job highlights all of the sculpting work. I think the red eyes give him a very alien look that we haven’t seen before. This is kind of a dark and scary Superman which is the polar opposite of the bright and polished McGuinness version.

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One thing I particularly love about this figure is the cape. It’s a just a rubbery mass of folds but it looks surprisingly realistic. It’s one of the best action figure capes I’ve ever seen. My McGuinness figure has an embarrassingly small hand towel on his back so this figure definitely trumps him in the cape department.DC-Superman Lee back

This is an awesome figure that I’ve been looking forward to reviewing for months but the real reason I selected it today is because I wanted to talk about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I saw it on opening day but I wanted to give everyone time to see it before I blogged about it. The thing is, after some thought, I realized that I don’t have much to say about it. I didn’t like it but I didn’t hate it either. I think Man of Steel lowered my expectations to such a point that it would have been impossible for me to be disappointed by its sequel. I think you have to be passionate about something to get worked up over it and this movie didn’t make me feel much of anything. I could rant and rave about what I dislike about DC’s burgeoning cinematic universe but I feel it’s already been said to death in every corner of the internet. I will say that I saw flourishes of potential for future movies, Affleck showed promise as Batman and Wonder Woman looked pretty hot and tough, but sadly it was Superman who got shortchanged yet again (not to mention Jimmy Olsen). I still think Henry Cavill could make a great Superman with the right material but BvS didn’t do him any favours.

I would give the film a 4 out of 10 but this figure is worthy of a solid 9 out of 10DC-Superman Lee fly

HARLEY QUINN (2015)

DC-Harley2 fullDC COMICS – SUPER VILLAINS

For my birthday in January 2014 Vanessa bought me my first Harley Quinn action figure.  It was based on the character’s appearance from the recently relaunched Suicide Squad comic. I liked the new costume design even though it was a pretty drastic change from Harley’s original court jester costume which I was a big fan of.

The costume change occurred in 2011 to coincide with DC’s line wide reboot known as the New 52.  Two years later Harley got her own solo comic book series and with it came another costume design but the 2013 make-over wasn’t as drastic as the 2011 one.  Most of the New 52 design elements were retained but they were tweaked to give her a roller-derby girl look.  This included the addition of knee pads, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and of course roller skates.  I really dug the new look but I don’t know if I would’ve loved it as much if Amanda Conner hadn’t drawn it; that woman can do no wrong.

I had every intention of buying the new series once the collected edition came out but based on my brother’s reviews (he’s been reading the monthly issues) I think it might be too silly for me.

art by Amanda Conner

art by Amanda Conner

 

I actually think some comics should be silly.  Too many books are dark and dreary these days and Harley’s a good candidate for silly.  But I’ve read quite a few silly books over the years (Deadpool, Bomb Queen, Superior Foes) and I just got burnt out on it.  I may still pick up the new Harley Quinn collections one of these days but for now I’ll remain a fan from afar.

Even though I’m not reading her current series I was still very excited when this figure was announced a few months back.  I immediately pre-ordered one from BigBadToyStore.  As far as I could tell it looked amazing and was influenced by Conner’s artwork.  I’ve been wishing for action figures based on her art for years.  It’s an absolute crime that DC hasn’t yet released an Amanda Conner Power Girl.DC-Harley2 hammer

 

 

There was no doubt in my mind that this new figure would be superior to the Suicide Squad Harley and I couldn’t wait to add her to my collection.  I was notified a month ago that BBTS had it in stock and ready to ship to me but I was frugal and patient.  I waited until a few more pre-orders came in before telling them to send it because I wanted to save some cash with the combined shipping.  Last week, once my Boondock Saints and Rocketeer figures were in stock,  I told BigBad to ship my package and earlier tonight it arrived.

DC-Harley2 side

I really like this Harley Quinn.  Both the sculpting and the painting are great.  The sneakers alone put the previous figure’s to shame.  Derby Harley’s shoes have sculpted laces and pompoms and multiple paint apps whereas the 2014 figure’s kicks had hardly any sculpted detail and zero paint apps.  The new Harley still has ribbed socks but ups the ante with painted stars and stripes.  The shorts are more attractive this time around and they also have additional star and diamond paint apps.  The stars and diamonds motif continues onto her elbow and shoulder pads.  Instead of a frilly collar this Harley has a choker with bells, like something a BDSM reindeer might wear.  It’s isn’t by a wide margin but I think this face sculpt is prettier too.  Trading in the black mask-like make up for a more subdued pink eyeshadow was a good call in my opinion.  The hair is similar on both figures except the new one’s pigtails are a fair bit longer.  At a glance I think the thing I most prefer about this new figure is that she’s wearing black and red like her original jester costume.  The red and blue of the Suicide Squad version isn’t as dynamic.  Also this Harley’s skin is pure white as opposed to the porcelain off-white of the other figure and the white on black contrast makes this one really pop out at ya.DC-Harley2 back

For accessories Harley comes with a pistol which can be holstered on her hip and her trademark mallet.  I’m happy to see a return to her cartoony red mallet.  The brown and grey sledge hammer that came with last figure wasn’t nearly as fun.  Also she comes with removable roller skates which plug into her sneakers.  The wheels actually spin so you can cruise her across your computer desk or kitchen floor if you’re so inclined.  I knew she had skates but I didn’t expect them to actually work or to be removable so that was a pleasant surprise.

This figure is pretty great but its not perfect.  I’m not a fan of the bell choker.  It makes it appear as though she has a really short neck.  Also the combination of the choker and the pig tails really hinder the head movement.  Lastly, this figure still doesn’t have any torso articulation which is something I griped about in my last HQ review.  She really should be able to turn at the waist.  Other than that though the articulation is good.DC-Harley2 face

 

 

I was really excited to receive this figure when I hit “send” last week and it pretty much lives up to my expectations.  Unfortunately that excitement was slightly diminished a couple of days ago thanks to an announcement at last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con.  DC Collectables revealed that they have a new Harley Quinn figure coming out next year based on Darwyn Cooke’s artwork.  Darwyn is one of the best and most unique artists in the business and his Harley looks incredible.  The design is almost identical to this figure so this figure suddenly felt kinda redundant just days before I got it.  Oh well, thats toy collecting for ya.  9 out of 10.

Darwyn Cooke's Harley (2016)

Darwyn Cooke’s Harley (2016)

...and a classic upcoming Harley figure

…and an upcoming classic Harley figure

DC-Harley2 compare

CATWOMAN (2014)

DC-Catwoman fullDC COLLECTIBLES DESIGNER SERIES

A while back I reviewed the Talon figure from wave 1 of DC Collectibles’ Batman toyline based on the artwork of Greg Capullo. Just before Christmas I acquired my second figure from the line, wave 2’s Catwoman. I really liked the look of Talon but due to some articulation issues (his loose ankles mean he’s constantly falling over) he was not a contender for my “best of 2014” year-end list. Since I hadn’t picked up any of the other wave 1 figures it seemed as though the Capullo line, despite being beautifully sculpted by Jonathan Matthews (the same guy who did the amazing New Gods figures based on Jack Kirby’s artwork), was sadly going to be shut out of my list. However, Catwoman swooped in just days before the deadline and clinched the number 5 spot.

Giant Robot Comics had a “buy 2 get 1 free” sale on for Boxing Day so Doug and I popped in (along with the rest of his family) to check it out.

DC-Catwoman face

First off let me say that I’m used to shopping for toys alone; or perhaps with an embarrassed girlfriend in tow. I am not used to shopping for toys with Toddlers. I don’t know how Doug does it.  His youngest, Luke, is an awesome little dude but he is the epitome of the terrible twos. While Doug dealt with the tantrum I went about my business browsing the latest action figures. The pegs were freshly stocked with the latest “Capullo Batman” and “Son of Batman” figures. I went with Catwoman and Batgirl from the Capullo series and for my freebie I snagged a Zatana from DC Collectibles’ New 52 line. I was very tempted to pick up the Damian Wayne Robin figure too but if I did that then I’d have to either put one of my original picks back or pick out two more figures to take advantage of the savings. Seeing as it was the day after Christmas I couldn’t justify carting 6 new figures home so I stuck with my original three picks. As luck would have it my pal Andrew ended up getting me Damian for my birthday 2 weeks later so stay tuned for that review.DC-Catwoman whip

I was super stoked to get this figure. Much like the Supergirl and Robin (until a few months ago) Catwoman was an essential DC character of which I did not yet own an action figure. I don’t have a massive DC collection but it’s about 40 strong so it seems crazy that none of those characters were represented. Not only are they important characters in the DC universe but they’re also some of my favorites. There have been many versions of each of them released in the past but none of them matched my expectations.   The HUSH Catwoman released in 2004 and based on Jim Lee’s art was probably the best version of the character prior to this but even that one wasn’t quite up to snuff. The face was too cartoony or something.

This Greg Capullo inspired Catwoman finally gives us what I would consider a definitive version of the character.

DC-Catwoman Batman

The sculpt is rally impressive. The costume is relatively simple but it should be. A cat burglar shouldn’t have a whole lot of bells, whistles, and bright colors.  She’s wearing a sleek black cat suit with a zipper down the front and some buckles on her boots. The design is enhanced by a number of subtly sculpted wrinkles and folds in the material. The body is very curvy and feminine but doesn’t suffer from any outlandish proportions as is sometimes the case with female figures. Impressively she’s wearing high heeled boots yet she stands up on her own quite well. I haven’t had to pick her up from the floor once.

DC-Catwoman back

The head sculpt is also beautiful in its simplicity. She has a black cowl with ears, gold and silver goggles, and a neutral facial expression.  I praised the Supergirl figure for not having bright red lipstick which Catwoman does have however this is a much more seductive character so it makes sense. You can’t see her eyes through the oversized cat-eyed goggles but the gold paint glistens in such a way that from certain angles the lenses almost look translucent.  If I were to complain about one thing it would be that they painted her nostrils. It looks fine but it makes them more pronounced than they need to be.

The articulation on this figure is decent but it could be better. Her legs only go forward and back with no side-to-side movement and she has no torso articulation at all.  Personally I prefer aesthetic over functionality for most of my figures since I just display them anyway but a character like this should be a little more flexible.  Although, DC’s earlier figures were so stiff that Catwoman is plenty nimble by comparison.

For accessories she has a whip as any good cat-themed bad girl should. It’s made of soft rubber so it hangs realistically and looks good no matter how you pose it.

I highly recommend you get this figure but if by some chance you can’t track one down don’t fret. A new series of figures based on the artwork of Jae Lee (Jim’s brother) is due out later this year and the Catwoman is very similar to this one. 10 out of 10.

DC-Catwoman catfight

THE CROW (Hot Toys) (2014)

HT-Crow all HOT TOYS

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

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

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

HT-Crow hair

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

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

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

HT-Crow sit

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

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

 

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

HT-Crow face1

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

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

HT-Crow guitar

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

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

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

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

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

HT-Crow collection

SUPERGIRL (2014)

DC-Supergirl fullDC DIRECT

I never read DC comics when I was a kid so most of my DC knowledge back then came from cartoons like the Super Friends, TV shows like Batman, and movies like Superman. I’m not sure when I first became aware of Superman’s cousin Supergirl but my first significant exposure to her was likely the 1984 Supergirl movie starring Helen Slater. I loved Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies when I was young (still do) and I really liked the Supergirl spin-off too. The movie was pretty cheesy but Slater played Supergirl very earnestly and forever endeared the character to me.

I started collecting comic books seriously in 1986. Despite being a Marvel kid I may have considered collecting a Supergirl comic book at the time; I was a big fan of sidekicks as you may recall from my recent Robin review. However, DC had brutally killed off the character a year earlier in their epic multiverse-spanning mini-series “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. I didn’t read the actual series until I was a grown up but I remember the cover of Crisis issue 7 quite vividly from my childhood. It featured Superman crying and holding the limp battered body of Supergirl in his arms while the rest of the DC heroes looked on solemnly. It was a pretty emotional scene.DC-Supergirl face

 

DC killed her for the same reason they killed a bunch of other characters in the Crisis mini-series; to clean house. The DC Universe had been on-going for decades and it had filled up with plot holes and contradictions. DC wanted to wipe the slate clean by saying all of these contradicting stories took places in alternate universes and those universe were coming to an end. They picked and chose what they wanted to keep and streamlined everything. One big problem that had grown over the years was the watering down of Superman. He was originally billed as “the Last Son of Krypton” but by the mid-80s there were dozens of other Kryptonians running around, including a dog, a horse, and a monkey. DC wanted to make Superman feel special again so there was a mandate to wipe-out all of the other Kryptonians. Despite Supergirl’s popularity she had to go.

DC-Supergirl supermanSupergirl was absent from the DC Universe for many years.  Characters similar to Supergirl popped up from time to time, some even used the name Supergirl, but none of them were Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El, the original Supergirl. It wasn’t until 19 years after her death that DC reintroduced the original Supergirl back into the DC Universe.  Kara crash-landed on Earth and back into continuity in the pages of Superman & Batman in 2004.  I was collecting that title at the time so I got in on the ground floor for her return.  After her introduction in that title she graduated to her own solo-series which I collected for a time as well.

When DC rebooted their entire universe in 2011 after their “Crisis”-like event “Flashpoint” Supergirl had to crash-land on Earth all over again.  I picked up the first issue of her New 52 series and it felt a little like I was reading a story I’d already read a half-dozen times before but the art held my interest.  I continue to collect Supergirl’s New 52 book and while some of the storytelling has been pretty bad the art has been consistent so I keep coming back each month.  I haven’t read the latest story arc yet (because I wait for the collected editions) but she has recently  joined the Red Lanterns which has all kinds of potential for good storytelling.DC-Supergirl back

I’ve wanted a Supergirl figure for a long time and while there have been plenty to choose from over the years none of them have been satisfactory in my opinion.  They’ve either been too bland or too stylized, like the ones based on the Justice League animated series or those based on Michael Turner’s art.

When I first saw pictures of this figure, based on Supergirl’s appearance in the New 52 Universe, I thought it was amazing.  I pre-ordered it from BigBadToyStore but I was sure the final product would not be as nice as the promotional images.

I’m happy to say that I was wrong.  This figure arrived in the mail a while back and it is fantastic. It perfectly represents Kara in her current costume and I’m a big fan of this costume.  I prefer it to the skirted ones she’s worn in the past.  I really like the look of the long kneeless boots even though they make no sense and are completely impractical.  The red and gold paint on the boots and costume has a metallic sheen while the blue, and the red on the cape, have a matte finish. The body is well proportioned and the articulation is well hidden.  She also happens to be very well articulated for a DC Direct figure with joints at her ankles, knees, hips, shoulders (x2), elbows, wrists, and neck.DC-Supergirl fly

The best thing about this figure has to be the head sculpt. Action figures of pretty girls have to be pretty and that seems to be a hard thing to pull off sometimes.  The sculptors have done a great job here of making Kara pretty and believable.  The sculpt is assisted by the lovely paint job.  She doesn’t have bright red lips or gaudy eye make-up; the paint job is very subtle.  The hair sculpt, and the shade of blonde plastic used, are both very realistic and contemporary looking.

I acquired this figure at the same time as my Red Robin figure and I love them both.  They’ve become 2 of my favourite DC figures.  I don’t always like the New52 comics but DC Direct is knocking it out of the park these days with their New 52 inspired figures.  10 out of 10.DC-Supergirl compare