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HARLEY QUINN (SPACESUIT) 2017

DC DESIGNER SERIES: AMANDA CONNER

I’ve been settled into my new house for a month now. If you saw my last post you know that most of my toys are unpacked and the man-cave is looking great. I don’t know if I’ll start posting reviews on the regular again but I’ve got a little time to kill this evening and I got a cool new figure today so I thought I’d write my first review in the new house.

Harley Quinn first appeared on Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s. I was a fan of the show, and though I didn’t watch it religiously, I liked Harley Quinn right away. She had a fun, court jester style costume which worked really well for her role as a love interest/henchman of the joker. True, she was a little annoying but her outlandish enthusiasm suited her since she was supposed to be absolutely nuts.

Harley was brought into the main DC comics universe in 1999 by way of an original graphic novel. I found the comic book version even better than the animated version.  She wasn’t as goofy and you could read her dialogue free of the annoying animated series voice. Bruce Timm’s animated jester design translated perfectly to the more detailed comic book medium courtesy of top-tier artists like Jim Lee and Terry Dodson. I had wanted to add a Harley Quinn action figure to my collection for many years but the cartoon based ones didn’t fit in with my existing DC crew and I missed out on the comic figure based on Jim Lee’s popular “Hush” storyline. She was a little too pricey for me on the secondary market and for years that Hush figure was the only 6″ Harley Quinn option.  Oh how times have changed.

I finally got my first Harley Quinn figure in 2014. It was based on her “edgy” New 52 redesign. I was happy with the figure at the time and gave it an 8 out of 10. If I were to review that figure today I’d likely give it a 4.  There are far superior options out there now, it constantly falls over, and I just don’t care much for that costume choice. A year later I got a new Harley based on her 2013 roller derby redesign. It was a much better costume which was designed by artist Amanda Conner. I was very pleased with that figure at the time and gave it a 9 out of 10. Nowadays I’d probably bump it down to a 7. The figure had a lot of good attributes, such as removable roller skates, but the weird face and stumpy neck were not among them.

In my review of Derby Harley I mentioned that I’d been hoping for figures based on Amanda Conner’s art for years and it seemed as though that was as close as I was gonna get. Well here we are just a couple of years later and DC Collectibles has offered up a whole series Harley figures based on Conner’s distinctive artwork (I’m still waiting on Power Girl though). I’m so happy to see Conner get her due. I’ve been a big fan of hers since 2002’s “The Pro”. I wish she still drew comics on the regular but it seems like she’s content just doing covers and writing these days.

I eagerly pre-ordered all 4 Conner Harley Quinns when they were offered on BigBadToyStore about a year ago. However, once the initial excitement wore off I calmed down and questioned whether I really needed 4 more Harley Quinns…because I don’t think I even like this character anymore.

 

I have tried on several occasions to read Harley Quinn comics and I just can’t get into them.  They’re stupid. Too stupid for me. I really wanted to like them because of my past affection for the character but I just can’t.  On top of that, the character’s popularity seems to have reached a critical mass and she has completely saturated the market. She’s everywhere.  But the straw that finally broke the Harley camel’s back was that goddamn turd of a Suicide Squad movie. After that I was done.  I cancelled my figure pre-orders.

Harley hate aside, I still love Amanda Conner so I told myself I’d let myself pick up 1 of the 4 figures once I saw them in store and decided on a favourite. They recently hit stores in my area and the winner was spacesuit Harley. This figure is based on a specific storyline (as are the other figures in this series) which I did not read. The entire body design is faithful to Conner’s artwork but the Conner-ness is most evident in the face. She draws such beautiful and expressive faces so this is where the sculptors really needed to nail it and I think they were successful. This type of facial sculpting is what was sorely lacking on the derby figure. The wide eyes, exuberant smile, and flowing hair all do Conner justice and the delicate paint apps seal the deal.

This figure has a vibrant paint job, plenty of articulation, and fun accessories. She comes with a display base, removable space helmet, a cork space rife with a stretchy phone-cord like rope, and some sort of evil space pizza. The pizza doesn’t mean much to me but I’m sure somebody out there will appreciate it. This figure has mended enough of the damage done by Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad that I may even allow myself to buy one more from this series. I may not feel this way forever but, as of right now, this is the Harley Quinn figure I’ve been waiting for. 10 out of 10.

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TOP 16 ACTION FIGURES OF 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-malleus

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

SUPERMAN: JIM LEE BLUELINE EDITION (2016)

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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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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

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.

DC-Superman Lee art
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

BATMAN YELLOW (POP!) (2014)

POP-Batman yellow fullFUNKO POP!

There was a time when I told myself I wasn’t going to collect Funko’s POP! vinyl figures and now I have a small army of them including three variations of Batman.

The floodgates can be traced back to my first POP! figure, a black and grey contemporary Batman that I received as a gift.  I liked it so much that I thought I would maybe buy one or two more.  I started out by buying a couple oddballs like Rocky Balboa and the the Winged Monkey from Wizard of Oz and the next thing I knew I had a dozen of them.

My second Batman, an Adam West 60s Batman, was gifted to me on my birthday by my brother Doug a couple years ago. That one came with a retro Batmobile which was pretty sweet.  After that I was quite certain I had no need for any further Batman POP! figures. Then last weekend I bought this mustardy yellow Batman.  You might think it ridiculous but there is precedent for this garish costume.POP-Batman yellow comic

This figure, along with pink, green, orange, purple, and blue variations were released as a special exclusives to collectibles etailer, Entertainment Earth.  They were produced in celebration of the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary in 2014.  The rainbow Batman outfits are based on Detective Comics issue 241 published in 1957.  I’ve never read it but in it Batman apparently dons various coloured costumes as a means to distract some bad guys from noticing that Robin was fighting crime with a wounded arm. Sounds silly I know but it was the Silver Age and s**t like that happened all the time.

POP-Batman yellow group

 

My friend Jay runs a comic shop called Cape and Cowl Comics in my hometown of Sackville, Nova Scotia.  You may recall me talking about it in my Blowtorch review a while back.   It’s a great shop but I’ve only been in there a couple of times.  I don’t get out to Sackville very often unless I’m visiting my folks and I do 99% of my comic shopping at Strange Adventures in Halifax.  Jay has faced some hurtles in starting up his new business and I guess things have been exceptionally slow in the new year.  When tales of his struggles made the rounds on local news outlets and social media I knew I had to get out there and spend some cash.  I went out for a browse on Saturday and despite a great selection of goodies there wasn’t much there I “needed”.POP-Batman yellow side

Any POP! figure would’ve been a fun purchase, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Deb from Napolean Dynamite, Neo from the Matrix, but I just couldn’t resist the pull of the rainbow Batmen.  The shop had a few varieties in stock but the yellow one won out because I oddly find it the ugliest and the most appealing.  (I also bought a Scarface ReAction figure).

There isn’t much to say about the figure itself.  The sculpt is as cute as it was the first two times I got it.  I’m sure it will be a conversation piece on my work desk.  7 out of 10.

If you’re able, go support Cape and Cowl comics.

 

 

TOP 15 ACTION FIGURES OF 2015

As 2015 comes to an end it’s time for my annual “best of” list.  It’s hard to believe that this is my fourth year-end list and even harder to believe that since I started this blog I’ve reviewed over 800 action figures (and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of my collection!).  Thanks to all of you who have been loyal readers and thanks to those of you checking it out for the first time, I hope you come back.  Now, Before I begin the list let me clearly state that this list features the 15 BEST ACTION FIGURES I COLLECTED IN 2015.  I am not saying these are the best 15 action figures released this year, just the best ones I managed to get my hands on.  In order to qualify for my list the figure must have been released in 2015.  I’ve gotten some great action figures this year that don’t qualify because they were originally released prior to 2015.  Now that the criteria has been clearly stated hopefully any nerd rage will be quelled.  I don’t need anyone calling me an idiot because I didn’t name the Hot Toys Hulkbuster Iron Man the best toy of the year (I know it’s awesome but its also $800 and I don’t have one).  So let’s get started…

2015-Cardinus15. Cardinus– This is a figure from the Gothitropolis line by Four Horsemen Toy Design Studios.  It’s a completely original toyline by the sculptors extraordinaire made famous for their work on Spawn, DC, and Masters of the Universe.  At present I don’t have a link to a review of Cardinus but you can check out my review of another figure from the line, Eagalus. All the Gothitropolis figures share the exact same body and they come with the same staff as an accessory.  The only differences between them are a uniquely sculpted head and a paint job specific to each bird species.  I raved on about the intricacies of the sculpting in my Eagalus review so I won’t dwell on it again here but the armour is spectacular.  Both Eagalus and Cardinus have amazing head sculpts that look very life-like.  Either could have made the list but Cardinus edges Eagalus out due to the beautifully regal paint job. Cardinus features a black and gold paint scheme which looks fantastic against his crimson red feathers.  I could totally display Cardinus with my Masters of the Universe collection or any other fantasy figures.  Eagalus’s obnoxious American paint job makes him seem more like a novelty item than a fantasy figure.  This is an amazing figure and I wish I could afford to collect the entire line .

 

2015-First Aid14. First Aid– This figure makes the list primarily because I happen to love the character but it’s also a great toy.  The original First Aid figure from 1986 was one of my favourite vintage Transformers and I’ve always regretted getting rid of it. First Aid’s portrayal in IDW’s Transformers comics in recent years have only made me like him even more.  For years I’ve been hoping that Hasbro would release a new version of him and this year they finally did.  There’s nothing particularly spectacular about the actual figure. The sculpting, paint, accessories, and articulation are on par with just about every other Transformer that came out this year under the “Combiner Wars” banner but that’s not a bad thing because those things were done well on all the figures.  Almost any one of the combiner-bots could have made this list (i.e. Breakdown, Alpha Bravo) but due to my personal affection for First Aid he gets the shout out.

 

 

2015-Jaws13. Jaws–  I love the movie Jaws.  Love it.  When I was a kid that shark scared the crap out of me and fascinated me at the same time, it still does.  I have yet to see a movie shark even come close to being as terrifying as the original Jaws.  I was so stoked to get a Jaws action figure this year courtesy of Funko’s ReAction line.  The retro style of the line was perfectly suited for the task of giving fans the first ever Jaws action figure line.  The 3 human characters are awesome but its the shark that steals the show.  I could’ve easily named this my number one action figure of the year but due to its lack of articulation it didn’t seem fair.  This toy belongs in every bathtub around the world.

2015-He-Man

 

12. Snake-Armor He-Man-This is another figure that I haven’t yet reviewed so there’s no link available yet.  I had every intention of reviewing all my list candidates by years end but I got busy/lazy.  When I was a kid I had a bunch of Masters of the Universe figures including the main hero, He-Man.  He was always my least favourite of the bunch. He was so uninteresting when compared to guys like Buzz-Off and Mer-Man.  It wasn’t until the 2002 MOTU reboot that I actually liked He-Man.  The ’02 cartoon and toy line featured anime inspired designs which I thought did wonders to up He-Man’s cool factor. When the Classics line kicked off in 2008/2009 He-Man reverted back to his boring old bowl-cut self. Multiple re-releases (Thunder Punch, Battle Armour) didn’t help. Finally, in 2015 Mattel has given us this Classics He-Man in the 2002 style, and that didn’t simply mean a new head sculpt, they decked him out in his snake armour which was heavily featured in season 2 of the animated series.  The armour features great sculpting and paint work but it’s the shaggy hair that really wins me over.

2015-Wonder Woman11. Wonder Woman-No link here either folks but thats because I just got this figure the other day.  I didn’t buy many DC figures this year.  The only one I requested for Christmas was Superman from the designer series based on Jae Lee’s artwork.  I’m a big fan of Jae Lee’s work but of the 4 figures in his designer series Superman was the only one that appealed to me based on the images I saw online.  The Batman kinda sucked and the Catwoman was too similar to the Greg Capullo Catwoman that made my list last year. The Wonder Woman looked good but I already have what I feel is the best Wonder Woman figure ever made (DC Direct-2007) so why buy a lesser one?  Well I was checking out Giant Robot Comics’ boxing day sale the other day and saw the Jae Lee Wonder Woman figure “in-person” for the first time.  The sculpting and paint work were so good that I couldn’t resist buying it. I don’t think it’s better than the 2007 figure but this toy is a work of art and had I passed it up I know I’d be kicking myself for years to come.

 

10. Otachi– I just reviewed this figure the other day so I don’t have much to add at the moment.  This figure is big, has great sculpting, great paint apps, and good articulation.  Most important of all it’s a big monster.  I love big monsters. I have a lot of big monster toys in my collection but few of them are designed as well as this figure.  I’m still pissed about the price and the lack of wings but I didn’t buy anything else even remotely like Otachi this year.  He’s a unique looking piece in my collection and he’s a joy to look at.2015-Otachi

 

 

2015-Kylo Ren29. Kylo Ren– I just reviewed this figure the other day as well.  This was a tough call because I got quite a few excellent 6″ Star Wars Black Series figures this year and I wasn’t sure who was going to make the cut.  Captain Phasma is pretty rad looking and the First Order Storm Trooper is awesome too.  For Christmas Vanessa got me a 4-pack of figures which included a red classic Storm Trooper that I absolutely love and he very nearly dethroned Kylo from this list (as I write this I realize he probably should have. Sorry, Honey). Kylo held his spot though because he was such a compelling character in the movie and because this figure is made up of all new parts including plastic and cloth blended together wonderfully. The standard white Storm Trooper ranked number six on my list last year and it would have seemed a bit lazy to award essentially the same figure again this year.2015-Calix

8. Calix-This is a great figure that I’ve been meaning to review for months.  It’s one of the six figures included in Mattel’s MOTU Classics mini-subscription based on the 2002 cartoon I mentioned above in my He-Man write up.  Over the past 7 years a handful of 2002-inspired characters have found their way into the main Classics line but they’re few and far between. A whole subscription devoted to them is something fans of that era (like myself) have been clamouring for. I have three of the mini-sub figures in hand at present and they’re all great.  I expect to have the last three this week or next and they all look great too; there isn’t a dud in the bunch.  Any or all of them could have made this list but I narrowed it down to one and I went with Calix.  This guy is a member of the Evil Horde and he appeared ever so briefly in one episode before getting destroyed.  It’s a shame this guy was created as a throwaway character because he is awesome.  I hope he gets a second chance at greatness in the comics or maybe even a future animated series.  He’s a dude made of rock, which is nothing new for MOTU, but this guy is WAY cooler than those geeks Stondar and Rokkon.  The newly sculpted pieces are fantastic and they do a great job of hiding the fact that this figure is primarily made up of the standard Classics body.  The paint work is subtle but really brings out the details of the sculpt.  I love the stone beard.  I love the axe/crossbow. I love this figure.2015-Frostbite

 

7. Frostbite– A lot of people online like to hate on the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club.  I get that they’ve screwed up a few things (like losing members’ credit card information) but how anyone can stay mad at them when they produce figures like this is beyond me.  They gave us so much gold this year from the Figure Subscription Service (Spearhead was a contender) and the Convention set (Wreckage was a contender) to the Free Membership figure (Dr. Mindbender was a contender) and the online store exclusives (Old Snake was a contender).  Frostbite was the mystery 13th figure that shipped with the final FSS 3.0 shipment this year.  It wasn’t much of a surprise but it was a figure everyone was happy to receive.  Frostbite is a classic character that desperately needed a modern-era makeover and the Club did not disappoint here. The Frankensteined body looks good but what really elevates this figure to another level is the new head and collar by Boss Fight Studios. Frostbite has never looked so good.

 

 

 

2015-Marauder6. Marauder Task Force– Speaking of Boss Fight Studios, I was really hoping to have their first ever original toyline, Vitruvian Hacks, in hand by the end of the year.  I bought into their kickstarter campaign in June 2014 and the figures were expected to be delivered in February 2015.  No such luck. The figures are going to be more than a year late but they look spectacular and I’m sure you’ll see some on next year’s list.  One of the reasons for the delay is because the production factory in China got held up making these figures, the Marauder Task Force (MTF).  This is another original toyline funded by a kickstarter campaign courtesy of Marauder Gun Runners who actually hired Boss Fight Studios to do the sculpting.  The concept behind the line is completely customizable military action figures. The base figures are all the same but you can buy a variety of guns and accessories from Marauder’s website.  I ordered the base figure in all 8 color varieties: red, blue, green, black, arctic, desert, urban and jungle camo. You can mix and match all the parts right down to the pouches on their sleeves and the logos on their helemts.  There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of parts combinations.  No one figure is better than another so this slot belongs to the whole line in general.  Do yourself a favour and order some of these guys.  Four new color variations were just stocked (mine are in the mail).2015-Hobgoblin

5.  Hobgoblin– Here we go, top five.  The fifth spot on my list belongs to the Hobgoblin.  This is a Marvel Legends build-a-figure meaning you had to buy six different Marvel Legends figures to get all the parts to build this guy. I didn’t mind the concept back when the build-a-figures were giant figures but it kind of pisses me off now that build-a-figures are no bigger than the standard releases.  Despite the hoops I had to jump through to get this guy I am very happy to have him completed.  This is my favourite Marvel Legends figure to date.  Not only is Hobby one of Spidey’s all-time great villains, this is a version of him we’ve never seen in action figure form before (Phil Urich) and it’s faithful to Humberto Ramos’s artwork which I love.  The sculpt is perfect, he’s got great accessories, he’s well articulated, and he’s just fun to look at.  He’s bright and bold and I would think any kid would love to have him.

2015-Gung Ho4. Gung Ho– This guy was never one of my favourite Joes.  Partly because Doug owned both the 1983 and ’87 versions when we were kids.  Despite my lack of personal attachment to Gung Ho he is one of the most recognizable faces on the team.  His importance was evidenced by his inclusion in the Joe 5-pack that launched the modern-era in 2007 along with key characters Duke, Snake Eyes, Scarlet, and Roadblock. In the 8 years since that pack came out 27 more Dukes have been released, 40 more Snake Eyes’, 6 more Scarlets, and 8 more Roadblocks.  This is only Gung Ho’s third and he didn’t get any new parts in last two.  The 2007 Gung Ho and it’s two subsequent repaints are extremely dated and they did not do justice to the Joe team’s original Marine.  In 2015 we finally got a Gung Ho we can be proud off. This figure was released as part of Hasbro’s 50th anniversary line and it is both a beauty and a beast.  It’s beastly in its size and manliness and it’s beautifully rendered.  This figure looks more like Gung Ho than any figure ever before released including the original Gung Ho.  The stache is epic, the chest tat is massive, the arms are thick, and the uniform is seafoam.  To top it off he has a gigantic SAW heavy machine gun with matching seafoam bullets.2015-Machine Man

 

3. Machine Man-If Hobgoblin is my favourite Marvel Legends figure how is this guy higher than him on the list?  I don’t know.  It must be the power of Jack Kirby.  This figure isn’t necessarily based on his creator’s artwork but it sure looks as though the sculptor was referencing some Kirby drawings when creating this head sculpt.  I love everything about this figure from the sculpting to the shimmery purple paint job to the telescoping Inspector Gadget arms.  It’s perfect in its simplicity.

2. Devestator– In a year where every Transformer released is a member of a combiner team I had to put a combiner on the list.  Defensor and Superion would have been contenders had Hasbro not released this behemoth this past fall.  Devestator towers over the other combiners.  They seemed so impressive at first but they look like children in Devestator’s shadow.  I have some issues with the individual Constructicons that make up Devestator but for the most part I’m even impressed with them.  As a whole Devestator is near perfect.  He’s still a bit wobbly but he’s much better than the original.  This toy has everything you’d want in a Devestator; he ‘s big, he’s green and purple,  and he’s cartoon/comic book accurate.  I’ve been wishing for this figure for decades but never did I expect to receive something as impressive as this.  This toy is boss.2015-Devestator

2015-Bombstrike1.Bombstrike– I tried to curb any nerd rage in my opening paragraph but I’m aware this may illicit some.  In a year filled with stellar Transformers and Star Wars figures, a year where Marvel Legends are at the top of their game and a year where Funko further established itself with a wealth of Pop!, ReAction and Legacy figures, you might be wondering how could some chick you’ve never heard of top this list?  To be honest I didn’t know Bombstrike was going to top the list until I started ranking the figures I had selected earlier today.  I always knew Bomstrike would make my year-end list but even I didn’t know I liked her this much.  I laid the figures out in front of me and, after painfully eliminating great toys like POP Godzilla and Shanna the She-Devil, I began ranking the final 15. As I went, Bombstrike kept getting shoved up the ranks and this is where she ended up.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I’ve been a big fan of this character ever since version 1 was released in 2005.  The sibling rivalry storyline hinted at in the file cards of her and her brothers (Barrel Roll and Black Out) made for some interesting play scenarios that I would’ve loved as a kid.  As much as I cherish the classic Joe characters I think the brand needs some fresh blood every once and a while to stay interesting and relevant.  The Stall siblings were exactly what the brand needed and I was really disappointed to see them swept under the rug when the new-sculpt era came to a close in 2006.  When The brothers were resurrected in the Collector Club’s first Figure Subscription Service I knew Bombstrike was likely to follow in FSS 2.0.  It took a year longer than expected but in 2015 she arrived and she totally lived up to my expectations even after 10 years of anticipation.  This figure is feminine, petite and cute but she’s ready for combat. She’s camouflaged, she’s armoured, and she’s packing multiple firearms, a computer, and a drone.  I love the character, I love the toy.  What’s not to like?

2015 group

 

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

TOP 14 ACTION FIGURES OF 2014

2014 is drawing to a close and that mean’s it’s time for another “best of” year-end list. I’ve been blogging about toys for 3 years now so naturally this is my third annual list (check out 2012 and 2013 here). I love lists so I look forward to the slew of them that come out this time each year and I enjoy compiling my own. Let me begin by saying that this is a list of the 14 best action figures released in 2014 that I added to my collection; it is not a “best of” list that considers every toy released in 2014. There were a ton of wicked toys released this year that would likely be on this list had I got them but I can’t afford to collect everything. Regardless, I got a ton of great figures this year and was able to put together a list of top-notch toys. After much consideration, here is my top 14:

Top 2014-BeBop14. Be-Bop (Funko Pop!-TMNT) At first glance this might seem like an odd way to start the list but there’s no denying that this is a great figure. I bought 2 other Be-Bop figures this year, and another one based on the new animated series is due out soon, but none of them are as cool as this big-headed vinyl figurine by Funko. Of all the Pop! figures that adorn my work desk I think he’s probably my favorite. Be-Bop has a lot of distinguishing features and all of them are squeezed into this one little figure. There’s the earring, the nose ring, the bandolier, the mohawk, the shades, the turtle shell shoulder pads, the chains, the necklace, and the sneakers. It’s very detailed while still maintaining the minimalist Pop! aesthetic. If I were a kid I wouldn’t be so impressed with this figure as it lacks playability but as a nostalgia-fueled adult collector who only displays his toys I like things that stand out from the crowd and grab your attention; this guy does that.

Top 2014-Modulok13. Modulok (Mattel-Masters of the Universe Classics) I was pretty torn about this slot. Overall, the MOTU Classics toyline has been awesome but this hasn’t been a strong year for the line. All of the “must-have” characters were produced in the first few years so the 2014 series was mostly populated by second rate She-Ra characters. Regardless, I haven’t necessarily been disappointed by the 2014 figures, most have been quite good, but when I looked them over to see who would make this list I realized none of them felt essential enough to make the cut. The only one even close to list worthy was Modulok. Don’t get me wrong, this is an excellent figure and it’s extremely unique amongst a line full of unique characters, but I just don’t care for the character all that much personally. I never owned the original toy when I was a kid and I don’t believe he’s ever played a significant role in any of the comics or cartoons so I simply never developed an attachment to him. An equally weird multi-legged MOTU character, Mantenna, nearly topped my list last year because not only was the toy awesome but so was the character. In Modulok’s case I only feel the toy is awesome and the character is lacking. I decided to let Modulok keep his spot though because MOTU needed to be represented and he does have a very unique body construction and fun build-able play feature.

Top 2014-Tripwire12. Tripwire (Hasbro-G.I. Joe KRE-O) This was another tough call. I absolutely love this figure but I got a ton of great action figures this year and placing a little brick figure on my “best of” list seemed like a disservice to those other figures. But while those other figures have this guy beat in terms of sculpting, size, detail and accessories it’s hard to match this guy’s fun factor. You build him yourself, you can swap out his parts with other Kre-Os, you can attach him to vehicles, and he’s super cute. The paint work and the innovative accessories turn this simple brick man into the best version of Tripwire ever. He scratches my nostalgic itch for G.I. Joe and Lego at the same time. This is the toy on this list that I would’ve most enjoyed if I were still an actual child and not just a man-child.

Top 2014-Heat Viper11. H.E.A.T. Viper (Hasbro – G.I. Joe: 50th Anniversary) Heat Viper is the first of two Cobra troopers on my list this year and you may be surprised to learn that the 50th anniversary Ice Viper is not the other selection (though he was considered). The original 1987 Ice Viper was my absolute favorite Cobra Trooper when I was a kid but the updated version doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. I gave the new figure a 10 out of 10 when I reviewed it a couple months back but the overly long neck really does bother me. My second favorite childhood Cobra trooper was the 1989 Heat Viper. There was just something about the asymmetrical half-face plate that made him look so unique and interesting. The bright yellow and purple costume, the missile boots, and the massive cannon all added to his appeal. The 50th anniversary update is more successful in Heat Viper’s case and so he edges Ice Viper off of the list. I thought this figure was so great that I actually army built 2 of them which is not something I usually do these days due to lack of space.

Top 2014-Venom10. Agent Venom (Hasbro-Marvel Legends) I don’t have many Marvel Legends figures because I’ve committed to collecting the smaller 3 ¾” scale Marvel figures. But every now and again I’m forced to buy one because a must-have character comes out in the Legends line that isn’t available in the smaller scale. This year I’ve picked up Legends versions of Boomerang, Black Cat, Carnage, Arana and others and each of them is awesome but the leader of the pack is Agent Venom. This Walgreens exclusive figure is the first collectible I know of to showcase Venom’s current militaristic look. Most people know Venom to be Eddie Brock, the hulking Spider-Man villain who basically looks like a ‘roided out Spidey with a toothy grin. Well times have changed and Venom is now Peter Parker’s good friend/high school bully/war vet, Flash Thompson. I really like the new look and alter ego because I think the character was getting stale. This figure perfectly captures Venom’s new costume which is equal parts soldier and super hero. It features great sculpting, loads of articulation and multiple accessories.

Top 2014-Deaths Head9. Death’s Head (Hasbro-Marvel Universe) Growing up I was a hardcore Marvel kid. You could call me Galactus the way I devoured the Marvel Universe. Between my brother Doug and I we collected most of the comics Marvel published and we read all the character profile books so we knew every nook and cranny of the Marvel U. Some of the obscure characters that live within those nooks are some of my favorites, Death’s Head being one of them. This character hasn’t actually appeared in that many books, his own series only lasted 10 issues, but he left an impression on me. He’s one of the coolest looking Marvel characters out there so he totally deserved to be made into an action figure but I still can’t believe Hasbro actually made one this year. Some of the MU figures are pretty weak but this is the type of figure that keeps me coming back.  He’s bulky, colorful, well detailed, and includes multiple accessories.

Top 2014-Jabba8. Jabba the Hutt (Hasbro-Star Wars Black Series) I’ve always loved Jabba the Hutt. I’m a sucker for big monsters and this figure fits that bill. It blows previous Jabba figures out of the water with it’s massive girth, detailed sculpting, and paint job. This is the most film accurate Jabba toy ever produced and I simply had to have it.  You could argue that this toy was overpriced (approximately $40) given that its basically a big immobile slug with very few moving parts but what little movement it has really works. The fact that his mouth moves realistically when you tug on his arm is what guaranteed Jabba his spot on this list.

 

Top 14 Swerve7. Swerve/Trash Talk (MakeToys- Transformers) I’ve run out of things to say about Swerve and his twin Gears. Between the two of them I’ve written 6 reviews now. Last year third party company iGear’s versions of each of them made my year end list. In retrospect only their version of Gears (named Cogz) should have made the list. iGear’s Swerve (named Veer) was way better than the Hasbro produced version I had in my collection but it was still a far cry from the character I loved from the IDW comics. This year another third party company, MakeToys, took a stab at the pair. Their Gears (named Cogwheel) was very nice and nearly list worthy himself but it was their version of Swerve that really blew me away. THIS is the Swerve I’ve been waiting for. MakeToy’s version is named Trash Talk because of Swerve’s loud and jovial personality in the comics. James Roberts writes him with a ton of personality and you can see it on this toy’s face (Well the smiley one at least, he has an alternate destroyed face). Trash Talk is a great figure, and while Hasbro themselves released a decent version of Swerve  in 2014, this toy is the definitive version of Swerve in my collection.

Top 2014-StormTrooper6. Storm Trooper (Hasbro-Star Wars Black Series)  This figure crept on me which is why there isn’t a link to a full review (though there will be soon).  I like Storm Troopers, who doesn’t?, but I did not plan on adding this figure to my collection.  I already have so many Storm Troopers in my collection, mostly 3 3/4″ figures but also bigger and smaller versions, that I couldn’t justify buying this 6″ version.  I already promised myself I’d be very selective when it came to purchasing Hasbro’s Black Series figures.  I bought this figure for Doug as a Christmas present but then he went and bought himself one just before the holidays.  I had to scramble to find him something else and I kept this figure for myself.  I did not expect to be so impressed with this figure but as soon as I opened it up and had it in my hands I thought it was the best Storm Trooper ever.  Everything about it is great: the sculpting, the articulation, the rifle and pistol accessories, and the crisp white of the uniform. Now I want to go buy 5 more of this figure so I can have a little squad on my shelf.  Damn you, Doug.

Top 2014-Catwoman5. Catwoman (DC Direct-Designer Series: Greg Capullo)  This is another late edition to the list.  I loved it from the moment I saw it online and pre-ordered it a few months back but I didn’t expect to have it in hand before the end of the year because my pre-order at BigBadToyStore still hadn’t been filled by X-Mas.  However, I found this figure on sale at Giant Robot Comics on boxing day and I couldn’t resist grabbing it then and there and subsequently cancelling my pre-order.  I’ve wanted a good Catwoman figure for years but I haven’t been satisfied with any of the previous incarnations. This version is pretty much perfect.  The sculpting is beautiful and the costume choice is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.  I love the all-black catsuit with the over-sized goggles.  You’d think this outfit wouldn’t allow for a ton of detail but everything from the buckles, to the zipper, to the wrinkles look great.  The inclusion of a realistic whip sealed the deal.  DC Direct (now known as DC Collectibles) has been absolutely killing it this year.  Many of their figures could have made this list (Robin was close) but their female figures have been especially impressive.  Case in point…

TOP 2014-Supergirl4. Supergirl (DC Direct – New 52) Supergirl is a character who was long overdue for a decent action figure. She’s been around in the comic books since the 1950s and she even starred in her own live-action movie long before it was the fashionable thing for superheroes to do. Many Supergirl action figures have been released over the years but none were anywhere near as good as this one. This figure beautifully captures her look from DC’s New 52 Universe.  The body is nicely articulated and it features some really cool looking metallic paint.  I’m a big fan of the non-sensical knee-less boots for some reason.  The head sculpt is great with soft features and a nice hair design.  The paint on the face really enhance this figure as well.  The light blue eyes look appropriately alien and the natural lip color was a wise choice as opposed to giving her bright red lipstick (it suits Catwoman but not the more wholesome Kara).

Top 2014-Toxo3. Toxo-Viper (G.I. Joe Collector’s Club – 2014 Convention Set) When I heard that the Club was going to be including 3 Toxo-Vipers in their zombie-themed convention set I was stoked. The original Toxo-Viper figure from 1988 was another one of my favorite Cobra troopers and, like Heat Viper and Ice Viper, that figure had yet to be released in the modern style. I was extremely disappointed when images of this figure first hit the internet and we discovered that the Toxo-Vipers in the set were based on the version 2 design from 1991; a figure I never owned and to which I have no nostalgic attachment. However, I had to admit that this figure, with its newly sculpted head by Boss Fight Studios, was pretty damn cool looking. Once I had the set and the Toxo-Vipers in hand I was blown away by their design and quality. I absolutely love this figure and the fact that there’s 3 of them (6 if you count the zombified versions), which allows me to make a small squad, makes it that much cooler. The new head and the mix of re-used parts look great together and the color choices tie it all together nicely.  This figure was a very pleasant surprise.

Top 2014 Cykill2. Cy-Kill/Salmoore (DX9 –Go-Bots) This third party designed version of Cy-Kill, the evil leader of the Renegades from Tonka’s Challenge of the Go-Bots, is amazing. I’ve been pretty blown away by third party Transformers for a few years now (see Stormbomb from my 2012 list or Cogz from 2013) but for whatever reason I did not expect one of those companies to tackle Go-Bots. It makes perfect sense that they would because these characters aren’t being produced by Tonka, Bandai, Hasbro or any of the other “real” toy companies and there’s a fan base out there that wants them. I’m so glad DX9 produced this update to Cy-Kill and I really hope it leads to more Go-Bots in the future. As soon as I saw this figure online I knew it was a contender for toy of the year. Needless to say, I was not disappointed once I had this figure in hand. I love everything they kept from the original character design and I love everything they changed. The design is great from his stern facial expression right down to his asymmetrical feet. The real rubber tires and the multiple chrome pieces were key elements of the original figure which DX9 has replicated here.  I love it.  Cy-Kill was slated to be crowned the number one action figure of 2014 but his plans were abruptly foiled by Vanessa at the last minute.  Just like last year, Vanessa bought me an epic toy for Christmas which bumped everyone down a spot in a surprise upset.  Destro, Invisible Man, and Scunner were all bumped from the list completely thanks to Catwoman, the Storm Trooper, and…

Top 2014-Crow1. The Crow (Hot Toys)  The Crow is my all-time favorite movie.  I’ve watched it countless times and I can recite all of the dialogue with ease.  For me, the combination of great story, gothic visuals, awesome music, amazing acting, and teenage angst was a recipe for perfection in 1994.  I’m sure it would be my favorite movie regardless but the fact that Brandon Lee died while making it just gives it some added weight.  I have a couple of Crow figures in my collection and they’re pretty cool but nothing anyone else does in the toy industry compares to what Hong Kong-based Hot Toys does when it comes to action figure craftsmanship.  Last Christmas Vanessa bought me their Snake Eyes figure based on his look from G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  She had asked for gift ideas, I mentioned Snake Eyes and she asked about it a couple of times afterwards.  So while it was a great gift it wasn’t a total shock or surprise to receive.  This year Vanessa didn’t ask for suggestions, we set a spending limit of $100, and she specifically told me she had a more practical gift in mind for me this time.  So obviously I had no idea that she was planning on buying me this figure because he is far from practical and also quite far from $100.  I wanted this figure so bad when it became available earlier this year but I simply couldn’t justify the hefty price tag.  I placed it in my online shopping cart many times but always removed it.  Thank goodness for girl friends. I can’t do this figure justice in a mini blurb so I’ll post a full review soon but one glance at the picture to the left tells you pretty much all you need to know.  You can barely tell that its a picture of a toy and not the real Brandon Lee.  The eyes are particularly haunting.  The other toys on this list didn’t stand a chance.

Top 2014