Sunday, 14 January 2018

Minifigure Mini-Reviews #1 – General Zod & Jor-El

Series 2 of the Lego Batman Movie Minifigures have started hitting Sydney stores, and I was lucky enough to grab a few of them the other evening. Now, I’ve been pretty slack in reviewing the last couple of series of Minifigures, so I’m going to try something new with these Minifigure Mini-reviews. They’re in no small part (ha!) inspired by OAFE’s Mini-Mates reviews.   

Truthfully, my impressions of this series of Minifigures are a little mixed. These two figures are great…but I didn’t love The Lego Batman Movie, so I don’t feel the need to own every single version of Batman that appeared on-screen. With that said, the series includes a number of important, unusual and/or strange characters who might not otherwise see release in Lego format. So I plan to pick up maybe…half of the series in total? Time will tell. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the two Kryptonians featured in this series – General Zod and Jor-El.

General Zod

Clearly inspired by pre-Priscilla Queen of the Desert Terence Stamp’s take on the character, Zod is rather a plain minifigure at face value. He’s wearing his black pyjama garb, and his face is printed in a fairly neutral – if slightly irritated – expression. But this is appropriate; he’s had many different looks in the comics, but this is the one that the general public probably associates with him most closely.

He didn’t really need any accessories (Kryptonite maybe? Or a clear panel to serve as a Phantom Zone?). But he does come with a newspaper, with the headline “Kneel Before Zod”. There’s another part to the joke, which can be seen in the photo.

He’s also got two face options to pick from – spin his head around and you’ll see an angry face with heat vision eyes. Perfect for battling Superman!

Given that we’ve only had the Michael Shannon version of Zod in Minifigure form previously, this is a welcome addition to the collection. He’s a key villain in the DC Universe, and his addition to the line is long overdue.


Live as one of them, Kal-El
Discover where you strength and your power are needed
Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage
They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be
They only lack the light to show the way
For this reason above all, their capacity for good,
I have sent them you, my only son.

Superman: The Movie is when Supes’ Jesus-like aspects began to become really heavily emphasised. And fulfilling the figurative role of "God" in this setting was Marlon Brando’s Jor-El. While this figure isn’t an exact replica of Brando’s look in the film, it’s very clearly inspired by it. He’s got the exact same hairstyle and similar robes, but it now looks a little more comic-y, thanks to the chest armour.

There has been a Jor-El figure previously, but it was based on Russell Crowe’s version of the character from Man of Steel. It wasn’t a regular release figure either, so it will cost you a comparative fortune if you go for it. This is an excellent substitute.

Monday, 8 January 2018

POP! Games: Resident Evil – Licker

While plenty of zombie-themed media is content to play it coy about why so many zombies are running around, that’s never been the case for Resident Evil. Biological weapons and human experimentation drive proceedings, which means the series isn’t “just” restricted to human zombies – it also opens the door to all manner of genuinely freakish creations.

Today we take a look at another – the Licker. First appearing in Resident Evil 2, Lickers are genuinely disgusting to look at in both their game and movie incarnations. With a sort of flayed/inside-out look to their skin, and a seemingly exposed brain on their head, they’re impractical for real-world biology but definitely fit the horror aesthetic. Indeed, even if you’re not a Resident Evil fan as such, the Licker could still work on your shelf as some kind of Cenobite hellhound for Pinhead.  

Funko’s rendition is a great-looking figure, doing an excellent job of being both cutesy and totally disgusting at the same time. Personally I think it would have been good to see some gloss paint on the exposed innards for an even grosser "wet" look, but I suppose that’s something I could always do myself if it took my fancy.

I was lucky enough to pick up this bad boy for a song, and he’d certainly make a great army builder if you’re so inclined.  The whole Resident Evil range was one of Funko's better video game offerings, and hopefully we’ll see it expanded in future. But in the meantime, this is a great buy.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Transformers Generations: Titans Return – Autobot Shuffler

I mentioned in my 2017 Roundup that the Titans Return range was one of my favourite things of last year. So it seems fitting that for the first review of 2018, we take a look at one of the Titan Master figures.

Being a huge sucker for prehistoric creatures, it’s actually a wonder I hadn’t picked up the mammoth-shaped Autobot Shuffler sooner. Largely it’s down to his Autobot status; though I have picked up a number of Autobots from this range, I am increasingly loath to by Autobots product. They don’t tend to fit into the larger collection, and space is increasingly at a premium within my house. But I made an exception for this little guy. 

Shuffler has three modes – the aforementioned mammoth, a tank and a gun for larger figures to hold. Typically, the Titan Master-scale figures look good in one or two of their modes and totally crap in at least one. Not so the case here; all of them look pretty good!  

In bot mode, Shuffler is a bit plain. It’s been a running complaint that there isn’t enough paint on the Titan Masters, even at the top-end models, and the same applies here. Even some eyes would have done wonders. However, his face is a little interesting by virtue of having a “snout” where his nose would be. It’s a nice sculpted detail. 

Shuffler’s mammoth mode has the rare distinction of appearing “complete” even when his head isn’t inserted into it. In fact, when he is inserted into the base body, the tab that sits on the back of his legs kind of makes it look like he has a big ol’ robotic dong. Hilarious.

The tank mode hides the elephantine look of the head more effectively than you might have thought. Shuffler serves as pilot, but if you leave him off the vehicle still has a nice mecha-style look to it.

While the gun (not pictured) is definitely the weakest of the modes, it still gives off a nice missile launcher vibe. The designers are to be commended for not simply trying to make the whole thing look like a giant pistol, which is something that has plagued a lot of the other Titan Master accessories. 

In head mode, he gives the appearance of definitely being a Decepticon, with his masked face and red eyes. Still, it’s oddly friendly, and I find myself sort of wishing that he had a “real” body to attach to. In fact, the only real downside about Shuffler is that he’s an Autobot. I mean, why cast him in these colours and NOT have him as a Decepticon? 

"Curse your betrayal, Shuffler!" 
Brand history is one thing, but he’s hardly a major character in the mythos. Recast him in a different colour scheme and call him a new character for the Autobots; new characters aren’t going to hurt. But in my personal canon, he will be serving strictly as a warrior for Galvatron. Maybe some kind of undercover spy, lurking among the Autobots until the time is right. Maybe even hijacking Autobot bodies in the process…who could say?

Though I only picked him up quite recently, Shuffler has rapidly become of my favourite figures from the Titans Return line. He’s sturdy, yet easy to transform, offers multiple play patterns and is easy to carry around in your pocket. Well done Hasbro.   

Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Lupine Book Club 2017 roundup

2017 has been a difficult year both personally and professionally, though not without a number of highlights. So inspired by Dinosaur Dracula’s end-of-year list, I thought I’d pull together a (shorter) list of some of my favourite things from the year gone by.

1. Horror Movies
I spent a lot of time watching horror movies (sorry, FIL-UMS) this year, and it was absolutely fantastic. New and old, I don’t think I’ve watched so many since I was back in my sharehouse days, the better part of a decade ago. Standouts included The Void, IT: Chapter One, The Devil Rides Out and Drag Me to Hell. Hopefully this tempo will be maintained well into 2018.

2. Transformers: Titans Return
Inspired by the old Headmasters line from the 1980s, Titans Return was my favourite Transformers sub-line since I started collecting them again a few years ago. Distribution in Australia has been a mixed bag (I want that Cosmos, dammit!), but for the most part I was able to get hold of the characters I wanted. My only real regret is that I didn’t make time to review more of the ones I purchased, though some of that may be addressed in the new year.  

3. SNES Classic Edition
The SNES is still my all-time favourite console. Though I didn’t own one as a kid, several of my friends did and so I have many hours of fond memories associated with it.
I missed out on the NES Classic in 2016, and so I pre-ordered the SNES Classic pretty much as soon as they became available. It was an essential purchase, as has brought me many more hours of joy since. Certainly there some additional games I would have liked to see included, but all-in-all I think Nintendo did an exceptional job with this one. Hopefully we’ll see some kind of expansion, or perhaps an N64 Classic further down the line.  

4. The Lupine Book Club’s 5th birthday
Though it came and went with little fanfare on here, 2017 marked the 5th birthday of the blog. Back when the blog started, I was in a very different state of mind. I was emerging from what I would later realise was a nervous breakdown, and the Lupine Book Club was quite therapeutic in emerging from a particularly dark time of life. It has been a huge help; 2017 was the first year I really felt like “myself” again in quite some time, and the blog has certainly aided in this process.
I originally saw the Lupine Book Club as more nostalgia-focused, in a similar vein to Dinosaur Dracula, Branded in the 80s or The Surfing Pizza. This hasn’t quite happened; things have been very Funko-focused of late, but in 2018 I hope to see it regain some of the diversity I originally had when I was pulling it together. And who knows, there may even be a surprise or two on the cards!

5. I finished (the first draft of) my book!
Though I haven’t said much about it on here, I’ve been working on a horror novella for quite some time now. Well, I’ve finished the first draft and am now in the process of editing it. I hope to self-publish it early next year on Kindle.  More details to come soon, but keep your eye on here, and on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information.  

Most importantly, I must extend thanks to everyone who has visited over the years. 2017 was easily the biggest in terms of pageviews, in part due to a concerted effort on my part to write more – but also through the support of other blogs like The Robot’s Pajamas, who were kind enough to have me write the occasional guest post. I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

POP! Games – Sub-Zero

Sub-Zero! Arguably my favourite character from the Mortal Kombat series. A ninja who could freeze people and who had one of the most brutal fatalities in the original game. What more could you really want from a fighting game character?

A couple of different people have worn the Sub-Zero mantle over the years. The Sub-Zero from the first game got killed off, eventually returning as Noob Saibot. The current holder of the title is the original Sub-Zero’s younger brother – why not, I guess?

But back in the day, before you could just look this stuff up on the internet, we mostly just knew Sub-Zero as the blue ninja with ice powers. You could kind of infer that he was a rival of Scorpion, given that they were different coloured ninjas, but let’s be honest here – no-one was playing that first game for the intricate story.

As one of the most popular characters in the series, Sub-Zero’s inclusion in the Mortal Kombat line was a foregone conclusion. He’s been designed to look like his Mortal Kombat X incarnation; it’s much more intricate than his first costume, but you can see there’s a common thread there. Personally, I think it’s a little over-detailed here, but Funko have been transitioning away from their plainer designs for quite some time now.

The paint isn’t going to blow you away, but it’s better than you might expect; the main areas you’ll want to watch out for are his hands. In classic Funko fashion, paintwork seems to be improving at a rate of two steps forward, one step back. The excess of detail certainly makes the painting process trickier, too.

There’s also a chase version of Sub-Zero available, at a 1/6 ratio. It’s the same sculpt, but his right hand is holding some kind of ice blob, cast in semi-transparent blue plastic. A good variation but not something worth paying scalper prices for.

Sub-Zero isn’t as good as the Scorpion I reviewed last month, but he is a fun figure nonetheless. Hopefully we’ll see some more additions to the line and/or repaints in the near future. Personally, I'm hoping for an MK/MK 2 Reptile.

Friday, 8 December 2017

POP! Movies – Masked Predator (Specialty Series)

Predator is one of my favourite movie monsters, up there with the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He’s a monster who crosses age and fandom barriers, proving a compelling presence even when the movie itself is less than stellar.

Funko have actually pumped out quite a few Predator products since 2013 – many more than I realised. I bought the unmasked version a while ago (maybe a couple of years?) and I assumed that I had written a review of it. But it turns out I haven’t, so I can’t just pillage from it the way I sometimes do when I’m reviewing two very similar figures.

As might be expected, the body is the same, though he gets an entirely new head. The body sculpt is a little softer and less-detailed than we would probably get from Funko these days, but I quite like it; to be honest, I think Funko over-details many of its newer figures, detracting from the relatively simplistic style that made them so appealing in the first place. The mask is a little tighter, but this still works as it’s fairly simple in its style.  

As might be expected, the paint is adequate. Better than the original, but still lots of room for work. It doesn’t do much to enhance the sculpt. The most egregious error is on the back of the head, around the dreadlocks – it’s been left plain black where it should be the predator’s beige-y skin colour.  
This POP is a good one, and it’s a long-overdue addition to the Predator line. To be honest, I’m surprised it was released as a Specialty Series figure. The unmasked and “cloaked” versions were released back in 2013, but they don’t seem to have been discontinued – certainly they’re easy enough to track down in Australia.

This new release also seems to have been selling quite well, so perhaps we may even see more Predators? Personally, I’d love to see a Predator 2 version. It wouldn’t need to be radically overhauled; a different mask and a new paint job, and there you have it. But in the meantime, this one will sit nicely on the shelf alongside his unmasked companions. 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

POP! Rides – Ghost Rider (Glow in the Dark)

Today's review is best enjoyed while listening to Hell Bent for Leather by Judas Priest.

Way back in 2013, Funko released their original Ghost Rider POP. It’s still one of the best Marvel figures they’ve released; though more recent figures are more detailed and include an impressively broad scope of characters*, it has an elegant simplicity which puts many other POPs to shame.

Of course, that POP is now discontinued and outrageously expensive on the secondary market. But never fear! While Funko don’t tend to reissue old POPS very often, they have been pretty good in the last year or so about re-releasing old characters with new moulds. And so today we take a look at Ghost Rider with his bike, courtesy of the POP! Rides range.

Judging by the leather daddy Evel Knievel-style costume, I’m assuming this is the Johnny Blaze iteration of the character. I kind of prefer the Danny Ketch costume that the original POP used, but both are great. As I noted back in my review of the original, Ghost Rider is a character who you can appreciate on a purely visual level; fortunately, it’s something that applies to pretty much all of Ghost Rider’s incarnations over the years.  

He’s an all-new sculpt. I don’t think anyone would have been surprised if he reused the original head sculpt, but instead they’ve opted for something different. I think it’s maybe just a shade big (even by POP standards), but it’s hard to tell without being able to actually take him off the bike.

And on that note…most of the POP Ride range has had removable drivers, and so if you own the original figure I daresay you’ll be wondering if you can yank this new one off and slot the original on. Sadly, the answer is no. This new iteration of Ghost Rider is glued on. That’s maybe understandable from a logistical perspective, but still a bit of a bummer; this one would still look pretty good standing on his own as well.

As for the bike…it’s pretty rad. The flames are well painted and “tastefully” placed, so it provides a good illusion of motion without ever being overpowering. However, it is quite realistic in its scale and proportions. I can’t help but think they maybe should have gone a little cartoonier as they have with some of the vehicles to better fit the aesthetic. With that said, it does match the style Funko established Daryl’s bike back in 2014. I’m not 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure at least some of those pieces have been reused/retooled here.

There are two versions of this Ghost Rider available – regular and glow in the dark. Both are pretty great, but getting the glow version was a must for me. The glow seems to have been selling out more quickly, but I don’t think either is necessarily rarer than the other, which is nice.  

If you have the original, now you have a different iteration of the character on a bike, and if you missed out then you have a much more cost-effective way of adding a Ghost Rider to your collection. Ghost Rider on a bike is a must-buy, no matter how dedicated or casual a fan you are of the character. It has some minor shortcomings, but none are dealbreakers. He’s easily one of the best POP figures I’ve bought all year.

*Let’s be honest, does anyone really know who the Inhumans are?