Monday, 24 July 2017

Madballs – Dust Brain (Kidrobot)

It might not come as a huge shock to discover that I am not a huge sports fan. Good Lord, who would have thought it? Please be careful while clutching at your pearls and fainting to the floor, I don’t have proper liability insurance on this place.

But I actually loved sport up until about the age of 11 or 12. Rugby league, baseball, basketball…I spent hours watching and playing them all, at school and with friends. There were always kids who were better than others at sport, but it was quite acceptable to play just for the pleasure of playing.
I feel like around year 6 this changed; as people hit puberty there’s suddenly far greater emphasis on playing to win, rather than enjoyment. Skill and co-ordination are suddenly required to be a serious contender. As a kid who lacked both but had recently discovered Star Wars, I realised that my time as a sports fan was drawing to an end.

But I might have hung in a little longer if I’d known about Madballs.

Y’see, Madballs are the perfect bridge between sports and weirdos. They’re such a simple concept, but genius – monster heads as balls. Put them on the shelf to impress your geek friends if you want, but you could actually toss them around like a real ball too. Perhaps the peak example was Oculus Orbus, a ball that is literally an eye! Whoever designed that deserves to be earning enough royalties to never have to work again.

Madballs had come and gone by the time I was old enough to pay much attention -- far too early to salvage my interests in sports. They didn’t have a supporting cartoon series to keep the line on life support in syndication, and the concept itself screams “fad”. This isn’t a criticism, but more of a reflection of the attention span of kids in the 1980s, an era where new franchises were debuting every other week. You can see how things got lost in the wash. The range was revived in 2007, but I don’t remember it at all (did it even make it to Australia?) and for a time it seemed that the world’s experience of Madballs would be limited to reading about them on nostalgia blogs or paying extortionate eBay prices for them.

But all that’s old is new again. Kidrobot has licensed the Madballs range, releasing a range of foam balls, and a bunch of blind-boxed stuff. More is apparently on the way too. So today, we take a look at Dust Brain!   

Mummies have been well-established horror tropes for more than a century now, and any horror-related toyline that doesn’t include at least one is simply getting it wrong. With my love of ancient Egypt, Dust Brain was the natural purchase for me. And boy, did Kidrobot do a nice job on this guy.

One thing I really like about these new versions is that they’re very faithful to the original designs. They’re subtly updated, but no less effective as a result. Often when 80s properties get revived, their character designs become a little more streamlined, toning down some of the weirdness in the process. Madballs is a property that is almost totally oriented around gross little details, so it’s to Kidrobot’s credit that they’ve opted for maximum grossness.  

He’s wrapped in horribly yellowed (browned?) bandages and you can see his teal mummified face peeking out from beneath. Orange eyes leer while rotting teeth often to form a horrible imitation of speech. It’s totally disgusting, while still being totally kid-friendly. Great work!

Dust Brain is cast in a soft but solid foam; these are clearly designed more as collector pieces, but you could do damage if you hit someone in the face with one*. Durability and paint will be rapidly tested if you start hurling it around though. Keep this guy on the shelf.  

My only real criticism is that the price seems just slightly high. I paid around $15AUD for this guy, and while I don’t think it’s outrageous I would feel much more comfortable if things came in around $12AUD. The sculpt and paintwork is very solid…but I do feel like there’s a slight Kidrobot tax on it too. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of the old toys you won’t be disappointed. And if you just want something weird on your desk for work, you won’t be disappointed either.

*Don’t hit people in the face with Madballs  


Saturday, 22 July 2017

POP! Television – The Master (The Strain)

This instalment of the Lupine Book Club comes to you live from London! Yes, I’m travelling at the moment, which is the cause of the delay in updates – but rest assured, there are more articles planned for the next few days.

This POP actually came out a couple of years ago, but I picked him up because he was going for a song at a comic store. He resembles a grossly corpulent Nosferatu, and thus I figured he’d look great on the shelf with my other horror POPs. The Anne Rice take on vampires is fine and all, but I like my undead to look a little more overtly disgusting.

But with that caveat, I’ve never actually watched The Strain. So I can only assume it’s called The Strain because the Master here has given himself terrible haemorrhoids during his bathroom visits. The thought of spending an hour each week watching this guy grunt away is not an appealing one, but hopefully he gets the whole situation under control by the end of the season.  

Jokes aside, Funko seem to have put a lot of effort into this guy. He’s really big and chunky in comparison to most of his POP counterparts – around the same size as Cthulhu – which lines up nicely with the reference shots of the character I came across online. He’s heavy, but not actually solid. His body is actually hollow, and he has a hole in his base, similar to kid’s bath toys. The plastic has a similar odour too. The only real downside to the sculpt is that he can't really turn his head -- though given how high the collar is, I guess that's "realistic" anyway.  

As cool as he is, the resemblance to the character is kind of loose. It’s entirely possible that the figure was based on preliminary concept art and test shots, rather than finished work. However, I’d argue that the figure actually looks better than the real thing. There’s a strongly inhuman aspect to him, which is always important when you’re dealing with monsters onscreen. I mean, it’s obviously based on a guy in a suit – but you can kind of believe that it’s not just that. It’s quite passably a literal undead entity, which is impressive.

As always, paint could be better. The face is pretty good, but the unicolour wattle on the neck lacks the intended subtle shading and so it kind of looks like he has some kind of genitalia there. The wash on his hands is good, but a little heavy. The robe and its attendant details could have done with the wash or some drybrushing too; as it stands they’re just a little flat.

Still, The Master is a great vampire figure. I may check out the show eventually, but really I’m just happy for Nosferatu to have a shelf companion.  

Saturday, 8 July 2017

POP! Movies: Chucky (Child’s Play 2)

There’s always a suspension of disbelief involved for any slasher villain, but a killer who transfers his soul into a doll via voodoo ritual? Yeah, right. But the first Child’s Play film is actually far more unsettling than you might expect, with some genuine scares and a great villain. I wouldn’t put Chucky in quite the same circles as Freddy, Jason or Pinhead – but he’s certainly not far below. So given the esteem the films are held in by horror fans, it’s no real surprise that sooner or later we got a POP of Chucky.

This is the Child’s Play 2 version of Chucky, who looks a little rougher round the edges than he did in the first film. I assume they went with this look for a couple of different reasons; the license is probably more easily acquirable/cheaper than the first film (as with Hellraiser vs Hellraiser III). Additionally, Chucky spends most of the first film looking fairly plain, so the scars on his face here add some nice additional detail. It’s a good decision – who would want a POP version of what’s essentially a “My Buddy” doll?

Originally released back in 2014, he’s sculpted to be a little smaller than his horror contemporaries. He’s still bigger than he would be in “real” life but one must forgive the limitations of the format. Additionally, this was around the time Funko stepped up their paint game quite a bit, so he’s better rendered than many of his contemporaries. It’s certainly not perfect but Funko are still to be commended for doing an impressively neat job with so many apps in play – just look at his sleeves! 

There are two other POPs of Chucky available. The first is simply a bloody version of this one; you can pay the premium for it if you want, but making a custom would be easy enough. The other is based on his appearance in Bride of Chucky – it uses the same body, but a different head sculpt. Both are good choices, but not being hugely familiar with the series I thought I’d opt for this one.

While not as great as some of the other horror-related POPs Funko have done, Chucky is still a solid addition to the collection. With Cult of Chucky due out this year, there’s bound to be a revival of interest in the character – who knows, we may even see a third take on Chucky hitting shelves in the near future. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

POP! Rocks – Jimi Hendrix (Monterey Pop Festival)

I listen to a lot of heavy metal, and a good chunk of what makes up the genre today wouldn’t exist if weren’t for one James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix – a guitarist extraordinaire who ended up dying tragically young. His story is too lengthy to recount in full here, so let’s just say that music was never quite the sameafter he hit the scene.

This POP depicts Jimi at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Rock n’ Roll was already used to wild characters, but Jimi really turned things up to 11 when he decided to end his set by setting his guitar on fire. It doesn’t seem so outrageous these days – particularly in a post-G.G. Allin world – but it was near-unprecedented at the time. It’s easy enough to find photos of the event online, and this POP replicates his meditative position quite nicely.    

In the States, this is an FYE exclusive, but it’s just a regular release in Australia. From the store I went to, they seem to have come out here in about equal numbers. Both this and the Woodstock POP are great choices, and I would have been quite happy with either – but you don’t see a flaming guitar every day, so it seemed the logical choice.

Jimi kind of got a POP a few years ago, in the form of the Purple Haze figure. I mean, it’s not technically him…but it’s definitely him. I can’t find an exact release date for it, but I assume it was 2011 or 2012. And it sells for absolutely silly money these days (no doubt in part due to its legally dubious nature) so these new and official versions are much appreciated.


After being relatively dormant for a few years, the POP! Rocks range is expanding quite a bit this year. We’ve just had these two versions of Hendrix, Joey Ramone, Justin Bieber and Guns N’ Roses in 2017, while Metallica arrive later this year. I’ll be taking a hard pass plenty of those, but it’s good to see Funko looking at the range again. Maybe we’ll even get a Little Richard one of these days! 

Jimi is an essential buy for any rock fan. His career was terribly short, but even more than 45 years after his death, his influence can still be felt everywhere.  

Did you know that years before Motörhead, Lemmy was actually Jimi's roadie for a while? 

Monday, 26 June 2017

POP! Games: Tyrant – Glow in the Dark (Resident Evil)

As I said in my last review, I don’t really collect video game-based POPs…yet here I am reviewing my second one in just over a week! But the Resident Evil figures definitely fall under my guidelines for horror, and hopefully by purchasing them it will also encourage Funko to finally make a Silent Hill line too. So today we take a closer look at the Tyrant, one of two 6” figures in the line.

The Resident Evil games have always been good at providing the player with novel and freakish takes on zombies, and the Tyrant is no exception. His ghostly white skin, exposed internal organs and gigantic claw are quite a few steps removed from the Night of the Living Dead, but there’s no doubt that this is some kind of undead monster.

There are actually multiple different Tyrants throughout the game series, but this one seems to be based on the T-002 Model, which appears in the original Resident Evil game. It’s been a very long time since I played it, so I have to say I don’t remember it specifically – though it’s easy enough to find screencaps online of course.

POPs are never really built to scale, but making this guy a 6” figure is a lot more “accurate” that plenty of others that we’ve seen in the line. He’s probably a little too big in comparison to Nemesis, but he looks about right next to the average human character. Tyrants are big, terrifying bastards after all, and this guy delivers that scare factor it in spades.



Funko have done an excellent likeness here, bringing in considerable detail but never departing too wildly from the simplistic aesthetic. It’s really quite disgusting, with numerous family members commenting on its unsettling look. And even better, this guy glows in the dark, allowing him to be unsettling by night too!

My main criticism (and boy, have we heard this one before) is that the paint job could be a little tighter. Certainly the paint job is more complex than lots of other POPs, which elevates it above many of its contemporaries – look at the shading on the claws for instance – but it’s still quite fuzzy in parts, especially on the bright red veins.

Still, it’s clear that Funko has put a lot of effort not only into this POP, but the entire line. Capcom has no doubt held them to a fairly high standard, and when taken as a whole I’d say that I feel they’ve delivered a strong final product. An essential buy for Resident Evil fans and a great addition to the shelf for any horror fans.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

POP! Games – Vivec (Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind)

Ah, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I couldn’t even tell you how many hours I put into it back in my sharehousing days. It was an easy way to spend a lot of time without spending a lot of money, and that was very important to me back in those days. It had major flaws (the journal system, the repetitive soundtrack, the overly specific skill trees), but it was my first real introduction to RPG games beyond pen and paper ones, and I will always have a great love for it.

Central to the (admittedly loose) story of Morrowind is Vivec, one of the deities of the titular setting, and the subject of today’s POP review. You can read about him in much more detail here, but all you really need to know is that he was a mortal who became a god – and who may not be quite as benevolent as he first appears. And why’s he getting a POP? Well, The Elder Scrolls Online just released its latest expansion, which is shockingly enough subtitled Morrowind. There are two versions of Vivec available – the glow in the dark one reviewed here, and the “regular” metallic release. Both are good, but the glow one was always going to be the way that I went.

There have been two series of Elder Scrolls Online POPs, and Vivec is definitely the most visually interesting of all of them*. His half-gold, half-blue appearance is incredibly striking, and also alludes to his hermaphroditic nature. And of course, his floating posture is quite distinct among POPs, giving him an appearance something like a Hindu god or goddess.   

By and large, I don’t collect gaming-based POPs. I’ve owned a few over the years, but I’ve pretty much sold or given away all of them by now. Vivec is an exception, due to my fondness for the license and his glowing nature. He’s not essential unless you’re an Elder Scrolls obsessive, but I think he looks great on the shelf nonetheless.  

*The upcoming Dwarven (or Dwemer if we’re being anal) Colossus looks great in illustration form too, but we’re yet to see any “real” pics as yet.  

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

POP! Marvel: Captain Marvel (Masked)

In spite of sharing a name with the company the character is from, Captain Marvel has actually been fairly C-list until the last couple of years. The original iteration of the character was probably most notable as being a superhero who died and actually stayed dead for more than 5 minutes. But thanks to Ms Marvel taking up the title in the comics a few years ago and a Brie Larson-led film on the way in 2019, Captain Marvel’s star is ascendant at the moment. Naturally enough, this has translated into her getting her own Funko POP.

And it’s a nice take on the character, too. The sculpt is something of a throwback to Funko’s simpler days, which keeps it looking consistent on my Marvel shelf. The paint could be tighter, but it’s not a bad rendition on the whole. My only real criticism is that I don’t love the dark blue used…it doesn’t pop (ha) on the shelf in the way I think it should. Maybe a gloss tone would have fixed this?

I actually picked this figure up late last year, and various things have prevented me from reviewing it until now – she was actually released part of the same wave as She-Hulk and Dr Strange. The basic figure was the unmasked version, while this masked version was exclusive to GTS Distribution in the USA. Here in Australia it was just a regular release as far as I could tell; either way, neither version seems to be selling for crazy money or anything. You should have an easy enough time tracking one down if you want it.

Final verdict? I’m pretty neither here nor there on the character at the moment – I’m not familiar enough with her comics – but it matches the current look nicely and the mohawk is a cool distinctive feature. Fun, if non-essential to my collection.