Monday, 29 September 2014

DC Universe Action League – Superman, Wonder Woman and Bizarro

Company: Mattel

Year: 2011
Price: See below

A short time ago, I purchased some of the DC Universe Action League figurines from my local Reject Shop. Of course, I wanted to collect more of them, but I didn’t have much luck tracking down any more of them near my home or workplace, so I sent family and friends scavenging around to see if they could find any.

Ultimately it was my dad who found some – four packs different packs, in fact, covering an interesting range of characters. Most of them should end up on here at some point. This is actually a review of two different 2-packs – Superman vs Bizarro and Superman & Wonder Woman. However, the Superman in both packs is absolutely identical, so I’ve amalgamated the two reviews together. 

The style for these guys is like a shrunken, super-deformed version of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon – super-cartoony with large exaggerated hands. It’s a cool, dynamic look which gives the figures a lot of personality even before you start moving their arms around to get them into different poses.

Superman is in a nice classic flying pose. You can twiddle his arms around to do a few different flying looks, but because of the positioning of his legs and cape, he’s always going to look like he’s flying. This is not really a problem, but I think it’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t get two different Supermen in the two packs. Batman has been replicated multiple times, but at least he gets a new paint job. It’s a missed opportunity to give us something like mullet Superman, Red/Blue Superman or even just a different pose for “Classic” Superman. 
Superman has four points of articulation – his shoulders, his neck and his wait. His neck is a very tight joint though, so I didn’t try and wriggle it round too much.  

Though it would have been easy for Mattel to simply reuse Superman’s sculpt, give it a new head and call it Bizarro, they took a different option. Bizarro is a completely separate sculpt, seemingly a bit larger than his original counterpart. His costume is purple, complete with reversed chest shield. He’s a very cool figure, and has become one of my favourites in the line, even though I tend to be pretty blasé about his appearances in the comics.
Bizarro has four points of articulation – his shoulders, his neck and his waist.  

Wonder Woman is a completely separate sculpt. The only other female in this range that I know of is Metamorpha, aka the Element Woman -- no Black Canary, Zatanna, Supergirl or Power Girl, apparently. The two don’t look they’ve been retooled from one another, which is good to see. Wonder Woman is posed in a classic sort of action stance, as though she's about to deflect bullets from her bracelets.  
Wonder Woman has three points of articulation – her neck, and her two arms. However, the dynamic pose of the hair means that her neck is quite restricted in its movement.

Superman includes a transparent flight stand, so that he doesn’t fall over. Bizarro has a large piece of green rock which I assume is Kryptonite. Wonder Woman doesn’t come with anything, though her signature lasso is moulded to her waist.

There’s a little bit of slop on these guys – Bizarro’s teeth being one of the areas I noticed it most – but nothing unforgiveable. The shields on Superman and Bizarro’s chests are also clean tampos.  Disappointingly, neither of them has the shield tampoed onto their capes  though.

Curiously, these unmasked characters have eye sockets sculpted, but no white painted in there. The effect is probably most noticeable on Wonder Woman, who also has eyelashes for a more feminine appearance. This wasn’t noticeable on masked characters, and while it’s not a major drama, I don’t know if it was the right design choice. Maybe a project for me to experiment with sometime. We’ll see.

After finding a couple of these guys in a local Reject Shop, the next batch I found was on the Central Coast, courtesy of my dad. For my overseas readers, The Reject Shop is kind of like a factory seconds shop or dollar store – a lot of discontinued or off-season toys find their way there.

The 2-packs are $5, but I don’t know how close this was to their original price or how widely they’ve been distributed – a lot of places seem to have sold out quite rapidly. I don’t think you’d have an easy time tracking them down now. eBay is always an option, of course, if not necessarily a cheap one.  
The Action League line seems to have finished in 2012 or maybe 2013, but still seems to be readily available online, though (naturally) at a premium. Maybe one of my American readers could shed a little more light on this in the comments section?

These were bought several months ago, so I don’t rate your chances of getting them too highly these days.

I’ve heard other reviewers talk about “hand candy” – toys that are just a whole lot of fun to play with. The DC Action League definitely falls into this category. Though they’re obviously quite derivative of the Superhero Squad toys, these are cool, fun and stylish little toys. I’ve now got a miniature Justice League going, as well as a few villains. The Flash would be nice, as would Martian Manhunter, but if I don’t find any more of these guys I’d still be quite happy with my collection.

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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Storm Shadow v44 (Ninja Force)

Company: Hasbro

Year: 2012

Some of you will remember that back at the beginning of September, I took a look at G.I. Joe’s Ninja Force theme from the 1990s. I mentioned there that I had never owned the Ninja Force iteration of Storm Shadow, and harboured some regrets about that. Well, shortly after writing the article, I came across something online that would plug that gap!

A couple of years ago, Hasbro released a few G.I. Joe figures to Dollar General (and a few other discount retailers) – an American discount chain which, to draw a comparison for Australian readers, seems to be more or less analogous to Kmart. They were seemingly used to get non-movie versions of some core characters (like Cobra Commander and Snake Eyes) into circulation at a cheaper price than normal. They’re a bit of a throwback to older-style Joes, with minimal accessories and retro paint schemes. So in today’s review, we take a look at the Storm Shadow that was released in this line – a modern tribute to the Ninja Force version!

This was the 44th version of Storm Shadow that’s been released over the years, so you’d hope they’d got it right by now! Fortunately, they’ve got a good thing going with this figure.
The toy is more of a paint tribute than a sculpt tribute to the Ninja Force Storm Shadow. He looks like he’s wearing a gi, the traditional martial arts outfit. The original did too, but this time all of the extra details have been discarded – the grenades and other paraphernalia are all gone. They're not really missed; though they were cool on the original figure, it's hard to believe that ninjas would have been rocking around with bright flashy gold objects on their chest.
Most of him is cast in a hard black plastic, but the lower legs and feet are cast in slightly softer white plastic – not quite as soft as the hood, bandolier and belt, though. In a nice touch, he’s wearing tabi, traditional ninjutsu split-toe boots. You can even see the notches from his toes through the “fabric”.         

As for articulation; well, G.I. Joe's articulation was well ahead of its time when it debuted in 1983, and was well ahead of the curve for much of the 1990s too. But how has it held up in 2014?  Well, he’s got the following joints:
*Ball-jointed head

*Swivel-hinged shoulders
*swivel-hinged elbows

*swivel-hinged wrists
*swivel ab crunch

*ball-jointed hips
*double knees

*swivel-hinged ankles
Pic from
Swivel biceps would have made it easier to get him into a good arrow-shooting pose, and also let him hold the katana with two hands – but whoa! That’s still a buttload of articulation for such a little guy. There are a couple of quirks that are worth pointing out though. Firstly, he doesn’t actually have a waist joint, though the hips and swivel ab crunch compensate for some of this. Also, you’ll find the hips don’t turn outwards in quite the way you expect. Perhaps most strangely, his wrists/hands are articulated differently – on his right hand, the joint cuts through the palm of his hand, which is pretty standard. The left, by contrast, cuts the joint sideways through the hand. These points don’t detract from the figure overall, but just make sure you manage your expectations accordingly if you’re from a more Marvel Legends-style background.    
Though it might have been nice to have a “true” update, it does mean the look is now a little more plausibly Arctic camo-looking, as opposed to OTT 90’s X-Treme styling. This is a positive thing, even though I'm a big fan of the original -- I can once again say without irony that I definitely want to own a real-life version of this outfit.  

Storm Shadow comes with only three “real” accessories – a katana, a compound bow and a Cobra stand. All are cast in matte black plastic. The Cobra stand is a nice addition – but the pegs seem slightly too big for the holes in his feet. It’ll fit, but it’ll also look like he’s levitating slightly above the stand too.

The sword was little warped, possibly from being held in his hand in the display box, but this should be fixable with some hot and then iced water. Neither stays in his hands very well, but it’s nice that they’re there nonetheless. Ideally, what I would have liked to see was the sword and a sickle cast in white like the original figure, but the compound bow (a tribute to his v2 design) is still pretty cool.

The hood, the bandolier and the belt are all removable too, but this doesn’t qualify them as true accessories in my book.   

There’s not a lot of paint, but it’s a good standard for the scale. My main gripe is that his hands are noticeably darker than his face. Also, I think the expression should have been made to look a little angrier – the expression works for a Joe-aligned figure, but this is apparently meant to be villainous Storm Shadow, so it seems a little too neutral. Still, he doesn’t sport any Cobra logos, so you can just use him as a Joe if you’d prefer.   

Storm Shadow is the first G.I. Joe I’ve bought since 2004, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The line has gone through many twists, turns and reboots since I was a kid, and I haven’t really kept up to date with what’s going on. But Storm Shadow -- and specifically his Ninja Force version -- remains a perennial favourite, so it was always going to be hard for me to be anything less than "very pleased" with this figure. He’s not perfect, particularly considering the price I paid for him (definitely more than retail), but Storm Shadow is still a very worthy addition to the collection. Perhaps more importantly, as with Raphael, it’s a 20+ year omission on my part rectified. 

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Lego City – Arctic Snowmobile (60032)

Assembly time: 15-20 minutes

Pieces: 44

Year: 2014
Theme: City


City is Lego’s widest spanning theme, covering situations that run the gamut from the mundane to the borderline fantastic, all presented in the unique Lego fashion.  But I’ve never bought much from the theme – in recent years, only a Creator Treehouse that could pass as part of the City series. My interests always tended more towards things like Castle and Pirates, rather than the real world. Nonetheless, City is Lego’s best-selling theme, and the sets are consistently well-designed and of high quality, even if they’re not usually my cup of tea.

But I may soon be changing my tune, thanks to the recent release of the Arctic sub-theme of City. Not only does it combine the extreme cold and science – Lego have accidentally recreated Jon Carpenter’s version of The Thing in block form!  


The minifigures for this range don’t appear to have been given distinct names – most City stuff is just a blank slate for kids (or adults) to project whatever they want onto. So this is just a guy— presumably some kind of scientist – who’s working out in the middle of the Arctic to dig up and study these crystals from the ice. The blue and orange colour scheme is really appealing, in spite of also being shockingly ugly – the bright colours would certainly make sense in the blinding white snow of the Arctic. His hood and pants are blue, and his jacket and sunglasses are bright orange (complete with reflective sheen!). Lots of little details are printed on him, including carabiners on his pants and a smaller version of the Arctic logo on the snowmobile on the back.     

He comes with two accessories for himself – his pickaxe and walkie-talkie – and two accessories that aren’t specifically his, but fairly important to the set – the ice block and the mysterious crystal. All of the items are pieces we’ve seen before across different sets – the crystal has been Kryptonite, CHI Energy, and an evil wizard’s artefact in the past, just to name a couple of things. But the coolest reuse is the way a simple recolour has changed the rocks from the Mining subset of City into big chunks of ice. Hooray for clever parts reuse!  

This build won’t challenge you, but it yields a pretty cool result. The orange of the kit gives it an almost Tonka truck-style look – it’s toy-ish enough to grab the kids, while still looking convincing enough to pass as a "real" vehicle. Front and centre on the bonnet is the Arctic logo, which too me looks like a modified version of the Ice Planet 2002 logo, from all the way back in 1993.

Not being a snowmobile expert, I can’t offer too many points on realism, but it certainly looks about right. And though it’s intended for this Arctic theme, there’s no real reason you couldn’t incorporate into some kind of snow vacation-themed City display. Hopefully we'll see a recolour for such a thing in the future.   
It also features a small, similarly-coloured sled for hauling the ice block, which can also be detached if you prefer. One does have to wonder how this guy manages to move the ice block onto the sled by himself though…

I love Arctic-themed stuff, and was a huge fan of the Ice Planet 2002 stuff as a kid, so this theme grabbed me as soon as I first heard about it, earlier this year. The Snowmobile is a great kit, though the self-contained nature of this Arctic subtheme means that you’re probably going to need to invest in more than one set to create an effective display.  Fortunately, all of the Arctic sets look pretty darn good. It’s the first theme in a long time where I’ve wanted to own every set, though I will probably just restrict myself to the base camp for the aforementioned The Thing re-enactments and possibly the massive helicrane. It depends how good Santa is to me this year, I suspect!  

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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

DC Universe Classics: POWER STRUGGLE 2-pack -- SUPERMAN VS PARASITE (Part 2 of 2)

LINE: DC Universe Classics

YEAR: 2010

In my review of the other figure in this set, Superman, I explain in more detail how I ended up buying this 2-pack, so I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say, I bought it for Supes and Parasite was a nice bonus.

Parasite is a villain I’m not terribly familiar with, beyond his appearance in Kingdom Come. Even there he’s not around for long, but his actions have some pretty serious repercussions for the rest of the story. However, Wikipedia tells me that Parasite has been plaguing Superman since the 1960s, and there have been a few different Parasites over the years. This particular figure, as you might guess from its 1990s/2000s stylings, is based on one of the more modern incarnations.
Parasite is dangerous because he can absorb energy from people – including superheroes – and use it as his own. While pretty handy in and of itself, it’s since been expanded on to include abilities like shapeshifting, absorbing memories from victims and other related paraphernalia. For a while he even posed as Lois Lane, and learned Superman's identity was Clark Kent.  

While normal people tend to die when Parasite drains their life force, Superman is turned into a regular, powerless human. The effects are temporary, but it means Parasite now has the powers of one of Earth's most powerful heroes -- you can see how that might be a problem.

This figure was originally released as part of the DC Superheroes line, a precursor line to DC Universe Classics. Like a few other DCSH figures, it got re-released as part of a multi-pack. The reasons for this are likely two-fold – one, to allow people that missed DCSH to get a Parasite, and two, to get some more use out of his moulds. I daresay there was an awful lot of unique (and therefore expensive) tooling that went into Parasite – about the only thing that looks reused from other figures is his crotch piece and possibly the “T” sections of his hips.   
Given that he was designed by the legendary Four Horsemen, it was pretty much a given that Parasite was going to have a fantastic sculpt. OAFE’s review specifically points to Ed McGuinness’ art as the jumping-off point, and I don’t know enough about the character to disagree. But it certainly makes sense; when this figure was first released c. 2006, McGuinness’ artwork was quite prominent, in part thanks to his work on the Superman/Batman series that was out at the time (which is well worth a read, I might add. It struck a good balance between the more serious and camp elements of both characters).

However, while McGuinness’ work is quite cool, it’s also quite cartoony. Some of that has been smoothed out in the transition to action figure form, making something that’s inherently silly (a purple monster in a white leotard) and giving it a convincing real-world look, while not losing its comic-y qualities. This is something that has been seen a lot in the Four Horsemen’s Masters of the Universe Classics -- a series I certainly can't afford to collect, but can certainly admire from afar.
His face reminds me of Flukeman from The X-Files, though Parasite is a bit toothier. Flukeman was also a parasitical creature, so this may not be accidental. Other touches have been added to increase his inhuman appearance too -- obviously there's the inhumanly muscular physique, but there's also his three-fingered, grasping hands, and his Ninja Turtles-looking feet. Then there's all the little notches carved all over his body -- these seem to be muscle detailing, but could just as easily be scars. There's some great attention to detail on this figure -- I love it!
Parasite's "correct" pose is slightly hunched over via the ab crunch and bent knees; stand him straight up and his head is looking directly to the sky. The only real downside about this is that it makes him a lot shorter than Superman -- I'm not sure whether this is comic accurate, but it does kind of feel like he should be bigger than Supes.

Articulation is more or less standard for the DCUC line, but it has been slightly modified due to his monstrous physique.

*cut neck
*ball-jointed shoulders

*swivel biceps
*hinged elbows

*cut wrists
*ab crunch

*cut waist
*t-hinged hips

*cut thighs
*hinged knees

*rocker ankles
His shoulders are a little loose, but not so much that they won't hold poses. Additionally, be careful when you're moving them around. I'm not sure if it happened in-box or after I'd opened it, but I noticed that a small chunk of plastic on the shoulder had actually been gouged out, presumably by the shoulder socket and the shoulder ball meeting at an angle they weren't meant to. You can make it out in this pic.

Parasite (and the two-pack as a whole) comes with no accessories, but I don’t think he’s known for any in particular.

Parasite is cast in purple plastic, with the appropriate details coloured in as necessary. They’re all very clean, with little to no slop. His eyes are yellow, and his teeth are actually painted with two different colours. The back row looks to be orange and yellow, with white on the top row -- then the whole thing's been given a glossy finish, as have his lips. It looks great!     

There’s also lots of black shadowing. For the most part this is well-done, and makes what could have been a purple lump of plastic look much less “toy-ish” than it otherwise might. There are a few areas where it’s a bit uneven, but no major issues. 
His white harness-style outfit has a couple of chips in the paint, and overall I think it has the problem that most white-over-dark-colour paints have – the brushstrokes show and as a result the colour isn’t quite flat and even. This is accentuated by there apparently being a black wash over the top in certain places too. But though it doesn’t exactly match with the box art, I still think it works for the most part. Having it all perfectly painted stark white would probably look a little odd in contrast to the more “realistic” paint detail that’s on him elsewhere.

The main issue I have with this set is that the two figures don’t gel with one another terribly well. Obviously the characters have a long history together, but there are some clear stylistic differences. The Superman in this set is elegant in his simplicity; the toy evokes the image of what most people think of when you say the word "Superman", irrespective of the era you originally knew him from.   
Parasite, by contrast, is covered in lots of little details which look awesome but also make him look like he’s from a completely different toyline. Add in the drastic difference in height and things are definitely accentuated. But I think a better pairing would have been 1990s long-haired Superman, as long as the Big Blue Boy Scout was painted with some heavier shadows.

But this doesn’t change that Parasite is a great figure on his own. Though the 1990s-esque vibe will switch some off and of course date it to a particular era, but it’s just a whole lot of fun, and a great monster toy in its own right. As something that I expected to get as an extra with Superman and simply sell on eBay, I’ve been thrilled with the outcome. The two figures in the Power Struggle 2-pack come highly recommended – maybe just not together.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

DC Universe Classics: POWER STRUGGLE 2-pack -- SUPERMAN VS PARASITE (Part 1 of 2)

Pic from
LINE: DC Universe Classics
YEAR: 2010
Earlier this year, Mattel announced that it was re-releasing several of its DC figures in Super Powers- themed colours and packaging – a tribute to Kenner’s seminal 1980s toyline.  Though I didn’t have the Super Powers line as a kid, the announcement pushed my nostalgia button firmly – especially with the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez-inspired artwork! If it looks familiar, that’s not surprising – DC is currently using his work on quite a lot of merchandise.
I wasn’t interested in the Riddler, Gold Superman, Mr Mxyzptlk or the Collect-and-Connect Kalibak, but the core trio of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman rapidly became must-have items. It’s not hard to find figures of these core three, but it’s hard to find three that look cohesive together – well, ones that aren’t based on the New 52, anyway. But as the release date started to grow closer approach I began to wonder whether I could justify the not inconsiderable price tag.
“Hmm…the packaging does look nice, but it’s going in the bin anyway…this kind of blue Batman isn’t really my favourite style of Batman…Wonder Woman isn’t going to include her axe and shield…”
Deliberations such as these went on for a few weeks, but I eventually decided I’d be better off looking up earlier releases of these figures, and comparing costs. If older versions were cheaper, I’d go with them instead. Superman was surprisingly easy to find, and this 2-pack was the most cost-effective method for getting him – and as far as I can see, this is identical to the figure that’s been re-released for the Super Powers tribute, bar the colouring. And he came with Parasite, too – SCORE!

If I am not very much mistaken, I don’t think there was ever really a proper “Classic” Superman in the main series of DCUC. Not long before the debut of DCUC, Mattel had done a series called DC Superheroes, a line that focused almost exclusively on Superman, Batman and their respective allies and rogue’s galleries. For the most part, the two lines gel with one another, and have a similar aesthetic. But part of what killed that initial line was endless variations of Superman and Batman – they’re both awesome characters, but most people are not interested in owning 32903750923 different versions of them.
Hence, when DCUC came around, there was no Superman until wave 6 – and that was 1990s Superman, complete with long hair. It was a cool look, but it instantly marked it out as a Superman of a specific era. So a more “iconic” Superman never got a release in the main line, but there were a couple that showed up in a related 2-pack and 5-pack – and then there was this one, cobbled together from the existing “large male” DCUC body and the Eradicator’s head.
The DCUC line tended to try and replicate how a character looked on the page, rather than worrying too much about “realism”. That yielded some mixed results from time to time – some costumes work better in print than in 3D – but it’s the right call on this occasion. Superman has always been a big guy, and this figure maintains an appropriately exaggerated physique.

Somewhat curiously, he’s been sculpted without a smile. Without it, it’s actually a bit difficult to tell which artist’s work this is based on – there’s arguably a little of Jose Luis Garcia Lopes in there, but that still doesn’t seem quite right. In fact, the head is a little on the odd side in general. Front on, it looks great – maybe a little too thin at the sides, but definitely workable. From an angle, it tends to look a bit odd as the face is actually quite flat. This isn’t restricted to this figure – Wonder Woman has the same thing, and looking at one of the recent Masters of the Universe Classics toys, I noticed the same thing there too. So presumably it’s a Mattel house style thing, or possible a Four Horseman sculptural quirk.
The cape is also a little odd. The material is soft but sturdy, so I don’t really have any concerns about it rotting away, but it sticks out at the back quite a bit. Secured by a hole in his back, it’s fine from the front but looks odd side-on. From the back it works okay, though the lines are cut a little too deeply.

Articulation is standard for the DCUC line:
*ball-jointed neck

*ball-jointed shoulders

*swivel biceps

*hinged elbows

*cut wrists

*ab crunch
*cut waist

*t-hinged hips

*cut thighs
*hinged knees

*hinged ankles
The neck is technically a balljoint, but it's not super manoeuvrable. The shoulders are a bit restricted due to the cape, and the swivel biceps feel a little tight. However, these are pretty minor issues and none of the other joints gave me any problems at all. It was a welcome contrast to Hawkman. I've grown to like that figure a little more since I wrote that review, but he was extraordinarily disappointing and I was worried I've have a repeat issue.

Curiously, it’s kind of hard to get him into a good flying pose. I think this is partially down to facial sculpt, both hands being fists and the way the neck moves. It doesn’t bother me a lot, but I can definitely see it upsetting some fans.   

Superman (and the two-pack as a whole) comes with no accessories. Some Kryptonite, Fortress of Solitude Crystal or a miniature Bottle City of Kandor would have been nice, but really he doesn’t need anything.

Most of Supes is just cast in dark blue, and then paint is applied accordingly. There are no major issues with slop, but it does seem odd that – his hands also seem to be cast in blue, and painted in skintone. I’m not really sure why they went with this option rather than just casting them in skin colour, but I assume it’s a costing thing.  

As a nice little touch, his hair features little light blue highlights, just like in the comics.

The entire DCUC range relied heavily on parts re-use, with a great deal of the main characters just reusing one body or another. The upside of this was that the line was able to pump out a number of B-, C- and D-list characters that were unlikely to get an appearance elsewhere.  The downside is that reusing bodies tend to give certain characters odd quirks. In Superman’s case, there’s no sculpted line where his neck gives way to the suit – it’s just painted on. I might complain about this elsewhere, but the paint line is neat, so it works well enough.   

A few tampographs are used. The back of the cape has a yellow “S” symbol tampoed on – as all Superman capes should – and the chest logo is tampoed too. Additionally, the eyes have been tampoed on. They’re pretty much even, which is great. Too many action figures have an awkward or cross-overed look.  

I bought this two-pack brand new from a third-party seller, for what I assume was just above retail price. eBay and Amazon seem to indicate you’re in for a difficult and/or expensive time if you want any of the other DCUC Supes figures. However, at time of writing the Super Powers figures were still in stock at

My very first action figure was a Superman one. Working from an approximate timeline, I don’t think it was a Super Powers figure – I’m a little young for that – but rather from ToyBiz’s DC Superheroes series. It followed only a few short years after the end of Super Powers, reused many of the same moulds and had a very similar design aesthetic, but was never quite of the same standard. Sadly, he lasted only a few months before one of the knee joints gave way, and for whatever reason he was never replaced. It’s easy to remember how much we enjoyed a toy; it’s more difficult to remember how poorly some of them were made (and I have to say, I don’t remember the Kryptonite ring at all)!

So from a nostalgic perspective, this Superman had quite a bit to live up to. He’s not quite everything I’d like from a figure of Superman, but for this price point, he’s still pretty darn good. I don’t have Hot Toys kind of money at this point, so this guy will do nicely.

Part two coming soon – we take a look at Superman’s boxmate, Parasite!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Lo’Gosh (World of Warcraft)


I’ve never been a Warcraft or WoW fan. I’m sure they’re great games and all, but they’ve just never grabbed me. But I’d been seeing this figure lurking around the corners of my local games store for quite a few months now, and was impressed with his more-or-less likeness to Arnie’s portrayal of Conan the Barbarian. But he was $34AUD, and I wasn’t willing to pay that. He went on sale to a much lower price over Christmas 2013, but still didn’t sell.
So flash forward to a few months ago, and I found myself having a conversation with the salesperson behind the counter. They were very keen to get rid of him (he’d been there for a year and a half at least, and his box took up a lot of shelf space) so they offered him to me for $9. At a price like that, I couldn’t say no.

Note: I should point out that I will be primarily reviewing this as a Conan figure, not as a WoW one.  
I know nothing about Lo’Gosh, but I know a good pseudo-Conan when I see one. Though it draws elements from several different stages of Arnie’s look in Conan the Barbarian, it primarily looks like it’s been derived from the beginning of the movie, when Conan was a pit fighter – particularly the leather crown/headgear and the spiked sword handle that looks like a set of knuckledusters.
Of course, being from WoW and not actually a piece of Conan the Barbarian merchandise, it has some differences. The belt buckle is the leonine icon of the Alliance (whom I understand are essentially the WoW good guys), and he’s wearing pants as opposed to a loincloth.  

Everything is sculpted with an impressive level of detail, with Conan posed in a triumphant pose, swords held aloft above his head. It’s a good mix between realistic and comic-y that I wouldn’t mind seeing on other figures, particularly comic-based ones. It’s like a 90s comic book come to life, but without a lot of the negative things that suggests. 
There is only one thing that stood out to me as a little odd – his chest looks a little too narrow for his body. I suppose this may be a result of concept art not translating so well into three dimensions, or may just be adjusted this way because of his pose. Nonetheless, my enjoyment is undiminished!

In terms of actual issues, the only “problem” is that there’s a join line around his jaw. It’s a little ugly up close, but you’re not generally looking at him from an angle where you’d notice it.
As for articulation, there is nothing at all. In the words of Michael Crawford, he’s a “Nerd Hummel”. This is fine, as I knew what I was in for when I bought him – but I can’t help but feel that describing it as an “action figure” on the box is somewhat misleading. Maybe “collector’s figurine” would be a better compromise. I don’t much care for “Staction Figure” which apparently did the rounds a few years ago.  

The paint work on this guy is excellent. There’s been a lot of attention paid to the little sculpted details, and very little slop. Particularly impressive is the blood spray on the swords – this is an area where it would have been easy for the company to  cheap out, and in all likelihood gotten away with it, but they do seem to have paid a lot of attention to making sure it looks “right”.

There’s no one area that stands out as having obviously crappy paint – an amazing rarity in this day and age, even among collector’s figures.

This figure was released in 2009, so your chances of picking him up at retail are probably pretty slim. However, he seems to be in plentiful supply on eBay. I’ve seen him as a low as $11, and as high as $80 – but the average seems to be around the $30AUDish mark. As far as I can tell, that would have been about his retail price when he was first released. Just be aware, you may pay almost as much again in postage.

Though I really like the figure, I would have thought it was copyright-infringingly close to Conan. There are lots of urban myths and contradictory stories about whether He-Man was inspired by Conan, and apparently some legal troubles too, so it surprises me that WoW and DC flew so close to the sun with this one. But here we are, and it’s the best Conan figure I’ve seen in a long time. 

As might be expected, I’m disappointed that he’s not articulated – I am still hoping that NECA releases a series of properly articulated Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan the Barbarian figures – but as a shelf decoration for collectors, I think it’s great. At $9, this guy was an absolute bargain. I kind of want to put him on my desk at work, but he sends a much more hostile message than my usual Funko POPs…

Minifigure Week! Day 7: Pharaoh (Series 2, 2010)

Minifigures are one of my favourite things about Lego – and series 12 is on the way (possibly even out in your country by the time you read this). So to celebrate this upcoming release, every day this week, we’ll be looking at a different minifigure from the series that have come before. This is by no means a comprehensive overview – nor even necessarily a look at my favourites – but it’s an example of some of the unusual figures the line has produced since it debuted back in 2010. So on the final day of Minifigure Week, we take a look at the Pharaoh all the way back from Series 2. 
“That spot looks just right for a pyramid!”

This Pharaoh of ancient Egypt woke up in a museum one day, and he’s been a little confused ever since. He doesn’t know how or why he’s in the modern world, but it’s definitely taking some getting used to! He’s not used to taxi cabs and supermarkets yet, and he can’t figure out where all the sphinxes and crocodiles have gone, but he’s trying to make the best of things in his strange new circumstances.

First off, the place is definitely going to need some pyramids…so with the help of his friends at the museum, the Pharaoh is taking matters into his own hands and using all the bricks he can find to build his own. Now he has a little piece of home to share with everyone!

Back in 2011, when I was in a full-fledged stage of Minifigure obsession, I bought a complete set of Series 2. It was expensive, but nowhere near what you’d pay for a full set these days. And somewhat foolishly, I also passed up the opportunity to own a complete set off Series 1 for around $150AUD. Again, expensive then, but ridiculously cheap now…sigh. As David Sedaris has said, it's the things you don't buy that stick with you the longest. But enough of past regrets and onto the present.  

I love Ancient Egypt, so the Pharaoh was a must-have figure as soon as I found out about him. I always wished Lego would do something Egyptian-themed when I was a kid, but I missed the late 1990s sets, and I'd have to wait until much later for my wish to come true -- but I'll expand on that in a forthcoming review.  
The paintwork on series 1 and 2 was good, but viewing the sets in comparison to series 3 onwards, it's clear that the designs were a little more basic back then. In the case of the Pharaoh, this isn't really to his detriment, as he's wearing relatively little and doesn't need a whole lot of detail. He's been given elaborate eyebrows to simulate kohl eye makeup, which was very common in ancient Egypt -- even the gods wore it. His cheekbones are also unusually pronounced -- is he meant to be one Pharaoh in particular?
Aside from this, the only detail I would have added is feathers in the wings on his scarab beetle chestpiece. 

He comes with two accessories: a golden Nemes headdress, reminiscent of Tutankhamen and a golden staff with a cobra-esque snake moulded around the top. A crook and flail would have been better, but it works well as a possible cheeky reference to the story of Moses and Pharaoh's magicians too. 
The Pharaoh is an excellent minifigure -- one of my favourites from the entire Minifigures range line. It's just a bummer that he's relatively expensive for new collectors to track down. There were some really cool figures in the first 2 series of minifigures, and it's unfortunate that they never made it all the way to Australia. Also, he makes a nice companion for the Classic Alien. Since they built the pyramids together, after all.  

As Minifigure Week comes to an end, I would be remiss if I did not thank Brickipedia. One of the best Lego sites on the web, this place has a tremendous amount of content on Lego both new and old. Writing some of this week's installments without it would have been near imposible!  

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Minifigure Week! Day 6: Pirate Captain (Series 8, 2012)

Minifigures are one of my favourite things about Lego – and series 12 is on the way (possibly even out in your country by the time you read this). So to celebrate this upcoming release, every day this week, we’ll be looking at a different minifigure from the series that have come before. This is by no means a comprehensive overview – nor even necessarily a look at my favourites – but it’s an example of some of the unusual figures the line has produced since it debuted back in 2010.  Today, we look at the Pirate Captain from series 8.

“Yarr! Don’t ye know who I be? And if not, do ye have any suggestions?”

A real pirate is a merciless, rotten son of a sea dog, and that’s exactly what the Pirate Captain aspires to be. He certainly looks the part with his rugged eye-patch, hook-hand and peg-leg, but he has to admit that he’s had a few hiccups along the way.
First of all, his ships keep sinking. No matter whether it’s a man o’ war or a dinghy, any vessel capsizes within five minutes of him coming aboard. Also, he gets seasick really easily – sometimes just a picture of the ocean is enough to set him off. Worst of all, he’s having real trouble coming up with a piratey name. All the good ones – from Ironhook to Brickbeard – seem to already be taken. If he can just come up with a name to strike fear into the hearts of landlubbers everywhere, the Pirate Captain figures the rest of his problems will solve themselves! biography

Pirates. One of the expansive and popular themes the company has ever released, Pirates dominated a good chunk of my pre- and primary school years. It is still something of a matter of sadness for me that I never owned the incredible Pirate Ship – though I did own two different versions of the pirate hideout, both of which were incredible.  

But since the late 1990s, there’s been precious little Pirates stuff released. There were lots of Pirates of the Caribbean sets in recent years, which some might argue filled that niche, but it just wasn’t the same.  A Brickmaster book, a few sets here and there, a handful of figures and the subject of today’s review, the Pirate Captain has been all that Pirate fans have been able to get their hands on for years now. 
Still, 2015 looks like it will have something exciting happening on the Pirates front, and one can only hope that means we’re going to see more in future too. In the meantime, let’s look at the Pirate Captain from 2012.

Series 8 was one that I almost completely missed. I wasn’t in a very good way at the time of release and Lego was low on my list of priorities. By the time I snapped back a little, series 8 and 9 had all but disappeared from the shelves and the (mostly disappointing) series 10 was about to drop. This doesn’t bother me too much, but I want that Diver! If anyone’s keen to help out, let me know.
The Pirate Captain is just an all-round great figure. He looks something like my mental image of Captain Hook – he’s a gentleman’s pirate, in contrast to the more stubbly Captain Redbeard. His moustache has been neatly waxed, his red coat looks dapper and his neck ruff is impeccable.  He's got a leather belt, and a matching strap slung across his chest -- presuably this could be used to hold a blunderbuss or two, Blackbeard style.

The Pirate Captain with some of my old early 1990s Pirates

Gold is a recurring theme here -- the skull and crossbones on his hat is emblazoned in gold and he even has a little gold tooth in his mouth too. I like to imagine that this is kind of his ceremonial dress, rather than just his everyday getup -- it's for when he needs to intimidate the enemy and inspire his men, pre-batttle, rather than when he's actually fighting.  

The Pirate Captain comes with one accessory – a golden cutlass – but he also features a golden hook hand and a brown peg leg., so that kind of balances the accessory count a little. You don’t really need anything else, but if he was going to have another, one of the old parrots would have been cool. Sadly I couldn't find any of my old ones.

Captain Red Beard with Skull
photo from Brickipedia
The old Pirates minifigures had amazing paint work for the time, so even with all the time past, there was still a lot to live up to -- and given my childhood attachment to the Pirates franchise, my expectations were exceptionally high. But he definitely delivers. Though he’s not likely to become as iconic as Captain Redbeard (see left) from ye olden days of the Pirates line, he's fantastic. Roll on 2015 and more Pirates 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Minifigure Week! Day 5: Intergalactic Girl (series 6, 2012)

After a few hitches at my end, Minifigure Week is back on. Sorry for the delay guys!

Minifigures are one of my favourite things about Lego – and series 12 is on the way (possibly even out in your country by the time you read this). So to celebrate this upcoming release, every day this week, we’ll be looking at a different minifigure from the series that have come before. This is by no means a comprehensive overview – nor even necessarily a look at my favourites – but it’s an example of some of the unusual figures the line has produced since it debuted back in 2010.  Today, we look at Intergalactic Girl from series 6.
“No thanks needed. I’m just doing my part to make the spaceways safe!”

The name of the Intergalactic Girl is cheered by life forms on every inhabited planet, moon, space station and asteroid in the cosmos. As an interstellar adventurer, she and her daring outer-space exploits are the stuff of legend throughout the known universe, and even a few of the unknown bits, too.

With nothing but a quasar zapper, a pair of antigravity boots and a can-do attitude, the Intergalactic Girl has single-handedly saved solar systems from black holes, rescued civilizations from cosmic conquerors and captured entire fleets of Blacktron battle cruisers. She never has time to stay for the celebrations afterwards, though, because there’s always another space crisis waiting just around the next nebula!
Since the blind-bagged minifigures debuted, there have been quite a few Space Police-esque and Blacktron figures released. Starting with the Spaceman in Series 1, similar characters have popped up every few series, just quietly lurking in the background.
While the Space theme yielded many great sets in the 1980s and 1990s, there hasn't been a lot going on in the last few years – a Space Police theme in 2009 and Galaxy Squad in 2013 seem to have been about it. Galaxy Squad had some cool ideas and some exceptional higher-end sets, but I can’t help but feel that it never quite lived up to its full potential.

Intergalactic Girl wears a pink spacesuit and helmet. I’ve got mixed feelings about this; I probably would have liked her a lot more if she was wearing a more generic colour such as grey or blue, but I can appreciate that realistically this figure is being pushed at little girls more than it is at 29-year old male toy collectors.

Paint is minimal -- she's got all of the standard modern Space trappings, like the logo and little detailings on her suit. Her face has been done with the standard "sassy" expression, with the main difference being that she has silver lipstick rather than the traditional red. Her sleeves are both cast in slightly darker colours than the torso piece, matching the printed detailing on edges of the torso and legs.

Her ray gun ("quasar zapper") is the same as the Classic Alien, but with a blue laser blast instead of a green one. This accessory has been reused multiple times throughout the minifigure sets, and I’m sure we’ll see it again in future series too.
Her main distinguishing feature from other Space figures is her hair – while all of the male figures have removable helmets, she is the only one with an interchangeable hair piece. So I think we can safely conclude that all men in Space Police are bald, or shave their heads. I didn’t plan to turn this into “Jane Fonda week” in addition to “Minifigure Week", but though Intergalactic Girl is sufficiently generic that you could probably point to a few different sources, she becomes a bit of a toned-down Barbarella once her helmet is removed and hair attached.

I probably don't sound all that enthused about this figure, and I think that would be fair -- I’m not really over the moon about Intergalactic Girl (HA!), but she’s not bad by any means. Her value for me is not really as part of the Space theme itself, but as some kind of conscious retro-futuristic throwback to 60s or 70s sci-fi. A fun, if non-essential addition to the collection.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Minifigure Week! Day 4: Aztec Warrior (Series 7, 2012)

Minifigures are one of my favourite things about Lego – and series 12 is on the way (possibly even out in your country by the time you read this). So to celebrate this upcoming release, every day this week, we’ll be looking at a different minifigure from the series that have come before. This is by no means a comprehensive overview – nor even necessarily a look at my favourites – but it’s an example of some of the unusual figures the line has produced since it debuted back in 2010.  So for day 4, we look at one from series 7 -- the Aztec Warrior!

“No, you can’t have our gold! Go find your own!”

A mighty soldier of the sun, the Aztec Warrior is one of the fierce Eagle Knights of the legendary Aztec Empire. Protected by his feathered shield and beaked helmet, he battles for the glory of his empire from sunrise to sunset, never stopping for food or rest as long as there are enemies to capture and the sun shines bright in the sky.

And there certainly are plenty of enemies! For some reason, people are always trying to steal the empire’s gold. Sure, it’s pretty and you can make it into some nice, shiny weapons and armor, but the Aztec Warrior doesn’t really get what the big deal is with the stuff. Sometimes he wishes the invaders would only come at night so some other warriors could deal with them instead!

History isn’t interesting, you say? Well, you’re obviously not familiar with the Aztecs. Human sacrifice, cannibalism and brutal warfare, all culminating with a mighty empire brought low by superior arms, and disease. It must have been a dreadful time to live, but it has made for some of the most engaging historical reading in the years that have followed.

Along with Ancient Egypt, I was fairly obsessed with the Aztecs as a kid. Recently I even travelled to Melbourne to see an exhibit on them – only to find out it’s now coming to Sydney (and I would suggest you go check it out while it’s on, should you be in the area). But I never even dared imagine that we’d get anything remotely Aztec-related in Lego form, so it was with great excitement that I awaited the release of Series 7.

This guy looks is an Eagle Warrior – but he's clearly been moonlighting in El Dorado as a guard. His mask is gold, his shield is gold – even his spear is gold!  It can’t have been very practical in warfare, given gold’s relativeness softness, but by golly does it look cool.  
On his body, he’s printed with a Mesoamerican-style necklace, complete with idol-esque, glowering face on it, buff pecs and a red, green and gold patterned loincloth.  Beneath the mask, he’s got a fairly neutral expression with green warpaint layered over the top. Well, I say neutral, but “stoic” is probably a better description. After all, Eagle Warriors were some of the elites in the Aztec army – it wasn’t the regular grunts who were wearing this getup. 
 On that note, this doesn't look like a particularly accurate take on it, but rather a mix-up of various Aztec, Incan and Mayan features -- still pretty cool to look at though. Real Eagle Warriors wore a much more elaborate costume. They were also usually armed with wooden clubs that had sharp obsidian blades lodged into its edges. As you might imagine, they could do some serious damage -- the Conquistador from series 8 had best watch himself!       

Series 7 had a pretty good line-up, but it seems to have been massively overproduced. It hung around on shelves (particularly in Coles and Woolworths) for far too long, which made the comparative scarcity of series 8 and 9 all the more annoying. It was also the last one I collected in full, before I got out of the game for a little while.

Silly as it sounds, I think these factors have coloured my perception of the Aztec Warrior. He is a great figure, but he has never quite resonated with me as strongly as, say, the Classic Alien. Still, I hold out hope that we’ll see a fully-fledged Aztec line in future, perhaps in the vein of Pharaoh’s Quest – perhaps then he’ll find his proper spot in the collection. Till then he remains an entertaing curiosity.