Wednesday, 26 August 2015

POP! Marvel -- Captain America (Unmasked)

Year: 2015
Company: Funko
Series: POP! Marvel

I didn’t really come round to Cap until I read The Ultimates 1 & 2 miniseries, back in about 2006. He went from being (in my mind) a one-note jingoistic caricature to being a well-rounded character. The first series gave a really impressive showcase of how powerful the character was, while the fight between him and Colonel Abdul al-Rahman in the second series was genuinely affecting – well done, on both counts, Mr Mark Millar.

Chris Evans’ take on the character is fairly distinct from the Ultimates version (definitely not as violent), but he’s still pretty cool. So today we take look at the most recent POP release of Captain America. It’s the unmasked version, which is a Funko Convention Exclusive for 2015. Cap here is on active duty – I threw out the box, which is anathema to some collectors. But the box was dinged up and so was the plastic tray inside, so I’m sure you can forgive me.

As far as I can tell, the body and shield is identical to the regular masked release, with the difference coming in the head – it looks like a unique piece to me, though I suspect we’ll see it reused again next year, for reasons I’ll reveal a bit later. 

The paint is mostly clean, but you can see that the blue the body’s cast in is difficult to paint over. The reds and whites on his uniform aren’t quite as bright as they should be as a result, but you could kind of just pretend this is battle wear and tear if you’re bothered by it. 

On the downside, the shield was slightly warped on closer inspection; it’s a slightly softer plastic than the rest of him. It’s not major though; I didn’t notice it in the box, so it's not a deal-breaker.   

Overall, is this one as good as the regular version? Well, given that Cap spends about the same amount of time with his mask/helmet off as on, the answer is yes. But I wouldn’t recommend paying the convention premium on eBay. With Captain America: Civil War coming next year, there are likely to be a whole bunch of new Cap POPs on the way – and I’ll be very surprised if at least one of them isn’t an unmasked one, reusing this head. So maybe wait a few months and see how things go.      

On a side note, I’ve noticed POPs have been rising in price of late. I started collecting them in early 2013 and I believe they were still retailing for $15AUD at the time. Now they’ve just hit the $18AUD mark, which is getting a little too pricey for my tastes. This guy cost me slightly more than that, as he’s a convention exclusive. To my mind, though, the price should either be going down or holding steady. I’m sure that some aspect of the economics is getting past me here, but Funko POPs are far more readily available now than they were even a year ago – this suggests to me that they are selling gangbusters, which would presumably drive production costs down. However, it’s possible that the cost on new moulds and licenses is driving things up overall. Fair enough, but I think I will have to get out of the game if they go up much more. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

POP! Marvel: Scarlet Witch

Year: 2015
Company: Funko
Series: POP! Marvel

Avengers: Age of Ultron was a lot of fun, though on reflection its flaws have become a little more apparent. In particular I think that although James Spader turned in some good voice work, I didn’t think Ultron was that amazing as a villain – which is a problem when his name is in the title.  

But there were a lot of highlights. Vision was definitely one, and so was his likely future love interest, Scarlet Witch. Hopefully she has a little more to do in the upcoming MCU films, but it wasn’t a bad debut. And now she’s arrived in Funko POP form!  

Her movie costume is quite different to her classic comic outfit, which is maybe not so surprising. It takes a little from her Ultimates incarnation, but is still quite distinct. The red and black colour scheme is a good one, and it’s nicely distinct from all the other Avengers. I can see it being a cosplay favourite at conventions.   

Funko has been shifting away from using painted prototypes in their promotional images lately, using CG renders instead. This doesn’t really bother me, as the usually simplistic POP style lends itself to CG images more than say, a NECA Predator. The only major difference I can see between the “prototype” and the finished product is that she’s been given eyeshadow, which is a nice little touch. She was the only one in the store, so I didn’t have much choice in terms of paint, but I’m pleased to report that she has actually turned out quite well. Some of the small details, like her rings, could be a little cleaner, but it’s still way better than plenty of others in the collection.

Curiously, she doesn’t include a stand – though she needs it more than Black Widow, who did come with one. She’ll stay balanced, but she’s easy to knock over.  

With the release of Scarlet Witch, we are now only waiting on one more Avenger from Funko – Wanda’s brother, Quicksilver. I’m not convinced that he will actually get released, but you never know. Personally, I hope that the Hulkbuster ends up getting a wider release first, given his *SPOILER ALERT* untimely demise towards the film’s end.

There are only a few pieces of Scarlet Witch merchandise doing the rounds from the film, all of them with varying degrees of quality. With the exception of the upcoming Hot Toys version, this is probably the best of them, though the Lego Minifigure isn’t too bad either. I think she’ll be a little bit rare for a while, but if you can track her down she’s definitely worth the purchase price.    

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

POP! Heroes: White Lantern Wonder Woman (glow version)

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Heroes
Year: 2015

A couple of months back I picked up White Lantern Batman, and I mentioned that Wonder Woman was on the way too. Initially I thought it was an SDCC exclusive (and it was certainly selling at exclusive prices for a few weeks there on eBay) but it’s now received a wider release.

As might be expected, she re-uses the same mould as the original release. If you read my earlier review, you’ll know this a little bit mixed. When compared to Black Widow or Scarlet Witch, she’s a little underwhelming. Add to this that her neck/head connection isn’t quite properly assembled, and it’s even more irritating. I ordered this online and so I didn’t get to pick it out myself – well, that’s the risk you take, I guess. With that said, just today I saw three more instore and they all had the same issue. Curiously, the non-glow ones don't have this problem. 

There are two versions available – regular and glow in the dark. I went with glow in the dark, as with White Lantern Batman, one looked pretty much like the other. The difference is a little more pronounced with this figure. Though I like the glow, I wonder (lol) if I should have actually gone with the regular version. No, actually, I’m happy with my decision. It’s a rare day that glow isn’t the best option. Her leotard, boots, tiara and bracelets all glow quite well, though to varying degrees of brightness. 
Paint is not as bad as the original, but it is very sloppy on the body. Flesh-toned paint is splashed around inappropriately, and there are splashes of silver too. I was able to scrape some of it off, but managed to damage the White Lantern logo in the process…only slightly, but this is why I generally prefer to see how POPs look in person before I buy them.             

Much like White Lantern Batman, White Lantern Wonder Woman is not essential. The design is fun, and the control art on the box looks good – but it’s an old figure that is showing its age. Given her prominence in the DC Universe, Wonder Woman needs an updated and improved figure. A Lynda Carter one would be good, but I suspect we’ll see a Gal Gadot first to coincide with the imminent release of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Till then, I'd suggest the regular or New 52 version instead, but it's a fun addition to the Rainbow Lantern POPs.   

Thursday, 13 August 2015

POP! Movies -- Nosferatu

Year: 2015
Company: Funko
RRP: $17.95AUD

Dracula was a huge hit when it was first released, and over the following decades all manner of tie in products were released to capitalise on the novel’s success. But as I’ve mentioned before, not all of them were authorised. Yes, Nosferatu here started life as nothing more than an unauthorised cash-in – Bram Stoker’s estate didn’t care to give the filmmakers the cinematic rights to the novel, but they just went ahead and changed a few details, hoping no-one would notice the similarities. That didn’t work out so well for them.

But unlike modern equivalents such as Transmorphers, Nosferatu stands on its own as a substantial work. The make-up effects are impressively executed and the mood is always creepy. It’s been a few years since I watched it, but the sight of Count Orlok’s shadow moving up the stairs still unnerves to this day. 

Actually, it’s something of a miracle that we actually still have copies of Nosferatu to view. After Stoker’s estate sued F.W. Murnau and won, all copies of the film were meant to be destroyed. But some survived, made their way back into circulation and now you can watch the whole thing for free on the internet – legitimately.  

So, how does this borderline-bootleg POP stack up? He’s got a sharp sculpt, which captures the main details and renders them in sufficiently cutesy style. Initially I thought that his forehead wasn’t quite bulky enough, but it is actually correct to the 1922 version. I was mixed up with the 1979 remake, which featured Klaus Kinski as the titular monster – a man whose brow made Frankenstein’s Monster’s look small by comparison.

His claws are sculpted in the famous shadow lurker pose from the film – so given the right lighting conditions, I daresay you could replicate the famous pose reasonably well.  

Paint is surprisingly cleanly executed. You'll want to check the hands and eyes carefully (the hands seems to be cast  in grey or black and painted in the corpse-y skintone), but it's impressive work from the House of Funko. 

The only real letdown (and I hesitate to use that word) is the box. It’s not bad, but it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. The copy on the back of the box is vague, not really giving any indication of the Nosferatu backstory, perhaps due to its contentious origins. The original film has long been in the public domain, as has Dracula, but I suppose it’s best to avoid any potential legal hot water where one can.

More surprisingly/disappointingly, the box doesn’t use the shot from the film that everyone knows – the aforementioned shadow lurker pose! Fortunately, I am a chucker when it comes to 90% of my POP boxes so it’s not a major drama. EDIT: Whoops, my mistake! They did use it, but via a questionable Photoshop rather than the still from the movie. 

Nosferatu is a great addition to my POP horror collection, sitting nicely with the Universal Monsters. At the moment, I believe this is the only version of him available – but as with pretty much every horror POP that comes up, I hold out hope for a glow in the dark version. Though a B & W one would be good too! 

Friday, 7 August 2015

POP! Marvel – Black Widow

My Marvel POPs now outnumber my DC ones by a not inconsiderable degree. While once I was happy with just Wolverine, Deadpool and the Silver Surfer, the release of Guardians of the Galaxy last year really cemented my love for Marvel's cinematic universe. A couple of impulse buys later and I suddenly have a near complete set of the Avengers – including the subject of today’s review, Black Widow.

I was never a huge Scarlett Johansson fan prior to her entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but recent films have sold me on her as an actress. Consistently entertaining and never there to act as the helpless bimbo, Scarlet Johansson has turned Black Widow from a B-list comics character into one of the most important supporting roles in the Marvel Universe.

This is actually the second Black Widow POP, as one was released last year to belatedly tie in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That one was okay, though not amazing. This one is distinct enough to be worth double-dipping, and is also the far better of the two.

Bedecked in her Avengers: Age of Ultron costume and wielding two shock-prods, this is one of the better female POPs out there. The original base body that Funko used for Wonder Woman was okay, but a lot of the others have tended towards too skinny and dainty. This is a good compromise. 

You’ll need to watch the shock prods – I’ve seen some that are quite bent in the box. The other thing I’ve spotted when looking at another was excess plastic hanging down on the neck; this shows up on Marvel POPs from time to time due to their bobble-headed nature, and it can totally ruin their look. Paint is not amazing but it’s certainly of a better standard than many others I own; make sure you check the eyes and the hairline. 
Like the Alien, Black Widow comes with a transparent stand to support her. You should be pretty okay to get her standing without it, but it’s nice to have the extra support. I assume the Elisabeth Olsen-based Scarlet Witch will have one too when she arrives.  

It’s good to see Black Widow actually get some associated merchandise. There was virtually none to accompany her starring role in the first Avengers film, and it seems that the fan uproar has won out over the traditional response of “Girl toys don’t sell”. Kudos to Funko for meeting this gap in the market and managing to produce a solid toy while they were at it, rather than a crappy cash-in.   

Saturday, 1 August 2015

POP! Movies - Stay Domo Funko POP! (Domo X Ghostbusters)

Series: POP! Movies
Year: 2015
RRP: $16.95

Ghostbusters is one of those films that I really like, but don’t feel like I love as much as I’m “supposed” to. Lots of my friends were obsessed with it as children, but I didn’t see it until 15 or so, and didn’t enjoy it. But I watched it again in my early 20s and thought it was fantastic. So I’m a fan, but I don’t think I own a copy and I’m still yet to see the second film. Maybe I just came to it too late in life, and it just didn’t make the impression on me that, say, Star Wars did. 

Yet just the other week, I found myself in a local EB Games store and spotted Stay Domo on the shelf. I had a bit of store credit handy, so I decided to take the plunge.  

Domo-kun has picked up a lot of mainstream popularity in the last few years in the Western world, thanks to a combination of a Western fascination with all things Japanese and clever marketing. He began life as the mascot for NHK, a Japanese television station, but has now generated a large market of products that seem to be centred solely around his cuteness.

As you might assume by the name and license, Stay Domo is designed to look like Stay Puft were he Domo-kun. He is heavy. Lacking the hollow head of his fellow POP compadres, he is a satisfyingly chunky piece of plastic. But he balances nicely, and you shouldn't have any issues with him falling over -- unlike Ant-Man.

Now to paint – in news that will not shock anyone who’s read any of my previous POP reviews – is pretty sloppy. His mouth isn’t completely filled and the blue on his napkin is quite fuzzy around the edges, particularly on his back. It would have been pretty normal a few years ago, but these days it's a little below Funko's average. 

There were three POPs released as part of this series; Stay Domo, Domo in a Ghostbusters outfit and Domo as Slimer. All of them are cute, but Stay Domo and Slimer are the best. But why a Domo/Ghostbusters crossover? Well, last year was the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, so I assume that’s the connection, however tenuous it may be. Though were we to draw a Venn diagram of Domo fans and Ghostbusters fans, I’m not sure how much overlap there would be.  

Nonetheless, it's intriguing enough to catch the eye and my attention -- as evidenced by my purchase. I'm not sure how long he'll stay in the collection, but he's an amusing novelty in the meantime.