Tuesday, 27 October 2015

POP! Marvel Daredevil

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Marvel
Year: 2015

Daredevil has easily been one of my favourite TV series for this year, and – true confession time – one of the few new series I’ve watched this year. It added a really good slant to the MCU, and while the surprisingly upbeat ending felt a bit at odds with the tone of the other episodes, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. Season 2 is eagerly anticipated. It was made even more enjoyable by my relative ignorance of the character; I know he's blind (but can virtually see anyway) and that Elektra died, but not too much more than that. The show really sold me on a character who I previously associated with the fun but heavily flawed Ben Affleck film. 

So now we have The Man Without Fear himself rendered in Funko form. There are currently two versions available, the red outfit reviewed today and his yellow “first appearance outfit”. That one's not out in Australia yet, but has been available in the US for a while.

There is very little paint, which I think is a good thing; it’s not really necessary to render the costume effectively. But if there was nothing but cast red plastic, it would be a bit dull – so a few select details have been picked out in a slightly different shade of red, namely his “eyes”, gloves, billy clubs, holster and boots. The string binding his billy clubs/walking cane together is painted black, and a black tampograph of his “DD” logo decorates his chest. He’s quite good; from the front, he’s almost perfect in fact. On the back of his head, he has some white marks – I’m not sure if this is stray paint, abrasions from being dropped, mould or glue. Not a major drama, but I was a little annoyed considering how well done everything else had been. Incidentally, he is a MUCH brighter red than you see here -- my photo set-up at home is quite primitive, which I hope to rectify soon.     


I’ll be a little surprised if we don’t see some TV-based Daredevil POPs, but it may take a while. Sometimes Marvel’s wheels seem to spin a little slowly – for example, in spite of Agent Coulson’s breakout popularity since the release of The Avengers, he only just got a POP this year. While I’m not entirely sure on the actual Daredevil costume that’s worn in the show, I am a big fan of the black ninja-esque costume he wears for most of the series -- so the sooner Funko get cracking on that, the better. In the meantime, this a great comic-based version, well worth picking up for any Marvel fan.   

Sunday, 25 October 2015

POP! Games – Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Games
Year: 2015

As I mentioned in my Vault Boy review, Fallout 3 got me through some pretty rough times a few years ago. One of the most iconic images from the game, of course, is on the cover itself – a Brotherhood of Steel soldier, bedecked in the game’s most powerful armour.

Joining the mysterious Brotherhood is a key point of the game’s plot, occurring towards the end of the game if I recall correctly, though you can spot them at multiple points prior. The events leading up to the finale are pretty epic, so I won’t spoil them for those who haven’t played the game previously, but suffice to say that it’s great fun – even if the original ending of the game was quite disappointing.   

This POP can serve as a latter-stages player character, or simply a generic NPC character. It does a nice job of replicating the broad strokes of the costume, but doesn’t veer into “overly detailed” territory, which is nice. It’s a good caricature, which is when Funko tends to be at their best. As an example, though I really liked my AoU Captain America POP, I think the level of sculpt detail was kind of unnecessary. For the broader aesthetic Funko is going for, simpler is generally better.    
Paint is nice and even, with some very minor issues on the yellow. This is at least in part to do with him not having a lot of paint – he’s cast in faintly metallic plastic which shows up a nice swirly effect in a couple of parts, particularly the chest.    

There’s a convention exclusive of this guy too, which was released to tie in with New York Comic-Con. It’s basically the BotS body with a (male) Lone Wanderer head chucked on top. It’s a pretty cool idea for a variant, though I’m sure it’s not too hard to create the same effect via a custom. Australian readers will be able to find him at EB Games or Popcultcha.

The Brotherhood of Steel POP is the best of the Fallout series, and naturally enough seems to be quite a bit harder to get hold of. Mine was actually the display – and final – one in Kinokuniya when I picked him up! I’ve only seen a few in person, while others seem readily available. I hope that we see the series expanded, but I have a feeling that the timing was just a little off on these being released. Though certain characters are still selling well, I some have already ended up being functionally peg warmers – particularly both versions of the Vault Boy POP. Supply has far outstripped demand. Funko isn’t quite done with the Fallout license yet though – under their Legacy brand they’ll also be releasing action figures of a male Lone Wanderer and a Brotherhood of Steel soldier. It’ll be interesting to see how they turn out. 

Friday, 23 October 2015

POP! Movies – Jason Voorhees (Glow in the Dark Chase Edition)

Year: 2011
Series: POP! Movies
RRP: See below…

I watched a LOT of horror films between the ages 18 and 25, ranging from more tame, mainstream fare through to the highly disturbing and Z-grade. The Friday the 13th series really straddles both worlds – though Jason is a pretty iconic protagonist/villain, a lot of the films are objectively terrible. Camp sensibilities get more and more pronounced as the series goes on, but the energy just isn’t there to sustain it, especially in clunkers like Jason Takes Manhattan. Some of the latter-day instalments like Jason X and Freddy vs Jason were certainly not masterpieces, but at least they were self-aware enough to be fun. So though I definitely used to be a fan, I don’t have strong reasons to recommend other people spend their time watching them! There are plenty of better films – horror and otherwise – to watch. 

But as I said, Jason is iconic. He’s a character who has grown much larger than the films that spawned him, thanks in no small part to his hockey mask. He’s also not an entirely unsympathetic character – Freddy Krueger was a bad, bad man before becoming an undead nightmare monster, Pinhead was a total hedonist, and Michael Myers was a psychopath from childhood. Jason, on the other hand, was a child with some kind of severe medical issue who was unfortunate enough to drown at a summer camp. His motivations are never really explored, but you can extrapolate that this may have played a role in why he acts the way he does.

At any rate, he is a sure-fire movie merchandising success these days, so it’s not really surprising that he was one of the first POPs Funko produced. Jason has had a number of looks through the different movies – not surprising, given that the series has had numerous changes in direction, many different people handling the mythos and multiple actors playing the character. This figure looks to be mostly based on his appearance in Freddy vs Jason, which, while not as detailed as his appearance in some of the other films, is a nice “generic” look for him. It captures how the public tends to think of him, even if it’s not entirely reflective of most of the actual films. His machete is spattered in blood, unsurprisingly. Jason hacks up just about everyone he runs into, which skews against Funko’s cutesy aesthetic, but is certainly character-accurate.

Paint is pretty good (what a shock!), but the mask is a little rough with the way the grey is applied around the holes. This is accentuated a little as the mask is not painted – it’s cast in glow plastic, so errors couldn’t really be covered up with other paint, as you could theoretically do with the regular release. Nothing especially problematic, particularly considering that this is one of Funko’s older figures when paint was regularly much, much worse than this.  

Overall, it’s a good example of the kind of figure I like from Funko’s earlier years. While the more detailed sculpts they use now are still frequently very cool, I like the simplicity of the older ones – it didn’t work perfectly for every character, but it helped give a slightly more unified aesthetic to the your collection. 

Now…to cost. As Jason here is a chase version, some retailers will just sell him at the same price as a regular POP, if you can actually find him. I’m not sure if Funko has re-released this figure, or if this is genuinely old stock that has just shown up in store now. I came across him in an EB Games store in Sydney a couple of months ago, and he was just sitting in among all of the rest of their POP section. I paid RRP, but on eBay he goes for absolutely silly money. So think wisely before going ahead with the purchase – the only real difference I can see is that his mask glows in the dark, so the “regular” version is perfectly serviceable. Don't get me wrong, I love glow in the dark stuff! Just not at that kind of price tag. 

I don’t watch a lot of horror anymore – I don’t get time to watch a lot of movies, and I don’t have the same stomach for gore – but Jason is a well-made POP and a fun reminder of those younger days. Now, if only they’d make some Zombie Flesh Eaters POPs…  

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Harley Quinn: Arkham Knight

Company: DC Collectibles
Year: 2015
Scale: 7"

BACKGROUND
The Arkham series video game figures have been a really mixed bag over the years, yielding up some great figures – but some absolutely dreadful ones too. The Arkham Origins ones were particularly good -- much better than the game they accompanied, which is probably why there are still plenty of Batmans warming pegs in stores around Sydney, two years after release.

So it was with some trepidation that I gazed on the first wave of Arkham Knight action figures. Batman looks a little neither here nor there; Arkham Knight looks intriguing, though I need to know more about the character first, and Scarecrow looks pretty good. But the real star of this wave is Harley Quinn. So after having a particularly big week at work a few months ago, I decided to have a Parks and Recreation-style TREAT YO SELF moment.      

SCULPT & ARTICULATION
Harley has been sculpted with an oddly demure look on her face – it’s a bit of a contrast to her usual sinister expression. Does this mean she’s taking a turn for the better during the course of the game? Possibly, but probably not. (I don’t know all the plot twists and turns – a friend was kind enough to give me Arkham Knight for my birthday a few months back, but I still haven’t finished it – I’ll have to go back to it soon, because it was great fun!) 

In fact, it’s a little too demure, virtually devoid of personality. Though the overall character design is much better than it was in Arkham City, Harley has had plenty of action figures in the past that have nailed her facial expressions better. Maybe it’s just a side effect of the (presumably) digital sculpting that Gentle Giant tend to employ. The other side effect of this seems to be the relative softness of a lot of the details – the pattern on her corset, the lacing at the back, the rings on her sleeves -- little bits and pieces like that. Though it’s not awful or anything, it seems a little on the soft side overall. 

However, she's quite well-articulated, with the following points: 
*Ball-jointed neck
*Swivel-hinged shoulders
*Swivel-hinged elbows
*Swivel-hinged wrists
*Ball-jointed torso
*Swivel-hinged hips
*Swivel thighs
*Double-hinged knees  
*Cut calves
*Rocker ankles

All the joints move smoothly, with the only one not working so well the neck. The high collar and the ponytails tend to get a bit stuck against each other, and the neck itself feels quite tight. The main thing that I think it missing is swivel biceps – it would have been easy to slot them in where the puffy sleeves end and the arms begin, and made a considerable difference when it came to posing.  
  
As the sleeves are so puffy – and sculpted from hard plastic – within a few minutes they’d caused some paint to scrape on the corset buckles. So just be careful when you’re first moving the joints around.

ACCESSORIES
Accessories with figures are shockingly rare in this day and age but amazingly Harley Quinn comes with no less than 6! Two alternate hands, a baseball bat painted like a barbershop pole, a pistol (which can be held in the left or right hand, thanks to the alternate hands), what looks to be a detonator – and best of all, a jack in the box, mounted on a real spring!

The handle on the jack in the box actually rotates, but I would suggest caution with it. It’s pretty fragile and could break quite easily – but that in no way detracts from how cool it is! You can actually position her holding it to wind it up, though this will NOT be a good option for long-term display.  

I assume all of these will have some kind of role to play in the game – the jack in the box is probably some kind of bomb, or maybe a collectible like the Riddler’s question marks in the other games. I'll let you know when I've finished the game (yes, I know I'm months behind...)! 

PAINT
Paint on Harley is great on her face, while the rest of her is adequate but not amazing. I suspect some apps got cut at production stage, as some strange decisions have been made -- shading on the hair and sleeves, but no drybrushing on the skirt, for instance. Some of the issues can be attributed to the soft sculpt, but on the whole lines aren’t quite as tight as they could be. From a distance you won’t mind too much though. Just take a good look before you pick one off the shelf.    

OVERALL
Harley isn’t perfectly executed, but I think she’s pretty good. She’s no NECA Predator, but she’s a few cuts above plenty of Marvel Legends. I picked her up for $39.95AUD – not my ideal price, but considering I recently saw Marvel Legends selling for the outrageous price of $49.95, I think she represents pretty good value on the whole. She’s got a decent unique sculpt and enough accessories to make her stand out from the pack. So overall, not essential but a good gift for the Harley Quinn fan in your life.       






Monday, 19 October 2015

Funko Mystery Minis: Fallout – Vault Dweller

We’re just a few weeks away from Fallout 4 dropping, and I am exciiiiiiiiiiteeeeeed!  So naturally I’m picking up some of the attendant merchandise. Funko has already released a range of Funko POPs, which were a bit of a mixed bag. Much cooler is their new range of Mystery Minis, whose only real downside is BLIND-BOXING!!!

Today we take a look at the Vault Dweller, who is essentially serving in the role of the player character for the purposes of this set. He’s a pretty generic white dude, with brown hair. For some reason he’s got a sulky expression on his face; I’m not sure if that’s because he’s now out of the comfort of the Vault, or whether he’s just generally a sooky la-la.  


However, all the correct details are present; he’s got a Pip-Boy on his left arm, and in his right hand he clutches a gun which looks to be a 10mm pistol, which you can generally acquire quite early in the game. This guy must be straight out of the Vault (101)! He’d better get some better armour and weapons, or he’ll soon be dead.     

Paint is serviceable – my only real complaint is the obvious brown smear on his forehead – but the Wasteland is pretty dirty, so you can kind of palm it off as being “battle damage”, if you feel the need to explain it away.


Gamestop exclusive version
Regular version
Now, to my main point of contention – the blind-boxing. Though these figures are packed at a 1:12 ratio – and thereby ensuring that buying one case should ensure a complete set – there’s actually a little bit more to it than that. Y’see, there’s a Gamestop exclusive set too. It’s got most of the same figures, but it’s replaced a few with some Gamestop exclusive ones – including a female Vault Dweller. Certain EB Games stores seem to be stocking the Gamestop exclusive figures, but not all – check the box carefully before you buy, to make sure you’re getting one from the set you want. As with most blind-boxed things, I’m kind of irritated that there’s no way (that I’m aware of) to distinguish which character you’re getting. EB Games is selling them cheaper than most other places ($12) but that’s still too expensive for something blind boxed in my book. Cool as they are, release these as normal figures (maybe in a blister pack or something) and we’d be on to a much better thing.  
This guy isn't the best figure in the series, but he's necessary if you're looking to stage some kind of battle scene with any of the "enemy" figures. And if these sell well, we may get a Series 2 with some more varied Vault Dwellers -- that would be fun!


  

Sunday, 18 October 2015

POP! Heroes -- The Phantom

Company: Heroes
Series: POP! Heroes
Year: 2015

Though he hasn’t enjoyed the same popularity as many of his contemporaries in recent years, The Phantom is one of the very first superheroes, first being published as a newspaper strip in 1936. He still enjoys considerable popularity in Australia and much of Europe. Though his star has waned in his native USA somewhat, he’s still a daily presence in many newspapers over there.  

The Phantom has many of the qualities you need to have a successful superhero – exotic scenery, high adventure and interesting backstory. But attempts at updates and modernisation have not tended to fare as well for The Phantom as they have for say, Batman or Superman. There are probably a few elements contributing here; some might find the portrayal of the African and other foreign scenery and characters a little on the “questionable” side. He also doesn’t have an iconic rogue’s gallery; though the Singh Brotherhood shows up a lot, individual villains tend to come and go, nameless thugs, cronies and interchangeable crime bosses. He lacks a Lex Luthor or Joker-style character

to serve as a main antagonist.

But I think the main issue is that costume…well, it was well ahead of its time, but now it just looks a little on the weird side, like some kind of fetish gear. Attempts to modernise it have ranged from the pretty cool to the not great. There’s probably a way to do it, but then you still have the purple colour issue – it’s just not camouflage-friendly or intimidating, no matter which way you look at it. Nonetheless, The Phantom remains one of my favourite comic characters, so I was over the moon when this POP got announced. Now that he’s finally here, how does he fare?  

Pretty darn good! I’ve been disappointed by a couple of POPs I was really looking forward to recently – most notably White Lantern Wonder Woman – so it was great that this one turned out well. There are a few nitpicks I have; as might be expected, there’s a couple of minor paint errors, and the pieces could be assembled a little more tightly, but he is very-well executed. All the necessary details (like his distinctive rings) are present and accounted for, but there’s not so much detail that it overwhelms the simplistic POP aesthetic.   


There are two variants available – red costume and dark blue costume. Why, you ask? Well, although in Australia and the USA we best know him for having a purple costume, other publishers around the world took a bit more license. In France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Brazil, he’s better known for having a red costume, while in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland he’s known for having a dark blue one. So though these colourways may look odd to us, the purple one looks just as odd to many other readers worldwide. Given that The Phantom is not the draw he used to be, I suspect this will be the last time he gets a POP, but if they were going to do one more they should make a grey one, as this was his originally planned colour in the comics. Who knows – maybe we’ll see it as a convention exclusive next year! 

In the meantime, this is an essential purchase for Phantom fans.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

POP! Heroes – Black Flash

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Heroes
Year: 2012

Confession time: Black Flash isn’t a character I’m terribly familiar with. Though I love The Flash as a character, I’m really only familiar with him as a result of his adventures with the Justice League, rather than his own titles. As a result, a lot of his rogue's gallery remains borderline unknown to me.    

But from what I can see online, Black Flash is still pretty mysterious, even though he’s been around since 1998. Given his rictus grin and pallid skin, you could be forgiven for thinking for he was one of the Black Lanterns, but he’s actually some kind of harbinger of death, seemingly serving a similar function to the Grim Reaper for DC's speed-powered characters. Seeing that he’s partially a Grant Morrison creation, there’s probably some kind of obscure occult/magick/mysticism reference going on, but that’s outside of my expertise. I don't even know if it would be right to call him a villain, to be honest; the Reaper comes for us all eventually.    

Given his relatively recent creation, it’s a little bit surprising that Funko produced him so early on in their run of DC characters – this guy was released back in 2012! But The Flash’s star is rightfully ascendant thanks to his appearances on Arrow and the release of his own TV show last year. Perhaps even more importantly, this was an easy way to get reuse out of the unique pieces of Flash’s mould, back when POPs were all virtually identical.   

Paint on mine is pretty solid. The edges of the lightning bolt on his chest are a little faint, but that’s the consequence of printing red on black. I saw one particularly bad example of a mouth though – so pick carefully. His red wings feel a little soft and sticky; the original Flash POP’s wings weren’t super solid, but these feel a lot flimsier. Maybe it’ll “dry up” a little after a few days out of the box.

Black Flash is a great purchase for any Flash fan. He’s not the most essential member of the Flash family to track down, but given that like Reverse-Flash, he was incredibly rare for a long time and is now readily available again, it's a good time to pick him up. You'd think after buying the same mould three times now I'd be sick of it, wouldn't you? Well, there's still at least one more Flash to be reviewed here...keep your eye out!


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

POP! Marvel: Frost Giant Loki (glow in the dark variant)

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Marvel
Year: 2014

I have always had mixed feelings about Marvel’s take on Norse mythology. Though I don’t mind the Ancient Aliens take that the Cinematic Universe has offered, and the “Is Thor legit or crazy?” take from The Ultimates, the mainstream universe version has never really grabbed me. So if you had told me a few years ago that I would be buying anything to do with Marvel’s Loki, I would have laughed in your face.

Yet here I am. One of the best things about 2012’s The Avengers was Tom Hiddleston’s take on Loki. It retained a lot of the character’s visual trappings, but upgraded for more modern sensibilities and made them much cooler, at least to my eye. So three years on I’ve finally picked up a Funko POP of him – albeit one that seems to be based on a moment that I don’t think ever actually happened in the movie. Why, you ask? Well, he glows in the dark. The regular Loki is still a pretty cool POP, but I needed something to bump it up to the next level before I was willing to take the plunge – long-term readers of the site will recall that I am a glow in the dark tragic

Paint is a little tricky to judge – most of the paint on his body is fine, though there’s some fuzziness here and there; nothing too major. The face and helmet are a different story; he’s got a bit of paint missing on the top of his helmet and he’s got some missing on the area of the helmet covering his cheekbones. It’s not terribly noticeable in the photos, and I didn’t notice it in the box – but now I’ve seen it, it bugs me a lot. I may end up repainting the whole helmet and doing a pseudo-custom.
There are now a whole bunch of different Lokis from Thor: The Dark World – there’s the regular version, the B&W version, the Frost Giant version and the one reviewed today. All use the same sculpt; there’s an unhelmeted Loki from the first Thor movie, which I believe had a few variants too. This particular variant isn’t terribly rare. I’d say I’ve maybe seen 1 or 2 for every 5 regular Frost Giant Lokis, though this is far from an exact figure. The glow is – as you might expect – fun but not amazing. It looks like it needs an awful lot of light to get a good glow going. It’s better than Ant-Man was, but it’s no Gillman. But it looks virtually identical to the regular Frost Giant version, so why not just get this one instead?

This was a good POP for me to get personally, as I’m not so invested in Loki as a character and didn’t really need a “standard” version of him. He’s a fun, but non-essential variant; just make sure you check the paint more carefully than I did -- and don't pay some crazy aftermarket price for him either.    

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Funko Mystery Minis: Cthulhu (Horror Classics Series 2)

Company: Funko
Series: Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 2
Year: 2015

I stumbled across Funko’s initial series of Horror Classics Mystery Minis sometime last year in a hobby store in Sydney, but they didn’t grab me for a few reasons. Firstly, they were blind-boxed, which is fine (if not ideal) when something costs $2-5, but these were about $15 each. Secondly –and I may court some controversy here – as much as I liked the style, I don’t really know that the world needs another Freddy, Jason or Michael Myers collectible.

But when series 2 got announced earlier this year, I was intrigued. While it was covering a lot of the classics like Gillman and Frankenstein’s Monster (yes, I know we have plenty of collectibles for these two as well) it moved into less-merched territory too; An American Werewolf in London, Hellraiser, The Fly and the one and only ALFRED HITCHCOCK – YEAAAAAAH!

So when I was in Melbourne last weekend, I spotted these in Minotaur and though I’d take a plunge. The box felt heavy; I suspected it might be the Werewolf, titular star of An American Werewolf in London. That would have been pretty awesome, but I think it actually went one better – this box contained the literary horror icon Cthulhu!

I’ve talked elsewhere about Cthulhu’s backstory before, so I won’t repeat myself here. What we’re looking for here is a point of differentiation – if you have the POPs, do you need this guy? Well, he’s not a miniaturised version of the POP, for one thing – he’s been rendered in a totally different style, with the most obvious difference being the dragon-like tail. I’m not particularly familiar with Mystery Minis, but I do know that most of the lines Funko has released share a very similar cutesy aesthetic to one another. I quite like it myself – it’s gives them a maquette-like appearance, as though they were preliminary designs for a kid’s cartoon or something. This is a nice bit of consistency across collections, but of course your own opinion of this particular style will vary.     
Paint is not perfect, but it’s of a slightly better standard than his POP counterpart. Green is obviously the predominant colour, but he’s also been speckled with brown dots. It’s a simple touch, but one that prevents him from looking like a boring block of single colour. As before though, his mouth tentacles are the weak point; they’re a slightly lighter shade of green and I think they would have been better to stick with the same colour as the main body.

Cthulhu is packed in a 1/24 ratio – there’s only 12 boxes in a case, so theoretically you’d find him once in every two cases. There’s also a glow version, which is 1/36. This is a little annoying given the character’s popularity – after-market buyers are likely to pay through the nose for him. But spare a thought for Pinhead fans – he’s packed at a staggeringly low 1/72 ratio!



Overall, as with the POP versions, Cthulhu is ideal for anyone who needs to add some cosmic terror to their display shelf – even if H.P. Lovecraft would have hated the cutesiness of it himself. As for Funko Mystery Minis, I could see myself picking up another one or two. I have my eye on that Gillman and that Werewolf!
 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Lego Minifigures Series 14: Monsters (Part 4)

Lego Minifigures Series 14: Monsters (Part 4)

Here we are with the final instalment of this series – I actually completed my set a number of weeks ago, but time constraints enforced by starting a new job and a couple of weekends away from home have meant I’ve been, well,much slacker in putting this review online than I would have liked to have been. Never mind though – here we are now!

Spider Lady

A nice riff on Elvira and to some degree the Bride of Frankenstein, the Spider Lady also serves as a great partner for the Vampire, who appeared all the way back in Series 2!
At initial glance, she looks fairly simplistic in her design – beehive hairdo, spider-web dress and a red spider accessory. But there are a couple of little details that elevate her above your average Halloween costume. One is a little spiderweb printed on her hairpiece, which (intentionally or not) is a nice little reference to an old urban legend about beehive hairdos. She’s not my favourite figure from the series, but she’s a fun addition to the overall horror theme.


Square Foot

It’s been two years since we saw this mould – it was originally introduced as the Yeti’s head back in Series 11. Not a huge surprise that we saw it reused in this form, but it’s certainly welcome. It’s a really nice touch that he comes with a camera, given the prevalence of alleged Bigfoot/Sasquatch photos out there – his official bio over at Lego.com even makes reference to his keen amateur photographic endeavours.      

Given the iconic status that Bigfoot has in the cryptid world and wider popular culture, it was only a matter of time till we got a Lego take on him. My only real disappointment was that the paint on his teeth is a little bit sloppy. The Yeti had similar issues, so I suppose it’s not that surprising.

Banshee
What do you think of when you think of Ireland? I’d be willing to bet that leprechauns rank fairly highly. But there’s another Irish creature of folklore that’s arguably as famous – the banshee. Rendered in Lego form, she’s pretty endearing, but the banshee actually has a pretty grim history. In traditional Irish folklore, the wailing, screeching or singing of a banshee was typically seen as an omen of death. Of course, Lego didn’t go that route – she’s described as being more of an omen of inconvenience or minor accidents in her official bio.
   
Like the Specter, she uses the smoke waft/spirit piece for her legs. Her top half is dressed in a ragged peasant blouse. Her hair is also cast in translucent plastic, which adds nicely to the overall ghostly effect – however, I think they should have gone all out and simply cast her in entirely translucent plastic. It would have looked really cool, and elevated her from being fun and entertaining to being great.   

Monster Scientist

Mad scientists are a staple of the horror genre, with my personal favourite probably being the guy from Dr Butcher, M.D. aka Zombie Holocaust – a movie which lacks a lot in plot (famously lifting most of it, including actors and footage, from Zombie Flesh Eaters) but makes up for it in enthusiasm and genuinely frightening/disgusting scenes.

For some strange reason Lego have decided to be a little more restrained in their depiction of mad scientists, so they’ve given us the creator of the Fly Monster. The only real indication of this is the fly printed on the Erlenmeyer flask he’s holding, but that’s good enough for me. He’s also spilt a bunch of the purple fluid on himself, so he’s obviously not very careful. I hope that’s thick protective gear he’s wearing.

With his headpiece on, this was initially my least favourite figure from the series. He does have a full face printed underneath there, but he doesn’t look particularly sinister or zany – more like someone’s grandpa. But it has grown on me more than I expected; I suppose Lego will probably reuse the piece for a future Ultra Agents set, where it seems that anything goes.


And thus we wrap Lego Minifigures Series 14: Monsters. As always, it has been a tremendous pleasure – Lego has really been on the up-and-up with these figures. I can’t wait to see what they do for Series 15, which will presumably be launching early 2016. Stick around on the LBC, as we will have more reviews coming up shortly.    

Sunday, 4 October 2015

POP! Peanuts – Snoopy


Year: 2015
Company: Funko
Series: POP! Peanuts

I had a lot of obsessions as a kid, but Snoopy is probably the first that I really remember. I was probably about 5 or 6 when Weet-Bix had a promotion that gave away Snoopy trading cards inside their boxes. I had a bunch, and somehow as a result of a connected promotion ended up with a plush Snoopy shortly afterwards -- maybe there was some kind of mail-in promo? From then on, I was hooked, reading the comics whenever I could. The TV specials I could take or leave; they were their own universe, a little too far removed from what I wanted out of an animated Snoopy. 

I also accumulated no small pile of Snoopy merchandise, largely through the now-defunct novelty chain store Granny May’s, as well as the generosity of a family friend who visited Knott’s Berry Farm in the early 1990s. But like most of my childhood obsessions, the interest eventually drifted away as I got older. Charles Schulz’s passing in 2000 was a sad day for me. It may sound silly or even petty, but I think his death almost soured me on returning to the series later in life. Post-Schulz, there would be no new Snoopy comics – not that I was willing to recognise as authentic, anyway.   

I read Peanuts quite differently as an adult. It’s still funny and entertaining, but in a different way. Now I can recognise the sadness that lurks behind a lot of the humour – absent parents, unrequited love, bullying and depression, just to name a few. All of us have experienced at least one of those things; perhaps not as children, but certainly by the time we reach adulthood. In hindsight, Snoopy and Woodstock are pretty much the only characters who have a good time!

But I have digressed wildly, as I often do; now to the task at hand. At last count, there were more than 4090732502840 different Snoopy collectables on the market, and that’s only counting the ones still in production. So what distinguishes Funko's take from all the others that are out there?

Well, for one, this series has more than just Snoopy and Woodstock. Though it was probably out there, merchandise that featured other characters besides these too was virtually non-existent when I was a child. It’s improved a bit in recent years, but it’s still a rarity to see other members of the Peanuts gang. Charlie Brown suits the format, given that he has virtually always been known for having an enormous and round head; the others have translated to varying degrees of quality, with Lucy looking the worst. One can only imagine her violently reacting to the designer and belting him with her fist for doing such a “blockheaded” job.
  
Snoopy and Woodstock were always going to look a little different to their comic counterparts, rendered in Funko style or not. Though Snoopy has a distinct profile, he spends a lot of time drawn in something thatwould be ¾ profile if it was real life; however, it just doesn’t physically translate from 2D to 3D. This figure is a good compromise; Funko's stylised nature turns him into something akin to how he looked in the 1960s, when he hadn't quite developed into his best-known form, but is still quite recognisable.

He's smaller than a regular POP -- it's scale-appropriate, but irritating considering that he was released around the same time as POPs hit $18AUD. But presumably because of this reduced size, we get Woodstock as a miniature pack-in!

Woodstock’s hair is similarly difficult to translate into 3D; it’s rendered as a bit of a fuzzy mess in cartoon form, so most of the attempts that I’ve seen are…not great. This is something you can't really help; what looks good on paper doesn't always look good in physical form, which is why comic characters tend to get a bit of an overhaul when they move into live action.

Woodstock’s feet are a little warped; he just doesn’t quite stand up properly. After discovering this I had a look at some other examples in the same store a few days later; the ones I looked at seemed to have the same issue. A bit of blu-tack or something is probably advisable if you’re planning to keep him on display. But on the upside, his head moves! Yes, contrary to my suspicions that he would be totally unarticulated, you actually can make him look around in a few different directions. It’s not a lot, but it’s a nice little touch.  

The Peanuts world has quite a rich supporting cast, and there are almost infinite variations of Snoopy that could be created in POP form. As of writing I’ve already seen Olaf, Snoopy’s rotund brother, as a Target exclusive in America – here’s hoping there’s more on the way. Snoopy and Woodstock are not perfect, but for a former Peanuts tragic like myself, they're worth owning.