Saturday, 21 November 2015

POP! Heroes – Swamp Thing (glow-in-the-dark variant)

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Heroes

Year: 2015

It has not been a good few weeks over here at the LBC. For the last few weekends I’ve been laid low with various illnesses and maladies, so updates have been pretty thin on the ground. So I’m sitting at home, struggling to keep to it together as snot emerges from my nose at a frightening speed. What connection does this have to Swamp Thing? Well, he’s quite green and is presumably always dripping with ichorous fluids, so yeah, let’s go with that. 

I always liked comics as a kid, but Swamp Thing is the one that really pulled me into my current level of interest. Y’see, back in the late 1990s, DC republished a bunch of Alan Moore’s run on the title as black and white single issues. Flash forward to 2006 and Gosford Book Exchange had a bunch of them in stock – a relic of the long-closed Phantom Zone store that had once been next door. This was right around the time the film of V for Vendetta had been released, so I held Alan Moore’s name in quite a bit of esteem. They were going cheap, so I picked them up and promptly became a huge fan, rekindling an enjoyment of comics that actually became quite unhealthy for a while. 

But I emerged better for the experience, and here we are today. Pretty much ever since I started collecting POPs, I’ve wanted Funko to do a Swamp Thing. But I wasn’t confident that would happen – his complex design was quite far removed from the simplistic style Funko was working with at the time, and the character’s peak popularity was a couple of decades ago.    

The box art is great. The Funko art style is a good render of the character’s distinct look, and they’ve incorporated the old-style logo, rather than the New 52 version. The back of the packaging is a little curious; as Swamp Thing has been released solo (I’ll get to that in a moment) rather than in conjunction with other characters, the box just depicts the first few DC POPs that were released, including the now-rare Batgirl. Fingers crossed for a re-release of her, as I didn’t pick her up in back in the day and she’s now exceedingly expensive…

The sculpt is some great work from Funko. Lots of little details have been worked into the sculpt, like the vines, the I think the nose should have been a little bit more prominent on the face, like this, but it’s otherwise quite well executed. He's cast in semi-translucent plastic, which is a good idea, but does mean that the head and body are slightly different shades of green. He’s been given a black wash to bring out all of the little details, which is a good touch. But on the subject of paint…     

Paint…sigh…well, I don’t need to tell any regular readers or fellow POP collectors that Funko tend to do a below-average job when it comes to paint. Swamp Thing does not buck that trend, unfortunately. The front of him is okay; the brown vines could be a little neater and red eyes, but they’re within the acceptable range. But turn him around and you’ll see he just hasn’t been painted – all the details are just blank!

Now, I should clarify that this may be because I picked up the glow in the dark version specifically. There are three versions of this POP available – a regular, a glow one and a flocked one. All of them look pretty good. The regular and glow versions look virtually interchangeable; you’ll notice on the box that there isn’t the usual “Glow in the Dark” sticker, so how these will be told apart in a shop setting (as opposed to ordering online) is a bit of a mystery to me. The flocked version also looks fantastic, and I was tempted to order that too – but we’ll see.         

Overall, Swamp Thing is a good addition to the collection -- I never really thought we'd see him released, particularly not in multiple forms. While I don’t think they quite knocked it out of the park, I do think that Funko have delivered a solid product in sculpt, if not paint. Highly recommended for Swamp Thing fans, regardless of era. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Funko Mystery Minis: Fallout – Deathclaw

Good heavens, I got a chill when I opened the packet and found this guy inside the box. No matter no high a level you get in Fallout, Deathclaws are always a terrifying sight. Towering over the player character like some kind of bastard hybrid of lizard, werewolf and devil, they can kill you within a swipe or two, wiping out hours of gameplay if you’ve forgotten to save…so finding one in such close proximity to yourself is a daunting prospect!

While I liked a couple of the Fallout POPs, I found the Deathclaw to be a bit underwhelming; the paint scheme was good, but I didn’t love the head sculpt. Mystery Minis are sculpted in a very different style to POPs, and in this case, it’s substantially better. He looks appropriately menacing, retaining key features like his back spikes, titular claws and long tail – yet he’s cutesy enough that he wouldn’t look too out of place in a kid’s toy collection, which is the balance I tend to think these figures should strike.    

Fallout Mystery Minis are packed at a 1:12 ratio. In theory, this means that buying one case should ensure a complete set – but 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 this Deathclaw. 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 each) 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. 

Nonetheless, this figure is a really good rendition of the Deathclaw – I actually think he should have been included in the regular series, rather than being a Gamestop exclusive. Just make sure you get a Vault Dweller to partner with him! 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Transformers: Generations Combiner Wars Optimus Prime (Voyager Class)

Series: Generations
Company: Hasbro
Year: 2015


I am a Decepticons man through and through, but Optimus Prime nonetheless remains pretty much the best Transformer out there. But as a kid, I didn’t actually own very many Transformers and Optimus Prime was certainly not one of them. Though my memory is probably not totally accurate, I think he was a pretty expensive toy even then – probably around $100ish by today’s standards. I only knew one kid who had him, and believe you me I was jealous.

Though I came close to buying one back in Transformers: Armada days, I never pulled the trigger on it. So today I present to you the first Optimus Prime I’ve ever owned. Was he worth the years of waiting (since 1991)? Read on to find out!


The thing I like about the Generations theme is that they pretty much always strike a good balance between kid’s toy and adult collectable. They’re reasonably well integrated with one another, so even though certain series within the theme (like Fall of Cybertron) are designed to be faithful to their source material, they don’t look radically out of place when viewed as part of a larger whole. I guess it’s like a “Greatest Hits” line. More dedicated collectors than I may disagree, of course, but other than the Masterpiece range, I think it’s the best Transformers line on the market.     

Optimus here actually has three modes – robot, truck and head/torso of Ultra Prime. And not for the first time, I will complain about the instructions included. Hasbro needs to switch to using either photos or full-colour instructions – some of the instructions are frustratingly unclear – but fortunately Optimus is relatively straightforward to change. Still, though… 

As is typical of all Transformers lines, scale is a joke. In real life a truck is noticeably smaller than an F-16 fighter jet, yet Optimus towers over Starscream, for example. Though I think he looks kind of right next to Devastator in bot mode; I base my idea of scale on how big characters “should” be in my own personal canon. Optimus should be big, as he’s extremely powerful and the leader of the Autobots. But it’s okay for other bots to be bigger – even Megatron. It’s a pretty loose standard but it’s helped me avoid a ton of frustration over the years.    

The truck mode is perfectly serviceable. The edges are a little too rounded for my preference – I like my trucks blocky, rather than streamlined – but it’s still satisfyingly chunky. Kids will have a lot of fun driving him around, but I’ll probably keep him in bot mode most of the time.  
I haven’t even bothered switching him to Ultra Prime. Though I’ve bought a couple of Aerialbot Combiner Wars figures, I’m interested in Optimus more as a solo character – and some of the bots who are his “official” companions are not Transformers I’m interested in buying at all. Still, the figure does look cool – so I may do it one day.   

The real highlight for me is the bot mode. It’s not spectacularly different from most of the other 493287409325790732095732509 different Optimus Primes that have been released since 1984, but it’s a good distillation of the basic elements. Blue head, red body, blue legs, with grey/silver accents in the appropriate spots. Nothing flashy, nothing outrageously out of the ordinary – it’s exactly what I want for my first Optimus Prime. He has all the main points of articulation that you’d want, but some are a little less mobile than you might like. A lot of this has to do with allowances needing to be made for not only his truck mode but for his Ultra Prime mode. Nonetheless, the designers have done a good job of making him as poseable as possible, while still minimising kibble.     

My main nit was that I think the head is just a little too small, even allowing for the necessity of transformation. No doubt a 3rd-party company will release an upgrade kit, if they haven’t already.  But the main point of contention is likely to be the lack of trailer. I don’t terribly miss it myself, but it would have been radical to see how the designers fit it all into the Combiner Wars aesthetic. Still, the money spent on additional tooling would have driven the price of the figure up to a (personally) unacceptable level. And I’d rather have none than one of those cardboard ones that have been included in other Optimus releases.


Optimus comes with two guns, which can also combine to form one larger one (presumably for Ultra Prime mode). I would have liked them to look a little more like his G1 pistol, but as guns taken on their own merits, they’re pretty darn cool. They don’t sit terribly deep in his hands, due to the unusual shape of their handles, but they can be stored on his “legs” when he’s folded into truck mode.   
He’s also packaged with a trading card, which is likely to vanish into the ether within the next couple of weeks. Cool art, but nothing to get too excited about.   


Most of the Transformers: Generations figures sell out like nobody’s business in Sydney – and once a wave has gone, that’s generally it. But a couple of the Voyager Class figures, including Optimus here, seem to have gone through a couple of releases and actually been restocked. Incredible! So though he’s been out for a few months, you may still be able to track one down. I believe there’s also some kind of white repaint on the way – I assume it matches something going on in the IDW comics, but I don’t know.  


So, does he live up to more than 20 years of expectations? Well, no. I don’t think any toy can really live up to those kind of expectations…well, maybe the Masterpiece version. But at $50AUD, this is a great, cost effective way to get hold of a nicely designed, well-articulated Optimus Prime. It may not be the classic that the 1980s toys where, but it can certainly move a lot better!

As a toy, he’s no Devastator – but he is an essential addition to any Transformers collection.  Recommended for those who need a good, all-round G1-inspired Optimus.