Thursday, 21 September 2017

Happy 5th Birthday to the Lupine Book Club

5 years ago today, I published the very first article on the Lupine Book Club. While the blog didn't become particularly active until several months later, that first article is still where it all began.

Much has changed since 2012; I could talk for pages, but the short version is that I've gotten married, bought an apartment, hit the big 3-0, and become a cat owner.

I don't plan to do anything particularly special to mark the occasion -- maybe have a beer or two. But I want to thank all of you who've visited the Lupine Book Club over the years.

Here's to many more years ahead!   

Friday, 8 September 2017

Grossery Gang: Trash Head

Trash Head aka Clanky
Trash Head used to be your average filthy trash can until he was splashed by toxic juice and mutated into a pile of trash that’s ready to smash!
Trash Head is choc full of slop and is ready to empty himself on his enemy!
He’ll always throw up a challenge to the Clean Team!
Get ready to fight dirty!


Well, I’ve certainly referred to action figures as garbage in the past, but I think this is the first one where I didn’t mean it as a pejorative.

Last year, I took a look at a couple of Grossery Gang miniatures back when Series 1 was first released last year. We’re now up to series 3 – released under the title of “Grossery Gang vs The Clean Team” – and as something of a supplement to the main series of blind-packaged miniatures, Moose have release a number of Grosseries as fully-fledged action figures.

Trash Head here is (unsurprisingly) a trashcan. He’s leaking slime from his lid and his disgusting gaping mouth, while his limbs also appear to be made of the green stuff. In the mix is all sorts of other stuff, including cockroaches, fish bones and even an apple core. It’s totally disgusting and it is completely AWESOME! It’s the must-have accessory for every crust punk this year.

The overall aesthetic is quite reminiscent of the 1980s/1990s Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, both in packaging and sculpt. Others have been pretty swift to point out the similarities to the long-defunct Food Fighters, who were originally released by Mattel in 1989. You’ll also find that the price point is reasonably retro, too – this figure retails for $11, which is impressively cheap in this day and age.  

As befits the figure’s pseudo-retro look, articulation is not amazing – but it’s slightly better than you would expect. I was expecting cut arms and legs, similar to a 5POA figure, but they’ve actually included swivel joints on all four limbs, which gives it an adequate range of movement.

Trash Head also comes with two accessories – a large set of fish bones which serves as his weapon in his war against cleanliness, and a Grossery of himself*. I believe the Grossery (or at least the paint scheme) is unique to this particular set, which will make it worth the price of purchase alone for some obsessive fans.

The Grossery Gang action figures are collectively great, and I hope we see more of them in the future. They’re incredible designs, a reasonable price point and they have a fantastic throwback feel overall. Highly recommended, even if you haven't been collecting the line. 

With that said, while these figures have been out in the US and Canada for a few months now, they’ve only just shown up in Sydney. The Grossery Gang brand seems to be going gangbusters overseas, while apparently having a bit of a mixed time here in Australia. Series 2 never really seemed to get much distribution, and Series 1 is also still hanging round in quite a few places too. Hopefully with the arrival of series 3 we’ll see a bit of a resurgence the public’s awareness of the brand.  


*What a narcissist  

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

POP! Television – Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting

Until recently, I’ve only really known Bob Ross as something of a campy cult figure via the many, many parodies and memes of him that have done the rounds. With his easily imitable afro, beard, soft-spoken manner and memorable catchphrases, he was a comedian’s dream. But his endearing onscreen persona seems to have had at least some grounding in reality – he’s developed quite a sincere following over the years, one that seems to be far larger than the irony-driven fandom.   

This second-hand familiarity isn’t so surprising, though; I’m not sure that The Joy of Painting was ever actually on Australian TV. But more than 20 years after his passing, we can now enjoy his work more easily than ever, thanks to his presence on YouTube and Netflix. And of course, Funko have now seen fit to add him to their POP! Television line.  

The sculpt is excellent, capturing him in his signature painting outfit. It’s presumably a younger Bob Ross, as by the early 90s he had fairly evident streaks of grey throughout his beard. He’s also armed with his famous 2-inch brush, and his clear palette, complete with smears of paint, ready to be daubed onto the canvas. It’s a shame he doesn’t come with one, but I’ve seen ones in The Reject Shop which would be just about in scale. I may have to invest in a few, and create a display for him.

But on the topic of paint...unfortunately, Funko seem to have had numerous “happy little accidents” in the process of applying apps at the factory. One of his eyes isn’t properly painted, his beard isn’t covered properly and his outfit is a little sloppy. Another one for the ever-growing to-fix pile. 

Paint imperfections aside, I have no hesitation recommending this figure. Bob Ross doesn’t really fit in with most over POPs you’ll own, but is nonetheless a fantastic addition to the shelf or desk. Figures like this really remind me why I started collecting POPs in the first place; the figure captures the subject exceptionally well, as opposed to just being some garbage ground out to meet a licensing commitment. It’s an eccentric addition to the collection, just as Bob Ross himself was – and continues to be – to our TV screens.  


Saturday, 2 September 2017

POP! Movies – Carrie

I seem to have been on a bit of a Stephen King kick of late. I reviewed the new version of IT just a few days ago, today we look at the POP version of Carrie and even as I type I’m watching the first episode of Stephen King’s The Mist.

Based on Stephen King’s first (published) novel, Carrie is the incredibly depressing story of a teenage girl who develops psychic powers. It was adapted into a film pretty quickly after release, with Sissy Spacek cast in the titular role. 

Both the book and movie of Carrie certainly contain their fair share of supernatural scares, and there are a lot of themes you can draw from it – high school as the real horror, bullying, victim blaming and sexual awakening just some of them. It’s not hard to see why the popularity of both continues after so many decades, even if they show signs of age*.  

But for me, most of the terror lies in Carrie’s religiously abusive mother. We don’t really find out which brand of Christianity Carrie’s mum adheres to, but it looks to be some kind of strange variant of Catholicism (we see Carrie praying in front of a statue of Saint Sebastian at one point). But in terms of practical application, her mother’s rantings and ravings come across as some kind of fundamentalist Protestant strain – ill-informed and deeply suspicious about the world. 

I’ve never experienced anything as extreme as Carrie, but as a kid I attended a Christian school that fell under the sway of a Charismatic movement known as the Toronto Blessing – lots of speaking in tongues, people collapsing around the place, that kind of thing. From my perspective, the principal used it as a way to consolidate his particular ugly brand of authoritarian leadership, by trying to fill student and teacher minds with bullshit. Maybe some of them even believed it at the time, I don’t know. It’s affected me more as an adult than I think it did as a kid, causing me considerable anxiety and leaving me highly skeptical of the whole phenomenon. 


Now to be fair, I haven’t been to the church in Toronto that originated the whole thing, so I can’t speak for their experiences. But based on my own, I’m inclined to think the whole thing was a hoax, or some kind of hysteria. I certainly don’t think it was a good thing – it’s been a blight on the modern church since. So yeah, the scenes with Carrie’s mum pushed some buttons for me.

But I have digressed heavily. The POP itself is quite simple, showing Carrie at her prom, post-pig’s blood. She’s wearing a slip-style dress, and still has her corsage on. My only real complaint is that could actually be way, way bloodier to better match the art on the back of the box, and the film itself.
If you’re a fan of the movie, this is a no-brainer. It’s one of Stephen King’s better adaptations, and though it’s showing its age, hugely influential on horror films ever since followed. Not Funko’s finest work, but definitely a solid piece for the shelf.


*I’m yet to see the remake from a few years ago

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Lupine Film Club: IT (2017)

WARNING: Contains spoilers for the novel of IT, the 1990 adaptation of IT and the 2017 film of IT

Book to movie adaptations are always going to upset a certain contingent of fans. It’s not hard to understand why, either; the adaptation is often seen by far more people than read the original work, and if it’s a bad one…well…  

Few writers probably understand this as well as Stephen King, who must surely one of the most heavily adapted authors in the world. The man already has his name on literally dozens of terrible adaptations of his novels and it doesn’t seem to have hurt his book sales any – so what’s the issue here?  

Well, when you’re talking about IT, it’s not so simple. The book was actually already adapted for the small screen back in the 90s, as a TV miniseries which became an instant classic. For a certain generation of horror viewers, it’s one of the most terrifying pieces of TV ever made. Sure, it hasn’t aged perfectly, but it’s a pretty faithful adaptation and it’s readily available for home viewing. A remake seemed like a dubious idea at best, and an abomination at worst. Tim Curry’s take on Pennywise has long since entered the horror pantheon, and despite not having aged terribly well in the fashion department, the miniseries still conjures up some impressive scares today.   

But like IT herself, Hollywood seems to operate in 27-year cycles*. And so, the creature has again risen from beneath the sewers to terrify a whole new generation. Things have changed a little since we were last in the town of Derry, though. The children’s setting has been moved from the 1950s to the late 1980s, and the characters have also had certain background elements tweaked.

I am not a purist when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations myself, so for the most part, these changes are fine. The only one I didn’t really like was Beverley’s reduction to a “damsel in distress” role towards the end of the film. Aside from that, the plot follows the main beats of the novel, so there’s no real surprises if you’ve already read it. If you haven't, I won't give too much away; it's a kid's adventure story meets Stephen King's signature brand of disturbing small-town horror.

Proceedings feel a little cramped and rushed, but part of this is simply because there quite a few main characters. I may draw ire for saying so, but I suspect that at least one of the Loser’s Club could have either been cut or amalgamated into another character; a movie is not a book, and you don’t have the same space to work with in terms of giving characters equal time. With that said, all of the kids put in a great performance – there isn’t a weak one among them, and it’s almost a bit of a shame that we probably won’t see them in these roles again.

But the real question on everyone’s lips is really centred around another character, though – Pennywise the Clown, the titular IT. Revealed to be something of a Lovecraftian entity in the original novel, IT's origins largely go unexplored in this film, beyond the obvious conclusion that he’s some kind of supernatural monster -- but more importantly, how does this new version compare to Tim Curry's take on him? 

Well, Bill Skarsgård does a good job, if not quite such a distinctive one as Tim Curry. My main objection is that most of the time it really seems like a stuntman or CGI double is there in his place; though Pennywise gets a reasonable amount of screentime, I didn’t really feel like Bill Skarsgård got enough time for himself to shine in the role. Part of the character’s appeal is that he’s menacing without necessarily doing too much; the implied threat is often more effective than the xenomorph-esque jaw dislocation. Still, his design will no doubt give kids nightmares for years to come – and that’s as good a measure of success for a horror villain as any, really.

IT has had something of a troubled production. Actors and directors have come and gone, and it becomes most evident in the updated 1980s setting -- or rather, the lack thereof. With Finn Wolfhard in a starring role, and the 1980s setting, comparisons with last year’s Stranger Things are inevitable -- you can't help but think they're aiming for some crossover appeal. Indeed, you sometimes find yourself wishing for the deft touch of the Duffer Brothers in handling the look and feel of the era. The period setting feels more like window dressing; aside from a few bizarre outfits and the lack of computers or mobile phones, it could have been filmed last week. The main concession we get are some vague allusions to The Goonies and Stand By Me. Neither is surprising, given that The Goonies came out around the same time the novel was released, and Stephen King wrote the short story Stand By Me was based on.

Part of the reason IT – both the novel and the TV adaptation – worked so well is because it tapped into the zeitgeist of the time. Clowns are always objectionable and terrifying, so King picked a good villain – but there is much more to its success than that. Y’see, back in the 1980s there was a big revival of interest in 1950s culture; early rock and roll, James Dean, all that stuff. Baby Boomers were getting nostalgic for their childhood, and the pop culture of the time reflected that in a lot of ways**. IT pushed all these buttons, and also tapped into a more disconcerting truth about the era, too – it’s fun to reminisce, but you’re getting older…and you might actually have been a better person back when you were a kid. Your best days are quite possibly already behind you.   

This adaptation doesn’t really have, or even try to create that kind of resonance, and instead trades subtext for (admittedly effective) jump scares. The end result is that it’s creepy and unsettling, but it doesn’t really establish a distinct identity for itself. IT is ultimately a very competent film, and certainly worth a watch on the big screen – but it does feel a little disposable. Here’s hoping that Chapter 2 rectifies some of those issues, and showcases the true potential of the story. 

IT opens in Australian cinemas on September 7th. You can view the trailer here.

*Not entirely, but just suspend your disbelief for the purpose of the line here.

**This is also part of the reason Back to the Future was such a hit, and why Chris Isaak had his breakthrough in the era.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

POP! Rocks -- James Hetfield (Metallica)

Since the release of their eponymous “Black” album, Metallica have consistently been one of the most controversial bands in heavy metal. Many (this writer included) cut ties a long time ago, content to remember their past glories fondly but abandoning any hope that they’d rise above the level of average dad rock again. They kind of did on Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, but calling it a triumphant return would be...generous. Still, they have nothing to prove critically, based on their first few albums. And based on the albums that came afterwards, they have even less to prove commercially.

But though I think they’re a bit of a spent force musically, I was quite pleased to see Funko were making Metallica part of the POP! Rocks line. I knew James Hetfield would be a must-buy for me, and so now he stands on the shelf alongside Jimi Hendrix and Lemmy.   

This POP shows Hetfield circa the release of the Black Album, though it could kind of be him anywhere between 1988 and 1992; the main thing marking it out as specifically from this period is his wolf’s head necklace. But if you can pinpoint it to a certain date or concert, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.

It captures an interesting time in the band’s history; Metallica were transitioning to a much more commercial sound via the release of the Black album, but they were still unapologetically a metal band, and looked the part. Hetfield has a bit of a pseudo-Lemmy look going on with his facial hair, in tandem with a not-quite mullet. It’s not his best look, but he’s certainly had worse over the years. Appropriately, he’s got his distinctive white Gibson Explorer, though it’s sans “EET FUK” sticker and instead has a Metallica logo printed across the lower edge. The guitar itself is surprisingly detailed, with tone and volume knobs, and even a pickup selector switch! Funko have also included a guitar strap, which is a nice touch. This is the first time I’ve seen them do it, but I assume future guitar-slinging POPs will also feature them.

Paint is sloppy, which is not particularly surprising. It’s mostly forgivable, except for the face, which is noticeably patchy on the moustache. This is one I might – MIGHT – actually get around to repainting myself, because I really wasn’t thrilled with the work done at the factory.    


It’s definitely not Funko’s best POP! Rocks piece – but it’s a fun one for Metallica fans. You can also pick up Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo to complete the band, should you feel so inclined. I’m still hoping for Ronnie James Dio further down the line; hopefully the release of Metallica is a sign of them testing the water for future metal releases.   

Friday, 11 August 2017

Lupine Record Club: Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales (2017 CD Reissue)

Year: 1984/2017
Label: BMG/Noise

You can’t talk about any type of metal or hard rock for too long without running across Celtic Frost. Hugely influential across death, doom, black, thrash, and even helping shape Creed(!), Celtic Frost are in a league of their own. There were lots of bands working in a similar vein at the time – most notably Venom and Bathory – but Celtic Frost always stood out above their competitors. There was an intensity and seriousness to their work that belied their youth, and I suspect has helped their work last the distance over the years.  

I first came across their name in 2002, when taking my first steps into the world of extreme metal. But this being a time before YouTube and Spotify, and me not being an avid music pirate*, I didn’t actually hear them until I picked up a copy of Morbid Tales in 2005. Not long afterwards, they’d reform again and release Monotheist; it was intended to be the start of a grand new era for the band, but within a few years things deteriorated again and Celtic Frost were no more, with the key members barely on speaking terms.

Frontman Thomas Gabriel Fischer (aka Tom G. Warrior) has gone on to form Triptykon, while bassist Martin Eric Ain has kept a comparatively low profile. Nonetheless, their legacy still looms large, so I was pretty excited when I heard there was a new reissue of their albums on the way. I think it’s been around a decade since they had any sort of larger scale release, probably to coincide with the then-new Monotheist.

Morbid Tales has been remastered, but not remixed as far as I’m aware. In the past, Tom G. Warrior has been pretty adamant that for better or worse, the original mixes of his albums should be retained, serving as something of a historical document. Plenty of bands of their stature take a pretty revisionist stance when it comes to their own history, so I think there’s something admirable about keeping things as they were, warts and all.

30-odd years later, it still sounds great. It’s definitely raw by comparison to modern production techniques – and even in comparison to some of their contemporaries – but it suited their sound, and it still holds a power that is often lacking in bands that are far more polished. Totally essential for anyone interested in the history of extreme music, and great on its own merits too. But is it worth upgrading if you already own a copy? That’s a more complex question than it might sound – you’ll see why at the end of the review.  


Aside from the remastered audio here are three major changes to the packaging – the first is that that the artwork has been restored to its original look. The more recent reissues had an ersatz artwork on it which was perfectly serviceable, but didn’t have the same crude 80s feel**. For some, this will justify the purchase on its own merits.

The second is one that annoyed me a little – namely, the three Emperor’s Return EP tracks have now been moved to the reissue of To Mega Therion. Every other reissue I’ve run across has had Morbid Tales and Emperor’s Return together, so it seems a little strange to me – but no doubt there are compelling reasons for now doing it this way. It is more “correct” in terms of release chronology. In their place are four rehearsal tracks – Morbid Tales, Messiah (an old Hellhammer track), Procreation of the Wicked and Nocturnal Fears. They’re novel, but (like most bonus tracks) not essential. Still, they were impressively tight on these old tracks; missing them live in Sydney a few years ago is still one of my deepest regrets.

The third is the inclusion of a new booklet; the lyrics are contained of course, but there’s also plenty of cool photos from the era, and some liner notes. But you’ll notice that there are no written contributions from Celtic Frost themselves…and herein lies the complexity that I mentioned earlier.
Though Fischer was heavily involved in the process of creating these reissues, he has now withdrawn support for them due to a dispute with BMG concerning his liner notes. Prior to their release, he also had this to say on Twitter:

 I’m sure both sides have compelling arguments as to why they were right, but being a creative type myself I’m more inclined to side with the artist. So would I have still picked it up had I known this beforehand? Probably not. The older reissues still seem to be readily available for the time being, and I was certainly satisfied with my older copy when I bought it all the way back in 2005 – the extras are nice but don’t necessarily warrant replacing an older edition. But if you’re a fan, you’ll have to make up your own mind.  

*Not to mention that a lot of metal was actually quite hard to get hold of if you wanted to go that route back then.  

**Curiously, it’s been readily available as a t-shirt design for pretty much this whole period; maybe they were able to get the rights back around the time they put out Monotheist 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Lupine Film Club: The Void


Directors: Steven Kostanski
                 Jeremy Gillespie
Year: 2016

I first heard about The Void late last year, when its name began getting thrown round on a few movie sites as a horror movie to keep an eye on. Words like “Fulci-esque” and “1980s” were mentioned, and that immediately piqued my interest. I love horror but I tend to be pretty bad at staying current; I’m usually happy enough to wait a year or two and then check things out on Netflix or DVD. But this looked like a must-watch.

I would say that the initial descriptors have carried through to the final product. The Void isn’t as intentionally period piece-y as Beyond the Gates (also released in 2016) but the spectre of the 1980s still looms large over the proceedings. The most obvious cinematic touchstones are John Carpenter’s The Thing, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, but there are plenty of other references to be found too. H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror and the Silent Hill video game series both deserve nods. So if you like any of these, then it’s a fair bet you’ll find something to enjoy about The Void.


It’s a good pool of influences to draw from. But with that caveat, it would be pretty fair to say that The Void is driven by style over substance. The plot is thin even by the standards of the genre; all you need to know is that some kind of cult is trying to open a gateway to the titular Void, and so a whole bunch of horrifying stuff happens along the way. As for how it actually plays out…well, let’s just say you will have many questions, and virtually none of them will be answered by the final reel. The characters are barely even archetypes. Kenneth Welsh’s Dr Powell is fleshed out a little, but you’ll find yourself longing for the rich characterisation found in something like Zombie Flesh Eaters. I also think there are probably a few too many characters onscreen; even allowing for some of them merely being there to build the body count, it doesn’t aid the viewer in building attachment to any of them. There isn’t anything terribly original for experienced viewers and the experience may well be too abstract for newcomers to horror.   



But don’t let this put you off! After all, most of this is a deliberate tribute to The Void’s grindhouse and pulp origins, and the final product is a lot of fun. There are a lot of horror films which are kind of trash when viewed on their own merits, but contain scenes or a special effect that ultimately redeem the film. The Void still stands above plenty of its forebears in that regard. It’s consistently great to look at, with excellent special effects – if you can stomach the gore – and something weird is always about to happen, so you’re never given the chance to be bored. While I wouldn’t say there are any plot twists per se, there are still definitely numerous gruesome surprises in the way things play out. The mythos definitely leaves room for a sequel, and if they take the IndieGoGo route again, I’d be more than happy to put my cash forward. 



The Void is a good, stylish piece of low-budget filmmaking, even showing signs of greatness at points. It’s held back on a number of points, but it’s nonetheless a welcome change from the standard demonic possession fare that has been filling cinemas over the last few years. Highly recommended, if not quite the instant neo-grindhouse classic that I was hoping for. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

POP! Television – Bert Macklin (Parks & Recreation)

Parks and Recreation was one of my favourite comedies of recent years, and there’s no doubt that a huge contributor to its success was Chris Pratt. He’s now a massive star, but just a few years ago he was podgy Andy Dwyer, a lovable fool bumbling his way through life.

One of the most memorable aspects of Andy’s character was his alter ego – FBI agent Bert Macklin.  He’d show up every so often, essentially acting the way a kid does when they’re playing cops and robbers, but usually actually managing to solve a mystery or right a wrong in the process. My favourite episode he features in was probably the one where he helps solve the mystery of who pied Leslie, but all of his appearances are worth watching.

Side note: The spelling of his name seems to be a big ambiguous; most sources online seem to list it as “Burt” but presumably “Bert” is the correct spelling, given that this is an official piece of merchandise.  

I was originally going to pass on the POPs from the Parks and Recreation line. All of them are quite good, but in a time where I am largely restricting myself to horror POPs, I felt Bert was probably the only one I felt would fit in. It’s kind of funny to imagine Bert Macklin bumbling about amongst supernatural foes like Pinhead and IT, but still managing to save the day in the process.

The POP nails the pose and the overall sculpt, but the paint is kind of sloppy. It’s disappointing that Funko are still letting it slide like this after having a couple of years of relatively good paint work. But nonetheless, Bert Macklin is still great fan if you’re a Parks & Recreation fan.       

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

POP! Movies – Pennywise with boat (Chase Version)

I’m normally pretty ambivalent about book-to-movie adaptations. And I must say, I become particularly ambivalent when it comes to Stephen King adaptations, because the hit-miss ratio is very unfavourably skewed.

But with that said, the upcoming adaptation of IT actually looks quite good. Trailers can be misleading, but I’m quietly confident that this will be a good update of the source material. Entertaining as it was, the 1990 Tim Curry miniseries is definitely showing its age (look no further than the spider scene if you need confirmation) and it’s time for an update. It’ll be good to see a new generation pick up the book too.  

Anyway, Funko have decided to release POPs based on Pennywise the Clown, the titular IT. There are three different sculpts, but four versions in total if you include the Chase. The “with boat” version is the basic one, with the other two sculpts serving as retailer exclusives in the USA. No word on when (if ever) they’ll show up in Australia, but I would assume sometime around the movie comes out.

Though I had my initial reservations, I quite like the design they’ve gone with for Pennywise’s costume. The 1990 miniseries was a good take on a “real” clown, though of course with various distorted details to make it clear he was actually anything but. This version is a little more overtly creepy, with the costume having a sort of Elizabethan look, combined with Drop Dead Fred hair and weirdly angled teeth. And of course, he’s holding Georgie’s little paper boat. Poor Georgie…

The paint leaves a little to be desired, but this seems to be the same across regular and Chase versions. The teeth in particular could be neater, but it’s all within acceptable standards.

When I found out there was going to be a Chase version, I figured it would be a pretty easy pass. It’s a sepia paint scheme, which are often underwhelming in execution. But then I ran across it in person and decided it looked just as good as the regular version, if not better. I wouldn’t go and pay aftermarket prices for him, but at retail price it was much of a muchness.

It remains to be seen whether this new look will become iconic in the same fashion as Tim Curry's take, but with the movie just around the corner we don't have long to wait to find out. In the meantime, this figure is a great take on the creepy clown trope; one that doesn't simply look like a poor man's Insane Clown Posse. 


Monday, 24 July 2017

Madballs – Dust Brain (Kidrobot)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Don’t hit people in the face with Madballs  


Saturday, 22 July 2017

POP! Television – The Master (The Strain)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 8 July 2017

POP! Movies: Chucky (Child’s Play 2)

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 1 July 2017

POP! Rocks – Jimi Hendrix (Monterey Pop Festival)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Monday, 26 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Saturday, 17 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

POP! Marvel: Captain Marvel (Masked)

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

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

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

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

Monday, 12 June 2017

POP! Television – Demogorgon (Stranger Things) Chase Version

Back in February, I had STRANGER WEEK on here to celebrate the release of the Stranger Things Funko POPs, including the Demogorgon. Well, I managed to get hold of the Chase version via a trade last week, so tonight we’re taking a closer look at it.

At the time, I mentioned that the creature design showed influence from a few different sources, including H.P. Lovecraft, Silent Hill and H.R. Giger. I specifically mentioned that it came sans the Freudian sexuality usually associated with any of these influences. Well, you can retract that this time, as this Demogorgon has its face clenched shut…so best to address the elephant in the room. It straight-up looks like a clenched anus.

It's an interesting choice, as you don’t actually see the Demogorgon looking like this too much in the show; it’s primarily depicted with his mouth wide open, with numerous characters falling prey to its fangs over the course of the show. I think that was a wise decision, as it’s much less menacing with the mouth closed, though still disconcerting. I suppose if I'd been in charge of designing the chase versions, maybe I would have suggested a bloody version or something? Or glow. Glow is always a winning choice. But kudos for trying something different.  

As with the original version, the scale is not quite right. Looking at screencaps, the Demogorgon is substantially larger than a human, but nowhere near big enough to warrant a 6” POP. They’ve gone bigger in the past with figures like Cthulhu, but on this occasion I think the reduced scale still works fine. It’s wildly different in style to the other figures in the series – which would ordinarily be a criticism, but makes sense in light of the way the character is depicted on the show.  

Overall, this figure is a good example of a chase. It adds something cool to the collection, but it’s not essential to own in order to consider the collection complete (Eleven’s chase is a bad one for this very reason). Importantly, the regular one is a better overall figure, so people who miss out on the chase aren’t really being deprived of anything. This chase is apparently packed at a 1/6 ratio, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find if you really have to have one, but make sure you don’t pay silly money.


Friday, 9 June 2017

POP! Movies - Nazgûl (The Lord of the Rings)

I like the Lord of the Rings movies, but I don’t really love them. I’ve seen each of them a few times each, and there’s no doubt that they demonstrate a level of quality, attention and care that most blockbusters don’t. But they just never resonated with me in the way that they did for many of my friends*.

I think there’s a few reasons for this. One is that I was already a massive fantasy fan via gaming sources such as Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons and Terry Pratchett (admittedly all highly influenced by Tolkien in one form or another) well before the movies were released, so it didn’t really introduce me to anything I wasn’t already familiar with**.

Of course, plenty of other people who loved them already loved fantasy too. I think for some fans (though not all) seeing the mainstream success of Lord of the Rings was something of a validation of their private interests – which had no doubt been the target of malicious attention in the past by many of those who now sang the praises of the films. But how others feel about my interests has never bothered me all that much, so I guess it didn’t resonate on this front either.  

But I did love the books, and by default that’s meant I have a fondness for certain elements of the movies, and one of them is the Nazgûl. There are nine Ringwraiths in total, but Funko have so far released only two – this subject of today’s review and the Twilight Ringwraith. I hope we get the Witch-King of Angmar eventually, but I doubt we’ll get ever get all nine...though given their similarity in appearance, it might be a little redundant.    

You can read more about their extensive history here, but the tl;dr version is that they were originally nine humans who swore themselves to Sauron’s service, and received magic rings from him in return. But swearing yourself to serve evil is never a good idea, and Sauron’s gifts were poisoned chalices. The Nazgûl were corrupted and turned into shadows of their former selves, eventually adopting the armoured Grim Reaper look.

As with the real costume, the character design is fairly basic; textured and tattered black robe, along with armoured hands and feet. He’s spattered with mud (so I suppose this is from the scene where they’re pursuing the hobbits in The Fellowship of the Ring) and he’s also wielding a battered-looking blade. It’s a great translation of real-world design to POP, mimicking the invisible look of the original via partially hollowed-out head beneath the cowl. Well done!

My only real criticism is that unlike most POPs, the head doesn’t actually turn, though this may be an issue specific to mine. Also, the sword can warp a little in the package, so keep your eye out when purchasing.

Nonetheless, the Nazgûl is an essential buy for Lord of the Rings fans. It’s been a while since there were any new Lord of the Rings POPs, and with the inclusion of characters like Saruman and the Balrog, this is a particularly good series.  

    
*Conan the Barbarian though? That is essential viewing.
**A few years later I’d experience similar things when 28 Days Later was released – a great film, but not the transformative, this-turned-me-onto-horror experience that it was for plenty of others.  

Saturday, 3 June 2017

POP! Movies – Gizmo (Gremlins)


First of all, keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it'll kill him. Second, don't give him any water, not even to drink. But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight.

A couple of months ago I took a look at Stripe, and you’ll notice that many of the things I say here are copied verbatim – despite their vastly different looks, they still apply equally.

Gremlins, hey? A movie that, along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, helped get the entire American movie ratings system adjusted. Why? Well, the movie’s initial marketing may have *cough* downplayed *cough* those horror elements in favour of the film’s cutesy mascot, Gizmo – a face that launched at least a thousand plush toys. And more than 30 years on, Gremlins merch still relies heavily on the little guy’s presence. So when Funko was in the early days of their POP! Movies line, it’s no surprise that they decided to make Gizmo along with Stripe.

Odd fact: Gizmo’s voice was provided by Howie Mandel. Not terribly well-known in Australia, he’s quite famous as an actor and as the host of Deal or No Deal in the USA – and also for his crippling mysophobia. The poor guy can’t shake hands with anyone, which must make day-today life a nightmare. 

This being a relatively early entry in the POP! Movies line, you’d be guessing that the paint is on the sloppy side. And you’d be right; it’s by no means their worst work and it’s better than Stripe, but they’ve come quite a way in the last 5-6 years. The sculpt is particularly cool; these days I would suspect it would be executed in quite a different fashion, and not necessarily as well. Before around 2013 or 2014, POPs were much more heavily stylised, and I don’t think that was a bad thing; not all of them are winners, but they definitely had their own feel. Though the overall standard of sculpting and paint has improved in the intervening years, the simplicity of the older figures definitely has its charms too. 

There is another version of Gizmo, though unlike most of his horror POP companions it’s not a glow one – rather, it’s flocked. It was released in 2011 as an SDCC exclusive, with an edition size of 480. Good luck tracking one of those down!

Even for a relative newbie to the franchise like myself, Gizmo here is a fun figure, and it’s a bit of a shame that we never got more characters beyond him and Stripe in POP form. The first film alone has so many cool character designs, to say nothing of the second. That said, Gremlins 3 is allegedly in development at the moment, so we may yet see more of them hit the shelves in the future.