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.