This is week your faithful author is subjecting himself, yet again, to the annual agony and ecstasy of San Diego Comic-Con, so it's no better time to take a look back at my Comic Con haul from two years ago. For reasons I don't fully understand I never got around to opening my non-exclusives haul from SDCC 2012, probably something to do with these being figures I didn't/don't have display space for so it's easier to keep them safe and dust-free in package. Regardless, this gave me a wonderful opportunity to have a mini-Con day before this year's show, plus take a nice look and a nearly nothing-but-grails haul!
Bowen Designs - Marvel: Magneto Variant Mini-Bust
Certain times you'll find some artist that just strikes a chord with you and becomes a defining part of your taste. Randy Bowen is like that for me and his work has pretty much defined the Marvel Universe much the way Tim Bruckner has defined the DC Universe for me. I was never that huge of an X-Men fan and it wasn't until I spent time ogling Bowen's bust of him that I started to appreciate Magneto. It opened the door for him to become one of my favorite villains so I've always been on the hunt for the bust but its early release led to pretty high prices. I had a big high then deep low after finding this piece, but suffice to say this is NOT the original Bowen Bust that I thought it was when I paid for it (before they let me open and inspect it) but a 2010 "variant" re-issue. Limited to 600 pieces this is effectively identical to the original bust but the head is now turned to the opposite direction and a two-tired base has been added below the figure. Fortunately he's close enough to the original that I no longer hate this piece like I did after immediately purchasing it but that new base, which follows the contours of the cape, kind of ruins the beauty of the piece for me. It's just ugly, clearly an afterthought and is contrary to the simple organic flow of the actual/original piece - elegant with the cape wrapping around most of the base. The paint is good and sculpt is fantastic. It is a good piece, it's just not the one I thought I was buying nor the one I'd been coveting.
Character Options Ltd - Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii Set
This comes from the episode "The Fires of Pompeii" which infamously features the new, 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. The Pyroville Magma Creature is the main selling point of the set because hot damn this is a Lava Roman solider!!! The rock "armor" is overlaid onto a lava body with a very Spartan-esque helmet. Despite all photos of him, the magma body is a really, really dull translucent orange that just doesn't look very good. The other big issue is scale... in the episode these guys are about 10' tall so this guy is just too damn small. On the plus side though he's loaded with articulation. He's packed with a Roman Soldier which makes little sense to me since I don't even recall seeing any soldiers, at least in this armor, in the episode. The figure is good and follows the style of the line quite well. He comes with a removable sword and maybe a dagger too, though that one is definitely stuck in my guy's sheath. Having bought this before seeing the episode this set promised an excellent army-vs-army battle that couldn't really be further from the reality of the episode. I just don't get why this was done as a two-pack - I would have much rather had an 8-10" Magma Creature on his own for this pricepoint.
DC Direct - Classic Heroes: Uncle Sam
This figure was always a height of "WTF-ery" for me back around its release. I mean I get that it is, or is based on, the Uncle Sam propaganda character but why a superhero? And why, O why the skin tight leggings? Regardless of his goofy as heck costume the figure is a beautiful example of Tim Bruckner's infallible artistry. He's got hinges at the knees and elbows, T-Crotch, swivel wrists and neck plus the ball-in-socket shoulder joints that I dig a lot - no visible articulation but a pretty solid range of motion. Paint is very clean and particularly great on the equally well sculpted face. It's just a design that's I find sooo bizarre. I stumbled across this figure at a booth for about $10 and figured what the hell - this is a fun novelty for the collection and is clearly someone Mattel wouldn't make so I got him. And then that very afternoon they announced him for the DC Signature Collection at the Mattypalooza panel. That's what they call irony, folks.
DC Direct - Justice Society of America: (Golden Age) Flash
This figure was really the last major Grail for my collection. DC to me has always been a more classical roster than Marvel and that's the light in which they work best (Marvel is about humans while DC is about gods) so Bruckner's Norman Rockwell-esque take really nailed these characters in a new way and turned me into a DC fan. In particular his work created in me a substantive lust for the Justice Society of America and this figure is the last remaining character in that roster I've been missing from DC Direct. The figure is interesting for a couple reasons - unlike most of the DCD/Bruckner figures he has hinged ankles allowing for running poses. Also, he's one of the first examples of DCD using fleshtone plastic rather than paint and the figure certainly suffers for it. It's really Bruckner's faces that have always drawn me in but Jay here comes up lacking, and I'm not sure if it's the sculpt or lack of paint. A weird choice here too is the sculpted positions of the un-articulated hands. They look okay when in a running pose but are plain odd when "waiting for a bus." Flash also gets a decent base plus a removable helmet. The latter is just a nice bit of not using glue since (a) who would really display this guy without it and (b) is leaves a gaping peghole on the top of his skull.
DST - Marvel Select: Hulk (The Avengers)
Mark Ruffalo's Hulk really stole Avengers, plus DST always rocks the over-sized figures, so there was absolutely no question that I'd miss out on this figure. The sculpt is very smooth, almost distractingly so, and at least some texturing on the paints would have helped his overall look a lot. The paint is simple but good, as is the sculpt. He's loaded with articulation although the bulk of the figure limits it on the top half of him but the side-hinges at the hips and pivoting ankles work great. The hips are ratcheted and feel at times like the legs might pop out a la a Build-A-Figure. And then, of course, there is the size - this guy is about 10" tall and just slightly taller than Barbarian Hulk making him the biggest Hulk DST has done yet!
DST - Marvel Select: Lizard (The Amazing Spider-Man)
It's kind of funny to me how forgettable The Amazing Spider-Man movies are and this figure just seems more... novel than anything else at this point. The sculpt is very good, as is the paint which helps bring out a lot of the detail. He's a big guy, almost as big Hulk, but that seems kind of too big. His head in particular seems fairly large, bigger proportionally than I recall from the film, but maybe I'm wrong. Articulation is pretty good with nothing but balljoints at all 15 points. He a neat figure but sadly not very exciting one thanks to the movie he hails from, though it will be nice to have him next to the Disney Store Spider-Man I got.
DST - The Munsters: Herman Munster
The figure is wonderfully sculpted by Jean St. Jean, who has been doing the last several Universal Movie Monster figures for DST and as such these share a very similar aesthetic. The clothes look excellent, full of texture and wrinkles, and while the likeness is strong there is yet something pretty "sculptor-ly" about it, maybe it's the sculpt or the thick paint, and he certainly does suffer "JsJ Hand" like Mr. Hyde and the Phantom - a visually neat but functionally bizarre pose for the fingers. He has some 22 points of articulation and while most work well, the hips and knees are frustratingly limited (but more on that later). Herman comes with his faithful lunchbox (which sadly does not open) as well as the backboard and the power-switch for the Electric Chair B.A.F. piece, plus a basic stand.
DST - The Munsters: Lily Munster
<1--While opening and playing with these figures I got to thinking about how my knowledge of the show came from re-runs on content-hungry early '90s cable and how 'kids these days' will no longer discover these old shows in the on-demand, digital age. Sure the programs are available but how are they supposed to discover these things and be drawn in based solely on a Netflix title image. It's kind of sad to think about, but at least we have these figures to help keep the memory alive. -->Lily was never one of my favorites as she seemed to lack the unique characterization of women like Morticia, plus my young mind couldn't figure out what monster she was since the show already had a Dracula. She does have a nice, long white stripe in her hair as a nod to the Bride of Frankenstein, and speaking of her hair - it is remarkably long, reaching past her butt, so since it is cast in hard plastic good luck with any shot at posing her head. Much like Herman she is sculpted to perfection, though the likeness is a bit soft. Like all three figures in the line she comes with a wooden floor base (which bizarrely don't match up in any sort of interlinking way) as well as the arms & legs for the Electric Chair B.A.F., but coolest of all is the insanely intricate cuckoo grandfather clock! It doesn't really do much beyond just looking Gee-Dee amazing, and really what other company or toyline can offer us such intricate and unique accessories as this any longer? Too cool - I love it!
DST - The Munsters: Grandpa
Aaaaaaaand this figure is AWESOME. The figure follows suit with the other two - very well sculpted, particularly from the neck down, with a somewhat caricaturized, soft likeness (though it's still clearly Al). He comes with some great pieces for his person including a removable cape and alternate right hands, one holding a cigar! He also comes with a small bat that plugs into a little (easy to lose) "C" shaped length of clear plastic that plugs into his back though I find it a bit too heavy to stay in place. BUUUUUT where this guy REALLY shines are the accessories-proper! He gets two books, a table, three bottles (each with a tiny label printed on, and I can't stress enough how great it is that these are printed and not stickers [Green = Love Potion, Purple = Dragon's Blood, Blue = Rain]), a tube beaker, a great ball-and-funnel on an arm that plugs into the table, a matching cup beaker and a stand with three test tubes - oh, and the test tubes are removable AND they fit in Grandpa's non-cigar hand.
DST - The Munsters: Electric Chair B.A.F.
It was fairly surprising and pretty inspired for DST to include a "Build A Figure" with this line though I must say the Electric Chair is not the most exciting thing in the world. It's quite welcome though, and I see it more as a reward for getting the set rather than an incentive to do so. In fact, I think it was originally intended to be packed with Herman but didn't cost out. It assembles well and the connections all seem nice and snug. There are rubber straps on the arm rests and the legs to secure your figure in place and the switch board plugs into the back of the base, though sadly the switch is sculpted on and can't be "flipped." The transformers on the chair fall off easily and the cap hovers a little high. It's a fun piece for the collection, though... until you try to sit Herman in it. That's when his aforementioned tight articulation becomes a hindrance and the size issues apparent. I don't recall the chair from the show outright nor can I find any images of it but it certainly appears under-scaled for Herman. He just can't fit in it naturally, and as such none of the straps fit around his extremities. It's frustrating but not a deal breaker. Like I said, this piece is pretty much just a bonus in my mind and, if nothing else, I now have a nice approximately 6"-scale electric chair for the rest of the collection!
Hasbro - Unleashed Star Wars: Stormtrooper
In a line built around creating badass, extremely detailed poses and sculpts there is precious little one could do with this guy's hard, white armor. They did an okay job but there just isn't anything exciting about this release. He comes with a nice muzzle flair for his blaster plus three blaster bolts that hit the base behind him - he must be fighting another Stormtrooper to be so easily missed by his opponent. I do wish that the blasts fired at him were a different color than the one he's shooting, but I guess most of those Original Trilogy guns just fired variations of red. The base is a cool piece of a Death Star doorway but it's VERY underwhelming being only half-height, which I'm guessing was a late change based on a lip at the top of the base likely intended to marry to a top half. Paint is minimal; maybe if had they painted him white over the white plastic that would have helped to add a sense of quality. Interestingly his blaster is fully removable despite the figure's lack of articulation and in an obscenely cool attention to detail there is actually a flesh-tone paint on a sculpted chain within the helmet - clearly anticipating the inevitable Han variation. The figure also included a miniature Twi'lek acrobat for a failed Wizards of the Coast game they were trying to launch at the time.
Kaiyodo - Revoltech Yamaguchi: Evangelion Production Model-03
Never having seen the anime series I was jazzed for the new pseudo re-make Evangelion films and while the first one was mediocre the second one, Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance, had some great metaphysical stuff during the fights that sort of blew my mind so I have been trying to get the Revoltech figures of them for awhile. This is one of those amazing machine-goes-biological-freak-out moments when Unit 3 begins to inexplicably become an Angel, and man is it cool. Like all Revoltech figures this guy is LOADED with ratcheted balljoints at every conceivable place making for an insanely pose-able, but frustrating, figure, as it can be tough to move the joints in the way you want or to keep them from falling off. On top of the great figure there is also an obscene volume of accessories including all the necessary parts to convert this to the normal look for Unit 3, plus a pseudo-Bust of Unit 1 which plugs into a dust cloud base, and it has an articulated jaw to chomp down on a pilot plug. The power cable has a bendy wire for poseability (nice!) and there are two blood-spray effects to go on the previously released Unit 1 figure. All this PLUS 5 pairs of alternate hands beyond what is in the picture. As an import it's pricey, and the articulation can be as annoying as it is great, but this sure is a super cool toy.
Kaiyodo - Revoltech Yamaguchi: Evangelion Mark.06
At the VERY end of the Evangelion 2.22 there is a post-credit sequence, but rather than being a cute "tag" it has what seems like a fundamentally crucial plot point, and then it introduces this Unit and its pilot in an incredibly bad-ass manner. He's hovering out in space, in front of the moon, complete with HALO HOVERING OVER HEAD with a token "come see the sequel" line of dialog. Not only was it one of the most memorable things in the entire movie for me... Kaiyodo made a figure of it, so YES, PLEASE! This guy is effectively a repaint of Unit 3 above, complete with tiny Revoltech joints on his shoulders to connect the fins. He comes with a big spear and SIX pairs or alternate hands. The real reason to get this though? He comes with a moon with an LED in it! The base connects to a standard Revoltech articulated stand, which is sadly too short and too light-weight to get a proper hover going on here. The moon has the halo attached too it, an right in front of the LED is a hole which connects to a clear cylinder peg sticking out of an alternate head which serves as both a connector and a light-pipe so that his eye sets a'glowing! This is basically the only reason to get this figure, and MY light-pipe head is missing not only the jaw piece but ALSO the translucent red eye... so the full effect is impossible for me. What a delightful waste of $40+!
Kaiyodo - Sci-Fi Revoltech: Alien Queen (018)
I love the idea of these things, but this more film-accurate line usually leaves me frustrated. The articulation is almost too plentiful - her baby chest-arms are fully articulated which is fun/cool but each of the back-spines is as well, which is just overkill and tough to keep properly aligned. Also, due to her width the left arm and left leg are packaged unattached, and thanks to the fluidity of the Revoltech joint the limbs are INCREDIBLY tough to get on her, and indeed there is just no way I can that leg attached! Her tail is bendy, as opposed to articulated. The sculpt is pretty great, and she's cast in a dark translucent... I'm not sure what to call it... "dirty mustard"? But it's the same as the Aliens Warrior, and like that one she has some nice metallic color highlights for effect. She gets a decent but bland base with a clear peg to support her weight, and it connects via Revoltech joint for "poseability." She has an articulated jaw and retractable mandible-tongue though the un-detailed end of the tongue just sticks out the back of her jaw limiting the neck articulation which is already limited by sculpt. In fact, she cannot bend her neck down nearly enough to get her head in the iconic pose. And she appears to be out of scale with the Warrior, too. Like I say... it's increasingly difficult to retain any enthusiasm about this line.
Mezco - DC Mez-Itz: Darkseid
I really dig the 6" Mez-Itz's so while I was bummed to see that they stopped doing the SDCC Exclusives it was nice that they got out one last pairing. I'm a big sucker for Darkseid so I naturally am quite drawn to this guy. Plus, the style of the base body matches his costume pretty well! There's really nothing unique to these figures beyond that paint and the art design, both of which are quite excellent!
Mezco - DC Mez-Itz: Sinestro (Green Lantern Movie)
I've had a mad lust for Sinestro ever since the the Sinestro Corps War so between that passion and the existence of this piece, I got it - it's how I do. An okay design from an awful movie still makes for a decent figure. This guy isn't as exciting as the comic-based Mez-Itz but I'm still pleased to find him. The paint design and application is pretty good for what it is. I'd probably get a Ryan Reynolds Hal if I ever see one, and it's at a reasonable price, to complete the pair. Regardless of how bad the movie was and how mediocre the toys were, it kind of kills me that we never got a yellow Sinestro from the end of the film, since that's my preferred color for the character and it would quite literally be the easiest of all repaints.
Mezco - DC Mez-Itz: Superman
Paired to coincide with Darkseid (and likely originally intended as an SDCC 2-pack) we get basic Superman. Fortunately this predates the New 52 so we are spared that awful costume. This guy turned out pretty good for what he is, though I must say he certainly doesn't look as great as the others. I thinks it's just because the Mez-Itz aesthetic is based on shadows and Superman is effectively the opposite of a shadow - he's all about bright colors and visibility (which is why the Man of Steel costume is so weak). Still though, it's nice to get this guy to go with Batman, and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. Supes does, of course, come with an accessory - his cape! It's fabric, and even has the yellow "S-Shield" printed on the back, but the definite highlight is that it clips on to his neck with a little plastic "C" just like the old Super Powers toys!
NECA - Borderlands: Psycho Bandit
I know exceedingly little about this videogame beyond the fact the toys look awesome!!! Inspired by the art-y look of the game NECA carried forward their gorgeous and unparallelled "painted outline" look from their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures and boy is it fantastic looking. The figure is painted well to begin with, with nice clean lines and wonderfully subtle bits of shading but it's those hard black lines that really set this guy apart and break my heart since we'll never get more. The sculpt is quite good as is the articulation, however his knees have "David-8 elbows" meaning that while they're balljoints, the ball is on the thigh, not the knee, thus removing any real left-to-right movement. Other than that, though, this figure is ostensibly perfect and again it's a total crime we won't get any more. Damn your over-popularity, Claptrap!!!
NECA - Evil Dead 2: Henrietta
I figured this was a fun side-dish to the main course what was Chainsaw Ash which is why I never got around to opening her, but man was I wrong! This figure is excellent! She's sculpted and painted to perfection and with a balljoint at every point of articulation the poseability is quite good! Plus... she gets an alternate head with a giant bendy neck. Why, dear lord, WHY did I not get two of these? I'm exceptionally impressed at how well and accurate both heads turned out! The only sort of drawback to the figure is her hover stand. While I'm very happy it's included it does hold her at kind of an odd angle. I suppose it's meant to duplicate the "held up by a wire harness" aesthetic but it does seem kind of weird as a display piece. Plus the peghole on the back is weirdly off center. But those are fairly minor gripes in the world of how cool this figure is. It's kind of a great throwback to NECA's early days when we could get characters of all levels of famous-ness. Not unlike...
NECA - Hellraiser: Frank
This guy has been a Grail of mine since his release. He was basically impossible to find and, as the coolest/most unique figure in that series he always went for big bucks on the secondary market - but now... AHA, he is mine! Much like Golden Age Flash above, scoring this dude is a sort of coup for me, and especially getting both at the same show has effectively closed out my legitimate/long-term grail list. Frank is wonderfully sculpted, full of textural detail and gory, skinless beauty (not unlike Julia). Being early NECA, his articulation is pretty limited - swivel waist, shoulders and wrists with angled-swivel elbows and a balljointed head. He comes with a dead rat and a tiiiiiiiiiny switchblade that broke and disappeared as I tried to remove it from the blister tray. He also comes with two sides of the B.A.F. "Leviathan" plus the crucial central triangle which includes the electronics and lights. It didn't turn on for me, but whether that's age or non-existent batteries, I'm unsure. I'm kinda bummed to have lost the knife but it was so small and trivial it doesn't really take away from the coolness of the figure nor the sense of accomplishment with nabbing him. In fact, this guy effectively completes my Hellraiser collection - and that is a great feeling, too!