Last weekend was WonderCon (formerly WonderCon Anaheim [formerly WonderCon, but in San Francisco]) in sunny Anaheim, CA, and yours truly made a day of it, stalking about for some sweet finds, fun buys and shocking revelations. Join me, won't you, in this casual retelling of my purchases.
DC Collectibles - Batman The Animated Series: Man-Bat
The sculpt and paint are quite good but the articulation is a little wonky. What there is is solid except for the annoying-as-hell neck which is effectively a swivel joint. The fact this his head isn't on one of the those Marvel Legends style hinges, so that he can look straight up/forward while flying, practically ruins the figure. Even as is, his head is permanently angled down, which is pretty annoying as the head is such a nice sculpt. It also would have been nice to have some hinges on the lower legs to straighten them out while flying. He comes with really nice interchangeable wings for "open" and "closed" (though the "closed" are still pretty open) but the connection in the shoulder sockets is pretty loose so all the arms pop out too easily. The shoulders also (incredibly) annoyingly use big circle discs the diameter of the shoulder socket which is wider than the sculpt of the shoulder... a'whaaaa? Kinda disappointing they couldn't engineer that any better. He comes with a base, and it's kind of annoying - the articulated clasps loosely hold him upright but it really makes no sense that there isn't at least one peg on the actual base since he has pegholes and it'd certainly help a lot with stability. He also comes with a cassette recorder and three pill bottles - also excellent references to his episode. It's just annoying that DCD keeps getting this line about inexplicably 80% perfect. Series 1 has breakages and hip pins, and now this has poor engineering. It's funny, I clearly have a laundry list of complaints but I still net out positive on this guy.
DC Collectibles - The New 52: Earth-2 Batman
I'm following my reinvigorated enjoyment of DCD from last SDCC by adding in these also great Earth-2 figures. I LOVE THIS DESIGN!!! Leave it to DC (which stands for Dominant Coporatization) to roll out boring, pointless, desperate redesigns for the New 52 universe then relegate these legitimately good redesigns to two issues of an "alternate reality" comic. Are there even rats left on that sinking ship? At any rate, I love this design. It has all the hallmarks of classic Batman but updated to a very practical modernity while maintaining some fun panache that is visually engaging. I LOVE the idea of giving him "signature" weapons which are batons - that makes so much sense for the street fighting, no-kill character than I can't believe it hasn't become a "thing" yet! The spiked, metal armor is, honestly, a bit much; but I love it's "fits over his regular costume" look, plus this version of the character only existed to fight Parademons to the death so it makes sense in the context of that story. Articulation is my only real complaint here as it is a bit too limited to allow for really fun posing. Side-hinges on the T-crotch would have been nice but the lack of ankle rockers is what hurts him the most. I just can't get over how cool this costume is and how much it informs his character - I want to read stories about this guy!
DC Collectibles - The New 52: Earth-2 Superman
This costume does the virtual impossible, it updates Superman's classic look in a way that honors the original but has a freshness and engaging look all to itself - this is Superman. I really like the big S-Shield and having the cape flow out of it not only looks good, but helps justify both elements. The belt is a huge improvement over the New 52 nonsense by A) being thick enough to provide the visible color separation that the "underwear" was necessary for, and 2) the gold "buckle" REALLY, really helps add color and keep the design visually diverse and interesting. I just dig the whole thing overall (though I'm not terribly crazy about the "swooshy" S in the shield). Despite the great costume this figure is hampered by everything not the outfit. The hands are okay, but the double fist sculpt is kind of boring for posing. The neck is sculpted very constricted, like a body builder lifting the heaviest weight... but the head has a contrarily calm expression. And indeed the face is the weakest link in the figure - it is exceptionally effeminate and youthful. It'd even be a bit strange on a Superboy but on a Superman it is just too odd a departure from expectation to really work for the character. Also, the torso is very clearly two separate pieces, but inexplicably they've glued him together rather than hiding a swivel joint in the belt. It's a really good costume, but a tough figure to recommend, I must confess.
DC Collectibles - The New 52: Earth-2 Wonder Woman
And Earth-2 completes DC's holy trinity with yet another perfect update to an iconic character/costume. By leaning into the warrior heritage they've armored up Diana in a great way that looks both formidable and pays honor to the classic costume. The wide "flaps" on the skirt are particularly nice in that they make for a function-able wardrobe as opposed to "sexy costume." I really love the use of the gold on the, well, breasts and tiara - they compliment the bright silver of the armor quite well but visually pop much better than the goofy nonsense they did for the New 52 track suit. She gets her lasso, but it's sculpted to the skirt, plus a fairly cool sword, though it seems a little too over-scaled for her. I just can not get over 1) how great these Earth-2 costumes are and B) how infinitely better than the canonical New 52 aberrations are. This is the best Diana has looked since the Silver Age, and the toy is pretty darn good too!
DST - X-Men Days of Future Past: Charles Xavier & Bone Claw Wolverine
Thank god for DST and Minimates! If not for them we would have no merchandize for the very fun First Class & Days of Future Past movies/franchise - thanks childish corporate executive whiny, bitchy baby babies. This set is a very logical pairing, though not a terribly exciting one visually. "Young" Charles is done nicely, but nothing especially remarkable. Wolverine comes with his '70s duds and an alternate, naked but gunshot torso with unpopped-claw hands. It and Charles' wheelchair help make this more than just "dudes in brown clothes," and since Charles could sometimes-stand I'm tempted to get a second set to display both of those "alternate" looks (and then use the spare wheelchair to kitbash an X3 Xavier to go with those Minimates) but frankly these were the two least interesting characters and costumes in the movie.
DST - X-Men Days of Future Past: Future Wolverine & Future Storm
When the line was originally shown, Rogue was to be in this set with Wolverine, but shortly thereafter they announced she was being cut from the movie so DST quickly slid this Storm in her place. She's a pretty good Minimate (and definitely more interesting looking than Rogue in her white jumpsuit), coming with removable lightning bits, a flight stand and alternate regular and milky-eyed heads. However, Storm is a terminally bland character in the movies and we already got a 'mate of her from X3, so it would have been far nicer to see any of the other, cooler mutants in this slot (even the costume-bland but story-crucial Kitty Pryde). Wolverine, on the other hand, just looks plain cool. They finally gave him a neat costume and graying temples is pretty fun. It's a damn shame the Marvel guy is such a baby bitch because this guy would make for a great action figure (and indeed I wish DST'ed done him rather than the "easy money" naked Jennifer Lawrence Marvel Select figure which backfired on them when, shockingly, she refused to approve a naked figure of herself). Thanks to Storm's bonuses and Wolverine's costume this is pretty solid set and definitely worth getting.
DST - X-Men Days of Future Past: Professor X & Future Magneto
Alas, this set is incredibly boring - two old guys in all black... thanks visionary director Brian Singer. Geez, what I'd give to get him the eff away from X-Men - the costumes and designs he goes with are so incredibly, painfully dull! Magneto gets a new front-less skirt piece and a new version of his inconceivably dumb half-cape while Xavier gets a new coat piece with the shoulder straps and, of course, his new hover chair. The hover chair is shockingly even less interesting that the awful wheelchair, and sadly this version's leg bits are too long so poor Xavier's feet are left dangling like some incorrigible toddler. Given the phenomenally popular bromance between these actors this pairing was inevitable, but due to the terrible costumes is terribly droll set. But, major kudos to DST for spending plenty of tooling money here to help make the best of a bad situation.
DST - X-Men Days of Future Past: Young Magneto & Mystique
Our final set is also the best. Two solid characters and two colorful, engaging figures. Mystique is a simple Minimate base body painted to perfection - the format at it's very best - with a new hairpiece to complete her look. "Young" Erik comes in his finale outfit (inexplicably he now has a comicbook costume despite the "realism" of the movie [though fortunately it is toned down from what we saw at the tail end of First Class]). He comes with alternate scruffy hair and new helmet plus a new half-cape (SERIOUSLY - WHAT THE HELL IS WITH THIS STUPID HALF-CAPE SINGER KEEPS USING!?!?!), plus a hover stand for excellent Magneto-ing. While this is the best set in the series, it is kind of a bummer that there is no alternate look for Mystique too, a "human" (or even mid-transformation) Mystique head would have been a great inclusion, definitely helping spur double-purchases and allowing for some fun kitbashes to do her in army fatigues, or '70s dresses etc. While this set is easily the best in the series it also highlights the holes in - from eight figures there are only five unique characters. I really wish they could have at least gotten out one more 2-pack with Beast & Quicksilver, but honestly there's a full second series worth of cool characters/costumes from the film that would have been great. But in this bulls**t world of warring executives, beggars can't be choosers, so I'm happy to at least have these eight Minimates to represent the movie - so thank you, DST, for being the one company to make it happen!
Galoob - Micro Machines: Alien Transforming Head Playset
One booth at the show had nothing but used toys and though those are generally not my thing but this caught my eye since I'd never seen one in person. I really, really loved Micro Machines growing up and Action Fleet is one of my favorite lines ever, and I especially loved these transforming head playsets, so there is a definite place in my home for this. Sadly it's a bit scuffed up and rather pricey for not coming with its accessories (a Micro Machine of the Derelict ship and Action Fleet figures of Parker & Spacesuit Kane) but the guy made me a deal on buying both this and the Predator one so I went for it. The sculpt of the head is wonderful, and the dome is translucent gray plastic that fits over the fully sculpted skull. Inside, the back of the head represents the Nostromo, with the top level featuring a sliding door and Kane on the table with the chestburster popped through him - grim for a kids' toy! There is a dial on the back that spins the chestburster, and subsequently Kane, when it's turned. The second level has the Alien's torso seated on a rod in the wall. His arms are sideways hinge-articulated so you push him out and the arms open, then pull him back and the arms close, ensnaring a figure and dragging them to their demise - COOL! The interior of the face is the egg field from the Derelict. There is a platform to park the once-included Derelict ship then a hatch for Kane to go down and explore. There are five eggs around a button; the three closest to the playset are simple sculpts while the two closest to the ship are actually rubber and when you push down on the central button nubs painted to look like facehuggers rise up out of those eggs - too damn cool!!! This is a surprisingly cool playset and I'm so glad to have gotten it! I just wish I had a complete one, and even a second to display the head both open and closed (it looks so great closed!).
Galoob - Micro Machines: Predator Transforming Head Playset
The Predator Micromachines never really did anything for me; I hadn't seen the movie/s by that point and the vehicles were pretty much just boring, basic military things (Alien at least had awesome sci-fi vehicles) and I wasn't particularly after this playset beyond just my general interest in the transforming head format but, like I said, I got a "deal" on the set, so here we are. The head is a pretty nice, fun, toyetic sculpt and ultimately I quite dig it closed. Open, is just kind of as bland as the Micro Machines. The face part has some pop-up "exploding" barrels and a little "push launcher" to shoot a car into the fold-down wall (a feature that doesn't seem to work effectively). In the back of the head, the bottom has a hiding place under a wood-planks trapdoor and a "breakaway" roof or walkway or something (it has a peg that sticks out through the back for you to control). The only real surprise and neat thing about the playset is a lenticular sticker in the upper left corner that has just jungle from one angle but then reveals the predator when you move to a different angle. It's a pretty clever, novel way to including the cloaking and it fun in a '90s playset sort of way. Originally this set came with this Hummer, Dutch and a Predator but this guy just threw in whatever Predator Micro Machines he had so I've ended up with figures of Unmasked Predator, the girl and, most excellently, Heat Vision Dutch (the truck and figures all come from the one, good, Micro Machine set with the Alien spaceship but sadly that is missing here). This repaint of Dutch was the only thing I really wanted from the Predator Micro Machines so I'm super excited to have him now. He was unlike any figure up until the NECA version and I actually dig this little guy a bit more. He's cast in translucent light blue and heavily painted making him both a bit more dynamic looking and "accurate to the footage"-seeming. Now all I need to do is track down the transforming Endoskeleton head and my collection will be complete.
NECA - Godzilla: Burning Godzilla
I have a bit of a complicated relationship with this character. Not being well-versed in the franchise I had no idea he existed until the SH Monsterarts version was revealed, and I was bitter about it because he looks much cooler than the SDCC all-translucent version I'd talked myself into buying a couple months earlier. However, due to how cool the Burning Godzilla and Destroyah figures looked I ended up watching Godzilla vs Destroyah making it one of only two Godzilla movies I've cognitively see (that and the original, though I know I paid half-attention to Mechagodzilla flicks and stuff of that era during weekends TV marathons as a kid [and, well, technically I've also seen both American versions but it's hard to count those as part of the franchise-proper]). I couldn't justify spending all that money on the Monsterarts version so I'm very pleased that NECA has made a much more affordable version. It's the same as the '95 Godzilla just cast in a dull, translucent orange. I didn't expect but quite like that the trans-orange "burning" effect fades to "normal" along the tail, with the fins shifting back over to green and white. It's a subtle but nice touch. He's the same figure we already bought but unique enough looking that he's worth adding to the collection anew.
NECA - The Hobbit: Gollum
The reveal of this figure at SDCC was pretty exciting and full of promise for a line that went absolutely nowhere (and further proof that the films were/are awful - all merchandise died at retail). I liked this figure a lot but couldn't pull the trigger due to cost and facial expressions, but really wanted him after snagging 18" Bilbo, so I was elated to note a booth selling these for a wildly reasonable $20. The sculpt is FAN-FRIGGIN'-TASTIC and is NECA at its best! The paint is likewise very nice - appropriate and subtle. His back does have the whip scars from Mordor so he is definitively LotR Gollum. He does have some rooted hair upon his crown (about a paintbrushes diameter bunch glued right into the center which hangs down and back off of him) which I understand but don't quite dig. Articulation is mildly plentiful and essentially entirely balljoints, though the wrists are a bit limited. The only issue with the articulation is that his hip and knees are a bit loose meaning he won't remain standing - crouches only for this guy. The figure was released with A/B heads, one being Gollum and the other Smeagol. Though neither expression is particularly iconic Smeagol's is so pathetic looking it's virtually un-own-able. For $20 I should have got it too, but it's just so damn dopey! Why the heck didn't they do him with the big goofy grin?
Pegasus Hobbies - Dragonslayer: The Vermithrax Dragon
Sometimes you just stumble upon something you never knew existed but that you absolutely had to have - and this is one such item! Dragonslayer is an alright movie, definitely worth your time if you like High Fantasy particularly of the '80s variety, but it's titular dragon, the Vermithrax Perjorative, is THE SINGLE GREATEST DRAGON EVER PUT ON SCREEN. Phil Tippet animated the Vermithrax using a process called "Go Motion" which incorporated motion blur into the stop motion process resulting in such fluid motion some of the shots I almost swear are of a real dragon. Pegasus Hobbies is a model kit company but they've started this awesome sub-line where they'll do a run of the models fully assembled and painted for folks such as yours truly (I also have their NSEA Protector from Galaxy Quest which also fully rules). Here we get a great diorama of Pete MacNicol facing down the Vermithrax. Both plug into the base via pegs and holes, though the Vermithrax's don't quite line up. The base itself is massive, 17 inches wide and 12.5 inched deep, which is the main hurdle with getting or displaying this guy - that's a hell of a foot print. The box proclaims this to be 1/32 scale and the tiny MacNicol is 2⅜" tall, for what it's worth. We also get a freestanding marquee with the movie's logo on it. The sculpt and paint here are phenomenal - just gorgeous as hell! He's so majorly badass - Wondercon was totally worth it for this score alone!