DC Universe Signature Collection: Jay Garrick Flash by Mattel

[Disclaimer: Once again, I’m starting a Mattel feature with a rant against that most unholy of partnerships Mattel and Digital River. If you’re tired of reading this kind of stuff, and yeah I don’t blame you, just skip down to where it says “END RANT” and you can get right on to my look at the figure without having to be exposed to my vitriol.                     

So last month’s Matty Sale Day included the first of the Signature Series DC Universe figures. Yeah, the line was supposed to start shipping in April, but Matty fucked up and it was delayed a month. Then, Matty fucked up again and instead of shipping on the day of sale, the figure didn’t ship out until five days later. And that was the least of this week’s complications. Matty also sent out a shipping invoice that claimed they were charging me $57.46 for my $15 Jay Garrick figure. Eventually it turned out that Digital River mistakenly included the original price of the sub on the invoice, so I was not actually charged that. Instead, I was charged $25 and change and then again $36 and change. I was furious.
                         
So after going back and fourth a few times via email, and Matty insisting every time that everything was correct, the $25 charge was debited back to me, and so I was left with a single charge that still overcharged me about five bucks. Emails flew in both directions a few more times. They assured me that the amount on my invoice was correct, despite me doing the math for them and showing them it was wrong. In the end, when I was prepared to take the trouble to FAX my credit card invoice, they debited back that charge and I was finally charged the correct amount, $15 for the figure and $8.70 for shipping. Headaches like this, I do not need. Ok, enough with this crap…
                     
END RANT…]

 

For those who haven’t been paying attention, DC Universe Classics is gone, and even the line that was supposed to replace it, DC Univese All Stars, has been put on the back-burner. As a result the only way to keep your DCUC collection going is with Mattel’s online exclusive/subscription line, Club Infinite Earth. It seems like an eternity ago that Matty put up the sub for this line with the disclaimer that it would only go through if they hit a certain goal. The goal was never met, but the sub went forward anyway. Of course, back then we weren’t entirely sure what figures we’d be getting, but one of the few that Matty used to tempt people into the sub was the long awaited Jay Garrick. And here he is. And I have no problem admitting that this Golden Age Flash was a big reason why I subscribed, because… well, damn I wanted this figure bad.
I’ll confess, I sort of expected Matty to just keep going with the DC Universe Classics packaging, with maybe a new insert to set these apart. So, I’ll give credit where its due, as they went for an entirely new packaging and threw out the cardback and bubble altogether. Jay Garrick comes in a window box and it really goes a long way to make this figure feel like something extra special. There’s no C&C piece, there’s no stupid collectible button, just an honest to god figure of a character I’ve wanted since the day I started collecting DC Universe Classics. Looking at the box dead on, the package allows the figure to do most of the talking. It has the rather simple, yet snazzy “DC Universe Signature Collection” title on the top, and “The Flash” diagonally on the bottom. You get a great look at the figure behind the window, who thankfully is packaged in a very neutral stance. How badly Matty must have wanted to put him in a joint-fucking running pose, but kudos to them for resisting.
The side panel and back of the box features some really fantastic artwork. I mean, seriously, the illustrator put some great effort into the character art and boy does it show. I love ya, Marvel Legends, but damn you could learn a thing or two from this character art. The back features a simple, but effective little bio blurb that ties Jay nicely in with Barry Allen, just in case you’re a little too young to remember or appreciate Jay Garrick. I do sincerely miss the extra stats that used to appear on the DCUC packages, but that’s really the only gripe I can come up with concerning the Signature Series packaging. I love it!
The name of the line and the packaging may have changed, but once I got Jay Garrick in hand, it was a comfortable and familiar feeling. This is still a DCUC figure through and through, and I’m so happy that Jay Garrick can hang with the rest of my DCUC collection without looking out of place. The plastic even feels a bit more solid than the more rubbery stuff I’ve been seeing in the later DCUC figures. Jay features the standard DCUC painted costume body, which means that from the neck down there isn’t a whole lot of unique sculpting at work here. You do get a sculpted belt, his hands are both sculpted into fists, which works fine for the character.
The sculpting that is worth mentioning, however, is the head. Matty’s team really nailed the face perfectly, right down to the little hint of a smirk. Its not quite as deliciously cheesy as the character art, but just right. The helmet is sculpted onto Jay’s head and the little wings are made of something a little softer, but they still hold their shape great.
The paintwork on my figure is pretty immaculate, but then there isn’t a whole lot to screw up here. Sure, the lightning bolt on his chest is crisp and clean, but apart from that you just have the red shirt, blue pants, and red boots. The colors are rich, particularly the red and blue. Ok, there’s a tad of uneaven application between his shirt and skin, but the fleshtones are nice, and the paintwork on the face is crisp and clean, as is the case with most of my DCUC figures. I think the nicest surprise here was the vac metal helmet, which I’m sure was talked about prior to the release, but I don’t remember reading anything about it. Either way, it was a nice surprise and looks very sharp on the figure. If anything makes Jay Garrick stand out as something different from the DCUC figures, its that cool chromed out helmet.
Articulation is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the DCUC line, which again helps to make the figure feel right at home among the rest of my collection. You get a ball jointed head, naturally. The arms feature ball jointed shoulders, hinged elbows, and swivels in the wrists and biceps. The legs feature the usual univeral hinge for the hips, hinged knees and ankles, and swivels in the thighs. Jay can swivel at the waist and features the ubiquitous DCUC ab crunch hinge. Yes, I would have liked to see swivels in the ankles, or even rocker joints in the ankles. Or maybe double joints in the knees. The articulation isn’t perfect, but its familiar and perfectly serviceable.
In the end, I still have to ask myself is it worth it? Is it worth the headaches with dealing with the sub? Is it worth paying basically $25 (including shipping) for what used to be a $15-18 figure line in the stores? And I keep inexplicably answering yes. I’ve invested a lot of time, energy and money into DC Universe Classics over the years and truth be told, I still adore the line. and by extension I love this first figure in the Signature Series. The fact that DCUC is living on this way isn’t exactly optimal, but I’m still glad it is. Ultimately, Matty delivered on a fantastic first figure for the line. The Jay Garrick figure represents every reason I’m still motivated to collect this line, as it is quite simply a great figure of an iconic character that desparately deserved a place on my shelf.
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Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Rhino with Matt Trakker and Bruce Sato by Kenner

Here we go, the final regular MASK edition of Vintage Vault, and I saved the biggest MASK toy in my collection for last. Its the Rhino, a big extended semi cab that converts into a mobile command post, missile base and recon vehicle. This is one really cool and really fun toy and it took me a little while to get mine complete again. As always, let’s start with the figures…

The Rhino comes with not one, but two figures, Bruce Sato and an alternate version of Matt Trakker. While most kids probably preferred the Thunderhawk version of Matt over this one, the Rhino was the only way to get the Bruce Sato figure. And Bruce was pretty prominent on the cartoon, so he was an important figure to have in any collection. He’s a fairly solid looking figure, with a jumpsuit, sculpted boots and a black, detailed vest. He does suffer from the blank face syndrome that many MASK figures do, as there are no paint apps on his face to really accentuate the sculpt.
Sato’s mask is called Lifter. Its power is basically a combination forcefield and tractor beam. The mask is a decent enough design that actually looks more like a hood, but its the same color as the mask that comes with Matt, so the two are a little too similar for my taste.
As for Matt, this is certainly the less iconic version of MASK’s leader, as he isn’t wearing his grey flight suit, but rather a brown jumpsuit and orange vest. The sculpting is mostly in the vest, and there’s some decent paintwork on the silver accents. The head sculpt appears to be identical to the version that comes with the Thunderhawk.
Matt comes with the Ultra Flash mask. Again, its certainly less iconic than Spectrum, (which is ironic since this is the one depicted in the MASK logo!) but I really dig the design. It looks really robotic and the orange matches up with his vest pretty well. As the name suggests, Ultra Flash’s power is blinding enemies. I used to use this Matt Trakker figure as another character.

As always, both figures feature seven points of articulation. The heads turn, the arms rotate at the shoulders, the legs move forward at the hips, and the knees are hinged. This pair are solid enough figures, but ultimately I think their color schemes are a bit too alike to make them really stand out.
And then there’s the main attraction… Rhino is a big honkin semi cab with an extended front. It looks absolutely fantastic, with its mix of burgundy red body and silver, chromed out parts. There’s lots of detail in the mold and the sides are adorned with sticker stripes to give it a little character. Even though its scaled for the smallish MASK figures, its still a sizeable and impressive toy, rolling along on twelve real rubber tires. All the windows are transparent, the doors open and the detailed cab interior comfortably seats two figures. What makes Rhino really impressive in this mode is that there’s really no way to tell it changes into anything. It just looks like a really cool toy truck.
Rhino features a ton of different hidden features, some of which can be used while the thing is in vehicle mode, and some are intended for when its deployed as a missile command post. In vehicle mode, the smokestacks can angle forward to become machine guns, the front grill shoots out to become a battering ram, and the passenger side seat can eject a figure out through the door. Ok, that last feature never really made sense to me. Is it supposed to be tossing out unwanted passengers? I never really got it. Either way, the Rhino can convert to a formidable attack vehicle while its powering down the highway. I used to love making this thing ram Jackhammer.
For something a little more stationary, the back of the cab pulls back to open it up and reveal the little missile command post. A ramp drops down to give the figures access. The launching missile itself looks like its big enough to take out a small city, and there are computer banks and terminals inside and a radar dish on the top. While in this command post mode, the back of the cab can detach to form its own cool little off-road vehicle and the smokestacks can still angle forward into machine guns to help defend the position.
The designers threw a lot of stuff into Rhino and the result is just an amazingly fun toy. Its a bit unlike a lot of MASK vehicles, where it doesn’t so much have a single conversion mode, but just a lots of gimmicks and gadgets to play around with. Its not the only big truck in the MASK line, but it is the first, and in my opinion the best. Next to the Boulder Hill playset, this was probably the one Series 1 toy kids nagged their parents over.
Rhino is a tough MASK vehicle to get complete and in good condition. There’s a lot to go wrong with this thing. The chrome pieces often wear down and often snap off, particularly the mirrors. The windows scratch up easily and the various springs and retaining tabs wear and break over time. And don’t even get me started on the stickers. There’s lots of them and they peel and chip, and as you can see in the photos, the interior stickers love to curl up. My Rhino has its share of blemishes, but its at least complete and in honest, good working condition. Complete versions even in rough shape can often get close to $100 on the secondary market, and if you’re looking for a showpiece, $150 is probably closer to the mark.
And that wraps up all the MASK features that I had planned when I started doing these about seven weeks back. It was a fun ride through what is still one of the underdog toylines of the 80’s. We’ll definitely be coming back back to other MASK toys in the future (and there are plenty more to look at!) as it will work its way into the rotation of Vintage Vault in the coming weeks.

GI JOE Retaliation Delayed…

Ok, so within about a month of its planned release, GI JOE: Retaliation has been inexplicably and bewilderingly pushed back to March of next year. Nine months delay for a movie that was supposed to be done and ready to go. The official reason: So it can be given the 3D treatment to improve overseas numbers. My initial two reactions? 1. Bullshit! 2. What about the toys?

Now, I don’t usually cover news here, but it seemed like I would be remiss if I didn’t weigh in on the whole GI JOE: Retaliation A-Bomb that Paramount and Hasbro dropped this week. Granted, you don’t see a lot of GI JOE figures covered on FigureFan these days, and that’s mostly because I’ve managed to convince myself that the 25th Anniversary figures are my definitive versions of these characters and while I concede that the figures (not necessarily the vehicles)coming out since has been in many ways superior, the designs just don’t do it for me. My days of buying 20 different versions of these characters are over. That having been said, I’ll pick up a figure or vehicle here and there if it strikes my fancy. I still need to pick up that blasted Sky Striker.

The way I see it, there’s three ways to attack this mess. One, how will it impact the movie. Two, how will it impact the toys. Three, how does it impact me. I’ll take the last one first.
It really doesn’t impact on me. I was planning on seeing the movie, and believe me when I say that’s high praise. I didn’t like the first one, and I don’t actually go to see movies unless I really want to see them extremely badly. I don’t enjoy the theater-going experience and for the price of a ticket and a coke, I can own the damn thing on Blu-Ray when its released. That having been said, I was going to see it, but I’m not heartbroken that I have to wait. I’d just as soon go see Avengers again. I have the same “Meh” reaction to the toys, which leads me back to Point Two…

I really wasn’t interested in the Retaliation toys. I will probably pick up a few Cobra figures, but that’s it. The designs of the figures don’t do a lot for me and I think the vehicles look terrible. Nonetheless, I still think that this decision to delay the movie will be disastrous for the toyline and pretty damaging to the toy brand as a whole. And let’s face it, GI JOE hasn’t been a particularly strong presence on the toyshelves in quite a while. The brand really needed this push to keep it alive so that retailers could recognize it as a viable, marketable toyline. We still don’t know what Hasbro will do vis-a-vis future waves, but the initial run of these toys are already in retailer stockrooms, and Hasbro is giving them the go ahead to break the street date.

This is a no-win situation for Hasbro. They’ve already seriously fucked over the retailers that bought these toys with the expectation of a multi-million dollar movie tie-in, which they see as advertising the brand. On those grounds alone, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some sort of opening for litigation here. If Hasbro holds back the rest of the toys for next year, they’re going to generate a lot of bad blood among their retail partners. Case in point: For a while now, Walmarts in my area stopped selling Joes altogether and only made an exception for the Rise of Cobra movie. If they made a similar exception for Retaliation only to have the movie delayed, its doubtful the retailer is ever going to have confidence in the line again.

As for the movie itself? Marketing budgets are figured carefully into the cost of movies and Paramount has already blown that budget on this one, not least of which a very pricey Super Bowl spot. All of that money is as good as flushed down the toilet. If Paramount is going to start the marketing juggernaut up again next year, its going to seriously cut into the film’s profits, but how can they not? And can that really expect to be reclaimed by making the movie 3D for foreign markets? Hey, these decisions were made by people who do this sort of shit for a living. I’m just a hack with a keyboard, so what do I know? But it all leads me back to my initial thought that the 3D excuse is bullshit.