Happy New Year and Welcome to FigureFan’s Best and Worst Week…

It’s almost a brand new year and you know what that means? Lists! Lots of insufferable lists! And the worst are those Best and Worst lists. They’re cliché and awful, and just like taking that horrid first gulp of Alka-Seltzer on the morning of New Year’s Day, I’ve determined they’re absolutely necessary. Which brings me to the real reason I’m doing this: I need a week off! Between balancing work and the Holidays and drinking enough so that I can cope, it’s been a real bitch keeping FigureFan chugging along. I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t drop the ball this 4th Quarter, like I did last year, but I’m really spent and this is the best way to keep the ball rolling with some content while still getting me a much needed rest bit. And that means compiling a list of my Favorites and my Biggest Disappointments of 2012. It’s the lowest common denominator of blog content, but it’s necessary if I’m going to chill for a week and keep myself from freaking out.

It may surprise some to know that I attempt to write a set of these lists every year and somewhere along the way I either bore myself to tears or just get too frustrated trying to set up categories or figure out what was released when. This year, I wanted to make it work and so I set up some simple and ludicrously arbitrary rules to help move the process along. So first off, these lists are not necessarily about what came out this year, but rather what I featured this year. If I didn’t buy it, I’m not touching it, so there are no doubt plenty of great and shitty releases from 2012 that won’t be included because I never featured them. In a vague attempt to keep things topical, I am going to exclude any “Vintage Vault” features from consideration. To keep things even more arbitrary, I am also only allowing each toy line to appear once on each list.

The great news is, I’m already done! Yes, I’ve compiled a week’s worth of this bullshit delightful content, with Tuesday and Wednesday making up my ten Favorites, and Thursday and Friday the ten Biggest Disappointments. The entries will drop in automatically, and I can go crawl into bed for the week and try to sleep off the shellshock from the horror show that was the last couple of months.

Enjoy, have a safe and happy New Years, and I’ll be back next week year to kick off the year more proper like and get things back to business as usual.

By figurefanzero

Marvel Legends: X-Force Deadpool by Hasbro

I love Deadpool so much that sometimes it just hurts. I’ve lost track as to where the pendulum of Deadpool love swings these days. I distinctly remember him becoming so cool that nerd culture railed against him, before it eventually became cool and different to love him again. Where is the Deadpool barometer these days? I don’t know, but his funnybook is pretty damn good right now, and I’ve never let my love of Deadpool fluctuate. Well, except for that time I was vomiting into a bin in the back alley of the Regal 20 after seeing Wolverine Origins. Considering my adoration for all things ‘Pool, I was certainly beside myself with joy when I found that the Merc with a Mouth would be getting a slot in Marvel Legends Wave 3. Then I found out that the regular version would be the X-Force version and the feeling of battered spouse syndrome washed over me.

And there he is, X-Force Deadpool. Regular Deadpool will be taking over the slot at some point and while it’s supposed to be an even breakout, I still fear not being able to find him. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against X-Force Deadpool, apart from the fact that Hasbro released the other X-Force Marvel Legends in a pricey Con Exclusive and so he’s going to be alone on the shelf. It also just feels wrong to have the X-Force version on my shelf and not regular flavor Deadpool. Nonetheless, I’ll try not to let it sour my outlook.

Where was I? Oh, right, the packaging. I adore the character art that features Deadpool playing with a pair of action figures. One is himself, and the other is Doctor Doom and he’s popping the head off Doom. Priceless. Deadpool comes on a tray surrounded by his healthy arsenal of office tools and a figure stand. The only thing left to say is I can’t wait to see the red version in package.

Deadpool gets by with very little unique sculpting. His costume lets the black and grey paint do the talking. The head sculpt is a great representation of ‘Pool’s hood with sculpted seams running up the top and his nose and jawline detectable under the hood. Hasbro went with a furled brow and narrowed eyes. This isn’t flippant, “talking to the fourth wall about my love for Bea Arthur” Deadpool. This is “I’m going to slice open your torso and stick a grenade in your guts” Deadpool. Oddly enough, the other original sculpting that is distinctly Deadpool are his treaded shoes.

Of course, you also get Wade’s trademark weapons rig, which is a separate piece and easily removable. The belt, with sculpted pouches and iconic belt buckle, is black and the rest of the harness is grey with the red and black “X” in the center. The back of the rig holds his two katana sword scabbards, and both of the scabbards are removable from the rig. Deadpool also has a functional pistol holster strapped to the front of his right thigh. The rig fits well, although mine had some mold flashing on it, which had to be trimmed off.

Deadpool’s articulation is both excellent and frustrating at the same time. He sports a ton of points, all of which are quite serviceable. The neck is ball jointed, but also contains the extra hinge, which gives Wade a huge range of motion in his noggin. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, double hinged at the elbows, hinged again at the wrists, and feature swivels in the biceps and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, hinged again at the ankles, and swivel at the hips and ankles. Lastly, his torso features the extra shoulder crunches, a swivel at the waist and an ab crunch at torso. That’s a lot of good articulation, so what’s frustrating? Those damn hip joints. Hasbro’s hip joints illicit a lot of scorn, but on the whole, they don’t bother me too much. But on a figure like Deadpool, where I want to put him into tons of crazy poses, I can feel the irritation. Every time you want to pose his legs, you need to swing the ball joint around to get it where it needs to be, and then position the rest of the leg. It’s serviceable, but very annoying. And don’t get me started on trying to line up the stripes on his outfit.

What would Deadpool be without his trademark arsenal? He comes with two firearms: A silver pistol and a black assault rifle. I’m not crazy about the little stubby pistol, but the rifle is excellent. He also comes with his two katana swords, and they are definitely the showpieces of the pack. They’re wonderfully sculpted and painted and fit into their scabbards. Alas, since Deadpool’s right hand is sculpted to hold his guns, it’s hard to get him to hold both of his swords at the same time. 6-inch scale chimichangas and Hot Pockets are not included.

A few little quibbles keep Deadpool from being perfect, but that shouldn’t stop fans from enjoying the hell out of him. He’s still an excellent figure, lots of fun to play around with, and he certainly captures the kick-ass side of Wade Wilson’s personality quite well. I’m certainly anxious to pick him up in his traditional red and black colors, and with this version in hand, I’m willing to concede that I’ll likely pay a premium for the regular ‘Pool if I have to.

And that wraps up Marvel Universe week, and actually it wraps up my work on FigureFan Zero for the rest of the year. I am taking tomorrow off to finish up all the automated content that will populate on the site throughout next week. There will be no new features next week, just a retrospective type deal that will allow me some much needed rest, although I will likely be working on content for the following week from time to time. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Marvel Legends: Doctor Doom by Hasbro

And moving on in Hasbro’s wave of “Epic Heroes” is… ah… Doctor Doom? Obviously, the Latverian Ministry of Propaganda has wormed their way into the Hasbro organization. The iron fisted dictator of Latveria is not someone I tend to think of as an “epic hero” but I’m so happy to get him in the Legends scale, I’m going to look the other way on this one. I’ll also note here how tempted I was to go with the Marvel Select version over this one just so I could get that kick ass throne. In the end superior articulation won the day.

Packaged shot! Not a lot new to say here, other than the character art, both front and back, is stellar. The Legends artwork has had its ups and downs, but what’s here is definitely some of the best so far. Dr. Doom doesn’t share his slot with another character, so his name is printed on the insert. He does, however, have a variant in this wave, which I understand is the white Future Foundation version. As much as I dig Doom and the Future Foundation, it’s a repaint that will be easy for me to skip.

Doom was originally released in 2007 as part of Hasbro’s initial (re)launch of the Marvel Legends line and what we’re getting here is basically a repaint of that figure. Isn’t that kind of cheap on Hasbro’s part? Yes it is. On the other hand, they had access to a good sculpt and an opportunity to improve on it, so maybe it wasn’t such a terrible idea. I’ll admit I was in love with this figure before I even got him open and when I finally had the figure in hand, things just kept getting better. Having not owned the previous figure, I had no idea that the cape or the mask would be removable and I practically squee’d with delight when the two pieces came off of the figure. The squee quickly turned into a desperate struggle to recover Doom’s mask from FigureFeline before he could carry it off to his subsofa lair.

The figure hits all the right points, with the arms and legs encased in full armor and the torso clad in a sculpted green tunic. You get a snug brown belt with the “D” buckle and a functional scabbard with a very cool closing flap that secures through a loop. The armor has a matte silver finish, which gives it an aged look, and the sculpt features all the little catches that keep it fastened. The removable mask covers about three-quarters of the head and features all the tiny rivets and eyeholes. Remove the mask and you get Doom’s disfigured, sneering face. The removable cape fits perfectly and lifts off without having to pop off the figure’s head. It does make the figure a little back heavy, but I’m guessing that would have been hard to prevent.

Doom as well articulated, but because Hasbro grabbed him from a previous line, he’s a little different than other figures in this wave. The neck, shoulders, and elbows are ball jointed, and the arms feature a swivel in the forearms at the ends of the gauntlets. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, knees, and ankles. The torso includes both a swivel in the waist and a ball joint under the chest. Basically, we’re sacrificing some extra hinges and swivels for ball joints all around. I can’t really complain about his poseability, although his tunic does inhibit his upper leg movement quite a bit.

If you don’t count the mask or the cape, Dr. Doom only comes with two accessories. You get his trademark luger, which fits in his holster and can be held in his right hand. You also get the same figure stand that comes with all the figures in this wave.

Doctor Doom is a spot-on representation of the character. The sculpt is great and the colors are perfect. No doubt, plenty of collectors are going to see this figure as a shameless repack and quick money grab. Me? I bailed on the previous incarnation of Marvel Legends very soon after Hasbro acquired it, so this was a brand new figure for me, but I can sympathize with the folks who are forced to shell out more money to get a better version of a figure that they already own. On the flipside, at least there is no BAF part to trifle with, so if you want to stand on principle and skip the release, you aren’t missing out on anything except a better paint job.

Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up Legends Week with Deadpool!

Marvel Legends: The Punisher (Marvel Knights) by Hasbro

Yes, the next stop on this week of Marvel Legends “Epic Heroes” is everyone’s favorite (well, mine at least) anti-hero and NRA poster child, The Punisher. Gratuitous violence is always fun, so I’ve always got a place for Frank Castle in my collection. In fact, I’ve been jonesing for a new and decent figure of him for a while now, and Hasbro’s earlier effort at the character the 3 ¾” scale was pretty bad, but then I haven’t seen the new one yet. Either way, let’s see how the new Legends version turned out!

The Punisher is one of those sneaky Legends figures which use one slot to provide collectors with two characters. As a result, The Punisher’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on the package, instead it just says “Marvel Knights,” with the other “knight” being Blade. Both characters appear in the artwork on the front and back of the card. Checking out the rest of the package… Holy crap, this is almost like a pack of guns with a figure tossed in! Hasbro must have found a huge cache of 6-inch scale weapons because Mystique came with quite the arsenal, now Punisher, and as we’ll see Deadpool comes with a healthy assortment of party favors too. Ah, but we’ll get to the accessories soon enough… let’s start with the figure.

The new Marvel Legends has produced some pretty epic head sculpts, and Frank Castle’s noggin continues that tradition. He’s thoroughly comic book inspired, and thank god for that because I haven’t cared for any of the character’s movie excursions.  He doesn’t look quite as pinch faced as the old Toy Biz version, but he still looks like he’s detecting the rotten stench of someone who needs punishing. Seriously, this dude is pissed off!  I honestly think the sculpt and paintwork are near perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Most of Punisher seems to rely on new sculpting. I was expecting him to borrow a little more heavily from Fantomex, but only the trench coat is used here, and it works great. Frank’s arms are sculpted to look like the sleeves of the coat, which looks good, but unfortunately means that he looks funny if you decide to display him with the coat off. But seeing as how I was never really happy with the removable coat on the Toy Biz figure, I’m happy to get this one. His belt features a ton of pouches and he has a functional holster for his gun on his leg.

Let’s count down Frank’s articulation. The head is ball jointed and includes the extra hinge to help him look up and down. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, double hinged at the elbows, have swivel cuts in the biceps, and the wrists have hinges and swivels. The legs are ball jointed with swivels at the hips, hinged at the knees, and the ankles have hinges and swivel. Frank also features a ball joint in his torso.

No Punisher figure would be complete without a shit ton of weapons and as we’ve already seen, Frank comes with enough firearms to start his own personal war. For starters he has a sub machine pistol, a sniper rifle, and an assault rifle. They’re all great looking pieces, but why do they all look so familiar. Of course, it’s because Hasbro borrowed them all from Mystique. That’s pretty cheeky, Hasbro, repacking accessories in the same wave. The pistol also stands out in my memory as being a recycled gun, but I can’t place it. I think it stands out because it’s a horrible little sculpt, maybe from 6-inch Movie Cap? The one weapon here that I haven’t seen before is his very cool riot shotgun. I should also note here that I’ve had a huge problem with ML figures holding their guns, but I’m happy to report Punisher can hold almost everything he comes with very well. The sniper rifle is a bit of a problem, though.

My anticipation ran so high for this figure, I was pretty sure there was no way he was going to meet my expectations, and yet he does. While I could argue that there was a missed opportunity here to make him work with and without the coat, I’ll applaud Hasbro for having the good sense to pick one version and make it work extremely well. I’m not even going to complain about the heavy reuse of Mystique’s guns, mainly because they’re all good. And while I was happy to pick him up on sale for $13, Punisher is a figure that I still would have picked up, even if I found him hanging on the peg at TRU for $20. He’s every bit that good.

Marvel Legends: U.S. Agent by Hasbro

It’s over! Christmas is over!!! Sorry, folks, I don’t want to be “that guy” but I tend to celebrate the day after Christmas with more jubilation than the actual day itself. Hopefully everyone had a good holiday. Me? I’ve got another week or so of madness at work and then things can start getting back to normal. Anyway, I’m here to kick off my look at Hasbro’s Wave 3 of Marvel Legends (for reals this time!) and I thought we’d do it with US Agent. I’m starting with US Agent because John Walker is the one character in this wave that I don’t have a lot of affinity toward. In my copious readings throughout the Marvel Universe, I’ve only rubbed elbows with US Agent a handful of times and while I’ve always dug his back story, I don’t like him much as a character. Nonetheless, I was more than willing to add him to my 6-inch Marvel shelf, so let’s press on and see what we’ve got.

Ah yes, I had almost forgotten how well the Marvel Legends packaging captures the obnoxious bravado of your typical superhero funnybook. Hasbro has classified this assortment as the “Epic Heroes!” wave in lieu of there being a Build-A-Figure to tie it all together. US Agent is one of the few figures without a variant in the wave, and he doesn’t share his card art with anyone. Walker comes on his tray with shield and gun in hand, a knife hovering off to the side, and his figure stand to the left. The back of the card has a nice piece of character art with a little tagline and the rest of the wave’s figures pictured at the bottom.

You may be tired of me linking back to previous features this week, but I’m going to do it one last time, but only because US Agent is a repaint and resculpt of Wave 2’s Bucky Cap, and so I’ll be referencing it frequently. US Agent is built off the exact same buck, with a new head sculpt, a new belt, and new gauntlets. Apart from those three areas, the figure is a straight repaint. Now, that’s not a complaint, mind you, Bucky Cap is a great figure to revisit. Besides, we all know by now that toy companies are resorting to heavy parts reuse to defray the rising costs of plastics and to make sure they’re able to make the most profit from your monies. I have no problem with the practice when parts re-use makes sense, and it certainly makes sense here.

So let’s take a quick look at what’s new. The new head sculpt is meatier than Bucky Cap’s, which does seem a little more proportionate to the body. The new hood has beefier wings and his ears are exposed. Walker looks plenty pissed, and while the overall sculpt is a little soft and not the best of what we’ve seen in this line, it does get the job done ok by me. US Agent’s portrait certainly oozes a ton of personality. The belt is a new, separate piece, but it appears to be permanently attached to the figure. Here’s the one stumbling block of the new figure. Bucky Cap had a functional holster and sheath and US Agent does not. Perhaps, Hasbro felt that if they kept the same gear on US Agent than collectors would have complained about too much being the same. Fair enough, but personally I would rather have retained the functionality of Bucky Cap’s belt. I especially lament the loss of the sheath, as I will likely never display US Agent holding his knife.

The new paint scheme is certainly appropriate to US Agent’s first costume. The black and red and white make for an intriguing motif and sets him apart from the Bucky Cap figure. There’s something a little off about the paint on the torso, though. It looks like Hasbro painted over the torso with some glossy paint and it doesn’t look so hot up near the shoulders. It may have something to do with the plastic. I’m not sure what it is, but it detracts slightly from the figure.

Since US Agent shares the same body as Bucky Cap, you’d probably expect him to have the same articulation, and you’d be right. The head is ball jointed and features that delightful extra hinge to help him look up. The arms feature ball joints in the shoulders, swivels in the biceps, double hinged elbows, and wrists with hinges and swivels. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, feature swivels at the thighs and the tops of the boots, and have ankles with hinges and rocker joints. US Agent can also swivel at the waist and he features an ab crunch hinge. I can’t ask for much more articulation than this. Well done, Hasbro!

US Agent comes with the same gear as Bucky Cap. You get his shield, an automatic pistol, and a combat knife. The knife is identical and I will likely lose it rather quickly since I have nowhere to put it. Maybe US Agent will trade it to Deadpool for some chimichangas. The pistol is repainted silver and black, which admittedly looks loads better than Bucky Cap’s unpainted, grey gun. US Agent’s shield is a snazzy black, white and red repaint of Bucky Cap’s shield and it features the same wrist clip and peg so that it can be stored on his back.

US Agent holds very few surprises. I knew going in that he was going to borrow heavily from last wave’s Bucky Cap, but it’s logical and prudent recycling that serves the character well. True, I lament the loss of the holster and sheath, but I can sort of understand why Hasbro did it. Otherwise, US Agent is a solid and very fun figure with excellent articulation. Yes, I’d rank him a little below Bucky Cap, but that may be as much because of my indifference to the character, rather than the quality of the figure.

Tomorrow, we’ll check out The Punisher!

Merry Christmas!

Yes, a hearty Merry Christmas to all!

I’m off celebrating with my family, then it’s home to enjoy some excellent brandy and watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special, and then early to bed, because I’ve got to be into work at a very uncivilized hour tomorrow.

Needless to say, I’m not doing a new feature today. Nonetheless, to keep the Marvel Legends Wave 3 week moving along, I’ll invite you to check out my features on the first two figures in the wave: Iron Man and Mystique, assuming of course you haven’t done so already.

I hope everyone has a great holiday, and be sure to take the time to enjoy the company of friends, family, or hopefully both.

I’ll be back tomorrow to take a look at U.S. Agent!

Marvel Legends Week!

Lest you thought I forgot about Marvel Legends Wave 3 I present you a week’s worth of Marvel Legends Wave 3 goodness! While only two figures from Wave 3 have appeared on the pegs in my area, I was able to snag the remaining figures when Amazon had them on special for around $13 each. Toss in my free Prime shipping and it was quite an amazing deal. Now, keep in mind, when I say “remaining figures” in truth I now only have a set of one of each of the wave, and none of the variants, so I’ve still got some hunting to do. I’m hoping they turn up in abundance later on like the Wave 2 variants did. I should also point out here that Hasbro opted out of including a Build-A-Figure in the Wave 3 assortment, although word is the BAF will eventually be coming back to the line in some form.

Of course, it’s also Christmas Eve, and that’s another reason why I chose to do this week now. I’ve already looked at two figures from Wave 3, so I can do re-runs of those figures tomorrow on Christmas Day. Ain’t I a sneaky bastard? I’ll be officially back from holidays on Wednesday when we check out U.S. Agent!

Star Wars: Republic Striker Class Starfighter (#9497) by Lego

Oh, Christ, it’s another Star Wars Lego set. But wait… let me explain. This one here is from the Old Republic. I fell in love with the ship designs from the Old Republic back when I was playing KOTOR and KOTOR II like crack. I would have gladly sliced off both my ears and mailed them to Hasbro if they would in return have made toys out of the Old Republic ships. I don’t want to tell you what I would cut off in exchange for an Ebon Hawk. Instead, all we got was a grab bag of hard to find figures. I had no idea Lego even made Old Republic sets until I was in the aisle looking for another Star Wars set to buy just passing quickly through the aisle, not looking for any new Star Wars sets to buy, and happened to spot this one. It was also ten dollars off and in truth… I’M WEAK… OH, GOD, I’M SUCH A SAD, WEAK, AND PATHETIC MAN!! Thankfully, Lego is my only real vice… well, Lego and any other kinds of toys… and alcohol, but that goes without saying because I’m kind of a functional alcoholic… and cigars, I really enjoy a good cigar… oh, and pizza and cheeseburgers… and cake, pretty much any kind of cake… let’s get on with the feature…

Damn, this box is awesome. It’s got a cool, darker motif than the other Star Wars sets and it brandishes the “Old Republic” logo right on the front. Alas, it still has Darth Maul’s friggin mug on the box as his agent is clearly working overtime to make him relevant. The box shows off photos of this seriously awesome looking ship along with some minifigs of characters I’ve never seen or heard of before. Inside, you get a meaty instruction book and three numbered baggies containing a total of 376 pieces, which build the three all new minifigs and the starfighter itself. Time to brew up a pot of coffee and get building!

The minifigs are Satele Shan, a Republic Trooper, and an Astromech Droid called T7-01. I had to consult the Wookipedia to see who the hell Satele Shan was, and it turns out she’s a descendent of Bastila Shan furthering the idea that everyone of any notoriety in the Star Wars universe is related to each other and possibly Kevin Bacon. I’m not a big fan of the way her ponytails are printed on her torso, but you have to look pretty closely to even see them. Nonetheless, she’s a pretty cool little figure and includes two printed faces and a double bladed lightsaber.

I really dig the Republic Trooper as well. His body features a colorful and highly detailed printed outfit, and he’s got a scruffy face and he’s all scarred up. The Republic Trooper also comes with one of the most complex and badass guns I’ve ever seen in a Lego set.

And lastly, there’s T7, who is no slouch either. I really love the primitive Astromech Droid designs from the Old Republic period and this minifig is a great recreation of it in Lego form. He’s also a far more complex build than I suspected. For a group of characters that mean nothing to me, this lot of minifigs is still a win.

The Striker is a wonderful and original Starfighter design. The dual position wings make it feel like the melding of an A-Wing with a Z-95 Headhunter. With the wings closed, the ship has a vaguely triangular configuration with two engines protruding off the back and the single-pilot cockpit right in the center of the ship. This mode is so well designed that it’s almost impossible to tell there’s a second configuration. It just looks like a forerunner to the A-Wing and it would have been a perfectly serviceable model even if this were the only mode it had.

The ship makes use of some printed detail on the hull, rather than stickers. There are also a bunch of bricks used to reinforce the plates of the wings, giving the model a lot of depth and complexity to the design. I consider these Lego’s answer to sculpted panel lines, and they go a long way to make the ship look more detailed and convincing, while actually serving to strengthen the model for playability. Yes, this is one solid build, which holds up really well under handling. There are two small articulated stabilizer pieces on the nose of the ship and a pair of clips concealed between the engines to store Satele’s lightsaber pieces. In this mode, the Striker’s armaments consist of two forward laser cannon positioned under the wings.

To put the Striker into its attack mode, you unclip the wings on either side of the Starfighter’s main body, just in front of the cockpit. The wings swing back on hinges and lock firmly into place near the engines. Then all you have to do is swing the laser cannon forward and now you have a completely different looking ship with similarities to the Z-95 design. This mode also gives the Striker a little more firepower by revealing a bank of two proton torpedoes under each wing. Holy crap, I can’t say enough about how much I love this ship!

While I would still prefer Hasbro to do some of these ships for the 3 ¾” figures, I’ll happily take the Lego versions instead. The Striker offers a fun and satisfying build and the end result is a really well-engineered model and definitely one of the coolest designed Star Wars ships I’ve seen since the V-Wing. The only odd thing about the set is that since the ship is a one-seater and it isn’t slotted for an Astromech droid, the extra minifigs feel out of place. Still, that’s the way the ship was designed and it isn’t Lego’s fault. Besides, I’m not about to complain about having extra minifigs in a set. As far as value goes, I’ve seen this set sell for as much as $55, which is really pushing it. My local Target offers it for the more reasonable $45, and I was able to pick it up on a Price Cut at $35. Not bad at all!

I’m taking tomorrow off so I can get some last minute stuff done after work and before Christmas, but I’ll be back on Monday to kick off the last week of 2012… Marvel style

DC Universe Classics: Wonder Twins (2009 SDCC Exclusive) 2-Pack by Mattel

Ok, I’m cheating a little, as today’s feature was not part of Matty Collector’s Cyber Monday Sale. It was, however, a Matty “warehouse find” that I picked up by way of the fine folks at Big Bad Toy Store a couple of weeks back. And since I had this one last day hanging out there, I decided to include this set to round out the week. I tried like hell to pick this set up when it was first offered back in ’09, but I got shut out, and I wasn’t even after the super exclusive Gleek accessory. The Twins are cool, but I hate that goddamn jabbering space monkey.

The packaging! Oh, the packaging!! For a guy that takes numerous trips to the dumpster each week with shredded action figure packages, you’d think I wouldn’t care, but I do. I especially care when a company goes to extremes like this one. I’ll confess the presentation of this set is a huge reason why I just wouldn’t let it go and kept hoping to pick it up one day. Now that I have it in hand, I have to say that the presentation doesn’t disappoint.

The Twins come in a standard white Matty mailer box. Inside, there’s a beautiful package with a semi-transparent wrap-around sleeve (Note: The sleeve comes with an opaque film to protect it, which I’ve opted not to peel off at this time!). The sleeve has the DC Universe logos and each of the Twins’ emblems superimposed over the figures.  When you take off the sleeve, you have access to both figures in their trays. But before you take them out, you get to try out the package’s electronic gimmick. Nay, gimmick is too cheap a word for the glorious electronic engineering of this package. Fold the package together so that the Twins connect their knuckles and then sit back and watch the show. LEDs light up around each of the figures and you hear that familiar Hanna-Barbera sound effect followed by:

“Wonder Twin powers activate!”

Zan: “Form of water!”

Jayna: “Shape of an Eagle!”

Zan: “Let’s go save those kids!”

Jayna: “I’m with you Wonder Brother!”

Glorious! With the box opened in this fashion, the back of it displays a great montage of the Twins. Unfortunately, it was photo-bombed by Gleek. Get out of my beautiful piece of Wonder Twins art, you fucking monkey!!!

With a little careful clipping of those pesky invisible rubber bands, each figure can be removed from their tray and then returned to the package, which is a great thing, because I plan on keeping them in the box and in the mailer. Maybe someday when I get more space for my vast DCUC collection, I’ll actually display the Twins with the rest of my figures, but for now, they’ll be staying nestled in their glorious package. But enough about the box, I suppose we should check out the figures themselves.

Let’s start with the head sculpts. Both Zan and Jayna have obviously sipped from the same Kool-Aid as DCUC’s Mary Batson and Stargirl, because they have the same creepy, vacant, cheesy, wax museum smiles. Personally, I think it works fine for these characters. Maybe Mattel could have toned it down a bit, but I prefer having cheesy smiles on the Twins over some kind of serious or neutral expressions, it just suits the characters better. Besides the smiles, I think the likenesses on both figures make them look a lot older than they should. What I’m seeing may be a result of going from very simple 70’s Hanna-Barbera art to 3D “realistic” figures, but a lot of their youth was lost in the transition and you can see it based on the character art from the packaging.

I think Zan’s likeness holds the best out of the two, although It’s worth noting that my Zan figure has an annoying nick in the plastic to his right cheek, which makes me wonder if these “warehouse finds” were actually customer service returns. As for Jayna, well there’s no nice way of saying it, Mattel really screwed the pooch on her likeness. Her face is flat and nowhere near the shape of the character art and her hair style looks like she styled it to mimic a Smurf hat. I don’t mind admitting that I grew up having quite the crush on Jayna. It’s still easy to see why when looking at the original art, but the face on her figure just ain’t cutting it. It’s hard to believe this is a Four Horsemen effort, but I guess everyone has their bad days.

Both Zan and Jayna are pretty standard DCUC figures built on the regular male and female bucks. As a result, both figures are too big, but Zan is way too big. Granted, scale has always been an issue with DCUC, so it’s not a problem unique to this set, but one that’s still worth noting. Their boots, gauntlets, belts, and collars are sculpted but the rest of their costumes are all paintwork. The bodies are cast in purple plastic, which looks fine on Jayna, but curiously cheap and rough on Zan. The tampos on their chests are nice and crisp, and the rest of the paintwork is up to par for the line.

Both figures feature the same points of articulation, all standard to the DCUC line. You get ball joints in the necks and shoulders; the arms have swivels in the biceps and wrists, and hinges in the elbows. The legs have the usual universal joints at the hips, swivels in the thighs, and hinges in the knees and ankles. They each also have the ubiquitous DCUC ab crunch hinge.

Each figure comes with an example of them in one of their alternate forms. Jayna comes with a really cool eagle, complete with articulated wings. Zan comes with a bucket of water with his face sculpted into the water. It was a cool selection because eagle Jayna can actually grip the handle on bucket of water Zan.

If it seems like I spent as much, if not more, time on the packaging as the figures, that’s certainly intentional. This set is a lot about the presentation and when you get down to it, the figures themselves are just flawed DCUC treatments of a pair of characters that most collectors are either going to love or hate (Hey, at least they didn’t do a Wendy and Marvin set, but then if they did I’d probably buy that too). I can’t say the set is disappointing, because I knew a lot about the issues going into it, but I can say I’m disappointed that Mattel didn’t put more effort into the likenesses, and maybe selected a more appropriate body for Zan.

As far as value goes, I got the set for $55 shipped and I’m perfectly fine with that, particularly since I had no interest in ponying up the money for a bagged Gleek that doesn’t even fit in the packaging. Considering that some of the DCUC two-packs that aren’t exclusives go for more than that these days, the price of this set was certainly reasonable and I’m happy to finally have it in my collection.

Masters of the Universe Classics: Vikor by Mattel

Ok, we’re up to the last of the MOTUC figures that I picked up from Matty’s Cyber Monday Sale. It’s Vikor, and I have absolutely no interest in this figure as an MOTUC character. But that’s fair enough, since he’s a figure that’s based on concept art with a subsequent bio retconned into the universe. Yes, like a lot of collectors, I bought him strictly because I dig Conan, and Vikor is now an unofficial Conan stand-in on my action figure shelves.

There’s the awesome MOTUC packaging. When will we see it again around these parts? Who can tell. Possibly not for a long time. The insert on mine has the explosion that says “The Original” which, in “Matty Speak,” means the exact opposite. This figure is not the original, it’s the re-issue. Anyway, I’m not even bothering with the bio on the back of the card, because Vikor here is just my generic Conan-like barbarian figure, and I’m not concerned with his tie-in to the Masters universe. There’s was something else I wanted to say here… now what was it? Oh yeah… VIKOR IS AN ABSOLUTE BITCH TO GET OFF THE TRAY!!! I don’t know what kind of tortured method the factories used to get this guy onto his tray, but his cape was passed through a narrow little slot and his sword also passes in front of and behind the plastic. Ultimately I had to get a pair of scissors and start hacking away until I could get the figure free. The fact that he’s wearing chains is somehow appropriate.

Out of the package, and it’s easy to see why Vikor is a perfect Conan stand in. Not the “Ahh’nold” Conan, or even the “Guy-From-Game-Of-Thrones-Who’s-Name-I-Can’t-Be-Bothered-To-Look-Up” Conan. Nope, he’s more like the awesome Frank Frazetta Conan. He’s a remarkably simple figure using the basic MOTUC male buck with just the right amount of original bits here and there to make him work so well as a barbarian warlord. He’s so chock full of barbarian goodness that he makes He-Man look like a girly-haired pussy by comparison.

First off, check out that head sculpt. The face is chiseled and harsh with a broad nose, prominent brow and narrow eyes that seem intent on figuring out the most spectacular way to eviscerate you. There’s a wonderful fierce nobility that comes across just like it does in Frazetta’s artwork. The horned helmet and long hair are both sculpted together and the helmet is ever so slightly crooked, making it look so much more convincing than if it were just sculpted as part of the head. It’s also pitted and dinged, making it one of the best sculpted pieces of armor this line has produced. The head is perfectly framed by the necklace of bones that holds on his cape, but more on that cape later.

As already mentioned, the body is a basic He-Man torso and legs. The chest is completely bare and the typical MOTU-style furry diaper is replaced with a ragged brown loincloth, front and back, held on with a sculpted coin-style belt on each side. The back of the sash has a loop to store his sword. Apart from this new modesty garment, Vikor is wearing straps on his biceps and manacles on his wrists, each with the remnants of real chains hanging down from them.

The molded fur cape fans out behind him and while I would have preferred it to be painted matte, rather than the less appropriate glossy brown, it still features a gorgeous amount of texture work and the bone necklace that attaches it around Vikor’s neck has a cool, rotting yellow finish. The downside of the cape is that it’s molded in very rigid plastic and it does tend to get in the way. Fortunately, you can pop off Vikor’s head and remove it, for when he plans on going apeshit with his axe and needs a little more elbow room to maneuver.

Speaking of going apeshit with weapons, Vikor comes with a sword, a shield, and a battle axe. The sword and axe are paired with the same style grips. They are very nice pieces, but I would have preferred something more primitive looking, like sculpted leather grips, over these green metallic grips. The weapons look a little too modern for the figure, and while I realize that mixing medieval with future tech is one of the charms of the MOTU universe, they’re a tad out of place for my Conan figure here. The shield also has bit of a modern vibe to it, although it matches the other weapons really well and can clip onto either of Vikor’s arms.

Vikor is a spectacular figure, and one I’d wholeheartedly recommend even to folks who aren’t collecting the MOTUC line. In fact, if you want a good representation of what makes this line of figures so great, Vikor makes a fantastic stand-alone piece to display on your shelf. I’m really glad I had another opportunity to pick him up, and the discounted price and shipping makes it all the better. Of course, the other reason I got him was to display with my Battleground Teela. The two figures look like they were made for each other, as both really transcend the MOTUC line and display beautifully together.

I’m all out of stuff that I scored from Matty’s Cyber Monday Sale, so tomorrow I’m going to shoehorn in another Mattel item that I picked up on sale from a different e-tailer that same week.