Blackest Night: Red Lantern Mera by DC Direct

I warned y’all that I was backfilling my DCUC shelves and would have a number of older DC figures to feature, but not all of them are going to actually be DCUC figures. I’m at the point where I’m willing to concede that it’ll be a while before Mattel gets around to doing certain characters (if ever) and so I’m willing to incorporate some more of the DC Direct figures onto my DCUC shelves. Today we’re looking at Red Lantern Mera from the Blackest Night, Series Seven. I’ll confess, I didn’t have a burning need to have her on my shelves, but I picked up my last bunch of comic TPBs from Amazon and I’ve been feeling a little guilty about not supporting the local comic shop. So, I took a trip the day before yesterday and picked up a couple of the DCD figures he’s had on the shelves for a long while. Today, we’ll check out Mera and tomorrow we’ll look at the other one.

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There’s the packaged shot… mine is pretty bent, but I care not! Soon, it will be ravaged by scissors! The package is the usual DCD affair with a sealed clamshell and a printed insert. The presentation is nice enough and the back panel shows the other figures in the series and little bio blurbs for all of them. Obviously, this isn’t collector friendly packaging, but it does give you a nice hit of plastic fumes when you open it.

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Wow, she’s gorgeous. I mean, I’m no newcomer to DCD’s sculpts. I have a bunch of their figures, but still… Wow! Of course, I don’t mean gorgeous in the traditional sense. She’s got demon eyes and she’s clearly preparing to barf napalm right into my face, but this is really nice sculpting for a figure in this scale. Where to begin? Let’s start with the portrait: A masterful blend of beauty and evil. Beavil? Whatever you call it, I love what they did with her. Beside the great expression and free tickets to the boob show, the wild, blown hair looks fantastic and I really dig the way her briny shoulder armor frames her face. The tiara appears to be sculpted from a separate piece and sports a gorgeous metallic red paint job. Spendid!

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Mera is clad in skintight red scale armor, with every tiny little scale lovingly recreated. It not only looks amazing, but it gives the figure a wonderful texture when you handle it. She has red withered fins on her calves and more briny armor bits protruding from her arms and her cuffs. The outfit is topped off with a Red Lantern disc attached just under her chest. It’s a simple enough costume design, but the sculpted scales and the gorgeous red metallic finish make it appear to be so much more.

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Articulation? Uh oh… here’s where the barnacle crumbles. It’s DC Direct, so you know things are going to be limited. In this case, you get ball joints in the shoulders, swivels in the hips, and hinges in the knees and elbows. Is the neck ball jointed? It seems to be, but my figure’s head won’t move, and I’m not forcing it. It seems like there isn’t much room to move with the sculpted hair anyway.  Swivels in the biceps and/or wrists would have helped a lot, especially for posing her with her trident. And speaking of her trident…

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Accessories! Mera comes with a cool assortment of goodies. The trident is a nice and simple piece, and she also comes with her Red Lantern battery. And Dex-Starr! She comes with the most hate-filled cat in the universe. He’s a completely static piece and smaller than the one that came in the Green Lantern Classics 3-pack and he’s sculpted specifically to be propped up against a figure’s leg. On the other hand, the sculpt is superb. From his crazy ass expression to the little pads on his feet, the guys at DCD went all out on him, and It’s much appreciated. Mera also comes with a Red Lantern disc stand.

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Compromise! Why does everything have to be a compromise? If only we could get this level of sculpting and paintwork on a figure with the DCUC level of articulation, it would start raining puppies and lollipops, and all would be right with the world. Sadly, that’s not likely to happen. So, she may not be well articulated… Mera is still a fantastic display piece, and while she’s just a smidge too tall (she’s a wee bit taller than my Signature Series Atrocitus), she still makes a nice compliment to my Red Lantern ranks. Tomorrow we’ll check out a character that is long overdue for the Mattel lines…  Psycho Pirate!

DC Universe Classics: Etrigan the Demon by Mattel

Ok, let’s kick off this DC Week… Jack Kirby and 1972: Both are awesome. 1972, because that’s the year I was born, and Jack Kirby because… well, he’s Jack friggin Kirby… architect of so many of the fictions and characters that I have consumed and loved since I was a child. Of course, 1972 was the year that Kirby created Etrigan, a great character, albeit one that Kirby reluctantly nurtured. He’s been missing from my DCUC shelf for far too long. These past few weeks, I’ve been filling the holes on my DCUC shelf via the Ebays, and Etrigan was one of the first characters that I went after. And so, for today’s feature, we part the veil of time itself and journey into the past… taking us all the way back to the beginning… DC Universe Classics… Year One… Wave One… Insert dramatic lighting crack here!

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I picked this guy up loose, so there’s no packaged shot, but DCUC’s packaging has only gone through superficial changes throughout its twenty wave lifespan, so we aren’t missing much. He was packaged with a Collect & Connect part for Metamorpho, but mine came without the part. Metamorpho will have to be one of those C&C figures that I splurge on as my collection nears completion.

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Etrigan has a face that even Jason Blood’s mother couldn’t love, and while that may be a slam against Etrigan, it’s high praise for the figure. The head sculpt is definitely up there among my favorites in the DCUC line. They really captured his scowl perfectly, along with the heavy brow and piercing red eyes. I also really dig the glossy paint, which gives him a bit of a slimy look. Is Etrigan supposed to be slimy? I don’t know, but it looks great on the figure.

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Etrigan’s top half is mostly standard buck, although keep in mind, this was the first wave, so there really isn’t a standard buck yet. The combination of jagged cut sleeves and wrist cuffs give him a nice medieval look. The bare legs are sculpted with nasty demon skin and veins, right down to his little medieval booties. His whole ensemble is tied together by his ragged, blue cape. Mattel certainly nailed Etrigan’s iconic look here. Brilliant!

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Of course, you get what will become the standard DCUC buck. He has ball joints in the neck and shoulders. The arms have hinged elbows and swivels in the biceps and wrists. His legs have the usual DCUC style hip joints, swivels in the thighs, and hinges in the knees and ankles. He also has the ab crunch in the torso.

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And so, Etrigan joins the ranks as addition number 160-something to my DC Classics/Unlimited/Signature/Etc. shelves. He’s a great indication of the awesome figures to come in future waves and it’s nice to finally have the character represented in my collection. To celebrate, I think I’ll go watch the excellent Justice League episode, “A Knight of Shadows” and maybe even finally get around to reading some of Paul Cornell’s Demon Knight books. Tomorrow… we’ll check out some DC Direct goodness.

Marvel Legends: Ultimates Captain America by Hasbro

It’s Marvel Monday again! I’ve got some new MU figures on their way to me, but until then, I’ll just have to substitute a Marvel Legends figure for today: The Ultimates version of Cap! Captain America has already had his share of love from the new Legends line, with Steve Rogers and Bucky Cap, but I’m not complaining, because I do love Captain America, and as it turns out this figure is pretty fantastic.

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There are no real changes to the packaging since the last wave. It’s still as delightfully obnoxious and in-your-face as a comic book figure package should be. The character art is a little wanting, but that’s ok because the huge bubble displays the figure well, and draws in the eye. Cap comes with his shield beside him, and despite the package exclaiming that Cap is part of the “Hit Monkey Series” there is no BAF part included with this one. My guess is that Hasbro knew this guy would sell by himself, and in my case they were absolutely right.

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Out of the package and oh, shit, this guy is all sorts of awesome. I’m not a big fan of the Ultimates books. I tend to turn to them when I have nothing else to read. That having been said, I do tend to like the character designs a lot, and Cap here is a perfect example of why I do. It’s the magnificently rugged, battlefield look that I love so much. It made perfect sense that the movie costume drew so heavy from the Ultimates design, because this looks like proper WWII Cap, thanks to all the added gear.

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He’s got a softer plastic vest with pouches and a painted buckle, and his belt has sculpted ammo pouches, grenades, a combat knife, and canteen. It all looks outstanding! It’s a shame his gun is not removable, but it’s sculpted and painted well enough that I thought it might be. All of the gear is cast in soft brown plastic with some bright silver paint apps.

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All that gear is placed onto an excellent body. The gloves and boots are slightly oversized to keep the chunky Ultimates aesthetic going, and the head sculpt conveys a delightfully self-righteous and pissed-off Rogers. The paint on the figure is also executed quite well. Yes, there’s a little chipping and bleeding on the white, which is clearly not intentional, but I think it adds to the weathered look of the character design.

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Naturally, Cap comes with his trusty shield, which is the same sculpt as the one that came with last year’s Steve Rogers. It does, however, have a fresh coat of paint, which includes a slightly more metallic finish to the front and the back is painted grey now, instead of red. The shield can clip onto his arm, or peg into the hole on his back.

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POA Roll Call! There’s nothing new here in articulation. You get ball joints in the neck, shoulders, hips, and ankles. The arms feature swivels in the biceps and gloves, and double hinges in the elbows. The legs have swivels in the thighs and boots, and double hinges in the knees. The torso swivels at the waist and has an ab crunch hinge. Apart from the usual annoying qualities of those Hasbro hip joints, the articulation is fab.

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Hasbro has delivered a number of 5-star figures in the new Legends line. Well, for my money, this version of Cap certainly takes his place alongside the likes of Thor, Punisher, and the first Steve Rogers figure, as one of them. He looks fantastic and he’s so much fun to play with, he’s probably going to land on my desk for a week or so before getting put up on the Legends shelves. Yes, a removable gun would have really sealed the deal, but even still, this figure has nothing to apologize for. He’s a fine example of everything I want out of this line… aside from good retail distribution. That still sucks.

Ok, with Marvel Monday out of the way, it’s going to be a DC theme up through to the end of the week. I may deviate Saturday for something different… we’ll see!

Sunday Funday: Time Bandits Blu-Ray!

I love time travel fiction, Monty Python and British sci-fi… Time Bandits was practically made for me. It was released in 1981. I was nine, and my parents took me to see it. I loved it and it went on to become one of the VHS tapes that I rented the most in my youth, right next to Ghostbusters and Strange Brew. I was an odd child.

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One night last year at the corner pub, Time Bandits was the topic of discussion among some friends and some people we had just met. That night, I made the mistake of lending my DVD copy to a girl that was at that gathering and I never got it back. I don’t usually lend out my coveted DVDs, but when I’m drunk and a nice-looking pub girl wants to come home with me and borrow a copy of “Time Bandits,” I’m not likely to hesitate. That’s not the sort of thing that happens every day. Anyway, about a week ago, I wanted to watch it again and when I went to the shelf for it, I suddenly remembered it was gone. I took the opportunity to upgrade to a Blu-Ray copy and kicked back with it this weekend along with some scrummy Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout.

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Time Bandits can be summed up fairly simply. It’s about a gang of “little people” who work for God and steal a map of all the time holes in the universe in an effort to get rich by robbing their way through history. Oh yeah, and David Warner plays The Devil, who is obsessed with computer technology and he wants to get it from them. That right there is about as epic as a movie concept can get. But beyond that, what I really love about this movie is the way it looks. The time-bending costume designs for Randall and his band, the look of the map itself, that crazy medieval ship that the giant winds up wearing as a hat, even David Warner’s costume, complete with Giger-inspired headgear, is friggin fantastic. There’s also a lot of cool and more surreal imagery at play. I love the void of hanging cages in the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, the way the final battle actually takes place in the lego-strewn floor of Kevin’s bedroom, and those freaky skull-headed, hook-handed minions. Those things freaked me out as a kid… and they still kinda do! This movie is replete with fantastic and imaginative imagery.

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The other awesome thing about Time Bandits, as with all of Terry Gilliam’s films is that there are always tons of unanswered questions, which are really wonderfully conducive to drunken speculation at pubs. You take a lot at face value and you’re challenged to fill in a lot of blanks. In the case of Time Bandits, the ending alone has been the subject of many a night of slurred ranting and arguments among my regular drinking group. I also would have loved to know more about Horseflesh. Who was he and how did he die? Just the fact that his name was tossed out a couple of times gives the movie an intriguing untold backstory.

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The Blu-Ray itself is a rather mixed bag, with bare bones extras that include only a theatrical trailer and an interview with Gilliam. This is a film that demands a rich commentary track and its absence is highly disappointing. Furthermore, the quality of this film’s print hasn’t aged well and really screams for a professional restoration, which obviously didn’t happen here. As a result, the DVD never looked all that better than the VHS, and there are times when the Blu-Ray doesn’t look much better either. There are still episodes of distracting noise on the print from time to time, and the darker scenes don’t benefit much from the HD transfer. On the other hand, the scenes in Sherwood Forest and in Ancient Mycenae do look rather crisp and clean. The Blu-Ray is an improvement, there were times when I said, “Ooooh, that looks nice!” but it isn’t the polished overhaul that I would have liked.

While the quality of the Blu-Ray is disappointing, Time Bandits remains one of my childhood favorites and to this day I never tire of watching it. It’s quirky and fun, it’s flippant and yet incredibly dark, but most of all it’s pure imagination running wild.

Avengers: Iron Man Quarter-Scale Figure by NECA

Lest you thought that NECA’s impressive quarter-scale Captain America figure was a one-shot deal, I present to you the second in their quarter-scale Avengers series: Iron Man! Donning the Mark VII, my favorite armor in his wardrobe, Tony Stark arrived this week to keep my gigantic Steve Rogers company on the shelf. I don’t think this guy needs much more of an introduction, so let’s just get to it!

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Much like Cap, Iron Man comes packaged in a long window box, but this one has been completely redesigned to feature a red and gold motif to match the character. The window has some printed graphics, made to look like a HUD, that point out the LED effects. The back of the package features a little blurb about Stark in the Avengers and has a list of people who worked on the design of the figure.

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Slide the tray out and you’ve got some work to do. Iron Man is held in with tons of twisty-ties. By the time I was finished I had a ridiculous pile of twisty-ties and black plastic bars on the floor beside me. Apart from the pair of swappable fists, that’s all that’s in the box. I was surprised there wasn’t an instruction sheet about the electronics or battery changing or something. I think I may swallow all the batteries just because I wasn’t warned not to. As with Cap, the package is totally collector friendly and you can just put the figure back in the tray and slide him back into the box for storage or display.

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Ah, there’s a reason this armor is my favorite… it’s just gorgeous. I was a wee bit concerned that seeing it in this large scale might change my mind, but it’s only reinforced my love for the design. The mix of sweeping curves and angles scratches my itch right where it counts. The detail represented here doesn’t approach Hot Toys quality, but there’s plenty of fine touches to make it work. Some of the panel lines could have been cut a little deeper to be more convincing, but I’m only offering that up in an attempt to be critical of what is a quite marvelous sculpt. Iron Man stands at almost the exact same height as Cap. Some may point out that his legs are thinner, thus dispelling the illusion of a guy in a suit of armor. I can see that, but at this point, just about every Iron Man figure I’ve seen falls into this trap and I’m at the point where such things don’t bother me anymore.

The paint on the figure is excellent. The red is similar to that rich and beautiful stuff Hasbro used on their Iron Man 2 figures. It sports a  brilliant sheen and gives the Mark VII that great polished new car look. There are obviously different grades of plastic used here, some hard, some soft, but the red is consistent throughout the entire piece. The gold isn’t as brilliant as the red, but still works for me. The silver looks more like a brushed steel finish and it really ties the whole deco together nicely.

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One of the cool things about doing the Mark VII in this scale is the ability to do justice to his flight backpack. The figure has six hinged flaps, which can be deployed upward to give Stark a little extra flight power. Very cool!

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At this point, it’s worth mentioning that Iron Man feels like a far more delicate piece then Cap. Cap is a solid hunk of plastic, which I would have no problem swinging like a cudgel. Iron Man isn’t necessarily fragile, but there are more moving parts involved in the armor (particularly the shoulders and jet pack) and the smooth surfaces and metallic paint are probably more prone to scratches and dings. I have no doubt Cap would survive a shelf dive from the top of any bookcase and come away unscathed, Iron Man most certainly would not.

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Iron Man sports a decent amount of articulation. He’s definitely a giant action figure, although you don’t get the same range of motion from some of these joints as you would in your average Marvel Legends. There are ball joints in his neck, shoulders, hips, wrists, and ankles. His arms feature bicep swivels and hinged elbows. The legs have swivels just below the hips, and double hinges in the knees, and his feet are hinged in the middle. His torso features what appear to be ball joints in the waist and torso, but apart from a little twisting in the torso, the movement here offers a lot of resistance, and quite frankly I don’t want to force it. As with Cap, the hip movement is probably the most restrictive, although you can still get a fairly wide stance. The foot hinges are useful because Iron Man is rather top heavy, so by bending the toes down a tiny bit, you can get him to stand quite solidly upright. His shoulder armor is hinged, and if you pop them out, you can clip them back on, but the clips are tiny, so I would not recommend stressing them. Ball jointed connecting arms might have worked better for the shoulders, allowing them to float, but what’s here still allows for an awful lot of arm movement. The bottom line: You won’t get this Iron Man into a punching the ground pose, but you can still get him to do some cool stuff.

Cap comes with two extra hands, both in fists. I’m not a big fan of swapping out hands unless it’s necessary for holding specific accessories. That’s especially the case here since the stock fists have the LEDs in them. Truth be told, I doubt I’ll ever swap the hands. Nonetheless, it is really impressive that NECA was able to deliver both lights in the hand repulsors AND allow for swappable hands.

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So, how about them electronics? Iron Man features four (I’m counting the eyes as one) independent LED lights. By independent, I mean that there are four teeny-tiny switches: One on his back, one on the back of his helmet, and one on each of his forearms, near the wrists. Flip these on and the light show begins. The Arc Reactor light in the chest is ridiculously bright and the eye lights are not too shabby either. The palm repulsors are yellow and a lot dimmer, but still quite adequate. He certainly makes an impressive display when all lit up.

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Like Cap, this figure is “limited” to 7,500. That may sound like a lot, and while the quarter-scale Cap was easy to get (he’s still available at most e-tailers), Iron Man seems to have sold like wildfire. His pre-order was sold out at my usual supplier, but I was able to sneak in a pre-order with the fine folks at Entertainment Earth before he sold out there as well. At about $90, he feels like a pretty solid value. I’m not just saying that because he’s huge. The quality of the figure is excellent and the electronics are surprisingly well implemented. In terms of engineering and construction, he’s a very different figure from Cap, and yet the two display wonderfully together. NECA appears to still be moving forward with the next installment in the line, a quarter-scale Thor, and while no pictures have been seen, the rumor is he has already been sculpted. He’ll certainly be more like Cap, although I’m hoping they go for a soft goods cape. NECA also does’t seem to be backing away from the outrageous claim that hey are doing a Hulk in this line as well!

DC Comics: “New 52” Darkseid by DC Collectibles

Boy have I had this guy on my want list for a long time. My first Darkseid figure came from Kenner’s old Superpowers line. He was eventually outdone when I completed the Collect & Connect Darkseid from the DC Universe Classic line. And now, even that generously sized Darkseid must take second seat to DC Collectibles magnificently mammoth version based on his appearance in the New 52 Justice League. I’ll go on record and say that I still prefer the classic style of the character. It’s the one I grew up with and it’ll always be my favorite. But with that having been said, I was mighty damn excited to see this new Jim Lee version turn up in Justice League #4 and I knew I needed this guy on my shelves in one form or another. Of course, I usually turn to Mattel’s line for my DC figures, but since the Unlimited version of Darkseid turned out all sorts of puny and shitty, I decided to go with DC Collectibles for this one.

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I am not a big fan of DC Collectibles package designs. They’re bland and boring and everything that a package for comic book-based collectible should not look like. Christ, people, you’re in the business of art and graphic design, why can’t you come up with something better than this? Look at Mattel’s Unlimited line… that’s how you do an exciting comic book figure package. Thankfully, Darkseid comes in a giant window box, so the beast of a figure can do all the talking. The package is completely collector friendly if you want to keep it around for storage, although it’s a bit flimsy so it’s likely to get beaten up pretty easily. Darkseid is tied down to the inner plastic tray with a thousand twisty ties, so it helps to have a pair of clippers handy or a set of finely tuned Omega Beams. The only other thing in the box is a sheet of instructions regarding his shoulder pads, but more on that later.

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Before getting to the particulars of the sculpt, let me say this: Holy crap, this guy’s heavy!! Sure he’s thirteen inches tall, but I still didn’t expect this much mass. I guess I’m used to stuff this big being rotocast, but Darkseid is like a solid brick of plastic, possibly with a core of dwarf star alloy at the center. I could probably launch this guy off the roof and while the shoulders will likely shoot off, I think the figure might come away unscathed and dent the pavement. The last time I was this impressed with the sheer weight of a figure was probably when I first held Hasbro’s Masterworks Galactus.

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Darkseid’s body features his New 52 armor. I think the armor looks great in the Jim Lee art, but it’s had mixed results in plastic form. The DC Unlimited version looks terrible to me because it’s basically a standard buck with his armor laid over the shoulders like football equipment. This version incorporates everything into a far beefier body. The shoulder and chest armor still stands out beautifully because it’s a different color than the torso, and it matches the gloves and boots nicely. The armor features weathered cracks and fractures all throughout the sculpt, and he has a translucent red crystal right in the middle of his chest. The torso and legs are black with sculpted muscles and some wrinkles here and there, and Darkseid’s bare arms feature the same stony texture as his face. The final touches of the deco include the gold edging to his belt and the piping on his torso and around his helmet.

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Ok, onto the sculpt… the portrait is gorgeous, and by gorgeous I mean butt ugly, just the way he’s supposed to be. Darkseid looks appropriately pissed off, just like he’s always supposed to look. He’s gritting his teeth in rage, and narrowing his red eyes as if he’s about to focus his Omega Beams and fry some capes. The New 52 likeness features a more complex and craggy complexion than the older Darkseid, and it’s wonderfully reproduced here in every little evil nook and cranny. He looks positively ancient.

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How about articulation? Honestly, I don’t need much from my Darkseid, other than to just stand there and look menacing. That having been said, you do get a decent amount of posabilty out of this guy. He features ball joints in the neck, shoulders, and wrists. He has swivels in his biceps, forearms, and lower legs. He has a standard T-crotch, and hinges in his elbows and knees. The shoulder plates are attached with ball joints to allow them to lift and move with his arms. It works well, but they can detach if you move his shoulders too much. The included instruction sheet shows you how to reattach if they pop off, but apparently, it’s a bitch to get them back on. I’ve done quite a bit of posing with my figure and mine have yet to pop off, so it seems to just be a precautionary warning. The knee hinges are crazy strong ratcheting joints that require a lot of force to bend. There’s no worries about the legs giving out under the weight of the figure, but it can make posing them a little scary.

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As a Deluxe figure, Darkseid clocks in at around $85-90 at most retailers. Once I saw him, there was never any doubt that I was going to add him to my collection, and I’m glad I did. I love Jack Kirby and The New Gods and while I still prefer the Darkseid design that I grew up with, I really dig this one too. The fact that he’s so damn big is just the icing on the cake. He’s scaled quite nicely for the DC Collectibles Justice League figures, which in turn means he’s nicely scaled for display with my DCUC-style figures. In size and stature, he isn’t quite as impressive as Hasbro’s Masterwork Galactus, but he makes up for a lot of that in the beautiful detail of his sculpt and the overall quality feel of the piece.

Transformers Generations: Springer by Hasbro

I know, I just did two days of Transformers, but I wanted to get to Springer this week, so I decided to just make it a TF Trifecta and toss him in now…

Of Hasbro’s new Triple-changers, I was far more excited to get Blitzwing over Springer. Well, we all know how that turned out… but let’s not dwell on that any longer. It’s not that I have anything against Springer, but my interest in Transformers began to wane a bit after the movie, I never owned Springer’s original toy, and so I don’t have the same nostalgia toward his character as I do Blitzwing. Granted, IDW’s comics have done their part to make him a stand out character in my eyes. But either way, you don’t need to have a strong attachment to the character when his toy is as amazing as this one is.

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There’s the Generations packaging with an added 30th Anniversary logo. I do dig the presentation here. The window is large and shows off the figure in his robot form alongside a very nice piece of character art. The box also points out that Springer is a Triple-changer! There’s a bio on the back as well. As with Blitzwing, I’m going to break tradition and look at Springer’s robot mode first.

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Springer’s bot mode is nothing short of glorious. Both the head sculpt and the general design of the body are both perfect for the character. I love the proportions on this guy. When I first saw pictures, I thought his hips were too narrow making his legs look funny, but now that I have the figure in hand, I find that not to be the case at all. There’s so many cool little things about his design, like the way the wheels end up on his shoulders and legs, the armor plates that fold down over his shoulder wheels, the front of the car/helicopter makes a perfect chest, the angle of the armor plates coming up from behind his shoulder, the fins that make up his knees. Even the head sculpt is perfect… I wouldn’t change a thing. I could go on and on gushing, but suffice it to say Hasbro hit a homerun here. It’s all the more impressive to say that a robot this beautiful is also a Triple-changer.

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Springer sticks fairly close to the G1 Springer deco. You get a pleasing mix of green, yellow, light grey and dark grey. Springer uses very few paint apps and makes use of colored plastic, which serves the figure very well. The yellow plastic is particularly beautiful and looks great alongside the green. He has an Autobot emblem stamped toward the bottom of his chest.

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Springer comes with two weapons. You get a sword and a rather large double barreled gun/missile launcher. Both weapons have places on his alt modes. The sword becomes the rotor blades for his helicopter form, and the gun can mount on top of his car mode or under the chin of his helicopter mode. Either one of the weapons can also peg into his back in robot mode for storage. Both weapons are excellent. The gun is appropriately oversized for a Wrecker and I have to admit the way his sword converts from the rotors is rather genius.

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Let’s move on to Springer’s armored car mode next. The package lists him as only a “2” in terms of difficulty, which surprised me, but it certainly turns out to be true. Springer is quite easy to convert. His car mode is pure bad ass with some sleek and sexy contouring matched with some rugged-looking armored sides and spoilers hanging off the back. I’ll concede that there are some issues getting everything locked together just right, but he does hold together quite well and rolls along great. This mode would be totally acceptable to me for a regular Transformer, so it’s all the more impressive from a Triple-changer.

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And then there’s the helicopter mode, which to me is the weaker of the three, but still acceptable. I love helicopters! I have stacks of books and magazines about them. I can easily lose myself in reading about their stats and designs. There are some butt-ugly real-word helicopters out there, so the fact that Springer’s chopper mode isn’t all that easy on the eye doesn’t bother me so much. It does a fairly good job of concealing the tires, and I do like the way the hood of the car splits to become the outriggers. It’s a perfectly passable helicopter, but this is the mode that screams Triple-changer to me.

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There’s no doubt in my mind that Springer is one of the best Transformers that Hasbro has put out in a while. He’s the perfect update to the character, he’s well designed and thankfully his engineering doesn’t suffer from any of the problems we saw with Blitzwing. I’d also point out that the careful use of colored plastic shows that Hasbro can cut back on paint apps without detracting from the figure at all. This figure is fun to transform, but more importantly he’s hard to put down in robot mode because he’s such a solid and highly poseable figure.

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It’s worth mentioning that Springer was one of the first characters created by the now prolific third-party not-Transformer toy companies. Fansproject’s Warbot Defender was created because there was a large demand for the character and yet Hasbro seemed unwilling to deliver. Well, now they have, and it’s almost like Hasbro had something to prove. If there is an undeclared war going on between Hasbro and the third-party companies, I’d say Springer is a major victory for the home team. He was a long time coming, but having him in hand, this $22 figure sure makes me happy I didn’t spend the $100 on Warbot Defender.

Transformers Kre-O: Optimus Prime by Hasbro, Part 2

And we’re back for the second half of a Kre-O Optimus Prime feature that is rapidly wearing on my patience. I say “second half” but this is going to go a lot quicker than yesterday. Having built Prime into his truck and trailer mode and shooting some pictures, last night I poured myself a generous glass of Jameson and set about to pulling him apart. I took the time to separate the parts by color, poured another glass, and dove in to rebuilding him as robot and battlestation. Having the parts separated was a huge help and overall this build went smoother and faster, but there were a lot more parts left over, so that might explain why. With a little perseverance, and two more glasses of Jamie, I was able to wrap up the build before turning in for the night. It would have been helpful to use the box as a tray for the parts, but after two days the cat has still not relinquished it.

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Ok, so let’s start with Prime’s robot mode.

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I like it a lot! I do wish I still had my Kre-O Bumblebee built so that I could compare the two in size, but after two days of wrestling with Kre-O, I would rather scrape my tongue with a cheese grater than build another one. So, sorry, but no comparison pictures. Prime strikes me as being about the same size, but a little less beefy and less complex. There are some really cool design features to him, like the way his chest is constructed, his smokestack backpack is neat, and oddly enough I really dig the construction of his feet. He’s very well proportioned and the head sculpt is particularly nice and a lot more evocative of G1 Prime than the Bayformer version. Only six of his wheels actually transfer to his robot mode, this may bother some people, but I’m ok with it. Still, he does look a tad skimpy in the arms and legs. Not bad, mind you, just like he could have used a little extra oomf.

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Prime features ball joints in the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles, and his fists rotate. He has pretty good poseability and he holds together fairly well while I’m fiddling about with him. I know some people complain Kre-O doesn’t hold together, but that hasn’t been my experience.

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The other part of this build is the “battlestation” which is really more of a little base for the human Kreons to hang out and do maintenance on their motorcycles. There aren’t any guns or anything else to suggest it is a station for battle. Keep in mind, I tried to use as many parts as I could to build this, so mine’s a bit of an enhanced custom job over the suggested model. It’s not bad for what it is. You get a control center, a maintenance area with a rack for the tools. I added a place for them to keep their helmets, and both bikes can fit in the base. You also get a pair of barricades. The whole ensemble sort of looks like something that Prime’s trailer can transform into. I’m vaguely reminded of other trailer base modes. I’m fairly certain, the base is built only from parts using the trailer, but since I already pulled everything apart, I won’t swear on that.

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And that’s Kre-O Optimus Prime. He’s a cool set, but he definitely taxed my enthusiasm for building these things. All the modes are fairly well designed, and everything fit together pretty well, but building it still made me appreciate Lego all the more. Even the most complex Lego sets are still fun to build, because they’re carefully thought out with that purpose in mind. This Kre-O set felt like it was working against me and at times it plunged below my tolerances. It was originally around $60, which isn’t too bad considering all the parts and the play potential, but I picked up mine a while back on clearance for about $25, which is certainly a more appetizing price. Now, he’ll stand on a shelf for a couple of days before I can get the nerve up to break him down again and file him away with my other Kre-O, Lego, and Megabloks sets. I do know, that unless I can find some of the GI JOE sets, I’m going to be done with Kre-O for a while.

Transformers Kre-O: Optimus Prime by Hasbro, Part 1

I’ve had this beauty sitting in my closet for months waiting for the right time to build it, well I was on vacation last week and it seemed like a good time. While I have been more or less impressed with the three or four Transformers Kre-O kits that I have built, Prime here was the last one that I plan to pick up. The direction the new stuff has taken doesn’t interest me as much and I just think my brick-monies are better spent if I kept channeling them into Lego. Anyway, this thing is a beast of a set and, like all Kre-O Transformers, it needs to be built twice, so I’m doing this guy in two parts because considering the amount of time I had to spend on him, I’m damn well going to get two features out of him. Today I’ll kick it off with the packaging, Kreons, and the vehicle mode, and tomorrow I’ll be back to check out the robot and the battle station!

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Holy hell, this box is HUGE. I guess that’s to be expected since I’m pretty sure this set is the largest Transformers Kre-O kit to date. Prime comes in the same briefcase style case that is designed to close up and store the pieces. The front shows off an illustration of the toy, while the back shows actual pictures of what you’re building. Keep in mind, if you want to put the stickers on as they are in the picture, you won’t be able to take the cab apart. Also, I’m not sure how their “3-in-1” math works out. You can build it as a vehicle or as the robot and battlestation. That’s more like “2-in1” in my book. Anyway, I’ve kept the boxes for all my other Kre-O sets, but I doubt I’ll keep this one. It’s been leaning up against the wall in one of my toy closets for a while now and I’m kind of anxious to get rid of it. Besides, once I break this set down again and put the pieces into baggies, it’ll take up a lot less space.

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On second thought, I may have to keep it, as the cat has adopted it as his new bed… right in the middle of my attempt to build it. Here’s another illustration of why cats and Lego (or even imitation Lego) don’t mix. He may have thought he was helping because he did actually chew some of the parts off their sprues.

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Inside the box (cat not included) you get two large color instruction books and like a thousand baggies of bricks. Ok, it’s probably not a thousand bags. It’s probably more like six or seven bags. They weren’t numbered so I can’t be sure. And therein is the true fun or torture of this set. Since the bags aren’t numbered, or even grouped in any special way, you have to dump them all together and that leads to a ton of sorting and searching and hunting. I actually kind of enjoyed the added challenge on the 200-300 piece sets, but Optimus is nearly 550 pieces and to be honest, it got to be a real pain in the ass after a while. The color coding in the instructions is also a bitch. It’s tough to tell what’s supposed to be black, grey, dark grey, or metallic grey, and since a lot of times you’re dealing with the same piece in multiple colors, you need to just go with your gut and hope for the best. There were times when I realized I probably used a dark grey 2×2 when I was supposed to use a light grey 2×2, because that’s all I had left. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but it’s worth pointing out that building this was more challenging than any Lego set I’ve ever done. The recommended age group is 8 to 14, which I believe actually means that if an 8 year old starts it, he can be expected to finish it by the time he hits 14. Anyway, when you’re all done with the first build, you get five Kreons, two motorcycles, and Prime’s cab and trailer. Let’s start with the Kreons…

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The set includes three Transformer Kreons and two human Kreons. The Transformers are the ones I really care about. They’re the original kind that are just cute little collectible figures and cannot transform. I adore these stupid little things and I think they lost a lot of their charm when Hasbro started making them with crappy alt modes. The set has Optimus Prime, Smokescreen, and Skywarp. It’s an eclectic mix, but I love them all. They’re all excellent, but I think Skywarp is my favorite. I like the way they did the wings and the doors on him and Smokescreen. Prime also has little clip-on smokestacks on his arms. All three of these little guys are excellent.

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The humans are the same Kreon with their colors changed around. You get motorcycle helmets and hats for each, so they can be used to work in the battle station or drive the motorcycles. They’re ok. I’ll confess while I’m not a big fan of the human Kreon styles, it is nice to have some human figures in scale with the robots. The motorcycles are kind of shitty. They’re each made up of two ill-fitting halves with wheels popped on. I guess they’re ok for what they are, but I don’t have much use for them.

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Generally, I find the vehicle modes of the past Kre-O sets I built to be a bit wanting. Prime’s cab, on the other hand, is excellent and took me the bulk of the time to build. It’s very involved and the end result is well worth the effort. The instructions get rather silly with the placement of Autobot stickers, suggesting that I put two on the hood and three on the roof. I opted for just one on the roof. For a Lego-style vehicle, I think this thing looks great.

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The doors open and there’s room for one Kreon to sit at the wheel and yes, if you’re feeling wacky you can actually have Prime drive himself. The back portion of the cab can pull off to reveal a little workstation for the Kreons. I actually thought this would be part of the battlestation, so I didn’t shoot any pictures and then found that I had to cannibalize it for the second build. Oops!

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The trailer is scaled just a little shorter than I would have liked, but it still looks really nice when hitched up to the cab. It holds together pretty well for what is basically a shell. The Autobot symbols and striping on the sides are printed on, which is a welcome treat since the Kre-O stickers don’t stay on for shit. The back door can drop down to form a ramp and you can put both motorcycles inside. You can also break it apart at the top and swing both halves apart to give you access inside. There’s not much going on in there and it seems like Hasbro could have delivered a little more, but it’s cool nonetheless. I’m tempted to cannibalize my Lego City Police Mobile Crime Lab for parts and load this thing out with equipment.

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So far, this Kre-O Prime doesn’t disappoint. Yes, the build got on my nerves, and I definitely recommend doing a proper color-coded sort of the parts before tackling his build. It won’t eradicate all the frustration, because you’ll still spend some time guessing which color part to use next, but it will help. Once built, however, Prime is the best looking Kre-O vehicle I own, and I can’t deny that getting Kreons of Prime, Smokescreen, and Skywarp makes me very happy. Tomorrow, we’ll tear this bastard down and start all over again with his robot mode and his battlestation!

Marvel Universe: Hercules by Hasbro

Argh… it’s Monday and that means I’ve only got one more day of vacation left. It’s been a relaxing week, and I’m going to pick up a special bottle tonight and get properly legless in a final act of vacation-ending defiance. But getting back on track… if it’s Monday, it must be time for a Marvel Universe feature. Let’s check out my man, Hercules!

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Herc is from one of the more recent waves. Not that recent, mind you, but the fact that I’m excited to have him should tell you what MU distribution is like around here. I really dig the character art on the card and as you might expect, Hercules fills out his bubble impressively with his bulky, manliness… er, godliness.  And let’s not forget the magnificent “Comic Shot” which is surely worth the ten bucks all by itself. I joke, but 20 years from now the irony will be that MU figures with the Comic Shots will be worth hundreds of dollars, just because most people, like me, just throw them away. The back of the card has a bio blurb and shows the other figures in the wave. I’m rather anxious to pick up Nova and Angel, but I can take or leave Puck. Oh yeah, Sasquatch takes over from the likes of Deadpool, MODOK, and Rocket Raccoon, to offer the humorous collecting quip.

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Hasbro could have easily crapped out on this guy, but check him out! I think they did a fine job, considering he’s just a nearly naked dude. This is definitely one of the coolest muscled bucks I’ve seen in the 3 ¾” scale. The muscle definition is meticulously sculpted throughout and it does indeed look impressive. Herc’s “outfit” consists of a metallic green harness, which is a separate piece, brown leather bracers on his arms, sandals, and a green pair of briefs with his trademark giant “H” on his belt. Begin you’re 3 3/4″ He-Man customs now! It all looks great and the paintwork is excellent. Thankfully, Hasbro resisted the urge to use a paint wash and went with just a clean, bright flesh tone of the plastic. The sculpt stands out fine on its own without the help of the wash and Hasbro isn’t very good at doing them anyway. Yes, Hasbro, sometimes less is more!

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Equally impressive is the head sculpt. The hair, beard and headgear is all reproduced wonderfully and there’s a lot of personality in this tiny, little head sculpt. Herc is sporting a great, mischievous smile betraying how much he revels in action. Yup, when he kicks your ass, he’s going to enjoy it. Again, the paintwork is nice and sharp, particularly the eyes.

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Hercules comes with his trusty mace. It’s a nice looking piece with a shiny gold finish and a sculpted lanyard at the handle. And of course… The Comic Shot!

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You get all the articulation we’ve come to expect from the current crop of MU figures. Herc’s arms have ball joints at the shoulders, swivels at the biceps, hinges in the knees, and hinges and swivels at the wrists. His legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, hinges at the ankles, and swivels at the thighs and the tops of his sandals. There are also ball joints at the torso and neck. The plastic for the joints all feels really nice and strong and there’s no warping to speak of.

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I’ll confess, as much as I love Hercules’ character in Marvel’s funnybooks, his figure wasn’t high on my list. I guess I just didn’t think Hasbro could produce a stand-out figure of such a simple character design. In this case, it’s nice to be wrong. As soon as I had him in hand, I was thrilled with the way he turned out. And with Hercules, I am now completely caught up with features on my current Marvel Universe collection. I’ve been saving a Marvel Legends figure for next week’s Marvel Monday and I should have some new MU figures to look at in a couple of weeks.