Doctor Who: Retro TARDIS Collectible Set by Biff Bang Pow

Damn you kids these days. Back in my day, our playsets were made out of cardboard and we were damn happy to have them! Yes, I’m just old enough so that Mego made up some of the very first toys that I owned. And yes, that means that some of my very first playsets were made out of laminated cardboard, including the bridge of the USS Enterprise and various Planet of the Apes environments. Of course cardboard also carried over to the early Kenner Star Wars playsets like the Ice Planet Hoth, Land of the Jawas, and the pretty freaking cool Palitoy Death Star. Now that I think about it, with playsets having become almost non-existent, maybe the kids these days would be happy to have cardboard playsets too. Where am I going with all this? Well, Biff Bang Pow made a retro-style cardboard TARDIS to go with their retro-style Doctor Who figures. And today we’re going to check it out.

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The box is simple, fairly attractive and does have a smidge of retro charm. You get some illustrations and some photos of the playset inside. The back panel also shows the myriad of retro-style Doctor Who figures available from BBP. Wow, they made a lot of these. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of these figures. Even with the whole retro-style thing going on I think most of them look pretty awful. I have The 4th Doctor, who turned out a bit better than I expected, and I have the Sontaran who is Ok, but sadly suffers from some QC issues, like some cracked armor. One of these days I may pick up the Leela, just so I can have a set that harkens back to the Denys-Fisher 4th Doctor and Leela. But that’s about as far into this pool as I’m willing to wade. Even this Doctor Who fanatic has his limits.

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Open up the box and inside you have… well, basically another box. The TARDIS is a very sturdy cardboard box with a glossy illustrated surface that replicates the familiar details of everyone’s favorite Type 40 Time Capsule quite well. But make no mistake, this is still basically a fancy cardboard box. Even the stepped lamp on the top is made out of folded cardboard and smacks of papercraft. There’s a little bit of depth to the sides, such as the doors are set in from the corner pieces, but everything else is in 2D but printed to look like 3D.

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The TARDIS opens along the right corner of the front side and the flap is secured quite well with magnets. The sides are designed to open so that they are straight with the sides that remain closed without putting a lot of stress on the creases and the bottom floor pieces will sort of lock open, probably more by coincidence than design. The inside of the TARDIS is decorated with printed roundels and the doors are drawn in on the left flap. I’m a bit surprised they didn’t draw in the viewscreen on the right flap. This is pretty basic stuff.

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Like the rest of this set, the TARDIS console is completely made of sturdy, illustrated cardboard and comes in two pieces. The base connects to the console with tabs. It’s also not secured down in any way, so you can move it around if you want. When BBP first revealed this set and the price, I was almost certain the console would be a rotocast piece, but in the end that wasn’t the case. It’s a shame, because even the Mego Enterprise and Planet of the Apes sets had plastic set-pieces. Nonetheless, it’s about the right height, but not broad enough to really be in proper scale with the figures. The illustrations of the controls, however, are very nice and even accurate when compared against the pages of my old dog-eared copy of the TARDIS Technical Manual. The Time Rotor, on the other hand, looks rather weak. It’s hard to do a convincing transparent tube with cardboard.

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One interesting gimmick is the inclusion of an electronic keychain that fits into the base of the console and can be activated to play the sounds of the TARDIS taking off and landing. You can use it with the set or just take it out and use it as a keychain to annoy your non-Whovian friends. On the other hand, my cell phone can do it better, so I guess there’s not much point. Still, it’s a clever way to add a little electronics to the set.

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The set also comes with a rotocast K9 figure and I’ll be honest, this bonus single-handedly tipped me in favor of getting this set. Yes, it’s a hollow chunk of plastic, but it is nicely sculpted and painted and I just adore K9 too much to pass up a chance to own him in almost any form. He’s nicely scaled to the retro figures and makes a very nice display accessory for my BBP 4th Doctor. Once again, if I ever get the Leela figure, this K9 will nicely round out the Denys Fisher homage.

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If I were to sum up this set in a word, that word would be “charming.” It really does remind me of the old Mego days, particularly some of my Planet of the Apes and Hal Needham sets, and that is clearly what the folks at BBP were aiming at. But I can’t stress enough how much nostalgia will be the key to making this thing a worthy purchase for anyone. With an MSRP of $59.99 you are really paying a lot for some cardboard and a rotocast K9. My 11th Doctor Console Room from Character Options was only ten dollars more than this and while it did have cardboard walls, it also featured a lot of plastic and a lot more detail. In short, this thing is ridiculously over priced. I don’t at all regret picking this up, but it should be pointed out that when it comes to Doctor Who merchandise, my fiscal sense can usually be summed up with the phrase, “shut up and take my money!” Still, there was a time when Doctor Who was niche enough that companies could justify expensive merchandise to cover their risk, but when you consider that I have a six-foot tall bookcase overflowing with Doctor Who toys and figures, I don’t think that flies anymore. In the end, this turned out to be a fun display piece, but too much money for too little.

Doctor Who: Sontaran Field Major Styre Retro-Style Figure by Biff Bang Pow

As promised, I’m back today with the second half of the Biff Bang Pow Doctor Who figure feature, with a look at the Sontaran, Sytre. Hopefully, I won’t be as long winded this time.

Styre uses the same awesome card that The Doctor came on. I neglected to point out last time that the cardback shows off two additional figures: A Cyberman and The Master. These figures have already been produced and were apparently exclusives at last year’s San Diego Comic Con. And, yes, I will be getting them at some point. All four figures use the same generic card. As with The Doctor, Styre has a backing tray to hold him steady in his bubble and he’s packaged with his helmet off and at the bottom of the bubble. Styre also has the hologram sticker denoting the number of the figure and the limitation to 3000 pieces. All in all, the presentation here is great, and if it weren’t for the terrible packing job, and the fact that a dog apparently chewed on the edges of mine, I would have kept him carded.
Starting with the head sculpt, there’s something definitely off about Styre. Oh, there’s no doubt that he’s a Sontaran, but the likeness to the mask used in the episode is nowhere near as good as the The Doctor’s sculpt is to Tom Baker. Nonetheless, it works just fine for this sort of stylized figure. The head can turn from side to side, which is probably more than could be said about The Sontarans themselves. The helmet snaps on over the head and stays in place very nicely. And yes, even the little vent is sculpted onto the back of Styre’s cowl.
Styre’s uniform is much simpler than The Doctor’s ensemble, as its basically a metallic looking jumpsuit with a silver belt that closes around his waist with velcro. The jumpsuit is enhanced with plastic bits for the cowl around his neck and his boots. The jumpsuit doesn’t give the quilted look that The Sontarans’ armor had on the small screen, but its a passable approximation. My only real complaint is that the legs of the jumpsuit end just above where the boots start. You can tuck them in, but they tend to pull out again. Unfortunately, the right knee armor on my Sontaran is cracked. Its made of very flimsy plastic and while it isn’t a crippling fault, it’s definitely noticeable and very disappointing. Despite the crappy shipping job, the bubble wasn’t damaged at all, so it looks like this figure went right into the package already damaged. Once again my experience with BBP’s quality control is hit and miss.
Styre comes with two little accessories. You get his control box, which clips onto his belt pretty nicely, and you get his ping pong gun, which is very similar to the one CO sculpted to go with their 5″ Styre figure.
As with The Doctor, Styre sells for twenty bucks. It’s steep, but considering this is a niche collectors item and supposedly limited to 3000, I won’t complain. On the other hand, dropping $20 for a figure that was put into the package with noticeable damage is worth complaining about. For items that are obviously designed to be collectibles, BBP really should be more careful about their quality control standards. That having been said, I’m still pleased enough to venture a purchase of the next two figures: The Cyberman and The Master and see how I make out with those. There are two more planned, Leela and Sutekh, but I’ll see how I make out with the next two before I plan to go any further with the line.

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Retro-Style Figure by Bif Bang Pow

[The sheer insanity of Classic Doctor Who figure releases continues, as Character Options has announced two new sets of 5-inch figures this week. Both are two-packs. One is based off of “Attack of the Cyberman” featuring yet another variant of the lovely Ms Perpugillium Brown and what appears to be a rogue Cyberman. The other, based off of “Remembrance of the Daleks” features Davros as the Dalek Emperor and a destroyed Imperial Dalek. Photos have also surfaced of a “Seeds of Doom” set with another 4th Doctor and a Krynoid, but that one has yet to be officially confirmed. But today, we’re actually looking at some Classic Who figures that were not churned out by Character Options. In fact, these guys were licensed and made by an American company! Ok, enough preamble… on with the figure!]

I can’t tell you how many times I waffled back and forth over buying these figures. On the one hand, they’re retro-style figures based on an episode from the 70’s and that’s pretty nifty because this style of toy matches so well with the vintage characters. On the other hand, I don’t collect a lot of the Mego style figures. I like them well enough when the style fits the license. The Real Ghostbusters figures worked well with the style, and I still have a hankering to pick up the ones BBP did of Flash Gordon and The Dude from The Big Lebowski, but generally speaking these guys aren’t really my thing.

I’ve also been iffy on the prototypes BBP showed off from the beginning and I haven’t exactly been impressed with the few Bif Bang Pow toys that I own. I guess I’m still bitter over my Ming the Merciless’ arm falling off right out of the package. Nonetheless, when I saw the in-package shots of the finished products, I simply had to have these. Thus came my second dilemma. I really intended on buying these and not opening them because they looked so good in the packages. On the other hand, I hardly ever buy toys without the intent of opening them. The obvious solution was to buy two sets, but at $20 a pop, I wasn’t about to do that. So I opted to let fate decide. If the figures arrived with the packaging in excellent condition, I would leave them carded. If they arrived with the packages all miffed, I would open them. And the results are…
Holy Hell!!! Well, the shipping gods were pretty definitive in their answer. These figures are without a doubt in the worst condition I’ve ever had toys shipped to me. Not only are the cards warped, the edges look like they’ve been chewed on by a small dog, and they were taped together with the kind of postage tape that takes all the print off the card when you try to remove it. There was clearly maliciousness at work here. They were shipped for free, though, so I guess I can’t complain too much, plus I guess I’ll be saving some money on clamshells from zoloworld. Let’s take a look at the packages and then rip these bitches open.
In the traditional Mego style, The Doctor come in a coffin-shaped bubble and mounted offset on a simple cardback. The usual practice with the Mego-style is to just let the figures rattle around loose in the bubble, but The Doctor is cradled on a partial inner tray with a twisty tie holding his neck in place and another tray holding his Sonic Screwdriver accessory. His hat is off and at the bottom of the bubble, which was a good choice because, as we’ll see in a bit, the hat would have been better left out. There’s a small hologram sticker on the back of the package that identifies the figure number in a series of 3000 produced. Considering how easy these figures are to get, that limitation seems kind of suspicious.

So, I’m particularly fascinated by the packaging BBP used because it’s identical in design to the new retro style packages adopted by Character Options for their 5″ action figure line. I’ve never seen two different companies produce their own toy lines based off the same license and use an identical style of packaging, and yet here it is. It even uses the same little Timeline of Doctors down on the bottom of the card. It’s weird, but I’m very glad they did it, because I adore this new deco and it works really well with the Mego-style cardback.
Once out of the package, I’ve got to admit that The Doctor looks pretty good. BBP frequently showed off a prototype with a horribly oversized head, and while we shouldn’t expect perfect proportions out of this style of figure, the final result is pretty close. The head is soft and squishy, but the sculpt is a fine likeness to actor Tom Baker. Granted, anything would have been better than the prototype shown at the expos, but I can genuinely say that I’m happy with the final result.
BBP also did a fine job with The Doctor’s iconic outfit. He has a brown jacket, complete with elbow patches, a checkered vest, a necktie and a white shirt, plain kakhi trousers and plastic boots. The clothing fits him very well and everything is nicely stitched. The scarf is without a doubt a big win for this figure. Afterall, the mile long scarf is The 4th Doctor’s most iconic accessory and to be able to do it in real cloth is pretty cool, and it looks great on the figure.
As mentioned, The Doctor comes with a plastic fedora. The sculpt is good, it just doesn’t fit right on his head, thanks to the sculpted mop of curly hair. I’m not going to blame BBP for this snafu, since we’ve seen plenty of problems with toy companies trying to get Indiana Jones’ fedora right on larger scale figures. Either way, the hat isn’t a must, so I’m happy to just have him holding it, or setting it aside all together. The other accessory is the Sonic Screwdriver, which is a nice little sculpt and he can hold it well in either hand.
More than anything else, I bought this figure out of a sense of obligation. Sure, I already have shelves and totes bursting with Doctor Who figures and toys, but here was a Fourth Doctor figure actually licensed and sold by an American toy company. There was never any doubt that I had to have it. In the end, I was a lot more impressed than I thought I would be and I can genuinely say I’m extremely pleased with the way the figure turned out. I should even note that the joints are pretty solid for a Mego style figure and The Good Doctor doesn’t have much difficulty standing up on his own. As for the price, twenty bucks seems like a lot for a Mego style figure, but I’d dare say that the sculpting and clothing on this figure goes above and beyond what we’ve seen on a lot of figures in this style. BBP really hit a homerun on this one.

I was going to look at both The Doctor and Sontaran Field Major Styre together, but I’ve ran kind of long with this one, so I’ll be back tomorrow to check out The Sontaran.

Flash Gordon Figures by Biff Bang Pow!, Part 2

Ok, cue up the Queen CD, because I’m ready for some more Flash Gordon action figure goodness. Last time we looked at Flash, Dale and Barin, so this time we’ll wrap things up with the two principle assholes of the picture: General Klytus and Ming the Merciless.

General Klytus was an awesome character in the film. He was Ming’s right hand man and all around sleezeball and wonderfully portrayed by Peter Wyngarde. He’s been compared to Boba Fett, based on the claim that all of his appeal comes from his cool looking mask, but I disagree. He had a lot of dialogue and was far from just a bit character that stood around as set dressing. But, sure, I’ll certainly grant that he has a great character design that really lends itself well to an action figure and that makes him my favorite looking figure of the bunch. Because he’s wearing a mask, BBP didn’t have to contend as much with getting the facial features of an actor right, and that probably goes a long way to help this character’s sculpt as well.
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The mask is not only really well done, but I love the fact that BBP sculpted the eyes in the eyesockets. That nice work combined with some excellent paint apps make the mask look like its a separate and removable piece when it really isn’t. All the folds and ruffles in Klytus’ cloak are nicely executed as is the texture work on his tunic, which also makes use of the same sparkly flakes that we saw applied to Dale’s wedding dress.
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The articulation on this figure takes quite a few steps back from what we saw on Flash and Barin, but it isn’t terrible. Klytus’ neck appears to be jointed, but because of the sculpted hood, it doesn’t really turn. He does have rotating shoulders and a hinge in his right, gold arm. Lastly, his legs rotate at the pelvis. The fact that he doesn’t have any knee articulation doesn’t bother me, since his robes would really make them useless. I am disappointed that BBP didn’t add a hinge to his left elbow. They may have felt it would have interfered with the sleeve sculpt, but I would have preferred it. A ball joint to the right shoulder would have been welcome too. Ok, so I take it back… his articulation is pretty terrible.

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Klytus doesn’t come with any accessories, but I still love him. This figure captures the character perfectly and its obvious that BBP tried to work with his sculpt to add a decent amount of articulation. The variant of this figure featured his eyes and tongue protruding from his mask during his death scene when he was tossed onto a platform of spikes. Its a cool variant, but I’ll stick with this one, thank you very much.

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And that brings us to the big baddy himself, Ming the Merciless. Now Ming was issued in both red and black robes, and I have to admit it was a real trying decision on which one to go with in order to complete my collection. Ultimately, I will probably hunt down the red one, but for now I went with his black garb, just because I really liked how the black and gold looked and I thought he matched Klytus better. This figure is also considerably easier to find than the red one.

The first thing you should know about this guy is that he is a statue, not a figure. His head will turn from side to side, and he does actually have the ability to rotate his arms at the shoulders, but that poses two problems. The first is in the design, where the sculpt has the long sleeves hanging down so that if you move his arms, it looks like his robe is defying gravity. The second problem is, granted, unique to my figure, as his right arm broke clean off as I was removing him from the package and had to be glued back on. Normally I would be furious with BBP at what is clearly some shitty quality control, but honestly, if it had to happen to any of these figures, I’m glad it happened with Ming as his arm articulation was useless to begin with. I’m not going to be all that critical about the articulation on this figure, because any time you have to fashion a figure with sculpted plastic robes, you have an uphill battle when it comes to articulation.

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With all that out of the way, this is one fantastic looking figure… er, statue. Not only did BBG capture the likeness of Max Von Sadow perfectly, the combination of sculpting and gold paint apps on the robes is just awesome. The pre-pose is really effective as he has his right arm held up with his hand forming a powerful fist. His left arm is held close to his chest and shows off his ring, which was showcased so prominantly in the final scene of the film. Once again, BBP makes use of the sparkly flakes on a few appropriate parts of Ming’s costume. The fact that I am raving about this guy even with his crap articulation and the fact that he actually broke coming out the package should tell you a lot. Its a downright amazing sculpt.

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And that wraps up my look at Biff Bang Pow’s Flash Gordon figures. I’m really glad to own this set, even if they aren’t what I hoped they would be. I think the biggest problem with this little series is the inconsistancy. They are mostly great sculpts, with the one albeit big exception being Dale Arden’s face. But they really run the gamut on articulation from great to practically non-existant. They look damn nice on the shelf, though, and they gave me an opportunity to try out the products from a toy company that was previously completely unknown to me. For a company that seems to mainly makes bobbleheads and novelties, this was a good early effort into the realm of licensed action figures.

Flash Gordon Figures by Biff Bang Pow!, Part 1

Folks, I love the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. I really don’t want to turn this into a movie review, but I feel that to really communicate how much I was looking forward to these figures I needed to tell you that. I first saw it when I was a wee lad and was almost immediately smitten. It has an unabashed cheesy charm that makes it one of my all time favorite comic book to film adaptations. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and it doesn’t waste a lot of time on origins bullshit or anything like that, nor does it make any apologies for what it is. It has some pretty good special effects for the time, some amazing sets and costumes, and from a purely artistic standpoint (as opposed to technical) it looks exactly one thousand times more interesting and visually appealing than any one of the original Star Wars trilogy. So, yeah, I love the movie. When the Special Edition DVD came out, I snapped it up only to be crushed by some of the commentary of the crew ragging on it. Boo!

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I’ve really wanted figures from this movie for a long, long time. As a kid, I would have killed for an extensive line of 3 3/4″ figures, like Star Wars, where every character that had a second of screen time got a figure. I would have bought all those crazy palace guards and soldiers, and hawkmen and rocket sleds and ships and playsets. Alas, the movie didn’t garner nearly enough interest to solicit a lot of merchandising, which sucks because even friggin Buck Rogers got a toyline. Instead, I had to wait until last year for an upstart toy company called Biff Bang Pow! to put out a small series of figures based on the film. This series consisted of five unique sculpts, spread out into two full waves by way of variants, repaints and slight remolds. I’ve had four of these figures for a little while now, but only recently was I able to complete my set of one of each character. Now, the figures we got were not exactly what I had in mind. They consist of only a handful of the principle characters, and in keeping with the traditions of companies like NECA and McFarlane, some of these pieces barely qualify as figures, rather than semi-articulated statues. Nonetheless, this is what we got, so today we’ll take a look at the good guys (and gal): Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, and Prince Barin.
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Sorry, I don’t have any in-package shots, but I’ll note that the packaging on these figures was all over the place. Two of them were packaged in full blister packs with printed inserts, while the others came on crappy and horribly bent cardbacks with enormous bubbles. I know some of these figures were exclusives, so maybe the ones in blisters were the exclusives. I just don’t know. The only point worth stressing here is that if you are a MOC collector, you may be hard pressed to find good cards, because the figures are so heavy.

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Of the five figures, Flash Gordon is without a doubt the best action figure as he has both a fantastic sculpt and fairly good articulation. This figure was released three times with three different t-shirts and three different weapons. Of the three, this one is my favorite because of his signature “Flash” shirt and he’s holding the conveniently football-shaped alien artifact that he used to brain a bunch of Ming’s incompetant soldiers with before taking one on the noggin himself. The “football” is pegged to fit securely into a hole in Flash’s right hand. Sure, when you get down to it, this is just a dude in khaki pants and a t-shirt, but it really captures actor Sam Jones’ likeness very well. The paint apps on the sneakers are nice, and the “Flash” logo is applied to his shirt with crisp precision. I like this figure’s sculpt enough that somewhere down the road I may pick up at least one of the other two variants.

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As for articulation… Flash has a ball jointed neck and shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel cuts in the biceps, swivels at the waist, his legs rotate at the pelvis and he has hinged knees. Lateral movement in the hips and a few extra swivel cuts in his thighs would have been nice, but all in all the articulation works fine for me.

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Prince Barin comes up second in terms of sculpt vs articulation. Truth be told, this figure’s overall design doesn’t do a lot for me, but he is a good likeness of Timothy Dalton and he is the only other figure in this set that BBP actually tried to make a bonafide action figure and not just a statue. Barin’s outfit is nicely detailed, especially the weave patterns in his tunic and the ornamentation on his belt. Without his laser cannon, he looks like he belongs in a Robin Hood film, which is fitting, since he was the Prince of a moon of forests and swamps.

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Barin has the same basic articulation as Flash, with just a few differences. His ball jointed shoulders are inhibited by the sculpted flares on his tunic, so they can pretty much just rotate and not really move laterally. He’s missing the swivel in the waist, but he does have additional hinges in his ankles.

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Prince Barin comes with a laser cannon that he grabbed off a tripod before going all Rambo on Ming’s forces. This figure’s variant was a battle damaged version with a whip depicting his fight with Flash at the Hawkmen’s city. The cannon is a nice accessory, although it does feel a bit delicate, like the ornamentation on the back might snap off at any moment.

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Dale Arden comes up bottom of the barrel. This figure depicts her in the wedding gown for her pending and non-concentual marriage to Ming. BBP did a fine job sculpting her costume and body, but they really flubbed it on the face, which looks nothing like actress Melody Anderson, and isn’t even remotely attractive either. To be brutally honest, it’s a man face with make-up on. On the other hand, the detailing on her headpiece and her shoulders is really nice as is the sparkling flakes applied to her gown. I was pleasently surprised to see that these sparklies don’t come off on my hands either. Crappy face sculpt aside, at least the rest of this figure is really nice looking. The variant of this figure features a white wedding gown.

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Unfortunately, Dale is also the worst articulated of all the figures. Part of the problem is that her tight fitting gown acts like a teepee and inhibits whatever leg articulation she might have had. It appears as if her shoulders have rotating joints, but the joints on my figure won’t move at all and I’m not willing to force them. Her right arm has an elbow hinge, which allows only a small amount of movement. Her left arm is preposed to place her hand on her hip, and despite the elbow hinge, it just doesn’t move at all. This, folks, is a statue.

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All three of these figures retailed for around $16.99 but eventually made it to the clearance bins at many E-tailers. I know that Toys R Us carried these figures and has recently began unloading them for around half of that. I picked up Flash and Barin back when they were full price and based on their scale, articulation and sculpts I was pretty happy with my purchases. Fortunately, I waited on Dale until she hit the bargain bins. Truth be told, she probably wasn’t worth it other than just to complete my set.

Next time, we’ll look at Ming the Merciless and General Klytus.