Thursday, 31 January 2013

Shelf Review: Gambit

Shelf Reviews! Wherein I write bitesize reviews of figures I've acquired second hand. Why let the MISP guys get all the fun?

I had never heard of the term 'Cajun' before reading X-Men. Comics are brain food!
Marvel Universe Gambit, how do you do? Since I collect better with a focus, I decided that rather than just buy Marvel Universe figures randomly, I'd be better off working on teams. As I already had a 90's costume Wolverine and a penchant for X-Men, where better to go for my line-up than the iconic Lee/Claremont era Blue Team?

Now THIS is a mutant super team.
Marvel Universe figures have been slightly hard to find over here in recent months however, and so I've been resorting to Ebay. Of my recent Blue Team searches, Gambit here has been the only one to turn up at a reasonable price. Was he worth it?

Well, it looks pretty much like Gambit. The paint apps on my figure are superb, the black eyes/red pupils really make the resemblance His blue neck guard is missing, but otherwise this is a good rendition of the character. The coat is molded into a billowing position, which I actually really like; it provides good balance and looks dynamic even in a standing pose.

The worst flaws with the figure are the articulation, or lack thereof. It would have been infinitely improved with swivel wrists, no doubt, and being able to hold his staff isn't the same as being able to pose with it. He's quite tricky to get to stand up, although mine has loose knee joints, which never helps with that. Another significant absence is his playing cards; his left hand feels empty without them.

This is how everyone dressed in the 90's. Really, it's true.
On balance, I'm happy enough with Gambit to put him in the collection, and I think he'll look swell as part of my Blue Team when it's complete. However, for his flaws, I have to say I'm happy I didn't pay full price for him.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Vintage Wednesdays: POTF2 R2 D2 & C-3PO

Well, this seems like a relevant time to return to Vintage Wednesdays, and who more apt to focus on than Luke Skywalker's loyal droids, Artoo Deeto and See-Threepio?

"I don't know what all this trouble is about, but I'm sure it must be your fault."
Despite the background, these shots aren't from my new lightbox - I took them some time ago, and have been storing them up for this very day. Anyway, what do you need to know about these guys?

R2 D2

"Beep!"
Height: .96 meters average
Status:
Navigator, T-65 X-Wing Fighter
Classification:
Astromech Droid
Affiliation:
Rebel Alliance 

I'm pretty sure most Star Wars fans would count R2 as their favourite droid. The ultimate robotic Swiss army knife, it's his mission that sets the whole chain of events of A New Hope into motion and pulls Luke Skywalker into the Civil War. After that he serves as Luke's loyal and trustworthy companion throughout the evacuation of Hoth and both his trips to Dagobah, and he also plays a key role in the rescue of Han Solo. None of us had ever seen such devotion from a droid before (although granted, we'd never seen a droid before either); it's kind of amazing Obi Wan Kenobi forgot all about him. Almost like a huge, unresolved and unnecessary plot hole. Anyway, I digress...

C-3PO

"But, sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid."
Height: 1.67 meters
Status:
Interpreter
Classification:
Human-Cyborg Relations Droid
Affiliation:
Rebel Alliance 

And, let's face it, Threepio is harder company to have around. Despite being the most annoying character in The Empire Strikes Back, I now realise how that's part of the measure of the heroes of the film that they never leave him behind - Han Solo ensures 'Goldenrod' makes it out of Echo Base on the Falcon, and Chewie carries his destroyed body around Cloud City, despite being insulted for doing so. I think that's why I like C-3PO; he brings out the best in his compatriots. He's a lot more tolerable in Return of the Jedi, and the way he's revered as a God by the Ewoks is a great touch, and a nice little way for Lucas to say 'thanks' to the character for being such a superb heel. I'm not sure about his being created by Anakin - don't get me wrong, I do like how coincidences hang together in stories, but that felt like a stretch too far for me, even if it did yield a superb comic that plugs a gap from ESB.

POTF2

The Power of the Force line was launched in 1995 by Kenner (who had been purchased by Hasbro in 1991), and was quickly dubbed 'POTF2', after the original Power of the Force line from 1985. Despite the beefcake sculpts the series was a massive hit, and continued to run until 2000, and completely reinvigorated interest and sales for the Star Wars merchandising juggernaut. This line is probably the main reason this blog even exists...

Anyway, back on topic. The first I knew about POTF2 was seeing Luke Skywalker in X-wing Fighter Pilot Gear (actually Snowspeeder Gear) in Milton Keynes Woolworths, where I bought it outright. Shortly afterwards I picked up the R2 D2 featured above, and gradually built up a mish-mash collection of various figures that provided hours of fun. Honestly. I played with vintage figures growing up, but these were my Star Wars vintage toys, and they were most excellent. Which I guess brings us nicely to today's hot topic...

THE BLACK SERIES


So, it's finally happened. After decades of the 3 3/4 inch scale toy line, Hasbro is now preparing to launch a six inch, super-articulated, OT-centric and collector focused line, 'The Black Series'. I for one couldn't be happier. Yeah, I have a lot of 3 3/4" figures, and I will keep a lot of them. But look at that figure! It may be a prototype, but if the quality of the mass-produced ones is anywhere near that, it may become my favourite line ever. The launch, in August, consists of Luke, R2-D2, a Sandtrooper and Darth Maul - that's a definite OT three out of four for me.

Coming back to collecting late has had both good points and bad but I'm glad to be here, and now I'm really excited to get in on this line from the ground floor. And what better way to start a collection than with a Luke Skywalker in X-Wing Fighter Pilot Gear?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Light Box


I'd been thinking about it for a long time, but today I finally spared the twenty minutes it takes to make a light box! I used this straightforward guide, the box one of my recent purchases came in, and some light synthetic packing material that we had kicking around the attic. A little bit of cutting and sticking later, and hey presto!

Sorry about the mess...
OK, so she may not look like much on the outside, and I'm already thinking it might be a bit on the small side, but it should be ideal for staging figure reviews and portraits. I hope to get some more lights tomorrow to illuminate it properly, and a selection of coloured crate paper to use as backdrops. But even without those, I've been getting some shots already...



I think I'm going to be using this quite a lot... :D

As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Outside the Rules

I've been working on some shot ideas for the The Rather Childish 2nd Annual Vintage Star Wars Action Figure Photo Contest (closes January 31st, there's still time!), and took the opportunity to use my lighting and set-up with a slightly newer guy...


Man, I do so much better with the modern figures. On another note, it's irregular games night tonight! X-Wing vs TIE until the small hours... :D

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

LoEB: Spacemen

OK! This is my first time partaking in a League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment, and I'm looking forward to getting involved. This week's theme is Spacemen, and that made me immediately think of only one thing:
THIS IS SPACE, Y'ALL.
You would have thought that the majority of my space-faring childhood toy adventures would be Star Wars, but I was too young to properly enjoy the vintage line. Lego Space, on the other hand - I was exactly on time for that!

My Lego collection started off as hand-me-downs from my brother and sister, but grew exponentially every birthday and Christmas. When I was much younger Castle was my favourite theme, but by the start of the 90's I was getting into Space in a big way. The image above is from an ideas book catalogue, one of two my brother owned which kickstarted my love of the space sets. Look how richly detailed that station is! 

Intergalactic Engineers
Lego Space really came of age for me with M-Tron, however. The unified look of the line was great, and the magnets provided a fun play feature. The vehicles felt very rugged and real-world, with chunky tyres and actual storage space, and the catalogue displays that showcased them... Wow. I'm pretty sure this is where my diorama love came from.

Neon Nineties
M-Tron ran its course, and I was sad to see it absent from the upcoming Lego catalogue ('93/'94, can't recall which). However, this was pretty quickly dispelled by the new arrivals... Ice Planet 2002!

With the chainsaws, the new visors, the fluorescent orange parts, and minifigures with new facial designs, Ice Planet quickly took over as a favourite. Furthermore, it marked a point where several of my friends were also collecting Lego, and we would often take models into school for play - so Luke, Ben and Tom, this one's for you!

End of the Line
Exploriens and Spyrius were the last of the Lego Space lines I followed at all, as I was starting to get too old for toys by that point (hah!). Still, whilst I didn't really get into the line, Spyrius had some very cool features - I'm pretty sure it was the first Lego line to feature giant robot mechs at all, and the spy android with the clear helmet was a very cool minifigure. On that note, this line also provided my favourite-ever Lego minifig, which continued to pilot my favourite MOC spaceship long after I stopped playing with the stuff:

The Spyrius Astronaut!

So, that's Spacemen for me. Here's what some fellow Leaguers blogged on the subject:

Rich at Fortune and Glory (Days) picked another subject very close to my heart, E.T., and showcases some cool memorabilia.

Hobgoblin at Monster Cafe spotlights MPC Spacemen!

And Michael at Memories of Toymorrow sings the praises of Kiss' own 'Space Ace' Ace Frehley!

That's it for my first League of Extraordinary Bloggers contribution. Thanks for reading!

Friday, 18 January 2013

TMNT: Leonardo (Basic Collection) Review

"I don't think you're the sewer-dwelling green mutant-lizard I'm looking for..."

"Mutated from ooze and raised in the ways of Ninjutsu by their rat Sensei, Splinter, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are ready to venture outside their sewer lair to fight evil everywhere!"

I had seen pictures of the new Playmates TMNT line (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in old money) all over the internet last year, and was immediately interested in picking them up. It took a while for them to hit over here, but since they have it’s been a Turtle bonanza at supermarkets and toy shops, and other than empty shelves at Christmas, they’ve been quite easy to pick up. And it’s a nice feeling, being able to go out to a shop and actually be able to buy something you want (ahem, Star Wars Vintage Collection).

I was sold on the show from about halfway through the first episode I saw, “Never Say Xever”. It was action packed and entertaining anyway, but when, in a moment of inspired lunacy, Michelangelo proclaimed a need to get a tattoo of his face on his face to use as a mask, visualised as his 80’s animated look, I knew I’d found my new favourite cartoon...

Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, fearless leader Leonardo was my favourite, and so he was a natural to pick up first.

Leonardo
Leader and King of the Katana Swords 
Hardworking, honourable and respectful, Leonardo is the Turtles’ fearless leader. Driven to be the perfect hero, Leo’s inexperience and (often) rowdy brothers sometimes get in the way of his goal.

Weapons: Niten Ryu – double katana swords
Team: Ninja Turtles

From the cardback.


"Wow, Weird Looking Dudes."

A big reason for picking up Leo first, aside from my affinity for the character, was the aesthetics. The shade of green matches the blue of Leo’s mask and the yellow of his under-shell beautifully, and the flashes of white on the figure make him look really dynamic. The sculpt captures the muscles with a rough texture that really evokes reptilian skin, and there are plenty of little nicks and scratches, presumably battle scars, that add further texture and complete the look beautifully. The large feet and hands are somewhat reminiscent of late 90’s Spawn to me, and I really like the power and bulk they bring to the figure. The belts and pads on the elbows and knees are well sculpted, also suffering scratches and nicks. They are all painted the same shade of brown, with gold highlights on the buckles on the chest strap. The belts go all the way around the back and incorporate the katana sheaths, so you can pose the figure anyway without having to worry about a break in the design. The back shell is as detailed and textured as you’d think, given the rest of the figure, and the colour perfectly differentiates it from the rest of the body without clashing. In terms of looks, this Leonardo is a perfect figure.

"You...are seriously twisted."

Leo has 11 points of articulation: ball jointed neck, shoulders, elbows, thighs and knees, and swivel wrists. The ball joints are also hinged, which allows a much greater range of movement; however the bulky sculpt of the body of the figure gets in the way of a lot of poses. The bottom of the front shell is flexible, allowing Leo to adopt a sitting position, which I’m sure would come in handy for use in the Shellraiser, or other such vehicle. The bulky, wide feet and angled big toe allow the figure a fairly decent balance, meaning that despite not having foot articulation, Leo can be stood in quite a few poses; however, you’d need a stand if you wanted him in a full-on action stance – the heavy weight of the upper body makes it pretty much impossible to balance him on one leg.

"The Class is Pain 101…"

Leonardo comes with his trusty twin katana, or Niten Ryu, as the cardback tells me. They’re a decent size for Leo to hold, but the coolest feature is how easily they fit into the sheath on his back. The sheath itself is attached by a plug and is detachable, but as the swords are part of what makes Leo Leo (visually, I mean), I prefer to keep it on. 


Reminiscent of the 80’s toyline, he does come with weapons packed in – a blister pack containing two throwing stars, three knives, an even larger sword and what looks like a shank. I’ve not broken these out yet; I think mainly because I’m acutely aware I could lose them…


There’s also a pack-in flyer showing the rest of the 2012 line, including the massive sewer playset, which finally puts the Blue Peter version to shame. These extras with the figure should be mandatory when it costs £10, especially the catalogue – I used to pore over these when I was a kid, mentally marking down which figures I wanted next, and I’m sure there are kids out there today doing the same.


 "Get yourself together Captain, you're our leader, so act like one!"

The only real negatives are the slightly restricted articulation and, maybe, the facial sculpt. I say maybe because I’m in two minds about it. As a figure based on the cartoon, the head fails: the eyes are missing the coloured pupils, and his face is in a mean and slightly humorous grin – in short, he looks way more aggressive than you would imagine TMNT Leo could get. However, as an action figure in itself, the head sculpt works really well. It’s like the Eastman/Laird comic versions in its attitude and ferocity, and seems more influenced by the visual style of the NECA figures than the show itself. I’m falling on the side of it being a win though: as much as I love the show, this guy makes a truly kick-ass action figure, and if anyone cares that much about show accuracy, pupils are but a blue Sharpie away…


"I am impressed, Leonardo."

In conclusion, I am seriously impressed with this figure. It looks fantastic, with impressive articulation, it’s got weight and feels sturdy, and comes with a decent amount of accessories. Leonardo straddles the line between child’s toy and collectible perfectly. I’ve got Michelangelo waiting to be unboxed and reviewed as well; hopefully it won’t be too long after that I get myself a Donny and Raph to complete the team.

My verdict? ****1/2


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