Showing posts with label Spider-Man. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spider-Man. Show all posts

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A Better Webhead: A Fond Farewell to the Superior Spider-Man

Collected Editions #1 & 2
Late to the Party: Playing Catch-Up with TPBs.
So the spoilers were true – the Amazing Spider-Man is back in just a few short months, bringing to an end the glorious reign of the Superior Spider-Man (henceforth called ‘SpOck’, for the sake of easy identification). I have to say that I’m going to be sad to see him go.

Maybe it’s a sign of the changing times that being an outright try-hard do-gooder isn’t as appealing as it used to be, or maybe it’s because there’s still the taint of Peter Parker’s deal with Marvel’s not-Devil Mephisto lingering around (and here's a well-thought out counter argument to that opinion), but SpOck is by far one of the more interesting takes on the Spidey myth. He’s proactive, actually uses his intelligence, and wears a superb take on the classic threads. That he actually dresses in mad scientist garb when working at Horizon (goggles and all) is just a layer of icing on the cake. There’s humour in SpOck’s pompous arrogance, unintended quips and robot servant, and the way he relates his own experiences against Spider-Man as he’s taking down the villains himself is fantastic dramatic irony. It’s an exceptionally well-written and frequently well-drawn series that applies the Freaky Friday formula to superhero comics, and pulls it off with exceptional success.

SpOck about to take down Massacre...
SpOck about to take down Massacre... Permanantly.
This is Doc Ock however, mass-murderer and criminal mastermind, and there remains a dark undertone of violence (see Annual #1 for his savage takedown of Blackout, or of course the execution of Massacre from SSM #5). If it weren’t for this aspect, if Ock had genuinely turned over a new leaf and become a better man himself, then perhaps it wouldn’t all have to be coming to an end. But, it’s a fragile balance and Spidey is Marvel’s biggest cash cow (with a movie out this year as well), so a return to the status quo is inevitable. What’s unfortunate is that with SpOck’s over-exuberant take on vigilantism, Peter Parker has every reason to throw out the very inventions that made SpOck so superior. I don’t know this for a fact (and will be reading to find out), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spider-Man switch back to being Peter Parker in unsophisticated threads and out on patrol himself, screwing up his social life and being back on the wrong side of the superhero community. 

SpOck's Superior Spider-Suit
No more plans?
That doesn't upset me though. Whilst I may have seen this before, there's a generation or two of comic readers out there who won't know that Spidey, and he's one worth knowing. Perhaps that’s the secret to keeping the character so successful; the ever-developing car-crash of the X-Men books provides the other side of that coin...

Whatever the outcome for SpOck, it’s been a heck of a ride. Thank you Dan Slott and co for making Spider-Man engaging, interesting and immensely readable. And for this reader, making him not Peter Parker, even if for only 16 months worth of great comics.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The Resolute Collector

The Party Dude!
Christmas has been good to us here at the Mos Espa household, but things are settling down to normal again now. One of my gifts from the Emcat was the superb TMNT Classics Michelangelo figure seen above, and I can't stress how great this guy is. Despite loving the original cartoon over and above anything else, the Classics figures didn't appeal to me at first; however in recent weeks I've become truly converted. I'm looking forward to picking up Leo, Raph and Don as soon as funds allow.

That's not all I'm looking forward to though. You may have noticed that 2014 is just around the corner, resplendent with the optimism that a new year always seems to bring, and as such I'm going to highlight a few of the figures that I'm most looking forward to over the coming months...

T-U-R-T-L-E Power!
Continuing on a theme, there's the TMNT Classics Series 3 to look forward to, which features the Turtles based on their appearance in the first live action movie from 1990. That was the first movie I remember getting bed-wettingly excited about, and I completely wore the soundtrack cassette out from repeated late night listening on my Walkman, so these guys are dead certs for the collection.

Image from TFW2005.com
Arriving later in the year is the MP-22 Ultra Magnus "Perfect Edition" from the Transformers Masterpiece line. There are no images of it yet, but early reports indicate it will use the existing MP-10 Convoy mold for the cab, in true G1 style. I don't yet own any Masterpiece figures as I'm still deliberating where to start, but as Ultra Magnus is a big hitter for me in TF terms this is one I'm very excited about. It will most likely cost a bomb, however...

My money's on Spider-Man.
Hitting stores a lot sooner is the rebranded Marvel Legends: Infinite Series, which combines all of the movie related waves under one catch-all line. I'm loving the Superior Spider-Man comic right now so I'm very much looking forward to picking up SpOck, as well as Captain America in his 'Super Soldier' costume from the Winter Soldier wave. ASM2 Spidey and Boomerang are also on my radar, but those first two are on my want list for certain.

*

So that's three lines that will almost certainly be getting my money over the next 12 months, but it doesn't stop there. I've collected my thoughts on the state of the Star Wars line here, but of course there is the upcoming Rebels to look forward to in the Autumn. I'm late to the party but NECA's Predator series looks like it's been churning out some pretty incredible figures, and then there might be some interesting offerings from the Transformers 4: Age of Extinction line. I'm not sold on a lot of the Bayformers but Dinobots? Hell yeah!

With all of this excitement for the future, I guess that wraps it up for 2013. It's been a good run for the blog with an expanding readership, brand new look and redefined focus and purpose, and I'm enjoying running it here more than I have at any point before. Massive thanks to each and every one of you who has taken the time to read my ramblings or to look at my pictures, and thank you even more so if you're a returning visitor or commenter. The comments mean a lot to me, and I appreciate you taking the time. 

I wish you all a most excellent 2014. It will be better!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

On Location

Leo going solo.
I re-arranged my Flickr sets today, and as I pored over the photographs from the last three years I was struck by how bad some of my initial efforts were. Unfortunately, some of the more recent ones stuck out as well, and it struck me that my biggest issues are lighting and setting, two of the three key components of a photograph (the third being the subject). I thought I'd pay a little attention to this for today's post...

Leader in blue!
It's unfortunate that I don't have room to store different sets, much less the time to build them nowadays, and a cluttered house doesn't really cut it as a backdrop when photographing 1:18 scale figures. Fortunately though, as fantastical as Star Wars is, if you live near a swamp, woodland, desert or beach, or even some destitute scrub land, you've got the ideal setting for your action figure photographs. Although living in the middle of the UK isn't ideal for a desert or beach, it more than does the job when looking at Dagobah or Endor...

BTS: The glory of cropping!
But what about the urban heroes? Northampton really isn't much of a cityscape, the lift tower being the sole defining feature of the skyline, and if I struggle with building a set for something fictional, I think I'd really mess up a scale recreation of an NYC rooftop. So how best to photograph them? Why, multistory car parks, of course!

Miles Morales...
I frequently try and find a lighting set-up that works best for me at home, in the lightbox or otherwise, but hands down using natural light is the best. The colour balance looks right, and if you pick a  good spot (somewhere open but out of direct sunlight) the lighting is crisp and even across the subject. Occasionally you may need to use a reflector to get the light to go exactly where you need it, but you should be fine without. Also, the more light that is available, the less your camera has to compensate by auto-filling information. This is what happens when dark pictures appear grainy; there's not enough information for the camera to create a whole picture, so it fills in the gaps itself. It's always better to shoot light and darken the image in post, if needs be.

...the Ultimate Spider-Man!
A car park fits the bill of being somewhere open but out of direct sunlight, and provides a gritty and urban setting for our more 'street' figures, with a view across the rooftops to boot. Furthermore during the day the higher-up levels of the car park are rarely used, providing all the privacy a grown man playing with toys in public needs!

Ninja Protector!
It's not perfectly to scale, but the car park fits the bill well enough, and it's nice to finally have somewhere to play with capture my superhero figures at work. What's even better is that I'm finally starting to get the quality of photograph that I've been after since I started. Onwards and upwards, I suppose...

Good luck with your own on location shooting, and thanks for reading!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 6" Figure Review

Definitely not in bad taste.
This week we'll be looking at the Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 6" figure, from last year's Amazing Spider-Man movie line. The single wave consisted of the ASM (movie costume) Spidey, the Lizard, and in a nice surprise this guy, the new Ultimate Comics webspinner Miles Morales. "Who is this usurper?" and "how good is his action figure?" are questions you may be asking yourself. Well, read on if you'd like to find out the answers!

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1
After being bitten by a radioactive spider that was smuggled out of an Oscorp lab by his uncle, thirteen year old Miles Morales developed similar (but not identical) powers to those of Spider-Man. Following the death of the Ultimate universe's Peter Parker, and Miles' guilt at not helping in the fatal battle, he takes up the mantle of Spider-Man himself. As with all good spider-men personal tragedy runs rife, and he's already paying a high cost for the costume...

Packaging Front & Back
So, on to the figure. The packaging follows the template from the ASM movie line with the same visuals and cut of the card, and there's really not much to say about it, other than that this costume pops on the image on the back. These things are made for opening though, so let's see what we get!

Figure, shield and stand.
UC Spider-Man comes packaged with a stand and a clip on web shield, both of which look pretty cool and provide a good looking, if not particularly Spidey-esque display option. That's already more than what came with the 3 3/4" Ultra Posable Spidey, so we're off to a good start...

Face front!
First thing I noticed was how sturdy the figure felt out of the packaging; although I then felt like I was putting that theory to the test with my first attempt at posing. The joints were properly stiff, and I felt like I was going to snap the leg off, but after the first click the hip joints started to move a bit more freely. This figure boasts a whopping 25 points of articulation (including double joints on the shoulders, elbows and knees) which allows for amazing posability, but unfortunately it also suffers from only having a swivel head, which limits how good some poses can look. This is compounded by the hunched neck, which looks cool in some poses but really doesn't work in others. The thighs can only bend so high, which restricts some of the more athletic poses we're used to seeing with Spidey, but really these are the only drawbacks; the articulation is otherwise very well done.

And back!
Cast in black plastic, there's very little actual paint on the figure, but what is there should be good. The intricate lines and design of the costume are very cleanly applied, and the eyes have a pearlescent sheen that matches the black and red colour scheme perfectly and looks beautiful. It's a good looking costume and one that they've applied to the figure very well. On my sample (mail ordered) there were some chips in the paint which are noticeable on close inspection (and unfortunately I can't unsee the red dot on his left eye now), so if you get the chance to inspect this figure before picking it up it's worth giving it a scan. Individual blemishes aside though, the paint job is very well done.


The last strike against this figure is more about the character than the toy itself; Miles is a young teenager and is drawn as such in the comics, whilst this figure looks more like a fully grown and pumped adult. Overall though it's good we've gotten an action figure of Miles so soon in the character's history, and despite its few flaws this is a very solid toy.

*****
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

LoEB: Comic Books

league comics

Another week, another League post - I'm getting good at this! But this subject, man, what a doozy... COMIC BOOKS. Where to start?

Stage One: Elementary Reading

Paul Ryan
OK, for me it all started with Garfield, but newspaper strips are a whole 'nother art form in themselves and not one I'll talk about this time round. Milton Keynes market, very early 90's, where my Mum used to get me big bundles of comics. I loved Fantastic Four, but only for the frequent appearances of Spider-Man; it was a little while before I realised he had titles of his own! Regardless, from those early days, my favourite issue was the smackdown fight between the old and new Fantastic Fours, leading to Wolverine slashing the Thing's face, and the Thing reciprocating by punching Wolvie through some buildings and then having to wear a bucket on his head. Put that in an issue with the added bonuses of Spidey AND Ghost Rider, and you have a *ahem* modern classic!

Stage Two: Getting Hooked

Artist Unknown
When Sam moved to my village in '93 with a mutual love of comics, I got into them Big Time (see what I did there?). The Marvel UK reprint series 'The Exploits of Spider-Man' gave us modern issues, past classics, posters and news about what was going on in the Marvel Universe. Comics were available at newsagents, and we both devoured anything and everything we could. The 2099 universe was a huge deal for us (Miguel O'Hara becoming a favourite of mine), and together we created our own superhero universe and comics, under the banner Outer Limits. Our flagship character was Lobster Man, and we put together five full-length black and white comics (three Lobster Man, one Mutations and one Ice Master) and three inventory issues, which was impressive for pre-teens. Our efforts saw us get invited to the Marvel UK offices, where we met Tim Quinn, got shown around the studios and offices and given a bag full of free comics, including one signed by Stan Lee himself! Truly epic times.

Stage Three: Hard to Keep Up

Mark Bagley
I loved the Scarlet Spider, and the Clone Saga had me hooked to begin with, but around this time comics stopped selling in newsagents, reverting to the underground of speciality stores. As a kid I still got what I could, but not regularly enough to keep up with everything as frequently. Also I was getting older, and divergent interests, along with peer pressure, saw me start to drop away from comics. I picked up a few issues of the Ben Reilly-helmed Amazing Spider-Man, but stopped before his untimely demise at the hands of the Green Goblin in SM #75. 

Stage Four: Focus

Mark Bagley
Chriscross





















In the late 90's I pretty much stopped reading Spider-Man due to the awful storylines and worse artwork, and only read X-Men sporadically (despite Joe Madureira's stunning pencils); however, at that time two titles drew me in with a dedication I hadn't had before - Thunderbolts, and from the pages of Spider-Man, Slingers. Thunderbolts utilised the brilliant concept of villains pretending to be heroes, who then discovered they liked the feeling of being good guys too much to carry out their plan. Writer Kurt Busiek expertly managed the doubts and personal relationships of the characters as they faced Avengers-like situations from their unique point of view, and longtime Spidey artist Mark Bagley provided sharp visuals and costume designs. The short-lived Slingers was an entertaining series about young kids being thrust into the world of superheroes, with engaging character dynamics and energetic, highly-stylised art. This series could've gone on much longer than it's 12 issues (and one Wizard #0), in my opinion...

Todd Nauck
From the Distinguished Competition, Young Justice filled the void left by Slingers and started my shift away from Marvel Zombiedom. Humorous characters, giant slices of character development and drama, and zany adventures all gave a sheen to a series with real heart. I hadn't cared much for DC outside of the big events before reading this series, but my horizons were broadened; so much so that this was the last ongoing series I collected regularly from either of the big two.

Stage Five: Branching Out

Andi Watson
I was winding up my love affair with superhero comics as 'real life' (girls and a social life) began to take over. Then a good friend from school who worked in the local comic shop put a copy of Blue Monday in my hands, and I was hooked. Blue Monday led very quickly to Hopeless Savages, who remain my number one all time favourite comic family, and this in turn led, through the amazing art of Bryan Lee O'Malley, to Scott Pilgrim. From there I embraced the indie publishers, rifling through Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Street Angel, Lenore, Love and Rockets, Channel Zero, and many more.

Brian Wood
I was fortunate enough to meet O'Malley a few years ago, and I got him to sign my dog-eared copy of Ground Zero. He wasn't that flattered that I'd bought his earliest published work, but it's where I fell in love with his style!

Stage Six: Natural Conclusion

Bryan Lee O'Malley
Marvel's Civil War bought me back into the mainstream superhero fold, before Spider-Man's deal with the not-Devil punted me right back out again; all the same though, I began to tread between the indie and mainstream publishers without ever committing to any series completely (save for Scott Pilgrim, DMZ and Scarlet Spider). My love of the medium led me back to creating my own comics and in 2008, after years of drawing one-page strips, I finally started putting together my own mini-comics. I carried this on for many years, before realising I would need to significantly improve to make a real go of it; subsequently I've just (as in, on Wednesday) finished a two-year film-making course to better understand storytelling, both visually and emotionally. I haven't completed any comics in that time, and have a feature film script to write first; but I might just crack out the old ink and pens again sometime soon...

Yours Truly, circa 2011
Wow, that turned into a bit of an essay! The passion's clearly still there; guess I just need to stoke those fires. To those of you who made it this far though, thanks for reading!

More from the League:


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Amazing... The Spectacular... The Poseable Spider-Man!


As promised, I went out and got some new and improved shots with the poseable Spider-Man figure. This guy's a lot of fun, I can see him becoming a mainstay...

Go web go! Oh wait - that was the other guy...


Monday, 9 July 2012

With great poseability comes... Not much else

Your Friendly Toy-Shelf Spider-Man!

Here's another first for the Mos Espa Collection - a proper* action figure review! I know I kind of reviewed the Blu-Ray ANH pack, but that was less... formal. This one's actually called a review; I guess that makes the difference!

There will be better pictures to come, but here's my latest acquisition - the ultra-poseable Amazing Spider-Man from the new movie line. Given the pretty poor standard of figures from the movie line, which are disappointing for lack of articulation and high price point, this is the only one I planned to buy. After proving near impossible to find in most stores around here, I got lucky on one trip to TRU and found what I'm reasonably confident was the last one in stock - it's like it was meant to be!

The Positives:

Firstly, when they say this figure is ultra-posable, they mean it. It does positions other 1/18th figures daren't even dream of doing! I went through one volume on Ultimate Spider-Man and matched the pose against however Mark Bagley had drawn him, and found there were very few limitations to what could be achieved; for that fact alone it makes this one of the better Spidey figures out there.

The sculpt is solid, capturing the lithe feel of the character. The costume has a really nice texture to it, and the multiple joints don't really look that obvious (for a toy). One of my favourite bits, however, is the face in profile - it really captures the iconic Bagley look.

Speaking of look, the costume: I was one of the reactive masses who thought the new costume design looked messy in the original promo shots (still do, but much less so). However, in 3D on this figure it looks pretty good. There are wispy lines on his arms and legs that don't need to be there, but on this guy they're barely noticeable, and certainly don't harm the overall aesthetic. And when the mask, with the shape and size of the eyes, works as well as this; well, for me that's half the battle. The fact it bears a passing resemblance to the Ben Reilly costume may also have helped sway my opinion...

The Negatives:

There's not a great deal wrong with this figure, save it feels a bit lightweight. By that I don't mean it feels like it's cheap plastic or will break (it doesn't), moreso that it's one stand alone figure, with great poseability but no accessories. I think you could feel disappointed that it's all you get for your money, but unfortunately that's the problem with buying first-hand action figures in general nowadays.

Overall

In summation, this is a top quality figure; and if money is no object or you can get it cheaper than retail then absolutely pick it up. If it had any kind of pack-in, like some webbing, or even a stand, then it would make the price easier to take, but all you get here is a fantastically sculpted and playable Spider-Man figure, no frills. With the swing back towards 6" figures Hasbro seems to be taking it might be your last opportunity to get a decent movie-Spidey in this scale for a while.

****

* By proper, I am in no way claiming to be an expert on toys or have anything to give other than my opinion. But, y'know. I know what I like! :D




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