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
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!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Two Years Today...

And his work here is done!
In 24 short months we'll probably be sitting at our computer screens, typing away furiously about our reactions to Star Wars Episode VII after bunking off of work for the day to see it, and being giddy with the excitement of it all whilst supping on Skywalker-adorned Pepsi and playing with the 6" Solo-kid figures sitting on our desks. Yeah, there's plenty of reasons to be worried about whatever you've got on your plate, but today there's a small reason to celebrate - in just two years, the excitement starts all over again!

Monday, 16 December 2013

New Vintage

Thanks to the fine reporters over at I spent a good hour last night scrolling through Matt Cauley's Iron Cow Productions site, checking out his line of custom Star Wars vintage figures. There are some ingenious designs and ideas in there, along with some great studio style photography, but the real selling point is how much, for the most part, these look like figures that Kenner might have produced back in the 80s.

Luke Skywalker (Ceremonial Outfit)
There are a few photos up for each figure, along with a description of the different parts and methods used to build the custom. Some of them are deceptively simple, even utilising as little as a headswap to create a new character, whilst others are a bit more advanced...

4-Arms (Nabrun Leids)
One thing that I like is the way that Matt has used certain pieces from modern figures, be it POTF2 pauldrons and backpacks for Sandtroopers, a few head sculpts, and even the whole upper body, as is the case with 4-Arms (above). It's amazing how well the different styles go together, but I think that's got just as much to do with his commitment to a vintage aesthetic as it does the original sculpts. 

Spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi
Vintage customs have been around for a while, but it's rare to see them at such a high standard and presented as well as these figures are. There's a whole host of other customs on the Iron-Cow Productions site, along with tutorials on customising basics (which look to be incredibly useful for an amateur like me), so be sure to check it out, and let me know if it inspires you to make any new vintage yourself!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Empire’s End: The State of Star Wars Collecting in the UK

"Size matters not. Everywhere, bad management is."
More so than at any other point in the 18 years since POTF2 launched, the Star Wars action figure line appears to be in real trouble. Overly expensive, with hit and miss character choices and baffling case selections, the 3.75” Black Series line is proving a mixed bag for collectors, with some figures impossible to find whilst others sit and languish. Meanwhile, proving that nothing was learnt from 2012’s Phantom Menace debacle, the over produced first wave of Saga Legends is clogging up shelves everywhere. The budget line is divisive, but at first it seemed like the figures were selling well at the lower price point – now however there’s no getting away from the fact that the line is stalling. This all-round poor management and failure to sell will eventually lead to price reductions and clearance sales, which many collectors now wait for. No-one can blame them for waiting though, because the ever-increasing RRP for the figures is becoming truly prohibitive.
Thank you for the image!
I wrote this article about my take on the health of the 3.75” line back when the larger Black Series figures were announced, with the full intention of migrating to the new scale. At £20 each the figures are expensive, but the build quality and the way that each figure thus far has seemed like a definitive release makes the cost just about worth it, for cherry picking at least. Unfortunately before it’s had a chance to truly begin, the 6” line is already looking troubled.

Firstly the gap between waves one and two has been a real momentum killer, with many collectors losing interest in the line in the intervening months. I’m sure the figures are good enough to rebuild that interest but it’s an unnecessary stumbling block, and one that the re-launched Marvel Legends, to choose a pertinent example, did not suffer from. 

The second problem is the switch to the three figure wave, with the fourth figure being a repack. This decision actually makes sense, in the case of the repack being an army builder like a Stormtrooper. However, as has been announced with wave three, Hasbro are repacking Han Solo. Don’t get me wrong, Han looks like an excellent figure, and if there is the demand for him then I’ll happily hold my hands up; but unfortunately the Stormtrooper was the clear best choice for that slot. If that wasn't possible then there were no excuses not to repack Solo’s wave mate Boba Fett, a figure that scalpers worldwide are making a mint on. These case selection issues seem endemic at Hasbro, and scalpers are laughing all the way to the bank. No-one legitimate wins from this situation.

RRP: £20. Availability: Sparse.
The absolutely fatal strike against the Black Series however is the price hike. At £20 each the figures are already a luxury item (and I bought mine with vouchers and in a sale), but from wave three the price is climbing to an unsustainable £25 each. That equates to just over $40, to put it into context for any US readers, for a 6” plastic figure. It doesn’t matter how good the figures are, that is a rip-off. I know that I’m not alone in thinking this, and I really believe that this is going to do more damage to the brand than Hasbro may have accounted for. In reality these figures should cost about £15 each, £18 maximum. It’s going to be hard to stay with the line when the figures become that dear.

The thing is, I’m not swearing off the Black Series; I like the figures way too much to do that. I am however going to join the many other collectors in waiting for sales and clearance discounts to pick up the releases that I want, and I think that’s a shame all round. I am disappointed that something that started off with such promise has run into these kinds of issues by only the third wave.
Thank you for the image!
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, there is, personally, a bright side. The allure of the Black Series got me to seriously question my collecting, and I made myself break some of the bad purchasing/hoarding habits I’d developed. The issues with the Star Wars lines have actually given me the opportunity to invest more time in my other action figure interests, and time spent researching Transformers Masterpieces and TMNT Classics has helped me to refine my ideas of what I want from a collection – in other words, collecting Star Wars has made me collect other lines!

Really though, whatever happens with the Black Series I’m grateful we’ve seen it at all, for the figures we do have are rather splendid. Whatever I end up spending my money on, I really am hoping that these current issues are easily resolved bumps in the road, and that the line goes on to a long, glorious and (most of all) affordable future. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Collecting Storm

Storm Shadow
I've never been a big GI Joe/Action Force fan (I think I was put off by how by how frequently I snapped the waists on my brothers' toys as a kid), but I liked the way Marvel used the GI Joe comic to bring back the Transformers for the short lived G2 iteration. There are a few characters I've always liked though - namely Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, and Storm Shadow.

I'm really not looking to collect any more toy lines at the moment, but between our matching tattoos and the incredible (and inspiring) Sigma 6 photos that Geek Creek's been posting on Flickr, when Storm Shadow here came up cheap on eBay I had to spring for him. And I have to say, between the stylised sculpt, the bold colours, accessories and soft goods, I'm glad I did. 

Well, except that now I have another line to keep my eyes peeled for...

On another note, I've recently setup a new blog - Variable Thoughts. I'm trying to get my myriad online identities into one place, and take full advantage of social media to connect with as many people across my many varied interests as possible. I'm not really sure where it's going yet, or what the long term ramifications for this blog will be, but part of the fun is going to be finding out. If you have a spare five minutes, please head over and take a look!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Photoshop Prime

TFP Bumblebee
Over at I found a Photoshop tutorial by Cheebs (presumably not his real name) - you can see it for yourself here. Given I had a bit of time to kill today I thought I'd give it a go, and the pic above is the result.

It didn't take ages, I maybe spent an hour and a half in total on the edit, but this level of touching up makes a huge difference to the quality of the finished shot, to the extent that I've been happy to put my name on this one (definitely not my real name). It's also good to think that I'm starting to get decent use from my light box; it's about time I learned how to use it properly...

Monday, 2 December 2013

On the Raid

The Man with the Hat and the Whip
I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at the weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the first time I'd really watched it as an examination of style, rather than for the pure spectacle, and there's so much movement in Spielberg's directing that doesn't seem to exist in blockbuster films now. I know a lot of pretentious film students who mock 'the Spielberg style', but there is absolutely no denying that he can make an enthralling, entertaining action film, amongst his many other strengths. All that said though, I think we could do without an Indy five. It's clear that somewhere between Lucas and Spielberg, KOTCS went pretty wrong...

This is the first shot I've posted up here of an Indiana Jones figure that hasn't been knocked around and had his accessories broken. The pleasure of complete toys!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Star Wars: The Modern 12 Back Part III

Part III
Here are the final four entries to round out the best modern 12 back Star Wars action figures. If you’re late to the party Part I is here, and Part II is here.

Darth Vader

At the time of A New Hope you’d be forgiven for thinking that Darth Vader was the big bad of Star Wars, but as the saga progressed that title went to the Emperor, and Vader’s redemptive arc gave Return of the Jedi the emotional push it sorely needed and became the fuel for the Prequels. I still get shivers down my spine when watching his revelation in The Empire Strikes Back, and I must have seen it hundreds of times. It’s easily my favourite moment of cinema.

This version of ol’ Darth is from The Anniversary Collection of 2007, and originally came packed with Obi Wan’s vacant cloak, following their lightsaber duel at the end of A New Hope. This figure was far better than the VC08 version I recently sold, but I wouldn’t consider this the current definitive Vader – for that honour goes to VC93.


The nicest thing about looking at these A New Hope figures in isolation is that the story starts and stops there. With the original 12 backs there weren’t even sequels, let alone prequels, and that’s why this Stormtrooper, from 2004’s Original Trilogy Collection is the definitive version for me.

Rocking 14 points of articulation, an excellent sculpt and an appropriately sized blaster, the best bit about this guy is that if you remove the helmet, all you get is a ball joint. Maybe the helmet is a bit on the small side, but the less that clones infect the OT the better.

Ben Kenobi

After having half a film to shine Obi Wan Kenobi gets relegated to an expositionary role for the rest of the OT, but by then his work is done – Luke has been more or less sufficiently mentored, and his final sacrifice allowed the Falcon crew and Princess Leia to escape. He may have been old, but he went out like a champ!

This Obi Wan is also from the A New Hope Blu-ray Commemorative pack, and is based on the 2008 Legacy Collection release. It’s a very good iteration, capturing his wizened look rather well. The force-using finger pose makes him slightly awkward holding his lightsaber and the cloak is extremely billowy, but those are the only cons on an otherwise fine figure.


Finishing off the original 12 backs was the diminutive Jawa, the desert scavengers that bought the droids back together and got slaughtered for their efforts. The character of these guys, by which I mean their seeming enthusiasm and peculiar language, really helps bring Star Wars to life. These are the first aliens/indigenous life forms that we encounter, and their successful appearance is the springboard needed to completely sell the film. By the time Luke arrives at the droid sale, we’re already invested in the world.

This Jawa is an incomplete version of the 2009 Legacy Collection edition. It should come with a blaster for the bandolier holster, but sadly that was lost by the original owner. However, in its original condition this is still the finest Jawa you can find.

And so the Jawa wraps up the modern 12 backs. It's been fun photographing and profiling these figures, and with this set it also marks the first time that I've actually fulfilled a collecting focus. Other than maybe getting all the accessories, and the VC93 Vader, these figures are all I need as far as A New Hope collecting goes. It's nice to be able to say that this collection is finished.

This series couldn't have been made without the amazing review database over at Jedi Temple Archives - be sure to go take a look for yourselves, and thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Star Wars: The Modern 12 Back Part II

Part II

Part One, showcasing the first four figures, is here. Now we’re really hitting the big guns…


Chewbacca is one of the characters that helps to shape Star Wars the most. His relationship with Han softens the smuggler’s image, making him a more relatable character, and Chewie’s loyalty (most explicitly shown in ESB) erodes even the hardest of hearts. He may not have much of a character arc, but the OT wouldn’t be the same without him... whilst the PT would be a tiny bit better.

This Chewbacca is from the 2011 Vintage Collection Android set and is my preferred modern sculpt of the character, in large part due to the mouth being closed. There’s 15 points of articulation but he’s such a lean character there’s only so much posing you can do. That said, ball-jointed hips would have killed the look of him, so it’s an understandable trade off. This version was second hand and so his trusty bowcaster is missing its bow. It’s a shame, but I’m not too panicked about finding a replacement – I’m sure one will turn up eventually.

Princess Leia

For a film series that was being made up on the fly, the way that Princess Leia and Han Solo’s story arcs intertwine is extremely well done. She starts off as the uptight senator and bastion of the Old Republic, but as the saga progresses she eventually mellows, remaining a strong leader (at least until the final act of ROTJ), whilst becoming more forgiving of Han’s devil-may-care attitude, and even a little bit cocky herself.

This figure is from 2004’s VOTC line, and it looks like it too. It’s a decent figure, better than any from the POTF2 days, but Leia looks young, more like the teenage queen Lucas originally envisioned. Well scaled, but by that definition extremely small, she goes well with Han and Luke but unlike the respective likenesses of the other two, doesn’t quite do Carrie Fisher justice. An update for the captured Princess is sorely needed.

Luke Skywalker

The main hero of the OT, here’s Luke as he first appeared way back when: a young moisture farmer unable to take control of his own destiny who turns space adventurer, Princess-saver, Jedi-in-training and rebel hero. That’s a lot to pack into two hours, and is probably why so many kids grew up idolising young Skywalker. It may be cooler nowadays to say Han was your favourite, but there were fights over who would be Luke in my playground, brah.

Luke here is from the Blu-ray Commemorative pack for A New Hope, which is a slight repaint of 2009’s Resurgence of the Jedi figure. It’s the best modern ANH Luke by some margin, with 14 points of articulation, a fantastic sculpt and one of the better Mark Hamill likenesses Hasbro has produced. The arms do hang a little long and the figure suffers from not having ball-jointed hips, which could have been hidden by his skirt, but as Luke Skywalker goes this is a superb action figure. He fits in the Vintage Collection Landspeeder as well, which is always a bonus!


Star Wars wouldn’t have happened without R2-D2, the astromech with attitude and an unnatural devotion to his mission. Whilst Han had Chewie, Luke had R2, a divide between the natural and mechanical worlds that is examined thoroughly in Will Brooker’s highly readable BFI guide to Star Wars. I’m not excited at the prospect of seeing R2 again in the sequel trilogy after the way he was used in the prequels, but if they are going to be wheeling out the same characters again then you’d suppose that he has to be in there somewhere…

Also from the Blu-ray Commemorative pack, this R2 was originally from 2005’s Saga Collection Early Bird set. It looks gorgeous with a shiny chrome top, crisp blue paint job and lots of nice little details, including a removable third leg and light-piping for the eye. This is by far the best R2 at 3.75”, and well worth purchasing.

Part I is up here, and Part III will be online on Friday.

Thanks for reading!

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