Author Archives: Troy Brownfield

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Super-Articulate: More Infinity Saga and a Big Clone

Figures having been falling like rain for the last few weeks, and I have fallen further behind. In hand and waiting to be reviewed, I have the Eternals assortment (and Thena) and the Star Wars Black Series Tech, among other. Today, I’m knocking off the last of the Infinity Saga and Tech’s teammate.

Star Wars Black Series: Wrecker

I pre-ordered Wrecker the day he came available on Hasbro Pulse many months ago. There was a brief spate of the figure showing up in stores, but then I saw a lot of reports of it being difficult to find. Mine finally arrived, for which I’m glad, but I not sure what prompted the various shifting dates.

Wrecker got the Deluxe treatment, so it’s a higher price point ($29.99 on Pulse). The figure IS larger, fitting the character’s nature, which is the right decision. I like that Wrecker has some mass, and it makes him stand out next to (for example) Hunter.  The face sculpt is strong, and the overall paint app is really good. It might be the best of the three Bad Batch figures I’ve reviewed so far. I found the poseability to be fairly strong. Both larger characters and armored characters can sacrifice articulation at times, but Wrecker has a good balance.

The figure comes with four accessories: a helmet, backpack, vibroknife, and blaster. The helmet has a very good, show-accurate deco, the backpack has some good detail work, and the weapons are the usual dependable Hasbro Star Wars quality. This is another good-looking new character for the line, and I look forward to getting Tech opened and set up with the others.

Marvel Legends: The Infinity Saga Avengers Endgame Iron Man LXXXV & Thanos two-pack

Yes, I open this review acknowledging that a good many of you are Thanosed out after repeated BAFs and releases since 2018. There’s been the unarmored BAF, a tweaked version of same in a three-pack, the armored BAF, the Deluxe comic version, and now this one. Part of the reason for this version of Thanos existing is rather simple: there is stuff here that would have been major spoilers in 2019.  I was pretty uncertain about it myself. But I have to say that the team did a really fine job here.

The basics: two figures, seven (!) heads, and a bunch of accessories. If you look closely, you’ll see that this two-pack is basically meant to cover every stage of the final battle from Endgame, beginning when Thor, Capt, and Iron Man engage Thanos on up until the Mad Titan’s dusting. You have the weapon that Tony first uses to attack Thanos, Tony’s energy shield, and four additional Iron Man hands (one of which is for the climactic snap). There’s an unblemished Tony head, an Iron Man head/helmet, and the wounded Tony for the snap. On the Thanos side, there’s his rotor blade, a helmeted head, two unhelmeted heads with different expressions, and an oh-shit-I’m-dusted-now head. Thanos has closed fist Stark Gauntlet with stones, and a snap-gesture Stark Gauntlet with the stones removed (that, my friends, is attention to detail).

Overall, the details and paint apps here are killer. Take a look at some of the pictures to see the fine notes on each set of armor. Both are well-articulated, and the posing potential is really strong. Of course, I put Tony on the shelf in the final “I am Iron Man” kneel. If you’re happy with previous versions of the characters released over the life cycle of the film, then by all means, enjoy those. But these are some top-notch efforts that make me feel like the scenes are complete on my shelf in a way. Really nice work all around.

Marvel Legends: The Infinity Saga Thor:Ragnarok Surtur

I love this guy. I love him because he’s huge and crazy. After Ragnarok passed, I didn’t think we get cinematic Surtur (or any Surtur), but I was delighted when this was announced. It’s hard to conceptualize how big 13” is against other Legends, but Surtur is pleasantly huge. He’s also got an insanely big Twilight Sword (which even huge-sword-wielding Guts from Bezerk must admire).

Take a look at the pics to see Surtur next to Thor. Sure, he’s not as big as he gets in the climax of Ragnarok, but that’s impressively large in non-HasLab Legends terms. I know some didn’t like the overall color appearing, but I like the face and flame details here. The figure is pretty poseable overall, but balance is an issue with the figure’s size.

I feel like putting out a big figure like this at an elevated price point ($52.99 initially) was kind of a risk for Hasbro, but I’m glad they did it. Recent years have seen them show a willingness to stretch the notion of bigger or Deluxe figures with releases like MODOK. I’m glad that they’ll take chance just because there are fans out there that have off-the-wall stuff that they want to see. I like that this guy even exists, and I appreciate the work that went into it.

Super-Articulate: The Infinity Saga and More

You don’t need me to tell you that supply chains have been wacky. As such, not everyone is getting their figures at the same time, whether by in-store or pre-order. Sometimes, they come like a chain of fireworks. That’s been happening to me, as I had a number of figures from the Marvel Legends Infinity Saga arrive one right after the other. To that end, today I’ll be cover the following figures from that expression: Happy Hogan/Iron Man XXI, “Endgame” Thor, Odin, Quicksilver, and the Captain Marvel/Rescue two-pack. I’ll also throw in the Diamond Select/Marvel Select Titanium Man, which arrived in August but took a little more time to get to me. Let’s dive in.

The Infinity Saga Overview
The Marvel Legend Infinity Saga subset is an expression consisting entirely of MCU figures. It contains a few characters that have never been done before (Quicksilver, Odin, Surtur, Obidiah Stane, Happy Hogan), different undone versions of familiar characters (Endgame versions of Thor and Captain Marvel), and some that are more seen as updates (Rescue). On a personal level, I decided to give a few a miss (the individual Iron Man, the redo of Infinity War Cap, the Obidiah/Iron Monger two-pack). I remain curious about some characters that weren’t put into the Infinity Saga subline (notably Wong and Kraglin), but I suppose they could be tucked into a regular assortment down the road. As an overall concept, it’s a good idea for people that try to make as complete an MCU as possible, and I feel like quite a bit of work went into a few figures in particular.

Happy Hogan & Iron Man XXI: Let’s face it. I straight up ordered this for Happy. Jonny Favs is the man behind the scenes; after all, he made Iron Man work and he co-brought us The Mandalorian (and Swingers!). And I’ve particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Happy and Spider-Man in the movies.  The design team absolutely nailed Favreau’s face here. That, coupled with Happy’s ever-present phone, makes for a great figure that can lend itself to some comedic posing. Parts of the body build have been used before, but there’s nothing wrong with repurposing suit elements.

Speaking of suit elements, I thought the XXI was a little meh until I looked at it in person. The thing that I like the most is use of gray in the joints. It adds a touch of color that a) you don’t see in most pictures and b) breaks up the monochrome. I know that some people tire of Iron Man versions, but I’m never down on another suit, given their ubiquity in both the comics and Iron Man 3 in particular. Would I like to see Igor someday? Of course, but this one is pretty cool if you get a close look, and fairly poseable.

Endgame Thor: Here’s a figure people have been asking for pretty much since Endgame premiered. Call him Final Battle Thor if you want, but it’s the version of the Odinson that we get near the film’s end. Having been on his traumatic journey and attempting to emerge on the other side, Thor summons both Mjolnir and Stormbreaker, adoring himself in armor once again and throwing in a great Vikings-inspired beard to boot. This is a tremendous figure. This wasn’t just slapping a belly on Thor and calling it a day. There is considerable new work in the heavier torso, the arms, the legs, and the intricacy of the armor design. We see quite a bit of detail in the face, beard, and hair. The powered-up blue eyes were a good choice as they sort of reflect the exact moment that Thor becomes this version of himself. Obviously the figure comes with the two weapons, as well as attachable lightning effects and an extra pair of hands. Putting this figure on the shelf really felt like I was adding a missing piece. It’s great.

Odin: It’s been 10 years since Odin appeared in the MCU for the first time, so . . . better late than never? Odin comes with two heads (one helmeted, one not and with his hair down) and his spear, Gungnir. I chose to go with the helmeted look. The figure looks nice; it’s certainly a good sculpt. And I’m glad there’s pop of red from the cape, because the brown, while fairly accurate to some of Odin’s onscreen scenes, is fairly drab here. I like the figure well enough, and I’m glad that it exists, but it’s not the most exciting of the batch.

Quicksilver: Turning back to missing pieces . . . Quicksilver made his MCU debut in the post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014 and finally makes it into the Legends line here. Don’t let anyone dissuade you: this is a GREAT figure. While it certainly looks good (and the multi-toned hair is well-done), the major reason for its success is poseability. It rivals the recent MCU Shang-Chi on that level. You can do a number of running and fighting poses (the two sets of hands also lend themselves to sprinting and action). This guy just looks REALLY good. It struck me that there’s actually no Marvel Legends AoU Wanda counterpart for Quicksilver; Wanda’s film figures prior to WandaVision come from the very end of AoU or Civil War. Regardless, this Quicksilver is, again, GREAT. Well done, team.

Captain Marvel/Rescue: I sort of ordered this for completeness/accuracies sake in terms of my Endgame shelf, but I’m ultimately really glad I did. I like this set a lot. Captain Marvel accurately reflects the color-flip that the character’s costume got in Endgame, and the headsculpt over course recognizes that hairstyle that she sports after the five year jump. Like Quicksilver, the figure is very poseable, and the loose sash hangs well. The best accessory is the Stark Gauntlet, which can be tucked under Carol’s arm just like in the film. I like that they made this take on Carol; you really do need her for your Endgame set-up.

As for Rescue, this is basically a re-do. The body is similar to the original movie-time release, but the helmet sculpt has been improved and the pack includes two additional heads. One is a helmetless pony-tailed Pepper (essentially the look when she joins Captain Marvel in the “She’s got help” scene) and the other is the flipped-up faceplate look from when she enters the Assemble scene and lands by Tony. The biggest addition is that expanding set of weapon attachments that connect to the backpack. Special note here: there are two backpacks. You have to use the one with highlighted silver panels, and those panels have to come off in order in attach the expanded weapon array. With all that on, it’s a fairly impressive figure; for display purposes, I used the pony-tail head because that was the look my wife preferred.

And here’s another thing . . .

Diamond Select/Marvel Select Titanium Man: I don’t normally pick up Marvel Select figures, but I saw a couple of people online displaying this late-August arrival with their Winter Guard and I had to pick it up. This figure is monstrous. I mean it’s HUGE. In package, it was bigger than the steering wheel on my Hyundai. I took a picture of the package next to the Expanded Version of The Stand because it’s almost comically big. But wow, does it look great. There’s a ton of detail here. The Boris head is suitably angry, and the “helmet head” captures the original feel of the character. Lots of care was taken with the sculpt, from the bumps on the armor to the treads on the boots. It’s also surprisingly poseable for such a big figure. It might not be to everyone’s tastes and purists may want a Legends-only display, but I think he looks great with my own Winter Guard and adds a dimension and density to it that I otherwise would not have had.

Super-Articulate: Marvel Legends Bring on the Bad Guys!

Hey! I know it’s out of order! And late!

Here’s the deal: I actually got the previously reviewed Iron Man/Ursa Major BAF wave ahead of completing the Bad Guys/Xemnu BAF assortment. Also, I live in Indiana, which is seemingly the last place to get anything that isn’t basketball. At any rate, it resulted in a situation where some venues got their Bad Guys weeks ago, and I didn’t complete mine that long ago. Plus, it’s been a little crazy over here for other writing and life reasons, none of which would interest you that much (except for maybe the inter-company crossover I wrote that I can’t talk about yet). Therefore, with no further delay, Bring on the Bad Guys!

Overview: I previously said that the Ursa Major wave was my favorite of the year. I think it’s now duking it out with this one. Eight (counting Xemnu) classic comic villains, some of whom have never been done before, and a couple of whom that have never been done before in their classic style for Marvel Legends, would have been an automatic get for me anyway. But the design team really outdid themselves here. There are great flourishes for each figure and some excellent accessories.

The Hood: I’m going to start with the much maligned Hood. First off, you guys must secretly love him if you’ve made him the star of memes without end. And I’ll give you, the face sculpt is an odd choice. His expression is that of a man that just stepped in a bear trap. But I’m honestly just happy that The Hood finally exists. Parker Robbins was a major villainous presence in the Marvel Universe for much of the 2000s, appearing in or impacting events like Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Siege, and the Heroic Age.

I feel like the figure gets a number of things right, but I do think it’s a touch short for the length of the, well, hood. The pistols and their effects turned out really well, and I think that it’s great to have the character alongside members of the crew he assembled in comics. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s a solid okay.

Red Skull: Okay, there’s no question for me. Of the two heads that come with this figure, it’s the smile version all the way. There’s some serious Kirby/Erik Larsen energy in that leer. I love it. Remarkably, this is the first time that the Skull has been depicted in figure form in the straight-up green Hydra costume. This is indeed a very classic Skull, and the sculptors nailed it.

In terms of accessories, I have to give a hat tip to whomever decided to make the grasping hand big enough to really grip the Cosmic Cube. That makes a ton of difference in posing, and opens up other options. The pistol looks perfect for this version of the character as well. The new Skull is pretty striking, and of all the different versions (including Iron Skull, Red Onslaught, etc.), this is my favorite.

Arcade: IT’S ABOUT TIME. Think of all the times that Arcade has appeared in Marvel video game media alone! That original X-Men PC game, Ultimate Alliance, etc.? And Arcade has figured into some truly memorable storylines; there’s his first appearance, his team up with Dr. Doom (Doombot, whatever), Avengers Arena. It’s crazy to think that there has NEVER been an Arcade figure. This is a huge character choice win. As far as the design, I think it’s great. It’s an extra mile figure, too, in terms of detail. Look at the lifts in his shoes. Check out the number of tiny paint apps here. The extra head (with the Arena look) is a welcome surprise. He looks so good, it makes me want to build death traps for my X-Men. Well done.

A.I.M. Scientist Supreme: This was the figure that I was least sure of, but I love this guy. It’s just a terrific realization of the overall look of one of my favorite costumes in comics: the A.I.M. “beekeeper suit.” But the great bits are how the figure incorporates the modernized elements of the look. The shiny finish, the belt, the joints . . . all look especially good. I really enjoy how poseable the head is, making it easy for the Scientist Supreme to look at his data pad and despair how much repeated Avengers ass-kickings are costing them. Sometimes, it’s just the look, y’know. This one just looks great.

Dormammu: I’ve always thought that the SDCC Exclusive “Book of the Vishanti” Dormammu was well done, and it still looked good when it reappeared as a BAF. However, I’d always wanted the classic look. The first book that I recall owning that included Dormammu was Marvel Feature #2, starring The Defenders. While this look isn’t exactly the same as that one, it’s the idea that I have when I picture classic Dormammu. Like Red Skull, I feel like this is a fairly definitive take on the comic version of the figure. That maniacal face sculpt just puts it over the top.

Lady Deathstrike: The Marvel Legends line had an early Lady Deathstrike and it, well, had some problems. Notably: the arms with the mechanical extrusions which drastically limited poseability. However, this one is just excellent. It’s one of those instances where it looks like it was just peeled off the page. And this is definitely a figure that benefits from updated and added poseability. It’s like night and day to the original version. The billowy sleeves are a nice touch, but it’s the outstanding hand sculpts and the vastly improved face that really make it.

Doctor Doom (Secret Wars): God Emperor Doom! Secret Wars was a sprawling story filled with some memorable scenes (not the least of which was an Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Black Panther and Sub-Mariner teaming up), but one of the stand-outs was Doom’s utter demolition of Thanos. If you’re into Mortal Kombat-fatality homages, this figure is for you. In what has to be one of the grossest and most hilarious accessories in ML history, Doom comes with the spinal column and skull of Thanos. It’s tremendous. As for Doom himself, the look is great, the finish is solid, and the eyes are very well done. However, I have seen some reports that the figure is fragile on the underside, so be careful with your leg posing. I wouldn’t say this is necessary for the casual fan that has other recent Dooms, but it’s a solid pick-up for the deep bench collector.

Xemnu BAF: Never in a million years did I think we’d see a BAF of Xemnu the Titan! The long-time Hulk antagonist was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962, and he’s popped up a number of times over the years, including in The Immortal Hulk. I know that some were disappointed that this BAF was a more obscure character, but not me. I’m a huge fan of the “Universe” aspect of Marvel Legends, so any new inclusion is fine by me. It also makes sense to repurpose parts (like from Sasquatch) when the need arises. And honestly, I just love the look of it. Plus, we can always use more huge bad guys, right? I find this to be an extremely fun figure, and I’m glad they used the BAF slot on it.

Super-Articulate: Marvel Legends Ursa Major BAF Wave

No preamble. Let’s get into it.

Overview: This might be my favorite assortment of the year so far. There’s a lot to be said for an assortment that is so heavily, well, comic book. We’ve gotten some great movie figures this year, with more to come, but my favorites are always going to be the ones heavily rooted in the Marvel mythos. Couple that with a couple of long-terms Wants, and this turns out to be a real delight.

Stealth Iron Man: Yes, this is essentially the same body as the 80th Anniversary figure and the recent A.I. Iron Man. HOWEVER. Like many of the armored figures in the assortment, it makes great use of the metal finish. Back in the ‘90s Toy Biz Iron Man line, they called it vac (vacuum) metallization. Whatever the process name is now, it looks great. The metallic sheen looks great in the deep blue in particular. Even if you have an earlier pass at the Stealth Iron Man, this still looks extremely good. I was lukewarm on this at the announcement, but I really like it in person.

Vault Guardsman: Though it wasn’t at the top of my Want List, it was still a figure that I wanted to see. I’ve been digging the Guardsmen at least since the Avengers two-parter back in #236 and #237 in 1983. It’s a fun story with Spider-Man, Blackout, Moonstone, and yes, the Guardsmen. This is a strong representation of the characters from the comics, and it also deploys the metal process. There’s also a slight bulkiness to the frame that I think looks good; it varies the size of the armored figures and is a great look for a character that’s a potential threat. I also really like the green, which is a generally unrepresented color in the armored figures.

Hologram Iron Man: My very first thought upon seeing this in person was how much it reminded me of the Tomy Tron figures from 1982. I loved the look of those, and I would be surprised if it wasn’t a touchstone of inspiration for the design team. As you know, the Hologram Tony has figured into the books in a number of ways over time. And like the green of the Guardsman, this figure is striking because it stands out among the other armors. I enjoy the fact that Hasbro is willing to take risks with oddballs like this. As you know, I’m always for the most complete version of the Marvel Universe that we can get, and this fits the bill.

Ironheart: Similarly, you know that I’m given to go on about the hair work that the designers do on the figures. In that regard, this is a (no pun intended) champion. The Riri head is spectacular. That is top-flight hair and face sculpting. This is one of those instances where it looks like the figure was peeled off of the page. It’s just outstanding.  Another great note is the slim build for the figure; this LOOKS like an armored teen. I knew that I would like this figure, but it’s really terrific to look at once you get it out of the package. Ironheart also looks great next to fellow Champions Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and Nova (Sam). This is the part where I stump for Brawn (Amadeus Cho) and Snowguard. If you’re on the fence about this one, remember that it will likely skyrocket in price once the impending Disney+ series gets closer. Don’t be left out.

Modular Iron Man: Can a review just be the Daniel Bryan “Yes!” chant? The much-demanded look that debuted in Iron Man #300 and was the cornerstone of the ‘90s animated series gets the modern Hasbro version it deserved. This sculpting, the finish, and the over coolness of the original design merge into an absolutely terrific figure. The only possible knock is that it would have been cool for the Modular armor to come with a couple of attachments outside of blasts and extra hands. I could totally see some of those coming down the road, though. In fact, here’s my second stumping: how about some Hasbro Pulse accessory packs and/or alternate heads? I could see some modular arm and back attachments for this one; for something like the Crimson Dynamo assortment Black Widow, I could see a sniper rifle and an alternate head with braided or lose hair like she sports in the film’s climax. That aside, I know that this was long-awaited, and the team didn’t let us down.

Darkstar: You know I like to fill out teams. And Darkstar fills a gap in both the Winter Guard and the original Champions. I’ve dug this character since I was about 10 years old, so it’s great to see her become a Legend. This has another top-notch hair sculpt; happily, the extra mass of the hair doesn’t unbalance the figure. I know that some have grumbled about the frequent use of the “conjuring” hands, but I think that they’re a perfect fit for a figure of a character with her particular powerset. Darkstar also works well in terms of height next to the rest of her team. Rock solid delivery.

Ultron: Not gonna lie. This is the Ultron I’ve always wanted. It’s the classic look from the classic stories that I grew up on, from the Crimson Cowl to “This Evil Undying” to the original Secret Wars. And the use of the Kirby Krackle is just a work of insane genius. What a treat this figure is. Shoulder spikes, ear pieces, that face . . . this is fabulous, kids. Nothing more I can say.

Ursa Major: I am unreasonably happy that this exists. Hasbro did tremendous work on the claws, and the overall paint ops are spot-on. Love the head, too, which looks appropriately savage. Kudos also for that sort of carapace over the back that fills out the overall appearance of the figure. It would have looked oddly thin without it; with it, it makes Ursa look more like a bear in full. As good as this looks on its own, it’s even better when grouped with Darkstar, the Crimson Dynamo BAF, and the comic Red Guardian. I can’t believe that Hasbro gave us a Winter Guard! That’s awesome, kids.

We’ll have to see how the rest of 2020 shakes out, but this is a strong contender for my favorite assortment this year. A mix of much-wanted characters, surprises, and generally strong craftsmanship makes this a winner for me. How about you?

Super-Articulate: Marvel Legends Disney+/Captain America Wave

Let’s just dig right in . . .

Vision: With a wave based entirely on the Disney+ wave of the MCU, the figures need to accurately reflect the look of the show. And I think Vision does particularly well in that regard. The face sculpts in this wave are a big level-up, with you can tell. I also like the choice of making the cape semi-transparent; it’s a very cool look and no other Marvel Legends figure has something quite like it.

Scarlet Witch: I love the WandaVision outfit. It’s a terrific design, and the figure really captures it. In fact, it has a few details packed in that I overlooked on screen. It’s really nice work, but the best thing about the entire figure is that face. This IS Elizabeth Olsen; it’s an incredible likeness. Similarly, that hair is beautifully done. This is a figure where intent, design, poseability, and execution all come together so smoothly. Just a top-flight job all around.

Winter Soldier: I thought it was an interesting choice that, considering the Winter Soldier figures all the way back to that two-pack many years ago, Hasbro opted not to include a weapon with this figure. I kind of like that, especially since weapons weren’t really Bucky’s thing in this series. The detail on the vibranium arm might be my favorite part. I found this to be a good update figure for the MCU, but it’s not particularly distinguished outside of costume detailing.

Zemo: Two heads are definitely better. Again, great face sculpt, but there’s just something a little cooler about the masked version. Maybe it’s because we finally got to see it in live-action in the series. At any rate, excellent job on Zemo’s coat, and the shush/pointing hand is a clever inclusion. Speaking of clever, throwing in the Winter Soldier code book was a great touch. Only negative: the coat sculpt makes the figure a little hard to stand.

U.S. Agent: Yes, I’m aware that the big upset is the lack of white stripes. And yet, this still looks good. The figure really captures the look and attitude of John Walker. For me, the main minus is that there was no additional Cap shield, no black and red Agent shield, or no janky homemade shield. But as a figure itself, it’s well-done.

Captain America: What a terrific job they did on Sam. Great likeness, tremendous realization of the suit, and good poseability. The shield and backpack look great, the paint ops are on the point, and they really nailed the look of the goggles. This is my favorite of the group next to Wanda. Of course, he isn’t really complete without . . .

BAF: Cap’s wings and Redwing: I do get where some fans were upset that the BAF was the wing structure. However, I can see why that is with what they were going for. The wings are great, with additional hinges and moving parts.  The addition of a flight stand specifically designed for the figure makes sense, and Redwing is icing. Frankly, I’m pleased that they figured out a way to give us a Sam Cap that looks this great.

Loki: You notice that I keep addressing fandom gripes? Before the show even started to air, discontent mounted over the outfit chosen for Loki. And then . . . it’s exactly what’s he’s been wearing. Seriously, people will demand things as esoteric as Patch Wolverine in a tux, but bitch about TVA Variant Loki? The likeness is there, the costume is show-accurate, and it’s Loki unlike any other we’ve had. Damn it, I like it.

All right, campers. What do you think?

Super-Articulate: Some Reviews and Some Commentary

Welcome back, kids. Let’s get right into the new stuff. This time out, we’ve got Hasbro’s Star Wars Black Series Asajj Ventress and Crosshair (from The Bad Batch).

VENTRESS: This is a largely excellent job on a fan-favorite character. I’m surprised it took this long for Ventress to get this kind of representation in the Black Series, but I do feel like Hasbro did a proper job on it. I want to flip my normal approach and address the big flaw on my figure up front. I didn’t notice as much until I got into the photographs, but there are definitely some paint flaws around the window on the character’s torso. That’s a shame, given that the face and head have much more intricate paint ops and those look great.

On the other hand, the overall sculpt is strong and the soft goods pieces of the outfit are excellent. The lightsabers are show accurate and the figure doesn’t look like anything else on your Star Wars shelf. Putting her in the display near Maul, I was struck by the fact that the Black Series lacks a Savage Oppress. I think Hasbro should address that in the near future.

CROSSHAIR: I thought Hunter was great, and I may like Crosshair even better. I’m glad that Hasbro leaned in on the Bad Batch right away, even if we’ve yet to get an Echo announcement. Crosshair is the team’s sniper with a particular, uh, susceptibility to Order 66, and he looks great. There’s strong facial detail, including the scar, and there’s attention to detail, like the bandolier that separate’s Crosshair’s outfit and armor from Hunter’s.

The Bad Batch are accessory-heavy figures, and that’s a good thing. Like Hunter, Crosshair comes with a removable helmet (it’s funny what a novelty that feels like, as opposed to an extra head). He’s also packed with a backpack, a blaster, and an excellent sniper rifle. That’s Crosshair’s customized version of the 773 Firepuncher, and it looks great in figure form. As you can see, I took some shots of Crosshair and Hunter together so you can see the difference in the details on the figures. Those bits are what makes them stand out. This is another good figure for the Bad Batch.

DATES, DATES, DATES: If you’ll indulge me for a minute, I do want to lodge a complaint for a moment. I understand that shipping dates shift. I understand that things can change, and I know that we’ve come off of a really challenging year here. But I have to say that I find the disparity between the announced ship dates and arrival dates, particularly from Hasbro lately, are a pain.

We covered the whole thing with the Marvel Legends Shang-Chi figures, and how those hit stores before they were even announced. But recent events are also confusing and frustrating.

For example: if you ordered the ML Disney+ wave from Amazon, the site indicates that they won’t ship until August 1. Target had an arrival date of June 1. However, the figures began to show up in Walmarts ahead of that date. That’s fine, I suppose, but they also showed up on the racks in Target, and a number of Target stores refused to sell the figures to customers before June 1 DESPITE the fact that they were on the shelf. That’s wildly inconsistent and frustrating. On the Hasbro Pulse side, if you ordered the Bring on the Bad Guys wave, those show as shipping August 1. However, if you showed up at Target on June 1 looking for the Disney+ wave, many customers reported finding those as well. Honestly, I’m confused.

Oh, and one more thing. Before this went live on Thursday, rektangular posted on Instagram that the Ursa Major BAF wave has been found in-store. Good luck out there, gang.

I’d just like some clarification, maybe in one of the Fan First livestreams, on dates going forward. I understand that Hasbro Pulse generally ships after everyone else. But the main thing is that it makes it hard to plan things from a financial perspective when you have multiple drops occurring in proximity and you aren’t sure from week to week whether you might have more than one assortment hit your bank account. I appreciate the emails that something has shipped, but it would be nice to have a calendar function or to receive updates for both in-store dates and Pulse ship dates.

What do you think, readers?

Super-Articulate: More Lucasfilm 50th and Bad Batch Hunter

Greetings! For your May the Fourth, we have five Star Wars Black Series figures here for your perusal. Four are new versions of previously released figures, all available on the Lucasfilm 50th Anniversary Archive Series card. The fifth is part of a brand-new Disney+ show that debuts today. Let’s check ‘em out.

The Bad Batch: Hunter: Hunter is the leader of Clone Force 99, nicknamed “The Bad Batch” because each Clone member possesses an advantageous mutation. Hunter himself benefits from enhanced senses. The characters’ armor is styled after the common Clone armor, but in a stylized gray.  In figure terms, Hunter comes with a number of accessories, including a removable helmet, a DC-17 hand blaster, a vibro-knife, a backpack, and a DC-17m repeating blaster rifle.

Right off, this guy looks great. The figure really captures the look from the animation, and they really tried to nail the face tattoo. The vibro-knife slides into a wrist gauntlet sheath, and the backpack fits on the figure via a t-shaped plug. The tendency today is to make two heads for a figure when you have a helmeted or unhelmeted look, but I really like that this comes with a (slightly flexible) helmet that you actually put on and take off of the figure.

I also find that Hunter is a touch more poseable than is the norm for the armored figures. Maybe that’s just my impression, but the fighter posed easily and the helmet managed the trick of both fitting snugly and coming off easily. I really like Hunter, and I’m looking forward to filling out the team.

Tusken Raider: I never had the first SWBS Tusken, so if this guy is basically the same . . . he’s new to me. I love this guy. The face is pretty exacting, the cloth robe hangs well, and the details sing everywhere. The figure includes a cycler rifle and a gaderffi stick with three interchangeable ends. When shooting the pictures, I was a little more interested in shots with the cycler rifle, probably because my original 12-back Kenner figure didn’t have one. However, I did include one triumphant gaderffi-hoisting shot. I think that this is just great overall.

Death Trooper: I’m a sucker for Stormtroopers and all their variants, so I jumped at the chance to pre-order that last three figures we’re covering this week. Up first is the Death Trooper, distinguished by its black armor. The figure comes with a pair of accessories: the SE-14r light repeating blaster, and the E-11D blaster carbine. Death Troopers were first seen in Rogue One, and have since appeared in The Mandalorian.

One of the cool things that you can tell under direct light or in the camera flash is that the figure isn’t totally black; it has gray and greenish accents at the joints. I like the Death Trooper design, and I’m glad it got a re-release for the people that didn’t get it the first time around (like me).

Shoretrooper: Like the Death Trooper and the Hover Tank Driver (coming in a minute), the Coast Defender Stormtrooper, aka Shoretrooper made its debut in Rogue One; like the other two, it’s also been seen in The Mandalorian. The Shoretrooper armor was designed for just that: operating in coastal environments. Like many Stormtroopers, the Shoretrooper carries an E-11 blaster rifle.

One distinct element of the Shoretrooper is the lack of full leg armor, and that’s reflected in the figure. Like the film character, the figure has that visor build-out on the helmet. I like the discoloration on the armor; it what armor would look like if it had to stay in a sandy, salt-heavy environment over a long period of time. It’s a good looking figure, and it can add some versatility to your displays.

Hover Tank Driver: This armor got a lot more play in Season 2 of The Mandalorian as Mando and Mayfeld. Hover Tank Drivers (aka Imperial combat assault tank pilots or tank troopers) did exactly what their name implies: they drive hover tanks and other heavy vehicles. In Rogue One, the operated hover tanks at Jedha City.

The armor bears similarities to the Shoretrooper, especially in terms of the unarmored thighs. The helmet is stylized differently, maybe evoking a heavier feel as befitting a helmet for an armored vehicle. Like the Shoretrooper and other Stormtroopers, this one comes with an E-11 blaster rifle. It might not be the most exciting divergence of the Stormtrooper armor, but I think it looks pretty cool.

All of these figures are available now in stores (if you can find them) and at various online outlets. So what do you think, collectors? Are you liking the Archive selections? How about the Bad Batch? Let’s hear it.

Super-Articulate: The rest of Mr. Hyde (and Katy!)

Welcome back, figure hunters! As you’ve read in recent weeks on Graphic Policy, the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Marvel Legends assortment has had a bit of a strange release. Figures slipped out ahead of the April 25 street date at some stores, the pre-order information didn’t go up until April 24, and it was generally a very odd roll-out. But that’s over, the figures are in stores all over the place, and I’ve obtained the remaining four in the Mr. Hyde BAF wave, as well as the Target exclusive Katy. Let’s break it down.

Wenwu: There’s no way around this: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, aka Tony Leung, is a f——g legend. LEGEND. A massive star of Asian cinema and one of its greatest actors, period, the casting of Leung as Shang-Chi’s father Wenwu (and *cough*TheMandarin*cough) is a coup of epic proportions. So obviously, they have to do a good job with the figure’s face. And they DID. Hasbro has really improved the facial rendering on MCU figures by leaps and bounds.

The whole assortment has some really great costume detailing. There are intricate patterns and textures on the figures that you can tell took time. Those are also pieces that wouldn’t easily be repurposed, meaning that this is a case when those parts were created expressly for this wave without a huge chance they’d be used again. The Wenwu figure benefits from the double-elbow joint, which is great for posing. You’ll notice the five rings on each forearm; advance buzz is that this is how the Mandarin’s ten comic book (finger) rings are represented in the film. That’s a striking look, and another unique pair of pieces. Like other figures in this assortment, Wenwu comes with various hands for fight posing. Nice work overall.

Death Dealer: The cinematic Death Dealer has a great look. That mask is awesome, and the figure captures it. Like Wenwu, there are highly detailed vinyl elements. The paint color on this figure in particular pops; the blue is very deep and rich. DD comes with multiple hands, two of which are devoted to knife throwing effects. One holds a single knife as if it’s about to be thrown; the other has two in flight. I like dynamic accessories like this that can suggest action even in static posing. There is a slight bit of posing difficult on the figure’s left side, as the cut of the tunic and the stiffer vinyl prevents that leg from accessing full poseability.  Nevertheless, it’s a great look, and there are creative ways to address that if you’d like. This might be my favorite on the group on sheer look.

Xialing: Shang-Chi’s sister Xialang gets an excellently poseable figure. Like the other Shang-Chi figures, this one comes with multiple hands for fight choreography posing. I realize that it’s specific to the character design from the film, but it’s always refreshing when a female figure isn’t in heels. For one thing: much, much easier to stand. While this figure isn’t quite as visually interesting as some of the others, I feel like the utility of being able to pose it well makes up for that.

Civil Warrior: The Civil Warrior figure is based on the character designed used in the Contest of Champions game. Some parts appeared to be repurposed from the previously released “Hydra Cap,” but I have to say that this one looks great. Nice color choices and great paint apps, particularly on the distressed shield, really stand out. And this figure has some great poseability as well. I realize that this won’t be everyone’s bag; hell, I wasn’t super-excited when it was announced. But it was definitely one that makes a strong impression in person. Solid.

Mr. Hyde: I’ve been waiting for Mr. Hyde for a long time, mainly because he was part of the “Under Siege” Masters of Evil line-up. Also, with Mr. Hyde in the line, that should theoretically move Quake closer to reality. I might have preferred the earlier look to the slightly more dapper Hyde, but this is a GREAT BAF. My favorite detail is the bloodshot eyes. What a great idea, and what fine execution. Love the cane as a big-ass accessory. It’s not often that the BAFs get an accessory that large designed for them (Cull Obsidian and armored Thanos aside), so it’s great to see the work go into it. Suit color is great and the figure comes out appropriately huge. I really like this and, for “Under Siege” reasons, I’m glad he’s bigger than the Wrecking Crew. Well done.

Katy (and Morris) Target Exclusive: If you’ve read this column, then you know that Exclusives are a bane of my existence. I had very good luck ordering the Target exclusive Retro Rogue and Gambit online a few months ago, though, so I tried to be optimistic. A few hours before the stores opened for the April 25 onsale date, the Target app added this one for order. I placed a pick-up order online, paid with Red Card (5% off, kids), and picked it up later. Incredibly easy.

Outside of being an exclusive, this one has been contentious online for a few reasons. One, people have mocked the name Katy. Y’know, it’s the character’s name. If she has another, hidden identity, they’re hiding it, and that’s fine. Two, the comparison between her outfit and Mulan. Seriously, that’s your gripe? Three, that it’s Awkwafina. That’s your own problem. And Four . . . Morris.

Morris (whose name we know because he comes in a Lego set, and is named on the box) is a DiJiang. It’s a divine bird from Chinese folklore. Obviously, the movie plans to lean into more of the wuxia genre; if you’re unfamiliar with the term, it means “martial heroes,” and references legendary heroes from ancient China, frequently represented in fantasy literature or film (notably, to American audiences, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero). It makes sense to incorporate the genre, especially if the film contains a rumored appearance by Fin Fang Foom (a Great Protector dragon character has already been spotted in action toy and Lego form) and also features guardian lions (glimpsed in the trailer). So, as far as all that goes, Morris is cool. He’s a great value-add to the figure.

As for Katy herself, I think that the figure landed a good likeness of the actor. The bow, quiver, and arrows are all new accessories, and the quiver in particular is tailored to fit the figure. The long dress outfit is restrictive for posing, but it’s definitely distinctive and doesn’t look quite like any other figure in the line. In fact, one of the best things about the Shang-Chi figures in general is that have a unique identity, which is great on a number of levels.

If one thing characterizes this assortment, it’s EFFORT. You can see it in the detail, you can see it in the elbows, and you can see it in the willingness to make new pieces and accessories. They’re primarily new characters, they’re colorful, and they’re not like any Legends assortment we’ve seen before. I like them even more than I expected to, and I always consider that a fine compliment.

Behemoth’s New Monster

Steve Ekstrom

A little bit of full disclosure to start: I’ve known Steve Ekstrom for years. He served with me on the Best Shots team at Newsarama, and wrote for my ShotgunReviews.com. I joined him when he spearheaded the Imminent Press Kickstarter for Terminal. He lettered part of Sparkshooter. In a way, that makes me an ideal interviewer rather than a conflicted one, because I know where the bodies are buried; I helped bury some myself. But now, Steve, who has worked in and around comics for years, is back with a new title, a new job, and a new mission. He’s the new Editorial Director for up-and-coming publisher Behemoth Comics. And like that name might imply, there’s here to do some damage.

Graphic Policy: Some people might remember you writing for Newsarama many moons ago. I’ve talked to a lot of other people about this, so here goes: in what way was working in comics journalism a help, and in what ways was it a hindrance, when it came to breaking into comics? Would you do that differently now?

Steve Ekstrom: Wow, big guns first, I still like the cut of your journalistic jib after all this years, my friend.

I think being a journalist in comics for nearly a decade taught me a lot of valuable lessons in professionalism like “Don’t go into business for yourself while you’re working on projects for other people or publishers” or “This is the proper decorum for interacting with established creators” or “Try not to ruin your own career by writing really negative reviews full of hyperbole that attack the creators ability to make a paycheck.”

Those are all lessons I had to learn through experience. I feel like a cat that’s missing three or four lives now but I’m still out here trying to tell stories and make comics. [laughs]

I will admit that journalism did open doors for me in that it gave me a degree of notoriety and the ability to guarantee smaller publishers at least one interview to cover their content because, contrary to popular belief, most major websites do NOT adequately cover lesser-known indie creators who are just starting out. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of needing all your articles to drive clicks and/ or the need to be first with major news items for trending moments on social media.

In terms of doing things differently, I would have played less World of Warcraft when I was still just starting out. I would have tried to save more money to pay professionals to get things done faster. I was very fortunate to get to work with artists and colorists who were starting out just like me and we were all hungry and working for free. We needed small amounts of content to create a body of work to show competency so that’s what we did. Did I offer to pay in exposure? Sure, a little bit. If you’re just starting out and you put the right squad together magic can happen.

Graphic Policy: I think that Matt Brady is an underappreciated figure in comics in the 2000s. What impact did he have on you?

Steve Ekstrom: Let’s be honest here: You gave me my first invite to the party. You saw that I had some writing talent on MySpace of all places way back in the middle of 2006. You offered me a spot in the Best Shots squad. I didn’t even KNOW how big Newsarama was until I spoke to my old college friend, Adam Tracey, who was the Managing Editor of Toyfare Magazine at the time.

Matt Brady gave me my first paycheck as a journalist in the comics industry. He gave me the confidence to be the work horse I wanted to become in my first year at Newsarama and he let me earn my spot. I will always be forever indebted to the two of you.

In all seriousness, I want to see Matt write a Power of the Atom book at DC. He pitched it to me one time when we were heading to a mixer for DC Comics in San Diego and it was glorious. I’ve also had the pleasure of editing some of Matt’s work a couple of years ago; he’s incredibly talented.

Make some more damn pamphlets, Matt.

Graphic Policy: Tell us about your experience with DC’s old ZUDA program.

Steve Ekstrom: It was eye-opening to say the least. I learned so much about actually “making” comics in that time period. The 4:3 format was unique and frustrating because it changed the way you tackled a page and the “grid”.

I also learned a lot about marketing a project for a competition. So much hustling is needed! It was kind of the same sort of month long sprint you make with a crowd-sourcing campaign. This was also way back before everyone and their mother was online every single day for 12 hours a day on their phones. And I totally sucked at Twitter back then…and, well, I still do.

Mostly, I learned a valuable lesson regarding “word economy” in sequential storytelling. I shoehorned a ton of information into our 8 page submission thinking, “Oh, yeah, if they can get past the heavy lifting in the intro, they’ll get action-packed explosions and wrestling with albino crocodiles in the next 8 page segment.” Not so much. We came in third for the month with over 60,000 views for “The Ares Imperative”. [laughs]

Graphic Policy: You’ve been on the positive and the negative side of crowdfunding experiences. What did you learn from both outcomes? And what do you think of the ways the crowdfunding is being used today?

Steve Ekstrom: I know that I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded but that’s just part of the process. You’re not living your life if you’re not failing upward at times.

Truthfully, there’s a lot of nuance to it. Knowing which month to campaign or which extras to add or how to get estimates on everything connected to your funding goals and still hitting a reasonable over-funded benchmark for the project you’re presenting. All of it. It’s a LOT. The goal also has to make sense in regard to what you’re offering. I totally messed up on my first Kickstarter because I had no concept of scope. We were trying to raise $20K and we didn’t even have stories in the can yet. If you’ve never tried to crowd-source a book: DON’T DO THAT. Have stuff to show potential backers.

When we funded on our second outing, I learned how to be a small publisher. I learned how to package an entire book from concept to marketing to printing and distributing it out of my house. It was absolutely exhaustive but I loved every minute of it.

I want to see crowd-sourced comics continue to flourish and I want platforms like Kickstarter to keep creating opportunities for creators to make new comics that don’t have the luxury of bigger publishers’ bank rolls. I think there are murky lines being crossed when bigger companies have the scratch to make their own books without sourcing but I also understand that crowd-sourcing is just pre-ordering with extra steps most of the time. I could talk about the merits of these sorts of scenarios all day with the right group of creators.

Graphic Policy: In addition to writing, you also developed your lettering talents and began picking up work. What motivated you to do that, and is that something you plan to continue?

Steve Ekstrom:
Honestly? I made the same mistake most eager new creators and I devalued paid letterers by trying to learn how to do it cheaply on my own thinking that it would be “easy”. I was incredibly wrong.

Looking back, I got lucky because I have a touch of OCD so I would pour myself over my lettering until it looked professional on my first published story but it was still nowhere near the perfect digital stuff done by Nate Piekos or Richard Starking. I have learned to love the craft of lettering and typography.

The most important lesson I can impart on new creators: PAY THE LETTERER. You’re going to think that lettering is the least important aspect of the book. You’re wrong. Your story is the least important, writer person. The technical aspects of the book can easily carry a shitty story. Lettering is the least important part of production when new creators are considering what’s important. However, bad lettering is the FIRST aspect of a book to take a reader out of their experience reading your project if it’s done poorly.

I’d been lettering my own projects for roughly a decade before I felt comfortable enough to charge money for my services. Now, I offer to edit as I letter and it works really well with well-conceived projects that need minor polishing. They get both services for one low rate.

Going forward, I will be lettering for my limited number of clients as well as on most of the projects I will be writing or editing because it allows me to have tighter control over the production of the overall work. Now that I’m joining up with Behemoth, I may even start lettering some of their books I’m not connected to directly. I’m not allergic to money and I love making comics professionally. Let’s make this bread!

Graphic Policy: How did you first become involved with Behemoth?

Steve Ekstrom:
Mark Bertolini approached me to letter a project called “Feeder” with artist Darryl Knickrehm. Mark worked on Terminal Pulp Anthology with me and I absolutely loved Darryl’s style when I saw his work on The Argus at Action Labs. I jumped at the opportunity to have my name on the cover of this project.

Mark introduced me to Nathan [Yocum] and we got on the phone and talked for like 3 hours. He reminds me of a much more gigantic version of my best friend, Mark. He and I just live on this crazy wavelength made out of frenetic ambition, late night taco bell runs, horror movies and content strategy regarding making comics. He’s a soul brother, for sure.

Graphic Policy: You’ve just been named Editorial Director; can you outline what that job IS and what it DOES?

Steve Ekstrom: For me, I think one of the most important things a small publisher needs is brand identity. The comic industry has a sea of hobbyists and amateur creators who want to make comics so there is a massive body of work you have to swim through to get to the surface, to be seen and sell your products.

Having a clear cut vision for the direction of the creator-owned books is important. Understanding the marketplace and what sorts of books you want representing your brand is so crucial to competing in a large marketplace that has a diminishing number of brick and mortar stores with budgets and fickle readers. We’re all fighting for the same $20 every week. And you know what I’m going to say next…

$20 is $20.

Joking aside, I bring a wealth of practical business experience as a journalist and indie creator to the table. Behemoth was just a natural fit. They approached me about having a role at the company and said, “What would you like to do?” so I told them I wanted to help them create a monolithic brand and I wanted to have my hands on as many projects as a guy with two hands and a Doc Ock harness could handle. I love this industry and I would happily spend the rest of my life making these damn pamphlets.

As for my major role, I am going to be handling a new imprint of direct-to-digital projects called D2D. We’re still relatively small as a brand so investing in up-and-coming creators is a little risky in that we have a narrow margin for error if we pick up a project that doesn’t end up selling as well to retailers as our sales forecasts project. So, we want to create a space for creators who have projects that may not be quite ready for “prime time” but still could use an opportunity for growth and experience through our digital storefront on Comixology. It’s a win-win situation when you consider the outcome.

Rising stars can have a recognizable brand on their product while they learn to market on a smaller scale with less risk of having to worry about print thresholds in a competitive marketplace. In the event that we discover a sleeper hit digitally, we can turn around and produce a print run of a project or collect a trade with minimal overhead costs.

Graphic Policy: You’ve already expressed an interest in assembling unknown talent. Can you speak on why that’s important to you?

Steve Ekstrom:
This is where I guess I should also mention I’m also going to be the editor of a direct-to-digital anthology project that we’re calling PRIMER. One of my first projects was published in an old anthology series called NEGATIVE BURN from Desperado Studios back in 2008. At the time, Negative Burn was the BEST place to find tomorrow’s creators and a lot of big names today got their first big breaks in that anthology.

I want to do the same thing with PRIMER. I know how hard it is to make comics and have them reach the right people so that you can develop yourself professionally. This is my chance to remember where I came from, to honor the people who gave me my first opportunities and to “pay it forward” by helping young creators who have the drive to persevere and the hunger to want to make polished, professional looking products. Again, it creates more opportunities for me to make comics. It doesn’t get any better than that but…

Making comics isn’t easy. Like at all.

The people who make it to the top of this industry are 1% of 1% of 1% of a body of people who all want to tell stories and all want to compete for the same five bucks. If you aren’t competitive and you aren’t constantly growing or developing your skills, you’re probably not going to get to write Spider-Man or Batman if that’s what you aim to do. Most of us have to earn that right with hard work and quantifiable sales figures. Hell, I’m still trying to get to that point in my career, too. [laughs]

All that said, there’s still going to be fairly strict submission process for D2D and PRIMER. I am going to be working with Nathan as well as our other Senior Editor, Kevin Roditeli, to iron out clear cut guidelines for our entire brand.

Graphic Policy: You’ve already worked on an anthology yourself with Terminal Pulp Anthology. What makes for a good collection, and how do you make Behemoth’s stand out?

Steve Ekstrom:
Ironically, the best advice I’ve ever heard about an anthology is this: “Your anthology can only be as good as the worst story” and, let me tell you, that advice is painfully accurate. I have spent a lot of time collecting all the popular anthologies that have come out over the past 20 years. All of them have a range of stories but the one factor that I remember seeing most? Technical proficiency.

As I said earlier, the least important part of a comic is the story and that’s coming from a guy who went to school to be a writer. It’s incredibly humbling to accept this as a truth. Good art, exceptional coloring, technically polished lettering can all elevate a mediocre story. So, yeah, be a good writer and know your craft but this entire medium is still visually based. Bring the quality with the visual elements so that those elements in turn elevate your story.

I plan to curate the line initially by privately approaching folks who are on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues. I want well-constructed shorts so I can set the bar for people who want to submit so they can, in turn, set the bar for themselves.

In 2008, I had my first submission packet put together for a project. It was drawn by a guy who was local to me, my cousin who had experience as a graphic designer helped me flat color the sample art and letter all of it with, yep, you guessed it, Comic Sans and it was atrocious. But I didn’t know any better. I had romanticized my efforts. I was ready to submit this turd straight to Image because I was “ready”.

I was working for Newsarama in San Diego at Comic-Con International and I showed my submission to CB Cebulski who was, at the time, promoting his project called “Wanderlust” at Image. He gave me the best advice of my career when he kindly didn’t rip my heart out of my chest and show it to me after looking at my atrocious submission.

He said, “Okay, I want you to look at your submission packet and look at this copy of my comic. Imagine that you had $5 and you walked into the comic shop and you saw your project sitting next to my project. Not knowing anything about either of these projects, based on your eye for quality as a fan of comics, which one of these two books would you buy based on the quality alone.”

I sat quietly for a short moment as dread built at the base of my stomach because I knew the answer instantly. I pointed at his book. He patted me on the arm and he said, “Look at the books that make it to the shelf. That’s what you’re competing against. Your project has to be as good as all of the other books that make it onto the shelves.”

It was an incredibly humbling lesson and probably the roughest one to learn first but it put me into a frame of mind where I knew I had to make every effort my best effort. I hope to impart that on others through the production of quality content.

Soko

Graphic Policy: Tell us about SOKO.

Steve Ekstrom: Soko is a really awesome police procedural/ crime project in a similar vein to that of Criminal or the movie The Departed and it is set in Serbia. I’m working on it with up-and-coming Serbian writer, Vanja Miskovic, as well as Italian artist Antonio Fuso who is on a hot streak right now with his project Wyrd being developed for television over at Dark Horse and Stargazer finishing up a healthy run at Mad Cave. We also have Antonio’s studio-mate Stefano Simeone on colors; he’s the artist for a Mega Man Fully Charged at BOOM!. We’re also sporting this ridiculously awesome cover on the first issue by one of my all-time favorites, Serbian artist, RM Guera who most folks will remember for his epic run on Scalped at Vertigo.

This book is stacked with talent. Vanja and I both are very proud of what we’ve put together and we can’t wait for it to hit shelves in the late fall.

Without giving too much away because the solicits are coming soon, Soko focuses on systemic corruption in law enforcement while exploring modern dilemmas in that region of the world that are connected to human trafficking as well as fuel smuggling.

Graphic Policy: What other Behemoth books should people be checking out RIGHT NOW, and why? What makes a “Behemoth book”?

You Promised Me Darkness is absolutely chewing up the market right now as it keeps breaking these crazy sales records as a black and white horror comic in a marketplace where four-color comics reign supreme. I am absolutely loving all the excitement looming for this series as it hits shelves over the summer. There are some really exciting licensed books that we’ll be announcing soon enough that will probably turn some heads, too. We’ll have to wait and see! I don’t want to spoil anything just yet.

Also, check out Kevin Roditeli’s Happy Tank imprint. This guy is an absolute animal whose energy is contagious. He’s at the helm of our MFKZ project that I think is going to be big deal book this year.

Graphic Policy: It’s no secret that comics is a volatile field. Behemoth is making important deals with the likes of Simon & Schuster and Netflix. How critical is that to the ongoing success of a young company, and how to those alliances impact the development of new titles?

Steve Ekstrom: I think the most important thing we can do is continue to provide top-notch content. I know that seems like such a generic answer, but when you think about it, quality is really all it boils down to when you’re in a market where two companies hold 90-ish% of the sales figures.

We just have to keep making solid choices on the content we’re going to produce. Nathan and Ryan have some really fantastic concepts for marketable products coming down the pipeline that I would have never conceived on my own. I can’t wait to talk more about this stuff as it comes to fruition.

Other than quality, we just need to keep finding hungry talent with projects that fit our mold. This is a savvy brand that, while we may have sort of an outlier’s sensibility, we’re also determined to put out technically competent, well-crafted comics and graphic novels as well as innovative cross-promotional materials like miniatures, shirts and even records. We’ve got vinyl, man! How cool is that?

Graphic Policy: Last words: what do you personally want the world to know about you and the work you’re about to do?

Steve Ekstrom: I’m an ambidextrous Scorpio with a penchant for 70’s R&B and enchiladas? Nah, that’s pretty much common knowledge…

Right now, I am connected to seven or eight ridiculously amazing projects as either a writer, a letterer, an editor or some amalgamation of those three roles and I cannot wait to share these stories with the world.

I’ve spent my entire life loving comics as a fan. I grew up and went to school to learn how to write because I was a storyteller as a kid. I entered this industry as a guy who wanted to bring reader response criticism from the classroom to book reviews and I knew I wasn’t discovering fire or anything but I wanted to put butts in seats and I did it. I care about this business and I want to give back to it after a lifetime plus some of entertainment and joy.

I get to curate my own line of comics. I want to work with anyone that is hungry and motivated like me. I want to give a platform to new creators who understand how to make professional looking comics. This is a business first and foremost. We have to walk a line between commercially viable products, fine art and counter culture that surfs the edges of the cultural zeitgeist.

Keep your eyes on the Behemoth website and our social media for announcements concerning submission guidelines for D2D and PRIMER as well as other news about shows we will be attending later in the year and the release dates for all of our upcoming projects.

We’ve got content scheduled all the way out until the middle of 2022.

And we’re really just getting warmed up. All hail Behemoth!

Super-Articulate: Marvel Legends Shang-Chi and Iron Man (A.I.)

So, this is a weird one. On Saturday, my friend Billy Cooper (of the Indiana Toy and Comic Expo and Indiana Toy Collectors Unite) posted a message on that Facebook group that he’d seen figures from the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings/Mr. Hyde BAF wave at a nearby Target. And while we’ve seen some leaked pix of that wave online, there has as yet been no a) official announcement, b) solicitations that we’ve seen, or c) pre-order listing.

I rolled over the check it out later, and there were indeed five of Shangi-Chi and six of Iron Man (AI) on the pegs. The other four figures (Civil Warrior, Death Dealer, Wenwu, and Xialing) weren’t out. I asked an employee for help, and she scanned the backs. Normally, the scan will show if they have the rest of the assortment. This time was odd, as the scan of Shang-Chi only correlated to the five figures preset; same with the Iron Man, leading us to believe that the individual figures were solid cases. She even graciously checked the back to see if the other four were present, but they weren’t. I had no issues at check-out; they rang up for $19.99.

Again, this is unusual precisely for the reasons that I mentioned. Also unusual is the fact that their assigned system numbers (087167874 and 087163271) don’t show anything when you search them on the website. This is the opposite of what normally happens; in the case of the recent ML Storm and Thunderbird two-pack, for example, the number pulled up a listing even weeks before the on-sale date and arrival in stores. These two numbers, which obviously have to be active for the employee’s scan and completed sale, just don’t pull up anything.

Granted, this isn’t a mystery on the order of the Mary Celeste, but it’s just very peculiar. In our hyper-regulated retail world, it’s unusual for a previously unannounced product to just show up. It’s weirder still for coming the day after HasbroPulse Fan Fest, which teased a new Domino/Cannonball two-pack and set up the Iron Man/Ursa Major BAF wave for pre-order and didn’t release any information on this wave at all. Everything we’ve seen so far has been leaks to the likes of Rektangular and various Instagrams. Those figures showing up in a Target in the middle of Indiana is just . . . odd.

Fortunately, I have photos. This isn’t Bigfoot hunting, people. I’d also like to thank Jay at www.toynewsi.com who posted some of my photos as well. But here you can take a look at the figures, which include out-of-package shots. Each one comes with a Mr. Hyde BAF leg in addition to appropriate accessories.

Iron Man (A.I.): A comic-specific figure, the only real new part of this one is the holographic head. If you’ve followed the comics in the past few years, you know this iteration comes from a point where Tony spent some time dead, and an A.I. version of himself occupied an armor. The figure sculpt itself is a redecoed version of the 80th Anniversary figure; this one has a bright and shiny red-and-yellow scheme that kind of echoes that Secret Wars Iron Man figure from the ‘80s. It would almost be a perfect classic Iron Man as is were it not for the more modern blue on the chest. It’s a decent figure, and the A.I. is fun in you know the story.

Shang-Chi: Our first MCU Shang-Chi comes with a staff and four extra hands for various fighting stances. The overall poseability works out great for a figure like this, especially the double-elbows. I didn’t go super-deep into all of the possible fight poses, but you get a feel for the scenic versatility that the figure can carry. The Simu Liu likeness is pretty good, too. I feel like this is a good entry for the MCU section of the line, and I look forward to seeing the others.

Well, there you go, campers. If you’re interested in this line, happy hunting. I can’t guarantee their release pattern, as we just don’t know. I’ve reached out to my regular contact for comment, and we’ll pass it along if we have anything to share. Until then, if you have comments or questions, drop ‘em below.

Almost American
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