Greetings! We’re back, working our way through the last couple of months of stuff. Today we’re taking in the Strong Guy BAF wave, a grouping that includes some long overdue characters and some unexpected additions. Let’s get to it.
Sunspot: Sunspot has been due for a long, long time, and here’s hoping that we get a Bobby in his New Mutants costume in the near future. This outfit came from the Greg Capullo era of X-Force, and there are some great, colorful teams designs from it (Boom-Boom, for example, has already been represented). First off, Sunspot is officially on the list of “I’m just happy this exists” figures. It’s hard to believe that this is the character’s first Legends entry. Overall this is a tight sculpt. The mask detail is great and I’m glad that they chose to include a blackened version of the familiar energy crackle. Nicely done, and it’s about time.
Warpath: Warpath’s outfit is drawn from the same era as Sunspot’s, giving me some hope that we’ll see Siryn and Rictor sometime soon. Warpath is appropriately big, drawn more in line with his look in the early to mid 90s than when he was first introduced (when he first showed up as a Hellion in The New Mutants, he was downright trim). The shoulder pad details are of the time and I think that they did a nice job on the hair. He’s a fitting figure for the assortment, given its composition, and I was glad to see it make the cut. Again, nice solid job.
Maverick: A first-time Legend, Maverick was represented (like Sunspot before him) in the old 90s Toy Biz wave. It’s good to see him get an update, and it’s frankly a banger. This is a really nice-looking figure, with great detail and color applications. Maverick is an admittedly minor X-Universe character, but the figure is great and demonstrates once again that the Hasbro team puts a lot of effort into even lower-tier characters. The rifle accessories are well done, and representative of the weapons he carried when he showed up during Jim Lee’s run of X-Men. I really dig this one.
Black Tom Cassidy: Another “about time” guy, and certainly in the version that I wanted to see. Black Tom is a long-time X-Foe, and with Juggernaut getting two swings in recent years, it makes sense for his partner to get the Legend treatment. The old Toy Biz version was the character’s hybrid look, but this is his original classic depiction, and it’s great. I really like the shillelagh accessory, and the face sculpt is appropriately smarmy. He looks a bit like Bruce Campbell to me, which is just fine. I’m never going to complain about new X-foes making the cut.
Shiklah: Easily the most obscure Legend in a while, Shiklah is a Queen of the Underworld that first appeared in 2014’s Deadpool: The Gauntlet Infinite Comic #3. She was even Mrs. Deadpool for a while before leaving him for Dracula (it’s complicated). They definitely got the horror vibe of the character right, and did a fine job realizing costume details. I appreciate that the necklace is a separate piece. As a personal quirk, it’s cool to see purple show up in the palette (there just aren’t a lot of purple figures, when you think about it). I took a shot of the severe heels on the boot sculpt; they make the figure a little harder to stand, but it still looks good. Shiklah comes with Jeff the Land Shark who is, quite frankly, cute (and a fun little addition).
Deadpool (Blue X-Team Suit): Not much to say about this one. If you really wanted this version of DP, you got him. It’s a good solid figure and sculpt, but really made for the hardcore Deadpool fans or someone that wants an exacting team line-up.
Pirate Deadpool: Honestly, this is hilarious. I can’t believe that this exists. I find it fairly funny that Hasbro picked it, and I’m kind of glad it got made because it’s just so weird. Thumbs up for doing the completely unexpected.
Strong Guy: We’ve been missing Guido for years, so FINALLY, it’s great to see Strong Guy in the Legends line. This is a top-notch BAF, fully using the capability of a BAF to embrace and over-sized character. The proportions are dead-on in terms of the character’s comic book look, and that face sculpt is perfect. This is a tremendous figure, and I’m really, really glad that he finally made it into the line. Honestly, it’s worth picking up those two Deadpools, even if you’re not a huge fan, just to fill this one out. Great work.
What do you think, readers? You dig this wave and BAF? We’ll be back soon with more recent releases. Thanks for reading!
As promised for a few weeks, the mighty review catch-up begins! Rather than make them exactly chronological, I’m grouping recent releases in ways that make sense. Today, we’re checking out two Hasbro Pulse Marvel Legends exclusives: The Hellfire Club boxed set, and the “army-builder” Hellfire Club Guard.
Comics History: The Hellfire Club first appeared during the fabled “Dark Phoenix Saga” in (Uncanny) X-Men #129, cover-dated January 1980. Their appearance here informs the design of the four figures in the boxed set, as well as the Guard. You probably know that the Club tried to both recruit Kitty Pryde and seduce Jean Grey into becoming the club’s Black Queen, thanks to the manipulations of Jason Wyngarde, aka Mastermind. The idea of the Club, created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, has its roots in both history (“Hellfire Clubs” were a real thing where powerful people would indulge in particular behaviors behind closed doors) and pop culture (one such club appeared in the “A Touch of Brimstone” episode of the U.K. series The Avengers in 1966; the updated look and name of Mastermind is inspired by actor Peter Wyngarde, who appeared in that episode). Two members of the Club, Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw, continue to play crucial roles in the X-books today. Frost and Shaw are included in the boxed set, as are Donald Pierce (who also appeared in #129) and Jean Grey (in her Black Queen garb). The set also produces an opportunity to make later Black Queen Selene, which you’ll see. The Hellfire Club guards debuted in the Dark Phoenix arc as well, and had a showdown with Wolverine in the scene that made him a breakout star in issue #133.
The packaging of the boxed set is very cool. The outside evokes the club gates. Inside is an invitation reminiscent of the one that Angel received. There’s an inset piece of art of the four characters represented, and the background art looks like the Inner Circle’s private chambers. It’s beautifully done.
Let’s take a look at the figure . . .
White Queen Emma Frost: There have been Emma Frost figures before, a couple of which were unfortunate. The Walgreens exclusive version was actually a terrific figure in a more modern costume, but fans had always wanted this original iteration of Emma. It’s fantastic. This is pretty much exactly how I always wanted to see Emma Frost represented. The cape detailing and the clasp are on point. The bright blue eye shadow is both comic accurate and of the period when Emma first appeared. Despite the hit or miss nature of heel-booted figures in the standing department, I found Emma easy to pose and stand. This is a really strong entry for the series.
Black King Sebastian Shaw: It’s about time. Shaw has been a significant antagonist for the X-Men for 40 years now, even appearing in X-Men: First Class. And yet, here’s the first-ever figure. I’m happy to report that it’s a good one. Yes, Shawn and Pierce appear to use the same body when Pierce should be thinner, but that’s almost a quibble, considering the fact that these even exist. The face sculpt is pretty much perfect, and the overall design is great. I like the slide off cuffs that facilitate easy changing of the interchangeable hands. I used a fist for the display because Shaw’s power (observing impact and converting it to strength) is obviously a physical one. Cool figure.
White Bishop Donald Pierce: Pierce is a cyborg, and later becomes leader of the Reavers. His cybernetic nature is reflected in the interchangeable cyborg hands included in the set. There’s also a blaster that I deemed him, considering his use of weapons with the Reavers and so on. Frankly, I’m just glad that this got made at all.
Black Queen Jean Grey/Selene: There was a previous Black Queen Jean Grey figure that was a Toys R Us Exclusive. It’s . . . not great. This one is, though. Yes, the body is basically a repaint of the Emma Frost body, but that Jean head sculpt is dynamite. I’m choosing to display mine with the Selene head; Selene was a significant antagonist for years, and deserves to be represented on the shelf. I really like the Selene expression, which reads as “queen bitch.” Not wrong. Unsurprisingly, the figure comes with a whip as an accessory.
Hellfire Club Guard (not in set): This is exactly what I want from an army-builder figure. He’s got the details right, he’s got appropriate accessories, and he doesn’t cost as much as the other figures. Thank you, Hasbro! Even if this guy is a low-frills affair, he’s still very accurate (mask looks great) and provides an extra layer to your Marvel collection. I’m a big fan of the army-builder concept, and I hope to see Hasbro continue to employ it in a number of ways.
Downers: The boxed set as a whole is great, and I’m glad to see certain figures addressed. However, there’s a downer in that two Club members are conspicuous by their absence: Mastermind, and Harry Leland. I can understand Leland not being here, as he would necessitate a bigger figure and might make an appropriate BAF or a bigger exclusive someday. Mastermind’s absence is noticeable because a) he’s one of the story drivers of the arc, and b) He first fought the X-Men all the way back in #4. I’d really like to see Hasbro do both the Hellfire Mastermind and the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants take. I feel like they’re both pretty necessary for a complete, classic Hellfire Club (note to Hasbro: see, I’m not stomping my foot for Friedrich von Roehm or something.)
Tell us what you think, readers. Have a safe holiday!
Greetings! We’re still playing catch-up here, but I did hold off long enough for my deluxe Apocalypse to arrive so that we could include him with the wave that bears his name. Let’s get into it.
What is the Age of Apocalypse?: For those that don’t know, The Age of Apocalypse was a massive 1995 crossover in the X-books, spreading through roughly 45 issues (including the LegionQuest prelude). When Legion went back in time to kill Magneto (perceiving that such an act would help his father, Professor X), he accidentally killed his father. The timeline radically shifted, and the regular X-titles were replaced for four months with various AoA books. While the timeline was righted at the end of the story, the AoA has been revisited in a 2014 series and in the Secret Wars event. With AoA giving us some radically different versions of characters, it’s a natural for producing figures; the original Toy Biz line of the ‘90s did a few of the characters. The Marvel Legends line has done four AoA characters previously: Weapon X (Wolverine), Sabretooth, Sunfire (as an exclusive) and, much more recently, Blink. Here’s a look at the most recent assortment, the Sugar Man Build-A-Figure, and the deluxe AoA Apocalypse.
X-Man: X-Man is one of my favorites of the bunch, in part because the little details are right. He has a somewhat complicated costume in terms of deco, but it looks great. The real winner is the power-effect piece constructed for his eye to mimic that flare that occurs when he uses his powers in the comics. That’s that extra bit of effort that puts the figure over the top. My only quibble is that the figure has weirdly small feet, which makes it a bit harder to stand in some poses.
Morph: Morph was one of the breakout characters of the original comic stories, and he got to carry on after that crossover in Exiles. The face here is excellent, totally capturing the fun-loving personality of the shape-shifting character. Morph has kind of an interesting history, as his resurrection and inclusion in the series was inspired by the popularity of a different version of Morph from the X-Men animated series (who was based on the Changeling character who a brief antagonist and brief ally of the team in the 1960s). The costume details are right on and the colors pop. It’s a fun figure.
Jean Grey: Jean is probably my least favorite of the bunch, but only because she’s a little vanilla. It’s a good sculpt, and well-done, but it pales against strong entries in the group.
Weapon X: This take on Weapon X is superior in every way to the earlier version. This head sculpt with the crazy hair is fantastic. He’s short, which Wolverine is supposed to be, and the hand accessories are tremendous. In the comics, Wolverine wore the cap over a severed hand, but a late surprise showed that he claws on that arm still worked as they came busting out of the cap. Hasbro gave you both the cap and the claws-extended-cap, which is great. The figure’s short stature looks even better next to Apocalypse. Rock-solid entry.
Sunfire: This was a fan-favorite design for the books, and the design team nailed it in the sculpt. Yes, a version existed before, but this is excellent. The flame effects, the molding, and the paint job are great. The power effects are a nice boost to the overall look. This is one of my favorites from the group; it’s a striking figure.
Wild Child: Poor Wild Child was made in the 1990s Toy Biz line, but only as a dinky sidekick figure to the regularly-sized Sabretooth. He gets much more due here. The crazy, feral face-sculpt is great, and I like that they worked hard to make him thin and wiry as in the comics. The chain accessory is comic appropriate, and I photographed him with the earlier figure for his “handler,” Sabretooth. If there’s another wave, I hope they update Sabretooth, as I think this figure will stand out more with an appropriately scaled Victor Creed companion.
Dark Beast: The Toy Biz Dark Beast was comically oversized with a face-sculpt that looked more like an orc that a sinister Hank McCoy. This figure (still big, but better) is a vast improvement, especially in the face. This figure has a terrific evil expression. There’s some tremendous detail in the hair, too. The metal finish on the pants comes off well against the gray fur body, too. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one when it was announced, but in person, it’s great.
Sugar Man BAF: The gross, four-armed Sugar Man debuted as a new character in AoA, and Toy Biz did an oversized figure of him as well. However, that was more appropriate to the character, and Hasbro kept that in mind for the BAF. He’s huge. And ugly. And pretty awesome. This is a great realization of the BAF concept, breaking expectations with a design that took a lot of thought and original pieces to produce. It’s a pretty awesome thing to see on a shelf; it’s a really unique piece. (And that tongue, man; hilarious). Great job by all involved.
Apocalypse: I like Hasbro’s commitment to making larger-sized figures in separate, deluxe boxing. Apocalypse is big. Really big. Especially when you match him up to Weapon X. Both of the included head sculpts are equally strong; you’re going to have to make your own call on “angry” or “maniacal laugh.” The cape attaches well, and the skull accessory (which can be cradled in an interchangeable open hand) is fun. I like the strategy of using the deluxe program to make bigger figures that would succeed easily on their own while using the BAFs to support other characters.
I know that there was some fan grumbling (shocking, I know) about this sub-line, but I liked it a lot. There are some great sculpts here, and it gives an added dimension to displays. I wouldn’t mind seeing more; I’m personally more invested in House of X/Powers of X getting filled out, as well as classic rosters for teams like X-Force (Rictor, Siryn, Feral) and Excalibur (Shadowcat, Meggan, Phoenix II). That’s my take; what do you think?
Greetings, humans! I’m still playing COVID-catch-up and there’s more ground to cover, especially when new Legends, Black Series, and more are primed to hit in the very near future. First, some shopping details . . .
The Land of Pre-Orders: The Marvel Legends Stepford Cuckoos, previously a Walgreens exclusive, are now up for a January pre-order at Big Bad Toy Store. A number of new McFarlane Toys DCU figures just went up for pre-order at various outlets. I just received my ML Moon Knight from Walgreens that I pre-ordered four months ago, review pending. Backing is now closed for the enormously successful HasLabs ML Sentinel. A whole slew of Star Wars Black Series and Vintage Series figures just got posted across channels as well. Budget mightily, my friends.
Walmart Exclusive Marvel Legends Black Widow: God, how I loathe Walmart, Target, and Walgreens exclusives. I can’t think of ANYONE in the fan community that likes the mechanisms. Sure, some of the figures are great, but at this point, Hasbro is risking alienating fans when they have their own perfectly fine delivery system with Hasbro Pulse. I have ZERO complaints about my numerous Pulse orders. I have nothing BUT complaints about every exclusive I’ve obtained (or tried and failed to obtain) from the other outlets. I pre-ordered this particular figure from Walmart, had it cancelled, tried again, had it failed, and finally said f— it and got it on eBay for several more bucks that I wanted to pay.
The main reason that I wanted this Black Widow is that it’s finally doing Natasha in the Frank Miller design that she also wore during her ‘90s tenure in the Avengers as team leader. I really enjoyed a lot of those stories, and since I do shelves based on decades or particular line-ups, this was a must-have for me. Overall, the figure is great. The sculpt is solid, the jacket is well-done, and the hair is perfect. I also enjoy the various accessory pieces for the Widow’s Sting/Bite bracelets, particularly the “smoking gun” versions. I’m lukewarm on the jetpack, but it’s just one in a solid bunch of value-adds. I like the figure a lot, but I wish that it would have come from Pulse or a dependable exclusive partner, like Entertainment Earth.
Marvel Legends Fantastic Four Super-Skrull BAF assortment
Ah, the Super-Skrull. Previously done one time in the somewhat hard-to-find now FF waves that were ML adjacent, he became a much requested figure over time. His presence as the BAF in this group was the tipping point for me, as someone that has a couple of solid runs of FF figures. Let’s cover the six individual figures, and then Super-Skrull.
Mister Fantastic: The new FF figures take their visual inspiration from the art of the terrific Sara Pichelli, who began her run on the team with the new #1 in 2018. I really like her darker take on the costumes and other elements. The latest figures themselves have a lot of carryover from the Walgreens wave of a couple of years ago (which were MUCH easier to find), but there are enough new bits to make them a separate entity. My favorite thing about Reed here is that they finally gave us a bearded Reed. I think that the stretchy fingers are a little bit, well, silly, but it’s a new twist on stretching accessories, so I can dig it.
Invisible Woman: The figure itself feels a bit slight, almost too thin. However, the head sculpt is great and there’s a tremendous accessory in terms of the invisible shield. Honestly, I’m struck by how much the figure just looks like Sue. I might prefer the Walgreens version to this one; overall it’s good figure that is just overshadowed by other pieces in the line.
Human Torch: The “human” Johnny instead of a fully “Flame On!” Johnny was a good idea, as where the various flame accessories. The hands were well-considered, and the trails of fire look great in a display. It’s hard to give an action figure a cocky attitude, but they managed to do that with the face sculpt. I found this to be really strong work.
The Thing: The big guy is massive. The body is pretty much the same as the Walgreens version, but I do really like the grumpy face. This is a full-on “It’s Clobberin’ Time!” take on Ben that I really enjoy. I think that the rocky surface detail work and the paint wash are really well done, adding some nuance where he could have just been a big, orange, well, thing. I also find the figure to be more poseable that I expected, given its size.
Savage She-Hulk: This is the modern take on the “Savage” She-Hulk that we began to see regularly with the Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness run of Avengers that began in 2018. Of course, Shulkie has a distinguished history with the FF, too. I like this figure more than I expected to, but it’s just not a favorite for me. I like the hair effects, but it feels like the design team trended a little more “sexy” on the body than the slightly more “muscly” look we see in McGuinness’s art.
Doctor Doom: Doom is great, full-stop. I like everything about this take on Doom, and he was the other tipping-point for me to get this wave. The mask and the visible eyes are perfect. Also, the clutching hand is key, in my opinion. Everything about this figure just nails DOOM for me. The cape is very well-done, and the notion of including two different heads with different interpretations of the hooded look is right on. This is peak Doom.
Super-Skrull: No pun intended, but this is one fantastic BAF. I went with the smiling head because, damn, that’s a great expression. I love that we got two arm options; I went with both powered arms. This is a much better treatment than the worst take, and worthy of a long-serving, and fan-favorite, character. This is one of the times that I see the figure and just think, “That’s it; that’s the character.” It’s not a HUGE build-a-figure, but’s it’s an incredibly well-considered use of the BAF idea, and the extra limbs and head are icing. It’s a strong and sensible use of the slot, and it just looks great. Like I said, this was the main driver in me getting the set, and I am not disappointed.
That’s all for now, kids. I’ll be back extremely soon with take on the ML Age of Apocalypse assortment, as well as the Walgreens Exclusive Moon Knight. We’ve got new Star Wars coming in soon, as well as that X-Force/Strong Guy line-up. Thanks for reading.
Greetings, lovers of plastic! I return with the beginning of a long catch-up on Marvel Legends. In short order after this installment, I’ll be hitting the FF Super-Skrull BAF wave and the Age of Apocalypse wave. Until then, let’s start with . . .
HASLAB SENTINEL: Holy crap, kids. No, I probably won’t get it. And yet, everything that Hasbro is packing into this guy looks amazing. The alternate Master Mold and damaged heads, the Bastion, the female Prime Sentinel . . .they’re putting in a lot for the $350. If you can afford it, you still have plenty of time (until before August 24) to get in on it.
Beast Fan Channel Exclusive: I know there were a lot of mixed feelings about this one, with people not being satisfied with the heads, etc., but I think it’s fun. I decided to shelve it with my ‘60s/’70s Avengers. Yes, Beast wasn’t the gray by the time he got on the roster, but it’s still from the era, and I just thought it looked kind of cool along with Hellcat, Black Knight, and so on. I really would like a hairless X-Factor-costumed Beast someday to complement the X-Factor Cyclops, but I have to say that I enjoy this figure.
Iron Man 2020 (Walgreens Exclusive): Ah, Walgreens . . . you continue to bedevil me. Still haven’t seen a Stepford Cuckoo in the wild, but I did grab Arno Stark. This was more out of nostalgia and the original Machine Man mini that anything else, but I have to say that a) I’ve always liked the shoulder-gear design and b) I really like the power effects. If one of the prime functions of a collectible figure is to just look cool, this one checks that box for me.
Rage: Hey! Another New Warrior! Finally! Yes, I’m well aware that Rage was an Avenger, but the New Warriors feels like his home to me. While I definitely think that ML needs to pick up the pace on the Warriors (seriously, why no Firestar after all this time?), I’m glad to see that Rage finally made it out. I feel like the creative team did an especially fine job here, particularly with the expression. The sheer size of this guy is great, and he looks appropriately big next to Night Thraser and the original Nova. A big winner for me.
Mach-1: I was a big fan of the original Thunderbolts, so more team progress is great in my book. I always liked Mark Bagley’s Mach-1 design, and I think that the figure captures it really well. The metallized paint apps are pretty great. This is one of those figures that’s a fairly exact representation of the character as presented in the comics. I think it looks even better with Citizen V and Songbird than Rage does with the other two (sorry; just my feeling). I’d like to see Atlas get the BAF treatment, perhaps in a ‘90s-centric wave that makes him an appropriate choice. As it is, it’s great to see another classic Thunderbolt make the cut and get on the shelf.
Talk to me, people. What have you been picking up, if anything? What are you most looking forward to? Guesses on Virtual SDCC reveals? Let’s talk.
We’ve got some big entries to tackle this time, readers. The latest Marvel Legends Riders, Squirrel Girl, and Cosmic Ghost Rider, have hit, and I finally got the third Dani Moonstar I needed to complete that trio of New Mutants. We’ll lead off with that . . .
Marvel Legends Dani Moonstar (Walgreens Exclusive): This figure was both a glorious offering and a pain in the ass. I love the idea of offering extra accessories to convert a figure into another character. However, between six Walgreens in my area (in and around Indianapolis), I saw exactly zero over several months. Over time, I did manage to get three on eBay for not-terrible prices. I tried to order on Walgreens.com more than once, only to have the orders fail for various reasons. However, a few days back, I managed to get ahold of the third so that I could put together Dani, Karma, and Wolfsbane.
Dani Moonstar: As the base figure, Dani Moonstar has been a long time coming. One was originally supposed to appear in a wave as far back as 2013. On the upside, it’s finally here, and it looks good. The basic costume and look of the characters comes from New Mutants vol. 2 #1 from 2009. In the case of Dani, the bow and double-ponytail is directly from the wraparound cover. I’m satisfied with the sculpting overall and the team did a nice job on the bow and arrow, distinguishing them from other, similar accessories in the line.
Karma: Similarly, Karma’s look is taken right from the same cover. I like the head-sculpt and the eye effect; the hands are similar to other sculpts that have been emblematic of psychic or magic powers (see Emma Frost, for example). I’m wouldn’t be surprised to see a variant Karma with the cybernetic leg turn up sometime in the future, but I think I prefer this version.
Wolfsbane: Not bad overall, but it lacks a certain flair. The head and clawed hand sculpts are good, but I wish that we had a “human” Rahne head. I would definitely like there to be a Stroman-esque X-Factor Woflsbane in the future to go with Havok, Polaris, Madrox, and the forthcoming Strong Guy BAF. But as far as representing the character for the New Mutants, it’s adequate.
Really, the best part of the Dani Moonstar figure is seeing all three versions together. We have literally never had all three characters in figure form, and it’s great to see. It makes me want to see a similar figure for the boys with heads/hands for Cypher, Sunspot, and Cannonball. Just maybe make them easier to get.
Moving on . . .
Squirrel Girl: This is pretty delightful. A great sculpt (that tale is hilariously huge) and a sense of fun are all over this set. Sure, the scooter is basically the same as the Deadpool version, but it does have the basket. The three squirrels are appropriately cute. Do I wish that they would have done the character as a regularly priced figure with the 3 squirrels still packed in? Sure. But I understand that occasionally certain things are done due to the realities of getting things on the market.
Now, I realize that there are some people out there that don’t like, even hate, Squirrel Girl. Frankly, don’t care. If you don’t like it, don’t buy. This is a great rendition of a character co-created by the immortal Steve Ditko that appeals to a lot fans. They like it, and so do I.
Cosmic Ghost Rider: I’m not going to beat around the bush here. This is AWESOME. I love everything about this set. The cycle is an incredible design. The figure looks great independent of the bike, and the faux metallic finish is nice. There’s an insane of amount of new tooling on this thing; I can’t peg anything from the bike that’s been used before. The giant energy ball “front tire” is great. This is one of those rare occasions that I’m going to write less and let the pictures speak for me.
Personal Note: We
all know what’s up out there. Figure reviews might be few and far between for a
bit. Everyone stay in and stay safe. The column is no fun without you.
As anyone paying much attention knows, Toy Fair International stormed through New York last week. It also doesn’t take much effort to declare Hasbro the big winner. But I did want to take a look at a few fan relevant properties, offer some thoughts, and solicit opinions.
Star Wars: Preview day clearly belonged to The Child, aka Baby Yoda. The toys were all over the media, including Good Morning America. With The Mandalorian a hit and the littlest Jedi its break-out star, this was probably the easiest sell of the show. It makes sense that Hasbro would put effort into the differing scales targeted at kids at this particular moment; the advent of The Child and the return of Clone Wars makes that an easy position to take.
I also think that we expected some kind of Empire Strikes Back anniversary initiative. The rumored Black Series Snowspeeder showed up and looks awesome; I’m glad that Hasbro isn’t afraid to get into the big vehicles. In terms of Star Wars, I only had two let-downs, but they’ll probably be addressed at SDCC and other venues. And those are . . . 1) I wanted to see a new Black Series Ahsoka and 2) I wanted to see more Black Series Mandalorian characters, like The Armorer, Greef Karga, and Kuiil. I have spoken.
G.I. Joe Classified: Again, another rumor comes true as the Joes finally get a highly-detailed 6-inch line. The initial Snake-Eyes offering looks simply incredible. I know that reaction has been mixed on Roadblock, Duke, and Scarlett in terms of costume choices, but I think they look great. Now give me Storm Shadow, please.
Ghostbusters: I love everything they’re doing here. They’re committed to fans of both the films and the cartoons while offering choices for kids and adult collectors. The 6-inch Plasma Series looks outstanding, and the inclusion of a BAF Terror Dog makes complete sense. Well-done all the way around.
Marvel Legends: Again, I’m not surprised that Hasbro didn’t show us the entire year of product. However, they did show A LOT of product. Anyone that’s ever read me for any period of time knows that I’m elated that the First Appearance Storm is happening. That was my big winner, along with Nimrod. Things that the ML line is doing right: the stand-alone deluxe figures, embracing the Fox movie figures, the slow but certain inclusion of characters needed to complete teams (Rage, Mach-1, etc.), the Hasbro Pulse “army builders,” and a commitment to figures from specific eras or stories (Old Man Hawkeye, X-Men Legacy Rogue, etc.). And incidentally, that pinless tech on the sculpts sounds like a great thing. My only real complaints here amount to “What about Figure X?” or “When do see Assortment Y?” Which, really, aren’t complaints.
McFarlane Toys: I feel like McFarlane is back in a big way, even if they never left. The bulk of this, of course, is their substantial roll-out of DC product. From the looks of it, they’re going to continue to lean in with films, comics, and video games for DC, which is wise. I would have liked to have seen some more characters at the show than Batman/Wonder Woman, but there’s obviously a lot of time left in the year. The Mortal Kombat figures looked good, and the upgrade to the original six Spawn figures is a great idea. Not so sure about the Kickstarter component of that, but it WILL get the characters back in the public eye on the back of last year’s massive comic sales spike for the anniversary.
I was posed this question by a co-worker yesterday. He asked, “How and when do you decide what to collect?” He meant specifically in terms of figures, but I suppose you can apply it to anything. I had a multi-year period where I collected baseball cards due to an increased interest I had in baseball around junior high. I’ve been getting comics nearly my entire life. But figures is an interesting question, and I think I can break that down.
First thing, I’m going to subtract just “generally getting
toys” from the timeline. I had Fisher-Price Adventure People, for example, but
I couldn’t say that I actively “collected” them. I’m only going to include
lines that I could honestly say that I collected. (Let me clarify that the
years are when I collected these
series and not the dates that the lines necessarily ran).
Mego World’s Greatest Superheroes and Others (late ‘70s): I’m sketchy on the year, but the first Mego figure that I know I had was . . . Wonder Woman. I’m pretty sure my Aunt Jennie got me this, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I loved Super-Friends and Wonder Woman on TV. I could have been . . . 3, maybe? That would be 1976ish, which is about right, as Mego introduced the WW figure in 1974. Shortly after, I had Batman, Robin, Superman, Shazam!, Joker, Penguin, and Spider-Man. I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t have more Marvel. I DID, however, get three of the Mad Monsters: Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and The Mummy; I’m also not sure why I didn’t have the Wolf Man, as I love werewolves. I had Captain Kirk from the Star Trek line (this is the only one that my memory is fuzzy on, as I think I might have had a couple of others), a couple from Planet of the Apes, and all of the Wizard of Oz (except the Munchkins) and the Emerald City playset. A number of these were played to death, lost to time or garage sales or younger relatives. I believe I still have the Kirk somewhere as the last survivor; that’s because he doesn’t believe in the no-win scenario.
Star Wars (1977-1984; 1995-2002ish; 2019): I’ve told this story here and elsewhere a couple of times, so I’ll keep this one brief. I was all in at the start; I even had the Early Bird Certificate. I was really consistent until I lost steam after ROTJ and stopped due to my interest in other things. When the line came back in the ‘90s, I picked up again and hung in until just after AOTC. I stopped completely until this past year when The Mandalorian re-ignited my interest, and I started filling in certain characters from the 6-inch Black Series. I kind of regret not getting on that sooner, but since I’m not approaching it as a completist, I’ll live with it.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1982-1987): Again, I’ve told this story, notably a much longer version in the book The Joy of Joe. I got into the 3-3/4” line early, and I was all in on both the toys and comics right up until around BattleForce 2000.
Masters of the
Universe (1982-1984): A brief run, but one I should include. I really liked
that Castle Grayskull playset.
& Dragons from LJN (1983-1984): A brief shining moment. I didn’t have
all of them, but I had quite a few. These had great detail and should have
stuck around longer.
(1984-1986): I was never a completist, and mostly done in 1985. I got a
handful in 1986, including the Aerielbots and Hot Rod (which I got after the
movie). My favorite from the line remains Jetfire.
(1984-1986): Definitely not complete (I refer you to the previously
discussed Mister Miracle and Cyborg), but I loved this line and would have
certainly gotten more if they’d gone into the proposed Teen Titans, Blue Devil,
(1987-1991): I quit collecting for a few years spanning junior high and in
to the senior year of high school or so. The absence was due to a variety of
reasons: lack of interest, concentrating on comics, lack of money, sudden
upturn in the ability to secure dates, school activities, hanging out with
bands, and so on. But the thing that really brought me back, outside of a stray
pick-up here or there, was when the Toy Biz X-Men line launched in 1991.
(1991 to Now, really): I am a nearly lifelong X-Men fan. Seeing them get
figures ahead of the animated series brought me back. And when I went in, I
went in all the way. With a brief break for the cessation of Marvel Legends a
decade ago, I’ve pretty much been in the tank ever since. I narrowed my focus
over time to the 6-inch Legends, and they comprise the bulk of my collecting
Star Trek (Playmates; 1992-1996 or so): I told the story of my girlfiend (now wife) hunting down the original Deanna Troi figure for me. I was definitely into this for a good bit, picking up a lot of ST:TNG, DS9, and TOS figures. I stopped around Voyager due to a combo of burnout, the return of Star Wars, and my ongoing focus on comics figures.
Spawn/Youngblood/Wetworks (1994-1996): Like seemingly everyone else that started getting McFarlane Toys, I was drawn in by the details and the chance to get characters from an exciting new publisher. My favorites were the Wetworks figures (again, love that Werewolf). I stepped away from these as I lost interest in the comics themselves.
Total Justice/JLA (1996-1999):
I really wanted a DC line in the ‘90s that was comparable to the Toy Biz
Marvel avalanche. This was a decent, brief attempt. It got extended into comic
shops and TRU exclusivity (loved the “hard light” evil versions of the JLA
based on the “Rock of Ages” comic arc) and actually did Connor Hawke (MIA in
action figure form ever since).
DC Direct (1998-2010ish): I loved DC Direct for a good, long while. There were some maddening bits (scale inconsistency, an unwillingness to finish teams), but there were some truly great character selections that we’ll possibly never see again (Enemy Ace? Tim Hunter? The Authority? Spider Jerusalem? Jericho?). For a kid that always wanted JSA and Legion figures, this line was a partial dream come true. I ultimately ditched it due to character repetition, increasing prices, and a more enjoyable experience collecting DCUC and doing the C+C figures with my kids.
Wrestling (WCW/Toy Biz 1998-2001; WWF/E:1998-2001ish): Like millions (and millions) of people, I was very into wrestling for a time at the turn of the century. I’d watched a lot in the mid ‘80s, gone away from it, and picked it back up watching Nitro rebroadcasts while working the late shift of a publisher. (I was working 3pm to 11:30pm, and TNT would rerun the show after I got off work.) Soon after, I was watching both WWF/E and WCW, and soon after that, the Toy Biz WCW figures hit. I got interested for a while, but my collecting of the figures faded as a I watched less and less.
Dragonball Z (circa 2000-2007): Similar time frame, similar story. Started watching DBZ on Toonami. The show had an incredible array of characters and I really enjoyed it. I got these for a good while, including the DB and GT spin-off lines, but I tapered off when they did.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel (2000ish-2006): Again, you love a show and you might buy the figures. I really feel like these could have gone on longer, as there are a number of characters that never quite made it (seriously, where the hell was Gunn? Or Connor or Gwen Raiden or Harmony or Nina?). I stopped just ahead of them releasing Kennedy and Kendra, which I never picked up.
Gundam (2001-2003): Stop me if you’re heard this one before. But I started watching Gundam Wing, and . . . yeah. I got A TON of these as I started writing for Newtype USA and watching more and more Gundam series. I didn’t list it, but I picked some up in “Japan” at EPCOT a couple of years ago.
Lord of the Rings
(2001-2005): Loved the book for years. Loved the animation. Loved the
movies. I thought that the figures were great. I didn’t get the tail-end
variants or the Eye of Sauron, but I did get the trolls, the horses and warg,
and the fell beast. I regret that a different company got the license for The
Hobbit films; I never did get any of those, and they never completed the
(2003-2009ish): One of the greatest animated series of all times turned out
a line of great-looking figures that had a really hard time standing up. I
burned out when they started doing more and more direct exclusives, etc., but I
did get the Grundy and Giganta. I gave all of these to my boys.
DC Universe Classics
(2007-2012): You know something? I loved this line. I thought it was a
worthy compliment to Marvel Legends and the Collect + Connect figures were
among the first things that my sons contributed to helping with where my
collection is concerned. The character selection overall was great and Mattel
deployed some boxed sets in clever ways to get us characters like the Crime
Syndicate. One of my favorite things ever is the Legion of Super-Heroes boxed
set. It was a drag when they had to go the subscription model, but I stuck with
it the whole time (and with Club Black Freighter, too). I know they tried to
continue the idea with DC Multiverse, and I have more than a couple of those as
a companion to these, but they just weren’t quite the same. This is a lamented
line for me.
Legends and certain Star Wars: The Black Series (6-inch scale only). I will
pick up occasional DC figures that hit a spot that’s not covering on my shelf
(come on with the classic Dawnstar, McFarlane).
All right, readers. What about you? What are your main
lines? How long? What’s the line you collected the longest that you eventually
quit, and why? Let’s talk.
Just last week, I wrote in my piece on “Toy Grails” how I was a big fan of Star Wars toys from the word “go.” If you allow me to quote myself, I led off the Jawas section with . . .
I was born in 1973. The first movie I clearly remember seeing in the theatre is Star Wars. And I was ALL IN. My parents got me the Early Bird Certificate package. I got the first four (Luke, Leia, Chewie, and R2). When the figures got to the Zayre in Terre Haute, IN, they had a freaking rope-line and a 3-to-a-person limit. My mom took me and I’m pretty sure I got Han, Vader, and C3PO first. Mom went back later that evening and picked up Obi-Wan, the Tusken, and a Stormtrooper. The Death Squad Commander happened later in the week, if I’m not mistaken. But . . . there were those damn Jawas. Not only did we not get the Jawas right away, it was weeks. When Mom finally ran across them, she bought two out of spite.
I was pretty hardcore from then onto the early stages of the Return of the Jedi figures. By 1983 into 1984, my attention was divided between Star Wars, G.I. Joe: ARAH, Super Powers, and Transformers. I didn’t pick up the rest of the Jedi figures, dropping out at around the 77-backs, and I got zero of the “Power of the Force” range. When the figures returned in the mid-‘90s, so did I. Adult collector me got plenty of figures and vehicles up through AOTC. By that point, I’d hit burn-out again. When The Black Series began, I almost got back in. Recently, I did, part of that spurred by the recent films and the arrival on Disney+ of The Mandalorian.
Before we go any further, I would like to thank Hasbro for providing the Mandalorian, Cara Dune, and Supreme Leader Kylo Ren figures free for the purposes of review; the Best Buy exclusive Heavy Infantry Mandalorian and IG-11 figures were my own purchases.
The Black Series in general: If you don’t know, The Black
Series encompasses 6-inch figures (in a comparable style to Marvel Legends,
with the increased detail and articulation), 3.75” figures (dubbed the
“Vintage” style, given their equal size to the original Star Wars line), vehicles,
Force FX Lightsabers, and Helmets. My personal preference is for the 6-inch
scale, as the bulk of my collecting since the late ‘90s has turned in that
direction. Which brings us to today, and these very recent figures . . .
The Mandalorian: Presently sold out on HasbroPulse but available on Amazon (for a mark-up) and for regular-priced pre-order at various fan-channel outlets, the star of the new hit series comes in his original set of armor from the first couple of episodes. Right out of the box, this is a GREAT figure. It gets a number of little details just right, including the Mandalorian sigil on the shoulder. The poseability is pretty strong and it has a great overall look. The two accessories are his blaster and disintegration-rifle (great for wiping out Jawa figures). The blaster fits into the sculpted on holster (with can be latched and unlatched) and the rifle can attach to the figures back. The little bits of wear and damage on the armor enhance the overall look a great deal. It simply looks very cool. I totally expect that we’ll see a new version in the updated armor in the very near future; that makes this one a pretty solid grab for historical purposes, aside from just being well-done.
Cara Dune: Presently sold out on HasbroPulse but available on Amazon (for a mark-up) and for regular-priced pre-order at various fan-channel outlets, while also still appearing in major retailer re-stocks, like Walmart, the Cara Dune figure faced a little bit more of a challenge in that it needs to capture the likeness of actress/kicker of real-life and fictional asses Gina Carano. Dune has become a bit of a fan-favorite since her debut, and I don’t think the figure is letting them down. Aside from doing solid work with the likeness, it’s just another cool looking figure. The tattoos are TV-accurate, the costume detail is present, and, like Mando, there’s a workable holster. Dune comes with her repeating rifle, blaster pistol, and a dagger. I find the color work to be pretty nice, and I appreciate the little armor blemishes that given the character a lived-in look. As you know from my various Marvel Legends reviews, I’m interested in Hasbro’s increasing facility for doing hair well on the figures; I think they did another good job here in capturing Dune’s style. Mando and the forthcoming Child figure would be cool by themselves, but I feel like Cara Dune is pretty essential to a good collection of this iteration of the Star Wars galaxy. The figure is made well, looks great, and is, yes, very cool.
IG-11: I always dug IG-88 from the day, so I thought it was fairly awesome that we’d see a similar droid in action; the fact that he’s voiced by Taika Waititi only increased my interest. While not precisely as dynamic as the other two, it’s still a damn good version of the character with enough bits to make it appealing to a variety of collectors. As noted, this is a Best Buy exclusive and still available as of this writing. While the character does, out of design necessity, have some limited poseability, it does have arm joints that allow the arms to extend straight out to the sides as they did in the shootout from the first episode of the series as well as elbow, knee, and ankle joints. It comes with a blaster pistol and blaster rifle which are styled with peg-holes to be held by specific hands (see the pictures). There’s also a holster on the back and bandolier straps. It has, thus far, not self-destructed on my shelf.
Heavy Infantry Mandalorian: Let me get this straight right now. I really, really like those first three figures, but this guy is fairly incredible. You can tell the character made an impression on the show and in figure form because he’s currently sold out at Best Buy and getting higher and higher prices on eBay. This dude is just great. So, the main accessory is the jetpack with the attached heavy blaster and a line that can plug into the flamethrower on the left hand. The figure has some size and bulk to it, and the color and detail work are just fantastic. I hope for the sake of the people that didn’t get it on the first go-round that it gets a re-release, because this is top-notch work all-around.
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren: Still in theatres in SW:TROS, this is the Kylo from early in the film. The figure has the fused mask that the character dons in the movie, giving it a distinctive look from previous Ren figures. You also get a detachable pair of hood accessories; both attach to the cape with different “hood up” and “hood down” looks. Hasbro also included an ignited and unignited saber, with should honestly be a regular thing for Jedi/Sith figures. The larger cape itself is detachable, and you can see the varied articulation better that way. The tunic is well-sculpted with some detail suggests both a leathery look and feel. I think I might prefer this one without the cape, but I haven’t quite decided yet. Regardless, it’s another fine figure of a major character.
Hasbro has the new generation of Star Wars characters (and
fans) well in hand with these releases. With The Child up for pre-order and Toy
Fair just around the corner, I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing more Mandalorian
offerings in the very near future. I know that there’s already vocal fans that
want to see Kuiil, Greef Karga, Fennec Shand, and Werner Herzog (I mean The
Client) represented, and you’d have to be crazy to not want a figure of The
Armorer. I have a spoken.
Every collector has one. Maybe it’s an individual figure or
a vehicle or a playset. But everyone has that one thing that has either
remained elusive or became a defining piece in their collection. I’m going to
talk about a few of mine, and I invite you to join in with yours.
My Original Quest: Jawas
I was born in 1973. The first movie I clearly remember
seeing in the theatre is Star Wars.
And I was ALL IN. My parents got me the Early Bird Certificate package. I got
the first four (Luke, Leia, Chewie, and R2). When the figures got to the Zayre
in Terre Haute, IN, they had a freaking rope-line and a 3-to-a-person limit. My
mom took me and I’m pretty sure I got Han, Vader, and C3PO first. Mom went back
later that evening and picked up Obi-Wan, the Tusken, and a Stormtrooper. The
Death Squad Commander happened later in the week, if I’m not mistaken. But . .
. there were those damn Jawas. Not only did we not get the Jawas right away, it
was weeks. When Mom finally ran across them, she bought two out of spite. Those
Jawas were my first experience with both a difficult hunt and the (honestly
unobtainable) idea that you’re one perfect figure away from a complete set.
I was pretty fortunate in terms of Star Wars playsets and vehicles. I had the Death Start playset, and a number of ships, including the Falcon. But one thing my parents drew the line at was the AT-AT. That was a disappointment, because I, like many others, loved that thing. When Star Wars figures returned in the ‘90s, I said, “If they make the AT-AT again, it’s coming home.” They did . . . and it did.
Super Powers Collection: Wonder Woman, then incompletion
Of the original 12, I had a stunningly hard time finding Wonder Woman. I remember getting Flash and Green Lantern first, and the others fell into place, but that Wonder Woman hung out there forever. I remember eventually finding it in a K-Mart, just in time for the second wave to hit. Series 2 left me Kalibak-less, and Series 3 was just a massive pain in the ass. The few I got I didn’t get until my late teens or adulthood, and Mister Miracle and Cyborg never joined the ranks.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Come on, you know . . .
I had A LOT of Joe stuff. I mean, A LOT. I even wrote about it in The Joy of Joe. But one thing that I, and many others, never had was the 7.5 feet of glory known as the U.S.S. Flagg. It barely would have fit in my room back then. Just the idea that it existed was fairly audacious on the part of Hasbro. I always considered this one a great lost opportunity. If you had it, good on you. And send us pictures.
Star Trek: The Next Generation by Playmates: A Love Story
It’s a familiar story (hell, I’ve told it twice in this column). You’re trying to put together a wave, and one figure remains elusive. At this point, it was the first wave of the ST:TNG figures from Playmates. I didn’t have much trouble putting together the first nine, but Counselor Deanna Troi seemed lost in the wild. In January of 1993, as a sophomore in college, I started dating Rebecca Marie Jones. A couple of weeks after that, she went home for the weekend and she and her mother ended up at a craft/antique fair at a local mall. When she came back Sunday night, she had Deanna Troi. I always say that’s how I knew she was the one; we’ve been married almost 20 years and have two teenage boys. I told that story on Twitter once, and Marina Sirtis herself liked it, which is awesome. To this day, Becky will still text me from Walgreens and what-not, checking if I have something in particular or if I’d like her to look for something. That’s love, kids. (Thank you, Becky.) There have been others over time, sure. But it’s hard to beat that one.
How about you, campers? What are your grails? You Ark-like finds and the ones that got away? Let’s hear it. And thanks for reading.