Saturday, 23 January 2016

Dragon Flyz!

Now for something informative, which means it won't be very funny, but never mind eh? 

Dragon Flyz is a difficult line to understand, despite being adequately popular and now being the basis for a whole bunch of baffling Superhero toys:

If you remember them at all, you probably remember them as being action figures that shot from dragons and some hoo-hah about them being dangerous (they were, gloriously so, just ask my dad and his no-longer-perfectly-spherule-due-to-Dragon-Flyz-impact bald head). Usual sources of information like Figure Archive or Figurerealm aren’t going to be much use to you here, hell for ages Figurerealm listed the main characters under the obvious nicknames the submitted had given them – like ‘Happy’. Happily (pun?) I have spent ages piecing together information so I can, y’know, buy the toys and I thus I can share with you all I know, aren’t you lucky? So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Friday, 15 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - WWE Elite Earthquake & The British Bulldog

A wild bulldog appeared!

It’s an all Hasbro finale to the reviewpalooza as the joys of eBay and Christmas money have bestowed upon me two recent WWE Elite figures I’ve been after since I found out they existed but have had absolutely no bloody luck finding in stores! Hasbro began producing their WWF line (officially called Official WWF Superstars apparently) in 1990 and did so up until 1994 when a bunch of very public sex and steroid scandals had the toy company pull out, that may not sound like a long time but they released 11 waves and over 90 figures. Hasbro WWF was a key toyline during my formative years, even though I didn’t follow American Professional Wrestling with the same zeal as some kids I wanted every WWF figure and enjoyed the shit out of the ones I received; which included today’s subjects Earthquake and the British Bulldog which I had from the year they were both released (1992) and still have today, so now you know why I was telling you about a toyline from 1990.

Even though Mattel’s WWF output is needlessly confusing these two figures’ releases aren’t – they’re both from WWE Elite, Earthquake is from series 35 and the British Bulldog is from series 39 and sold out everywhere in the UK. Not a surprise as the Bulldog was always insanely popular in the UK where he was undoubtedly seen as ‘our boy’, I manged to find an eBay seller who knocking out a pile of 7 for roughly retail price which was a bit of luck. 

Earthquake was played by Canadian John Tenta, who was also a professional sumo wrestler, and made his debut by… sitting on Dino Bravo1, in fact ‘sitting on things’ became pretty much his defining thing, this toy for instance ties into the time he sat on a snake – by far the thing Earthquake and Tenta will always be remembered for. Otherwise Earthquake was known for feuding with Hulk Hogan and Jake the Snake (after the aforementioned snake sitting incident, it was his snake), though of course by ‘feuding’ with Hogan we mean ‘getting beaten a lot by Hogan’, by the time he got himself a Hasbro figure and turned up on my radar he was part of the Natural Disasters with Typhoon (played by John Ottoman, alias Tugboat and The Shockmaster), after getting injured by Yokozuna and Crush and having to pull out of a match with Owen Hart at the 1994 Royal Rumble Tenta went to WCW to be mishandled before coming back to the WWF as Golga, a mask wearing mentally subnormal man in a mask who was obsessed with Cartman (yes, that Cartman)2. Sadly Tenta died of cancer in 2006. I’ve honestly only ever seen a smattering of Earthquake matches, mostly his stuff with Hogan and Jake the Snake, but I had his toy (I assume I had this because mum went in asked a man in a toy shop which wrestlers she should buy and he said ‘that man fights Hulk Hogan’) and he got a lot of use as, well, cannon fodder, Earthquake was one of those figures who the wrestlers sent out first to face the Ninja Turtles or Biker Mice from Mars and soften 'em up a bit, this lowly position may not sound like something to inspire love and nostalgia but it meant he got a lot of play time, he may have always got his arse kicked but it spent more time in my sweaty little hands than, say, Hulk Hogan who only came out when it was time to clear house… dear god I just described both men’s real life careers. 

ANYway, review: Mattel need to invest in some fat arms, I seem to remember this was an issue in a previous review, or maybe just my own internal review of the recent Andre the Giant figure, but it’s a problem that I’ve thought about before and it really sticks out, Mattel have been cool and given us some great ‘fat’ pieces (and nearly all of them are seemingly on this figure) and the more muscular arms really don’t line up, nor fit, with them, they need some chunky biceps with some low muscle definition and they need ‘em yesterday. That’s really my sole complaint about this figure, oh no, wait, his head has fucking zero range because of his hair, so that and the arm thing, which while more of a complaint about the buck than Earthquake himself, it’s still a complaint about the pieces that make up this figure specifically so I THINK I’m ok to moan about it, whatever, it’s too late now. This is my first experience with the ‘fat’ pieces, especially those legs – I think they’re fantastic, though they inevitably mean that if bent there’s a bit of a gap but that’s mostly unavoidable and thanks to the double joints at the knees you can space things out to minimalize the problem. All his paint is fantastic including his detailed singlet which is all nice and sharp and swanky – except, y’know, the articulation completely ruins the look of it the second you use the waist swivel but then that’s going to happen (I don’t really know why he needs waist swivel, he doesn’t have a waist). The ab crunch isn’t so intrusive, though Mattel decided to continue the singlet design up and under the upper torso piece so if you tilt him all the way back (so his back is arched) you get two ‘waves’ (the one over his left tit), odd. Well odd and unnecessary because few people are going to pose him doing anything other than sitting. Likeness is pretty good, what I’m dubbing the ‘Mattel WWF Standard’, which is it looks good enough for you to go ‘shit, that looks like him’ but not good enough to enter the uncanny valley and bother Hot Toy’s dominance there, they’ve gone for a really pissed off look, narrowed eyes and clenched teeth, but…well… they just made him look like he’s doing a particularly rough poo (seriously, it’s all about sitting with this bloke!). Also on the likeness side of things, his Tattoo, Tenta had a somewhat trademark tiger tattoo on his right arm (later changed to a Shark due to his commitment to a gimmick, fool), I wonder who has the job of reproducing the wrestlers tattoos and how they do it? I mean for Earthquake here they must have worked off of photos/footage as he's no longer with us (and they did a good job, it’s a little elongated but nothing horrendous), do they draw it by hand? I guess they must, hmm… I bet working on recent Rock figures’ tattoos is fun (and you KNOW if they get one line out of place a fan will complain).

I forgot to take a picture of the bloody
snake-in-a-bag so have a picture of
Earthquake using the loo instead.
Earthquake comes with a snake in a bag to replicate that one time he sat on Damian that he will never live down, even now he’s dead. I don’t have much to say about it really, it’s a snake in a bag, the bag is nice, the snake is ok, it’s not rubbery enough to freak me out (rubber snakes freak me out, let’s leave that there) being closer to the small Chap Mei snakes, I’m guessing it originally came with a Jake the Snake figure or will be coming with the toy I believe he’s getting this year? It’s a snake in a bag, it’s a great and fitting accessory for him to have, I’m glad he has an accessory, I…it’s a snake in a bag dammit, I got nothing.

That brings us to Davey Boy Smith, who is undoubtedly in my top 20 list of wrestlers, I don’t actually have one of those but if I did you wouldn’t agree with any of it except Mick Foley (and maybe Bret Hart). As Young David he worked with the almighty Big Daddy on ITV's World of Sport before being taken to the Canada by Bruce Hart, one of the Hart family he later married into that produced Brett Hart and Owen Hart. He came to the WWF after Vine McMahon bought out Hart’s Stampede Wrestling and was part of the Bulldogs tag-team though he and the Dynamite Kid left after the ‘Kid got his teeth punched out. This lead to a series of back and fourths from WWF, he arguably reached his height during his 1990-1992 tenure when he won the intercontinental championship from Bret fucking Hart at the 1992 Summerslam, held in England, this made the national news, two year after Hulkamania was considered to be officially ‘over’. He came back again in 1994 for another damn good tenure that became an excellent one when he was paired up with brother-in-law Owen Hart though he left in the wake of the Montreal Screwjob3. The Bulldog came back one more time after being sacked from the WCW for having the audacity to get injured through no fault of his own (he fell on a trap door the Ultimate Warrior was using, don’t ask) and just about everybody wishes he didn’t, he did however have a lasting effect on the story when he…hit Stephanie McMahon with a bin, it gave her amnesia and was part of the storyline that ended up with her pairing up with Triple H (and then paring up with him in real life). Smith died in 2002 due to heart problems almost certainly accelerated by the use of anabolic steroids and today is a favourite of the Attitude Era Podcat’s  recurring jokes, a terrible shame as he was fucking awesome.     

I wanted this figure so much, I saw it on Ringside Collectibles (good site, expensive postage) and had to have it, firstly it looks just like him and more importantly it looks a lot like his Hasbro WWF figure (it’s not the same set of tights). Let’s talk about that face first of all, Davey Boy had a...unique facial structure, he had a really punchable face alright? And one that could only have come from Manchester. And it is wonderfully recreated here in all its round Manchurian glory, in fact if anything it’s too thin. This toy looks like Davy Boy Smith is what I’m saying, and unlike Earthquake up there his hair is nice and soft and doesn’t hinder articulation at all, further proof of bald patches’ inferiority to everything. Piece wise, I really wish they’d put the money in and sculpted him some unique forearms, I just don’t like it when they paint on things that should be sculpted but it’s particularly annoying when there’s a vein running through a ‘gauntlet’. Other than that I’m good on the moaning front, his legs to look a little awkward form some angles, a little too close to awkward Hasbro superhero figures thanks to the thigh and calf pieces stopping pretty short at the knee piece, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Hasbro’s bucks. The tights aren’t (oddly) his Summerslam 1992 tights nor are they the same as the ones he wore as a Hasbro figure, though he did use them rather a lot during his ‘peak’ period and he changed tights quite a lot at that time anyway, I’m sure it’s the outfit most fans wanted and other than how Thigh Cut Incompatible it is I have no complaints, I think they look snazzy and mine has no paint issues I can find.

Davy has one accessory, the only one he really needs, his Union Jack cape, which to my surprise is soft plastic, I thought for sure it was going to be material and I’d be able to go on about how much I hate mixed media and soft fabrics on any toy that’s shorter than 8 inches but nope, it’s a little thick but really pretty flexible and allows you to do quite a lot with the Bulldog’s arms while he’s wearing it (though I imagine few fans will want to pose him more than one  way with it on), it attaches by three plugs at the wrists and neck that work like the vintage TMNT belts – though with far sturdies plugs, it’s also nowhere near as intrusive as the Junkyard Dog’s collar. I wasn’t going to keep him wearing it but I’ve grown quite attached to the look, and also like how it coves up the issues with the leg pieces. Mine does have two small areas where the paint came off, one looks like a scratch or scuff and the other like someone touched it while the paint was still tacky, both were there out of the packet but they’re also both on the back of the cape so it’s no concern to me. Oh yeah it’s kinda drawn wrong, it’s not quite upside down (as I first thought) but it’s not quite accurate either, the diagonal stripes are pretty much centred in the white when they should be at one side or the other, I always forget which way side the strips go and the real wrestler’s real capes often got it wrong too so technically it’s not inaccurate for the British Bulldog but it is incorrect and this is the era of Google, if I can look it up for a quick crappy review, the toymakers can look it up for a figure that’s going to be released in an ‘elite’ line.

But conclusion-wise? So fucking happy! These two were must-haves for me for my ‘Mattel WWF Dream Roaster Shelf’ and they both turned out, y’know, good, sure they’re only great so long as you don’t use certainly articulation points but they don’t require those points to achieve the poses I want them to achieve so I can ignore that! Not good from a review standpoint maybe but fine from a ‘I have to pay £20-odd quid for these and need to justify that to myself’ standpoint! And that just leaves me with one question – where’s my title shot!?!4  

1 alright, he did attack the Ultimate Warrior shortly after sitting on Dino Bravo, but he did that by using the Earthquake Splash – which involved sitting on someone, just with great force
2 Tenta has lost so much weight that it was felt he no longer fitted the name and gimmick of Earthquake, so they made him into something even more ridiculous than ‘fat man who sits on things hard’.
3 when Vince McMahon, a referee Earl Hebner and (possibly) Shawn Michaels worked together to ‘screw’ Bret Hart out of the WWF Championship at Survivor Series 1997 by ringing the bell early while Hart was in a hold, his own finishing move the Sharpshooter, in his home country of Canada – the only way it could have been more humiliating is if they dressed Hart in a bonnet and pissed on him. This was done so Hart would definitely not take the WWF Championship belt with him to WCW, with whom McMahon and the WWF had a heated real-life rivalry with at the time (and who were beating them in the ratings war the two were engaged in) after a women’s champion (Alundra Blaze/Madusa) had done just that and thrown the belt in the bin live on WCW TV. Hart had already agreed to drop the belt anyway (after a lot of finagling the plan was, I believe, to lose it the next night on Monday Night Raw, the regular TV programme of the WWF) just not in Canada at the pay-per-view for a bunch of good reasons to do with his current storyline and career, plus Hart just fucking hated Shawn Michaels so the whole thing was completely unnecessary unless you were a paranoid old bastard like, say, Vince McMahon. The result was… explosive, all of the rest of Hart foundation – Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart and Davy Boy - walked out, Mick Foley threated to quit and boycotted the next Raw, the Undertaker chased Vince into his office and tried to kick the door in and McMahon ended up with a black eye and a broken ankle after Bret Hart punched him out and Gerald Brisco accidentally stepped on his leg (lol!). Foley and Own Hart ended up staying with the WWF, Foley was talked into it by Bret himself and Owen couldn’t negotiate the termination of his contract.    

4 see, I only did an Attitude Era Podcast reference at the beginning and end, see how good I was? 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - Monster High Kala Mer’ri, Posea Reef and Peri & Pearl Serpentine

Cos it’s better down where it’s wetter, take it from me.

I was sure that Great Scarier Reef wasn’t dropping until 2016 so was pleasantly surprised to see both the Down Under Ghouls and Glowsome Ghoulfish assortments on shelves, and then off shelves, very fast. These fuckers sold out, it’s the first time I’ve seen Monster High shelves with that ‘ransacked’ look since 13 Wishes, but for the few weeks they were on sale before Christmas every shop I saw them in I in fact didn’t see them in, what I saw was holes with one or two dolls laying diagonally at the back. I suppose it was just a combination of mermaids, being released right before Christmas and having three (four! – Peri) new characters that turned these things into Turboman for few a weeks but it was also a definite pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - World of Nintendo Princess Peach & Fox McCloud

Having received Tanooki Mario and a Shy Guy for Christmas I decided that I should like at least a Princess Peach and Bowser to go with them and if I saw one I’d pick up a Donkey Kong and Fox McCloud too. This is my way of thinking to mask the truth when the truth is ‘I’m now buying into this line’ but don’t want to admit I’m weak. The novelty of having these characters in shops has also really set in, you must remember that when these characters were making their names in games like Super Mario Bros, A Legend of Zelda, Metroid and Starwing there was no toylines for them, for years the best Super Mario figures in the west were the set that came from McDonalds. I personally think this is a mix of toy companies’ general dislike of the Nintendo (and later Sega) for taking part of their market away and thus lack of desire to pay for their licenses and the lack of interest in action figures and thereabouts in Japan where the few companies that did have Nintendo and Sega licences (like Tomy) were from, but in depth and baseless theories aside being able to see a Starfox or Zelda figure hanging in a toy shop is rather thrilling. Anyway I manged to fill half of my ‘top four wants’ within a week of Christmas on a morning out in Exeter the day after the day after Boxing Day during my trip to Devon (Which I make every year because half my family pissed off down there, no I’m not over it). Exeter still has a Toymaster, do you remember them? With the dog in the pyjamas? These two figures were the only things I bought in there (their Monster High second was rubbish) but I loved the experience of being in one all the same, they even have carpet down, what shops still have carpet? Brilliant.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Post-Christmas Reviewapalooza: A Look At Jem & The Holograms: Showtime Part 2

David Bowie’s dead, the fuck is going on? I mean it was bad when Lemmy went, yes, but Lemmy’d been living on Jack Daniels and unfiltered since at least the mid-70s, if not always, in fact many of us Motorhead fans had come to believe that Lemmy was already dead and just nobody had had the balls to tell him. It wasn’t a shock is what I’m saying, but David Bowie’s like Superman or Charlie Brown or someone he can’t die (and yes please be a dick and tell me that Superman did in fact die, he got better though didn’t he? And I have the entire story-arc in first print so shut it). That, I suppose, is our problem of our making though, we build people up and forget that they are in fact people called ‘Dave’ and ‘John’ and ‘Jeff’ and make them ‘David Bowie’ ‘John Lennon’ and ‘Joey Ramone’ and only remember they’re actual human beings when they die on us but we can get as philosophical (or the nearest I get to it anyway) as we all like the fact remains that no one woke up this morning and thought ‘I bet ol’ Bowie’s pegged it’ (except David Bowie it seems, he’d been ill for a while and keeping it quiet) and now even people who wouldn’t dream of owning Scary Monsters are wandering around Tescos in shock.
And people can dream up as creative or clichéd an eulogy as they like – and they will, every Tom, Dick and Wiz Khalifa will be sending out messages of utter tripe as today wears on – but the main point is that a very talented bloke has died and the world and a music scene dominated by the creatively bankrupt and talent show winners (and losers) is worse off for it and he has friends and family and batty ex-wives in the Big Brother House and their grief is frankly far more important than the fandom’s and far more important than making yourself look compassionate and hip (Piers Morgan) by spilling out a bunch of cliché – you know, like what I’m doing right now, of course I’m listening to Boys Keep Swinging while I do it, own Ziggy Stardust on vinyl and have been subjecting car journeys to everything from Life on Mars to The Laughing Gnome since I was about 10 so it’s OK (no I’m not being serious, though all those facts are true).
David Bowie’s dead, fuck sake!
I imagine it went like this:
St. Peter “we need to bump of another rock star, God”
God: “why? We just did in Lemmy”
St. Peter: “quota reasons, how about Sting?”
God: “No! he’ll be in my earhole all day about rainforests and tantric sex, do you really think I want to listen to the sexual techniques of the bass player from The Police? Anyway I always get him confused with Malcolm McDowell”
St. Peter: “Paul McCartney then?”
God: “Didn’t the fact that I took Lennon and Harrison first give you a big enough a hint? Don’t you have anyone who isn’t obnoxious?”
St. Peter: “well…um…Bono?”
God: “GAH!”
St. Peter: “um, well, David Bowie’s been ill”
God: “Done!”
St. Peter: “The flock won’t like it sir”
God: “I don’t care, if it keeps Bono away for another quarter, take the Thin White Duke”
FUCK YOU BONO! I knew it’d be your fault somehow.
Ah, we laugh so we don’t cry (though when Paul Weller goes I will sob like a girl with a skinned knee an’ shit)
David Bowie’s dead…fucking madness
Anyway I have to post the rest of my Look at Jem & the Hologram’s first story-arc, which is fitting if not somewhat unimportant feeling in light of today’s events, so are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin (again):

Continuing our Look At the first arc from IDW’s Jem & the Holograms series, I have nothing clever to say and my mum always said “if you don’t have anything clever to say, skip the intro paragraph” so let’s just get ‘em on stage.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Post-Christmas Reviewapalooza: A Look At Jem & The Holograms: Showtime Part 1

Despite being one of the 1980s signature toy properties (and perhaps the most tied to the decade thanks to its lovely choices in fashion) Jem & The Holograms never had any kind of comic book presence until March last year, this is almost
certainly because the conventional wisdom of the time was that girls didn’t read comics (American girls anyway, Britain has a long history of girls comics, hell we even had one called simply ‘Girl’, we don’t fuck about with titles). Times have changed since then, well, sort of, enough for Jem & The Holograms to get a comic anyway, it’s from IDW but you probably already knew that because it’s a licensed comic and all licensed comics come from IDW don’t they? Dynamite what? Anyway the property was redeveloped for the modern age by virtual unknown Kelly Thompson (she also wrote the Captain Marvel & the Carol Corps) and indie darling Sophie Campbell who is one of my favourite comic book artists and produces one of my favourite comic books, Wet Moon. She also drew some Turtles stuff and a great little graphic novel called Water Baby so she’s totally cool in my book*.
As I came too late for the toy line my only real exposure to the franchise then was re-runs and vhs releases of the cartoon show but I’ve had this thing for Jem & The Holograms since I was small, though it was never as strong a thing as my thing for the Care Bears it was one of the various girls toys/shows that I was interested in that infuriated my maternal grandfather (and still does) but it did mean that my mother didn’t even think about batting an eyelid when I wanted her to buy me the first Jem trade paperback (or whatever pretentious name we’re expected to use for them now – graphic picto-fic compilations or some shit) during our previously mentioned bonding/shopping Christmas trip. I think I’ve read the series about 10 times through now so obviously I like it, I’m sure I’m going to moan about things because I always do and I think we’ll look at the actual books so are you sitting comfortably? then I’ll begin: 

Showtime Part 1 (Jem & The Holograms issue 1)
Quick Summary: while at a professional video shoot they’ve cancelled on two times already Jerrica Benton literally chokes from stage fright and runs out the studio where they’re trying to record their entry for the Misfits Vs competition – which closes tomorrow. Kimber exposits to her and tells her that if they fail to make the competition she’s had enough and leaving, this leaves to an argument with the other two holograms – Shana and Aja – that Jerrica overhears, pushing her to run home. While playing and singing the storm knocks the powers out and um… Synergy appears, a hologram and ultimate audio-visual synthesiser, the storm having booted her up. She allows Jerrica access to her late father’s safe and she finds earrings that can project holograms and only Aja has anything resembling a normal reaction to their life becoming a sci-fi/superhero origin story as the find their father’s secret lair. Jerrica knows exactly what to do with the technology – make the world a better place? Fight crime? Fuck that, make herself look like a pink haired amazon to negate her stage fright and enter the competition.

The art in this issue is gorgeous, Sophie Campbell isn’t quite as details as usual but her style is still one of the most visually pleasing things in comics, the colours (by an M Victoria Robado) compliment them perfectly – somehow looking both flat and giving depth, it’s weird but it’s exactly the sort of colouring the book and Campbell’s art should have. The writing’s…not so great, the dialogue’s mostly ok, Kimber’s massive exposition dump early on doesn’t feel too forced at all, in fact it feels pretty much exactly like someone reminding someone else of everything that’s happened as a way to explaining why they’ve had enough, only jaded old bastards like me see through it for what it is – an exposition dump. The following fight is a little stilted, I get what Kelly Thompson is going for, that one problem causes an argument about something unrelated but it still really about (I think Thompson may have sisters, or multiple daughters/nieces) but I just felt it didn’t’ flow that great until Shana got involved, I know that’s vague, but then so’s the problem. The main writing issue though is how rushed the everything feels, I feel a bit dirty saying this when I so often complain about decompression in modern comics but this is a pretty far out premise here both for readers and more so for the four people who so far have lived in a world completely devoid of sci-fi tech and I think everyone could do with a little time to let it sink in and get used to it but no, Thompson (and Campbell) speed through the whole set up, feeling very much like they’re just getting all this shit out of the way so they can go back to writing about what the stuff they want and having read the whole series so far, that ain’t the more fantastical element of the Jem concept, in fact I think they’d be happy just writing about a bunch of bands in a real-life setting. This means that from now on the character-based stuff will be excellent but it does feel like they’re doing the concept a disservice by not using the sci-fi elements to their fullest. Mind you we’re only one and a bit stories into things so there’s still time, but an issue showing Jerrica getting used to her Jem abilities sure would be have been nice. This is just ‘bam, powers, set up done, on with the show’, I will admit that the original ‘toon was like that too, but surely something like a new comic book allows us to do what the show couldn’t?

I’ll move on, because the book certainly does, and moan about redesigns; actually I won’t because most of the redesigns shown off in this issue are great – Shana, Jem and Jerrica are just straight modern updates and look damn spiffy, Jerrica has been made littler and cuter to accentuate the differences between she and Jem a little more which I’m fine with it, the new Jem look is pretty fucking awesome, with all this huge hair and very stylised costumes rather than sparky 80’s stage gear. Aja, Synergy and Kimber have had far more of a radical redesigns and, meh, I suppose two out of three ain’t bad; Aja has put on a few pounds because Campbell has a fetish for BBWs but it really suits her and she looks utterly adorable and still looks like Aja (rather than just chubby Asian woman), they’ve retained her angular hair and I dunno, she just still feels like the same character; Kimber’s redesign into a wafer-thing, pale as a sheet lesbian took me a minute to get used to, probably because Kimber was always my preferred Hologram if you get my drift but after the initial shock and knee-jerk turning up of nose to something so different it’s grown on me, she still looks really hot and still looks like Kimber and her ‘standard outfit’ with the frills adapts very well to skinny lesbian, as for her switch in sexuality…well I’ve seen that episode with her and Stormer so I totally get where they’re coming from, I might have left her bi to fit in with the original cartoon a little better but, yeah I see where they’re coming form. Synergy I just flat out hate, I mean it’s not too much of an issue as she won’t be appearing much in this arc (I know I said I’d move on, but I was lying), I agree she needed one – her old look would never fit with today’s fashion or counter-cultures – but I just don’t like the final outcome, I think it might just be too different, or maybe to muscly and androgynous or maybe I just don’t like it as a design period, whatever it is it ain’t for me.

Showtime Part 2 (Jem & The Holograms issue 2)
Quick Summary: after a performance and interview with Lin-Z the Misfits (Pizzazz, Stormer, Jetta and, shit, the one with white hair… Roxy!) discover one entry in their Misfits Vs competition is actually good (though Pizzazz won’t admit it) and getting a lot of votes – Jem & The Holograms. Rio, the reporter covering their competition gets thrown out for telling Pizzazz they’re screwed and finds out about the band on his phone while listening to clunky dialogue. At Holograms HQ, the band are also finding out how popular they are online, well except Aja because she won’t wake up and keeps throwing shoes at Kimber. The Holograms go and volunteer at the Starlight Community Centre, teaching kids how to play instruments, and get asked to play a fund-raiser then Rio turns up, initially thinks it’s Jem working with orphan Ashley, then asks Jerrica out on a date, after assurances that he’s not doing it just go get a story (he can’t even if he wanted to, because he’s covering the Misfits). Meanwhile Kimber skips out to go to a Misfits in-store singing where only Stormer hasn’t bailed, pulls her and the two go for coffee, as they get on famously the other Misfits – who were shopping – see them and Pizzazz is furious, to be continued.

This was much better than the first issue, probably because it’s nearly all what the two want to write, but the dialogue was a lot stronger too (and it was already pretty strong), other than that one page where Rio is using his phone outside the Misfits dressing room, that was a little painful, lots of slang, sayings and ‘musicy’ terms being dropped unnaturally by a writer I’m going to assume doesn’t use them herself – you can always tell when someone doesn’t use a term and then does and there seemed to be a lot of it on this page. Other than that it was a breeze to read, Jerrica even spends a page talking about how strange the Jem powers are (well, it gets brought up a couple of times) but I’d rather see it, still it’s not fair to criticize something for not being something else you personally thought it should have been. It also has the first scene to make me genuinel laugh out loud and that is the two scens with Aja throwing shoes at Kimber, I think Aja may have graduated to ‘favourite Hologram’ for this incarnation (“you will run out of shoes Aja!” – great). Oh yeah and the Misfits debuted, given how they’re not in the film I was relieved to see them debut so early, as they should, they’re in just about as many episodes of the TV series as the Holograms and had just as many dolls. They make as good an impression as their page time allows – Pizzaz is unpleasant, bratty but cool, Stormer is the nice one but now turned up to 11, Roxy and Jetta don’t do much but they will get more panel time later in the story, so they made an ok first impression but , well, it’s a ‘problem’ that the Misfits have always had and that’s that they really are quite likeable, they’re far more flawed than the Holograms but they’re not evil, I don’t want to see them fail, the comic seems to be casting them more a rivals than enemies and I’m ok with that and Campbell’s redesigns of the Holograms have gone a little way to balancing out another issue the Misfits always had – they’re the cool kids, they’re the Alternatives, Jem & The holograms are bubblegum pop, in the real world they’d be the enemy (see also: Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers) but the Misfits are still too likeable. 

Redesigns! Lin-Z is pretty much the same as she was so nothing to talk about there and anything that makes Rio look less like an 80’s douchebag is fine by me, and he still retains that ‘annoyingly attractive and stylish’ look, just updated (and this time doesn’t look like a compete douchebag, I’m jealous of him here, I flat out didn’t like him in the original incarnation of the franchise). The Misfits…well they’re all too cute, that’s just Campbell’s art style but it doesn’t help with the whole ‘likeable’ issue, I want to cuddle Pizzazz (not sure she’d like that though) other than that…well Roxy’s just a straight update, she looks good, Jetta meanwhile continues to the be sexiest thing in the franchise though she’s switched instrument and, um, race – well she’s still common English trying to be upper class British but now she’s black BUUUUT she was originally supposed to be black and her designer was asked to change her to British (I forget why) so this is fine by me and dark skin works really well with a black and white outfit and hair so she actually looks better this way I find. Pizzazz looks fucking awesome with her Goth Punk makeover and I’m not just saying that because it agrees with my own counter-culture leanings, I’m saying that because that is totally what Pizzazz would look like today (and she has an awesome green Mohawk), it feels like a natural choice when updating her look to today’s (anti)fashions is what I mean in sensible words. Stormer’s now look sucks though, I just utterly hate it, I’ve thought about why for a while and decided this: unlike say Aja she no longer feels like Stormer, the changes to her face and hair and increase in her ‘the good one’ role are so severe that combined with her new body type I can no longer see the previous character, just a girl using the same name. Her outfit was brilliantly updated but the rest of her, not at all.

Showtime Part 3 (Jem & The Holograms issue 3)
Quick Summary: The Misfits storm in (ha) and having a row with Stormer in the coffee shop and it makes the evening news, Pizzazz is pissed at Stormer even though they only ended up on the news because of the scene she caused, also Clash is there them now. Jerrica meets Rio for their date and he takes her to a local broadwalk while Kimber mopes about Stormer and forces Aja to advise her. Pizzazz takes out her frustration on everyone at a recording and only becomes even more annoyed when she finds Clash reading about Jem & The Holograms playing the Starlight benefit gig, a guitar is broken, forcefully. In order to please her favourite band Clash calls her old friend Blaze, who is going to be working at the charity do, to make sure that Jem & the Hologram’s first gig will be their last.

And the book just keeps getting better, even as Stormer feels less and less like Stormer and more like Campbell’s dream girl. The odd dialogue issue that plagued the previous two issues is seemingly completely gone, Thompson seemingly having now perfected the art of a group of annoyed girls arguing over trivial bullshit that is none-the-less very important to them and to the story. The book has also morphed into one about bands in a real world setting, no mention is made of the, y’know, living hologram or the sci-fi tech or the hi-tech secret basement and these more fantastical elements will now take a back seat for the rest of the arc. The upside of this is that we get to spend all our time with a bunch of really likeable characters; the downside is, well, we’re missing out on about half of the concept.

On other topics, Jetta and Roxy get more panel time this issue and get to make a good impression, they’re becoming ‘those two guys’ and I couldn’t be happier, there’s two panels at the end as Jerrica and Rio kiss goodnight, one with big tough Roxy painting her nails and the other with Jetta stuffing a bacon & egg sandwich down her throat and these somehow convinced me that this incarnation of both characters is thoroughly acceptable, I’m yet to figure out why. Roxy also provides us with this issue’s funniest moment (isn’t I great when you have to narrow down the funny moments to funniest?) as she mourns some bagels. Jerrica comes in second during her date, which is actually a major focus of the issue but didn’t need a whole lot of recapping, noting that her huge stuffed animal needs hadn’t been met; that date is delightful, Rio and Jerrica have good chemistry, they’re very cute and both actually seem to make the good impression that the story is telling us they’re making on each other.

Clash is the only redesign introduced in this issue (Blaze is new), though if you didn’t know who she was you may still be wondering who the hell she is, she’s now very thin (and has an odd shaped nose) but still very attractive, she’s lost that brat feel and style and like all the Misfits has become more adorable and likeable, I’m in two minds about her really, I get the redesign but would have liked it to be a bit more faithful to the original look. Blaze is all new, and apparently Trans though this isn’t mentioned in the comic itself I don’t think, anyway it’s irrelevant as far as I’m concerned, whether she started out a boy or girl doesn’t really matter, all I care about is that she feels like a natural addition to the cast, looks like a natural addition to the cast (looking like an updated version of a character, even though she isn’t) and she’s totally hot.

That Look At Star Wars: Heir to the Empire fully put me off doing six full-size American comics in one go ever again so I’m going to end things here

Next time: food fights and big performances

* Yes, Wet Moon was credited to a Ross Campbell, in case you missed it Ross Campbell is now Sophie Campbell. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - Godzilla 1985 and Classic Video Game Series Mohawk

Oooh, this is my first NECA thing on the blog.

I only dabble in NECA products, I like pretty much everything they put out but very few licences they have are ones that I’m super passionate about, or I guess passionate enough about to use my limited money and space on them – they do have Gremlins, which is one of my favourite things ever, but some of the early (and essential) figures like Mogwai Mohawk and Gremlin Stripe are now very expensive and that’s kind of put me off buying into the line completely (I do have three or so), so I just pick up the odd figure here and there and have since the company, National Entertainment Collectibles Association (which is far too stuffy a name for a company so badass), started making Head Knockers. I think the last one I bought was the Gorilla Soldier from their Planet of the Apes line. This Christmas though I ended up getting two for Christmas - actually for Christmas not two weeks later from Forbidden Planet with money I got for Christmas like how I get most of my collector’s figures, I got to unwrap a Godzilla and Gremlin on Christmas Morning and MY NAN BOUGHT ME THE GREMLIN (Mum (while trying to figure out a mystery unmarked present): did I wrap the gremlin? Nan: No! I wrapped my own gremlin!).

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review TMNT Monkey Brains and Attila the Frog

Yay I get to talk about the Turtles again! Oh, it’s these two…cancel that yay

Next up on the Reviewapalooza are two cheap plastic pieces of shit. 

Ok that’s a bit harsh, it’s true but it is harsh, I think to be fair to the toys  I need to separate the expectations of a professional ‘adult toy collector’ (hate that terrrrm), an amateur toy reviewer, a two and a half decade old TMNT fan and the target audience for these toys.
The ‘adult toy collector’ in me thinks things like ‘they couldn’t be bothered to cut the holes out in Monkey Brain’s belt?” “Really, there’s no accessories?” and “These are the only two figural representations of these characters ever and they both look like bootlegs?” probably while stroking a beard and wearing jeans
The amateur toy collector says things like “Attila doesn’t have any leg articulation at all? Not even swivel joints? For shame” “Monkey Brains’ paint apps are cack” and “the sculptor who worked on Monkey Brains clearly thinks fur and bark are interchangeable” probably while drinking Code Red Mountain Dew (which I don’t like, actually)
The two and a half decade old TMNT fan thinks “these aren’t as good as the original line, hell these aren’t as good as the 4Kids line” and “Monkey Brains looks a lot like some of those old vintage-era bootlegs like Heroes of the World Fighter – I like that” while wearing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1 issue 1 t-shirt I do in fact own (I only wear ‘nerd shirts’ of they have Turtles of Sonic on them).
And the target audience says “Wow! Monkey Brains and one of the frogs!” “Attila’s tongue shoots out! Monkey Brains clings to anything! These are pretty fun” and “they’re not quite as good as last year’s figures though” while not quite understanding while April makes them feel funny.
As these aren’t collector’s figures I’m trying to ignore all but the last voice in my head, these aren’t for adults, these aren’t for us, now that doesn’t excuse them looking cheap (and they do) even compared to the previous waves or having weaker sculpts compared to the previous waves but I feel it’s only right to judge them in the right mindset when reviewing them.

And I am reviewing them so… both Atilla the Frog and Monkey Brains are new for 2015 for Playmates current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, their third (as Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation and TMNT were released under those names), beginning in 2012 and tying into the currently airing CGI cartoon on Nickelodeons (which is an official ‘Nicktoon’). Monkey Brains started turning up late autumn and Attila about November/December around here but Playmates have apparently decided that waves and series are for losers and the best way to release a line is to poop them out in dribs and drabs to keep kids on their toes, maybe it works but it makes the compartmentalizing part of my personality irritated, which amounts to they came out ‘recently’ and are still in stores at full price as I write this. 

Monkey Brains, alias Dr Tyler Rockwell1, is a new character introduced for the current Nicktoon, he’s a scientist betrayed and mutated by his partner (who subsequently becomes this comics’ incarnation of the Rat King because that character must have a different origin in each iteration of TMNT or else the world will collapse), his debut is very funny, especially the arse-kicking he hands Donatello. I generally don’t buy the new characters unless they have ties to pre-Viacom2 concepts, Rockwell’s tie is the Mutanimals, I’ve been a fan of the Mutanimals since Jagwar’s first appearance was reprinted in the UK (perhaps earlier) and Rockwell here is part of this cartoon’s version of the Mutanimals so I wanted him to help complete the line-up. he’s pretty crap, he’s a shitty sculpt that looks like he’s made of wood rather than fur, his head isn’t on a ball-joint despite being sculpted looking up meaning he cannot look down and when his two things being hanging from things and blasting people with his mind good neck articulation is a bit necessary. His biggest crime though is that he’s designed after his debut appearance complete with busted shackles when for a while now he’s been appearing in a redesigned form (including new gauntlets and helmet) which is USED ON THE FUCKING PACKAGING. This is probably a result of toys requiring as longer development time than the cartoons (the debut of this costume was aired in March) but it’s another disappointment on top of all the others and made all the more obvious by the current look, again, being USED ON THE FUCKING PACKAGING (seriously, just use the older character model).         

Rockwell has no accessories because fuck that shit removable helmets are for gays but he DOES have one saving grace, and that is his hands and arms are sculpted so he can and will hang off of an-y-thing. I use ‘can and will’ deliberately here because even since I’ve had him out of the box (which was Christmas Day, about a week as of this writing) he has hooked himself onto all manner of things I didn’t want or intend to hook him onto including: my headphones, two carrier bags, a Doctor Who box set and the Christmas Tree’s plastic stand. The little bastard is drawn to hanging on things like some kind of… monkey (well technically he’s not a monkey, he’s an ape) and always looks good doing it too. Here, I hung him on four of the nearest things to the section of my loft (attic) where I take my quick crappy pictures for these reviews:

None of them required any effort, any balancing, hell, any posing, he just seemed to naturally arrive at those appropriate poses all by himself and given that those objects are (in case you’re wondering) the top of the Chap Mei playset I use as my backdrop, the draws I keep my action figures in, a TV aerial and Godzilla he’s damn versatile. So cheap looking he may be but good at being a monkey ape he is also.

Attila the Frog dates back to the first heyday of TMNT, if you don’t recognise him that’s because the last time you saw him he was not ginormously fat, he was not blue, he was not wearing a crown, he was in fact wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt undone to show off his terrific frog abs. Attila is one of the Punk Frogs, created for the original Murakami-Wolf-Swenson cartoon series (the one you all remember and won’t admit was utter shit) debuting in the second season episode ‘Invasion of the Punk Frogs’ whereupon he was one of four Florida-born frogs specifically created by The Shredder to equal the Turtles, a plan that failed because a) the Turtles had had years of ninja training and b) the Frogs weren’t bad blokes. In those days the Punk Frogs all looked the same bar slight deviations in their skin colour and clothing designs – the same as the Turtles – a figure matching that design was released but under Genghis Frog’s name, Napoleon Bonafrog did receive a figure but it was with a different design, Atilla and Rasputin the Mad Frog didn’t get a toy. For the new cartoon the Punk Frogs were reimagined as a clan of human hating mutants living in a tree (of course) and Attilla, who never really had a personality in the original cartoon anyway, was turned into their Don Corleone-style leader which at least fit his namesake, now a wheezing fat bastard he had to be taught the value of not being a tubby racist prick by the TMNT. The new version of the Punk Frogs are not my favourite thing about the new cartoon, but it wins points for at least giving each of them their own look and personality, I really quite like the new Attila.

The reason I’ve wasted your time recounting Attila’s whole history is because there isn’t a whole lot to review, he’s a piece of hollow cheap plastic with ball joints at his shoulders and that’s it, I do like the gradient on his white stomach, I think it’s quite nicely done and I expect fairly tricky for a slave-labour wage Chinese woman to achieve at the factory but he’s still little more than an extra-sized Kinder Egg toy. His hind legs look painfully obviously stuck on and his crown and cape looks cheap without any paint, which I suppose is kind of fitting but still crappy looking all the same. His big thing is his extendable tongue and good on Playmates for giving him something to make him seem worth closer to £9.99 (yeah I paid a tenner for this, well no I didn’t actually, my mum did, one of the many benefits of Christmas – getting people to pay for things you want but don’t want to pay for yourself). The tongue makes me laugh, it just looks…rude somehow, I think it looks like a dog’s ‘red thing’ but even if you’re not so incredibly crude as to think that it still looks sexual somehow ,the way it pops out, and it makes me laugh. He is actually packaged to allow you to push his tongue out, there is a hole in the blister for it shoot out, and I spent ages doing this and giggling in an Entertainer with a friend of mine until his patience finally died and he hurried me along, shaking his head at the immature bastard he’d wound up befriending. I also quite like the head sculpt, though I wouldn’t say it was particularly accurate it is a nice angry frog face – the things you get to write when reviewing toys.

But an amusing action feature only goes so way and I do have to stop playing with it and admit he’s too small, he’s way to thin, he’s hollow, he’s got five paint apps (if you include both eyes and iris), he’s got two points of articulation and this all adds up to a toy that looks cheap and shitty, he looks like he came from the pound shop when in fact he cost £9.99 from Smyths Toys (still the best toy retailer in the UK). Again he has no accessories because Playmates clearly thinks they’re for wankers (remember when they used to release a TMNT figure with card full of weapons? Ridiculous zany crap like a mace made of a puffer fish or weaponized make-up?3 I miss those days) so I’ll just end this here then. 

So in conclusion these figures are cheap looking and lazy even for their line and they’re not worth the price - but they are still fun. Monkey Brains actually offers a lot of play value and a surprising amount of poses, especially with the multi-level playsets Playmates have put out for the line so far, Attila is less robust (I expect to see a lot of Attila’s with broken tongues in the bootsales/flea markets to come) but he has an action feature that can knock over other figures and that goes along way with kids. They’re not going to meet our standards as adult collectors and long-time fans but they’re not supposed to, it’s just a shame that Playmates can’t multi-task and have them appeal to both us and the kids. I’m happy to have them, I always enjoy getting TMNT for my Birthday ofrChristmas because it’s just so nostalgic but yeah, they’re cheap and crappy. 

1 He’s never used the codename ‘Monkey Brains’ in the cartoon and was only called it once in one of the Animated Adventures comics from IDW, Monkey Brains was the name of the episode he debuted in, in Playmates’ defence a fair few fans, me included, refer to him as Monkey Brains. 
2 Viacom own Nickelodeon and of 2012 they now own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to, so ‘pre-Viacom’ would be pre the Nickelodeon cartoon and the IDW comic book, and that shitty Michael Bay film.
3 I think what we might be seeing here is what happens when Playmates don’t have the Mirage team working with them. Remember that the original line was made up of characters nearly all developed with and designed by Mirage staff artists like Ryan Brown, Mike Dooney, Peter Laird, Steve Lavigne and Jim Lawson, as the years have gone on we’ve seen the Turtles figures get less creative and I wonder if this isn’t because they’ve had less and less of these people to help them out, in fact the lines with the least interaction with Mirage – Next Mutation and this one have been the least creative – hmm.  

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - Monster High Marisol Coxi & River Styxx

I wanna be haunted by the ghost, I wanna be haunted by the ghost, I wanna be haunted by the ghost…of your… precious luuuu-uuv

Post-Christmas sales rock, I ended up buying a literal sack full of goodies from Lakeside’s Smyths and Toys R Us and all of it came to less than £110, a £110 of money that wasn’t even mine because it was money gifted to me at Christmas. The two Monster High dolls shown here came to £22 for the pair, which is less than one of them costs usually.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - World of Nintendo Tanooki Mario & Shy Guy

No I will not make any jokes about fur suiters! Fur suiters are alright with me!

My lack of JAKKS Pacific’s World of Nintendo action figures has been less to do with any personal dislike of the line (there isn’t any) and more to do with how little of them I’ve encountered – I still haven’t seen a life-size Metroid, nor a deluxe Donkey Kong or the 8-bit figures and most toy-stores seem to stock only Mario and forty-million Toads in this scale, oh and Yoshi, lots of bloody Yoshi. I’ve been guessing I’m just being beaten to the punch by the more hardcore Nintendo and toy collectors and they’re gobbling up all the Zelda and Pikmin releases but it seems that distribution is not this line’s strong suit. Then mum bought me Tanooki Mario and Shy Guy for Christmas. She loves Mario, I love Mario, and we both like it when Mario gets one of his little outfits so there’s a great bit of theming going there, I didn’t know she even knew what a Shy Guy was so presume she just bought it because it was next to the Mario figure.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - WWE Elite Doink & WWE Battle Pack Scott Hall & Kevin Nash

What better way to start anything than with a psychotic clown in a skintight leotard?

Every year my mum takes me out, usually to Colchester, to let me make her life easier and my Christmas Morning better and let me choose some presents (she does this for my birthday too); we’re actually pretty good at shopping when working together and it’s a nice way for an adult man and his mum to bond without either of us looking weird or sad, plus I get cool shit. One of the fruits of this year was WWE Battle Pack of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in their nWo gear, Doink I bought in the Post-Christmas sales on clearance.