Tuesday, April 29, 2014

G.I. Joe is Dead

Easter weekend I was laid up in bed suffering from a what was most likely a sinus infection.  I say most likely because I never went to the doctor.  Anyhow, while my wife took my kids to church Sunday morning for Easter I stayed back at home in the bed.  I flipped on the TV and looked for something to watch, but I couldn't find anything...so I turned to my friend Netflix.  In my house Netflix is almost used religiously for cartoons for the kids.  Because of this Netflix recommends more cartoons based on our viewing habits, making it hard to find movies I would want to watch.  I almost cued up Avengers since I haven't watched it since it was in the theaters, but then I saw that G.I.Joe: Retaliation.

What a mess that movie turned out to be.  Not the movie itself, but the events around the movie.  I was all pumped to see it in the theater, then Hasbro and Paramount went and delayed the movie to add in 3D effects...or something like that.  While I really enjoyed the movie, I'm sad to say it didn't help the G.I. Joe franchise much.

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the G.I. Joe brand.  What started off as a series of 12 inch figures (can you call them dolls?), the Joes were re-invented so to speak in 1982 as the premier 3 3/4" action figure line.  Hasbro wanted to cash in on the success of the Stars Wars line, thus the smaller Joes were born.  They were given their own nemesis organization, Cobra, to defend against.  The Real American Hero G.I. Joe franchise went on to great success with several seasons of an animated cartoon, toy series by Hasbro and a long comic book run by Marvel Comics.  All was well.

Similar to Transformers, G.I. Joe found retail shelf space for many many years.  However today, I feel that the end of the line is here for the Joe franchise.  After watching the Retaliation movie, I started wondering and looking back and what went wrong.  This is what I came up with.

G.I. Joe's glory years had to be the 80's.  The cartoon was great, the toys were even better and the Marvel Comic was excellent.  Even the animated movie wasn't that bad...although to this day I hate how they re-wrote the end of the movie and let Duke survive.  Backlash over Optimus Prime dying in the 1986 Transformers animated movie is to blame.  Sure, let's let Duke take a snake spear from Serpentor right in the heart and we'll let him come out of his coma at the end of the movie.  Lame.  But whatever.  I think the first chink in the armor of the franchise was the 90's.  Specifically talking about the toy line, Hasbro took the line in directions that many fans could have cared less for.  More and more of a science fiction element was added, along with day glow neon colors.  We had the Joes facing environmental threats (Eco Warriors), we had Street Fighter video game characters in the Joe verse, Ninjas were freakin' everywhere (Ninja Force) and the Joes all of the sudden became astronauts (Space Brigade).

Interest started to wane in the toy line.  By this time the original Sunbow cartoon was over.  DIC had a short lived animated series, but what I remember of it paled in comparison to the original series.  Marvel's run of the comic was also coming to an end.

Just like Transformers, G.I. Joe came back with a new theme in the following years.  New toys (or at least repainted toys) could be found at retail.  Despite my feelings of some the subsequent series, the brand continued to survive through new toys and other forms of media.  Then came the first live action movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.  This movie was freakin' horrible.  I really can't find anything redeemable from the movie.  Well maybe Rachel Nichols who portrayed Scarlett.  Cobra Commander was a joke, Destro I just couldn't buy into and the guy that portrayed Zartan will always be that guy from the Mummy movies.  Hasbro created a huge movie tie-in series of toys that mostly warmed the retail shelves.  There were a few good toys, some of which I plan on sharing here on the blog at some point, but overall I don't believe the toy line fared as well as Hasbro had hoped.

By the time the 2nd live action Joe movie came along, Retaliation, the nail was already in the coffin so to speak.  It didn't help that the movie was eventually pushed back close to a year so they could add in 3D elements to the film.  This move really hurt in more ways than one.  When the movie was originally solicited with a spring release, the movie tie-in toys were hitting retail shelves a month or two earlier.  There was a buzz in the air.  The new movie had the star power of the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Bruce Willis.  Then the delay announcement was made and you could hear crickets.  I know I lost whatever interest I had in the toys and the movie because of the delay.

I do have to say that when I finally watched the movie, I was impressed.  I liked the casting of the actors and actresses of the main characters.  I was glad Cobra Commander returned to his iconic cartoon/comic/toy look.  It was a good action oriented movie and it was everything the first movie should have been.  However it was just a little too late.

The annual G.I. Joe Convention hosted by Fun Publications just took place a few weeks ago.  Lacking in attendance was Hasbro.  The 50th anniversary of the brand, in a celebration of the brand, and Hasbro was no where to be found at the convention.  If that doesn't ring loud I don't know what does.  There are a few new toys slated for release in 2014 as Toys R Us exclusives, but outside of those and the convention exclusive items released this year it looks like this is the last hurrah for the iconic Joe brand.

While it does sadden me a bit to think that brand is dead, I can look back on what was a great run...at least for me.  Before I had Transformers, I had G.I. Joe.  I have lots of good memories of playing with the toys and watching the cartoon.  I never got into Marvel's run of the comic, but I did enjoy the Devil's Due reboot of the comic.  Only time will tell if Hasbro has plans for the Joes, but if not I bid you farewell.  It's been fun.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Convert-A-Bots: Sporty Sedan

One of the things that I enjoy most about having this blog is discovering and sharing toys that are at least new to me. Of course this means I have bought a few things for the sake of the blog, but today's topic is one that I gladly jumped on.

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While I try not to get too distracted in my collecting, choosing to focus on primarily Transformers, sometimes I can't help to wander over into the realm of generic transforming robots. We all know of Go-Bots, but what about some of the other similar scaled transforming toy lines. While doing some research on a little die-cast transforming truck I got awhile back, I discovered a small line of transforming toys created by a company called Village Toys. Trying to find some background info on Village Toys hasn't turned up much, but color me intrigued.

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Turns out these Convert-A-Bots can be found pretty easily on the secondary market, however it seems a lot of people mistaken them for Go-Bots or Convertors or even Zybots. I was surprised that I found a carded specimen. He didn't stay sealed for very long though...

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The packaging actually lists these as Mini Convert-A-Bots and as you can tell from the very generic back. the various toys in the series are called different things. Those Pow-R-Bots look very familiar. I'm sure my mom bought me one of those from Revco (and old local drug store) back in the day.

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This is really all I know about the manufacturer. They were based out of Illinois and apparently a division of a company called J Shin Corporation. All of my Google searches bring up for Village Toys are of dolls surprisingly. Really surprised to see these were made in Korea and not in China. Seems like everything comes from China these days!

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The packaging is very non-descript. I could gander and say the red grid background was used to cash off the early success of Transformers, but this release predates Transformers by at least a year so that isn't the case. Packaged in robot mode, you can see a small sticker sheet included behind the robot. Notice there isn't an official name for this robot.

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There we go, freed from his plastic and cardboard prison where he has spent the last 31 years! Hard to believe this toy is that old. Out of the package I was surprised at how sturdy he felt. The die-cast metal used for the chest is very solid and the paint seems of good quality. Obviously the silver paint applications to the face are a bit sloppy, but that doesn't surprise me at all. Plastic feels light, but not too cheap. Wheels are actually rubber...or something that resembles rubber. They aren't rubbery soft, but they aren't hard like the wheels on a Hot Wheels car. The two factory applied stickers seem to be holding on very well.

Convert-A-Bots sedan photo CK027_zps3397443e.jpg   Convert-A-Bots sedan photo CK028_zps6cdbf7f9.jpg

Convert-A-Bots sedan photo CK029_zps55eac19b.jpg   Convert-A-Bots sedan photo CK030_zps3f378e9d.jpg

There aren't any included instructions on how to transform the toy from robot to car, but then again if you need instructions you may just want to put the toy down now and walk away. I'm not a huge car guy so I can't really make out what make or model this car is supposed to be, so I'll just refer to it as a sporty sedan.

The almost glittery dark grey plastic looks nice in person. The car features a translucent plastic windshield, side windows and a sun roof. The back windows are molded into the body of the car and sadly they lack any paint apps. The front grill and wheels are made of a silver painted chrome like plastic. If you look carefully it's almost like some of the wheels are either too big or too small for the tires...or is it the other way around? The car rolls freely on a hard, smooth surface. The molded car interior's blue plastic works well with the dark color of the car.

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The included sticker sheet has black window stickers along with some stickers that most likely are to be applied to the bottom of each side of the car. I was going to labeled this review as Soarer based on the stickers, but officially I don't think he has a name. I almost applied the stickers, but after 30 years I wasn't sure if they would even stick to the toy.

Overall this is a pretty cool little transforming car. It's very easy to see how he could be mistaken for a Go-Bot or another similar toy. There aren't any distinguishing markings on the toy, so I don't know if Village Toys created the mold for this toy or simply "borrowed" it from another company. I fear the latter may be the case as the little truck I have is from this same line, but is nearly identical to a truck from Select's Convertors line of toys.

If you are a fan of the small Hot Wheels size transforming toys then I think you would like this, however to most collectors this would be a throw away novelty at best. For me however, it finds a nice little spot in my odd-ball collection of transforming robot toys.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Battle Beasts: Web Slinging Spider

It's a rainy, messy day here in the Carolinas and I'm stuck working on this dreary Saturday.  I don't have the time to delve into a big, in depth review so I thought we could take a quick look at a Battle Beast I picked up at a show a few months back.

Battle Beast Web Slinger Spider photo BlogTFphotos004_zpsc103e780.jpg   Battle Beast Web Slinger Spider photo BlogTFphotos005_zps33ca2085.jpg

I vividly remember Battle Beasts growing up, but with the likes of Transformers and G.I. Joe you could say I was pleasantly distracted.  It wasn't until many years ago that I discovered the ties to Transformers the Battle Beasts line had...well at least in Japan.  Ever since then I've been on the casual look out for deals on Battle Beasts and their Japanese counterparts, Beastformers.

One of the animal choices that I always thought looked great in the original series was the spider, Web Slinging Spider to be exact.  The Decepticon purple armor on the dark gray spider body works well.  To keep the animal "accurate" they even sculpted his other 4 appendages on his back.  Head sculpt looks great and I like all the red painted eyes.  This is one ugly critter, and I love it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Marvel Comics Review: New Warriors #3 (2014)

I've enjoyed the Marvel Now! re-launch of the New Warriors thus far.  It's hard to call it a team book as the cast hasn't completely come together yet, but with the third issue things are starting to fall into place.

Writer Christoper Yost is still trying to set the stage with not only explaining who the characters involved are, but setting up the first story arc as well.  I read some complaints that there wasn't enough action in the first two issues or that the story was dragging, but in typical Marvel fashion there is a great story unfolding.

Issue #2 concluded with Sam Alexander (Nova) being captured by the High Evolutionary.  Sam is told the Celestials are returning to Earth to pass judgement (and a little execution more than likely).  Issue three opens up with "flashback" story explaining who the Celestials are and how mankind's evolution has been tainted.  Radiation infused super powers, mutantkind, Inhumans, Atlanteans, clones, magic, alien...these were never meant to be uttered the High Evolutionary.

Scarlet Spider, Hummingbird and Water Snake did not defeat their foes when attacked on the beaches of
Mexico.  Instead they are captured and brought back to the High Evolutionary's base of operations.  Meanwhile back in New York City, the Police have cornered Justice, Speedball, Sun Girl and the Inhuman we only know as Mark.  Frightened by the recent events involving the Inhumans, the police pull the trigger and shoot at Mark!  Justice wisks away everyone just in time.

I should point out that Justice addresses the police that is a member of the Avengers, while Speedball standing in the background murmurs 'Warrior'.  It appears he is a bit frustrated with Justice over not fully adopting the Warriors name.

Standing on top of a building in New York, the four of them start an argument over Mark and what to do next.  Justice is taken by surprise when Sun Girl, who was walking away in disgust of Justice's attitude, quickly turns away and shoots a blast of energy directly at Mark.

You can already see that this team of New Warriors isn't exactly going to come together like the original team.  On the flipside, our other characters awaken to only find themselves in energy bubbles...or something like that.  Hummingbird catches Sam up to speed as to who everyone is.  Sam repeatedly refers to the Scarlet Spider as Spider-Man on many occasions.  It's funny to see how this obviously irritates Kaine, only later to see Kaine acknowledge when he fails to ward of the High Evolutionary's minions that if he were indeed Spider-Man he would have not failed.

Kaine sends Nova off for help, only for Sam to return to the battle and save the Scarlet Spider from sure extermination.  While it was good to see Nova join in on the fight, I can't help to notice how underpowered he seemed against his foes.  As a regular reader of Nova's solo series I've seem him tear loose and be very powerful.  He even held his own briefly against Beta Ray Bill and Stormbreaker!

We get to see some good battle action with the Scarlet Spider and Water Snake.  Marcus To's pencils are really nice, but I can't help to notice some slight similarities to the original Warriors penciler; Mark Bagley.  Another nice reference to the original Warriors team comes from Water Snake as she too becomes overwhelmed in combat.  Right before it appears she is captured, she says "I have failed you, Kymaera...".  I know this isn't the 1990's New Warriors, but I love it when writers and pencilers toss in stuff like that.  The is the Marvel Universe after all and if Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and TV's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have come to shown us, everything is connected.

The creative team I feel is doing a good job as I am left with that feeling of wanting more at the end of each issue.  The pacing is picking up and it appears these unlikely teammates will be forced into working together as a team if they are to ward off the impending Celestial encounter.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Transformers Henkei!: Cheetor C-12

Transformers Henkei! is Takara Tomy's version of Hasbro's Classics/Universe line of Transformers.  In typical Takara fashion most of the figures received premium paint applications and some of them had chromed pieces.  I went a little crazy and imported near the entire line.

Hasbro released new deluxe molds of the Beast Wars characters Cheetor and Dinobot under the Universe banner.  Takara Tomy opted to include these characters in the Henkei! line, albeit at the end of the line.  Neither of the toys sold well for Hasbro.  While Dinobot can be fairly expensive on the secondary market these days, Cheetor is a little more affordable - no matter which version you go after.  Up until the recent Generations voyager Rhinox toy was released, I really had no where to display Cheetor.  So once I acquired Rhinox I wanted to snap some shots of him w/ Cheetor...and Dinobot if I can ever find a decent priced specimen.  Initially I didn't care either way for Cheetor, but after messing around with him for this review I have to say I have a new found appreciation for this new mold.

Henkei! Cheetor photo Rhinox026_zpsafcc18b6.jpg

You'll have to excuse me skipping over the packaging.  His blister card packaging is packed away and I just didn't have the time to go digging it out.  One of the things I hated most about the original Beast Wars Cheetor mold was the fact that the beast mode was fat!  Cheetahs are some of the fastest land animals and as a result are pretty lean animals.  Takara remedied this with a new Cheetor mold.  I know a lot of people just don't like this toy, but if you give it a chance it has a lot of good things going for it.

Henkei! Cheetor photo Rhinox030_zps1db50efa.jpg

In beast mode the toy features several points of articulation.  It's no secret I'm not the best when it comes to posing my TFs, but here you can see how Cheetor can get low to the ground as if he's ready to pounce on a Decepticon or go running across the landscape at break neck speeds.  Shoulder, hip, knee and toe articulation give you free range of motion to pose him however you'd like.

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Cheetor does have a large chest in beast mode as you can see from the above picture and especially from a side view.  That aside I personally think the beast mode looks a lot like an actual cheetah.

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Cheetor does feature one "action" element.  On the back of his neck is a button that sits flush with the body.  When depressed his mouth opens and his eyes change from green to red.

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If you don't know, the red eyes are a homage of sorts to the original Beast Wars mold.  Both Hasbro and Takara originally released Cheetor with red eyes, but as a running change later made the eyes green.  Perhaps this was done to better match his CGI counterpart on the television show.

While I don't normally care for action features, this is a subtle touch and one that doesn't necessary detract from the toy overall.

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Cheetor carries his slender and sleek look over to robot form.  If I'm being completely honest with myself there are several aspects of robot mode that I don't care for.  While the over robot looks pretty good, it's hard to get past his his robot arms carry beast mode leg kibble and his large paw feet.

Henkei! Cheetor photo Rhinox033_zpse90ad80e.jpg

And oh, did I mention his honkin' huge "backpack"?  Thankfully his feet are large enough to help balance the robot where he can stand un-assisted.

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Takara opted to chrome Cheetor's head where as Hasbro went with a flat colored plastic.  The gold chrome does stand out, but surprisingly it doesn't look gaudy in person like I thought it would.  I like how the feline traits carry over to this robotic face as well.

Henkei! Cheetor photo Rhinox034_zpsa7813e5f.jpg

Located on each side of Cheetor's legs are these unsightful "pouches", however they do serve a purpose.  Each pouch opens up to reveal a shuriken like throwing star.

Henkei! Cheetor photo Rhinox035_zpsfaf8911f.jpg

Pull out one "blade" and the others fold out simultaneously.

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Generations Rhinox & Cheetor photo Rhinox041_zpsac706a86.jpg

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I prefer Cheetor's beast mode over his robot mode any day, but he still blends well with the new Generations Rhinox no matter how you pose him.  I can't wait to complete this pair w/ the new Generations Rattrap coming soon.  Just as I opted for Takara Tomy's versions of Cheetor and Rhinox, I too will probably go for the "premium" deco Takara Tomy's version of Rattrap will most likely sport.

This updated Cheetor toy is far from flawless, I get that.  What I don't understand is the extreme hate from a lot of the fandom over this mold.  In my opinion the most show accurate Cheetor toy to date is still the first Beast Wars Transmetal.  I didn't care for this Transmetal 2 look or Beast Machines.  I've heard some think that Cheetor might not receive a new mold in the near future, but I'm OK with that.  I can overlook the weaknesses of this mold and focus in on the excellent, well articulated beast mode.  Thankfully whichever version of this mold you may go after neither are terribly expensive on the secondary market.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Transformers Energon: Optimus Prime transforming ink pen

It wasn't often that I received Transformers for Christmas.  Granted I did get some pretty sweet G1 toys back in the day on that glorious morning every kid dreams about, as an adult it's been a different story.  Even today my mother still asks me for a Christmas list.  Every year I put TFs with weblinks of where they can be purchased, but it's very rare I end up with any of them.

Back when Beast Machines was in full swing, that Christmas I received a new BM Primal Prime and a box of Takara's S.F.C. figures.  In my stocking was the usual candy and small stuff - including a transforming Energon Optimus Prime ink pen!

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I'll be the first to admit I wasn't a huge fan of the Energon toy line or TV series.  That doesn't mean I didn't appreciate this gift from my mother.  The pen when transformed into truck mode has a rather faithful version of the deluxe/voyager toy, albeit scaled down to the size of a modern basic/scout figure.

Paint apps are limited, but mostly applied pretty good.  All 6 wheels are free rolling and the transforming does share some similarities with the larger versions.  In fact other than the pen's tip being on the back end of the truck, you can't really tell this is an ink pen.

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Due to the nature of the figure also doubling as a functioning ink pen some sacrifices were made to the robot mode.  Other than the head not lifting high enough and the slender legs, it looks pretty much like Energon Optimus Prime.  The arms are articulated at the shoulder and elbows.  There aren't any real feet so I had to prop him up against the back wall.

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Optimus even retains his larger combined helmet and Spark of Combination features!  I don't recall who made this toy/pen hybrid, but they did a pretty good job.  If nothing else it makes a nice oddity for any Transformers collection.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Marvel Comics Review: New Warriors #2 (2014)

Marvel still has me pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming every time I see images from the newest issue of New Warriors.  I'm thrilled Marvel decided to give my favorite super hero team another chance, but I'm still in a state of disbelief!

Issue #1 was pretty good.  Writer, Christopher Yost, did a good job setting the stage of the first story arc yet while introducing readers to the characters that will eventually come together to form this iteration of the New Warriors team.

The first book ended with the Atlantean Watersnake standing in the shallow waters of a beach somewhere in Mexico.  Kaine, aka the Scarlet Spider greet the Atlantean with fists a blazing.  It wasn't until Hummingbird uses her powers to instill fear into Watersnake that the two cease fighting and we learn of her appearance.

Before we get to Watersnake, the book opens in the subway of New York City.  A unknown, unnamed Inhuman is riding the subway.  It appears the driver of the subway slams on the breaks after seeing some commotion down the tunnel.  That is when we see Selah, aka Sun Girl trying to fend off 3 assailants from harming some Mutants.  I'm not that vested in the mutant community, but I believe the mutants being attacked are Morlocks.

Switching back to New Salem, Colorado, the same assailants attacking the mutants in NY are also going after Justice and Vertigo, a magic user and resident of New Salem.  The "bad guys" as Justice refers to them end up taking a DNA sample of Vertigo's friend, Brutacus.  After that they vanish before Speedball can assist his teammate.

Looking for answers, Justice and Speedball pay a quick visit to Jarvis at the Avengers Tower in NY.  There they learn from the Avengers database that their assailants are the Evolutionaries.  Cyclops was on record of saying the Evolutionaries should be labeled as an extinction level threat.  Before leaving Avengers Tower, Justice and Speedball intercept a report of an explosion in the 7th avenue subway terminal.

Back to the subways, the unnamed Inhuman "sacrifices" himself by jumping into the line of fire as one of the Evolutionaries tries to eliminate Sun Girl, only for the Inhuman to absorb the energy blast. At the same moment Justice and Speedball arrive and the Evolutionaries once again disappear.

The issue finishes up w/ Sam Alexander, aka Nova, being trapped in a energy field of some sorts.  He is greeted by the High Evolutionary and proceeds to tell Sam that himself and Sam are the only ones that can save Earth from Judgment.  Turns out the Celestials are returning!

I can appreciate Yost taking the time to set the stage which should bring all of these characters together to combat a familiar foe, but I can understand how some people may find the 2nd issue a little blah.  Speedball has been the driving force to rebuild the Warriors team so it ought to be fun seeing all of the characters come together and how they interact with one another.  We still don't know much about this new Inhuman character introduced in the series, but I'm thinking that will change really quick with the next issue.