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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ladies of Two Worlds: Kotobukiya Emma Frost and Batgirl Bishoujo Statues

When I learned that Kotobukiya had a licence to produce a Bishoujo Statue series for DC, I was in two minds. As I'll be posting about shortly, I have recently re-started collecting the DC Direct Ame-Comi series, and while these are quite different in the concept behind them, I don't know that I need to collect two Anime-styled lines of the same characters. However, Koto's opening character was a Barbara Gordon Batgirl, the very same character that sucked me into the Ame-Comi line! While in comics terms I actually prefer Babs as Oracle, I'm a sucker for action figure and statue representations of her former costumed identity, and so the die was cast.

My first reaction to unpacking the Batgirl figure is that the DC Bishoujo series seems as though it's going to be on a slightly larger scale than its Marvel counterpart. My first photo is of Batgirl and Emma Frost together, not a Photoshopped version, so you can see the comparison for yourself. I'll need to see the next release to fully judge this, but it's not a higher or larger base, so either Batgirl's legs are exceptionally long, or the actual scale of the figure is a bit larger. If this is the case it's a bit of a disappointment, as I for one wouldn't mind mixing and matching the two sets.

Apart from a potential concern about the proportions, this is a very nicely sculpted piece. I like the pose, the flow of the cape and the headsculpt in particular. One odd thing with my particular statue is that the right leg was slightly coming loose at the join with the boot just below the kneecap. It wasn't a break and was easily fixed with a bit of glue, but it's something to watch out for, and the first QC issue I've ever had with a Bishoujo piece - which you would expect to be pretty resilient since they're made from PVC. She's also just the tiniest bit top heavy due to the width and breadth of her cape. Her base is a black plastic disc with a very standard Gargoyle - a favourite base for Bat-family busts and statues!

The only thing I'm not sold here is the choice of paint. There's a metallic edge to the colours here, which to me is an odd choice. I also think the choice of the blue and grey are both a bit dark. One thing that to me marks a piece as anime-influenced is brighter, flatter colours. It may just have been an artistic touch, but I feel it detracts a bit from the piece overall. Much like with the scale, I wonder if this is a choice designed to set the DC line a part from the Marvel line. While I do like this piece and love the character, I'm not totally sold on the DC branch of the Bishoujo line at this point. I've already pre-ordered the Wonder Woman piece which is the next to come out in the DC branch of this line, and from that I'll make a decision on whether or not this is something for me.

I have no reservations whatsoever about the latest entry in the Marvel Bishoujo line: the amazing White Queen turned X-man, Emma Frost. This statue is now vying with Phoenix for the spot of my favourite statue in the line. Sculpt-wise, this is pretty much perfect. The wide stance, outstretched arm and flowing hair and cape are all excellent. It's certainly the most dynamic of the Marvel Bishoujo statues to date.

I'd imagine that an all-white costume is a challenge to work with in a piece like this, and I have to give Koto full marks for handling it extremely well. There are shadings used here, particularly in the underside of the cape, that give a sense of depth, but not at the sake of the costume actually appearing white. This was a slight disappointment for me with the recent Bowen Designs Emma Frost statue - the effect used basically made her appear more like the Silver Queen - there wasn't really any white to be seen! This is all topped off with a nice finish - not completely flat, but not metallic, that makes me all the less convinced that the paint choices for Batgirl were the right ones.

I have sometimes given the bases on these pieces lower marks, as they can be unimaginative (Rogue's plain wait steps) or intrusive (Psylocke's giant pink "X"), but there's no such concern here. While this base doesn't have the magic of an integrated concept such as Phoenix's flames, or my favourite, Scarlet Witch's cape, its good looking and has a thin footprint, which allows some creativity in displaying it alongside other pieces. Nice work!

All up - great new additions to my ever-expanding collection of anime-styled superheroines, but while I'm certainly dedicated to the Marvel line, Kotobukiya needs to hit it's next DC superheroine out of the park for me to keep going.

You can see more pics of all my Marvel Kotobukiya Bishoujo Statues at the AFB Facebook Page, discuss this at the AFB Forum, and enter the January AFB Comment of the Month Contest by commenting on this post.

Until next time!

Friday, January 28, 2011

DC Direct: New Krypton means nice additions to the Superman Family Display

Having recently survived a move, there has been one upside to all the unpacking, and that's finally getting to open up and review some pre-move purchases that got packed away due to lack of time and space to deal with properly before the moving deed was done. DC Direct's Superman: New Krypton Series One was the last item I picked up in person from my fabulous LCS in Canberra before making the move to Melbourne, and I'm having a good look at them tonight.

Not much of my DC Direct Action Figure collection has remained in my display since DCUC came along. I'm still buying the never-been-done characters and others things that grab my attention, but not so much for display. The two main sets that I am still interested in maintaining on my shelves are my Superman Family and Batman Family groupings, because to date DCD has covered a much broader range of characters in these two groups. These figures are going to make a great addition to the Superman Family shelf!

Mon-El and Kal-El are my two lesser favourites in the set, but both have their place in a significant Superman story arc and thus a fitting place on my shelf. I have to rue the fact that Mon-El has the Superman "S" on his outfit, since that turned out to be such a flash in the pan. It's certainly interesting to have Kal-El in his Kryptonian Guild Gear, and the headsculpt on the figure actually looks Christopher Reeve-ish to me which is a plus. Mon-El's headsculpt bears quite a likeness to his representation in his Superman run. One odd thing is that both of these figures appear as though they've been done with a flesh-coloured plastic as opposed to having paint in that area. Not sure if that's the case, but it looks a bit like the kind of plastic made DCD's 13" Wonder Woman look so awful - well that was one of the things that made it so awful...

Superwoman is one of those frustrating DC Direct figures, in that it's often the Elseworlds or flash-in-the-pan type character that DCD seems to hit out of the park, while at the same time botching long-awaited classic characters. Taking the character for what it is, this is a great plastic representation. The buck here looks similar to the one used on the Superwoman and Batwoman Elseworlds figures from a few years back, which is one of the nicest female poses I've seen in the 6" scale. Looking at this really hits home how much I don't like the DC Universe Classic female buck. This is so nicely proportioned, and just needs ankle articulation to be pretty much perfect. The paint on this figure is fine, but I had to choose one that didn't have a smudge on the chest. It remains to be seen if much is going to become of this character, but I do like the design, and she makes a nice addition to the DCD Superman Family Display.

Last but certainly not least is the amazing job done on the Brainiac figure. This isn't my favourite version of Superman's green nemesis, but it is a comic accurate one and for what it is it's been done amazingly. This is great kind of figure for DCD to produce as it requires a bulk and sculpting that couldn't easily be achieved in a retail line, and they've done it very well. The sculpting is spot on, the paint work supports it well, and I love the pose - it's superior and menacing. Early contender for a Toy of the Year mention - well done! Oh that a Johnny Thunder or Bronze Age Captain Boomerang would ever get this kind of treatment from DCD some day!

One thing I have been very happy with in terms of DCD's efforts lately is the small, generic bases that have been used in their recent releases. They take up less room and don't become a feature in a display. They come in handy here for Superwoman and Mon-El, who both struggle to stand on their own due to their capes and the lack of ankle articulation - something I'd dearly love DCD to change.

As always with DCD, this set is a mixed bag of highs and lows, but overall I'm pretty happy with the results and very happy to have them to add to the DCD Superman collection. Next up from DCD in the action figure department, I'm looking forward to being able to add to my Aquaman family of figures with some of the BRIGHTEST DAY releases!

You can see more pics at Facebook, discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this post for your chance to win the January AFB Comment of the Month Contest.

Until next time!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Asgard comes to AFB! Bowen Thor and Warriors Three Busts

While there are certainly companies out there that are producing great statues for slightly lower prices, I can't see myself giving up Bowen Designs Marvel busts and statues any time soon. Apart from the generally very high quality, the way in which Bowen's character selection presents the necessary amount of the big guns while at the same time mining the depth and breadth of the Marvel Universe is more than enough to keep me making mine Bowen!

A case in point: the recent release of the Warriors Three Mini-Bust Set. Thor's regular allies Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun are important characters to me, and I am sure many others, but hardly A-list characters in the wider scheme of things. The fact that we are seeing them in this form is a testament to Randy Bowen's interest in the broader MU - and I love that we're benefiting from it!

Volstagg is brilliantly executed and quite simply is pure fun. From the wonderful tassels on helmet to his voluminous belly to the playful glint in his eye, this is pure Volstagg all the way. An excellent sculpting job supported by perfect paints, and a piece that is going to immediately go on my list of favourite busts. Pure magic.

Fandral was based on Errol Flynn, and this bust certainly channels that feel and look. I really like the different tones and depths of green used in this piece. He's been sculpted with a sword - statues with swords always make me nervous, but particularly one like Fandral's which is pointing out at a right angle from the statue - the risk of snapping it off as it's moved. The one real improvement I'd like here is a more lively facial expression that really captures the glint in Fandral's eye. He's a beautifully done piece, but perhaps just missing that spark of life that would really bring the bust to life.

Hogun is as well sculpted as the rest of the set, but he's my least favourite of the three pieces. Firstly, he's positioned looking ever so slightly down, and this means that his face is overly shielded by the fur lining on his hat. I ideally want these busts on one of my lower shelves, but this means not really being able to see Hogun's face. Also, I've always seen Hogun as slightly bigger than Fandral, and the positioning of Hogun on a lower base makes it look the other way around. These issues don't actually take anything away from my enjoyment of the set, but there's a bit of a design choice and comic accuracy niggle here that takes a bit of getting used to. On the plus side, sculpt (apart from the angle) and paint are excellent, and he has his mace which offset's Fandral's sword nicely.

A band of sidekicks would be pretty useless without someone to sidekick, for, wouldn't they? Following on from the release of the Warriors Three set, two new Thor busts (classic and modern) have also been released. These have been sculpted by Randy Bowen himself. As much as I do like his new gear and chainmail costume elements, I decided on classic Thor because he fits in with my classic Avengers busts. I quite like the new costume, but since you never know how long such changes will last and the pose of both statues is the same, I decided that the original was best - and enough.

The musculature on Thor's arms seems a little strange to me. Maybe I'm just jealous! Overall, I am very impressed with the sculpting and painting work on this piece - especially the flowing cape - but a bit dubious on the pose of both arms out - simply because it limits display options when put alongside other busts. I'm going to need to get a little riser to put Thor on to make it work alongside his Asgardian friends.

The Bowen-related Asgard attention is far from over. As well as some new Thor and Loki full sized statues which are obviously going to be timed to tie in with the film, there are amazing looking busts of The Enchantress and Hela (Bowen Web Exclusive) also on the way. This is only going to serve to make the Asgard Bust section of my display even more amazing than it already is I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to track down the Odin Bust to try to keep them all in order!

You can see more pics at Facebook, discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this post to enter the January AFB Comment of the Month Contest!

Until next time!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Will Changes to the Mattycollector Ordering Experience Help?

Mattycollector has announced changes to their ordering process starting with the upcoming sale on 18th January:

"Toy Fans,

We’ve heard your comments and have been working hard behind the scenes to identify areas where we can improve your purchase experience. There are several changes coming during 2011, starting with our January 18th sale when we’ll be adding CAPTCHA functionality to our website.

You’ve probably all already encountered CAPTCHA or something like it… it’s where you have to type in a word or two to prove you’re a human and not a computer before you can go to the next screen. For our website, what this does is stop automated “bots” from having multiple carts going for the same user just to see which one gets through first. Having all those open carts is both overloading the system and slowing genuine customers from placing real orders. (Fun Fact: CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and HumansApart.)

So starting on January 18th, when you get to the cart screen you’ll see this before you can place your order:

Just type in the words shown on the screen and you’ll be on your way. That’s it! Since the site won’t be clogged up with those evil bots, this should help you make purchases faster plus increase the stability of the system. As additional enhancements to the website are ready, we’ll announce them here, in our Forums, on Facebook, and onTwitter so keep an (unautomated) eye out for them!

— Matty"

This is great news if, and only if, it actually helps, which I guess we'll know on 18 January, which I suspect will be a busy sale due to the MOTUC Palace Guards not being included in a subscription. While Matty's post seems the imply they're getting rid of the "bots", they're not actually being stopped from trying to order, so what impact this actually has on traffic remains to be seen.

Hopefully one of the "additional enhancements" coming up is an actual shopping cart that holds your selected items for a period of time. This would seem a basic feature, and the lack of such security has caused a great deal of grief in orders past.

What do you think about what impact is going to have on your ordering experience?


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AFB is Changing!


Hey All!

I am currently in the process of transferring the AFB site to a new and (hopefully improved) template, which means that the place may look even stranger than usual over the next few days!

To quote a great many customer service operators I've had the misfortune of dealing with lately, please "bear with me" while I make what I hope will be a change worth waiting for!

Cheers
Andy

Friday, January 07, 2011

AFB Presents: Starman's "Toys I Grew Up With - Blackstar!"

As we welcome the new year, I am very pleased to introduce the first ever guest review at AFB, in what is going to become a regular guest feature! My good friend Starman, or "Stars" as he calls himself, has been around the traps of various forums for a long time, and has now taken up residence at the AFB Forum as a regular contributor and moderator. Recently, he started a set of reviews of toy lines from the past which are in his personal collection. He's given these reviews the clever name of "Toys I Grew Up With", and it's been so popular it's claimed it's own little place on the forum! I felt these pieces were so interesting that they deserved a wider audience, and as such this new guest feature was born.

Stars' first "TIGUW" feature is based on the Blackstar toy line from the early 1980's. Make sure you click through to the link to the full pictorial review at the AFB Forum - Stars has an extensive collection with far too many pictures to post here! And now, over to our guest:

BIackstar! I love these things!!! The box art for the playsets and vehicles are beautiful!!

These figures were produced by Galoob from 1983 to 1985 and were released in three waves. Each "good guy" came with a Trobbit (the little pink guys) and the "bad guys" came with the greenish-yellow demon. Wave Two villains came with a rainbow of colors of that same demon, while Wave Three villains came with new demons in new molds.

Blackstar's dragon-steed Warlock also came in two different colors. The yellow one I'm showing here isn't mine. The one I own is solid green with a light patch running up his front. The green one also doesn't have a saddle, while the yellow one does.

What's weird is that although they are basically the same molds, the green one is smooth while the yellow one is scaled.

Starting from Wave Two, all of the figures had a flickering light-up gimmick. I've shown the Blackstar figure both with and without it. Eventually all of the Wave One figures were re-released with the flicker action except Mara.

Also of note is Klone, the Blue Elf. He came with removable arms and legs, which could be traded out and combined with a snap-on chest piece and tail, whereby he becomes Cloud Cat!

The photos in this article are just some of mine! Check out the "Toys I Grew Up With - BLACKSTAR!" thread at the AFB Forum for many, many more!

Enjoy!

Stars

(Andy's final note:) Feedback on this new feature is most welcome! Do check out all of Stars' amazing photos - it's a real treat!

Just as always, you can comment on this post to enter the AFB Comment of the Month Contest for January!

Start of Year AFB Business - Facebook, Twitter and Forum Links!

Just in case you're not aware of any of these things, the New Year seems as good a time as any to remind folks of the following:

You can "like" Action Figure Blues on Facebook by going to our page at: http://www.facebook.com/actionfigureblues

You can follow AFB on Twitter by going to our page at: http://twitter.com/afblues

And finally, you can get even more out of the AFB Experience by joining in with a great group of collectors and enthusiasts at the AFB Forum, which is located at: http://actionfigureblues.smfforfree.com

Take a moment to make sure you are linked up to all of these for an all-AFB, all the time internet experience! (Read that in a way that doesn't sound creepy or stalking-like, and that's what I mean!)

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Year in Review: AFB'S 2010 Toys of The Year Awards

Yet another year of collecting successes and disappointments has come to an end, but as has become a tradition, we can’t say a complete goodbye to 2010 until we’ve had the 2010 AFB Toys of the Year Awards. The toys listed below come from what I personally have bought / reviewed over the course of 2010, so it’s limited to my personal tastes and collection, but as I seem to have wide and eclectic tastes and like to give most lines at least a try, that leaves a lot to work with. Lets get the ball rolling!

The Under 6” Line of the Year: Hasbro’s Iron Man 3 ¾” Scale Line: If this was based solely on character selection, I’d still keep it in the Hasbro family but would probably go with the Secret Wars 3 ¾” line of two-packs, which was a great trip down memory lane, but the quality control on those figures was just too haphazard to give it the gong. Instead, I’m choosing the Iron Man Comic line, which not only has given us a great range of Shellhead’s armour in small scale, but some other fun characters as well, like Titanium Man, Crimson Dynamo and Mandarin. I’m hopeful that the movie tie-in lines for 2011’s Thor and Captain America films will have similar comic-based lines to make us collectors happy!

The 6” (or thereabouts) Male Figure of the Year: DC Universe Classics Wave 12 Iron Figure: This was a hard choice for me, as there were a number of figures I really loved this year, but I’ve chosen Iron for two reasons: first because he’s the first member of the amazing Metal Men to come to life in DCUC, and secondly (and most importantly for the purposes of this post) because he was done so damn well! Not only did the Four Horsemen give us some clever attachments to represent Iron’s powers (gotta love that wrench!), they also gave us a “metal” looking figure with a comic-accurate blue tinge! Brilliant. While Iron took the cape, I also thought DCUC Wave 11’s Steppenwolf (comic accurate version) and DC Direct’s Blackest Night Larfleeze figures were brilliantly done.

The 6” (or thereabouts) Female Figure of the Year: (tie) Masters of the Universe Adora and DC Direct Battle for the Cowl Batgirl: I really can’t separate these two fantastic figures. Adora is perfectly captured as a character by Mattel’s effort, while the Stephanie Brown version of Batgirl’s new costume gets a gloriously detailed debut in plastic which is happily in scale with DCD’s earlier Batman figures, creating display happiness. Totally different figures with one thing in common – they both show DCUC’s stick-armed females what happens when you eat a proper diet!

The Build-A-Figure of the Year: DC Universe Wave 13 Trigon: I’m delighted to see Ultra-Humanite and Validus in plastic form, and brilliantly done, and was surprised by how much I liked DCUC Wave 12’s Darkseid, but Trigon is the winner for me because he’s something totally different from what we’ve seen in other Collect and Connect figures in the DCUC line – a new sculpt which hopefully can be put to good use in the future. That cloth cape is just icing on the cake!

6” Wave of the Year: DC Universe Wave 12: Wave 12 didn’t just have the amazing Iron– it had a great range of characters without any obvious “anchor” that showed just what this line is about. It also had some real Golden Age / JSA love, and having Spectre and Doctor Mid-Nite in one wave, plus standout renditions of Eclipso and Copperhead all makes more than enough to make this the year’s favourite for me. Honourable mention: DCUC Wave 15 Validus, Starman, Jack Knight and OMAC made up the highlights of an almost equally awesome wave.

The Over 6” / Under 18” Figure of the Year: Marvel Select Abomination. Marvel Select’s star is really on the rise, and it was never shining brighter this year than when Abomination made his debut. This thing was not just heavy and huge, but still easy to pose, and this combined with his scaly skin and the sinister smile on the headsculpt made a truly outstanding piece. Marvel Select’s Thing and Mattel’s MOTUC Battle-Cat (not quite a figure, I know) were close seconds.

The Over 18” Figure of the Year: Marvel Universe Galactus. I did love DC Direct’s 13” Alan Scott figure, but there’s just no contest here. Galactus isn’t just huge and articulated – he lights up! Just an amazingly fun piece, and a perfect centre for a groovy Marvel Universe display!

The Bust / Mini-Bust of the Year: Bowen Designs Pyro Mini-Bust: Bowen had a cracker year, and got a good chunk of my collecting dollars. I loved their efforts with characters like Longshot and Arcade, but it was another supporting X-Character, Pyro, that took the cake for me this year. The amazing arc of flame is obviously an amazing feature, but it wouldn’t mean much without a fantastic likeness, which has been more than truly achieved. Honourable mentions would go to DC Direct’s Batigrl Bust from the Amanda Conner-inspired wave of the Women of the DC Universe series and the DC Direct Bizarro Bust from the Gary Frank-based wave of Heroes of the DC Universe– both very fun stuff!

The Statue(s) of the Year: Kotobukiya’s Fall of the Hulks Green Hulk and Red Hulk Statue Set: I was never a Hulk fan until the “Red Hulk” storyline drew me in, and when I saw this fantastic set I knew that it needed to be mine. Getting these huge pieces to Oz incurred a hefty shipping bill, but it was worth it – these were brilliant on their own and together they were just amazing. They’re sure to be prominently displayed in my collection for years to come.

The Statue (Series) of the Year: Kotobukiya’s Marvel Bishoujo Statue Series: I started off on this series with Rogue at the beginning of the year, and have enjoyed each subsequent purchase even more – Scarlet Witch, Psylocke and Phoenix are all brilliant and I’ll be reviewing Emma Frost shortly. Easily my favourite statue-based line to collect during 2010 – I just wish Koto had better Australian distribution to make it a bit easier! Honourable mentions go to DC Direct’s Batman Black and White and DC Dynamics Series.

And finally…. the WTF? Award for 2010 goes to: Mattel’s Public Enemies Series. This award normally seems reserved for poor old DC Direct, but to me, releasing these figures in an animated style and robbing collectors of comic accurate versions of Brimstone, Silver Banshee, Icicle and Major Force was the boneheaded move of the year. A boo and a hiss to Mattel for that one!

And that’s a wrap! Remember, this is just one person’s set of opinions – if you agree, disagree or want to post your own list, then visit the AFB Forum’s 2010 Toy of the Year Thread and have your say. Also, don’t forget you can comment on this post to enter the January AFB Comment of the Month Contest!

2010 was a good but busy year for me – I’m hoping to have more time to focus on my collecting and blogging in 2011, and am looking forward to the year ahead. Thanks for being a part of the AFB world this past year!

Until next time!


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year! The AFB Comment of the Month Contest for January 2011!

Wow, 2010 went by fast! I hope your holidays have been great and you have lots to look forward to in 2011! As for our contest, thanks to everyone who commented on last month’s blog posts! Congratulations to AFB Forum Member Polarboy for being our randomly selected winner and final comment contest winner for 2010! Once we hear from Polarboy, his choice of either the DC Universe Green Lantern Classics Series 1 Kyle Rayner figure or DC World's Greatest Superheroes Retro Series 3 Flash will be on the way when available from Mike’s Comics N’ Stuff.

Now to January’s Contest: on offer are two great prizes, either the DC Universe Classics Wave 16 Creeper figure from Mattel or the Marvel Select Deadpool figure from DST. Winning either would be a great start to the new year!

A few bits and pieces:

  • every genuine comment on a post from the calendar month will be eligible for receiving the prize. I’m going to stick to my own time zone and call it at 23:59:59 Australian Eastern Standard Time – best to comment often and comment early!

  • if my super scientific randomizer comment selector system chooses an Anonymous comment, I’ll skip it and go again – you need to leave a name, a link, your AFB Forum username or email addy so that I can contact you if you are the winner. Blogger comments allows you to do this, as long as your profile is not set to private – check your settings.

  • you will be given a choice of one of the two figures on offer from the month’s contest – figures will be in their original packaging.

  • figures will be sent by first class mail within the US (Mike is sending them, remember) and first class international to any overseas winner. An overseas winner can elect to chip in for Priority Mail or Insurance, but otherwise we can’t take any responsibility for a parcel that doesn’t arrive – after all this is coming out of AFB’s not dreadfully deep pockets!

Once again, thanks to Mike for making this all possible for us, and here’s to another happy month of commenting!

Until next time!



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