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Monday, March 28, 2011

AFB Custom Spotlight: Sunfire!

Over at the AFB Forum, we have a very clever group of customisers who post their work in our customs board, called "The Originals". As a new monthly feature at AFB, I'll be shining the spotlight one of these great pieces of work each month. There's a bit of twist though: I chose the first figure to be featured, which was fishmilshake's excellent Gladiator, reviewed here, but from here on in it will be the responsibility of the chosen customiser to choose the next custom (not their own work) to be featured. FMS has chosen an excellent piece by our good friend Starman. Stars has very impressive skills, especially when you learn that he does all of his painting freehand!

With that, it's over to Stars once again to take us through his great effort!:

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This piece was one of a set of characters from Giant Sized X-Men #1 that was commissioned.

There was a lot of hesitation on my part before I started this piece. The varied design elements looked pretty daunting to me. Luckily, I took my time and I ended up thoroughly enjoying the process of creating this figure. In the end, I was sad to see him go, but I know he made my client happy.


Recipe:

Parts used:
ML Hawkeye head cast
DCUC Captain Atom torso
DCUC Copperhead legs, arms and crotch

Body:
Testors Model Masters Acryl - Flat White (basecoat for all but chainmail)
Testors Model Master Acryl - Guards Red
Testors Model Masters Acryl - Semi-gloss White

Scales:
Games Workshop/ Citadel - Red Gore

Flames, eyes:
Different mixtures of:
Games Workshop/ Citadel - Blood Red
Testors Model Master Acryl - Insignia Yellow

Front Mask:
Mix of:
Games Workshop/ Citadel - Red Gore
Testors Model Master Acryl - Insignia Yellow
Games Workshop/ Citadel - Blood Red

Back mask:
Games Workshop/ Citadel - Red Gore

Jewel, Eye flames:
Testors Model Master Acryl - Insignia Yellow
Games Workshop/ Citadel - Yellow Ink (topcoat)

Skin:
Games Workshop/ Citadel - Elf Flesh

Sculpted elements:
Mask built-up using Games Workshop Green Stuff

Cracked open the Copperhead torso. Removed arms and lower half at waist.
Then cracked open the Captain Atom torso to add arms and lower half.
Dremelled the head to fit the neck post.
Painted all parts separately then put figure back together.
After the body was completed I sculpted the elements for the head then painted it up.

All painting was done freehand. I do this to increase my skill level. I personally do not mask, as I like the challenge of painting without a guide.

Stars

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Many thanks to Stars for taking the time to write up this thorough explanation of his great work! We'll have another Custom Spotlight next month with a custom of Stars' choosing!

You discuss this at the AFB Forum and comment on this post to enter the March AFB Comment of the Month Contest!

Also, don’t forget to check out the two contests we have going at the moment: the “That ‘70s Custom” Custom Contest and the second round of our first “Toy Lines!” Caption Contest!

Until next time!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

DC Direct Unleashes the Demon... and some purple guy

I’m reviewing another pair of DC Direct Busts this evening, and these run the gamut from one of my favourite pieces of all time to one I could really take or leave. It’s time to have a look at the DC Direct “Villains” of the DC Universe Etrigan the Demon and Sinestro Mini-Busts.

The Demon Etrigan is a fascinating Jack Kirby creation who been around since the early ‘70s and has had a recent resurgence in popularity thanks in part to appearances in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. He had the grand distinction of being made as a 6” figure in the very wave of Mattel’s DC Universe Classics, and now he’s made it into the statue realm, tagged under the “Villains” of the DCU banner. The labelling here is debateable, considering that Etrigan has also been a JLA member. Perhaps they were struggling to fill their “villain” quota….

Thankfully the label has no impact on the quality of the bust itself. This piece is not only by far and away the best in Gary Frank’s version of this series, it’s currently one of my favourite busts, full stop. Sculptor Jean St John has done an amazing job of translating Frank’s Jason Blood design to three dimensions. This is truly a sensational piece.

Everything about this design and sculpt works. The menacing, truly Etrigan-ish headsculpt, the powerful, tortured pose and Etrigan’s tattered cape are all perfect This is complimented by a spotless paint job, excellent colour choices and the great use of different textures. I really can’t imagine how this bust could have been improved!

I’m always a fan of a bust with a base that relates to the character, and this piece definitely delivers. As well as having Etrigan emerging from the base amidst translucent flames, the bottom edges of the base are inscribed with the end of the poem that summons the demon himself: “Gone, gone the form of man, rise the demon Etrigan”. Very clever stuff.

Now that Etrigan’s been such a success in bust form, I hope it’s only a matter of time before he sees a full-sized release. It’s these oddball characters appearing in a line that really excite me, and I’d love to see DCD do more of it!

So that leaves no guessing as to which bust I’m in love with and which one I’m not so wild about. On the lower end of my scale the Sinestro Villains of the DCU Mini-Bust.

There are three reasons this piece doesn’t work for me, and I don’t think it’s just that I’m suffering from Sinestro overexposure. I love what Geoff Johns has done for the archenemy of the Green Lanterns, including the new costume. It makes sense that the master of yellow energy should have that reflected in his costume, and I’m surprised no one thought of it earlier.

The first issue is the colour DCD continually chooses for Sinestro’s skin. There’s something too “grape” about it. There’s too much purple and not enough red to achieve a true Sinestro tone. It’s a big turn-off for me.

The second concern is the weird twisting ab-crunch Sinestro is doing in this pose. As well as making him look impossibly thin-waisted in side view, it makes him slightly hunched over, and it doesn’t look like a powerful pose. Not sure if this is more an issue with Gary Frank’s design or the sculpt, but it keeps the piece from realising its potential as a powerful representation of one of the DCU’s main baddies.

The final strike against this piece is the base. It’s either a repainted version of the Hal Jordan bust base from the first wave of this series, or designed to match, and it has the same issue – the energy blasts the bust is emerging from really need to be translucent to work, but instead they’re painted yellow, so it looks like Sinestro has just jumped into a vat of mustard. That’s not a good thing in the world of super-villainy.

So it’s a mixed bag from DCD this time around. My great enjoyment of the Etrigan bust far outweighs the disappointments with Sinestro, and overall DCD continues a very strong track record with its bust and statue output. The Heroes / Villains of the DCU bust line is being overtaken by Blackest Night for awhile, so I’ll be having a break, but I’ll be back from the Hawk and Dove pieces later in the year!

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

Also, don’t forget to check out the two contests we have going at the moment: the “That ‘70s Custom” Custom Contest and the second round of our first “Toy Lines!” Caption Contest!

Until next time!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Toy Lines! The AFB Caption Contest: Round Two!

First off, many thanks to everyone who entered the first round of "Toy Lines!", our new caption contest! There were some really wonderful entries in Round One - you can see them all by clicking here. Do have a look as they are well worth it!

The task for Round One was to add captions to a photo featuring Black Hand, Mongul and Black Lantern Abin Sur, and our entrants rose the challenge!

There were some common threads in some of the Round One entries and a number I think are absolutely brilliant. In the end though, it's my job to choose the winners of each round, with the ultimate winner chosen by the readers of AFB.

I'm going with the entry that made me laugh the loudest and longest. It just happens to be the very first entry that was made. Congratulations to our Round One winner, bubbashelby! Here's his hilarious entry:

I love this entry not just because it's extremely funny, but because of the levels of humour - the fun comes not just from explaining what's happening in the photo, but also mocking the Green Lantern Corps Series 1 Mongul's colour scheme, which is seriously mock-worthy!

So, bubbashelby's Round One Winner will face off against the winners from the next three rounds in a public vote here on the blog, with the winner receiving our prize, which is a Mattel Masters of the Universe Classics Eternian Palace Guards Two Pack, like the one reviewed here. The prize will be an unopened version still sealed in its white mailer box.

That means there are still three chances to win, and the next challenge is just below. See what fun can you have with this one:

There will be four rounds of "Toy Lines!", each lasting 10 days, starting with the Round One Pic I'm posting today (see below). The winners of each round will be decided by me, and once all four rounds are over, the four winning photos will be put up to a vote here on the site for the AFB Readership to decide the ultimate winner.

Here are the basic rules:

  • You are allowed to save your own copy of the photo for each round and edit it to present your entry.

  • Only one entry per person per round is allowed. You may enter each round, even if you have won a previous round.

  • You do not have to give "lines" to every toy in the photo. How you script it is up to you!

  • Entries must be posted at the AFB Forum in the thread for each round - Round Two is here

  • Every 10 (or so) days I will announce the winner for the previous round here at the blog and post a new photo for a new round

  • Once we have completed four rounds, I will post the four winning photos here at the blog and post a poll for AFB readers to vote for the winner. This will be a blind poll and will run for 15 days.

  • The reader vote will determine the winner. The winner will receive the MOTUC Eternian Palace Guards Two-Pack with standard shipping. The winner may add express shipping or insurance at his/her own expense.

    Keep up the good work, and I look forward to the next great round! Also, you can of course comment on this post to enter the March AFB Comment of the Month Contest!

Until next time!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Doctor is in! Kotobukiya's Dr Doom Statue

While I’ve been an avid collector of Kotobukiya’s Bishoujo Statue line, I’m relatively new to the world of Koto’s Fine Art Statue Series, having only previously purchased the Green and Red Fall of the Hulks Statues. Something I haven’t been terribly sold on with some of Koto’s Statues is some of their human faces, which have lacked a bit of detail for my tastes, so I’ve been more interested in their non-humanoid faced characters. The Kotobukiya Collection Villians Series Dr Doom Fine Art Statue fits the bill!

There were Dr Doom Statues coming out from Koto and Bowen at the same time, and as I hadn’t pre-ordered either, my decision on going with the Koto came down to costs on the secondary market. I’d seen the pieces from both companies in person and felt there wasn’t a great deal of aesthetic difference, so decided to give Kotobukiya another try.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the decision. At first I thought this statue was on a slightly larger scale than an average Bowen museum statue, but once I made some comparisons, it’s just an effect created by the rather large and high base and the width of the statue due to Doom’s cross-armed stance and flowing cape. It makes this a rather dominant piece, having a character like Doom as a more prominent figure in a display isn’t a bad thing in my book!

This a great sculpt. It’s a powerful, imperious stance, and Doom’s armour has been beautifully captured. His tunic is very nicely sculpted and his cape is just sensational. It “flows” beautifully and is certainly the making of the piece. The paint job is generally very good – the green sections of the statue are excellent. The only detractor to the paint job is the “gold” sections on Doom’s cape, which have noticeable brush strokes.

Something I quite like about Kotobukiya’s statue efforts is their willingness to try different things which can add feature that set their pieces apart. This statue has two such features: swappable face masks and a light-up base. The face masks are actually pretty hard to tell apart, but they are different, and each a comic-accurate representation of Doom’s metal kisser. One looks a little bit more crazed than the other, so I went for that one for display. Very technical reasoning, I know! The masks are really fantastic pieces, not just for the detailed rivets and great angles, but also for the scarred flesh and eyes behind the mask.

The more impressive feature here is the light-up base that the statue securely sits on. This is battery powered and lit by the flick of a switch positioned at the back of the base. I had expected the whole base to light up, but it’s actually four pinpoint lights which cast a glow beneath our favourite Latverian dictator. This is a great touch. These lights are small but they are quite effective. I wouldn’t buy a piece for light-up features, but they certainly don’t do any harm!

This is quite a nice piece, but there are a couple of issues – one with the statue itself and another more generic issue with Koto’s Fine Art Series. When I opened the statue, there was an brownish, oily residue running down Doom’s right leg below the knee. This came off with a bit of rubbing with a damp cloth, but it’s left a mark in that the metal areas where the goo was are now a little bit lighter than those around it. It’s not something that would be spotted by the casual observer, but it’s still a concerning fault.

One thing that detracts from the Kotobukiya experience is unpacking the statue. The styrofoam packing used on the pieces is quite cheap and brittle, so it’s pretty much impossible to get your statue unpacked without spreading little white bits everywhere. This is obviously one way Koto keeps the cost of these items a bit lower than some of their competitors, but it really doesn’t scream “Fine Art” to me.

At the end of the day, of course, it’s about what you see on the shelf, and with Doom casting such an impressive figure, neither of those things are going keep me from enjoying this statue, which I expect to be doing for many years to come. I’ve also made an even more recent addition to my Kotobukiya Fine Art Statue collection which I am enjoying just as much, if not more, and am looking forward to reviewing here in the weeks to come!

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

Also, don’t forget to check out the two contests we have going at the moment: the “That ‘70s Custom” Custom Contest and our first “Toy Lines!” Caption Contest!

Until next time!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bowen's Black Widow spins a beautiful web

As any reader of AFB would know, I am a very keen collector of busts and statues from Bowen Designs. I love how much Randy Bowen loves the Marvel Universe and how well his products generally capture the characters that I love too. I have quite a number of new statues and busts to review in the coming weeks, but I’ll try to space them out between other reviews so no one suffers Bowen overload (not that I would personally consider that a bad thing!).

Most Bowen sculpts are generally well received, but something that’s been getting the fans excited is Tim Miller’s design efforts with the recently released Black Widow full-sized statue. Right from the initial preview photos, collectors were excited to see Tim bringing his great skills, previously used for pieces like the Sideshow Rogue and Mystique comiquettes, to Bowen’s rendition of one of the Marvel Universe’s leading ladies.

With The Avengers being the main theme of my Bowen Collection (with X-Men being second, and Whatever Takes My Fancy third), I was delighted to see this version of Natasha Romanoff as it captures her in her earlier Avengers look – the Bronze Age Avengers era is my favourite! Black Widow is now sitting happily on a shelf with Beast, Vision and other heroes I associate with that era.

While this is quite a simple piece on the surface, it’s actually a rather skillful accomplishment for a number of reasons. What’s most impressive about Tim Miller’s work here, and I think one of the main reasons collectors have been clamouring for him to take on more Bowen pieces, is that he not only has a strong handle on sculpting the female form – he also crafts the female face quite beautifully. Black Widow is quite striking to look at, even on multiple viewings. Her hair is also beautifully sculpted.

I like the pose of this statue. It’s powerful, but not in an overt way. Black Widow is shown being in complete control, not needing to flaunt her power – just quietly confident. Her weapon is held in an almost careless manner, but it’s still there as a real threat as required.

Even the best sculpt can be let down by a lackluster paint job, and Bowen has been having some disconcerting paint issues lately. Thankfully that’s not the case here, with only a minor niggle. There are different levels of sheen used here, from the matte of her skin to the metallic gold elements, that create a rich picture despite the limited range of colours present. The black of her outfit catches the light nicely to provide much needed depth through light and shade. Miller’s excellent effort on Black Window’s face is supported by an excellent paint job. Her left eye is slightly to the left of center, however at the angle the statue is posed at it doesn't create an issue.

The base of this statue is worth commenting on, because it is quite a compact base that is rectangular in size. While many statues call for a more elaborate base, I quite like Black Widow’s as it really draws attention to the incredible piece itself. Being a rectangular shape as opposed to the usual round shape most Bowen bases have also makes it easy to place between other statues to fill out a display. I’d like to see a few more of the lower price statues come with this type of base to help make the most of the display real estate available!

I’m looking to more Tim Miller-sculpted Bowen goodness, like the Bowen Exclusive X-23 and a Scarlet Witch statue which has been teased. Mark Newman has great skills when it comes to Marvel’s Fantastic Females, but some competition in that department is never a bad thing!

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

Also, don’t forget to check out the two contests we have going at the moment: the “That ‘70s Custom” Custom Contest and our first “Toy Lines!” Caption Contest!

Until next time!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Marvel Select Magic: Juggernaut and Cyclops

Marvel Select has continued it’s great run of X-Men related figures with their recent releases of Juggernaut and Cyclops. These are two excellent figures that are great additions to the Marvel Select Universe, which is starting to take a bit of shape after a long line of unrelated releases punctuated by movie tie-ins.

Diamond has really mastered the oversized characters in the Marvel Select line, and Juggernaut is no exception to that. It doesn’t quite surpass the brilliant work done on Abomination, but it’s still an excellent piece.

Size-wise, I think this figure is spot-on. He’s a perfect height compared to the regular sized characters. Articulation is pretty reasonable for a figure of this size and bulk. He has ample arm movement and rotation. Legs are a little more limited, and due to the helmet there is no head rotation. He requires a bit of handling to balance in certain positions but is overall a stable figure, not terrible difficult to pose or display.

This figure features great use of texture, with different aspects of Juggernaut’s uniform, such as his helmet, boots and the leather straps of his arms and hands each given a different look, adding a great deal of life to what could otherwise have been a rather monochromatic mass at this scale. There is also excellent definition of his musculature and veins, all helping to bring the character to life in a fantastic way. This is complimented by an excellent paint job.

There is a variant edition of Juggernaut, which is Cain Marko sans helmet. I certainly wouldn’t have said no to a removable helmet or swappable head, but buying another gigantic figure like that just for the unmasked head will not be happening. I can’t imagine too many people would have the money or display space to spring for both. From the looks of the helmet, a removable mask may not have been possible – there isn’t a full head under there and it doesn’t look like there’s room for one. Seems an extra head could have been an easy pack-in for the money spent. If you’re desperate for one, I’d wait awhile, as I suspect the variant editions will end up in sale bins in due course.

On the other side of the coin, we have Scott Summers, better known as the X-Men’s Cyclops. The generic Marvel Select male buck has some failings, particularly the ball jointed hips and legs. This often quite ugly looking feature isn’t so bad here, as Cyclops has been designed with smaller thighs, which mean that his upper leg is all one piece. The lines of his uniform make the gap between hip and leg less obvious. This is all complimented by a very nice paint job with no visible flaws.

One niggle with articulation here is that while Cyclops’ right hand is posed with two fingers extended to trigger his optic blast, but it’s actually impossible to get him completely into this pose – at least this little bunny couldn’t accomplish it. There just isn’t quite enough movement in Cyclops’ arms to make it happen. It might just me the particular piece I received, but if not it’s an odd mismatch between hand sculpt and articulation.

Cyclops has a variant figure, which is an X-Factor uniform version. Both come with a pack-in unmasked head with ruby quartz glasses, which I quite like. I doubt it’s intentional, but the unmasked head is very reminiscent of my favourite X-Man artist, Paul Smith. Two thumbs up, especially since unlike Juggernaut or the recently released Magneto, this extra head isn’t a variant.

Cyclops also comes with a Danger Room backdrop, which has gone straight into storage as I don’t have the display space for the less than essential Marvel Select bases. It looks like the upcoming Gambit has a complimentary base, so it’s worth holding on to in case they connect and ultimately build something a bit bigger.

After a huge rush of releases, we now have Gambit to look forward to, and then it looks like MS will be taken over by Thor movie tie-ins for awhile. I hope that passes quickly so that we can get back to some more fantastic comic-based releases!

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

Also, don’t forget to check out the two contests we have going at the moment: the “That ‘70s Custom” Custom Contest and our first “Toy Lines!” Caption Contest!

Until next time!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blob represents the best of Bowen

The tale behind this piece finding its way into the AFB Collection is another great story of how well our community can support each other, and the story behind the piece itself is a great example of creators interacting with collectors!

Let’s start at the beginning:

Randy Bowen of Bowen Designs often gives fan sneak peeks of works in progress via his Facebook Page and the STATUEMARVELS Forum. These sneaks are often not just teasers, but used to seek feedback from prospective buyers about the design as it stands. It’s not totally uncommon for changes to be made based on the feedback that’s been given.

An example of this is the piece I’m looking at tonight: the Bowen Designs Web Exclusive Blob Mini-Bust. The original design for this was sneaked quite some time ago by Bowen, and met with a mixed reaction. Many fans felt that Blob’s head wasn't quite right, and the absence of his trademark yellow stripe from his costume was an oversight. Within a short amount of time, Randy had gone back to the drawing board, and the sculpt had the yellow stripe and a noggin which one could much more easily identify as Mr Fred J. Dukes himself! I haven't seen much out there to match Mr Bowen’s interaction with his fanbase!

Where does the community bit come in? Well, that’s the next chapter of the Blob Mini-Bust story: it was announced as a Bowen Designs Website Exclusive. These exclusives create issues for this Down Under-based collector, because the BD website doesn’t ship internationally (something Bowen could definitely improve upon!). This wasn’t a lost cause, however, as the kind owners of STATUMARVELS, Al and Gene, not only run a great forum, they also run an online store which is dedicated to assisting international collectors to access the exclusive product! It’s a great way to help out fellow collectors, and the fact that they do it at cost makes it a truly amazing act!

So, thanks to the STATUEMARVELS team, I was able to order my Blob Mini-Bust, and it arrived carefully packed a couple of weeks ago. It really is an amazing piece. To start with the aforementioned headsculpt, it definitely sums up the Blob quite nicely. I was a bit unsure of the closed eyes at first, but as I’ve gotten used to them, I think they help to communicate the mass on this man’s body in quite a clever way. The huge snarl, complete with beautifully detailed teeth, and the massive jowls and chins are masterfully sculpted.

The skill of the sculptors is further demonstrated in the bulk of Blob’s form. I’m really impressed not just with the way that Blob’s weight is captured, but in the level of detail in things like the ripples in his clothing, and the crease in his mass created by his arms being folded over it. It’s easy to look at something like this and take for granted the detailed observation and study that must have gone in to making the three-dimensional detail work so expertly. The musculature, veins and flab in Blob’s arms are also true credits to the sculpting team.

There have been some questionable paint jobs on some recent Bowen releases, but the paint on Blob is one of the piece’s greatest assets. There is a remarkable amount of shading used here, from the tones of his hair to the different flesh tones, which have been used to shade and highlight the flab on Blob’s arms and head. The only aspect of the piece I would pick up on is the colour of the base, which matches the black in Blob’s outfit almost exactly, thus losing the impact of the sculpt of the base, which is shown to be cracking under Blob’s weight. It’s a minor niggle, but it’s a shame to miss out on that nice extra detail.

Blob is now sitting proudly alongside my Pyro Mini-Bust, which in this blogger’s humble opinion was the best bust of 2010. There is an Avalanche Mini-Bust on the way from Bowen, and then only Destiny is required for a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants Mini-Bust display. I await impatiently!

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

Also, don’t forget to check out the two contests we have going at the moment: the “That ‘70s Custom” Custom Contest and our first “Toy Lines!” Caption Contest!

Until next time!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One of the best yet: Marvel Universe Wave 12

Despite its stop-start failings with the 6” Marvel Legends line, Hasbro has done a very admirable job of keeping it’s 3 ¾’ Marvel Universe line alive and well, and the latest Wave I’ve received, Wave 12, is a great example of how good this line can be.

They’re all good figures, but I’ll start at the bottom of the pile in terms of my own ratings and work up:

Dark Hawkeye is the figure I’m least fond of here, and I have to say had I registered that this was the Bullseye version and not Clint Barton (note to self – read what you’re ordering) I would have passed on this flash-in-the-pan variant. The figure is actually nicely detailed and includes a maniacal sneer just to make sure you know it’s not really Hawkeye, but these types of figures are generally easy passes for me.

Doc Samson is on the next lowest rung of the ladder for some simple reason – his blank facial expression. Muscled guys with green hair can’t pull off that look without some ‘tude, y’know what I’m sayin’? Also, the guy’s supposed to be a genius, so why does he look the opposite? It’s still a fine figure – the muscled sculpt its great and paint is excellent – but this little detail bothers me.

Hasbro continues to make the most out of its Hulk buck by including World War Hulk in this wave. This is one of the better Hulks in the MU series and sports a completely different headsculpt from other Hulks, which, combined with his well-produced armor and accessories, makes him feel like a separate character worth purchasing as opposed to some of the repaints which dot this line. Having very recently become a Hulk fan, I wasn’t tempted to pass on this like I am many of the Iron Man / Spider-Man / Wolverine variants.

Yellowjacket is a welcome inclusion to the line. We now await Ant-Man in this scale to cover all of his most classic incarnations! One detractor here is that his antennae are a tad long and overwhelm the headsculpt ever so slightly, creating the impression that Hank’s is a bit too small. On the positive side, the paint work is excellent, with a slightly gold metallic paint used to deal with the challenging yellow areas of his costume. He also appears to have been done with a slightly more slender buck than some of the other males, which is very fitting to the character.

Spider-Woman has turned out to be one the better females in the MU line. The female figures have often suffered from particularly bad headsculpts, or deformities like the hunchbacked Jean Grey (sob!). The larger detail on Spider-Woman’s mask probably helps in this instance. It’s definitely one of the better MU female heads.

I’d love to see some small improvements on the MU female buck. I still maintain that the breasts on the females are just a tad too big – they stand out and distract the eye, and not in a good way, because they look more like two marbles stuck on to a figure than actual body parts. The join at the hips is also rather noticeable on this figure. The female buck really does need a bit of work to bring it up to the same level as the male.

I’ve seen a few customs of Constrictor, and I have to say I’ve seen people do the lines on his costume by hand just as well if not better than what’s been produced here. This is still a great figure, and a character that is begging for release in the 6” scale. What I particularly like about Hasbro’s Constrictor is that his whips are embedded into his wrists, so they’re in no danger of getting lost or coming loose like some attachments and accessories. He also has a suitable villainous sneer which gives the figure a bit more character.

Captain Marvel has turned out to be my second favourite figure in this wave, for the simple reason that his headsculpt is so successful. This is the main area where figures at this scale fall down for me, but Mar-Vell’s is spot on. Additionally, the red on his costume has been done without a noticeable wash, which can often make red look dirty and ruin red paint. A definite winner, and again, we need a 6” version that lives up to this.

The unsurprising winner for me, though, is Thanos. It’s not just because of the scale, which is pretty much perfect compared to the other characters. The sculpting on this piece is brilliant – the details on his costume are very well done, and it’s topped off by an outstanding headsculpt for this or any scale. He comes with a swap out hand so that he can be displayed with either regular gloves or the Infinity Gauntlet, which is a brilliant piece in itself. A definite winner on all counts!

I really like what Hasbro has done with the varying sizes of the figures at this scale. It’s made it possible to see quite a range of characters presented fairly accurately. Again, I’d just like to see a little bit of improvement to the female buck so that the ladies can match the gents!

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

Also, don’t forget to check out the two contests we have going at the moment: the “That ‘70s Custom” Custom Contest and our first “Toy Lines!” Caption Contest!

Until next time!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dynamic times three: DC Direct's Supergirl, Green Lantern and Superman

One of the pleasant surprises to come out of DC Direct in recent times has been the Tim Bruckner-sculpted DC Dynamics Statue Series. I have previously purchased and reviewed the Aquaman , Batman and Wonder Woman editions and was very pleased with all of them. Of the statues following those three, I’d only ordered Supergirl, but I recently picked up Green Lantern and Superman at a sale, so we’re looking all three of them this evening!

I was immediately taken with the promo shots of the DC Dynamics Supergirl Statue because it’s the Silver Age (read: Legion of Superheroes) version of the Maid of Steel. I have a feeling this is going to put many modern-age centric collectors off this piece, but for me it was the selling point.

Aside from the Silver Age goodness of this statue, what I really love is the pose. While most of the poses in this line are more focused on looking powerful or majestic, this statue looks like a young superheroine playfully reveling in her powers, which is exactly what a young Kara Zor-El should be doing. Not often do we get the kind of clear representation of pure joy that Tim Bruckner has delivered with this sculpt.

This playfulness, and the headsculpt that is decidedly focused on presenting a young girl as opposed to an oversexualised vamp, really appeal to me. I particularly love the wisps of hair over Supergirl’s face. It’s nice to see her original uniform as well. I’ve got nothing against the female form – in fact I’m quite a fan of it - but I don’t need the sexuality of every female character to the be the overriding force in a statue. Having a great-looking piece representing a female character that isn’t spilling out of her uniform is actually quite refreshing! Again, there’s a place for it with certain characters, but it’s nice to see that pieces can also work very well without it.

Amidst the deluge of Green Lantern merchandise out and about at the moment, the solicitation for the DC Dynamics Green Lantern Statue passed me by a bit. In person though, it really stands out. It’s a Silver Age Hal Jordan, and I particularly like what Bruckner has done here with the headsculpt. There is something distinctive about the way he sculpts Hal’s head that makes it instantly recognizable to me, and while I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, I like it!

This is a taller piece, and more slender than some of the others. Thanks to this, it makes a nice central point in a display of the group of statues in the line.

Alongside the pyre of green energy that makes the base of this statue, Bruckner gives us a little extra in the form of a green energy “ball” surrounding Hal’s right hand, ready to be thrown. This is semi-transparent, and you can see his white-gloved hand underneath. A very nice touch to cap off an excellent statue!

Lest you think this report is all glowing, there is a slight down side. The Superman release in the DC Dynamics line is by no means disappointing, but it’s my least favourite to date. I quite like the more angular base, which is a clever interpretation of Superman’s power into the format. It’s the face of a piece that can often win or lose me, however, and in this case the headsculpt leaves the overall effect of the statue lacking.

One thing that often annoys me about a statue is if the character’s face is looking too far up or down to be seen clearly when displayed. This is often hard to tell until you actually have the piece in hand, as the way that some pieces are photographed can be quite misleading as to the actual angle at which the piece stands. I don’t think that’s particularly the case here, but Supes is looking up a little to far for my liking.

The direction of his gaze would probably be okay if he had a particular look of determination on his face, as if he was keen to get to his destination or ready to punch someone up good. In this case though, the expression is all a bit too blank, so it makes the upward stare a detractor for me. It’s a shame too, because the more I look at the base, with it’s excellent depiction of Superman taking off at speed, the more I want to like the whole package.

Something that impresses me about the line as a whole is that despite the height of these statues being much greater than the width, they’re fairly stable. That’s certainly something you want in a statue and may seem a bit obvious to comment on, but it could be a potential concern with these, particularly considering that the bases are hollow inside. I don’t know how well they would stand up to a “cat leaping on shelves” test, and I’m not about to experiment, but their general stability is excellent.

One of the main criticisms I hear of this line is that it’s “like paying for half a statue”, but I think that’s missing the point of the series. It’s a very different concept that is either going to appeal or not appeal, and as someone who is attracted to the designs I think this line is one of the more exciting things to happen statue wise in recent times. They are at the pricier end of statues at the scale, so it’s not the sort of thing you can collect halfheartedly, but I’m learning more and more to only order up front the things I absolutely have to have, as most other items can be found either on sale or on the secondary market for reasonable prices later down the line.

That will be it on DC Dynamic for a little while, but not forever. I’m not terribly into statues of busts of villains on their own, and will be skipping the upcoming Sinestro statue, which is next in line, but I’ve ordered the Joker version as it’s just spectacular looking. It’s nice to see the line expanded beyond the original six statues, and I’d love to see DCD throw a “B” list character or two into the line just for fun!

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

Also, don’t forget to check out the two contests we have going at the moment: the “That ‘70s Custom” Custom Contest and our first “Toy Lines!” Caption Contest!

Until next time!

TOY LINES! The AFB Caption Contest! Round One up now!

I mentioned in my last post that a new AFB Contest was on the way, and now - here it is! Introducing "Toy Lines!" - the AFB Toy Caption Contest!

Everyone loves a caption contest, but here's one with a difference. Your task will be to provide captions or speech bubbles that go along with photos of action figures that I'll be posting.

There will be four rounds of "Toy Lines!", each lasting 10 days, starting with the Round One Pic I'm posting today (see below). The winners of each round will be decided by me, and once all four rounds are over, the four winning photos will be put up to a vote here on the site for the AFB Readership to decide the ultimate winner.

The overall winner will receive a Mattel Masters of the Universe Classics Eternian Palace Guards Two Pack, like the one reviewed here. The prize will be an unopened version still sealed in its white mailer box.

Here are the basic rules:

  • You are allowed to save your own copy of the photo for each round and edit it to present your entry.

  • Only one entry per person per round is allowed. You may enter each round, even if you have won a previous round.

  • You do not have to give "lines" to every toy in the photo. How you script it is up to you!

  • Entries must be posted at the AFB Forum in the thread for each round - Round One is here

  • Every 10 (or so) days I will announce the winner for the previous round here at the blog and post a new photo for a new round

  • Once we have completed four rounds, I will post the four winning photos here at the blog and post a poll for AFB readers to vote for the winner. This will be a blind poll and will run for 15 days.

  • The reader vote will determine the winner. The winner will receive the MOTUC Eternian Palace Guards Two-Pack with standard shipping. The winner may add express shipping or insurance at his/her own expense.

Clear as mud? Great!

So, without further ado, here is the pic for Round One:

You may post your entries in this thread at the AFB Forum. If you're not yet a member of the forum you can register for an account here.

Please post any questions either here at this post or at the forum. Most importantly, be creative and have fun!

As always, you can comment on this post to enter the AFB Comment of the Month Contest!

Monday, March 14, 2011

MOTUC Eternian Palace Guards - and how to win your own!

In my effort to get myself caught up with reviews of Mattel's Masters of the Universe line, I'm moving on to something different for the line which came out in January. The Eternian Palace Guards Two-Pack is the first "army builder" set in the MOTUC line, and I'll say at the outset that those who love to amass huge numbers of these types of figures should be very pleased with Mattel's efforts.

Seeing as it was the leader of the Palace Guard, Man-at-Arms, that originally drew me in to collecting this new line of MOTU figures, it was a given that I'd want to pick up this set to give him some followers. These are very similar in design to Man-at-Arms, with some differences. The breastplate / harness of the Guards is not as complex as Man-at-Arms, although they do come with a battle damage option, which I'll discuss later. Further, the Guards have pads on both legs and arms, whereas Duncan only sports them on the left. Lest you think the Guards have made off better than their leader, Man-at-Arms has colour detail on his helmet and belt that sets him apart - orange markings on his helmet and a red coloured gem on his belt

One of the features of this set is the two additional heads that are included. This gives you the option of light and dark skinned humanoid guards, a reptilian guard and a feline guard. These are a real treat, as each one not only has a different look, but quite a different expression as well. Of course, this inclusion is probably designed to encourage people like myself to buy multiple sets, but as figures like this is designed for army building, it provides many options for making the warriors look different. This is accentuated by the inclusion of removable mouth guards which can attach to the helmets, further increasing the possible combinations within your throng of guards.

I have mentioned before that I am not overly interested in accessories, and don't have a huge interest in keeping track of them, so the way in which most accessories for the MOTUC figures can either be held on kept in the "snap on" attachments most figures have on their backs is a huge bonus for me. Each figure comes with a shield and a long handled axe / staff, and then one has a small axe while the other has a mace. The unused weapon can be stowed on the back, and the options mean that army builders can put a fair bit of variety into their display. Any product that can make me care about something I normally am not really interested in is a winner - and that's certainly the case with the weapons that come with this set.

One final inclusion is a snap on "damaged" breastplate for each figure. This is a throwback to some the original figures which had a rotating insert that could be flipped to show battle damage, and it gives the army builder a final set of variables to play with. Since there's nowhere for the extra breastplates to be stored on the figures themselves, however, mine will al stay as is.

All up, this is a really pleasing set which can be used to add some depth to the MOTUC display and is sure to be delight with dedicated army builders. I'm happy with my two sets, and having now seen the extra heads in person I'm very glad I did order the additional set - I like all the different visages and want to have them all in my display. This two-pack gets two thumbs up from me!

Now I teased in the title of this post that there was a chance to win a set of these for yourself. It's not just a tease - it's real! Just keep your eyes out for my next post, which will detail a new ongoing at AFB. The prize for the winner will indeed be an unopened box of MOTUC Eternian Palace Guards, but be warned - you're going to have to get creative to win this one! Stay tuned!

You can see more pics of these and the rest of my MOTUC figures at Facebook, discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this post to enter the March AFB Comment of the Month Contest.

Until next time!

Friday, March 11, 2011

AFB Presents Starman's Toys I Grew Up With: Thundercats!

We're back with a new installment of vintage toy reviews from our friend Starman. This month he's looking at the original Thundercats figures, which are soon to have some modern counterparts!

Without further ado, over to Stars!

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I really don't think these guys need any introduction, so I'll just get straight to showing you my collection.

I figured this would be a timely piece since the new Thundercats have been revealed at Toy Fair recently.

(On a personal note, I don't own a Snarf, because I hate him)

Okay, to the figures. First off, at the left, we have the stars of the show!

Panthro, Lion-O, Cheetara, Tygra (old), Wileykit, Tygra (young) Wikeykat

Baddies! Note the repaint of Mumm-Ra's helmet and a homemade cape! Capt. Shiner, Ram-Bam, S-S-Slythe, Jackalman, Mumm-Ra, Vultureman, Mumm-Ra (old), Cruncher, Grune.



PVC pack-ins!

Wileykit, Wileykat, Ma-Mutt

EXPENSIVE!!!!!! Well, except the Snowman.

Pumyra, Ben Gali, Jaga, Lynx-O, Snowman of Hook Mountain.

The only others I want at this point are Mongor, Monkian and Hammerhand. I've had several opportunities to get them, but the pieces were always in a condition than I found less than acceptable for my collection.

Anyway, here's a link:
http://www.action-figures.ca/thundercats.htm

Stars

You can discuss this at the AFB Forum, and comment on this post to enter the March AFB Comment of the Month Contest!


Until next time!

Star Wars Fans - Unique Vintage Sale!

Star Wars Collectors may be interested in the following news from Gilt Groupe:

Calling All Star Wars Fans!! Launching on Wednesday March 9, 2011 at 12pm ET through Saturday, March 12, 2011 at noon, Gilt CHILDREN (gilt.com) invites members to a curated selection of 30 hard-to-find vintage collectibles — hand-picked by Brian Semling!

Brian Semling was born in 1977, the same year Star Wars was released. Perhaps that explains why Semling—one of the foremost US authorities on vintage toy collecting—has such a knack for finding collectibles from the seminal series of films. He dove into the enterprise full bore in 1994, and over the last 17 years, he has established himself as one of the best in the game. If you are searching for that proverbial needle in the haystack, he is the guy to help you find it.

This collection of 30 hard to find Star Wars pieces is a treasure trove of vintage goodness. All items were rated by the Action Figure Authority (AFA), so rest assured that everything is collectible-grade and the condition is accurately represented. Thus the rarity of these authentic, sentimental items is truly invaluable. From single figures, to playsets, to one ultra-rare Imperial Forces 3-pack—it’s the perfect find for any die-hard collector.

Have a look at these great items at http://www.gilt.com/sale/men/vintage-toys

Until next time!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's Not My Fault! Sideshow Legendary Scale Colossus Bust

When I mentioned in my last post that my resolve to stop collecting lines isn’t always very strong, someone on the AFB Forum added “..or your resolve for starting lines, or only getting certain items from them, or….”

It’s a good laugh, but I must admit it’s pretty true. There are certain characters who can influence me into starting pretty much any line of toy or statue!

The pathway to ending up owning the Sideshow Colossus Legendary Scale Bust, however, is a bit more circuitous, and I’m not taking all the blame for this one!

It all began when someone on the AFB Forum was looking to sell his Alex Ross Style Nightcrawler 1:2 Scale Bust, and I said that was much as I loved Kurt Wagner as a character, I was holding out for Sideshow to produce him in their Legendary Scale Bust line. Someone else then commented (in fact, it was the same someone else as the person who posted the above playful dig at my collecting habits!) something to the effect of “Yeah, but then you’d need the Colossus Bust to do along with him.”

Once that idea got into my head, I was sunk. As you can clearly see, however, it really wasn’t all my fault this time!!

I’d looked seriously at ordering Sideshow’s recent Colossus Comiquette, but there was something about it that just didn’t look quite right. That was just the regular version – I’m not even talking about the Exclusive version with an extra un-armoured head for Piotr, which can be put on his armoured body. Um…

The Colossus Legendary Scale Bust, however, grew on me in photo form each time I looked at it. So, knowing that the Aussie dollar is amazingly strong at the moment and that I really would need Colossus to go alongside my favourite blue furry mutant teleporter, I took the plunge.

Happily, I am far from disappointed with the purchase. The scale is pretty much as I imagined it – at 12.5” high, it’s about the size of a full-sized statue. As you would expect, his shoulders are very broad, coming in at 14” at his widest point. Colossus isn’t always drawn with as huge a neck as he has here. It works for this piece, as it gives it the kind of bulk you’d expect from Colossus, but were it a full body piece, he’d have a pinhead for sure.

Colossus’ armoured face has often been drawn as quite expressive. What’s shown here is a serious expression, but by no means blank. The sculptors have obviously put thought into how a man’s face would be formed if it transformed to metal, and the result is still something that looks very human, but with angular lines, particularly around the nose and jawbone. I’m particularly impressed with how this has been done, as underneath the metallic angles, you can see not just the shape of a man’s face, but that of a Slavic man as Piotr Rasputin would be – the high cheekbones and wide features of a good Russian boy. This could just be my imagination at work, but I’ll give Sideshow the credit – it’s impressive.

Something else I love about this piece is Colossus’ hair – it’s black, but as shiny and metallic looking as his skin, as it should be. I like how it reflects the light. To help this effect, his uniform has been painted with a duller sheen to contrast. It works very effectively! All up – this one is a real winner.

I won’t be starting on any kind of completist rampage with this series, due to cost and space. I have subsequently picked up The Thing bust as part of a trade, and was quite surprised at how much shorter it is than Colossus. I think Thing may be one of the earlier pieces, but the contrast is that great they really can’t be displayed together, which is a shame. As for other purchases, I would love to find a Captain America for a price less than a kidney…..

Now all I need is for Sideshow to hold up their end of the deal and produce a Nightcrawler Legendary Scale Bust so that this great piece can compliment it!

In the meantime, just remember – this particular piece was not all my idea! Honest!!

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

Until next time!

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