#0911: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Minimates

LI MU BAI, YU SHU LIEN, JEN YU, & LO

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON MINIMATES

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And now for something completely different…

In the year 2000 (and early 2001), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became a rather surprising success. Despite being entirely in Mandarin, the film was a smash hit in the United States. It was so much of a success that its director Ang Lee even nabbed a job directing 2003’s Hulk (the less said about that, the better). The measure of true success, in my book at least, is how many action figures you got. Art Asylum picked up the license. They released a set of four 7-inch figures, as well as releasing a few of the characters in this little line they were starting, call Minimates. Despite the film’s success, the figures just did alright, not great, and not enough to get more than the same four characters released in two styles. Today, I’ll be taking a look at the four Minimates based on the movie.

Also, I feel I should note at this time that I’ve never actually seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yeah, yeah, bad Ethan. Let’s just see how this goes.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These four make up the first (and only) series of Art Asylum’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Minimates. They were released in September of 2002, right around the same time as the Bruce Lee Minimates and Rock Minimates, making them some of the very first Minimates.

CTHD6All four ‘mates are built on the original, 3-inch body. Unlike the 2 ½-inch body, which is a pretty straight up-sizing of the 2-inch body, the 3-inch body is actually a little different: the peg hole in the head is not centered, but rather towards the back; the torso is made up of three pieces, fixed together, rather than being a single molded piece; the elbow and knee joint are in the center, and have a separate pin going through them; finally, the hands are side specific and look more like actual hands. Functionally, it works about the same as the smaller bodies, with the same basic 14 points of articulation. It’s just a tweaked structure.

LI MU BAI

CTHD2Okay, so Li Mu Bai is Chow Yun-fat’s character from the movie. I know that much. Yay me! Mu Bai gets 6 add-on pieces for his hair, shirt, sleeves, and footwear. The older ‘mates are a whole different level of detailing than what we see today; stylization was pretty high, and they made do with as few details as possible. This is most evident in his hair, which is fairly flat at texture-less (and ends abruptly at the top of his head), though the braid is pretty well detailed. The rest of the pieces are actually surprisingly detailed; they’re still fairly simple, but there’s a fair bit of detail on the shirt and feet, and the sleeves are nowhere near as static as some of the later, smaller-scale pieces. Mu Bai is mostly molded in the appropriate colors, but he has a bit of detailing on his shirt and feet, as well as the expected detail lines for his face. The face is made up of just of black line work (no additional colors for his eyes or teeth), and his face is very, very stylized and geometric. There’s definitely not a real likeness in that face. Mu Bai includes his sword, the Green Destiny, as well as a weird puzzle piece thing that was included with all the early Minimates.

YU SHU LIEN

CTHD3Yu Shu Lien was played by Michelle Yeoh, who, amongst other things, was a Bond girl during Pierce Brosnan’s tenure in the role, as well as being in the criminally under-rated Sunshine. She was also a pretty big deal in Hong Kong action movies during the 1990s, which one assumes is what got her a role in Crouching Tiger. Her figure has 7 add-ons: hair, shirt, skirt, sleeves, and leg wraps. Where Mu Bai’s hair was rather square and stilted, Shu Lien’s has a nice flow to it, and looks pretty organic, if still stylized. The rest of the parts are all pretty good too. The chest cap presents a fairly unique feature amongst Minimates: a sculpted bosom. Well, sculpted suggestion of bosom, anyway, similar to what Palisades did on their Palz figures. The actual chest cap seems a little bit bulky, but nowhere near as bad as some of the smaller ‘mates. Shu Lien’s paint is a little more complex than Mu Bai’s. The base colors are okay, but a little fuzzy in some spots. Her face is still pretty simple, but she at least gets one extra color for her lips. Yu Shu Lien includes a sword and the weird puzzle piece.

JEN YU

CTHD4Jen Yu was played by the relative newcomer Zhang Ziyi. The only thing I know her from is 2007’s TMNT, where she played Karai (who also has a Minimate, but it’s not from the movie). Jen Yu has 7 add-ons: hair/mask, robe, skirt, wrist bands, and boots. They’re all pretty decent pieces, though they don’t seem to sit as well as the parts from the other two. That doesn’t mean she looks bad, though. It appears to be a pretty good recreation of the look from the film, and she’s a pretty neat, basic ninja. The paint is fairly basic. Mostly she’s molded in black, with a bit of red and gold detailing here and there. Under the mask, she’s got a fully detailed face, on par with the rest of the set. Jen Yu included a sword and sheath (as well as the puzzle piece), but mine doesn’t have them.

LO

CTHD5Last up is Lo, the dude I know the least about. He was played by Chang Chen, whom I’ve never actually seen in anything. Apparently Lo’s a desert bandit, which sounds pretty cool, and he’s got one of the cooler looks. Lo has 7 add-on pieces: hair, jacket, sleeves (my figure lacks one of them), skirt, and boots. His sleeves are noticeably a bit more geometric than the others, but the rest of his parts still have a pretty decent flow to them. As a whole, the pieces look pretty good together, if slightly dated. Lo has one of the more detailed paint jobs seen here. It’s nice and clean, and all of the colors work together pretty well. His face is once again pretty basic, but at least he gets a mustache to change things up a bit. Lo had the most accessories of the set, with a sword, an extra wristband (w/ mounted eagle, though, once again, my figure lacks this), a cape, and the previously mentioned puzzle piece. Sadly, my figure lacks his extra pieces.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Since I’ve not seen the movie, it’s not a huge surprise that I didn’t get these four new. I will admit to at least contemplating getting them a few times over the years, due to the whole “some of the earliest Minimates” thing. Of course, they aren’t the easiest things to come across anymore. So, when I found them back in January at a flea market (on the same trip that netted me Gimli, the Orc Scout, Big Guy, and Perseus), a snapped them up pretty quickly. They were pretty filthy when I got them, so I had to spend a good two hours cleaning them up. Despite not having seen the movie, I find myself really enjoying these four. They’re definitely a different style of ‘mate, but it’s really fun to own figures that are an important step in the evolution of Minimates.

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#0910: Shade

SHADE

JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED

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While DC’s Golden Age heroes have all more or less managed to stay in the spot light over the years, the foes that those heroes faced haven’t been quite so lucky. Even hardcore DC fans will struggle to name more than a handful. One of the few to not totally get lost in the shuffle between the various “ages” was the Shade, thanks in no small part to being included in James Robinson’s run on Starman. Shade’s had three action figures over the years. Today, I’ll be looking at the one based on his appearance in the Justice League cartoon.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Shade2Shade was part of Mattel’s Justice League Unlimited line. He was initially released as a solo figure in 2007, but he was also re-released later in a three-pack with Cheetah and Lex Luthor. The figure stands 5 ¼ inches tall counting the hat, and he has 5 points of articulation. JLU was Mattel’s first instance of applying the buck system to a DC line, and Shade was no exception. He was built on the skinny male body (a re-tooled version of the Flash). It’s a decent fit for Shade, though he should probably be a little taller and skinnier. He has a new head, which does a pretty awesome job of translating Shade’s look from the show. There’s no mistaking him for anyone else. Shade also has an add-on piece on his chest, to represent his jacket from the show, but it doesn’t work very well. It’s ill-fitting and overly bulky, and lacks any really defined details. A newly sculpted torso, or even just proper application of paint on the basic torso would have been much better. As it stands, the look of the figure is really off, which is a shame, given the quality of the head sculpt. The paint on Shade is pretty straight forward: white on the face, black everywhere else. It’s not particularly exciting, and it’s also not accurate; Shade on the show had a few different finishes on his outfit, and at least part of it was a dark grey. The single packed Shade included his cane (which he’s unable to hold), while the three-pack version was without any extras.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Shade was a rather rare figure back when he was new, so I never got one. Last November, while participating in Small Business Saturday, my brother and I were in a small nick-knack shop, where he happened upon a Secret Wars Wolverine in a small bin on a low-sitting shelf. A quick look through the rest of the surrounding bins found me this guy, for $1.99. This figure is a bit of a mixed bag, but for 2 bucks, I’m willing to let him slide.

#0909: Hyperion

HYPERION

AVENGERS INFINITE

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In 1969, the writers of Justice League of America and The Avengers decided to do an unofficial cross-over. The JLA fought a team of villains resembling the Avengers, and the Avengers fought the Squadron Sinister, a parody of the JLA. The Squadron was successful enough to get their own heroic counterparts, the Squadron Supreme, who came from an alternate universe. The leader of both versions of the Squadron was Superman expy Hyperion. While the villainous Hyperion has been dead for a while, the heroic version has made fairly consistent reappearances throughout the years. He’s gotten a pair of figures, both in the last few years. Today, I’ll be looking at his smaller-scale figure from 2014.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Hyperion2Hyperion was released in the first series of Avengers Infinite, the line that would eventually be given the more generic Marvel Infinite title, and then just recently re-named Marvel Legends. The figure stands 4 ½ inches tall and has 27 points of articulation. He’s based on the basic Hyperion design, after he ditched the domino mask he sported in his earlier appearances. Structurally, he’s nominally based on the body used by the Marvel Universe Cable figure, but he gets a lot of his own pieces. The figure looks pretty decent overall, but some of the pieces don’t fit together as well as they should. The real offender is the pelvis, which is too skinny for the rest of the body, causing the legs to jut out at the hips, and the upper torso to have an odd gap in the middle. Other than that, the sculpt is actually pretty nice. The head is probably one of Hasbro’s best in this line, and is perfect for the character. Hyperion’s paint is pretty decent overall, but does have a few trouble areas. The neckline is rather sloppy, and doesn’t match the molded color of the rest of the neck. Also, the shorts are gold, despite the boots and cape being yellow, and those three elements being traditionally depicted as the same color. It’s not super far off, but it does look a little weird. On the plus side, the face paint is nice and clean, and his logo is really sharp.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

While I like Hyperion well enough, I didn’t pick this figure up new, due to wanting his series-mates Wasp and Grim Reaper more. I saw him at the store a few times, but was never really prompted to pick him up. So, why do I have him? I found him, new and in-box, at a Goodwill of all places, for $1.99. At a fraction of retail price, I felt he was worth it. He’s not the most exciting figure of all time, but he’s a solid addition to my 3 ¾ inch Marvel collection.

#0908: Bruce Wayne & Pilot Batman

BRUCE WAYNE & PILOT BATMAN

DC C3 CONSTRUCTION

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After the rousing success of the Marvel characters in the Minimates format, other comicbook companies wanted in on the action, including their main competition DC Comics. However, thanks to all sorts of licensing mumbo jumbo, Diamond Select and Art Asylum couldn’t directly produce DC products. Fortunately, Play Along, who also worked with Art Asylum on the Lord of the Rings Minimates line, had the rights to produce DC-based construction sets, which they were able to leverage into a way to produce Minimate versions of DC characters as part of the sets. The line was only moderately successful, but it did manage to produce a nice handful of prominent DC mainstays. Today, I’ll be looking at two of the figures the line offered, Bruce Wayne and Pilot Batman.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Bruce and Pilot Batman were included with the SDCC 2004 Stealth Batwing set. The set was a re-deco of the main line’s regular Batwing set. Batman was similarly a re-deco of that set’s Pilot Batman, but Bruce Wayne is wholly exclusive to this set.

BRUCE WAYNE

Bruce&PilotBat3This was one of the two Bruce Wayne Minimates offered by the C3 line. The figure is a little under 2 ½ inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. While the more widely released version (included with the Batcave set) opted for a more traditional Bruce, this figure is based on Bruce’s more modernized design from 2004’s The Batman. Bruce has add-on pieces for his hair and jacket, both re-used from prior ‘mates. The jacket is the same piece used on the Batcave Bruce and the hair comes from Marvel Minimates Series 1’s Hulk. The pieces are pretty close matches (if you want to get really picky, Bruce’s jacket was always buttoned on the show, but that’s pretty minor). They’re far less detailed than most modern pieces, and have a much more squared-off appearance, but that actually works well in the context of his cartoon-based design. Paint is used fairly sparsely on Bruce, but what’s there is both clean and sharp, and he makes for a good translation of the animated design. I like the decision to give him a grin, as it gives us a Bruce that truly sells the whole millionaire playboy charade. Bruce included a cowl, cape/torso cover, and gloves, which allow him to be quick-changed into a pretty decent Batman Minimate (though he’s smiling, which is slightly odd).

PILOT BATMAN

Bruce&PilotBat2The C3 line ended up doing what most Batman-based lines do, and included a bunch of non-canon Bat-variants. On the plus side, Pilot Batman is actually a pretty sensible idea, especially when the Batwing is in question. Pilot Batman has add-ons for his helmet (with hinged visor), torso, and gloves, and at one point there was also a cape attachment for the back of the torso, but mine’s gone missing. All of these pieces (aside from the cape) were shared with the normal release version of Pilot Batman, but aside from that they were all-new. They aren’t based on anything in particular, but they fit pretty well with the line, and they look pretty cool. They also feature a lot more sculpted detail than most Minimate pieces of the time, meaning that this figure doesn’t look too out of place, even with current ‘mates. The difference between this figure and the regular release version is the paintwork. Mostly it’s just swapping out yellow accents for the blue ones, but there are also some slightly different details on the legs. Under the helmet, there’s a pretty Bruce Wayne face, clearly meant to be comics based, and under the torso piece, there’s a bat symbol, which could have easily been left out. Pilot Batman included no accessories, though I suppose an argument could be made that the normal Batman parts are for him, since they were also included with the regular Batwing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Well after the C3 line had ended, Cosmic Comix, who had not carried any of the sets up to that point, received a case of this set, and was selling them for well under their original price. I bought one, mostly for these two figures. Over the years, I lost most of the parts to the actual Batwing portion of the set, but I still have these guys. They’re both pretty solid ‘mates, though neither of them is exactly a necessity for anyone’s collection.

#0907: Captain Yesterday

CAPTAIN YESTERDAY

FUTURAMA (TOYNAMI)

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Futurama is a show that I tend to forget how much I enjoy until I’m actually watching it. While it’s framed as a dumb comedy, it’s actually pretty intelligent. It’s never been anywhere near as successful as its sister show, The Simpsons, but it’s done pretty decently for itself (seriously, the show’s been canceled how many times now?). Back when it first aired, Moore Action Collectibles picked up the license, hoping to replicate some of the success of Playmates’ World of Springfield line. Sadly, that didn’t work out for them. They only produced a single series of three figures, and that was all. Several years later, following Comedy Central ordering new episodes of the show, Toynami dusted of MAC’s old sculpts, and added a few of their own to launch a new line of figures. The line was actually fairly successful, with 9 series of figures. This allowed for Toynami to offer a few of the main characters with some variant looks, including today’s figure, Captain Yesterday, aka Phillip J Fry.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

CaptainYesterday2Captain Yesterday was released in Series 4 of Toynami’s Futurama line. Series 4 was the first series to include pieces of the line’s second Build-A-Figure, Robot Santa. Captain Yesterday is based on Fry’s appearance in the fourth season episode “Less Than Hero,” where he and Leela gain super powers and decide to fight crime as the New Justice Team. The figure is about 6 inches tall and has 4 points of articulation. While the MAC figures, and by extension some of Toynami’s figures, had a fair bit of articulation, the later figures only had the most basic movement, and were patterned after World of Springfield in that respect. Captain Yesterday was an all-new sculpt. He’s rather pre-posed, but he’s at least based on Captain Yesterday’s “role call” pose. If he could only have one pose, this is a pretty good one. The sculpt does an admirable job of translating Fry into three CaptainYesterday3dimensions. It’s not a perfect translation, but it’s close enough that you’ll really only notice the issues when doing a direct comparison. The paint on this figure is pretty well done for the most part. There are some spots with some minor bleed over, but the basic application is very clean, and he looks really sharp. Captain Yesterday includes two accessories: a tube of Dr. Flimflam’s Miracle Cream (which is what gave Fry his powers), and the head of Robot Santa.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I was late to the party on this guy. I remember these figures being released, and I had even became a fan of the show by the time most of them hit stores, but for one reason or another, I never got any of these figures new. And, if I’m honest, I never had much motivation to track them down on the secondary market later. So, why do I have this guy? Well, I was in a Moviestop a few weeks ago, and discovered that Moviestop has apparently been bought out by Hastings, a collectibles store from the Midwest. This means they have a lot of action figures. Like, a LOT. Anyway, they had a bunch of Futurama figures, all priced below their original retail value. Since I always liked “Less Than Hero,” I figured Captain Yesterday was worth the purchase. This isn’t a revolutionary figure, or even a particularly stand out one, but he’s not bad, and certainly worth what I paid for him. Now, I just need to fight the urge to complete the New Justice Team…

#0906: Mockingbird

MOCKINGBIRD – AGENTS OF SHIELD

MARVEL LEGENDS SERIES

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How many comic book characters can say that the only lasting effect of a mega-crossover event was bringing them back from the dead? Well, a lot, actually, given that death’s a revolving door in comics. That said, it’s usually big name characters who get brought back, and as much as I like Mockingbird, I can’t say that she’s particularly big name. After dying in the early 90s in order to make Hawkeye more “edgy” (because that’s a thing we needed), Bobbi Morse was returned to life at the end of Secret Invasion, after it was revealed that the Bobbi what died was actually a Skrull impersonator. Bringing her back was far from the main purpose of the event, but it was a nice benefit, and, as I said, one of the few things to actually stick after the story wrapped. Bobbi’s found her way into the spotlight as of late, getting her own comic, serving as a supporting character in Spider-Man’s main series, and even serving as a fan-favorite character on Agents of SHIELD (and she was even popular enough to get a spin-off. Go her!). Through all of that, she’s only managed to get two action figures, the latest of which I’ll be looking at today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Mockingbird2Mockingbird is part of the third series of the Captain America Marvel Legends line (counting the two released for Winter Soldier). Her official title is “Agents of SHIELD,” a name she shares with Agent Sharon Carter. For once, the shared name is 100% appropriate for both characters using it, and not super generic like some of the others. Bobbi began her career as the SHIELD agent assigned to Kazar in the Savage Land, and has intermittently worked for SHIELD since then. The figure stands just over 6 inches tall and has 27 points of articulation. She’s based on Mockingbird’s costume immediately following her return in Secret Invasion. It’s not a bad costume design, and it’s one she wore up until fairly recently, so it’s pretty relevant. I personally still prefer her classic design to this one, but this is still a nice design, and it does a good job of balancing the distinctive elements of her classic design with the more superspy nature of the modern incarnation of the character. Plus, it means she fits with the Heroic Age version of Hawkeye released last year! Bobbi appears to be an all-new sculpt. That’s pretty awesome for a character of her stature. Her proportions are all nice and balanced, and the costume specific details are nice and sharp, and a pretty spot-on match for what she looks like in the comics. Her goggles are removable; her hair sculpt has a spot on each side for them to slot into. When removed, you can clearly see where they were, but it’s not super distracting. On the plus side, when in place, they don’t look oversized at all, and they stay where they’re supposed to. Bobbi’s paintwork is a little on the sloppy side. Most of it looks okay, and the change from white to black is nowhere near as bad as it could have been, and the face is actually really clean. However, the area around the collar is really sloppy. On the plus side, a lot of it’s hidden by her hair. Mockingbird includes her battle staves, which are just a re-painted billy-club from Daredevil (though the quality of the plastic is much better this time around). She also comes with the torso of this series’ Build-A-Figure, Red Onslaught.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Mockingbird has been one of my favorite Marvel characters for a while, and I’ve always been kind of bummed by the lack of action figures. Her last figure was okay, but not super exciting, so I was happy when she was one of the first three figures announced for this series of Legends. I ended up picking this figure up from Cosmic Comix. She’s not my preferred version of the character, but she’s still a really good version of the character, and a pretty awesome figure to boot!

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#0905: Luke Skywalker

LUKE SKYWALKER – X-WING PILOT

POWER OF THE JEDI

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The Phantom Menace was a big deal in a whole lot of ways, mostly due to being the first Star Wars film in almost two decades. One of the things it did was bring the main Star Wars toyline of the time to pretty much a screeching halt, in favor of product centered around the new film. To be fair, it wasn’t unlike what The Force Awakens did last year, with one major caveat: Phantom Menace, while commercially successful, was far from critically successful, and people were far less interested in product based solely on the new film after seeing it. Shortly after the movie, Hasbro did a quick retool of the line, re-branding it Power of the Jedi, and offering figures from throughout the Star Wars saga. Going back to the older films let Hasbro bring out new versions of the Original Trilogy’s main heroes, which included Luke Skywalker.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

LukePOTJ2Luke was released in 2001 as part of the second basic assortment of Power of the Jedi figures. The figure is 3 ¾ inches tall and has 6 points of articulation. He depicts Luke in his X-Wing Fighter gear, presumably from A New Hope. This was the third figure to depict Luke in his pilot gear, but it’s notable for being the first ever to give him a removable helmet (though he’s not the first X-Wing pilot to get a removable helmet. That was Wedge Antilles, just two years prior). The sculpt on this figure is decent enough.  It does a much better job of capturing Hamill’s size and proportions than earlier Lukes did, though he takes the smallness a bit too far; Luke looks just a tad under fed. The likeness on the head is just so-so, but certainly a good attempt. The body has a slight rigidity to it that looks a little unnatural, but the level of detail is pretty fantastic, especially at this scale. The hose on his chest piece was a separate piece, which had a tendency to fall out (hence my figure not having his anymore). Luke’s paintwork is decent enough (though my figure’s a little worse for wear in that respect). It’s fairly basic, but all the important details are there, and they manage to be pretty decently applied (though the white of his teeth makes him look almost buck-toothed). Luke’s lone accessory was his removable helmet, sadly lost some time ago by child-Ethan.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I believe I got this figure from Cosmic Comix, which is weird, because he was new at the time and they never really carried new Star Wars figures. I bought him because he had the removable helmet, which rather fascinated me at the time. He was pretty good at the time, but this figure hasn’t aged particularly well. There’s nothing that stands out as being super off, but he just feels somehow lacking.

#0904: Major Chip Hazard

MAJOR CHIP HAZARD

SMALL SOLDIERS (HASBRO)

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Small Soldiers does a fair bit of subverting people’s expectations. The title, the marketing, and the casting of the typically heroic Tommy Lee Jones as Major Chip Hazard (countering the usually villainous Frank Langella as Archer) all point to the Commando Elite as the assumed heroes of the piece. Heck, they even brought in Hasbro, who made their name with the “Real American Hero” G.I. Joe, to help design the figures seen in the movie. Their foes, the Gorgonites, are all grotesque monsters, clearly designed to make the Commando Elite look extra heroic by comparison. But the movie wastes no time showing the audience how wrong their perceptions were, and the Commando Elite quickly prove themselves a perfect antithesis to the noble Gorgonites; they’re cold, calculating, and with a desire to win their battle at all costs. Tommy Lee Jones’ Hazard is the worst of the bunch, a perverted, twisted version of the classic heroic soldier archetype.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

ChipHazard2Chip Hazard was released in the first assortment of Small Soldiers figures. Hazard would go on to get the most variants of anyone other than Archer, but this one presents him in his actual look from the movie. Well, more or less. The figure is about 6 ½ inches tall and he has 5 points of articulation. Yep, he loses the waist articulation, making him even less articulated than Archer. Wrong direction, guys! I’ve already harped on the articulation issues in my review of Archer, so I won’t get into it again. It should have been better, but that just wasn’t the case. Hazard’s sculpt is a bit more stylized than Archer’s; he still more or less resembles his on-screen counterpart, but his proportions have been made more “90s heroic” (smaller head, larger arms/hands). The likeness on the head is close, but not as close as Archer’s. Hazard still has sculpted, faux joints, but his are a bit less visible than those on Archer, which kind of hurts his representation of the toy in the movie. In addition, there are a few details that are missing or changed from the movie to this figure. He lacks the dog tags sported by his on-screen counterpart, as well as his customized belt buckle, and he has two smaller grenades in place of the single larger grenade he had in the movie.  Lastly, he his left forearm has protrusion (meant to attach to his accessory) which sticks out as being just sort of tacked on. Hazard’s paintwork is generally okay. The colors match up closely enough, which is good. The camo patterns are, understandably, not quite as detailed as the one’s movie Hazard had. The arms and legs make out perfectly alright in this respect, but the vest doesn’t work as well, with the pattern looking more like cheetah’s spots than a standard camo pattern. The grenades end up being the wrong color (they should be roughly the same color as the belt), and his belt buckle remains the same color as the rest of the belt, despite being red and silver in the movie. Hazard included a big missile launcher thing, which attached to his left arm. My figure doesn’t have this piece, but that’s just as well.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As I noted in my Archer review, I didn’t really have any of the Small Soldiers figures growing up. I think my cousin may have had a Chip Hazard (I know for sure that he had a Brick Bazooka) but I never did. I ended up finding Hazard at 2nd Chance Toyz last October, at the same time I got Archer. Of the two, Hazard’s the weaker figure. He’s less accurate to the source material, has less articulation, and generally just a less entertaining figure. However, being less entertaining than Archer doesn’t mean he’s not entertaining, and having the pair of them does inherently make both a bit more awesome.

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#0903: Archer

ARCHER

SMALL SOLDIERS (HASBRO)

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When it comes to 90s movies about toys that are actually alive, most people remember Toy Story. Or, on the more horrific side, Child’s Play. I’m not knocking either of those (well, maybe Child’s Play; not really my thing) but my go-to movie of this odd sub-genre is hands down Small Soldiers. The movie was, at best, a modest success, but it had some pretty awesome people involved. It was directed by Joe Dante (of Gremlins fame), featured the vocal talents of Tommy Lee Jones and Frank Langella (to say nothing of featuring the likes of Kirsten Dunst, David Cross, and Phil Hartman in live action roles), had visual effects by industry legend Stan Winston, a score by Jerry Goldsmith, and is one of the earliest examples of a film making use of a Led Zeppelin song. It’s an awesome movie. Toy makers Hasbro were brought on as consultants for the designs of the film’s lively action figures, and in return were given the rights to produce the film’s tie-in toys. Sadly, they weren’t quite as successful as they were in the film. Today, I’ll be looking at Archer, emissary of the Gorgonites, the heroic faction of action figures.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Archer2Archer was released in the initial 1998 assortment of Small Soldiers figures from Hasbro. The figure stands 6 ¾ inches tall and has 6 points of articulation. Here’s where we encounter the primary issue with these figures: articulation. The toys seen in the movie had a lot of articulation (they had to be able to move around in a fairly humanistic manner). The real life toys had 6 points, all cut joints. Letdown doesn’t begin to describe the articulation here. It’s made worse by the fact that the sculpt clearly emulates the articulation seen in the movie, but leaves it motionless. Clearly, they wanted the figures to be cost-effective, and that didn’t allow for the proper articulation. I’m not sure what the best fix would have been (short of charging more per figure), but there’s no denying that this is a major failing of these figures. With that out of the way, how does the rest of the figure fair? Not badly, actually. The sculpt does a pretty good job of capturing the toy design from the movie, especially the upper half. The proportions have been tweaked ever so slightly, making him a bit more squat than his movie counterpart, but it’s not that far off. One thing that is a bit off is the pose, which has Archer’s back totally straight, despite the character in the movie always having a slight hunch. It definitely throws off the appearance of the figure, which is a shame. On the plus side, the detail work on the sculpt is pretty great, and captures a lot of the smaller details seen in the movie. The paint on Archer is definitely a step down from what was seen in the movie, but that’s fair, since the one in the movie was a professionally painted prop, and this is a mass-produced figure. Given the circumstances, he’s not bad. The best work is on the head, which exhibits some surprisingly subtle work in a few spots. The rest of the figure is reasonable enough, especially for the time. There are a few details that go unpainted, but the general application is pretty solid. Archer was packed with a crossbow (with launch-able missile) and a knife. Mine, however, does not have those pieces.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

By the time I saw Small Soldiers (on VHS; I didn’t see it in theatres) the first assortment of figures had pretty much totally sold through. So, I had to settle for a weird variant version of Archer, which was the only Small Soldiers figure I owned for a good long while. When I finally had the resources to go pack and find some of the others, most of the figures had rather high after-market prices. Last October, at the suggestion of my friend Cindy Woods, I checked out 2nd Chance Toyz, a cool nearby shop that carry all sorts of older toys. They had Archer for an exceptionally reasonable price, so I picked him up. Sure, he’s not as cool as the figure in the movie, but he’s still a pretty fun toy in his own right. And that’s the important part!

#0902: Yondu

YONDU

MARVEL LEGENDS SERIES

Yondu1

Before the title passed to the likes of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot, the Guardians of the Galaxy were rather a different.  They first appeared in January 1969, created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan.  The team was hailed from the 30th Century, and each of its four members (Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie-27, and Yondu) was the “last of their kind.”  Now, those of you that only know the team from more modern appearances will probably only recognize one of those four names: Yondu.  Yondu was fortunate enough to turn up as a (sort-of) ally of the movie Guardians, albeit with a bit of a personality change.  Still, he’s become the original team’s most recognizable member, and became the first of them to get a proper figure (though Vance ended up hitting right around the same time in a two-pack).  I’ll be looking at Yondu today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Yondu2Yondu is one of the six single-packed figures in the first series of Hasbro’s 3 ¾-scale Marvel Legends Series.  He actually manages to not be the most obscure character in the set (he can thank Ulik and Triton for that).  The figure stands almost 5 inches tall (counting the Mohawk; he’s 4 ¼ without it) and he has 19 points of articulation.  He still lacks some of the articulation we came to expect during MU (waist and wrists are the standouts), but thanks to some parts re-use he ends up more articulated than several of the more recent small-scale figures.  Yondu is built on the new mid-sized body, which is the same one we saw used for Machine Man.  He also uses the lower legs and quiver of the MU Hawkeye figure, with unique pieces for his head, belt, and right forearm.  The pieces do a pretty nice job of capturing Yondu’s design from the comics.  The head seems to work in a little bit of the film version’s surliness into his expression, but it doesn’t feel too far removed from his comics look.  I will note that it’s a little jarring that his wrist band on his right arm is sculpted, but the armband further up is not, but that’s what happens when you have a specific budget for the number of new parts allowed.  Yondu’s paintwork is pretty solid all around.  The colors are pretty nicely handled (though I wouldn’t mind them being a little brighter), and all of the application is pretty clean.  Yondu is packed with a bow and a single arrow.  Both are re-used from the MU Hawkeye, but cast in a bright yellow/orange.  Seeing as Yondu is a fellow archer, the re-use is warranted, and it helps that the pieces were pretty good to begin with.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve mostly moved away from the 3 ¾ inch Marvel figures, so I wasn’t really sure I was going to pick up Yondu.  I found one at Toys R Us, but that one went to my dad, who’s more of a classic GOTG fan than I.  He decided to return the favor, however, when he came across the whole first assortment of figures at Target.  They had apparently not put the figures into their system yet, so the store manager ended up selling Yondu here to my dad for $3, which is a pretty great deal.  Yondu’s not an outstanding figure or anything, but he’s solidly done.