#2282: Strong Guy

STRONG GUY

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“Strong Guy joined X-Factor for the simplest of reasons–the regular paycheck!  Caring little about the problems between man and mutantkind, he lives instead for the finer things in life–wine, women and song!  And he’s not above using his tremendous mutant strength to put those who would criticize his lifestyle in their place!”

After three assortments of pretty solid team building, the fourth series of Toy Biz’s X-Men line is one of the stranger line-ups the line would produce.  I mean, it doesn’t have the weirdest character choices per se (well, apart from Tusk, because who the heck went “where’s my Tusk action figure?”), but more that it seems generally unfocused and all over the place.  It would be this assortment which introduced off-shoot team X-Factor into the line.  And what character would they use to launch?  Would it be team leader Havok (who had been scrapped from the Series 3 line-up), or even X-universe mainstays Polaris, Multiple Man, or Wolfsbane?  Nope, it was Lila Cheney’s bodyguard Guido, who had just taken the name “Strong Guy,” denoting his status as a…uhh….strong…guy.  Yeah…

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Strong Guy was added to the Toy Biz X-Men  line-up in 1993 as part of the aforementioned Series 4 line-up.  He would see a re-issue in 2000 in ever so slightly different colors as part of the KB-exclusive X-Men line, but beyond that, this was it for Guido, at least until last year’s Minimate and this year’s Legend.  Lucky Guido.  The figure stands 5 1/2 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  He’s a little bit on the small side for Strong Guy (though that made him a nice fit with Hasbro’s Marvel Universe a few years later), but he’s got enough of a size difference that it works.  Strong Guy is missing joints at the elbows and knees, I can only assume due to his larger size.  Honestly, he makes out alright without them, so it’s not the end of the world.  Much like Ch’od, who was similarly limited in terms of articulation and also similarly-sized, Strong Guy’s sculpt ends up as a pretty solid offering.  The character’s distinctive proportions are well captured, and there’s a lot of character in the figure’s face, which helps to keep him looking fairly unique.  He also matches up well with the art stylings of the time, honestly in a far better fashion than any of the other X-Factor characters.  Strong Guy’s paint work is pretty solid for the time.  All of the important details are there, and the application is fairly clean.  Technically, there should be a patch of blue on his vest, but honestly the X-Factor art was stylized enough at the time that Toy Biz can be forgiven for not realizing that wasn’t just a harshly shaded patch.  Strong Guy included no accessories (though, like most Toy Biz figures of the time, he has his hands molded to hold *something*), but he did have a “Power Punch” action, which raises his arms up and down when his torso is spun around.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Strong Guy is not a figure I had growing up.  He actually was added to my collection during my post-freshman-year-of-college Toy Biz binge, after finding him at All Time Toys.  He was still packaged, and, for whatever reason, I just never got around to opening him.  He ended up sitting unopened for another 8 years, until I finally cracked him open a month ago in preparation for this review.  I don’t know why I delayed so long, but he’s a pretty fun little figure, truth be told.

#2268: Transforming Dick Grayson

TRANSFORMING DICK GRAYSON

BATMAN FOREVER (KENNER)

For day four of my Post-Christmas reviews, I’m taking a look at something it’s been…Forever since I’ve reviewed.  Yes, the site may have started with a series of four Batman Forever reviews, but there have been none featured since.  Now, six years later, we return.  Are you feeling it?  The significance?  The shock?  The awe?  Well, you should be, because this whole thing’s a very big deal.  Let’s just revel in all of this for a bit, shall we?

 

Done reveling? Cool.  Let’s review a Robin action figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Transforming Dick Grayson was one of the first assortment of Batman Forever figures released to tie-in with the movie in 1995, which was the same assortment that gave us three of the four previously reviewed Forever figures on this site.  It’s worth noting that there was no straight forward standard Robin in this initial assortment; you just had to decide whether you preferred this or Hydro Claw Robin as your go-to annoying Chris O’Donnell Robin figure.  The figure stands just shy of 5 inches tall and he has 5 points of articulation.  His sculpt was unique to him in the initial assortment, but would later get repainted blue and used as Triple-Strike Robin later the same year.  It’s an okay sculpt, being generally pretty faithful to the film design.  He’s noticeably a lot skinnier than Hydro Claw, and for that matter a lot skinnier than Chris O’Donnell was in the role.  It’s not terribly off, and works fine for the more classical Robin proportions, so I can’t knock it too much.  His pose is fairly neutral, apart from the slight bend in the left arm; this was present on Hydro Claw, and it’s also on Street Biker Robin, so maybe that’s just how they assumed Robin would pose in default.  There’s a good chance that character design sheets for the movie may have had him in such a pose, which is further supported by all of the prototypes having a totally different hair style than O’Donnell sported in the film.  Whatever the case, the pose keeps him from looking too stiff, so I can’t fault it.   The figure’s paint delivers a fairly standard set of Robin colors as you might expect, but does have one interesting feature: his Sudden Reveal Mask!  Yes, in order to give Dick his usual mask when transforming him into Robin, you reveal the mask by dipping his head in cold water, and then remove it again by dipping it in warm water. It would probably be a more compelling feature if it wasn’t bound to be just a little bit off in both modes, but it’s nifty enough as is.  To aid in his transformation, Robin also included a cape (which on my figure hadn’t had all of the excess molded parts cut off…see the picture), a chest piece, wrist guards, and boots.  And, of course, he also has Robin’s signature bat-brass-knuckles.  Never leaves home without them.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This guy was a Christmas gift from my brother Christian, who was eager to get something that a) I didn’t already have and b) would amuse me.  Apparently, he caught the packaging illustration at the top of this guy’s card and felt that alone was amusing enough to warrant getting this for me.  I can’t argue with him on that; the packaging art on this is a national treasure.  The figure?  He’s okay.  Perhaps not terrible impressive in his own right, but still one of those figures I never had that I always had this morbid desire to own just for the sake of owning him.

#2261: Prince Xizor

PRINCE XIZOR

STAR WARS: SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE (KENNER)

“Prince Xizor is the head of the galaxy-wide criminal organization known as Black Sun, his power and influence challenged only by the Emperor and Darth Vader. A villainous mastermind, Xizor uses his huge , intergalactic shipping operations as a legitimate front, employing millions of criminals to execute favors for the Empire and carry out its his own evil agenda. His characteristic lack of emotion is due much to his Falleen ancestry which evolved from a species of reptile. Cold and clever, he plots his moves with a diabolical genius and fights with the skill of a tera kasi master, stopping at nothing to get in his way. Those that dare challenge Xizor generally meet with death by his own hand or by one of his myriad of henchmen. His favorite proverb: “To contend with Xizor is to lose”.”

In 1996, the Star Wars expanded universe got its first real time in the public spotlight, courtesy of the multimedia event that was Shadows of the Empire.  A movie launch without the movie, Shadows encompassed books, comics, video games, and of course toys, and told a story set in the gap between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Since it was set between two established chunks of the story, there wasn’t very much at stake just pitting our heroes against Vader’s forces, since we all knew the outcome wouldn’t arise until the end of Jedi.  This meant there needed to be a new villain.  Enter Prince Xizor, a villain whose imposing nature was hindered only by not being Darth Vader in a universe where Darth Vader exists.  Oh, and also by totally having his look stolen by Ivan Ooze a year prior.  Xizor was central to much of the story’s marketing, and wound up with two figures from Kenner for their part of the tie-in.  I’m looking at the standard single release today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Prince Xizor is the final single-carded figure in the Shadows of the Empire spin-off line of Power of the Force II figures.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  That said, only the arms really have practical movement most of the time, thanks both to the weird braids on the back of his head, and the thick plastic robe that encases most of the figure.  A lot of this Xizor’s sculpt is shared with the two-pack release of the same time, but it remains unique to the character.  That’s…good?  I mean, it’s certainly different from everything else.  That said, Xizor was generally depicted as a fairly skinny guy, and this figure does not follow that set-up.  He definitely falls into that really buff PotF2 aesthetic, and perhaps exemplifies it even more than other figures from the main line.  It’s really only exaggerated by the really bulky robe, but even with that removed, it’s still not great.  I mean…there’s some interesting detail work going on under the robe, so that’s cool, but it’s not like it’s a particularly endearing design.  It’s a relic of its time at best.   The colorscheme is also a definite relic, and easily feels like the least Star Wars-y aspect of the character.  Neither purple nor the pale green feel like the fit the established Star Wars color scheme, especially the colors of the original trilogy era.  The application on the paint is decent enough, but that doesn’t really change how out of place he feels with the others from the line.  Xizor is packed with a pair of shield blades, which can snap together into one larger shield.  They’re nifty enough, and honestly one of the more exciting parts of the figure, because they’re unique if nothing else.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Even as a kid, I never liked Xizor.  He always felt like an intruder, trying to hide amongst the rest of the Star Wars line, but always sticking out.  As such, I never owned him.  But, after managing to get everyone else from the Shadows line, I felt it was wrong for him to still be missing.  I ended up grabbing him during one of my PotF buying sprees last winter.  There were a lot of figures, so I guess that made buying Xizor a little more palatable.  He’s still not really a favorite of mine, and having the figure in hand hasn’t really changed any of my opinions about it or the character, but here it is, I guess.

#2260: Action Sailor

ACTION SAILOR

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO (HASBRO)

“Since joining the Joes, I’ve held the record for personally sinking more enemy ships than the entire 3rd fleet, and that’s on a bad day!  I’ve torpedoed so many hulls, I’m surprised the ocean hasn’t overflowed with scrap iron!  On dry land, I’m a fish out of water.  I’d rather be on my sea sled than in a tank or jet fighter; luckily I have plenty of courageous teammates to handle those jobs. Making the seas safe from criminal scum is my life’s work, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than as a member of G.I. Joe!”

In 1994, it was the 30th anniversary of the G.I. Joe brand as a whole, but perhaps not the best spot for the brand’s 3 3/4 inch scale, which had ruled the market for 12 years.  In its last gasp of breath before going on a hiatus, the line merged styles with its 12-inch predecessors for a line of commemorative 3 3/4-inch figures based on the original Joes.  Each of the major branches of the military was covered with one figure based on the original packaging illustrations.  In the case of the “Action Sailor” that meant a pretty sick looking wet suit!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Action Sailor was released in 1994 as part of the final year of the Real American Hero branding’s vintage run.  He and the other four 30th figures were sold as deluxe boxed items in packaging that replicated the original box.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  While the original Action Sailor was in a more standard uniform, this figure instead gives us the sailor in his Navy Frogman outfit, by far the most distinctive look for this branch.  His mold was brand new to him, but a slightly altered version was used by Fun 4 All later in the ’90s when they put out their Keychains.  As I noted in that review, I find this and the Action Pilot to be the best of the 30th sculpts.  It’s a lot more organic than the soldier and marine were, and gets to add in the details of a fully kitted out design.  This version of the mold is also a lot sharper than the keychain recreation, allowing the details to more clearly be made out, making it all the more impressive.  Also, the better quality plastic means that he’s not as easily broken, allowing me to finally have a diver without the broken pelvis.  Yay!   His paintwork is a fairly basic set-up; the black is just molded plastic, with some silver and flesh toned details mixed in throughout.  The Action Sailor included his sea sled, a scuba tank, two flippers, a harpoon gun, a flashlight, and a hose.  My figure’s missing the gun, flashlight, and hose, but even so, he makes out alright on the accessory front.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Action Sailor is important me because the Keychain release is actually what got me into small-scale G.I. Joe.  That one was never quite as impressive as a proper Joe, but I hung onto him for a good while.  It wasn’t until much later that I even knew that non-keychain releases existed, nor did I know of the difference in quality.  This guy came from a small collection of Joes that All Time got in about a month before the huge collection.  He got a little overshadowed, but I was still pretty happy to have the proper Hasbro release after all these years.  He’s not majorly different, but it’s different enough that I felt he was worth the purchase.

#2254: Beast

BEAST

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“Blue-furred and boisterous, the Beast’s monstrous exterior conceals the fact that he possesses the mind of an articulate, well-read genius! Ever ready to answer the call should either man or mutant be in peril, the Beast employs both his dexterous digits and his scientific skills as a member of the X-Men.”

The ’90s X-Men line-up was a pretty sizeable, even just going by the cartoon’s more paired down version of the cast, which for a burgeoning toy line can be a slightly daunting prospect.  It took several assortments to make their way through the main cast.  Founding member Beast was a later addition, though certainly not the latest.  I’m taking a look at that figure today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Beast was released in Series 6 of the Toy Biz X-Men line.  Aside from the cartoon-creation Morph, he was the only X-Man proper in the line-up.  The same figure would subsequently be re-issued as part of the “Classics” line-up which put out all of the main cartoon cast in one assortment, and then again as part of the Marvel Universe line.  The three figures are essentially identical, and it’s worth noting that my figure comes from the “Classics” release.  This figure’s sculpt would also serve as the inspiration for both the 10-inch and Steel Mutants figures.  The figure stands just over 5 inches tall and he has 11 points of articulation…in theory.  In reality, it’s more like 7, because his action feature makes the joints at the knees and ankles effectively useless.  Said action feature is dubbed “Mutant Flipping Power” and means that there are springs in his knee and ankle joints, which are supposed to allow him to flip.  In my experience, it was never a very reliable feature and just made it rather hard to keep the figure standing.  Tied into the feature was this weird switch thing on the figure’s back, for which I’ve never figured out the purpose.  His sculpt definitely follows that early ’90s look for the character, at his most bulked up and monstrous.  Nevertheless, he’s still got that sophisticated Henry McCoy expression on his face, as if he’s contemplating the moral quandaries of his current heroic endeavor.  The rest of the sculpt is surprisingly smooth for such a hairy guy, especially when compared to other, similarly textured characters from this and surrounding series.  I can only guess they were going for more of a stylistic thing on Hank.  The figure’s pretty light on the paint front, with most of him being just molded in a light blue.  There’s a bit of paint for his shorts and belt, as well as his eyes and teeth.  For whatever reason, his eyes are solid yellow; he’s gone back and forth between having pupils and pure white eyes, but the yellow’s more of a Nightcrawler thing usually. Beast was packed with a suction cup-sporting bar to hang from, which was cool enough, though the suction cup long ago fell off of mine.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I don’t actually recall much about getting this figure.  I think he was one of those “my Dad got one and then I also wanted one” figures.  I certainly would have wanted him for the purposes of filling out my X-Men line-up.  He’s an okay figure.  The action feature gets in the way here more than on most Toy Biz figures, which can be annoying, but his sculpt’s fairly decent, and he definitely fit with that toon aesthetic.

#2247: AT-ST Driver

AT-ST DRIVER

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

The AT-ST, commonly referred to as the “chicken walker” was first introduced into Star Wars in Empire Strikes Back, but really became prominent in Return of the Jedi.  The vehicle would end up being one of the earliest vehicles available in the Power of the Force II line, hitting shelves in 1995.  However, while the vehicle was available right away, it would take a little bit of time for it to finally get its distinctive driver, whose figure I’m taking a look at today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The AT-ST Driver was added to the Power of the Force line in 1997, unfortunately right after the vehicle he was meant to pilot left shelves, making him a little bit of a tough sell.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  I’ve looked at a fair bit of this figure’s sculpt before, since the torso, pelvis, and legs were all re-used for the 1998 Scanning Crew figure.  He had a unique helmeted head, as well as arms with gloves.  The sculpt is fine, but not really anything to write home about.  I will say that the AT-ST Driver-specific parts made it slightly more exciting than the Scanning Crew, as well as making him a little easier to justify army building with that helmet in place.  As a whole, though, he’s still a little soft an puffy by modern standards.  As with the Scanning Crew, the paint on this guy’s somewhat on the bland side, but that’s due to the film design being a whole lot of grey.  Hey, they can’t all be winners, right?  Otherwise, the goofy aliens wouldn’t stick out and be fun.  The AT-ST Driver was packed with two different styles of blaster rifle, which I suppose is nice of them to include, even if he’s destined to never hold them, what with driving the AT-ST and all.  Still, it’s nice to get something.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got this guy from All Time.  I know, shocker.  He was in a collection that got traded in, he was still carded, but his card and bubble were in really ratty shape, so I took the opportunity to grab a “new” one without paying a new price.  He’s okay, but hardly the most exciting, much like the Scanning Crew figure was.  These guys are meant to accent the more exciting figures in the set, but not be the primary focus themselves.  In that respect, I guess they do succeed.

#2246: G.I. Joe

G.I. JOE

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO (HASBRO)

“G.I. Joe (a.k.a. Joseph B. Colton) graduated in 1960 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, receiving the academy’s highest possible honors.  An expert marksman, he is proficient with all modern weaponry from M60 machine guns to attack helicopters and L.A.W.s (Light Armored Weapons).  Recruited by Special Forces, Colton was destined for military glory, quickly distinguishing himself as an outstanding Green Beret.  In 1963, after participating in “ultra” top secret combat operations and extensive tours of duty in trouble spots around the world, 1st Lt. Joseph B. Colton became the most decorated — and most feared — battlefield soldier the world had ever known.  Recognizing Colton’s innate combat skills and his warrier heart pumping courage through his veins, then President John F. Kennedy, secretly selected him to create and command an ULTIMATE freedom fighting force.  Higher ranking soldiers had been passed over for this elite, presidential appointment.  Colton was issued the name “G.I. Joe” and began building his team with the toughest men the armed services could muster.  From there, G.I. Joe would change the course of military history and re-define the word hero!”

When reworking G.I. Joe into the anti-terrorist fighting force that would so define them throughout the ’80s, Hasbro decided to re-work the assumed name of one man from the ’60s toyline, and make the name for the whole team.  However, when it came time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original 12-inch line, Hasbro decided to transfer some of the old style figures into the new smaller scale.  Additionally, they decided to pay tribute to those original figures by actually making “G.I. Joe” one guy again, and having that one guy be the one who started the whole thing, just like that one figure started everything in the real world.  It was a pretty cool concept and one that has found its way into comics and movies as well.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

G.I. Joe was offered as a mail-away offer as part of G.I. Joe‘s 1994 line-up.  He tied in with the wider 30th Anniversary assortment offered up that same year.  The figure is 3 3/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  His bio classifies Joe as a Green Beret, so this smaller figure is wisely patterned on the Green Beret Action Soldier from the original line.  As far as construction, he shared a lot of his parts with the other 30th Anniversary figures (whose molds would later be re-purposed by Fun 4 All for the line of key chains offered in the late ’90s).  His torso and arms are from the Action Marine, and his left and lower right leg are shared with the Action Soldier.  The head, pelvis, and upper right leg were all new.  They slot in well with the already sculpted parts, and the end result is a figure that does a respectable job of replicating the larger figures in the smaller scale.  This is my first exposure to the original Hasbro versions of most of these pieces, which are certainly of a higher quality than the Fun 4 All variants.  The details are a lot crisper, and there are some that just go missing entirely on the later releases.  The new head is a solid rendition of the old Joe likeness, but made to fit a little better with the rest of the smaller line.  Joe’s paintwork is fairly basic, but does the job well, and it looks pretty clean.  The little bit of camo visible beneath his jacket is in particular pretty cool.  Joe was packed with a heavy machine gun, re-purposed from the V2 Gung Ho in 1992. It’s really large, but not in a comical sense, and he can hold it reasonably well.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Though I was alive in ’94, I wasn’t quite collecting yet, so I didn’t send away for this one myself.  So, I had to resort to buying one second hand.  He wasn’t in All Time’s rather large collection from over the summer, but I ended up finding him at Yesterday’s Fun while on vacation over the summer.  I wasn’t specifically looking for him like the other two I ended up getting, but I have to say I do quite like him.  He’s a cool little piece of history to be sure.

#2240: Wolverine – Street Clothes

WOLVERINE — STREET CLOTHES

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“Outside of the X-Men, Wolverine often escapes form the pressure of being a super hero by slipping into his secret identity, Logan. Unfortunately, trouble always seems to find Wolverine even when he’s out of costume! Still, uniform or not, with his six adamantium claws and one bad attitude, Wolverine has a way of taking care of just about any problem which comes his way!”

Two years into Toy Biz’s X-Men line, getting a new Wolverine was practically a clockwork affair.  Marvel made Toy Biz’s job fairly easy at first, since he had a whole assortment of reasonable costume changes to take advantage of.  By Series 6, they were definitely running thin on valid variants, though (hence that assortment’s Wolverine technically not being a Wolverine).  Fortunately, they did still manage to squeeze out a few more sensible variants before descending into completely made-up nonsense.  Today’s figure is one of those “sensible variants,” depicting Logan in civilian attire, as he was frequently seen in the comics.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Street Clothes Wolverine was released in Series 7 of Toy Biz’s X-Men line, and was proudly marked as the “7th Edition” of Wolverine.  The figure stands just over 5 inches tall and he has 8 points of articulation.  He misses out on the usual elbow articulation due to his action feature, which I’ll touch on in just a moment.  Wolverine’s sculpt was all-new to him and would remain unique, never being used for any other figures.  And that’s really the best thing to be said about it, that it was never used again, because boy is it not one of Toy Biz’s stronger offerings.  By this point in the line, Toy Biz was actually starting to get the hang of that whole sculpting thing, so the fact that this Wolverine ends up so rudimentary and backwards is a little bit of a surprise.  This guy was in the same assortment as Ch’od!  That sculpt was awesome and fairly naturally posed.  This one?  Well, natural certainly doesn’t describe how he looks.  Let’s start with the head.  Of all the unmasked Wolverines that Toy Biz produced, this one’s got to be one of the least intimidating takes they presented.  He just ends up looking a little lost and bemused.  He’s also got those dopey looking super straight arms.  The illustration on the back of the box shows the arms having a slight bend to them, but there’s nothing of the sort on the final product, which makes the whole upper torso feel rather stiff.  The arms are of course like this thanks to the claw-popping feature.  We had last seen in on Wolverine I, where it honestly worked a fair bit better.  This just really didn’t hold to it.  Even the detailing on this figure seems rather soft compared to others in the same set, with most of the figure being very smooth and without texture.  Comparing the jacket on this figure to the one on the Rogue from the same assortment is like night and day.  Hers looks sleek and sharp and cool; his just looks puffy.  His paint work is alright, I guess.  Nothing amazing, but they did manage to keep his usual colors in the mix, and he doesn’t look any more awful than the sculpt already has him looking.  Street Clothes Wolverine included no accessories.  What, not even a goofy, out of place gun?

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As a kid, I didn’t have this figure, but my cousin did.  It wasn’t one of my favorites.  Or one of his favorites.  Or one of anyone’s favorites, I’d wager.  Mine was fished out of a bin of loose figures a few years ago, alongside some other X-Men figures.  He’s not great.  That’s about the most I can muster.  Like, he’s not actively bad, so I can’t really say I hate him, but boy is he just uninspiring.

#2233: Luke Skywalker & Darth Vader

LUKE SKYWALKER in TRASH COMPACTOR & DARTH VADER w/ REMOVABLE DOME

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“Board the Death Star…for a fight to the finish!  Recreate classic Star Wars movie battles in two games! In the first, for younger players, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca sneak through the Death Star capturing Imperials. Can you score the most captures?  Now advance to the next game — and take sides. Darth Vader, Boba Fett and stormtroopers move in the open, capturing Rebel Code Cards to win. But the Rebels move in secret. To win, they must use strategy to reach the Millennium Falcon, then dice-roll their way off the Death Star!  Add other action figures you already own…and fill the game board with life-like Star Wars characters!”

In the ’90s, Star Wars was back on the rise again, and they were just slapping the brand on everything they could.  The action figures maintained their foothold as the primary selling point for just about everything, resulting in the distribution methods being a little bit all over the place.  There were a bunch of mail-away offers, there were figures packed in with playsets, and carrying cases and collector’s coins.  And, in 1998, there were two figures offered exclusively with a board game of all things.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Luke Skywalker in Trash Compactor and Darth Vader with Removable Dome were the two Power of the Force II figures available exclusively with the “Escape the Death Star” board game (not to be confused with the “Escape *FROM* the Death Star” game from the ’70s, which was just re-issued with an exclusive figure packed in…it’s not confusing at *all*), which hit shelves in 1998.  The game included the two figures, plus a bag of accessories containing three lightsabers and three styles of blaster.  There were also cardboard standees of all the non-Luke and Vader characters mentioned, which could be replaced in game play by the separately sold PotF releases of the characters.

LUKE SKYWALKER in TRASH COMPACTOR

Luke was easily the most populous character in this line by this point, so another variant wasn’t really too much of a shock.  This one, like a lot of the late-run Luke variants was also exceedingly similar to a prior figure, namely the Luke Skywalker in Stormtrooper Disguise from 1996.  But this one’s different, you see.  He’s Luke after he falls into the trash compactor and gets pulled under the the water by the Dianoga.  This necessitates the new head sculpt featured, which also better matches the changed Luke likeness introduced in 1997, though with the slicked back hair, he’s not as immediately recognizable as Luke.  Aside from the new head and a few small deco additions on the torso, he’s pretty much the same as the previous figure, meaning he’s still not a little short for a Stormtrooper.  Drat.

DARTH VADER w/ REMOVABLE DOME

As the most recognizable character in the franchise, there’s an undeniable desire to release lots of Darth Vader action figures.  The trouble, of course, being that the character only has minor changes to his look over the course of the franchise, so not exactly a lot of room for variation between releases.  Nevertheless, Kenner sure did their best to jam as many possible variants of him into the line as possible.  Unlike Luke, this one doesn’t actually get any new parts, being the head from the “Complete Galaxy” Vader on the body of the main line’s removable helmet Vader from the same year as this figure.  Despite his lack of new parts, he actually ends up being a slightly more worth while figure than Luke.  I mean, not essential or anything, but the reveal of the back of his head is a distinctive moment from Empire, and with the dome in place, he actually makes for a really solid basic Vader figure.  It helps that the removable helmet body is probably the best Vader body from Power of the Force, so getting it again really wasn’t a bad deal.  It also helps that, unlike Luke, Vader got to keep his removable helmet, so there’s less of a feeling of this loss of value.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t own this as a kid (though one of my cousins did), but I remember this game when it was released.  And I also remember it from all the years after it was released that it sat around not selling, because it was definitely not one of the line’s hotter items.  The real trouble is that finding the set’s market is a little tricky.  The game was just a hastily thrown together to augment the figures really, so it wasn’t going to be appealing to board game collectors, but the figures were also rather hastily thrown together to go with the game, and neither one of them is anywhere near essential to a collector.  Topping that off was that the whole thing cost more than four times the cost of a single figure, making this a very hard sell to the action figures they were trying to cash in on.  It’s not hard to figure out why these two are still rather cheaply acquired.

#2213: Bishop

BISHOP

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“Accidentally wrenched back through several decades by the time-twisting evil mutant named Fitzroy, Bishop arrived in our era from one of Earth’s many possible futures. Bishop survived the battle that followed, thanks to his mutant ability to absorb the energy attacks of others and turn that power back against his foes. Stranded in our time, Bishop has added his might to that of the present-day X-Men by joining their Gold Team!”

The X-Men really just became a haven for displaced time-travelers, didn’t they?  Also guys with vague, unrelated “cool” names that were just common place words, and whose abilities translated to “has a gun”.  All of these things nicely describe Bishop, an uber ’90s character, who could only be more ’90s if he wore a leather jacket and had shoulder pads.  I suppose he got off easy in that regard.  Bishop was prominent enough in the ’90s to feature on X-Men: The Animated Series, and by extension find his way into Toy Biz’s line of X-Men figures from the same period, getting what would be his very first action figure.  I’ll be taking a look at that figure today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Bishop was initially released as part of Series 4 of the X-Men line, and would see subsequent re-release in the Marvel Universe line and as part of a multi-pack with Wolverine and Gambit.  All three releases of the figure are functionally identical, but it’s worth noting that mine is a Series 4 release.  Bishop is sporting his primary look from the ’90s, which was the only one he had at the time of the figure’s release.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and he has 9 points of articulation.  Though he’s rocking a waist swivel, he loses movement in his neck, presumably due to his hair.  Curiously, though, the Deluxe 10-inch figure and 2 1/2-inch Steel Mutants figure that are both patterned on the same sculpt both had a neck joint, so why it was missing from this guy is anyone’s guess.  Beyond that, the sculpt is fairly typical for the time.  He’s super bulky, but that’s just Bishop.  I will say that they were starting to run into the limits of this slightly simpler style of elbow joint they used, since it’s a little small for such a large arm.  It works overall, though.  The detailing on the hair is pretty nice, and definitely does his very dated hair cut proud.  Bishop’s paintwork is fairly basic, and a little bit messy on my figure.  There’s a lot of fuzzy edges, and the yellow sections are definitely prone to some serious bleedover.  In 1996, Bishop was also re-issued as part of the “Flashback” assortment, which was all repaints.  For that release, his blue was swapped for grey and black, and his yellow for gold, and his skintone was made somewhat lighter.  There was a second, predominantly red deco also shown, but it never hit shelves.  Whatever the case, the paint is a little cleaner on that release, but of course the trade off is that he’s not in his classic colors any more.  Whichever release you get, Bishop included two large blaster rifles in black, and features a “Quick-Draw Weapon Release” action feature.  Press the button on his back and his right arm swings upward.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t have Bishop as a kid, largely because his episodes of the cartoon were some of my least favorite, so I never formed much of an enjoyment of the character.  That said, I really dig the ’90s X-Men line and I’m slowly working through building a complete collection, which meant getting this guy at some point, right?  I found both versions of Bishop at a toy show a while back, allowing me to close off that corner of the X-Mythos in one fell swoop, I suppose.  He’s not really one of the better Toy Biz X-Men, but then he’s far from the worst.  He fills in the roster pretty nicely.