#1939: Gorn

GORN

STAR TREK (ART ASYLUM)

For an alien that only actually shows up one time in all of The Original Series, the Gorn sure does get a fair bit of toy love.  Every manufacturer to hold the classic Trek license has given us at least one of this guy.  And can you blame them?  Just look at him.  Isn’t he super awesome?  Well, I sure think so.  Among the toy love he has received was a figure during the Art Asylum/Diamond Select years, which gave us some of the most accurate and well-crafted figures that Trek has ever seen.  I’ll be looking at that particular figure today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Gorn was released in 2002, in the third series of Art Asylum’s Star Trek: The Original Series line, as part of an alien-heavy assortment, which also included a slightly worse for wear Kirk variant, which paired off nicely with this figure.  The Kirk and Gorn were re-released in 2010 in two-pack form, as part of the “Dilithium Collection,” but the Gorn seen here is the original release.  The figure stands 8 inches tall and has 18 points of articulation.  The Gorn sported an all-new, totally unique sculpt.  It takes the design of the character as seen in “Arena” and idealizes things just a little bit, with the end result being a figure that keeps all of the important details you remember, while avoiding so costume accurate as to look goofy and fake.  He’s a large, hulking figure, with an impressive stature, and he’s packed with tons of detail all throughout.  The head is by far my favorite piece of the figure.  It’s sharply defined, and captures that sort of sneering menace of the character from the episode.  The cross-hatch pattern on the eyes is well-scaled to the rest of the head (earlier figures have been known to make it too large), and he’s just got a great likeness of the mask from the show.  The rest of the body is pretty strong in its own right, with the texturing of the skin continuing all throughout.  The garment he wears is slightly cleaner and smoother, but still has enough detail to keep it from looking jarring when placed next to the very detailed body.  There’s some slight mixed-media going on, with a rubbery material being used for the skirt piece.  It’s surprisingly thin and malleable, which is always a little concerning in regards to long-term integrity, but it seems to have held up in the 15 years since his release.  Gorn’s paintwork is actually some of the nicest that the line had to offer.  The base work is clean, and he’s got some very subtle, very well-applied accenting.  Definitely a very life-like appearance.  The Gorn was packed with the typical Gorn accessories, a spike and a translator, as well as the typical AA Trek accessory, a weird plastic coin.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Gorn is a figure I’ve wanted for quite some time.  In general, AA’s Classic Trek line was never easy to find at retail, and this set in particular was a fan-favorite.  I’d only seen this Gorn in person a few times, and he was always rather pricey.  I finally found him at Factory Antiques (the largest antique mall in the country!…or at least that’s what all the signs say), loose, and for a price I was willing to pay.  He’s a very nice figure, and perhaps the finest Gorn figure ever released.  Personally, I think he’s the best figure to come out of the AA Trek run, but I may be slightly biased.  Whatever the case, I’m just really happy to finally have him in my collection.

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#1612: Cardassian Borg

CARDASSIAN BORG

BORG: ASSIMILATION (ART ASYLUM)

Okay, we looked at the Borg of the species I like, and we looked at the Borg of the species I don’t know but that looks cool.  Now, we look at this Borg.  It’s not a Borg of a species I like.  It’s actually the opposite of that.  It’s the Borg of a species I actively dislike.  And it’s not even cool like the last one.  It’s…it’s just the third one, and I have this unhealthy need to finish things.  So, without further ado, here’s the Cardassian Borg.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Cardassian Borg, designated 3 of 3, is the final figure in the Borg: Assimilation line from Art Asylum*.  The Cardassian is the shortest of the three Borg figures, at a little under 8 inches tall.  He’s got 17 points of articulation, which includes moving arms on his left arm attachment, which is pretty cool, actually.  That’s probably the last time I’m using “pretty cool” in this here review.  Because this is a Cardassian, perhaps one of the most boring races in all of Star Trek.  This figure has an all-new sculpt, which is, from a technical standpoint, pretty solid.  The Cardassian Borg is probably the least borg-ified of the bunch, lacking the shoulder pads and more obvious technical implants, and also having his neck and one of his hands exposed, which keeps him looking more like a standard Cardassian.  Even the armor’s detailing follows the usual Cardassians design more closely than the others in this assortment.  Even the facial expression lacks that dead-ness that the other two figures have.  He’s got the same sort of a sneering expression that seemed to be a genetic trait of those wacky Cardassians.  The paint on this guy is pretty much on par with the other two, which is to say it’s honestly pretty good.  Hey, look at that.  I almost said “pretty cool” again.  Well, what do you know.  Like the other two figures in this assortment, the Cardassian Borg’s only accessory is that weird coin thing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I really only got this guy to complete the set.  I’m guessing you probably could have gathered that from the review.  Honestly, just as a figure, this one’s the weakest of the three, but he’s not atrocious. It’s more that I just don’t really like Deep Space 9, and I sort of associate the Cardassians entirely with that show.  He could be worse, I suppose.

*There were actually four Borg figures originally designed for this assortment.  The fourth would have been a Ferengi, but for a number of reasons, the assortment was cut back to three figures.  The Ferengi would have likely been in a second series, had there been one.

#1611: Hirogen Borg

HIROGEN BORG

BORG: ASSIMILATION (ART ASYLUM)

Okay, so this post isn’t brought to you by Super Awesome Girlfriend like yesterday’s.  I mean, it’s still inspired by her, since it follows a theme she set forth, but…yeah…

Today, we’re looking at a combo of two of the badassiest threats in Sci Fi!  Yeah, it’s not only a Borg, it’s also a Predator—what’s that?  Oh, it seems I’m getting reports that this is not, in fact, a Predator.  Apparently, it’s a Hirogen.  What’s a Hirogen?  Well, according to Memory Alpha, they’re “a nomadic species of hunters.”  Are we sure they aren’t just Predators?  Because they sound like Predators.  Ah, what do I know?  Let’s just look at the figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Hirogen Borg was officially designated 2 of 3 and was part of Art Asylum’s one-series wonder Borg: Assimilation.  Fun fact: this borg-ified variant of the Hirogen is actually the only Hirogen action figure in existence.  Yes, even in all of Playmates’ insane coverage of the license, they never ever made a single Hirogen.  I think that speaks to the obscurity, right?  Or to the fact that they were on Voyager.  Either way, no prior figures.  The Hirogen is the tallest of the three Borg figures, at 8 1/4 inches tall.  He’s also got 17 points of articulation.  The sculpt is once again all-new, and very, very impressive.  In particular, the texture work on the face is really sharp.  In terms of design, the Hirogen Borg is far more symmetric than the Klingon.  There’s still some definite asymmetry in a few spots, but by and large he’s a lot more balanced than the last figure.  His stance is also straighter, which is another nice change, helping to sell the differences between the two species.  He still keeps the slight stylization present on the Klingon, which is nice for consistency’s sake, and I believe makes for the superior sculpt.  As with the Klingon, the paintwork on the Hirogen is monochromatic, but still very much top-notch.  It’s impressive the kind of range AA was able to pull out of variations on silver and grey, but they certainly did a lot.  He’s a little cleaner looking than the Klingon, which once again seems to fit with the stylistic differences they were pushing with the sculpt as well.  Like his Klingon compatriot, the Hirogen’s only accessory is the weird coin thing, but, once again, he’s hardly hindered by it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Though I certainly checked out the Klingon figure when he was new, the Hirogen didn’t even cross my radar.  Chalk it up to me knowing nothing about the Hirogen in the slightest.  Upon seeing the full set of three figures in person, the Hirogen actually stood out to me the most of the three, and in hand he’s definitely my favorite of the bunch.  Not bad for a figure of a race I didn’t know a single thing about until a month ago.

#1610: Klingon Borg

KLINGON BORG

BORG: ASSIMILATION (ART ASYLUM)

Today’s post is brought to you by Super Awesome Girlfriend.  No, she didn’t buy me this figure, but she did point to this spot on my calendar of upcoming reviews, hold up today’s figure and say “you should do this one on that day.”  Who am I to argue?  Well, the owner and head writer of the site, I guess, but I’m really not going to push this one.

In the early ’00s, after Playmates had held the Star Trek license for over a decade, the reins were passed to up-and-coming company Art Asylum.  Poor AA ended up with some of the worst Trek properties to merch (Enterprise and Nemesis), but still put out a solid selection of figures.  They weren’t afraid to experiment a little bit with things.  One of those experiments was their Borg: Assimilation line, which toyed with what non-human races would look like when assimilated by the Borg.  Today, I’m looking at the Klingon.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Klingon Borg, officially designated 1 of 3, was part of the first, and only, series of Art Asylum’s Borg: Assimilation line.  The figure stands a whopping 8 inches tall and has 16 points of articulation.  He’s a little restricted in terms of movement, but he was fairly decent for the time.  The big claim to fame of any Art Asylum figure was sculpting.  The Klingon Borg had an all-new sculpt, featuring a tremendous amount of detail work.  Every surfaced is covered with some sort of texture or small detail, from the ridges on his forehead, to the machinery of his Borg components.  This guy lives up to the Borg’s penchant for asymmetry, with one cybernetic eye, two differently shaped shoulder-pads, and one big honking claw arm to replace his right limb.  He loses the usual Klingon dreads, which impacts his design a bit; originally, he was designed with a bevy of cables that would replace the hair, but apparently this made him look too Klingon.  As it stands, he’s got just the one big wire, which is a decent halfway point.  His face is a good mix of Klingon and Borg sensibilities, with a determined, but still somewhat lifeless stare to his eyes.  It’s worth noting that this figure is a fair bit more stylized than many of AA’s Trek offerings, with a more pronounced set of features on his face, slightly exaggerated proportions, and a decidedly slouched pre-posed nature.  But, as a concept figure, this guy is more about what could be, outside of the limitations of a live-action sci-fi show’s budget.  Though his paint is somewhat monochromatic, it is no less carefully detailed than the sculpt.  His cybernetic sections in particular are rife with small detail work, showcasing a variance in silvers, greys, and brasses that keep him from looking too bland, and give him that nice “used future” feel.  For accessories, all this guy had was the weird themed coin thing that all of the AA Trek figures got.  This one’s red and has the Borg symbol on one side.  Not really much to do with the figure, but given the effort that went into the figure’s design and sculpt, the lack of real extras doesn’t hinder him.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I remember seeing this guy when he was new.  He seemed to hang around KB Toys for a little while.  I almost got him on several occasions, but kept passing for other things.  He and the rest of this series ended up being part of this year’s Farpoint charity auction, and it was that wonderful mix of being something I’d been looking for and also being for a good cause, so I went for it.  Though I’m hardly the world’s largest Trek fan, I can’t deny this is one cool figure.

#1594: Boromir & Merry

BOROMIR & MERRY

LORD OF THE RINGS MINIMATES

“One does not simply review a Boromir Minimate without referencing a Boromir meme”

Boromir (probably)

After the success of Marvel Minimates, the brand had big dreams.  In conjunction with Play Along Toys, they were able to snag the rights to Marvel’s distinguished competition (well, in a loop-hole-y sort of a way), as well as the rights to one of the hugest hits of the early ’00s, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Unfortunately, the line didn’t launch until after Return of the King‘s exit from theatres, meaning we only got two series of two packs before the line ultimately failed.  A lot of this had to do with the somewhat baffling decision to double release one half of each series two-pack.  Fortunately, by the second series, we were finally starting to get all-new packs, including today’s focus, Boromir and Merry!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Boromir and Merry were one of the five two-packs in Series 2 of the Lord of the Rings Minimates line.

BOROMIR

You know Sean Bean had to have a good laugh when he got cast as Boromir, the only member of the Fellowship that dies over the course of the story.  I mean, Bean’s sort of the quintessential dead guy of Hollywood, so it’s really perfect casting.  Boromir and Faramir were two of my favorite characters from Lord of the Rings, and since Faramir never got a Minimate, I guess Boromir’s my guy.  As with all of the human sized characters, Boromir was built on LotR‘s new medium-sized base body, meaning he’s closer to the 3-inch mark than the standard ‘mate.  He’s still got the usual 14 points of articulation, albeit somewhat restricted by some of his add-ons.  Speaking of add-ons, Boromir has five of them for his hair, cloak, wrist bracers, and the bottom of his tunic.  All of these were unique to this particular ‘mate.  They display a simpler era of ‘mates, being without the texture work and dynamicism that newer ‘mates tend to have.  It certainly gets all of the important details, though, and Boromir is well-captured.  The paint follows the sculpt’s trend, erring on the side of simplicity.  I don’t know that his face looks all that much like Sean Bean, but it’s not as if it looks unlike him, either.  Boromir is quite well accessorized, including his sword (with scabbard), shield, horn, and a display stand.

MERRY

Its a little weird to be looking at only one half of a duo, especially since it’s a two-pack based line and all, but here we are.  At least they were good enough to put Merry and Pippin both in the same series.  As a Hobbit, Merry was built just on the standard Marvel-style body.  He had add-one for his hair, cloak, and jacket.  His pieces are obviously more in line with Boromir, but the lessened detailing isn’t quite as noticeable at the smaller scale. I quite like how they’ve gotten the proper shaping to his hair; Frodo didn’t really look like the real person, but Merry is definitely closer, albeit in a cartoonish fashion.  The paint on Merry is pretty solid stuff, and I like the likeness on the face a lot, as well as the very slight way they’ve livened up his color scheme.  He definitely pops.  Merry is packed with his own sword (technically a dagger) and a sheath for it, as well as a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Series 2 of this line was pretty scarce, so I didn’t get any of them new.  I was able to finally secure this set just this past November, via Luke’s Toy Store’s special buy collection.  I’ve really picked up an appreciation for Boromir, and Merry was my favorite hobbit, so this set was a pretty cool find.  It’s reminded me of how much I loved those earlier ‘mates, as well.  Now, I just need to find myself a Pippin!

#1345: Star Trek Minimates

CAPTAIN KIRK, SPOCK, DR. McCOY, KHAN, & GORN

STAR TREK MINIMATES (ART ASYLUM)

I’ve spoken twice before about the original, larger-sized Minimates, the important stepping stone on the way to getting us the licensing behemoth that we now have.  Today, I’ll be touching on them yet again, this time looking at the one property to have graced both styles of Minimate: Star Trek.   After doing ‘mates from Crouching Tiger and some music ‘mates, and even some Bruce Lee ‘mates, Art Asylum turned their sights onto Trek mostly because they already had the license (they produced a Dark Angel Minimate for the same reason, but with less success).  Anyway, I’ve got a bunch of them, and I’ll be looking at them today.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These five were released in the first (and only) series* of the larger-scale Star Trek Minimates from Art Asylum.  There was also a Mugato in the series, as well as an accompanying ToyFare-exclusive “Trouble With Tribbles” Kirk, but I don’t yet have those two.  Maybe some day.

All of the figures featured here are built on the 3-inch Minimate body, which is a little different from the smaller body in terms of construction, mostly around the elbows and knees.  The assembly can afford to be just a touch more complex at the larger scale, and that’s really the source of most of the changes.  Nevertheless, it works the same as the smaller body from a basic functioning stand-point, and it has the same 14 points of articulation.

CAPTAIN KIRK

This was the first of the 14 MInimates of James T. Kirk.  He’s most prevalent of the Trek characters by far, though he’s got nothing on the likes of Spider-Man and Iron Man.  Anyway, this is the one that started it all.  This figure has three add-on pieces: hair, and both pants cuffs.  The hair was new to this guy (though it was also shared with the ToyFare variant, and would have presumably been used for the Mirror Universe version in Series 2).  I gotta say, I like this piece a lot more than the initial smaller Kirk ‘mates.  It’s still a bit more simplistic than more recent ‘mates, but that’s certainly not a point against it, and it’s definitely in keeping with the other ‘mates of this time period.  The paint work on Kirk is about on par with the rest of the earlier ‘mates.  It’s all pretty clean, but also rather on the simple side.  All of the important things, like the face and various uniform elements are there.  The face has a pretty decent likeness of Shatner (honestly, I think it was a bit better than later attempts), and the uniform details seem to be pretty accurate.  The colors are generally pretty decent, but once again, far more basic than later ‘mates would be.  Kirk was packed with a phaser (painted in all silver, rather than the proper silver and black), as well as one of the goofy puzzle pieces that they threw in with all of the early guys.

MR. SPOCK

Spock’s not too far behind Kirk on the variant front, with a whole 8 Minimates under his belt.  There does seem to be a little less variation to his, though.  Like Kirk, this figure has add-ons for his hair and pant cuffs.  Spock’s hair piece is fine, but I find his style of hair doesn’t translate quite as well to this sort of figure.  Later pieces worked a fair bit better, I feel.  I think his hair just needs more detail to it, otherwise it just ends up looking like a skullcap or something.  The paint on Spock is rather similar to Kirk’s, but once again, I don’t think it works quite as well.  The face definitely tries for a Nimoy likeness and, while it isn’t horribly off, I think the lack of any sort of line work for the cheekbones is really holding it back.  Most characters can get by alright without the cheekbones, but not those played by Leonard Nimoy.  In addition, the shade of blue chosen for the shirt is several shades too dark and far too greyed out for the blue shirts from Classic Trek.  This shade almost looks like something from the JJ Abrams films, which wouldn’t be released for 7 years after this.  Spock includes an extra right hand, doing the Vulcan salute, as well as a tricorder and the puzzle piece.

DR. McCOY

McCoy’s important because he finished out the show’s core trio.  Sadly, he always seems to be the one who gets overlooked.  It’s a shame, really.  But hey, he got this ‘mate and a few others, so that’s pretty good for him, right?  This guy is very similar to the other two, with the exact same cuffs on the legs and then a unique hair piece.  The hair falls somewhere between the other two, being not quite as strong as Kirk’s, but a fair bit more recognizable as hair than Spock’s.  It’s definitely not bad.  In terms of paint, he’s almost identical to Spock, overly dark blue and all.  On the plus side, the likeness on the face is the spitting image of DeForrest Kelly, surly country wisdom and all.  He includes the same tricorder and puzzle piece as Spock, but obviously loses the saluting hand.  It would have been nice to get one of his medical gadgets or something, but the tricorder’s enough, I suppose.

KHAN

Khan’s pretty popular for a guy who was only in a single episode of the show.  Oh, right, and there was that movie thing, I guess.  That might have helped.  Khan’s had a few Minimates, and not a single one of them has been in the same outfit.  This is one of his red outfits, likely chosen for it’s contrast with the rest of Series’ color schemes.  He’s got a hair piece and a skirt for the bottom of his tunic.  Both pieces are pretty solid, so that’s good.  Khan has one of the more complex paint schemes in the set (though not *the* most.  That comes later), and it’s generally pretty nicely handled.  My only real complaint is that his face is slightly off-center, which is a problem that occasionally cropped up with these early ‘mates, due to the hair peg being near the back of the head.  On the plus side, the likeness on the face is pretty decent.  Khan’s only accessory is the puzzle piece.

GORN

Okay, so I freaking love the Gorn, and this is like my whole reason for buying this set.  Because I desire to own every Gorn figure in existence.  I’m actually pretty close on that, so, yaaaaaay.  Gorn FTW!  This guy uses add-ons for his hands and his skirt.  There’s no piece for the head, which leaves the peg hole exposed, but it’s not huge issue, given the placement.  The add-ons are nicely sculpted and pretty cool looking overall.  The skirt piece is a little thick, so he splits at the middle a lot, but it’s a minor issue.  Gorn gets the most complicated of the paint jobs.  It’s still pretty simplified, but I actually really like it.  The face is pretty neat, and I like how they’ve translated his design onto the basic head block.  They’ve also done a nice job with the pattern on his tunic, so that’s cool.  He was packed with a spike, a translator, and that freaking puzzle piece.  Mine is lacking these, sadly.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I always wanted to pick up a set of these back when they were still new, back when they would have been my first Minimates, but for whatever reason, I never got any of them.  I’m the reason the line failed, you guys.  I’m sorry about that.  I’ve been on the lookout for a set for a little while now, and I ended up finding these guys at Amazing Heroes, which was a cool toys, comics, and games store that my brother found just outside of Seattle.  I was actually pretty happy to find an almost complete set in one go.  I kinda dig these guys.  Kirk and the Gorn are the definite stars, and translate really well to the more simplistic style.  The others are pretty solid as well, if not quite as stand out.  Now, I gotta get that second Kirk and a Mugato….

*There was a proposed second series, which would have rounded out the main crew and given us a Klingon, but, like all of the 3-inch lines, Trek never made it past Series 1.

#1152: Bruce Lee

BRUCE LEE – ASCENSION OF THE DRAGON

BRUCE LEE MINIMATES

bruceleemm1

Okay, let’s take a brief break from all this Star Wars stuff, and have a look at something else I like to review a lot: Minimates!  I’ve spoken a few times about the genesis of the current gen Minimates, and how the line was initially much larger in scale, and a bit smaller in scope.  Back in April, I actually took a look at my first 3-inch Minimates, based on 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  In a similar vein, today’s review takes a look at another of the earliest licenses to grace the Minimate form, Bruce Lee!  There were four different Bruce Lees available, each based on a different movie.  Today, I’ll be looking at the “Ascension of the Dragon” version of Bruce.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

bruceleemm2Bruce was released in the first and only (well, only to be released anyway; there was a second series of figures planned) series of Bruce Lee Minimates.  All four figures in the set were released both tubed and carded, but the figures within the packaging were essentially the same.  Now, this figure is titled “Ascension of the Dragon,” but his look is based on Lee’s character Hai Tien from Game of Death (the movie Lee was filming when he died, and thus never completed).  It’s the source of the yellow and black-striped jumpsuit that so many other forms of media have parodied since, and it’s kind of the defining Bruce Lee look, so it’s definitely a very solid choice for one of the four ‘mates produced.  The figure stands a little over 3 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  He’s built on the old 3-inch ‘mate body.  As I noted in my CTHD review, the body is very similar to the modern-day 2-inch body, but it has a few marked differences, and sort of shows some of the Minimate development process.  The figure has one add-on pice for his hair.  It’s obviously a lot more basic and geometric than more recent ‘mates but it does a suitable job of summing up the general look that Bruce had in the film.  The rest of his details are handled via paint.  As with pretty much every early ‘mate, the level of detail is definitely more on the simple side of things.  That being said, what’s there is very sharply detailed, and even with just a few scant details, the face does quite a nice job of conveying Lee’s likeness.  The ‘mate included a pair of nunchucks, a green pointed stick, and one of the weird puzzle piece things that all the early ‘mates included.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t get this guy new.  Of course, unlike the CTHD ‘mates, this is actually the sort of figure I might have actually picked up new, but I just never got around to it.  I ended up getting this guy at a flea market (the same one where I got Thallo and Savage Dragon, and in fact the same one where I got the CTHD ‘mates as well).  He’s certainly a fun figure.  Very different from modern ‘mates, but in a way that’s not of a lower quality, just a different one.

bruceleemm3

#1124: Throne Room Battle (w/ Superman & Darkseid)

THRONE ROOM BATTLE (W/ SUPERMAN & DARKSEID)

DC C3 CONSTRUCTION

supermanvsdarkseid1

DC Minimates are kind of a tale of woe and misfortune.  Despite the best efforts of a good number of people, the concept has never really taken off the way other Minimates properties have.  There have been some strong attempts, but there always seems to be something a little off with the execution.  Back in 2004, thanks to some tricky legal mumbo-jumbo, DC Minimates couldn’t be released in a straight forward fashion.  The only way to get them made was to make them the included figures in a line of Lego-style construction sets, dubbed “C3” (for “Create, Construct, Customize”).  I’ve looked at a couple of the ‘mates from those sets, but haven’t looked at a whole set as of yet.  That changes today, with this here review of the Throne Room Battle and included ‘mates Superman & Darkseid.

THE SET ITSELF

The Throne Room Battle set was one of the first seven sets in the DC C3 Construction line.  It’s noteworthy for being the only of those seven sets not to be Batman-themed, and also for being one of the two sets in the first assortment to be based on the then running Justice League cartoon, albeit somewhat loosely.

THRONE ROOM

The main bulk of the box is taken up by the Throne Room for which this set is named.  While the Batman sets were themed around a number of his distinctive vehicles and the always popular Batcave, the Throne Room seems a little bit out of left field, since it’s hardly something that most people would consider a signature Superman locale.  I guess it’s a good way to give us Superman and Darkseid, and it’s certainly a better use of the building set theme than some of the later entries in this line, but this is probably the furthest stretch in the first series.  The Throne room is constructed from 41 pieces (the box lists 67, but that’s counting the parts used for Superman and Darkseid), and the final product is based on Darkseid’s throne room as seen in the Justice League episode “Twilight”.  It’s not an overly complicated set to build, nor is it anything particularly astonishing supermanvsdarkseid2once completed.  The bulk of the work goes into the actual throne, which is decent enough.  It’s designed to be removed from the base (on purpose, not just in the “well, they’re all Legos” sort of fashion), which makes for an interesting feature, I suppose.  The base is made from four smaller flats, and doesn’t really offer much in the way of sturdiness.  This isn’t something you can really pick up and carry around.  One of the cooler parts of the set is the tower behind the throne.  While the tower itself is just a simple two piece construction, on the other side of it there’s a little cell, with Kryptonite chains on the wall for holding Superman.  It’s a cool little touch, and it adds a lot to the set.  There’s also a flight stand for Superman included, which is certainly a welcome addition, even if it can be a little difficult to find a good spot for it on the base platform.

SUPERMAN

supermanvsdarkseid3Okay, let’s be honest, no one was really buying this set for the building blocks.  The main draw was this guy right here.  This was Superman’s first ‘mate, but he would later get a few more courtesy of DC Direct’s DC Minimates line.  This one’s more clearly based on his animated design, with an all-around sleeker style to the detail work and such, which was admittedly a good fit for the slightly less detailed Minimates of the time.  He’s built on the basic Minimate body (of note, he’s one of the first ‘mates to sport the C3 feet, but also one of the last to have a hair piece without a peg), so he’s about 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  He has add-ons for his hair and cape.  Both pieces would later be used in the Marvel line.  They aren’t super detailed, but the work well enough, and are about standard for the time.  The cape is actually one of my favorite Minimate capes, just for its simplicity and the way it sits.  Superman’s paintwork may not be super detailed, but it is pretty solid work nonetheless.  The lines are all nice and sharp, and he looks very well put together as a whole.  I wouldn’t have minded the colors being a touch brighter, but late Supermen fixed that, so I can’t complain much.

DARKSEID

supermanvsdarkseid4In contrast to his pack mate Superman, this is the only Darkseid Minimate we ever got.  Like Superman, he’s patterned on his animated design, which is admittedly less noticeable on him, since Bruce Timm and Jack Kirby’s styles are pretty similar.  The figure is also built on the basic ‘mate body, so he has the same basic height.  He does get one extra point of articulation courtesy of his sculpted chestpiece, which has an articulated skirt so that he can sit a bit better.  He also gets sculpted add-ons for his headpiece and gloves.  In general, the pieces show their age a lot more than those seen on Superman, which is something of a shame.  Also, the use of the smaller body, without any real attempt to bulk him up (apart from the chest piece) robs him of a lot of the character’s presence, and ends up making him look rather goofy.  The paintwork on Darkseid is decent enough.  The line work is all pretty sharp, and makes use of the space well, and I quite like the slight metallic finish of the purple bits.  It doesn’t really line up with his animated design, of course, but whatever.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Back in the day, this was the second C3 set I grabbed.  I’ve always liked Superman, so I certainly wasn’t going to miss out on a Minimate version of him.  Over the years, I managed to lose most of the pieces to this set (including the two ‘mates included with it).  This past summer, I found a replacement at Gidget’s Gadgets in Rehoboth Beach.  It’s a fun set, if a little out there.  It’s certainly not going to beat something like a true Lego set or anything, but it was a decent enough attempt, and I do really like the Superman included here.

#1033: Khan Noonien Singh

KHAN NOONIEN SINGH

STAR TREK (ART ASYLUM)

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“From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!”

1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is easily the greatest film to come out of the Star Trek franchise. It not only helped revive the franchise after the somewhat lackluster response to The Motion Picture, but it also made its lead antagonist, Khan Noonien Shingh, into one of Star Trek’s most memorable characters, and one of cinema’s greatest villains. But, before all of that, Khan was just another of TOS’s threats of the week, appearing only in a single episode of the show’s run. During Playmates’ rather long tenure with the Trek license, they released just about every character and look imaginable from the franchise, but Khan’s only figure was based on his film appearance. His TV appearance wouldn’t see release until 2003, after the license had moved to Art Asylum. I’ll be looking at that particular figure today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Khan2Khan was released in the first series of AA’s Star Trek: The Original Series line. He was the only figure in the series that was not a member of the bridge crew. The figure stands about 7 ¼ inches tall and has 19 points of articulation. Like a lot of the Trek figures in this style, Khan’s articulation doesn’t allow for much more than a basic standing pose, but you can get him into a few decent poses. Khan is seen here in the red jumpsuit he wears towards the end of “Space Seed,” during his climactic battle with Kirk. It’s kind of the go-to look for TOS Khan, so it’s a decent choice. The sculpt does a pretty nice job of translating that look into figure form. He’s not perfect, but he fits with the style of the other figures in this line. The head is very nicely detailed in particular, especially on the hair. In fact, I think Khan’s head sports one of the better likenesses in the first series. The uniform is a little lighter on the details than the head and hands, but the important details are still there, so that’s good. The legs are also rather on the skinny side, but this was common to the line, so at least he fits in. The paintwork on Khan is pretty decent. The skintone isn’t quite as lifeless as some of the other figures in the line (though it does seem a bit pale for Montelban). I also quite like the use of a wash on the jumpsuit, so as to bring out the details in the sculpt. Khan included a standard classic phaser, as well as one of the weird little coins that Art Asylum included with all of their Trek figures.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I was actually pretty excited for this line of figures when they were first shown off, Khan most of all. When they finally hit, they weren’t as easy to find as prior Trek lines from AA. I ended up finding them all from a dealer at a con, but at the higher price, I only ended up with Khan. He’s a very nice figure, just like the rest of AA’s output. I’m definitely glad I have him. If only I had some others in the same scale!

#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.