#2481: Blue Beetle

BLUE BEETLE

AMAZING HEROES (FRESH MONKEY FICTION)

When policeman Dan Garret grew tired of the slow pace and red tape of normal police work, he adopted the masked identity of the Blue Beetle to continue his battle to avenge the murder of his father!”

In the summer of 2014, I backed a good number of action figure-centered Kickstarters, as I was trying to really expand my reviewing options, as well as my reviewing foot print out in that crazy online world.  A pair of the Kickstarters that I backed were for Fresh Monkey Fiction’s Amazing Heroes line, which was devoted to producing figures of some more obscure, largely public domain super heroes.  After running two successful Kickstarter campaigns to get us nine figures to start things out, Fresh Monkey has also been slowly adding more figures as they can, through other channels.  At the beginning of this year, they ran a Jumpstart campaign to get another four figures produced.  I managed to jump in for one of those, Blue Beetle, who I’ll be looking at today.

Now, before I jump into the review proper, I’m sure there are a good number of you going “wait, isn’t Blue Beetle a DC character?”  Yes, yes he is.  And before that, he was also a Charlton Comics character.  However, thanks to a whole bunch of different incarnations in the character’s lineage, the very first Blue Beetle, Dan Garret (note the single “t” at the end of his last name; it’s important), actually went into the public domain.  Charlton picked up the character in the ‘50s, and eventually introduced his successor Ted Kord in the ‘60s, at which point the quietly added a second “t” to the end of his name, making Ted’s true predecessor Dan Garrett a proper Charlton creation.  But, at the end of the day, Garret is still public domain, and therefore easy pickings for this line.  Amusingly, he gets a figure, while Garrett never has.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Blue Beetle is one of the four figures produced for Wave 4 of the Amazing Heroes line.  He was produced to demand, and he and the rest of his compatriots started arriving to backers in late June/early July. The figure stands 4 1/2 inches tall and he has 5 points of articulation.  As with the rest of the line, Blue Beetle is built on a centralized body, patterned on the old Secret Wars bodies from Mattel.  He uses the core body and the bald head piece.  He also gets a little bit of new tooling for his arms, which now sport flared gloves.  It’s a small touch, but it does a lot to make him feel just a bit different from the earlier releases.  In general, this figure’s construction is nicely consistent with the more simplistic and basic feel of the rest of the line.  It definitely works well with Blue Beetle’s design.  The paint work is likewise pretty basic and simple, but it again works pretty well to convey the design.  They’ve opted not to do any hinting of his scale-mail, which seems like the right call, and is also consistent with the Secret Wars stylings, since Cap was the same way.  The application is all really sharp, though, which looks great.  Beetle is packed with an extra unmasked Dan Garret head, which is a repaint of the Captain Action head.  It’s a decent enough match for him, and it’s just nice to have the option.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I had to forego most of the post Kickstarter Amazing Heroes offerings due to monetary reasons, which definitely bummed me a bit.  However, once these guys were shown off, I knew I wanted to at least grab this guy.  And hey, even in the midst of everything going on right now, Fresh Monkey still managed to get these guys out in a reasonable amount of time.  Blue Beetle’s pretty basic, but also pretty fun, and it’s nifty that we were finally able to get him in figure form.

#2406: Nite Owl

NITE OWL

WATCHMEN (DC DIRECT)

“Awkward, shy, and unnaturally obsessed with masked vigilantes and ornithology, Dan Drieberg was a surprisingly good fit to inherit the mantle of Nite Owl.  He is a talented engineer with a tragic childhood that feeds his needs to help the helpless and fight the good fight.  However, the world is not a perfect place and Dan is forced to constantly question his own morality.”

Back in 2009, the world didn’t quite yet hate/love Zack Snyder because of what he’d done with a DC property…or did they?  Yes, we got our first taste of Zack Snyder on a DC project with 2009’s Watchmen, which was, as with most Snyder projects, met with mixed emotion.  I myself was a fan of it, being on a real Watchmen kick at the time.  I still like parts of it, but I’ll admit I can see the flaws peaking through these days (honestly, though, I find that’s somewhat true of the original source material as well).  The one definite plus to the film for toy collectors was the chance to finally get some actual figures of the characters from the story, even if they were film based.  Today, I’m looking at Nite Owl!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Nite Owl was released in Series 1 of DC Direct’s Watchmen line, hitting shelves just before the film’s March 2009 release.  This one is specifically Nite Owl II, aka Dan Drieberg, who is the main Nite Owl for the purposes of the story (his mentor Hollis Mason, aka Nite Owl I, would follow in the second series of the line).  The figure stands 6 3/4 inches tall and he has 11 points of articulation.  He’s not incredibly poseable, but he’s fairly standard for a DCD offering of the time, and was one of the most mobile figures in this first assortment.  Nite Owl was an all new sculpt, based on his design from the film.  His look was one of the most changed for the movie, shifting from the comic’s more loose-fitting, kind of basic spandex get-up, into something more like the suits seen in the ’90s Batman films.  The general appearance notes of the design are the same, and it reads as more or less being the same guy, so I think it actually works out alright.  The actual quality of the sculpt is actually pretty darn solid, and I’d again rank him as probably the best in the first series.  The proportions are pretty realistic, the smaller detail work, especially on the main body suit, is all really sharp, and what we can see of his face has a passable Patrick Wilson likeness.  The articulation is also worked in without breaking things up too badly, so it ends up looking pretty alright overall.  The paintwork on this guy is generally pretty good.  It’s fairly involved, with all those different shades of brown.  The application’s all pretty clean, and I definitely dig the metallic colors.  He definitely pops.  Nite Owl was packed with a removable crescent blade on his belt (which he can’t hold, and which fell off of mine and went missing while he was in storage), and a display stand that interlocks with the rest of the figures from the line.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wasn’t quite sold on the movie costumes yet when these figures hit, so I ended up passing Nite Owl initially.  By the time the movie hit and I was sold on wanting the figure, he’d sold out most places, so I went a little bit without one.  Fortunately, All Time Toys came to my rescue, all the way back in 2009, a decade before I was even sponsored.  How kind of them!  He’s not got a lot going on, but I dig this figure more than I expected to when I pulled him back out for review.  It probably helps that Nite Owl was my favorite part of the movie, so he’s got that going for him.

#1538: Nite Owl

NITE OWL

WATCHMEN (MATTEL)

“Awkward, shy, and unnaturally obsessed with masked vigilantes and ornithology, Dan Drieberg was a surprisingly good fit to inherit the mantle of Nite Owl.  He is a talented engineer with a tragic childhood that feeds his needs to help the helpless and fight the good fight.  However, the world is not a perfect place and Dan is forced to constantly question his own morality.”

I’ve now made it through a full week of my post-Christmas reviews, and now we’re kind of nearing the end of this whole thing.  For today’s review, I’m switching over to a property that I’ve covered a few times on this site, Watchmen.  I was pretty huge into Watchmen a few years back, especially around the time of the film adaptation.  In the years since, my fixation has sort of waned, probably due to the overabundance of grimdark super hero stories in the last several years.  I still appreciate it for what it is, and there’s no denying that the story has lots of exciting designs, just ripe for toy form.  The comics designs are somewhat rare in the toy world, but Mattel put out a set of them a few years back, and I’ll be taking a look at the Nite Owl figure from that set today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Nite Owl was the fourth figure in Mattel’s “Club Black Freighter” subscription, released back in 2013.  He’s based on the comics Nite Owl design, of course, which is a more simplistic look than his more sculpted look from the film, but I feel a slightly more polished and to the point design.  The figure stands 6 3/4 inches tall 23 points of articulation.  The whole Club Black Freighter set was designed to fit stylistically with DC Universe Classics, and a lot of this was done via parts re-use from that line.  For Nite Owl, this means he uses the standard mid-sized arms, legs, and pelvis, along with a new torso and head, as well as add-ons for his cape and belt.  The legs are the end of DCUC legs, meaning they’ve had the rocker-ankles removed.  It’s definitely an annoyance, and it means he can’t really ever keep his feet flat on the ground, which looks rather goofy.  On the plus side, all of the newly sculpted pieces really do look cool.  The head’s a solid piece of work, and replicates Gibbons’ take on Nite Owl quite nicely.  His hard plastic cape, though very cool looking, effectively renders his arms motionless from the elbow up.  The end result to all of this is a figure that’s not really good for anything but standing around.  But at least he looks good, I suppose.  The paint work on Nite Owl is decent enough, and certainly better than a lot of Mattel’s output.  It’s clean and matches well with the art from the book.  It’s not the most thrilling color combination, but that’s true to the character, so one can hardly complain.  Nite Owl is packed with a display stand, three owl-arangs, and a grappling gun, as well as big novelty card thing with an art-deco sort of illustration.  The stand’s fine, but he has some trouble successfully holding any of the other extras.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Nite Owl was another Christmas gift from Super Awesome Girlfriend.  By the time the Club Black Freighter set came along, I was kind of done with Mattel’s whole subscription model and past my Watchmen fixation, so I ended up passing on them.  I almost bought Nite Owl a few times from Matty Collector during a couple of their year-end sales, but never got around to it.  Jess spotted him at the GameStop she works at and grabbed him for me.  He’s sort of an interesting phenomenon, a “super-posable” figure that doesn’t work as much more than a statue.  Ultimately, he’s not a bad figure, but he sort of fails at what he’s supposed to be.  I guess he’s rather par for the course when it comes to Mattel, though.

#1401: The Comedian & Nite Owl

THE COMEDIAN & NITE OWL

WATCHMEN MINIMATES

“Secretly the vigilante known as THE COMEDIAN, EDWARD BLAKE continued to work for the government after his crimefighting career, performing various classified and unpleasant tasks.  When the highly dangerous killer is himself killed, his old colleagues NITE OWL and RORSCHACH are driven to investigate.”

Sometimes, I like to remember back when I didn’t totally hate everything Zack Snyder touched.  His adaptation of Watchmen was just as divisive as anything else he’s done, but I was actually on his side of that one.  Anyway, a whole eight years after its release, the film’s gotten a set of Minimates.  I’m taking a look at the first pair, The Comedian and Nite Owl, today!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

The Comedian and Nite Owl are one of the “shared” pairs of figures for Watchmen Minimates.  They were available both in the specialty four pack and as a two pack in the Toys R Us-exclusive assortment.  Obviously, mine are the TRU versions, but there aren’t any real differences between the actual figures.

THE COMEDIAN

Though he may be dead at the story’s start, the Comedian is perhaps Watchmen‘s most central figure.  He was originally supposed be the Charlton Comics character “Peace Maker,” before DC forced the change.  Shame, since it would have been perhaps the only noteworthy thing ever attached to the character.  Oh well.  Comedian’s look was largely unchanged when going from book to movie, so this guy will work pretty well as either version of the character.  The figure stands roughly 2 1/4 inches tall and has the standard 14 points of articulation. In addition to the standard base body, Comedian has add-ons for his hair, shoulder pads/suspenders/belt, and the holsters.  The holsters are the same basic pieces that have been in service since the Avengers Black Widow ‘mate, but the other two pieces are new to this figure.  The new pieces are generally pretty solid additions.  They could possibly have been a little sharper in terms of detail, but the work here is still pretty great.  In terms of paint, Comedian is pretty decent overall.  The best work is on the detail lines.  The face capture’s not only Jeffery Dean Morgan’s likeness, but also his cocky Comedian personality, which is pretty cool.  This is obviously a slightly older Comedian, though he does seem to be using any hint of his facial scar.  I guess it was pretty downplayed in the movie.  The base paintwork is a little sloppier than the line work, but still fairly decent.  The biggest issue with the paint is actually something that was beyond DST’s control.  He lacks Comedian’s signature smiley face button, due to rights issues associated with that particular image.  DST has opted to drop the button entirely, rather than giving us just the blank yellow circle that other companies have gone with.  I think I might like it better when it’s just not there; less distracting.  Comedian is packed with a pair of silver handguns and a clear display stand.  It’s a shame he didn’t get a few more weapons, and possibly an extra head and hair piece for a younger look, but what’s included is fair.

NITE OWL

Nite Owl is my favorite character out of the main Crimebusters in Watchmen (though, it’s actually his predecessor Hollis Mason that is my overall favorite character in the story), and it’s actually Patrick Wilson’s portrayal of him in the movie that helped me form that opinion.  I find his book counterpart to be a little bland, but Wilson added a nice sort of lost everyman aspect to him that was endearing.  Nite Owl was originally intended to be the Ted Kord version of Blue Beetle, another favorite character of mine.  The movie design for Nite Owl was one of the more drastic changes, largely due to the simplicity of the original design; that sort of thing doesn’t tend to work so well on a large screen.  Like Comedian, Nite Owl is built on the standard ‘mate body, with add-ons for his mask and cape.  Both pieces are new to this figure, and are likely to stay unique to him, since I can’t really see them being of much use for any other characters.  They’re both pretty decent pieces, though, like with Comedian, I think the details could stand to be a little sharper.  The paint work on Nite Owl is pretty great.  The work is all pretty sharp, and unlike Comedian, he’s not missing any essential details.  The mask is removable, and reveals a fully detailed Dan Drieber head, glasses and all.  I can’t say it’s a fantastic likeness of Patrick Wilson, but it doesn’t look unlike him.  I guess he’s just got one of those faces that doesn’t translate well to the style.  In addition to the usual display stand, Dan includes a spare hair piece for unmasked display.  I think the piece is a little too suave for Dan, to be honest, especially if this is meant to be a “present” day Dan; it should be a little longer and more comb-over-y.  It’s not awful, though.  I do wish he included an extra mask with the goggles up, since he has that look several times during the movie.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

The Watchmen Minimates snuck up on me.  At the time of the movie’s release, I was all over the idea of Watchmen ‘mates (in fact, I even made a custom set for myself, albeit a comic based one), but by the time they actually happened, I had largely moved past Watchmen.  When the boxed set hit, I wasn’t sure about getting the ‘mates at all.  But, I was out on my birthday, and I stopped at Toys R Us, and they had a full set, so I went for it.  Getting the ‘mates even got me to sit down and watch the movie again for the first time in several years, and I enjoyed that quite a bit.  This is my favorite pair of the ‘mates, and while there are certainly improvement that could be made, I’m very happy with them both.