#2217: Bruce Banner & Hulk

BRUCE BANNER & HULK

MARVEL MINIMATES

The very first assortment of Marvel Minimates is perhaps a bit odd-ball when looking back on things.  No Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, or even X-Men.  Nope, it’s two sets of Daredevil and one set of Hulk.  Why this particular line-up for the debut?  Well, the first series of Marvel Minimates hit in the summer of 2003.  Do you know what else hit in 2003?  Movies for both Daredevil and Hulk, and though those films may not be looked back on particularly fondly these days, they did make their title characters recognizable to a general audience, thereby making them a moderately reasonable starting point.  Today, I’m looking at the slight outlier of the line-up, the one Hulk pack in the lot, pairing off both the Hulk and his human alter-ego, Bruce Banner.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Bruce Banner and Hulk were, as noted above, part of the first series of Marvel Minimates.  It’s worth noting that the numbering was really little more than clerical on the first three series of the line, with all of them hitting pretty much at the same time, but nevertheless, these guys were technically among the first.

BRUCE BANNER

Alter-egos were popular fodder for the early ‘mates, with Hulk, Spider-Man, and Wolverine all getting their civilian counterparts right out of the gate.  Banner makes the most sense, I suppose, though, since he’s so visually different, and the internal struggle between the two halves is so important to the story.  While Bruce has had a lot of different appearances over the years, this one opts for something more in line with how he looked on the cover of his first appearance, with glasses and a lab coat.  It’s certainly a bit more visually interesting than just plain civilian clothes.  The figure uses the old-style ‘mate body, complete with long feet, so he stands roughly 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  He’s got two add-on pieces: one for his hair/glasses, and one for his jacket.  The hair/glasses combo is different from how things would be handled later, since glasses tend to just be printed on the faces now.  Additionally, the glasses are opaque, which gives him a very different, far more stylized appearance than later figures.  I myself have always been a pretty big fan of this look.  The jacket’s a little on the bulky side, but if you don’t like it, the shirt and the arms are both white, so you can remove it without it looking too weird.  Banner’s paintwork is rather simple, with some detailing for his face, his tie on his shirt (complete with tie clip), and a belt buckle on his pelvis.  Banner included no accessories.

HULK

Definitely the selling point of this set, and honestly the more dated of the two offerings.  Hulk represents the old style of doing things, back when ‘mates were still firmly planted on the philosophy of using the least amount of extra parts possible for each figure.  For larger characters, such as Hulk and Venom, this left them looking…kinda small.  Compared to Hulk, puny Banner wasn’t very puny.  Hulk’s only add-on was his hair piece, which is a decent enough part, although it does come off a lot, since the pegs weren’t implemented until Series 8 of the line.  It’s simple, but feels classically Hulk.  His paint is a little more involved than Banner, with detailing on the front and back of his torso, as well as remnants of his torn shirt running all along the sides of his pelvis, and torn legs to his pants running along the shins.  The feet and lower legs are painted green, rather than molded, which looks noticeably of a different shade.  Also, for some reason, the shade of purple on the pants is different between Hulk and Banner, something I never really understood.  Like Banner, Hulk had no accessories.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When my dad brought home the Yellow Daredevil and Elektra set for me back in 2003, he also brought with him a Hulk and Banner set for my younger brother, which gave me a taste of the set.  I would eventually get a pack of my own as a birthday present from some family friends that same year.  I still have those two, but they’re a little worse for wear these days, so I actually picked up a replacement set when All Time got in a Minimate collection a few months ago.  If I’m honest, the Hulk in this set never did a lot for me, but conversely the Banner has always been one of my favorites from the early line up.

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#2203: Spectral Ghostbusters

PETER VENKMAN, EGON SPENGLER, WINSTON ZEDDEMORE, & RAY STANZ

GHOSTBUSTERS MINIMATES

“The Real Ghostbusters follows the continuing adventures of The Ghostbusters, secretary Janine, accountant Louis, and their mascot Slimer, as they chase and capture rogue spirits around New York and various other areas of the world.”

Happy Halloween dear readers!  For this year’s spooky-themed entry, I had intended to keep up with the running theme of looking back at DST’s ill-fated Universal Monsters Minimates, but they continued with the ill-fated bit, so I wasn’t able to get that particular set ready to go.  I guess there’s always next year.  So, I’ll be jumping over to one of DST’s other somewhat spooky lines of Minimates, the Ghostbusters, a far less ill-fated line.  After doing a rather successful run of movie-based ‘mates, DST picked up the license to the cartoon and rebranded the line under the Real Ghostbusters heading, producing another three boxed sets, plus a whole bunch more two-packs.  The first two sets covered the ‘busters and their supporting cast, but the third went the variant route, giving us all four ‘busters together, albeit in a slightly askew form.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

The Spectral Ghostbusters were released in December of 2011, as the third and final boxed set in the Real Ghostbusters off-shoot of Ghostbusters Minimates, based on their appearance in the cartoon episode “Citizen Ghost”, the 11th episode of the show, which sees the ‘busters’ uniforms from the night they fought Gozer reainimated by spectral approximations of themselves.

PETER VENKMAN

It’s Peter’s fault that the Spectral Ghostbusters come into existence in the first place, so I guess he’s the defacto leader of this particular bunch.  He was also, at the time of this figure’s release, the only Spectral Buster with a prior figure, courtesy of Mattel’s Retro Action line.  The figure stands 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  He’s built on the basic ‘mate body, with add-ons for the hair, shoulder pads, and torso piece.  The hair was re-used from the basic RGB Venkman figure, with the torso piece being a re-use of Wintson’s piece from set two, with a slight adjustment to the proton pack’s left side to allow for storage of the ghost trap.  The torso pieces were still rather bulky at this point, an issue that wouldn’t properly be addressed until the “I love this town” boxed set, but I do have to say that they looked better here, probably because they were molded plastic, rather than painted, which slimmed them down ever so slightly.  The paint on these was also somewhat notable for being the first ‘busters to be in the tan color that more closely resembles the color of the uniforms seen on-screen in the films.  Of course, Venkman was also notable for being green and translucent, which was something he usually wasn’t.  The spectral effect on the face works quite well, and like all of the RGB ‘mates, he has a fully detailed torso under the chest piece, which I was always happy to see crop up.  Peter is packed with a ghost trap and a proton wand effect in green.

EGON SPENGLER

Egon is pretty similar to Venkman, but obviously swaps out a few of the add-on parts to make things slightly more unique.  The hair is from the RGB Egon, and has that distinctive swirl, while the torso is from the Venkman/Egon figures of set one, meaning he gets that extra strap at the front.  It’s safer that way I guess?  It does mean that he’s got a plug on the right side of his belt, which is missing anything to plug into it (prior Egons had his PKE), but I guess it’s not terribly noticeable.  The paint work changes up a little bit to match the new pieces and to change up the face for the likeness.  Again, the spectral effect is pretty cool, and the glasses make it look even cooler.  Egon is packed with the same trap and effect piece as Peter; shame they couldn’t throw the PKE in there.

WINSTON ZEDDEMORE

Wintson is even less different from Peter than Egon was.  From the neck down, the two are completely identical figures.  It’s just that head that changes things up, with the proper Winston hair piece and an adjusted likeness on the face.  Beyond that, same figure, right down to the same pair of accessories.  Fortunately, that means he doesn’t look like he’s missing anything the way Egon did, so I guess it works out alright for him.

RAY STANZ

Last up, there’s Ray, and what a surprise, he’s really similar to the other three.  I know, what a shock.  He does mix things up ever so slightly, getting the animated Ray hair and the Box 2 Ray torso piece (interestingly, Ray is the only ‘buster who never had to share his torso piece with any one else), but like Egon that leaves him with a peg that goes unused for this particular release, where the trap would have gone on the original release.  At least he and Egon have each other?  Beyond that, it’s all pretty much business as usual.  The paint’s pretty much the same, with the expected adjustments, and the accessories are again the same.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Though I mostly skipped the RGB line, I nevertheless ended up with this set.  Why?  Do I have some sort of undying devotion to the Spectral Ghostbusters?  Nope, I bought them because they were cheap.  Cosmic Comix got the set in, and the glue on the backing card was faulty, so it fell off.  To save themselves some trouble, they marked it down to half price and boom, there I was, buying me some half-price Minimates.  While perhaps not the most unique or individually thrilling ‘mates, I actually do dig this group, especially as a set.  They aren’t perfect, but they’re goofy, and gimmicky, and actually rather fun.

#2192: Daredevil & Sin-Eater

DAREDEVIL & SIN-EATER

MARVEL MINIMATES

“The Death of Jean DeWolff” is a notable story for a multitude of reasons.  Perhaps most prominently, it created a rather lasting connection between Daredevil and Spider-Man, who are paired off in both their super heroic and civilian lives over the course of the story.  The story is also notable, though perhaps slightly less so, for the introduction of a brand-new villain, DeWolff’s murderer, the Sin-Eater.  The two pair off in today’s set!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Daredevil and Sin-Eater were part of Series 43 of Marvel Minimates, which was a whole assortment based on the “Death of Jean DeWolff.”

DAREDEVIL

Daredevil’s no stranger to Minimates, being the focal point of the very first Series and all.  However, at the time of this ‘mate’s release, we hadn’t gotten a basic red DD in quite some time, and the last one had been part of an exclusive offering.  Given the prominence of his role in “The Death of Jean DeWolff”, he’s a natural fit for the assortment.  This same figure was also offered in TRU Series 13, alongside the Kingpin.  Daredevil is constructed using two add-on pieces, one for his mask, and the other for his billy club holster.  The mask had previously been used on the Shadowland version of DD from Series 38, and has subsequently become the standard piece for him.  While it think the horns might be just a touch too long, it’s otherwise a very nice piece, and a worth replacement for the older Series 1 mask.  The holster was new to this figure (and, like the mask, has become a standard issue piece for the character).  It sits well on the thigh, and holds the clubs securely.  And, most importantly, it doesn’t impede the leg movement or stick out awkwardly like the old piece did.  The paint on this version of DD is rather striking.  The red is very bright, and the contrast of the black shaded details adds quite a bit of pop to his design.  It’s a very artistic interpretation of the character, and matches up with his comics incarnation in a way that would be hard to do in other formats.  The musculature helps to make him a far cry from the old Series 1 version, and I absolutely love how well his face lines up with what’s printed on the mask.  Underneath, there’s a Matt Murdock face, which even includes his sunglasses, allowing for a more proper unmasked appearance.  Daredevil was packed with two batons (which can be stowed in his thigh holster), a grappling cane, and a spare hairpiece (reused from Series 21’s Tony Stark) for his unmasked look.

SIN-EATER

Perpetrator of the titular murder, and central to the story’s big mystery is the Sin-Eater, a villain who made his debut in the pages of this story.  In retrospect, a rather minor character, perhaps, and not one who had a particularly lengthy career, but an impactful character all the same.  Sin-Eater has six add-on pieces in use.  He’s got a generic slip-on mask, glove cuffs, a belt, and a pair of flared boots.  All of his pieces are re-used from prior offerings; the mask has been used countless times, the cuffs are from The Spirit ‘mates, the belt is Batman’s, and the boots hail from the Invaders boxed set.  Fortunately, Sin-Eater’s undoubtedly one of those characters that’s almost tailor-made for re-use, and this assortment of parts suits him well.  Sin-Eater’s paintwork is garish and rather appalling…which is to say it’s quite loyal to the source material.  His costume has to be one of the ugliest ones ever to come out of Marvel Comics.  That doesn’t stop the paint on this figure from being exemplary, though.  The detail work, especially on the “face” of the mask, is quite impressive.  Underneath of the mask is the face of….SPOILERS on a story that’s decades old…Stan Carter.  Stan’s very angry, which is a nice change of pace, and I like how the eyes line-up with those on the mask.  For accessories, Sin-Eater includes his shotgun, which I believe was a new piece.  He also includes an alternate hair piece to display Stan unmasked, as well as an extra head and hair, depicting Sin-Eater red-herring Emil Gregg.  Gregg uses the same eyes as Stan and the main mask, thereby making him just as credible an unmasked identity for the villain, and somewhat preserving the surprise for those buying the set without having read the story.  That’s a nice touch!

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Series 43 was an assortment I was very excited for when it hit, so I made a point of picking it up brand new from Cosmic Comix on day of release.  Daredevil was certainly in need of an update to his standard look, and this figure delivered that in spades.  Even all these years later, he’s still one of the best versions out there.  Sin-Eater’s definitely a much more minor character, but it’s always nice to see such characters crop up from time to time.  DST put in the effort to make a good figure of this guy, and it paid off!

#2189: Daredevil – Yellow & Elektra

DARDEVIL — YELLOW & ELEKTRA

MARVEL MINIMATES

Babam!  Six years of writing for this here site, boys and girls.  How about that?  So, as I like to do every year on this occasion, I want to take today’s review to look at an item a little nearer and dearer to me and important to my collecting habits as a whole.  Today’s entry focuses on the world of Minimates, which, anyone who’s read the site for a decent amount of time can probably tell you is a world that makes up a considerable chunk of my collection.  For this review, we’re jumping back to the humble beginnings of the line, when they released a series 1 line-up that was surprisingly low-key.  Without further ado, let’s have a look at Daredevil and Elektra!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Daredevil and Elektra were part of the Daredevil/Hulk split first series line-up of Marvel Minimates, which hit alongside Series 2 and 3 in the summer of 2003.  2003 is an important year to note, as it kind of explains the line-up of Series 1, since Daredevil and Hulk were both in theaters that year, and these were sort of a loose tie-in.  This set was the one that got the variant treatment for the first line-up, with two different versions of Elektra available, and the Yellow Daredevil shared between the two sets.

DAREDEVIL — YELLOW

There were two Daredevils available in the first series.  The more standard Red DD was available with Kingpin, while this one recreates Matt’s first appearance attire, which has long been a popular choice for variations of DD.  The figure was built on the original Marvel body, which introduced the smaller 2″ scale for ‘mates.  He stands about 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  He’s also got the pre-c3 long feet, just like every other Marvel ‘mate release prior to Series 8.  Construction-wise, he and the red version were the same.  He gets an add-on for his mask and belt.  They were rather simplistic, but the mask in particular really works well, and clings to that ‘mate aesthetic.  The belt would be replaced by a less bulky model as the line went on, but for the time it was pretty solid.  His paintwork is probably one of the most complex of the early releases.  Of course, it also has the most room for error, which is probably why he’s got a lot of fuzzy and un-even lines going on. That being said, given the scale, it’s really not that bad.  He’s got a decent amount of detailing, including a full face under the mask, even though he didn’t have an extra hair piece to show it off yet.  What he did include was  a pair of billy clubs, painted up in yellow match the figure.

ELEKTRA

Given her prominent place in the 2003 movie, and her general place as one of Marvel’s best known female characters in the early ’00s,  Elektra’s inclusion here was kind of no-brainer.  Perhaps the craziest thing was how long it would take for her to get a follow-up.  Like Matt, this figure is built on the older Marvel body, long feet and all.  She has add-ons for her hair and skirt.  While DD’s design allowed for an easier transition to the ‘mate style, especially the more streamlined nature of the earlier releases, Elektra is less fortunate.  The blocky nature doesn’t quite go as well with here, and the hair and skirt would very quickly become some of the line’s most dated pieces.  They’re not awful, but they’re not amazing either.  Elektra’s paint does the best it can with the design, and ultimately captures all of the important elements.  No idea why she’s just got that single glove, though.  The standard Elektra was done up in her classic red, while her one-per-case variant was instead in black.  I’m not sure if the black was a specific comic thing, or if they were just aiming to get her a little closer the the movie version, but whatever the case, it doesn’t look bad.  Both versions of Elektra were packed with a pair of sais.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Back during the site’s first year, I acquired and reviewed the Spider-Man Classics Yellow Daredevil, which was something of a long-standing grail for my collection.  That figure was, at the time of his release, really, really hard to get, and would remain that way for a decent chunk of time, leaving him well outside of my price range.  My dad, who had been working very hard to find me one, eventually met a compromise when he discovered Marvel Minimates just a few days before my birthday in 2003, and saw a more attainable way of getting me a Yellow Daredevil.  And so, these guys became my very first Minimates, launching a collection of more than 1000 of these little buggers.  Who would have guessed it would grow so far?

#2186: Tron, Flynn, & Sark

TRON, FLYNN, & SARK

TRON (DST)

“When a brilliant video game maker named Flynn hacks the mainframe of his ex-employer, he is beamed inside an astonishing digital world and becomes part of the very game he is designing.  He must team up with the heroic Tron and evade the forces of the Master Control Program to find his way home and shut down the power-hungry MCP once and for all.”

Despite being at best a modest success when it hit theatres in 1982, Tron did get a little bit of toy coverage at the time of its release, courtesy of toy makers TOMY, who have us a handful of the film’s main characters.  Since then?  Well, neither the movie no its sequel, Tron: Legacy, has had a ton of luck with toys.  The original film’s titular character was fortunate enough to get a couple of figures earlier this year from DST as part of a tie-in with Kingdom Hearts, and to follow things up, they’re giving a Tron line proper a try.  Let’s have a look at those guys today!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Tron, Flynn, and Sark make up the first series of Tron figures from DST.  The line-up seen here is specifically the Walgreens-exclusive, slightly paired down line-up; specialty stores will be getting the same Tron and Sark, as well as Flynn in a red color scheme (because why not, I guess), and all three will include parts to build a Recognizer.  The Walgreens set started hitting in early September, and the specialty line-up should be arriving in the coming weeks.

TRON

Both Tron and Sark were just released in DST’s Kingdom Hearts line.  I had initially thought that these figures would be slight retools of those releases, but that’s actually not the case.  Tron is seen here sporting an all-new, more movie inspired sculpt.  The figure stands 7 1/4 inches tall (giving him a 1/2 inch on his predecessor) and he has 29 points of articulation.  Comparing the two Tron figures, leads to the question “does more articulation mean more posability?” and in the case of these two figures, it’s kind of a toss-up.  The double joints on the elbows and the swivels on the thighs certainly are an improvement, but the hips just seem different for the sake of being different, and the added mid-torso joint doesn’t change his range in the slightest, meaning he’s got a break in his sculpt there for no practical reason.  Perhaps most frustratingly, the neck, which had a decent range on the KH figure is now greatly reduced.  That’s disappointing.  The overall sculpt is a bit less stylized, obviously, since it’s based on the movie, and not a game, so Tron has a slightly more realistic set of proportions, as well as greater detailing on a few areas of the sculpt.  The boots in particular are quite impressively handled.  That said, the head is different from the previous figure, but I can’t really say it’s any more accurate or closer to Boxleitner in appearance.  In general, while the sculpt goes for a more realistic look, I found that the sculpt made more compromises for the articulation this time, and the end result is a figure that just never looks quite as natural standing on the shelf as the previous figure.  Tron’s paintwork marks another change from the KH figure, and honestly another area of different for the sake of difference.  Rather than the grey with blue of the prior figure, this one is predominantly a light blue, with grey for the “skin” and darker blue for his tron-lines.  I suppose an argument can be made for this being more accurate to the film, but the very dynamic nature of how the characters look on screen means that either appearance reads more or less as accurate.  Tron is packed with his disk (a notable improvement over the KH figure) and a display stand.  The disk is nice to have, though it’s worth noting that his hand posing isn’t totally ideal for holding it and it has a little trouble staying in place on his back.

FLYNN

The movie may be named after Tron, but Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn is the more clear-cut protagonist (and his son is undoubtedly the protagonist of Legacy).  Despite all that, he’s far less common as a figure, and was left out of the Kingdom Hearts stuff.  Also, for whatever reason, DST decided to make the wider release version of him in red, rather than his blue that is his default look, making this figure the most desirable of the Walgreens trio by a country mile.  Yay? Flynn’s construction is very similar to Tron’s, and the two of them share the same right arm, lower torso, pelvis, hands, and lower legs.  The articulation is the same here as above, for better or for worse, but on the plus side, Flynn’s got his little toga thing from the movie, which hides the non-functioning torso joint for the most part.  Of course, then it ends up restricting his left shoulder.  You win some, you lose some.  The head, though not a spot-on likeness of Bridges, is at least distinctly a different person, so there’s that leg up on the TOMY figures.  Flynn’s paintwork very much follows the model of Tron’s, swapping out the character-specific details of course.  He’s still predominantly that light blue color.  The specialty release will, of course, swap this out to match Sark’s colors.  Flynn is packed with a disk and display stand.  They’re the same as Tron’s, but the tunic at least keeps the disk more in-place when on his back.

SARK

The legendary David Warner actually does triple-duty in the original Tron, with turns as corrupt exec Edward Dillanger, Big Brother stand-in Master Control, and dictator-esque program Sark.  Of the three, I guess Sark’s kind of the most toyetic, isn’t he?  Sark was offered in the Kingdom Hearts line, but like Tron, this figure is an all-new offering.  He shares no parts with the other two figures, and that’s probably for the best.  By and large, Sark’s articulation actually works a fair bit better than the other two.  The range on the shoulders was definitely better, and the mid torso joint is not only functional, it’s also pretty much hidden.  In general, the articulation and the sculpt mostly stay out of each other’s way on this guy.  Getting him into a basic standing pose is a lot easier here.  By far my favorite part of the sculpt is the head.  While the other two likenesses are so-so at best, Sark is pretty unmistakably Warner, even if he’s hiding behind all that goofy headgear.  Sark’s paintwork goes back to that KH styling, with the majority of things being grey, with the red highlights thrown in.  This confirms for me that I really just prefer the grey with accent color look, as it just works a lot better.  I don’t know why they opted to do it the other way for Tron and Flynn.  Sark is again packed with his disk and a display stand.  The disk is still tricky to hold, but is at least much more secure when plugged into his back.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When these figures were shown, I had no idea if I’d be picking them up, because they honestly didn’t look all that different from the Kingdom Hearts releases, and I don’t believe Flynn was part of the initial line-up.  I happened across Tron and Sark while checking some Walgreenses in an out of my area location.  I almost just picked up Sark, but decided to grab the pair, and at the time had no clue about the Flynn figure.  Once discovering Flynn’s existence, I was able to get hold of him as well with an assist from Max.  I want to like these figures more than I do.  Tron is really hurt by following the KH figure.  While this one tries some new things, ultimately, the more standard faire of the previous figure is just more enjoyable to me.  Flynn is more unique, but still suffers from a lot of the same issues.  Sark is by far the best of the trio, and is the only one that really seems to succeed in what they’re trying to do with this line.  Ultimately, I’m not sure what DST’s aim was with these figures, but they’re something of a mixed bag, and a little hard to recommend.  They’re not terrible, and at least the Walgreens releases are pretty cheap, but I can’t see the specialty versions being worth $30 a piece.

#2178: First Appearance Thor & Balder

FIRST APPEARANCE THOR & BALDER

MARVEL MINIMATES

Jack Kirby was a major piece of comics history, especially when it comes to Marvel.  However, his actual work hasn’t quite so much been touched by the world of action figures.  There’s something about his dynamic style that doesn’t always lend itself to toys.  Fortunately, Minimates are in a position to offer a more artist-specific figure, as is the case with today’s entry, First Appearance Thor and Balder the Brave!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Thor and Balder were released in the twelfth TRU-exclusive series of Marvel Minimates, which was meant to compliment the Thor/Cap-themed Series 42 of the main line.  This set was the Thor component and Cap/Crossbones made up the Cap component.

FIRST APPEARANCE THOR

Series 42 offered up a couple of Thor variants, but the closest we would get to a classic Thor update would be this guy, inspired by his Jack Kirby-penciled first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83.  There were some minor details that changed between Thor’s initial appearance and those that followed, allowing for this figure to have a few more unique things going about it.  Built on the standard body, the figure is 2 1/2 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Thor has seven add-on pieces, used for his hair/helmet, cape/shoulder pads, wrist bands, belt, and boots.  Like all of the “classic” Thors before him, he uses the Stargirl wrist bands, which are a solid fit for the character.  He also re-uses a standard nondescript belt piece, since the details on his early belt were just different enough that he couldn’t use the already existing belt.  His last bit of re-use is the cape, which is shared with the Eric Masterson Thor from Series 42.  It’s a good Thor cape.  His helmet and boots are new additions.  The boots are the best Thor boots to date, which is why they’ve remained the go-to Classic Thor boots since this figure’s release.  The helmet, or rather the hair beneath it, is a far more unique piece, capturing the distinctive whisp of hair that brushes out from under the helmet at the left side of his forehead.  That’s a very Kirby trait, and it really sells what this figure is meant to replicate.  More so than the sculpted parts, the paint is really key to selling the Kirby vibe on this figure.  They really got it down, from the distinctive Kirby yell on the face, to that signature shading style on the torso.  There are some minor complaints to be had, of course, like the torso detailing being slightly too high, and I know not everyone was in favor of the flat grey helmet, but by-and-large, this is a very snappy looking paint scheme.  Thor is packed with his hammer Mjolnir, which is a distinctly different shape than previous versions, following after its look in JiM #83.  The head is narrower, and the handle is longer.  As with the hair, it may not be standard issue, but it’s a nice attention to detail.  It’s even got the “whosoever holds this…” on the side.  Also included is Mjolnir’s alternate cane form.  Yeah, it’s just a glorified stick, and not super useful without a corresponding Donald Blake, but it’s a cool little extra nevertheless.

BALDER THE BRAVE

Prior to his film in 2011, Thor’s coverage in the world of Minimates included himself and Loki, twice over.  The movie and the increased exposure it granted got us a handful of other supporting players, including his *other* brother, Balder the Brave, a character whom has had exactly one action figure ever.  Like his brother Thor, this version of Balder is clearly based on Jack Kirby’s version, though he has been toned down ever so slightly so as to better fit in with the other Thor supporting players.  Balder has seven add-on pieces, for his helmet, cape, glove cuffs, boots, and skirt.  The helmet is a new piece, and its slightly smaller side denotes its Kirby influence.  While I’m kind of partial to the ridiculously large helmet from the Simonson-era, there’s no denying that this is a well-sculpted piece in its own right.  The rest of the pieces are all re-used.  He gets Superman’s cape, Invaders Captain America’s boots, Cap TTA’s gloves, and a classic BSG skirt.  It’s a well-chosen selection of pieces, and makes for quite an accurate looking Balder.  Balder’s paintwork is pretty solid work as well.  As noted above, he tones down the Kirby-styling a little bit, but it’s still definitely there, especially on the face.  Overall, he’s got an attractive color scheme, though perhaps one that’s not quite as exciting as Thor’s.  Included with Balder is his magical sword.  Don’t tell him, but it’s actually the same standard sword we’ve been seeing since Valkyrie.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

At the time of this set’s release, there were a few options for a classic Thor, but prior versions had always seemed to be lacking something.  The First Appearance look may be little more appearance-specific than others, but swap out the hammer for a more standard issue one and you’ve got a really solid take on the main God of Thunder.  And, while he may lack some of Thor’s flair, but Balder is undoubtedly a well-put together figure, and an essential piece of any proper Thor collection.  If he was only going to get one ‘mate, this one’s a pretty decent one to get.

#2168: Red Stripe Cylon

RED STRIPE CYLON

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (DST)

After siding with the Cylon Rebels and joining the Colonial Fleet, these newly-liberated and independent Cylon Centurions were a crucial weapon against Cavil’s retro-era forces.  Their distinct markings earned them the nickname ‘Red Stripes.'”

Battlestar Galactica…now that’s a name I haven’t heard in quite some time…or written about, at least.  While I was pretty into the rebooted BSG when it was airing (or at the very least for the back half of its airing), I’ve written a grand total of six BSG-related reviews for this site, the last of which was almost two years ago.  My first two BSG reviews, way back in my first month running this here site, dealt with Diamond Select Toys’ line of 7-inch figures based on the property.  While two of the three figures I reviewed were Cylons, there were no proper Cyclon Centurions to be had.  I intend to fix that today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Red Stripe Cylon was released as a Toys R Us-exclusive figure in 2009.  As his bio touches on, this particular Centurion hails from the series finale “Daybreak,” where the “heroic” Cyclon rebels bring with them what remain of the liberated modern-style Centurions.  In order to avoid any potential confusion from Colonial forces in the heat of battle, these guys get marked with their distinct red stripes.  Which really begs the question of just where did the Colonial fleet found so much red paint?  And who took the time to paint the stripes on these guys?  Did they use their new-found independence to paint themselves, thereby showing a capacity to learn and be creative, and by extension making the whole fleet flying into the sun at the end of the show even more depressing and oh gosh I gotta get off this train of thought.  Maybe they found a special happy farm on the other side of the sun.  Yeah, that’s it.  Or perhaps someone in the fleet was just a really big fan of Jamaican beer.  Hooray beer.  But what of the figure of which this is ostensibly a review?  He stands just shy of 8 inches tall and has 27 points of articulation.  His sculpt was shared with the several other variants of this particular design, and it’s a pretty good one.  Honestly, the Cylon Centurion sculpt is really the crown jewel of this entire line.  Without a questionably-implemented likeness to hold it back, the Centurion is free to just be pretty darn accurate recreation of the design from the show.  The details are crisp and clean, and even the articulation’s not bad, and that was something DST was still struggling with at this point.  There’s still something of a learning curve to getting decent poses out of him, and he’s not the sturdiest figure I’ve ever owned, but I can definitely dig the sculpt DST turned in here.  In terms of paint, the Centurion is a slightly cleaner model than we tended to see on the show, but virtue of the Red Stripes having spent a lot of their time on the base ships prior to “Daybreak” pulling them into battle.  It further highlights the cleanness of the sculpt, and really looks sleek.  The stripe is just a solid stripe of red, but I appreciate that it actually looks like someone quickly painted it on, as it did in the show.  The Centurion is packed with two different sets of hands: one set open, one set in fists.  There aren’t as frightening to swap back and forth as I was expecting, which I count as a definite plus.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I was a slow burn on getting into the modern BSG and an even slower burn on warming up to the modern version of the Cylons.  In my defense, they actively improved how the design was implemented as the show progressed, meaning that they were at the top of their game when it came time for “Daybreak.”  Additionally, I’m a sucker for the “formerly evil robot minion works with the good guys” idea, so the Red Stripe Cylons have long been one of my favorite parts of the finale.  That said, I never had much luck with the TRU-exclusive figures from this line, so I never saw this guy new.  Fortunately for me, I work at a toy store, and that nets you all sorts of things that you don’t see otherwise.  All Time got in a collection a few months ago that included every variant of the Cylon from the line, Red Stripe included, thus allowing me to finally add this guy to my collection!

As touched on above, I got this guy from my friends All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2117: Mutagen Leonardo & Foot Soldier

MUTAGEN LEONARDO & FOOT SOLDIER

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES MINIMATES

Well, the line has wrapped, but there was a time when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Minimates were some pretty hot stuff.  They were also some slightly confusing stuff, since depending on where you were purchasing them, the product was a bit different.  While the whole line was originally supposed to be blind-bagged, Toys R Us ended up not being so interested in that dynamic, and instead got theirs as two-packs, largely made up of the same basic figures showing up everywhere else, but now paired off and with one exclusive offering.  Today, I’m looking at that one, Mutagen Leonardo and his pack-mate the Foot Soldier.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Mutagen Leonardo and the Foot Soldier were released in TRU’s first series of TMNT Minimates two-packs.  The Foot Ninja was packed with the regular Leonardo as well, with Mutagen Leo swapping out for the regular in the one per case chase set.

MUTAGEN LEONARDO

Each of the primary retailers for this line got one Mutagen Turtle variant.  Mikey was at Kmart, Raphael at specialty, and Leo went to TRU (yes, they really did just the three of them at the start; Donatello had to wait for Series 2).  All of them were the same basic concept: take the standard release, mold him in translucent green plastic, and paint up just the bandanna in the proper color.  It’s not a bad look, and has the benefit of having the strong starting point with all the sculpted add-ons.  The lack of paint actually highlighted how nice the sculpts were on these guys, and the blank white eyes on the mask gave a nice change-up from the regular release.  Mutagen Leo was packed with the same accessories as his regular counterpart, so two katanas (in green to match him), a display stand painted like a manhole cover, and a keychain attachment to go around his neck.

FOOT SOLDIER

The Foot Soldier was available through all three venues, and I actually looked at his single-bagged release from Kmart back when these were new.  It’s the same figure, and I certainly don’t mind at all, since it and the Footbot were my favorites from the original line-up.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wasn’t in a huge hurry to pick this up when it was new, and never got around to tracking it down.  One was traded into All Time a couple of weekends ago, and I had initially surrendered this set to Max.  However, he ended up buying it for me for my birthday instead, which was quite nice of him.  Of course, it does make this his fault, but it’s a lighter sort of “this is your fault” this time around.

#2108: Senate Hearing Tony Stark & Mark I Iron Man

SENATE HEARING TONY STARK & MARK I IRON MAN

MARVEL MINIMATES

Though the first Iron Man got a pretty solid coverage of Minimates, by the time of Iron Man 2, the brand had moved to new heights and reached new audiences, and was just much larger in general.  The IM2 assortments had to pull double-duty, covering not only Iron Man 2, but also playing some slight catch-up on the first film for new fans.  Today’s set follows that, giving us new versions of the suited Tony Stark and his original Mark I armor.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

This pair was released in the first TRU-tie-in assortment of Marvel Minimates for Iron Man 2, alongside the more outwardly new Black Widow and Mark II pairing.

SENATE HEARING TONY STARK

Tony’s irreverent performance at the Senate hearing was heavily featured in the trailers leading up to IM2’s release.  As such, the appearance of his attire from that scene in this line wasn’t a huge shock.  Tony uses add-ons for his hair, jacket, and tie.  All three of these were re-used.  The hair is from the first film’s Tony, which is a good fit.  The jacket is from the “World of the Psychic” Peter Venkman; this was its first re-use, but it’s gone on to become a very common-place item.  Lastly, there’s the tie, re-purposed from the Spirit boxed set.  Again, the first re-use of many.  The willingness to use these new pieces, especially the sculpted tie, adds some quality to the figure that might have otherwise been missing.  The paintwork on Tony is pretty decent.  The big, goony grin on his face is certainly unique, and adds an extra bit of character to this particular figure.  There’s some impressive work on the pelvis piece, as well, delivering details that weren’t commonplace at the time.  They’re certainly appreciated here.  Perhaps the only other thing I’d have liked to see would be proper detailing under the tie on the torso, but that’s a minor flaw.  Tony included no accessories.  I can’t say I can think of what could have been included, though, so I can’t really hold it against him.

MARK I IRON MAN

The Mark I armor was one of the first Iron Man assortment’s real gems (really, only rivaled by Iron Monger), and he was also extraordinarily heavy on essentially one-off parts, so a re-release was warranted.  Like the first Mark I, he uses sculped add-ons for his helmet, chest plate, upper arm and leg armor, gauntlets, and boots.  The pieces are some of the finest sculpting from the line, especially from the period in which they appeared.  They were great the first time around, and this figure is the same.  The paint on the armor this time is somewhat changed.  It’s less silver and more of a gunmetal grey, with more wear and tear.  It loses some of the other colors, which is a shame, but it overall feels a lot more accurate, and differentiates the figure more than you might think.  What differentiates the figure most, however, isn’t what’s on the surface, but rather what’s under it.  The original Mark I gave us a pretty awesome captive Tony.  Through use of a spare hair piece, hands, and jacket, this one loosely replicates Tony’s entrance at the beginning of IM2, giving us Tony in a tux.  Sure, he was wearing it under the Mark IV in the movie, but this is still really cool.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I found these new, and I was definitely more interested in the other exclusive two pack at the time, but there’s no denying that this one is a lot better than anyone expected.  Senate Hearing Tony’s not an essential figure by any means.  He certainly could have been drab and boring, had DST just phoned him in.  Fortunately, they didn’t, resulting in a pretty nifty little ‘mate.  This Mark I could have been a simple retread of the original release, but he gets a lot of added value from the alternate look.

#2078: Gladiator Hulk

GLADIATOR HULK

MARVEL SELECT (DST)

After exiting stage right at the end of Age of Ultron, and thereby skipping the pseudo-Avengers outing in Civil War, Hulk’s return to the big screen came not in his own film (because the two lukewarm performances from before showed that audiences just aren’t there for a solo outing), but in the third film of fellow Avenger and fellow Civil War abstainer Thor, which served to (at least loosely) adapt Planet Hulk, specifically Hulk’s turn as a space gladiator.  It’s a distinctive visual to say the least, and one that pretty much every toy company jumped on, including Diamond Select Toys.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Gladiator Hulk was released a few months after Thor: Ragnarok hit theaters in November of 2017.  Though slightly delayed, he wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the Infinity War figures.  The figure stands over 8 inches tall and he has 28 points of articulation.  Hulk was a brand-new sculpt, and a pretty darn solid one at that.  DST had already done some solid work on the Avengers and Age of Ultron Hulks, but this one really takes things the the next level, but in terms of detailing and in terms of how the sculpt and the articulation work together.  Mobility on this figure pretty much the same as you’d get from the equivalent Legends release, and it’s all very well-worked-in on top of it.  The design is quite close to Hulk’s renders from the movie, with only one notable inaccuracy, and that’s even limited to the alternate head.  The detailing on the figure is definitely top-notch.  It’s sharp, and there’s plenty of texturing all throughout, even on the heads, which is an area where DST can sometimes have a little trouble.  His main head is sporting his gladiator helmet from the movie, which is quite well-defined, and by virtue of being a permanent fixture escapes some of the issues that Hasbro’s BaF ran into.  The alternate head removes the helmet, revealing a head of hair that’s…not quite right for the movie.  He’s got a pretty distinctive cut there, but in DST’s defense, pretty much none of the promotional material had his helmet off, and they really aren’t *that* far off.  Perhaps my biggest complaint about the figure, still has to do with those heads, namely how difficult it is to swap between them.  The intense detailing is really awesome, but it, coupled with a tight neck joint, meant I tore up my hands a fair bit trying to get them off and on.  He also comes wearing the un-helmeted head, meaning you encounter this issue right out of the box, which can be a little off-putting.  The paintwork is some of the best I’ve seen on a Select figure, with a clean base application and a ton of accent work on pretty much every piece of the sculpt.  While he may not have the fancy face printing of a Hasbro release, he’s still quite lifelike in that regard, and just generally looks like an occupant of the lived-in world of Ragnarok, as he should.  In addition to the previously mentioned extra head, Hulk is also packed with two sets of hands in both fists and gripping poses, as well as his hammer and axe from the movie, which, like the figure, are superbly detailed.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When the Legends figures for Ragnarok were released, I wasn’t in the financial position to collect every Legends BaF as they hit, and Gladiator Hulk was one I ended up skipping.  Several months later, when I was looking to fill in some holes in my collection, this figure was released, and I felt like he was the much easier alternative to trying to find all those BaF pieces.  He’s probably the happiest I’ve been with a Select purchase, though I do have to admit he’s one of those figures I kept forgetting I had (which is why it took me over a year to finally get around to reviewing this freaking thing).  He integrates amazingly well with my Legends, and is just one of the better Hulk figures out there.