#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.

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#1484: Mr. Miracle

MR MIRACLE

DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS (MATTEL)

“As part of a peace pact, Scott Free was raised in an orphanage on the cruel world of Apokolips.  Young Scott finally escaped that destiny and made his way to Earth where he was befriended by escape artist Thaddeus Brown, known as Mr. Miracle.  Under Brown’s tutelage Scott assumed the identity of Mister Miracle and elevated to greater glory as an entertainment super-escape artist!”

In time for Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday, his beloved Fourth World creations have made their triumphant return to the four-color-printed pages.  Well, a few of them, anyway.  Kirby’s most successful Fourth World creation is the evil monarch Darkseid, but I’d say that Mr. Miracle’s a pretty close second.  His original book ran for twice as long as the others, and he’s had more than a few revivals, including a currently running one, which I’ve been picking up and enjoying enough to keep reading.  He’s also had a pretty good helping of action figures.  I’ve already looked at two of them, but here’s one more.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Mr. Miracle was released in the sixth series of DC Universe Classics, which was the final assortment of the line’s inaugural year.  It was a rather rocky year, with a slow start at Series 1, poor distribution for the four series, and quality control issues all over the place.  Series 6 marked a real turning point, being a little easier to find at retail and offering overall higher quality figures.  Scott was the second Fourth World addition, following Orion in Series 1.   Following Scott, there’d be one New God per series until Series 12.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 25 points of articulation.  He’s built on the medium base-body, which works well enough for Scott, since he’s usually a little smaller than Orion and the like, but still usually depicted as larger than average.  Scott has a new head, forearms, and shins, as well as add-ons for his cape and belt.  It’s nice to see just how many new pieces there were on this guy, given how prone to just painting the details this line got as it went on.  The head is a generic depiction of Mr. Miracle’s mask, not based on any specific artist’s version.  Obviously, there’s some pretty heavy Kirby influence there, but it’s not a strict Kirby version of the character.  Nevertheless, it’s a good take on the character.  The other pieces are mostly just designed to slot in pretty flawlessly with the base body, which they do pretty well.  The cape, it should be noted, is made from a harder plastic than you might expect, which means it’s really stiff, solid, and heavy.  It can make him a little difficult to keep standing.  That being said, it’s still a nicely crafted piece, so no complaints there.  What I find most impressive about this figure are the details that most people will never see.  The back of his belt features a removable Mother Box, and the bottoms of his feet have been re-sculpted so as to get some Kirby circuitry.  Both easily overlooked details, but both details included here anyway.  The paintwork on this guy is perhaps his only real negative.  It’s not terrible, but it’s a little sloppier than I’d like.  Still, it’s got some very nice accent work that you don’t see much these days, and is all-around pretty good.  In addition to the previously mentioned Mother Box, Mr. Miracle is also packed with a pair of flight disks (which get a circuitry detailing similar to the underside of the foot), as well as the right leg of Kaliback.  Most impressively, he includes a pair of arm cuffs, clearly modeled after those included with his old Super Powers figure, making this guy the first official call-back to Super Powers in this line.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t buy this guy new. Not long before his release, DC Direct had done their own set of Jack Kirby designed New Gods figures, which I quite liked.  That Mr. Miracle was my favorite of the set, and I didn’t really feel like I needed another.  Then this figure’s price shot up fairly quickly, and I figured that was just as well.  Recently, Cosmic Comix got in a nearly complete set of DCUC figures, and they’ve been slowly putting them out.  I saw this guy, and it was the same week as the new issue of Mr. Miracle, so I felt it was appropriate.  I’m glad I picked him up, because he’s quite possibly one of the finest offerings from DCUC.  He’s a character that really fit the style, and it’s clear they went the extra mile to make him so cool.  It’s almost hard to believe this was actually a Mattel offering.

#0798: Mister Miracle

MISTER MIRACLE

DC ICONS (DC COLLECTIBLES)

MrMiracle1

Jack Kirby is a pretty pivotal figure in comics, having had a hand in the creation of a huge portion of the Marvel Universe. He didn’t just work at Marvel; he also spent a fair bit of time working for Marvel’s main competition, DC. He didn’t have the same impact at DC that he did at Marvel, but he did create the Fourth World, which picked up a pretty substantial cult following. One of my personal favorite characters from the Fourth World has always been Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle. Scott (or Scot, as he’s known now. Extra “t”s are so last century) has made a fairly recent return to the DC Universe, and his new look just got a figure, courtesy of DC Collectibles’ newest line, DC Icons.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

MrMiracle2Mister Miracle is figure 04 in the first series of DC Icons. He’s the lone New 52-based figure in the first series, which is fair, I suppose. The main purpose of the Icons line was to serve as a competitor for Hasbro’s Marvel Legends, so articulation is a key point. Mister Miracle delivers pretty well on this, sporting 27 points of articulation. Like a couple of the animated figures, he would really benefit from some sort of lateral movement on his legs, but you can still get a pretty decent range out of him. What he doesn’t deliver on so much is height. He stands about 5 ¾ inches tall, which makes him a good half an inch shorter than the average Marvel Legend and almost a full inch shorter than prior DCC figures. For what it’s worth, he’s in roughly the same scale as S.H. FiguArts figures. But he, and the rest of the line, are still a lot smaller than expected. Moving past that, he has a totally unique sculpt, which is pretty well executed. The proportions of the body are actually pretty good, and most of the articulation is worked in pretty well. Design-wise, he’s based on Miracle’s look from Earth 2, which is a slight tweaking of his original Kirby design. I think the original is still a stronger look, but this isn’t a bad look. The costume details are mostly etched in, which has MrMiracle3the result of making him look a lot sharper. The cape is a separate, but permanently attached piece, made from a softer materials. The sculpt is okay, but, the cape is a little oddly shaped. That being said, it works for what it is. The paint work on the figure is nicely handled overall. The etched in lines of the costume make for cleaner paintwork, and help to make the details pop a bit more. The colors are all done in a really cool metallic sheen, which really makes him look pretty sweet. For accessories, Mister Miracle includes two sets of hands (fists and open), a pair of hoverdiscs for his feet, and what I believe is a Mother Box.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up Mister Miracle from my local comic book store, Cosmic Comix. He was actually the only of the four first series figures left. I was somewhat intrigued by the concept of Icons, and I’ve always liked Mister Miracle, so I thought this guy would be a good starting point. The issues of scale are a little frustrating, especially for people who were hoping to place these figures with their prior DCC figures. That being said, Miracle is a really fun figure, and he shows a great improvement in terms of quality for a DCC product. Plus, as more of these figures are released, the scale thing will become less of an issue.

MrMiracle4

#0189: The Demon, Etrigan

THE DEMON, ETRIGAN

DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS

Etrigan

Ah, yes, DC Universe Classics. A line I loved and hated. I love most of the figures, but I grew to hate Mattel, the producers of the line, more and more as every series went by. This figure goes back to the happier times, way back in Series 1, before things went to crap.

The character in question is The Demon, Etrigan, a character created by Jack Kirby in 1972. He was originally Sir Jason Blood, a knight in King Arthur’s court, who was bound with the demon by Merlin. Jason became immortal, and had the ability to summon the Demon’s form by reciting “Gone, gone the form of man. Rise the demon, Etrigan!” The character had prominent appearances in Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League, if you want to check those out.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Etrigan was released in the first series of DC Universe Classics. I always have found this to be an interesting choice, given the character’s relative obscurity, but I suppose Mattel wanted to show they intended to go pretty obscure with the line. He has 23 points of articulation is is just shy of 7 inches tall. DCUC was usually heavily dependent on the Buck System, but Etrigan actually had an almost entirely unique sculpt. The only thing I believe was ever reused is the upper torso piece, which I believe was later see on some of the Collect-N-Connect figures such as Atom Smasher. Etrigan’s sculpt is a truly impressive piece of work by Mattel’s oft-used sculpting team The Four Horsemen. The skin has some wonderful texture work, and the sleeves and cape are nicely tattered. Etrigan’s lower arms and hands are a bit rubbery, but nowhere near as bad as some later entries in the line. The paint work on Etrigan looks great. All the basic paintwork is clean, no slop or bleed over. He also features several washes, which really help to bring out the details of the sculpt. Etrigan’s only accessory is the left arm of Metamorpho, the C-N-C of series 1. Etrigan doesn’t really have anything that would work as an accessory, and he’s a bit bigger than the typical figure, so it’s understandable.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I had initially not planned on purchasing Etrigan, or really getting into DCUC at all. The line-up was mostly figures I already had in some form or another, and most of Mattel’s previous DC work had been lackluster at best. DC Direct seemed to be killing it with their more expansive offering of DC figures. But then, Mattel announced the next two series of figures. Specifically, they announced Series 3’s Green Lantern, which quickly caught my attention. So, I gave the first series a second look, and found that several of them were actually quite good. I found Etrigan and two of his compatriots at my local Target and picked them up, effectively creating a monster. Yay.

#0164: Mister Miracle, Oberon, & Big Barda

MISTER MIRACLE, OBERON, & BIG BARDA

DC DIRECT BOXED SETS

MrMiracle&BigBarda

Hey, I’m back after a brief intermission! Hope everybody liked Tim’s guest review. I personally was really glad to get a day off, and I thought the review was pretty great too! Back to business…

Jack Kirby is a name that most casual comics/super hero fans tend to be familiar with. Along with Stan Lee, he helped to create the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, Marvel’s Thor, and Iron Man. Before that, he and Joe Simon were responsible not only for the creation of Captain America, but also the entire genre of romance comics! That’s quite a list of accomplishments! Anyway, in the 70s, Jack left Marvel and went to DC, where he created The Fourth World, which included New Gods, The Forever People, and Mister Miracle.

Today, I’ll be looking at the titular Mister Miracle, as well as his assistant Oberon and his partner Big Barda. Mister Miracle was Scott Free, who escaped from the prisons of Apokolips as a child and ventured to Earth where he became an escape artist/super hero. Barda was once part of Apokolips’s deadly Female Furies, but was freed by Scott. Oberon was… a short guy.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These three were released as a boxed set by DC Direct in the early 2000s. At the time, DCD was big on the boxed sets, so they released these guys all in one swoop.

MISTER MIRACLE

This is, interestingly enough, not Scott’s first foray into the world of action figures. He was previously part of Kenner’s Super Powers line in the 80s. This figure stands about 6 ½ inches tall and features 13 points of articulation. Scott’s sculpt was all new to him. It’s pretty good, though the proportions aren’t the greatest. The don’t look bad, they just seem off in some places. Mister Miracle comes from a time when DCD’s sculpts were more simplistic, so he doesn’t have much texturing. That’s the style of the line of the time, so that works fine. Scott’s cape is sculpted in a similar style and it looks pretty cool and dynamic. The paint lines up nicely with the sculpt. There’s a decent amount of detail around the eyes, so you can actually see the skin around his eyes, which is a very nice touch. The reset of the paint is basic, with mostly large solid blocks of color, but it looks right for the character, and there’s no slop or bleed over. Scott included a set of hover discs which could plug into his feet, which are a cool item.

OBERON

Contrasting Mister Miracle, this is the only figure of Oberon ever made. He stands about 3 ½ inches tall and has a whopping 3, count ‘em 3, points of articulation. The sculpt isn’t bad. It’s a bit more detailed than Mister Miracle. Unfortunately, the legs are in some kind of an odd running pose, which makes him really hard to stand. As far as proportions, his shoulders are a bit too broad, his neck is too short and his head is a bit on the small side. None of the figures in the set are really styled after Kirby’s drawings, and this hurts Oberon the most. The paint is cleanly applied on Oberon, but it’s also really sparse. This figure really could have used some kind of a wash or something to bring out some of the details.

BIG BARDA

Barda got her first toy release with this figure, which was kinda a big deal at the time. The figure stands about 7 inches tall, and has 9 points of articulation. 3 of these points are effectively useless, thanks to her hair limiting the neck, and the cut joints on the hips being useless. The height is an interesting point, as I do believe this is the only figure of Barda to tower appropriately over Scott. Barda’s sculpt is more detailed than Scott’s, but not really any less simplistic. The proportions are also on the strange side. She had very broad shoulders and big hands. I’m not sure what shape her hips are supposed to be, but it’s not the right one, that’s for sure. The removable helmet is good in theory, but not so great in implementation. It ends up being really bulky, and it sits up too high on the head, which makes the whole thing look a bit goofy. Like the other two figures in the set, she has basic paint apps, but they’re still cleanly applied. Barda includes a set of hover discs, and a staff (which I lost. Sorry!)

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I received this set as a birthday present from my friends Renfield and June. I had mentioned to them that I had seen it marked down at their local comicbook store, and if it was still there, I’d like to have it. I later found out that the store didn’t have the set and Renfield had spent a fair bit of time calling around to various comic stores asking if they had the set. I certainly appreciate it. While they may not be the greatest figures, or even the best versions of the characters available, it was a good set for the time, and it’s still a pretty great set over all.