#2652: Batman

BATMAN

DC C3 CONSTRUCTION (PLAY ALONG)

The initial assortment of DC C3 Construction hit in the summer of 2004, and they were really focused on actually selling it as a line of construction sets that also included some Minimates.  In their second year in 2005, they tried that again, albeit with a smaller assortment this time.  Following that assortment, they kind of gave up even trying to pretend about what they were doing, and transitioned the line to a much more compact, lower price point selection of “Mini Flyers”, small vehicles that were a very thin excuse to put out the Minimates effectively on their own, only, you know, not.  Even through this end, they stuck to their heavy focus on Batman characters, including variants of the main man himself.  I’m looking at one of those variants today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Batman was released in April 2005 in the very originally named “Batman Mini Flyer” set, one of the six Mini Flyer sets that made up the final assortment of the DC C3 Construction line.  By this point, they were only packing a single Minimate with each set, so as to keep the price down, so Batman was all by his lonesome.  He was a comic-based figure, specifically drawn from his ’70s era appearances, as denoted by his predominately blue color scheme.  He’s built on the standard ‘mate body with C3 feet.  Still no standard peg holes for the heads, so he’s got a solid noggin piece.  He’s got add-ons for his mask, cape, belt, and gloves.  The mask, cape, and belt are the same ones used on the Dark Knight Batman included with the larger Batmobile set, but the gloves are new pieces for…reasons?  There were four standard Batmen in the C3 line, and every one of them used a different set of glove pieces, and I couldn’t for the life of me begin to tell you why.  These ones do at least put the arm spikes on the back of the gloves, where they’re supposed to be but tend not to be.  So, that makes them cool, I guess.  Also, these parts are not rubbery like last week’s Robin, so that’s another marked improvement.  Batman’s paint was generally pretty basic, and definitely not as involved as Robin.  Given the classic inspiration, that’s somewhat sensible, but not doing the shading on the front of the mask does feel like a missed opportunity.  I do like the slightly different expression on the face under the mask, though; it’s a nice change-up from the usual neutral expressions.  This Batman didn’t get any accessories, but there was the Mini Flyer, I guess.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Mini Flyer’s are really where this line lost me, so I missed out on picking all of them but one when they were at retail.  Batman wasn’t that one, but he was a figure I was always interested to have.  Thankfully for me, he came in with the larger Minimate collection that showed up at All Time last year, and here we are.  Ultimately, I think DCD’s later classic Batman was slightly better, but this one’s still got his own charm to him.

#2645: Robin

ROBIN

DC C3 CONSTRUCTION (PLAY ALONG)

In 2004, Marvel Minimates entered their second year, making them by far the most successful Minimates offering up to that point.  Not that it took much, of course.  That same year, the brand attempted to expand…in a fashion, anyway.  Since Marvel’s cavalcade of super heroes proved successful, there was an attempt to get DC in the game as well.  Due to how the DC license was split up at the time, there was no space for a straight forward DC Minimates release at quite that time, but through a bit of loophole abuse, Art Asylum was able to partner with Play Along, who held the license for DC-based construction sets.  Dubbed “C3” (for “Create, Construct, Customize”), the sets each included at least one Minimate as a pack-in figure.  The first round was Batman-heavy, and included multiple versions of the Caped Crusader, as well as his trusty sidekick, Robin, who I’ll be looking at today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Robin was included in the “Mini Batmobile” set, one of the first 7 sets released in the DC C3 Construction line in the summer of 2004.  There was also a Batman included in the set, but I’m just focusing on Robin this time.  Robin was one of the comic-based figures, and was specifically based on the Tim Drake incarnation of the character.  This was noteworthy for being the only Minimate version of Tim ever to be produced.  The figure was based on the standard ‘mate body, with the new C3 feet, of course, so he stands 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  While he’s got the C3 feet, he’s still without a hair piece with a peg, showcasing the slow evolution of the line.  He gets a new hair piece, cape, belt, and gloves.  They were pretty decent pieces overall, but for whatever reason, the add-ons for this guy are really rubbery.  This is the biggest issue when it comes to the hair, which has a lot of trouble staying properly in place, as it’s not rigid enough to actually clip on.  It still looks okay, but it’s not ideal for play.  The gloves are definitely the nicest pieces, though, and have some pretty sharp detail work.  The paint work is pretty solid.  It showcased a bit more detailing than earlier Marvel efforts, with the mask and boots in particular having quite a bit of creative lighting to them.  The face and musculature remain fairly basic at this point, but it allowed him to remain at least somewhat consistent with the animation-based figures from the same set.  Though Robin was effectively an accessory himself, he nevertheless did get an extra of his own, namely Tim’s signature bo staff.  It’s another soft plastic piece, but it still looks pretty cool.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When these guys were shown off, the Mini Batmobile was the one I most wanted, and was subsequently the first one I got.  As with many of my early ‘mates, I lost most of the parts to both the Batmobile itself and the two figures it included.  Batmen are a dime a dozen, but this was the only modern era Robin, so I’d been looking for a replacement for a little while.  Thankfully, when All Time got in that large collection of Minimates last year, I was able to snag a replacement Robin.  He’s definitely one of the coolest C3 offerings, and honestly holds up pretty well, even after all this time.

#2603: Battle Damaged Thing & Gajin Wolverine II

BATTLE-SCARRED THING & GAJIN WOLVERINE II

MARVEL MINIMATES

The trouble with a four member team, at least when it came to Minimates and their early three two-pack per assortment structure, is that you end up with extra slots.  In the case of the Fantastic Four, there have been a number of different approaches to filling those extra slots.  In the case of their first entry into the line, the approach was hard-lining the heavy hitter mash-ups.  More Thing!  More Wolverine!  Yes!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Battle-Scarred Thing and Gajin Wolverine II are the last set from the Fantastic Four-themed eighth series of Marvel Minimates.  Battle-Scarred Thing remained exclusive to this assortment (for his own good, really), while Wolverine was re-packed with a standard Spider-Man for Target.

THING

Battle-Scarred Thing is actually interesting, in that he’s Minimates’ first real stab at a figure based on a specific comics appearance.  He was patterned on the Thing’s torn up appearance following a run-in with Wolverine in Fantastic Four #374, which I guess is meant to really give Wolverine an excuse to be in this set.  It doesn’t really work out quite so well.  This was the fourth version of Thing we’d gotten, and he follows the “Clobberin’ Time” model of putting Ben in one of his actual uniforms.  He’s built on the standard C3 body, so he’s 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Structurally, he’s the same as the more basic Thing from this assortment, with the same head piece, chest block, and bulked up hands.  The powerhouse piece is still fine, but I really don’t like that head piece.  Fortunately, this would mark its last use.  The paint work changes things up here, obviously to give Ben his costume change.  I do find it interesting how he has a standard looking musculature on the uniform, despite the standard one from this set not getting any musculature at all.  Also, thanks to this costume being a post-Byrne one, it’s got white boots, so it doesn’t really match the rest of the team from this same assortment.  And that’s not even getting started on the blue sections being actually blue, rather than the black they should properly be.  Thing’s face gets adjusted detailing to include the scarring he got from Wolverine.  It doesn’t help the already less than stellar Thing head from the regular version in this set.  What does help that face, however, is the full helmet that this guy includes as an accessory, replicating the one he wore in the comics after getting injured.  It’s actually a pretty cool piece, and it’s nice that they gave him an accessory, and even a unique one at that.

WOLVERINE

This Wolverine’s official name is “Gajin Wolverine II”, which is quite the monicker.  “What happened to Gajin Wolverine I?” you might ask?  He was a summer con exclusive in 2004, and he’s honestly only very minorly different from this guy.  “Why Gajin?” you may follow up?  I guess it’s in reference to his first solo series, where he was in Japan, and referred to as “Gajin” fairly regularly.  It’s a very specific reference for something that would far more simply be summed up with the name “Brown Costume Wolverine”, but here we are.  Also, it’s worth noting that, while the Thing in this set is very specifically patterned on an issue where he has a run-in with Wolverine, in said issue, Wolverine was sporting his tiger stripe costume, not the brown one presented here.  Oh well.  Structurally, this guy’s *mostly* the same as the GSXM Wolvie.  The only change up is that instead of having the long feet under his boot pieces, he’s got the C3 feet, which means there’s a gap between the two of them at the front.  He doesn’t have the peg hole in his head, because they weren’t quite standard yet, and the older mask piece meant it wasn’t required.   The paint work on this guy’s overall not bad.  There’s one small gaffe with the secondary color on his mask being brown instead of orange, but beyond that the colors work well, and the detailing on both the face and the torso is pretty much straight out of Miller’s illustrations from the miniseries.  He was certainly one of the most detailed ‘mates at the time, and rather starkly contrasts with his assortment mates.  Wolverine had no accessories, as neither extra hands nor hair pieces had become standard quite yet.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This whole series got passed on by me, but even before that, this one wasn’t really high on my radar.  The appeal of such an extraneous re-pops of heavy hitters was kind of low for me.  When I finally got around to picking up this series from All Time last year, I still hesitated on these two, but they were there, and I figured “why not?”  Wolverine’s actually pretty solid, even by later standards.  The Thing, on the other hand, was iffy when he was new, and has not been helped by time.

#2596: Susan Richards, Invisible Woman, & Powerhouse Thing

SUSAN RICHARDS, INVISIBLE WOMAN & POWERHOUSE THING

MARVEL MINIMATES

You can’t just do *half* of the Fantastic Four…well, I mean, if you’re Toy Biz, I guess you can.  In fact, you can do it way more times than you ever fairly should be able to.  Just constantly stringing people along forever…Sorry, I was having flashbacks.  Look, we’re not talking about Toy Biz here, we’re talking about Diamond Select.  And they would never leave us high and dry like that, with an incomplete team, just two members shy of completion…apart from that one time that they did exactly that with their Aliens line…look, this isn’t about Aliens, it’s about the Fantastic Four, and finishing up that line-up, which we’re totally doing right here, right now, with no further distractions!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Susan Richards and Powerhouse Thing were released in Series 8 of the main Marvel Minimates line, and then again at Target in 2005 and 2006.  Standard Sue was the heavy packed version, with a full Invisible Woman swapping in for her in the variant set.

SUSAN RICHARDS/INVISIBLE WOMAN

Sue made her Minimates debut in style.  While her brother Johnny was stuck being flamed on all the time, she gets to be regular most of the time.  Lucky her.  Like her assortment-mates, Sue is built on the standard C3-style ‘mate body, peg hole on the head and all, so she’s 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  She uses the same glove pieces as Reed, as well as a new hair piece, clearly based on a ’60s Sue ‘do.  It’s a rather basic piece, but it gets the job done, and thanks to the peg it stays in place better than Reed’s.  I’m still iffy on the bulked up glove pieces, and exactly what their purpose is, but I’ll try to move on.  In terms of paint, the standard version fairs a bit better than Reed, thanks to having consistent coloring for the all of the costume details, as well as getting some actual torso detailing.  The variant is molded in all clear plastic, keeping the detail lines, and going for a slightly translucent blue for the black sections of the costume.  It’s a cool look, and you can easily mix and match the two for a powering up effect.  Both versions are packed with a shield piece, similar to Captain America’s.  And, thanks to those bulked up gloves, the shield has to sit over her elbow joint, which is a bit annoying.

THING

Thing gets his third go at a Minimate here, thanks to being the only team member available for a while, and yet still kind of needing to be included in the assortment proper.  So, here he is.  2005 marked a notable change-up for the line’s construction, adding in a few more bulked up parts for slightly larger characters, hence the “powerhouse” title for this version of Thing.  He uses the same bulked up hands as before, as well as making the first use of the original powerhouse chest piece, and an all-new head piece.  The powerhouse piece is pretty basic, and not nearly as involved as later bulk up parts.  This kind of helps to keep him more on the basic side, in keeping with the rest of the assortment.  The only part I don’t really care for his the head piece.  It’s really just different from the prior piece for the sake of being different, and that’s not really a good reason to change it.  It’s just not as good as the older piece, and even DST knew it, since this piece didn’t get used beyond this series.  In terms of paint, he’s not terribly far removed from the Series 5 version.  He’s got the proper team shorts this time, which is good, but I don’t like the the new face. It just doesn’t match that classic Thing feel.  Fortunately, the oranges match, so a re-work is possible.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As I noted in the last set of these I looked at, despite being very excited for this set of ‘mates, I didn’t buy them new, and I didn’t really jump too quickly into tracking them down after the fact either.  I blame the Thing; he’s just so ugly.  I snagged these guys at the same time as Reed and Johnny, just to round out the team.  They’re not bad, but they’re definitely dated, and kind of from a weird middle spot for the line.

#2589: Torch & Mr. Fantastic

TORCH & MR. FANTASTIC

MARVEL MINIMATES

First previewed in the line in 2004, in 2005 the Fantastic Four proper made their way into Marvel Minimates.  Marvel’s first family was on the rise that year, with a movie hitting theaters that summer, and all sorts of cool toy product to go along with everything.  Of course, then the movie actually came out and we all collectively went “meh” and the FF kind of got back-burnered, but hey, they were still full of all this cool potential at the beginning of the year, right?  Minimates got in on the pre-movie hype by devoting an entire assortment of figures (well, almost…more on that later) to the team, which was certainly a leg up from prior coverage.  Today, I’m kicking things off with a look at Reed and Johnny!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Torch and Mr. Fantastic were part of Series 8 of Marvel Minimates, which hit retail shelves in January of 2005.  The same pairing was also released through Target in both 2005 and 2006.  They’re kind of an odd pairing, thematically, since it would seem to me that Reed/Sue or Reed/Ben and Johnny/Ben or Johnny/Sue would have made way more thematic sense.  But, I guess they had good money on everyone going for the whole set anyway.

TORCH

Apparently, Johnny is no longer human, he’s purely torch, because that’s what he is on every instance of his name on the package.  No clue at all as to why they ditched the “Human” portion of his name for the Series 8 release, but it did fortunately reappear when the packs made their way to Target.  My guess is it was a mistake that no one caught until it was too late.  For his first ‘mate, Johnny went fully flamed-on.  It’s always an iffy prospect in three dimensions, but it’s certainly distinctive.  He’s on the standard ‘mate body (which now comes with the C3 feet standard in the main line, a first with this Series), so he’s 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  Johnny has add-ons for his hair and the flames on his shoulders, both of which are new.  It’s interesting that the hair was new, rather than being a re-use of the Ghost Rider piece from the prior year, but it does look a bit better.  It’s also notable for introducing the pegged hair pieces to the line.  Up to this point, all of the heads had been without peg holes, and all of the hair pieces had purely been held in place via friction.  It worked for some designs, but not others, and the pegs really helped to keep the figures held together a bit better (though they would have other drawbacks that would surface later).  All in all, it’s a good set of parts, and works decently for the character, albeit a more modern take on his flamed-on appearance.  The paint work on this guy’s quite nice, with a very comics-esque and very dynamic facial expression, as well as musculature and the classic Torch heat lines on the torso, pelvis, and legs.  It works very well.  Johnny was packed with a fire blast effect piece and a small flight stand, both of which were new, and which helped to further sell his flame abilities.

MR. FANTASTIC

Reed actually got a preview release in the line in late 2004, as part of a TRU-exclusive 10-pack, where he and Ultimate Green Goblin were the exclusive pieces.  But, for those of us who didn’t want to buy 8 duplicate figures just to get two, there was this two-pack.  Yay!  This guy’s built on the standard C3-footed body, in contrast to the early release, which was long-footed.  He’s got add-ons for his hair and gloves.  Both were new.  The hair’s a little blocky and minimalistic for where the line was going by this point, and it’s worth noting that, due to being produced the year before, it doesn’t have the peg like Johnny’s.  This also means it has some trouble staying in place.  The gloves are decent enough pieces, though I do really have to wonder why they were included at all, since it’s not like the FF’s gloves have ever been depicted as anything other than just as skin tight as the rest of the suit.  They just end up looking oddly bulked up, especially with the lack of any corresponding parts for the boots.  Reed’s paint work is far more basic than Johnny’s, but also a lot more imbalanced.  There’s a lot of detailing on the face (which is actually a pretty solid Jack Kirby-style recreation of Reed), but the body gets only very simple detailing.  He doesn’t even have any musculature on his torso.  Additionally, for some odd reason his boots, belt, and collar are a dark blue, while his gloves are a straight black.  Why aren’t they just all black?  Isn’t that weird?  Reed gets a pair of extended arms, which swap out at the hands, and are actually pretty darn cool.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I was really excited for this assortment when it was shown off and really wanted the whole set, and then inexplicably bought exactly none of them when they were actually released.  Couldn’t tell you why.  Just wasn’t feeling them right at that moment, I guess.  I waited on getting them for quite a while, actually, and only actually got around to picking them up when a whole slew of Minimates came through at All Time last year.  Johnny’s okay.  There have been better versions, but he’s not a bad offering on his own.  Reed was weak even when he was new, and just feels really imbalanced, like parts of him were designed way earlier than the rest.

#2582: Clobberin’ Time Thing & Super Skrull

CLOBBERIN’ TIME THING & SUPER SKRULL

MARVEL MINIMATES

After being introduced into the line in early 2004 with a single team member, the Fantastic Four got another Marvel Minimates release in fairly short order.  It was great, another team member to–what’s that?  Oh, it wasn’t another team member at all?  It was just the same team member a second time?  Yeah, that sounds more appropriate.  Well, at least we got another FF foe out of the deal.  Also, full disclosure: this set’s not as bad as it seems on the outside.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Clobberin’ Time Thing and Super Skrull were a Tower Records-exclusive pack, added to the Marvel Minimates line in October of 2004.  They were Tower’s second exclusive for the line, following 2003’s single-release of Silver Surfer. Rather surprisingly for figures from this early in the line, these two remained wholly exclusive to this pack, though the pack itself was never incredibly hard to get a hold of or anything like that.

THING

Yes, for the second FF set, we got yet another version of The Thing.  This time around, he’s wearing one of his more extensive FF uniforms, with the tank top and boots that Byrne outfitted him with during his run on the book.  Honestly, I’ve always loved this look myself, so I can’t really complain that much.  The figure stands 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Ben’s built on the standard ‘mate body, but wait, what’s that I spy?  Would those be C3-style feet?  Indeed they would.  Though they wouldn’t make it into the main line until the beginning of the next year, 2004’s summer/fall exclusive packs were all given the C3 treatment, a first for the Marvel line.  He’s got add-ons for his head piece and fists, which, like the prior release, help to bulk him up just a touch, while still keeping him more true to the core body than later versions.  While the head piece remains the same as the prior release, the hands are actually new, and actually do the reverse posing of the prior release: right is gripping, left is closed.  It’s a small touch, but still a cool one.  The paint work is a fair bit changed up for this release, adding the necessary details for his uniform, as well as some actual musculature for his torso, which works very well.  Additionally, his facial expression is changed to a close mouthed one, which really appeals to me and my desire to have more close mouthed Thing figures.  The face is seated slightly better on the face this time as well, so it works even better with the head piece this time.  Thing included a small cigar accessory originally, but mine hasn’t had one as long as it’s been in my possession.

SUPER SKRULL

Facing off against this new version of the Thing was an old FF foe whose whole gimmick is mimicking all four team members’ powers.  Maybe not the best choice when you still haven’t put out the whole team, but hey, new is new.  Like Ben, Kl’rt uses the new and improved C3-footed body.  He also gets new add-ons for his cowl, shoulder pads, flame effect, and extended rocky fist.  All of these pieces were re-used as the line progressed, and they’re all pretty solid additions.  They go more for the basic detailing of the earlier offerings, of course, but there’s plenty of sculpted detailing on that rocky fist, matching closely to what we saw on Thing’s hands.  It’s definitely cool.  Super Skrull’s paint work does a solid job of merging the typical Skrull with the effects of the FF’s powers.  He’s got the appropriate flamed-on effect for the right hand and forearm, and transparent lower legs.  It’s a good look, and it’s a lot of fun.  Super Skrull didn’t get any accessories, but given the number of new parts included, that’s hardly the end of the world.  I suppose some standard Skrull parts might have been cool, but that extensive level of alt parts wasn’t really a thing yet at this point.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Though these two are a two pack, I got the respective ‘mates about 8 years apart from each other, and neither one of them was new.  I fished Thing out of a small loose figure bin at a teeny tiny comic con I was attending back in 2011, and only had him for the longest time.  When All Time got in their huge Minimates collection last fall, Super Skrull was in there with no accompanying Thing, and so it just kind of felt meant to be.  Though the set’s doubling down on Ben seems like a bad move on the outside, he’s actually a really fun ‘mate, and remains my personal favorite version of the character in the line.  Super Skrull is likewise a really fun ‘mate, and he was new and different at the time.  Honestly, this is one of the coolest sets from ’04, and is a real pick-me-up after suffering through Series 7.

#2575: Spider-Man 2099

SPIDER-MAN 2099

MARVEL MINIMATES

When last I talked Marvel Minimates, I was discussing the rather infamous Series 7, the line’s dreaded “retread wave”, an assortment that was more than 2/3 redundant.  I had delved most of the way into it, but of the two actually new ‘mates included there in, I have thus far only reviewed one, leaving one last figure for me to look at.  Gee, I wonder what I’ll be looking at today…perhaps that exact figure?  Yeah, probably.  Let’s do this, I guess.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Spider-Man 2099 was one of the two unique pieces in the seventh specialty assortment of the Marvel Minimates line.  In fact, if you *really* want to get into it, he was actually the only truly unique piece in the line-up, since the other one, Chameleon, actually got two releases within Series 7 itself.  So that’s…cool, I guess?  2099 was packaged with Silver Surfer, which was an off the wall pairing to be sure.  Surfer had, of course had one prior release, and had another two on the horizon following this one, and is a ‘mate I’ve already reviewed.  2099 is a vanilla ‘mate, relying on just the core long-footed Minimate body, meaning he’s 2 1/4 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  2099 is, notably, one of four ‘mates in Series 7 to not use any add-ons, making it a very parts sparse assortment as a whole.  He really *should* have gotten a cape piece, and honestly would have probably benefited from Venom’s clawed hands.  It probably would have helped add some pop to the design, because as it is, he’s kind of…flat?  The paint work is doing the heavy lifting here, and while it’s fine from a technical stand point, it doesn’t really do a ton to make the design pop off of the page.  The blue seems a little light, and the red a little dark, and he lacks any sort of musculature detailing or anything.  Again with the flatness.  2099 included no accessories, lest he have anything else going on to add potential excitement to the assortment.  Can’t have that, can we?

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When Series 7 hit, the only set I actually picked up was 2099 and Silver Surfer, because it wasn’t totally redundant, and I didn’t yet have Surfer.  As I noted in my review of Surfer, I lost a good chunk of the parts to my 2099 over the years.  The one seen here is actually on loan to me from Max, who was kind enough to help me round out this last piece of Series 7, just so I could finally be done with it.  Honestly, there’s not much to write home about here.  He was new and unique at the time, but I can’t say he was particularly thrilling.

#2539: Grey Hulk & Rhino

GREY HULK & RHINO

MARVEL MINIMATES

Last week, I took my first glance into the hopeless abyss Series 7 of Marvel Minimates, an assortment that’s not generally looked at as one of the line’s best, largely due to its overall lack of actual new stuff for the line.  This issue is really at its worst with today’s offering, which in notable for offering absolutely nothing new, a first for a specialty assortment offering for the line.  So, without further ado, let’s try not get too bored as we look at Grey Hulk and Rhino.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Grey Hulk and Rhino were released together for Series 7 of Marvel Minimates.  Previously, both figures had been the “hidden” figures in TRU’s Hulk/DD and Spider-Man 5-packs respectively in 2003.  Grey Hulk was also packed with Ultimate Spider-Man for an SDCC-exclusive pack, also in 2003.  Rhino, for his part, was also paired off with Captain America for the Target/Walmart packs.  What I’m getting at is that these guys were hard *not* to get.

GREY HULK

Grey Hulk (or “Franken Goblin” as Super Awesome Wife has decided he’s called in our house) is a fairly standard Hulk variant, and a pretty simple one at that.  He’s pretty much the same set up as the regular Hulk, being the standard long-footed body with a hair piece.  His hair piece is notably a different one than the standard.  This one attempts to go for Hulk’s earlier hair style, where it was all just on the top of his head and he had the more prominent brow.  It doesn’t quite work out as well as they’d hoped, and ultimately just ends up bulking up his head, making his body look even more puny by comparison, just further pushing the main issue that plagued the first release.  The paint work on this guy is again pretty similar to the original, with a but of a color swap, of course.  He also gets a slightly different facial expression, and one that I kind of like a little bit more than the standard’s.  It’s a shame it didn’t get ported over to green.

RHINO

Rhino is an interesting character to pair off with Hulk.  It’s not that the two have never fought, because they have, but it’s infrequent, since Rhino’s typically a Spidey villain and all.  It’s also perhaps not the most exciting color pairing either, since both of these guys are mostly grey.  That certainly can’t help with the overall meh feeling on the set.  Rhino was another pretty basic ‘mate.  He’s the standard body with an extra piece for his helmet.  The helmet’s actually pretty nice, and does a solid job of capturing Rhino’s look.  Like Hulk, Rhino looks a little scrawny without the add-ons to bulk him up, but it was the style early in the line.  Rhino’s paint work was pretty detailed, with musculature on his torso, and even some slight detailing of his “hide” on the legs.  That’s a cool touch.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Remember how I said you had to try *not* to get these guys?  Yeah, well, I somehow managed to not actually get them for 16 years after they were release.  I know, I’m a bit shocked too.  Like I was mentioning in my Chameleon/Spidey review, I think I just got a little put off by most of this assortment at the time, and just never had the drive to track them down after the fact.  Ultimately, I snagged them from All Time last fall.  They aren’t that bad, but they also aren’t that exciting, and getting them as many times as we did didn’t help things.

#2532: Ultimate Spider-Man & Chameleon

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN & CHAMELEON

MARVEL MINIMATES

As they arrived at the end of their second year, Marvel Minimates found their first true moment of weakness.  Throughout the first two years of the line, DST was experimenting with having multiple release venues for most figures, with a select few maintaining a more exclusive status.  Nevertheless, they managed to keep the main line pretty pure, allowing for collectors to more or less stick to the specialty two-packs as the main attraction.  Then came Series 7, an assortment referred to in the collecting community as the “retread wave,” due to it having not one, not two, not three, but four re-packaged figures, as well as one of the lamest standard/variant split ideas DST ever put out in the line (and that’s bearing in mind that the second year started things off with unmasked Daredevil!).  It was…not ideal.  But, we all managed to suffer through it, and 78 main series later, I guess it’s not all that bad.  Today, I’m diving in with Ultimate Spider-Man and Chameleon!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Ultimate Spider-Man and Chameleon officially make up two of the sets from Marvel Minimates Series 7.  Why two?  Remember that lame standard/variant split I mentioned?  Here’s where it comes into play.  The standard release of this set was Spidey and Chameleon.  The variant was Spidey and Chameleon…with a J Jonah Jameson mask.  Yes, they hid the disguise mask for the character whose whole gimmick was disguises behind the variant wall, but also made it completely pointless to actually purchase both versions of this set, because who in their right mind would want the exact same Chameleon, just without the mask, as well as a second copy of the Ultimate Spider-Man that most of the fanbase already had at least one of before going into this series?  No one.  Not even me.  And I’m insane.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN

Ultimate Spider-Man holds the distinction of being perhaps the least exclusive Minimate of all time, which is impressive, given that he began his life in an SDCC-exclusive two-pack in 2003, alongside Grey Hulk (who is, I suppose rather fittingly, the runner up for least exclusive Minimate).  Following the two-pack release, he was packaged with Kingpin for the Target/Walmart assortments, and with Bullseye, Kingpin, and Peter Parker/Spider-Man for the TRU four-packs.  And then, after this release, he cropped up one more time in the 10-piece Gift Pack, forcing faithful fans to buy him yet again.  That marks six separate releases of this exclusive Minimate, for those of you playing at home.  Ultimately, he’s the same construction set-up as most Spider-Men, meaning he’s on the standard ‘mate body (or the long-footed variant, anyway) and has no add-on pieces.  The main thing here is the paint, which is like the main Series 2 Spider-Man, but less so.  Since in the Ultimate line, Spidey’s costume wasn’t actually different from his main line counterpart, DST instead differentiated them by basing this figure on the costume right after Peter first gets it, before he adds the webs to it.  Honestly, it’s not a particularly exciting or needed variant, but, umm, here it is.  And aren’t we all so glad it was released so many times?

CHAMELEON

One of only two new figures in Series 7, Chameleon made up for that by taking up two of the slots.  Yay.  At least he stayed contained to this assortment.  Like Spidey, he’s just a vanilla ‘mate, built on the standard long foot body.  I suppose it’s not the worst thing in the world, since he’s usually a pretty svelte guy, and it fits the sort of spy/espionage thing he’s got going on.  In terms of paint, he actually re-uses the tampography from Professor X for his suit, albeit in a different set of colors.  He did get a new set of details for his head, which sports his distinctive mask that he wears under other masks…as you do.  It actually looks pretty cool, and is by far the best part of the core figure.  The standard figure had no accessories, but the variant that should not have been the variant and should have definitely just been the main release and that I’m definitely not still mad about added a J Jonah Jameson mask, which is a pretty nifty touch, and remained the only way to get Jonah for another 35 Series of the line.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Series 7 is a definite rough patch for the line, and this set pretty well exemplifies it.  This Spider-Man was a stretch for his first release, and the subsequent five really pushed it too far.  He’s not bad, but he’s really not very exciting.  Why did this one get so much love?  Chameleon is the worst use of variant for the line, but to DST’s credit, he did seem to mark a turning point, as they never were quite this bad again.  So, I guess that’s good?  I don’t know.

I honestly didn’t pick up these two when they were new, mostly out of frustration.  Fortunately, my sponsors at All Time Toys were able to finally help me get the Chameleon I actually wanted, allowing me to write this review.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2525: New Wolverine & Phoenix

NEW WOLVERINE & PHOENIX

MARVEL MINIMATES

In 2000, the X-Men hit the big screen in their first live action film, and found themselves a whole new audience that they hadn’t yet enthralled through comics, cartoons, toys, or video games.  To try and bring this new audience back into the original source material, comics scribe Grant Morrison was given the reigns to the franchise, re-envisioning it into something a little more in-line with what people had seen on the screen.  For the most part, the similarities translated to “putting the whole team in black leather.”  It did garner a lot of attention, though, and set the stage for the next decade or so of the comics.  So, I guess it kind of worked.  Of course, on the flip side, it made the team slightly less toy-worthy, so there’s a lot less coverage from that angle.  There were some Minimates, though!  Let’s look at those, shall we?

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

New Wolverine and Phoenix were released in Series 6 of the Marvel Minimates line, which hit shelves in Jul 2004….just in time for New X-Men to wrap and for the characters to all get new, slightly more classically-inspired costumes on the pages of Astonishing X-Men.  Isn’t it always the way?  Both of these guys were also available in a TRU-exclusive four pack with Xavier and Magneto the following year, and Wolverine also showed up in the 10-Piece gift pack and then got a new (far more hideous) face and was re-packaged in the Dark Tide boxed set.  Not bad for an abandoned look.

NEW WOLVERINE

Our fifth Wolverine from the line, and honestly the first sign of how over-popped the character would become, this was our second Wolverine in as many series for 2004.  At least this one had the whole team line-up thing going for him, and wasn’t just another civilian variant, although he certainly still skirts that line.  He’s built on the standard long-footed body, so he’s 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Wolverine got three new add-on pieces, in addition to re-using the clawed hands from the last four variants of the character.  The new pieces entailed his hair, jacket, and belt.  All three of these parts would see a lot of use as the line progressed…and that’s honestly kind of sad.  The jacket and belt aren’t too bad, I suppose.  They’re rather basic pieces.  Of course, they were also less used than the hair, which was really the prime offender.  It’s the weakest of these early Wolverine hair sculpts, in terms of shaping and level of detail, and yet it still got used five times over the course of the line.  This far removed from its use, I still don’t miss it, but I guess I’m not quite as actively against it as I was.  The paint work on Wolverine’s not bad.  His face is really the best Wolverine we’d gotten at this point, and there’s a lot of detailing going on throughout the body, especially on the torso.  Also, rather than going for a stark black, the uniform is a very dark grey, which doesn’t look bad.

PHOENIX

Dubbed Phoenix, presumably so as not to double up on “Jean Grey” so early in the line, this figure is jus kind of not what I wanted, largely because she’s, you know, not actually Phoenix.  Made worse by the fact that we wouldn’t get an actual proper Phoenix for another five years.  So, that was great, right?  This marked Jean’s second time as a Minimate, and her second time with some very modern, ultimately not very Jean Grey-looking design.  She uses the same core body as Logan, of course, as well as sharing his belt.  Sensible, what with it being a uniform and all.  She also got a new hair piece and jacket.  The jacket suffers from the same issue as all of these early jackets, being boxy, and bulking up a figure that probably shouldn’t be quite so bulked up.  The hair is a perfectly fine piece, but like Wolverine’s hair above, it’s one that’s seven subsequent uses kind of made us all tired of it, especially given how many supposedly unique characters it was used for.  For Jean, it actually wasn’t too bad.  Jean’s paint work is pretty decent again.  It’s mostly basic stuff, but I do like that they actually got the pattern to her shirt under her jacket.  Also, thanks to using the same color of grey throughout, you can remove the jacket piece and it actually doesn’t look too bad!

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve never been much for the New X-Men costumes overall, and I already had both of these characters, so I was in no rush to pick up this set when released.  I really only got them because I got the four-pack release, and I wanted Magneto and Xavier.  These two were along for the ride.  They’re okay, but ultimately, the parts seen here are some of the parts that almost spelled the end of the line after getting re-used too much, so my opinion’s a little bit colored.  They could definitely be worse, though.