#2566: Batman – Defender

BATMAN — DEFENDER

BATMAN: THE CAPED CRUSADER (SPIN MASTER)

Remember earlier in this week when I was talking about the DC line’s wacky variant coverage?  Remember the thing about getting the variant before getting the standard?  And also the thing with the gold?  Great, that makes writing this intro a bit easier for me.  This time it’s Batman.  Here we go.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Gold Batman, who is apparently called “Batman Defender,” is part of the very first series of the Batman: The Caped Crusader line.  He ups that “rare” game that was going on with Wonder Woman to a “Super Rare” game…again, whatever that means.  I’ve got this one and not the standard one, so I don’t know about the relative rarity.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 17 points of articulation.  There are currently three Batman sculpts floating around in this line, and this figure makes use of the most “standard” of the the three.  It’s based on the Rebirth design for his costume, which is a pretty darn solid Batman design, all things considered.  The sculpt is pretty much on par with the rest of the Spin Master DC stuff, so it’s a little bit bulked up when compared to the comics depiction, but honestly, it has a pretty good basic Batman feel to it.  The costume details are well rendered, and I appreciate the level of work that’s gone into it.  The head in particular has a nice classic Batman vibe, which I can definitely dig.  He’s got a cloth cape, and like I noted with Superman and Shazam, it’s not a terribly impressive piece, but it’s also not like it’s particularly bad either.  They made a point of leaving a hole in it that corresponds with the port on his back, so at least he can make use of all of the gear from other figures, if you’re so inclined.  While the Gold Wonder Woman was totally devoid of paint, Batman mixes things up slightly.  He’s got his black insignia, white for his eyes, and flesh tone for his lower face, indicating that this is supposed to be a costume, I guess.  It’s different from all of the other gold variants, but it was also the first one, so I guess they hadn’t quite made up their minds fully on the concept yet.  I think I might have preferred the straight gold, but this isn’t bad either.  Gold Batman includes three blind packed accessories: a grapple in neon green, chest armor in black, and a shield in yellow.  It’s a shame they didn’t go for the all gold pieces like with Wonder Woman.  I feel that would have inclined me to use them, instead of just tossing them to the side.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I liked the Wonder Woman a fair bit, and I definitely want the Gold Superman, so I figured I might as well grab a Gold Batman too.  The one from the corresponding series is built on the armored body, which I wasn’t quite as big on, but fortunately for me, Max was on board with trading out that one for this one, and passing this one along to me.  It’s a little weird that they changed the gimmick mid-run on these guys, but I still like this figure.  I guess I should pick up a Batman in standard colors now.

#2564: Wonder Woman – Gold

WONDER WOMAN — GOLD

DC HEROES UNITE (SPIN MASTER)

Spin Master’s DC line is definitely focusing on the more toyetic side of the universe, what with their goofy blind-boxed accessories, and general shift to more heavy hitter focus.  This also includes a little bit of wacky variant coverage.  And sometimes, you just end up getting that wacky variant first, now don’t you?  Well, that’s my story anyway.  How about a look at this Wonder Woman who is inexplicably all gold?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Gold Wonder Woman is from the third series of Spin Master’s DC Heroes Unite line.  She’s classified as a “Super Rare” figure.  What that means for actual availability, I don’t really know, nor do I believe I’ll ever full understand.  Certainly someone at Spin Master has some sort of idea, and I’ll just leave that to them.  Wonder Woman’s based on her Rebirth-era costume (or would be if she weren’t, you know, all gold), which is itself heavily movie inspired.  It’s a strong design, and I can get behind it.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and she’s got the same 17 points or articulation as everyone else in the line.  Her sculpt’s honestly a pretty strong one.  She’s not as bulky as the guys, which actually makes her look a little bit more comics accurate.  She’s perhaps a little more leggy than she should be, but I’ve certainly seen worse.  There’s actually quite a bit of smaller detail work going on here, and I’m definitely keen to see how it looks on a figure that makes use of full color.  Speaking of color, this Wonder Woman is, as mentioned before, all gold.  There’s no paint here, just molded plastic.  It’s ever so slightly translucent, which is kind of cool when she’s all lit up.  It works pretty well.  Gold Wonder Woman’s accessories are again blind packed, but like a lot of this set, there’s really the only possibility.  She’s got her lasso, a sword, and a shield, all in gold to match the figure.  This is definitely one of the better accessory selections for the line.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This one goes back to Max for the pick-up.  After I found Flash and found out about the later assortment line-up, I let him know I was definitely interested in a few of them, so he snagged this one for me at the same time as GL.  I’m not really sure why she’s gold, and I can’t recall and specific story where that was the case, but I can’t really complain about the execution, as she does make for a nifty toy.  Now to just find one in standard coloring.

#2530: Profit Director Destro

PROFIT DIRECTOR DESTRO

G.I. JOE: CLASSIFIED SERIES (HASBRO)

Remember when Destro was pretty fliggity-fly for a chome-headed guy?  No? Yeah, that’s fair, because that’s totally a phrase I just made up, and if I’m honest, I’m kinda regretting it just a touch.  It’s okay, let’s just move on and not dwell.  Today, I get to touch on one of my favorite things: weird toy production trivia and oddities!  Yes, today’s focus figure has a definite story behind it, going back to the year 1997.  The 3 3/4 scale Joes had taken a 3-year break, and Hasbro was looking to attempt a relaunch of the line.  The result was the Real American Hero Collection, a collection of mistakes, mishaps, and misfortune that somehow still managed to be an overall success and bring the line back.  Interspersed with all the madness that surrounded the project, Hasbro was still trying to inject at least *some* new life into the franchise, and subsequently brought in some outside artists to try and spruce up some of the mainstays with some new color schemes.  Amongst these new designs was one for Destro, which replaced his usual black and red number with something more…exotic?  Okay, look, you’ve seen the picture at the top, I don’t need to beat around the bush: it’s leopard print.  They gave Destro leopard print.  What began as more of a jokey concept on the part of artist Steve Masso actually managed to get approved and go into production…briefly.  Once a few people higher up on the Hasbro chain saw the design, this new Destro design was deemed a step too far, and the leopard print was replaced with black on the final production figure.  A small sample of the original design, dubbed Pimp Daddy Destro by the fanbase, managed to make it out, however, and the whole thing has become rather legendary in the Joe community.  Hasbro paid its first bit of official homage to the design as a SDCC-exclusive in 2007, and is now following that up by bringing the design into their latest re-launch of the line, with a figure I’m taking a look at today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Profit Director Destro (rather clever way of getting an official take on the name on Hasbro’s part) is a fan channel-exclusive Classified Series offering, numbered at 15 in the line, making him chronologically the latest figure in the line.  The figure stands 6 3/4 inches tall and he has 37 points of articulation.  At his core, this figure is the same as the standard Destro from Series 1, which is pretty sensible, since PD Destro’s always been a repaint.  It’s also a really strong sculpt through and through, so I’m not unhappy to see it show up again.  He does actually spruce things up a little bit more than the prior two versions of this design, gaining a fairly swank cape.  Oh wait, did I say cape?  I meant capes, plural, because he’s got not one, but two fur capes going on there.  It’s definitely a fun piece, and manages to actually stay in place quite securely once you’ve got it one there, and definitely adds to the whole look.  The rest of the appearance has been achieved through paint work.  There were a lot of smaller detail changes on the body suit of the main Destro, and so this figure kind of adapts the PD color scheme around them.  The main red of the body suit is definitely more present this time around, and the leopard print is slightly more downplayed.  Also, much like the variant edition of the 2007 release, he swaps the silver helmet for a gold one.  It calls back to his V2 design, and it actually works a bit better with the overall color scheme of this design.  Destro’s pretty decently packed when it comes to accessories, including the briefcase and pistol from the standard release, as well as a pair of sunglasses and a stack of money that’s been lit ablaze.  The last two extras are definitely the coolest ones, as they perfectly complement the overall over the top nature of this design.  I dig the vibe.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’m a sucker for cool toy history throw-backs, and I was always kind of bummed that I’d missed out on the ’07 edition of this design.  As soon as this one was shown off, I was definitely on board.  Obviously, he’s not going to be my standard Destro by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s a really fun little side figure, and he’s got a really fun design.

Thanks to my sponsors over at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure to review.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2503: Battle-Action Mega Armor Wolverine

BATTLE-ACTION MEGA ARMOR WOLVERINE

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

Toy Biz’s ’90s Iron Man, though far from a failure, was also not quite the success of some of their other Marvel-based toy lines from the same period.  Following the slow sales of its fourth assortment, the line was brought to a close, cancelling not only its fifth set of figures, but also some off-shoot products, which included a line of items dubbed “Mega Armor,” which would effectively take off from the Hulkbuster armor and give both Iron Man and War Machine larger mecha suits to pilot.  It was a cool concept, but not one that Toy Biz could get retailers to support under the Iron Man name.  However, with the molds ready to go, they had to do *something* with them, so they were quick to repurpose them under two of their more successful brands, X-Men and Spider-Man.  Why Spider-Man and the X-Men were running around in big mechs is anyone’s guess, but I try not to complain too much about such things.  Whatever the case, it gives me a Wolverine variant I haven’t yet looked at, so I might as well jump in on that, right?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Battle Action Mega Armor Wolverine hit shelves in 1997, under the main X-Men line branding.  To start with, they did Wolverine and Storm with the armor, but others would eventually follow down the line.  The Mech suit is about 9 inches tall and has movement at the shoulders and wrists, as well as a cockpit that opens in two spots to let the standard figure inside out.  Said standard figure is about 5 inches tall and has 10 points of articulation.  Wolverine’s mech suit is the one that was originally intended for Iron Man, and as such it’s definitely got a lot of details that really match up with both the modular armor and with the Hulkbuster armor’s depiction on the Iron Man cartoon in the ’90s.  It’s certainly a cool looking piece, though the very stiff nature of it does make it a little more difficult to really play with.  It’s more of a set piece than anything, and that becomes really even more apparent when you stick Wolverine in it instead of its original intended occupant.  The included Wolverine figure is interesting in that, when you really get down to it, he’s not *technically* a Wolverine at all.  He’s actually a re-use of the main line’s Morph figure, just with that figure’s alternate Wolverine head in place instead of the standard.  While the Wolverine head works fine on that figure as a more quick gimmicky set-up, the two character’s really don’t share the same build, resulting in a very anemic looking Wolverine.  He’s still very posable, however, so he’s at least a pretty playable figure.  When it comes to paint, the mech suit gets a pretty notable overhaul on the color scheme, moving away from the intended Iron Man scheme into something more in line with Wolverine’s usual palette.  It’s not a terrible look, but it’s definitely a departure, and I don’t know that it suits the mold as well as the original set-up would have.  For his part, the included Wolverine also gets a pretty major overhaul as well, with a totally blue number, some silver accenting and a whole bunch of weird gold techno lines thrown in to top it all off.  Really weird set-up, and I’m really not sure exactly what they were going for.  It’s certainly….different?  Oh, and he’s of course wall-eyed, because that’s just how you do, I suppose.  In addition to the Wolverine figure being included, the mech suit also gets a claw weapon thing to hold in one hand, and has a spinning hand feature on his right side and an extending punch feature on the left.  He’s certainly got his fighting options all laid out for him.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t have the whole mech suit thing as a kid, but I did have just the Wolverine from it, as it had been found at my Dad’s work, and he ended up bringing it home for me.  I always wanted the whole suit, in any of its many released forms, but I just never did get one.  But lucky me, one came into All Time in a collection, and also lucky me, Christian had just happened upon some really good trade fodder for me at Goodwill, sort of kind of as a birthday thing, meaning I was able to get this guy essentially free of charge.  That worked out pretty darn well.  This thing is so majorly goofy, and I so majorly love it.

#2417: The 1997 Wolverines

WOLVERINE – NINJA, MONSTER ARMOR, UNLEASHED, FUTURE, HYDRO BLAST, & BATTLE BLASTER

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

It’s going to get worse before it gets better…well, depending on your perspective, anyway.  It’s certainly going to get more numerous before it gets less so.  Yes, it’s time for part four of the Day of the Wolverines, where we move to 1997, a year that was quite jam-packed with Wolverines.  I mean, really, just X-Men figures in general, but as the most marketable, Wolverine reaped a lot of those benefits.  However, this is really where the line gives up on its “lets just make a fairly straight adaptation of a lot of X-characters” mission statement in favor of a more crazy, experimental, frantic, “try to grab all the attention we can” ideal.  It was…well, it was an interesting time to be collecting for sure.  Onward we go!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

“Long ago trained in the ways of the martial arts, Ninja Wolverine formed a powerful bond with Japan and many of its people.  So when Dark Nemesis threatens to destroy Japan, Ninja Wolverine is ready to tear him to pieces.  Joined by fellow X-Man Ninja Psylocke, Ninja Wolverine uses his razor sharp claws and martial art abilities to do whatever it takes to stop the forces that would enslave his adopted home land!”

Man, they really like the word Ninja, don’t they?  After the success of the Light-Up series the prior year, Toy Biz opted to go even further down the themed assortment rabbit hole.  Their first venture was one that was pretty popular in the mid-to-late ’90s: Ninjas.  Admittedly, not the furthest reach for an X-Men assortment, and Wolverine himself is a pretty solid fit for such a theme.  The figure stands 4 1/2 inches tall and has 11 points of articulation.  After creep upward in scaling, Wolverine is back into a more regular scale…for now, anyway.  This was a new sculpt for Wolverine, and represents the line’s turn to more exaggerated proportions and expressions.  I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with Logan’s face, but I’m fairly certain I don’t like it.  We get our first acknowledgement of Wolverine’s bone claws for this figure, three years after the fact.  This marked the line’s first venture into a more mixed-media venture, which would prove a popular idea for Toy Biz, as it would re-surface for their X-Men vs Street Fighter line, as well as their Marvel’s Gold line.  It’s not the worst looking thing, I suppose, but Logan looks a little bit like he’s swimming in all that fabric.  Fortunately, it’s fairly easily removed if that’s not you jam.  In order, I suppose, to make up for his lack of metal claws, Wolverine includes a three-bladed sword, a ninja staff, a chain (which the kids dig, of course), and a grappling hook.

“Transformed by Mister Sinister into a creature possessing pure animal fury, Wolverine is now the monstrous beast, Fangor.  Breaking the bars of his holding cell, the monster Wolverine rages out of control.  Using his increased strength, Wolverine destroys Sinister’s mutagenic equipment and soon finds himself attacked by monster versions of Rogue and Cyclops!  Wolverine is mutantkind’s last, best hope against the power of Sinister!”

After being Ninjas and then fighting some robots for a bit, the X-Men played into their monstrous side, as well as their…armored side.  Look, they turned into monsters, okay?  And Wolverine was there because he kinda had to be, like contractually or something.  The figure stands just shy of 5 inches tall (again, with the hunch factored in, meaning he’s again jumping in size.) and has 5 points of articulation.  The Monster Armor series for whatever reason cut back on the articulation for the individual figures.  Others in the set get a few more unique points of movement, but Wolverine just has the standard 5 joints.  Wolverine is definitely a victim of a shift towards a pseudo-McFarlane style, with pre-posing, exaggerated proportions, and a more “intense” design.  Logan takes an admittedly far more simian appearance, even before the monster armor is taken into account.  He also ditches Logan’s usual hair, in exchange for something more free form.  Despite its very stylized nature, it’s actually a kind of nifty sculpt, partly because it’s a bit more unique.  I also quite dig the torn-up costume detailing.  One notable thing missing are his usual shoulder pads, which were present on the prototype, but were gone by the time he made it to production.  This figure also had a notable cut in paint apps from proto to final product, resulting in a somewhat bland paint scheme here.  Wolverine included the five clip-on pieces for turning him into “Fangor,” which do their job as well as any of the others.  I don’t know why he doesn’t turn into, say, a Wolverine, but hey, who am I to judge?

“Feeling responsible for Professor X’s possession by the evil Onslaught entity, Wolverine seeks to save his mentor.  Finding Onslaught unstoppable, Wolvie rescues the one person whose reality-warping powers might be able to defeat the villain–Franklin Richards.  Now in New York City’s Central Park, Wolverine stands with the greatest super heroes in the final assault against Onslaught!”

Following the…let’s loosely call it “success,” I suppose…of Marvel’s Onslaught crossover, we got a brief tie-in line as part of the X-Men line.  There’s not much to it, but there was a Wolverine.  Yay?  Sure, why not?  We’d already gotten a Wolverine with bone claws, but this one takes it a step further, giving us, to date, our only figure of Wolverine post-adamantium-removal-and-attempted-reintroduction-induced-secondary-mutation.  It’s a very specific time in his life, I assure you.  It’s also, like, peak ’90s craziness for Wolvie.  The figure stands 5 3/4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  Again, the Onslaught series represents a cut back in the articulation, and more importantly it leans hardcore into the increasing size of Wolveine.  Were he standing straight, this guy would have at least another inch of height.  Even amongst the larger than average Onslaught figures, that’s nuts.  This guy’s too large to fit in with Marvel Legends, for Pete’s sake!  Befitting the time period and the version of Logan, the sculpt is by far the most exaggerated I’ve looked at yet.  He’s really cartoony, and really goofy. I dig the retractable claws for this guy, but the actual fur on the forearms is just a really strange choice (according to Super Awesome Wife: “He’s hairy in all the wrong places”).  Honestly, a lot about this figure’s strange, truth be told.  His only accessory is actually an additional figure: it’s a little Franklin Richards figurine, in what has got to be the most ’90s attire Franklin ever wore.

“With his strong adamantium bones and claws, as well as a mutant healing factor, Wolverine can stand up to just about anything.  So when the X-Men take on Apocalypse in his flying fortress, Wolverine leads the charge.  Pounded by the fortress’ automated defense systems, Wolverine attacks.  Using his razor sharp claws, Wolverine makes quick work of the robot guards.  Facing off against Apocalypse in mid-air, Wolverine won’t stop until he sends the villain crashing down once and for all.”

At this point, the actual themes of the assortments kind of started to fall off, in favor of just leaning really heavily into the gimmicks.  The Missile Flyers series was, unsurprisingly, a bunch of figures with big missile-firing flying contraptions.  Also, it was supposedly in the future?  All of the figure’s had “future” in front of their name, anyway.  At least it didn’t get shoved into every instance of Wolvie’s name like with the Ninja figure.  Future Wolverine stands just shy of 5 inches tall and he has 9 points of articulation.  Yay for knees and elbows again!  That said, he’s not a particularly posable figure, even with the returning joints.  Pretty much he’s hot the one pose.  His sculpt was all-new, and it was an all-new design and…well, there it its.  It, uh, it certainly happened.  His head’s real tiny, and his hands and feet are real big.  I’m glad that at least, unlike the Muntant Armor, this figure’s armor does actually mimic the classic Wolvie appearance a bit.  Also digging those groovy curved and wavy claws.  Very unique.  This Wolverine a mask (which the package proudly proclaims “fits over head”; that’s good, I guess) and a dragon-shaped wingpack with a launching missile for a head.  The wingpack is green for some reason, which clashes with the figure proper, but if I’m honest, doesn’t look half bad.

“When Los Angeles is attacked by deadly mutant hunting Sentinels, it’s up to the X-Men to stop them.  The Sentinels’ only weakness is their vulnerability to water.  Thus the X-Men arm themselves with powerful water shooting weapons in order to defeat the inhuman menace.

Fighting his way out of any situation is the most dangerous of all the X-Men — Wolverine!  Putting his enemies in their place with his retractable claws, Wolverine also has a powerful mutant healing factor making him quick to recover from any attack.  With heightened senses, no one can hide from Wolverine, making him an effective hunter as well.  Choosing the path of a hero, Wolverine fights along side the X-Men to create a world where humans and mutants co-exist in peace.”

1997 was the year that Toy Biz got into the water-themed stuff, with both of their main super hero lines getting in on the action.  Spider-Man had the Web-Splashers, and the X-Men had “Water Wars.”  The pretense of how they set up the need for these water-shooting gimmicks is pretty darn laughable, but removed from the gimmicks, they were actually an alright assortment of updates to some core looks.  We’d gone a little bit without just a standard tiger stripe Wolverine, and this one dropped right in nicely.  The figure stands 4 1/2 inches tall (his stature was returning again to something more reasonable) and he has 11 points of articulation.  Though he lacked elbows, the rest of the added articulation sort of made up for it, and this was honestly Toy Biz’s most posable Wolverine at this scale.  The sculpt is far more stylized, and definitely more pre-posed than earlier entries in the line, but for the most part, this is a pretty respectably handled take on the character.  He’s packed with some shoulder armor, onto which you can mount his big water cannon.  It’s incredibly gimmicky, and incredibly tacked-on, but there it is.

“In a strange universe Wolverine brings a glimmer of hope to all mutants.  Fighting against the evil warlord Apocalypse, Wolverine slashes his way to making the world a better place for all mutantkind.  Along with Jean Grey, Wolverine is more trouble than he can claw his way out of, his transforming Claw Cannon Blaster and its secret weapon are more than able to finish the more than able to finish the job for him.”

Okay, I’m not even going to try and figure out what that bio’s *supposed* to say, because it certainly isn’t what it actually ended up saying, because that’s just an incomprehensible mess.  It’s okay, the figure it accompanies isn’t much better.  After Water Wars, Toy Biz decided they really liked this model of packing every figure with some sort of large gimmicky thing, so they launched the “Secret Weapon Force,” a subline that ran through the X-Men line for the next two years.  The first series was dubbed “Battle Blasters” because everyone had…big battle blasters.  I know, it’s real high-concept stuff.  Wolverine stands 5 1/4 inches tall and has 8 points of articulation.  All of the Battle Blasters figures were retools in some way, but while some of them were rather clever, Wolverine simply wasn’t.  For some reason, they opted to re-use not a pre-existing Wolverine mold, but rather a *Sabretooth* mold, specifically Captive Sabretooth from the Invasion Series.  It’s not a great mold to begin with, and is only made worse when co-opted to be something it’s not.  They’ve opted to do him up in his Age of Apocalypse colors, but he’s still got two hands, and no pupils, and hair that’s not even remotely right, so it just kind of falls apart.  It’s also just not a very attractive sculpt, and that jaw-opening action feature looks really weird.  No sir, I do not like it.  They weren’t willing to drop money on new tooling, but Toy Biz were quite happy to spring for this all-new Claw Cannon Blaster, which is…a thing.  Yeah, it’s dumb and I got nothing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The “I’ve probably got enough Wolverines” was really hitting by ’97, and so I really didn’t pick any of these up new, or even pay them much mind.  I’ve got other figures from the same assortments, so I was still collecting, of course, but not these guys.  In the case of Unleashed and Future Wolverine, I’ll admit to actually wanting them a little bit as a kid.  They were, in fact, the two I was most hoping to see in this collection when Jason called me about it.  Goofy as they may be, neither disappointed.  The others are kind of a range of quality.  Water Wars is surprisingly good, and Battle Blasters may well be the worst Wolverine Toy Biz ever produced, with the other two falling in between.  Oh good, I’m finally through with the ’97 review.  It gets easier from here.

Thanks to All Time Toys for setting me up with these guys to review.  If you’re looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2416: 1996 Wolverines

WOLVERINE — LIGHT-UP, PATCH, SAVAGE LAND, & BATTLE ARMOR

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

As we reach the middle of this crazy Day of the Wolverines event, I’m doing a bit of a time jump.  We last left off in 1993, just as the X-Men line was taking off.  The Wolverine craze was, admittedly, at a minimum.  I’ve already covered 1994’s Wolverines, and by 1995 I had gotten into collecting myself, meaning I bought those Wolverines when they were still new.  So, we pick things up in 1996, when the X-Men line is starting to dip its toes into the world of weird.  Don’t worry, guys, this one stays mostly on the rails; it’s the next one you have to worry about.  Okay, into the fray once more!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Long before joining the X-Men, Wolverine was a well-trained mercenary.  One of the most important skills to him was stealth training.  Now when Wolverine needs to get somewhere secretly, he utilizes this background and his stealth equipment!  Donning these advanced stealth weapons and gear, Wolverine becomes a one-man covert operation.”

1996 was the year that the gimmicks really started to seep into the X-Men line, with the first one of note being the “Classic Light-Up Weapons” series.  Ah, yes, Light-Up weapons; what a classic.  While the general purpose of the assortment was to update some characters that hadn’t gotten figures since nearer the beginning of the line, Wolverine was also along for the ride, because, well, he’s Wolverine.  His standard figure for this release was, despite the “Classic” monicker, not a classic Wolverine, but instead a variant costume, which looks to be based on the stealth gear he wears in the Animated Series episode “Sanctuary Pt. 2.”  It’s not the worst thing to come out of the ’90s, and I guess it’s at least a fairly unique look.  The figure stands just over 5 inches tall (even crouching, again showcasing the upward trend of height) and he has 7 points of articulation.  As with all of the Light-Up figures, Wolverine suffered a bit of a restriction on the articulation front thanks to the light-up gimmick, meaning his right arm’s not going to be doing much, and he loses out on elbow movement.  He doesn’t even get the ankle joints that Gambit, Psylocke, and Nightcrawler did to make up for it!  The sculpt on this one is…well, it’s an interesting one.  It’s an intense one, too.  They were definitely going for dynamic, especially as the line continued and…well, this guy is dynamic, I suppose.  There’s quite a bit of pre-posing going on, something we really hadn’t seen in this line before.  It’s not ideal.  Wolverine is also really bulked up and…I don’t wanna say “puffy”?  Again, not ideal, but fitting with the line’s ongoing efforts to make Wolverine larger and larger (that’ll hit critical mass in the next set of reviews).  The whole Light-Up assortment was treated to a set of re-paints, meaning we got this figure not only in his weird stealth colors, but also in a semblance of his regular color scheme as well.  Whichever version you got, he included a large light-up…thing, and two belts full of pouches.  Yay pouches!  No trading card here, I’m afraid.

“A hero whose adamantium-laced bones and razor-sharp claws make him the bane of his enemies, Wolverine is a hard guy to miss.  So when he finds himself on the island of Madripoor in need of a disguise, Wolverine takes on the identity of ‘Patch!’  Now secretly moving among the island’s inhabitants, Wolverine waits for the moment when he can finish his covert operation and return home to the X-Men!  With amazing mutant abilities and years of martial arts training, one thing is for sure–no matter what guise he’s in, Wolverine is always ready for action!”

Ah, yes, Wolverine’s “Patch” identity.  An oft-mocked concept that really doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would come even remotely close to working as a real-world disguise, largely due to usual renditions of the design still keeping Wolverine’s signature hairstyle.  Let’s all marvel at Toy Biz managing to actually make a legit comics thing somewhat less stupid for adaptation into a toy.  It was…certainly a change of pace for this particular era of figures.  Wolverine Patch stands 4 1/4 inches tall and has 8 points of articulation.  That includes an articulated ponytail.  Did I say ponytail?  Yes, I certainly did, because Toy Biz actually gave Patch a different hairstyle than your usual Wolverine.  He’s got it pulled back, which actually makes him look like a different guy.  There’s an illustration on the back of the box which also shows this hairstyle, so it may be something that actually came from later Patch appearances, but my searching online didn’t bring any up, so I’m crediting Toy Biz with changing this one up.  Beyond this newly patch-ed and ponytail-ed head, Wolvie makes use of a slightly retooled body from the AoA Weapon X figure, which had been released earlier the same year.  Virtually every part of the body had been changed in some fashion, though, so it seems it was more to save on sculpting time, and less to save on costs. The figure’s got a armored thing that the package dubs his “Total Assault Arsenal,” which is supposed to be removable.  I don’t know if this is the case across the board, mine being the only copy I’ve opened, but on my figure the tab at the back of the belt had been glued shut, in fact even gluing a portion of the belt to the body.  It freed from the body easy enough, but it was no easy task getting the two ends of the belt to separate for removal.  That’s not ideal.  There were two color schemes available for this guy.  The one seen here, and one that swaps out the dark blue body suit and the red cables for black and purple, respectively.  He brings back the trading card as well, with this one being dedicated to showing off the broken claws of a post-adamantium-extraction Wolverine.

“During his time with the X-Men, Wolverine has visited many strange places, but none can compare with the Savage Land! A tropical rain forest located in the heart of Antartica, filled with prehistoric creatures long thought extinct, it is as unique as Wolverine himself.  But with his adamantium claws and heightened mutant abilities, Wolverine is a primal force to be reckoned with, even in a place where dinosaurs still roam.” 

Repaints were a fairly regular affair for the line by this point, be they as accents to a main assortment, or as an assortment outright themselves.  For ’96, the repaint series was titled “Flashback,” I guess as a reference to the re-used molds?  It certainly didn’t have much of anything to do with the figures contained within.  The assortment was 50/50 split on good use of a repaint and bad use of a repaint.  Fortunately, its Wolverine variant fell into the former category.  While the whole X-team would journey to the Savage Land the next year, Wolverine got in ahead of the game.  Savage Land Wolverine stands 4 3/4 inches tall and has 7 points of articulation.  He’s a repaint of the Fang Wolverine mold, which is one I actually haven’t looked at here on the site yet.  It’s one of my favorites, and quite frankly, it’s probably the best Wolverine sculpt the line produced.  It’s proportions aren’t nuts, and pre-posing is at a minimum.  Even its action feature, which makes use of a primitive form of butterfly joints, for sort of a claw slashing maneuver, is pretty decently handled.  The new paint does a respectable job of transforming the original costume’s details into a sort of a tribal affair, which makes for a fairly unique design, and distances it from the original figure quite nicely.  He’s packed with the same weapons tree and two blades as the Spy Wolverine figures, as well as the two additional blades from the initial Fang Wolverine release.  And again, there’s a trading card, this time of Juggernaut!

“Everyone knows that one Sentinel is no match for Wolverine’s adamantium claws…but what about five Sentinel’s? or ten?  That’s why Professor X and Forge developed a special battle armor for Wolverine!  Using highly advanced Shi’ar technology, the armor boosts Wolverine’s strength, and emits a focused energy that temporarily neutralizes the Sentinels’ power cells.”

Okay, so, a couple of things.  Firstly, I want it noted that I transferred the bio over directly from the back of the box, including that possessive “Senintel’s” that is meant to be a plural.  Secondly, though the bio talks all about this thing being anti-Sentinel armor, the descriptor on the front is “Anti-Magnetism Armor” which would lead you to believe that it would have something to do with Magneto.  Beast from this assortment *also* has Anti-Magnetism Armor, so I went to check if his bio was more properly oriented, only to discover that my figure came with the card back for Quicksilver.  I’d say it’s a safe bet that Wolverine’s “Anti-Magnetism” descriptor is yet another typo, especially given this is the infamous “Muntant Armor” series.  Let’s get away from the packaging and onto the figure.  This whole assortment was an excuse for Toy Biz to make use of the recently canceled fifth series of their Iron Man line, pumping them into the far more commercially viable X-Men as a string of goofy variants.  Wolverine made use of the planned Magnetic Armor (a little ironic, given the ultimate descriptor on this guy), sans the Iron Man head, and with the Space Wolverine head in its place.  It’s not a terrible construction, and certainly a much less forced set-up than the Beast figure from the same assortment.  It also ditches the more typical Wolverine color scheme for one that’s blue, red, and black.  It’s honestly kind of interesting that they didn’t go more on-brand with the colors, especially considering they already were tweaking them from the proposed Iron Man colors.  As a repurposed Iron Man, Wolverine’s got the same removable armor gimmick that most of that line did.  He also includes a trading card of Cable vs Nimrod, which is all holographic and stuff.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

By 1996, I was officially venturing into the realm of “I probably have too many Wolverines,” which is why I didn’t get most of these when they were new.  That’ll go double for the next entry.  I did get the standard Light-Up Wolvie new, though that was as a gift from my Nana, so I can hardly be blamed for that (he’s the only one form this set *not* from the All Time haul, but the variant did come from them).  What’s intriguing about this year’s line-up is how far away from potentially standard Wolverines we moved.  They’re all kinda specialized.  I think Savage Land is my favorite of this bunch, but that’s largely linked to him being a repaint of Fang Wolverine, who’s just a solid figure in his own right.  Light-Up is *not* a good figure, by pretty much any metrics.  I’ve got a little bit of a soft-spot for him, but I can recognize the many mistakes made there.  Armored Wolvie is a passable Iron Man figure, but really doesn’t feel like and X-Men figure, because he’s simply not one.  And Patch is…I mean, he’s just kind of there.

Thanks to All Time Toys for setting me up with these guys to review.  If you’re looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2408: Crowd Control Stormtrooper

CROWD CONTROL STORMTROOPER

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“Feared throughout the galaxy, Stormtroopers are elite shock troops deployed in support of both ground forces and the Imperial fleet. They are responsible for policing Imperial outposts and territories, accountable for sustaining Imperial control in even the most dangerous sectors. This can be a challenging and often deadly assignment for the most reliable shock troop squadrons. Tough port cities such as Mos Eisley have high populations of outlaws, criminals, smugglers and other anti-Imperial types who create a typically chaotic atmosphere.”

Before making use of the sub-line to get out some larger figures and accessories seen in the film, Kenner’s first approach to the “Deluxe” offshoot of Power of the Force was…well, it was certainly more at home in a ’90s toyline.  The first three offerings (as well as one of the two offerings that followed) in the line were all slight re-workings of previously released heavy hitters, but this time with some big gimmicky gizmo included.  On the positive side, it did give collectors a second chance at a little bit of army building in the form of today’s figure, the Crowd Control Stormtrooper.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Crowd Control Stormtrooper was released in 1996, alongside Han Solo w/ Smuggler Flight Pack and Luke Skywalker w/ Desert Sport Skiff.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  The core figure to this set is effectively the same sculpt as the standard Imperial Stormtrooper figure.  Certainly, that’s hardly Kenner’s finest attempt at a Stormtrooper sculpt, but it was the standard one of the time, being only a year old.  It’s still got all the goofy quirks of that particular release, meaning he’s rather muscle bound and also lacks both a neck and the ability to stand for long periods of time unassisted.  The one change this release makes to the sculpt is adding a port to his back so that he can make use of his big gimmicky gizmo.  The other change is a paint change, rather than a sculpt change.  This guy has the same basic paint elements as the regular release, but with a bunch of flecks of dirt all over the body now.  I guess this guy’s been a little worn-in.  Or maybe he’s a really early preview of a Remnant Trooper!  That’d be something!  Whatever the case, he kind of reminds me of cookies and cream ice cream.  The supposed main selling point of this set is not the figure, of course, but rather the Crowd Control pack he includes.  It’s big, and it plugs into is back, and it has some moving parts.  I’m not entirely sure how this monstrosity is meant to aid in crowd control, but this is the Empire we’re talking about here; they tend to go for the crazier, mad-genius-style solutions to things.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Growing up, these deluxe figures always baffled me a little bit.  I wasn’t really alone on that front, I suppose.  Now that I’m an adult, though, and I’ve really gotten into appreciating PotF2 for what it was, they’re kind of key to that appreciation, because what else sells the true ’90s-ness of the early line better than these guys?  This guy also benefits from really being the only one in the first set that makes any sort of internal sense; a Stormtrooper with an extra gimmick really isn’t that far out there.

This guy came from my friends at All Time Toys. They’ve got a decent back stock of Power of the Force, and other cool toys both old and new, so please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2356: Transforming Bruce Wayne

TRANSFORMING BRUCE WAYNE

BATMAN FOREVER (1995)

Today I’m making a return to the line that started these wacky-tacky reviews.  It’s more Batman Forever, but like another variant of that main guy.  Dig it.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Tansforming Bruce Wayne is another Batman Forever figure.  He’s batman but when he’s not Batman.  Also he’s Val Kilmer because it was the ’90s, but not the early ’90s when he was Michael Keaton or the late ’90s when he was George Clooney (yuck, don’t make me think about it, dudes).  He could transform into Batman with armor, most of which is still present, because instead of loosing the armor, silly child Ethan lost the whole darn figure.  Silly child Ethan.  Such a child.  I got another one but I gotta wait til the next section for that.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

It all started when I was born.  As a child of the ’90s I became a part of a society that fully embraced Val Kilmer and we made him Batman.  We did that, people.  Think of it and weep.  As the constructs of walking and talking and collecting formed in my mind, Kilmer rang out, jumping from the shelf of that service merchandise, calling to me.  Buy me Val Kilmer said, and I was sore afraid.  So I bought him.  Well, my parents did.  And I saw that it was great.  But no it wasn’t great.  It was Val Kilmer.  And so silly child Ethan FLUNG him to the far corners of the Earth, never to be found again.  That showed him.  But then he came back.  Oh dear.  Here he is.  Being reviewed.  That’s pretty much it…

(Oh gosh, did we leap through some sort of time warp, because it’s feeling real 2013 up in here…nah, it’s just April Fool’s Day.  Got ya?)

Continue reading

#2024: Snake Eyes & Scarlett

SNAKE EYES & SCARLETT

G.I. JOE: NINJA FORCE (HASBRO)

For its first three decades, G.I. Joe was in a rather frequent state of change, attempting to keep itself matched with the times.  Since hitting a smash success with the A Real American Hero incarnation in the ’80s, there’s been a bit of difficulty updating, since a lasting fanbase has prevented them from completely revamping things the way they may once have done.  In the early ’90s, they made a bid at a more informal re-vamp, by breaking out some of ARAH‘s established characters into smaller sub-series, each following a popular theme of the time.  Mainstays Snake Eyes and Scarlett found themselves at the hoist into the “Ninja Force” brand, a decidedly foreign tone for a line that had “American” in its title.  Given the line’s hiatus just a year after this re-branding took center stage, it was perhaps a little too foreign for the established fanbase.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Snake Eyes and Scarlett were both released in 1993, during Ninja Force‘s second year running.  The comics by this point had interwoven both Snake Eyes and Scarlett with Cobra Ninja Storm Shadow, whose move over to the Joe side had led to him being Ninja Force‘s central character during its debut year, and these two coming along to join him seemed like a rather sensible move, at least from a marketing perspective.

SNAKE EYES

“SNAKE-EYES excelled in Long Range Recon Patrols and high-risk covert missions in Southeast Asia. His success was based on his ability to use everything from trees to fog when making himself virtually “invisible,” even to skilled Cobra Ninjas. He perfected his mystical martial arts techniques with the same ninja clan that trained STORM SHADOW. Snake-Eyes was living a self-disciplined, tranquil life in the High Sierras when HAWK recruited him for the G.I. Joe team. Since then, he has proven himself an invaluable asset to the Ninja Force and one of the fiercest fighting menaces against all Cobra legions.” 

This Snake Eyes marked his fifth time gracing the small-scale line, which made him the most prevalent character in the line (though Duke would catch him by virtue of getting two figures released that same year).  Snake not joining the Ninja Force until its second year may seem a little odd at first glance, but it’s likely that his very recently released V4 figure from ’91 prevented his presence for the sub-brands ’92 launch.  Up to this point, Hasbro hadn’t really done the same character two years running (apart from Cobra Commander, who was granted a new figure every year from ’91-’94), so I guess they wanted to let the Commando Snake do his thing a little longer.  Snake Eyes stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 13 points of articulation.  Snake Eyes’ articulation was a marked change from where the line had been for it’s prior nine years, by virtue of the addition of an action feature.  Squeeze the legs and his arms swing up and down for his “Basami Slice”.  Said feature limits the hip movement to more simple swivels and removes the waist.  Removing movement for a figure that’s part of the “Ninja Force” does seem like an odd choice, but it was the direction things were going at the time, so you can’t really fault Hasbro from leaning into that curve.  This figure’s design took the opposite position to the V4 release, which had almost completely abandoned Snake Eyes’ ninja side, and in contrast plays up the ninja side about as much as is possible.  In fact, you’d be forgiven for not realizing this was Snake Eyes at all at first glance.  He’s got actual, visible eyes, for Pete’s sake!  Where’s the signature eyewear?  Morphed into some sort of full faceplate thing, I guess.  He’s also bulked up substantially from his prior figures, because that’s what the ’90s does to you.  It’s actually not a bad sculpt all around, with solid detail work, showing a definite progression from earlier in the line.  Snake Eyes’ paintwork is actually pretty involved for an Snake Eyes figure.  He’s got TWO colors!  That’s crazy!  Snake Eyes was packed with an impressive selection of accessories.  He included three different swords of varying sizes and styles, plus a small knife, nunchucks, a pair of claws, and a display stand.  Mine is missing the knife and claws, but with that many accessories to start with, he doesn’t feel like he’s missing too much.

SCARLETT

“SCARLETT began her training in the martial arts at age nine and was awarded a black belt at age 15. She was not only physically ahead of her time, but mentally as well. She graduated summa cum laude from two Ivy League universities and went on to excel in training courses at all four branches of the armed forces. Cobra often mistakes her for just a pretty face rather than a member of G.I. Joe’s elite Ninja Force, which makes her perfect for undercover missions. She is great friend to each of the Joes, especially SNAKE-EYES, and a deadly enemy to Cobra.”

Despite being in the line’s first year and being a prominent fixture in both the comics and the cartoon, this was only Scarlett’s second figure, a full decade after the original figure.  She wasn’t previously as linked to the whole ninja-thing as Snake Eyes, but the two have been linked since very early on, so her place here as a companion to Snake Eyes was reasonable.  The figure is just under 3 3/4 inches tall and she has 13 points of articulation.  Like Snake Eyes, she has an action feature that limits the hips and waist.  Her action feature, the “Kato Kick” works a little differently than Snake Eyes, since it’s a kick, and there’s a sort of looser way of activating it.  If Snake Eyes’ design was a departure from his usual design, Scarlett’s is even more so. There’s really nothing left of her original look, apart from her red hair, I guess.  The rest of her look leans really heavily on the ninja thing, enough that this same sculpt was easily re-purposed into Chun-Li the same year.  Scarlett’s headsculpt was actually a notable improvement over the less attractive original Scarlett head, better matching her depictions in other media.  She makes use of soft-goods for both her pony tail and sash.  They sort of lend themselves to being all sorts of curled up and messy, but they were a decent enough idea.  Her paintwork is nice enough.  She’s very green, which was an interesting contrast with the red hair.  Not the most attractive color scheme, but not terrible when compared to some of the other figures from the same period of the line.  Scarlett includes the same accessories as Snake Eyes, but molded in yellow instead of blue.  My Scarlett’s missing even more of the extras, but again, with this many, it isn’t quite as much of a loss.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When I first started getting into G.I. Joe, I was always rather perplexed by this subset of the line.  To my younger self, they seemed kind of pointless and goofy, but I’ve kind of gained a new appreciation for them.  I’ve always been a big fan of Snake Eyes and Scarlett, so when this pair showed up in a big ’90s Joe lot at All Time Toys, I fished the two of them out. Are they hokey?  Yes.  Are they the best versions of the characters?  No.  Are they a lot of fun?  Absolutely.

As I noted, I got this pair from All Time Toys, who have been getting a rather steady stream of G.I. Joe collections as of late.  So, if you’re looking for old Joes or if you’re looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2005: Cyber-Link Batman & Cyber-Link Superman

CYBER-LINK SUPERMAN & CYBER-LINK BATMAN

SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL (KENNER)

“The Man of Steel teams up with the Dark Knight to form the ultimate crime-fighting team!”

After a rash of success with their various Bat-themed lines, in 1995, Kenner tried to expand their DC reach, giving a dedicated line to DC’s other big hero, Superman.  Superman: Man of Steel was not a smash success like its counterpart Legends of Batman, but did manage to get two regular assortments, plus some deluxe figures, and even a few multi-packs.  In an attempt to get a little bit of synergy from the two lines, Kenner decided to team up the lead characters, as they had been so many times in the comics, releasing the pack as part of Superman’s line to give it a slight boost.  Today, I’m looking at that set.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Cyber-Link Superman and Cyber-Link Batman were the only set offered up in the second round of Multi-Packs from Kenner’s MoS line.  After the poor performance of the “Superman & foe” layout of the first assortment, this one was a push from Kenner for a better selling product.  Despite their propensity for just dropping these sorts of variants without much explanation or thought, these two actually got a backstory.  “Cyber-Link” was an Elseworlds concept, an alternate universe where Batman was a Metropolis resident and he and Superman were a crime-fighting duo.  Trace elements of Kryptonite within the Earth’s atmosphere necessitated the use of the Cyber-Link suits seen here.  All of this was explained in the 11-page Christopher Priest-penned comic included with this set.  It’s a surprising amount of backstory for something that seems kind of straightforward, but I guess they were trying to inject a little bit more of Legends of Batman into Man of Steel.

SUPERMAN

He’s the star of the line and the star of the set, so I guess he gets to go first.  The ninth out of nine Superman figures, this one didn’t exactly cover new ground, but was interesting in his lack of a specific purpose like we had seen with the prior variants.  It’s definitely a different sort of design for the character, a departure from his classic look.  He’s even sporting the mullet still, further removing him from the Superman we all knew.  Of course, in light of things like the New 52, I guess the design doesn’t feel quite so out there anymore.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  Yay for waist joints!  Despite his non-standard nature, the sculpt for this figure is actually pretty decent.  The pre-posing that would plague Total Justice was starting to settle in, but it doesn’t seem quite as bad here.  It’s got sort of a dynamic “just about to leap into action” look about it.  He also doesn’t have any trouble staying standing, which is nothing short of a miracle with most of these figures.  His head, despite the dated hairstyle, is a good take on Superman, and the removable cape is quite nice, and further supports the dynamic stance.  Superman’s paintwork doesn’t stray too far from his classic colors, though the blue and yellow are kind of metallic, and there’s quite a bit of black.  There are also a number of sculpted lines that just sort of get ignored here, though they would be more emphasized on later uses of the mold.  Superman included no accessories, though his hand looks like it was supposed to hold something at some point.

BATMAN

Man, how often is it Batman that plays second fiddle?  Obviously, this was his first figure in this line, though he was hardly lacking on figures from his own lines.  Batman’s design here isn’t quite as foreign as Superman’s, but that may be partly because he’d just had a more fluid design up to this point.  He’s a little more on the armored side, and some of his color elements have been moved around a bit, but otherwise he’s going to pass the squint test.  The figure, like his Kryptonian counterpart, stands 5 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  Batman’s sculpt was unique to him, and is an okay offering, though I don’t think it’s quite as strong as Superman’s.  The posing seems a bit more extreme, and the proportions a bit less balanced.  He also has a little more trouble staying standing, though he still doesn’t face plant nearly as often as some of these guys.  I do kind of like that little sneer to his expression; it’s unique for a Batman figure.  His paint/color work is about on par with Superman.  It’s just slight variations on the usual colors, and some of the sculpted elements are kind of ignored, but the overall work is solid.  Like his packmate, he includes no accessories, but still looks like he’s supposed to be holding something.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I had none of the Man of Steel two-packs growing up.  In fact, I didn’t have anything from the line beyond several Series 1 figures.  However, my obsessive toy-nerdiness meant that I gazed upon their photos many a time on the back of the package and on Raving Toy Maniac’s old archive page, so they’ve always been in the back of my mind.  A loose set ended up traded into All Time Toys alongside a larger collection of ’90s toys, and since there’s not a huge market for these guys, I felt compelled to save them from hanging around the store for forever.  Superman’s my favorite of the two, but I kind of dig both of them, and all their crazy ’90s glory.

As noted above, I got these from All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for other cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.