FigureFan is Dead… Long Live FigureFan Zero!
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If you’ve grown accustomed to reading this blog on LiveJournal, I’m sorry to say my stint on LJ is now at an end.

It’s nothing to do with the fine folks at LJ. They’ve been a gracious host for my toy-related blathering these last three years and they have a terrific community. Unfortunately, the site that I use to host my photos has undergone some profound changes. The new site is an absolute mess, and it is no longer convenient for me to utilize their services. I had hoped to ride out the rest of this week, but work and everyday life take up enough of my time, that I can't afford to be banging my head against technical issues when they can be avoided. For the past week or so, I've tried my best to make it work, but doing so is driving me crazy and I don’t want any part of what I do here to become a chore. I had the option of using another service and keep things going here, but ultimately this just seemed like the right time to centralize what I do as I slowly move away from regular blogging and toward an actual self-contained and self-administered site. 

As a result, starting now I’m going to be running everything in one self-contained package over at Wordpress, and so I won’t be using LJ as a launch pad for content any longer. I
 won’t actually be closing anything down here, so the features that are here will still be available, but I won’t be checking in to respond to messages or comments.

I sincerely hope that any readers who haven’t already made the move to FigureFan Zero will take this opportunity to follow me there, as it has always been the same content and by streamlining my process it will ensure that I can keep delivering content on a daily basis. I’m just a few weeks away from my third anniversary of this craziness, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon.

All the best.

Your pal,

FigureFan

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FarScape Series 1: Zhaan (Delvian Priest) by Toy Vault
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I don’t watch a lot of TV. With me a show will either click almost instantly or I’m done with it. So I’ve got to hand it to FarScape for being the exception to the rule. I made a go of it with this show on at least four separate occasions before I finally got far enough and knew that I would be sticking with it. It still takes some work to make it through some episodes, but in the end, it won me over with its ambitious effects, original alien designs, and interesting characters. And hey… there are action figures! Yes, someone consigned a pair of these figures, Zhaan and Chiana, to my local comic shop where they’ve been collecting dust for a long time now. With my new found commitment to the show, I decided to take them off his hands. He got a less than he had hoped out of me, but he seemed relieved to be rid of them. Today I’m going to check out Zhaan and I’ll put off Chiana until next week, since I’m still a few episodes away from meeting her.

This line of figures is my first encounter with Toy Vault. According to the back of the cards, their stable of licenses includes some Lord of the Rings and EverQuest figures. A little research revealed that they are still in operation, although they seem to be more into peddling novelties, plush dolls, and games, rather than any kind of cohesive action figure lines. Zhaan comes on a large, somewhat egg shaped card, which looks like a cross section of their ship Moya’s corridors. The card also features an organic deco that nicely conveys the patterns on the Leviathan’s hull. The bubble displays the goods nicely and there is a printed insert inside that has Zhaan’s name and a list of her accessories. While the front of the card is generic, the back features a few stats about the character and some screencaps showing other characters with figures available. Oddly enough there aren’t any pictures of the figures themselves. While the back of the card could use some cleaning up, the presentation here is overall quite good and really matches the feel of the show.

Zhaan is scaled just slightly larger than your average DC Universe Classics figure, which to my delight puts her right about in line with Diamond/Art Asylum’s Star Trek figures. Yes, I am actually giddy about the potential of a FarScape-Star Trek crossover on my display shelf! For some reason, I think Zhaan and Spock would like to hang together.


All nerdgasms aside, with the figure out of the package  the first thing I notice… holy crap, softgoods! Ok, I noticed that before I opened the package, but I’m going for some dramatic license here. I was both surprised and impressed when I first realized it, mainly because you don’t usually see this sort of thing on figures in this scale.  Nonetheless, Zhaan is indeed wearing an actual cloth outfit. The outfit is comprised of two layers: A long grey stitched robe and then a semi-transparent mesh covering. The under robe is belted with braided rope and the top garment is held in the back with a strip of Velcro. The softgoods work well to create the wispy and shimmering effect of Zhaan’s on screen clothing.


Because of her cloth outfit, Zhaan doesn’t rely on a whole lot of detailed sculpting. Her head is a pretty good likeness to the Amazonian actress Virginia Hey. Her facial deco is simplified to basically a pattern of dots, but it works well enough. Trying to accurately reproduce the amazingly complex makeup they did on her face in this scale must have been a frustrating task. Each of her individual rings are sculpted and painted onto her fingers and she has a very bland pair of shoes. Zhaan’s posture is fairly neutral. She’s standing straight with one arm cocked a bit at the elbow, and her hands are both relaxed, which is fine since her accessories aren’t meant to be held.

Speaking of accessories… Zhaan comes with two. First off, you get a trelkez, permanently attached to his perch. For the uninitiated, this is an adorable two-headed bird from the episode “That Old Black Magic,” which Zhaan is made to torture with her mind powers in order to prepare her to do battle with a space-vampire-warlock. I’ll let you digest that sentence for a moment. Ok… The other is a blue ceremonial mask that fits into a silver pillow thingy. I seem to recall this being an artifact that Crichton kept breaking as he looped through time in “Back and Back and Back to the Future.” The trelkez is a nice display bonus, but the mask is kind of meh.

With a whopping seven points of useful articulation, Zhaan isn’t exactly super poseable. I say “useful” because I’m not a hundred percent sure what else is under that robe and I’m not going to futz with it to find out. Her head can rotate, her arms can rotate at the shoulders, her wrists have swivel cuts, and her legs can rotate at the hips. The leg movement is severely hampered by the tight robe, but it helps to tweak her legs so she can stand.

All in all, I think Toy Vault did a pretty good job on this figure. The use of softgoods is a bold and interesting move, but they pulled it off and it certainly suits Zhaan well. It also allowed Toy Vault to do a number of quick and dirty episode-specific variants by just swapping a new outfit onto the figure. The sculpt and paintwork are certainly competent and I do like the inclusion of the trelkez. I would have preferred more articulation, but as we delve further into the FarScape line, we’ll see that Toy Vault takes the McFarlane approach and each figure is designed for a couple specific poses and not much else.  

On a side note, folks, this is going to be my last feature on the LiveJournal version of FigureFan, and tomorrow will be my last update. I'll be back tomorrow with some explanations.


Transformers Fall of Cybertron: Starscream by Hasbro
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It’s more Fall of Cybertron love from Hasbro and this time we’re taking a look at everyone’s favorite traitorous Air Commander… Starscream. Unlike yesterday’s entry, Starscream actually played a pretty major part in the game. While he didn’t quite rise to the levels of hip-thrusting outrageousness as he has in TF: Prime, he did ham it up pretty good with some memorable moments. I was super disappointed that we didn’t get a figure of him out of War for Cybertron, so I was particularly excited to get this release into my collection. Let’s see how he turned out.

Yep, there’s the Generations packaging… again. The card has some pretty good character art and while his bio is a little bland, I do like that Hasbro make the connection between Starscream isolating himself on his orbital platform and him becoming a total nutter. While G1 purists may scoff, I think Fall of Cybertron came up with some clever retconned explanations for some of the characters we all know and love. I also dig the fact that one of the game’s achievements was destroying all of Starscream’s self-aggrandizing idols and statues. Fun!


Starscream’s jet mode may not be the sexiest aircraft out there, but the design does seem to feature a little something for everyone. There’s a tiny bit of the old tetra-jet design in him, but most of what’s here looks like a cross between Energon Starscream and a dash of War Within. The sculpt itself is kind of plain with more than a few smooth, featureless surfaces. I guess the guy that does the panel lining was off this day.  It locks together very well, although he’s so simple, you only have to look at him for a moment to deconstruct all there is about how he will transform. In theory, the deco is good and I like the use of the G1 colors, but I don’t find the grey plastic and matte red and blue paint all that appealing. The toy just looks unintentionally dark and bland. I think Hasbro would have done well to use a plastic more similar to WFC Megatron and used some glossy paint to make the figure pop more. Still, when all is said and done he’s a pretty good representation of the in-game jet.


As I’ve already hinted, transforming Starscream is frightfully simple, but that seems to be par for the course with the Fall of Cybertron figures. I can think of any number of jets that Hasbro put out over the last 10 years in the Basic/Scout assortment that are more complicated than this Deluxe. On the plus side, he avoids a lot of the fiddly nonsense that came with Jazz and Sideswipe. Sometimes simple isn’t a bad thing, especially if you’re a kid playing with him and want to be able to get him from mode to mode with relative ease.


Overall, I dig the configuration of Starscream’s robot mode. It’s pretty close to the in-game model, and while The Seekers were probably my least favorite of the High Moon Studio designs, I still like them well enough. I think it may be the underdeveloped feet that bug me the most. Still, I consider it a plus that he retains a lot more of his traditional G1 design than many of the other characters. The angled wings look cool, as does the re-imagining of his shoulder intakes. The hollow torso is a bit of a turn off when viewed from certain angles, but his silhouette from the front is pretty solid. I’m extremely pleased with the way the head sculpt turned out and the light piping is the eyes is exceptionally effective.  The deco is also very G1 inspired, although as with the jet mode, I’m still rather unhappy about the bare grey plastic and the drab, matte paint.

While Starscream still suffers from the slightly diminished size of the other Fall of Cybertron Deluxes, I’m glad to see he does scale quite well alongside WFC Megatron and the other Decepticons. Just don’t stand him next to Bumblebee or Cliffjumper.


Starscream comes with a large double minigun that can split apart into two weapons. They look rather reminiscent of the missile launchers used by the Bayformer Starscream toys. He can hold the combined weapon in either hand, or you can split it and have him dual wield it, or you could mount them on his arms in traditional null-ray fashion. Options are good.


Starscream is a fairly solid effort, but he’s very simple for a Deluxe Transformer and that's likely to bother a lot of collectors. While you could certainly argue that fifteen bucks should net you more complex engineering, Starscream’s simplicity isn’t really a sticking point for me. The deco on the other hand is. So much so that this may be the first time I seriously consider importing the Takara version. The grey plastic looks about the same, but the glossy paint used on the import makes a big difference. Either way, after finally having this figure in hand, I can’t help but wonder about the Starscream we might have got if he were released in conjunction with the previous game, when Hasbro's standards were a little higher.

And that’s another week in the bag. I've got more Fall of Cybertron stuff for next week, but in the interest of variety, I'll save those for the end of the week and we'll start out on Monday by taking a look at an action figure line that I haven't featured around these parts before. Virgin territory! How exciting!!!


Transformers Fall of Cybertron: Sideswipe by Hasbro
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It took me a while, but my Xbox is up and running again and I was finally able to play through Fall of Cybertron. And play through it again, and one more time. Needless to say I enjoyed the hell out of it, and it’s given me a new motivation to track down some of the remaining figures. Yeah, Jazz’s figure left me cold and he made my naughty list for 2012, but the three Combaticons I’ve featured so far more than made up for him. Let’s see if some remolding and fresh paint can make the Jazz mold better the second time around.

There’s the Generations packaging. I love it, but I think I’ve said all there is to say about it. Sideswipe comes packaged in his robot mode and his card sports some very nice character art. I also really dig his bio on the back of the card about him being a contender for racing champion before he joined the Autobots. He didn’t play a very large role in the game, but we won’t hold that against him. As always, let’s start in vehicle mode.


So, obviously Sideswipe is a remold and repaint of Jazz, but Hasbro did some nice reworking and recoloring of the mold to make him look like a new vehicle. The top of the alt mode is completely new, including the configuration of the hood, front bumper and spoiler. Gone are Jazz’s exhaust pipes and in their place is a more conventional looking car canopy. Sideswipe features less sculpted panel lines, but makes up for it with a more dynamic deco. The bulk of the body is red plastic with painted white racing stripes and silver and black accents. All in all, I had no problems with Jazz’s vehicle design and I dig Sideswipe’s too. It comes off as a much sleeker, speed machine, although some may take issue that he looks more like a concept Earth car than some of the other Cybertron alt modes in the game. Me? I’m fine with it.

Despite the changes to the mold, Sideswipe transforms exactly the same as his Autobuddy, Jazz. It’s a frightfully simple transformation on paper, but in practice, it’s oddly finicky. Going into alt mode requires a lot of tabs lining up just right, and going into robot mode requires a ridiculously annoying mechanic involving the torso, which can’t be adequately conveyed in the instructions. I found I just had to fiddle with it, becoming white with rage, until I finally remembered how it works.


In robot mode, the parts shared between the figures are a lot more obvious. The legs and arms are identical molds, but the paint differences distinguish them apart pretty well even when the figures are standing alongside each other. Sideswipe’s deco is really sharp and it shows just how far some nice coloring and good paintwork will make a mold. I’m still a little iffy on how the head just kind of floats inside the torso, but I do really like Sideswipe’s head sculpt. It really suits the character. Sideswipe also still has that extra set of wheels in robot mode, but as with Jazz one set is mostly concealed at the shoulders. Unfortunately, Sideswipe still has Jazz’s size problem. In robot mode he just feels a little too small, especially if he’s standing beside WFC Bumblebee or Cliffjumper.


Sideswipe comes with a huge ass gun with an extending barrel. I can’t decide whether it’s a cool BFG or just awkward and goofy. He can hold it in either hand or it can mount onto his vehicle mode, but it looks terrible mounted on his alt mode. The weapon is a decent enough design and sculpt, but it’s really way too big and I don’t tend to think of giant guns when I think of Sideswipe.


So, yeah, this guy is a cool little figure and I do find myself enjoying the mold a lot more than Jazz. Maybe it’s because Sideswipe’s red plastic and more accomplished paint apps look so much better than Jazz’s bare white plastic. Maybe it’s because I had a better idea of what to expect from the figure having already owned Jazz. Whatever the case, Sideswipe shows shows that Hasbro can be masters at tweaking a mold and making it work very well for different characters. He’s still not a lot of toy for $15, but maybe I’m getting desensitized to that as well. Sure there are things that irk me about Jazz’s design, which are still present here, but I’m not at all sorry I picked him up. 


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Sewer Cruiser (Nickelodeon) by Playmates
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Yesterday’s pizza playset is going to be a pretty tough act to follow, but today we’re going to see what Playmates can do with a vehicle. No, this isn’t the first vehicle from their Nick Turtle line, but it is the first one that I’ve picked up. I usually talk price at the end of a feature, but in this case I’m going to bring it up now. You see, I was a little skeptical about buying this thing because it was only $11.99 and the box felt really light. I even had to double check to make sure this was scaled for the figures and not something else entirely. But after checking out the box for a bit, I decided, to go for it. Playmates’ new Turtles haven’t done me wrong yet, and I had nothing to lose except twelve bucks. Turns out it was a really good move.


The box is everything you’d expect from the TMNT line. It’s wacky, it’s colorful, and it features amazingly exciting artwork. This is every bit a package that you’d expect to find in the toy aisles 20 years ago and I mean that in every way as a compliment. Like most of the second wave of TMNT toys, this vehicle is part of the Mutagen Ooze line, meaning it has a gimmick that is meant to interact with the ooze. I haven’t decided whether I’m actually going to buy any ooze yet, but even if I do, I doubt I’ll be willing to gunk up my toys with it. The box is a really weird shape and it seems way too small to contain the zany awesomeness of a worthwhile TMNT vehicle. 

But that’s because this thing is in pieces. Oh yeah, it’s toy building time! The Cruiser comes in a cardboard tray with two baggies full of parts, a small sticker sheet, and an instruction sheet. It’s pretty easy to put together and you can easily take it apart again to store it back in the box. Once together, the Sewer Cruiser is actually a really nice sized toy that fits the figures perfectly. Most of the pieces are hollow, but it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. In fact, I suspect it’s mostly hollow so that it can float, and while I haven’t tested out its ability to tread water, the package does indeed promise that it can.


The Cruiser is clearly one of Don’s wacky, cobbled together inventions. It’s made from a motorcycle chassis attached to a surfboard, with two ooze barrel pontoons, and a tailgating cooler on the back. It’s quite the imaginative piece and it’s positively (dare I say it?) oozing with great detail. If you look closely at the barrels, you can see a sculpted weld line where the Turtles welded together the two barrels in order to make the pontoons. That’s awesome! The motorcycle engine is detailed as are the rivets holding it together. Even the crosshatch seat has some broken straps to show wear and tear. I love how the cooler even has four cup holders on the top and a couple of fish sculpted into the bottom. This kind of detail in a toy is love, folks… pure love. Playmates loves you.

The coloring on the toy is straight out of the neon 90’s. It may have sucked for some toy lines (*cough* GI Joe *cough*) but it worked just fine for the Turtles and it still does. Most of the colors are the actual plastic and not paintwork. The motorcycle is grey, the barrels are bright neon green with black supports, the board is orange and turquoise and the cooler is red and white.

Any one of the turtle figures will fit just fine on the Cruiser, even with their weapons still stowed on their backs. However, there are two clips on the handlebars so you can store their weapons more conveniently. Indeed, even some of the lesser articulated non-Turtles can ride it pretty well.


The Sewer Cruiser isn’t exactly loaded with play gimmicks. In fact the only one is the ability to fill the cooler with ooze and tip it over in order to slime pursuers. If you don’t have any ooze, the toy comes with three little plastic splotches of grey ooze, which look more like tiny metal shavings or possibly ravioli. Chances are I’ll just use the cooler to hold shuriken.

In the end, the Cruiser is a solid and fun toy at an amazing price. I’ve often remarked how the Nick Turtles are the best value in action figures hanging on the pegs, so it should follow that the vehicles are too. I mean, seriously… twelve bucks for a fun vehicle for your Turtles to ride? I think I paid more than that for my last 3 ¾” Marvel Universe figure and he had minimal new sculpting and didn’t come with any accessories. Like I said before, folks, Playmates loves you!   


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Anchovy Alley (Pop-Up Pizza Playset) by Playmates
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I’ll admit it. I’m ashamed at my decision to not buy Playmates’ epic Secret Sewer Lair playset. I’m the first collector to go around pining for the good old days when toy companies made playsets, and when someone finally steps up and releases one, I abstain. I wanted it really bad. I still want it really bad. But I keep looking at it and realizing that I have nowhere to put it. And even if I could squeeze it in somewhere, it would take up what little space I have left for all the other things I’m going to want to buy this year. I was tempted to just buy it to show my support and keep it boxed, but even the box is huge. Plus, I know I’d have to open it as soon as I got it anyway because I have all the willpower of a crack addict. Fortunately, Playmates threw people like me a bone by releasing a more compact way to display my Turtles… behold Anchovy Alley, the Pop-Up Pizza Playset. It’s proof that Playmates may actually be a bunch of geniuses and have just been trolling us for the last couple of years.

The box has all the trappings of the TMNT Nickelodeon toy packages illustrated as if to be wrapped around what looks like a pizza box with a sketch of the Turtles on it. Holy shit, this is cool! It’s so cool that I wish it was designed in two layers so the wrap-around could come off and I could have the Turtle pizza box by itself. In typical Playmates fashion, the box has a ton of information printed on it. But rather than feel like overkill like on the old Star Trek cards, this box makes me think the designer of the package was genuinely excited about the toy and had way too much caffeine. But the best is yet to be seen.

Flip the box over and the back shows the toy in action with some of the best copy I’ve ever read on a toy box. It invites you to “serve up a fresh slice topped with furious ninja moves!” Plus it has a whole catalog of great pizza related puns that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger proud. “Table for one!” “Special delivery!” “Hand tossed!” “You got served!” The folks at Playmates are obviously having way too much fun with this line and it makes it all the more endearing. It’s like suddenly they get it and most other toy companies don’t. Even if my interest hadn’t already been peaked, there’s no way I could pick up this box in the toy aisle and not buy this thing. Oh yeah, it even opens like a real pizza box and it’s so heavy and dense that it feels like it contains a solid brick of plastic.  

And that’s because in a sense it is. The playset comes folded into a plastic box that very nearly fills out the entire inside of the package. There’s just room for four corner protectors, an instruction sheet and a sticker sheet. This thing is designed so well that when it folds up there’s barely a square millimeter of space that isn’t used up. Because the playset is designed to unpack itself, there’s really no assembly required. There are, however, some very large and crucial stickers, which take a lot of care to put on. I gave it my all and I still had a couple of creases in mine.

So, when it’s all folded up, the set is designed to look like a plastic pizza box. It’s passable enough with the traditional red checker pattern running around the side. The illustration on the package is reproduced smaller as a green stamp on the upper right hand corner. I think Playmates should have just reproduced the pizza box on the cardboard package here, or at least printed PIZZA on it. You get the idea what it’s supposed to be, but they could have gone a little further with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good. This baby will spend most of its time deployed on my shelf and whenever it is collapsed down, I’ll likely put it right back in the box.

When I say this thing unpacks itself, I really mean it. Once you fold it out you’re 99%  good to go. The only thing left to do is take the pizza shooter and the pizzas off the outside wall and put it into one of the three available sockets. It’s a simple spring loaded disc launcher and while I’ll likely choose to display my set without it, it makes for a very cool added play feature for the kiddies.


Once unpacked, Anchovy Alley stands 18-inches tall and has a similar set up to the Secret Sewer Lair in that part of the set is meant to be above ground and part below. The above ground is a colorful pizzeria with an awning, street lamp and opening doors. There’s only a small ledge to represent the street level, but it’s just enough to get a turtle to stand on it, even with their bulky shells. The streetlamp is spring loaded so you can attach a turtle to it, pull it back, and have him knock another figure right through the pizzeria doors. “Bahfangul! Wathca a-doin out there? Stop-a kicking da dirty foot clan into-a mia pizza parlor! Turtle Svacheems!”


The subterranean side is some kind of underground limbo that exists between the subways and the sewers. It offers up three levels of play, all connected with ladders, and includes a manhole cover that can launch figures into the air, and an opening sewer hatch on one of the walls. There are also some railings the figures can grab and swing on. The sculpted detail on the base is particularly impressive. You’ve got tires, dead fish, and all kinds of bottles and cans and other refuse. If I had the talent, patience and materials of a customizer, I would go to town painting the base of this thing.

The durability of the playset varies a bit. None of it feels cheap and when it’s unpacked it’s pretty solid. On the other hand, some of the rails feel really weak so I don’t know that I’ll have my figures gripping them that much. I could see them developing stress marks pretty easily.   

 


The fact that Playmates actually named this thing, Anchovy Alley, rather than just Pop-Up Pizza Playset, makes me hope that they may do a few more. This formula is just too good to be a one-shot deal and other toy companies really should take notice. I’m not saying I want a pizza box that unfolds into a GI Joe playset, but Hasbro you could make it an ammo box or something. Use your goddamn imaginations because Playmates certainly is. Either way, this thing is proof that you can do a solid playset without taking up too much space on the retailer shelves… or setting too high a price tag. Anchovy Alley’s box takes up less space than most mid-range vehicles and only set me back $25. Whether you want to use it so your Turtles can mix it up you’re the Foot Clan or just want somewhere to display your figures, I can’t recommend this set enough. It’s awesome!

Tomorrow we’ll keep the Turtle goodness rolling with a look at the Sewer Cruiser. 


Galaxy Squad: Swarm Interceptor (#70701) by Lego
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As promised, I’m back to look at more Galaxy Squad, and this one is the next size up from yesterday’s set. The Swarm Interceptor gives the Galaxy Squad something with a little teeth to fight back with against the Space Swarmer.


A bigger box and some cool artwork showing the ship in action as well as illustrating its many play features. Inside the box you get an instruction booklet, a sticker sheet, and two numbered baggies containing 218 plastic bits. When all is said and done you build the Swam Interceptor, a small buggy rocket sled and two minifigs. What shall we start with? MINIFIGS!!

As expected, you get a bug and a human. The bug is extremely cool with a unique head sculpt that includes a pair of tiny bendy antenna. These things may qualify as the smallest Lego pieces I’ve ever seen and one of them very nearly got tossed with the empty baggies. He has a nicely detailed printed body, a pair of translucent neon green wings and a zap gun. I like the fact that the bug aliens are all different. The one in the last set looked more like a larva guy, this one looks like a wasp guy. Cool!

The Galaxy Squad guy is pretty generic but I like him nonetheless. He’s got a printed body, a removable helmet and two printed faces, one of which has some kind of breather mask. He’s pretty similar to the guys from the Alien Conquest series. In fact he’s wearing the exact same helmet. I’m cool with that. I think Lego killed Alien Conquest too soon, so I appreciate that these sets can hang together.


I was a little worried the Interceptor would be too derivative of the Space Police ships, but it took just a little time with this set to realize that wasn’t going to be the case. Don’t get me wrong, this ship would look fine bulking out your Space Police armada, but there have obviously been a lot of creative advances in Lego’s starship design teams over the last couple of years. At first glance, this ship may look a little generic. It’s clean, it’s efficient, it’s a one-seater fast attack ship with a cockpit up front and wings in the back. But Lego also packed a lot of play gimmicks into the design, and every one of them is a homerun.


First off, the cockpit portion of the ship has a gyroscope feature so that no matter what position the back of the ship is in, the cockpit is always oriented the same way. You can spin the whole back of the ship if you hold onto the cockpit. I don’t know why I love this gimmick so much, but I do. Secondly, the wings are multi-positional, so you can fold them all the way down and rest the ship on them like landing gear, put them straight out, or even angle them down into a classic Bird of Prey configuration. There’s a cleverly hidden missile launcher that flips up out of the back and the front cockpit can detach from the rest of the ship, fold out it’s little wings and become a little fighter. This last feature reminds me of the whole Hyperspace Ring design used for the Jedi Starfighters.       

If I were a cynic I’d cry foul at Lego for being so lazy and using the whole rocket sled motif so often for their smaller vehicles. We’ve seen this thing a hundred times from Atlantis to Alien Conquest to Space Police and even in the Chitari had them in the Marvel Super Heroes Avengers-based sets. Oh, wait, those were actually in the movie. Still, my point holds. Nonetheless, it’s a perfectly fine little vehicle and I’ll grant you that Lego certainly customized it to fit perfectly into this new line, right down to the little translucent wings that hang off the back.

I haven’t been big on experimenting with Lego builds, but I do love the fact that this little sled can clip onto the back of the Swarmer from the last set. It looks like a stinger, adds two aft guns, and it can detach quickly to convert into its sled mode. Very cool.  

The Interceptor is a great ship and it really compliments the yesterday’s set nicely, as the two ships are fairly evenly matched. I enjoyed building this one a lot, and the finished model is just plain fun. So far I’m really impressed by this line and I fear I’m going to be in it for the long haul. I can already feel the shakes as I try not to jump in the car and head down to Target to pick up a couple more sets. But then I still have some Alien Conquest sets to build, which I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Nonetheless, I’m going to exert some willpower and give the Lego a rest for the rest of the week, because I got me some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys to look at! 


Galaxy Squad: Space Swarmer (#70700) by Lego
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I’m usually up on my toy news, and yet somehow Lego slipped two brand new series, Chima and Galaxy Squad, under my radar and onto the shelves. I saw them the other day while buying groceries and I wish I had been wearing a monocle, so it could have popped out of my head to illustrate my surprise. Both new lines look excellent, but Galaxy Squad tipped me over simply because it reminds me of my beloved Space Police line from a few years back. Ah, Space Police, the gateway drug that brought me back to you Lego. Well done. It was a funny scene, as I was passing through the aisle when I saw some kid holding one of the Chima boxes and I said to myself, but also out loud, “is that new?” The kid thought I was talking to him and he said, “Yeah, it looks cool. Those are new too!” and he pointed to the Galaxy Squad. I picked one up and said, “Yeah, this looks cool too!” So, I picked up the two smaller assortment sets, which we’ll be checking out today and tomorrow.


We’re starting toward the bottom rung of the line with a set that clocks in at just 86 pieces and there’s the box. I dig the Galaxy Squad logo and the fact that you can infer all you need to know about this series from the box art: There are space bugs… and it’s up to Galaxy Squad to murder the shit out of them all! Inside the box you get an instruction booklet and two unnumbered bags of bricks, which build the alien Space Swarmer spaceship and two minifigs. To the minifigs!

As is the case with any good Lego set, you get a good guy and a bad guy. Let’s start with our new friend, the bug alien. He’s a simple enough figure. His body relies completely on a generic body with some cool printing. His ugly bug head has a tail that runs partially down his back and does keep his head from turning. Not a lot more to say, but I dig him.


The Galaxy Quest guy is really interesting because of his uniquely sculpted head. It might be a helmet, but then again he might be a robot. He kind of looks like a robot. Do you think he’s a robot? I’m going to say he’s a robot! Either way, he’s really bad ass and has a cool jetpack, which is very cleverly built out of a control stick and a couple of guns. And speaking of guns, he’s got a doozy of a BFG, which is only fair since this set is pitting him up against an opponent in an attack ship.


And what a cool little attack ship it is! It feels like a lot of ship for a twelve dollar set, and I attribute that to the incredibly cool and creative design. Obviously bug aliens have bug ships (well, duh!), and this little one-seater is made to look like a nasty flying insect, complete with translucent neon wings coming off the back and four articulated insectoid legs, which can serve as landing gear and actually support the weight of the ship quite nicely. The front of the craft has three articulated mandibles, which can rotate and grab its prey. The one-bug cockpit has a dome canopy and there’s even a clip on the back to store the pilot’s gun. The coloring used for the bricks is also worth mentioning. The neon green, grey and red mesh wonderfully together. It’s a tad derivative of the Alien Conquest color scheme, but Galaxy Squad still manages to own it pretty well. I’ve also discovered a neat little way to combine it with a component of the next set, but we’ll look at that tomorrow.

Lego rarely disappoints, but it’s still hard for me to remember the last time I was this delighted with one of the sets in the $11.99 price range. The minifigs are great, but the real star of this show is the Swarmer itself. It’s such a cool little build with a design that takes something that could have been rather trite and stale (oh, ships that look like bugs!) and really turns it into something amazing. I’ve never double-dipped on a Lego set before, but I can easily see me buying another one of these. It was a fun build, it’s a great looking ship, and it feels like a super value. Things are looking pretty good for Galaxy Squad and I’m anxious to see what tomorrow’s set will bring to the table. 


Star Trek Holodeck Series: “A Fistful of Datas” Collector Set by Playmates
figurefan

You didn't think you'd escape a week of Toy Closet Finds without some Playmates Star Trek loving, did you? DID YOU??  Truth is I can't turn around in that damn closet without knocking over a towering skyscraper of Star Trek figures, so by doing just one feature this week, y'all are getting off way too easy. Besides, the last two Saturdays were Star Trek, so I'll just keep the ball rolling. Oh yeah, while it wouldn't be FigureFan without a stray cat hair in my photos (it's practically my watermark!) things got a little out of hand today and I'd already had more than a few Jamesons before the shoot, which meant I didn't notice until it was too late. Enjoy! 


Hey, look! It's the Holodeck Series! I haven't done any of these before! But first, let’s wax nostalgic about the Holodeck for a moment. When I was a teenager, "The Next Generation" was destination television for me every week, and every time a Holodeck episode came up I would flip the hell out because I thought it was a waste of a slot and I’d have to wait another week and hope for something better. Now, in my old age, I’ve mellowed a lot on these episodes, and while some of them are still terrible, others are not so bad. Next to the Sherlock Holmes episodes, “A Fistful of Datas” is probably my favorite. It may have to do with my love for westerns; it may be because it tugged at my nostalgic love for the Classic Trek episode “Specter of the Gun;” but in the end I think it’s because it’s a fun episode that makes really good use of Worf and Troi it’s one of the few episodes with Alexander that I can stomach.

The set comes in a compact little window box and is branded under the general “Star Trek” line. The front window displays the three figures Worf, Alexander, and a Holographic recreation of Data (ok, so it’s really two and a half figures!) and each of the figures are held in a tray against an illustrated backdrop that shows part of the “Ancient West” town and part of the Holodeck grid. As always, there’s a foil sticker with an individual collector number. The back panel of the box has a blurb about the episode, a shot of the figures against the backdrop and shots of three other boxed sets available in the line. I’ll point out here that Sheriff Worf was available as a single-carded figure, but if you wanted the other two in this set, I’m pretty sure this was the only way to get them. Bastard points go to Playmates for forcing us to double dip!


Starting off with Data, we get a Holodeck recreation of our favorite Starfleet android as a crazed gunslinger. The head sculpt is pretty good, and possibly better than my regular Data figure. He has the little added mustache and his hat is removable, which I was not expecting. As for the rest of the figure, the sculpt is very simple but it does hit all the right points. His black coat bellows up a bit behind him and reveals his holstered gun on his left hip. He’s an Ok figure, but he does seem a little lacking compared to Worf.

Yes, Worf is clearly the star of this set as Playmates put the most work into him. That probably has something to do with the fact that he was also a single-carded release. The head sculpt is excellent, and while the hat isn’t removable, that just means it doesn't constantly fall off like Data's does. Worf’s outfit consists of a detailed kerchief, a vest with buttons and his sheriff badge, and a buttoned shirt with the flap hanging down. The proportions are also a lot better than previous Worf figures. I love this figure!

Last up is Worf’s son, Alexander, which is just a static piece. I expected him to be a throw-away, but Playmates stepped up on the sculpt here. He’s wearing a miniature version of Worf’s outfit right down to the vest with the little deputy badge. I also get a chuckle out of the fact that he’s the only one in the set holding a gun and he looks like he’s ready to gleefully murder someone with it.

The paintwork on all three figures is quite excellent. I don’t know why, but I love the high gloss paint that Playmates uses. It makes them look so toyish and 90’s. Feeling nostalgic for the 90’s is a scary thing. The contrast between Data’s muted grey and black outfit and the brighter browns and reds of Worf and Alexander’s makes for an appealing set and I’m particularly impressed by the paintwork on the little Alexander figure. In terms of overall coloring and paint, this is some of Playmates best work on the Star Trek line.

The three figures in this set are like an illustration of the evolution of action figure articulation. Worf features most of the points we’ve come to expect from Playmates Trek figures. His arms rotate at the shoulders, swivel at the biceps and have hinged elbows. His legs swivel at the hips and have hinges in the knees. He can also swivel at the waist and his head turns. The only thing really missing here are the thigh swivels that began to appear late in the line. Data, on the other hand has the five basic points (neck, shoulders and hips) plus swivels in his biceps. He does have a waist swivel, but his coat prevents it from working, and it severely limits his hip articulation too. Last up is Alexander, which as I already mentioned is just a static figure. I don’t have a big problem with Alexander just being a display piece, but Data’s limited articulation really irks me. He should have at least had elbow and knee hinges.  

The sad thing about this set is you get zero accessories. Granted, Playmates’ accessories usually suck, but if you want Worf’s accessories you need to buy the single-carded figure as well. Or you can buy Troi as Durango and give her stuff to Worf since she can’t hold any of it anyway. You do, however, get a display stand with an illustrated sticker to match the backdrop. The idea is you cut out the backdrop and stick it into the slot on the stand. If you’ve ever picked up any of Kenner/Hasbro’s Star Wars Cinema Scene sets than you already get the idea.  

I have no idea how much this sold for originally, but I recall picking up mine at a Trek Convention for $10 and you can’t go wrong there. The lack of accessories is a downer and Data’s sculpt and articulation doesn’t jive with the work put into Worf, but all in all this is still a cool set representing a fun little episode. 

And that’ll put this week of Toy Closet Finds in the bag. I’ve still got a bunch of unearthed treasures from my trip into Narnia, but the rest will have to wait, because I’ve also got a bunch of new receivings piling up and begging for attention. Next week I’ll be doubling up on some new Lego, new TMNT, and new Transformers. See y’all on Monday. 


Witchblade: Medieval Witchblade by Moore Action Collectibles
figurefan

With the exception of encountering Sara Pezzini in a couple of my funnybooks, I have managed to avoid everything Witchblade. That’s no small feat considering it’s a fairly prolific franchise, which even managed to bust out of the comics and onto the TV screen. Nonetheless, I’m a big fan of Clayburn Moore’s sculpts and so I just so happen to have a lot of Witchblade figures in my collection. Today seemed like a good day to feature one, because I have an appointment at the corner pub and with so little background on the characters, I can probably get through it quickly.


If you’ve picked up any of Moore’s indie comic figures, you have a good idea what to expect from the packaging. The figure comes on a fairly uninspiring card with a big bubble and the figure and accessories all laid out for you. The back is a little more exciting with some decent artwork, a blurb about the character, and photos of four of the other figures available in this series.


Even if you aren’t a sculpting connoisseur, chances are you can recognize a Moore sculpt when you see one. Most of them are scantily clad ladies with ample breasts, a perfect ass, and a wide-eyed, full-lipped featured face. Katarina here hits all those points. Her face does have less of a realistic look and more of a stylized anime visage than Moore’s usual work, certainly more so than Lady Death or Ariel Darkchylde. I don’t like it as much, but I’m certainly not hating on it either. I do really dig the way her long braid snakes its way down her back and around to the front. The sculpting on the Witchblade itself is both beautiful and intricate and it makes for a striking contrast with the figure’s smooth skin. The crosshatch pattern on her boots is actually sculpted in and there’s some subtle but nice sculpted muscles as well.  

While rarely poor, the paint on Moore’s figures can sometimes be a mixed bag, and Katarina here is a good example of that. The skintone is glossy bare plastic, which doesn’t give you the nice soft look of painted skin. I’m always torn on this, as I like the glossy toyish sheen and painted skin doesn’t always turn out that great. On the other hand, the bare plastic skin doesn’t photograph as well and doesn’t give you that added sense of realism. Nonetheless, the paintwork that’s here is pretty good, particularly on her face, her outfit and the Witchblade itself. The hair, on the other hand comes off as a little hamfisted. The mix of orange with black wash doesn’t give it depth as much as it just makes it look dirty. I seem to recall having a similar problem with the Darkchylde figure. Then again, considering the price point on these figures, the good certainly outweighs the subpar.  

Moore figure collectors won’t be surprised by Katarina’s articulation. You get standard five points, swivels at the neck, shoulders, and hips, and only three of those are really useful. The hip cuts don’t really help at all, unless you want her awkwardly sitting on the floor with her legs spread wide. If you find that useful, please keep it to yourself while I pretend to be appalled. No, this figure is designed to stand in a wide leg stance and give you a few options on how to pose her with her weapons.

Weapons? Yes, Katarina comes with a nice array of accessories. You get a sword, spear, and battle axe. All three are beautifully sculpted and painted to look like extensions of the Witchblade. I’m particularly impressed with the sword sculpt, which includes all sorts of cool little nicks and pitting on the blade. Oh yeah, you also get a decent figure stand with the Witchblade logo on it.

A lot of collectors look down on Moore’s indie comic figures as being dated products of the 90’s. Fair enough, but I really enjoy them. One of the finest compliments I can pay an action figure line is that I’m willing to collect them when I really care nothing for the franchise they’re based on. Of course, it helps when they’re sexy chicks and when they’re cheap.  Witchblade figures can certainly be had for next to nothing these days. They’re probably still hanging in a dark corner of your local comic shop, or you can just go buy them on Ebay and probably pay more for the shipping than the actual figure. Either way, Katarina’s a cool figure in my book.


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