Monday, 9 January 2017

POP! Marvel – She-Hulk (Glow in the Dark)

Company: Funko
Year: 2017

NB: This is mostly a rework of my earlier She-Hulk POP review, with some updated notes.

2016 was an interesting time to be a She-Hulk fan, as *SPOILER ALERT* she was apparently killed 
off in Issue 1 of Civil War II.  In news that shocked no-one, it turns out that it wasn’t a real death at all, and now she’s headlining her own series, called simply Hulk.

Debuting in 1980 as Hulk’s angry female cousin, She-Hulk has been an Avenger, a member of the Fantastic Four and quite successful in her own right, too. She’s never attained A-lister status, but she’s carved out her own little niche in the Marvel Universe -- and to be honest, I find her a lot more endearing than the Incredible Hulk. Marvel’s female characters have been gaining an increased prominence over the last few years, thanks to reinventions (like Ms Marvel becoming Captain Marvel) and new additions (such as Spider-Gwen), so it’s good to see some of that goodwill overflow to She-Hulk too. Time will tell how long this new title will last, but unfortunately in recent years poor ol’ She-Hulk has not fared well in her solo titles. 

This is a re-release of the same She-Hulk we saw a few months ago, but now she glows in the dark. Most of the other characters from this wave are still easily available, and it was a good one: Spider-Gwen, Captain Marvel, (comics)Dr Strange, Dr Octopus and (comics) Falcon. I’m not partial to all of these characters, but the designs look pretty great on all of them.  

Glow version on left, original on right
This particular costume isn't her first one, but most of them have been some kind of leotard or swimsuit in the purple/white colour scheme, so it slots in well with most incarnations of the character. However, she first adopted this particular one after leaving the Fantastic Four and rejoining the Avengers – it’s quite similar to the one from her FF days, bar the colour.  

I mentioned in my original review that buying a She-Hulk POP would leave you with a trade-off – how visible the mould line on the chin is, vs how sloppily the costume is painted. This is still an issue to some degree, but given the overall “softer” look of the glow in the dark plastic, the mould line is hidden more effectively – and the paint does seem to be neater than the first release.

Given that I was correct in guessing that there would be a glow She-Hulk, I still suspect we could see a few variants further down the line – a Fantastic Four She-Hulk, and maybe some purple/white paint variations.


As with the first version, She-Hulk has a great colour scheme that stands out nicely on the superheroes shelf. The green is a little more muted than the original, but to the casual observer this will be the main difference between the two. And the glow feature itself? Funko has had a mixed bag with plenty of its prior releases, but this one glows nice and brightly. So I prefer this version of the two, but either is a good choice.   

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Guest Review: (boot)Lego Space Batman

Today the Lupine Book Club presents a special guest review from Boon, longtime friend to the site. He takes a look at the bootLego version of Space Batman, who originally appeared in the Green Lantern vs. Sinestro Lego set. Editor's note: Please note that the Lupine Book Club does not condone copyright infringement -- all opinions are the author's own.

I think we all remember the pivotal scene in the worldwide blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron when Space Batman saved us all from an age of subjugation under an evil robotic overlord. And what better way to to commemorate and celebrate that life-changing moment than with a Chinese imitation LEGO set?

Manufactured by the 'LELE' corporation and part of the 'Wang World' line of collectable figures, this “deluxe” figure comes with a host of additional action and display accessories. First among them is a bounce clip gift, which allows the user to plug in their miniaturised hero effigy and dramatically launch them into action.

The figure itself is supplied as a plain set of white legs with grey pelvis joint section, a front and back printed torso, plain white arms, grey hands, a white head with a single face print and a helmet/cowl unit that doesn't quite fit right. It sits too high on the facial printing to have the eye visor piece show through the eye holes of the cowl, which is unfortunate.



Space Batman is supplied with two options for his cape, a spreadeagled, full-flight version and a more discreet flowing cloak style. Both are attached to his person by way of the simple but effective flight propulsion unit or 'jet-pack'.



Once you've concluded your movie accurate re-enactment of Space Batman's expertly choreographed action sequences, you may take advantage of the supplied standard base plate for display purposes. This branded clear plastic base proudly bears the manufacturer name and logo next to the product line word mark so you know exactly who to thank in your frequent in your daily gratitude journals.
In addition to the standard base, you are supplied with the components to assemble a rather dramatic flight arm display. This connects to a rather intricate backpack set up that allows you to display Space Batman to his fullest and most majestic. A precision-engineered balljoint at the foot of this flight stand allows for something in the mind-blowing neighbourhood of 20 degrees of offset angle from vertical.

As a play piece, Space Batman offers plenty of opportunity for imaginative play, with his cape options and jet pack giving him the opportunity for flight play. The build quality is perhaps better than I had expected, the arm joints are firm and hold their position well, as do the hands, which can be an issue in well-loved LEGO figures. The leg joints have similar rigidity in standing poses but become looser in seated positions, which leads Space Batman to adopt a leisurely slouch when not supported by a chair or backrest of some kind.

As a display piece Space Batman's major fault is clearly the ill-fitting cowl, which spoils the entire head aesthetic, and I'm reluctant to think this is a one-off manufacturing fault. Factoring in the princely sum of $2.50AUD, I think this figure is all but a must-buy if you happen across it in your local Dollar/Discount store.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

POP! Movies -- Pennywise the Clown

Company: Funko
Year: 2014

I know it’s been very trendy to hate on clowns lately, particularly after the whole clown sighting thing last year – but I’ll quite happily state that my dislike of clowns extends well back to childhood. I don’t have a phobia of them or anything, I’ve just never associated them with positive feelings. The Joker, John Wayne Gacy, those eerie (and depressing) Pierrot paintings every second house seemed to have displayed in the 80s and 90s…clowns are boring at best and genuine serial killers at worst.  

My larger point is that Stephen King chose quite well when he made the villain of IT a clown, even though they’ve become a heavily overused horror trope. I’m re-reading the novel for the first time in…ooh, maybe a decade or so…and while it has some of the usual shortcomings I associate with his books, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the IT of the title, is one of his great villains.

Of course, even more people are familiar with the character through the 1990 TV miniseries adaptation, where he was played by Tim Curry. Somewhat disappointingly, I’ve never actually watched the whole thing (like many King adaptations, it was everywhere on VHS, but seemed to disappear in the DVD era), but Tim Curry seems to do the character justice. So today we find ourselves looking at the plastic representation of Pennywise, delivered to us by Funko.

This is Pennywise in his more overtly evil form; while he’s creepy in all his appearances, his face changes slightly when he’s about to commit a murder, teeth becoming pointed and eyes shifting in colour. His hands are also stretched out, presumably to grab one of his victims.

For the benefit of anyone who hasn’t seen the book or watched the film (SPOILERS), Pennywise is not actually a clown. King was really riffing on Lovecraft when he wrote IT, though he dressed it up with plenty of Americana and kid’s adventure story to subvert some of Lovecraft’s usual story structure – rather, the clown is a manifestation of an H.P. Lovecraft-style supernatural/extraterrestrial horror that lurks beneath the city of Derry, Maine. Arriving before the dawn of recorded history, he manifests every 27 years or so, wreaking terrible violence before returning to some kind of slumber. 

More in common than you might have realised

There was probably scope to do at least a couple of different versions of Pennywise -- maybe a “plain” version or one holding balloons – but this one serves as well as any other. With the upcoming 2017 movie of IT, it seems likely that we’ll get one based on that film’s take on the character too.
Overall? He’s a well-designed figure, and though I wouldn’t say I rate him as highly as a number of my other horror-themed POPs, my affection for the novel and Stephen King’s wider works was enough to push me to purchase. If you can find him (he seems to be discontinued) and you’re a fan, he’s a worthwhile investment.  

*For the younger reader of this blog, I think it may be difficult to comprehend just how big a deal Stephen King was when I was a kid. Sure, he’s still an exceedingly famous author, but back then he was a genuine phenomenon. My childhood memory may exaggerate a little, but not too much. A public figure since the 1970s and highly prolific throughout the 1980s, the 1990s saw King’s popularity explode to a whole new level. For a while there, you couldn’t walk into a video store without seeing some new adaptation on the shelves, and had an average bookstore display of his works collapsed on you, you would have likely been killed, given how many books he’d published at that point.  


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Imhotep the Mummy

Just over two years ago, I reviewed the Mummy Funko POP – as we’re looking at the Mystery Mini today, I’ll take my intro from that article.

Boris Karloff – a horror legend if ever there was one. Almost 50 years after his death, the image of him as Frankenstein’s Monster continues to dominate popular culture. Universal must be making more on merchandise than they ever did on the movie itself, going off the sheer amount of stuff that’s been produced in the decades that have followed.

But Frankenstein’s Monster wasn’t the only role Karloff was famous for – another was Imhotep, the titular character of the Mummy. Released in 1932 to cash in on the craze for all things Egyptian following the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, The Mummy was an immediate hit. Imhotep never achieved quite the same iconic status as Frankenstein’s Monster, but he remains an important part of the movie monster pantheon. The character also got a revival of sorts in 1999, when a remake (or re-envisioning or reboot, whatever you’d prefer to call it) of The Mummy was released, and became a tremendous hit. 

The original is not a perfect film, but it evokes a dark mood that still manages to unsettle to this day. Almost as importantly, Boris Karloff’s makeup as the titular character in his coffin still holds up quite well – just look at the comparison here with a real mummy.  

Recap done. So how does the Mystery Mini stack up to the POP?

Well, like the POP, Imhotep has the issue that his design is not as interesting as some of his Universal Monsters contemporaries. For most of the movie he’s a guy in a fez with an eerily wrinkled face, and he’s only actually in his burial wrappings for a short period at the beginning of the movie. In this format, it translates to him being in off-white wrappings, while his face is grey, the only real colour coming from his bronze-gold scarab ring. The underlying sculpt is very good though, with lots of detail in the bandages, and brings the character’s features to the Mystery Mini format quite well.

As with the POP Funko would have been better investing in a dark brown or black wash to go over the bandages. This would have brought out the sculpted details much more, and also made him pop more visually. Additionally, they could have gone for a green-grey look to the flesh as well, as here.

The end result is an imperfect but still enjoyable figure. The Mummy is quite under-merchandised in comparison to some of his Universal brethren – though that may change on the back of the 2017 remake – and sometimes as a result you just have to accept that you will be getting a good piece of merchandise as opposed to a great one.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Wacky Wobbler – Rat Fink


Company: Funko
Year: 2000/2005

These days, Funko are far and away best-known for their distinctive POP! range of vinyl toys, which they’ve been pumping out to great success since around 2010. But before that particular cash-cow made its way into the paddock, Funko was founded as primarily a bobblehead company – one that was intentionally retro in its outlook. The company’s first ever toy was a bobblehead of the Big Boy restaurant mascot (who’s probably best known to Australian readers via his Simpsons parody, Lard Lad).

The next few years saw Funko enjoy a reasonable level of success, though they weren’t making waves in the same way as some of their designer toy contemporaries like kidrobot. The emphasis was primarily on retro mascots released under the Wacky Wobbler banner*, like Big Boy, Count Chocula, Tony the Tiger…and the subject of today’s review, Rat Fink!

Now Rat Fink is one of those characters that virtually everyone recognises, but unless they’re of a particular age, they rarely know his name. Drawn by the now sadly departed Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Rat Fink emerged out of the Kustom Kulture hot rod scene during the 1960s, an ugly (but endearing) anti-Mickey Mouse. He’s adorned countless t-shirts since, and spawned his fair share of associated merchandise – not to mention the considerable influence that Roth’s art has had on various underground art scenes.
      
Rat Fink is typically depicted in a sketchy-looking hot rod, one hand clutching at an impossibly-angled gearstick – but here he’s travelling on foot. At a guess, the figure is based on this art, though if there’s someone out there who knows better, please mention it in the comments below. The sculpt is solid, rendering Roth’s art nicely in slightly simplified 3D. He’s technically a bobblegut rather than a bobblehead, but we won’t bandy semantics here.

There were a huge amount of Rat Fink Wacky Wobblers produced. The one reviewed here is the most common colour and mould, but there were a few different moulds and dozens of different colours produced as well. Many of them were limited edition or convention exclusives; for a more comprehensive list, check out Pop Price Guide. Personally I’d be quite keen to get my hands on a glow version of any of them, but a quick look at eBay seems to suggest that virtually all of the figures go for pretty silly money these days. This version has a copyright date of 2005, but it seems that it was originally released around 2000 -- as you can see in the pic, Ed Roth contributed some notes to the back of the box, and he passed away in 2001.

And on that note, how’s the paint? Pretty ordinary. It’s never been one of Funko’s strong points, and the additional detail in the sculpt certainly highlights its inadequacies. But considering they’d only been a company for a few years at this point, it’s acceptable, if not ideal.

Overall? Rat Fink is a cool piece of Funko history, and quite fun in his own right. I found him at a shop in Surry Hills and paid a little more than he probably cost at retail back in the day, but certainly not an outrageous price – if you want one, I’d suggest you do the same. My wife described him as “disgusting” and didn’t really want to look directly at him, which means that Funko pretty much got it right. He’s accompanying all of my horror POPs at the moment, which is probably the best place for him. Now I just hope we get an update of him in POP form – maybe as a POP ride? C’mon Funko! 


*Funko’s Wacky Wobblers line still exists, though in a greatly reduced capacity. It’s nowhere near as comprehensive as their POP! range, and now tends to focus more on comics and movies. But for aficionados, NECA also produces some bobbleheads in a very similar style. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Funko POP! Heroes – Power Girl

Company: Funko
Year: 2016

Power Girl! My main familiarity with her comes from the Superman/Batman series that ran from the early noughties through to the New 52 reboot. She turned up there reasonably regularly as a supporting character, never quite breaking through to the mainstream appeal of some of her contemporaries but nonetheless retaining a cult fanbase in the process.

Still, for the purposes of this review, all you need to know is that she’s an alternate dimension, gender-swapped Superman. She hangs out with the Justice Society, too. Pretty lazy backstory, but that’s all you needed in the 1970s.

So, how’s the POP? Well, pretty good. I believe Power Girl’s outfit has changed a few times over the years, but this would be the only one anyone would be able to pick out of a police lineup – white leotard, blue boots + gloves, red half-cape and belt. All of it virtually unchanged since her very first appearance, 40 years ago. Her hair fluctuates in length from time to time, but it’s always quite short in comparison to say, Zatanna or Wonder Woman.

Paint is adequate, but not amazing. And to be fair, I think you could apply that description to the POP itself. Maybe it’s just the fact that her costume – which is quite distinctive on the printed page – isn’t quite as vibrant when it’s rendered in 3D form.

Overall? I bought her on sale and she’s fine – but though Power Girl is a character who I like well enough, and it’s always good to get more of DC’s female cast members, there’s something that keeps it from being a truly excellent POP. She’s good, rather than great.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

POP! Games – Call of Duty Spaceland Zombie

Series: POP! Games
Year: 2016

The Call of Duty games are fun and all, but I’m years behind on them. I think the last one I bought was Black Ops 2, maybe? Long time ago now. Nonetheless, this particular piece of CoD merchandise jumped out at me – not because of my interest in the game, but because he is perfect as a Deadite to go with Ash from Army of Darkness!

This guy is gross, on par with Funko’s Walking Dead figures – a range he’d fit in with quite well. His face looks almost like it’s melting, and he’s leaking blood out of his eyes…which is quite an effective (if disgusting) rendering of the decomposition process that “real” zombies would likely go through. There’s been quite a bit of attention paid to sculpting; in life, this guy looks to have been some kind of frat boy on vacation, dressed in some very Abercrombie & Fitch-esque clothes. That said, I can’t find a reference image from the game that seems to match this particular character. If you have one, mention it in the comments below.

Overall, this detail is great, but does seem slightly strange; apparently this obscure character gets a bigger tooling and paint budget from Funko than some of the world’s biggest superheroes. I can’t imagine it’s selling in anywhere near the same numbers!  

This guy was exclusive to Target in the US, but over here you can get him from Popcultcha or – if you’re lucky, EB Games. Thanks to the success of The Walking Dead (among others), there is now a total plethora of zombie merchandise on the market. As with any trend, it’s a mixed bag; some of it’s fantastic, other stuff is total garbage. This is one of the good ones -- if you’re a zombie fan in any way shape or form, Spaceland Zombie here is a very sound investment.