Sunday, 29 March 2015

Funko POP! Books – Cthulhu (Glow in the Dark variant)

Company: Funko
Year: 2015
Series: Funko POP! Books

About a month ago, I looked at the regular version of the Funko Cthulhu. The sculpt is identical, so if you want to read about that and a bit of background on Cthulhu himself, best to have a read there. I ordered this guy from, but it’s apparently an Entertainment Earth exclusive – at least in the States, anyway.

The only real difference is that mine had a slight chip in the nose area – the glow in the dark plastic is slightly softer than the regular plastic POPs use, so it’s entirely possible that this happened during the packing process, or even when it was pulled out of the mould. It’s not a major deal, as the different-coloured plastic mutes the details of sculptured details slightly, making it less obvious.    

Rather than the dozy expression seen on the original version, with half-closed eyes, this Cthulhu appears to have awoken from his long slumber and arisen from the deep to unleash his monstrous powers upon the earth. Presumably the glow is representative of his sinister powers, though the copy on the box doesn’t confirm or deny this. Speaking of the box, it’s identical to the original – no art changes – save for a sticker which reads “Glows in the Dark”.  Though I don’t normally keep the box, I think I will probably keep this guy boxed most of the time.  

The paint is a little on the sloppy side – especially on the mouth tentacles. The eyes are done reasonably neatly though. So overall, as with the original version of this sculpt, I have some reservations about the paint. Nonetheless, the piece is overall a fun addition to the collection. If you’re only going to get one, get the original, but I am a glow in the dark tragic and naturally had to purchase both. I'm happy with my decision.


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sunday Afternoon Reader: Each Sold Separately/Action Figures Not Included

Each Sold Separately


Action Figures Not Included

by Phil Reed

Phil Reed is the CEO of Steve Jackson Games and the driving force behind, one of my favourite toy-related sites. In his spare time (and honestly, I don’t know where he finds it – with his day job and the sheer number of posts he puts up on Battlegrip the man must only sleep about 2 hours a night) he finds time to publish books centred around his interests.  

Today, we look at two of those books – Each Sold Separately and Action Figures Not Included. I’ve chosen to review them together, as they really should be read in conjunction with one another. During the initial Kickstarter for Each Sold Separately, Phil announced that he had put together some extra pages beyond the original book – and suddenly, one book became two. I contributed to the initial campaign, and Phil was kind enough to also send me a .pdf of Action Figures Not Included when the two books were finalised earlier this year.      

Ostensibly based around the 1980s but self-admittedly touching on plenty of the 1970s and 1990s too, these books are great reading for anyone who remembers the childhood toys of this era fondly. Rather than being a comprehensive assessment of the toys of the era, it’s more of a look at the unusual and creative ways they were marketed. The usual suspects, such as TV shows and comics, are encompassed, while light is also shed on more obscure promotions such as cereal and “Book & Record” sets.

While the two books may not delve terribly deeply into most of the toy lines covered, that’s not really their purpose – we tend to remember the toys fondly, while often forgetting the huge amount of ephemera that were used to promote them in the first place. It’s great to see some of them rescued from total obscurity, as many of them had a great deal of time and creativity put into them, belying their blatant cash-in origins. As someone who works as an advertising copywriter by day, it’s an interesting insight into the way marketing has evolved – and also how much modern-day marketers could learn from these early-80s mavericks!

My big find was that there used to be G.I. Joe-based Find your Fate books – at least one of which was written by R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame! How I missed this as a kid is something I may never understand. I may have to investigate further on eBay...  

Transformers and Star Wars get a lot of coverage, which is appropriate given both the enormous marketing success of the two properties at the time, Phil’s personal fandom and the sheer fact that both brands are still going strong today. However, plenty of others get a look-in too. Famous names like He-Man and The Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero sit comfortably alongside comparatively obscure names like Power Lords, Crystar and ROM. A few names pop up that I’d never even heard of, which is always exciting for an 80s buff like myself. The main name which stands out as curiously absent is Thundercats.       

These books serve as a great jumping-off point for people who are interested in learning more about toys or marketing, and a bibliography is provided for those who are looking to broaden their own reading on either subject. Overall, it’s a fun coffee table book for toy and broader 1980s fans.  

You can also purchase the books reviewed here today on Amazon, as well as Phil’s other currently available books, which look at the world of third-party Transformers. Phil is currently working on a book based on the late-1990s Star Wars Expanded Universe action figure series. It’s being funded via Kickstarter, and looks like it will be another great read – I’d strongly suggest backing it if you get the chance.  

Friday, 20 March 2015

Alpha Bravo (Transformers: Generations Combiner Wars)

Series: Transformers: Generations Combiner Wars
Year: 2015
Company: Hasbro


Hasbro has declared 2015 to be the “Year of the Combiner”, and the first of its releases are on us now – the Aerialbots, the original Autobot Combiner Team that first debuted back in 1986. So today, we take a look at their newest member – Alpha Bravo!

Alpha Bravo is something that seems to be quite rare in Transformers lore these days – a new character! Back in ye olden days of the 1980s, all of the Aerialbots were planes, but Hasbro have decided to mix it up and throw a helicopter in there too. Though I’m traditionally a nostalgia buff, I’ve got no real emotional investment in the retro Superion so I think it’s a change for the better. 

Going off TF Wiki he doesn’t seem to have appeared in any of the cartoons as yet, but he has appeared in some of the IDW comics (which I really must get round to reading). He’s a blank slate to me, so that’s fine. Hopefully he doesn’t end up being dreadful if/when he makes it to the animated world.   


Like many Transformers before him, Alpha Bravo is obviously heavily inspired by Japanese mech shows such as Gundam and Macross/Robotech. But one of the closest points of reference is actually from Lego – this guy, who you see in the photo to the left. 

From a mech design standpoint, he’s kind of generic, but as an Autobot he’s quite distinctive. For starters, he’s got a faceplate instead of a mouth (which instantly boosts any character about 10 points in my book). Also, his primarily orange and white colour scheme really makes him pop in amongst my TFs, who are primarily dark-hued Decepticons. Bot mode alone justifies the purchase, in my book.      

Articulation is as follows:

*ball-jointed neck
*ball-jointed shoulder
*swivel-hinged elbows (the hinge is also ratcheted)
*ball-jointed hips
*cut thighs
*hinged knees

The “toes” also move, but this is part of the transformation and won’t necessarily help with posing, due to their angle. Most of the articulation works very well – a bicep swivel might have been nice, but it’s not really necessary. The only real problem area (and it’s not a major one) is the hips. This is a problem I’ve run into a few times on Transformers figures. On most human-based action figures, the hip is usually some variation on a ball and socket joint, just like a real-life hip. Some Transformers are like this too, but most of them force a squared-off balljoint beneath an equally square or rectangular hip – naturally this creates an issue and will limit the poses you can place your robot in. Not a major drama, just something to flag.    

The alt mode itself just doesn’t quite grab me, though. At first glance it kind of looks like a space shuttle (based on the nosecone) but it’s actually a helicopter. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but I think the rotor should be back a little further, and the relative lack of paint in comparison to the prototype shots makes it a little flat.   

Still, it’s a huge amount of fun to transform between modes. It’s quite intuitive; I was able to figure out most of the broad strokes without looking at the instructions, but what threw me was the legs – the lower halves of the legs actually break open to conceal the upper halves when you’re going into vehicle mode. With this said, there’s still a lot of little tabs and slots all over the place that are very easy to get wrong. The ones holding the tail rotor down in vehicle mode are particularly tight – be careful when changing him back to robot, as you don’t want to break him.
The vehicle mode doesn’t make it immediately obvious that there’s a robot stuffed away in there, which is also nice – the main “tell” is the hands/missiles.  


Alpha Bravo’s main accessory is his assault rifle, which can be held in either hand. It’s plain black plastic but has a couple of nice details, particularly the ammo feed. When he’s in vehicle mode, you can plug the gun into a 5mm hole on his underside.

Like all of the new Aerialbots, Alpha Bravo can serve as either an arm or leg for Superion. His default position is a leg though, so he comes with a “foot” piece.

Last but not least, he comes with a trading card which has nice art but isn’t very toy accurate – he looks more red than orange in it and also has two weapons. I might put it to use as poster on one of the Turtle’s walls or something.


I’m yet to see the Transformer who would be a contender for paint-job of the year, but Alpha Bravo’s is some of the neatest work I’ve seen in the Generations line as yet. No fuzzy lines or accidental overspray…it’s a nice change. It’s not amazing, but the only real weak points are the gold on his arms/missiles. The tampographs are also exceptionally well-applied.   


Alpha Bravo has been available at both Target and Toys R Us in Australia. I’m yet to see them anywhere else, and based on prior waves of TF: Generations, I’d suggest getting in quickly.
Hasbro has taken an interesting approach to this and the next wave of Combiner Wars. Drag Strip (a Decepticon who is part of another gestalt, Menasor), was released as part of the same wave as Superion.

The Combiner Wars figures are more or less interchangeable between their particular gestalts, so you can make a complete Superion now…but you won’t be able to make a “true” Superion until the Menasor wave is released later in the year, as this includes Air Raid – who, irritatingly, is actually the only Aerialbot I had planned to buy.  


The new Superion looks amazing, but I just don’t think I can afford him at the moment. Other toys have my finances locked down for most of 2015 – in particular, DEVASTATOR, who will no doubt cost a king’s ransom. Awesome as it would be to have two massive combiners to fight each other, I think I’ll just pick up Air Raid when he’s released and call it quits.

Taken solely on his own merits, Alpha Bravo is incredibly fun. His alt mode may be a little underwhelming, but he looks so great in robot mode that it doesn’t really matter. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Minifigures Series 13 – Part 4

So, here we are with the final four minifigures for Series 13! 

Disco Diva
There’s always one figure I actively dislike, and this time it’s the Disco Diva. My problem is the hair, I think – though the afro worked well for the Disco Stu-looking guy back in series 2, I think a different 1970s look would have worked better. Maybe they could have reused the beehive hairdo from Velma Staplebot. Still, the concept is a cool one, the roller skates are a nice touch and the paint apps on the torso are very well executed, even with all their tiny details.    

Lady Cyclops
This was my final addition to the set. Though I really liked the Cyclops from Series 9, I felt he should be more of a standalone character – not everything needs a matching female counterpoint, at least in my opinion. But in hand, she’s kind of fun, if not amazing. She’s got the same headpiece as him, though with different paint apps, and the same club as him too.  

Unicorn Girl
Alongside the Hot Dog Man, the Unicorn Girl seems to have been one of the big “gets” for this series. I’m fairly ambivalent to her – though I tend to like the animal costume characters, I have never been a huge fan of unicorns. She’s well-thought out and crafted – just not really up my alley. Still, my wife likes her.    

Snake Charmer

“Well Tom,” I hear you saying, “You’re being a real downer with this particular feature. Why bother reviewing these figures if you’re going to complain or be ambivalent?

Well, I’ve saved one of the best for last – the Snake Charmer.

Looking at this figure, I couldn’t help but wonder why Lego had never made a Snake Charmer minifigure before. He’s got an exotic feel to him that matches well with the Pharaoh’s Quest or Monster Fighter hero characters, but stands out well on his own merits too. My only disappointment is that his snake is cast in soft, rubbery plastic rather than the usual hard stuff. Still, it’s a cool design and has some nice paint apps on its front and back.  

Well, that’s it for series 13 – roll on the Simpsons Series 2 and Series 14 later in the year! 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Mikey TurtFLYtle -- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Series: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Company: Playmates
Year: 2015

Mikey TurFLYtle begins his buzz around the city to lure in Kirby Bat. Buzz! Buzz! With a homemade fly costume created from pizza boxes, etra tube arms, and glove hands, he flies around the city skyline. Buzz! Buzz! Attached to Raph's Glider, Mikey really puts himself out there to help the team, but he could be a sitting duck... or in this case, flying bat bait? Buzz! Buzz!

I love all four of the turtles, and Raphael has been my favourite since I was a little kid. So sometimes I forget how cool Mikey can be – it’s easy to write him off as the comic relief in a show that’s already fairly heavily based around humour, but he gets up to some genuinely strange stuff. Back in the ’03 series he spent some time as the Turtle Titan, which was one of my favourite episodes of that incarnation. And now he’s appeared as the TurFLYtle, an inspired piece of weirdness is apparently based on an episode of the current series, and is pretty darn cool as a toy on its own.  


Mikey looks more like his Battle Shell incarnation than his original fig, which gives him a closer resemblance to the cartoon.He’s sculpted with a big goofy smile on his face, which is very Mikey. The base body looks to be the same as the Battle Shell toys, but I haven’t invested in them myself so I can’t confirm it. 

However, to befit his new status as TurFLYtle, the back of his belt has been cut off, and replaced with a yellow piece which attaches his four extra fly hands. His wings are detached in the box, and aren’t held in particularly tightly; but careful popping them off though, as you don’t want to damage the wings or the tabs that hold them in.  

Articulation is as follows:

*ball-jointed neck
*swivel-hinged shoulders
*swivel-hinged elbows
*cut wrists
*swivel-hinged hips
*swivel-hinged knees

It's standard for a regular turtles, really, though it’s a little more restricted given the giant wings and extra arms.  

While my figure didn’t have any issues, a friend of mine also bought his and the legs were super wonky, similar to the LARP Turtles that came out late last year. He also suspected that Mikey had been misassembled, with two left legs. You can’t check this in the store unfortunately, as both of his legs are concealed behind cardboard in the box.  


Mikey comes with a headpiece (cool design, but a little small and prone to popping off), his four extra arms (all moulded in soft, Monsters in My Pocket-style plastic and unarticulated) and pizza-box wings. He also comes with two sets of his regular nunchaku, which is a nice bonus.  


Playmates performs better in this category than usual, though it’s more so by absence than by brilliance. Playmates have made the wise decision to have the bandanna moulded as a separate piece, just like they did on the ’03 series. This means they don’t have to paint it, which cuts down on a lot of slop potential. As another plus, the wing decos are stickers, so they’re nice and crisp—you don’t even have to apply them yourself! Hooray!  
On the minus side, the prototype pic on the back of the box indicates that a couple of apps were cut from the final production piece, which is a shame – the hand bandages are the most obvious ones. However, it doesn’t affect the overall enjoyment of the figure; the design is fun enough to do the heavy lifting.


I got the four turtles for my birthday back in 2013 and loved them, but while most of the accompanying figures have been perfectly adequate as kid’s toys, they really haven’t served too well as collector’s pieces. Good sculpts with crap articulation and crap paint have really frustrated me, and Rustin Parr from over at had a few words to say on the subject back in February. I definitely share his frustrations with the line, though often about different figures.   

Fortunately, Mikey TurFLYtle is easily one of the most fun figures I’ve bought since those original four – it’s a huge pleasure to add him to the collection. He’s not perfect, but I would definitely suggest buying him. He seems to be packed one per case, so snap him up whenever you come across one.     

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Lego Forest Maiden (Minifigures Series 9)

When I was a kid, I loved Robin Hood. The early 1990s was a great time to be too – though he’s fairly evergreen (ha ha!) in his popularity, Kevin Costner’s Prince of Thieves had just been released, which sparked a whole wave of revived interest in the character.

One of my friends had a Robin Hood party when we were about 4 or 5 years old, and we were all bestowed with Robin Hood hats made out of cardboard. I hung on to that bad boy for years. I fashioned a (terrible) longbow out of a stick and string, and would lurk around in my parent’s backyard, dressed entirely in green. I still have memories of jumping around on the furniture as I watched the Errol Flynn version, much to my parent’s chagrin.

Though my enjoyment never really went away, it had faded a little by 1994. But around that time, ABC TV in Australia was screening a little British show called Maid Marian and Her Merry Men. Starring Tony Robins of Blackadder fame, it was an irreverent take on the legendary outlaw, casting him as an incompetent fool; Marian had actually been behind all of the gang’s successes. Though I haven’t watched it in close to 20 years, I remember it being hilariously funny as a child. Importantly, Maid Marian was a strong, empowered female – funny and tough.

Following on from my recent acquisition of the Forestman, I also invested in his female counterpart, the Forest Maiden. Originally I thought she was connected with the Elf from Series 3, but it appears I was mistaken and she is actually more based on Robin Hood’s beau, Maid Marian – hence the lengthy introduction you now read above!

Dressed almost entirely in green, the Forest Maiden is simple in her garb -- a cloth belt and a small coin purse are the only features really of note on her clothing. It's appropriate, of course, given her woodland lifestyle, and is a nice complement to the simple Series 1 printing on the Forestman.  

She’s armed with a bow and arrow, and can defend herself with a shield. A sword would have been nice too, but I’m sure I can find a spare in my bits box. The only real disappointment is that her hair is cast in soft plastic, rather than hard plastic. But it’s not the end of the world.

The Forest Maiden is a cool minifig – one of the best from Series 9 – but only at the right price. Like much of series 9, she seems to have rapidly appreciated in value, and you’ll probably pay a minimum of $15 for her, potentially more. So keep an eye out, but proceed with caution – just as one would do if they were a tax collector in Sherwood Forest.  

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Tiger Claw

 When I first started picking up the TMNT figures back in mid-2013, the villains were kind of hard to track down. There was a (rubbish) Shredder, a Foot Soldier (adequate) and a Kraang trooper (good but imperfect). The four turtles themselves dominated the store shelves, which is to be expected. But there’s no point in having them if you don’t have any villains for them to fight!

Fortunately things have picked up a little since then, and so today we look at one of the more recent additions to the line – Tiger Claw!

NB: I’m yet to watch the episodes in which Tiger Claw appears, so I’m purely basing my review here on his appearance, rather than the character. 


Tiger Claw is some kind of half-man, half-tiger hybrid – a deadly assassin feared throughout Asia. Heavy stuff for a kid’s cartoon, but TMNT has never been afraid to shy away from the big issues.

His tail seems to have been docked – I’m not sure if this is a character trait or if a full tail just didn’t cost out for Playmates. Also, the image on the back of the card portrays him as having two eyes, but the toy has one eye and an eyepatch. Maybe this is something to do with the episodes he appears in – starts off with two and loses one to the turtles (edit: A review of the TMNT 2012 wiki suggests it’s never explained. However, the tail is a plot point and not a costing thing.  

The design of the character is much better than the actual execution, though this is more the fault of the paint than the sculpt. Most of the important details seem to have made it through to the sculpt -- such as his backpack and the ammo belt across his chest. Overall it looks great -- but as we'll see in the paint section, there's a lot left to be desired.  

Articulation is as follows:
*cut neck
*swivel-hinged shoulders
*swivel-hinged hips
*hinged knees

Not bad in comparison to some of the other figures in the range, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Truth be told, I would have picked up Tiger Claw the very first time I saw him if he had elbow joints. There are certainly other joints that would have been nice to have too – swivel wrists, ball-jointed neck, just to name a couple, but it’s a $15 kid’s line so we can’t expect miracles. It's acceptable, but in no way it win articulation of the year. 


Every time I talk about TMNT, I talk about how the paint apps are crap. Tiger Claw is no exception. They’re certainly more numerous than many other of the figures in the line, but they’re on the sloppy side – his scarf in particular shows signs of chipping. The string on the back of his head for his eyepatch isn’t painted either…it brings to mind shades of Casey Jones and his “no back paint”. Perhaps worst of all is the huge difference in colour between the feet and the rest of his body. 

All of this wouldn’t be so annoying if we didn’t know that Playmates can do better, and has done better in the past. Look at the paint on the 2003 figures – for the most part, pretty clean and well-executed. Go back further to the 1980s series and you’ll see the same thing. But now half the figures in the line look like bootlegs because they’re not enough spent on apps or QC. I appreciate that toy manufacturing costs have risen significantly since the golden days of the 1980s/1990s – but I think we can safely say that Playmates is still making a mint on these bad boys, and some of that capital should be invested in the line.     


Accessories-wise, he comes with two guns, both cast in a very soft plastic. They can be stored in his holsters (though the way they’re in the package is on the opposite sides to the holsters they fit in). 


There are two versions of Tiger Claw – the regular one reviewed here today (he does seems to be available on two different cardbacks, though) and the “Mutations” version, which allows you to pop off his limbs and swap them around with other Mutations characters. The sculpt looks to have been built from the same base, but it is slightly larger than this one.

Tiger Claw has some definite shortcomings, but I think his design is really cool, and it's made up for some of the shortcomings with the figure itself. He’s a great sculpt and worth the price of entry for that alone – it’s just a shame about the paint. I’ve only really found him on a “one in store” basis, but check him carefully if you have more than one to pick from.