Friday, 18 September 2015

Funko POP! DC Comics – Darkseid

Series: POP! DC Comics
Year: 2013
RRP: $18

Originally debuting in the pages of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen back in 1970, few would have predicted that Darkseid would one day ascend to the position of BIG BAD in the DC Universe. He’s survived being thrown into the Source Wall by Superman, having some of his thunder stolen by (acknowledged) knock-off Thanos – and perhaps worst of all, a terrible leotard costume!     
I can’t pretend to be an expert on Darkseid. My familiarity stems with him mostly from the mid-00s Superman/Batman series and the first story arc of the New 52 Justice League. I wasn’t terribly aware of him as a child…I think he mostly kind of inhabited the New Gods/Fourth World stories until the 1980s, when he and the other characters from the series were enfolded into the wider DC Universe, largely through the seminal Super Powers toy line.

Fortunately Funko have gone with his tunic look, as opposed to the leotard. I didn’t really like his sculpt when he was first released, as he was pretty distinct from the usual Funko style – a little too distinct. But a couple of years on, Funko have released such a diverse group of sculpts that it doesn’t look so out of place any more. It’s much more detailed than you might expect; though the helmet and tunic are smooth and undetailed, the face and limbs are all sculpted with the cracked rock look that has been one of his signatures since early days.  

Now let’s get to paint – the traditional weak point when it comes to POPs. Well, paint is actually quite good! Especially considering that this guy was first released back in about 2013, when Funko was just starting to move beyond the fuzziness that plagues so many of its older (and some of its current) figures. The grey and blue colour scheme, combined with the red eyes, really pops on the shelf.

There are two versions of Darkseid available – this one and a glow in the dark version. The GitD version looks near identical. It sells for considerably more, going off eBay, but it’s not as outrageously extravagant as some of the GitD POPs out there. Had I known there was a glow version available previously, I might have tried to track it down – but to be honest, this is a really great POP whichever version you get. It’s really sold me on a character I’ve never been terribly familiar with and made me want to read more.   
Darkseid looms large among Superman's villainous foes.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Lego Minifigures Series 14: Monsters (Part 3)

Huzzah -- they’re finally out in Australia!

Minifigures Series 14 had an official release date of September 2015, but as is often the case they began showing up earlier in the US and UK. Well, now they’ve made their ways to the sunny shores of Sydney, and you can read my take on them, starting with Part One and Part Two.

In this instalment, I take a look at the three zombie figures that have been included as part of this series. The Monster Rocker has been slotted in here as he’s kind of a zombie too.

Zombie Pirate
Looking like some sort of refugee from the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films, the Zombie Pirate was a must-buy due to my love for all things Lego Pirates. All the stereotypical pirate elements are in place – hook hand, eyepatch and peg leg, but they’ve been nicely supplemented with a ragged, decaying coat and gigantic sword. He was a captain in life, and now in death too.

The only real downside is that I am not particularly fond of this guy’s beard-piece. It works well for conveying a hillbilly look, but it seems unnecessary here. I’m just as content to display him without it, which gives him a menacing side-burned look. He’s not as good as the Pirate Captain from Series 8, but he is pretty great nonetheless.   

Zombie Businessman
There is nothing particularly appealing about being a zombie. While I can see why people might like the idea of being a vampire, werewolf or some other supernatural creature, a zombie (at least the modern conception we have of one) does little more than lumber around, consumer human flesh and eventually rot away.   

But the Zombie Businessman is particularly depressing. Presumably some kind of mid-level executive during life, in undeath he continues going to the office every day to make sure the bills get paid. Bedecked in his tattered business suit, he looks more befuddled than menacing. It’s surprisingly endearing for an undead, shambling corpse.

His accessories rank as some of the best in the series – a suitcase (which opens up and would be great for any number of other minifigures) and a newspaper (The Zombie Times, whose headline reads simply “BRAAAINS”). I hope we see a few more colour variants of this guy in the future.

Zombie Cheerleader
I just don’t know about this one. I’ve got the previous cheerleaders released under the minifigures banner, and they were kind of endearing. This one just seems a little weird. I think it’s the missing tooth. I get that she’s a zombie and all, but it just throws her whole look out for me. She’s probably my least favourite of Series 14, but she’s still several cuts above the weak spots of other series. Fun but not essential.

Monster Rocker
Oh wow, this guy is amazing! The Monster was one of the best minifigures back in Series 4, so it’s great to see a new version of him now. And he is ready to rock!

Lego’s market research team has obviously concluded that rockabilly/punkabilly/psychobilly/punk rock fans make up a big chunk of their market and are now releasing sets to cater to that niche group of buyers. Fantastic. He’s adorned in denim, a studded belt, with a padlock necklace hanging from his of all, he’s got a back patch on his jacket reading “Shock and Roll”. Last but not least, he’s equipped with a red, bat decorated guitar (or bass, the choice is yours). Now I just hope we get more not-Universal Monsters rendered in this style. It would be incredible to have a full band line-up. One of the best minifigures Lego has done, full stop.

On another note…
Right now, it’s pretty easy to be a bit burnt out on zombies. Since 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead brought them back to the big screen just over a decade ago, zombies have penetrated through the mainstream and become ubiquitous in a way that I think few would have predicted. So much so that it’s pretty easy to feel burnt out on the whole thing. Lego is obviously riding a larger cultural trend here, but these are refreshingly fun additions to the existing plethora of zombie merchandise out there. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Lego Minifigures Series 14: Monsters (Part 2)

Huzzah -- they’re finally out in Australia! 

Minifigures Series 14 had an official release date of September 2015, but as is often the case they began showing up earlier in the US and UK. Well, now they’ve made their ways to the sunny shores of Sydney, and you can read my take on them, starting here

This series is subtitled “Monsters”, designed to tie in with Halloween. Well, Halloween decorations often don’t show up in stores till midway through October in Australia, but I think these will be a hit nonetheless.

Fly Monster

Horror films often end up being marketed to kids. Nightmare on Elm St is a classic example – in spite of a being a film about a murderer who started his career murdering children, there was a huge amount of merch in the 1980s which was targeted at kids. Dolls, costumes, young adult novels, collectables – the list goes on, and it seems kind of weird in hindsight. Of course, this was also the decade that Rambo and RoboCop were turned into kid’s cartoons, so go figure.

So now it’s The Fly’s turn. This one skews a lot more to the 1950s version, as opposed to the gruesome body horror of the 1980s David Cronenberg version. This is probably a good thing, as while it’s an excellent film, Jeff Goldblum’s take on the character was really not suitable for kids.   
I was really looking forward to this figure, but I don’t think he turned out quite as well as I was hoping. Part of the problem is just because he’s so dark – there’s some nice green fur detailing, but the rest of him is a little too plain. Still, the head is nicely executed, and it would be pretty easy to make a custom that more or less matched the appearance of the original film, if you have a spare scientist minifig about. Fun, but not as fun as I’d hoped.

Plant Monster

Now this guy is really cool! The backstory for this figure is that the plant is some kind of minifigure-eating creature – it goes around swallowing minifigures, then spits them out after a day or two. Which is why the guy inside looks so frightened – he’s trapped in a leafy mass!
The paint and accessories attempt to convey this impression via a plain green body, with vine printing that curls around the front and back of the body. Vine pieces are clicked into the character’s hands, presumably trying to give the impression of an assassin vine or something. I suppose the other obvious touchpoint is Audrey II, from Little Shop of Horrors, though I’ve never actually watched any of its various iterations.      

Given that his headpiece looks to be an entirely new mould, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t get used again…possibly as some kind of henchplant for Poison Ivy? We can only hope!

Series 14 doesn’t have much in the way of army builders – but if there’s one character that lends itself to multiples, it’s the Gargoyle. Gargoyles adorn countless buildings all over the world. Traditionally associated with churches, they served both superstitious (they were thought to frighten off evil spirits) and practical functions (they were also there to funnel off excess water, effectively functioning as downpipes).

But in a Lego sense, they’re ideal for anyone who bought the Vampyre Castle or the Haunted House from the 2012 Monster Fighters theme – these guys are the perfect decoration to add an extra touch of Gothic ambience to those buildings. Dark grey paint apps on a light grey body give the impression of a monstrous beast carved from stone. He’s been given the short legs, apparently to imitate the crouched stance of real gargoyles, but I think that’s a bit of a shame – it would have been great to see one stretched to full size. 

Nonetheless, the Gargoyle is an excellent minifigure. His horned helmet looks to be a new piece – my tip is that we’ll either get a lot more gargoyles in very short succession, or we’ll get satyrs in the next round of Castle! Either way, I’d be pretty happy about that.


There have been a disproportionately high number of werewolves released by Lego over the last few years. First of all, we got the Wolfman-styled one back in Series 4, then another one that was a little more Dog Soldiers as part of the Monster Fighters theme in 2012. But I’m not complaining! The more werewolves we get from Lego, the happier I’ll be. 

One interesting little detail is that this werewolf is apparently the same Lumberjack who appeared back in Series 5. Look at his shirt and nametag – it’s him! This must be one of the first times that the same character has reappeared in a different guise. No doubt customisers with access to a few of each figure will make some kind of transformation diorama – if you find one, post the link here, I’d love to see it.

This one follows the same style as the Monster Fighters one, using a similar yet different head. But for the first time, he has a tail! I believe this part debuted for Rocket Raccoon in the Guardians of the Galaxy sets that were released last year. It’s cast in softer plastic, almost like a rubber, and works pointed both up and down. Very, very cool – this was the figure I was most looking forward to from the range; while I wouldn’t say it turned out as my favourite, it's definitely one of the best figures in the series.

Coming soon: Part 3! 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Lego Minfigures Series 14: Monsters (Part 1)

Huzzah -- they’re finally out in Australia!  

Minifigures Series 14 had an official release date of September 2015, but as is often the case they began showing up earlier in the US and UK. Well, now they’ve made their ways to the sunny shores of Sydney, and you can read my take on them.

This series is subtitled “Monsters”, designed to tie in with Halloween. I’m curious to see how it sells over here – anecdotal reports suggest it’s selling gangbusters in the US and UK, but while Halloween is getting bigger, it’s still not an especially huge occasion over here. Trick-or-treating was unusual when I was a kid, though it seems to have taken off in the last few years.  

Serving as an ominous reminder of our own mortality, the spectre is a surprisingly gloomy topic for Lego to tackle – but they have been making ghosts for years, so I suppose it’s not that shocking. Bedecked in a hooded robe and loud clanking chains, this one dispenses with the traditional legs. It instead uses a new piece which was introduced with this year’s Ninjago theme – a kind of smoke-waft, which gives the illusion of a hovering ghost while still providing adequate support to stand. It’s cast in semi-translucent plastic, which adds nicely to the effect. Regular readers will be well aware of my fixation on glow in the dark items, so I was extremely pleased to discover that his face does in fact glow in the dark too!

Tiger Woman
Though she’s obviously meant to be a woman in a Halloween cat costume, one of the good things about Minifigures is the way they can be used as backdoor characters for other settings too. So she could also serve as Tigra from Marvel Comics, or at a bit more of a stretch, as Cheetah – Wonder Woman’s archnemesis.
She’s a fun figure, and I can see her being one of the rarer/more expensive figures as time goes on – these human-animal costumed characters tend to be incredibly popular.    

Wacky Witch
I’ve never been all that enamoured of the pop culture version of witches; Suspiria was pretty entertaining, but they’ve never impressed themselves on my consciousness in the same way as other horror archetypes.   

Nonetheless, as cartoon witches go, this one is fine. She reminded me a bit of Witch Hazel from Looney Tunes at first glance, though on close inspection the only real similarity is the purple dress. The best part about her is probably her cat. The cat is black, as one would expect, and has also been rendered with a frowny face – it’s a fun little accessory for just about any Lego scene, though would work particularly well for Catwoman. She’s not as cool as the one in Series 2, but is very Halloweeny.     

Skeleton Guy
This is easily one of my favourites out of the entire series. Explicitly described as a guy who wears a costume to fit in with the Monsters, he is excellently executed. And as this is a minifigure of a guy wearing a suit, you can swap out pretty much any head you want, for when he’s un-costumed!   
His trick-or-treat basket is particularly cool. Decorated as a jack o' lantern, it's another item that you could hand off to pretty much anyone if you felt like making a Halloween display. I knew he'd be cool, but I didn't expect to like him this much.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

POP! Marvel – Beast

Year: 2013
Company: Funko
Series: POP! Marvel

At its core, X-Men is really a (very extended) story about people who feel like they don’t fit in. All of us can relate to this at some level – especially during our teenage years. And while pretty much every character who’s passed through the X-Men fits this archetype in one form another, few typify it better than Beast, aka Hank McCoy.

Beast started life in the comics as a guy who seemed to have the mutant ability of just looking a bit weird and monkey-esque. Honestly, if you read those first few issues of the 1960s X-Men comic, you probably wouldn’t even notice that Beast was a mutant. He was freakishly athletic and strong, which actually sounds pretty awesome. To give this a little more visual pizzazz, the First Class movie gave him ape-like feet.  

In his filmic incarnation, for some reason he decided that his incredibly helpful abilities were excluding him from everyday life, and so he developed a “cure” to neutralise his mutant gene. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and actually turned him furry and blue. It was incredibly depressing for someone who just wanted to “fit in”. There’s a moral here – namely, don’t worry too much if you’re out of step with the mainstream, because people will appreciate you for you are anway. And people who don’t are not the sort of people you want to try to impress. You’ll only make yourself unhappy in the process.

The comics story isn’t quite as depressing. Beast developed a serum that allowed anyone to become a mutant for a short period of time. He used it to disguise his appearance, but left it too long and was permanently transformed as a result – initially with grey fur, but later blue.      

This Beast POP was first released in 2013, but now seems to be showing up all over the place in Sydney again, as do his wavemates Silver Surfer and Deadpool. Ghost Rider, Phoenix/Dark Phoenix and Dr Doom don’t seem to be turning up with the same regularity though. Maybe it’s a Sony and Marvel not getting along thing – who knows? Funko’s distribution/re-release schedule is frequently mysterious.

Beast is sculpted with his classic blue Wolverine hair look, complete with massive sideburns. I’m sure someone has already used this head for an unmasked Wolverine custom – Wolverine does get drawn with slight fangs from time to time. Beast is also a brilliant scientist, often depicted with glasses to emphasise his genius. Glasses = smart just about everywhere you go. This POP skips that, but in hindsight I’m surprised they didn’t do a paint variant or convention exclusive that incorporated them. I’m sure clever customisers have already done it, too.

Likewise, it’s surprising that there wasn’t a grey paint variant, to capture his early look. But there is one other version of him floating around – a flocked version put out by Gemini Collectibles. eBay suggests it’s at least a couple of hundred dollars for one, so if you’re keen to track one down…      

Blue furry dude in a Speedo does not sound like a recipe for a good character, but Beast is actually a really fun…ko POP. He’s an essential addition to any X-Men or Avengers collection.