Monday, 25 April 2016

Legion of Collectors: Batman Vs Superman Box

Sorry for the big gap between posts guys! The LBC is actually in America at the moment, taking a much-needed holiday and visiting some family. So this post actually comes to you live from Texas!

Subscription boxes are a huge, huge deal in the collecting world these days. If you have a niche interest, the odds are strong you can find a distributor out there who’s created a subscription box to cater to your interest. But this wide availability comes at a price; namely, that not all collector’s boxes are created equal. Marvel has had a consistent run with its Funko Collector Corps box sets (I still regret not ordering that first Hulkbuster box), but other suppliers like Loot Crate, My Geek Box and Nerd Block tend to vary wildly from one month to another. Legion of Collectors marks DC’s first foray into the subscription box marketplace, though they’ve previously provided exclusive items for other providers. Expectations are high, given Funko’s involvement – and the inevitable comparisons to more established players, especially the Marvel Collector Corps boxes. Timed to coincide with the release of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, this theme may be as much a hindrance as a help to the future success of the subscription. Though it has been impressively successful at the box office, it hasn’t quite made what was anticipated, and critical response has been nothing short of devastating. Though I quite enjoyed the film, it was far from perfect and it’s done nothing to shrug the perception of DC being Marvel’s poor cousin.  

But that notwithstanding, let’s take a look at the product on its own merits. I’m a little late to the party with this review; the second box is due out in the next week or so. Why the delay? Well, currently the subscription doesn’t ship to Australia. However, I have some American contacts who have been kind enough to help me get my hands on it – so let’s open the box and see what’s inside!  

Wonder Woman Embroidered Patch

The logo style is Batman Vs Superman, but the colouring is very comics/1970s-TV show based. This is a nice touch; respecting the past while paying tribute to the future etc etc. I may use it at some point…I have always wanted a patch jacket, but I’m not sure how well WW will sit next to the likes of Immortal or Bathory.

Superman Enamel Pin

It’s Henry Cavill, rendered in a black and white pseudo-Art Deco style! This is a nice nod to Superman’s 1930s origins – like the Wonder Woman patch, honouring the past while paying tribute to the future. I like the simplicity of the design, but I have never really been a pins guy. That being said, I think an opportunity to have a more explicitly “Funko” design was missed here.  

Batman Vs Superman t-shirt
This shirt takes some 1970s-era Batman and Superman art (it kind of looks like Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez's work, but I don’t think it is) and turns it into a retro luchador poster – complete with Spanish writing. It’s a neat concept, but as someone who tends to dress more like the first pic on this page, the light blue colour doesn’t really fit in with the rest of my A E S T H E T I C. No matter; I’m sure it will find a good home whether via eBay or among my circle of friends. If it had been black print on a white shirt, I definitely would have worn it though.  

Kryptonite Superman and Underwater Aquaman Dorbz set

I dunno…I just can’t get on board with the style that Funko is using for Dorbz. I said the same thing about the POP! look a few years ago, and look where that got me, but this time I think I’m sticking with that opinion. That said, if you’re collecting Dorbz, this is a great exclusive set for you. Superman is rendered green, presumably by Kryptonite poisoning. This does make his smiling expression a little odd but perhaps he is opting to embrace his death, in a truly nihilistic inversion of the traditional Superman mythos. Aquaman is a little cheerier, mimicking the underwater look of the Hot Topic exclusive Aquaman POP. The paintwork and sculpt is nice, just not to my taste.  

Batman/Superman # 5

I buy a few select comics, but generally only miniseries these days. Comic-collecting gets out of hand too quickly. This variant cover’s inclusion here is a good bonus for those who are more casual comic readers, but it’s kind of neither here nor there for me personally. It's an older issue from 2013. Nice cover art though!     

Armored Batman POP!
This was the only item confirmed prior to the box’s release, and the hook that convinced me to subscribe. Based on the Batman’s distinctive armour in the new film – which in turn was based on the armour Batman wears when fighting Superman in the seminal comic The Dark Knight Returns – it’s far and away the best item in the box. My only disappointment is that it is such a crucial part of the film, and such a cool POP in and of itself, that it’s a shame it’s been restricted to subscribers. Who knows, maybe some kind of paint variant will eventually find its way out there…though I’m still waiting with that Hulkbuster…   

Funko has obviously been spending some time adjusting the quality of their paint apps for this box. They’re infamous for their average paintwork, but if their usual standards had been applied on this occasion, it could have been a total disaster for the company. While the Legion of Collectors website devotes a good chunk of space to defining what is and isn’t considered “damaged” across packaging and paint, it’s a relief to see that the product appears to have been executed with a higher than usual standard.     


I probably don’t sound very enthused about the box based on the individual item breakdowns, but taken as a collective whole I think it’s a very solid – if not outstanding – debut from the Legion of Collectors. The Armored Batman POP is already reselling for more than I paid for the box itself, so while I have no interest in scalping I think it’s already proven itself to be value for money. The test will be whether the box can maintain – or even better, improve – on its exclusives with future boxes. The date to sign up for the next box (which is DC TV themed) draws close, so it won’t be long till we find out! 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Swamp Thing (2016, vol. 6) Issues 1-4

Pic from DC Comics

WARNING: Contains spoilers for Swamp Thing issues 1-4 (2016)

As I’ve mentioned before, I always liked comics as a kid, but Swamp Thing is the one that really pulled me into my current level of interest. Y’see, back in the late 1990s, DC republished a bunch of Alan Moore’s run on the title as black and white single issues. Flash forward to 2006 and Gosford Book Exchange had a bunch of them in stock – a relic of the long-closed Phantom Zone store that had once been next door. This was right around the time the film of V for Vendetta had been released, so I held Alan Moore’s name in quite a bit of esteem. They were going cheap, so I picked them up and promptly became a huge fan.

Anyway, DC has relaunched Swamp Thing again for 2016, apparently with the intention of restoring him to his early horror comic roots, as opposed to the surreal mix of philosophy, theology and occult themes that the 1980s Alan Moore run tackled. This shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing – few people aside from Moore would have had the skill to pull that kind of thing off. These first four issues have also featured quite a bit of action alongside some vaguely Lovecraftian themes, and it's avoided the ponderous pace that (good as it was) sometimes plagued Moore's run. 

The series was initially announced as a 6-issue miniseries, but this qualifier was dropped after issue 1 – so at this point I’m a little unclear as to whether the series will be continuing. I guess it will depend on sales, which seem to be quite strong thus far. Also, DC's Rebirth event is coming up in a few months, so maybe he'll get a new issue 1 at that point. Time will tell. 

Issue 1 assumes a little bit of familiarity with the existing Swamp Thing mythos, but also serves as a basic introduction, too. From there, we see a dead teen resurrected into a (now curiously bald) zombie – it seems he’s been resurrected by a local professor who’s been fooling around with the darker side of the occult. Swamp Thing expects it to be a pretty straightforward matter, but it transpires that the zombie is much stronger than expected, and literally tears Swamp Thing in two by the end of the book. In a post-Walking Dead world, where zombies are well past saturation point and bare, this more supernaturally-inspired take on the creature seems pleasantly (and ironically) fresh. Issue 2 wraps up the situation with the zombie, by revealing that not all is quite what it seems with the dead teen’s parents. Shade shows up, revealing the secrets of how to slay the beast, and later on the Phantom Stranger shows up to speak to Swamp Thing in his usual maddeningly cryptic style.  

With the zombie now dealt with, Issue 3 sets up a new story arc. Old ally Matt Cable reappears in Swamp Thing’s life, having acquired a mystical artefact called the “Hand of Fatima”. Now, back in the 1980s, Matt Cable ended up getting himself possessed by the villainous Anton Arcane, and did some pretty awful things while under his spell. I’m unclear as to whether Matt appeared in the 2011-2015 run of Swamp Thing, but going off his introduction here it seems like he’s been MIA for some time. But at any rate, he offers to use the Hand of Fatima to restore Swamp Thing to human form – which is an offer he can’t really refuse. Zatanna is the big guest star in this issue, which is great. I’ve always really liked her, but I think it's a shame that she hasn't been a full-fledged member of the Justice League since...the 1980s? I don’t think she’s ever even had a standalone series that wasn’t simply a miniseries. At any rate, always good to see her. She's been rendered with a Betty Page haircut here, which works with the noirish tone of the book. She’s also in full-blown mystic mode here, enacting a ritual with the Hand of Fatima to turn Swamp Thing back to Alec Holland.

Issue 4 picks up right where issue 3 finished – Matt Cable is now the Swamp Thing, with Alec Holland restored to humanity. Alec spends a few days teaching him how to control his new-found control of The Green, but in a (not really) shocking twist we discover that Matt has actually staged the elaborate transformation for his own sinister means – specifically to gain control of the Green to “police the world”. So what happens next? We’ll find out in May, when issue 5 is released. 

So there’s the plot summaries, but how does the whole thing track? Well, Kelley Jones’ art has a great noir-ish style, but I actually think it would be better if it had been published in black and white. Its got an appropriately eerie vibe, and I feel like it would have been better served by going all-in with B&W; the colour feels like it undercuts things to some degree.

As one of the co-creators of the character, Len Wein’s writing is also engaging; though the plot twists and turns are easy to spot coming, it’s entertaining enough that I want to keep reading, and see how some of the potential plot threads touched on may expand on in future issues. However, Issue 4 is probably the weakest of the bunch. Its plot of Matt Cable-Swamp Thing turning up in town and terrorising the inhabitants hits too many similar notes to a plot from a 1984 issue, where the Floronic Man shows up with similar intentions. This borrowing of plot points is common in comics, and were it some kind of obscure issue then it probably wouldn't be a big deal. But it's from -- you guessed it -- Alan Moore's run on the character, which means the issue is still readily available in reprints for re-reading and comparison.  

Swamp Thing is one of my favourite DC characters, so I’m pleased to see him return to print. Inevitably, this book will be compared with Alan Moore’s run – it definitely doesn’t hit those highs, but for those looking for a slightly darker/horror take on the superhero genre, it’s well worth a look. Hopefully it continues to maintain the same standard, and that Issue 6 isn’t the last -- or at least that he gets a Rebirth along with the other DC characters.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

POP! Movies – Army of Darkness: Deadite

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Movies
Year: 2014

This POP has actually been out for a while now, but I’ve spent my sweet time waiting to pick him up. I haven’t watched a lot of horror in recent years, so I wasn’t sure I wanted him. Even more so, a good friend of mine is kind of THE Evil Dead guy in my circle of friends. I love the films – but he LOVES them, and I kind of felt like I’d be infringing on his territory if I picked it up. Some of you will know what I mean; it’s like when you’ve been listening to a band for months or years, then all of a sudden your friend who never really showed must interest in them decides he’s their biggest fan.

But late last year I went to a screening of Evil Dead II on the big screen at George St cinemas, and it was just as good as I remembered it. And then he popped up in Kinokuniya, so after being so happy with Ash I decided to take the plunge.

I must confess, it’s been quite a few years since I last watched Army of Darkness, so I don’t remember this character specifically. “Deadite” is actually a generic term, referring to any human or creature – and I suppose object – that has been possessed by the titular Evil Dead – so there are a bunch of them that show up throughout the series. However, a quick Google seems to indicate that this guy was some kind of Deadite captain. I don't remember if he has any lines of anything, so it's probably time to crack it out and give it a watch again. Fortunately, it's easily available on

As befits a deceased undead medieval warrior, he’s equipped with a horned helmet, breastplate, a ratty loincloth and cape, as well as a spear and shield. The sculpt and paint details are much more detailed than Funko ordinarily does, which creates a slight disconnect between himself and his companion figure, Ash. Given that he is a skeleton, rather than a solid body, it’s a necessary compromise, if not an ideal one. As his body is little daintier and his head a bit larger than the usual POP, he also comes placed on one of the clear stands that have been seen with a few of the female characters. But taken solely on its own merits, my only (minor) complaint is with the face’s paint job. It looks a little flat in its current form, but I think this could have been solved with a simple wash. It wouldn’t be hard for a customiser to do.     

Sadly, there were only three POPS released from Army of Darkness – the Deadite, Ash and a convention-exclusive glow version of the Deadite. There are a few different characters that could have been made into POPs if they’d wanted to expand the line; the Pit Witch, Sheila and Evil Ash all spring to mind, not to mention possible different versions of Ash. The most glaring omission, really, is that there isn’t a version of Ash available with a copy of the dread Necronomicon Ex Mortis. Though perhaps this will change with the success of Ash vs Evil Dead. With all the TV shows that are getting merch from Funko, it’s entirely possible they’ll look at doing some of these characters in the future.   

The Deadite has now been discontinued, but can still be had for around retail price if you’re a s-mart shopper. He's not quite as essential as Ash, but he’s a fine addition for completists. And indeed, the Game of Thrones Wight would make a good additional Deadite, if you want to expand your Evil Dead ranks further.

POP! Movies – Michael Myers

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Movies
Year: 2011

Halloween is a truly seminal horror film, one of the great-grandaddies to the slasher films that glutted cinemas during the 1980s and continue to be influential to this day. Yet though the franchise’s star character Michael Myers (aka The Shape) has a huge following in horror fandom, he doesn’t seem to have entered the cultural zeitgeist in quite the same way as some of the character’s he’s helped spawn in his wake, like Freddy or Jason. John Carpenter seems to perpetually find himself in this situation, making highly influential cult classics that rarely get the financial or broader popular acclaim that they deserve (see also: The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China).
My own familiarity with the character is really limited to a handful of films – Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween H20, Halloween: Resurrection and the 2007 Rob Zombie remake. All of them had varying degrees of quality, but what distinguishes them from some of their contemporaries is their relatively naturalistic viewpoint. The early films never really explain why Michael Myers can take the punishment that’s dished out to him – he’s not an undead behemoth like Jason, and he’s not a supernatural ghost/demon/thing like Freddy. The world around him seems bereft of other supernatural elements; he just sort of is, and the relatively grounded tone of the (early) films make him all the more terrifying in that context. Of course, some of the sequels veered into stranger territory – but that is a topic for another day.  

But with his legacy, Michael Myers is an essential addition to any line of collectibles based on modern horror classics, so it’s not surprising that Funko chose to release him so early in their POP! Movies collection, right after the aforementioned Jason and Freddy. This guy has been on shelves for 5 years now, so how’s he looking these days?   

The control art on the box differs a little from the actual POP. On the art, the eyebrows are differently shaped, and the skin around the eyes is a flesh-tone, rather than the grey on the POP itself. It’s slightly cuter, but the way the POP has been executed (ba-doom tish!) is closer to how he looks in the film itself. Obviously some changes were made along the way (possibly by licensors) and the final product has benefited. Part of Michael Myers’ appeal is that his face is blank and emotionless; if they’d gone with the original art it would have given him a bit of a Chucky from Child’s Play vibe.
Fun fact: The mask was originally a William Shatner mask – it was painted white, had the eyeholes altered and the hair trimmed and teased up. Later iterations have made it a thing of its own, but that’s how it began back in the 1970s!

So the sculpt is good, but how about the paint? Well, this is a Funko product and it’s from the very early days of the POP line. I must concede it’s better than expected, but they definitely hadn’t sorted out their quality control in a few areas. Neither of Michael’s eyes is quite covered, the black on one of his boots spills onto the right pant leg and there is a noticeable black mark on his bloodied knife. It’s no Wonder Woman for shoddiness, but it’s a long way from The Creature from the Black Lagoon too. But I must note that the work done on the hair is surprisingly clean -- all the more impressive considering its early release date. 

Overall? Michael Myers won’t pop (ha!) on your shelf as much as some of the other horror icons Funko has released – his muted colour scheme means he’s more likely to blend into the shadows than to take front and centre. But this seems appropriate enough, and he’ll likely satisfy keen fans of the character. I would love to see them do a Dr. Loomis POP too, though it seems unlikely at this stage.     

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Lupine Book Club: Sunday Afternoon Reader, Part 4

It's been quite a while since I last did one of these features -- just over a year! So for those who haven't read one before, the premise is pretty simple, really; I pull together a bunch of unusual, coffee table or outright bizarre books that I would read on a Sunday afternoon, when there's nothing on TV and I don''t have any activities planned. It's been something of a tradition since teen years, and though it fluctuates in frequency in this much busier period of my life, I always get a kick out of it. So without further ado, here's some more books perfect for Sunday afternoon.

Pic from
Lego Minifigure Year By Year: A Visual Dictionary
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
Year: 2013

As some of you may have noticed, I'm a pretty big Lego fan. This doesn't just extend to building and photographing the stuff, either -- I like learning about the company itself, too. Now Lego Minifigure Year By Year: A Visual Dictionary is not a blow-by-blow expose of all of the machinations behind the scenes at The Lego Group, and nor should it be. Rather, it's a coffee table-style look at the wild and wonderful forms minifigures have taken since they were first introduced back in 1978 -- including three minifigures embossed into the cover: a Townsperson, a Robber and a Stormtrooper from Star Wars. Published in 2013, it's slightly out of date now, but not critically so. I believe there is now a newer edition doing the rounds, which excludes the Stormtrooper in favour of another figure -- perhaps one of our readers can confirm? Either way, this is an essential purchase for any Minifigure fan, no matter how casual or dedicated.

Pic from
Wonder Woman: Amazon. Hero. Icon
Publisher: Universe
Year: 2010

Not far from Central Station in Sydney is a clearance bookstore called Basement Books. Most of its stock isn't that exciting, but every now and then they get in some real gems -- such as this title, which I picked up for a mere $10. Covering the iconic Amazon's history up to 2010 -- so just pre-New 52 -- it's another coffee table-style book packed full of great art, and a rough history of her publication and place in comic culture. The main issue I had with it was that there didn't seem to be much information included on the various adaptations of the character outside comics -- so no Super Friends, no merchandise and perhaps most glaringly, no Lynda Carter TV show. Still, the art alone is worth the admission price, featuring luminaries like Adam Hughes, Brian Bolland and of course, George Perez.  

Pic from
The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials
Publisher: New English Library (Hodder & Stoughton)
Year: 1997

Ah, where would we be without at least one UFO/paranormal-related book in a post like this? Rest easy, I've got plenty more left in the Lupine Library, I'm unlikely to run short anytime soon. This particular collection is more geared at a children/young adult audience, serving as something of a primer to the idea of extraterrestrial visitation. It looks at a number of high-profile cases where entities are claimed to have been encountered, with an accompanying illustration of the alleged creature itself. Author Patrick Huyghe divides these creatures into four distinct categories (Humanoid, Animalian, Robotic and Exotic), which is a reasonable enough system. All the usual suspects like the Greys and the Nordics make an appearance, but there are some pretty bizarre characters included. Alien encounters or evidence of mankind's impressive imaginations? You'll have to decide for yourself.

Pic from the Fighting Fantasy Wiki
Fighting Fantasy: Sword of the Samurai
Publisher: Wizard Books
Year: 1986, 2006

I've picked Sword of the Samurai here, but really we could substitute just about any Fighting Fantasy book. About 10 years ago, when I first moved out of home, I bought a ton of these books from local thrift stores and book exchanges; there were loads floating around on the Central Coast at the time, for whatever reason. A huge phenomenon in the 1980s, they're basically a more sophisticated version of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, incorporating additional rules mechanics, like dice, to regulate combat. As you might imagine, they share quite a few similarities with the then-popular text adventures for home computers. While pretty dated in a world that has mostly moved on from this style of reading and gameplay, they're still a good stopgap for anyone who's between RPG groups -- and an entertaining way to while away a few hours in an old-school fantasy landscape, where death is virtually omnipresent.

 Well, that's it for Part 4 -- hopefully it'll be less than a year till part 5!