Friday, 13 October 2017

POP! Televison – Sleestak (2017 Fall Convention Exclusive)

My exposure to the various TV series created by Sid & Marty Krofft has been pretty minimal. I don’t recall any of their series being on TV at an age where I would have noticed. H.R. Pufnstuf is probably the most famous in Australia, and had some kind of VHS re-release around the time I hit high school, but I’d aged out of the target audience by then.

I’m sure the shows were quite charming in their day, and I can appreciate why some of my older friends have fond nostalgic memories of them. But it all kind of falls a bit flat with me. So with that out the way, you’re no doubt wondering why the hell I bought a Sleestak at inflated convention exclusive prices? 

A complex question which has a simple answer – Reptilians. I’ve spoken on here numerous times about my enjoyment of UFO literature, and this Sleestak is likely the closest thing Funko will ever release to a Reptilian.

These alleged creatures have probably most heavily popularised by David Icke, former professional soccer player and noted conspiracy theorist. By his definition, reptilians are an offshoot of ancient astronaut ideas; sinister shapeshifting creatures who make up most of the globe’s elite (e.g. Presidents, Prime Ministers, pop culture figures), exploiting the common folk for their own benefit. This alleged control has been going on more or less since the dawn of civilisation. In the years since he first introduced the idea in his writings, it’s infiltrated mainstream and fringe pop culture alike; it’s a joke to many, but taken seriously by a dedicated few*.  

Of course, Icke’s ideas weren’t without precedent. The most obvious inspiration is the TV miniseries V, which featured reptilians disguised as humans. But things extend back further; Theosophical beliefs, Robert E. Howard’s fantasy stories, and reports of alien abduction have all played their part in developing this cultural myth. 

The Sleestak are really just another piece in this puzzle. Originally appearing as semi-villainous creatures on Sid and Marty Krofft’s The Land of the Lost, it’s not hard to see how closely they resemble the reptilians of conspiracy theory. One must also ask if Dale A. Russell had been drawing from their design when he hypothesised the “Dinosauroid” back in the early 80s, too.  It’s a cool design which, while dated, is still kind of unnerving thanks to those horrifying blank eyes.

The sculpt and paint are solid, making this a great piece for fans of Land of the Lost and the Kroffts in general. I’m not a fan of the show, and bought it for much more niche reasons but I’m still very happy with it**. I know I say this a lot -- but this really is one piece where your mileage really will vary according to personal taste.
  


*I feel it would be helpful to note here that I in no way believe or endorse Icke’s ideas. Reptilians make for entertaining science fiction tropes, but the man himself has some dubious associations.


**Hopefully we get a glow version in the future too! 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Madballs Series 1 – Dust Brain


Best enjoyed while listening to some Nile.

You may recall that a couple of months ago I took at the Kidrobot version of Dust Brain, an excellent piece of mummy merchandise. I picked him up in England, in part because I assumed that the Madballs relaunch was never going to hit Australia. But much to my surprise, the mass release Madballs blind bags from American Greetings are now available here, the better part of a year after they hit the US.

In contrast to the traditional style of the Kidrobot version, this is a more updated look, slightly streamlined for both modern sensibilities and modern toymaking techniques. Cast in a soft, squishy plastic, it’s not quite as rough and ready as the original 1980s version. But I don’t think they’ve watered it down; it’s still weird and gross, which is exactly how it should be. They’ve actually added a detail too – a scarab tucked into the bandages at the back of the head. Paint is a little fuzzy; still, the sculpt is excellent.  

Overall? At only $4 AUD, the price is definitely right. Well worth checking out for longtime Madballs aficionados or horror fans. 

I’ve only seen these guys in Big W in Australia so far; they’re blind-bagged, but there is a decoder available. I suggest you use it if you’re after a particular character, though most of the designs are worth a look. I picked up a couple of others, which I’ll hopefully showcase here in the next few days.


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Thursday, 28 September 2017

POP! Harry Potter – Remus Lupin (as Werewolf)

I’m not the world’s hugest Harry Potter fan. I’ve read the seven main books in the series (and enjoyed them), but I only ever saw the first movie…and that was back in 2001. But as the name of this blog suggests, I am a big fan of wolves – and by extension, werewolves. This review should be read with that in mind; this is my first and likely last foray into the world of Harry Potter POPs, though there are plenty of good designs in the lineup.  

So, Remus Lupin is one of the seemingly stream of Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers that do the rounds at Hogwarts. He’s first introduced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and continues to show up here and there until *SPOILERS* The Deathly Hallows when he becomes one of that book’s huge body count.  

To the best of my memory, his transformation into a werewolf is presented as something of a twist in the book – but the clues are actually right there in his name. “Remus” was one of the mythological founders of Rome (who was suckled by a she-wolf during infancy) and “Lupin” is a corruption of the Latin word “lupus”, which itself means “wolf”.  

I hadn’t previously seen his look in the movie, but a quick Google Image search suggests it’s kind of crappy. I mean, the Twilight werewolves looked mediocre, but this was several steps below them in terms of quality. Harry Potter has always been geared at a slightly younger audience, so we were never going to get The Howling…but still…

Nonetheless, the design has overcome its cinematic shortcomings and actually looks pretty cool in POP form. The body is maybe just a little small in relation to the head (even by POP standards) but it captures a nice gangly, inhuman look for the character.

There's not a tonne of paint, as he's cast in grey. It's a little dull, if functional; I feel like it needs some more highlights and maybe a wash to bring out some of the details. But the green eyes really pop on this guy, and the minimal paint does mean less from error.  And with that said, I strongly suspect we’ll see at least one more version of this POP – a flocked one. Hopefully they’ll throw in some glow-in-the-dark eyes, too. If such a thing becomes reality, I probably won’t double-dip myself, but it would be a compelling release for more diehard fans.


Remus Lupin is a solid werewolf POP, whether or not you’re a Harry Potter fan. Given that we’re unlikely to get Dog Soldiers POPs anytime soon, this will have to do. It was an essential buy for me – and what else would you expect from a site called The Lupine Book Club?  

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

POP! Television: Herman Munster

I have a mixed relationship with horror parodies. I love the Evil Dead series, but was never really sold on Shaun of the Dead, for example. I suspect this is in part because the genre is often so unintentionally silly that sometimes (though not always) throwing parody into the mix can really undermine genuinely good horror in the eyes of the wider public*.

Another part is simply because we never, ever need to see a scene from The Exorcist parodied in any film ever again. It’s been done, guys – leave it alone.

But The Munsters – at least the little I’ve seen of it – is one of the good ones. It managed to successfully poke fun at both horror and family sitcoms without ever being condescending. So today we take a look at a POP of their patriarch, Herman Munster. Oh Goody!

A childish but ultimately kind and caring character, Herman Munster endeared himself to kids and adults alike back in the 1960s. Though clearly based on Frankenstein’s Monster, he was just a regular sort of working class guy of the era – one of the running jokes of the series was that the Munster family was actually quite normal, in spite of their appearance. No doubt there’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

This POP isn’t a bad likeness of the character, but of the four they released of the family it’s probably the weakest. But it’s not without positive features; its paint is certainly better than plenty of other POPs I own, and it does look great as an addendum to the Universal Monsters series that was released back in 2014. So Herman may not be totally essential, but he is fun.

Sadly, The Munsters isn’t quite as big a presence on the pop culture landscape as it once was; it’s not as well-remembered as its contemporary The Addams Family, and the franchise has been relatively dormant through my lifetime. 

It was last revived just a few years ago, with a pilot called Mockingbird Lane. I haven’t watched it, but reviews suggest that much like Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, it seemed to miss the mark; not funny enough to be a comedy, not enough supernatural drama to try and capture a Penny Dreadful vibe. It’s a shame, but perhaps not surprising. Still, if you’ve never the original before, you should make an effort to check out an episode if you get the chance.  


*To be fair, horror often deliberately shies away from mainstream acceptance anyway. It’s no coincidence that there’s so much overlap between horror fans and heavy metal fans.  

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Sunday Afternoon Reader -- Part 6

Well unfortunately it has been a few months since Part 5 – but such is the way things go sometimes. Here’s what I’ve been reading since we last checked in.  


C.G. Jung
Publisher: Vintage (Random House)
Year: 1963

I am a great admirer of Carl Jung, but most of this stems from his wider influence on pop culture, rather than having read much of his stuff directly. Man & His Symbols – which is probably his best-known work to the general public – is great, but I was thrilled to discover that he actually had an autobiography of sorts available. 

With that said, Memories, Dreams, Reflections is far more concerned with his inner life than with the usual etcetera of dates and events that you might expect from a more conventional autobiography. The closest analogue (particularly in the early chapters) that I could draw is C.S. Lewis’ “spiritual autobiography” Surprised by Joy, though they differ quite a bit in terms of content.

It’s not always an easy read and I didn’t come away from it agreeing with all his thoughts – but nonetheless, it what has been something of a turbulent year, reading it was both psychologically and spiritually helpful – and for the most part only served to increase my admiration of him.   


Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher
Publisher: Running Press
Year: 2011

VHS, hey? Such a relic of my childhood, yet not one I remember all that fondly. It was an inconvenient format dictated by the technological limitations of the time – and as soon as DVDs came in, I never really looked back.

That said, there are so many oddities that never made the transition to DVD (particularly horror) and now that we’ve entered the era of blu-ray and digital download, there’s even more that have been lost again. This book compiles some of the most bizarre VHS covers known to man, spanning the predictable (80s workout videos) through the truly unnecessary (How to Spot Counterfeit Beanie Babies). As with any book like this, things are predictably hit-and-miss in terms of the level of amusement provided, but it’s good to flick through for a chuckle.


Michael Witwer
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year: 2015
Dungeons & Dragons has been a big part of my life for a very long time, but I wasn’t terribly familiar with much of the life of Gary Gygax, one of the key figures in its creation. I knew the broad strokes, but I didn’t actually know there was anything comprehensive out there – so this was a must-have for $6.    
The book began life as Witwer’s thesis, and reading this not long after the exhaustive (and exhausting) Charles Schulz bio, it seems quite light on details. It’s worth a read for fans, but there are some valid criticisms to be levelled – Dave Arneson’s role in the creation of the game is downplayed, for one – but I think it serves reasonably well as an insight into the man and his methods. As the book itself states, Dungeons & Dragons is far bigger than Gary Gygax himself. And the cover is a heartfelt (if not entirely successful) tribute to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons supplement books from the 1980s.    


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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Happy 5th Birthday to the Lupine Book Club

5 years ago today, I published the very first article on the Lupine Book Club. While the blog didn't become particularly active until several months later, that first article is still where it all began.

Much has changed since 2012; I could talk for pages, but the short version is that I've gotten married, bought an apartment, hit the big 3-0, and become a cat owner.

I don't plan to do anything particularly special to mark the occasion -- maybe have a beer or two. But I want to thank all of you who've visited the Lupine Book Club over the years.

Here's to many more years ahead!   

Friday, 8 September 2017

Grossery Gang: Trash Head

Trash Head aka Clanky
Trash Head used to be your average filthy trash can until he was splashed by toxic juice and mutated into a pile of trash that’s ready to smash!
Trash Head is choc full of slop and is ready to empty himself on his enemy!
He’ll always throw up a challenge to the Clean Team!
Get ready to fight dirty!


Well, I’ve certainly referred to action figures as garbage in the past, but I think this is the first one where I didn’t mean it as a pejorative.

Last year, I took a look at a couple of Grossery Gang miniatures back when Series 1 was first released last year. We’re now up to series 3 – released under the title of “Grossery Gang vs The Clean Team” – and as something of a supplement to the main series of blind-packaged miniatures, Moose have release a number of Grosseries as fully-fledged action figures.

Trash Head here is (unsurprisingly) a trashcan. He’s leaking slime from his lid and his disgusting gaping mouth, while his limbs also appear to be made of the green stuff. In the mix is all sorts of other stuff, including cockroaches, fish bones and even an apple core. It’s totally disgusting and it is completely AWESOME! It’s the must-have accessory for every crust punk this year.

The overall aesthetic is quite reminiscent of the 1980s/1990s Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, both in packaging and sculpt. Others have been pretty swift to point out the similarities to the long-defunct Food Fighters, who were originally released by Mattel in 1989. You’ll also find that the price point is reasonably retro, too – this figure retails for $11, which is impressively cheap in this day and age.  

As befits the figure’s pseudo-retro look, articulation is not amazing – but it’s slightly better than you would expect. I was expecting cut arms and legs, similar to a 5POA figure, but they’ve actually included swivel joints on all four limbs, which gives it an adequate range of movement.

Trash Head also comes with two accessories – a large set of fish bones which serves as his weapon in his war against cleanliness, and a Grossery of himself*. I believe the Grossery (or at least the paint scheme) is unique to this particular set, which will make it worth the price of purchase alone for some obsessive fans.

The Grossery Gang action figures are collectively great, and I hope we see more of them in the future. They’re incredible designs, a reasonable price point and they have a fantastic throwback feel overall. Highly recommended, even if you haven't been collecting the line. 

With that said, while these figures have been out in the US and Canada for a few months now, they’ve only just shown up in Sydney. The Grossery Gang brand seems to be going gangbusters overseas, while apparently having a bit of a mixed time here in Australia. Series 2 never really seemed to get much distribution, and Series 1 is also still hanging round in quite a few places too. Hopefully with the arrival of series 3 we’ll see a bit of a resurgence the public’s awareness of the brand.  


*What a narcissist  

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

POP! Television – Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting

Until recently, I’ve only really known Bob Ross as something of a campy cult figure via the many, many parodies and memes of him that have done the rounds. With his easily imitable afro, beard, soft-spoken manner and memorable catchphrases, he was a comedian’s dream. But his endearing onscreen persona seems to have had at least some grounding in reality – he’s developed quite a sincere following over the years, one that seems to be far larger than the irony-driven fandom.   

This second-hand familiarity isn’t so surprising, though; I’m not sure that The Joy of Painting was ever actually on Australian TV. But more than 20 years after his passing, we can now enjoy his work more easily than ever, thanks to his presence on YouTube and Netflix. And of course, Funko have now seen fit to add him to their POP! Television line.  

The sculpt is excellent, capturing him in his signature painting outfit. It’s presumably a younger Bob Ross, as by the early 90s he had fairly evident streaks of grey throughout his beard. He’s also armed with his famous 2-inch brush, and his clear palette, complete with smears of paint, ready to be daubed onto the canvas. It’s a shame he doesn’t come with one, but I’ve seen ones in The Reject Shop which would be just about in scale. I may have to invest in a few, and create a display for him.

But on the topic of paint...unfortunately, Funko seem to have had numerous “happy little accidents” in the process of applying apps at the factory. One of his eyes isn’t properly painted, his beard isn’t covered properly and his outfit is a little sloppy. Another one for the ever-growing to-fix pile. 

Paint imperfections aside, I have no hesitation recommending this figure. Bob Ross doesn’t really fit in with most over POPs you’ll own, but is nonetheless a fantastic addition to the shelf or desk. Figures like this really remind me why I started collecting POPs in the first place; the figure captures the subject exceptionally well, as opposed to just being some garbage ground out to meet a licensing commitment. It’s an eccentric addition to the collection, just as Bob Ross himself was – and continues to be – to our TV screens.  


Saturday, 2 September 2017

POP! Movies – Carrie

I seem to have been on a bit of a Stephen King kick of late. I reviewed the new version of IT just a few days ago, today we look at the POP version of Carrie and even as I type I’m watching the first episode of Stephen King’s The Mist.

Based on Stephen King’s first (published) novel, Carrie is the incredibly depressing story of a teenage girl who develops psychic powers. It was adapted into a film pretty quickly after release, with Sissy Spacek cast in the titular role. 

Both the book and movie of Carrie certainly contain their fair share of supernatural scares, and there are a lot of themes you can draw from it – high school as the real horror, bullying, victim blaming and sexual awakening just some of them. It’s not hard to see why the popularity of both continues after so many decades, even if they show signs of age*.  

But for me, most of the terror lies in Carrie’s religiously abusive mother. We don’t really find out which brand of Christianity Carrie’s mum adheres to, but it looks to be some kind of strange variant of Catholicism (we see Carrie praying in front of a statue of Saint Sebastian at one point). But in terms of practical application, her mother’s rantings and ravings come across as some kind of fundamentalist Protestant strain – ill-informed and deeply suspicious about the world. 

I’ve never experienced anything as extreme as Carrie, but as a kid I attended a Christian school that fell under the sway of a Charismatic movement known as the Toronto Blessing – lots of speaking in tongues, people collapsing around the place, that kind of thing. From my perspective, the principal used it as a way to consolidate his particular ugly brand of authoritarian leadership, by trying to fill student and teacher minds with bullshit. Maybe some of them even believed it at the time, I don’t know. It’s affected me more as an adult than I think it did as a kid, causing me considerable anxiety and leaving me highly skeptical of the whole phenomenon. 


Now to be fair, I haven’t been to the church in Toronto that originated the whole thing, so I can’t speak for their experiences. But based on my own, I’m inclined to think the whole thing was a hoax, or some kind of hysteria. I certainly don’t think it was a good thing – it’s been a blight on the modern church since. So yeah, the scenes with Carrie’s mum pushed some buttons for me.

But I have digressed heavily. The POP itself is quite simple, showing Carrie at her prom, post-pig’s blood. She’s wearing a slip-style dress, and still has her corsage on. My only real complaint is that could actually be way, way bloodier to better match the art on the back of the box, and the film itself.
If you’re a fan of the movie, this is a no-brainer. It’s one of Stephen King’s better adaptations, and though it’s showing its age, hugely influential on horror films ever since followed. Not Funko’s finest work, but definitely a solid piece for the shelf.


*I’m yet to see the remake from a few years ago

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Lupine Film Club: IT (2017)

WARNING: Contains spoilers for the novel of IT, the 1990 adaptation of IT and the 2017 film of IT

Book to movie adaptations are always going to upset a certain contingent of fans. It’s not hard to understand why, either; the adaptation is often seen by far more people than read the original work, and if it’s a bad one…well…  

Few writers probably understand this as well as Stephen King, who must surely one of the most heavily adapted authors in the world. The man already has his name on literally dozens of terrible adaptations of his novels and it doesn’t seem to have hurt his book sales any – so what’s the issue here?  

Well, when you’re talking about IT, it’s not so simple. The book was actually already adapted for the small screen back in the 90s, as a TV miniseries which became an instant classic. For a certain generation of horror viewers, it’s one of the most terrifying pieces of TV ever made. Sure, it hasn’t aged perfectly, but it’s a pretty faithful adaptation and it’s readily available for home viewing. A remake seemed like a dubious idea at best, and an abomination at worst. Tim Curry’s take on Pennywise has long since entered the horror pantheon, and despite not having aged terribly well in the fashion department, the miniseries still conjures up some impressive scares today.   

But like IT herself, Hollywood seems to operate in 27-year cycles*. And so, the creature has again risen from beneath the sewers to terrify a whole new generation. Things have changed a little since we were last in the town of Derry, though. The children’s setting has been moved from the 1950s to the late 1980s, and the characters have also had certain background elements tweaked.

I am not a purist when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations myself, so for the most part, these changes are fine. The only one I didn’t really like was Beverley’s reduction to a “damsel in distress” role towards the end of the film. Aside from that, the plot follows the main beats of the novel, so there’s no real surprises if you’ve already read it. If you haven't, I won't give too much away; it's a kid's adventure story meets Stephen King's signature brand of disturbing small-town horror.

Proceedings feel a little cramped and rushed, but part of this is simply because there quite a few main characters. I may draw ire for saying so, but I suspect that at least one of the Loser’s Club could have either been cut or amalgamated into another character; a movie is not a book, and you don’t have the same space to work with in terms of giving characters equal time. With that said, all of the kids put in a great performance – there isn’t a weak one among them, and it’s almost a bit of a shame that we probably won’t see them in these roles again.

But the real question on everyone’s lips is really centred around another character, though – Pennywise the Clown, the titular IT. Revealed to be something of a Lovecraftian entity in the original novel, IT's origins largely go unexplored in this film, beyond the obvious conclusion that he’s some kind of supernatural monster -- but more importantly, how does this new version compare to Tim Curry's take on him? 

Well, Bill Skarsgård does a good job, if not quite such a distinctive one as Tim Curry. My main objection is that most of the time it really seems like a stuntman or CGI double is there in his place; though Pennywise gets a reasonable amount of screentime, I didn’t really feel like Bill Skarsgård got enough time for himself to shine in the role. Part of the character’s appeal is that he’s menacing without necessarily doing too much; the implied threat is often more effective than the xenomorph-esque jaw dislocation. Still, his design will no doubt give kids nightmares for years to come – and that’s as good a measure of success for a horror villain as any, really.

IT has had something of a troubled production. Actors and directors have come and gone, and it becomes most evident in the updated 1980s setting -- or rather, the lack thereof. With Finn Wolfhard in a starring role, and the 1980s setting, comparisons with last year’s Stranger Things are inevitable -- you can't help but think they're aiming for some crossover appeal. Indeed, you sometimes find yourself wishing for the deft touch of the Duffer Brothers in handling the look and feel of the era. The period setting feels more like window dressing; aside from a few bizarre outfits and the lack of computers or mobile phones, it could have been filmed last week. The main concession we get are some vague allusions to The Goonies and Stand By Me. Neither is surprising, given that The Goonies came out around the same time the novel was released, and Stephen King wrote the short story Stand By Me was based on.

Part of the reason IT – both the novel and the TV adaptation – worked so well is because it tapped into the zeitgeist of the time. Clowns are always objectionable and terrifying, so King picked a good villain – but there is much more to its success than that. Y’see, back in the 1980s there was a big revival of interest in 1950s culture; early rock and roll, James Dean, all that stuff. Baby Boomers were getting nostalgic for their childhood, and the pop culture of the time reflected that in a lot of ways**. IT pushed all these buttons, and also tapped into a more disconcerting truth about the era, too – it’s fun to reminisce, but you’re getting older…and you might actually have been a better person back when you were a kid. Your best days are quite possibly already behind you.   

This adaptation doesn’t really have, or even try to create that kind of resonance, and instead trades subtext for (admittedly effective) jump scares. The end result is that it’s creepy and unsettling, but it doesn’t really establish a distinct identity for itself. IT is ultimately a very competent film, and certainly worth a watch on the big screen – but it does feel a little disposable. Here’s hoping that Chapter 2 rectifies some of those issues, and showcases the true potential of the story. 

IT opens in Australian cinemas on September 7th. You can view the trailer here.

*Not entirely, but just suspend your disbelief for the purpose of the line here.

**This is also part of the reason Back to the Future was such a hit, and why Chris Isaak had his breakthrough in the era.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

POP! Rocks -- James Hetfield (Metallica)

Since the release of their eponymous “Black” album, Metallica have consistently been one of the most controversial bands in heavy metal. Many (this writer included) cut ties a long time ago, content to remember their past glories fondly but abandoning any hope that they’d rise above the level of average dad rock again. They kind of did on Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, but calling it a triumphant return would be...generous. Still, they have nothing to prove critically, based on their first few albums. And based on the albums that came afterwards, they have even less to prove commercially.

But though I think they’re a bit of a spent force musically, I was quite pleased to see Funko were making Metallica part of the POP! Rocks line. I knew James Hetfield would be a must-buy for me, and so now he stands on the shelf alongside Jimi Hendrix and Lemmy.   

This POP shows Hetfield circa the release of the Black Album, though it could kind of be him anywhere between 1988 and 1992; the main thing marking it out as specifically from this period is his wolf’s head necklace. But if you can pinpoint it to a certain date or concert, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.

It captures an interesting time in the band’s history; Metallica were transitioning to a much more commercial sound via the release of the Black album, but they were still unapologetically a metal band, and looked the part. Hetfield has a bit of a pseudo-Lemmy look going on with his facial hair, in tandem with a not-quite mullet. It’s not his best look, but he’s certainly had worse over the years. Appropriately, he’s got his distinctive white Gibson Explorer, though it’s sans “EET FUK” sticker and instead has a Metallica logo printed across the lower edge. The guitar itself is surprisingly detailed, with tone and volume knobs, and even a pickup selector switch! Funko have also included a guitar strap, which is a nice touch. This is the first time I’ve seen them do it, but I assume future guitar-slinging POPs will also feature them.

Paint is sloppy, which is not particularly surprising. It’s mostly forgivable, except for the face, which is noticeably patchy on the moustache. This is one I might – MIGHT – actually get around to repainting myself, because I really wasn’t thrilled with the work done at the factory.    


It’s definitely not Funko’s best POP! Rocks piece – but it’s a fun one for Metallica fans. You can also pick up Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo to complete the band, should you feel so inclined. I’m still hoping for Ronnie James Dio further down the line; hopefully the release of Metallica is a sign of them testing the water for future metal releases.   

Friday, 11 August 2017

Lupine Record Club: Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales (2017 CD Reissue)

Year: 1984/2017
Label: BMG/Noise

You can’t talk about any type of metal or hard rock for too long without running across Celtic Frost. Hugely influential across death, doom, black, thrash, and even helping shape Creed(!), Celtic Frost are in a league of their own. There were lots of bands working in a similar vein at the time – most notably Venom and Bathory – but Celtic Frost always stood out above their competitors. There was an intensity and seriousness to their work that belied their youth, and I suspect has helped their work last the distance over the years.  

I first came across their name in 2002, when taking my first steps into the world of extreme metal. But this being a time before YouTube and Spotify, and me not being an avid music pirate*, I didn’t actually hear them until I picked up a copy of Morbid Tales in 2005. Not long afterwards, they’d reform again and release Monotheist; it was intended to be the start of a grand new era for the band, but within a few years things deteriorated again and Celtic Frost were no more, with the key members barely on speaking terms.

Frontman Thomas Gabriel Fischer (aka Tom G. Warrior) has gone on to form Triptykon, while bassist Martin Eric Ain has kept a comparatively low profile. Nonetheless, their legacy still looms large, so I was pretty excited when I heard there was a new reissue of their albums on the way. I think it’s been around a decade since they had any sort of larger scale release, probably to coincide with the then-new Monotheist.

Morbid Tales has been remastered, but not remixed as far as I’m aware. In the past, Tom G. Warrior has been pretty adamant that for better or worse, the original mixes of his albums should be retained, serving as something of a historical document. Plenty of bands of their stature take a pretty revisionist stance when it comes to their own history, so I think there’s something admirable about keeping things as they were, warts and all.

30-odd years later, it still sounds great. It’s definitely raw by comparison to modern production techniques – and even in comparison to some of their contemporaries – but it suited their sound, and it still holds a power that is often lacking in bands that are far more polished. Totally essential for anyone interested in the history of extreme music, and great on its own merits too. But is it worth upgrading if you already own a copy? That’s a more complex question than it might sound – you’ll see why at the end of the review.  


Aside from the remastered audio here are three major changes to the packaging – the first is that that the artwork has been restored to its original look. The more recent reissues had an ersatz artwork on it which was perfectly serviceable, but didn’t have the same crude 80s feel**. For some, this will justify the purchase on its own merits.

The second is one that annoyed me a little – namely, the three Emperor’s Return EP tracks have now been moved to the reissue of To Mega Therion. Every other reissue I’ve run across has had Morbid Tales and Emperor’s Return together, so it seems a little strange to me – but no doubt there are compelling reasons for now doing it this way. It is more “correct” in terms of release chronology. In their place are four rehearsal tracks – Morbid Tales, Messiah (an old Hellhammer track), Procreation of the Wicked and Nocturnal Fears. They’re novel, but (like most bonus tracks) not essential. Still, they were impressively tight on these old tracks; missing them live in Sydney a few years ago is still one of my deepest regrets.

The third is the inclusion of a new booklet; the lyrics are contained of course, but there’s also plenty of cool photos from the era, and some liner notes. But you’ll notice that there are no written contributions from Celtic Frost themselves…and herein lies the complexity that I mentioned earlier.
Though Fischer was heavily involved in the process of creating these reissues, he has now withdrawn support for them due to a dispute with BMG concerning his liner notes. Prior to their release, he also had this to say on Twitter:

 I’m sure both sides have compelling arguments as to why they were right, but being a creative type myself I’m more inclined to side with the artist. So would I have still picked it up had I known this beforehand? Probably not. The older reissues still seem to be readily available for the time being, and I was certainly satisfied with my older copy when I bought it all the way back in 2005 – the extras are nice but don’t necessarily warrant replacing an older edition. But if you’re a fan, you’ll have to make up your own mind.  

*Not to mention that a lot of metal was actually quite hard to get hold of if you wanted to go that route back then.  

**Curiously, it’s been readily available as a t-shirt design for pretty much this whole period; maybe they were able to get the rights back around the time they put out Monotheist 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Lupine Film Club: The Void


Directors: Steven Kostanski
                 Jeremy Gillespie
Year: 2016

I first heard about The Void late last year, when its name began getting thrown round on a few movie sites as a horror movie to keep an eye on. Words like “Fulci-esque” and “1980s” were mentioned, and that immediately piqued my interest. I love horror but I tend to be pretty bad at staying current; I’m usually happy enough to wait a year or two and then check things out on Netflix or DVD. But this looked like a must-watch.

I would say that the initial descriptors have carried through to the final product. The Void isn’t as intentionally period piece-y as Beyond the Gates (also released in 2016) but the spectre of the 1980s still looms large over the proceedings. The most obvious cinematic touchstones are John Carpenter’s The Thing, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, but there are plenty of other references to be found too. H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror and the Silent Hill video game series both deserve nods. So if you like any of these, then it’s a fair bet you’ll find something to enjoy about The Void.


It’s a good pool of influences to draw from. But with that caveat, it would be pretty fair to say that The Void is driven by style over substance. The plot is thin even by the standards of the genre; all you need to know is that some kind of cult is trying to open a gateway to the titular Void, and so a whole bunch of horrifying stuff happens along the way. As for how it actually plays out…well, let’s just say you will have many questions, and virtually none of them will be answered by the final reel. The characters are barely even archetypes. Kenneth Welsh’s Dr Powell is fleshed out a little, but you’ll find yourself longing for the rich characterisation found in something like Zombie Flesh Eaters. I also think there are probably a few too many characters onscreen; even allowing for some of them merely being there to build the body count, it doesn’t aid the viewer in building attachment to any of them. There isn’t anything terribly original for experienced viewers and the experience may well be too abstract for newcomers to horror.   



But don’t let this put you off! After all, most of this is a deliberate tribute to The Void’s grindhouse and pulp origins, and the final product is a lot of fun. There are a lot of horror films which are kind of trash when viewed on their own merits, but contain scenes or a special effect that ultimately redeem the film. The Void still stands above plenty of its forebears in that regard. It’s consistently great to look at, with excellent special effects – if you can stomach the gore – and something weird is always about to happen, so you’re never given the chance to be bored. While I wouldn’t say there are any plot twists per se, there are still definitely numerous gruesome surprises in the way things play out. The mythos definitely leaves room for a sequel, and if they take the IndieGoGo route again, I’d be more than happy to put my cash forward. 



The Void is a good, stylish piece of low-budget filmmaking, even showing signs of greatness at points. It’s held back on a number of points, but it’s nonetheless a welcome change from the standard demonic possession fare that has been filling cinemas over the last few years. Highly recommended, if not quite the instant neo-grindhouse classic that I was hoping for. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

POP! Television – Bert Macklin (Parks & Recreation)

Parks and Recreation was one of my favourite comedies of recent years, and there’s no doubt that a huge contributor to its success was Chris Pratt. He’s now a massive star, but just a few years ago he was podgy Andy Dwyer, a lovable fool bumbling his way through life.

One of the most memorable aspects of Andy’s character was his alter ego – FBI agent Bert Macklin.  He’d show up every so often, essentially acting the way a kid does when they’re playing cops and robbers, but usually actually managing to solve a mystery or right a wrong in the process. My favourite episode he features in was probably the one where he helps solve the mystery of who pied Leslie, but all of his appearances are worth watching.

Side note: The spelling of his name seems to be a big ambiguous; most sources online seem to list it as “Burt” but presumably “Bert” is the correct spelling, given that this is an official piece of merchandise.  

I was originally going to pass on the POPs from the Parks and Recreation line. All of them are quite good, but in a time where I am largely restricting myself to horror POPs, I felt Bert was probably the only one I felt would fit in. It’s kind of funny to imagine Bert Macklin bumbling about amongst supernatural foes like Pinhead and IT, but still managing to save the day in the process.

The POP nails the pose and the overall sculpt, but the paint is kind of sloppy. It’s disappointing that Funko are still letting it slide like this after having a couple of years of relatively good paint work. But nonetheless, Bert Macklin is still great fan if you’re a Parks & Recreation fan.       

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

POP! Movies – Pennywise with boat (Chase Version)

I’m normally pretty ambivalent about book-to-movie adaptations. And I must say, I become particularly ambivalent when it comes to Stephen King adaptations, because the hit-miss ratio is very unfavourably skewed.

But with that said, the upcoming adaptation of IT actually looks quite good. Trailers can be misleading, but I’m quietly confident that this will be a good update of the source material. Entertaining as it was, the 1990 Tim Curry miniseries is definitely showing its age (look no further than the spider scene if you need confirmation) and it’s time for an update. It’ll be good to see a new generation pick up the book too.  

Anyway, Funko have decided to release POPs based on Pennywise the Clown, the titular IT. There are three different sculpts, but four versions in total if you include the Chase. The “with boat” version is the basic one, with the other two sculpts serving as retailer exclusives in the USA. No word on when (if ever) they’ll show up in Australia, but I would assume sometime around the movie comes out.

Though I had my initial reservations, I quite like the design they’ve gone with for Pennywise’s costume. The 1990 miniseries was a good take on a “real” clown, though of course with various distorted details to make it clear he was actually anything but. This version is a little more overtly creepy, with the costume having a sort of Elizabethan look, combined with Drop Dead Fred hair and weirdly angled teeth. And of course, he’s holding Georgie’s little paper boat. Poor Georgie…

The paint leaves a little to be desired, but this seems to be the same across regular and Chase versions. The teeth in particular could be neater, but it’s all within acceptable standards.

When I found out there was going to be a Chase version, I figured it would be a pretty easy pass. It’s a sepia paint scheme, which are often underwhelming in execution. But then I ran across it in person and decided it looked just as good as the regular version, if not better. I wouldn’t go and pay aftermarket prices for him, but at retail price it was much of a muchness.

It remains to be seen whether this new look will become iconic in the same fashion as Tim Curry's take, but with the movie just around the corner we don't have long to wait to find out. In the meantime, this figure is a great take on the creepy clown trope; one that doesn't simply look like a poor man's Insane Clown Posse. 


Monday, 24 July 2017

Madballs – Dust Brain (Kidrobot)

It might not come as a huge shock to discover that I am not a huge sports fan. Good Lord, who would have thought it? Please be careful while clutching at your pearls and fainting to the floor, I don’t have proper liability insurance on this place.

But I actually loved sport up until about the age of 11 or 12. Rugby league, baseball, basketball…I spent hours watching and playing them all, at school and with friends. There were always kids who were better than others at sport, but it was quite acceptable to play just for the pleasure of playing.
I feel like around year 6 this changed; as people hit puberty there’s suddenly far greater emphasis on playing to win, rather than enjoyment. Skill and co-ordination are suddenly required to be a serious contender. As a kid who lacked both but had recently discovered Star Wars, I realised that my time as a sports fan was drawing to an end.

But I might have hung in a little longer if I’d known about Madballs.

Y’see, Madballs are the perfect bridge between sports and weirdos. They’re such a simple concept, but genius – monster heads as balls. Put them on the shelf to impress your geek friends if you want, but you could actually toss them around like a real ball too. Perhaps the peak example was Oculus Orbus, a ball that is literally an eye! Whoever designed that deserves to be earning enough royalties to never have to work again.

Madballs had come and gone by the time I was old enough to pay much attention -- far too early to salvage my interests in sports. They didn’t have a supporting cartoon series to keep the line on life support in syndication, and the concept itself screams “fad”. This isn’t a criticism, but more of a reflection of the attention span of kids in the 1980s, an era where new franchises were debuting every other week. You can see how things got lost in the wash. The range was revived in 2007, but I don’t remember it at all (did it even make it to Australia?) and for a time it seemed that the world’s experience of Madballs would be limited to reading about them on nostalgia blogs or paying extortionate eBay prices for them.

But all that’s old is new again. Kidrobot has licensed the Madballs range, releasing a range of foam balls, and a bunch of blind-boxed stuff. More is apparently on the way too. So today, we take a look at Dust Brain!   

Mummies have been well-established horror tropes for more than a century now, and any horror-related toyline that doesn’t include at least one is simply getting it wrong. With my love of ancient Egypt, Dust Brain was the natural purchase for me. And boy, did Kidrobot do a nice job on this guy.

One thing I really like about these new versions is that they’re very faithful to the original designs. They’re subtly updated, but no less effective as a result. Often when 80s properties get revived, their character designs become a little more streamlined, toning down some of the weirdness in the process. Madballs is a property that is almost totally oriented around gross little details, so it’s to Kidrobot’s credit that they’ve opted for maximum grossness.  

He’s wrapped in horribly yellowed (browned?) bandages and you can see his teal mummified face peeking out from beneath. Orange eyes leer while rotting teeth often to form a horrible imitation of speech. It’s totally disgusting, while still being totally kid-friendly. Great work!

Dust Brain is cast in a soft but solid foam; these are clearly designed more as collector pieces, but you could do damage if you hit someone in the face with one*. Durability and paint will be rapidly tested if you start hurling it around though. Keep this guy on the shelf.  

My only real criticism is that the price seems just slightly high. I paid around $15AUD for this guy, and while I don’t think it’s outrageous I would feel much more comfortable if things came in around $12AUD. The sculpt and paintwork is very solid…but I do feel like there’s a slight Kidrobot tax on it too. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of the old toys you won’t be disappointed. And if you just want something weird on your desk for work, you won’t be disappointed either.

*Don’t hit people in the face with Madballs  


Saturday, 22 July 2017

POP! Television – The Master (The Strain)

This instalment of the Lupine Book Club comes to you live from London! Yes, I’m travelling at the moment, which is the cause of the delay in updates – but rest assured, there are more articles planned for the next few days.

This POP actually came out a couple of years ago, but I picked him up because he was going for a song at a comic store. He resembles a grossly corpulent Nosferatu, and thus I figured he’d look great on the shelf with my other horror POPs. The Anne Rice take on vampires is fine and all, but I like my undead to look a little more overtly disgusting.

But with that caveat, I’ve never actually watched The Strain. So I can only assume it’s called The Strain because the Master here has given himself terrible haemorrhoids during his bathroom visits. The thought of spending an hour each week watching this guy grunt away is not an appealing one, but hopefully he gets the whole situation under control by the end of the season.  

Jokes aside, Funko seem to have put a lot of effort into this guy. He’s really big and chunky in comparison to most of his POP counterparts – around the same size as Cthulhu – which lines up nicely with the reference shots of the character I came across online. He’s heavy, but not actually solid. His body is actually hollow, and he has a hole in his base, similar to kid’s bath toys. The plastic has a similar odour too. The only real downside to the sculpt is that he can't really turn his head -- though given how high the collar is, I guess that's "realistic" anyway.  

As cool as he is, the resemblance to the character is kind of loose. It’s entirely possible that the figure was based on preliminary concept art and test shots, rather than finished work. However, I’d argue that the figure actually looks better than the real thing. There’s a strongly inhuman aspect to him, which is always important when you’re dealing with monsters onscreen. I mean, it’s obviously based on a guy in a suit – but you can kind of believe that it’s not just that. It’s quite passably a literal undead entity, which is impressive.

As always, paint could be better. The face is pretty good, but the unicolour wattle on the neck lacks the intended subtle shading and so it kind of looks like he has some kind of genitalia there. The wash on his hands is good, but a little heavy. The robe and its attendant details could have done with the wash or some drybrushing too; as it stands they’re just a little flat.

Still, The Master is a great vampire figure. I may check out the show eventually, but really I’m just happy for Nosferatu to have a shelf companion.  

Saturday, 8 July 2017

POP! Movies: Chucky (Child’s Play 2)

There’s always a suspension of disbelief involved for any slasher villain, but a killer who transfers his soul into a doll via voodoo ritual? Yeah, right. But the first Child’s Play film is actually far more unsettling than you might expect, with some genuine scares and a great villain. I wouldn’t put Chucky in quite the same circles as Freddy, Jason or Pinhead – but he’s certainly not far below. So given the esteem the films are held in by horror fans, it’s no real surprise that sooner or later we got a POP of Chucky.

This is the Child’s Play 2 version of Chucky, who looks a little rougher round the edges than he did in the first film. I assume they went with this look for a couple of different reasons; the license is probably more easily acquirable/cheaper than the first film (as with Hellraiser vs Hellraiser III). Additionally, Chucky spends most of the first film looking fairly plain, so the scars on his face here add some nice additional detail. It’s a good decision – who would want a POP version of what’s essentially a “My Buddy” doll?

Originally released back in 2014, he’s sculpted to be a little smaller than his horror contemporaries. He’s still bigger than he would be in “real” life but one must forgive the limitations of the format. Additionally, this was around the time Funko stepped up their paint game quite a bit, so he’s better rendered than many of his contemporaries. It’s certainly not perfect but Funko are still to be commended for doing an impressively neat job with so many apps in play – just look at his sleeves! 

There are two other POPs of Chucky available. The first is simply a bloody version of this one; you can pay the premium for it if you want, but making a custom would be easy enough. The other is based on his appearance in Bride of Chucky – it uses the same body, but a different head sculpt. Both are good choices, but not being hugely familiar with the series I thought I’d opt for this one.

While not as great as some of the other horror-related POPs Funko have done, Chucky is still a solid addition to the collection. With Cult of Chucky due out this year, there’s bound to be a revival of interest in the character – who knows, we may even see a third take on Chucky hitting shelves in the near future. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

POP! Rocks – Jimi Hendrix (Monterey Pop Festival)

I listen to a lot of heavy metal, and a good chunk of what makes up the genre today wouldn’t exist if weren’t for one James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix – a guitarist extraordinaire who ended up dying tragically young. His story is too lengthy to recount in full here, so let’s just say that music was never quite the sameafter he hit the scene.

This POP depicts Jimi at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Rock n’ Roll was already used to wild characters, but Jimi really turned things up to 11 when he decided to end his set by setting his guitar on fire. It doesn’t seem so outrageous these days – particularly in a post-G.G. Allin world – but it was near-unprecedented at the time. It’s easy enough to find photos of the event online, and this POP replicates his meditative position quite nicely.    

In the States, this is an FYE exclusive, but it’s just a regular release in Australia. From the store I went to, they seem to have come out here in about equal numbers. Both this and the Woodstock POP are great choices, and I would have been quite happy with either – but you don’t see a flaming guitar every day, so it seemed the logical choice.

Jimi kind of got a POP a few years ago, in the form of the Purple Haze figure. I mean, it’s not technically him…but it’s definitely him. I can’t find an exact release date for it, but I assume it was 2011 or 2012. And it sells for absolutely silly money these days (no doubt in part due to its legally dubious nature) so these new and official versions are much appreciated.


After being relatively dormant for a few years, the POP! Rocks range is expanding quite a bit this year. We’ve just had these two versions of Hendrix, Joey Ramone, Justin Bieber and Guns N’ Roses in 2017, while Metallica arrive later this year. I’ll be taking a hard pass plenty of those, but it’s good to see Funko looking at the range again. Maybe we’ll even get a Little Richard one of these days! 

Jimi is an essential buy for any rock fan. His career was terribly short, but even more than 45 years after his death, his influence can still be felt everywhere.  

Did you know that years before Motörhead, Lemmy was actually Jimi's roadie for a while? 

Monday, 26 June 2017

POP! Games: Tyrant – Glow in the Dark (Resident Evil)

As I said in my last review, I don’t really collect video game-based POPs…yet here I am reviewing my second one in just over a week! But the Resident Evil figures definitely fall under my guidelines for horror, and hopefully by purchasing them it will also encourage Funko to finally make a Silent Hill line too. So today we take a closer look at the Tyrant, one of two 6” figures in the line.

The Resident Evil games have always been good at providing the player with novel and freakish takes on zombies, and the Tyrant is no exception. His ghostly white skin, exposed internal organs and gigantic claw are quite a few steps removed from the Night of the Living Dead, but there’s no doubt that this is some kind of undead monster.

There are actually multiple different Tyrants throughout the game series, but this one seems to be based on the T-002 Model, which appears in the original Resident Evil game. It’s been a very long time since I played it, so I have to say I don’t remember it specifically – though it’s easy enough to find screencaps online of course.

POPs are never really built to scale, but making this guy a 6” figure is a lot more “accurate” that plenty of others that we’ve seen in the line. He’s probably a little too big in comparison to Nemesis, but he looks about right next to the average human character. Tyrants are big, terrifying bastards after all, and this guy delivers that scare factor it in spades.



Funko have done an excellent likeness here, bringing in considerable detail but never departing too wildly from the simplistic aesthetic. It’s really quite disgusting, with numerous family members commenting on its unsettling look. And even better, this guy glows in the dark, allowing him to be unsettling by night too!

My main criticism (and boy, have we heard this one before) is that the paint job could be a little tighter. Certainly the paint job is more complex than lots of other POPs, which elevates it above many of its contemporaries – look at the shading on the claws for instance – but it’s still quite fuzzy in parts, especially on the bright red veins.

Still, it’s clear that Funko has put a lot of effort not only into this POP, but the entire line. Capcom has no doubt held them to a fairly high standard, and when taken as a whole I’d say that I feel they’ve delivered a strong final product. An essential buy for Resident Evil fans and a great addition to the shelf for any horror fans.