Author Archives: figureBOMB

About figureBOMB

My name is Nick Saunders, and I have been collecting Action Figures and various other toys since I was about 5 years old. I am a meat-eating, toy-hoarding, prehistoric man-child. Incidentally, I am also a former substance abuse counselor and law school dropout.

Sorry Kids, but my Voltron Would Own Your Megazord

By Nick Saunders
2/10/14

Being the crusty old man that I am, I would be remiss if I didn’t once in a while spend time touting the superiority of the toys I grew up with as opposed to the contemporary ones owned by my son. Today I have come to bash the Power Rangers with the assistance of my close personal friend, Voltron.

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While by no means a universal truth, most things were better back in the 1980’s. Sure, this is a biased assumption at best, and grossly inaccurate at worst, but I’m running with it regardless. By the way, I am jamming to the soothing sounds of Master P and his posse of “No Limit Soldiers” as I write this, so my tastes are admittedly suspect.

So, two weeks ago I was out at Target with my son looking for a way to further spoil him and blow through some disposable income. I decided the best way to accomplish this goal would to be to buy a hollowed-out shell of a robot called a Megazord. To be specific, I bought him the Legendary Megazord from the Power Rangers Super Megaforce line.

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This current MMPR (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) Megazord clearly took its stylistic cues from Johnny Depp, as it reeks of scurvy-infected, swashbuckling piracy. This is driven home by the skull and crossbones symbols on each vehicle (which besides the primary red one, all have absolutely nothing to do with sailing the Seven Seas or pirate hookers whatsoever). Each vehicle/limb is hollow with a depressingly simple transformation, but I will say they securely connect to the torso and the robot is cool looking, if a tad brickish. I tried to get some decent shots of the vehicles, but between their Steven Seagal level of suckage and lighting issues I abandoned these efforts. You ain’t missing much.

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The closest thing I have to compare to this toy is my 1997 Trendmasters Voltron, which is a die-cast reproduction of the Matchbox Voltron III released in the 1980’s. For those who don’t own this toy, it is HEAVY.  Also just for the record, nowadays I prefer plastic toys because companies struggle to make joints strong enough to support the added weight of die-cast components- MP-01 Masterpiece Optimus Prime, I’m looking right at you and your heavy-ass legs.

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Die-cast metal versus plastic issues aside, there is a definite deterioriation of workmanship here. On Voltron, each limb transforms into an individual lion, with pop-out action features and ejecting heads for the Green and Red lions. On the Legendary Megazord, the limbs turn into non-descript vehicles that quite frankly reek of ineptitude and fail. They are also glaringly devoid of articulation when combined into the robot, whereas Voltron features fairly advanced articulation for his era.

Now, this MMPR toy was about $35, and while my Voltron was $30 back in 1997 it would probably retail for at least $100 if re-issued again today- $50 if done entirely in plastic. While I am  aware of this disparity, it doesn’t change the fact that if given the chance my Voltron would gladly use his Blazing Sword to bisect this mockery of a kaiju-fighter faster than dispatching the lowliest of Robeasts. Since the Megazord doesn’t have knee joints of any sort, he wouldn’t be able to do a dang thang about it.

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Dear Mattel: Your New DC Figures are Super Ugly

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By Nick Saunders
9/12/13

I still can distinctly recall my glee while reading Toyfare Issue 68 back in 2003, and discovering that Mattel had chosen to leverage the DC license into a line of 6-inch figures to compete with (or in my eyes, complement) Toy Biz’s (now Hasbro’s) Marvel Legends line. I had been an avid collector of Marvel Legends since its inception, and had been dying for a comparable line to be released for DC. Sure, there were DC Direct (now DC Collectibles) figures available of many characters, but their wonky 6.75” scale, minimal articulation, and cherubic, china-doll paintjobs made them stick out like lepers on my otherwise immaculate (and disease-free) shelf of awesomeness.

Then came Mattel’s Batman line in 2003. Recently off their stint with the Masters of the Universe 200X line, the Four Horsemen came in ready to take names and chew bubblegum. This line, while a vast improvement over any major release Batman series to date, still had a way to go in competing with Toy Biz’s quality, articulation and detail.

This soon gave way to Mattel expanding the line into DC Super Heroes in 2005, which is where they truly began to shine. They debuted their S3 sculpt that remained the base template for this line into the following decade. Some of my favorite figures and molds came from this series, including S3 Batman, S3 Superman, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and Mongul, amongst others.

The branding eventually shifted to DC Universe Classics in 2007, and 20 assortments of figures were released until the line ended at the end of 2012. Some great, some obscure, and some downright awful characters were given life, but the quality was always there, both in sculpt and in manufacture.

For 2013, the line has been re-branded once again as DC Unlimited. Some figures are re-paints of prior DCUC or DCSH figures. However others, namely the abominations being targeted in this article, are all-new molds. The primary catalyst for this catastrophic decline in aesthetic appeal is the cross-marketing with the Injustice: Gods Among Us game produced by Netherrealm Studios. I can barely put into words how abhorrent the figures based on this game look. Batman and Superman in particular are hideous, and nothing that even a paper bag could remedy. This type of cosmetic monstrosity couldn’t even be fixed on The Swan.

Even the New 52 sculpts weren’t immune to this rampant design travesty-in-progress. Please see New 52 Darkseid, aka one ugly duck. I think half of the plastic used on this figure went to the head and shoulders. Especially when compared with the amazingly-crafted DCSH S3 Darkseid, this new figure is nothing but a wet, laughable flatulation after a hearty meal of franks ‘n’ beans.

In case I haven’t quite made my point clear, I am saddened and disappointed that one of my favorite toy lines has deteriorated so badly. I truly do wish that the quality of designs reverts back to previous levels, because at this point I think I would rather display My Little Pony on my toyshelf than a DC Unlimited figure.

Batman and the Daredevil of Hollywoodland (aka Affleck was the Bomb in Phantoms)

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By Nick Saunders
8/28/13

I love being a geek. It allows me to hold dearly onto childhood passions under the guise of being idiosyncratic, fun-loving, intellectual, and different. The truth is I just never grew up, and while most men of my age get all hot and bothered about the latest Callaway driver or the rising value of their diversified stock portfolio, I on the other hand get my jollies from the latest Transformer, Action Figure, or Superhero film to be revealed.

Which brings me to today’s topic, the casting of Ben Affleck as the new Batman. Why are all these people foaming from their collective rabid mouths with such embittered nerd rage? The backlash has been so immense from the fan community that there currently is a petition on Change.org with over 85,000 signatures on it to reverse the casting decision. Something tells me that the individuals who founded this website weren’t considering the protest of superhero movie actors to be the kind of sweeping public policy reform they were hoping to invigorate.

But back to the lecture at hand. From this young G’s perspective, before trashing Affleck we should take an objective gander at his career thus far. Yes, during his meteoric rise to fame he made some awful films whilst firmly nuzzled up to J-Lo. The usual suspects come to mind- Phantoms was garbage, Reindeer Games wack, and Gigli is an everlasting example of the pitfalls encountered when a power couple drinks too much of their own Kool-Aid and believes their hubris alone will translate into cinematic gold.

However, Good Will Hunting was a very good film, one for which his contribution tends to be severely overlooked, despite winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe for co-authoring the screenplay. He was compelling in his portrayal as the embattled Superman actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland. He showed he has directorial chops in Gone Baby Gone. The Town was tight. In Argo he acted and directed his way to a Best Picture Oscar. This guy hasn’t had a misstep in over half a decade.

Even Daredevil catches him an inordinate and unjustified amount of flack. I went back and rewatched it recently, and it is not a bad film. When I think of terrible superhero movies, I think of Spawn, Ang Lee’s Hulk, Ghost Rider, and Spiderman 3. Daredevil was better than all these stink nuggets combined, which is an empirical fact because I just published it on the interwebs.

Let’s keep an open mind here people. Michael Keaton, who initially appeared to be horribly miscast in Tim Burton’s Batman films, was a surprisingly good fit for the tights. George Clooney, who I initially thought was a perfect choice for the role, almost killed the franchise by coating it in an impenetrable veneer of fail. I figured Val Kilmer would suck as Batman, and I was right. And Christian Bale, well I didn’t know who the heck he was to even have an advance opinion. But he was pretty dang good.

The moral of the story is that social justice should not be intermingled with fanboyism of any sort, and that history dictates that unconventional casting has worked for Batman films in the past.

The Great He-Man Rehab

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By Nick Saunders
8/21/13

Recently, my house has been even more of a throbbing brothel of geekdom than it normally is. I have been working on a pretty major overhaul of my Masters of the Universe collection over the last two weeks. I took all of my vintage He-Man figures out of storage, as well as a couple of fixer-uppers I recently bought at AZ Collectors Marketplace, and got to cleaning and painting the mother-loving heck out of them. I even replaced the broken/worn rubber bands in the legs on some figures using an awesome tutorial I found on YouTube here. MacGuyver doesn’t have squat on the guy that came up with this trick.

All were painted by hand using a combination of Tamiya and Testors Model Master Acrylic paints. It is very important to not use enamel paints on MOTU figures as it will break down the soft plastic and rubber they are made of. I ruined a couple of good figures this way about 10 years ago. The great thing about custom painting MOTU figures is that you can get most figures loose for between 7 and 10 dollars, so there is no guilt about defacing an expensive piece.

First off is Man-E-Faces. I touched up quite a few dings in the blue areas, repainted in a deeper red the “tubing” across his chest and back, and then added some additional accents to bring out some more of the sculpted details. It was a tough blue to match, so I basically repainted entire panels to give him a two-tone look. This schizophrenic thespian SOB is officially back in bidness.

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Next was Moss Man; this one was a nightmare. When I removed him from storage, the glue from the velvet-like “moss” had broken down and turned all gummy and sticky. I ended up removing it entirely using a combo of elbow grease and Goo-Gone, then dry brushed a light green over the body to give it depth. “Dry brushing” is a technique where you use a brush with almost no paint on it to dust a light color over raised details to make them stand out better; it is not something done on a couch with your junior high girlfriend. I then gave him some of the yellow “Beast Man” armor from one of the old school weapon packs to complete the look, which I also lightly dry brushed. While he no longer has his Chronic 2001 sticky-icky-icky epidermis intact, he still came out pretty sweet.

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I then tackled what is probably my favorite MOTU figure- Faker. This blue-skinned evil robot clone of He-Man has seen better days. I repainted his scratched up face, replaced the rubber bands in the legs, and then detailed and did a dark paint wash over the armor. “Washing” is a technique where you slightly thin a darker shade of paint and brush it into details of a sculpt. The opposite of dry brushing, it has the same effect of making details stand out. This is entirely different than the washing I do to mitigate the effects of my ubiquitous and magnificent underarm odor.

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Speaking of odor, I also rehabbed the Stinkor I scored at AZ Collectors Marketplace. While he no longer possesses his signature musky-funk stank that all the girls pine for, he does have some freshly whitened stripes, brightened eyes, repainted boots, and some little colorful details added to his armor.

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You can’t have Hordak without Ho. This being the case, I mixed some off-white paint to repaint his face, and touched up his various bat details and his gloves and boots. I topped it off with an oh-so-epic, Project Runway-worthy, custom felt cape. Heidi Klum, come holler at your boy.

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Amazingly, I was also able to take my trashed MerMan figure and bring it back to life. I dry brushed light green all over the body, paint washed and dry brushed the armor, detailed the face, and added green details to his belt. I even dry brushed some yellow over his loin cloth to step his pimp game up another notch. And so he doesn’t break a hip grinding on mermaids, his legs got new rubber bands too.

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Some other figures that got minor touch-ups are Battle Armor He-Man (hair), Thunder Punch He-Man (hair and boots), Sy-Klone (gloves, arms, boots, belt), He-Man (armor details), and Battlecat (eyes and mouth).

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Once all these figures were completed, they were displayed on newly-mounted wall shelves in my man cave with my MOTU 200X figures. I couldn’t be happier with the end result, although having some of their freaking weapons wouldn’t hurt. Ebay here I come!

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Quit Hating on Aquaman Before He Impales You

imageBy Nick Saunders
8/10/13

Few superheroes catch as much flack from society at large than Aquaman. Off the top of my head, the only others possibly more derided are Robin and Ace & Gary from the old SNL skits. I have nothing better to do, so I’d like to explore and possibly even challenge the popular view of this venerable mer-man.

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The primary criticism leveled at the character is that his powers suck, where nothing could be further from the truth. He’s DIESEL, and we’re not talking about drag racing and participating in “let’s see who the worst actor is” contests. Since he is able to endure the immense pressure and severe cold of the deep ocean, on land he has developed super strength and is virtually bulletproof. He can telepathically command sea life to do his bidding, and can swim ridiculously fast. Oh, and did I mention he can survive indefinitely under water? When compared to other Justice Leaguers, he can stand toe to toe with almost all of them. Plus, they have released some pretty cool toys of him to boot.

imageimageTo be truthful, I wasn’t always a big fan of Aquaman myself. I always found him and Namor (his Marvel correllary) to be pretty weak sauce, similar to my feelings towards rappers like Soulja Boy, Young Jeezy, and lots of other corny sounding motherlovers. However, when my brother introduced me to the New 52 series that DC had developed this completely changed.

imageThree pages into the first issue and I was mesmerized, both by the artwork and the compelling story. Geoff Johns, now legendary for his skills in reinvigorating stagnant characters, finally found a way to make Aquaman interesting. What I enjoyed best was that Johns embraced the ridicule the real world expresses towards the character, weaving it into Aquaman’s relationship with the surface world in the comic itself. This, combined with the rejection he feels from his Atlantean brethren, provides previously absent character depth via his resulting identity conflict. Plus he has Mera, his straight ride-or-die wifey who is always down to put in work.

imageCharacterization aside, he’s got mad squabbles. Aquaman wrecks fools left and right; they are most definitely pitied by Mr. T and anyone else in the remote vicinity. He impales more busters with his trident than Brick Tamland, and he killed a guy . He has legions of killer sharks on speed dial, making Jaws and Shark Week look like feel-good fare the whole family can enjoy.

imageIf we are going to start mocking JLA members, lets direct our scorn to those deserving of it. I think the guy that just disemboweled 50 hungry-azz Piranha men solo deserves a pass.

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Optimus vs. Rodimus: Battle of the Primes

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By Nick Saunders
8/2/13

One debate has consistently reigned supreme in the Transformers fandom and has raged for decades- which Prime is best? Is it Optimus Prime, the no-nonsense original leader of the Autobots, or his successor, the introspective and self-doubting “Chosen One” Rodimus Prime? Semi-truck or pimped-out Winnebago? Stripes or Flames? Smokestacks or Spoiler? Peter Cullen vs. Judd Nelson? Wait, who the heck is Judd Nelson?

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By now you surely comprehend the gravitas of this philosophical undertaking. For context, let’s jump in our DeLoreans and travel back in time to the year 1986, when the USSR still thrived and Madonna still had human skin and not a semi-synthetic reptilian epidermis. Transformers were all over toy shelves and the cartoon series was hugely popular. The executives at Hasbro decided to cash in by producing and releasing a feature-length animated movie based on their smash hit toyline, and Transformers: The Movie was born. Hasbro used it as a vehicle to introduce new characters (read: toys), and throwing brand equity and character recognition aside, killed off 99.9% of the original cast in the process. During a fight with Megatron that Optimus was already winning, Rodimus (Hot Rod at the time) jumps in and is taken hostage, leading to Optimus getting killed. It was this moment in time that caused all the world’s unicorns and leprechauns to die en masse. Angels wept softly; the Earth split in twain. Children across America concurrently screamed in a cacphony of anguish. Not me though, I kept it gangsta.

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And by the way, apparently Transformers turn gray when they die, so there’s that.

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On his deathbed, Optimus reveals he possesses the Matrix of Leadership, a mystical device that contains the wisdom of all past Autobot leaders. He passes it on to Ultra Magnus, saying the Matrix will choose the next leader. Long story short, Magnus gets blown apart (or drawn and quartered, per urban legend) by the Decepticons, and at the end of the film it turns out that Hot Rod is the chosen successor. He takes possession of the Matrix, upgrades to Rodimus Prime, throws Galvatron (reincarnated Megatron- voiced by Leonard Nimoy aka Mr. Spock) into space, blows up Unicron (giant planet-eating mofracken), turns into an RV, showers, shaves, and bounces. Busy day, right?

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In the subsequent season of the television series, Rodimus agonizes constantly over his suitability as a leader, and is often seen being excessively emo and self-consiously drippy in conversations with Ultra Magnus. In the episode “Dark Awakening” where it appears Optimus is resurrected, the dude can’t give the Matrix back to him fast enough. A Quintesson-possessed Optimus is happy to oblige him and subsequently beats him like Rick James in search of his stash of PCP.

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At the end of the episode, Optimus overcomes the Quintesson mind control and sacrifices himself (again!) to save the Autobots. He then dies a fugly, hideous death (again!). Noticing a pattern here, true believers?

imageThe point I am trying to make here, at least as far as the Generation 1 cartoon and movie go, Rodimus Prime was much more content to follow as opposed to lead. Optimus never backed down, and was never afraid to throw down heavy, even in the face of death. Rodimus abdicated his responsibility the minute an opportunity arose. Sure, homeboy blew up Unicron, but without the Matrix could he have done it? Sucka please.  He is the Transformers equivalent to a nasty back-up dancer for En Vogue.

imageHowever, as far as the toys go, I have much less venom to spew towards Rodimus. While I much prefer the various Optimus Prime toys, there is plenty of cool to spread around. In fact, as a kid Rodimus was the only Prime I owned for quite some time, so that toy holds a special place in my heart.
imageMy solitary toy-related gripe regarding Rodimus Prime would be that the arm of my $75 Masterpiece version decided to spontaneously shear off a few weeks ago while on display in my man cave (you’re dang right I have a man cave homie, and it reeks of win). Only after some deft handywork on my part, and a broken drillbit to the thumb, was I able to make it presentable again.

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Well that’s it for this week people. Until next time, keep your toys minty and your toejam linty.

Meet Deadpool: Earth’s Funniest Superhero

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By Nick Saunders
7/27/13

You are quite possibly asking yourself, “Who is Deadpool, and why the hell do I care?” Since you clicked this stinky linky of mine, I will assume your curiosity is piqued enough to stick around and find out.

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Deadpool is a Marvel superhero/antihero created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza as an X-Universe antagonist back in 1991. He is quite literally, along with Cable, the only valuable contribution Rob Liefeld has ever made to the world of comics.

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And if the name Deadpool does ring a bell for you, it might be due to his horrendously botched appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (see my previous rant here). Thank you very little, Gavin Hood. Way to turn a perfect casting choice into an upper decker.

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A product of the same Weapon X program that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton, he possesses a similar healing factor, elevated strength, fighting expertise, and enthusiasm for disembowelment. Oh yeah, and he looks like a burnt up weiner as a result of these enhancements, and is crazier than Amanda Bynes holding a bottle of Tanqueray and some hair clippers.

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I first encountered the character when I was collecting X-Men figures in the early 90’s. I saw the first Deadpool toy and thought, since when did Spiderman become a ninja? Either way I bought it.

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Then, when he got his own ongoing title in 1997, I started reading it and was instantly hooked. I couldn’t tell what I liked more, Ed McGuinness’s pencils or Joe Kelly’s writing. Since then, he has become a cult favorite among comic fans, and has been featured in titles like Cable & Deadpool, Deadpool Corps, Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth, and now the ongoing Marvel NOW title.

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However let’s get back to the point of this post, which is to convey that he is utterly bad-ass. But not in the same vein as, say, the Punisher. He is not your typical brooding, humorless, tormented killing machine. He makes killing supervillians funny. Laugh out loud, cracking up, oops I crapped my pants funny. His head gets blown off repeatedly and he still pops off one-liners. In a more recent issue, he killed a demonically resurrected JFK dressed as Marilyn Monroe and punched Nixon in his zombie balls. He quotes Wu-Tang and references Ice-T. He takes sarcasm and wisecracking to a level Spiderman can’t even touch. Here are a few choice examples of the “Merc With a Mouth” in action:

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Here he is demonstrating a proper Dragon Punch to Kitty Pryde’s face:

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And here accompanying an undead Teddy Roosevelt on a hunting expedition:

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Hopefully this gives you an idea of the kind of character we are dealing with here. If you have never read a Deadpool comic, go pick one up- you won’t be disappointed. So speaketh figureBOMB.

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I Have the Power, but not the Money: A tribute to He-Man

imageBy Nick Saunders
7/22/13

I am sure you can recall the moment when you first fell in love. Maybe it was sharing a snack pack with that cute little girl at the lunch table in 1st grade, or possibly that seemingly eternal slow dance to Keith Sweat’s “Twisted” at your high school prom. It could have even been the star-crossed glance you shared with that special someone in line at the beer keg in college.

For me, it was the Christmas when I received my first He-Man figure. I distinctly recall the exultation I felt when I separated the plastic bubble from the cardboard backing and inhaled that oh-so-sweet aroma of cured plastic and paint. Now this was a freaking action figure; like none before, and none since. Many toys have come and gone since that fateful day, but this is unquestionably the moment my torrid affair with these plastic indulgences began.

imageHe-Man has gone through a few interpretations over the last 32 years, some amazing, some terrible, and some ridiculously expensive. Here is a quick overview and my thoughts on each.

imageThe original Masters of the Universe (MOTU) line was released by Mattel in 1981, and lasted until 1987. It was partially conceived as the result of an abandoned licensing agreement to create a toy line for the movie Conan the Barbarian. For some odd reason Mattel decided that a movie featuring graphic violence and sexuality wasn’t the most appropriate theme for children’s toys. Either that, or they were unable to design a figure that could accurately replicate James Earl Jones turning into an anthropomorphic snake, and threw in the towel.

imageDue to some loosened regulations related to television programming for children, MOTU was the first toy line to have its own accompanying cartoon series. This was probably the most significant contribution of the Reagan administration to American society, second only to its invention and proliferation of crack cocaine. The figures themselves were innovative in both concept and design, with action features of increasing complexity, and characterization unheard of by prior toy properties due to the synergistic effect of the accompanying cartoon. They also came with mini-comics, which had no continuity relation to the cartoon show but were great for a laugh.

imageUnlike most of the toys I owned as a child, I still have quite a few original MOTU in my possession. Most are missing weapons and have wear and tear, but I still don’t ever see myself parting with them. They are worth far more to me than the pittance I would get from selling them.

imageI would be remiss to not include a summary of the spin-off series She-Ra: Princess of Power. It was wack; consider it summarized.

imageTwo years after Mattel cancelled the original MOTU line, they released a follow-up line called simply He-Man. Mattel conceived this as a futuristic continuation of the original series, upping the ante by making this conflict an epic intergalactic space opera rivaling that of Star Wars. I’m kidding about the latter comparison; it was awful. He-Man and Skeletor devolved into anemic milquetoast shells of their former selves, who surrounded themselves with a motley stable of generic nobodies as a supporting cast. The toys were horribly designed and featured atrocious build quality- my brother’s “He-Man” broke the first day he had it. If you are unfamiliar with this abysmal series consider yourself fortunate, as I can sum it up with one statement- He-Man had a ponytail.

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imageFast-forward to the year 2000. Shortly after I recovered from 3 months of cave dwelling due to my fears of a Y2K catastrophe, Mattel released the MOTU Commemorative Series. Many of the original figures were re-issued in limited release, which was an amazing way to recapture those long-lost treasures of childhood. I myself scored a Clawful and Stratos from this series, and regret not purchasing more when I had the chance.

imageBased on the interest and success of the Commemorative Series, from 2002-2004 Mattel produced an all-new MOTU series sculpted by the Four Horsemen (master sculptors who had defected from McFarlane Toys). These toys (typically referred to as MOTU Modern, MOTU 2002, or MOTU 200X) were dramatically stylized updates of their 1980’s predecessors, and once again had an accompanying television series to support it.

imageimageAlthough carried by all major retailers, the distribution tended to be inconsistent which resulted in poor sales and many ridiculously hard to find figures. I am pretty sure I ended up dropping $30 on eBay for Roboto because I was so sick of searching for him in stores.

imageRegardless of some of the frustration I encountered, I have a special love for this line and still have the entire collection I acquired. On a recent outing I happened to luck out and obtain the Holy Grail of my MOTU collection, the super-rare Toyfare Exclusive Faker. I nabbed this handsome SOB for an unbelievable $30 MISB (Mint in Sealed Box) at Pop Culture Paradise, as opposed to the $100 average it sells for on eBay.

imageAfter another 4 year hiatus, Mattel released the currently ongoing MOTU toy line, called MOTU Classics, which are sold exclusively online through their website. These figures, also sculpted by the Four Horsemen, feature more extensive articulation (think DC Universe Classics), and simplified sculpts more evocative of the aesthetic of their 1980’s precursors. I personally do not collect this line, primarily due to the fact that I find it exorbitantly expensive. A single figure costs around $25-30 if bought directly from Mattel, and upwards of $50 from a secondary retailer (I’m looking at you, BigBadToyStore). I gots a kid to feed now people, so my days of buying $30 He-Man figures are long gone, besides the above-mentioned once-in-a-lifetime Faker acquisition of course.
imageAll criticism and bemoaning aside, I am very excited to see MOTU still alive and kicking, and hope that Mattel someday produces another mass release line that those of us who aren’t trust fund babies can still afford to collect.

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Tales of a Thrifty Nerd: How to build a sweet collection without starving your family to death

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By Nick Saunders
7/17/13

I had an interesting conversation with my wife yesterday evening after leaving the local comic book store. I was explaining why I liked the Monogram Direct superhero bust banks they were selling so much; they are well-sculpted and (usually) well-painted, and cost about $10-15 each. A similar-sized polystone bust from Diamond Select or Bowen Designs would cost at least $80. Considering I don’t foresee myself leaving the world of grossly underpaid middle management any time soon, I’m going to go with the one that doesn’t force my family to rely on ramen and styrofoam peanuts for sustenance. My wife replied, “that’s why I like you- you find ways to have cool looking stuff without spending tons of money on it.”

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That inspired me to write this article about how to build an envy-inducing empire of swag without incurring your own personal microcosm of the U.S. national debt.

1. Avoid MISB/MIB Figures

When collecting vintage action figures, collecting MISB (Mint in Sealed Box) toys will break your pockets quickly. For a vintage Generation 1 Transformer, this is the difference between spending $50 for loose and $500 for MISB.

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Even for contemporary figures, this will save you money in cases where you have to resort to eBay for an item you can’t find locally. For Marvel Legends or DC Universe Classics, many sellers exclusively sell loose figures. Typically you will pay half the price, and the shipping will be cheaper as the seller can ship in a much smaller box.

Also, check out your local comic shop for loose figures; people often trade their collections in to be re-sold. This is especially useful when collecting vintage. Some great places to look in Phoenix are GI Joe vs. Transformers and Pop Culture Paradise. If you are at a reputable store, you will typically avoid the exhorbitant prices of eBay vintage sellers, be able to examine the item in person, and possibly have room to negotiate the price.

2. Collect Incomplete Figures

Does it really matter if your G1 Optimus Prime comes with the hose and gas nozzle? Will people who view your collection (besides the uber-elitist collectors that this article is clearly not directed at) really think less of it? The answer is a resounding NO. You will save an immense amount of money if you are willing to settle for a figure that might be missing a thing or two. Sometimes one missing accessory can bring the price of an toy down immensely. You can get a c8-c9 condition G1 Targetmaster without the transformable gun for less than a third of what you will pay for it being complete, and you still have the gorgeous figure itself to display on your shelf. 

Heck I just picked up a slightly-yellowed loose G1 Slugslinger this past weekend at GI Joe vs. Transformers for a cool $15. The one in the case with less wear and the Targetmaster gun was about $90 (still a good price but not in my budget anymore). If needed he can always borrow an extra gat from one of his homies if things get a little too real with the Autobots up on my toy shelf.
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3. Don’t Be Afraid to do Some Reconditioning

Personally, I have never been into collecting as if it was an investment. I want a collection that looks impressive and gives me enjoyment, but resale value is the least of my concerns. One way I have saved a great deal of money is by buying vintage items that need a little bit of TLC to get them back to presentable condition. For Transformers, eBay is littered with auctions of dirt-cheap loose G1 figures that have moderate cosmetic wear that is easily remedied. While not always the case, usually a thorough cleaning, replacement of some rusty screws, and some freshly applied Reprolabels (amazing reproductions of original G1 Transformer sticker sheets) gives you a toy that looks almost new.

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Of course, the older the Transformer is, the more loose accessories are missing, so don’t go buying that gnarly looking G1 Starscream fuselage with zero accessories and the nosecone chewed off and think you will make it look any more appealing than the polished turd that it is.

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The above methods (sans the Reprolabels of course) also can be applied to loose moderately worn MOTU (He-Man) figures, Thundercats, etc. Especially if you are not afraid to break out some model paint and do some touch-ups, you can bring that beat up old Skeletor back to life to wreak havoc on the peace-loving citizens of Eternia.

4. Re-issue is NOT a Dirty Word

In the early 2000’s, toy companies began to re-release vintage figures from the 1980’s. Mattel re-released several MOTU figures during this time, and Hasbro and Takara began re-releasing the original Generation 1 Transformers as well. They had uncovered the original molds from the 1980’s and put them back into production. All but the most discriminating collectors jumped at the chance to buy their favorite Autobot or Decepticon for half of what the original 1980’s editions were going for online. Not only were they brand new and completely immaculate, they came with all of their accessories and a fresh label sheet to apply to the toy. Call me weird, but one of my favorite things to do as a kid was to apply the labels to a new Transformer. Even on the secondary market, you will be able to purchase a re-issue version of a vintage toy for less than the original run. However, coversely you must be wary of vendors and eBay sellers marketing re-issue items as originals, as the differences are often only noticable to an expert eye.
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At the end of the day if you follow these tips, while you may not bankroll your future child’s college fund with the purchases you have made, what you will have is an awesome and unique collection to display proudly. And money for toilet paper.

Tossing up Bricks: My sick obsession with Kre-O Transformers

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By Nick Saunders
7/14/13
 
I never would have imagined that a toy line hybridization of Lego and Transformers would be as enjoyable to me as collecting actual Transformers themselves, but I’ve been hooked on these interlocking pieces of plastic crack for over two years. However, this year’s sparce tradeshow reveals and current lack of big-box retail engagement indicate the line is approaching its twilight. Not the porcelain-toned, histrionic vampire kind of Twilight, but equally dismaying and disturbing nonetheless.

Rival toy companies have been trying to integrate Lego’s designs into their product catalogues ever since the final Lego design patent expired in 1989. For those that have been collecting Transformers for awhile, you will recall that Kre-O is not Hasbro’s first attempt at translating the Lego concept to their toy properties. In 2003 Hasbro released a line called Built to Rule, which were building block sets based on Transformers: Armada and G.I. Joe. These grotesque abominations were utterly laughable in their heavy-handed disregard for design, and staggering ugliness proportionate to seeing Bea Arthur naked. As can be imagined, the line was a catastrophic failure and was cancelled within a year. Shaking in their boots Lego was not. It is unfortunate though, because the cancelled sets planned for 2004 were much nicer looking by comparison.

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Based on the misersble failure that was BTR, I was actually surprised that Hasbro released Kre-O at all.  Yet in the Fall of 2011 Hasbro released the line in retail stores nationwide. I was initially indifferent, but at the same time took immediate notice to how much better the build design was than the BTR line. I also found it intriguing that the larger sets blended design elements from the original Transformers toys and their live-action movie counterparts.

For Christmas in 2011, my wife bought me the large Bumblebee set as a surprise. The minute I sat down and built the robot mode (design constraints do not allow these to transform), I was completely hooked. I had not built a Lego set since I was 13 years old, and had completely forgotten how enjoyable it was. I immediately went out and bought more sets, twitching and scratching like an addict the whole way to the store.

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The best part of these building sets is the potential for customization. If I didn’t like an aspect of a build from the instruction book, I simply rebuilt it to fit my liking. For some sets, this involved some minor tweaks (Sentinel Prime, Starscream, Sideswipe, large Optimus), and others complete rebuilds (Megatron, Jazz, basic Optimus, Prowl). To me these sets were the most fun of all, the creative freedom of restructuring the robots was in some ways therapeutic for me. Of course a few sets were amazing without any tweaks at all. There were a couple of duds too, I’m looking straight at your ugly arse, Stealth Bumblebee. No amount of rebuilding made that turd tolerable.

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It would appear that based on the Botcon displays I browsed last month, no new Transformers Kre-O sets are forthcoming outside of a couple more Micro Changer combiner sets. Also, the current TF Kre-O assortment has all but disappeared outside of Toys R Us. Combine this with the impending release of the new Construct Bots line (think Bionicle for Transformers), and the writing is on the wall- finger painted by a rebellious toddler with authority issues. Kre-O is being put out to pasture.

So why is there such minimal retail support for the line? I have some theories. While the initial Kre-O assortments did go clearance at most major retailers, it wasn’t until almost a year after their initial release, which is not an abnormal occurence for any successful toy line. The full TF Battle for Energon assortment was released soon thereafter in all major retailers, indicating the demand was still strong and retail partners still engaged. I believe Kre-O cried its death knell after the horrendous performance of the Battleship line, which was released to cooincide with the equally horrendously performing film. Ironically, this film was also the death knell for the once promising career of Taylor Kitsch, but I digress. The sets themselves were appealing enough, but being tied to a dead movie concept kept sales down. They languished on shelves and were ultimately clearanced by Fall of 2012.

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My belief is that this dismal failure unjustly soured retailers on the Kre-O brand as a whole, as evidenced by the subsequent Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Star Trek assortments being picked up solely by Toys R Us. Time will tell whether the line is truly winding up, or possibly just going on hiatus.

In the meantime, bring on the Construct Bots!

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