Oh Captain, My Captain: Some of the best Captain America toys ever made

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By Nick Saunders
7/4/13

I thought that a fitting way to celebrate our freedom from the crumpet-eating Brits would be to take a look back at some of my favorite Captain America toys that have been made in the last 30 years. He has always been one of my favorite superheroes, and I always love scoring a new Cap toy.

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Secret Wars Captain America, Mattel (1984)

In 1984, Mattel released an entire Secret Wars line to cooncide with the Marvel crossover comic being published at the time. These were also meant to be placed in direct competition with the DC Super Powers figures being made by Kenner.

This Cap was particularly cool because the figure was durable unlike the Kenner line, and featured the line’s signature shield gimmick with a lenticular insert that would alternate images.

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Marvel Super Heroes Captain America, Toy Biz (1990)

It took a few years to get another decent Cap figure again, but Marvel subsidiary Toy Biz hit a home run with their Marvel Super Heroes line in 1990. This figure is unique because he had a shield that was mounted on a spring-loaded launcher.

Also, no doubt due to my highly persuasive (read: irritating) begging and campaigning, my folks were generous enough to get me the accompanying Captain America Turbo Coupe. This was basically a Corvette ZR-1 on steroids with a working shield battering ram and detachable hidden glider. One of the greatest action figure vehicles ever made, I really wish I knew what I did with mine.

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Marvel Legends Series 1 Captain America, Toy Biz (2002)

The modern standard for action figure quality was established in 2002 when Toy Biz conceived and released the Marvel Legends toy line. These hyper detailed and articulated 6-inch figures redefined the superhero toy and further blurred the line between “toy” and “collectible.” This piece still remains one of the highlights of my action figure collection.

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Marvel Legends Ultimate WWII Captain America, Hasbro (2008)

Considered the primary influence for the costume of Cap in Captain America: The First Avenger, this Ultimates modeled figure came in a 2-pack with the first Marvel Legends iteration of Ultimate Nick Fury. This depicts Cap while fighting in World War II, prior his deep-freeze in the Arctic.

It comes to the party strapped with a pistol, shield, and machine gun, with removable ammo belt, helmet, and an interchangeable head. Steve Rogers definitely was smoking Nazis in style.

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Marvel Legends Heroic Age Captain America, Hasbro (2012)

This figure actually is a depiction of Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier), former sidekick of Captain America, who took up the shield while the original Cap was temporarily “dead.”

I really despised the design of this suit when it first debuted in the comics, but the first time I came across this figure my opinion of the revamped suit totally reversed. It has a tactical vibe to it with the black accents and gear, metallic paint, and the included pistol and Rambo shank give it beaucoup street cred. Yes, I just said an action figure has beaucoup street cred.

My brother gave this to me last year for my birthday, and it remains one of my favorites.

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Transformers Crossovers Captain America, Hasbro (2009)

Last, but not least, I feel the need to include the Transformers Crossovers Captain America. While some TF and Marvel fans alike very much disliked this toy line, this particular figure stands out as one of the better molds they made. I personally dig the rugged Humvee alternate mode and the robot is solid with a well-translated likeness of Cap. It comes with a detachable spare tire that expands into his signature shield.

Ironically, as often as I have heard people dog on this toy line, I frequently see in online forums examples of this particular toy being used as the base for custom Transformer kitbashes (custom figures made out of the parts of other toys).

So that’s what I’ve got for today. My thanks go out to the men and women who continue to protect our freedom so that men like me can blog about toys.

Thumbs up soldier!

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Botcon Blues

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By Nick Saunders
7/2/13

Ever since I discovered the Internet and got back into collecting Transformers, I have heard about this magical event called BotCon, aka the Transformers Collectors Convention. This annual event happens every summer, and is filled with exclusive toys, dealers selling vintage and modern figures, discussion panels, and celebrity guests.

It’s been on my bucket list for years to make it to BotCon at least once, if only to sample the sweet nerd glory for a brief moment in time. Like a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Mecca, Santiago de Compostela, or White Castle, I would find my salvation within.

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This year I finally got to go while out west visiting friends in San Diego. The first thing I did was check out Hasbro’s displays of current and upcoming figures for 2013 and 2014. They always do an excellent job showcasing their new products, and this year’s reveals did not disappoint. The new Metroplex coming out this summer is absolutely dope; this 2-foot tall behemoth will be the new crowned jewel of my collection. I also netted a complementary orange Devastator Kreon (Transformers version of a Lego figure) from the nice Hasbro reps. Sweet.

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I wasn’t very interested in the guests this year, so I skipped that part completely. Now, had Peter Cullen or Frank Welker (original voices of Optimus and Megatron, respectively) been there it would have been a totally different story- one where I shamelessly would have used my adorable 3 year old son to sucker them into a free autograph.

Next for me was perusing the dealer tables (aka Christmas in July). Usually buying a vintage TF means rolling the dice on a shady eBay auction and praying to God almighty that the conspicuously grainy photo does not yield you a sun-bleached, rusty-screwed, sticker-barren, mouse turd-covered lemon from the 7th circle of toy hell. Here instead was my chance to get my mits on virtually any transformer ever made, to inspect them in person and walk out with my loot the same day. None of this Brady Bill-esque 7-10 day waiting period crap that online shopping forces me to suffer through.

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Funny thing happened though, I didn’t buy a dang thing. Nothing. Not the loose G1 Darkwing I’ve been clamoring to get for 25 years. Not the loose G1 Punch/Counterpunch I’ve been trying to reaquire since losing mine back in ’91. Definitely not the loose G1 Scorponok I have coveted since my friend David got one in ’87. Heck, not even the complete Darth Vader Death Star Transformer that Captured Prey had there for the killer price of 15 bones made it out the door with me.

It just didn’t feel like how I imagined it. Many of the smaller dealers were condescending malcontents whose prices were obsurd and typically unmarked. If you’re going to try and scalp me, at least tell me upfront so we can avoid the 20 questions. I felt like I was fighting through a crowded bazaar in Calcutta just to stick my head in and check out the overpriced merch in their booths.

Dejected, I rounded up my wife and boy and hit the bricks. My wife had to ask me three times to make sure I wasn’t passing up anything I would regret. She would later take me to Toys R Us and buy me some stuff instead, completely bypassing the ridiculous tariffs being levied at the convention. God bless her for being so awesome.

Overall I am glad I went to BotCon, but can’t help but feel a sense of demoralization akin to finding out that the mall Santa Claus is really just a smelly, out of shape man with a spiraling career trajectory and a predisposition to cirrhosis of the liver.

Oh well, there’s always next year. At least Cobra Commander’s minions were kind enough to hand me an epic butt whooping on my way out the door.

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All this whining over a broken neck (Man of Steel)

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By Nick Saunders
7/1/13

If you are reading this post I will make an educated assumption that you have seen the film in question. If not, go see it first so I don’t have to receive death threats for spoiling your experience.

I want to throw my humble opinion out there regarding this most recent addition to the Superman mythology.

At the end of Superman’s climactic battle with Zod in Man of Steel, he over-torques the villain’s spinal cord and reluctantly ends his life. A family of humans is spared a country-fried death.

Many would have you believe that this is a travesty and that Zack Snyder ran our beloved hero into the dirt by having him break a cardinal rule.

This is not Batman. Superman’s psyche was not molded by the murder of his parents and does not possess the dark, damaged nature of his Gotham City contemporary. Superman has killed when absolutely necessary. Heck, in the comics he killed Doomsday at least two times that I can recall, Hank Henshaw a couple of times, would have killed Darkseid in Final Crisis had his own temporally-displaced bullet not done it first, and the list goes on. Even in that miserable film Superman IV, he threw the golden mullet-adorned Nuclear Man in a nuclear reactor and destroyed him. That’s right, even Christopher Reeve did not believe in the rehabilitation of super-powered homicidal maniacs.

This leads to my next point- this is not 1978 and Christopher Reeve has passed on. If the idealized, “aw shucks Lois that blouse really looks swell on you” characterization still resonated, why did everyone crap all over 2006’s Superman Returns? Brandon Routh should be a household name if that held true, yet instead of making more films as Superman he became Dylan Dog.

Snyder took a risk and presented a conflicted, yet relatable Kal-El to the audience. One who will do what is horrifyingly necessary to protect the people and planet he loves from virtually omnipotent would-be decimators. He did not do so lightly or sans remorse.

Killing is sometimes needed to defeat unspeakable, unrelenting evil. Some 70 years ago, staunch pacifism would have turned our country into a happy little place called the United States of Germany.

Superman has grown up, perhaps we all should follow suit.