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.

figureBOMB Review: Transformers Constructbots Triple-Changer Blitzwing

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By Nick Saunders
9/2/13

Figure: Blitzwing

Line: Transformers

Sub-Line: Construct-Bots

Manufacturer: Hasbro

Size Class: Triple-Changer

MSRP: $24.99 (U.S.)

Availability: General

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Okay, anyone who has been following my Instagram and Facebook feeds will know that I am completely hooked on Hasbro’s new sub-line, Construct-Bots. These buildable figures were released to mass retail in mid July, and feature many classic Transformers characters.

While I have already purchased almost all of the first wave figures, I enjoyed Blitzwing so much I chose to focus on him for my feature.

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Like all figures from the Construct-Bots line, Blitzwing features the standard “skeleton” frame which makes him compatible and interchangeable with all other sets. Being a Triple-Changer class figure, he comes with a ton of accessories and parts, allowing him to convert to a robot, jet, or tank. Unlike the Transformers Kre-O line, covered previously here, Construct-Bots are fully transformable and do not need to be broken down and reassembled to change modes.

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Robot Mode:

With all of the accessories packed with this figure, Blitzwing is armed to the teeth. He comes with two small gatling guns, a blaster rifle, as well as a tank turret and additional blaster with launching missiles. All he needs is a survival knife, some rope, and a friend nicknamed “F-A” to be a full-fledged Boondock Saint.

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I am somewhat disappointed that he has the same chest mold as Soundwave, and would have preferred they found a way to make it feature more of a cockpit-type appearance like his Generation 1 namesake. I also wasn’t thrilled at first to see he had a re-colored Ironhide head, but it looks great up close. Plus they remolded the face to give him a nasty Tony Montana sneer that just screams, “I kill a communist for fun.” Overall it is menacing and easy to customize to your liking.

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Jet Mode:

I found it a bit irritating that the instructions do not show a method to transform Blitzwing into his vehicle modes in a way that would allow you to use all of the included parts. That being said, I was able to accomplish this by applying ingenuity that can only be honed from years of playing with children’s toys.

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The Jet mode is the better of the two, which makes sense since most of the parts included were designed for this purpose. It is most definitely Top Gun caliber hardware. As I made the conversion and began snapping my photos, I could hear the sweet sounds of Kenny Loggins playing in my head, along with visages of a semi nude Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise vying for volleyball supremacy.

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Tank Mode:

I use the word “tank” loosely here, as it is a bit of a stretch. “Jet-like car with tank-like turret” is a more appropriate name for this mode, but much too wordy to be included on the packaging. I was able to get a decent ground vehicle configured, but once again it strays from the instructions because I wanted to utilize all the parts. Kind of like how hunters try to use all parts of an animal carcass, but without all the unsavory blood and puking.

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While not the best representation of a tank in this mode, it still is an excellent vehicle form, with enough protruding blades and firepower to satisfy even the bloodthirstiest Road Warrior.

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Overall I’m really digging this figure, but have one final criticism: the price. The difference in included accesories doesn’t justify a $10 price hike from the Elite class figures ($14.99 price point). Despite this, if you can get over the premium price this figure is a solid purchase and will look great on any shelf- B+.

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.

Ben Affleck Is Signed for Multiple Movies as Batman

Killing Time

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One of the biggest questions I’ve had since the casting of an “older Batman” was decided, was how was this going to play into DC’s plan to build an integrated film universe? Was Ben Affleck going to do a one-off as a grizzled old Batman and then they’d reboot the franchise? In short, no. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Affleck is signed for “multiple movies should sequels continue to proliferate.”  What does that mean?  Well it likely means that there’s going to be a solo Batman film with Affleck; in fact, I’d be willing to guess it’ll be the next DC movie after Superman vs. Batman.  It also means that Affleck will be the Batman who will be in the Justice League movie (whenever that happens).
Ben Affleck, Batman,I’m of two minds about this.  If Affleck is good in the part, then fine; continue.  Have a story plotted though…

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Can’t Knock the Hustle: Impressions from my first dealer’s event

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By Nick Saunders
8/26/13

This past Saturday I hosted my first dealer table at AZ Collectors Marketplace. I was extremely happy with how things went; I sold some merch and got to spend the day socializing with some great local collectors and sellers. If you could see me right now, you’d probably be clowning because I’m glowing like a pregnant Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior.

While everyone at the event was kind, welcoming, and supportive, I definitely observed a vendor hierarchy right off the bat. The veteran sellers took the opportunity during set-up time to check out the new tables and do some picking before the general public came in. Many of the newer folks (myself included) are selling out of their personal collections and willing to sell below market rate to move product. The veteran guys know this and use it as a mutually beneficial opportunity to help new guys sell and to replenish their own stock. I actually had Grey from G.I. Joe vs. Transformers stop by while I was setting up shop to buy up a few of my items, so I had my vendor fees covered before the doors even opened up. The straight ballin’ had commenced.

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I met some cool guys at the show and got to talk shop about this awesome hobby of ours, and share tips on customizing, repairs, photography, etc. I don’t really have any friends who collect besides my brother and my cousin, so it was a new and enjoyable experience to interact with other fellow collectors somewhere besides an online forum. Also, it was all friendly banter without the passive-aggressive, flame-ridden, troll-like aftertaste I often observe online.

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Although a lot of work both in preparation and execution, I really enjoyed myself. It didn’t feel like a day at the office, which was a fear I had when first contemplating getting back into selling. I was even able to nab a couple of sweet items for myself, which was a nice reward for my efforts.

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While a small first step in my pursuit of eventually owning my own storefront, it was a huge milestone of the progress I’ve made in a relatively short timeframe. I’m already making plans for my next table scheduled for 9/7, and will continue to get my hustle on to the absolute fullest.

Until next time folks!

Fantastic Poster for Transformers: The Animated Movie by Tom Whalen

Amazing artwork from an 80’s classic!

Killing Time

I pity kids today.  They didn’t get grow up in the golden era of boy toys: Transformers, GI Joe, He-Man, Voltron, etc.  We loved the stuff.  Couldn’t get enough.  If you don’t believe me, look at all the money being made by the movie franchises that have sprung out of those toys (and He-Man and Voltron are coming).  Even the Smurfs and Alvin & the Chipmunks were part of our Saturday morning routine.  They haven’t survived 30 years because Hollywood thought they were awesome; it’s because we grew up and wanted more stories from the characters we loved as kids.  Then Michael Bay ruined most of it….shake it off, man, shake it off.

Transformers: The Animated Movie came out in 1986 when the cartoon was drawing to a close.  It went another season past this, but the peak of its mania had past.  It’s still the best…

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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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Big Names Turn Cybertron “Dark” in November

Graphic Policy

Darkness falls on the Autobots this November in the comic book event Transformers: Dark Cybertron! This series pushes the Transformers characters to their limits, but they’ll have the help of some creative superstars on their journey. Joining writer and IDW senior editor John Barber and fan-favorite scribe James Roberts in a top-secret meeting earlier this year, the artistic force of Phil Jimenez helped plan Dark Cybertron from the start! “

Jimenez spoke about the upcoming event:

I’ve been a fan of the Transformers brand since I was 13 and this was a fanboy dream come true. The beauty of this story is it plays to the strengths of the characters and to my strengths as a storyteller; epic, world-shattering scale as well as those beautiful character moments that make readers care about a bunch of giant ‘Robots in Disguise.’

The war between the Autobots and Decepticons is over—but when the…

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figureBOMB Review: Ultimate Beast Hunter Optimus Prime

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By Nick Saunders
8/13/13

Line: Transformers

Sub-Line: Prime: Beast Hunters

Figure: Ultimate Beast Hunter Optimus Prime

Manufacturer: Hasbro

Size Class: Supreme

MSRP: $59.99 (U.S.)

Availability: General

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This week for my birthday, my wife was cool enough to buy me the newly-released Transformers Prime: Ultimate Beast Hunter Optimus Prime figure. I had held off on buying the smaller Voyager Class ($22.00 pricepoint) figure back in January knowing this big dog was coming along later. Although after purchasing and evaluating the Ultimate version I may go back and pick up the Voyager up as well.

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This figure is a good size at over a foot tall in robot mode, with a stocky and intimidating build. It comes with a massive cleaver-type sword that is at least 6 inches long, a shield, and the built-in dragon cannon array on its back. It has 15 points of articulation, with joints at the shoulders (2-way), biceps, elbows, wrists (you just have to force them a bit- other reviewers are being wusses about this), hips (2-way), knees, and neck. It has a light up mechanism for the eyes and chest, and the array of five dragon cannons on the back fires missiles and is operated using a rather sophisticated and ingenious gatling mechanism. The only thing I find annoyingly missing is the ankle articulation, but as others have said it has a minimal effect on poseability and balance. I still very much enjoy this mode of the figure, and that sword is a monster.

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The transformation into truck mode is rather simplistic for a toy of this class; the manufacturer did not take full advantage of the size when engineering it. There are plenty of gaps in the vehicle when transformed, which only involves a twist of the waist, the arms being bent back over the legs, and the front wheels brought forward from within the lower legs of the robot. This is a toy you’re definitely going to want to display in robot form.

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My primary gripe with this figure involves the build quality- Hasbro continues their dismaying pattern of using softer, less durable plastic  throughout the figure. This trend is being driven by elevated petroleum prices, which cause plastics to inflate as well, forcing toy companies to degrade quality to keep costs down. That damn OPEC is ruining it for everyone. The wheels are snap-in as opposed to traditional solid pin mounted ones, and the flip-out front wheel assembly feels rather flimsy. Given how hollow this toy is in places, especially the lower legs, it ends up lacking the substantive feel that a $60 figure should have. 

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I may sound like I’m hating on this toy based on the above criticism, but I actually very much like it overall. I just miss the premium feel and heft that a Transformer this size would have had 5 or 10 years ago, and would have liked a better engineered transformation. Rating: B-.

Quit Hating on Aquaman Before He Impales You

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By 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 with Paul Walker. 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.

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To 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.

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Three 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.

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Characterization 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.

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If we are going to start mocking JLA members, lets direct our scorn to those deserving of it, like Green Arrow, aka Mr. Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I think the guy that just disemboweled 50 hungry-azz Piranha men solo deserves a pass. So sayeth figureBOMB.

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