Author Archives: Joe

Boss Fight Studio Bruiser the Betelgeusian Berserker Baboon (Bucky O’Hare)

The baddest baboon in the Aniverse has arrived!

2019 was not a plentiful year for Bucky O’Hare product. After receiving my two-pack of Toad Storm Troopers from Boss Fight Studio on Boxing Day 2018, I had not received a new Bucky sculpt until now. Not that 2019 was necessarily light on Bucky developments, it’s just the nature of the game when a small company invests in a niche property. Any company that makes Bucky toys, and there is currently only one such company, can’t just make a bunch of product and ship it to stores expecting a gradual sell-out. Rather a more cautious approach needs to be undertaken that involves basically doing one figure at a time and then putting it out there on pre-order for a bit to gauge interest before ultimately committing to a big factory order. It also doesn’t help when the figure is based on a licensed property and needs to go through an approval process with the license owner to make sure everything is all good. And when you add a global health crisis to the mix, well then nothing goes as planned.

Such is the reason why it has taken more than a year to make this figure of Bruiser, the Betelgeusian Berserker Baboon, a reality. He is the first in what toy company Boss Fight Studio is calling the Bucky O’Hare Deluxe line of figures. He’s much larger than any of the figures that have come before him, so much so that he had to forego the usual blister packaging in favor of a window box. And since he’s a lot bigger that also means he’s a lot more expensive which makes even commissioning the big guy a bit of a gamble on the part of Boss Fight Studio. Since he did indeed end up getting made, it would seem that gamble has paid off and it’s a good sign that the fanbase of both Bucky O’Hare and Boss Fight Studio were willing to sink approximately $55 into Bruiser to get him onto collector shelves where he rightfully belongs. And I can’t stress this enough, but he was worth the wait!

Bruiser represents a first for the Bucky line in that he’s the first figure released that is based on a character who originated in the cartoon series. The cartoon is where most people familiar with the product have the greatest affinity for, so it’s not really a surprise to see Boss Fight head in this direction. Bruiser is the younger brother of Bruce, the engineer on the Righteous Indignation who sadly didn’t make it out of issue #1 or episode #1. Perhaps seeing the potential in having a baboon on the crew in a permanent role, Bruiser was added for the cartoon in episode #2 as basically some hired muscle. Toads have a natural fear of baboons so for the writing staff he represented an easy way to end a conflict as he basically just needed to show up to scare away the bad guys. He also formed a bit of an odd couple with Blinky, the diminutive android on the crew, and their relationship was quite cute. He was popular enough that he was also a part of the Hasbro series of toys and he came with a rifle, even though he basically just uses his hands in the cartoon as weapons.

That’s one happy ape!

Even though he began as a cartoon character, he’s still a Larry Hama creation. All of the characters were and they all had artwork created by Continuity Comics to accompany them which I assume went into a series bible for the show. In moving from concept art to cartoon, some changes were made to make the character either easier to animate or to make them stand out better in terms of colors. As has been the case with all of the figures from Boss Fight Studio, Bruiser is based on that concept art as opposed to having a more toon accurate color scheme. This means black armor instead of blue with a red strap instead of pink. His gloved left hand is also colored correctly as opposed to the old Hasbro toy which didn’t bother adding any paint (and annoyed me to no end as a kid). His fur is also a touch more brown which just plain looks nicer than the old bright orange. Basically all of the yellow parts on his show costume are gold here making this Bruiser seem like the luxury model compared with the toon.

You can even remove his gauntlet if you wish to have your Bruiser cosplay as Cloud City Luke Skywalker.

The sculpting on Bruiser is something to behold. He’s a big, beefy, chunky, monkey and Boss Fight Studio making this for the adult collector means those spikes on his costume are quite the little hazards. The factory head has this lovely side-smirk going on that should remind folks of the Hasbro toy. He’s dense, and quite heavy, but not so heavy that he topples over. The belt and loincloth are a separate piece of plastic and so is the gauntlet on his left arm. When you pop off that left hand, you can even slide it off exposing the sleeve underneath. I love all of the textures on this guy be it the fur on his arms, the ridged portions of the armor, or the gear-like texture on his boots. He’s just a joy to hold and experience.

Like the other figures, Bruiser has pegs on his belt that allow him to holster his weapon for when he wants to munch on a banana or get his hands dirty.

The paint application for Bruiser is pretty simple, which applies to this line as a whole. There’s a lot of colored plastic, especially the fur, which does sometimes give the figure a shiny, plastic, appearance. It is a toy, after all, so it should look plastic, but a paint wash might have toned this down a bit. The paint on the portions that aren’t colored is clean and simple. Some of the spikes have a touch of paint chip at the point which is something that’s going to happen with that type of accent. I love the tan color of his glove and boots and it just mixes so well with the brown fur. The only areas that could stand to see some improvement is the right shoulder and the big fangs on his factory head. The shoulder has some gray plastic in the middle to blend it with the steel shoulder pad that is mostly unpainted on my figure. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an eyesore, but it is noticeable. The fangs are a bit fuzzy at the edges and the part where the left tooth overlaps the nose chain is a little messy. This is pretty minor stuff though as it’s only noticeable upon close inspection.

Ever see a baboon chokeslam a toad?

Despite Bruiser’s size, he still comes with a fair amount of articulation. His head is on a ball joint, though his hunched stature means it doesn’t have a ton of play. He’s got ball-jointed shoulders and hinges at the elbows. There’s no bicep swivel, but I honestly can’t I say I miss it. The hands are on pegs with no hinge, which is par for the course with this line. He’s got a nice ab crunch, a first for this line owing to his size, that can help pivot his upper body and it’s basically completely hidden by the sculpt, which is incredible as ab crunches are often the bane of action figures because of what they do to the sculpt. He can turn at the waist and features ball-joints at the hips. He has hinges at the knee, but because of squat appearance there’s very little functional movement here. He makes up for that though with some impressive double-jointed ankle articulation. They sit on balls and also possess a hinge so you can really rock and roll ’em to adjust Bruiser’s positioning. The articulation as a whole possesses the perfect amount of tightness as Bruiser is really easy to move right out of the box, but when leaving him on a shelf everything stays in the position you left him in.

He works hard, so it’s important to take time out for a little snack.

So just what does $55 get you besides a big old monkey? Pretty much the same amount of accessories fans are accustomed to at this point. Bruiser comes with a gun that’s very similar to the Hasbro one, referred to as a Betelgeusian Lazer Bazooka, which makes sense since both were based on the same artwork. It has a ton of nice texture work and is painted in this chrome color that really helps stand out. This is a character that typically prefers to get his hands dirty, but good luck excluding that bazooka from your display. He has two pairs of hands to mix and match: a fist, an open hand, and a gripping hand for each arm. He’s got a banana to snack on (yellow peel, not one of those purple space bananas) and a secondary head with a big open mouth for munching on the banana or for yelling at toads. The yelling head has a hint of a smile to it as this is a baboon who likes his work. The banana is pretty great looking, I can honestly say I have never seen a finer plastic banana. The yelling head is also delightfully charismatic. He looks so happy! Position with mangling some toads and you basically have yourself a Bruiser in his happy place. I suppose if you’re keeping score with the other figures, he has one less of everything. Bucky, for example, has three sets of hands and three faceplates compared with Bruiser’s two of each. Though in his defense, he has a whole second head as opposed to a second faceplate. More importantly though, I don’t feel like we’re missing anything. I don’t think we need another expression nor do we really need an open right hand or thumb’s up, for example.

The neck joint can be a bit tricky to work with, but it also allows for weird monstrosities like this.

Swapping the extra pieces with the factory pieces is pretty straight-forward. His hands are just on pegs, so you will want to apply firm pressure pulling-out and resist the urge to bend as that could snap the peg. They’re seated pretty snug out of the box, but I was able to pull them off without the aid of heat. His head is a bit trickier because it sits on what is essentially a plastic dumbbell. It’s two balls connecting by a thick cylinder of plastic. One end snaps into the head and the other into the body. When I tried to pull the factory head off the ball seated in the body was the first to give-way. I had to heat the piece in the head socket under running, hot, water to get it out. Once I did that it worked fine, but don’t panic if the same thing happens to yours as it’s meant to come apart. And you may be switching frequently because it’s hard to pick a preferred head. I initially thought I’d be going with the factory head all the way, but that big old smile is just so charming! Maybe Boss Fight should just do a variant in the cartoon color scheme so I can have both on my shelf (hint hint)!

In terms of any shortcomings, there’s very few with this guy. Some might wish for more articulation, but I’m happy with where he’s at as the sculpt is fantastic. There really isn’t a pose I envisioned for him that I can’t replicate. He’s a big brawler and he looks the part. I suppose I would have liked an open right hand so he could do a big scary, monkey, pose with both open hands over his head. If anything though, I’d sacrifice both extra hands that he came with in favor of a toad head accessory of a terrified Storm Toad. It would be a lot of fun to have some screaming toads, but if he came with one such head then I’d be wishing he came with more! Maybe if he sells well enough to warrant that Aniverse variant, Boss Fight could consider such an accessory. They could even ditch the gun if it saves them money since I don’t think he ever used one in the cartoon. It’s probably more likely though that if such a head were made available it would be via an accessory pack or something.

The crew is looking a lot more formidable these days.

There may have been a pretty sizable gap in release between Bruiser and the toads, but that doesn’t appear like it’s going to repeat. Last summer, Boss Fight opened pre-orders for Mimi LaFloo, another character who first surfaced in the cartoon. Her figure was apparently the quickest to ever receive approval from Continuity and she went up pretty fast. At the time pre-orders opened, I had a brief interaction on Twitter with Boss Fight in which they left open the possibility she could see release in 2019. Obviously that didn’t happen, but I’m assuming she’s not too far off if 2019 was ever in play. Probably because of the delay in getting Bruiser out, Boss Fight has not placed a release window, let alone date, on that figure though I’m certainly hoping it makes it out before 2020 ends. Beyond that, Boss Fight did show off a new style of toys for Bucky that are basically mini figures with big heads that come packaged with small vehicles. They have at least made it to the prototype stage, but this is something that could arrive in 2020 though I haven’t seen any additional information on this series.

Just imagine his smile when his little buddy Blinky comes along!

Hopefully, Bruiser is a success for Boss Fight Studio as this would open the door for more Deluxe Bucky O’Hare figures. It’s hard to know just what characters are candidates for this style of release down the road. I think it’s safe to say Toadborg falls into this category and I have to assume he’d be the most likely figure to follow Bruiser at this size and price point. A character I am looking forward to seeing in Al Negator is a harder one to figure. He’s certainly taller than Bucky, but I don’t know that he’s necessarily that much bigger that he requires a release at this price point. He may end up somewhere in between as I suppose there’s no law requiring Boss Fight to release figures at either $35 MSRP or $55 and nothing in between. Regardless of what’s next, I just hope the line continues as my only real criticism with the line so far is that it’s heavy on good guys and very light on bad guys. My toads need someone to boss them around, be it Toadborg or the Air Marshall, especially now that Bucky has a berserker baboon on his side.


Rocko’s Modern Life – Season 3

The third season of Rocko’s Modern Life originally aired from 1995-1996.

My rewatch of Rocko’s Modern Life really could not have gone better. I suppose it would be better if it wasn’t during a pandemic, but what can you do? The show has been a delight, and while I felt Season Two was pretty much on par with the first season, I think an argument can be made that Season Three is the best one so far.

In case you need a refresher, Rocko’s Modern Life is a cartoon created by Joe Murray that managed to amass a team of extremely talented people, many of whom went on to create more wonderful television. Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui) is a wallaby from Australia trying to navigate the 90s. Season Two saw him deal with thorny issues like immigration as well as some health problems. Money is often tight and his job as a clerk at a comic book store hardly feels secure, but somehow he gets by. The show is able to mix in real world problems with insane lunacy. The phrase “insane lunacy” sounds redundant, but for a show like Rocko’s Modern Life the redundancy feels very appropriate.

For an adult, few things are more relatable than car trouble.

For Season Three, the show tackled more real world issues and even managed to strengthen its continuity somewhat. The relationship between Rocko’s best friends, Heffer (Tom Kenny) and Filburt (Doug Lawrence) added a combative element to the mix to differentiate the two. They’re pals through and through, but the two get on each other’s nerves and they frequently fail to see eye to eye with Rocko often getting stuck in the middle. And for Filburt, Season Three was a big one because he gets engaged to longtime girlfriend Dr. Hutchison (Linda Wallem) in “The Big Question” which is immediately followed by “The Big Answer” where the two tie the knot. The Bigheads are still around as well and get their own shorts to shine and the show even tackles its first musical with the eco-friendly “Zanzibar.” That one, interestingly, is immediately followed by the show’s first dialogue-free short “Fatal Contraption.”

Season Three of the show never fails to be funny and the gags are really upped for this third season. The show’s first Halloween episode “Sugar Frosted Frights” has a lot of horror-themed gags and it’s paired with another spooky episode, “Ed is Dead.” One of the show’s funniest episodes is also present in this season in “Fish-N-Chumps.” The boys go fishing, only to find themselves in turn being fished, and all the while Filburt drives Heffer nuts with his enthusiasm for a new watch. Tom Kenny does some excellent ad-libbing with a captain character who features two peg legs, peg arms, and even peg eyes (Family Guy totally ripped him off)! My favorite might be “Fortune Cookie” though, if I have to pick a most funniest episode since it features the incredibly quotable fortune that Filburt receives, “Bad luck and extreme misfortune will infest your pathetic soul for all eternity.” There’s an episode where Bev (Charlie Adler) is accidentally given a new nose which reveals to her that her husband stinks, a crazed tour guide stalks Rocko and Heffer on a trip to France, and there’s even a famous nude scene in “Camera Shy.”

I don’t think there’s a more outrageous scene in the show’s history than this.

Rocko’s Modern Life is rarely short on laughs, but what sets it apart from its peers is the infusion of real world problems. None demonstrate that better than “The Big Answer” in which Filburt and Dr. Hutchison find out that planning a wedding is awful, especially when your guests don’t get along. It’s a great episode because in the end they realize it’s their day, no one else’s, and they do what works for them. “Old, Fogey, Froggie” deals with getting old, and uses Mr. Bighead (Adler) as a way of exploring that subject. It’s a subject few children can relate to, but one I sure can.

We get another look into what gets Bev’s motor running: novelty noses.

Season Three is also the season where the show got metta before that was even something in style. “Wacky Delly” is a two-parter all about making cartoons. For this one, Ralph Bighead (Joe Murray) returns after airing the final episode of his cartoon The Fatheads and is eager to explore other, more respected, avenues for his art. The problem is the network he works for basically owns him and he owes it another cartoon. Rather than make something his heart isn’t into, he cooks up a plan to have Rocko and his friends make the cartoon for him assuming it will be so terrible the network will terminate his contract. Instead, the show is a huge hit forcing Ralph to go to extreme measures to sabotage it. He has a reckoning eventually, realizing his cartoon making is totally legitimate art and can be quite satisfying. It certainly feels almost autobiographical on the part of Joe Murray as Rocko was never his first choice to bring to life and it’s an episode many cite as the show’s best.

If you ever wanted to know how to make a cartoon, “Wacky Delly” has you covered.

It was also quite interesting to see the show branch into activism for its third season. I mentioned it earlier, but “Zanzibar” is not only the show’s first musical, but it’s also very much about environmentalism. The subject came about naturally, according to Murray, and the musical format was settled on to make the message of the episode not feel so preachy. It’s almost painfully relevant today, but at least the songs are quite catchy and pleasant so it hopefully won’t bring you down too much.

A new hero for environmentalists every where: Captain Compost-Heap!

Over the years, Rocko’s Modern Life has become somewhat infamous for its humor aimed at adults. These are the gags that when looked back upon viewers are shocked they even made it into the show. While there was no major act of censorship after the fact with Season Three, there’s still plenty of humor that’s a little blue. There’s an episode titled “Schnit-heads,” which is a surprising title all by itself. It features Heffer getting caught up in a sausage cult. Sadly, the phrase “sausage fest” is never mentioned. “Fortune Cookie” also features a segment that took a long time to get approval from Nickelodeon in which Really Really Big Man’s nipples go berserk. It’s as ludicrous as it sounds. Plus the whole time he’s trying to talk a bird down from a statue who’s threatening to defecate upon it. And the show even features some death in the episode “Bye Bye Birdie” when Heffer kills Filburt’s bird, Turdy, by sitting on it. Rocko and Heffer then try to hide it from Filburt in a Weekend at Bernie’s manner. Possibly the best piece of awkward humor arises in “An Elk for Heffer” in which Heffer is informed he needs to bring an elk home for dinner as part of a growing-up ritual with his family’s wolf pack. Heffer then goes out and finds an elk for a date not realizing the whole intent of the arrangement is to actually hunt and kill an elk and provide dinner for his family.

Heffer thinks he’s found love, but turns out Elky here is actually a racist. Maybe the show should have let the wolves consume her…

As far as physical releases go, the third season is also superior to the previous ones since it contains better bonus material. While I was hoping for actual commentaries on the episodes, there are what the DVD refers to as selected scene commentaries. It’s a misleading label as the feature is really just Joe Murray going over his thoughts and feelings on the third season of the show. He covers a lot of ground in the short run time and it’s definitely worth a watch and is more informative than the character portraits from the Season Two set. Again, it’s not what I was hoping for, but I did enjoy it.

The third season of Rocko’s Modern Life is simply the show at its best. I continue to be charmed and amazed by the quality and it truly is a show that can be enjoyed by all ages. It’s been a real hit in my house where I’ll watch it with my young kids and even watch it with my wife after they go to bed. I don’t know what the fourth season can do to top this one, but I look forward to seeing how it tries.


The Iron Giant (1999)

220px-The_Iron_Giant_posterDirector Brad Bird has become quite a name in the world of film. He is most commonly associated with Pixar where he directed much celebrated films like Ratatouille and both entries in The Incredibles. Prior to that, he was mostly known for his work as an animator and director on The Simpsons. His directorial debut with the long-running franchise was the Season One highlight “Krusty Gets Busted” and he also contributed to the much loved “22 Short Films About Springfield.” It was his work as an animator with Klasky Csupo that got him his gig with both The Simpsons and The Tracey Ullman Show, where The Simpsons originated. And he probably ended up there largely because of  his work with Disney where he was a promising young animator in the 80s seemingly destined for great things with the company.

That did not happen, and perhaps it’s for the better considering all of the quality television and films we received as a result. And while those works are much celebrated, there are still many who feel Brad Bird’s finest contribution to the world of cinema is the 1999 box-office flop The Iron Giant.

brad_bird

The Iron Giant is the film directorial debut for Brad Bird.

The Iron Giant originated in a short story by poet Ted Hughes, who unfortunately passed away before the film was completed. It was a tale that captivated many who encountered it and even attracted the attention of famed musician Pete Townshend who crafted an entire concept album about the character. As a result, the story was ticketed for a musical release much in the style of many animated 90s projects, but when Brad Bird was hired to oversee it things changed. It was Bird who reimagined the story as one about a gun with a soul that decides it doesn’t actually want to be an instrument of death. This was partly the result of Bird’s sister Susan tragically being murdered during the film’s production. Warner Bros. also brought in Tim McCanlies to co-author the screenplay and the musical components were eventually dropped, though Townshend still received an executive producer credit.

The Iron Giant is a traditionally animated film which also features some CG elements, most notably the giant itself. The film is about a young boy named Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) who lives alone with his mother in a small coastal town in the state of Maine during the 1950s. Cold War paranoia is sweeping the country and is the framing device for the film. When a mysterious, 100-foot tall, robot crash lands nearby, it’s Hogarth who first finds him and befriends him. Through Hogarth, this massive robot (Vin Diesel) learns empathy and also receives a primer on life and death. The somewhat lonely Hogarth views the giant like an ultimate toy, but also comes to view the behemoth as a friend as well.

hogarth_and_the_giant

It’s the tale of a boy and his big ass robot.

Now, 100-foot tall robots naturally attract attention. When the giant first arrives on Earth, it inadvertently causes a ship to crash and the captain of that ship alerts the FBI. The government dispatches agent Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) to investigate and he is able to follow a series of clues, as well as some coincidence, to the home of the Hughes. It’s there Kent realizes Hogarth knows something, and he rents a room from Hogarth’s mother (Jennifer Aniston) to keep an eye on the lad while also hoping to earn his trust and in turn uncover the truth about this giant being that’s eating the community’s metal. In turn, Hogarth has to try and keep the secret of the giant hidden and he turns to a local beatnik artist named Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick Jr.) for help since he happens to run the local scrap metal yard.

mansley_hogarth

Mansley is so obsessed with his job that it allows him to be more of a comedic element early on in the film, but he eventually turns quite sinister.

The film contains plenty of elements of comedy and drama as the tale unfolds. Hogarth and the giant have to learn how to communicate with each other since the giant doesn’t understand English initially. There’s also a lot of physical comedy bits between Hogarth and Kent as Hogarth tries to keep his friend hidden and finds creative ways to get Kent off his back. Probably the best piece of comedy occurs when the giant’s hand, having been separated from the robot via a collision with a train, stumbles into Hogarth’s home during dinner in search of the rest of his body. Hogarth is then forced to go to great lengths to keep the mechanical monstrosity from his mother, and eventually Kent, before rejoining it with the rest of the giant.

The latter part of the film loses the comedy in favor of more dramatic story-telling. The central theme of the film is you are what you choose to be, and it’s an important thing for the giant to learn as the robot is equipped with some serious firepower. This is discovered when Hogarth accidentally trips an automated defense mechanism in the robot, and it’s further exacerbated when the army eventually learns about the robot’s existence (because it has to). It’s a rather simple message, but one that easily resonates with an audience which is partly why the film is so beloved. The pairing of a kid with a being not of this world will naturally draw comparisons to E.T. and it’s an apt comparison. The only thing really separating the character of E.T. from the giant is that E.T. largely remains a passivist during his story while the giant most certainly does not.

giant_squat

It’s a real joy to watch the film play with scale. Here, the giant has to literally squat down to fit in the same frame as Hogarth.

What the film chooses to leave out is the giant’s backstory. We don’t know why he’s here, or where he came from. Both are questions viewers are likely to ponder, but in the grand scheme they mean little just as it didn’t matter why E.T. was on Earth. We also don’t know much about Hogarth and how his life was before the events of the film, save for the fact that he appears to be a good student and a latchkey kid with few friends. And like the giant, it doesn’t matter and Bird was wise to ignore these details because it keeps the film at a quite tidy 87 minutes. Perhaps my biggest criticism of The Incredibles and its sequel is that they’re both just too damn long, so it’s nice to watch a Brad Bird feature that’s under 90 minutes.

The film is set in 1950s Maine partly to invoke images of Norman Rockwell. The choice is an excellent one as the town of Rockwell presented here is quite idyllic and cozy. The woodland scenery is especially gorgeous and lush and the human characters have a style to them that is not derivative of past Warner films or Disney. The giant is animated in CG largely because it was an easy way to keep his steel frame natural and consistent. He has a simple design to him and the texture work is kept fairly simple as well which helps to blend the giant with the hand-drawn visuals that surround it. He doesn’t stand out in an unnatural way, at least he doesn’t as much as a 100-foot tall robot can, and the choice to render the being this way appears to be a sound one as a result.

super_giant

The film’s central message is you are what you choose to be. For the giant, that’s Superman.

Michael Kamen is responsible for the film’s score and it’s scope is quite grand and appropriate. When the giant takes to the sky for the first time it’s exuberant and triumphant, and when it needs to be a bit melancholy it strikes the right tone. The film completely discarded its musical origins, save for an in-universe PSA about the duck and cover advice you’ve probably heard about that existed back in the 50s. The voice cast is tremendous and Eli Marienthal as Hogarth is especially deserving of praise given his young age at the time of recording. Aniston and Connick Jr. are perfectly capable in their roles, while McDonald toes the line of obsessive detective and parody rather adeptly in his portrayal of Kent Mansley. Diesel isn’t asked to do much as the giant, similar to his eventual role as Groot for Guardians of the Galaxy, but he does a good job when the scenes later in the film ask more of him. If your eyes don’t well up a bit when you hear him say “Superman” during the film’s climax then you have no soul.

iron_giant_signature

The film finally received a Blu Ray release in 2016 which also included two minutes of new footage. It was dubbed The Signature Edition.

The Iron Giant is a heartwarming tale about an outcast finding its purpose in life all on its own, even if that purpose strays from what others had earmarked it for. It’s also a tale of friendship and empathy, of right and wrong, and one about being mindful and trusting where appropriate. It’s easy to react to a creature such as the giant with fear, but maybe it’s best to give others a chance first and allow them to give one a reason to fear them beyond simply appearance. It’s also a gorgeously animated film and one of the last of its kind as it wasn’t long after the release of The Iron Giant that the majority of animated features switched over entirely to 3D, CG, animated stories. Most acknowledge now that the reason this film failed at the box office was due to Warner Bros. not marketing it well. Even though it seems many agree with that assessment, it didn’t stop studios like Warner from using commercial failures like The Iron Giant as justification for moving away from traditionally animated films. It’s unfortunate as I fear we as a society will soon lose the ability to create such wonders simply because Hollywood isn’t providing a reason for those to learn these skills. If that’s the case, at least we’ll always have wonders like The Iron Giant to look back on.


Rocko’s Modern Life – Season Two

rocko_season2

The second season of Rocko’s Modern Life premiered on September 25, 1994.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my reintroduction to Rocko’s Modern Life via the show’s first season. Rocko’s Modern Life was a favorite of mine as a kid, and if you had asked me to rank the Nicktoons back then it would have gone something like this:  The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rocko’s Modern Life, followed by who cares? Those two cartoons were so far above the others that they didn’t feel worth mentioning. Sure, Rugrats and Doug were fine for what they were, but they weren’t appointment viewing for me. And after a few years, none of them were as I felt I had aged out of them. I was a young, dumb, kid though and upon revisiting such works I’ve come to find that, if anything, I’ve aged into a show like Rocko’s Modern Life.

What separated Rocko’s Modern Life from the other shows was that emphasis on the mundanity of life itself. Rocko was challenged by simple tasks such as laundry, household cleaning, commuting, work, and all of those others things we as adults have to deal with that we really take for granted as children. Rocko’s difficulties encountered with these tasks are obviously exaggerated for comedic effect, but like all good comedy there is still an element of truth to all of it making the show arguably more relatable for an adult than it is a child.

rocko_filbert_wedding

Like Season One, Season Two of Rocko’s Modern Life is surprisingly topical in 2020.

When it came to Season One of the show, I was delighted by the humor aimed at adults. I remembered the Milk-O-Matic gag as a kid in which Heffer, a steer, is masturbated by a mechanical milking machine and knew there was humor in this show that really only older kids and adults would understand. That type of humor is more of a shocking variety of humor, what I had forgotten is the more nuanced approach such as the episode where neighbor Bev Bighead tries to seduce Rocko because her husband doesn’t make her feel attractive. It’s a pretty adult concept to try to base a cartoon intended for children around, and it’s even affecting in turning Mrs. Bighead into a sympathetic figure. And yes, there’s still plenty of physical comedy in that episode and all of them.

As I approached Season Two of the show, I was hoping for more of that style of story-telling:  mature in concept, but accessible for all via the physical comedy. And for the most part, Season Two really delivers. It starts off with a heavy hitter in the two-part “I Have No Son” in which we learn the Bigheads have an estranged son named Ralph (Joe Murray) who long ago disappointed his father by not accepting a job at Conglom-O where Ed worked. A father being so ashamed and disappointed of his son that it causes him to disown him is a pretty heavy subject for the show to tackle because it’s also a very real thing that happens. Ed looks down on Ralph for his wanting to be a cartoonist, but you can substitute that with pretty much anything and the episode would still work. And even though Ralph has found tremendous success with his cartoon The Fatheads (which is clearly inspired by his parents), he still hasn’t earned his father’s approval.

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The story of Ralph Bighead kicks off the second season.

The premiere is a pretty weighty episode to kick things off, but it manages to handle the delicate material with the show’s usual brand of humor. It does struggle a bit to fit it all into one episode and the resolution feels a bit rushed, but it’s still quite the achievement. The rest of the season will balance the absurd wackiness of Rocko’s world with actual real world issues and problems. Bev Bighead has to break the glass ceiling, so to speak, and go to work in one episode and another deals with Rocko having to thwart immigration officials who want him deported for an expired green card. That episode might actually hit too close to home for some given the current climate surrounding immigration in the US. A particularly heartfelt episode is “Tickled Pinky” in which Rocko deals with the fear of surgery when he finds out he needs to have his appendix removed. It turns into a story where Rocko meets a personified version of his appendix, named Pinky, via a dream. Rocko, in a bid to cheer up Pinky since he’s essentially about to die, takes Pinky out to essentially check off a bucket list of experiences for Pinky to enjoy before his time is up. It’s surprisingly sweet and it left me wishing I had thought of this episode when my own little boy had to have his tonsils removed.

Season Two is also not without its dose of more crass humor. The episode “Born to Spawn” basically deals with Filbert’s (Mr. Lawrence) desire to mate, though that part of it isn’t spelled out. It’s pretty funny though with that context in the back of your mind. In “Hut, Sut, Raw” Rocko, Heffer (Tom Kenny), and Filbert go camping and leave the confines of a modern camp ground to rough it in the woods. The DVD is censored to remove a scene where Rocko picks berries off of a bush, only to have a bear scream and run out from behind it implying that Rocko just picked one the bear’s “berries.” The final cartoon, “Eyes Capades,” revisits the old white lie of Rocko’s eyesight going bad due to too much “jacking.” In the context of the episode, the jacking is Rocko practicing for a jackhammer competition that’s basically figure skating on a jackhammer, but it’s obvious the episode is playing off the notion that masturbation in a young boy can cause blindness.

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This is the season that features the Christmas episode basically making this a “must buy” for Christmas nerds like me.

A welcomed trend established by Season Two is that this show, unlike many other cartoons, actually has some semblance of continuity. Past episodes are referenced and new characters like Ralph will show up in later episodes at peace with his parents. The cartoon “Short Story” contains the most references when Really Really Big Man details Rocko’s good deeds and accomplishments for him in a bid to build him up. The episode “Rocko’s Modern Christmas” (which has been featured during The Christmas Spot) is the first episode to really bring the whole cast together when Rocko attempts to throw a party that everyone in town wishes to attend. It’s really satisfying to see the writers opening up the world of O-Town and incorporating a lot of these side characters.

In terms of missteps, there are few. The animation is as good, if not better, than the first season and the performances by the voice actors are all tremendous. Especially considering how much screaming is sometimes required of them. There are three oversized episodes in this season, which are episodes that dedicate both halves to one story and they are:  “I Have No Son, “Rocko’s Modern Christmas,” and “Cruisin’.” Of the three, only “Cruisin'” felt like it didn’t really need the extra time. It’s a bit of a weird episode in which Rocko and Heffer take Heffer’s grandfather on a cruise for old people (or rather, they got stuck on the boat by accident) and the ship enters the Bermuda Triangle making all of the old people young and the two young people old. It gives Grandpa a do-over with an old flame, a relatable and pretty adult plot, but one that struggles to remain interesting.

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Kate Pierson (left) and Fred Schneider (second from left) of the B-52’s were brought in to re-do the theme song. Their version would remain for the rest of the show’s run.

In terms of personnel, much of the folks involved with the first season returned for the second. Stephen Hillenburg was around to oversee everything as showrunner and creator Joe Murray still received several writing credits and remained involved. Doug Lawrence, also known as Mr. Lawrence, stepped back from directing, but still has a few writing credits. Some of the newcomers include directors Alan Smart, Pete Michels, and Howy Parkins. All would make future contributuons at Nickelodeon while Michels would go on to direct several episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy. Voice of Rocko, Carlos Alazraqui, even received a writing credit for “Gutter Balls,” one of two writing credits he’d receive on the show. Considering that episode has four credited writers, I’m assuming he must had ad-libbed something that was considered large enough to warrant a credit. The only major change between seasons is the theme song which was reworked by Pat Irwin and re-recorded by Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider of the B-52’s. It’s still fine, though I miss the swank of the first season’s theme.

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The pilot of the show is contained on this set and is notable for featuring a yellow Rocko.

The DVD release of the first season of Rocko’s Modern Life had the dubious honor of not containing any bonus features. Joe Murray was quite willing to contribute to these releases and for Season Two Nickelodeon at least made some effort to add a little extra, though not much. The original pilot of the show “Trash-O-Madness” is contained here. It’s not much different from the episode that made it to air, but it’s cool to see the original version of the show. There’s also a collection of segments hosted by Murray where he shares the ideas behind the show’s core characters while also demonstrating how they’re drawn. He doesn’t reveal any bombshells or anything, but it’s worth a look. That’s, unfortunately, all that there is for bonus material which means there’s no commentaries and no options to view the episodes uncensored.

Rocko’s Modern Life is a great cartoon series and I’m happy to say the second season is just as good as the first. The show definitely embodies that 90’s spirit of being a bit manic, loud, and certainly gross, but it also includes a surprising amount of heart and relatability as well. In some ways, it’s the perfect children’s cartoon because there’s plenty here to entertain a 7 year old while also keeping mom and dad engaged. And pretty much all are guaranteed to find something to laugh at as well, or be charmed by, or both! I’ve enjoyed it enough that I definitely intend to binge Season Three and report back here on how well I think it compares with the first two seasons, so stay tuned!


Boss Fight Studio Holiday Bucky O’Hare

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Behold! Bucky O’Hare has returned in chocolate form.

It was over two years ago I made a post about the newly released Dead-Eye Duck and Holiday Bucky O’Hare action figures by Boss Fight Studio. That entry was largely just a review for Dead-Eye as I had elected to keep Bucky in box because the packaging was so well done. Now, after staring at the figure for two years confined in plastic I have finally decided to crack it open and give the figure a proper review.

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It should be pointed out that this is not space rabbit blackface.

Boss Fight Studio launched its Bucky O’Hare line of action figures in 2017. These 4″ scale figures are loaded with articulation, come packaged in a resealable blister, and all in all just look terrific. They’re the first Bucky O’Hare action figures since the short-lived Hasbro line from 1991 and it’s a line I fell in love with instantly. The line debuted with Bucky himself as well as First Mate Jenny. Not long after, variants followed and one of those variants is the Holiday Bucky O’Hare. He’s referred to as a holiday version, but the holiday that inspired this release is clearly Easter for that’s the holiday most associated with a rabbit. Bucky has been recast in brown plastic to resemble a chocolate Easter Bunny with some pink and white accents. He comes with all of the same accessories as the other Bucky figures and aside from the new deco the only difference is that blister card. The card was updated to capture this chocolate appearance and Bucky’s pistol was also substituted with a blue basket full of Easter eggs. In short:  it’s cute.

If you are not familiar with this figure, let me give you a quick rundown of what it can do and what’s included. Bucky is articulated at about every place he can be. His head sits on a nice ball-joint and includes rotational ears. His shoulders are ball-jointed and he has swivels at the elbows and hinges. His wrists rotate and since his gloves are so large relative to the rest of the figure there’s no additional articulation there. He also features articulation at the waist, tail, hips, knees, ankles and toes. He’s so small that it’s a bit shocking Boss Fight got this much articulation into him, but what’s even more amazing is that the company was able to do so without really harming the sculpt. Not only does Bucky move well, he can also hide that articulation just as well.

To liven up your posing, Bucky also comes sporting a variety of hands and faceplates as well as a pair of pistols. Admittedly, it’s hard to come up with a lot of expressions for a cartoon rabbit, and if there was one weakness with the figure it’s that his expressions aren’t particularly varied. He comes with a default, serious, expression. His other two feature an open mouth with one having a more pronounced frown. You may not even notice what’s different about the two at first because they’re so similar. Bucky also comes with dueling pistol hands, but he can swap either one out for a fist if he prefers to get up close and personal with some toads. He also has an extra left hand that features an open palm, and an extra right hand with the index finger pointing. His cape is also removable and sits in a little peg on his back.

When I reviewed that first Bucky figure I was more or less blown away, and I still am. There were some things that weren’t perfect, some of which have been corrected with this figure. That first wave of figures was very tight out of the box, but Holiday Bucky was quite easy to pose and loosen up. The hands swap on and off just fine and the cape snaps in place with ease, which is a welcomed improvement. The only drawback that still remains concerns the faceplates. The default one sits on the figure quite nicely and it comes off with a necessary amount of effort to prevent accidental removal. Putting it back in place is also relatively painless as it sits on a large peg and snaps in place in a very satisfying manner. The other two faces are a chore to get on. I could not get either one to sit in place snugly out of the package. Only after heating one with water was I able to get it to sit in place. Even after doing so, it doesn’t appear to sit quite as flush on the top seem as the default head, but it’s not really something that would be noticed by many with the figure sitting on a shelf.

What really motivated me to remove Bucky from his plastic prison was a trip to CVS. I was there for a different need, but did come across the seasonal aisle full of discounted Easter merch. I grabbed a small, yellow, Easter basket and some Easter grass and decided this would be the optimal way to display my Easter Bucky. I filled the basket with some grass, tossed Bucky in, and even added a few Easter eggs I had laying around. The end result is a fun and tad quirky display that actually kind of works in my house as my Bucky toys share shelf space with some Christmas toys 11 months out of the year. I love gimmicky figure variants and it’s why I grabbed this one from the beginning and I’m enjoying having him in all of his festive glory with my other Bucky figures from Boss Fight Studio.

If you wish to secure your own, Boss Fight Studio is still selling this figure, but it’s nearly sold out. It originally retailed for a tick higher than the standard Bucky figures because it was produced in limited quantities, but has been reduced to the standard $34.99 MSRP. He’s totally worth it if you like silly figure variants. Hopefully, I’ll have a review of Bruiser in the not too distant future so keep this page bookmarked if you like Bucky O’Hare!


Danzig Sings Elvis

danigelvisWhen it came time to make my 666th post on The Nostalgia Spot, I could not think of a more fitting subject than something Danzig related. I even delayed this post by a few days to make it work, but this is an occasion you only get to mark once so pardon my lateness.

Every time a new Danzig record comes around for the past ten years I’ve wondered if more will follow. The music industry has changed and it’s not as lucrative as it once was for many artists. Combine that with Glenn Danzig’s advancing age and there’s a natural curiosity about when he’ll call it quits. I don’t think career musicians necessarily ever stop, but I could definitely see a day come when Danzig no longer felt the need to deal with the usual hassle it is to record, master, and distribute a new collection of songs. And I think some of that wariness has already settled in since Danzig has just released its second covers record in five years.

Danzig Sings Elvis follows in the footsteps of 2015’s Skeletons only this time the focus is placed entirely on the works of Elvis Presley. Elvis is probably one of the most covered artists in history, so it’s fair to wonder if the world needs more Elvis covers, let alone an entire album of them by one artist. True to himself though, Glenn Danzig is making another album for Glenn Danzig. He has done what he wants when he wants. I’m sure there have been moments over the years where he has had to compromise here and there, but for the most part Danzig has always created the art he wants to create. That’s true of the music and also true of the comics and now films he’s done.

When Danzig released Skeletons in 2015, it included a cover of “Let Yourself Go,” a song made famous by Elvis. During the press for the record, Danzig mentioned he had recorded a number of Elvis tracks and decided they would be best served as a stand-alone release. It was originally floated as an EP, but over the years has grown to comprise 14 tracks. Now it’s common knowledge that Elvis wrote very little of the songs he’s famous for, so it should be noted this is a collection of covers done in the style of Elvis Presley and it’s his version that is influencing Danzig here. And like Skeletons, a lot of the songs here are lesser celebrated works. If you were expecting Danzig to cover “Jailhouse Rock” or “Burning Love” then you might be disappointed, though if you’re a Danzig fan you shouldn’t be surprised.

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Danzig has made his affection for Elvis known for awhile especially in how he setup the Legacy TV Taping to resemble the Elvis comeback special.

Covers records are in general a tough thing to review and critique. So much of one’s enjoyment of a cover is dependent upon familiarity and expectation. If you love and are familiar with a popular version of a song and are presented with another take, you probably won’t like it as much as the version you already adore and may not even have a use for it. There are always exceptions, but they are few. And if you aren’t familiar with the source material, you still may not like the cover if it’s from an artist you like as chances are it’s different from what you’re used to. And then there are also the fanatics that are going to like a performance just because it’s from a familiar source. That’s not something unique to any fanbase as I encounter a great deal of Danzig fans that adore anything Danzig puts out. Just like there are a bunch of Metallica fans that insist their covers of Misfits songs are better than the originals.

Artists seem to turn to covers when they’re getting on in years. It even dawned on me as I was writing this that Glenn Danzig is around the same age Johnny Cash was when he started doing his covers albums with Rick Rubin which included the Glenn Danzig song “Thirteen.” The dedicated covers record where an artist covers just one other artist feels like a rarity. They can come with mixed emotions too as it can feel like one artist making money largely off of the work of another, even though that’s all factored into how royalties are paid out. One of the more distasteful examples was the Jorne Lande record that was entirely covers of Dio songs, which felt like it had been held back and primed for release to coincide with the singer’s death. It was something even Ronnie James Dio’s widow Wendy refused to comment on, though it was obvious she wasn’t pleased. With a record devoted strictly to Elvis songs, there’s no such baggage. It’s one artist basically covering a covers specialist, but it is still a bit of a hard sell. It’s obvious that Glenn Danzig likes Elvis and wanted to record his own versions of the songs he either likes best or just feels he has something to add to. It’s a bit of a financial gamble as Danzig is betting on his fanbase also liking Elvis to some degree. And while my own grandfather once said “Everyone likes Elvis,” when my grandmother asked if I didn’t mind them putting on one of his records, I think it’s likely the vast majority of Danzig fans are casual Elvis fans at best and likely are unfamiliar with the deep cuts presented here.

None of those concerns likely matter to Glenn Danzig though as we’ve firmly established this isn’t necessarily a record for Danzig fans. And what should be concerning to fans or anyone that listens to this record is simply the question of “Is it any good?” Skeletons is definitely one of the lesser Danzig albums, and since it is a covers record it was always going to be. The album suffers from a lack of spark as many of the covers were pretty straight forward, which was a bit unexpected. When Danzig released The Lost Tracks of Danzig in 2007, the artist had this to say in the liner notes when talking about the T Rex cover included on that set:

[…]my feeling on covers is unless you are bringing a new dimension to it, why bother? The original will always be better.

Worse than the feeling of redundancy was the uneven production on Skeletons in which some songs just sounded terrible. There were a handful of gems, for sure, but my enthusiasm towards that record (or lack thereof) certainly resulted in low expectations for Danzig Sings Elvis. In some respect, I suppose I should have had more reason to be optimistic since Elvis possessed a vocal style appropriate for Danzig to imitate. Danzig has already covered “Trouble” multiple times and the band’s take on “Let Yourself Go” was one of the better tracks from Skeletons.

I should state upfront that I am not a fan of Elvis. I do mostly agree with my grandfather’s sentiment and confess there are a number of Elvis tracks I’m fine with, though I can’t say any of them feel ripe for a Danzig cover. Of the many Elvis songs I have heard over the years, I think the only one Danzig picked that I would have selected too is “One Night.” The only other song I can think of that I would have liked to hear Danzig attempt is perhaps “Suspicious Minds” as it’s stylistically similar to “You and Me (Less Than Zero),” which already is basically a cover of “To Sir With Love.” As such, if I weren’t such a dedicated Danzig fan there’s no way I would have ever bought this record, let alone the multiple versions I indeed ended up purchasing.

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Drummer Joey Castillo returned to record drums on “Fever.”

The song selection here definitely trends towards Elvis’ softer side and not his rock n’ roll energy. In a vacuum, this is a style that suits Danzig as evidenced by songs like “Sistinas” and “Blood and Tears.” My concern when I saw this list though was that it might be too much. Danzig isn’t the most convincing vocalist when he tries to portray vulnerability. It works in small doses when the rest of the songs surrounded those moments contain his usual dose of dominance. For the band to essentially reverse that mix feels like a hard sell. I suppose it’s true to an Elvis release in which it sounds more like a collection of singles as opposed to a cohesive album, but that’s also not a format Danzig is known for. The one silver lining was the thought that maybe these quieter and simple tunes would help hide any production missteps. Skeletons didn’t sound great, but at least the questionable production on that one seemed to matter least on the closing ballad “Crying in the Rain.” That was as optimistic as I would allow myself to get though, since banking on just an overall improvement in the production values was a fool’s errand since that’s something that’s plagued Danzig releases for over a decade at this point.

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The inspiration for the album cover art.

Before we dig into the music presented on this album, we should probably talk about the technical bits. The album cover with Glenn Danzig and the repeating “Elvis” (in case you were confused what artist he was covering) are a clear homage to the Elvis single for “Witchcraft.” Change the text and swap out The King for Danzig and there you have it. The personnel for the record is obviously Glenn Danzig on vocals, but he also plays drums on most of the tracks and guitar and bass where needed. Guitarist Tommy Victor is on-hand for some of the leads and returning Danzig drummer Joey Castillo played on “Fever.”

Ever since Glenn Danzig hooked up with label Cleopatra Records his material has been pretty easy to get ahold of. Considering the state of the world at release, you can’t walk into a store and buy this thing, but you have multiple options online. One can order directly from Cleopatra or via the Danzig storefront on eBay which also sells signed copies from time to time. Cleopatra also has a presence on bandcamp.com and you can order there as well. All bandcamp orders also feature a digital download so you get instant access. The album is also available on Amazon and probably several other online record stores. Two formats of the album are available:  CD and vinyl. If you’re ordering vinyl, you also get your pick of color between black, green, or pink with a special leopard print recently going up for pre-order. The artwork is the same on both. The vinyl is a gatefold release with some liner notes form Danzig on the inside. He talks about his love of Elvis and gives some thoughts on why he chose the specific songs here which is a nice touch. The CD is a cardboard sleeve with an inner sleeve to protect the actual disc. It too is a gatefold shape though so it basically looks like a mini version of the LP. If speed is important, and if you want the artist to get as much of the profits as possible, ordering directly from Cleopatra is probably best, though the album generally costs the same no matter where it’s ordered from. Cleopatra also ships media mail so nothing is particularly quick. I ordered both a vinyl (pink) and CD copy, one from bandcamp and one from Amazon. The CD from Amazon took the longest to arrive, while the vinyl came from Cleopatra directly. It was packaged fairly well, but one corner still got dinged. It’s the risk you take when ordering vinyl through the mail though.

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Interior of CD release with big brother behind it.

Leading up to the release, Danzig released a pair of singles digitally. First was “Always On My Mind” which was over four years ago and wasn’t technically a single release. Glenn Danzig just played it on the radio and posted it to YouTube (since deleted, likely because Cleopatra uploaded it as well). The second, “One Night,” was in the last month or so. “Always on My Mind” is a perfectly suitable cover of a much covered song. The production isn’t great, but it also doesn’t need to be and surprisingly it’s one of the tracks I like most on the finished record. “One Night” is a song I would have liked to hear Danzig perform 30 years ago. Unfortunately, it might be the worst song on the album. I guess if you like the single then that’s good news to you. The song makes liberal use of slapback echo on the vocals, which is totally fine for covering Elvis, but here it’s way overdone. The tempo of the vocals further distorts it, and the end result is more annoying than pleasant. Danzig’s vocals are also wooden and bored. I’m not sure what he was going for. The instrumentation backing it, a weakness of the record in general, is even more bland than the vocals. “One Night,” and a lot of Elvis ballads, are heavily dependent on the vocal track so when it doesn’t land there usually isn’t much left to pick up the slack.

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Before this COVID stuff cancelled basically all gatherings, Danzig was scheduled to perform a few dedicated Elvis shows. He best do them right and show up in proper Elvis attire.

That single left my expectations all but cratered for the final release, but upon receiving it I was at least relieved to find it isn’t as bad as expected. I wouldn’t call Danzig Sings Elvis a great record, but it’s not a train-wreck. Most of these songs are slow, quiet, ballads so the album is an easy listening experience that totals roughly 39 minutes. The only real up-tempo numbers are “Baby Let’s Play House” and “When It Rains It Really Pours.” “Baby Let’s Play House” might be the only song that sounds obviously “Elvis” to those fans who are not familiar with The King. Danzig really goes for that rock-a-billy sound as he did many years ago on “American Nightmare.” It straddles the line between authentic and parody, and while it breaks up some of the monotony of the record, I’m left feeling glad Danzig didn’t go for more songs that sound like this. “When It Rains It Really Pours” has Glenn singing through a scowl. It’s interesting, but over in a blip as the song doesn’t even hit the 2 minute mark.

The slower tracks probably suit Danzig’s vocals more in this day and age. Most are fine, and while I feared it might be too much hearing Danzig go for so much melancholy I’ll say my fears there went unrealized. It’s interesting to hear Danzig croon and even go for the occasional falsetto like he does on “Pocket Full of Rainbows.” The only one that approached “One Night” in terms of dubiousness is probably “Love Me” where the vocals don’t complement the song much at all. The production is inconsistent from song to song, but with the quiet stuff it doesn’t matter as much. The guitar is often “just there,” and I don’t even notice much bass at all, save for “Fever” and “Baby Lets Play House.” Pretty much all of the guitar work is electric too, in case you were expecting more acoustic stuff on an Elvis covers record. Danzig did not bring in backing vocalists, which is probably for the better. There’s some parts where he recorded his own backing vocals, such as “Loving Arms,” and they’re kept fairly low in the mix. Basically, nothing stands up to challenge Danzig’s voice on any track.

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If you want this record, at least you have options. And if it’s anything like other recent Danzig releases, you can expect a picture disc and maybe a swirled vinyl to follow.

The prevailing thought I keep coming back to when I listen to this record is, “does this need to exist?” And the answer should be an obvious “No.” That’s not a slam against it, it’s just the reality of any Elvis cover. Though it is disappointing that Danzig really didn’t find any place to add his own spin to any of these tracks, unless you count mediocre instrumentals as spin. The press release I saw from the label hyped up “Fever” as featuring some Danzig touch to it, but it’s just a straight cover. It’s not nearly as interesting as the many covers of that song that exist, and it’s a song I’ve never liked anyways so I don’t fault Danzig for not being able to make me like it any more. Perhaps more than any Danzig record before it, this is a record for Glenn Danzig. He’s covering one of his idols and I suspect he’s pretty happy with how it turned out so good for him. And I mean that sincerely. As a testament to that notion, 12 of the album’s 14 tracks are streaming for free right now on YouTube so anyone can go check it out. For myself as a Danzig fan, I’m not sure if there’s anything on this record I’ll feel compelled to return to. With Skeletons, there’s at least a track or two I might toss onto a hypothetical Danzig playlist (I say hypothetical because I’m an album man – fuck playlists), and I don’t know if I can say the same for any song on this record. The slow tempo and almost mournful performance on some tracks makes it an okay rainy day listen. Diehard Elvis fans will probably be more dismissive than I, while diehard Danzig fans will probably think it’s okay, which I guess makes it like every other covers record to come before it.

 

Top Tracks

  • Lonely Blue Boy
  • Pocket Full of Rainbows
  • Always On My Mind

NECA Mirage Shredder and Foot Clan NYCC Exclusive Set

img_1522The Shredder had a rough go at things for awhile when it came to plastic. He was featured rather prominently in the old Playmates line, though perhaps not as prominently as one would expect. Playmates never did do a movie version of him, aside from Super Shredder, and his figure was arguably the worst from the inaugural line. All crouched over and such, he was a nightmare to stand and there was little that was intimidating about him. When the Turtles started making a comeback with the collector community, he received further humiliation. NECA released its Mirage Comics TMNT in 2008 and showed off the sculpt for a potential Shredder. That line either didn’t sell well or Playmates interfered because that Shredder was cancelled before release ending the Mirage inspired line of TMNT product. Playmates would go on to do its own retro line dubbed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics. They released the Turtles followed by Bebop and Rocksteady. Results were mixed, but at least it was new product. Playmates shocked the toy world when it unveiled a prototype for Shredder and Krang that looked pretty damn amazing. Had it been released it probably would be the best action figure Playmates ever put out. Sadly, it was not to be and that line was also cancelled. When Playmates did a Mirage inspired line of its own, it too overlooked Shredder. Bandai and SH Figuarts were the most recent to disappoint TMNT collectors. After releasing a wonderful set of turtles inspired by the old cartoon, a Shredder was unveiled. The figure didn’t look as good as the Turtles, but it would have still likely been the best Shredder released up until that point had it been released. As you could have guessed based on where this paragraph had started, it too was cancelled before release.

At least with that most recent disappointment, NECA was there to lift us up! Shortly after that Shredder was unveiled, NECA revealed its own Shredder sculpt based on the classic cartoon that was superior to the Bandai one and bundled him in a massive set containing all four turtles, Krang, and a pair of Foot Soldiers for good measure. It was a set made exclusively for San Diego Comic Con, but all of those figures have since been released to retail. Before that set came along though, there was the 2016 set from New York Comic Con. This one rectified that first disappointing cancellation as it contained NECA’s Mirage inspired Shredder, and to top it off, he was now joined by three of his minions. Better late than never, fans were happy to finally pair those figures from 2008 with some enemies almost a decade later. It was actually the second Shredder released by NECA, as earlier that year the arcade box sets were released with figures designed to resemble how they looked in the classic arcade game from 1989. It’s a set that has proven to be quite profitable for NECA ever since.

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Assemble the Foot!

Shredder and his gang of Foot Ninja come packaged in an extremely attractive window box. It’s adorned all around with images from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 where Shredder and the Foot debuted alongside their nemesis. On the back is a photo of the figures with a few extra and Shredder has word bubbles commanding them to attack which are directly lifted from the source material. Flip up the front flap and you’re treated to more images from the comics as well as a look at the figures themselves. Behind them is a nicely done street scene which also makes for a solid photo backdrop!

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I guess Donnie is the only one unhappy these guys got let out of their box.

I’ve had this set since it was released, but never opened it until now. When I saw it was being released, I bought it out of a sense of obligation. It was much easier to secure a NECA exclusive back then as I just saw it was available and went ahead and placed my order. My attention though was on the cartoon property and the figures coming out in support of that and when this set arrived I just wasn’t feeling it for some reason. Rather than make room on my Mirage shelf (which is admittedly small), I decided to just position the box behind my set of turtles and leave it at that. It’s an unusual move for me as I am not a mint-in-box collector, and even if I was, the design of this box makes it easy to remove the figures without damaging anything. These guys are designed to be played around with, and finally I was smart enough to do just that.

By now, these Shredder and Foot figures should look and feel rather familiar. Much of the parts utilized here have been recycled from (or will be recycled for) the other Foot and Shredder releases from NECA, excepting the movie line which is its own animal. Shredder is virtually identical to the video game figure, and he also shares arms, hips, and legs with the cartoon one as well. The Foot also share the same parts as their video game counterpart, and the legs, arms, and waist are shared with Shredder as well. The only thing sculpt-wise separating Shredder from his minions is his head and torso. I don’t point this out as criticism or anything, because the main base for these four figures is quite good. They feature ball-jointed heads, shoulders, and leg sockets with double-jointed knees and elbows. There are swivels at the bicep, thighs, and shins and the waist rotates as well. The hands have rotational articulation as well as a hinge joint in each. The feet can pivot at the ankle and rock side-to-side as well. And there’s also articulation at the toe. These guys are rather loaded and capable of quite a few dynamic poses. About the only thing missing is an ab crunch, but that would have taken away from the sculpt. The joints are all nice and tight and should be worked a bit out of the package. The only joints that felt dangerously tight were the shoulders, but I was able to work them loose without the need for hot water or direct heat.

The two Foot Soldiers in this set are basically the same figure. The only thing separating the two is the headband on one, which is actually a bit of an artistic touch as none of the Foot sported this movie-styled headband in the first issue. I’m not super familiar with the colorized version of the old books, so it’s quite a bit of fun for me to see these guys in color. Like the Turtles, there’s a lot of black linework to really bring out that comic feel. NECA could have taken it further with some of that dot work that was on the Turtles and present in the book, but perhaps that would have looked a touch too messy. I really like the soft gray color of the mask and pants as it really gives this version of the iconic Foot Soldier his own flavor. The burnt red tunic is complemented by soft plastic on the skirt portion so the figures have a great range of motion. All of the figures in this set come packaged with fists for hands, but also have a second set of gripping hands. And since they have so many fun accessories, you’re likely to pull those fists off pretty quickly to get those gripping hands in. A nice, firm, tug will lift them out easily enough and the other hands insert without much fuss.

The Foot Elite is a surprising addition to the set as he wasn’t featured in the first issue. These guys came later as they basically took over for Shredder after the Turtles kill him in the first issue (sorry….spoilers!). He’s the same figure as the standard Foot save for his head and cape. The head features a large straw hat that’s non-removable. Beneath that is a flowing piece of red fabric and a metal faceguard concealing an all black face beneath. The faceguard is different from Shredder’s as it has a more pronounced edge down the center and it looks really cool. The red fabric surrounding the head is a hard plastic, but he still has a pretty good range of motion at the head. The cape is made of a soft, rubbery, plastic and has a tattered appearance. The right edge is folded back a little to make the figure look a touch more dramatic than if it just hung there. I love the line detail on the hat and the distress effects on the cape are a nice tough. This guy also has some forearm guards with a square design on them that continues onto his hands. It just makes him a bit more special to look at than the generic Foot. He’s definitely one bad ass looking dude.

And that brings us to Shredder, the figure most probably desired more than any other in this set. Shredder does not disappoint as he looks like he was yanked from the pages of Mirage Comics. The Mirage Shredder is a bit unique when compared with other forms of the character as he featured a more bucket-like helmet. The faceguard has a rounded appearance to it and it covers far more of his face than it did in the cartoon, for example. The rest of the helmet is more or less the same though and it looks great. There’s some nice linework on it and the other metallic portions of Shredder’s costume to give it that comic appearance. I also like that the raised portion of the top of the helmet is a separate piece and those tines that wrap around it like a claw even come off the back of it which looks really cool. Shredder also has a little extra material on his tunic that hangs in the front and back and it too is done with a soft plastic so as not to hinder movement. The shoulder pads and spikes are actually quite firm with the forearm, shin, and hand ones noticeably softer. NECA decided to color Shredder’s face entirely black and go with white eyes. The actual comic switches between this look and a more natural one with pupils in the eyes so this was NECA basically choosing what it felt looked best and I won’t argue with the results.

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It’s time for a rumble!

There’s very little to nitpick when it comes to this set of figures. Most of the nitpicks I do have unfortunately rest with Shredder. The fisted hands he comes packaged with pretty much all got warped in the package from what I’ve seen making his blades look sad and pathetic. Thankfully, the alternate gripping hands came out fine and look great on the figure, I just wish NECA had packaged him handless so it could have protected both sets of hands as well as it did the gripping hands. It’s possible some heat could get them back into shape, but I haven’t tried. My Shredder’s left shin guard is also a bit funky. It doesn’t appear to be seated all the way in the peg hole, though since it’s glued in there it doesn’t wobble or anything. It’s mostly only noticeable from the side or rear. The hands on all of the figures are also a touch too stiff and inserting any weapon that can’t be slid in (like the knife with the spiked hilt) is tough. I think I nearly broke the thumb off of one figure trying to get that thing in there. Otherwise though, I really have no further complaints with the sculpt and general look of these guys. NECA did a great job bringing these comic characters to life, so much so that it’s a shame they haven’t really touched the Mirage stuff since.

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Check out all of that loot!

If you weren’t sold on the figures themselves, then maybe you will be once you get a load of these accessories. This quartet comes with a bunch of weapons and they’re all pretty damn awesome. Initially, I was a little disappointed there wasn’t one of those three-handled-nunchaku included (as depicted in the comic art on the box), but when I saw what we had I quickly forgot about it. In this box you get two katana, a dagger, a curved dagger with spiked-ball hilt, a ninja star, a large ninja glaive weapon, a large bladed weapon similar to the old Playmates one that fit on the back of Raphael’s shell, and the coolest of all, a mace and some other nasty looking bladed thing joined by a chain. That chained weapon is a thing to behold and I absolutely love it. All of these weapons were utilized by the Foot in the comic so it’s all authentic. The only challenge is choosing what to display and what not to. I do wish NECA was better at giving its TMNT figures a means of storing weapons on their person so I could get them all in, but this is a pretty good problem to have. And to top things off, there’s an Utrom included as well. For those unfamiliar with the comic, the Utrom is an alien race that was the inspiration for Krang in the animated series. They were also faithfully depicted in the 2003 series and the Kraang from the 2012 cartoon are essentially Utrom. He’s an ugly little dude and NECA even slipped in some articulation on two of his tentacles.

If you have a set of the Mirage turtles, then this set is basically a must have as well. The only true negative is scarcity. Though in fairness, this set is not nearly as pricey on the secondary market as some of NECA’s other TMNT product. I guess the company was right when it said the Mirage stuff just isn’t nearly as popular as the rest. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, but expect to pay around $150 if this is something you desire which really isn’t all that bad for something that’s been out of print for four years. NECA is returning to the world of Mirage for the Loot Crate due out in a couple of months that features a new take on Shredder. Perhaps if people keep letting the company know it wants more Mirage stuff it will eventually happen, but for now this is all we have. What we have though is pretty sweet and these figures look dynamite alongside the Turtles. It may have taken longer than expected, but we have our Mirage Shredder and he was improbably worth the wait.

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Now they take their rightful place on my Mirage shelf, right below the Glenn Danzig album.


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