Category Archives: Comics

X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series

A few years ago, I talked about my love of X-Men, the animated series, via a book review of Previously…on X-Men by Eric Lewald. That book chronicled the development of the 92 animated series that helped propel the Fox Kids Network to the top of the Saturday morning leaderboards through notes from the author and extensive interviews with the folks that helped bring that series to life. Now, Lewald is back with his wife Julia with a complementary piece all about the artists and artwork that went into creating that series, X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series.

There are probably a few individuals out there who first wrinkled their nose at the thought of an art book based on the animated series starring the X-Men. That’s because the show was somewhat famously underserved by Saban Entertainment who had little interest in sinking much money into the art and animation that went into the show. It’s not that the show was abysmal to look at, it’s more that it was always going to be compared with Batman: The Animated Series. Both shows launched in 92 on Fox, though X-Men only in a sneak preview with the proper launch coming in January of 1993. Batman was on weekday afternoons, while X-Men was allowed to reign over Saturday morning. The other big difference though was Batman had the might of Warner Bros behind it which produced the series and just licensed it out to Fox. X-Men had the backing of Marvel, which wasn’t what it is today. Marvel was a bit touch and go for many years even when it was starting to take over the news stand with a lot of help from the mutants who starred in this series. Rather than self-finance though, Marvel licensed it out to Saban who partnered with Graz Entertainment. The budget was never going to be the same, nor was the confidence. X-Men was unproven outside of the comic book world, and thus received just a one season order initially, followed by a second, before eventually the big order came in.

X-Men on the front, bad guys on the rear. What does it say about me that I think I prefer this to the cover?

Despite all of that, and a legend who had no idea how the property should be presented (::cough:: Stan ::cough::), the show was a smashing success. It’s interesting to look back on because I think many consider Batman to be the superior show. And yet, X-Men was the ratings champ and my favorite of the two. And when it came to my friends, most liked Batman, all loved X-Men. I don’t know why that is, though I have some theories. Batman was a known property and the show reflected the Tim Burton films. Whenever something goes from the big screen to the small one (especially in the 90s), there’s a feeling that the TV version is inferior. The X-Men may have lacked the recognition of Batman, but it also lacked any sort of baggage. Batman was also quite great at being a moody, superhero, show with a lot of style. It was also mostly rooted in that, where as X-Men was an ensemble with more characters to lean on. Batman was almost devoid of personality as a character by choice, while basically every member of the X-Men (well, maybe not Cyclops) was rather colorful able to display a wide range of emotion and even drop a one-liner or two. Or maybe it was just the prestige of being on Saturday morning? Either way, it was a good time to be alive.

It’s an art book, so expect a lot of artwork!

Both shows were part of a gradual maturation taking place in children’s cartoons. We basically had left the wacky and cheap 80s in favor of something that actually had respect for its audience. Shows like The Pirates of Dark Water and my beloved Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars were quite different in tone from the likes of Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Most of those shows still featured a character that could be turned to for comedic relief, and even Batman has the Joker. X-Men didn’t really feature that though. Morph could have been that character, but he was killed off rather quickly. It’s a drama starring people in bright spandex that captivated me as a kid. The serialized nature and some of the nuance of the show asked something of me, and I was willing to rise to the program as a mere 7 year-old. It’s no surprise to me that when I look back on my youth, X-Men is there and always will be as it was far and away my favorite program.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the book is getting to read the descriptions that go along with each storyboard panel.

And despite what you may think, a lot of really talented and devoted artists contributed to this show. Knock the animation all you want, but I’ve always been rather insistent that the show looks pretty great in stills. Sure, pick through it and you’ll find some weird stuff or miss-colored limbs and costumes, that’s true of a lot of shows from that era. Where this book is able to shine is with the stuff not broadcast. All of the developmental art that went into the show; costume ideas, height charts, storyboards, are quite rewarding to look at. When Lewald and his team were handed this property, there were decades of material to cherry-pick for the show and a lot of ideas were cast aside. There’s also plenty of production art, like cels and such, that are quite interesting to look at. Especially some of the backgrounds, like the lair of Mr. Sinister, which featured several layers of artwork to make it right.

And it’s not just art! The books is broken out into six chapters, plus an intro and an afterword, with each containing a detailed breakdown of what went into each section. Some of this stuff is lifted from the prior book, so it will be a bit familiar for those who read it, and some of the details are new. Since this book is focused on the art of the series, you’ll hear additional nuggets about what went into a character’s look or a particular background. There’s a lot of ink spent on the various cameos that occurred throughout the series and some of the other details may surprise and amaze. One such nugget came from Director and Storyboard Artist/Supervisor Larry Houston who pointed out how difficult it was to animate a character like Mr. Sinister. His irregular cape basically forced Houston to storyboard the character with as little motion as possible. Basically, the camera was either directly in front or behind him and he was basically never allowed to rotate. It’s fun to go back and watch the series with such information in hand and it gives some newfound appreciation for all of the work Larry and his team had to do before sending an episode off to Korea for animation.

When the X-Men ruled the world!

There’s a lot to unpack in this book and I don’t want to reveal too much since a lot of the enjoyment I had was uncovering things I either didn’t know or really paid little attention to. There’s also some nice additions to this one like a collection of all of the episode logs and a picture to go along with it. Some time is spent on looking back at the X-Men craze, like the Pizza Hut promotion and the action figure line from ToyBiz, which might make you wish for a third book that covers all of that tie-in merch. The book itself is also quite lovely. It’s hardbound with new cover art from Houston, I think. There’s no explicit “Cover” credit, just a case credit to Houston with ink by Rick Hoberg and colors by Laura Martin. It’s a bit confusing as the inside of the front and back cover are storyboards which were definitely done by Houston, so the credit may be referring to that. Regardless, the cover, featuring the main team including Morph and Bishop, and the rear cover featuring the villains of the series look great. Pages are nice and thick and the whole thing totals 288 pages. Since it’s mostly artwork, it’s not a tremendously long read, but it’s hardly brief. I mostly read it while sipping a morning or afternoon coffee (first starting my read, appropriately enough, on a Saturday morning) over the course of a week. It was a wonderful, leisurely, trip back to the 90s and my youth that not only left me wanting more, but also with a desire to go back and revisit the show once again.

One of my favorite inclusions in the book is the visual episode guide with accompanying logs, a tremendous resource to have on-hand.

X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series is a great companion to Previously…on X-Men. It’s a book intended to satiate fans of the show, but would also probably entertain casual fans as well. I had a great time engaging with the art from the property, and while I already had a pretty terrific appreciation of the art that went into the show, I think those who might not have that same level of appreciation will likely leave with a bit more. Eric and Julia Lewald do a great job of recounting their time with the show and the various artists and executives they speak with bring a lot to the table. It’s my assumption that anyone with a love for this old show will be delighted by this book and it’s something I plan to flip through again.


Marvel Legends Deadpool 2 Two-Pack

Look through my various toy reviews and you’ll probably notice that I’m not much of a Marvel guy. That wasn’t always the case for me though as I was huge into Marvel Legends once upon a time. I basically stopped around the time Hasbro was awarded the Marvel license. I felt there was a dip in quality and also the character assortment stopped appealing to me. I knew what I wanted from the line and had wanted for years, but it seemed the line refused to give me what I wanted. I moved on, and it wasn’t long after the line was actually suspended for quite a few years before it made a comeback. I’ve never gone back though and that’s largely just due to my fading interest in the Marvel Universe.

Pardon the stock boxed photo, I was so eager to check this set out I forgot to snap a pic.

One figure I did review though was the Marvel Legends Deadpool. That figure was from the sixth series released by Toy Biz. I reviewed it simply because it’s the only Marvel Legends figure on display in my house. All of the rest are in bins crammed in an attic and most of the choicest figures have been sold. I liked that Deadpool a lot though when it came out so I did a little post on it. Well, when I was walking through an aisle at my local Target I happened upon one of the latest two-packs released by Hasbro in the Marvel Legends line. And that two-pack is the Deadpool and Negasonic Teenage Warhead set from the film Deadpool 2. It’s an eye-catching window box as it’s done up in red with Deadpool “effects” added to it like marker crossing out the figure’s real names and a faux Deadpool sticker placed over the X-Men logo. Since I still have a Deadpool on display in my house, I was really intrigued in having an updated version of the character to go with it. It turned into an impulse buy, so here we are.

She looks the part.

First off, let’s talk about the other figure in this set: Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who will now be referred to simply as NTW. I have little to no interest in this figure, but if I wanted a new Deadpool I had to get her. She is depicted in her Deadpool 2 costume complete with the mohawk hairstyle. She stands a tick under five and half inches to the top of her forehead, and is a bit taller when you factor in the hair. She looks the part and the face is a good likeness for actress Brianna Hildebrand. The sculpt features some nice texture work on the yellow portion of the chest as well as the sleeves and shoulders. Strangely, the pants feature no such touches and are basically just plain, black, plastic with some yellow painted on at the thighs. It would be okay if this were a figure based on a comic, but not a film. The only other aspect of the sculpt I’m not high on is how her head sits on her neck. The cut just looks odd from the side as there’s quite a gap between the back of her head and neck. I suppose the counter here is how many people are going to pose her on a shelf at a side angle? Probably few.

I don’t like that gap on the back of her neck.

NTW does come packed with quite a bit of functional articulation. Her head may look odd on her neck, but it can roll around effortlessly and she has a solid range of motion when looking up and down. The shoulders are ball-jointed and she has a bicep swivel and double-jointed elbows allowing her to bend about 90 degrees. It looks like the bottom joint should allow for movement past 90, but my figure doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. She has hinges and swivels at the wrist and an upper torso joint. It works more to pivot her side to side as she has little to no movement forward and back. The legs attach via ball-joints and can swivel. She also has a thigh cut and double-jointed knees. There’s a boot cut and her feet possess hinges as well as the ability to rock side to side. Being she’s not the most acrobatic of superheroes, this strikes me as a perfectly acceptable amount of articulation for this figure. It’s all integrated well into the sculpt and should you want to get creative I don’t think you’ll be limited too much.

Hands open.
Hands closed.

When it comes to accessories, NTW is a bit lacking, but also there’s not a ton of room to really add much. She comes with two sets of hands: fists and open style pose hands. They pop off and on easily enough and both are suitable for posing with this figure. She also has a pair of energy effects that wrap around her forearms. They’re okay, a little too flimsy for my liking, but the translucent yellow-orange plastic is a good look. That’s it though, but like I said, I’m not really sure what else would make sense for her to have.

Oh you are one sexy superhero.
And the view from behind, because the audience demands it.

The real draw of this set, for me and probably most who pick it up, is Deadpool. And to Hasbro’s credit, the company seems to be well aware of that. He comes with a lot more stuff than his boxmate and a lot more care went into his sculpt as well. First of all, this is a Deadpool 2 version of the character’s costume, though he does come with two sets of all black gloves, reflecting his appearance from the first film. I think Hasbro intends for this to be a catch-all version of the character, though the shoulder strap is clearly based on the sequel. Regardless, it’s not that important since his costume was pretty similar from one film to the next and he very much looks like Deadpool.

Home Alone face!
Sometimes a hero just needs to chill.

Deadpool stands at around six and a quarter inches and scales well with NTW. I assume he scales well with the other figures in this wave, but I also don’t have them to confirm. The sculpt is pretty involved with this guy as he has lots of seams, straps, and buckles, all over the place. The entire costume is well textured and looks like it was pulled from the film and there’s some minor battle damage on his chest as well. The belt Hasbro put on him is floating, so it doesn’t hinder his articulation to the degree one would expect. It’s also painted and sculpted quite well, at least on the front. Hasbro went cheap on the rear of the figure as the pouches are not painted to the degree the ones on the front of the belt are. Like the head on NTW, it’s something that won’t really show on a shelf, but come on, Hasbro! That’s pretty cheap. There’s also some errors here and there when comparing this costume with the film. The sculpt seems to be all there, it’s just some parts (in particular, the boot area and the collar) are either unpainted or painted black when they should be red, or vice versa. My figure also has one paint chip on the black portion of his abdomen and I’m frustrated at myself for not noticing that in the package since I had my pick from around half a dozen sets at the store.

Let’s pose!
Gun fight? Knife fight? Deadpool is always prepared.

Deadpool, essentially being a superhero ninja, is pretty well stacked when it comes to articulation. His head appears to be on a dumbbell joint giving him movement at the head and base of the neck. The collar Hasbro has on him limits the movement a bit, but it’s fine. The shoulders are on butterfly joints that give him some inward motion without marring the chest portion of the sculpt. They’re also ball-jointed and his elbows double-jointed and he can bend well past 90 degrees as he can basically do a full curl. The hands are hinged and also able to rotate, as expected. He does have an ab crunch and the way his costume is designed makes it work well with the sculpt. The waist can swivel and you can slide his belt up a bit to make it work. He’s ball-jointed at the legs with rotation there to go along with a thigh cut below it. The knees are double-jointed and his feet are hinged with rocking action. I’m a little surprised at the lack of a boot-cut or swivel down there, but it’s fine.

Let’s get messy!

The articulation Hasbro packed into this figure is plenty enough to get him into various poses, which comes in handy since he has a lot of stuff to pose with. In terms of hands, Deadpool has two all black fists and a pair of all black open, style pose, hands. His gripping hands have the back of each painted silver and his set of trigger hands are the same reflecting his appearance in Deadpool 2. I’m still not sure if this was intentional, or if the all black hands just weren’t painted by mistake. He also has an assortment of weapons including two katanas which fit neatly into the scabbards affixed to his back and a pair of handguns he can wield. They look like action guns in that the bolt appears to be set back like it’s being fired, either that or they’re some weird, made-up, pistol. He also has a pair of holstered handguns that Hasbro, for some reason, glued in place. I’ve seen some people get these out and they’re completely separate pieces, but mine are well stuck. He also has a knife which can slot into the little holster on his left ankle. You’re unlikely to pose him with the knife in hand, but I like that it’s included. Lastly, he has his stuffed unicorn and it’s pretty adorable. I actually might have to pose him with that for the sake of comedy.

Deadpool really is just a fantastic figure. I have some nitpicks with the paint, but I think the sculpt is great and I love all of the articulation Hasbro was able to work into this figure. My biggest complaint with my old Deadpool figure was with how that sculpt prioritized articulation ahead of aesthetics and some of the joints, in particular the shoulders, are kind of ugly. I have no such complaints here and really my only other complaint is with those guns Hasbro glued in. I love that Deadpool comes with lots of stuff, so it drives me a little crazy that he can’t holster the guns he’s intended to grip because his holsters are occupied by more guns!

I’d say things have improved over the last 15 or so years.

NTW is a fine figure as well. I’m disappointed that Hasbro seemed to phone it in on her lower half sculpt, but she looks the part and has all of the articulation she needs. Let’s be realistic though, if I could have bought Deadpool solo I would have. I’m not collecting Marvel Legends and I don’t plan on adding to this Deadpool collection either. Maybe Hasbro will get me to grab Cable if I run into him since I already have these two, but probably not. It’s great to see the Deadpool franchise getting some love from Hasbro though since it’s presently in limbo as far as films go. It was very successful for 20th Century Fox, but in the hands of Disney it feels like it doesn’t have a home. We know the company likely has plans for the whole X-Men Universe. I hope Deadpool is a part of those plans, but who can say? This figure sure kicks ass though!

I found this set at Target, but it’s being sold elsewhere as well. You can even pre-order it at Best Buy right now, or find it at other various online retailers. The MSRP is $49.99 so happy hunting!


Boss Fight Studio Astral Projection Jenny

Back off, Psylocke!

Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of how good an action figure in a particular line is when it’s one of the first released. I’ve been really impressed with all of the figures in Boss Fight Studio’s Bucky O’Hare line, but recency bias certainly plays in a role in my favorites. And the most recent have been (in order of most recent) Bruiser, the Storm Toad Trooper, and the four-armed Dead-Eye Duck. It’s hard to top the sheer spectacle and massiveness of Bruiser, and any toy with extra arms is inherently fun, especially when it’s a pirate duck. Back in November 2017 though, I was pretty floored by First Mate Jenny and this variant I just purchased from Boss Fight Studio has quickly reminded me of that.

Just like with Stealth Mission Bucky, we get updated card art and a character bio from Neal Adams and Larry Hama, respectively.

Jenny had a long wait to reach the vast majority of Bucky O’Hare collectors. She was famously, or infamously, dropped from the vintage Hasbro line of figures back in 1991 because the company didn’t think boys wanted a girl, cat, action figure. This despite the fact that her toy was already complete and in production and despite the fact that she’s Bucky’s freakin’ first mate! She was going to see release in wave 2, but the line was cancelled and who knows how many fully-carded Jenny action figures were destroyed. Some were saved and have made it into the hands of collectors over the years, but the vast majority had to wait until Boss Fight came along and rectified the whole situation.

Astral Projection Jenny comes with the same stuff you remember from wave one, only now it’s clear and purple!

And that first figure is wonderful. I was really looking forward to both Bucky and Jenny when Boss Fight announced them, but I was more so looking forward to Bucky because he’s the star, after all. It was Jenny that basically stole the spotlight though with her clever engineering, terrific sculpt, and fun accessories. Like Stealth Mission Bucky though, I initially passed on the variant Boss Fight put out. And that variant is Astral Projection Jenny. Jenny, being part of a secret society of psychic cats, has the ability to astral project her consciousness leaving her physical body behind. She’s basically depicted as a ghost-like being when doing this who can’t be seen, nor can she interact with the physical world. It’s an interesting choice for a variant for obvious reasons, which we’ll get into. I was somewhat surprised that Boss Fight went in this direction instead of doing an “Aniverse” Jenny that matched the figure’s colors to the cartoon which is mostly a matte gray armor finish and pink hair as opposed to silver and white. I don’t know if I would have been more likely to pick that one up sooner, but it was something that surprised me.

Jenny is an 80s girl at heart so the hair has got to be big!

Astral Projection Jenny is essentially the wave one version of the character cast in translucent plastic with some mild paint variations. Her body is painted, clear, plastic which gives her an ethereal quality. The white of her fur is done with a pearl coat, while the black is largely the same as before. Actually, it appears the black portions may be mixed into the plastic to give it a smoky quality, and probably because black over clear plastic wouldn’t achieve the desired effect. The silver of her armor also has a pearl quality to it as opposed to the chrome of the original and the hot pink gems are now purple. The hair has been given a light brush of teal to impart that ghost-like quality of this form. The only other change is with the effects pieces which have had the pink swapped out in favor of purple.

Jenny has likely awakened a few furries in her time.

Aside from the change in color and choice of plastic, this version of Jenny is essentially the same figure as before. She has a lot of articulation for such a small, somewhat dainty, figure. Her massive poof of hair helps to make her the tallest, non Bruiser, figure in the line at right around 5″. She’s articulated at the neck, though her hair can limit her movement there. She has ball-joints at the shoulders with hinges and swivels at the elbow. Her hands are on pegs so there’s only swivel articulation there. She has a mid-torso swivel in place of a waist one with ball-joints at the thigh. The knee is on a single hinge with swivel articulation and she has a hinge and swivel combo at the ankle. Her tail is on a ball-joint and serves the added function of adding stability to the figure. Jenny’s frame is quite slim and her feet are tiny, so having that tail is most helpful for posing. I find she’s the most fun of all of the figures in this line to pose as a result, though that does come at a cost. At least with my original figure, I have a lot of paint-flake at the those ankle hinges where the chrome rubs off of the joint leaving behind black plastic. Boss Fight probably should have cast her feet in gray plastic to minimize this, but unfortunately didn’t have that foresight. I don’t think it will be as big of an issue with this version though since the plastic is transparent, but it’s something to look out for.

Jenny is also fun to pose because Boss Fight came up with some really fun effects pieces. For starters, her default hands are gripping hands which is odd since she doesn’t come with a gun. She also has fists and two styled hands, one that’s more open and one that looks like a heavy metal hand gesture or an “I love you” gesture. Two other hands are totally flat and surrounded with “psychic energy.” If you’re familiar with the Marvel Comics character Psylocke, these are essentially her psychic knives. They’re rather cool, though I actually prefer the other effects pieces which are these circular, star-burst, pieces that can be affixed to Jenny’s wrists before inserting one of the hands. They’re really fun and work exceptionally well with those styled hands, though fists work well too. It’s nice having two Jenny figures as now I can display one with the knives and one with the bursts.

With Wave 1 Jenny, and yo can see where the paint has flaked off on my Jenny’s ankle. It’s a minor tragedy.
Me trying to figure out an action shot of Jenny astral projecting.
Fun tip: a winking face from one side functions like an eyes-closed face!

In addition to all of that, Jenny also comes with four different faceplates, an improvement over Bucky’s three. Like with Bucky though, the range of expressions isn’t particularly diverse. Her default look is a smile and she also has an open-mouth version, a winking face, and another where the eyes are a bit narrowed with more of a wry smile. It’s a subtle difference from the default look. For most, the winking face is the clear winner since it’s very different from what the rest of the line features and certainly possesses a playful quality. I do like the more focused expression too, though I wish for this version that Boss Fight had re-painted the eyes to match the look of the card art, or just blank them out. I also wish we had a closed eyes face for the Wave 1 Jenny to make her appear to be astral projecting to work with this figure. Even making one of the face-plates that came with this figure the eyes closed one would have sufficed. That’s wishful thinking though. The important thing is I like these expressions and that it’s easy to swap from one to the other, unlike Bucky who is a bit of a pain.

Cheers!

Astral Projection Jenny is a fun spin on what was already a fantastic figure. My only gripe about the original release is the paint flaking issue, and I don’t see that being as big of an issue with this version due to the choice of plastic. Otherwise, she’s damn near perfect and getting this version was a great reminder that Jenny has a claim to the crown of best in the line. This is a hard line to pick a favorite though which is a great problem to have. If this is a figure that interests you, head on over to www.bossfightshop.com and grab one of your own. And if you want more Bucky reviews, check back soon for a review of the newest figure in the line, Bucky’s admirer and Jenny’s rival: Captain Mimi LaFloo.


Boss Fight Studio Stealth Mission Bucky O’Hare

He (quietly) goes where no ordinary rabbit would dare!

It’s been almost three years since toy maker Boss Fight Studio started shipping out it’s first figures in its Bucky O’Hare line of products. Ten figures have followed with an eleventh soon to be released and I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of the line since day one. When the product first launched, my family had recently welcomed a new addition. We were in a new house and getting acclimated to our new life. At the time, I was pretty cautious with money and I set some limits on myself, especially when it came to a hobby like toy collecting. And when it came to Bucky specifically, I told myself I’d stay away from variants. Well, my restrictions have loosened over the years and a recent sale at Boss Fight Studio has allowed me to go back and grab some of those variants I had passed on initially, variants like the third release in the Bucky O’Hare line: Stealth Mission Bucky O’Hare.

It may be “just a repaint,” but Continuity Comics contributed new card art from Neal Adams plus a new bio on the rear from Larry Hama.

This variant is basically a straight re-paint or recasting of the inaugural Bucky O’Hare figure. It’s actually the second Bucky variant I’ve purchased as I couldn’t resist the Holiday Bucky that Boss Fight Studio released alongside Dead-Eye Duck. As you could probably guess from the naming convention of the figure, this is Bucky in a stealth suit, which is the same as his standard suit only it’s black and blue with a camo deco. This isn’t a look that appeared in the animated series nor did it appear in the comics. It’s a look dreamed up by the designers at Boss Fight Studio and approved by Continuity Comics. They even supplied some new Bucky artwork for the card back which features the new look.

Gettin’ sneaky.

Bucky O’Hare stands at about 3.75″ which stretches to about 4.5″ if you include highest point of the ears. Since this a repaint it includes all of the same accessories and articulation as before. What you’re paying for is the new aesthetic, and I must say I do enjoy this black and blue look. The blue is more like a deep turquoise while the black is almost a graphite color in places. Bright green are the lenses of Bucky’s goggles which contrasts well with the deeper colors of the costume. His fur is still that light green we’re used to, only now it has streaks of black across it to break-up his image. Even his guns are black though there’s a slight blue hue to the metallic coating on them. It’s a sharp look, and even though it’s one I initially passed on that was entirely due to cost, not look.

Bucky auditioning for the role of Fall-Out Boy.

For a small figure, Bucky’s articulation is rather robust. His head sits on a ball joint that mostly rotates as opposed to being able to look up and down. The ears swivel, as does his little tail and his cape fits into a peg hole on his back with a satisfying “pop” and stays in place. The shoulder tassels and belt are separate pieces of plastic and can be moved and repositioned as desired. Which is necessary at times to free up the articulation at the shoulders, which are ball-jointed. He has single-hinged elbows with a swivel there and at the wrist where the glove meets the arm. There’s a waist swivel and ball-joints at the legs with single-hinged knees and a swivel there as well in place of a true boot-cut. The ankles are on hinges and they can rock side-to-side. There’s a toe hinge as well to top it all off.

Not much differentiates the two extra faces.
Face #1
Face #2
Face #3

Bucky’s big feet make him easy to pose and stand. To add some variety to those poses he has some swappable parts. First off, he does have two pistols which are his primary weapon and accessory. He comes packaged with trigger-finger hands on both arms so he can dual wield, if you so desire. The pegs on his belt are to store the pistols when not in use and they clip on rather easily. You can put them on the front, back, or side, though doing so adds some bulk. If you want to change-up his hands he has two additional sets. One set are fists and the other contains an open palm and a pointing hand. To swap them, just give a firm tug on the figure and off it comes. It’s a little tricky because there isn’t much to grab onto between the wrist and elbow of the figure, but I’ve never feared breakage there. Bucky also has swap-able faceplates, and unfortunately they’re the weakest aspect of the figure. The default face is a frown with a closed mouth. The other faces both feature an open mouth and one has what I would call a relaxed frown and the other a deep frown. It’s the type of thing where the difference between the two isn’t obvious right away. I’ve also always had a hard time getting the optional faces to sit flush on the figure. It can be done, it just requires more effort than it’s worth, in my opinion.

The comparison shot you’ve been waiting for!

There’s not much more to say than that. This is a re-paint of what I already considered a great figure to begin with. I love Bucky O’Hare and I love the design of the character and Boss Fight Studio really nailed the likeness. I wish the optional faces worked better than they do, but I also like the default face that’s there and so it doesn’t bother me that I can’t go with something else, especially since there’s not much difference between the three. Even though I had passed on this figure for more than two years at this point, I still always wanted it and figured I would get it at some point. My plan was to actually buy it in-person with my Aniverse Storm Toad Trooper earlier this year at Boss Fight’s retail location, but COVID messed that up and since they have no plans to reopen I just figured I’d go the online route. He’s a fun figure and I hope there’s more to come. If you would like to secure one of your own, head on over to www.bossfightshop.com to find it and other figures in the series.


Spider-Man (Arcade)

Forgive me if I’ve said something similar before; but younger people are shocked by the norms of the past! Yeah, it’s a very “old man” thing to say, but it’s also an easy way to impress someone younger. And in this case, the shocking thing to say is that Marvel Comics often found itself in a great deal of financial turmoil in decades past. The company that now is owned by Disney and is able to churn out hit film after hit film about even its most obscure characters once had to file for bankruptcy protection. Go through the history of the company and you’ll find other moments in time where things weren’t so rosy, though Marvel often can be credited with being forward-thinking in looking for other ways to make money.

That’s how Marvel ended up in the TV business in the 1980s. Unable to find the same level of success on both the small and big screen as rival Detective Comics, Marvel started self-producing television programs which included the company’s popular stars as well as properties unrelated to the comic business. The most successful Marvel TV program is probably Muppet Babies, as the company seemed to struggle to really break-through with one of its superheroes even famously failing to find a broadcast partner for its mega-hot X-Men franchise as the pilot for a cartoon series failed to be picked up. This ended up being a good thing since not too long after Fox would start airing a different X-Men series in 92 which ended up being far better than anything Marvel would have done on its own.

Sega landing the Spider-Man license seems like a pretty big deal.

When video games started to take off once again in the 80s, it’s possible some in the industry would have expected Marvel to self-publish. It was already doing so with TV, so why not games? It’s possible Marvel just didn’t trust the industry which had only recently emerged from a crash itself. And whenever Marvel wanted to make money easily, it would turn to licensing deals. With comics rapidly gaining steam in the 80s and building towards what would be a massive boom into the 90s, Marvel probably saw no real benefit in exploring the world of games and was more than willing to see what other companies would do with its characters.

Enter Sega. Sega was fighting an uphill battle to dethrone Nintendo as the kind of the living room. Sega’s strategy was to go after the kids who may have first experienced games via Super Mario Bros. and were looking for something a bit more their speed as they grew older. This made a character like Spider-Man appealing to Sega, and in a world where exclusive licensing agreements were still far off, Sega was able to convince Marvel to let it develop its own games featuring Spider-Man. Details of the agreement are scarce these days, so it’s unknown just what kind of restrictions Sega was under. The deal was apparently tenuous, but success of the Genesis/Mega Drive game Spider-Man vs The Kingpin apparently settled things down as the title once had an attach rate of over 60% with Genesis owners.

One of the first games I’d go looking for as a kid in an arcade.

Back in the 1980s, Sega was as much known for its home console business as it was for the arcade. The arcade boom was coming down, but Sega had success with a variety of genres and many of its games were ported to the Genesis. With the Spider-Man license in-hand, Sega sought to craft an arcade beat-em-up experience with the character that would differentiate itself from similar titles. It would be a game developed for Sega’s System 32 board which was the company’s first attempt at 32-bit development. This also meant hopes for a home port would essentially be dead-on-arrival, but that’s why Sega had the separate Spider-Man vs The Kingpin slated to arrive the same year, 1991.

The normally solo Spider-Man would need some help to take down Kingpin, and entertain more than one player.

When crafting a brawler for the arcade, one of the main issues to solve initially is just what characters to make playable? The brawler had started as a one or two-player affair, but by the 90s arcade-goers expected four-player co-op play. The challenge with Spider-Man is he’s mostly a solo act, so Sega likely had to work with Marvel on finding three allies to join him. They ended up settling on the sometimes ally sometimes foe Black Cat, Sub-Mariner, and the Avenger Hawkeye. The selection of Hawkeye was somewhat interesting as he was a playable character in the Captain America brawler also released in ’91. This naturally lent to comparisons between the two titles with at least my group of friends viewing the Spider-Man Hawkeye as the far superior affair since the graphics were far more attractive.

Not much to see here, just four heroes kicking some butt.

Sega’s approach to the tried and true beat-em-up genre is both conventional and unconventional. Sega often found gimmicks to keep things fresh, such as the transformations of Altered Beast or the mounts in Golden Axe. For Spider-Man, the game begins like any other. You select one of four characters and begin the game with a wave of enemies crashing down upon you. Players have to contend with enemies coming in from both sides of the screen and as they’re dispatched a “Go!” prompt will display imploring the player to continue right. Each character has just two action buttons: jump and attack. Pressing the two simultaneously provides for a ranged super attack unique to each character. Utilizing this move also sacrifices some health. Players can attack while in the air and also use a super move from that position as well which basically results in a diving attack. Interestingly, the amount of credits deposited into the machine increases the amount of health the character possesses as opposed to the amount of lives. As long as you keep pumping in quarters, you’ll never die!

Okay, now this is different.

Where things get interesting in Spider-Man is after the first boss encounter: Venom. The storyline for the game is the Kingpin as acquired some magical artifact and Spider-Man needs to get it back. When Venom gets exposed to that artifact, he grows to a tremendous size. In order to convey that to the player, the player characters and the environment around them shrinks via a zoom-out effect. This also alters the gameplay from a brawler to a basic platformer. Characters now have a ranged attack and all can cling to surfaces in order to scale buildings. Other elements often featured in that style of game show up as well such as falling surfaces, obstacles that need to be dodged, and so on.

Electro is one of the bosses who only appears during a zoomed-out sequence.

Every act in the game features a zoom-out sequence, even though only the initial one features a giant enemy. If the entire game were crafted around this style, it would be okay, but when the two are mixed it works quite well as a change of pace. Some boss fights are exclusive to the zoomed out mode too, which is actually kind of a shame since we’re denied seeing a proper, large, model of certain villains. Nevertheless, it’s Spider-Man’s defining characteristic and it works really well. It’s a real surprise this tactic wasn’t utilized more, but then again, fighting games mostly took over the arcade space shortly there-after and the arcade brawler largely faded away.

Battling a foe like the Green Goblin is a lot different from taking on someone like Venom.

The game is divided into four acts, but each one is quite long and will have the players going back and forth between the two gameplay styles. And even though there are only four acts, there are still numerous boss encounters with Spider-Man’s most popular foes. Expect to face-off against the likes of Venom, Green Goblin, Scorpion, Electro, Hobgoblin, and more. Many will have to be fought more than once, with Venom being the most frequent (this was probably when the character was at the height of its popularity). Some of the fights aren’t much to speak of as the enemy functions like a regular enemy, just with a unique sprite and health bar, but others are multi-stage battles and can get pretty challenging. Kingpin himself is also a bit of a red-herring as the real villain of the game is revealed after the third act, which keeps gamers on their toes, I suppose.

Character sprites are big and detailed when not zoomed out.

The presentation is where things are at though. The characters look great on the System 32 board, especially in the non-zoomed out portions. The models are big and detailed making Spider-Man one of the best looking beat-em-ups produced. The villains are tremendous as well, and in between acts there’s some story-line material with some limited voice over. About the only thing I dislike about the visuals rests with Spider-Man himself, as he has this odd, slightly stooped, posture. The music is also catchy, and some was even recycled from older Sega games. Most of the boss characters also get a line or two of spoken dialogue which helps add a little pizzazz to those encounters.

The charging attack, demonstrated here by Kingpin, gets a bit annoying.

Like any brawler, the gameplay does get repetitive eventually. Spider-Man is able to help itself not just with the gameplay switches during acts, but also with the boss variety. A character like Green Goblin attacks in a manner far different from the Kingpin, for example, though by the end of the game there is definitely some boss fatigue. The hardest foes all seem to attack in a similar pattern in that they get knocked down and then pop back up into a charging attack. The penultimate fight of the game can get a bit annoying as the boss has a very small window of time in which he can be harmed before going into a charging animation that renders him invincible, or a blasting position that grants the same. Even so, Spider-Man is a surprisingly fair game. Most arcade brawlers exist just to extract quarters, but it’s possible to gang up on a boss and practically neuter them. Especially with two players, as most boss characters will pop-up after being knocked down to immediately vault across the screen, rather than be momentarily invincible when first getting up. This means two well-positioned characters can effectively “ping pong” a boss until it’s been defeated. Preventing this from becoming a true exploit though is the fact that most bosses are accompanied by standard grunt enemies. I never counted, but Spider-Man can handle a lot of enemies on screen all at once so things can get a bit hectic. It makes those crowd-clearing special maneuvers more and more useful as the game progresses. The trade-off though is that enemy sprites are recycled throughout as you will largely battle the same three enemies all game long, just with different weapon and color variations.

The game keeps track of how many enemies each player defeated and which took down a boss adding a competitive element to the experience.

A play-through of Spider-Man will last about 45 minutes, maybe a bit more. The one trick the game does pull that I’m not a fan of is that the player’s health is always gradually depleting as a means of forcing the players to move quicker. This seems to mostly be in effect during the platforming sections which is a bit annoying as the game does encourage some mild exploration. The “Go!” arrow might be telling you to go one way, but there’s an obvious area in a different direction with health power-ups. Even with that health-drain in place, a pair of reasonably skilled gamers should be able to get through this one on about 20 credits, or 5 bucks back in ’91. After each act, scores are tabulated and health bonuses distributed in kind as well which helps prolong the adventure and adds a little competition as well. The game awards a boss “kill” to whoever scores the last hit and boss defeats are weighted far more heavily than basic enemies so competitive players will do whatever they can to make sure they land that final blow.

The game is quite unique when compared with its peers, at least as unique as a brawler can be.

Since Spider-Man was an arcade-only release, it has become a bit of an obscure title. For whatever reason, other arcade-only brawlers like X-Men and The Simpsons seem to be remembered more fondly even though I find Spider-Man to be the superior experience. It’s a wonderful looking game, even by today’s standards, and the gameplay quirks help set it apart as well. As much as I enjoy X-Men, that game is a pretty basic brawler that’s over quickly, but also brutal when it comes to quarters. It’s possible Spider-Man has been victimized by the success of the Genesis game since so many people had it that it’s likely the first game they think of when people mention the character and Sega in the same sentence. It certainly wasn’t an issue of distribution as I routinely encountered this game in the wild, and it was often the game I went to first.

If this game were re-released in 2020 the legal info would be a lot more complicated than what is seen here.

Spider-Man is one of the best arcade brawlers ever released, and it’s also one of the few to remain exclusive to that format. When Sega brought 32-bit gaming to the living room with the 32X, it chose to craft a new Spider-Man game for that system rather than port this one, which ended up being the final Spider-Man game developed by Sega. Eventually games like X-Men received a release just a via X-Box Live, but Sega’s Spider-Man has remained in cabinets alone. The game was fairly popular so it’s not hard to track down a cabinet today, but buying one is quite costly since the character is so beloved. I suspect we’ve never seen the game made available due to the complicated licensing agreements surrounding both the game and Spider-Man himself. Sony holds the license for basically all Spider-Man media, while the presence of Hawkeye might give Disney a substantial voice in the room should there ever be talk of re-releasing the game. And then there’s Sega, who no longer has a home console of its own to bill this as an exclusive for. The game is likely viewed as too niche to warrant trying to figure out how to spread the money among all interested parties. Ideally it would be offered as a downloadable title like the Konami brawlers were, but that window has apparently been shut, and Sony striking a deal with Sega to include the game as a bonus feature on a modern Spider-Man title seems unlikely. As a result, if you want to experience what Spider-Man has to offer in 2020 you’ll need to track down a cabinet, or resort to other, less legal, means. Should you find yourself playing it, expect to have a pretty good time. Just make sure to bring a friend, or two, or three!


TMNT Loot Crate – First Appearance Shredder

It was back during the winter that Loot Crate announced a series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle crates for 2020. At the time, Loot Crate had done one previous crate that was apparently intended to test the waters to see what the appetite was for this sort of thing among the TMNT fanbase. It didn’t hurt that NECA was a part of the crate as it contributed a limited edition action figure of Splinter from the 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The figure was the same as the retail version except he was now colored blue to mimic the color of the character during the “spirit scene” in the woods where Splinter appears as a ghost and encourages his pupils.

Because that crate was well received, it wasn’t a surprise to see Loot Crate come back to the property for another round. This time, however, Loot Crate had three distinct crates to sell. Each would be themed after a different aspect of the brand and each would include a NECA action figure. Fans who bought all three in advance would also get a bonus fourth figure presumably shipping with the final crate. At the time, Loot Crate was aiming for a June, September, November release for the three crates respectively. As spring turned to summer though, it started to become apparent that something had gone wrong.

Say it with me now, “What’s in the box?!”

Be it COVID, supply, or something else entirely, the first crate was delayed from June to July, and then ultimately started shipping in August. I received mine this past weekend after it was delayed further during the shipping process. I came home on a Sunday to find the crate sitting on my stoop in the rain getting nice and soggy. Loot Crate evidently literally just sends the crate and doesn’t put it in another box. Thankfully, there are apparently no porch thieves after TMNT products in my neighborhood.

We got “stuff” here!

This is my first experience with Loot Crate. The subscription box of what largely looks like junk has never really appealed to me. I just have a lot of “geek” stuff in my house as it is, so a box of “stuff” isn’t something I really want to find room for. Plus, I always roll my eyes at services like this that advertise something along the lines of “you pay $50 for a box of mystery products guaranteed to be worth twice that!” If businesses were in the business of underselling its wares it wouldn’t remain in business very long. Then again, Loot Crate did file for bankruptcy almost a year to the day so maybe it wasn’t boasting a falsehood. The buyer ended up being NECA, which is how the action figure side of the business was worked into the Loot Crate model. The two operate as separate entities, which is why when fans were asking Randy Falk of NECA what was up with the first crate he referred fans directly to Loot Crate as NECA had delivered its product presumably on-time.

The inclusion of the NECA action figure is the only reason why I decided to give Loot Crate a chance. I still largely don’t care about the stuff in the box, but I do like getting new TMNT figures! Since this is a subscription box, NECA isn’t aiming to include essential figures for the TMNT collector in these things. Instead, they’re variants or repaints intended to be a bit off-beat so fans who passed on them don’t feel entirely left out. When the service was announced, only the identity of the first figure was revealed – First Appearance Shredder. Since then, it’s been revealed that the next figure is an electrified turtle from the arcade game and Rocksteady in an Easter Bunny costume for the third crate. The bonus figure is Bebop in the same costume. It’s the pair of bunny guys that really got me excited, so it will be awhile before I know if I made the right move or not by signing up. For now, we’ve got a Shredder to talk about.

First of all, the Mirage Studios Loot Crate does indeed come packed with a bunch of stuff. The crate itself is black with the Mirage TMNT logo on the front along with the required Nickelodeon and Loot Crate logos. My box did sit in a gentle rain on Sunday and was a little beat up, but the interior seemed dry so no harm no foul, I guess.

Inside the crate is the stuff you would probably expect to find in such a product. There’s a keychain with Michelangelo and Kunk on one side and “Chet’s Toys” on the reverse. I assume that’s the toy store from the Michelangelo one-shot, but I didn’t confirm that. There’s also a weird looking credit card with a rubber TCRI slipcase to fit into. This is apparently supposed to be an Utrom TCRI ID card and possibly the one belonging to Baxter Stockman. The reverse of the slipcase is adhesive if you want to stick it to something, maybe for cos-play? There’s an enamel pin featuring Fugitoid which looks similar to a Figpin brand pin, but not quite as impressive looking. There’s a black TCRI tote bag and under the logo it says “Company Picnic North Hampton ’84.” There’s also a white t-shirt with the same logo. Lastly, there’s a white travel mug that too shares the same TCRI Company Picnic logo. It’s rather official looking which makes it a shame that it says right below the logo copy-write 2020 Viacom.

Most of that stuff is just “stuff” to me. I might use the keychain, but I don’t know how well it will hold up on an actual keyring. It doesn’t look very durable, so I may just leave it as-is. I have a million tote bags at this point as it’s been the go-to free gift of many retailers for close to ten years now. Interesting, it kind of replaced the free travel mugs I used to see getting passed out often as part of promotions in the city. I’ve purged a lot of them, so I actually do intend to use this TCRI one. It looks sharp, and the quality seems decent. I’ll wear the shirt, though I honestly have no need for more t-shirts and the ID card is just junk. The pin is fine though, if you like pins.

Obviously, what’s going to make this crate is the included action figure. The First Appearance Shredder is based on his appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 from Mirage Studios. It’s a repaint of the previously released Mirage Shredder which was part of a San Diego Comic Con exclusive set a few years ago alongside three Foot Clan members. Those figures, along with the Mirage turtles released over ten years ago, are great figures sorely in need of a re-release. Because of that, any of them make for suitable exclusives in a Loot Crate such as this since the secondary market demands a premium for them. Conceivably, 50 bucks for a Mirage Shredder alone is almost worth it for anyone looking to add him to their collection since that would be a good price on eBay.

Shredder was originally sculpted by The Four Horsemen and is a well-constructed action figure. Because this is a repaint, it shares all of the same points of articulation as the previous figure. He’s got a ball-joint at the head which allows for all of the usual range of motion. There’s ball-joints at the shoulders, bicep swivels, double-jointed elbows, wrist swivels, and a wrist hinge. He can rotate at the waist and his legs are connected via ball-joints. The legs rotate at the upper thigh and feature double-jointed knees, calf swivels, ankle rotation, ankle rockers, and a toe hinge. About the only thing really missing is an ab crunch or some kind of articulation in the torso, but this is par for the course with NECA as they don’t like to break-up the torso of their figures.

Obviously, the main difference here is the paint application. This Shredder is intended to simulate his shadowy first appearance so he’s colored almost entirely in black and dark blue. The helmet and various armor pieces are all painted a steel gray with some generous black shading applied. He’s a pretty striking looking figure and I prefer this look to a straight black and white variant, though collectors that have a black and white set of turtles might disagree. The only other difference is this is a figure from 2020 so it feels different from the old one. My older Mirage Shredder is a bit heavier and the plastic doesn’t feel quite so pliable. The new Shredder isn’t rubbery feeling like some of the newer figures this summer (i.e. – Casey Jones and Turtles in Time Shredder), but there is a noticeable difference. I prefer the weightier feel of the older version, but this one feels fine too. The joints mostly moved well right out of the package (which is a nice window box with a black and silver design) with only a few feeling a bit stubborn. None required heat though and I soon had him moving around all right.

Shredder comes with some accessories as well and they’re new for this release. He does come with fist hands and has the same optional gripping hands as well. I’m happy to report that the blades on each hand did not warp in the packaging this time, as they had with my SDCC set. Shredder doesn’t wield any weapons in that first issue, so my guess is the weapons included here are meant to liven up the Foot from the prior release. There’s a new sickle on a chain weapon that looks pretty rad. It’s similar to the chained weapon from the Mirage set and I do like those chains. The other weapon is a bow and arrow that does indeed function. The arrow can be knocked like an arrow would on a regular bow and there’s enough tension on the string to shoot it roughly 8 to 10 feet.

The weapons looks pretty cool, but they do have one drawback. And that is Shredder can barely hold them. His gripping hands are just too loose so he can’t get a good hold on any of them. Placing the sickle in his hand means it’s going to slide all the way down the blade. The bow is even trickier and I never really got him to hold it. I did bust out the older set, but the problem there is they are all basically the same figure with different embellishments, so their grip wasn’t really any better. I did get one of the Foot Clan members to hold the bow by basically getting him to pinch it. I even managed to do the same with the arrow and got him back onto my shelf in this position. I’m just waiting for it to eventually pop out. Hopefully that arrow doesn’t sail too far when that day comes. The thing is pretty hard and pointy so it’s also not something you want to get hit with.

Overall, I do like this depiction of Shredder. I’ve always liked the color combo of black and blue and basically every comic has used that as a cheat for when a character is shadowed. The steel color of the helmet mixes really well with it and I’m torn on which version of Shredder I actually prefer. When side by side, the prior model almost looks boring with it’s mostly flat, gray, helmet. It’s disappointing the weapons didn’t work out better, but I did get that bow to work with one figure so that’s cool. The real question is would I have spent 50 bucks on this figure if it was just available to buy? Probably not, but that’s only because I have the existing one. If I had missed out then it would be a different story, as I definitely wanted a Shredder to pair with my set of turtles. I don’t feel like I was taken advantage of or anything like that as if I didn’t want this figure I probably could flip it for 50 bucks. Basically, what I’m saying is this version of Shredder is nice, but he’s just the appetizer.

Yeah, my Mirage display has two Shredders now. I’m cool with it.

The next Loot Crate in this series is still scheduled for a September release, though I’m skeptical considering this one was two months late. Whenever it does show up though, I’ll be here with a look at the next figure so long as it doesn’t interrupt my Christmas posts. Yeah, it could take that long.


Batman Beyond – The Complete Series (Blu Ray)

Last year, when Warner Home Media announced a new Blu Ray set for the series Batman Beyond, I decided to wait. I had been an early consumer for the similar Batman: The Animated Series set the prior year and had some misgivings. The price on that set fell and a slimmed down version was even introduced at retail that really only omitted the outer box and Funko items. Plus, I had ordered that set from Amazon and had to go through multiples because the company packaged it so poorly. I also wasn’t in any hurry to order Batman Beyond since I had the DVD sets and had never really found them lacking in a visual sense.

My patience was rewarded as a recent Amazon Lightning Deal came up for the complete Batman Beyond Blu Ray package. Like Batman, Batman Beyond received both a deluxe release and a retail release, only this deal on Amazon ended up being the deluxe version marked down even lower than the retail version. I decided to pounce since it’s been awhile since I engaged with the property, and if I was going to do a re-watch, might as well make it a high-definition one.

Batman Beyond tells the story of Bruce (reluctantly) passing the mantle of Batman to Terry

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, Batman Beyond was the sequel series to Batman: The Animated Series. In actuality, it was the replacement. Series creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini had operated under the assumption that The New Batman Adventures would continue beyond the one season order the WB network had given it. Instead, the network decided that Batman needed a refresh. Were they right? Probably not, as Batman has proven to be a timeless character. The New Batman Adventures wasn’t quite on par with the Fox seasons, but it was still pretty good and had legs. It would have been nice if the network had given it one more season, or even a half season, while also informing the crew that would be it. Then we could have received a proper finale, but instead we got Batman Beyond and a series of Justice League shows followed.

Given that, it would be easy to approach Batman Beyond with significant baggage. After all, the premise is essentially “Let’s make Batman younger by essentially making him Spider-Man.” If you told that to me before ever letting me watch the show I would instantly have a bad impression. It sounds like the foolish decision of a network executive and not a creative decision by an actual story-teller. Against all odds though, the show somehow worked. It made people care about a new, teen-aged, Batman and it also managed to serve as a bookend to the animated series by largely continuing that show’s continuity. Sure, there was a pretty big gap in time between the two properties and a great many loose strings are never addressed, but just by having Bruce Wayne (still voiced by the incomparable Kevin Conroy) onboard added an instant credibility to the program.

Batman Beyond is set in the year 2039. Gotham has apparently run out of room for expansion and has grown up instead of out. Colossal skyscrapers cover the landscape with roads upon roads on top of one another. The main character is Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle), a teenager who loses his father to a murder making him the ideal candidate to replace Bruce Wayne as Batman. As Batman, Terry is empowered with a futuristic suit that allows him to fly, turn invisible, fire a seemingly endless amount of batarangs, and even stick to surfaces like a certain wall-crawler I already referenced. He’s a bit more jokey than his predecessor, and several episodes act as a teaching moment for him as well. This is a Batman in training, though by the end of the show he is pretty much the real deal. It’s a bit amusing to see how future Gotham looks considering modern Gotham looked like it was frozen in the 1940s. It’s about what you would expect, though most automobiles appear to still possess wheels.

The setting is not really what’s important here. What is most interesting about Batman Beyond is watching an elderly Bruce Wayne manage a kid who has taken up his mantle. It arises in an unnatural way with McGinnis initially stealing the suit to investigate his father’s murder. Wayne is shown giving up his alter-ego in the first five minutes of the show, but also given a motivation to want to see Batman return to Gotham. And that’s Derek Powers (Sherman Howard), who has basically taken Wayne’s company from him turning Wayne Enterprises into Wayne-Powers. He’s setup early on to be the primary foil to Batman and Wayne, though the rogue’s gallery will be filled out quite a bit over the ensuing 52 episodes. It’s a lot of fun though to watch Terry and Bruce bust heads with each other as they seldom agree. They find a working relationship though, and it helps that we have the relationships between Bruce and his prior wards to fall back-on. It’s easy to see that this Bruce is trying his hardest not to repeat the same mistakes as he did once before, and the fact that he’s physically compromised in his old age actually helps him to be more patient with Terry than he was with both Dick and Tim.

To sum it up, Batman Beyond is indeed worth your time as a series, even if you have reservations about the whole thing. It does the impossible in being a worthy follow-up to Batman: The Animated Series. Chances are, if you’re reading this you already know that. What’s more pressing is did Warner do right by the series with this set? Considering it is now being sold for almost half of what it was initially, I would say yes.

Being a late 90s/early 2000s show means this one really isn’t all that old, relatively speaking. The masters were all preserved and when the show received a transfer to DVD it came out great. In high-definition, it looks every bit as a good and obviously a little better. Blacks are deep and the brighter colors pop as expected. There’s no grain to speak of with this series, and everything has a very clean presentation. This was one of the last shows to be animated largely in a traditional manner for DC as they still used ink and paint on celluloid for the main animation. And unlike say Spider-Man 94, there’s no glaringly awful CG effects in use. Nothing is really working against the show in its transfer to HD, and that’s a good thing. Warner Home Video also wisely resisted any temptation to crop the image which seems like a given, but you never know when such will pop up.

The new extra features are all relegated to a bonus disc. There’s a round-table retrospective with the creators and actors of the series, though notably absent is Paul Dini. It’s mostly just 45 minutes or so of the people involved congratulating themselves for making a good show. There’s some interesting moments, like Bruce Timm acknowledging some of the controversial moves for the series following its completion that the others at the table get to weigh in on, but it’s not as juicy as it could have been. If you’re at all versed on this show, you probably won’t learn much from this discussion. There’s also a retrospect on Batman called Knight Immortal which consists of still images and some clips and surprisingly no talking heads. A lot of the main players involved with the character are heard from and it’s a decent look at Batman. Lastly, there’s a history of Detective Comics present. It’s a bit dry, but if you love DC then you’ll probably enjoy sitting through it. All of the DVD special features are also present.

The reverse side of the lenticulars.

Like the set for BTAS, this one doesn’t have any commentaries or anything like that added, just what was already available on DVD. Also like that set, it includes the feature associated with the series, in this case the excellent Return of the Joker. If it weren’t for Mask of the Phantasm, Return of the Joker would be my favorite Batman animated film and it’s still one of my favorite Batman films in general, possibly in my top 5. It’s the uncut version too, as expected. There’s also an optional digital version of the collection that can be downloaded. I haven’t redeemed my code though so I can’t speak to the quality (the BTAS set came with a standard definition digital copy) and I’m also note sure if it includes Return of the Joker.

This little booklet is just a glorified table of contents. No creator notes or anything.

Where this set differs from the BTAS one is in the presentation. It comes in a cardboard box with a window display for a chrome Batman Beyond Funko Pop! rather than mini ones. It’s a normal-sized Pop! so you probably know if you like it or not. Inside the box is a pretty standard Blu Ray set. It’s a hard cardboard slip case with folding digi-book styled case that houses the discs. It’s nothing extravagant, but it’s at least functional. While I loved the presentation of the leather-bound book for the BTAS set, getting the discs in and out was painful. There’s also some lenticular images and a little booklet that serves as a table of contents. It’s fine, just not particularly flashy. I imagine the standard retail release just omits the outer box and Funko figure.

If you want this show on physical media and in HD, then this is something you should seek out.

Batman Beyond – The Complete Series is essentially as advertised. If you had been waiting for a complete collection on Blu Ray, then you should be satisfied with this. Especially if you were able to get it on sale. If you like the show, and you’re still into physical media like I am, then you should probably grab it. Is it essential if you already have the DVDs? Probably not. The bonus features are something you’re likely to watch once and then never again. It would have been great if Warner had made an attempt to make this the full Batman Beyond experience by including the character’s appearances from other shows on here. That would have been especially useful for someone like me who has no interest in buying any of those other shows. And if this is something you want, I’d suggest grabbing whatever version is cheaper unless you really want that exclusive Pop! figure. Lastly, if you like Batman: The Animated Series but never gave Batman Beyond a chance, it’s worth the price of admission. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 (1987)

This summer has been a very TMNT kind of summer around here. It’s getting to the point where I might have as many posts about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as I do Glenn Danzig music. Well, this is the rare post to feature both.

When Mirage Studios started to gain recognition thanks to the success of the TMNT comic book, founders Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman needed to hire more staff in order to churn out material in a reasonable amount of time. One of those hired was artist Eric Talbot, a former classmate of Eastman’s and apparently a fan of rock, metal, and punk music. One of Talbot’s earliest assignments was composing short stories for supplemental books and reprints of the original run of comics, which is how we ended up with the story “Ghouls Night Out.”

“Ghouls Night Out” was included in the reprint of issue #5 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles printed in November of 1987. This is actually a pretty noteworthy issue of TMNT as it contains a special announcement in the middle of the story which officially blows the lid on the licensing deal Laird and Eastman had made with Mark Freedman. Included in the announcement are details about Playmates toys and its first wave of TMNT action figures due out in 1988 as well as the announcement of the animated mini series which was set to premiere the following month. This was the first time fans of the property were introduced to Bebop and Rocksteady and read the name Krang. There’s even a double page ad that follows with the inaugural lineup of turtle toys. Pretty cool!

“Ghouls Night Out” follows the main story and is eight pages of mostly art. In it, a turtle (most fans seem to assume it’s Donatello because he carries a spear at one point, but it could be any of the four) is patrolling a grave yard at night when monsters soon descend upon him. He’s forced to run for his life from the zombies, Frankenstein’s monster, a wolfman, Nosferatu, and others. Most of the Universal Monsters basically get to make an appearance. The story ends when the turtle wakes up in April’s apartment having fallen asleep watching a monster movie marathon on television.

Might be hard to make out, but some familiar names are on those tombstones across the top.

The story is pretty simple, but what drives it is the artwork. The cloaked turtle, wicked monsters, and ghoulish scenery are what sells Talbot’s story. What attracted me to it though was the obvious connection to The Misfits, one of my all-time favorite bands. The title is a reference to the song of the same name, and the very first page features a message on a tombstone thanking The Misfits with the year of the band’s demise also present. Above the title is a row of tombstones which feature arguably the most popular lineup for the band: Jerry Only, Robo, Doyle, and Danzig.

The following pages contain other references as well. The band Metallica can be found on some headstones on page 2 as well as the entire staff of Mirage Studios. And for good measure, some other artists that likely influenced Talbot, such as Frank Frazetta, are tossed in as well. It’s a story that’s supposed to be spooky, but it’s almost cute due to all of the shout-outs Talbot included. I also really dig his turtle design and if anyone at NECA is reading how about an action figure of this cloaked, spear-wielding, mutant? NECA even has a licensing agreement with The Misfits so might as well work in that tombstone too!

I don’t know where this one came from, but it swaps out The Misfits for just Danzig. The colored reprints of this story kept The Misfits.

This is an interesting little nugget of TMNT history and a fun find for a Misfits/Danzig fan such as myself. I’ve seen other versions of the headstone image online with The Misfits removed and replaced by Glenn Danzig. I don’t know if Talbot redid the art at some point or if a fan did that. It’s pretty cool that this thing exists and it’s another piece of my Misfits/Danzig/TMNT collection.


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.


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!


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