Category Archives: Film

NECA TMNT Movie Ultimate Casey Jones

He’s back ready to teach JV lowlifes everywhere a lesson or two.

I swear this blog is not just a NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blog, even though that’s what it has looked like lately. I’ve just been getting crushed with new releases lately, but it looks like a drought of some length will be incoming soon. Before that can happen though we need to talk about everyone’s favorite vigilante: Casey Jones!

It was over a year ago that NECA released its Casey Jones and Raphael two-pack from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie line. The Jones figure came with a masked portrait, golf bag, assorted melee weapons, and a whole bunch of hands. It was basically everything a fan would want of a Casey Jones figure based on his appearance in the first film, a figure that had never been done before despite the character’s popularity. There was just one thing missing: an unmasked face.

When it comes to producing action figures based on a real life actor certain legal hurdles must be cleared in order to recreate the likeness of a real person. When it came to Casey Jones actor Elias Koteas, he apparently had no desire to be cast in plastic. The message was relayed to fans through NECA and Koteas would expound on that on social media a bit basically just saying he thought it was a bit weird to be turned into a toy. It’s probably not something the average person ever considers, but I guess it is weird for random people to just have a small version of you that they can do whatever they want with. Enter Judith Hoag, the actor who portrayed April O’Neil in that film and has been a bit of a champion of that film for the past few years. She was rather enthusiastic about the prospect of an April O’Neil figure and when she found out Koteas wasn’t onboard she reached out. She’s apparently a very convincing woman because soon after he was onboard and NECA was cleared to create the Casey Jones figure it and the fans wanted from the start.

This is what you want, right?

The only problem there is that approval from the actor came too late to incorporate that into the first edition figure. It was really right around the time that figure was hitting retail that Koteas shared on social media that he was now onboard. I’m sure NECA was happy to have that approval, but probably not super excited for that information to come out while they were trying to sell the masked version. It ended up not mattering as that set was a bear to track down at retail as it sold out almost immediately. NECA would eventually open it up for preorder though on their site, so I’m assuming that everyone who wanted that two-pack at the time now has it.

He brought the mask though in case you miss it.

With that figure already done, what was NECA to do with the actor likeness? Well, they felt a re-release was in order, but rather than update that two-pack and ask collectors to rebuy Raph, they decided to single pack him as one of their Ultimates releases. Ultimate Casey Jones is basically true to that expression as he’s now equipped with everything you need. He has all of the same weapons and hands as before, but now he comes with an unmasked head and a loose mask for good measure. It’s a very familiar release as a result, but if you must have that unmasked portrait here is your chance. It was, after all, a bit easy to dismiss the likeness issue because most likely agree that Casey looks cooler with the mask on. Had the original come with the unmasked head from the start, how likely were collectors to actually display him without the mask? Personally, I wasn’t likely to, but it’s also worth noting he wears the mask in the film for maybe 5 minutes. Probably less. He’s introduced with the mask, but quickly removes it to deal with Raph. When he rescues April and the turtles from the Foot he once again dons the mask, but that scene is brief and once it’s over the mask is put away for good. That’s why it’s entirely defensible for collectors to want the unmasked version. Plus, Koteas isn’t a bad-looking dude. He deserves to have that face uncovered.

Still technically hasn’t even looked at another guy before since he’s looking at himself.
The grill on his mask didn’t come out as clean as the first release, which is odd because it’s likely the same piece as the included loose mask which looks terrific.

Ultimate Casey Jones is nearly the same figure as before, so I suppose this review should be brief. There are some changes though, so it’s not just a straight re-release. Now the figure comes in the Ultimates styled packaging, the five panel box with numerous product shots all around with a neat mask picture (like a photo of NECA’s own prop replica) on the cover. The figure comes with the masked portrait on and he’s still in his main attire in the film: white shirt, tattered vest, gray sweatpants. The sculpting and paint job is handled pretty well. This isn’t a knock your socks off kind of release, because the character isn’t some crazy mutant, but what is here is handled well. My only gripe when it comes to the paint is that the shoulder joints are just painted white which flakes off so he looks like he has rips in his armpits when raising his arms out. The same paint flaking issue also affects the ankles as his socks are painted over a black hinge, but it’s not that noticeable due to his footwear. Otherwise, it’s great as the white shirt has this dingy quality to it like the character just puts this on every night without washing it. The texture and paint on the fingerless gloves is well down, though there’s some minor paint imperfections on some of the fingers, and the sweatpants look like sweatpants. If the knee joints were less visible it would be easy to mistake them for soft goods.

“I’ll never call golf a dull game again.”

Of course, what we need to talk about is the face. That’s the main selling point, after all. And as far as the likeness goes, this is well done. Actor likenesses are hard and NECA certainly knows that. Their Back to the Future line contains a tremendous likeness with its Doc Brown character, but those Marty McFly figures are pretty rough. For Casey, the likeness isn’t as breathtaking as the Doc Brown figures, but it is very good. This looks like Elias Koteas and he has a hint of a smile on his face that’s suitable for the character. The hair looks good, it’s well-painted, and I think collectors (and hopefully Koteas) will be pleased with this one.

Those old elbows (right) were a point of contention with the original release. You definitely get more range out of them, but it is awkward looking.

The other difference with this release is with the articulation. This guy is largely the same, so I’ll run down what is the same as the prior release: ball-jointed head, ball-hinged shoulders, wrist swivels with horizontal hinges, waist twist, hips, single-hinged knees, hinged ankles, ankle swivel. The big change, is in the elbows. The prior release had double-jointed elbows and it was the odd NECA-styled double elbow which rotate above and below the joint, but contains a huge (relatively speaking) joiner in-between. The end result is the elbow doesn’t really point like a real elbow should and instead looks square when bent. The range is awesome, but the aesthetics not so much. NECA agreed so this release just has a single hinge and swivel at the elbow. This means Casey can’t really bend his elbow past 90 degrees, but it does look better. It’s a trade-off worth making, in my opinion, and it looks like NECA is about to make a similar change to it’s April O’Neil movie figure only with her it’s the knees and not the elbows.

Since he lacks vertical hinges for his hands, he can’t really properly swing a club, but he can still look cool!

The actual articulation on this release works okay. He’s not a truly dynamic figure which could frustrate some. Part of that is due to the limited torso articulation. I didn’t include it in the list of joints, but there’s almost certainly some diaphragm joint in this guy, but it’s functionally useless. That’s due to NECA using an overlay for the shirt, which certainly looks more authentic, but results in lesser poses. His feet also can create problems because he’s wearing high tops, which just don’t move as well as some other styles of foot wear. You get little ankle rotation and the hinge only affords so much as well. I will say this one seems to stand better than my previous release, so maybe something has been changed in there, but if so I can’t pinpoint what that change would be. The other articulation shortcoming rests in the hands, which all feature horizontal hinges. Again, we saw this with the Shadow Warriors set, NECA is really good about giving someone like Leonardo vertical hinges to properly wield his katana, but seemingly everyone else who would benefit from the same is left wanting. He even has two sets of gripping hands that are almost identical. I thought maybe with the original release it was a factory error and one set was supposed to have the vertical hinge, but apparently that wasn’t the case.

This is a neat little inclusion and basically the only new accessory in the set.
Though the loose mask isn’t something he can actually wear.

The accessory count should feel familiar to anyone with the first Casey release. He has a boat load of hands for starters that include pairs of gripping hands, slightly looser gripping hands, and fists. He also has an even looser left gripping hand for supporting his goalie stick and a pointing right hand. The plastic is rather pliable on the hands which makes it nice and easy to work the weapons in and out, making one set of gripping hands feel truly extraneous. Since the paint can get a little sloppy on the hands though, it’s not bad to have a second pair. For weapons we’ve got two baseball bats, a hockey stick, goalie stick, cricket bat, and a golf club. They all fit into his golf bag which can also fit over his head, though it is easier to remove the head first to slip it on. If you stuff everything into it the end result is pretty ridiculous, but it can be done! He also has the masked head, if you prefer that. It looks to the be same as the previous one, but for some reason it didn’t come out as clean when it comes to the vents over the mouth. I don’t know why that is, but it is noticeable when comparing it with the previous release. Lastly, he also has a loose mask this time to hold or hang off of the handle of one of his weapons as he does when running from Raph. It’s actually a pretty cool little accessory and, unlike the second portrait, it came out nice and clean. You cannot put it over the figure’s head, but why would you want to? It’s just a neat thing to have and it’s not like there was much else NECA could have tossed in.

Now we can finally properly recreate the infamous Jose Canseco bat scene.
As well as educate others on the finer points of cricket.

Ultimate Casey Jones is easily summarized as the Casey we all wanted from the start. It’s an improved version of what was already a good figure. Yeah, there are some areas one can nitpick, but I think most will be quite happy to have him. There are also probably some folks who don’t see this release as a necessity and that’s understandable too. I certainly questioned how much I “needed” this release, but when presented with an opportunity to own it I went for it, and I’m happy to have done so. This figure is currently being sold by Walmart which appears to be in the midst of a restock at an MSRP of 30 bucks. NECA has not made the figure available on its website, but there’s always a possibility that it will down the road. There’s also a mysterious listing on Walmart’s website for a farm two-pack of April and Casey, but NECA has not confirmed the existence of that so for now it’s just a picture-less listing. A special shoutout to a user at thefwoosh.com, Detrimental_Fig, who was able to find this figure locally and ship it to me after I failed to track one down. Collectors, help each other out and don’t feed those scalpers! There should be plenty to go around.

You can’t have too many Caseys!

TMNT Loot Crate Series 2 Vol. 1 – The “It’s Dan now” Crate

They’re back!

Loot Crate’s first series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crates in 2020 were a massive success. The crates sold out and anyone who missed out found out acquiring them on the secondhand market would be most expensive, and that’s because each crate came bundled with a NECA exclusive action figure. NECA’s parent company rescued Loot Crate from bankruptcy a couple of years ago, so the two are kind of one in the same. It made sense for the two to team-up and for TMNT collectors it meant there were actually figures out there that were easy to obtain, provided you actually jumped in when the crates were first solicited.

Considering they were such a success, it’s no surprise that Loot Crate is back for round two. This wave went up for preorder earlier this year and it includes four crates. Each crate will take inspiration from one of the four main pillars of TMNT media: film, video games, comics, and cartoon. And to be more specific, the themes are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Tournament Fighters, Mirage Studios, and the ’87 cartoon. Basically, all are returning from themes from last year with the exception of Turtles in Time exchanging places with Tournament Fighters. And unlike last time, Loot Crate was pretty upfront with what the figures featured in each crate would be rather than just providing the theme. And also just like last time, subscribers who prepaid for all four get a bonus fifth figure, Scrag, from the cartoon to ship alongside the fourth crate. And also, just like last time (I know, I sound like a broken record at this point), the first crate out the door is the one based on the 1990 film and the figure is one Danny, or Dan, Pennington.

Never did I expect to own a Danny figure.

NECA and Loot Crate’s approach to the figures in this series is to give collectors something that might not make sense at retail. When it comes to the original movie, all of the heavy hitters have seen a retail release and even some not-so-heavy hitters have too. The only exception is Tatsu, but the actor who played him just isn’t interested in playing ball with NECA. Enter Danny. The youth in search of a father figure recruited by the Foot who has a change of attitude when he meets the turtle dad Splinter is a solid choice for a Loot Crate. He’s not in a ton of the film, but he plays a role and might even have more screen time than Shredder. He’s not a fighter, so he’s not the sort of character who needs a bunch of accessories and extra parts and he’s just not someone that excites retail partners. Of course, the flipside is that Walmart can’t seem to keep anything from the film line in stock, so why should Danny be viewed any differently? And that might be true, but the good news is that Danny has two looks in the film so if NECA ever wants to test him at retail they could release his other look there and find out.

Now, I grabbed the Shadow Warriors set, so I’m basically willing to buy anything from the first film. Danny wasn’t the figure that excited me the most when this round of crates was unveiled, but he was also someone I was more than willing to welcome into my collection. Plus, I wanted that bonus figure. If you’re unaware, each crate retails for $50 and the included figure is something lesser than a NECA Ultimate release. These figures are basically half of that $50 and the rest of the “value” comes from pins, a shirt, and other assorted stuff. Your mileage may vary with that stuff, but to me it’s mostly junk. The figure is what makes or breaks each crate and I’m happy to say that I was satisfied with each of the previous crates. With Loot Crate, I think the fear on the consumer end is that we’re paying more for a lesser product and any figure is going to be severely compromised with reused parts that don’t make sense or they’ll just be variants no one asked for. They’re being bought sight unseen, so there’s a trust element at play. Last year’s crates included two straight repaints: Spirit Splinter and First Appearance Shredder. I passed on Splinter, but the Shredder was a rather stunning repaint of a figure previously only available as a convention exclusive, so I was satisfied. The other figures included a glow-in-the-dark “shell shock” turtle and the bunny boys, Bebop and Rocksteady. I wasn’t too excited by the shell shock turtle, but it was a neat idea. The bunnies I loved because they’re just so silly, the exact kind of figure I want from something like this.

This…is not good.

Because of my positive experience with the 2020 crates, I had few concerns this time. The promo shots of Danny looked good, but myself and many others were concerned about the scale. The scale in this line is a bit funny largely due to the turtles themselves probably being too big, but for the most part NECA has been able to work around that by making sure the other figures (like Casey) are at least a little taller than the green dudes. Danny, portrayed by actor Michael Turney, is a little tricky. He shares scenes with his dad, Charles, who is not in figure form (yet?) as well as some with April and Casey. He’s not around the turtles a lot, but he’s definitely shorter than Casey and a little shorter than April. We also see him with Shredder and Splinter. That said, I was fine with Danny coming in as the shortest character in the line, but I still wasn’t prepared for this.

At least his shirt looks nice.

Danny (no way I’m calling this short stack Dan) comes in at a “whopping” 5 3/4″. For comparison, Oraku Saki is a touch over 6 3/4″ and he uses the same body as Shredder and the Foot. He towers over Danny, as does Casey and the turtles. In the scenes he shares with April, he doesn’t appear to be much more than an inch shorter than she. With Casey, the top of his head is right around the eyes. Here he looks like a 10 year old next to basically anyone in this line. It’s fine to quibble over a quarter inch or so, but this is pretty bad. And it’s made worse when one realizes why. Danny is so damn short because NECA opted to reuse the legs (and possibly more) of its John Connor from Terminator 2 figure. They’re denim, and they’re loose-fitting, so they look the part, but they’re way too small. And everything about the figure just seems small as a result like the arms and the head size. I expect some parts reuse with these figures, but it’s irresponsible on NECA’s part to reuse parts that just aren’t suitable for the character. They could have recycled parts from someone like Marty McFly and that would have been better, even if the fit of the pants is tighter than they want. As it stands, this figure looks ridiculous whether right next to another figure or off on his own and that’s a real shame.

Yuck.

And my issues with Danny don’t end there. He comes with two portraits: one with the Foot bandana and one without. The default one with the bandana leaves something to be desired. The paint on the eyes is not perfectly aligned with the sculpted out area for them and just looks sloppy. Mine isn’t as bad as some of the ones I’ve seen online, but if I was at the store sifting through a row of Danny Pennington figures I would have passed on this one. The other head is much better, but both also feature no flesh-colored paint. The prototype had a nice, matte, appearance, but this one is rather shiny and plastic looking. There’s also some brown from the hair on the ears of the alt head, so neither option for me is ideal. The arms on this guy are also really spindly and the forearms look excessively long. They’re very awkward looking, and the hands are curled into hooks as I think they too are recycled from the John Connor figure who was meant to hold onto handlebars. The only positives I can find with the aesthetics of this figure is that the facial likeness, on a basic level, is acceptable and the paint on the denim and sneakers looks nice. NECA also struck a deal with the Sex Pistols to recreate Danny’s Sid Vicious shirt and the quality of the print looks fantastic. I just wonder if they blew too much of the budget on that piece of authenticity and not on making a quality figure.

The alt head is a little better, at least.

Danny’s articulation is nothing to write home about. His head is on a tiny ball-peg and moves around okay, but he can’t look up which is a bit of a problem for such a short guy. His shoulders are ball-hinged and are quite stiff. He can’t raise his arms too far, but can rotate around. The elbows swivel and are single-hinged while the wrist rotates and hinges as well, but it’s tight and gummy and at times it’s hard to tell if the hand is rotating or the plastic is just bending. There’s a waist twist, but it’s severely limited by the oversized t-shirt. He has the old style hip joints and they’re rather tight and potentially fragile, so buyer beware. The thighs rotate a bit and the knees are single-hinged with swivels. The ankles probably do something, but his high tops prevent basically all movement down there. I would advise not forcing the issue because if it breaks who knows if Loot Crate can replace it (they had to cancel some orders of this crate because they oversold it).

You should probably stick your head in those things because you’re not going to like what I have to say about you.

In terms of accessories, Danny is very light. He has the second head I mentioned before and in addition to that he has a Walkman, or personal tape player. It’s cast entirely in a rubbery plastic, which feels really cheap. I think if he were a retail release, just the wire connecting the headphones would be cast in this while the rest would be a harder material. The chord is super long, but I suppose that’s better than the alternative. The paint is a bit sloppy on the headphones, but they do kind of fit on his head if you like that look. That’s it though. No extra hands, no Whopper, no nothing. I’m a little surprised they didn’t slip in a low cost item like a small picture of Leonardo like the one April gave him or maybe April’s wallet or the money he took from it. A bandana for him to hold, and drop at his feet, might have been fun too. And basically any extra hands would have been welcomed because the ones he has just don’t look natural.

Go ahead and do it, Shredder. I don’t care.

Well, Danny might be a dud, but what about the rest of the contents? Like I said, the figure makes or breaks this thing, but even so the rest of the items offer little. This is the smallest crate yet as the only other items are a shirt, set of coasters, and a set of pins. The shirt is this neon green, the same color as a TMNT camera I had back in the day, and features the manhole art from the theatrical poster of the film. It’s very loud, but since it’s long sleeved it has a chance of sneaking into my wardrobe. The pins are just two, oversized, portraits of a masked Casey and Raph. The coasters though are weird. They’re kind of soft and bendy, not really the type of material one associates with coasters, and the artwork on them is Mirage artwork. Why are we getting comic coasters in the movie crate? I don’t hate the choice or anything, it just surprised me.

If you were hoping for the rest of the crate to pick up some of the slack, well, you’re going to be disappointed.

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty disappointed with this crate. It’s easily the worst one yet and since it’s the first one from Series Two it’s hard not to worry about the ones to follow. I have three more to look forward to and if they all leave me feeling like this one did then I’ll probably have to bow out of this subscription service. This crate, to me, is what consumers fear when they sign up for these blind box type of releases. We all worry we’re just getting junk for our money, and this time that is mostly true. It’s just one though, so I’m trying to keep that in perspective, but this one isn’t up to the standards NECA and Loot Crate established last year.

Jerk can’t even sit. I give up.

Unfortunately, the wait to see if crate two is any better is going to be a long one. This crate was already pushed back from August, and now crate two isn’t expected to begin shipping until December meaning consumers aren’t likely to see it until 2022. This crate was marked as “shipped” on September 13th for me and I didn’t get it until October 6th. It is what it is as shipping overseas is crazy right now and it’s getting bad domestically as well. One thing I will say in Loot Crate’s favor is their communication is great when it comes to the delays and that’s all I ask for when it comes to such. Of course, it has to be said some people are having worse experiences as I alluded to. Some had their orders cancelled or delayed indefinitely, which is inexcusable for an item that was thought to be made-to-order. Loot Crate did have to close orders earlier than expected, but the fact that it couldn’t deliver on every order placed is not a good look. Yeah, we’re definitely not off to a good start here.

At least someone is willing to put their arm around him.

It’s just a start though and there’s time to recover. The hope here is that NECA and Loot Crate take the criticism to heart and that most give them constructive feedback. I’m happy to inform people when I get a good product from both, and for the most part my NECA reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, so hopefully this experience is the exception. And if that proves to be the case, that’s obviously better than the alternative, but it’s still disappointing that Danny received such a bummer of a release because he’s probably not getting a redo. Hopefully, his dad didn’t have kittens when he got a look at how his son was treated.


NECA TMNT Movie Shadow Warriors

The set everyone has been waiting for! Okay, maybe not everyone.

NECA’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures at retail began with quarter scale figures based off of the 1990 film. Since then, things have opened up for the company and toon and video game figures have followed as well as a line of movie figures in a 7″ scale line. And of the lines NECA has released to retail, I would still argue the movie line has been the best and most well-received, even if the cartoon line might be more profitable. The problem with that though is there just isn’t a lot of characters to mine from. Cartoons and video games are full of one-off and reoccurring characters to turn into action figures, but the movies are basically just the turtles, a handful of villains, and their allies. And some of them aren’t exactly exciting action figure options, while some that would be aren’t available due to licensing restrictions.

Bad News: You can only find this set at Walmart. Good News: it still retails for $50.

Given that, I suppose it’s not that surprising that NECA decided to turn the Shadow Warriors into their own two-pack. In the film, Master Splinter tells his origin to young Danny Pennington about his master, Hamato Yoshi, and describes him as one of Japan’s finest shadow warriors. Yoshi had a rival, Oroku Saki, who very much wanted to win the affections of Yoshi’s lover, Tang Shen. When it became apparent there would be blood, Yoshi and Shen fled to America, but Saki followed eventually murdering the lovers and taking Splinter’s ear for good measure. It’s a short scene in the film, but since we already have the turtles, Splinter, Shredder, Casey, and the Foot in toy form, why not give this a shot? And if some parts can be reused then all the better.

These two are essentially the same figure, which isn’t much different from the previously released Foot ninja.

The Shadow Warriors two-pack is essentially a Hamato Yoshi vs Oroku Saki two-pack, with an unmutated Splinter as well. Saki and Yoshi are both depicted in their training gi, which is black with a slight shimmer to it. Some of these pieces are recycled from the Shredder and Foot we’ve already received, but a lot is new too. It’s just that both figures are essentially the same save for the headsculpt. Saki comes packaged with his robe on while Yoshi is bare-chested. Both are capable of being displayed the same way though as NECA made the robe removable as well as the arms so you can just swap them with the included extra bare arms or sleeved arms, even though each character was only depicted in the film as packaged, and not together. Yoshi is displayed as he was in the flashback when training alongside Splinter, while Saki is basically in murder mode. Yoshi’s face is rather stoic, while Saki’s default portrait has a faint hint of a smile.

If you want to, you can have both figures dressed the same. Note: Honor not included.

When it comes to both figures, there are things to like and things to dislike about the presentation. I do like the texture of the clothing and the folds give off the illusion of real cloth. The robe portion of the gi works well-enough, and if you want to go off-script they look pretty cool if you make them sleeveless. The faces look fine too, though it’s certainly helped by the fact that the scenes in the film are shot in near blackness with the audience really only getting a good look at Saki. James Saito played Shredder in the film, but it looks like a different actor played him for the flashback this set is based on and he went uncredited. The actor who played Yoshi also wasn’t even credited so I can’t even look up an image to see how the likeness turned out. At any rate, Saki as represented by this figure looks like Saito, but I wish NECA had done a better job with his smile. When we first see him spin and look at the camera he has a wicked grin. I think they tried to do it justice, but it doesn’t look as good as it does on camera. He has a second face that’s bloody and scratched and looks fine, though again, it’s not the expression I would have chosen. In the film, he sports more of a scowl as he slices off Splinter’s ear, but here he has gritted teeth and looks quite enraged.

I enjoy the “shimmer” of the gi.
But bare-chested is also a solid look.

The only other issues I have with the presentation of these figures is tied into the articulation. NECA made some interesting choices when it comes to the torso. The head is on a ball-peg, but the neck is static. Below that is a diaphragm joint with the cut right above the abs and along the rib cage. It looks odd, and what is unfortunate is that you get nothing out of it. The figures barely pivot and twist there and there is almost no ab crunch achieved. NECA apparently thought articulating the base of the neck would look bad, but didn’t think the torso did, but also didn’t make it functional. It’s just a poor design. The shoulders are a little funky too as they slope down quite a bit. I think they do this to make the articulation at the shoulders appear more seamless on a shirtless body, since they also did the same with Goliath. It also may have been done to make sure the gi isn’t too bulky, but again, it does make the figure look odd in some poses. The good news is, you can always use the robe and problem solved, but Yoshi never wore the robe in the film.

Just a man doing ninja stuff with his pet rat. Nothing to see here.

The rest of the articulation at least works fine. Those shoulders peg into the body so they’re easy to remove and they’re just hinged. There’s no biceps swivel, but the arms swivel above and below the elbow as NECA is using those controversial elbows here. These guys are more ripped than Casey Jones was, so I think the arms look better, but they’re still weird as you get this big, middle, piece when bending the elbows all the way. They are partially hidden by the wrist-guards on the bare arms, and obviously totally hidden by the sleeved ones. At the hands, we have rotation and horizontal hinges on every included hand. Since these guys come loaded with melee weapons, this strikes me as a huge oversight on NECA’s part to not include vertically hinged hands. The horizontal hinges on the gripping hands are borderline useless. At the waist is a twist and below that are the old styled hips. These are ratcheted and caution needs to be taken with them. I was able to get Yoshi into a high kick, but I was pretty scared in doing so as these hips are notoriously fragile. The thighs do rotate a bit and the knees are double-hinged with a swivel above them. At the feet we’ve got a hinge and ankle rocker, which works really well and is nice and tight. Unlike some of my complaints with the aesthetics of the upper body, I will say the legs look terrific and these may be the best sculpted pants I’ve seen NECA release.

It’s murder time!

Despite the lack of neck articulation and the poor abdominal joint, these guys are able to achieve some pretty convincing martial arts poses. You won’t have much luck getting them to balance on one foot or anything, but that’s what stands are for. Because of the lack of properly hinged hands, these arguably display better in hand-to-hand combat poses. They both come packaged sporting fists, and if you want to you can swap them for chop pose hands or gripping hands. The right fist that came on Yoshi in my set ended up with some paint rub on it from his vambrace, which sucks. The other set of hands are gripping hands and they’re very tight. I could not get most of the weapons into their hands without first softening the hands with hot water which is annoying, but oh well. NECA at least included each set of hands for both figures, so they don’t have to share gripping hands or anything like the SDCC set did with the Foot Soldiers.

Get him, boy!
Okay, that might have been a bad idea.

If hand-to-hand combat is not your preference, NECA did see fit to include a fairly large assortment of weapons. The weapons, though, should be rather familiar if you’ve purchased the other movie figures as they’re all duplicates. You get in this set a pair of axes, a pair of katana, a pair of black staves, a pair of black tonfa, black nunchaku, and studded nunchaku. The black nunchaku has a plastic chord connecting the handles so it’s more posable, but potentially more fragile, while the studded set features a short chain. Again, this feels like a set that exists because it was fairly cheap to produce so it’s not surprising to see recycled weapons. We only see Saki in the film wield the katana, so it’s hard to be disappointed with the selection. Again, my only disappointed rests in the difficulty in getting the weapons into the hands and the fact that we don’t have the right hinges for most of them. At least if you have the weapons rack you should have little trouble filling it now.

Only sadness, and a thirst for vengeance, remains.
The martial arts pose Splinter is cool, the other one looks like a poop.

The other accessory is basically a third character: Splinter. And you get not just one Splinter, but two! That’s because this is pre-mutated Splinter so he’s just a little, unarticulated, sculpted lump of plastic. One Splinter is in a martial arts pose clearly inspired by the portion of the flashback, “Mimicking his movements from my cage,” which is a line my dad always repeated for some reason. Maybe because it was just so ludicrous, but the film plays it off so naturally. The other Splinter is a grieving Splinter after Saki slices off his ear and leaves him to mourn the death of his master. It’s rather odd looking as his body is just super long and definitely not the one I plan to display. Both rats have a peg hole in the base of them which allows them to peg into the base of a cage. The cage is done in a thin plastic and the bottom pops off rather than have an articulated door. It looks okay, but also rather cheap and I’m surprised NECA opted not to paint it. Maybe they feared the paint would just gum up between the bars? It does come with a stand though that the cage can be suspended from which is welcomed and even though it does look cheap, it might actually be my favorite part of the set. The only downside is NECA didn’t come up with a way for Splinter to easily get into scratching position on Saki. It can be done, but I wish they had included one more hand that was specifically for grabbing Splinter so that Saki could look like he’s trying to pull him off of his face.

I suppose we should do this.

The Shadow Warriors two-pack is a set that I didn’t need, and in fact, wasn’t actively seeking out. I happened across it at Walmart, the only retail location allowed to sell the movie line, and picked it up for a friend only to find out another friend found him a set that very same day. I ended up keeping it rather than trying to offload it onto someone else or return it, and I’m fine with the decision. These guys look pretty cool, they’re just characters I didn’t need for my display to feel complete. It’s also worth noting, we never saw Yoshi and Saki face off in the film as depicted here. When Saki actually attacks Hamato Yoshi he’s in a construction outfit. This set is capturing both characters independent of each other as Yoshi is really meant to tie-in with Splinter. Does this mean we’ll get a figure of Yoshi in overalls and a hardhat? Never say never, though I wouldn’t hold my breath.

And we can end on a comparison shot too.

Dark Phoenix (2019)

What is it with the X-Men film franchise and its aversion to simple titles? We couldn’t just have X-Men 2, we had to have X2. The third film was billed as X-Men: The Last Stand in some places, but the theatrical poster seemed to imply it was X3: The Last Stand. At least the reboot films seemed to rectify this with X-Men: First Class followed by X-Men: Days of Future Past, but now we have just Dark Phoenix. Not X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but Dark Phoenix. Just in case you were confused though, at least the theatrical poster circled the “X” in Phoenix, but why not just keep things nice and simple?

Dark Phoenix is the 2019 film that marks the end of the X-Men film franchise as we know it. It’s been an interesting, confusing, frustrating, and sometimes thrilling ride. The franchise took off in 2000 with X-Men, and arguably peaked with the sequel. The third film was a let down, and then we had some solo Wolverine outings with one being terrible and the other acceptable, plus a sort of prequel, reboot, in 2011. X-Men: First Class turned me off initially, but once I finally gave it a chance I was forced to concede it was at least a fun film. I just didn’t really like how it tried to be both a reboot and a prequel to the original film and felt it would have been better to just commit to one. Apparently, the studio saw this as an issue too so Days of Future Past in 2014 basically served as the sequel to First Class and as the true reboot for the franchise as the time-traveling original heroes changed history and likely inadvertently erased basically everything that happened in the original trilogy. Confused? I suppose you should be, but at the end of the day, it just meant we were truly were dealing with two distinct sets of films that just both happened to be about the X-Men.

The sequels/reboots ended up being a lot of fun, but things took a turn in the third film, X-Men: Apocalypse. That one was a mess and was a textbook example of what not to do when telling an X-Men story. The villain was just an all-powerful being with no subtext. I likened Apocalypse to a natural disaster in my review of that film and I stand by that. He was a foe that just was; there was no getting away from him or around him or reasoning with him, he just had to be endured. The cast basically exploded which meant we had a bunch of new faces and not enough time to get to know any of them. It was almost as if the film depended on people knowing who these characters were and establishing a connection based off of that and not by what was presented onscreen. Given that, the obvious next step was to tell a story entirely dependent upon the audience caring about these new characters – what could go wrong?

The original story of Phoenix unfolded over several years and was anchored by characters introduced 20 years prior, this film is counting on viewers caring about characters introduced just a film ago and given minimal screen time at that with only 2 hours to tell the story.

Apocalypse made enough money that a fourth film was commissioned: Dark Phoenix. The Dark Phoenix Saga is perhaps the most famous X-Men story ever told. Crafted by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, The Dark Phoenix Saga unfolded in the pages of Uncanny X-Men spanning 8 issues in 1980. Some would argue the story began earlier with Uncanny X-Men #101 which began the story of Phoenix way back in 1976. In essence, this was a story that unfolded over parts of 5 years, so is it any wonder that other versions of the X-Men have struggled to match the original story?

Probably the best adaptation of The Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga is in the animated series X-Men. That show devoted basically 10 episodes to the event and had given us multiple seasons before that to develop a connection to the characters in the show. When the X-Men originally went to film, we had at least had two films to connect with characters Jean Grey and Cyclops, only Cyclops was basically written out of the sequel and quickly killed off at the beginning of the third. Oops! At least The Last Stand had the Wolverine/Jean dynamic and the Xavier/Jean relationship to fall back on, but it was sloppy with the Phoenix character taking a backseat to Magneto for large stretches of the film.

This film is not good, but that’s not because of the performance of actress Sophie Turner.

In the waning moments of Apocalypse, the film started dropping hints that Phoenix was next so I was not surprised to find out that Dark Phoenix was in development, but I immediately expected failure. Once again, a film was jumping over The Phoenix Saga and going straight to Dark Phoenix, only this time, the title character was one no on cared about. The film had a lengthy development cycle due in the part to director/screenwriter Bryan Singer getting fired for being a sexual predator and the studio having enough issues with first-time director Simon Kinberg’s final act that they sent the whole crew back for reshoots. The release date got kicked around as the film would basically become akin to a lame duck president since rumors were flying, and would later come to fruition, that Disney was purchasing 20th Century Fox which would bring an end to the X-Men film franchise. The film was finally released in June 2019 and it bombed. If Wikipedia can be believed, it would eventually make more than its budget, but that probably doesn’t factor in marketing costs so it’s possible the studio lost money, though it’s certainly likely that it did not realize a substantial profit.

The poor reception to the film is why my review has taken more than two years to arrive. I’ve simply been unwilling to spend money to watch it, so I waited for it to finally show up on a streaming platform I was already subscribed to. I will come right out and say it: this movie is not good. I was hoping that maybe for a longtime fan of the X-Men, it would work on a basic level for me and I could have some fun with it despite its flaws. Instead, I found little to enjoy.

For starters, the script and screenplay are poor. Characters are given lines riddled with clichés. One can practically predict every word about to come out of a character’s mouth in a given situation and it just feels like amateur hour. Despite the poor script, some actors are able to rise to the occasion. Sophie Turner, who plays the title character, received poor marks for her performance in Apocalypse, but here she redeems herself. Yes, the movie does her few favors, but she performs as well as could be expected. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to be pleasant as Professor Xavier and Magneto, respectively, though the latter’s appearance felt especially shoe-horned this time around. Just like with Apocalypse, Magneto is basically just to hear to clearly demonstrate that another being is more powerful than him. Nicholas Hoult is fine as Beast/Hank McCoy, but that’s basically it. Jennifer Lawrence continues to underwhelm as Raven/Mystique which is partly due to the character being underserved by the role while Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler) and Alexandra Shipp (Storm) are treated more like tools than characters. Jessica Chastain, who reportedly turned down numerous offers to appear in a “superhero” film before, plays the villain Vuk and it’s truly puzzling that this is the role she finally accepted. She must have owed someone a favor or just really likes Kinberg because the role is terrible.

A space rescue leads to an encounter with the Phoenix Force, setting the wheels of the plot in motion.

The plot of the film basically tries to adapt portions of both The Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga. When the film begins, Xavier is basically a celebrity with direct access to the President of the United States and things are going well for mutants. It’s supposed to be set in the early 90s, but the period is not utilized in the least. When the X-Men are called upon to save a stranded space shuttle in the outer rim of Earth’s orbit, Jean Grey is exposed to a supernatural force and is forever changed. This causes a rift between Raven and Xavier, with Beast caught in the middle, over Xavier’s willingness to place his student’s in harm’s way to further his agenda while Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) is left to worry about his girlfriend, Jean, who is acting different. Things take a turn as Jean essentially becomes the Dark Phoenix character as we know her leading to tragedy and her fleeing the team. In the process, it’s discovered that Charles had used his own powers to hide traumatic memories of Jean’s when he took her in, and now those barriers are failing causing others on the team to question Xavier’s judgement and Jean to basically go out of control.

Vuk (left) basically plays the role of Mastermind this time around as she attempts to forge a bond with Jean to gain control of the Phoenix.

Complicating things further are the D’Bari, a race of shape-shifting beings made extinct by The Phoenix Force before it ever encountered Jean. Their leader, Vuk, wants to take control of the Phoenix which now rests in Jean, and in order to do so needs to become her ally. Along the way Magneto will be pulled in and Xavier will be forced to reassess what the X-Men stand for. It’s a mess of a plot that both asks us to care about characters we barely know and is also afraid to actually put a lot on the shoulders of these characters. A lot of what happens, particularly with Magneto, feels like the film just padding out its length. Once again, Magneto is presented as being in a state of peace, but then immediately goes back to being a tool of vengeance. It’s ridiculous what the past two films have tried to do with the character and the only silver lining is that Michael Fassbender continues to be terrific in the role. The presence of the D’Bari is essentially taking the place of the Hellfire Club from the comic, and not the Shi’ar, as Vuk tries to coerce Jean into being an ally in order to take control of the Phoenix Force. The film isn’t really interested in explaining this cosmic entity; does it just function like a power amplifier or is it in control? It’s basically just there to give Vuk a motivation and a reason to exist, albeit a flimsy one. The film would have functioned in the same fashion if Vuk just wanted to use Jean like a weapon, as Magneto had done in The Last Stand, and the Phoenix entity was just something that existed inside her character.

I love Fassbender’s Magneto, but he did not need to be in this picture.

Dragging the film further down into the mire are the special effects and action pieces. The effects are not bad, just not interesting. It’s a lot of characters just putting their hands up and CG taking over to add in some flames or lightning. The only interesting moment involves a subway car crashing up through a street, but it’s also a head-scratching moment as the character responsible didn’t really need to do that and it just looks like the film trying to show off. There’s no moment that made me say “Wow” and there’s no signature fight scene either. The final battle is one of the film’s most underwhelming moments. The costumes at least look okay. Beast still looks kind of dumb, but a lot of that has to do with the character’s design and not the makeup effects being utilized. This one, like the previous film, does draw attention to how the franchise loves blue characters as we have the blue Beast, Nightcrawler, and Mystique making up half of the X-Men. The franchise is finally confident to give the team a comic-inspired uniform, but still not willing to give other characters a cool, fun, look. Jean, as Dark Phoenix, just wears street clothes throughout this one and Magneto apparently lost his threads between films.

Dark Phoenix is not a good film and a whimper for the franchise. Technically, the final X-Men adjacent film is last year’s The New Mutants, another film fraught with delays and reshoots that ultimately did not pan out. It’s a shame that a cartoon in the early 90s is still the best depiction of a classic comic story like The Dark Phoenix Saga and I wonder if the repeated failures will cause Disney to bypass it when X-Men finally enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a shame, because it’s really not a hard story to adapt, it’s just one that needs time. It’s not a one-movie deal, it has to be cultivated across films and, most importantly, they need to be films that actually respect the characters. Marvel has proven it can create a team and have the audience care about it, and I don’t mean The Avengers. That was obviously a different animal where most of the characters got stand-alone films first, but Guardians of the Galaxy did not go that route and found a way to make us love the characters on that team. I do suspect that when it comes time to onboard the X-Men that we’ll meet someone like Xavier in a different film before being properly introduced to the full team. And it’s possible we’ll meet other characters prior to that as well. It wouldn’t be hard to slip Storm into whatever comes next for the Black Panther and Wolverine can fit in almost anywhere. That’s a whole other subject though. For now, the X-Men film franchise that began in 2000 is over. It had its ups and downs, but it’s also a big reason why we have the superhero genre today. It was immensely important and I’m glad it exists even if it has many flaws. It’s unfortunate it didn’t get a better send-off, but I think of Days of Future Past as the true bookend and that film is great. And if not, well Logan is possibly the best superhero movie ever and also would be a fine end. Dark Phoenix just happened to be the movie that came last.


S.H.Figuarts Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku

That is quite the mouthful, is it not? The Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku is the latest action figure from Bandai’s S.H.Figuarts to arrive in Target stores in the US. This form of Goku is what happens when a Saiyan ascends to Super Saiyan God level, and then goes Super Saiyan again. Confused? You probably should be, which is why in-universe Goku proposed just calling the form Super Saiyan Blue because he just looks like his regular Super Saiyan self, but with blue hair instead of blond. And that’s cool! At least I think it is, but blue has always been my favorite color so that is all the explanation you really need for why I like it. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, that might be because you stopped paying attention after the Dragon Ball Z hype dyed-down for this form is from the more recent Dragon Ball Super. And if you liked DBZ back in the day and have slept on Super, I recommend checking it out because it’s pretty fun.

Do you like your Goku stoic?

The SHF line from Bandai and Tamashii Nations has become one of the premiere collector lines for action figure enthusiasts. It’s a super-articulated, 1/12 scale line that is known for its high level of quality. That can also mean a high price tag as well with many releases tagged for $60 or more at release. It wasn’t that long ago that the line was basically an import only affair, but US-based retailers have slowly been adding the line to their stores. Barnes & Noble and Gamestop were among the first places I encountered the line outside of online toy shops, but Bandai has wanted to make this a more accessible line and has partnered with American distributor Blue Fin Brands to make these things even more available. And also more affordable. That’s why you can now find some products at Target, which was unthinkable just a couple of years ago. And in order to appeal to a more casual Target shopper, Bandai has turned to Goku and a rather aggressive pricing strategy. Likely owing to the fact that the company is reusing the same mold over and over, Bandai has been able to price Goku at $35. He doesn’t come with as many accessories as other figures in the line, but he’s hardly bare bones. Bandai started with its standard Goku, then released the Kaioken version, and now it’s released the Super Saiyan Blue version. I suspect the new Full Power Super Saiyan Goku will show up as well.

Or do you prefer him smug? I like smug.

This seems like a pretty good strategy to me, especially because I may have never bought this particular figure otherwise. I’ve somewhat reluctantly begun to expand my Dragon Ball collection to include some of Z and Super, and this figure is the first one I have in hand. As I said above, I like the Super Saiyan Blue look. It’s just Super Saiyan Goku, but with cooler hair. I never had the opportunity to get this figure before and the only other versions I’ve encountered in a physical store have been the model kits or the Dragon Stars edition, and neither really appealed to me. I have wanted to cherry-pick a bit from the Dragon Ball Super, and to some extent Dragon Ball Z, releases so I was happy to see this figure get reissued as it was originally a released timed with the film Dragon Ball Super – Broly.

Of course, there’s also pissed off Goku.

Goku is about as good as any other SHF release I’ve purchased, and that’s a good thing. To the tip of his hair, he’s just shy of 6.5″ which makes him about a half inch taller than the Super Saiyan Vegeta I have from the same line. That looks about right for late era DBZ and DBS as Vegeta was gradually drawn taller than his original appearance (apparently, being good causes you to grow in the world of Dragon Ball), but was always kept shorter than Goku. He sports his traditional organge gi with his own kanji on the front and rear (accurate to the film) and a knotted belt. His undershirt, wrist wraps, belt, and boots are navy and his skin is quite pale, which is often how it’s colored when in one of his super forms. His hair is a dark, pearl, blue which is basically how it’s colored when the character lacks an aura. I was a little surprised Bandai didn’t try to create the illusion of an aura, but this looks good too.

And when Goku gets mad, he starts working on something…

As is the case with most figures in this line, Goku doesn’t possess a ton of paint. The gi is done in orange plastic with a slight wash on the front to add a touch of depth. Basically, the only painted parts are the facial features, blue sleeves, blue wrist wraps, the flesh of his chest, the kanji on his chest and back, and the red stripes and knots on his boots. What little paint there is has been applied in a clean manner. My only gripe is with the opacity. The white on the kanji needs to be thicker as some of the orange bleeds through it. The same is true of the chest which looks like it’s cast in blue plastic to match the undershirt and it shoes through just a little. It’s not too noticable though and I’m genuinely pleased with how well the flesh plastic of his neck matches the painted flesh. In total, the paint is fine, but since this is sort of a “budget” release it’s easy to wonder if that plays a role in the thin paint on the kanji.

Like the good old Kamehameha attack!
In case you prefer a side view of the destruction.

Beyond the paint, the sculpt for this figure is generally really good. Goku is a character than can be tough to get right for some reason as I’ve seen many figures where his head just looks too small. And I kind of felt that way about the standard Goku Bandai did and it’s why I never picked him up. Maybe it’s just the shape of the Super Saiyan hair, but this one looks better to me. His head might be a touch on the small side, but it doesn’t throw off the look of the figure. The gi looks terrific as far as the folds and such are concerned and they really did a great job hiding the articulation when Goku is in a vanilla pose. I’m especially happy with how the face turned out on all of the swap-able pieces. Anime characters like Goku sometimes end up with facial features that are too soft, but Goku does not suffer in that regard. His nose is pronounced whether looking at the figure head-on or from the side. I like the variety of expressions as they all very much scream “Goku.” The musculature of his arms looks “just right” to me. It’s easy to see why Bandai would re-release this base sculpt over and over because there isn’t much they could do to improve upon it.

Since I don’t have a proper Dragon Ball Super villain, King Piccolo is just going to have to take one for the team.

People love the SHF line because of the sculpts, but also because of the articulation. Goku boasts as much articulation as pretty much any other figure in the line, which is to say he packs a lot. He has a single ball peg at the head/neck that lets him look down pretty far and up just a bit. Go too far back and a small gap will appear at the base of the neck. It’s okay, but not as good as some other figures. At the shoulders, we have the usual ball-hinge setup with a butterfly joint. The shoulder cuffs of the gi can be moved around as they’re just pegged into the arms which allows you to position Goku’s arms in almost any position you can think of, though he can’t quite reach across his body. Bringing the arms forward will, of course, create a large gap behind the shoulder, but he can do a decent Kamehameha so you’ll probably get what you want out of it. Unfortunately, the interior of the shoulder is cast in flesh-colored plastic when it should be orange so if you look at the figure from certain angles when in that classic pose it doesn’t look right. At the biceps, he has a swivel and below that a double hinge that does better than 90 degrees. The hands are on ball-hinges and the wrist cuffs hide the ball portion very well. In the torso, we have the SHF ball hinge so you can twist and pivot at the base of the rib cage, but also pull up on the figure to crunch him forward and back. At the waist is a twist, and below that we have what I think are ball pegs at the hips. He can kick forward and back just fine, but out to the side he’s a touch limited with his left leg, but for some reason his right is even more limited. I don’t know if the floating, plastic, “cap” Bandai used just isn’t lining up right on that side or what the deal is, but I don’t want to force it. He’s got a twist in the upper thigh, double-hinge knee, and ball peg at the ankle with a toe hinge. The ankle articulation isn’t great because it’s recessed so far in the boot. They could probably stand to do better there, but I have no issues standing him. The belt also features a peg at the knot so you can reposition it as needed. It’s a floating piece otherwise so it can also slide around.

“Keep you low power, Super Saiyan, stink away from me, Vegeta.”

The articulation is overall pretty good. It’s not the best SHF figure I’ve seen, but it does strike a pretty terrific balance between pleasing the sculpt and offering a wide range of motion. Really, the big negative is that butterfly joint and maybe the sleeves, which peg into the shoulder to move around, but can get kind of ugly in certain poses. They can be manipulated into something pleasing enough, but it feels like a better solution could be found. For $35 though, this figure is a terrific value. I don’t know that much really competes. Maybe the Tokka and Rahzar NECA released last year which averaged out to around 30-35 a piece? And I haven’t even mentioned the accessories. Goku comes with 4 portraits and four and half sets of hands. The facial portraits are stoic, smile, teeth gritting, and yelling. The hands are fists, open palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha hands, and one double-pointing “Instant Transmission” right hand. Basically, you get everything you need with no extras. It would be awesome to get a stand or energy effect, but given the price I’d say you’re getting a solid assortment. The only facial portrait one could ask for that isn’t here is maybe just a cheerful expression, but that’s definitely not needed for the Super Saiyan Blue form. And when it comes to the hands, there’s none I could want that isn’t here. Goku isn’t a character that needs gripping hands and he can do all of his signature poses with what Bandai provided in the box, save for the ones that need a stand.

Just a couple of cocky Saiyans.

And that’s what this is, a low cost entry point into the SHF Dragon Ball line. It definitely strikes me as a sound strategy as I can see some people seeing this in a place like Target and picking it up on a whim and that leading them down the rabbit hole that is the SHF line. It’s even worked on me to a degree as I now want a villain, or at least someone, to pair with Goku. I definitely would like to get my hands on a Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta and I hope he gets a reissue at some point. I don’t know that I need the Broly to place on a shelf though. This is a line I intend to just cherry pick my favorite looks and characters and it felt right to add at least one Goku to the mix. And I like how he turned out. Could he be better? Yes, especially at that butterfly joint, but overall he looks nice and moves well enough that I think anyone who picks this figure up will be happy with it.

“Bye!”

The Hot Wheels Batman Series

Hot Wheels gave their Batmobiles a makeover.

I’m not much of a car collector, but when I was a kid I went through a Hot Wheels and Matchbox phase. My favorite car was a small, black, one that I only barely remember. I have no idea what make or model the car was, but what I liked about it was that it had something on the rear that reminded me of the turbine on the back of the Batmobile from the Batman television show. As a kid, that was my Batman and I loved watching reruns of the 1966 show even though the cliffhanger endings always bothered me as a kid. I loved that car though, but I’d eventually replace it when the 1989 Batman movie arrived for with it came a ton of merchandise, including a Hot Wheels sized Batmobile. I don’t remember if it was actually a Hot Wheels brand or not, but it worked with the few sets I had and I very much liked having it. I also got out of cars not that long after though, so it would be the only tiny Batmobile I’d ever have.

When my son was around the age of 2, I started buying him Hot Wheels and one of the first priorities I had as a dad was to get him a Batmobile. And I did, getting him a variation of the ’89 Batmobile and later one based on the design from Batman: The Animated Series, but his love affair with small scale cars didn’t last very long. He still has a bunch of them, and also has the giant garage and some track sets, but he’s moved on much like I did when I was his age.

In my numerous trips to Target in search of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and assorted other action figures, I’ve come across a new line from Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand. It’s a line of Batman vehicles, but they’re not at the usual roughly 1:64 scale of a traditional Hot Wheels car. The regular BTAS Batmobile is rougly 3 1/8″ long while this new scale puts it at 4 1/2″. They’re also not the same price since they’re around 9 dollars after tax. I’m not sure what the scale of these cars are. Their construction though is largely the same as they’re a mix of diecast and plastic with Mattel using diecast on the more prominent pieces with the plastic often used for the base. And since they’re bigger, they look better and they stand out.

My childhood affection for the Batmobile is something that’s never really left me. When I bought those Batmobiles for my son, I was tempted to buy an extra for myself. I never did, but when I saw these larger ones it had me thinking these could be daddy’s Batmobile. I still didn’t jump right away, as that price was a turn-off initially, but I just couldn’t keep turning them down. Eventually I caved, repeatedly, and now I have a small assortment of miniature vehicles from Batman. On an individual basis, there isn’t much to talk about, but now that I have a small assortment I figured it made sense to take a look at them in a blog post. I’m going to start with the one that made me jump into this line first.

Mattel went a little too far with this one including things it didn’t need to.

The 1989 Batmobile from the movie Batman might be my favorite. I say might be, because I really have a hard time deciding between it and the next two we’re going to look at. It’s just a cool design though that combines a flashy aesthetic with something that’s actually functional. This thing looks drive-able, even though it would be a bit long and cumbersome to steer. It’s sort of like the car Cruella DeVille drives, but with armor and a bat theme. Seeing the Batmobile self-drive in the movie was a huge thrill for a kid at the time, and when I got a chance to see the real thing at a car show I begged my parents to pay for a photo of us with the Batmobile.

Mmm that backend.

This Hot Wheels version of the Batmobile pretty much nails the likeness. It’s cast all in black and has all of the little details you probably remember from the film like the ribbed rear panels, the ports for the machineguns, and even the little side hatch for that grappling hook it can fire. Mattel did take some liberties with the coloring though as maybe they felt it was just too black as presented on film. They used a metallic silver for portions of the engine on each side of the vehicle, on the gas tank access, and on the hubcaps. From what I can tell based on shots from the film, the gas tank access points weren’t black, but they definitely don’t stand out as much as they do here. I’m guessing their color was closer to a gunmetal finish. The hubcaps though are definitely too shiny and bright. They do have the little bat logo on the center, but they should be black and it does kind of bother me that they are not. It’s still better than the standard Hot Wheels I got for my son, which has a random, red, racing stripe on it for some reason.

Neat, but unnecessary.

What might bother me more though, is the little action feature Mattel included. The hatch on the Batmobile is functional and it slides forward to reveal the innards of the car. It’s not super detailed inside, but it looks pretty neat. What’s not neat is how they engineered it. In order for it to slide forward, Mattel had to cut a track into the vehicle’s hood. It’s an eyesore, and what kind of sucks about it is that the car is packaged with the hatch open so you don’t see this eyesore until you open the box. It looks fine when open, but I bet most people want to display it closed. I don’t really know of a way Mattel could have engineered this without cutting an ugly track somewhere into the car. Tracks on the side would have probably looked worse, and sticking in a hinge instead would be inaccurate. I think I would have just not included the feature if it was up to me, or maybe try to attach the hatch with a magnet. That though would have required the hatch be engineered differently too as it’s plastic, which is also a bit of a bummer as it’s noticeably more shiny than the diecast portion. It doesn’t ruin this toy, but it’s far from perfect.

If I had to pick a favorite Batmobile this might be the one.

The Batmobile from Batman: The Animated Series was my second purchase from this line, and unlike the 89 Batmobile, it’s pretty damn near perfect. It feels a bit more weighty than the 89 one as I think there’s more diecast in use here. It gives it a wonderful feel with a lovely matte finish. The hatch doesn’t function and instead it has a blue piece of plastic serving as the windshield. It’s a little odd, but it contrasts nicely with the all black exterior. And that’s basically the only nitpick I have with this one. The Batmobile from BTAS wasn’t black, but dark blue. Most of the toys though cast it in black, which always annoyed me. It’s similar to how many Batman action figures make Batman’s cape and cowl black instead of blue. The best solution is probably to make it black with blue highlights to make it look like it was pulled right from an animation cel, but if a company isn’t going to invest that much in the paint application, then just make it blue. The standard sized one my son has was given a dark blue, sparkly, paint job. It’s pretty cool, though the sparkles might have detracted at this scale, but at least they tried to capture that color-changing aspect of the source material.

A more exciting paint-job and this thing would be perfect.

Aside from that, I really can’t find anything to complain about. The “ribbed” portion of the hood looks great, the front-end is accurate, the hubcaps are the right color, and even the headlight placement looks good. I do think Mattel probably had to dull the points on the back of the car to adhere to safety standards, but it doesn’t harm the look of the car. There are no treads on the tires, which is a little odd, but you can’t really see the tires unless you flip it over so it’s not really an issue. Of some interest to me is the 2017 copyright on the bottom of this one so I guess this thing isn’t new, but it’s new to me.

I can’t look at this and not hear the theme song.

The first Batmobile I fell in love with was indeed that 1966 one from the television show Batman. This Batmobile, based on a Ford concept vehicle, is definitely more of a style over substance vehicle. The previous Batmobiles we looked at are like luxury tanks or something, but this one is just a slick car. Except for that siren in the middle, that’s a little dorky. It’s all black though with logos on the doors and hubcaps. The open top design meant that Batman and Robin could just jump right in, rarely utilizing the doors, though it also meant that Batman might have been slow to respond to distress calls from Commissioner Gordon if it was raining out. The dual, bubble dome, windshield is such an “of its era” design that remains charming. By far though, my favorite feature of this Batmobile when I was a kid was that turbine on the rear of the car in which flames would burst when Batman hit the gas. That feature is so awesome and stylish that future versions of the Batmobile made sure to keep it.

Nice car, but what is up with this?!

The Hot Wheels version does a good job of replicating the car from the show. The proportions and front end look great, and they even sculpted a Batphone in-between the two seats. What hurts it a little is that this is a design that calls for finer details, and even though this is bigger than a typical Hot Wheels car, it’s not really big enough to capture those finer details. Some of the interior comes across as a red-orange blob because of paint limitations, and they chose to paint the siren the same color rather than use translucent plastic. There’s also a blemish on the passenger windshield on mine that’s disappointing, but not truly detracting. What really confounded me though was the presence of a trailer hitch. It’s weird to look at the rear of the car for that iconic shot from the show where the flames burst forth, only to see it obstructed by a trailer hitch, something that definitely wasn’t present on the actual vehicle from the show. If Batman wants to tow something he should probably just get a Bat Truck.

When the streets just won’t do.

This line isn’t just Batmobiles though. There’s actually a bunch of other vehicles, like Penguin’s duck and the Batcopter, but I didn’t want any of those things. What did catch my eye though is the Batwing from Batman: The Animated Series. The Batwing from that show is heavily influenced by the same vehicle from the film. Its proportions are altered slightly, but the general design of replicating the classic Batman logo is preserved. It’s definitely a cool vehicle, and I had the Kenner version of the movie Batwing as a kid and loved it. When I saw this at the store, which is from the second series of vehicles, it was an easy buy.

The stand is simple, but pretty cool.

This Batwing is basically just a solid piece of black metal. It’s extremely satisfying to hold and I instinctively started flying it around my head and making soaring noises when I pulled it out of the package. Like the BTAS Batmobile, Mattel utilized translucent blue plastic for the windshield which looks pretty cool. The subtle, sculpted, details on the top of the plane look nice and sharp, and this thing is just all-together a little slice of cool. The points on it are dulled to a degree, but it’s not something that truly takes away from the toy. It doesn’t have any additional features, but Mattel did include a little flight stand. It’s just a ball peg that snaps into the underside which lifts the Batwing about 2″ off of the surface it’s on. The ball-peg connection means it can pivot a bit to either side or up and down to give you some display options. This one just simply gets the job done, and it might be my favorite of the bunch as a result, though that BTAS Batmobile is right there with it.

Batman, the maritime warrior!

That 66 Batmobile is pretty cool too, but that trailer hitch is confounding. Or at least it was until I saw my latest purchase from this line: the Bat Boat! The Bat Boat from the 1966 television show is part of series 2 and with it comes a trailer. Now, I remember the boat from the show and the movie, but I don’t remember ever seeing Batman tow the thing with the Batmobile. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to hitch a trailer right where flames fire out of a car, but that era was definitely style over substance. It’s definitely a humorous image to conjure up of Batman waiting in line at a public boat launch towing his Bat Boat with the Batmobile, then struggling to launch or pull it out, getting his boots wet or his cape hung up.

Even Batman’s trailer is tricked out.

The Bat Boat certainly looks the part though at it’s a metallic blue with white underside. This one is mostly plastic and it has a very light feel in the hand. It’s definitely not as cool as the Batmobile as it has these dorky flame decals on the side, but it does have that giant engine on the back so it was capable of shooting out flames as well. I do like the metallic blue finish it has though as the glossy look works well for the source material. The trailer is just all plastic, but it does have bat fins over the tires and the big, orange, bat logo on the hubcaps. The details around the hitch are actually pretty well done and it looks like a real boat trailer and the boat itself rests on it well enough. The actual connection to the Batmobile is a bit odd as Mattel basically put a ring at the end instead of an actual hitch design which is cupped and rests on top of the ball on the back of the vehicle. The ring design makes it look like the Batmobile hitch should snap into this ring, but it doesn’t really work with mine. Just resting it works okay and the Batmobile can actually pull this thing. Was it worth it to ugly the design of the Batmobile with that trailer hitch? I don’t know, but I guess I would have displayed the two connected if given the chance. I just wish the hitch was easily removed from the Batmobile. It is a separate piece so maybe I could work it out if I was determined. At any rate, if I never wanted the boat and hated that hitch I could definitely remove it, but I might destroy it in the process. Since I do have the boat, I’m not willing to take that risk.

So that’s why we have a trailer hitch on the Batmobile.

That’s it for now though. As mentioned earlier, there are other vehicles in this line that are mostly different versions of the Batmobile or one of Batman’s other flying vehicles. I don’t really like any of the Batmobiles that followed BTAS, so I’m good. The only tempting one is the Super Friends Batmobile which looks a lot like the 66 version, but it’s blue and has softer features since it came from a cartoon. As for future vehicles, I’d probably be interested in the 89 Batwing, but I’m not into the 66 Batcopter or the Bat Ski Boat from Batman Returns. Maybe there are other Bat vehicles I’m spacing on, but for now, this is a fun little assortment of Batman vehicles and if it never grows beyond this then I’ll be perfectly content.

Bat cars! Assemble!

Lego 71030 Looney Tunes Minifigures

Finally, some Looney Tunes toys!

When it comes to classic cartoons, few would argue against the merits of Warner Bros Studios’ Looney Tunes. Pretty much all of the major studios were invested in cartoon shorts in the 1930s into the 1960s and Warner was a gold mine for hilarious content. The Leon Schlesinger produced Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes churned out characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig like a well-oiled machine. Visionaries such as Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson, and many more helped shape these characters and define cartoon comedy for generations. Everything that followed in animated comedy owes something to the Looney Tunes and the influence of those shorts cannot be overstated.

Despite their popularity, the characters of Looney Tunes have teetered on the brink of obscurity for years now. In the 80s and 90s, it was easy to find these characters and shorts on many networks in various packages. I would watch Nickelodeon’s Looney Tunes almost every night when I was a little kid as it was the last piece of programming on the network before Nick at Nite kicked in. And I loved pretty much all of the characters featured, yes, even Bosko, though I was always partial to the Road Runner shorts. The characters remained in the public eye through other shows and a fairly popular apparel line with the franchise probably peaking with 1996’s Space Jam, a bad movie with some decent jokes sprinkled throughout, but one that is definitely a source for millennial nostalgia. Following that, there was a bit of a decline. Networks like Nick and Cartoon Network invested more of their resources into original programming and stopped licensing the shorts from Warner, while that company also sank money into new properties and kind of left Bugs and his pals behind. There was a movie in 2003 titled Looney Tunes: Back in Action and attempts to create new cartoons and rehabilitate old ones, but nothing really made much of an impact or had much staying power.

Now, the Looney Tunes are primed for a resurgence. New shorts are airing as part of HBO Maxx and they at least look good. I have yet to watch any since I’m not a subscriber, and I think that has hurt the property’s growth as I really don’t encounter much chatter online about these new shorts. There’s a new Space Jam film starring LeBron James set for release this year, and that could certainly help catapult these characters into the public conscious as nostalgia seekers who enjoyed the original movie as kids might use it as a vehicle to introduce their own children to these characters.

Perhaps we owe the new Space Jam for the Looney Tunes merchandise that is on the way. We certainly do for the line of Space Jam themed action figures now popping up at retail, but perhaps we also owe Space Jam a thanks for this new line of Minifigures from Lego featuring the Looney Tunes. There definitely is a shortage of Looney Tunes toys in the market. Before 2021, there wasn’t much to speak of at all in both the kid demographic and the collector market. With Disney now getting love from the likes of Super7 and Beast Kingdom, it would be nice to see the Looney Tunes experience the same. For now, we’ll have to take what Lego is providing and be happy that at least someone is making Looney Tunes toys in 2021.

The wave of 12 figures features some heavy hitters, and some not-so-heavy hitters. As far as I know, this wave of figures is the only Looney Tunes product Lego has unveiled, so if you were hoping they arrived with an actual set you may be disappointed. That could partly be due to the fact that there are no obvious locales to spotlight in a set. Bugs Bunny lives in a hole and many cartoons just take place in a forest. The Tweety cartoons take place in a generic house, while Porky is a bit more of an everyman who can be featured everywhere. Maybe Lego will get creative and do something like Duck Amuck! as a set, or the abstract Wacky Land. There are possibilities, for sure, just nothing obvious. Well, aside from Space Jam sets which may or may not be coming.

Like other waves of Minifigures, these all come in blind bags and are sold pretty much anywhere Lego is sold. They’re 5 dollars a bag and you can take a chance and just grab some off the rack or spend some time feeling them out. This set is not particularly hard to discern for those determined not to get doubles as, like the Disney and Simpsons waves, these characters feature unique head-sculpts which goes a long way in determining who is who. The only characters who really have a similar head-shape are Tweety and Porky, but both feature additional pieces that are a dead give-away like Tweety’s circular bricks for building his mallet and Porky’s rectangular sign. Overall, this is a small release though as the last Disney wave contained 18 figures to just 12 here. Some of that 18 may have been due to parts reuse (Huey, Dewey, and Louie were essentially the same figure 3 times), but I was still surprised at how small this wave was. Especially considering the characters left out, but maybe that’s a good sign that Lego is planning more? Or maybe Lego deemed some of the remaining characters too risqué for the company’s liking. Oh well, at least it’s easier on the wallet this way.

We’ll go in the order Lego displays the figures in on the included checklist, so first up is Lola Bunny. Lola was created for the original Space Jam and she is likely present in this line because of the new movie and because there are so few female characters from Looney Tunes to represent. This version of Lola sports a yellow tank top and purple shorts which really draws attention to the fact that she’s basically just adult Babs from Tiny Toons. She has a scrunchie in her ears which makes them look like a ponytail and it’s those ears you want to be on the look-out for when searching for this character. She also has a basketball, but it’s just an orange sphere with no printing with a hole on one end so that she can actually hold it. She looks fine, though I find it a little odd her mouth is basically just printed and not sculpted at all. I don’t know if anyone collecting this line really wanted Lola, but she turned out all right at least.

Bunny butts from Lego don’t get the same attention to detail as duck butts.

Next up is the iconic Bugs Bunny. He has his own unique head sculpt from Lola, though he does feature the same printed on mouth as her. His ears are the dead give-away when looking for him and he comes with a carrot, because he’s Bugs Bunny. This is the standard, licensing art, Bugs most are familiar with. He has white hands and the fur around his mouth is tufted as opposed to smooth. His tail, to my surprise, is just printed on his back. I was expecting a separate piece that went in-between his legs and torso. He looks pretty great though and is basically what one would expect of a Bugs Bunny Lego.

Aww, they’re so cute and tiny!

Wile E. Coyote is next up. Since I did so love the Road Runner cartoons when I was a kid I was really looking forward to getting that duo. Wile E. looks terrific. His head features probably the best sculpting in this wave as he has the tall ears, the snout that sticks way out with a slight droop, and the cheeks that puff out. There’s even a little sculpting on his eyebrows. He features a tail add-on that’s a bit odd. It’s a long, bushy, tail that looks like it belongs to a fox or raccoon. In the shorts, Wile E. always featured a rather diminutive tail, but Lego likely recycled this from a past figure. I do prefer it to a printed tail, at least. You can position it in either an up position or a down one. His accessory is an anvil that has to be assembled. It’s a bit odd looking for an anvil, but it gets the job done. Mostly, I just love how the face turned out so I’m happy.

Coyotes are known for having a bushy tail, I just don’t know that Wile E. Coyote necessarily is.

Next up is Road Runner himself. This figure could have turned out really bizarre, but I’m happy to say he actually looks pretty good. The character is basically all legs with a small, but long, body. He’s essentially the opposite of a blocky Lego, but with a little effort they got him looking great. His head features the expression one would expect and it also has separate plumage that pegs into the top. At the waist is a tail piece that was possibly created just for this figure, while the arms are wings likely recycled from last year’s Big Bird. The legs are a bit plain as Lego declined to give him bird feet, but the overall aesthetic works well enough. His accessory is a bowl of bird seed, perfect for the coyote to lay down as a trap that will inevitably backfire in some way.

Do you root for Tweety or Sylvester? I’m honestly not sure who I rooted for as a kid.

Tweety is our next figure and he’s a bit of an odd choice. He’s certainly popular enough to be featured in this inaugural wave, he’s just way out of scale with everyone else. Lego used their child legs for Tweety, which are non-articulated, to make him as small as possible, but he still looks pretty ridiculous next to any of the other characters. He might have made more sense as a small, non-articulated, figurine. His paint scheme is simple, so Lego could probably make him look fine. They took that approach with the Simpson pets. They didn’t though, and even though he’s out of scale, he at least looks okay. The head-sculpt is nice and he comes with a big mallet to smash Sylvester with that at least helps to make him look a little smaller. He’s still odd though because the cartoon character is almost all head with a tiny body and huge feet. He also has a printed tail like Bugs and Lola. Definitely not my favorite of the line, but not a total swing and a miss.

Just a printed tail for Tweety, but Sylvester gets the good stuff.

If you have Tweety, well then you need Sylvester too. Sylvester might be the most authentic looking of the line. His proportions look pretty good even adapted for this blocky Lego style, and Lego opted to give him a nice tail too. His head-sculpt looks terrific and his included accessory is the always useful baseball bat. Maybe he would have looked better with a frown, but otherwise I have no complaints. His likeness is almost so spot on that it makes him boring.

It’s between Daffy and Wile E. as far as which figure from this set is my favorite.

The always jealous Daffy Duck is another obvious inclusion in this wave of figures. Daffy is based on his later appearances which align with the licensing art for the character as opposed to his rounder, wackier, version. I love his head-sculpt and Lego made sure to attach a small, white, neck to it so he would have his trademarked ringed neck look. He also recycles the “duck butt” that Lego utilized with Donald and Daisy Duck to give him a touch more depth. His accessory is a “Rabbit Season” sign which makes about as much sense as anything for Daffy. Like Sylvester, one could argue it would have been more appropriate to give him an angry expression, but I like what we have here and as someone who loves Daffy Duck I am quite pleased.

There’s something off-putting about that tail Speedy has.

Speedy Gonzales is next up, and like Tweety, he suffers from the same scale problems. Unlike Tweety, he doesn’t really make up for it with a nice head-sculpt. Speedy is one of those characters that was rarely shown head-on, and his head just doesn’t translate well to 3D. At least not at this size. His sombrero is molded to his head while Lego tossed in a mouse tail accessory. It’s a bit weird because it’s molded in the same color as his fur so he has a strip of fur between his shorts and shirt. If he was a character with an exposed belly all of the time this would be fine, but he really isn’t such a character. He uses the kid legs again, which is unfortunate because he can’t even be placed in a running pose as a result. His accessories are four cheese wedges, which is fine, though maybe a can-opener to torment Daffy would have been more fun. I think overall, he looks better than the sum of his parts when placed among the others, but he is one of the lesser figures in the wave. He also seems to be short-packed as he was the hardest for me to find when he really should be one of the easiest when feeling out bags because of his unique head shape.

“Taz like pie!”

The Tasmanian Devil is next up and he’s an interesting figure. First of all, he uses these short, stubby, legs like Tweety and Speedy, but his are actually articulated. Why doesn’t Lego just do this for all of their shorter characters? His head is rather massive and fits over much of his torso reminding me of a theme park mascot. It looks great though and helps to preserve the character’s stocky physique. Lego also included a whirling disc for him to stand on, in addition to the usual black stand. It doesn’t really work well as something to spin, but it’s a nice touch. He also has a turkey leg and a pie, since he sure did like to eat in the old shorts. He also features the same tail as Wile E. Coyote, and like that character, I question its suitability here. The Tasmanian Devil always had a stubby tail and I think over the years it’s a tail he’s mostly lost as the character’s design has been tweaked. I suppose if I really am bothered by it I could just remove it.

I’m even less certain about that tail on Taz as I was with Wile E.

Marvin the Martian is our most conventional figure in this bunch. That’s because his head is just the usual small, round, peg done-up in black with two large eyes printed on it. For his helmet, Lego actually made it and the brush (?) on top of it all one piece rather than have it peg in. He also has a skirt piece, the only soft goods in the wave, and his little, green, blaster. He looks the part, though I wish they could have given his sneakers a bit more love, but Lego seems to prefer the square aesthetic of the feet. He looks good though and I quite like his little gun.

Closing things out with a pair of pigs.

Petunia is the character in the line many might struggle to remember. She wasn’t featured a lot in the Porky shorts, and may be best-remembered as being one of the included toys in the McDonald’s Super Looney Tunes Happy Meals where she was Wonder Woman. Prior to Lola, Petunia got extra work since she was one of the few female characters featured in Looney Tunes, and she’s probably included here for that reason. Her head is actually different from Porky’s as her braids are part of the sculpt so this isn’t a case where she’s included to save money. I don’t really know if the outfit she’s wearing is what she featured in the old shorts the most. My guess is this is just the licensing art being used as a reference. She comes with a tea kettle and two tea cups so I guess her character is one that enjoys tea? She’s definitely not a character I would have requested so I find it hard to get excited over her figure. It’s fine though.

Mmm…pork butt.

And rounding out the set is the always last Porky Pig. I don’t deny Porky’s popularity, but he’s never been a favorite of mine. He’s got his licensing art attire here which is what he often sported at the end of shorts: a blue jacket, red bowtie, and white gloves. He looks like Porky though and his accessory is the obvious “That’s all Folks!” sign that most definitely belongs in a Looney Tunes display.

Overall, I do quite like this line of Minifigures from Lego. While I prefer some characters to others, the only one that feels like a “dud” to me is Speedy, and even he’s really not that bad. I actually like him more than Lola and Petunia, but objectively speaking his likeness isn’t as good as theirs. Really, the biggest negative I can come up with is the character selection, and that could have been addressed easily by making the wave 15 or 18 figures instead of 12. My hope is that Lego is just holding back some popular characters for a second wave as Looney Tunes doesn’t feature a cast as deep as Disney, or even The Simpsons. It’s still hard to get over the fact that we have a Bugs though, without an Elmer! He’s definitely the biggest omission. Some may feel the need to point that Lego may not be too keen on giving us an Elmer with a shotgun, but he has other looks too. His more domesticated, bowler derby wearing, version doesn’t need a gun, or they could just go straight to What’s Opera, Doc? Elmer. Yosemite Sam is another one with gun concerns, but Lego has loads of pirate figures with musket-styled revolvers that would work fine for Sam.

Hopefully a wave two is in the works, because there are other characters to include like Foghorn Leghorn, Grannie, and Pepé Le Pew. There are also plenty of opportunities for variants of some of the characters present in this wave and I would not be at all surprised to see Toon Squad versions mixed-in, even if I’m not asking for them. Time will tell what Lego and the toy world has in store for the Looney Tunes, but it’s at least great to see these characters finally getting some more merch and a chance to shine.

Now read the sign and get out!

The Batman/Superman Movie – “World’s Finest”

Original Air Date: October 4, 1997

Directed by: Toshihiko Matsuda

Written by: Paul Dini, Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, Rich Fogel, Steve Gerber

Animation: TMS – Kyuokoichi Corporation

Running Time: 61 minutes

Also Known As: Superman: The Animated Series episodes 39, 40, 41 “World’s Finest: Parts 1, 2, and 3”

When Warner Bros. launched its own network, The WB, in 1995 it had a bit of a conundrum on its hands. Warner had been in the business of producing hours upon hours of content, but it was all aired somewhere else and would be tied down by licensing agreements for yet a while longer. And in the 90s, most of those properties were airing as part of the Fox Kids Network and included the likes of Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Batman: The Animated Series. Warner needed to focus on parts of its portfolio that hadn’t already been licensed to Fox and it sure is nice to have a character like Superman to utilize as a fallback. While Fox held the broadcast rights to Batman, Warner essentially ceased taking episode orders for that show and instead tasked the team of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini that had done so well with Batman to do the same for Superman. Superman: The Animated Series was born, and unlike Batman, it was a brightly lit, modern styled, depiction of the classic hero. It was not quite as successful as Batman, but for a generation of comic book fans, this depiction of the man of steel is about as definitive as it gets replacing for many the character we saw on the big screen played by Christopher Reeve.

Following the successful first season of Superman, Warner once again had the broadcast rights to Batman and commissioned a new season. Re-titled, The New Batman Adventures, the caped crusader and his comrades would receive a makeover to bring it in-line with Superman while also accomplishing the goal of simplifying the models for overseas animation. The WB, which had launched its own children’s programming block called Kids’ WB, would air these new episodes of Batman alongside Superman creating The New Batman/Superman Adventures, an hour and a half block typically consisting of one Superman, one classic BTAS, and one New Adventures of Batman. To commemorate the union of these two titans of comics, a three-part episode was created for Superman called “World’s Finest” that would take-up the whole Batman/Superman block on October 4, 1997. These episodes would then be collected and released on VHS and DVD as The Batman/Superman Movie.

Fans had to wait a long time to see these two pair-up, it would seem Batman was not looking forward to it though.

Given how long these two heroes have been around and in Warner’s portfolio, it’s actually rather incredible the two weren’t paired-up for a movie until 1997. This one is a bit of a cheat since it’s three episodes of an animated series, and Batman and Superman have shared space on the small screen for decades. They have since shared time on the big screen as well in one of the most love it or hate it film universes imaginable. In 1997, and even today, there is still a neat “geek” factor to the two teaming up, though I personally wish it could have happened sooner as come 97 I wasn’t watching much network television. I can recall catching bits and pieces of this story, but I don’t think I ever sat down and actually digested it. Since concluding the years long look-back at Batman: The Animated Series, the cross-overs with Superman were basically the few remaining missing links I had yet to look at, so I figured I would rectify that with a look at this pseudo movie.

“World’s Finest” is anchored by a pretty simple premise: How would Batman and Superman work together when their arch enemies team-up? It’s the type of thing any young, comic book, fan probably would have dreamed up as a starting point for a team-up as we have Joker (Mark Hamill) offering his services to Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) to kill Superman (Tim Daly) for the not unreasonable sum of one billion dollars and it’s Batman (Kevin Conroy) who first sniffs out the scheme. It’s an interesting premise to see Joker turn himself into a hitman-for-hire, and especially interesting that he would be so arrogant that he would think he can take out Superman when he’s failed to do the same with Batman for years. Perhaps it owes to him not viewing Superman as his great rival as many have wondered if Joker really ever aimed to kill Batman, instead preferring to play with him like a cat and a ball of yarn, only in this case the ball of yarn always comes out definitively on top. There’s also a bit of shock factor to see Joker so nakedly offering to kill someone for money, but it is a nice callback, intentional or not, to Joker’s roots in this universe as a mob hitman as seen in Mask of the Phantasm.

Joker has a very big reason for his overconfidence.

Why is Joker offering to kill Superman for Luthor? For the simple fact that he needs money on account of Batman always foiling his plans and because he’s come across a rather large sum of kryptonite. Early in the film, Joker pulls off a heist in which he and Harley (Arleen Sorkin) snatch a dragon idol thought to be made of jade, but Batman knows otherwise and makes the move to Metropolis. It’s there he masquarades as Bruce Wayne, who has a business venture underway with Luthor, and makes acquaintances with both Lois Lane (Dana Delany) and Clark Kent. Lane is quite smitten with Wayne right out of the gate and the two start seeing quite a lot of each other, much to Clark’s disappointment.

The film wastes little time in establishing that Batman and Superman are going to be uneasy allies. Batman is setup to be Superman’s opposite. When we first see Batman inspecting the crime scene following Joker’s theft, Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) puts up a minor protest when Batman takes a piece of kryptonite left behind as tampering with a crime scene, but Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) somewhat jokingly laughs it off suggesting to Bullock he be the one to stop Batman from doing what he wants. It’s played for laughs, but it’s kind of scary that Gordon essentially revealed he feels helpless when it comes to telling Batman what to do. Of course, we know he welcomes Batman’s aid in an unofficial capacity, but this scene seems to exist to remind the viewer that Batman operates outside the law. When he eventually crosses paths with Superman for the first time, Superman refers to him as a vigilante and that there’s no place for such in his town. Superman is our goody-two-shoes, the one who operates within the confines of the law, while Batman happily exists outside it. He’s also played as a jerk, as Batman introduces himself to Superman by arm-tossing him over his shoulder. It’s definitely beyond what we’re used to seeing out of the character previously in BTAS, that very patient detective working alongside Ra’s al Ghul and tolerating his subordinates slights is long gone. It’s somewhat in-line with the character we’ll see more of in The New Batman Adventures, but it’s definitely a change.

Batman is such a dick to Superman that I half-expected him to torture the guy for fun here.

The Batman/Superman dynamic is the main anchor of the feature, but also entering the fray is the Lois Lane situation in which it’s clearly spelled out she’s attracted to Superman and Bruce Wayne, but turned off by Clark Kent and Batman. There’s also multiple scenes in which Joker and Luthor are pitted against each other, mostly via tense negotiations or dealing with the fallout of a Batman or Superman encounter. They’re actually quite entertaining and this is the best Joker we’ve seen in awhile. It would seem the time off between the end of the second season of BTAS and this feature did Dini and his crew well as this Joker feels fresh and exciting. As does his main squeeze Harley and the two actually work quite well together in this one with less signs of abuse on the part of Mr. J. It does mean the story basically ignores how we left off with the pair and we’re just left to assume that Harley eventually came crawling back. It’s a pretty entertaining story, albeit one that only runs a mere 61 minutes. It does follow a predictable arc, and I dislike that the ending basically has zero consequences long-term, but I definitely had a good time following along. There were some segments that were a bit too liberal with the notion that every bad guy in these shows is a terrible shot. Batman should have probably died ten times in this thing, but it’s just accepted that our hero is never going to get shot no matter how improbable the situation.

Being that this movie exists within the Superman show, it follows the same visual style as that show and The New Batman Adventures. There are no additional effects applied like we saw with a true feature in Mask of the Phantasm, but that doesn’t mean this one doesn’t look nice. Warner at least opened up its wallet for TMS to handle the animation. TMS was once upon a time a semi-regular in Warner animation, but come the mid-90s the studio’s reputation was beyond reproach and their services were essentially beyond Warner’s television budget. The studio wasn’t even called upon to handle the second BTAS feature, SubZero, so it was a bit surprising to see them utilized here. It certainly pays off as “World’s Finest” looks terrific. The animation is so smooth and so consistent frame by frame and it pays off as there’s plenty of action. There’s even a classic “Superman saves an airplane” segment probably just so they could have TMS animate such a sequence, because it’s otherwise a scene that’s completely unneeded for the plot. It’s certainly fun though, so I’m not complaining! The only drawback the film possesses from a visual perspective rests with the character designs. I really don’t like the redesign on Joker, and it’s so apparent in the scenes he shares with Luthor. Luthor looks like a person, while Joker looks like he belongs in a different series, something far more toony. That’s a problem I have with The New Batman Adventures as a whole though, not one unique or born from this arc.

I think the writers want us to think Bruce has legitimate feelings for Lois, but it’s not convincing and you may exit this movie with a new opinion on the guy.

The Batman/Superman Movie is probably not the spectacle the pairing deserves, but if I’m being honest, I’d rather watch this than the live-action one that would follow years later. Despite the short duration, it doesn’t cry out for additional material. If it had been a true feature we probably would have just been treated to more of Wayne and Lane’s romance which does move quite fast in this one (she appears poised to move to Gotham at one point) so that’s probably not realistic, but billionaires certainly have a knack for getting their own way despite logic and reason. I suspect some might not like the portrayal of Batman in this one as he really is just an asshole towards Superman. One has to wonder if he’s only interested in Lois to stick it to Superman. And given that their relationship progressed far enough for Lois to talk about moving, I’m going to make the assumption that she and Bruce slept together and if Bruce slept with her just to make Superman jealous or angry then that’s some pretty lowlife behavior on his part. Even without that piece of head-canon on my part, I felt pretty bad for Lane at times in this one as she’s just being used left and right. Bruce uses her to get info on Superman, Joker uses her as Superman bait, and all the while she thinks she’s met someone she’s ready to run away with. It’s quite a ride for Lois, and I wonder if Dini contemplated tossing Barbara Gordon into this whole mess, but thought better of it.

“World’s Finest” was just the first cross-over event between Superman and The New Batman Adventures, and not the last. There were two more in Superman, “Knight Time” and “The Demon Reborn.” There was only one in Batman, “Girl’s Night Out,” which I covered some time ago. Since I’ve covered so much of Batman: The Animated Series here, I would like to some day talk about those additional crossovers, but I also have no plans to at this time since I don’t own Superman: The Animated Series. Perhaps that will change one day, but the availability of this movie is what made this possible. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can do so either via Superman which is available on DVD and streaming on HBO Max, or you could buy the stand-alone movie which is quite affordable. I picked up a copy at a secondhand media store for a mere $2.97. For less than 3 bucks, this is a rather nice piece of entertainment.


The Secret of NIMH (1982)

The 1970s was a transition period for the world of feature length animation. Walt Disney’s death had left a leadership void at Disney which was exacerbated by the passing of Roy Disney in 1971. With the Disney brothers no longer at the head of operations, the company turned to Donn Tatum, the first non-Disney family member to head the company. It was during this era that the animators on staff started to feel like the company no longer prioritized the art of animation the way it had under the Disney brothers. It probably didn’t help that the decade began with the release of The Aristocats, one of the least celebrated Disney animated features to date. Because of a sense of stifled creativity, a group of animators staged a walk out lead by Don Bluth. He along with animators Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, and several others left the company during production on The Fox and the Hound and Don Bluth Productions was born. Seeking to emulate the classic style of early Disney works, Bluth and his associates set out to making features as quickly as possible. They found a partner in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and a story in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. They knew what they wanted to do, but the hard part would be making it all happen.

The tale of Mrs. Frisby had been brought to Bluth’s attention by fellow animator Ken Anderson while working at Disney. Try as he might though, he just couldn’t get Disney to bite on it. And there was some solid reasoning behind that as animation director Wolfgang Reitherman cited the recent release of The Rescuers as being too similar to the tale of Mrs. Frisby and her fantastic rat friends. When Bluth left Disney, the story went with him and it was the book he turned to first when it came time to prove that feature length animation could flourish outside the House of Mouse. Working outside of Disney though meant a lower budget and a shorter schedule which necessitated Bluth and staff to work ungodly hours on the feature. And a certain company that popularized a flying disc necessitated a name change of the titular character of Mrs. Frisby to Mrs. Brisby.

Bluth wanted to prove to Disney that others were capable of outperforming them and The Secret of NIMH certainly packs the visuals.

I was in the fifth grade when the story of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was introduced to me. I was a kid who liked to take shortcuts when it came to academics. I was fortunate that most subjects came easily to me, but it did stifle my intellectual curiosity as a result. When it came to independent reading, I just recycled junk I had been reading for years that my new teachers wouldn’t necessarily be aware of. Eventually, my teacher, Mrs. Roy (who remains my favorite teacher ever), wrote a note in my report card that I needed to read more challenging books. I really had no desire to honor the request, but also had little choice in the matter so I simply asked one of my friends if he got the same edict. When he confirmed he did not, I asked what he had been reading that she seemed to approve of and he directed me to the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I read it and thought it was good enough to read the sequel when I was finished. Better yet, my teacher left me alone when it came to my independent reading assignments. At the time I read it, it was the early 90s and I had no idea a film had been made out of the story a decade earlier. I think I just happened upon it one night at the local video rental store and asked my mom if we could rent it, so we did!

Ever since seeing The Secret of NIMH I have thought of it very little. I think I liked it, but it clearly didn’t leave a mark. The book really didn’t leave a lasting impression either, though I can say it did stick in my head far better than the sequel of which I remember nothing but the title. In my house though, Saturday is movie night and we alternate who picks the movie each week among the members of my family and when the choice falls to me I like to find things that my kids haven’t seen and will hopefully enjoy. That’s how this film popped up on my radar recently, so out I went (safely) to a nearby media store and found a used DVD release of the film for a mere five dollars. It’s certainly not a great DVD release as it only has a full screen option, but it was an opportunity to see this film again and show it to my kids for the first time and I’m still not willing to digitally rent things. I’m just weird like that.

Mrs. Brisby is out to save little Timmy. I feel like it’s always a “little Timmy.”

The Secret of NIMH tells the tale of the widow Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman), a field mouse, and her quest to save her ailing son Timothy (Ian Fried) from a bout of pneumonia. The illness itself isn’t necessarily the threat, it’s the fact that the harvest season has arrived and Mrs. Brisby and her family need to vacate their current home for the farmer’s tractor will soon level it. Unfortunately, Timothy is too sick to be moved so Mrs. Brisby is forced to turn to the Rats of NIMH for help. The rats are a colony that lives in a nearby rose bush and they possess intelligence seemingly beyond that of man. It’s all the result of once being lab rats. Throughout the film viewers are introduced to a small portion of their various members and their wonderous home while also learning about their past and their relationship with Brisby’s deceased husband. Internal strife also exists within the ranks of the rats which will pose a problem for Mrs. Brisby and her family.

The story is quite brisk and uncomplex as it moves along during its 82 minute runtime. Mrs. Brisby basically has a problem and receives advice from one source to go to another, who then sends her to another, and so on. It’s easy for a child to follow and Brisby is a likeable and empathetic lead. She is joined, at times, by the crow Jeremy (Dom Deluise) who provides comic relief, while the seemingly ancient leader of the rats, Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi), adds a little wonder to her supporting cast. The danger of the situation is illustrated clearly, and other dangers arise throughout the film. Since we’re largely dealing with a cast of mice and rats, expect a cat to play a role.

Jeremy is the character we’re supposed to laugh at, but I didn’t hear much laughing in my home.

The story is cohesive, but what isn’t is the world created by O’Brien and added to by Bluth. The rats are said to possess human level intelligence, and perhaps more as their home is quite elaborate for something that exists in a bush. However, seemingly all of the animals (except the cat) possess incredible intelligence anyway making the rats seem less remarkable. Mrs. Brisby and her children all wear clothes and live in a home full of human comforts. They even use utensils and boil water for tea and such. A Bluth addition is the inclusion of magic. Bluth seems to think animated tales should contain elements of the fantastic like magic, so Nicodemus is now a wizard of some kind. He’s the first character we meet as he views Brisby through a magic looking glass and remarks how he has a talisman for her. No explanation is provided by the film for this magic or how Nicodemus and the Rats of NIMH came to possess it, but the talisman does at least serve a practical purpose of putting the power to save her family in Mrs. Brisby’s hands, quite literally. Movies don’t have to explain everything, of course. People seem willing to happily accept that Cinderella can communicate with animals and such in her Disney film, but this is also the type of film that does try to provide explanations for everything else, and hand-waving the concept of magic feels off as a result. It also forces a lot into the final five to ten minutes of the film. Animation is expensive and hard, so it’s no surprise to see this one clock in under 90 minutes, but it’s a film that would have benefited from more time. We barely get to know the rats and their inner conflict so the climax that conflict leads to doesn’t land like it should. Everything just sort of happens and as a viewer I was left feeling, “That was it? Huh.” My kids, on the other hand, fell asleep.

The film’s decision to shoehorn some magical elements into it doesn’t really satisfy from a plot perspective, but it’s at least visually interesting.

The Secret of NIMH isn’t as captivating or as enchanting as it probably would like to be, but what can’t be denied is the visual fidelity. The Secret of NIMH looked terrific in 1982, and by any standard it still does. I wish I had tracked down a Blu Ray version, but beggars can’t be choosers. Bluth and his fellow animators set out to emulate the early Disney style and they absolutely nailed it. Show this to someone who is just a casual animation viewer and they’ll probably mistake it as a forgotten Disney feature. The designs of the mice and rats are very reminiscent of The Rescuers and Cinderella, but absent those tell-tale Xerox lines from the Disney films of the 1970s. It’s gorgeous, and the more fantastic elements are captured with simple, effective, animation techniques. I may not have been fully engaged with the film’s plot, but the visuals definitely held my attention for the duration of the film.

Less celebrated is the soundtrack of Jerry Goldsmith. It is certainly capable, but not quite memorable. The same can be said for most of the Disney features from that era, so in that respect this one feels quite similar to what Bluth’s old place of work was outputting. The voice cast is plenty capable though and I very much enjoyed the late Elizabeth Hartman in her role as Mrs. Brisby. She brings a gentle confidence to the character and I imagine it’s quite similar to the voice I heard in my head when reading the book back in fifth grade. Dom DeLuise is good in his role as Jeremy, though I think the film thinks he’s funnier than he really is making him more of a distraction than true comic foil. The Rats of NIMH are all given rather regal and distinguished voices while Nicodemus is treated as an elderly wizard, a departure from the source material. It’s a cast that doesn’t contain many big names from the era, but it’s a professional cast more than capable of bringing these characters to life.

The Secret of NIMH is a triumph of animation with a somewhat forgettable story. That adds up to a solid viewing experience that provided movie-goers in 1982 with a glimpse of where Don Bluth was heading. He and his team of animators would go on to make better films, and worse ones, leaving The Secret of NIMH to serve as the appetizer of the Don Bluth feast. The film did eventually receive a sequel, but without any contribution from Bluth, which makes it similar to the book sequel which was not written by Robert O’Brien. I have never seen it, but it received a near universal negative reception upon release in 1998 as a direct-to-video feature. Which is fine, as this isn’t a film that cries out for a sequel. It’s quick, fairly tidy, and mostly beautiful and a perfect way to kill an hour and a half on a Saturday night.


NECA Ultimate Flasher Gremlin

Here we go!

I’ve had NECA’s Ultimate Flasher Gremlin on my “want” list for awhile now. I grabbed the Ultimate Gizmo last summer, and while he’s fairly limited as an action figure, he is fun to have on display in my home. He has occupied a little section of my knick-knack shelf in the living room area of my house, a spot normally reserved for more “tasteful” decorations. I’ve changed his look up with the seasons and for Christmas he was joined by the Santa Stripe figure that came out last fall. When Christmas came and went though, so did Stripe leaving Gizmo all alone on the shelf. I wanted to pair him with another Gremlin, and it was the Flasher Gremlin that spoke to me the most. He’s ludicrous and comes with a bunch of stuff that makes posing plentiful, I was just hesitant to actually make the purchase. I figured, for once, I’d let it be known that I wanted this thing, but not actually buy it for myself. Christmas came and went, and so did Valentine’s Day, and when the wife decided not to indulge my passion for toys I finally caved. I added the Flasher Gremlin to my display one weekend in February, and I do not regret it one bit.

Both the figure and the packaging should be pretty familiar to collectors at this point.

The Ultimate Flasher Gremlin is based on the many background characters in the film Gremlins. He’s a gremlin in an oversized coat who wants to show the world what he’s packing (which isn’t much, so maybe he should be more bashful). For fans of NECA’s line of figures based on the film, he’s a very familiar release. He comes in the same five-panel window box all of NECA’s ultimate releases come packaged in complete with numerous product shots. All of NECA’s gremlins are basically re-releases of the same figure, but with new accessories. Perhaps that sounds cheap, but in the film most of the gremlins looked the same. There were a few unique ones, like Stripe, but the rest are indistinguishable. And to make the consumer feel like they’re getting their bang for their buck, NECA overloads each release with accessories. There’s basically more stuff here than could be handled by one gremlin, so the point is really to buy a bunch of figures to create your own gremlin horde. I don’t have the space to dedicate to a large Gremlins display, but I certainly see the appeal as this release is basically parts of a flasher, card player, and bar fly.

This guy comes with a lot of stuff.

The actual figure is basically the same as Stripe, but with the standard gremlin head. He’s a little over six inches tall and has plentiful, if not entirely functional, articulation. The sculpt is very impressive which is an especially good thing for a figure that gets re-released over and over. The texture, paint, and personality present in the face are just spot-on to the film. The paint is all clean and the darkness of the figure helps hide a lot of the articulation. The jaw is articulated, and yet you wouldn’t even know at first look because NECA engineered it so well. I’ve seen the prop replicas of the gremlin puppets from the film and honestly they don’t even look as good as what NECA has done. I have to hand it to sculptor Jason Frailey because this guy is awesome and it makes me want to buy more.

He’s so happy to be out of that box!

The gremlin is articulated just like Stripe, but I’ll give you a run-down here if you don’t want to read about the Christmas figure. The head is on a ball joint and can rotate, and independent articulation in the neck allows him to look up, down, and to the side. The ears and jaw are also articulated and it works well to have the ears articulated because it helps with positioning his hat. The shoulders are ball-hinged, but the way the shoulders are sculpted means he can’t lift his arms up all the way, but they rotate fine. There’s a swivel at the single-jointed elbow and rotation at the hands with a hinge. There’s a diaphragm joint that provides for tilt and an ab crunch. The legs have extra articulation to give the gremlin that insect like positioning. There’s a knee hinge, a hinge at the dewclaw, and a hinge at the ankle. Because he’s designed to be in a semi-crouch, it’s not terribly functional, but it looks good and that’s clearly what NECA prioritizes. The feet are rather small and the figure is top heavy given the size of the head and neck relative to the body, so he can be tricky to stand. There are peg holes on the bottoms of the feet if you want to use a simple stand, and there are more robust stands available from NECA and other companies if that’s your preference. I find the articulation does enough to allow the figure to mimic the actual puppets in the film. They were limited as well by the technology of the time and there’s a stiffness to their movements, especially with the excessively long arms.

Smoking is a terrible habit, but damn does he look cool.
Trench 4 life.

With the articulation out of the way, we can talk about what makes this guy fun: the stuff! He comes packaged in a trench coat and that’s the key piece here that makes him a flasher. The coat is similar to the one we saw released with Raphael in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie line, but it’s not the same coat. This one lacks pockets and the liner inside the coat is quite glossy, a necessity for someone trying to get attention. It has an actual belt and if you want to complete the whole flasher gimmick you will need to pull the belt strap out of the buckle to free the beast, so to speak. It’s pretty cool to see every day engineering like a belted coat on such a small scale, though I’m left wishing NECA cheated and made it Velcro for ease of use. He also has a plastic fedora that’s intentionally oversized for his head and just rests on the top of his noggin. There are some grooves in the opening of the hat for his eyebrows and they do a good enough job of keeping the hat in place that you can tilt the head up or down in your pose.

He’s setup for a good night.

Joining the hat are some additional accessories that may or may not complete the look for you. He’s got some black sunglasses that I believe have been released with other Ultimate Gremlin releases. They slip onto his face quite easily and are pretty snug once in place. He also has four, little, cigarettes that you can either wedge between some fingers or stick between his teeth. They’re white, though one of mine is almost translucent and I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, with painted filters and a long bit of ash at the end. It would have been neat if one had less ash and a red tip, but I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to modify one if I wanted to. There’s something extra sleezy about the long tail of ash that suits the character. I am not a smoker, and I find the habit disgusting, but these little cigarettes are really entertaining to me just for the novelty factor and it has me wondering what other figures in my collection I could pair them with. How many figures come with such a thing? Even though this is an adult collectible, it’s still almost shocking in this day and age to find evidence of smoking in a toy. And if smoking wasn’t enough, he also has a mug of beer. The beer is removable and is just a piece of thin plastic filled with air. The foam on the top though is highly detailed to an impressive degree. The only downside to that is it draws attention to the fact that the actual beer is just a flat color as opposed to a translucent, bubbly, form. It’s another re-released accessory from, I want to say the Ultimate Gremlin, but it works well to have extra so you can have empty mugs and full mugs in a larger display.

This is what you cam here for, right?

Pivoting from the flasher persona, there’s also some extra stuff that allows you to create a gambling gremlin or dealer gremlin. There’s a red visor that, like the fedora, just kind of sits on the gremlin’s head. It doesn’t really hook on, that I can see, so it just sits there and looks okay. There’s a hand of playing cards he can hold and a pile of poker chips and cards to plop on a table or something. Intermingled with the chips and cards is popcorn, which naturally makes this guy pair well with any of the gremlins that come with popcorn. If you want your gremlin to be a little more classy there’s a bowtie. It’s a solid ring of black plastic with the tie on it so in order to put it on the figure you need to pop its head off and loop it around the neck. Mine didn’t seem to want to come off so I didn’t push the issue since I have no plans to utilize the bowtie. The neck is pretty substantial on this figure so I don’t think I’d break the figure if I was more determined, but I’ve had some bad luck with figures breaking lately so pardon my reluctance.

It’s his dream to be a world famous ventriloquist.

In the realm of the goofy, this guy also comes with a hand puppet. It appears to be of a bee and I recall it from the film as it’s almost painful to watch the gremlin playing with it amongst spilled beer and soda and the like. That poor puppet probably got all gross. The texture and paint work on it is way better than it needs to be and it really looks like a grimy plush some gremlin has been dragging around all night. To actually use it with the figure, just pop one of the hands off and the puppet pegs in. Also included is a giant mallet, because a mischievous gremlin can always use such a thing. To best utilize the mallet, there’s an extra, gripping, right hand included. I actually couldn’t get the hand to peg into my figure, but I suspect if I were to heat it up then I could get it to go. The hand does get a nice grip on it, so if you want your gremlin to be less flasher and more Itchy and Scratchy, there you go. The gripping hand also works well with the beer mug, though the more relaxed hands the figure comes with work fine too.

I guess Gizmo doesn’t like what he sees.
Or does he?!

That’s a lot of stuff, but ultimately, I’m amused by the flasher gimmick so that’s how he’s going on my shelf complete with hat, beer, sunglasses, and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. And the gimmick works all right. It’s tough to actually get him to grip the edges of his coat, but it can be finagled. Had NECA run a wire though the coat it might have worked a little better, or if belt loops could have been strategically placed to hook onto figure’s fingers. There’s at least enough substance to the coat that it will hang open all by itself, so I think it accomplishes what it set out to do well enough. I love how this guy looks with my Gizmo and he’s a fun figure to have around. I haven’t decided if he gets to occupy the shelf 11 months out of the year, or if I should make him my winter gremlin and swap him out with another for the summer, or whatever. That would require a new purchase though, and while some of the other Gremlins releases are intriguing, none have pushed me to purchase any just yet. For now, this is good enough.

The display, for now.

And now, lets end this review with a series of tasteless pictures featuring characters smoking that should not be!

He wants to be Keith Richards, but Richards wouldn’t be caught dead in ankle warmers.
Maybe not that off-brand for Max.
You’re looking a little green there, buddy. Might be time to cut back.
After a long day fighting monsters, Tommy just needs a minute to unwind.
The mutagen probably already did a number on his life expectancy, so how much can a cigarette really hurt?

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