Category Archives: Television

Hasbro Pulse Con Exclusive Marvel Legends Series Venom

“We are Venom!”

When I was a kid, my dad took me to some local convention or trade show. I have no idea why because my dad wasn’t the type who would go to such an event. He liked car shows, but from what I can remember this was more of a hobby show. It was early in 1993 and that was a moment in time when I lived in Virginia. My family only lived there for about 9 months so even trying to remember where this place was located is basically impossible. Anyway, I mostly just remember seeing lots of individuals selling old toys, comics, and baseball cards. That sort of thing. It’s possible my dad was trying to nurture my just emerging interest in model car building, or maybe my mother and sister were doing something together that day and he was just looking for a way to kill some time. It was while there though that he offered to buy me a comic book. I was newly interested in X-Men and always had a fondness for Batman, plus a comic book was probably the cheapest way to send me home with something. When we started looking at books, my eyes were immediately drawn to one comic: a red, foil, cover of the newly released Venom Lethal Protector #1. To a kid, anytime you see the number 1 on an issue it immediately screams “value,” and the red foil spider-webs behind this giant image of Venom just looked awesome. I wanted that one and my dad bought it for me. It was the start of my love affair with the character Venom.

Who wouldn’t fall in love with a face like that?

Prior to that fateful day, I knew who Venom was. I mostly knew him as a Spider-Man foe and what little I knew of the character’s lore came from the back of the Toy Biz action figure card. Lethal Protector would be like my first, proper, introduction and I was smitten. Mark Bagley’s interpretation of the character would forever become my preferred one. He was drawn to be this massive dude, but not as chunky as the McFarlane original. He had this huge mouth with an insane amount of pointy teeth and that tongue was always flailing about with green slime dripping off. He was cool! And I loved that book though strangely I never bought another issue from that story.

When Toy Biz launched a Spider-Man line of toys to coincide with the 1994 release of the cartoon, Spider-Man, Venom followed. I actually didn’t like the inaugural jaw-chomping Venom released with the first wave, but I made it a point to collect every iteration of the character to follow. And I was pumped to see Venom make an appearance in the show. The wait for that felt excruciating at the time, but it was only the 10th episode when Venom appeared. Still, a weekly show for a kid is bad enough between episodes, 10 weeks (not including the weeks the show took off for reruns) probably felt like an eternity. And when he finally did show up it was for just one episode, and then old Eddie Brock found himself powerless and in jail. What a tease.

The outer box is quite lovely, and I feel bad opening the blister inside, but it must be done!

I mentioned it in my recent post about the upcoming X-Men animated line of figures, but the Spider-Man line from back in the day was similar in that it wasn’t exactly a reproduction of the show. It was however much closer than Toy Biz’s X-Men line and basically every major villain from the cartoon would make the jump to toy. The card backs also utilized the show logo and artwork from the show of each character so there was an obvious synergy with the cartoon. As the line went on it would move away from the cartoon a bit, especially with the Venom subline, but for the most part fans of the cartoon had the toys they wanted. Now though, we’re in an age where those who grew up with that cartoon are adults and have a certain fondness for it. And while the toys were close to the toon, they weren’t exact which just leaves enough room for a company like Hasbro to step in.

The rear of both is supremely nostalgic as well. I think I would have burst with joy if they had recreated the cross-sell from the 94 Venom with modern action figures.

This year, Hasbro celebrated itself with its own virtual convention. Pulse Con took place on October 22nd and 23rd and it was an event with some reveals of Hasbro’s upcoming product and also a time to sell some exclusives. One of those exclusives was a special edition of Venom. And not just any Venom, but a Venom from the Spider-Man animated series. That version of the character is pretty unique as far as Venoms go. He had to be simplified in order to properly animate him, so the artists couldn’t give him rows of teeth or go too nutty on the tongue. Instead, he has just some obvious sharp teeth and they even gave him some thick, blue, lips. Venom’s eyes, always something that seems to change with the artist, were also simplified to a more definite shape. A little jagged on the edge, but also now with a more pronounced middle portion that included a large point cut-out of the white of the eye giving off the appearance of pupils. He has almost a reptilian quality to his face as a result, a little bit crocodile, but his mouth also sometimes took on a duckbill quality too in some of the less flattering stills. And foe whatever reason (and you can see it on the card art) sometimes he had a “butt head” where it curved into the center slightly before rounding out again like the top of a heart.

The blister has been cut. What is done cannot be undone.

The feature of this Venom most likely remember though is the odd approach to shading the show took. When you have a show that takes place mostly at night, a big, black, monster of a character is tough to do. He needs to pop when on screen, so he basically needs to be outlined. Often times in comics or in cartoons blue is used to shade black. It makes no sense in the real world, but in the comic one it’s basically a rule of law. The show did use blue when it came to Spider-Man as he had to wear the black costume first. And when Eddie Brock took control of it they used blue again, but only for about half the body. The other half used red which didn’t make any sense in the real world or in the world of comics and cartoons. Why did they do that? I have no idea. Maybe it was just to differentiate him from Spider-Man? Red has a bit of a malevolent reputation, so I guess it makes him look more sinister. Then again, the giant mouth of sharp teeth accomplished that fine on its own. Maybe it was foreshadowing the Carnage symbiote? His dominant color is red, so it’s possible. For what it’s worth, when Carnage did show up the red on Venom had become even more saturated and bold, but that was probably just a variation in production. Maybe someone on staff felt the blue and red combo illustrated Venom’s anti-hero persona. He’s not a villain in the classic mold, he’s more like a guy who just hates Spider-Man and wants to make his life miserable. That’s probably a pretty far-fetched assumption though. Instead, it’s just an odd peculiarity with this version of the character, and it’s not the last! For his second appearance in the show, the artists added these web-like veins to his forearms which just seemed to draw even more attention to the red and blue thing. Of all the villains in the show, Venom definitely feels like the one who was the most unique as far as comparisons to his comic counterpart go. Similar to how Apocalypse had a completely different color scheme in X-Men versus the comics.

I paid 10 dollars for the Toy Biz Venom on the left back when it was released, a princely sum at the time because a local comic shop got it before I ever saw it at a big box retailer, but I had to have it!
More retro goodness! The Venom on the right is from the Toy Biz Marvel Super Heroes line which preceded the Spider-Man one.

Because of that reality, and because Venom has remained a very popular character, is likely why Hasbro saw fit to do a cartoon version of the character. Hasbro has been releasing Spider-Man figures on retro card backs for a little while now with more planned. All of them feel more like an homage to the old toyline or just a fun way to release new Spider-Man figures. Venom is the only one that seems to be deliberately based on the cartoon. And the action figure does a pretty good job of capturing that likeness. First of all, he gets his own special box with his beautiful mug plastered on the front. The eyes are the dead give-away that this is animated Venom as opposed to one based on comic art. Inside that box is just a standard, retro, blister card with the figure inside. The card art matches the original jaw-chomping Venom from 1994 while the back has been updated for the new wave. If you have not bought one of these retro card releases, they’re a little different from what was sold in stores 30 years ago. The card itself is thicker and oversized. The blister also isn’t glued down over the artwork, but the artwork is actually laid over that. I wish Hasbro had invested in something resealable (especially since this release is about 10 bucks more expensive than a standard retail one), but as best I can tell the only way to remove the figure is to cut through the blister. Or you could just tare it apart.

I basically only bought Web-Man to have a modern Spider-Man to pair with this Venom.

Once freed from his confines, Venom stands a tick over 7″. He’s pretty beefy, especially compared to the Web-Man figure I looked at recently. The main body of this figure is apparently repurposed from Hasbro’s Omega Red release which was part of a Wolverine five-pack. It works well as a Venom body, though one could argue the shoulders could stand to be beefed up a bit. They sit low, which is a thing Hasbro has been doing for awhile, so in certain poses it looks a little off. The Venom from the toon had a really large upper body with a comparably small head. This Venom has more standard proportions and might actually be closer to the show’s model sheets than the character was on screen. The animation definitely wasn’t great and there are some pretty funky pictures of Venom out there. This figure most looks like Venom as he appears at the end of the opening credits. The other big drawback to this sculpt though comes from Omega Red having oversized shoulder pads. They apparently peg into the shoulders because Venom has a pair of holes in his traps. They’re basically right in the top of the figure, which also stinks because if they were more towards the figure’s back they’d be less visible. Or better yet, Hasbro could have spent a few cents more to inject some plastic into those holes or even fashion plugs. Either way, it sucks that this figure has random holes in its upper body.

Well, that’s a shame.
The spider on the back had to be squished to fit it inside the articulation, but it’s for the best.

Complaints about the holes aside, the rest of the figure looks quite lovely. The face looks dead-on for this version of Venom with light blue accents on the right side of his face and red on the left. In the show, the shading was usually of a bisected nature, though one color wasn’t specifically reserved for one side. It just depended on which way the character was facing. They would also do both colors on the limbs with one on the outside and one inside. As funky a design choice as it was, it’s pretty fun to see it replicated so well here. He also has the big, white, spider on his chest which properly wraps around to the back of the figure. To fit it inside the joints though, the spider on the rear of the figure is a bit squished, but it’s not as noticeable as it would be if they did that on the front. And they did to a point as the spider’s legs purposefully avoid the butterfly joint, but I don’t think it really harm’s the figure’s aesthetics. He does have his unique, forked, tongue which I’m not certain was ever supposed to be a true forked tongue in the show or if the animators just failed to paint the slime most of the time. Either way, this looks the part. The forearms of the figure also have the web-veins as seen in the character’s second appearance on the show, though Hasbro declined to paint them which is disappointing. What’s more disappointing is the absence of the white portions on the back of Venom’s hands. He had those in the show, so it’s bizarre to see them excluded here and it truly does bug me. Those are all design flaws though, the actual execution on this guy is pretty good though. The paint looks clean and it’s even well done around the teeth, where things could have certainly gone off the rails. The spider logo is sharp and neat and they definitely nailed those eyes. The sculpt, outside of the head, doesn’t have to do much since this is just a muscle dude in a skin-tight suit, but what’s there is well done.

Two heads are indeed better than one, though it would have been cool if the second head was different from the first in more ways than just the tongue.
The fists are a nice option, though they look a little undersized to me, but I think it has more to do with how deep in his wrists they sit.

Despite the premium price, Venom doesn’t come with a whole lot. We’re likely paying for a head-sculpt that will never be utilized again and for the special paint job, because Venom comes with just three accessories: a pair of fists and second head. Out of the box, Venom has open, style-posed hands. His right hand is more open than the left, but if you don’t like that look for your figure then Hasbro included some fists. They’re just fists, but they have the blue and red shading on them. They seem undersized to me, and that might be the way the forearms are sculpted on Venom which just causes them to sink into the arm. I don’t really care for the look as a result, but maybe that’s just me. The second head is the same as the the one that comes on the figure, only this one has a smaller tongue. The eyes, teeth, and expression are entirely the same, Hasbro was just able to glue a different tongue piece that’s contained inside the figure’s mouth rather than one that’s flailing about. It’s cool for anyone who dislikes the tongue, but I feel like that’s probably not many people. I would have preferred a closed mouth with a big grin, but again, this is a head-sculpt that probably won’t be repeated so I understand why we’re essentially just getting one.

Time to play!
“I keep trying to tell you, I’m not Spider-Man!” “And we keep telling you, you web-heads crack us up!”

Hasbro may have gone light on the accessories, but at least they didn’t when it comes to the figure’s articulation. The base body is pretty well loaded with a lot of functional articulation. Perhaps the only shortcoming is right at the top. The head is on a ball and hinge, but sits pretty low on that ball so the range isn’t very good. He can look up and down just a bit and rotate. Some neck articulation would have helped him look down further, and since he towers over Spider-Man that would be beneficial, but it’s passable. The shoulders are ball-hinged and the way the sculpt of the shoulder area slopes down does prevent Venom from raising his arms out to the side, but he gets close. The rotation is fine and there is also a butterfly joint in each one that lets him reach across his body. It moves well and only gets a little chunky looking when Venom rears back, but on the whole it looks fine and works better. After the shoulders we have biceps swivels, double-jointed elbows that achieve about 90 degree bends, and wrists that swivel and hinge horizontally. It all works fine, but the red/blue shading might drive you nuts if you’re intent on making sure the various swaths of color line up. In the torso, there’s an ab crunch that’s done quite well. Only when bending him all the way back does a hint of a gap start to show. There’s also a waist twist and ball joints at the legs. He can’t come close to pulling off a split, which is a little disappointing as Venom is quite limber despite his bulk, but I don’t consider it a deal-breaker. There’s a thigh cut and double-jointed knees that allow Venom to bend past 90 and he has hinge and ankle rockers down below that work great. Nothing really is missing. A lower neck joint would have been cool to see, but at least there’s nothing breaking up the sculpt. Everything is at a nice tolerance and no joints were stuck on my figure. Nothing is floppy and there are no joints that breakup the sculpt in a way that isn’t worthwhile.

Web-Man was enjoying his time on the shelf before Venom showed up.
“Ahh, we’re just messing with you, web-head!”

Hasbro’s attempt at a cartoon accurate Venom is pretty damn close to a homerun. Any issues I have with the sculpt are what I consider nitpicking on my part. The only real issues I have with the figure is the missing paint on the back of his hands and those two holes in his traps. The hands might be an oversight or a design choice since they did put blue and red shading on the back of the hands, but the holes are just Hasbro getting cheap on us. Considering this guy was priced at $34, I feel like they could have fixed those and still made a tidy profit. Oh well, that’s Hasbro for you. Beyond those two issues though, this is a really attractive and fun piece to have on your shelf. The red and blue shading, as odd as it was back in 1994, is an attention grabber and makes this Venom design and figure feel truly unique. I didn’t even particularly like the character’s look in the show when I was a kid, but as an adult this does get my nostalgia juices flowing.

My new Venom with what I once considered my favorite Venom (and most recently purchased Venom?) along with a parachute Spider-Man from the early 2000s Toy Biz Spider-Man line.

If you’re looking to get a Venom animated figure of your own, I’m afraid you’ve already missed the boat. Hasbro sold this one exclusively via its Pulse website following Pulse Con. It was up for about a day, but is now sold out. I would bet on a retro card Venom to follow at some point for a regular retail release, but it probably won’t have this head nor will it have the red and blue shading. That means if you’re really into this look for the character you’ll probably have to turn to the secondary market where it’s presently selling for 70-80 bucks. It’s hard to predict where the prices will go from here as it could climb, or maybe when Hasbro does a comic accurate Venom on this card-back it depresses the value of this one. It’s also hard to say if more characters in this style will follow. Venom is one of the more unique designs from the show, but there are a few others like Morbius and Punisher. And with Hasbro launching the X-Men line based on the cartoon it certainly could be a door-opening moment for Spider-Man as well. Whether or not this potential line is one and done, I’m quite happy with my purchase and I don’t know what I’d pay had I missed out. Best of luck to any who are trying to get him.

Venom rules.

Bugs Bunny’s Howl-oween Special

One thing I lament a bit is the loss of the shared television experience. And in particular, the thrill of knowing a seasonal favorite was airing on a given night. These things seem to be dying as even Charlie Brown has found himself relegated to PBS. And it’s mostly due to these specials getting gobbled up by streaming platforms. There’s still a few that get seasonal airings, but their numbers are dwindling.

Once upon a time, a seasonal special was a surefire way to get some nice ratings during a holiday. That made them attractive for producers who went out of their way to create a holiday themed cartoon for their popular characters. And when it comes to cartoons, few could argue that the Looney Tunes weren’t near the top of the mountain in terms of popularity, or just sheer greatness. Bugs Bunny is a character that can lay claim to being top dog, or rabbit, in the field of animated characters. Want to argue Donald Duck or Popeye? Sure, they and others can make an argument, but so can Bugs. I’m not concerned with figuring out who is best, but I am reminded that Bugs and the gang once had their own holiday specials you could find on television at the right time of year. Unfortunately, they’re almost all bad. How can this be?! Bugs Bunny is fantastic! Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Tweety, Sylvester – they practically write themselves! It’s an unfortunate reality though, as we saw with Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales, and the rabbit didn’t just get victimized by Christmas.

Warning, there are few treats ahead.

In 1977, CBS aired Bugs Bunny’s Howl-oween Special. This could have been an annual viewing tradition, and it was for a little while, but fell by the wayside because it’s, well, not great. Come the 70s, Warner’s theatrical shorts division was dead and their vast cast of characters had pivoted to the small screen. The classic Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes were now airing in syndication with little in the way of original animation being created aside from wrap-around segments or commercials. Warner and CBS not surprisingly saw an opening to do a Halloween special because the Looney Tunes have dabbled with the macabre before. They could have, and probably should have, just rounded up some popular, spooky, cartoons and aired them in a block. Maybe they could have done some wrap-arounds too, or brought in a live-action host, and people probably would have tuned in. They did not.

What the Hell is this hot garbage?!

Instead, Warner made the decision to take 8 classic (well, mostly classic) shorts and edit them together. Only they didn’t stitch them together with wrap-arounds, instead they tried to make the transition from one toon to the next seamless with new animation. This feels almost sacrilegious to cut up these cartoons like that. Some are even split in half with entire cartoons shoved in the middle. A-Haunting We Will Go is the first toon, and it gets chopped up to have four different cartoons inserted into it before it concludes. Now, maybe if the original directors were making these calls it wouldn’t be so bad, but none of them worked on this special. Hal Geer is the credited executive producer while David Detiege is the credited director who must have overseen the new animation and layouts. I don’t know if they tried to get Chuck Jones or Friz Freleng to do this thing, but presumably that would have cost money and they probably didn’t want to be a part of this.

Witch Hazel faired slightly better than Bugs. Slightly.

If dicing up the cartoons feels bad enough, wait until you see the new animation! Holy Hell is it bad. Now, I don’t want to rag on the animators and artists involved. They probably had a shit budget to work with and Warner animation was a shell of its former self come the late 70s, but they couldn’t even get Bugs Bunny on model. It is immensely distracting to watch the old animation suddenly cut to the new, because Bugs looks about as different as he can. He looks like the bootleg Bugs that adorned VHS covers of public domain cartoons in the 80s. It’s bad. The audio is also noticeably different since Mel Blanc had gotten older. That can’t be helped, but it does just add to that jarring feeling.

It’s a shame what happened here, because most of these cartoons are great on their own like “Hyde and Go Tweet.”

If you can get past all of that, is there something to enjoy here? Yes and no. You get snippets of the old shorts in some cases which just isn’t very satisfying if they’re cartoons you’re familiar with. The pacing is off and most will be left feeling frustrated. Which is a shame, because most of these shorts by themselves are plenty enjoyable:

  • A-Haunting We Will Go
  • Broom-Stick Bunny
  • Hyde and Hare
  • Hyde and Go Tweet
  • A Witch’s Tangled Hare
  • Claws for Alarm
  • Scaredy Cat
  • Transylvania 6-5000
  • Bewitched Bunny

Some of these edits will confuse kids. The special goes right from Hyde and Hare to Hyde and Go Tweet which both feature Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but the character models aren’t the same. Claws for Alarm and Scaredy Cat are brutally cut up and quite lousy as a result, even though Scaredy Cat is a terrific toon by itself. And like the new animation issues, you’re also jumping from different eras of Warner shorts which have different production values. It also draws attention to the reuse common in these cartoons like Bugs’ witch costume and walk cycle being the same as Daffy’s nephew. I guess what I’m saying is, this special cuts up the cartoons while also drawing attention to their original flaws. Talk about a swing and a miss.

If you’re thinking about watching this thing, don’t do it!

If you want to spend Halloween with Bugs Bunny and his friends, you can get this special on DVD. You won’t find it airing anywhere, but it is streaming for free in the usual places. It’s mostly an example of what not do do with these shorts. If you want to just experience some spooky tunes, watch the above mentioned shorts by themselves. Or see if you can get the Halloween edition of Toon in With Me that aired this morning. Maybe it’s on demand, but it has some of these cartoons and it’s far more well put together than this. There’s also a block of Looney Tunes airing tomorrow morning on MeTV that may or may not follow a spooky theme. The official Warner YouTube channel even has a bunch of Halloween cartoons on there for free which is way better than this, even if they’re edited. Basically, there are far better options when it comes to enjoying Halloween with Bugs and the gang.


It’s Finally Happening – The Animated X-Men are Coming Back in Figure Form!

Eric and Julia Lewald have something to share!

It was almost two years to the day where I made an entry here expressing a wish for Hasbro to tackle the X-Men. And not just any X-Men, the now classic animated series from 1992. That was probably my greatest obsession as a kid. I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I grew out of it after 3 or 4 years. X-Men filled that void and my obsession lasted longer. I collected the toys from Toy Biz and it was the first time I displayed my toys like collectibles instead of just dumping them in a large bin when I was done playing. I still played with them too, but when I was done I had makeshift shelves to pose them on. It was a large shelf that went three or four rows deep and eventually I had to add another. I was able to separate heroes and villains, though with how quickly things can change in the comics, sometimes I had to move guys back and forth. I don’t think I stopped collecting though until I was in high school in the very late 90s. By then, the X-Men line was nearing its end anyway and Toy Biz was pivoting to more collector-focused lines for their legacy properties while the kid-friendly stuff was focused on new shows like X-Men Evolution and the movies.

There weren’t a lot of toon-specific figures back in the 90s, but Morph was definitely one of them.

Like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles though, the thing with the old X-Men toyline is that it wasn’t really an animated focused line. It started as a comic book line with the inaugural first wave reflecting the 80s costumes and lineup for the team. It was only once the show became a hit that the toyline started to mimic it to a point. One of the first instances of that I can recall is the wave one Storm, who was released in a black costume, getting repainted silver with two ring-capes added on to kind of match her show appearance. Toy Biz would also repackage some of the previously released figures with new card backs advertising them as from the show, but the figures were basically the same comic book inspired releases we already had. Wolverine, for instance, still had his giant buckle on his belt instead of an X logo. Storm did get repainted yet again though, this time white and with a more elaborate cape. The most well-remembered instance of the line matching the show was in the Morph figure. Morph was famously created for the show, though he was modeled after the character Changeling from the comic, and killed off in the second episode. Kids loved him though, so Toy Biz made a figure with swappable heads to mimic his shape-shifting powers. He didn’t look much like the cartoon character aside from the general costume, but it was still one of my favorite figures because it was freakin’ Morph! Toy Biz would also do a Phoenix Saga wave of figures clearly inspired by the cartoon, and other figures here and there appeared to match some show designs, but for all intents and purposes the toys from Toy Biz were comics first and the show a distant second.

2022 will mark the show’s 30th anniversary, and as I hypothesized two years ago, Hasbro is finally going to do proper action figures based on the show. This past week saw Hasbro host its own virtual convention, Pulsecon, and the guests of honor for the final panel on Saturday were Eric and Julia Lewald, authors of the wonderful X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series. Eric was the showrunner for X-Men and his wife Julia a veteran TV writer who contributed some scripts as well and the mere fact that they were announced as guests had my juices flowing all last week. Surely, they were there to pitch their book, but also to reveal something. What we didn’t know is what that something would be. It would likely tie into the animated series, but did we dare hope it would be an actual line of Marvel Legends based on the show? Maybe it would just be more retro card-back releases, which is what Hasbro has been doing for the Spider-Man cartoon lately. There’s also the new retro, five points of articulation, line. I was both optimistic and guarded, but I’m happy to report my dream has come true!

This is glorious!

Hasbro had the Lewalds show off two figures for the new X-Men animated series line of toys: Wolverine and Jubilee. The figures will come in an oversized VHS styled box with new artwork and product shots. They’re meant to be displayed as one would those old VHS releases and they look positively striking. I don’t know if Hasbro got the idea from NECA’s TMNT releases, or if it was an organic thing, but either way it looks fantastic. Not to be outshined though, are the figures themselves. They are indeed Marvel Legends-styled releases and I’m sure there will be a lot of parts reuse between these figures and previously released editions. Wolverine could very well be the same Wolverine body that’s been released before, though it looks like he has new heads to better reflect the show art design. What stands out most though is the paint application which has that cel-shaded look to better match-up with the show. He’ll come with the now standard swappable hands, one with claws out and one claws retracted, but he also gets to bring along the photo of Scott and Jean (just like the upcoming Mondo release) so fans can reenact the most memed scene of the show. Jubilee, for her part, appears to mostly be the same release as before too only I don’t think she’s getting a new head. She’s less impressive as a result since she’s lacking her show-specific earrings on one head, but she does have yellow gloves now. Like Wolverine, she’ll have two portraits and she also has some effects pieces. I do wish they worked in a show specific accessory for her as well (maybe some chili fries? A Genosha collar?) to up the fun factor. One show specific accessory per figure would be a nice goal for Hasbro to have.

Only thing missing is a turkey leg.

These two figures are definitely promising and they’re pretty much exactly what I hoped for, even though they weren’t announced as one big wave as I had previously hoped for. There are a few things to nitpick based on the few shots we were given. Wolverine’s hands appear to lack the claw channels on his non-claw hands which isn’t show accurate, and Jubilee’s head just doesn’t look very “toon” to me. I’m hoping Wolverine is more indicative of where the line is going as opposed to Jubilee, but only time will tell. Otherwise, I like this direction and that parts reuse doesn’t bother me. Now if they try to re-release Sabretooth and pass him off as animated that will be worth criticizing because the Sabretooth on television was pretty different from the comics. He was just huge and honestly a little weird looking, but not in a bad way. Hasbro is a company more focused on price and keeping the price low. These figures already run high by their standards as they’re currently available for preorder at $27 a piece. Wolverine is slated for a May release with Jubilee following in June. Not shown, but announced, are figures for both Storm and Jean, two characters who should be easily adapted from recent releases with some paint modifications. No release date was announced for them, but maybe July and August? A monthly schedule would be fine with me and maybe we’ll learn more in early 2022. Or maybe Hasbro is saving something for Halloween, the 29th anniversary of the show’s premiere, to give us a peek at either Storm or Jean.

Less impressive than Wolverine is Jubilee, but there’s still time for things to change.

What is great is the goal of Hasbro’s to make this a full line. It’s going to be a slow release compared to some of the others, but I can be patient. I’ve waited nearly 30 years for this, I can wait longer. I know some fans were disappointed in the character selection. Wolverine is a given, but he’s also a character that’s been made and released over and over while Jubilee is…Jubilee. A lot of fans were hoping for Morph as he’s become synonymous with the show and is a character that collectors have wanted for years now. I feel very confident that Morph is coming, so I’m not sweating his exclusion for now. He’s the character Hasbro has to hit a homerun with, and hopefully they do. He seems like the most obvious candidate if they want to time a figure with the 30th anniversary on Halloween of 2022. Will they time the reveal or the release with that date is the big question. This is a good time to be an X-Men fan though, and I’m already brainstorming ways to display this line. It’s going to be a long wait until May, but it’s going to be worth it!

Preorders for Wolverine and Jubilee are currently available on Hasbro Pulse (no premium membership required) with an expected release on Disney’s shopdisney website at some point. These are not planned for mass market retail so get your orders in if you want them.

UPDATE: Just a few days after the big reveal, Hasbro went and revealed a third figure in the wave. And despite having already soft announced Storm and Jean, the third figure shown off is none other than Mr. Sinister! He’s available for pre-order on Pulse and currently has the same release date as Jubilee. He is almost a straight repaint of a previously released Mr. Sinister (they may have had to swap out the neck, or it’s just now painted white instead of blue) and will come in an oversized box. Needless to say, it’s a good sign that Hasbro is willing to do villains alongside the X-Men!


Toon In With Me

Originally, the cartoon short was something that was exhibited in theaters alongside news reels, serials, and feature films. All of the major motion picture companies owned their own theaters and most built up a stable of cartoon stars. This was the era that saw the creation of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Popeye, and many more. These characters were stars that rivaled the popularity of the most famous actors of the day. Then it all changed. The government went after studios with anti-trust lawsuits stemming from the fact that they operated as producers and exhibitors for their films. Post World War II saw many, mostly white, families leave the confines of the city for the suburbs taking them further away from those theaters they used to frequent. And then came television. All of the big companies reacted to TV in different ways. Walt Disney rather famously embraced it, while at the opposite end was Warner Bros. which did everything in its power to avoid television.

Eventually, TV took over and it’s remained a staple of the modern household. When the movie-going experience was altered thanks to independent theaters and changing tastes, the cartoon short largely vanished. It was an easy place to trim costs since virtually every studio took a big hit to their bottom-line during this era. Those characters that once flourished though didn’t need to be put out to pasture completely. Instead, they became stars on the small screen as studios packaged them up and sold them in syndicated packages to various outlets.

When I was a kid, there’s no doubt in my mind that the biggest toon stars from that era were the characters owned by Warner Bros. Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety, and the rest were among my favorites, and they were everywhere. Warner Bros. had different packages of shorts it shopped around. What the studio considered the cream of the crop went to the big networks and were shown on Saturday morning. The lesser packages went to smaller, regional, channels and cable. Nickelodeon entered the picture in 1988 and it started off with a somewhat meager offering. Remember Bosko? I sure do and he was seen rather frequently on Nickelodeon’s Looney Tunes show. The show was a huge success for the cable outlet, which had really just begun to go all-in on animation, and when it came time to renew with Warner the channel got a better set of shorts. Remember the “Sorry, Bosko” commercial? I do!

Get the hell out of here, Bosko!

Warner’s cartoons weren’t the only ones out there though as there was a pretty sizable cast coming from MGM. Ted Turner, the famous billionaire who owned the Turner Broadcasting System, set out to acquire cartoons for his cable networks. He would come to acquire Hanna-Barbera and MGM’s cartoons, which had also acquired some smaller outlets like United Artists, and this would lead to the creation of Cartoon Network. Cartoon Network was a place for Turner to air all of the stuff he had acquired, but the channel also had it’s own Bugs and Daffy show too (because MGM bought some, it’s confusing so you should just watch this edition of Nick Knacks on it). Eventually, Turner sold to AOL, which would merge with Time Warner, and basically all of these cartoon stars would come to rest under one umbrella by the time the 90s were over.

This ended up being a bad thing for cartoon viewers. Once Warner controlled everything except for the classic Disney characters, the company started to pull back. Eventually those networks that had been a home for these characters for so long were no longer allowed to air them. Even worse, Cartoon Network had become so full of original content it no longer had need of these characters either. To Boomerang they went, the sister channel to Cartoon Network that few cable providers seemed to carry. Eventually, they would be forced out of there as well as the Cartoon Network What a Cartoon! era shorts matured and made the jump over. Reboots would follow like The Looney Tunes Show and Wabbit, but there was no easy access to the classic, unaltered, shorts that generations had grown up with.

Your hosts for Toon In With Me: Toony the Tuna and Bill the cartoon curator.

Until 2021. Launched in January of this year on MeTV is Toon In With Me. It was a quiet launch since it took me several months to even know the show existed. Before that, I could not have told you what channel MeTV was in my area or on my cable package. For those in a similar boat, MeTV is a broadcast network with a local affiliate in most markets. It specializes in “Memorable TV” and it’s not unlike a lot of local stations from when I was a kid. Right after Toon In With Me is Leave it to Beaver and I see lots of odds for The Andy Griffith Show, M.A.S.H., and Happy Days. It seems like the type of channel my dad would watch if he was home sick or something.

Kevin Fleming provides the voice of Toony and plays a bunch of other recurring characters like Mr. Quizzer.

Toon In With Me is an old school cartoon show with a live-action wrap-around segment. It’s hosted by Bill the Cartoon Curator (Bill Leff) and he is accompanied by a puppet, Toony the Tuna (voice of Kevin Fleming). There is usually a theme for each episode and they end up acting out some skits with help from Fleming and Leila Gorstein. Fleming and Gorstein have a stable of characters to work with that they play and it’s all intentionally corny, but charming. When they’re not on the screen, we get to watch a cartoon!

Bill Leff plays the host of the same name (as well as a few other characters) and introduces the cartoons, usually with some fun background info on it.

The stable of cartoons the show has to select from is quite large. There’s Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies, MGM, King Syndicates, Paramount, and United Artists. Of course, most of this stuff is just owned by one company, but they probably had to do individual deals for each set of characters. Just about every episode though will open with either a Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies short and often it’s Bugs Bunny. Other cartoon stars shown quite frequently include Tom and Jerry, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, The Pink Panther, Barney Bear, and Popeye. That’s obviously not exhaustive as you’ll see Tweety Bird and Droopy Dog, but those are definitely the characters I see recur the most. It’s an effective mix, and whatever package they have from Warner is very reminiscent of the one Nickelodeon had for its version of Looney Tunes. That’s both good and bad as I’ve certainly seen plenty of classics that I once watched on Nick, but I’ve also seen some of the not-so-classic I once saw there as well such as Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse. I’ve noticed the Tom and Jerry shorts definitely favor the Chuck Jones era, but I don’t know if they’re limited at all in what cat and mouse era they can exhibit.

Comedian Leila Gorstein might be the show’s MVP as she’s relied upon to play a large cast of characters, all of which are pretty entertaining.

Stumbling upon Toon In With Me has been a tremendous amount of fun in my household. It’s on every week day at 7 AM EST and I set my DVR to record it. It’s become a show that I watch with my kids. During their summer vacation from school I could watch with both, but ever since school restarted it’s become a show I mostly watch with my daughter as she’s in half-day preschool. She’s become quite the little Bugs Bunny fanatic and has even decided to break her streak of Disney Princess Halloween costumes in favor of the wise-cracking rabbit this year. I love sharing these old toons with her, even if she sometimes would rather watch something more modern since she’s not much into Popeye or The Inspector. It makes me wonder just who the target audience for the show is. It’s definitely presented in a kid-friendly manner, but it doesn’t talk down to the audience. The hosts will share viewer mail at the end of every episode and it’s almost always from an adult. My guess is a lot of people in their 30s, 40s, and up enjoy the nostalgic trip the show brings and they’re probably the core audience. Hopefully kids are watching too.

MeTV also shows cartoons on Saturday morning, like The Bugs Bunny Show, which even includes the classic intro!

Toon In With Me is a nostalgia lovers dream. The cartoons appear to be mostly unedited, or at least haven’t been edited further than what networks did 30 years ago, and several generations of people have grown up with them and have a fondness for them. I love that the show is here for the current generation of children because there’s a shocking amount of children out there who don’t know who Bugs Bunny is, and the number would be higher if not for the new Space Jam movie. Being on a broadcast station means the show is accessible to everyone with a TV set and a digital antenna, and it looks like the website offers a bunch of clips too, though probably not of the actual cartoons. And if you just want the toons, MeTV also has a Saturday morning block of cartoons including an hour’s worth of Looney Tunes. It’s hard to resist the temptation to just buy a big box of Froot Loops and chow down on Saturday with the cartoons going. Definitely check the show out though if you want more cartoons in your life.


NECA TMNT Cartoon Napoleon and Attila

Time to hang loose with a couple of frogs!

It took almost five months, but the Punk Frogs are now complete. NECA, recognizing that they were about to release the same sculpt four times, decided to space out the frog two-packs in its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of cartoon action figures. Genghis and Rasputin arrived back in May, while Napoleon and Attila started showing up in Target stores across the US about a week ago. NECA also made the new set available on its website for an in-stock sale, but if it’s anything like the first two-pack, it should be a fairly painless set to track down at retail.

No surprises with the packaging here, your standard turtle van inspired box.

When I reviewed the first two-pack, I was mostly satisfied, but not really blown away. In the months since I’ve grown a bit more dissatisfied with the set due to one flaw we’ll get to in the articulation portion of the review, and as a result I wasn’t really that excited to find this set at retail. I can’t just have two frogs though, so of course I bought it, and it’s mostly what I expected which is both good and bad.

Just like with the first set, the factory head is much easier to work with than the second one

If you have the first set, then this one offers no surprises. The frogs were all basically the same character model in the show with only minor differences. Each one was a different shade of green and the shirts they wore were distinguishable via the pattern on them. Two feature stripes, and two feature polka dots, and the colors are just the inverse of one another. They also have a different shape to the medallion on their necklace, and like the turtles, each features a different weapon of choice. The two prior frogs, Genghis and Rasputin, had polka dots on their shirts and triangular medallions. Napoleon and Attila feature stripes and a circular medallion. Napoleon’s dominant color is yellow with red-orange stripes while Attila has red-orange as his dominant color with yellow stripes. The stripes also aren’t too intense as it’s basically relegated to one large stripe around the abdomen and at the cuffs of the sleeves. Napoleon also has lilac colored shorts while Atilla’s are a more pale shade of blue. They both feature NECA’s toon shading which features light shades on the front and a darker paint on the back. The shirts are very understated, but it’s more pronounced on the skin and shorts. It’s fine, but after seeing the more elaborate Chrome Dome paint job this certainly feels a lot more “ho-hum.”

“We were setup! Honest!”

Adding to the visual display are the optional parts NECA included. Like the prior two frogs, Napoleon and Attila come with a pair of portraits: smiling and scared. It would have been nice if NECA could have offered different headsculpts with this release, or at least one unique one instead of the same two. They both work fine, the frogs often featured this dopey grin and the scared look works as well, it’s just a bit bland for a display. I assume most will display all four together and you’re not going to have two be happy and two scared as that wouldn’t make sense if you like to have some drama to your display and when they all look the same it’s just boring. I get it, as it keeps costs down, but it’s still something I can gripe about. As for the hands, that’s where NECA offered something unique. Each frog is packaged with standard gripping hands that hinge horizontally. Attila gets Rasputin’s recycled loose gripping hands which made sense for Rasputin’s bow, but doesn’t serve a tremendous purpose here. His unique hands though are thumb’s up hands while Napoleon gets the same fists as Genghis plus some “Hang Loose” hands. Since the cartoon decided to make the frogs all different shades of green, the hands really aren’t interchangeable like they are with the turtles, which is a bummer. That’s not NECA’s fault though.

“Who took this picture of us in our birthday suits?!”
Okay, I lied, NECA didn’t actually sculpt nude frogs to recreate that scene from the toon.

What is NECA’s fault though rests with the articulation on these guys. Again, if you have the prior set you know what you’re getting, but to run it down quickly these guys have: ball-jointed heads, ball-hinge shoulders, single-hinge elbows, elbow swivels, wrist swivels, wrist hinges, diaphragm joint, waist twist, ball hips, double-jointed knees, ankle hinges and rockers. Nothing was stuck on mine and the hinges are cast in the proper color so even though you’re likely to experience some paint flaking it won’t leave behind the eyesores some of the other figures possess. What isn’t good, are the wrists and hips. None of the included hands feature the proper hinge. Both frogs wield melee weapons, but don’t have vertical hinges. It really should have been the default choice for the gripping hands, but that wasn’t the case. And the other shortcoming concerns the looseness of the hips. I touched upon it in my review of the first two frogs, but those two only got worse over the months. Genghis is the only figure in my display to take a shelf dive this summer and it’s largely due to his hips just getting weaker. When you try to stand these guys, they have a tendency to want to do a split. It’s frustrating, and the problem persists here too. It can be easily remedied by the consumer, just pop the legs off (they come off fairly easily and the ball peg is quite durable) and apply a small coat of super glue. Wait for it to dry (I can’t stress the importance enough of that step) and then re-attach the legs and the added layer of glue should help to tighten things up. Should we have to do that as consumers? No, but at least the remedy is an easy one.

These frogs are nude though.
Something Playmates never gave us: all four frog together at last!

Napoleon and Attila have some unique accessories, and some familiar ones. Napoleon’s weapon of choice is a whip and NECA opted to cast it in rubber with a wire running through it like an old bendy figure. The end result is it functions, though it doesn’t look particularly great, especially the split ends on the whip. And with this weapon, the vertical hinges are really missed. Attila’s weapon is a spiked ball and chain flail. It’s not the same as what we saw with Android Krang as the ball is smaller and so are the chain links. Like those though, the chain is real which is cool, but obviously limits posing. The other accessories are two, un-mutated, frogs and two bags of loot. The loot sacks are the same as the one Mondo came with, only now they have a dollar sign painted on them. The only new item is the photo album they come with. It has three pictures inside and all are of NECA action figures. One is all four frogs, one is Rocksteady and a turtle, and the third is Bebop and I think Slash? It’s a cute accessory though and I’m largely okay with what we have here. I do wish we could have received a second version of each weapon, a frozen in place flail and the same for the whip with a more finely-sculpted end.

Unlike turtles, these frogs are not known to eat pizza.
It’s four against one, and yet I still like Leatherhead’s chances.

If you buy this set then you know what you’re getting, assuming you have the first one. The figures look good, but are limited in terms of their expressions and ability to properly wield their weapons. They’re held back further by the looseness in the hips which is going to vary from set-to-set. I assume the best-case scenario is they’re just loose, but tolerable, where as I know some have frogs that basically can’t stand without some modification or assistance. The only other difference this set has with its predecessor is in the price. It would appear the two-packs are getting a slight markup at Target as this one cost me $55 as opposed to the usual $52. I honestly didn’t even notice until someone else pointed it out and had to check my receipt for confirmation. Sure, I don’t like paying more for what is essentially the same set as what I got five months ago, but I also get it. The shipping industry has gone bananas and we’re setting new records on a weekly basis for the amount of container ships stranded at sea because there’s no room at the ports. It’s just something we’re going to have to deal with over the coming months because it’s costing companies like NECA more money to deliver product to us, so naturally, some of those cost increases are coming our way. As for what’s next for this line, I’m actually not sure. I think the next two-pack to come to retail is supposed to be Groundchuck and Dirt Bag, but it could also be any one of the solicited two-packs NECA sold through its store earlier this spring or even the Pizza Monster deluxe figure. With the state of the industry as it is, there’s really no telling when stuff will arrive, but I don’t think this is it for the line for 2021. And if the next release is that Groundchuck and Dirt Bag set, it figures to be a lot more exciting than this one.

Space is an issue.

NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Goliath

2021’s most anticipated figure release is here!

It was nearly 6 months ago that NECA unveiled one of its newest licenses for 2021: Gargoyles! I was incredibly pumped at the time to see that NECA had acquired Gargoyles because the license had so much potential. The show was basically a cult hit in the 90s often characterized as Disney’s answer to Batman: The Animated Series, but Gargoyles truly was its own thing. Rooted in Shakespearian lore with a fantastic backstory, the time-displaced clan of mythical creatures found themselves the protectors of New York City from enemies both current and from the past. And if you’re going to start a line of action figures based on Gargoyles, well, who else are you going to start with other than Goliath?

When NECA unveiled the license acquisition they showed off Goliath with it. The midnight post on Twitter showcased the fearsome creature and the direction the line would head. He was available to preorder the next day with a July release date attached, which slipped to August, to September. That’s 2021 for you, but after a really not so long wait all things considered, I’ve finally managed to secure a Goliath action figure from my local Target.

He lives again!

Goliath is a big boy and he comes in a big box. The Ultimates styled packaging from NECA is bigger than even the Chrome Dome box. It has less to do with the figure’s height and everything to do with those wings. The front of the box features some artwork of Goliath which I believe is stock as it looks rather familiar while product shots can be found on the back and interior. The back also has a bio of the series that surprisingly is not the same as the narration from Keith David that was attached to the second season’s intro, though it’s in the same vein.

That’s a lot of man…stone beef.

The packaging is fine, but what I’m after is that figure inside. Freeing Goliath from his confines is rather painless as there is not an abundance of ties on him. Once out he’ll need to have his tail and wings attached. Figuring out how tall he is isn’t straight-forward since gargoyles have unique lower, leg, anatomy. With his knees bent in his natural standing posture he’s about seven and a half inches tall. His anatomy is sculpted in a more realistic manner than the cartoon. His flesh features veins and thick muscles. It’s cast in a very light shade of purple, almost gray, with a darker purple paint wash over it to really bring out the musculature. The wash is used more liberally on the face to darken around the eyes and lips. His default expression is a stern one with visible pupils that definitely reads as “Goliath.” The belt and loincloth he wears are cast in a soft plastic so they’re quite flexible. The only place the wash isn’t visible is on the tail which is done in a rubber material so that it can bend. It looks rather plain in comparison to the rest of the figure, but it’s always going to be behind him so it’s not something I take issue with. The finer painted details, like the eyes and claws, are all clean. Overall, this is a striking figure in-hand.

I think most will be happy with the scale here.
The wings can go really wide, or really deep, with nothing in between.

Let’s talk about those wings though, for a second. They’re huge! They measure 20.5″ from tip to tip when spread out so this guy will need a big shelf. They’re made of a very rigid plastic, likely ABS, and painted purple and black. The membrane inside the wings is well-sculpted and the detail shows in natural light. Even though the plastic is a bit lighter than some others, they still add considerable weight to the figure and, combine that with their size, will just be a constant battle when posing the figure. In terms of making wings that look good, I’m not sure NECA could have done much better. Bendy wings would have probably too resembled one of those Halloween store rubber bats, and fabric wings would have clashed with the looks of the rest of the figure. What people will miss with these though, is just an alternative. They’re great for dramatic posing, but not for casual or even hand-to-hand combat poses. Goliath could use some partially folded wings, though what I see most requested are the folded, “cape,” styled wings the character would often sport with the two claws at the peak of the wings crossed under his chin and clasped together. NECA likely knows this, but didn’t want to jack up the cost too high on a new IP. Hopefully, something like that follows in the future, and when it does, may I suggest they use the same material that they used for the cape on Shadow Master Super Shredder?

Disc stands help with posing.

Okay, wing talk is complete, for now, so let’s talk articulation. Goliath’s head sits on a ball-peg. It’s not a particularly large ball though, and he doesn’t have articulation at the base of the neck. Combine that with his long, sculpted, hair and wings and you end up with a head that can’t do much. He can look forward and straight down okay and there’s a little tilt too. Rotation is a challenge due to the hair which will interfere with the wings, but if you work at it you can get him to look to either side. It just may require removing a wing, turning the head, and reinserting it. At the shoulder we have ball-hinges and he can almost raise his arms to a horizontal position. The shape, and slope, of his shoulders prevents him from raising his arms out to the side any higher, but he can rotate forward and back just fine. Past that is the biceps swivel and double-jointed elbows which all work fine. The hands peg in and feature hinges, though the right hand on my figure is very loose. The hand hasn’t fallen out, but it takes minimal effort to do so. In the diaphragm is a ball-joint that gives the figure some tilt and rotation. He can even crunch forward a decent amount. There’s a waist twist below that and the new styled double-ball leg joints sit below that.

He can make a scary fist.

In the legs, things get interesting. Goliath has the usual thigh twist, but below that is a single-hinged knee. It can bend back to about 90 degrees, but it can also swivel. It looks to just peg in to the thigh, and I like how the knee cap is sculpted over it. At the ankle, we get the usual hinge and rocker and then beyond that is a toe hinge. Gargoyles have interesting anatomy in that they basically stand on their toes. There’s some slight twist, or rocker, action to the toes, but I can’t tell if that’s intentional or just some play in the joint. They need to be tight though, and they pretty much are, though nothing was overtight on my figure. At the tail, there’s a peg and a hinge so you can move that thing all over the place. It can kind of help with getting the figure to stand, though it’s not really strong enough to help out as much as I’d like. The wings peg into the figure’s back and they’re actually hidden a bit by the hair, which is nice. They can rotate and also feature a hinge that’s ratcheted. It makes an awfully scary noise when positioning it, but they seem fine. Because they’re wide open, there isn’t a whole lot of versatility to them, but at least you have some options, particularly if you go with a flying pose.

If you prefer, you can have your Goliath be studious.

Achieving such a pose though has proven to be a challenge. Standing Goliath is not easy. There’s just enough looseness to his thighs and knees that the weight of his wings pulls him back and the tail doesn’t help out much. I did have some success using two NECA disc stands as each foot has a peg hole. What I hoped to use though was a flight stand. I only have tried two, a SHF stand and a NECA one, and neither worked. The SHF stand features a crotch piece which just doesn’t fit Goliath while the NECA one was rather frustrating because there’s very little range in the actual “grabber” piece. I at least got him into that one, but he looked stupid. What I didn’t try was the stand that came with the video game Baxter, but since Goliath can’t look straight ahead for a true flying pose (technically, gliding, as Goliath would remind me) I didn’t bother. I have a MAFEX stand and a Bring Arts one, but I feel both won’t be able to handle the weight. I’ll have to look elsewhere for something that works, or hang the figure from the ceiling with fishing line or something.

Clearly, the book is a prop to make him look smart because no one is reading that.

Goliath, likely owing to his size and NECA’s desire to keep the price down as much as possible, comes with just a handful of accessories. He comes packaged with two, open, style-posed hands that he can swap for fists. There’s also another left hand that’s more of a gripping hand which works well for his included book. There’s no title on the book, but it appears to match the one he read on werewolves from the series. He also has a jalapeno pepper, which is basically an in-joke for fans. Lastly, there’s a second head. When I first saw this figure unveiled, I figured NECA would go with a faceplate system to change expressions, but he actually has a whole, new, head. The hair is the same, but the face is a more fearsome, yelling, expression with blank eyes. I think, given the limited wing options, I’ll display Goliath with this face instead of the calm one, but both look great. The alternate head is well-painted and well-sculpted with each individual tooth brought out.

Snack time!

The accessory count is low, but Goliath isn’t really a character screaming for a lot of accessories. The optional left hand works just fine with the included book and pepper and he can be positioned with it in a fairly convincing manner, should you wish. He’s a bit limited in terms of more fearsome posing. Take the picture on the front of the box, that crouched pose isn’t really one he can do. He also can’t do the on-all-fours pose the gargoyles sometimes assume in the show. At the very least, he would need some neck articulation to pull that off. This isn’t terribly surprising though as NECA always prioritizes the aesthetics of their figures over posing. And I’m largely in agreement with that approach, though I do think they can do better here. I would like to see them figure out how to get a true gliding pose as well. They could possibly do so with neck articulation, or with different hair-shapes or even a hinge in the hair.

I look forward to getting some friends for this guy, and some foes.

Goliath is a good first effort from NECA for Gargoyles. I don’t think he’s quite the homerun that I had hoped he would be, but I think some of that will be addressed in time. The limited wings makes him feel like he’s not really an “Ultimate” edition of the character, but if I’m right and that’s a product of NECA keeping costs down, then maybe that will change in the future. NECA indicated the response to Goliath was beyond their expectations so the fanbase is there and I’m willing to bet its willing to spend a bit more to get more. The only real issue is, with costs soaring across the industry, will NECA be comfortable charging $40 or $50 for a figure in this line? That remains to be seen. For now, we’ve only seen the next two releases: Demona and Thailog. Both appear to have one set of wings so it may be awhile before we see something else. Finding a home for this line is going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’m ready to welcome. I’m all-in on Gargoyles, so NECA, keep ’em coming!


NECA TMNT “The Colossal Chrome Dome” – Deluxe Chrome Dome

Chrome Dome – he’s bigger than you think.

Many television shows have what is sometimes referred to as “event” episodes. These are often episodes that complete long-running arcs, have an extended runtime, and might even be featured in a more prominent timeslot. It’s usually something for shows that take themselves rather seriously do. A show that featured very little of this sort of thing was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Like many 80s properties, that toon was developed with the main purpose of selling toys. Sure, the writers, artists, and directors who worked on the show probably tried to do their best to make something worthwhile, but for the most part, each episode was a self-contained story often introducing a new hero or villain that Playmates Toys wanted kids to run out and buy. Especially after the second season when the show really took off.

All right, he’s not quite as big as the box would lead you to believe.

One of the few moments where the show aimed a little higher was with the season five finale “Planet of the Turtleoids.” This one was hyped a bit by the network the show aired on as a one-hour special which aired a little over 30 years ago on August 31, 1991. It still kept the turtles in their usual Saturday morning timeslot, but it at least felt like something that was more important. The episode brought in the villains Groundchuck and Dirtbag as well as featured a golden Technodrome – how’s that for fancy? The most memorable villain introduced in that episode though, was Chrome Dome. Chrome Dome was a colossal robot created by the Shredder and Krang to, what else, destroy the turtles. And he was indeed colossal as he was basically the same size as the new Technodrome. This was quite different from the toy version which, like basically every figure in the series, was around four inches tall. If my memory serves, the toy preceded the episode so we as fans had no idea just how big the character was supposed to be. The card back didn’t list a height, but it did list a weight of 600 pounds. A giant, metal, robot would probably weight tons as opposed to pounds, so safe to say we were surprised and we should have been.

Seriously though, this box can barely hold him.

In order for NECA to do Chrome Dome properly and have him scale with the rest of the line, he’d basically have to be the same size as the quarter scale Raphael or maybe as tall as the diorama itself. Lucky for NECA, Chrome Dome returned in the season seven episode “Night of the Rogues.” In that appearance, he was still a big boy, but not to the degree he was originally. He was more like 9 or 10 feet tall in that appearance. This works perfectly for NECA’s deluxe line of TMNT figures. Recently, we looked at both Muckman and Mondo Gecko, characters that were forced into the deluxe line due to their unique tooling and accessories and not so much for their size. Chrome Dome brings both and it’s actually a little surprising he matches Mondo’s retail price of $40. This dude is a beast as he towers over the previous biggest figure in the line, Krang, and he has the beef (steel?) to match. For collectors, this guy is the new centerpiece for NECA’s cartoon line as anyone who sees such a collection will probably immediately have their eyes drawn to Chrome Dome.

I love weapon storage on a figure.
Here come a bunch of pictures to illustrate how big this figure is. First up, we have Android Krang and Metalhead.

Just how big is NECA’s Chrome Dome? About ten inches tall. Even telling you that, and showing you all of these pictures, can’t properly convey how big of a figure he is. The box he comes in, lovingly illustrated by Dan Elson just like the other deluxe releases, is pretty heavy and it barely holds Chrome Dome. He uses up the entire inner blister. The box is the same height as the one that housed Krang, but it’s deeper by nearly an inch. Once extricated from his paper and plastic confines, Chrome Dome is immensely impressive. NECA adjusted its cel-shading paint to go with something that feels more accurate to what they’re going for. Rather than bisect the figure with light shades on the front and dark on the back, he simply has embellishments all over. His chest is white with black piping and NECA added angular gray swaths of color to create the illusion of light falling over him just like the actual cartoon would have done. The same is done on his face and abdomen and the white patches on his arms and legs have gray added as well and the blue kneepads utilize a darker blue to accent that. It looks phenomenal and I hope more figures down the road present an opportunity for this sort of approach. He really pops like no other release in this line and the closest comp in terms of paint is the rock soldiers. This sort of approach probably wouldn’t work for every character to come, but maybe if they do a robot Bebop and Rocksteady? I’m suddenly excited to see them attempt such a figure!

Did you think Super Shredder was large? Hah! Chrome Dome laughs at Super Shredder!
Super7? Bandai? None can match Chrome Dome!

The paint is terrific, in terms of how it’s stylized and in application. There’s a lot of room for things to go off the rails, but for the most part it’s clean. Upon closer inspection, there are a few problematic spots, but the only true drawback is some smudges on the white of the chest and rear of the “dome.” It’s something that can happen when a figure uses a lot of matte white, but it’s not noticeable from a shelf and wasn’t even something I spied through the box. There appears to be some missing gray on the right shoulder disc as the left one is painted gray all along the edge, but the right is not. Also of interest is there appears to be some lubricant in the same area in the biceps swivel. There’s none present on the left arm so maybe this side just got a little extra “juice.” I’ve wiped it off a few times, but it’s still a little shiny. Needless to say, it’s good to see NECA using lubricant though to reduce over-tightness at the joints.

If you want Chrome Dome to look small you have to bring in another scale.

The sculpt for this bad boy is basically just as nice as the paint. He looks just as he did in the show with his samurai inspired head and various ridges and vents sculpted into his body. Every black line painted on this guy is also sculpted, same for the black rivets. He has these big, wing-like, appendages on his back that are quite sturdy. I always thought it was an odd part of the character’s design, but it does give him a bit more presence. What I find myself really liking is the sculpt of the hands. His fingers have this boxy shape to them, very robotic in a sci-fi way, and they just look so cool. The open, style-posed, hands he comes with in the box are quite fun and that boxy aesthetic is also apparent in the other hands. The old cartoon wasn’t known for great designs or cool looking characters, even a lot of the characters that looked great as toys were downgraded for the show, but Chrome Dome stands out as just being a really bad ass looking robot.

He kicks too.

And NECA made sure this beast could move. NECA managed to get the standard articulation into this guy even though he’s so big, and they did it without the need for ratcheted joints. The most limited part is right at the top. His head can’t really look up thanks to how large the helmet is and the ability to tilt is limited. The good thing is, he doesn’t need to look up at anyone. At the shoulders, we have standard ball-hinges with a biceps swivel just past that. His elbows are double-jointed, and the lower hinge is pretty tight on my guy. I should note, however, I did not have to heat any of his joints. At the wrist, he can rotate and swivel. In the abdomen is a big ball joint. It’s tight at first, but he can crunch forward and back a bit and tilt side-to-side. There’s a lot of paint there though so I would advise to be gentle so there’s no paint rub. At the waist is a twist and below that are the ball and socket legs we should all be getting used to seeing at this point. Chrome Dome’s have a nice tolerance there though, where some of my figures have been overly loose. There’s a thigh twist past that and double-jointed knees. There’s a sculpted “boot” line, but no twist there so don’t try. At the ankles he has hinges and rockers plus a toe-hinge. I don’t think you’ll need that toe hinge for anything, but it’s there.

Lets do some martial arts poses.

It’s a standard allotment of articulation for Chrome Dome, but it’s always a little surprising anytime a big figure like this comes around packed with this much. That’s because bigger figures mean more weight, and any articulation point is a chance for the stability to falter. I am happy to say that Chrome Dome stands just fine. His legs have become a little looser since removing him from the box and breaking him in, but he’s yet to fall over or anything. With the aid of a simple NECA disc stand, I was even able to get him into a one-foot pose. The only shortcoming I’m finding with the articulation is just with the shoulders and the lack of a butterfly joint. I don’t know if NECA could have pulled it off without breaking up the sculpt on the chest, but if Chrome Dome could reach across his body to grasp a the handle of a sheathed sword that would have been cool. Even without that though, the combination of his size and what’s there for articulation should be plenty to find some dynamic poses for your shelf.

Because he really needs two swords.
The belt clasps at the back, but I’m not brave enough to remove it. Plus, I like the look of it anyway.

Chrome Dome probably doesn’t need any weapons to crush his foes, but his figure still comes with some anyway! Chrome Dome has not one, but two, belts. In the show, I believe he just had the sculpted blue belt while the Playmates toy had the second belt with sheaths for his swords. NECA replicated that with the outer belt being pretty true to that old toy as it even has a clasp on the back if you want to remove it. There are two, blue, sheaths on the left side for his twin katana. The katana have this neat, techno, design to them. They’re mostly white and gray with blue on the handles and they very much stylistically fit it in with the other weapons Shredder and his minions wield. They slide into the sheaths rather snugly, but they can fit all the way. The only drawback is you will most likely experience some paint rub with a little blue getting onto the white portion of the blade. The same is true on the handles when fitting them into his hands as it’s a tight fit. To wield the swords, Chrome Dome comes with a set of gripping hands. They have vertical hinges and swapping hands is painless. There was a bit of paint on all of the hinges of the spare hands so breaking them in is a bit of challenge, but the plastic is also black so once that paint flakes off it doesn’t leave behind an eyesore.

Bang!

If swords aren’t your thing then there’s a blaster too. Chrome Dome is a big boy so he needs a big gun and this thing is quite large. It’s painted in a white and gray scheme and NECA included a right, trigger, hand to wield it. The hands on this guy are very stiff with almost no give, so if you want him to hold this gun you will almost certainly need to heat the hand first. I just used running, hot, tap water and that worked just fine. His trigger finger fits in exceptionally well too and it’s quite satisfying to look at. If you prefer he store the weapon, there’s a peg on the right side of the floating belt. Now, I am not sure how NECA intended for this to go on. Some have been able to get it to peg on as there’s a hole towards the rear of the gun. It’s a shallow hole though, so it doesn’t peg in very well. What I have done is utilized the rear of the gun which has what looks like a molded hinge. The peg on the belt is like rubber, and I simply stuck it through this hinge which works fine. It keeps the gun low so it’s not up in his armpit and it hasn’t fallen. I’m probably going to display him with gun in hand though, but if I wasn’t this is how I’d store it.

“Oh, Shredder, come on! I am the superior machine, come push MY keys!”

In addition to the weapons, Chrome Dome also has an assortment of hands and a computer. He has the open, style-posed, hands in the box, plus a pair of fists and a pair of “chop” hands. It’s honestly more than I was expecting and it presents a conundrum in terms how to pose him on the shelf. I love the style-posed hands, but I also love having him hold his swords and gun. I’ll probably never use the fists or chops, but I can see how others might. The computer is an interesting inclusion. If memory serves, it’s from “Night of the Rogues” and Zach, the “Fifth” Turtle, uses it to retrieve some information out of Chrome Dome. I don’t remember if it’s his computer or Donatello’s. Zach is featured on the box though, so expect a figure of that lame, little, dork some day. The accessory is well done though, and it even features a floppy drive. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it in the near term, but I do know it would look nice in a lair set, or maybe even inside the Turtle Van.

“Ugh, Mikey, I don’t think now is the time to whip out your little hook.”

Chrome Dome is a spectacle of an action figure. He’s so big, and so well detailed, that he commands attention. If it wasn’t already clear in this review, I am in love with this figure. I think it’s my new favorite in this line. He has to be! It’s just so impressive from every aspect that’s important for an action figure. And at an MSRP of $40, I don’t know how NECA does it! I don’t want to sound like a corporate shill, but I sometimes don’t know how NECA does what it does. Mondo Gecko might have seemed a touch underwhelming at 40 bucks, but Chrome Dome is the opposite. And I compare him to some of the other stuff I get and it just blows me away. The Super7 Michelangelo I reviewed recently is more expensive than this guy, and so is the comparatively massive Rocksteady. I know it’s a whole different release strategy, but it’s hard not to compare these things as a consumer because at the end of the day I am getting a figure of a certain quality at a certain price. I don’t care about production numbers and parts reuse, and it’s hard not to see how NECA is putting everyone to shame with such a release. And it’s shocking because this guy features no parts reuse and I don’t see how NECA will benefit from these molds again. Maybe they’ll do a video game variant? I’m definitely not expecting another release in this line that is this much of a value though so get him while you can, because it’s possible future runs won’t be $40.

I love this figure. Settling on a pose is going to be a challenge, but that’s a good problem to have.

And if you do want a Chrome Dome of your very own, he can currently be found at Target. I got mine direct from NECA as they made some available online a little over a week ago (he thankfully shipped a lot quicker than Mondo and Muckman), but he appears to be arriving in large numbers at stores right now. This line is getting easier to obtain as I’ve seen Mondo and Muckman with some degree of frequency, so hopefully Chrome Dome is the same. He is the type of release though that could entice casuals because he is just so neat looking, so if you want him for your collection I would suggest not sleeping on it.


S.H.Figuarts Bulma

Bulma’s back and packing a bigger gun.

It was a little over a year ago that I took a look at the S.H.Figuarts release Bulma – Adventure Begins. I believe I mentioned in that review that the figure I was reviewing was the second Bulma released by Bandai/Tamashii Nations for the SHF line of action figures based on the classic manga/anime Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. It was that version of Bulma that I was interested in because it depicted her as she appeared in the very first episode of the anime. The previous version of Bulma had not interested in me as she was in her Mad Max-like outfit from the show’s ending credits and some promotional art. For whatever reason, that version of Bulma has apparently appealed more to companies looking to make collectibles based on the show. When Irwin launched their own line of Dragon Ball toys in the early 2000s, they too went with that look. A lot of statues and other collectibles have gone with it, and I guess it’s just because these companies view their clientele as mostly male and males want to buy the rugged version of Bulma with the machinegun, not the one with the ponytail and pink skirt.

I’d wager most who buy this figure will pose her exactly as she appears on the box.

As someone with a fairly modest Dragon Ball collection, I definitely do not need versions of characters that didn’t even make it into the show. However, the past year being what it is, boredom and clearance pricing has led me to make some purchases I otherwise would not which is why I’m about to tell you all about the first version of Bulma released in the S.H.Figuarts line. Simply titled “Bulma,” this is that biker/raider/whatever iteration of the character. I believe it’s based on artwork by Toriyama, but otherwise those ending credits are where I know it from. It appears about 30 seconds into it and is preceded by quick shots of Bulma putting on her gloves and loading her gun. She’s positioned with a dirt bike too, and the Irwin release included the bike as a stand, while this version is just the figure. It’s certainly an interesting look as she’s covered in bandages and for some reason her pants are missing a leg. Her hair’s in this side ponytail and her name is emblazoned on her shoulder pad. She looks cool, a bit of a rugged cute, she just never looks like this in the actual anime.

“Is that ME?! What am I wearing?!”

The figure basically matches that art to perfection. About the only difference I notice is she has a little grime on her exposed knee in the picture that Bandai didn’t bother to paint on. She’s about five inches tall, which makes her a little taller than Kid Goku, but doesn’t really put her in true scale with anyone in the Dragon Ball line save for maybe Tao. It’s basically a choice Bandai had to make when doing the kid characters for they’d have to be really small to be truly in scale. Bulma comes with her goggles which are basically just intended to be held or draped over her neck as they are in the image. To do so, you just pop her head off and that’s how you complete the look. A lot of the details in her sculpt are done with separate pieces like the satchel at her hip and the shoulder pad on her left arm. I’m not sure if the pad is glued on or just pegged in, but the satchel is pegged and it can be lifted up. The straps across her back and left thigh are sculpted in and painted and the paint application is very clean. The only paint issue I can find concerns some of the hands where the blue rectangle isn’t perfectly lined up with the sculpted-out area for it, but it’s very minor. I really like how her boots turned out and even the little clasps on those are painted silver without slop which is kind of incredible. My only real criticism with the sculpt and paint of this figure rests with the hair. I wish there was a wash or something added to the figure’s hair to reduce the very plastic look it has. It’s matte, but that shade of blue comes out looking a little like Play-Doh.

Look! She can put her gloves on!

This figure likely shares parts with the other version of Bulma and her articulation is essentially the same. Her head sits on a fairly large ball-peg and can rotate, tilt, and look down quite a bit. Her hair prevents her from being able to look up though. At the shoulder she has ball-pegs with a small butterfly joint. She can raise her arms out past 90 degrees at the side, though you have to work with the shoulder pad on her left arm, and rotate all around. The arm swivels basically at the shoulder and above the biceps. At the elbows, she has the SHF disc joints which aren’t my favorite, but it’s what Bandai seems to go with when it’s sculpting characters with thin arms. She can bend past 90, but the joint is rather funky looking when the elbows are not bent. At the wrist she has ball joints with great range and the joint isn’t as awkward looking as it is on some figures because her hands and wrists are fully gloved. In the torso she has a ball joint just below her bust. This allows her to tilt and crunch forward and back with really no gapping issues. It works in conjunction with a ball-joint at the waist resulting in her being super flexible. At the leg, she can lift her legs out to the side a fair amount, but can’t pull off a split. She kicks forward and back to about 90 with a thigh twist up by the ball-joint. The knees use the same disc system as the elbows so they’re single-jointed, but allow the figure to go a little past 90 there as well. The joint here works a little better from an aesthetic point-of-view as the disc is only visible from the back. Below the knee, she surprisingly doesn’t seem to have a boot-cut, but she does have ball-joints at the ankle. They’re a bit limiting though, likely due to the sculpt, so she can’t go forward and back too far and the side-to-side “rocker” action is a bit limited as well.

Dragon Radar: don’t leave home without it!

Bulma is sort of like a tale of two figures when it comes to the articulation: great on top, so-so below the waist. She can still do whatever you need her to. She’s more than capable of hitting the pose from those ending credits, as well as the other product shots on the box. And when it comes to her accessories, there are no problems there as well. Her main accessory is that machinegun she’s seen casually holding in the art. It has a sling that pegs into the rear and side so she can wear it over her shoulder, hold it by the top, or hold it in a more conventional firing position. The gun has a very long stock which makes it a challenge to position properly if you want her to look like she’s actually firing the gun. Not impossible, but it’s definitely not the position Bandai prioritized when developing it. She has those goggles I mentioned which are well-painted and look nice wherever you choose to put them. They just can’t actually fit across her face. She also has the Dragon Radar that the other Bulma comes with. This one has a different decal that doesn’t show any Dragon Balls. Just like with that Bulma, this one comes with a special right hand for the Dragon Radar to peg into since it’s such a small accessory. Definitely try not to drop it on a carpet. She also has an assortment of other hands and most seem like they serve a specific purpose. There’s a set of curved, open, hands that appear intended for holding the Dragon Ball or possibly handlebars. There’s a right, trigger, hand, a right fist, and a right, open, hand. That open hand appears to work in conjunction with a left hand that’s almost a fist, but her thumb is forward in a pinching position. Based on the rear of the box, it appears to be to simulate her pulling on her right glove (the open hand) which is certainly specific. There’s also a left, pointing, hand and a left gripping hand for holding the gun by the top of it as she is in the art. Lastly, there’s a five-star Dragon Ball and I think I now have all seven, plus the “pearl” one that came with Jackie Chun.

One flaw with this line is that Bulma basically scales with no one.

To go with all of that stuff are two additional portraits. Bulma comes with a standard smile in the box, plus an open mouth smile and a winking face. Swapping them is simple as her hair comes off granting access to the face-plate. What’s kind of neat is she can also use the face-plates from the second Bulma release. The smile expressions are basically the same, except this version has a band-aid on her cheek. The open mouth on this Bulma has her looking to her left, while the other is looking straight-ahead. The main difference between the two is the winking face for this figure, and the terrified scream on the other. I can’t see myself swapping faces between the two releases, but it’s nice to have that option. If you wanted to, you could also place her on the SHF Bulma’s Motorcycle accessory, though she doesn’t fit as well as the other Bulma. That’s due to the crotch piece limiting the legs at the hip so it’s a bit tricky to get her all the way down onto the seat and have her feet where they’re supposed to be. It can be done, but that bike definitely works better with the other Bulma since she has a new skirt piece specifically designed to get her properly seated.

It’s a bit of an awkward fit, but if you want to, Bulma can ride the motorcycle.

This is a solid release from Bandai for the SHF line. Despite this version of Bulma never appearing in the anime proper, it’s still associated with an iconic image of the character so it’s not as if it’s unwanted. It’s different enough from Bulma – Adventure Begins that it serves a purpose. It can do the pose that it needs to do, but it also has a range of other possible poses that all look good on a shelf. The only changes I’d make to the figure would be to improve the grip on the trigger hand and apply a wash or something to the hair. Otherwise, I’m happy with the sculpt and paint and the articulation is sufficient for what this figure needs to do. This wasn’t the version of Bulma I decided I needed to have for my Dragon Ball collection, but now that I have it I’m certainly glad it’s here.


S.H.Figuarts Piccolo: The Proud Namekian

A real proud one.

When the S.H.Figuarts line was launched years ago and Dragon Ball Z was at the forefront, it wasn’t Goku who got to be the first figure out of the gate. Nope, it was Piccolo. That figure caught my attention when it was announced even though I had not purchased a Dragon Ball figure in quite some time. I came close, but ultimately never did pull the trigger. The line originally adhered very close to the original Dragon Ball manga so Piccolo sported a light purple gi with yellow, puffy, things (whatever that portion of Namekian anatomy is), and a red sash at the waist. An event exclusive version would follow that depicted an anime color scheme and by all accounts it seemed like most people really liked this figure.

Piccolo looks like a fun guy…

Of course, time being what it is, Bandai has had numerous opportunities to improve upon that original figure. The mechanics of the average SHF release have been altered to create more articulation and better sculpting. As a result, the figures released more recently tend to look quite a bit better than the original ones, even though when those first ones dropped few could imagine a DBZ figure looking any better. Many of the original figures have received updates, but it took awhile for old Piccolo to finally get his. Released towards the end of 2020 though was Piccolo: The Proud Namekian. This figure is a complete do-over with basically nothing retained from the original figure. For longtime collectors of this line, this figure was overdue and just judging it based off of promotional pictures seems to indicate it’s a superior product, but how much better is it really? Well, time to find out!

I don’t think he really wants to come out.

Piccolo comes in the standard SHF window box, but he comes a bit different from what some may be used to. Piccolo has a lot of stuff on him right out of the box. I suppose it’s not surprising to see him with his shoulder pads and turban/helmet thing, but I was a little surprised to see that he has the crossed-arms pose in the box. That look is probably the signature Piccolo look so it’s not that surprising that they would go with that pose, it’s just surprising because usually that crossed-arm piece is an included accessory and not the default pose. Instead, Piccolo’s arms are just kind of chilling right there beside him since the crossed-arms pose is one piece.

Let’s cast this stuff aside for a minute.

Anyway, I’m going to start off discussing Piccolo without all of that stuff. He stands around 6.5″ which puts him on the taller side, but he’s probably not as big as he could have been. His size does kind of vary at times in the anime and the character literally can grow to any size, though that’s a seldom used power kept in his back pocket. Out of the box, he has a big, missing, chunk in his back and that’s because his cape is going to peg into there as well as some other pieces. When not wearing the cape, he has a filler piece that’s made to look like his purple gi and it plugs right in. Mine isn’t quite flush on the right side and I wonder if that’s intentional to make it easier to remove? Either way, it looks good to my eyes and it’s on the figure’s back so it’s not something I’m terribly concerned about.

Bandai included a plug to hide all of the ports on the figure’s back, which is expected of a $60 action figure.
I’ve had this Piccolo animation cel on my wall for 20 years so I’m very accustomed to his face. This scene takes place right after Piccolo’s fusion with Nail on Planet Namek.

Piccolo’s default expression is a stoic one. It looks okay, but something about the face seems a touch off to me and I’m not sure what it is. I think his eyes maybe too small and there’s too much “face” below them. The angle of the jaw is probably off too as it should come in tighter towards the center of his neck. I do not like that they painted his mouth red since he does not and has never had red lips so that choice is odd to me. He has his antennae though and they can be pulled out and if you really wanted to you could reposition them. Do be careful though as I once dropped an antennae from my King Piccolo figure and it was a pain to find in my very shallow carpet. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been had my carpet had more volume. Piccolo is depicted in his anime color scheme so purple gi, a very saturated green flesh tone, pink musculature or whatever we’re calling those, with red trim and a blue sash. He’s the “proud Namekian” as we’re calling him so I guess that makes this figure a late Frieza saga version or perhaps a Cell saga version of the character. Prior to that, he was a straight-up villain who wanted to avenge his “father” by killing Goku and then take over the world. He gradually turned to the side of good, thanks to his bond with Goku’s son, Gohan, and by the time he arrives on Namek to confront Frieza and see his home world for the first time he’s very much a good guy. Piccolo doesn’t really change much visually throughout the course of the show, so it’s not that important. In Dragon Ball, he had slightly different anatomy that included pink kneecaps, but otherwise he’s been pretty consistent ignoring the whole height thing I mentioned. Which is good, because this guy can fit in wherever you need him to. If you want him fighting Frieza that’s no problem or maybe you want to put him up against Android 17? That should work too.

This is a figure that definitely benefits from some effects parts.
Obviously, this is the more appropriate charging pose for Piccolo.

From a sculpting perspective, the figure is pretty solid. The gi he wears is sort of nothing new as a lot of characters wear something similar. And in the case of Piccolo, he looks like a scaled down version of King Piccolo and even a lot of the hand options are the same. He has a decent amount of paint since the red and pink portions of his body needed to be painted and it’s all quite clean. His gi looks to largely be unpainted though, likely because it’s a very dark color to begin with. I do wish it had more of a matte appearance because it’s quite shiny. That sheen does help to accentuate the folds, but it doesn’t help to create the illusion of realism. The only other critique of the overall sculpt and paint I have is that his upper body looks a touch undersized. Piccolo is a pretty beefy dude, or alien, whatever, and I feel like his shoulders could be a little broader and his chest a bit more pronounced. I’m guessing, they had to find a happy medium that worked with both the shoulder pads and without since it’s not as apparent when he has those on. I still think he looks good, but if I could improve something that would be it.

I much prefer this face to the more stoic one.
This figure is very stand-friendly.

Of course, if I was unimpressed with the basic, combat, look of Piccolo I could switch to his default look which includes the shoulder pads and cape. In order to put them on (or take them off) you simply pop the head off of the figure and slide the shoulder pads over it. There’s an opening on the back for the cape to peg into and the peg rotates so you can position the cape however you see fit. You can technically use whatever portrait you want with the cape, but Bandai included two heads that work with the turban: a stoic one and a yelling one. The expressions are both duplicated without the turban piece so I dislike the stoic one here, but the yelling one looks great. It just doesn’t work as well with this look since Piccolo usually ditches his weighted clothing when fighting, but he does engage in some fisticuffs with this on here and there. It’s a good look though and if I liked that stoic expression more I’d have a hard time not displaying the figure this way, but I think I’ll go in a different route ultimately.

If I liked this portrait this would be a hard pose to resist.
Though if you want that cape flowing out behind the figure you’re going to need a lot of shelf space.

Piccolo comes with plenty of things, though there’s at least one thing absent. For starters, he has five heads: stoic, stoic with turban, yelling, yelling with turban, and a teeth-gritting looking to the side expression. The heads intended for the turban don’t have a skull-top, but a chunk of plastic with a key on it so the turban can only go on one way. The other three heads have a full top and antennae. The yelling and teeth-gritting feature added veins and both look quite nice. The open mouth on both yelling heads are fully sculpted and the paint is pristine. For as much as I dislike the stoic expression, I love the other two. Piccolo also has the crossed-arms piece mentioned earlier. To use, you disconnect the arms just below the should and plug that piece in. It’s a bit tricky, but it can be done if you make good use of the butterfly joints. Just be careful about putting pressure on the shoulder piece because it has a cap that kind of just floats on it which can slide down and pop off on you. For hands, Piccolo has the usual assortment: fists, style pose, open palms, and a Special Beam Canon right hand. He also has an arm stump that clips on the left shoulder and features some sculpted, purple, blood dripping off of it. This is great if you have a Raditz figure and want to recreate that scene, though we sadly don’t have a barefoot Goku to go with it. Lastly, there are two plugs for the rear of the figure intended to be used with a Tamashii Nations stand (not included). It adds a port for the stand to plug into under the cape, and the larger of the two plugs is intended to help the cape stay up. The best application for this is so Piccolo can achieve his floating, meditative, pose. I do wish they had included an eyes closed portrait to really sell this, but oh well. The only big, missing, item is, of course, a blast effect. This guy is crying out for a Special Beam Canon effect piece and I really wish it could have been included. Seriously, if it means another 5 or 10 bucks added to the MSRP then just do it, Bandai!

I love that they included an arm stump!
This looks pretty bad ass, but it would be so much better with an actual effects piece.

Piccolo has plenty of stuff, but what good would it all be if he can’t be positioned well with it? Worry not, for he’s about as articulated as anything in this line. The head is on a ball peg with another joint at the base of the neck, and since Piccolo is bald, he has no restrictions in looking around. The shoulders are quite impressive as he has a butterfly joint, ball-hinge, and another hinge that allows the arms to drop down. This is to better accommodate the shoulder pads. The butterfly joint can swing out extremely far, which I believe is to make it easier to get the arms-crossed attachment on and less for actual posing, because it would look ridiculous to pose him like that. He swivels just past the shoulder at those ports where his arms come off and has the usual double-jointed elbow and the spacer piece looks quite lovely. The wrists are ball-jointed and the red trim helps hide them without hindering the range. In the diaphragm, you have a ball-hinge so he can rotate and pivot, but also crunch forward and back. There is some gapping if you go too far, and as usual, you want to be mindful of the parts rubbing against each other. At the waist he can twist and pivot and at the hips he can kick forward and back about as far as you need him to and swivel at the thighs. The knees are double-jointed and look okay when going past 90 degrees and the ankles are ball-jointed as well. They aren’t the best, though it could be due to the shape of the character’s shoes, but I don’t have problems standing him. He has a toe hinge as well, but it’s not particularly useful. Lastly, the cape is articulated so the ends can slide out for a more dramatic pose. It can also pivot up and down and you could turn the peg at an angle if you wished. It’s kind of funky because it’s in 3 pieces, but I think it works better than a wired, cloth, cape for this aesthetic. The superior option would probably have been to just do two capes, one just hanging and the other blowing, but maybe this was the more affordable option.

I brought in one of the effects pieces from my Yellow Power Ranger figure and it works okay.

Piccolo has all of the parts and articulation to really achieve the bulk of his signature poses and looks from the show. He can bring his hands together for his Cell saga energy blast, and his range of motion on his arm is perfect for the Special Beam Canon charging and blasting pose. The open hands work as a Masenko attack or if Piccolo wants to steal Tien’s Solar Flare he can do that as well. In terms of just posing, I like the style posed “claw” hands and the fists. The grimacing expression really adds a lot of personality to the figure so he can look angry or desperate with a touch of worry too. If the box included the stand and a blast effect this would be the total package as far as I’m concerned. One thing I also like about the figure, is you can use the “claw” attachment on the stands to support the figure if you want to, but I actually prefer to just peg into the figure either via those included adapters that work with the cape, or with the port on his back for the actual cape. He’s a very dynamic figure, which is what most want and expect from this line.

We have to do the father-son picture!
A time paradox!

Bandai’s 2.0 approach to Piccolo is a very good attempt. He’s definitely an improvement over the original, which is over 10 years old at this point, and does a good enough job of capturing the character’s likeness from the anime in certain poses. I do wish his default expression looked better and I feel like the character could have been bulked up a touch in the shoulder area. Also, the shiny-ness of the pants is a bummer. And there’s the lack of a blast effect of some kind, but that’s a criticism for the entire line as so few figures come with that. Even so, this figure has a lot of display options at his disposal which is great for collectors like me who enjoy changing things up every so often. I’m going with a wounded, Special Beam Canon, charging pose for now, but who knows what Piccolo will be doing 6 weeks from now? If you’ve been holding out for a better Piccolo from this line, this will probably get the job done for you, even with the obvious room for improvement.


NECA TMNT “Shred, Mondo, Shred!” Deluxe Mondo Gecko

You gotta be pretty confident to call yourself Mondo.

When we took a look at NECA’s Muckman from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon line of action figures, I mentioned how Muckman was supposed to be released in a two-pack with Mondo Gecko. That obviously didn’t happen and it’s because the figures just got too expensive for the two-pack format. Rather than release a 60 dollar or more two-pack, NECA split them up to be a pair of deluxe releases. Muckman was on the larger side and required entirely unique tooling to create, Mondo Gecko though is more average for the line in terms of size and he probably shares at least a few parts with other figures. And yet, when both figures were released Muckman came with the MSRP of $35 while Mondo is up at $40. What gives? Well, NECA decided to make this one a little different, and I’ll tell you how.

More awesome box art from NECA.

Mondo Gecko was one of the more popular ancillary characters associated with TMNT when I was a kid. He was created for the Archie Comics series The Mighty Mutanimals, but most kids knew the character from the Playmates Toys action figure. That one came with a skateboard and a bunch of stickers and he was just very much a product of his time. A skateboarding, party, gecko? Hell yeah, kids loved that shit! He was a natural companion character for the original party dude, Michelangelo, and since so many kids loved Mikey it’s hardly a surprise they enjoyed Mondo Gecko too. It would take a little while for the character to show up in the cartoon, and when he did he actually started off as a bad guy. He’d flip by the end of his debut episode, and he was one of the few characters who really didn’t change much in going from toy to toon. He basically just lost a lot of the little details like the scaled texture to his skin, blue ridges around the eyes, and even his braces. The toon also dropped the skull from his shirt either because it would be hard to animate consistently or maybe they thought it was too scary. The only thing I wish the cartoon had been able to keep was the lone roller skate the figure had on the end of his tail.

Hey, it’s Mondo, but who is the little guy in his bathrobe?

Mondo Gecko comes in the usual deluxe packaging. He gets the smaller box treatment like the Ultimate Foot Soldier and, like all of the other releases, the package is adorned with f.h.e. inspired artwork by Dan Elson. The figure itself is about 5 and 3/4″ tall putting him on par with the turtles. I haven’t watched the episode he first appears in recently, but I remember him being just a little taller than Michelangelo so this checks out (if my memory is correct). His tail is not attached in the box so some assembly is required. It’s a snug fit, but I got it on without having to resort to heating up the ball or the tail. His attire matches the cartoon well as he lacks the skull on his chest, but has the skull kneepad and spiked elbow pads. He has the overbite the cartoon depicted and his face is in a bit of a smile. That smile is accentuated when you open his jaw, which is a really nice touch. The slits in his eyes are striking and I like that they sculpted a new torso for him rather than try to get away with an overlay since they went that route with his tattered, yellow, shirt. He has the two-tone cel-shading paint job as well with a light green on the front of the figure and a darker one on the rear. Perhaps most impressive are Mondo’s sneakers. NECA sculpted the laces and everything and the paint application is quite clean. That’s not easy to pull off since there are three colors on the shoe alone.

Red, half-closed, eyes seem to indicate this guy could have come with one other accessory.

It’s interesting the shoes turned out so well, since my one contention with this figure from a presentation aspect is the paint. NECA’s application of the paint is remarkably clean for what is a fairly busy figure, but the shortcuts the company took (likely to save money) are what hurt it most. And it’s a problem we’ve seen before that apparently got cleaned up, only to resurface with Mondo. And that is NECA choosing to paint some of the joints rather than sculpt them in the proper base color. Much of the figure is sculpted in a light green that’s close to the skin-tone featured on the front of the figure. NECA even had the thighs and biceps peg into the upper thigh and shoulder and cast those pieces in the proper color, purple and yellow, respectively. Where they took a shortcut is with the hands, and in particular, the right hand. Mondo wears a red glove on one hand, and rather than mold-inject that hand in red, they kept the green plastic and tried to paint over it. This creates an ugly situation as once the hinge in that wrist is moved even once, the red paint flakes off leaving an unsightly green piece. They painted the fingertips green and yellow (for the claws) anyway, why not cast the part in the red? Maybe there was an issue in getting the paint to properly cover the red, though my guess is it’s just a cost issue. It’s one, small, piece that needs to be in red and rather than switch out the plastic they just had the factory roll with it. It’s unfortunate, because this figure looks really good and it deserved better, but I’m forced to basically ignore the articulation in that hand because I don’t want a random blob of green to show.

Mondo’s pride and joy.
This is probably how I look on a skateboard.

That brings us into the articulation. Mondo is pretty standard for the line and is quite familiar when compared with the punk frogs we’ve already taken a look at. For starters, he has that hinged jaw which adds a lot of personality to the figure. Seriously, a hinged jaw does wonders for pretty much any figure it makes sense for. His head is on a ball-joint and there’s also a ball-joint at the base of the neck which is entirely hidden by the shirt. As a result, his head has a terrific range of motion with the only hindrance being his ponytail which prevents him from looking up. At the shoulders, we have standard ball-hinges and he can raise his arms up just fine and rotate all around. At the biceps, the arm just pegs into the sleeve affording swivel articulation. It can be popped out rather easily too, which I consider a plus since I don’t fear anything breaking. At the elbow is a single hinge and swivel and he can’t bend past 90 degrees. I’m guessing they didn’t want to do a double-hinge since he has elbow pads like the turtles, though they also bypassed that with the frogs so who knows? There’s no pin so at least it looks nice. At the wrist he can swivel and he has those hinges we already talked about. I would avoid engaging them with the gloved hand. In the torso, he has a ball joint in the diaphragm under his shirt so he can rotate and pivot and crunch forward and back a little which is great for a skateboarder. At the waist he can swivel, and the hips feature the new style ball joints and are much tighter than the frogs, which is welcomed. The thighs swivel where the shorts connect and he has double-hinged knees. The plastic is on the softer side and bending his knees isn’t as “creamy” as I’d like them to be. At the ankles, there are hinge joints, but the shape of his shoes really limits how far they can go. If he has a rocker, I can’t tell, because again the shoes prevent his feet from really going anywhere. Since they look great, I’m not really disappointed by that, but your mileage may vary. Lastly, the tail connects via a ball-peg and it can move a bit, but like the Triceratons and Leatherhead, it’s range isn’t impressive.

Now that’s more like it!
Let’s shred!

Mondo’s articulation allows him to do some pretty cool things. He is a skateboarder, so his articulation should reflect that and if there’s anything missing I would say a true ball-joint at the waist allowing for more ab crunch motion might have been the way to go. Otherwise, I think he can do enough and I’ve certainly seen plenty of images online that support that. Obviously, if he’s going to do some kick flips and grinding he needs a board, and NECA included his oversized, motorized, skateboard. It’s nearly 5 inches long not including the tail pipes and features some flames painted on the surface. There’s one peg placed on the edge of the board and it seems NECA took care to not put it on the flame where it would need to be painted. Both of Mondo’s feet have peg holes, though I think the peg works best when used with his right foot. A second peg towards the front of the board would have been welcomed, but I think the company was trying to preserve the aesthetic of the board as much as possible and didn’t want a peg in a high visibility area. Since most are likely to display Mondo on his board, I don’t think it would have been a big deal to include a second peg, but it still works fine as-is. The wheels are actual wheels so the board can roll and the paint-job is well done so it’s good to see NECA nailed the look of Mondo’s signature accessory. About the only thing I wish NECA had been able to include or done with the board was a display stand like what the Turtles in Time figures came with. That would just make it a lot easier to display the figure in a more dramatic pose. Instead, you’ll have to get creative (and his tail can be helpful in that regard to prop him up) or provide your own stand.

He does have a gun, if you think he needs one.
“Cool armband, dude!”

As for the rest, Mondo comes with one extra set of hands. They’re gripping hands, to go along with the open hands he comes packaged with, and they’re here to work with his accessories. NECA included the rounded, blue, rifle we’ve seen with the Foot. I think he did wield a gun in the show, though I don’t recall the specifics of it. Regardless, I probably won’t display him with a gun so I’m not particularly bothered by the reuse. Mondo also comes with a loot sack and a timebomb. The timebomb is a bunch of bricks and six pieces of dynamite and looks pretty cool. The time on it is “09157” and if that’s a reference to something I haven’t figured it out yet. Mondo also comes with the compliance cuff from the Dirk Savage episode. It slides onto the wrist and looks kind of neat so I’ll probably use it in my display, even though wearing it means Mondo is being mind-controlled. There’s also a little green gecko representing Mondo before he was mutated. The paint looks good and it’s kind of fun to have another little creature to add to the rest like the frogs, gerbil Mike, and Pigeon Pete.

Kerma is pretty simple, but he gets the job done.
He’s rather fond of the gecko.

The big accessory though, literally and figuratiely, is Kerma. Kerma is an alien turtle from the Planet of the Turtleoids who appeared a few times in the show. He has no connection to Mondo, but to dress-up this release and really make it feel like a deluxe one he was inserted into the box. It makes sense to see Kerma released this way as he’s a little guy who really doesn’t require much articulation. He stands at approximately 3 and 1/4 inches and his sculpt is quite nice, though his sash is just painted on. He has a big smile on his face which is suitable for the rather good-natured character. His head is on a ball-peg so he can rotate and look down. Unfortunately, he can’t really look up which feels like something a short character would need to do. At the arms he has ball hinges and the wrists rotate. That’s it, since he’s a robed figure and a turtle at that. I wish they had snuck a ball into the base of his neck to allow him to look up, but otherwise the shortcuts don’t bother me all that much. He has peg holes in his feet should you want him to skateboard and he stands well on his own. Kerma is not a super-important character, but this is about the best way to release him which is to make him a glorified accessory. And assuming he’s the reason for the extra five bucks tacked onto the MSRP then I’m fine with that. Five bucks for a Kerma feels right.

Another banner release for NECA as this line just keeps chugging along.

NECA’s deluxe Mondo Gecko is yet another release in this line that feels like a homerun, or close to it. NECA is so good at nailing the aesthetics of the figures in this line that it’s almost become boring. It’s hard to blow the customer away when the line is so consistently good. That’s obviously a nice problem to have though, and while I have one major nitpick with the paint on the gloved hand, I’m still largely satisfied with how the figure turned out. I’m not going to pass on a toon Mondo, and while I didn’t need Kerma, I’m not disappointed in having him either. I’ll find a home for him in my display, while finding one for Mondo is going to be tricky because I’m running out of room! As usual, this figure is exclusive to Target in the US, though I got him from NECA’s online store as he was made available last month in limited quantities. The quantities that made it to Target seem plentiful, so he’s definitely one of the easiest releases to find, so hopefully anyone who wants him is able to get him.


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