It was announced one week ago in a post timed for midnight on the east coat that toy maker NECA had acquired the licensing rights to produce action figures based on the Disney Afternoon classic Gargoyles! NECA had begun teasing a new intellectual property had been acquired back in January and the only clues provided were that it was a 90s property enjoyed by kids that had yet to experience a revival of any kind. This had heads spinning, including my own, and I nearly made a blog post on the subject itself. The reason I did not is because it started to become apparent that it was indeed Gargoyles. That wasn’t due to anything NECA said, but what it didn’t say as fans tossed ideas at the company’s official Twitter account and the Gargoyles suggestions were left untouched. Gargoyles just also made sense for NECA, who originally made a name for itself in the collector space with its horror themed releases. While not horror, Gargoyles is certainly horror adjacent with its gothic imagery and fright-inducing main cast. It also fit the description provided by NECA perfectly as no one has attempted a modern toyline, even though there’s an obvious fanbase hungry for more, and because there just weren’t a lot of other options. The best non-Gargoyles thing I could come up with was Captain Planet, a certainly remembered franchise, but one I’m not sure has a rabid fanbase. Though with NECA’s recent Defenders of the Earth toyline selling out I suppose it’s hard to figure out just what doesn’t have a fanbase eager for modern toys these days?
The Twitter announcement came with some delightful images of the line’s first figure: Goliath. For Goliath, and likely the line as a whole, NECA took the basic cartoon aesthetic and applied some artistic licensing in bringing the figure to life. He is far more detailed than the character model from the show with realistic (though exaggerated) musculature and textures to his skin and claws. He looks really cool, but it’s understandable that some fans were left wishing he better matched-up with the animated version, since that’s the look most remember. NECA’s approach does remind me of classic toy lines which were often more detailed than the cartoon source for the simple reason that cartoons have to dial down the details in order to keep costs down. This figure, which I’m judging based off pre-release images, looks like Goliath to me so I’m fine with the approach. Should the line find success it wouldn’t shock me to see NECA double-dip and add a toony line, especially as it pumps out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures at a tremendous pace potentially hastening the end of that line.
Meant to be modernized w more detail and anatomy not a direct copy of the cartoon. Toys have come along way since 1994. Stylized realism if you will like Defenders of the Earth & our DC vs Dark Horse line https://t.co/O9iNSiEwVd— NECA (@NECA_TOYS) March 31, 2021
And the early returns suggest the line is off to a fantastic start. Preorders opened up the day of the announcement at all of the usual online spaces. They sold well enough that NECA sent out a press release to its retail partners saying it needed to cut-off preorders earlier than expected and set a date for that to take place of April 2nd. It’s possible fans will be able to order Goliath figures past that date as that is the date for retailers to get their orders in. If a retailer like Big Bad Toy Store sees Goliath selling well, it might submit a higher order on that day than what it’s sold, especially since large retailers rarely submit an exact order. It does mean that once places start closing orders following April 2nd, Goliath will be unobtainable until the figure’s official release expected sometime in July. NECA has stated the figure will be sold, and I quote, everywhere so there should be no shortages of places to go toy hunting, but I for one definitely prefer to secure an order early rather than later.
And Goliath will not be the only figure from Gargoyles the company releases. NECA has yet to show off any other figures, but has stated there are five finished and more in development. The company hopes to reveal a new one each month and stagger the release in the same fashion. That means if Goliath is coming our way in July, then figure number two should follow in August, and so on until all five are out. And that certainly has fans speculating who will be among the five to follow in Goliath’s footsteps. The Manhattan Clan from the show included fellow gargoyles Brooklyn, Hudson, Lexington, Broadway, and Bronx. That’s five right there, but I’d be quite shocked if rogue Demona is not part of the initial launch. I’ll even go so far as to say I’ll be surprised if she isn’t number two behind Goliath. There are certainly plenty of other characters for NECA to turn to such as ally Elisa Maza and villains like Xanatos, MacBeth, and The Pack. It’s possible NECA will try to offset the development costs of the tooling intensive gargoyles with humanoid characters that might lend themselves well to parts reuse, either with each other or from other NECA lines.
All that is to say this line could have serious legs. There are a lot of characters from Gargoyles to mine and I suspect NECA will be eager to do some of the clone characters, like Thailog, since they’re just redecos. The tooling in this line looks like it could be costly, but Goliath is being solicited for the extremely reasonable price of $33 in most places. That price gets you an 8″ tall gargoyle with a 16″ wingspan. He has multiple face portraits and extra hands to go along with a book accessory and the ever important jalapeno. The part where NECA will save some money does rest with the accessories as most of these characters require little to none. Hudson brandished a sword while Demona often had some heavy artillery, but the rest were just gargoyles armed with tooth and claw. I am supremely excited for this line though and I just wanted to share that with the world before the preorders close. Fans of Gargoyles have been waiting for something like this for a long time and hopefully it’s the start of a revival of sorts. If it only leads to an extensive toyline though, I’ll be plenty satisfied.
If you want a Goliath figure of your very own, here is a non-exhaustive list of some places where you can do just that (I receive no compensation from these websites if you do choose to order from one of them):
My first NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles product was the original release of the Mirage Studios quartet released in 2008. Nearly a decade went by before I bought another TMNT product from NECA, and that item ended up being the quarter scale movie Donatello. It was love at first sight for me and Donnie, and I eagerly awaited the following three turtles to complete my display. Following those, I’ve stayed away from the quarter scale largely because it’s expensive and takes up a lot of space. Those figures are over a foot tall and are quite beefy and it’s just more convenient to collect at a smaller scale. When NECA first announced it was going to bring the cartoon turtles to the quarter scale, I initially wasn’t interested. What would I would do with more giant turtles? The first one on the release schedule was Raphael, and I kept my eye on it, but wasn’t really feeling the pull to go for it. Then the figure was delayed from the jam-packed Fall 2020 to Q1 2021 finally arriving when there’s little action in the toy world. Maybe that was the reason for my renewed interest as once I go several weeks to a month without a new toy I get anxious. Seeing reviews online was enough to do me in, and here I am with a quarter scale Raph.
When I say I had little interest in the figure when announced initially, I am mostly referring to Raphael. I did plan to get at least one quarter scale turtle because one of my favorite Christmas presents ever was the Playmates Giant Sized Leonardo. I loved that big-ass turtle and I marveled at the changes made in going from 4″ to 14″. The “pleather” belt, pupils in the eyes, ankle articulation – it all seemed awesome to me at the time, even if by today’s standards that’s still a pretty basic figure. The only negative with that toy was Playmates was too cheap to include two swords. I no longer have that guy, but he was immortalized in a clock my grandfather made for me that he based on that toy and I still have that to this very day. It’s in my son’s room now and if he ever breaks it he’s in some major trouble.
I caved though, and now I have a big, beefy, toon, Raphael on my shelf. I was able to order him from Big Bad Toy Store, which has since sold out, so apparently there are a lot of folks out there who slept on this thing for awhile, only to change their mind once released. I did try to find him locally first, but no comic shops around me seemed to carry him which was a bummer. Even though this is a big figure, I was still taken aback by the sheer size of the box he arrived in. This figure is actually smaller than the movie figures, so I kind of had it in my head to expect small, but there’s just no making a quarter scale figure small.
Raphael comes in a window box done up in the same style as the Target releases. NECA originally wanted to do retro packaging, but couldn’t get permission from Playmates to make that happen (which possibly accounted for the delay). There’s some nice photography on the box though demonstrating the product. Hidden on the bottom of the box is the cross-sell with the other three turtles set for release (Donnie is next and should arrive over the summer) and a demonstration of the features of the figure. The main selling point, aside from the aesthetics of a giant turtle, resides in the head. These figures come with two heads, but each head can separate at the bandana to create up to four, distinct, expressions. Not all of the turtles will come with the same pair of mouths, so once all four are collected you should have quite a bit of variety for mixing and matching. It’s a great idea, and it’s one that is also being brought to the 6″ line next month with a deluxe four pack being sold exclusively at Target.
Extricating Raph from his box requires some work. This is not collector friendly packaging, which is actually liberating to a degree as I didn’t mind destroying it and trashing it when done. Once removed, Raph stands roughly 14″ tall. If you have the series one Raph from the toon line sold at Target, then he should look fairly familiar. The color scheme is basically the same with that olive green skin-tone. NECA uses an even darker green on the backside of the figure and the same is done with the red of the bandana and various pads as you have a bright red on the front and a dark red on the back. There’s some black line work at play to really bring out that cell-shaded look and the shell is a soft brown, as it was in the show, and not deep green like some of the licensing art. The obvious major change is just in the expression on the head. Raph’s default look is that big, happy, open-mouthed, grin. The other head features angry eyes and a yelling mouth while the smaller version of the character has a more neutral expression with gritting teeth. I’ve always felt the headsculpts on the standard turtles from NECA were the weakest aspect of the figures as they’re just not very representative of the cartoon and this is a major improvement.
The figure may look like a larger version of the standard release, but it’s actually a little different. This turtle is actually packing more articulation than the old one, which was a bit of a surprise. The head is on a double barbell styled joint so it moves inside the head and inside the neck. The neck is also articulated so you get a pretty good range of motion out of the old noggin. The shoulders are still standard ball-hinges and there’s a biceps swivel past that. The elbows though are now double-jointed like his movie counterpart. Also like the movie figures though, the elbow pads limit just how useful those elbow joints are and you’re basically only going to get 90 degrees out of the joints, but it looks better than the smaller one which placed the elbow pad above the joint. And that pad doesn’t just float in the joint either, there’s actually a little ball-peg that it clips onto. I don’t think it’s something you have to necessarily worry about breaking, but maybe just be mindful of it. The wrists still swivel and possess horizontal hinges and the inner shell has some articulation points, but they don’t really function at all because of the shell. At the legs, we have ratchets to help this figure hold his pose since he is quite heavy. The legs can go out to a full split and kick forward pretty far. The front part of the shell is pretty soft so it doesn’t hinder the kick too much, but the rear shell will keep him from kicking back. The knees are double-jointed, but like the elbows, the kneepads will get in the way a bit. I could get past 90 though, so all in all it’s pretty good. There’s a slight swivel at the knee and the ankles have been redone. The smaller figures just had their feet on ball pegs, but now we have true hinges and rockers which is really needed for posing because this guy actually doesn’t have a thigh swivel. I’m pretty surprised by this omission, but I’m guessing it’s for stability reasons. He moves better than he has any right to, and best of all no stuck joints! The only tough ones were the knee joints, but I assume they’re tight for a reason as loose legs would kill this figure. His bandana knot is also now articulated with a hinge, which is cool.
This guy comes with quite a slew of accessories for mixing and matching. Some of these accessories are definitely going to be repeated with the other turtles, like the pair of pizza slices which actually snap together. I suspect once all four are out we’ll have a full pie. The hands are familiar to anyone with the smaller figure: two gripping hands, two pointing hands, and two thumb’s up hands. The gripping hands feature the wider gap between the fingers so Raph can hold his sai with the center blade between them. The pointing hands also function as stylized sai-holding hands, though they don’t fit as neatly as the movie sai and hands. Best of all, the hands are actually quite soft so it’s easy to put accessories in his hands and there’s little risk of paint rub. To go along with these hands, are Raph’s trusty sai which don’t look quite so huge in this scale as they do with the smaller figure. Raph still can’t holster them in a toon-accurate manner, but they fit under his arms when not in use. He also has a Turtlecom that actually opens and closes now. Getting it all the way opened requires a little tug that may seem scary the first time you do it. Once opened, the shell ends are very loose and floppy making it hard for it to hold its shape when actually placed in the figure’s hand. I still think the added gimmick of it actually opening and closing is worth having over the previous method of one static closed Turtlecom and one static open Turtlecom. Lastly, there’s the dripping slice of pizza with the hole through it for placing on Raph’s sai as he does in the original cartoon intro.
Of course, we need to talk about that big selling point: the face swapping. Raph’s head comes off very easily, possibly too easily, which is needed to change-up those portraits. The bandana knot just pegs into the back of the head. It’s quite snug, so go easy with it. Separating the top of the head from the bottom isn’t too bad as you can hold it in one hand and push from the bottom inside the head to pop it apart. Once you do that with both heads, you can swap to create expressions. He basically has four: happy, angry, scared, and a sort of wicked expression that is easily my favorite (angry eyes plus the smile). Unfortunately, mixing and matching doesn’t work as well as I had hoped. The two default heads snap together fine, but trying to combine happy eyes and yell or angry eyes and smile does not work as well. The happy and yell combination, which creates a scared Raph, is super tight. It took a lot of effort and repeated attempts to finally get it to snap together. I probably should have got out the head gun, but I did eventually get the thing in place with pure muscle without damaging it. It might seem like an odd choice, but in some respects, this scared face feels the most authentic to me since the turtles do react in a surprised, concerned, and even frightened manner to all kinds of dangers in the show. I might have to go with this look for at least one turtle when all is said and done. The look I was most interested in for Raph, that wicked smile, has a worse issue. It’s too loose! The two pieces will click together, but just the slightest breeze will cause them to come apart. I’d get them together okay, but then once I put the head back on they’d fall apart. It’s frustrating, because the only remedy I can think of is to just glue the pieces together, but that defeats the purpose of the gimmick. Very carefully, I did manage to get the head on and even posed Raph on my shelf with this expression. It’s held, for now, but this doesn’t seem like the type of thing that’s going to get better with time, only worse. Right now, my hope is that one of the other brothers comes with a smiling mouth that works better with Raph’s eyes. It looks like I’ll have to wait awhile though as Donnie appears to come with the yell and a closed mouth, but Leo and Mikey are both shown with big smiles. And maybe once I have a bunch of these guys I’ll be more open to gluing one head together. I’ve seen other reviews that did not have the same complaint, so this could be unique to my set, but I really hope the other figures work better than this one as this is the main selling point of the line, as far as I’m concerned.
The issues I ran into with the expressions definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm for this figure. I do enjoy that he has this big, nice, weighty feel to him and the quality seems to be there as well. As it should be since this figure retails for around $125. He’s shorter than the movie version, but actually feels more substantial. And this is an eye-catching piece with enough posing options that it should be pretty fun to assemble a squad of four. NECA is aiming to release one per quarter and get them all out in 2021. Donnie is next, and we don’t know who will follow him, but eventually I will have my Leonardo! I am also very much looking forward to that four pack and I hope it won’t be a huge chore to acquire it when it’s finally released because these new portraits just work so much better for the source material than the grim ones we got a few years ago.
This bad boy appears to be selling quite well, so if you think this is something you’re going to want then you probably won’t want to wait too long. There will be no restocks, according to NECA, until all four brothers are released and I’m pretty sure they’re looking to do more movie quarter scale figures in 2022 so it could be awhile before Raph is readily available once again. And if you’ve been collecting NECA TMNT, you know how hot it is right now and how crazy the after market can get. The good news is that hot after market means if you buy this guy and decide you don’t have the room or just plain don’t like him you can probably get your money back without too much trouble by flipping him. I do like the look of Raph, and I think I’ll appreciate him even more when I get my toon setup all situated once NECA releases the cartoon diorama it solicited last year. There’s going to be a lot of turtle power added to my house this year.
You may have been wondering why I decided to devote an entry earlier this week to a nearly twenty year old action figure of mediocre quality, and if so, now you know why. I wanted to take a look at the DC Direct Batman based on his appearance in the Jeph Loeb written, Jim Lee illustrated, story Hush in anticipation of a look at what should be a much better figure based on the same Batman. The MAFEX Batman should be everything the DC Direct one was not as MAFEX action figures pride themselves on being highly detailed as well as super articulated. They’re also super expensive so they should be awesome.
My only experience with Medicom prior to this was nearly 15 years ago. Back then, Medicom was known to me for vinyl toys which were often stylized and often pretty expensive. Medicom did a deal with musician Glenn Danzig back then, and if you have not noticed that’s a favorite subject at The Nostalgia Spot, and I grabbed one. Medicom issued three figures, one based on each of Danzig’s bands, and I grabbed the one based on the band Danzig. The figure is basically a vinyl doll, it swivels at the arms and fists, but nowhere else. It might have swiveled at the head if not for the hair-sculpt. It was stylized though with its own unique look featuring an oversized head and fists with a somewhat round nose and underbite. It was cool, but also around $75 in 2006 money so it was hardly cheap and the reason why I only grabbed one.
My experience with Medicom is not at all applicable to its MAFEX line of figures. The only comparison is that both are expensive. I have seen plenty of MAFEX offerings over the years that looked pretty good and were thankfully not attractive to me since they do a lot of superhero stuff. I’ve also had some reservations as I’ve seen and heard many complaints about the MAFEX quality control over the years. Joints breaking, paint applications iffy, and so on. Often times reputations are earned, but it’s also important to remember not everyone’s experiences, or expectations, are the same. I’ve certainly seen a lot of complaints about NECA’s quality control online recently and yet I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 NECA figures and have yet to have one break. The worst I encountered was my toon Slash which arrived with a detached backpack strap which was easily fixed with a dab of glue.
Even with that reputation starting to build for MAFEX, it wasn’t the thing still giving me the greatest pause, it was the price. And it’s not necessarily the idea of spending around $100 on a figure. When I saw this Batman unveiled I was very interested as I felt this was THE Batman for me and I’d never need another and that has a pretty high price for me. It’s more what you get for the price. Each MAFEX figure is 1:12 scale which is fancy for six inch scale, for the most part. They’re not identical, but most people won’t notice the difference. You’re getting a figure with a good sculpt and a lot of articulation to go along with numerous extra parts like hands and heads, as well as character appropriate accessories and often (always?) a stand. It’s a good assortment of stuff, but the fact remains that quality figures in this scale just don’t carry this high a price. Bandai’s SH Figuarts are very comparable in terms of scale and quality and they usually retail for $60, at their high end (up until recently, of course, as we’re currently seeing a rise across the industry in prices). What is MAFEX doing to justify the added cost? It’s possible the licenses they go for just plain cost more, but Bandai has done Marvel and kept the price down, so that leaves me largely with one conclusion.
And that conclusion is “because they can.” We’ve been seeing a lot of boutique style collectibles start to crop up that really push what is expected in terms of price. And I think some manufacturers have realized that collectors are willing to pay a lot, and some are now willing to charge a lot as a result. Action figures are not known for having fantastic profit margins, but they do exist and most companies figure out a price that works for them. And then we have other companies that want more. It’s basically just capitalism at work, and if collectors buy it then producers are going to charge it. Did I want to contribute to making it acceptable to buy a 1:12 figure at $100? The short answer is, “No,” but I am both making an exception here and I felt I should have some personal experience with such a product before forming a final opinion, so here we are. And maybe I’m just ill-formed and Medicom pays its employees way better than the competition and thus, has to charge more. I doubt that’s the case, but since it’s a possibility I figured I would mention it.
I am going to keep this review objective, because that’s what I always do, and because subjectively I’m almost guaranteed to enjoy this action figure. The version of Batman depicted in Hush is fantastic, as far as I’m concerned, and this figure need only capture that. Price is a factor though, so I have to keep that in mind. This figure by itself might be great, but it needs to justify its cost. I can overlook some lazy sculpting or iffy paint in a Marvel Legends and still declare it’s pretty awesome because that figure costs around $25, but such things are not so easily overlooked when the price is quadrupled.
Well, for starters, MAFEX presents a good figure. The figure comes packaged in a collector friendly window box with appropriate colors and artwork. The rear features numerous product shots to demonstrate how the figure can be posed, and unlike a Lightning Collection release, I suspect all of these potential poses are actually achievable. I do wonder if these are actual product shots though as the colors are a bit different and the figure looks a bit beefier, especially the legs. It’s likely they’re just edited post photo, or the figure depicted is a final test sample that turned out a little differently. The figure comes in a blister tray with some actual Jim Lee artwork serving as the backsplash. The tray has a plastic overlay to keep everything in place and the included stand is taped to the back. I recommend removing that stand before removing the tray cover because that cover is the only thing securing all of the accessories and figure. Don’t do what I did and remove the cover and decide now is a good time to take off the stand and accidentally dump all of your parts on the floor. It’s not a fun time searching for batarangs on a carpeted floor.
There is no tape or tie-downs inside the box, so once that tray cover is removed you are free to pull your Batman out. He is pretty light to the touch and your first reaction is likely going to be, “Wow, that’s a big cape!” It’s massive and made of some kind of cotton, I assume. It’s well put together, but it will arrive wrinkled. Had Mafex used spandex or something more rubbery it likely would not wrinkle so easily. The stitching is clean though and I don’t see any fraying, so that’s a plus. It’s glued under the cowl and it’s a little messy and I worry about that piece eventually lifting off of the torso. Holding and moving Batman feels a lot like handling a SH Figuarts release. The joint system is pretty familiar and just the overall build quality feels pretty much the same, and that’s a good thing. The only negative for me right out of the box is that one of the blades on his left forearm came out bent and curled over, which you’ll see in virtually all of the images in this post. Since taking all of the pictures I was able to apply some heat to that curled blade and straighten it out a little. It’s not where it needs to be and it’s something I’ll have to keep at if I want to straighten out completely, or just learn to live with.
Once placed on a surface, Batman stands right around 6.5″ to the top of his ears, probably a little less. He’s shorter than the DC Direct figure I looked at who was around the same height to the crown of his noggin. The Mafex version is also less substantial. He’s a leaner Batman in comparison, which is not really page-accurate if we’re being technical. His chest could use a bit of beefing up as well as his thighs, though his biceps and shoulders look pretty good. The head shape is much better on this version and more reflective of the art, as is the color palette utilized which is a pale blue, almost a gray-blue, for the cape, cowl, gloves, boots, and trunks. The yellow belt is also pale and a little dingy. I think a touch of brown might have better achieved the effect they were going for, but in checking the source material this looks pretty close. The paint on this figure isn’t terrific. The head-sculpt must have been cast in blue because it shows through the flesh-colored paint around his mouth. There’s even a blue line under his lip, which isn’t great. It also shows through the teeth of the alternate head. On a shelf, it’s probably not a big deal, but this is a pricey figure so this shouldn’t be an issue. The paint around the bat emblem on his chest doesn’t fill the sculpted-out symbol giving it a gray outline, which is irritating. There’s a gray speck on one of the belt pouches and the paint around the boot cuffs is bad. It’s frustrating because there’s not a lot of paint that needed to be done, and what little there is wasn’t done particularly well. At least, the eyes came out well and there does appear to be a wash on the gray parts that looks good and brings out the musculature of the figure, though there is some paint slop on the left thigh of my figure.
The overall presentation of the figure is a mixed bag. The sculpt is good enough, even factoring in the price, but the paint is not while the cape size is going to be more subjective. I think the cape could have been smaller, but it could also work at this size with some improvements. I think the bulk of the cape, in particular how it bunches up at the shoulders, contributes to my feeling like this Batman seems undersized. If I flip the cape over a shoulder and just look at how it compares to the head and width of the upper body it looks pretty good. The cape in the books is certainly large, but it’s illustrated rather thin and heavy, almost leathery in behavior like a, you know, bat! There’s not a lot of material around the neck area as there is with this figure so that’s what’s throwing things off for me. If it wasn’t glued under the cowl way up inside the shoulders and on the pectorals, it would look so much better. They just brought it forward way too far.
I definitely have some nits to pick when it comes to the presentation of the figure, but I also haven’t talked about the articulation, so lets get to it. His head is on a ball peg which sits inside a neck piece that also connects via a ball peg in the torso. He can turn his head and look down pretty well, but the range going up isn’t great. What also isn’t great is that neck wants to turn with the head most of the time, and sometimes it doesn’t, and you may end up with Batman’s adam’s apple on the side of his neck or something. Something inside it also kind of chewed up the edge of the neck on mine as it rotated. It’s not a big deal because it sits far enough down in the torso that it can’t be seen unless you’re looking for it, but it’s something to watch out for. The shoulders are on ball-hinges with a butterfly joint that allows Batman to reach all the way across his chest. There’s a swivel at the biceps and double-jointed elbows that go well past 90 degrees and don’t look terrible. The hands are connected via ball pegs so they have pretty good range of motion, but they do pop off a little easily, which is better than the alternative. In the torso we have a ball-peg in the diaphragm so he can rotate and tilt pretty well. There is a waist swivel, but it’s a little tight. The belt is a separate piece that has a little give, but it’s either glued down or pegged in somewhere. The trunks are also a separate piece, but they’re pretty small and stay out of the way. The legs are on ball hinges so they can kick forward and back and raise out to the side far enough, but not a full split. They also can drop down for a little extra mobility and swivel at the thigh. The knees are double-jointed and molded at a slight angle so they look a little funky, but the joint is pretty clean. At the ankle we have a ball-hinge so they can raise up a little, go back a good amount, and rock side-to-side, though it takes a little finagling. There’s also a toe hinge.
The articulation is quite good. I like that Mafex avoided creating any real ugly joints on this guy. The clumsiest area is probably the shoulders where that giant cape works to the figure’s advantage. And speaking of the cape, it too is articulated. There are four, metal, wires running through it that connect at the cowl. Two wires run along the outer edge and then two more are inside. The wires on the outer part work very well to help pose this massive thing, while the two inner wires do very little. They basically help the cape to hold its shape, but what is missing is a center wire which would have aided this figure a whole lot. It certainly adds a fun dynamic to the figure since you can do a lot with that cape. And if you find it looks too bunched up at the shoulder, I recommend taking that outer wire and just sort of folding it back as opposed to trying to tuck the whole thing behind a shoulder.
We’ve talked about the sculpt, and we’ve now discussed the articulation, so really the last place for this figure to justify its cost rests with the accessories. And it’s a good thing that this figure has a boatload of accessories. For starters, he comes with a fairly neutral head and can swap to a teeth-gritting one. Both are pretty effective at evoking the Batman persona and which you display may come down to which has the better paint application. There’s also a Bruce Wayne head which has its own neck piece. The paint on that head looks much better since it’s probably not molded in blue and it’s fine, though who is going to display this figure as Wayne? Swapping heads is not terrible, but that neck joint is guaranteed to give away before the head so don’t be surprised when that neck releases the first time. Joining the three heads are seven sets of hands! Ready for them all: fists, fists with tiny tracks sculpted in them, fists with batarangs poking through from between the fingers, open hands, slightly open hands, curled hands (batarang hands), and grapple gun hands. That is a lot of hands, and they all actually seem viable. The fists with the tiny channels in them might stump some initially, but the opening is just wide enough to slide the cape edges into them and I think that’s their main function.
Those channel hands can also handle the grappling hook wire, which is another accessory. There are two hooks: one with a short cable and one with a long cable. Both peg into either grappling gun hand rather easily and look pretty cool. The wire on the longer one is metal and it does not appear to be bendy, so don’t snap it! It pegs in fairly gently too, so don’t force it, but it’s in snug enough for posing. I love that they used metal since it’s unlikely to sag or loose its shape. It’s also light enough that it doesn’t cause the arm to slowly drop. The grapple gun hands also look nice and are page-accurate as far as the placement of the trigger goes. I half-expected the paint job to be lacking with these hands, but they turned out well. Swapping hands is a bit of an exercise in patience. The hands pop off easy enough, but every hand except for the fists he comes packaged with are rather snug. You can even see that the diameter of the peg hole is smaller on the extra hands versus the fists. Nevertheless, they will go on, just be patient and don’t try to jam them on there. The ball joint that the pegs are on will fight you, but it’s manageable. I did not feel discouraged from swapping hands, which I sometimes do with other figures.
What would Batman be without some batarangs? Not much of a Batman, I’d argue. This figures comes with four: two bat-shaped ones and two more rounded ones. Both work well with the curled, style-posed, hands that I referred to as “batarang” hands before. They can slide in between the middle and index finger, or even wedge between the thumb and index finger. The channel fist hands can also work with them, though I don’t know how natural it looks. It’s hard for me to decide how to eventually pose this figure on a shelf as I like the batarangs, but the grapple gun attachments are also really cool and unique to this figure. Decisions, decisions…
Lastly, Batman comes with an included stand. I think all Mafex figures come with this particular stand and it’s pretty straight-forward. It comes in three pieces: the base, the articulating arm, and the claw. Snap it together and you’re good to go – or are you? If your stand is anything like mine, it will be way too loose to support the figure. He stands fine with out it, but if you want a swinging pose or something a bit more dramatic then you’ll need to grab a small, phillips head screwdriver and tighten each joint. Once you do then you should be fine as I had no problems getting the stand to support the figure’s weight, so long as I didn’t throw off the center of gravity too much. I wish there was a pre-drilled hole or something on the base to support a wall mount, but oh well. I suppose nothing is stopping me from adding one myself.
In terms of accessories, this figure came out quite well. There isn’t really anything missing. The only thing I would have liked to have seen included was yet another fist that had his Kryptonite ring sculpted onto it for battles with Superman. Apparently, that’s been included though with the Mafex Superman so that’s cool since you wouldn’t pose Batman with it on unless you have Superman, which I obviously do not and do not plan to get. That’s pretty much it though, these accessories are great, they’re easy to work with, and the only throw-away one really is the Bruce Wayne head. It looks fine, I’m just never going to choose to display a Batman figure without his mask.
As expected, I do like this figure. I have some quibbles about the overall aesthetics, but I think it looks like Batman and it’s easy to tell this is the version of the character from the Hush books. The articulation is great and I very much enjoy the accessories, but I’m still not sold on that price tag. This guy came out last summer and can still be purchased at various online shops and probably in some local comic book stores. No matter where you buy him, he’s going to end up costing right around $100 which is a lot for a figure in this scale. Some places will have him for around $80-$85, but they’ll likely have steep shipping charges while a place like Big Bad Toy Store has cheap shipping, but prices this guy at just under $95. Comparing him to my SH Figuarts Vegeta, which I paid $50 for not on clearance, and there’s just no comparison when it comes to value. That figure is physically shorter than this one so there’s less plastic involved, but the articulation is there, the sculpt is there, he has a ton of extra hands and faces, and is also an import figure of a popular licensed character. I can accept this Batman costing more than that figure, but nearly twice as much? No way.
That’s what it comes down to with the Mafex Batman figure from the pages of the Hush story. He’s a nice figure and if you like that version of the character you will like this action figure. What you are unlikely to enjoy about it is the sticker price. There are plenty of collectors out there who will convince themselves they’re getting an item that is definitely worth a hundred bucks and be fine with it – whatever floats your boat. I just, objectively speaking as someone who likes this figure, don’t see a justification for that kind of price here. And I especially don’t considering the iffy paint and slight inaccuracies when it comes to the source material and the sculpt. At this price and at this scale this figure should be objectively flawless in those areas, and it’s not. However, I still enjoy it and I’m happy to have it. It’s possible for an action figure to be both good and overpriced. I’m just not going to make a habit out of buying Mafex action figures.
Lastly, if you like this figure and feel like it’s worth adding to your collection, then by all means do so. However, I do want to point out there is a new version coming out any day now. It changes the color scheme of the figure swapping out the blue parts for black ones, but it also looks like Mafex did some adjustments with the cape. I think it’s still the same material and still features four wires, but the promotional images make it look like they adjusted how it’s glued to the figure and basically did it in the same manner I suggested in my review (this isn’t me taking credit for that since that figure was obviously designed way before I posted this, just in case anyone were to think I was trying to do so) which looks a lot better. They’re just promo images though in which the figure is supposed to look awesome, so maybe seek out some reviews or something. It does look like some people already have it. Mafex also swapped out the Bruce Wayne head, and maybe some hands, in favor of a gargoyle base for the figure which looks fantastic. I’m actually kind of mad at myself that I can’t be happy with a black and gray Batman as that edition honestly looks better than this one. I’m a blue boy though, so here we are. Whichever version you decide to get, or don’t, will result in you having a pretty nice Batman figure. Your wallet may just disagree on how valuable that is.
In the mid 90s the action figure underwent a rather substantial change. The gross, detailed, sculpted works of 80s and early 90s toy lines had started to fade away. In their place was the super hero from the likes of Toy Biz and Mattel which opted for simple sculpts, subtle paint, and a fairly standard roll out of articulation. Sure, there were some intentionally done “super articulated” editions of characters like Spider-Man, but largely the action figure had been distilled to the following joints: head, shoulder, elbow, leg, knee. All either swivel or hinges. Some might have a waist twist, or a wrist swivel, but most followed that general format.
Then came McFarlane. Founded in 1994 by comic book artist and writer Todd McFarlane, the new approach was a return to sculpting. McFarlane reasoned that the only thing holding figures back from being highly detailed was just a little bit of effort. A mold costs the same whether it’s intricate or plain, and mold creation is the biggest cost in producing action figures. Of course, it’s a little more nuanced than that since better molds require better artists spending more time than before and we all know time is money, but his point was made. McFarlane’s line of action figures, largely consisting of his Spawn character, blew away the competition when it came to sculpts. What they did for sculpting was felt in the toy world, especially by Toy Biz who was making action figures based on the various characters of Marvel Comics. Toy Biz started to produce collector grade figures as well, but this came at the downside of a reduction in articulation and a heightening of the scale. Kids and collectors who had been dying for a Jim Lee era Jean Grey finally got one in the Onslaught wave of figures marketed to specialty shops, but she was way out of scale with what had come before and awkwardly pre-posed.
While McFarlane continued to refine its sculpts, it did so at the cost of articulation. Many of the McFarlane figures of the late 90s and early 2000s were little more than mini statues. Some had basic articulation, but a lot of it wasn’t particularly functional as the figures were meant to assume one, specific, pose and that was it. Toy Biz was not content with that sort of approach as it released a new line of Spider-Man Classics. These were carried by major toy retailers making them easier to get ahold of than the previous Onslaught series, and best of all the figures were highly articulated while still retaining an impressive approach to sculpting. The Venom figure in particular was quite ambitious as it referenced a classic piece of artwork in which the alien costume is extending from the face of Eddie Brock. From the front, the figure looks like a Venom one, but with an elongated maw. From the side though, one can see the smiling visage of Brock underneath. It was a sculpt that rivaled what McFarlane was producing, to a degree, but the figure also retained an impressive array of articulation.
That line was the precursor to the now long-running Marvel Legends. Toy Biz would embark on a journey through the Marvel Universe that included impressive sculpt-work for its era combined with a great degree of articulation. Hasbro now has control of the line and has continued to release affordable action figures of popular characters at retail that combine quality sculpts with functional articulation. Some would probably argue that the line has become the greatest line of action figures of all time considering its longevity and overall quality. I don’t collect it any longer, but it is a remarkably consistent product.
Naturally, Toy Biz’s success lead to rival DC trying its own hand at collector-grade action figures of its classic characters. The company launched DC Direct to differentiate its products from the more mass market stuff that was being handled by Mattel. Unfortunately, DC Direct was seemingly always behind the curve when it came to its toys, and its 2003 line of action figures based on the Batman story Hush by writer Jeph Loeb and renowned artist Jim Lee is a great example.
Jim Lee became famous largely for his work on X-Men in the early 90s. By the middle part of the decade he had gone freelance and worked on other properties while creating his own super hero team in WildCats. He ended up being a pretty big get for DC when they brought him onboard to work on Batman. The Hush story was basically DC’s way of getting Lee to draw Batman and basically every character of importance in his sphere. It could have been a mess, but it was actually a pretty entertaining read. Lee’s Batman was also a pretty big hit which paved the way for the action figure line. At the time, I was a casual at best fan of Batman. I had enjoyed the films and the animated series, but I dabbled infrequently in the comics. I found myself quite taken by Lee’s interpretation of the caped crusader, which made the action figure very appealing.
Lee’s Batman is a muscle-bound, brooding, guy in a cape. He’s marked by a square jaw and short ears on his costume. He reminds me a bit of a cross between the Bruce Timm Batman and, oddly enough, the Adam West Batman. It’s the squareness of the head combined with those short ears that evokes both of those styles for me, but it’s Lee’s unique talents that bring it together. He has a gray and blue color scheme with a black emblem on his chest. The blue is a pale blue, and something about the choice of saturation really works for the character. I’ve always felt it made more sense for Batman to dress in black, or at least a really dark blue, but illogical as this outfit may seem, it looks terrific. It quickly became my favorite interpretation of the character and remains so to this day.
Because I liked the design so much, I felt drawn to the figure released in 2003 by DC Direct. Unfortunately, it wasn’t particularly cheap and the articulation was a real turn-off. I would see this figure on my many trips to GameStop or comic shops and I’d debate with myself if it was worth picking up. By today’s standards, I don’t think it was expensive, but I honestly can’t remember. I want to say it was over 10 bucks, but not as high as 20, and in a world where Marvel Legends were often 6-8 bucks that felt like a lot. I was also in college and money wasn’t abundant and my addiction to Legends meant I had only a little cash to consider spending on other lines. Eventually, I caved, probably sometime in 2004 and this edition of Batman has remained the last 6″ scale Batman I’ve purchased over the ensuing years. And he’s basically always occupied a prominent spot in my home, usually on a nightstand or dresser, so I guess money well spent.
Once upon a time, this figure came in a window box with the Hush era logo emblazoned upon it, but I’ve long since disposed of that box. Once removed, Batman stands six and a half inches to the top of his “ears” and strikes quite the intimidating posture on a shelf. His square-jawed head is set in a bit of a scowl with a lot of linework around the all-white eyes that have been tightened into narrow slits. The area around his neck has been sculpted for his cape with is almost seamlessly glued into the sculpted folds. It’s a rubbery material that hangs off of the figure and fans out ending at about the ankles. It’s smaller than what is depicted in the comic, but definitely more wieldy. Batman’s chest is puffed out with impressive mass and the logo is sculpted into his chest and painted a glossy black which contrasts well with the otherwise matte approach of the other colors. It’s hard to tell if the body is molded in gray or painted gray, but there’s definitely a paint application to bring out the muscles in his torso and biceps. The gloves have some nice detailing on them and the “fins” that stick off are slightly bendy so there’s less of a chance of any snapping. The belt is painted and features a tremendous amount of pouches, which was the style at the time. A black or gray wash has been applied to give it a worn, grimy, appearance which is suitable for the source material. There’s a liberal amount of gray paint on the legs and the blue-painted boots are fairly clean. A wash has been applied to them to bring out the folds around the ankle and the soles of the boots are painted black. The paint is sufficiently clean everywhere on my figure except the face, which unfortunately has a trio of blue dots around the mouth and chin. It also looks like some of the flesh-colored paint wound up on the very tip of his nose. I’ve never been able to get that speck off, even though I’m pretty sure the head is sculpted in blue plastic.
Even more than 15 years later, the figure largely looks the part. This is a very muscled Batman, but not overly so. The only aspect of the sculpt I’ve ever been not completely sold on are the rather massive thighs this guy has. It just seems like either they should be a little smaller, or the shoulders a little wider to compensate. The head might also be just a wee bit too small, but it’s pretty negligible. This looks good and I doubt anyone was really complaining about the figure’s aesthetics when it came out in 2003.
What they were critiquing though is the articulation, or lack thereof. With this figure, what you see is what you get. He’s not exactly pre-posed, but how he stands when removed from the box is basically all he can do. The head is on a ball-peg and it’s easily the best part about the figure, articulation-wise. Batman can rotate all the way around as well as look up pretty far, and even look down. There’s also a little tilt for good measure and no gapping is present when positioning his head. It’s great. After that though, everything gets bad. His shoulders are on some kind of a ball-peg system. They can rotate all the way around, but there’s no hinge and very little outward movement. The right arm can come out maybe 30 degrees while the left barely moves. This is for a reason, I suspect, we’ll get to when we talk about the accessories. And for the same reason, only the right wrist swivels at the glove while both arms have a single, elbow, hinge. There is no torso or waist articulation of any kind, which is a real bummer as a waist twist would help this guy out. At the leg, the thighs peg into the crotch so they can only go forward and back. He can extend pretty far in both directions, but the crotch starts to get ugly and weird looking as you do it. Plus, there’s a lot of rubbing and I would worry that extensive movement would harm the paint. You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, this is an older figure and there’s no rubbing yet,” but I also basically set this guy and left him as-is for 18 years. Batman does have knee hinges, but no boot cut.
Because of the limited articulation, Batman is little more than a statue. You can pose him looking down from a high perch, looking straight-ahead, or looking up at a target, but that’s kind of it. The range on those elbow and knee hinges is terrible and his left hand is pre-posed at an awkward angle so he can’t even fake throwing a punch. His legs also come off of his body in such a wide stance that you basically can’t bend his knees at all and expect him to stand. A boot cut would have been nice as you could then move his feet and get him into a slight perch. One of the more iconic images from the Hush books is Batman on a ledge with one foot raised and placed on a gargoyle statue, a simple pose that this figure cannot hope to imitate. About the only thing he can do is aim his grapple gun because one of his two accessories is a swappable right hand with the grapple gun molded into it. I believe that is why his right arm has more range than the left so he can aim it in a semi-natural way, but it’s not that convincing. I also can’t get his hand to come off anymore to actually use it, but it’s not something most people likely chose to utilize in their display as it’s painted rather poorly and isn’t page accurate. The only other accessory is a display stand which is fine. It’s in the shape of the Batman logo of the era and it’s screen-printed rather well. There are two pegs on it, but curiously only one foot has a peg hole. The other has an indentation like one is supposed to be there, but nope. He stands fine without it, but the added stability is nice to have. Plus, the stand adds a little flair to the display which is welcomed considering this figure just can’t do much of anything.
This is the type of figure that we had to deal with back in the early 2000s. Not everything was super-articulated, or even functionally articulated, and this Batman qualified. Now, obviously I’ve had this guy on display in my home as the lone Batman figure for years despite its shortcomings so clearly it got something right. It’s partly the result of a better figure just not coming along and capturing my attention, and the fact that I’m not a dedicated Batman collector has certainly helped to keep this guy around. This is a figure that is no longer available at retail, but the secondary market is plentiful enough for a figure almost 20 years old. And it’s a figure that really has not appreciated one bit. It’ll set you back only around 20 bucks if it’s something you want, and that’s for a figure in-box. If you’re shopping loose you might find a better deal. The sculpt is there, and the paint is solid, but the articulation is severely lacking so this is likely no one’s favorite depiction of Batman from this era. You can do better, though probably not cheaper if it’s a Hush Batman you’re after. I do like it, but it’s hard not to see a missed opportunity whenever I look at it.
I wasn’t going to do a post on this particular figure, but there probably is some curiosity about it and how it works with the Hasbro Power Rangers Lightning Collection, so here we are. Last year, I fulfilled an almost lifelong ambition and acquired a Bandai dino Megazord from 1993 based on its appearance in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show. The toyline was white hot in the early 90s, and it was something I had to make due without as a kid (and for the record, I did just fine, so don’t weap for my childhood). It turns out, the kids of 2020 also enjoy Megazords from the 90s and my own children spent a fair amount of time playing with it, assembling it and disassembling it enough that I went to eBay and grabbed them some Power Rangers from the same era to play with. When Christmas came around, it made sense for my son to ask Santa for a Megazord he could call his own, and the big man delivered.
It was late last summer, or early fall, that Hasbro rolled out its own version of the classic Bandai toy. The zords were scattered across three blister pack releases that could be purchased at big box retailers and online at various toy and hobby websites. What was most attractive about the set was that it was really affordable. Each release retailed for $15 so kids, and collectors, could assemble a Megazord for a mere $45. I’m pretty sure it cost more in 1993 dollars to do the same. Of course, this meant the release was compromised compared with past iterations. The zords probably lost about 25-30% of their size and are primarily assembled with colored plastic with little or no paint. On the plus side, there were no stickers to place as the decals came on the toys, though they still appear to be as prone to peeling and such as stickers applied by the consumer.
As mentioned already, Hasbro chose to distribute these dino zords across three releases. The mastodon and pterodactyl come bundled together as do the triceratops and saber-toothed tiger. The tyrannosaurus, being the largest of the five zords, comes solo, but Hasbro did toss in the power sword so it wouldn’t feel so lonely. I’m not sure why Hasbro opted to do things this way rather than simply sell it as one, complete, set. They probably could have even jacked the price up another five dollars and sold it at 50 bucks. It’s just unlikely anyone would want just one set and not all three, because lets face it, most kids don’t want to play with the individual zords. All this does is make it a little harder to find everything you need. Thankfully, the zords weren’t terribly difficult to track down, but I know in my frequent trips to Target I rarely saw all three sets readily available, it was usually just one or two
These toys aren’t technically in the Lightning Collection, but are in that lesser line Hasbro mostly markets to kids. All that means is that these aren’t technically being marketed to collectors, though I’d wager most of the people buying stuff based on the Mighty Morphin era are folks my age. The engineering on all of the zords is very similar to the Bandai originals as Hasbro has largely preserved the transformation as it appeared on television. The sheer amount of plastic utilized though has been significantly scaled back. It can be seen in the tail of the T-Rex zord which has a lot of chunks just cut out of it and the rear of the mastodon which is fairly open. It’s definitely not a set as attractive as the old ones, though there are areas where things have been improved slightly. The T-Rex, for instance, has its mouth canons sculpted in now and they look pretty nice. Some of the joints are also tighter, specifically the tails of the triceratops and saber-toothed tiger, though I’m also comparing a relatively new toy to one almost 30 years old. Given time, maybe they’ll be just as loose.
Where this set comes up short though is just in the details. The wheels on the saber-toothed tiger, for example, aren’t painted black and are just sculpted gray like the rest of the legs. The canon at the tip of the triceratops tail doesn’t articulate so it looks pretty lame, plus it doesn’t have actual wheels to roll on. I also miss the chrome details some of the old figures had, though I mostly miss it on the Megazord’s power sword. It’s just unpainted plastic with some of the design sculpted on just one side of the blade. It’s very bland and is the aspect of this release I see the most complaints about. Hasbro also utilized a new peg system for the legs of the Megazord which works fine, but it also means the T-Rex now has red pegs jutting out from its knees. I also dislike the head of the T-Rex and how it snaps in place with the Megazord head contained underneath. It doesn’t seem to want to actually snap and it just feels very cheap. The “horns” on the Megazord itself can slide all the way to one side and just seems junky, even though it does, in the end, get the job done.
Playing with the zords on their own doesn’t seem like a great experience, based on how my kids interact with it. Thankfully, combining them is fairly easy even for a kid. The legs take a bit of effort to seat properly, and the pterodactyl can be a bit finicky, but it goes together largely in the same manner as before. I actually like how securely the mastodon clips on with this release, though I hate how easily the legs of the mastodon pop off. The tail of the T-Rex also no longer has a joint towards the end of it so it sticks up more pronounced than before and isn’t particularly pleasing to the eye, but it’s not a big deal. You can also still do tank mode, but it’s just as janky as before and more of a novelty than a fun way to play.
Once together, the Megazord does very much look the part. Once again, we’re missing some of the details of past releases, but it’s certainly far from an ugly thing. The face is where some extra paint would have really been welcomed as that vintage Bandai release just looks sharp. And, of course, the sword sucks, but I already mentioned that. What is better than before though is the articulation. The classic Megazord can’t do much of anything, but this one at least has some joints. The arms can rotate and raise out to the side a bit and the Megazord now has elbows! It can bend them about 90 degrees and also swivel too. At the legs, it can kick forward and back still, but it also can fan its legs out slightly for a wider, more natural, stance. The legs also swivel there as well. There are no knee hinges, unfortunately, but you can swivel the lower legs at the knee pegs. The only thing missing that really should be here is a head swivel. It just seems like that would have been a very easy and cheap thing to include that would have really added some personality to the poses available because even a kid wants to put this somewhere prominent in his or her room when it isn’t being played with.
Obviously, this thing doesn’t scale at all with the figures in the Lightning Collection. Even the original doesn’t and in order to scale properly it would likely need to be six feet tall. It’s big enough at around 9″ tall though that I think it can be a reasonable centerpiece in your MMPR display. And if you’re ambitious, you could paint this thing up into something a bit more special. Hasbro sculpted most of the details one would expect, it just didn’t bother to paint them. As a toy, it seems pretty neat, to me. Admittedly though, my kids haven’t played with this much since Christmas and my daughter even told me she wants to play with my Megazord, not this one. Go figure. I think she just likes the sheer size of the original one, and as easy as it is to transform this one, it’s a bit easier for her to transform the original. Mostly I think it’s just a case of her being more familiar with that one and not wanting to take the time to get to know this new one.
If you’re a Lightning Collection fan that wants a Megazord, this is certainly an affordable option. It’s not a collector grade release though and that shows. Even with light play, some of the decals are already starting to peel on this one and that’s disappointing. It’s possible the same will happen for those who just set it on a shelf and forget it. The biggest thing this release has going for it is obviously the price and availability. A Bandai one from 93 will probably set you back a couple hundred dollars, while the Legacy Collection release is a bit cheaper, but also not as nice as the original and it suffers from a lot of the same shortcomings as this one. And then there’s the Soul of Chogokin Megazord which I think retailed for something like $350 and is no longer in production so it’s likely to cost even more than that now. This set is for kids and casual fans that need a Megazord, but don’t want to break the bank. I’ve seen this one getting dumped on a bit by collectors, but at $45, I think it’s pretty good. I definitely wouldn’t recommend displaying it in dino mode as the individual zords aren’t terrific looking, but who would do that anyway? As long as your expectations are reasonable, I think this will please most who buy it.
If you are a collector looking to add a Megazord to your collection, you will soon have some more options. If you just want a posable Megazord, Super7 recently announced that it has gained the Power Rangers license. The company has already shown some vinyl, minimally, articulated Megazords, but it will be doing zords in its Ultimates! line and I can only assume a proper Megazord will arrive at some point. They’re doing the tyrannosaurs first though, and I don’t think they can do a combining Megazord so it figures to be a stand-alone zord. I could be wrong, but time will tell. Grabbing this Hasbro one at $45 doesn’t feel like a tremendous risk to me, but if you can wait, maybe hold out to see what’s coming.
Ever since I was introduced to the character Sonic the Hedgehog via the Genesis game of the same name I’ve found the character just very aesthetically pleasing. And that’s apparently intentional as Sega relied upon tried and true designs like Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse when it instructed artist Naoto Ohshima to come up with a new mascot that could rival Nintendo’s Mario. Now of course, it’s not necessarily Mario’s design that made him a star, but it certainly can’t hurt. Sega needed to pull gamers away from their Nintendo system with something flashy, and Sonic apparently fit the bill. And like Mario, it turned out his game was pretty good too and a rivalry was born!
Back in the early 90s, there was no shortage of toys at retail. Action figures, which really took off in the 80s, were still going strong and brands like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were raking in revenue. Strangely, the mascot characters from the world of video games largely sat things out. While fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were able to force their way into toy stores, Sonic and Mario instead found themselves relegated to the Happy Meal. Maybe because neither character was really associated with action figure tropes like guns and other weapons their respective parent companies didn’t see a reason to seek out a toy deal that included action figures or maybe producers weren’t interested. There were some non-articulated PVC figurines and even plush options, but no true action figures that I can recall.
Today, things have changed and both Sonic and Mario can be found occupying space at retail alongside the likes of Star Wars and He-Man. Interestingly, it’s Jakks Pacific that has the licensing rights for both Mario and Sonic when thirty years ago that might have seemed somehow wrong, though DiC did produce cartoons for both. Nevertheless, Sonic has had a toyline for awhile now and most of those have been focused on bringing the modern Sonic to toy form. When Sega launched the Dreamcast in 1999, it was released alongside a brand new Sonic game titled Sonic Adventure. For that title, Sonic received a slight redesign. He dropped the spherical torso he borrowed from Felix and replaced it with something longer and trimmer. His legs were also lengthened, his shoes were redone, and his eyes made green. It wasn’t particularly radical, but it was noticeable.
Sonic’s new look was fine, as far as I was concerned, but I did miss the slightly more chunky iteration of the hedgehog I knew and loved from his days on the Genesis. And even though I’m supposed to have aged out of toys (hah!), my desire for a classic interpretation of Sonic has never fully gone away. Recently, when browsing the toy aisles at my local Target, I came upon the latest from Jakks Pacific: a classic Sonic complete with a bouncing spring. It’s a figure that adheres to my chosen aesthetic for the character, and considering it runs a mere 10 dollars, I decided to purchase it and take a look. Is this the Sonic I was desperate for as a child, but never had the opportunity to purchase? Or, is this just a cheap, piece of crap designed to sucker kids and their parents into making a foolish purchase?
Sonic comes packaged on a standard blister card. There’s a picture of the character in the top corner and he’s surrounded by a printed, gold, ring. The package affords a good look at the figure within, which is appreciated since it allows for some inspection before purchase. Freeing the hedgehog from his plastic confines is actually a bit tricky since he’s wedged in there pretty tight, but considering this isn’t meant to be resealable packaging one can muscle him out. Once placed on a surface, Sonic stands roughly 4″ tall, probably a tick under, and is mostly head. He’s a fairly light shade of blue, almost teal, and his eyes dominate his visage. He has his long, rounded, nose and trademarked red shoes. He has six spikes on the rear of his head and two more on the back of his spherical mid-section. His little tail pokes out like an extra spike, though curled in the opposite direction of his spikes. He seems to adhere to the design of classic Sonic as presented in the game Sonic Generations. That Sonic was meant to resemble the Genesis era Sonic, but he’s a lighter blue and has yellow buckles on his shoes. I think I would have preferred a slightly darker shade of blue and no buckles, but it’s not a big deal. It’s near enough though that I think the sculpt is fine.
Since he’s basically two colors, there isn’t a lot of paint to speak of with Sonic. All of the blue is molded plastic as are the arms in that peach color. The white of the eyes is quite sharp as is the belly, but the rest of the painted areas all feature some fuzzy linework. It bleeds a bit, especially on the mouth, which I don’t know if that’s been painted properly on this figure. It looks like there’s a sculpted line of teeth that I presume should be white, and is, with the rest of the mouth intended to be red? Instead, the white continues past the teeth and there’s just a line of red above it. Perhaps knowing this area would be the most problematic, Jakks declined to include any promo images on the rear of the box that feature the mouth prominently so it’s hard to say what should be going on here. It’s unfortunate since I don’t think an open mouth was even necessary. I always associate classic Sonic with a simple smirk. The white stripes and buckles on the shoes also aren’t terribly clean, but there’s at least no random splotches of paint. For a 10 dollar figure, the paint is fair and is better than some of the Hasbro Power Rangers I’ve purchased recently, so that’s a plus.
Given the size and design of this figure, there isn’t a ton of opportunities for articulation. Jakks has largely kept things fairly basic in that area. Sonic’s head is on a swivel and can rotate. Since he doesn’t possess a neck, he can’t really do anything else. There’s a tiny bit of play that allows for him to ever so slightly look down, but I think that’s just the head moving on the ball peg that’s likely in there. Sonic’s arms are traditional ball-hinges that can rotate and raise out to the side just fine. His arms are permanently curved as he lacks elbows. The gloved hands can rotate and have some in-out as well as up-down play, though without the aid of hinges. His right hand is a fist, while the left is a gripping hand even though he has nothing to grip. There’s no articulation in the torso at all, which is expected of a character with Sonic’s anatomy, while his legs are on ball-hinges. They can swivel where they meet the torso and can kick forward and back pretty well. Since they’re ball-hinges, you can also rotate them to put Sonic into a split, if that’s your desire. Sonic does have knee hinges while his feet appear to be on ball pegs, like the hands, so they can rotate and have some play in all directions. It’s honestly better articulation than I expected and the only area I wish had more is the head. If he could look up that would have been terrific, but would have probably required a bit of clever engineering considering the lack of a neck. Even though he’s considerably top-heavy, he’s not too difficult to pose. I was able to get him to stand in a slight running pose and I suspect that’s what a lot of people want him to be able to do.
As far as accessories go, there isn’t much to talk about. Sonic comes with one spring platform that does at least have a spring action to it. It’s pretty boring looking though as it’s just a piece of red plastic for the top and gray for the base. A little black paint on the sculpted spring would have made this look a lot nicer, but wouldn’t really change a whole lot either. What’s missing is a power ring, which is made all the more obvious by the fact that he comes with a gripping hand perfectly suited to grasp such a ring. None of the figures in this wave appear to come with one which is bizarre, and it makes that gripping hand feel out of place. I’d much rather he have two fists for a true running pose. The gripping hand isn’t far removed from a fist so it’s not that big of a deal, but how much cost would a plastic, yellow, ring really add to this thing, Jakks? Even better would just be an extra hand with a ring molded into it, but swappable parts isn’t something I expect out of a 10 dollar figure. I also would have preferred a base to the spring. Just a piece of molded plastic for Sonic to stand in that resembles his running animation from the game would have solved some of the posing issues. Jakks could have even put it on wheels if they felt a play element was needed with the figure that would be lost by dropping the spring.
The Jakks Pacific Classic Sonic the Hedgehog is perfectly fine for what it is. It’s an inexpensive, simply painted, representation of the character’s classic look that does a good enough job with the sculpt to justify its existence. My complaints and criticisms with the figure are, at best, nitpicks and it’s important to remember what this figure is meant to be. It’s a kid’s toy first, collector item second, and that’s probably a distant second. And considering it does a good enough job with the aesthetic, I’d say I’m happy. Prior to getting this, I had been tempted by the Nendoroid Sonic release. That’s a figure modeled more on Sonic’s modern look, but the Nendoroid aesthetic means it works pretty well as a classic interpretation too. It’s also more than four times the price of this figure, so while I’m sure it’s superior, it’s probably not four times superior to this figure. This guy will look fine amongst my classic gaming artifacts and should one of my kids want to play with him, I can at least hand him off with no worries. Now lets see if I can suppress the urge to grab Tails and Knuckles as well.
I’ve had NECA’s Ultimate Flasher Gremlin on my “want” list for awhile now. I grabbed the Ultimate Gizmo last summer, and while he’s fairly limited as an action figure, he is fun to have on display in my home. He has occupied a little section of my knick-knack shelf in the living room area of my house, a spot normally reserved for more “tasteful” decorations. I’ve changed his look up with the seasons and for Christmas he was joined by the Santa Stripe figure that came out last fall. When Christmas came and went though, so did Stripe leaving Gizmo all alone on the shelf. I wanted to pair him with another Gremlin, and it was the Flasher Gremlin that spoke to me the most. He’s ludicrous and comes with a bunch of stuff that makes posing plentiful, I was just hesitant to actually make the purchase. I figured, for once, I’d let it be known that I wanted this thing, but not actually buy it for myself. Christmas came and went, and so did Valentine’s Day, and when the wife decided not to indulge my passion for toys I finally caved. I added the Flasher Gremlin to my display one weekend in February, and I do not regret it one bit.
The Ultimate Flasher Gremlin is based on the many background characters in the film Gremlins. He’s a gremlin in an oversized coat who wants to show the world what he’s packing (which isn’t much, so maybe he should be more bashful). For fans of NECA’s line of figures based on the film, he’s a very familiar release. He comes in the same five-panel window box all of NECA’s ultimate releases come packaged in complete with numerous product shots. All of NECA’s gremlins are basically re-releases of the same figure, but with new accessories. Perhaps that sounds cheap, but in the film most of the gremlins looked the same. There were a few unique ones, like Stripe, but the rest are indistinguishable. And to make the consumer feel like they’re getting their bang for their buck, NECA overloads each release with accessories. There’s basically more stuff here than could be handled by one gremlin, so the point is really to buy a bunch of figures to create your own gremlin horde. I don’t have the space to dedicate to a large Gremlins display, but I certainly see the appeal as this release is basically parts of a flasher, card player, and bar fly.
The actual figure is basically the same as Stripe, but with the standard gremlin head. He’s a little over six inches tall and has plentiful, if not entirely functional, articulation. The sculpt is very impressive which is an especially good thing for a figure that gets re-released over and over. The texture, paint, and personality present in the face are just spot-on to the film. The paint is all clean and the darkness of the figure helps hide a lot of the articulation. The jaw is articulated, and yet you wouldn’t even know at first look because NECA engineered it so well. I’ve seen the prop replicas of the gremlin puppets from the film and honestly they don’t even look as good as what NECA has done. I have to hand it to sculptor Jason Frailey because this guy is awesome and it makes me want to buy more.
The gremlin is articulated just like Stripe, but I’ll give you a run-down here if you don’t want to read about the Christmas figure. The head is on a ball joint and can rotate, and independent articulation in the neck allows him to look up, down, and to the side. The ears and jaw are also articulated and it works well to have the ears articulated because it helps with positioning his hat. The shoulders are ball-hinged, but the way the shoulders are sculpted means he can’t lift his arms up all the way, but they rotate fine. There’s a swivel at the single-jointed elbow and rotation at the hands with a hinge. There’s a diaphragm joint that provides for tilt and an ab crunch. The legs have extra articulation to give the gremlin that insect like positioning. There’s a knee hinge, a hinge at the dewclaw, and a hinge at the ankle. Because he’s designed to be in a semi-crouch, it’s not terribly functional, but it looks good and that’s clearly what NECA prioritizes. The feet are rather small and the figure is top heavy given the size of the head and neck relative to the body, so he can be tricky to stand. There are peg holes on the bottoms of the feet if you want to use a simple stand, and there are more robust stands available from NECA and other companies if that’s your preference. I find the articulation does enough to allow the figure to mimic the actual puppets in the film. They were limited as well by the technology of the time and there’s a stiffness to their movements, especially with the excessively long arms.
With the articulation out of the way, we can talk about what makes this guy fun: the stuff! He comes packaged in a trench coat and that’s the key piece here that makes him a flasher. The coat is similar to the one we saw released with Raphael in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie line, but it’s not the same coat. This one lacks pockets and the liner inside the coat is quite glossy, a necessity for someone trying to get attention. It has an actual belt and if you want to complete the whole flasher gimmick you will need to pull the belt strap out of the buckle to free the beast, so to speak. It’s pretty cool to see every day engineering like a belted coat on such a small scale, though I’m left wishing NECA cheated and made it Velcro for ease of use. He also has a plastic fedora that’s intentionally oversized for his head and just rests on the top of his noggin. There are some grooves in the opening of the hat for his eyebrows and they do a good enough job of keeping the hat in place that you can tilt the head up or down in your pose.
Joining the hat are some additional accessories that may or may not complete the look for you. He’s got some black sunglasses that I believe have been released with other Ultimate Gremlin releases. They slip onto his face quite easily and are pretty snug once in place. He also has four, little, cigarettes that you can either wedge between some fingers or stick between his teeth. They’re white, though one of mine is almost translucent and I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, with painted filters and a long bit of ash at the end. It would have been neat if one had less ash and a red tip, but I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to modify one if I wanted to. There’s something extra sleezy about the long tail of ash that suits the character. I am not a smoker, and I find the habit disgusting, but these little cigarettes are really entertaining to me just for the novelty factor and it has me wondering what other figures in my collection I could pair them with. How many figures come with such a thing? Even though this is an adult collectible, it’s still almost shocking in this day and age to find evidence of smoking in a toy. And if smoking wasn’t enough, he also has a mug of beer. The beer is removable and is just a piece of thin plastic filled with air. The foam on the top though is highly detailed to an impressive degree. The only downside to that is it draws attention to the fact that the actual beer is just a flat color as opposed to a translucent, bubbly, form. It’s another re-released accessory from, I want to say the Ultimate Gremlin, but it works well to have extra so you can have empty mugs and full mugs in a larger display.
Pivoting from the flasher persona, there’s also some extra stuff that allows you to create a gambling gremlin or dealer gremlin. There’s a red visor that, like the fedora, just kind of sits on the gremlin’s head. It doesn’t really hook on, that I can see, so it just sits there and looks okay. There’s a hand of playing cards he can hold and a pile of poker chips and cards to plop on a table or something. Intermingled with the chips and cards is popcorn, which naturally makes this guy pair well with any of the gremlins that come with popcorn. If you want your gremlin to be a little more classy there’s a bowtie. It’s a solid ring of black plastic with the tie on it so in order to put it on the figure you need to pop its head off and loop it around the neck. Mine didn’t seem to want to come off so I didn’t push the issue since I have no plans to utilize the bowtie. The neck is pretty substantial on this figure so I don’t think I’d break the figure if I was more determined, but I’ve had some bad luck with figures breaking lately so pardon my reluctance.
In the realm of the goofy, this guy also comes with a hand puppet. It appears to be of a bee and I recall it from the film as it’s almost painful to watch the gremlin playing with it amongst spilled beer and soda and the like. That poor puppet probably got all gross. The texture and paint work on it is way better than it needs to be and it really looks like a grimy plush some gremlin has been dragging around all night. To actually use it with the figure, just pop one of the hands off and the puppet pegs in. Also included is a giant mallet, because a mischievous gremlin can always use such a thing. To best utilize the mallet, there’s an extra, gripping, right hand included. I actually couldn’t get the hand to peg into my figure, but I suspect if I were to heat it up then I could get it to go. The hand does get a nice grip on it, so if you want your gremlin to be less flasher and more Itchy and Scratchy, there you go. The gripping hand also works well with the beer mug, though the more relaxed hands the figure comes with work fine too.
That’s a lot of stuff, but ultimately, I’m amused by the flasher gimmick so that’s how he’s going on my shelf complete with hat, beer, sunglasses, and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. And the gimmick works all right. It’s tough to actually get him to grip the edges of his coat, but it can be finagled. Had NECA run a wire though the coat it might have worked a little better, or if belt loops could have been strategically placed to hook onto figure’s fingers. There’s at least enough substance to the coat that it will hang open all by itself, so I think it accomplishes what it set out to do well enough. I love how this guy looks with my Gizmo and he’s a fun figure to have around. I haven’t decided if he gets to occupy the shelf 11 months out of the year, or if I should make him my winter gremlin and swap him out with another for the summer, or whatever. That would require a new purchase though, and while some of the other Gremlins releases are intriguing, none have pushed me to purchase any just yet. For now, this is good enough.
And now, lets end this review with a series of tasteless pictures featuring characters smoking that should not be!
I have coveted the Donald Duck figure from Hero Cross for a few years now. If you’re not familiar with the company, Hero Cross is a toy manufacturer based in Hong Kong that specializes in hybrid figures that utilize both plastic and metal. Their main line is called the Hybrid Metal Figuration series, or HMF for short. They have managed to accumulate a few different licenses for this line of figure, and one of those licenses happens to be Disney. For Disney, Hero Cross has mostly stuck with classic characters, but has also branched out to include Pixar. My main interest though lies in the ducks, and in particular, Donald.
Donald Duck, for as prolific a cartoon character as he is, doesn’t have a ton of action figures to turn to. The best ones are based on his appearance in Kingdom Hearts, but that’s not a franchise I have a ton of affection for. It’s fine, but my Donald is not a wizard. Phat Mojo did a Donald in its line of DuckTales action figures based on the relaunch of that series, but it was a short-lived line of figures and the company never got a chance to improve upon its initial offering. There is one in that Disney Infinity relic of a toyline that the Disney Store sells, but it’s not great. There was also a Donald action figures based on his appearance in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but that was quite a long time ago now and that thing is lone gone. If you want a collector grade Donald Duck action figure right now, it’s basically Hero Cross or bust.
Hero Cross first released a Donald Duck action figure in either 2016 or 2017. Being that it’s a Hong Kong import, a licensed product, and it includes metal components, it wasn’t cheap. I kind of found out about it late when my options were sketchy eBay listings or ordering direct from Hero Cross, but shipping was going to make the figure cost well over $100 at the time. I reluctantly passed, and that didn’t help matters as the figure was eventually retired from production and it only grew more expensive. Then last summer I was sitting on my couch watching TV late at night when a Twitter post from the podcast DuckTalks alerted me to the fact that Hero Cross was taking pre-orders for a new version of its Donald figure. Dubbed a V2.0, this Donald Duck was going to largely be the same as the one previously released, only now it was going to come with three unique heads and rather than sculpt his hat onto them, the hat would be removable and attach via a magnet. I kind of didn’t care about the changes, I was just psyched to have another chance at this figure and I pounced on it. The cost was around $60 for the figure, plus around $30 to ship it from Hong Kong, so it wasn’t much cheaper than what I had passed on previously, but this time I had buyer’s remorse. I had to pay upfront, and then wait.
My Donald finally arrived in January of this year. The production cycle was a long one, but the shipping ended up being lightning quick since it was via FedEx Air. It left Hong Kong on a Thursday and was at my house in Massachusetts on the following Monday which is pretty incredible. Donald comes packaged in a simple, but effective, window box. It’s a royal blue with a Donald Duck logo done in orange. On the side of the packaging are product shots, one of which showcases Donald’s fancy new hat, and some licensing artwork on the back. It’s a no frills, but striking, box though it’s so small relative to the figure’s size that I don’t know how well it would display for a mint-in-box collector, but like most packaging these days, it’s pretty easy to reseal.
Donald Duck stands a little over 5 1/2″ tall. I was pretty surprised by how big he is. I kind of new how tall he was, but I also had avoided reviews and such because this line was completely new to me and I wanted the whole experience to reflect that. Not only is he a bit taller than I thought, he’s also just more substantial. I expected weight due to the metal, but he’s a thick duck. The metal parts appear to consist of the arms and legs. The head, hands, body, and feet are vinyl. It mixes pretty well, though the legs are definitely a lot shinier than the plastic feet. And with the metal there’s always a concern that paint will scratch or flake off and there is a tiny scratch in the knee joint on my figure’s left leg, but largely the paint looks pretty nice. Donald has a very round, smooth, head which is the biggest different from his initial release which featured an angry head that had some ruffled feathers. I obviously don’t have that figure, but based on images I’ve seen, that angry head is probably better than the rest so I kind of wish I had it, but it’s fine. This Donald does have an angry head too, but it’s smooth like the other two heads.
I think this Donald looks pretty nice, all things considered. I’m a little surprised with the sculpt of his shirt as the flap on the back of it is molded to the main part of the shirt. I would have expected it to be an actual flap and I think it would have looked better. Instead, it kind of reminds me of a Donald bath toy my kids used to have which was solid vinyl. He is depicted in the current licensing art colors, which as an old school Donald fan, is not my preference. That means he’s got a blue shirt and hat with gold buttons and trim and a red bowtie. I would have preferred a black bowtie, as that is what he usually wore in the classic shorts. I also would not have minded him in his comic black shirt. It’s not a big deal as this is definitely Donald Duck. The metal legs also do not hide the joints at all, so it is something you just have to get used to. It’s hard to argue with the end result though which is that this figure has a really strong base and he is not going to fall off of your shelf. The metal also gives him a high quality feel, which is necessary for a figure that retails for $60.
Being that Donald is a collector grade action figure, he features several points of articulation. Hero Cross totals it at 20 points, and it’s pretty substantial for a character with a unique body shape. Donald’s head sits on a simple ball pegs and it can move around quite well. He can look up, down, tilt, you name it. At least the default head (we’ll get to that). There is a joint at the base of the neck that provides a little more tilt, but it’s negligible. The shoulders are ball-jointed. He can raise his arms out to the side and rotate all around, but be aware of rub with the vinyl body. There’s a biceps swivel and a single hinge at the elbow allowing him to bend his arm 90 degrees. The hands are on pegs affixed to ball joints. There’s a hinge in there and they can rotate all around and tilt a bit in every direction. There’s a waist joint that appears to be a ball joint. It’s under the shirt and pretty generous, but again, I worry a little about the blue shirt rubbing the white vinyl lower body and leaving some smudges behind if manipulated a lot. The legs are a bit odd, since he is a duck, as they’re affixed via ball-joints, but they basically just swivel and tilt a little where the legs meet the body. There are single hinges and the feet are on ball-pegs so they can roll around all over the place. The metal gives him such a strong base that he can easily stand on one foot or simulate a walking pose as long as one foot is flat on a surface. He’s not terribly dynamic in his posing options, but that is more a limitation of the character’s shape than what Hero Cross did.
Donald comes with extra parts, but no real accessories aside form his hat. He has three heads: an open mouthed happy expression (default), a frowning expression, and a slight frown with his eyes looking left expression. Of the three, I definitely like the angry one the most as I think of Donald as just a grumpy, angry, character. Sadly, that head is the one that is the hardest to work with as the other two pop on and off with no issue, but the angry is super tight. Once on, it doesn’t really want to move much, but for a figure destined for a shelf it’s not a big deal. As for hands, Donald comes with a relaxed, open, left hand and a stiff, open, right hand (basically a hand wave). In the box are a pair of fists, a relaxed, open, right hand, and a pointing right hand. Missing is any kind of gripping hand, but in order to get those you had to get the box set release of Donald’s nephews. It’s a decent assortment that leaves room for improvement. A company like Bandai has taken to making the eyes swappable on its figures and that would be pretty neat with Donald. A more modular approach that allows eyes, bills, and such to swap is intriguing, but at least he doesn’t have any unsightly seams in his head. And Hero Cross is definitely going for as seamless an aesthetic as possible. The swappable hands make for some decent variety in the available poses, but there is a problem there that detracts from the figure.
And that’s they’re a pain to remove. And they’re such a pain, that mine broke not long after I opened it. I tried to remove the waving right hand he comes packaged with in favor of one of the others and it felt pretty snug. The head was easy to remove, and being that this just sits on a peg, I really wasn’t too concerned with breaking it. I applied consistent force, and tried wiggling it a little and the peg just came right off behind the ball joint of the wrist. The actual peg is really small as it’s basically a half-circle instead of a full one. My guess is they do it this way to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the the ball-joint in the wrist, but it’s pretty odd. Mostly though, I was super bummed, frustrated, angry, you name it, to finally get this figure only to have it break within a half hour. It feels like such a high quality item that it lulls you into a feeling like it couldn’t possibly break with normal interaction. Falling off a shelf is one thing, but trying to take advantage of a basic function? That surprised me. I honestly felt a little sick when it happened because I know how far this had to travel to get to me and how expensive it was just to ship it here, so I wasn’t expecting any help to come from Hero Cross. And if any did, I expected it to come at a cost.
Upon breaking, I reached out to Hero Cross via email and via a form on their website. No where could I find any information on quality control issues or refunds, so I wasn’t feeling too great about it. I reached out on Twitter and DuckTalks, the same podcast that brought this release to my attention, suggested messaging them on Facebook as that appears to be a place where they interact with their customers the most. Hero Cross did not respond to my initial email, but it did to the form I filled out online. After sending photos the correspondent told me they would check with the factory about a replacement arm. I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks and reached out again, and they basically said the same thing as before. Then a day later I got an email saying they had good news: there were spare parts available in the factory and they would send me a new arm! They confirmed which arm I needed, my address, and sent along instructions for swapping it out.
About two weeks after that, my new arm arrived in the mail via USPS. The arm is connected to the figure at the shoulder and held in place by a screw. It’s an interesting setup, but an easy one to work with without fear of breaking anything. Upon removing the screw, the shoulder comes apart as it’s two pieces of molded, painted, plastic. Once apart, the bicep can pop out and I swapped in the new arm that Hero Cross provided, replaced the plastic piece, and screwed it back together. Hero Cross sent an extra upper arm piece, but it was for a left arm. Maybe they anticipate people scratching or ruining that bit of plastic during the removal process, but I had no issues reusing the same one. They did not send a new hand, so I had to take the old hand and get the peg removed somehow. I basically just grabbed the ball it sits on with some pliers and tugged away. It was in there pretty snug and it was a pain, but I got it off. It helped that I didn’t have to worry about damaging the ball any longer. With Donald reassembled, he basically looks as he’s supposed to. After the reattachment though I’m left with a pretty loose biceps swivel. The screw feels snug so I don’t want to risk stripping it, but it could just be a case of the factory getting that in better than I can. It kind of sucks, but better than a broken hand.
With the peg finally extricated from the hand I finally got a look at the thing. It’s long and sits way up inside the hand. It’s honestly a surprise to me that these breaking isn’t a common occurrence, but then again, I don’t know anyone who owns this particular figure so maybe it does break a lot? Even putting another hand on this new peg is a struggle, and you can probably tell in my post surgery photos of the figure that it’s not quite seated all the way. I’m basically afraid that once I get the hand on it won’t come off without breaking again.
Given all of that, I have had no appetite to test the left hand. Hero Cross was kind enough to replace one defective piece, I don’t really want to test my luck with a second. And it is a credit to them that they stand by their product and are willing to send replacement parts across the Pacific at no cost to the consumer. I was heart-broken when my figure broke, so I’m happy to have that remedied. It doesn’t necessarily fix my confidence in the figure though. If a figure is designed to have a certain feature, that feature should function without a risk of breaking the figure. After my experience with the product out of the box and seeing how this hand joint is constructed, I can’t say I have any confidence in the feature working properly. I am at least happy that the swappable heads work all right, as that is more important to me than the hands. It also helps that this figure does not need to hold anything so the hands do not serve a function other than to change the pose. And while I definitely would like to have the freedom to do so, I can at least accept what I have here.
What my experience with this figure did do for me is make me less likely to purchase more figures in the line. When I ordered this one, I was toying with the idea of adding the nephews and taking advantage of the gripping hand they come with, but now I’m less interested. And playing a role in that are new offerings on the way from other toy companies. Since placing an order for this figure, Super7 has launched a Disney Ultimates! line of figures. Only the first wave has been shown and it includes Mickey Mouse, Prince John, and Pinocchio. Their interest is in underserved characters (as far as collector grade action figures go) from the company’s animated films, so Donald Duck may not be a high priority for them right now, but he’s also insanely popular and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we get a Three Caballeros Donald or something. Beast Kingdom has also unveiled a Donald Duck figure in its Dynamic 8action Heroes line that looks rather promising. It features cloth goods instead of sculpted clothes and is something that is definitely on my radar. It doesn’t have a release date or a price, but the company is taking orders for a Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey and the MSRP is about $70, with a deluxe version at $100. Collecting Donald Duck figures isn’t going to get any cheaper any time soon, but it’s nice to have options.
Ultimately, I do not regret my purchase of the Hero Cross Donald Duck. The likeness is good and he certainly looks nice on a shelf. This figure probably won’t scale with any other lines, so that’s kind of a bummer, but also not a standard I think is fair to hold it to. I’m sure it scales fine with other Hero Cross HMF releases like Scrooge McDuck and the nephews. And there may come a day when I decide I do need to place him with some friends on a shelf, or maybe he’ll just be a featured piece in a more robust Donald Duck display (because, lets face it, I’m probably getting the Beast Kingdom figure and would definitely grab a Super7 one). This figure isn’t the ultimate Donald Duck figure that I wanted it to be, but it’s still worth having for a Donald Duck enthusiast like myself.
When it comes to anything post 2000, there isn’t a ton I have nostalgia for. One of the very few things though is Homestar Runner, and in particular, the character Strong Bad. Strong Bad was brought to my attention by my best friend when we were in college. He was not my roommate, officially, but he might as well have been as he was in my dorm all the time, save for when it was time to sleep. He somehow found out about http://www.homestarrunner.com and was playing catch-up with the Strong Bad email segment. The first one I can even remember watching was the infamous “Dragon” installment which spawned Trogdor: The Burninator. I talked about my affection for that segment when I reviewed the Trogdor board game over a year ago, but now I get to really talk about Strong Bad.
Strong Bad is the villain of homerstarruner.com though he quickly supplanted the titular character as the most popular character featured on that website. Everyone loves Strong Bad, who is more rascal than dastardly. Created by The Brothers Chaps, Strong Bad speaks in a gravelly tone with a slight Spanish accent which matches his appearance of a Luchador with boxing gloves. The boxing gloves are an intentionally odd touch, but certainly a part of the character’s charm. The character has sibling characters in Strong Mad and Strong Sad, neither of which are as entertaining as Strong Bad. He also has a sidekick, or lackey, in the form of The Cheat who long ago received a plush doll all his own. Strong Bad did not, though there’s been Strong Bad merchandise over the years, but it was mostly stickers and apparel.
In 2020, Strong Bad got a brand new plush. Designed by artist Nina Matsumoto, this plush of the beloved web toon is adorable in its accuracy and pretty interesting in its construction. Sold exclusively through fangamer.com, Strong Bad sold out pretty quickly, but was re-stocked recently and I was able to grab one. Since this is a plush toy, there isn’t a ton to say about it other than what you see. Standing at 11″ tall, it absolutely nails the character aesthetic which is certainly aided by the fact that it’s a simple character design to begin with. The proportions are not exact to the web toon as if they were the head would probably be a little larger relative to the body, as would the boxing gloves. Instead, we have something that was perhaps designed to be more aesthetically pleasing all on its own and it definitely works for what it’s going for. The gloves are constructed of a faux leather material that is reminiscent of real boxing gloves and the mask features actual laces. It’s not removable, and the horror that would be underneath it if it were is too impossible to imagine, but it’s a nice detail to feature. The stitching seems clean, though I wish they didn’t need to put a seem right down his chest and abdomen. There’s a little bit of “fluff” protruding from the rear seem on the head and back of my doll, but the actual stitching doesn’t appear loose anywhere. He seems like he’s plenty durable, but the tag also says for ages 12 and up so don’t be surprised if your toddler wrecks him.
Even though this is a plush, it actually features some degree of articulation. There’s a wire frame of some kind running through the limbs of the doll. This allows for some posing in the arms and legs which was unexpected. No, you can’t really get him to stand on his own, but Strong Bad can kick his legs forward or raise his arms in a victory pose. It’s possible that over-working of these limbs could cause the skeleton inside to eventually protrude from the plush body, but so far I don’t get the sense there’s any undo stress being placed upon the doll by moving his arms and legs.
You can only cram so much majesty into a plush of Strong Bad without also jamming his actual personality into the doll, which is why this plush can talk. He has 15 voice clips built in that are activated by squeezing his face. It can be a little tricky finding the right spot, but it’s there. There’s no easy access to it should the battery run out, which all batteries do, but hopefully it lasts a long time. The phrases are pretty much what you would expect of a Strong Bad doll. There’s his mild brand of swearing (“What the crap?!”), a Trogdor sound, and some good attitude baked into this guy that should please any fan of the character. And even if you’re unfamiliar with Strong Bad, you still may enjoy listening to him if my kids are any indication.
What else is there to say? If you like Strong Bad, you’ll enjoy this talking plush. He retails for $36, and even though he’s presently sold out, Fangamer is planning a restock so head on over to their site if you’re interested and sign up for email notifications. He’s probably been a pretty nice seller for them and I suspect they’ll keep ordering more until they either lose the license or people stop buying. He’s been such a hit that I wonder if we can expect more characters to follow. I don’t know if I’d necessarily be interested in other characters from the Homestar Runner universe, but maybe a new Cheat to go with Strong Bad would be pretty cool.
Looking around my basement office and thinking back on all of the various toy reviews I’ve done over the years has made me realize that I’ve never done a vehicle review. Vehicles are not all that common in the collector community, usually they’re more of a kid’s toyline occurrence. That doesn’t mean they aren’t fun when they do come along or that I’m not interested in them, they just need to convince me a bit more of their worth and work in a display. Oh, and they need to not cost an arm and a leg. And recently, the cost of vehicles is a hot topic in the collector community and it’s a topic that probably isn’t going away as NECA is expected to unveil a Turtle Van in its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line at some point this year.
When it comes to Dragon Ball, there are a handful of vehicles that come to mind. Especially in Dragon Ball Z where Vegeta and the other Saiyans travel through space in those adorable little pods. There are a few other spaceships and the occasional car as well. In Dragon Ball, there were arguably more vehicles, though I don’t know that many are truly memorable. They were more of a necessity though as in that series few characters could fly so if they wanted to traverse the world they needed help. And the character usually able to aid the most in that regard was Bulma and her wonderful assortment of capsules. The famous Capsule Corp that her father founded created the technology to store vehicles, homes, food, you name it, in tiny capsules that could recall the product in seconds. It’s a fun concept for a television show and an especially convenient one if you don’t want to have to explain how the characters manage to carry so much stuff with them on their adventures.
One of the earliest capsules we see in the show is Bulma’s number 9 – her motorcycle. After Goku smashes up her car, Bulma is forced to turn to the bike to resume her journey for the seven Dragon Balls and Goku comes along for the ride which is essentially how the story begins. Bandai decided this moment was important enough to be immortalized in plastic and commissioned a version of the bike for its S.H.Figuarts line of products.
When Bandai first showed the bike I thought it looked great. When I saw the functionality that would be built into it and the accessories it came with, I was further convinced it would be a fantastic item to add to my Dragon Ball collection. When I saw the price, I was a little less enthusiastic. This bike retails for between $70 and $75, which is almost twice what the actual figure of Bulma costs. I knew I liked it, but did I like it enough to spend that kind of dough on it? Thankfully, a clearance sale at GameStop made it easier when I scored the set for 25% off. I had to wait a little while for it to arrive as apparently a lot of people were like-minded and the product actually sold out and my order was changed to backordered, but eventually GameStop came through.
The bike comes in the same window box packaging we’re used to with this line. It has some nice product shots on the front and is using a white and teal color scheme. Once removed, the bike can either stand on its own via a working kickstand or be placed on an included stand. It’s about 7 inches long and scales well with the Adventure Begins Bulma figure that I reviewed last year. In fact, the bike is intended to work with her and even includes some new parts for that figure. The handlebars are functional and turning them will cause the front wheel to turn. The overall look of this bike is just fantastic. I love the rounded edges, the clean, white, finish, and the big, oversized, tires. The rear wheel is noticeably larger than the front wheel and we do have some diecast parts added in, such as the kickstand. There’s some nice sculpting down around the handlebars and the clear, curved, plastic, windshield removes easily to position a figure on the bike. There’s not a ton of paint on this thing, but since it’s basically white plastic I think it looks fine. There’s colored plastic for the turn signals and clear plastic for the non-working lights. The decals are all very cleanly applied and this is just a very pristine looking item.
The bike does roll on those tires which appear to be made of rubber, or a similar substance to rubber. They’re not as squishy or bouncy as some rubber tires, but it definitely isn’t a hard plastic. If play is your thing, you absolute can place a figure on this bike and have a good time. Since this is a collector line though, my guess is most will want to place this on a shelf. And if you do, the kickstand works fine. It’s quite tight, so tight that I doublechecked the included instructions to make sure it was meant to function before I really laid into it. The bike is probably too heavy to have a figure support the weight of it with one leg Akira style, but you can easily fudge that with the stand. The base of the display stand Bandai included is a simple plastic circle with the Capsule Corp logo printed on it. There are two inserts and there are three different stands to choose from that plug into the base. One stand is a simple straight up and down stand so the bike looks like it’s in motion. There’s an angled stand to make the bike look like it’s turning which is pretty neat and can be angled for either a right turn or a left one. And then there is a third stand that’s the wheelie stand which raises the front wheel higher off the ground than the rear. It’s a great variety of poses available and if there’s any room for complaint it’s that maybe the wheelie stand could have been more exaggerated, but at least as-is there are no stability concerns.
In addition to the stands, we get some extra parts. There are two gripping hands for Bulma since she didn’t come with plain, old, gripping hands before. Interestingly, both hands are painted when normally the flesh-colored hand is just plastic. It’s strange because if ever you wanted to avoid having painted hands it’s with hands that will be gripping handlebars. The color looks a little off compared with her arm, but it’s not terribly noticeable. There’s also a new skirt piece for Bulma since her other skirt really wouldn’t allow for her to sit on a bike. This one has ridges in it for her knees to fit into to create a more natural sitting pose. Bulma simply separates at the waist to facilitate swapping the parts. It’s easy to get her apart, but a little frustrating getting her back together again as you need to contend with the skirt and her belt. There’s also a swappable rear seat on the bike which is easy to make use of. The extra set has a peg on it and it’s for our last accessory: a terrified kid Goku. This Goku, unlike the actual figure, is in-scale with Bulma so he’s pretty small. He’s a little painted guy with some very minor articulation at the head and tail. He’s meant to just be along for the ride and looks pretty great. I suspect many will pose the two on their shelf with Bulma sporting her terrified expression as the two pop an unexpected wheelie.
For a premium price you should expect a premium product, and Bandai delivered with this release. Not everyone is going to want a motorcycle in their Dragon Ball display, but any who do are likely to be very happy with this release. Especially if you’re able to get it on clearance like I did. It’s well made, high quality, and Bandai included basically everything it needed to. Whether you have Bulma sitting on it, or standing beside it, the big going to attract attention to your display. Maybe some will wish Bandai had gone even further and included some electronics, but I’m happy to not have had to pay for that since that’s something I’d rarely use. If you want Bulma to have a bike though, this is pretty awesome!