It was back in the spring that I decided to share the wonderful The Iron Giant with my young children. It was while watching that film with them that I remembered seeing on display at Toy Fair a brand new Iron Giant action figure. When the film was over and the kids were in bed, I jumped on my phone to look for more info on that figure and quickly found a pre-order. I placed my order that night and then proceeded to wait.
As the spring and summer months went by, so did the release date for the Diamond Select The Iron Giant action figure. No matter, I’m an adult and I don’t need to get toys right away. They come when they come and I’m just thankful when I can pre-order something. I was also busy with other figure releases so I wasn’t exactly missing this thing. Still, whenever it crossed my mind and I checked to see if there was a new shipping date, I got a little anxious, because it sure looked like a fun action figure.
My Iron Giant finally arrived this past week. It’s the first action figure from Diamond Select that I’ve purchased in probably 15 years, if not longer. Back in the early 2000s, I knew Diamond Select for its Marvel Select line of action figures. Those were generously referred to as action figures since most possessed very little articulation. They were more like inexpensive statues and set pieces. They tended to follow the Marvel Ultimate Universe, perhaps so as not to step on the Marvel Legends line put out by Toy Biz. Some of those figures were among my favorite though, especially the Ultimate Venom. Over the years, it would seem Diamond’s action figures have become more figure-like. And while I’ve never been moved to buy one until now, I was looking forward to seeing what a Diamond Select product was like in 2020.
The Iron Giant deluxe figure arrived in a blister package. Another thing I really don’t see often these days is blister packaging, unless it’s a toy for one of my kids. It’s an attractive package though with a space theme that hits on the look of the film. It’s also nice to have a box I don’t mind tossing as I’m starting to become burdened by window boxes I can’t bring myself to throw away.
The Iron Giant stands approximate 9″ tall and comes with a small assortment of accessories. He’s mostly cast in gray plastic with some paint applications applied on the abdomen and hands. He has a fair amount of articulation, and being a robot, it works rather well with the sculpt. He’s got a ball-joint at the head that allows for good rotation and some downward range as well. Unfortunately, he can’t look up really at all so no flying pose is truly possible. His jaw is on a hinge and while it feels loose, it seems to stay in place well enough when he’s being left alone. His shoulders are ball-jointed and the little overhang of the should moves with the arm so he can reach over his head. The elbow is a ball joint with a swivel and the hands all rotate and have an additional hinge. The upper body is affixed to the abdomen with a ball joint that allows for some nice pivot motion as well as rotation motion and makes up for the lack of a true waist swivel. The thighs are connected by a ball joint and the knees are on a hinge. No kneecaps means he can bend his lower leg in a 90 degree angle forward and backwards. The lower leg can swivel below the knee and the ankles are on hinges and rock side to side.
This is a rather nice amount of articulation for the big guy and there’s not a lot I find myself missing. I was hoping to get him into more of a crouching pose like when he squats in the film, but the legs aren’t really accommodating there. The head articulation is the only real bummer for me. This is a figure that doesn’t really need to be able to do too much to look good, and I like that Diamond got as much into the figure as it did.
The Iron Giant comes with some accessories, though not a ton. He doesn’t need a ton though, and one could argue he doesn’t even really need what he comes with. There are three sets of hands in total: fists, gripping hands, and open hands. The fists make for good default hands as it allows him to do the hands on hips pose he comes positioned in. The open hands are expressive and work with another accessory I’ll get to in a moment, while the gripping hands just feel like extra. He has nothing to grab onto, but I guess if you wanted to hang him from something you could make use of these. Or craft him some steel girders to snack on. Also included is an S emblem that clips onto his chest. It’s rigid plastic on plastic and I worry that repeated removal will either snap one of the clips or scrape the figure’s chest, but it does look nice and is quite appropriate. The last accessory is a little, tiny, Hogarth. He’s in a seated position so he works well with the open hands and can even fit into a gripping hand. Better yet though, he has a tiny screw in his bottom and Diamond smartly put a magnet in the Giant’s right shoulder for Hogarth to sit on. It was something I was hoping Diamond did when I saw the promotional images, but didn’t actually expect. I just wish they had done the same with the S emblem.
The main feature of the figure is the included light-up function. Flip a switch on the back of the Iron Giant and his eyes light up. The plastic his head is cast in is light and a bit thin, so more than just his eyes will light up. The effect is still pretty cool, cool enough that you’ll be tempted to turn it on every time you walk past this guy at night. It’s powered by a set of LR44 batteries which are included and should be less likely to leak vs a AAA battery, and obviously a lot easier to fit into the figure. It’s a cool feature because a lot of the film is done at night and Diamond was able to add it without taking anything away from the sculpt.
The Iron Giant moves well, has a neat light-up feature, and probably more accessories then it needs, though it’s not quite a homerun. The figure is surprisingly light in hand and the joints are a little loose for my taste. The legs in particular can be combative and he has toppled over on me a couple of times. It’s not terrible, but I worry about him becoming more loose as time moves on. Most of the parts on him are hollow as well, so he just doesn’t feel like a premium action figure. On the other hand, he’s also around 27 bucks so I’m trying to keep my expectations realistic. The looseness of the figure does mean there are no stuck joints or anything and the hands are on nice, long, pegs and are easy to swap. The forearm pieces can actually slide off too, though you probably will never have need to.
Nitpicks aside, I do love the look of this figure. The scale looks great and the proportions are all well done. I love the magnetized Hogarth as that’s just such a wonderful touch. I’d probably have preferred a second, standing, Hogarth instead of one set of hands, but this is also pretty nice as-is. I kind of wish they could have done a premium version with maybe some die-cast legs in a 60 dollar price range, but maybe that’s not realistic too. For the price, this is a nice figure and I think fans of The Iron Giant will be pretty happy with this one.
We’re back with another Dragon Ball review and this one is another bad guy, maybe THE bad guy: Tao Pai Pai. Known to English-speaking audiences as Mercenary Tao, and for the rest of this review as simply Tao, Tao is a martial arts expert who has perfected the dreaded Dodonpa, or Dodon Ray, and is an adept killing machine. He’s even been known to kill people with his tongue, folks. Tao is quite possibly the most hated enemy from Dragon Ball since he’s a ruthless killer and also one of the few to defeat Goku in hand-to-hand combat.
The S.H. Figuarts version of Tao depicts the character in his most familiar form. He’s clad in a navy and pink martial arts uniform with the phrase “Kill You!” emblazoned on the rear of his tunic in a blood red font. He has a single braid coming off of the back of his head tied off with a cute little, red, bow. He’s not particularly intimidating to look at, but in the source material he projects an aura of confidence that’s a bit unnerving.
Tao stands a tick under 6″ making him taller than the likes of Bulma, but much shorter than someone like King Piccolo. He features a lot of the same articulation one would expect from this line. His braid is on a ball joint so it can lay on his back or be positioned in a wind swept pose. A ball-jointed head gives him some nice range of motion and additional neck articulation adds some side-to-side pivot and allows him to look at his feet. The shoulders are on ball-joints with butterfly joints that allow him to reach across his chest a bit, though the bulk of his sleeves hinders a bit. There’s bicep swivels and double-jointed elbows. The hands are on ball-pegs and hinges and can rotate and point in and out. The waist is on a ball-peg and there’s diaphragm articulation as well. Bend his upper body too far back and you will see an exposed gap in the chest, but you’re not likely to have need to bend him that far. The crotch area is the 2.0 Figuarts joint so it works well, but is quite busy to look at. Tao minimizes this with the skirt of his tunic which covers the front and back. His legs are on ball-joints with rotation in the thigh as well. His knees are double-jointed, but the bulkiness of his pants hinders some of the articulation gained by the additional joint. The ankles are on ball-pegs and can rotate and rock side to side. There’s also a toe hinge for good measure.
Unlike most Figuarts figures I have, Tao wasn’t quite ready to go out of the package. I’m used to dealing with stuck joints with figures from other companies, but not usually Bandai. My Tao’s right thigh was stuck at the hip so when I tried to bend the leg out, like a split, the leg popped right off. I had to grab the peg and really give it a good tug to get the joint in the inner thigh to start working. My Tao’s left food also didn’t have much side-to-side motion. The peg is a dumbbell peg in the foot, and I think what was happening is the ball at the top was moving, but the one in the foot was stuck. I popped the foot off and immersed it in hot water and was then able to rock the peg back and forth a bit. It’s still not great, but better than before.
As is the case with the other figures in this line, the paint application is minimal, but the sculpt work is otherwise damn near flawless. Tao comes with a neutral facial expression that’s perhaps a bit of a scowl. The paint on his tunic is sharp and clear and there’s no mess on the red detailing. The skirt piece is a soft, pliable, plastic that really doesn’t hinder the articulation much. I know some people want to see more elaborate paint applications with this line, but at this point it is what it is and I personally think the sculpt work looks great in natural light. The only aspect of the sculpt that doesn’t look great are the knee joints, but only from the back so it’s not really an issue.
Tao comes with an assortment of extra hands and heads. He has a screaming head for when he’s getting serious as well as a tongue-sticking out head for when he needs to kill. The tongue is definitely a funny inclusion, though if I had to choose I would have preferred a cocky grin. Tao comes packaged with fists, like basically all of the figures in this line, and has two additional sets of hands: open palms and Kung Fu, forked, hands. The other additional hand is a pointing right hand for the Dodon Ray. He also comes with a seven star dragon ball. I know some wish he came with his cybernetic parts from Dragon Ball Z, but I wouldn’t display him in that form so I’m not really sweating it. That version of the character is better reserved for a stand-alone release.
The major accessory for Tao though is his big, pink, pillar. In the source material, Tao couldn’t fly so he’d just smash a nearby pillar or tree and throw it through the sky. He’d then jump on it to ride it to wherever he needed to go. It’s ridiculous, but definitely something that’s memorable. Bandai deemed it so memorable that it was essential, so Tao comes with a plastic pillar and a unique flight stand to position it on. This thing is perhaps needlessly complicated because Bandai is so committed to the aesthetics of the figures in this line that it decided exposed peg holes could not be tolerated. Instead, there’s an included set of plugs to place in the pillar when it’s not in use that conceal any and all holes. There are six holes in total so that Tao can ride it akin to a surfboard or stand with his feet together at the back or center of the pillar. The pillar is hollow and can split apart which is how you remove the installed pegs. It’s also handy for storing any plugs that in use, so long as you don’t mind the rattle.
To attach Tao to the pillar, Bandai included swap-able feet plates. I’ve never seen anything like this. Basically, you pop off the soles of Tao’s shoes and replace them with a set that have pegs on the bottom. There’s a set with pegs that go straight down and a set that are pointing out. The pointing out set is meant for when Tao is standing with his feet together on the pillar and will go straight into it when his feet are angled towards each other. And to add a little more pizzazz to the set, the flight stand comes in three pieces: a base, the piece that attaches to the pillar, and an optional joiner piece. The optional piece adjusts the pitch of the pillar so Tao is either flying at a horizontal angle or one with the front pointing up at a slight angle.
The pillar is very ambitious and quite an idea, but it’s far better on paper than in reality. For one, as neat as it is to hide the peg holes on the pillar, it should be pointed out that it kind of looks like a piece of sidewalk chalk. It’s funny such care was taken to hide the holes when what was really needed was some shading or just additional paint to help sell this better as a chunk of rock. Tao’s foot plates also have a tendency to pop out, especially the angled ones with my set. I’d insert the right one and it would literally shoot out of the pegs. Perhaps they’re too tight? I’m not sure, because they also come out very easily when trying to position him on the pillar. I had a hell of a time trying to get the angled ones to work right. I think part of it was due to my Tao’s left foot being limited due to the stuck ankle joint, while some of it is likely just poor engineering. I got him onto the pillar in that position, but only if I just attached one foot and let the other float. It didn’t inspire much confidence. The “surfing” position works much better. It’s still finicky, but I at least achieved the desired position. I’m still a little disappointed though as I really wanted to display him in that more confident, nonchalant, pose of standing with his feet together, but oh well.
To better sell the flight stand, Tao also comes with optional skirts for his tunic. He’s meant to pull apart at the waist which allows you to lift off the pieces that he comes wearing by default. The tunic skirts are in two pieces, a rear and a front, and the peg holes were engineered in a way to prevent you from mixing the two up. Getting them onto Tao is easy and really does add to the figure’s presentation. They may not have hit a home run with this figure, but when you get it right it sure does look impressive.
Tao is an ambitious addition to the S.H. Figuarts line of Dragon Ball figures. He does stumble in some ways, but the overall package is still impressive. He’s a great villain in the series and a welcomed addition to the roster of characters. My Dragon Ball collection is rounding into form and there are only a handful of characters that I’d like to add to it. If you have one of your own, it’s hard not to want to add Tao Pai Pai to the ranks.
Last year, when Warner Home Media announced a new Blu Ray set for the series Batman Beyond, I decided to wait. I had been an early consumer for the similar Batman: The Animated Series set the prior year and had some misgivings. The price on that set fell and a slimmed down version was even introduced at retail that really only omitted the outer box and Funko items. Plus, I had ordered that set from Amazon and had to go through multiples because the company packaged it so poorly. I also wasn’t in any hurry to order Batman Beyond since I had the DVD sets and had never really found them lacking in a visual sense.
My patience was rewarded as a recent Amazon Lightning Deal came up for the complete Batman Beyond Blu Ray package. Like Batman, Batman Beyond received both a deluxe release and a retail release, only this deal on Amazon ended up being the deluxe version marked down even lower than the retail version. I decided to pounce since it’s been awhile since I engaged with the property, and if I was going to do a re-watch, might as well make it a high-definition one.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, Batman Beyond was the sequel series to Batman: The Animated Series. In actuality, it was the replacement. Series creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini had operated under the assumption that The New Batman Adventures would continue beyond the one season order the WB network had given it. Instead, the network decided that Batman needed a refresh. Were they right? Probably not, as Batman has proven to be a timeless character. The New Batman Adventures wasn’t quite on par with the Fox seasons, but it was still pretty good and had legs. It would have been nice if the network had given it one more season, or even a half season, while also informing the crew that would be it. Then we could have received a proper finale, but instead we got Batman Beyond and a series of Justice League shows followed.
Given that, it would be easy to approach Batman Beyond with significant baggage. After all, the premise is essentially “Let’s make Batman younger by essentially making him Spider-Man.” If you told that to me before ever letting me watch the show I would instantly have a bad impression. It sounds like the foolish decision of a network executive and not a creative decision by an actual story-teller. Against all odds though, the show somehow worked. It made people care about a new, teen-aged, Batman and it also managed to serve as a bookend to the animated series by largely continuing that show’s continuity. Sure, there was a pretty big gap in time between the two properties and a great many loose strings are never addressed, but just by having Bruce Wayne (still voiced by the incomparable Kevin Conroy) onboard added an instant credibility to the program.
Batman Beyond is set in the year 2039. Gotham has apparently run out of room for expansion and has grown up instead of out. Colossal skyscrapers cover the landscape with roads upon roads on top of one another. The main character is Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle), a teenager who loses his father to a murder making him the ideal candidate to replace Bruce Wayne as Batman. As Batman, Terry is empowered with a futuristic suit that allows him to fly, turn invisible, fire a seemingly endless amount of batarangs, and even stick to surfaces like a certain wall-crawler I already referenced. He’s a bit more jokey than his predecessor, and several episodes act as a teaching moment for him as well. This is a Batman in training, though by the end of the show he is pretty much the real deal. It’s a bit amusing to see how future Gotham looks considering modern Gotham looked like it was frozen in the 1940s. It’s about what you would expect, though most automobiles appear to still possess wheels.
The setting is not really what’s important here. What is most interesting about Batman Beyond is watching an elderly Bruce Wayne manage a kid who has taken up his mantle. It arises in an unnatural way with McGinnis initially stealing the suit to investigate his father’s murder. Wayne is shown giving up his alter-ego in the first five minutes of the show, but also given a motivation to want to see Batman return to Gotham. And that’s Derek Powers (Sherman Howard), who has basically taken Wayne’s company from him turning Wayne Enterprises into Wayne-Powers. He’s setup early on to be the primary foil to Batman and Wayne, though the rogue’s gallery will be filled out quite a bit over the ensuing 52 episodes. It’s a lot of fun though to watch Terry and Bruce bust heads with each other as they seldom agree. They find a working relationship though, and it helps that we have the relationships between Bruce and his prior wards to fall back-on. It’s easy to see that this Bruce is trying his hardest not to repeat the same mistakes as he did once before, and the fact that he’s physically compromised in his old age actually helps him to be more patient with Terry than he was with both Dick and Tim.
To sum it up, Batman Beyond is indeed worth your time as a series, even if you have reservations about the whole thing. It does the impossible in being a worthy follow-up to Batman: The Animated Series. Chances are, if you’re reading this you already know that. What’s more pressing is did Warner do right by the series with this set? Considering it is now being sold for almost half of what it was initially, I would say yes.
Being a late 90s/early 2000s show means this one really isn’t all that old, relatively speaking. The masters were all preserved and when the show received a transfer to DVD it came out great. In high-definition, it looks every bit as a good and obviously a little better. Blacks are deep and the brighter colors pop as expected. There’s no grain to speak of with this series, and everything has a very clean presentation. This was one of the last shows to be animated largely in a traditional manner for DC as they still used ink and paint on celluloid for the main animation. And unlike say Spider-Man 94, there’s no glaringly awful CG effects in use. Nothing is really working against the show in its transfer to HD, and that’s a good thing. Warner Home Video also wisely resisted any temptation to crop the image which seems like a given, but you never know when such will pop up.
The new extra features are all relegated to a bonus disc. There’s a round-table retrospective with the creators and actors of the series, though notably absent is Paul Dini. It’s mostly just 45 minutes or so of the people involved congratulating themselves for making a good show. There’s some interesting moments, like Bruce Timm acknowledging some of the controversial moves for the series following its completion that the others at the table get to weigh in on, but it’s not as juicy as it could have been. If you’re at all versed on this show, you probably won’t learn much from this discussion. There’s also a retrospect on Batman called Knight Immortal which consists of still images and some clips and surprisingly no talking heads. A lot of the main players involved with the character are heard from and it’s a decent look at Batman. Lastly, there’s a history of Detective Comics present. It’s a bit dry, but if you love DC then you’ll probably enjoy sitting through it. All of the DVD special features are also present.
Like the set for BTAS, this one doesn’t have any commentaries or anything like that added, just what was already available on DVD. Also like that set, it includes the feature associated with the series, in this case the excellent Return of the Joker. If it weren’t for Mask of the Phantasm, Return of the Joker would be my favorite Batman animated film and it’s still one of my favorite Batman films in general, possibly in my top 5. It’s the uncut version too, as expected. There’s also an optional digital version of the collection that can be downloaded. I haven’t redeemed my code though so I can’t speak to the quality (the BTAS set came with a standard definition digital copy) and I’m also note sure if it includes Return of the Joker.
Where this set differs from the BTAS one is in the presentation. It comes in a cardboard box with a window display for a chrome Batman Beyond Funko Pop! rather than mini ones. It’s a normal-sized Pop! so you probably know if you like it or not. Inside the box is a pretty standard Blu Ray set. It’s a hard cardboard slip case with folding digi-book styled case that houses the discs. It’s nothing extravagant, but it’s at least functional. While I loved the presentation of the leather-bound book for the BTAS set, getting the discs in and out was painful. There’s also some lenticular images and a little booklet that serves as a table of contents. It’s fine, just not particularly flashy. I imagine the standard retail release just omits the outer box and Funko figure.
Batman Beyond – The Complete Series is essentially as advertised. If you had been waiting for a complete collection on Blu Ray, then you should be satisfied with this. Especially if you were able to get it on sale. If you like the show, and you’re still into physical media like I am, then you should probably grab it. Is it essential if you already have the DVDs? Probably not. The bonus features are something you’re likely to watch once and then never again. It would have been great if Warner had made an attempt to make this the full Batman Beyond experience by including the character’s appearances from other shows on here. That would have been especially useful for someone like me who has no interest in buying any of those other shows. And if this is something you want, I’d suggest grabbing whatever version is cheaper unless you really want that exclusive Pop! figure. Lastly, if you like Batman: The Animated Series but never gave Batman Beyond a chance, it’s worth the price of admission. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.
Before there was the noble Piccolo, trainer of Gohan and ally of Goku, there was the evil King Piccolo. Known as Piccolo Daimaoh outside of the US, King Piccolo was the evil purged from the namekian Kame, who would assume the role of guardian of Earth in the world of Dragon Ball. Piccolo was the usual villian bent on world domination who was imprisoned in a magic rice cooker long ago, but like all ancient evils, he escaped to make life miserable for Goku and his friends.
King Piccolo is one of the more recent releases in the line of Dragon Ball action figures released by Bandai and Tamashii Nations under the S.H. Figuarts banner and he’s a big boy. He’s the main villain of the penultimate arc of Dragon Ball as he escapes from his imprisonment and is able to assemble the dragon balls and wish for his youth to be restored. He is depicted here following that wish in his navy blue gi and cocky smirk. In many ways, he’s the ultimate villain from the original Dragon Ball and, once defeated, it’s his son/clone who would continue on to Dragon Ball Z and become the more popular Piccolo.
King Piccolo stands a tick under 8 inches, so he towers over his adversary, Kid Goku. I do not own a Piccolo from DBZ, but I’ve noticed from looking around online that he’s much taller than his successor. The only visual difference between the two is in the face with King Piccolo having higher cheek bones and an overall narrower face. The figure is colored after his anime appearance so he has patches of pink flesh on his arms and ankles as opposed to yellow. He’s a sturdy figure, with tight joints that aren’t too tight. He stands well and is surprisingly light given his size. The plastic is firm and the paint clean while the upper area of his gi is soft and pliable.
Since he’s from the Figuarts line, King Piccolo has plenty of articulation. His head is on a ball-joint and free to move around. He can look up a bit, and look down as far as any human needs to. His antennae are articulated and can be removed easily, if you wish. Careful though, they’re small and I spent over half an hour trying to find one I popped off by accident. He has a joint at the base of his neck which adds a bit to his range of motion. His shoulders are on ball-joints with a butterfly joint to back them up too so he can reach forward and across his chest. There’s a bicep swivel, single-hinge at the elbow, and wrist swivel with a hinge in the peg. When popping on a hand, you have to pay attention to which way that hinge is oriented to make sure you can get the desired motion you want. The elbow can bend 90 degrees, but the lack of a double-joint means it can’t go any further. There’s a mid-torso ball joint that’s nice and firm as well as a waist swivel. There’s ball joints at the hips, thigh swivel, double-jointed knees, and the feet are on ball joints. The feet can really move all over the place and there’s a toe hinge for good measure.
The articulation is quite expressive and does a good job of not interfering much with the overall look of the figure. There’s a lot going on in the crotch area in terms of trying to maintain the folds of Piccolo’s pants, but the dark color helps keep it a bit neat as opposed to Goku and his orange gi. I love the little sculpted details like the folds in the gi, the texture of the sash, and even the little piece of visible ankles above the shoes. The paint is very clean and also minimalist, as seems to be the case for Figuarts. There’s a hint of a wash on the face, especially the more expressive ones, and what is here looks terrific. It’s hard to imagine someone making a better looking version of King Piccolo.
Piccolo comes with an array of different hands and heads as well as a few other accessories. As is the tradition with the Dragon Ball figures, he comes with a dragon ball of his own. In this case, the one star ball. It looks so tiny in his giant hands. He comes packaged with a pair of fists and a smirk on his face. He has a pair of open, clawing, hands and a pair of fully open hands like he’s firing off his energy blast. He also has a right hand in a karate chop position and a pointing right hand. On the head front, he’s incredibly expressive as in addition to the smirk he has a teeth gritting expression, a yelling expression in which his veins are popping out and his eyes bloodshot, and a “puking” head from when he regurgitates the egg that contains Piccolo Jr. Speaking of which, he also has that egg which has some septum at the end of it to make it look like it’s being fired through the air. There’s also a piece of mucus that it can sit in like a football tee. Lastly, there’s the electronic rice cooker which once held him prisoner. It can open and close and is a cute little accessory.
The different heads and choice of hands makes Piccolo a truly fun toy to pose. I’m torn on what my favorite head is because they’re all so well done. I love the smugness of the default head, while the other two are great for action shots. The egg puking head is definitely more specific, but again, it’s so well-sculpted that there’s a desire to pose him with that head as well. It also doubles as a good reaction head for when Goku slugs him in the stomach. The egg even has a hole in the bottom of it so it can take advantage of the stands Bandai sells for fireballs and other effects. I do wish Piccolo had a hole in his back for stands as I don’t trust the grabbing stands Bandai uses to hold up with such a big figure. He is pretty light for his size, but I wouldn’t leave him on a shelf suspended in the air by one of those things. I know some people wish Bandai added shading to these figures, but I think natural light works well on the folds in the uniform, especially on darker colors like this one. The rear of the knees is the only part of the sculpt I’m not keen on because they’re so shiny, but they’re also on the back of the figure so it’s not something that will be displaying. Lastly, it’s the little things that bring this one together. The veins on the various heads or the way the antennae can be manipulating on all of the heads is a great touch. You can make them flailing back if he’s in a rushing pose, for instance, which is just great attention to detail.
King Piccolo is an awesome action figure from Bandai/Tamashii Nations. He’s a great and necessary addition to the Dragon Ball line as he has a terrific look and his action figure covers all of the bases. Maybe some have a desire to add an elder King Piccolo to their display, but I’m all set with this one. I’m curious if Bandai will do a proper Piccolo Jr. in the near future that’s distinct from the Dragon Ball Z figure. When he first showed up, Piccolo Jr. had a rather skinny appearance so it would make sense for Bandai to do a new sculpt. We’ll see. For now, I’m just pleased there’s a lot to collect for Dragon Ball fans and I hope Bandai keeps them coming!
There’s something almost cathartic about assembling a Lego set. It can be hot and sticky in my house in the middle of the summer, but if I’m fiddling with a Lego set I almost don’t even notice. Considering how unbearably hot and humid it’s been in the north east this summer, it’s a shame I don’t have more opportunities to mess around with a Lego set. Lego presents its own obstacles in that the sets are often pretty expensive and space-eaters. Even if I want something and can afford it, there’s the very real problem of what to do with it after the fact. As such, I try to just to stick to the Disney stuff, in particular anything modeled after an actual attraction at the park. Since finishing the Disneyland Train Station last year though, things have been quiet on that front, but Lego had something in the works I just couldn’t ignore.
It was earlier this year that Lego announced it had struck a licensing deal with Nintendo. This attracted my attention a bit, but I didn’t necessarily expect anything to come of it that would interest me. What I did expect were some Mario playsets, and Lego eventually showed off just that. It’s also not a straight Lego set with Mario themed mini figures, but a bit of an interactive thing where a brickhead-like Mario makes sounds and plays music depending on what blocks he comes in contact with. It’s different, and my son seems to have an interest in it, but it’s not for me. Then Lego went and unveiled something unexpected: the Nintendo Entertainment System.
A few years ago, the NES Classic proved there’s a lot of nostalgia surrounding the venerable old machine from 1985. Nintendo couldn’t even keep up with demand initially and people were scalping the 60 dollar item for triple the price for a short while. Because of that, I suppose it shouldn’t have shocked me when Lego unveiled this set which is a brick reconstruction of the NES, controller, Super Mario Bros. game pak, and an era appropriate TV to pair it with. And just a few short weeks later the set was launched on August 1st with an MSRP of $229.99. The 2,646 piece set quickly sold out at retail locations and the online stock has since sold out as well. Worry not if you missed out as Lego plans to continue making more and it’s a safe bet this one will be a popular item this Christmas.
Fearing a sell out, I rather insanely stayed up the night of July 31st just to make sure I got an order in at midnight. The set actually went up for sale a few minutes early and I had my order placed before midnight. This actually worked against me as there was supposed to be a free gift related to the Mario set, but I think that didn’t go live until midnight so my set arrived by itself. Not that it mattered that much as I only want the NES. It arrived at my door just a few days later and it was a bit of a long day with work before I could get to it.
The set arrived in a box larger than I expected. There’s an inner box that contains the first 7 bags of the set (which all relate to the NES itself) and two booklets: one for the console and one for the TV. There are only three stickers included which is fantastic as I loathe placing stickers on Lego sets. The only stickers are the labels for the game cartridge and a faux informational label for the rear of the TV. I decided to build the NES first and was able to complete it in one evening of roughly three hours of build time. Some of that was spent with my five-year-old son which probably slowed me down some, but it still felt rather breezy.
The construction of the NES is rather painless. You’re essentially just building a slightly irregular box so it shouldn’t be hard. The mechanism Lego has you construct for the game-loader is a bit intimidating to look at, but it’s actually fairly easy to install. Lego made use of a special spring-loaded piece to get it right and the end result is actually kind of amazing. It works just like the old console: you insert the game, push down, and it stays down. Push down again and the game pops back up for you to remove.
Lego took care to make the outer box look like the real deal. There’s audio and video hookups, a channel changing switch, as well as all of the buttons and cosmetic effects you would expect. There’s the ribbed area of the console’s surface which is an interesting part of the build as well as lots of smooth pieces for the top and sides. All of the logos and words are graphics printed on the piece so they look really sharp. The only thing Lego was unable to hide were the hinges on the front cover, but it’s hardly an eye sore. If anything looks a tad off it’s the front of that cover as it’s done with several pieces so there’s an abundance of seems. It probably could have been done in a cleaner manner, but it’s not as if you’re not supposed to know that this is a Lego creation. Lego also couldn’t perfectly replicate the irregular shape of the NES’s controller inputs, but they did a rather good job with it as-is.
The finished product is smaller than the real thing, but not by that much. I had the original NES, in terms of width, height, and depth as: 10.125″ x 3.5″ x 8″. The Lego version measures out as: 8.125″ x 3″ x 7″. The controller is more 1:1 though the Lego one is a touch thinner. It also isn’t a perfect rectangle as the sides and bottom don’t line up perfectly which is perplexing. I guess they didn’t want to engineer a slightly longer, flat, piece? I don’t know why they couldn’t use existing pieces to get it so that it didn’t have such a gap. It’s minor though, but something that I notice. There are also no working buttons on this thing. They look the part, but don’t function, which I expected but it would have been fun if the A and B buttons on the controller at least were able to be pressed.
The included game pak, or cartridge, is another thing you have to build. It’s a very quick build though as it’s quite thin and Lego didn’t feel a need to put a proper back on it, so it’s just the underside of the flat bricks used to craft it. It looks the part though and is undeniably cute in the hand. It’s also smaller than the real thing, and if you’re curious, no, an actual game won’t fit in the Lego NES. A traditional cartridge is: 4.75″ x 0.75″ x 5.25″. The Lego version is 3.75″ x 0.375″ x 4.125″. The stickers look great too and since they’re applied to a flat, black, piece it gives you some freedom in applying them. The smaller sticker even includes the Nintendo official seal of quality, an important touch.
So if you can’t tell, I’m quite pleased with how the NES and it’s components turned out. Since the old Control Deck, as it were called, came with two controllers I do wish this did as well. Since it’s not a functional gaming console though, I understand why it wasn’t exactly necessary to have two. What a Nintendo does need though is a television, because what good is a video game console without video?
Lego could have probably just done the console, and if it were to include a TV it could have just made a big, brick, box. Lego wasn’t content to do that though and wanted to actually simulate a Nintendo game, in this case Super Mario Bros. That’s how we ended up with this rather ambitious television included in this set. It contains more than half of the bricks in this set and is a longer build than the console. The TV is also modeled after the one that appeared in the original instruction manual for the NES, though I am unsure if it’s to scale or not. Regardless, it looks the part of an old TV and has some interesting functionality.
The TV is separated into various build phases. You first start with the base and the “guts” of the device before moving onto the rear and sides. What’s that is complete, it’s time to take care of the screen. See, Lego wasn’t content to just make an era-specific brick-television set to pair with your NES to form a nice display, rather it chose to make this system “playable.” In order to do that, you need to construct a fairly elaborate rotating mechanism with a picture on it all entirely out of Lego. The final product is essentially like those old racing or flying toys in which a picture rotates on a cylinder to simulate movement while the player has a controller or wand with a car or plane at the end of it to move around avoiding obstacles or just keeping the car on the road.
In order to do this, Lego basically has you build tank treads, and it’s the section of the build that is the most tedious. There’s a sequence of bags starting at 14 where you’re basically just making one small thing, but over over. The treads are a bag all by themselves as you link them together to make two long treads. You then need to build 15 joiners which are simple, but certainly do a number on your thumbs. You then need to build the plates to place over them which need to snap into place. They’re not all entirely the same as some need a couple of colored bricks affixed to the end which will work with the Lego Mario figure (sold separately).
Once you get through all of that (which comprises three bags, or steps), you’re finally ready to construct the image. Using mostly flat tiles, you build the scenery of Super Mario Bros. There’s lots of blue and brown tiles as well as some studs. You could conceivably ad-lib this part if you wanted to and create your own background, but it’s meant to be constructed in a specific way to work with the previously mentioned Mario. Lego is generous with the special pieces like the goomba, turtle shell, etc. as they’re small, flat, pieces that could be easily lost. You have an extra of each. The graphics printed on them look great, though the mushroom and goomba shape are a little off since they use a tiny “pie slice” piece. They’re still easily recognizable and are probably my son’s favorite part of the set. This was also a great part to have him help me with since it’s basically just laying tiles.
Once the scenery is constructed it has to be wrapped around a little “cart” the set has you construct which then gets placed inside the TV. It’s a touch challenging to get the scene to hook to itself as there isn’t a ton of give, but it wasn’t as bad as I though it might be. Inserting the finished diorama into the TV was also exceedingly simple even though there’s a lot going on. The only part I didn’t like was the little cap Lego has you build to put on top of it as it’s not engineered as well as it could be. There’s a little gap in the piece itself because of the bricks chosen and when snapping this into place it can come undone. This piece isn’t crucial, and after a few tries I just let it be even though I’m pretty sure one side wasn’t snapped together as well as it should be. It’s basically just a spacer between the mechanism and the top of the TV. Mario is added before the next step and he’s a cute little tile all on his own screen-printed to resemble Super Mario from the original game. He’s affixed to a transparent rod (the same one that came with the Ghostbusters Fire House for the flying ghosts) with a spherical, bubble-like piece behind Mario to guide him over the obstacles.
After that is done, the only thing left was to assemble the front of the TV and the bottom leg supports. This was an enjoyable build that comes together pretty fast. Lego was creative with the television dial by using a gear that just rubs a soft, plastic, green, rod to create a clicking sound when the dial is turned. My kids were quite amused by that and even more amused that this is how a TV was once operated. There are more tiles with graphics printed on them for things like volume control and even a UHF toggle. The last step is to create the TV stand which is rather simple. The finished product rests on top of this with some bricks placed on the bottom of the set used as guides so while it doesn’t snap in place, it fits into a track of sorts so it’s not wobbly.
With the set complete, you’re free to experience what it offers. Turning the crank makes the scenery move and Mario will just slide over it. This means he has only one path and you don’t want to try and force him to go higher than intended or else you risk jamming the mechanism. My son did this as he wanted Mario to stomp more goombas and got it stuck. I had to pop Mario off and some of the other pieces to get it going again. I didn’t have to resort to this, but in hindsight it’s nice Lego includes extra tiles for goombas, turtle shells, etc. in the event one were to pop off and fall into the TV it could just be replaced rather than disassembled to dig out one little tile. It works as advertised though and my kids though it was pretty fun.
Of course, you may be aware that this set contains an additional function. If you purchase the new Super Mario Start Course set from Lego it comes with a Mario brickhead-like figurine. This figure has some electronics built into it that causes it to change facial expression and also output sound. If you happen to have this guy you can place him on a special tile on top of the television. When you crank the handle, the colored tiles on the edge of the track alert the Mario figure to what’s happened on the “screen” and he’s supposed to play the proper sound. If Mario stomps an enemy it should make that “pop” sound or if he hits a question mark block that unmistakable sound of a mushroom rising up will play. I can’t attest to how well this works as I don’t have that set. It’s presently sold out on Lego’s website and sold out everywhere I’ve noticed locally. Even if it weren’t, the set retails for $60 and I’m not paying that just to get a Mario figure. My hope is Lego will eventually make him available separately, which seems likely considering the aisles at my local Targets are littered with expansion sets useless to anyone who can’t get the starter set, but that probably won’t come until after Christmas.
Since I lacked a little Mario that plays music, I substituted him for the 2020 Hallmark NES ornament which plays sounds from the game. My kids didn’t notice the sounds didn’t sync with the TV and didn’t care as one would turn the handle and the other would hold the Lego NES controller and pretend to play. The console doesn’t physically hook-up to the television, you’re just supposed to place it nearby to complete the look. And this works fine. If the TV didn’t have the image built onto it you could probably fool someone from a distance as Lego really nailed that old school look of a television. And the NES is also quite convincing, especially to people who haven’t looked at a proper console in 30 years.
I am quite tickled by how this set turned out. It was a really fun build, even with the tedious portions of the TV, and was rather frustration-free at that. I love the look and functionality of both the TV and NES. When I first saw this set, and how much it cost, I was a bit grumpy they included the TV as a lone NES would have been much cheaper, I’d wager. However, now that I have it built I’m a little torn on what part is my favorite. The TV is so well crafted and so fun to play with that I can’t imagine the set without it. I’m even curious if Lego will do more with this design. While I have little desire at the moment to build another track, I’d probably have to consider it if Lego released additional games for this thing. Side-scrolling Zelda, or maybe Lego would challenge itself with a vertical scroller? And then there’s the Mario sequels or Duck Hunt with Zapper. I’m not expecting any of that, but it also wouldn’t shock me to see it happen. By itself, this set is a blast for nostalgia junkies like myself. If you can get your hands on it (it’s currently sold out, but it will be back) I wholeheartedly recommend picking it up.
Toy collecting is something that will probably always appeal to me. I just love getting a new toy, even as an adult even though I basically pose it and forget it. It’s just one of those things that makes me happy, so I don’t question it. It can be an expensive hobby though, so I try to stay in my lane, so to speak. For the past few years I’ve largely just stuck with collecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bucky O’Hare. Then 2020 came and COVID forced everyone to stay home. I even found myself saving money as a result since my family and I couldn’t go anywhere and working from home meant I was saving money that was normally spent commuting to and from work. As a result, I’ve found myself behaving in a less disciplined manner when it comes to my hobby, which is why 2020 is now the year I’ve decided to expand upon my Dragon Ball collection!
A couple of years ago, I came across some S.H. Figuarts products in a local GameStop. I had never seen this line in person and I felt compelled to grab a Vegeta and soon after a Kid Goku. I’ve enjoyed Dragon Ball since I was a teen, first falling for Dragon Ball Z before discovering the series that preceded it. As a teen, I definitely strayed towards DBZ, but now I find I prefer the more whimsical Dragon Ball. As a result of my positive experience with the Kid Goku action figure I almost immediately wanted to add more, but these toys tend to run a bit high when it comes to cost. Because of that, I pushed it aside and mostly hoped to catch a sale eventually. I especially hoped to see Master Roshi go on sale, the hope being there aren’t as many Dragon Ball fans out there as there are DBZ ones. I never did see him go on sale though, so for the past two years my collection has consisted of one, lonely, figure.
The summer of 2020 has been much kinder to me as far as Dragon Ball toys are concerned. A recent sale has allowed me to expand upon that collection, and up first is Bulma! This is the second S.H. Figuarts of Bulma with the first being based on the artwork in the closing credits of the show where she looks like some Mad Max character. It’s a look that only exists in that one moment, which is odd because that’s the look Irwin chose when it made Dragon Ball toys back in the early 2000s. It was an easy pass for me, but more recently a new Bulma was released. Dubbed Adventure Begins, this is essentially a first appearance Bulma from when she meets Goku and runs him over with her car. She has her pink dress and her blue-green hair is held in a ponytail by a big, red, bow. She even has panties which is a bit pervy, but this is Dragon Ball after all.
Bulma stands at about 5″ in height with an extra half inch if you include her bow. She comes packaged in a nice window box display, as do all Figuarts action figures, and has numerous accessories. The goal of this line is to make a figure that both perfectly captures the source material while also providing for a ton of articulation. This is meant to be an expressive figure capable of capturing the spirit of the character. And Bandai/Tamashii Nations are pretty damn successful at doing just that.
Bulma is packed with articulation, even though she’s not a “fighter” who needs to be capable of getting into and out of numerous, dynamic, poses. Bulma’s head is on a ball-joint capable of full, rotational, movement. She can look down rather well, but not up. Her pony tail is also on a ball-joint so you can do a lot with that if you desire. Bulma’s shoulders are ball-jointed with a swivel joint in there as well for maximum rotation. She can reach forward and back and even over her head. Her bicep has an additional swivel at the sleeve and her elbows are simple hinges. They’re single-jointed but on a wheel so she can achieve the same range of motion a double-jointed elbow can, but that wheel is a bit ugly when her arm is straight. The hands are on ball and sockets and there is a single hinge in each. Bulma has a ball-joint in her mid-torso just below her bust to give her full upper body motion to go along with a waist swivel. Her belt is non-removable, but it’s also not glue down so you can slide it around. The skirt is soft plastic and her panties are even a separate piece of plastic. Bulma has ball-joints at the hips and her thighs can rotate in and out as well. She has single-jointed knees on those wheel joints again, though it’s hidden well from the front. Her ankles can swivel and she has hinges and can rock side-to-side at the ankle.
Bulma’s sculpt is fantastic and really captures the look of the character. She’s a bit slight, but that mixes well with the bigger characters. The paint detail is minimal, but clean. She’s also sturdy and easy to pose and stand. She can even balance on one foot, though it’s a bit tricky. The only thing missing from her articulation is a butterfly joint at the shoulders so she can properly aim the sidearm she comes with. Inserting one probably would have harmed the look of the figure too much, but having her grip her gun with two hands was the only pose I couldn’t quite get to work.
Since this is a Figuarts toy, Bulma comes with a whole bunch of additional hands and other accessories. She comes packaged with fist hands which are really easy to remove. They’re on little pegs and look kind of scary, but they seem rather durable as they’re the same pegs Kid Goku has. Getting another hand on requires some finesse as the peg wants to move on you, but it can be done. Bulma’s additional right hands include: a trigger finger, pointing, cupped hand (for holding a Dragon Ball), open hand with peg hole (for the Dragon Radar), and a hand holding a capsule. For left hands (the non gloved hand) she has a pointing hand and an open hand. The accessories to go with those hands include a Dragon Radar, a 2-star Dragon Ball, a gun, gun holster, and holster with a gun inside it. She comes packaged with the holstered gun on her belt, but it pops off easily and can be replaced with the empty holster. The gun cannot be inserted into the holster, but it’s pretty cool that both were included.
Rounding things out are the extra faceplates. Bulma comes with a smiling expression as her default look and can switch to a more exhuberant happy face and a shocked or scared face. Obviously, the biggest omission is an angry face since Bulma is known for losing her temper, especially with Goku who’s ignorance in those early episodes frustrates her and crosses some boundaries as well. To change her expression you simply pull her hair off, which is really easy to do. The face then pops off as it’s on two, thick, pegs so there’s little chance of anything breaking. Seating a new one is painless and there you go! I like all of the included faces, though I don’t know if I’ll ever pose her with something other than her happy face. The scared face definitely lends itself well to photography and I do plan on snapping more pictures with that one eventually.
When thinking about the important characters of Dragon Ball, Bulma certainly qualifies. Even so, I wasn’t sure that I needed a Bulma since all she is going to do is stand on my shelf, maybe holding her Dragon Radar, and not much else. Now that I have her though I’m very glad I took the plunge. This is a fun figure and she looks great. I’m very happy with the articulation and accessories, and really the only thing missing from this figure is an angry facial expression. It would have been fun to have Bulma perpetually screaming at Goku on my shelf, but in the end I guess she deserves to be happy.
We’re continuing to work our way through the latest offerings from NECA as it pertains to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A lot of collectors are presently going nuts trying to track down the cartoon wave at Target or the movie figures at Walmart, meanwhile anyone wishing to collect the video game line is just sitting back and waiting for the package to arrive. That’s because the video game series, currently consisting solely of figures based on the Konmai classic Turtles in Time, is sold through online retailers and comic/hobby shops and have been available for pre-order since January. Wave 2 just hit in mid-to-late July and should be in the hands of most of the people who ordered them very soon. The wave consists of four figures: Raphael, Michelangelo, Leatherhead, and Shredder. Yours truly isn’t big into this line, but I did place a pre-order for Shredder and he has just arrived.
If you’re not familiar with this line, it’s basically a series consisting mostly of previously released figures with a new, pixelated, paint deco applied. There is some new tooling involved though, so it isn’t all just funny paint. Earlier this year we looked at Slash from the first wave who utilizes the same body as the other turtles, but has an all new and all different headsculpt as well as different pieces on his person. Shredder is not quite that extreme, but he is a bit different from the Shredder we received in the cartoon line. This Shredder is based on the arcade version of Turtles in Time. If you primarily played the home version, then he may seem a little unfamiliar. That’s because the Super Nintendo version of the game replaced the boss fight against this Shredder with one against Super Shredder. I am partial to the Super Shredder fight, but this Shredder caught my eye because he has a wild paint design with a hot pink cape and lots of magenta and purple mixed in. He also has some neat effects pieces that I’ll get to in a bit.
Shredder comes packaged in a window box designed to mimic the old arcade cabinet. All of the figures in this line come in the same style of box with the only difference being the figures on the back. Some online vendors have listed this figure as Super Shredder, but as you can see just by looking at the box, he’s intended to just be Shredder.
If you have the cartoon Shredder, then you should know what to expect articulation wise here. Shredder has ball joints at the head and shoulders, though he doesn’t get a ton of movement out of either because of his cape, helmet, and shoulder pads. His arms can go all the way out, but can’t go up much. He has a swivel in his bicep and double-jointed elbows as well as a cut forearm. His hands rotate and are on hinges as well with in-out movement. He has a cut waist and if there’s any articulation in the main part of his abdomen it’s hard to tell because he has a piece of rubbery plastic serving as his shirt. He has good range of motion at the hips with ball joints and rotational articulation there. He has double-jointed knees and the calves swivel as well. A rarity for this line is the toe articulation as NECA seems to forego that detail frequently.
Where this Shredder differs from the prior one is just in the various armor pieces on his person. He still has a soft goods cape, but now he has fewer spikes on his shoulder pads, gauntlets, and shin guards. He makes up for this in what he does have for spikes are much longer and meaner looking. This is even true of the spikes wrapping around his helmet which are more pronounced as they come off of the back of the helmet. The gauntlets are also overall just bigger than before and the black wraps underneath are gone. He also has these little strips of “metal” at his ankle which is different from the cartoon version. Otherwise though, this is the same figure right down to the hands he comes with.
Shredder comes packed with fists that can pop off and be replaced with either gripping hands or a more open hand. The gripping hands are needed for Shredder’s sword, which is basically a light saber. It’s green and the paint is blended well on the “blade” to give it a glowing look. Why does Shredder have a light saber instead of a traditional sword? I don’t know – it was the 90s and swords just weren’t good enough. His fist hand works best with the fireball attachment he comes with. It’s a yellowish color and it fits over Shredder’s fist to give him a flaming punch effect. It’s a bit tough to wield as it’s not super snug and there’s some weight to it. By far the most interesting accessory is the big, flaming, hand. It clips onto Shredder’s forearm to resemble it shooting forward, as it does in the game. It is of Shredder’s right hand so you’ll probably want to clip it to his right arm, though if you wanted to nothing is stopping you from clipping it to his left. You can combine it with any of the hands, though I think it looks best with the open hand.
The other difference I notice between this Shredder and the past one is in the constitution of the plastic. This Shredder has a far more rubbery texture to him, which is something I’m noticing with the new figures in the cartoon line. I’m not sure if NECA has made a change, but the result gives the figure a less confident feel. He doesn’t stand as well as the cartoon Shredder as the more rubbery plastic causes him to bend and curve ever so slightly making him easy to topple even when using a NECA stand. On the plus side, none of the joints were stuck out of the box so maybe that’s the trade-off with this mix. The plastic used for the flaming hand is a much harder plastic, which is good because if it were soft then it would probably start to droop. It is a bit heavy though and the shoulder joint can’t sustain it fully. I set him up shooting his hand forward on my shelf and after an hour his arm had dropped until the hand was resting on my SDCC Hot Wheels set from last summer. From a quality control standpoint, my Shredder had a little paint slop on some of the spikes, most notably on one of his fists. There’s also a weird seem in the cape by the opening, but for all I know that’s supposed to be that way to maybe bunch it up more. Most of his spikes stayed straight in the package with minimal warp, which can be a problem with old Shred-head.
Shredder is a repaint of an already good action figure that’s true to the source material. I do love that flying hand accessory as well as all of the colors on this guy. I’m less sold on the pixel effect, especially with this figure because the cape is a flat color. He does ditch the cape in the game prior to the fight, so maybe that’s why NECA didn’t pay it much attention. It’s a bit surprising they even included it, but he does look cooler with it on. Since this is only my second figure from this line, I just have him kind of hanging out off to the side with my cartoon figures. Maybe some day I’ll go back and get more of these figures. I do prefer the video game Leatherhead to the cartoon one, and NECA showed off an early sculpt of a Baxter Stockman that will be the first all new sculpt for this line and one I’ll definitely get. As it stands, this figure is a touch underwhelming, but it’s also a little hard to get real excited for a Shredder repaint when so many other exciting figures are hitting retail right now. I don’t regret picking him up, and I think I’ll like him more when he has some more “friends” to play with.
This summer has been a very TMNT kind of summer around here. It’s getting to the point where I might have as many posts about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as I do Glenn Danzig music. Well, this is the rare post to feature both.
When Mirage Studios started to gain recognition thanks to the success of the TMNT comic book, founders Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman needed to hire more staff in order to churn out material in a reasonable amount of time. One of those hired was artist Eric Talbot, a former classmate of Eastman’s and apparently a fan of rock, metal, and punk music. One of Talbot’s earliest assignments was composing short stories for supplemental books and reprints of the original run of comics, which is how we ended up with the story “Ghouls Night Out.”
“Ghouls Night Out” was included in the reprint of issue #5 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles printed in November of 1987. This is actually a pretty noteworthy issue of TMNT as it contains a special announcement in the middle of the story which officially blows the lid on the licensing deal Laird and Eastman had made with Mark Freedman. Included in the announcement are details about Playmates toys and its first wave of TMNT action figures due out in 1988 as well as the announcement of the animated mini series which was set to premiere the following month. This was the first time fans of the property were introduced to Bebop and Rocksteady and read the name Krang. There’s even a double page ad that follows with the inaugural lineup of turtle toys. Pretty cool!
“Ghouls Night Out” follows the main story and is eight pages of mostly art. In it, a turtle (most fans seem to assume it’s Donatello because he carries a spear at one point, but it could be any of the four) is patrolling a grave yard at night when monsters soon descend upon him. He’s forced to run for his life from the zombies, Frankenstein’s monster, a wolfman, Nosferatu, and others. Most of the Universal Monsters basically get to make an appearance. The story ends when the turtle wakes up in April’s apartment having fallen asleep watching a monster movie marathon on television.
The story is pretty simple, but what drives it is the artwork. The cloaked turtle, wicked monsters, and ghoulish scenery are what sells Talbot’s story. What attracted me to it though was the obvious connection to The Misfits, one of my all-time favorite bands. The title is a reference to the song of the same name, and the very first page features a message on a tombstone thanking The Misfits with the year of the band’s demise also present. Above the title is a row of tombstones which feature arguably the most popular lineup for the band: Jerry Only, Robo, Doyle, and Danzig.
The following pages contain other references as well. The band Metallica can be found on some headstones on page 2 as well as the entire staff of Mirage Studios. And for good measure, some other artists that likely influenced Talbot, such as Frank Frazetta, are tossed in as well. It’s a story that’s supposed to be spooky, but it’s almost cute due to all of the shout-outs Talbot included. I also really dig his turtle design and if anyone at NECA is reading how about an action figure of this cloaked, spear-wielding, mutant? NECA even has a licensing agreement with The Misfits so might as well work in that tombstone too!
This is an interesting little nugget of TMNT history and a fun find for a Misfits/Danzig fan such as myself. I’ve seen other versions of the headstone image online with The Misfits removed and replaced by Glenn Danzig. I don’t know if Talbot redid the art at some point or if a fan did that. It’s pretty cool that this thing exists and it’s another piece of my Misfits/Danzig/TMNT collection.
Awhile back, I decided to rank the various incarnations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from worst to best. Occupying that dubious last place spot were the Turtles featured in The Coming Out of Their Shells tour. That may sound like the title of a TMNT sex tape, but it was something else entirely. If you weren’t around in 1990, that was the height of Turtle-mania. The movie had just come out, the cartoon was into its third and biggest season yet, Playmates was putting out new toys and play sets left and right, it was insane! And to add to it, was a ridiculous stage show where actors would come out in TMNT costumes, dance around, mime playing instruments, while a recording played over the loudspeakers. These guys went all over the country with this show which featured some Broadway elements, I suppose, as it was kind of like a play and not just a concert. There were some pre-recorded segments which would play during costume changes and a bunch of this material even made it to VHS. The soundtrack was sold on cassette and CD while virtually everyone who cared about TMNT in 1990 would be exposed to the classic tune “Pizza Power” via Konami’s Turtles in Time video game.
Now I am not backing down from my ranking. Those costumes are kind of scary. The Turtles have these big, crocodile, maws that flap around with little nuance while their eyes look ready to pop out of their heads. Below the head the costumes are mostly fine as they’re basically rubber suits not unlike what we saw in the films, only a little worse. The performers found it too difficult to run around in shells though, so those were quickly dropped from the costumes and replaced with denim vests. Definitely the weirdest part of the whole thing were the sneakers and leg warmers. Ninja Turtles running around in sneakers just looks weird, especially because their feet are normally quite large, but when you put sneakers on an actor you end up with something much smaller. And while it’s fine if you liked the music back when you were 6, few would try to argue that it’s any good. It’s simple, lousy, pop music. And while “Pizza Power” is a bit of an earworm, I would hesitate to actually call it good.
San Diego Comic Con 2020 couldn’t happen this year, as expected. Did that stop NECA from doing a set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures as a convention exclusive? No! That’s how we ended up with this delightful abomination: The Musical Mutagen Tour. Coming Out of Their Shells must have had some interesting rights issues thus necessitating a change in title, but these figures very much are based on that tour. NECA made this set, along with an accompanying swag pack, available via Target since there was no convention. International purchases were also made available at NECA’s online store. I was able to secure a set via Target’s website sale, which sold out of them pretty quickly. Not “seconds” quickly like the cartoon stuff, but definitely “minutes.” It just showed up around me last Friday at brick and mortar and appeared to sell out fast. I was checking Target in the morning and later in the day and it arrived in between visits. The only thing left behind was an empty shelf and the t-shirt box, which appeared to be XL only at the two Targets I frequent.
When it comes to convention exclusives, companies usually like to do something fun or off the wall. Usually these end up being simple variants, but with NECA and its TMNT product it had been more essential than the garden variety con-exclusive. That’s because the license for TMNT made it either impossible, or just plain difficult, to sell action figures at retail. Well, with those restrictions lifting in recent years it’s allowed NECA to do something downright goofy this year. And that’s what a con exclusive should do. These aren’t the easiest, or cheapest, things in the world to get, but they’re also not supposed to be the type of set that everyone needs, let alone even wants. And for these particular Turtles, this is probably a set not everyone wants because as I said these are the worst Ninja Turtles ever. I am a sucker for the stupid and goofy though when it comes to toys, so while I did have to give this one more thought than I had in years past, I still ultimately decided that I wanted this thing. Did I make the right call?
This set comes with a slip-cover over the box. The outer cover has some nice artwork on the front and the reverse has a faux tracklist and a Raphael mask to cut out (which I assume no one will). Slide that sucker off and you have a box that resembles touring equipment. There’s some fun graphics on it and from a distance it looks like a legit case you’d find an amp in or something. It has a window flap on the front held down by tape, cut that sucker and two flaps fold out to reveal the figures inside. The box is meant to resemble a stage and it does a good job of it, though the material is a bit too thin for it to work as a true display piece without a little work. The figures are seated in a plastic bubble which lifts out so the backdrop isn’t marred at all.
This set includes all four of the Turtles and each should feel pretty familiar for NECA collectors. The bodies of each figure are almost identical to NECA’s movie line of TMNT figures with the only differences being the shell and head. The feet are obviously different because they have sneakers now, and they look just as ridiculous in 2020 as they did in 1990. The switch from bare feet to shoes seems to have added a little height to the figures as well. There are soft goods leg warmers in place above the feet and draped over each figure is a denim vest. Each turtle has a different logo associated with them and each jacket features the tour poster graphic on the back as well as that turtle’s name. The vest can be removed pretty painlessly exposing the shell underneath if you don’t like that look, but I for one find this little piece of fabric incredibly charming. The only other change is in the various pads and belts which are all different to match the old stage show. There’s little tassels and such done in plastic, but it’s not super rigid so you don’t have to worry too much about breaking anything. The articulation is the same as the movie figures.
The biggest change lies in that head. Oh boy, is that thing ugly! And intentionally so as these guys look just like their tour counterparts. Each head is essentially the same just with a different colored mask, as the actual costumes were back in the day. Each turtle has a headset glued to their cranium which can be forcibly removed if you want, but would leave behind a garish hole in the side of the figure’s head. There’s a wire coming down from that headset that doesn’t connect to anything, but it’s bendy so you can kind of do whatever you want with it for your display. By far, the coolest thing about these headsculpts is the hinged jaw. Opening these things up just adds a level of horror to them that brings back some memories. The hinge is also well-hidden so that when their mouths are closed it’s almost hard to tell they can even open. It’s a cool feature, and I’m curious if NECA will attempt this with other movie figures, like maybe Secret of the Ooze versions?
Each turtle comes with his own instrument and hands designed to play said instrument. Leo and Mike have guitar-shaped instruments. I say “guitar-shaped” because the string count on each is irregular so neither resembles a proper instrument, but on stage Mike “played” guitar and Leo bass. Donatello has a keytar, which is fantastic, and Raph has some sort of electronic beat machine. Raph also has a second instrument, a green saxophone, as he played that on the VHS release. Of course, nothing is stopping you from switching the instruments around as they work with all of the figures. There are optional hands you can switch in and out if you desire. There’s two sets of wide open hands which are unique to this set and two sets of thumbs up hands which always come in handy during a performance. On the figures, Donnie has pointing hands, Leo loose gripping hands, Mikey tighter gripping hands, and Raph has loose open hands.
NECA did opt to include a few other accessories. You may recall some of the Turtles wearing “eye bling” on some of the promotional material for the show and those are here as well. Leo has this Star Trek-like thing and Mikey has an actual star. Each is included and can fit over the eye of any figure, they simply pop on or off, adding a little extra sparkle. During the original show, the Turtles would also toss these foam, disc, pizzas around and one such pizza is included. It’s appropriately awful looking and is made of a really squishy, pliable, plastic that works well as a foam substitute.
If you’re a stickler for likeness, then you might note that there are some things missing. On the actual figures, the stage versions all wore shirts tied around their waste. It basically amounted to a colorful strip of fabric, but none of the turtles are sporting that here. They also had microphones and stands during the actual production. I know, it makes no sense since they’re all wearing headsets. They wore those during the show too. There was little attempt to make the production look realistic since it was meant to amuse six-year-olds, though I am tempted to see if I can track down some mini microphone stands for my display.
If you were interested in making this set even more “special,” NECA also released an accompanying swag pack. The figure set retails for $125 and the swag adds an extra $25 to the price tag. It’s definitely not essential, but I ended up with one simply because the online order forced it upon me. For what it is, it’s fine. Inside the box is a t-shirt of the box art with “tour dates” on the back corresponding with San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con (which technically hasn’t been cancelled yet, but most assume a cancellation is coming). Also included is a backstage pass lanyard, a concert ticket (courtesy of that famous pizzeria, Pizza Roof), and a set of guitar picks. It’s cute, and kind of excessive, but if you’re a completist then you’ll likely feel compelled to grab both if the opportunity presents itself. If your set came from Target’s website, like mine did, then you won’t get the box the stuff comes in. They just stuff it in the shipping box, which is fine.
NECA’s Musical Mutagen Tour set is a comic-con exclusive done right. It’s goofy, silly, yet strangely endearing. NECA managed to perfectly capture the ugliness of those old costumes as well as the spectacle of the stage show. Whether you have good memories or bad of these guys, this set still manages to tickle the nostalgia bone and it’s just a riot to look at. I love the grandeur of it with the stage backdrop, the detailed instruments, the denim vests, it makes me want to put “Pizza Power” on repeat as part of the display. I suspect anyone who has the Arcade 1-Up Turtles in Time cabinet will probably set that thing to attract mode and try to find a space to display these figures alongside it. Had I gone for one of those it’s something I’d definitely be looking to do. And the good news is, that unlike most of NECA’s TMNT stuff, this isn’t something that should appeal to everyone. If it’s something that is for you though, then you’ll be happy to have it and hopefully you won’t have to go nuts trying to find it.
Something that is likely common to most of humanity is a desire to be successful. We all measure success differently, be it professional, financial, or something else, but we all strive for it. And sometimes success can feel like a burden. Take NECA’s line of action figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Since these toys hit retail over a year ago they’ve been a challenge to get hold of. Exclusive arrangements with big box retailers, who definitely do not specialize in collectible toys, can make simply tracking them down difficult. And when anything is hot, it attracts the attention of re-sellers, or scalpers, as they are often referred to as. With unemployment at record highs, the temptation to make a quick buck off of a toy might be even more tempting than it normally would be. Collectors who simply want a hunk of plastic that resembles a cartoon they watched 30 years ago are forced to fight a system not designed for them in addition to the scalpers, bots, and other collectors. Not to mention a global pandemic.
As such, tempers have been running a bit hot lately on social media. Follow NECA on Twitter and likely any tweet will be met with a reply, usually several replies, about folks complaining about their inability to find TMNT product. The most cheeky and overused response is usually something like “Check out this eBay exclusive!” but sometimes things can get downright abusive. NECA’s Creative Director, Randy Falk, even went on the Pixel Dan show recently just to talk about TMNT and the difficulties in getting product to fans. It’s one part rant, one part informational, with a little room for announcements and optimism towards the end (and I encourage you to check it out if you have any interest in NECA’s Tokka and Rahzar set). It has become a rather insane situation, and collectors come out looking the worse for it based on the reactions of a few, but NECA is at least acknowledging that some change is needed so hopefully things can improve.
One way to combat this scarcity is simply to buddy-up! I have had no luck finding the newly released Target exclusives in my area, but a fellow collector out in Illinois has hooked me up with one of the releases: the Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier Two-Pack. This two-pack is the first two-pack in Wave 3 of NECA’s line of figures based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series from 1987. In an attempt to get more product on shelves, NECA has opted to release this wave in a staggered fashion. This Casey two-pack arrived first alongside the single figure release of Metalhead. Later this week, the second two-pack is scheduled to start rolling out and the third will follow two weeks later. That next two-pack might be even more hard to get as it features the villainous duo of Slash and Leatherhead. This third will feature April O’Neil and a “bashed” Foot Soldier. Fans in the UK had the whole wave dropped all at once so you may see fans from across the pond with all three sets already. What hasn’t been clarified is if Metalhead will continue to ship with the other two-packs. I sure hope so, because he’s been difficult to find with most stores apparently only receiving two per shipment. As a result, he is going for roughly triple the MSRP on eBay at the moment, which is a shame because he looks like a contender for toy of the year and one that deserves to be in the hands of collectors as opposed to scalpers.
This two-pack marks the second such two-pack headlined by Casey Jones this summer, the first being the movie version of Casey Jones with Raphael in disguise. It’s kind of amusing that both versions of Casey have arrived bundled with a variant of a previously released figure, but maybe that speaks to the popularity of the Casey Jones character that NECA thinks he can carry a two-pack with a variant alongside him. Casey Jones is definitely one of the most memorable allies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the old show and action figure line. He had a strong presence in the comics and obviously the first film. The hockey mask look is striking, and in the cartoon he was voiced by Pat Fraley doing an obvious Dirty Harry impersonation. He only appeared in five episodes and was basically just some crazed vigilante whom the Turtles had to hold in check, but he definitely left an impression. He didn’t form any real personal connections with anyone which is a distinction between this Casey and the others.
NECA’s action figure of Casey is based off of his first appearance in the show. His costume and weapons are quite screen accurate as he has the cut-off shirt and sweatpants look. He carries a golf bag over one shoulder that you have to pop the head off of the figure to slip on and the bag can hold all of his included weapons. He stands a little over six inches making him taller than the Turtles, but shorter than the villains. He is fully articulated,as one would expect, with articulation in the following places: ball-jointed neck, ball-jointed shoulders, bicep swivel, double-jointed elbows, wrist swivel, waist swivel, ball-jointed diaphragm, ball-jointed legs, double-jointed knees, and ankle joints on a hinge with some pivot motion from side to side. This is fairly standard of NECA which tries to avoid things like cut thighs and ab crunches so as not to take away from the look of the figure. The only consistent complaint I see for this figures is the lack of hinges in the wrist area that allow the hands to move in four directions as opposed to just in and out.
The sculpt work on Casey is pretty damn fantastic. He looks like he’s pulled right from the show. NECA did a great job adding subtle detail to the mask, which is non-removable as he never took it off in the old cartoon, to really allow the character’s personality to shine through. He’s also a rather fit dude, but the sculpt doesn’t go overboard with the muscles. A lot of Casey’s attire is done with a separate piece of soft plastic which gives the figure a nice feel and texture. The little strings on his sweatpants are in this soft plastic so they have some play as is his shirt and shoulder pad. The pliability of the plastic allows for some movement in the diaphragm area, though the shirt does hinder it as well. The shoulder pad also limits some of the range of motion on his left arm. The only articulation I personally miss is a butterfly joint in the shoulder area which would have allowed him to do more forceful looking, two-handed, weapon swings. My figure was quite loose and ready to rock out of the box, so no heat was needed to get things working. His elbow and knee hinges though have a very rubbery feel to them. I worry about durability down the line. Hopefully my fears are unfounded.
The paint job should seem familiar to fans of this line. You either like it or don’t when it comes to NECA’s shading. They apply a darker shade of paint to the backside of their figures to mimic the shading from the show. Sometimes this looks fine, and sometimes it comes across as overdone. With Casey, I think it mostly works on his clothing, but looks a bit silly on his arms. Natural lighting should take care of this without the need for the added paint, but it appears this tactic is here to stay at this point. The paint itself though is rather cleanly applied with little slop. NECA did a great job matching the plastic arms to the paint on the exposed knees. NECA also likes to use a lot of black lines to give the figures added pop. I’ve seen some complaints of this online, but it’s something I’m a fan of.
The only area I see for criticism is just in the amount of paint and choice of plastic. There’s a lot of paint on this guy and I worry about it flaking off down the road. It’s already an issue on the ankle joints and wrist hinges where NECA used a flesh-toned plastic and then painted green to match the boots and brown for the gloves. This paint has a tendency to flake off (or the entire hinge was never painted to begin with) leaving an exposed area of flesh tone in the middle of the boot and at the base of the glove. Casey’s wristbands do hide the hinge on the hand fairly well, so it’s more of an issue with the boot. NECA would do well to have the factory match the color of the foot with the plastic rather than paint in future releases. The paint also has a tendency to rub off when it comes to the hands. This is particularly an issue on the bone-white hockey stick which already has a brown smudge from inserting and removing it into Casey’s hands.
Casey is known for having a small arsenal on his person at all times, and NECA doesn’t disappoint here. In addition to the golf bag he uses for storage, Casey has the following weapons: a hockey stick, a goalie stick, a baseball bat, a metal bat-like rod, and a mallet. All feature a lot of black linework giving them a real toon appearance. I think my favorite is the traditional hockey stick, but that mallet is certainly fearsome looking. In addition to the weapons, he also has a few extra hands. He comes packaged with closed fists for when weapons aren’t needed and has a set of gripping hands. He also has an optional right hand with a pointing gesture, and a left hand giving a thumb’s up. The gripping hands seem to work just fine with all of the accessories. Some probably wished for an open hand or double thumb’s up hands, but this allotment certainly gets the job done.
And of course, Casey is not alone! Joining him in this two-pack is the Slashed Foot Soldier. Initially, many fans simply assumed that Casey and April would be packed together since they were first unveiled side-by-side and the two characters have an established relationship outside of the cartoon universe. That didn’t come to pass though and instead both come with a battle damaged Foot Soldier. I was initially disappointed with this development as I’m not the army builder type, but I will say this particular Foot Soldier is pretty cool.
The majority of the figure is the same as the previously released Foot Soldier. The only difference is in the torso which features the battle damage. The clothing has been ripped away exposing some of the robotic parts inside. All of this is sculpted really well and you can see where parts were severed and intended to match up and so forth. There’s one thick wire that’s still connected and it holds the two halves together. It’s bendable, though coated with plastic so you will want to go easy with it to avoid cracking that plastic coating. This allows the figure to be displayed as he’s in the process of being torn in half. He could be doubled-over, in mid-slash, or even pulled apart entirely. It’s a very descriptive figure and one toy photographers might actually want multiples of. It wouldn’t shock me if down the road we get a refresher wave that bundles the two battle-damaged Foot together if there’s a demand for it, and maybe then Casey and April will be bundled together as well.
The Foot looks great and his battle damage is quite possibly the best application of that concept I’ve ever seen. He also comes with accessories though so he’s more than just a prop. He has the same hands and rifle as the previously released Foot, plus he has a new, more bulbous, gun that undoubtedly showed up in the show at some point. He also has the same communicator released with several figures previously, only this one has a sticker of Rocksteady on it. If you’ve been collecting everything, that means you should have a communicator with Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady now which is a fun little touch.
The Casey Jones and Slashed Foot two-pack is a worthy addition to NECA’s cartoon line of TMNT product. Casey is a fan-favorite and I think fans will be very pleased with how he turned out. While the Slashed Foot may not be something fans were crying out for, it’s a fun, gimmicky, figure that works well in a display especially considering he comes with a figure who’s a big fan of slashing, as is. There will be a handful only interested in Casey, but I’m sure if that’s the case they won’t have much trouble unloading this extra figure considering how in-demand this line is. This set is sold exclusively at Target in the US and at various specialty shops outside of the country. Since NECA stocks its own product at these stores they won’t show up on the website or on inventory tracking sites like Brick Seek except for under rare circumstances so get out there, make some phone calls, and good luck!
I need to send out a special “Thanks” to the fellow poster over at thefwoosh.com for hooking me up with this figure at cost. Without him, I may have never encountered it in the wild. And that’s the thing I want to stress in this review – help each other out! If you’re a collector, get onto social media or a forum and find fellow collectors that can help you and that you can in turn help out. I see too many selfish collectors who buy up stock with the intention of keeping one for them and flipping the others to in effect “pay” for the one they kept. That’s just using the rest of the collecting community to fund your hobby and it’s a dick move. So if you happen upon these things don’t be shy about buying two and selling one at cost to a collector in need. Some don’t live near a Target, or might be immunocompromised and shouldn’t be out in public places right now. If there’s another collector at the store then by all means don’t take one out of their hands, but we should do what we can to try and make sure these don’t fall into the hands of scalpers. And it should go without saying, but don’t buy from scalpers. If people weren’t paying 80 bucks on eBay for this set, then no one would bother trying to sell them. It’s tough out there, but you don’t have to go it alone.