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Monday, May 28, 2012

Signing off on Memorial Day weekend

Was planning on a lengthy piece on the Reissue Skywarp I received on Friday but after spending the day at the parents house and spending the morning completely cleaning my office, I'm beat.  I'll just end today with a little pic I posted on facebook in honor of those in service of our country both living and passed on.   Hope you all had a great holiday.   Btw, if you want to read a serious and well written piece on memorial day, hop over to AEIOU and sometimes Why's blog.
Remember those who fell in service of their country today and all days after

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Legos and Star Wars and Lego Star Wars

Hey folks! Just got back from my day with the wife visiting friends and in-laws, eating ribs and driving in a torrential downpour home.  Just want to get a second post off for this Memorial Day weekend triumvirate.  Tonight, I'm thinking Legos and Star Wars.   Nothing fancy.  They both were absolute mainstays of my young to early teen years and have just recently received more firm attention since college and teaching in various schools.

When we moved into the bigger digs, one of the first things I did in my office/toy room was reconstruct all of my old Lego sets which, until then, were all combined in a giant storage tub.  It was seemingly an impossible task until I discovered a ton of original packaging along with all of my instruction booklets in my attic during my epic month long attic clean out at my parents' house.  Building the castles and various playsets were relatively easy but the challenge was in getting the small vehicles and accessories back together.   One that especially stood out was this guy; the Dungeon Hunters released in 1990. 

This was part of the Crusaders Castle System line ranging from 1984 to 1992 and was one of many carriage designs and actually very similar to the "Prisoner Convoy" set that came out a few years prior.  This, in my opinion, was when Lego was at its zenith.   Each of these sets were extremely resourceful and produced with a level of creativity that could not be matched.  (the new sets look cool but they are so specifically built for their main purpose it seems...The newer "Knights" sets, beautiful as they are, I find leave little to the imagination)  Lego always had a great place in my heart from my early years and I remember it being everywhere...even in checkout lines from any chain store, there'd be a little mini sets in a bag for like 1.99 featuring race cars, rafts, catapults and abundantly cool minifigs included.  Although I sold off all of my bigger sets, the smaller guys are all around my shelves and even in my wife's office.   Side Note: She absolutely forbade me to sell any of the pirate sets.

I loved the caged look to it, the ability to house prisoners, the harness... it was just so neat.  It also included a forestmen prisoner, a mounted knight in really cool armor and helm and a carriage driver so you could have a little battle between sides if you felt the need.   I remember the prison carriage being an important get for me because I was so psyched to use this to recreate Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves scenes (you know, the one with the wagon ambush...yeah, I know...shut up)  Anyways, here's a few more angles.

Eat your heart out Errol Flynn

There's the only "townsfolk" produced for the Castle line for my entire time with the series.
What started as castles, pirates and spaceships eventually discovered movie licenses and we were graced with Star Wars...  and Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean, and Batman, and Spongebob, and  Lord of the Rings, and  Minecraft, and  Requiem for a Dream...wait...forget that last one. Lego is seemingly a bottomless cash cow of liscensing opportunites to be sold to countless eager minds wanting to experience their favorite story in Lego form.  I only have a few original trilogy minifigs but here's my little contribution for you readers.  Not much at all but...

"Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?"
Told you it wasn't much.

Speaking of Star Wars, I wanted to show off two somewhat decent "Customs" I have or had in my possession.  First up was one not produced by myself.  It was a Hoth Trooper in Outdoors Battle Gear that my uncle Brian made and gave me when I was 7.  I believe he modeled the figure off this pretty common production still which was also used as his original cardback.  His retail model matched that of an echo base trooper which Hasbro fixed in the Vintage Collection by releasing both the Outdoor trooper (found in the ESB 3 pack with Leia and FX-7  as well as a newer carded Echo Base Soldier. (good luck finding that guy btw)

Not the same guy!
Not a bad match up to the pic,  I dug how he detailed the leggings, wrist communicator and antennae piece.

Also, I have one I made and was a figure as of yet never produced.  Take a hint Hasbro, you made (and remade and are remaking) figures like Prune Face whom we only see from behind for a split second yet you leave this guy untouched?  It's none other than the Imperial Security Bureau officer or (ISB officer).  These were the guys in white officer uniforms walking around the Death Star in A New Hope and you even see a higher up sitting in the officer's briefing with Grand Moff Tarkin and Vader (The officer's name was Colonel Wullf Yularen) and I am aware he was released in the Death Star Briefing Room Box Set but that still doesn't cut the mustard for me.  I can understand Kenner leaving him out (although I did find it bizarre they never made an Imperial Officer in green which could have been a super easy repaint and quite relevant since they are all over ESB and ROTJ... I mean, seriously Kenner, you make two Bespin Guards but not Ozzel, Needa, Piett or Jejerrod?)

Where do I know him from?
 I always thought these guys were super cool and always associated them with Navy (I guess "Navy whites") even though pretty much everyone we see from the Empire is Navy except the walker drivers and General Veers. Actually, their backstory goes way more sinister and they pretty much served as the Gestappo of the Empire, going into deep cover on Imperial assignments to sniff out traitors and report treasonous  activity.  (Pretty heavy stuff for a couple of guys who walked past a few scenes...still better made up backstory than any real "front"stories of 99% of the prequel characters)  I did what I could with him and tried to detail the rank as best I could. 

Oh, that's right!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mutants and Aliens and Toads Beware!!!

Happy Memorial day weekend folks! It's time for a mid holiday break review and random prattling on from the man who stares at toys!   I'm going to put out a few sequential posts and make this into a melange of a few ideas I've been meaning to do over the last few weeks and just bunch it up so feel free to scroll through and see if anything tickles your fancy.  More will be coming very soon from now to Monday so stay tuned!

First up, I want to show off some very neat finds I've managed to score for a steal on ebay over the past few weekends.  It's some Bucky O'Hare action figures I found on the cardbacks and about three bucks each and boy are they purdy.  I'm not really trying to get into any new toy lines but I've always been checking about for this toyline ever since I re-discovered the power of on-line auction sites.  This is a line I always liked as a kid but was around just too short to get into.  Based on the comic of the same name, it debuted in 1991 and only lasted 13 episodes.  I remember catching an episode or two and really liking it but honestly can't even remember if it was on during weekdays or weekends. (I'm guessing Saturday mornings) I remember the toads seeming like such creepers on the show and the whole concept was something I immediately thought of when I popped Star Fox into my SNES years later. Even now looking at the toy commercials, it still makes me want to "collect em all!" haha. 

Ninja Turtles and Nintendo games were my thing (as well as Ghostbusters and Legos) so my parents were very adamant about me not moving into other toy lines and thus the only way I ended up with anything besides these franchises was through relatives getting me randoms here and there like one year when I scored a mess of cool Kenner Beetlejuice figures for my birthday.  Here's the few I could find before selling them off  to some lucky chap to bulk up the Joe collection.

"Attention, K-Mart Shoppers!"

Anyway, this wasn't the case for Bucky O'Hare who's designs I loved (along with the Dick Tracy line)  They were clad in super colorful packaging and figure design that came in almost a comic book format.  I found them very similar to the Playmates TMNT line in many respects and until this year always thought Playmates, not Hasbro, produced this line.  This toy line unfortunately came to a screeching halt with the lack of popularity in the series and overstocking of the Toad Air Marshall figure causing low sales numbers and a discontinuation of the line (which already had a wave two in production).  Bummer.

What we have here is Bucky O' Hare, Commander Dogstar and Storm Toad Trooper. 

Above is the commander in his nicely illustrated packaging, way to ring in the 90's!
(sorry bout the flash)

Here's commandeer Dogstar (can you believe him and the Toad Trooper were priced down to 3.99?
Hasbro, you could have mass-released this guy and it woulda been fine!  Why can't you release figures in a sane fashion ever???...still waiting to see a Law and Order or a Gamorrean Guard grace a store shelf this year btw. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

League Assignment - Great Scott!!!

This week’s league topic:
Take a peek at a fictional character’s social media account. What would his or her Twitter feed or Facebook page look like?

God almighty!  Although I wrote this on Wednesday night, it took me til now to figure out how to grab this page as a pic and post it in a remotely readable format!  Hell or high water, I managed to do it.  Even now it's a little too big for the blogger size but screw it.  I decided to look into the feed of America's best time traveler...no, not Donnie Darko.  Just take a look, it's pretty heavy.

Reis O'Brien at the Horde could pull the ears off a Gundark.

Rob Skellington better run like hell from that Crimson Head!

I think Memories of Toymorrow has something to say about Kilroy?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Defense of Cobra Island: Modern to Vintage Review and Comparison

My posts with the league have been giving my mind a workout and I've been having some great fun but I think it's high time I get a review done. So it wouldn't be anything worth noting if it was any one figure or one vehicle so instead I'm doing a boxed set of 7 figures!!! But wait, there's more! I’m also incorporating comparisons of the set's modern renditions to their vintage counterparts.... 14 figures in total with some extras as well!

Cobra's Finest!

What I'm talking about is the Defense of Cobra Island boxed set from Hasbro which was released as part of the G.I. Joe 25th anniversary wave collection in 2008. This is the second set of the 2 part set originally constituting 14 figures; 7 Joe - 7 Cobra. I lucked out and got two of the Cobra sets for Christmas (thanks Amazon wish list!) I clearly wanted the Cobra edition not only because Cobra is just all the more superior design-wise but that this set included a trove of super sought after redux editions of classic not so mainstream Cobra troopers.
In all honesty, it is a great set but I can't say this isn't without some nitpicks...hence the need for comparisons and a review. I try to keep these reviews objective and don't want everything to just be "I love this Speeder Bike; I love that Rattler, etc."

Decent illustrations but I felt it needed something more...
I just gotta say the box art is so-so.... There actually really isn't any to speak of besides the kind of generic jungle/beach background behind the figures. The back of the box has copies of the characters file card illustrations with a little write up about Cobra Island...eh. Although I like that they are new illustrations and not recylced from the vintage set.  This is the common case with the 25th anniversary collection... The Rattler, Flight Pod, RAM, HISS all seem to have this issue with the clear window on the front showing the toy instead of an illustration. (The Sky Striker was different possibly because it was a Pursuit of Cobra line model however that illustration left much to be desired...as with Ace's remodeled body, lack of two seats and parachutes) I definitely would prefer the illustration considering the 25th anniversary’s primary existence is to reignite nostalgia value for us who collected as kids or are trying to pick up some of those sought after items we might have missed in our youth. The over the top, excellently drawn box art was a hallmark of GI Joe packaging and it's a shame it wasn't utilized here especially with a chance to have so many great Cobra troopers together.

The set consists of the following figures; Dr. Mindbender, Strato Viper (Air Viper), Lampreys, Range Viper, Battle Android Trooper (B.A.T.) with battle damage, Night Creeper, and Alley Viper.

We'll start with Dr. Mindbender. I actually had him as a kid with no accessories or cloak which made a shirtless, purple pant wearing figure never a real deal breaker when it was time to pick your figures for a game of war. His character was a bit so-so for me on the show and in the comics however his role was certainly necessary as a mad doctor for Cobra. His story went something like him being a skilled dentist who tested brainwave anesthetic on himself and drove himself crazy evil. Okay then. The figure is a well made representation on both counts with nice detailing, a fabric cape with metallic silver cobra logo ironed or embroidered on depending on the model and a dental drill weapon(the vintage figure has a tube and generator attached making him extremely awkward to stand much like soldiers with dogs on leashes or scrap iron with his missile launcher) The mold works for this figure and the 25th anniversary has the extra chest poseablity and separately molded shoulder straps and waist harness. Most of the 25th figures took this step to add removable vests, armor, helmets as well as added base plates and increased the size of the figures by a quarter inch.

Strato Viper (they renamed him Air-Viper for whatever reason) is one of my all time favorite figures. He was the first 25th anniversary figure I ever bought back when I was briefly content to have "a few figures on my computer desk" Ha. A big complaint is his the 25th's pistol... it falls out of his hand constantly which is a common problem I find with many of the 25th anniversary figures. Besides the weapon I loved every bit of design about this guy however for time's sake I'll say I already reviewed him at the end of my Night Raven review so follow the bump if your interested in reading my first toy review. . I'll just say he's one of two vehicle drivers packed in this set, the second one is coming up next.

Lamprey was a shocker with this set, I couldn't believe the extra mile they put into such a background figure... honestly, I can't even recall seeing a Lamprey on the show and only remember seeing a little write up on him in the G.I. Joe Order of Battle comic from Marvel. I had him as a kid and never even knew what side he was on as he didn't have a giant Cobra logo splashed on his gear and the silver and blue kind of puzzled me on his uniform design. After discovering YoJoe, pairing him up with his awesome sub-machine gun and getting my hands on a Moray Hydrofoil (I will review this one for sure as it probably is my absolute favorite piece in my collection) I appreciate his vintage figure likeness so much more. For the newfound appreciation I have for his old school version, the new one is mind-blowing.

The tubes and backpack can unhook

Nicely sculpted face under the removable mask
He has a removable facemask which is expertly molded in transparent blue plastic, a fully molded life vest, attachable air tubes and backpack, fully molded gearboxes and diving watch and a functional holster with cover flap and removable pistol!!!! This guy alone is worth grabbing the set. His modern version really makes him seem so much more like a diver and aquatic trooper than the old one which was just pretty much a pack-in vehicle driver.

Range Viper...I always had torn feelings about this guy. He (and Night Creeper, and Alley Viper) all came from the D.I.C. production of G.I. Joe and thus crappy animation and lousy stories. I remember this crazy story about a female Range Viper who was involved with Ambush and how they knew each other before joining Joe and Cobra...okay story but it was cool to realize there were female Cobra troopers.  The toy was cool but it was part of the modernization of G.I. Joe...88 to 90 still were good years with some very nice designs but these waves definitely have some figures I will have to "get around" to getting as they are kind of hokey to say the least. I got him and Downtown from a Hills department store as a child for 2 bucks and piece and I couldn't believe how many accessories they were jam packed with. Even as a vintage figure, he had a survival knife, tubing, huge backpack with what looked like M-70 rounds on it, a heavy duty machine gun, grenade launcher with detachable barrel clip and a L.A.W. with removable round! This was par for the course with late 80's Joes. His skull face really has a "army of two" look to it... didn't really scream "wilderness trooper" to me as his assignment is described and seems more like an urban assault trooper.

The 25th says Wilderness Trooper a bit more than the old school edition

Pretty kickin' mask

His modern counterpart simply updated the features of the old version with removable mask and vest, chest holster with detachable pistol, smaller backpack, a SAW gun with bi-pod and ammo chain and a reissue of his barrel clip grenade launcher. Great accessories, kind of missed the knife and rocket launcher but the new weapon and ammo belt is a nice touch. (although it makes him pretty tough to position around other figures)

The Battle Android Trooper or more commonly B.A.T. is a third edition for the 25th anniversary that Hasbro released. Previously he came as a classic reboot and also came in a red edition. This one features battle damage but doesn't have the quintessential changeable arm that the figure is so well known for.

Now THAT is some battle damage!
Cleaned up and ready to fight!

I kind of chuckled with the addition of battle damage because it was such a ridiculous feature on older toys like the TIE Fighter or X-wing when it pretty much was just stickers to make it look dirty, however they really make this robot look beat up with bullet holes and cracks in his chest plate and a half-blown off head which are both interchangeable with extra "fixed" pieces. Those poor B.A.T.s really took some blows on a show where nobody can die. Because of that they kill the hell out of those android troopers.

I am a sucker for those holograms! (as well as interchangeable hands)
The original has a special place in my heart because of two things. His obvious interchangeable arms which was such a cool feature (as it was with the Master of the Universe "Trapjaw" figure) but also he was a figure who had a very unique feature: A holographic chest piece to make his inner robotic workings look like they were 3-d and in motion! I could look at that all day! I was a total sucker for this stuff and although I never had any, always wanted Visionaries and Supernaturals figures for this very reason. The new one actually had a hollow chest with separately painted and molded gear pieces, nice detail but not nearly as cool.

Not a fan of this feature
Battle Damage!

The modern B.A.T. has a weird tube back pack that opens up and has three little purple grenades that look more like Ugly Fruit than anything else. I could do without it completely as the backpack opens on its own spilling the stupid things constantly.

Cool Ninja figure... I dunno how "stealth" he can be with that monster crossbow but it's Cobra so what do you expect?

Night Creeper, the Cobra Ninja trooper, was a pretty cool edition as well. Part of the 88-90 waves, he's a standout figure. Coming in full force with the Ninja craze of the 90's and well before the "Ninja Force" figure line; he made a good counterpart to Storm Shadow, Jinx and Snake Eyes. He came in a burgundy/grey camo theme with a cool helmet/headset and some nice accessories. These being; a barbed sword, a curved scimitar looking sword, a backpack with notches to hold the curved sword and a huge multi-arrow auto-crossbow. His modern edition is complete with matching accessories minus the barbed sword and he has an entirely different (and better) head piece with an actual head dress and externally molded chest armor.

Looks like slightly different head sculpts... I prefer the Rise of Cobra one personally.

I also have the Rise of Cobra special two pack figure featured which is just a blue repaint, with a slightly different head piece. He came packed with Shockblast (Shockwave). I never had him as a kid but he was one I always wanted as was the case with the next figure, Alley Viper.

Finally, we're ending with super cool and very pricey Alley Viper. He jokingly is featured as the number one most "Garishly dressed Cobra Viper" on toplessrobot.com due to his orange and blue camo pattern. Despite his colors, I think he is all bad ass!
Visors up!
The vintage edition featured a Removable visor, riot shield, crossbow backpack and sub-machine gun and everything about this guy reminds me of why I loved the 80's and G.I. Joe. I paid quite a bit to get him complete and even the modern double I had sold for nearly 20 bucks as he is a very sought after 25th anniversary figure. His 25th edition looks amazing and also has an added feature of a riot stick which attaches to the inside of his shield (nice touch) as well as has two removable knives on his vest and wrist but is not without flaws. His really can't hold his gun, his helmet is removable but way too loose, and his backpack (that now has a removable crossbow instead of the vintage one piece mold) can't hold the crossbow in place without a rubber band helping. Granted, he is on my shelf for display so his holding issues don't really affect me but for a kid trying to play with him, I could see this as a problem.

I also have him next to his Pursuit of Cobra edition figure which is a 25th anniversary repaint in a more suitable urban maroon, charcoal and black, he also came packed with a gas mask and non-visor helmet. The POC version is another pricey figure that costs around 15 on the aftermarket before shipping. Glad to see, people recognize Alley Viper for the great design he is.