Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ra's Al Ghul Head(ache) Swap

It's funny. Sometimes you start out on a complicated custom, something that probably shouldn't work at all, and it goes so easy you'd swear the original toy was designed with this in mind.

Other times, you start with something so stupidly simple you think nothing could go wrong, and you wind up pouring four times as many hours just to salvage the project.

Guess which category this belongs in.

First, meet my two DC Direct Ra's Al Ghul figures, the Hush figure and the one from Trinity:

While I've always liked both figures, I've always preferred the Hush head and the Trinity body. I decided that I could only justify leaving one on display anyway, so why not have the perfect Ra's on my shelf? After all, what could be simpler than a head-swap?

I had no problem removing the heads, but then I discovered the pegs were dramatically different in size. No problem! I just used some kneadatite to sculpt something sized for the peg. That'll work, right? Right?

Wrong. The sculpted bit didn't stay in place. Besides, I soon realized the neck was too small to fit with the head. At least, without some paring.

Long story short: several attempts later, my wife and I did get something that worked:

He's even got articulation. Although, all this did come with a price: in person, you can see where we carved down the neck. I tried to get a picture of the issue, but none of them came out (honest). Still, it's a minor imperfection on a figure that captures what I love about Ra's.

So, was it actually worth the absurd amount of effort, time, and frustration it took to produce?

No comment.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi

I've been wanting some decent Mario figures for a while now. And, to be fair, there have been options. The thing is, I also want to keep paying rent and eating food. Toys R Us doesn't seem to want me have it both ways: the store near me is charging $17.50 for what appear to be hollow, plastic figures.

These, on the other hand, ran me five bucks a pop.

To be fair, they look a little smaller, by maybe an inch or so. Quality control is less than ideal, too, particularly with Luigi, whose head's on crooked.

But given the better than $10 difference, I'll go with the cheap, imported option. I found these at a store in Queens that sells mostly toys and luggage. If you're not from New York, you'd be surprised how many stores like that exist in the city.

Articulation is limited, but it's good enough. Yoshi does pretty well in this category with arms, legs, and head joints. He can even sit down. Luigi has arms and head joints, and Mario just has moving arms. While I wish he could look around too, it's not the end of the world.

They came packaged in small, plastic bags with a cardboard heading. These were a pretty good find. For less than Toys R Us is charging for Mario, I bought both brothers and a Yoshi. Not too shabby, all things considered.

How Mario died.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Photo: Speed Racer

Right now, you may be asking yourself why you're looking at a picture of Speed Racer walking in on Batman and Trixie making out. To be completely honest, I'm not a hundred percent certain myself. The idea popped into my head, and I made it a reality.

And for that, I'm deeply, deeply sorry.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back To The Future Minimates DeLoreoaaaaah, actually it's a "Time Machine"

The DeLorean DMC-12 is a trademarked automobile which was shown in the Back to the Future films. Toy companies which might want to produce a toy of that DeLorean would need to separately buy the rights to both the movie AND the rights to use to use the DeLorean name.

If, on the other hand, you just wanted to produce a "Time Machine" from the movie, you'd only need to pay for the rights to the Back to the Future license.

Where's the iconic DMC symbol? Why doesn't the package contain the name of the car? Fans bitch and moan, then we buy the toy anyway. Then we bitch and moan some more. It's what fans do.

I've never really had much interest in Diamond's Minimate figures, though they are certainly cute. The thing is, cute or not, they're usually really expensive for what amounts to glorified Lego figures (not that those are all that reasonably priced these days).

However, I did kind of fall in love with this Minimate vehicle. I mentioned this to my wife, who managed to remember at Christmas. And, wouldn't you know it, I found this under the tree (well, the metaphorical tree, anyway: no way we'd fit a real tree in this tiny apartment).

The decals had to applied:

This is a sweet toy. It captures the feel of the vehicle, even in the adorably deformed style. It doesn't light up (sadly), but the bright blue plastic conveys the sense of energy.

In addition to the car, you get a mini-Marty, complete with alternate hands and hair. I have to admit he's a nice toy.

This is actually the second "Time Machine" I own from Diamond Select. I also have the larger light-up version, which is also a nice toy. This was a gift, so I don't know for sure what my wife paid. I know these started at around fifteen or so, though I've seen them more recently going for ten. Check your local Toys R Us.

I'm really happy with this, and think I can declare my Back to the Future collection complete. I mean, it's not like they're going to come out with a 'flying version' in this scale, right? Right?

Oh, crap.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Custom Bait: It's Party Time

You know those party supply stores no one ever goes in. Well, I went in. And it turns out they have tons of colored translucent plastic. I spent a little less than ten bucks on all of that.

"Why would anyone want this crap?" you're conceivably asking. Why, to make energy constructs for Green Lantern figures (and let's not forget Red Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps, while we're at it).

I don't know what I'll do with most of this stuff or when I'll do it, but these are some cool pieces with potential. Assuming, of course, I can come up with a way of attaching them to characters' hands. Haven't really figured that part out yet.

Except with these:

These are small, plastic sword picks. The pack of 50 ran me a whopping $3.99, less than 10 cents each. They're intended for impaling small hotdogs or something. Screw that.

The swords are a little loose in the figure's hand, but they work pretty well. Now I can make Hal Jordan and Sinestro sword fight - cool!

Plus, there are plenty more if I ever want to cut some of these up and make a mace or something.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Star Trek: Classic Science Tricorder

My wife and I have been eying this for a while. We're both fans of Star Trek in general, especially the original series, and we've slowly been amassing a collection of both Star Trek action figures and replicas.

The thing is, while this has intrigued us for a while, we weren't ready to drop $40 - $45 on it (or $30, for that matter). But given how long they'd been camping out on the shelves at Toys R Us, I've had a feeling for a while now that we wouldn't have to.

In fact, about a year ago I remember looking at this and thinking, "fifteen." You'll never guess what the Toys R Us in Queens was charging for the last one they had in stock....

If there's one thing I've gotten pretty good at, it's predicting the precise cost toys will get marked down to before disappearing altogether.

Yes, that's right. I'm so cheap, I've transformed my stinginess into a power. If I could figure out a way to fight crime with it, I'd be a superhero. The worst superhero in history, perhaps, but a superhero nonetheless.

I should mention that getting the last one in stock meant the box wasn't exactly in mint condition. Good thing I couldn't care less about packaging.

Actually, I was taking a bit of a risk with this thing. In addition to the box not looking so hot, the top drawer had fallen off and was loose in the box. The whole thing looked like it might have been returned to the store, and on top of everything else, the "try me" feature had been used so long, the batteries were completely dead. I bought this not knowing if the toy worked or not.

I'm happy to say I was worried over nothing. As soon as I'd changed out the batteries (no simple task: you have to open the bottom drawer, remove the inner panel, then unscrew and pull off a third level before you can get to the AAA's), everything was working fine.

And make no mistake, this thing is loaded with features. When you open the top (which gives you a soft "clicking" sound), the lights go on and start blinking. Incidentally, those lights are BRIGHT. There are three buttons: one to "scan", one to cycle through voice clips, and a third that's a tad more complicated.

The scan feature is the one that's most straightforward. The light patterns change, the toy emits a loud "scanning" sound, and the psychedelic disk rotates until you either press the button again, close the lid, or your batteries run out of juice.

The speech button activates one of six sound clips. These are all of Spock, and they're well chosen, not to mention loud and clear.

The button on the left is sort of a "play" setting. You hit it, close the lid, then wait five seconds, and the Tricorder starts making noise (it cycles through two possibilities - an incoming message or a sort of malfunction). Open it, and Spock's voice once again chimes in with a clips related to the sounds.

The Tricorder comes with a small scanner, which runs on watch batteries (unlike the AAA's, these are still good on mine). The scanner doesn't make noise, but it does light up. The light cycles through several different colors, thanks to a number of small LEDs inside. It's not as bright as the lights on the Tricorder, but it's pretty cool.

What impresses me most about Diamond's "replicas" is the company's willingness to walk the line between cosplay accessory and toy. Despite being made of plastic and being (relatively) cheap for any kind of replica, this is more or less screen accurate and ready to go to conventions or be worn with a nice Starfleet uniform. And the "scan" function reinforces that. If you want to act like Spock, press the middle button, and roleplay to your heart's content.

However, this is also a toy. A toy for grownups, but a toy nonetheless. There's no reason a replica needs a bunch of sound clips of Spock (replicas, strictly speaking, should just do what the prop did; not repeat lines actors say).

I like that Diamond included this functionality. Once again, they've demonstrated that they know how to have fun with their merchandise.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ebaying: He-Man 200x Accessories and Figures

God, do I love Ebay. The trick, in my opinion, is persistence and patience. When there's something you really want, it's all too easy to drop a huge amount of cash.

However, if you're willing to wait, sometimes you'll find an auction where things just work out.

I've wanted a few accessories from Mattel's 200X line (a.k.a.: Millennium Series; a.k.a.: that new He-Man show you should have watched but didn't [okay, so technically the redesigned toys came out before the show was created, but... I'm trying to keep things simple for the non-geeks out there]).

In particular, I really wanted Skeletor's Havoc staff. I also wanted his "double sword", though I'd have been willing to do without that.

At any rate, I found an auction where the toys wound up going for something like $10, including shipping. I also got some figures, which I consider accessories to the accessories:

All figures have intrusive buttons on their backs that make them swing swords. The ones in the power armor also have chest plates that pop off if you tickle their stomachs. I should also mention that their boots come off. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered mentioning that. Whatever.

The figures look cool, but the action features just get in the way. Also, the limited articulation is a bit annoying. Interestingly enough, they have versions of the swivel/hinge hips that are on the DC Universe Classics line. Unfortunately, without knee/ankle joints, these don't do much good.

Who cares? These are custom bait! I've already got the only He-Man/Skeletor figures I expect I'll ever need. I just wanted more weapons for them.

I'll start with He-Man's sword. It includes the turning handle, which moves during Prince Adam's transformation. It works well: I'm impressed. I'll probably stick with the "custom" sword I painted: I like the colors a little better:

The shield's really useful to me. First up, I love the size. Secondly, it has a vertical peg to fit in He-Man's hand. The one that came with the Masters of the Universe Classics He-Man I have snaps onto his wrist. Why is this better? Because, unlike the smaller one I had, this one can slide into the opening on the back of He-Man's strap, allowing him to wear it on his back. Cool!

No complaints about that ax, either....

I like the Havoc Staff, of course. While I also like the ones I made, it's nice having one more... show accurate. Skeletor's sword is also cool. It comes apart, just like in the cartoon:

The "mini swords" are a bit loose in his hands, unfortunately. Still, with some work, they'll stay put.

In addition to all these goodies, I also wound up with a handful of other accessories. The power armor figures came with helmets, and (for some reason) I wound up with a claw that I'm pretty sure started life with a different character in the line. The strangest additions, though were these:

Yup: that's a gun blade, from Final Fantasy, if I'm not mistaken. As for the thing on the left.... no idea. Finally, I also got an extra Havoc Staff:

This one's easy to ID: it's clearly labeled as a McDonald's toy. I'm not sure what I'll do with this, but into the custom bin it goes.

The swords don't stay together too well in the sheath on Skeletor's back. Oh well: such is life.

Oh, hell yeah. That's going on the shelf.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ebaying: Streaky the Supercat

I've been reading through a tome of old Supergirl reprints lately. Man, the Golden Age was bizarre. I mean REALLY bizarre. Do you have any idea how many times Supergirl's horse turned into a human and they made out? It's more than you'd think.

At this point, I figure most people are pretty familiar with Supergirl, herself; the girl from Krypton rocketed to Earth like her older cousin (and his dog). I don't think that her pet Supercat is quite as well known.

Of course, they're both far better known than the aforementioned Comet, the Super-horse. And let's not even get started on Beppo, the Super-Monkey.

Unlike Supeman, Supergirl, Krypto, and Beppo, Streaky was not from Krypton. No, like Comet, he hailed from Earth (but unlike Comet, he was an actual animal, rather than a centaur accidentally transformed into a horse, given superpowers by Circe, then trapped in distant space by an evil curse for thousands of years). No, Streaky's just a cat who got his powers by accident.

The significance of Streaky is that he was originally included as an accessory with the 13 inch DC Direct Supergirl figure. And the significance of that action figure is that I never bought it.

I actually came close a few times when I've seen it on clearance. Whenever I've mentioned this to Lindsay, she's pointed out that we already have a 12-inch Supergirl, in the form of Barbie. And, ultimately, that 12-inch figure is better scaled to the 13-inch DC Direct figures we actually own.

Also, while the head sculpt on the DC Direct Supergirl looks nice, the costume on the Barbie looks better. In fact, taken as a whole, the Barbie's probably a nicer toy.

But, I pointed out time and time again, THE DC DIRECT SUPERGIRL COMES WITH STREAKY.

This argument never carried the weight I'd expected it to, and, in the end, I agreed dropping a significant amount of cash on a character we already own just so I could have a small toy cat accessory probably wasn't the best use of our funds....

Jump ahead to a few months ago. I was searching around Ebay, and hope against hope, someone was letting their Streaky go. For around six bucks (including shipping), I wound up getting a Streaky of my own.

So. How is it?

Pretty good, overall, though it's a bit small (it must seem miniscule beside the larger DC Direct Supergirl). It has a cut neck, but no other joints, which is a bit disappointing. The cape's pretty nice, though, and the expression is awfully cute.

The fact I paid less for this than I did for Dex-Starr hasn't escaped my notice. In case you were wondering.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Masters of the Universe Custom Stand: Stone

Okay, that picture's a little misleading: that's more like what I was going for than what I ended up with. I'll explain in a minute. First....

Let me introduce you to this snowy landscape, courtesy of one of my Forever Fun Rudolph sets.

This started life as part of a two-pack with Sam and Frosty. Here's what it looked like in its package. 

I know: riveting stuff, right? Anyway, speaking objectively, do you know what the difference is between the texture of snow and stone? Not a goddamn thing:

I want to take a minute to call attention to that peg, because it wasn't in the 'before' picture. That sucker's made out of Kneadatite, using the figure's foot hole for the shape. Bet you didn't think I was that clever, did you?

Bet you were right. The peg was all Lindsay.

Now then. Onto the other piece. This is the chunk of earth that came with a DC Direct Terra (here's the review, if you're so inclined).

There's a peg hole on the bottom of that chunk, so I thought it'd be cool if I had a connectable extension to the base. I actually painted over the whole thing, so it would be more a granite than a dark gray. Maybe I should have done some more experimenting before going through the trouble. First of all, because the base isn't flat, the extension piece isn't very steady. It would still balance, but not well. More importantly, neither He-Man or Skeletor have the hip articulation to make this worth it. Oops.

At least the rocky base is still cool.

Ultimately, I think I prefer the "pirate" stand for Skeletor and the grass plain one for He-Man. Oh, well: it was still fun to paint. I'm sure I'll find a use for it someday.