Sunday, July 31, 2011

Young Justice: Robin

I have mixed feelings about the new Young Justice show. It's definitely good, but there's something off about the tone for my taste. I like superheroes to feel like superheroes, and this has more of a "secret agent" vibe going for it.

That said, I'm certainly watching and enjoying it for what it is. It's just a long way from my favorite superhero show of all time (or even currently in production).

In terms of toys, Mattel has a few options out there for fans. There are four inch figures which are more or less replacing the JLU line, and the larger 6 inch figures - like this one - moving in to try and fill the niche left by the DC Universe Classics line. DCUC isn't technically dead yet, but let's face it: the writing's on the wall. I suspect Mattel will announce a new comic-based line to adapt the new DC Universe (everything getting a reboot come September, in case you haven't been following the news), but, in the meantime, Young Justice seems to be stepping in.

Both 4 and 6 inch lines have something going for them: the six inch figures come with huge dioramas, while the 4 inch figures come with the parts to build a massive Hall of Justice backdrop. As cool as the Hall looks, I'm really not looking to drop that kind of money right now.

Some of the six inch toys hold a little more interest, but not much. These guys are expensive, though the dioramas go a long way towards making the price tag more palatable.

In fact, I only bought this for the diorama: I already have a Robin in this scale, and I like him a fair bit better than this one. But the large base is extremely cool and has plenty of potential outside of this figure. You could use this for just about any Batman toys you've got lying around, and I certainly plan to be displaying various DCUC figures on this long after Robin's tucked away in a bin somewhere.

Here's a comparison between this Robin and the DC Universe Classics version:

While the bodies and outfits are comparable, the head sculpt on the DCUC version is significantly better. The Young Justice figure was given a huge smile, which doesn't work here. While it's certainly a look he has in the show, the expression doesn't handle the shift from two to three dimensions.

That said, if you've got a spare Robin head lying around, there's some definite custom potential here. But there's no way I'm yanking the head off my DCUC Robin in the off chance it looks better on the new one.

The base/diorama/stand or whatever is cool, though. I wish they did a little more work on the gargoyle statue, which looks a touch garish, but it's not too bad. I do appreciate that there are three pegs, giving you some options on where to display figures. In case they're not clear in the photos, there's one on the incline, one in back of the statue, and one on the back right corner of the diorama floor. If anything, I could have used one or two more on other parts of the base, but the wall holds the figures up pretty well, anyway. Plus, whether or not it was intentional, the gap between the gargoyle's wings is just about perfect for a six inch figure's foot, giving you another option.

Beside the base, Robin has a decent selection of accessories. The box claims he has seven weapons, which only illustrates that Mattel's marketing department doesn't know what these are. The batarangs and staff are weapons, and I think the yellow things are explosives (though they look more like biscuits to me), but the grapple gun and holographic computer display certainly don't fit the description.

Regardless, it's a great assortment. I love the batarangs and the hologram, and I'm always glad to have another staff. As for the rest... into the bin it goes.

Getting your head around the price these are going for - about $25 and up around here, though I haven't seen them in big retailers yet - takes some effort. It's a bit easier to think of them as play sets, and there's certainly an argument to be made. Mattel's certainly trying to drive this idea home with their packaging: the box Robin came in was on par with two-packs in this scale.

On the other hand, these seem to be more expensive than Marvel Select figures, which are significantly larger, better sculpted and painted, and often come with bases that are even cooler. Fortunately for Mattel, I'm usually willing to pay a premium for DC figures.

That said, unless the price comes down, I'm not planning on getting any more. Honestly, I wouldn't have picked this up if it weren't for a Google Offer that saved me ten dollars at Forbidden Planet (one of the cooler comic stores in NYC, and that's saying something). With a $20 certificate that ran me $10, I wound up getting this for sixteen bucks, which is about as good as I could have hoped for.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Home Office Play Set

This gem was found at a discount store up the street. For $1.29, I got a chair, computer, and a bunch of junk scaled for 6 inch figures.

The decals could be better, and some of the smaller accessories (particularly the phone) are pretty crappy, though a bit of paint might improve them. Nevertheless, that chair is worth at least the price of the pack on its own, and I like the computer, as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is it time for a bit of shameless self promotion already?

Sorry to hijack my blog for something unrelated to toys, but I've just self-published a collection of fantasy stories and wanted to spread the word. If you've got a Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or - heck - a computer screen, then all ten short stories could be yours for a measly $0.99.

Amazon has it available over here, B&N has it for the Nook here, and Smashwords has it for, well, absolutely everything. It's $0.99 no matter where you go, but if you're looking for a free sample, I'd head to Smashwords first (Amazon's sample cuts off halfway through the first story; Smashwords gives you one and a half).

I also have a couple of novels available in print, as well as in digital versions (see the sidebar for links if you're interested).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Neo Popples

Shifters. Sorry, I meant Neo SHIFTERS.

Neo Shifters are a rip-off of Bionicle, which doesn't exactly feel unique itself. I've never had much interest in either property, that is until I saw the above pack going for ten bucks at Toys R Us express. Forget everything else going on here: that's a lot of plastic joints for very little money. I bought a pack and hauled it home....

....Where I promptly discovered these include working lights. They're not great lights - they only work when you're holding down the button on back - but they were enough to get me back to Toys R Us for a second box.

These are one third building set, one third action figure, and.... er.... well, really they're just 2/3rds of a toy. They're not bad, per se, but nor are they particularly good. First, be aware that all three figures appear to be exactly the same. The only difference I notice is the color of the plastic and some minor variations in the faces.

My wife and I put two together: the red/white one and the blue/orange. We transformed one into ball form (more on that later), and left the other in robot mode.

I mean, that's kind of cool. But not that cool. By the look of it, Mega Bloks tried to rip off Bionicle and Transformers at the same time, and the kibble that resulted in isn't pretty. Pull that junk off, and you'll be left with a decent robot, but as is, this is a walking scrap heap.

The articulation is good, but not as good as it should be. There are a lot of swivel joints that should all be pin and swivels. Some are even sculpted to look like they're more complex than they are. Far as I'm concerned, that's cheating.

In addition to the "laser" (i.e. light), there are a few more action features here. First, the gun on his arm fires a projectile. It packs a punch, too: this thing will go ten or fifteen feet.

Next, if you push on a "button" on back, a mini robo-ball falls out of his chest.

But wait! There's more. That small, crappy ball... transforms into... a small, crappy robot!

Look at him, ready for action. If you're so inclined, there are a pair of small guns that connect to the larger robot's weapon. You can pull them out, put them in his hands, and....

Oh. Never mind.

The last action feature is tied to the Neo Shifter's shifting. He shifts... into a ball.

The action feature relates to two side panels, which can pop out at the press of a button, ostensibly beginning the Shifter's transformation back into walking scrap heap. I didn't remember to take a picture, mainly because it's stupid.

These aren't great action figures, and they're not really great building sets, either. While many of the joints are interchangeable, the pieces are meant to go together one way. A lot of the panels have limited uses, and there's not a lot of room for improvisation unless you're willing to cut, sculpt, and paint over these.

Which I am.

Despite the issues with these as toys, there's a lot of potential here as pieces. I know Jin Saotome turned one of these into a Unicron. I don't have anything quite so ambitious planned, but I've got some ideas for some of these parts.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Remix: Zatanna Playset

I can't bring myself to call this a custom. All I really did was glue the smoke dragon to a plastic rod, glue the rod to a bunch of cubes, then glue the cubes to JLU figure stand. As such, I'm dubbing this a "Remix." Might as well use the blog's name for something, and this seems appropriate.

I'm of the opinion Zatanna should have come with all this out of the package. Since she didn't, I had to pick up the slack.

Incidentally, the reason those extra cubes are there is that the glue wasn't holding without them. I needed stability, even at the expense of looking a tad silly.

The dragon was an extra from a Shadowrun Liada figure, the very same who donated her cape to this project. The table is from a Kiss figure I bought for this reason. It's actually the "I" in Kiss, but I think it works well here.

Here are some of the pieces "before":

The only thing permanently altered is the smoke dragon and clear stand: everything else is just repurposed.

The rabbit ran me three bucks, which is WAY more than he should have cost. But I was kind of desperate to have this project done.

You know something? He was worth the $3.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Prince of Persia: Alamut Gate Playset

Sometimes, I feel a little bad for toy companies. They pick up licenses to upcoming films long before seeing the movies. When McFarlane bought the rights to Prince of Persia, they were gambling it would be the next Pirates of the Caribbean.

It wasn't. And, because of that, McFarlane must have taken a pretty substantial hit. Great movies move new merchandize for years; poor ones ensure toys linger in clearance, slowly dropping price until they get so cheap....

This is the Alamut playset. The irony is that this is a good toy. It looks cool as a backdrop, and (if you're into play features) it comes loaded. Actually, far too loaded for my tastes: I just wanted a backdrop.

The figure included is pretty good, though it loses most of its value due to the movie's poor quality. Who really wants a reminder of Prince of Persia sitting on their shelf?

Let's talk features. The gate opens and closes, thanks to a crank on the side. This takes some time, though, and it's generally more trouble than it's worth.

There's also a bunch of rocks designed to drop out of a shoot with the press of a button. They seemed to stick on mine. Even if they'd functioned right, they'd still have been trouble than they're worth: like I said, I want a backdrop, and things like that just remind you that you've got a playset.

Next up, are the fold out stairs. These don't really hurt much, but they're more or less useless. Again, more trouble than they're worth.

As is the catapult, designed to launch the aforementioned rocks in the air. Cute idea, but the execution is a bit tame. Also, the lock on mine came broken. It's hard to complain too much, given how little I paid and how long this lingered on the shelf, but still.

Finally, there are a bunch of pegs going up the front, in case you want to have the figures running up or along the walls or something. To be fair, these will hold the figure up. However, given the figure's limited articulation, you can't accomplish much. The edge at the top works far better, allowing the figure to look like he's holding on for dear life. I don't have any idea whether this was intentional or a happy coincidence, but it's pretty cool. As for the pegs, you guessed it: more trouble than they're worth. Here's the best use I found for those:

Yes, you can display the hero plummeting towards his death.

While this set has some serious issues, right now it's a hell of a bargain. I found this at a Toys R Us in Queens for a buck fifty. At that price, I grabbed a pair of them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Custom: Green Lantern Energy Construct

I made this using what I assume are intended to be bracelets. I picked these up at a party supply store in Queens for 25 cents each.

A little superglue and some patience, and I had a spherical energy construct.

Well, almost spherical. I'd actually intended this to be used with my 13 inch Green Lantern, but it doesn't hold the desired position as well as I'd hoped.

However, this works best in a scale I hadn't thought of:

Okay. He's going on the shelf like that. Not bad for a dollar and a few minutes work.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An Open Letter to PBS and the Makers of WordGirl

To Whom it May Concern:

We have a problem here. Not just any problem: we have a serious issue that we need to address.

The fact is, WordGirl has been in production for four or five years now, and I still can't buy an action figure. That's not okay.

Let me elucidate, so that the severity of the conundrum is clear. Or whatever.

See, I'm a huge superhero fan. I've read thousands of comics, seen almost every superhero movie ever made, and watched hundreds of hours of superhero cartoons. And I've noticed something interesting: whether a superhero story is good or not really comes down to whether the people writing that story understand superheroes. A lot of people don't. But you guys do.

WordGirl is an educational show intended for an audience of 6 - 12 years olds. I get that. But you've also made one of the best superhero shows currently on TV. It's funny, clever, and interesting. Plus, there's a villain with a mouse brain fused to his head.

Do you see why there's a problem? There's a villain with a mouse brain sticking out of his skull AND I CAN'T BUY A TOY AT TOYS R US.

Okay. I'm calm. Look, you know what? You can hold off on Dr. Two-Brains for a while. Maybe he can be in wave two. But the world really needs a WordGirl action figure. And we need it now.

I'm a grown man asking for a doll here. Come on. You know there's a market for this. Just promise me you'll look into it, all right? Just a WordGirl action figure.

Oh. And Captain Huggy Face. But that should go without saying.


Erin Snyder
Toy Remix

Monday, July 4, 2011

Picture: Happy 4th of July

Enjoy the holiday! My wife and I are off to shop for toys and comics!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Custom: DCUC Display Stands

I like my Zatanna and Black Canary DC Universe Classics figures. They're pretty well sculpted, the paint isn't bad, and I respect Mattel's decision to use actual fishnet stockings.

I respect it, but I don't agree with it. Doing so meant losing the extended hip articulation, which means posing options are sorely limited. Actually, they're pretty much limited to their pose in the above picture: without something to lean against, they fall. In fact, with something to lean against, they still fall half the time.

So I decided to do something about it. Here's what I came up with:

The plastic rod, along with the cube on the left, was purchased at a plastic supply store on Canal Street. The black disk started life as a base for a Star Trek 3 3/4 inch figure.

The rods are held in place by the figures' coats: Zatanna's in back and Canary's on her side. Now they stand just fine.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Picture: The Oath

"Repeat after me: I swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals."


"Close enough. To the Bat-boat!"