Friday, May 1, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015 guide is live!

My annual Free Comic Book Day guide is live! you can read it here. Enjoy, and I'll see you at the comic shop!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

LEGO The Simpsons Collectible Minifigures Series 2 Groping Guide

My review of LEGO Simpsons CMF series 2 will have to wait until I can spare the money to complete my set, but since the official release date is tomorrow, I'll go ahead and post the groping guide to give you a leg up in finding the minifigs you want! First of all, save this image to your phone or something so you'll have easy access to it in the store.

As you can see, it clearly displays each minifig and their accessories, and I've added a number next to each to indicate how many of that minfig are included in each case. (Note that the original photo is not mine; all I did was add the numbers.) With that out of the way, I give you the LEGO Simpsons series 2 CMF groping guide!

Homer: Find the 2x2 tile piece, and make sure there isn't a cup or 2x2 plate to narrow it down to either Homer or Dr. Hibbert. There are several minifigs in this series that include a 2x2 tile, but Homer and Hibbert are the only ones who have this as their sole accessory. (Aside from Selma, but her head is massive and immediately detectable.) Once you've narrowed it down to those two, feel the head very carefully to make sure you have Homer's bald head. Feeling along the back of the head, it's pretty easy to detect Hibbert's lumpy hair, so if the back of the head is smooth, it's Homer.

Marge: As with series 1, Marge's head is impossible to mistake for anyone else. find that, and you'll know right away.

Lisa: With their similar heads and the inclusion of pets, Lisa and Maggie are fairly easy to get confused. Find a normal torso and a pair of child legs to ensure you have Lisa. It is possible to tell Snowball II from Santa's Little Helper, but it can be tricky, so stick to the legs as confirmation.

Maggie: Once you've found the starfish head, find the unique baby body to confirm you have Maggie and not Lisa.

Bartman: Bart's head is pretty easy to detect, but feel for the slingshot as well to confirm.

Fallout Boy/Milhouse: His head can be confused with Moleman's and Martin's pretty easily, and as all of them have the immobile child legs, you'll have to find the cup to confirm that you've got Milhouse.

Jeff Albertson: Comic Book Guy has the 2x2 tile and a Squishee cup. Find both to confirm you've got him.

Martin: Look for his large book. No one else in this set has an accessory like it. It's thicker than the base plate all the figures come with and is smooth on both sides, so make sure you're not confusing another figure's  baseplate for his book.

Professor Frink: Search for the beaker. It's shape is unmistakable.

Hans Moleman: Search for his 1x2 tile. No one else in this set has one.

Selma: You'll know right away when you've picked up one of the Bouvier sisters, as their heads are huge and the hair texture is very obvious, even through the thick foil bag. It's damn near impossible to distinguish between Patty and Selma's heads inside the package, so once you've found one of them, look for the 2x2 tile to verify that it's Selma.

Patty: Same instructions as with Selma, but feel for her purse instead of the tile.

Groundskeeper Willie: Look for the plunger. The red part is a softer rubber, so keep that in mind while groping.

Edna Krabappel: Look for the 2x2 tile and the coffee mug. The mug is distinguishable from CBG's Squishee cup due to the handle on the side.

Waylon Smithers: Search for the 2x2 tile and the 2x2 plate. The plate has four LEGO studs on top, so it's easy to distinguish from the baseplate. No one else has a normal Lego 2x2 plate in this set, so if you find that, you've got yourself a Smithers.

Dr. Hibbert: As with Homer above, find the tile and make sure there are no other accessories, then carefully feel the back of the head to make sure you can feel Hibbert's hair.

Hopefully this will prove useful to all of you. Happy groping!

Rant Review: LEGO The Simpsons Collectible Minifigures Series 1

With series 2 right around the corner-- it releases Friday, in fact-- it occurred to me that I never got around to reviewing the first series! Since I've seen quite a few people who missed the first series express interest in series 2, I decided to go ahead and review them despite being a year out of date. As remnants of series 1 can still be found in some stores, I'll also include the groping guide to assist anyone who is lucky enough to come across some. I'll be doing the entire series in one post, so this will be a long one. Grab a snack and a drink, and get comfortable!

First, a word about the heads. There continues to be a lot of debate regarding whether or not The LEGO Group made the right decision in going with unique sculpted heads, rather than using standard LEGO minifigure heads as seen in the Brick Like Me episode of the show. Each approach has its pros and cons; standard minifig heads have the benefit of using universal headpieces, which grant full compatibility with existing minifigs, as well as fitting in better, but it's tougher to capture the unique look of each character with the faces merely painted on. (The Blocko line from a decade or so back demonstrated this very well.) Sculpted heads allow the essence of each character to be captured far more faithfully, but this means that head accessories cannot be shared, and it also makes the minifigs stick out a bit when mixed in with normal LEGO minifigs. Personally, while part of me wishes they had gone with the standard head approach, I like the sculpted heads just fine. With that out of the way, on with the reviews!

The ever-patient former police officer Marge Simpson is represented quite well in minifig form, with her towering blue mane dwarfing nearly every other minfig there is. The bottom half of her dress is a separate cloth piece, unlike the painted-on apron on the version that comes with the Simpson House set. Marge appears oddly barefoot, as no shoes are painted onto her legs. she does have back printing for her dress and pearls, however. She comes with a pink purse, and a Donut Enthusiast magazine that is destined for Homer's hands. Marge is one of the few absolutely essential characters in any Simpsons collection, and it's good to see that TLG did her justice.
Groping guide: With her colossal coif, Marge is the easiest minfig in this series to identify in the bag. Just feel for that hair, and you've got her.

Homer Simpson, voice of the beloved Poochie, fares just as well as his bride, with all his features captured very well on the head sculpt. Unlike the stoned version with the Simpsons House set, this version of Homer is bright-eyed and bushy tailed. The paint apps on his face are impressively neat for this scale. It's worth noting that, while the hair that wraps around the back of his head is only painted on, the pair of hairs on top of his head are actually sculpted. some may feel that the rather hefty Homer looks a bit off using a normal minifig torso, but I think that the painted-on belly serves to indicate his girth pretty well. Homer has no back printing, but he does sport the short sleeves that TLG introduced with this series. His accessories are perfectly chosen: a TV remote control, and a donut that features some fantastic printing.
Groping guide: As with most of the minifigs in this series, his head is pretty easy to feel for. For confirmation, find the tiny donut and the 1x2 remote piece.

Little Miss Springfield runner-up Lisa Simpson comes with her saxophone, previously seen in series 10's Jake Blues-- er, Sax Player. Lisa has another excellent head sculpt, with a perky expression that manages to look bright and inquisitive, rather than a blank zombie stare. Her hair is particularly impressive, as the starfish hairstyle has proven to be difficult to render in three dimensions. Like her mother, Lisa has a separate skirt piece, and features back printing for her dress and pearls. Unlike her mother, Lisa has shoes. Her torso has the unfortunate issue of yellow paint being applied on top of red plastic, so there is some discoloration, as the red tends to show through. It's not a huge problem, but it is noticeable. As child, Lisa has the short, immobile legs. It's a bit annoying that TLG won't give the short legs any articulation when even companies that manufacture LEGO knockoffs do, but it is what it is.
Groping guide: Lisa and Maggie are nearly impossible to distinguish from their heads in the package, so feel for the sax and the legs to verify you've got a Lisa.

Former factory owner Bart Simpson looks a bit bland from the front, but his design is accurate to the show, so we can hardly hold that against TLG. Flip him around, however, and you get a great detail: his slingshot is tucked into his back pocket! Bart's head sculpt is almost eerily accurate, to the point that he has what I call "trumpet mouth" when viewed head-on. He has a bit of the zombie stare, and I can't help thinking that a sly looking to the side expression would have suited him better. Bart has short sleeves and shoes, and shorts painted onto what I believe are a new set of legs with the line for the shorts actually sculpted on. Bart only comes with one accessory, but it's the biggest in the set: his skateboard. Overall, Bart is not as visually interesting as most of the other minifigs in this series, but that's a reflection of his design, not the execution of the minifig itself.
Groping guide: The skateboard is a dead giveaway. It's in three pieces in the bag, so if you feel a large unidentifiable hunk and something that feels like a barbell, you've got yourself a Bart, man!

Would-be assassin Maggie Simpson is cute as a button, just like her animated counterpart. She has a slightly worried expression, which is entirely sensible, given the people she lives with. She had a very nice head sculpt, and her pacifier is not a separate piece, in case anyone was wondering. Her bow is painted onto her head. Maggie has a new baby body that I hope to see used in more LEGO sets down the line. Her sole accessory is one of the best in the series: Mr. Burns' tattered teddy bear Bobo. Bobo has some excellent detailing, and is very accurate to his appearance on the show. Maggie is one of the toughest characters to capture in three dimensional form, but TLG did a fantastic job. Sure, she's too large, but LEGO minifigs have never been to scale, so that is to be expected. At least they didn't go Duplo with Maggie like they did in the show! Also, note that she does not include a gun, unfortunately, so you'll have to supply one of your own.
Groping guide: As noted above, her head feels exactly like Lisa's, so look for the bear or the unique baby body. (Jeez, that word combination is sure to make this article come up in some weird web searches...)

Former Gay & Lesbian Alliance president Abe "Grampa" Simpson is captured in all his wrinkled glory with a wonderful head sculpt that rivals some that I've seen on much larger-scale figures in its detail and accuracy.  His collar and bolo tie are printed onto his torso, though he does not have his slippers painted onto his feet. Grampa has one of the best accessories in the series, a folded newspaper with the "Old Man Yells at Cloud" headline! (Hopefully, we won't have to wait too long for Grampa to be joined by his buddy Jasper.)
Groping guide: Grampa's head is pretty distinctive, and he's the only non-Marge minifig who includes both a 2x2 tile and normal minifig legs. So, find the head, then locate the tile and check that the legs are not the immobile child legs to verify.

One-time child actor Milhouse Van Houten looks somewhat bland, as Bart does. Again, this is owing to the character's design, and is not a shortcoming of the figure. Like Bart, he has the "shorts" legs and short sleeves. His hair "swoop" looks a bit odd from some angles, but that's only because it's always drawn swept to the side no matter what angle we see him from on the show. It's just one of those odd little things that sometimes pops up when rendering animated characters in three dimensions. Milhouse has an awesome accessory in the form of a Biclops comic! Unfortunately, it's too small for TLG to have included the word balloon, "That's for making me cry!"
Groping guide: Milhouse is one of the toughest minfigs to identify in this series because his only accessory is a 2x2 tile, just like Ralph. They also share the immobile child legs and a big, round head. Your best bet is to loacate the tile and immobile legs to narrow it down to those two, then spend a little extra time on the head trying to identify Milhouse's schnoz.

Former presidential candidate Ralph Wiggum definitely has the zombie stare, but no character is better suited to that blank expression than he. Ralph looks mindlessly pleasant, exactly as he should. His hair is printed with meticulous precision, giving him a sort of OCD appearance that suits the character. He has no shoe printing, but he does have his collar and belt neatly printed. Ralph comes with one of the best accessories in the series-- I feel like I'm saying that a lot, but damn, this series has a ton of great accessories-- the iconic "I choo-choo-choose you" Valentine card that Lisa pity-gifted him in one of the show's greatest episodes.
Groping guide: Everything I said above about Milhouse applies here as well. Once you have ti narrowed down to those two, feel the head very carefully for Ralph's little ears. they're a bit more distinctive through the bag that Milhouse's are.

Springfield police chief Clancy Wiggum is looking more svelte than he has since, well, ever. Homer can slide by with the suggestion of his gut printed on the minifig torso, but that just doesn't cut it for Wiggum. C'mon, the guy has his underwear specially made by a village in the Ukraine! (They call him "Daddy Round Round." ) They really needed an overlay to reproduce his bulk, as the standard minifig torso just doesn't work. It's a shame, as this is a standout minifig otherwise. The head sculpt is flawless, and he has plenty of detail, including patches on both arms, his badge, collar, and tie & clip on his torso, and a belt with handcuffs hanging from it. His megaphone and baton are very good accessories, though it is surprising that Clancy is bereft of donuts. (Perhaps he had some, but devoured them before being freed from the package?) Wiggum is an essential character, so he'll wind up in many collections, but it's a shame that an otherwise excellent minifigure is held back by use of the standard torso.
Groping guide: Wiggum's hat is pretty easy to identify, and the megaphone and baton can be used as verification.

Homer's favorite neighborino Ned Flanders is another essential character, so much so that he is even included in the Simpsons House set. whereas that version is decked out in a grill-ready apron, this is the standard version of the character. As is the standard in this series, TLG absolutely nailed Ned's head sculpt. He has the ever-present pleasant expression that is essential to the character, with just the right amount of detail on his hair and mustache. His torso has printing for his sweater and the collar of the shirt underneath, and his accessories include a coffee mug straight from the Leftorium, and a tool box labeled "property of Ned Flanders." Hopefully we'll get a stupid sexy Flanders variant in a future series!
Groping guide: The mug and tool box are unique in this series, so feel for those.

Professional price gouger Apu Nahasapeemapetilon falls a bit short of the standard set by most of the minifigs in this series. His head sculpt is accurate, but the completely blank expression makes him a lot more bland than he should be. They also colored his hair gray, and while the coloring is a bit inconsistent both on the show and in merchandising, the shade they chose to use here is a good deal lighter than any I recall seeing before. That color choice also hurts the figure. apart from that, Apu has some nice detailing on his torso, with the open coat, exposed chest hair, and pants pulled above his navel all nicely printed. There is an issue with color mismatching, however, as these details are printed on top of the green torso. the skin tone match is pretty close, but the mismatch with the pants makes it look like Apu is wearing a cummerbund. Even his Squishee cup suffers, as it is a generic coffee cup, rather than the cup with the bubble and straw on top, as we see on the show. (In the newly-release Kwik-E-Mart set, the correct style of cups are used.) Still, such details will not bother most people, and they're not a big deal for me, either. They do hold this figure back from being one of the best in the series, however.
Groping guide: The Squishee cup is unique in this series, so if you find that, you've got yourself an Apu!

Former street mime Hershel Krustofsky, better known as Krusty the Klown, fares quite a bit better. His head sculpt has a manic expression that suits the character quite well. The only printing he has is his collar, bow tie, and indication of his belly on the torso, but that's all he needs. His lone accessory is a nicely molded pie. With any luck, he'll be joined by Sideshows Bob and Mel before too long.
Groping guide: Krusty's head is a dead giveaway, as is the pie.

Huckleberry enthusiast Nelson Muntz is another standout, with a head sculpt that looks like it stepped right out of the TV screen. His bigger-than-usual overbite, jagged teeth, and unruly hair are all perfectly captured, and he has the contemptuous expression that we see so often on the show. His torso has printing for his vest, and he has the short sleeves and "shorts" legs seen on Bart and Milhouse. His accessory is a bat with tape wrapped around the handle. (Interestingly, this is the exact same accessory his World of Springfield figure came with, even though he's not associated with baseball or bats at all. I can only hazard a guess that he;s seen holding such a bat in the licensing material.)
Groping guide: Feel for the bat. It's easy to find, and no one in this series has anything that can be mistaken for it.

Former Miss Teen America winner Charles Montgomery Burns is one of the greatest characters on television, so it was essential that TLG do him justice. Thankfully, they pulled it off. Burns has a tough head design to get just right, but the sculpt is dead-on perfect. the sculpt seems to have captured Monty in one of his more benevolent moods, which means he still looks pretty sinister. Do note that the liver spots are only printed on, not sculpted, and the head is made of a softer rubbery plastic. This is an odd decision, but it doesn't seem to have harmed the figure's durability at all. In bright light, the different material will be noticeable when he is placed alongside the other minifigs in this series. Monty's suit jacket is printed on his torso, and it should be noted that they opted for a dark green suit instead of the usual dark blue. (If I recall correctly, this was also the color used for his first World of Springfield figure. Probably the licensing guide rearing its head again.) Some will be bothered by this, some will not. It's not an issue for me, personally, as the color is still fairly close. It's not like they dressed him in bright red, or something like that. Burns has two great accessories: an inanimate carbon rod and a small fishbowl containing Blinky the three-eyed fish! The bowl is a clear minifig head, put to wonderful use here. Might this be the greatest LEGO minifigure accessory ever?
Groping guide: burns has a very distinctive head, and it also feels different through the bag because of the rubbery material used. The normal minifig head and rod are also dead giveaways. Overall, Burns is one of the easiest to identify.

This brings us to the oddballs of this series: Itchy & Scratchy. there's been a good deal of complaining about their inclusion, and while I'd prefer to have gotten, say Lenny & Carl, or Willie and Jeff Albertson, I don't see an issue with these two being included. They're iconic characters on the show, and that's really the only prerequisite for being made into figures, as far as I'm concerned. Both of these have the soft rubbery- heads that we saw with Burns. Both sculpts are excellent, Scratchy's in particular. Itchy has torso printing for his tummy and vest, while Scratchy has his just tummy coloration printed on his. Itchy has the immobile child legs, while Scratchy has normal legs and a tail! With their axe and club accessories, the pair are ready for the blood-soaked mayhem Springfield's kids love to watch.
Groping guide: The heads are pretty easy to identify due to the rubbery texture. To figure out which one you have, look for Scratchy's axe and tail piece, and feel for Itchy's club. It's easy to get their heads mixed up in the package, but not their accessories.

Whew, are ya still with me? Now that I've finally gotten this done, I'm all set for series two! Look for my review of that series in the next couple of weeks, whenever I'm able to assemble a full set. I'll also have a feature about the Simpson House soon. Stay tuned for news about that!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I'm now a contributor for The Latest Pull

I've started contributing to The Latest Pull, a website that covers comics, movies, TV, games... pretty much the same stuff I cover here. Regular Rant readers will dig it too, so go check it out! My first article, a review of last night's debut episode of iZombie, is up now, so give it a read and let me know what ya think.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Jason Mamoa's Aquaman has been revealed, and he's even more badass than expected.

Batman vs. Superman director Zack Snyder tweeted this around midnight. It speaks for itself.
Personally, I love it. It's more or less the basic look look of my favorite version of Aquaman, and it fits Mamoa like a glove.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rant Review: LEGO Pirates Treasure Island

Thanks to Amazon listing the March sets early, UPS delivered this to my door Friday. (They did not deliver my big "treat myself" purchase like they were supposed to, so they're still kinda on the shit list.)
Pirates is one of the most beloved classic Lego themes, and since it's been absent since I finally returned to Lego collecting, I was very pleased to hear of its imminent return a few months ago. When the new sets were unveiled, this was the one that most interested me. The island itself is basically an updated version of this set from 1996. (I only discovered this while browsing classic Pirates sets in anticipation of this one's arrival, as I was in high school in '96 and Lego was about the furthest thing from my mind.) It has some nice details, from the dilapidated pier to the hidden compartment for the treasure map. You've gotta love that the giant skull has a gold tooth. (I, of course, took this photo with the gold tooth blocked because I am such a pro.)

This minifig immediately became one of my favorites, and was one of the main reasons I wanted this set. With her corset, snarl, and even a little beauty mark, she's got plenty of personality. Her hairpiece is the same as CMF series 9's Fortune Teller. It's a great piece, and I'm pleased to see it getting some use.

The other pirate minifig also played a big part in making this the Pirates set to get for me. He's basically an updated version of the only pirate minifig I had when I was a kid, from the Desert Island set. The new gator is pretty cool, too.

The giant skull keeps the pirates' enemies from seizing their treasure, unless they figure out that it can be lifted by moving the wonky banana tree to the side(or, y'know, just walking around to the exposed back). Other play features include the stud launcher on the little boat, and the cannon, which fires the round 1 stud pieces.

This is a pretty nice set for the $20 price. If you're interested in the new Pirates sets and wanna dip your toe in the water, this is probably the best place to start. It has a nice collection of minifigs, the build itself is quite cool, and the play features will be a nice draw if you're purchasing it for a child. Some of the other sets are also rather overpriced for their size, but that isn't an issue with this particular set. Highly recommended

Friday, February 13, 2015

Skeletor's Throne of Bone

I whipped up a swanky evil throne for my (very much work-in-progress) Skeletor minifig a couple of days ago. Check it out!
 It has spots to store his weapons, as detailed below:

I think it turned out pretty cool working within the limitations I had to deal with. Some of the details can be tough to make out since it's mostly black, so if any of you want to make your own Throne of Bone, let me know and I can throw together some instructions!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rant Review: LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 13 part 2

I'm back with my reviews and grope guide for the second half of Lego CMF series 13! If you missed the first part, you can find it here.

The Unicorn Girl continues the sub-set of people dressed in animal costumes. (Given Lego's habit of releasing opposite gender counterparts in the CMF line, can an Equesticle in a horse costume be far away?) Unicorn Girl has a clean white outfit with blue "hooves," a lavender mane, and matching tail. The tail was a nice surprise, as it was not visible in the promo photos I'd seen of UG. There's a nice star pattern on the costume's chest, and she has some cute little freckles on her cheeks. UG as a whole is simply adorable, and as a shortpacked female minifig who is also part of a popular subset, she's sure to be one of the harder ones to find the longer this series is on store shelves, so get her while you can!
Groping guide: With three pieces that are unique to her in this series, UG is fairly easy to find. The tail piece is easy to find, but it can be unclear what it is if you haven't felt such a part through the foil before. Her helmet is also pretty distinctive, though it too can be tough to identify within the package. The horn is a separate piece, so find it for confirmation if you're not certain. She's packed at only 3 per case, so if you're on the fence about her, my advice is to grab her if you find her. You can always sell or trade her later, and she'll never be worth less than the $4 you'll pay for her right now.

The Snake Charmer is a very fun minifig. It's always nice to get a character that is part of another culture, and this one is very well executed. He has a very suave curly mustache, and his torso has some nice printing with a gold medallion and a beaded necklace over his shirt. His turban fits snugly on his head, and there is leg printing so that his shirt hangs well below his waist, just as a kurta (thank you, Bing search) should. He has a thin brown rod to represent his flute, and to prove that he's not just one of the numerous posers who pretend to be snake charmers just to get chicks, he has a very large snake. (No double-entendres here, you perverts.) The cobra has some nice printed decorative coloring front and back, and fits nicely over two studs. It should be noted that the cobra is made from a softer rubbery plastic, much like the heads on last year's Itchy and Scratchy minifigs. This doesn't bother me, but I know there are a lot of people who really detest the use of this material, so keep that in mind. Regardless of how one feels about that, the snake charmer is a great minifig that should have a home in any Lego minifig collection.
Groping guide: The turban is easily confused with a couple of other pieces of headgear in this series, so try to find the flute and the cobra. The cobra might be a little tough to identify, so if you think you have one, use the flute for confirmation. The snake charmer is packed at 4 per case, so he shouldn't be too tough to get.

The Samurai is another opposite-gender counterpart to an earlier CMF, series 3's samurai. (I don't actually have the earlier samurai, so I snagged a photo from an image search for comparison purposes.) I like the newer samurai quite a bit more, as the armor detailing is far better. She also has a nice kimono print underneath, so you can display yours without her armor just as well. She has the same hairpiece as series 3's Sumo wrestler, and a pair of katanas. She's a really cool minifig, and if I have one small gripe, it's the lack of anywhere to store her swords when she's not holding them. Like i said, though, that's a minor thing.
Groping guide: Between her unique (to this series) armor and katanas, the samurai is one of the easier minifigs to find in this batch. Like all the females in this set, she's packed at 3 per case. she seems to be getting overlooked while everyone scrambles to amass HDS guys and unicorn girls, but it wouldn't surprise me if the army builders wind up making her a bit more scarce as this series spends more time on store shelves.

Bust out the Donna Summer and Bee Gees LPs and hang the mirrorball, 'cause the Disco Diva is here! Yet another callback to an earlier CMF, the disco diva will pair up nicely with series 2's disco dude. The diva improves on the earlier minifig in every way, however, with an eye-catching color scheme and one of the most complex printing patterns I've seen in recent memory. Unusual for the CMFs, she has leg printing for her silver chain belt and the design on her pants, and back and arm printing for the pattern on her shirt. The side leg printing even has a cutaway printed to indicate that these are bell bottoms! Lego really went above and beyond for this minifig, and she's all the better for it. Throw in her afro, microphone, and roller skates, and you've got one of the stars of this series.
Groping guide: The texture on her afro is easy to feel right through the packaging. The mike and skates are tiny and tough to find through the bag, but with a little patience, you can find one of them if you need confirmation beyond the 'fro. She's packed at 3 per case, and seems to be middle of the pack as far as how quickly she disappears from a case.

Sure to become a mainstay in city displays everywhere, the Carpenter is an excellent minifig that, in retrospect, has been a long time coming. Seriously, with all the construction sets out there, I don't recall ever seeing an actual carpenter minifig. There probably has been one or more, but it doesn't seem to have been a common inclusion in those sets. He's got some nice face printing with light stubble and some crow's feet, a company logo on his shirt with some chest hair peeking out, and a really cool tool belt on his waist and legs. He comes with the requisite hard hat(with hair attached), saw, and board. That such a well-designed minifig has been overlooked is a testament to how strong this series truly is. If only he had a walrus companion. (As a side note, my dad is a carpenter, and I'm tempted to hunt down a white Santa beard and put it on this fella to have a minifig of my dad! It would be a pretty accurate representation.)
Groping guide: The saw and the board are very easy to find and identify. This guy is packed at 5 per case, so he's very easy to come across. He's the swashbuckler of this series.

The Egyptian Warrior will pair up nicely with either series 2's pharaoh or series 5's Egyptian queen. He has some nice detail on his torso and legs. (It's worth noting that the front and back of his torso have identical printing. This doesn't really impact the figure in any way, it's just kinda interesting.) He's got the requisite eye makeup, as well. His headdress, sword, and shield are all appropriate for the Egyptian theme, and it makes for a nice overall presentation. This isn't one of my favorites from this series, but it's a nice minifig, and a very good army builder for people who are into that. (By the way, I realized after I added the photos that I had his shield upside down. No need to point that out.)
Groping guide: His sword is unique, but there are a lot of swords in this series, so your safest bet is to find the shield. It's the only accessory in this series that has that shape, and since it's rather large, it's easy to find in the package. He's packed 4 per case, so you shouldn't have much trouble finding one unless you have some obsessive army builders in your area.

The Alien Trooper is yet another army builder. (This has got to be the army building-est series to date!) It's always nice to get another space-themed minifig, and this guy channels both Zoidberg and Cthulhu to boot! Despite his monstrous influences, he (or is it she?) actually looks pretty friendly, with big round eyes, and a nicely detailed spotted pattern on the head. The uniform has some very nice printing on the front, back, and legs, and the gun has a cool neon green disc attachment(shades of Blacktron!). This is a really cool minifig, and I definitely have the urge to pick up a couple of extras for some customs.
Groping guide: The head is a rubbery sort of material, like Itchy and Scratchy, so it's pretty easy to figure out that you have the alien. You can feel the tentacles through the bag with your fingernail to confirm. Zoidthulhu is packed 4 per case, so he's easy pickings.

All this leaves the Fencer and the Galaxy Trooper as the odd figs out. They were the only minifigs in this series that didn't interest me much, so I never picked them up, and do not plan to. However, I ran across quite a few of them in my searches, so I can provide a groping guide for those of you who want them. For the fencer, his helmet is large and easy to find, but can easily be confused with some of the other large rounded headgear in the series. His rapier, however, is unmistakable, so look for that. He's one of the less common in this series at 3 per case, which is surprising since I came across a horde of them at Target. It seemed like every third minifig was a fencer!
For the galaxy trooper, his helmet, guns, and armor are all unique to him. The armor is the easiest part to identify, so if you find a big hunk of plastic that isn't hot dog-shaped in one of the foil bags, you've got yourself a trooper. He's common at 5 per case, so you should have a pretty easy time finding him(again, unless there are a bunch of army builders in your area).

That wraps it up! Like I said in part one, this is quite possibly the strongest lineup to date, which is really saying something, as that bar is set quite high. Get out there and get 'em while you can! Simpsons series 2 is just a couple of months away, after all!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

After dropping off a few Lincoln logs, Abe realizes there's no paper left on the roll.
I dunno what compelled me to build a Lego toilet, but I'm glad I didn't fight it. The face is from one of the numerous Emmet minifigures, and the legs were borrowed from casual Homer.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Happy birthday to Bill Finger, the true father of Batman!

Today is Batman co-creator Bill Finger's birthday. I did a post about him and his role in the creation of the world's most popular superhero last year that you can read here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Four comics that changed my life

This is one of those things being passed around the net, much like the "ten books that changed your life" thing I wrote up last year and just remembered that I forgot to schedule, so it still hasn't been posted. Whoops! Anyway, it sounded like a fun exercise, so here we go!

He-Man and the Power Sword (1982)
This was one of the minicomics that were famously packed in with every Masters of the Universe action figure in the 1980s. It's the first one sequentially, and the first one I ever got. As far as I know, it was also the very first comic I ever received. I was not quite three years old when I got this, and looking at it in the car on the way home is my earliest memory. This might be fudging the rules just a bit, as the first four Masters of the Universe pack-ins were technically illustrated storybooks, but they've always been considered part of the minicomics line, so I'm counting it.
This one is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it ignited my lifelong love of reading. It was the desire to read my MOTU comics (as well as my dinosaur books) whenever I wanted that led to me learning to read by the time I was five. (No more of that "having to wait until someone felt like reading one to me" crap!) It also kickstarted my affection for the heroic fantasy genre, which eventually led me to the work of Conan the barbarian creator Robert E. Howard, who remains one of my very favorite authors. I wanted to create my own characters and adventures like the one in this comic, which led me to start writing and drawing. Alfredo Alcala's badass art was a huge inspiration. One of the strongest impressions I got from this was how cool and creepy Skeletor was, which began my fascination with villains. So many of my major interests can be traced directly to this comic! It is easily the single most important book or comic I've ever gotten.

Amazing Spider-Man #360 (1992)
This wasn't the first comic I bought with my own money-- I had a few I had picked up here and there over the years-- but this was the comic that got me started buying comics as an ongoing thing, and not just something I would pick up occasionally when I had a little money and couldn't find a toy I wanted in my price range. We were selling magazine subscriptions as a school fundraiser, and among the Southern Livings and Better Homes and Gardens were a couple of comic series: Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America. Subs were only $5 each, so I figured what the hell, I'll get one. I opted for Spider-Man, which was a good thing, considering how bad the Captain America comic was at the time. (Though ASM would quickly start going down the tubes itself. It wasn't easy to find good comics published by Marvel in the '90s.)
Anyway, this issue featured the antihero Cardiac, who had an nice eye-catching visual design. He's largely a generic vigilante combining aspects of Batman and the Punisher, but as a 13 year-old, I thought he was pretty cool at the time. This was the conclusion of a two-part story, and I had little idea what was going on, but I enjoyed it all the same. I haven't read it in about twenty years, so I have no idea how it would hold up, but that hardly matters. This comic and the larger world it hinted at was the springboard for me wading into the deep in of the comics pool for years to come.
Interesting side note: the next issue was the first appearance of '90s darling Carnage.

Sin City (1993)
I'm referring to the original hardcover collection here, just to clear up any confusion. (I know it's since been given the title "The Hard Goodbye," but as that title wasn't conceived until the movie was released, it appears nowhere in this edition of the book, so I don't refer to it as such.) I picked this up a year or so after it was published, based on a recommendation from the owner of the comic store I frequented. He was so sure I'd dig it that he knocked $5 off the price, and told me to bring it back the next week and swap it for something else if I didn't like it! I could hardly refuse such an offer, so I bought the book and got back in the car where my mom and grandma were waiting. (It would be another year before I got my own car.)
This book blew my mind wide open. The noir atmosphere, the gut-punch of an ending, and above all else, the art were amazing. The feeling I had as I opened this book and looked at the art for the first time must have been comparable to how movie audiences felt when they first saw King Kong in 1933. It was that significant. The visuals in this book remain astonishing, and Frank Miller would refine this art style over the next few years as he made further trips to Sin City. None of them had the visceral impact on me that this first book did, though.

Nightwing #19 (1998)
I had drifted away from the comics world during my last couple of years in high school, so I hadn't picked up a comic (a new one, anyway) in about three years when I came across this at the local Books-a-Million. I was immediately struck by three things: 1. Nightwing finally had his own series. Cool. 2. His new costume was pretty awesome, and much better than his earlier ones. 3. HOLY FUCK THEY"VE DESTROYED GOTHAM CITY WITH A MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE!!! Comic events have become a standard thing, and were kind of played out even at the time, but such a massive shakeup of the status quo was something we just didn't see that often in major titles like this. This wasn't one of those events that would be forgotten about as soon as it was over. Gotham had been leveled by this massive quake, and to make things worse, the Batcave was right along the fault line, so the cave and everything in it was utterly destroyed, and Wayne Manor had collapsed into it! I had to read this story, so I bought this issue and quickly sought out part one of the crossover.
As for this issue itself, it focuses on Nightwing returning to Gotham right after the quake (he had established himself in another city to the south of Gotham) to help rescue survivors. It's a good, solid action-packed story with some great character moments, the type of thing Chuck Dixon excels at. Scott McDaniel's art seemed to leap off the page with energy, a perfect companion to the story. I was immediately hooked. This got me back into comics, and I've never stopped buying and reading them since.

So, those are my four. I've got a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut. I may give them their own post if anyone wants to see them. Feel free to chime in with your own in the comments!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rant Review: LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 13

It's time again to visit your local retailers and spend a half hour groping little foil baggies! That's right, LEGO CMF series 13 is here! This lineup is quite possibly the best yet, which is saying something, as the bar is set very high. Although there is one minifig in this set that doesn't excite me personally, there's not a dud in the bunch, and several are absolutely outstanding. I haven't had the spare cash to pick up a full set yet, so we'll only be looking at the six I have today.

Hot Dog Suit Guy instantly became one of my must-have minifigs the moment I saw him in the lineup reveal. He's one of those oddball minifigs that hold such tremendous appeal for me. He proved to be one of the most difficult to find, as groping through three cases (two of which were the side-mounted double cases the local Target always gets) produced only two of him. He has no painted/printed details on his torso, but who cares, right? The hot dog overlay covers all that up. The little mustard squiggle is actually sculpted, not just painted on, which is always nice. This bugger was hard to find, but he was worth the trouble! He's a standout minifig in a fantastic lineup.
Groping guide: Obviously, feel for the hot dog overlay. This thing is big, and it makes this the easiest minifig in the series to identify. It's hard plastic, not the softer rubbery plastic as you might have guessed, so keep that in mind when groping. Given his relative rarity (2-3 per case of sixty), popularity, and ease of identifying within the packet, he seems to be the first one picked whenever a new case is stocked, so good luck!

Female Cyclops is part of a trend in the CMF series of producing a male minifig, then releasing a female counterpart several series later. Some may gripe about this habit, but I'm quite happy with it. More female figs is a good thing, and more monsters are always welcome in my collection! Cyclops has the exact same parts as her male counterpart from series 9, and is differentiated purely by paint detailing. These are all great little details, including her lipstick, beauty mark, and little bones used like safety pins to hold her top and loincloth together. Her head has two faces, which is always a nice bonus. One is a normal smiling look, while the other has a half-lidded smiling expression. She also has the same club, just in a different shade of gray. All in all, this Cyclops is adorable and fits very comfortably into my haunted house display.
Groping guide: The headpiece is a pretty easy to locate in the bag, though its shape is pretty similar to a couple of others in this series. The horn and pointy ears are good indicators, but even those are somewhat similar to the Goblin's head piece. To confirm you've got the Cyclops, find the club as well. It's easy to discern through the foil. She appears to be one of the less common figures at three per case.

Old West Sheriff is another excellent offering in this series. I really dig Old West stuff in general, and Lego doesn't make nearly of enough of it to suit me. The sheriff is very striking with his Sam Elliott mustache. There are some excellent painted details, including his bolo tie, watch chain, gun belt & holster, little crow's feet around his eyes, and badge(with an extra on his hat, cuz why the hell not?). He has his requisite revolver, and a "Wanted" poster featuring the bandit from CMF series 6.This is a great minifig with a lot of character, and he pairs up well with series 12's old grizzled prospector. Hopefully we'll get many more western minifigs in the near future!
Groping guide: The sheriff is one of the easiest to feel for in this series. His hat is a dead giveaway, and if you need confirmation, find the little 2x2 tile. No one else in this series has it, so you'll know for sure it's the sheriff once you find it. He's common at 4-5 per case, so should be easy to find.

The Evil Wizard will be giving you visions of Flash Gordon and Max von Sydow, as he was clearly heavily influenced by Ming the Merciless. This is another minifig that just knocks it out of the park, with fantastic paint detailing on his face and torso pieces. His cloak is in two pieces to achieve the very suave popped collar look. The red and black flame design is very striking, and his long black beard and flaming staff complete the look. This fella is neck and neck with the hot dog suit guy and the king (we'll get to him in a minute) for my favorite of the series.
Groping guide: The wizard is as easy to find as the hot dog suit guy, as he is the only minifig in this series that has the large triangular skirt piece. Find that, and you've got yourself a wizard. He's one of the more uncommon ones at three per case, and seems to be getting snatched early like the HDS guy.

The Paleontologist is another very welcome female minifig, and a science-oriented one at that, which is even better! I had to have this one, as I spent my childhood determined to be a paleontologist when I grew up. (Once I got older, however, I realized that paleontologists spend much of their time digging in the dirt and sweating, two things I loathe, so I became an armchair paleontologist instead.) There is nice detailing on her torso, with a tied-off scarf, big pockets, and belt. She also has short sleeves, something we began seeing with the Simpsons series last summer. Her look is completed with her shorts, knee socks, and glasses. Her hair and pith helmet are one piece. A bone and ammonite complete the ensemble. This is a minifig that might not be as widely appealing as some of the other more outlandish ones, but I'm damn glad they made it, and it's already a favorite of mine.
Groping guide: Thankfully, she has several parts unique to her in this series that make her easy to identify. Her hair and hat piece are pretty distinctive, and the long braid makes it even easier to identify. The ammonite is a one-stud tile, and can be tough to find in the bag, so look for the bone instead. She's one of the rarer ones at 2-3 per case. Like the HDS guy and evil wizard, it took three picked-over cases before I found mine.

The Goblin is desirable on many levels. As a staple of the fantasy genre, he'll fit right in with Lord of the Rings and medieval displays, and for my purposes, he's yet another monster I can put in the haunted house. He has the excellent paint detail typical of this series, with a ratty vest and shirt, a rope belt that would make Moe Syzslak envious, plentiful patches, a sinister grin, and empty yellow eyes. His pointy hat and ears are one piece, and I can totally see this part being used for a classic Green Goblin in Lego's Marvel line in the future. His accessories include a big nasty notched sword and a big bag, possibly containing his laundry.
Groping guide: The sword and the bag are the things to feel for here. A few of the others in this series also have swords, but the goblin's sword is very distinctive. Locate it, then find the bag to verify. He's one of the most common at five per case, so army builders rejoice!

The King is the final minifig we'll be looking at today. Lego has made a lot of kings over the years, and of all the ones I've seen, this one is the best. Apparently inspired in equal parts by the Burger King mascot and He-Man's dad King Randor, his outfit is a rather complex pattern of red, blue, and yellow that somehow works very well. These are colors that frequently suffer from bad bleed when used together, but the lines are remarkably clean and sharp here. Like the evil wizard, his cloak is in two pieces: the red cape, and the black-spotted overlay. His bushy beard fits under his head, as is the norm, and his hair is part of the crown piece. Despite being separate pieces, the beard and hair mesh perfectly. He also includes a sword for knighting or gutting people, as the situation warrants. This is an excellent minifig, quite possibly the best in this series, and one of the best I've seen in quite some time.
Groping guide: The sword can easily be confused with one of the other swords in this series, so feel for the crown. It's big and has a bunch of points on it, so it's pretty distinctive and easy to discern in the bag. The king is fairly common at four per case, but I suspect he'll become one of the tougher ones to find the longer this series is out.

That's it for this time! I'll cover the rest of this series (or the ones I plan to get, anyway) as soon as I can spare the cash for 'em. In the meantime, scroll down for more photos!

Business is booming!

The female cyclops and the goblin are making themselves at home in the Haunted House.

Put 'em up, varmint!