Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Something a bit different

At long last, you stumble from the darkness of the tunnel into a dimly lit room. Alas, the light provides you no comfort as you see the being seated before you. Its skeletal visage seems set in a permanent expression of contempt, as if all it surveys are beneath its notice. A red point of light blazes hellishly in each socket, these "eyes" regarding you as they would an insect. Your blood turns to ice as you realize where you are, and who you now face. This is the enemy of all that is decent and good. This is the relentless fiend who devotes his every moment to dominating all that lives. This is the indomitable force of pure malevolence that ruthlessly destroys all who dare oppose it. 

This is Skeletor. Where his gaze falls, babies are stillborn, crops wither and die, the elderly and infirmed breath their last, and the bravest of warriors succumb to utter terror. Even the mighty He-Man has admitted that he feels the icy grip of fear close around his heart when he faces this demonic foe. Yet, unlike everyone else, He-Man always stands his ground, and lives to fight another day.

But you, unfortunately, are no He-Man. As the Lord of Destruction rises from his throne, you know that you will not live to see the light of day again. 
The text above is a modified passage from a MOTU story I wrote years ago. Maybe someday I'll post the entire thing here, if there's enough interest. For now, this is just a tidbit to hold you over until normal reviews and comics resume. The next review should be posted next week. See you then!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Skeletor's Pal: A Masters of the Universe comic story!

It's time for another full-length MOTU comic story created with action figures! First, a bit of background. As some of you may recall, I used to do these about fifteen years ago. Sadly, nearly all of those are no longer available to read online. (The photos were atrocious anyway, due to the low-grade digital camera I was stuck with at the time. The one on a typical phone these days is about a thousand times better!) As part of my return to telling goofy stories in that format, I wanted to do new versions of those old tales. This is proving to be far more difficult for some than others, as the scripts and original photos were lost about a decade ago when the hard drive in the PC I'd been using for years suddenly went kaput. So, for most of these old stories, I'm having to reconstruct them from memory, and I recall some of them better than others.

Fortunately, the tale I'm sharing with you today was one of the most popular at the time, and I remembered it quite clearly. The basic story is exactly the same, but the dialogue and many of the jokes have been tweaked and punched up a bit. All of the photos are newly taken too, of course. (Do keep in mind, however, that I had to use a different room to take these photos, and the lighting was nowhere near as good as my usual space. The photos suffered a bit for that. I'll be sure to go back to my old setup for the next one.) Think of this as the "special edition" of that older tale. Enjoy!



























Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Entrapta figure

First off, a bit of housekeeping: Regular Rant readers have surely noticed that it's been a few weeks since the last MOTU post. Unfortunately, an increasingly crazy work schedule, coupled with more time spent with my niece's baby in recent months, has led to me having less time to spend on these posts. I could still hammer 'em out in half the time and keep to the schedule, but I don't do things half-assed like that. What this means is that, going forward, MOTUC features and reviews will be posted every two weeks most of the time. I may occasionally be able to get them posted in consecutive weeks here and there, but they'll be on a bi-weekly schedule for the most part. It's not all bad news, though, as I'm also planning to post one full-length comic story per month, too! If you liked the last one, you'll dig these, too!

With that out of the way, let's dive right into this review! As I've made clear on multiple occasions, I was never into the She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon. I have no nostalgia for it, but since nostalgia has never been the driving factor for me in deciding which figures I want, quite a few POP figures have found their way into my MOTUC collection. Entrapta is the latest one. I still know virtually nothing about her, but she's a mean lady with gold thigh boots and seven foot long prehensile braids, and that makes for a pretty cool figure. She's basically an evil version of Medusa from the Inhumans, with a more flamboyant fashion sense!

'Trapta's sculpt is among the better ones for the POP females in this line, with a great face sculpt that is both attractive and cruel. (She has that in common with Octavia.) The braids themselves are very well done, sculpted in dynamic poses, with tendrils of hair branching off from the main braids here and there, and some nice detailing. They give the figure a cool dynamic look, even when she's in a standard standing pose. There is a good bit of part reuse, of course, and at first glance, it seems that the most obvious is Castaspella's dress. This was surely done as a nod to the vintage toy, which sported the same reuse. On closer inspection, however, it appears to be a new sculpt, or at least a retool, as 'Trapta has a tiny Hordak head nestled in her bosom. If not for that, she could be mistaken for a heroic character if you showed her to someone who didn't know who she was. The Horde symbol does look odd without the wings, and I frankly would have preferred a full Horde logo instead of the nod to the vintage toy. However, the vintage toy influence usually reigns supreme in this line, so I can't really fault the figure for being held to that standard.

Entrapta has a very eye-catching color scheme, with her bright pink hair, gold boots and collar, and pink & purple dress. Some areas has a nice metallic sheen, and the figure really pops overall. Even among other POP females, she really stands out! She has a great look overall, and the paint apps are all pretty neat. She has the standard articulation for females using the 2.0 body, with a couple of additions. Aside from the usual ball jointed head, shoulders, and hips, swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist, and thighs, and hinges at the elbows, knees, and ankles, 'Trapta has pin & disc joints at the base of each braid, and a swivel at the last ribbon on each, near the ends. This doesn't allow for super poseability of the braids, of course, but it does help to get them into position to aid certain poses. Her head's range of motion is far more limited by the high collar than it is by her hair. I'm actually rather surprised at how well the figure stands with the weight of those braids. She is a bit tougher to get into stable poses than the standard figure, but not by as much as I expected. 'Trapta has two accessories, the standard POP shield in purple, and the Shaping Staff, as wielded by Evil-Lyn in the Filmation MOTU cartoon. As always, it's great to get cool accessories like this! Although the staff was never used by 'Trapta in the show, it looks so good with her that I think I'll let her keep it.

For a figure I never really cared about, Entrapta is a pretty cool figure. She's not one of my favorite females in the line, but she is one of the better ones. Her origins as a POP character and her bright pink color scheme may be off-putting to many collectors, but she's a great addition to my collection, and a nice new member to fill out the ranks of the Horde a bit more. That's it for this week, but scroll down for more photos, and come on back in two weeks for the next feature!


Friday, May 4, 2018

Free Comic Book Day 2018 Guide

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, so here I am with this year's edition of the FCBD guide! For those of you who have never participated, it may be helpful to have a few of the details clarified. Generally, FCBD goes something like this: You enter your local comic shop-- if you're unsure where the nearest one is, you can find out right here-- and the FCBD comics are displayed on a table or shelf, usually separate from the rest of the merchandise. Some shops place a limit on how many free books you can choose, while some let you grab as many as you like; it's all up to the owners of each store. Whatever the case, make sure to buy something while you're there, because while the comics are free to customers, the stores have to pay for them. They pay much less than they do for a normal comic, but it's still money out of their pockets.

FCBD grows each year, and so does the selection of free comics. It can be a little overwhelming, particularly with all the extra traffic most shops experience during the event. It helps to have a few key comics in mind that you're interested in. Lucky thing you happened across this, eh? (Of course, keep in mind that not every comic shop will have ordered every single comic. Generally, the majority will be offered, however.)

Once again, the owners of Hattiesburg's own Southern Fried Comics graciously allowed me to come by a few days early and read through this year's comics. Thanks to their generosity, I'm able to bring you a thorough look at this year's FCBD offerings! Let's start by taking a look at my top picks.

Bongo Comics Free-For-All: Simpsons Comics are always solid all-ages fun, entertaining to adults and children alike.

Amazing Spider-Man: Marvel is relaunching Spider-Man-- yes, again-- and this issue is a fun preview. Writer Nick Spencer has become a rather polarizing figure for many, but he always turns out very solid work, and his style is a perfect fit for Spidey. This is one of the funnest FCBD comics on offer this year!

Relay: This story featuring a space traveler landing on a technologically undeveloped planet is a very entertaining kickoff to a sci-fi story with lots of promise. Another draw is the excellent art by Andy Clarke's art.

Spongebob's Freestyle Funnies: As with the Bongo FFA, Spongebob comics are always reliable fun for all ages. 

The Tick: It's the Tick! 

Shadowman: Valiant has been remarkably consistent in the quality of its comics since its relaunch a few years ago. Shadowman has been a character they've kinda struggled with, but this latest incarnation is very promising. If you're looking for a superhero comic that's off the beaten path, you can't do much better then looking in Valiant's direction!

Shadow Roads: There just aren't enough westerns in comics, and this one is quite solid, and has a sci-fi twist. Billed as a spiritual successor to the acclaimed The Sixth Gun, this is one to keep an eye on. 

Unicron: IDW's long-running Tranformers comics are about to face the threat of the world-destroying Unicron, and cult favorite character Rom is along for the ride. 

Bob's Burgers: Like the show? Then you'll like this comic! 

Berlin: I actually didn't get to read this one, but it looks fascinating. Lutes is a fantastic creator, and the subject matter is very compelling. I'll be tracking down a copy of this one!

Barrier: A compelling story from a solid writer and a fantastic artist, clocking in at 53 pages, to be followed by four weekly chapters completing the story? If you like engaging, visually beautiful stories and instant gratification, this is the comic for you! 

Taking the kids along? Then you'll want to keep an eye out for these Kid-Friendly Comics!
DC Superhero Girls
Power Rangers
Comics Friends Forever
Invader Zim
Disney Princess Ariel
Pokemon
2000 AD Regened
Adventure Time
Crush
Sparks
Howard Lovecraft's Big Book of Summer Fun
Legend of Korra
Miraculous Adventures
Nightmare Before Christmas- Zero's Journey
Star Wars Adventures
And of course, the aforementioned Bongo Comics FFA, Spongebob's FF, and Bob's Burgers.

There are still more comics to discover, however! you can view the full selection here. These are just the ones that stuck out to me, for one reason or another. Whichever comics catch your eye, be sure to get out tomorrow and have some fun, and support your local comic shop in the bargain!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Extendar figure

Today we're looking at the white knight of the MOTU mythos, the heroic master of extension, Extendar! Because, y'know, He-Man needs somebody to get his frisbee off the roof whenever it lands up there. Extendar is a figure that instantly appealed to me when I was a kid. In my mind, taller equaled more powerful, as it did for many kids, so the idea that an already cool-looking knight could actually grow larger seemed pretty awesome. It was like a non-crappy version of those "giant growth" sponges our grandmas were always getting us at the dollar store! Of course, given the realities of toy production, there were some limitations to exactly how much Extendar could grow. In the end, he didn't get all that much taller than a standard MOTU figure, but he still had some impressive size and bulk, so it was still pretty cool.

Helping matters was a nice origin story provided in his included minicomic. Feeling inadequate next to the powerful and renowned heroes of Eternia, the oddly already-named-Extendar-even-though-he-has-no-extending-powers-yet Extendar is an easy mark for Hordak's shilling for his "warrior machine." Hordak promises it will make him a mighty warrior, and Extendar, apparently terminally stupid, decides to trust Hordak and go along with him to his lair. Hordak has already transformed an ordinary schlub into the cybernetic terror Dragstor, who lurks nearby as Hordak straps Extendar into the machine. The machine does indeed imbue Extendar with power, and using a nice little motivational rhyme Hordak teaches him, he is able to extend his limbs and become very strong. After He-Man shows up and convinces longshanks to do a face turn, Hordak sics Dragstor on them, and Extendar takes him out pretty easily. He-Man, realizing that his day won't be complete unless he smashes something, destroys the machine before they leave. (Some alternate versions of Extendar's origin have him and Dragstor as friends prior to their enhancements at the hands of Hordak, a nice little additional layer to the story. The MOTUC bio references this version.) An interesting tidbit about this minicomic is that in my copy of it, Extendar's name looks a bit odd every time it appears, as if another name was originally there and hastily replaced. (This famously happened with Lodar's name in the Slave City minicomic.) Interestingly, the version you can read over at He-Man.org has different word balloons and captions than my copy does. As I don't have a scanner, these photos of my copy of the comic will have to suffice for illustrating what I'm talking about. It's tougher to notice in the photo, but it's obvious in person.

Extendar's sculpt is pretty nice, if a bit underwhelming overall. It's a very good update of the vintage sculpt, and I think that's my issue with it. Figures that were strictly vintage updates, with nothing really added, tend to not thrill me as much as figures like Bow or Trap Jaw, where they really went the extra mile. There is some good detailing in the appropriate areas, particularly on the limb extensions, and they even included the peace sign on the neck. The face still has that odd robotic design with the grate where a mouth should be. The armor overlay is very bulky, even more so than the larger-than-usual torso on the vintage figure, and there is no chance of getting the figure's arms to rest at his sides. That said, his proportions are not as bloated as with the vintage figure, which is nice. There's also the belt, which is sculpted with an oddly large top rim. I'm assuming this was necessary because of the extension feature. It looks a bit odd once you notice it, but it doesn't particularly bother me. Ultimately, there's really nothing exactly wrong with the sculpt, it just wound up not really wowing me. It feels as if Extendar wasn't a favorite of anyone who worked on the figure, preventing him from getting that extra "oomph" that many other figures got in this line.

Paint is basic, but neatly applied. The pearl white and gold is every bit as eye-catching and visually appealing as it was back in the '80s. Accessories include a set of six extension pieces, the extending shield, and a lance. The extensions all work well and seems sturdy, though I do wish there were more of them. the shield, like the figure itself, is a well-done update to its vintage counterpart. The lance is a cool bonus, finally giving highpockets an offensive weapon, and one that makes sense with his design and features. Unfortunately, it's warped due to how it was packaged, and the tip tends to droop.

Articulation is kinda all over the place. Extendar has some additional points of articulation due to his extensions, but some POAs don't work very well because of the figure's design. The torso hinge, ankles, shoulders, and hips are severely restricted. On the plus side, the head has a surprisingly good range of motion, especially once extensions are in place. Extendar also has a swivel/hinge joint at each elbow, which is nicely implemented. There is also an additional swivel anywhere you pop on an extension, of course. The joints are all nice and tight, so even with the restrictions, you can get some nice poses.

As one of the tail-enders in the vintage line, Extendar isn't one of the more well-liked characters. Even for someone like me who thinks he's cool, his MOTUC figure definitely has some issues. I'm glad to add him to the collection, but there are some things I would personally have preferred be done differently. Still, he's a figure with a striking appearance, a cool gimmick that works pretty well, and he's cheap, to boot! I recommend the figure for anyone who wants to fill out the ranks of their heroic warriors, or even army build a group of heroic knights! That's it for this week, but keep scrolling down for plenty more photos, and see you next time!




Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Lodar figure

We're taking a break today from reviews of figures that released years ago to take a look at one that is currently shipping to customers: Lodar, one of the figures from the first full wave of Super 7's offerings. (If you don't count the Ultimates or last year's Power Con exclusives, anyway!) As I've mentioned previously, the minicomics packed in with the vintage MOTU figures were my first point of entry into the MOTU mythos. The early minis, in particular simply were MOTU to me in a way that nothing else was, and that remains the case to this day.

Though it was released near the middle of the vintage toyline's run, 1984's Slave City (which you can read at He-Man.org) made nearly as big an impression on me as those early stories. The main reason was its villain, Lodar. The villainous master of a city full of slaves forced to battle one another for his amusement, Lodar was immensely powerful, and had an army of cool creatures called kobolds to do his bidding. Whereas a typical encounter saw He-Man dispatch whatever enemy stood before him in a couple of panels, usually with a single punch, Lodar battled He-Man for several pages! Of course, interviews with the creative team in the years since (which can be read in the awesome MOTU Minicomics collection) make it clear that they extended the battle to ensure the comic met its required length, but I knew nothing of that as a small child. That Lodar was able to trade blows with He-Man for so long was hugely impressive, and that made him a very formidable foe in my mind. Surely, five year old me assumed, we'd be getting a Lodar figure soon! As it turned out, I'd have to wait more than three decades to get one. Was he worth the wait? Read on to find out! (Or skip to the end, if you want. I'm not the boss of you!)

The figure's sculpt is extremely faithful to the character's single minicomic appearance, though the Four Horsemen have added some details here and there in appropriate spots. Lodar's eyes gaze menacingly from within his helmet, and his boots have some very nasty-looking spikes on their soles.  With even more spikes on his helmet and bracers, there's a definite theme here. The belt/crotch piece is one of the areas with added detail, with even more spikes sculpted onto the belt, and a ribbed pattern descending from it. His pauldrons resemble Beast Man's bicep armor, but they do not share a mold. These pieces have some different sculpted texture, and are more simple in appearance overall. They're very soft, so they don't impede the shoulders' movement too badly. Unfortunately, the armor is glued in place. I do like to mix and match armor on my figures sometimes, so it's annoying that the option has been removed.

I'll mention here that the plastic has a different feel from that of the Mattel figures. Some have accused this plastic of being cheap and brittle, and while it does have a slightly harder feel, I see nothing to indicate that it's any cheaper. The figure feels good and solid in-hand, though I do have a slightly oily residue on my fingertips after handling it. I've bought figures in the past whose joints had been oiled in the factory, so perhaps that's what happened here. Moving on...

The MOTUC articulation model has been tweaked a bit by Super 7, mostly for the better. Lodar has ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, hinges at the elbows, knees, and torso, swivels at the biceps, thighs, and waist, and a swivel/hinge combo at the wrists and ankles. The addition of hinges at the wrists is most welcome. As I've stated many times, this should have been a standard POA for this line from day one, so it's always nice to see it added. The elbows and knees have the ratchet-style joints introduced with the Power Con 2017 figures, which I quite like. The articulation works well overall, but there are a couple of issues. The abdominal hinge is very loose, though it helpfully has a catch in the middle so that Lodar can easily hold an upright standing pose. The head feels a bit odd when I'm moving it, though it does hold whatever pose I place it in, so it's not the neck peg bending. Still, many people have had the neck pegs break on their figures, so I won't be getting too twist-crazy with it. I'm not sure if this figure is supposed to have side-to-side rocker motion on the ankles or not, as there is a bit of this on the right foot, but none at all on the left.

Lodar only has two accessories, but they're pretty great ones. He has his trademark mace, seen on the cover of the Slave City minicomic, and a set of shackles to slap onto a captive figure of your choice. The spikes on the mace, as with the other spikes on the figure, are a good deal sharper than we ever got on a Mattel figure! These shackles are very cool, and naturally, I couldn't resist recreating the cover scene! The manacles will fit most MOTUC figures' wrists. (As well as plenty of figures from other lines, so you can finally teach the likes of Superman, Ash, or Jason Vorhees a lesson in humility, if you so choose.) Paint is mostly good, with neat, clean work on the eyes and various rivets. There are a couple of spots where paint was either rubbed off or not applied, though these are mostly in areas where it's tough to spot, such as the bottom of the figure's crotch, as seen below.

I hope his mother doesn't see this. C'mon, Lodar, if you needed money, there were other ways to earn it! Anyway, Lodar's skin seems too light and bright to me, but given the way it varies from panel to panel in the comic, it's tough to say they definitely got it wrong. It certainly doesn't look bad, and I do like the contrast it creates with the darker purple on his armor. I do wish his body had gotten the airbrushed highlights many Mattel figures had, as that would have really made the sculpted musculature pop. If you're in doubt, just look at the original release Mer-Man, and check out how much the airbrushing enriches that figure's look. He'd be far more plain without it! While I do like Lodar's look, I do lament what could have been. I suspect I'll wind up adding a wash myself in the near future.

Aside from a few QC issues and questionable design decisions, Lodar is a fantastic figure. He's definitely not an essential figure for every MOTU collection, and many collectors will feel fine about skipping him. For those of us who are really into the "deep cut" figures, however, he's a total delight, and a perfect example of exactly why this line is so damn great. I've been waiting a very long time for a figure of this character-- I liked him enough that I even made a custom figure of him in the 2002 MOTU line-- and I'm giddy as hell about finally having one in my MOTUC collection. As soon as it became clear how expansive the MOTUC line was going to be, Lodar was the first character that popped into my mind. Finally having this figure in my hands feels like a promised fulfilled. It's nearly everything I could have hoped for! That's it for today, but be sure to swing back by next week for the next review! The next one will also have the usual amount funny photos; perhaps due to how long-awaited Lodar was for me, this one wound up with more action shots and fewer humor pics than usual. I didn't even realize it until I was putting everything together. Hopefully nobody is too disappointed about that. See you next week!