Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Top Ten Posts of 2017

It's New Year's Eve, and you know what that means: No, I'm not hosting a NYE party rife with drunken debauchery; it's time to review the most popular posts of the past year! (You can totally get hammered while you take in the list, though, I won't mind!)

It's quite a change from previous years. Since I began reviewing MOTUC figures when I resumed collecting that line as a way to return to updating the blog regularly, those posts dominated the year. Since all of those posts were reviews, I'll omit the "Rant Review" header from the posts. Without any further ado-- 'cause let's face it, that was way too much ado I was indulging in just now-- let's have a look at the list!

10. Point Dread & Talon Fighter playset with Teela 2.0 

9. Serpentine King Hiss 

8. Anti-Eternia He-Man 

7. Goat Man 

6. Battleground Teela

5. Clamp Champ 

4. Skeletor(s)

3. Octavia

2. Battle Ram with Man-at-Arms

1. Oo-Larr, the Jungle He-Man

A few thoughts: While it was a given that the MOTU reviews would have a stranglehold on the list, I am a bit surprised that the always-popular Free Comic Book Day primer didn't even crack the top ten! The FCBD guide is always one of the most popular posts of the year, but the popularity of the MOTU reviews pushed it right out of the top ten. It's also interesting to see a few underdog figures rank high, while heavy hitters like Beast Man and the Sorceress didn't make the list. I'm particularly surprised to see Octavia in the top three! Vultak just missed making the top ten, so the influence of figures many see as D-list at best was nearly even more pronounced!

Putting these reviews together is a lot of work, but I have fun with them too, and I truly appreciate all the messages and comments I receive. (Mostly on other sites, though. It's okay to post comments directly on the posts here, I promise!) I have no plans to end the weekly reviews anytime soon, and there will be the occasional horror-related posts, as always! I hope you all have a great New Year's Eve, and here's to a great 2018!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Sorceress (Temple of Darkness)

One of the most impressive aspects of the Masters of the Universe Classics line is its diversity. While the all-embracing nature of the line has been a longtime gripe of many collectors who are only interested in one particular area of MOTU, it has allowed us to receive figures of characters who we really never expected to see immortalized in plastic. It's also given those of us who prefer alternate versions of some of the main characters to receive "our" version. This minicomic-based figure of the Sorceress is a perfect example. After the character transitioned from the snake-themed character seen in early MOTU media into the more familiar falcon-themed incarnation, variations of the look popped up frequently. This is especially true of the minicomics, where she didn't appear fully on-model until the final series. In the 1984 minicomic The Temple of Darkness, the Sorceress appeared in a fully white costume. It's a striking look that stuck with many MOTU fans who read it as children, myself included. For whatever reason, that rendition of the character superseded the far more familiar blue & orange look to become "my" Sorceress. (The full minicomic is posted over at if you'd like to read it!)

As a recolored version of the earlier figure, one would expect the sculpt to remain the same, but that's actually not quite true. While everything is the same from the waist up, TOD Sorceress eschews the thighs and hips used on Battleground Teela, so she has the hip articulation that is lacking in the original Sorceress figure. Her boots are also the standard leather-wrapped model, as opposed to the smooth boots of the earlier figure. (I'll point out here that the left hand on my figure has been swapped for the spell-casting hand seen on such figures as Castaspella and Battleground Evil-Lyn. The figure normally comes with two gripping hands.) The sculpt is quite good overall, capturing the look of the character very well. This face just looks like the Sorceress, without slavishly copying any specific version. The bustier-on-top-of-a-shirt look can look a bit odd, but it is accurate to the character's design. Even in the minicomic, the collar is partly drawn in, though not identical to this look. Still, it's close enough that I can't really fault them for not altering this part of the figure. I would like a bit more detail in the sculpt overall, but even so, there are a few areas that stand out in that respect. The headdress features some nice detailing, as do the wings.

Speaking of the wings... Let's go ahead and tackle the elephant in the room. The implementation of the wings has remained one of the major hot-button issues in the MOTUC line, even years after this figure was released. As seen in the photo above, the wings are divided into segments, which are attached to pegs on the figure's shoulders. Not-so-affectionately nicknamed "the drums" by collectors, these pegs allow the wings to swivel up and down, expanding as needed to match the pose of the figure's arms. Frankly, they look pretty terrible. They also impede the articulation, which is never a good thing. If you want an arm to be bent forward, you have to adjust the wing to do so, and then the wing just doesn't look right. To be fair, this was a big design challenge for this figure, and there really was no solution that would have pleased a majority of MOTUC collectors. That said, I can think of several alternatives right offhand that I feel would have worked better. This is the single biggest issue with the figure, by far. On the positive side, the wings are molded in a nice translucent white, matching their appearance in the minicomic. They could have easily just molded them in plain white, so this attention to detail is very nice.

Articulation is mostly standard for the females of this line, with ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, hinged knees, elbows, and ankles, swivels at the biceps, wrists, thighs, boot tops, and waist, and the aforementioned "drums" on each shoulder. As mentioned, the implementation of the wings severely limits the range of motion of the shoulders. The headdress also limits the head a great deal, and the "skirt" piece is definitely stiffer than I would like. It's a damn good thing that I was only planning to display my Sorceress standing around holding her staff, since that's damn near all she can do. Her accessories include her staff, molded in a nice pearl white, and a stand for the King Grayskull's shooter-- er, the Orb of Grayskull. If you have a Castle Grayskull, and the orb is currently residing in its chamber there, you'll have to find an alternate use for this stand. I reckon I'll toss some in-scale burgers or something on it so the Sorceress can have a makeshift grill for Grayskull cookouts. Or maybe I'll go the most obvious route and pose the various Zoars around it as a birdbath?

While I'm very happy to have a figure of "my" Sorceress, she is definitely a mixed bag. The figure's positive aspects are enough that I can easily get past issues like the stiff skirt and headdress, but the drums are a huge problem. They're not a big enough drawback that I'll be getting rid of the figure over them, but I will be leaving her on the shelf instead of getting her down and re-posing her regularly like I do with most of my MOTU figures. They don't ruin the figure, but they do drag her down to the point that she's a pretty good figure, rather than a great one. Still, if you want a minicomic-inspired Sorceress, she's the only game in town unless you customize your own. Thankfully, she does run significantly cheaper than the standard colors Sorceress, so she won't hurt your wallet too badly. I am glad I have her, but she won't be stealing center stage on the shelf from the Goddess. Scroll down for more photos, and I'll see you here next week!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Prahvus figure

When the 2002 Masters of the Universe line met a premature end due to Mattel's total mishandling, it left collectors with woefully incomplete collections, with core characters such as Clawful and Hordak absent. Another casualty of the line's early demise was any and all figures based on the cool original characters that had been introduced in the tie-in animated series. One of the most frequently demanded of these was Prahvus. Appearing briefly via flashbacks in two episodes, Prahvus was a warlord who was active during the Great Unrest, the period that spanned the two decades between Keldor's defeat and banishment behind the Mystic Wall, and his return as the infinitely more dangerous Skeletor. And... that was all we really knew about him. Still, with his very cool and intimidating design, he made quite an impression on viewers. Now, once more, the MOTUC line is able to correct a wrong by giving us a figure we never got before!

The bio gives us a bit more information, in that he eventually becomes an enslaved member of the Horde, and that he dwells inside a magic lamp. The djinn motif carries over to several details of the figure, with his long, curling beard, glowing eyes, and pretty much his entire head evoking various djinn designs. The beard is a very soft plastic, while the horns are far more rigid. It's an impressive sculpt, and stands out even among the extremely varied heads in this line. The rest of the sculpt is largely reused parts, as per usual, but Prahvus gets all the new parts he needs. Everything is sculpted with the care and attention to detail we've come to expect from the Four Horsemen, with the texture on the cloak and loincloth standing out, in particular. The cloak is attached to the right shoulder, so it can look a bit odd in some poses. Here's a closer look at the cloak's texture:

Paint apps are kinda all over the place. Some areas, such as the eyes and blue tattoos, are very neat, while others, such as the red bumps on the belt, are quite sloppy. There is also a lot of overspray on the back of the cloak. Articulation is mostly standard for the line, with ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, swivels at the biceps, wrists, thighs, and waist, and hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles, and torso. Prahvus lacks the swivels at the boot tops that most MOTUC figures have. Despite the large horns and ears, the head has an excellent range of motion, and the large skull on the cloak rarely gets in the way. Prahvus comes with his large club and the lamp that occasionally serves as his prison. Both accessories are sculpted well, but could benefit from some additional paint apps, or even a paint wash to bring out the details.

For a character with such a tiny presence in the MOTU mythos, Prahvus definitely cast a long shadow, and it's very nice to finally have this long-awaited figure of the character! The few issues I noted above are really just nitpicks. This is a great figure, and his backstory is open enough that he will easily fit in with any faction you feel like plugging him into. He'll even work quite well as a Preternian antagonist for King Grayskull, or an ally of Demo Man menacing the mighty Vikor! Wherever he winds up on your shelf, Prahvus will make for a menacing presence, and a damn good addition to the collection. That's it for today, but be sure to come by next Tuesday for the Xmas review, which focuses on a figure I've wanted to get to for quite some time! In the meantime, scroll down for more photos, and I hope you all enjoy whichever holiday(s) you celebrate!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Ultimate Ram Man figure

One of He-Man staunchest allies, Ram Man was present nearly from the beginning of the MOTU line. He received his own minicomic by Gary Cohn and Mark Texeira, which saw him duped by Skeletor into attacking Castle Grayskull. This characterization as a well-meaning but slow-witted physical powerhouse quickly became the standard depiction of the character.
 As one of the handful of MOTU characters who are well-represented in pretty much all media, Ram Man is one of the most important and well-known of He-Man's allies. As part of the vintage toy line's second series, he was also one of the earliest figures released. Unfortunately, since he required 100% new tooling that had very limited potential for reuse, collectors had to wait quite a while for him to receive a figure in the MOTUC line. As with many figures in the line, sculptors the Four Horsemen based his look on the vintage cross-sell art(seen below, image via the excellent Battle Ram Blog), but the decision was made to use the color scheme from the vintage toy rather than that of the art. This was a somewhat controversial decision, but now, with this reissue from Super 7, collectors can have it both ways! (Assuming they've got deep enough pockets, anyway.)

Unsurprisingly, the 4H has absolutely nailed the look of the vintage cross-sell art with this sculpt. As someone who used to look at that art on the backs of my minicomics and wish I had a Ram Man figure that looked that cool, I'm thrilled to finally have one who looks as if he stepped right off the page. The head sculpt is divisive, as many collectors dislike the squinty-eyed expression, but it looks great to me. It's a face with a hell of a lot of character. It would have been nice to get a different expression on the alternate head as a compromise, though. Speaking of that alternate head, it's similarly well-sculpted, and while I'm not thrilled with the design-- it just seems weird that the metal plate is apparently part of his head, and the huge ears look rather weird-- it's all sculpted and detailed extremely well. The body sculpt also has some nice details, with lots of studs and rivets in appropriate places. Ram Man is also HUGE. He's not any taller than the standard MOTUC figure, but he's nearly twice as wide! I've waited more than thirty years to have a Ram Man figure that is sized appropriately, and it's damn nice to finally have one! I only have two gripes with the sculpting. First, it would be nice to have some dings and dents in the armor. I mean, this big burly bastard smashed into all kinds of stuff head-first, so you'd expect to see a bit of wear here and there, right? Second, Rammy has no neck! The area between the pauldrons is just a smooth expanse of grayness, and while this isn't noticeable with the standard head in place, when you switch to the alternate head, it looks very strange. This isn't a problem for me, as I'll only be using the standard head with my figure, but it will be a serious issue for anyone who prefers the alternate head.

Articulation is standard for the line, with ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, hinged elbows, knees, ankles, and torso, and cuts at the biceps, wrists, thighs, boot tops, and waist. The head has a very limited range of motion due to the armor's design, unfortunately. The alternate head moves much more freely. Accessories include the aforementioned alternate head and Rammy's trademark axe. The axe is a perfect update of its vintage counterpart, and fits nicely into the figure's right hand. 

With the paint, we run into the only real problems with this figure. First, let's deal with the elephant in the room: The armor has a dull matte finish, instead of the shiny silver it had when first unveiled, when it was for sale on Super 7's website, and as shown on the packaging. Customers didn't find out about this change until the figures started arriving on doorsteps. It's unclear why this change was made, but it seems that most people were not happy about it. Personally, I think it looks fine, but not as good as the shiny silver armor does on the original MOTUC version of the figure. I'll be applying a gloss coat to my figure's armor to address this. The second issue is that the entire "skirt" piece is molded in the same dull gray, and the orange part of it is painted very sloppily. There's a particularly large unpainted gap underneath the belt buckle. (It should be noted that the gray belt and buckle are accurate to the cross-sell art on which this figure's look is based, so I can't rightfully hold that against it.) Again, I can fix this without much trouble, but I shouldn't have to. The third issue is that the hands were not molded in the same color plastic as the figure's arms, so they have a sickly yellowish tinge that doesn't match the rest of the figure's "skin." There is also some general sloppiness in the paint all over the figure. I've spotlighted a couple of the worst areas below. Paint issues are pretty easy to fix, but it's still a shame to see so many, especially on such a pricey figure. This many paint issues give the figure a rather cheap appearance, which is the exact opposite of what we should be seeing when these are being sold as high-quality adult collectibles. 

That last paragraph may make it seem as if I'm not crazy about this figure. The many paint issues are disappointing, but they can at least be corrected. Every other aspect of this figure is so well executed that I can't help but love it despite its flaws. Once I do a bit of repainting, Ram Man will be one of my favorite figures in the entire MOTUC line. He's a pretty essential character, too, so it's a shame that he's so damned expensive on the secondary market. That's it for today, but scroll down for more photos, and swing back by next week for the next review!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Snow day on Eternia!

We're having a rare snow day in the southern US today, with five inches and counting! That much snow is practically unprecedented here. Apparently, they're getting some snow on Eternia today, too! ;)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Bow figure

We've got yet another character from the She-Ra: Princess of Power wing of the MOTU universe today! As I've said before, I never got into PoP, but I've got no issues buying MOTUC figures based on those characters, as I'm only out for cool figures. While Bow has often been the subject of much derision, I've never really understood why. He hangs around with a bunch of hot women, and he's got the whole Errol Flynn/Cary Elwes vibe going for him. Seems pretty cool to me! Turning the typical superhero romantic triangle on its head, Bow is in love with Adora, not her superpowered alter-ego.  Although, according to his bio, "he has a magical heart that beats frantically when She-Ra is in danger." Uh... okay then.

This figure has a fantastic sculpt, with quite a bit of new tooling. The Four Horsemen drew a bit more from the Filmation design than the vintage toy, while adding quite a bit of detail to bring the design to current standards. There are two heads included, a mustachioed Filmation-style head, and a clean-shaved vintage toy-style head wearing a crown. Both are great sculpts, though I prefer the one with the 'stache. The arrows sculpted into the quiver have a cool playing card motif. There is some nice detailing on his gauntlets and boots, and an intricate pattern on the side portions of his armor. Bow is a showcase for how much better certain figures could have been if the same level of detail and artistic license by the 4H had been applied to them as well.

There are a couple of issues with the figure, however, and both involve his armor. The armor doesn't want to stay in place, and is constantly sliding back or to one side. It really needed a pair of straps running from the lower front and around the back to hold it in place. The 4H seem to like giving us strapless armor whenever possible, for whatever reason. It's rarely as big an issue as it is here, though. The quiver has a cord attached, and there's really no good place to put it. The cardback shows it looped over his head and under his neck, but frankly, that just doesn't look good to me, and it impedes the ball-jointed head a bit. I tried looping it under his arm, but that only makes the armor slide to that side. I wound up just cramming it underneath the quiver to keep it out of the way.

Bow has the standard MOTUC articulation, along with a little something extra: In addition to the standard ball-jointed head, shoulders, and hips, hinged elbows, knees, torso, and ankles, and cuts at the waist, biceps, wrists, thighs, and boot tops, Bow also has a hinge at each wrist. This is to help pose him with his bow, and it helps tremendously in general posing. As with Green Arrow in their DC Universe Classics line, Mattel added a POA to a single figure that really should be standard across the line. It's damn nice to have those wrist hinges here, but it really drives home how nice it would be to have them on all figures. I had a few joints on my figure that are very tight, but I'd prefer that to loose ones.

Paint apps are below average, with a good bit more slop and over/underspray than I like to see, especially at this price point. Bow's hairline fared poorly on both heads, and I'll definitely be grabbing the brush to do some touching up. The white ring on the chest armor is very gloppy, and seems to have been applied quite thickly. There's also a lot of slop on the belt buckle, and the gauntlets have a few spots where paint simply wasn't applied where it should have been. These are just the most obvious paint issues; there are definitely more. This is significantly worse than we usually see in this line. Bow has a nice assortment of accessories, including his bow, and arrow, his harp, a different swappable chest armor logo, and the aforementioned extra head. The bow lacks a string, so you'll have to attach one yourself if you want one. Considering it was probably a choice between either a stringless bow or a molded plastic string, I think they made the right call here. The harp and bow both have a very cool horse motif. He does have some trouble holding the arrow, though, even though his right hand is sculpted to hold the shaft between two of his fingers. The chest logo swaps without much trouble, though I imagine you'll want to toss the one you're not using straight into the extras box to avoid losing it. I would have liked to see the 4H craft a sword or dagger for him as well, but I'm sure I can find something in the accessory box that's suitable for him.

I wish the paint apps were neater, and the sliding armor is annoying, but I still think Bow is one of the best figures in the entire MOTUC line. Visually, he really pops, and his suave head sculpt and extra articulation really help to make up for the relatively minor issues the figure has. Even if, like me, you're not a PoP fan, Etheria's resident archer deserves a spot on your shelf. That's all for today, but be sure to swing by next Tuesday for the next review!