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Archive for January, 2007

Figure Shopping

Saturday I took the girls to Target to spend their dollars. Naturally, I ended up in the toy aisles. I’d like to pretend this was because I had three people under the age of 8 with me, but we all know my penchant for buying and playing with toys. Plus the girls wouldn’t stop in the G.I. Joe and Star Wars aisle. To make a long story short, I saw two new lines of toys. This was surprising in that Christmas was less than two weeks previous, and it seems like January is a poor time to market a new set of toys, but there you have it. I was no less excited over the prospect.

The first one I want to talk about is the new set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. They look really different than previous lines, but this is hardly a shock, since they’re based on the new film coming out and the character design for the new films is very different from previous movies or shows. I’m not very convinced I like the new designs, but I’m excited for the movie (though it could very easily turn out to be lame). Maybe my position will reverse on this issue in a couple months.

So I didn’t buy any turtles. I did, however buy April O’Neil. April in the new line is dressed like a ninja — complete with katana and overly large tonfa that is bigger than her leg (normally a tonfa is only slightly longer than your forearm and fist). This would be an entirely new approach to the character than I’ve really seen before, which intriguing less that the figure is this way (toy lines have made her a ninja before) but that it reflects what will be in the movie. Yes, I’m interested. They could very easily blow this, but still.

Anyway, April gets the thumbs up. She looks good, if cartoony (and well, what did you expect?), plus she stands and isn’t fragile. You go girl.

The other set of toys is the brand spanking new line of Marvel Comics based action figures coming out of Hasbro. At least a year ago, Marvel announced that they would be discontinuing their contract with Toy Biz and moving to Hasbro, but I didn’t think it would take a full year to ramp up to actual distribution of collectible figures. Foolish Eric. When I first heard the news I was disappointed and apprehensive. Toy Biz has made the best figures I’ve ever seen, hands down, with their Marvel Legends line. Super articulated with quality sculpts, they’re fun to look at, sturdy, and highly posable. Hasbro, on the other hand, does the craptastic Star Wars figures that are out now. 90% or more of the current Star Wars figures cannot stand up without leaning on something. The poses are awkward and while the sculpts have improved over the last couple years, they’re still mostly suckaliscious. I suppose that’s good for my wallet though, seeing as even though I hate them I still buy all sorts of Jedi figures. I need help.

So, yes, I bought all six figures in Hasbro’s new Marvel Legends line. I tried to convince myself to only grab one or two for approximately .36 seconds before acknowledging the futility of the argument. As soon as I saw all six figures where there, I took them, despite the physical impossibility of carrying all of them. I had to enlist my daughters, already laden with the popcorn and lemonade they had bought, into helping me until I found a shopping cart. Despite the fact that some of them were, well, stupid. Don’t get me wrong. While the Hasbro figures aren’t as articulated as the ones from Toy Biz, they’re quality sculpts, sturdy figures, and still quite posable. In terms of quality, these are very good toys.

See, the thing is, with the Toy Biz lines, you could never get some of the figures of any given series. Let’s use Series 13: Onslaught Series as an example. It was relatively easy to find Lady Deathstrike, Blackheart, and Pyro figures, but very difficult to get the others unless you preordered or bought off amazon, which takes half the fun out of it. This is because those three I mentioned are, well, stupid. D-U-M, dumb. Plus they weren’t great sculpts, relatively speaking, particularly Lady Deathstrike. You couldn’t make most collectors care enough to get them, even though you have to buy all six figures to be able to build the Onslaught figure. Naturally, I did buy all six, eventually. Because I am Toy Biz’s bitch.

The thing that got me was the building additionial figures. Most of these figures are cool, like Onslaught, Galactus. And usually only one or two of the figures in a series suck too badly, which makes me feel better about buying them. But some of the build figures are pretty darn insipid too. I mean, I can almost see Mojo, but Modok? Frickin’ MODOK? who cares about Modok? No one. Nobody cares.

But what got me about the figures in Hasbro’s new line is the character selection. There are some silly figures in the Toy Biz series, but they’ve done over 100 figures. Even with some alternate versions (such as First Appearance Iron Man or black costume Spidey — yet, sadly, never a Ben Reilly costume Spidey… how we hates them, yes we do…), you’re going to have to dip into some less impressive characters. On the other hand, Hasbro is introducing a brand new line. Trying to get a new following, from scratch, essentially. So why are there second- and third-string characters on the shelf here?

Ultimates Iron Man is shiney, both in the literal sense and in the Firefly slang sense. Planet Hulk … er… Hulk is both timely and original looking. Heck, he looks like Spartacus. And let’s face it, Emma Frost is both popular right now and oh so very smexy. These are figures that will attract buyers. If I were starting a toy line based on Marvel properties I know who my first six action figures would be: Hulk, Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, and well… Emma Frost. These are the first stringers. The most iconic of Marvel characters. These are characters known even by people who don’t particularly care about Marvel. If you want to mix it up you could replace a couple with villains — choose from The Green Goblin, The Red Skull, Magneto, and Venom, all recognizable characters. Sure, Toy Biz has done most of them during hte last few years, but come on, new line. It replaces the old. *These* are going to be the ones everybody wants now.

I don’t really know what to say about including Hercules. I mean,for starters, the sculpt isn’t to die for. He can barely hold on to his mace, and his head looks like it grows from his chest, with a neck behind it. For some reason, Marvel keeps wanting to think he’s a significant character, even though most of us forgot (often on purpose) that he’s even in that universe (they do this with characters like Namor and Black Panther too — seriously guys, stop trying to even out sales and focus on characters we already like). He’s not even Thor, who is at least a character that people recognize as a superhero. People only recognize Hercules as a bad TV show and a worse Disney cartoon. Some of the unwashed masses might remember he’s a figure from ancient mythology, but no one thinks “comic books!” when they hear the name Hercules.

Then there’s X3 Beast. Not Beast. But the Beast as played by Kelsey Grammer in X-Men 3: The Last Stand, the worst X-Men movie of the lot. Ok, well, at least it’s not Elektra, but still. Look, I’m willing to give them a lot more props for this movie than most people are, but neither I, nor anyone I know, is exactly clamoring for an action figure of Frasier. And what we got in that movie was a hairy blue psychiatrist. Couldn’t we just have one that looks good like the comics?

Finally, there’s Banshee. Yeah, Banshee. He’s never actually been in a movie. This is because he sucks. His superpower is yelling. Now I know it’s cool to show the character using his power, but well, come on. Banshee’s craptacular sculpt makes him look like he’s coming on to the other male characters. This is not good.

So yeah, in general thumbs up. But there’s still some problems I’m not happy with. But yes, I still bought them all.

I had to in order to have the parts to build Annihilus.

No, I don’t know exactly who that is.

Congrats Hasbro, you win. I am now your bitch.