Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Big Bad Beetleborgs JARA!

Saban's Beetleborgs: Magnavores - Whip-Cracking Jara - Bandai 1996

Big Bad Beetleborgs was the fourth wave of Saban's "Power Rangers" invasion.  I say Power Rangers because it always seemed to me like they were trying to replicate that initial success with other Japanese/American Hybrid shows.  First VR Troopers, then Masked Rider, then Big Bad Beetleborgs.  Beetleborgs was adapted from Toei's Metal Heroes Series: Juukou B-Fighter (Beetle-Fighter) and B-Fighter Kabuto.  Jara was a Russian-accented villain in league with the evil Magnavores.  She had a static mask that didn't allow for any facial expression, but her Baroness-like voice was enough to develop her personality convincingly.  She often wielded a whip that emitted energy blasts when she cracked it.  Hence this figure's "Whip Cracking" action feature.  The female heroes of this series always made pretty disappointing toys because the bodies seemed to be recycled from the men, but the villains always had original (and feminine) sculpts.  Jara is pretty great.  Let's check her out below!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Tick's AMERICAN MAID!

Twist and Chop American Maid - The Tick - Series II - Bandai 1995

Happy Memorial Day!  I had a whole list of patriotic characters to potentially review today, but American Maid was the winner.  The Tick: The Animated Series introduced the mainstream world to a wonderfully wacky world  filled with puns and absurd heroes.  In reading the wikipedia page right now, I learned that The Tick was created as a comic store newsletter mascot in 1986.  New England Comics, the store chain he was created for, soon began publishing The Tick in his own comics and a legend was born.  A lot of the characters were parodies of popular Marvel and DC characters.  American Maid was no exception and is considered a blended parody of Captain America and Wonder Woman.  She was a reluctant ally of The Tick and initially preferred to fight crime alone -- with her weaponized high heels and tiara!  Plus she loved disguising herself to infiltrate the bad guys.  All-in-All, she was an amazing heroine.  Bandai's representation of her is pretty much perfect, too.  Let's check her out below!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Impact Wrestling's GAIL KIM!

Deluxe Impact Wrestling Series 9 - Gail Kim - Jakks Pacific 2013

Wrestling figures have come a long way in the past few years.  I've talked before about the big shift happening when Mattel got the WWE license in 2010.  Suddenly Jakks Pacific had some serious competition, and all of us collectors reaped the benefits.  Jakks wrestling figures were nothing to scoff at before.  I'm sure wrestling fans were ecstatic at the quality, just like comics fans were on cloud nine during the first few years of Marvel Legends..  But for a casual collector of wrestling figures like I am, they just didn't have the Wow factor that makes be buy an unknown figure purely out of aesthetics.  Lately though, I'm totally into Jakks figures.  Gail Kim is the second Impact Wrestling lady I have reviewed and I suspect I'll be hunting down many more in future waves.  This figure isn't a fantastic representation of Gail, but it's pretty recognizable.  Plus it's always nice to get some ethnic diversity in the mix (I think I might have to skip the next blonde caucasian wrestler in protest).  Let's check her out below!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Jack-in-the-Box KARATE KICK BATGIRL!

DC Super Heroes - Jack-in-the-Box Kids' Meal Toys - 2001
 
Animated figures were something I avoided in my collection for years.  That was mostly due to the fact that I just didn't watch many cartoons.  But it was also a little bit because I just didn't like the quality or design of the toys.  In my mind, they were overpriced, too small, not articulated enough, and they just couldn't stand up properly.  It wasn't until years later that I became more of a character-driven collector, then I couldn't ignore the gaping holes in my collection.. especially for my Batgirls and Catwomen.  I'm still not a completist when it comes to animated figures.  I usually just try to find the single best representation of an era.. or at least limit myself to unique sculpts and skip the numerous repaints.  It was my constant eye out for the best representation of a character that led me to these awesome Jack-in-the-Box toys from 2001.  I reviewed Supergirl last month and easily proclaimed her to be the best animated Supergirl out there.  This Batgirl gets the same nod from me.  She's amazing.  And she's even better than Supergirl because her action feature is practically unnoticeable.  Let's check her out below!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Krofft Superstars ELECTRA WOMAN!

Krofft Superstars - Electra Woman - Living Toys/Art Asylum 2000

The Krofft Supershow was one crazy kids' show.  It was inventive, attention-grabbing, and unlike anything else on the air.  Hot on the heels of the successful H.R. Pufnstuf series, The Krofft Supershow featured several short live-action segments including Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.  This segment featured two magazine reporters who doubled as superheroines.  Their adventures were intentionally campy (a'la the 1960's Batman show), so of course there was plenty of colorful spandex and bad acting for all.  There were 16 twelve-minute segments in their single season (the girls didn't return for Season 2).  In 2000, Living Toys (with Art Asylum) released a series of four action figures from a variety of Sid & Marty Krofft properties.  It's a shame there was never a second series because there are a lot more deserving characters in the world of Krofft.  A Dyna Girl would have been especially nice to at least complete this duo, but I'd much rather have one than none at all.  Let's check out Electra Woman below!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ben 10 - GWEN ANODITE!

Gwendolyn Tennyson in her Alien Form - Ben 10: Alien Force - Bandai 2009

I'm a sucker for translucent action figures.  As long as there are intentional design details like paint apps or a tint gradient, they'll find their way into my collection (ie..all the boring solid clear Susan Storms don't get invited to the party).  I've never seen a single episode of Ben 10, but the awesome character designs have been getting my attention in the toy aisles for years.  As fantastic as all the figures look though, I've always been disappointed by the lack of females.  The American releases have been limited to a single character, Ben's cousin Gwen (who happens to be a human/anodyne hybrid).  Bandai has released several Gwen figures, most in her mousy redhead human form. Her full Anodite form like we see in this action figure appeared in the second incarnation of the franchise, Ben 10: Alien Force.  I was super excited to finally get a great looking girl from this series.  She took forever to find, too.  Let's check her out below!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek's VINA the ORION SLAVE WOMAN!

Your Favorite Green Goddess - Star Trek: TOS - Wave 3 - DST/Art Asylum 2005
 
This has been a fun week of Star Trek reviews leading up to Star Trek: Into Darkness (which should be opening in theatres in a about 7 minutes as I type this).  I saved Vina for last because I'm a sucker for green skinned women (or blue or red for that matter).  Outlandish skin coloring make a character instantly interesting to me... and the Orion Slave Girls were definitely no exception.  My memories of the Green-skinned Orion girls actually weren't about Vina's episode, but rather the one where Yvonne Craig played a short-haired Orion.  I was always a big Batgirl fan, so I recognized her almost instantly.  The Orion Slaves Girls were presented as alluring, seductive captives from Orion who "no human male could resist" - basically they were intergalactic harem bellydancers.  However, the twist is that these girls are actually in charge and using their alien pheromones to try to commandeer the Enterprise.  This toy is pretty great, but only if you can get very creative with your poses.  Standing upright, her articulation is awkward and distracting.  But once you get her in a good pose, it's just magical.  Let's check her out below!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ladies of STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES!

Uhura, Janice Rand, and Christine Chapel - Playmates 1993 & 1996
 
Since the Art Asylum/DST figures of Janice Rand and Christine Chapel seem to be stuck in perpetual limbo, I really wanted to highlight these two notable characters.  Christine Chapel was the head nurse under Dr. McCoy in The Original Series.  She had a great backstory of joining the Starfleet with the ulterior motive of finding her fiancĂ© who had gone missing from an expedition five years earlier.  She also developed an unrequited love for Spock during her time on the Enterprise.  Janice Rand was Yeoman to Captain Kirk on the bridge of the USS Enterprise.  She predictably developed a romantic connection to Kirk which was never fully realized.  Both these characters (and of course the amazing Uhura) epitomize The Original Series to me.  Their hairstyles and outfits are wonderfully dated in a futuristic kind of way, and their portrayal of strong, intelligent, female crew members paved the way for many great characters to come.  From 1992-99, Playmates created a huge library of 5" figures based on all iterations of Star Trek.  And these three ladies are my favorite of the bunch.  Let's check them out below!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation BEVERLY PICARD!

Star Trek: TNG - Capt. Beverly Picard - Previews Excl - DST/Art Asylum 2007
 
So this is my favorite chase figure of all the DST/Art Asylum ladies.  In the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (titled "All Good Things..."), Captain Jean-Luc Picard finds himself suffering from random temporal displacements.  One moment he's with his familiar crew, the next he is far in the past.  And then suddenly he's in an unfamiliar future.  It is in that future that he meets Beverly Picard as Captain of the USS Pasteur.  I enjoyed this so much because it showed the fulfillment of their relationship without resorting to a "season-finale-jumble" where all the storylines are wrapped up in a haphazard way (I've seen this happen one time time too many).  With a simple cameo, we knew that Captain Picard and Beverly Crusher were married and that her professional potential was fully realized by her becoming Captain of her own ship.  This figure looks older than the look they gave to Gates McFadden in the show, but it still embodies an older Dr. Crusher perfectly.  She also looks appropriately stern and Captain-ish.  Let's check her out in detail below!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation BEVERLY CRUSHER!

Star Trek: TNG - Wave 4 - Dr. Beverly Crusher - DST/Art Asylum 2007

Dr. Beverly Crusher was the Chief Medical Officer, the key maternal figure, and a perpetual love interest aboard the USS Enterprise.  She was originally cast with the goal of having her develop a romantic relationship with Captain Picard.  Over the course of the series, we learned a great deal about their backstory, including his longstanding love for her as well as his friendship with her deceased husband, Jack Crusher.  Their relationship was mature, subtle, and very different from other Starfleet flings.  Having her son, Wesley Crusher, growing up aboard the Enterprise made for a great maternal dynamic that was also very unique in the world of Star Trek.  Gates McFadden was perfectly cast in this role.  And I love her even more after discovering that she previously worked as a choreographer in two of my favorite movies: The Dark Crystal & Labyrinth.  This toy is pretty great.  The likeness is decent, very recognizable, but the face seems a tad too angular and doesn't really capture her spark.  Let's check her out below!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - ILIA PROBE!

Star Trek - Warp Factor: Series 2 - Ilia Probe - Playmates 1997

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a landmark event for fandom.  I'm not talking about Star Trek fans specifically, but all geeks in general.  Star Trek: The Original Series ended in 1969, ten whole years before this motion picture came out.  This was largely to due to the show's popularity in syndication and an ever-growing fanbase.  I think we take it for granted that nostalgic properties are brought back to life easily today, but in the 1970s it was crazytalk.  Lieutenant Ilia was the navigator aboard the USS Enterprise who was killed by a probe of the alien entity V'Ger.  Soon after, V'Ger create another probe in the likeness of Ilia to return to the Enterprise and collect data (believing the enterprise was a living organism).  The probe was a complete duplication of Ilia down to a molecular level; even retaining her memories and personality.  Pure Sci-Fi genius if you ask me.  Ilia's important role and striking appearance made her a very memorable character.  Let's check her out below!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation ALYSSA OGAWA!

Star Trek: TNG - Wave 5 - Nurse Ogawa - Chase Figure - DST/Art Asylum 2008

Nurse Alyssa Ogawa is a Star Trek character that I only have vague memories of.  She worked as an ensign under Beverly Crusher in the medical bay aboard the USS Enterprise.  (Eventually she became a Lieutenant and even took over Beverly's duties when she was unable to carry them out).  I remember seeing a later episode once where she was pregnant.  Pregnancy aboard the Enterprise was something I had never really given thought to before that, so the memory stuck (even though I'm sure there are many cases of procreation throughout the series).  This figure from Diamond Select Toys and Art Asylum was a chase figure in the last full wave of The Next Generation figures.  She has the same body as several previous females in Starfleet uniforms, but has a very unique smiling face that really makes her stand out from the rest.  The addition of Alyssa, along with Ro Laren, really made for a respectable number of females in this line.  Let's check her out in detail below!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation ENSIGN RO LAREN!

Star Trek: TNG - Wave 5 - Ro Laren - Previews Exclusive - DST/Art Asylum 2008
 
The Art Asylum / Diamond Select Star Trek series was amazing and produced a great array of characters across many different iterations of the Star Trek Universe.  I describe myself as a very casual Star Trek fan.  I have fond memories, but I've never been fully devoted to the property.  That said, I will admit that I have absolutely no idea who Ensign Ro Laren is.  I know she's a Bajoran crew member from The Next Generation.  And through some quick research I discovered that she was intended to be a crossover character into Deep Space 9, but was replaced by the newly created character, Kira Nerys.  Another thing I just noticed about this toy is that it is actually a very poor representation of the actress Michelle Forbes.  Michelle is young and gorgeous (and bears a strong resemblance to the character Jessica on Homeland, played by Morena Baccarin).  I always thought this figure was really unique looking and a great addition to my Star Trek collection, but compared to pictures I'm seeing of Ro Laren from the show, this figure looks way to old and strict.  Let's check her out below!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Star Trek's MARLENA MOREAU!

The "Captain's Woman" Marlena - SDCC Exclusive - DST/Art Asylum 2006

This figure may very well be the rarest of the Art Asylum/DST figures.  She was released as an exclusive at the 2006 San Diego ComicCon and unlike most convention exclusives (re-decos of already-released characters), Marlena was a first-time character and was very sought-after.  Marlena Moreau only appeared in a single episode in the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series in 1967.  This is the famed episode Mirror, Mirror where an ion disturbance introduces us to an alternate reality where the Enterprise crew are evil (and sport bare midriffs and goatees).  During the episode, the displaced "good" Kirk finds Marlena in the evil Kirk's captain's chambers where he learns that she is the "Captain's Woman."  Her loyalties end up being with Kirk, and not so much to the evil tenets of the crew.  She becomes an ally to the good crew and helps them escape back to their own reality.  She was a memorable character for Star Trek fans and well deserving of an action figure.  Let's check her out below!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation TASHA YAR!

Lieutenant Tasha Yar - Star Trek: The Next Generation - Series 1 - Galoob 1988
 
Lieutenant Tasha Yar was the Security Officer aboard the USS Enterprise-D for Season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation.    In the beginning, she seemed like she would be the lead female in the series.  She was strong, confident, and had a prominent role on the bridge.  Tasha is viewed as a groundbreaking female character who paved the way for future female officers, captains, and commanders in the sci-fi genre.  I think that's why Star Trek fans were shocked at Tasha's death near the end of Season 1.  Granted, she came back for a single episode in Season 3, then again for the series finale, it was still a major loss for a character who had a lot of interesting potential.  This Galoob line was the first incarnation of the Star Trek TNG characters in the toy aisles.  I have many memories of this figure hanging in the meager toy section of my local drug store (Rea & Derick) when I was a kid and really wanting her.  Twenty-some years later and she's mine!  The Playmates line that started in 1992 really blasted this smaller Galoob line out of the water, but they're still not to be overlooked.  Let's check her out below!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation DEANNA TROI!

3 Versions of Your Favorite Starfleet Empath - Diamond Select/Art Asylum 2006
 
Welcome to the first of ten Star Trek reviews I will be doing in anticipation of the May 17th release of Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I swear I'm not a Trekkie though.  I grew up watching syndicated episodes of the original series on PBS in the early 80s (Saturdays @ 11pm.. then SNL afterwards!)  Flash forward to being a teenager in the 90's.  Whenever the Nintendo was turned off, it was pretty much guaranteed that there would be a TNG marathon on at least a few different stations.  Star Trek was kind of unavoidable, but in a good way.  It didn't hurt that I had couple friends who were full-fledged Vulcans either.  All-in-all, I really only know the main characters... and I have vivid memories of only a handful of different episodes.  But even with my limited expertise and exposure, I still know that Deanna Troi is one of my favorite Star Trek characters ever.  I think having a counselor on board was a fantastic element to introduce to a sci-fi series like this.  Her role makes total sense and by way of her therapy, we were able to delve deeper into all the other characters.  Plus Marina Sirtis is amazing.  Let's check out these figures below!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Aliens LT. RIPLEY!

Space Marine Lt. Ellen Ripley - Aliens: Series 1 - Kenner 1992
 
I've had this figure of Ripley for quite a while and never really gave much thought about reviewing her.  It's not that this isn't a great little figure, but it always seemed a little generic, brightly colored, and too unlike Sigourney Weaver to warrant much attention.  This toy line from Kenner came out six years after the film's release and coincided with the release of Aliens 3 (which didn't get much love from the plastic world... or the film critics).  Anyway, like I said, I never really gave this figure much thought until a reader of this blog pointed out the similarities between this figure and the Karen Ross figure from Kenner's 1995 Congo line that I reviewed last week.  I'm a sucker for interesting little tidbits like that so I immediately began researching shared Kenner moulds.  I've been aware of the Robin Hood / Star Wars parallels for a long time, and I was really excited to think I might have found my own (Thanks to Artistix!).  Interestingly, these figures share almost no identical parts, but I am just as intrigued by the level of minor retooling that I guarantee no one would have cared about.  Let's check out the Ripley figure (and clone) below.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Long Halloween CATWOMAN!

Tim Sale Catwoman from DC Direct's Batman: The Long Halloween - 2006

I've gone on and on about how great DC Direct was at choosing very interesting variations of characters and giving them the green light for the action figure treatment.  My favorite facet of this occurrence was when they chose really unique artist representations of A-list characters.  Tim Sale had a really gritty and dark style in his Batman work.  His big contributions were Batman: The Long Halloween (1996) and Batman: Dark Victory (1999), both of which included this very distinct version of Selina Kyle.  The key unique feature of this Catwoman is definitely her mask.  It's unlike any other version we had seen before up till now.  (Although I think this look was a heavy influence in 2001's The Dark Knight Strikes Again's Catgirl.. who totally needs an action figure of her own by the way).  Her mask looks very stylized (almost owl-ish) and always reminded me of a character from Aeon Flux.  This figure has an amazing sculpt by John G. Matthews and is a great addition to any Catwoman collection.  Let's check her out below!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gargoyles ELISA MAZA!

NYPD Detective Maza - Gargoyles Series 2 - Kenner 1996

Gargoyles is a very unique Disney property that still has a large fan following to this day.  The original animated series ran from 1994 to 1997 and introduced the world to the mythos of rival clans of Gargoyles waging war high in the night.  The characters were complex and the storylines were dark.  All in all it was very original and fun and really opened up new doors for the Disney crowd.  It's no surprise that the storylines were continued in comic book form years later (2006-2009) by SLG.  Elisa Maza was the main human protagonist of the series (kind of like April O'Neil now that I think about it).  She was a friend and ally to the peaceful Manhattan Clan of Gargoyles (and even a potential love interest for the Gargoyle leader, Goliath).  Another fun fact is that this character is part Native American, which is a demographic rarely seen in the action figure world (especially among females).  This toy is pretty cool, although I think the jetpack and uniform are inventions of Kenner.  Let's check her out!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Congo's KAREN ROSS!

Michael Crichton's Congo (the Movie) - Karen Ross - Kenner 1995
 
I miss the days where random movies would warrant a series of action figures.  Nowadays it seems that even big-budget character-driven movies go under the radar in the toy aisles (X-men First Class, anyone?).  But the 1990's were a different story.  It was actually pretty ridiculous how many movies got the action figure treatment.  Congo is one of those lines that probably had a lot of people shaking their heads.  I personally loved the book as a teenager and I really enjoyed the movie as a result.  Congo is a story about an African expedition by a team of American scientists for rare impure diamonds (needed for some newly emerging laser technology).  Their travels take them deep into the jungle where they encounter the remnants of a long-forgotten civilization "haunted" by ghostly monsters (spoiler: feral albino apes).  It sounds a little hokey, but it's actually pretty clever and exciting.  I don't really remember how well the movie portrayed the story, but I remember liking the visual of the ruins and the jungle a lot.  Karen Ross was the leader of the expedition.  Let's check her out below!