Thursday, May 24, 2012

Marvel MiniMates Armored Thor & Beta Ray Bill

While I liked the last set of these I bought, I said I wouldn't buy any more, the main reason being my wanting to avoid an addiction to them. My resolution got flushed when I saw this killer Marvel MiniMates 2-pack of Armored Thor & Beta Ray Bill- FUN! Some times with a 2-pack you get one MiniMate that doesn't particularly interest you, or one with a dull sculpt or deco- neither of which were the case here. Not only did both these guys have great winged helmets, but they both had metallic paint apps. A killer couple of MiniMates I couldn't pass up! 

I guess I don't have to defend the epic nature of these two caped warriors- I mean, behold the greatness! We all know Thor, but some of you may not be familiar with Beta Ray Bill, alien Korbinite who challeged the Defender of Asgard for hismighty hammer Mjolnir back in 1983:

Spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. detected an alien fleet passing through Earth's solar system, with Director Nick Fury asking Thor to investigate. When Thor finds the advance ship, it scans Thor and perceives him to be a threat. Unable to stop Thor, the sentient ship - called Skuttlebutt - revives Beta Ray Bill, who is in suspended animation. Bill battles Thor to standstill, until the ship reaches Earth's orbit, where one of the mystical enchantments of Thor's hammer Mjolnir comes into effect, being that Thor will revert back to his mortal persona of Donald Blake if separated from the hammer for more than sixty seconds. Blake is knocked unconscious by Bill, who examines Blake's cane (Mjolnir's "shell" when Thor is in Blake's form) and on striking the cane receives Thor's power and costume. (Wikipedia)

Odin proposes a challenge between the two in the fiery Asgardian realm of Skartheim to decide who will  wield Mjolnir, where the two warriors knock each other unconscious. Bill saves Thor from going over a lava flow, believing he is too worthy an opponent to die, and refuses the hammer realizing Thor needs it to protect Asgard. As a token of compromise, Odin has the same dwarf weaponer craft Bill a different hammer, Stormbreaker, which is equal in power to the enchanted Mjolnir. Beta Ray Bill has remained allies with Thor and the Asgardians ever since.

Complimenting  Beta Ray Bill is, of course, Thor the Thunderer, in his armored guise. Thor comes with a feathered toupee, for use when not... wait a minute... why would you not pose him in that killer helmet! Like his companion, Thor has metallic paint throughout, including his chain mail torso. Thor's cape is removable, though I'm unsure why, unless it made for a simpler assembly. The details in this tiny figure are great, including the line of verse printed illegibly small on Thor's hammer Mjolnir ("Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.") That impressed me!

I've become a bigger fan of Thor since getting back into comics in late 2010, and in spite of the criticism I kinda had fun watching the movie last year. And I think it's safe to say we all enjoyed Hemsworth in a group dynamic for the recent Avengers blockbuster. I've been watching episodes of that great Avengers animated show on YouTube lately as well, which may very well be the best Marvel animated show ever. And speaking of animation: I realized I've never really read a comic with Beta Ray Bill, though he did have a role in the Planet Hulk movie I'd seen recently.

Like the Silver Centurion & Crimson Dynamo MiniMates 2-pack, it was the great character combination and coordinating deco on this set that made this a must buy for me. While I completely understand the appeal of this line of action figures I'm not a MiniMates collector that said, these are exceptional.

And now for some BIGTOY/littletoy fun, Armored Thor & Beta Ray Bill with my 6" Lord of Asgard Thor:

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Deadshot & Catman: Uneasy Alliance

Related to my last post on the Villains United six-issue limited series, I wanted to come back and take a look at the tenuous relationship between two of the Secret Six members, Deadshot (Floyd Lawton) and Catman (Thomas Blake). My favorite cover from the series is issue #5, the two villains locked in battle, midair! Greatness! As I mentioned in my last post, there's an uneasy alliance between the two throughout the series, just one of the many interrelationships that makes this series a fascinating read. Both enemies of Gotham City's Dark Knight, Lawton is a mercenary assasin known for his work with the Suicide Squad, and Catman's made a recent comeback in the series after a pathetic defeat by Green Arrow in Brad Meltzer's 2003 book on the Justice League archer.

The two alpha males of the group get acquainted in the kitchen over a late night snack in issue #2, both rightfully suspicious of Scandal, Mockingbird, and each other...

Pictured below: Mattel's Batman Legacy 6 " Catman and DCUC Wave 9 Deadshot ...

In Villains United issue #5, Catman violently confronts Deadshot about the murder of his cats in Africa- a maneuver to expedite Catman's joining the Secret Six, originally blamed on Deathstroke. Afterward, Cheshire confesses she called the Society, waiting outside at that very moment to storm the castle.

Surprise! I decided to throw in Deadshot and Deathstoke's duel from Villains United issue #6. Pictured below are Mattel's DCUC Wave 9 Deadshot and All-Star Deathstroke , the latter originally released in Wave 3, 2008...

Deadshot and Deathstoke's duel in Villains United issue #6 was a cool albeit short moment with a definite Old West gunfighter vibe. Slade comically agrees to come out out guns blazing if Floyd agrees to shut up  :D

Deadshot and Deathstroke are a couple of really cool action figures- the latter is decked out with some great accessories, but Deadshot has an equally nice deco with some unique wrist armaments...

At the end of issue #6, Blake/Catman meets Oliver Queen/Green Arrow to inform him of the Society's plan to windwipe the Justice League. When Queen thanks Blake for "coming to the good guys for once", Blake rocks his chops, telling him that "good guys don't lobotomize people already in handcuffs", a reference to Zatanna's mindwipe of Dr. Light in Identity Crisis. Ollie goes for his bow, but Lawton appears, taking him at gunpoint, "Uh-uh Arrow. Bow stays where it lays."

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Infinite Crisis: Villains United

Continuing from my post on the Countdown to Infinite Crisis 80 page Special, I've been catching up to more of the story arcs preceding and surrounding the Infinite Crisis event, having the luck to find quite a bit recently in the dollar comic bins, including this six-issue limited Villains United series. Lex Luthor has managed to assemble his Secret Society of Supervillains with the exception of a few that refused to join- The Secret Six! Catman, Cheshire, Deadshot, Scandal, Ragdoll, and Parademon oppose this new Secret Society, and are led by the mysterious Mockingbird who uses a personal threat against each member to ensure their united loyalty against Luthor's army. This team assembled of villainous characters undertake missions of dubious morality, resulting in bloody conflicts with high casualties.

Right off the bat there's inner conflict and odd fellowship within the group, the prominent testosterone-fueled rivalry between Catman and Deadshot, the latter revealed to have killed the former's pride of lions he'd been living with while in exile. Blamed on Lex Luthor and Deathstroke, the ploy to designed to lure Catman to joining the Secret Six for revenge. The two men are at odds throughout the series, their uneasy alliance finally resulting in a truce of sorts at the end. Cheshire and Catman hit the sack together at one point, after which she accuses Catman of being a spy, wanting to be a hero. She later reveals their consumation merely a plot to conceive a child. And Rag Doll shares a strange relationship with a Parademon, who refers to him simply as "Clown". For reasons unexplained it protects Rag Doll, threatening to kill anyone who gives the contortionist a hard time.

One of Mockingbird's first assignments has the group stealing Thanagarian weaponry from a tanker in Gotham harbor, only to be ambushed by members of the Society and tortured by the Crime Doctor, who's eager to discover Mockingbird's identity. Catman breaks free, releasing the others so the group can go from one hair-raising situation to the next, including fighting their way through a legion of H.I.V.E. troopers led by Queen Bee in Brazil. Who can be trusted is a constant wedge between the members, finally resulting in betrayal by Cheshire who has given Luthor their coordinates and defected from the group in return for safety. A bloody last stand against the Society is the result!

The final battle is riveting: the Society storms the Secret Six hideout castle, the traitorous Cheshire is shot by Deathstroke, and Talia and Scandal (daughters of immortals Ra's al Ghul and Vandal Savage) duke it out. Scandal's mole in the Society, Knockout, take Talia down (also revealing that Knockout is Scandal's lover). Ragdoll bumps into Solomon Grundy on the run for cover, deftly convincing the fellow "ugly monster" to switch sides. Just as Catman and Ragdoll Jr. escape from Black Adam's group, Parademon blows himself up with a stack of Motherboxes sending everyone flying. Outside the castle, Deathstroke and Deadshot are caught in one another's sights, pumping several rounds into each other simultaneously. Fed up with Luthor and concerned for daughter Scandal's safety, Vandal Savage storms Society's headquarters and threatens to kill him if he doesn't back off the Six. Luthor hesitantly ends the battle, the remainder of the Six taking Deadshot to medical attention. 

The climax reveals that Mockingbird is Lex Luthor and that the Luthor who organized the Secret Society is an impostor, Alexander Luthor, Jr., the Earth-Three son of that world's Alexander Luthor and Lois Lane-Luthor. In Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985, DC Comics), the Anti-Monitor destroyed incalculable universes, including Earth-Three. To save their son, the Luthors place him in an experimental device that carries the infant to the safety of Earth-One. The real Lex Luthor chose members of the Secret Six based on their knowledge of the Society's members' strengths & weaknesses. It's fun reading all this after having read Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis, all the pieces of continuity slowly pulling together in my head!

I was also lucky to find the Villains United: Infinite Crisis Special in the dollar bins! Discussing their future as a group, Deadshot is of the opinion they fight for whatever side pays, mercenary style. Meanwhile the Society breaks all the incarcerated villains out of metahuman holding facilities around the world. Oracle responds, but is quickly losing ground against the massive group of escapees. She turns to Martian Manhunter who establishes a global telepathic link, calling on all available help, retired or otherwise, as the heavy hitters of the Justice League are unavailable. In the final scenes, Doctor Psycho leads the villains, Doomsday at his side, meeting the heroes for a big standoff in Metropolis. Surveying the scene from a helicopter above the battle, the Secret Six decide to remain neutral surprisingly, leaving the scene determined to maintain their independence.

 All this comes together in The OMAC Project, the Rann-Thanagar War, and the Spectre: Day of Vengeance crossover events, which tie into Infinite Crisis. Again, I'm really excited to be reading these all now! Gail Simone's dialogue got better & better as things progressed, and art duties were superbly executed by pencilist Dale Eaglesham and inker Wade Von Grawbadger (Val Semeiks and Prentis Rollins filling in seamlessly on issue #3). This one is worth your time, Kids!
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(Sources: Wikepedia, Villains United #1-6, Villains United Infinite Crisis Special)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New 52: Green Lantern #9, Secret of the Indigo Tribe!

Continuing with my last post on Green Lantern #8, which saw Sinestro captured and converted by the Indigo Tribe, issue #9 backtracks to show the process. Sinestro's mind flashes back to meeting his love, sister of his former mentor, Ari Sur, her disapproval of his tyranny over Korugar, and the dire consequences that befell all involved.

Taking Hal down, Sinestro expresses remorse for all he has done to him in the past. "Now I know you've been brainwashed. Which surprisingly bothers me,"  Hal answers before breaking free, escaping from the mob of Indigo Lanterns who want to teleport him back home. "I'm not leaving without Sinestro."

In search of the Indigo Tribe's central power battery, Hal encounters Natromo, original keeper of the Indigo light from the planet Nok. It's here that the strange aboriginal man reveals the secret of the Indigo Tribe to Hal Jordan, revealing that Abin Sur helped create the power rings, converting the universe's worst sadists and murderers, including Indigo-1, who had killed Abin's own daughter! "So Abin Sur thought this was a way to redeem people?" Hal asked. "Oh no. No, the tribe would be an army at the ready for Abin Sur, " Natromo went on, "But the true reason behind the forging of these rings had nothing to do with the redemption of his enemies..." Natromo went on to say that Abin Sur had seen the coming of the Blackest Night, and following this would come the end of the Green Lantern Corps, destroyed by an evil within... "Abin Sur called them THE GUARDIANS OF THE UNIVERSE." Whoa!!

The Indigo Tribe were merely a test- Abin Sur had planned to change the invincible Guardians with the rings before their madness overtook them. When Hal reveals to Natromo that Abin Sur is dead, he shuts down the main power battery in despair. By this time the Indigo Tribe has caught up with Hal Jordan, Sinestro wrestling him to the ground, just as the central power goes down...

... though Sinestro regains his former state of mind, Hal realizes that without the the central power battery, so have the former psychopaths that make up the Indigo Tribe, such as the likes of Black Hand...!

This has been a great book- far better than the New 52 Justice League in my opinion, which I liked for Jim Lee's art, but didn't go too far plotwise in the first six issues. DC has received a ton of criticism for the New 52 titles, and Geoff Johns catches flak for overexposure, but Green Lantern has been interesting artistically and narratively. And again: I love Doug Mahnke's obsessively tight artwork, particularly when he draws Sinestro!

In the back of this issue DC touts their second wave of the New 52, including an Earth 2 parallel universe book which I may have to try on. They go on to tease about Alan Scott taking the Green Lantern mantle in this alternate reality, which makes me think "So what? Was he not Green Lantern in another reality before Final Crisis?" ...or just the predocessor to Hal Jordan's Green Lantern? Hard to tell nowadays with DC's ever evolving continuity  :D  But hey, I don't really care. As long as the story is interesting and the art is good, continuity is of no concern to me. Seriously. I'm a fan of character reimaginings AND action figure variants!  :D  
Below are a couple of the Earth 2 character designs- I'm particularly fond of the Superman, but I liked Jim Lee's Justice League costume designs, so...

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Monday, May 14, 2012

My Fan Art: The Rescue of Kandor

The Rescue of Kandor, 2012
acrylic, colored pencil, pen on 140 lbs. watercolor paper
14 x 20"

I've been pecking at this one for over a year, having to put it aside to work on a large collection of over twenty canvases for a big art show this past spring in the city. I stopped work on these in December to whip out a Captain America painting for my nephew, but then went right back to work on the show. As I've said before, I'm not really a comic book artist- these are merely fun distractions from my usual body of work. When I was a kid in school, I dreamt of being a comic book artist, but those guys are just in a league above and beyond me- lightning fast and super-talented! Still, I occasionally crank out an illustration of a favorite hero, and starting this blog in 2010 renewed interest in that. This one may have been a tad overambitious for my level of ability, but it was a good effort- time to move to the next one!

The idea for The Rescue of Kandor came from two action figures I reviewed here on the Super-DuperToyBox recently: DC Direct History of the DC Universe Superman (as Nightwing) and Brainiac. For those of you not familiar with the origin of Nightwing: before Dick Grayson assumed the alias, Superman (his favorite superhero) used the moniker as a vigilante in the Kyptonian city of Kandor. The former capital city had been miniaturized and bottled by the supervillain Brainiac. Rescued by Superman, it has been traditionally kept and monitored in the Fortress of Solitude. In the more recent New Krypton storyline, Superman finds Kandor on Brainiac's ship, recovering the bottled city after their confrontation. But without Brainiac's control, the field surrounding the city that keeps it miniaturized becomes unstable. Superman takes Kandor to the North Pole where it expands to its original size, freeing all of Kandor's citizens, all of whom gain powers just like Superman upon release from the bottle and exposure to Earth's yellow sun.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Clash of Titans- Drax Vs. Thanos!

As promised at the end of my last post on the ToyBiz Drax (above), a Clash of Titans featuring Drax Vs. my Marvel Select Thanos- probably one of my favorite action figures! I had way too much fun shooting these pics, but hey- toys are for playing with!  :D

And now from my Life and Death of Captain Marvel trade paperback, originally appearing in Captain Marvel Vol.1, issue #28 (Sept. 1973), Chapter IV: A Clash of Titans! Drax, whose sole purpose is to destroy the Mad Titan, stands in the way of Thanos' possession of the Cosmic Cube. No longer content to merely swat him down, the Dark One locks the Destroyer's mind into a time-mind sync-warp, pushing him to the furthest reaches of his id to find the mad prison of... insanity! I'm not a fan of how they recolored a lot of these earlier Marvel stories, but it's a bizarre sequence with some trippy artwork...

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