Sunday, June 30, 2013

Playskool Heroes Hulk & Spidey

I can't explain why I have so many Imaginext DC mini-figures, and only these two Hasbro/Playskool Marvel Heroes, but for me these are the two to have. Growing up in the 70's, when Marvel was really getting huge, Hulk & Spidey seemed to be the merchandising ambassadors for the comics giant. Two successful TV shows featuring the characters were on the air, the industry's direct product distribution began to evolve, and a flush of toy & soft goods merchandising brought Marvel into the public's conscience in a big way. It was a golden time I have fond memories of, and these cute little 2 1/2" figures remind me of that time.

 These are of the same basic body construction as the Imaginext figures: swivel head & wrists, hinge/swivel shoulders, and the legs move forward together on a "horseshoe" hinge 45 degrees. They are very simple, but cute and colorful nonetheless. There's a little paint slop, but not on the tamped paint apps, nor on the face. They also had Iron Man, Green Goblin, & Wolverine bagged singles as well. There are a plethora of assorted two-packs and vehicle/character combos out there now, but I'm hoping to see another wave of singles. I wouldn't mind having the Thor and Doom who have little cloth capes!

Playskool Hulk with Mini-Mates Hulk...

Playskool Spidey with 3 3/4" basic Ultimate Spider-Man, another very simple action figure I really like...

These are made for little guys, but are fun to have on the desk to play around with, and that's what we do here at the Super-DuperToyBox, kids- have FUN!  :D    Another thing I do is collecting multiple variants of characters among my action figure groupings. Hulk & Spidey have their own respectable sub-groups within my collection as a whole, like Iron Man, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, and Superman do. Reading some issues of Spectacular Spider-Man from the 70's recently, I was reminded again how nostalgic I am about comics from this time period, how special it was to kids my age and the industry as a whole, and how it ultimately resulted in this and many other blogs, websites, and message boards, run and visited by multiple generations of comics fans. And I feel Hulk and Spidey had a lot to do with that.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Comics From My Youth: Spectacular Spider-Man #22

I found a copy of what may very well be the first, if not certainly one of the earliest comics in my life, Spectacular Spider-Man #22, published in September of 1978. I recognized it instantly looking through the used bins this past weekend, and while I'd long forgotten it, I remembered every panel here nearly 35 years later. "Marvel's TV Sensation!" is stamped directly below the title, referring to the CBS show starring Nicholas Hammond as the popular hero- a show I lived for at the end of the 70's.

Some time ago, I struggled to rouse the memory of this issue in an attempt to pinpoint my first experience with Moon Knight, guest star of this issue, having recently picked up a Moon Knight special edition issue from 1983. Moon Knight had been a character of fringe interest when getting back into comics again back in 2010 having experienced him at such a young age, but I was unable to identify the issue. Needless to say, this is a discovery of great importance and joy to me. Moon Knight's informant is gunned down early in the issue, but while my young mind read compassion in the hero cradling the wounded man, I now realize it was just another causality in Moon Knight's one man war on crime, his description of the incident as "spilt milk"...!

Researching the long-lost issue, I learned that Peter had not only been recently been dumped by Mary Jane Watson, but worse his marriage proposal turned down! In attempt to move on, Peter was going through the motions with Betty Brant, supporting character all the way back to the 1963 issue #4 of Amazing Spider-Man and later professed first love of Parker- that's right, not Gwen Stacy. This issue showcases Parker's ongoing struggle to balance his duties as New York's webslinger with normal life really well- the core essence of the young hero and what made him so interesting. We also get a peek into Flash Thompson's relationship with postwar Vietnamese squeeze Sha Shan, the high school bully that ironically harrassed Parker while admiring  Spider-Man. Flash later befriended Parker before joining the Secret Avengers more recently as Agent Venom. This is an all-around interesting slice of Spider-Man history, also mentioning White Tiger who'd appeared in the title's earlier issues, and has been more recently revamped as Ava Ayayla, the fifth White Tiger and sister to the first, Hector Ayayla. Ava costars in the current Ultimate Spider-Man animated TV show.

 Moon Knight's informant Lindy, killed in the beginning of the issue, warned the vigilante that mysterious crime syndicate, the Maggia, knew his true identity. In attempt to find the heart of the organization, the vigilante shows up at his favorite diner in hopes of a run-in with their thugs. Also in pursuit of the Maggia, Spider-Man happens upon the diner scuffle, the two heroes following one of their assailants making a run after their failed hit on Moon Knight. But when Spider-Man pounces on Moon Knight for playing too rough, a fight breaks out that I liked as much today as I did in '78. But the wind picks up as our two heroes lock horns, a colorful antagonist ends the fight and this issue in a whirlwind arrival... the Cyclone!

As a kid, this story arc was left unresolved for me, never knowing just what happened with the Cyclone, without the financial wherewithal or attention span at the age of six to investigate the matter further. I'm proud to say however that I hunted down issue #23 on Amazon and ordered it on the spot, and will soon put this decades-long mystery to an end... ! 

A  friend asked if I enjoyed this issue as much as an adult, and I'm proud to say that I did. It had all the stuff we love about Peter Parker- his struggle with love, long-running domestic issues, and a tussle with an overzealous anti-hero in attempt to do what's right. It had a lot going on, to the credit of writer Bill Mantlo & legendary artist Mike Zeck, whose classic, comic-book style I absolutely love!
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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Funko POP Iron Man 3 & Amazing Spider-Man

I've long admired the great design of these Funko POP! vinyl figures, and own a Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern from the line as well. Their large heads and tiny bodies give them an infantile appearance that is disarming and extremely cute. Check out the video:

I was unclear on the fact that some of these are bobble heads, as Iron Man & Spidey here are, and some are just vinyl figures (it says clearly on the box). I don't know if it has to do with having found these at TRU, or if it has to with their particular movie merchandising status, but it's not a Marvel/DC differentiation because my Green Lantern is a bobble head, but Martian Manhunter is just a vinyl figure. I suppose I don't have a preference, though the bobbing head adds to the cute factor. These 3 3/4" figures don't have any articulation other than in the head, making the ten dollar price tag seem a little steep, but they were artfully designed. Like all mass produced toys, there is a little paint slop, but nothing terrible on mine. It should also be said that the packaging on these is not only punchy and great looking, but also easily reusable, free of rubber bands, tape, or twist-ties. The POP figure fits easily back into the hinged tray for attractive display or storage, a feature I really appreciate.

While these kind of cutely-styled toys don't appeal to everyone, I'm a big fan of it. I have a ton of DC Action League, & DC Imaginext figures, oodles of Marvel Mini-Mates, and even a couple of those Marvel Superhero Adventures figures. So it's little wonder I absolutely love these. Their chunky styling and bright colors appeal to my sense of what a toy should be- fun that is!

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Silver Surfin'

I bought these two cheap rotary display bases off Amazon a couple weeks ago, and gave them an inaugural spin with a couple of my Silver Surfers. They have solar power, but if you want the lights to really blare, a double A plugged into the underside helps a lot- I picked up another pack of Rayovac Platinum  rechargeables, which have worked great with my camera. The rotary direction, which spins about 4.5 revolutions per minute, can be reversed by braking the turntable- it's a nice slow speed that's just about right. They turntable is only 3 1/2" wide, so they won't hold everything in my collection, but they will hold any 6" figure with a tight footprint stance, any mini figure, my Brave & The Bold figures, and Marvel Universe- all of which I have many. They are about as inexpensively manufactured as they could be, but spin evenly and will work fine for my videos, like this one...

 *See my post on the 4" Marvel Universe Silver Surfer.
 *See my post on the Marvel Heroes & Villains mini Silver Surfer.
 *See my post on the ToyBiz 14" Cosmic Power Galactus.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Superman Unchained #1

Sounds funny coming from the Super-DuperToyBox, but I haven't picked up a lot of Superman books- I've read more JLA stuff and team books that feature the 75 year-old DC Comics hero, but only picked up one Action Comics annual from the New 52 line. Superman is everywhere now, and along with the new Man of Steel movie, DC Comics has launched Superman Unchained book this month. They've been warming us up to this in the Comic Shop News weekly, in every New 52 issue put out, and even on the bags we are sent home with from the local comics shop. First, I'm a big Jim Lee fan- I love his style, and really enjoyed the art in those first six issues of  the New 52 Justice League. I'm not as experienced with Scott Snyder, but by all accounts his work on the recent Batman title was great....

 I paid $4.99 for this issue, but the extra-thick, glossy cover with Jim Lee's illustration on the from was too much for me to pass up. The story gets moving pretty quickly, Superman tearing through an international space station called the Lighthouse, the programming compromised, turning the ship into a nuclear missile headed for Earth. The destruction of the Lighthouse is printed in a four panel foldout that shows Superman tearing through on one side and returning to find the helpless astronauts trapped within on the verso. This was certainly an eyeful and a real treat, but it was attached in a cumbersome fashion, the folded art stuck to a spine extension with rubber gum. I removed the gum easily enough, but now the folded poster just sits loose in the book.... and I'm unsure if I like that...

 ...I did however like this 12 x 19" spread of Superman tearing up the space station...!

Superman suspects Lex Luthor will know if the cyber-terrorist organization Ascension is behind the Lighthouse disaster, and after rescuing the astronauts, he intercepts a hijacked police helicopter to question the criminal mastermind. Getting nothing but eccentric nonsense from Lex, Clark later realizes what he overlooked before while enduring a critique of his freelance story of the Lighthouse event by Lois Lane... 

It seems one of the eight satellites compromised during the Lighthouse event crashed into the ocean, and when Superman goes to investigate, he finds a hand print- someone with a lot of power changed the satellite's course, saving the installation in Thailand he thought was in it's trajectory.  A  U.S. sub mistakenly fires on the Kyrptonian while his back is turned, the terrified crew alerting base that Superman may now find out the secret they've been hiding...

... the secret that even if Superman could figure out where the submarine is reporting back to,  he could never defeat the "real Superman" Uncle Sam has employed for the last seventy-five years...! 

Is that Commander Steel? I'm unsure, but the government uses this "hero" as a living weapon, so I may have to read the next issue to resolve my curiosity. This was a great looking issue with decent writing, but I would have liked more story as opposed to the "5.2 Questions" section and Jimmy Olsen/Perry White epilogue at the end, the latter being the more interesting of the two special features. While I was excited to read this, I felt a little gouged at $4.99 with all the hype advertisement fluffing up this otherwise decent issue. At any rate, I'm really looking forward to the movie!
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Currently Reading: Marvel NOW! Nova

Another Marvel NOW! title I began reading a few months ago is the new Nova book. While I did read Annihilation: Conquest hardback, this character appears mostly in the middle portion of the story arc- my only real exposure to Nova. In the Marvel NOW! relaunch, we see the passing of the mantle to fifteen year old Sam Alexander, whose father tells his kids stories of his past glories as a Nova Centurion when not embarrassing his son as the alcoholic high school janitor.

Sam clearly bears a huge chip on his shoulder, aggravated by a school bully, and in constant conflict with the authority figures in his life. I thought of Marty McFly in Back To the Future, and so did the creators of this book, direct physical homage drawn after the tough, bald high school principal and relentless bully, Sam even riding a skateboard. Idealistic youth resents his father, and through trial finally relates to him by walking in his footsteps- that's where this is going. No, the beleaguered teen isn't really anything new, but I like that Marvel is telling the story of another Nova Corps member, and exploring a new angle. And there is always a fresh batch of misunderstood teen demographic they are always looking to appeal to...

I liked Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man with Miles Morales as the teen-aged hero, and the cosmic backdrop of Nova appeals to my more recent interest in that setting/genre within comics. As a Green Lantern fan, I like the whole intergalactic police force premise, and am a big fan of penciler Ed McGuinness' work, beautifully finished here by inker Dexter Vines and colorist Marte Gracia. Check out this flashback spread from Sam's father Jesse, retelling tales from his Nova days to daughter Kaelynn...

 But his defense mechanisms and reckless behavior will come in handy when Sam comes to realize the stories his father told were all true, and the teenager must face his father's past enemies as a member of Nova Corps. Upon returning home one night after a frustrating bout with the school bully, Sam discovers his father gone, mistakenly accusing him of leaving the family. Racing off on his skateboard to stop him, Sam hits a rock, flipping him over an knocking him unconscious. When he awakes, Sam realizes in an instant that his father was not lying about his Centurion rank in the Corps, two members of the oft recalled Guardians of the Galaxy standing at the foot of his hospital bed...! I'm reading the Marvel NOW! Guardians of the Galaxy now as well, so it's fun to see one of my new favorite Marvel hero teams show up. So great...

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

31" Jakks Pacific Man of Steel

I had to whisk a friend away to the emergency room in the middle of the night Monday, and upon my return from work Tuesday night I found this HUGE Man of Steel action figure waiting for me with a note,  "Thank you for rescuing me this morning".  I'm certainly glad he summoned me, relieved he is now well, and was touched by his thoughtful expression of gratitude- I LOVE this giant toy! Check out my YouTube channel trailer featuring my new gift...   :D

I'd seen one of these 31" Jakks Pacific Man of Steel action figure from down the aisle at Wal-Mart three weeks ago, but hadn't got a close look until this guy arrived. There's a Dark Knight Batman and Red Power Ranger this size offered at the retail giant as well, all priced at $29.97, but the Man of Steel here is my personal favorite.

The Man of Steel's seven points of articulation include 360 degree swivel neck, arms, and wrists, and legs that swivel out from the body. He's reasonably proportioned and appears sturdy enough- I love his incised chest insignia and sculpted boot tops, buckle, and bracelets. The facial sculpt is nice, and the skin tone is natural, complimented with neatly painted hair & eyes, He looks reasonably like actor Henry Cavill, star of the highly anticipated summer blockbuster, Man of Steel. I grabbed a 6" Mattel Man of Steel last month, and am as stoked as any other red-blooded nerd about the forthcoming movie.

This action figure has about one pose due to his limited articulation, but has decent if simple paint apps, nice texture, and the wow factor of a thirty-one inch action figure. True, he was most certainly manufactured in the most economical fashion, and is overpriced like a lot of these over-sized movie toys, but he has a cloth cape and a decent sculpt. He's rad! While not everyone is crazy about this new movie version of Superman's suit, like Jim Lee's New 52 reworking of the DC Comics hero, it's essentially the same. It grew on me of course because of that- familiarity of a childhood favorite. An while it's impossible to go back to that first time, here's to hoping the movie will engage me as Christopher Reeve did as a boy in '78 and I'll believe a man can fly, even if only for a moment.  :)  

Jakks Pacific Man of Steel with my suddenly smaller 1996 12" Kenner, Deluxe Classic 13" DC Direct, and 8" Mattel Retro Action Supermen...

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