Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Amazing & Spectacular: More Spider-Man of the '70s

After rediscovering one of my childhood comics in the used bins at Slackers, this Marvel enthusiast finally gathered the motivation to  seek out the conclusion to Spectacular Spider-Man #22, here thirty-five years later. In my defense, I hardly had the financial upright mobility, nor the attention span to do so back in 1978- some things never change  :D   I finally get to see Spidey and Moon Knight clash with the Cyclone, barely escaping their tornadic tormentor to head for Moon Knight's war room and regroup. Meanwhile, Holly Gillis and Hector Ayayla (the White Tiger) pine for one another alone, Mary Jane gets no answer at Peter Parker's place and hits the disco with Marty, and Betty Brant cries on the bed for Ned after failing to set off sparks with Parker! The drama is palpable! Our heroes track Cyclone down at Grant's Tomb, hoping to nab the elusive crime boss Maggia, but only grab the Cyclone and a roomful of goons. Was he the dark figure  peering from it's lid of the General's sarcophagus as the melee raged?? I missed Mike Zeck's pencils, but Jim Mooney keeps the transition smooth here, satisfying to finally read so many years later!

Perhaps as profound as finding Spectacular Spider-Man issues 22 and 23 here in my adulthood was finding issue Amazing Spider-Man 192- yet another comic I instantly recognized released only a year later in May of 1979. Every panel in the comic was familiar, journaling Spider-Man and Daily Bugle Editor Jonah Jameson's struggle, locked together with a bomb by mad scientist Spencer Smythe, now terminal with illness from the plutonium used to power his mechanical Spider-Slayers. Riveting! The unlikely partners run into the fearsome Fly in their race against the clock, knocking Spidey unconscious and indefensible against Jameson's prying eyes... did he look under the mask?? Spider-Man's heroic rescue was smart and selfless, the ungrateful Jameson's stinging criticism replaced with the tears of realization that his webbed nemesis saved his life, and that he was a fool. I remember the blustery, bigoted editor's crying face in this confessional last page. Emotional!
Onto a trail of childhood comic book memories, my luck continued when scoring the following issue #193 of Amazing Spider-Man, another that I undoubtedly owned, the panels so familiar to my eyes. Unbelievable! And the cover is as worth the price of admission at it is today- about two bucks on Amazon. A small price to uncover latent memories of my initial experiences with comics. Wonderful!

Fired by Jameson and fearful of the possibility that his alter-ego was discovered by the furious editor, Parker pursues the fearsome Fly to finish what he couldn't while handcuffed to his ex-boss. After losing the Fly's trail and being dumped on the phone by Mary Jane, our hero seeks solace in his old flame Betty Brant, who discovers Peter's open door while passing by. Late to receive his diploma, the worried girl stopped by to check on the tardy student's whereabouts, shortly thereafter found in a compromising situation when her jealous beau Ned Leeds catches up and knocks Pete on his duff! Oh the tangled web Parker has spun! The angry youth takes to the skyscrapers as Spider-Man, after the Fly with a vengeance uncharacteristic of our hard luck hero, only to be disappointed by the discovery of the villains capture by New York's finest! Is there no satisfaction due our constantly confounded wall crawler?? Hopefully not, as that is why we identify so easily with this legendary character- the weight of his awesome responsibility as Spider-Man and his struggle to do what's right while holding his young life together as Peter Parker. Oh the humanity!

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Currently Reading: TPB Haul

There was a buy-one-get-one-free sale on used comics at V-Stock over 4th of July weekend, so I took advantage to stack 'em up! I dove into these, having read most all of them by now.  Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin (2008) was a great book! The art by Eric Canete wasn't as art deco as the cover, but did feature a classic, horn-masked hero that was right up my alley. The Armored Avenger really has to work hard to beat Mandarin, losing the first battle, and nearly his life. We get a classic Tony Stark as well- the business suits, women, ego, and bravado are all part of it. A fun romp, indeed!

Since reading the new Marvel NOW! Thor: God of Thunder title, I can't seem to get enough of the this classic character, a founding member of the Avengers along with Iron Man- another Marvel NOW! title that I've been faithful to since last year. The Mighty Thor: Gods On Earth (2002) takes place after Odin's death, his son now Lord of Asgard. The Thunder God has transported his beloved city in the sky over New York City, where the mankind he came to protect and guide struggles against their unwanted savior. Really interesting! 

I've picked up a number of Secret Invasion titles since reading the main book, as I'm really into any book featuring the shape-shifting Skrulls, so I'd been curious about Secret Invasion: Thor (2009). Beta Ray Bill comes to warn his brother in arms of the coming invasion, to whom Thor must relinquish his enchanted hammer Mjolnir, and take the mortal form of Dr. Blake to protect the citizens of Earth. Good read and great art by Doug Braithewaite. 

This third volume of the Romita & Jurgens run on The Mighty Thor wasn't my favorite of the four, featuring a lot of crossover titles and different artists, but Spider-Man & Iron Man were involved so it wasn't all bad. You could skip it, and I'd intended to after reading a review online, but I'd never get such a good price again. There was enough of John Romita Jr.'s art in it to appease me.

World's Finest: Worlds Apart (1990) couples two of my favorite DC Heroes together, switching cities to battle their respective arch nemesis who have taken up crime in each other's neighborhoods! Penciller Steve Rude has a retro style akin to Darwyn Cooke, which evokes the feel of Golden Age comics- again, a stylistic direction I gravitate toward. You can buy this limited series in one TPB now, but I lucked out on the price of the original issues, averaging a price of  two dollars a book with the BOGO sale. Good read!

I'm only into my second book of an assortment of Amazing Spider-Man TPBs from Straczynski & Romita's run on the now concluded title. While I bought these for John Romita's art, author J. Michael Straczynski has not disappointed me so far, starting on issue #36 in Revelations, Aunt May having discovered Perter Parker's secret identity as New York's wall-crawling hero. I love Romita's cartoony style as much on Spider-Man as I did Thor! I see a great deal of similarities between the work of JRJ and his contemporary, Frank Miller, artist and author of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I hadn't intended to pick these up, but at an average of $4.60 a book, it was time to catch up on this chunk of Spidey from the early 2000s.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mattel Arkham City & New 52 Batman

Mattel's 6" Batman figures are admired almost universally in the action figure community.  When the toy giant released it's DC Super Heroes line back in 2006, the well-articulated  action figures paved the way for the forthcoming, hugely popular DC Universe Classics line. While the hallmark line ended after an impressive twenty one wave, Mattel continued using the unique Four Horseman buck style into lines like Batman Legacy, DC Unlimited, and Batman Unlimited offerings in retail, and Matty Collector sold Club Infinite Earths exclusives on their website- both continuing to this day. After discovering them a couple years ago I went on to buy quite a few, including these two Batman figures I found back in June.

These two have capes unique to previous Mattel Batmen and to one another, more flowing in sculpt than the standard, scalloped DCUC capes we've seen.  The blue cape on the Arkham City 70's variant is particularly long, ending in a peak at his feet, and the Unlimited New 52 Batman features a glossy sheen on his black cape.

 Both figures enjoy the standard DCUC construction that that made the line famous, the Arkham City Batman's sculpt varying more from the line's hallmark male buck in homage to his inspiration. While the line is criticized for it's sameness, Mattel DCUC line has maintained a unity that has a certain appeal, and has become a touchstone in the history of action figures, some of it's characters highly prized. Over a dozen 6" Batman figures have been released since the line's inception, many repaints of the first wave, but these two (also redecos) have sculpt updates unique among my personal collection.

I'd seen these blue and gray Arkham City Batman figures at a TRU a couple years ago, and while Batmen of that color scheme have been a sub-collection within the Super-DuperToyBox for some time, I passed with regret. But alas, I scored him in an eBay auction for half the price, shipped, and my regret gave way to satisfying victory! Styled after the armored Dark Knight in the popular video game, some genius suggested he be released in the classic 1970's deco, complete with yellow oval behind the bat insignia on his chest and shadowed cowl. Reminiscent of the Neal Adams/Jim Aparo era, Batman in these brighter colors also evokes fond memories of the DC Super Friends Batman seen on TV Saturday mornings as a kid. While I'm not a video gamer, I admired the styling of Arkham City's characters, including Harley Quinn, of whom Mattel produced a stunning Batman Legacy figure of later on...

Mattel's more recent New 52 Batman, which I resisted not quite as long as the other, annoyed me with toy giant's refusal to include any accessories with him. Initially released in a flat black & gray, I know I'd have a hard time passing on this glossy black and metallic gray repaint- really slick!

I have no explanation as to why I've not read any of the much lauded New 52 Batman  title by author Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, but I did enjoy Jim Lee's rendition in some of the earlier New 52 Justice League issues. While I somewhat prefer the batsuit with traditional shorts/trunks, the more armored, updated renderings of  New 52 Dark Knight has it's own appeal. It's not really anything new, Batman having received a similar overhaul for the 1989 motion picture, Batman, in which actor Michael Keaton donned an all-black outfit, ushering in a new era in modern superhero styling. The incised armor lines throughout the figure and raised bat insignia on the figure's chest really pop due to the figure's glossy, metallic deco, updated with a slimmer modern utility belt. DC Direct released a more comic accurate New 52 version of Batman in their Justice League line, but Mattel's trumps it on articulation and visual flash. They released a New 52 Superman and Wonder Woman as well, but I picked up DC Direct's Justice League releases of those characters. 

Mattel's New 52 Batman battling the All-Star Joker.

Arkham City & New 52 Batman with a few other Mattel Batmen of mine: Legacy Golden Age Batman, my favored, all black All-Star Batman, and more recent Dark Knight Returns Batman...

How many Mattel Batmen does one need in his life, you may ask? The answer is, of course, just one more! I'm anxious to get my hands on the brand new 1966 Mattel  Batman and Robin figures, which appear to have cloth capes. And perhaps more exciting to myself, press images of the forthcoming third wave of Batman Unlimited figures promise a version of the Gotham vigilante styled after the new animated Cartoon Network show, Beware the Batman. While the show has been criticized, I enjoyed the first episode, and enjoyed the re-imagined roster of characters, updated gallery of rogues, and sleek new Batman introduced. I'll definitely be looking out for this action figure!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hey Mr. Postman/Recent Aquisitions

Yes, I'm still on the lookout for those earlier Concept Series Iron Man action figures, and in the case of this recent parcel, a related figure, the 6" Iron Spider-Man from Hasbro's 2008 series. That same year, Hasbro produced this Launching Torpedo Iron Man. While he's not technically a Concept Series, he's a variant of ol' Shell Head with a working projectile accessory that I found irresistible. 

The 6" Iron Spider-Man is the variant, translucent red version, and of particular interest to me as I have the 3 3/4" Marvel Universe Iron Spider-Man variant cast in translucent red. You know how much I love to play BIG TOY/little toy   :D   I also like to play variations on a theme within my collection, such as my obsession with blue/stealth Iron Men...

While on the subject of Iron Men figures, I picked up two more from the Marvel Legends Iron Man 3  figures a month ago. So far I've resisted buying the whole series, but I must admit that it would be cool to have that blue Iron Monger BAF! Mark 42 Iron Man and Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes (Iron Patriot) will go great with my growing 6" Hasbro Iron Man army...

And back to that BIG TOY/little toy fascination of mine, I picked up this Mark 42 Ion Man/Mandarin Iron Man 3 MiniMates 2-pack awhile back. I am crazy for MiniMates!  There was another 2-pack with Iron Patriot, but I resisted- I'm holding out for that rad Strange Tales box set with Dr. Strange, Morbius, Blade & the Wolfman! I also finally found the Wal-Mart exclusive 6" Amazing Spider-Man with interchangeable Peter Parker head, backpack, and skateboard. I have a Marvel Select Amazing Spider-Man, but really wanted one with Andrew Garfield's likeness, who did a great job in the role last summer- difficult to pull off after Tobey Maguire owned it back in 2002. I think the build and color of these Hasbro Amazing Spider-Man figures are more movie-accurate than the Marvel Select as well, particularly evident in the lanky buck these were molded in & the darker blue parts of the costume. So great! 

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

DC Direct Deluxe Golden Age Flash

Like the Golden Age Green Lantern, my experience with Jay Garrick Flash is limited mostly to post-Crisis On Infinite Earths literature, and more recently his re-imagined portrayal in the New 52 Earth 2 title. I found this 13" Golden Age Flash at a local retailer around the same time I was hunting for the Golden Age GL, and felt they'd make a great pair. Like the Flash of modern comics, classic Flash had a simple, but great costume. Noticeably absent are the wings on Jay's boots, though in truth this isn't the first omission of the costume feature in modern portrayals of the character. Jay is portrayed in the prime of his youth here, without grey temples he's shown with in his modern, retroactive continuity, and I kinda like that.

This is a nice looking doll with serviceable articulation: a ball-jointed head, hinge/swivel shoulders, double-jointed knees & elbows, swivels in the waist, wrists, biceps & upper thighs, an abdominal crunch, and hinged ankles. Backward movement is restricted in the ball-hinged hips due to the buttocks, but he can still pose in several stances. The bicep swivels run right through the middle of the muscle sculpt on these deluxe figures, leaving a somewhat awkward cut visible through the sleeves. Flash's musculature is more apparent, his leotard fitting close to the body and no cape over the shoulders. The bolt screen printed over the chest may not tolerate overstretching, but it's cleanly applied and looks good. The lightning motif is repeated on the vac-metal belt buckle, which is a separate piece but does not appear to be removable. I'd have liked if the pants were a separate garment with belt loops and all. His cuffed boots are nicely tailored in soft red vinyl, with zippers up the back and soft plastic soles. Jay came with an extra set of bendable, outstretched hands that plug into a peg at the wrists- a point of contention with some collectors due to their tendency to be either difficult to remove or easy to knock off. This figure isn't as bad as some, those with gauntlets causing the worst hand issues.

Without his helmet, one can see some unfortunate over-spray near the hairline- it's not terrible, but it is visible on his otherwise, nicely done portrait. While it's more realistic that the more cartoony Classic Superman of this line, it's not as lifelike as the Golden Age Green Lantern. He looks good though, and the detail reflects the much lower price tag than seen on a Hot Toys figure. DC Direct's choice to design these 13" tall as opposed to a true 1:6 ratio is frustrating to a lot of collectors, but I'd bet the company wanted them to stand apart, like their 7" figures do. 

Disappointingly, Jay's helmet doesn't stay on his head well at all. After the second time I dropped it, one of the wings popped off. To my relief, they are notched to fit into two holes on either side. If this was a safety feature, DC Direct might have just made the helmet fit more securely instead. I opted to pad the inside with a little sticky-tack- probably not archival, but it was absolutely necessary. It's made out of really cheap plastic, but the vac-metal finish looks really cool, giving the character that classic look that ties him to his mythological roots to the Roman god Mercury. It's shape is also Jay's dedication to his father, a WWI veteran.

Like the other DC Direct deluxe figures, we get an adjustable stand with the character's name stamped onto the base. These aren't really made for play, and a stand should be employed to keep the tall figure from toppling over. He stands well enough, but I wouldn't want to mar that pretty nose with a face-plant.

Flash had his own anthology series, Flash Comics, back in 1940, and joined Green Lantern and the other members of the Justice Society of America in '41. When costumed superheroes fell out of favor at the end of the decade, Flash was out of publication until 1956, when the character was revamped as Barry Allen. In the second issue of the new 52 Earth 2 title, Jay is given the power of speed by the dying god Mercury, whereas the original Jay Garrick accidentally inhaled what was initially described as "hard water vapors" in the college laboratory he was working in. Those wacky students!

Jay seems a more sparse an offering than the resplendent Golden Age Green Lantern, but they do make a stunning pair, extraordinary in their color and classic styling. I wasn't able to find many blog reviews on these, so it was fun to record them for posterity on the Super-DuperToyBox. Individually, I prefer the Green Lantern figure for his more nuanced portrait, wicked cape, and battery powered accessory, though as lifelong crime fighting companions, you really need both...

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

DC Direct Deluxe Golden Age Green Lantern

While I haven't any deep or long-time associations with Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, I certainly do appreciate his classic uniform of the Golden Age of comics. Yes, the tall collared cape & loud colors come off somewhat goofy, but that's what I love about him. Appearing within both All-American Comics, and as part of  Justice Society of America in All Star Comics in 1940, Alan Scott was the only Green Lantern until 1951, when he stopped appearing due to a waning popularity in costumed heroes. He was eventually revived and retconned into the DC Comics Universe, along with the other Golden Age members of the JSA when All-Star Comics was resurrected in the 70's. Most all of my experience with Alan Scott comes from more recent, post-Crisis On Infinite Earths portrayals, before his re-imagined presentment in the New 52 Earth 2 title.

There were a lot of complaints about these 13" Deluxe figures by DC Direct, I have several I love. Their bodies have some cut joints that show through the costumes at odd angles, there have been wardrobe malfunctions, and some of the hand pegs haven't fit into their holes well. Still, Alan here is a standout, due in part to his simple, but beautifully tailored outfit and luxurious cape. The cape! Thick and silken, Alan's cape is attached securely onto four metal snaps on his red shirt to prevent shifting- a small detail that works really well. The body suit is one piece, opening up at a zipper down the back of the costume, like his boots which are made of a soft, faux leather, allowing his hinged ankles to move.

There are some nice details on this figure, the crown jewel of them being the artful sculpt and paint on the face- the eyes and lips glisten in a very life-like fashion, as though Alan might open his mouth and talk to you. It's not quite the caliber of a Hot Toys likeness, but it's nice. The ring is crisply sculpted on Alan's hand, neatly painted in metallic green. While simple, his pleather belt is functional and works visually. The Green Lantern insignia cleanly screen-printed on his red shirt really gives the outfit a retro, sci-fi feel, all the colors and dramatic cape straight out of the age of Flash Gordon.


The Green Lantern of Golden Age comics acquired his powers through an ancient Chinese lamp, carved from a meteor that fell onto the countryside thousands of years before, fulfilling the final movement of a long fabled prophesy. After the Silver-Age reboot of the Green Lantern, Alan Scott eventually reappeared as  the Green Lantern from the parallel world of Earth 2. Alan's power ring has no effect on wood, a safety measure installed from a time when many weapons were carved from trees, to protect against the corruption great power often brings. This part of Alan's story remains intact with DC Comics' New 52 Earth 2 portrayal of the character, challenging the new hero in his battle against Solomon Grundy.

When you put the mask on, Green Lantern really takes on the look of the legendary, Golden Age character. It's sculpted on the back to fit in the hollows of his eyes and bridge of his nose with reasonable security. Aside from a second set of  bendable, outstretched hands, Alan comes with a battery powered lamp that really puts out a glow. Like the others DC Direct deluxe figures, Green Lantern comes with an adjustable stand, the character's name stamped onto the base. While his joints are tighter than some of my other 13" DCDs, and he stands securely on his own, it's nice to have, keeping the expensive doll from toppling over.

While my Green Lantern Corps deluxe figure came with alternate heads, Hal has a lot of pageantry to compete with, the spectacle of Alan Scott's uniform hard to beat! I found mine on Amazon this past April for fifty bucks- about ten or fifteen dollars less than he went for on his retail debut a couple years ago, the last of this line of deluxe figures by DC Direct we've seen.

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