Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Pop Culture League: There's A Sale on At Penney's!*

So I deleted my last Pop Culture League post because I hated it and it made me sound like a dick and I don’t think I am a dick (I might be though). Let’s see if I can make myself look like less of a tosser with this one. What’s the topic Cool & Collected? “There’s a sale at Penneys! What was one of your greatest deals?” Oh noooo, this is going to be a bad memory. Also I don’t know what Penneys is, Google is giving me the option of JC Penneys or Primark…ANYway, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

I peaked early, find-wise: I found a Megator in the early ‘90s - only a few years after it was released now I think about it, about six years, just about the right amount for someone to have grown out of it and grown into masturbation and sports cars. Megator is one of the last Masters of the Universe figures released, part of the aborted Powers of Grayskull sub-line (only he and his fellow giant Tytus were released along with some dinosaurs, two more He-Men figures would be released in ’88: Laser Light Skeletor and Laser Sabre He-Man). His harness is currently on sale on eBay for £220 but obviously that’s still there, I saw one sell for £338– so he’d probably go for a couple of hundred at least today, I paid 50p (29 cents approx.). But what makes my Megator buy so good is that I had no earthly idea who the hell he was; Megator came too late to be featured in either the He-Man or She-ra cartoon and I’ve never bought or owned a single carded vintage He-Man figure so even if he was on one of the cardbacks (and I don’t think he was on any non-Powers of Grayskull packaging) I wouldn’t have known of him either. I bought him, well, got my mum to buy him, because he looked cool – he IS cool, he’s a giant green ogre who looks like he’s going to eat your entrails and really hate it because they came out of you and he hates you but he’ll do it anyway and he’ll do it why you’re still alive. I remember vaguely assuming he was from one of those toylines that weer vaguely He-Man/Thundercats scale but went nowhere like Sherriff Solar or Voice Squad (not that I’d’ve known either of those lines’ names back then). Megator strode across the battlefields that I turned my garden into, a lumbering subordinate of evil, regardless of who was the big bad that time (usually Mumm-Ra, Hordak and/or Super Shredder probably). The sad part of this is that Megator is no longer here, I have no idea what became of him, I can only assume he was in the Crash Dummies Box because I wouldn’t have sold him nor thrown him away so his disappearance must have been an accident. This means that I no longer have one of the coolest toys of my childhood and no chance of ever being able to afford a replacement, and frankly a replacement would be nowhere near as cool because he wasn’t bought for 50p at some random bootsale. I do have the Masters of the Universe Classics version who is technically a better figure (it doesn’t have rooted hair for a start, well the extra head does but I don’t use that) and I did get him cheap too thanks to but it’s still not the same, I miss you Megator. I know it says ‘one’ in the topic but I need to cheer myself up – meet Eggasaurus, who was 20p (along with a whole bunch of other stuff including four Fisher-Price Adventure People.). 

Eggasaurus here is part of a semi-obscure set of mini-figures called Bad Eggz Bunch whom I don’t bother with usually because, well, they’re fucking expensive – going for between 10 and 50 quid and that’s far too much for something that’s less than 2” (insert penis joke here). I have an old Egg Gripper from when they first came out but that’s it. The BEB figures came in eggs filled with slime, being a sequel to the Trash Bag Bunch, who came in dissolvable bags filled with slime – they used to sell ‘em in places like Tesco, so mum would get me one with the odd weekly shop, getting something that came in a slime-filled container with your Fish Fingers and Munch Bunch still seems cool to me. I can’t find a recent Eggasaurs sale, not even on the wonderful but it’s certainly the only thing I’ve ever bought where I could sell it for 100 times what I paid for it! I’m not, going to sell it, the BEB figures are such wonderful sculpts (my particular favourites being Protein Plasm, Bategg, Yolkyuk and the aforementioned Egg Gripper) that I rarely get to enjoy in person thanks to their extortionate bloody value and even though Eggasaurus is one of the more ‘boring’ monsters, and that says a lot for the other figurines when we’re taking about a caricatured triceratops, it’s still worthy of praise, worthy of having and enjoying and it’s a fucking dinosaur – I LIKE dinosaurs.

Yeah I sounded much better this time around, sorry to anyone who read the last post. Also from the League? Also from the League:

Whatever Green PlasticSquirt Gun is actually talking about is irrelevant because they have a naked Frankie Stein making out with a naked Gooliope Jellington in the background of their photo
2 Minute Toy Break has a more recent find
Goodwill can be found at Alexis’ Universe
At first I thought Mr Smith’s Plastic Bubble was being an adult, then I saw their second pick
The Nerd Nook has a MUCH better. He-Man story than mine, sob 

Six Examples of Crap I Waste My Money On: Hyper Japan Christmas Market Edition!*

Hyper Japan’s Christmas Market was this weekend just gone; I went (though the important parts of my costume didn’t turn up in time – boo) with my awesome friends in their awesome costumes and even though the con has moved to Tobacco Docks this year it was still awesome, I of course only took one picture and it was of course childish and stupid: 

The best way to describe Hyper Japan in Tobacco Dock is to imagine a level of Batman: Arkham Asylum but with cells decorated by a committee of Jigglypuff, The Care Bears and Tingle from The Legend of Zelda. It’s not the best place to hold a convention in general (it’s hard to find your way around once let alone find your way back to a particular stall) and it’s maze of dungeon-like rooms is particularly bad for a place where people stop every 23 seconds to take pictures of other people who are carrying huge foam weapons and/or sporting huge foam wings and/or wigs that obstruct their ability to see with both eyes. This was a Sunday at the smaller of the Hyper Japan shows, but apparently they’re planning to run the summer con there too, I predict it will be unbearable, especially on Saturday. But the stalls were excellent (and pretty fairly priced too), the stall holders were friendly, the food good and all the cosplayers we chatted to were delightful. I purchased just enough stuff to wring an Examples of Stuff I Waste My Money On post out and as I’m still suffering writer’s block I thought such an easy assignment might help me a little.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

How to Read the 1991 X-Revamp*

So back in 1991 there was a huge revamp of the X-Men line of comics: the X-Men and X-Factor became one X-Men line-up again and then were split into two squads: Blue Team and Gold Team; Cable took remnants of the New Mutants to form the more ‘pro-active’ X-Force and X-Factor replaced Freedom Force as the government’s mutant team by becoming made up of odds and ends characters Havok, Polaris, Strong Guy, Multiple Man and Wolfsbane. The ‘X-Revamp’ happened in X-Force #1, X-Men #1, Uncanny X-Men #281 and X-Factor #71 and came about for a number of reasons: one major factor was the request for another X-Men title (which became X-Men #1) from Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco who needed to exceed the takings of the previous year (which had been very high due to Spider-Man #1’s success); another was the rise in popularity of several artists at Marvel (Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee primarily) combined with the future plans of Chris Claremont – who was one of the two major architects of the X-Men books – not lining up with where editor Bob Harras wanted to take the books while the ideas of X-artists Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld and Whilce Portacio were closer to what Harras had in mind; the final was grumblings from retailers that seemed to back up Harras’ dislike for Claremont’s current and future X-writing.  So Harras, being a lovely chap, first forced Louise Simonson (who wrote New Mutants and X-Factor) from her books then Claremont himself from the franchise he’d built. Louise was forced off primarily to please Rob Liefeld, who wanted a different direction written by old friend Fabian Nicieza while Claremont stuck around to wrap up X-Factor pre-revamp and rough out the ideas for the new status quo for Uncanny, X-Factor and the new adjectiveless X-Men but ultimately quit, but not before negotiating the script duties on X-Men 1-3 as severance pay. How did Harras do this? Well by doing things to piss off both writers until they were forced to leave, and when they left they took Walt Simonson (Louise’s husband) with them. Walt Simonson was one of the finest storytellers in the industry at the time and one of few superstars Marvel boasted for some time pre-McFarlane and Lee (along with Art Adams and Frank Miller) though I’m sure Marvel dried their tears on the huge wads of cash X-Force #1 and X-Men #1 brought in. X-Force #1 beat all sales records for a single comic and then X-Men #1 beat X-Force’s record – though it’s worth noting they did this via semi-cheating, as each one had multiple versions of the same issue for sale and the sales of all of those versions were added together to get those records: X-Force had one of several trading cards included with the issue, with X-Men it was five different covers released roughly once a week for a month.  

Why am I telling you all of this? Well because the reading order of the big X-Revamp of ’91 doesn’t remotely follow its publication order and it can get confusing. Even though there’s multiple reading orders around, they’re mostly lists or trade-paperback based so I thought I’d give you a reading order with some context as to WHY you should be reading this and why in this order. Why would I do this for this particular time other than just because it’s very confusing? Because this period of X-Men ended up being really important, the X-Revamp was the basis for the X-Men cartoon from 1993 who brought the X-Men even bigger success (in tandem with Toy Biz’s two toylines X-Men and X-Men: X-Force) and set up a decade of comics. It’s not the best era of X-Men but it is pretty important and probably the most iconic X-Men line-up and incarnation since Claremont & Byrne. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Friday, 18 November 2016

Super Quick Crappy Review: World of Nintendo Star Power Mario*

I've been atrociously busy the last two weeks, normally I just wouldn't post or post articles I have queued up but a) I got obsessed with writing a new blog post NO MATTER WHAT and b) those queued articles all require photos I don't have time to take. As luck would have it though I bought a toy while out being busy and I can review it BUT I only bought one because I'm as skint as I am busy so I'm introducing a new type of review article: SUPER Quick Crappy Review, this works perfectly as I only had to take about three pictures, so yay? A tentative yay. 

Holy shit new World of Nintendo figures! I thought the line was dead! But a whole new wave just snuck into our local Entertainer stores (Mario and Zelda not being a corrupting influence taking our children from belief in the one, true God like Monster High I guess). Series 2-3 includes Star Power Mario and Koopa Trooper from Mario Brothers, Villager from Animal Crossing, Link in Goron Tunic from The Legend of Zelda and Peppy from Star Fox so of course I bought the translucent one and I’m still not done being fascinated by it

Star Power Mario is Mario when invincible, achieved by picking up the Super Star item (more commonly known, or at least it was back in my day – so oooold, as a Starman). The power-up (and powered-up form) debuted in Super Mario Bros for the NES and has appeared in pretty much every core Mario game since. This figure however isn’t of Invincible Mario, it’s of Rainbow Mario, a form that debuted in Super Mario Galaxy that comes from getting the Rainbow Star power-up – Rainbow Mario is the only time Mario becomes solid rainbow colours rather than flashing or being covered in an rainbow overlay with his normal colours showing through (both being versions of Invincible Mario).

I’ve been interested to see how an Invincible Mario could be realised in figure form and while I’m not 100% satisfied with this result I can’t say I hate what came out. In case my shoddy photography skills don’t get it across, Mario is cast in a plastic that has roughly the same properties of a soap bubble, with different colours visible depending on the light and angle – you can catch pinks, yellows, greens and it’s a decent way of getting a rainbow-y effect. It might not be utterly accurate but it’s certainly delightful to look at, in fact I’m sitting here right now turning my head from side to side to see the colours shift and move, I’ve been doing this since I unboxed him hours ago and it hasn’t lost its appeal - I’m a grown man, I swear. But this is a review so negatives – the colours just aren’t strong enough to be accurate and he’s just too translucent, but then I don’t know if you can do the ‘seeing colours when the light shines on it’ trick with foggier plastic so that might be a necessary compromise. He’s a straight repaint (well re-cast) of the original World of Nintendo Mario so any negatives carry over, his head articulation is blocked to the point of it being virtually worthless, he lacks for waist and wrist articulation and his hands are fists meaning he can’t hold anything. Of course he also carries over positives from that toy, he’s a spot-on sculpt, his arms artic and knees have great range and he feels lovely (actually he feels slightly different, almost like he’s got a film over him). Oh and they’ve put the copyright stamp right on his head, it really sticks out on such a light figure with no other details painted on.  

This was supposed to be Peach holding the star
Debby McGee style but she didn't have the articulation
for it, so I chose the next sexiest person in that
box to take her place
The mystery accessory gimmick has been dropped! *cheers and applause from the crowd*
If you missed this or haven’t read my utterly marvellous (translation: utterly amateurish) previous World of Nintendo reviews, the 4” scale figures came with a ‘mystery accessory’ hidden in a cardboard replica of the power-up box for the game series they came from. However the accessories weren’t randomly inserted into these boxes, they were always the same accessory and always connected to the figure (so for Tanooki Mario the ‘mystery’ accessory was the Super Leaf you collect to turn Mario into Tanooki Mario) so there was no mystery. It was pointless and I moaned about it. Now it’s gone and the accessories are plain to see in the package, awesome. Power Star Mario’s accessory is a Power Star, it’s virtually perfect except, y’know, it can’t stand up by itself (being a star and pointy and all) and Mario can’t hold it because he has fists so, um, I’m not sure how I’m going to display it, I’m sure I can do something with Blu-Tac. A Power Star isn’t a Starman by the way, it’s the larger stars (AND IT IS ALWAYS STARS) you collect to progress in Super Mario 64 and the Mario Galaxy games, though I think this is supposed to be a Starman (modern Power Stars look different to this and this looks very similar to the Super Mario 3D World Starman) it looks just like the Mario 64 Power Star so I’m willing to accept it as being a Power Star as the box implies. 

So, conclusion? It’s not the most accurate World of Nintendo figure nor is it even given an accurate name but it’s bloody pleasing to look at  (yep, still tilting my head) and his accessory is great (even if it doesn’t stand up). 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Pop Culture League: Future Collectibles*

This week is a topic the League has posted before and I thought it was odd then, after all people will collect anything and that’s not going to change but trying not to be a stick in the mud, today we’re discussing:  Future Collectibles, What will be the hot collectible in 2046?

My answer? 

Monster 500!

I need to buy whoever greenlit this pitch a beer, many beers, an entire pub full of beers, a brewery. I would never, in any wildest dream, have believed that a line of monster toys recalling the work of classic hot rod art, classic hot rod artist like Big Daddy Roth and Bill Campbell’s Weird-Ohs model kits would be released in 2013 with a fucking app. But here they are, and of course they come with an app, everything comes with an app, but apps are a so very modern, disgustingly modern in fact, to the point they annoy me (just the word ‘app’ annoys me – when did ‘programme' become unhip?) while these toys find their influences and feel firmly in the past, a feel that’s very much that of 90’s toys (I would have been all over these in the early-to-mid ‘90s, these were born to be played with with Street Sharks) with a little of the 80’s thrown in (tell me you don’t see the designer of these owning Madballs and Monster in My Pocket?), so an app just feels very out of place – of course it IS a horror themed racing game that I find very reminiscent of the PSOne era so I can’t hate on it too much, and an app does mean that this line combines something from the 60s, 90s and 2010s into one deliciously monstery pudding – why weren’t these a massive hit again? I kid, these are way too cool to have been a hit – mind you I thought that about Monster High too so maybe I know NOTHING but they do seem to have been designed specifically to be a cult hit, to be a new Food Fighters or Primal Rage, I just don’t think anyone told the creators that.
I can see them thinking ‘yeah we’re gonna teach the kids of today to love the much better things we loved when we were kids with this awesome new toyline, add an app and they’ll be completely fooled’, shame that never seems to work (further proving the world is unjust and unfair) and as the die-cast toys are currently in Poundland…well…still the upside is that we, the adult who never grew out of toys of today, get to have a great line that can be found very cheap today and the children of today will get to have a great line to remember, figure out and track down when they become the adults who never grew out of toys of tomorrow.

Anyway the toys came in two sizes, large electronic cars and small die-cast cars, which seem to be the standard size as two playsets were released in the die-cast’s scale, and both were split into racing teams (Driving Dead, Lunatic Legends, The Experi-Mentals, Freak Force & Animal Asylum). I have all of the cars bar the die cast range’s chase variants (which I so want but y’know how it is, money, competition from other toylines, effort, not even sure they were made, those sort of things) but for today’s short article I just want to focus on the large electronic cars because they were the first things I found of the line (in The Range no less), so have a look:

Flatop Frank! 

Lead Foot!

Crack Pot!

Zoom Zombie!

Were I forced to pick a favourite it would come down to a cage match between Zoom Zombie and Flattop Frank. Flattop Frank is the line’s Roth/Hot Rod homages taken up to 11, his choice of car (and engine), the signature hand on a giant gear stick, the face, the teeth, he looks like he rode right off a Revell model kit so I usually think ‘yeah he’s my favourite’ then I remember that Zoom Zombie is driving a hotted up hearse and the button to activate his light up feature is the hand of his current ‘customer’ escaping and I’m just not so sure anymore. Perhaps fittingly this a similar conundrum I encounter with said Revell model kits from the Roth, I usually think of Surf Fink as my favourite then I remember Superfink is on a motorized skateboard and suddenly I’m not so sure. The Mosnter 500 site is still currently up and features a bunch of racers who never made it into toys – ah sod  it, I’ll stick ‘em here in case/when the official site goes down, meet the racers you can’t buy as toys:
Phreaky Pharaoh 
Skully Crossbones
Creature from the Track Lagoon
Car Shark
The Indomitable Snowman
Loch Ness Maniac
Scream Punk
Dr Fly By
Brat Worst
The Hunchcrack of Notre Doom

These were supposed to come out in 2015 *sigh* looks like I shall never own Creature from the Track Lagoon, you suck children of today!

So far only one other Leaguer has posted as of this writing:
Green Plastic Squirt Gun makes me want to rewatch Ruthless People and Mac & Me
I’ll add some more when there're more to add

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Letter from America: The Big Spend-Up*

Welcome to the biggest Examples of Crap I Waste My Money on post you’ll ever have to suffer, I had a big bunch of money left over from going on holiday so decided to spent roughly £200 of it on eBay, however at the same time I was selling a few odds and ends on the site and thus the money didn’t go down quite as quickly, it was rather good fun but it was still wasting money on toys and I need a blog post out of it to fully allay the guilt. Normally I’d split this into a multi-part post like the Nummy Treats Letter From America but I feel it needs to be this large to get across how much shit I bought in one afternoon.  So are you sitting comfortably and suitably sedated? Then I’ll begin.  

Monday, 7 November 2016

Pop Culture League: Red State/Blue State*

It's a quick and easy Pop Culture League this week - well at least in theory. We're still tying into the U.S. Presidential Race (I'd like to passively-aggressively thank everyone who voted for Donald Trump and I hope they're looking forward to the upcoming third World War), that isn't why I didn't do last week's League, in fact I'm annoyed I missed it because it would have been a great chance to talk about Transmetropolitan and use the term 'whorehopper' repeatedly but life got in the way (or death in this case, actually). 

This week's topic: Red State/Blue State: Snap a red and/or blue photo.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Letter From America: Top 30 Orlando Parks Attractions Numbers 15 to 1*

On the 13th of June I turned 30, I’m not dealing with this so instead I decided to both ignore and celebrate me lasting so long by writing a whole bunch of top 30 countdown lists. I returned to Orlando, Florida and its theme parks and attractions after 20 years for a holiday. Going to Florida on holiday is a big thing for Britons and requires much saving and lots of effort (and lots of sitting watching whatever Virgin Atlantic put on their little screens). Letter From America is the blog-based fallout from this, we left the day before Hurricane Matthew hit and these posts are not meant in any way as a middle finger to those were killed, injured or even inconvenienced by the hurricane, we at AFB send our deepest sympathies to you all.

Still in Orlando, still counting down rides you should go on

< Part 1

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Letter From America: Top 30 Orlando Parks Attractions Numbers 30 to 16*

On the 13th of June I turned 30, I’m not dealing with this so instead I decided to both ignore and celebrate me lasting so long by writing a whole bunch of top 30 countdown lists. I returned to Orlando, Florida and its theme parks and attractions after 20 years for a holiday. Going to Florida on holiday is a big thing for Britons and requires much saving and lots of effort (and lots of sitting watching whatever Virgin Atlantic put on their little screens). Letter From America is the blog-based fallout from this, we left the day before Hurricane Matthew hit and these posts are not meant in any way as a middle finger to those were killed, injured or even inconvenienced by the hurricane, we at AFB send our deepest sympathies to you all.

Welcome to AFB’s countdown of the top 30 attractions you can visit at the Orlando Parks in Florida, America – for reference that’s Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, SeaWorld, SeaWorld Aquatica, Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Island of Adventure and technically Universal City Walk as well. Busch Gardens isn’t being included because it’s an hour away in Tampa but I pretty much recommend all of their roller coasters cos they have good ‘coasters, Wet ‘n Wild is also being excluded because it’s closing this year (not over this) and including anything from it wouldn’t really be very helpful to anyone who was reading this before they went (like that’d happen but it’s best to err on the side of caution) but rides like The Black Hole, Disco H2O and Bomb Bay will forever be in my heart.
This being written after a holiday in Orlando so you can read this knowing that I’ve actually tested out nearly all of these rides and thus this list is based mostly on first-hand experience, we’re also adding ‘Worth the Queue’ to this which basically means is the ride experience equal to the average queue time. So no more dicking about, are you sitting comfortably? Then welcome, foolish mortals.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Letter From America Quick Crappy Review: Disney Attractionistas Celeste and Nellie*

Welcome to the Return of the Jedi of our quick, crappy reviews of Disney Attractionistas dolls, a line of 12” Monster High inspired dolls being sold exclusively at Disney parks around the world and based on attractions at said parks. While at Walt Disney World I looked for dolls based on The Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain feeling (rightly) that there had to be ones for those two attractions if there were dolls for the carousels and Mad Tea Party, I was unsuccessful. Turns out they were just out of stock and the first wave of Attractionistas did include Jungle River and Space Mountain dolls, isn’t eBay a wonder?