Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Mummy

The Mummy Universal Studios movie- no, I’m not referring to the 1990s or 2010s movie versions.  I’m talking about the original The Mummy movie starring Boris Karloff as the resurrected Egyptian Mummy.

After Universal Studios highly successful films Dracula and Frankenstein, both actors Bela Lugosi (Dracula) and Boris Karloff (the Frankenstein monster) were hot commodities.

Shortly after the Frankenstein movie Boris Karloff created another iconic movie monster with his premiere as The Mummy.

Karloff endured hours of painful makeup to portray the half-desiccated Mummy with its sunken cheeks, hollow eyes and with its entire body wrapped in rotting rags.

When The Mummy is discovered and it first opens its long dead eyes it still sends a chill down my spin.

The Mummy (Inhotep) figure comes in Sideshow Collectibles' signature flip lid box with Velcro secure button, clear plastic viewing panel and plastic cocoon holding the figure and accessories.  A plastic strap holds The Mummy in pace.

The figure features a perfect miniature sculpt of The Mummy’s head with its shriveling flesh, sunken eyes and closed mummified lips.

The head is a gray/green and sits on the cloth bound Mummy body save for the hands and part of the feet.

The cloth looks old and decaying and several strands are loose around the leg and arm.

Included with The Mummy is a small sarcophagus decorated with hieroglyphics that includes a lid.

An ancient papyrus scroll is decorated with hieroglyphics representing the curse placed on The Mummy.

A black strap of cloth holds the scroll when rolled up and placed in the sarcophagus.

The Mummy by Sideshow captures the horrific image of the long dead Egyptian and the accessories are carefully sculpted to look as if they are engraved or written upon.

It’s a Universal Studios Monster classic.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #5

It’s ironic that back in the early 1970s Marvel Comics attempted to be contemporary and relevant when it released Luke Cage.

Capitalizing on the Blackploitation films of that period Marvel created a hip, inner city black character that fought injustice, racism and the lowlifes of the ghetto/inner city.

The only problem was that the title would up stereotyping the very people it so desperately tried to make relevant.

Looking back it was an honest attempt to appear contemporary and with the times.  But if seen compared to today’s society it appears more as a parody and displays the very things that the black minority is fighting against-racial stereotyping.

In Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #5, when a black man is killed by a gang of thugs and has his body is taken away by fake ambulance drivers, Luke Cage investigates.

What he discovers is a criminal outfit run by the Black Mariah-a gigantic, obese black woman.

She runs a criminal organization that loots recently deceased people, robbing their families of heirlooms, important papers, personal property, etc.

Black Mariah is characterized as a surrogate mother to a bunch of crooks that know not to cross her.

She’s big, she’s bad and is almost a match for Luke Cage.

At the time the comic book was produced I’m sure most people had no problem with it.  But, looking back the book was filled with racial stereotypes, laughable dialogue and the poverty and street life depictions were probably created by people who had never experienced or witnessed what life was life in the inner city.

If this issue were to come out today there would be an uproar especially from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Times have certainly changed.  Still it is an interesting issue and series to look back on to discover how much things have changed over the years.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Rambo 2

As Sideshow Collectibles became more popular and profitable it acquired the rights to distribute Hot Toys figures in the U.S.

Hot Toys is well known for the quality of its 12-inch figures and the fit was perfect.

One of the first figures released in the U.S. by Hot Toys was John J. Rambo in First Blood Part 2.

Back in the 1980s when Rambo was at the height of his popularity Rambo 2 basically recast Rambo as a super-soldier.  Sure he still had some psychological problems and resentment toward the military and society that basically set him on the curb.

Rambo was an angry man and only agreed to go on a rescue mission in Vietnam to find POWs so that he could regain his freedom.

He was the perfect icon for the 1980s Ronald Reagan American-tough, resilient, non-nonsense and patriotic spirit.  Rambo loved his country even though it sometimes let him down-or rather the people in charge did.

At one time I was a huge Rambo fan but like the aging Rambo himself I’ve had to change with the times.  Only in Rambo’s case his raging bull is caged and at any moment can break its bonds.

Sylvester Stallone captured the isolation Rambo felt.  Trained to be a killer, Rambo regretted his past and wanted only to be left alone and to heal his physical and mental wounds inflicted by the war.

The Hot Toys Rambo figure is unlike most of the Hot Toys 12-inch figures collectors are familiar with.

Hot Toys actually hid the articulation points and understructure of the figure beneath realistic looking plastic skin.  The figure bends and poses naturally without any evidence of mechanical articulation points.

This type of figure sculpt did not last long as rumors suggest there was problems with the rubber-like covering cracking and restricting some movement.

Rambo was the first figure I received for review from Hot Toys.  I really didn’t know what to expect because up until that point I had never heard of Hot Toys.

The figure arrived in a plain cardboard box.  Once opened I was greeted by a slip-sleeve figure box with a foil Rambo logo and brilliant, almost iridescent image of the man himself: Rambo!  The back of the box featured three images of the figure within.

I carefully slid the sleeve off the figure box and again was hit with a close-up photo of Rambo-only this one was one of the enclosed figure.  I could not believe the likeness to Sylvester Stallone. It was amazing!

Now I was really getting excited.  I flipped open the flip lid and WOW!

The inner side of the flap also had a close-up of the Rambo figure and to the right was the figure itself.

The figure and accessories were cradled in a form-fitting, clear plastic cocoon alcove and lid with the figure held in place by additional wire straps.

Wait a minute!  Where are the mechanical articulation points?

That’s the beauty of this figure.  They aren’t seen.  The figure consists of a molded torso and head of Rambo with the articulation areas hidden by realistic skin.

Every muscle, sinew and vein is clearly visible on the figure as well as Stallone’s distinctive features including face and body scars.

His beard stubble is even visible!  Rambo’s long hair is molded plastic but looks very realistic as it has clusters of hair and strands that falls like real hair over the figure’s back and shoulders.

Rambo’s cold stare, firm lips, sharp nose and angular chin are all there.

He wears his red headband of real cloth and a necklace with jade ornament.  Shirtless, the figure wears solid black long pants and black belt with black buckle.

He also wears black military boots with heavy heels and soles and laces.

Included with the Rambo figure are his custom made bow with strings, a set of four arrows (two with regular tips and two with explosive tips) and a black carrying case for the arrows with a shoulder strap

Hand weapons include Rambo’s long-blade survival knife with sheath and strap, a two-sided blade knife, shiv, bow adjuster, twin throwing knives, wristwatch and an automatic rife with wood stock, shoulder strap and extra clip.  An extra pop-on left hand is also included.

Here are the amazing parts.  The bow strings and mechanism actually adjust, the arrows fit into the real zipper sheath, the knife fits into its sheath at Rambo‘s waist, Rambo hold all of the weapons firmly, the rifle clip removes, you can open Rambo’s pockets and the figure can stand on its own or with the assist of its base and support wire frame.

The boots are so detailed you can see the separation of the laces, boot stitching and leather wrinkles.

Figure articulation is a little tight and care must be taken not to over-bend the figure as it may tear and crack the molded torso.

Detailing is amazing as is the clothing that falls and fold naturally despite the pose, coloration matches Stallone’s tan complexion and accessories are accurate right down to every screw, clasp, button and clip.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Night Force #1

For close to 100 issues artist Gene Colan and writer Marv Wolfman thrilled supernatural fans with Marvel Comics' Tomb Of Dracula series.

Early issues are prized possessions of collectors and issue #1 is considered a ‘must have’ item for any comic book enthusiast’s collection.

Hoping to have lightning strike twice DC Comics teamed Colan and Wolfman in a new supernatural comic books series: Night Force.

Fans were ecstatic and issue #1 sold well.  But as the series progressed, despite the team of Colan and Wolfman, the series did not catch on and was cancelled far too soon.

It’s a pity because Night force showed promise and I believe given a chance the series would have become a pivotal supernatural series for DC Comics.

Gene Colan’s art is worth the purchase price alone.

The series promised to be a departure from the normal comic book story structure and in part it lived up to its hype.  Wolfman wanted the series to be newsstand edition while DC Comics wanted it to be Direct Sales.

Unfortunately the new format did not catch on with fans and while the series is memorable in that it reteamed the superstar creative team of Wolfman and Colan readers were just not ready for a more cerebral supernatural thriller.

Despite its varied cast, unusual premise, gorgeous art and stellar writing the series only lasted for 14 issues.

Two additional relaunches were attempted by DC Comics with lackluster results.  It should be noted that the first ‘official’ appearance of Night Force was as an insert in The New Teen Titans #21.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Sacred Beasts

Finally! After what seems like an eternity the three Sacred Beasts have their own YGO Decks to survive and thrive!

Konami’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game Structure Deck: Sacred Beasts allows gamers to summon three Sacred Beasts: Hamon, Lord of Striking Thunder and Uria, Lord of Searing Flames;

With their combined power modify their Summoning and mount additional strikes.

They can increase their domination, crush opponents in Battle Phase and negate Spells and Traps and more!

Get ready for total domination as the Structure Deck: Sacred Beasts allows you to summon and command one or all of the Sacred Beasts at one time.  Talk about power!

Structure Deck: Sacred Beasts includes 46 Cards (44-Card Main Deck, 2-Card Extra Deck) as well as 2 Token Cards:

5 Ultra Rares
3 Super Rares
38 Commons
2 Token Cards
1 Double-sided Deluxe Game Mat/Dueling Guide

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Batman

Hot off its success with its Batman The Animated Series, Warner Bros. Animation decided to take a new approach to The Dark Knight.

The Batman series saw a younger Bruce Wayne, a lot more high-tech gadgets and all of Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery was radically changed in appearance and sometimes they origins were changed or tweaked than in Batman The Animated Series.

Mattel Toys had the toy license to DC Comics and that included The Batman toy line.  Recently McFarlane Toys secured the DC Comics toy rights.

I’ve selected three of Mattel’s The Batman figures from its EXP (Extreme Power) series: the Crazy Cut-Up The Joker, Clayface and the Knight Strike Batman.

All three figures come in wraparound bubble packs mounted on a single thick paper stock hanger embellished by The Batman logo and an image of the animated Batman figure.

The bubbles have the EXP type in separate extruded part of the bubble packs.

Inside the figures are cradled in separate form-fitting clear plastic cocoons that hold the figures snuggly in place.  Additional plastic strips secure the figures, where necessary. 

On the back of the each bubble pack is a sequence of three small color photos demonstrating the action of each individual figure.  There is also a small photo gallery of all the figures in the EXP series.

The Crazy Cut-Up Joker figure looks a bit different than a traditional Joker figure.

The body of the figure is stooped over, features full articulation in its limps, torso and head and its hands are sculpted to hold the purple rod with the pink, yellow, red and green spinning six-prong cutting tool.

The Joker’s face is an over-exaggerated depiction of his features with large clusters of green hair, a death mask white skin tone, large red eyes, a leering red-lipped mouth, oversize yellow teeth and a sharp chin.

The Joker comes dressed in a black, purple and green straitjacket with black trousers and purple finger gloves.  The figure stands barefooted.

The shape shifting Clayface figure is all-gray with articulated arms, legs and head.  The figure looks almost molten as its clay surface loosely hangs on its frame in a vaguely humanoid shape.

It’s large open maw and bright green eyes give the figure a horrifying look.

It’s right flexible arm, when pulled back, flings forward when let loose.

Of all the EXP figures Clayface mostly resembles its original look.

The Knight Strike Batman figure is dressed in Batman’s classic black and gray uniform with a yellow utility belt with pouches and a yellow spotlight bat symbol.

The figure is fully posable and articulated and comes with a bat grappler and swing line activated by the enclosed Power Key. 

Sculpt and paint applications are spot-on on all the figures.  Articulation points are tight and move easily while the overlaps have no flashing and the paint is crisp with no slop over edges.

All three figures are perfect matches for their animated namesakes. Additional figures and vehicles are also available.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Bruni's Big Adventure and One For the Books

OK. Admit it.  As good as Disney’s Frozen 2 movie was and as interesting as its main characters were the real stars of the movie were the comedy relief duo of Bruni The Fire Spirit and Olaf The Snowman.

Sure there was adventure, danger, suspense, humor, spectacular scenes and special effects but they all would have been for naught if it were not for the comedy duo of Bruni and Olaf.

I mean, what's not to love?  Olaf is hilarious and Bruni as his lovable new friend is too cute for words.

Disney Press just released two books starring the lovable duo.

In Bruni’s Big Adventure readers are invited along as Bruni and Olaf venture out into the Enchanted Forest alone.

What are they up to? Does Elsa know what they are doing or have they gone rogue and running wild?

Author Suzanne Francis and illustrator Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay present a delightful tale where Bruni and Olaf enjoy the simple things of life and how to appreciate each other.

It‘s frolicking fun in the frozen forest as the two friends discover what true friendship is all about.

Author John Edwards and the Disney Storybook Art team tell the tale of Olaf‘s love of reading in One For The Books.

What happens when Olaf and is friend Anna discover that the librarian will out of town for few days and the library will be closed?

Olaf takes up the challenge to be the substitute librarian and with a little help from the townspeople and a does of imagination the library is more fun than ever.

Beautifully illustrated in the style of the movie, the book is a wonderful visual encouragement for children to read.

Both books are 3 to 5 year olds.

The Marvel Fumetti Book

Since the death of Marvel Comics’ Stan (The Man) Lee anything with his likeness or name on has really shot up in price.

In 1884, then Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter gathered all the editors and most of the artists and writers at Marvel Comics together to pose for a number of photos (come strips.)

It was a tongue-in-cheek funfest for the fans and it also starred Stan Lee and featured him on its comer.

The name of the comic book is The Marvel Fumetti Book.  

For you that are unfamiliar with the word fumetti it basically means: a periodical containing funny stories, adventures etc., in the form of comic strips.

I remember picking this book off the shelf at my local comic book shop: Xeno’s, and flipping through its pages.

While the black and white photos are blurry and sometimes difficult to decipher enough hilarity manages to creep through making the book a fun read-especially for a comic book geek and Marvel Zombie (another term meaning someone who reads Marvel Comics.)

Just a few of Marvel Bullpen members in the comic book are John Byrne, Jim Shooter, Dave Cockrum, Terry Austin, Denny O’Neil, Chris Claremont, Walt Simonson, Al Milgrom and even the Big Cheese himself: Stan Lee!

For a fun and funny bit of nostalgia (along with a great Stan Lee cover) be sure to pick up a copy of The Marvel Fumetti Book.

Raw copies can be bought for around $10 and a slabbed copy in near mint condition for about $50.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Blackest Night Firestorm

DC Comics really shook up the comic book community when it produced the Blackest Night maxi-series and tie-ins.

In it the notorious Black Hand resurrects some deceased DC heroes using the power of the Black Lantern and a bastardized version of Green Lantern’s power ring.

While the series was running DC Direct released several series of Blackest Night 6-inch action figures.

Of those figures the Series 4 Black Lantern Firestorm is by far my favorite.

The figure is fully articulated and is one of the most frightening figures in the entire set.  The skull-like head that is accented by translucent flames is a real shocker.

While the regular Firestorm has flaming hair the Blackest Night Black Lantern Firestorm has eerie translucent flames issuing from its skull eye sockets, gaping skull mouth and cascading over it forehead and back in stringy blue/white flames.

Strands of the flame flow over its right shoulder.

The figure comes dressed in white, black and silver.

The main torso is of black with a silver chest emblem, waist accents and a single band of silver on each leg ending at its knees.

The arms are covered by white fabric ending in black wrist gauntlets and off-white gloves with a Black Lantern ring on the figure’s left ring finger.

Full white knee boots complete the ensemble.

Articulation is cleverly hidden in the cloth’s wrinkles and folds and the shoulder swivels are invisible under the flared shoulder pads.

Paint application is accurate, clean and slightly multi-shaded on the figure’s face and cloth folds.

A base is included with the Black Lantern logo.  The figure comes in a bubble package that can hung or can sit on a shelf and the figure is cradled in a protective cocoon and visible behind a clear plastic shell.

It’s a frightening figure made even more so by the flaming skull and skeletal like appearance.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Space Ghost

Of all the Saturday morning superhero cartoons shown on TV in the 1960s Space Ghost was my favorite.

Yes, it was corny and the dialogue lacked any real sophistication.  But the characters, action and sheer excitement element kept me coming back for more.

Master cartoonist and illustrator Alex Toth designed the characters for the show and Hanna Barbera Studios successfully translated his designs to the small screen.

Space Ghost and his teenage sidekicks: Jan and Jace and their pert monkey Blip, patrol the galaxy to safeguard it from alien criminals.

And what a rogue’s gallery of bad guys Space Ghost had!  Zoraak, Lurker, Metallus and a score of criminals that kept Space Ghost busy and that’s not including the other alien threats that came along.

Writer Mark Evanier and co-writer and artist Steve Rude teamed up for a Space Ghost One-Shot published by Comico back in 1987.

In a thrilling tale where Zoraak is freed from prison by a hooded benefactor who gives him the ability (along with Space Ghost’s other adversaries) to take down Space Ghost once and for all.

The ultimate question is-how do you defeat yourself?

Evanier and Rude really capture the look and feel of the animated series.  I felt as if I was reading a 2D version of the TV show.

How can you go wrong when ALL of Space Ghost’s enemies team up together to defeat him?  It’s a lot of fun to read and look at.  Space Ghost fans are sure to love it.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Legendary Duelists Season 1

Are you a legend?  Do you want to be one?  Here’s your chance with Konami’s new Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game Legendary Duelists Season 1.

It’s been almost 3 years, the vault has reopened and Card Legendary Duelists and Legendary Duelists: Ancient Millennium has returned!

Not only that, they’re enhanced!

Every Box contains:

1 out of 7 Secret Rare Variant Cards: including Ancient Millennium, Fusion Monsters Millennium-Eyes Restrict and Red-Eyes Slash Dragon.

2 x 18-card Legendary Duelists: Season 1 Booster Packs with 3 Ultra Rares and 15 commons.

Ultra Rares will come in two types:

1 of 4 Preview Cards from the Rise of the Duelist Booster Set.

2 Ultra Rares per Pack (4 per Box) Foil Ultra Rare cards with stamped card names in 3 different colors.
4 colorful Ultra Rare Holo Cards.

A collectible double-sided Art Card.

Each Legendary Duelists: Season 1 Box contains:

1 double-sided Art Card
1 Secret Rare
6 Ultra Rares (2 standard Ultra Rares, 4 colorful Ultra Rares)
30 Commons

A complete Set contains 121 Cards:

7 Secret Rares
16 colorful Ultra Rares (available in blue, green, or purple)
4 standard Ultra Rares
94 Commons

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Wallace and Gromit

“I just love cheese Gromit!  Walkie!  Walkie! Well done lad!”

If you are a fan of the stop-motion Claymation adventures of Wallace & Gromit, courtesy of Aardvark Studios in England, you recognize those quotes.

I have three of the figures from The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit full length, stop-motion animated film shown in 2005. They are Hutch The Rabbit, Wallace in his work uniform and Constable PC Mackintosh.

In the film an experiment to deter rabbits from ravaging gardens goes horribly wrong.

Wallace becomes a Were-Rabbit and his intended first bunny victim takes on the characteristics of Wallace.

Hutch The Rabbit suddenly has the urge to eat crackers and cheese, dress in sweaters and wear a cap.

The Hutch articulated figure by McFarlane Toys stands about 3-inches tall and looks exactly like his animated namesake.

As with the other Wallace & Gromit toy figures Hutch comes packaged in a bubble pack, hanger/standing container decorated with the movie logo and a photo of Wallace & Gromit.

The figure includes a section of floor as seen in Wallace’s house, which is decorated with strips and shapes of blue, red and tan.

Included with the figure are a blue cap, a plate with two wedges of cheese, Wallace’s slippers in plaid, a black handle screwdriver, a wrench and a large porcelain cup decorated with a large ’W’ and blue horizontal strips on white.

Hutch stands upright in his knitted green sweater.

His body is a deep brown and he has two floppy ears, a large pink nose, two buggy eyes, buckteeth and short stubby legs, long arms and big feet.

Paint application is precise and clean, character articulation is minimal with almost invisible articulation points and overall the figure is high quality sculpting loaded with details.

The Wallace figure comes dressed in his light blue overalls with a blue belt and silver buckle, buttoned shirt pocket and high collar with button.

Additional clothing pieces include a blue long brim hat, white gloves and high black rubber boots with light gray upper openings.

Included with the figure are a garden gnome, rabbit catcher with shovel handle that Wallace can hold in his right hand, a flashlight and a base consisting of two large orange pumpkins, carrots, a green watermelon, vines and grass.

Wallace is articulated in the arms, hands and neck, holds the flashlight in his left hand and has his characteristic big ears and nose with a wide mouth and white teeth.  His round bugged out eyes peer over his big nose.

The black rabbit catcher has a latch/hook that actually opens and the gnome is decorated in a red cap, a dark blue outfit with black boots, belt with buckle and black boots.

He has large bushy eyebrows, a beard and small red eyes.  He holds a small pitchfork.

Of the three figures I have of the full set the Constable PC Mackintosh is my favorite.

This London Bobby comes dressed entirely in black with a high belt with silver buckle, flared coat with three silver buttons, a white shirt, black tie, black shoes and the characterize high rounded hat with a large silver star worn by Bobbies.

He sports white gloves and carries a ring binder/ledger.  A large black Billy club with leather straps is also included, as is a London street light, also black, with ornate decorations and a wide base.  It comes in two sections. A cobblestone base makes up the ensemble.

Mackintosh sports a large black mustache that obscures his mouth.  He has large bushy eyebrows, big ears and eyes. Paint application is spot on with a matt finish black on his cloths and lamppost. 

Check out the ornamentation on the post with its pointed top, corner accents and twisted ‘S’ curve lamp supports.  The lamp itself has translucent panels just like its London namesake.

Mackintosh holds his ledger in his left hand and can hold the Billy club in his

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Ray

To most comic book collectors the name Joe Quesada is associated with Marvel Comics.  Joe held the position of editor for the Marvel Knights series back in the 1990s.  He then graduated to Editor-In-Chief and now holds the position as Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment.

Joe started out as young artist working for Valiant Comics, moved on to DC and Marvel and then created his own character: Ash, under his publishing company Event.

One of the most unusual titles Joe worked on for DC Comics was The Ray.

In the series the son of the original Golden Age Ray discovers his inherited energy powers and reluctantly becomes a superhero.

By the time Joe drew The Ray his style had cemented itself and his confidence in laying out pages and composing stories was evident.

It contains some of the best work Joe produced at that time.

His distinctive style showcased his ability to convey the emotions of characters.  His ability to give each character distinctive features is also evident.

His mastery of visual effects such as energy bursts, explosives and other dynamic effects is masterful, as is he talent for drawing both action and stationary scenes.

Occasionally Joe can be persuaded to draw comic book covers and a few interior pages but the majority of his time is used for promoting and creating projects for Marvel’s various projects such as film, TV, etc.

The Ray #1 can be bought for close to cover price.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Zombie Spawn Regenerated

Hell spawn and the living dead-it’s a perfect combination!

McFarlane ToysZombie Spawn Regenerated figure combines the best (or should that be the worst?) of both genres.

The bubble pack, six-inch articulated figure is another example of McFarlane Toys’ incredible sculpting detail.

All the markings of Spawn are present except all of Spawn’s costume’s color are muted and a ghastly gray.  His cape is a vortex of gray and blood red swirling about his lower body.  The cape’s collar is long and specter like with blunted tips and windblown folds.

Spawn’s face is ghastly and skull-like with deep eye sockets, with a no flesh nose-only twin skeleton air passages and Spawn’s teeth grinning menacingly.

Gray putrid skin is drawn back over the teeth giving them a skull-like appearance.

The Spawn figure is mostly unclothed.  Its gray, withered flesh is drawn taunt over its musculature and skeleton.  Patches of scars, torn flesh and decay are all over its body.

Its cape and oversize collar hang loosely over its body culminating in almost a living swirl around its legs.

What appears to be an additional wraparound piece of garment hangs from the figure’s waist.  After closer examination it’s seen to be part of Spawn’s cape.

Leather straps with protruding teeth decorate both of the figure’s arms along with metal studs.

Similar bands with teeth decorate Spawn’s ankles.

Spawn holds in both hands a large sickle attached to metal. A single silver chain hangs from the sickle’s handle ending in a large bloodstained hook.  

An additional silver chain hangs from Spawn’s right upper arm leather band with teeth.  Several desiccated human skulls hang from it, as does one from Spawn’s right ankle.  

The sculpt of the figure is truly astounding with flesh, cloth, metal, leather, bone and figure details clearly distinguishable from one another.

Paint application is varied is multiple shades of gray, red, blue and white.

Paint is applied evenly with no sloppy edges or bleed overs. The figure stands easily with its arms up or down.

It’s a gruesome yet elegant figure with lots of details and superb sculpt, paint application and design.  The bubble pack in comes in can either be hung from a hook or stand-alone on a shelf.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Unity and Rai

When Jim Shooter developed Nintendo/Mario Bros. comic books for Valiant he had big plans in mind. 

Determined to make a name for himself in comic books after being sacked at Marvel Comics as editor-in Chief, Jim convinced several artists and writers to help him develop a new comic book universe.

Having obtained the publishing rights to Gold Key’s Magnus Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar and Turok Son Of Stone Jim set out to slowly build a new type of comic book company where quality ruled over quantity.

He started out with six-part mini-series of Magnus, developed a similar mini-series for Doctor Solar and eventually developed Turok into this own book.

Along the way Valiant introduced several new titles such as Rai, Harbinger and X-O Man Of War.  Jim and his staff planed on introducing titles slowly.

The initial small print runs of each title caught fans by surprise.  Demand soon outweighed supply and Valiant found itself a certified hit.
Unfortunately not long after its success Jim was let go and Valiant began releasing titles too quickly which would eventually undermine its success.

Jim Shooter, Bob Layton and Barry Windsor Smith (the big three of Valiant) along with their editorial staff, decided to create a title-spanning event that tied the entire Valiant Universe together.

What they came up with was time-spanning epic called Unity.  The series was introduced with a free Unity #0 and would continue through the mini-series and crossover to each Valiant title.

Top talent in the industry contributed covers and the series became a resounding success.

Because of Valiant’s success and its limited product available of its early issues prices began to rise for its early and incentive issues.

Comic book fans clamored for the issues and when Image Comics entered the fray speculators soon followed.

Valiant and Image early issues soared in value and the companies soon began catering to their fan’s fervor supplying them with special covers, niceties and other ‘collector items’.

Naturally Marvel, DC and other comic book polishers took notice and joined the madness.

Speculators who were interested only in profit began ordering outrageous amounts of comics in the hopes that in a few years their value would increase exponentially and they would walk away with a fortune.

But, after a few years speculators found out just the opposite had happened. Because so many comics were printed their value plummeted.  The market became over saturated.

Panic set in and speculators dropped out of the market stranding publishers with millions of unsold comic books.

Sadly Valiant was hit the hardest and after too short of time on top the company folded.

Today the early Valiant issues are once again rising in value because of their scarcity.

One particular Valiant character that was introduced in the back of Magnus Robot fighter was Rai.

The white skin, enhanced Asian assassin was inspired by the legend of Bloodshot. Ironically Rai was introduced before Bloodshot and was pivotal in the launch of the pre-Rai warrior.  It was like time working in reverse.

Early Rai appearances are much sought after-especially issues #0 and #1.  Currently the issues sell for around $30 for #0 raw and #1 for $50 raw.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

It Only Takes One Word

Back in sixth grade I discovered that I had the knack for drawing. 

I was over at one of my best friend's house.  He was working on a diorama of the Civil War and he included a few crude illustrations of Confederate and Union soldiers he had drawn.

I was intrigued and doodled while he completed his project.  I noticed that my drawings were much better than his and so began my fascination with art.

For the rest of the school year I drew in the margins of my notebooks, attempted to draw a few superheroes I saw in my comic books and continued to practice after school dismissed for summer break.

That next year, in Junior High seventh grade, I signed up for an art class.  My teacher was Mrs. Gray.

What a great teacher, she was such a wonderful encouragement.

She knew I loved comic books and wanted to be a comic book artist or cartoonist.  She encouraged my passion and did everything possible to push me in the right direction.

She insisted I study anatomy, perspective, color, line and all of the other elements and principles of design my young mind could comprehend.

She was proud of my work and continually pushed me to try harder.

All that changed when I got in high school.

Ms. Tichenor was my art teacher and while I liked her and enjoyed her class she never liked my cartooning.

She considered herself a ‘fine art’ artist and thought cartooning was sophomoric at best.

Still, I pursued my dream.  I proved to her I could also do fine art.  I contributed to the school’s art magazine, took part in various art projects and attended the statewide art shows when we took field trips.

I remember spending hours drawing a Conan The Barbarian illustration, complete with an elaborate ancient city in the background.  I put my heart and soul into it.

And yet, when it came time to submit artwork for the statewide art competition, Ms. Tichener selected a simple watercolor half-portrait by a fellow student to submit.

I had nothing against the artist but it was obvious that he painted it in only a few minutes.  I was upset to say the least.

I was so upset that when class ended (it was my last class of the day) I stormed out and started to walk home instead of taking the bus.

Not long after I left and was about a half a mile from the school my art teacher pulls up in her car.  She attempted to apologize (pretty half-heartedly).

Strike one: it took me a long time to recover from that blow.

To make matters worse my own family, except my middle brother, never really understood the whole ‘art’ thing.

I never heard anyone in my family offer any encouragement.  Only that I needed to get a real job.  Strike two!

Mom was sick all of her life and it seemed that whenever I started to draw something she always needed me ‘right now!’  Is it any wonder I have a love/hate relationship with art?

Fast forward to college-my art teachers had the same opinion of cartooning as my high school teacher and still I pressed on.  It went so far that I was literally made fun off by one of my art teachers because of my cartooning.  Strike three!

Out of college I managed to get small jobs at print shops, etc.  After I met my wife and we moved to Texas I worked for a publishing company.  I was one of the staff artists.

While I did do cartooning my manager thought comic books were juvenile and ‘tools’ of the devil.  We did not get along.  The man had no imagination.  Neither did his wife.  Strike four!

Two years later my wife and I have moved to Jacksonville, Florida.  We stayed with her sister for about a month until I got a job and we moved out.  Not long afterward we bought a small home.  I worked for an ad agency and was often called on to draw cartoons. 

It was an OK job but I found myself doing the lion’s share of the designing and illustration.  After eight years there my hours were cut and I got a job in the marketing department of a local credit union.

My boss was a royal pain and one of the sneakiest and dishonest people I ever met.  I managed to stick around for another eight years and left before I became his latest victim.

I got a job at Homeside Lending.  It was horrible and the worst decision of my life. ‘Nuff said!

One year later I’m at another credit union as its Vice President of Marketing.  The job would have been fine except the president of the credit union was a good old boy who micromanaged, held onto the purse strings and never knew what he wanted.  It did not end well.

After that I had had enough of marketing and decided to get a teaching job.

Of all of my jobs that is the one I enjoyed the most.  I still couldn’t ignite my passion for drawing but I did set fire to a few of my students’ artistic talents and watched them go on to college and great careers.

That leads me to now.  I am just now starting to draw again-for no other reason because I want to.  No pressure, no deadlines and no one to please.  

I draw when the urge hits me.  For the first time in my life I feel as if I’m dong something for me regardless of what others think.  It sure took long enough!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


To quote Jack Nicholson as the Joker in the 1989 Batman movie, “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”

In this case the toys I’m talking about are the large die cast Batmobiles from Johnny Lightning and Mattel.

The Batmobile has always been the coolest piece of crime-fighting equipment whether it is in the movies, on TV on in comic books.

Every version was always ahead of its time when it came to mobile transport. 

Both Johnny Lightning and Mattel Toys produced several large scale die cast Batmobiles.  In this review I’ll be looking at three: the Batman movie version (1989), the 1950s comic book version and the 1960s comic book version.
The first time I saw the Batmobile in the 1989 Batman film directed by Tim Burton I was totally blown away!

I had never seen anything like it before.  It certainly wasn’t like the TV show Batmobile.

The Batman film version was huge!  Solid black with a heavy body and low profile, the Batmobile looked more like a slimmed down tank than a car.

Mattel recreated the movie Batmobile in 1:18 Scale for its Metal Collection die cast series.

Talk about a beauty!

Starting with the matt black chassis, the long sleek body extends back into twin stabilizing wings in the back.  The hood and engine are slightly slanted to the front of the car and the driver's cockpit features a full front tinted window and two small side windows.

The cockpit opens up to reveal two seats, an instrument panel with gauges and screen, a console computer and three shift sticks.

About midway on each side of the hood are two panels that when flipped open reveal gunmetal Gatling guns.

The front of the car has twin red reflectors, a gunmetal turbine engine extension that can be pulled out from the car revealing wiring, etc.  All the wheels are gunmetal, as are the exhaust pipes on each side and the turbine exhaust in the back that also includes several exhaust ports.  Four taillights are also included. 

The car has twin gunmetal gas tank tops, twin air intake scoops-one on each side, air vents behind the driver compartment and various gadgets and vent and screen areas decorating all sides of the vehicle. The car comes on a custom base with securing screws and a Mattel logo. 

The box features a full front clear plastic viewing panel and a full Batmobile schematic on its back.

In 2002 Johnny Lightning/Playing Mantis put out a series 1:24 Scale die cast model kits of the Batmobile through the decades.

The second of the series was the 1950’s DC Comic Book Batmobile.

Basically a black sedan, the Batmobile featured a bat symbol on the front of the grill, a round, wraparound windshield, a split rear window and twin rear turbines with a chrome bumpeer.

A chrome bumper and double headlight decorate the front.

On top of the passenger section roof is a large spotlight.  The model is pre-painted and ready for assembly.

Once complete the Batmobile has a full interior with twin black seats, a red telephone, full instrument panel, gearshift and a wood grain steering wheel with chrome horn ring.  Behind the twin black and red leather seats is a fully equipped crime lab wit a wooden wraparound table a with cabinets, a stool and a collection of crime-fighting equipment along with several pieces of evidence.

The model features real rubber wheels, full undercarriage suspension and loads of details such as a chrome grill, yellow bat symbol eyes and a large fin that runs down the back of the vehicle.

Some pieces are pre-painted while others can be customized such as the wood table, lab equipment and metal floor decking.

It’s a well-crafted model at an affordable price and it comes packaged in a top and front see-thru panel box a separate compartments for the car chassis and additional parts and accessories.

The 1960’s comic book Batmobile took its look from the Batman TV series.

The shape is very similar except the comic book version has a huge bat symbol on it front grill. The familiar horizontal grill lights, headlight and signal are the same.  The model has real rubber tires, bat symbol wheels, open cockpit with thin bubble windshields and two seats that are supported by body flairs behind them. 

Twin read fins, duel exhausts and taillights make up the rear of the car.

The interior features a full instrumentation dashboard, a red telephone and gear shift.  A single red flashing light is mounted between the bubble windshields. The entire car is basically the TV version with a few minor changes.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Looney Tunes and Dennis The Menace

This next pair of reviews is just for us Baby Boomers.

There was a time when kids kept themselves busy.  It did not involve video games, the internet, cable TV, I-Pads, cell phones, personal computers, mega amusement parks, mammoth shopping malls or any of the modern social media platforms we have today.

Kids pretty much played outside, occasionally went to a matinee, very seldom ate at fast food joints, went camping with the family, cherished road trips, were thrilled for a chance to got to the ‘big city’, actually read books and got their kicks from the comical exploits of funny animals or characters in the pages of comic books.

Join me as we travel down Memory Lane to the 1950s when life in America was simpler, families did things together and the simple little things kept us entertained and occupied.

I’ve chosen at random two comic books: one from Dell Comics and one from Hallden Publications.

Join Bugs Bunny and his pals in Dell’s Looney Tunes #205 and Dennis The Menace in Hallden’s A Christmas Bonus The Best Of Dennis The Menace Surprise Package #2.

Dell’s Looney Tunes #205 finds Bugs and Elmer Fudd preparing for a talent show with a grand prize of $100.  Now if only Bugs can help Elmer get some much-needed sleep.

Porky Pig desperately tries to earn his relative Cicero’s attention and admiration. Mary Jane and Sniffles learn that a spider’s web makes a great rescue device and Sylvester the Cat discovers that trying to capture Tweety Bird at a zoo gets pretty wild.

Daffy Duck helps a confused hunting dog figure out what hunting season it is, Daffy answers some silly questions and Bugs and Elmer go off key.

Imagine all of these stories and it only cost a dime!

A Christmas Bonus The Best Of Dennis The Menace Surprise Package #2 contains a number of Hallden’s previous Dennis The Menace Christmas stories reprinted in a big annual.

Stories include Dennis Christmas Shopping, Christmas Caroling, delivering Christmas presents, requesting gifts for his dog Ruff and being Santa’s Helper.

Dennis and Mr. Wilson mix it up singing Christmas Carols, Dennis helps his dad pick out a Christmas tree with devastating results, Dennis meets a lot of Santas, opens Christmas presents and gives a few suggestions about preparing for Christmas.

It’s a jolly old time as Dennis proves once again why he’s referred to as a Menace.

What kid could go wrong when for just 25 cents they could join Dennis on his wild escapades?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

TV Land Special Edition Get Smart

When the first James Bond film premiered in 1961 and became a worldwide phenomenon a film franchise was born.

James Bond’s popularity spawned cinema imitators: good and some downright horrible.

TV executives noticed and a plethora of spy TV shows popped up.

One TV show chose to parody the whole spy phenomenon.  That show: Get Smart, poked fun at spies, espionage and the entire spy genre.

Created by legendary film maker Mel Brooks, the show centered on a totally inept and bumbling spy Maxwell Smart, his female partner Number 99, their boss The Chief and the super secret spy organization CONTROL.

Over the show’s five year run other memorable characters were introduced such as Hymie the Robot, Agent 8, Agent 13, Agent, Agent Larabee, Admiral Harold Harmon Hargrade, Charlie Watkins/Agent 38, Fang/Agent, K-13 a poorly trained CONTROL dog, Hodgkins, Carlson, Dr. Steele and Harry.

Maxwell Smart, Agent 99 and Control were forever at odds with the evil criminal organization KAOS.

Max and Agent 99 were constantly found themselves in dangerous and ridiculous situations.  Max's catchphrases included, “Sorry about that!”, “Missed it by that much!” and “The old (fill-in the blank) in the (fill-in the blank) trick!” and others.

The show spawned several TV movies after its cancellation and two theatrical films.  A short TV revival was also launched.

Sideshow Collectibles created two figures from the series: Maxwell Smart and The Chief.

Both are fully articulated figures that look exactly like their real life counterparts.  Kudos goes out the sculpting crew at Sideshow.

The Sideshow Collectibles’ sculpted likeness to actor Edward Platt as The Chief is remarkable.

The 12-inch figure captures perfectly his dark eyebrows, whimsical and tolerant expression, receding hairline and white hair, deeply etched cheeks and jaw line and his sharp nose and his slightly smiling lips.

The coloration of the figure’s face is very lifelike and with a slight twinkle in its deep-set eyes makes it look almost alive.

The fully articulated figure is easy to pose and move with no binding or looseness.  The clothing lays naturally on the figure and never bunches or strains.

Hand articulation is especially good and the figure easily holds the white Golf Shoe Phone

A base is included with the figure along with a support wire.  Depending on the pose, the figure can use the stand or not.

The Chief is dressed in a dark gray, wool sports coat with black buttons, a light blue shirt, red tie, light gray slacks and black shoes.

Stitching is scaled to the figure size.  The jacket pockets (two with flaps and one at the breast) that actually open, as does the jacket itself.

Also included with the figure is a clear plastic Portable Cone Of Silence with a connecting rod.

The figure is secured in a form-fitting clear plastic cocoon and a single strap clear strip.  The box has a flip open lid for displaying the figure and a Get Smart logo and photo of The Chief and Maxwell Smart on the cover.

The back of the box shows both Max and The Chief in full color with accessories in hand and a smaller color photo of them utilizing the Portable Cone Of silence.

The Maxwell Smart 12-inch figure comes in similar packaging and protective plastic cocoon.  It also comes with a base and support wire.

Don Adams played the bumbling Agent 86 and the figure looks remarkably like the late actor.

It’s close-cropped black hair, upswept eyebrows, slightly dim eyes, straight nose and comical grin are all there.

Painted flesh tones make the face look real, pliable and lifelike.

The fully articulated figure fits nicely into its wardrobe.

With his double-breasted dark blue suit, light blue shirt and dark multi-color tie and black dress shoes the figure cuts a handsome pose.

Buttons, pockets and stitching is first-rate, scaled to size and folds and creases in the clothing easily move and retain their shape when the figure is posed.

The clotting falls naturally and offers no resistance when the figure is moved.

Included with the figure is another Portable Cone Of Silence and a connecting rod, a black dress shoe with phone and a snub nose revolver.

It’s a fitting 12-inch tribute to Don Adams and his iconic character Maxwell Smart.

Both figures are part of Sideshow’s TV Land series.  Currently the figures go for about $50 each.  However like all early Sideshow Collectibles figures the prices are sure to rise. It’s best to purchase them soon before they do so.