Jon Brown


Masters of the Universe Classics
Hurricane Hordak
7” Scale
by: Mattel
$20 + shipping from mattycollector.com

Out of all of the Masters of the Universe Classics figures released and announced to date Hurricane Hordak is by far the one that I was the least interested in owning. Some of you may already know that I passed on Mo-Lar when he was released, a decision that I still feel good about, because I don’t know what I would do with him. Hordak had a leg up on Mo-Lar in that sense, though, cause I was pretty sure Hordak was headed straight to the post-review storage bin.

I can’t really put my finger on any one reason I have so little interest in this figure, I really enjoyed Battle Armor Skeletor and even ended up liking Be-Skirted He-Man and neither of them has shiny gold armor like ole’ Double H here. It’s possible that I like my regular Hordak so much that I’m annoyed Mattel would sully him with a gaudy, gimmicky twin. It could also be that he’s being released alongside Leech, a figure that looks downright amazing, and no one would stand a chance with that kind of competition.


So be ye warned that I’m going into this review without any love for this figure. Hey, maybe that’s a good enough reson for you to click inside to check him out, possibly my first truly negative MOTUC Review!

Packaging:
Hurricane Hordak arrived in a large brown box in a white box in a typical MOTUC blister card. His shiny gold metal gleams brightly amongst the green and yellow card print. I want to mention that I almost managed to take pictures of him in the package, something I can’t say about any of my other recent MOTUC purchases. This is largely because I was in no hurry to free him from his packaged exile. I even toyed with just leaving him in there forever but, in the end, the desire to write about toys won out and I charged up the Sawzall for Hordak’s parole.

Double H’s bio sheds a little more light on things in Eternia during the time most of the bios “take place”. It’s still unclear exactly what’s already happened and what is still going on but I do like the idea of a big fight between Skeletor and Hordak while all the good guys wait for the outcome. I also really like his subtitle “Ruthless Leader with the Wicked Whirling Weapons”!

Sculpt, Paint, Looks:
A big reason I wasn’t thrilled about this figure is the fact that he’s almost entirely the same as the previous Hordak. It looks to me like they made a new chest piece for his golden armor and a new right arm that his weapons clip on to. They’ve also remolded the cowl/hood without the cape attached which is really nice. Everything else is molded exactly the same as the previous, perfect Hordak figure with some glossier black paint to jazz things up.


Holding him in my hands, posing Hordak and looking at him in different situations my initial thoughts are holding pretty solid. I’m unexcited. I don’t have any true problems with Hurricane Hordak, it’s just hard to feel anything for him when everything about him is a downgrade from his Original Flavored predecessor.


It’s not all bad news though as Hurricane Hordak happily hoists a horrorshow hand cannon. On his right arm, instead of a standard, boring old hand, there’s a fancy mechanical doodad that can hold all kinds of odd items. You can plug in any of the 3 items he came with or, if you don’t mind the colors being wrong, you can use the one’s that came with Roboto and Trapjaw. I’ll talk a little more about this stuff in the “Accessories” section, but I’ll admit that I was impressed by that.


I also really like the remolded hood that’s included. It’s nice that we now have the option to display Hordak with or without the cape and I’ll admit that I’ll be joining the rest of the interwebs in cannibalizing the Hurricane’s hood for OG Hordak to wear.


There is a little bit of disappointingly sloppy paintwork to be found. The shiny gold is very unevenly applied to the armor parts and it overlaps the red dial and the black edges of the armor. Hordak also came straight out of the package with 2 huge chips of black paint missing on his neck. Just because it’s usually covered by the hood part doesn’t mean you don’t have to paint it correctly Matty!

Lastly, I wanna mention the red dial on Hordak’s back. It’s been a topic of really heated discussion all over the net and I have to say that, in hand, it looks fine. I don’t understand why people get in such a tizzy over a 1 inch red plastic part on the back of an action figure. Is it silly? YES! Is it out of place on a MOTU figure? Hell NO!

Articulation:
Hurricane Hordak sports the usual compliment of MOTUC articulation that we’ve all come to expect. His ab crunch is a little limited by armor piece and his hips get blocked a bit by the loincloth since it’s still made with the older, harder plastic. All of the joints feel the right amount of tight to me, I’m happy to say that Matty seems to be working out the kinks as far as movement goes.


Accessories:
The extra gear is really what makes Hordak interesting, in theory, and what’s there is done well enough. Hordak comes with 3 attachments that mimic the ones the vintage figure was packaged with. My favorite is the 4 pronged shield thingy, it looks to me like something Hordak designed when he completely misunderstood the concept of “defense”.


Hordak also has a 3 balled bola type thing and a 2 bladed bat-wing sword chopper dohickey. These are the technical terms, trust me. Both of these pieces have a really creepy organic feel that reminds me of the bad guys from Jace and the Wheeled Warriors. I like the idea that Hordak could use the bat wing sword as a sort of improvised helicopter. Hell, that makes more sense than trying to attack someone with that thing!


Hordak’s gold armor can come off too, with a little fiddling, but after reading so many reports about the vac-metal flaking right off I decided it wasn’t worth it to me to get him naked. It’s pretty frustrating to lose access to a whole piece just because of sub-par manufacturing but it’s not the first time Matty’s been responsible for something like this and I really wish I could believe it’d be the last.

Value:
I’m tempted to give Hordak an unsatisfactory grade in the cost-to-awesome department. He is, after all, missing some paint and generally unexciting. But I want to look at this fella from the perspective of someone who would be interested but not quite ready to click “PURCHASE” and send Hurricane trudging through logistics to their home.

He’ll cost you $20 + shipping for a grand total of just under $30 from matty or, if you take your time, you may find one for an even lower price from anyone locked in to the Club Eternia subscription who wants to get rid of him. Hordak is just as well made and sturdy as any other MOTUC figure and, if you can look past his paint flaws, he’s worth the bucks.

Summary:
I find myself not sure what to write about this figure. He’s been sitting next to me on my desk for the last month, almost pleading me to finally finish his review. I’m fiddled around with Hordak, changed out his weapons, posed him, given him He-Man’s sword but continued to put off taking pictures of him for a review. I don’t dislike this figure at all, in fact there are a lot of things that I do like about him. I’m just not excited by him in the least.

Hurricane Hordak is, unfortunately, an example of the kind of action figures that Club Eternia subscribers are going to be getting a lot of. Minor changes to the core characters that make more complicated figures cheaper to manufacture is the foundation upon which Mattel has built the MOTUC house and there’s no getting away from that. What I would really like to see is just a few more extras thrown in with these variants to make them more appealing. Hordak has the cape-less cowl going for him which I like, plus he can function as a surrogate for Filmation Hordak until we get that variant thanks to his cannon hand. If only that cannon arm was easily swappable onto the standard Hordak!


I’m going to give Hurricane Hordak a slightly passing grade overall. No one needs this figure in their collection unless they’re holding on to some powerful love for the vintage figure. No one wants a figure that they have to handle with kid gloves because of flaws in the paint and it’s not worth $25 just to swap cowls with a figure you already own. That doesn’t mean that no one should buy this figure, it just means you need to be sure Hurricane Hordak is what you’re after before you shell out your hard-earned cash.



The Walking Dead
Comic Series Rick Grimes
Black and White Variant

5” Scale
by: McFarlane Toys
$19.99 at Toys R Us

I’ve been reading “The Walking Dead” as a comic since I picked up the first 6-issue trade right before a trip to a relative’s house courtesy of Hurricane George. I tore through the trade in one sitting, non-stop, and then immediately read it again. Needless to say, I loved it.

I’ve been buying the single issues, the trades, the hard covers and the omnibuses ever since. The Walking Dead has been one of only 3 comics I haven’t missed an issue of in years and I’ve been jonesing for action figures of the characters all along. Thanks to the success of the TV show we’re getting 2 lines of toys leading up to the second season. One line is based on the characters and style of the live-action show while the other is designed to look like the ones in the comics.

I stumbled onto the first wave of comic figures at TRU this week without knowing they’d been released. There were multiples of each including Rick, Michonne and 2 different zombies but I could only find one that was Black and White to match the styling of the comic. The B&W Rick is a Toys R Us exclusive and, since there was only one on the shelves, I just had to plunk down the high asking price and bring it home. Damn you Robert Kirkman, this is all your fault!

Let’s see if he lives up to my fan boy expectations!
Continue reading



NECA Cult Classics
Trick R Treat
Sam
6” Scale (debatable)
by: NECA Toys
$9.99 at Toys R Us

I first saw “Trick R Treat” on DVD when it was finally released in 2009 after being held back by the studio several times. I rushed out to pick it up because of all of the high praise it’d been getting online and was not disappointed in the least. Trick R Treat is a fantastic anthology-style horror flick in the tradition of Creepshow (another of my favorites) that everyone who likes horror should definitely check out.

Unfortunately for me, by the time I got around to looking for the NECA Toys Sam action figure, he had long since sold out in stores and was commanding really high prices on the secondary market. Luckily for me, NECA is a thoughtful company who re-releases many of their most popular figures from time to time so that shmucks like myself can get caught up!

Sam (short for Samhain) is sort of the mascot of Trick R Treat and he shows up in each mini-story to either look creepy and cute or to make sure things are moving along the way a good scary story should. He’s roughly kid-sized and definitely has a memorable look that I’m excited to add to my shelves.

But is Sam worth checking out or is he just a burlap sack full of crap that’s destined to be left flaming on someone’s front porch?

Click inside to find out! Continue reading


Masters of the Universe Classics
Leech
7” Scale
by: Mattel
$20 + shipping from mattycollector.com

I’ll never forget watching “Stand by Me” for the first time. Besides the obvious awesomeness of the movie overall there’s a particular scene that left a big impression. You probably know where I’m going with this, they take a short cut through the swamp and when they come out they’re covered in leeches. That left a pretty big impression on the young me and ever since I’ve been pretty freaked out by leeches.

I imagine that’s one of the reasons I’ve always thought Leech, the member of the Evil Horde that we’re looking at today, was so scary and awesome. He’s the creature that scared me so much in Stand by Me only magnified and made into a true threat, something that could actually hurt a full size person.

Leech’s old toy rode a long way on his gimmick, a set of suction cups that represented his ability to drain (suck) the power from his enemies. I remember sticking mine to every flat surface in our house and freaking out quite a bit when one of his hands came loose from me pulling on it to try and take Leech to his next location. While this new Leech isn’t sporting the same suction cups (boo) as his predecessor he’s still quite the scary looking fella. Does he live up to the spirit of the monsters he was designed to mimic, or does this new Leech just plain suck (sorry)?

Click inside to find out!

Packaging:
As usual, Leech is packed out in the standard, single card Masters of the Universe Classics card with the awesome green bricks and really well done paper inserts that look so nice. He looks really big in the standard bubble, it’s obvious from the get-go that this guy is going to be bulkier than most of the figures on my shelves. You can even see a little peek at his weapons hiding behind him which is a nice touch for Mint on Card folks. The packaging for my Leech is now sleeping with the fishes alongside an AFA Graded Jimmy Hoffa.

Leech’s Bio is alright, instead of him being a naturally dim-witted dude like he was in the cartoon he’s been “mindwiped” bye Shadow Weaver to follow orders. I like this sly mention of Shadow Weaver before it was official that Mattel could make a figure of her (they call her Hordak’s “lead witch”) quite a bit but the rest of the bio is very forgettable.

Sculpt, Paint, Looks:
Leech has a lot of brand new parts which is always very exciting for me, it opens up new possibilities and gives my shelves a bit more variety. The giant hands and feet, the huge toothy head and those teeth are all unique sculpts that won’t likely be re-used (unless they make BATTLE ARMOR LEECH one day). Leech has a decent amount of extra bulk, mostly from his chest piece. It’s not as big a difference as you’ll find between some Marvel Universe figures but it’s certainly noticeable.


I really love the scaley details on Leech’s hands and feet as well as all of the multi-layered plates sculpted onto his head and neck area. He’s also got this really cool sculpted armor that matches the lines of his body. It looks like it’s been designed specifically to be worn by Leech right down to the spikey spines that match up to his own vertebrae. I really wish, though, that something had been put on the flat bottoms of his hands. I don’t know what I’d want on there but they just look a little plain as they are.


It’s a bit of a downer that Leech is forever doomed to stare into the distance with his mouth wide open and it’s also a shame that the poor bastard can never see directly in front of his face. I’ve seen plenty of comparisons to the old toy that show why he looks the way he does but it doesn’t change the fact that Leech needed a closable mouth.


In general though, I am tickled green with the way Leech looks. The paint wash on his green parts give him a life that makes him downright fun to play with and to take pictures of. It’s really amazing to me how the same figure can, with a simple re-posing, go from hilarious and silly to menacing and scary.

Articulation:
Leech has all of the standard MOTUC articulation points and they allow him to get into just about any pose you’d imagine. He’s also has bonus hinges at the wrist which allow him to “POWER SUCK” your heroes powers convincingly! Even with the extra hinges it can still be a little tough to find a natural looking position for those giant hands but that’s not really a problem with the articulation.


Leech has a great ability to balance in several stances that would be tougher for other figures. His big ol’ feet make it really easy to find a pose and then make it work. The swivels and hinges work so well to give him that strong, steady base that Leech needs. Playing with Leech has just reinforced my great sadness with other toy lines that have eliminated the ankle rockers.


My Leech figure’s joints are all extremely tight to the point where they squeak when moved. The only exception to that is his ankles which are quite loose. I’ve used the squeaking as a kind of action feature to annoy my wife and it was only by making Leech look bashful that I avoided a serious beating.

Accessories:
Leech comes with 2 items that are pretty neat but probably destined for the parts bin. He has the usual Horde Crossbow that came with Grizz and Hordak as well as a brand new rubber net. The crossbow is just sort of there for me. It’s based on the same sculpt as the previous crossbows but has it’s own details as well as a nice clip to allow Leech to use it. It looks nice but I can’t really imagine Leech standing at a distance, taking pot shots at the good guys.


The net is a bit better in that it’s all brand new. It’s meant to be a sort of stand in, I think, for Leech’s old suction cups and it’s a nice idea for sure. It’s made of thin but durable plastic that makes it both easy to pose and infuriating to try and keep in one place. The suction cups work about half the time making it pretty frustrating to try and trap anyone in the net. I like the idea of the net and I absolutely love the Horde themed sculpt but it just doesn’t work very well in reality. Obviously Mattel didn’t have to include anything else at all with Leech and so I’m not complaining in the least.


Value:
Leech comes out a little ahead on the value for 2 reasons. He shipped during a month where he was able to split the box fare with another figure (Hurricane Hordak) saving me around 30% off the usual shipping per item. Leech also feels like a better value just because he is a bit bigger and has a lot of parts I’ve never seen before.

Leech is just as well made and sturdy as the majority of the previous MOTUC figures and so I don’t have a problem spending around $26 for him.

Summary:
Leech has gotten a bit of a bad rap around the MOTU community. I’ve read complaints about everything from his open mouth to his cartoonish looks to his size and everything in between and none of those gripes are completely without merit. The thing is, if you look past your own expectations or those of the internet mob and take Leech for what he is, this is a great looking action figure.

It’s really not fair to compare Leech to the NECA Staction like so many have done. MOTUC Leech has joints, accessories and play value. The Staction was a statue, a 100% unique sculpt not restricted by the need to re-use parts or be able to move. I can completely understand folks who would’ve preferred a more 2002 style figure (even if I don’t agree) but you can’t use a mini-statue as proof of how MOTUC Leech should’ve been handled.


I’m excited every time we get a brand new, unique looking MOTU character to play with. Leech is a giant, green monster with sucker hands and mouth that is big enough to fit another character’s head into! I don’t think you need to have any nostalgia for the old Leech toy or even be a big fan of MOTU to appreciate that.


Playmobil Blind Bag Figures
Series 1 (girls) and 2 (boys)
by: Playmobil
4” (ish) scale
$2.99 each at Toys R Us and other retailers

I’ve thought of Playmobil as a crappier version of Lego up until very recently. I guess I thought the creators of Playmobil were trying to copy the minifigures in a bigger size and then just completely gave up on the whole “building stuff” concept. Of course, that’s not what Playmobils are meant to be at all. They’re actually very much the predecessors of my precious “Mighty World” figures, that is, stylized and simple toys for young people that make up a varied and detailed world for kids to play in.

I’m pretty sure a fella named Rustin Parr is to blame for my recent interest in these figures. He keeps a record of his toy purchases over at www.oafe.net in their blog section and, since I love to live vicariously through other people’s spending, I’m a faithful reader. A few updates back Rustin talked about a couple of different figures he’d gotten from this series of Playmobil Blind Bags and then, coincidentally, my wife picked up a few of them for me on a lark. I’ve bought several more for myself and my wife since then and the recent sale at TRU certainly didn’t hurt.


Now I’m not usually a fan of Blind Bags. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolute BLAST to open the packs, it’s just the idea of shelling out $3 a pack and then getting the same figure over and over again without ever retrieving the one I want that makes me wanna scream. I blew through a ridiculous amount of money on the Adult Swim figures from Kid Robot just trying for The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend, never mind the Scrooge McDuckian sum that’s lining LEGO’s pockets. So are these Playmobil figures worth dealing with the foolishness attached to random purchases or will they lead to empty pockets, a pile of plastic and a sea of regret?

Click inside to see the verdict!

Packaging:
These figures come in 2 different styles of packaging. There’s “Series 1” which is in a pink packet that’s clearly aimed at buyers of the female persuasion and there’s “Series 2”, aimed at boys, which comes wrapped in blue. The bags are bright and shiny with a definite metallic look to them, they catch your eye nicely from a distance without being garish. My local TRU even has a fabulous rack set up that shows samples of each figure you can snag in a fancy shmancy display case!


Each package shows a group shot of all of the characters that you can get from that particular pack. Series 1 is all females ranging from a few poofy dressed princesses to a red-coated wastrel to a cave woman and her baby! Series 2 is all guys and there’s a rock and roller, an executioner and even Uncle Sam! The variety of characters is not quite on par with what Lego’s offered through their minifigures but it’s still really good.

Sculpt:
If you’ve ever seen any Playmobil figure then you pretty much know what to expect from the base bodies of these figures. The guys and gals share the exact same body structure, the only thing that sets them apart from each other is paint and extras. This is one of the qualities that made me link them with Lego for so long, that uniformity of design, and it’s something that you’re either going to love or hate.


Just like Lego, Playmobil has done some really interesting and creative things in making these wildly different looks work on such simple toys. Every figure has painted (I guess technically these are tampoed) details on the chest, legs, arms and face that set a backdrop for the extras to build on, many of the figures even have tattoos! I haven’t had the pleasure of getting my hands on every figure from both series but the one’s I’ve got are really impressive.


The figures in the “Boy” series are mostly understandable selections, from the Black Knight with his huge, horned helmet to the rock-n-roller with his awesome 2-part guitar and rubber strap. There are definitely a couple of odd choices, in particular the Mummy / Full Body Cast fella. I’m really not even sure which one he’s supposed to be, the cast and crutch make me lean towards Cast but then his inhuman white face sends me the other way. Uncle Sam is also a weird but awesome choice from Playmobil and I’m still crossing my fingers for the Pizza Chef in my future purchases.


In the “Pink” series you get a few princesses, some with flocked parts, as well as other generally girlie figures to taunt your Series 2 characters with. My favorite so far is definitely the Cavewoman with her baby bjorn and stone age tools. The fact that you get a whole baby figure for the mother to tote around is fantastic and makes you really feel like you got something special. The aforementioned “Wastrel” (my word, not Playmobil’s) is an odd inclusion since all the rest are very non-confrontational but I think it’s cool that in Playmobil’s world girls want to fight with their toys too!


There’s a really nice, consistent look to these toys that carries over even though none of them originate in the same fantastic or realistic world. This goes back to the similarities with Lego, each figure shares the same basic structure and so, even though they are extremely different, they look great together. This consistency brings a lot of extra play value because you can mix and match parts to get entirely new figures!

Articulation:
Articulation is very limited but what you get works smoothly. Swivel head, arms wrists and legs round out the entire lot with the legs being one solid piece. The figures all come completely disassembled in the bags and it’s actually really interesting to see from square one how all the parts work together to build the completed figure. It’s ever so slightly tricky to assemble the first Playmobil guy, or it was for me, but after that I was snapping them together like a pro.


Accessories:
Every Playmobil Blind Bag figure I’ve received so far has come with at least one accessory that they can hold or use in some way. Some of them even come with a huge amount of removable parts, for example the Black Knight is sporting a sword, shield, crossbow, a helmet and even a silver coif that goes over his head and under the helmet.


It blows me away that almost every single figure has separate hair even when they have a hat, that’s something that even Lego can’t boast.


The accessories all work great, they snap securely into the figures little hands and stay put until you get ready to do something else with them, and even though they have minimal (if any) paint apps on them they look right with the figures.


Value:
These guys retail for $2.99 each, the same price as the last 3 series of Lego Minifigures. It’s clear that these figures are trying to capitalize on the ridiculous popularity of the Lego figures and, to me at least, these feel like a whole lot better buy than the sets they’re aping. Now don’t get me wrong, I am still a lot bigger fan of Lego than I am of Playmobil, I’m just saying that based on sheer size alone Playmobil gives you more bang for your buck.


For the same price as the Lego Minifigures you’re getting a bigger figure with generally a lot more individual parts and certainly a lot more accessories on average. The Playmobil stuff is made to to the same high standards of quality and boasts a similar spread of quirky subject matter plus you can even decide to some degree what style of figure you’ll be getting thanks to the 2 Series split.

It makes me wonder just how much profit Lego is raking in on their little minifigures if they’re charging the same price as Playmobil with their bigger and more involved figures. The conspiracy nut in me gets cranking up when I remember that the 1st series of Lego guys were only $2 before Lego realized how popular they were and jacked the price up. But these are 2 different products with 2 different markets and I’m sure there are many factors involved. Either way, these Playmobil figures feel like a bargain!


Summary, or maybe you opened ANOTHER Accessories section!?:
I’m really impressed with these little figures and, at the same time, incredibly frustrated. They’re so incredibly neat that they make me want to get every single one of them (yes, even the girl ones, they’re for my wife!). BUT. I really, really, really don’t want to have to skip feeding my guinea pigs to obtain the whole crew!

Whether or not you should look into these depends on several things. Do you like the Playmobil aesthetic? That’s obviously the main thing to think about, but beyond that, do you have the kind of obsessive personality that will force you to keep spending compulsively to get that DAMN Grim Reaper even if it kills you? You may want to avoid these blind bags like the hell-spawned plague wonderfully addictive product that they are!


In all seriousness, the product itself is fantastic. Funny, cool, interesting little figures with neato swappable accessories all for an insanely low price. If you’re willing to just pick up 1 or 2 packs and be happy with whatever guys you luck into then there’s no reason not to take the plunge. If you want a whole set or just a couple of specific ones then the better route may be ebay or another online seller. That way you can get the guys (or gals) you want without taking out a 2nd mortgage on your Terror Drome!