Animation

So here’s the new trailer for DC’s latest animated feature: All*Star Superman. It’s expected to be released in Spring of next year, with James Denton (Desperate Housewives) voicing Superman, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) voicing Lois Lane and Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) voicing Lex Luthor. In the film, Superman is faced with mortality and has to decide what is truly important to the last survivor of Krypton.


The movie sounds interesting, but I can’t help but feel as though the once great DC animated empire has taken off into a DC Direct model for movies. Each film has different actors, different writing, different universes and even a different drawing style. I realize that the DC animated team are probably tired of exploring the Bruce Timm BTAS/STAS/JLU world… But that’s what people liked about DC’s animated stuff. That world was probably the best damn incarnation of the DC Universe ever.

The rest of this stuff, while good, often varies in quality. We also run into the problem of a lot of these films exploring similar themes. These are basically one shot comics, in a cartoon movie format. It’s a nice idea and all, but I think DC would be better served to create a series of movies that tied together and used the same actors and drawing style.

Am I alone in this?

I am not a customizer, let’s make that perfectly clear before we being. I can barely draw a straight line, much less sculpey and repaint an action figure. That doesn’t mean I don’t think like a customizer. In fact that might be the only way I think, constantly seeing one figure’s potential to be another. As I often have said, if I had half the talent for the ideas I have, I would be one cool dude. Which brings me to today’s review.

A few years ago I thought it would be cool if I could get some Frog Monsters to fight my Hellboy action figures. I’m in love with the idea of army builders and a bunch of killer frog dudes has always intrigued me, (Thanks Hell Comes to Frogtown!) so I started looking for a figure that fit the look. Interestingly almost instantly I decided that the easiest and best figure available that could work was Humungousaur from Ben 10. This was, I’m guessing at least two years ago. So, finally after two years (if not longer) I decide to pull the trigger. Why?


Ben 10
Humungousaur
4 Inch Scale
By: Bandai
2010
$5.89


Well two reasons actually. First, I went to Target with the mission to buy something and this was all they had. Secondly, the Humungousaur looked cooler now than ever (more on that in a bit) and that’s how we get here today. So what’s all this got to do with Hellboy? Well, like I said, Humungousaur works as a stand-in to me for the infamous Hellboy frogs. Sure he’s got a tail and they don’t (but it’s removeable) and yes, he’s technically a dinosaur, not a frog. Petty details. Us guys with low level or no level customizing ability have to take what we can get.

As for Ben 10, I know little about the show. When I say I know little, I mean I know nothing. I surmised by reading the included trading card that Ben 10 changes forms by plugging something into his watch. Honestly, before I read that I had no idea that Ben was the one actually changing into monsters. Although I don’t follow Ben 10 and I don’t think it has much collector “appeal” at all, there’s no denying that at least a few of the monsters are pretty cool looking.

Packaging:
If you’ve been in the toy aisles in the past year or more, you’ve seen Ben 10 stuff. He’s got a wide range of figures and quite honestly he commands a sizeable chunk of the toy aisle. Some places he has more room than Transformers. Obviously Ben 10 is pretty big. Since he’s Bandai and not part of one of the big two toy company’s products, I like to think of Ben 10 as sort of the modern version of TMNT (in toy terms) by being a bit of an outsider but still doing quite well.


The packages are green and blue with the greens going from dark to bright almost yellow in the center. It’s a decent bit of color candy for the eye, but the text and logos leave a lot to be desired. For starters, the words “Ben 10 Alien Force” are pretty small and shoved off to the side. The other real problem is that the card is chocked full of logos and words, it’s almost like a NASCAR driver’s outfit with all the patches.


There’s also all this foreign text. This is similar to the other Bandai figures I reviewed the other day Bandai Kamen Rider Blank & CAMO but it seems even more apparent to me on this Ben 10 card. There are a couple of sections where there aren’t even English words, just huge blocks of French… FRENCH?!

Is France really a big toy market? I guess French kids need toys too. There’s a joke about frogs in there somewhere. Anyway it’s pretty strange to me. The multilingual cards are ugly and no doubt confusing to kids.

The back of the package also doesn’t tell you anything about any of the figures or the story of Ben 10. Especially since this is a kid’s line, I think it should offer a little text about the character and the story of Ben 10. I know I learned all I needed to know about GI Joe and the aforementioned TMNT off the back of the package, long before I had watched the TV show or read the comics.

Sculpt:
Humungousaur has had a couple of figures. I believe when I first thought of using him as a frog a couple years ago, he didn’t even have a 4 inch figure. There was a larger 10-12 inch figure of Humungousaur, That Looks Like Crap which I passed on. There have also been a few others, like one that you can see through parts of his chest.


This version of Humungousaur however is all new. I know that and say that with confidence because I’ve kept my eye on Humungousaur for a while. There was a version nearly identical to this released several years back and has been a mainstay on the shelf for some time, but this is an updated sculpt and paint job. What’s different? Well it’s mostly paint, but he also has a new face.


I watched this review on YouTube the other day, DJ Matth3w Review (If you leave him a comment, tell him Infinite Hollywood sent ya!) and if you notice the head is removable there. It also doesn’t have the snarling teeth.


I didn’t realize that the head sculpt was different at first, but I did notice the updated paint job. To me this really helped seal the deal because the added shading really brought out the “frog” in this Humungousaur figure. At least to me it did. Once I got it out of the package, I realized it also brought out the “dinosaur” in him as well.


The new deco is pretty cool and the shading which I originally thought was your standard paint shading wash, is actually some sort of laser dot design. It’s like someone used a laser printer to put tons of little dots on him to create shading. It definitely makes him look cool. I don’t know if this was done via a tampo process or a spray paint that seperated or what, but the overall effect is nice.


Humungousaur has a pretty neat shape overall, with long arms, short little legs, a curved neck and a thick torso. That’s one of the reasons it resembled an animated version of the frog monster to me, as it had the little legs and big long arms. Since I keep bringing up this damned Frog monster, here’s a really cheap Photoshop of what I think he looks like with minimal customization.


Perfect? Absolutely not. Probably as close as we’re ever going to get to having an animated version of the Hellboy frogs? Definitely.


The sculpting is overall, decent but nothing too fancy. I am impressed that Bandai did sculpt in some little details here and there and I think it’s cool that they have continually updated Humungousaur with better paint and sculpts, but he’s still a Bandai figure. American Bandai figures typically have metal screws and joints visible and that’s definitely the case here. That will immediately disqualify a lot of collectors, but chances are kids don’t care.

Articulation:
Although the articulation is minimum, I think it’s adequate. He has simple cut shoulders, cut legs and hinge elbows. The hinge elbows are definitely important.


I think had Bandai given him ball jointed shoulders and a ball jointed neck, this could be a serious five star kids toy. As is, it’s pretty decent. There’s really nothing that could be added to the figure by giving him ball joints or hinges at the knees and legs because the figure’s legs are so small to begin with.

Accessories:
In terms of actual accessories, this guy comes with nothing. His package does include a Humungousaur clear piece which I believe plugs into the Ben 10 watch thingy. That’s smart cross advertising by Bandai and I’m sure this thing looks pretty cool all glowed up.


The other “accessory” is a trading card. I don’t believe Ben 10 has a battle card element, so I’m guessing this is just like a file card kind of deal. It’s pretty decent, telling some details about him. Take back what I said about the package not including details about Humungousaur himself, though they should still tell the story a bit.

Value:
I picked this guy up for $5.89 exactly. I think that’s a decent value for kids. Certainly a GI Joe is a much better value and they can be had for around the same price at most places, but this figure definitely is one of the better values for kid’s toys out there today. Bandai has kept their prices relatively low, which is smart because the Kamen Rider figures were way overpriced, whereas Ben 10 seems palpable for allowances and Mom & Pop impulse buys.


Score Recap:
Packaging – 4
Sculpting – 6
Articulation – 6
Accessories – Watch Plug-in, Trading Card
Value – 7
Overall – 6 out of 10


So a 6 out of 10 is about as average as you can get, but that doesn’t mean this is a crappy toy. I think it’s a good version for kids and for a guy like me, this makes a cheap do-it-yourself frog base at a reasonable price. If you’re thinking of picking one of these up for yourself or a younger friend, I’d say go with this latest version with the new face and better paint aps.


COWABUNGA! Okay does Ben 10 say “Cowabunga”? Probably not. I’m getting too old. What could Ben 10 probably say? Something current. Something kids like… Ah, got it…

BY THE POWER OF MYSPACE I AM BEN 10! RAWRRR!

Last weekend 4KidsTV aired the finale of the Mirage era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although the new cartoon known in fan circles as the 2003 or 2K3 TMNT (due to the original start date of the cartoon) already had it’s series finale a few months back this was the official end of that era. A stand alone TMNT movie that saw the 2003 Turtles meet up with the 1980’s Fred Wolf style Ninja Turtles as well as the Mirage original comics Turtles.


The idea was simple enough and the execution was nearly flawless. This is the last animated piece that Mirage had a hand in, it’s the last time 4Kids worked with the TMNT and it’s the last bit of celebration before the 25th Anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is sold off to Nickelodeon.

The film was great and is getting rave reviews from fans and non-fans alike. Overall everyone’s interest in the Turtles is up. Not just from a nostalgia standpoint either. Kids were excited, adults were interested, it’s a great time to hock a ton of TMNT merchandise.

So where is the Turtles Forever toy line? I’ll tell you where… It doesn’t exist. Playmates has had a rough year with a failed Star Trek and Terminator line. The Retro TMNT figures didn’t light the world on fire either, though high prices and poor case packouts are largely responsible for that.

A Turtles Forever line would have been a great chance for Playmates to embrace the Turtles and they could have made new figures of everyone. From the 2K3 Turtles and their core villains, to the 80’s Turtles and their core villains and even Mirage Turtles. So why didn’t they? Did Mirage not push hard enough to get toys for this TV movie made? Did Playmates not feel they would have made money? Did the two companies just not keep track of it?

Whatever the case it marks one of the biggest blunders in toy history. A Turtles Forever line would have sold like gangbusters. A chance to have the 2K3, the Mirage and 80’s Turtles all in the same line, same scale, would have worked. Instead folks are left with no merchandise whatsoever. Even the regular TMNT toy line is non-existent at the moment. All fans can do is buy retro figures or TMNT Movie figs at a few TRU locations. Instead most folks are picking up old figures off of Ebay to help rekindle their interest.

In the midst of all of this is NECA. They currently have the rights to do a TMNT line on the comics alone. Had they managed to get their Seres 2 in to stores by now, they could have rode the back of the Turtles Forever wave, especially in the absence of a Playmates Turtles Forever toy line. Instead, we still have no signs of Wave 2 ever coming.

Nickelodeon which just secured the rights to the TMNT, I encourage you to make a Turtles Forever line. Push Playmates to make one, all encompassing Turtles line. With 80’s style Turtles and villians, 2K3 Turtles and villains as well as working in new figures from whatever your new Turtles show will look like. I promise you, a Turtles Forever line would sell to kids and collectors alike. It’s what the fans are clamoring for and it’s a complete mess that all the current keepers of the Green Machine missed that boat.