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December, 2018:

The Problems with Marvel Legends as a Line

So, as much as I like Hasbro’s Marvel Legends, I have a lot of problems with how the line is handled.  I really feel like it’s severely hindered by a lot of goofy choices about waves and whatnot that are all probably done intentionally to exploit the market for extra money.  Except as near as I can tell, it doesn’t really work real great and, if anything ultimately hinders the line.

The Build a Figure Gimmick

So, Let’s start off with one of the more obvious, the Build a Figure Gimmick.  This was started back when Toybiz had the line, though it wasn’t always part of the line.  The early waves didn’t have BAF parts and sometimes there would be substitute gimmicks in a wave like crappy “vehicles”.

Build a Figures create several problems.  First, it eats up part of the budget for the line and figure.  Budget that could be used instead for alternative heads, hands, a few more accessories or effect parts or better paint apps.  We have gotten a few figures in the past year without BAF parts and they are almost universally better in all of these areas.  The Walgreens exclusive figures tent to have better paint apps and overall QC, others like Deadpool in the X-men line are loaded with accessories.  In the case of the Walgreens Magik figure, it’s both.

It also creates somewhat of a waste issue.  Not every BAF is interesting, so over time, you end up with a pile of useless arms and legs and torsos for characters you don’t care about.  You could always resell them on eBay, but my experience has been that the ones worth the effort of reselling, are ones you’re probably going to want to keep anyway.  This kind of goes the other way too, where there might be a particularly interesting BAF in  wave, except now you’ve got to track down that one last figure for the last arm or head.  You can always buy just the part on eBay, but chances are, everyone wants that particular part, so it’s going to cost you as much as just buying the figure and the included part, especially factoring in shipping costs.

Now, even if it’s a character you really want, you’re still stuck with a pile of useless limbs and parts.  This goes both ways as well on the figures.  This is subjective of course, but I find it’s fairly rare that a wave of highly desirable individual characters matches up to a desirable BAF character.  So if you really want say, that Kingpin figure, you’re going to have to buy another couple of Spidermans and some of his D tier villains.

The only market this really helps is the secondary market, where prices get inflated on the stuff everyone wants and Hasbro doesn’t really get anything out of that inflation. 

Personally, I feel like the BAF gimmick has run it’s course and needs to be scrapped.  Most of the BAF characters these days aren’t even larger than the standard figures.  Back in the early days the build a Figure tended to be a large or complex unique mold, like the large Sentinel or Galactus, or MODOK or that blobby crab walker chair guy.  Introduce a slightly higher deluxe price point for those larger figures if needed.

Mismatched Waves

This kind of ties into the Build a Figure problem above, since removing the BAF would alleviate some of this issue, but I really wish the waves were more homogeneous  in their themes.  The primary line should be between comic themed and movie themed figures.  The waves really need to be one or the other on this point.  This is sort of getting better I’ll admit, but it’s not quite there yet.  For example, I think the recent Black Knight figure is cool, but he has zero to do with Infinity War, or MCU Thanos, whom he has a BAF piece for. 

This of course would be less of an issue without the Build a Figure bits, which just end up being a waste of plastic.  The end result is often an extra figure you don’t really care about or an extra limb you don’t really need.

This would also incentivize the whole concept of ordering a case of figures as well.  If you only really collect MCU figures, then it would be better to just buy the wave up front than to worry that the Thor of the wave is suddenly going to be impossible to find. 

Distribution Issues

The mismatched waves and BAF parts also really only hurts the line on the pegs, since it means undesirable characters just languish and clog the pegs longer.  Which kind of brings up the next problem, though there isn’t a super clear answer to this one since it’s partially the store’s fault.  If the figures weren’t tied to waves and BAF parts quite as much, it feels like it would be easier to ship out more of the individual figures people want.  If the pegs get clogged up with Hellcat figures, that sucks, but it doesn’t have to hurt the distribution on Captain America or Iron Man. 

Dropping the BAF part would remove the need for cases to be evenly packed as well, since there would no longer be a need to try to ensure say, 2 sets of BAF parts in a case.  Or even mix up later waves with repacks, the way Star Wars Black or Transformers is handled.   They sort of do this already with version variants, but straight repacks of older characters might almost be better overall for this.

Two Pack Repacks

Every so often there are multipacks released, often around movie figures.  There is a definite pattern to these 2 packs, they will include a rerelease of a previous figure, usually the main character, and a new release of another character, usually someone fairly popular who didn’t appear in the main line.  I don’t really have a ton of problem with this strategy on it’s own, reusing the molds is smart business or whatever and re-releasing a minor variant of the hero is understandable.  The MCU figures are so often mostly unique molds too, so it’s harder to get a lot of return on that investment for Hasbro.

The real problem comes, once again, when you couple in the Build a Figure gimmicks.  See a pattern here yet?  It would be easy to skip that single pack release for the later Two Pack release in many cases, except that often there will be a related, desirable BAF that’s included with the single pack release.

The Accessory Problem

So, this one has gotten better, but it’s still got some weird issues. More figures lately come with accessories, especially MCU based figures. Unmasked heads, are getting really common for movie based figures. What I’d like to see more of is extra hands, especially for figures that have them available.

So, one of the worst offenders, several years ago now, we got “Pizza Spidey”. Which was a really nice Spider-man with a ton of extra hands. This mold has been reused a lot for other Spidey Suits, but often, there aren’t any extra hand options included. You might get a fist and a thwip hand. Both fo these are available on this mold for left and right, along with an open fingers hand. I can’t imagine the hands cost a ton extra to produce and include. Having the hand options would at least help justify the sometimes “need” (due to the BAF) to pick up these boring repaints. I have this House of M Spider-Man that I pretty much have for the SP//DR limb. The suit design is kind of neat I guess but his lack of hands kind of hurts for making him look cool. It just feels like it should be a no brainer.

I’ll Say It Again, Build a Figure

Honestly, a lot of the issues feel like they boil from the need to include this huge chunk of another figure in the box and budget. I really feel like things could be improved if they just dumped the BAF. Star Wars Black Series is the best comparison, they have always felt slightly better in quality and have gotten better over time. Plus they have a ton of unique sculpts. They even have more recently added a slightly larger price point at $30, for slightly larger figures like the Gamorrean Guard.


Transformers – Studio Series – Bumblebee (VW)

The latest Transformers Movie, Bumblebee, takes things back more to the original roots of Transformers.  It features G1 versions of a lot of the characters and the main character, Bumblebee, takes the form of a Volkswagen Beetle like he had in the original 80s cartoon.  The movie isn’t getting it’s own toyline but is instead being looped in with the Studio Series line.  The first figure from the new films is Bumblebee himself though in many cases, Dropkick from the followup wave is also showing up with him.

The new Bee reminds me a lot of Studio Series Jazz in that he is really tiny in both modes.  This feels a lot more appropriate given it’s Bumblebee, who was one of the smallest Autobots in the original G1 series.  It does make the $20 price point for deluxe Transformers a little hard to swallow but he has a few little parts that help make it feel more worthwhile.  The robot is pretty nice, though he has a huge backpack that feels like it should collapse on itself a bit more, but doesn’t really seem to without pushing the plastic beyond what feels comfortable.  The legs also are a little funny in that they feel like they should peg together better but don’t seem to. 

The design itself is very reminiscent of the old Camero Bumblebee design from the last few Michael Bay Transformers movies.  The way the layered chest lays and the panels fall on his legs and the door wings sit on his back, these elements are all very Movie Bumblebee.  The Door wings aren’t very accurate to the film though, where the doors seem to do some mass shifting and point downward instead of becoming wings. 

I mentioned he comes with some extras to help offset his cost.  Specifically, he has an alternative face plate for his “Battle Mask” look and a swap-able arm piece for his arm cannon.  There’s also a blade weapon which can attach to the side of any of the three forearm pieces.  These sort of swap out parts aren’t a real common things for Transformers.  Having them, it’s kind of clear why.  The canon arm falls off a lot more easily than the standard hand arm and the Mask face falls off if you look at it funny.  These are definitely parts which will become lost over time by some.

The transformation is pretty straightforward in it’s execution, though fairly complex.  Its a pain to get everything to massage together properly, partially I think because it’s such a small figure.  The legs and back piece are particularly problematic and I can’t see anything obviously out of place like the hidden peg on the underside of Jazz’s roof that just made everything sit right in place once engaged.

The VW Beetle looks alright aside from things not quite sitting together properly.  The vehicle does feel a little funny because the G1 Bumblebee, was very much a stylized chibified VW.  This Bee feels too long, though I’m sure he’s not for a real Beetle.

Cutting to the chase here, I think that Studio Series Bumblebee is alright, but I kind of wonder what the wider audience is for him.  He’s too complex and finicky for kids, and there are plenty of simpler options out there.  He doesn’t really mesh well for collectors.  I don’t have it but I suspect the pricier Masterpiece Movie Bee does everything slightly better and he probably looks better.  I suppose if you’re in the middle like me and don’t really need a super classy Bee but don’t want something overly simplified this version does the job, but if you want a perfect VW Movie Bee, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.


Review – Marvel Legends – First Ten Years – Infinity War (Dr. Strange, Thanos, Iron Man Mark L)

It seems a little weird that the latest film Infinity War is included in the First Ten Years line of Marvel Legends, but I guess it is part of the legacy.  I guess it’s more strange to me because it includes a complete version of a Build a Figure that’s currently on the pegs still and an Iron Man that’s part of that same Build a Figure Wave.  In terms of figure reuse, this set is essentially 100% reuse of past releases, and it’s one of the more expensive sets, which pretty much makes it the worst offender of the line for being a decent value.  Fortunately it’s starting to get marked down.  And not everything here is a bad deal, though it’s not all good.  This set basically consists of one really great figure, and two mediocre figures, and all of that depends on how much you’ve already invested in previous versions of these characters.

So, I’m going to start off with the Iron Man Mark L (50) armor.  This is Iron Man as he appears in the Infinity War movie, sometimes referred to as the Bleeding Edge armor.  It’s a pretty standard Iron Man save for one new feature that wasn’t int he mainline release, and one I didn’t even know the figure had until I opened the shipping box and pulled this set out.  The chest has a light up feature for the Arc Reactor.  Press a button and it glows, very brightly.  It’s a neat effect though it limits his torso pose-ability completely.  Honestly, most Iron Man figures aren’t super poseable int he torso anyway, so it’s not a huge loss.  It also helps the figure stand out a bit from all of the other armors.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any sort of add on bits like Tony Stark uses int he movie, which would have made for a great set of accessories.  This armor basically consists of a bunch of nano machines that reconfigure into shields and laser pylons and extra jets as needed.  This toy is just a human shaped suit of armor.  He does have a nice set of repulsor hands, they don’t have joints but they are sculpted to be fully “up” in blaster configuration.  Also included are a pair of replusor blast effect parts, though it’s the same part we’ve gotten in the past several Iron Man releases.  As far as Armors go, it’s also not the most exciting design.  Personally, I dislike how sleek and rounded it is and of all of the suits I own figures of, this is probably one of my least favorite designs.

Next up, Doctor Strange.  This is such a hit and miss figure on several levels, and sometimes on the same level.  If you own the previous release of this figure from the Doctor Strange movie, it actually really helps this figure out a lot.  This is despite that from the neck down, they are identical figures.

So what’s good here.  For starters, the head is great, really great.  It’s got that current gen Hasbro better paint detail thing going on and really captures Cumberbach’s Strange.  It’s different from the previous Doctor Strange head as well, with a little smirk going on.  So many heads lately on these figures have smirks, I guess it’s the new thing for Marvel Legends or something.  He also gets better paint apps on the Eye of Agamotto amulet he wears, the green Time Stone inside is actually painted this time, though the accessory itself is the same.  There is a new cape as well, which is better…. ish.  It looks nicer and has more texture detail, but the previous cape was also designed to stand up on it’s own, since in the films it has it’s own personality.  The new cape is rounded along the bottom and doesn’t stand.  The body isn’t entirely identical tot he previous release either, since one arm includes sculpted “Time Effect” parts.  When Strange does some Time Magic, he gets these little green rings around his arms, the figure has this effect sculpted on one arm.

Which brings up the downsides, the Time Effects are not removable, so he is always casting a time spell, so to speak.  There isn’t an alternate arm or anything to swap out, which is something they have done previously, in the Doctor Strange wave actually, with Nico Minoru.  Considering they even HAVE a clean arm for this mold already designed, it’s a shame one isn’t included.  I suppose the mold probably isn’t designed for easily removed arms.  There is an alternate hand accessory to hold the energy shield effect but it’s not for the arm that the Time Effect uses, so you can’t even swap the most obvious green energy hand out.  The body itself also isn’t quite as nice as the previous one with the paint details, which is surprising given recent trends of Marvel Legends as a whole and the head of this very figure.

There is a great plus here though if you have the old Doctor Strange, the parts are cross compatible.  So the new, nicer head can be put on the old, more nicely painted, Time Effectless body to make a good Doctor Strange figure.  The Eye of Agamotto just hands around the neck, so that’s easily swapped.  The cap is the only iffy part, since the new cape has a peg that slips into a hole on the back of New Strange, a hole that doesn’t exist on Old Strange.  So to use the new cape, you would either need to cut the peg off, which may cause the cape to attach in an unstable way, or drill a hole in the back of Old Strange, which is doable, but could be tricky to get just right.  Or just use the old cape, since it still looks decent.

So lastly Thanos.  I didn’t like the Movie Thanos design a lot but it’s grown on me over time.  He looks like a Space Farmer.  I guess it helps that he’s such a great character in the film that I can forgive his design some.  Still, I never bothered finishing up the Build a Figure.  The wave consisted of several characters I don’t need more of or didn’t like the design of (IM MK 50, Ugly Cap, Iron spider without tentacle arms) so I mostly opted to skip the Thanos BAF.  This makes Thanos here kind of the jewel of this set, since it’s a great way to get a good character without blowing a bunch of money on other figures I don’t want.  That said this set came out quite a while after the Thanos BAF wave, so anyone who really cares about Thanos probably already has the last release.

I will say, from what I have seen, this release is superior to the BAF release.  The colors are much more vibrant overall for starters.  He also includes two heads, both of which feel like better designs than mainline head, though having all three would be a nice bonus.  The mainline head, which I don’t have is sort of slightly smiling and a little goofy looking, the heads in this release are the more sullen standard head and a grimacing angry head.  Both are excellent representations of how Thanos looks in Infinity War.  The gauntlet itself is also open fisted.  Which feels more appropriate given that there was an entire battle about preventing him from closing his fist.  Unfortunately the gauntlet isn’t easily removed and swapped with the closed fist gauntlet of the mainline release.  I am sure it could be swapped using the Boil and Pop method, but it’s not something that just pops on and off quickly.  I imagine, like Strange’s arm, this is a limitation of the mold not originally being intended for a swapping gimmick.  Nitpicky pipe dreams aside, Thanos is a really great looking figure that really captures the character well.  If you’re looking for a Thanos and don’t want to be bothered with the Build a Figure, this one is probably better anyway.

So on the set as a whole.  It’s a decent set, despite being a set of re-released figures.  Granted my opinion is tilted a bit since I didn’t already have the previous Mark 50 or Thanos figures.  Even having them though, the light up chest on Iron Man is decent, the improved Strange is worthwhile and the the better Thanos is definitely worthwhile.  Maybe not for the original MSRP but at a discount it’s a worthwile set for an upgraded Strange and some alternative Thanos accessories with better paint.

 

Review – Transformers – The Last Knight – Cogman

I’m not going to lie, I barely remember anything about The Last Knight.  I had some vague hope it was going to be better going into it, but it wasn’t.  I don’t really know how but somehow the Michael Bay Transformers movies just got worse and worse with each release.  I vaguely remember something with knights in the beginning and then they go to the ruins of Chicago or something then there was something with Anthony Hopkins and Hot Rod in England.  Beyond that, the whole thing exists as some sort of weird repressed memory or something.

Still, I like Transformers Movieverse Toys.  This guy Cogman was the tail end of the line and got a really random release pretty much straight to discount stores.  I believe Cogman was Anthony Hopkins’ butler robot int he film, I don’t remember him turning into any car or anything, but it may have happened at some point.  This guy gets a semi proper representation through his Headmaster.  This movie came out alongside the Titans Return line, which was all Headmasters, and while the movie line didn’t share that gimmick, this guy does.

Cogman’s headmaster is cross compatible with the Titanmasters and Prime Masters, and like the Titans Return figures, Cogman has a driver’s seat for his head robot.  In fact, he has two seats, so a buddy can even ride along, a neat little added gimmick.  The vehicle itself is an Aston Martin, a vehicle appropriate for the butler/servant of the eccentric Sir Anthony Hopkins.   There was one other pseudo Headmaster in the line if you want to keep things pure, Nitro Zeus has a removable head that’s compatible with the Titan/Headmasters, though his own head doesn’t transform. 

The robot fits pretty well in with the Knight theme of the movie and a lot of the toys in the line.  He’s all gray with a dark wash in some places.  He has a sword which he can wield with one or two hands.  His design has sort of an armored look to it as well.  The transformation is pretty neat overall, his hood has a neat rotational gimmick instead of just folding over.  He holds together fairly well, which is sometimes an issue with characters with cockpits like Cogman has.

Overall, Cogman is a pretty neat figure.  It’s kind of a shame that he got shoved tot he back half of the line, because he’s become a bit of a scares toy to find.  He’s one of the few actually new molds and characters of The Last Knight toyline, and he has a lot of interesting and unique aspects to him with the double driver interior and Movie themed Headmaster.  I believe he’s getting a re-release in the Studio Series line however with a different paint job, so there’s still a chance to find him, though probably not at the discount store price.


Mafex – Gwenpool

So, I don’t really do “Figure of the Year” stuff, but if I did, Mafex Gwenpool would very likely be my “Figure of the Year”.  I can’t express how worried I was about this figure leading up tot he release.  All of the previous Mafex figures I have picked up had some sort of issue, most often, arms or heads that don’t stay attached well.  The sculpts on the figures are all great, but the quality is a little dodgy.  I’ve mentioned before that as much as I like Mafex being cheaper than say, Figuarts, I wish they would accept a bump in cost if it meant they had better quality control.  It seems like this is starting to be the case across the board, because I’ve noticed a bump in the price on their figures, but I have also noticed that the join tolerance issues are pretty much going away.

So onto Gwenpool. Some brief background on the character, who isn’t a Deadpool spin off or a really even a Gwen Stacy/Spiderverse character.  Recently, Spider-Gwen has become a popular new character in Marvel comics.  She’s essentially an alternate universe iteration of Spider-Man, where Gwen Stacy was bit by the spider instead of Peter Parker.  At one point, Marvel did a series of parody covers as sort of a riff on Spider-Gwen, with Gwen Stacy as other heroes, like Thor, or the Avengers, or, Deadpool.  The Deadpool version ended up being popular enough that it was made into it’s own parody comic, though Gwenpool is not Gwen Stacy as Deadpool, she is Gwendolyn Poole, a new character.

Confused yet?

So, anyway, Gwenpool, is supposed to be a normal comic fan person from “the real world” that was sucked into the Marvel Comics universe.  She has no actual super powers aside from an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel characters, all of their super powers, weaknesses, secret identities, etc.  She uses this “ability” to sort of extort her way into becoming a mercenary in the Marvel Universe after getting some training from Captain America punching bag, Batroc the Leaper.

I mean, I already said it’s “Figure of the Year”, I’m not sure how much more praise I can give it than that.  The previous Marvel Legends is… not great.  It’s an ok toy, but the likeness is so off it’s may as well be a different character.  The Marvel Legends went for a sort of realistic look that just comes across as being some sort of weird midlife crisis old woman or something, the Mafex absolutely captures the essence of the stylized Gwenpool look.

She includes a bunch of fun accessories.  She has a pair of Katanas, two masked and one unmasked head with separate “hood down” part, a cell phone, and a couple of animal themed backpacks.  She also has a bunch of alternative hand options.  The handles on the Katanas in the back are also removable, which I mostly want to mention because mine were in very tight and I wasn’t sure they were.  One more minor complaint,t he only “holding” hangs she has are made for her Katanas, so she can’t really hold any other weapons (guns) from other figures very well.  She does tent to use other weapons at times.  You can sort of balance other things in her open palm hands, but the effect isn’t real super great.

The poseability is very good as well.  Between the joints and the alternative hands and heads, there is such a great range of action and emotion that can be expressed by this figure, which is great.  It’s just a very fun design which translates over to a very fun figure.

I have some other minor complaints.  The worst offense is that she really needed a second unmasked head (there is one coming with the upcoming Evil Gwenpool figure).  Basically just the smiling mouth on the unmasked head.  The unmasked head also had some iffy paint app choices, mostly on the mouth, though I’ve seen some light touch ups done by folks that really improved it.  I also kind of hate that she can’t wear the animal backpacks and the sword backpack at the same time.  Not a huge issue, but it would have been a nice addition.

I don’t have a lot to say about this figure, but it’s really a great figure.  The only real problem with it is that there are some who really dislike Gwenpool as a character.  Which is understandable, she is, by design, a little obnoxious.  Her whole shtick isn’t really meant to be a serious world shattering story like other heroes.  It’s pulling up F list nobodies like Batroc the Leaper and doing goofy stories with them.

(PS, Scooter not included, I just got it for her to use in the same order).