Sunday, January 22, 2017

KOTAL KAHN - Mezco Mortal Kombat X action figure

It's Mortal Kombat season in my world. With Storm Collectibles debut offering of Scorpion due to be delivered tomorrow, and all of the early reviews I've seen proclaiming the figure to be stellar, my anticipation is high. I thought it a good opportunity to take a look at an MK figure I've had for a while, but never really took the time to examine closely...

"Kotal Kahn is a warrior from the realm of Osh-Tekk. After Shao Kahn was killed in the war with Earthrealm, Kotal served his heir, Mileena. However, her instability eventually led him to overthrow her and assume the emperorship."

Kotal Kahn was released in 2015 by Mezco Toyz as part of the second wave of their short-lived Mortal Kombat X line (which only lasted for 2 waves). The package shape replicates earlier Jazwares card-backs, and is done in a plain black and white, with a notable stress on this figure being appropriate only for adult collectors aged 17+. The card-stock is thick enough to resist bends and creases fairly well, especially considering the shape, but the bubble has a sculpted, raised Mortal Kombat logo atop it. As a result, it's pretty difficult to make out the details of the figure underneath, despite it's being visible. All of this combines to make this figure less eye catching on the wall than it might be on the shelf. Packaging verdict: it.

Kotal Kahn is an impressive looking figure in every sense of the word. His size is imposing (within the line itself), and the sculpt and paintwork are exceptional. The head is gorgeous, from the intricate bird-themed helmet to the bundle of softer rubbery feathers extending out back. The visible face is stern, has eyes painted to look like they are glowing with s blue fire, and sports a tiny, painted bone piercing its nose. The shoulder and chest armor are equally impressive, with shapes and paintwork to match the helmet. The skeletal loincloth is incredible. The skull is painted with tiny eyes in the sockets and there are three sets of lower jawbones descending down the length of the cloth. Overall, it's absolutely A+ quality sculptwork, and the paint compliments it perfectly. Kahn has sculpted tatoo details raised over his torso, arms and legs. Even the choice of blue frosted plastic for the body works really well, making this one of the most eye-catching figures on any shelf I have.

The figure includes one set of alternate hands, a jagged stone knife and an enormous spiked paddle, dubbed a "macauhuitl." The second pair of hands look like gripping hands, but I've not seen the need for them since Kotal Kahn holds both weapons just fine in his curled right hand, straight out of the package. The knife is wicked looking, and the macauhuitl is fantastic. The black spikes are glossy and look like obsidian. There's a wonderful two-headed snake sculpted on the flat surfaces, with the paint allowed to bleed through the matte red enough to give a sense of shading. Overall, it's big, heavy and really unique. Accessories: A-...functional and well-made.

The trade-off for this guy's amazing sculpt, paintwork, and reasonably low retail price (just about $20) is his limited articulation. He's got enough to enable him to get several good looks, but they won't work to give him deep stances or dynamic looks. There's no biceps swivel, and other joints like the hips and head don't get the range of motion they really need. That said, there's enough here to make Kotal Kahn look great. Articulation: B.

Overall, Kotal Kahn is an awesome-looking addition to the Mortal Kombat figure universe. It's probably my favorite figure of the second wave, and really serves to show just how incredible Mezco can make their figures look. I don't know MKX at all, and I have no attachment to the character at all, but I'm happy to have KK at home on my Mortal Kombat shelf.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A reflection on my hobby in 2016 and a look ahead to 2017...

I bought 101 action figures in 2016. For anyone outside the toy-collecting-hobby world, I'm certain that would sound like an exorbitant amount. Combine that with the fact that my purchases totaled just shy of $5,000 and it would be a fair assumption that this "hobby" could easily be considered "excessive" or bordering on "out of control." All that considered, 2016 was actually the year I got my habit under control. Both my total number of figures, and my total amount spent were down from previous years, and (more importantly) I no longer feel like the toys own me: I don't buy out of anxiety or fear, and I rarely regret my purchases any longer.

My resolution for 2016 was to stop buying everything, and focus on just the things I loved. I wanted to restrict my purchases to "items of quality." My mantra was going to be, buy what I love, and love what I buy. For the most part, I managed to stick to that. I did veer off track on occasion (for instance, I regret buying a whole lot of Arkham video-game figures when I was completing Arkham City), but I was better than I'd been in previous years. All-told I've identified 17 figures that I regret buying as my "worst purchases" of 2016. The three worst were: 3) Play Arts Kai BvS Wonder Woman, 2) Play Arts Kai Rise of the Tomb Raider, and 1) Figma Windranger. Man, that Windranger was a total dud, and the first figma I've ever been completely disappointed in. The two terrible PAK figures sealed my intentions not to buy those any more, and I have no interest in going back.

I also planned to restrict the buying of doubles, which I wasn't quite as successful with (I bought 8 doubles and 1 triple, 6 of which were NECA figures). The triple (Ultimate Kratos) was absolutely unnecessary, but he is an awesome figure. For 2017, my plans are more restrictive. I'd like my total number of purchases to cut in half: 50 or less. I'm not worrying too much about the total amount spent - I figure that will come down significantly. To that effect, I'm planning to focus my collecting to the following.

First and foremost, I'm in for Mezco's One:12 Collective. These are the figures that currently make me enjoy the hobby the most. My two favorite figures of 2016 are from the One:12 Collective. I love everything about these figures, and it's the only line that makes me want to buy figures of characters I have almost no interest in. I'm not interested in being a completist, mind (no Kirk, Frank or Sulu for me). I've learned my lesson about that. But I am willing to go for figures I'd never consider in any other format (Punisher, Daredevil and Green Arrow). With possibilities for a Dawn of Justice Batmobile and an oversized Darkseid this year, I'm predicting the bulk of my funds will go towards this line.

Second, I'll keep my eyes open for S.H. MonsterArts and 3A Toys 2000AD lines. No re-paints for the SHMA line for me, and I won't pre-order anything, but if they make a figure of a character missing from the collection and the QC on it is good, I'll bite. I've had pretty good luck (I'm very happy with my 1954, GMK, 1989 and 2016 figures from this past year) and the QC on my particular pieces has been good, so I'm not completely turned-off, but I am wary. So far as 3A goes, I'm in for the Dark Judges (Fear and Mortis are due for release any day), the 12" Dredd and anything else from that universe. However, since it takes a year or more for the figures to move from initial pre-ordering to actual release, and nothing beyond those have been mentioned, I feel pretty confident that I won't be buying past those 3. No more doubles on those, though. I've got 2 Death figures and 3 Dredd figures (1 is the Comic Book Version). Mortis and Fear will be 1 apiece.

Third, I'll be on the lookout for NECA's 1/4 scale Batman-themed figures. I love every Q-scale NECA I've bought this past year (6 of them), and I've had to work really hard NOT to go for the amazing Deadpool. Catwoman is on pre-order and they've mentioned that they are not done with Batman quarter-scale, so I'll wait to see what comes around.

Finally, my MOST anticipated line for 2017 is actually not one line, but 2: Storm Collectibles Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter V figures. They look amazing, are just starting to release, and hopefully will be successful enough to go past the initial releases. I've got MK Scorpion on the way right now, and pre-orders in for Sub-Zero, Ryu, Ken, and Bison. I like the look of these way more than the Figuarts Street Fighters we've seen (yes, I've got those on pre-order, too), and I'm really, really looking forward to what Storm might be able to pitch our way. We've seen prototypes for Goro and Shao-Khan, and I'm hoping we will see some female figures in the not-too-distant future.

Outside of those, I'll keep my eyes open for a miscellaneous gem every so-often. It's always nice to be surprised, and I've got to be open to a movie, video game or figure coming out of nowhere to capture my interest, but my plan right now (two weeks into the new year!) is to stay focused, buy what I love, and love what I buy.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

THE MAXX - Shocker Toys Indie Spotlight Series 1

It's hard for me to believe that this action figure is nearly a decade old. Shocker Toys and their Indie Spotlight line have quite a storied past, which I'm not interested in getting into here. The shame of how things turned out in the end, is that I feel like I missed out on getting some really amazing action figures. The Maxx is one of my personal favorites even after all these years! I have their Tick, Katchoo, SCUD and Kabuki figures, as well, but none are as dear to me as The Maxx.

Released on a collector-friendly card (the backing can be slid up and out from the bubble, resulting in no damage to the figure or packaging whatsoever), The Maxx came with three Isz mini-figurines: one frowning black, one smiling white, and one floating pink, complete with stand. Maxx himself came with two alternate heads: one plain (my preferred version) and one "maned" (I don't remember exactly why he had those two looks, but I think it had to do with which "world" he was in - the "real world" was the bald look, while the fantasy dream world, The Outback, had the "wild animal" look). They each plug in via a socket for a ball joint at the base of the neck.

Maxx is a pretty big figure, standing about 7 & 1/2" tall in a the crouching pose I've got him in, and is cast in a deep purple plastic that looks beautiful and striking at once. It's a terrific sculpt that works perfectly with the articulation. He's got lots of deep muscles all over, and the proportions are excellent from head to toes. There are appropriate black highlights at the thighs, back and shoulders to add some depth and realism. The wrappings of his feet are beige/tan, and probably could have used some of the same highlighting or dry-brushing to give them a "dirty" feel, and they have what look like silver clasps to hold them in place. There's some excellent black at the forearms transitioning to the yellow spiked hands.

The yellow is good, and has more of a satin finish than the rest of the figure's matte. The only detraction here is that there's some red that's been applied haphazardly over portions of the hands. It's uneven and very thin, leaving an orangish haze in some spots, and nothing in others. The yellow on his head, on the other hand, is beautiful, and mostly crisp. There's a nice black outline around the eyes, and the white of the mouth (teeth?) looks great. They even applied some purple to the underside of the teeth, between each, so they stand out a bit more. The red feather highlights shown on the package have been skipped on the final version's Outback head.

The Maxx has terrific articulation, comparable even by today's standards. The head/neck combo has a wonderful range of motion, he's got biceps swivels, ball joints at the elbows and wrists (the wrists don't have a great range, but they can tilt), swivels and balls at the hips, double jointed knees, ball-jointed waist and ball joints at  the ankles. There's even a balljoint for the Outback version's hair! The only point that falls a little short are at the shoulders, which are only swivels. A 2017 version would probably sport lateral movement that this figure can't. If I remember, some of those joints could come pretty loose, but I tend to not handle this guy too much, so mine is holding together fine. He is quite top-heavy, so I could see the stress on the fairly-thin knees affecting them over time. I plan to baby mine, so I'm not anticipating problems.

Overall, The Maxx is a great action figure, which accomplishes everything that the Shocker Toys Indie Spotlight "mission" claimed: it's created with respect for the title, has a great sculpt, excellent articulation, acceptable paint and appropriate and valuable accessories. As I said earlier, it's one of the best action figures in my collection, and has had a prime place on my display shelf for nearly a decade now. With his brilliant purple and yellow color scheme, hefty size and unique look, I don't see that changing in the near future...

Scaled with SOTA's Riddick

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

X-PLUS SHIN GODZILLA 2016 vinyl figure overview

It's been about a year since my last X-Plus Godzilla figure (last year's Godzilla 2014). I don't buy many X-Plus figures, but after seeing the film I just had to treat myself to Toho's latest version of the King of the Monsters in X-Plus form. Shin Godzilla arrived today, and boy is he a sight to behold!

Now, I'll begin by saying that I don't have the rig to take photos that do this guy justice. I'm also not a seasoned X-Plus Reviewer, but I'll assume that John over at or Rich's Fresh Vinyl channel will have awesome reviews up at any moment. I just wanted to share my excitement and joy at this amazing figure. Shin Godzilla comes in a large, fairly plain Garage Kit box. Inside, he's wrapped lovingly and protectively in loads of plastic and held in place by a plethora of twisty-ties. The immense tail is separate, of course, and needs to be inserted with care and lots of heat. Once assembled, he stands about 9 & 3/4" tall and 22 & 1/2" long.

The first thing that really jumped out at me was the color of the underlying vinyl. It's a super-bright candy-apple red. The part that plugs into the body from the tail looks like taffy. That mostly goes away once Godzilla is assembled, with most of the remaining visual red coming through on the dorsal plates and tail. One consistent complaint I saw with S.H. MonsterArts Godzilla 2016 was with the red plastic and the way the body color paint was applied over top. Hopefully, people will be happier with the result here. Personally, I think it looks really good.

I love the sculpt of this figure. It's X-Plus's forte, and they certainly didn't disappoint here. The skin textures, underlying musculature, creases and crevices are all deep and carefully done. The tail tip is as gross as it should be, and seems to have a slight gloss applied to give it a wet appearance. I like the sculpt of the dorsal spines, but I feel like the tail spines don't come across as quite as "sharp" (no pun intended). The feet and toes (complete with extra toenails) are excellent, and the arms on this version aren't as fragile-looking as the Tamashii Nations version is. The head is perfection, and it really steals the show. The shape is great, and I didn't realize how much this version looks like previous Godzillas from certain angles. The teeth are beyond words. Sculpted and painted individually, and so many! It's incredible to consider how it was done! Speaking of paint, it's very consistent and professionally applied, as it should be. The red shows through as it should, and both tiny eye pupils are painted looking downwards.

If there's one complaint I have for this figure, it's that there are many seams, and they are very visible. I know seams are a reality for vinyls, but the ones on this figure are particularly glaring, especially where the thighs connect to the body. My figure's left foot is also slightly warped, so he doesn't stand flat. It looks fine, but he's not as stable as I want, so I'll probably heat the foot and try to adjust it to sit flat. Otherwise, this is one brilliant figure. He's an absolute shelf-hog, despite not standing as tall as my 30 cm. figures (I know this figure is from the "Large Monster Series", which mean's he's smaller - go figure), but his tail makes it nearly impossible to get him into much of a forward angle on the shelf. Nevertheless, he looks amazing and I'm giddy to have gotten him...

Sunday, January 1, 2017

GOR King of the Terrons - Super G.I. Joe figure

I had two unusual figures I remembered playing with nearly non-stop in the 1970's and 80's. They were 8" tall and each had a battery-operated light-up feature. One was a cross between the Gorn (from one of my favorite Star Trek episodes ever) and a Sleestak from The Land of the Lost. He was a green lizard-thing with a lightbulb in his chest. The other figure had a blue body and greyish-silver armor. His lightbulb was in his shield. Those two battled one another in my imagination for ages, but I honestly never knew what they really were. I thought back about them many times, but wasn't sure how to go about discovering their true identities. Flash forward many years to my re-discovery of the green guy in storage in my parent's house, where a close inspection revealed the stamp, "Hasbro 1977" on its back. I immediately plugged that bit of information into ebay and, voila, he became GOR King of the Terrons from Hasbro's Super Joe G.I. Joe line! His nemesis (my hero) was revealed to be "The Shield" from the same line.

My Gor has managed the passage of time pretty well, all things considered. The battery compartment on his back is missing, and I doubt the light feature works any longer, but nothing else is broken. He's accumulated a bit of dust and such, but he's otherwise fully functional as a bit of childhood nostalgia returned to my toy shelf.

The sculpt is pretty basic, with most of the finer detail apparent on his chest. His other scales are broad and fairly shallow. The face on the rubbery head retains its villainous look these many years later. The joints are extremely loose so I have him suspended in a doll stand, where he will remain as a fond remembrance of a simpler time, when play was play and a toy could exist outside the support of a major movie or television tie-in.