Monday, April 22, 2013

The Reaping

When it comes to selling off parts of any collection, the collector is as ready to cut off a limb as to sell a beloved piece in their collection. Due to future and current concerns over space I decided to rid myself of my DC Universe Classics collection. I had been agonizing over this for awhile, but when it came right down to it I had to embrace a philosophy that I abandoned a few years ago. That is; treasure the art of toys, not the toys themselves.

Part of my issue was that I had invested a tremendous amount of energy into obtaining my DCU collection. So much so that it felt like abandoning the work I had devoted so much effort to when I even considered divesting myself of my figures. Anyone who collected DCU understands that various issues contributed towards this being a very difficult line to find at times. This rang true especially in the first few years of the line when retailer exclusives took over and drove the fanbase insane. I can't tell you how many out of the way trips I made to Wal-Marts to try and find Wave 5 which included the Atom and the Riddler among others. Then Mattel decided to sell the wave online at after so many of us had plunked down scalper prices to obtain it. Frustration is a kind word to describe my state of mind at the time of that discovery.

As you get older and your priorities change, so does the view of collecting in general. There is truly nothing like the well being of children to make you question every single life choice you have made. I know sitting in my basement looking over the stacks of boxes, I came to some serious realizations about  how I had spent my money but with few answers as to why. Anyone with an addictive personality should probably avoid a hobby like this, but one might argue that the two go hand in hand.  Ultimately I had come back around to a place in my mind I had left a few years ago when I had determined my collection would be a curated one instead of an explosion of plastic upon shelving.

I think that in the last few years I have seen various other's acquisitions displayed online and I repeatedly came away feeling that the best ones were never the ones overstuffed with hundreds if not thousands of figures and trinkets adorning shelves, but the smaller collections that displayed a sense of emotional connection and a fastidiousness in regards to the appearance of said collection. Shelf porn is always best when dressed to impress.

So here I am once again taking a hard look at my collection and asking which of the pieces best represent the connection I feel to any of these properties, and which best represent the art of this industry and the reason why so many of us flock to it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Toy Fair 2013- Special excerpt: Funko

Over the last few years, Funko has gone from a bobblehead company to a real force for market share amongst the collectors. A couple of years ago they introduced their POP! vinyl line of figures and bobbleheads. The snagged some big licenses off the bat such as Marvel, DC, and Star Wars. They landed an even bigger fish in Disney. I never quite got a feel for how well they were doing with those figures until this year. Target seemingly has dropped or reduced their stake in the line but that is less of a worry than it would appear.

This holiday season I saw their figures crowding shelves in Barnes & Noble and wondered how well they could be doing as B&N seemed to be doing everything they could to get rid of them. The Game of Thrones license was a huge hit as now you rarely find any of those figures on the shelves except for an odd Ned Stark and Hound here and there. Apart from GOT, I never felt that the line would stick around. It looked like DC had dropped their support, but that was more about the new emphasis on the New 52 than anything else.

What is my point? Well, all of this is to say that if anyone had any doubts about Funko's ambition then Toy Fair 2013 should have put those doubts to rest. Funko dropped one of the largest spreads of licenses of any company and with a fair amount of depth to back it up. What we saw in the display cases was impressive enough, but then photos of their 2013 catalogue started popping up and that's when everyone's head started to spin.

I am not an analyst and I do not have access to sales reports so all of this is just speculation, but when a company drops the amount and variety of product that Funko did this year, you get the feeling that business is very good indeed. Funko's use of the urban vinyl styling combined with big top licenses has made them the main player in a category that very few of the big companies know how to compete in let alone do it well. The "urban vinyl" or "art toy" market is still strong, but it isn't anywhere as ubiquitous as it was in 2006/07. Nevertheless, the core concepts that those toys are built on is really strong. Simple materials and construction with great design is a really appealing concept. Funko's success is that they grabbed mainstream licenses and were able to produce their goods at a price level far more appealing than their art toy cousins.

So this year they continued their assault with pop culture wolves in art toy sheep's clothing. They have moved into paper craft and more importantly into blind-boxed toys. Blind boxed toys have been a big success for a lot of vinyl toy makers like Kid Robot and their Dunny series. Funko is rolling out five blind boxed series this year with Disney, DC (Batman family), Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and horror movie characters. I'm a little worried about the lack of diversity in characters, but they are including alternate poses as rare and super rare variants should help drive any collector frenzy left over

The takeaway for me is the licenses themselves. Standing out to me were Mass Effect, Adventure Time, Alien Vs. Predator, Pulp Fiction, Masters of the Universe, Power Rangers and the list goes on extensively. Obviously, the look of the POP! design will turn some people off, but those who are charmed by the design will have no trouble finding a character to fill their shelves or even just sit next to a computer. I count myself in the latter category and am in whole hog for the second series of Game of Thrones and a number of other licenses that are going to make me question my spending habits.

All of this is to say that there is too much to say. I haven't even touched on some of their other products that look fantastic in their own right but simply don't do it for me. The one question mark for Funko will be their production quality control. Many of their products show up on shelves with sloppy paint application which really shouldn't happen given the simplicity of the figures. I hope Funko is able to fine tune the process so that the end product reflects the high quality of the design work, otherwise pre-ordering figures as most collectors normally do becomes a bit of a crapshoot. If you want to find the best possible versions, you are forced to trek down to a Barnes and Noble or your local comic shop and hope they received a good batch to sift through.

Despite that, I am optimistic that Funko will continue to deliver great product throughout 2013. Their 2013 catalogue is available for download at if you want to check out the fantastic lineup.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Toy Fair 2013 - The Takeaway... Wow. Just as it seemed ToyFair was becoming irrelevant in the wake of San Diego Comic-Con, 2013's edition has arrived and many of us are still picking our jaws up off the ground. NECA is leading the charge to be sure. I felt they had started to drop off a couple of years ago as factory paint jobs were well falling short of prototypes and I worried a McFarlaneesque scenario was creeping into place where Gears of War would be the only license sustaining them.Those worries proved unfounded as NECA had a Company of the Year comeback in 2012 with huge releases on numerous properties across a couple of scales. 2013 will see the return of their Predator(s) series with Dutch in Series 8 and 9 and a re-imagining of the Kenner line. We also get a 1/4 scale Elder Predator, and Big Red. Oh yeah, the AVP Predators make their return to 7" scale. Damn. Some collector's have asked for a break from the ugly bastards, but anyone yearning for the most comprehensive of Predator lines got their wish.

I think we need to talk about 1/4 scale and the impact it is going to have on the industry. Now, Enterbay and Hot Toys have decidedto take their high end war into 1/4 scale which is breaking the piggy banks of most collectors. Their 1/4 scale figures are running between $360- $475 at the moment and will only get more expensive. You do get a lot for your money, tons of accessories and highly detailed sculpts and costuming. NECA has taken a very practical approach to their own entry. They keep up the level of quality in the sculpts, but by limiting articulation and fabric to a degree they are going to save collectors tons of money in the process. Consider that for the price of one Enterbay Batman or Joker, you can buy about 4 of NECA's new 1/4 scale figures. That means you can snag yourself Captain America, Iron Man, Batman 1989, and Batman 1966. Now most collectors who do any kind of displaying aren't going to be posing their figures daily. Do the math and ask yourself which is the better value when the look of these figures, while not quite a toss up between the high and low ends, it is pretty damn close.

Mezco has been a bit under the radar the last couple of years, but they came back in a big way by snagging the Breaking Bad license. That isn't what I want to talk about though. Staying in the lines of the 1/4 scale discussion, Mezco has very quietly put forth one of the best lines for any company in recent memory. Their "Mega" scale Thundercats figures are some of the best looking figures on the market right now and they go for a pittance of anything else in that scale range. Thundercats got a raw deal when Cartoon Network screwed the pooch on marketing the reboot, and Bandai false started on a really promising toy line. Pop Culture Shock put out a line of statues that died after Mumm-Ra and Lion-O got released because they were just too damned expensive. Icon Heroes and Hard Heroes both put out  lines of smaller scale statues that died after a few releases themselves. Mezco is still out there in the wild keeping the fires burning. They recently announced Cheetara for the line keeping hopes alive that we might just see the entire adult Cat roster in the same scale for the first time since the original line. Granted Diamond Select is doing mini mates, but that feels a little like cheating.

The other trend is the explosion of 1966 Batman merchandise coming from just about every major company. Wow, the selection is going to be immense. Collector's will have their pick although I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any fears for the longevity of such an endeavor with so many companies dipping their toes in. Sideshow and Hot Toys will have their say before everything is over so if you thought you couldn't get enough of the Barris Batmobile, you are about to get your fill.

I have so many thoughts on this Toy Fair they can't fit one post, so I'll call this good for the sake of timeliness. There is a lot to talk about because this is going to be an amazing year.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Welcome to 2013 - We're still here! Well the Earth didn't implode. Evidently it was never supposed to in the first place, people just misinterpreted what the archaeologists were saying. What!?!? Crazy people misinterpreted something? Never... Well, It has been over a year since the last post for this blog officially making me look like a terrible slacker. I was anticipating a big year for pop culture and it did not disappoint. Avengers turned out to be the big winner taking in a ridiculous amount of money at the box office and sending collector's into a frenzy. Dark Knight also did very well and for the most part avoided the pitfalls of hyper inflated expectations. Hunger Games proved to be a huge force and turned Jennifer Lawrence into the star she was already poised to become. We definitely got some shocks though. The announcement that Star Wars would be returning shook the pop culture world to it's foundation. Then we found out that JJ Abrams would be double dipping in "Star" based franchises. The wait until 2015 will be grueling for wannabe Jedis and nerf herders everywhere.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Welcome to 2012...the end of the World! Seriously guys?

First post of 2012, and the first one in many many months. Free moments to purge my thoughts have been few and far between. We have moved back to the United States and now have a little girl on the way!

2012 is an enormous year for pop culture and general geekery. March fires everything up with John Carter from Disney and The Hunger Games from Summit Entertainment. The summer brings The Avengers film from Marvel and The Dark Knight Rises from Warner Brothers. The end of the year comes to an amazing climax with the first film in the two part adaptation of the Hobbit.

While I fully anticipate at least four of the five films to be massive hits, I think Dark Knight Rises might be the film with the most to lose. Odd considering that it is the finale of an insanely successful franchise. I feel this way because the expectations for this film coming off of The Dark Knight and it's astonishing performance have become almost unreasonable. Even if The Dark Knight Rises is great, it may still be a failure in certain respects because it did not capture the zeitgeist in the same fashion as it's predecessor. It is easily the most anticipated film of the year. As such, any backlash it faces will be swift and loud. I think Christopher Nolan will ace this one, but when your perch is the top of the mountain, any fall is magnified by it's sheer height.

John Carter is definitely the one with the most to gain. Disney can launch a franchise from this one and the early buzz, as footage is completed and test screenings go up, is gaining positive momentum. As I blogged over a year and half ago, I have a soft spot for this franchise and am desperate to see it do well. The climb is most certainly an uphill one, but the reward could be tremendous. My only other spot of bother is that Carter's success could be greatly hampered by The Hunger Games opening a mere two weeks later.

2012 should be fairly amazing for so many , many reasons.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Verdict: DCnU 52- Animal Man #1

Story: Jeff Lemire
Art: Travel Foreman

One of the unqualified successes of the first week of the new DC Universe has to be Jeff Lemire's reboot/launch of Animal Man. Lemire keeps a sliver of the Grant Morrison "Meta" Animal Man in the shape of an interview between Buddy Baker and Jeff Lemire. See what he did there? Lemire's story is very strong and does a fantastic job of setting the tone of what could be the creepiest and enthralling of all the new titles. It also creates the vibe set by Morrison's run on the title before the Vertigo imprint was created as a home for such types of stories.

Travel Foreman is a superstar in the making. His art previews for this book are what finally convinced me to jump onto this title. While Jeff Lemire has been a name in discussion for a couple of years now, I haven't really warmed to his storytelling. In Foreman, he has a perfect collaborator to drive his type of story forward. Foreman's art evokes many of the greats like Mignola, Keith, Sienkiewithhimer (Sorry, spelling Bill's last name is a nightmare. ) It is beautiful and unnerving.

I have read a review where the reviewer couldn't stand the story or the art, but based on her other reviews of the new 52, it became fairly obvious that she preferred standard, traditional superhero stories with standard, traditional superhero art. She gave it a 2.5 out of 5, whereas I call this one a masterpiece and the kind of book that DC needs to push hard as part of it's resolve to change the landscape of it's own universe.

Verdict: 5 out of 5.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

John Carter Teaser Trailer- Reaction!

If you want to see nerdsplosion, you need look no farther than the newly released John Carter trailer from Disney. I have blogged about John Carter before and my deep abiding love for the series, but this is the first true attempt to bring the world of Barsoom to life with any kind of muscle behind it. We can all forget the Antonio Sabato Jr./Traci Lords version. Better to pretend that one didn't exist.

So the trailer hits and there are a ton of questions. By admission, this is an adaptation. Director Andrew Stanton is bringing us a fully realized, breathing version of the hundreds of art prints by fantasy artists around the world. Keep that in mind. Every piece of art is an interpretation. So it goes with this film. There are plenty of people ready to leave this one on the doorstep and walk away based on a teaser trailer that lasts a minute and a half. Why? Because it doesn't have x y or z. They have already gleaned the entire story from this trailer and have decided it doesn't meet their needs. Excuse me if that sounds a bit ludicrous.

Others bemoan the look of x y and z. Again, this is an interpretation. I think a lot of people get caught up and assume that a film is suddenly new canon for a story that already exists. If you want the original with no changes and no deviations, then the books are there. They remain as accessible and relevant as always, but almost 100 years has passed since Burroughs created the original story. I would be angry if Stanton and company didn't make changes to match the culture we live in now just as Burroughs wrote for the culture of a 1912 society.

Having said all that, I feel cheated. Only a little and it is only because this is a teaser. I want the whole film now. Right now playing on my TV. The fact I have to wait eight more months becomes interminable. The trailer does it's job. It gives you just enough to make you say "What the F&*$ was that" and re-watch for the copious minute details. As I have gotten older my desire for strict adherence to a specific story has wained. I can already tell you that many of the things I saw in the trailer did not exist n the original novel or any of the first three for that matter. Thankfully I don't care. As I said, if I wanted to be slavish I can just reread the books.

Taylor Kitsch is in for a huge career boost if this lives up to it's pedigree. He is a charismatic actor that plays the reflective warrior well. I have only seen Lynn Collins in one movie, so I have no expectations of her, but the trailer shows off some good moments between them. Barsoom doesn't look quite as I expected it to, I thought they would put a bit more red into the shots. I think the flyers look very cool with their huge solar wings shooting off to the sides. I will be curious to see how the costumes look in the final film as I was surprised to see them stick John in his cowboy boots. Frankly, he looks a lot like a certain barbarian getting ready to make his own return to the screen soon.

All in all, I never could have anticipated what I saw. I knew this was an adaptation going in, I had read descriptions online, but seeing it was something else entirely. More than likely we can expect another trailer around the holidays to start fleshing out the story and show off the Tharks in greater detail. John Carter may open in March, but it will still feel like another hundred years to me.