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Action Figure Zone 10-22-03
by Rudy Panucci

Okay, here we are, rushing headlong into the holiday shopping season and headlong into a weekly publication schedule. Without any further fanfare, here's the latest Action Figure news and reviews

GI JOE

As we speak, the second wave of GI Joe 40th Anniversary sets are hitting nationwide. Uniform variations in the Second Wave include the addition of pockets and tags to the Soldier and Marine fatigues, and a cloth Sailor's cap. Along with Wave Two, the Target exclusive Footlocker (reviewed below) is starting to show up, as Target finally also starts to receive their belated shipments of Wave One. The third wave is scheduled to hit retail around Christmas, and will consist of the Action Soldier Combat Field Pack (in Caucasian or African American), Marine Dress Parade, Pilot Scramble Equipment, and Pilot with 3 accessory cards (Scramble Crash Helmet, Parachute Pack and Life vest). Wal Mart should be getting their exclusive Marine Medic around the time that Wave Three hits. Sam's Club has exclusive 12" Joe vs. Cobra sets that use existing figures and re-purposed Action Man water vehicles. They're said to be a pretty interesting obscurity. Dreams and Visions cross-licensed DC Comics GI Joe line continues with the imminent release of deluxe sets featuring Enemy Ace and Miss Fear, and a uniform set for Sgt. Rock called "Breakout at Normandy", done up in the style of a classic 1960s GI Joe uniform set. Their more-affordable Mme. Marie, the French Resistance Fighter, has been delayed until June 2004.

SPIKE FROM SIDESHOW

We're not talking about Spike Lee or the new "network for men", but Spike, the vampire guy from the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" TV Shows Spike, also known in vampire circles as "William the Bloody", earned his nickname by torturing his victims with railroad spikes. As a British vampire with punk rock attitude, Spike became a heartthrob on "Buffy" and with the expiration of that show, he's taken up refuge on its spin-off, "Angel". People are still wondering why he wasn't the second character in Sideshow's "Buffy" line, instead of the floating blue guys. Spike comes equipped with a Large Cross with Removable Knife, Railroad Spike, and a 12" figure stand with 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' logo. The headsculpt is an excellent likeness, crafted by Oluf W. Hartvigson. He should be out in the Spring of next year. The first 500 orders placed through Sideshow's website will receive a bonus set of hands with black fingernails.

ACTION FIGURE NEWSWIRE

Dragon Models Ltd is going to be releasing figures based on the upcoming movie "Timeline", which is about teens who go back to the year 1357 to save one of their fathers. The early prototype photos of the figures look terrific and some collectors are salivating at the thought of Dragon bringing their usual high quality to Medieval Times. We're still waiting for details on where and when these figures will be released. The movie hits theaters on November 26th. Blue Box International has found their way into several new retail outlets. With a stripped-down budget line, they can now be found in Toys R Us stores. They have several 1/6 scale boxed figures and uniform and accessory sets in stores now, as well as a growing line of 1/18 military equipment. They can also be found on the Sears and K Mart websites, thanks to the fact that those companies are using KBKids.com as their toy fulfillment vendor. BBi may also have a few select figures turn up in Sears' retail stores, as they install Kay Bee-managed toy departments in 600 of their stores for the Christmas season. Jakks Pacific has snagged the rights to produce action figures and toys based on the hit Kids WB cartoon, "Mucha Lucha". This is a cool compliment to their WWE line, and might allow them to re-use some accessory molds. Cabela's Christmas catalog features the usual assortment of Outdoor Sportsman and Hunter Dan figures , but this year they've add a new Outdoor Sportsman Tent with cool accessories. At twenty bucks, it seems a bit pricey, but if you're looking for a 1/6 scale Dutch oven, campfire, hatchet, and (really nice-looking) backpack, you might want to check it out. As usual, Cabela's website offers a much wider selection of Ertl's Outdoor Sportsman line. LEGO's huge flop Galidor line is now available at Big Lots, with most figures going for 99 cents each. Valor (Rosie the Riveter and Donald Stratton) has released a two figure set of the Wright Brothers, just in time to commemorate the centennial of the first flight. More impressive work from this small, dedicated company.

QUICKIE REVIEWS

GI Joe 40th Anniversary Footlocker by Hasbro $34.95 exclusively at Target Stores

Okay, I haven't had a chance to go nuts over the new 40th Anniversary GI Joes yet, so let's get this out of the way. THESE ARE INCREDIBLE!!!! I don't want to slight John Michlig's Masterpiece Edition GI Joes, because those were 90% perfect, and we wouldn't have these new guys without them, but the retooled 40th Anniversary GI Joes are 99% perfect! The headsculpt is much closer to the original, and the body is an even closer reproduction of the vintage GI Joe than anyone could have ever hoped for. Some critics have complained about the headsculpt, but I don't see any problems with it. The only tiny nit I can pick is that the paint scheme on the eyes isn't 100% accurate. It's really close, but I wouldn't be doing my duty as an internet know-it-all if I didn't find something to carp on. So, this set comes with a brown-haired Action Soldier, along with a fully-stocked reproduction footlocker. Unlike the Timeless Collection footlocker, this one looks like the Vintage GI Joe carrying case. It has the ridges and there are no funky plastic slings or shortcuts on the accessories. The only minor bummer is that the radio is brown, instead of the green one that's depicted on the inside of the lid. And that's a nostalgic feeling too, since the green radio was scarce back in the 1960s. The crew at Hasbro has done an amazing job of recreating the experience of the vintage GI Joe, not just with the toys, but also with the packaging. Every Joe collector should be behind this line, and the footlocker is a must-have addition to it.

Grade: A-Plus

Spy Troops Ninja Showdown by Hasbro $18 to $25 at major retailers

This set is another winner from Hasbro. One of the best action figure values in a long time, this set includes two 12" action figures based on the resurgent Real American Hero mythos, as well as a DVD featuring a brand-new CGI adventure and loads of extras. Stormshadow and Snake Eyes are two of the most popular characters from the comic book, cartoon, and 3 ae" GI Joe line, and the figures of them here are pretty sharp with decent accessories. While these feature standard Classic Collection bodies instead of the new Super-articulated bodies that Hasbro has developed, given the low price, this is still a tremendous set. In many stores, this set is selling for less than twenty dollars. The DVD alone is worth ten bucks or more, and you get two fully-outfitted 12" figures in addition to that. This is a great way to get a kid hooked on the 12" GI Joe line, and should be a big Christmas gift this year.

Grade A

Justice League 10" figures by Mattel $10 to $15 at major retailers

What a bad idea! Hasbro's last DC Comics action figures were really incredible 10" figures of Batman and The Penguin. They set the bar pretty high. So now that Mattel has the license to produce DC Comics action figures, they decide to come out with a 10 " line that's so poorly done that it just makes you lose faith in what they may do in the future. All they did was take their 4 " Justice League Figures and blow them up to 10". They are barely articulated, poorly designed, and badly-sculpted. Luckily, they don't seem to be selling, either. So maybe Mattel will get the message, and start making high-quality action figures based on DC Comics' heroes, instead of just repeating the same mistakes that have killed most of their other action figure lines for the last thirty years. Grade C-minus

GX Mega Forces Giant Clunky Action Figure by Placo $7 at Wal Mart

Here's a news flash: apparently bigger is better. At least that's the thinking behind Placo's near-cheesy-knockoff GX Mega Forces. What you get here is a 15 " tall action figure, sporting really bad articulation and construction, with goofy-looking accessories and badly-made clothing. To be honest, these came within a hair of landing in the "Cheesy Toy Knockoff" column, but the huge size is just enough of a twist to spare them of that indignity. What this is, basically, is a standard cheesy knockoff of GI Joe-the type you can find almost anywhere now-blown up 25% larger. He's topped off with a really generic, goofy headsculpt. Now, this figure is not totally useless. His fourteen points of articulation are more than we would have gotten from such a crappy figure just a few years ago, and if you're a 1/6 scale customizer, the body could be good for making a seven-and-a-half foot tall giant. But aside from that, you can probably give this guy a miss. The package says that he's "Bigger, Taller, Stronger, Faster, Smarter!". To that, they ought to add, "Unnecessarier". In this case, more is less.

Grade D

That's it for this week. Next week we'll have more breaking news, and reviews of Sideshow's latest Civil War offerings and several new 1/6 scale playsets.

Later, Rudy