Monday, October 17, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge - Are You Scared?

Inspired by Brother Midnight's post for this week's League question, I've decided that I want to gear my League responses more so in line with covering toys. That's not to say they won't be personable, or ingrained with a story or two. It just means that it will be inspired by a specific toy (or toys).

This week's Pop Culture League Challenge - Are you scared?

I could go the easy route on this one. I could say that I'm scared that I won't have enough money to buy a hard to find collectible when it finally crops up. I could say that I'm scared that I'll one day come home to a waterfall in the center of my display room. Heck, I could even say that I'm scared that my external drive will crash, and I'll lose my entire database for The Toy Box.

Nah. Like I said. That would be the easy route.

Instead, I'd rather talk about a thing that has scared me since my childhood. So much to the point that to this day I won't watch it. What could be so horrific you ask?

Don't laugh.

The thing that scares me the most is....Michael Jackson's Thriller.

As a kid, this 30 minute "movie" traumatized me. The zombies were horrific, and this was made all the more worse because as a kid Michael Jackson was the one guy that everybody loved. If you're scared of Michael Jackson, then all hope is lost. There's nothing pure left in the world.

The makeup on the zombies was so realistic that my young mind truly believed they were real. It didn't matter that I had even seen the making of the video. The damage was done.

Just thinking about them as I type this gives me the hebbie jebbies - Seriously. Why were they dancing with Michael Jackson, and why, why, why, did he turn into one of them, and then go after his girlfriend? Terrifying!

Hot Toys commemorated Thriller (and other Michael Jackson milestones) in 2009 with their highly articulated, perfectly sculpted 1/6 scale collectible figures.

From the box to the figures, this thing is 100% pure beauty. A truly magnificent piece of artwork.

The front of the package folds open, book style, to reveal form fitted foam where the figure and additional "accessories" are embedded.

The package features a regular Michael Jackson doll dressed in his iconic Thriller garb, and packed in next to it was a detailed zombie sculpted MJ head with an altered / dirty set of clothes for when he turned in the music video. If this weren't enough, the package also featured multiple hands for you to choose from.

This thing is spot on!

As I said above, Hot Toys made other Michael Jackson 1/6 scale figures. These included a Bad and Beat It version. Unfortunately they're incredibly difficult to track down - To and include the Thriller one I've been talking about.

For other scares, check out;

Alexis' Universe
Green Plastic Squirt Gun
Mr. Smiths Plastic Bubble
2 Minute Toy Break

Those were all who had chimed in at the time of this writing. Check the League page for others that may come in.

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Escape From New York (NECA)

Escape From New York

You know, as we sat down to post this, post...We had to honestly take a step back, and ask, "Does Kurt Russell actually make good movies? Or are they just cult classics due in part to the iconic characters and one liner quips?" Don't get us wrong, we enjoy films such as Big Trouble in Little China, Tombstone, and yes, even Overboard (to an extent)...But, did the general public and critics?

Kurt Russell ranks number sixteen on IMDB's list of Worst and Overrated Actors. However, in general it's rather difficult to take this list serious when it includes (at the time of this writing) the likes of Michael J. Fox (#17), Sylvester Stallone (#24) and Hugh Jackman (#4) - Just to name a few. Sorry, but Back to the Future, Rocky and the X-Men films were pretty good as far as we're concerned - As were the actors who played their respective rolls in them. So again we ask, Does Kurt Russell make good movies?

UPDATE Before it's even posted...

As many of you know, we prepare posts well in advance. The particular one has been ready to go since mid August. The answer to our question above oddly enough came a few weeks after we scheduled this post, and that answer is yes. Cool and Collected host Brian loves Kurt Russell so much that he wants a life size wax figure. Brian, you answered our question, and you didn't even know at the time that we had asked it.

We may never know the answer to that question - Past our own personal opinion. However, what we do know is that in 2014 NECA produced a one and done Snake Plisskin based off of Russell's 1981 film Escape From New York (Written and Directed by Horror Icon John Carpenter). Whether you like the man or not, there's no denying that the amount of detail that went into this particular figure is spectacular! It captures the character to a "T".

Because it's a relatively new figure, Snake isn't difficult to come by. You're looking at spending about twenty-five to thirty on him - Which in reality is only about ten dollars (at the most) more than the original retail price. Of course, much like the list of Worst and Overrated Actors above, these prices were noted at the time of this writing - Which in all actuality is August of 2016. We work rather far in advance here at The Toy Box to ensure that there's a new post each and every week.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge - Zombies

This week's League challenge...Zombies.

The word zombies start with the letter "Z" which is appropriate because the subject of zombies is enough to make you Zzzzz...The whole premise of zombies is about as tired and boring as watching your extended families slide show, or sitting through a couple droning on about their children.

These days you can't swing a stick without hitting something zombie related. Video games, television shows, movies, books, toys, etc. Because I have such disdain for zombie based things, I've decided to write a top three list of my least favorite zombie related "products".

Number 3 - WWE Zombies

Oooh, look! It's WWE wrestlers turned into zombies! Why? Because. Because why? You  know...Because.

This is exactly what I'm talking about in my statement above. Zombie merchandise is everywhere, and for a lot of it there's no rhyme or reason to it. It's zombies for the sake of zombies. This is what leads to the whole genre being worn out.

It's like when Twilight came out, and everything had to be vampire related. However, unlike Twilight, it seems like zombies are never going to end.

Number 2 - Plants Vs. Zombies 2

I'm not a fan of ap based games, so I was really surprised when I became so enthralled with Plants Vs. Zombies for the Xbox 360. Admittedly I never would have bothered with it if it didn't come to consoles. I eagerly awaited Popcaps sequel for years.

That's why I was so disappointed that Popcap totally blew it with their "free to play", "charged up the nose" ap based sequel. Plants Vs. Zombies 2 is easily one of the biggest disappointments to me in gaming history - Coming in second place just shy of EA's Star Wars Battlefront.

Unlike the first game which hit multiple platforms, PvZ2 remains an ap based game for IPADS and cell phones, and quite honestly it can stay that way for all I care.

Number 1 - Fear the Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead took a good premise, and showed how bad it can be when in the hands of dolts. The show is poorly written, with a cast of characters that are unlikable and quite frankly idiots. It's as if the characters go out of their way to be irrational. Not only this, but it's not believable that nobody in this "realm" has seen or heard of zombies - Such as movies that would have them. They seem 100% clueless, and that makes them all the more idiotic.

The only people I have found that say, "I like Fear the Walking Dead" are those that are so emotionally attached to the regular WD series that they can't fathom not having something to fill that gap when it's not on the air.

That about wraps this complaint session up. As of this post only Brother Midnight has chimed in with his post on Funko Pop Walking Dead Mystery Figures.

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Eek! The Cat (Marchon, Inc.)

Eek The Cat
Marchon, Inc.

"It never hurts to help." It was the catch phrase of Eek the Cat that often times would lead to trouble, and the premise of each episode. The show often times featured slapstick humor, and pop culture references making it popular with many fans of 80's television and movies.

The series ran for five seasons, encompassing seventy-five episodes from 1992 to 1997. What made it stand out the most among cartoons of the period was that several seasoned actors were drawn to it to loan their voices to various characters. Actors and Actresses such as William Shatner, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson. "Weird Al" Yankovic, Tim Curry, Dee Snider, Phil Hartman and Mr T. were just a handful of the popular names to appear on the show.

In 1992, one of the very few Eek! the Cat toys was produced and released by Marchon, Inc. The plush stands approximately fourteen inches high, but unfortunately doesn't contain any features such as a pull string voice activation or...Well, anything. It's just a plush doll.

That's not to say it's a bad plush. It's certainly Eek! the Cat - Right down to his purple fur. Considering there weren't exactly a ton of Eek! toys, it's kind of one of those take what you can get things.

You can find a few of them here and there on secondary markets, but what you're not going to do is get it for too cheap. Opened plush dolls can set you back as much as $60.00 to $70.00. Plush Eeks still in the box will set you back about twice that amount. 

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge - Here There Be Monsters

This week's League question - "Here there be monsters." Okay, that's not really a question.

Well, monsters come in various shapes and sizes from true horror icons to the every day child abductor on the street. Sure, monsters are easily recognizable when they're covered in dripping slime, or have horrific deformations that make them horrendous to look at. However, that's just physical attributes. Even the ugliest of monsters can have a heart of gold. So what truly makes a monster? My immediate response is the psyche.

So let's meet this one somewhere in the middle, and go for a top ten list of my favorite Batman villains. For while some of these strike fear for their physical appearance, the majority are truly monsters for their mental state.

Number 10 - Black Mask

Black Mask not only has an unhealthy fixation with masks, but also limited mind control powers. Granted he's by no means the most notorious of Batman's nemeses - Thus his entry at number 10, but his fixation on masks makes him a danger for our cowl wearing detective.

When it comes to some of the most heinous crimes in our own human history, a lot of them started with a fixation / obsession on someone or something.

Number 9 - Bane

Bane not only brings brute force to the table, but also a genius level intellect. As they say, it's a fine line between genius and insanity. Depending on his mood will depend on which half of Bane you're dealing with.

The man used his mind to not only track down Batman, but also to discover that he was Bruce Wayne. After he found him, he used his sheer strength to literally break The Bat.

Number 8 - Clayface

Clayface is truly the monster underneath your bed because he can shape shift into any form he desires to get a terrified response from you. If he doesn't feel like putting much effort into it, he can just revert back to his "normal" clay appearance which is equally as frightening to his victims.

Over the years, Clayface has gone through many iterations, but the root of the character has always been there. As has his biggest adversary - Batman.

Number 7 - Hugo Strange

What Hugo Strange lacks in brute strength, he makes up for in sheer insanity. Coupled with his genius mentality, Strange is a formidable foe of Batman. His manipulative nature has also put him in direct control of Arkham inmates which makes him all the more of a threat to Gotham City.

If you're watching the series Gotham on television, then you know that an iteration of the character also directly runs Arkham Asylum. BD Wong is amazing in the role.

Number 7 - Two-Face

"You were the best of us. He wanted to prove that even someone as good as you could fall." - Batman to Two-Face in The Dark Knight.

The tragedy that Two-Face is a monster is that his psyche is constantly at battle with his true identity - Harvey Dent. He's so obsessed with duality that he makes all of his decisions based on the flip of a coin.

So perhaps it's not that he wanted to kill a random person, or rob a bank, but that the coin told him to. Maybe it's his way of claiming no fault or blame for what he does.

Number 6 - Killer Croc

There's no mistaking Killer Croc for anything other than a monster. He even has the classic look of one straight out of a horror movie. He's also one of the most brutal enemies of Batman because his pleasure often times comes from murdering random innocent strangers. If that's not a monster, I don't know what is.

Much like any good monster, Croc's main attribute is his strength and immunity to toxins. His main mentality - Kill!

Number 5 - Calendar Man

First question I have is why are there no Calendar Man action figures?

Often times forgotten in the lore of Batman comics is Julian Day - AKA Calendar Man. He is perhaps one of the most violent criminals in the pages of Batman comics.

It's predictable that he will commit some form of murder on a holiday - The problem is where said murder will occur. His acts are often times seen as random to most, yet the truth is that each one is intricately planned out down to his "festive" attire for the celebrated day. He lives to celebrate murders.

Number 3 - Mad Hatter

Though it may seem like an odd choice to some, Mad Hatter comes in at number three for me. He is so obsessed with Batman's cowl that he swears he will take it by any means necessary - Including by way of the Caped Crusader's death.

He's big on mind control. Often times commits his crimes through way of getting (otherwise) innocent people to carry them out for him.

He is so far mentally gone that he lives his life in a constant representation of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland - An obvious inspiration for the character. For those of you wondering how DC could have gotten away with this, it is because the original Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland is actually in the public domain.

Number 2 - Scarecrow

Scarecrow was actually number one on my list a couple times, flip flopping with who would become number one as I wrote the above out.

Scarecrow has one goal - Fear! A true attribute of a monster, he wants nothing more than for his victim's hearts to be racing. He doesn't necessarily want's to kill you, because to him he gets his enjoyment from your mental torture. If anything, he would probably just continue to hit you with dose after dose of fear toxin until you had a heart attack, or took your own life.

Number 1 - The Joker

Probably no surprise to most of you, my number one choice ended up being The Joker. Like I said above, Scarecrow was in the lead a few times, but I finally settled on The Joker for one main reason - He's freaking crazy!

The Joker deploys any means necessary to fulfill his macabre plans. Murder, abduction, fear, or even just a joke. His mind is a shattered mess, and he knows it. Furthermore, he likes it that way. The Joker is a monster, and he is totally fine with that persona.

The Joker is a man who answers to nobody but himself. He shows no love or care for anyone - Even Harley Quinn. He will use you for his desires, push you to the brink of insanity, then dispose of you when he's done. He's also the only Batman villain I know of that has killed one of our heroes in the stories to date.

He definitely deserves the crown of number one monster on this list.

How about you? Any people you didn't see on this list that you thought should be there? Anyone on here that you totally disagree with? Let's debate in the comments section.

Sorry for no links to others posts (yet). I haven't actually gotten a chance to read any so far, and I don't want to post anything until I do.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (DC Direct)

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
DC Direct

Batman posts seem to always come in pairs of two around here. Not sure why that is.

The Return of Bruce Wayne was a six part story arc which took place in the various Batman related titles in  2010. The story is written by Grant Morrison, and featured six different artists (one for each book).

The story revolves around Bruce Wayne being lost in time after being deposited in the past by Darkseid in the pages of the story Final Crisis. Each story takes Wayne through a different period of time, respectively - Prehistoric, during the period of witch hunts, pirating, the wild west, noir and present time.

Since being published original, the story has been collected into an individual volume which can still be purchased from various book retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In 2011, DC Direct produced four figures based on the various time frames in which Bruce Wayne visits - High Seas, Prehistoric, Wild West and Witch Hunter. No, you're not going to find your Jokers, Riddlers or Two-Faces here. Everything is Bruce Wayne related - As it should be. If we had one complaint it would be that DC Direct could have, and should have released the remaining two Bruce Wayne figures as depicted in the other two remaining books - Noir and present time.

 Batman: High Seas

 Batman: Prehistoric

 Batman: Wild West

Batman: Witch Hunt

Prices are somewhat all over the map for these figures. A lot of sellers price them for fifty dollars or more, when in reality most people are willing to pay between twenty and forty dollars a piece for them.

Additionally, if you're interested in reading the story arc, you can track down the individual issues fairly cheap. A lot of comic sellers drop these into their dollar boxes - Which is far cheaper than the $16.00 to $20.00 that you'll spend on the collected trade paperback.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge - Listicular Fortitude

I'm a little late to this week's League question - Well, later than normal anyway.

This week's topic - Listicular Fortitude, Top Ten...

Much like last week, vagueness is the name of the game.

For my top ten, I decided to go with my most memorable G.I. Joe figures. As a kid, I had a ton of Joes. From figures to vehicles to playsets, my room was covered with them from wall to wall. However, I was a little late to the game, so I missed out on several of the classics that these days will set you back a second mortgage to obtain. My top ten list contains figures that are my favorites for a specific memorable reason, and not just because I thought they were rad....Which for the record they are.

Here we go;

1 - Barbecue (1985)

For some reason, 1985's Barbecue stands out as the first figure I ever got in the Joe line. His bright orange suit, mysterious mask and awesome ax lured me in as a kid.

Not only was he a great figure, but he was also featured in one of the most memorable episodes of the series,"The Viper Is Coming".

Though I don't recall which store I got this figure from, it would have either been the local Kmart - Which was actually useful for getting figures back in the 80's, or a toy store located in the mall. I'm leaning more so towards Kmart - Which coincidentally is where I also got all of my Willow figures back in the day.

2 - Hooded Cobra Commander (1984 - 1990)

As a kid my parents really didn't go in for the mail away figures all that much - With the exception of the early Star Wars figures. Perhaps I didn't nag them as much with the Joe line as I did with Star Wars.

Regardless, Hooded Cobra Commander was one of the very few figures I got via the mail, and mind you it was more so around 1985 or 1986 - Remember, I didn't jump on the Joe wagon until 85'.

Hooded Cobra Commander was also only one of the two Commander figures I had. I never got the original metal helmet version - At least I don't recall getting one. Instead, my next version was the all metallic silver suited version.

3 & 4 - Tomax and Xamot (1985)

The Crimson Guard Commanders. AKA Tomax and Xamot - Which blows my mind every time it dawns on me that Xamot is just Tomax backwards. For some reason I missed that for the longest time, and oddly enough keep forgetting only to have it blow my mind again.

Xamot and Tomax were the first Joe figures that a kid gave me when we were outside playing one day. It wasn't my birthday. It wasn't Christmas. We were just outside goofing around, and he said, "You can have these." Blew my mind!

Sadly, I don't remember who that generous kid was. In fact, truth be told I think he was just some unpopular kid with very few friends, and I happened to come across him one day outside playing. He may have even been trying to buy my friendship. Clearly it didn't work since I can't really remember him.

5 - Scarlett (1982)

Then there was an actual friend of mine - Josh McIntyre. Josh had a Joe collection that rivaled mine, and he even had the privilege of having the classics from 1982.

Scarlett became the first figure I (clearing throat) borrowed from Josh without his knowledge. Yeah, I know, right...What a terrible friend I was.

Before I moved away I gave the figure back by way of putting it back in his Joe collection without his knowledge. I even later confessed in a phone conversation with him (from many miles away) that I had taken it back when we were younger. He didn't seem to care at that point.

6 - Snake Eyes (1985)

Of course you can't have a Joe collection and not have Snake Eyes. Though many kids loved Snake Eyes as a character, and for hours of enjoyment of playing with the figure, I have a memory so vivid for a completely other reason.

Snake Eyes became my one and only figure I stuck in a Vaseline jar. I was playing one day, and however these things come about I decided that he needed to sink in a swamp of sorts. The jar of Vaseline became that swamp, and the figure was never the same again. His joints were a wobbly loose mess after that, and he never was able to stand again. He also retained a very slick texture.

Morale of the story - Vaseline and toys don't mix.

Side note - I was the uncredited voice actor of Snake Eyes in the show. Feel free to send requests for my autograph.

7 - Sci-Fi (1986)

It was right around the time that I first saw Robocop that I also got Sci-Fi. Bad parenting allowing a child to watch such a morbidly graphic film aside, Sci-Fi quickly became my G.I. Joe Robocop figure.

Paired with General Hawk's 45 caliber pistol he schooled Cobra villain after Cobra villain. I spent hours on the floor in my bedroom shouting, "Drop it," and "Dead or alive you're coming with me!" Of course this was all followed by machine gun noises and groans of pain. Good times!

Robocop Sci-Fi remains one of my all time favorites from the series.

8 - Storm Shadow (1988)

Much like Snake Eyes, you can't have a Joe collection without Storm Shadow. As a kid I never actually had the original version - Despite my memories telling me, "Yes you did." So, maybe I actually did. I don't know.

What I do know is that when I got this particular version of the character I had a blast!

I vividly remember setting up zip lines across the den of my parent's house and spending hours that day acting out a ninja based story surrounding the character. It was great times until I heard those dreaded words, "Bed time!"

9 - Low-Light (Slaughter's Marauders) (1989)

Low-Light here from the Slaughter's Marauders line is memorable for a very sad reason. He was the last figure I got in the G.I. Joe line as a kid.

Truth be told, by the time he found his way into my collection I was well on my way out of toys (as a child). Video games had taken my mind by storm, and I was more so into playing NES.

We were traveling from Oregon to Virginia when mom and dad stopped at a Toys R' Us off the highway - Probably because they were tired of hearing my brother and I saying, "We're bored!"

As I made my way down the toy isle I spotted the character and asked if I could get him. Even my mother said, "You don't play with them anymore." After my protesting, she finally said, "If that's what you want."

I think he kept me entertained for a few hours, and then was thrown into the pile of boxes I didn't open for years when we got to our new home. I guess mom was right.

10 - Steel Brigade (1987)

The last figure on my list is memorable for a sad reason as well. Steel Brigade was the one figure I wanted so very, very much as a kid, but my parents wouldn't yield. I filled out the mail away order form so many different times that I don't even remember how many at this point.

Every time I got a new figure that had the mail away offer I gave the form to my mom, crossing my fingers that this time she would bite. It never happened. As I said from the start, I had a lot of G.I. Joe toys. Sadly, this is one of the very few I was never allowed to get.

So there you have it. (Some of) my most memorable Joe figures from my childhood. There were many others, but since the list is limited to ten, I'll leave it at that. Maybe the League will have a "Listicular Fortitude II" round. Maybe I'll just do my own anyway. I don't know.

Other League members have jumped in already with their lists. Check them out if you're into the whole reading thing;

Brother Midnight provides a couple lists - My favorite being his list of spooky cartoons.
20 Years Before 2000 links ten commercials which popped into his head! Legend of Zelda for the win!
Toy Break also takes the path of G.I. Joe, and I swear I didn't read it until after I had mine typed up.
Mr. Smith's Plastic Bubble lists ten influential toy lines - Which G.I. Joe also makes an appearance on.

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