Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 2012 Recap



Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in July 2012. If you missed any, or simply want to see them again, click on each "title" to be taken directly to that post. As always, thanks for reading.

Guitar Hero
Food Fighters
Inhumanoids
King of the Hill
Geoffrey T. Carlton - Star Wars Super Collector's Wish Book
Sega Master System
The Adventures of Batman and Robin
Wetworks
Youngblood
Futurama

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Futurama (Toynami)



With the success of The Simpsons, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen pitched the idea of Futurama to Fox. It was a series that followed the adventures of Philip Fry, a 20th century pizza delivery man who is accidentally cryogenically frozen, and thawed in the 31st century. In the show, Fry works for his distant relative Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth as a delivery man for Planet Express along side his new friends, Bender, Leela, Zoidberg, Amy, and Hermes.

The cast includes such notable names as Billy West (Ren and Stimpy), Katey Sagal (Married...With Children), Phil LaMarr (Madtv), Lauren Tom (King of the Hill), Tress MacNeille (More animated movies and shows than we could ever list), and John DiMaggio as the voice of Bender (and also Marcus Fenix from the Xbox 360 exclusive series Gears of War).

The series ran from 1999 to 2003, then was dropped. The show was immediately picked up by Cartoon Network, and ran in syndication from 2003 to 2007. When their contract expired, Comedy Central not only picked up the rights to run the show in syndication, but also the rights to produce new episodes. The show was recently renewed for its seventh season on the network.

In terms of action figures based on an animated television show, the 2007-2009 Toynami series of Futurama toys is one of the best we've ever seen. Not only are the figures meticulously sculpted to match their animated counterparts, but the packaging is one fine piece of colorful eye candy. Each small box is uniquely designed to coincide with the figure inside.

Unlike most toy lines, Futurama's was not broken down by any particular series, but rather by year. Tonami would announce what figures they were producing in any specific year, and then proceeded forward. There were no waves, or series numbers.

While there was certainly room for the series to grow, in its three year span Toynami made sure to produce the majority of major players in the series, though they didn't steer too far from this path to produce many secondary figures.

An interesting aspect to the series mimics one as seen in the recent Hasrbo Star Wars line where with each figure you purchase you receive one part for a robot. There were three robots that could be completed by purchasing every figure - Robot Devil, Roberto and Robot Santa. A better sculpted, and more durable Robot Santa would become available later as an exclusive, but this would remain the only way to obtain the Robot Devil and Roberto figures.

The full list of basic figures include;


Amy (2009)
Bender (2008)
Calculon (2008)
Chef Bender (2009)
Captain Yesterday (2008)
Clobberella (2009)
Fry (2007)
Hermes (2009)
Kiff (2008)
Leela (2008)
Mom (2009)
Nudar (2008)
Professor Farnsworth (2009)
Super King (2008)
Zap Brannigan (2008)
Zoidberg (2007)



There were five exclusive packs produced for the series;

Fry and Leela (San Diego Comic Con 2009)
Santa Bender and Robot Santa (San Diego Comic Con 2008)
Zoidberg - Mating Season (San Diego Comic Con 2007)
Glorious Golden Bender (San Diego Comic Con 2007)
Zoidberg - Mating Season - Blue Variant (Toyfare 2007)

There were also small "Tineez" figures produced that while they have the same type of packaging are not considered to be part of the set. We won't go into those here.

The secondary market has been incredibly kind to these figures. Depending on the character, one alone can set you back a hundred dollars, with the majority selling for between fifty and sixty dollars each. This is excellent news for secondary market dealers, and a nightmare for buyers. But, no matter how you look at it, that's an impressive price increase in a series that ended only a few years ago.

Join us next time when we take a look at Stargate!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Youngblood (McFarlane Toys)



Rob Liefeld has become somewhat of a punching bag for the comic industry ever since the early 1990's. Some of it is merited, but there is a fair amount of the blame that is simply there for the sake of him being the scapegoat.

Like the majority of Image Comics artists, Mr. Liefeld made his departure from Marvel Comics with the idea of being a self published artist seeing all the reward and benefits from creating characters, and not just receiving a tiny kickback from it. His first venture would be Youngblood - A series about a superhero team sanctioned and overseen by the United States government. As one of the flagship titles for Image Comics, it saw major success in terms of sales, but wasn't necessarily critically acclaimed for its story, which led to Liefeld firing his co-writer.


Placo Toys actually attempted a Youngblood toy series in 1995 which saw very little success. When the opportunity arose, Liefeld turned to McFarlane Toys in 1996 in hopes of getting a toy line off the ground.

The series launched with six figures which would become the one and only set released for the line - with the exception of the two pack which contained the Youngblood figure Shaft and the Wetworks figure Mother-One. Shortly after the release of the two pack the series was cancelled. However it is speculated that this was not solely based on the sales of figures, but rather the standing of Mr. Liefeld as CEO of Image Comics.

It was alleged that Liefeld was using his check writing "powers" to pay personal expenses out of Image Comics funds. He was often times accused of making business decisions that were counterproductive to the business, and lost a lot of respect from his fellow Image alumni when it was found that he was recruiting Image talent in hopes of luring employees to his new independent company and projects. However, the most shocking allegation was that he was copying and/or tracing his comics from other people's artwork - Something that to this day has never been proven.


Liefeld announced that he was leaving Image Comics shortly before an official press release from core Image founders announcing that he had been fired. Since then he has struggled to find the foothold in the comic world that he used to have. This is mainly due to his inability to meet deadlines. Even when given the opportunity to produce books again for Marvel's Reborn line, Liefeld did not deliver books as promised, and the contract was terminated.

In 2007 it was announced that he would return to Image Comics, and that several new series were in the works related to Youngblood. The once flagship title of the company is back in production, and slowly picking up steam.

In interviews he often times refers to himself as the Britney Spears of comics. Hot, hot, hot, then suddenly not, not, not. We simply see him as an artist who got too big for his britches, and instead of focusing on his books and meeting deadlines, thought he could get by on selling his name via interviews. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. In spite of all of this though, Liefeld does have a strong following of fans that are eager to buy when he bothers to produce.

Join us next time when we take a look at Toynami's Futurama!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Wetworks (McFarlane Toys)




Wetworks was initially designed to be one of Image Comics core launch titles in 1992. Created by artist Whilce Portacio and writer Brandon Choi, the premise was to be about a team of black operatives who did battle against supernatural forces. Unfortunately due to the death of Portacio's sister, the series was put on hold, and wouldn't see the light of day until 1994. This in turn resulted in a hard blow to Image Comics.

During this time the internet was a relatively untapped source, and as a result fans couldn't necessarily turn to anywhere to find out what the delay was all about. As far as the majority of fans were concerned this was nothing more than the typical tactics currently leading the way at Image by way of announcing titles, then delaying/cancelling them with no word as to why. Due to fans not knowing the true reason of its delay, many did not support the title, and Image Comics slowly began to break up from the inside out.

Writer Mike Carey and creator Whilce Portacio attempted to revitalize the title in 2006 with an all new series. It was cancelled after only fifteen issues.

With sales of the original series sputtering, Portacio turned to Image alumni Todd McFarlane who had recently found the best way to reach collectors was through his newly developed toy company, McFarlane Toys. Six figures (and one variant), which would become series one, were released in 1995 under the Wetworks name. They sold moderately well, mainly due to McFarlane's name being on the package.

A second series was produced and released in 1996 which contained another six figures. This time the series included three variant figures.


In 1995 a two pack which contained the Wetworks character Mother-One, and the Youngblood character Shaft was released. It sold moderately well, but not to the extent of what everyone behind it was expecting.

Today Image Comics are often times the punch line of the joke in the world of comics. What was once some of the most valuable modern times comics in the world can't even be given away. The majority of sales were based on hype, and the quality of the stories often times failed to deliver in the same regard as the quality of artwork. It was a brilliant idea at the time, and certainly paved the way for independent comic book writers/artists, but was certainly a lesson learned for the majority of people who left their comfortable jobs at companies such as Marvel and DC, only to end up going back to them when their business ventures failed.

Join us next time when we take a look at Youngblood!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Adventures of Batman and Robin (Kenner)



The Adventures of Batman and Robin is technically a continuation of the Batman the Animated Series line, both in cartoons and action figures. Due to Robin being more prominent in the series, the series title was changed from Batman the Animated Series to The Adventures of Batman and Robin. The series, which encompassed the second season, ran for twenty episodes. In total, the series saw eighty-five episodes which ran from 1992 to 1995.

When the show switched names, so did the action figure line. While Kenner had found a strong foothold in the toy isle with Batman figures, fan praise of the series was dropping rapidly by this point. The major flaw of the series was that too much focus of it was on repainted Batman figures with new accessories. In fact, finding a traditionally dressed Batman figure in these days was next to impossible.

Only eight basic figures were produced. Three of which were Batman variations.


Hover Jet Batman, Paraglide Batman, Rocketpak Batman, Pogostick Joker
The Joker, Ra's' Al Ghul, Harley Quinn, Bane


The most highly sought after item in the series is the impressive Rogues Gallery Box Settings. This set included eight different villains, all boxed in a jail sell type box.

The set included Catwoman, Man-Bat, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, The Joker, Clayface, and The Phantasm.


Rogues Gallery


A Target exclusive vehicle was released for the series, and was the only one to accompany the basic figure assortment. It included an exclusive Batman figure inside.


Nightsphere


The Crime Squad subseries was also incorporated into The Adventures of Batman and Robin line. It contained five basic figures that were all Batman variations.


Bomb Control Batman, Disaster Control Batman, Fast Pursuit Batman
Super Sonic Batman, Ski Blast Batman


Two deluxe figures were also produced, and again were nothing beyond Batman variations.


Skycopter Batman, Tri Wing Batman


Duo Force was the second sub series for the line, and unlike the prior mentioned Crime Squad line included other figures than just Batman. Though there were still three different variations of him, including two variations of Robin. Batgirl was a nice addition to this line, as are the two villains, Mr. Freeze and The Riddler.

Some collectors consider the Vector Wing Batman to be a deluxe figure, though there are no markings on the package that would lead one to this conclusion.


Cycle Thruster Batman, Turbo Surge Batman, Air Strike Robin, Hydro Storm Robin
Wind Blitz Batgirl, Mr. Freeze, The Riddler, Vector Wing Batman


Batman figures have come and gone since the dawn of time, and will probably continue to do so long after the majority of us are gone. Though each line starts out strong, they seem to all suffer the same fate - too many repainted Batman figures.

While we're not going to, and would never say that this makes for a bad series, because we do believe there are some out there who do enjoy it, we personally find it hard to have any interest in a toy line that we feel milks its fans for every penny they're worth. We also feel that Batman series are notorious for doing this.

Join us next time for our look at Wetworks!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Sega Master System (Sega)




The Sega Master System first debuted in 1985 in Japan, and later in North America (1986) and Europe (1987). It was to be come the first contender to step in the ring with Nintendo for dominance during the home console war.

Unlike the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Master System could play two types of games; cartridge based, and thin "credit card" based. The thinner "credit card" based games were generally cheaper at retail, but were also typically simpler designed games due to the inability to store a high capacity of information. The system was also compatible with a light gun, and featured 3D glasses for use with specifically coded games.

Probably one of the most unique things about the Master System was that the console itself contained games that were built into the system - known as BIOS. These games could be played when a cartridge or card was not inserted into the system. Depending on what model of the console you bought would determine what games were built in.

The system found the most success in Europe where it actually beat Nintendo as the highest selling console. However it failed to nick the surface in Japan and the USA. This was in part because of the monopoly that Nintendo was hard at work creating. In its contracts, Nintendo forced third party game developers to produce games exclusively for their system, and levied heavy fines against any who tried to stray from this. Out of this fear to breach contracts, and lose any potential status with Nintendo, Sega was left picking the scraps up from designers and developers who could get, or didn't want to be in with Nintendo. As a result, there are a larger majority of what gamers consider to be "poor" games for the Sega Master System as compared to the Nintendo Entertainment System.

However, this was not the whole reason why the system failed in the USA. The majority of the blame falls on Tonka who was licensed to market the system in America. As a toy manufacturer, Tonka reps had no experience in marketing video game consoles, and as a result they did so very poorly. With displeasure in Tonka, when it came time to release their follow up console, the Sega Genesis, Sega took matters into their own hands, and marketed the system themselves.

There were also far less games for the system. While Nintendo had almost (if not more than) a thousand games, the Sega Master System's catalog is only a few hundred. Considering how strong the system sold in Europe from 1987-1996, that's not a whole lot of games produced when compared to the time frame. It didn't help that months would go by without any major releases from developers.

While over the course of its time the Sega Master System saw many console variants such as the Mark III, Master System II, and Master System 3, the most notable is the 2006 handheld version which was distributed in the USA by Coleco. It didn't necessarily make the games better, but had a strong nostalgic following.

In 2009, the Master System was voted as the 20th best console (out of 25) - Quiet a slap in the face considering that the prior generation consoles Intellivision ranked in at number fourteen, the Colecovision ranked in at number twelve, and Atari 2600 came in at number two. We'll let you guess who number one was on that list.

Now join us as we take a look at every single game produced for the Sega Master System;



































































Yes, the Sega Master System lost the fight, but for what its worth, it stands as the first true challenger to Nintendo, and with the release of their next console, the lines in the sand was drawn even wider, and while the war had started, a true battle was on the horizon.

Join us next time when we take a look at The Adventures of Batman and Robin!

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