Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 2012 Recap



Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in September 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.

Mork and Mindy
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Futurama
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
All-Star
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Last Action Hero
Our Gang

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our Gang (Mego)



Our Gang, more commonly known as The Little Rascals to today's generation was a series of shorts created by Hal Roach. Two hundred twenty shorts (as well as one full length movie) were produced since the series was introduced in the 1920's, making it one of the largest serial series ever made. Characters such as Alfalfa, Spanky, Darla, Froggy, and Buckwheat quickly became household names, and to this day are iconic characters.

Due to the ever growing popularity of the show, as well as the ever growing children used for it, it became necessary to replace the children every few years with new actors. Thus when shows are run in syndication today, it can cause some confusion for viewers who aren't necessarily educated on the series background.

When the serial first began in the 20's, the films were silent. This allowed Roach to focus on letting the children act like children, as opposed to sticking to scripts, which the majority of the children couldn't read. However, when the serial was converted to "talkies", the common term for movies that made the leap from silent to sound, it forced the children actors to quickly develop their reading skills if they wanted to be a part of the show.

The series was way ahead of its time by way of casting. In an era where white males were considered dominant, it was impressive and commendable that the series cast both black children, and also females in equal lead character roles - Something that wouldn't be notable in a series until almost five decades later in Gene Rodenberry's original Star Trek series.

After years of gradual cast changes, the troupe standardized in 1936 with the move to one-reel shorts, lasting just ten minutes in length. Most casual fans of Our Gang are particularly familiar with the 1936–1939 incarnation of the cast: Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Buckwheat, and Porky, with recurring characters such as neighborhood bullies Butch and Woim and bookworm Waldo.

These are also the characters that Mego's 1975 line were based on. With the show in full syndication (now under the title "The Little Rascals"), Mego took the still rising popularity of the series as an opportunity to produce eight inch "dolls". Though interesting to note is that the toys produced were not under the banner "The Little Rascals", but rather the original series title, "Our Gang".

Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Spanky, Mickey, Porky, and Darla were all produced for the series. Each character came packed on a cardboard backer designed to look like the side of the gang's clubhouse wall, and contained fantastic fully painted representations of the six figures available. Each doll was dressed in a traditional garb as seen in the serials.




Mego also produced a Clubhouse playset which included a scooter, and two vehicles - The Orange Crate Cart, and Rowboat.

Unlike most traditional Mego playsets which were cardboard "set pieces", the Clubhouse playset was a fairly large plastic box that opened from the front on a hinge. It also included a strap at the top for transporting it.

Each piece (the playset and vehicles) were designed to look like they had been put together with planks, and complimented each other perfectly.



Today, the dolls are actually easier to obtain than the Clubhouse, Orange Crate Cart, and Rowboat - Especially sealed ones. A full set of figures can sell for as little as $200.00 (depending on condition), while the vehicles fetch 1/4 of that price for open ones, and more than $200.00 for sealed ones. The Clubhouse sells for even more at $100.00 loose, and three to four times that price for sealed ones.

Join us on September 30, 2012 for a special announcement!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Last Action Hero (Mattel)



Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1993 film Last Action Hero will probably never go down in history as one of his better movies. The film itself was written to be a parody of action movies of the era, but unfortunately the joke was lost on the majority of movie goers. Many saw it as a poorly written action film that said farewell to Schwarzenegger's career as the top action star he was in the 80's.

Preparing for the film to be a huge success, Mattel licensed the rights to produce a line of toys. It turned out to be a poor marketing move. With the film a flop, it left several toys on pegs which were eventually moved to the clearance isle.

As far as action figures go, they weren't bad. The sculpts were pretty spot on for their time, and the packaging was rather eye catching, done in the same artistic style as the movie poster itself.

Seven figures were produced including one variant. Out of those seven figures, four were based off of Schwarzenegger's character, Jack Slatter. The one variant being another Jack Slatter figure, which was packed with either black or white handcuffs. Each figure came packed with an incredible amount of accessories - Though they didn't necessarily pertain to the film.

The figures produced were;

Axe Swingin' Ripper
Dynamite Jack Slater
Evil Eye Benedict
Heat Packin' Jack
Hook Launchin' Danny
Skull Attack Jack
Undercover Jack (Black and White Handcuff Variants)

Two vehicles were also produced, Evil Eye Roadster and Slater's Convertible. Each vehicle came in a medium size rectangular box, also depicted with fantastic artwork.

The film may have been a flop, and on the first release, the figures may not have impressed many either. However, from a collector's standpoint, these are far from the worst figures we've ever seen. In fact, with regards to accuracy in sculpting, they're pretty good. They're definitely worth a second consideration for action figure collector's looking to purchase something new.

Join us next time when we take a look at Our Gang!

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Neca)




When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles launched in comic book form in May of 1984, the world could never have perceived the huge following such a small independent company (Mirage Studios) would build with only one title. Its initial 3,000 copies sold out almost overnight, and since then has seen numerous reprints of several issues of the 62 individual (comic) books.

Since its original conception, the series has been developed for television, film, a live rock and roll concert sponsored by Pizza Hut, and of course toys. Playmates produced the very first action figures based on the four brothers, which was in turn based on the concepts as seen in the animated series. We've touched on a few of those series in the past, but today we're focusing on the Neca series.


Right off the bat you can see the conceptual disgn difference between Playmates and NECA's toys. As we said, Playmates was based more on the animated show, while NECA's were based off the original designs for the comic book. This was both a pro and con for the series.

It was a pro because purist fans of the Turtles were able to get their hands on what they considered to be the "original" characters. For example, throughout the comic series, the four brothers all wore red bandanas. There was no distinguishing between the characters by colored ones as seen in the cartoon. This in turn led to one of the biggest cons of the series. People who weren't aware of this, specifically in foreign markets were confused by all of the characters wearing red bandanas, and didn't recognize the toys - Or rather, the individual characters.

Okay, these four "color" versions of the figures may be bootlegs, but in terms of quality, they're some of the best bootlegs ever produced. NECA never produced any of the Turtles with their colored bandanas. It's unknown who produced these, but they have duped many a fan and second hand dealer that they were getting a rare set of variants.





The toys contained an amazing amount of detail both to the figures and weapons/accessories. For the first series, NECA released all four Turtles both in a PVC bubble package, and in PVC tube packaging. Its uncertain why this drastic change was made between packaging midway through the series, but if we had to weigh in, we prefer the PVC bubble packaging to the tubes.

In addition to the individual packs, NECA released a four pack of the group. While the standard (full color) figures was more commonly found, it is rumored, but not confirmed that the black and white chase figure set (which was initially released at Comic Con - see below) was also made available via retail channels. The most notable difference would be that the retail version (again, if it exists) would not contain the San Diego Comic Con logo.

However, both sets were initially made available at specific conventions (again, see below).


Two PVC bubble packaged exclusive figures were produced for the line - Mouser (3 pack), and April O'Neil. Both were produced for San Diego Comic Con - The Mouser 3 pack for 2008, and April for 2009.

Much like the Turtles, the April O'Neil was confusing to collector's unfamiliar with the comic. In the initial story that April is introduced in, she wears a blue jump suit - Whereas in the cartoon series, the character was always seen in a yellow colored jumpsuit. For the purists, this was awesome - For the cartoon fans, again, confusing.

As we mentioned above, the four pack box sets were first made available at conventions. Both released in 2008, the full color turtles were sold at New York Comic Con, and the black and white set at San Diego Comic Con. The only difference in the packaging is the sticker adhered to the front.



This could also explain the supposed retail version of the black and white set. Since it is just a sticker, it is possible that someone removed it from the box, but we can't understand why someone would do that intentionally. So, until we know for sure, the supposed retail version remains a mystery.

What's interesting about the New York Comic Con full color set is that it is actually harder to find one that isn't autographed as opposed to ones that are. During the convention, Peter Larid, co-creator of TMNT was on hand to sign autographs. As a result, the majority of buyers of the four packs had them signed.

A second series was scheduled to be released, and even made it as far as the prototype phase. There are two major contributing factors as to why the series was never produced and released.

The first - Unfortunately the series was dealt a major blow when Playmates filed a claim against NECA that forbid them to sell the toys in retail stores due to their existing contract.

There were four figures set for release; Shredder, Foot Soldier, Shredder with Krang pack in, and April O'Neil. You'll notice that the prototype April O'Neil is actually the same as the San Diego Comic Con exclusive. However it was never intended for this particular version to be released.


The second - As we mentioned above, foreign markets in particular were confused by what they considered to be a new look for the characters, and as a result were not recognizing the figures for whom or what they were. To see if there was a strong foreign market for the toys, NECA planned to release figures one at a time to see if sales would justify production. The first attempt would have included April O'Neil as seen above. The regular figure would have depicted her in the yellow jumpsuit as seen in the cartoon, in hopes that she would be more recognizable to fans overseas. A chase variant with her in a green jumpsuit would also be produced and sold at the same time.

However, due to the first reason above, I.E. Playmates forbidding the toys to be sold in retail stores, this concept was never tested, and the series was put on hold with no official word of cancellation yet.

For us, this series is a thousand times better than Playmates original toys. We fell in love with the Turtles from issue one back in 1984, and love the idea of having toys based on it. Not that the Playmates toys were terrible, we love them too, but NECA's versions hold a much larger piece of our nostalgic loving heart. Plus, they’re just so cool looking.

We really hope that Playmates and NECA can come to some form of resolution that these second series toys (and beyond) can see the light of day. Though with the release of new figures from Playmates based on the new animated series on Nickelodeon, we don't know how likely this is going to be.

Join us next time when we take a look at Last Action Hero!

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Monday, September 17, 2012

All-Star (DC Direct)



Mainstay characters such as Batman, Superman, The Joker, Lex Luthor, and more have always been the bread and butter of DC Comics, making them a household name that has run strong as early as the 1940's. Despite the various twists and turns the comic world takes, or how many new series are produced, DC always circles back to the characters who have been icons for generations.


This is the same in the toy world. No matter how many different toys are produced, it's pretty much a guarantee that at any point in time you can walk down a toy isle and find your favorite superheroes on a peg in some form or fashion. Be it large series based lines, or smaller, more compact lines.

In 2009, DC Direct released a small line of wonderful figures - DC All-Stars. All-Star was an imprint of ongoing comic book titles published by DC Comics that ran from 2005 to 2008 featuring Batman and Superman, which the toy line was based on. The idea of the imprint was to bring the most acclaimed writers and artists together with top tier DC characters to present their interpretation for a modern audience that have not read these DC characters' comics previously, or had not seen them lately.

The DC Direct toy line included Batman, Batgirl, Superman, and the less heard of Super Lois from the Anttimater Universe. Each figure came packed in a sealed PVC packaging with a unique cardboard back packed in. The colors of the cardboard were designed to match the uniform of the figure's uniform inside.


Along with the four individual figures, an All-Star Superman Collector Set which included a slightly resculpted Superman and Bizarro figures inside was released. This particular item came in a window box, and once again utilized the color scheme of Superman's costume, much like the individual figure. Packed behind the figures was a limited edition 160 page reprint of All-Star Superman Volume 1 written by Grant Morrison with art by Frank Quietly.

The line was mildly successful, and since it didn't have the flaw that most comic book based lines had - excessive repaints, it was well received by comic purists. Unfortunately DC Direct failed to capitalize fully on the line by stopping at the handful of figures released in 2009.

Join us next time when we take a look at Neca's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Neca)



20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has been a fan favorite since Jules Verne published the book in 1870. Since then it has been reprinted, adapted to comic, and immortalized on both television and the big screen.


However, a classic book doesn't necessarily transfer into a hot toy line. Mezco made an odd move in 2001 when they produced two figures/playsets based on the title. Despite their fantastic sculpts and unique packaging, for obvious reasons, failed to impress toy collectors.

Cabin Control Nemo, and Wave Rider Nemo would be the only two figures produced. Each figure came packed with a mini playset which served as both a figure stand, and background display for the characters.

It was an interesting release from Mezco, and we can't quite figure out what their possible motivation could have been for producing the series, but for what it's worth, they're not bad figures.

Join us next time when we take a look at DC Direct's All-Star!

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Futurama (Moore Action Collectibles)



There's not much we can say about the show Futurama that we didn't say already in our prior post based on the Toynami brand figures.

Prior to Toynami's Futurama toy line a smaller series was released by Moore Action Collectibles in 2002. The line covered the basic of basic figures - Fry, Leela, and Bender. It also included a smaller version of the Planet Express ship, which was shrunken down to fit into the packaging size that the figures were in. It was obviously not designed to be interactive with the figures themselves.



During the series, two exclusives were produced - Chef Bender (Previews Exclusive), and Leela in a swimsuit (Toyfare Exclusive). The Leela figure can be found in both a carded and boxed edition.



The Futurama line was discontinued shortly after the two exclusives were released. Moore Action Collectibles hasn't been heard from or seen since 2004 when the company released its final Buffy the Vampire Slayer toys. The companies lines of toys such as Beavis and Butthead, Kabuki, Fathom, and more were definitely unique, but unfortunately without a strong leading line, could not compete with today's fast paced action figure world.

Join us next time when we take a look at 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas!

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Diamond Select)



Conceived in 1975 in between the third and fourth series of the television show, Monty Python and the Holy Grail would become the troupe’s first official movie. It would also launch the group from BBC stars to international cult film status. When the film launched, fans new and old were quick to adopt catch phrases and personas of the characters. It would also open new opportunities up to the cast which included; Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.

The film follows King Arthur as he searches for the Holy Grail, picking up a quirky band of Knights on the way. From angry French guards to deadly rabbits, and a Black Knight that refuses to yeild even in defeat, pretty much every minute of the film is filled with some form of quirky, or down right silly humor. Its a classic masterpiece.

Despite the success of the troupe, and their continued hits both on television and film, it wouldn't be until almost three decades later that they would be bestowed the honor of having an action figure line. Diamond Select produced six figures based on the film The Holy Grail in 2003, and while it included the majority of the main cast, left room to grow - which unfortunately never happened.

Each figure came in a window view box, and despite the incredible detail to the characters clothing and accessories was unfortunately lacking in detail when capturing the look of the actors.

While the line found a niche in the action figure world, it didn't sell as good as anticipated, and was cancelled. Had this line been released twenty years ago, or even right after the film was produced, sales would have probably been through the roof. Sadly by the time someone finally figured out that there was a market for these figures that market had already come and gone.

But, missed market or not, these are some great figures, and well worth adding to your collection if you’re a fan of Monty Python, or simply great figures in general.

Join us next time when we take a look at Moore Action Collectibles - Futurama!

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Mork and Mindy (Mattel)



"Na-Nu Na-Nu" and "Shazbot". These are just some of the silly words you'll hear in a typical episode of Mork and Mindy. The series starred Robin Williams as Mork, and Pam Dawber as Mindy McConnell, Mork's roommate, and eventual significant other.

The series itself is a spin-off of the series Happy Days, and spawned from an episode in which Mork from Ork arrives on Earth to take Richie back to his home planet for study. The episode turns out to be nothing more than a dream sequence, but audiences liked the character so much that a series was put into production.

Unlike the Happy Days episode which took place in the setting of the 1950's, Mork and Mindy was a current period series setting it in the late 1970's, early 1980's. Mork lands on Earth with the premise of ovserving humans. Mork is chosen for the mission by his superior Orson (voiced by Ralph James) simply to get him off the planet as humor is not permitted.

Mork and Mindy meet up when Mindy is stranded after having an argument with her boyfriend. She mistakes him for a priest, and is happy with his eagerness to listen to her. After going to her apartment, she finds that he is an alien, and promises to keep his secret.

At first Mork and Mindy were simply roommates, but as the series continued they formed a romantic relationship, eventually leading to their marriage in the fourth and final season.

In its first season the show was incredibly popular. However by the second season, ABC executives were eager to grab a younger audience, and began making changes. This was notable from the start with the disco based re-recording of the theme song. The second series also saw the addition and removal of key players.

With the start of the third season, ABC acknowledged its mistake of re-visioning the show after such a strong start, and returned some of key cast members from the first season. They even nodded at their error by naming the first hour long episode, "Putting the Ork Back in Mork". Unfortunately these changes failed to bring back prior viewers. Despite poor ratings the show was renewed for a fourth and final season where the two main characters marry. After 95 episodes, the series was cancelled.


In 1980, Mattel swooped in for the license opportunity. They produced two dolls, Mork and Mindy (respectively), and no more. The dolls poorly resembled their actor counterparts, and found little success with young girls (and boys) of the era.

The figure of Mork came packaged in a large box, and depicted the character upside down to capitalize on his off the wall nature. The Mindy figure came in a smaller box typically designed to match dolls released during this time - I.E. rectangle box with equally sized tab to the left. Both packages were fairly bland even with their bright red color.

The most difficult piece to come by these days is Mindy's jeep - Respectfully known as 4-Wheel Drive on the package. Oddly enough, when found, the majority of them are either still sealed in the box, or at the very least come with it.

With rapidly declining sales, most likely due to declining interest in the series from the season two changes, Mattel pulled the plug on their dolls, never to return to them. To this day no other toy line pertaining to the actual characters of Mork and Mindy has ever been produced. This is possibly due to the cost it would incur for licensing Robin William's likeness. He's not exactly a washed up 80's television star these days.

Join us next time when we take a look at Monty Python and the Holy Grail!

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