Monday, October 31, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge - Cast Your Ballot

This week's Pop Culture League Challenge came at just the right time. Cast your ballot is the name of the game, and as I said, the timing couldn't be more perfect.

As I was at the local Safeway this weekend, I came across this year's Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry offerings. This of course made me have to have them - Because who doesn't love sugary sweet breakfast cereals? Especially when they take you back to the 80's, and memories of Saturday morning cartoons.

Well, long story short, this year's Count Chocula and the gang themed boxes fall right in line with this week's League challenge. See if you can figure it out...

That's right! Cast your ballot for your favorite Halloween cereal mascot! Will you vote for Boo Berry, Count Chocula, Franken Berry, or be like me, and remain on the fence. I mean, picking which one of these cereals (or their mascots) is the best is like choosing which of your children you love more.

I do have to admit that I love this concept though. It's a fun way to get kids into the spirit of voting, and sure, even adults. Truth be told, I'd rather have Count Chocula and his gang in the White House over the choices we have currently.

As I savored my first bowl of cereal...We'll call it Count Franken Boo (you know, a mixture of all three), I couldn't help but think back to those great days of sitting on the couch watching cartoons, and drooling over the toy commercials that came in between. This in turn reminded me of the great figures that Kubrick produced in 2006.

Each character was represented in their own bubble package, backed by a card back that featured artwork from some of the original boxes of the cereals. For those into chase variants, Kubrick also released a set of glow in the dark versions.

It's really awesome to live in a time where we can find all kinds of great toys. With the various companies out there, virtually no stone goes unturned. We can find the most popular of franchise - You know, your Star Wars, G.I. Joes, He-Man and such. On the other hand, we can find the more obscure that appeals to a niche audience - Dragon's Lair, Madballs, and yes, even cereal mascots. What a fun era to be a collector.

Action Figure Barbecue asked a few weeks ago what things got people in the mood for Halloween. Sadly, this was an obvious one that didn't spring to mind when I replied to that post. The cereal screams of nostalgia, and Halloween all in one which is why it will always be a treasured part of my nutritious breakfast.

No replies have been posted to the League question as of this posting, so check the main page for any updates that come in.

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Little Dracula (DreamWorks / Bandai)

Little Dracula
DreamWorks / Bandai

Happy Halloween, all! In honor of the day, we're going to cast our sights at a relatively unknown / forgotten series from DreamWorks / Bandai. 1991's Little Dracula!

Little Dracula was a character created for UK children's books by Irish Author Martin Waddell which became a US television series...Whoa, that's a lot of countries involved with one series. The stories began being published in 1986 with the first book, "Little Dracula's First Bite". It would be followed by seven more books, unofficially ending with 1992's, "Little Dracula's Other Monstrous Poster".

In 1991, Fox Kid's picked up the rights, and developed it as an animated series. Unfortunately appeal never really took hold, and as such the series was cancelled after just one season (13 episodes). However, just because US children didn't enjoy the series didn't mean that it was a total flop. France and Germany television studios ordered an additional 13 episodes for a second season which aired throughout various European countries.

The year Little Dracula debuted on television, an action figure line was produced by DreamWorks / Bandai. Why DreamWorks and Bandai? That's easy enough to answer. DreamWorks released the figures in the US, while Bandai handled the remaining globe.

Each figure featured numerous accessories as well as an action feature which was activated by twisting arms, legs, hands, feet, or simply by pushing a button - Corresponding to each figure as denoted on the bottom left of each package. Unfortunately for the toy line, it was as short lived as the television series in the US.

With that said, nine figures did manage to make their way to retail shelves. This wasn't bad considering it covered the majority of ground of the characters from the show. In fact, the only figures that didn't make it to plastic were; Big Dracula, Granny, Millicent, Ms. Dracula and Hannah the Barbarian - Certainly enough for a second series should popularity have garnered such a release.

In addition to the figures, four vehicles were produced. While all of them were made available in Europe under the Bandia banner, only two made their way to the US via DreamWorks. What's interesting to note is that depending on which area of Europe you look for the Coffin Car will depend on what it's called. It's been found in boxes denoted as; Coffin Car (obviously), Drac-Mobile and Voiture Cereuil which is apparently French for Cereuil Car - Which doesn't really shed any light for us.

Unlike the Coffin Car, the Drac-Moto appears to have only come out entitled as such. We have not been able to locate any other versions that contain a different name, or language other than English. That's not to say they don't exist. We just haven't seen them.

Because we are mentioning the various variants for the vehicles, it's worth noting that an Italian version of the Garlic Mobile can also be found. However, you're going to want to search for Spar Agilo - Which translated apparently means Spar Garlic. Much like the Cereuil, we have no clue what Spar means. We have not been able to find any variants to the title for The Dracster despite our searching.

However, in our search we did find the awesomeness that is...

...Dracula's Dragster from Polar Lights!

No, this isn't related to Little Dracula - As we're sure many of you deduced just in looking at it. Instead, it's a re-issue of the original 1964 released version of the same name from Aurora. It's just a simple model kit that requires mad painting skills, and of course, glue. Good times for model and Dracula fans.

We digress though. Back to Little Dracula.

The last piece released for the series was the cosplay Little Dracula Scepter & Amulet. This to date is the most difficult and expensive piece to track down in the line.

Little Dracula remains popular in European countries, and had a short lived revival in book form through 2001 when a handful of the prior titles were re-issued in print. However, nothing new seems to be brewing around the character currently. Perhaps much like the resurgence of 80's cartoons and toys, in a few years demand from children of the 90's will take its toll, and we'll see a resurgence in nostalgia from that decade.

That about wraps it up, folks. Enjoy your Halloween. Keep it safe, keep it fun, keep the candy coming and scare some little kids in the good spirit of all three.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge - Here Comes Halloween!

Today's Pop Culture League Challenge - Here Comes Halloween!

First and foremost, this question(?) need to be corrected. Then we can tackle it. It's not Here comes Halloween, it's "This is Halloween!" As in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

This is the classic film that I will be nestling in to watch with my girl on Halloween night. Coupled with some fun foods, and an awesome wine I found - The Seven Deadly Zins (a Zinfandel wine if you couldn't deduce), it's bound to be a great night on the couch.

Of course to commemorate the night, we'll also take some time to thumb through an all new action figure line to add to our ever growing collection. After all, not all treats on Halloween have to be coated in chocolate.

Just when we thought that the ReAction line was dead, Funko throws out this awesome set of series 2 figures from their Nightmare Before Christmas line. Couldn't have been better timing if you ask me.

 Clown with the Tear Away Face*Oogie Boogie*Pumpkin King Jack

For variant hunters, Shock has been found facing both forward and backward in the package. Oddly enough, the backward facing one appears to be the more common of the two.

 Santa Jack*Shock*Werewolf

This time around, Funko also gives us a chase figure - A glow in the dark Oogie Boogie. This is packed one per case of Oogie figures, so supplies are definitely limited for this one. Much like other Funko chase pieces, these are being gobbled up like a row of Power Pellets in front of Pac-Man. Grab it if / when you see it. He's already going for $45.00+ on secondary markets.

This line gives me high hopes and great expectations that Funko will continue the line into the future. They have to, right? We need to get a Lock figure to round out the trio of kids.

So there you have it. Here comes Halloween This is Halloween!

For other great League posts, check out;

Retro Ramblings who posts a video that for the life of me I couldn't find.
Alexis' Universe shares images of some of her Halloween decorating talents.
Mr. Smith's Plastic Bubble talks about one of the best things about Halloween - The costumes!
Cassie's Library champions for Christmas over Halloween.
2 Minute Toy Break talks about the Great Halloween Scheme.

That was all the contributions as of this post. For ones that come later, check out the main page.

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The Toxic Avenger (Reds, Inc.)

The Toxic Avenger
Reds, Inc.

They're poorly written, they've got the worst "actors" and "actresses" the studio could find, and they're some of the best of the worst films to sit through with your friends. Yes, you haven't had bad TV night until you've had a night of Troma! Featuring such classics as The Class of Nuke 'Em High, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., Cannibal! The Musical, Surf Nazis Must Die, and of course, The Toxic Avenger. Mind you, that list doesn't even scratch the surface of the awful, awful films this studio produced - Awful in a good way.

Out of the Troma library, The Toxic Avenger was the only character to really expand into mass media with the very short lived The Toxic Crusader cartoon which ran for thirteen episodes and spawned its own toy line. However, we're not looking at that particular series today. Nope, today we're looking at the one and done The Toxic Avenger from Reds, Inc. which was produced in 1999.

This figure had it all...If you were a fan of Toxie. The sculpt was meticulous to that of the character, and even featured his trusty mop as an accessory. Even the base that came packed in wasn't shy of detail featuring a toxic waste spill complete with drum. For such an unheard of company, this toy was quite frankly one of the best for its time.

The unfortunate side to this figure is that if you're looking for one today - Good luck. They're few and far between, and they're not cheap. You can expect to spend upwards of eighty dollars if you can track one down. That's a lot of cash for....Well, quite frankly anything Troma related. We dare say the figure costs more than Troma's average film budget - Kidding of course!

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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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