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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – man, I love being a toy nerd!

As I write this, I am in the middle of my 28th year on this planet. With all the stuff I’ve seen, I still find myself coming back to the things I had when I was six. I played in a world full of monster heroes, clever detectives and mutant ninjas. For all of that, I have Playmates to thank .

Playmates formed my childhood. They ruled early ’90s toy shelves and managed to control a time when GI Joe and Transformers were in a weird transition. During that time period, three toy lines specifically helped not only form a big hunk of my identity but also take up a lot of space in my toy box.

image from tomopop.com

image from tomopop.com

In 1990, Playmates released the Dick Tracy toy line. While some of you may remember the movie and cringe, that toy line was pretty remarkable – a 14 figure toy line consisting almost entirely of bad guys!. Better yet, a bunch of deformed gangsters that are too busy racketeering to try and get there face game fixed up. The Dick Tracy line single handedly gave me a universal rogues gallery. Let’s be honest, in our youth, most of us did not have parents we could justify buying the exact same toy twice to. So, while I may never have gotten my army of foot clan ninjas, I did manage to get a good amount of ridiculous looking thugs. Add to that the great accessories these characters came with and the universal appeal of cops and robbers, and you had a recipe made for success.

On the opposite side of the spectrum came one of the funnest toy lines of all time. 1991 gave us the gift of Toxic Crusaders. Someone working at a big agency must have watched The Toxic Avenger and said:

“ I can totally make that into a marketable property for kids! All I have to do is tone down the gore, take out the needless nudity and play up the cheesy concept!”

(This comment is not recorded fact. Also while it may not have been said if it was its damn wrong. All those things make Toxie better.)

image from dorkdimension.com

image from dorkdimension.com

With a cartoon, came toys and those toys are one of the milestones of my life. The Toxic Crusaders toy line is the apex of Playmates for me. They implemented the same bit pieces system they had used on previous lines like Dick Tracy. Add to that the weird obsession with Day Glo colors and surreal character designs and you have perfection. I still own most of these figures and find myself playing with Headbanger whenever I look at him on the shelf.

Both of these toy lines alone would be awesome achievements for me to sit around and praise Playmates about but there is still the toy line that allowed both of those to happen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the perfect toy line. The evolution of sculpt and ideas in those figures is just incredible. I remember when the shell storage turtles came out and I just about lost it. They could hide their weapons in their shells!!! Not only was that an awesome idea for those figures, but also allowed for one to see the inner workings of how a toy gets put together. That may actually have been my first experience with toy engineering.

On top of the fun quirky ideas they used to keep life in the Turtles, they also had an amazing cast of non-turtle characters on the roster. Characters like Mutagen Man, Ray Filet, and the almighty Casey Jones are some of the coolest character designs ever. There’s just something about a guy in a hockey mask holding a cricket bat  and ready to wreck some ninjas that makes the universe make more sense to me.

Casey Jones, from the new Playmates TMNT line.

Casey Jones, from the new Playmates TMNT line.

Currently, the Turtles toy line has seen a  triumphant return and I couldn’t be happier. These current turtles are my favorite versions since the original Playmates figures. The joints and posability is a dream, the new designs on classic characters have been really fun, and the new color schemes work incredibly well. It’s nice to be two decades older and wiser and still have a guy in a hockey mask make me smile as much as he did back then. Well, even if they forgot the Cricket Bat.

The magic is returning to Stranger Factory – Magic Sculpt, that is!

On Sunday, February 3rd , from  2pm to 5pm, we will be hosting a Magic Sculpt workshop lead by Kathie Olivas and Valency Genis, along with special guests and exhibiting artists DrilOne and Leecifer.

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All skill levels are welcome – we will be giving complete foundation instruction for the use of Magic Sculpt, along with advanced techniques and an emphasis on customizing vinyl toys.

All supplies are provided, including one Kidrobot Mini Munny, clay, armatures, gloves, and basic tools. Price is $80, and class size will be strictly limited to 12 participants (reserve your spot early!). To RSVP, contact the gallery at (505) 508-3049 or email: strangerfactorysales@gmail.com

In tandem with our Art of Narrative Exhibit opening at Stranger Factory on 1/4/12, I have been given the opportunity to share one of my major loves in life. I have been collecting original comic book art for the last five years. With the January exhibit being made of comic book art, I felt it would help to offer in some personal insight on how I choose and collect my pages.

First, let me point out that collecting comic art hasn’t always been easy. It really helps that a lot of artists are represented on the internet and bring their original pages with them to conventions. So, in this day and age, the real question is: “Why do some people choose to collect comic book art and what helps them choose the pages they have hanging in their homes?”

It seems the most obvious reason is of course, the art and artists themselves. When you read a comic book regularly, or many books for that matter, you find yourself becoming attached to certain artists and their styles. I have always been a fan of Geof Darrow. I find that his work pops on many levels, and his clean line work and extreme detail make it stand out from traditional comic book art styles. His work on Big Guy and Rusty or Hard Boiled is some of my favorite work in comics. So, having that connection to Geof Darrow’s art, I find it very easy to put him on my list of artists I would like to own art by. This isn’t the only factor that can come into play though.

Big-Guy-and-Rusty

In recent years, I have become a big fan of Wolverine. The interesting thing about this is that Wolverine tends to find himself in a lot of books. Being both an Avenger and X-man leads to lots of exposure and with that, lots of different people putting their stamp on your character. So in a situation like this, I can find myself first deciding first on the book I would like a piece of him from. Or, I can decide the artist is more important and look through my options. With Wolverine, a stand out would be someone like Eduardo Risso. Risso’s work on “100 Bullets” and “Batman: Black and White” are great indicators of his style. His use of heavy blacks in his compositions are a great match for the character, so I would seek out one of his pages from the Wolverine book “Logan.”

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Let’s say I have a perfect mixture right in front of me. A solid artist I know I enjoy, like Cliff Chiang, on a book I love, like Wonder Woman. At that point its a matter of taking the page itself into account and what I look for in a page. Now right off the bat most people will always go for a splash page. Personally, I prefer panel work in a page of comic book art. The medium itself is all about story telling, and while a splash is usually gorgeous and can express a moment perfectly, I want to see a level of story telling in a page. I do own a splash page in my collection, but typically I prefer sequential panels.

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When looking at the panel work in a page, I tend to look for one thing: a page that can tell a story with just the visuals. Someone like Mike Mignola is a great example. Starting as an artist, he perfected his visual storytelling and later spent years on Hellboy developing his writing style. Mike is going to rely on the imagery to tell the story more then the words; he will use facial expressions, scenery, or body language to tell the tale and the words will be used later to fine tune the details.

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With all these different reasons and motivations, buying comic book art can become a very complicated thing. You might find yourself wondering if the page is overall a good depiction of the character. Or while this may be one of your favorite artists, do you really want to own a page by them from a book you may have never even read? The simple reality is that like all art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In my case, the beholder can be more often than not swayed by his childhood love of Green Lantern.

All these questions and artists lay ahead for you in our Art of Narrative exhibit in January at Stranger Factory, curated by Jimmy Palmiotti. Best of luck with your choices, True Believers.

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So here we are again with another package of awesome to share. Let me tell you all a totally honest fact about me. I impulse buy, like a lot. In fact, I tend to do it so much that I end up with tons of really weird stuff. This toy is a prime example of when grabbing something on impulse is an awesome idea.

The Ichibanboshi Monkey Man is wicked awesome. That really is all there is to say about it. I mean we are talking about a monkey in cut off shorts and a motorcycle helmet that reminds you of Evel Knievel. You see something like that and either think that its unnecessary or silly. Or you feel this deep urge from within you to own many of them in different colors and put them on your shelves in your home. I need more monkeys in my empty life. Especially if they look like they know how to enjoy a quality motorcycle. That’s the kind of monkey I can hang at home with and listen to Baroness. These are the moments that make life worth living people.

So I say to you be impulsive try out an odd toy or two. You could find yourself sitting with your new best friend in your lamp any time you take that gamble.

Until next time, live that 24/7 Toy Life!

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OK, so this mail day we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled kaiju/sofubi rants to talk about my first love: comics.

I have been reading comics religiously since I was five. In that time, I have acquired many favorite characters, among them the X-Men. I can’t get enough of them, lately! That said, I try not to collect standard-size action figures, due in major part to space, but my love of comic characters and toys can’t be tossed aside that easily. Thankfully, Minimates exist.

Created by Art Asylum, Minimates are like the western version of Kubricks. A step up in size and complexity from LEGO characters, their simple-yet-dynamic design makes for insane customizability. Admittedly I bought this Age of X set to take this version of Rogue and make it look like her current incarnation in Uncanny Avengers.

Minimates are a toy I find myself continually collecting and coming back to. Admittedly, I’ve been walking around Stranger Factory trying to figure out how I can make a Shield Helicarrier playset that is in perfect scale to my Minimates for about a year now. A boy can dream…

Until next time, live that 24/7 Toy Life!

 

So as I said last mail day, I’ve been on a major Pushead kick lately. The Skullwing is an early Secret Base fight figure and their first collaboration piece with Pushead. The figure was made based of the logo Pushead made for the Astro Zombies store in Japan. The figure has had many variations and still manages to stay relevant in today’s fight figure market.

This particular Skullwing comes to us from Japan’s Super Festival 60 and was made to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Astro Zombies. The brown tones are mixed with GID marbling and a splash of gold glitter. The colors work great together, creating an almost bone-like look to the wing. The Pus is strong with this one!

Until next time, live that 24/7 Toy Life!

 

Now that I have been doing these for awhile I took a second to look back and reminisce on some past posts. Some really wicked toys have been shown, but nothing by the master. It may not be known to most folks in the CP community, but I love Pushead. That said, I have gone on a binge recently, so be prepared for some Pus!

This week’s toy is the Siamese Werm. In last week’s post we discussed Secret Base and their amazing ability to reuse parts of toys to create something new and fresh. The Siamese Pirate may be one of my favorite examples of this.

Wanting to do something fresh with the Pushead Captains and Pirates (above), Secret Base decided to just lose the legs and combine them, like so:

The Siamese Pirate sounds silly but actually works really well; the figure allows for a fresh take on existing characters, and the Siamese Werm just ups the ante. By taking the ready-made stump arms and putting them on the Siamese Pirate body, you’ve made something that is already kind of creepy, sad and terrifying at the same time. You know it’s quality Pushead when it’s this creepy.

The Siamese platform has also made great use of the vinyl marbling technique, where you take two colors of vinyl and mix them to create that awesome mottled effect. This only adds to the odd look of the Siamese and really makes for an awesome combination.

Well I got mail a’ plenty on the way, so who knows what we will see next. Although I do know I got a couple of scurvy dogs ready to walk the plank…

Until next time, live that 24/7 Toy Life!

So to switch things up a bit a this week, I’m actually going into the mail vault to discuss a toy I have a very strong love affair with:

In the picture above stands the awesomeness that is the Zombie Fighter. A collaboration between vinyl toy legends Super7 and Secret Base. This is the most recent collaboration figure the companies have done and is actually the best place to start my rant:

I am a huge fan of the “fight figure” genre of vinyl toys. The fight figure, to me, is the cornerstone of second generation Japanese vinyl toys. If not for the fight figure, Pushead may not still be making toys. If not for the fight figure, Napalm Death may not have a toy at all (which is not a world I’d want to live in). The fight figure is a “must” in any sofubi or kaiju collectors’ collection. Even if you only have one, a fighter is necessary. A good half of my collection is fight figures but I tend to enjoy the classic look and adaptability the fight design offers.

The Zombie Fighter presents a new head and arms on a very familiar fighter body: the same used for most Secret Base fight figures, from the Skull Brain (above) to the Skull Wing, to the Pumpkin Brain. It’s that versatility that gives the fight figure an advantage in the vinyl toy world. Some people say you have to fight to live, I say I live for fight figures.

Until next time, live that 24/7 Toy Life!

So yes, I admittedly took a week off from mail, but that’s ’cause I was going toy wild at this year’s NYCC!! I will be posting a full Mikee’s Mail Day: NYCC Edition soon, but first I wanted to showcase one toy in particular:

To be completely honest, I love Mutant Vinyl Hardcore’s DX Sludge Demon. I think it’s my favorite sculpt this year; it has this fun/creepy look that reminds me of the movie Ghoulies. Add the fact that I, too, am a very sick and twisted individual who was raised on horror movies and Misfits records, and you can see why this toy may be my soul mate. Rich Montanari Jr., the evil mastermind behind MVH, is a long lost brother from another mother!! Out of the four Sludge DX releases at NYCC (YES! Four! I bought five!), two were themed on horror movies. Did you read what I just wrote? Two were themed on horror movies!!! The header card art for the above “Chest Burster” is riddled with Alien references! I almost cried.

(I instead went back to the place I was crashing at and watched Prometheus, but I wanted to cry.)

It’s also worth noting that this release was coupled with a print by Scarecrowoven. The print is layered and gorgeous and terrifying.

With MVH ready to release a painted version of the DX Sludge Demon in the next month or so, I can’t wait to add to the MVH collection. It’s October, guys: embrace your inner Mikee and be creepy! Don’t sleep on something this awesome!

Until next time, live that 24/7 Toy Life!