Friday, September 17, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

DC Universe Online Opening



Thanks to ENI for uploading the video.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

So You Want To Talk Toys On The Interweb

Really? Are you sure about that? What are you, some kind of masochist?

Look, if you insist on proceeding, I can't stop you. You're free to make your own decisions, despite being cautioned against this activity. If you're determined to do it, though, at least familiarize yourself with this glossary of words you'll need to know. Sooner or later, you'll be glad that you did. Please note that these definitions are specific to members of toy-related interweb forums. If I provided you with the actual, correct meanings, this guide wouldn't do you a bit of good in your toy board adventures.
  • "AFA" - Or Action Figure Authority, a scam masquerading as a thorough and complicated grading service for action figure collectors, designed only to rob them of their money and taunt the "real" collectors who open their toys.

  • "Bender" - Remember how "real" collectors remove all of their toys from the packaging? This is the realest of the real, the guy who bends cards in retail stores so fake collectors who keep figures carded won't want them.

  • "The Children" - Strategic contrivance employed to induce guilt. "You bought more than one of that figure? What about the children?" "Why is Hasbro/Mattel/Target/Wal-Mart/whatever selling these for so much? What about the children?"

  • "Death" - The inevitable result of anything deemed unsatisfactory by the individual using the term. Usually expressed as, "death of the line."

  • "evilbay" - Disparaging term for eBay used by people who feel entitled to anything and everything for retail price, despite the secondary market value determined by actual demand.

  • "feebay" - Disparaging term for eBay used by people who think the pennies eBay charges for exposing their wares to an entire world of shoppers is too much money.

  • "Greed" - Adjective used to describe any action that would add more to one's collection than the individual using the term deems appropriate or generate profit from the sale of a toy. See "Scalper" and "Hoarder." Also applied to manufacturers after rising costs of materials and labor result in MSRP increases on those companies' products.

  • "Hoarder" - Anyone who acquires more of something than the individual using the term wants for his/her own collection.

  • "Internet" - A series of tubes used exclusively to bitch, whine, moan, complain, and throw tantrums.

  • "Kids" - Young, small humans who are only interested in playing video games. Toy manufacturers don't know what they're talking about when they say these kids account for the overwhelming majority of action figure sales. Adult collectors know better than professionals who do actual research; those collectors know THEY ARE LEGION.

  • "Loose" - The only acceptable method of displaying any action figure.

  • "MOC" - "Mint On Card" describes an action figure that was never removed from its packaging by the phony collector who purchased it.

  • "Nerd rage" - Used by some of the few rational, level-headed people who frequent such web sites to describe the hysterical fits thrown by contributors who often use the other terms found on this list.

  • "Opener" - The "real" collector who opens all of his toys, as anyone who leaves anything in a package is inherently inferior and should probably die in some excruciatingly painful manner.

  • "Prototype" - This word is used incorrectly by the overwhelming majority of collectors at least 100% of the time to describe any action figure from any stage of production prior to the factory run that actually spits out the retail figures.

  • "Rape" - Any attempt to sell a toy for a price considered unreasonably high (which means anything above retail) by the individual using the term. This can also be what is done to one's childhood when licensed characters are reimagined for modern adaptations. Sensitivity to victims of actual sexual assault is not to be expected.

  • "Scalper" - Anyone who buys something the individual using the term wants for him/herself, but is currently having difficulty finding, regardless of whether or not the purchaser intends to resell it. Used by Toy Trotskyists who find the most basic principles of capitalism offensive and/or inconvenient.

  • "Theif" - Anyone who sells a toy on eBay for more than retail price. See "Scalper." Despite what you may have learned in English class, the plural form is theifs, as in, "I often get raped by eBay theifs." In the never ending battle to mangle the language, this is used by people who never grasped, "I before E, except after C."

  • "Value" - Never more than original retail price. Anything else is "rape."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood Clip



Judging by this clip, Bruce Greenwood is the best Batman voice they've found so far who isn't named Kevin Conroy. Batman: Under the Red Hood comes out July 27, 2010.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Warner Bros. Takes A Great Idea And Runs With It

What makes it a great idea? For starters, it was mine. Okay, so I obviously wasn't the only person who had the idea, but it's something I've been advocating for some time now. Here's the text from a marketing e-mail I received today.

From Warner Bros.:
Upgrade your Warner Bros. DVD library to Blu-ray™ with the DVD2Blu program presented by WBShop.com. Upgrade your DVDs for as little as $4.95 per exchange with free shipping* for orders of more than $35.00. Over 90 titles are available now!

In just three easy steps you can enjoy your favorite Warner Bros. films in the full glory of High Definition.

The Blu-ray upgrade is sent back to you complete with case, cover art, bonus material, etc. Jumpstart your Blu-ray library today!

UPGRADE TODAY

* For orders over $35.00 shipping & handling per order is $4.95 for the contiguous United States and District of Columbia and $6.95 to Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico (plus applicable taxes). Certain restrictions apply.

The reason I've been saying studios should do this for the last couple of years is that consumers bought a license for the movie when they purchased the DVD. The right to own a copy of the movie costs a lot more than the physical product, and upgrading means paying for that twice. If content producers want to encourage their customers to embrace the Blu-ray format, then an exchange program makes perfect sense. This way, you don't force them to pay for the license again, but only the cost of the physical media. I see three or four titles in the initial offering that I would definitely like to upgrade, so I'll be taking advantage of this opportunity shortly. You don't even have to mail in the cases of your original DVDs, so if there are inserts with artwork you want to keep (I'm thinking of the Batman Begins DVD as an example), that won't be a problem. My only complaint is that each household is limited to twenty-five exchanges total, but that won't be an issue for me. If you want to check it out for yourself, get the details here.

So for all the other studios in Hollywood, why aren't you doing this, too? Get on it!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A G.I. JOE Collecting Update

First of all, I ordered from CobraStickers.com for the first time at the end of May, and the decals arrived on Saturday. I didn't get time to mess with them until Tuesday night, but what a difference they made on the Target Rattlers. I didn't replace all of the Hasbro decals, but using these for everything on the bombs and the black decal at the nose made them look so much better. I got some The Rise Of Cobra JOE symbol decals for my aircraft, too. I really like the logo, and I already had it on the Dragonhawk and several other things from the movie line. Got a couple of sheets of Cobra sigils, some M.A.R.S. logos, and some Dreadnoks symbols, too. While it has no danger of being as addictive as Marauder, I have no doubt that I'll order from them again. I absolutely recommend giving their products a try if you have such a need (especially since they're pre-cut, which was a huge plus for me). I'll be adding a link to their site here on the blog.

Secondly, I finally scored some $3 25th Anniversary G.I. JOE figures at a couple of Family Dollar stores. Two B.A.T.s, an armored Cobra Commander, Wraith, and a Snow Serpent for $15 isn't a bad deal at all. I'm still hoping to find some Cobra Divers and Ninja Vipers at that price, but I'm not complaining.

And third, I took all of two photos at HeroesCon, and they were basically two photos of the same thing. Terrible, I know, but I do have photos of all the G.I. JOE books I got signed at the convention.

G.I. JOE Origins signed by Tom Feister & Merrill Hagan
G.I. JOE Origins signed by Tom Feister (all three) & Merrill Hagan (#15 with Snow Job)

G.I. JOE (Hasbro) signed by Jeremy Dale
G.I. JOE (Hasbro) signed by Jeremy Dale

G.I. JOE: Cobra #1 and G.I. JOE: Cobra II #1 signed by Christos Gage
G.I. JOE: Cobra #1 and G.I. JOE: Cobra II #1 signed by Christos Gage

G.I. JOE (IDW) #0 & #6 signed by Robert Atkins
G.I. JOE (IDW) #0 & #6 signed by Robert Atkins

G.I. JOE and the Transformers #1 signed by Herb Trimpe
G.I. JOE and the Transformers #1 signed by Herb Trimpe

Now if only I could get a few books signed by Mike Zeck, I'd have autographs of all the best of the best from G.I. JOE comics in my collection. I'll post photos of all the non-JOE books I got signed next time, followed by some of the superb art I bought this year.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

HeroesCon 2010: G.I. JOE Roll Call

I did this last year, and I figured I would do it again for anyone planning to attend HeroesCon 2010, our local convention here in Charlotte. Some of the bigger guests include Mark Bagley, Cliff Chiang, Frank Cho, Tommy Lee Edwards, Cully Hamner, Adam Hughes, Steve Niles, Tim Sale, Ben Templesmith, Ethan Van Sciver, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

Superheroes dominate the scene, but for G.I. JOE fans, here's some of the talent associated with the property over the years:
  • Robert Atkins - Artist on IDW's 2009 G.I. JOE reboot.
  • Jeremy Dale - Artist on several of the comics released in 25th Anniversary two-packs.
  • Marc Deering - Inker on G.I. JOE: Snake-Eyes.
  • Tom Feister - Cover artist on IDW's G.I. JOE Origins.
  • Christos Gage - Cowriter of G.I. JOE: Cobra.
  • S.L. Gallant - Artist on IDW's G.I. JOE and the movie prequel books.
  • Michael Golden - Artist behind the incredible cover of G.I. JOE Yearbook #2 (which he signed for me last year).
  • Merrill Hagan - Writer on IDW's G.I. JOE Origins.
  • Rick Ketcham - Inker on IDW's G.I. JOE.
  • Eric Layton - Inker in DDP run.
  • Chris Stevens - Artist on G.I. JOE: Master & Apprentice II.
  • Rod Whigham - Artist on about two dozen issues of Marvel's G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero.
  • David Wohl - Editor on several of the later issues in Marvel's G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero.
  • John 'Waki' Wycough - Inker on IDW's G.I. JOE.
Unlike last year, it doesn't look like any of the larger publishers are going to have much of a presence this time. Check out the complete HeroesCon guest list, and get ready to enjoy one of the best weekends Charlotte has to offer all year.

Monday, May 17, 2010

One Down; Nine To Go

Only a few hours after publishing my take on the Top Ten '80s Action Figure Lines That Need A Comeback, Icon Heroes issued a press release announcing a line of ThunderCats "Staction" figures. Remember the Masters Of The Universe toys that had no articulation? That's the "staction" part, Static Action Figures. You can check out the announcement about the figures, vehicle replicas, and environments here.

Ask, and you shall receive, huh? Next time I'll write about how great a billion-dollar cashier's check made out to me would be.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Top Ten '80s Action Figure Lines That Need A Comeback

Retro is all the rage these days, isn't it? Everything old is new again, especially if the "old" is from the '80s. New adaptations of The Karate Kid and The A-Team will hit theaters soon (they actually open on the same day), with sequels to Predator and TRON coming in July and December respectively. The remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street just opened a couple of weeks ago. MacGruber, as stupid as it looks, is a parody of an '80s television show. The Expendables, which opens in August, isn't a sequel or a remake, but it's definitely a throwback to the '80s action genre. Even Red Dawn, which was as '80s as you could get (if only all Cold War-era propaganda was as fun), is getting a remake.

And that's just what's coming out this year. Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, and The Last Starfighter sequels are in the works, and so are remakes of Footloose, Police Academy, Poltergeist (which may or may not be released this year), Private Benjamin, RoboCop, and Short Circuit. Before you ask, there's no remake of Big Trouble In Little China on the schedule. Not yet, anyway. A Conan reboot opens next year, and Columbia hired Mike Finch and Alex Litvak, writers of the aforementioned Predators, to write a new Masters Of The Universe script.

No action figure captures the '80s better than Chuckles.Speaking of Masters Of The Universe, Hollywood studios aren't the only ones who've been getting into the '80s nostalgia. Despite having loyal collectors for years, Hasbro's 25th Anniversary G.I. JOE line sparked the interest of many adults who hadn't paid much attention to the property since the days of playing in the backyard. They kept that going until debuting a line for G.I. JOE: The Rise Of Cobra, the brand's first live-action movie, two years later. This came after the success they found - both at the box office and in the toy aisles - by taking Transformers to the big screen. They also worked Secret Wars comic book two-packs into their 3¾" Marvel Universe, recalling Mattel's '84-'85 Secret Wars line. Mattel themselves found more of a market than they seemed to expect when they introduced their direct-to-consumer Masters Of The Universe Classics. Their DC Universe Classics line clearly draws inspiration from Kenner's Super Powers Collection, and they just launched a new Ghostbusters line recently (with toys based on The Real Ghostbusters still to come). Playmates released a 25th Anniversary line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures last year, reproductions of the toys originally sold in 1988.

With G.I. JOE, Transformers, Super Powers, Secret Wars, Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, and He-Man out of the way, and STAR WARS having been back on the scene since '95, what are the top action figure lines from the '80s that still need to be revisited?

  1. SilverHawks: "Partly metal, partly real..." Never one of my favorites, but that's why it comes in at number ten. I had a couple of the figures, and I watched the cartoon from time to time, but I couldn't name any of the characters off the top of my head. In fact, my favorite thing about SilverHawks is the collection of audio outtakes that showed up on the interweb back in the '90s. The Kenner figures really weren't bad, but this is more of a nostalgia pick than anything else.

  2. Starriors: TOMY's Starriors line wasn't terribly popular, and I didn't know much about them as a kid. I only had three of the toys: Motormouth, Gouge, and (my favorite) Hotshot. I wanted Deadeye after seeing him in one of the comics, but I don't know if I ever even saw him in a store. I really liked these at first, but I lost interest pretty quickly, as G.I. JOE, STAR WARS, Transformers, and Super Powers were taking up most of my time in '84. In fact, Hotshot found himself fighting in one of those universes more often than not. The Starriors toys were very cool, though, and an updated take on them with modern articulation - and maybe some new comics - is something I would definitely collect.

  3. Battle Beasts: What do you get when you give weapons, armor, and bloodlust to a bunch of anthropomorphized animals? Battle Beasts! Or at least that's what they were called here in the states. Originally marketed as BeastFormers by Takara in Japan, they were intended to be a spin-off of Transformers, even appearing in the Japanese version of the cartoon. Hasbro didn't see it that way (and rightfully so, if you ask me), releasing them independent of the robots in disguise here in the States. Each figure had a hologram "Battle Badge" on its chest that determined the team for which it would fight, fire, wood, or water. The hologram decals were similar to the Autobot and Decepticon decals on early Transformers, in that you had to heat them up by rubbing on them to see the image. Diamond Select Toys bought the rights to Battle Beasts last year, and they're supposed to be getting a new line. Of course, this was supposed to start in December of '09, and then March, and now it could be delayed until next year or never happen at all. That would be a shame, because Battle Beasts kicked ass.

  4. Army Ants: While we're on the subject of anthropomorphized creatures with weapons, it's time for Army Ants. General Mc-Anther leads his blue army against the orange forces of General Patant. Another Hasbro line, some of the Ants shared names with G.I. JOE characters like Stalker, Blow Torch, Knockdown, Repeater, and Recoil, with the Ant versions of those last two actually predating their JOE counterparts. Others shared names with Transformers, including Bone Crusher and Snarl. Aside from the two generals, Hasbro surprisingly didn't go crazy with the puns. Army Ants had no screws or metal parts to rust, so leaving them out in the yard overnight was never a problem.

  5. Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand.The Karate Kid: First of all, considering it's from 1986, my Mr. Miyagi figure looks a hell of a lot like Pat Morita. Seriously, that's a damn good sculpt for the '80s, and it's not a bad one by modern standards. In fact, most of Remco's The Karate Kid figures were solid. I'd still love to see a company like NECA or Bif Bang Pow! take a crack at the likes of Daniel LaRusso (plus the Had-His-Ass-Kicked-For-Ten-Minutes chase variant), Mr. Miyagi, Johnny Lawrence, John Kreese, Ali, Sato, and Chozen. The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid, Part II were just released on Blu-ray for the first time, and I'd be all over a new toy line based on those two movies.

  6. Voltron: Defender of the Universe: No, I'm not talking about the stupid Vehicle Voltron thing, but Lion Force Voltron, the real Voltron. Was the fully assembled Voltron the greatest toy ever? I have no idea, because I didn't have it. This is on the list for purely selfish reasons, as I had the following Voltron toys: Keith, the Black Lion, and King Zarkon from Panosh Place. Oh, and I had some really small Voltron figure (maybe from Bandai?) that didn't even separate into the individual lions. Words cannot express what only having one Voltron lion will do to a little boy. That kind of frustration never goes away. And even though I can barely make it through an episode of the Lion Force cartoon these days, I still want the completed Voltron toy. I know Trendmasters did one in the late '90s, and I've seen the Toynami stuff at a local store recently. Nuh-uh. I want the original Voltron, I want it to split into five lions, and I want each of those lions to hold a figure in his/her uniform from the series. And sure, I could track down the original toys on eBay, but that's not exactly the point of this list, is it? Nicktoons supposedly has a new Lion Force cartoon in the works, so there's at least a slim a chance that this could happen. I can hope, can't I?

  7. ThunderCats: Like SilverHawks, this is another one that was never among my favorites. If I was being selfish with Voltron, I'm being altruistic with this pick. I don't think I ever had any ThunderCats toys, to be perfectly honest, but I watched the cartoon more than I watched SilverHawks. I at least knew the villain's name when it came time for a trivia contest, and that was enough to win a Zartan figure from a local television station (see my Must-Haves For Collectors page for that story). ThunderCats enjoyed a measure of popularity, though, and the cat-people concept is something that could really work for modern toys. Those outfits would need to be updated and improved, but I can't deny the potential. ThunderCats and SilverHawks were both produced by Rankin/Bass and owned by Lorimar-Telepictures, and Warner Bros. acquired the rights to their library in 1989. There has been fan interest in new toys, but no company seems to have come close to working out a licensing agreement with Warner Bros. A ThunderCats movie was apparently on the table at one point, but it got scrapped. For now, it doesn't look like we'll be seeing Lion-O or Snarf any time soon. One more thing they had in common with SilverHawks? There are ThunderCats outtakes, too.

  8. TRONTRON: With TRON: Legacy coming to theaters in December, this is probably the most likely candidate on the list after Battle Beasts for a new toy line, at least in the near future. The original figures were kind of lousy, but I loved them, anyway. The Light Cycles were awesome, though, and I would frequently loan them out to figures from other lines. Completely translucent plastic obviously wouldn't be the way to go today, but I'm hoping to see someone get the license and do something incredible with characters from the sequel, and hopefully with a few from the original, as well. New vehicles would be a real treat, especially in-scale Recognizers.

  9. Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future: Mattel really swung for the fences with their Captain Power toys, an ambitious approach to the crowded action figure market of the '80s. In addition to using your own imagination, the live-action television show provided an interactive experience, allowing you to "shoot" at enemies on the screen. You could also find yourself getting shot, which resulted in Captain Power being ejected from the XT-7. I loved these, I had all the VHS tapes, and I tuned in for the show every weekend. I managed to have Jonathan Power, Lt. Tank Ellis, Major Hawk Masterson, a Soaron Sky Sentry, and a Blastarr Ground Guardian in my collection. The Powerjet XT-7 was my only vehicle, but that was enough. Considering how much smaller the demand for action figures is these days, largely due to competition from things like video games, an updated Captain Power seems like a no-brainer. How difficult could it really be to develop an XT-7 that works with the Wii, for example? That would take the "interactive" aspect of the concept to new levels, since the television show and videos only allowed you to score points. You didn't get to help decide the fate of your heroes. Tie Captain Power in with the Wii, and suddenly kids who play the game can continue their adventures away from the console with the action figures. Resurrecting the characters on television is most likely out of the question, thanks to the Children's Television Act of 1990. Something like Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future would be a sure bet to get classified as a, "program-length commercial," as the original was already controversial in the '80s.

  10. Matt Trakker joins G.I. JOE.M.A.S.K.: I'm sure this is the predictable choice for any list like this, but that's because Kenner's M.A.S.K. toys were so much fun. The intent was obvious, trying to capture the attention of kids who were into G.I. JOE and Transformers, both of which were Hasbro brands. Kenner already had STAR WARS, but that line was coming to an end in 1985, the same year the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand was introduced. M.A.S.K. figures were smaller than STAR WARS or G.I. JOE, maybe half the size, which likely kept costs down on the real selling point of the line, the vehicles. You had a car that turned into a jet, a motorcycle that turned into a helicopter, a Jeep that launched a hidden boat, and a helicopter that turned into a jet. Never really got the point of that last one, but whatever. The thing to remember is that M.A.S.K. was awesome, and it's easily the best action figure line of the '80s that hasn't been revisited properly.

    I say, "properly," because Hasbro took ownership of M.A.S.K. with their 1991 acquisition of Tonka, which had bought Kenner in 1987. Included in the eleventh wave of the 25th Anniversary/Modern Era G.I. JOE line was a Specialist Trakker figure, as seen above. This "new" character's real name? Matt Trakker. Check out Trakker's filecard over at YoJoe.com, and you'll see how Hasbro managed to fit the M.A.S.K. and V.E.N.O.M. teams into the G.I. JOE universe. Many fans interpreted this as a tease of possible things to come, but Hasbro reps have insisted they have no plans of launching a new M.A.S.K. line. There's always hope that those plans could change, though.

I have to give an honorable mention to M.U.S.C.L.E., but sorry, fans of Centurions, Sectaurs, and Visionaries. I know they will all have their supporters, but they never made the cut for me. I would have put Super Naturals or Manglors on the list before any of those.

Looking back, maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Thinking and writing about all of this stuff is probably going to cost me a fortune.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Two More Quick Tips For Aspiring Webmasters

You'll probably read this and think to yourself, "Well, that's just common sense. Everyone knows you shouldn't do those things." You'd think so, wouldn't you?

  1. Create your own content; plagiarism is never cool. Lifting content or images from other sites without obtaining permission - or at least giving credit - is in really poor taste. I'm not talking about quoting something from another site or posting an image with a link back to the original source. That's pretty standard, and it's covered by the concept of fair use. As long as you cite, credit, and link back, you're basically sharing and providing a referral. I'm talking about trying to pass another's work off as your own. This applies to any creative endeavor, not just a collecting site. Check out the backlash against Tom Perkins, who recited others' movie reviews verbatim for his own YouTube videos. The interweb is a big place, friends, and despite evidence to the contrary on any number of sites, there are some pretty sharp people who use it. You won't get away with that sort of thing. Even if you could, why bother? What's the point of creating something if you don't want to actually do the creating?

  2. When one of your members stabs his girlfriend to death and then kills himself, don't be surprised (or ban people!) when other participants find an "R.I.P." thread for the guy offensive. Believe it or not, there are those who aren't going to mourn a murderer, no matter how many times he's posted on a message board.
Now you know!

Friday, May 07, 2010

So You Want To Start Your Own Collecting Site

Here's something I mentioned briefly on my Twitter page back in February. I only touched on it briefly (140-character limit, and all), but as the trend continues, I've decided to expand on the idea a bit without such pesky restrictions.

Here's what I wrote:
1. A lot of people are "graduating" from posting on message boards to launching their own "fan" sites these days.
2. Participating on a forum doesn't prepare you for creating a decent site. You need at least one of two things to deliver anything worthwhile.
3. The first thing is a consistent source of insider info, and that's something you don't get by having a few thousands posts on another site.
4. The second thing is the ability to write well, and most of these new "webmasters" are seriously lacking in that department.
5. No one wants to go to yet another site for commentary written by some functionally illiterate goon with nothing original to say.
6. If they did, these "webmasters" wouldn't have to keep spamming forum threads with links to their new sites.

Before I continue, I'm not suggesting that anyone look to my site for an example of how to do things. This is my personal site, dedicated to my own collection. Sure, I have some tips and tricks for other collectors, and I write about topical issues on this blog from time to time, but this isn't a news or review site. Its primary function is to serve as a place where I can showcase my collection online, even though the galleries are hopelessly outdated. But because this is just my personal site, I can take my sweet time with updates, as it's more for me than for any kind of audience. In fact, that's one of the reasons why I've avoided getting heavily involved with that kind of site, because my free time is often too limited to devote the necessary attention to such an endeavor. I sincerely appreciate those who do so much to provide the rest of us with fresh information, and I'm sure you do, too. It takes a hell of a commitment to do that consistently.

I have, however, contributed to "fan" and "news" sites in different capacities. I've helped with news updates, redesigned established sites, and built sites from scratch. I've also written content for a few sites, going back almost a decade. In addition to all that hobby stuff, I've designed and written copy for literally hundreds of sites professionally. I wouldn't include all of them in a portfolio, but they were what I was paid to do. My point is that I know what makes for a quality web site, and I know all too well what does not.

Action figure web sites are a dime a dozen. Where there were relatively few of them ten years ago, the interweb is littered with them now. Plenty of decent ones attract only modest traffic, but you've decided this series of tubes needs another one.

It needs your site.

You've been posting on toy forums for several years now, shared photos of your collection, and interacted with webmasters and other collectors. Now you want to move on from just being a message board member to having your own playground. But why? What are you going to bring to the table? Do you believe you can do it better than those who are already covering this stuff? What can you offer that will make me want to visit your site?

If you haven't thought that far ahead, these are some things you'll need to get started.

  1. Insider info: Everything else on the list is secondary if you can cover this one. Are you tight with employees who work for the big manufacturers, people who can and (more importantly) will share knowledge and images with you? You know, the kind of stuff that no other sites have gotten their hands on yet? The most likely answer to this question is no. The action figure collecting hobby, right down to the smallest niche, already has more Drudge-style aggregate sites than it needs. Besides, the forums themselves are sufficient for that sort of thing. If you're just repeating news stories you got from other sources, that's not really news. It's redundancy. That's not to say you should never post something as "news" if another site got to it first, but if that's all you're doing, you're just taking up cyberspace.

  2. Competent writing: This is where so many wannabes fail. Remember #1? If you don't have the connections necessary to make that a reality, this is crucial. I can do my best to ignore the ramblings of the functionally illiterate if they provide me with images and intel that no one else has. If your site is just like several others, though, forget about it. If you write poorly, I won't be checking back to see what you have to say, and you might be surprised by just how many people feel the same way. I'm not saying you have to be Ralph Ellison; you don't even have to be some kind of grammar Nazi. You do, however, need to be capable of writing coherent prose that is not replete with thoughtless errors one might expect from a third-grader. Do you know how to properly use were, wear, and where? What about their, they're, and there? It's and its? If you don't, you have no business publishing your words on the internet. That doesn't mean you can't have a site, but if you want to have one that's up to snuff, you damn well better partner up with a good writer (or several).

    In addition to having adequate command of the language, you should possess the ability to craft what you have to say into an interesting and entertaining read. You might take fantastic photos, but images aren't the sole ingredient responsible for making any of the most popular action figure review sites a hit with collectors. The ability of the reviewers to capture visitors' attention with their words is just as important. If you produce several paragraphs of flat, monotonous text, your readers won't be your readers for long.

  3. Photoshop skills: There are plenty of software packages available today that have made a grasp of HTML optional for potential webmasters, but that software won't design your logos and banners. This element of starting a web site really speaks for itself. If your site comes out looking like it was designed in the '90s, check out some online tutorials or find someone who will be willing to help you.

  4. A decent camera: If you're going to showcase pictures of toys, nothing will send people scrambling for their back button faster than grainy, out-of-focus photos. Make sure your camera has a macro setting, and invest a few bucks into lights that won't result in overly yellow pictures.

  5. Unique content: We're back to a question I asked earlier: What are you going to bring to the table? What makes your site different than all the others? What are you doing or saying that others aren't? The idea needs to come before the execution. All the pretty design and slick photography in the world won't do you a damn bit of good if you're not doing something to stand out from the crowd. Plenty of web sites already post news in the form of press releases, feature reviews of recently released toys, and offer commentary on products and the hobby in general. Come up with a plan to distinguish your new site from everyone who came before you. One of the ways to accomplish this was covered in the second part of this list. If you're reviewing the same figure as someone on another site, but you can write a better, more entertaining piece on it, that's a start. And if you're an incredibly talented customizer like Casimir, then you don't need to mess around with news or reviews, because you already have something special.

  6. An actual site before you start promoting it: If you link me to an "under construction" page or one of those Go Daddy pages you get when you first register a domain name, good luck ever getting me back to the site.

  7. SEO: Answer these two questions. First, do you want to get any organic traffic to your site? And by organic traffic, I mean people finding and arriving at your site in the course of their normal browsing activities, not through paid links (which you won't spend money to use, anyway). Yes? Okay, here's your second question. Do you know what search engine optimization is and how to implement it? If you don't, you need to learn. A great site will languish in obscurity if no one can find it. Some people will swear up and down that SEO is, "cheating," but that's only because they don't know how to do it. I'm not saying you need to make your site all spammy, but you should definitely get familiar with linking structures and how to use anchor text to your advantage. The basics, which are all you'll need for something like this, aren't that difficult. I did it professionally for two years without any formal training. You don't need to enroll in a class, or anything. Just do some research on the web.

  8. Visitors over sponsors: It's one of the of the worst-kept secrets about popular toy sites, that webmasters, reviewers, and sometimes staff members get free products from online retailers who advertise on the site. Some of them get free merchandise straight from manufacturers, as well. Maybe that's why you're hoping your new site will take off, but if that's the case, you're going into it for all the wrong reasons. If that's your sole motivation, you're not likely to have much success, either.

    This advice really only applies if "community" is going to be part of your site, and it comes down to one simple rule: Don't be a dick. If you have active forums or comment sections for your posts, that's your "community." Most sites get more traffic from people who don't participate in online discussions than from people who will, but how you treat members of your "community" will make an impression on both sets of visitors. If you get to the point where an online retailer wants to advertise on your site, don't look at that as an obligation to censor anyone who criticizes the business. I'm obviously not talking about blatant trolling, but if someone has what could be construed as a legitimate complaint about a sponsor, the price for silencing that will be the trust of your readers. If a sponsor leaves, others can take its place. If your readers bail on you, I guarantee there won't be any sponsors.
There's certainly more to creating and maintaining a successful collecting site than what I've covered here, but these are areas where I see the most mistakes. Much of the negativity directed at various sites could have been avoided if the people behind them gave consideration to these points before getting started. If you do that, you'll at least have a head start.

I nearly beat that whole no-character-limit thing to death, didn't I?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Cobra S.A.W.-Viper, 25th Anniversary Style

Missing from all the army builders in the 25th Anniversary/Modern Era G.I. JOE line is the S.A.W.-Viper. These guys are fairly infamous in the minds of comic fans, as one of them executed (or, "popped caps on," if you remember the story) Doc, Crankcase, Heavy Metal, and Thunder in issue #109 of G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero. Both heroes and villains had died in the series, but this was the first time we'd seen a massacre of characters who were actually part of the toy line. Even though it was the result of Tomax and Xamot misunderstanding an order from Cobra Commander, the S.A.W.-Viper was all too eager to accept the assignment.

Having picked up quite a few DVD Battles sets on clearance from discount retailers, I saw the potential in one of the extra Roadblock figures I had. I went with a mix of the original v1 figure and the v3 figure for the color scheme, ordered some custom accessories, and broke out the paint. Here's the end result, my 25th-style Cobra S.A.W.-Viper. If you click the photo for the larger version, you'll get an idea of just how limited I am when it comes to skills with a brush. It looks better in person than it does all blown up on a monitor, though, so I'm happy with it.

Cobra S.A.W.-Viper 25th Anniversary Style
Figure: DVD Battles 2 ("The Revenge Of Cobra") Roadblock (v18)

Webgear and pistol: G.I. JOE Trooper

Helmet: Serpent Heavy Gunner Helmet Purple from Broken Arrow Toys

Weapon: M249 SAW from Marauder "Gun-Runners"

Cobra S.A.W.-Viper, 25th Anniversary Style

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Just Deserts

Via Ron Marz on his Twitter page, htmlcomics is officially toast. Not only is the site gone, but the site's owner might be gone, too. Here's the scoop from CBR. Be sure to read this bit, as well.

I'm not one to wish an FBI raid on anyone, but when you rip people off, that's what you have coming to you. Not only is he a thief, but he's also a creepy bastard. He talked a big game about wanting to battle lawyers, and now we'll see how long it takes for him to tuck his tail between his legs and beg for leniency.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Get Ready For G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero #155½

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when discussing Hasbro's position on the DDP G.I. JOE comics, IDW Publishing gives us G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero #155½ for Free Comic Book Day tomorrow. Larry Hama returns to the continuity he created fifteen years after the book ended, teaming up with artist Agustin Padilla. You can check out a six-page preview of the book over on Newsarama. It will lead to a new ongoing series, starting with issue #156.

While I'm still not thrilled about the DDP stories being tossed to the side, I'm definitely psyched about the chance to read new Larry Hama stories rooted in the old continuity. I like IDW's G.I. JOE Origins, especially the killer covers by Tom Feister, but I stopped buying the main title after six or seven issues. While Hama managed to make his part of the reboot fun, Chuck Dixon was on a mission to put me to sleep, and he was hellbent on completing that objective. I wasn't completely put off by the idea of a reboot, but the execution was severely lacking in entertainment value. I've enjoyed some of Dixon's Bat-work in the past (some, but certainly not all), but he's never been anything special. If anything, he's a third-tier writer, but he's managed to come up with a good story here and there. When it comes to writing G.I. JOE, though, he was never right for the job. It's not that his writing is bad; it's just utterly uninteresting. Andy Schmidt says it's, "geared more towards adults," than the DDP books were, but I beg to differ. Insomniacs are adults who should consider investing in the TPB collections of IDW's G.I. JOE issues, but if IDW ever wants me to start buying their main title again, the best place to start would be replacing Chuck Dixon yesterday.

But enough about the guy who isn't right for the job, because the guy who is right for it returns tomorrow. Here's an interview with Mr. Hama on CBR to whet your appetite. Welcome back, Larry!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

G.I. JOE Doesn't Leave Anyone Behind, Hasbro

Back at the beginning of the year, Hasbro responded to a Q&A inquiry about the Devil's Due Publishing books over on JoeReloaded.com. They provided a two-part answer, but I want to focus on the second portion.

Quote:
Q: Does Hasbro have an official stance on GI Joe comic original continuity? If so, what is it? Does Hasbro view the Devil's Due published material a continuation of the Marvel published work?

A: b) We have no official stance on the Devil’s Due material. It can be viewed as a continuation of the 80's continuity, or as an alternate universe that was inspired by the 80's continuity. Fans can read it according to their personal preference, but we are currently taking the brand in a direction that does not take the Devil's Due story into account.

Hasbro's statement bothered me back when I first read it, but I've been giving it more thought recently while reading some of the DDP material again. I'll be the first to admit that those books had more than their share of flaws at times, especially in the editing department. Looking at the whole of their publication history with the license, though, they produced a considerable amount of quality storytelling. The America's Elite title in particular really got the job done. More importantly, however, the DDP run introduced some fantastic characters while they had the license. If Hasbro wants to abandon the continuity, that's understandable, especially now that Larry Hama is picking up where Marvel #155 left off for IDW. Ignoring those characters would be a huge mistake, though.

Let's think about some of those characters for a moment.

Firewall: A young hacker with a criminal record, she went from being a wet-behind-the-ears recruit who was simply trying to atone for her past to a crucial member of the G.I. JOE team. She had to grow up quickly when her friend (Daemon) and mentor (Mainframe) were KIA.

Kamakura: Snake-Eyes' apprentice and the son of Wade Collins, a former "Fred" in Cobra's Crimson guard who served with Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Stalker.

Mayday: Sergeant Paige Adams didn't get a lot of panel time in the comics, but new female characters are always a welcome addition to the world of G.I. JOE, and this one was especially intriguing due to her skills with a firearm.

Alexander McCullen: Illegitimate son of Destro who assumed his father's role twice.

Lilian Osbourne: Mistress Armada, Alexander McCullen's lover and military commander whose loyalties shifted back and forth from Destro to Cobra Commander.

General Philip Rey: A U.S. military commander who briefly led the G.I. JOE team and later the Phoenix Guard, he was eventually revealed to be a clone from Dr. Mindbender's Serpentor experiments.

Wraith: Charles Halifax, a deadly mercenary with an even more deadly stealth armor suit. While in Destro's employ, he betrayed the Baroness and delivered her to the Jugglers.

Zanya: Zartan's daughter and likely heir to the Dreadnok throne, she's my favorite of all the DDP creations.

Charles Halifax saw his first action figure in 2008, toward the end of the 25th Anniverary/Modern Era line, and there was even a variant Wraith figure. Kamakura was released as an off-screen character in The Rise Of Cobra line. The rest of the characters on this list are still waiting for their first plastic counterparts. While I'm hoping Hasbro gets around to classics like Jinx, Zandar, Zarana, Road Pig, Big Boa, Low-Light, Budo, Lifeline, Iceberg, Airtight, Night-Vipers, and Techno-Vipers, each of these characters from the pages of DDP titles would make for excellent additions to the line. In fact, they're all practically begging to be included.

There's one more thing that shouldn't be forgotten about those comics. In addition to the characters created in the DDP offices, they also did something I didn't believe anyone could ever do: They made Duke an interesting character that I actually looked forward to seeing in the stories. That alone is worthy of tremendous praise, so don't completely disregard those books, Hasbro. Let the stories in the comics go where they will, but keep DDP in mind for future character selection.

Updated October 13, 2011: After seeing these photos, all praise be to Hasbro.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

You Can't Do That On The Interweb

There's been plenty of online chatter over the last couple of months about htmlcomics, a site that hosts thousands of scanned comic books. The debate is whether or not the content constitutes copyright infringement, and the owner of the site has participated in several of the discussions across the interweb. While coming across as both a weirdo and an asshole, he insists that if libraries don't violate copyright law, then neither does his site. Some people have chosen to accept this argument. Others reject it, but read the comics on the site, anyway. I'm in the third camp. Not only will I not be reading comics he hosts, but I have difficulty believing anyone could be so ignorant about what he's doing.

He claims that the code on his site is written to prevent downloading and saving. That's a crock. The average surfer who doesn't know how to do anything more than right-click and "save as" may not have any luck, but the images can still be saved, and it doesn't take long for more savvy internet users to get past his silly trick (and no, I won't be sharing the how, just as I won't link directly to the site). The guy is a bit too impressed with the "code" he mistakenly believes protects his activity from being classified as distribution. It doesn't matter if the content can't easily be saved, because the act of delivering it to other computers electronically, which is what happens when people view pages on a web site, is by definition distribution.

The meat of his position, however, is The Library Argument. According to him, they make books available for readers, so what he's doing is no different. The Library Argument is patently false, and it doesn't hold water for two very obvious reasons that he failed to consider.

First of all, public libraries are not free. They're "public" because the public pays for them with tax dollars. It's not charity when you go to your local library and check out a book; you pay for that right when you pay local taxes. No public service is free, not libraries, recreational centers, police or fire departments, trash collection, or road construction. The same goes for private school libraries. Tuition helps to fund them, so again, nothing is free. If a collective wanted to build a community comic collection from which they could all read books, and they did it by actually buying the titles they wanted to include, that would work under The Library Argument. This doesn't, and it's not even close.

Secondly, books in libraries are either purchased from publishers or donated, and then the library lends out those books. They do not make copies, digital or otherwise, so they can offer them to more readers. They loan out only books, music, and movies that have been obtained legally. There's nothing illegal about scanning your comics for your own purposes (the clown behind this site even tries to compare what he's doing to backing up ones own collection), but making an archive of a collection freely available to the public is an unequivocal example of copyright infringement. There's no crime in loaning the most recent trade paperback you bought to a pal, but if you made color copies of every page and gave them away, you have infringed on the publisher's rights. When you cheat the publisher, you cheat the creators whose work you claim to enjoy. That's a dick move, period.

The owner of this site claims to have no interest in comic books, and maybe that makes it easier in his mind to justify theft. On the other hand, he's a self-described database developer, so I have to wonder how he'd feel if someone stole his code without compensating him for the work he put into it. You'd think someone in that sort of profession might have a bit more respect for the concept of intellectual property, but that's apparently not the case with this guy.

There's no debate to be had about The Library Argument. It's bogus, and glaringly so. The only thing left to debate is whether or not it's okay to visit the site and take advantage of what he's providing. I've seen the same, tired excuses we always see when this sort of topic arises. "I wouldn't buy it, anyway." If you wouldn't buy it, anyway, then why are you so determined to read it for free? "I'm broke, so I can't afford to pay for comics." Welcome to The University Of Real Life. We have your course schedule ready, starting with Tough Shit 101. I'd like to have lots of things I can't afford. Hell, I'd love to run out and buy one of these, one of these, and one of these right now. The fact that I'm not sitting on thousands of dollars to throw around for luxury items doesn't make it acceptable for me to just help myself to whatever I want. The sense of entitlement some people have can be overwhelming at times.

And yes, the notion that comic book publishers should make available titles that are no longer in print is a legitimate one. If you're not printing it, and you have no intention of printing it in the foreseeable future, you won't be losing any money by hosting digital versions on your web sites. If anything, you'll be providing a valuable service that your fans will appreciate. You might even introduce them to a writer or artist whose work is currently for sale and generate some revenue from the endeavor. So yeah, I understand where people are coming from on this aspect of the debate, but what htmlcomics and people using torrent sites are doing goes so far beyond that.

It all comes down to one very basic idea: If you like the work, then don't be a dick to the creators whose efforts made that enjoyment possible for you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Muppet Madness Strikes This March

The great people behind The MuppetCast and ToughPigs are hosting a March Madness-style tournament with a Muppet twist. Beginning with sixteen match-ups, you can vote to help determine which character will advance in each round of the bracket. Head over to check out The Muppet Madness Tournament! and help your favorite Muppet cut down the net!

The Muppet Madness Tournament!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Luke Skywalker Wasn't Much Of A Jedi

Today marks the tenth anniversary of ArtoosNews.com. While it was around, R2N was my favorite STAR WARS collecting site, but it only lasted a few years (that's okay, though, because we have YodasNews.com now). In honor of its anniversary, here's a (slightly edited) copy of a post I authored on the site's forum back in 2002. Hope you're doing well, Travis!

"Luke's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him." - Beru Lars

Did he? Did he really have too much of his father in him? His father was an arrogant Jedi apprentice, and if anything, he was too confident in his abilities. The closest Luke ever came to being cocky, despite Han Solo's comments in A New Hope, was when he ran off to face Vader before completing his training. That was more stupidity than anything else. It was always, "I can't do this. I can't do that. It's impossible." Anakin seemed completely different. You never saw Luke jumping out of a speeder thousands of feet in the air! Anakin went out and did his thing. The kid was like nine years old, flying starfighters in space battles, podracing, and even building his own racer. He was a slave, but he kept a positive attitude. Luke is like twenty years old, and he thinks he has it bad working on his uncle's farm.

"But I was going into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters." - Luke Skywalker

You ever want to just smack someone? Why didn't Owen just backhand Luke and put him in his place? Ungrateful little desert hick, he should have been thankful that this farmer, to whom he wasn't even really related, had taken him into his home. But no, not Luke. He has to complain about everything. People say that Jar Jar is annoying, but Jar Jar can't touch Luke.

"I can't get involved. I've got work to do." - Luke Skywalker

The film could have easily been titled Star Whines with this guy. What did Obi-Wan even see in him? How did he peg this kid for Jedi material? After seeing cats like Mace Windu in action, not to mention young Obi-Wan and a younger Yoda, exactly what did he think this kid was capable of becoming? He never accomplished anything remotely close to what we have seen the Jedi do in the prequels. Leia seemed like a much better candidate. She was strong, independent, and fearless. Luke was a whiny, obnoxious pain in the ass.

"I warn you not to underestimate my powers." - Luke Skywalker

What powers? When Darth Maul is backing away from Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, he uses the Force to lift some crate and smash it into the control panel to open a door. What does Luke do when Jabba drops him into the Rancor pit? He throws a skull at the control panel. Granted, it was a throw that would have made Dan Marino proud, but come on, man. Powers? Give me a break. It was just a nice toss.

"You want the impossible." - Luke Skywalker

After all the things to which Luke had been witness...

Ben teaching him the ways of the Force, using the Force to control the minds of the Stormtroopers, and guiding Luke when he himself used the Force to drop a bomb right up the gut of the first Death Star, all without the aid of a targeting computer... Why was lifting an X-Wing so impossible? You never see Anakin display that attitude. Anakin is the exact opposite, which is why I liked him better. Luke was always waiting to get kicked around, never really getting the whole Jedi thing down. Anakin would jump right into the thick of the shit without giving it a second thought. The only times you really see him hesitate are 1) when he's trying to decide if he's going to side with Palpatine or the Jedi and 2) when he has to slice up a bunch of little kids.

"With the blast shield down I can't even see. How am I supposed to fight?" - Luke Skywalker

Can you see Obi-Wan acting that way during his training? Qui-Gon? Mace? I can't even see Anakin acting like that. He grew up being able to, "see things before they happen," remember? He would have been all about fighting the remote without his vision. What about the Bear Clan? You think those little kids would have whined to Yoda? No way. They would have done what they were told. Luke just complained. All the time.

"Luke's crazy. He can't even take care of himself, much less rescue anybody." - Han Solo

Good thing Han Solo was around to take care of Luke, seeing as how the little punk was always trying to get himself killed. Being tracked down by Vader's ship is one thing, because we all know that Vader is an excellent pilot. In The Empire Strikes Back, however, Luke almost gets taken out by the STAR WARS equivalent of a polar bear. Luke can't use the Force to sense this big Wampa walking up behind him? Anakin and Obi-Wan were in deep conversation when they both sensed the little assassin slugs in the next room. Not only was Luke a punk, but he wasn't too sharp, either. So this Wampa grabs him and freezes him to the roof of his cave. Luke looks as if he is going to have an aneurysm just using the Force to grab his lightsaber. What a joke... He dies if Han doesn't show up to save him.

"An elegant weapon for a more civilized time. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire." - Obi-Wan Kenobi

Look at the way the Jedi conduct themselves in the Old Republic. Even Anakin, who began life as a slave and eventually becomes Darth Vader, is a sophisticated, talented young gentleman. Luke never displayed any of those qualities, but I was happy for Luke when he started to beat Vader down in Return Of The Jedi. He was winning, and he could have finished him, had he chosen to do so. But then the Emperor put Luke in his proper place: lying on his back, screaming like a bitch. Luke is a goner at this point, but once again, someone comes along to save this pathetic, sorry excuse for a Jedi. He just sliced off Vader's hand, so for all he knows, the Dark Lord of the Sith wants to watch him fry. But Anakin Skywalker found something he had lost, something he didn't even know still existed: his humanity. He sacrifices himself to save his son, and Luke Skywalker Forrest Gumps his way through another adventure.

Luke Skywalker: "So, what do you think of her, Han?"
Han Solo: "I'm tryin' not to, kid."
Luke Skywalker: "Good."
Han Solo: "Still, she's gotta lot of spirit. I don't know, whaddya think? You think a princess and a guy like me--"
Luke Skywalker: "No."

What the hell? How Force-sensitive could Luke have been? He was falling for his sister! He kissed his sister! If that doesn't leave a foul taste in your mouth, I don't know what will. All the whining, all the shortcomings, all the less-than-impressive Jedi skills, it could all be forgiven. You just don't make out with your sister, though.

No, Luke wasn't much of a Jedi. I know a lot of people don't much care for the prequels, but personally, I'm happy that George Lucas gave us a taste of what Jedi were supposed to be. I'm glad we got a sample of what Obi-Wan was talking about on Tatooine, when he was telling Luke about the Old Republic and the Jedi Knights protecting the galaxy. And I'm glad that Luke didn't have to be in those films.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Day

The snow we got last night and this morning provided me with an occasion to open the Ice Viper figure I packed away after buying it four or five months ago. I took it and a H.I.S.S. out front for some photos this morning:

Ice Viper - The Rise Of Cobra
Not everyone had as much fun in the snow as we did. In fact, someone seems to have lost something rather important.

bumper
Darby had plenty of fun, though. She went out to play in the yard a few times, and we took a walk around the neighborhood so she could run around several other yards, too.

Darby's Snow Day
Here she is patrolling the backyard and checking out the snow.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Changes To eBay Fees Coming This Spring

Read the announcement here. Personally, I like the new fee structure for auction-style listings. I already start most of mine at 99¢, and the .25% Final Value Fee increase for items that sell for $25 or less is a good trade-off, because I'll only have to pay it if the item sells. I'm sure I'll feel differently when I sell items that end over the $25 mark, but what are you going to do? No other site offers you the exposure eBay does.

That won't stop the usual chorus of bitching and whining that accompanies every change to eBay policy ever, though. People on OAI web sites are already claiming they'll take their ball and go home. Rather than waste time repeating myself, I'll just refer you to what I said back in August of 2008.

Via @terrordrome

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Zartan: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Bonus

While I enjoyed G.I. JOE: The Rise Of Cobra more than a lot of fans, there were definitely things I believe should have been handled differently. The movie was not without its flaws, and there were certainly shortcomings in the way the source material was interpreted, but I'm likely in the minority in believing they got more right than wrong. Having said that, one aspect of the film I thoroughly enjoyed was Arnold Vosloo's portrayal of Zartan. I felt like they nailed this character from top to bottom. Sure, I would have loved to see him in his cowl, but that wasn't nearly as important to me as his characterization, which I felt came very close to perfect. My only problem was that Hasbro neglected to release an undisguised figure in their movie line, choosing instead to release two versions in G.I. JOE MP uniforms.

I passed on the single-carded release over and over after the launch of the line, and only purchased one when I decided to use the body for my Law & Order. Not only was I unenthusiastic about the disguised figure, but I wasn't fond of the hair color. The Toys R Us Trooper five-pack that was released late last year, however, corrected that second problem with darker hair, so I decided to fill in the gap left by Hasbro.

Zartan - The Rise Of Cobra
This figure is simply the Zartan head from Toys R Us G.I. JOE five-pack on the body of the Duke figure (sans the leg harness) from the same retailer's Cobra five-pack (25th Anniversary Snake-Eyes torso, 25th Gung-Ho legs, and Modern Era Airborne arms), armed with the M.A.R.S. Industries Officer's knife from the same Cobra five-pack.

Zartan: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Bonus

Friday, January 22, 2010

Night Stalkers: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Part V

If there's one thing the 25th Anniversary and Modern Era G.I. JOE lines needed, aside from specific characters on my personal list of wants, it's more females. The original five-packs released in 2007 included Scarlett and the Baroness. Since then, Hasbro has released only one additional female character, Lady Jaye, followed by two more versions of Scarlett, three more Baroness figures, and two more Lady Jaye figures. Cover Girl, Jinx, and Zarana are still waiting for their turns.

With the launch of The Rise Of Cobra line, Cover Girl finally got some love, but this was based on the likeness of Karolina Kurkova, not the Courtney Krieger we all remember from 1983. It also brought the introduction of a brand new character, Agent Helix, which was definitely a welcome addition. I'm always down for new female characters in the property. Reusing her head sculpt, Hasbro released a 2009 version of Dialtone. This wasn't the Jack Morelli Dial-Tone from '86, but Jill Morelli, a female comm specialist using a nearly identical code name. The movie line also included two versions each of Rachel Nichols' Scarlett and Sienna Miller's Baroness.

Just like Marlon Wayans and Saïd Taghmaoui became my unmasked Iron Grenadiers, I had something other than Scarlett and the Baroness in mind for these movie figures. With no female army builders available for Cobra, and no hint of any being part of Hasbro's plans for the future, these releases presented an opportunity. I was a big fan of one element of the 2007 G.I. JOE Convention exclusive set, so I set out to create a 25th/Modern-style update to the concept.

I already had a Scarlett head from the body I used to create my ROC/DDP-style Jinx, and I bought the "Paris Pursuit" Baroness figure with the intention of using her for something other than Baroness. I wasn't sure exactly what I would do with her at the time, but it was a great figure, so I was certain to come up with something. After picking up the Toys R Us five-pack with Dialtone, I decided to grab two more "Paris Pursuit" Baroness figures and a Cover Girl. With a brunette, a blonde, and a redhead, I now had all the necessary ingredients for a set of Night Stalkers.

Night Stalkers
Looking at the different ways I've incorporated The Rise Of Cobra toys into my 25th collection, this group is easily my favorite. Maybe it's a good thing for me that Hasbro hasn't produced any female army builders in Cobra uniforms, because I might spend myself into the poorhouse if they did. I had already bought the 2009 G.I. JOE five-pack (with Snake-Eyes, Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, and Hawk) to create my Female Viper Officer, and I would have painted several more if that version of Lady Jaye had seen a single-carded release. For now, though, the Night Stalkers will serve under the Baroness and bring a little diversity to the workplace on Cobra Island.

Brunette Night Stalker
The Brunette Night Stalker is simply the "Paris Pursuit" Baroness body with a Dialtone head (originally used for Agent Helix), armed with two of Baroness' guns.

Redhead Night Stalker
The Redhead Night Stalker uses the head from the "Desert Ambush" Scarlett, and she is armed with one of Baroness' guns.

Blonde Night Stalker
The Blonde Night Stalker has Cover Girl's head and silver pistols. Cover Girl's head sits too low on the neck if you push it all the way down, but it's very easy to position it for a proper look, and it stays in place perfectly. For whatever reason, this head sculpt looks much better to me on this body than it did with the ROC JOE uniform. Maybe it's her facial expression; perhaps it's more fitting for a Cobra operative.

I'll post a bonus installment tomorrow with something different, a way to add something to your movie collection that Hasbro neglected to release.

Night Stalkers: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Part V

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Unmasked Grenadiers: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Part IV

While I don't mind admitting that I enjoyed the movie interpretations of the characters, the Marlon Wayans Rip Cord and Saïd Taghmaoui Breaker had no place in my display of classic characters. With Hasbro's habit of reusing head sculpts in the 25th Anniversary and Modern lines, though, the best thing about actor likenesses was the introduction of more unique heads that I could use with my 25th figures (starring Channing Tatum as "Cobra Science Officer"). I bought The Rise Of Cobra Breaker and Rip Cord figures back in July for just this reason, although I did buy another Rip Cord for my movie display after seeing it at the theater. With these new heads, I decided to unmask Destro's personal troops, the Iron Grenadiers.

Unmasked Iron Grenadiers
I wanted to include the IGs in my display, but without the helmets, to serve as a personal security team for Destro. The two on the right use the Flash and comic two-pack Hawk heads from the Firefly vs. G.I. JOE Troopers five pack; the two on the left use the ROC Breaker and Rip Cord heads.

Iron Grenadier Officer
This is my Iron Grenadier Officer, using the figure and stand from the Toys R Us three-pack, and carrying the M.A.R.S. case from the "Attack On The G.I. JOE PIT" Baroness figure.

Iron Grenadier
Here's the Saïd Taghmaoui Iron Grenadier, using the figure from the comic book two-pack. I knew I had to do something about those red pistols, so after taking these photos, all four IGs have been equipped with MAC-10s from Marauder Gun-Runners.

Even though they weren't going to replace the '80s versions of Rip Cord and Breaker, their likenesses are still getting put to good use in my collection. We'll take a look at the female characters of the line tomorrow.

Unmasked Grenadiers: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Part IV

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Law & Order: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Part III

One The Rise Of Cobra update to an off-screen character that I really liked was the release of Law & Order in the Toys R Us five-pack. The only problem, though, was that he was in a desert-specific uniform. I know the desert troops appeal to some people, but I have no interest in them at all. That's always been the case, too. I never even cared for Dusty as a kid. I was eager to add Law & Order to my collection, but I had to use another body.

Enter the single-carded Zartan figure from Wave 1 Collection 2 of the movie line. I passed on this figure before and after seeing the movie. I really enjoyed the character in the flick, but I didn't want a "disguised" version of Zartan (more on that later this week). Once I saw that Law was using the same body, but repainted with the desert camo scheme, I finally had a reason to buy one. This is simply Law's head (originally used for Dusty), helmet, and baton with the Zartan body. For me, the grey camo pattern makes for a much better MP figure in general. If he's going to be stationed at The PIT, he can save the desert gear until it's relocated to Utah.

Law & Order
G.I. JOE figures with animals have always been a big hit with me, so I dug Law & Order back in the '80s. I always thought the original figure looked goofy, though. It doesn't happen often, but I prefer this over a straight 25th-style release of the character.

Law & Order: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Part III

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cobra Science Officer: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Part II

One of the best movie figures from the G.I. JOE: The Rise Of Cobra line was Rex "The Doctor" Lewis, and I immediately decided I'd need a duplicate for my non-movie display when I first saw images of the toy. What I didn't know at the time was that a second version, a white coat variant, would be available later. Once that was revealed, I knew it was the one I wanted. Even a mad scientist like Dr. Mindbender needs someone to assist him in the lab with his research and experiments, so providing him with a lackey was the first idea that came to mind for this figure. It wouldn't do to stick with the Rex head, however, as that's too movie-specific for my tastes. This is one of those bodies with a shorter neck, though, so some heads would sit much too low on the figure.

Duke to the rescue!

Cobra Science Officer
Since there won't be any movie versions of Duke in my classics display, this ended up being a great match. It's just the white coat version of Rex with the Duke head from the Toys R Us Cobra ROC five-pack (originally used for the v33 "Desert Ambush" Duke figure). The final result is my Cobra Science Officer, ready to help Mindbender with his next sinister creation, and complete with a normal, non-Freddy-looking head. This body would also be great for a modern Dr. Venom custom, but with an exclusive figure coming soon from the G.I. JOE Collectors' Club, I'll wait for that and hope for a more classic look for our dearly departed Dr. Venom.

Cobra Science Officer: Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra Part II

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra: Security Squad

I'll start by saying I'm a big fan of many items from Hasbro's The Rise Of Cobra line. There are great vehicles like the new Night Raven, the Cobra Gunship, the Steel Crusher A.P.V., and the Dragonhawk helicopter. I was happy to add some of the figures to my collection, as well. Night Adder is an instant classic and one of the coolest new characters introduced to the brand in years. Paris Pursuit Snake-Eyes, the PIT Commando, Rex "The Doctor" Lewis, and Flash were favorites, too. Don't forget the ROC repaints of the Night Creeper and Strato-Viper.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that most of the figures just don't fit in too well with the classic characters of the Modern/25th Anniversary line. Or they don't mesh right out of the package, anyway. A little mixing and matching can go a long way, though, and that will be my focus for the next few days. None of these will require any paint or tools. With a few simple tweaks like head swaps and gear exchanges, even the movie line's peg warming army builders (not-so-affectionately dubbed the "Turtle Vipers" by many G.I. JOE collectors) can work their way into a classic Cobra display. I'll start with those guys, and we'll see how cool these figures look under their "turtle" shells.

Cobra Security 1
This first figure is a Neo-Viper from the Wal-Mart-exclusive Heetseek Missile System mini battle station. I simply removed the "turtle" chest armor, replaced the head with the blonde "Breaker" head from the Toys R Us Firefly vs. G.I. JOE Troopers five-pack, and armed him with a rifle from the PIT Commando figure.

Cobra Security 2
The second figure is the Neo-Viper from the Target-exclusive Serpent Armor set. Once again, I removed the chest armor, swapped his head out for a Serpentor head, and armed him with a PIT Commando rifle.

Cobra Security 3
The third figure is the Neo-Viper from the Toys R Us Cobra ROC five-pack. Same rifle, same head and armor removal, and this time he gets a Footloose head from the Toys R Us G.I. JOE ROC five-pack.

Cobra Security 4
The fourth figure is just the M.A.R.S. Industries Officer from the Toys R Us Cobra ROC five-pack, sans the Resolute Cobra Trooper helmet. The Duke-in-disguise figure from that same set even came with the rifle I used for everyone else, so he gets the same weapon as his teammates.

Cobra Security Squad
What I ended up with is a new Cobra Security Squad, all without breaking out a screwdriver, a brush, or even a non-Hasbro weapon. In my mind, they're private contractors (think Blackwater) who patrol Cobra Island and report to Night Adder. In keeping with the snake theme, I'm thinking of referring to them as Lancehead Company.

Getting More From The Rise Of Cobra: Security Squad