Two-Fisted Toy Talk!

These Toys Aren't Going to Photograph Themselves…

Buyer’s Remorse and the Art of Toy Criticism

I’ve been working a second job to generate some much-needed frivolity funds, and my first paycheck arrived just as Hasbro’s new Retaliation series of G.I. Joe toys started showing up at my local Wal-Mart and Target stores. Having gone without spending money for almost exactly a year, I allowed myself to get a bit carried away with my purchases this week.

…and the results have been largely anticlimactic. The new Lady Jaye figure, the celebrated Firefly figure from a recent movie-themed three-pack, the (G.I.) Joe Colton figure with the impressive Bruce Willis likeness… they all fell flat for me.

Indeed, thus far there is only one G.I. Joe Retaliation figure that I am truly happy to own. His (unlikely) name is Mouse, and I am uncertain how to try to persuade you that he is a fantastic toy. After all, I may be the world’s only toy blogger who essentially never reviews toys.

Enter Eugene Martin.

Eugene was a classmate of mine in Ms. Saenz’s third grade classroom at Oakdale Heights Elementary School during the 1985-1986 school year, and one day he abandoned our math lesson to admonish me for having callously dismissed a robotic helicopter named Wrong Way as a GoBot undeserving of my critical scrutiny. Eugene’s passionate speech concluded with the following giddy observation: “He even has these yellow things on his shoulders!”

 

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(Photo appears courtesy of io9… from a list titled “20 Gobots That Remind Us Why the Gobots Sucked So Incredibly Hard”; sorry, Eugene)

 

Eugene’s rant is still the purest and in its way the most persuasive toy review I’ve ever witnessed, although I never did pursue a Wrong Way figure.

For Eugene, then, that rarest of treats: a Two-Fisted Toy Talk! toy review:

 

G.I. Joe Retaliation: Agent Mouse

Oh my god I love his vest, with those blue deals all lined up in front. And his pants are all, like, wrinkled and cool looking. And his face is all mellow, like he just killed some Cobra dudes and can’t be bothered to make a big deal out of it. Mouse is awesome!

 

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Looking again at that photo of Wrong Way the GoBot, I cannot help but notice that, while there are yellow streaks where the half-assed vac-metal has rubbed away on his rotors, there is nonetheless a distinctive lack of “yellow things” on Wrong Way’s shoulders.

I’ll never trust again. Curse you, Eugene Martin, wherever you are!

Rise of Cobra: The Coloring Book

Last Christmas, my wife bought me a fun stocking stuffer in the form of Yo, Joe!, a G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra coloring book.

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It is a pretty mediocre affair, even by coloring book standards; none of the portraits resemble the actors, and even the ostensibly heroic characters look mean and ugly and unpleasant. However, a lone, triumphant page redeems the entire book.

But first, some context.

Here are some members of the G.I. Joe team, circa 1985:

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What with the stilted poses and the constipated grimaces and the Village People flamboyance, this image is admittedly not particularly stirring to anyone who wasn’t eleven years old and retarded in the mid-1980s, but if nothing else it boasts a campy, pulpy spirit of fun, and the characters certainly possess distinct personalities… or distinct types, at any rate. (Actually, a closer look suggests that the painter used the same model for each character’s face. Perhaps Hasbro hired a young Alex Ross).

Compare the group shot above with the following portrait of another group of G.I. Joes, this time from the Rise of Cobra film.

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Longtime fans of G.I. Joe offered many a nonsensical criticism of The Rise of Cobra. My favorite concerns a character’s lips. This might strike you as too trivial a detail on which to base one’s cinematic criticism, but make no mistake: G.I. Joe fans were enraged that their beloved ninja hero Snake Eyes had lips sculpted onto his face mask.

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The histrionic protests surrounding these sculpted rubber lips (“You raped my childhood!” and “Trukk not monkey!” and you’ve heard it all before) cited the fact that no redesign was necessary, for the Version 2 Snake Eyes action figure from 1985 is the definitive, classic, iconic, perfect Snake Eyes design, and those Hollywood hacks should have used it as a template, dammit!

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Alert types will note that the cherished action figure in question boasts lips.

But moving on…

If nothing else, fans were correct to criticize the uninspired aesthetic of The Rise of Cobra. With its heroes all clad in black, there was little to distinguish them from the film’s villains, let alone from one another.

So what does the coloring book have to do with all this rambling commentary? Simply this:

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Ah, ye olde color-by-numbers activity… which in this case serves as an unwitting commentary on the lackluster wardrobe and design efforts Paramount invested in The Rise of Cobra… assuming this hilarious page doesn’t represent a very conscious commentary on the part of some knowing coloring book illustrator.

The color code offers three colors: black, green and red… and of 118 sections to color, thirteen are labeled 2 (for green) and four are labeled 3 (for red).

If my hasty calculations are correct, then…

86% of the Rise of Cobra color-by-number code is black.

Tremendous.

UPDATE:

I posted the color-by-numbers image at the Hiss Tank forum, and Tanker Python_Puckman composed this in response:

 

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Victory is Kit’s

My blog, like Douglas Adams’s five-volume Hitchhiker’s “Trilogy”, is increasingly inaccurately named. For proof, I cite the following, being a text message exchange between me and my friend Kit, who collects Hot Wheels Batmobiles.

 

Kit: I just got the last Batmobile (the Batman and Robin one).

Me: Truly the holy grail.

Kit: Indeed. Victory is mine.

Me: I can’t believe you call yourself a man after buying a toy from such a homoerotic movie. Incidentally, I finally bought one of those Lalaloopsy toys.

Kit: The Mad Hatter?

Me: Ooh, did they make a Mad Hatter?

Kit: Yeah, you’re talking about those, like, three-inch ones, right?

Me: Indeed. I keep waiting for some Oz-themed ones. I got some fortune telling Gypsy girl because she was discounted to $2, plus the dude in the bear suit because DON’T JUDGE ME!

Kit: No one judges you, little girl. You’re a princess. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Me: I was going for fairy mermaid, but princess will do.

Lonesome Dove

I have decided, in defiance of all sound financial sense and projected sales figures, that Hot Toys should create sixth scale action figures based on Lonesome Dove, the six-hour adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer-winning novel.
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Robert Duvall is arguably the greatest actor of all time, and in Lonesome Dove he portrays Texas Ranger, layabout, pompous philosopher and whiskey/whore enthusiast Augustus McCrae; his greatest role, and his greatest performance. (Duvall himself cites it as such, above even The Godfather). And Tommy Lee Jones is every bit as brilliant in his greatest role: Gus’s partner, Woodrow F. Call.
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Gus and Call are two of the most iconic characters in literary history… and made-for-TV movie history, which admittedly doesn’t sound as impressive. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s popular, wildly uneven comic book series Preacher mentions Gus and Call by name, and the title of its final issue is taken from Call’s dialogue. You won’t find the Old West aesthetic reproduced more authentically in any other Western, and Hot Toys alone is capable of translating said aesthetic to three dimensions in the form of action figures I can photograph in the Snake River canyon oh please make it happen.

Ahem.
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I envision astonishingly subtle paint apps, including dust on Gus and Call’s clothing and on their removable hats–beneath which is a wide band of pale, glossy flesh that never sees sunlight. I see traces of sweat and old dirt on each toy’s face. I see realistic accessories, including Gus’s pistol (which google assures me is a Walker Colt) and whiskey bottles and the Hat Creek Cattle Company sign, with its nonsensical Latin motto, “Uva uvam vivendo varia fit”, all produced with the exacting attention to detail for which Hot Toys is justly celebrated.
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I’god, Woodrow. Hell of a vision.

Wakey Wakey

There’s a toy enthusiast I admire, goes by the internet handle of Alexx. You might expect that his real name is Alex. But then, you might expect that grown men don’t collect children’s toys.

The most recent post on Alexx’s charming Toys and Tomfoolery weblog acknowledges, with a title that is typical of Alexx’s unassuming, self-deprecating sense of humor, the twenty-three days that had passed between posts:

*SNRGK* What? I’m Awake, I’m Awake!

Meanwhile, this post marks the end of a staggering ninety-day lull between posts here at Two-Fisted Toy Talk!

…2012 was a strange year for me.

However, much as I enjoy weaving earnest, distracting strands of autobiography into my long-winded toy commentary (see “Gandalf the Whiteley” and my favorite Two-Fisted Toy Talk! essay, “My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad”), G.I. Joes and Ninja Turtles simply don’t lend themselves to personal narratives involving unemployment, moving halfway around the world, couch-crashing at the home of long-suffering friends, and finding unlikely redemption in the form of graveyard shift work at a yogurt factory in Idaho. As such, I propose that we pretend I never stopped updating this noble weblog… except that I will now share some of the many photos I neglected to post during the past few months.

 

First, some Monster High portraits!

 

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The wee girls are very photogenic, but my interest in them was short-lived. Between being unemployed when I developed an interest in them and the fact that they are not particularly pose-able and cannot hold anything in their hands, I am ready to move on. I have a Venus McFlytrap doll I hope to photograph when the snow thaws, and I will continue to photograph any new dolls my daughter acquires (the De Nile sisters pictured above are hers), but I do not intend to seek any more Monster High dolls for myself, and I will probably give my Robecca Steam and Venus dolls to my daughter eventually.

Next up: Hellboy!

 

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The hand is a novelty item from London Dungeon, which also had for sale a Hellboy skull that I desperately wanted but could not afford.

 

New edits!

 

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Adora, from the Masters of the Universe Classics series:

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Scarabus, from the Four Horsemen:

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G.I. Joes!

 

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And coming soon… new Sigma 6 photos! Hopefully posted sooner than three months from now!

Shaun of the Dead

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Buttload of ‘Bots.

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Variations On A Theme

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Twin Falls

After six months of uncertainty and three months of couch-crashing with friends and living in a Toyota Dolphin, the Williams family is returning to Twin Falls, Idaho. My wife and I were offered jobs on the same day, and we will move back into the house we’ve been renting out since we went abroad in 2009.

What’s this mean? It means that our international adventures have indeed come to a premature end, if not necessarily a permanent one.

It also means that I am indeed going to free my Sigma 6 toys from storage at some point in the next few weeks; alert the media. To celebrate, I  present some old photos of my Sigma 6 toys, recently edited for Flickr.

As usual, the originals appear on the left, or on top:

 

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Window Shopping: Monster High

So that historians are spared the burden of endless debate in the many volumes I expect to be penned in my honor, I present to you the Monster High dolls I am most eager to acquire.

 

Three-Eyed Ghoul (Create-a-Monster):

Look At Me Now(Photo Appears Courtesy of nevraforever at Flickr)

 

Bee Girl (Create-a-Monster):

Imma Bee(Photo Appears Courtesy of nevraforever at Flickr)

 

(I am almost certain that all the remaining photos are promotional images. If I am mistaken and a photographer credit is due, let me know).

 

Perhaps the biggest revelation is Lagoona Blue; she is not the character I find most compelling, but I am interested in half a dozen of her variants. That’s twice the number of any other character.

 

Lagoona Blue (Classroom):

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Lagoona Blue (Dead Tired):
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If nothing else, you gotta love her Abe Sapien-like sleeping quarters.

 

Lagoona Blue (Skull Shores):
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Lagoona Blue (Wave 1):
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Lagoona Blue (School’s Out):
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Of the five Lagoona dolls pictured, the Wave 1 version is probably my favorite, which is a pity because the older dolls tend to be the most expensive.

 

C.A. Cupid (Wal-Mart Exclusive):

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At first I hated Cupid’s lipstick, but then it somehow reminded me of Quimper from Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles:

 

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Catarine Demew:
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Cleo De Nile (Ghouls Rule):
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Draculaura (Wave 1):
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I find Draculaura to be among the least interesting characters in the Monster High series, but this, the original Draculaura doll, is pretty nifty.

 

Frankie Stein (Classroom):
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Frankie Stein (Skull Shores):
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Frankie Stein (School’s Out):
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And now for my favorite character (and here I should note that all my talk of favorite and least favorite characters stems from nothing more than a given doll’s design; I have no intention of exploring any Monster High media):

 

Ghoulia Yelps (Classroom):
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Ghoulia Yelps (San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive):
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Ghoulia Yelps (Wave 1):

 

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For what it’s worth, if I could only have one Monster High doll, it would probably be the Wave 1 version of Ghoulia Yelps.

 

Gil (Skull Shores):
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Speaking of Abe Sapien!

 

Holt Hyde:
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Nefera DeNile:
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Operetta (Dot Dead Gorgeous):
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Operetta (Campus Stroll):
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Robecca Steam:

 

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Robecca is right up there with Ghoulia Yelps. So cool!

 

Rochelle Goyle:
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Scarah Screams (San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive):
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I am resigned to the fact that there is no way in hell I will ever own any convention-exclusive toy.

 

Spectra (Dot Dead Gorgeous):
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Spectra (School’s Out):
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Toralei Stripe:
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Venus McFlytrap:

 

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Yeesh. I gotta win the lottery or something.

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