Thursday, May 23, 2013

Toy Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Zodac

Here's a character that I always loved as a kid.  I'm not really sure why, though.  When compared to most other Masters of the Universe (MOTU) characters, Zodac (not "Zodiac") is a bit on the dull side.  He's got little in the way of bright colors, and really no special features.  He's even only got the one real accessory.   Beyond that, Zodac hardly ever put in an appearance on the He Man and the Masters of the Universe television show.  Still, there's just a quality of completeness about Zodac.  He's just a good clean science fiction action figure.  

This Zodac isn't an original MOTU toy, but rather one of the many Masters of the Universe Classics figures that Mattel has released since 2009.  These figures are designed to closely mimic the feel of the originals, while bringing the toy engineering up to a modern standard.  There are many more points of articulation and a greater attention to "fit and finish" than their vintage counterparts.  Partly this is due to the MOTUC line being an adult collector's line (sold by Mattel only online or through online vendors), where the original toys were strictly children's playthings.  Oddly enough, despite the collector's nature of these, they are pretty much just modern toys.  There's little difference in my opinion between these and many other action figures released in retail stores these days.

Like the MOTUC He-Man figure, Zodac stands around seven inches tall.  He shares the same upper arms, thighs, and hips/loincloth as He-Man, and this is par for the course for both the original line and the Classics line.  Reuse of parts was a way to reduce development costs back when these toys were originally introduced, and now it serves the same purpose while being true to the way the older toys were made.  Very clever, Mattel!

Zodac sports his iconic red and gray helmet with glassy black bug-eyed sunglasses.  I'm not sure what the helmet does for him, given that he's nearly half naked otherwise.

Zodac's other bit of armor is an angular chest-plate.  I've done my best to find a way to remove it, as was possible with the original toy, but it seems that Mattel's designers made it a permanently attached part.  That's a bit of a shame as most of the rest of the armor bits on the toys in the MOTUC line are removable.

Zodac always had weird forearms and hands, and no wonder, as these are reused from Skeletor.  They have a strange fin-like quality, but also look as if with a proper splash of paint they could easily become fancy gloves of some kind.

The lower legs give more of an example of the paint possibilities I was talking about with the arms.  These are, again, reused from Skeletor.  Somehow, Zodac's three toes are part of his boot as well.  

Another trademark Zodac feature was his hairy chest.  Very few MOTU figures got this particular part, but Zodac got to be just that bit more manly than He-Man in this regard.  The hair, however, was never anything more than just the color of the rest of his flesh, so there's always the possibility that his chest actually was just highly wrinkled.  Highly wrinkled or fleshily hairy.  Oh well, he's already got those weird arms and toes, so what's one more oddity thrown into the mix?

Zodac's backpack looks as if it might contain a rocket or possibly anti-gravity generator for limited flight.  As was the way with the MOTU world, both fantasy and science fiction elements are at play here.  Zodac carries a gun, and wears futuristic armor, but he also wears a furry loincloth and barbaric...  uh...  belt-thingy.  

Speaking of his blaster, there's quite a bit of detail molded in.  It's made of a brighter red plastic than Zodac's other gear and does include a few paint applications.  

The MOTUC figures are chock full of articulation, with joints just about everywhere.  Oddly enough, this doesn't actually yield all that much in the way of poseability.  Zodac can pull off some action poses, but they're not really all that dynamic.

Zodac's really at his best standing heroically at attention.

I poke fun at poor old Zodac, but he really is a pretty cool action figure.  Gotta hand it to the folks at Mattel all those years ago for coming up with a unique vision for the world that these characters exist in.  The mix of swords and sorcery and technology actually works well in tandem, and this allows many of the MOTU characters to be pretty outlandish and still fit in nicely.  Zodac's weird enough in his own way, but he's pretty tame in comparison to some of the others.  That still doesn't keep him from being one of my most favored characters in the line.  It's nice to have this faithful update to the original in my possession.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Custom Kaiju: Sculpey Hedorah

Rather than another review, today's post is about another of my forays into Sculpey, uh, "art."  A few years back I got some inspiration by looking at old vintage vinyl kaiju toys (like Muruchi), and thinking that perhaps I could replicate the look using my sculpting and painting skills.  Thinking hard about monsters that would be tough to screw up, I settled on Hedorah, a perennial favorite of the Godzilla fandom.  Hedorah is the "smog monster" from the 1971 film Godzilla vs.Hedorah.  An extraterrestrial alien, Hedorah is capable of forming directly from pollution and toxins, and so he has a sludgy, gloopy, dark body.

While making this Hedorah, I was thinking of all the crazy proportions and colorful paint sprays one sees on old vinyl toys, and also of ways of replicating the simple articulation that usually went along with them.  After some cogitation and a few hours forming a globby body, I had something ready to paint.  I went for a dark base, and then started dry-brushing various metallic colors over the surface.

Very little articulation actually made it into the final piece, but the arms can actually rotate at the shoulder.  

Hedorah's got a long "tail," but it really could just be the goo from his body dragging behind him.

You might notice something odd about the eyes here.  There is a gloss coat and a bit of paint on the pupil and white ring around the cornea, but they are otherwise just the original Sculpey color.

I made the eyes out of glow-in-the-dark Sculpey colors!  The photo isn't really all that great as my camera does not do well in low light, but you get the idea.  I probably should have left him under a bright light for a bit longer.

In painting this guy, I was aiming for the sort of rainbow effect that an oil slick will produce.

Here's a glimpse into how the arms can stay in place and still move while made from hard baked Sculpey.  Magnets are the key!  Unfortunately, there is a bit of paint that rubs off at the joint, but this guys is pretty much for display only.  Sculpey is not exactly the material of choice for toys.

Someday perhaps I'll get around to making up some other Sculpey kaiju.  Hedorah at least has Godzilla and Minilla for company.  Luckily they're not busy having an all-out monster brawl in my display case.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Toy Review: Popy GB-42 Mechanic Lightan (2007 Bandai reissue)

It's time to revisit one of my very favorite toy lines with another of Bandai's reissues of the wonderful early 80s's Golden Warrior Gold Lightan toys.  In my very first review, I gave an overview to the main character, Gold Lightan, a giant golden robot whose alternate form is that of a pocket cigarette lighter.  Yup, it was 1981, and I guess smoking was still pretty darn common, so perhaps a lighter would have been an adequate disguise.  We all know the tobacco industry has been trying to hook kids for years.  Maybe they were busy luring Japanese youth with huge fighting robots and chogokin toys?

Anyway, the subject of today's review is a subsequent Lightan toy, Mechanic Lightan.  Reissued by Bandai in 2007, this toy was originally one of Popy's releases in its GB Chogokin line.  Mechanic Lightan served in an assistant role in the original television series, acting as a repair bot for the rest of the Lightan team.

In lighter form, Mechanic is a bit shorter than his big brother Gold Lightan, but is wider and stouter.  The toy has greater weight, as there is less hollow space inside.  You'll see why in a bit.  This lighter has a rounded top, but still retains the signature "crystal cut" surface that also adorns Gold Lightan.  There are quite a few seams and some hinges visible in this mode.

A look at the underside reveals the GB-42 code, and an indicator that this is a reissue, rather than an original.  No matter, it's purported to be a faithful reproduction.  You can also see many more seams here as well.  This is where we'll start his transformation to robot mode.

Flipping some of these panels open reveals three wheel pods with a total of four wheels.  Most of the toy is heavy diecast metal, and these wheels are made of the same stuff.

Mechanic Lightan sits upright on these wheels quite well, and he rolls freely on them.

A simple flip of the lighter's top and the robot's head is exposed.  The plastic is a deep metallic blue with silver and yellow accents.  Note the red plastic button on top of the head and the spring-loaded support arm for the top.  It's like the supports on the hoods of many modern cars!

Pressing the red button pops open Mechanic Lightan's chest.  Hidden inside are a variety of moving parts.

Swinging the chest panels all the way out to the sides, one can then fold out two manipulator arms.  These red plastic parts are mounted on silver chromed extenders.

One use for these arms is as firing missile launchers.  These utilize very small missiles that can be fired when the button on top is pressed.

Opening the chest up allows you to get at Mechanic Lightan's array of tools.  These are, amazingly, also made of the same gold diecast from which most of the rest of the toy is constructed.

There's a flat-head screwdriver, drill bit, Phillips head screwdriver, and then a socket wrench.  Each is about three quarters of an inch high.

Each can fit in the missile launcher's opening in place of a missile, thus allowing Mechanic Lightan to make needed repairs.

The blue carrying compartment can even be tilted forward to allow for easier access to the tools.

Mechanic Lightan's got quite a lot of features and gimmicks, and his weight is substantial due to copious amounts of diecast metal.  He's fantastic hand candy and a lot of fun to play with.  A reproduction piece like this is certainly aimed at the adult collector's market, but this is a real honest-to-goodness toy.  I love these guys!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Toy Review: Bandai Ultra Monsters Bemular and King Joe

It's been a while since my last post, and I apologise for this, if only to myself.  I had wanted to try to put up a couple reviews a week, but a rather large project at work has taken up most of my time and energy lately.  Things should begin to settle down now to allow me some ability to focus on t-o-y-s!

Today's post is something of a continuation of my Ultra Monsters Zetton and Dada review in that the two toys I'm reviewing are from the same line, and also gifted to me on my birthday by my other brother and his wonderful wife.  These are not vintage vinyl toys, though they represent characters from a television show that is now nearly fifty years old.  Please see the above review for a description of the Ultraman show(s) from which the monsters Bemular and King Joe originate.

First up is Bemular, a giant monster from the very first episode of Ultraman.  Bemular is basically the wall-eyed dumb cousin of Godzilla.  He's supposedly more than a 160 feet tall and has fiery breath, though that seems to be about the extent of his unique attributes.  The toy does represent what I remember from the show pretty well, even down to the baggy underbelly and spindly arms of what is clearly a "guy-in-a-suit" monster. 

This figure really does have quite a bit of sculpted detail and nice paint accents.  There are a mixture of different metallic paint sprays over his surface that help pick out the various protrusions and scales, and the mouth and eyes have been precisely painted as well.

Bemular's lower parts are mostly awash in gold.

The paint spray on his back is a metallic greenish-blue that just looks fantastic.

Bemular really looks like he's been in the ring one time too many with his enemy Ultraman.  The tongue lolls and his eyes point in opposite directions.  These sort of vinyl figures are usually simple constructions with little articulation, and Bemular can just barely move his head and arms.  Anyone want a hug?

Similarly metallic and bereft of posability is another of Ultraman's enemies, King Joe.  Old Joe comes from the Ultra Seven show that aired a year after Ultraman.  King Joe is a conglomerate being made up of four smaller spaceships that merge into a giant robot.  His coloration is a pale gold, with rainbow panels on his chest, and some darker gold accents.

Just look at that face!  Does he seem the least bit menacing?

Joe's birthing hips don't help engender any greater sense of danger.

Really, neither do his stiff C-3PO arms.

Joe's got a look that could be pulled straight from the days of the Solid Gold Dancers.  He does have an appearance of maybe being just about to break into a song and dance routine.

King Joe has the sort of articulation that might make for good disco dancing.  His arms can swivel at the shoulder and his hips can turn slightly.  He's no John Travolta, but he tries.

"Boogie down, Bemular!"

"You were looking especially lovely on the dance floor, Bems.  Wanna get a drink?"  Don't fall for that swindler's lines, Bemular!  

Well, that's all for today folks.  Bemular and King Joe are perfect representations of just how goofy the monsters were in the various Ultraman shows.  I personally think they're awfully cool, and I do love the fact that these are just toys made for kids.  Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for their supercool gift!