Do superhero toys really suck?

Posted by Gcrush 
It can, but it has to be tightly controlled, either by restricting it to a small number of creators or having a strong editorial vision that lasts throughout the line. I think that's why the Kirby/Stan/Ditko era worked so well, or later stuff like Claremont's X-men, where there were a few creators seeding all kinds of stuff, and not a ton of writers writing around them. It's also why some of the best recent comics have been runs with single writers: Brubaker's Captain America, Peter David's X-Factor, Hickman's FF; they all run afoul of that crap they call Marvel crossovers, but otherwise they're pretty cohesive. If you look at most of the really well-regarded runs, stuff like Morrison's All Star Superman, Moore's Watchmen, Miller's Dark Knight, heck, even non-superhero stuff like Gaiman's Sandman, they're all driven by a singular vision, even if they take bits and pieces from other stories. But that's drawing on stuff that's already been established and doing stuff in a separate environment, where hopefully nobody else is going to play. But doing it company wide for years on end without ending up with a lot of crap, especially with their current practice of putting out as many comics as possible to get something to stick; well, that's nigh impossible. I think DC is trying to have some kind of editorial control over their stuff, but that seems to be stifling and in some cases, royally ticking off, creators.

There are small companies that start up and have some semblence of continuity, but for small, largely unknown characters that's an uphill battle when they're fighting against the familiar faces of Marvel and DC which tend to dominate the genre, they don't last long enough to really get that community feel that Sanjeev is talking about.

The other problem with the big superhero stories is that there can never be any change. The iconic figures have to stay iconic, or eventually revert back to their iconic forms, at least in the monthly format. They're really like written soap operas in that the storylines get recycled and the characters may shockingly change in a storyline, but eventually things reset and the cycle starts over... which is fine because there's enough content every day for the average soap opera fan (I assume) to be entertained, but you try to piece together the storylines in a wiki article and parse through them, it's going to be messy (or you can look at the male equivalent, professional wrestling).
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Sanjeev
So I don't mean to rehash our "do superhero comics really suck" argument, but let me reframe it as a question: is it possible to have a good LINE of comics (superhero or otherwise) with a rich history and settings with a cast of characters that potentially go back a long with with varied interactions? To me, THAT is what makes superhero comics.

So give me a LINE of books I can hop on board and pick up relatively quickly...that hopefully doesn't suck. Can such a thing exist?

I can't think of one. I still read Hellboy (and BPRD) because they have, so far, had the editorial control and singular vision that Fujishig is talking about. They're set in a single universe, characters die, events have continuous repercussions, they've told the first act of the apocalypse, and they're now in the middle of the second act. I don't know how long they can keep it together, but it's been almost 20 years now and so far it's only moderately cluttered with dead-end sidestories. Also, the art has typically been a refreshing mix of minimalism and impressionism.

But I wouldn't recommend it.

It wanders between deadpan grim comedic absurdity and Lovecraftian pulp horror, it's nigh inaccessable without back-reading, and major events are difficult to interpret because there is little exposition. In other words, it ain't a "superhero" title.
I love me some Hellboy but man are some volumes hard to slog through.

For good superhero action, I like Kirkman's Invincible, but that's largely one title with some less successful spin offs. Plus it's totally the plot of Dragonball Z. But Kirkman's just as brutal here as he is with Walking Dead.
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Gcrush
It wanders between deadpan grim comedic absurdity and Lovecraftian pulp horror, it's nigh inaccessable without back-reading, and major events are difficult to interpret because there is little exposition. In other words, it ain't a "superhero" title.

I tried teaching HB one quarter several years back. Bad mistake. I was naive, and didn't realize that I would have had to spend half a year just giving the kids enough contextual reading for them to even have a chance of understanding the issues I gave them. I'd hoped that pairing the reading with the movie would make things clearer, but a lot of them hated the movie even more.
Sanjeev (Admin)
I'd actually thought of Hellboy, but yeah...it isn't really what I had in mind because--correct me if I'm wrong--but Hellboy is always the center of the action. Or at the very least, *his* struggles are the central conflict in the overall plot. Despite wavering back and forth between deadpan dark humor and Lovecraftian horror, it's great to hear that the story is a result of a single vision. I totally agree that that's ideal. But what I was getting at was something more akin to Hindu or Greek mythology: a shitload of disparate stories...with different focal points (subjects), different timeframes, but still the same fantasy universe. Again, this sorta modern mythology type of storytelling--even if "bad" in a literary sense--is what differentiates superhero comics in my mind...and I think that's what's at the heart of its appeal to most folks.

Haha...so I guess my question becomes, are there examples of this type of storytelling that isn't "bad" in a literary sense?
There is a spinoff comic called BPRD that deals with the other members of the team besides Hellboy, but I admit I haven't really read all of it.

Kurt Buseik's Astro City, despite the odd scheduling delays, does a good job of pulling together a cohesive superhero world from a lot of different points of view, although it is a single comic. Alan Moore's imprint, America's Best Comics, was pretty good, especially stuff like Tom Strong, Promethia, and Top Ten.

But yeah, as far as having decades of continuity by a variety of different writers and editors be coherent, I don't think it's possible, hence the regular reboots and "all new directions" and whatnot.

Back to toys, new Marvel Universe stuff is trickling out again, but man the articulation and sculpt on the smaller lines are beginning to wear on me, especially with the price rising. Usually the movie lines get a bit more money for details, but this time the Iron Man line is even more basic, so outside of some killer characters I may be done. If either they or Marvel Legends were easier to find, they might have tempted me a bit more, but as it is they're super expensive and I can never seem to find a complete wave (which is really crappy when you're trying to build a BAF). And with DC releasing a lot of nu52 designs and the DCIE sub seemingly winding down...

On the negative side (for my wallet) the Hot Toys not-dolls-they're-just-big-action-figures are calling out to me again. Now with added diecast...
Sanjeev (Admin)
Those Hot Toys diecast IM3 figures look like quite a few toy nerds' wet dream!
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gingaio
I tried teaching HB one quarter several years back. Bad mistake. I was naive, and didn't realize that I would have had to spend half a year just giving the kids enough contextual reading for them to even have a chance of understanding the issues I gave them. I'd hoped that pairing the reading with the movie would make things clearer, but a lot of them hated the movie even more.

That's an onerous task considering the, uh, breadth of material (as you noted). What were you trying to have them get out of it?

Also, the movie? Utter crap. They strayed so far from the source (in fact, reversing the polarity on most characters and plot points) that it turned into an unintentionally campy fanfic. It's like Del Toro really thought what he was doing was both cool and coherent. I read at one point he was trying to get Part III off the ground under the premise that Selma Blair gave birth to Hellboy's twins. Gah. I'm cringing just writing that.
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Sanjeev
Those Hot Toys diecast IM3 figures look like quite a few toy nerds' wet dream!

At one point I thought I read that the diecast figures were going to be slightly poseable statues. Did that change? Or are they releasing multiple products?
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Gcrush
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gingaio
I tried teaching HB one quarter several years back. Bad mistake. I was naive, and didn't realize that I would have had to spend half a year just giving the kids enough contextual reading for them to even have a chance of understanding the issues I gave them. I'd hoped that pairing the reading with the movie would make things clearer, but a lot of them hated the movie even more.

That's an onerous task considering the, uh, breadth of material (as you noted). What were you trying to have them get out of it?

The class was a comp class, with an emphasis, given the text selection that quarter, on visual rhetoric, and tailored for mostly freshmen and sophmores. I used both Kick-Ass and Hellboy and assorted supplemental readings (academic articles in combination with popular ones and interviews). I might have replaced HB with We3 later on in the year. Basically, I wanted to introduce them to comics that dealt with the superhero genre in unconventional ways, and with Mignola, we talked about the impressionistic quality of his art, the borrowing/mashup of fantasy and noir elements, the subversion/exploitation of certain superheroic conventions, and the way meaning and narrative skewed much more heavily toward imagery than visual text.

It was tough, though. For example, I gave them an article by one of the profs here (Laura O'Connor's “The Corpse on Hellboy’s Back: Translating a Graphic Image”), which dealt with Mignola's use of Irish folklore, and given that the kids had little (none, really) exposure to Irish folklore or O'Connor's methodology, it was, well, tough.

The intro-to-comic texts included excerpts from McCloud's and Eisner's books on reading comics, which turned out to be more necessary than I'd expected given how little experience the kids had had with reading comics, though a lot of them did get turned on to the medium once they were exposed, so that's cheerful...

Anyway, do superhero toys suck?

Well, the QC for the DCUC line is--I forget how you phrased it, Mr. Crush--certainly breathtaking. I'm a few figures away from completing my modern Super Powers line, and I've bought 2 sealed-in-package Batmans (whose aftermarket prices are not exactly low) with significant joint/strucural defects that I was happy to discover only after opening them. Just placed another order for one of the "loose, new" Batmans straight from China. I wouldn't be surprised if a) the figure is fucked up on some level or b) this "unofficial" copy is actually better than the specimens Mattel saw fit to seal in the package.

Holy QC, Batman!
Sanjeev (Admin)
^^It'd be hilarious if the bootleg was actually of higher quality than the original!

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Gcrush
At one point I thought I read that the diecast figures were going to be slightly poseable statues. Did that change? Or are they releasing multiple products?

Uh...there may certainly be multiple products--in fact, I seem to recall seeing a solicitation for some sort of posed, diecast Iron Man coming in for a landing...and I guess you can swap out his arms or some such thing. Not sure if that was Hot Toys. But no: the "main" Hot Toys offerings are the same super-posable, high-end dollies as before...just with diecast used in various spots.

I'm considering Iron Patriot...for only half-ironic reasons! ;)
The first "Iron Man" Hot toys solicited from the new movie was in this new Power Pose line, basically statues with a few interchangable parts for different poses, at the same 1/6 scale as their other stuff. But they recently annouced both Iron Patriot and that yellow armor in their new diecast line.

The cynics believe that this is in order to crush Play Imaginative, which also has a new line of diecast iron man toys; also, that there won't be that much diecast, and that it's a way to make the price even higher. Probably all true. But if the only way they can finally fix that fading plastic pants problem every iron man has, so be it.

It is odd, though... I'd say most of the Hot Toys MMS's and DX's are dolls (nothing wrong with that), but the Iron Man lineup are pure action figures, albeit very expensive action figures.

I'd think something like Planetary would be a great comic to teach to kids, since it goes into many different genres... and it probably reads a lot better when you don't have to wait years and years for the conclusion.
My younger brother is starting to get into the Hot Toys... especially the Iron Man ones... but I have yet to handle one in person (since he's in China and gets hooked up with them over there). They always look enticing but at their price point, I'd rather get a gokin (vintage or new).

The DC Super Powers and DCUC comparisons definitely is causing me to take a second look at the new DC stuff but no no... I can't go there. My heart is still with the JLU aesthetic as far as DC stuff goes...
Sanjeev (Admin)
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fujishig
...that yellow armor...

Are they calling that "Extremis" in the new movie or what?

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fujishig
The cynics believe that this is in order to crush Play Imaginative, which also has a new line of diecast iron man toys; also, that there won't be that much diecast, and that it's a way to make the price even higher.

Yeah, the Play Imaginative Batman was a floppy ragdoll...so I don't think it would be too tough to bitch-slap them. I *am* curious about how much diecast the new Hot Toys stuff will contain, though. If it's not "enough", then screw it...they're obviously a lot more expensive now, so folks should get their money's worth.

Anyway, yeah, Ben's reviews of the previous IM figures on CDX have said pretty much the same thing: these are more like ultra-high-end action figures than dolls. But what's this "fading plastic pants" thing you mentioned?
The red plastic on the crotch of most iron man versions inexplicably fades to pink over time. I've seen many many pictures of this, even though I haven't noticed it yet on my battle damaged mark III. Kinda ridiculous for such an expensive product, especially since they've had a ton of versions to try to fix this... we'll see how that Avengers version (non diecast) turns out.
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H-man
My younger brother is starting to get into the Hot Toys... especially the Iron Man ones... but I have yet to handle one in person (since he's in China and gets hooked up with them over there). They always look enticing but at their price point, I'd rather get a gokin (vintage or new).

The DC Super Powers and DCUC comparisons definitely is causing me to take a second look at the new DC stuff but no no... I can't go there. My heart is still with the JLU aesthetic as far as DC stuff goes...

Been rewatching Justice League Unlimited recently...such a good show. I like the aesthetic, too, but was turned off from the original Justice League figs after reports that the noodle-thin ankles would give way after a while.

But yeah, the DCUC figs are really spot-on to their Super Powers inspirations:





As far as Hot Toys, I'm glad I never got sucked in. They look great, and it's not that I can't afford it....actually, it's that I probably can't afford it.

I definitely can't afford this (Hot Toys 1/6th-scale The Butt), if it were to ever go into production, which at the moment is unlikely:



Love the description on the side of the cardboard box. And yeah, I only buy toys that can only be whooshed around with a forklift.





Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/10/2013 08:17PM by gingaio.
Forget affording it, that would be grounds for divorce in my household, and the courts would side with her, I would think. "The reason that thing is taking up half of the living room is because my doll needed an accurate vehicle to ride around in..."

I think that's a one-off and they're making a much smaller scale, but still insanely expensive one.

The DCUC Super Powers toys were great, but I still think that dedicated wave helped to kill the line. I was fine with a variant SP Parademon, but when they went to a whole line of the Super Powers-only minority characters, well, that was scraping the far reaches of fandom, back when they were still trying to sell them in stores. I'm a little surprised they didn't try to squeeze in handicapped head-in-a-box Orion. And that line followed a rainbow-lantern line of cheap remolds.

It's funny because Marvel Universe also put out two packs replicating Secret Wars (Unfortunately without the shield, but with the actual comics bundled in), so both companies were going for nostalgia.
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fujishig
The red plastic on the crotch of most iron man versions inexplicably fades to pink over time. I've seen many many pictures of this, even though I haven't noticed it yet on my battle damaged mark III. Kinda ridiculous for such an expensive product, especially since they've had a ton of versions to try to fix this... we'll see how that Avengers version (non diecast) turns out.

I once colored my crotch red and after it stopped burning it eventually faded to pink, though it never really did cover all the purple. I probably still have the pics somerwheres. Anyway, it seems like such an odd coincidence that Toby Stork would suffer from the same problem. Unless he uses the same brand of permanent markers that I did. Sharpie really ought to put a warning label on their products.





Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/10/2013 10:22PM by Gcrush.
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Swamp Thing didn't fuck a planet, a horrible robot planet RAPED HIM. It was actually a pretty good, totally weird Alan Moore story.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
mcfitch (Admin)
Oh Alan Moore. Why didn't you just say so?
-Mason

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Matthewalt "I actually kinda LIKE that approach! You know: let's make a TOY. Remember those? Products designed to be played with without breaking? DO YOU REMEMBER, LOVE?!"
I was about 14 when the '89 Batman movie came out, and yeah, Nolan made better movies, but this was the one that really got me into the Batman comics and character. I was just starting to grow out of my toy phase at this point, but I remember seeing a Warner Bros. promotional catalog and the pics of the new Batman figure and the Batmobile/Batwing vehicles, and thinking that they were cool toys. For some reason, maybe because I felt like I shouldn't be buying toys anymore, I never picked up any of that stuff. But I loved the Batsuit design. The blue/gray costume is a classic, but it doesn't evoke what the character is supposed to be, not as much as a nearly 100% black costume does...it's since become the precursor to a lot of the body-armor type costuming we see today.

The figure's nice. Typical DC Classics build, with solid QC for a change (thankfully, it belongs to one of the later waves). I would have preferred a cloth cape; other than that, it's a nice modern rendition of that old Toy Biz fig.









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Marty Man-Pants displays all that the 4Horseman are known for--detailed sculpting and a serious, Alex-Ross-like approach to the subject. The goofiest-looking of the Super-Pantalones Amigos' core team, Man-Pants also happens to be the final piece of my modern Super-Pantalones collection.

And 'Jeev, in case you were wondering, the bootleg blue/gray Batman I ordered from China was pretty much identical to the Mattel crap. In fact, even a little bit better in build quality. Still sucks on the whole, though.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/24/2013 04:59AM by gingaio.
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Sanjeev (Admin)
Y'know, I'd never made the Alex Ross-Four Horsemen connection before. Brilliant...that really works...

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gingaio
And 'Jeev, in case you were wondering, the bootleg blue/gray Batman I ordered from China was pretty much identical to the Mattel crap. In fact, even a little bit better in build quality. Still sucks on the whole, though.

Kinda sad, huh?

So many hints from here and there that manufacturing in China's getting way too expensive to maintain the same levels of quality. This doesn't bode well for the toy industry...at least in the near term as companies shift to countries like Vietnam and start to establish QC standards with factories there...
Check out the upcoming Super Hero line from Play Arts Kai (previewed in CDX). Now I know Play Arts is that company that makes super detailed action figures of video game characters and they always looked a bit McFarlanish to me... but I've never handled one so can't vouch for it's quality.... but damn... the Wonder Woman one looks especially nice....might be the best action figure rendition of the character yet?
Sanjeev (Admin)
Meh.

Definitely not feeling them. They're like the Fewture/Taku Sato versions of classic characters...and I know lots of folks dig that aesthetic--and that's great--but it ain't for me...
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Sanjeev
Y'know, I'd never made the Alex Ross-Four Horsemen connection before. Brilliant...that really works...

After messing with Marty Man-Pants some more, it occurred to me (why didn't it occur to me earlier?) how much thought the Horseman paid to tiny details. Like, I just assumed these were generic muscled bodies, and so when the right arms on some of my figs didn't go down as flush as as the left arms, I figured it was just bad QC. But the lats on the right sides of these figures are actually slightly bigger than the lats on the left side, something that most right-handers would probably notice on their own bodies. Then there are things like the varying heights (Man-Pants being taller than his Super Pantalones friends, as he should be), and the variations in slimness of the muscled bodies. Nothing earth-shattering here, but these dudes are paying attention. The Horseman do take their subject matter seriously, rendering even the most silly-ass subjects some measure of dignity:



It's a shame Mattel's QC screws up such thoughtful work.

And thanks for the 411 on those figs, Harvey. I didn't know about them. The Batman looks okay, and the face on Wonder Woman is gorgeous, but the design choices are too out there for me. I'm with 'Jeev on that. Flash looks like a mecha, Wonder Woman has that silly cutout smack in the middle of her abdominal armor, and Green Lantern reminds me of Annie Lennox. I don't know...you tell me if I'm crazy or not.





I'm gonna stick with the Super Pantalones.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/25/2013 03:01AM by gingaio.
Sanjeev (Admin)
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gingaio
...and Green Lantern reminds me of Annie Lennox.

Curious.

^^You almost say this as though it were a bad thing...
Did someone say Swamp Thing? Now with reindeer antlers and angel wings.


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gingaio
Did someone say Swamp Thing? Now with reindeer antlers and angel wings.


I saw that thing, too. As someone who loved the Adrian Barbeauxbot film, this Mothman design makes me sad. It looks like something Ford MacFairlane would have put in a Spam comic.
Wow, SH Figuarts figures of characters from the DC Injustice game? Never saw that coming...
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gingaio




These will look good with my Weapon X footie jammies.

Soft-goods helmet sucks. Need real plastic:




I have to say--if these turn out to be solid toys, I may be in, even if it's $150 for the set. Because it's not that I can't afford it.

This feels like Neo-Secret Wars by way of anime, which I'm surprsingly fine with. I love the Cap redesign.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Japanese Avengers toys??? Madness! What are these from? A new cartoon or something?
Those look neat! But have the FIGMA Avengers figs ever been released?
@ Harv: No news on the Figmas (besides that preorders were supposed to go up this month), though I prefer the more cartoony design and simple/clean look of these anyway.

@ 'Jeev: [marvel.com]

BBTS has the figs on preorder.

A couple more pics:







Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/11/2013 01:39PM by gingaio.
Sanjeev (Admin)
I could get behind this...
Found out why they bumped Superman v Batman to 2016...



Clark really needs to find a laundry detergent that works...and a costume that flatters his thighs. Bring back the red tights, they were there for a reason!
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