Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year's Haul

Last weekend was a perfect storm of clearance sales in my area. My main goal was to attend the end-of-year sale at a local comic book shop, but I found that other stores were also discounting items I had been considering for some time. Here's a rundown of my great weekend haul.

Target


Target's Christmas supplies were on clearance, and they had already started putting out their Valentine's Day merch, so I picked up a Stormtrooper helmet ornament by Hallmark and a BB-8 candy dispenser by Galerie. The latter, one of the Valentine's Day products, plays sounds when a button on the front is pushed.

Stormtrooper helmet Christmas ornament by Hallmark
Stormtrooper helmet ornament by Hallmark

BB-8 candy dispenser by Galerie
BB-8 Candy Dispenser by Galerie

Rubber Chicken Comics (Bellingham, MA)


Rubber Chicken capped off 2016 with their annual sale week, which starts the day after Christmas with 20% off most everything in the store; the discount is increased incrementally each day through New Year's Eve. I waited until the last day, when the discount was 50%, and walked away with some great bargains. I hadn't been to the Chicken in a while, so I had nothing specific in mind, though I was hoping to grab some Godzilla merch, which tends to be a bit pricey. And I lucked out!

1974 Godzilla Vinyl Figure Bank
1974 Godzilla Vinyl Figure Bank

Godzilla Classic 1989 Vinyl Figure Bank
Godzilla Classic 1989 Vinyl Figure Bank

I also picked up a few Star Wars and Star Trek action figures, marked down from Rubber Chicken's already-low prices. It's hard to resist $2.50 action figures.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Cold Weather Gear)
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Cold Weather Gear)

Ensign Ro Laren (Former Bajoran Freedom Fighter)
Ensign Ro Laren (Former Bajoran Freedom Fighter)

Esoqq (A member of the Chalnoth race)
Esoqq (A member of the Chalnoth race)

Q in Judges Robe
Q in Judges Robe

Darwyn Cooke was such a great artist and character designer, so I was happy to pick up the DC Comics Designer Series action figure based upon his Wonder Woman at half-price.

DC Comics Designer Series Wonder Woman action figure (based upon artwork by Darwyn Cooke)
DC Comics Designer Series Wonder Woman action figure (based upon artwork by Darwyn Cooke)

I'd also had my eye on Funko's Doctor Strange Pop Vinyl, so this was the perfect opportunity to grab that as well.

Funko Pop! Doctor Strange vinyl bobble-head
Funko Pop! Doctor Strange vinyl bobble-head

I am a fan of both jungle girls and Frank Cho, so at $2.50, this 2014 calendar featuring Cho's Jungle Girl character was an easy "Yes!"

Jungle Girl 2014 Calendar by Frank Cho
Jungle Girl 2014 Calendar by Frank Cho

I also added to my Heavy Metal collection with the movie's 1996 LaserDisc.

Heavy Metal LaserDisc
Heavy Metal LaserDisc

Newbury Comics


Newbury Comics is a New England chain that started as a comic book store and has evolved into an all-around pop culture emporium. I had been checking in with them for many weeks in anticipation of Funko's latest "Specialty Series" Pop figure, Max Rebo. Their Bellingham, MA store finally put my long wait to an end.

Funko Pop! Max Rebo bobble-head (Funko Specialty Series)
Funko Pop! Max Rebo bobble-head (Funko Specialty Series)

As luck would have it, they were having a BOGO 50% off sale on Pops, so I was finally able to pick up the 6" Davros from the Doctor Who line.

Funko Pop Davros
Funko Pop Davros

And I was surprised -- but happy -- to find the Danger Girl "adult" coloring book on clearance for $2.99!

Danger Girl Permission to Thrill Coloring Book
Danger Girl Permission to Thrill Coloring Book

Barnes & Noble


B&N had a bunch of stuff at 50% off, and I was happy to find the Air Hogs Speeder Bike on the clearance table. I had been eyeing that for a while, hoping I would be able to get it at less than full price. I was!


Remote Control Speeder Bike by Air Hogs
Remote Control Speeder Bike by Air Hogs

And I was able to pick up the "regular" version of the Vinyl Vixens Wonder Woman to go along with the B&N exclusive version I had bought for full price back in 2015.

Vinyl Vixens Wonder Woman (Barnes & Noble Pre-Release)
Vinyl Vixens Wonder Woman (Barnes & Noble Pre-Release)

Finally, one note


While clearance sales allow some of us to spend more than usual, it's a good thing to shop at these stores year-round, especially at small, single-location, independent comic book stores. These stores are critical suppliers not only of comic books, but of all manner of collectibles. Keeping them in business is important to the future of collecting. Ross Richie of Boom! Studios has more to say on this below.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Introduction to Funko's Smuggler's Bounty

I bought my first three Funko Pop! figures — Batman, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman (more on that here) — very early on, when they first came out. Then I got very casual with Pops! as I saw how deluged stores of all kinds were becoming with them; I worried that my toy collection would be set off-balance by a huge number of these things, so I shied away. Only recently have I come back, and come back in earnest, even committing to Funko's Pop! subscription box, Smuggler's Bounty.

And a commitment it is, as all such subscriptions are. They're the ultimate blind pack — at least 5 times more expensive than a single Mystery Mini, for a payoff that therefore has the potential to be five times more disappointing. Here's how it's gone so far.

Smuggler's Bounty 1 - November 2015

The theme of the first Smuggler's Bounty was the First Order from The Force Awakens. I knew this going in, well ahead of the movie's release. I had mixed feelings about the then-upcoming film (and still do), but I wanted to get in on the ground floor so ordered anyway. (My feelings toward this first box, I suspect, are in no small way influenced by my ambivalent feelings toward the new movie.) Funko had promised that all SB merch would be exclusive to the boxes, and while this sounded really great, my worry was that "exclusive" would mean "repaint." That was only partially the case with November's box, which, as Funko promised, would contain items other than Pop!s.

Funko Pop! Captain Phasma (chrome) bobble-head (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty Exclusive Captain Phasma (Chrome) Pop!
The first Pop! in the box was a chrome-finish Captain Phasma. I had already bought the regular Phasma, so this was some repetition for me, and the chrome finish, while impressively shiny, wasn't a big draw, either. Funko's chromed-up C-3PO is great, because there are moments in the Star Wars movies where 3PO appears this way, but with Phasma, it's a gimmick akin to Hasbro's various 3.75" "anniversary" chrome figures, which I've never cared for.

Funko Pop! TIE Fighter Pilot bobble-head (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty Exclusive First Order TIE Fighter Pilot Pop!
The second Pop! was a true exclusive — the First Order TIE Fighter Pilot. It's a nice-looking Pop!, though not a character I was really looking forward to collecting. It's very similar to the original TIE Pilot in its glossy blackness, but certainly not a highlight of my collection.

Funko Pop! Snowtrooper t-shirt (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty Snowtrooper t-shirt
November's t-shirt was black with a large rendering of Funko's First Order Snowtrooper on the front. I should say first that while I really like collecting Pop!s, I'm not a fan of the Pop! style on other items. So I expected that the t-shirts would probably not be the kind I would otherwise purchase. If you can accept its Pop! parameters, though, this is a nice shirt. And of course it's always more fun to wear a t-shirt that's not available on a mass scale (like at Target or Walmart, e.g.).

Funko Pop! Star Wars lanyard (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty Star Wars lanyard

Star Wars First Order patch (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty First Order patch

Star Wars Kylo Ren pin (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty Kylo Ren pin
The three remaining items were, for the most part, filler — a Pop! deco lanyard, a First Order patch, and an enamel Kylo Ren pin. The lanyard is pretty plain, and not the type of thing I collect. I don't collect patches, either (though I guess I do now), but this is a nice one. The pin is most relevant to my collection, though I hope future pins will feature characters I'm more interested in (it's certain that at times they will, at others, not).

November's box wasn't the most spectacular premiere it could have been, but it wasn't entirely disappointing, either. And, as is to be expected, some boxes will be better than others.

Smuggler's Bounty 2 - January 2016

The theme for this box — the Resistance — was announced soon after (or maybe even before) I had received the first one, so I knew I was in for another box full of Force Awakens products. As I suspected this would be the case for the first few boxes I had lowered my expectations. I'm sorry to say I did not lower them enough for January's box.

Funko Pop! Chewbacca (flocked) bobble-head (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty exclusive flocked Chewbacca Pop!

January contained only one Pop!, a flocked version of the previously released Force Awakens Chewbacca. What can I say about flocked figures? I don't think I can say anything more fitting than what Roger Ebert said about the movie North, so I'll adapt his review to my need:
"I hate flocked Pop!s. Hate hate hate hate hate flocked Pop!s. Hate them. Hate every simpering stupid vacant collector-insulting aspect of them. Hate the sensibility that thought anyone could like them. Hate the implied insult to the collector by its belief that anyone would be interested in them."
I didn't mean for that to sound so harsh. No, I did. Flocked toys, even when brand new, look like something you would find in your grandmother's attic, something so decrepit that you can't tell if it ever looked new or dust-free in all its life — "What was this thing? Was it always this way? Did it once have longer fur that wore off over time? Or is it covered in mold or some strange 1940's version of rubber that has since been found to cause defects in mice? Keep it away from my other toys, lest it spread its plastic virus among them!" Of all variations of repaint, flocked is my least favorite, less desirable even than "holographic" or "glow-in-the-dark." And since I had already purchased the much nicer original Force Awakens Chewie, this Pop! was completely superfluous.

Funko Pop! Home C-3PO mug (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty C-3PO mug
The second Pop! wasn't a Pop! at all, but a C-3PO mug from the "Pop! Home" line. I've stated above how I'm not a fan of the Pop! aesthetic when it's applied to other items, so you can bet this wasn't a welcome item. I mean, it's OK. If you like C-3PO, or mugs, then what's not to like? But I'm not a fan of new 3PO — I don't like his dull plastic finish or the red arm. Had this been an R2 mug, though, I'd have loved it. So chalk it up to the luck of the draw, the way of the blind-packed box.

Funko Pop! Star Wars t-shirt (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty Resistance characters t-shirt
January's t-shirt was the month's highlight. Again, you've got to like the Pop! style, which (not to put too fine a point on it) is not my bag, Baby, unless applied to an actual Pop! But the group illustration, while it pushes Pop! cuteness almost too far, is more interesting to me than the single figure design that preceded it. And it's a nice shade of blue, which is not done justice by my photo.

Star Wars Resistance patch (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty Resistance patch

Star Wars Resistance Pilot pin (Smuggler's Bounty exclusive)
Smuggler's Bounty Resistance pilot patch

The remaining items were a Resistance patch featuring BB-8 and an enamel pin bearing the likeness of either Poe Dameron or a nameless Resistance pilot. Both items are nice companion pieces to November's patch and pin, but after two of each shape and design, I really hope things are changed up a next time.

The next Smuggler's Bounty box is Cantina-themed! What do you think will be inside?? https://www.smugglersbounty.com/
Posted by Funko on Saturday, January 16, 2016


"Cantina" has been announced as the theme of the next Smuggler's Bounty box, and Funko's Facebook announcement suggests that by "cantina" we're talking original Tatooine cantina, not Maz Kanata's place from The Force Awakens. I thought I would have to wait longer to get an Original Trilogy box, so this is great news. I really hope we get a character that has not yet been given the Pop! treatment, like Myo, Hem Dazon, or Hrchek Kal Fas. My fear is that Funko will include a third Modal Nodes Pop!, which would be a terrible thing for non-subscribers who have already purchased the first two. Looking forward to March nonetheless!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Star Wars Vintage Collection: Bom Vimdin

I finally found Bom Vimdin from Hasbro's Star Wars: The Vintage Collection line yesterday, after several months of looking and more months waiting for the release date. This figure has probably just been released — if so, I really didn't have to wait long. But I had heard months ago — maybe longer — that the release date was to be back in March or April, and I have been waiting and searching ever since.

This is one of the most frustrating things about collecting Hasbro's Star Wars line: they announce release dates months in advance, but either the dates keep changing or supply lines to retailers are slow. Meanwhile, it's a lot of pointless store checking and aggravation.

Another frustrating element here is the price. I bought mine at Target for $8.89, which is ridiculously high for a simple action figure on such a simple card. I don't place any special value on the old-style Kenner packaging, either. In fact, I think this type of packaging — which is far less bulkier and seems to use less plastic than Hasbro's other current Star Wars line, The Clone Wars — should be standard for this type of toy in order to eliminate waste and cost. Hasbro seems to think otherwise, though, and these "vintage" style figures are actually about a dollar more than their Clone Wars kin.

Which is partly why Bom Vimdin has been my first new Star Wars action figure purchase in a long while. Price is not the only reason — I just haven't been interested in the figures in this line — but price is the reason I didn't pick up the Logray I found alongside Bom, or the Han Solo. Back during 2007's 30th Anniversary Collection, I probably would have bought all three, but at $8.89 each, no way. These days I need to focus my collection even more than before — in this case, on the cantina aliens from Episode 4.

Getting to the bottom of this pricing mystery is a challenge worthy of Fox Mulder, though he would most likely conclude it was all a plot of lies engineered by the Cigarette Smoking Man. Hasbro has claimed that it doesn't set prices, the retailers do. The retailers all seem to set just about the same price, though, which suggests something about the price they pay for the figures. Meanwhile, there's the issue of who is buying action figures nowadays, especially of characters from the first three Star Wars movies — kids or collectors? Should collectors need to pay more than kids? Maybe, if they are the only consumers of a line made in less quantity than Clone Wars, though I don't know if they are. In any event, the pricing and less-than-stellar character lineup of the Vintage Collection has kept me from all but Bom Vimdin.

The figure itself, like nearly all Hasbro Star Wars figures that don't use so-called "soft goods" accessories, is excellent: outstanding sculpt, great detail on the costume and guns, and a nice balance of articulation and "default pose". (I typically don't care too much about articulation — I just want a default pose that looks good and allows the figure to stand on its own, if a base is not included.)

The next two Vintage Collection waves are supposedly to include two other cantina favorites, re-sculpts of Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba (originally known as Walrus Man). I am looking forward to these — I just hope I don't have to look too far forward.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Compulsive Collection: HeroClix

After many years of collecting action figures, I have become pretty good at staying "in focus," that is, I have defined two or three collection "topics" (Star Wars, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) and have tried pretty successfully to stick only to certain items that seem to fit those topics. It is with some embarrassment that I admit this discipline has taken a long time to achieve (and it is with even greater embarrassment that I call it "discipline"). Still, I am prone to lapses. My eye strays. I sometimes look "outside the topic" for satisfaction.

I am most prone to this in two situations. First, when I am all "caught up" — that is, when I have found and purchased everything on my current "want list." This is usually a welcomed break, but if boredom sets in I get weak. Second is when I am hunting for a very difficult-to-find item and in frustration turn to something else. (My collection of die-cast 1957 Corvettes is the direct result of not being able to track down Ephant Mon from Hasbro's 2002 Star Wars line.) This happened recently while looking for the new Funko Pop Wonder Woman, which in my area is only available in one chain of stores, and there are only three such stores in my immediate area. After striking out at all three, I found myself at a local comic/collector shop browsing through HeroClix figures with my sons, helping them locate among the shelves of loose figures the ones they needed to expand their own collections. I had never collected HeroClix figures before, because I have never been interested in gaming so much as collecting. But I sensed something about these tiny game tokens.

That's when it happened. Fuelled by the urge to buy, and frustrated by my failing Wonder Woman quest, my rationalization engine kicked in full-force. A pack of Batman HeroClix figures could be considered relevant to my Batman action figure collection. It would also give me my own army that I could use to join my sons' games. Relevant-ish item. Quality time activity with the kids. Done deal.

I bought one pack, along with the items my sons had chosen, and we left the store. When we got to the car, I opened the box and was happy to find cool characters — the Batman featured in the box's cut-out window, of course, but also Penguin, Commissioner Gordon, and Bane! Holding them close to my eyes, I was impressed by the relative detail for figures this small. I was happy about this purchase. My sons were happy for me. We were all happy.

That's when it happened. We ran back into the store, and scrounging up enough coins from my loose change jar, I bought two more sets. Back in the car, I opened them to find Mad Hatter, Riddler, Robin, Oracle, Alfred, and — wow! — Batgirl! I was psyched. All cool characters, not one double! I was amassing an entire Batman min-collection right there in my car! Back into the store, bought the last set, back to the car. Scarecrow, Nightwing, Ra's Al-Ghul!

Days later, I still don't have buyer's remorse. The figures look nice in their little cluster on the shelf, still impressing me with their detail and colors. It would be a little nicer, I guess, if I enjoyed playing the game, but after a few tries with my sons walking me through it, I still don't get it — so many rules and counter-rules that in the end it's just a semi-structured way to play with toys, but maybe that's all it needs to be.

Today I caved and bought Wonder Woman on-line (just as I had eventually caved and bought Ephant Mon on the secondary market). So in the end, my HeroClix excursion didn't take the place of another, it just appeased me during a moment of frustration. But this is partly how collections grow, leapfrogging over compulsion and reason alike.

Which oft our stage hath shown; and for their sake,
In your fair minds let this acceptance take.

Monday, November 22, 2010

When Black Friday comes . . .

The Battle of Endor Ultimate Battle Pack
This time of year has always been my second-least favorite time of year to shop. (My very least favorite time is the two-to-three month period after Christmas when stores are slow to restock.) I'm sure I'm not alone in this, for I have never met anyone who enjoyed fighting the traffic, crowds, and other shoppers in order to secure the latest action figure, video game, pencil sharpener, or oven mitt that is essential to rounding out your collection (this week). Needless to say, "Black Friday" is usually my stay-at-home day.

Three years ago, however, I broke my ban and not only went shopping on Black Friday, but participated in one of those insane pre-dawn lines that extend for blocks beyond the doors of "big box" retailers. The year was 2007, and the item I was after was the Target exclusive Battle of Endor Ultimate Battle Pack from Hasbro's Star Wars line. This item had a confirmed street date of the Monday after Thanksgiving, but I had heard a rumor about a rumor that it might be available on Black Friday. Since I considered the Endor Battle Pack a "must-have", and since I just knew that they would be sold out before they could even be unpacked and placed on store shelves, I therefore just knew that I needed to be first in line at Target on the day after Thanksgiving.

We were traveling this particular year, but our hotel was right next to a Target-anchored shopping plaza, so it seemed like an easy trip. I set our room alarm for 4AM, and backed it up with a wake-up call. When I awoke, I made the last-ditch effort of asking if anyone would like to come with me (No), and set off.

The Target in question was next to a BJ's Wholsale Club, so when I saw a line wrapping around BJ's, I assumed they were having an early-opening sale as well. They weren't — the line was entirely for Target. If you know how wide Target and BJ's stores are, you know how far away I was from Target's front door when I finally took my place at the end of the line. I couldn't see the front door — I couldn't even see Target — because I was around the corner, on the side of BJ's, next to their automotive repair shop. It was cold and the wait was long, but the novelty of what I was doing kept me entertained, or at least I imagined that it did.

Eventually the line began to shuffle forward. 45 minutes later, I reached the front door, where I rationalized the sight of several police officers into assurance that I wouldn't be crushed by a stampeding crowd, all the while aware that it was for this contingency the officers were on hand, all the while aware that should a stampede occur, the officers would also be crushed. Lemming-like, I stepped through the doors.

It took longer than usual to walk through the crowd to get to the toy section. It wasn't really "walking" so much as "advancing". Imagine a row of soda cans in a convenience store refrigerator moving up to fill in the empty space of the can you just pulled out, or a huge viscous mass being poured into a rat's maze, oozing slowly into the various pathways until the entire maze was full. But I did gradually ooze into the toy section, whose aisles were tightly packed with shoppers intent on finding an unspeakable deal. What struck me most (aside from various boxes falling off shelves or being tossed between members of family shopping teams) was that there wasn't that much on sale. This could have been any given Friday, for all it mattered.

I realized after some time and patience what I had suspected all along — that the Endor pack was not yet available. I worked my way to the front of the store and glanced at the battery of cash registers. I was surprised to see that the lines were not too backed up, so I decided to pick up a few essentials we had forgotten when packing for our trip. In the time it took to round up these items, however, the lines had grown to intolerable lengths, and I was about to scrap everything and call it quits when one of the pharmacy registers opened, only four feet from where I was standing. I stepped up and set down my Black Friday haul — a six-pack of bottled water, a tube of triple antibiotic ointment, and nail clippers. I tried to look unfazed when the cashier asked, stupefied, "Is this all you came in here for?" "Yes" was such an easier answer.

Epilogue (In Color)

The following Monday, back on my home turf, I queued up outside my local Target for the regular 8AM opening. With me were just a handful of regulars, collectors who check in every day looking for new toy releases regardless of advertised sales. There was no crowd and no mad rush to the back of the store. I found the Endor Battle Pack — an entire display of them, in fact. As it turned out, I was the only early riser interested in Star Wars that day, so I took my time and selected the one that best met my criteria — the best possible combination of paint application, apparent joint and accessory condition, and condition of packaging. The packs were available for a couple weeks before selling out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Star Wars Mini Muggs

Biggs Darklighter Mighty Mugg
with Mini friends
Biggs Darklighter Mighty Mugg
with Mini friends
I was stopped in my tracks at Target a couple weeks ago by Hasbro's new Mini Muggs, a half-scale follow-up to the company's iffy Mighty Muggs line. While it took me some time to warm up to their Mighty predecessors, the Minis grabbed me right away, thanks mostly to the line's MVP, Bossk. Only three sets are currently available (you can see them all here), but I imagine it's only a matter of time before we see more. (Here's hoping we finally get a Slave Leia!)

Not only are these things cuter than the full-size toys, but the three-packs, priced around $12.99, allow you to bulk up on characters a lot faster.

A truly devastating follow-up would be Mini versions of the Marvel Muggs, which in Mighty scale were on the whole much more appealing than their Star Wars counterparts. My collecting budget braces in anticipation...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gort

Gort

Wind-up toy by Rocket USA. More pictures here.