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Sunday, January 30, 2011

ORCCAcast Special Event- S5: The Justin Aclin Interview

Back in November we sat down with toy enthusiast, comic writer and all around awesome guy Justin Aclin. Need I mention that he's also the EIC of Toyfare magazine? Well I just did. Anyway, we discuss what exactly goes into making the hilarious Twisted Toyfare Theater strips and Mike completely thrills over 'S.H.O.O.T. First' Justin's creator owned comics project.There's a lot of amazing stuff in this interview and Justin's an incredible guy. Sadly, Wizard Entertainment Group is ceasing physical publication of their magazines in order to focus on new media outreaches. What's this mean for Toyfare which falls under their publishing umbrella? Well it will likely return as an online magazine which we can all look forward to in the near future. For the full skinny, read this article by friend of the show Poe Ghostal (also a contributor at Toyfare may I add). We'll always miss the magazine as there were many Wednesdays where me and Jas would be utterly entranced with the new issue while we ate at Burger King for lunch. You can tell what huge nerds we are for it just by listening to me pretty much shut down during the start of the interview. Toyfare, you will be missed.But we'll be there the instant anything gets moving on the front of their new digital venture. Until then, go out to your LCS, your Barnes and Noble, your Borders. Pick up the new issue and find out what it is we'll all be missing as Toyfare sheds it's physical prison for the freedom of the new publishing age.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: DCUC 15 Jack Knight, Jemm and BAF Validus

Well here we are at what's probably the last of the DCUC Wave 15 reviews. I was trying to hold out to find a Ted Knight to go with these guys and split it into 2 reviews but Mattel's distribution pattern, as usual, had other plans. These are pretty much constantly evolving as this is essentially the first time I’ve used a camera more than twice in one year.

With that in mind I figured that a little background may be useful with these guys before I get to the nitty gritty.
What about Golden Pharaoh you ask? Yeah, what about Golden Pharaoh?
Jack being the variant in this wave is quite strange as he’s a huge fan favorite. When DC Direct debuted in the late 90’s, one of their first figures ever was Jack here. The character is so popular he probably would have won the first fan’s choice poll if not for the diluting effect of the Question, a result of his appearances on the JLU cartoon. Argue that the Denny O’Neil run on the big Q’s title was what pushed him into the lead if you want, but I doubt that played into it as much as Charlie’s crusade against Luthor and Cadmus did. Personally, I voted for Ragman.

Anyway, James Robinson’s ‘Starman’ title is highly regarded and is considered one of the defining comic runs of the 90’s. I hate to admit this, but I’ve never read any of it (It’s on the list, somewhere near the top). I only really know Robinson’s work from his recent run on ‘Superman’ (which actually featured Mon-El for the majority of it) and from back when I read ‘the Golden Age’ somewhere around 10 years ago. From what Jas and Mike tell me, none of that is anything like ‘Starman’ so one day soon I hope to be as impressed as everyone else was with it.
Jack Knight is the son of Ted Knight, the first Starman from the golden age. He took up the mantle and became the seventh Starman following the death of his brother David, who was the sixth. He was based out of Opal City, a location created for the title.  Wielding a new Cosmic Staff, alternately called the Star Rod or Gravity Rod, he patrolled Opal City for 80 issues and some specials. It's interesting to note that his Star Rod is currently being carried around by Stargirl, Courtney Whitmore of the JSA. Robinson has an agreement with DC that they won’t use any of the characters from his Starman run without his permission. Whether or not that agreement is backed up by a legion of loyal 
fans is a point of debate.

Jemm, Son of Saturn, is the closest thing the Martian Manhunter has to a supporting character outside of Miss Martian. He first appeared in his self-named title in the 80’s and promptly disappeared into the ether until Grant Morrison brought him back in ‘JLA’ during the mid-90’s. Part of the new Injustice Gang, Jemm had been brainwashed by Lex Luthor and was later returned to his home world where he eventually united all the Saturnian races.

The character doesn’t have a ton of appearances, most of the vital ones being in that JLA storyline and the issues of Martian Manhunter’s solo title that followed up on it. He popped up in the other James Robinson title I read, ‘World of New Krypton’, though he didn’t really do much. As far as obscure characters in the DCUC line go, Jemm’s probably the least know since all the purportedly obscure Kirby characters are still Kirby characters which means they’ve had a high-profile appearance or reference in the past 10 years. Hell, the entire ‘Countdown’ event was one disgusting, overblown indulgence in reference to many of them and it lasted an entire year, proving that in the wrong hands the Silver Age is a dangerous thing.

But I digress.
Validus is a member of the Fatal Five, a group of foes from ‘Legion of Superheroes’. He, like his partners in crime, was created by Jim Shooter when he got his start writing ‘Adventure Comics’ at the age of 14. Later on, Paul Levitz revealed that the monstrous creature was actually one of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl’s children, sent back in time after being kidnapped by Darkseid during the ‘Great Darkness Saga’. That was thrown out the window during the first Crisis and again during the Zero-Hour Legion reboot. Still, in the new Levitz written ‘Legion’ title, references were made to Darkseid’s original kidnapping when the twin’s disappeared following the destruction of Titan. It was wrapped up pretty neatly as being a plot on behalf of a new Darkseid cult, though it may still have other places to go. Right now, I’m taking Validus’ origin for granted as my understanding of Legion continuity is so delicate I’m afraid of it giving me brain damage in the same way that staring at the sun too long can. When we’ll see the other members of the Five, I have no clue; I’d be willing to bet that the Emerald Empress would be the next one though, as she’s arguably the biggest name of the group.

Why has this team-up not appeared on Brave and the Bold?
 Jemm uses the same new buck that Martian Manhunter does, funny in light of how they were originally intended to be cousins; in addition to his new head he’s got unique hands and elongated legs. Those stems really help set him apart, giving him a lankier, alien feel in comparison to J’onn and helping to deemphasize how many parts they share. He’s got a very aloof expression that befits the character; it’s just as easy to imagine him as the unwitting pawn of Luthor as it is to think of him sitting on the Saturnian throne in a quiet moment of contemplation.
Jack's very fashion forward with goggles that match his shirt

Jack’s got a pretty detailed headsculpt which along with an entirely new body tooling goes a long way in helping him stand out. He’s got his trademark goggles lifted up on his forehead and his distinctive Jacket is brand new as well. The level of work on him is pretty in-depth, again adding to the mystery of his distinction as the variant; from what I can tell, Ted uses the same buck that most of the Golden Age JSA characters have. Most of the parts on Jack here are pretty unlikely to ever be used again so that’s a staggering commitment from Mattel especially in light of Golden Pharaoh being almost entirely new as well. He does have one drawback in the fact that he’s a little oversized, making him just a smidge taller than most of the other figures but that’s not a deal breaker.  I hear that he shares this problem with Guy Gardner, but Jack doesn’t seem to share his giant head problem.  I do wish Mattel could get this scale process nailed down better as not every figure is going to get a redo the way Sinestro is. Starman is a little buff from how I’ve typically seen the character portrayed though and that does damage my opinion of him slightly.
Here's hoping Arkillo keeps up this trend of improving on the use of this body
 The most prominent use of the Buck system among these three is actually Validus. He’s based pretty directly on the Kilowog/Brimstone body with new feet and mostly new arms to go with his unique head. Still, I actually like how Validus turned out in comparison to Kilowog. I never got Brimstone as none of the Public Enemies wave came even close to being compatible (too bad as I would’ve loved to get any of the villains if they weren’t stylized) so I don’t have him to compare, but somehow I think I’ll live. Either way, Validus is a perfect fit for this mold and I have no complaints about him. That’s pretty much the opposite of Kilowog who I found strangely boring once I finished him. He won’t be striking any of the four legged poses the character often takes in the comics but the grasping hands are dead on for most of the panels the characters been in. That goes for the head too: I know the Four Horsemen are probably getting tired of sculpting neutral expressions so it’s good to see an extreme one that’s not ruined by shrinking down the 2-up prototype. Validus almost always has his mouth open and they’ve created that look successfully here without making him seem completely out of place.

Paint/Quality Control:
Jemm is cast in an awesome looking shade of red with the blue of his cape and pants being painted. I had no problems with him in that respect. It does need to be noted that he shares the same screwy bicep issue that Martian Manhunter does, and mine again has a pair of the small style. I think they work for Jemm pretty well though and having not seen any with the pair of big biceps I can say I’m satisfied with what I see here. The way Jemm was posed in the package did result in a slightly wonky arm though.
Oh piffle!
 This isn’t anything new to DCUC as I guess marketing shows that kids are more likely to buy these things if they’re posed dynamically. Well I can say one thing: kids probably aren’t buying many of these at close to $15 a pop. I can barely afford them at that price so I don’t think there’s a legion of kids turning away from these because they’re posed normally. Still, Jemm has few QC issues outside of the arm and his paint is great.
The symbols are beyond my crappy photography skills' ability to register. They definitely look great, though I'm not sure what they mean
The paint on Jack is equally good and he has the standout element of the emblem on the back of his jacket. For something with the terrifying quality of being invisible until you open him, the emblem is clear and crisp with no smudges. Thankfully that carries over to the rest of the figure as well. Admittedly there aren’t a ton of complicated applications outside of his face, but it’s not been beyond Mattel to have something like a big black splotch on Jemm’s chest. Some of Jack’s joints were a little stuck at first but I was able to get them moving without using the fridge.
I didn't mean to make this so that zombie appeared to be saying 'Chill out man'.

Those stiff joints were also present on the left leg of Validus though with time it worked out. It still made an awful squeaking noise when moving the leg for a while but it’s mercifully disappeared since. Big V is mostly clean though there are faint gray smears on his chest. I’m thinking it’s meant to be paint wash, though I’m not sure how successful they were in bringing out the sculpt. It’s not a major problem and in light of the excellent paint apps on the teeth and mouth, I’m willing to forgive a little sloppy wash.

All 3 figures have
-Swivel wrists, biceps, thighs and waists
-Ball jointed heads, shoulders and hips
-Cut elbows, knees and ankles
Jemm and Validus also feature a cut ab joint
Jemm makes good use of his joints and mine has somewhat better neck range than we’re used to. All three of these guys had tight joints, a small mercy in this age of loose ankles. Jack loses out a little here as he could’ve really used the wrist pivot articulation that Blue Beetle III and Green Arrow have; they’ve even got the sculpt for them as the Ghostbusters figures have bare hands with that articulation. As a result, you really have to finagle with the Cosmic Rod to get him to hold it two-handed without bending it or one of his arms in the process. He also lacks the ab crunch though his jacket would have probably limited it as well. The jacket does limit some of the motion of his arms though not to an extreme degree. His neck has more clearance than Jemm’s but sadly does not move quite as well. Validus, however, has a great ball jointed neck with a range of motion that really allows for some dynamic posing when combined with the ab crunch and ankles. All the joints with him are solid and he’s a lot of fun to play with. Whatever they did to him that’s different from Kilowog, I hope they carry over to Arkillo.

Only one accessory this time, excluding the Validus pieces and pins: Jack’s Star Rod. It’s impressive though, featuring a detailed sculpt and nice uniform coloration. It’s rare for DCUC figures to have accessories and this is, so far, one of the best. It definitely makes Jack stand out and is worth the effort to get him to have it in a two-handed grip. I expect to see the staff reused for Stargirl later, though hopefully it won’t warp the fingers of the notoriously small DCUC female hands.

This is the best Jemm figure any fan of the character could have possibly hoped for, in all their years of waiting. He looks great, poses well and is a good enough toy to likely get people talking about the character.  Jack’s also doesn’t disappoint, in spite of some minor issues with his articulation. He’s definitely light years ahead of the DC Direct figure despite being a little more muscular than he should be. Validus surprised me: I like him being chosen for the BAF but wasn’t expecting much because of the Kilowog base. He really turned it around though and he’s one of my favorite ‘collect and connect’ figures yet.

These guys hold their own against Raven and Martian Manhunter; Jack is probably just as anticipated as those two but falls just short because of the lost chance with the articulation. Jemm is great but doesn’t have the catharsis of finally being made that his mold mate does. Don’t let that stop you from getting him though because you J'onn is lonely enough in the comics and I completely want to stack the deck of non-lantern aliens so I can get the R.E.B.E.L.S. If you want Validus I’d say it’s worth having to buy the underwhelming Batman variant and the good OMAC.
Jemm: ***1/2
Jack Knight: ***
Validus: ***1/2

As a whole, this wave surprised me a lot. Almost all the figures in it are great and there were no insane, Donna Troy level, quality issues this time around; the screwy biceps are annoying but if you’re careful you can pick out a winner. The Kmart exclusivity was timed so you should be seeing them in Toys R Us and Target, providing they’ve cleared out all the infernal back stock. Fingers crossed that the non-Kmart cases have no All-Star figures as those are absolutely killing the stores in my area. I’ve heard differing reports of the quality of this wave and it seems that half came from the Wave 13 factory and half from another that had much better results.  Here’s hoping that the latter run is the widespread one as this is a stronger wave than 13 and I’d hate to see it ruined by awful QC. Be on the watch as wave 16's on the way any day now and it'd be a pity for this wave to be forgotten before it really hit anywhere in large numbers!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Episode #37: OMG War on X-mas

Well the weather outside is frightening but the Orccacast is here for 'delighting' and you all know what that means: more Orccasterpiece theater! Where will the craziness of 'Faith without Wings' lead to next? No one can be sure but at least it makes more sense then 'All-star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder' and that's something our ghost author can be proud of. Marshall joins us live in the studio so we can go over 30 things we're looking forward to in 2011 while musing on the insanity of the holiday season. Lantern Corpsner takes it all home in style for what may be one of the most intense sessions yet!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Episode #36: Don't be a Dopefish

ORCCAcast returns with a new Top Ten! This time we're button-mashing through our Top Ten Video Games of the Nineties and with games ranging from PC adventure titles to which Mario is the king of the 90's console ring, you are bound to hear an old forgotten favorite or at least get pissed off about something. Like Gabriel Knight? How about Commander Keen? We probably talk about at least one of them here! Lament about the depreciated nature of the Sonic franchise with us! Marvel at how Lucasarts was a nonstop hit factory! There's also enough time for us to ruminate on some other stuff! What kind? Well that would be telling so you should just listen instead!