Tag Archives: vintage

Throwback Review – The Uncanny X-Men #146 – June 1981


THE UNCANNY X-MEN #146

Reviewed by Nathan Harrison


Written by: Chris Claremont
Art: Dave Cockrum and Jeff Rubinstein
Released: June 1981
Publisher: Marvel Comics



The thing about winning streaks is that inevitably, inexorably, undeniably they must, at some point come to an end.

The Uncanny X-Men #146 came just a few short months after not one but two of the most iconic, revered, and well-regarded X-Men stories of all time – The Dark Phoenix Saga (so good they filmed it twice – badly) and Days of Future Past.
Even those with the most passing knowledge of Marvel’s mutant heroes will likely have heard of these essential parts of comic book history and they, of course, form small parts of a record-breaking and essential 17 year run on X-Men by the incredible Chris Claremont. However, even the best in the business have their off days…

This issue comes slap bang in the middle of a 3 issue tale, which sees the X-Men rescuing their foe, Arcade, from the clutches of Fantastic Four big bad, Doctor Doom. An exciting premise on paper…until you remember that Arcade is involved. While his elaborate escape room antics could be seen as a precursor to horror legend Jigsaw, Arcade appears as something more akin to a Chucky doll stuffed into a white suit and polka-dot bow tie, a look which must have seemed dated even in 1981.

Even fairly recent appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man have failed to update him in a convincing way. He’s the sort of lame, ridiculous villain that the comics try to take seriously but who’s crying out for the kind of treatment DC have recently given to Polka Dot Man in the latest Suicide Squad movie – main adversary for Deadpool’s first MCU appearance anyone?

That said, while the majority of the traps that Arcade and Doom set for Banshee, Havok, Iceman and Polaris (as well as some of the more popularly known X-Men who feature briefly) are on the silly side, there are some mind-bending and borderline scary panels – one featuring a merry-go-round with living vampiric horses stands out, as well as the twisty checkerboard hell that Wolverine finds himself in. David Cockrum and Jeff Rubinstein do a solid job of conveying the terror – when the trap itself is actually in any way terrifying. Less impactful are Havok’s trip on what appears to be Space Mountain and the whole team sliding down the pipes from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Special mention must be given to a panel from one of the final pages, which sees Havok…well…just take a look at that pose. Naughty boy!

Well hello

VERDICT

Claremont certainly can’t be blamed for going for a lighter story after the earth-shattering and emotional events of what came before, but this one sadly misses the mark. What should be a fun romp turns out to be a bit of a slog, with only a few moments of levity and the occasional nightmarish panel (you decide which category that Havok one falls under!) to break up the tedium. However, that’s not to take anything away from a legendary run which will undoubtedly feature on every comic fan’s must-read list until the heat death of the universe.


Review by Nathan Harrison 5/8/21


Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990

Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990
Review by Bryan Lomax

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Jim Aparo

Inks:
Mike DeCarlo
Published by DC Comics March 1990

Batman goes to Russia to help the Moscow police commissioner catch The NKVDemon, protégé of The KGBeast, who is out for revenge against those who betrayed his master. The Demon works his way through a hit list of 10 people, much the same way as the KGBeast attempted to do in Gotham, only this time the hunting ground is his home turf in Russia. Can Batman accomplish what he once did in a city he is unfamiliar with?

‘Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast’, written by Jim Starlin in the late 80’s, is one of the seminal works of that decade. Marv Wolfman, no slouch when it comes to writing Batman, is given the task, two years later, of writing a direct sequel to that story. ‘When the Earth Dies! Chapter One: Red Square, Bloody Square’ is a pretty good starting point for it.


Wolfman bookends his story with two sequences. The opener sees Batman catching a villain in Gotham, his home turf, precisely because he knows every street, every alleyway, every sewer tunnel. The closing scene plays out similarly, only this time the villain escapes, precisely because Batman doesn’t know the layout of the city he’s in. In Moscow, the streets, alleyways and sewers belong to The Demon.

Batman #445

I love when stories are bookended. It’s a great device that writers can use to show us a change has happened, whether it be in a character’s personal growth, or in their circumstances. Here we see that Batman is Gotham. Gotham is as much a part of him as the air in his lungs. Without it, he cannot breathe, he cannot function as well as he once did. It gives his nemesis the edge.

That nemesis in question is probably the weakest element of the story, as The Demon is essentially just The Beast, only with a slightly different costume. I would rather they had just brought back The Beast himself. It would be much more fun to see a rematch with the iconic villain, where Batman no longer has the upper hand, instead of giving us a carbon copy in his place.

I always have a sense of nostalgia for Jim Aparo’s artwork. He’s not my favourite, but seeing his work always takes me back to my childhood, when I started reading comic books. It’s very much a golden era for me personally. But it’s great that both Aparo and inker, Mike DeCarlo, both return here, as it was the two of them that brought the ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ storyline to life.


It must be said that this particular story is very dated as it assumes quite heavily on the audience’s knowledge of Russian politics of the time. And seeing Bruce just randomly bumping into Vicki Vale whilst dining out in Moscow is very quaint. Also, it seems to me that, if The Demon spent as much time doing stuff as he does gasbagging about a better Russia, he might actually stand a chance of achieving his goal. Some of his dialogue is stilted to say the least.

Batman #445


Verdict:

A great nostalgia trip for anyone who read comics as a child of the 80’s, but reading Jim Starlin’s ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ before this is strongly recommended.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 24/07/21


Vintage Pokemon Trainer Action Figures: Collecting & Restoration


Article by Emily Carney


As well as the mountain of action figures based on our favourite creatures from the world of Pokemon, over the years there have also been numerous toys inspired by the human characters from the franchise. Here we’ll be taking a look at a handful of the earlier Pokemon trainer action figures that were released during the first three generations of Pokemon, along with a few tips on restoring older action figures and keeping them in tip top condition.


Tomy 5” Trainer Figures

Cue 90’s intro music…

One of the most popular runs of Pokemon trainer figures was this range  which was manufactured and released by Tomy in 1998. Featuring key characters from the first series of the Pokemon anime (Ash, Brock and Misty along with Jessie and James from Team Rocket), these figures bore a striking resemblance to their anime counterparts and proved to be very popular among fans. Initially just Ash, Misty, Jessie and James were released with no sign of a Brock action figure, possibly due to his temporary absence early on in the anime and subsequently being replaced with Tracey Sketchit, as the creators of the Pokemon anime were worried about Brock being perceived negatively as an asian stereotype upon the anime’s release in the west. This however, proved to not be the case and Brock was immensely popular with western Pokemon fans, which led to his reinstatement as a main series character following the culmination of the Orange Islands series.

The Ash and Misty figures were initially released with Pikachu and Starmie respectively, however during the second release of figures Ash was packaged with Squirtle (who oddly, featured its original dark blue colouring as seen in Ken Sugimori’s illustrations in the Pokemon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow game manual as opposed to the light blue redesign given to Squirtle in the anime) and Misty was packaged with Jigglypuff. Team Rocket also featured different Pokemon in the second release, as Jessie had originally been packaged with Ekans and James with Koffing, but in the second release Jessie was packaged with Meowth and James, rather oddly considering it was Jessie’s Pokemon and not his, was packaged with Arbok. Eventually Brock did receive his own figure and was partnered with his Vulpix, along with the plastic Pokeball and small card disc displaying the featured Pokemon that was included with all the other western-released Tomy trainer figures.

Pocket Monsters

Interestingly, Japanese releases of these figures did not feature additional Pokemon figures or other parts other than a base to stand the figures on for display and the trainer figures were released in sets of two, with Ash and Misty (or as they are known in Japan, Satoshi and Kasumi), were released together, along with Jessie and James (Musashi and Kojiro) and Brock and Nurse Joy (Tekashi and Joy) being paired up. Fans of the anime can probably note that Brock would have been ecstatic with his box partner.

There has been a great deal of interest in this range of figures over the past few years, especially if still boxed and in good condition. The value of them continues to increase dramatically (I recently spotted an unopened Ash and Squirtle Tomy figure set on ebay for £500!), so if you are interested in collecting these figures I would definitely recommend trying to hunt down a bargain sooner than later as they do make great additions to any collection both boxed and unboxed, plus if you are lucky enough to get a box figure signed by the specific character’s original voice actor you could be looking at adding a serious investment piece to your collection.


Hasbro Deluxe Trainer Figures

Whilst technically being a continuation of the Tomy 5” Trainer Line (despite Hasbro taking over the production license), the Deluxe Trainer Figures released in 2000 introduced new features to the Trainer figure series.

Following his return to anime for the Johto Journeys series, Brock’s figure was released at the same time as Ash and Misty, with each of them being packaged with their own plastic backpack which could be attached and detached and a Pokeball similar to those included with the earlier Tomy trainer figure line (however the two halves of these Pokeballs were attached on a hinge, a slight change to the two separate pieces which made up the Tomy-released Pokeballs). Each figure was also paired up with one of the specific trainer’s Pokemon from the anime, with Ash being partnered with Pikachu, Brock being partnered with Zubat and Misty being partnered with Horsea

Backpacks included!

Unlike the previous Tomy range, the Hasbro line did not include Jessie and James, although they did include the additional feature of being articulated, which made them much more poseable and fun to reenact battles with. In a similar fashion to the Tomy figures, the Hasbro Deluxe Figures are becoming more and more sought after (though the prices haven’t quite reached the heights of the Tomy line yet), I recently managed to find the full trio together at a bargain price (not boxed or with their Pokemon/Pokeballs but they did included their backpacks) and they look excellent on display, so I would very much recommend keeping an eye out for the Deluxe Figures if you’re looking to add some early-series anime collectibles to your collection.


Tomy CGTSJ 3” (Approx) Figures

Officer Jenny, Professor Oak and Gary Oak too!

As well as the larger trainer figures, in 1998 Tomy also released a range of smaller human character figures. This range was the first to include characters such as Officer Jenny, Professor Oak and Gary Oak and featured the characters sculpted in various poses on a small grey stand. This line of figures was notable for possibly having the least amount of quality control when it came to the moulds used and the paintwork, as some of the character’s limbs ended to be rather oversized and had some unusual additions (note Officer Jenny’s rather long left arm and Brock inexplicably holding what appears to be a chicken drumstick in the photo above).

The Tomy CGTSJ figures are still readily available to purchase from a number of vintage Pokemon retailers online, however certain characters (particularly Professor Oak and Officer Jenny) are becoming increasingly rare.


Ash & Cyndaquil and Ash, Pikachu, Wartortle & Jigglypuff THINKChip Sets

THINKChip Ash

In 2001 Hasbro returned to creating Pokemon trainer figures with the THINKChip Ash figure, which was released in two different sets: one featuring the Ash figure and Cyndaquil, and another featuring Ash, Pikachu, Wartortle and Jigglypuff, the later being released as part of the Pokemon Trainer’s Choice range which bridged the gap between Pokemon Generation II and III.

Using the THINKChip Ash’s Talking Pokedex (which I covered in my previous blog, The Changing Face Of The Pokedex), the Ash figure and the Pokemon included in the sets were able to interact with the Pokedex using the THINKChip cards for each Pokemon that also came with each set. The THINKChip Ash figure was noticeably larger than other human character Pokemon toys and is currently the largest official trainer action figure to be released, measuring approximately 11.5 inches. The design of the figure is also noticeably similar to the Deluxe Trainer Ash figure that Hasbro released in 2000, albeit without the detachable backpack.

Do you have one in the attic?

In terms of collectibility, the THINKChip Ash figures are scarcely seen outside of the USA and are becoming increasingly hard to find boxed and unopened, particularly the earlier Cyndaquil set. Loose THINKChip Ash figures without any additional Pokemon figures or THINKChip card accessories can occasionally be found in bundles of Pokemon toys or on their own online, however prices and conditions of the figures available can vary greatly.

In terms of collectibility, the THINKChip Ash figures are scarcely seen outside of the USA and are becoming increasingly hard to find boxed and unopened, particularly the earlier Cyndaquil set. Loose THINKChip Ash figures without any additional Pokemon figures or THINKChip card accessories can occasionally be found in bundles of Pokemon toys or on their own online, however prices and conditions of the figures available can vary greatly.


Medicom Ash with Pikachu Set

The Ash With Pikachu set was released in 2006 by Medicom and was unusual for a Pokemon trainer figure in that it was a much more doll-like toy than others previously released, measuring 8 inches in height, being fully articulated and including fabric clothes and accessories as well as interchangeable hands.

Medicom Ash with Pikachu

Even in terms of packaging it was far different to other Pokemon toys, with its box being closer to those used by brands such as Sideshow as it featured a velcro-sealable card door with a comic-style illustrations of Ash and Pikachu on the exterior and interior of the box, along with a clear plastic window in which the Ash and Pikachu figures (plus all their accessories) could be viewed.

The Ash With Pikachu set was released in 2006 by Medicom and was unusual for a Pokemon trainer figure in that it was a much more doll-like toy than others previously released, measuring 8 inches in height, being fully articulated and including fabric clothes and accessories as well as interchangeable hands. Even in terms of packaging it was far different to other Pokemon toys, with its box being closer to those used by brands such as Sideshow as it featured a velcro-sealable card door with a comic-style illustrations of Ash and Pikachu on the exterior and interior of the box, along with a clear plastic window in which the Ash and Pikachu figures (plus all their accessories) could be viewed.

The Medicom Ash figure shows off Ash’s new outfit from the Hoenn-based Pokemon: Advanced series, which saw him swap his traditional outfit for a new hooded shirt, new jeans, black gloves, blue trainers and a brand new hat. This was the first time in the anime that Ash would permanently change his outfit, however in the following years he has had numerous different clothing and design changes.

In terms of rarity the Medicom Ash With Pikachu figure set is rather scarce, with the figure being limited to a release of just 1500. They are also rarely seen for sale outside of Japan and are extremely expensive,  with the few sets currently available online being priced as high as £550.


Tomy Pokemon Mate Mini Figures

So cute!

Back to Tomy, one of the most prolific Pokemon trainer/human character lines has to be the Tomy Pokemon Mate Mini Figure range which first began in 1997. As part of the Pokemon Mate Collection (which was released to the western market under the name “Pokemon House” and also included stationary, model kits and playsets, amongst other Pokemon products) the mini figures featured a variety of characters, including Ash, Misty, Brock, Tracey, Jessie, James, Professor Oak, Officer Jenny, Nurse Joy and Gary Oak. Additional Pokemon anime-themed products were also released alongside the mini figures, such as Team Rocket’s Meowth-shaped hot air balloon and Magikarp submarine.

The figures were designed in a “Chibi”-esque style and despite their small stature, emulated the anime characters they were based on very well. These figures were distributed to some stores in the west during the late 1990’s, including some here in the UK, however the numbers that were distributed over here were far less than those of other Pokemon toys. Some of the early Ash and Misty figures can be found at relatively affordable prices ( I recently saw an Ash + Misty mini figure bundle on eBay for £30, which when compared with some of the prices of other figures in this blog, seems like pocket money), however some of the lesser-seen characters such as Professor Oak, Officer Jenny and particularly Nurse Joy are becoming extremely rare, so if you are interested in collecting this line (and I must admit, they are very cute) I would certainly recommend snapping up any you come across sooner rather than later.


Pokemon Figure Restoration Tips:

Before…

If you have Pokemon toys (or any action figures really) that are looking a little worse for wear, don’t worry! With a little work you can get them looking nice and fresh, so here’s a few hints and tips on sprucing up your Pokemon figures. I recently started getting into customising and restoring various toys and one of my first restoration projects was this vintage James from Team Rocket Tomy figure –

Before I started re-painting I lightly sanded the entire figure with a light grade sandpaper, for the harder to reach nooks and crannies i wrapped the sandpaper around the end of a thin paint brush as this allowed me to get to the harder to reach areas and sand them, which ensured that the paint could be applied evenly. I then used Crawford and Black acrylic paints to re-paint his hair and clothing and Citadel model paints to re-paint his face. I used a selection of still frames from the original Indigo league anime as a reference to ensure that the colours were mixed accordingly to how the character appeared in the anime. Some of the areas with heavier blemishes (such as his hair and hands) required a few extra coats to cover up completely but all in all the paint job was relatively simple. After the paint had dried I used a matte spray varnish to seal everything and give the figure a nice clean finish as seen below –

…After

I found the process of restoring this figure to be immensely satisfying and would definitely recommend any fellow figure collectors who feel like getting creative to have a go at giving their older toys a new lease of life. If you are considering restoring your figures, ensure you have a good clear space to work in where you won’t have to worry about making too much of a mess and if it is your first time painting action figures, perhaps try practicing on a few cheaper toys before repainting anything that is more valuable. In terms of getting the right colours, always use a good reference image and focus on mixing colours to get the correct tone, rather than trying to find the closest match to a specific colour when buying paints as this is a generally more reliable way of getting your figures to look as close as possible to character designs your are trying to replicate. Like any hobby though the most important part of figure restoration is to enjoy it and have fun, so don’t get too frustrated if your figures don’t look perfect immediately. Practice makes perfect at the end of the day so just hang in there and before you know it you’ll have a whole array of great looking figures!


Written by Emily Carney, 2021


Sources/Further Reading:

Pokemon/Deluxe Trainer Bulbapedia page – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Deluxe_Trainers

THINKChip Interactive System Bulbapedia Page –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/THINKChip_Interactive_System

PilotTails – Medicom RAH Ash Ketchum and Pikachu From Pokemon –

Kewpie83 – Collection Close Up: Think Chip Trainer’s Choice Ash Ketchum – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFUHMhjdMyo

Pokemon Mate Human Figurines Bulbapedia Page –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_mate#Human_figurines

Dino-mite 80’s Toys – How To Clean And Restore Vintage Toys – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce7vkFLcuQk

Dr Toys – How to repaint an old thrift store toy –

The Mighty Thor #271 – Throwback Review


Reviewed by Angus Woods


Writer: Len Wein

Artist: Walt Simonson


Published by: Marvel Comics
May 1978

First of all, I would like to talk about the cover art, wow, just wow, I really do enjoy the vibrant and exciting covers of old comics, of course just being about 18, I am used to the more artistic and detailed covers that we have today, but what really drew me into comics is the old style of covers with dialogue and an action packed scene. This cover has the main man Thor and Iron man smashing a missile to pieces and all I can say is it gets you hyped for the story inside so let’s go…

In this throwback issue of my favourite super hero right now Thor and Iron-Man team up to defeat the evil self-serving computer that is Faust that has sent missiles to destroy earth, made out of adamantium it is very hard for Thor and Iron man to destroy the computer from the inside.

To be completely Honest, it’s no Donny Cates, but hey what is. This is definitely a happy one-off kind of story, there is no real character development for Thor, but as I understand you rarely find it to the same type of extent in these older comics. The story move’s at an okay pace but it would have been nicer to have another hero up there with Iron Man and Thor when fighting Faust.

Not to be taken away from is the beautiful art by Walt Simonson and colours by Glynis Wein. I have always been a fan of how Thor used to look in the old comics and how his colours always popped of the page, and I have to hand it to Walt Simonson and Glynis Wein they really carried this issue, they have shown some amazing talent and understanding of each other’s work in this issue.


Verdict

Overall, this is a fun issue to pick up and add to your collection, if you enjoy Thor and Iron man, you will enjoy this there is no doubt about it. This was my first old issue of Thor I have read, and I can understand why he has been and always will be a fan favourite. The art and colours match each other so well and the cover just makes you want to read it, so go pick it up.


Reviewed by Angus Woods 16/07/2021