Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bass solo! Wooo Hooo!

In addition to being a skilled sharp shooter, ruggedly handsome and an all-around great guy, Sgt. Greg Mitchell is also an accomplished musician. (Or at least he would be if he weren't 11 inches tall and made of plastic!) Here he's taking some time to hone his chops on his Fender Jazz Bass.

Sorry that both of these photos came out a bit "wonky". Greg is a GI Joe "SA" body and his bass is from SD Toys (sold through Diamond Comics in the US).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More Ma.K. Goodness!

I'm a big fan of Kow (pronounced "Koh") Yokoyama's Maschinen Kreiger series. 2010's Nuremberg Hobby show previewed Hasegawa's new 1/35 scale Nutcracker hover tank, which is now available but which I haven't yet purchased. This year's show has revealed an equally exciting new model, the Großerhund! I imagine it'll be a while before we see this big doggie hit the retail market but this is one of my favorite walker designs from the series and I'm going to have to get it when it comes out.

This image is © IPMS Deutschland and is from their coverage of the event:
Please see the link here for full coverage including the image seen above:

Looks like this kit will allow you to build either the land based or lunar based version, although I guess we'll have to wait a while to know for sure. Anyway, I'm pretty darn happy to see this design finally being done as a mass-market plastic kit.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One more photo of the day.

My collection of 1/6 figures isn't just limited to gruff guys. There are women here too. One of my favorite brands/types of female figures are made by Obitsu. Stay around long enough and you'll see a fair number of both the 27 cm and 25 cm females. For those who aren't familiar with them, they are do it yourself-style dolls from Japan, similar but better engineered than the late lamented Volks Dollfie line. You pick heads, hands and body types to create your own doll. They have a limited number of heads with pre-painted faces but most of them are blank so that you can paint or decal your own face (a talent I have yet to master). The 27 cm bodies are roughly the size of Takara's Super Action Jenny fashion doll body and have somewhat "anime like" proportions.

This lovely lady is Margaret Jane Callahan, otherwise known as Meg. She plays a major role in my action figures' "back story". The character is roughly in her late- 20s to early- 30s and is about 5 ft. 6 in. tall She has a younger sister named Daphne and a sweetheart named Mike (yep, there are figures of them too).

Meg the doll is an Obitsu 27 cm SB-2 Fleshtone body with a W-01 pre-painted head. Her outfit is assembled from pieces made by Azone (another Japanese company) with her purse and (unseen) white t-shirt coming from Dragon. She's also wearing black "engineer" boots from Obitsu.

The visual realm.

I guess a blog about toys and other assorted geeky stuff is a bit weak without visuals. I tend to get "wordy" and often write without adding images or links that would liven up my blogs. One thing I want to try to do differently with RoG is to try and use as much of my own stuff as possible. I can't say that every image I post will be my own but when it isn't, I will make every effort to give proper credit and provide links back to the source.

Towards this end, I want to inaugurate a practice of posting random photos of the day. This will simply be a photo, or photos of items in my collection or things I happen to find interesting and worthy of posting. This won't happen every day nor with every post but I'll try to do it often enough to keep things interesting for me and readers alike.

A couple of my fuzzhead, kung-fu grip Advenure Team Joes. While I had both of these guys as a kid, the two you see here are replacements. In fact, they are modern reproductions that Hasbro did as store exclusives in the mid-to-late- 2000s. Some collectors of vintage Joes grumble that they aren't as good as the originals but I like 'em as much as the old ones. And it makes me feel like my original Joes from childhood are back in action again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Addendum ad nauseam.

Wow, a "two-fer" today!
It's February and as sure as the sun rises, on various hobby message boards I visit, threads have started with people grousing about prices. You can almost set your watch and mark your calendars for this to happen. It goes through just about every sub-set of collecting but I notice it especially prevalent among people who collect what I call "media property" figures and related items. A media property is, by my definition, a work of fictional popular entertainment and the characters, objects or design elements featured therein. More simply, a character in a movie, tv show, video game, comic book etc. would be a media property, as would vehicles and other original design elements and the very "back story" itself. Star Wars is a media property in all its various forms, as well the characters like Han Solo, vehicles like the X-wing fighter and even the little symbols and design elements used throughout the series (like the insignias for the Empire and the Rebellion). Obviously, the price of a media property license adds to the cost of a product and the only ways to address this are to cut corners or raise the selling price. Heck, some folks even do both!

And I get it, the price of hobby market 1/6 scale action figures has gone up extraordinarily the past five or six years. It's difficult to find them much under $100 US and the media property figures are even more. Some Hot Toys items are now creeping very close to the $200 US mark. You get a round or two or ten of threads on various message boards decrying the price increases, people declaring that they are priced out of the hobby, people angry with manufacturers and retailers over "profiteering" and "price gouging" (often backed up by wild claims of cost vs. profit margins), calls for boycotts and accusations of deceit and apologia from people who try to explain what's going on.

Here's the deal kids: It cost what it cost. If you feel that it's unfair and a rip-off for Hot Toys to charge $180 US for the latest Terminator figure, then don't buy it. If other people DO buy it, they sell out and you don't get one, that's just how life goes. These are toys, albeit expensive and sophisticated toys for adult collectors. They are not a life sustaining commodity and you aren't guaranteed nor entitled to have them. Whether it's a combination of economic and market factors that have been repeatedly explained and rejected, or it's simply "greed" and "profiteering" as the whiners usually insist, it doesn't matter. It is what it is and again, it cost what it cost. If a significant part of the customer base can no longer pay what an item cost, this will either cause the price to go down or, more likely, it will no longer be profitable to produce. Someone else may try to produce something similar but at some point they're going to be up against hard numbers of cost per unit and the need to make money and grow their company. If you make 2000 units of a highly detailed item aimed at a discriminating customer base, expect that the final retail cost will be higher than if you make 20,000 of a similar item for a mass market. That $200 figure might indeed be over-priced but it isn't likely that you'll get anything close to it for, say $50.

Many of these complaints basically come down to "I want what I want but I want to pay what I want to pay for it". I get that desire because I feel the same way. If I had the money for a Chevy Malibu but I could buy a top of the line Mercedes for the same price, which do you think I would choose. Is one car significantly superior to the other? Is one worth 2 or 3 times the price of the other? That's a judgement call for the customer to decide and it's why both cars are on the market. Same with these 1/6 scale figures.

By all means, protest, whine, cry, make accusations and above all, don't spend more than you feel you can afford. I'm an advocate for hobbies being affordable and believe that affording something is one of the keys to enjoying it. (That's a whole other article for another time.) However, be aware that you may succeed in convincing the manufacturer(s) that there's no market for their over-priced items and that your "victory" may be pyrrhic when they quit making said items. Alternately, your protest and refusal or inability to buy such items might make someone else say "great, more for me" and go right on buying as the price keeps going up. That's just life!

1/6 scale GI Joe heading back to retail (and my take on it).

Coverage at Action Figure Times and Toy News International.

February is the traditional month for the big US Toy Fair convention. Basically, toy manufacturers and retail buyers meet for a big market of what the toy folks hope to sell to the retailers. I'm a toy geek and one of my nearly life-long interests is the larger scale GI Joe. I like 1/6 scale dolls/action figures in general but as a child of the *COUGH* '70s *COUGH*, GI Joe was very much a part of my formative years. The smaller scale Real American Hero line was certainly neat and afforded the chance to sell vehicles and aircraft that were close to the scale of the figures but it wasn't MY era of GI Joe... the 1/6 scale (or 12 inch) Joe.

After being off the market since the mid- '70s, the large scale GI Joe relaunched in the 1990s, first as a series of large scale, limited articulation figures representing characters from the small-scale RAH series. In 1996, Hasbro did a serious overhaul of the line and released the initial Classic Collection Joes, a series of generic military figures somewhat reminiscent of the 1964-68 era of the original line. This series took off and arguably lead to a major renaissance and expansion of the 1/6 action figure hobby in to what it is today. I certainly bought my share and then some of those early "CC" Joes during the initial late '90s run. While there were a number of mechanical improvements and sub-types, the major change for the modern Joe line came in 2001 with the introduction of the Super Articulated body. Most of the Joes you'll see on this blog (when I get around to posting photos) will use this body type, unless they are vintage-style ('60s- '70s body). The "SA" is my preferred Joe body type, as you can probably guess.

When the 1/6 scale Joe line finally played out after about 2004-2005, I kind of stopped paying much attention to Toy Fair. Honestly, much of the stuff I buy nowadays is aimed at a collector/hobby market and not normally previewed at that event. I no longer buy many (really, ANY) boxed figures because the prices are rather high and because of the focus on licensed media properties.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Hasbro is previewing a small line of 1/6 Joes at this year's Toy Fair. The 1/18 scale- 3 3/4 inch line is still the dominant product but they seem to be dipping their toes back in the water a bit. Hasbro has tried to resurrect the 1/6 scale line several times since 2005, including a few store exclusive vintage reproduction figures, but the results have been pretty mixed, at best. The "modern" style Joe released during this time really cut corners and normally used the older, less articulated body with "features" like torsos with molded-on t-shirts or body armor. Even the large movie tie-in figures were pretty light on features and very basic/ simplistic. I was tired of buying figures to use as head donors then digging through my collection or scouring eBay to find a Joe SA body to use as a transplant donor. Oddly, the last appearance of this body style was with a couple of minor characters from the Indiana Jones line they did back ~2008(?); the Cairo Swordsman and the German Officer.

With the Joes previewed at the 2011 Toy Fair, I'm cautiously optimistic that at least some of them will use the Super Articulated body. In fact, I consider this feature a major "make or break" selling point for me. With the SA body, I'll purchase figures and support the line; without it, there's probably little other reason to spend money on it.

What I'm asking for here is not that Hasbro spend time and money to re-tool the 1/6 GI Joe line into something new and never before seen. Simply use the best of what they already have. I don't expect GI Joes that are the equal of items by Soldier Story, Hot Toys or what have you; just do what they did in the early 2000s with the Super Articulated bodies and other items they developed late in the series and I'll be happy to return to "big box" retailers and buy what they offer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ryotsu Kankichi SWAT officer.

Oh, so that "thing" I found on eBay and mentioned in my previous post is a Ryotsu Kankichi figure that Bandai produced in the late '90s. Right now, he's hanging out in my bathroom, enjoy a bit of a "spa treatment" to deal with some minor staining on his face and neck (10% Benzoyl Peroxide zit cream will fade stains on soft vinyl). The culprit appears to be his stretchy black balaclava but this is simply the nature of these materials. I don't blame the seller I bought it from since, if you display the figure as intended, it's almost guaranteed to happen. Anyway, I snapped a couple of photos the other day before sending him off for a bath and stain treatment.

I really like this little dude and he's been on my "want list" for a number of years. I'd still like to add the "winter police uniform" and "fighter pilot" versions of Ryo-san but the SWAT team guy is the one I'd really been after.
I think he'll soon be joined on some adventure or the other by a couple of GI Joes and maybe one of my Obitsu 27 cm girls. I just need to dig up some Police/SWAT type gear from my collection-o-parts and find the time to do some serious "kit bashing" of the other figures.

Speaking of kit bashing.... I do have a small fire team of GI Joes in the works. I mentioned this in passing in my last post but there will hopefully be actual photos one day soon. The squad leader is basically done and I've assembled most of the gear for the SAW gunner. Next up will be a grenadier but I'm just waiting on the pouches for his 40mm grenades to arrive. For the rifleman, I haven't yet decided if I'll just go with the standard "grunt" (with M4 rifle) or upgrade him to a designated marksman. For now, I've decided to limit my "team building" projects to smaller groups and the common US Army-USMC fire team configuration of four members (two riflemen or one rifleman and one designated marksman, a SAW gunner and a grenadier) seems to be a nice size to work with. Full squads are a cool idea in theory but they can get tedious to assemble and cumbersome to work with in 1/6 scale. They can also be enormous resource hogs in that you have buy and store enough items for a group of similarly attired and equipped figures. That can be 8-10-12 of the same pair of boots or the same uniform and similarly with body armor, helmets and load bearing gear. Weapons can vary a bit but most of your guys will need the same type of rifle with all the nifty bells and whistles (optics, etc.). In the end, you have a large group of similar looking guys on the shelf or in photos where the individuals tend to get lost in the crowd.

I'll probably delve more in to that last bit in a future post and, knowing me, I'll occasionally return to it. It's been a constant theme of mine for the last few years and a source of a frequent internal "tug of war" when planning my collecting strategy and hobby budget.

See 'ya next time!