Action Figures Posts


Is Astro Lion the worst toy ever?

I kind of missed Masters of the Universe TV Show and its 100s of associated toys as a child but even so see them now joining hobbyDB.  Some of them are quite cool and as toys incredible imaginative.  Others less so.  The worst to me seems to be Astro Lion.

 

Astro Lion was a Meteorb, a race that could transform from an animal-like form to something else.  Sounds cool, until you hear they can transform into an Egg.

Sounds like Benjamin Button only that they can come back.  Cannot really see the excitement for a kid to play with so am awarding it with the worst toy ever – can you beat it?  Let us know in the comments! Oh, and please don’t forget to add an image.

Tim Bruckner, Man of DC Action Figures!

A couple weeks ago we introduced you to Tim Bruckner, who spent about 20 years sculpting DC action figures and statues for DC Direct (now known as DC Entertainment) and other companies. We barely scratched the surface of his stories, so here’s a look at some of the design processes he went through in his career.

tim bruckner dc artistHis sculpting roots go back to his childhood. “I used to take those wax bottles with the juice in them (Nik-L-Nips) and play around with the wax and create all kinds of sculptures,” Bruckner said. He showed them to a neighbor across the street who happened to own a jewelry store. “He was impressed enough that he hired me as an apprentice when I was a teenager,” he laughs. That lucky break led not only to honing his finer wax sculpting skills, but also an understanding of the molding and casting processes.

tim bruckner robin

This Robin paint master is for sale on hobbyDB right now.

For those of you who collect model cars, the original sculpting is usually a subtractive process, where the artist starts with a block of some material like acetate and carves away the bits that don’t look like a car. “Figure design is an additive process,” said Bruckner. “It starts with a blob of wax, and I shape it into the character mostly by adding material.”

For those of you who collect figures, he’s now selling some of his rarer pieces on hobbyDB as the_Sculptor. These include production pieces as well as various stages of preproduction models. It’s a chance to own a bit of DC history as well as a one-of-a kind original piece for your collection.

tim bruckner dark knight

You can get this Batman action figure directly from Tim Bruckner.

Another difference between the two types of collectibles: Model cars are often sculpted with details such as the grill and windows in place. How those are divided into separate pieces is usually determined at the factory instead of by the artist. In addition to the original wax figure, Bruckner had to determine points of articulation, and how to separate the figure into multiple parts. “For poseable figures, I create a fully-functioning prototype with the joints worked out.” If that sounds complicated, yeah, it is. “After you’ve done several of them, that part gets a lot easier,” he said.

Much of the diecast world is headed towards 3-D modeling and prototyping, which has its advantages in speed and accuracy. “Since a statue of a character is organic in design, it’s still somewhat common for sculptors to make their molds the old way. “With the advent of 3-D design, that skill set is evaporating,” he said. “Hopefully digital sculpting and hand carving can coexist.” Even for static statues, he has to figure out what parts can be molded as one and what needs to be a separate part.

tim bruckner red skull

It may look finished, but this is a hand-painted prototype available from Bruckner.

Many of his figures are interpretations of drawings, which may have varied thought put into how a particular feature would be rendered as a real-life object. Sometimes an item like a hand, which might be molded in a different color, becomes a separate piece.

After approval of the shapes, Bruckner was responsible for painting the master from which the production pieces would be colored. “These statues are hand-painted in the factory, believe it or not. My painted prototypes were usually pretty spot-on,” he said. “They have to rely on a perfect example to copy, so it needs to be very accurate.” A lot of color breaks, such as the logo on Batman’s chest, are rendered in relief or as grooves or ridges to make coloring easier. A close look at his Red Skull master shows how much intricate detail can be involved.

tim bruckner supergirl

These three stages of the development of the Supergirl statue are for sale together.

In some cases, they are only part of the model, but otherwise, it’s really hard to tell them apart from the finished production piece. He has even listed a 3 stage set of Supergirl prototypes that really show how the process takes shape.

tim bruckner dc dynamics

tim bruckner

This Joker from the DC Dynamics line is from Bruckner’s private stash.

Those color breaks and separate molds can lead to some great opportunities for design. “My favorite statues are the DC Dynamics line,” he said. For those, a character such as the Joker is seen rising from a raging swirl of green slime. The shapes themselves are lively, but he was able to use translucent material for the goo, adding to the realism. “Being able to work with clear materials for water, smoke, or flames really helped make these even more realistic.”

Speaking of lively, dynamic shapes, there is a lot that goes into deciding every nuanced detail of a character’s pose and facial expression for these figures. We’ll take a look at some of the designs and decisions that go into the final product in an upcoming article.

11 Wandering Tribes – Lost, Living, Exploring in Space

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

With Captain Picard about to head off on another voyage into space, it seems like a good time to think about other space travelers. More specifically, let’s think about those wanderers who live in space… not just sci-fi fare like Futurama where the characters travel a lot but live on a planet, but those who are truly living in interstellar RVs. Some are lost, some are fugitives, some are just out there trying to make the universe a better place. So even though they travel a lot, characters in franchises like Star Wars or Doctor Who don’t count here. And in hobbyDB fashion, let’s look at some collectibles from each!

star trek collectiblesStar Trek – We could do this entire list about the original 1960s TV series and the many spinoffs, sequels, prequels and reboots, but let’s call them one entity here (In fact, the combined entities were recently named to the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.) They are willing travelers for the most part, and only rarely touch the ground, usually by teleportation.

lost in space jupiter ii modelLost In Space – Years before Star Trek, Space Family Robinson became disoriented in the cosmos. Each episode of the show usually had the Jupiter II and crew land on a different planet, only to find a differently costumed reason for its unsuitability. Their biggest threat, of course, was always Dr. Smith. A recent Netflix series has revived the concept, but nothing will ever match the campy charm of the original series.

alien garbage pail kidsAlien – Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece is widely regarded as more of a horror movie than a science fiction flick. The crew of the Nostromo takes one brief pit stop on a distant planet and all hell breaks loose. Spoiler alert… technically, most of them don’t “live” in space, at least not for the entire movie.

guardians of the galaxy popGuardians of the Galaxy – As comic book characters, the GotG were barely B-list stories, but as a pair of movies and counting, they were some of the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Funny, smart, and with a great soundtrack, viewers actually wanted to be stuck on their spaceship with them.

battlestar galactica collectiblesBattlestar Gallactica – The original and the remake were both stylish adventures in space, but the nod for the better stuck-in-space show has to go to the newer version. Why? The final season of the original series took place on Earth, allowing a major cost cut in special effects, which is not what we’re talking about here. Those shiny Cylons ruled though.

mystery science theater lunchMystery Science Theater 3000 – Not only is Joel (or Mike, or Jonah, if you dare) a prisoner in on a spaceship, but he is forced to watch cheesy movies, the worst they can find. Joel created his robot pals to keep him company at the expense of having any control over his situation. They do seem to have a lot of fun, though.

red dwarf gameRed Dwarf – There was something cosmically stupid yet brilliant about this BBC production in space. Perhaps it was the long time confined to a spaceship that drove the cast to such clever verbal madness.

hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy gameHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – The books and movie start out on Earth, but that ends rather rapidly, doesn’t it? Douglass Adams’ four-volume trilogy was filled with robots, bad alien poets, and the dryest humor in the universe. Eventually, they would find the answer to life, the universe, and everything.space 1999 hawkSpace 1999 – Much of the action takes place on the moon, so does this count? Well, in the show’s pilot, an explosion sends the moon out of orbit and across space, making it in effect, an out of control spacecraft. In a way, that’s even cooler!

firefly action figuresFirefly – It’s 500 years in the future, but actually more than 15 years ago. Was this show really on for only two seasons? Refugees, explorers, interlopers… hard to classify the mission of the crew of the Serenity, but it was gripping stuff and gone from TV way too soon.

wall-e eve toysWall-E – In a way, this is the most horrifying and realistic vision of the future, with obese, immovable humans scooting around a giant luxury cruiser in space. That solution was easier than cleaning up the terrestrial world because Earth is too messed up to fix. Not so far-fetched, is it?

The Jetsons, of course, are not on this list. They don’t live in space, but in domed buildings on pillars high above the Earth. There is a theory that at the same time, the Flintstones live down on the Earth’s surface in the post-nuclear apocalyptic landscape, which explains why they know about Christmas. But that’s another story…

Know of any additional action figures, model spacecraft or other collectibles from these shows? Add them to our database!

13 Advertising Spokes Characters Who Aren’t Just for Breakfast

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

We recently looked at collectibles connected to our favorite food mascots (cereal and otherwise), but there are lots of beloved Advertising Spokes Characters for non-edible markets, too.

The granddaddy of all spokes characters has to be Bibendum. You might know him as The Michelin Man (which is actually his official name in the U.S.). Even though he’s French, his name is a Latin approximation of “I drink nails.” Bib has been around since 1894 when tires were white or light gray.

bibendum pep boysAlso from the world of automotive service, Pep Boys decided they needed not one but three spokes brothers. Manny, Moe, and Jack have been around since 1921. They are based on the three company founders, who are not brothers and none of whom are named “Pep.”

A perfect example of target marketing, Bullseye the miniature bull terrier has been the spokes mutt for Target stores since 1999. There have been various stuffies and toys of this mutt, most of them presumably exclusive to those stores. 

bullseye geoffrey snoopyAnother famous store mascot hasn’t fared as well lately. Geoffrey the Giraffe was the spokes mammal for Toys “R” Us stores since their inception and was there til the end when the chain finally went belly up.

Snoopy is really just a cartoon character, but honestly, he’s probably as well known as a spokes pup for, well just about everything, including MetLife Insurance. He isn’t available as a true spokes collectible, but he is represented in countless toys, possibly more than any other comics character in history.

 

reddy kilowatt naugaElectricity shouldn’t be a hard thing to sell. You kind of need it for all sorts of things all day. But in the 1920s, electricity was still not the dominant source of power in U.S. homes, especially in rural areas. In fact, a lot of farmers were downright skeptical of it. Enter Reddy Kilowatt, the “electric utility ambassador.” Fun fact: By the 1970s, Reddy changed his message to one of energy conservation, not consumption. Another fun fact: He was once a member of the Grateful Dead. No, really!

Fake leather shouldn’t be a hard sell, either, but Naugahyde brought out Nauga, a spokes monster made of that very substance. His legacy has endured longer than the material has, and it was pretty indestructible.

alfred e neuman bazooka joeSeveral magazines have had spokes characters from “Cracked” (Sylvester P. Smyth) to “The New Yorker” (Eustace Tilly), but none reigned as supremely stupid as Alfred E. Neuman, spokes idiot for “MAD.” Sadly, “MAD”
is ending its print run soon, perhaps allowing Alfred to really focus on his next bid for the Presidency (one of these years, he has to win, right?)

Gum isn’t food, is it? I mean, you shouldn’t eat it. Did you know that’s how Bazooka Joe ended up losing his eye? Sadly, they never really explain it in the comics printed inside the wrappers. And they don’t ever clarify whether he actually owns a bazooka.

Joe Camel tagamet tommyMedicine isn’t food either, is it? Alka Seltzer is kind of the antidote for food if you think about it. In addition to a memorable jingle and soothing action shots of tablets fizzing, the brand had its own spokes guy, Speedy.

Cigarettes are definitely not food, right? And certainly not for kids. Never mind the Flintstones shilling Winston cigarettes in TV commercials in the early ’60s. Of course, the most egregious spokes dromedary was Joe Camel, who swears he wasn’t trying to lure kids to the cool, rebellious life. The backlash against Joe was so severe that not only were cuddly characters banned for tobacco marketing, pretty much all cigarette advertising and sports sponsorships were forbidden.

The greatest spokes organ of all time has to be the Tagamet Tommy. Yes, he’s an anthropomorphic stomach. Which begs so many questions, like does he have internal organs? We’re going to say “no.” 

Freddy FunkoOf course, a lot of the collectibles seen here are Funko products.  Their company spokes figure Freddy Funko has taken on a life of his own over the last twenty years. He started out as a large scale store display Wobbler, and has since appeared in more costumes than you can keep track of. A character created to sell figures of characters created to sell other things… no wonder King Freddy wears that crown.

What are your favorite non-food spokes characters and mascots? Let us know in the comments!

Dov Kelemer of DKE Toys Brings His Collective Interests to hobbyDB Advisory Council

Dov Kelemer DKE toysDov Kelemer, founder of DKE Toys, is the latest member of the hobbyDB Advisory Council. He comes from a unique perspective as not only a major action figure dealer, but also as a curator of custom and limited edition mashup figures. His creations include one-off mutations of familiar figures with unusual, often bizarre modifications as well as limited edition resin figures.

dke toys tatooine“DKE Toys started with Star Wars collectibles in the early 90s and still deal in them today,” said Dov. The business evolved into the wholesale distribution of designer vinyl toys by 2005. “We were the exclusive distributor for over 500 artists, brands, and designers. We sold the distribution arm of our business in 2016 to Disburst Ltd (www.disburst.com). Now we set up at 3 or 4 shows a year selling limited edition custom resin action figures.”

DKE toys2004 was when Dov considered a shift in his business model. “Star Wars was getting stale,” he said. “There was a lack of imagination and when I started to see vinyl toys made by artists I admired around 2004 it piqued my interest.”

Dov Kelemer Sarah Jo MarksAs a collector, he was fascinated by the Suckadelic line of custom vinyl art toys and action figures. “The Sucklord started the resin action figure medium in 2005 and I started with his first figure. I continue to this day with not only an archive of all of his work but with scores of other artists influenced by him.”

Like many in this industry, his interest started as a young collector. “I have vintage Star Wars figures from 1977. I have very little before that since that’s the genesis of the Star Wars universe.” There is also a creative energy derived from living near Hollywood with Sarah Jo Marks, originally his business partner, now also his wife. “We met in 2001, so she experienced the transformation with me. By 2005 the distribution company began and we got married that same year.”

dke toys vader projectIn addition to distributing and repping custom artists, Dov has several online presences that occupy his spare time and expand the brand. Spoonful of Star Wars and The Vader Project are two of them. Both are art shows that we curated. The Vader Project, in particular, was a way of introducing Star Wars fans to the artists we were working with in the designer toy business. We sent 100 artists 1/1 scale Darth Vader helmet replicas to paint, modify, and mash-up,” he said. “The show toured the world and ended up at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh before being auctioned off at Freemans.”

dke toys bootleg gpkAnother of his interests gets really specific. The Bootleg Garbage Pail Kids Project occupies additional time and headspace in the Dov universe. As someone who appreciates custom and original work, he curates the inventive and creative efforts in this area. “As with Star Wars before, I grew tired of the newer products Topps was putting out,” he said. “There was always more interesting content when artists and creators were just creating without permission and bypassing the licensing and approval processes. These releases tended to be very handmade or homemade and produced in very small quantities for a very short time”

There is also a tendency for art to imitate life and vice versa. Dov notes, “I also find it fascinating to witness and document how pop culture has influenced the actual culture. I love how GPK themes just pop up in life. Right now it seems to be most prevalent in the tattoo scene. I have business cards from tattoo artists in Argentina for example who use GPK themes to promote themselves.”

dke toys star warsdke toys akbarDKE Toys is always up for checking out new artists in vinyl or plastic. If you’re such an artist, he would love to hear from you. “Just get in touch. I respond to all serious emails and phone calls and our info is readily available,” said Dov. DKE is willing to distribute items that are produced in certain quantities. Or, if they are making hand made action figures we evaluate if that was a good fit for a convention release and discuss what works best for us.”

With all this unique experience, Dov Kelemer is a welcome addition to the hobbyDB Advisory Council.