Action Figures Posts

A Look at the Scary Side of Collecting

The macabre, the horror movies, the candy, the decorations, the candy, the costumes…oh, and the candy.  Just a few of the many reasons I look forward to Halloween every year, and why it’s been my favorite holiday since I was a kid donning my Ben Cooper Boba Fett costume.  (You know, those plastic costumes you couldn’t breathe in or see out of, but were worn by children everywhere). As an adult….ok, as a “big kid”…it’s always amazed me to see the variety and cult following of horror-related collectibles and toys.  You can find action figures and statues for virtually every pop culture franchise these days, but you can still find a few classic collectibles from the horror genre.  Here are some of my favorite Halloween-friendly collectible ideas… the Scary Side of Collecting!

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1979 Kenner Alien Large-Size Figure

Its evil brains glow in the dark! When Kenner picked up the license for the 1979 Ridley Scott movie, Alien, they were hoping to be on track with the next big thing after Star Wars.  While the movie was undoubtedly a success, the film’s R-rating and graphic violence resulted in a very quick death for the toy line. While a line of 3 3/4″ figures was planned (and later reproduced by Funko & Super7), the only item to make it to production was this behemoth 18″ figure. Given that these are often found missing the dome, one of the five back spikes, or tail, and often with a broken set of retractable teeth, finding one of these complete and in nice condition can be difficult.  Gentle Giant later reproduced these in larger scale (24″ tall).

 

maxxfx-freddy-krueger

Matchbox MaxxFX Freddy Krueger

Kenner wasn’t the only company to have a toy from the Alien franchise planned, only to later ditch the concept.  In the late 80s, Matchbox was to include the Alien Warrior from the 1986 film, Aliens, in their MaxxFX line. These 9″ action figures were similar to Mego figures in style, and allowed the owner to dress up the character as one of multiple horror characters.  Several prototypes were developed for this line, but ultimately only Freddy Krueger was released.

 

cult-classicsNECA Cult Classics

McFarlane Toys might have set the stage for horror figures coming to the mainstream with their Movie Maniacs line, but in 2005 NECA took it a step farther by introducing their Cult Classics line. Similar in style to the Movie Maniacs, these 7″ tall figures took small-scale collecting to a new level with their incredible sculpts, statuesque posing, and the diversity of the line. While the line featured many horror favorites such as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, fans were also treated to debuts of figures such as Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Frank the Bunny from Donnie Darko, and The Jigsaw Killer from Saw.   The line continued for a solid five years and gave us dozens of unique characters from the genre.

 

neca-nbxNECA The Nightmare Before Christmas

What Halloween would be complete without some of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas? In 2004, NECA launched a line of figures from the cult movie, and what is in my opinion one of the best action figure lines of all time (despite the occasional quality issues).  Over the course of five years, nearly every character from the movie saw release in this line, making it not only a fun set to complete, but also making for an amazing display.  (Note: the image shown is only part of the line!)  NECA even produced the Spiral Hill and the Snow Buggy Jack heisted from Christmas Land.  The only downside to this line is that it’s *sooooo* close to being complete, those of us who are completists will feel annoyed about the few missing characters.  (The band, Finklestein’s second creation, the tree with hanging skeletons, and the reaper…I believe these are the only characters not made.)

 

mcfarlane-twisted-christmasMcFarlane Toys Twisted Fantasy

NECA has had many successful 6-7″ action figure lines, but along side them has always been McFarlane Toys, the company that sparked the highly-detailed figure lines in this size.  McFarlane is known for Spawn, various sports series, and their Movie Maniacs, but some of my favorites fall in the “Twisted” categories.  McFarlane has lent their horrifying takes to The Wizard of Oz, Christmas and general Fairy Tales, creating masterpieces in action figure form and inducing nightmares everywhere.  Some of this stuff is not for the faint of heart (like Humpty Dumpty), or oversexualized (like Mrs. Claus), or both (like Red Riding Hood), but these series add an extra degree of macabre to any collection.

 

sideshow-horrorSideshow Collectibles 1:6 Scale & Statues

OK, so maybe the smaller figures aren’t really  your style.   Maybe you’re looking for something a bit larger to be the centerpiece(s) of your frightful collection.  That’s where a company like Sideshow Collectibles comes in.  Sideshow has made a name for themselves making top-notch large scale figures, having started with 1:6 scale action figures and moving into 1:4 and even larger.  Some of their early offerings included 1:6 scale versions of horror icons like Freddy, Leatherface and Jason, which then progressed into their mixed media 1:4 scale line, the Premium Format Figures.  These days, Sideshow is revisiting new versions of their classics with all new and improved sculpts and features.

 

lovecraft-sota-statuesSOTA Toys H.P. Lovecraft Statues

In my humble opinion, H.P. Lovecraft is the undisputed master of terror.  Writing well ahead of his time, Lovecraft let the imagination run wild with indescribably horrific creatures in other-worldly settings, creating horror that to this day remains some of the best of all time.  Many have tried to capture the spirit of the creatures of Lovecraftian lore, but few have been as successful in doing so as SOTA Toys.  In 2010-2011, SOTA released statues of Cthulhu, Dagon, and Nyarlathotep, each measuring over a foot tall, with insanely good detailing and paint.  While these retailed in the $200 range, they generally go for at least twice that now, when and if they become available.

 

funko-horror

Funko Pop Vinyl, Mystery Minis, & ReAction Figures

OK, maybe you love horror, but the blood and guts or a two-foot tall machete-wielding murderer isn’t the best decor for your home.  Or maybe having a large statue of the Master of R’lyeh is enough to give Grandma a heart attack when she visits.  If so, then Funko has some much more tame, adorable options for you.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last few years, you’ve no doubt seen or heard of Funko’s Pop Vinyl figures. This collection of cute, stylized 3 3/4″ tall figures includes everything from My Little Pony to A Clockwork Orange, including a wide variety of your favorite horror characters. The beautiful thing about these – they’re small, inexpensive (with a $10 price point) and won’t result in the neighbors running from your house screaming.  If the Pop Vinyl isn’t enough, Funko also makes retro style ReAction Figuresblind box mystery figures, and even various forms of plush.

No matter your taste or budget, there’s always something out there for those of us with the horror gene.  Tell us about your favorite horror collectibles in the comments!

How Star Trek Changed Geek Culture Forever

A long time ago in a galaxy far from the Star Wars universe, there was one sci-fi franchise that had re-defined the rules for exploiting intellectual property and really changed two mediums forever; film and television. Of course, we’re talking about Star Trek.

star trek spock mural What people forget is that even during the original series’ legendary run on NBC from 1966-1969 when it was beset by less than stellar ratings and some scathing reviews from the critics, merchandising was somewhat ubiquitous for the time, even compared to popular shows like Davy Crockett (with its famous coonskin cap) in the ’50s and Bonanza in the ’60s. There were, of course, the juvenile novel “Mission to Horatius” and the early James Blish novelizations that Bantam Books published much to the chagrin of serious sci-fi author and editor Frederick Pohl, but the imprint was minting so much money, what did he care? And, of course, there were the legendary AMT model kits. In fact, the story is that AMT was so excited about the new space opera that, in exchange for the right to merchandise the Galileo shuttlecraft, they agreed to create a life-size Galileo shuttle and miniature for the cash strapped production. This would go on to become one of the great spaceships ever to appear onscreen.

star trek megoYears later, after the success of Mego’s Planet of the Apes line, as the series began to explode in syndication, the toy company under the aegis of Martin Abrams licensed Star Trek. They put out a line of action figures, followed by communicators, bridge and planetary playsets (like Mission to Gamma 4, loosely based on the second season episode, “The Apple” – without David Soul, of course) and, of course, the legendary Trekulator, an early calculator.

star trek cartoonstar trek technical manualBut other franchises had toylines, like the aforementioned Planet of the Apes, and novelizations as well. But Star Trek, as it would do for many decades, continued to boldly go where no sci-fi franchise had gone before. At the end of the second season, there was the legendary Making of Star Trek, an insider look behind-the-scenes of the making of the TV series, a book that like The Jaws Log a decade later, inspired a generation of kids to become film and TV writers (myself included). Years later, Bantam not only novelized the animated series with Alan Dean Foster’s marvelous Log adaptations which were also massive bestsellers but published the beloved Starfleet Technical Manual and Blueprints by Franz Joseph which gave fans an exclusive look at the technology of Star Trek, as well as the fleet itself.

How could a young Star Trek fan forget leafing through the Technical Manual for the first time and not being blown away by the schematics of the ships in the fleet, including the Dreadnaught Class, and the UFP flag? There were even Fotonovels, indispensable episodic photo novelizations of several episodes featuring stills from the episodes with word balloons. Eventually, these faded away into obscurity in the early ’80s with the emergence of home video (as if the cheapo black and white Fotonovel version of Star Trek II wasn’t proof of that after the beautiful ST: TMP of 1979, one of the format’s highlights.).

star trek comicsIn comics, the imaginative and stunning Gold Key Comics series debuted but calling them Star Trek was a stretch. The artist, legendary Italian penciller Alberto Giolitti, had never even seen the series, so you had exhaust coming out from the Enterprise’s nacelles and those invaluable landing party backpacks the crew wore among other inconsistencies with established Trek lore. This gonzo series set the tone for the many Trek’s to come as the license later made its way to Marvel.

When Marv Wolfman left Marvel to jump to DC, he left a cliffhanger in his wake about a haunted house in space to be resolved by other writers. Later, after Marvel lost the license, DC jumped on the Trek bandwagon, only to have Malibu license later properties (full disclosure: I wrote many DS9 comics for them, my favorite being Deep Space Nine #0: Terok Nor, the favorite of the many comic books I wrote at the time) and revert back to Marvel after Malibu’s acquisition. Later iterations became the province of IDW, where the property remains to this day.

AMT_U.S.S._EnterpriseBy 1979, after the Star Wars juggernaut had shown the real power of licensed merchandising, Star Trek was playing a perpetual game of catch-up. And while the Mego ST: TMP toys were a bust, along with a lot of the other spin-off merchandise of the era, the first Star Trek feature film does have the distinction of being emblazoned on the first McDonald’s Happy Meal (interesting for a bald Deltan character whose oath of celibacy is on record). Although even the successful Wrath of Khan boasted some merchandise like official magazines and the last Trek Fotonovel, it wasn’t until the 1987 debut of The Next Generation that a robust licensing program returned. This not only mined the new series for a line of new novels but toys from Playmates from both the new show and classic series, Christmas ornaments, and many other merchandising offshoots.

But despite being a franchise that, at the time, trumpeted bringing over $2 billion into the coffers of Paramount, the master had truly become the learner, dwarfed by the sheer earning power of the Star Wars movies and massive merchandising program. Star Trek will continue to live long and prosper, but the force was clearly with Star Wars and will likely be for many generations to come. Next, included.

Typewriters, Snowglobes and Spiders: Celebrity Collectors

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

One of the most common questions we get at hobbyDB is “Why is it so important to enter things in the right Item Type?” Another frequent question is “How do you decide what Item Types to allow in your database?”

As for the first question, when you go to sell something like, say, a Matchbox dump truck on eBay, their site doesn’t really care what category you use. You can list it as a diecast car or a lunchbox for all they care. The reason for this loose approach is that they aren’t trying to create a permanent archive. List your item, sell it, move along. At hobbyDB, we want to create a permanent, accurate, and complete archive, so we have some important questions for every type of collectible.

collectibles

The questions we ask about a model truck (Type of cab, number of axles, etc.) are vastly different from the questions we ask about a lunchbox (Color of handle, includes Thermos bottle, and so on.) By answering those questions as completely as possible you are helping to fill in our database with excellent information. But we also have questions that differ from something as similar as model cars vs model trucks. And the more we all get it correct from the get-go, the more accurate the database will be.

As for the second question, we have a lot of factors determining what Item Types to offer. And it’s not that we are “banning” certain things (although there are cases if you read on), it’s more about the interest level and our ability to adequately cover certain areas. If someone comes to us with a large collection of something we haven’t made a space for yet, we consider adding it as long as they are willing to add their collection to get it rolling.

And as far as certain things not allowed, that’s not necessarily true. We do have a category for “Whatever Else” if you collect something we haven’t categorized yet. If we see a good reason to make a new type, we will. But some are, well, not likely.

Just for fun, let’s pretend some Celebrity Collectors contact us and want to add their collections. They might fall into three areas:

Items we currently have a place for on hobbyDB

Barbie and Ken Dolls

johnny depp

It may come as a huge surprise (or none at all) that actor Johnny Depp collects Barbie dolls. Ken, too. Actually, he doesn’t just collect them, he plays with them. Chalk this one up to having a couple of daughters, and it doesn’t seem so strange. Actually, with Depp, it usually is kind of strange. We’re looking to beef up our coverage of Barbie and other fashion dolls, so if you’re a collector, please start adding your items!

Video Games

jeff gordon

There are so many areas in life where Jeff Gordon has won so convincingly that you just have to bow down and admire him. You could say he has struggled at being a NASCAR announcer, but only due to the fact that he keeps missing work because he gets called on to drive the cars in place of injured drivers. Oh, and he’s a major video gamer, especially with driving games. Life is often unfair, and here, it’s unfair in his favor.

vin diesel dungeons and dragons

Board Games

You might know him as a tough guy fro the “Fast & Furious” movies, but Vin Diesel has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since the 1970s. In addition to having one of his character’s names, “Melkor,” tattooed near his belly button, Mr. Diesel wrote the foreword for the book 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons. So if he’s been spending his spare time painting warrior figures, who are we to turn him away?

Model Trains

rod stewart model trains

As rock stars age, many of them tend to spend less time cavorting around and more time on safe, quiet pursuits. Rod Stewart spends quite a bit of time with model train layout at home. Heck, his layouts have even been on the cover of “Model Railroader” magazine a few times, which he claims is more exciting than being on the cover of “Rolling Stone.” He has a portable 1,500-square-foot scale model of New York’s Grand Central Station circa 1940, which he has worked on while on tour.

leonardo dicaprio django action figureAction Figures 

We have a Type for Action Figures, so we need to hear from you collectors and get some items uploaded. We’re looking at you, Leonardo DiCaprio! His collection includes ‘Star Wars’ and ‘He-Man’ action figures, as well as other vintage toys. We can assume he has a figure of his own character from “Django Unchained,” too.

Items we might consider adding if there’s enough interest from Users

Snow Globes

taylor swift snowglobes

Singer Taylor Swift’s favorite holiday hobby isn’t too strange… she creates homemade Christmas snow globes. As for collecting and archiving them on hobbyDB, we have at least one avid collector on our staff, so this Type might show up sooner rather than later.

lebron jamesBasketball Headbands

We’re working on some sports uniforms collectibles categories, but it’s harder to think of every single thing to include. Don’t believe us? Even though he has stopped wearing them on the courts, LeBron James collects headbands from other athletes. We’ve recently started adding some sports memorabilia categories to our database, but believe it or not, it gets tricky with sports apparel. Any big collectors out there want to help us along?

Shoes

celine dion

Most of the time when you hear about shoe collectors, that person owns a bunch of Air Jordans and other limited edition sports models. If you step outside of sports kicks. Celine Dion is the Imelda Marcos of shoe collecting, most likely not of the sneaker type. We have areas for some clothing items, initially geared towards convention collectibles such as hats and shirts and jackets, but with the right boost, we could make this a thing.

Movie Props

george lucas death star

This is a tough one, because so many items of this type fit into other existing areas. But “Star Wars” creator George Lucas collects and reconstructs props from his movies. So yeah, if he called us, that would be neat. His other hobby reportedly involves feeding the local squirrel population. That’s not really a collection, so we’re going to pass on that for now.

Item Types that just aren’t going to happen for some reason.

Vintage Daggers

A lot of folks collect old pocket knives, and some of them are worth thousands of dollars. A bit more unusual would be a dagger collection like the one actress Angelina Jolie has built. It’s one thing to have a bunch of safely folding multi use jackknives in your collection, but unsheathed daggers exist pretty much for stabbing and throwing. Needless to say, there are all kinds of local, state, federal and international laws regarding these things, so we don’t have a spot for them just now.

claudia schiffer angelina jolie

Spiders and other bugs

We’re assuming this is about deceased, artfully mounted specimens, but critters like the ones collected by supermodel Claudia Schiffer pose a logistical problem in that there are literally millions of species to document. Like knives and other weapons, there are some legal snags we would have to consider, especially if you run into endangered species. And you thought there were a lot of Hot Wheels variations to consider!

Of course, whether you’re famous or not, if you collect something we don’t have a niche for on hobbyDB, let us know in the comments.

How Transformers Took The World By Storm

Even if you never owned a Transformers action figure, you most certainly knew of the robots in disguise who were more than meets the eye.

optimus prime comicoptimus prime figureProduced jointly by American toy company Hasbro and Japanese toy company Takara, Transformers is one of the most enduring franchises in pop culture to this day. Originally debuting in 1984, the multimedia brand captured the imagination of children around the world with its innovative toyline and action-packed animated TV Show. Though the series admittedly lost steam by the early 2000s, it would be Michael Bay’s live-action Transformers reboot that rekindled the public’s memories of the Autobots and Decepticons. Even if reviews for the recent Transformers movies have been mixed, their continuing success at the box office made us ask the most important question: how exactly did Optimus Prime and his fellow Transformers become such beloved characters to so many of us?

Like many great toys throughout history, Transformers were an indirect evolution of action figures that weren’t originally a part of the franchise. In the early 1980s, Takara innovated toys within the Japanese market with the Micromen and Diaclone series, which boasted both humanoid cyborgs and robots that could transform into vehicles. This caught the eye of Hasbro, who had in fact used Micromen technology to create their wildly successful G.I. Joe characters. Looking to follow up with another blockbuster toyline, Hasbro bought the rights to the Diaclone figures and formed a partnership with Takara along the way. With comic writers Jim Shooter and Dennis O’Neil utilizing their Marvel lineage to create the characters and world of Transformers, the franchise was destined to take off like a rocket.

optimus prime cartoonIt should come as no surprise that Transformers wound up with much greater international appeal than G.I. Joe. Yet regardless of comparisons, the direct partnership between Hasbro and Takara allowed American and Japanese audiences to be distinctly catered to while ultimately enjoying the same brand. In fact, the story of the animated canon actually diverted from the American version in Japan at certain points.

Optimus_Prime_vinylEven the United Kingdom had its own expansion of the Transformers canon, featuring the female Autobot Arcee and a 300+ issue comic book series. This unique development cycle allowed the series to grow organically wherever it was shown, and no audience would ever feel as if they were enjoying a “foreign” product.

Yet more importantly, it was the Transformers themselves that launched the brand into its superstar status. Action figures were far from new in the 1980s, but the interactivity of the Transformers figures was virtually unheard of for their time. After all, robots who could actually be bent and morphed into trucks and automobiles were a borderline spectacle compared to their competitors on the market. This gave Transformers an instant allure and brand recognition on their own merits, and we’re sure kids enjoyed getting two toys for the price of one. There has arguably never been a toyline like Transformers in this respect, even if many unofficial knockoffs have popped up over the years.

optimus prime truckCasual fans of Transformers likely hold the fondest memories of the Generation 1 era of the series, which lasted from 1984 to 1993. However, even if the brand fell off its peak of popularity, the franchise still enjoyed continued development well into the 2000s. In 1996, Beast Wars: Transformers introduced new characters while putting a unique spin on the series, and 2001’s Unicron Trilogy brought back 80s style animation with a modernized polish.

Of course, as we mentioned above, it was Michael Bay’s 2007 Transformers movie that brought the franchise back to its pop-culture dominance nearly 15 years after the conclusion of Generation 1. Even if Transformers enjoyed a healthy lifespan throughout the years, fans who originally enjoyed the series in the 80s had their nostalgia newly awakened by seeing the Autobots appear on the big screen after so many years. If nothing else, the movies served as a bridge between younger and older generations through a shared love of the robots in disguise.

optimus prime movieToday, Transformers continues to enjoy international success. The toyline is as strong today as it has ever been, and collectors have amassed personalized collections across all the different iterations of the Autobots and Decepticons. Whether you like Transformers for it’s Generation 1 series or prefer the lesser-known era in the early 2000s, there’s never been a better time to be a fan of the franchise. Just remember to avoid heated arguments about whether Optimus Prime can beat up other robotic characters from the 80s, as those debates are intensely more than meets the eye.

Join hobbyDB at Time Warp Comics for Free Comic Book Day!

Time Warp Free Comic Book Day Galactus

Do you collect comic books? Action figures? Super hero stuff in general?

Have we got an event for you! Yes, Free Comic Book Day 2016 is coming to a comics shop near you on Saturday, May 7, 2016. In our case, that’s Time Warp Comics in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to all sorts of costumed crusaders, and well, free comic books, hobbyDB will be there giving demonstrations and signing people up to use our site.

In fact, sign up on your way in (there’s usually a line, which goes past our booth, and registration only takes a few minutes, so why not?) And on the way out, we plan to have another table where you can shoot a photo of your item and add it to our database. That only takes a few minutes too!

Time Warp Free Comic Book Day

Time Warp Comics is located at 3105 28th St, Boulder. Free Comic Book Day runs from 10am to 6pm, with the line forming early outside. Everything in the store will be on sale, too! See you there!