Monday, December 2, 2019

#107: Sky Escape Joker

It's that time again! Thanks to the efforts of Joaquin Phoenix and that guy from the Hangover (Mr. Chow), the whole world is abuzz over that loveable old psychopath, the Joker.

The response has been divisive due to the thematic content and questions of morality, but frankly, you can colour me unsurprised, as nearly every DC movie nowadays fails to grab universal acclaim. Honestly, it's like my career; tragically disappointing and only made more tolerable when accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol.

In the end, it's bound to be thrown onto the pile with the rest of the also-rans, leaving the world pining for a definitively solid film featuring the clown prince of crime. Among his grinning contemporaries is Jack Nicholson, who garnered generally positive responses for his appearance in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman flick, impeccably cast as a particularly charismatic version of himself Jack Napier.

And you know what that means, right? Toys.

Many toys! Toys for girls, toys for boys, toys, toys, let's make some noise!

Now that I've sufficiently boosted my SEO, let's take a look at this stupid Sky Escape Joker.

At first glance, it appears much like any other Joker action figure. It does vaguely resemble Jack Nicholson if you look at it the right way, but that could probably be said of anything or anyone if you have enough conviction.

So what does a Sky Escape Joker do? Does it sky escape, and... joke? The latter is somewhat debatable, but it most certainly can sky escape when provoked. It came — note the past tense — with a 'whirling copter pack' that he could use 'to escape from trouble', whether that was a brush-in with the law or an awkward social situation.

It's definitely an appropriate Joker ploy, however it's a real stretch for a movie tie-in. At no point did the Joker suddenly sprout a helicopter from his back and take off into the night, cackling with glee. Yes, he did attempt an ill-fated evacuation via helicopter at the movie's climax, but that's really grasping at straws.

The more logical explanation is that this copter is how Jack Nicholson got around between scenes. It seems like something he'd do, I reckon.

Fortunately, it has a completely arbitrary secondary feature that is more in line with the source material. Dip the Joker's head in cold water, and his face will turn bright orange, vaguely resembling the scene where the Joker paints his face in skin tones as a method of better blending in with the people.

He then bolsters this plan by blasting out Prince and throwing money at the crowd, and alas, this toy does neither, unless I'm just using it wrong.

So let's see it in action, shall we? Bring this Oompa Loompa motherfucker out for real.

...Well shit, that was awkward. I think I just waterboarded the dude. Judging by that smile, he didn't seem to mind.

Funnily enough, this is potentially the only Batman action figure I ever owned. As you're well aware, the Turtles were my only comic book love, and aside from the early 90s Archies issues, I never even read the damn things.

Considering the Sky Escape Joker came out in 1990, my parents either hedged their bets that a one-year-old Anthony would become a big fan of Batman or pale homicidal maniacs, found this fella languishing in a bargain bin, or just straight up stole it from a small child with poor grip strength. I like to think it's that last one.

That's about all she wrote for the Sky Escape Joker, really (I guess I'm the she in this scenario). He also comes packaged with a pistol with a comically long barrel, the same he used to fell the Bat...plane, or whatever it was called.

No, I don't have any of these accessories. I probably threw them out immediately to protest my distaste for guns and aeronautical devices. Fortunately, I didn't lose the colour changing face, because misplacing a figure's head would have been a new low for me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


"So you're called Ninetails, huh?"

"Yeah, but you've been spelling my name wrong. It's actually Ninetales."

"What are you talking about? You've clearly got nine tails! Why wouldn't it be spelled that way?"

"Just do a Google image search of Pokemon anthro fan art. Trust me, I've got some fucking tales to tell..."

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Toy Flashback: Armless Fun

"Wait! I'm unarmed!!"

"I guess you'll never be in the army."

You can take your #NotMyAriel garbage and shove it down your gills

Is it possible to be disappointed, yet completely unsurprised all at once?

That’s the general feeling among rational people in the wake of the fallout following Disney’s announcement that Halle Bailey will be playing Ariel in the upcoming live-action adaptation of the Little Mermaid.

The revelation that an African American woman would portray the beloved lead was bound to cause waves — pun only slightly intended — and if the vitriol was based on a stubborn resistance to change, that would be one thing.

In fairness, there would probably be a rabid contingent of fans who would lambast the concept of Ariel being, say, a white woman who was blonde, solely because they have this exact vision of what the character ‘should be’.

If only it were so simple.

A quick glance at the trending hashtags on Twitter reveals a phrase that is absolutely dripping with blind hatred, prejudice and ignorance.

I speak, of course, of the #NotMyAriel movement.

The fact that this has caught on with such ferocity is an indictment on society, and just yet another sign that the path towards acceptance is still fraught with the same kind of fear and cowardice we’ve been seeing for centuries.

This woman here? Who has has a proven track record of exceptional vocal talents and a look of innocence and wonderment that absolutely encapsulates what Ariel is about?

She’s not my Ariel. My Ariel isn’t black.

It’s ugly and petrifying. When I hear the ‘not my’ prefix, I think of the vociferous rejection of Donald Trump as president, based on his policies, his bigotry, and his demeanour unbefitting of a world leader. Halle Bailey has been rejected for the colour of her skin.

Ask yourself, if you are of the opinion that this casting choice is a mistake, how this can be interpreted any differently?

Some cite reasons that appear pragmatic on the surface, such as ‘historical accuracy’. The Little Mermaid, after all, takes place in Denmark, right? A black mermaid sounds like a farfetched concept, doesn’t it?

The first (and foremost) counterpoint to this, is that we’re arguing the merit of a black mermaid, a fictional species in a fictional story set in what is — get this — a fictional kingdom.

The underwater city of Atlantica? It doesn’t exist, and neither does the seaside kingdom that Prince Eric hails from, a place that also features palm trees and flamingoes. Call me kooky, but neither of those things strike me as particularly Danish.

Do you want to dive further into Little Mermaid lore? According to one 1995 comic, Atlantica was once located above the water and roaming with winged centaurs. Basically, stranger things have happened than mermaids who were not white.

Even if you disregard this from what is considered canon, you’re left with the simple fact; Ariel’s race is inconsequential, because it does not have any influence on her story.

2009’s The Princess and the Frog carries an unspoken but very obvious narrative of racial inequality in New Orleans. There is the affluent white suburb, juxtaposed very early on against the poverty-stricken outskirts, where the populace is predominantly African American.

The ambitious Tiana’s tale of success against the odds is the story of a black woman who fights for her place in a world run by rich white men.

Ariel, on the other hand, is a young lady who wants to break away from her sheltered life and find what is on the other side. The fact that she is female is important, as her struggle is against the well intending but ultimately overbearing patriarchy of her father.

But the fact that she is, or is “supposed to be” white? It doesn’t register at all. Nor should it.

Disney’s checkered past with race is something that we’re all well aware of. There’s a reason why Dumbo or Peter Pan don’t hold up so well, and let’s not even get started on the slippery slope that is Sunflower.

But something worth considering is that colour has also proven to be an indicator of villainy. Ursula, Maleficent and even Scar are the other. Their visual appearances differ from the norm, and in this way, we are given an immediate cue that their ideals may not be in line with our own.

There’s blemishes all over the place, and whatever motivation Disney had for their choice for the treasured princess of the Little Mermaid, Bailey’s casting should serve as a refreshing reminder of how far we have come.

But we’ve got long to go.

That much has been proven by #NotMyAriel, a disgusting war cry that demands that we keep our white characters white and our pure visions pure.

That kind of segregation had no place in the world fifty years ago, and it has no place now. So take a deep breath, check your privilege, and maybe, just for once, wait and see how things pan out before fanning the flames of hysteria?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

#0106: Insaniac

Ahh, Small Soldiers.

This thrilling family blockbuster hit theatres in 1998, and it was a rollicking good time from start to finish. Tommy Lee Jones as the gung-ho villain. Phil Hartman being his usual amazing self. Kirsten Dunst playing the young love interest, before she became an advocate for marijuana (or maybe during?)

As an impressionable ten-year-old, it was almost an inevitability that I would end up with merch, simply because Tony of the 90s was a spoilt little shit. And of course, there are no prizes for guessing which member of the cast I had my heart set on...

By any chance, was that character Insaniac?

...I'm sorry, no, it wasn't. I wanted Archer. But we can't always get what we want. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to throw a tantrum until I get my Archer action figure (a tantrum that has lasted an impressive two decades so far).

Insaniac is a member of the Gorgonites, a band of creepy yet good-natured sentient toys who are being hunted down by the ruthless Commando Elite. Despite being cast as the bad guys in their lore, the Gorgonites are peaceful, and lack in self defence skills. They're basically the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team.

This particular guy looks like he walked out of a failed pilot for a late 90s cartoon, complete with Tim Curry as the villain and Frank Welker playing his animal sidekick. I'd watch the shit out of this imaginary cartoon, personally, but I digress.

His schtick was that he was the wisecracking oddball, and acted as the frenetic antithesis to the leader, Archer. Just looking at him, he is probably riddled with STDs.

Should you be interested in more information, allow me to refer you to his page on the Small Soldiers wiki, where the comments section features such compelling discussions as 'Hes funny', 'Hes a maniac!' and 'me like'.

If articulation is your thing, Insaniac is the toy for you, featuring ball joints in his shoulders that let his arms move practically every which way. He can even do one of Hulk Hogan's famous poses, brother.

He isn't quite as fluid as his on-screen counterpart, however, and though he may appear to have points of articulation in his elbows and knees, these are merely for show. It does make him more film accurate, but golly, I think that's a cheeky bit of deception right there.

I can't think of another toy I've ever seen that features false articulation - not Bucky O'Hare, not the Street Sharks, not even Donald Trump.

On the plus side however, his torso is able to be pulled upwards to spin in 360 degrees, something that I was actually completely unaware of until I happened upon an eBay listing that informed me of such. His value has now increased by 500 Tony Points, a new form of cultural currency that is still yet to take off outside of my imagination and certain Maltese municipalities.

The reason I went hunting for Insaniac on eBay, incidentally, is not to see what kind of profit he would net me, but to ascertain whether I have all of his original accessories. If you're new to this blog —may I first say welcome, and please take off your clothes —you're probably unaware that I have a track record for losing about 85% of accessories.

Yes, even weapons crucial to their survival are soon misplaced, as if every action figure I've owned is simply a proxy for Vaike from Fire Emblem Awakening. In fairness, Insaniac does look like Vaike after years of crystal meth abuse.

However, we might have an exception here. Insaniac is brandishing his necessary chains, as well as his little buddy Miniac, a figurine with no articulation whatsoever (the inarticulate ninny). Miniac is forever posing as if he's been cornered by the police in a dark alley.

Judging by the rare instances of fully packaged Insaniac figures, my favourite of which seems to be an excuse for this guy to surreptitiously take photos of his dog, this was everything that was originally included.

What a rare feeling of jubilation! Insaniac is complete, and by association, so am I.

How will we celebrate this feeling of fulfilment? Why, by spinning, of course! Because it's an awesome way to get your daily cardio in, and more importantly, we're high as fucking balls, yo. I just hope you brought lots of gum.

Monday, June 17, 2019

#0105: Cave-Beast Bebop and his Bodacious Brontosaurus

Toronto Raptors, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Raptors, something something, Toronto Raptors.

Allow me to be as transparent as the shirt Christian Cage used to wear in the late 90s: the only reason I'm making this post is so that I can take yet another opportunity to celebrate the fact that my Toronto freakin' Raptors have won the NBA Championship.

After a quarter century of misery, I never thought I'd see the day, and I'm still riding a high. I just want to set down as many flagpoles as I can, so that I may someday look back on this date and remember the elation I felt.

As such, you, my svelte/gargantuan/Herculean friend (trying to cover all my bases here), get to be the beneficiary of a rare 2019 Toy Eulogy post. I know you're excited. I also know you're me. So hello me. I hope you're having a nice day.

In keeping with the prehistoric theme, we are heading back to the Jurassic period to revisit a dinosaur that has been proven and disproven by modern science, as well as his grouchy warthog friend. Say hello to Cave-Beast Bebop and his Bodacious Brontosaurus.

I wonder how many people at Playmates were assigned to the singular task of brainstorming alliterate phrases. Incidentally, Cave-Beast Bebop is my username on FetLife.

This dastardly pair came as part of the second batch of Cave Turtle figures. The other, Cave Woman April, had a Radical Raptor as her ally, which would have made her a much more appropriate candidate for today, however this brontosaurus is red... So that makes it more aesthetically close to our beloved mascot.

Also, I don't have Cave Woman April, but that's neither here nor there. Actually, it's entirely there, for it is clearly not here. Ho ho ho!

Once upon a time, Cave-Beast Bebop came equipped with a sword and club to make him appropriately menacing, but the only accessories left in his possession are the saddle and reigns on his scaly comrade, simply because I never had a reason to take them off (fortunately, I wasn't into dinosaur porn back in 1994).

Also, the 'Bronto Brand' remains intact, for obvious reasons, and I think it's a bit cheeky to consider it an accessory in the first place. It has the Foot's logo, which is appropriate, but next to it is 'TMNT' in big, bold font.

The reasons for this are completely beyond me – other than simple toy branding, but we're talking kayfabe here – so let's try and think of possible meanings for this acronym other than representing the Foot Clan's mortal enemies.

Terrapin Mashing Neanderthal Terror?

Terribly Mean Nasty Tyrants?

Trevor Might Need Therapy?

Fuck it, it's totally that last one. Lock it in.

As you'd expect, these figures are your standard Turtle quality, riddled with nice little details and even a few warts atop Bebop's hide, in keeping with his name.

They're also sporting various items of armour fashioned out of turtle shells, typical among the villainous Foot, however I'm left wondering why, just a little bit.

Sure, they detest their Turtle rivals, but does that mean that every single tortoise in existence needs to die? That would be like hating your neighbour John, and then murdering every single person named John and wearing their scalp as a trophy.

The back of the box had your average Turtle fare (yes, I have now used standard, typical and average in quick succession, so sue me), but most noteworthy, describes Cave-Beast Bebop's brain as being about the size of a grain of Stone Age sand.

For one thing, that sounds like it would inhibit his basic motor functions, and he would die upon birth. Moreover, what difference would the era make? Was Stone Age sand notably smaller? In theory, it would be less eroded, making it larger than modern day sand, right?

Goddammit I really wish I wouldn't get so obsessive about these minor details. My mind just goes in strange directions sometimes.

Anyway, I think we've talked enough about Cave-Beast and his long-necked comrade. They look mighty hungry, and I'd rather they leave me alone, and target a hapless turtle instead.

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