Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Topps 2012 Baseball Series 1 is Live

It's not even February and the brand spanking new Topps Baseball Card Set is out. What's even better is that I actually got to purchase a few packs on "opening day!" I can't even remember the last time that happened. Gone are the days when I could afford and justify buying a full box, and at $2.50 a pack I'm pretty much limited to a sub-$20 purchase. I called ahead to my friendly LCS California Sports Cards and made sure they had them in stock, which they did! I was the lucky first person to actually buy any packs, so I got first pick. Unfortunately, I chose poorly. Nothing spectacular in my first seven packs. Not even a stinking Angel.

Oh well.

First Impressions

I honestly think that Topps is going to have a very difficult time recapturing the magic of the last couple of years worth of standard sets. There was just something crisp and clean about the last two years worth of base card designs, and while this year's version is incredibly similar to the others, it feels more retread than retro. That isn't to say they're bad looking cards, they're not. They're just not that special anymore. On the front.

On the back they threw collectors a bone, look at that HUGE number on the top right side in white on black lettering. For someone who's eyesight is slowly but surely getting worse, this is a huge boon. Sorting these bad boys won't be such a chore after all.

It wouldn't be a modern day Baseball Card Set without parallels, and while I only pulled the single Gold card above, I think it's safe to say that parallels don't sell the set. I also liked last years version MUCH better. The platinum parallels and their cognac and blue flavored cousins were a sweet and shiny bit of goodness that could save even a bad pack. This year's gold versions get a big MEH from me. But gold being the theme this year I had better get used to it right? Because Topps is certainly shoving the "gold" down our throats. Just look at the more "common" inserts below:

The only one without a "gold" theme is the "Walk Offs" which really isn't that special of a moment to celebrate. Though the one I pulled was actually a nice moment, Posednik's 2005 WS Game 2 homer, his first in over 500 ABs. One time "minor" feats don't really capture my attention as much, but I guess it does leave room for Jersey Cards, and that's what they're really pitching here. Once again most of the insert sets look like they're designed for autographs or jersey swatches instead of being a complete set unto themselves, and that's just cheap if you ask me. Topps could put a little more effort into inserts, and when they do, they are pretty nice.

For example: Golden Greats, of which I pulled two Jackie Robinsons with consecutive numbers. I do believe there are also versions of these cards with real coins in them as well. I do know there are autographed versions of some of them.

I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention the mini-insert this year, which is an homage to the 1987 woodies. I don't have anything good to say about that set, other than ever single one I pull will end up on eBay or trade fodder. I don't like Minis. There I said it. I know there must be something wrong with me. The thing is I have something like 60 of the Kimball Champions inserts from last season still and I hate them. I don't need more Minis. I really don't need minis that are reminiscent of a set that I can still buy for pennies a pack. Save the Minis for Allen & Ginter or Gypsy Magic or whatever non-base level set that they would be a better fit with. Geeze, I remember 1987, it wasn't that great a year.

Also I didn't pull any of the "Golden Giveaway" redemption cards, which doesn't bother me that much, apparently this year you can't get a vintage single for each code, so that really doesn't thrill me. I still have to send away for my 2011 Diamond Giveaway Cards (mostly Angels that I traded for), which I should get free shipping on since I won a free "vintage" pack and a Diamond Die-Cut (I forget who I originally pulled, but I traded him for Dan Haren and subsequently traded HIM for Howie Kendrick!).

In 2012 we also get the return of "Topps Prime 9" which is a Hobby Only insert that you bring
back to your store to redeem. I managed to acquire a complete set of last years' inserts after I pulled more than half of the redemption cards. I had a devil of a time finding a shop though, but then the aforementioned California Sports Cards got them in and finished me off, which was awesome, thanks Matt! I beat the odds out of my 7 packs to get Card #1, whomever that might end up being. I'm hoping for Pujols.


Which brings us to the gimmickery portion of the day. Before the cards even hit shelves three gimmick short-prints were announced: Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols in their new team uniforms and a Skip Schumaker card featuring a squirrel. Now I know that other bloggers will rain on Topps parade just like they have in years past (pie-face cards, airbrushed in Presidents and former players, etc) but I kind of like the gimmicks. Notice I said KIND OF. I think the Squirrel card is ridiculous. I think it's really sad that one has already sold for more than $600 on the bay of E. Undoubtedly there will be more gimmicks that show up, or Legends Variations or some such. Me, I just want a Pujols card in his new Angels uniform, and I don't want to have to wait until Series 2 to get it. Ah well. I can dream right?

Final Reflections

2012 Topps is another solid effort, but other than the new Pujols card doesn't offer anything that wasn't around last season or the year before. The coin cards are nice and there's a ton of pretty gold foil on the cards, but frankly isn't it time we stopped using 90's era gimmicks to sell cards? Who am I kidding, they're still using 50's era gimmicks to sell cards. And sell they will. Can't wait to hit up Target so I can get some cheap packs.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Upcoming Doctor Who Reviews

As you know I've been skipping around the various Doctor's incarnations lately, reviewing one of the 5th Doctor tales and promising more. Well, that I can deliver. Here's what's coming up on Doctor Who Review:

2nd Doctor Final Story - The War Games
3rd Doctor Story #1 - Spearhead from Space
5th Doctor Story #2 - Four to Doomsday
5th Doctor Story #3 - Kinda

I also added a poll to the right, you tell me which Doctor's stories you want me to review. I can certainly do all of the 8th Doctor to the Present, as I've actually seen all of those already, so those would be rather easy to do. But I'm not all about easy anyway.

Previous Entries in the "Doctor Who Review" Series:

1st Doctor #1 - An Unearthly Child
4th Doctor #1 - Robot
4th Doctor #2 - Ark in Space
4th Doctor #3 - The Sontaran Experiment
5th Doctor #1 - Castrovalva

Special - 4th Doctor Collectibles
Special - Character Building Tardis Mini Set

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Doctor Who Toys Galore!

You never know when you're going to find something really cool. Today on the way back from my daughter's Yoga class I decided to stop at Dreamworld Comics where I was immediately drawn to a huge bucket of loose toys. I started digging and soon noticed a mint complete Roman Auton and I got all giddy. Perhaps could there be other Who toys in the bucket? Sure enough I snagged a Fez Wearing 11 and Amy Pond in Kiss Girl outfit. So I took my score up to the front and the gent told me they were only $2 apiece! Naturally I went back and looked for more. Found several more Autons, but nothing of excitement, until I figure out what the flat gray squares were...there seemed to be quite a few of them. Yes, that's right, the Pandorica from "The Pandorica Wave" of figures. Only they weren't the original release, they were the second one without the actual audio CDs (which I think are better anyway). The only problem is that the Doctor is missing his mop. Big whoop. I would like to get a scale sonic screwdriver though.

Of course it would have been great if I had actually purchased the River Song w/Pandorica Chair for $25 as well. I may have to go back and get that, since it's a great price for a crucial piece which I can really use now.

My previously purchased Gold Dalek, 11 With Fez, Amy in Kiss Girl Outfit & Roman Auton plus the Pandorica

However, that's not to say the day was that bad. When I got home waiting for me was my Birthday order from Whonorthamerica - SIX of the Series 1 Blind Character Building blind bagged figures and a set of 1986 FASA Miniatures from the old role-playing game. This is my second order from the fine folks in Indiana, and I'm more than pleased with their service. Ordered on Monday night, it was shipped Tuesday morning and I received it this afternoon (Thursday). Priority Mail was only $5.60.

I greedily tore into the packs carefully cutting each of them open so that in case I got a double I could resell it easily. First pack was the Rare Blue Shirted Doctor which is 1 per 36 figure case, which is a great start for me. The next one was a Weeping Angel, the standard screaming version, (packed 4 in 36). So was the next pack, and the next pack AND the next pack after that. Yup, I got all four of that cases' Weeping Angels. Oh well, at least it's an army builder. My final pack held a Red Dalek (5/36). Complete with shipping the entire order cost me just over $25. I figure that I'll sell at least two of the four Angels, and possibly a third if I get any movement. There's NO single listings for them on eBay right now. If I get $4 - $6 each for them I'll be happy. Oh and if you would like to trade for something, please let me know.

Which brings me to a complaint: these figures are TINY. The packaging is small as well, and yet there are eBay sellers trying to get $6 for shipping these things. One in a bubble envelope shouldn't cost more than a dollar to ship.

My new additions to my mini-figure collection.

My entire "Character Building" collection - 9 Doctor Who Figures, 8 Generic CB Figures (plus one weird MegaBlock guy in the back.

Oh the dio stories I could do now.

Doctor Who Review Will Return

I have viewed the second and third 5th Doctor stories ("Four to Doomsday" and "Kinda") and am about half way through the first episode of the final 2nd Doctor story ("The War Games"). I'm going to put up a poll on the side - you tell me which doctor's stories you want me to review, and I'll do it!

You realize this is my THIRD post this week. Not too bad. See I told you I'd write more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Doctor Who Review - Story #116 - 5A "Castrovalva"

I'll admit it, I can't keep a schedule at all. Not only that, but I'm jumping around all over the place with this series, much like the show and the Doctor himself. So I think it's entirely appropriate that because I'm not watching these shows in any sort of order, that I review them in no particular order either. Being that there won't be any NEW episodes of Doctor Who for a few more months, I'll continue to explore all of his previous incarnations, at least until I'm familiar with all of his different regenerations. To that end, a couple of months ago I looked into the 5th Doctor played by Peter Davison.

I actually remember the kerfuffle that happened when Tom Baker decided to leave the series, and was replaced by the MUCH younger (by almost two decades) Davison who had made a name for himself starring in the BBC adaptation of "All Creatures Great and Small." At just under 30 years old he would be the youngest actor taking the role until our most recent Doctor Matt Smith. The blatant appeal to younger viewers worked, especially in relation to his companions who would be much more involved in the serials than the previous incarnations allowed.

"Castrovalva" starts with the end of "Logopolis" with the 4th Doctor falling from a radio tower and regenerating into his new identity, assisted by a third party named "The Watcher" who somehow realized that the 4th's time was up. This "Watcher" turned out to be "a manifestation" of the Doctor himself and merged with him upon regeneration. Very wibbly wobbly if you ask me. In any case, the regeneration doesn't go well, and the Doctor is in danger of dying, so his latest companions, Adric, Tegan and Nyssa get him to the TARDIS, where they stick him in the "Zero Room" in order to ensure his health. Meantime they try to figure out how to pilot the TARDIS. Adric, a genius level teenager from "E-Space" is obnoxious and annoying, but helpful in that his mathematical mind is able to get the TARDIS to dematerialize and onto a flight path. Tegan is a flight attendant that showed up in the previous episode simply wandering into the TARDIS thinking it was a real police box, and as such is the frightened "newbie" and not really very useful at all. At least she's pretty. Nyssa is some sort of galactic genius princess and together they all manage to help the Doctor out of his funk.

TARDIS Crew - Circa Castrovalva. From Left - Adric, Tegan, The Doctor and Nyssa

After the hallmarks of a regeneration are played out (i.e. the changing of the clothes, which includes several scenes where Tom Baker's signature scarf is unravelled) our heroes discover that Adric is being controlled by the Doctor's greatest nemesis, the rogue Time Lord The Master, and that he wants to destroy the Doctor once and for all. Adric steers the ship to Castrovalva, a peaceful austere planet where the Doctor can rest and relax and let the regeneration take it's course, since he's STILL not stable even after being in the Zero Room. Along the way they get caught in a trap by The Master and are forced to "delete" several of the rooms in the TARDIS (including the Zero Room, oops) in order to escape. Once on the planet they create a "Zero Cabinet" which Nyssa and Tegan carry around the surface on the way to the actual city Castrovalva. Meanwhile Adric has disappeared, or more accurately, he was captured at the beginning of the story and his appearances in the TARDIS since were holographic projections, or some such.

The new doc checks out his new appearance

Once in the City the citizens all help out our heroes, but all is not what it seems. Eventually the Doctor recovers and realizes the entire place is a trap and doesn't really exist, that it was created by Adric through The Master to ensnare the samaritan Doctor and yes, kill him. Obviously they foil his plan and they escape trapping The Master inside the city as it collapses, never to be seen again (until his next appearance anyway, the guy dies more times than The Joker).

So to sum up, the Doctor regenerates, there are problems, he tries to take a vacation, gets caught in a trap and cleverly escapes and all is well. Pretty standard stuff actually, and while this is "classic" Who, it's not really a classic story. Sure Anthony Ainley plays the Master to perfection, and Nyssa and Tegan are absolutely gorgeous to look at, but the whiney Adric really brings the whole narrative down. The guest starring Castrovalvans are quite well done though, BBC Shakespearean actors usually bring an air of classiness to the proceedings, even if the effects are definitely low budget. There's a charm to the classic stories though that shines through all of the general silliness and padding that the old multi-part serials had built in. We get to see more of the TARDIS interior in this episode than I've ever seen before, including new rooms and corridors.

Collectibles from the 80's era Doctor Who are abundant, and new figures are being made by Character Options still. In the 5" Action Figure line we have seen the release of the Doctor just after he regenerates (i.e. in Tom Baker's clothes), and of course there are multiple iterations of the 5th Doctor in his standard Cricket outfit, with and without the celery stalk on the lapel and hat. There's even a 5" Zero Cabinet toy, but I'm not sure if this is a custom or an official CO toy. I tend to think it's a custom since there doesn't appear to be an official release. You can also download a printable version, though I can't find it at the moment. There are not figures yet of the Doctor's companions, though if you want miniatures, trading cards or autographs, they exist. Castrovalva itself is also featured on a couple of trading cards. The story was adapted into a Target Novel and is still readily available, DVDs and VHS tapes also exist and are easy to find.

The Regeneration Doctor, one of several variations

Five of the variations of Five

The Zero Cabinet Custom?

Next Time on Doctor Who: "Four to Doomsday" - Next Review - either that or "The War Games".

Previous Entries in the "Doctor Who Review" Series:

1st Doctor #1 - An Unearthly Child
4th Doctor #1 - Robot
4th Doctor #2 - Ark in Space
4th Doctor #3 - The Sontaran Experiment

Special - 4th Doctor Collectibles
Special - Character Building Tardis Mini Set

Monday, January 16, 2012

I miss Holograms

I'm feeling rather nostalgic today since it's my 41st Birthday. Something I was just pondering - why don't card companies make Hologram cards anymore? I really enjoyed those in the 90's and I haven't seen a full hologram card in forever, and they were just damn cool.

The very first Hologram that was released officially was that Lombardi Trophy card in 1990 Pro Set. While I bought (and to this day still buy every now and then) a ton of packs I never pulled the thing. To this day it's still one of the more valuable "regular" Pro Set Cards, in that it's not really an error.

That card caused a lot of grief back in 1990, initial cases of the cards could be searched by a metal detector and thus a bunch of folks managed to snag multiples and turn them for a nice profit. Pro Set responded by putting in foil decoys in packs, making them essential unsearchable. The fact that they were hand numbered to 10,000 helped fuel the frenzy. Today you can find one on the bay of e for under $50.

1990 saw a virtual flood of Holograms invade the trading card world, after the Lombardi card manufacturer Skybox started inserting them into their comic book sets, which makes sense, since the artwork on the card was often rather colorful. Unfortunately I only have this one DC Superman to show off.

Eventually Holograms would move from the realm of insert to the actual base cards with the Batman and Superman full hologram series. These were really awesome cards, as not only were they holographic, but they were taken from 3-D Models! A further technological innovation would be the awesome SKYDISCS from Skybox which when placed in full sunlight would project a 3D image not unlike how the holograms work in the Star Wars movies.

I really miss Hologram cards, when I would pull one from a pack I'd always shout "ooh Shiney" and that became a mantra with me. Foils are nice today, and autos and relics still make me excited, but not the same as holos.

Oh and did I mention they took a sharpie autograph NICELY? I used to have an autographed Marion Butts from Upper Deck Football with a beautiful blue sharpie in-person auto, but sadly I do not know where it went.