Thursday, December 6, 2018

Adventures in Bootleg Lego Mini Figures - Part 2

As I promised in my last post I would be taking a look at my next order from AliExpress, comprising another dozen or so new bootleg mini-figures and even one small set.  This batch was ordered on October 13, and the last set just arrived TODAY!  Most of the products started coming in about two weeks after the order, so that's not bad.  I can also make this promise, I'll have a THIRD article coming in a month or two after I receive the products I just ordered earlier this week.

Let's take a look at what I got in batch #2 shall we?

First up is "Blondie", "Angel-Eyes" and "Tuco" from the greatest Spaghetti Western ever made, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  While I appreciate the old Lego Western line, I never really owned any, the theme being released during a time when I didn't buy any Lego sets. These figures however are more than enough to keep me happy.  "Blondie" or "The Man With No Name" considering he's never actually named in any of the Leone "Dollars' trilogy movies is clearly my favorite, coming with his pistol, a wanted poster featuring Tuco, and his signature Poncho, which he wouldn't actually acquire until the end of the movie. 

Angel Eyes is well done also and comes with a piece of silver.  Poor Tuco doesn't get much besides his gun.  There's back prints on all the figures, but only one-sided heads. These were a whopping 65 cents each.  Maybe I should order a few more.

This next batch was an eclectic mix of random pieces.  First up, a red chrome "Classic Space" Astronaut.  Now, he's clearly not "Vintage" because the helmet is all wrong.  Also the printing on the face is similar, but nowhere close to an original space figure.  Something told me to pick this guy up in Red so that he'd match the original Red figure that came with my long-time grail set - 6929 Star Fleet Voyager, as I'd been looking to replace my original set for years.  Shortly after ordering this lot, I managed to find a good copy on eBay for a reasonable price and I pulled the trigger.  Even though that set came with the figure, I wanted to see if the display would look good with a chrome guy.  It does and it's fodder for another blog.

This little guy was my most expensive single figure purchase at $2.37.

From the same seller I also chose a set of Saint Seiya figures from the eponymous Anime.  This show was always a weird one for me, as I always enjoyed the designs of the characters, but I never really paid that much attention to the story or even watched a whole lot of episodes.  Yup, I like the armors that much.  In fact I still own a couple of the Bandai Gold Saint figures from the mid-90's complete with their boxes.  Sadly there's no real improvement on the secondary market for them, I saw similar copies at the most recent comic cons for the same price I bought them new.  

I can only really identify four of the six figures, Seiya, Cygnus, Phoenix and Andromeda.  The other two I have no clue.  This is actually the second set of boots I've gotten from this show, the other set which I found at the swap meet, is much much worse.  These actually look like the characters.  These were a little pricey at $1.28 each.

 I actually bought TWO sets of anime figures, this one is the Sailor Scouts from Sailor Moon, and they went straight to my daughter.  I have virtually no knowledge of this show other than it's the progenitor of the "magical girl" genre of Anime and predates Pretty Cure, and is super-popular.  I'm pretty sure there's two versions of the main character Sailor Moon, but I'm not sure who the other three scouts are.  There's also Sailor Moon's boyfriend Tuxedo Mask here.  Nice figures though and cheap, they were 86 cents each.

I bought two of the same figure because GROOT!  We are Groot!  He was 82 cents.  I love the longer legs, that's really the reason I got him, and of course one for me and one for the kiddo. 

One of the things I really love about this type of shopping is that I can find figures that would never ever get made by Lego proper.  Here we have Alex from A Clockwork Orange and the legendary Bruce Lee.  I really wish Alex had pink flesh rather than yellow, but oh well.  The figure is quite nice with awesome back prints.  The Bruce Lee figure is pretty standard, the printing is nice, and he comes with some nunchuks, which are hilariously oversized.  For 65 cents each what more could you want?

This next batch was strictly for the kiddo also, these are Minecraft figures, and I have no idea who or what they are.  The dragons were $1.30 and the figure (Alex?) and cat were $1.20.  The daughter loves them.

Here's the one actual "set" that I purchased, it's a Gundam Cafe!  This is one of six sets that Lepin released around the same time with somewhat "anime" themes.  The pieces here are nowhere near the quality of Lego, and the construction is a bit confusing.  The final product is less than stellar, but it's basically OK.  If there were other buildings in the line that I liked I'd buy others.  This was $4.36.


Last to appear in my mail were these two Godzillas in translucent plastic.  There's a number of colors to choose from, but they're all the same mold, so I went with Red and Green.  These are cute and will go nicely with my Gundams and other giant robots.  I could use more Kaiju mini-figs.  I'd love a line of Pacific Rim mini-figs.   The trans colors command a premium, these were $1.33.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Adventures in Bootleg Lego Mini-Figures

There's something inside of me that makes me very interested in knock-off and bootleg merchandise.  All ethical issues aside, I think it's fascinating that people will even take the time to knock-off other people's IP and items, and to that end, I'm endlessly intrigued with the results.

Many many years ago there was a knock-off action figure column in one of the toy magazines I'd peruse at the newsstands on a monthly basis (remember those?)  Some blogs and toy sites also used to write about them as well.

 I happen to love going on shopping trips, especially to swap meets and well, let's just say gray market goods marketplaces.  There are several of them here in the city of Angels, Santee Alley comes to mind.  It's those types of places where you find these bootleg Lego mini figures.  The quality is usually all over the place, sometimes great but most of the time not.

Enter the internet.

Through Aliexpress, every day shoppers like myself can order all sorts of goods from China, quite a good portion of them are bootleg items.  I recently made a foray into bootleg Lego mini-figs, and here's the first results.

I ordered all of these on September 14.  They started to arrive about three weeks later, and finished arriving about 10 days after that.  See you might place one order but you're aggregating a number of individual vendors into that order.  This one order of how-ever many figures it is came from 6 different vendors.

I'm not sure exactly which brands these actually are, as they don't come with packaging.  I believe they're at least KOPF or another major knock off brand.

Char's Zaku-II and a grunt Zaku-II.  These both come with a
bazooka and a rifle, which will come in handy later.

Thanos was the most expensive single piece at $2.40.  Came with the
Infinity Gauntlet and all the stones.  LEGO doesn't even make a chromed version of the glove.

I really like this Voltron mini-fig, though I wish it had the earlier version's lion hands.

I would like Mazinger Z more if they had included both sides of the chest piece

These are just fun.  80 cents for both.

That's a Minecraft Wolf for my daughter

I was fairly excited about He-Man and Skeletor, and they could be better, but they're not bad to begin with. 
The faces are a little off.

Jack Skellington, The 4th Doctor and Hulk Hogan. 
None of these have ever been made by Lego

RX-178 Gundam Mk II and RX-78-2 Mobile Suit Gundam.
Love these.  Didn't come with guns though, thankfully the Zaku guns worked.

All told I spent about $17 on these pieces.  I enjoyed the experience so much I made a larger order just a couple of weeks ago, most of which just came in, so look for Part 2 of this entry shortly.

Monday, October 22, 2018

On Roman Reigns

Whenever the 'real world' invades my fiction wrestling universe it's usually because something bad has happened. Tonight Joseph Anoi'a who is better known to the world as WWE's Roman Reigns announced that he has to relinquish the WWE Universal Championship because his Leukemia has returned. While on the surface this might appear to be part of the storyline or "a work" as it's known in the industry, it's pretty clear that it's not a work. Anoi'a comes from a very long and proud lineage of Samoa wrestlers, his father was Sika, of the Wild Samoans, he's cousins with virtually every wrestler of Samoan descent in the industry, and he is, from all reports, one of the good guys. His CHARACTER of Roman Reigns is not universally loved by wrestling fans who have tired of him main eventing not one, not two, not three but FOUR Wrestlemanias in a row. Up until tonight the perception had been that Vince McMahon and the WWE Braintrust had been "shoving Roman down our throats" for the last several years despite the fact that a vocal segment of the fanbase can't stand him.

He seems like a pretty private guy behind the scenes, there aren't that many out of character interviews with him, he's not pictured with his family much, and he seems to put it all out there as the character not the man. Perhaps maybe Vince et al knew his time was limited so they pushed him as much as they could to get what they could while he still had time. Maybe not. Who knows.

In any case, I'm sad. I'm sad because while I'm not a huge fan of the character, I didn't mind his title victories and actually got to see him perform live the night before Money in the Bank 2016, which was a cool event where all three of the members of his faction, The Shield, held the WWE Heavyweight Title - Roman entered as the title holder, lost the strap to Seth Rollins in the main event, who then lost it to Dean Ambrose who won Money in the Bank (the winner gets a guaranteed contract shot whenever they desire) earlier in the night.

Watching those three men embrace at the end of Roman's speech tonight brought tears to my eyes. Yes, wrestling is scripted, but that doesn't mean it's not real.

Look at Seth Rollins' face, that's not acting there. Dean Ambrose on the left is BARELY holding it together. These guys are brothers in the ring, and they left it all out there tonight. If that doesn't get you, you have no heart.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Rick and Morty McFarlane Building Sets - Or When Your Favorite Pop Culture Brand Doesn't License with Lego

OK this is driving me crazy, my Google-Fu is failing me. I SWEAR I've seen a pic of an upcoming McFarlane Toys Rick and Morty construction set that comes with Beth, I want to say it's the Living Room of the Smith House, but I can't find it now. I mean, I have all of the R&M sets so far (except for the 3 mini sets with Krombopulous Michael, Ants-in-my-eyes Johnson and Scary Terry, only the latter of which I would remotely consider important to have). I MUST have a Beth figure to complete my Smith family of crappy too-large-Lego Figures. Dammit. Plus I have to figure out how to make the 3 previously released house sets go together. Spoiler Alert - they DO NOT fit together at all.

That was the Facebook post that I was going to post, but then decided to turn it into a blog post instead, because I don't write enough on my blog. Then I took pictures. I'm going somewhere with this. But first a short history of Lego and Lego Competitors.

So there's this awesome toy company called "Lego". They've been making toys since, like err...before World War II. They started off making simple wooden toys, like a wooden duck with wheels, but somewhere in the 50's they came up with their most brilliant concept ever, the interlocking brick. They weren't the first brick toy out there, wooden blocks have been toys since, well, trees were invented I guess. No, what they did was make them out of plastic and add some tubes underneath so that your two bricks could fit together and not come apart. They patented that concept and made a metric shit-ton of bricks. Seriously there's like at least 60 Lego bricks for every human on the planet.

In the late 70's (I want to say it was 1978 exactly) Lego introduced the modern "mini-figure" a squat one and one-half inch tall action figure to go with your lego bricks. Since then almost every awesome Lego set created has revolved around the mini-figure. Up until the late 90's Lego sets where themed very generically, usually around a real-world concept like "Town" or "Space". Actually, yeah that was it originally. Later sub-themes emerged like "Police" or "Adventurers" or "Space Police" and "Blacktron" in the science-fiction based lines. And these were fine.

And then Lego licensed Star Wars and the world has never been the same. NOW you could get official Lego versions of your favorite Star Wars characters, even a miniature R2-D2 that fit right in with your Luke, Leia, Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Lego licensed Harry Potter as well and since then they've had such diverse themes as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Speed Racer, Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney and so many more. So many licenses. Not every brand goes with Lego though. Plenty of brands have Lego-type building sets, but they aren't Lego. Lego has had competitors since their earliest days. As I said the concept of building blocks isn't new, neither is what Lego did with their gripping techniques. So there's been hundreds of companies producing building bricks that are more or less "compatible" with Lego. Toy lines like Hasbro's GI Joe and Transformers had their own brick lines a few years ago with Hasbro's own in-house Kre-O line. The bricks themselves came from a South Korean toy comapany's Lego clones, and the mini-figures were designed to be reminiscent of Lego mini-figures but with added articulation. Kre-O also had the Star Trek master-license for a while and produced some nice mini-figure sized ships, along with smaller non-figure scale ships. We'll come back to Star Trek.

Lego's biggest competitor today is Mattel's Mega Bloks. Or Mega-Blocks. Nope, wait that's not right. They're definitely Mega-BLOKS. Originally an independent Canadian company, they were just another knock-off Lego brand with inferior plastic and uninteresting sets, until they too started licensing in the late 90's. Going after more kiddie-themed lines initially, soon Mega was able to leverage stronger licenses like Lord of the Rings, NASCAR and Power Rangers. With these licenses Mega started doing their own mini-figures which as one would expect, were initially very much like Lego's mini-figures. Over the years though Mega started introducing better articulation and sculpts to their mini-figures, culminating in their amazingly articulated Halo themed figures. Since then they've even published a line of carded single figures in a "Heros" line which includes Star Trek, Masters of the Universe, Alien and Futurama of all things. Yes Mega now holds the Star Trek license. But they're not doing a lot with it.

I'm not even going into the various brick Sports figures, but to say the least, there are two different scales amongst the 4 major sports. Oh and Playmobil licensed the NHL.

One of my favorite non-Lego brick lines was Character Building's Doctor Who range of toys, which saw a plethora of characters from throughout the entire 50+ year history of the franchise be released, alongside a few iconic building sets, which included two different Tardis interiors, a Dalek flying saucer and more than one version of the iconic Tardis box. They additionally had two versions of an 11 or 12 Doctor figure set and a blind-bagged version of the same. I know that doesn't make much sense. Doesn't matter. They stopped doing the line JUST after the 12th Doctor began, so we did get a Peter Capaldi figure in the line (and a War Doctor for that matter), we won't ever get any companions after Clara. Because now Lego more or less has the license and they're not doing anything with it. At all. Seriously. It sucks. I have over 100 Character building Doctor Who figures, and like 6 official Lego Doctor Who figures. And the Lego Daleks suck.

I digress.

McFarlane Toys, the company founded by former Marvel Wunderkind, Image Founder Todd McFarlane decided to jump into the building block foray with their The Walking Dead master license. Their TWD figures are more like seriously smaller versions of their well sculpted action figures. Not at all like Lego. Finished sets don't look much like Lego sets either. They're weird.

I first encountered McFarlanes building line with Kaylee's Five Nights at Freddies toys, which are more like Lego, but different. Way different. Figures are more built up than Lego, and they don't hold together very well. They use a mix of ABS and PVC plastics on different parts and they just feel weird. They fall apart very easily as well. The brick built set pieces are problematic to say the least. First of all and this will be pertinent in a little bit, the sets don't fit together in any modular way, despite depicting different parts of the same buildings. Secondly, again pieces are a mixture of plastics and don't fit together well in places. Thirdly, the ABS they use isn't anywhere near as good as the ABS that Lego uses. Lego is famous for their plastic quality (though less so in recent years due to their globalizing their manufacturing, rather than keeping it all in Denmark).

Currently there are seven available McFarlane Rick and Morty building sets. They are:

1. The Spaceship & Garage (with Rick and Morty figures)
2. The Garage Rack (with Mr. Meeseeks and Jerry figures)
3. The Hallway (with Evil Rick and Evil Morty figures)
4. Ants in my Eyes Johnson
5. Scary Terry
6. Krombopulous Michael
7. Summer's Bedroom (with Summer and Snowball/Snuffles figures)

Sets 4-6 are small builds with a figure and since they don't fit the overall theme of the house, I don't have them (yet).

Here's the overall layout as I have it arranged currently.  There's really no official way these go together.

Evil Rick inside of the Spaceship.  Which isn't a bad model, it's just not a good one either.  Some bits still fall right off and the stickers are terrible.

Evil Morty, who seems to be increasingly important

The hallway with the portal effect which is really cool.  Jerry in the background as he should be.  I really hope they do another Morty figure with a better facial expression.

The garage, which is actually two sets put together and they actually work somewhat.  There are a lot of detail bits here, like the monster Rick creates and destroys in the end sequence of "Auto Erotic Assimilation".  Device that Rick uses to destroy said creature (and try to kill himself too) doesn't stay on the counter very well.

This may well be my favorite set of all, it comes from my favorite scene in the entire show.  Many times I have held the Snowball figure in my hand saying "Where are my testicles Summer".  Believe it or not the Snowball is actually a mini-figure, though it's got a lot of added stuff.  It's actually built quite well and is my favorite thing McFarlane has ever done.  I'm glad I got a Summer figure finally, but I'd like one that can go adventuring with Rick and Morty.  This one is in her underwear.

 "Where are my testicles Summer"

Here's a bad pic of the garage.  Notice the Plumbus.  I now have four of them.  I think you might get one in every set.  That's not a bad thing.

So there you have it.  That's all my Rick and Morty building sets.  Now we're pretty aware that there will never be an official Lego Rick and Morty line, so until McFarlane gives up the license (to Mega let's face it) these are as good as we're going to get.  I still think they're missing the boat by not having these things officially fit together.  But if they can't make the FNAF sets fit together, they're not going to bother with these.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2016-2017 Topps WWE Slam - Elite Performers FINAL RESULTS

Last year I ran a survey on who the player community considered the "Elite" performers that appear in the Topps WWE Slam App.  Since I don't have a paid Survey Monkey account it capped at 100 people, but I think we got a pretty darn good indication of who the community considered to be the elite performers during the first year of the app.  I'm currently working on a new version of the survey which should be up later today, because let's face it who was elite in 2016-2017 may not still be elite and people who were lower on the rankings will definitely be higher this year.

So here's the link to the new survey and here's the results from the last one.

Also I'm going to do a giveaway once we hit 100 responses, so if you want to participate leave your in-game-name

Main Roster Men:

1AJ Styles92.86%
2Seth Rollins80.61%
3Finn Balor76.53%
4Kevin Owens74.49%
5Brock Lesnar70.41%
6John Cena67.35%
8Dean Ambrose63.27%
9Randy Orton61.22%
10Triple H60.20%
11Roman Reigns58.16%

Very little surprise here, AJ Seth and Finn are all extremely popular in the game.  Kevin Owens had a great year and thus he's probably a lot higher than he will be this year.  These are the only performers who appeared on over 50% of the ballots cast.

Main Roster Women:

1Becky Lynch85.26%
2Sasha Banks82.11%
6Nikki Bella63.16%
7Alexa Bliss49.47%

The big surprise here is that Alexa Bliss isn't higher on the list and that's super-easy to explain, she didn't get called up until the draft in 2016 and didn't do a whole lot until TLC late in December of 2016 when she beat Becky Lynch for her first title.  I would expect her to be #1 in the new poll.  Also several NXT call-ups aren't featured here and they will undoubtedly be showing up in 2018.  Once again these are the only performers who hit 50% (or almost 50% in Alexa's case).

NXT Men & Women
1Shinsuke Nakamura87.78%
3Samoa Joe65.56%

All three of these folks were called up and made major impacts since the survey ended, so the entire poll will be new in 2018.  

1The Rock83.52%
2Stone Cold Steve Austin81.32%
3Shawn Michaels74.73%
4Daniel Bryan65.93%
5Eddie Guerrero65.93%
6Macho Man Randy Savage62.64%
8Ric Flair61.54%
9Bret the Hitman Hart57.14%

Once again, no surprises here, The Rock and SCSA are always going to be the most popular "legends" so long as Hulk Hogan isn't in the game.  What's surprising is who ISN'T as popular as you might think.  Once again these are the only performers who ended up on more than 50% of ballots, so you're missing Ultimate Warrior (came in at #12), Trish Stratus (#13), Brie Bella (#14) and a host of others.  Despite being incredibly polarizing, HBK came in third and is still more popular than his biggest rival Bret Hart.  There have been a few additions to the Legends roster, notably Goldberg and Batista, so you might see them in the new poll.

New Additions
2Bobby Roode28.57%
4Brian Kendrick9.52%

These were late additions to the original base set.  Clearly Bobby Roode will most likely end up in the top 10 of current performers going forward.  Goldberg and Batista might end up on the Legends top 10, though unless Batista starts wrestling again his chances are marginal.  This won't be a category in the 2018 poll.