Saturday, June 29, 2013

What's DC doing, really?

I just got around to watching Man of Steel, DC/Warner Bros' latest attempt at making a Superman movie. For all the explosions, and impressive destruction, the lasting impression is not of the movie itself, but the lack of direction from DC. It just doesn't seem like they care.
I will try to explain, but first let me just say that while I am a Marvel fanboy, I also enjoy the comics from the Distinquished Competition. Titles like JSA, Green Arrow and Teen Titans have usually kept me interested. But it doesn't stop with "interesting". Some of the best comics I have read have had the label "DC". In fact, one of my top ten favorite storylines was a Superman comic.

So I always enter the theater with somewhat of an expectation. You can then imagine the result when I was watching movies like Green Lantern or Superman Returns. There was preciously little positive about either of them. The new Batman trilogy is ok for what it is: Action movies with cool tech, crazy villains and needlessly complicated storylines. But it's not Batman to me. There's a point where they forgot to sit back and realize that they were making a superhero movie, not an action movie set in the real world. Why is that a problem? Well, picture a Superman in the Dark Knight-trilogy universe. Certainly not superpowered. And this is the problem for me. The times WB have managed to stay true to the comics (for instance Superman Returns), they have made awful movies, and the times they have made good movies (Batman Begins) they steered so far off track from the source material that the movies barely have anything in common with the comics. And in either of the cases there is certainly no room for building towards a team-up.

Maybe it's unfair to expect a Justice League movie, and it's definitely unfair to compare single-hero movies like Iron Man and Thor to Batman and Superman. After all, Batman is more recognizeable than the entire Avengers roster put together. But it's not unreasonable to expect more from WB, and it's not unfair to compare the dedication from Marvel Studios to the lack of a plan from DC/WB. You have to marvel at the way Marvel Studios seamlessly combined the different themes of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America to build towards The Avengers, and then seriously push all the right buttons. The single-hero movies felt different, but similar. They were different because they obvously had different plots, took place in different times/worlds. But you still got a sense that it all took place in the same universe. Obviously reinforced by characters appearing in all the movies, but it was more than that too. It was the feeling that these were superhero comics, just translated to movies.

I will be honest, Man of Steel had its good moments (And some embarrasingly bad ones, like the forced relation between Lois Lane and Superman). We finally saw an all out brawl between Superman and a villain of equal physical strength, which was cool. The Krypton tech was neat and the costumes were nice. But the plot was bland, and you just didn't feel for any of the characters. Why spend that much time telling background stories when you still don't get any sympathy for the characters? Look to the two new Star trek movies. Both had villains similar to General Zod. All were exiles simply trying to get even, but were you you feel for Nero and Khan both good and bad, you end up feeling nothing for Zod. He's just there as something for Superman to hit. Same can be said about the main character. Where is the adversity he has to face, for us to see him as the deserving hero? Here it is easy to compare him to the Thor movie, which really got that part right, a hero who has to prove him self trough a series of trials, and ultimately make the right choices regardless of his powers. And this is not just about writing, but about movie making. Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers (and Star Trek, since I mentioned it) go out of their way with the right combination of camera angles, music, choices of actors, and so on, and the results are epic.

All in all Man of Steel just wasn't as epic as it should have been. And you didn't leave the theater anticipating the next move/movie from DC. Keep in mind, movies like Iron Man 2 or Captain America are not masterpieces by any measurment, and as individual films they are quite possibly surpassed by Man of Steel. But they felt like parts of something more, and that made them not only better, but also more true to the comic. A key word here is "continuity". I said it before: It was deliciously apparent that Marvel were in control of their own characters. It doesn't feel like DC is in full control over theirs. And when corporate people and executives think they can do better than actual comic book people, all we will get is re-make after re-make.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Minifigures, progress report

Not so much my own progress report, all though I'll share that as well. But more a look at the last few years with minifigures. It's been awesome. Nothing else to say. I'm working on an updated top list, and I can assure you it will include more than just ten figures.  

Here we see representatives from the ten waves of minifigures so far. All series are made up by 16 figures, leaving us with 160 different collectible minifigres. Well, 161 if you count the extremely rare "Mister Gold" from series 10.

The theme of various figures are not really that surprising when isolated, it's more the accumulated amount of creative characters that amazes me. I'd have a hard time thinking of characters I'd like to see in an upcoming series. It would have to be the stereotypical superhero, or maybe more regular workers? How about the Teacher?

We have seen figures doing different sports like the footballers above from series 4 and 8, and we've seen more ordinary workers, like the painter in the front, from series 10, or the Butcher in the back, from series 6).  Historic characters and monsters have been greatly represented, the Mummy from series 3 for one. Stereotypes have been plentiful, though I feel the Disco Man (series 2) is almost more a parody than a stereotype. We also have figures clearly depicting famous persons, like Cleopatra, from series 5. Some of the characters are non-descriptive action themed, like the Space dudes, here represented by the very first, white one from series 1. And finally, there are characters I struggle categorizing. Like the dude  in the chicken costume, from series 9.

Series 4, best one so far?
If I look at each series as a whole, there are two waves that in my opinion sticks out. Series 4 and 9. Both had amazingly varied and colorful line-ups, and the characters selected were benchmarks in their respective sub-theme.

Series 4 had tough guys like the Hockey player and the Viking. But also the pretty ladies like the Kimono girl and the Ice Dancer. A new updated Skateboard guy seemed a bit redundant at the time, but he's a great looking minifigure, with a hooded shirt and prints on his beanie. Two iconic monsters in the Werewolf and Frankenstein's Monster, an understated, yet excellent Sailor, the dashing Musketeer, and the hard-nosed Punk Rocker are all great figures. The Mad Scientist and Haz-Mat guys are great for story lines, while the Gnome provides the comedy. Series 4 was excellent.

Series 9 took me a bit by surprise, because I had excepted this wave to be just fillers before we were blown away by series 10. Sure enough, series 10 proved to be pretty good, but still nowhere near the previous line-up.
Did series 9 contain the best minifigure yet?
One thing that I have to mention about series 9 is all the new hairpieces, some of them should easily be re-usable by Lego. Waiter, Diva, Elf girl, and to a certain extent Caesar have hair pieces that one could see being used again. One of the funnies minifigures in the entire line, in the Chicken Man, not just for the costume, but also for his delightful facial expression. The Knight is probably the best Lego-knight so far, and both he, Elf Girl, Cyclops and Fortune Teller would fit right into the Castle sub-line. Space Ogre was surprising, but cool. Judge, I had not expected either. Police seems mundane, but is an excellent figure to get multiples of, for the City of course. And of course the Plumber. How cool is that plunge?

It also helps that the series 4 and 9 have my two favorites of the entire line. I'll wait with revealing who these two are until I debut my top 35 list. Why 35, you ask? Well, that's a surprise as well.

If any of the series have been disappointing, it would be 6.  We saw a couple of unnecessary updates, as well as a couple of figures one could only classify as "boring". The former would include the Desperado, the Highlander and the Skater Girl. The latter, sorry to say it, but that Alien is boring, and even he is a blast next to the Flamenco Dancer. Sure, it also had a couple of great ones, like Surgeon, Sleepy Boy, Statue of Liberty, and Genie in a Bottle. The pink Space Girl is also a favorite, but not necessarily for the quality of the character, more than me just enjoying space figures.

All in all, the minifigures are extremely fun, and a pure joy to collect. Sure, it may be annoying to get multiples, but there are plenty enough places on the internet where you can easily trade your duplicates for those missing figures. For my own progress report: at the time of writing, I'm missing 13 figures spread out over the last 4 waves. Am I aiming for complete toy line? You bet I am! And I'm looking forward to future waves of the collectible minifigures.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Support the Lego Cuusoo Modular Costume Store

I've mentioned the Cuusoo project before. Basically it's fan created models that Lego eventually turns into official sets. The process of deciding what sets gets made is done by other fans voting, and as soon as a set hits 10.000 votes, Lego decides whether it's suitable for release or not. Cuusoo means "wish" in Japanese, and this is an actual way of getting the Lego sets fans wish for. Cuusoo has given us three sets so far, with a fourth greenlit.

The first two were Japanese exclusives in a small submarine and a satellite. The third one was the extremely popular, and totally awesome Minecraft set. The fourth one will be Back to the Future set, which I suspect will dwarf the Minecraft set in terms of popularity.

Now, I see many great sets being submitted to Cuusoo all the time, and some of them are reasonable both in concept, size and demand. But there's really only one I absolutely wish gets made.

The Costume Corner Modular.

I saw this a while back, before it was submitted to Cuusoo, and was floored. It's simply put a masterpiece.

The colors of the building are unique next to the modular line, it makes for great customization with the interior - what costumes to store. It fits perfectly within the modular theme, not too strange, fully plausible, yet it's something very unique. But most importantly, it's an impressive design. The way the walls are done, the way the tiles in the street blends into the stair, the interior, it's fantastic.

Check out more pictures here:

I doubt this will get made. The demand for more modulars are high, but not in competition with movie/game sets. There's also the question of size, with the current Cuusoo sets being between 150 and 400 pieces, the Costume Corner looks to be well over 2000. Of course, one could hope Brent Waller's Costume Corner actually gets picked up by Lego and produced as a regular modular set some time in the future. And in the meantime, why not show support to this set over at the Cuusoo page?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Even more Masters of the Universe Artwork

It's the not first time I've talked about artwork, and it won't be the last. I've mentioned in the past that the artwork was one of the best - if not the best aspect of the Masters of the Universe toy line from the 80s.

Today I'll share what was quite possibly the coolest pieces of art to a kid. I spent hours looking at posters like these, whether they were of MOTU, Transformers or G.I. Joe.

The group pictures. I loved these kinds of pictures back in the day. I still do. Click in to read more.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to make fries

1. Cut the potato in strips of preferred size. Large bits should boil a bit first.
2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oil.
3. In oven at 225C/437F for 25 minutes
4. Enjoy