Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fucking Piece of Shit

It’s almost the end of the month and I’ve only posted once in October, not because I haven’t been writing, but because nothing has seemed pressing/exciting enough to spur me to post.* Until today, when I read the most pathetic excuse for a Marvel comic since the original Clone Saga dragged on and on for months and months. In this book, a top-tier Marvel character, The Punisher, is put through a ridiculous plot twist that is so ill-conceived that it is likely to destroy his popularity.

Let’s be clear; I’m a Marvel guy before a DC guy, and I’ve been pretty happy with Marvel in the Joey Q era. I’m really happy that Marvel has recognized their latest event is interminable, and they’ve decided to shorten their events in the future, as well as confining them to fewer books. It’s a very good sign, because as strong as some of these event premises have been, they’re spread so thin on the ground that issues are designed to be nothing more than placeholders reiterating statements that all readers already have accepted as gospel (“Norman Osborn is bad” being the main one).

Bendis has been running loose over this editorial for a while and I’m a tired of the self-congratulatory tone he’s been taking lately, but in his defense, his books are largely above average and his predilection for praising BMB, while unflattering, isn’t entirely undeserved.

One of the failures of the current Dark Reign storyline is the breakdown of the overarching story into smaller arcs, like the current one “The List”. The premise here is that now Norman is firmly in charge, he’s made a list of things to do to super people.


He’s a few months into taking over Marvel Universe and NOW he’s making a list? Everything up to now was just winging it? I have a list of things to do every day and I’m no evil genius planning to take over the Marvel U. Of course I’m not a homicidal lunatic either, and maybe homicidal lunatics don’t make lists unless they get really, really crazy. Let’s be frank, the conceptual glue that’s holding this “List” arc together is ill-conceived at best, and a shining example of dragging a storyline out too long by creating & labeling arcs within arcs.

The List arc started a few weeks back with a typically strong Daredevil issue and since then a few more have come out, including this week’s “Wolverine: The List”, which, while nicely drawn, feels exactly like the kind of placeholder one-shot that adds nothing to the overall story, but meets some sales threshold requirement.

I referred earlier to the 90’s Clone saga in the Spider-man books, widely regarded as the most ridiculous, sprawling and pointless story in modern memory. Fanboys were so upset about its diabolical length and incoherence that they made a stink that hasn’t been rivaled since. The only thing close has been the hubbub over “One More Day”, which seemed to me like the best way to resolve a lot of plot incoherence that had built up in the Spider-man books over the prior ten-plus years. If we all had to take a spoonful of nasty tasting cod liver oil to purge our system and improve our overall health moving forward, the result was worth the cure.

Like the Clone Saga, this is a bad idea that is completely out of control. If this had happened during the aforementioned 90’s Punisher tailspin, we all could’ve written it off as a fitting end to a well-conceived but horribly mishandled character whose time had seemingly come and gone.

In the wake of an amazing (and long) Garth Ennis run that returned the character to his roots AND made him a major player in the MU, followed by the completely unexpected (and almost unheard of) successful handoff of Frank Castle to new writers who respected the core material and maintained the quality readers had come to expect, it was inevitable that Punisher fans were living on borrowed time. Since what had come before was so well-done, this issue is even more of a travesty.

Rick Remender has been a fine writer in my book and his Punisher writing to date has been fine stuff, if not quite up to Ennis standards. But here he has completely lost the plot.

You may have seen the ads for an upcoming Punisher arc called “Frankencastle”, which depict a sewn together and presumably reanimated Punisher. It looks intriguing, but I assumed the image was a non literal “shock” image designed to portray a psychological state rather than a physical one.


In this miserable trainwreck of a comic, Daken, the ridiculously overused “son of Wolverine who is posing as Wolverine”, is sent to get Castle (presumably so Norman can check an item off of his list) and in the ensuing battle the Punisher is literally cut to pieces. Not in the “I literally shit my pants” use of literally that drunk college kids use, but in the “holy shit I can’t believe they cut the Punisher into chunks of flesh & bone (including decapitation), so they can do this stupid Frankencastle story”. Yes, they are going to take the pieces of the Punisher and sew them back together, resurrecting him as a reanimated corpse, complete with stitches and tubes, etc, etc.

How do I know the Frankencastle story will be stupid? Besides the obvious, there’s a preview of a good chunk of the first issue of the Shelley-inspired arc. It’s even worse than this one-shot story would indicate.

The art is by John Romita Jr., whose typical clear, blocky style is compromised here by an uncertain and perhaps disinterested Gene Colan-esque whispy-ness. The styles don’t mesh well, leaving the colorist to hold the art together.

I am baffled as to how this story got approved by editors. It’s unimaginable to me. This is the first sign that the second wave of Punisher popularity is over, a real tragedy for Marvel considering he’s one of the few post- Stan & Jack era characters that has resonated with the general public (and is something of a licensing powerhouse as well).

The Punisher is not a superhero in the traditional sense; he has no powers, he doesn’t really wear a stereotypical superhero costume. He isn’t designed to be rebuilt as a monster anymore than he is to join the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Yes, he has died & returned before - Ennis brought Frank back from the dead with fitting gruffness and brevity, forsaking a drawn out multi-issue storyline that teases and depicts the method of his return, opting instead to explain it all with a couple of deft, in-character lines of dialogue. From there the Punisher dove headlong into action against lowlife mobsters, drug dealers, rapists, slavers, etc. It was if years of headbands, Marvel Edge issues and angelic/demonic (re)incarnations had been washed away in just a few panels.

Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon have another Punisher series in the works. No doubt it will be fine and (I assume) will consist of more traditional Punisher stories, but how can it avoid being tainted by this storyline, the resolution of which is destined to be a cop-out? I don’t want to hear about the different iterations of the Punisher on various Marvel Earths – that’s fine for an FF story or a DC continuity reboot, but it doesn’t work for a dark and gritty character that is best rooted in reality.

I’m not sure how this vile Punisher One-Shot will be rationalized away in the future, but if I were the editorial and creative teams, I’d get working on something yesterday, because this is far and away the worst Punisher book ever published, and that’s saying something in the wake of some really evil shit cranked out during his slide into overexposure back in the 90’s.

* I’ve been working on a long piece about how Mattel, DC Direct and Hasbro are killing American Superhero toys that will go up sometime soon, I promise/hope.

Friday, October 9, 2009

DC Direct suckage drives neutral toy site over the edge!

Now I've seen it all. One of the best toy news sites out there,, lost it's cool this week. Driven to rant on the keyboard by another action figure line misfire delivered by DC DIRECT.

We love Cooltoyreview, they are one of the top sites out there with connections to most of the main toy vendors and the collector community. They work hard and are on the spot with news daily. But like many of these kinds of sites on the 'net, they have always remained very neutral when delivering photos of new product or the B.S. many of the toy companies spew in Q&A sessions. These sites would never dare comment on or criticize any information delivered for fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the Mattels, Hasbros, Sideshows or even DC Directs of the toy world.

Of course that's where this blog comes in.

But low and behold the guys at Cooltoyreview lost their shit while assembling a photo archive of DC Direct's newest 'History of the DC Universe' wave of action figures. This is the first figure line in DCD's history where they actually tried to add multi-point articulation. Specifically they were attempting to copy the sculpting and articulation of Mattel's superior DC Classics line. Apparently DC failed miserably and Cooltoyreview wasted no time driving the point home.

Amazing that after all these years and countless toy issues to comment on, this was the line that finally broke their silence. The critique is absolutely justified of course but we still can't believe they did it. There isn't nearly enough of this type of commentary on the main toy sites. I applaud the Cooltoy guys for finally stepping out. How do you expect improvement if you don't let the folks behind the scenes producing collectibles know what the collector actually wants?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mattel's whiz

Really? First time?! Oh, hell FOR SURE Grandma will drop Batman in the aisle for this treasure!

Mattel's resident fuck-up, TOYGURU, the guy in charge of (destroying, we think) the popular DC Universe brand of action figure lines, must have thought long and hard about how to market the GUARDIAN figure in DC Classics wave 9.

Now in the pecking order of comic heroes, it's hard to imagine you can find a handful of hardcore comic nerds who even know who this character is much less give a shit if he was ever made into a plastic figure.

But Guardian was a smooth body figure that Toyguru found and ol' Toyguru loves to re-use smooth body figures so he won't have to spend any sculpting money on 'em. But apparently 'Guru, knowing a peg-warmer when he sees one, must have decided that this figure needed that certain pizzazz to move him off of the pegs in the toy aisles. And unlike the shit he over shipped to the poor retailers all year like Captain Cold and Gay Blue Aquaman, he determined that this potential loser would need the extra push. So even though the tag means nothing to the moms or kids or even the collectors (they need to buy him anyway) the sticker for the shout out was made!


Oh! Well is there an 8" version? 3"? 12"? 5.5"? Um, no. But who cares. Wave 9 of the series isn't making it to retailers anyway.

Another example of 'Guru wasting time in the wrong places with this brand. How the idea for such a wasted sticker wasn't laughed out of El Segundo, we'll never know. How does Mattel find 'em?

Matty Sucks: We Interpret The Latest BS From Mattel

Here's the latest Q&A from Mattel's Boys Action Team that was released yesterday. These are fan-submitted questions (designated by the Q), with responses by Mattel (designated by the A). And our interpretations of their responses (designated by the BG). Enjoy!

Q1. Question(s) about the newly announced DCUC 12 C&C Darkseid. A. How big is he? B. Is he the same sculpt as before with a bigger head and a death glove? C. Is the glove removable with an alternate hand? D.
Any possibility of a cape ala Super Powers for him?
A1. He will be 9 inches tall with an alternate hand, but will not include a cape.
BG: We are too cheap to put a cape in. Of course he will be as big as the other BAFs, idiot. We are ignoring the rest of your questions because we need to get back to writing excuses for our mind-boggling incompetence.
Q2. Why are there two different Battle Axe Batman figures in B:TBatB?
They have different SKU numbers, different package art, different axes and one has a new sculpt with chest armor while the other is just a regular figure.
A2. It is a running change to the figure. There is a great image up on Facebook showing this insert!
BG: We fucked up so bad on that one that instead of just telling you we'd fix it in a running change, we actually DID FIX IT!! I know, it's a surprise to us too, and we did it!

Q3. So what IS happening with JLU in 2010? Will it still be at Target? There are a lot of rumors about JLU flying about, it’s death or continuation, at Target, on Mattycollector, or elsewhere. A lot of fans are waiting with baited breath to get news on its fate. Any news that you can share to ease our suffering? Anything? Assurances? Hints?

A3. We cannot announce our 2010 plans yet. Make sure to check out the JLU 4 packs on
BG: Our plans are this; there are no plans. No retailer in his right mind (so that still leaves TRU) would touch this line after we clusterfucked it out of existence. Now please buy some of the figures we have for sale so Toyguru isn't eating this shit for breakfast for the next ten years. that stuff is starting to stink up the warehouse!

Q4. Several people received this email from concerning their pre-orders for DCUC Wave 9:
"Hi – we unfortunately have received bad news from Mattel on the DC Universe Series 9 assortment. They have informed us that they grossly under-produced this wave and that only about 25% of our order will be filled. Many other stores also apparently have suffered the same huge shortage, and the product is short across the entire market. We were extremely upset with Mattel for this news and have relayed to them how upset our customers will be as well.
At this point, we unfortunately do not expect any more shipments from Mattel. For those of you who ordered between February 13th and 14th, it is possible that your orders=2 0will fill due to cancellations and non-payment of orders from people who ordered before you (their cancelled orders will move to the next people in line automatically).
If you ordered after these dates, it is very unlikely we will have any inventory, and we suggest that you purchase these figures anywhere else you may be able to find them. (You can view the date you ordered your product by logging into your BBTS account and viewing your preorders) We have heard reports they are showing up at mass market stores, and some should also be on ebay. We absolutely hate not being able to fill your order, but Mattel has really screwed up this wave and there is not anything we can do about it. We are hoping that some sort of future production run of DCU 09 can be negotiated, but at this point there is nothing worked out. We will keep your preorders open in our system until we can determine if Mattel will produce more in the future or not. We will email you with any further news as we hear it from Mattel, hopefully something will be resolved. The sales manager at Mattel did assure me that DCU waves 11, 12, and 13 would not suffer from the same issues, so we do not anticipate any shortages on those waves."
Can you speak to what happened with wave 9? Was it under produced? Did the larger big box retailers end up with a larger allocation of that assortment? Should collectors be worried about finding this wave?
A4. Sorry, but we cannot comment on the production run of any figure line.

BG: Are you serious? "Should collectors be worried about finding this wave?" Shouldn't collectors be worried about finding ANY wave of DCU? Why would this series be any different? We have to go and figure out how to kill this line a little quicker. Your thoughts are welcome. ***Seriously, why did they even include this question if they weren't going to answer it? Did they want to make sure everyone that wasn't pissed at them already had a reason to be angry?***

Q5. What will the new case pack outs be on the next round of JLU 3 packs ? Talking about the Batman Beyond,Cheetah, Blackhawk and Flash 3 packs. How many of which ones to a case maybe just rough numbers?

A5. There will be three new sets per case, 2 of each set.

BG: Not that it matters because you'll never find them, loser. We only shipped 4% of what Target ordered of the new assortments, but if you need that Question 3 pack, now's your chance because we shipped them a bunch of those instead.

Q6. Do you have more DCUC 5 packs planned? And why is the current Walmart 5-pack called "The Gotham City 5?" when it has Superman and Lex in it?
A6. We do have more 5 packs planned, but not for 2009. The set was originally an all Bat pack, but Superman and Lex were added late in the game.

BG: We are so lazy!!! We didn't even bother to change the text on the box, which would take about five seconds in photoshop!! Ha-ha-ha!!! Yes, we're planning more five packs, but with a little luck, we'll get this line cancelled before they can be released.

Q7. We have seen a lot of characters from the classic CRISIS maxi-series appear in DCIH. Any chance that some of these characters would make into DCUC over the next year? I would love to see the ’80s Supergirl in the DCUC line. It would also be a nice nod to Super Powers since she was considered for that line at one point.

A7. We can’t comment on unannounced figures, but yes, all of these figures could be put into the DCUC line. Stay tuned!
BG: For those of you thinking we would actually answer your questions, blow us!! Ha -ha ha!!

Q8. Sigourney Weaver is fair game for the Ghostbusters line, what about Rick Moranis? Any chance of Ghostbusters going monthly next year? At this point the guys won’t be complete until May…what about the oft mentioned variants? and figures such as Unslimed Egon and Peter? Every other month for 2 years is only 12 figures…any insight?

A8. We do have rights to Rick Moranis’s character, Louis Tully, for the line. We have rights at this point to all of the major characters and many of the minor ones as well. It should be clear sailing with a robust line available on

BG: Please note the use of qualifier "it should be". This will be referred to later when we fuck up the line and it is cancelled after releasing Louis Tully and two of the Ghostbusters.

Q9. How much do you take into consideration the poll results when it comes to making new figures in the JLU line? Is it the new sculpts required for of some of these figures (Toyman, STRIPE, Kalibak, etc.) that has kept them from being made up to this point?

A9. We do look at lots of poll results and fan requests for all of our collector lines. There are many figures we did in 2009 that were specific fan requests.

BG: We will not sculpt anything new if it can possibly be avoided. If fans would like to submit lists of characters that are smooth all over, we will consider them as there might be one or two we have missed.

Q10. MOTUC – Female Body Sculpts – Can Mattel provide an update on whether or not the female MOTUC figures (including Adora (January
2010)) will have an ab-crunch or waist-twist point of articulation (or some other articulation allowing movement/posing in the torso area)?
A10. The females will not have ab crunch.
BG: We will continue to reduce articulation across all lines until the figures are as static as McFarlane figs, but without the detailed sculpts. Thanks you - please send more questions that we won't really answer so we can do this again soon!