Toy Commercial Tuesday: The Hulk Rage Cage!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I’m fairly confident I found a doozy here! Check out the Hulk Rage Cage produced by Fun Stuff in the late 70s. I’d never heard of this one, but I love the idea of a toy designed to fully capture the Jade Giant’s destructive capabilities. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much replay value this would have after the first few bar-breaks.

What’s even crazier, though, is that this idea has persisted over the years. It looks like Toy Biz made one as part of the Marvel Super Heroes line in the early 90s, but also brought it back a few years later in a line dedicated to the Hulk’s UPN cartoon! Nice work Fun Stuff!

Marvel Double Feature: Avengers Age Of Ultron & Ant-Man

avengers the age of ultronRight off the bat, I’ll admit that I did not actually watch Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man as a true double feature. We probably watched the latter a month ago and just peeped the former yesterday. But, since I didn’t write about the Avengers sequel, it seemed liked a proper time.

I went into Joss Whedon’s Ultron with fairly low expectations. It seemed like a lot of the people I follow on Twitter and actually communicate with weren’t super into it. The general feeling I was picking up on seemed to be that, while it’s got all kinds of spectacle, it didn’t live up to the original.

And that was my experience as well, but then again, this is a different kind of blockbuster super hero movie. The original — which I love — seemed custom built to show that all of these series-leading, mega stars could come together, fight the bad guys and look good doing it. Meanwhile, this film seemed built with a different goal in mind: showing how said group (plus new members) can work together even when times are tough.

It’s also clearly a bigger piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe puzzle leading up to Captain America: Civil War and the Infinity War movies. To me as a viewer, the first felt like it was worked into the bigger tale while this one was more obviously built to lead to something else. This is something I’m not usually a fan of in comics and even less so in comic films and it all just boils down to a feeling I get while watching.

And yet, I still found myself enjoying this darker take on team superheroics. Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision all make interesting additions to not just the team, but the universe at large. Plus, it’s not all dark. I could watch an entire TV series about the Avengers hanging out like they did at that party. I also just adore James Spader (as I mentioned here) so watching and listening to his take on the killer robot Ultron was a treat as he’s basically Blacklist‘s Raymond Reddington but crazy and a robot.

I think that the problem with this movie as related to the first one comes down to this fact: I don’t want to rewatch it a bunch. I probably could have sat through another showing of Whedon’s first Avengers film right after the first one and even stop flipping or pop in for a few minutes every time I see it on TV. I don’t see that happening here. In other words, it’s not nearly as fun as the first one, which it clearly wasn’t supposed to be, but it’s still a bummer.

ant-man posterAnt-Man is far from a bummer, though, which is great. I admit, my feelings towards these movies have been a bit tainted by elements from beyond the movies themselves. I’m not sure how I feel about every single film moving forward painting towards this gigantic epic that will end Phase Three. I love the inter-connectivity between these films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want them all to be about this one big thing leading forward.

And then I watched Ant-Man and it felt like a nice step away from all that intergalactic craziness to just tell the story of a few people trying their best to not make the world a worse place. I love the approach of using this intelligent thief to wear a potentially fatal suit in an attempt to stop tech from ruining the world. It’s perfectly comic book-y, but also fits in so well with this universe and Paul Rudd just kills it. I also really enjoyed watching Michael Douglas who seemed to break the rule that every old dude in a Marvel Studios movie turns out to be bad. Oh, and how fun is Michael Pena? And how bad ass is Lilly? More of both of them please! Basically, everything came together to give me a beautiful mix of heist and hero that gets a major thumbs up from this guy.

However, all respect to director Peyton Reed who did a great job, but I still wish we would have been able to see Edgar Wright’s version of this film which we reported on all the way back in the days of Wizard and ToyFare. Yes I bet it would have been an amazing movie, but it more so bums me out that a relatively slow filmmaker like Wright spent ALL that time on a movie that just didn’t happen. He’s got such an amazing vision for what he makes that I want him to make all the movies he can and this felt like a major entanglement that resulted in a great vision for Ant-Man, but not a full-on Edgar Wright movie.

And, yes, I still remain a bit nervous about Marvel tying up too many of their films to Infinity War, but then I must remind myself that Guardians Of The Galaxy did a great job of incorporating some of that into its movie and this one basically skips over all of that. Back to what I was saying above, it feels like Ant-Man is its own thing that will get incorporated into the larger goings-on of the MCU instead of the other way around. I like that and as long as that’s the way these things go, I’ll keep enjoying them.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: The Avengers

Over the weekend, I introduced my daughter to a bunch of Avengers toys I was sent years ago as a way of hyping the toy tie-in line from Hasbro. Everything came in a super cool, locker-like box but the toys inside proved to be a lot more interesting three years later. My daughter’s just at the right age to actually play with the smaller scale figures and get a kick out of things like a Hulk mask and Iron Man repulsor ray. We’ve also got that shield-slinging Cap which is fun, but the real highlights are the 3 3/4 inch figures which have made their way with us on various outings.

Personal story aside, I forgot how crazy the rap was in these Avengers toy commercials. Wowzers.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Radio Controlled Hulk

The main reason I started doing Toy Commercial Tuesday posts was to take a little walk down memory lane, presenting many of the ads I remember drooling over as a kid and offering a few memories related to them. One of the unexpected bonuses of searching YouTube for toy commercials has been stumbling upon toys I never knew existed. This Radio Controlled Inflatable Hulk certainly fits into that latter category (mostly because it came out three years before I was born).

Watching this commercial I kept thinking, “Holy crap, this is such a great idea, why don’t they still do radio controlled punching bags?” Maybe it had something to do with needing to come up with two 9 volt batteries and four Cs. Heck, that right there probably doubled the cost of this thing. Plus, I’d imagine the inflatable part got popped pretty often by kids trying to prove they were the strongest one there is.

Book Review: The She-Hulk Diaries By Marta Acosta

she-hulk-diaries When I was a kid and had fallen hard for comics, I went all in. I was reading all the comics I could afford, watching every cartoon and comic-based show I could and reading books based on comic characters. At the time, Marvel ruled the roost when it came to most of these comic book subcategories. I might have been a hardcore DC comic book fan, but I could enjoyed all things comic related outside that specific format. I remember reading books about Spider-Man, the X-Men and even one by longtime Incredible Hulk scribe Peter David.

When I got an email asking if I’d be interested in reading a pair of new Marvel books from Hyperion aimed at female readers, I was certainly intrigued. I responded and the very nice woman I talked to asked if I could get both books read and reviewed by June 18th. I did really well with Marta Acosta’s The She-Hulk Diaries, but wound up hitting a series of roadblocks with Christine Woodward’s Rogue Touch, all of which revolved around work and family obligations, but I hope to get that review up on the site early next week.

I chose She-Hulk to read first not because I’m more familiar with the charcter, but because it was longer and I figured I’d knock out the biggest challenge first. Before reading much about the story or diving into the book I assumed it was going to be a Sex And The City type thing following Shulky’s wild adventures as a superheroine, city girl and big time lawyer. That’s not the case, though, which came as a relief to this review who has cringed every single time Carrie Bradshaw has appeared on his screen.

Instead the book is a first person autobiographical account of She-Hulk’s alter ego Jennifer Walters, the other side of the Jade Giantess who also happens to be a lawyer, but one with a lot more inhibitions. The concept behind this book is that Jennifer has decided to make Valentine’s Day resolutions as opposed to New Year’s ones in an effort to actually get them done. She’s writing about them in a diary because her PR woman at the Avengers gave it to her. So there you have it. Part of her list involves finding a job, finding a boyfriend, meeting new people and being more outgoing. As someone who deals with many of the insecurities revolving around those things, I could relate even though I am not a single woman in the city.

As Jennifer winds up getting a job she finds herself face to face with the lead singer of a band she had a wild weekend of passion with when she was in college. Now he’s a scientist engaged to a fellow attorney who happens to be awful. Her firm is representing a handsome guy scientist who claims that a company creating artificial organs did so knowing the organs would only last for a short time. Meanwhile, a few other masked and super powered people are hanging around though not ones anyone’s familiar with. That’s all part of the story which impressively features everything from superhero and lawyer elements to medical ones and even LARPing.

I really enjoyed all those elements, but being a longtime comic fan, I figure it makes sense that I comment on that part of the story. First and foremost, I have very little experience with She-Hulk. I have a vague understanding of what happened in the run of her book by Dan Slott that everyone loves and think there are some elements of that in here. I think it might be easier to jump into this book if you know almost nothing about Shulky or the Marvel Universe. As it is, I kept trying to figure out how everything fit together, which is not easy because the newest Marvel comic I’ve read is about a year old. However, I thought they did some really interesting things with the Avengers as an organization. Again, I’m not sure if these elements are in the comics right now, but the version of the group in this book is a massive organization where the superheroes are the main team, but there’s a gigantic bureaucracy working underneath dealing with everything from PR to vehicle rental. In addition, the group pays for the damage that its members do and also has all kinds of tunnels and hideouts throughout the city that its members — even ones like She-Hulk who aren’t officially part of the A-team anymore thanks to her hard partying ways — can use. I dug all that. I did not dig the big reveal at the end which seemed broadcast very early on, but it’s not like figuring the gist out in advance derails the rest of the ride.

greg-horn-she-hulk-2So, the question is whether a new person with little to no experience with She-Hulk as a character woud enjoy this book. As I mentioned above, I do think you could hand this book to a fresh reader and they can enjoy it (assuming you know the kinds of books they enjoy and this sounds somewhat in that vein). Acosta does a wonderful job explaining the more unusual elements while also keeping things fun and light for most of the story, dipping into melodrama and legit drama when it makes sense. Sure, some elements of Jennifer’s speech/writing patterns can get annoying, like her constant listing of items in a 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C format or using the word “ooky” or relaying the advice she gives to clients the exact same way every time, but I’m sure if you looked back at my diaries, they’d be similarly repetitive  People tend to fall back on routine when explaining and talking, so it fits for the format.

While I think that anyone CAN read this book, I’m not quite sure who will read it. I would assume some population of the superhero comic book audience will seek it out, but who else? This and Rogue Touch seem aimed at women, but is your average lady reader going to see these books on display and want to commit to reading them? I mean, people loved Hulk in Avengers, but She-Hulk’s main exposure to a wide audience came during a 90s animated series on UPN. My wife wondered the same thing, even suggesting that they could have more slyly introduced the superhero or comic elements instead of putting them right on front street. Not sure if that would work, but it could have been interesting. If these books do well, it could even point to more interesting ways of presenting these characters in television and film. An action packed romantic comedy featuring She-Hulk could be pretty awesome and bring in a whole new kind of audience (you know, for the 10 or 12 people who didn’t see Avengers).

Ad It Up: Taco Bell Marvel Toys

Sorry about the poor quality and small size of this ad. I took a bad photo of it and then shrunk a bunch of my files down a little too far in hopes of saving some hardrive space. Anyway, I have zero recollection of these Taco Bell kids meal toys based on mostly X-Men. You’ve got Sabertooth, Iceman, Mystique, Cyclops, Captain America and Hulk. I just realized how strange of a group this is. When I started typing the list I automatically wrote Wolverine’s name and then realized he was nowhere to be found.

I was about to write about how strange it was that I don’t remember these toys existing, but they presumably came out in either late 2001 or early 2002 (the ad is from 2001’s Defenders #10, which I reviewed over here). While I usually would have been all over any Marvel kids meal toy, especially one at my beloved Taco Bell, I was in college at this time without a car and thus very limited access to Taco Bells. Doesn’t look like I missed too much, though, does it?

The Avengers (2012) Is Awesome

I’m 29 this year. When I was a kid and falling in love with comics, I didn’t have a lot of good comic book movies to fall in love with. I didn’t really get into Batman, but wound up loving Batman Returns. The Superman movies never did it for me because they were just so far away from the Superman I knew from the comics. Heck, I remember getting excited about the Generation X and Nick Fury TV movies. Then we got Blade and X-Men and things changed. Eventually X2, Batman Begins, Dark Knight and Iron Man really made the comic book-based movie a thing to be reckoned with both in the box office and compared to other movies.

As the movies got better, I found the mediocre ones less interesting, but a little more disappointing. If you know how to do these things well, why not just keep doing them well. Is it so difficult to get someone who understands the material to make something good on a proper budget? Christopher Nolan did it, Jon Favreau did it and god damn, did Joss Whedon do it with Avengers.

My wife and I decided to head to the drive-in with some friends to see it. It kind of snuck up on my how excited I wound up being for this flick. I really like the Iron Man movies, didn’t like Ed Norton in Incredible Hulk, kinda sorta liked Thor and had a pretty good time with Captain America: The First Avenger, but the ad campaign, plus the fact that I wrote about the movie a bit for Spinoff Online got me pretty excited. Then I started hearing people I know and respect coming back raving about the movie. People were comparing it to Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Note that both of them are die hard Marvel fans and, like me, never thought they’d see a movie like this in the real world, on the big screen, done this well.

And man, this movie is done well. Whedon did an amazing job trying together the very different movies, bringing in new characters, pumping up ones we’d only seen briefly and making them all work in ways that make sense. It just makes sense that Tony Stark’s flip attitude toward everything would eventually rub Captain America the wrong way or that Thor would find the petty complaints of mortals well, petty. But, this movie is so much more than great character beats. The action is spectacular in every sense of the word. The attack on the hellicarrier? Wow. I wasn’t sure if the rest of the movie could top that, but the end battle was magnificent. Those long tracking shots that don’t cut away moving throughout the city from small battle to small battle with different characters flying in and out and wrecking shop in different ways was one of the coolest things I’ve seen. Ever.

I could go on and on. The moments with the Hulk? Amazing and hilarious. Possibly my favorite Hulk of all time. That small moment where Iron Man shoots his repulsors off of Cap’s shield or the shockwave sent out when Thor hit the shied? So awesome. Hawkeye calling the shots and using his ingenious bow and quiver? So cool. My wife poked fun at me for giggling with excitement throughout half the movie. I wasn’t sorry, I reveled in it. I really can’t remember having more fun at a movie in a long time. It was basically Expendables, but instead of starring actors I’ve known forever, this was characters.

Okay, now someone needs to get me a Justice League movie.

Ad It Up: Read She-Hulk Or She’ll Destroy Your Comics

She-Hulk is not messing around. You better read her comic or she’ll hurt you. No, she won’t beat you up, but she will rip up your X-Men comics. Not cool Shulkie, not cool at all. Scanned from 1989’s Punisher #17.

UPDATE: As a nice book end to this piece, my pal Ben of Marvel.com and The Cool Kids Table fame suggested checking out the Sensational She-Hulk #60 cover. Good call Ben!Do not mess with She-Hulk, she hates you and your comic books.