Toy Commercial Tuesday: Iron Man & X-Men

This week’s TCT is a fun little double whammy thanks to YouTuber CraigLeeThomas. As you can see it starts off with an Iron Man spot followed by an X-Men one. I found this particular video because I couldn’t remember if there were actual X-Men toy commercials back in the 90s. I figured there must have been more than that first one I wrote about a while back, especially considering the cartoon was so popular and that Toy Biz line seemed like it was around forever, but couldn’t remember any specifics.

So, we kick off with that Iron Man commercial and, while I don’t remember seeing it, I definitely had all of those toys. Those were the glorious days you could get four figures for a $20, so I added a lot to my collection especially while visiting my grandma in Cleveland. I loved the snap on armors with all the different accessories, but also how the bad guys in this line each had a cool action feature. Oh, plus, MODOK toy, right?

Then you’ve got the X-Men commercial which featured that huge, rad Sentinel toy. I didn’t have him, but I’m sure I wanted it if and when I saw it. Gotta love all those destruction points for a variety of play options. As far as the action figures go, that was definitely my first Wolverine toy and I might have gotten Rogue later on down the line, but I gravitated towards other versions of Gambit, Beast and Cyclops.

Finally, while I find the commercial’s conceit that Rogue would be so easily captured and need saving is problematic, it’s kind of adorable hearing that boy do a Southern accent.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Marvel Big Time Action Heroes

I discovered this little gem while looking for a completely different commercial and just had to post it. I vaguely remember seeing these Rock Em Sock Em Robot type Big Time Action Heroes in the 90s on toy shelves, but never really got into them. I love how 90s this commercial comes off with the pointlessly black and white town and the EVERYTHING IS AWESOME voiceover. But the best part? Wolverine would be straight up murdering Spider-Man in this fight. His claws are out! One punch to Spidey’s face and his shish kabob. That’s not even fair. Not cool Toy Biz, not cool.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: X-Men

As I’ve mentioned several times, I was a DC comics fan growing up, but also loved the Marvel cartoons, action figures and trading cards. Back in the 90s there were plenty to be had and I gobbled them up, mainly focusing on the Spider-Man and X-Men/X-Force figures (yup, there’s a whole line of X-Force toys not to mention Generation X, X-Men 2099 and the like). While I came to the X-Men line a bit later than the toys shown in this commercial, I did manage to get my paws on that Wolverine which comes with a gun that looks like a video camera.

Better yet? This wave which includes arguably the most popular X-Man of all time along with one of the original team members, two longtime villains…and Forge. That still cracks me up. I knew nothing about that character, but I still love the look, which is what wound up drawing me in as a toy collector for the better part of a decade.

Casting Internets

If you want to see what I’ve been working on lately, head on over to my author page on CBR. I talked to Paul Pope and John McLaughlin and also did another installment of my collectible column Toying Around!justin aclin's star wars comic

My pal, one time boss and all around rad dude Justin Aclin talked about writing a Star Wars OGN for Dark Horse over on his blog. As you  might expect, I’m super proud of him and super jealous at the same time.

Karen Burger leaving Vertigo is pretty huge when you think about all the amazing series’ she helped foster. Good luck to her! (via The Mary Sue)

Everyone interested in comics and comic production should read Jim Zub’s breakdown of costs and profits for such books. Then he wrote about digital comics. Eye-opening stuff.

I fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere when I first read it. I’m very excited about the BBC radioplay version that will include James McAvoy, Anthony Head, Benedict Cumberbatch and Christopher Lee! (via Hypable)phil noto 70s storm

I love Phil Noto‘s series of original art pieces that are supposed to be photos from Hank Pym’s collection. Dig this Storm he posted.

Esquire scored an interview with June Diane Raphael, the wonderfully funny co-host of one of my favorite podcasts How Did This Get Made and a  recurring player on the equally wonderful New Girl.experiencing nirvanaI’m pretty curious about Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt’s e-book about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana in Europe in 1989. $5 isn’t too steep, but is it only available on the iPad? That’s no good. (via Rolling Stone)

Billy Corgan talked to Rolling Stone about my first ever Smashing Pumpkins album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

Rolling Stone talked to Jimmy Page about his days in the Yardbirds. I’m sure I knew most of this stuff from Hammer of the Gods, but it was still a nice read.

Speaking of music, I discovered The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” by way of a cover and fell in love with it. This Guardian story about the song’s origins are pretty interesting.

Whoa, this skateboarding video posted over on One Cool Thing A Day is AMAZING. Tricks you’ve never seen before, guaranteed.

I hope you’re enjoying 25 days of Doctor Who goodness over on the BBC’s Adventure Calendar.

I’m pretty excited about Comedy Central giving shows to Nick Kroll, Amy Schumer and Anthony Jeselnik. Here’s hoping I’ll actually know when they’re on. (via THR)

Speaking of funny people, Louis CK answered the Proust Questionnaire over at Vanity Fair.

Lastly, I’m grown to really love Judd Apatow’s movies. I always liked them, but as I get a little older I can relate to the truth and honesty in them a lot more. As such, I’m very excited for This Is 40, though I have no idea when I will see it. Until then, I’m happy reading interviews about him and Leslie Mann from The Chicago Tribune.

Ad It Up: X-Men NES Game

Going as far back as I can remember, I’ve been a big fan of comic book-based video games, even before I started reading them. Unfortunately, most of them kind of sucked, including the X-Men game seen in the ad above. If memory serves, this one was a top-down game much like Zelda, a game I never got into. As such, I only rented this one a time or two. Still, that art in the main part of the ad is pretty rad, right?

Ad It Up: X-Men Inferno

I know zilch about the 1989 X-Men crossover Inferno. I think I might have attempted to read the trade when I was at Wizard, but don’t have any distinct memories of it. Anyway, when I saw this ad in the 1989 issue of Punisher #15 I had two main thoughts. The first is one my pal Sean T. Collins examines over at his Tumblr Superheroes Lose. Sean posts covers of the age old comic book trope of superheroes lying defeated on the cover to show readers just how serious of a threat the bad guys are. This ad made me wonder if that gag actually works. Maybe on inexperienced readers? Who knows.

The other thing I thought was interesting about this ad is that the bad guy is basically explaining Marvel’s publishing plan to you which I thought was really odd. Those dialog balloons are pretty awkward and clunky, aren’t they? The trouble with presenting things this way is that it makes me think that S’ym — the character I assume is supposed to be the big bad of the event — comes off as a goofball. Was he portrayed that way in the series? Where’s Brett White, can you explain this to me?

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?

Killer Comics Trade Post: Suicide Squad Trial By Fire & Uncanny X-Force The Apocalypse Solution

Suicide Squad Volume 1: Trial By Fire (DC)
Written by John Ostrander, drawn by Luke McDonnell with Bob Lewis, Karl Kesel & Dave Hunt
Collects Secret Origins #14, Suicide Squad #1-8

Sometimes I plan these Trade Post columns out really well and sometimes it just so happens that two books I’ve read within a given time have a similar theme. The latter happens to be the case with this particular one. I’ve been sitting on this first (and possibly only) volume reprinting John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell’s excellent Suicide Squad run. I had a little experience with this comic while coming up in comics and an iteration of the idea became very prominent in DC comics around Infinite Crisis and the surrounding events, but it was my pal Ben Morse who turned me on to this book specifically. He’s a big fan and has all the issues. A few years back, when we were still at Wizard he let me borrow a big stack of issues and I tore through them. Luckily, my memory is pretty crummy, so I didn’t remember everything when I sat down to read this book recently. As a nice bonus, this trade not only brings the first eight issues of the series together, but also the team’s origins that were printed in Secret Origins. I love when companies put a little extra time in to do something like that.

The idea behind this book is essentially The Dirty Dozen with superheroes and villains known from throughout the DC Universe. Amanda Waller rejuvenated an old idea with the son of a former leader in Flag who wants to prove himself and also die a little bit. These early issues feature characters like the original Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, Enchantress and the Penguin, some of whom are part of the regular team while others pop in to help out in certain cases. Their early adventures are actually pretty real world-based, even if they do still involve people with super powers. You’ve got them taking on a foreign terrorist group, the Female Furies, a white power group and vigilante and Russians.

I really like how grounded the stories felt even given the more super elements. It reminded me a lot of the Mike Grell run on Green Arrow or Dennis O’Neal’s run on The Question. This series would go on to have a healthy 66 issue run. I hope that DC decides to collect them all, including The Janus Directive a crossover that involved books like Checkmate, Captain Atom and, I believe, Firestorm. It looks like they solicited a second volume, but it has yet to come out, so it’s probably not looking good.

Uncanny X-Force Volume 1: The Apocalypse Solution (Marvel)
Written by Rick Remender, drawn by Jerome Opena with Leonardo Manco
Collects Uncanny X-Force #1-4, Wolverine: Road To Hell

Much like Suicide Squad, I was encouraged to check out Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force by Ben Morse. I recently read his first arc on Venom which, while well done, just wasn’t the kind of book I was looking for but had also really liked what he did with Punisher and the wild FrankenCastle story. From what I’ve read, Remender’s excellent at coming up with capital A awesome ideas that sometimes might not get to be as cool as you want them to be because he’s working within the Marvel Universe, which can have it’s fair share of constraints, as do all of the shared, multi-book, multiple creator ones. That’s just how those work.

So, I was curious about his X-Force and when I saw it on sale for a reasonable price from an Amazon seller I was buying a few other things from, I bit. I knew that this first story was about a new X-Force team consisting of Angel, Wolverine, Psylocke, Deadpool and Fantomex deciding whether or not to kill a resurrected Apocalypse who came back as a child. I think I wrote something about it for Marvel.com, otherwise, I probably would not know all that. And that’s basically what this book is about. I don’t know how the previous X-Force team ended and it doesn’t really matter because this is an all new direction, so none of that really matters. All you need to know is that X-Force is a team of mutants who send themselves on the dirty jobs that Cyclops and the X-Men don’t want to deal with personally, as it has been since the wonderful Messiah Complex.

And the story is as straightforward as I mentioned. Sure there’s inter-character things like Psylocke helping Angel keep his Archangel persona in check and Deadpool being, well, Deadpool, but the main thrust of the story is first finding this new Apocalypse, fighting his new Four Horsemen (or Final Horsemen as they’re called this time around) and then deciding whether or not to ice the kid. The four issues did a weird thing where they at times felt rushed and at other times stretched out, but I think the end result is a well balanced story. I have questions about some of the technical stuff, but I’m guess that’s because I don’t know much about the X-Men and even less about Apocalypse.

Overall I did like this comic, it was a fun, interesting read that got me interested in Fantomex, a character who is so weird, he clearly came form the brain of Grant Morrison. An external neural system that can also turn into a spaceship connected to a guy genetically created to murder but instead pulls of elaborate capers and based his life on a French novel character? Yeah, that’s Morrison. I will also say that SPOILER I was really surprised with how they ended this arc. Seeing as how Apocalypse was a kid, I really did not expect them to kill him. As they were discussing the possibility of taking him with them and training him to be good, I was excited to see where that would go and then, literally, bam. It’s over. And that’s essentially where this trade ends too. I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to purchase the next volume, but I will definitely keep my eyes peeled on Swap to see if anyone’s got an extra.

X Marks The Spot: X-Men First Class (2011)

Like a lot of folks–especially comic fans of the 90s and 00s–I loved the first two X-Men flicks, but got soured by both the negative reactions to X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine as well as the films themselves. Bryan Singer’s X-Men and X2 were revelatory in that they not only took one of the most continuity heavy and confusing groups of characters in all of comics and made them so easy my parents could understand, but also made really great, fun, dynamic and seri0us-when-they-needed-to-be flicks that everyone could enjoy. Those other movies? Not so much. (I remember very little about Last Stand, to be honest and only bits and pieces of Wolverine which I just watched in the past year.)

So, like a lot of folks, I was wary about First Class when I heard about it. Did I need or want another X-Men movie? The original plan was to completely focus on Magneto just like they did with Wolverine, but in moving away from that they did something that only Captain America has done in the world of comic book movies: set the characters in the time period their comic book counterparts were created (or facsimiles of them in the case of X-Men). Not only do I just generally appreciate the early 60s as a time period, but it’s fun to see the world the ever more up-to-date comic book characters set back in a different era. Plus, 1962 means some of the best, sexiest fashion for women, so who’s going to complain about that?

So, as you probably know, First Class follows the exploits of a young Charles Xavier and his growing friendship with Magneto. In the process of meeting and joining forces to take on the looming threat of Sebastian Shaw, they not only develop a strong friendship with one another, but also track down other mutants and form a team consisting of Beast, Angel (a girl with butterfly wings who spits fire, not Warren Worthington III), Mystique, Darwin, Havok and Banshee along with CIA agent Moira MacTaggert. It’s an odd grouping for sure, especially if you’re familiar with the comics. I have a very basic knowledge of the X-Men that comes from just knowing and reading about comics for so many years, a few brief stints as a regular reader, conversations with friends and absorption of most of the video games, cartoons and movies based on the franchise. Even still, I had some trouble reconciling who the characters in the film were and how the differed from the ones in the comics.

But, you know what? None of that matters. The few thousand people who read comics really don’t stack up to the overall movie-going audience. My wife, who has seen the movies and read some if not all of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men knew the basics and had a few questions, some of which I couldn’t answer. Who is Sebastian Shaw? No idea, but in this world, he’s a very evil man with energy powers. Nuff said.

So, the good guys and bad guys eventually come together and, if you’ve seen the first two movies–they ignored Last Stand and Wolverine when writing this one–wind up where they need to. SPOILERS. Magneto gets his helmet, Charles gets crippled and Mystique switches sides. It’s, overall, a satisfying flick with mostly-good special effects (some of them looked like CGI versions of poorly put together models being tossed about, but I’m fairly certain the budget for this movie was not very high, nor was there a big push behind it until it became a hit).

Yes, I liked the film. Very much, but I have a few lingering SPOILERY problems that you shouldn’t read unless you want major chunks of the movie ruined. You’ve been warned. My biggest problem about a small thing is that Darwin died. His power is to literally adapt to anything that can kill him and he died. That makes no sense. He should have absorbed Shaw’s energy ball and been messed up, but wound up okay because THAT’S HIS POWER! Heck, they could have killed off that dopey Angel character and had Darwin go bad, that would have been interesting. I’m also not sure why Xavier let Magneto kill Shaw. If you remember, Magneto trashed the room and removed the helmet so Professor X could freeze Shaw’s mind. While frozen he apparently can’t use his power, which is, fine and Magneto gets free. He then awesomely kills Shaw with a coin through the brain all the while Charles is screaming back on the plane. But, if he was so upset, why didn’t Charles unfreeze Shaw? He couldn’t change Magneto because he had that goofy helmet on–which Michael Fassbender pulled it off much better than Kevin Bacon did–but Shaw’s death is basically on Professor X’s hands for allowing it to happen. He could have at least tried to save him, you know? I’m also not sure I can reconcile all the timing with the film. It’s okay for the most part (Wolerine and Mystique are explained, the other main characters haven’t shown up again for the most part), but how is it possible that Prof X saw Storm and Cyclops when using Cerebro? This film is set in 1962 with X-Men presumably taking place in 2000, the year it debuted. So, that means there’s 38 years between the events in both films. Are we supposed to believe that Scott and Ororo are in their 40s in that film? James Marsden was 27 at the time the film came out and Halle Berry was 34. It just doesn’t add up.

There were a few other things that bugged me, but I can’t quite remember them at this point, so I guess they couldn’t have been too bad. At the end of the day, the good far outweighs the bad. Seeing Magneto running around and using his powers as basically an assassin is amazing. I love when superheroes or villains ditch the costumes and use their abilities like this. Ed Brubaker did an interesting bit of this when he wrote Daredevil and sent him to Europe. They also killed it with that Wolverine cameo which had me rolling. For some reason I thought it was hard to see, but that’s definitely not the case. Like I said, the good was better than the bad and maybe some of my problems can be explained away, they’re just questions I had after watching. I’m still left feeling like I had a great time watching a mostly well thought out and executed flick with really interesting actors doing cool things with superpowers, so I’ll chock that up as a win.

Just Finished Wolverine And The X-Men (2009)

I actually feel bad writing about Wolverine And The X-Men before talking about the second and third seasons of Beast Wars, but seeing as how the Marvel toon is fresher in my mind, I’m going to roll with it. I have a long history with animated versions of the X-Men. I remember seeing Pryde Of The X-Men when I was a kid on VHS at a friend’s house, I was a huge fan of the arcade game (technically animated, I guess) and was all over the 90s cartoon when it was on. That also lead to me buying a ton of the 5-inch Toy Biz X-Men and X-Force action figures. I have a two-stack printing paper box packed to the gills with them back home. I think the X-Men work best in this kind of “let’s pull from the comics, but not be glued to continuity” way. I’ve said this before, but most long-running mainstream comic books tend to be huge sandboxes littered with toys that other kids have created their own adventures with. You can go in and pick out the toys you like, maybe borrow a few of the elements that the other kids created, but then go off on your own.

What I liked most about WATX is that the whole 26 episode season felt like a great example of long-form storytelling. Plus, even though it borrowed some of the larger story elements from the comics–even ones that were already done in the 90s cartoon–the overall story felt fresh. Speaking of the story, in the very beginning of the series, Professor X got zapped and is unconscious. This lead to the break-up of the team, but Wolverine needs to put them back together. He also happens to be communicating with Professor X who has woken up in a very “Days Of Future Past”-esque future (but one populated with latter day mutants like Hellion and Marrow). This storytelling device really broadens the story because you’ve got Wolverine not only trying to put the team back together but also trying to prevent whatever leads to the devastation in the future. At the same time, though less frequently shown, the Professor fights in the future to figure out what happened so he can tell Wolverine.

But, don’t be scared away by the show’s long-form storytelling. Most of the episodes work very well on their own and even hint at other future stories they might have gotten to had there been a second season. I actually wish that this was my very first exposure to the X-Men because it would be pretty amazing. Sure, a few things were changed or simplified, but overall I think it’s a great dose of X without getting too complicated. On the other hand, there are so many cameos from comic-based characters that even I had trouble keeping up. To be fair, though, I’m not exactly an expert by any means, but having read a few X-books in my time, watched the movies, seen the cartoons, collected the trading cards and just been around comics for almost two decades, you absorb a lot.

So, yes, I absolutely recommend watching Wolverine And The X-Men. It’s on Netflix Instant, so it’s easy to track down. The only downside? It’s only one season! The story completes pretty well, but then they do an Age of Apocalypse tease at the very, very end that made me really sad that I’d never see those episodes. That’s one of my all-time favorite alternate reality stories ever!