Black Series

#705: Extra Hands

GETTING MORE TALE #705 Extra Hands

Today we discuss perhaps the most controversial subject ever broached on mikeladano.com.  In the past we have fearlessly tackled bands without original members, whiny fanboys, the far right, and the plight of natives.  Now we go where no one has dared.

Readers here may think that my sister Dr. Kathryn and I have lots in common.  We both love music, schnauzers, and Star Wars.  That’s everything, right?  You’d certainly think so.  We disagree more often than we agree.

Some spans are simply too far to bridge.  This is one of them.

Here is the controversy.  Don’t judge until you’ve heard us out.

My sister and I disagree, strongly, when action figures come packaged with extra hands.

Say what?  I’ll explain.

This issue first arose in 2012 when the Star Wars 6″ Black Series was launched.  This was a series aimed at collectors, packaged to display.  Many increased in value quickly.  Each character was numbered.  The larger size (standard Star Wars figures were 3 1/4″) enabled more detail, better facial sculpting and way more articulation.  Some of these figures look like the actual actors for the first time.  Though quite a few are less than perfect (#03 Luke Skywalker has weirdly bright blue eyes) they were, by and large, exactly what nostalgic fans wanted.  Eventually just about every major character was released (though we are still missing a Padme) with lots of the minor ones too (bounty hunters, Jabba’s minions).  Fans were peeved that it took until now to get an original Lando Calrissian figure, while we already had such dubious characters as “Constable Zuvio”, plus about a dozen Rey variations!  From Star Wars ’77 to Solo, most of your favourites are now available in the Black Series line.

The figure that sparked the controversy is #08, the excellent Han Solo in his 1977 getup:  Black vest, white shirt, cool holster and blaster!  The Black Series also occasionally threw in some bonus accessories.  #08 Han has some of the best.  He comes with his regular gun and holster, plus a Stormtrooper’s gun and belt so you can duplicate the look he had when he was running around the Death Star after escaping the trash compactor.  He also comes with an extra set of gloved hands, so you can have Han as he looked when he was fleeing TIE Fighters aboard the Millenium Falcon.  The hands snap in and out easily with no fear of breakage, still maintaining full wrist articulation.  One of the gloved hands has fingers outstretched, as if Han were hitting buttons on the Falcon’s dashboard.

So what’s the problem?

My sister likes to keep her figures sealed.  She displays them around her desk in her music room at home.  I, on the other hand, put my sealed figures in storage, and sometimes buy a second one to open up and display.  #08 Han is one such figure that I opened.  (My sealed one is in a Cantina two-pack with Greedo!)

I’ve displayed Han in all sorts of ways:  With and without vest, with and without Stormtrooper gear, and sometimes with the gloved hands.  Meanwhile my sister’s boxed figure gets quizzical looks when she has friends over.

“Why does Han have two dismembered hands in the box?”

My sister finds the hands to be an eyesore she’d rather do without.  For me, they are just another display option.  I’ll bag up whatever accessories Han isn’t using right now.  (Currently, my #08 Han is put away, while I have “Old Han” from The Force Awakens on display with Chewie.)

To me, a bigger offender is actually R2-D2.  R2 is loaded with accessories (which is good since he’s half the size of a regular figure but still the same price).  R2 is packed with a sensor scope, an antenna, and a Luke lightsaber that he packs in his dome.  There are also blue dome covers for when you want R2 all closed up looking normal.  But he also comes with jetpacks for his legs.  Many fans consider the “flying R2” scenes to be among the worst in the prequel trilogy.  I’d rather pretend it never happened.

“Those are stupid too,” says my sister of the leg rockets.

Han isn’t the only figure in the series with alternate body parts.  Qui-Gon Jinn has a bonus hand doing a Force movement.  Anakin Skywalker came with two heads so you can do him with two looks:  mopey or angry.  My sister considers all of these to be very poor display pieces.

I guess we will never agree on this issue.  I think the extra hands are a bonus.  If her friends can’t figure out that sometimes action figures come with alternate parts, then maybe she needs new friends.

 

 

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#701: Amazon You Bastards

A big shout out to Derek Deke for bein’ around.

GETTING MORE TALE #701: Amazon You Bastards

This is the story of how 18 cents cost me $21.63.

I’m always on the lookout for cheap Star Wars figures.  I collect the 6″Black Series exclusively.  I keep my core collection sealed, but any time I can buy a double for cheap, I go for it.  May as well have an open one for play display.

The other night I was bored and browsing Amazon, as you do.  I noticed they had a couple Black Series figs for under $20 — usually a guaranteed threshold for buying a double.  I picked up Lando (Billy Dee Williams version) for $12.46 for my sister last week.   This week I noticed Liam Neeson, err, Qui-Gon Jinn, for $12.08.  After consulting my sister I decided to pull the trigger.  Qui-Gon isn’t the best character and for a Jedi he is pretty bland, but I like the little toy lightsabers.  He also comes with an extra hand that you can swap out to give him a Force-push kind of pose.

(I like the ability to easily swap out hands.  Dr. Kathryn does not.  Look for a future story on this called “Extra Hands”.)

“Go for it!” advised Dr. Kathryn and so I looked for something else to qualify for free shipping.  I went to my wishlist and remembered Tommy Shaw’s Girls With Guns album.  I’ve loved the title track for eons, but the CD was always somewhat rare.  In fact it ended up on a very primitive version of the old Holy Grail list.  It turns out that the quality label Beat Goes On Records has done a reissue along with the album What If in a single package.  I recently picked up BGO’s reissue of Styx’s Caught In The Act – Live and I was very happy with the audio and packaging.  I added Girls With Guns / What If to my cart at the price of $22.74, a solid buy.

Total:  $34.82.  A measly 18 cents short of free shipping.

Well, fuck!

There was only one copy of Tommy Shaw left in stock.  I wanted to keep it in the cart.  Only one thing to do.  Add another item to the cart to get free shipping.

I browsed and browsed a bit more.  Lots of Black Series figures under $20 (mostly from Rogue One), but I had doubles already.  There were a few just over $20 and ultimately I decided to buy a second Imperial Range Trooper at $21.63, far exceeding the cost of the original Qui-Gon figure that set me off on this particular shopping quest.  And here’s the kicker!  At first I decided I didn’t want to get any figures from Solo.  There are so many Black Series characters now that I had to draw a line somewhere.  But I broke when some of the new figures turned out so good, and Range Trooper is one of them.  He’ll be joining the rest of my opened Imperial troopers soon.

But:  Fuck you, Amazon!  I bet you have banks of computers spitting out algorithms to keep me just under the $35 minimum for free shipping!  Weird prices like $12.08…you think you’re getting a deal but then you buy three fuckin’ things!

I’m on to you, Amazon….

VIDEO: Star Wars Black Series random unboxings

Guest directed by: Kathryn Ladano

Gallery: First New Arrivals at LeBrain HQ for the of Summer 2017

We have had a solid rain in Kitchener, Ontario. Not only are the banks of the Grand swollen to the limit, but there has also been a steady rainfall of new arrivals at LeBrain HQ! Summer has officially arrived, and what is summer without new rock?

First we have some gratuity for Mr. Geoff “1001” Stephen. Some surprise mail arrived from him this week: two 7″ singles and some Leafs memorabilia. As Mrs. LeBrain said, “Thank you Geoff Stephen for the wonderful surprise this morning. The calendar brought back so many memories of my favourite hockey year. Go Leafs Go!”

For myself, a Kiss “Christine Sixteen”/”Shock Me” single, which alas is too late to fit into my Love Gun re-review!  Those two songs make it virtually a double A-side.  The other single he sent has a similar standing:  Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town”/”Jailbreak”.  Two singles, four amazing cuts of rock history.

On the same day, I received this from a Discogs seller in Japan:  a CD that has been on my wishlist a long time.  Despite the long wait, I managed to hold off from buying the domestic edition of Ghost’s debut Opus Eponymous all this time.  A sealed copy finally came up on Discogs within my buying threshold, so I jumped at it.  For my rewards, I got “Here Comes the Sun”, Ghost’s Beatles cover…and a very different one it is.

We will jump briefly to new arrivals in the toy department.  Thanks to J. at Resurrection Songs we recently covered the ins and outs of Third Party products.  Behold!  Badcube has released their take on Masterpiece Transformer Insecticons.  These are heavy, heavy toys with lots of diecast and G1 accurate insect modes, with robot modes an homage to the cartoon.  Check them out with their leader Megatron (third party Apollyon) and their original 1985 toys below.  These, by the way, are deluxe collector’s editions with clear plastic and chromed parts for added value.  I’d love to compare them to an official Hasbro Masterpiece Insecticon, but such a thing does not exist.  That’s why third party companies have a niche.  Labels by Toyhax.

Apollyon by X-Transbots with Evil Bug Corps by Badcube

Badcube Claymore and Transformers G1 Shrapnel

Badcube Hypno and Transformers G1 Bombshell

Badcube Kickbutt and Transformers G1 Kickback

Last new entry in the toy Department: I found some new Star Wars Black Series 6″ releases kicking around at the local Toys R Us on Sunday.  I should have grabbed more of the Imperial AT-ACT driver, that one being a Target/TRU exclusive, but sometimes you find those to still be warming the pegs a few weeks later.  The Imperial Death Squad commander will look great with my Stormtroopers, but I feel to ask $30 for one little tiny Jawa figure is a bit much.  They should have included two Jawas or a droid in there for that price.

 

The same day as the Toys R Us trip, I also dropped in at the newly re-opened Sunrise Records at Fairview Mall, which is really starting to come along with great customer service and an improving selection.  I couldn’t browse long, so I leaped immediately to the metal section and grabbed two CDs that I was missing by The Sword:  Low Country (2016) and the new live album Greetings From… (2017).   I am slowly getting caught up on that band — loving everything I have heard so far.

A wonderful week to be sure, but it’s time to stop buying music and toys for a short while, and get ready for Sausagefest 2017.  I finished recording my parts yesterday, and I have inside information that suggests that this Sausagefest countdown will be pretty awesome.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Gallery: “Holy sh*t, jackpot” #3: C-3P0 Gold Arm edition

Action figures are like CDs. You can go and buy the “standard edition” at Walmart, or what have you. But if you want all the extra goodies, sometimes you have to hunt a little more and buy a few extra versions.

Toys such as my beloved Star Wars Black Series 6″ series have plenty of exclusives, some that I have and some that I want. The most elusive are the San Diego Comic-Con toys. Some exclusives: Jabba the Hut came with a cardboard throne and accessories. Their Boba Fett came with Han Solo in carbonite. But they are mucho pricey. Elsewhere down the money scale are toys that are exclusive to certain stores and online outlets.

Walgreens is a store that doesn’t exist in Canada and often gets exclusive Star Wars figures. Their most well known is the “prototype” all-white Boba Fett based on an original 1978 Ralph McQuarrie concept sketch. Their current Star Wars treasure is a C-3P0 variation with two gold arms and one silver leg.

The “standard” version of Threepio has the red arm seen in The Force Awakens. This “Resistance Base” Threepio is the common one. Since C-3P0 doesn’t come with any accessories (not even a restraining bolt or com-link), fans hoped he would come with alternate limbs, so you could recreate his look in Episode IV. Hasbro had a different plan. Instead they made the different limbed robots exclusives to Walgreens. I have been looking for one.  (There is also a version with a darker red arm, but it doesn’t look as good as these.)

Our neighbors went to Toronto Comic-Con yesterday and found the Walgreens silver leg Threepio for me. It was only $40 — a lot cheaper than ordering one online. Thanks guys!!

#536: Obligatory Christmas Post 2016

This Christmas has been tinged with sadness.  Rick Parfitt, George Michael…and a man you haven’t heard of named Peter Cavan Sr.  I grew up with his son Peter Cavan Jr.  Pete was the best man at my wedding, and his dad Peter Sr. always treated me well.  The Cavans made me feel like part of the family.  In my first year of university, I decided to stay home from the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend, so I could study for my first exam undistracted.  Alone that Thanksgiving, Pete’s family had me over for dinner.  I’ll never forget their kindness.  I always enjoyed Peter Sr.’s stories, of growing up in Germany during the Second World War.  Those are tales you don’t hear every day.  And he was funny.  Peter Sr. was truly funny.  Whether intentionally or not, I knew his stories entertained us for many hours over the years.  I received the sad message on Christmas morning that Peter Sr. passed after a short battle with cancer, peacefully at home that morning.

So it is with profound sadness that I give you this year’s annual post-Christmas commentary.  My entire family knows and loves the Cavans, and we hope Pete and Joanne know we are there for them.


As it does every year, Christmas began early for me, at our office Christmas luncheon on November 25.  Just look at that food.  When you like the people you work with, an office Christmas party is a very rare and special chance to unwind with them.

My sister hosted Christmas Eve at her new place.  What a spread she put out!  Cheesey good appetizers, steak fondue, cheese fondue (the surprise winner), and chocolate fondue to boot.  The guests had a spirited debate on the merits of CD versus vinyl, with myself being the only holdout who still prefers CD.  (I know I’m not alone, just ask rock journalist Mitch Lafon which format he prefers.)  My sister did a great job of decorating her tree.  Have a gander.

And now, on to the good stuff.  Broken down into categories, let’s give’r!

Stuff You Listen To:

I have only played the Rik Emmett so far, given to me by Mrs. LeBrain who met Rik back in highschool as part of her guitar class.  Pretty cool!  It features a Triumph reunion on the bonus track, “Grand Parade”.  The Queen set is six discs of radio recordings.  The Rush set I am both grateful for and bitter about.  This is the third time I’ve received Rush 2112 as a gift in the last five years!  First as part of the Sector 1 box set, then the “deluxe edition“, and now this 40th anniversary edition which has some tracks not included on the deluxe (and a slew of artists covering Rush including Jacob Moon, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters).  However, the 40th anniversary edition doesn’t include the 5.1 surround mix of the album, meaning…you kinda need both.  It’s sad that Rush reissues have become so exploitive.

The Keel reissue of The Right to Rock has a bonus track, a remix of “Easier Said Than Done”.  And this is my first time owning any version of Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was.

Stuff You Read:

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Stuff You Play With:

The Force Is With This Stuff:

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Stuff You Watch:

The Sopranos set I orchestrated myself.  Sometimes-contributor Thussy and I both always said:  “If the blu-ray set drops below $100, we’ll buy it.”  A few weeks ago he texted me that Amazon has it on for 24 hours only at just $80!  So this Christmas holiday, we will be enjoying some Sopranos and Italian food.

Stuff That Transforms From Stuff Into Robots:

Pictured below are the official Transformers Titans Return Astrotrain figure and a couple very interesting third party figs.  These are Masterpiece scale and heavy as fuck with plenty of die-cast parts.  Please meet Generation 1 Decepticon Reflector, incarnated here as KFC’s Eavi Metal series “Opticlones”.  Representing the Autobots is Dinobot Snarl, produced by the excellent Fans Toys in their Iron Dibots line as “Sever”.  I long ran out of room for more Masterpiece figures (especially Dinobots)…but who cares.

And finally…

Stuff That Flies:

I always wanted to try flying a drone.  My mom and dad surprised me with this starter drone, and is it ever a lot of fun.  I can almost get it to hover!  Getting it to fly in the direction I want is still a challenge.  So far there are no serious injuries.  Jen has a couple bruises.  I think my mistake was calling her into the room when I got it into the air, rather than when I figured out how the controls worked.  That was a lesson there.

 

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That’s another Christmas for the books!  I hope each and every one of you had a safe and happy holiday.  As I think of my friends the Cavan family, I ask you to remember that life is short.  Tell the people who matter that you love them.  Let’s try and make the world a better place in 2017.

LeBrain

ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story trailer “Trust”

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

Rogue One will be out in 19 days.  Get ready.

Gallery: “Holy sh*t, jackpot” #2!

A followup to Getting More Tale #477: “Holy sh*t, jackpot, holy sh*t, jackpot…”

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The crappy Walmart at Stanley Park Mall continues to yield treasure to those looking for it.

My weekend was already filled with some golden toy scores.  I picked up the Transformers Titans Return Galvatron figure at Toys R Us yesterday, and the Star Wars Black Series 6″ droid collection too.  These were small triumphs, but the real treasure awaited me today at Walmart.  On clearance!

HELLO NASTYI’m trying to get at least one of every character in the Star Wars Black Series 6″ figures.  As of today, I’ve done it.  The last one dropped into my arms.  Two weeks ago at that Walmart, it was General Hux.  Today it was the ever elusive Resistance pilot Ello Asty!  I’d never even seen one before.  I was so excited that I fumbled and dropped the box!  Small dent in the bottom left corner is my price, but since the toy was $19.99 on clearance, I’ll suck it up.

I also found a few more Titans Returns figures today to go with Galvatron, but there is no question that Ello Asty is my real jackpot today.  Since Ello Asty’s name was inspired by the Beastie Boys (Hello Nasty, get it?) we’ll leave you with some “Intergalactic” to get back to the subject of music.

Well now don’t you tell me to smile,
You stick around I’ll make it worth your while,
Got numbers beyond what you can dial,
Maybe it’s because I’m so versatile.

 

#477: “Holy sh*t, jackpot, holy sh*t, jackpot…”

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GETTING MORE TALE #477:  “Holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot…”

Collectors know the feeling.  You walk into a store, and saunter over to a favourite section.  Upon spying a gold mine of things you had been looking for, the euphoric feeling hits you just a shot of adrenaline straight in the heart.

“Holy shit! Jackpot…”

Whether you collect music, movies, books, toys, hockey cards or Kiss stuff (they being a whole category of their own), we have all experienced the feelings.  Finding a mother lode of treasures can be such a ride of emotions!  The excitement when you see it all.  The dread when you feel your thin wallet.  The pain of picking out the things you can afford.  The second-guessing and flip-flopping over what to actually get.  The sorrow of having to choose something to leave behind.

This has been happening to me for decades.  Having broad tastes and interests plus a healthy case of OCD will do that to you.  Over 20 years ago, my love for my childhood favourites the Transformers was re-ignited by such a jackpot.  While browsing junk at a church garage sale with my buddy Peter, I ran into a large pile of Marvel Transformers comics.  Most of these were from near the end of the series (issues #50-80), and long after I stopped collecting Transformers.  I couldn’t just leave them there!  Who knows where they would wind up then?  I had to rescue them.

At 50 cents each, this hardly broke the bank, but all the same feelings arose:  The excitement upon spying these comics, the picking out of the ones I needed, the angst of leaving some behind (even though I didn’t really need them).  And it kick-started a stunted adulthood that quickly reverted back to youth, a place I’m still stuck today.

IMG_20160319_105213Today, whenever I spot a stack of Japanese imports at a store (as I did last month as Vertigo Records in Ottawa), the adrenaline hits.

If I spy a pile of 90’s Metallica singles, the same thing happens.

A collection of rare 80’s Canadian metal records?  Same thing again.

But I still collect toys and comics too, and this same experience just happened to me at a local Walmart store.

The Star Wars Black Series 6” action figures have been hard to find.  There are always “shelf warmer” characters that nobody wants, and in 2015 that was poor Finn.  Other figures have been impossible to spot at retail.  Whenever a shipment arrives, people snap them all up and often end up re-selling them on eBay for more than double what they’re worth.  It’s not cool but that’s what happens.  I’m sure the store staff know all the eBayers  by heart, because they the know when the shipments arrive and are there when the store opens.

Cases are also “short-packed”, meaning a box of eight figures might have three Finns, but only one Kylo Ren.

A couple weeks ago, I was at a small Walmart store at Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener.  Interestingly enough, this is the same mall at which the very first Record Store in the chain that I worked opened.  My dad worked at that mall (at a bank), and I worked there twice (at a grocery store and finally at the Record Store).  It’s a pretty shitty mall and the shittiest Walmart around, but sometimes you can find real treasures at the out-of-the-way ones.

Even though this is a sucky Walmart, I still found a Star Wars 6” New Order Flametrooper there a few weeks earlier, so I knew that figures could be had there.  What I did not expect this time were FOUR more figures I needed, and some of the hardest to get:  “Old” Han (the most popular), Captain Phasma (very hard to find), Jango Fett with removable helmet and jetpack, and Finn in Stormtrooper gear!  Most of these are going for stupid money online, so to find them in store was quite an exciting surprise.

I frantically sifted through the row of figures, animatedly pulling out all the ones I needed, and singing out loud “Holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot…

That’s when I noticed the stock guy staring at me.  I spied several boxes of figures that he was unloading and opening.  Did he figure me to be one of the eBayers?  Maybe, maybe not, but I then saw two more employees stocking the toy shelves, giving me glances.  I’m sure they all heard my “Holy shit, jackpot” song and dance.   I smiled and ran away.

That haul cost me $100, but it was worth it!  And I still love the rush of discovery.

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VIDEOS: Force Friday unboxings! (Star Wars Black Series 6″ figures)

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Force Friday came and went without a hitch (for me). It was only the unboxing videos that caused me problems!

I understand quite a few people came away disappointed.  I did not.  I was hunting for only one type of Star Wars toy: The Black Series 6″ figures, which readers here know I collect almost religiously. I’ve posted lots of pictures of the opened portion of my collection. They can be found here, here, here, and here. They are just awesome figures that we would have died to have back in the 70’s.

The first wave of 6″ figures from The Force Awakens consists of:

01 – Finn
02 – Rey & BB-8
03 – Kylo Ren
04 – First Order Stormtrooper
05 – Chewbacca

Going in with a game plan, I decided to skip Chewie.  (Iron Maiden’s newest was also released on Force Friday, cutting into the budget.)  A re-sculpt of an older figure I already have wasn’t a priority, and I don’t like his new face. I also aimed to get two each of Rey, Kylo and Stormie, because I wanted one of each of those to open and play with!  (The next wave looks to include Captain Phasma and General Hux.  We’re also expecting a Tattooine Luke, and a Kanan from Star Wars Rebels.  Count me in for those.  But where is Threepio?)

Unboxing #1: Kylo Ren

Unboxing #2: First Order Stormtrooper (technical difficulties!)

Unboxing #3: Rey & BB-8