LEGO Dimensions and the power of scale

I was one of those kids whose action figures always wound up in the same adventure. Some kids would never let He-Man encounter G.I. Joe or the TransFormers to clash with the Go-Bots. I, on the other hand, constructed a massive battle consisting of every toy I owned that took place over the span of about four years. In fact, it’s entirely possible that there are still some minor skirmishes taking place in secluded corners of my parents’ garage. But being the nerd that I am, it always bothered me that the figures weren’t in scale with one another. I had to come up with ridiculous excuses for why Lion-O and the Thundercats were so much bigger than Luke Skywalker, or why Duke couldn’t climb aboard Optimus Prime and ride him into battle as God so clearly intended.

I’m a weird kind of nerd. I love mixing things together. It’s why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so awesome to me, why I actually bought Archie Meets the Punisher when it came out, and why I have far-too-clear memories of that episode of Full House that guest-starred Urkel. I believe firmly that there’s a place for virtually everything in the realms of imagination, and that they can all coexist. And popular fiction bears it out — there’s no reason a horror-rooted character like Swamp Thing can’t encounter the high science fiction of Green Lantern or the fantasy world of Amethyst, and one of the things that makes Doctor Who such a long-lasting property is how quickly it can shift from a comedy to a thriller to a war movie, sometimes in the course of a single episode.

Funkos

There are eleven more in the house that aren’t in this picture. There are millions more that must be mine.

That’s why I like toy lines with a uniform scale that bring in characters from different worlds — Mini-Mates, Pop Vinyl, and ReAction figures among them. Looking at the shelves in my home right now I see versions of Superman, Harley Quinn, Mickey Mouse, the Incredibles, Yoda, the Avengers, Howard the Duck, Ender Wiggin, and Sam from Trick ‘R Treat, and they all match. In truth, it’s only due in small part to common sense and large part to my wife that I haven’t bought mountains of these things and filled every available space in the house.

And when it comes to toy lines that allow you to mix and match characters from all over the landscape in scale, nothing can beat LEGO.

I limit myself from getting TOO MANY, not from getting any at all.

I limit myself from getting TOO MANY, not from getting any at all.

Now let’s be clear — LEGO was already pretty awesome to begin with. But when they began licensing official Star Wars playsets in 1999, they launched themselves into the stratosphere. Their licensees grew over the years, and now it is entirely possible to have Harry Potter and Gandalf on the Millenium Falcon, Superman and Captain America teaming up with the Ninja Turtles to save the Simpsons from an attack of the Indominous Rex, and a fender-bender between Doc Brown’s DeLorean and the Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1. Like the Pop Vinyls, I have to limit myself from buying more and more of these things every time I go to the store.

Oddly, as much as I’ve always loved toys, I’ve never been much of a video game guy. I’m at exactly the right age to be a veteran of the Nintendo Wars, but I haven’t had a console since the Sega Genesis my parents gave my brother, sister and me when I was in middle school. And while there have been games that cropped up from time to time that interested me (including several LEGO games) I’ve found that any time I get a game I play it for a few days, maybe a few weeks, and then I drift away from it as other things command my attention.

The first game that’s actually tempted me to get a console in years is Disney Infinity. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it, but just in case, here’s the appeal: Disney releases a game that requires you to buy different figurines. Each figurine allows you to unlock different levels and in-game items specific to that character. If I’d given in to the first wave, it would have been entirely possible to have Mike and Sully or Anna and Elsa meet up with Sorcerer Mickey or Phineas and Ferb. (Disney also made a major push for The Lone Ranger in this first wave, which no doubt they quickly grew to regret. But I digress.)

Despite the obvious appeal to a nerd like me, I held off. It got harder when Disney Infinity 2.0 came out and added the Marvel characters. It will get harder still when this fall’s Disney Infinity 3.0 throws Star Wars into the mix. If Disney Infinity 4.0 finally gives us the Muppets, I may just break.

That is, if LEGO Dimensions doesn’t break me first.

By now, I assume you’ve all seen the latest trailer. If not, allow me to share it with you:

Yep. LEGO is doing their own figure-based video game, which will allow us to merge the worlds of Doctor Who, Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, The LEGO Movie, The Simpsons and DC Comics. Other properties that have been announced but not seen in the trailer include Portal, The Wizard of Oz, Jurassic World, Scooby-Doo and Ghostbusters. As far as their big licenses go, the only ones missing are Marvel and Star Wars, and that’s pretty much because they’re already tied up in the too-similar Disney Infinity.

What’s more, the figures for this game will include actual LEGO Minifigs, as well as mini-builds for vehicles and locations, like the Delorean or the TARDIS. This game is combining pretty much everything I love.
And yet… still… $400 to buy a console for just one game?

Even if it’s really a lot of games?

I must resist. I must.

If I can handle this, I can beat anything.

Episode 315: All-New All-Different Marvel

Last week, Marvel released their new slate of titles to follow Secret Wars. This week, Blake and Erin peruse the previews and talk about which ones look like they’ll be worth reading and which ones they’re probably going to pass on. And they also discuss the most important question: just how “all-new, all-different” does it really look like Marvel is getting?

And what’s cool this week? Blake is enjoying Bizarro #2 and Will Eisner’s The Spirit #1!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 315: All-New All-Different Marvel

Cutting out their genes to spite their face

As I mentioned on the podcast a while back, I recently spent some time in the hospital. Without getting into all that again, I will say that the one benefit of the experience was that I lost a great deal of weight very quickly — so much so that I needed to go out and buy new clothes because a lot of my old stuff was suddenly way too big. (My wife, Erin, particularly enjoyed this part, and she picked out about 90 percent of my new wardrobe.) And, being the nerd that I am, I added a few geek shirts in my new, smaller size.

I was surprised, then, a few days ago, when I saw that one of the shirts I’d purchased has become a point of contention over at Bleeding Cool. It concerned a shirt featuring the cover art from the original Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1 (yeah, that was the full title of the original series). It was part of a large purchase of shirts and pants, and I didn’t really look that closely at it until I saw the Bleeding Cool piece… then the issue with the shirt became clear.

Left: The Shirt. Right: The Comic.

Left: The Shirt. Right: The Comic.

You’ve probably already seen what I missed when I bought the shirt — the artwork has been altered. Specifically all of the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters were stripped from the image and replaced with other characters. There’s been a lot made lately about Marvel allegedly pulling back on promoting characters from those two franchises as part of a pretty bitter dispute with 20th Century Fox, who owns the movie rights (and unlike Sony, who holds Spider-Man, Marvel’s relationship with Fox appears to be pretty cold). There has been an undeniable drop in merchandise featuring these characters, a drop that is especially noticeable among the once-golden X-Men franchise, and Marvel even made a huge deal about cancelling the Fantastic Four comic in what they solicited as “the most controversial Fantastic Four story of all time”! (It wasn’t. It was actually a very good story, courtesy of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk, but there wasn’t anything remotely controversial — or even final — about it.)

But this seems a bit too far, I thought. This isn’t simply a case of not including the X-Men in their newest action figure line. This is a case of actively stripping the characters from the past and replacing them, notably, with characters that are currently in various stages of production from Marvel Studios: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Black Panther, the Inhumans, Dr. Strange… all characters who, it should be mentioned, didn’t have squat to do with the original Secret Wars.

They also cut out Captain Marvel II, Monica Rambeau, which makes no sense, unless they’re afraid that fans will somehow confuse this character (who isn’t even identified by name in the original artwork) with the current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, currently in film pre-production. Most baffling of all however, was stripping the Wasp from the original image, but failing to remove her shadow from Captain America’s shield. Janet Van Dyne may not be appearing in the upcoming Ant-Man movie, but Evangeline Lily’s character seems poised to be a replacement of sorts.

All of this, it should be noted, not only strips the artwork of the characters not currently under the Marvel Studios banner, but it also removes four of the five women from the original artwork and replaces them with… well, zero. Marvel’s been under enough scrutiny lately for the way they’ve cut the Black Widow out of the Avengers: Age of Ultron merchandise, and its parent company Disney hasn’t been doing much better with their Star Wars line. I wondered, initially, why they wouldn’t at least put an 80s-era Black Widow picture on the new artwork, if they were going to alter it anyway, but I suppose I’ve answered my own question.

The story didn’t end there, though. Like I said, I’ve had to buy a lot of new clothes, and I actually bought a second shirt based on a piece of Secret Wars artwork. This one came from Destination XL, a shop for big boys like me. (I may be a smaller big boy than I used to be, but I’m still a big boy.) And lo and behold, when I went to examine it more closely, I found that once again Mephisto had evidently struck a deal with Kevin Feige to wipe out all trace of the FF or X-Men…

Left: The Shirt Part II. Right: The Comic Part II: The Sequel.

Left: The Shirt Part II. Right: The Comic Part II: The Sequel.

This one isn’t as immediately obvious, because the changes are smaller, but look in the lower left-hand corner. Mr. Fantastic and the Thing are no longer behind She-Hulk, resulting in a nicely comical Bulldozer hurtling through the air after having been hit by nothing. On the right we’ve still got a gout of flame, but the Human Torch is no longer inside it. And in the upper left-hand box with the character faces Marvel used to have on every cover (side note: am I the only one who misses that part of the trade dress? I wish they’d bring it back) Wolverine, Storm and the Thing have been replaced by Captain America, Hawkeye and Wonder Man (another character who had nothing to do with Secret Wars and, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t in movie talks at the moment), while Reed Richards has tellingly turned into a gaping hole that evaporates into nothingness.

From a purely business standpoint, I kind of understand what Marvel’s agenda is here. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to support a property that you can’t benefit from, so why go to the effort? But that’s in the case of new merchandise. This is a case where they’re taking pre-existing artwork and releasing it in a new form. In this instance it takes more effort to actively strip the characters from the artwork than it would to simply release it as-is. And although they won’t ever actually say such a thing it feels more and more like Marvel — at least as far as their merchandise department goes — is behaving like that kid who wants to take his ball and go home, spoiling the game for everybody else.

BSI Comics Podcast #20: The Great Showcase/BSI Crossover

And here’s the BSI Comics Podcast half of the great Showcase/BSI Crossover! It doesn’t actually matter which one you listen to first, but we did record the BSI half before the Showcase half, and we occasionally reference the earlier conversation in the latter episode. If you’re picky about such things.

The BSI Comics Podcast #20

Episode 306: Marvel Memories (The Showcase/BSI Comics Crossover)

With Marvel’s fan-voted list of their 75 greatest stories making the rounds, Blake joins up with Adam of the BSI Comics Podcast to give their own choices for Marvel’s finest. We discuss Adam’s picks here — to hear Blake’s choices, look for this week’s BSI Comics Podcast!

And what’s cool this week? Adam is impressed by The Wicked + The Divine and Blake enjoyed the second part of Multiversity.

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 299: The 2013 Year in Review

It’s that time again — Blake and Kenny sit down and go through all the big geek news of 2013 — hit movies, comic controversies, and the creators who left us. Plus, we give our picks and yours for the best of 2013!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

All New Showcase #299: The 2013 Year in Review

Episode 294: Whoa-Oh-Oh, It’s Magic!

Blake and Kenny make the trek to Slidell for the second Magic Mini-Con! The guys chat with Vernon Smith about his new comic Hide, Travis Hymel and Joe Badon about the upcoming Memoirs of the Mysterious, as well as Travis’s webcomic Punch and Joe’s Outside the Lines graphic novel, and Kurt Amacker gives us an update on the Cradle of Filth comic. The guys also talk about how Marvel has stolen the name of our podcast, chat about cosplayers, and sit in astonishment at the proliferation of Kickstarter campaigns in the universe today. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

And what’s cool this week? Kenny recommends The Legend of Korra Book One on Blu-Ray and Blake enjoyed the first issue of DC’s Forever Evil!

(Oh — and before we forget, Blake’s new novel The Pyrite War is now available digitally and in print!)

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 294: Whoa-oh-oh, It’s Magic!