The 10 Best Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks of 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm

There were a lot of great stories to choose from this year, making the task of narrowing them down to 10 a bit of a challenge, and it bears mentioning that some of the items on this list were published as single issue in 2011, but the trades collecting them into complete and easy to read volumes weren't published until sometime this year. So while many of the stories mentioned were already old news for some at the beginning of 2012, others had to wait a bit longer to read them. If they're new to you, now's the time to get started.

10. Superman Earth One Vol. 2.


Continuing the reimaging of Superman's early years - started in 2010 - this volume introduces a new version of Parasite with a dark past full of creepy secrets, and also focuses on Clark's attempt to fit into Metropolis.

J. Michael Straczynski's depiction of a young and uncertain Clark still finding his place in the world is engaging, particularly in its addressing a notion long speculated upon by fans: whether or not Clark would be able to make love to a human woman without killing her. (It even goes so far as to make a reference to Larry Niven's essay "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.") The art by Shane Davis is gorgeously eye-catching and conveys the might and vulnerability of Superman with a poetic touch that is elevated by Barbara Ciardo's vibrant colors.

9. Batman Earth One Vol. 1.


A new addition to the 'Earth One' universe, this volume tells a new origin for Batman that is quite frankly one of the best Batman origins ever told. Geoff Johns manages to tie the history of Thomas and Martha Wayne into the fabric of Gotham City in ways not seen before: Martha is revealed to be descended from the Arkham family, which adds an interesting layer of back story, while Thomas is shown to be in the middle of a Mayoral run before his untimely death that may or may not have been orchestrated by incumbent Oswald Cobblepot. Alfred is reinvented as a badass Royal Marine veteran and head of Wayne's security.

On top of adding interesting details to the past, Johns adds some new stuff to the present as well, most notably in the creation of a new villain called "The Birthday Boy". The story is brought to life by Gary Frank's sharp, crisp art that delivers some of the best Batman action scenes ever put to page. This quite simply a must read for any Bat fan.

8. Wonder Woman Vol. 1 - Blood.


One of the best books to come out of DC's New 52 reboot, Brian Azarello's reinvention of Wonder Woman is a sight to behold, as it takes her classic origin as a clay figure brought to life by magic and reveals it to be a lie meant to cover up a bigger secret. It turns out that Diana is the love child of Zeus and Hippolyta, who has hidden the truth for fear of the wrath of Zeus' wife Hera, who has a nasty habit of taking out his bastard children. This reveal comes in the middle of Diana having to defend a young woman pregnant with another product of Zeus' wandering eye. The action as rendered by Cliff Chiang gives Wonder Woman the epic treatment she deserves as a character; all of the ridiculousness caused by the New 52 upheaval is sort of made worthwhile just by the existence of this one book. Fortunately it's not the only good thing to come about in the New DCU...

7. Batwoman: Hydrology.

Batwoman Hydrology.jpg

One of the few characters to make it through the New 52 reboot unscathed, Batwoman's story picks up right where it left off during Rucka's 'Elegy'. Kate Kane is still reeling from the recent revelation that her twin sister is alive, as a new threat emerges targeting children in Gotham's barrio. Meanwhile Kate's cousin is eager to get into the vigilante lifestyle as Flamebird, and Kate has to decide whether or not to take her under her wing. J.H Williams III continues to dazzle the eye with his rich and intricate layouts and characters while also stretching into some co-writing with writer W. Haden Blackman (who excellently continues what Rucka started).

6. Xombi.


One of the sorely underrated and forgotten gems of the 1990s, Xombi was a short lived series under DCs 'Milestone' imprint. The series chronicled the bizarre adventures of scientist David Kim, who through a series of mishaps is turned into an immortal magnet for weirdness. The wonderfully odd series was one of the many casualties of the mid '90s market crash that was killed too soon.

Then, last year, DC gave John Rozum's wonderful character a new lease on life. Sadly this new series had an even shorter run of only 6 issues, but fortunately those 6 issues were collected early this year. The story opens up with David being called in on an investigation of a break out at a tiny prison full of shrunken inmates. Things soon spiral out into bigger problems as the prison break turns out to be part of a complex scheme to steal a giant floating city. Rozum settles into unfolding the tale in a way that makes it easy for new readers to know who's who and what's what, while letting those who read the previous series feel like it never went away and enjoy the lush, vibrant art by Frazer Irving which perfectly matches the fantastical tone of the story.

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The Top 9 Holiday Gifts for Gamers that Got Returned Yesterday

Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Christmas, for gamers, is one of the most magical times of the year. Starting with Black Friday and not ending until the last present is opened, the holiday season is rich with opportunities for gamers. From new console releases like this year's Wii U to fall hits like Halo 4 and Black Ops II, video games are at their most profitable once Thanksgiving comes and goes.

But for every child who wakes up on Christmas morning to find the brand new game they've been craving, many others wake up to the bitter taste of disappointment. It's a serious issue plaguing gamers these days, an issue known as Bad Game Gift Buying, and it's one we here at Topless Robot would like to address with you.

Many times it's inadvertent. A parent or grandparent not understanding what their child truly wants. Sometimes it could be financial; why buy the game for $59.99 when there is one "just like it" on the budget shelf for only $5? And sadly, sometimes it's just plain stupidity that drives the purchase from the Island of Misfit Games. But the fact is, many children (and adults alike) woke up on Christmas morning feeling left out by Santa and unloved by their parents (or spouses), thanks to BGGB.

Black Friday, as chaotic as it is, pales in comparison to December 26th. The presents have been opened, the relatives have overstayed their welcome, and the masochists of society venture out, often as early as they did a little over a month ago, to return all of the unwanted, unappreciated, and the crappiest gifts they received. The following is a list of gifts which, if you gave to someone, most likely had them standing in a return line - if they can even return them at all. Don't make these mistakes a second time!

9. Strategy Guides.

10 - Strategy Guides.jpg

There are two schools of thought when it comes to cheating/getting hints in gaming. One camp sees them as a tool; a means to an end when it comes to completing or getting better in a game. The other side sees them as a sacrilege, the nuclear option or a weapon of last resort. But in the modern era of the Interwebz, the need to pay for such information is long past.

Websites like GameFaqs and many others have detailed walkthroughs, cheat codes and hints that rival those found in the expensive strategy guides. Why buy a game for sixty bucks just to follow that up with a strategy guide purchase for another $15-20, whose sole purpose is to take the challenge and perhaps even the fun out of the game? Why spend money when you could just Google it?

Unless your gamer obsesses over his or her game to the point where they like to study thecraft, then expect a request for a gift slip for this one.

8. Any PC Game.

You might be thinking, "What was wrong with buying someone a PC game?" Absolutely nothing; some of the best games on the market are in fact PC exclusives. The problem with giving the gift of a PC game is the headache and sometimes the expenditure that goes into getting that damned game to work.

So you bought your nephew Diablo III for Christmas. Little Timmy cackled in glee as he cracked over the box, popped the DVD into his computer and installed it. Upon launch, though, the game immediately crashed. Apparently he'll need to upgrade his video drivers to get the game to run. After the drivers were installed, he fired it up and it crashed again. Turns out he doesn't have enough memory. A trip to the Best Buy and $80 fixes that. Then he fired the game up again and it was virtually unplayable; it seems that his video card, while supported, will only allow him to play in the lowest detail possible. Now little Timmy wants a new video card at $100-300, and as Timmy's Mom drives to the store yet again video card shopping, she silently curses you for buying the game.

There are just too many factors involved with buying someone a PC game to consider. Between software updates, hardware updates and plain old incompatibility, you could be opening up a can of sandworms the likes of which even God has never seen. Expect Little Timmy's Mom to buy your kid a drum set next year; she'll be plotting the purchase as she stands in line to spend more money.

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Tags: Nintendo, Wii

The 5 Best and 5 Worst Toys from the 2012 Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar

Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

An advent calendar is a small piece of card stock or a box with twenty-four compartments punched into it. This allows the a kid (or a bored adult) to open a flap and reveal a surprise for each day leading up to Christmas. For the past few years Lego has been releasing several versions of these calendars, with each day yielding a mini figure, accessories, or a small vehicle. Last year Lego took its popular collaboration with Star Wars into the realm of advent calendars, with an exclusive Santa Claus Yoda being the ultimate reward.

That's where we come in. I bought this year's calendar for a rather steep fifty dollars, with the intent on reviewing it for my fledgling blog. Was it worth it? Well, the items are heavily weighted toward the prequels (with almost half of them being from The Phantom Menace). While this is comedy gold to a humor writer like me, many Star Wars fans would rather burn this thing in a fire and then roast chestnuts over the melted plastic remains of Jar Jar's cousin. So without further ado, here are the five best and the five worst toys I've found hidden behind cardboard flaps this December.

The Best Toys


5. Hoth Imperial Officer.

For some reason the Advent Calendar often likes to include "army builders," i.e. generic officers and soldiers who can be used to pad out a display or be extras in a battle. The calendar includes three army builders from the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, but the best of them all is the Hoth Imperial Officer (or AT-AT commander). He's spot on and he also works as an AT-ST driver, so he can also be used in your Imperial Troops vs. Ewok battles as well. The coolest thing about this guy though, is that there is a face on each side of his little head. You can choose between him having his shades down (looking vaguely like the Terminator) or having them up (and looking vaguely like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises).

4. The Gungan Soldier.


Now I know what you're thinking, but bear with me. Besides being well detailed and recognizable, the fact that this is a Lego toy means you can regularly tear it in half or decapitate it. The Gungan soldier is tailor-made for using up all your lingering Jar Jar anger on! One of the other days provides the soldier a shield, spear and little energy ball catapult (which really works), so you can use him as an army builder as well.

3. AT-AT Walker.


Now this is how a model should be done. It's easily recognized and the head even moves! The minimalist approach these little calendar ship kits have doesn't work with a lot of the vehicle designs (see later in this list for proof), but the AT-AT is so iconic that it's very hard to mess up. Plus it's at the perfect size to be a pet to your other Lego mini figures, so Santa Maul can have his little AT-AT beside him as he surveys his legion of toy-making Jawas.

2. Santa Darth Maul.


Darth Maul is arguably the only cool thing about The Phantom Menace, so it's not a surprise he was chosen as the major marketing point of this year's calendar. It is a little off-putting to see him cast in the roll of Saint Nick, but I tend to think of him more like the evil Robot Santa from Futurama, who's more into punishing (in some cases with death) the naughty than giving to the nice. It is puzzling, though, that Santa Maul comes with a shovel (though an earlier day did include a double bladed light saber for him). Perhaps the shovel is to clean up after his AT-AT when he takes it for a walk?

1. Snowman R2-D2.


No beeping, trashcan-shaped object is more beloved than R2-D2. He's definitely one of the most influential and popular droids in the series. Without R2 and his holographic message, Luke would still be moisture farming and drinking blue milk. It's only natural that this little guy found his way into this year's advent calendar. Yes, dear R2 has been decked out in all white, with two carrots as decoration on his front. He's topped off with a magic top hat which we can only hope will make him break out in an beeping 8-bit rendition of "Frosty the Snowman."

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5 Unsettling Things You Never Realized about Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials

Monday, December 24, 2012 at 11:30 am

The holiday season is synonymous with plenty of things: gingerbread houses, Christmas trees, and having arguments with the family that escalate into full-on brawls. Of them, the one thing that has always been a staple in modern holiday celebrations is the annual viewing of Rankin-Bass Christmas specials. For years, people of all ages have been entertained by their charm and whimsy, passing this tradition down to generation upon generation. But when we're not being distracted by the unrelenting onslaught of festive cheer practically being crammed down our throats, it becomes clear in these specials that not everything is so holly jolly up at the North Pole or elsewhere at Christmas - lending itself to the possibility that everyone working at Rankin-Bass was out of their frigging minds!

From a bitter and callous Santa Claus, to teaching kids to fear anything that isn't normal, Rankin-Bass holiday fare isn't exactly as family-friendly as we once thought it was. Here are 5 unsettling things that rip the facade off the cuteness like so much holiday wrapping paper:

5. Children are greedy little pukes that run Santa ragged.


To the credit of Rankin-Bass, the specials managed to give plausible explanations as to why a flying fat man in red was so keen on giving random children he didn't even know gifts -- an act that, nowadays, typically ends with one going on a trip to the local police station for lengthy interrogation. But perhaps the greatest question that was finally given a straight answer pertained to Santa's choosing December 25th as the ideal day for handing out free toys. As revealed by Santa Claus is Coming to Town and The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, the big man was working 24/7 to meet the relentless demand of kids wanting presents on a daily basis. So essentially for a time, Santa was running a veritable sweatshop out in the North Pole, toiling away to please materialistic little nose-pickers.

Did the children even care that Santa worked till his hands bled or consider the implications such stressful work can have on his health? (He isn't exactly Slim Goodbody, you know). No, of course not; they just wanted to know if they'd be getting that stupid wooden cat when they woke up in the morning. The sad part about all this was that Santa originally gave children toys to take their minds off their bleak existences, which ultimately backfired and ended up teaching them the definition of avarice instead. Best possible solution in this scenario? Steal Jesus' thunder and declare that December 25th be the day ungrateful children are rewarded for doing nothing, leaving Santa to tend to his arthritis and gout for the other 364 days out of the year.

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Enders' Names: The 5 Coolest Comics Characters Named after the End of the World.

Friday, December 21, 2012 at 10:08 am

If the nutjobs interpreting Mayan prophecies are right, today may be the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as we know it. It's more likely just the end of some cosmic countdown that will be replaced by another countdown. On the off-chance that the doomsayers are right, though, we at Topless Robot have constructed a list in honor of the end times by rounding up the best comic book characters named after them:

#5. Armageddon


In the alternate reality of Earth 2182 (home to Nocturne of the Exiles) X-Men villain Apocalypse genetically engineered a son by splicing his own DNA with that of Jean Grey. Having the powers of both his parents, Armageddon was intended to be his father's ultimate weapon.

Most apocalyptic act: Youthful rebellion against his father.

In a rejection of his dad's world-conquering ideals, Armageddon betrayed his father and joined his world's version of the X-Men. The only other notable thing he ever did was to help his world's X-Men take out the Brotherhood of Mutants led by Cyclops. For having so few appearances, looking like Iron Man dressed as a USC mascot and not being all that destructive, Armageddon barely makes it onto the list.

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This Season's 16 Most Bizarre Pop Culture Christmas Ornaments

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Traditional Christmas ornaments are kind of bland, aren't they? Armies of Santa Clauses, snowmen, reindeer, doves and baby Jesuses generically capture the spirit of the holiday, but everyone's got them. What you need is a way to turn your Christmas tree into a giant, glowing beacon of all the more modern things you enjoy. There are plenty of ornaments that let you proclaim your love of pop culture to visiting in-laws, with standard depictions of characters like Spock and Snoopy. But that's only the Titanic debris-covered tip of the iceberg. If you dig around online and even into the darkest corners of the Hallmark store, you'll find some ornaments that pay very odd and specific tribute to various cultural icons. And some are just plain WTF?! Here are the 16 most bizarre pop culture Christmas ornaments we found on Etsy and eBay that you can find for sale this yuletide season.

16. Dark Knight Rises Batman and Bane:


Some eBay sellers seem to have made a cottage industry of ramming metal rods through the heads of cheap action figures and calling them Christmas ornaments. That explains why you can find ornaments of obscure Star Trek characters Miles O'Brien and Commander Riker's transporter clone brother, Tom, repurposed from their fairly worthless Playmates action figures. You can also purchase these Batman and Bane figures, unfortunately, depicting a fool's-gold-plated Batman and a slowly starving Bane. These dollar store action figures already failed miserably as toys, so why not give them a place of honor year-after-year in your holiday décor?

15. Darth Vader Peekbuster:


Darth Vader wears a Santa cap and red cape and gloves as he wields his lightsaber and sternly warns you not to peek at your Christmas presents! If a Force choke had always been the punishment for this offense, who knows how many of your Christmases would have gone unspoiled? Like the one year you sneaked a look at the present from your crazy aunt - which you thought contained LEGO but actually turned out to be the dessicated remains of a Thanksgiving turkey she mistakenly wrapped five years prior.

14. Merry Kiss-mas with Pepé Le Pew:

ebay via Hallmark

What's more disturbing about this (aside from the pun)? The fact that the lecherous skunk Pepé Le Pew is luring you in for a kiss under the mistletoe, or that the mistletoe is attached to the tip of his pointed tail, which is EXACTLY HOW SKUNKS SPRAY THEIR VICTIMS?! (Pointing the tail when spraying, that is, not the hanging of mistletoe.)

13. Winkie Guard from The Wizard of Oz:


I'm not even sure who this guy is but I don't want him to guard or otherwise go anywhere near my winkie!

12. Pillsbury Doughboy:


Would you want this crazy-eyed, maniacally giggling plop of living cookie dough corporate mascot to be in charge of making your Christmas cookies? Is that a blood filling?!

11. Wreath of Khan:


It's a simple ornament any of us could have made during grade school holiday arts-and-crafts time, but the pun is so audacious that it belongs on any Trekkie's tree.

10. Ralphie Sees the Light:


Ah, yes, the classic moment in one of the most classic holiday movies in which a boy becomes a man by groping the leg of a can-can girl in the form of a lamp. Ralphie's leering expression as he experiences his first hormonal explosion due to his encounter with the Old Man's great prize in A Christmas Story is now ready to come home with you and arouse Christmas discomfort.

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Nine Questions I Have about the Blu-ray of The Room

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 4:25 pm

If there's one thing Rob and I do have in common, its our shared love of misshapen, muscular mutants, as evinced by our fandom of both Masters of the Universe and Tommy Wiseau. So the idea of my favorite cinematic disasterpiece, The Room, coming out on Blu-ray, is culturally significant. But like everything else about Tommy, it's shrouded in a swirling mist of mystery, awkward PR and an apparent lack of competence that may in fact be genius. So here are my questions, based on what's out there right now.

Greg "Sestosterone" Sestero
Oh hai seizure-face

9. What's up with that new cover picture? The original poster for The Room was strange enough, with a lazy-eyed Wiseau tinted green and looking like a Frankenstein monster. This seemingly official Blu-ray cover, revealed by actor Greg Sestero on his Facebook fan page, captures a facial expression that's baffling in both intent - what would induce even the weird Wiseau to make such a face? - and execution - he never makes that face in the movie that I recall (and I've seen it like 20 times), so he had to actually take a new photo of himself making that expression. Like every directorial choice he made, this is a confusing call.
You think about everything, haha...except how to smile.

8. Is it actually for sale on Amazon? There's a listing for it, but no picture, and it's supposed to be available starting nine days from now. Considering there's a whole bunch of new crap to buy at The Room's official site, including footballs, basketballs, a green gym bag and a plush dog wearing a tuxedo, you'd think one press image of the alleged Blu-ray might be available.
Keep the change hi Doggie thanks bye

7. What's up with the price? If the Amazon thing is for real, then so is the price tag of $35.99. Considering that the DVD is only $13.99, and the "additional special features" - behind the scenes footage, scene selection, trailers, deleted scenes, photo gallery and interviews - sound exactly the same, that's a rip-off, particularly for a movie that's best experienced live anyway. Now, if it had commentaries, especially any involving Tommy, no price would be too high to pay. Oh hai price!
Don't plan too much. It may not come out right.

6. Did Tommy himself write the product description? "It is the first Blu-ray format in the world." So, yes, I'd say it's highly likely he constructed that sentence.

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In Honor of Foxxy Electro: The Five Best (and Worst) Cinematic Supervillain Reinventions

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm

As several readers let me know today, Jamie Foxx has been talking at the Django Unchained junkets about his upcoming role as Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, with the money quote coming from, where they asked about the costume. Foxx responded:

It won't be green and yellow. It will be a different color. They (the producers) want something for the future. They want to have it more grounded and not as comic book-y, so it won't be green and yellow. They want to try new things, like a liquid rubber and things like that, and there are all these bolts and stuff in my arms when they are hanging me upside down and trying to figure out what happen. How did he become this way? So, it will be some new stuff.

Fair enough - Electro's costume was always a bit silly looking, so even in an era where filmmakers finally have the guts to give the X-Men yellow and blue outfits, some reinvention makes sense. Just so long as the filmmakers know when to change things up...and when not to. Here are five good examples of getting it right:

Good practice for playing Nixon years later

5. Skeletor (Masters of the Universe). Filmation took a scary looking, pumped-up death lookalike and made him a whiny sniggerer whose plans always failed ridiculously. The live-action movie got many things wrong, but in casting Frank Langella, they made the Eternian evildoer into a genuine threat - one who'd kill his own warriors to become a god. If he'd known that god powers could be destroyed just by his staff getting cut in two, however, he might not have bothered.
In America it's bling-bling, here it's bling-BANG

4. Galvatron (Transformers: The Movie). Megatron was a great bad guy, but his transformation from giant robot with arm cannon to tiny handgun never made much sense. Reborn as a new toy in the animated movie, he was able to become a much bigger gun, and gained Leonard Nimoy's voice. That's what we call an upgrade.
"Quack quack this, bitches!"

3. The Penguin (Batman Returns). Purists may disagree, but the Penguin is one seriously un-scary villain in most comic-book portrayals: a short, fat guy in a tux is going to beat the world's most highly trained, semi-psychotic billionaire genius...with an umbrella? Turn him into a circus freak raised by sewer birds, and he gets a little scarier; Tim Burton's only major misstep with the reimagined Oswald Cobblepot was to make him - rather than Batman - the protagonist of the movie (look closely at the story structure, such as it is - it's the Penguin's journey, not Bruce Wayne's).
"I'ma flip this bird!"

2. Top Dollar (The Crow). A relatively unimportant drug dealer in the comic book, he became the main mean man in the movie version, and Michael Wincott's distinct, gravelly delivery made the character. Able to swing a samurai sword and book awesome bands like Medicine to play in his club, this guy pretty much had it all until he killed Bruce Lee's kid. Yes, the father was no longer around to kick his ass in retaliation, but a bird brought the son's soul back in clownface. Shoulda seen that one coming.
I dare you to make fun of those outfits.

1. General Zod (Superman II). "Why do you say this...when you know I will kill you for it?" The biggest challenge Michael Shannon faces as the new Zod in Man of Steel is not living up to the comic-book character, but living up to the portrayal by Terence Stamp, who defined him not as a dude in a dorky military uniform, but a black-clad bad guy obsessed with making people kneel. You know it was effective because even after seeing Stamp in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, we're still scared of Zod.

There's a lot more competition when it comes to the five worst...

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The Five Best (and Worst) Masters of the Universe Figures Not Represented in the Original Line

Monday, December 17, 2012 at 9:12 am

Today sees the release of Granamyr, the largest Masters of the Universe figure ever, with a wallet-weep-inducing price tag of $80 plus tax and shipping (just over $100 total). He'd stand about 30 inches tall if in fact he could stand, but he actually can't - much like Todd McFarlane's Malebolgia, and your constipated grandfather, he's meant to stay in a squatting pose looking threatening. And yes, I bought him anyway.

Granamyr originally showed up in both the Filmation cartoon and the mini-comics that came with the figures, but never showed up in the original '80s toy line; he's the sort of figure only obsessive adults looking to reclaim their childhood could possibly afford ($80 would have bought TWO Castle Grayskulls back in the day). For those of us that resemble that remark, the new figures have been the highlight of He-Man's revival; it's cool to get revamped favorites, but the guys (and gals, but mostly guys) we never had before really give us that fresh new toy feeling.

Not all of them have been good ideas, though. Let's take a look at the hits and misses.

The Best:


5. Slime Pit Monster. This guy deserves a mention for being the only original character in the 200x line, and the fact that he's a skeleton with slimy removable guts, reminding us of our favorite super-gross Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure Mutagen Man. Points off because he should have been an army builder rather than a playset pack-in.

4. Vikor. Yes, he's based on concept art, but that feels like a cover story. Essentially, this is Mattel saying, "We want to make Conan the Barbarian, but we don't have the rights. Wink wink - meet...uhhhh...Vikor! Yeah, that's the ticket." Given the long-believed myth that He-Man was originally intended to be a Schwarzenegger Conan toy until Mattel execs balked at the R-rated film, this is a nice little nod, and the metal chain links on the manacles are a nice touch.

3. Demo-Man. Some may object to his neon green color, or the retconned backstory that Keldor was somehow fused with this character to become Skeletor, thus making our favorite screechy skullface a hybrid personality that he never evinced in any iteration prior. Ignore the clumsy attempts to shoehorn him into canon, though, and he's basically a concept, Viking-ized Skeletor come to life, or perhaps a new arch-foe for He-Man (which is a refreshing change - he can't just fight Skeletor every day, as the Filmation cartoons made clear). Plus he came with a bonus extra-scary Skeletor head in Alfredo Alcala style, bringing the character back to his terrifying roots as a pumped-up Grim Reaper wannabe.

2. Griffin. There are any number of fan-requested repaints of the Battle Cat body that could have been done, and would have been tedious: King Grayskull's Battle Lion (same figure with a bigger head, basically), for example, or Catra's cutesy pink lion Clawdeen. This was a much better idea, mixing in some bird parts and making tangibly awesome what was just a deus ex machina device in the MYP cartoon any time the bad guys got in too much trouble. The resculpted saddle actually fits Beast Man snugly, unlike the Battle Cat and Panthor saddles which give He-man and Skeletor slightly bumpy rides.

1. Procrustus. Like Granamyr, a mini-comics character who looked extremely cool but we never thought we'd see, especially in a line that thrives on reused parts. Looking not unlike the Nome King from Return to Oz on steroids, he's the Atlas and/or Cronos of Eternia, a giant that holds the planet together from the inside, while still having time to play with a giant marble, apparently. It'd be nice if the two of his hands that seem sculpted to hold weapons actually had some that were in-scale and could fit, but maybe they'll make a Planet Eternia playset for a million dollars that will have appropriately shaped hand-holds to match. And yes, I'd probably try to buy that, somehow.

And now, the worst...

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Squawk to the Future: 7 Ways to Make an Angry Birds Movie Work

Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

You might have missed it in a week loaded with every cool new 2013 movie trailer at once, but the biggest big-screen news of the week involves a 2016 release -- Angry Birds: The Movie, to be financed independently of the studio system by Rovio, and produced by Despicable Me's John Cohen.

Ask not why they would do such a thing -- it is inevitable that any product with any name recognition will one day have its own film. Ask instead how they will sustain 90 minutes or so of screen time based on a game that simply involves throwing things at other things. Well, we have a few ideas, and offer them up for a couple of reasons: one, so that when the thing finally does come out, we can say we called it. Two -- a far less likely possibility -- we want to get all the obvious concepts out there first in hopes that they'll try to be more creative and do something different, ensuring we cannot say we called it. Either way, these strike us the likeliest scenarios:

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