51 Shades of Geek

Power-Up Arcade Light Switch

Power-Up Arcade Light SwitchNeed to feel a little more arcadey in your home game room? The Power-Up Arcade Light Switch has you covered; it’s a simple swap-out with the existing cover plate on a single-switch light fixture, and definitely helps you get your game face on.

The switch comes with a pair of elongated screws (designed to replace the smaller screws already holding your standard-issue light switch cover plate in place, and to account for the greater “depth” needed to attach the much thicker Power-Up switch to that fixture), and the switch itself. It’s easy to install – even if it’s the first time you’ve ever replaced a light switch cover plate, there’s not much here that’s really challenging. Continue reading

Bif Bang Pow! Flash Gordon Action Figures

Flash GordonThe late ’70s were a fantastic time to be alive and to be a kid addicted to action figures. Once Kenner struck gold with Star Wars, the race to snag the license to the Next Big Thing was on, especially if it was a TV or movie license set in space. Mattel gave us Battlestar Galactica, Mego paid top rights for Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, The Black Hole and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and best of all, all of these figures were in more or less the same scale as Kenner’s venerable Star Wars range.

After all, Kenner had proven that this smaller scale – almost unthinable prior to George Lucas’ epic, when foot-tall G.I. Joe figures ruled the boys’ toy aisle – made affordable vehicles and playsets practical, and Kenner’s competitors decided to jump on that bandwagon with aplomb. For the want of a rare Enterprise bridge, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock commanded the second floor of the Death Star with its permanent control consoles which, while virtually unlike anything ever seen in Star Trek, kinda sorta approximated the layout of the Enterprise bridge. Kinda. Sorta. Buck Rogers’ starfighter was a space-rated version of the Rebel snowspeeder, because they were somewhat similarly shaped…kinda. (Sorta.) C-3PO and R2-D2 went on big adventures with the Battlestar Galactica robot dog and VINCENT. It was a grand universe where anything went, because everyone fit in everyone else’s ships and playsets.

But there was one license whose failure to happen seemed to mark the beginning of the end of this era. Continue reading

PREVIEW: Funko Stranger Things Action Figures

Stranger ThingsFunko had already made my action-figure-collecting year by finally putting Adam West-era Batman in the 3 3/4″ “Star Wars scale”, and they gave me a good chuckle by putting, of all things, Twin Peaks in the same format. Even though I knew they’d already snagged the license for Netflix’s ’80s-themed sci-fi-horror series Stranger Things, months of nothing but Funko’s Vinyl Pops had lulled me into thinking that action figures were highly unlikely.

I am delighted to report that I was dead wrong. As wrong as anyone who thought Will Byers was dead forever. Continue reading

Star Wars 40th Anniversary: Stackable “Trading Card” Mugs

Star Wars 40th Anniversary: Stackable Trading Card MugsEvery once in a while, I’ll see or hear word of a product that fills me with such enthusiasm that I order my own pretty quickly, looking without leaping as it were. While that kind of impulse buy can occasionally lead to a facepalm and some buyers’ remorse, this time I lucked out with Underground Toys’ set of stackable mugs celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars.

I have found that my Star Wars fandom has aged in a very particular and peculiar direction: stuff that takes me back to the heady early days of Star Wars fandom, I’m a sucker for. Continue reading

Star Trek Starships Collection: U.S.S. Franklin

British partworks publisher Eaglemoss is back with another larger-scale “special edition” vehicle from the Star Trek universe, this time landing my single favorite vehicle from the rebooted-universe movies that we’ve been getting since 2009: the U.S.S. Franklin from 2016’s Star Trek Beyond.

Franklin

What do I love so much about the Franklin? Continue reading

Open Road Brand Signs

If you frequent stores like Atwoods or Hobby Lobby, and you’ve seen reproductions of retro gas station signs and other bits of advertising Americana that have seeped into the collective memory of pop culture, chances are that these bits of signage came from Wichita, Kansas-based Open Road Brands…and the company hasn’t stopped there. In recent years, they’ve been licensing decidedly less old-timey pieces of pop culture and gracing them with the same raised-relief metal sign treatment.

Open Road had already licensed numerous characters and classic covers from DC and Marvel, but has now ventured into similar waters with the venerable Star Trek and Star Wars brands. While there are several examples of more up-to-date designs featuring characters, concepts and catchphrases from both sci-fi franchises, I found myself irresistibly drawn to the classic comic book covers from both. I was in the process of redecorating my home in “period geek” anyway, so why not? Continue reading

PREVIEW: Funko Batman ’66 Figures

BatmanRecent years have seen a glut of new nostalgia-themed action figures in the now-traditional “Star Wars scale” of 3 3/4″ tall for the average adult human male character. Funko (frequently with cohorts Super7 in tow) and Big Bang Pow! have been the vanguards of this 3 3/4″ revival, with mixed results – I’ve loved seeing that scale come back after years and years of overpriced 6″ figures becoming the norm. On the other hand, there have been some baffling choices of licenses chosen (Taxi Driver? Pulp Fiction? Boondock Saints? Really?) that were good for a laugh at the time, but ended up warming the store pegs for a good long time with no takers. In the waning days of Hastings – one of the only local brick-and-mortal sources for these figures that I had prior to the chain’s closure – Funko 3 3/4″ ReAction figures could be had for two or three dollars each, and they still weren’t moving. Funko and Super7 have now parted ways, with Super7 retaining the ReAction banner (and its Kenner-style logo), and Funko now forging ahead with figures in the same scale, but with more detail and articulation. And possibly the most exciting license that Funko has lined up for its second stab at the 3 3/4″ figure market is the classic Batman TV series. Continue reading

Star Trek Starships Collection: NX-01 Refit

Eaglemoss is a UK partworks publisher, partworks being a periodical publication that’s distributed with some kind of included goodies with each issue. Among other things, Eaglemoss publishes “figurine” partworks based on Doctor Who and The Walking Dead, but for Star Trek, they latched onto a truly under-represented cast of characters: the ships of Starfleet and numerous other fleets patrolling deep space.

The ships, almost always made of die-cast metal, aren’t cheap – two of them are shipped each month at a cost of $20 each – each included with a magazine detailing both the in-universe and real-life production histories of each design. In many cases, especially with vehicles from Enterprise and the recent reboot movies, this is the first time that these ships have been made available in any kind of physical form.

A handful of times each year, the schedule is punctuated by a Special Edition vehicle, produced at a larger scale than the typical monthly fare. Here’s a little secret: there is just no way I can divert $40 per month to little spaceships. But one or two times a year, I might be able to spring for one of the Special Editions.

NX-01 Refit

And that’s the case here with the NX-01 Refit, a vehicle whose status in the Star Trek universe lies somewhere between “officially canonized” and “not really officially canonized”. The image of this radical reinvention of the NX-01 Enterprise has been seen by fans for years, dating back to one of the (more-or-less official) Ships Of The Line calendars, and later picked up by book covers for novels extending the story of Captain Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise beyond the show’s truncated four-season run.

What’s so radical about it? The NX-01 Refit sports a new engineering section, with its own larger deflector dish, extending the graceful lines of its warp engine struts into something that looks like the midway point between Archer’s ship and the Constitution-class Enterprise of the original series.

NX-01 Refit

It’s a beautiful addition, and the accompanying magazine reveals that the ship’s designers had always had this extension in mind, since the flexibility of CGI meant that the show was not beholden to a pre-built library of stock effects shows, as every prior Star Trek series had been. The NX-01 could even – gasp! – show signs of damage from one episode to the next, whereas prior Trek series had to hit the reset button, leaving the ship looking the same at the end of an episode as it appeared in the beginning. Blow up Deep Space Nine’s Defiant? Don’t worry, there’ll be another Defiant ready in a couple of weeks, with the same registry number, not even suffixed with an -A, because we can’t afford to not use the shots we already have in the can.

NX-01 Refit

Fans can take issue with Enterprise all they like; in various places and in several ways, the show is both better and worse than it’s generally remembered. This is a physical artifact of what we might have seen in the fifth season: a beefed-up Enterprise, ready to sail into battle against a Romulan Empire that’s no longer too shy to show its hand.

NX-01 Refit

As great as the model looks on my shelf, it’s a pity we didn’t get to see it on screen. With its die-cast construction, it’s got some real heft; the stand is weighted as well, so there’s no overbalancing to worry about once the ship is mounted in its stand.

A word of warning – just because you see the words “die-cast metal” doesn’t mean that this vehicle can be crash-landed like my old partially-metal Kenner Millenium Falcon. The components are weighty, but their assembly is on the delicate side – this ship is meant to remain docked to its support stand.

Though it’s perfectly permissible to fly it around the room a few times, carefully. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.


Star Trek: The Motion Picture U.S.S. Enterprise

U.S.S. EnterpriseThe second coming of Star Trek, ten years after its cancellation, was a licensing goldmine for Paramount. Star Wars had already primed the public pump for science fiction, and Superman had proven that throwing a large budget and an existing, recognizable brand at that audience was a surefire recipe for success. Having already quietly cancelled a proposed second swipe at Trek on TV – a project so far along that sets had been constructed and scripts for half a season’s worth of episodes had been written – Paramount decided to take those sets, and the movie-length pilot script, and go large with it. The result was Star Trek: The Motion Picture… but who should the new Star Trek adventure be marketed to? Continue reading