“Taking a savage beating is part of being a hero!”

With one or two exceptions, I hate superhero movies with a passion.  Marvel, DC, independent, I don’t care, they are equally terrible and they’ve hijacked our theaters with their spandex nonsense.  Why bother with original Science Fiction when you can trot out Captain Buttocks for the 9th time or give the world Viking-Steampunk Batman?  I have no fond childhood nostalgia for comic books either, I always found the stories to be idiotic even as a youngster although I enjoyed the characters.  I do enjoy watching some of the better TV cartoon series with my kids,  but even those are basically one long fight scene.  The only good thing to come out of all this comic book overkill is the apparently never-ending stream of cool Lego sets and the occasional fan built model.  Most of the work done by AFOLs within this particular brand of building is decidedly uninspired and at least 50% of all comic book related builds are some version of Iron Man’s walk in closet where he keeps all his armored suits.  When you boil it down to gravy most builders who indulge in the comic book genre don’t really build at all, they focus entirely on the minifigs.  I get it, the little dudes are undeniably cool, I endorse them without qualification but it isn’t enough for me.  Without a compelling build to go with the figs, all you’re left with a catalog shot at best and clone-on-a-plate at worst.  Now that you’ve stepped off my lawn, we can get down with today’s build.  It was very refreshing to recently discover the work of Nexus-, who takes the shiny heroes and gives them a suitable stage to play on.   I don’t often look at a build and picture it as an official set, but I would buy this particular set in a heartbeat.  The scene is called “Cyborg – 0 – Application”.  The gray-scale background really makes the figs pop, the details ar tight and I admire the clean look of the base.  All good vignettes tell a story, like a cell in a comic book and Nexus- appears to have a good handle on the narrative action.

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The diorama is part of an ongoing series that features a number of familiar heroes from across party lines and it represents a step up for Nexus- whose previous vignette efforts were not nearly as polished or ambitious.  You can see a real progression in skill and style if you take a trip through the 2-year-old Flickrstream and it’s a pleasure to see.   The series as a whole reminds me of the old line of Star Wars Micro-Machine toys from the 80’s, with its emphasis on iconic figures in small settings.  The compact nature of the builds is very appealing and even though the super hero vignettes do not appear to be modular, they look like they could be with very little modification.

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It is surely boilerplate to trot out this observation yet again, but every piece in a vignette must earn its place and Nexus- seems to understand that.  With each new model he is clearly making the attempt to improve his work and that’s all you can really ask of a builder regardless of genre.  I should probably also point out that Nexus- clearly enjoys writing back-stories for his builds and although they are not my cup o’ tea, his many followers seem to enjoy them immensely.  If the builder can continue on this difficult path of steady, measured improvement, I think it’s clear we can expect truly great things from him in the future.

Each one of these builds has an interesting technique or dynamic action on display and unlike most builds in the genre and the movies that inspire them, they actually leave me wanting more…even with Aquaman involved.  Especially with Aquaman involved.  I’ll leave you with a clip from my favorite superhero series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  In case you were wondering Aquaman is voiced by John DiMaggio who is responsible for both Bender and Jake the dog from Adventure time.

 

12 thoughts on ““Taking a savage beating is part of being a hero!”

  1. The superhero genre is such a cold bowl / hot spoon thing for me. I grew up on the comics, mostly drawing out of them endlessly. However, with the exception of a Mego Spidey, Bats and Supes who’s head I apparently sucked all the lead-based paint off of, I had very little interest in the toys. Even the aforementioned figs – I liked them for the characters they represented but was unsure what to do with them.

    However, the superhero genre makes some of the best cartoons around. Whether the cheeseball 70s Superfriends or Filmation Batman series, right up to pretty much any of the Bat shows, when paired with the right writer and director they are supremely fun. Since you know the characters so well, you can just dive into the story with almost zero preamble. In the right hands, the characters are flexible enough you can set the camera off kilter by a few degrees to bring something new to the game.

    As for the Lego sets and builds, I’m of the same mind. The sets can be really fun parts packs and contain some interesting techniques, but from the playability angle, many of them seem far to directed. You are acting out a single scene with established characters doing established things. Not all off the sets are like this – stand alone Batmobile or that Avengers space jet gives the participant enough imaginative line to spool out and inject some new scenarios. The larger showcase items like the new Spiderman bridge set seem to go the other way – hemming in the action and bookmarking a specific event in a larger narrative. Of course, Star Wars rides this rusty bike often as well, but I see that as the weakness of the line as well.

    The MOCs can fall into the same trap, but it feels like a fan-created small dio is trying to tell a story anyway, whether from studio bible or their own imagination. Outside of the larger view of purpose, MOCs always are a teaching tableau of techniques in design, colour and execution…you can always leave the table a little more full than when you arrived.

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    1. “but from the playability angle, many of them seem far to directed.”

      The “”””””””comics””””””” they include with the sets even show you scenarios to play with them. Yes, they definitely lack a lot in terms of imaginative play. But that fence will be there anyway with licensed sets, if not the sets themselves, the movies/comics/cartoons will dictate the play.

      This is something I feel as well when I build stuff based on pop culture; many times I want to change something for various reasons, be it lack of parts or simply putting my touch on the build/altering something I don’t like about the original design… but there’s a little voice there telling me it’s not right. Comics are the medium that leave the most freedom, since they themselves vary from one writer to the other…. so doing my own version of a character doesn’t feel as “wrong” as changing the movie version.

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    2. I completely agree that the superhero format is best suited to animated TV shows. The Superfreinds were awesomely bad, with Kasey Kasem voicing just about all of the characters. The C-list losers were the best, like Apache Chief and that Samurai dude who was a tornado from the waste down.

      Don’t think for a minute that you slipped “tableau” by me either, I’ve never been comfortable with that word, it’s impossible to say without sounding pretentious. Well played Gil, well played.

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      1. *Sigh*…I can’t remember the last time I was tornado from the waist down. Perhaps I’ll be able to trigger massive growth by yelling INUKSHUK!

        Likely not.

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  2. I pretty much agree with most of what you said: 95% of superheros builds are there only to showcase the neat figs. I myself am guilty of this, but my reason is simple: I don’t have a clue what to build around them. You can say the same about sets, they do the same thing: they’re only released to put out a new figures, the sets themselves are beyond crap.

    This set makes me cringe every time I see it: http://cdn5.thr.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/scale_crop_768_433/2016/07/lego_hulk_vs_red_hulkh_2016.jpg

    Why the hell would you release a hulk vehicle? Why the hell would hulk drive a fucking buggy or whatever that is? I get it, children play with cars, but come on. These are not some cheap chinese knockoff, make some effort to release something that makes sense. What’s next, superman’s plane?

    As far as comics go, I’m not much into them, but there are some that won me over like Moore’s stuff or Superman Red Son. Other than that I indulge myself in the occasional guilty pleasure (Conan, Red Sonja, Witchblade… well mostly pulp related stuff). One that won me over recently was Rachel Rising.

    And finally, you made me watch aquaman dressed as black canary. Now I’ve seen everything.

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    1. Oh man, that set is terrible, I wasn’t aware of it’s existence until now but it might go down as one of the worst I’ve seen. The Hulk-buggy makes no god-damn sense, as you say, why does he need a car at all? And if he did, why would he drive that p.o.s. It gives a whole new meaning to road rage. And why do we need a red hulk? I’ll just stop now. I’ve enjoyed some comics of the years myself, like Frank Miller’s Batman stuff back in the 90’s. I think it’s the movies that really get me worked up, the bland repetition of it all, with no sense of threat. We know Captain Buttocks will live through the movie and the next 5 sequels.

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  3. So much goddamn baggage! Canons, rules, story lines, everything that governs these licensed abominations “control the action.” But it is a complete inevitability to insult those that grew up on the drivel and those reaching an age that will increase sales (that Hulk set L’etranger linked to is truly baffling; even if you exclude the figs, cringe-worthy is way too kind.)

    But it’s our own damn fault. We, AFOLs collectively, that have been around the brick since childhood have always dreamed of LEGO creating Star Wars sets; in fact in many cases, those sets rejuvenated a good portion of the AFOL community back into building. TLG tapped successfully into our psyche and raked it in (oddly enough, they nearly went bankrupt too.) It was a deal with the devil, LEGO shook hands with Mickey and we gave them the cash to do so. Ain’t no amount of Purel gonna wash that shit clean. Now they HAVE to follow the unholy narratives vomited out at regular intervals for steady cash flow and literally regurgitate another X-Wing (but wait, this one’s black and orange!) I suppose the alternative for those of us that thrive on character development and real humanistic flaws therein, will have to wait a VERY long time before we see LEGO create the “Iron Man battles alcoholism” set and we probably wouldn’t buy it anyways.

    So instead, we can enjoy builds like these for their artistry. Fun little collection that would actually garner a bit more interest out of someone like me for purchase over that Hulk thing. These have style.

    Aquaman as Black Canary = genius.

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