2014: The year of the Tomorrow King

As the clock ticks down the last few moments of the 2014, I look over and note just how overloaded my shelves are with the many goodies I acquired over the year. With my collection expanding and including figures from Hot Toys, ThreeZero, 3A, Hasbro, Sideshow, LEGO, NECA, Figma, Play Arts Kai and more.. this is the first year I’ve had to toss up a few extra shelves just to hold them all. Toys take up a LOT of real estate in my home. No toy company has claimed more of that space than 3A.. and no type of toy than Ashley Wood’s Tomorrow Kings.

This year added quite a few TKs (Tomorrow Kings) to our collection, however we really didn’t write any reviews this year covering them. Historically, I’ve found that writing interesting reviews on Tomorrow King characters can get pretty repetitive as they all share so many similar traits between them. I guess that’s understandable given that they’re supposed to literally be clones of each other as Wood’s convoluted storyline goes.

That said, this past year 3A not only seemed to release TKs hand over fist, they gave them some very unique characteristics that really set them apart from each other. So since we didn’t talk about them along the way, I thought it’d be interesting to take a few shots and write some quick thoughts on each one in an end of the year summary.. Tomorrow King style.

I hope you enjoy.

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*Review* 3A Red Devil Lady Sham

INTRO

Ashley Wood’s comic Popbot, sits as an incomplete work of wonderfully illustrated comic confusion. Over the course of his convoluted canon, Ash pops various characters in and out like disposable income, spending them as though they exist simply to get us to the next page and show off another, seemingly endless supply of beautimus sketches and paintings. However, there are a few concrete, dyed in the wool key characters that carry the large majority of his story.

One of those characters is the singing, boozing, womanizing cat, Kitty. We’ve all seen him in various toy forms, packed in with both 1/12 and 1/6 Popbots. The other character who I’d consider the protagonist of the books, is Lady Sham.

As toy collectors and fans of A.Wood’s artwork, you’d better believe the much discussed release of such a key character would be sort of a big deal to us. Sham had been oft mentioned by Wood himself as “coming soon”, only to have those words disappear into the ether as weeks turned to months, months to years. Along with various other long promised figures, Sham has been in the works for a very extensive time now. One can only assume she was being refined and perfected for an epic release befitting such an iconic Popbot character.

Finally, they did it. 3A announced that Lady Sham was indeed coming out this year. She’d be sporting her traditional black stretchy attire and hair. From the early teaser pictures, she looked all around awesome!

pic by ThreeA

“Yaaaay!!” cheered the 3A fans.

Except that she was to be an exclusive to an art show in Hong Kong that only a handful of people would ever be able to attend.

“What the.. ?? Nooooo!!” cried the 3A fans.

I get why exclusives exists but I can’t explain to you the “why” in “why” Ash and 3A would decide to do their fans this way. I can only assume due to the outcry (and the on going claim from Ash and 3A that “nothing is planned”) they decided to throw us commoners that have continually stamped their meal ticket by buying up everything they put their spit shine on, a bone.

They promised to release other versions of Sham in the near future!

A short time after RVHK, 3A came through with that promise and teased a picture of Pure Sham as well as a sale date. She was basically the negative of the exclusive Lady Sham, sporting all white with dark hair and light blue lipstick. To add to the fire, there was talk of a “Casual” Sham that  Ashley said would drop as either a 3AA exclusive or surprise. While Lady Sham is often depicted in a white jump suit like Pure, I just wasn’t feeling her as much as the original all black version. I decided instead to hold out for Casual, who’d been in several A. Wood pieces.

pic by ThreeA
Pure Sham

Then it came down from top brass that Casual wasn’t going to happen. No reason really given, but one can assume that something as lean as a girl character in a tank top and jeans didn’t “wow” Ashley. I’m guessing she probably looked more like a stylized barbie.. not something most of us would be interested in enough to pay for.

During the course of the Pure sale, a quick sketch of Red Devil Lady Sham in all red and a tuft of white hair popped up on the ThreeA Production Blog. I refreshed bamba, and there she was. I have an affinity for red so added her to my cart. At the time I still had a 003 Caesar on the way and I must have giggled audibly as I imagined how cool the two would look together on top of my shelves.

Unfortunately, 003 didn’t do anything for me. The dull red colors and cheap looking plastic killed my enthusiasm for a dynamic, bright red collective on my shelf. Without her planned companion, I admit my enthusiasm was damaged for Red Devil a bit. On the other hand, Queeny was truly awesome and in my opinion, one of the most fun and original characters from 3A this year. Plus, Sham’s been in the works forEVER now. She had to be perfect, right?

I put a little faith in the devil and tore open the box.

PACKAGING

The box art wasn’t a huge surprise. We got the same sketch that teased Red Devil when she first popped up on bambaland. It’s a cool sketch for sure, but after seeing the excellent painting that came on Pure Sham’s, I was particularly jealous that Red Sham didn’t get the same treatment.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Red Devil Lady Sham came packaged with a couple extra bits that further set her apart from the other Shams. She gets an extra gun and gun holding hand as well as the curious little plastic puppet dude, Mr Bridger. The inner packaging is obviously from previous Shams, so there’s no plastic shell for any of these additions. Mine were loose and floating around in the bottom of the box. Mr Bridger had somehow freed himself from the little plastic bag he was supposed to be in but arrived unscathed.

From what I understand, Mr Bridger is either THE devil, or represents the devil. Either way, he supposedly a puppet that talks to Lady Sham. In toy form, he’s a piece of solid molded plastic.

THE BREAKDOWN

Right out of the box, I thought for sure I’d love Lady Sham. Stylistically, she looks fantastic. Her face is frozen in an unamused, heavy eyelided gaze that says she’d just as like shoot you in the face as look you in the eyes. Her red lips and white hair are cleanly painted with no paint bleed onto other surfaces and contrast nicely with her red body suit.

The fitted red suit is crafted in such a way that it leaves little to the imagination. It fits her tight, literally foot to chin. It has a sheen but it’s not shiny like the faux vinyl that previous Tomorrow Queens came in. The material is also fairly stretchy, not quite spandex, but along those lines. This is a good thing seeing that you must pull and stretch the sleeves out in order to pop the gun hands in and out. A large black zipper runs from the back of her head to her waist. I assume this exists so you can take the suit off if you need. As form fitted as this suit is, I can’t imagine anyone attempting it for any reason.

Sham comes default with both neutral hands installed. I can’t tell if they’re meant to appear relaxed or “itchy finger-y” but they’re all new sculpts just for her. The way the suit is sewn to encompass the hands looks phenomenal and goes back to how well fitted the suit looks. I do wish the fingernails on the hands were painted. It seems a little lazy to skip out on this detail, especially on such an important figure in Ashley’s world.

I love how large and dynamic her feet are. My wife has maintained that she “hates” how Ashley Wood paints women’s feet, where areas, it’s one of the things I find most charming and unique in his work. Sham’s feet embody that aspect very well.  I was also very surprised at how easily she balances. Traditionally, the female figures from 3A are as challenging to stand as a new born doe finds it to walk. The only thing I can contribute that to is her larger feet. To repeat the sentiment I had concerning unpainted fingernails and with all the attention Ash gives to his lady feet, it seemed a given her toe nails would have been painted. A shame they’re not.

Red Devil comes with twin holsters for her twin cannons (not those, get your head out of the gutter).  The guns themselves are basically repurposed 1/12 Popbot guns painted black with bright red handles. They look cool enough and are slightly different, but I can’t help but wish Ash had designed something completely new for such a pinnacle character.

Popping Sham out of the box and putting her on the table I thought, “Wow, she looks really great.”

Then I tried to pose her.

Underneath all that stretchy red suit is a highly articulated female body. A highly articulated female body that you will never be able to take advantage of.

Unintended double entendre aside, the suit is both the best thing and the worse thing about Lady Sham. It has give, so you can move her around some, but because it’s wrapped so tightly around her and the material has resistance to hold it’s form, you won’t be pushing her into anything overly dynamic looking.

For example, you can left her arm to point her gun and bend her elbows to adjust the angle some. However, depending on how stiff your figure’s joints are, you may or may not be able to rotate the elbow around as the suit just pulls it right back to however it’s been sewn in. The same can be said for her wrists and ankles. The other issue with the suit lies in the material itself. As I mentioned before, it’s like spandex, but not really. It honestly feels a little like something you’d find a durable balloon to be made of. Thin fibrous rubber. I noticed this more as I posed her arms and moved her waist around. The material stretches, but after a few bends, doesn’t quite go back to it’s normal state. It bubbles at the bends ever so slightly and the fabric starts to show signs of wear.

Seeing that happen this early on and with as little posing as I’ve done with her, it seems highly unlikely that the suit will hold up very well or very long.

Continuing with my suit complaints. The fact we have to stretch out the material to swap out the hands and then via some archaic game of chance, attempt to pop the tiny wrist peg blindly back into the wrist hole without snapping the fragile plastic is pretty ridiculous. I have no other way of saying it other than to say it’s a bad design choice. They should have had one gun hand installed as default and a neutral hand for the other. It would have made the most sense for 99% of the people out there and not require anyone who want’s Sham to hold the only accessory she came with to chance ripping or over stretching her suit.

While I dig the twin holsters, the straps that go across her waist to hold them in place, are incredibly unfinished. They look like spare strips of fabric that someone quickly ran some scissors over to toss around her waist. (Update: Looking closer at her other strap, it seems the top one is heavily frayed and the other is not. So I don’t believe the fraying, scissor cut look is the norm and hopefully nothing you need worry about. The bad news is that I need to contact CS for a replacement. The good news is, 3A CS has always been awesome for me and you most likely won’t have the same issue  with your Lady Sham)

Another small thing that’s unique to Red Devil and probably unavoidable is that “X”  the holster straps create around her waist, make her look thicker in the middle than she is. Picky? Yeah, but I’m allowed to be.

THE FINAL WORD

I haven’t been this torn over a figure in a long while. I feel like I have a good deal more to say in the “what’s lame” category than I do in the “what’s awesome” one, but I still think she’s a really cool figure and I like having her in my collection. She’s just not as cool as I think she could have easily been.

I love Red Devil Lady Sham’s design with her slinky eyes, bright white hair and fitted suit. I love how much her red suit stands out on the shelf next to my other TKs and TQs. She truly does look unique despite sharing some of the qualities of previous 3A figures.

The suit is an aggravating itch and the focal point of Sham’s problems.

I hate how limiting it is and truly fear for the longevity of it. The material has give, but doesn’t seem to be very strong. Just posing her the little bit that I have, is already showing signs of wear. Not good.

If you’re into having at least one of each figure from the Popbot line, then you could do worse than Red Devil. Overall, I like how she looks just as much as I did the original black version and far more than the “Pure” version. Since I haven’t had a chance to mess around with the other variants I don’t know what, if any, differences there may be in the fit or feel of their suit fabric.

The ideas behind Lady Sham make her an interesting and cool looking figure. The sleeves slipped over her hand and sewn into her shoes give her a really sleek, streamlined appearance that holds true to much of the iconic artwork she was pulled from. On the other hand, those elements complicate other things that 3A forced on us, like swapping out her hands for “useful” ones. The suit is a perfect example of 3A once again going for style over substance.. or style over functionality.

I suppose in a lot of ways, it makes sense for them to do so since their properties are almost wholly driven by an artist well known for shifting his interest and doing things the way he wants them done regardless of other’s input.

I can’t fault them for that, but for a figure that’s supposedly been in the making since day one of 3A and that’s so important to Ashley Wood personally, she feels strangely rushed. Like a couple steps were skipped during production causing what could have become a true classic 3A toy to simply being another 3A toy.

PROS:

  • Red Devil Lady Sham looks almost exactly like I’d want her to. Her design is top notch
  • The suit looks fantastic and is neatly sewn for a near perfect fit
  • Her face is perfectly painted and sculpted to capture her no-nonsense personality
  • I love her big pointy toed feet
  • She’s a breeze to balance

CONS:

  • The suit only looks fantastic. It functions pretty poorly and seems as though it will deteriorate rapidly with use
  • Some QC on her belt looking frayed (updated: most likely an isolated situation)
  • Why isn’t at least ONE hand set to be a gun holding hand by default. It makes zero sense.
  • Unpainted finger and toe nails are sad finger and toe nails
  • Mr Bridger is supposed to be a puppet, but isn’t.

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*Review* 3A Shadow and Light Tomorrow King Oya Two Pack

INTRO

I just spent a good 15 minutes perusing the internet for a quote that said something poignant about overcoming an obstacle or taking up a difficult challenge head on. “No guts, no glory”, that sort of thing. I was searching for something to set the tone and portray a sense of how I felt about winning the Shadow and Light set. A one liner, a “zinger”, a single phrase that could fulfill the entire needs of a proper article introduction. Instead, everything I came across had been tirelessly plastered as off-the-cuff Facebook status updates or otherwise publicized to death, thus sucking all the marrow of meaning from the words contained within. After reading dozens of these once-were-so-inspiring/my-how-cynical-I-must-be-to-feel-otherwise quotes, I decided to scrap the idea and instead go a more traditional route by giving a possibly over wrought rundown of the events leading to me winning this coveted set.

When Ashley Wood/3A announced the animation contest for the Shadow and Light set I almost didn’t enter it. The thing about 3D.. anything, is that it takes a lot of time to do. Exspecially if you’re doing it all from the ground up. I’ve been working as a character artist and animator for years, but my free time to devote to such an undertaking like this wasn’t (still isn’t) at all what I felt it needed to be. Given the one month deadline, my first thought was that I wouldn’t have the time to devote to it in order to pull off something I’d be really happy with..

My saving grace was that the day following the announcement, I had an idea that seemed a lot like a genuinely good and unique one. Something that I felt would go the opposite direction of the competition and hopefully set my work apart from the rest of the crowd. It was simple, cute and most importantly, something I knew I could get together in the given time-frame.

I’ve never been one to ignore inspiration.

I kissed and hugged my supportive wife goodbye, knowing well that in order to get everything together I wouldn’t be seeing her much over the remainder of the month. Every ounce of free time available to me was dedicated to the project. I set to work on modeling, texturing, rigging, animating, rendering, picking music, creating sound and the final post effects for the project. From the day the concept hit, right up to the last (original) day of the contest, I raced/worked.

Ash decided on the last day of the contest to extend it another 2 weeks. While a good thing for some, it definitely took a bit of the wind out of my sails. I was tired and felt all the momentum I’d experienced up to that point completely lapse. I’d pushed myself and put in some seriously long hours to complete the piece in the given time. Now with this extension in play, I simply had no more time or frankly, energy to put into it. I’d put off actual paying work, time with family and personal hygiene (joking!) for far too long. As a steady stream of some very strong animation submissions started to come in, I knew competition was going to be stiff. The best I could do at that point was to cross not only my fingers, but also all my toes and simply wait it out.

Well, you know the end of this story.

I won…

along with 4 others. A surprising, but awesome gesture by Ash to spread the Shadow and Light love, if only by a little.

If you’re curious, you can click the image above to check out my animation.

I spoke to Ash at SDCC about the set and he not only shared how excited he was about how awesome the set turned out, but also how humbling it was for him that anyone would take their time to contribute artwork/animation based off his creations. He was really proud of that and rightly so.

Skip ahead several long months later and my set has finally arrived.

Before I jump to the review I want to give full marks to all that took the time to enter the race and heartfelt fist bumps to those who also won a set. A big thank you to 3A! Thank you Mr Wood! I love these guys and feel honored to be included amongst the winners circle!

PACKAGING

I’m the proud owner of a one of a kind Shadow and Light TK set.

“But wait! There were other winners!”, I hear you exclaim!

It’s one of a kind because it has my name written neatly across the box in black sharpie. I have no idea who at the hatchery did the honors. I’m also unaware if it bothered the other recipients to have their set “defaced” by such cruel permanent markings. But me, I’m for it. It makes it feel personal.

One small difference between this set and previous 3A toys is that it was not shrink-wrapped. Just boxed, labeled and sent. Score one for the environment..

As you can see, the box sports some cropped photography of the pair on one side and a cool stencil style 3A logo (plus me given name) on the other.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Two TKs. One black, one white. The dynamic duo come with two of their own color coordinated long swords.

Natch.

THE BREAKDOWN

I don’t feel I can really “review” this set in the truest sense of the word simply because one does not “review” or “judge” a reward/gift. If Grandma gave me brown socks for Christmas this year.. again, I’d smile, kiss her on the cheek and thank her. They’d most-like be thrown in the bin with the rest of the collection, never to be worn or seen again, but Memaw would be none the wiser.

That’s how it should be.

Of course you could argue that it’s not like I didn’t do anything for these guys. I did put in a ton of hours and toiled over the particulars. I’d certainly paid in time for the set many times over. But I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as a gift.

Simply put, it’s not polite to gripe about the gifts you receive. Not to say I have any gripes. Just if I did.. in this case, I wouldn’t tell you.

My reaction of the set right away was a sort of quiet “stun”. I’m not sure if it was the months of anticipation bubbling forth or what, but when I opened them up, I just starred at them for several minutes before even touching or removing them from their plastic packaging. I’ve never been very interested in the negro or blanco color schemes 3A puts out, however sitting in front of me as a set I can comfortably say they look amazing.

Light and Shadow are basically the same character top to the bottom as 3A’s 7bones member, Kyoku. The only real difference being the obvious color, or lack thereof. Shade, to be precise.

The head sculpt all 3 figures share are actually from last year’s Slicer Tomorrow Kings, Baka and Kyuuketsuki. Scar and all. It may not be my favorite TK head sculpt, but it’s dynamic and fun to pose.

One thing that really stands out to me is how squeaky clean the TK’s themselves are. Not a speck of dirt on their “skin”. Their clothes on the other hand, have a light dusting of weathering throughout. At SDCC this year, Ashley Wood told me that the set would have been done earlier, but he felt that the clothing needed a “touch of weathering to feel finished”. I’m sure some would argue that they’d look better sparkling clean top to bottom but for me, I really like the contrast.

It’s like they take showers, but can’t wash their clothes. Poor guys.

The Oya jackets are the usual high quality, impressively sewn articles. They look fantastic on and offer a wide array of dramatic pose possibilities. While I love the jackets, I’m considering setting these guys up jacketless as I have so many Oyas already littering my shelf.

We’ll see. I’ll let balance/aesthetics ultimately decide.

I really like that the teeshirt decals work best when you place the pair next to each other to form 3A’s logo. It’s a simple thing, but well thought out and melds these two together.

As I posed them for the various shots, I came to realize that despite their simple color scheme, these figures have plenty of character.

My take on them comes from a clichéd or otherwise well worn part of my imagination which seemed to dictate every pose I put them in.

Shadow is quiet and brooding. When he strikes it’s exact and efficient, not showy. He stays in the background and tries to go unnoticed. Light on the other hand seems as though he’d be much more animated, quick to act and stylistic in his motions. He stands in the front, brash and ready to lunge into action.

They are Yin/Yang and completely inseparable. Like their names, you can’t have one without the other.

THE FINAL WORD

That’s about all I have to say about this lovely set. A more in depth review of the particulars of this type (TK Oyabun) of figure will come in the form of my upcoming Kyoku review, but for now understand that I have some new favorites in my collection.

I will say that shooting the pair together had it’s own challenges thanks to my camera’s apeture trying to favor one figure or the other. I had many shots that I felt were going to turn out awesome that, once loaded on the computer were completely blurry and unusable. Regardless, I hope you’ve enjoyed the few I’ve put together here. Eventually, I’ll post even more on our Flickr and Facebook pages.

I’d want to encourage anyone who’s even remotely interested to get involved in the next contest 3A comes along with. I had a ton of fun in creating my animated short, despite it’s challenges. If you’re passionate about different things like drawing, design, photography, animation, toys, etc.. and they somehow correlate and come together in the form of a world wide contest, why wouldn’t you?

I’ve heard some who claim that these type of contests are a grand waste of time, or a matter of all us collectors jumping through hoops simply so 3A can gain some sort of free marketing. A bit of “dance monkey, dance”, “lick dog, lick” or whatever animal to mind controlled robot comparison is in fashion now. My thing is, if you enjoy doing it, it makes you happy and there’s an opportunity to get rewarded for your efforts, why should it matter to anyone else?

You know what? Screw those guys and their negativity. They certainly don’t have a Shadow and Light set..

nor should they.

PROS:

  • An amazingly lovely set that’s a true treasure in my collection

CONS:

  • None

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Wednesday’s Wallpaper of the Week

Today’s wallpaper is brought to you once again by Print. Back in January, he brought us this fantastic image of Oyaloper. It’s fitting that he’d return with another awesome image wrapped in Popbot lore.. this time of Queenie, the leader of 7Bones.

It’s a good time to be a Popbot fan.

click on your desired screen resolution to download!

Queenie by Print 1024×768

Queenie by Print 1280×800

Queenie by Print 1920×1200

Let us know how we’re doing! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and stay updated!

If you’d like to contribute to Wednesday’s Wallpaper of the Week and have your name go down in history, drop us a line at radtoyreview@gmail.com with your idea and/or image sample.

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