ADVANCE REVIEW: Kasual Friday's SUPERSTARS SERIES 1
Cool and Collectible: Ash and RoboCop Arriving This January...
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I enjoy variety in my collection. Mixing the silly and strange in with my hyper-realistic collectibles makes things more visually interesting. An easy way to inject that fun is with super deformed, stylized figures. Almost any license imaginable can be found in this format, my favorites being more mature properties twisted and transformed into something new and surreal. Like an episode of the Happy Tree Friends, these stylized toys are cute, but with an edge. Kasual Friday is the newest company to take this concept to market.
With a foundation built on pop culture apparel, Kasual Friday is branching out to include pop culture collectibles. Their debut offering are 3-inch tall "Superstars," super deformed, non-poseable figures based on popular comic book and big screen characters. As Kasual Friday's first foray in the world of toy collectibles, getting the Superstars to retail has been a long, learning journey. I'm happy to report, however, that the wait is almost over. Scheduled to arrive in comic book and specialty stores this January, Superstars Series 1 delivers RoboCop from the '87 sci-fi film of the same name, "Lost in Time" Ash from Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness, and the classic pulp action hero, The Phantom. I'll be taking a closer look at the first two characters in my review today. All three are available for pre-order now at KasualFriday.com.
Packaging design plays two essential roles: getting people to buy the product and delivering the product safely. Kasual Friday's attractive Superstars blister cards accomplish both goals exceptionally well. These are fun and colorful packs, each personalized to the character inside. The entire top header is dedicated to the movie (or comic, in the case of The Phantom) in question, featuring a large character shot on the left and an "action reel" scrolling up on the right. In addition to adding more visual pop, the action reel also creates this cool geometric pattern along the top that helps distinguish the blister card from other more generic designs. Other important details on the front include the movie's name (not everyone is a pop culture expert), character's name (which is reprinted on the side of the blister as well, along with the figure's number in the series), the name of the series (Superstars) and whether the Superstar inside is a "Comic Book" or "Big Screen" hero. Everything you need to know about the toy is smartly laid out and in clear view... including the toy!
As mentioned, having the character's name and number in the series visible on the side of the blister was a brilliant idea. It makes finding the character you want much easier on the peg and helps you keep track of who you have in the assortment (not to mention it's perfect for Mint On Card collectors). Unfortunately, there is no mentioning of the other characters in the series anywhere on the pack. A missed opportunity, the back of the package instead takes another look at the character toy inside with a cool monochromatic "comic book" vibe. The effect contrasts nicely with the colorful front and the added movie taglines are welcome. The bottom half shows off Kasual Friday's collection of similarly licensed pop culture apparel (those Army of Darkness shirts look killer!). Overall, Kasual Friday's Superstars packaging design is smart and attractive. Get the entire Superstars series printed somewhere on the back, perhaps in lieu of the character plug on top, and we'd have a real winner. A small nitpick in the grand scheme of things, but still an important detail for a small collectible character-driven figure line like this.
Once free from their tiny plastic tombs, each figure impresses with Kasual Friday's cool and comical super deformed sculpt. The usual rule of thumb for a super deformed figure is big head, small body. Kasual Friday puts a unique spin on that recipe by presenting figures with big upper bodies, small lower bodies. It's similar to those roided out Power of the Force figures, but this time consciously done with a lighthearted caricature in mind (POTF was unintentionally funny). The end result is a tiny muscle-bound hero that is sure to bring a smile displayed on your desk at work or mixed in with your home collection. Ash and RoboCop are two of my all-time favorite characters, so Kasual Friday including them in the first series was an awesome move on their part. The Phantom is a little bit more obscure and less to my liking, but I respect Kasual Friday's willingness to explore ALL avenues of pop culture. Different strokes for different folks, it's what makes this hobby so fun and exciting.
If forced to pick my favorite of the two, I'd have to go with "Lost in Time" Ash. There just aren't enough collectibles based on Bruce Campbell's deadite-slaying hero. I'm also glad Kasual Friday picked Army of Darkness over Evil Dead II as it gives them more characters and looks for Ash to choose from. While I'm sure we'll see a Deadite Ash or S-Mart Ash in the future, Kasual Friday wisely releases my over-all favorite Ash appearance with their "Lost in Time" Superstar armed with chainsaw hand and boomstick. It's all about the chainsaw for me, a weapon I find so much cooler looking than his boring (yawn) steel gauntlet. Kasual Friday's miniature portrait on this figure is undeniably Ash - the chisled chin and tiny bloody cuts on his face screaming the character. Speaking of bloody cuts, the paint job on this figure is immaculate. For such a tiny toy, paint work is all within the lines, neat and clean (especially in the eyes and face!), with even some great realistic weathering applied to his chainsaw and shirt sleeve. Evil Dead fans are gonna love this 'lil guy. He's, well... groovy.
Next year's RoboCop reboot certainly has my attention, the redesigned armor looking like a slick, updated version of the original (except for the exposed human hand, ugg!). However, my heart will always belong to the 1987 classic, another smart licensing choice from Kasual Friday. Captured in a "quick draw" pose with his over-sized Auto-9, the Superstars RoboCop is an amazing replica of the "future of law enforcement". Intricate sculpting detail aside (they even the sculpted leg pistons!), the most impressive feature on this figure is the screen-accurate paint job. I have seen many RoboCop toys fail in replicating the metallic blue-silver armor that is so unique to the '87 Robo. Kasual Friday nails it. You'd almost think this guy was made of metal standing on your shelf. I'd buy that for a dollar!
Kasual Friday's Comic Book/ Big Screen Superstars are off to a strong start. As their first toy collectibles, Kasual Friday delivers figures packed with tons of style - from the class act packaging design to the well-executed, comically cool toys inside. About the only real obstacle the Superstars have to overcome is price. $12.99 is a tough sell for a 3" non-poseable collectible, even if it is well-made.
Look for Series 1 - Ash, RoboCop and The Phantom - at comic book and specialty stores next month. Then in Spring 2014, Series 2 is scheduled to include cinematic boxing champions Rocky Balboa, Ivan "I Must Break You" Drago and Apollo Creed. If you're looking to add some variety to your collection, Kasual Friday's Superstars are just what the toy doctor ordered.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of Kasual Friday