Thursday, December 25, 2014

Action Figure Review: Lunchbox Carry Case from IAmElemental by Rebel Elements

     Over the past couple of years we have seen a number of cool toys offered up on Kickstarter but in 2014 we saw this trend go from a simple toy item here and there to a number of full fledged action figure lines being funded through crowd sourcing. In 2014 Marauders, Inc. reached 814% of the funding needed for their Marauder Task Force gaming figures, Boss Fight Studios reached 550% for their Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. line, Warpo reached 220% for funding their Legends of Cthulhu vintage inspired series, October Toys brought back Skeleton Warriors, and Rebel Elements raised $162,906 (465% of their goal) to create IAmElemental, an action figure line targeted at girls. I pitched in to support most of these campaigns but right now I'm specifically looking at IAmElemental. The first series of action figures consists of seven unique figures and one Kickstarter exclusive paint variant along with a collector's case that was included for buying the entire series. There are two variations of the collector's case: The standard lunchbox case that includes the figure's blind bagged inside or the display case with a foam insert. I went with the lunchbox case 'cause I like to open stuff! Today I want to talk about my thoughts on the project as a whole and the collector's case set (I'll follow up with reviews of all the figures over the next week or so). I'm going to jump in and spend a lot of time talking about this line, right after the break. Come join me!

 IAmElemental is an action figure line designed to appeal to girls. From their website:

Our mission is to create toys for play experiences that allow girls to envision themselves as strong, powerful and connected beings at the center of a story of their own making. We believe that when we tap into the power that exists inside us all, the extraordinary is always possible.

 As a result, IAmElemental Action Figures were designed to accomplish three goals. First, they are intended to be a positive and fierce re-interpretation of the traditional female action figure.  Second, IAmElemental action figures encourage girls to reinvent the superhero myth by creating their own empowering stories.  Third, we set out to create a toy that is super fun to play with and collect. We knew from the outset that if the figures weren’t well-designed, nothing else would matter.
     Two things intrigued me about this project, the first being that this was an action figure line with a positive feminist message. As a father with a young daughter, someone who works with kids and teens on a regular basis, I'm all about giving kids a positive message about gender equality. As a lifelong action figure collector, I'm always interested in something new. Of course, if the figures were garbage, I could care less what the message is for the most part. That relates to the second thing that intrigued me about IAmElemental: the folks behind this line seemed genuinely interested in making a good quality toy line. I don't want to tip my hand too early, but IamElemental succeed in being a very solid action figure line. I'll discuss this in more depth later on and in future reviews, but this team put out some very well crafted action figures that avoid many of the problems that some of the larger companies always seem to run into.

     In evaluating this line as a whole, I want to talk about IAmElemental's three goals and how I feel they went about meeting them. Why am I doing this you might ask? Two reasons: First, this line has set out to do something unique and interesting and I think it's worth discussing. Second, it's a nice model for me to form my thoughts around. So, here are my thoughts on IAmElemental's three goals:


1. First, they are intended to be a positive and fierce re-interpretation of the traditional female action figure.  

     I know that some collectors were turned off by some of IAmElemental's early marketing images from their Kickstarter campaign. An image criticizing female proportions on various superhero action figures was used which seemed to make this line appear as if it were being antagonistic to the collector community.  I am interested by IAmElemental's comment about "the traditional female action figure." What exactly is that? All of their press images used a select few action figures from Hasbro's Marvel Universe and Avengers lines and Mattel's 1/18th scale DC line from a few years ago. If we're using toys that appear on store shelves (and not direct market/ collector lines), we might ask where were any of the Star Wars females? What about females from G.I. Joe? Power Rangers? These were all superheroes who, let's be honest, have a distinct style. Of course, so do their male counterparts. No little girl and even few adult women look like comic book styled superheroines, but does any little boy look like his favorite superhero? Very few adult men even can match the proportions of most superheroes.

    Of course, this begs that the question be asked, "Do kids want toys that look like them?" While I had hundred of action figures as a kid, very few looked like me. I do recall, however, being particularly fond of certain figures that could be me in play scenarios. General Hawk v2 was one. Both Tim Murphy from Kenner's Jurassic Park line and Tom Porter from Tiger Toys also were toys I connected with because they were young teenagers. Later on, armored and masked characters like Shockwave and Barbecue from G.I. Joe and Boba Fett from Star Wars served as avatars for my imagination. Thinking about this, I'm hoping that girls gravitate to one of the figures in this line to allow themselves to take part in their own action figure adventures. If one of these figures is accessible to a kid wanting to use their imaginations and play with honest to gosh real toys, then I say go for it. While some toy lines have had more than others, girls just haven't made much of an appearance in mainstream action figure lines outside of superhero focused brands. Retailers and manufacturers have always given us a laundry list of reasons as to why "girls don't sell" so let's hope that IAmElemental proves them wrong.

   Of course, one of the things that I would critique about this line is that every figure has the same moderately athletic body type. While as a collector I know the reason for this (molds and tooling are expensive and reuse helps makes toys affordable), I hope that IAmElemental offers varying body types in the future. In fact, I think it would be very fun to have a library of different body types. It would be promoting a positive image for their line and it would aid customizers in creating their own action figures.


2. Second, IAmElemental action figures encourage girls to reinvent the superhero myth by creating their own empowering stories.

     One of the slogans for this line is "It's character, not characters." Rather than giving each figure design a name or a backstory, each figure is tied to a different "element" that is related to a different character trait. The first series is focused on courage and features Bravery, Energy, Honesty, Industry, Enthusiasm, Persistence, and Fear. This is a pretty neat concept. While I'm someone who typically buys action figures because I love the character or the property they're from, I do love toys that are blank slates, too. That's one of the things I love best about Masters of the Universe: Due to the conflicting canons and dozens of random side characters, you can pretty much do whatever you want. That's the idea here. This is a cute marketing idea that I do think really helps the line stand out. While I would be interested in seeing some sort of prompt for each character or maybe just a hint of a story overall to give kids some jumping off point, I do like how this line focuses on character traits. It's not too heavy handed and does try to expose kids to some cool people (the courage series is inspired by St. Joan of Arc). Series 2 is going to be focused around wisdom, so I'm hoping for some more "tech based" characters or something.

3. Third, we set out to create a toy that is super fun to play with and collect. We knew from the outset that if the figures weren't well-designed, nothing else would matter.

 Having eight of these little gals in hand, I can say with certainty that these are some excellent, well rounded action figures. They're well built, sturdy, and nicely articulated. I'll talk more about these as I review each figure in the coming week/s, but each figure features swivel/hinged knees, ball jointed hips, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, and a ball jointed head. I'd love to see a torso joint in the future, but as it stands, Rebel Elements did a great job with these toys. They're quality pieces that kids should be able to play with however they want with no concerns over breakage. You know, unless the kids want to hit them with hammers or something. Then I reckon they'd break. They're sturdier than pretty much anything you'll buy at mainstream retail, though.

I tried to line my silhouette up with the domino mask logo!

     Well, there's my long winded thoughts on this line in general. Of course, the question I can't really answer is "Will these appeal to girls?" That I don't know, simply because we know that action figures are a tough sell to any kids these days. While TMNT is trucking along and wrestling figures seem to sell, everything else seems either like it's geared towards collectors or just sits at retail. Maybe IAmElemental will tap into some unknown market and secure it's place. Let's hope so because I'm interested in snatching up more of these. So, let's take a quick look at the Lunchbox Carry Case now.

     Included in this set is the metal lunchbox, a cardboard overlay that shows all of the figures, a journal, a rubber charm bracelet, and each of the seven first series figures individually wrapped. I'm a sucker for metal lunchboxes or carrying case items, so this one really won me over. It's so cool that anyone, boy or girl, adult or child, should feel like they can totally rock this thing. The quality is excellent and  particularly like the way that the character elements are listed on the sides.

The journal is a small paper bound activity book with coloring pages, quotes from inspirational people, activities, and lessons about the character elements. It's not my cup of tea but I imagine that a young girl receiving these figures would probably be interested in this as it's a way to connect even more with the toys and to begin fleshing out your own stories. There are some cool sections that discuss some basic facets of comic book creation inside, too. That's a really neat touch.

     And here's the bracelet. It's a simple gray rubber bracelet that the character's shield accessories can fit on. I don't anticipate wearing this around anywhere but I still think this is a fun extra. Kids can actually mail away for a free bracelet as well by collecting all seven figures and assembling a secret message from the included cards.

Over the next few days I'm going to be posting reviews for each of the seven figures in the line and the Kickstater exclusive Courage Red Honesty figure, but I wanted to go ahead and give my thoughts on this line while talking about the cool lunchbox set. IAmElemental is a great idea and the toys have been very professionally executed. They're durable, aesthetically pleasing, and lots of fun. While I'll be looking at each figure individually, I have no problem with giving this set itself an Epic rating. IAmElemental has done an awesome job with this first series of figures and I hope there future is bright. I know I look forward to more of these figures and to sharing them with my daughter when she's a bit older.

Check them out at!

I'll be adding links here to all of the Courage Series I review! Stay tuned!
Courage Red Honesty

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