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 Post subject: The Evolution of Toy Biz
PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:36 am 
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Wow, my one thousandth post. Better make it a good one, although I feel more of an essay coming up now. :wink:

I was browsing through some issues of an old toy magazine a couple of months back. It was called Collectible Toys & Values and edited by a guy called Jim Main. The mag was published in black & white and saw fewer print runs than the glossier competition such as Lee's or Tomarts.

But Jim was a nice guy and the mag was very casual in its tone. Besides price guides, it featured fun stuff such as cartoons, reader mail, and articles on vintage lines, plus helpful area reports for new items or discounted and clearanced material. There were also lengthy interviews with folks from companies such as Kenner, Playmates, Hasbro, and Toy Biz.

Looking at pics of early X-Men figures brought back memories of how I witnessed Toy Biz break into the action figure field and become a powerhouse in less than a decade. There is another thread on here that covers their foray into the DC Universe, starting with three figures from the 1989 Batman movie and accompanying DC superhero line. I knew the figures looked rather crude compared to Super Powers, but Toy Biz was just starting out at the time.

Once Kenner got the Batman license, Toy Biz set their sights on Marvel characters. I remember one week where a tiny headline on the front cover of Comic Buyers' Guide mentioned "Marvel toys coming." Just one sentence and I was excited. Those first offerings were also not the greatest, but I still bought every one. More waves followed, including favorites like Thor and Iron Man. Then the X-Men line arrived with characters like Colossus and Nightcrawler who never appeared as figures before. And Wolverine sported nifty pop-out claws which I thought were an awesome feature.

Back when we had no Internet, the only way to get the scoop around Toy Fair was through the various toy magazines. By 1992, the X-Men were expanding to include characters I'd never thought I'd see, like Forge, Gambit, or the elusive "clear" Iceman. 1993 and 1994 kicked things up a huge notch in terms of sculpting with various Cable figures, Silver Samurai, Random, C'hod, Raza, Apocalypse, Corsair, and Phoenix. The cartoon debuted and even more unlikely figures appeared in the following years. Byrne-era villains such as Avalanche, Pyro, and Mystique. I mean, could you believe Warstar would ever be made? Or someone like X-Cutioner? Swarm? Both versions of Nova? :D

Once the Spider-Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man cartoons appeared, anything seemed possible. Even Ghost Rider and the Silver Surfer received their own lines. I kept seeing pics of upcoming figures like Hawkeye, Blizzard, Whirlwind, Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, Hydro-Man, Black Bolt, Triton, Gorgon, Attuma, Terrax, Firelord, and most of Spidey's villains. I honestly couldn't believe my eyes! Sculpts improved even more. Between the cartoon lines and exclusive repaints like Union Jack, Havok, Guardian, Black Knight, Taskmaster, Power Man & Iron Fist, and many others, I truly believed the entire Marvel Universe would be covered in its entirety by 2000, with the Avengers receiving the least attention at the time.

But as the 90's wound down, so did Toy Biz and their Marvel offerings. "Theme" waves appeared for Spidey with great versions of Rhino, Daredevil, Vulture, Jack O' Lantern, Silver Sable, and Red Skull. The X-Men had Age of Apocalypse which featured more stylish designs. Alpha Flight and the New Mutants earned their own mini-lines. The Avengers finally got their own line, but it was based on the cartoon designs rather than the classic comics. Mego devotees had Famous Covers. And we received boxed sets for the original Avengers along with both the "old" and "new" X-Men which offered definitive versions of those characters' initial looks.

Inevitably, the well began to run dry and merchandise lingered on shelves long after the cartoons were canceled and the furor began to die out.

By then, Toy Biz began experimenting with the six-inch format and focused on improved articulation. The Spider-Man Classics line heralded this huge change and by 2002 we would see the debut of Marvel Legends. Toy Biz had reached its creative peak. Guys like Avi Arad and Jesse Falcon were household names around the collecting community.

And it all started with those DC figures.

What were your impressions at the time? What figures blew you away and which ones were your favorites? Toy Biz carried so much weight at one point that they brought Marvel just as the House of Ideas began hurting badly. Truly, they were the kings of the superhero action figure world at the time. It's nice to look back on it all now and see what kind of perspective develops.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 2:22 pm 
Resin
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Nice mini-history lesson.

I enjoyed reading it.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:02 pm 
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I still have all of the armors from the Iron Man line, as well as AOA Ice man and Warstar. I ditched most of the rest of them once ML hit, although I kept my original Avengers box set because I thought they did a really nice drop with them.

And I still have my Famous Covers (although probably not for much longer).

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:18 pm 
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@brainiac six: Thanks! History was going to be my major in college at one point, but I still love writing about it, no matter the subject.

@Shellhead: The original Avengers boxed set was very cool. Thor was the best figure representation of the character I had seen up to that point. I loved how Toy Biz managed to get the inscription printed on Mjolnir!

I liked most of the Famous Covers as well except for some of the head sculpts. But at least we saw a majority of the Avengers produced before the line died out. The Vision was an awesome figure and is still one of my favorites.


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 Post subject: Re: The Evolution of Toy Biz
PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:28 pm 
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My youngest son's first marvel toy is ToyBiz's Spider-Man 2 superposeable with the billboard accessory. It had something like 46 POA. That was around 2004. Super fun toy. He loved it some much he still plays with it even though all the joints are floppy or too tight to move. It doesn't stand on his own anymore. So for his birthday this year I found a MOC Spider-man just like the one he loves so much. It is no longer MOC. :(


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 Post subject: Re: The Evolution of Toy Biz
PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:38 pm 
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Cool mini history, but some issues left out:

One is the first I remember toybiz dealing with 6 inch format was in thier WCW line (Back when that company was popular). It was a cool line that had many of the articulation points that would later become standard in Marvel Legends.

Also another huge line for Toy Biz was Lord of the Rings, while I realize it's impossible to mention every single toy line toy biz ever made, this was one of the highest profile lines they were invovled with and is probably instermental in moving Toy Biz into a big toy company (until it dropped off when Hasbro took over ML at least).

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