Wow, my one thousandth post. Better make it a good one, although I feel more of an essay coming up now.
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
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?
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.