MARVEL LEGENDS- MONSTERS Boxed set
By Daniel/Julius and General Zod
Man, whenever this impressive Marvel Legends train comes screeching to a halt, some toy geek is going to write volumes on what a comprehensive and brilliantly marketed line this has been. This on again, off again, on again set has finally become a reality.
And unbelievably, in a month where we get Legends Two-packs that feature a 1970s Leader, a 1960s style Baron Strucker leader of HYDRA, Toy Biz throws us ANOTHER unexpected blast from the past with CLASSIC MARVEL MONSTERS. I mean, what next? BROTHER VOODOO?
Comic-wise, these 1970s Monsters SHOULD have sucked. They were knock offs of the classic horror literature made famous by the Universal Films in the 1930s and 40s. In 1972, Marvel shrewdly realized that Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN and Bram Stoker’s DRACULA were now public domain. (And as werewolves and zombies were the stuff of legend, no legal issues there either!)
Inspired in no small part by the 1960s and early 1970s HAMMER STUDIOS successful new versions of Dracula and Frankenstein (starring Christopher Lee and the late Peter Cushing) Marvel—buoyed by a recent relaxing of Comic Code restrictions, decided they wanted to get in on the monster gravy train too. Limited only by the fact that they could not depict these creatures with the copyrighted makeup that Universal had created decades ago (in other words—they couldn’t look like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, or Lon Chaney, Jr…) Marvel launched the comic TOMB OF DRACULA in 1972.
And it reeked…..
Dracula- As seen in Tomb of Dracula
Gerry Conway HAS done some cool stuff in his career—he invented the Jackal and the FIRST Spider-Clone…He created the PUNISHER, for crying out loud. So we can certainly give him a pass when the first few issues of TOMB OF DRACULA are essentially about this well-meaning goober named Frank Drake accidentally reviving his ancestor— the deadly Vlad Tepes Dracula.
Yeah, real mediocre stuff, except for the art—which was done by classic Daredevil penciller GENE COLAN. But even Gene’s art couldn’t polish the forgettable scripts Gerry had been pulling out of his tuchus.
Enter MARV WOLFMAN. A Wolfman Pre-THE NEW TEEN TITANS. A Wolfman-Pre-CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Marv took a book that was destined to be canceled and reinvented it, creating cool characters like BLADE THE VAMPIRE HUNTER in “TOMB OF DRACULA” #10. Yeah, THAT Blade, the one played by Wesley Snipes and soon to be essayed by rapper “Sticky Fingaz” for SPIKE TV… Blade, half-vampire, half-human, and all asskicker. Wolfman also came up with other memorable characters too—“good” vampire HANNIBAL KING; RACHEL VON HELSING; her mute servant TAJ; QUINCY HARKER (son of Jonathan and Mina Harker); and—uh– the sorta memorable DR. SUN?
Under Wolfman’s direction, the book found its sea legs, transforming the central storyline into one big quest to whack the evil King of Vampires. He also introduced new villainous vampires like Dracula’s daughter LILITH and DEACON FROST.
FROST, incidentally, is the bloodsucker responsible for turning Blade’s momma into a vampire. He’s in a metaphoric way, Blade’s “daddy,” ‘cause he’s the one responsible for Blade’s semi-undead state. He’s a real tool, because he later turned Blade’s buddy HANNIBAL KING into a vampire also. FROST essentially thought Dracula’s porn ‘stache was lame, and wanted to supplant Dracula as LORD OF THE VAMPIRES.
But as Frost would soon find out, Dracula is notoriously hard to kill. Even after his book was canceled in 1980—Dr. Strange (likely jealous of Dracula’s mustache) got a mad-on to kill Dracula. Strange partnered up with “good” vampire Hannibal King and retrieved the Montesi Formula, a magical spell that destroyed all vampires on Earth—including the murderous Dracula. Blade survived because of his unique nature. King survived because despite being a vampire, he never drank living human blood.
Ah, Montesi Formula, my butt. No Italian Sausage recipe by Chef Boyardee could defeat Dracula for long. He soon was resurrected once again, and has been plaguing the Marvel Universe ever since.
Dracula articulation: ball-jointed neck, Ball-jointed shoulders, bicept swivel x2, double elbow x2, wrist with pivot x2, fingers x2, waist swivel, ball-jointed hips with swivel x2, thigh swivel x2, double knees x2, calf swivel x2, ML-style ankles x2, mid-foot x2.
Dracula shares a body with the Professor X figure from the Galactus build-a-figure wave. He sports a new head, hands, cape and rubber vest that covers the torso and tie. It’s a clever reuse of parts.
Next to Sideshow’s 8" Dracula.
Frankenstein- As seen in Monsters Unleashed
MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN
Kinda/sorta created by Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog in 1973, “MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN” basically adapted the Mary Shelley novel—and then started new stories after the monster was rescued from the ice at the end of her book.
Searching for something interesting to do, besides shuffling around and cowering when somebody lit a match, Frankenstein’s Monster had a crossover with TOMB OF DRACULA. During the course of which, Frankenstein’s vocal chords were damaged by Dracula, now making him a grunting mute. Seeking to spice things up, Marvel threw Frankenstein into suspended animation ala Captain America, and revived him in the “present day.”
But unlike Cap, when Frank came back, nobody much cared. He was cancelled after a mere 18 issues.
Monster of Frankenstein also showed up in the spinoff title “MONSTERS UNLEASHED,” a sort of catch-all crossover Marvel Monster book in the 1970s.
Frankenstein’s Monster is articulated at: ball-jointed neck, shoulders with swivel x2, double elbows x2, fore-arm swivel x2, wrist x2, fingers x2, torso (up and down, no swivel), ball-jointed hips with swivel x2, double knee x2, boot swivel x2, ankles x2, mid-boot x2.
The boxed set Frankenstien shares the torso and legs of the much sought after Absorbing Man figure from Hulk Classics. Frank has a new head, arms and vest. There is a hole in Frankenstein’s back where the peg from the Absorbing Man’s action feature was, but it is covered by the vest.
Next to Sideshow’s 8" Frankenstein
Werewolf by Night- as seen in Werewolf by Night
EXOTIC DANCER BY DAY… WEREWOLF BY NIGHT
Well, not exactly. Gerry Conway was EVERYWHERE in the 1970s… and soon after the success of TOMB OF DRACULA, he and artist Mike Ploog created Jack Russell—an 18-year old who is the victim of his family’s Werewolf curse. Basically Jack was “Teen Chaney Jr.,” tortured and agonizing over the fact that he seems to EAT AND KILL PEOPLE when the moon is full. Wuss.
The book was pretty forgettable—with the exception of the fact that Doug Moench (who had taken over the book) introduced MARC SPECTOR, THE MOON KNIGHT in issue #32. Moon Knight would go on to have a comic series of his own, join the West Coast Avengers; and currently has his own series again. (And the Khonshu worshipper is getting 2 figures this year from Toy Biz! 2!!!) Werewolf by Night lasted some forty-odd issues, and since that time Jack Russell has popped up here and again in the Marvel Universe in a guest-starring capacity.
If you go off of the text on many of the Werewolf By Night covers almost ever issue involved Jack’s sister either trying to prevent the police from shooting her brother, because he’s a misunderstood monster or his sister trying not to be attacked and mauled by her brother.. ya know… cuz he’s a misunderstood monster.
Werewolf By Night’s articulation: neck swivel, ball-jointed shoulder with swivel x2, double elbows x2, fore-arm swivel x2, wrist x2, fingers x2, torso with waist swivel, ball-jointed hips with swivel x2, double knees x2, calf-swivel x2, ML-style ankles, mid-foot x2.
Zombie- As seen in Tales of the Zombie
THE LIVING ZOMBIE
Well—not to short-shrift the guy, I AM happy they made him—but who among us wouldn’t REALLY rather have ZOMBIE CAPTAIN AMERICA, ZOMBIE HULK, or the ZOMBIE FANTASTIC FOUR from “MARVEL ZOMBIES?”
I mean, not to diss the shambling pile of goo that was once SIMON GARTH—but the guy was basically the undead slave of LAYLA, a skanky New Orleans-voodoo-chicken-bone-rattling-priestess. I don’t recall him eating people the way Romero’s zombies do. He was basically just…dead. Garth’s daughter Donna eventually rescued the stanky ghoul from Layla’s thrall, and then buried her undead pop. Which, in retrospect, may have been a really mean thing to do. Dude is undead, but trapped IN A COFFIN for ETERNITY! Well, eternity meaning Daredevil Annual #9, where he got dug up by daughter Donna AGAIN to stink up the Marvel Universe.
Zombie was actually created in a one-shot by Stan Lee and Bill Everett in the 1950s, and was revived in the 1970s with his own book, “TALES OF THE ZOMBIE” which had the awesome tag line "He lives! He strikes! No grave can hold him!"
But come on, Jesse. Zombie Cap. Talk to the Hasbro guys, ok?
The Zombie’s articulation: ball-jointed head, neck, ball-jointed shoulders with swivel x2, double elbow x2, fore-arm swivel x2, wrist x2, fingers x2, ball-jointed hips with swivel x2, double knees x2, ankles x2, mid-foot x2.
The comic that comes with this set is a poster book of classic covers from Marvel/Curtis’ "Monster Group" imprint from the 70s. Half the book are comic sized pages and the other half are double sized cover reproductions.
This set is a great testimony of the fun and the risks that Toy Biz were willing to take for fans. There have been several characters that I NEVER thought we would ever get in the ML style, but really if I lived to be a thousand I NEVER thought the line would last long enough to bring us Werewolf by Night! This is a fun set that should bring a lot of joy to the old school Marvel fans that have supported this line.
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