In Praise of Marvel Legends
Many times over the years I have been asked what my favorite toys are. Pretty much all the time my answer is: the Super Powers Collection, the DC Comics based line made by the late, great Kenner company in the mid 1980s. Lots of collectors have strong disagreement with this choice, because they try to compare these figures with the figures out today. And their arguments usually run along the lines of "They don't have enough articulation! They are in static poses! They don't have super detailing! They don't have paint washes!". To these naysayers, I usually point out that what Super Powers bring to the table that no other line does is consistency and a great representation of the source characters. And no other line yet in my mind has satisfied these simple criteria.
But there is another reason I choose Super Powers over any figures of today: they are first and foremost toys. They are fun to play with, have neat accessories, and still manage to recall fun-filled days of my childhood laying around reading comics and reenacting the battles in my head. And all your Spawn and DC Direct figures are just a bunch of overpriced low grade statues in my book. But for the first time in 15 years, there are some super hero figures that have made me change my viewpoint entirely. And of course, I'm talking about Marvel Legends.
Let me be very clear about one thing: I did not set out liking this line. I watched them go from concept to sculpt to prototype, and every step of the way I was underwhelmed. Disappointed that once again another company had blown the golden chance to make the perfect iconic representation of everyone's favorite Marvel characters. So when I stumbled across the first assortment at Toys R Us one day, I had to debate long and hard whether I wanted to pick them up or not. And to be honest, the packaged figures still didn't impress me that much. But as a slave to my toy habit, I figured that I may as well pick them up and set them up in my office. But once they were on the shelf I thought that was pretty much the last time I'd think about them until the next wave hit.
I was wrong. To anyone reading the above paragraphs who find themselves agreeing with me, I only want to tell you this: open these toys the second you find them. Because these are the best toys I have bought in the last five years at least. And make no mistake about it, these are toys. Not "collectible figures", but toys. I cannot keep my hands off the Iron Man figure in particular; this toy is more fun than you can imagine. And it's served the dual purpose of rekindling that feeling inside me that made me want to collect toys in the first place, and made me that much more full of scorn for what else is in the marketplace today (more on that next week).
"So what makes these toys so good", you ask me. Well, to start with, they have amazing articulation. My good buddy Julius Marx has already reviewed each figure from top to bottom so go head on over to his column and check out the specs on these guys, in better detail than I can be bothered with. Now that you've checked them all out, you've seen that not only are they better articulated than just about anything in the US, but they are also the best versions of these characters made to date. To give you just a small idea of what great thought went into this line, take a look at the pictures running alongside this article. All these poses were done with no assistance whatsoever. The best new joints put into these figures are the"hidden" bicep joint and the ability of the ankle to swivel from side to side. This alone makes the figure able to stand in almost any pose by correcting his center of balance. Are they perfect? Well, no. But they are as close to perfect that you're going to find for any collectible under $50, to say nothing of one mass produced in the quantities that these guys have been. And it takes a lot of care and guidance to makes sure that they stay this good at every step in the manufacturing process. To get an idea of what each figure goes through from concept to store, go take a look at this article on the manufacturing process that I wrote for RTM.
There is a reason these guys are so good. And that they are $5.99 at most stores, instead of $9.99 like other comparable figures. And that reason is named Jesse Falcon. Jesse is the guiding hand for this line, and after overseeing many, many figure lines for Toy Biz over the last decade, this is the culmination of all his experience and hard work. Now, don't think this is one big love letter to Jesse. I've frequently been bitterly disappointed in some of his choices over the years (Spat & Grovel? No Baron Zemo? Props on the Stegron, though!) and find that he's not the snappy dresser that he appears to be other online forums. And he's not alone in creating this great line: Joann McLaughlin runs the whole shebang, and Phil Ramirez and Dave Cortez have created the fantastic sculpts for this line, with the bulk of the figures being sculpted by Phil, with Ed Wires painting the prototypes. But Jesse has really made sure that fans are happy with this line. The choices for the first two assortments are great, and are only getting better. We may finally have a canonical line to match DC's Super Powers, when all is said and done (for those that don't know, the assortments are: #1- Hulk, Toad, Captain America, & Iron Man. #2: Namor the Submariner, Thing, Human Torch, & Dr. Doom. #3 is rumored to include Wolverine, Thor, Magneto, & Ghost Rider. Look for confirmation and pics to show up at SDCC this year, where you should also be able to heckle Jesse and Phil in person).
But let me emphasize again: what sets these apart from all the other figures out there is that these are first and foremost great toys! I cannot fathom anyone who keeps these in the package, because they are not terribly impressive as a locked away "for display only" collectible. Yes, there is tremendously artistry in these figures, but it is in service to the play value. Most people will never realize just how complex it is to design and sculpt a figure with this many joints so it doesn't look like a jigsaw puzzle. I can't say it enough, these have all the right details, they have all the right deco, but more than anything else they are fun! Fun, fun, fun!
Accordingly, this line didn't just spring up out of nowhere. Years of experience and experimenting from the team at Toy Biz, plus years of demand from the fans for a nice straightforward Marvel line led us to this point. Toy Biz has been trying to give fans the "ultimate" Marvel sets for awhile now, starting with Damon Nee's great boxed sets from a few years back. These sets not only gave us characters we never thought we would see made, but tried to place them in the period of time that they were designed. With the "Giant Size X-men" boxed set, the articulation was even pushed further than before, in a direct precursor to Marvel Legends. One of the nicer things about Marvel legends is that they are in scale with the Spider-Man Classics line, the Spider-Man Movie figures, and various older lines, like the Avengers 6" figures, the Hulk 6" figures and the Apocalypse Rising figures. So right off the bat you've got a pretty full lineup of Marvel Heroes. And don't think that this was an accident, either.
Even if you think you don't "play with action figures", these will change your mind. I cannot help turning these guys over and over in my hands, posing them time and time again. Especially when I'm on the phone at work or watching TV. I want this line to go forever, mainly to have as many of these as possible. I want everyone from Black Panther to Doctor Strange! Bring 'em on! Now, along the lines of them not being perfect, I offer a quick fix to the main complaint that I've heard about these guys: that the waist joint is too loose: yeah, this is something that will probably be modified in future figures, but is just part of the "trial &error" nature of manufacturing something new. In the meantime, this fix works wonder. Go get some dental tape (like floss, only wider) and wrap it tightly in the center of that waist joint. Cut off the loose ends, and you now have a figure that stands tall! (Thanks to LeonardoTDragon for the tip!)
So that's the scoop, kids. Marvel Legends are "da bomb". Go buy them, and buy them soon, to let the buyers know that this line is a hit. Because the price point on these is so low, there is nowhere near the profit margin in these as there is in other lines (don't get me started on how Hasbro is ripping you off with Star Wars). So if they don't sell well, they may not continue, just like the DC 9" line was immediately canned (yes, I know there are exclusives, but 6 figures in 3 years does not a successful line make in my eyes). Again, show your support for these toys now, and we'll have more assortments to come for years. Once the buyers know the line will sell, they'll buy on faith for awhile at least, so the early days are when they watch the receipts the most. So go buy 'em! -The ToyOtter
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