New Release from TOY BIZ
By CubanZod and Julius Marx
It’s a great time to be a Spidey Villain. Even journeymen baddies like THE BEETLE are getting the super multi-articulated 6” treatment! (If only the FLASH ROGUES got such love!) Now shipping to a Wal-Mart and Target near you is the latest wave of Spider Man Classics: WEB TRAP SPIDER-MAN (with armored Spidey and generic “Thug”); TAIL STRIKE SCORPION (a vac-metallized repaint of the previous Scorpion issue): SPIN ‘N TRAP SPIDER-MAN (with pop up Venom); WEB CANNON SPIDER-MAN (with teeny tiny eyes); and of course the aforementioned BUZZING BEETLE.
For those of you who don’t know the saga of ABNER JENKINS (couldn’t Stan Lee have come up with a tougher name than “Abner?”) it’s ummm…not all that exciting. Jenkins was a nefarious aviation mechanic who used aircraft parts to build a green and purple battle suit. Once he put the finishing touches on his flying wings and suction fingered gloves—he promptly got his butt whupped by the Thing and the Human Torch. (Check out Beetle’s first appearance in Strange Tales #123!)
Seeking an easier arch-nemesis—the Beetle turned his tentacle-fingered attention to the Amazing Spider-Man, and annoyed the crap out of him from roughly the late 60s to the 1980s. Old Buckethead reached a new low as a Spidey-nemesis when he kidnapped Aunt-May and blasted off with her on a romantic trip through the skies of New York!
Figuring he couldn’t sink any lower… Jenkins leased out his villainous services to uber-capitalist Justin Hammer to join a group of baddies that took on IRON MAN, including Blacklash; Blizzard; Melter; Whirlwind; and others… Predictably, a hard-drinking Stark stomped an alcohol-soaked mudhole in Beetle’s gut.
His self-esteem at an all-time low; Jenkins (with the help of that old coot from Toy Story 2—the TERRIBLE TINKERER), re-designed his battle suit. Gone was the bucket head and suction fingers… in was a sleeker new battle suit. The new improved Beetle joined Egghead’s eggscelent MASTERS OF EVIL, and got his butt kicked by the AVENGERS this time. His “Queer Eye” makeover did pay dividends though… He was adapted into articulated plastic for the first time: a 5” version of the new Beetle was produced in the late 1990s as part of the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN cartoon line of action figures.
Ultimately—like any bad guy who has lost his “juice,” Beetle tried going straight for a while. He redesigned and repainted his battlesuit, called himself MACH ONE, and joined the THUNDERBOLTS led by Citizen V. But in turned out that Citizen V was secretly Baron Zemo Jr. in disguise, and Lil’ Abner was proven once again, to be a bit of a tool.
This latest Beetle re-design seems to take a page from Iron Man’s “Hulkbuster” armor… he’s massive and menacing on the outside, but soft and Abner-y on the inside.
I wasn’t kidding about the journeyman villain thing either… check out Beetle’s former partners: the Gladiator; Justin Hammer’s Cabal of Villains; the Masters of Evil; and The Thunderbolts. Can a stint with THE FRIGHTFUL FOUR be far off?
The new BUZZING BEETLE has cool features aplenty, more than any schlub named Abner deserves. His face lights up revealing the vague outline of a mean old Jenkins inside. He has a working missile launcher on each wrist. He has purple and blue attachable/detachable wings—that “flutter” when you wind him up.
And check out his 26-points of articulation: Double Toe x2 (His 2 toes move independent of the other!), Ankle x2 (and they pivot a bit from left to right too!), Knee x2, Ball-Jointed Hip x2, Waist, Limited Ball-jointed Shoulder x2, Mid-Bicep x 2, Elbow x2, Wrist x2, Triple Finger Articulation in Both Hands (His 3 Fingers move independently of each other!), Ball-jointed head/neck.
He also has an oily, greasy dark wash that gives him an authentic “working armor” look.
Memo to Toy Biz… if it comes time to produce another “Beetle” figure… Howzabout his FIRST APPEARANCE/ SPIDER-MAN YEAR ONE look? There’s some real Steve Ditko magic in Beetle’s original bucket-headed, tentacle-fingered look (the way he appeared in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 on through the mid-80s). And it’s a version that as of yet, has never seen the light of day. My unscientific survey says– kids love villainous nerds named Abner with creepy tentacle-fingers.