the most infamous unreleased figure in Toy Biz history was this
one: U.S. Agent. The character of U.S. Agent had been previously
released in the Marvel Superheroes line as a repaint of the original
Captain America (you can still see the star on the repaint's chest).
A new sculpt of US Agent was planned for Series III of the Iron
Man line. However, before the line could ship, US Agent was pulled
from the lineup due to all Toy Biz assortments being cut down
to six figures. At the time, there were rumors that the figure
would show up in the next assortment or might even be threaded
into later case assortments, replacing an existing figure (as
was done with the Eric the Red figure who replaced Archangel II
in the X-Men: Invasion Series). These rumors proved to be false;
US Agent never made it into the Iron Man line.
to published reports of the time, Toy Biz had stated that approximately
100 of the US Agent figures were made and would be given away
as premiums and prizes in different venues. These figures came
loose in a baggie with a shield and the standard Iron Man badge,
although no sticker had been made for US Agent so the badge was
not the end of the story. Not by a long shot. Toy Biz decided
to resurrect the US Agent mold for a planned Series V of the Iron
Man line. With slight retooling, the addition of armor, and a
new head sculpt, the US Agent figure was to become the Living
Laser figure (see below).
too was not to be. The entire Series 5 assortment of figures was
canceled before they could make it to production. Citing poor
sell through and low ratings for the animated series, the entire
Iron Man line was scrapped.
wait, there's more! Proving to be the mold that would not die,
the US Agent/Living Laser mold would yet make an appearance on
retail shelves...but not in the Iron Man line. Now molded in translucent
red plastic, the mold became Astral Armor Professor Xaxier in
the X-Men: Mutant Armor line. Using what appears to be the head
from the original Professor X on the Living Laser body (it is
the Living Laser incarnation because the figure includes Living
Laser's Armor pieces) the figure was the shortpack (1 per case)
of the Mutant Armor series. There is one small, yet significant
difference between the US Agent mold and the Astral Armor Professor
Xavier mold. The left hand on the US Agent figure is completely
closed (presumably to hold the shield when not being fired). However,
the left hand on the Professor X version is remolded to an open
position (see photos). An odd retooling for what is essentially
a made-up repaint. Why go to the expense of retooling the mold
for a simple repaint that few people had ever seen the original
mold for anyway?
Comparison of the US Agent hand and Astral Armor
Professor Xavier hand.
But wait, there's still more. In
early 1997, ads began showing up offering "Foreign release US
Agent figures." These were carded action figures touted as a Limited
Edition from a company known only as "Elegant Way." Remarkably,
these figures came on the correct cardback (including bio information
and a correct instructional diagram on back) and even included
a unique sequential stock number for the Iron Man Series III figures.
to inside sources, the US Agent figures were to be used with a
wristwatch promotion overseas. This was not a deal officially
sanctioned through Toy Biz, Inc. and it is believed that approximately
10,000 pieces got made before the production was halted. Rumor
has it that certain US entrepreneurs had worked a deal with the
overseas manufacturing plant to obtain a limited number of these
figures. However, when Toy Biz discovered this unauthorized production
and sale of its product, it is said that they had all shipments
halted and the remaining inventory destroyed. This is not entirely
true as this piece continued to trickle out of Asia for months.
we ever see an official US Agent or Living Laser from Toy Biz
in any form? Never say never. As of now, there are no plans for
the release of either figure. However, Toy Biz has show a willingness
to grant exclusive figures to a variety of outlets. It is certainly
within the realm of possibility that we could see this mold in
one of its several forms (US Agent or Living Laser) at some time
in the future. Only time will tell!