It can be very easy to forget that the basis for the toys in the Marvel Legends series are the great characters from the Marvel Universe. Those characters didn't originate in movies or television but in a unique American art form - the comic book. Toy Biz has included comics with these toys and they can serve as a great introduction to the characters represented and comics themselves.
Each of the comics included is a full 32 pages, though the advertisements inside the comics have been updated. The backer cards in the toys have an offer for a free 3-month subscription to Ultimate Spider-Man, and if this doesn't appeal to you, donate the backs to your local library or give it to a child so they might discover the world of comics.
Dr. Doom is arguably the greatest villain ever created in comics. He's noble, intelligent and obsessed with jealousy and the desire to prove his own superiority. His visage is fearsome, his armor deadly and his intellect almost without peer. He's a man who wishes to rule the world not because he craves power, but because he feels he would be the best man for the job.
Victor Von Doom grew as an orphan raised by gypsies in the European nation of Latveria. Victor was a very quick child and amassed knowledge of science and the mystic arts, both of which would serve him well throughout his life. He earned a scholarship to State University in New York, where he would meet his future nemesis Reed Richards (and a considerably less rocky Ben Grimm).
While at State he delved into some interests that were dangerous and out of bounds. He liked to stay out past curfew, spy on the girls locker room and conducting extra-dimensional experiments. The Dean might have let two of the three by, but the combination was just too much after an experiment went awry injuring Von Doom and damaging valuable school equipment.
After being expelled, Doom developed a great hatred of Reed Richards because he pointed out an error in Doom's calculations (and told on him for being out late). He wandered the earth (like Caine in Kung Fu) and came across some Tibetan monks who happened to be skilled in creating powerful body armor. After getting a new suit (and slapping on the steaming hot mask because he just couldn't wait) he went back to Latveria and was elected King. Elected in the sense that he overthrew the government and held a special election in which he was the only one allowed to vote.
Since then he's fought just about everyone in the Marvel Universe, usurped the power of the Silver Surfer and the Beyonder, and even conquered the Earth (or an alternate version thereof). The only things that have eluded him in completing his life are defeating Reed Richards and avoiding telemarketers who call castle Doom. Clearly the first goal is more likely.
A copy of Fantastic Four # 247 is included with Doom, originally printed in 1982 and was written and drawn by John Byrne. At the time John was one of the 'hot' artists of the day, and the fact that his work is still well regarded and that he continues to write and drawn compelling tales is a testament to his ability. Besides the unequalled run of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, John's run is arguably the best period in the book's history and one where it truly earned the moniker 'World's Greatest Comics magazine'.
Besides helming the book, John may have been the best writer of Dr. Doom ever, as he demonstrates an understanding of the character on many levels. This issue starts in Doom's native Latveria where he and the Fantastic Four have arrived to see the ruin of the nation after Doom has been overthrown. A loose alliance is formed between the five as they help Doom restore his rule to the grateful people, and break lots of stuff along the way.
The comic is well worth the read and Marvel Maniacs (as opposed to the Raving Toy variety) will notice the introduction of Kristoff, who would later prove to be a thorn in Doom's side by usurping his throne. The story shows Doom's arrogance, ruthlessness his power, intelligence, contempt and even his compassion. Through it all you just can't love him and you can't bring yourself to hate him. He's very complicated, and this shows the reason that of the myriad 'bad guys' in the Marvel Universe Doom stands alone.
Dr. Doom was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and made his first appearance in Fantastic Four #5, though his costume was slightly different. The character was no less menacing.
Namor, the Sub-Mariner was one of the first true hits for Timely Comics, an entity that would later become Marvel Comics. He made his early appearances in the 1940's and was re-introduced to modern audiences in 1962 in the pages of the Fantastic Four. He's an amphibian with the power to fly, lift really heavy objects and he can talk to fish. They just don't understand him or talk back.
Namor is the son of a human sea captain and an Atlantean Princess. It makes an interesting contrast with Mr. Spock of Star Trek in that both have pointed ears and that both are of mixed ancestry. Growing up white in an all-blue world (like Atlantis) wasn't easy, Namor wasn't the friendliest child around. He harbored a hatred of the air-breathing surface dwellers (partly because they were always trying to exploit Atlantis and possibly subconsciously because his father was one and that made him different) which he kept on and off over the years.
During World War 2 he fought the Axis along with the Invaders along with Captain America, the original Human Torch and other heroes of the era. Over the years he has maintained his contempt for the surface world and has alternately been both a hero and a villain, and anti-hero best describes him. He likes to invade the surface world from time to time and he makes a great case for seafood - he's 80 years old and still looks good in a swimsuit!
Because someone demanded it, a reprinted copy of Namor, The Savage Sub-Mariner # 67 in included with the figure. It has the surprising theme of Namor not trusting the air-breathers (but being an amphibian isn't he an air-breather too?), especially after a battle with Orka results in Namor being exposed to nerve gas from a sunken ship. The nerve gas is released and threatens all of Atlantis.
The nerve gas also threatens Namor, and it interacts with his mutant physiology to make it so he can't retain water in his skin, meaning he may die if he is ever out of water for very long. Reed Richards tries to help him, but he escapes and since he doesn't trust Reed a battle ensues where Namor is convinced they are really trying to help him. His condition means that he must wear a special costume created by Reed, and thus is his new costume born. He wears it not out of a keen fashion sense, but the desire not to have to fight his enemies from a bathtub!
Namor was created by Bill Everett and made his first appearance in Marvel Comics #1, from the late 1930's. The character has remained popular for over seven decades as a villain and a hero over the years. He has also headlined his own comic several times over the years and he loves sushi and may be the only man in the Marvel Universe that can say he has crabs without being embarrassed.
Benjamin J. Grimm had a rocky childhood growing up poor on Yancy St. in Manhattan. They were so poor that he used to eat pennies because they were the cheapest meal he could find, and after a little clean-up could be eaten again. Now that is poor!
The tough neighborhood (and possible e. coli) influenced his development, and he followed his brother into a life among the Yancy St. Gang. He eventually became the leader of the gang, showcasing some of his leadership abilities. After his parents dies he went to live with relatives, and that helped him straighten out his life.
He earned a scholarship to State University where he met Victor Von Doom and Reed Richards, the latter of whom he would form a lifelong friendship. From there he became a test pilot, so when Reed was nearly finished with his experimental rocket he was the natural choice for flying it.
The flight didn't go as well as planned, and after exposure to cosmic rays the four crewmembers were all transformed into super-powered beings. Ben got a mixed bag - he became extremely tough and strong, but he became a rocky creature. At first he was lumpy, but then his 'sauce' thickened and he formed a rockier skin. Over the years his appearance has changed, but inside he's been the ever-lovin' blue eyed Thing!
The Thing's spotlight issue is a reprint of Fantastic Four # 263, which is the start of a new series of tales for the FF after the Trial of Reed Richards saga. While there are a few side plots to get things rolling for the next few issues, this one is primarily a Thing issue, with the Torch making an important appearance as well.
While Reed and Sue settle into their new 'secret identities,' Johnny and Ben are out in California so Johnny can race at the WonderWorld resort. During the race the Torch is apparently 'killed' and Ben doesn't buy it since he's seen him in worse accidents. After a bit of detective work, Ben ends up on a star-shaped island (not to be confused with Numenor for Lord of the Rings fans) finding the not quite dead Torch and a plot to change the world. The issue ends on a cliffhanger as the Thing falls down a nearly bottomless pit (not to be confused with Gandalf falling down a nearly bottomless pit) and runs across the FF's very first opponent. Many fans will know who that is, but if you don't we're not spoiling it!!
Ben Grimm made his first appearance as the Thing in Fantastic Four #1 from late 1961, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character. The Thing is the 'earth' element from the Fantastic Four, and he's an alumni of State University along with Reed Richards. Rumor has it he was stoned a lot, though this is just a rumor...
The Human Torch
Johnny Storm was a typical teenager - he lusted after fast cars and gorgeous women (like most teenage men). He was lucky enough to be the younger brother of Sue Storm, who was seeing a bookish scientist named Reed Richards. On a visit to see Sue (an aspiring actress) he met Reed and learned that Reed was planning a test flight of an experimental rocket. Since Sue was a crewmember (one of those jobs you take while waiting to be discovered) and there was a fourth seat, Johnny finished out the quartet.
While the in-flight movie was cancelled, there were still plenty of fireworks as the ship was bombarded by cosmic rays. These rays changed Johnny so he could burst into flame, and even allowed him mental control over flames. They also turned his jumpsuit into a flame-resistant garment due to unstable molecules, so that he wasn't naked shortly after he flared up.
From there he took on the name of an old comics hero from World War 2 - the Human Torch, and he embarked on a career as a member of the Fantastic Four. His youth, good looks, super powers and celebrity status have made him popular with the women of Marvel's Earth, and an ex-girlfriend became a herald of Galactus. His ex-wife became a herald of legal action when he discovered she was really a shape-changing Skrull in disguise. He decided to break up with her, even though she really confessed to loving him. He was married to a woman would was capable of taking on any other woman's appearance - I'm still looking for the down side.
A copy of Fantastic Four # 233 has been reprinted for the Torch, and it's an appropriate solo story for the Torch. The tale starts with a man on death row who asks a priest to deliver a letter for him. He then goes on to face his fate and is executed, but the priest delivers that parcel to Johnny Storm in New York. The letter is from an old acquaintance of Johnny's from high school, a bully who used to pick on Johnny. He asks Johnny to clear his name of the crime for he was convicted and executed. While the man freely admits he deserves his fate for the rest of his life, he swears he was innocent of that crime.
The Torch dons the hat of investigator and tries to find the truth. Along the way he runs afoul of local crooks and even has a fight with long-time Spider-Man nemesis Hammerhead. In the end, it is serendipity that shows him the truth rather than his investigations (though they fill in the blanks). In the end he is able to show the mother of the executed prisoner that he was innocent of that crime, though like all mothers she was never fooled and knows the truth. The issue was part of John Byrne's run (he was the writer and artist for this issue) on the Fantastic Four and was originally published in 1980.
The original Human Torch was created by Carl Burgos in the late 1930's, and Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were the ones who introduced the modern version to comics fandom. The modern torch bears no relation to the original other than the shared appellation and that they both are on fire. They also both really like elephants, though no one knows why...
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