The Marvel Universe was officially created in 1961 with the introduction of 'Fantastic Four #1' and has steadily grown since then to become a part of American pop culture. After the successful launch of Fantastic Four, Marvel followed up with a slew of new characters as well as re-introducing some older ones. Today, Marvel Comics has had a resurgence marked by popular films (such as Blade, X-Men and the upcoming Spider-Man), new and popular lines of comics and, oh yes - toys.
Toy Biz has been slowly building a reputation for making great toys, and they have taken lessons learned on the highly successful 'Spider-Man Classics' line and continue to apply them to comics related action figures. Well-sculpted and highly articulated figures were merged with innovative display bases to make 'Spider-Man Classics' a success, and the sequel using the same ideas is 'Marvel Legends'.
With 'Marvel Legends' Toy Biz is tapping into the rich tapestry of the most well-known and important characters of the Marvel Universe and trying to make the ultimate toy versions of them. The first series of figures includes such stalwart characters as Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, The Invincible Iron Man, and the Terrible Toad. (Read our Spotlights on Series 2 and Series 3.)
The first three characters are arguably among the best known in Marvel Comics (and are all Avengers), but Toad isn't quite as well known as the others. His inclusion in the first series was due to a combination of factors, including a previously cancelled line and some delays with another figure originally planned for the first release. Toad was sculpted for the 'Evolution of X' line but was never produced since the line was cancelled after only one figure (Wolverine, which saw limited distribution in Canada and now the US at KB Toys). Dr. Doom was to be the fourth in the first series, but delays in his design caused him to be pushed back to the second series. Toad was ready to go and he slid into the spot.
All the figures in Marvel Legends have complete comics included in the package, reprinting significant issues from the history of that particular character. (The international versions of these had posters instead of comics, but this review is limited to the U.S. releases that include the comics.) It seems unconscionable not to mention these as they are the source of the characters and designs, and there is detailed information on the characters and the comics included on the page linked from the picture by this paragraph, and through this link.
All the figures in this assortment are packed in clamshell packaging with the comic included along with the figure and a display stand. All the display stands except Toad's are wall mountable as well as being designed for display on a desk or shelf. The back of the packaging lists four figures (the gold variant Iron Man is absent) along with a little biographical information about the character. These figures are designed around a scale of roughly one inch to one foot (or a six inch scale).
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
Captain America is the 'living legend of WW2' and has been published on and off for over 60 years, even longer than Marvel Comics itself has existed. Cap symbolizes America not only in his flag like outfit, but also in his beliefs. He carries a shield as a weapon, showing his attitude as that of a defender of justice and not an aggressor. (Read more about the character and the included comic, Captain America #109.)
The figure of Cap is six inches tall and has an impressive array of articulation. He has ball-jointed shoulder and thighs, double jointed knees and elbows, bicep and mid-thigh twists, forearm and mid-calf twists, jointed wrists and hinged hands, waist twist and chest joint that allows some bending and tilting, jointed ankles and mid-foot hinges and the ankle joints also allow movement from side-to-side as well as up and down. The glove and boot cuffs cleverly hide the forearm and mid-calf twists. The neck has a ball joint for the head, which allows twisting and some movement up and down with some tilting, though these are limited.
The chest and parts of the arm have an overlay that makes them appear to be scaled armor. Cap comes with his trusty shield, which has two elastic straps on the back and a clip that can be used to attach it to his hands. The straps allow Cap to carry the shield on his back as he often does in the comics. His display stand has a current American flag along with the ruins of a tank and a bullet-ridden wall. The stand can be wall-mounted and has several peg holes for display.
The Incredible Hulk is not only a charter member of the Avengers, but one of Marvel's early anti-heroes. He is among the strongest people in the Marvel Universe, he absolutely loves purple jeans (though where he buys them is a mystery) and he has a very bad temper. He's got some aggression problems and he very much likes to break things. (Read more about the character and the included comic, The Incredible Hulk #314.)
The Hulk's figure towers over the others at close to eight inches tall, and isn't quite as articulated (nor usually very articulate) as Cap or Iron Man. He has ball-jointed shoulders, bending elbows, thighs and knees, twisting wrists and hinged hands. The ankles are jointed to move forward and back as well as side-to-side, and the shoulders have an extra hinge built in that allows the arms to go forward to mimic the Hulk's famous thunderclap. His waist can twist and there is a chest joint but it doesn't allow very much movement at all. The neck has a ball joint to allow twisting and some tilting. The shoulder hinges do leave a gap in the back, though there are extra pieces attached to help mask this.
The hinged hands will appear on the general US release of this figure, but some of the earlier ones released internationally don't have hinged hands but just have solid hands made of softer plastic. This was a change that was implemented because the original design called for soft plastic fingers that had a wire in them, making them all poseable and bendy. Due to safety concerns this was changed and the earlier figures just have the softer plastic hands.
The Hulk has a wall-mountable display stand that depicts a broken wall with a large hole that the Hulk is emerging from. The display has two nail holes on the back due to its design and the extra weight of the Hulk figure. The Hulk's nipples are also very low on his pecs, perhaps due to either old age sagging or gamma radiation. You make the call!
The Toad was a late replacement, and while his legendary status is questionable, it's best not to tell him that. The Toad is the only villain in the first series of Legends, and he's pretty creepy along with being the short pack. His favorite video game is Frogger and he lists sewing as a hobby. Judging by his costume, he just isn't very good at it. (Read more about the character and the included comic, X-Men #4.)
Toad is about six inches tall and has the least articulation among the Legends first series, but he does come with a nifty base and a toad stuck to his left hand to make up for it. He has ball-jointed shoulders, wrist and mid-calf twists (cleverly hidden by cuffs), a waist twist, twisting thighs and the right arm has a mid-bicep twist. His neck can also twist, and with 11 points of articulation (counting the ball-joints as one point each) being the low man is still respectable.
Being the replacement figure does have a down-side - reusing the base. Toad's base is the same as the one included with Man-Spider from Spider-Man Classics series, and after being used by the Man-Spider you can bet it stinks. The base can't be wall-mounted, but it is pretty nice nonetheless. It is a creek bed with some small wildlife around it, a skeleton inside it and a small stream simulated by clear plastic (even including molded bubbles in the lee of a stump and a rock). The clear plastic can be removed to simulate a dry creek bed (but where's the fun in that?). Man-Spider's footprints are still on the base, and it is slightly less colorful for the Toad. Have we mentioned he has a toad he carries around?
Iron Man is another charter member of the Avengers, and one of the most popular characters around. Nicolas Cage has been quoted as wanting to play him in a movie and Jerry Seinfeld wants to know if he wears underwear. For the Legends line there are two versions of Iron Man, one in red and yellow and the other in red and gold. Initial cases will have both versions packed equally, though this could change over time. (Read more about the character and the included comic, Iron Man #149.)
Both versions of Iron Man are just over six inches tall and have the same articulation, though they have different masks. The figures have ball-jointed shoulders and thighs, double-jointed knees and elbows, bicep and mid-thigh twists and a waist twist. The chest is also jointed to allow a little twisting and tilting, though it is limited. The wrists can bend and the hands are hinges, while the ankles have the same joints as the Hulk and Cap that can bend both up and down and be moved side-to-side. The feet are hinged and the forearms and mid-calves have twists that are hidden by the gauntlet and boot cuffs. The shoulders have an extra hinge like the Hulk that allows them to move forward, though there isn't an extra piece on the back to mask the opening when they are extended. The neck has a ball joint that allows twisting and some bending and tilting of the head. They both have the same display base, which has a sign for Stark Enterprises and looks to be a generator he can stand on.
The regular Iron Man has a red and yellow color scheme and has a removable mask. The faceplate fits very well, and under it lies the face of Tony Stark. There is a reddish gold wash to highlight the figure's yellow parts and a metallic wash on the red parts. This armor is basically the same one that was introduced in Iron Man #126, and is considered one of the most classic looks for Iron Man.
The variant version of Iron Man has a different color scheme and faceplate for the helmet, though uses the same base figure. The variant is in a deeper red with gold trim instead of yellow, though it has a coppery look as well. The figure still has reddish highlights with the same metallic wash on the red parts. The faceplate is radically different than the regular version, and is horned though it fits on and comes off just as easily. This version has been dubbed the 'Ditko version' though it isn't entirely clear if Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby designed the horned look that first appeared in Tales of Suspense # 48. Regardless, it's a cool variant though this helmet was never married to the suit of armor depicted by this figure.
The next series of Marvel Legends will include Dr. Doom (who will appear with a variant), the Thing, the Human Torch and Namor, the Sub-Mariner and is tentatively set for release later in 2002. Pictures of the prototypes can be found at RTM's Toy Fair coverage of Toy Biz, and a third series is still early in the design stage. If the line is successful, the possibilities are endless for the line to continue, and the back of the packaging lists the X-Men, Thor, the Thunderbolts, the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Defenders, Captain Marvel and the Black Panther by name.
The thumbnails below each lead to a very large picture of the appropriate image and character. These images are very large and on slower dial-up connections (28.8 kps) may take up to a minute to load. Bear this in mind before you proceed to see the images.
More pictures of Captain America
More pictures of the Terrible Toad
More pictures of the Incredible Hulk
More pictures of the yellow Iron Man
More pictures of the gold Iron Man
|Where to buy Marvel Legends: The Marvel Legends action figures retail in the $7.99 to $9.99 USD price range. Some online stores sell them in sets, in the $36 to $40 price range. They will be available in May 2002 at toy stores such as Toys'R'Us, KB, and Target, as well as various online toy retailers.
One such online store is RTM sponsor AisleSniper.com.