Elektra, Black Widow
WWII Captain America
There are so many characters seen in comics that would make great toys, but often never see the light of day. Sometimes the characters are not popular enough for the mass market, possibly they are new, or maybe they just don't fit into an existing line. Luckily, there is an all-purpose line that can make figures of some of these characters for the collectors market.
The Marvel Select line is the result of a joint venture between Diamond Select Toys and Toy Biz. The line is designed to run for three years and have a new figure released every month for a total of 36 figures. The line is being created by Toy Biz and Diamond Select, and for more information please read our interview with Eric Lyga at Diamond Select and Jesse Falcon at Toy Biz, to get a better idea of how the companies are working together.
So far, there have been four figures released in the Marvel Select line. The first was the Ultimate Spider-Man, followed by the Punisher, then Elektra and Ultimate WW2 Captain America. The next figure is the new Black Widow, followed by Origin Wolverine, Black Cat, Ultimate Iron Man, Ultimate Hulk and then a pair from the new MTV Spider-Man CG show (Spidey and Electro). After that, it is anyone's guess as to who will fill out the line.
One advantage that Marvel Select has over mass-market lines is that it is much easier to have female characters. Of the first ten figures announced, three are female (which is three more than the 12 figure strong mass-market Marvel Legends line), showing that the line can cater to collectors desire for more female figures.
The figures in the Marvel Select line are based around a seven-inch scale, meaning a six-foot tall character would be seven inches tall as a figure. The seven-inch scale is the one used by Diamond Select for their Battle of the Planets and Monty Python figures, and is also used by Art Asylum for their Star Trek figures. The Marvel Select figures are all scaled together for display as a group and they have highly detailed bases. They come packaged in a bookshelf format on large blister cards, and are available exclusively through Diamond Distribution.
The three figures covered in this article are Elektra, Ultimate WW2 Captain America and Black Widow 2. Elektra will soon by joined by a Marvel Legends version, but both the Widow and Cap are new to the action figure format. There have been Captain America and Black Widow figures, but not the incarnations of the characters represented here.
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
The black widow is not only a deadly spider and a type of fighter plane, but she's been a character inhabiting the Marvel Universe. The Marvel version has always been a Russian woman, making her start during the Cold War as an agent of the Soviet Union. As times have changed, so has the Widow. She has changed from a seeming enemy into a steadfast member (and sometime leader) of the Avengers and has lately taken on a role more in line with her espionage abilities. And when on widow moves out of the spotlight, another seems to take her place. The new model comes straight from Russia with love.
Yelena Belova is the new Black Widow, and being Russian is about the only thing she shares with the original widow. Yelena has a new, sexier costume, and blonde hair, which qualifies her for more fun (and being the butt of every blonde joke on the planet). She has a different edge than the original and she in very conflicted in finding her own role as the Black Widow and trying to get out from under the reputation and history of the original.
Recently, Yelena has been the star of her own mini-series - Black Widow: Pale Little Spider, published by Marvel under their Max imprint. The Max imprint is for books of an adult nature, with mature themes, language and they tend to be more graphic than most comics, so parents should keep this in mind. The mini-series differs from prior ones in that Yelena is alone, and gets to be the lead without even a cameo by her predecessor. The story starts with the discovery that her mentor has been found dead in a sex club, and along the way she needs to not only discover the killer, but in the process herself.
The mini-series was written by Greg Rucka with interior art from Igor Kordey (who has a rough style that actually fits the story perfectly). The covers were painted by Greg Horn, and his artwork is used extensively on the packaging for the figure. The spine of the bookshelf packaging has a large image of the Widow from the mini-series.
Like the figures in the Marvel Select line, the Black Widow has a large display base and accessories. In this case, the base looks like part of a cave or other rough-hewn stone, possibly under a facility that the Widow is infiltrating. The base is designed to be wall-mountable, and it has two pegs so the figure will stay on it unless you live in California and the 'big one' hits. In that case you should grab your figure off the wall and run to safety, preferably in Arizona.
She comes complete with three barrels that are rigged to explode. The contents of the barrels are made from an ancient Russian secret, so you can be sure it smells bad and explodes. All three barrels are loose, so you can use them as props for just about any other figures you have in a six-inch or higher scale. When you check out her back, near the shapely posterior is a trio of detonators attached to her belt (though they can't be removed and replaced). To go with the barrels, Yelena is packing a pair - of guns. She's got a pistol and a rifle, so she can reach and touch you from a distance, or a farther distance. But if you manage to get close, she'll pull a knife from the handy sheath on her belt and carve you up like beets in borscht.
Yes, she has accessories and a huge base, but what you really want is her figure. The Black Widow is six and a half inches tall, and is a mixed bag for articulation. Her lower body is solid, so from the waist down she's a single piece, pre-posed for your enjoyment. Her upper half is the day to her lower half's night, and she is impressive, especially in the chest. The wrists twist, with bending elbows, mid-bicep twists and ball-jointed shoulders. Her neck and waist can also twist, but the chest joint is one of the best ever made. Her upper torso is mounted by a sort of ball-joint to her midriff, but the joint is entirely hidden (and tight) and she can twist and bend with a wide range of motion. This lets her lean forward, or arch her back in a very provocative pose.
Steve Kiwus was the sculptor for Black Widow, and he's been very involved with the Marvel Select line, especially the women. He sculpted Elektra and the Black Cat, the Punisher, and the Ultimate Iron Man figures. Steve has also sculpted plenty of other figures for Toy Biz of various Marvel characters, and he produced the new Unreal figure sculpts for Radioactive Clown (which should be released in 2003... some time!).
The Ultimate Marvel Universe is a little different from the original one, though many of the truths are the same. Both have super-heroes and villains, both have super groups, and they both have Captain America. They both even have the same Captain America fighting in World War 2 and the present, with the same name. The two Caps start to diverge from there.
The Ultimate Captain America was a result of the super-soldier project and he became a key part of the war effort for the United States in World War 2. The Ultimate Cap is a bit more violent and soldier-like than the original character, and he wears a combat helmet, and carries the older, non-round shield. His uniform is more utilitarian than a costume, and he's armed and not afraid to use them. Much of his WW2 exploits were captured in The Ultimates # 2, part of a trade paperback or available as a back issue. If you'd rather read it for free, check out Marvel.com and go to the Marvel Heroes mini-site, where you can find an online dot comic showing the first three issues of The Ultimates, so you can see if you might like it.
Eventually, Cap is thought to be lost in battle, but he returns to the present as his youthful self. His attitude is much more no-nonsense and he still has some adjusting to make to the present day and the changes in the world during his absence. In the present, he's presented with a new shield (nice and round) and is invited to joint the Ultimates and even hangs out with President Bush (junior).
Like the other Marvel Select figures, sculpting is more a priority than articulation. Cap's lower body is a single piece from the waist down, though he does has a waist twist. The waist is slightly limited in motion because of the equipment hanging around the figure on belts. The shoulders have ball-joints, and the mid-biceps and wrists can twist. The head has a sort of ball-joint so he can look from side to side and up and down. Cap is taller than the women of the line, and he tops out at just over seven inches tall.
Cap always needs some equipment, so it has been thoughtfully provided. First up is the symbol of the man - his shield. A weapon designed for defense is the perfect symbol for America, and Cap's shield is not the round variety but more of a crest shape. The shield has straps on the back, they aren't elastic but softer plastic, and the shield can be removed from his arm easily. Along with the shield, Cap has his trusty helmet. The helmet is removable, in case you want him to lose it and have your Ultimate Iron Man figure buy it for him when he comes out of suspended animation. Cap also carries the flag of the United States as he charges into battle. The flag is accurate with only 48 stars since it pre-dates the entry of Alaska and Hawaii into the union.
Display bases are part of the Marvel Select line, and Cap comes with a WW2 diorama base. The background is a broken brick wall, with some shattered symbols of fallen Germany sculpted into the base. The base is not wall-mountable, and the brick wall is finished on both sides so you won't have to put this piece on the back row to hide that side like you do the undecorated part of a Christmas tree.
Shawn Nagle had sculpting duties for the Ultimate WW2 Captain America, the already available Ultimate Spider-Man, and soon to be available Origin Wolverine. Shawn also sculpted the Thor statue for Diamond Select, and the companion Loki for it. The Ultimate Captain America is based on the original Captain America, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Greece is a nation with many islands, delicious gyros, and plenty of ancient ruins of a once great and influential society. Besides being a favored vacation spot for Europeans, it's the home of one killer babe. Like most Greeks, she'll bend over backwards to help if she likes you, and hurt if she doesn't. And she likes lawyers, especially blind ones...
The Greek goddess of the hour is Elektra, and right now she has plenty of attention on her. She's one of the characters in the Daredevil movie (played by tv's Jennifer Garner), has a potential movie on the way (hopefully not 'My Big Fat Greek Assassination') and she has her own comic. The only thing better would be a great action figure, and now she has two - or more accurately two and a half. She will eventually join the Marvel Legends line as the first female in that line, and she has at least a figure and a half in the Marvel Select line.
Elektra Natchios is the daughter of a Greek ambassador, so she had the chance to travel to the United States and study. When in school she met up with a blind law student named Matt Murdock, who would later be known as the crime fighter Daredevil. Eventually they fell in love, and after tragedy struck Elektra and her father was killed she left the country to study martial arts. She grew to be a master of the arts and even studied under Stick, who would later train Daredevil. She also turned a little bad, and became a mercenary assassin.
Being a mercenary assassin means that you usually don't work for the most upstanding people around. Mostly criminals and politicians, so it should come as no surprise that she ended up in the employ of the Kingpin in New York. The bad part is that she was told to kill a friend of Matt's, and she couldn't do it. A new kid was making a name for himself and trying out for her job. He called himself Bullseye and he killed her, which is much better than a neat resume when being interviewed by the Kingpin.
Death would slow down or even stop most people, but not Elektra (nor most comics characters). She was resurrected and eventually went back into the mercenary business, though she's a little more careful about whom she works for. She also likes to play the 'I'm dead' card when her taxes are due, with little success.
Elektra has a huge castle base that does double duty for display and storage. The base can be wall-mounted and it works well with the Marvel Legends Dr. Doom figure as well as the Lord of the Rings figures. The base opens in the back to store the weapons and extra legs and arms for the figure. The inside is hollow, just like a chocolate bunny (but not as tasty) and the back of it has clips for weapons and arms complete with embossed images of the weapons, so you can make sure you have them all. The legs will fit inside the base, though it may take a little jockeying to fit them comfortably. There are also pegs to accommodate either set of legs for display. You could probably put them both on it, but it looks weird.
To say this figure is armed to the teeth is an understatement. She has not only several weapons, she also has extra arms and legs, to show off some different poses. Elektra has interchangeable arms and legs, and it takes just a little effort to swap them out. One pair of legs is more a static pose, with the legs close together. For these legs she has a small base so she can stand (she can't stand without it). The other pair of legs are spread out in a more dynamic pose, and she can stand with them though you may need to balance her a little. Both sets of legs attach at the waist. The two pairs of arms attach at the mid-bicep, and the big difference is in the hands. One set of arms has both elbows bent and the hands can hold any of her weapons. The other set has one arm bent, the other straight and she is designed to hold her older, less ornate sais between her fingers. The other weapons don't fit into these hands.
Having the additional legs and arms means that the articulation was kept lower on this figure. She has ball-jointed shoulders and a ball-jointed neck, but that's most of articulation. He waist can twist at the joint for her legs, and the arms can twists at the mid-bicep joint where the arms attach. She is about the same height as the Black Widow at six and a half inches tall.
Elektra is a master of martial arts weaponry, so she comes packed with plenty of gear to fill up her castle storage shed. She has two pair of sais - one is an older, very plain pair, and the other are very ornate. The ornate pair is based on the newer sais that Elektra has been using, and the sais were designed by Factory X (who also makes a set of life-sized replicas). She also has a set of san setsu-kon nunchuks, which have three sticks and they are attached by real metal chains. To finish the ensemble, she has a huge spear for fending off foes and the occasional spearfishing trip.
Elektra was sculpted by Steve Kiwus, and some of his other figures are covered in the Black Widow section. Her design was based partly on Greg Horn's cover paintings, and they adorn her package. Elektra was created by Frank Miller and made her first appearance in Daredevil # 168.
Pictures of Black Widow
Pictures of Ultimate Captain America
Pictures of Elektra
|Where to buy Marvel Select: The Marvel Select action figures retail for about $18 to $20 each and are available through your local comic book store, as well as various online toy retailers.
A few such online stores are RTM sponsors Big Bad Toy Store and The Outer Reaches. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)