Over the past few years there has been resurgence in Marvel Comics. The publisher that had filed for bankruptcy and was bailed out a few short years ago has bounced back both on the comics scene, and in a larger sense in American pop culture. The biggest reason for this is due to the increased output of movies based on Marvel characters, and good movies at that.
The heroes and villains of Marvel Comics are now starting to come alive in a literal sense with the release over the last few years of no less than seven movies based directly on Marvel Comics super heroes. The trend got its start from Wesley Snipes as Blade, and it is often under appreciated as the first good Marvel movie. From there came the inevitable sequel (Blade 2), X-Men and 2002's top grossing movie Spider-Man. 2003 started off with Daredevil, then X-Men 2 and finally The Hulk.
The Hulk is no stranger to live action, and he was the center of a television series that ran from 1977 until (and continues on in reruns). For the show, playing the Hulk was a dual role shared between the late Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno (who is rumored to make a cameo in the new movie). To make the transition from small screen to large required not two men to play one character, but one man and a computer. There were a fair number of computer-generated characters in 2002 (like Yoda, Gollum, Dobby and Stuart Little) and the Hulk will join their ranks in the summer of 2003.
Details of the movie's story and plot have surfaced as rumors, and rather than promulgate these, we'll stick with what has been officially confirmed. Based on advertising and the official site, it looks like the movie will take place in San Francisco. Eric Bana will be playing Bruce Banner, and he was recently seen in Black Hawk Down. Jennifer Connelly has been cast as Bruce's love interest Betty Ross, and she recently won an Academy Award for her role in 2001's best picture A Beautiful Mind. From there you have Sam Elliot as General Thunderbolt Ross (Elliot played another Ranger in We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson). Nick Nolte will portray Banner's father, and Josh Lucas will be Major Glen Talbot. The movie's director is Ang Lee, whose recent work includes the award winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The Incredible Hulk was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and from the start he was clearly a torn character with a clear inspiration from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. The origins of the character strongly suggest that Jack Kirby deserves the lion's share of credit for the character because the same themes prevalent in The Hulk were seen in much of Kirby's work over the years. Jack was the master of the misunderstood monster, though clearly the words conjured from Stan's subconscious were symbiotic in breathing life into the character.
For the movie, Toy Biz has conjured up a variety of toys to interest the collector and kid alike, though the emphasis is on making the toys kid-friendly. There is an action figure line composed on standard figures and a pair of roto-cast figures, and these will be the focus of this Spotlight. Additionally, there is a pair of oversized foam hands that make crushing sounds when hit, a Rage Cage Hulk and some Smash and Go toys with the Hulk and various vehicles. The latest addition is a Hulk voice device that lowers the octave of the person's voice to create a 'Hulk-like' voice, and this item is sure to be popular with the witness protection program and anonymous callers.
The first series of figures (covered here) hit store shelves at the end of 2002, and the second series is currently (late February 2003) hitting some stores. Series 3 and 4 are slated for fall release with a pair of mystery figures (one for each series) joining the figures shown at Toy Fair. One thing is very clear about the line of figures from the movie - you'd better like Hulk because there are more of him than there are good Star Wars movies.
The first line of Hulk toys is a good reflection of the rest of the figures - lots of Hulks and all with action features. The first series has the Super-Poseable Leaping Hulk, Smash and Crush Hulk and Punching Hulk. There are also two huge rotocast Hulks (normal and a rage Hulk) to beat up on the smaller Hulks. The smaller three are from six and a half to seven inches tall, with the rotocast Hulks towering at thirteen inches. Yep, over a foot of green rage, waiting for you!
NOTE: The images of the three smaller Hulk figures show distinct differences in color between the arms and chest pieces of the figures. There are slight differences in the color, but the images are more pronounced than is visible in the actual toys, and this seems to be an artifact of digital photography. Again, the actual colors of the figures match better than the images would indicate, though they are different colors (though only slightly).
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
The first Hulk up is the Super-Poseable Leaping Hulk. As the clever name implies, he can not only make super poses, but also leap tall buildings in a single bound. However, he really can't leap at all, but is able to simulate the leaping through a generator (or turbofan) that has a spring wound device in it. When you pull the Hulk away from it and let go of him (while still holding the generator) he snaps back to the generator via the string attached to the generator and his back. The action feature is contained in the generator, so if you don't care for it just untie him and he's free of the strings that run his life.
That covers the leaping part, but it says he's super-poseable, and that's no lie. He is loaded with articulation. The shoulders are ball-jointed and he has shoulder articulation similar to the Marvel Legends Hulk where his arms can be pushed forward as if he were clapping. Like the Legends Hulk (and Iron Man) he leaves big gaps in his back when he does this. He has mid-bicep twists that blend in well with the shoulders, bending elbows and twisting wrists. The left hand has a mid fist joint so he can hold things and also make a fist while the right hand is in a permanent fist with a wrist bend. The neck can twists but it has a sliding joint so the face can look up and his chest has a twisting joint that can also tilt from side to side. The waist is unarticulated and the thighs have a 't-crotch' where the thighs swivel and then another joint in the thighs to let the thighs spread out (basically, mimicking most of the motion of a ball-joint). From there he has knees, ankles and also side-to-side joints in the ankles. Yep, that's 'super-poseable'!
Hulk number two is the Smash and Crush Hulk, and he enjoys reading poetry by the pool, discussing the Dutch Masters and smashing and crushing the people who disagree with him. He also crushes crackers, but mostly for his soup.
He comes with half a humvee because he really can't drive and he just needed something to crush and/or smash. The hood of the truck has a rubbery coating over a piece that when pushed up looks like a regular hood. But when the Hulk smashes the hood it stays down and looks to be dented, but can easily be repaired to be smashed again and again! It also makes a very nice chair for the Hulk to sit in, and the vehicle clearly has no airbag or has bad sensors for it.
Since this Hulk likes to smash and crush things he needs an action feature that would promote such reckless behavior. He has that very feature when his legs are squeezed together his body bends forward at the waist, and any fists that have been placed in the forward position with certainly smash (or crush) something in front of him. His head strains forward and his mouth opens in a scream of pain when you squeeze his legs together. Some may say he is screaming in rage, but when you squeeze a man's legs together like that not only will he be mad, but he will be in pain. Since he does wear pants, he must be fully 'equipped'... for pain that is!
The action feature removes any neck and waist articulation (except for the bends and scream keyed by squeezing the legs), but other parts don't share that fate. The shoulders are ball-jointed with mid-bicep twists, bending elbows and twisting wrists. The thighs just have swivels but and mid-thigh twist has been added. He has bending knees and ankles, and the ankle joints also move from side-to-side. And big feet, very big feet.
The last of the first series figures is the Punching Hulk. Punching is one of the things the Hulk does extremely well - the other is synchronized swimming. No word on when that one will be out... But the punching Hulk is out right now and if you laugh at his swimming he'll punch you. Hard.
The Punching Hulk is an example of trade-offs - more action features but less articulation. He has a total of two action features, both related to punching. The first is activated by lever in his back. When the lever is pressed down the right arm twists up and the left arm twists down in a sort of crazy Hulk dance. His other action feature is that when his legs are squeezed together (and this Hulk has blue pants unlike his two compatriots with their purples) his waist twists to deliver a right hook. The faster you squeeze him, the faster his punch will be. He doubles as a hand exerciser.
The articulation for this Hulk is less than the other two, partly due to the action features. The shoulders are ball-jointed and the elbows and wrists bend. The neck can twists and even though it is a modified ball-joint he really can't look up or down very well. The waist really doesn't work as a true joint without the action feature and the thighs have swivel joints. Beyond that, the knees bend and the ankles twist and that's about it. His pants are longer than the other Hulks, and they go to his knees.
When you have a Hulk that likes to punch you have to have something for him to hit. While pets may seem the logical answer, that would be wrong and even the Hulk knows you treat them with respect. However, siblings are open game (especially with those big Hulk fists), and so is the special punching wall included. The wall looks to be made of steel (though it is plastic artfully painted to simulate the look of steel). There are three spots that, when punched, will pop out. Not only do they have the imprint of fists on the back side, but they are numbered both on them and the wall to make sure you put them back in the right spot. There is also the fact that each piece only fits in one spot to help, but for some that just may not be enough. Rumor has it this wall could be used for early shape testing among genetically engineered super babies being grown in government labs. This is just a rumor, though.
Perhaps the most impressive and interesting addition to the Hulk line is the two large rotocast Hulk figures. Rotocast figures may be new to many collectors, but the process is familiar to most people through the hollow chocolate Easter Bunnies that pervade shelves in the spring. Rotocasting (short for rotational casting) has gained much attention recently from the Hong Kong Vinyl explosion of urban styled figures. The process of rotocasting is less expensive than injection molding for most applications, and this has allowed many more small companies to become involved with the figures in small runs.
Hong Kong may be the center for rotocasting now, but the process comes from the land of chocolate and the Autobahn. Rotocasting was invented in Germany in the 1920's to make hollow Easter Bunnies (a process that continues today), and this was adapted to plastics in the 1950's. It wasn't until the 50's that materials that were suitable for rotocasting as plastics were developed, but since then the process has continued and evolved.
The rotocast figures are huge at over a foot tall (around 13") and they have articulated bodies and cloth pants. There is in reality only one Hulk body, but the pants and head are different between the two. One is the Rage Hulk with an angry face and purple pants while the calmer, normal Hulk has a not-as-angry face and dark blue pants. The pants are a bit tattered but intact enough so he doesn't reveal his 'mini-mate'. They are packaged in open packaging similar to the prior Cave Troll figure from the Lord of the Rings line, but they won't suffer the ripped faces that the trolls did. The Hulk is far too mean for that, plus he doesn't have any soft and squishy parts!
For rotocast figures there is prevalence for swivel joints and articulation differs from that of regular action figures. There are no bending joints or true ball-joints, though ball-joints are duplicated fairly closely. The rotocast Hulks are both identically articulated with ball-jointed shoulders, swivels at the elbows and swivels at the wrists. The neck can swivel and the chest has a modified joint that allows twisting and some bending motion. The waist also twists, and there are twists at both thighs and mid-thighs and also at the ankles, right above those really big feet.
Pictures of Leaping Hulk
Pictures of Smash & Crush Hulk
Pictures of Punching Hulk
Pictures of the Rotocast Hulks
|Where to buy Hulk action figures: The smaller Hulk action figures retail for about $7.99 to $9.99 each, while the rotocast Hulk figures retail for about $9.99 to $13.99 each. All should be available at major toy retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys'R'Us (and Amazon.com), as well as various online toy retailers.
Two 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.)