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ANTI-VENOM (2015)

Marv-Anti fullMARVEL LEGENDS

If you’re a reader of Marvel comics like I am then you know that Marvel has suspended the publication of all of its regular titles for the summer. The reason for this is they have a massive company-wide crossover in the works called Secret Wars.  To support the main Secret Wars title Marvel is publishing a bunch of tie-in mini-series’ in place of their regular  monthly books.  When the smoke clears we’re being promised an “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Universe and all the titles will relaunch with new #1 issues.  As a stubborn old-school fan this s**t annoys the hell out of me but I try not to get too hung up on the wacky numbering and the gaps in continuity.  As long as the stories are good I can grin and bear all the nonsense. God knows I’ve been through this before.

One of my least favourite status-quo shake ups came in 2008 with a storyline titled “Brand New Day”.   For as long as I’d been reading comics at that point, which was over 20 years, Peter Parker had been with Mary Jane Watson. They got married just a few months into my collecting hobby so a 30-something married Spider-Man is all I ever really knew.  I liked the mature married Spider-Man but apparently a lot of people didn’t.  For years writers attempted to undo the marriage they thought kept Spidey from being the down on his luck everyman that people wanted to see.  Marvel tried and failed to sweep married Spider-Man under the rug with their clone saga storyline that introduced Ben Reilly as a new Spider-Man but they finally did it with Brand New Day.Marv-Anti back

The gist of Brand New Day is that Aunt May was dying (again) and to save her Peter made a deal with the devil.  The cost of doing business?  His marriage. Groan.

Along with Aunt May getting better and the marriage being wiped from existence there were a few other side effects to the deal such as the whole world forgetting about Spider-Man revealing his secret identity during the super hero Civil War and Pete’s old buddy Harry Osbourne was alive again.  Gotta love comics.

To drive home the point that Brand New Day wasn’t just the same old Spider-Man stories we’d seen a dozen times before an editorial decision was made to not have any of Spidey’s famous villains show up for the first year.  Instead we got all new villains.  The problem with that was the new villains either sucked (Paper Doll?  Screwball? Overdrive?) or they were completely derivative of established villains (Menace = Green Goblin, New Vulture = Old Vulture).  One of the wholly unoriginal new characters introduced in 2008 was Anti-Venom who was a complete knock-off of, you guessed it…Venom.

Marv-Anti face

Venom is black with a white spider on his chest while Anti-Venom is white with a black spider on his chest.  Beyond that their powers and abilities are pretty much the same (except Anti-Venom can cure diseases).  I should hate this character but I don’t.  There are a couple reasons for that.  First off, as I said earlier, I’m an old school fan who is often resistant to change. Venom was first introduced in 1986, right around the same time Peter and MJ got married and just a few months after my introduction into comic collecting.  Back then Eddie Brock was Venom and I liked him in the role. In 2004 Eddie was dying of cancer so he sold his alien costume and it passed from the Scorpion for a few years and more recently to Flash Thompson.Marv-Anti art

It didn’t sit well with me that Eddie Brock got pushed to the sidelines.  Which is partly why I like Anti-Venom because it was a persona better suited to Eddie who had long been portrayed as an anti-hero.  Eddie became Anti-Venom through some convoluted plot involving alien DNA in his white blood cells being triggered by Mr. Negative curing him of cancer or some such nonsense.  The other reason I liked Anti-Venom right off the bat is because he was drawn by John Romita Jr., one of my favourite artists.

Unfortunately, Anti-Venom was relatively short lived.  Eddie had to sacrifice his alien symbiote to save New York in the 2011 story line Spider Island.  However, I didn’t waste any time mourning the character as I have an inkling that we’ll see him again one day.Marv-Anti compare

 

This figure is part of the latest wave of Marvel Legends consisting of all Spider-Man characters.  I saw the whole wave while shopping at Walmart tonight and there were a few decent figures to be had but money was tight so I went with the one  I thought was the best of the bunch.

The body appears to be the exact same as the one used last year for another symbiote character, Toxin.  However Anti-Venom is a much nicer looking figure because his paint job is way more interesting than Toxin’s solid red.  It’s a solid bulky body with well sculpted muscles and loads of articulation including doubled-jointed knees and elbows.

The only new pieces here are the head and the back attachment.  Toxin had tendrils that plugged into his back but Anti-Venom has spikes.  The head looks great and exactly as it appeared in the comics.  The only thing that could have been improved on the head would be a hinged jaw.  This is a cool figure and it comes with a piece (a leg) of this wave’s awesome build-a-figure, Phil Urich: Hobgoblin. For Spidey fans who missed out on the Marvel Select figure from a couple of years ago this is a must-get.  9 out of 10.

SYMBIOTE FIGHT!!!

SYMBIOTE FIGHT!!

THUNDERBALL

Marv-Thunderball fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

I got some great new toys in this week including my second shipment from the G.I.Joe figure subscription service but before I delve into those reviews I’m gonna keep my black history month theme going here with a review of Thunderball.

Thunderball is a Marvel comics villain who’s been around since 1974. He’s a member of the Wrecking Crew along with Bulldozer and Piledriver and led by the Wrecker. The Wrecking Crew are primarily Thor and Avengers villains but I see them more as villains of the Marvel Universe in general. They pop up everywhere. Every time there’s a gang war or a villainous gathering of any sort the Wrecking Crew are there. Often times they’re just background characters used to pad group shots on splash pages. This figure, which is part of Hasbro’s 3 ¾” Marvel Universe line, was packaged in a Secret Wars themed 2-pack along with Spider-Man. 1984’s Secret Wars was one of the first company-wide comic book crossover events which are so common nowadays. Practically all of Marvel’s heroes and villains were thrown together by a cosmic being and forced to fight on an alien Battle World. It was the perfect place for the Wrecking Crew’s special brand of panel filling.Marv-Thunderball art

It’s somewhat odd that Thunderball would be paired with Spidey for the 2-pack because the Wrecking Crew aren’t generally associated with the Web Head; he’s got a big enough villain roster as it is. However my first exposure to the Wrecking Crew was in “Spectacular Spider-Man” just a few after I began collecting comics. I would have been 9 years old when I picked up Spectacular issues 125 and 126 in 1987 which featured the Wrecking Crew hunting down the same computer disc as the new Spider-Woman, Julia Carpenter. The cover to issue 125 is very dynamic and is one of my all-time favorites.Marv-Thunderball cover

My favorite member of the Crew is the Wrecker. He’s got a cool costume and he gets the most face time in comics so I feel I know him best. Thunderball was once a scientist who specialized in gamma radiation so he’s the brains of the group. The other 2 members are pretty much inter-changeable to me, just a couple of meat heads. I’m sure their individual personalities were fleshed out at some point but I didn’t read whatever book that happened in.

I like Thunderball simply because he’s a Marvel character. He’s the kind of villain who’s available to be beaten up in a few panels to add some action to the opening scenes of a comic. He’s nothing to call home about but he fills a role. Not every villain can be a Doctor Doom with plans to take over the world. You need street level guys like this for bank heists and whatnot.Marv-Thunderball reenact

I’ve never given much thought to Thunderball’s costume before but now that I’m examining it I notice that it really sucks. It’s completely generic. Full body green tights, yellow underwear over top, long gloves, buccaneer boots, and a fairly dull mask. There’s absolutely nothing interesting or defining about it. He doesn’t have a logo or even a letter on his chest. It’s weak.

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Thunderball’s calling card may not be his outfit but his weapon is one to remember.  He carries a wrecking ball on a chain. Now that’s pretty badass but even that schtick isn’t wholly original. Another Marvel villain, The Absorbing Man created in the 1960s, did it first and does it better.

As far as this actual toy goes it’s not bad. It’s a good representation of the character and it’s appropriately taller than other figures like Spider-Man. The articulation is a little wonky, as is often the case with this line, so it can be difficult to get Thunderball to stand in a neutral pose that looks natural. The wrecking ball accessrory looks cool but doesn’t always stay in his hand very well so it might take a few tries to pose him swinging it over his head or anything.  The dark paint wash over the green tights shows off the sculpted muscles and keeps this figure from looking too flat.  6 out of 10.Marv-Thunderball crew

GREEN GOBLIN (2014)

Marv-Green Goblin mash fullMARVEL: SUPER HERO MASHERS

It’s time for another Green Goblin action figure review. This is the third one I’ve written in the past 6 months. The first one I reviewed was the Marvel Legends build-a-figure Ultimate Green Goblin, which was nothing to call home about. After I realized that the lackluster Ultimate version was the only Green Goblin figure I had ever reviewed in my 2 1/2 years writing this blog I decided I’d better review a more traditional Goblin figure. I had many to choose from but I opted to share my thoughts on the unarticulated 12” toy produced by Remco in 1978, a toy I’ve owned since I was a wee child. That toy is pretty cool in a retro sort of way and it has a lot of nostalgic value with me but it was never all that fun to play with because it didn’t move. I have yet to review a great Green Goblin figure and I own at least 3 of those that I can think of off the top of my head. But those great figures will have to wait until another day because today I’ll be reviewing another mediocre Goblin figure.

For the past year or so Hasbro has been producing these clunky stylized figures called Mashers. The idea behind them is that they pop apart quite easily and the parts can be swapped amongst the various figures. So far they have Marvel and Transformers Mashers so if you want to create a super hero with Spider-Man’s head, Optimus Prime’s body and Iron Man’s legs you can do that. I suspect we’ll see Mashers from other Hasbro brands like Star Wars  and maybe G.I. Joe in the near future.Marv-Green goblin mash pose

I’ll admit I was tempted to pick up one or two of the Marvel Mashers when they first hit the shelves  a few months back but I resisted the urge. I already collect Marvel characters in the 3 ¾” Universe scale and I buy a number of them in the 6” Legends scale as well so the last thing I need to do is start collecting the same characters in a third format. However, I find the Transformers Mashers even more enticing. Especially the Optimus Prime and Megatron because they’re both great representations of the characters in their original G1 robot modes; something I don’t currently have in my collection. I haven’t picked them up yet but it crosses my mind every time I see them in the toy aisle.

Marv-Green goblin mash backThe Mashers are clearly geared towards children. They’re big, colorful, durable, and they don’t come with a bunch of small accessories. They’re a big hit with my brother Doug’s kids. My nephews Alex and Luke already have a Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Dr. Doom, Deadpool, Hulk, and Iron Patriot. Doug has already picked up a few more to give them as Christmas presents and when I asked him last week what I should buy for them (I’m trying to start early this year) he suggested I pick them up a couple more. It just so happened Mashers were on sale at Wal-mart last week so I went out and picked up Wolverine and Green Goblin for the boys. I got home and told Doug about my haul and he informed me that the Goblin was one of the figures he already had set aside for Christmas. So I went back out the next day and bought Hawkeye.

Now, I know I could have simply exchanged the Goblin for Hawkeye but at less than $10 a pop I wasn’t too concerned about the money. Besides, the Green Goblin was my favorite Spidey villain when I was a kid (he probably still is) so I figured I’d just keep him for myself.Marv-Green goblin mash face

This is a pretty nice version of the Goblin. He’s very classically attired in his original outfit: green scaly leggings, a purple bathing suit from the 1920s, a goblin mask, and a purple sleeping cap. The outfit may be a little silly, and I can see why they avoided it in the live-action movies, but as a toy it works great. The face has big yellow eyes, pointy ears, and an evil sneer just as it should. Not bad at all.

The reason I said before that it’s only a mediocre version of the Goblin is because I have far better versions of the character and this one does have a few faults. Primarily it’s a little too pre-school to be “cool”, plus he has weird sockets all over his body. They’re there so you can attach additional parts when mashing, which I’m sure would be fun for my nephews, but it detracts from the figure as a display piece.Marv-Green Goblin mash mixed

The Goblin came with 3 pumpkin bombs which is pretty cool as they were always his primary weapons in the comics. The pumpkins have little pegs on them so they can be placed in any of the sockets including those on his hands. Another issue I have with this toy is that it doesn’t have a glider. A Green Goblin without a glider is like a Lone Ranger without a horse, it just ain’t right.

Overall, it’s a fun figure but it won’t be something I’ll be displaying in my man cave. 6 out of 10.

AGENT VENOM (2014)

Marv-Venom ML fullMARVEL LEGENDS

Anything that happened before I was born seems old and anything that has happened since me seems relatively current. I feel that way about pretty much anything. For example, the Beatles are old, and the Vietnam War is ancient history while Nirvana is modern rock and the fall of the Berlin wall can still be filed under current events. That mentality might have worked when I was young but I’m pretty old now myself (nearly 40) and I no longer think I can consider things that happened when I was a kid , or stuff that was cool when I was a teenager, as “in the now”. Regardless, I have the same perspective when it comes to comic books; everything published before I started reading them is vintage, while everything since is modern. I consider Spider-Man’s classic villains to be Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, the Vulture, Electro, and any of the other 60s/70s baddies. Some might consider Venom a classic Spidey villain but I cannot view him in the same light as I view those others because he first appeared after I started collecting, though his first appearance in 1988 came not long afterwards. Venom is 26 years old now which would  probably seem really old to some kid just getting into comics and they probably wouldn’t see any distinction between Venom and Doc Oc.   But Octopus had already been around 25 years when I bought Venom’s first appearance so to me Venom still seems like a relatively new kid-on-the-block.Marv-Venom ML art

Despite his “newness” Venom has gone through quite a few changes since he first showed up on the last page of Amazing Spider-Man issue 299. Those who think the status quo never changes in comics need only scan Venom’s Wikipedia page to know that isn’t the case. Venom was originally Eddie Brock, a failed reporter who had a beef with Peter Parker, joined with the alien symbiote that Peter once wore as a costume (that’s a whole other story). Venom was one of the few villains that knew Spidey’s secret identity so he could torment him 24 hours a day. He could have killed Mary Jane or Aunt May to get at Peter but he never did (though he threatened to) because he wasn’t an evil guy per se. Venom was never a “rob the bank” or “take over the world” type of villain, Eddie and his alien underoos just hated Peter Parker.

Marv-Venom ML back

Venom popped up regularly in the Spider-Man books after that first epic show-down, usually as a villain but sometimes as a reluctant ally. He was extremely popular with fans and he even got his own limited series’ a few times. I liked Venom but he did seem rather one-note after a while and I didn’t read most of his solo books.

Eddie had briefly lost the symbiote a couple of times over the years but never for more than an issue or two. The first real shake-up of the Venom character is when the separated symbiote was put up for evil auction and purchased by Mac Gargan, the classic Spidey villain, Scorpion. Eddie was sick of cancer at this point and was happy to be rid of the thing though he later got better and became the anti-hero, Anti-Venom (but that is, yet again, a whole other story). Mac remained Venom for several years, serving as a member of Norman Osbourne’s Thunderbolts and later, in the guise of the black-suited Spider-Man, as a member of the Dark Avengers. The Gargan Venom was a bigger jerk than the original but less insane. I enjoyed reading the adventures of Venom #2, in part, because the Scorpion was always a favorite villain of mine.Marv-Venom ML close-up

With the fall of the Dark Avengers and the dawn of the Heroic Age the Venom symbiote was forcefully commandeered by the U.S. government and Mac went back to being the Scorpion.

The government felt that if they could pair the alien with a suitable host then they could control it as a weapon. They selected Flash Thompson, the bully who used to pick on Peter Parker in high school but had since become Peter’s legless, drunk, war veteran, school teacher friend (another story for another time, don’t ya just love comics).Marv-Venom ML tentacles

Flash was dubbed “Agent Venom” and given a brand new look and an on-going series. The sleek new costume was a mix of black-suited Spider-Man and a soldier with random bits of crustacean thrown in for good measure. It was a radical change but I dug it. The long tongued, slobbery beefcake Venom had been done to death and knocked off so many times over the years that I was ready for something new. But, the toothy  beefy Venom appeared whenever Flash was away from his handlers for too long and he lost control of the symbiote. That way the book could appeal to fans of both the old and new versions of the character. It’s a shame the series got cancelled.  I bought the whole run and while it was never great it had lots of potential.  However, cancellation didn’t spell the end of Agent Venom. Flash has since went on to become a member of the Secret Avengers and more recently the Guardians of the Galaxy.Marv-Venom ML up

This Walgreens exclusive Marvel Legends figure captures the look of Agent Venom brilliantly. Apparently, it was supposed to appear in the main ML line but got pulled for some reason. Thankfully it got resurrected as a store exclusive. We don’t have Walgreens in Canada (at least not in Nova Scotia) so I had to order mine online. It’s a real shame this figure isn’t available for wide release because I’m sure anyone who collects Legends will want one.

The sculpt on this figure is great. There’s a ton of detail in every piece, from the treads on the boots to the crab shell texture of the armor.  His belt is especially cool with  sculpted pouches, a knife, grenades, a canteen, and more. Paint apps on this figure are few but it looks exactly as it should.  I’m glad they didn’t add any blue highlights as they tend to do with most black-suit Spider-Man figures. Everything is very well proportioned and the joints are well hidden despite the many points of articulation. The head sculpt is simple but very well done. Hasbro could’ve cheaped out and re-used a Spider-Man or Scarlet Spider head but this is a new piece with perfectly sized sculpted eyes. This figure looks like it leapt off the page.Marv-Venom ML snipe

For accessories Agent Venom comes with a set of symbiote tendrils that can be attached to his back. Each tendril is pliable but not posable. He also comes with 4 different guns that he can hold in his hands or in the “hands” at the end of the tendrils. Each gun is nicely sculpted and fits securely in the hands.

I really can’t say enough good stuff about this figure. Get to Walgreens or get online and grab yourself one before the prices skyrocket. 10 out of 10.

SCARLET SPIDER (KAINE)

Marv-Scarlet ML fullMARVEL LEGENDS

It’s time for another Scarlet Spider review. I’ve previously reviewed 2 Scarlet Spider figures but none of the three are actually the same character. Let’s recap…

The first Scarlet Spider was a clone of Spider-Man. Back in issue 149 of Amazing Spider-Man published in 1975 Peter Parker’s deranged university professor, Miles Warren, nabbed some of Spidey’s DNA and cloned him. The clone was convinced he was the original and this led to a conflict between him and the true Spider-Man. The battle ended with the clone’s apparent death. End of story. Not quite. In the 1990s the clone returned. The writers explained it by saying that the clone never actually died; he just packed his things and left town after he realized he was the phoney. During his years in exile the clone took the name Ben Reilly. Upon his return to the big apple Ben and Peter became friends. Ben dyed his hair blonde and they explained away their physical similarities by telling people they were cousins. Ben donned a red spandex suit and a blue hoodie and took the name Scarlet Spider. He and Spidey fought side by side for a little while and things were all good. That is until the Green Goblin showed up and killed Ben. For more details check out this post.Marv-Scarlet ML thwip

The blue hoodied hero was gone and Ben was dust but the Scarlet Spider returned in the pages of Avengers: Initiative. A new recruit of the Avengers with enhanced athletic abilities named MVP was killed during a training exercise. But it just so happened that a mad scientist who lived in Avengers basement at the time made 3 secret clones of MVP whom he named Michael, Van, and Patrick. He dressed them all in the Iron Spider-Man costume that Spidey wore during the super hero civil war. They took the name the Scarlet Spiders and became members of the Avengers Shadow Initiative team. All was well. That is until Van and Michael got killed in battle , leaving Patrick as the sole clone of MVP and sole Scarlet Spider. Then the Initiative book got canceled and Patrick faded into obscurity. For more details check out this post.Marv-Scarlet ML cover

The Scarlet Spider recently returned for a third time with another new costume, the black and red number you see here. This Scarlet Spider upholds the SS tradition of being a clone but it isn’t Ben or any of the MVPs; it’s Kaine, the “evil” clone of Spider-Man. In the same 90s storyline that gave us Ben Reilly we got Kaine. He was a mystery man at first but it was eventually revealed that he was in fact Professor Warren’s failed first attempt at cloning Peter Parker. Soon after he was created Kaine’s unstable clone body began to degenerate. He was of no use to Professor Warren like that so he was cast out while the professor worked to perfect the process. The degeneration left Kaine hideously scarred and a little insane. He became obsessed with killing the successfully cloned Ben who Kaine saw as the reason that he was rejected and abandoned by his “father” Miles Warren.

Kaine was a thorn in Spider-Man’s side for a while but once Ben was dead Kaine faded out of the picture. Overall, Spidey fans didn’t like “the clone saga” which spanned years and permeated multiple titles. Apparently sales took a hit.  Sweeping Ben, Kaine, Lady Doctor Octopus, Seward Trainor, Traveller, and anyone else associated with the bloated clone story line, under the rug seemed to be the mandate to get fans to come back. Kaine made frequent appearances in the alternate MC2 universe inhabited by Spider-Girl though so he wasn’t completely wiped out of existence.Marv-Scarlet ML swing

Kaine returned to the core Spidey books with the Grimm Hunt storyline. During the hunt he sacrificed himself to help Spidey save the day, ultimately redeeming himself. But then he was resurrected as a spider monster during the Spider-Island storyline which found pretty much all of the denizens of New York transformed into spider monsters. Luckily, the team at Horizon Labs mange to whip up a cure and revert everyone back to normal, including Kaine. A side effect of the cure was that Kaine’s degeneration scars healed. This redeemed and, for the first time ever, handsome Kaine left NYC to start a new life. He found himself settled in Houston where circumstances forced him to take on a new heroic costumed identity. He went with the name coined by his fallen brother Ben, the Scarlet Spider.

There, now you’re all up to speed. This figure is from the 6” Marvel Legends line. I don’t usually buy Legends figures because I collect the 4” scale Marvel Universe line. But unfortunately many characters I want figures of (Black Cat, Superior Spider-Man, Spider-Girl) are only available in the larger scale so I’ve made a few exceptions. This Kaine/Scarlet Spider is one of those exceptions.Marv-Scarlet ML back

Once I broke the Marvel Legends seal with my Black Cat purchase I ordered this figure from BigBadToyStore. He was marked down to clearance so I think I only paid about 8 bucks for him. That’s less than I spend on the 4” figures so it was a great deal and I was happy to him to my collection. The sculpting and articulation are quite nice on this figure. You can pose this guy in many realistic and exaggerated spidey-like poses. I like how his eyes are actually sculpted onto the mask instead of being just painted on. The crimson red and black look really great together. It’s a very good figure of the current Scarlet Spider.Marv-Scarlet ML piggyback

My only issue with this figure isn’t really with the figure itself so much as it is with the design of the character. I know Ben Reilly’s hoodie costume was silly but I really liked it. Ben left some big shoes to fill and I think this costume misses the mark. There’s just way too much red. I would’ve liked to have seen them take some risks with this costume; like they did with the agent Venom design. Between this guy, Spider-Man 2099, Ultimate Spider-Man, and the real Spider-Man there are too many guys running around with the same powers and essentially the same costume. I don’t mind this look but Marvel played it safe here, and safe can be boring, which I would guess is partly why Scarlet Spider’s book got cancelled only 2 years in. If you’re interested in seeing what he’s up to now though you can check him out in the most recent version of the New Warriors.

I’m glad this character and this toy exist but I wish it didn’t look so similar to the dozens of Spider-Men I already have in my collection. 7 out of 10.

GREEN GOBLIN (1978)

Marv-Goblin fullMARVEL (REMCO)

I realized the other day when I reviewed the Marvel Legends Ultimate Green Goblin build-a-figure that I hadn’t previously reviewed any Green Goblin figures. I have hundreds of figures in my collection that still need to be reviewed but after 600+ blog posts I was genuinely surprised when I realized I hadn’t yet reviewed a Green Goblin. That Ultimate Green Goblin figure was alright for what it was but it’s a far cry from what I would consider a “real” Green Goblin figure. So today I’ve decided to tackle a less-ultimate, more-classic version of Spidey’s arch nemesis. Marv-Goblin art

After deciding to review a “classic” Green Goblin figure my next decision was choosing which one. I have a multitude of Goblins to pick from, such as the 90s animation influenced figure by Toy Biz, the detail oriented Marvel Select figure by DST, the Marvel Universe 3 ¾” version by Hasbro, or the Lego-style Mini-Mate, just to name a few. As great as some of those figures are I’ve opted to review my very first Green Goblin toy.  This figure was released by defunct toy company Remco way back in 1978, the same year I was born.Marv-Goblin compare

I’ve been a huge Green Goblin fan for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure when I first encountered him; it may have been this toy, it may have been re-runs of the 70s animated show, it may have been the old-oversized reprint comic that my brother Doug owned, or maybe something else entirely. All I know is, that for as far back as my memories go, the Green Goblin has been one of my favorite fictional characters.  I think I might have liked him even more than Spider-Man back then.  Even after I became an avid comic reader at 8 years old and became aware of a slew of new characters I still always said that the Goblin was my favorite villain.  Unfortunately I never got to read any new Green Goblin adventures because the character died in the comic books way back in 1973.  There were imitators over the years, some of which were great, but none quite lived up to the original.  I’m sure that some long-time readers found it sacrilegious but I was quite happy when the original Goblin was resurrected in 1996.Marv-Goblin face

Now this, my first ever Green Goblin action figure, isn’t even really an action figure. It stands over a foot tall and has zero points of  articulation.  It’s posed in a neutral position with one arm at its side and one arm raised. The rigidness didn’t exactly make it the most fun toy to play with but it did however have a few nifty play features. Marv-Goblin blade

On the Goblin’s back is a removable panel where you can insert a C battery. There’s a little off/on switch on his side. When turned on both of his accessories kick into action. In his raised hand he holds a goblin lamp, sort of shaped like his glider, which lights up. In his other hand he has a dual-blade web cutting gizmo that sort of looks like the satchel the Goblin traditionally wears over his shoulder. The blades slide back and forth with that classic wind-up toy whirring sound. The features are neat but still didn’t really add much play value to the toy. I didn’t usually keep a battery in it when I was a kid. I haven’t had a battery in it in decades but the blades would probably still work; I’m guessing the little light bulb in the lamp has long since expired though.Marv-Goblin back

I don’t recall how I would’ve played with this toy as a kid. I didn’t have any other toys in the same scale for it to fight (I had a Mego Spider-Man for a time but I destroyed it). I most likely just carried it around with me like a teddy bear, my “buddy of the day” as Doug and I would say.  I am impressed that I still have this figure after so many years but he has taken some abuse over the past 3 (nearly 4) decades. The battery latch on the back is loose and doesn’t stay in place very well, the electrical cord that connected the removable lamp to the Goblin’s back is torn, a part of his satchel is missing, and worst of all his head is broken off. His head has been busted for years but luckily I’ve never misplaced it. I used to hold it in place with sticky-tack so there’s still some blue residue on his neck stump. Marv-Goblin box

This toy may not be much to get excited about by today’s standards where figures have multiple points of articulation and super detailed sculpting but there’s a real charm to the toys of the 70s and 80s. This toy presents the Goblin in his most classic look: curly-toed boots, floppy hat, big ears, scaly limbs, and wearing what is essentially a purple one-piece lady’s bathing suit. Best of all is the face sculpt, just look at that sinister smile and big eyes. I only wish this thing was in better shape so I could display it proudly. 7 out of 10.Marv-Goblin deadMarv-Goblin face2

SPIDER-GIRL (ARANA) 2014

Marv-Arana ML fullMARVEL LEGENDS

It’s a pretty common practice in comics to create the female equivalent of an already popular male character. Some of the better known female spin-offs are Supergirl, Batgirl, and She-Hulk. However, you’d be hard pressed to find any male super hero who hasn’t had a female counterpart at one point or another. Spider-Man is no different.  But unlike Supergirl and Batgirl, who became popular characters in their own right, the lady Spider-Men haven’t met with great success. Marv-Arana ML face

I’m somewhat of a Spider-Man expert but I won’t claim to know all of the female variations of Spider-Man we’ve seen over the years. New ones pop up all the time.  Just in the past couple of months we’ve learned that Spider-Man might have a secret sister and that there was a female student also bitten by a radioactive spider at the same time Peter was.  Future spider-ladies I imagine.

Marv-Arana-JessicaThe first spider of the fairer sex that I knew of was the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman created in the 1970s. Her costume didn’t resemble Spidey’s and she didn’t even have the same super powers. She made for a decent original character but as far as female knock-offs go her creators kind of missed the point. She was mildly popular and had her own book for 50 issues but by the time I got into comics in the 80s she was all but forgotten. I think she died, or retired or something. Don’t worry; she’s back now.Marv-Arana Julia

The second Spider-Woman was a redhead name Julia Carpenter. Again, her costume and powers were quite different than Spider-Man’s; at least at first. Spider-Man had been wearing blue and red his whole career and then Julie showed up in a striking black and white costume. Soon after the Julia Spider-Woman made her first appearance in 1984, Spider-Man aped her costume design (well technically it was the Beyonder) and the infamous black spidey suit was born. That is pretty much the most significant thing Julia ever did; inspired a costume change in Spider-Man. She never had her own ongoing series though she was a regular in team books.

Marv-Arana-Mattie artThe next Spider-Woman was Mattie Franklin. She gained her powers through some botched ritual that Norman Osborne was trying to pull off. It was a dumb storyline and Mattie was a dumb character. She was a bubbly teen with an awful haircut that brought nothing to the table. She actually got her on ongoing series for a while but it was short lived. I bought the first couple issues out of my loyalty to the Spider-Man family of books but it was so god awful I had to stop. It seemed Marvel had no idea what to do with her. She changed her costume almost every single issue and each one sucked.  She left no impression on fans and when her series ended with issue 18 she faded into obscurity. I was actually happy when they brought her back a few years later to kill her off. She went out the same way she came in, in some stupid voodoo ritual; this one performed by the Kravinoff family to resurrect their dead patriarch, Kraven the Hunter.

The next and perhaps most significant spider lady was May Parker, the first Spider-Girl. Her storyline took place in an alternate future universe known as MC2. She was the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane and she had genetically inherited her father’s spider powers. This Spider-Girl struggled to catch on with readers, her book was cancelled and rebooted a couple of times, but she had a very loyal fanbase. Long after all of the other MC2 books had disappeared Spider-Girl kept plugging away and her series lasted over 100 issues which is an impressive run for any book. Marv-Arana ML art

And then finally we have the Spider-Girl who is the subject of this review, Anya Corazon. She first appeared in 2004 in a relaunched Amazing Fantasy, the same anthology book where Spider-Man got his start. I liked the art on the book but the storyline never impressed me. Her origin spun out of a Spider-Man storyline which suggested that Spider-Man was one of many Spider totems who were locked in an eternal battle with wasp people or some such nonsense. Luckily that angle was dropped in the Spider-Man books but writer, Fiona Avery, took that ball and ran with it in Amazing Fantasy. Anya was drafted into the “Spider Society” where she was mentored by some D-bag in a trench coat named Miguel. She took the name Arana and her costume consisted of track pants, sneakers, a t-shirt, a knapsack, and goggles. It was a very “un-costume” design, like the hoodie-wearing Scarlet Spider. It was an awful look for a super hero but artist, Mark Brooks managed to make it work. I collected her full run on Amazing Fantasy and then I collected her self-titled spin-off series which lasted another 12 issues. It was all pretty forgettable but I still kind of like the character for some reason.

Marv-Arana ML SG artAfter her series ended Arana faded away for a while but eventually resurfaced in a smattering of guest appearances. When Julia Carpenter stepped into the role of Madam Web and no longer needed her black and white attire Arana inherited the costume and took the name of Spider-Girl.  Marvel released the first issue of their new Anya Corazon Spider-Girl book with some fanfare in 2010 but it didn’t catch on with readers and got cancelled a few months later. Marv-Arana ML back

This Marvel Legends figure was a tough one to find; it was the Black Cat chase figure (a toy  released in limited amounts relative to the rest of an assortment-Spider-Girl took Black Cat’s spot in a limited amount of cases). You might expect a chase figure to be constructed of reused parts but this is a wholly original figure. The body is shorter and slimmer than Black Cat’s which makes sense since Spider-Girl is supposed to be a teenager. The head sculpt is feminine and pretty and has a nice flowing ponytail. There are plenty of articulation points which allow for a number of poses yet the joints don’t hurt the visual appeal of the figure. I’m always happy to add another obscure Marvel character to my toy collection. However, I actually would have preferred an Anya Corazon as Arana figure. This costume looks too much like Julia’s and it detracts from Anya’s uniqueness. I think the track pants and goggled look could have made for a really neat action figure. Other than the Green Goblin “build-a-figure” component Spider-Girl did not come with any accessories. That’s fine with me since most super heroes don’t require accessories but it does piss me off to pay over $20 for a slim figure such as this with no accessories to justify the cost.  That complaint aside, it’s a nice toy.  7 out of 10.Marv-Arana ML poseMarv-Arana ML compare

ULTIMATE GREEN GOBLIN (2014)

Marv-Goblin ML fullMARVEL LEGENDS

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you know I collect Marvel super hero figures in the 3 3/4″ scale (G.I. Joe sized).  The majority of those figures come from the all-encompassing MARVEL UNIVERSE toy line which was recently rebranded to MARVEL: AVENGERS INFINITE.  Some also come from character-specific compatible lines such as SPIDER-MAN and IRON MAN.  I buy the occasional 7″ Marvel Select figure and I have a sizable collection of 5″ Marvel figures produced by Toy Biz in the 90s.  One line I never got into was the 6″ Marvel Legends series.  But after years of ignoring the Legends figures I recently caved and bought a Black Cat figure because she’s one of my all-time favorite characters and she has yet to be released in the 3 3/4″ scale.   That Black Cat opened up a whole new can of worms.Marv-Goblin ML face2

Since buying Black Cat I’ve purchased Legends figures of Spider-Girl, Carnage, Toxin, Boomerang, Beetle, Scarlet Spider, and Superior Spider-Man.  in my defense, none of these characters have been released in the smaller scale.  In a brilliant/devious marketing maneuver Hasbro included an extra body part with each of those figures (excluding Scarlet Spider who was released in a previous wave). If you buy all of the figures from a particular wave then you can snap those extra body parts together to build a bonus figure.  The bonus character broken up amongst this Spider-Man themed wave of Legends figures is Ultimate Green Goblin.Marv-Goblin ML arms

Black Cat came with Goblin’s torso, Superior Spider-Man came with his right leg, Beetle came with his left leg, and Carnage came with his head.  After buying my first 4 Legends figures I had a near complete Green Goblin figure; all he was missing was his arms.  You’d think that by me then buying Boomerang, Toxin, and Spider-Girl I’d have a compete Goblin with parts to spare. Unfortunately, those 3 characters are considered variant chase figures (released in limited amounts) of Black Cat, Beetle, and Carnage which mean they came with duplicate Goblin pieces. So now I have one Goblin missing his arms and another Goblin missing his arms and a leg (there was no chase variant figure for Superior Spider-Man so I never got a double of the right leg).  Now, in order to get the two arms I need to complete this build-a-figure I need to buy the regular Spider-Man and a movie-based Electro.  I already have a ton of Spider-Man figures in various scales so I don’t really want to shell out $25 for another one just so I can get the green arm packaged with him.  And I didn’t like the Jamie Foxx Electro design from the get-go but I might have considered buying that figure prior to seeing the movie.  Now that I have seen the cinematic turd that was Amazing Spider-Man 2 I absolutely refuse to add that figure to my collection.  Shame on you Jamie Foxx, shame on you.  So it seemed my Ultimate Green Goblin was fated to be armless.Marv-Goblin ML back

Meanwhile, My brother Doug who is an avid Marvel Legends collector, was trying to construct a build-a-figure Mandroid, the pieces of which were packaged with a wave of Captain America related Legend figures.  He had all the pieces except for the head.  The head came with a Captain America which Doug didn’t want to buy because he already has 3 or 4 variations of Captain America in his collection.  Like me, Doug had accumulated some extra body parts as a result of buying chase variants.  We worked out an arrangement where I would buy the Captain America figure and give him the Mandroid head in exchange for 2 extra Mandroid arms.  I wouldn’t have bought the Captain America otherwise but it is a nice figure and I didn’t previously have a Cap in the 6″ scale. The swap was made.  Doug completed his Mandroid and I came home and slapped some metal Mandroid arms on my Green Goblin.  I figured it’s better that than nothing and it doesn’t seem so preposterous that the Goblin would add some weaponized armor to his arsenal.Marv-Gblin ML art

The arms are cool.  One has a double barrel gatling gun and the other a giant pincer blade. Unfortunately they’re too short and stubby for Green Goblin.  The Mandroid figure must be shorter because these arms are noticeably out of scale with the rest of the Goblin parts.  It was a disappointing discovery but it still looks better than an armless Goblin.  The actual Goblin pieces are all quite nice.  The torso is big and bulky with a a swivel joint at the chest.  The legs have torn jeans and detailed feet with long creepy toenails.   They have ball-jointed ankles, double-jointed knees, and a swivel joint at the thigh.  The head has lots of sculpted detail like horns, pointy ears, bony ridges and protrusions, gritted teeth and a nasty scowl.  There are multiple paint applications on the head as well. There’s also a translucent fire accessory which rests snugly on his shoulders to replicate the Ultimate Goblins pyrokinesis power. It’s a nice figure and would be even nicer if I had all the proper pieces.Marv-Gblin ML face1

Having said that, I really don’t care for Ultimate Green Goblin.  I would not have bought this figure had it been packaged on it’s own.  The original Green Goblin is one of my all-time favorite villains, has been since I was like 5 years old, but Ultimate Green Goblin is a sad imitation.  In the Ultimate Universe ( a parallel universe to the regular Marvel Universe) Norman Osborn doesn’t wear a goblin costume and fly around on a glider, he mutates into a knock-off Hulk with horns and shoots fireballs from his hands.  I really liked the Ultimate Spider-Man comic for a time but most of the villain redesigns were ill conceived and I think this is one of the worst and least original.  Bleh. 5 out of 10.

How it should look...

How it should look…

Marv-Goblin ML pair

SPIDER-MAN (2009)

Marv-Spidey MU fullMARVEL UNIVERSE

I saw a Thursday night advance screening of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 the other week, as any loyal Marvel nerd would, but I didn’t want to post my thoughts on it until after everyone had gotten a chance to see it. It’s been a week and a half now and I feel safe in assuming that the type of people who read action figure blogs are the type of people who go see new Spider-Man movies on their opening weekends. If you haven’t seen it yet you may want to skip this post because I’m gonna drop some serious spoilers.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 SPOILER ALERT! There, that was your final warning.

I hated this f***ing movie. Well maybe hate is a strong word but it definitely wasn’t good. But I’ll try to focus on the good points first. Spider-Man looked the best he’s ever looked on screen. The costume from the first Amazing Spider-Man movie looked kind of off to me with its beady yellow eyes. This new version has wide, crisp white eyes that look great. The rest of the costume is fine as well. Some of the moments between Peter and Gwen were sweet. There were a couple of jokes that worked such as an abrupt email response from the still unseen J. Jonah Jameson. That’s about it. Those were the things I liked.Marv-Spidey MU flex

What didn’t I like? Where to begin? The tone of this film was all over the place going from sad and sentimental to teen rom-com sweet to over the top popcorn action. Sometimes a blend of action and comedy and romance can work. It doesn’t here. I felt like at least 2 completely separate mediocre films had been mashed together. There was far too much slo-mo “bullet time” and it didn’t look good. I found many of the special effects scenes were lacking and looked more like a video game instead of real life. I won’t out right bash the effects as some of them looked decent, the best ones are usually the ones you don’t notice anyway.

Also, Peter was a blubbering wuss most of the time yet he was still cool enough to high five his teacher at his graduation ceremony and run around with his skateboard. I realize this “cool outcast” Peter is probably more realistic and more relatable to todays teens than the 4-eyed geek, sweater vest wearing version of the comics, but it’s not working for me. Give me Tobey’s aloof emo Peter over this dude with the One Direction haircut any day. I didn’t mind Andrew Garfield in the first movie but he’s worn out his webbed welcome in my eyes.

Marv-Spidey MU backEmma makes a fine Gwen but I don’t care for Sally Field’s Aunt May. They’re pretty much the only non-villain supporting characters in the film. There is a lengthy flashback about Peter’s parents that felt like a waste of time. The parent storyline was dumb and, even in the over-the-top, suspension-of-disbelief-required world, unbelievable. His dad has a secret lab under the tracks in an abandoned subway tunnel? Give me a break. Ultimately the parent thread didn’t amount to much so I don’t know why they wasted so much time on it. Marv-Spidey MU side

The villains: Norman Osborne? Sucked. Rhino? Sucked. Harry Osborne? Sucked. Electro? Oh my god how he sucked. Electro was the worst thing about the movie. Jamie Foxx played Max Dillon like Jim Carrey played Edward Nigma. His performance made me cringe. He was awful, just awful.  And how can they keep getting the Goblin so wrong?  Dress a guy up like he’s an orc from Lord of the Rings.  He’d look cool and scary and most importantly, like a goblin.  I found this version actually worse than the Rami/Dafoe version.  And at least in the original trilogy they built the Peter and Harry relationship over 3 films, here the whole thing is crammed into the second act.  And I like Chris Cooper and I’m almost certain they intend to revive him in one of the upcoming sequels but I’m praying they don’t.  Let’s just lay these horrible Green Goblins to rest and move onto the Hobgoblin.

The climactic death of Gwen at the end was sad.  I felt my eyes welling up.  Spider-Man is important to me and this is one of a handful of moments that truly defined him and it has never been seen on screen before.  I felt his anguish and that made me mad.  This movie hadn’t earned my tears.  You can’t feed me two hours of shit and then win my approval by playing to my emotional connection to this character in the last 10 minutes.  I hope Mark Webb is sent packing after this.  I’ve enjoyed some of his music videos and 500 days of summer was alright but he has produced 2 subpar Spidey movie now and it’s time to go.  Film review: 2 out of 10.Marv-Spidey MU pose

This Spider-Man action figure is nowhere near as bad as the movie but it’s not great either.  This figure is not associated with the movie.  I don’t plan on buying any Amazing Spider-Man 2 related merchandise. I had considered getting an Electro but I am no longer interested.  This figure was released multiple times during the first year of  Hasbro’s 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe line.  I wouldn’t have bought it on it’s own but I got stuck with it twice when buying a Secret Wars 2-pack to get Thunderball and in an Amazing Friends 3-pack to get Iceman and Firestar. It’s very posable but the joints are kind of weird and his neck is pointed in a wonky position.  The paint job is nice with a black wash highlighting the sculpted web detail in the red parts of the costume.  Better Spider-Man figures have been released since so if you can avoid this one do so.  5 out of 10. Marv-Spidey MU compare

BLACK CAT (2014)

Marv-black cat full MLMARVEL LEGENDS: SPIDER-MAN

I’ve been a Marvel comics zombie since I was 8 years old. I also loved action figures back then. Not a whole lot has changed in the past 28 years. The sucky thing about being a Marvel comic/toy fan in the 1980s was that there were hardly any Marvel toys to be had. There were always Spider-Man’s available in one form or another and there was the Secret Wars toy line in 1984 but it wasn’t very expansive. As a kid I wanted a Marvel toy line that encompassed every obscure corner of the Marvel universe. My brother Doug and I filled the void by making hundreds (no joke) of paper dolls of Marvel characters.

It wasn’t until Spider-Man and the X-Men got new animated series’ in the 90s that a toy company, Toy Biz, finally stepped up to the challenge of creating a Marvel toy line that included more than just the 10 most popular characters. As more Marvel cartoons sprung up Toy Biz was there to put out a corresponding toy line for each one. Over the course of a few years I was collecting Toy Biz figures like crazy. I collected Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the Avengers. It was crazy that there were practically no Marvel figures in the 80s then suddenly in the 90s I was getting figures of characters like SwarmMarv-Black cat legends carded

Those 90s Toy Biz figures weren’t perfect but I liked them a lot. When they transitioned from the colorful animated 5” style I had been collecting to a new, darker, uber-articulated, 6” style dubbed Marvel Legends I jumped ship. The Legends figures were actually too articulated for my liking. They were so riddled with joints that they ended up looking really gimpy and they were hard to pose in neutral positions. It’s easy to hide joints on characters like Iron Man but most super heroes wear spandex and unitards don’t look so good when broken up with multiple joints. I retired from Marvel toy collecting and focused my attention on other lines. Doug, however, who had never collected the Toy Biz stuff really took to the Legends figures and has accumulated a very impressive Legends collection over the years.Marv-Black Cat posed ML

Years went by without me buying any Marvel figures but then Hasbro launched their 3 3/4” line dubbed Marvel Universe in 2009. I wasn’t sold on the idea right away but there was something appealing about Marvel figures in the same scale as my G. I. Joe and Star Wars figures. When I finally caved and bought one (Red Hulk) I got hooked and before long I was buying them all. I was excited to be collecting Marvel toys again and I loved that this new line wasn’t  focused on any one property like Spider-Man or X-Men. This was a universe wide line so Hasbro could put out figures of any character under the sun. I love getting toys of obscure Marvel characters like Winter Soldier (no longer obscure) and Rocket Raccoon (who won’t be obscure for long). I’m super stoked about the upcoming Death’s Head figure; they don’t get much more obscure than that. Marv-Black Cats ML

Doug was pretty bummed when Hasbro shifted their focus from the Legends line he’d been collecting to the smaller Universe figures.  The Universe line has flourished for the past 5 years but it now seems to be my turn to be bummed as the trend has reversed. The release of Universe figures has slowed while Marvel Legends figures have burst back onto the scene in a big way. Not only is the generic Legends line back but there are also brand specific Legends lines which tie-into the current crop of Marvel movies. I’ve been really been impressed with the look of many of the modern Legends figures. Most of the wonky joint issues of the early years seem to have been resolved and the figures actually look really nice. I was tempted to pick up a couple myself but resisted the urge. I knew the dangers of buying 1 or 2 .  The last thing I needed was to start a collection of Marvel figures in a third scale.Marv-Black cat face ML

But then I saw this Black Cat and I caved. Black Cat has been one of my favorite Marvel characters since the beginning. She beat Sabertooth to a bloody pulp in the first comic book I ever bought and she’s had her claws in me ever since.

I was very happy to get my first ever Black Cat figure when Toy Biz produced one in their 90s Spider-Man line. The articulation was limited and she was oddly short in stature but it was a nicely sculpted figure. My next Black Cat figure was produced my Marvel Select and it was a beauty. It was based on the artwork of Terry Dobson who can draw Felicia like no other. The sculpt was fantastic and it came with an elaborate display base and accessories. The only issue was its almost complete lack of articulation. It was clearly intended as a display piece and not a toy to be played with. That was fine with me as my figures are generally for display only.

As great as the Select figure was I would still have bought a 3 ¾” Black Cat figure had they made one so that she could be displayed with the rest of my Marvel Universe collection. However, the Select figure had me confident that I would never need to purchase another Black Cat figure in the larger scale. But when I saw this Legends version in Walmart the other week I simply couldn’t resist her.Marv-Black cat whip ML

This figure has a fantastic sculpt. The face is feminine and pretty and the hair is very well done. It doesn’t appear to be based on any particular artist’s rendition of the character but instead has a nice generic look that doesn’t tie her to any one specific storyline or time period. She has plenty of articulation and unlike my previous two Cat figures can be posed in multiple ways fitting of someone with catlike agility. Even though she is wearing a solid black unitard the joints are designed well enough so that they don’t ruin the visual appeal of the figure. She includes a bendy whip as well as the torso of the build-a-figure Ultimate Green Goblin which you can complete if you buy all of the figures in the wave.

Once I got this figure home and opened it up I liked it so much that I went back to Walmart the next day and bought 3 more Legends figures. I’m so predictable. 10 out of 10.