Hasbro is crap.
Considering how much money they must be raking in from owning the major properties and share of the toy market, and how little that translates into quality figures in lines that I’m interested in, I think they produce vast quantities of plastic landfill.
Marvel Legends began as a revolutionary bridge between detailed, artisanal representations of comic characters and action figures with an unparalleled amount of articulation.
Now, under Hasbro’s heavy hand, Legends are neither highly-detailed or super-posable. For the most part, they are no longer a wonder to behold.
Just imagine: Toybiz’s first entry into this standard we call the Legend was in 2001, with the Spider-Man Classics. All this figure below lacks is bicep swivel. Somehow, 14 years later, the ‘Pizza Spidey’ from Hasbro is considered the definitive Spidey.
Clunky, lacking important articulation (calf rotation, toe joints), lacking paint, moulded detail and having sloppy proportions, joints that look messed up when you actually use them (the waist) – this is the same product? This is the new standard?
Waves and waves pour out upon us to feverish hype, and yet they’re largely reused bodies with minimal paint, and only superficial detail. Very occasionally great head sculpts (but mostly not) on bodies that all look the same. Here’s a helpful infographic:
And this isn’t nearly all of them: other Cyclops’, Black Panther, re-releases with a cape, and more down the line, I’m sure. That Adam Warlock just came out. Just add some crappy deco, maybe use one purple arm from a different figure, y’know, despite it being longer = new figure.
What about the Sentry mould? Shit, what about the Sentry head?
BRAND NEW, KIDS!
Perhaps I’m going too hard, too fast here. Let me explain where I’m coming from.
I’m not an old curmudgeon, but I feel like one. Born in 1988, I got a childhood of the Spider-Man, X-Men and Iron Man animated series’ of the 90’s, which is still incredible stuff. I inherited the comics my older cousin collected, and even though at the time I was just going through them to look at boobs, eventually I learned to appreciate what treasures these were. Later I learned to differentiate between the quality work of Walt Simonson, John Byrne, John Romita Sr, Sal Buscema and that of inferior quality – Mark Bagley, Rob Liefeld, and a lot of the 90’s guys. Coupled with an interest in drawing, I learned about anatomy, coloring, and dynamism.
I was always into toys, and even though I’d already entered puberty when I first saw Spider-Man Classics Series 1 on the pegs at the local Warehouse (New Zealand’s Wal-Mart), I was taken. Those waves were pretty hit and miss, with that wack Venom, and a Man-Spider I didn’t care for, but once I had my 20 bucks from mowing the lawn I was ready to pick up that first Spidey.
He wasn’t there. So I got the movie Spider-Man instead, and I still have him. Aged now, but still a paragon of a posable, detailed figure.
I picked up a Cap from Marvel Legends Series 1 not long after, and yet was pretty conservative in my purchases from then on. I kept admiring them on the pegs though.
Once I had buying power I started on a tear, hunting for all these incredible figures I was stupid enough to let pass me by. Ebay and our local Trade Me were my hunting grounds, where I had to balance opportunity and postage costs against my newly discovered desire for whichever aftermarket fig I’d learned was amazing from an Oafe review. I always did my research and would have to think hard now about what Toybiz figs, if any, I ever resold.
I remember clearly that no matter the size of them, Marvel Legends were 20 NZD a piece. So you could get a huge monkey-arms Juggernaut, with a removable helmet, hella articulation and detailing on a single card. Figures came with bases for a while, detailed better than Hasbro’s current figures. Cards were unique to the figures, with a considerable bio on the back. None of this ‘Maidens of Might’ or ‘Skyline Sirens’ bullshit.
What iteration of Juggernaut has a helmet and bands in a different color from his costume?
Nowadays, no matter the cheapness, or shonkiness of them, Legends are 40 NZD. How is it that in addition to a unique, high-quality figure you used to get parts for BAF’s like this:
and yet with advances in technology and a whole crowd of avid, money-throwing collectors, we get these shockers:
There are better BAF’s that Hasbro has done, yes, I know (Warlock, Foom). But here are 8 – a fair sample – and just look at them. The tiny ones and the normal-sized ones have less articulation and attention to detail than many single-carded figures (Rocket looks sick IMO, but is practically a figurine). Thanos looks like he came out of a Kinder Suprise. Ultron probably has Chinese knock-off’s out there that look better. Since when has Kreel been huge? (A genuine question as I know him primarily from Secret Wars). When has he been drawn looking like Sloth from the Goonies?
And WTF is this? The manga version?
There’s a friggin’ gap in his stomach. Such a brick.
Toybiz: Dizzying Peaks and Rare Valleys vs Hasbro: The Heights of Mediocrity and the Worst of the Worst
“But Toybiz was just as patchy!”, I hear you say. “Just look at their female figures!”, I hear you shriek. “Hey, they reused the Wonder Man buck three times!!!”.
Toybiz pioneered some serious shit. And this was 15 years ago! Their figures weren’t all great, for sure, but I’d say most of them were. Most of them are amazing. I’m able to hold these older figures in my hand and simply look at them, move them around, stand them up and put them next to each other with wonder, years after I’ve bought them. I can’t say that about most of the Hasbro ones I have. It wears off real quick.
And let’s not forget that it was years of cringe when Hasbro took over. I don’t think 10 years is a good timeframe to go from the worst, to repeatable mediocrity.
Just some of Hasbro’s worst, 2007 – 2013
Black Cat popped when I first saw her at a figure store in Singapore.
Hasbro Marvel Legends Ultimate Green Goblin Series Black Cat (released 2014)
But this is about all she can do. A character who is a gymnast and a fighter can’t do a decent kick, wide stance, crouch pose etc. because Hasbro didn’t put in boot rotation, decent hips, wrist hinges, double-jointed elbows or good neck articulation. Her forearms and hands are super short. Here knees are huge and distend the leg. Has those cheap elbow swivels. She’s frickin’ tall man and dwarves Spidey.
Toybiz Marvel Legends Series 4 Elektra (released 2003)
Elektra – from years and years before – is a great figure. I bought her (Trade Me) in direct response to reading the Frank Miller Daredevil run (in preparation for watching the insanely good Netflix series’), and I can already tell I like her better than the new Netflix version figure. Sure, she has a face that looks like Bianca from Lars And The Real Girl. But wow, her head is actually the same size as other figures in her line. Standing, she’s dynamic. There’s a flow to her body, like the whole thing was made as a whole, by an artist. She has articulation out the wazoo (and her wazoo looks fantastic too. Though my one’s melted from some reason…). Even those weird hips work way better than Felicia’s. Or Spider-Woman’s, or movie Black Widow’s. She can look up. Paintwork, weapons, a little dojo is included. Kind of weird, skeletal looking arms. But then, no worse than these:
Hasbro Marvel Legends Mandroid Series Black Widow (released 2014)
What weapons did my Widow come with? Oh yeah: none. Can I get a great Widow pose, on the ground, out of this figure? Not really. Hasbro cheaped out on boot cut and their ankles always suck, especially with characters in heels.
Scarlet Witch, 2005 and 2015
Ugh. There’s no defending Wanda the First. And I remember the prototype photo looked so good. But what about fishface to the right? What about those terrible elbows, and the unnatural hands we see again and again, looking like they’re coming out of a sleeve. She’s giant, and can’t pose worth a poop.
Spider-Woman, 2006 and 2015
Same deal. Maybe I’m the only one that expects I shouldn’t have to take a knife to my figure to get a normal range of articulation out of their feet. Hips suck. And if she were smaller, the whole Gil Elvgren/Dan DeCarlo head-to-body ratio she has would be sexy. Instead, she looks like a 7 inch scale figure next to the other Legends.
I would have liked a Rogue. But this one doesn’t capture her for me. Legends used to be more than the sum of their parts, not less.
Where’s the life? Does she need to kiss someone, is that it?
I would have loved a classic She-Hulk to. I think I want everyone in the original Secret Wars, I love those comics so much. But this is what Hasbro offers us? As part of an expensive, exclusive box-set, no less?
Enjoy being ripped-off, TRU believers
Flat green plastic (I can even see the seams and marbling in this promo shot, shucks). Un-elevated boots and gloves. Her bust is shiny and yet her torso is flat, despite being part of the same ‘costume’. Empty, lifeless eyes and a long neck (it shows up more in other photos). No dynamism for a character who is impetuous and aggressive and powerful. Mediocrity sucks, in my book. Sucks HARD. And this is an exclusive??
From a Toybiz box set of yesteryears. Oh. My. Glob.
I do want more female figures, but Hasbro are too happy to produce suckage. So at the top of my wish list are the Toybiz Phoenix and Mystique, which are 10 years old and still better.
I used to wonder how Marvel Select could exist in a world where a mainstream toyline – Toybiz Marvel Legends – was doing absolutely everything better than they were. Now, as Hasbro Legends are mostly without unique sculpts or craftsmanship, Select is in a good place, being the only non-imports to do highly-detailed Marvel characters in a similar scale.
But I’m talking about Toybiz times right now. Check out this guy, one of my favorites of all time:
Toybiz Marvel Legends, Series 9 Galactus Series First Appearance Hulk, Green Variant (released 2005)
Such a joy to hold, as the plastic is weighty, cool and smooth, and the figure is utterly solid. Sculpting that makes for an asymmetrical, dynamic, alive piece of Kirby, there in your hands. Subtle washes that accentuate the round slabs of muscle, the grooves of bone structure, and the folds of his skin. His pants are moulded, three-dimensional and with this amazing texture. His articulation is a pleasure to work with. His face is alive.
And here we have a $40 McDonald’s toy:
Hasbro Marvel Legends Age of Ultron Hulk (released 2015)
Another shiny plastic turd from Hasbro that noone is ever going to want again. Landfill. (To my surprise though, he has texture on those painted-on pantsies.)
Toybiz Marvel Legends Series 13 Onslaught Series Green Goblin (released 2006)
This figure has only two flaws: no ankle rockers and a claw hand. But that’s it. A unique sculpt, organic joints, no tabs sticking out, no marbling. Great glider. It feels nice. This is Norman, but he rides right out of The Spectacular Spider-Man #200 in my mind. That comic moved me, and I can see this as Sal Buscema’s Harry Osborn, about to save his friend, Peter, after trying madly to kill him. This piece stands as part of a mythos, but is also remarkable apart from it.
Fast-forward 11 years:
Hasbro Marvel Legends Sandman Series Green Goblin (released 2017)
I’ll be fair: not a bad-looking figure. Not a great-looking figure, either. Where’s the dynamism? Even in a pose, he doesn’t look much like a real dude, whizzing around. That cheap little glider wouldn’t whizz anywhere, even with a little imagination. The head looks great, but also like it doesn’t belong to this inert, stiff body. Even with moulded detail, the figure looks plasticky and shiny. And of course, this bod gets reused.
I’m running out of puff here and have pretty much said my piece. Hasbro has collectors by the pubes. I don’t know if it’s because there’s a crop of new collectors, unaware of what great heights Marvel Legends have fallen from, or that Hasbro’s hyping techniques are working on everyone. People are chucking buckets of money for low quality, over-priced product. It bugs me because I want figures, but I want good figures – excellent figures, like you used to could get in the store.
I’m sick of seeing this sort of shit:
Hulkbuster Armor, 2015 and 2016. Re-release on the right, as part of the ‘Best of Marvel Legends’ series. Who’s going to want the Lobster Buster on the left now?
Groot, 2014 and 2017. BAF re-released as single-carded figure, with better color. Look how dull and plasticky this looks, when a BAF should be the biggest and best.
Ares, 2008 and 2017. Well, why not? These fuckers got away with it before, right?
I’m sick of the hype for lousy and average product and the perpetuity of it all, knowing that it’s because if Hasbro let up, collectors might start to see how much they’re being ripped off. I’m sick of that freakin’ Bucky Cap mould. Looks like Frank Medrano wearing body paint. Not even that, because that stupid mould has inhumanly tiny feet, an impossible pelvis, and straight legs and…it’s the difference between John Byrne (=Toybiz) and that guy you knew in high-school who was really good at drawing, who could sort of draw a superhero standing still (=Hasbro).
Rant over. I want to keep collecting and get figures of characters I love, or that I can learn to love because the figure is amazing. With more figures coming out now than ever before, it’s amazing that his hasn’t been happening.
I do have some good Hasbro figures (mostly movies ones. They put the effort in there). But is it just no longer realistic to expect Legends to deliver premium quality – to deliver something truly great, that will stand the test of time, and still be loveable when the hype has faded? Right now I just expect waves and waves more of future landfill.
So much joy
Oh, I have more…