Arnim Zola. One of the first names that comes to mind when one thinks of the completely crazy characters that Jack Kirby’s imagination birthed in the 1970s. Though Zola is one of Captain America’s premiere foes, he was long considered too obscure and too strange to warrant an action figure. But in 2012 the wait ended! In the second wave of Hasbro’s relaunched Marvel Legends, Arnim finally found plastic immortality as a Build-a-Figure (you’ll need to track down Thunderball/Piledriver, Bucky Captain America, Madame Masque/Hyrda, Drax, Fantomex, and Daken to build him). I think it could be the greatest Marvel Legends figure ever made.
Though Hasbro could easily have chosen to use the character’s modern design as their reference, they eschewed that in favor of his classic 1970s look. That decision alone was enough to delight me, but then they went and executed that design soooo beautifully. The sculpt is not only accurate, but rendered in virtuoso fashion. The folds in the fabric, the piping of his camera-eye-box-thing — it all serves to bring the character to life, just as most of us remember him. I love the details like the clear plastic chest screen (when they might have gotten away with just painting on the TV-face), and the strange piece of Kirby tech that looks like it might be the remote control to a doomsday weapon.
In an homage to the more modern “Winter Soldier” storyline, Hasbro offered a running change to the BaF; while the chest piece shipping with the Madam Mask figure would feature the “normal” Zola face (comic great Ed McGuinness provided the art), the piece shipping with Madam Hydra would have the Red Skull on the chest monitor. Very cool.
The articulation scheme on the figure reflects the progress that Hasbro has made with their “return” of Marvel Legends. Additions like new rocker ankles and hinged wrists work very well for getting great poseability out of a fairly bulky figure. The plastic feels solid and the joints all move really smoothly. In addition to the ankles and wrists, he features the new Hasbro hip engineering (with a thigh swivel near the top of the leg, and no ugly “hip ball”), double knees, shin swivels hidden by the boot tops, ball/hinge elbows, hinged shoulders that offer ball-type range, cut waist, and full head movement for his… box. Also, the figure is weighted and balanced extremely well — this isn’t a guy that’ll be doing many shelf-dives.
Zola has been one of my top “wants” in the Marvel Legends line for years. And while former line manager Jesse Falcon had oft mentioned him as one of his own personal favorite characters, I had truly given up on ever having Zola in my collection. He fits in so well as a foil for Cap and Bucky (not to mention Winter Soldier/Bucky Cap), a right hand for the Red Skull, and a counterpart to other great Kirby crazies like M.O.D.O.K.
While finally having an Arnim Zola figure may be a dream come true for me, it’s Hasbro’s brilliant execution of him that made him my #1 favorite toy of 2012, hands down. Heck — he’s right up there as one of my favorite figures of all time.
Now, about that BaF Doughboy…