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Marvel Figures: No End in Sight


So I just received a disturbingly large package from Big Bad Toy store containing, among a few other things, two entire waves of Marvel Legends figures. Now, most of you who have used the “Pile of Loot” feature know that if you let your shipments build up, you will eventually end up with a box with the appropriate dimensions to keep at least one hobo nice and warm, with room for an imaginary puppy named Porkpie and a modest collection of right-handed gloves stolen from elderly ladies with cold right hands.

In other words, it was a big box. Calvin’s transmogrifier-sized.

The calendars tell me that it’s 2017. We are now three years away from Arno Stark being the only Iron Man. We are 27 years past the beginning of this extraordinarily deep rabbit hole of toys based on Marvel figures.

Now, I know what you just said, in that throbbing pink organ grinder of yours called a brain. Marvel Legends haven’t been a thing for that long. The ML line began in 2002. Or, if you were an early adopter, maybe you got in on the Spider-Man Classics line, which was 2001.

But if you’re hardcore, you climbed aboard this runaway train in 1990.

In 1990, the toy world had been without a decent action figure line based on Marvel comics for five years. Secret Wars managed to squirt out a small amount of figures before disappearing into shelf limbo and taking away any chance of a full roster of Marvel characters. With so many toys populating the toy aisles of the ’80s, it seemed weird that Marvel could only manage a pair of brief waves. Even DC’s Super Powers managed three waves, with many more characters receiving a figure. Why was Marvel getting left out?

It was a question that 1990 would answer.

In 1990, I was a teenager that had already briefly lived through and promptly outgrown the need to stop collecting toys. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, as collecting toys seems to be the thing one should outgrow, but I view collecting whatever the hell you want to, regardless of what “society” has to say about it, as the true mark of maturity. I liked toys, I wanted to continue collecting toys, so I did. So when I saw that there was going to be a brand new line of Marvel figures, I was sold immediately.

ToyBiz produced an initial wave of figures under the generic “Marvel Superheroes” banner. While these toys were not entirely successful as “toys,” hampered by action features that to this day blind me with rage, they were still Marvel action figures. With a roster that included Spider-Man, Dr. Doom, Silver Surfer, Hulk and Punisher, the excitement was palpable.

Hulk was my first. Hulk had been an important part of the Secret Wars story line, so I had always been sad that there had never been a Hulk figure to coincide with that line.

Like I said, these were not really great toys. Hulk was the same height as everyone else, which broke my brain a little. His arms would only move up and down as one, due to a “pipe bending” action feature. But at this point being able to fiddle with characters like Hulk and Silver Surfer figure far outweighed any aesthetic issues. Almost.

At this point I was used to toy lines dying, so I never figured on this one lasting long. And, true to form, Marvel Superheroes as a line didn’t last too much longer. They managed a couple of repaints, a handful of new characters, and then the line went away. But as it turned out, that wasn’t the line that would change everything. Because it was still only 1990. In the summer of 1991 there would be an advertisement on the back of the Marvel comics of — I think the month of July — that would signal a completely different line.


It seemed as though the Marvel Superheroes line was only a warmup to what was to come. The X-Men became a juggernaut — in every possible way. First and foremost, that initial wave of X-men debuted one of my favorite villains ever — Juggernaut himself — along with my favorite X-Man, Colossus.

The success of that line meant that everything expanded. When the X-Men animated series hit the air, there were more Marvel figures being pumped out than I could keep up with. And with the addition of a line connected to the Spider-Man cartoon, that meant a wider array of characters. Then the Fantastic Four, Hulk and Iron Man cartoons all managed to get lines. There were characters getting figures that I never would have considered as toy-worthy. I’m still slightly confused as to what a Comm-cast is. I think we all are, and yet there he is, in my collection.

Who are you, Comm-cast, and are your rates low?

The lines expanded and expanded. There was a Silver Surfer line. There was an Alpha Flight line. We’re struggling to get any member of Alpha Flight today, and there was an entire line dedicated to them.I picked them up at a Big Lots for 2 bucks a piece.

The Inhumans made an appearance in the Fantastic Four line. Inhumans! No Lockjaw, but still.

But as with anything, it all slowed down. Sculpts changed, articulation improved, but entropy always wins. There were a few last gasps here and there. A handful of mail-away figure through Toy Fare Magazine that were very welcome, a couple of unbelievable box sets like the Avengers and Giant-Size X-Men. But slowly, the line was dying. There was a new millennia approaching. The year 2000! A year that you can’t say without prefacing it with “the year.”


Ten years was a hell of a run.

Soon, the 5-inch line that I had absorbed with dedication and affection was gone. That was it.

It was done. I was done.

At least, I really thought I was done. I had a huge amount of figures, and after a decade of collecting, I couldn’t do it all over again. That’s what I told myself.

Weeeelllllll … I’ll buy this super-poseable Spider-Man. Spider-Man classics? That won’t last. It might make it a wave or two. At least I’ll get a cool Spider-Man out of it. Man, he really poses well. Crazy articulation.

I’d really like to get that Daredevil to go with him.

Okay, that’s two. Now I can stop.

What’s a Marvel Legends?

Nope. Nope nope nope. Can’t do it. Not all over again.

I never saw the first wave of Marvel Legends in a store. Wave two was a different story. It seemed to be everywhere, en masse. But, I couldn’t do it. It was bad enough keeping up with Star Wars figures. I had collected enough Marvel figures to choke a small continent. I couldn’t do it.

Wave three showed up. I was still strong. They looked extremely cool, but I could hold out.

Wave four showed up. Sweet poop, that Punisher looked awesome. Okay, Okay, Okay, I’ll get the Punisher to go with the Spider-Man and Daredevil I already had.

I’ll just get the Punisher. I can’t start the Marvel Universe in an entirely different scale, but I can pick up a cool toy here or there.

That’s what I said to myself when I picked up the Punisher. And what I kept saying when I backtracked and started getting the figures I missed.

It was 2003, and I was now collecting Marvel figures in an entirely different scale.

It is now 2017 and two more waves of figures just showed up at my house. And there are several more coming on the horizon, with no end in sight.

It’s all the Hulk’s fault.