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Top Five Most-Wanted Live-Action Marvel Figures From the Previous Century

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become an unrelenting juggernaut of blockbuster hits, all-star interpretations, and massive storylines. The creation of a cohesive universe of interconnected movies has proven to be so successful that other shared-universe properties are jumping on the bandwagon. I fully expect to see one involving cereal, or maybe board games.

Of course, as with anything that becomes popular, there has been a backlash against Marvel’s dependably formulaic cinematic entertainment achievements, because hating things that are popular is the popular thing to do.

With Disney’s recent Fox acquisitions, the MCU is no doubt going to be getting even bigger and bigger, and the backlash will also no doubt grow larger and larger, but maybe we’ll get a Galactus that isn’t a cloud and a Dr. Doom that isn’t whatever that last Dr. Doom was. So it all balances out, doesn’t it?

With the Disney/Fox merger and all the movies that are guaranteed to spring forth from such a thing, we will be getting movies, more movies, and toys from those movies. If I could predict the future with some certainty, it is that your great grandchildren will exist on a steady diet of Marvel and Star Wars movies, and it is possible that they will see a fight between Darth Vader fight the X-Men. However, before we started living in this crazy world made up of green screens and CGI and more money than the national debt, we had to rely on other, less technologically advanced means to see live action Marvel superheroes.

The toys are what interest me the most. As I age into obsolescence, I’ve realized how strong the tendency to want to immortalize your interests in plastic can be. Toys I never imagined I’d want, I suddenly find myself wanting, if only to pay tribute to a certain time, a certain era, a certain memory.

I’ll be listing five toys based on live action Marvel from before Marvel became the beast it is today. Let’s start it off with someone who has been made, but needs an updated version.

Before Tobey Maguire swung across the New York skyline, before a relative unknown named Hugh Jackman popped a set of cgi claws from between his knuckles, Marvel’s big-screen accomplishments were few and far between. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Oh, they tried, and they failed. They failed spectacularly, but they failed.

For a while, it seemed that they would never able to manage the perfect marriage of character and actor like DC accomplished with Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and would never be able to fashion the neo-noir, gothic tableuax of Tim Burton’s Batman.

Until they did.

Until Blade.

Blade was a combination of successful parts that became much greater when put together. The script, the direction, the cinematography, the effects, the mood, the actors — Blade is just an excellent film. Wesley Snipes portrayed this super-powered vampire killer with a comic book flair, somehow managing to look like he was having the time of his life while never winking at the audience. Kris Kristofferson’s Whistler added a grungy, lived-in history to the proceedings, connecting the audience to an unseen past that served to make Blade feel not like a standalone movie, but part of a larger world.

Blade has had a movie figure before, but that one couldn’t even hold his gun properly. I’d love to get a brand new, modern action figure based on the movie that showed Marvel could be a contender.

There have been plenty of Punishers, but to me the most Punisheresque one is the one that didn’t get a fair shake at all. I’m talking about Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher.

Dolph’s Punisher was an odd one. He seemed to live in the sewers despite not being a Ninja Turtle, and he didn’t have the skull on his shirt. But he did exactly what the Punisher needed to do: he killed people in over-the-top, action-movie ways. He was a violent action movie character doing violent action movie things. There was no therapy, no love interest, no crying, just one guy killing the bad guys. I need a Lundgren Punisher.

Today you need Mark Ruffalo and copious CGI to properly portray the Incredible Hulk. But back in the ’70s, you needed Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, and a bunch of green paint. And damn it, it worked.

Bill Bixby was a great actor. He had an understated ability to allow you into the private pain of a man who is completely isolated from everything. Everything Bixby’s Banner did was weighted down by the fact that he occasionally turned into a giant, super-strong rage monster. You could feel the constant, consistent tension in every word he spoke, the hesitation to get close to anybody. On the opposite side, Lou Ferrigno was a beast of a man who growled, snarled, seethed and gritted his teeth with a ferocity that truly made you believe this slightly oversized human could chuck a car. The combination of these two men somehow made the show work. While asking for both Bixby and Ferrigno is asking too much, I’d love to at least get a Ferrigno Hulk.

What can you say about Howard the Duck. Oh, well, I said a lot of it here. It was a flop, a failure, and not anything like what Howard the Duck should be. A new, fully CGI Howard has made a couple of appearances in the MCU now, and it’s not like that’s any more faithful anyway, so here we are. Howard’s movie is, by any normal standard, a “bad” movie, but we’re not talking about normal standards here. It is an extremely entertaining failure, and one that should be celebrated. By toys.

And finally, there are several ways I could go here. I could go for the mystical majesty of the Dr. Strange of the ’70s, or the completely bizarre versions of Captain America. Or I could just say to hell with it and go with David Hasselhoff’s Nick Fury, because David Hasselhoff is a damn national treasure and should have had a figure in the Guardians of the Galaxy line.

But instead I’m going to go with Nicholas Hammond’s Spider-Man. It’s like … Spider-Man, but … not. You know what I mean? All the recognizable elements are there, but it’s just weird. Weird in a good way, weird in the way you kind of look at the ’70s and nod at it while smiling crookedly. It’s the kind of thing you look at and you say, “It’s like the Electric Company Spider-Man with a bigger budget.” And the Electric Company Spider-Man was one step away from that kid that rang your door at Halloween with a red shirt that “Spider-Man” written on it in black ink.

Plus his shiny silver eyes kind of creep me out.

What about you? Do you want the all-black Daredevil from the Trial of the Incredible Hulk? What about Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four? Or maybe you want Generation X Jubilee from their one TV movie.

Yeah, maybe you do.

Weirdo.

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