The PoP!-Stars give their take on the latest and greatest in Action Figures and Toy-lines in eight (succinct) parts.
A few months ago, I took you for a look back at some of the most important stages in the history of Wolverine, as represented in action figure form. It got me to thinking, which other heroes have had so many iconic looks, so many distinct eras, immortalized as a part of toydom? The answer, of course, was an obvious one – your friendly neighborhood wallcrawler, of course! Please note, figures based on alternate realities and possible futures are out. Sorry 2099 fans. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the webhead’s history in plastic.
Peter Parker (Diamond Select – Minimates) – It’s strange… there haven’t been a lot of figures made of Spidey’s alter ego over the years. We’ve seen a couple of takes on Tobey Maguire’s bespectacled performance, a stab at the Ultimate Pete, and a figure or two from the ’90s animated series, there really haven’t been any adaptations of the original über nerd… save one. Minimate Peter Parker came in a two pack with Mary Jane, sporting all of his nerdy goodness. Looking like he just stepped off the panel from one of his earliest appearances – glasses, sweater vest, and all – this rendition of Aunt May’s favorite wheatcake eating machine had fans thinking they’d hit the jackpot!
First Appearance (Toy Biz – Marvel Legends Sentinel Wave) - Peter’s great, but he’d have been a nobody if not for that irradiated spider bite. Where most of us would have gotten some rare form of cancer and died, Parker got super powers and sewed himself a costume. AND DESIGNED WEBSHOOTERS! Why didn’t this guy ever dedicate his life to, oh, say, solving world hunger?
Anyhow, this figure represents Spidey as he looked in his first appearance – narrow Ditko eyes, black highlights on a red costume, and web wings. Oh how I hate those web wings. Fortunately, this figure’s were removable. The wings haven’t been seen on too many action figures over the years, and this was undoubtedly the best figure ever to sport them. Throw in a piece of the Sentinel BAF, and First Appearance Spider-Man here really couldn’t get much better.
Classic (Toy Biz – Marvel Super Heroes) – Eventually, the folks at Marvel would tweak Spider-Man’s look. The web wings would disappear, the black would turn to blue, and Pete would get a clearer vision of the world around him with some slightly larger eyeholes in his mask. With these changes made to his costume, Parker’s look would become somewhat solidified. Changes would come, certainly, or else this would be one hell of a short list. Time in and time out, however, Peter would return to this simple, iconic design.
While it’s true that other more detailed figures would sport this costume over the years, but in an age where five points of articulation were the norm, this figure’s 16 poseable joints – including hinged wrist for webshooting – were the perfect action feature for the wall crawler, and a hint as to the shape of things to come.
Man-Spider (Toy Biz – Spider-Man Animated Series) - Ocassionally throughout his history, Marvel has put Spidey’s thing down, flipped it, and reversed it, resulting in his mutation into Man-Spider. Sometimes this meant he retained his intellect, more often he became a feral brute. Regardless, it always looked freakin’ cool!
As with our last entry, it would be easy to point to the Spider-Man Classics Man-Spider with its gorgeous sculpt and suggest that it’s the best interpretation of Parker’s unfortunate de-evolution into a giant spider beast. It would be easy, but it would be wrong, because its predecessor – and I believe the only other Man-Spider figure to date – totally owns! Toy Biz’s first stab at this unique look was pretty impressively detailed for a 5 inch figure, but the real selling point here was the accessories. Man-Spider came with shackles for all six of his arms, and a crazy-ass helmet to restrain his mandibles. The newer, prettier Man-Spider just came with the same woodland creek that ML Toad was released with a month or so prior, and really, what’s Parker – even in his mutated form – doing in a woodland creek? No, the original here is definitely the better, and gets the nod.
Black Costume (Diamond Select – Minimates) – If you know anything about Spider-Man, you probably know about the black costume he donned during the Secret Wars when his own red and blues got shredded in combat. The black costume that was actually a living symbiote which nearly drove him mad. The black costume that would eventually bond with Eddie Brock, and later Mac Gargan, to become Venom, one of Spidey’s fiercest foes. But did you know that even after shrugging off the psychotic suit, Parker took to wearing his own home grown threatening threads? It’s true, later appearances of the black costume were nothing more than that – a costume; one whose darkness reflected a growing darkness in Pete’s soul. A darkness MJ would become so terrified by, she prompted the shutterbug to mothball the suit.
So, confession time. While this is technically an entry for Pete’s original emo phase, the figure that best represents the look is from his more recent return to the look. Our second Minimate to make the list, it’s fairly easy to see why this is the black costumed figure to make the cut. First off, the paint app is gorgeous, with subtle blue highlights accenting the otherwise ebon outfit. More importantly, though, is the ability to display Parker unmasked, a feat no other sable suited figure could perform.
McFarlane Era (Toy Biz – Web Trap) - Sure, this is essentially just the classic look rehashed, but McFarlane put his own indellible mark on Spidey and no other figure more perfectly captures Todd’s essence than this entry from the webtrap line.
Filled with what could only be considered wide-eyed wonder, this Spider-Man figure was a deviation from the norm in more than just artistic style. Sure, we’d had a couple of “super-poseable” figures before, but aside from them, nearly every Spidey fig was posed in the standard action figure pose – arms at side, legs straight – and came with pretty much standard articulation. These figures could sit in a chair or box their opponents, but that was about the extent of how creative you could get with posing them. This figure, however, featured articutlated ankles, a wider range of motion than normal in the knee and hip joints (for crouching!), and the first ever dynamically posed upper body. Look closely; not only is the upper body slightly twisted, it’s also got some rather intricately sculpted abs and the first ever (I believe) raised webs. Yeah, those things aren’t just painted on, they’re sculpted. Rounding out the figure’s uniqueness is the positioning of the arms. This figure wasn’t meant for kids who wanted to have Spidey beat up Doc Ock or web swing from rooftop to rooftop. No, his arms are posed in a classicaly McFarlane-esque position, as if his Spider-sense had just begun to tingle, or his back – and palms – were literally up against a wall. This was a figure made for collectors, and a perfect take on one artist’s iconic style.
Ben Reilly (Hasbro – Marvel Legends Ares Wave) - This isn’t your father’s Spider-Man, but the star of the Clone Saga was Spider-man for awhile, and his distinct look is still a fan favorite, even if the man beneath the clothes is best left forgotten. Honestly, this was a tough call for me. The old five inch Ben Reilly figure had removable web cartridge bands that were pretty impressive at the time. Still, this modern update of the figure is just a perfectly accurate adaptation and had to take the slot on the list. Besides, the Ares figure he’ll help you build was just plain gorgeous.
Iron Spider (Hasbro – Spider-Man Origins) – Once Petey returned to the webs, he stayed fairly faithful to the red and blue for awhile. Eventually, however, in teaming up with Tony Stark during the super hero civil war, Parker got himself a new set of duds. Sporting Stark’s proprietary red and gold, the Iron Spider suit had a whole slew of upgrades for Peter to enjoy – none of which translated to playability as well as the added appendages the suit could sprout. I never really unerstood why there are only three, but that’s irrelevant. Hasbro went the extra mile here and gave each spider claw three points of articulation to really ramp up the figure’s playability and displayability alike. A translucent variant was even released to demonstrate the suit’s stealth capabilities. Undeniably schway. Too bad Pete found out Tony was using the suit to spy on him, because this was one wardrobe change for the better. The upside? This has become the costume of the Scarlet Spiders (or is it just singular, now) over in Avengers: Initiative. Buy three!
Pete’s back to the red and blues for now, but there’ll be plenty of time before PoP! goes tits up for Pete to further flesh out his wardrobe, and I’m quite certain you’ll see another Articulated Timeline devoted to even more of Spidey’s looks yet to come. And yes, I know, the armored suit didn’t make the list. Executive decision. Disagree? Gimme an earful down below, or join the PoP! Forums and really let me have it!