Sunday, April 17, 2016

Toy Biz X-Men Series 1 Wolverine and Magneto!

It's the spring of 1992. I had just finished competing in an Odyssey of the Mind competition in Va Beach, and my parents and I are getting ready to head home. "Is there anywhere you'd like to go before we go home?", they ask. I could only think of one place, a place that had been occupying my mind since I first saw it earlier in the day. That place was Children's Palace.

Now, this post isn't really about Children's Palace, but it certainly could be. I had been to Toys R Us a few times, but it was mostly with my neighbor and his family, which meant most of the time we were there was spent in the video games section. I would only get a quick glimpse of the action figure aisles, as we made our way over to the NES and SNES games on display. This time, it was just me and my parents, and I was the one leading the way. I honestly don't think I was prepared for just how amazing Children's Palace was. Back at home, we had a couple of aisles that were full of my favorite action figures. Here, there were 5 or 6 aisles, and it seemed like they went on forever. I had never seen so many toys in one place before. It was a bit intimidating, and I could tell my parents were getting a little impatient, which only added to the pressure. I stood in the middle of an aisle, nearly overwhelmed by all the choices, when a familiar logo caught my eye. Shortly after that, I was back in the car, playing with my two new figures.

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I think my love for these figures was all a matter of timing. I had recently inherited a large lot of comics from a cousin, a large chunk of which was X-Men and X-Factor comics. I read, and re-read those stories, until I had almost memorized them. Wolverine was easily my favorite character at the time, and I had been dying to see him in action figure form. I really didn't need to think about it when I first saw him hanging on the peg in front of me. I knew I was taking Wolverine home. The second figure is always the hardest. Do you go with one of his teammates, or do you go with a villain, so he'll have someone to fight. As you can see, I went with the Master of Magnetism, Magneto. At the time it made sense for the man with the metal skeleton to fight the man with power over metal.


This particular version of Wolverine is based off his late 80's early 90's costume, which happens to be my favorite iteration of the character. The scale of even the later Toy Biz lines was all over the place, but this is one time they got it right. Wolverine is shorter than all of his teammates, and so is this figure. Like Kenner before them, Toy Biz built in an action feature into each figure. Wolverine's claws could be slid back into his arms, then sprung back out with the flick of the switches under his arms. Even if it came at the cost of elbow articulation, it was a huge step-up from the clip-on claws of the Wolverine figure from the Secret Wars line.


And here's Logan, ready for action. This would be the only version of the character with claws that could be manually deployed. All the others would either spring right back out, or they were just molded to his hands. He also came with a samurai sword, and a removable mask. Later figures would improve on the sculpt immensely, but the separate mask worked well enough for me at the time. Plus, there was one more feature built into the mask:


It could be worn as a ring! Granted, my hands have grown a little bit in the past 25 years, so it's more of a pinkie nail decoration now. I actually didn't wear it around all that often even then. The arms that clip it to Logan's head are actually rather fragile, and will break if you spread them too far apart. Unfortunately, my Wolverine eventually ended up going maskless after a couple months.


Next we have the man with the attractive personality, Magneto! Magneto's look didn't change much in his first 30 years or so, and he spent most of it rocking the purple and red suit.


This figure came with a removable helmet, and a cloth cape that clipped around his neck. Honestly, that's probably one of the things that sold me on this version. I was always a sucker for cloth goods back then. The helmet was a bit too large, and I think he actually looks better with it off. I mean, he still looks like somebody's angry grandfather, he just doesn't look as ridiculous. Subsequent versions of Magneto would just make the helmet part of the head sculpt, and use a hard plastic cape. A downgrade, if you ask me.


What better way to show off Magneto's special ability, than to actually stick some magnets in the figure? With small magnets in his chest and hands, Magneto is able to attract and hold on to random pieces of space junk. "Why space junk?", you ask. You've got me. I guess you could also stick safety pins and paper clips to him if you wanted to. That's right, you could use Magneto to store a minimal amount of office supplies. My only regret is that it took me over 20 years to realize that.




As another bonus, each figure in the first X-Men series came with a Marvel trading card. I'm not sure if certain cards came with certain figures, or if the whole thing was just randomly decided by machines. Regardless, Wolverine actually came with a card of himself, from the first Marvel Universe series, one of my favorite trading card sets ever. The card that came with Magneto is even more interesting though. It's not the fact that it's a Polaris on the card, rather than Magneto, but rather the fact that the card is from the second series of X-Men trading cards. If you weren't aware, that series of trading cards was released in 1993. The Magneto figure came out in 1991, and the bubble was still sealed to the cardback before I opened it up. I think there's some time traveling shenanigans going on here.



I would go on to collect most of that first series of figures, as well as a few dozen from the later series, but these two would continue to be my favorites. I know figures today come with dozens of points of articulation, and look like they've jumped right off the page or the screen, but I have to admit a fondness for the simpler sculpts and action features. I just love that they feel and look like toys, rather than super articulated statues.

It doesn't even bother me that Magneto looks like the lead character from Empty Nest.



10 comments:

  1. Toy Biz was just a great company back then..

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  2. Great choice under pressure.I would have gone with a villain too.It's imperative to have a villain for your hero to duel with.Even now as an adult collector,I go with a hero and villain combo,always.

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    1. You've gotta have a villain. Otherwise, what's your hero going to do?

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  3. Loved that Magneto but the Wolverine I really like 2nd one they released.

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    1. I have to admit, I really liked that 2nd Wolverine too. It just bugged me a little bit that he was the same height as all the other figures.

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    2. Version two was one of my favorites as well. I also loved the spy Wolverine and Weapon X, but that was later on.

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  4. Great article, man! I loved these guys back in the day! I only have retained less than 10 of my Toy Biz figures in this scale (including my original Deadpool, still complete with both swords!) but Magneto is one of those that I have for some reason. Remember the talking versions of these guys? They were awesome and hilarious!

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    1. Thanks man! I keep seeing that Deadpool figure on eBay, and his prices have skyrocketed since the movie came out. It used to be you could pick him for $10 on so on his card, now he seems to be going for 40-60.

      You wanna talk about crazy, how about the figures that had a projector in their chest?

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