A few significant things happened to me in 1991: my son was born, I enrolled at the Joe Kubert School, and I started collecting toys again with Toy Biz's X-MEN line of action figures. While these were all life-changing events, let's focus on the toys, shall we?
Like most teenage 1980s comic book fans, I had always found some comfort in the pages of the comics I read. The world of Marvel's merry band of mutants was especially intriguing to me, because of the stories and artwork were somehow a step above the others. While the artwork changed over time, and the team roster changed from year to year, it was great fun to follow their adventures every other month (then later every month...then multiple titles each week!)
So, when Toy Biz started a line of action figures based on The Uncanny X-Men, I was hooked! After seeing an ad for the line in the comics, my childlike enthusiasm returned with the thought of collecting their toys. And although there were a lot of changes elsewhere in my life, having some familiar faces (even small plastic ones) was once again, a great comfort.
Action Figures Series 1
For this edition, I'm only adding the first wave that started an action figure empire! While every character in this wave was eventually updated with an upgraded action figure, there's just always something cool about the first versions. A few years earlier, the X-Men were brought to life in an animated movie called "Pryde of the X-Men" featuring most of the characters in this wave, and of course, they would later return in a hugely popular series the following year. But in 1991, the general public had no idea who the X-Men were, and that was the way we comic book fans liked it.
A relatively new villain at the time, this evil mutant had appeared in the pages of X-Factor, although it was not yet revealed just how important he would become in the lives of the X-Men. His role in the "Fall of the Mutants" made him a major bad guy, instead of the shape-changing techno-mutant leader he was originally depicted as. This action figure showcased his powers by having him extend and "grow" in size, towering over the rest of the figures in the line.
One of the original members of the team, the winged mutant Angel was gravely injured during the "Mutant Massacre" crossover, but was remade as Death, a Horseman of Apocalypse. Once he shook free of Apocalypse's control, he renamed himself Archangel and rejoined the X-Factor team, and later the X-Men. This action figure version includes a typical wing-flapping action feature found on most winged toys, but also a pair of removable missiles.
The resident strong man, Colossus was always a favorite member of the team, because he was big and strong, yet also a gentle and artistic soul. This figure is a great example of how an action feature can work against a figure. While the Russian mutant looks great when he's lifting the weights...he looks ridiculous when he's not.
This figure is really Cyclops' X-Factor costume (Toy Biz would later create a repainted figure to match his X-Men uniform), but it still looks great and it even includes a GOOD action feature: the light-up eye beam! Not quite enough to pulverize the bad guys, but enough to make this one of my favorites.
On the other hand, poor Juggernaut was another example of something that probably looked great on paper, but it didn't really work as a figure. While the power punch action feature actually works great, the sculpting is odd. He's a nice wide body, but he's too thin when viewed from the side. As a result, he looks like he was squished flat. The addition of the wheels on the bottom of his feet is also a mystery. First of all, he doesn't roll on them without falling over. Second, wheels? Really? Third, what's up with the battering ram? Juggernaut IS a battering ran...he doesn't need one.
The #2 villain in the Marvel Universe (sorry Mags, Dr. Doom is my choice for #1), this is a great figure! Sure the articulation is nothing special, the helmet is too big, and the cape is a dinky piece of cloth that has faded over the years, but there's something great about a character with magnetic powers "brought to life" as an action figure...WITH MAGNETIC POWERS! This figure actually DOES what the character does in the comics. Granted, it's not on such a grand scale, but it's great to see such a creative way to bring this about.
Another favorite character from the comics, Nightcrawler suffers from the obvious giant suction cups attached to the body (and they worked, too, for a little while anyway). Aside from those, he looks great. The flexible tail is a nice touch, and it can be used to hold his sword in swashbuckling adventures.
It has been said many times that female action figures in a boy's toy line aren't strong sellers. With a figure like this version of Storm, it's easy to understand why. Although the "Power Glow chest" (no, rally...that's what it's called! look at the cardback!) works (well, worked) well, it's the pose and articulation that make this figure somewhat less than spectacular. Plus, she is supposed to have a cape, and she looks incomplete without it. Toy Biz did try to add one a couple of times in later repainted releases, but to no avail...
Although my favorite X-Man (if not my favorite comic book character, period), there was something I just couldn't bring myself to like about this version of Wolverine: while the removable mask/ring accessory was fun for kids, it looks silly when he wore it. On the plus side, the snap-out claws was a LOT of fun to make them "Snikt!" out and attack the bad guys with, and Toy Biz really nailed the SHORT and stocky look that the character is supposed to have. Sadly, an updated figure of this costume would never be made in this line.
This was just the beginning for the X-Men's public debut...as we'll see in the coming weeks, there was a LOT more mutant misadventures to come, with an animated series, new comics, and of course new toys!
in two weeks NEXT WEEK!