MARVEL UNIVERSE (HASBRO)
Poor Black Panther. He should be a really prominent character, but he always feels like he gets the short end of the stick. He has trouble keeping an ongoing comic (often due to poor creative direction), he’s mostly relegated to guest star roles in all the various Marvel cartoons (barring the truly awesome Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes), and he didn’t even get an action figure until the early 00s (and even then, it was only in the-10 inch line. It would take a little while longer before he got a normal 5-inch figure, just as the scale was starting to go away). Fortunately, it looks like his luck should be changing with the release of Civil War, as well as his solo film in 2018. Why not look at one of his action figures?
THE FIGURE ITSELF
Black Panther was part of the first series of Hasbro’s Marvel Universe line. He’s based on the Panther’s classic look, from his time with the Avengers in the late 60s. The figure stands roughly 4 inches tall and has 24 points of articulation. Panther is built on Hasbro’s first attempt at a mid-sized male body. It was only used for him and two variants of the Punisher. The reason it didn’t see any further use is quite simple: it’s not very good. Sure, parts of it look pretty decent, but the overall assembly looks very awkward. The upper arms in particular are about as tall as they are wide, which just looks odd. In addition, the articulation scheme is weird and makes the figure pretty stiff. You won’t be getting much more than a basic standing pose out of this guy, which just isn’t right when you’re talking about Black Panther, a dude who does his fair share of crouching! The head, lower arms and lower legs are all unique to this guy. I like the head a lot, and it’s definitely the best part of the figure. The arms and legs do at least put some effort into detailing Panther’s striped gloves and boots, but they suffer from the same odd proportions as the rest of the body. The left hand is bigger than his face! Panther has paint for his eyes and… that’s it. Just the eyes. The rest is straight black plastic, which makes him a bit flat looking. Some highlights, or even painting the gloves blue, as they were often showed in the comics, would have done a lot to help this figure, but alas, no such luck. Black Panther was packed with a staff with a blade on it, which Wikipedia tells me is a naginata. It never struck me as particularly in keeping with Panther’s aesthetic, so I lost it at some point.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
I’ve always liked Black Panther (I chalk it up to his Keith David-voiced appearance on the 90s Fantastic Four cartoon). So much so that when I was 7, I made one of my Batman Forever Batmen into a custom Panther using some black tape. When Hasbro showed him as one of the first MU figures, I was pretty excited to see him there, and he was one of my first purchases from the line. Unfortunately, he got saddled with the worst of the initial bodies, which held him back. He’s not a terrible looking figure, but he’s not super fun either, which is disappointing. On the plus side, Hasbro just re-released him in their Avengers Infinite line, using the later mid-sized body (used on Falcon), so the character wasn’t totally forgotten.