X-MEN (TOY BIZ)
“The most powerful member of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, the alien super hero known as Gladiator is also its most devoted protector! Possessing nearly unlimited strength, virtual invulnerability, and a bevy of other abilities, Gladiator uses his powers on behalf of the throne of the Shi’ar Empire – no matter who may occupy it!”
The similarities between Marvel’s Shi’ar Imperial Guard and DC’s Legion of Super Heroes aren’t exactly a secret amongst the fans, and this especially comes to a head with the Imperial Guard’s leader, Kallark, aka Gladiator, who is a pretty thinly veiled take on Superman. The differences are, however, enough to not actually cross any legal boundaries, making Gladiator a somewhat recurring character when it comes to action feature treatment. Today, let’s have a look at his very first.
THE FIGURE ITSELF
Gladiator is part of the Phoenix Saga series of Toy Biz’s X-Men line, released in 1994 to tie-in with the cartoon’s adaptation of the story from the comics. Gladiator gets some decent focus in the story, making him a pretty sensible choice for inclusion (certainly a more logical choice than the other Guardsman in the assortment, Warstar), and he helped to sort of round out all of the factions present in the story. The figure stands a little over 5 inches tall and he has 10 points of articulation. Gladiator’s sculpt was quite a bulked up affair, befitting most renditions of the character. He seems to have misplaced most of his neck somewhere, and his arms seem a touch long, but beyond that the proportions aren’t bad. This body wound up getting reworked to remove the Gladiator-specific elements and was re-used for Toy Biz’s Hercules tie-in line, before making its way back to Marvel in the Marvel Gold line, where it was used for Moon Knight, among others. The cape’s a separate piece, though, like Dr. Doom, the chain for the clasp is actually sculpted on the main figure, rather than being a part of the cape proper. The cape sits a little high on the figure, and also has a hole in it to facilitate the action feature, but it’s overall not a bad piece. The paint work on Gladiator is pretty basic, but also pretty decent. It’s appropriately bright and bold. His skin tone seems a touch on the light side, but that’s pretty minor. Gladiator’s initial short card release didn’t have any accessories, but his long card release added Stryfe’s mace and Silver Samurai’s sword for…reasons? They had all that space to fill, I guess. Both versions got the same “Super Strength Power Punch” action feature, which causes his right arm to jut forward when the button on his back is pressed.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
Gladiator is the only of the Phoenix Saga figures I didn’t have growing up. I couldn’t tell you why, because I was a big fan of the whole saga, and I’ve always liked Gladiator as a character. I guess I just never found him at the right time…I mean, until I did, obviously, since I’m, you know, reviewing the figure and all. I snagged him very recently, as he was part of a collection of X-Men figures that came through All Time. He’s a somewhat goofy figure, but I’m glad to have finally finished up the Phoenix set after all these years.