#1126: Cyclops & Banshee

CYCLOPS & BANSHEE

MARVEL MINIMATES

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In the summer of 2003, Marvel Minimates was launched, with Series 1-3 all hitting pretty much simultaneously.  It was an interesting mix of characters and eras to be sure, but that’s a story for another review.  Series 3 gave us our first taste of the X-Men, presenting them in their Ultimate X-Men incarnation, which was a little bit of a letdown for the more classic comics fans in the audience.  Fortunately, in January of the following year, they got back to the X-Men, this time offering up a set based on Giant Size X-Men #1, perhaps the quintessential “classic” X-Men.  Now, 13 years later, they’ve returned back to GSXM #1, this time offering up a whole series of two-packs based on the team.  Today, I’ll be looking at the first two-pack from the set, leader man Cyclops & Banshee!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Cyclops and Banshee are part of the 68th Series of Marvel Minimates, which hit towards the end of September.  Both characters are based on their Dave Cockrum designs from the early issues of his and Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men, though, in the case of Cyclops and Banshee, both designs are slight tweaks of the Werner Roth designs for the characters.

CYCLOPS

bansheecyclops6When it came time to rebuild the team, Cyclops was the one point of overlap between old and new (though Jean Grey would find her way back in short time, and Beast and Angel would both pull stints as recurring members.  Only Iceman really stayed away), kept on as the new team’s field leader.  It gave him a sense of seniority he hadn’t really had with the prior incarnation of the team.  This particular Cyclops design has graced the Minimate style twice before, but the last time was as part of an exclusive two-pack in 2005.  Minimates have made a lot of progress since then, so the update to what is probably Scott’s most prominent design is a much appreciated one.  The figure stands about 2 1/2 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation, as is the norm for any figure built on the standard ‘mate body.  Cyclops has additional parts for his cowl/visor and his boots.  The boots are the standard cuffed boots, and they do the job well enough.  The mask is a new piece, and it does quite a nice job of both capturing the feel of Cockrum’s illustrations of Cyclops’ visor, while also still fitting in well with the general Minimate aesthetic.  The rest of Scott’s details are handled via paint.  The overall application is pretty good, but there are a few issues, such as his left glove not getting enough coats of yellow to totally cover the underlying blue, thereby giving him a slightly green color.  Also, like a few previous X-Men, his belt buckle still has some traces of yellow left at the very bottom, which is a little frustrating.  That being said, there’s a lot to like here.  The shading on the blue sections of the costume is very near perfect, and really sells this as a late 70s Cyclops, as well as adding a lot of depth and dimension to the design.  While the gold visor has occasionally been something that bothers me on Cyclops figures, this is one time I really don’t mind, as Cockrum always went out of his way to indicate the visor was metallic.  I also appreciate the little red visible “eyes” in the visor, as they signify this is undoubtedly a Cockrum Cyclops, not Byrne.  Under the mask, there’s a face that’s a pretty great recreation of the unmasked Cyclops we see near the beginning of GSXM #1.  I really like the extra attention to detail on this one.  Cyclops includes a spare hairpiece for his unmasked look and a clear display stand.  The AvX and ANAD Cyclopses both included an extra mask with an optic blast attached, which certainly would have been nice, but given the number of extras included with the other figure in the set, it’s not the worst thing ever.

BANSHEE

bansheecyclops3Banshee was one of two members of the new team to have already appeared in X-Men prior to to GSXM#1, so he wasn’t one of the new characters paraded on the oh so famous cover.  By extension, he was also left out of the GSXM boxed set back in 2004, and left unreleased until Series 60, last year.  And even then, that was in his Strike Force uniform, making this particular ‘mate 13 years in the making.  Alright!  Guess my focusing on the positive worked!  Banshee gets add-ons for the hair, collar, and his wings.  The hair and collar come from the “Strange Tales” Morbius. They work decently enough.  I personally prefer the hair used on the last Banshee ‘mate, but the Morbius piece is a good match for Banshee’s appearance bansheecyclops5earlier in the run.  The wing pieces are new.  The slip over the wrists, and when positioned correctly, look like he’s using them to glide on the air.  Pretty cool new pieces, definitely.  The paintwork on Banshee is pretty good in general.  There are some fuzz edges here and there, and there’s a weird sort of film on the pelvis piece, but otherwise, the line work is sharp, and the colors are nice and bold.  Banshee’s default face is screaming, which is pretty well handled.  He also includes an extra head, with a more playful grin, a perfect recreation of Cockrum’s depictions of Banshee off-duty.  I can’t begin to tell you guys how excited I am to have a Banshee that includes an extra, non-screaming head.  How this is the first version of the character to do such thing, I’ll never know.  In addition to the extra head, Banshee also includes the cape and sonic scream piece from the last Banshee, as well as a flight stand and a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

For quite some time, one of my main wants from Marvel Minimates was a GSXM-themed series.  For a number of stupid reasons, I never owned the original boxed set, so there was this sort of a hole in my collection.  So, I was pretty thrilled by the announcement of this set. Moreover, I’ve been waiting for this Banshee pretty much since 2004, so I’m very happy to have him finally.  He’s definitely the Banshee I’ve been waiting for.  Sorry Strike Force Banshee, looks like you’re being replaced (well, maybe I’ll keep that hair).  The John Byrne Cyclops from 2005 has been my go to version of the character for over ten years, and he’s become increasingly outdated as the line’s moved on.  I was eagerly awaiting the new version, and I’m very happy with the final result.  This one’s going to be hard to top moving forward!

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#0819: Giant-Size X-Men #1 Boxed Set

STORM, COLOSSUS, NIGHTCRAWLER, SUNFIRE, BANSHEE, & THUNDERBIRD

MARVEL COLLECTOR EDITIONS (TOY BIZ)

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In the 1960s, when Marvel Comics was on fire with all sorts of new ideas, the X-Men were created. The team was Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, and Angel. While the series was a moderate success, it wasn’t as big as other titles of the time, and so the book eventually became solely a reprint series, before ending entirely. But, as anyone who has so much as thought about a Marvel comic in the last 30 years can tell you, that was far from the end of the X-Men. In 1975, the series was relaunched with Giant-Size X-Men #1, which featured an all-new, all-different cast of characters. This new cast proved far more successful than their predecessors, and the series went on to become one of Marvel’s most popular. In the 1990s, the X-Men were no strangers to toys, but most were based on the contemporary designs. To appease older fans, Toy Biz launched a line of special boxed sets, based on more classic incarnations of teams, including the All-New, All-Different X-Men, which I’ll be looking at today!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

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These six figures were released as one of the three sets in the Marvel Collector Editions line. All six are based on their appearances in Giant-Size X-Men #1.

STORM

ANADXMen2Though she’s by far the most well-known of the figures in this set, this was the first time Storm’s original costume had seen plastic form, and only the second sculpt the figure had gotten in the expansive 5-inch scale. The figure stands 5 ¼ inches tall and has 13 points of articulation. Her sculpt is generally pretty good, and certainly much better than the Marvel Girl sculpt from this set’s X-Men #1 companion piece. The head is definitely the nicest piece here, as it captures Cockrum’s take on Storm quite well. The body is decently sculpted, but suffers from a few issues. First off, she seems to lack Storm’s usual imposing stature, which is sadly common with her figures. She’s also got these odd, claw-like hands, which are definitely too big for the rest of her body. To top it all off, she’s nearly impossible to keep standing for very long. I do like the way they’ve handled the cape, though; it’s cloth, but it’s multiple layers, which give it enough weight to keep it from hanging oddly, and it avoids cutting off articulation as well. Her paintwork is pretty much on par with the rest of what Toy Biz was doing at the time. The colors are nice and vibrant, and everything is pretty clean, if perhaps lacking in subtlety. The edge of her collar is missing some yellow in a couple of spots, but other than that, everything looks pretty good.

COLOSSUS

ANADXMen4This marked the third time Toy Biz made a Colossus figure. They had a bit of a Goldilocks thing going on with them, though. The first one was too small, the second one was too big, but this one was juuuuust right. The figure stands 6 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. The decision not to give him any wrist movement is a little baffling, especially since he’s got a built-in way to mask the joints, but the rest of the movement is all pretty good. Colossus is probably my favorite sculpt in the set. He’s not saddled with any real pre-posing, and his proportions don’t get too wonky, apart from his hands being maybe a touch on the large side. The details here, especially on the exposed metal parts of his body are really stand-out, and he just looks really sharp. His head has an expression that’s intense, but not so intense as to make him look villainous. The paint on Colossus is pretty sharp too. He’s got no noticeable slop, and the details on his costume really look great. The red and yellow really just pop on this guy.

NIGHTCRAWER

ANADXMen3Nightcrawler received probably the best of the initial figures from Toy Biz’s X-Men line, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t room for improvement, especially since the original had sported odd suction cups on his hand and leg. It was also hard to get him into any of Nightcrawler’s distinctive crouching poses, which was the main thing this figure set to fix. The figure is 5 ¼ inches tall and has 16 points of articulation, as well as a bendable tail. If there’s one major issue with this figure, it’s that he’s just too tall. Nightcrawler should really be noticeably shorter than the rest of the team, but were the figure not crouching, he’d be taller than half the figures in the set. That’s kind of off. Aside from that glaring issue, the sculpt is generally pretty passable, though he’s more of an Excalibur-era Alan Davis-styled Nightcrawler than a GSXM Cockrum-styled one. The general quality of the sculpt is definitely nice, and he has some pretty sharp detailing. The shoulder pads are rather obviously separate pieces, which is frustrating, but not the worst thing. Paint is definitely this figure’s strongest suit, and he’s definitely got the strongest paint in the set. The colors of his costume are nice and bold, and everything is very sharp. What’s really cool is that his costume is all matte finish, while his skin/hair is much glossier, making an instant distinction between the two.

SUNFIRE

ANADXMen5The shortest-lasting (but not shortest-lived) member of the ANAD team was definitely Sunfire, who quit after just one issue. In addition, as he was not new to X-Men the series at the time of Giant-Size X-Men #1, having previously appeared as a “foe,” so he wasn’t even on the cover of that issue. This all ends up making him one of the least-remembered members of this team. Amazingly enough, it wasn’t his first 5-inch figure from Toy Biz (though it was his second of two, so he didn’t get anymore), but it is, to date, the only figure of his classic costume ever made. The figure stands 5 ¼ inches tall and has 16 points of articulation. Sunfire’s sculpt is kind of complicated. There are some really great parts, such as the brilliant texture work on the scaled part of his costume, and a very nice translation of his somewhat goofy-looking mask, but it’s all placed on an almost comically skinny body. Sunfire certainly wasn’t a body-builder, but he wasn’t scrawny either. Then there are his feet, which look to have been sized for the body he should have had, which creates this sort of clown shoe effect. The sculpt isn’t terrible, but it’s also not great either. The paint is good in theory, and decent in practice. The application is pretty solid, and aside from one tiny inaccuracy (having his neckline go all the way up to the mask when it should end just north of the collar bone) it looks pretty good. The only issue is the black wash they’ve used to bring out the details of the scaled parts. It works overall, and is especially good on the arms, but the coverage is inconsistent, and the top of the right leg on my figure is totally missing any painted detail, which sticks out quite a bit.

BANSHEE

ANADXMen7Banshee was the other “not new to the series” character, though he had shown up more than once before. He also stuck with the team a bit longer than Sunfire, and hung around as a supporting character even after leaving the team, which resulted in him being a fair bit more memorable than Sunfire (of course, one of them spent the last decade dead, and it wasn’t Sunfire, so maybe popularity isn’t always a great thing). This was his third figure from Toy Biz, but his first to sport his classic green and yellow, which is definitely my favorite of his looks. The figure stands 5 ¼ inches tall and has 16 points of articulation, just like the last two figures. Like Sunfire, his sculpt is a mix of good and bad. The general build isn’t bad, and he isn’t quite as scrawny as Sunfire. However, he’s fairly pre-posed, and the “wings” limit his posability a bit. Also, I get that his main thing is screaming, but I’m not sure how well it turned out on this head sculpt, where he looks like he’s just sort of opening his mouth kind of wide. I feel like an extra, non-screaming head should kind of be a requirement for all Banshee figures, but none of them have ever done such a thing. Banshee’s paint is pretty decently handled; the costume definitely fairs best, with some nice, subtle airbrushing to help highlight some of the sculpted musculature. The head has a passable paintjob, though I feel the colors end up looking a bit too muted.

THUNDERBIRD

ANADXMen6Now, here’s a short-lived X-Man. See, cuz he died. Get it? Yeah, you get it. Yes, Thunderbird was officially the first X-Man to die in action, just to prove a point. According to writer Chris Claremont, it was actually a toss-up as to whether it would be him or Wolverine who died during the X-Men’s second mission. Thunderbird got the axe because his powers were more non-descript than the others, and also because he was just a tiny bit on the stereotype side of things, but could you imagine how different X-Men would be without Wolverine? Seeing as he was dead for most of the team’s run, this was actually the first Thunderbird figure ever made, though it wouldn’t be the last. The figure is 5 ½ inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. His sculpt is actually pretty good, overall. The head has some very nice detail work, and is probably the most realistic looking of all those in the set. The body is less realistic, with some slightly out-there proportions, but it’s not too bad, overall. The right hand is sculpt to hold something; I don’t know what it was supposed to be, since he included no accessories, and I can’t really think of anything Thunderbird would need to hold, but whatever. The paintwork on this figure is quite nicely done. Everything is nice an clean, and I love the slight accenting on the various parts of the costume.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

After getting the other two sets in this line as a kid, I bet you think I got this alongside them, don’t you. Well, you’d be wrong. My dad did have this set, and he even offered to buy me one of my own, at a discounted price, when the now defunct Ageless Heroes Comics was going out of business. I was feeling particularly silly that day and turned the set down, a decision I proceeded to regret for the next 18 years, after the set’s price jumped on the aftermarket. This past November, while attending Philcon, I stopped by the House of Fun, and pulled this set out from underneath several boxes. It was actually less than I would have paid for it back in the day, which made me doubly happy. This is by no means a perfect set, but there are some definite gems within, and I’m happy to have it at last.

#0578: Banshee & Pyro

BANSHEE & PYRO

MARVEL MINIMATES

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In the 90s, the X-Men were just the very biggest thing at Marvel. They were in everything, they had everything. They even had two rather extensive lines of toys running, offering pretty much everyone who showed up even for just a little while. After the 90s ended, that cooled down a bit, and they haven’t had nearly as extensive a hold on the market since. However, Diamond Select Toys, with their extensive Marvel Minimates line, is doing their very best to live up to the 90s X-Men toylines. The most recent round of ‘mates is once again centered around the team, and does its fair share to fill a few X-shaped holes. Let’s kick things off with my favorite set, Banshee vs. Pyro!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

This two pack is part of Marvel Minimates Series 60. The series is an even split between the X-Men and their foes the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Each set includes one X-Man and one Brotherhood member, and, as an added bonus, three of the four sets feature parts to turn the X-Man into another member of the team.

BANSHEE

Banshee&Pyro3Banshee is a figure we’ve been waiting quite some time for. He started popping up on wishlists just a few series into the line, mostly due to his absence from the Giant-Size X-Men #1 boxed set. Then he showed up as one of the choices in the Series 50 poll, but was ultimately not one of the finalists. Now we’ve finally gotten him. Of course, he’s in his 90s Strike Force uniform instead of his traditional green and yellow, but let’s not split hairs here. We got Banshee! Focus on the positive! The figure stands 2 ½ inches tall and features the usual 14 points of articulation. As I noted above, this is Banshee’s Jim Lee design from the 90s. It’s not his longest lasting look, but he did wear it in a few noteworthy appearances. He uses the standard Minimate body, with the addition of a hairpiece, cape, gloves, leg straps, and boot straps. I believe that the gloves are new to this series, though they are used on all of the X-Men in this series. The rest of the pieces are some rather clever re-use. The hair is from the Infinity Gauntlet set’s Adam Warlock, the cape is from the Secret Wars set’s Photon, and the straps are all from Series 34’s 90s Cyclops. All of the pieces are well-sculpted and well-chosen for Banshee’s look. Banshee’s paintwork is generally pretty good. The colors are nice and bold, and the detail lines are all very well Banshee&Pyro2applied. There is a little bit of bleed over here and there on the changes from blue to yellow, and the belt buckle isn’t fully red like it should be. All minor things, but things that it would be nice to see handled just a bit better. Banshee is packed with a piece replicating his sonic scream ability, a flight stand, and a clear display stand. In addition to the Banshee parts, he also includes parts to transform the figure into Gambit. He has a head, hairpiece, set of card throwing hands, and a satchel. All of these pieces are very nice, and they translate the figure to Gambit quite expertly.

PYRO

Banshee&Pyro5Now, the wait for Pyro alone hasn’t quite been as extensive as it was for Banshee, but he and his fellow Brotherhood members have been waiting in the wings for a little while. Like Banshee, Pyro is about 2 ½ inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. The collar piece is a little bit restricting of the head movement, but it’s still there, so that’s good. Pyro makes use of add-on pieces for his mask, collar, and gloves. All of these pieces are new to Pyro, and they’re all pretty good adaptations of his comic design. The mask is a little soft on the details, but it’s not too bad. The paintwork on Pyro isn’t quite as good as Banshee, but it’s still not horrid. The biggest issues seem to occur on the mask, where the paint is only in the same general area of where it should be, which is rather distressing. Aside from that, the colors are nicely chosen and the linework is all pretty clean. In particular, I really like the fully detailed face under the mask. It has a lot of personality. Pyro includes two flame constructs and a clear display stand.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked this set up all by itself from my local comicbook store. They had three of the four other sets, but this was the only one I felt like I had to get right away. These are two of my favorite X-Men characters, and they turned out quite nicely. I can’t wait to get the rest of the series now!

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#0154: Banshee

BANSHEE

X-MEN (TOYBIZ)

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Today we’ll be jumping back to the 90s with another look at the juggernaut that was ToyBiz’s X-Men line.  I’ll be jumping way back to the beginning of the line for this one, and looking at Banshee!

For the uniformed, Banshee was a mutant with the power of sonic screams, which also allowed him to fly.  He initially started out as an X-Men villain, but it was discovered in his first appearance that he was being manipulated by a greater foe.  He rebelled and become one of the X-Men’s allies.  When the original X-Men were thought to have been killed in Giant Size X-Men #1, Banshee was brought in to join the All-New, All-Different X-men, and was a member of the team on and off for several years.  He’s been dead for a while in the comics, but he did recently appear in the movie version of X-Men: First Class.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Banshee was released as part of the 2nd wave of figures in ToyBiz’s X-Men line.  He’s based on the character’s Jim Lee-designed uniform that the character was sporting at the time.  The figure stands about 5 inches tall and features 7 points of articulation.  Sadly, the shoulder articulation is similar to the ToyBiz Black Bolt, moving up and down instead of forward and back.  I get what they were going for with the look, wanting him to be able to outstretch the wings, but I feel like it could have been done a bit better.  The sculpt is pretty good overall, and is on par to the rest of the figures in the line at the time.   Incidentally, I believe this is the only figure of Banshee to not depict him mid-scream, which does give it some added value.   One annoying thing, however, is the gaping hole in the front of the torso and the big freaking tube sticking out of his back to allow for his “scream action-feature.”  Essentially, the figure’s got a whistle in the chest to simulate his powers.  It’s a neat idea in concept, but it doesn’t really work out too well in practice.  The paint on the figure isn’t bad for the time, although it does have a few spots of slop.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got this figure from my local comic book store, Cosmic Comix, during one of his winter sales quite a few years ago.  I recall my cousin owning one, and really wanting my own, so I was pretty happy to get the figure.  It’s not a bad figure by any means, but there were better Banshee figures to come (Though not many…).  Some of the 90s X-Men figures still hold up today, but this one kinda shows its age.