#2021: Hercules

HERCULES

MARVEL LEGENDS (HASBRO)

“An immortal champion of Olympus, Hercules uses immense strength to battle evil and protect the world.”

Honey, you mean “Hunk-ules!”…wait, sorry, sorry everybody.  Wrong Hercules.  My bad.  Pack it back in, let’s regroup….Although, I do feel the need to point out that both Herculeses in question are owned by Disney, so you can forgive my confusion.  Today’s Hercules is officially of the Marvel branding, introduced by Lee and Kirby during their run on Thor.  He’s been a mainstay of the Marvel Universe since the ’60s, but has actually been a slightly rare occurrence as a toy.  Toy Biz, for all their Marvel stuff they did, never released a single figure of Herc, and even Hasbro’s have been few and far between.  Their first Herc was a Legends release, as part of their very first series, all the way back in 2007, and now their finally replacing him with an update, 12 years later.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Hercules is figure 6 in the first series of Endgame-themed Marvel Legends.  He’s the last of the four comics figures, and also the last single-packed figure in the series.  As a full-fledged Avenger for many years, Herc is definitely the most natural choice of the comic-based figures in the line-up.  Herc is based on his most recent appearances, from around the time of Avengers: No Surrender.  It’s really not too far removed from his classic appearance, with the only prominent change being the addition of pants and boots.  I’m not super crazy about the man-bun, but worse things have happened.  The figrue stands 7 inches tall and he has 34 points of articulation.  Hercules is an all-new sculpt, which was honestly a little bit of a surprise to me, since I’d kind of been expecting the Hyperion body to be trotted out again.  It’s most certainly a pleasant surprise, because this body is much better.  It still maintains that impressive god-like physique, but avoids a lot of the odd proportion issues and especially that “shelf” issue at the front of the torso.  I wouldn’t mind seeing some of these parts become more regular additions to the bigger guys.  Interestingly, both my favorite and least favorite aspects of the sculpt are on the same piece: the head.  The expression on the face is perfect for Herc, the beard is nicely defined, I dig the intricate nature of the head gear, and the flow of the hair is great too…mostly.  But he’s still got that freaking man-bun.  For whatever reason, it just really bugs me.  Not enough to distract from the rest of the awesome sculpt that it’s attached to, but enough to give me slight pause whenever I first pick him up.  The texturing on his boots and pants is on par with most of the MCU level stuff, and I think his harness is the least float-y harness piece yet in modern Legends, which is definitely a step in the right direction for a line that already takes lots of steps in the right direction.  It’s all topped off with a pretty darn solid paint-job.  Some of the paint for this assortment has been a little iffy, so I had my concerns about Herc, but he turned out quite nicely.  Everything is nice and cleanly applied, and he manages to be colorful and eye-catching without being as garish as some of his incarnations have the potential to be.  Hercules is perhaps the best accessorized figure in the line-up, getting a sword and mace (both of which can be stored on his back), plus two sets of hands for both fists and gripping.  A comic figure getting extra hands is always cause for celebration if you ask me.  And, he’s also packed with the head of the Thanos Build-A-Figure, which is now complete!

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As much flack as it may get, I’ve actually always really loved Hasbro’s original Hercules figure.  He was quite good for the time, and I always felt he did a solid job of capturing the spirit of the character.  Sure, he was looking more and more dated with each updated release, but replacing him would still be a daunting task.  Well, maybe not so much.  This figure’s awesome.  Like, really, really awesome.  I didn’t have much of an opinion of him going in, but he quickly became my favorite figure in the set.  Even if he does have that stupid man-bun…

Hercules was purchased from All Time Toys, and he’s currently in-stock at their store, here.  Go buy him.  Go buy him now. And, if you’re looking for other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#1754: The Champions

ANGEL, GHOST RIDER, BLACK WIDOW, & HERCULES

MARVEL MINIMATES

In wake of the success of the Avengers and the Defenders, in the ’70s, Marvel was looking for another big team-up book to push.  In 1975, Tony Isabella and Don Heck introduced the Champions, a collection of two X-Men, two fan favorite solo acts, and a former Avenger.  The team wasn’t really a smash success, running only 17 issues, before the team disbanded and the members were absorbed into other projects.  They remained a favorite amongst die-hard fans, though, as well as having a pretty strong line-up, which led to them getting an Action Figure Express-exclusive boxed set in 2009.

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These four were released via AFX at SDCC 2009.  They cover four of the five founding members.  Sadly, we’ve never gotten a proper Iceman to match the other four, but there are a few stand-ins…anyway, onto the four we actually got!

ANGEL

We’d had two Archangels prior to this figure’s release, but this was the first proper Angel ‘mate.  Angel notably had two distinct looks over the course of the series.  This figure is based on the second, less dated of the two, which was a variant of his blue and white costume from the ‘60s.  This is one of the character’s longest-lived looks, so it was definitely a well-deserved variant.  The figure is built on the basic ‘mate body, so he’s 2 1/4 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  He gets an extra two points via the ball-joints for the wings, which brings his count up to 16.  Angel had four sculpted add-on pieces, for his hair/cowl, harness, and wings.  The hair is a new piece (which would see re-use later down the line for two other Angel variants), and, aside from the cowl being a little bulky at the sides, it’s a good match for Angel’s style of the time. The harness is the same one first used on Archangel, with a new set of feathery wings attached to it.  The new wings are a marked improvement over the DCD Hawkman wings, with greater size, greater posablity, and a far more durable point of connection.   Angel’s paint is privy to its ups and its downs.  The detail lines are all nice and sharp, and the face does a pretty great job of capturing Angel’s pretty-boy persona.  The colors are all very bright, and match up with the comics in that regard.  The big problem is with the application of the paint.  The changes from red to white are particularly sloppy, and the yellow for the gloves and boots is too thin to fully cover the reds in some areas.  It makes for a somewhat sloppy figure.  Angel included no accessories, but with the wings, it’s not too much of a loss.  I suppose an extra hair piece might have been nice.

GHOST RIDER

The fourth Ghost Rider, and technically the second Johnny Blaze, this figure marks the first, and to date only, ‘mate of the classic incarnation of the character.  Ghost Rider makes use of sculpted add-ons for his hair, collar, glove cuffs, and belt.  His hair and cuffs are re-used, with the hair coming from the Series 8 Human Torch, and the cuffs being the rolled-up sleeves from the Spirit two-pack.  At first glance, the collar looks to be the same one from the DCD Star Sapphire, but it’s not quite the same.  The belt is likewise a new piece for this set.  The collar sits a little high on the torso, and hides his neck, which looks a little off.  Otherwise, the parts make for a pretty solid recreation of Ghost Rider.  Ghost Rider’s paint is a marked improvement on Angel.  Perhaps it’s the variations of blue helping matters, but application seems to be cleaner and sharper than it was on Angel.  The new head also does a tremendous job of handling GR’s flaming skull, doing it in a much more pleasing way than prior variants had handled it.  Accessories are pretty much going to be the failing point of any Ghost Rider Minimate ever, since contractually he can’t have the Hellcycle that actually makes him a “rider.” As the classic version of the character, this one’s even lighter than other variations of the character, since he didn’t yet have the usual chain whip.  This one instead just gets a flame effect piece, which is certainly better than nothing.

BLACK WIDOW

This set marked Black Widow’s Minimate debut, and she served as a prominent selling point for a lot of people.  Like the others, she’s seen here in her classic ‘70s garb.  Not quite as timeless as some of the others in the pack, but a very good choice nevertheless. Widow has four sculpted add-on pieces; one for the hair, two for the widow’s stingers, and one for the belt.  Apart from the belt, which is shared with the Ghost Rider from this set (and let’s be honest, was really designed for her and re-used on him), all of her pieces were new.  Sharp detailing, and good recreation of her look from the comics. Widow’s paint is by far the best in the set.  The shiny black for the body suit looks really spiffy, and the detailing on the torso is an amazing feat in adding dimension to a flat torso block.  The face could perhaps stand to be a little more emotive, but it still feels true to the character.  There are no accessories for Widow in this set, which is a bit of shame, but not totally surprising, since Widow’s primary means of attack at the time was her widow’s stingers.

HERCULES

Like Black Widow, Hercules made his Minimate debut in this set, though unlike her he’s yet to get a follow-up. There are a number of options when it comes to Herc’s design.  This one is the one he was sporting for the entirety of his time with the Champions, and it had just gotten a revival right around the time of this figure’s release, courtesy of Herc’s role during World War Hulk and its subsequent fall-out.  Hercules has five add-on pieces, for his hair, his chest cap, his wrist bands, and his skirt. The hair piece is new to Herc, and it’s a really goof piece.  The detailing on the hair is quite sharp, and the flow to his hair is quite realistic.  The rest of the parts are re-use, with the torso coming from the Wave 22 Hulk, the wrist bands coming from the DCD Ocean Master, and the skirt coming from the Star Trek line.  It’s an okay combination of parts, but not one that’s held up the best.  The chest cap in particular was always rather flawed design, with the shoulders in particular giving the whole thing a rather strange appearance.  As one of those sort of in-between characters size-wise, DST was undeniably in a tough as to how to handle him.  Herc’s paintwork is fairly decent work.  The face captures Herc’s likeness well (though I might have liked something a bit more intense or angry, following after the cover to The Champions #1), and has a lot of detailing in the brow and beard in particular.  The rest of the details are pretty well defined, but the orange and green sections of the skirt could probably have stood to get an outline, if nothing more than to match the strap on his torso.  Hercules was packed with his club, which was a newly sculpted piece.  It follows the comics design well.  It can be stowed on his back, which is a cool touch.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve never been to SDCC, so it follows that I wasn’t there in-person to get this in 2009.  Fortunately, AFX was good about getting their exclusives up online, so I was able to secure myself a set without much trouble.  I was happy to get this set, because I’ve always really liked the Champions, and I’m excited for any recognition they get.  Apart from the lack of accessories, I think Widow is this set’s strongest offering, and still holds up as one of the best variants of the character.  Angel is a very good ‘mate held back only by some issues with paint application.  Had the paint been a little better, he would have been darn near perfect.  As is, he’s just close to it.  Ghost Rider is yet another version of the character that’s missing his cycle, but at least this is a solid ‘mate in his own right.  Herc’s not the strongest figure in the set, and is somewhat compromised by some of the pieces used for him.  Still, he’s far from a bad offering, and rounds out the set quite nicely.

#1398: Sword Fighting Hercules

SWORD FIGHTING HERCULES

DISNEY’S HERCULES (MATTEL)

“He’s the greatest sword fighter of all time! Whether he’s fighting the terrifying Hydra, or battling the dangerous Nessus, Hercules fights the bravest of battles with his mighty sword and shield!”

You may have noticed a slight theme to the last few Sundays here at the Figure in Question.  That theme is Disney’s Hercules.  Today, I’m continuing that theme, though I can’t make any promises for keeping it going past this week.  I’ve looked at a variant of Herc, as well as his main foe Hades, but I’ve yet to just look at the standard Hercules.  That changes today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Sword Fighting Hercules is another entry in the Basic Assortment of Disney’s Hercules figures from Mattel.  As noted in the intro, this was the line’s take on Herc’s standard hero togs he sports for the majority of the film’s run-time.  The figure stands about 6 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  In a change from the last two figures I’ve looked at from this line, this guy actually gets some elbow movement, which is cool, but it’s at the cost of all of his leg movement.  You win some, you lose some.  It does cause him to be a touch harder to keep standing than the Hydra Slaying variant, but he’s mostly pretty manageable.  The elbows are a little loose, presumably to aid in the use of action features, but still rather useful.  Also: neck articulation! That sure is nice.  Being able to look side to side and all.  Like the other two, this figure’s sculpt diverges somewhat from his film counterpart.  This one is probably the most faithful of the three I have; most of the changes come from simply translating him into three dimensions.  There are a few slight oddities to his proportions.  His neck’s rather long, as are the arms. Still, not a bad sculpt overall.  Like his Hydra Slaying counterpart, Sword Fighting Herc has a removable cloth cape.  The same cape, in fact (exactly the same in my case; this guy’s borrowing his).  If you want to get technical, it should be a little brighter to be accurate to the film, but it works nonetheless.  The paintwork on this guy is generally pretty decent.  The colors are a little bit more washed out than in the film, but they aren’t far off, and the overall look is quite nice.  Herc is packed with his sword (obviously), as well as his shield.  My figure is missing the shield, but that’s really the less essential piece, so I’m not losing sleep over it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

After finding Hydra Slaying Herc and Hades, I was figuring that would be it for my whole Hercules collection, especially since this guy in particular had a rather high after market price.  Then I found this guy at Yesterday’s Fun over the summer, sans cape.  Since I already had the cape from the Hyda Herc, I was able to put together a mostly complete figure for a fraction of his going rate.  As with the Hydra variant, this figure was a pretty pleasant surprise, and I’m very happy to have found him.

#1391: Fireball Shooting Hades

FIREBALL SHOOTING HADES

DISNEY’S HERCULES (MATTEL)

“Fast talking, slicker than slick, Hades is ruler of the Underworld.  When he shoots his deadly fireballs, he causes ultimate destruction.  Only the heroic HERCULES can put an end to this fiery villain’s evil plan!”

Poor Hades gets bum deal when it comes to popular culture.  In just about any adaptation of mythology, he’s perpetually cast as some sort of ultimate villain, when in the actual myths he’s actually one of the more level-headed and reasonable gods.  Compared to the likes of Zeus, Poseidon, or Hera, he’s really not that bad.  Disney’s Hercules is one of the prime offenders when it comes to reworking things to make Hades the villain.  The actual villain of most of Hercules’s stories in mythology is Hera, who resented Herc for being one of Zeus’s many bastard children.  Herc and Hades barely even interacted.  But, I guess having Hera constantly trying to kill Hercules out of a constant anger caused by Zeus’s sexual escapades wouldn’t have made for a very good kids movie, would it?  So, they went with the more obvious “god of death = evil” bit.  At least it was entertaining, right?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Fireball Shooting Hades was released in the basic series of the Disney’s Hercules tie-in line from Mattel.  While Herc got all sorts of variants and the like, this was the only Hades figure in the line.  I’m not sure what other variants you could really do, but hey, I wouldn’t have though of Hydra Slaying Hercules either.    The figure stands about 6 inches tall and he has 3 points of articulation.  Bit of a step down from Herc on the movement front.  Obviously, he lost some articulation to his designs lack of legs, which is understandable.  It’s a shame they couldn’t at least put some extra movement in the arms.  At least his head can turn, though.  Hades’s sculpt was unique to him, and it’s okay, I suppose.  It’s more faithful than the Hercules figure I looked at, which is good.  However, it also means that the focus is on trying to be faithful to a 2D character, rather than making just a good looking toy.  The body works out all right.  It’s pretty clean and it follows the line work of the movie.  The smoke at his feet is a little blocky, but it’s not terrible.  You just need to find the right angle for him.  The left arm is a little impeded by the figure’s action feature, but I’ll touch on that a little later.  The biggest issues come from the head.  They’re pretty much entirely related to the fluidity of Hades’s face in the movie.  He’s very expressive and all over the place, which makes capturing him in one single sculpt rather difficult.  He’s the sort of character that would likely be better served with a few interchangeable heads, but the toy industry wasn’t quite there in ’97.  So, we have to settle with a single expression.  Mattel went with a scary, scowly, wide-eyed grimace.  It’s not a great look.  I mean, yeah, he looks a little frightening, but it’s more in that uncanny valley sort of way, where his eyes just seem too human.  Parts of the sculpt look fine, but it doesn’t add-up to a really great piece.  It’s not terrible, but it could be a lot better.  Moving onto the paintwork, Hades is pretty decent.  Nothing crazy stand-out or anything, but the application is pretty clean and the details are pretty sharp.  In particular, I like the way the flames behind Hades’s head have been handled.  I sort of which his actual hair had been done in a similar fashion, but the solid paint isn’t awful.  Hades has two different “action features.”  The first is the titular “fireball shooting.”  There’s a missile launcher in his left arm.  Load up the fireball and press the button.  There it goes.  Wooooooo.  The second feature is even less involved; move the slide on his back up and down, and the flames behind his head will rise and fall.  Fun times.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up Hades here from Lost in Time Toys, at the same time as Hydra Slaying Herc.  It was actually finding Hades that got me to grab the pair.  Hercules was pretty fun, but Hades has a few more flaws that hold him back.  Ultimately, he’s fine if you want to stick him on a shelf or a desk or something, but his actual playability is kind of low.

#1384: Hydra Slaying Hercules

HYDRA SLAYING HERCULES

DISNEY’S HERCULES (MATTEL)

“In his most courageous battle of all, HERCULES must save Thebes by destroying the terrifying Hydra.  Each time he slays a head, the mighty HERCULES throws it back at the ferocious beast.”

To quote the muses: “Honey, you mean Hunk-ules!”  Actually, no, to paraphrase the muses, “Honey, you mean Heracles.”  Cuz, you know, if you’re gonna do Greek Mythology, maybe you should use the lead’s Greek name?   

While I do look at a lot of Disney owned properties on this site, courtesy of Marvel and Star Wars, I haven’t looked at a whole ton of their in-house stuff.  My two favorite Disney movies are Hercules and Aladdin.  Aladdin’s never been much of an action figure property, but Disney actually gave quite a go at making Hercules one.  Which makes sense, since what’s more action-y than Greek Mythology?  So, there was a whole line of Hercules figures, and I’m taking a look at one of them today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Hydra Slaying Hercules was released in the basic assortment of the Disney’s Hercules line from Mattel, which hit to coincide with the movie’s release in 1997.  This is one of the line’s many variants of the main character.  As the name suggests, this one’s (loosely) based on his battle with the Hydra at around the film’s mid-point.  Of course, in the movie, he was wearing the same hero garb he’s got on for the rest of the action, but the figure’s opted to change things up a bit and give hims a slightly more unique design.  The figure stands about 5 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  There’s not a ton of motion in the joints, especially the legs, and he’s rather hindered by the lack of any neck movement, but he’s not the worst thing ever, especially for the time.  The sculpt was initially unique to this figure, but did see a fair bit of re-use in multi-packs and such.  It’s not an incredibly faithful take on him.  I mean, you can see elements that identify him as being the Disney Hercules, but he’s definitely been given an element of He-Man styling, which isn’t incredibly surprising, given the company that produced him.  He’s also got the slightly tweaked outfit, which is far more ornate than Herc’s standard look.  The torso is wearing a more defined breastplate, and there’s even sleeves with fringing and stuff.  The wrappings on the arms and legs are also a bit more detailed, and he’s got an extra strap going across his chest.  I’m not entirely sure what the genesis of the design was, but I can’t say I don’t like it.  It’s actually pretty snazzy.  His cape is a separate cloth piece.  It’s got this nice embroidered pattern on the edges, which is cool.  In terms of paint, this guy also tweaks the usual colors a bit, going for a more cool palette of blues and purples, I guess to match up better with the Hydra?  Once again, I can’t say it’s a bad choice at all.  Different from the standard, but definitely quite eye-catching.  Herc is packed with both a club and an axe, one of which can be held in his right hand, as well as the disembodied head of the Hydra.  Which is slightly morbid, but pretty cool.  The head can be balanced on his left hand, and when you push the button on his back, the arm swipes downward, throwing the head.  It doesn’t work perfectly, but it’s moderately amusing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t have any of the proper Hercules figures growing up, but I found this guy at Lost In Time Toys when I stopped by for the opening day of their new location.  This was the only version  of Herc they had, but he’s cool enough that I don’t mind just having the variant.  That’s right, I just wrote an overwhelmingly positive review of a Mattel product.  This is weird.