BLACK TERROR, DAREDEVIL, CAPTAIN ACTION, STARDUST, GREEN TURTLE, BLANK SLATE, CHAMPION OF MARS, SILVER STREAK, & MADMAN
In the 1940s, Superhero Comics made their first emergence, replacing adventure pulps as the thing for magazines to be. It was the era that gave us a good chunk of the DC line-up (though a fair portion of them weren’t initially owned by DC), as well as Captain America, Namor, and the original Human Torch (who wasn’t actually human). These characters have managed to stick around for a pretty long time, and their success allowed the companies who owned them to stay in business for the ensuing 75 years. Unfortunately, a lot of comic publishers from the era weren’t quite so lucky when the initial superhero boom came cooled down in the early 50s, causing many to shut their doors. While some were absorbed by other companies (see: DC absorbing Charlton, Faucett, and a few others), many simply disappeared, leaving scads of characters with no home. These characters eventually fell into the public domain. Since these characters have no associated licensing fees, you would think they’d be natural fits for action figures. Trouble is, they all went out of publication (and therefore fell out of the public eye) quite some time ago, making them a very, very niche property. However, through the help of some Kickstarter funding, some of these guys have finally made their way into plastic form!
THE FIGURES THEMSELVES
These nine figures make up Series 1 of Fresh Monkey Fiction’s Amazing Heroes line. They are the result of two separate Kickstarter campaigns.
I’m not usually one to discuss packaging, but it’s worth noting that the Amazing Heroes packaging was designed to be collector friendly, so the figures can easily be removed and replaced. 7 of the included figures include extra, character specific cards, with art provided by several well-known comic artists.
The initial Series 1 campaign ran wrapped up in August of 2014. It consisted of six of the nine total figures.
Black Terror is probably one of the better known characters included here, no doubt due to his fairly distinctive design. The figure stands 4 ½ inches tall and has 5 points of articulaiton. He’s built on the standard body for this line, which is used for all of the included figures. If it looks familiar, that’s because I’ve sort of looked at it once before; the Amazing Heroes figures are patterned after Mattel’s Secret Wars line from the 80s. The body isn’t a straight copy, of course; the build is quite similar, but the actual construction is a little different, as the AH body is built for easier customizablity, and does not feature any hollow parts like the SW figures. The body wasn’t the best fit for the Marvel Super Heroes of the 80s, but it feels much better for 40s era characters, such as Black Terror. Terror uses the main haired male head, which seems to have been sculpted specifically with him in mind. The sculpt is nice and sharp, with a fair amount of detailing, but not so much as to make it feel out of place on the more simplistic body. Terror also uses a cloth cape, handled in the same style as Kenner’s Super Powers figures. It’s definitely goofy looking, but in just the right way. Terror’s paint work is nice and sharp. Most of his costume details are handled via paint, and, while there’s a little bit of unevenness to some of the line work, the general look is very clean.
Wait, isn’t Daredevil a Marvel character? Why yes, yes he is. But, before Matt Murdock became the horn-headed Daredevil we all know and love, Bart Hill held the name. Instead of blind, this Daredevil was mute. He was actually a fairly successful character, and probably has the most modern-day appearances of all the figures in this set. He’s also got one of the coolest costumes in comics. The figure uses the same base body as Black Terror, but he uses a different head(which loses the hair and defined ears), as well as an add-on piece for his distinctive spiked belt. The belt isn’t a perfect fit to the body, but it’s pretty close, and the sculpt is a very nice translation of the design. Daredevil’s paint is key to his costume being “one of the coolest in comics.” Fortunately, his two-toned nature is handled very well. With the exception of one small section, the blue is painted on top of red plastic, which is definitely the right way to handle it because red paint tends to be the absolute worst. The colors here are nice and bold, and he just looks really sharp. Daredevil includes his signature boomerang, which he holds very well.
Captain Action is the one figure in the first set who’s not actually public domain, but his rights holders agreed to having him included here. Unlike the others in this set, this is far from the first action figure Captain Action has received, since he began life as a competitor to G.I. Joe (in fact, his line was actually the first instance of licensed action figures, though the good captain was himself wholly owned by Ideal Toys). The Captain gets a head sculpt that is different from the two prior sculpts, with a slicked back hairstyle and a slightly more expressive face. He was originally set to use the same head as Black Terror, but FMF used some of the Series 1.5 funding to get a third basic head produced, which is definitely a better fit for Captain Action. He also gets a separate piece for his traditional officer’s cap, which is molded to the sculpt of his hair, allowing it to sit quite nicely and securely. Captain Action’s paintwork is on par with Terror’s; it’s not 100% perfect, but there’s not anything particularly bad. The figure comes packed with a pistol, just like the one the original CA carried. I wouldn’t have minded getting his lightning-bolt-shaped sword too, but I suppose the line had to be drawn somewhere. Also, while he has no disguise pieces, the interchangeable nature of the figures means you can have him masquerade as any of the other characters in the set!
Stardust the Super-Wizard I was previously unfamiliar with, but reading up on him, he certainly is an interesting character. If you though Superman was overpowered, this guy can do pretty much everything Supes can, in addition to being able to transmogrify people! He’s also probably the figure done the least justice by the base body. His listed height is 6’8”, which would make him at least a little bigger than the rest of the Amazing Heroes. In addition, his original artist, Fletcher Hanks, had a very unique art style, which makes fitting him to a base body, or even rendering him in three dimensions at all a bit of a mean feat. So, it would seem FMF did their best to render him within the established style. As well as using the base body, Stardust also uses the same basic male head used for Black Terror. It works surprisingly well, and looks quite different than it did on Terror. A lot of this is owed to the paint, which offers enough subtle differences to make him look convincingly like a different person. The only real downside to Stardust is the rather unfortunate grey coloring of his original design, though next to the more colorful designs of his series-mates, he actually does stand out a bit.
The Green Turtle! Wait, isn’t that a sports bar? Umm, yeah, but he’s also a superhero. More importantly, he’s the first Asian superhero in comics, which is pretty nifty. I actually know a fair bit about Green Turtle, thanks to the recent (and fantastically done) revival, The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. He’s definitely a fun character! He uses the same head as Daredevil, as well as a cloth cape, handled in the same way as Black Terror’s. It’s too bad it’s just straight green, as opposed to featuring the more intricate design of the comics, but I imagine such a design would have proved rather pricey. The rest of his unique features are done via paint, which is handled pretty well overall. The colors are nice and bright, and the general application is nice and clean. I’m also glad to see that Green Turtle has a slightly different skin tone than the others in the series, given his different ethnicity.
The Blank Slate is kind of a multi-purpose figure. He’s the line’s one villain, based on a Daredevil foe from the 40s [EDIT: Helpful reader Lich informed me that the Blank Slate isn’t an actual Daredevil villain; he was given a fake backstory for the line. I should have researched a bit better). Through a simple head swap, he can be either the lead Blank or one of his minions, which also makes the figure an army builder. And on top of all of that, he’s also a great base body, should people want to make their own Amazing Heroes figures. He uses the same basic body, and includes both the Terror and Daredevil style heads.
While the Series 1 was successful in funding the 6 main figures, it didn’t raise enough funds to get the two stretch goal figures into production. Fresh Monkey Fiction ran another Kickstarter in December of 2014, offering the two new figures, as well as Mike Allred’s cult favorite superhero, Madman.
CHAMPION OF MARS
I know what you’re thinking, but no, this isn’t John Carter. No, this is “Champion of Mars.” See, because John Carter isn’t in the public domain. However, some of his comics are, so we get this guy based on the art of said comics. But he’s definitely NOT John Carter! That said, “Champion” is really hard to keep typing, so I’m just going to use a common male name in its place. Let’s go with John. So, John here uses the same head as Captain Action, which was actually sculpted specifically with him in mind. In addition, he also has an add-on piece for his harness, which is a very nicely detailed piece, which adds a lot to the figure. Lastly, he’s got a cloth cape, which is identical to the one included with Black Terror. John’s paintwork is a lot more brown than his compatriots, which is actually quite appropriate for the character, and gives him a unique flair amongst the others. John is packed with a sword, which is a little flimsy, but still very cool.
I don’t actually know much about Silver Streak, but he does appear to be your fairly average speedster character. And he’s even red and yellow! He also uses the same head as Captain Action, which, if I’m honest feels like one use too many. That being said, the head does actually fit Silver Streak pretty well, and I guess the blonde does enough to differentiate the two. I’ll just make sure to keep the three of them separate on the shelf! Silver Streak probably has the most vibrant paint work of all the figures, despite it not actually featuring anything even close to silver. Everything is nice and sharp, and the red in particular really pops, to say nothing of that pretty sweet patterning on the belt!
Madman is kind of unique amongst these figures. Not only is he not public domain, he’s actually a fairly contemporary character. This isn’t even Madman’s first figure. Heck, it’s not even the first Madman I’ve reviewed here. But it’s Madman, and it’s not like you can have too many Madman figures, can you? Of course not! Plus, Madman’s actually one of the few contemporary characters who actually fits in pretty well with the rest of these guys. In addition to the standard body, Madman has been given his own head sculpt, as well as add-on pieces for the cuffs of his gloves. The head sculpt is downright amazing (heh!) and does a great job of melding Allred’s style with that of the rest of the line. The paint on Madman is pretty solid overall. There’s a tiny bit of slop around the eyes, but the rest of the work is nice and clean.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
After being broken in to the whole Kickstarter thing with I Am Elemental and Return of Skeleton Warriors, it was really hard to say no to these guys. So, I backed the first campaign. And then, I backed the second one too, because I wasn’t going to let the set go incomplete, darn it! It’s been a long wait to get these guys, but they sure were worth it. These are just a whole lot of fun!