#1691: Nightcrawler

NIGHTCRAWLER

X-MEN (TOY BIZ)

“Nightcrawler is the X-man with the most amazing mutant ability – teleportation! Nightcrawler can instantaneously move himself to a spot up to three miles away in the blink of an eye. Nightcrawler is also an excellent acrobat. He can crawl up almost any surface. His amazing tail is almost like a third arm… not only can Nightcrawler hang from it, he can make it hold and use weapons ranging from swords to ray blasters!”

The first assortment of Toy Biz’s long-running X-Men line is a veritable who’s who of heavy hitters from the franchise.  It’s before they’d committed to going deep into the mythos the way later assortments the way they did later.  Included amongst those figures was fan-favorite Nightcrawler.  Interestingly enough, Nightcrawler wasn’t actually with the team at that point, having moved onto Excalibur in the mean time.  Nevertheless, they were going for more of greatest hits thing, so in the line he went.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Nightcrawler was, as noted in the intro, part of the first series of X-Men figures.  He was also re-released a bit later, during the “repaints” portion of Series 3, but unlike others in that sub-set, he was essentially unchanged.  The figure stands 4 1/2 inches tall and he has 9 points of articulation.  Fun fact: when the prototypes for this series were first developed, the original plan was for all figures in the assortment except Nightcrawler to have the basic 5 POA.  That changed (mostly anyway), but it’s nice that they always planned to give Nightcrawler actual articulation.  His sculpt is the strongest of the Series 1 figures (rivaled only by Magneto for that title), and has aged far better than others.  He’s not as limited in movement as Storm, nor is he as rudimentary in design as Cyclops.  He’s actually just a pretty darn faithful recreation of the character’s ’80s design.  The only slight marring of the sculpt are the two suction cups mounted on his left hand and right thigh.  They’re super obvious, rather goofy looking, and not particularly effective.  I actually ended up prying them off of one of my two Nightcrawler figures, which improves his look a bit, though he’s still got the visible pegs.  Why they added these things kind of baffles me, since it mars an otherwise quite strong sculpt.  Nightcrawler’s paintwork is decent enough, being mostly pretty basic work.  It matches the others in the assortment, and his comics appearances as well.  Nightcrawler was originally packed with a cutlass, which both of my figures are, sadly, missing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got my first Nightcrawler from a flea market near my house.  He was my go-to version of the character for a long time.  And then I packed up a bunch of my figures like some stupid baby, and this guy got put in the box that ended up buried in the back of the garage, so he was missing for about 5 years.  In the mean time, I had tracked down a replacement.  Now I have both, and I couldn’t be happier, because, as I noted, he was my go-to.  I think he’s still my favorite Toy Biz version of the character.

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#1128: Colossus & Nightcrawler

COLOSSUS & NIGHTCRAWLER

MARVEL MINIMATES

nightcrawlercolossus1

The X-Men line-up presented in Giant Size X-Men #1 undoubtedly gave us some of the more memorable X-Men.  Obviously, there’s the likes of Storm and Wolverine (even if he did appear elsewhere first), but it also gave us both Colossus and Nightcrawler.  While they may not be quite as big as some of the others (and poor Colossus has been woefully overlooked when it comes to the cartoons), they’re still pretty popular with the fanbase at large.  They also happen to be two of my favorite X-Men, so packing them together is pretty awesome!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Colossus and Nightcrawler are part of Series 68 of the Marvel Minimates line, which is based around GSXM #1.  Both figures are based on their Dave Cockrum-designed looks, but it’s worth noting that these two stuck with these particular looks for a good long while.

COLOSSUS

nightcrawlercolossus3Colossus has had a few different ‘mates over the years.  That being said, this is the first one to directly retread on previous territory, being a pretty straight re-do of the GSXM boxed set version (the alt look for the Series 47 version came pretty close, but was actually based on his slightly tweaked ‘90s look).  The figure is built on the standard ‘mate body, and as such stands about 2 1/2 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation.  Colossus features add-on pieces for his hair, wrist bands, torso cover/belt, and boots.  The hair and gauntlets were both used on the 47 Colossus; they worked well there and they work well here.  The torso piece and boots are both new to this ‘mate.  It’s interesting: after getting several attempts at handling the torso piece a “better” way than the GSXM set’s version, they just went back to essentially the same style.  I’m certainly not complaining!  I do like the subtle hints of musculature on the chest piece, which make him seem larger than the others, but prevents him from looking puffy.  I’m not 100% sold on the boots.  Something about the knee pads seems off to me.  There’s certainly been worse, though.  Colossus’s paint is very impressively handled.  The colors are nice and bold, and he really pops.  The line work is very sharp, and the details, the face in particular, are a very good rendition of Cockrum’s Colossus.  I was very happy to find out that the actual torso has full detailing, allowing you to display Colossus shirtless, if you so choose (some people like that sort of thing).  Colossus’s only accessory is a clear display stand, which feels rather light.  Obviously, the parts for an un-armored Piotr would make him essentially a second figure, but the fastball special hand should have been included at the very least.  Oh well.

NIGHTCRAWLER

nightcrawlercolossus2Amazingly enough, this is only the third time we’ve gotten Nightcrawler (and the third time we’ve gotten this exact costume too, no less).  I thought the Excalibur set version had him pretty well covered, but it’s been over five years since that one was released, so another version feels warranted.  Nightcrawler has  unique hands and feet, as well as sculpted add-ons for his hair, shoulder pads, and tail. The tail remains the same piece used on both prior Nightcrawlers (and his dad Azazel), but everything else is new to this figure.  Personally, I prefer the Wolverine-style shoulder pads from the last Nightcrawler to the ones featured here (I like the neck to be left unencumbered as much as possible), but they’re a decent enough piece, I suppose.  The hair, hands, and feet are all improvements over what we’ve gotten before (the hands especially, since the prior hands are huge) and are just well sculpted all around.  The ears could maybe stand to be a little more pronounced, but that’s the only real negative I’ve got.  Nightcrawler’s paintwork is pretty good, but not without its issues.  The basics are all pretty good.  The color palette is bright and bold, and the colors accent each other well.  His basic head has a frightening expression we haven’t yet seen on a Nightcrawler ‘mate.  It’s a good rendition of the earlier, scarier NIghtcrawler, and it makes this figure a little more specific to those appearances (thus giving the figure a bit more reason to exist).  Unfortunately, the application of a lot of the paint, especially the red, is a little uneven.  The red detailing on the edges of the gloves and boots is far too thin, resulting in an obvious line where the underlying colors switch from white to black.  That, coupled with the fact that the glove trim stops abruptly for the inner half of the arm, makes him look a little unfinished.  Nightcrawler includes an extra head with a more jovial expression (my preferred of the two faces), a cutlass (finally!), a “bamf” stand, and a clear display stand.  All of these are pretty cool, except the “bamf” stand, which is more than a little frustrating, since the peg is too small for either foot, and it also requires him to stand with both feet together, a rather un-Nightcrawler stance.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Though I missed out on the GSXM set, I wasn’t missing either of these characters, having picked up their subsequent releases.  Colossus was a pleasant surprise.  There was something missing from the ‘mates since the GSXM version, which I think has been found again with this guy.  He’s the perfect embodiment of the character.  I don’t see him being replaced any time soon.  Nightcrawler is a more mixed figure than Colossus.  I’ve never really cared for the original ‘mate, but the Excalibur version was pretty solid.  This one adds some nice stuff (the extra head, the new hands and feet, and the cutlass), but also takes a few hits (the paint, the effects base, and, if I’m being really picky, the shoulder pads).  The good outweighs the bad, but he could still be a bit better.

#0819: Giant-Size X-Men #1 Boxed Set

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

MARVEL COLLECTOR EDITIONS (TOY BIZ)

ANADXMenPack1

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

ANADXMen1

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.

#0622: Tail-Whipping Nightcrawler

TAIL WHIPPING NIGHTCRAWLER

MARVEL MOTORIZED TWIST ‘EMS

NightcrawlerTwist1

Licensed toys can be weird. Sometimes, you get totally straight-forward action figure lines. They represent the property well, and they don’t really surprise anyone.  They are what they are. Of course, you might occasionally get the wacky variant here and there, just to keep main characters out there. But the line as a whole is still pretty standard. Occasionally, you get a whole line of figures that are just wacky from start to finish. Take, for instance, ToyBiz’s Marvel Motorized Twist ‘Ems, a short-lived little line of super-deformed figures from the early 2000s. At the time, ToyBiz was taking the “see what sticks” approach to toy making, trying a variety of things. Twist ‘Ems was just one of the things that didn’t take off. Still, that didn’t stop them from making two regular series and one movie-based series. They really tried. Let’s have a look at Nightcrawler, shall we?

THE FIGURE ITSELF

NightcrawlerTwist2Tail Whipping Nightcrawler was released in the Movie Series of Marvel Motorized Twist ‘Ems, as one of the two figures based on the recently released (at the time) X-Men 2. The figure is about three inches tall and, while his shoulders, hips, and neck all have “joints,” they aren’t really articulated, due to the motorized nature of the figure. They move pretty well when the wind-up feature is activated, but they’re not of much use for anything else. The sculpt takes the design of the character from X-Men 2 and “twists” it into a more super-deformed style. The body is where most of the styling kicks in, with short, stubby arms and legs, and larger hands and feet. In proportion, the head is really huge. In fact, the head is pretty much just a 1/6 scale sculpt of Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler. The head sculpt is really well done, with plenty of detail and an excellent likeness of Cumming. Were one to want a Hot Toys-style Nightcrawler, this sculpt would definitely be a good starting point. It’s a little weird to see this detailed a sculpt on a “cartoony” figure like this, but the details are fairly present throughout the rest of the figure, so it blends well enough. The body is subject to a little bit of intrusion from the wind-up mechanisms, but the tabs on the feet and the winding gear aren’t too obtrusive, just obviously present. The figure’s paintwork is generally pretty good. The colors all match up pretty well to the movie look, everything is applied pretty cleanly, and there’s plenty of small detail work that adds a lot of dimension to the figure. Some areas, such as the jacket, are a little bit on the more simple side, but it works pretty nicely. Nightcrawler doesn’t have any accessories, but he does have the wind-up feature. When wound up, his legs walk him forward, his arms move up and down, and his head goes side to side. Interestingly, despite the name, the tail doesn’t really move or whip.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t entirely miss out on the Twist ‘Ems, but I didn’t get any of the movie ones. In fact, I had almost entirely forgotten about this goofy little line. While at a local Goodwill with Super Awesome Girlfriend (who was looking for some unrelated stuff) I found this little guy just sitting on a shelf, amongst a random collection of stuff. He was only a few dollars, so I figured he was worth it. Like I said, this is a goofy little line, and it’s a little difficult to figure out just who the target audience was meant to be. That said, you can tell a lot of effort was put into this guy, and he’s just a whole lot of fun. And check out this walk cycle!