#2395: Giant-Size X-Men

CYCLOPS, WOLVERINE, COLOSSUS, STORM, NIGHTCRAWLER, & THUNDERBIRD

MARVEL MINIMATES

The first year of Marvel Minimates was all kind of consolidated around the summer of 2003, so it was a little while before we well and truly got a follow-up, but they kickstarted their second year off with a bang.  After focussing purely on the Ultimate incarnation of the X-Men, for their first two entries in year two, DST decided to circle back around and give us classic X-Men in spades.  When it comes to classic X-Men, it’s hard to get more classic than the cover of Giant-Size X-Men #1, which is what the line’s first dedicated boxed set was based around.  So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

The Giant-Size X-Men boxed set hit in January of 2004, and was the first boxed set to be available through specialty shops.  It (and the AFX-exclusive Professor X and Magneto) introduced the totally windowless packaging that would become the norm for the line for the next four years.  In the case of this particular set, it was probably the nicest box the line produced, replicating the cover to the original issue quite nicely.  I’ve included a shot of it here, courtesy of minimatedatabase.com.  Of the six figures contained in this set, five would eventually be made available as part of a set of Target exclusive two-packs (Thunderbird wound up as the odd man out), with the major difference between the two releases being C3-style feet on the later figures.

CYCLOPS

Already two ‘mates in by this point, this set finally gave us Cyclops with his classic cowled appearance.  It wouldn’t be the last time we’d see it, even just for a short while, but it sure was important at the time.  He’s built on the standard old-style body, so he’s 2 1/4 inches tall and he’s got 14 points of articulation.  He’s got one add-on piece for his mask/visor, which is a pretty nicely sculpted piece.  I always appreciated how the visor on it was so instantly unique from the one on the Series 3 Cyclops.  It was also a nice enough piece that it lasted through to 2010 before being retired.  The rest of things are handled through paint, and admittedly not a lot of it.  Of the six figures included here, Scott was by far the least detailed, with not even chest detailing to make him stand out.  Given how he was always so creatively shaded in the comics, it’s a shame they didn’t go for that here.  They’d end up fixing that on later figures.

WOLVERINE

Already two ‘mates in by this point, this set finally gave us Wolverine with his classic…cowled appearance…wait, I just did this.  Sorry!  I mean, yeah, it’s the same deal as Cyclops, though.  Woverine’s two prior releases lacked his distinctive mask, so this was our first shot at it.  He got a new add-on piece for it, as well as new boots, and the same clawed hands from the two Series 3 releases.  It’s not a bad selection of parts, but it definitely didn’t hold up as well as the Cyclops mask did.  These parts would see only one more use before being retired.  Everything else is paint, and that includes the shoulder pads, which was an…interesting choice.  Clearly, they’re a three dimensional item, but they were just painted on here.  The separate pieces that came later were a better fit.  The rest of the paintwork is pretty decent.  Like Scott, he doesn’t have any sort of musculature on his chest, but he does at least get his tiger stripes, so it’s not a total blank void.

COLOSSUS

Notably missing from the Series 3 X-Men line-up (despite Ultimate Colossus being a prominent member at the time), Colossus made his debut here.  He was one of the most involved ‘mates in the set in terms of parts count, with add-ons for his hair, tunic/belt, and boots.  All of the parts were new at the time, and they’re honestly the best of the parts introduced here.  They just do a really great job of replicating the feel of the character, and I always liked how they bulked him up a bit when compared to the others in the set.  In addition to having the most extra parts, Colossus also had by far the most involved paint work of the whole set, and honestly of most of the line at this point.  The banding on his metal skin wraps all the way around on his arms and legs, and he’s got a fully detailed front and back to the torso block under his tunic.  His face also is just so full of character.  It’s honestly a little shocking that this guy and Cyclops are from the same set.

STORM

Storm had gotten one ‘mate prior to this, but that was a modern design, so the classic was kind of needed, I guess.  Her original costume is pretty darn distinctive, and I think more properly captured that regal side of the character.  She had add-ons for her hair and cape.  The hair is huge, to comical standards, honestly, and makes her quite tricky to keep standing.  The cape, on the other hand, is small and very understated, and rather easily missed, I feel.  That was kind of the nature of the capes, at this point, though, so I can’t really say it was out of the ordinary or weird.  The paint is alright on her, but not the same level as Colossus.  She has the basics, and she does at least get torso detailing of some sort, so she’s a bit ahead of Cyclops and Wolverine.  That said, it’s also a lot messier in application than the others in this set.

NIGHTCRAWLER

Nightcrawler has been pretty sparse when it comes to Minimates.  This was his first, and remained his only until 2011.  So, this guy had to keep us content for 7 whole years.  Certainly, he must have been really good, right?  …Ehhh.  He did get a lot of new parts, with add-ons for the hair, chest cap, and tail, as well as unique hands and feet.  The hair seems a little too demonic, if I’m honest, but the hands, feet, and tail all are pretty dope.  The biggest problem I’ve got with this guy is that chest cap, which bulks him way up, despite the fact that Nightcrawler should actually be the smallest of the six figures included here. Why would they do this?  And then not fix it for soooooo long?  The paint was okay on this guy, at least.  The face again leans more into the demonic thing, but at least that fits okay with the GSXM-stylings.

THUNDERBIRD

The one truly exclusive figure in the set, this Thunderbird wouldn’t see a re-issue at all, and the character wouldn’t appear again until 2016, when we got another GSXM-set.  He’s the one that seems to diverge the most from the comics appearance, falling back more into a general ‘mate aesthetic.  He had a new hair piece and shoulder pads, both of which would remain unique.  They’re…well, they’re there.  Neither’s all that impressive, but I guess they aren’t bad either. The bit of his forehead that’s visible on the hairpiece looks really odd, and he’s missing the feathers from the back of his headband.  The paintwork brings in a few more inaccuracies.  He’s got visible pupils, which he shouldn’t, and his feet are the wrong color (they should be red).  Also, his face just doesn’t feel at all like Thunderbird.  I could see it passing for Warpath, but definitely not Thunderbird.  At least he got torso detailing?

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Like a fool, an absolute fool, I passed on this set when it came out.  I saw it at Cosmic Comix, I had the money to spend, and I dropped on the DC Direct import of the Batman Kubricks instead.  Why?  WHY!?!  I was young and stupid, that’s why.  This set’s never been super plentiful, and was going for a bit on the aftermarket for a while, so I just never got one.  I finally ended up getting the Series 68 set, and figured that was good enough, but I still had this little nagging need for this set too.  Fortunately, it came into All Time as part of a big Minimates collection they bought last fall, so, hey, I finally got it.  Honestly, this set hasn’t aged so well, but it’s really worth the price of admission just for that Colossus.  That’s still the best version of him the line produced!

As I mentioned above,  I got this set from my friends at All Time Toys.  They’ve still got a lot of that Minimate collection, and other cool toys both old and new, so please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#1129: Wolverine & Thunderbird

WOLVERINE & THUNDERBIRD

MARVEL MINIMATES

wolvthunderbird1

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers out there!  And, to all my non-American readers, happy Thursday!  Hey, there’s nothing wrong with some general positivity, right?  Today, I’m wrapping up my Giant Size X-Men Minimates, which includes Thunderbird, the team’s Native American member.  Him being half of the set I’m looking at today is really just a coincidence, but it works out, I guess.  And hey, it gives me a chance to post this Bulletin Bits strip, featuring Thunderbird’s brother Warpath!

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Alright, so let’s have a look at Thunderbird and his pack-mate Wolverine!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

Wolverine and Thunderbird are the fourth and final set in Series 68 of Marvel Minimates.  These two make for an interesting pair.  While Thunderbird famously died during the team’s second mission (spoiler on a 41 year old  comic, I guess), Chris Claremont has gone on record that both Thunderbird and Wolverine were on the chopping block for issue 95’s fatality.  Wolverine was ultimately only saved by having a slightly more defined power set than Thunderbird.  Imagine how different the X-Men might have been had those roles been reversed!

WOLVERINE

wolvthunderbird3Wolverine is no stranger to Minimates, with this particular ‘mate being his 59th entry in the line.  It’s also out fifth version of his basic Tiger-Stipe look, but it’s the first one in a little while, and, as with the others in this series, he’s specifically patterned after Dave Cockrum’s illustrations.  The figure is about 2 1/2 inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation.  He has add-ons for his mask, shoulder pads, clawed hands, and boots.  All of these pieces are from the Series 28 version of this costume.  While that was 7 years ago, the pieces still work, so the re-use is more than warranted.  The mask could, I suppose, be a little more streamlined, as it was in the ‘70s, but at this scale it’s negligible.  Wolverine’s paintwork is pretty great all-around.  The colors are a good match for the classic Wolverine, and the line work does a very nice job of translating Cockrum’s drawings into the ‘mate form.  I will say, he definitely looks better with the mask on than without.  There’s something about the unmasked look that’s a little off.  Of course, I’ve got plenty of unmasked Wolverines, so a good masked one is fine by me.  Wolverine includes an extra hairpiece for his unmasked look, as well as a clear display stand.  It feels rather on the light side, especially compared to some of the others in the series.  At the very least, a spare set of normal hands should be standard, and I would have also appreciated the hanging mask piece from the Series 47 Wolverine, just to give him some extra display options.

THUNDERBIRD

wolvthunderbird2This marks Thunderbird’s second time as a Minimate, after his figure in the GSXM boxed set.  Given his relative obscurity, it’s not really much of a surprise.  That being said, that figure’s been rather outdated for quite some time now, so an update is very much appreciated.  The figure uses add ons for his hair, sleeves, belt, and boots.  The belt is a standard piece, but the rest of the parts are new to this figure.  They look pretty good, and certainly do a nice job of capturing Thunderbird’s look from the comics.  This new method of construction works a fair bit better than the way the costume was handled not he first Thunderbird ‘mate.  The paint work on Thunderbird is pretty well handled.  The colors are certainly vibrant, and I appreciate that his skin tone is a little different from the rest of the figures in the series.  I also appreciate the Cockrum-style shading on the various parts of the costume.  It takes him from a potentially “meh” ‘mate to a pretty interesting one.  Thunderbird’s only accessory is a clear display stand.  That being said, I can think of pretty much nothing else that a Thunderbird figure really should have, so he doesn’t feel unnecessarily light (the fact that he has quite a few new pieces helps a fair bit too).   

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This is probably the set from this series I was the least excited for.  I’ve got plenty of Wolverines, and as cool as Thunderbird is, he’s never been near the top of the list of figures I needed.  In hand, I do really like both of them to be sure.  Wolverine will be my definitive version, and Thunderbird definitely feels like a solid ‘mate all-around.  That being said, compared to the more parts heavy sets in the series, these two do feel like the come up a bit short, especially since half of the set is a character we’ve gotten 58 times before, in a costume we’ve gotten four times before, built entirely out of re-used parts.  This set could definitely have used a little something extra to help it pop.  It’s not bad at all, but it is a little less exciting than the others.

anadxmenmates

#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.