Do superhero toys really suck?

Posted by Gcrush 
No. Superhero toys are the epitome of awesomeness.

How can anyone not like something as garish as this?





Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/07/2010 07:59PM by Gcrush.
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Though I really dug the clean simple stylings of the JLU Unlimited figs, in general, I have to say... YES... Super Hero toys do suck. From the Megos with their pajama costumes and oven mitts to the Toy Biz McFarlanish Messiness to the current crop of inconsistent quality and terrible sculpting of the Hasbro Marvel figs.There are always exceptions of course (like Ultimate Spidey and the killer kick ass Toy Biz Ultimate Venom vinyl).
Not the ones with a waist joint, of course.
H-man Wrote:
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> Though I really dug the clean simple stylings of
> the JLU Unlimited figs, in general, I have to
> say... YES... Super Hero toys do suck.

Believe it or not, I really like Jemm up there. The toy is so implausibly ugly the attraction is undeniable. Like a Fragile X baby it demands a level of attention most people are reluctant to provide. So when you commit to this toy you commit yourself completely. There is no turning back.

But it's not really a good toy. The QC is spotty. The plastic feels cheap. The thigh-swivels are turn-of-the-millennium cutting edge. Like a good hooker, this toy will make you feel cheap for needing it. I would never recommend it to anyone. Unless they were looking for a flamboyant Saturnese to adorn their shelves of shame.

I tried to think of a couple of "good" superhero toys. Without putting too much effort into it, I came up with two. Both of which are stupidly prohibitive to track down. They don't offer much bang for the time and money you'd spend getting them. And one of them isn't even a hero.

First is the SDCC exclusive WWII Captain America. This toy excels on all fronts aside from availability. Every toy loving kid should have one of these growing up.




Second is the DC Ultrahumanite build-a-figure. With its dopey shark-toothed grin, villainous rhinarium, spikey red suspenders, and VCR remote control it exudes an otherworldly menace the likes of which lesser hydrocephalic albino simians can scarcely reach in their wildest fantasies. Again, unreasonably difficult to acquire. But otherwise glorious.




I might be able to think of a few others. But, damn, it seems like a really short list in my mind. Can anyone else name some non-suck superhero toys?



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/08/2010 09:11AM by Gcrush.
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Sanjeev (Admin)
I thought a lot of Toy Biz' Marvel Legends figures were great (hell, even a couple Hasbro ones, too). The Silver Centurion Iron Man immediately comes to mind (Toy Biz), and Planet Hulk (Hasbro) was pretty fun.

I guess the question becomes what do you like and don't like about a superhero toy? The vast majority of superhero toys are action figures, so this probably comes down to how you feel about action figures, as a whole.

Like, with the Toy Biz Marvel Legends, for example, most of them have solid joints and adequate paint ops. So unless you just hate the sculpts or dumb design choices (like the stunted fisty/choppy hands on Captain Marvel), they're perfectly adequate.
Sanjeev Wrote:
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> I guess the question becomes what do you like and
> don't like about a superhero toy? The vast
> majority of superhero toys are action figures, so
> this probably comes down to how you feel about
> action figures, as a whole.

I would be willing to include the Superhero Transformer things and other such nonsense. I know people hate on their mash-up insanity, but the Star Wars Transformers have some awfully good charm. Still...

...I'm having trouble sorting out "action figure" from "toy". I'm getting stuck on the humanoid form part of it. If something has arms, legs, and a head I think it qualifies as a figure. Not sure about the actiony part though. A lot of vintage Transformers and their superhero peers were on par in articulation and gimmicks. Right now when I try to think of non-figure toys I come up with things like Nerf guns and Hotwheels.

Can you elaborate on how you see the difference between action figures and toys?
cae
Action figures are toys. Toys are not necessarily action figures.

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
cae Wrote:
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> Action figures are toys. Toys are not necessarily
> action figures.

Yeah, I got that part. But why? Is there a good reason action-figures are a sub-category and not a parallel one?

What would a non-action figure superhero toy look like? Would it suck?
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Is the difference between "superhero toy" and "action figure" semantics? Or is it categorical? Like, check the Hulk. Which of these is an action figure? Which is a toy? Why?

Do they all still suck?












Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/08/2010 12:29PM by Gcrush.
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cae
> is there a good reason action-figures are a sub-category and not a parallel one?

Yes. For the same reason that all helium is an element but not all elements are helium.

If an action figure isn't a toy, what is it? A tool?

I think you're asking the wrong question. You mean superhero toy, not action figure.

An action figure is a doll.

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
I'd really love to revisit those old Mego diecast action figures (Batman, Hulk, Supes, Spidey?) and also the old Mego "Pocket" heroes line - wonder how they would hold up, nostalgic funk aside?
cae Wrote:
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> Yes. For the same reason that all helium is an
> element but not all elements are helium.

Dood, not the same reason. Chemical elements use an empirical classification. Toys is a folk taxonomy because it's subjective. I get that you're saying "All ravens are birds" does not equal "All birds are ravens". I'm asking why you set it up that way. Why can't action figures and toys be separate categories?

> I think you're asking the wrong question. You mean
> superhero toy, not action figure.
>
> An action figure is a doll.

Naw, man. I think "superhero toy" is almost synonymous with "superhero action figure". I didn't get the impression that Sanjeev had the same idea because he said the majority of superhero toys are action figures. As in he's drawing some kind of distinction between the two. I was asking what he had in mind by non-action figure superhero toys. Hence the Hotwheels and Nerf reference. I think the "Hulk hands" there would qualify as a non-action figure superhero toy, but it gets pretty damn close to being a costume, too.
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> cae Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Yes. For the same reason that all helium is an
> > element but not all elements are helium.
>
> Dood, not the same reason. Chemical elements use
> an empirical classification. Toys is a folk
> taxonomy because it's subjective. I get that
> you're saying "All ravens are birds" does not
> equal "All birds are ravens". I'm asking why you
> set it up that way. Why can't action figures and
> toys be separate categories?
>
Right, it's not as clear-cut as a scientific classification. My take is that if we define a thing according to intended purpose and function, and if we specify the intended purpose and function of a toy as including "being played with on a regular basis" and "being used to aid in the physical enactment of child fantasy scenarios" then the Alex Ross Superman (pic below) probably doesn't seem to be much of a toy. This doesn't mean that the figure can't be enjoyed as a toy or for those purposes, but that that's not the raison d'etre of the object...just as a Weedwacker or an Egyptian libation bowl is not primarily used to enact a child fantasy scenario, but could be.

[Which speaks to the question you raised in the other thread about whether adult-appropriated cartoons/toys can be still be categorized as "children's items." I would look more to the original intent/purpose of the thing.]

Anyway, note the description on the Alex Ross Superman box ("collector action figure" as opposed to "collector toy"), the lack of any action features, the use of a box (intended for display instead of physical interaction), and the fact that it's not the sort of thing that can be found in a toy store, which speaks to marketing and target audience. Consequently, I wouldn't say that categorizing toys/action figures is purely subjective, as there are marketing and aesthetic issues to consider as well. I mean, these adult figures are designed specifically for adult tastes.

That said, one counterargument is that this niche segment of the total action figure pie is so small as to not have much impact on explaining what action figures are like in general. A response to that counter would be that the pie's been changing, and that kids these days are growing out of toys way faster than we did, leaving more and more figures designed for old men.





Personally, superhero toys suck for me, but I'm having a hard time understanding why. I mean, one of my first childhood toys was the Super Powers Green Lantern, and I loved the hell out of that thing. My vintage collection consists of 80s Japanese "real" mecha. My modern collection is divided between the holy troika of Transformers Masterpiece, GI Joe 25th, and MOTU Classics. Superhero action figures just don't seem to have a place anywhere, though this could be due to my OCD urge to keep my collection as tidy and manageable as possible.



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 10/08/2010 08:11PM by gingaio.
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During that brief window in the mid 80's when the Super Powers toy line and the Secret Wars toyline were both on the shelves. Dr. Fate, Firestorm, Darkseid, Wolverine, Hobgoblin, Black costume Spiderman - that was a great time for us super hero/action figure fans! Good toys, durable, plenty of play value and the sculpts weren't that bad for it's time.
H-man Wrote:
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> Good toys, durable, plenty of play value and the sculpts weren't that
> bad for it's time.

Weren't that bad, Harvey? They were freakin' awesome! :) You're right, though--those toy lines were fantastic. For me, the Super Powers and Secret Wars figures are still the definitive sculpts of those characters, even if they're way less "accurate" than what's out there now. I look at a vintage He-Man figure and compare it to the update, and the update wins on every level. I look at a Super Powers figure and compare it to any other iteration, and the vintage wins hands down.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/08/2010 09:06PM by gingaio.
cae
If an action figure isn't a toy what is it? Am I being dense?

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
Anonymous User
So are there action figure collectors that do not consider themselves toy collectors? I find that hard to believe.
cae
I don't find it hard to believe but impossible to defend.

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
[www.danburymint.com]

[www.danburymint.com]

Certainly capable of action, though I can't for the life of me see these being classed as toys. The word 'memorabilia' floats to mind. Maybe I'm just 'tarded?
cae
it's a doll

dolls are toys *even if* they are designed for collectors.

That would be like saying that a show car is not a car because it is only meant to be looked at and is never driven.

It's still a car if it has all the aspects of a car *even if* it is never designed to be used as a car.

Another way to look at it: using a frozen chicken to embed a nail into a two-by-four does not turn the chicken's designation to "claw hammer."

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/09/2010 01:12AM by cae.
A show car, while not intended to be driven on a regular basis, can still be driven just as well as a normal car--it can function *perfectly* in all respects for as long as needed. It's capable of meeting the function of a car.

Can a porcelain doll be *played* with the same way as a GI Joe action figure or a Legos set and survive intact or as well or at all? How long would it last in the hands of a six-year-old kid? Can it meet the function of an actual toy?

Is a baseball bat made out of glass still a baseball bat? Or is it a glass sculpture in the guise of a bat?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/09/2010 01:28AM by gingaio.
cae Wrote:
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> Another way to look at it: using a frozen chicken
> to embed a nail into a two-by-four does not turn
> the chicken's designation to "claw hammer."
>
This made me laugh. (Not at you, but with.) It can still be defrosted, cooked, and eaten. So yeah, it's a claw hammer.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/09/2010 01:37AM by gingaio.
cae
> Can a porcelain doll be *played* with the same way as a GI Joe action figure or a Legos set and survive intact or as well or at all? How long would it last in the hands of a six-year-old kid? Can it meet the function of an actual toy?

Since I know you are smarter than this, I will take it that you are determined to win the debate common sense or no, so I will concede.

Yes, you are absolutely correct. Since a yo-yo cannot be played with in the same fashion as an easy-bake oven, they are both claw hammers. Particularly if made out of porcelain.

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
cae Wrote:
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> > Can a porcelain doll be *played* with the same
> way as a GI Joe action figure or a Legos set and
> survive intact or as well or at all? How long
> would it last in the hands of a six-year-old kid?
> Can it meet the function of an actual toy?
>
> Since I know you are smarter than this, I will
> take it that you are determined to win the debate
> common sense or no, so I will concede.
>
No need for the ad hominems, Corey. I'm taking your position on good faith. Even if we disagree, I wouldn't start questioning your sincerity or motive, since I don't know well enough to make a judgment on either.
cae
I'll kill you, you sonofabitch.

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
Stab yourself in the eye with a Mego, asshole.
cae
the toy or the action figure?

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
The MEMORABILIA!
no, all super hero toys do not suck.

Exhibit A: Kenner's Six Million Dollar Man
gingaio Wrote:
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> I look at a vintage He-Man figure and compare it to the
> update, and the update wins on every level. I look
> at a Super Powers figure and compare it to any
> other iteration, and the vintage wins hands down.

On a whim, I grabbed another superhero actionless toy figure today.

To me it excels as much as the He-Man updates. What's missing for you?





I also cooked fried claw hammers for lunch this past weekend. They're delicious!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/11/2010 04:21PM by Gcrush.
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cae
and I smashed my thumb with a chicken, dammit.

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
Gcrush Wrote:
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> To me it excels as much as the He-Man updates.
> What's missing for you?
>
Not so much what's missing as what's already there (or not) with the vintage toys. The original He-Man figs all have this pre-posed, simian quality that makes them hard to love. I'm all for chunky and funky, but I guess once a toy crosses the line into plain ugly, I'm gonna go with the update. To me, the Super Powers figs are kind of like Takatoku valkyries--I just don't see the need to "improve" on them. On the other hand, the old He-Man figs are the G1 Seekers or Rodimus Prime--the original toys were severely flawed and could use an update. It's all arbitrary, I suppose.

As to why I don't collect superhero figs, I think it's because I've always associated the characters with comic books and the act of reading, whereas cartoon characters like GI Joes and Transformers I can easily associate with toys.
I love the DCUC line that both this Jemm and Steppenwolf come from. I like that they took a totally obscure character from a largely self-contained 1980's comic book series and made a toy of it. I like that the "wave" this toy is in includes OMAC, a Kirby creation with a huge mohawk, the Golden Age Starman in red and green tights, and the Super Powers Golden Pharoah, with the "collect and connect" figure being a Legion of Superheroes villain (when no LOS toys have been in the line so far). I like that the variants they have are actual variants that make sense with all new parts, not just simple color swaps... I mean, that Steppenwolf figure has a variant that comes from the comics, and looks nothing like the axe-wielding Super Powers inspired figure. The sculpts by the 4 Horsemen are great, the articulation is more limited than the old Marvel Legends figures but makes for better stability, and they go for eclectic choices of characters instead of just endless Superman and Batman variants (to be fair, there is a Batman variant in this wave).

In short, superhero toys are great in this day and age! The problem is that these are for collectors only, as kids don't read comics and wouldn't know 75% of the characters being offered. And you can tell, because these things are scalped like crazy. I had to look up where that Ultra Humanite came from... it's in the wave before Jemm's wave, and I completely missed it. All I see on the shelf are armies of Captain Cold. The retail price of these has skyrocketed to nearly double what they started at, so much so that when I filled my collection with earlier figures at scalper prices, the price didn't seem so bad anymore. The offer exclusive figures on their site once a month or so, and every time the site crashes and the figures are sold out instantly (mainly for the He-man stuff, but still).

And the QC! Stuck legs, and the worst part is that I have a Jemm from Amazon that has one small bicep and one big bicep! And this is not an isolated problem, a lot of Jemms are like this. How does this kind of stuff happen?

So what about the Hot Toys figures... are they action figures, dolls, collectors items...
cae
> How does this kind of stuff happen?

Enforced production speed.

Not Jemm but I received a Brock Samson with two left legs. A right foot and a left foot, mind you, but two left legs. Interesting.

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
fujishig was preaching to the choir:
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> I love the DCUC line that both this Jemm and
> Steppenwolf come from. I like that they took a
> totally obscure character from a largely
> self-contained 1980's comic book series and made a
> toy of it.
>
> In short, superhero toys are great in this day and
> age! The problem is that these are for collectors
> only, as kids don't read comics and wouldn't know
> 75% of the characters being offered.

You and I like these figures for more or less the same reasons. They ooze a goofy aesthetic charm. Golden Pharaoh is a fabulous example. But GP's ludicrous appeal is completely wasted on the demographic that might actually play with it. Or if some kid did pick one up the figure would disappoint with its crappy QC. That's why I think superhero toys really do suck. If they can't/don't live up to play, they aren't good toys. They make awesome fetishes, though, because of the economic, artistic, and social power we ascribe to them.

About the Ultra-Humanite. I don't think they've been released in stores yet. I got mine from Evilbay. Along with Tyr - who, by the way, basically a mustachioed OMAC painted red and given a giant segmented dildo for an arm. You just can't beat that shit.
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Gcrush Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > To me it excels as much as the He-Man updates.
> > What's missing for you?
> >
> Not so much what's missing as what's already there
> (or not) with the vintage toys. The original
> He-Man figs all have this pre-posed, simian
> quality that makes them hard to love. I'm all for
> chunky and funky, but I guess once a toy crosses
> the line into plain ugly, I'm gonna go with the
> update. To me, the Super Powers figs are kind of
> like Takatoku valkyries--I just don't see the need
> to "improve" on them.

This strikes me as funny considering we call the original Valk the Chunky-Monkey. Which, as much as I liked it, was overshadowed by how awesome Yamato (finally!) proved they could make them.


> As to why I don't collect superhero figs, I think
> it's because I've always associated the characters
> with comic books and the act of reading, whereas
> cartoon characters like GI Joes and Transformers I
> can easily associate with toys.

This makes more sense to me. Reading this I can get why some updates stick for you while others don't matter. I had a few Super Powers toys when I was a kid, but not many. I never felt like they mattered much to me either. But the way those same characters have been updated floors me. Steppendwolf is a good example that is hard to convey with the picture I used above. The original was soft and goopy in its appearance. The (actual) update has so much minute detail and paint applied that I can scarcely believe some company went through the effort to do it. It's like the difference between a Silly Putty lift of a photo of the Last Supper that was run in the Sunday paper a decade ago versus seeing the da Vinci original in person.

Also, Steppenwolf has a bitching mustache.
I always wanted to get this guy:

[www.amazon.com]

But I really don't want to start down a whole new road.
Gcrush Wrote:
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> This strikes me as funny considering we call the
> original Valk the Chunky-Monkey.
>
That may be the name, but to me, this is a monkey: [www.collectiondx.com]

I mean, with He-Man, the OG figures literally looked like apes, the whole damned dirty lot of 'em. The 1/55 Valk is thicker in all areas, but proportionally, it doesn't strike me as being that far off, though I'll admit to being blinded by nostalgia here.
>
> Which, as much
> as I liked it, was overshadowed by how awesome
> Yamato (finally!) proved they could make them.
>
Given the years of plaintive wailing that have accompanied the 1/60s and their cracked shoulders, I've been hesitant to bite the bullet. You've had no problems, I take it? Damn...got me rethinking now...
>
> Also, Steppenwolf has a bitching mustache.
>
No doubt: I wanted to post a lengthy illustrated retrospective of the awesomeness of moustachioed figures from days gone by (what's the dilly with barechinned characters these days? And don't give me Tony Stark or Obi-Wan or some other update of a classic character--give me something new, a toy that dares to rival the panache of Selleck, Cliff Claven, John Holmes...). Alas, everything's packed up for the move, so I'll leave the argument in the hands of someone better qualified and more motivated.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 10/23/2010 03:02AM by gingaio.
Gcrush Wrote:
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> The (actual) update has so much minute detail and
> paint applied that I can scarcely believe some
> company went through the effort to do it.
>
Yeah, I find myself marveling at the work the Four Horsemen have done with the Loincloth Lenny figures. I've been ambivalent about them in the past--I remember buying and then quickly giving to my nephew their Batman/Mr. Freeze figures--but their design sense seems especially well suited for this line.

Man-At-Arms is easily my favorite one. That they turned his back into a functional weapons rack was just genius.









Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/23/2010 03:13AM by gingaio.
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From a couple comments, trying to figure out: Does the size of the figs make a dent in the suckitute ratings, for anyone?

Sometimes robot-y stuff is criticized, not for it's complexity or lack of, paint job, etc., but for just being too big, or too small to play with.

Like say, a simple PocketSuperHero, vs.MTU size, or regular Marvel Legends, vs. those biggie size Marvel Legends(ICONS?) or the new 18" Galactus out now, or the other big Build-A-Figs? Yeah, the big ones are supposed to be big, but just curious.
For me, it seems a lot of the big figs are cool for initial shelf presence, but they don't do anything more, or have any more detail. Just..a whole lot bigger blob of plastic.
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