Marvel Signature Series Spiderman: Origins

"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Two guest reviews tonight!  This one is from C. Martin, returning reviewer.  It covers the 9" Punisher - take it away, C!

Growing up, I wasnít a big fan of GI JOE. Probably because my dad thought they were dolls, and wouldnít let me have one. I did however eventually wear him down and manage to snag a few 8" tall, MEGO Superheroes. From then on, instead of digging foxholes, or recovering fallen satellites in the backyard , my action figure adventures for many years consisted of re-enacting the adventures I read about in my monthly comic books. 

While MEGO made quite a few figures from the DC and Marvel Universes, as well as CHiPs, Dukes of Hazzard, Planet of the Apes, and many, many more, there were quite a few characters I always felt were missing.

A few years ago, ToyBiz brought back the 8" format, sort of, with their Famous Covers, Marvel 9" figures. There was also a line of DC figures in the same scale, made by Hasbro. Unfortunately, once again, there were some characters missing. Like everyone's skull-wearing psychopath.

Now, Hasbro is again putting out Marvel figures. And this time one of my all-time favorite comic book characters has finally made the cut: Frank Caste, The Punisher lives. 

The Spider-Man Origins line Punisher is by no means the first Punisher action figure. There have been several 12" Action Figures released in the past ten years. Some have featured fabric clothing like GI JOE, and there have been a variety of rotocast figures made as well. But this newest Punisher has the distinction of being in the classic Mego scale. Sort of. 

On the one hand, the Punisherís towering height over standard Megos fits the idea of him being a huge man, rather than the Thomas Jane-sized, average joe. On the other it points out that this is NOT a Mego.

Packaging - ***
While the packing isnít the fanciest, most foil-iest thing Iíve ever seen, it does a good job of displaying the figure, and still shows off the extras thrown in. And it was fairly easy to open, with only a few twist ties holding Frank in place. I especially liked having the special comic book that comes with the figure as the background. And it was nice that the twist ties were not the regular Hasbro kind but thinner, black wires that could actually be cut with regular scissors. Even more impressive, the special edition comic actually came in a protective bag.

Sculpting - **1/2
While I really like the head sculpt for the Punisher, I donít like the weird cuffs he has. I donít recall the Punisher having flared gloves. But then, neither did the Green Lantern, and his 9" figure also had those weird cuffs.

The head us very nicely done, albeit a tad friendly looking. I think a nice thousand-yard glaze to the eyes would have been nice, or maybe a throbbing vein in his forehead. I do like the inclusion of the stray lock of hair so often drawn on the Punisher. I guess I can consider this facial expression that of a calm Castle, who has just wiped out an entire Mafioso family and is almost allowing himself a smile. Plus, a psychopathic grimace might frighten children who are the target consumers for this toy.

Paint - **
Not too much to paint on this figure, since he has a cloth costume and is monochromatic. Still, they could have spent a little money on the rifle and maybe given it a paint job rather than sticking to the cast color of the plastic.

Articulation - **
My old Megos could assume all sorts of amazing poses- primarily due to the rubber bands holding them together. Modern figures do a pretty good job of replicating and surpassing the old flexi-poses with all the recent amazing innovations in joint technology, like double-hinged joints. 

This new Punisher is seriously lacking in the flexibility department. He canít even touch his toes. I put his articulation somewhere around that of a GI JOE Classic Collection figure- but not near as flexible as a Famous Covers or Super-articulated GI Joe.

While flexibility isnít exactly the first thing you think of when you see the Punisher, the irony here is that in his first appearance in Spider-Man, Castle executes some tricky moves that even Spider-Man is amazed to see. 

I do like the gung-ho style grip of the figure. Except that in Punisher's case it is not suitable for holding a firearm- his fingers all being molded together. The actual gungho grip developed by Hasbro for the 12" Joes features an index finger that can be slid into the trigger guard of weapons. 

Punisher does have good leg mobility though, allowing him to be placed in a seated pose fairly easy.

Outfit - ****
I have to give kudos to Hasbro for actually getting the First Appearance Punisher costume right. The Punisher has gone through a great variety of skull-emblem designs over the years, as different artists have developed their own styles for Frank Castle. While I personally enjoy the Mike Baron skull the best, it is nice to see the cheesy 1970s skull so beautifully reproduced. 

And while the packaging doesnít show it, the Punisherís belt actually cinches up tight so that the teeth are in the right place on his skull emblem. 

The belt itself has three adjustment holes, and mine came packaged with the belt on the widest setting, as if Castle was about to sit down to a big Thanksgiving meal. This made the belt droop low on his hips and ruined the tooth-effect, but was easily corrected once the Punisher was freed from his cardboard prison.

Accessories - *
Hereís where I really cursed Hasbro and their cheapness. The Punisher doesnít have any superpowers. He has guns. Lots of guns. And usually a knife or two and some explosives. The Spider-Man origins Punisher is woefully armed, with a single M-16 rifle and no extra ammo. Worse, itís not even to scale!

Apparently to save money, instead of casting a properly-scaled M-16, Hasbro just reused some old GI JOE 12" molds and gave Castle an M-16A2 with underbarrel grenade launcher. Which really makes no sense, as just last year Hasbro shrank GI Joe to Sigma Six size. Why not give the Punisher a Sigma Six rifle, knife, etc. rather than a defunct 12" weapon?

Doc Ock, also part of this line, has four flexible arms. So why couldnít the Punisher have come with four weapons? Surely the price for Hasbro would have been the same? A pistol, knife, rifle and a grenade would have used less plastic than those extra four arms of Ock's.

In addition to his BHG (Big Honkiní Gun) Castle, like all the figures in this line, comes with a reproduction of his First Appearance Comic. It was great fun reading the issue again after all these years, but just reinforced the pitiful lack of weaponry. In the issue, Castle has a knife strapped to one leg, and uses a "Concussion Rifle", as well as some kind of line throwing rifle and a pistol. If the single weapon the figure had been given was an accurate reproduction of the comic-book-looking concussion rifle, Iíd have been happy. Instead, Castle was given an M-16 variant that wasnít even around when he made his first appearance!

Fun Factor - **
When I played with MEGOs, I would have loved the Punisher. For about an hour. Then I would have been frustrated by the lack of gear. The MEGO CHiPs had more gear (pistol, belt, nightstick, radio, helmet). Itís like selling Superman without his cape. 

Value - **1/2
These figures are very well made and look great. In the Punisherís case though, I feel short-changed. Doc Ock has his arms, the Punisher should have had more gear. Or at least a rifle in scale. Still, for under $20, Punisher will look good on the shelf. Especially after I find some scale weaponry to put with him.

Overall - **1/2
Iím still excited this figure got made, but after seeing 12" versions loaded with gear and much superior articulation, I just canít get past the shortcomings of the figure. Itís a must for collectors of the series or Punisher merchandise in general, but otherwise itís seriously lacking. 

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - **1/2
Paint - **
Articulation - **
Accessories - *
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - **
Value - **1/2
Overall - **1/2

Where To Buy - 
I got my Punisher at a local Target store. In searching the internet I saw that even doesnít offer them for sale yet. I don't recall reading these were an exclusive, so hopefully they should start showing up at other stores. 

Related Links:
The Punisher Archive will tell you everything about the Punisher, Past and Present. 

Marvel Comics maintains a Punisher web page as well.

And there's always the Superherohype's Punisher page as well.

Other reviews include the new Captain AmericaSymbiote Spidey and Green Goblin, and Doc Ock and regular Spider-man.

Figure from the collection of Brian Santore.

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