Legendary Comic Book Heroes Series 1
Madman, Super Patriot, and Witchblade

Marvel Toys has taken a good idea and made it great.  Everyone wondered what would become of the folks behind Toybiz after the license for Marvel toys went to Hasbro.  It only took a few months to find out - they branched off to produce action figures based on independent comics.

I've already covered the first twin packs - Conan/Wrarrl and Clownface/Panda - but it's taken me awhile to come across the actual first series of figures.  These are hitting Wal-marts first, and my local Wal-mart sucks gravel through a straw.  But after a road trip this last weekend, I came home with the whole bunch.

Series one includes Madman, Super Patriot, Witchblade (reviewed here tonight), Judge Dredd, Savage Dragon and Ripclaw (reviewed over at QSE today).  Buy all six and you can put together the massive Build A Figure (BAF) of Pitt.  And just for good measure, there are two 'variants'.  There's a Savage Dragon wearing a white tank top t-shirt, and Super Patriot without his mask.  While these are technically variants, they appear to be evenly packed with the regular versions, and therefore no more rare.

You may also find one of the series 2 figures on the pegs at Wal-mart.  They received a special case pack that included the series 2 (Monkeyman wave) Judge Death and his all clear variant.  So if you're looking to be complete with this line, there's already 14 figures to pick up!

Series 2 should be hitting any time now as well, including Ann O'Brian (to go with the Monkeyman BAF), Star, Marv, Darkness and Stryker.

These guys should run around ten bucks at the local Wal-mart, or $11 - $13 at various online retailers.

Packaging - ***1/2
The packaging is rather unique.  I mentioned this with the two packs, but it works even better here.  The front bubble is only sealed to the backer card around the top, where the LCBH logo is.  The lower half wraps around the backer and is taped in place.  Cut the three sides of tape, and you can lift up the bubble and remove the figure!  This is about as close as you'll ever get to collector friendly card/bubble packaging in a mass market toy.  You can actually remove the figure, put it back and retape the bubble without destroying anything.  You have to give Marvel Toys props for going this extra mile.

The packaging photo I used also shows off the variant version of Super Patriot, so you could judge for yourself which one you'd prefer.

Sculpting - Madman, Super Patriot ***1/2; Witchblade ***
I'm going to give you my bias up front - none of these characters, in their comic book format, do a whole lot for me.  Oh, all three are decent enough, and it's not like I hate any of them, but they don't trip my trigger quite like, say, Savage Dragon.  In other words, I don't have any bias one way or another towards any of these three.

That being said, I did end up with a clear favorite - Super Patriot.  The sculpt is excellent.  The gun arm (which is reversed on the variant, btw) looks terrific, and the sculpt and articulation work extremely well together.  The details on the armor look terrific, and the scale and proportions work great with other 6" figures.  He stands about 6 1/4" tall.

Madman is a smidge taller than he is, almost 6 1/2" tall.  Obviously the figure has less detail, since the character design calls for less.  But what is here - especially the head sculpt and gloves - is excellent, and again his proportions and scale work perfectly.  The right hand is sculpted to hold the gun, even with the single pin joint for the fingers.

Finally, there's Witchblade. Her detail work is actually quite good, especially in the 'armor'.  She has 'action hair', which I've never been a big fan of, but at least the detail in the hair is reasonably good.  She has a very pretty face, something often lacking in female figures in this scale, and her proportions aren't too wacky.  Sure, there's no woman that actually has these proportions, but at least they're in the ball park.  The hand sculpts don't do a whole lot for me, especially since there's no way to pose them in relation to the arms.  She's the shortest of the three, at 6" tall.

Paint - Witchblade ***1/2;  Super Patriot ***; Madman **1/2
Out of the six main figures in this wave, five had above average paint applications.  The only one to suprirse me was Madman.

Witchblade turned out quite well, with very clean work on the bronze sections.  All the cut lines are neat, and her eyes, lips and eyebrows are close to perfect.  The paint application here actually improves the look of the basic figure for me, which is the sign of excellent work.

Super Patriot shows a few more areas of bleed or sloppy cuts, but that's because his paint work is so much more difficult. The red, white and blue stripes are perfect for showing off bleed.  His shirt has a bit more wash than I like, but surprisingly, his silver armor and weapons do not.  They have just the right amount to bring out the details without looking dirty.

Madman was a surprise because he had the most quality issues.  First, the shade of white varies a bit from the arms and legs to the torso.  It's the most minor of his issues though, and doesn't show up in photos well at all.

There are some sloppy stray marks on his face, and poorly defined cuts around they symbol and the darker piping on his uniform.  There's also way too much wash on the gloves, and his lower lip has some weird things going on.  Considering how few paint operations there would be on a figure like this, it's all the more unusual to see so many issues.

Still, considering the other mass market toys out there, he certainly deserves an average grade in this category.  If he were going up against some of the specialty market work we're seeing these days, he'd lose another half star.

Articulation - Super Patriot ****; Madman ***1/2; Witchblade ***
Super Patriot and Madman both come with what was sort of the standard ML articulation, and in fact you may notice some part re-use in this first wave with some other older Marvel Legends figures.

They both have the peg and disk neck that allows the head to til forward and back, as well as turn.  There's no side to side tilting like a true ball joint, but it's still a fairly decent compromise.

The shoulders and hips are both ball jointed, with joints on both sides of the ball.  These work quite well with an excellent range of movement.  Super Patroit's shoulder pads are hinged so that they can move up and down with the arms and not restrict them in any way.

Their elbows and knees are double jointed, with the usual pin chest and cut waist, along with cut calves, cut forearms, pin wrists, pin and rocker ankles, pin fingers, and even half foot pin joints.  The joints worked great on both these figures for me, with nothing that was frozen up or cheaply made.

Witchblade has plenty of articulation as well, but it didn't work quite as well for me.  It's easier to say what's different for her, and they are all reductions in the number of joints.  The ball jointed shoulders are jointed only on the torso side, and there's no cut forearms.  That means the hands can't turn in relation to the arms, which I found to be very restrictive in posing her.  And while she has the same neck joint, the 'action hair' restricts the movement quite a bit.  Finally, she's missing the pin jointed fingers, which isn't a huge loss as far as I'm concerned.

Accessories (other than BAF) - Madman **1/2; Witchblade, Super Patriot Bupkis
Super Patriot and Witchblade end up with Bupkis in this category because I've broken out the Pitt BAF to its own category.  If I hadn't done that, they would have gotten three stars eacy, and Madman would have gotten three and a half.

Of this set of three, Madman is the only one that has an accessory outside of the BAF piece.  He comes with his nifty raygun, which fits pretty well into the sculpted right hand.  It's clearly a must have for the character, so it's expected that it would be included.

The other two have their respective BAF pieces - Witchblade has the huge upper torso and head, while the Dragon has an arm and corresponding chain.  Madman has the pelvis section of Pitt, along with Pitt's half brother, Timmy.  Timmy is unarticulated, but posed in a very standard Timmy-esque way.

Pitt - ****
Pitt is so damn cool he had to have a section all by himself.  You know how you can tell a really great BAF?  When you hear lots of people say "I wasn't really interested in that character/figure, but I bought him anyway so I could finish Pitt!"  And I'm hearing that a lot.

The first thing you'll notice about Pitt, once you have him together, is that he is HUGE.  Telling you he stands 10" tall doesn't really sound particularly impressive, but coupled with his bulk, he takes up quite a bit of physical real estate.

Oh, and about putting him together - all those parts DO snap tight, it just takes some work.  In particular, the pelvis will snap into the holes in the chest if you push hard enough, but take your time to avoid breaking anything.  I'd suggest putting the pelvis in before attaching the legs, so they aren't in the way during the process.

There's good articulation here for a BAF too, with ball jointed hips and shoulders jointed on both sides, single pin elbows and knees, pin wrists, pin and rocker ankles, a cut waist and a great clicky chest.  Many of the joints are clicky style actually, allowing him to hold poses for indefinite periods.

He also has some great finger articulation, with two independent joints on each one.  While I'm usually not a huge fan of finger articulation on smaller figures, on something in this scale they can be quite useful.

The sculpt is amazing in detail, and the paint generally supports it well.  The paint has a little slop here and there, and there's a bit more wash on the chains than I like, but these are extremely minor nits with an overall impressive BAF.  They've done a terrific job bringing Keown's creation to life, and fans should be thrilled.

Fun Factor - ****
It's not easy to make truly fun toys that collectors love as well.  A few manage to pull it off, but usually it's either kids or collectors - not both.

But these figures have it all.  Great toys for kids, and great toys for TOY collectors.  The statue folks might not enjoy the playability and poseability, but the toy collectors will appreciate it.

But the big question is...will kids care about any of these characters?  And if they don't, will the fans of the comics be enough to keep the line alive, especially at mass market?

Value - **1/2
Unfortunately, at ten bucks a pop, they are a couple bucks more than you expect on the mass market for superhero figures.  Normally, they'd lose another half star at this price, but because a) the BAF is so well done and so huge and b) I know that the production runs on these had to be much lower than the usual mass market toy, I'm cutting them some slack.

If I had to pay the higher online cost for the individual figures (you can get sets of 8 for $80, so that works out to the regular retail price), I'd cut another half star off this score, low run or not.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not much here.  Of course, you'll pick out the best paint ops you can find on the pegs.  And you'll take some care - but not give up - when putting Pitt together.  But the figures are generally very well built and can easily withstand most play situations.

Overall - Super Patriot ***1/2; Madman, Witchblade ***
Out of the overall series of six figures, Savage Dragon, Super Patriot and Judge Dredd are my three favorites, no question about it.  Madman should have been in this bunch as well, but his issues with paint ended up holding him back slightly.

If I had the luxury of skipping some of these, it would be Witchblade and Ripclaw.  I suspected that was going to be true before I saw them, and after playing around and posing them for awhile, there was nothing really there to change my mind.

However, I don't have that luxury.  Why?  Because of the uber-cool Pitt.  He's a fantastic BAF, and well worth getting a couple characters for the shelf that are less than thrilling for me. If every BAF looked like this, companies would sell a whole lot more full figure sets, no matter what the license.

The next BAF is Monkeyman, and from what I saw at SDCC, he's even better than Pitt.  The question will remain the same though - will any kids actually want to buy these figures?  And if they don't, is the fan market for these titles big enough to support the line past waves 1 and 2?  If Hasbro or Mattel were trying this, there'd be no question that the answer would be 'no'.  Larger companies require larger margins or at least larger gross numbers of any project to justify their overhead and expense.  But with a smaller company like Marvel Toys, these might just have a shot at making it.  I certainly have my fingers crossed, since the possibilities are tremendous.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt -  Madman, Super Patriot ***1/2; Witchblade ***
Paint - Super Patriot, Witchblade ***1/2; Madman **1/2
Articulation - Super Patriot ****; Madman ***1/2; Witchblade ***
Accessories - Madman **1/2; Witchblade, Super Patriot Bupkis
Pitt - ****
Fun Factor - ****
Value -  **1/2
Overall - Super Patriot ***1/2; Madman, Witchblade ***

Where to Buy -
Wal-mart is the first local bricks and mortar store to get these in. Online options include: 

- Amazing Toyz has them in at $10 - $13 as well, along with the 8 for $80 deal.

- CornerStoreComics has the singles in stock at $10 - $13 (depending on the character) or the full set of 8 including the two variants for just $80. 

Related Links -
I've reviewed both of the twin packs, Conan/Wrarrl and Clownface/Panda, and I covered the rest of series 1 as well. And if you're looking for other versions of some of these characters, check out the Mcfarlane version of Savage Dragon and Ripclaw.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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