Monday, July 30, 2012

Marvel Universe Handbook, 1983: The U-Foes!

Marvel Universe Handbook Vol.1, No. 11, Nov 1983

I've used profiles from these Marvel Universe handbook issues several times on the Super-DuperToyBox when discussing characters featured in my posts- favorite relics from my childhood fandom. They tie my past and renewed, present reading hobby together cognitively, unify my posts thematically, and are just plain fun! Related to their appearance in my last post on Darkhawk #6, the U-Foes profile page in Vol.1, No. 11:

From Wikipedia:
Simon Utrecht, a former politician and multi-millionaire, funded an operation to gain superpowers the same way the Fantastic Four did. He reviewed thousands of files, interviewed hundreds of applicants, and chose three other members. He even got the contractors who built the FF's ship to build his. His group flew a spaceship into outer space, and were exposed to cosmic rays. What the group did not know was that they would be exposed to an even more massive amount than the Fantastic Four and that it would most likely kill them. The Hulk had wandered into the launching area and turned back, meaning Dr. Bruce Banner was at the launch site and upon realizing this brought the ship down by reprogramming their computer before the group was exposed to the terminal levels of cosmic rays. The group however did gain their powers and the newly christened U-Foes attacked Banner for interfering in their affairs. After several defeats at the hands of the Hulk and his allies, each of the U-Foes were banished to a different dimension. They managed to reunite and find their way back to Earth when the mutant Portal's powers began manifesting. The U-Foes attempted to murder Portal to keep him from opening another portal to banish them, until they were defeated by the Avengers. They would later attempt to kidnap Portal to exploit his mutant powers, and were defeated once again by Captain America, Darkhawk, and Daredevil.


  • Real Name: Simon Utrecht
  • Power: Telekinesis, limited to attract or repel matter from his own body. Enormously powerful, as by focusing his power into blasts he was even capable of flaying most of the Hulk's skin and muscle tissue from his body when the latter resisted, and repelled the structure of reality itself within the 'Crossroads' nexus, with force he claimed was sufficient to hurl entire worlds. Also capable of flight.
  • Background: Simon Utrecht was a successful businessman, industrialist, and politician who craved more power. He used his resources to copy everything about the Fantastic Four's flight into space, and hired a crew in the hopes of gaining superpowers.


  • Real Name: Ann Darnell
  • Powers: Has the power to alter her form into any known gas, usually the most lethally poisonous she can imagine while invading an opponent's body. Vapor can transform into her fully human state for only brief periods.
  • Background: Was hired by Simon to be the life-support engineer on his space ship. Is Jimmy Darnell's older sister.


  • Real Name: James "Jimmy" Darnell
  • Powers: Has been permanently transformed into a living energy field, intangible and immune to most physical harm. Has the power to expel various forms of heavy radiation in the form of very potent blasts, shown capable of hurting even the Hulk and severely weakening Thor when combined with three other energy blasts and the ability to fly, or turn invisible. He has also been able to emit negative-gamma rays that turn the Hulk back into Bruce Banner, but this is only effective so long as he is conscious.
  • Background: He was hired by Simon to be the spaceship's fuel-propulsion systems engineer. Is Ann Darnell's younger brother.


  • Real Name: Michael Steel
  • Powers: Permanently transformed into organic metal similar to the X-Man Colossus. Superhuman strength, durability, and the ability to increase or decrease his own weight, hovering in the air, or crushing like a mountain. Ironclad's form was initially composed of jagged folds of metal; however, after briefly losing control of his weight-altering powers and sinking deep into the Earth's crust, he emerged with his body smoothed and polished by the friction of his passage.
  • Background: He was hired by Simon as a scientist, engineer, and skilled pilot.
More Later- Make it FUN!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Darkhawk #6, Aug. 1991

Hasbro 3 3/4" Marvel Universe Darkhawk
After reviewing the Marvel Universe Darkhawk action figure last autumn, I stumbled upon several issues of the character's book among the dollar comic bins. Knowing nothing of Marvel hero, I bought the figure purely on aesthetic merit and my obsession with Hasbro's 3 3/4" line. But for a dollar an issue I took a chance on picking up a few, including #6 featuring Captain America and Daredevil! 90's comics get a lot of criticism, but I enjoy them for all their wacky characters, half-baked stories, and over-the-top sense of style. In the early 90's comics were hotter than ever, and it seems there was something for everyone, their status in pop culture at an all-time high.
Darkhawk #8, Oct. '91
While I missed the Darkhawk's 90's premiere, I've come to realize that some of you younger fans are nostalgic about this unusual character who reminds me a lot of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle (a teenage hero, the amulet, alien technology, etc.). Christopher Powell was a teenager who found a mysterious amulet in an abandoned amusement park, which allows him to switch bodies with a powerful android from another dimension called Null Space where it's body was stored & repaired aboard an alien starship. The android can fire a concussive blast or form a circular energy shield. from the amulet on it's chest, possesses telescopic and infra-red vision, and can fire a grappling hook cable claw from it's left arm. It's kinda fun reading these early issues where Chris is unsure about his new found powers and what to do with them. The appeal of a teenage hero to the comic book demographic isn't lost on me- everyone of you reading this likely had that fantasy during those awkward years.

 Cap & Daredevil were brought in for their star appeal, but more interesting to me was the super-villain team known as the U-Foes! I did remember these baddies from my youth- Ironclad, X-Ray, Vector, Vapor, and were the villainous version of the Fantastic Four. Cool!

Sure, Cap is a tie-in with issue #304 of The Avengers, but fellow New Yorker Daredevil was just dropped into the issue to help sell the book. When Ironclad is thrown through a wall and onto a nearby car, Matt Murdock puts his appointment with a client aside to help...

 Whirling his nunchaku to disperse Vapor's deadly mustard gas form, Daredevil leaves an opening for Darkhawk to save the day, despite Cap's cautious objection...

Danny Fingeroth- writer, Mike Manley- penciler
In the end, Portal, whom Darkhawk sought out at the hospital room Cap was visiting, got away without shedding any light on the origin's of the teen's otherworldly powers. Apologizing for his hasty attack on the U-Foes, a concerned Captain America and Daredevil lend the rookie hero a shred of wisdom, "We're not perfect Hawk... that's the whole point." I don't have any of the earlier issues featuring Portal's back story with Darkhawk, but this issue's primary objective was to bring the kind of firepower to help drive sales and promote the title. And that's okay because it worked in 1991 and two decades later when it caught my eye in the dollar comics bin   :D  I'm a fan of the superhero teamup, and seeing the U-Foes again was such a treat!

More Later- Make It Fun!
*Read more about Darkhawk at the Darkhawk Zone!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hasbro Avengers Battle Hammer Thor & Skrull Soldier

It wasn't long ago I lamented to BubbaShelby that Hasbro had really cut a lot of articulation on their 3 3/4" movie franchise action figures. It seemed especially insulting since the price has edged up again. But after picking up some of the Amazing Spider-Man comic series figures, I was surprised to realize I didn't miss it much due to their fun sculpts and colors. So when I stumbled onto this Avengers Skrull Soldier, I took him and  Battle Hammer Thor home to get a closer look.

I knew I'd buy a Skrull if given the chance, having seen this colorful version on the internet a few months ago. The head sculpt alone is worth the price of admission, but his unusual body armor, utility belt, and oversize boots & gauntlets really add to the fun. He has the added benefit of hinge swivel hips for lateral movement, but otherwise his articulation are like the Spider-Man figures I reviewed:  hinge-swivel shoulders, knees and elbows, and a limited ball-jointed neck- no wrist, ankle, bicep, or waist joints. This seems to work pretty well, and because of the aesthetics, the extra articulation we saw in the previous Marvel movie figures isn't missed too terribly. Remember: my first 3 3/4" action figures were the original Kenner Star Wars line at the end of the seventies! Five-point gang!

If you recognized the Skrull's weapon, it's because we have already seen it included with the Thor Movie figure Hogun. The battle axe blades detach from the handle to become a pair of crescent fighting blades. While it's an unusual choice for a reuse, it works somehow aesthetically, and can be pegged onto a hole in his back, scoring a couple more points in my book. And I absolutely love the colors used on this Skrull- the unusual combination of blue with metallic purple and silver evoke a Bronze-Age comics feel to this action figure, much like the Power Arms Doc Ock I just reviewed. I'm not sure if the Skrulls ever wore colors like this in the comics, but it looks cool.

Avengers Skrull with my Marvel Universe Skrulls: the Avengers Skrull is much beefier, and stands better than the MU Skrulls, and though his articulation is simpler, the Avengers Skrull is easier to pose.

This Thor is stylized after the Ultimates version of Odin's favorite son, without cape and carrying the axe-bladed adaptation of the enchanted hammer Mjolnir. The Marvel Ultimate Universe features adaptations of characters from the primary Marvel continuity, sometimes contrary in powers as well as origins from their mainstream counterparts. While I believe Thor should have a cape, the deco on this Thor is killer! The blue chest armor and bronze belt & boots have an nice metallic paint that contrasts well against the flat dark gray of the pants. And the sculpt is great too- the lacing running up the legs, the multiple buckles in the boots, wrappings around the wrists, lines etched in the armor, the flowing golden locks- it all looks great.

Battle Hammer Thor with some of my other 3 3/4" Thors, from left to right: Battle Hammer Thor (from the Thor Movie line!), Hammer Smash Thor, Avengers Battle Hammer Thor, Marvel Universe Classic Avengers Thor, Marvel Universe Modern/Coipel Thor...

Battle Hammer Thor comes with a simple, but fun accessory that kids will like to mess around with... "expanding hammer head"? Looks like a trident to me, but whatever. It opens & closes by sliding the red grip under the blades. Good for Skrull removal!

More articulation would have been cool, and it's annoying Hasbro skimped on it & raised the price anyway. Hasbro is in business to make money, and they know their target demographic won't notice or care. But these are fun action figures with a lot going for them. They did deliver on the sculpt, & fun deco on these, and the articulation is functional. $9.00 seems too high to me, but I like them- try to get them on sale if you can. They're fun to play with...


That was hardly a fair fight, but it sure was FUN  :D

More Later- Make It FUN!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Capture Trap Amazing Spider-Man & Power Arms Dr. Octopus

Surprised by how much I liked the Grappling Hook Amazing Spider-Man reviewed in my last post, I stumbled onto this Doc Ock and Ben Reilly Spider-Man on sale for $7.49 each. Again, not a great deal but better than nine or ten bucks at regular price. Again, the articulation on these is limited, but they are beefier and the sculpts are more fun than the previous 3 3/4" Spider-Man line by Hasbro.

There was a Green Goblin and a Doc Ock on the pegs, and I went with the latter- undeniably the superior of the two action figures. The green and silver outfit combined with the simple, stocky buck looks so retro-cool to me! His blue bug eyes and gritting teeth evoke a Bronze-Age comics feel to this action figure that's undeniable. I like the clip-on backpack which features a button at the top to make his mechanical arms wag, which surpisingly have wire inside, allowing some limited, nonetheless present poseability. So cool!

Doc Ock has the same articulation as Grappling Hook Spider-Man, simple yet surprisingly adequate. He has no bicep or wrist swivels, but he does have hinge-swivel shoulders and elbows that seem to do the trick. Doc Ock's hips don't rotate, but they do have a wide range forward and back, and he has hinge-swivel knees. His ball jointed neck has quite a bit of range- better than the Spiderman figure.

From the Marvel Universe Wiki:
"Over the years, Dr. Octopus has become one of most recognizable members of Spider-Man's rogues' gallery. He remains one of Spider-Man's most dangerous foes, having many legendary battles with him over the years. Before his transformation into the megalomaniacal archenemy of the web-slinger, Otto was a brilliant and respected nuclear physicist, inventor, and lecturer. He designed a set of highly advanced mechanical arms to assist him with his research into atomic physics. The tentacled arms were resistant to radiation and were capable of great strength and highly precise movement. They were attached to a harness that fit around his body. During an accidental radiation leak that ended in an explosion, the apparatus became fused to Octavius' body. It was later revealed that the radiation (or possibly his own latent mutation) had mutated his brain so that he could control the movement of the arms using his thoughts alone."

As a kid I had some Marvel Secret Wars action figures, including a Doc Ock that was really cool-  while possessing more articulation than the Mattel figure, this Hasbro figure enjoys the same simplicity in design that I find quite pleasing. I love his zig-zag belt with it's circular red buckle, and the piping down his chest and pants legs are sculpted into the figure- nice!

Next time you're out, stop and take a closer look at this one. I ignored him for awhile, but was bowled over by him up close...

After how much I enjoyed Grappling Hook Spider-Man, I warmed up to the "Ben Reilly" Spider-Man from this series- a charachter that surprises me with his longevity. I spoke of Ben Reilly, a clone of Peter Parker first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #149 (1975) in my post on the Hasbro Legends figure, and had a comic featuring Ben Riley Spider-Man I bought back in '96- knew nothing of him until then, but I liked the updated outfit.

Ben Reilly Spider-Man has the same articulation as Grappling Hook Spidey, but the lower legs, arms, and torso are unique this figure, featuring his trademark suit design. Hasbro missed slightly painting the chest insignia, but not grotesquely- like the webbing in the red portons, it was expertly sculpted. The bulkier stock of this new line of figures looks very comic book and great! I love the big eyes on the Comic Series from this Amazing Spider-Man line, which remind me of Todd McFarlane's 90's Spider-Man.

They aren't quite the tight fit as the Grappling Hook Spidey for whatever reason, but Capture Trap Spidey does have holes in his feet that fit on a 3 3/4" scale Marvel Universe figure base.

Grappling Hook Spidey with Capture Trap Spidey...  there's a classic Spider-Man (Mega Cannon) and a diver  Spider-Man (Hydro-Attack) in this series, but I felt these two were the coolest...

And now for your dose of BIG TOY/little toy, Capture Trap Spider-Man with the Hasbro Legends Ben Reilly...

Like the rest of the figures from the Comic Series of the Amazing Spider-Man line, Spidey comes with an accessory that's mostly useless but kinda fun- kid's love that stuff, I was kinda down on Hasbro for stripping their movie franchise figures of their articulation, but the kids won't miss it, and I have to admit these rock. These are two simple but well done action figures that are really fun- like a good toy should be :D

More Later- Make It FUN!