Tag Archives: hasbro pulse

We Need to Talk About this X-Men Toy Line

As a kid, I was introduced to the X-Men without even knowing it. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was airing in my region and it was a show I watched when I could. That show featured Spider-Man (naturally) alongside Firestar, a new character created for the show, and Iceman. I had no idea Iceman was a member of the X-Men, or even what the X-Men were, and I wouldn’t for years after. I barely knew anyone from the Marvel Universe as outside of that show I basically saw Spider-Man PSAs and that Marvel Productions tag that would roll at the end of shows like Muppet Babies. Captain America? Wolverine? Iron Man? Totally off of my radar. Actually, the only other character I knew was the Hulk due to his television show.

In the early 90s that obviously changed. I was properly introduced to the X-Men via the inaugural line of action figures from Toy Biz. Despite not having a television show to cross-promote with, Toy Biz released the first wave of figures in 1991 complete with advertisements during the shows I watched. That’s how I learned who Wolverine and Cyclops were alongside Storm, Nightcrawler, Magneto and others. My friend from down the street loved the line, and at first that’s how I experienced the toys, but once the cartoon series launched in 1992 I too was hooked.

That show was X-Men and it was a ratings hit in 1993 when it was properly launched following “sneak peaks” in the fall of ’92. Once the show got its claws in me I was hooked and ready to turn aside the likes of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. X-Men became my life, and even though I also got comics and trading cards featuring my favorite mutants, it was always the cartoon series that was my first love and primary method of interacting with the brand (aside from the toys, of which I had many). As my passion for collecting action figures has reignited over the past five years or so, a dedicated line of toys based on that show has become my grail line, of sorts. It was on my mind so much that I had to get it out in this space, and despite not being an avid collector of Hasbro figures, I always kept tabs on the company and anytime a question was asked of the community about what they wanted next, I was always there to tell them.

Aside from the odd choice of shading the figure that gold or mustard color, Wolverine looks fine.

With 2022 marking the show’s 30th anniversary, it has long been in my sights as the most logical time for such a toy line to come around. And sure enough, last fall Hasbro confirmed it was indeed heading to the animated universe when it announced a new line of toys based on the show starting with Wolverine and Jubilee. Since then, we’ve seen reveals of Mr. Sinister, Storm, and Jean Grey with Wolverine and Sinister starting to make their way into the hands of collectors in the UK. Presumably, their arrival in the US is imminent, but before I even have these long sought toys in hand I’m feeling a bit letdown by this whole thing.

Hasbro is one of the biggest toy producers in the world. The company produces mass market toys sold all over the place and often at a fairly affordable price relative to other goods in that space. They have tremendous negotiating power with the likes of Target and Walmart and even own their own factories so they’re far more insulated against some of the challenges faced by smaller outfits dealing in the same type of goods. For awhile, their Marvel Legends and Star Wars: The Black Series have been consistently good at a relatively low price. While a figure from NECA might cost you 30 bucks, a figure from Hasbro would sit at $20. Over the last year though, things have changed and prices have gone up. Now that same NECA figure is around $37 while Hasbro’s is $25. And when it comes to the new X-Men line, we’re talking $28. And while the gap still remains around 10 bucks, the NECA figures continue to come with loads of accessories and are often uncompromised when it comes to necessary tooling, while Hasbro has gone in the other direction. Fewer accessories, fewer paint apps, and more reuse have made Marvel Legends no longer the value it once was.

Hasbro saw fit to sculpt new hair for Storm, but kept a face that doesn’t match the show.

With the animated X-Men line, Hasbro is targeting a rather specific audience. It’s one that experienced the show as a kid 30 years ago and is an adult collector now. In truth, almost every action figure line Hasbro produces is consumed by more adults than children, but with this line Hasbro can’t even pretend like it’s aiming to attract children. It’s being sold exclusively through Hasbro’s own online store, Hasbro Pulse, and will eventually be sold on Disney’s website and maybe at some of their physical stores. It’s simply a line meant to appeal to collectors, and since they’re promising figures based on the show, you would think accuracy would be important, no?

Apparently that’s a foolish assumption as it appears Hasbro is looking to cut corners wherever it can. When the line was announced, it became obvious right from the start that Hasbro would be re-releasing some older figures with cel-shading paint apps to mimic the show. The encouraging part though was some of the little details. Wolverine had two, newly sculpted heads that better reflected his appearance on the show. He also came with a little picture frame from the episode “Captive Hearts” that is quite popular in the online meme community. These figures may not be on the level of high grade imports, but at least the love was there (aww). Jubilee, on the other hand, looked almost nothing like her show counterpart aside from her gloves being color-corrected. She was coming with effects parts that looked nothing like her fireworks, but it was Jubilee, a character I’m not particularly fond of, so I could overlook it.

The face is wrong, the hair is wrong, and even that orange they used for her costume looks off. They literally just needed to give her a new head and match the cartoon colors, but weren’t willing to even go that far.

The reveals to follow have been uneven, at best. Sinister is an almost straight repaint of the previously released Marvel Legends figure. He looks fine, and Hasbro fixed his neck by making it bare instead of featuring the riveted costume, and applied a good paint job. He has zero accessories though, which is beyond cheap at this price point. Storm followed and, again, she’s mostly a repaint. She gets a new hair sculpt that looks okay in some stills, but her complexion is wrong, her costume is wrong, and she has a lighting effect, but no white-out eyes to pair with it. It’s just all wrong if it wants to be what it claims to be. Jean Grey is the latest reveal, and once again, Hasbro is just repackaging an older figure. For this one, they seemed to even instruct artist Dan Vessenmeyer to model the artwork on the inaccurate figure. Or, they gave him shots of the figure and he just went with it. Either way, her hair is wrong, the coloring on her costume looks off, and they’re including a second, non pony tail head when it doesn’t even make sense to do so in the context of the cartoon. Yes, she went without a pony tail for the series finale, but her costume was also more yellow than the usual tan. And you may be wondering why I would complain about a bonus accessory, but it sucks to get a useless accessory when a more appropriate one could have been included like a powers effect piece or a Cerebro helmet. All things that would make sense for the character.

What it comes down to, is that I look at these solicitations so far and I just get the sense that whoever is in charge of this line has no real attachment to the source. Or, they’re being so severely restricted by corporate that it’s completely stifled their attempts at making the best figures they could. And that’s Hasbro, in a nutshell: they’re not interested in delivering the best possible product. They want to deliver an acceptable product at as cheap a cost as possible. And I get it to some degree, the Marvel license is probably expensive, but so is Star Wars. Their Star Wars output looks a million times better and is far more accurate than what’s being done with the X-Men. Clearly, they value that line more, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t as Star Wars probably sells well. They’re going after a somewhat niche audience with this line, but I’d argue it’s not a tiny one. Literally millions of kids tuned into that show every Saturday, and I bet millions are still interested in it. What would it cost to do this line properly? If these figures had to be $35 to make that happen then so be it! I think collectors, generally speaking, will pay more if the product warrants it. We’ve seen prices go up this past year and spending habits don’t appear to be wildly affected by them. Everything has a limit, but Hasbro doesn’t appear interested in seeing what that is with this line.

Compare Hasbro’s Jean to what Diamond is doing and it becomes even more frustrating. I wish I could be happy with just collecting busts from this show.

It becomes even more frustrating when this X-Men line is compared to other lines based on 90s television properties. NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line strives to match the cartoon as much as possible and it looks great. And the actual figures in that line cost similar to what Hasbro is doing here, and they often feature unique tooling that’s not likely to be reused. DC Direct did a Batman: The Animated Series line that, while imperfect in some respects, at least looked like the source material. Even Hasbro has done better as their Into the Spider-Verse action figures looked terrific! I pondered on more than one occasion picking those up despite not really feeling an impulse to collect figures from the film just because they looked so good. Mondo’s sixth scale Wolverine looks great, and Diamond Select has a line of busts based on this show that look fantastic. If Hasbro didn’t want to do this line right they should licensed it out to Diamond because they clearly seem to have someone onboard who values this show more than anyone at Hasbro does.

When this line became a reality, I knew it wouldn’t be exactly what I wanted. How could it? I knew there were going to be compromises, and in some respects it’s gone as well as I thought it would because my expectations weren’t terribly high to begin with. Still, I’m bothered by it as I’m preordering all of these figures out of obligation rather than a desire to actually have them in my possession. Perhaps my enthusiasm will rise when I have them together on a shelf, but voicing criticism now is really my only weapon as a consumer. Again, I was happy with the initial Wolverine reveal. I think he should have represented the standard for the line: some parts reuse, new toon accurate head, and one accessory clearly inspired by the show. That’s all! That’s a pretty low bar, it should have been manageable, but Hasbro is fucking it up. That Wolverine isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough, and I’m not sure I can say that about the other four. I hate to prejudge anything I have yet to experience, but it’s hard not to in this case. Will my opinions change when I’m actually reviewing these toys for this blog? It’s possible, but right now, it does not seem very likely. What was a dream line for me, has turned into a joyless obligation and that’s not something I anticipated happening. Do better, Hasbro.


Hasbro Dungeons & Dragons Drizzt Do’Urden and Guenhwyvar

Just a man and his cat.

I was quite surprised when Hasbro unveiled a deluxe action figure set starring the Forgotten Realms hero, Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt was a character I was familiar with going back into my middle school days when I traded Star Wars novels for Dragonlance. Even though my nose was buried in stories about Raistlin Majere and Tanis Half-Elven, a lot of the other kids around me were reading the latest from R.A. Salvatore. Drizzt was an instant hit, a dark elf warrior exiled from his subterranean home turned good guy. He was armed with a pair of magic scimitars, had a magic panther as a sidekick, and was basically unbeatable in combat. When I had exhausted Dragonlance, a campaign setting for the game Dungeons & Dragons that saw its peak in the 80s, I finally checked out what was coming out of the Forgotten Realms setting and would eventually read several books starring the legendary drow.

That’s a fine looking piece of cardboard.

Hasbro has owned Dungeons & Dragons through subsidiary Wizards of the Coast for over two decades now, but few knew if the company really planned on doing action figures. Plenty of 80s kids have longed for stuff based on the old cartoon series, while folks like me who grew up with the novels published by TSR have wanted to see some of those characters captured in plastic. Drizzt kind of came out no where though and Hasbro elected to sell the set, which includes his panther, Guenhwyvar (who I am just going to call Guen from now on because that name is ridiculous), through its Pulse storefront. This generally means collectors could pre-order the figure and expect delivery months later. Hasbro was likely skittish about going straight to retail with the figure because it was an untested character at a premium price ($40), though there are plans to distribute it through other retailers in the future (I think).

I love the artwork on display here.

For me, I liked Drizzt well enough when I was reading the books decades ago. He’s cool, though his stories got very repetitive for me so I would never call him one of my favorite literary characters. I won’t deny though that he’s perfect for an action figure and his popularity makes him a great first choice for a figure. I saw it, and I thought it looked cool, and eventually placed a pre-order. My decision to buy this figure was one part enjoyment of the actual piece, and one part a desire to just support the brand in hopes of getting a Raistlin down the road. That property, Dragonlance, has some legal troubles though that will probably make it difficult for me to get what I want, but I can dream, can’t I?

There’s a lot of stuff in that box.

Drizzt arrived after a delay of about a month. All kinds of shipping problems in December threw things into disarray, but thankfully Drizzt wasn’t on that ship that lost a ton of cargo in a storm. The figure comes packaged in a very nice box with an unusual shape. The front is curved and embossed with a dynamic illustration of Drizzt and Guen. Sliding that off produces a window box with the figure itself and a nice, wintery, backdrop. It’s easy to reseal, which is always a plus with figures that come with a bunch of extra stuff, and would be attractive for mint-in-box collectors, though to display with or without the slipcover would be a tough call.

He’s free!
I think of his open hand as his kitty-patting hand.

Drizzt is a little tricky to extricate from the plastic bubble inside as he has this big cloak that slips through the plastic, plus his scabbards go through it as well. Once removed he’s a pretty sturdy figure with a fair amount of heft to him due to that cloak. He stands right at six inches and seems like the kind of figure that could slip into other displays fairly easily. His armor is incredibly detailed with lots of little paint flourishes through out. My figure is pretty much devoid of any signs of paint slop or quality control issues of any kind. His joints were all free and easy out of the box and there are no defects I can spot. This is a very well made figure, though also still pretty familiar to anyone who collects stuff from Hasbro. I really like the gray-purple of his flesh and you can see the purple in his eyes. He has an angry facial expression with windswept hair perfect for a battle pose. He has a pair of gripping hands with vertical hinges (finally, Hasbro!) that have just enough of an opening in them that it’s fairly easy to slip one of his two swords into each hand. He looks great, and this is a later version of Drizzt as opposed to a first appearance. It reminds me of the look the character sported in the artwork for The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy. There’s a lot of black, green, and gold and the leather portions of his armor have a touch of blue. It’s textured really well too and looks like worn leather, though the armor is so pristine that it doesn’t look like something he’s ever actually battled in. The fur lining on the cloak is well done and there’s a hood sculpted into the back of it that’s been pushed back. This is just really nice and it’s good to see Hasbro sink a little more money into this release than it would a mass market figure for Walmart or Target. As they should, since they’re charging a premium for it.

If you really want to see what this figure can do you have to ditch the cloak.

If you’ve had a Hasbro figure recently, then you should know what to expect in terms of articulation. Drizzt’s head sits on a ball peg so he can look around, but his cloak plus his hair will severely limit that head articulation. Of course, you can remove the cloak and get better articulation, if you wish. The base of the neck is also on a ball peg which aids him in looking up and down when the cloak is not an issue. The shoulders are ball-hinges with a slight butterfly joint as well. The pauldrons on his shoulders can be manipulated a bit to get them out of the way when posing. He has swivels at the shoulders, double-jointed elbows, wrist swivels, and the previously mentioned vertical hinges. In the torso he foregoes a diaphragm joint in favor of an ab crunch. I am on record as not caring for ab crunches, but this one at least looks fine. He can also twist at the waist and swivel at the thigh, which are ball-hinged. He has double-jointed knees and can swivel at the foot. He also has hinges at the ankle and a generous rocker. It’s a solid assortment of articulation and Hasbro did a good job of working with the intricate armor on this figure to get as much articulation into it without disrupting that sculpt. The skirt pieces of the armor are very flexible so they only interfere a bit. I would have preferred a diaphragm joint in place of the ab crunch, but it’s fine.

Kitty statue.
Extra stuff that will mostly entertain actual players of Dungeons & Dragons, something I haven’t done in over 20 years.

Drizzt comes packaged with quite the assortment of accessories and optional parts. He has two heads: an angry one and a smug one. I really like both, but I tend to prefer that cocky look to the yelling one. He also has two hairstyles which you can swap between the two heads. One is windswept and the other is static. I had a hard time getting the static hair to work in tandem with the cloak, but others may have better luck than me. The cloak can be removed by popping off the head, but be careful when doing do as sometimes his neck will release which is kind of a pain. Try to hold the neck in place as best you can. He also has an extra set of hands which include a fist and an open left hand. The fist is kind of useless and I would have preferred two style hands, but oh well. The open hand works with his little, black, kitty statue which is supposed to be Guen. That’s what the cat is when not in the material world. There’s also a D20 die done in a sparkly, black, green color that’s pretty neat for people who play D&D. Drizzt also has a necklace he can wear which features a little unicorn head. This is the symbol of the goddess he worships or identifies with. It fits over his head fine, but gets lost when the cloak is on too. It’s also too light to have a natural hang and I find I prefer the character without it, but it’s there if you like it. There are also monster cards hidden behind the cardboard insert in the box. I know some of them, like the beholder and ice dragon, but some I don’t know what they are. I wish they had a little bio or something on them instead of some fake language.

You probably don’t want to mess with this guy.
Let’s add a little magic to those blades!

Of course, Drizzt also comes with his prized, twin, scimitars: Twinkle and Icingdeath. They’re well sculpted and painted and look terrific whether in-hand or sheathed. I find they don’t necessarily match up with the descriptions given for each in the books, but there have been prop Drizzt swords made over the years and these seem to match those. I think it’s Twinkle that has this neat metallic, blue, finish on the pommel that’s especially nice looking. The vertical hinges of his hands help in wielding them properly and Drizzt just looks cool with a blade in each hand. He also has two effects pieces for the blades that looks like ice magic, or something. They slide onto the blade and lend themselves well to dynamic poses. The only drawback is they add considerable heft to the swords. If there is one issue I have, it’s that Drizzt’s arms are a little loose for his swords. I still was able to get him into some interesting poses, but I’m concerned if I leave him on a shelf with these things on the blades his shoulders may weaken until he can’t keep his arm up. In particular, the left arm is the one I have the most concern with. I suspect this may vary from unit to unit.

Say, “ahhhh”

Lastly, Drizzt is accompanied by his good pal, Guenwhyvar. I don’t know why Salvatore settled on such an obnoxious spelling, but he has a tendency to do that with a lot of stuff in his novels. The panther is about six inches long and quite sleek with a lustrous black coat with maybe a hint of purple in some places. There’s a lot of points of articulation on this cat too. There’s a ball-joint in the torso that provides some ability to pivot, a ball-joint at the base of the neck, and a ball-joint at the base of the head with a hinged jaw. The legs appear to be ball-jointed at the base, but can’t do much other than move forward and back a little. The rear, right, leg is pretty tight on mine too. Each knee can swivel and bend and there’s another hinge past that and a third hinge at the foot. That’s on the hind legs, the front legs have one less hinge. The feet can also rock side to side. The tail pegs into a ball joint and kind of just hangs out. It’s a lot, but it’s not all functional. I can’t, for instance, get the kitty to sit in a convincing fashion. She can get into a pounce position, but for the most part I think people will just pose her in a fairly neutral position looking a bit menacing with that mouth open.

“Just five more minutes then I’ll feed you.”
As much as it pains my wallet to admit, he would look cool with an orc to slice and dice.

That’s a lot of stuff for one figure release, and I think this is a great value at $40. Of course, since it is a mail away situation you’ll have to pay shipping to acquire Drizzt so his real cost is more like $50, but it’s still pretty good considering a Lightning Collection Power Ranger is about $20 and of lower quality. For your money, you get a really nice looking and functional action figure plus a fully realized panther figure. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a few shortcomings. I wish the engineering on the panther was a bit better, and I find myself really surprised that Drizzt didn’t come with one more hairpiece that included his hood. Maybe they couldn’t figure out a way to get a hood to fit over the existing hood and didn’t want to turn that into a separate, floating, piece like they have done with the masks on some of the Marvel Legends. Otherwise though, there’s nothing really missing or that I wish the figure came with. I mentioned wanting a second open hand in place of the fist, but I don’t know if I can resist posing him with both blades drawn anyway.

I figured I should probably toss-in a comparison shot with other lines since this is a new line for Hasbro.

If this is the start of Hasbro’s descent into the old TSR portfolio, then this a great way to kick off a line. I suspect Dungeons & Dragons will never be a huge part of the Hasbro figure lineup, but if they can get a couple figures out a year that would be better than what came before it. My hope is for them to head to Dragonlance, but I’d be pretty surprised if the company didn’t hang around Forgotten Realms for awhile and fill out Drizzt’s allies. They may also look to the iconic Monster Manual for some creature ideas in place of characters from the various novels. Unless this figure fails to sell, but I’m pretty optimistic that it will attract enough attention to warrant more figures. If you like what you see here and want Hasbro to do more, you can head over to their website now and order your own Drizzt. I think you’ll be pleased with what you receive.

It’s cold and lonely in the north: get a cat.

%d bloggers like this: