Tag Archives: x-men tas

Marvel Legends X-Men Retro Card Series Apocalypse

“I know more of this world than you could even dream, that is why I must…destroy it!”

It is Halloween and that means it’s time for costumes, candy, and spooky fun. It’s also Halloween 2022, a pretty important date if you grew up loving those mutants who ran around in colorful spandex fighting for a better tomorrow. That’s because 30 years ago on this very night, the animated series X-Men premiered on the Fox network. The decision to debut a cartoon in prime time with characters still on the periphery of mainstream appeal was both a bold choice and one brought about by necessity. Fox had done the same recently with Batman – The Animated Series, but that hardly feels like a gamble considering that was coming hot on the heels of Batman Returns. You see, the show should have premiered in September on Saturday mornings, but the project was fraught with delays and the early animation sent back from studio AKOM was said to be a disaster. And since the show wasn’t going to be able to premiere as planned, the producers involved decided to focus on the first two episodes to get them ready for a Halloween premiere with the rest of the season to follow in early 1993. Marketing dubbed it a sneak peek, and it must have worked because before long the show was a ratings hit and the rest is history.

Given that it’s such an important day for an elder X-Men fan like myself, it only felt appropriate to forego something spooky this Halloween in favor of something celebrating that show. Now, I originally intended to debut my review of Hasbro’s Morph, but I received that figure in late September and I was just too eager to talk about Morph. The timing just didn’t make sense, so we’re pivoting to something else. Had Mystique, the next planned figure in Hasbro’s dedicated X-Men animated line, arrived this month she would have been featured here. And she even embodies a bit of that Halloween look with her blank eyes and affection for skulls. Instead though, I think we have the next best thing with one of the major villains from the show: Apocalypse.

This card is stupid big.

Hasbro’s retro card series of Marvel Legends has caused some confusion in the collector community, and I’m afraid this Apocalypse only adds to that. It started a few years ago as an homage to the classic ToyBiz line of figures from the 90s. Hasbro created updated blister cards based on those styles and packaged Legends in them. They had to be slightly oversized to accommodate the larger Legends figures compared to the classic ToyBiz ones, but who in the collector community doesn’t love a good dose of nostalgia? They’re definitely neat, and since the designs of the figures are largely based on their 90s appearances they hit pretty hard when it comes to nostalgia. It was successful enough that Hasbro then did the same with Spider-Man. Unlike the old X-Men line, the Spider-Man line from ToyBiz was a direct tie-in to the animated series that premiered on Fox (in sneak peek fashion as well since it worked so well with X-Men) in 1994. As a result, collectors weren’t sure if these new Spider-Man retro card releases were based on the animated series as well. I’ve seen many collectors refer to the Hobgoblin, especially, from that line as being animated inspired, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The only one released that is definitely based on the cartoon is the PulseCon exclusive Venom from last year (which is being followed-up with an animated Spider-Man this fall).

The actual figure though? Not really that big. I would have actually liked a little more height out of this guy.

Now adding to any confusion that still exists out there is this Apocalypse figure. Apocalypse had multiple releases in the ToyBiz days so a retro card release makes sense. However, this particular figure features a purple and blue deco. That is significant because that’s the color scheme Apocalypse had in the animated series. No where else has Apocalypse ever looked like this. And to drive the point home further, he comes with an interchangeable gun attachment for his arm that is pulled right from an episode of the show which has left many to ask “So why is this not a release in the VHS line?” And the answer is, “I don’t know.” I don’t think any of the marketing team for Legends has explained that one. My guess is that someone on the team really wanted to do this character in this look, but the budget for the VHS line couldn’t accommodate it so they did it this way. It’s bizarre, because this figure does not feature the cel-shading paint job of the VHS line so it’s not just a difference in packaging. This figure is also based on the build-a-figure Apocalypse released a few years ago, so disassembling it to fit in a VHS box would not have been problem. Plus, as illustrated with Mr. Sinister’s VHS box, Hasbro is willing to adjust the sizing when necessary on those boxes so there’s really nothing stopping Hasbro from releasing the figure in that line from a design standpoint. I know the cel-shading is a bit of a contentious topic in the community, but this figure is so cartoon specific that I can’t imagine there was a ton of demand from collectors not interested in the animated series. This version of Apocalypse has always been viewed as a little “goofy” because of those colors so comic collectors are most certainly not the target audience, but here we are.

This is unquestionably supposed to be Apocalypse from the cartoon, you can’t fool me Hasbro!

Because of the colors on this guy, I definitely consider him to be part of the animated series line of action figures. It’s bizarre, and if it’s simply a matter of budget then I don’t know why they didn’t just hit this guy with more paint so he would fit in, but here we are. That said, I’m happy to have Apocalypse in this deco as it’s been perhaps the figure I’ve wanted most to come out of the animated line next to Morph. This funky color palette just hits right for me. Like most kids in the early 90s, I was confused why Apocalypse looked like he was painted for Easter in the show and would have preferred him in black and blue, but over time this look has just become a hallmark of the series for me and I appreciate it more as a result. Plus, Apocalypse is so bad ass that he can look like this and still be feared!

The figure does come on the aforementioned blister card and it is pretty massive. It’s almost comical to look at how big this thing is relative to other retro card releases and even more ludicrous compared to the 90s cards. It features some nice artwork, though not in the animated style aside from the suit colors, and definitely has that old school ToyBiz feel. Many like to keep these releases mint-on-card, but I am not one of them. If you want to preserve the card as much as possible, I recommend slicing the bubble from the bottom with a blade which will allow you to slide this big boy out. And once removed, he is indeed rather big standing at around 8.25″.

Even this gun attachment is taken right from the show.

In looking at this figure, what immediately stands out as “animated” aside from the colors is the sculpt of the chest. I mentioned earlier that this figure is based on the build-a-figure from a few years ago, but it’s been re-tooled in several places and the upper torso is one such place. The musculature has a very soft look to it which is in-line with the show. There’s basically just a hint of pectorals and nothing more. The other details of the costume, such as the shoulders and the collar area, look as they should. The only parts not exactly screen accurate are the boots and the gloves. The boots are just all-together busier in their design, something an animated show would strive to eliminate. The hands are similar, but they’re also just not sculpted right as he should have a blue knuckleguard on each hand. Lastly, the cables that connect his arms to his back should plug-in around the elbow and not the forearm. Obviously, these inaccuracies exist because Hasbro is reusing old parts and I would say it’s mostly fine. While I would love to buy action figures that are committed to matching the source material to a more exact specification, I know that’s not Hasbro’s approach. They do things mostly with cost in mind and basically think giving us a new torso is good enough. The issue now is that approach was more acceptable when these figures were a lot cheaper. It’s something that will bother some folks, and for others it won’t. In my experience Hasbro has done a good job of conditioning its fanbase to accept these figures for what they are so my expectation is most will be unbothered.

In typical Hasbro fashion, they give you some of what you want, but not everything. This gun has four barrels, but you get just 3 blast effects.

As a last bit of aesthetics, we should talk about the paint job. Apocalypse is quite purple and quite blue, as he should be. Hasbro prioritizes using as much colored plastic as possible with their figures and this one is no exception. The paint is mostly limited to the head, upper torso and the gauntlets. The head is where the most paint was needed and it’s done well enough. We’ll talk about the appropriateness of the expressions when we get to the accessories, but there’s enough paint to bring out the sculpted details of the face with minimal slop. He’s not the easiest face to paint as the lips basically wrap around the whole head and he has that gap in the blue on top of the head, so Hasbro did a very nice job here. What is unfortunate though is his head is in two pieces glued together and there’s a blue seem as a result between his forehead and the portion of his flesh that runs up his head and it looks stupid. Otherwise, the paint details are fairly simple and done well enough. The chest even has this really nice, matte, finish which looks great, but also makes the shiny, plastic, portions look worse by comparison. Where they had to match colored plastic to painted, the figure also looks fine.

The source material for the gun is clearly the show, though it was simplified a bit for this release.

The elephant in the room when it comes to paint is obviously the exclusion of cel-shading. This is a retro card release, so cel-shading isn’t normally expected, but he’s also animated Apocalypse and the other X-Men animated figures all have it. Personally, I would like characters based on a cartoon to feature a paint job that reflects that medium. On the other hand, I concede that the cel-shading in the VHS line has been applied poorly. Part of me would like to give Hasbro some credit here in thinking that with a bigger figure to work with, the cel-shading would turn out better, but there’s no guarantee of that. They seem to struggle just finding the right colors to use when shading (see the hideous mustard color they use to shade yellow). Ultimately, it is what it is. I would love some shading on the torso, especially, but it’s not here. Maybe that’s a good thing? I don’t know, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t think he clashes in a significant manner amongst the other figures in the VHS line so I guess it doesn’t matter that much. As was the case with the accuracy of the sculpt, the absence of shading is going to matter more to some, and not at all to others.

Would it have been hard to just give us one more teeny, tiny, piece to stich in that bottom barrel? Though the proper thing to do would have been to sculpt a new, double-barrel, blast effect that plugs into both at the same time.

Moving on to accessories, Apocalypse is pretty much par for the course when it comes to Legends these days. He doesn’t have a lot, but at least here what he does have is done well. First of all, he has two sets of hands: fists and open, “clenchy,” hands. That’s fine as it allows him to look menacing, dramatic, and you can even get those clenchy hands to grab onto another figure. He also has two heads: an angry one and a stoic one. The angry one is reused, and the stoic is new. As a comic inspired sculpt, I think the angry head is fine. As an animated Apocalypse? It’s terrible. He basically never looked like this in the show so I probably won’t be using it. The stoic head is more my thing. It’s still done in the Legends style so it’s not a toon-accurate look for the character, but that’s been true of almost every release in the VHS line as well save for Wolverine. I refer to it as stoic, but he is frowning and looks kind of ticked off. I do wish the shape of both was different as Apocalypse tends to have a wide jaw compared with the top of his head, in both the comics and the show, but these heads are pretty uniform. If it were up to me, I’d have gone with this head, but with less detail to remove the frown and paired it with a laughing head. Imagine a laughing Apocalypse on your shelf with his fists on his hips or his arms crossed? Perfection. Lastly, we have the optional gun part. It attaches to the forearm and the cable can even plug into it. It is taken directly from the “Beyond Good and Evil” plotline when Cable confronts Apocalypse at the start so it is pulled right out of the show. It looks nice and Hasbro even included some blast effects for it which I would not have expected. It’s nice to have as it allows you to display Apocalypse as a menacing overlord on your shelf, or as someone willing to get his hands dirty which was rather true of the character in the show. They could have loaded him up with more arm attachments, but this feels like a fine selection of stuff for Apocalypse. It just would have been nice to get a new effect part for the main part of the gun that plugs into both of the center barrels. Since they instead gave us three separate pieces, one barrel will always be empty.

The gripping hands are wide enough that you can make your Apocalypse perform chokeslams on Wolverine.

Time to talk about the articulation. Despite being a big boy, Apocalypse moves okay and is pretty standard for the line. We have the ball-hinged head that lets him look up and down, all around, and even tilt the head a smidge. The collar doesn’t really get in the way until you try to rotate the head, but the range is decent. The shoulders are just ball-hinged and he can raise his arms out the side and rotate them pretty well even with the shoulder pads getting in the way slightly. The elbows are single-jointed and he can’t quite hit a 90 degree bend, so that could be better. The wrists rotate and hinge horizontally. In the torso, we get an ab crunch that lets him bend back a bit, and crunch forward a decent amount. It’s mostly colored plastic here so paint rub shouldn’t be of great concern, but it’s worth being mindful of. The waist is just a twist and the legs are ball-pegs. He can damn near do a full split and is capable of kicking forward just fine, though the cheeks will prevent much rear leg motion. There is a thigh cut which does what thigh cuts do and the knees are double-jointed. There’s no boot cut, but down in the ankles you have the usual hinge and rocker combination which works just fine. More importantly, everything is nice and tight so he shouldn’t be toppling over on your shelf. Apocalypse really only needs to hit a few poses and this figure is capable of doing that.

He is here to crush the mutants, and seems capable enough.

All in all, I am quite pleased with this release for Apocalypse. Yes, I would have preferred this come in the VHS line for both the packaging and the cel-shading, but since it didn’t, at least we got a fairly robust release as far as accessories go. I’ve been pretty disappointed with the majority of the VHS line because of the poorly applied cel-shading, inappropriate reuse of some sculpts, and the dearth of worthwhile accessories. It’s really been a money-grab kind of line and at least this Apocalypse feels more substantial and like a better value. They actually did some re-sculpting to make the figure more cartoon accurate, and while they didn’t go as far as they could with that, I think most will find they went far enough. My preference would have always been to receive figures with sculpts actually designed to mimic the animated look, but Hasbro was never committed to doing that for one reason or another. This figure does suffer a bit as a result because the head isn’t right and the veiny biceps look stupid on Apocalypse (and they would look stupid on any version of Apocalypse so I don’t get the thinking here). The rest of its shortcomings are just par for the course with Marvel Legends, like the dearth of paint apps (the cables look especially plain), so regular Legends collectors will likely be content. Unless someone else can get the license to produce animated X-Men figures (highly unlikely), this is unfortunately the best we’re likely to get. And at least with Apocalypse, this one does indeed feel good enough. Most of the VHS figures are not and the feeling of settling is palpable with each one, but here I don’t feel that way. At least not as much.

Apocalypse does come at an inflated price though of $40 which is obviously a lot for a Marvel Legends release. This one at least feels more worthy of that price compared with the VHS figures at around 28 bucks. A comparable figure would probably be NECA’s Chrome Dome from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line which was also $40. I would argue that the NECA release is a better value than this as it came with more stuff, more paint, and was 100% new tooling, but it also came out a year ago so maybe in 2022 it would be $45. Value, as always, is rather subjective, but in this case I think the value is there. If you’re interested in picking this one up, you may have to dig around a bit as it is sold out in several places. Hasbro Pulse still has it open for order so that may be the safest bet. Amazon does as well, but they can be hard to trust. Re-stocks may be on the way too so I don’t think it’s one you’ll have to spend a fortune on eBay for, but I also would recommend acting fast since I don’t think this one is ticketed for big box stores which would indicate there will be fewer of these out in the wild than the Age of Apocalypse version, by comparison. More importantly, if you can find some time today (admittedly, difficult given the holiday) or maybe even just this week throw on some classic X-Men and take a trip through time. It’s incredible to think I was watching the show as a kid 30 years ago, and while it may not hit the same as it did for me then, it’s still a worthwhile nostalgia binge and a show I think is worth celebrating. Or if you want to read more about it, I’ve covered both Previously on X-Men and the X-Men art book and recommend both to fans of the show. Here’s hoping the sequel series due next year is able to carry on its legacy.


Mondo X-Men TAS Wolverine 1/6 Scale SDCC Exclusive Action Figure

Look who finally arrived!

When San Diego Comic Con was cancelled for 2021, many of the entities that would have sold exclusive merchandise at the event pivoted to web sales. And since the 2020 iteration of the famed event was also canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many seemed to expect the same for 2021, or the massive delays experienced by many industries just played a large role in delaying product intended for the event to sometime after. I talked about this in my review of the NECA Toys San Diego Comic Con set for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The wait for that seemed long, but it wasn’t as long as it was for my most anticipated release related to the event: Mondo’s 1/6 scale Wolverine!

Each box is individually numbered and comes with a slipcase featuring storyboard art for the show’s iconic intro.

Halloween 2022 is going to mark 30 years since the premiere of X-Men on Fox Kids. The animated series was the introduction to the famed superhero team for a generation of fans. It was what helped vault the already popular team of mutants from just a comic book phenomenon to something bigger. Since then, the X-Men have seen their standing relative to other costumed superheroes falter some, largely due to Marvel selling off the film rights to 20th Century Fox leaving them out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which has turned also-rans, like The Avengers, into some of the hottest properties in the world. Seriously, as a kid if you told me The Avengers would one day dwarf the X-Men in popularity I would have looked at you as-if you had two heads. It was just unheard of at the time that Captain America or Thor would ever have that kind of appeal.

Am I really going to open this?!

Well, 2022 is apparently the year the X-Men will attempt a comeback! In celebration of the animated series turning 30, we can expect a host of new merchandise to mark the occasion including a series of action figures from Hasbro. And it will spill over into 2023 with a new series set to launch on Disney+ continuing the adventures of the animated universe which ended in 1997. The appropriately titled X-Men ’97 is still shrouded in mystery, but we know a lot of the voice cast is returning to reprise their roles and there seems to be an energy about the franchise that hasn’t been there in recent years.

Oh my god, that’s perfect. How can I open this?!

The first of this new wave of merch is now upon us. Mondo’s take on Wolverine from the show was the first such figure I saw announced. I’ve been pounding the drum for a dedicated line of figures based on the show for years now, and seeing Mondo enter the market was a huge development. Mondo is a company I’m not personally familiar with. I certainly know of the company and their wares, I’ve just never owned any as they tend to stick to larger scales. And larger scaled figures come with larger price tags and larger space requirements. Do I necessarily want a sixth scale version of the X-Men? No, but seeing how it’s just the first of what I hope will be more toys based on the property I had to jump in and support it. And to make the package even more special is the SDCC theming which positions Wolverine in his longing pose on a cardboard bed pining over his unrequited love for Jean Grey. It’s a scene, and a meme, brought to life and it certainly put a smile on my face. What didn’t was the hefty price tag of $200 plus $20 to ship it. I wasn’t certain of the price until I got into the website to order it, and by then I was past the point of no return. At least with Mondo charging upfront some of that sting has subsided in the ensuing six months since I ordered this item. Any bruises have been replaced by my own longing to get this thing in-hand and see how it turned out.

I opened it.

First of all, the packaging is quite fetching. It almost feels like a crime to open this guy. It’s an elaborate window box positioning Wolverine on his bed, photo of Scott and Jean in-hand, looking pretty miserable. He’s got himself a nice pillow propping him up, and it’s the type of package that I see many people never opening even though he’s got an assortment of parts for a more traditional display. If the price tag wasn’t so high, I’m sure more would entertain the idea of leaving this figure sealed and buying another for display. This is the SDCC exclusive, while a standard release is expected to follow that omits the packaging and some of the accessories that will cost less. How much less is still unknown as the figure has yet to go up for order anywhere. I am very entertained by this package, but I can’t leave him in place, so out he comes!

He’s out! Though he doesn’t look any happier. Mondo included a stand that is unnecessary, and kind of boring. They couldn’t put a big, red, X, on that base and dress it up a little?

First of all, getting Wolverine out without destroying this box was a challenge, but one I successfully navigated. The ties on his torso aren’t actually twisted, so they can be pulled off once you slide the display out of the window box. Getting at the other stuff was more challenging as it’s under the bed and you need to open it up. I found going at it from the foot of the bed easiest and was able to slide out the inner cardboard box and the bagged accessory piece as well. From there, I found it easiest to just snip at the other ties holding him down to the plastic bubble. Mondo wisely put paper inbetween the ties and the figure so you don’t have to worry about scratching it as you remove them. The hands and picture frames are wrapped in plastic to hold it in place and that has to be just torn off. Once the restraints are removed he lifts out rather easy. The pillow is also tied down and I just left it for now. It’s funny, when the figure is in the box I never noticed that the pillow is basically just suspended in air on top of the plastic bubble, but once the figure is out it’s definitely noticeable.

Wolverine towers over his Fox Kids contemporaries.

Now that Wolverine is out, I can tell you he stands at about 10 3/4″ to the top of his head. The “ears” take him to around the 11 1/2″ inch mark. The sculpt is very neat as there’s not a lot of articulation showing. The cel-shading is also done in a manner where it goes from lighter on the figure’s right side to darker on the left. It’s most noticeable on the gloves as the top of the left hand is almost entirely painted in a dark blue while the right hand has just a bit of that on the left side and palm. The head features shading on just the left side of the yellow portions and it’s very subtle from the front. The exposed flesh on Wolverine’s face has some shading on the left side and above the chin. True to the show, the black ears feature no blue accents. The rest of the figure follows the same pattern with the paint getting progressively darker as you move from one side to the other. There are three shades of red and three shades of blue on the belt and trunks to accomplish the effect while a more saturated, honey-like yellow, is used to outline some of the muscles. It looks pretty damn terrific and accomplishes what it set out to do. One could quibble with the chest area as the shading is least pronounced there. Maybe adding in some white would have accentuated that as that was a common tactic in the show, but sometimes less is more.

Bring in a quarter scale turtle though and he’s dwarfed. He’s still got bragging rights on Venom though.

The overall sculpt for Wolverine is also quite nice. His ears really fan out and are a bit narrow in keeping with the show’s look. It stood out in images to me as being a little odd, but in-hand the likeness seems more realized, or I’m just charmed to finally have it. He’s broad-shouldered and the musculature looks rather true to the show and not overdone. I like how they did the hair on his arms entirely with paint which keeps with the somewhat flat look of animation. The X logo on the belt is sculpted and is rather clean which does a fine job of drawing attention to it. Everything looks well-proportioned too, though it will be interesting to see how much taller future figures are in the line given that Wolverine is among the shortest characters on the show. Mondo pretty much nailed the look of the character and it’s nice to see.

As far as I can tell, the “Come here” hand is best utilized to recreate this legendary cover. Too bad he doesn’t have a smiling, unmasked, head.

And that’s just out of the box with the sad face and no clawed hands. Underneath that bed is the other stuff. For starters, Wolverine has an open right hand and a relaxed, sort of gripping, left hand for the packaging setup. In addition to that he has the following: left open hand, left curled index finger hand (maybe for a “Come here” gesture?), a right gripping hand, clawed fists, and clawed fists with the sparking effect arcing between them. The gripping hand is here for the turkey leg accessory, another frequent meme or gif shared on social media, and it could also hold the picture frame if you really want it to. The clawed hands feature long, hard, grey, claws. I think one could argue they should have been white in keeping with the show, or white with some blue shading, but they look okay. The claws on the arcing piece are perfectly straight and it’s a great looking item. The sparking part is a translucent blue plastic and it’s soft and bendy which helps make it easy to pop the hands in place. I’m surprised they didn’t just make the blue part removable, but maybe they feared people breaking the claws when putting it on. Swapping hands is mostly easy, but those claws are tricky to work as it requires some force to remove the hands and you have to be mindful not to break the claws (or stab yourself). I’ll probably display him with the arcing effect for at least a little while. The picture frame is really well done and you can remove the picture from it via a slit in the top. It’s not probably not going to be easy though as it doesn’t seem to move around at all in there. It might be easier to just continue to use photoshop instead.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to swap the clawed hands if you just take the claws off first! I actually had forgot about the teaser images for this figure which featured Wolverine with un-clawed fists or with just one claw extended to carve the turkey. The claws are in there pretty snug out of the box, or at least they were on one hand for me. Maybe swapping hands around caused the other one to loosen, but either way, I was able to pull them out of one hand easily enough while the other I dipped in hot water first. It’s a great idea for a figure at this scale since the claws can be thick and durable enough to withstand such use and they’re not tiny and likely to get lost. All of the channels on Wolverine’s hands feature holes for the claws, but they definitely do not go in easy. I think if I really wanted Wolverine to have claws in the non-fist hands I’d probably have to insert a paper clip or something into the channels first just to widen them and push some of the paint out of the way, but it’s probably do-able. I don’t particularly think he needs to be able to have claws on his non-fist hands, but I do like the option to have his fists without the claws if I want. It also makes it easier to straighten the claws, as they probably won’t look perfectly straight out of the box. Of course, I took most of my pictures before realizing I could even do this, so if you think his claws aren’t straight enough in my images at least you know that’s something that’s adjustable.

Snikt!

Wolverine also has extra portraits to work with. The default one is the sad face which is mostly good for a laugh, but isn’t one you’re likely to display outside of the pose he came in, but it will probably be something fun to use with photography. He also has a neutral head and a teeth-gritting, angry, head. Both expressions work very well for this version of the character and it’s hard to pick a favorite, or would be under normal circumstances, but I’ll explain that in the next paragraph. Wolverine also has an unmasked head that looks…okay. He’s making an odd shape with his mouth and I don’t know what Mondo was going for. Something more neutral would have likely looked better. I do like the shading on his hair though and his mutton chops are on display. It’s not terrible, but hard to imagine many using it.

The hair looks good, but I don’t know about that expression.

Lastly, we have another odd, but welcomed, head in the form of Morph. He’s depicted with his black hair and a slight smile. His facial structure looks good, but the eyes are a bit off. They painted black lines on the bottom of the eyes and then additional lines below that and it makes them look like they’re upside down. I don’t think they needed the added lines for this particular expression and they probably should have outlined the whole eye. Still, it’s something people are unlikely to make much use of since Morph never changed his body to look like Wolverine in the show while leaving his head unchanged. He did the opposite with Gambit, though. I know Magneto is slated to come with an Evil Morph head, but beyond that I don’t know what the plan for the character is. Seems unlikely they’d go full build-a-figure with him at this scale, but who knows? Maybe they’ll just do Morph eventually and he’ll completely different portraits and these will be bonus extras for those all-in on the line.

This is actually a Morph figure with a bunch of Wolverine heads.
Hey, another use for sad Wolverine and the Morph head!

Where things do come apart at the seems a bit with this figure is with the overall paint job. Bigger figures mean more opportunities for shading, and also more opportunities for things to go off the rails. The main figure is largely good, but there are parts where the paint gets a little iffy. The black teeth, or claws, on the torso aren’t always sharp. The worst spot is on the figure’s right just below the pectoral where the yellow and black meet to form a little green. There’s also a little paint rub on the left thigh where it meets the blue trunks. Yellow is tough to work with as any little instance of rub is going to show, but it’s still disappointing. By far though the worst is with the neutral expression head. That has a bunch of the black paint mixing with the yellow over Wolverine’s left eye. It looks like what happens when you go from using a black watercolor and dip it into yellow without cleaning the brush well enough. It’s terrible looking and renders that head unusable, as far as I’m concerned. I did reach out to Mondo in hopes of getting a replacement because it’s not acceptable for any figure to have that bad a paint app, and certainly not one that cost 200 bucks. All of the other paint imperfections I can live with and find acceptable, even at this price point, but not that head. I haven’t heard back as of this writing, save for an automated response, but I’ll update this post accordingly should I hear from them. UPDATE – not five minutes after this post went live I was contacted by Mondo to say a replacement was on the way and should arrive within five business days. Nice!

UPDATE Part 2A week and a day following my initial reach out and I had my replacement. Only, Mondo didn’t replace the one head I had an issue with, they replaced the whole thing! Yes, they sent me a whole other, unopened, still sealed, unit. It’s kind of crazy and I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I want that head, but do I want it enough to open another one of these or should I just keep it sealed and deal with the initial crummy one? I did take the bad head out of the baggie it came in to find it’s more like a glue that is on the head. I don’t know if I can remove it without damaging the head further. I’m tempted to try and then paint it, or I could just open the new one and see if it has a better neutral expression then ship it off at cost to someone I know would like to have this and might not care about a bad head. Regardless, that’s certainly good customer service, even if I think Mondo is kind of crazy to not just have some spare parts on-hand.

Well, that’s not good.

The articulation for this figure might be the only other area collectors are likely to find fault with. Mondo likely prioritized the overall aesthetic for Wolverine with articulation taking a back seat. Personally, I’m happy with that decision and I think it’s the right choice as the animation was pretty stiff. Wolverine’s head sits on a double ball-peg so you get rotation and the ability to look up and down slightly. There’s also some tilt. Some of the heads seem to have more range than others as I could get sad Wolverine to look up a bit, but angry Wolverine not really at all. The unmasked heads are a pain to get seated properly on the peg and sit quite deep so their range isn’t any better. At the shoulders are standard ball-hinges and you will want to take care not to rub the shoulder pads. They come out to the side a decent amount, but not 90 degrees. There’s no biceps swivel with Mondo instead opting for a swivel just above the elbow hinge. It works okay and I admittedly like the look of his arms so I’m fine with the trade-off. This does mean the elbows are single-jointed so that’s a bummer as you’re not going to do better than 90 there. The hands are on ball joints so they at least move around just fine. Removing the default ones was a little scary and I did dip them in hot water just to air on the side of caution, but I have not had any issues swapping them.

Posing isn’t going to be this figure’s strong suit, but he does balance really well.

In the torso, Wolverine has a diaphragm joint and a waist twist. The diaphragm joint is quite noisy so there’s a lot of rubbing going on so do be careful. It lets Wolverine tilt back a fair amount, but he doesn’t crunch forward hardly at all. You do get some twist too, but again, lots of rubbing and you have that black paint right underneath. The waist twist is just a twist and doesn’t feel like a ball joint. The belt and trunks are also all one piece so, again, be mindful of potential rubbing. At the thigh, it feels like we just have a simple ball and socket joint. Again, and I sound like a broken record, lots of rubbing on that crotch piece so how far forward he can kick is largely dependent upon how far you want to push it. There’s a twist there too which works fine and the knees are double-jointed, but really just present a 90 degree bend. At the ankles we mostly have a pivot, or rocker, joint as there’s very little up and down because of how deep into the foot the joint was set. He stands just fine, though Mondo did include a stand, but doing a running pose or something similar would be a challenge for Wolverine. The joints are all at a good tolerance. Nothing is loose, and none felt scary to move out of the box. It’s just not the most dynamic assortment of articulation, but it is very low profile. And really, the only thing that would have made him more exciting for me would have been butterfly joints so he could really reach out with those claws. Those tend to be ugly though so I understand why they aren’t present. Others may feel differently though.

Ultimately, this just looks like Wolverine from the show and I think that will make a lot of people very happy. Plus, that packaging! They even included the reference art on the back of the box!

Mondo’s first foray into the X-Men animated universe is mostly positive. Objectively speaking, this figure has some problems. The articulation isn’t great and certainly the paint on one of the heads is not acceptable. I also assume the more minor paint issues will vary from figure to figure and there are more subjective things to critique like some of the shading choices or the expression on the non-masked head. For me personally though, this figure is a ton of fun to both look at and handle. He looks like the character from the show I loved as a kid and I couldn’t be happier that this exists. Certainly, I wish he didn’t cost 200 bucks as this line will get very expensive if all of the figures are priced at that level. This is the San Diego version, but also the brown costume variant was priced at 200 so who knows what the going rate is going to be? On the other hand, if they only put out one or two per year then that certainly makes it a lot easier to budget.

Wolverine is lonely though. Imagine Sabretooth at this scale?!

This version of Wolverine was a convention exclusive limited to 3,250 pieces. If you want him, you’ll have to go to the secondary market or hope that Mondo does indeed release a stripped down version in the future. Again, Mondo has been pretty quiet about that release and future ones so I don’t know if that’s still the plan. The secondary market is basically you’re only source for this one now where it will likely cost more than the $200 Mondo charged. How much more remains to be seen. Right now, the listings are pretty high, but I don’t know if they’re actually selling. This is a rather niche item because of its scale and there’s a very real possibility that those hoping to make a buck have to settle for far less than they expected. Over three-thousand units isn’t a small number for this sort of thing so keep your eyes open if you want him. As for me, I can’t wait to have a more robust X-Men collection to display. Between Mondo and Hasbro, it figures to be an eventful 2022 for the almost 30 year old show.

That was a long one, I could really go for something to eat. Who wants turkey?!

X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series

A few years ago, I talked about my love of X-Men, the animated series, via a book review of Previously…on X-Men by Eric Lewald. That book chronicled the development of the 92 animated series that helped propel the Fox Kids Network to the top of the Saturday morning leaderboards through notes from the author and extensive interviews with the folks that helped bring that series to life. Now, Lewald is back with his wife Julia with a complementary piece all about the artists and artwork that went into creating that series, X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series.

There are probably a few individuals out there who first wrinkled their nose at the thought of an art book based on the animated series starring the X-Men. That’s because the show was somewhat famously underserved by Saban Entertainment who had little interest in sinking much money into the art and animation that went into the show. It’s not that the show was abysmal to look at, it’s more that it was always going to be compared with Batman: The Animated Series. Both shows launched in 92 on Fox, though X-Men only in a sneak preview with the proper launch coming in January of 1993. Batman was on weekday afternoons, while X-Men was allowed to reign over Saturday morning. The other big difference though was Batman had the might of Warner Bros behind it which produced the series and just licensed it out to Fox. X-Men had the backing of Marvel, which wasn’t what it is today. Marvel was a bit touch and go for many years even when it was starting to take over the news stand with a lot of help from the mutants who starred in this series. Rather than self-finance though, Marvel licensed it out to Saban who partnered with Graz Entertainment. The budget was never going to be the same, nor was the confidence. X-Men was unproven outside of the comic book world, and thus received just a one season order initially, followed by a second, before eventually the big order came in.

X-Men on the front, bad guys on the rear. What does it say about me that I think I prefer this to the cover?

Despite all of that, and a legend who had no idea how the property should be presented (::cough:: Stan ::cough::), the show was a smashing success. It’s interesting to look back on because I think many consider Batman to be the superior show. And yet, X-Men was the ratings champ and my favorite of the two. And when it came to my friends, most liked Batman, all loved X-Men. I don’t know why that is, though I have some theories. Batman was a known property and the show reflected the Tim Burton films. Whenever something goes from the big screen to the small one (especially in the 90s), there’s a feeling that the TV version is inferior. The X-Men may have lacked the recognition of Batman, but it also lacked any sort of baggage. Batman was also quite great at being a moody, superhero, show with a lot of style. It was also mostly rooted in that, where as X-Men was an ensemble with more characters to lean on. Batman was almost devoid of personality as a character by choice, while basically every member of the X-Men (well, maybe not Cyclops) was rather colorful able to display a wide range of emotion and even drop a one-liner or two. Or maybe it was just the prestige of being on Saturday morning? Either way, it was a good time to be alive.

It’s an art book, so expect a lot of artwork!

Both shows were part of a gradual maturation taking place in children’s cartoons. We basically had left the wacky and cheap 80s in favor of something that actually had respect for its audience. Shows like The Pirates of Dark Water and my beloved Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars were quite different in tone from the likes of Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Most of those shows still featured a character that could be turned to for comedic relief, and even Batman has the Joker. X-Men didn’t really feature that though. Morph could have been that character, but he was killed off rather quickly. It’s a drama starring people in bright spandex that captivated me as a kid. The serialized nature and some of the nuance of the show asked something of me, and I was willing to rise to the program as a mere 7 year-old. It’s no surprise to me that when I look back on my youth, X-Men is there and always will be as it was far and away my favorite program.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the book is getting to read the descriptions that go along with each storyboard panel.

And despite what you may think, a lot of really talented and devoted artists contributed to this show. Knock the animation all you want, but I’ve always been rather insistent that the show looks pretty great in stills. Sure, pick through it and you’ll find some weird stuff or miss-colored limbs and costumes, that’s true of a lot of shows from that era. Where this book is able to shine is with the stuff not broadcast. All of the developmental art that went into the show; costume ideas, height charts, storyboards, are quite rewarding to look at. When Lewald and his team were handed this property, there were decades of material to cherry-pick for the show and a lot of ideas were cast aside. There’s also plenty of production art, like cels and such, that are quite interesting to look at. Especially some of the backgrounds, like the lair of Mr. Sinister, which featured several layers of artwork to make it right.

And it’s not just art! The books is broken out into six chapters, plus an intro and an afterword, with each containing a detailed breakdown of what went into each section. Some of this stuff is lifted from the prior book, so it will be a bit familiar for those who read it, and some of the details are new. Since this book is focused on the art of the series, you’ll hear additional nuggets about what went into a character’s look or a particular background. There’s a lot of ink spent on the various cameos that occurred throughout the series and some of the other details may surprise and amaze. One such nugget came from Director and Storyboard Artist/Supervisor Larry Houston who pointed out how difficult it was to animate a character like Mr. Sinister. His irregular cape basically forced Houston to storyboard the character with as little motion as possible. Basically, the camera was either directly in front or behind him and he was basically never allowed to rotate. It’s fun to go back and watch the series with such information in hand and it gives some newfound appreciation for all of the work Larry and his team had to do before sending an episode off to Korea for animation.

When the X-Men ruled the world!

There’s a lot to unpack in this book and I don’t want to reveal too much since a lot of the enjoyment I had was uncovering things I either didn’t know or really paid little attention to. There’s also some nice additions to this one like a collection of all of the episode logs and a picture to go along with it. Some time is spent on looking back at the X-Men craze, like the Pizza Hut promotion and the action figure line from ToyBiz, which might make you wish for a third book that covers all of that tie-in merch. The book itself is also quite lovely. It’s hardbound with new cover art from Houston, I think. There’s no explicit “Cover” credit, just a case credit to Houston with ink by Rick Hoberg and colors by Laura Martin. It’s a bit confusing as the inside of the front and back cover are storyboards which were definitely done by Houston, so the credit may be referring to that. Regardless, the cover, featuring the main team including Morph and Bishop, and the rear cover featuring the villains of the series look great. Pages are nice and thick and the whole thing totals 288 pages. Since it’s mostly artwork, it’s not a tremendously long read, but it’s hardly brief. I mostly read it while sipping a morning or afternoon coffee (first starting my read, appropriately enough, on a Saturday morning) over the course of a week. It was a wonderful, leisurely, trip back to the 90s and my youth that not only left me wanting more, but also with a desire to go back and revisit the show once again.

One of my favorite inclusions in the book is the visual episode guide with accompanying logs, a tremendous resource to have on-hand.

X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series is a great companion to Previously…on X-Men. It’s a book intended to satiate fans of the show, but would also probably entertain casual fans as well. I had a great time engaging with the art from the property, and while I already had a pretty terrific appreciation of the art that went into the show, I think those who might not have that same level of appreciation will likely leave with a bit more. Eric and Julia Lewald do a great job of recounting their time with the show and the various artists and executives they speak with bring a lot to the table. It’s my assumption that anyone with a love for this old show will be delighted by this book and it’s something I plan to flip through again.


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