Since I’ve spent the last two Marvel Mondays with Hot Toys, I thought I’d slum it up a bit this week with some Marvel Universe. Yes, this line still exists! It’s no secret that Hasbro’s 3 3/4-inch Marvel line has taken a backseat to their 6-inch Legends. Looking back, I only featured four of these smaller scale figures in all of 2015 and meanwhile I’m struggling to keep up with the non-stop flood of their larger cousins. And yet, Universe/Infinite Series, whatever you want to call it, continues to cling to life with new waves releasing every now and then. Last time I visited with this line I checked out a couple of Spider-Man villains, and since we recently got a teaser of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m going to keep the Spidey love going with Black Cat and not one, but two versions of Sandman!
Nothing conveys the excitement of a comic book action figure than drab, black and gray packaging. I know, I harp on this every time, but it’s such a far cry from the old days when you got bright and colorful character art and Hasbro had some fun with the whole HAMMER and SHIELD thing. At one point you got personalized figure stands and little envelopes with character profiles, but that’s all gone and the presentation for this line has sucked for a while now. The 3 3/4-inch line is getting re-branded this year, so here’s hoping we get something better. But enough harping on Hasbro’s cut-backs and lazy graphic design, let’s start with Sandman.
William Baker, or Flint Marko if you prefer, comes in his brown trousers, belt, and familiar two-tone green shirt. He borrows heavily from the now ancient Absorbing Man figure. And I’m not just talking about the carded release, but way back to the Secret Wars comic two-packs. Yup, this body has been around the block more than a few times now. I mean, holy hell, how many times are we going to see these legs? Absorbing Man, Drax, Luke Cage, Doc Ock… these trousers have seen more hand-me-downs than a pair of Goodwill bell bottoms. The torso is also from Absorbing Man with the shirt painted on. It’s a decent enough body, although the legs look super puffy to me when compared with the waist. The head sculpt is new and while it’s a tad soft when compared to some of the MU’s better offerings, it’s not bad at all.
Besides the head, the other new bits are sandy-effect forearms and these are done quite well. His right hand is an enlarged grasping claw and his left hand is a giant spiked fist-hammer. Both of the sand limbs feature some fine sculpting and paint work to make them look convincing. The grabbing hand is sculpted so that it can hold another figure by the arm or leg, which is pretty cool. If Hasbro gets around to doing Sandman in the 6-inch line, I’d like some swappable parts for these, but in the 3 3/4-inch line, that’s expecting rather a lot.
The variant Sandman is the same sculpt with an all sandy paint job. I’m not usually big on the repaint variants in the line, but here I think it works beautifully. I also really dig the white pupil-less paint for the eyes. If I were only going to go for one of these, I’ll confess I’d be torn on which one to choose.
Since both figures use the same older body, the articulation isn’t quite up to what I’ve come to expect from the recent releases in the line. That’s not to say it’s bad. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows. The legs are ball jointed at the hips and ankles, and double hinged at the knees. There’s a ball joint in the torso and another in the neck. I guess the thing I miss the most are swivel cuts in the thighs. Overall, these guys are pretty fun in hand, but they’re a little floppy and getting them to pose well on their own is damn frustrating. If you’re just looking for figures to stand on the shelf, maybe there is something to be said for the retro 5-POA schlock. Moving on to Black Cat…
Felicia Hardy features her iconic black body suit with sculpted white tufts of fur on the legs and arms, as well as around her plunging neckline. You don’t get the white paint for the boots or gloves, so it’s a little different than the look we got on her recent 6-inch figure. The headsculpt is a solid effort with a long white hair and her mask both sculpted and painted on the face. Extra details include the large hoop pull on her front zipper and a choker collar. There’s nothing terribly flashy in the paint or sculpt here, but Black Cat gets the job done. Still, it would have been nice if they ponied up for a tiny whip.
Like Sandman, Black Cat is built on one of the older style female bucks and that means articulation is more limited than what I would have liked to have seen in an acrobatic character like Black Cat. There are rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and ankles, ball joints in the hips, double hinges in the knees, and a ball joint in the neck. The lack of swivels in the wrists and thighs, as well as torso articulation of any kind is particularly disappointing, but there’s still some fun that can be had here.
Stumbling upon this trio of figures was a pleasant surprise for me, particularly because the pegs are usually full of much older waves. Add to that the fact that these were on sale for about $7.88 (in addition to a few others that I picked up) and it was like old times again. I almost forgot what it was like to come home from the store with a bag full of 3 3/4-inch figures of classic characters, rip them open, and have some fun. No, none of these are particularly amazing, but they’re solid, fun figures and they help fill out my 3 3/4-inch Spider-Man shelf.