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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

X-amining X-Men Action Figures: X-Men Series V & VI, X-Force Series III

Year of Release

Roll Call

X-Men Series V
Silver Samurai, Morph, Beast, Random, Fitzroy, Robot Wolverine (Albert)

X-Men Series VI
Senyaka, Rogue, Bonebreaker, Ch'od, Raza, Kylun, Civilian Wolverine

X-Force Series III
Cable (4th Edition "Air Assault"), Pyro, Rictor, Sunspot, Mojo, Quark, Shatterstar (2nd Edition)

Firsts and Other Notables
X-Men Series V features a first for the line, an exclusive-to-the-animated-series figure in Morph, created to serve as cannon fodder in the series initial two episodes.

Series VI features the first Rogue figure, only the second female figure (after Storm) to be featured in the line. As memory serves, she was always a difficult figure to find, as being short-packed (because stupid toy executives didn't think boys wanted to play with female action figures as much as male ones), there were fewer of her on the shelves, and being packed with a line of relative peg-warmers (Series VI was the lowest-selling wave of the line to-date, leading some to fear the entire line would be cancelled) meant there were tons of other figures constantly on the shelves, but very few Rogues.

The Senyaka figure in series VI was a Toys R Us (RIP) exclusive, though that didn't prevent it from being a perpetual peg-warmer as well, because who was really crying out for a Senyaka figure (I mean, *I* had one, but only because no better figures were available for purchase the day I bought him).

The Silver Samurai figure, which looks nice (shuny!) is notable for having terribly articulation: the knees bend, and the arms can raise (but not very far, because of the massive shoulder pads), but it is otherwise just a big ol' hunk of plastic.

Beast, which is otherwise a pretty great figure, comes with an action feature that is ostensible meant to flip the figure in mid-air: the thigh joints are spring loaded, and a small (thankfully fairly unobtrusive) lever on the back are meant to push the figure into a crouch until released, at which point the figure pops up and over itself. In practice, I could never make the figure do anything over than fall over.

Series V token Wolverine figure is, actually, a stealth figure of Albert, the robot Wolverine who teamed up with Elsie Dee early in Hama's Wolverine run (and who will be appearing in it again shortly). Albert is hardly a figure that needed to be included (he'd appeared in all of a handful of issues at this point), but if Toy Biz felt the need to pack at least one Wolverine into every assortment, making one of them double as an actual unique character is not a bad way to go.

Bonebreaker (a puzzling inclusion, as the character was long dead in comics at this point and was not a fixture of the cartoon) is another unique figure, as it's really half a figure mounted on tank treads. Kudos for Toy Biz for thinking outside the box, and the figure does strike a neat profile amongst the other "regular" figures, but I nevertheless recall it being a perennial peg-warmer as well.

Series VI features a pair of figures from the Starjammers - another odd inclusion, though presumably, Toy Biz was aware of the animated series' upcoming "Phoenix Saga" run (in which the Starjammers feature heavily) and was getting some figures out ahead of that story (which will inspire a wave of figures all its own).

For the first time, the X-Force series features more members of X-Force than not: in addition to the requisite Cable variation (an "air assault" figure that, as far as I know, is not directly inspired from a comic book look), Shatterstar gets a second figure, featuring his new Greg Capullo-designed costume (and is all around a pretty solid figure), and both Rictor & Sunspot make their action figure debuts.

Somewhat puzzling, Mojo is included in the X-Force series (puzzling because outside of one annual, he's predominantly an X-Men villain); it almost seems like Toy Biz designed the figure, ran out of room in the X-Men waves, and just dropped him (and Quark) into the X-Force line.

Thanks to Raving Toy Maniacs, Figure Realm, and Cool Toy Review for the pics. Picture sources

Of Their Time
Random gets his own figure, making him only the second member of All-New X-Factor to receive a figure (and that's when generously counting Random as a member; at this point in the comics, he's hired help, at best.)

Fitzroy's figure is based mostly on his appearance in Uncanny X-Men #301-302 and comes with snap-on "crystalline" armor that, like Silver Samurai's armor, restricts the figure's articulation.

Senyaka not only gets his own figure, but a retail-exclusive figure, despite being dead.

Similarly, Kylun, despite having already been written out of Excalibur, is the first member of that team to receive his own figure (not counting the Nightcrawler released as part of Series I).

Pyro's inclusion amongst the X-Force figures seems odd, given how he's generally regarded as a classic X-Men villain (and he was one of the bosses in the arcade game), but it is most likely inspired by X-Force having hosted the debut of the then-current Toad-led iteration of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

And finally, Quark, presumably on the back of his appearance in one chapter of the "Shattershot" story in the '92 annuals, receives a figure ahead of a vast number of long-standing X-characters.

Favorite Figures
The Morph figure is probably the best of this bunch, cleverly representing his power (via a series of heads - Wolverine, Cyclops, and Angry Post-Resurrection Morph - that can be swapped in for his own), with the end result, thanks to his wearing a standard X-Men training uniform, being a figure that can easily stand-in for other figures (Morph with the Wolverine head looks a lot like the third Wolverine figure from Series II), upping his playability.

Beast is another great figure, a great big honking chunk of plastic representing one of the bedrock X-characters.

Rogue's figure is a lot smaller than some of the others in this line, but having another female in the line is greatly appreciated, and the representation is pretty solid.

Despite the oddness of his its inclusion, the Quark figure is actually a lot of fun. It's bulky, but well-articulated, with a fun but unobtrusive "quick-draw" action figure. Quark has a character is barely a non-entity; as a result, it was easy to drop this figure into various scenarios and use him in a variety of ways.

And finally, the Mojo figure is a delight, another massive figure that captures the essence of the character. There's not much in the way of articulation, but the scale of personality make up for it.

Austin's Analysis 
In a lot of ways, the '94 figures represent the best and the worst of the line. On the hand, figures are getting bigger and more detailed, opening the possibilities of the line (if they can make a Mojo figure, they can make anyone...), while action features continue to become more unobtrusive (Beast's backflip may not work very well, but at least there's not suction cups affixed to his hands and knees). These series also really start to show the influence of the animated series - Morph, obviously, but it's also doutbtful we'd have gotten a Rogue figure if not for her animated popularity, and even Civilian Wolverine (an otherwise not-terrible variation on Wolverine let down a bit by his awkward elbow-less arms) comes straight from the screen in terms of his look - but the comics continue to serve as inspiration, for better and worse (Silver Samurai, Fitzroy, Bonebreaker).

This batch of figures also crystallizes a third motivation behind which characters get rendered in plastic, with figures like Bonebreaker, Senyaka, and Kylun suggesting an eye on general playability over cartoon or comic relevancy. There's no good reason to make a Bonebreaker figure in 1994, except that a guy who's half tank would be fun to play with. Similarly, a lot of the members of Excalibur have difficult powers to translate into action figure form (a half-transparent Shadowcat would be cool, but wouldn't really entice the kids), whereas Kylun, despite his lack of fame, is a guy with two swords. Similarly, Senyaka is a nothing of a character, but he's got whips, making the walk from those whips to a button on the back which activates his "whip-cracking action" a short one.

At the same time, this wave of figures suffers some of the worst figures in terms of playability, from Silver Samurai, who is a nearly-immobile hunk of plastic, to Beast's awkward action feature, to Random, who has some nice heft to him but sacrifices articulation for the ability to "shoot" (non-springloaded) missiles from his arm gun. Mojo is a great addition from a fan perspective, but from a playability perspective, he doesn't really do much. The end result is a batch of figures with something of an identity crisis: inspired by both the comics of the time and the cartoon, with an emphasis on both fan favorites and playability, and featuring both some of the best figures of the entire line and some of the worst.

Next Issue
Tomorrow: Cable #8. Next week: Unstacking the Deck - Fleer Ultra X-Men '94.


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  2. Let's see... out of all three of these waves, my brother and I owned Silver Samurai, Morph, Random, Fitzroy, Rogue, Ch'od, Raza, Civilian Wolverine, Mojo, and Pyro. I had no interest in X-Force, so we only got the two X-Men villains from their wave. I think our Ch'od and Raza came later, though, in a "Phoenix Saga" boxed set that also included Corsair and an exclusive Dark Phoenix (repaint of the regular general release Phoenix figure).

    I still vividly remember the day we discovered these figures. We were out -- my parents, grandparents, brother, sister, and me -- and I somehow convinced my dad to stop at the local comic shop even though there was no plan to do so. My brother and I went inside; I was looking for comics, but we spotted these new X-Men figures we'd never seen before on the wall, including Beast and Morph! They were tagged at the princely sum of $10.00 each, but we went back out to the car and convinced my parents to buy one for each of us. And as I recall, we never actually saw those two at regular retail, so I guess it was the right thing to do.

    It's so surreal to think back to my childhood, when you didn't know what toys were on the way until you saw them on shelves. Nowadays (and really even dating back to the days of TOYFARE magazine, among others), you see prototypes and such online long before they're released.

    Beast was easily my favorite from this group simply for his existence -- he is a major core X-character after all. I really wanted to like Rogue, but I felt like she was too small next to the other newer figures. It was like she was sculpted to fit in with the earliest figures in the line rather than the bulkier ones that were now seeing release. This was made even worse by the fact that within another year or so we'd have Phoenix, a beautifully sculpted female figure who positively dwarfed both Storm and Rogue in size!

    I also really liked Morph -- as a character he wasn't necessarily terribly useful, but his action feature was totally benign and thus he was one of the best articulated figures in the line. I loved Silver Samurai despite his lack of posability -- and Pyro was great too, though he didn't really live up to his full potential until Toy Biz produced Avalanche and Blob within another year or so.

    These were some good lineups and they come with great memories, as will the next few waves you look at.

    1. Forgot to note that I was always disappointed we got Ch'od and Raza, then Corsair, but never Hepzibah. I got the X-MEN 2099 La Lunatica figure as her stand-in. If you pretended really, really hard, she could pass for the Jim Lee incarnation despite the totally different costume and lack of ears and a tail.

      You noted above that it was toy executive-think that led to female figures being vastly underrepresented and short-packed on the occasions they were actually produced. I believe this was, at least with regards to Toy Biz, specifically Ike Perlmutter-think, an influence which still permeates certain parts of Marvel to this day, unfortunately.

    2. Ha, La Lunatica was my stand-in for Hepzibah too!

    3. I was quite pleased with this Rogue. Maybe I'm an easy customer, but she looked the part and had TWO fists. (I was always a stickler that characters notable for punching their adversaries being able to do so in action figure form.) The variations in scale didn't bother me too much until the Generation X lines about a year or two later. ToyBiz got heavy on sculpting at the expense of articulation around that time, and somehow produced a Jubilee that TOWERED over all of her teammates. Bad form considering how long we'd been waiting for her.

    4. I'm probably retroactively modifying my thoughts on Rogue. I'm guessing I liked her initially too -- but my opinion of both her and the original Storm fell when Phoenix was released, far more in scale with other characters in the line.

      I was a scale nut, though. I've always been a little jealous of kids for whom it didn't matter. My Transformers never teamed up with any of my other toys because they were grossly out of scale. I would've loved to play "He-Man meets ThunderCats", but again scale put the kibosh on that idea.

      I forgot about the Gen-X Jubilee figure! She was awful, so much so that I never got her despite liking the character. I loved the Gen-X Banshee, though. He fit great with the regular X-Men figures. The White Queen wasn't bad, either.

    5. Oh, MOTU and ThunderCats scale-mixing definitely would've been a bridge too far for me as well. I could tolerate differences in scale within like, an inch. Those original ToyBiz figures were very hard to reconcile with the sculpts from this time. You could still make it work with characters like Nightcrawler (slight in stature) or Storm (having no other choice). But Juggernaut, Colossus, Apocalypse? Those geeks had to go.

      That Phoenix figure really was great though and put earlier renditions of the X-Women to shame.

      GenX Banshee was a DRASTIC improvement over skinny awkward whistle jammed in his back original Banshee.

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  4. Kylun got a figure? Wow. I mean, Young Blam never imagined he’d see action figures of the Starjammers and Right-This-Minute Blam couldn’t have told you who Quark or Senyaka were even from the pictures, but Kylun just feels like a really deep cut. Maybe because Excalibur was so tangential to the X-Men line for so long — and, like you say, no other members of the team besides Nightcrawler have shown up.

    Civilian Wolverine looks pretty rad.

    I wonder if the folks who chose Beast’s ridiculous electric blue for the live-action movies had this figure. He seems to have appropriately dark fur in the group shot you posted first but the later solo photo might explain (yet still not excuse) one of my great peeves about the films.


    1. Huh. Sorry about the repeated comments. They weren't showing up for me.

    2. What does it say that Kylun wasn't even the most obscure character to get an action figure in this specific assortment? Bonebreaker?? Senyaka???

      To say nothing of Quark, Slayback, Killspree, and Krule over the course of this run. The '90s SURE were a thing.

    3. Scott Lobdell wrote a guest column in an issue of TOYFARE where he talked about how proud he was that Senyaka received an action figure since he was his favorite of the Acolytes he created. Or something to that effect; it's been a couple decades since I read it.

      Lobdell also noted, as I seem to recall, that he and Fabian Nicieza had an informal contest between them when it came to creating Acolytes. I think they tried to make them as weird and obscure as they could.

      Trivia: In the column, Lobdell referred to the character as "Senyaka from Sri Lanka" more than once. I don't know if it was ever confirmed in the comics, but I guess, at lest per his creator, that's where he comes from!

  5. Similar to Matt, I first encountered these figures in the form of overpriced comic shop offerings. Morph and Fitzroy, who I grabbed up at the first opportunity. It was more the novelty of seeing new X-Men toys than a genuine longing for either character (though I was pretty excited for Fitzroy at least, since he was basically impossible to "sub" with a different character). Morph, despite getting a big push in the animated series and having the very fun interchangeable heads gimmick, was basically relegated to the role of "de-iced Iceman" in my personal X-Men stable. I just had little interest or use for the poor guy otherwise.

    Beyond that, I recall rarely seeing these assortments in stores. Nevertheless, I must have run my dad absolutely ragged that Christmas tracking them down because I'm reasonably sure I had every damn one. Beast and Rogue felt like BIG gets, as major characters receiving the first-time figure treatment and done very well. (Balanced on a flat surface, I could manage to flip Beast... onto his head.) "Civilian" Wolverine is also a damn near pitch perfect translation. There was even a jeep accessory for him (that he didn't quite fit in) to recreate countless melodramatic "I go where I wanna go!" scenes from the cartoon!

    Of the three lines, X-Force really crams in the most bang for your buck. Only one real dud in Quark, but the rest are must-haves for fans of the series. I share Austin's love for that insane Mojo sculpt and was relieved I could retire Daredevil as my Pyro stand-in. As proper team entrants, Sunspot and Rictor are also notably well-done. Shatterstar is fine as a figure, but I was disappointed by his swords being kinda small and shitty. For as much as ToyBiz insisted on giving everyone weird obligatory weapons, it sucked that they whiffed so badly on a legitimate accessory. Especially measured against the original Shatterstar's swords (too big for this figure to even hold) or even Ky'Lun's.

    Cable changes outfits constantly, but wasn't that "Air Assault" version pretty similar to a Tony Daniel design?

    Finally, Maverick was supposed to be included in series V. There's a faint line between Morph and Beast (and I feel like part of a gun or something) on these cardbacks indicating where his figure was cropped out. I believe he was released to comic stores in limited editions and will appear properly in the next wave. Curious exclusion for a hot early '90s character. Wonder what the rationale was there; already too many dudes with guns?

    1. I don't think I ever saw the actual silver-costumed Maverick in any store. I wound up with a repaint in blue. I don't recall what sub-line he was part of.

    2. I wanna say blue was the "official" Maverick release. That version was far more common and got packed in the next assortment or two with Havok, blocky Iceman, mansion Sabretooth, etc. The earlier silver one was probably exclusive to specialty stores. Maybe in a two-pack with Fitzroy? Something wonky like that. I definitely never saw or owned that variant.

  6. Oh the irony of Rictor and his gun in light of an upcoming issue of X-Force.

  7. Sorry for the relatively late comment, but I have so much nostalgia for this specific wave. My collection was built on the back of the Kay-B 3 for $10 bin, so I never saw Beast or most of the Starjammers or Senyaka, but there was no shortage of Rictor or the rest of X-Force.

    At the time I hadn't read any X-Force comics and just generic cool designed dudes were perfect for my friends and I's original characters to team up with the X-Men (my character was Morph). Also I had a Rogue figure and don't remember it being that rare, but it could just be one of the vagaries of toy distribution at the time. The one I never saw for outside of a comics shop was Beast, and that's the one I wanted.

    Even though I sold all my figures after sitting in storage for years, I still have this weird lingering desire to buy a Beast and a Mojo figure, just because I never had them.


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