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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

X-amining X-Men Action Figures: Onslaught

Year of Release 

Roll Call
Apocalypse (aka "Apocalypse Rising"), Jean Grey, Onslaught, Wolverine (aka "Wolverine Unleashed")

Firsts and Other Notables
"Onslaught" gets its own line of action figures, the second comic book-specific story to inspire its own line of figures (following after the "Age of Apocalypse" figures, as well as the animated series-inspired "Phoenix Saga" figures). These figures are on the whole larger in size than previous ones (both in height and overall girth) and most come with a smaller, less poseable, second figure: Franklin Richards with Wolverine, Ozymandias with Apocalypse, and Jean Grey with a small Juggernaut trapped inside the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak

Rather than a second figure, Onslaught comes with additional snap-on armor pieces that mimic his transformation from his original Magneto-inspired form to the more monstrous form he assumes in Uncanny X-Men #336.

This represents Jean Grey's first action figure in the Toy Biz line (technically, she appeared as Phoenix in the line adapting the animated "Phoenix Saga", but this is her first wearing her 90s era uniform). 

To that end, Jean comes in two variants, a yellow/blue and a yellow/green variant. 

She also has a "weapon" which fits one end onto her head while the other approximates a claw that can grasp another figure, a neat representation of her telekinetic abilities. 

This line also features the first Wolverine figure with bone claws (and one of the this batch's few action features, as his claws can extend slightly). The Wolverine figure also has soft goods hair on his forearms. 

Perhaps the best detail of all these figures is the small bubble on Onslaught's back that shows a trapped Xavier peering out, recreating this panel from Uncanny X-Men #336.

Thanks to for the images! 

Collection Recollection
I remember picking up three of these four figures (all but Apocalypse) at a (likely going-out-of-business) Kaybee Toys at one of my local malls, but they are pretty much the last X-Men/comic book figures I would buy until the hyper-articulate Marvel Legends figures came on the scene in the next decade. Not that I was done with action figure collecting; by the time these figures were released, the revamped "Power of the Force" line of Star Wars figures was in full swing, and whatever (limited) disposable income I had earmarked for toys was going to those figures. 

Of Their Time
It's an entire line of figures built around the biggest X-Men crossover of the 90s, so, you know...

Apocalypse's figure is specifically inspired by his appearance immediately following his rebirth in Uncanny X-Men #335.

Wolverine's figure approximates his regressed-animalistic-bandana wearing appearance from the time of "Onslaught". 

Austin's Analysis
Continuing the line's (and really, action figures in general at the time) shift from more kid-focused figures with action features towards more collector-focused figures with an emphasis on dynamic sculpting & source material fidelity, this small batch of "Onslaught"-inspired figures are both bigger and less poseable than any previous figures in the line. At the time, it was a treat to finally get a 90s era, non-Phoenix Jean Grey figure but, unfortunately, she didn't really blend in with her peers, towering over them (the relative size of Apocalypse and Onslaught wasn't as bothersome, though the massive Wolverine figure was similarly problematic). It would also have been difficult to actually play with the figure, as her articulation is fairly basic and the figure is locked into a fairly static pose. 

Meanwhile, the figure inspiration is becoming much more specific: not only is the entire line built around "Onslaught", but the figures therein are sculpted based on singular moments from the story. This is the sort of thing the overall line had done plenty of times with Wolverine (crafting figures based on his "Team X" look from the Omega Red story in Adjectiveless or his animated civilian duds) but gets narrowed down to a panel-specific level here, with Apocalypse draped in the red cloth of his rebirth and Onslaught's "action" feature inspired by a single image from a single chapter of the story. All told, the things these four figures have in common - the larger scale, the limited articulation, the more detailed sculpting inspired by highly specific images and their shared role in a large, sprawling, comic book crossover - all speak to the same truth: by this point in time, the X-Men action figures were chasing older collectors far more than kids. The days in which X-Men toys were, first and foremost, to be played with, were numbered.  

Next Week
More "Onslaught" ephemera with a look at the Marvel Ultra: Onslaught trading cards! 

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  1. " this point in time, the X-Men action figures were chasing older collectors far more than kids. The days in which X-Men toys were, first and foremost, to be played with, were numbered."

    Aww, that's sad! Not something I had ever really thought about, but probably true. That said, there were still plenty of fully articulated figures to be released over the next couple years. Some of my favorites were the light-up wave based on Joe Madureira's artwork, which included a really nice Gambit, Psylocke, and Juggernaut, the "Monster Armor" wave with Mystique, an updated Jim Lee Cyclops, and a new Mr. Sinister, and the "Water Wars" wave, which included a white costume Storm and a very articulated Wolverine in his normal costume.

    (And Wolverine had an unmasked, bone claws variant, too -- with the unadvertised/possibly inintentional feature that you could swap their hands to give your masked Wolverine the comic accurate bone claws too. Which I did.)

    I agree on the limited articulation hindering these things. They look nice, but they're more little statues than action figures. Even though they have some articulation, they're clearly meant to be kept in very specific poses (i.e., Apocalypse can't stand with his legs in any position other than "default"). I assume this was done in reaction to McFarlane Toys' recently swooping into the marketplace with painstakingly sculpted, sparsely articulated comic book figures.

    That said, I did buy Onslaught, Apocalypse, and Jean. And I also recall where I got mine! At a Target which was, at the time, relatively new. It opened when I was a freshman or a junior in high school, I think, so it had only been in business for a couple years at this point, and it always had new toys before anybody else in the area (with pretty good stock, too). It was the same place where I had bought the "Phoenix Saga" figures as well, very shortly after the store opened.

    I was annoyed Onslaught didn't have his "Magento" helmet. I liked his first form way more than his evolved state. And I was also disappointed that Jean didn't fit in with the rest of the X-Men.

    Given it souds like you mostly stopped collecting the figures at this point, will you continue to X-amine upcoming waves? I still have a lot of nostalgia for several of the releases over the next few years (as you can tell from above)!

  2. Weirdly enough, while I had stopped reading the X-Books at this time, I actually owned the Onslaught figure for...yeah, I'd transitioned into being someone who bought action figures not to play with them, but to display. (Hey, I OPENED them at least.) I always did like all the various evolutions of Onslaught-the designs were great, it was just the story he was in that was the problem.

  3. Wolverine has “soft goods” hair rooted in his arms? That seems odd given that his muttonchops are still molded plastic — not that I’d expect or desire otherwise. A First Contact Data figure packaged with the Borg Queen, on the other hand…

  4. I was never very enthusiastic over Toy Biz's X-Men figures. Possibly because they looked "cheap" to me. Then, once they started to look interesting it was settling into the forced pose figures we see here. I did get Gambit, Rogue, Psylocke, Domino (from the X-Force line) and at least two Wolverine variants (classic animated and Weapon X, I believe) but I never developed much enthusiasm for them. I had definitely not collected anything during the AoA line or the Onslaught line. If I saw these figures now I might actually get the Jean Grey and Wolverine ones. The proportions of that Apocalypse figure just don't look right to me and it would drive me nuts having that on my shelf.

    I really wish we could get an X-Men line in the 3 3/4 scale like they did with X-Men Origins Wolverine. While not they flashiest of figures they were at least fun to pose.


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