What Spider-man action figures should you buy?
What are the best value?
What should you look out for?
Since the very first Spider-man action figure was released as part of Mego's Greatest Super Heroes there have been literally hundreds released of all shapes, sizes and styles, from the super-realistic, hyper pose-able to the abstract, comical and over-stylized.
Here we attempt to give you an overview of the diversity of figures available from a mix of manufacturers and supppliers along with some handy tips on things to look out for when buying your Spider-man figure.
Spider-man Trivia: Did you know that the hyphen was added to Spiderman because without it, it looks too much like Superman!
I will be highlighting a pick of seven Spiderman Man Action Figures, which will hopefully give you a good idea of the variety and quality of what's available.
· Spider-Man Unlimited
· Spider-Man Classics (Black Costume)
· Movie Spider-Man
· Spectacular Spider-Man and Venom
· Lego Spider-Man and Venom
But before we take a look at those let’s look at a bit of Spiderman figure history:
Spider-man Secret Wars
We’re going to hop, skip and jump through the 80’s because these lines have been covered in previous videos and articles.
In 1984 we had Secret Wars from Mattel, this was the first line in this scale that really let kids play with the Marvel characters, so based on precedent and nostalgia coupled with the rare link to Mattel this commands a decent carded price.
Six years after that in 1990 came the Marvel Superheroes from Toy Biz.
Now, because these guys went on to produce hundreds of Spidey figures (In fact search for Toy Biz Spider-Man on eBay and you’ll find three and a half thousand listings and that’s just for the ones that have been appropriately labelled) consequently this first one really isn’t massively collectible or in anywhere near as much demand as the Secret Wars version, which also notably gave us the first black costume to coincide with the comic event.
It was from The Marvel Superheroes that Toy Biz began branching out with their Marvel lines, first into X-Men which tied in with the popular 1992 animated show and then into the equivalent line for Spider-Man.
You can find out more by checking out our Toy Biz manufacturer video which also goes into detail on Marvel Legends.
The Spider-Man cartoon in 1994 kicked off a deluge of Toy Biz figures. Every character was rendered in plastic.
These were simple, colourful, cheap and fun with accessories and decent articulation. In fact you can trace the lineage from this line’s super-poseable Spider-Man through to the first run of the more collector-focused Spider-Man Classics and then on to Marvel Legends, the basic design of which is still in use by Hasbro for the same overarching license today.
The example figure I have here for review is actually from the little known, little-seen and even less loved Spider-Man Unlimited cartoon series which briefly followed the five season regular Spider-Man before Sony rebooted after the first movie.
First up you have to get past the actual condition of the figure. It seems like its last owner was an over-enthusiastic dog.
There are paint smears aplenty and its legs are wobbly and unstable. It’s also a horrible costume that’s missing the classic webbing detail of regular Spidey and going for a black and red combo. I can barely believe Peter Parker is in there, more likely some symbiotic spin-off that crawled away from Venom while he was sleeping.
Now, this was the actual costume design for the show so it’s not the fault of Toy Biz but I honestly can’t see anyone getting any joy out of this thing, and with the hundreds of other Spiderman Action figures out there this represents an unfortunate cul-de-sac in the webslinger’s TV career.
On the plus side, I really can see how they developed this style of figure into Marvel Legends, though it lacks nearly all the quality standards of all of those figures I’ve encountered and is slightly smaller, just a few more points of articulation around the arms, thighs, waist and neck and you’re approaching the well-known figure type.
Again though, the inexpensive production costs and regular new assortments in the Spider-Man cartoon line was what made it popular among the kids who at the time had little better to compare this with.
Moving swiftly on we have the Black Costume Spider-Man Classics.
Now, this exudes collectability and care in delivery from Toy Biz and was a real step up from them. The Classics series began in 2000 and after two series was restarted as simply Spider-Man, which ran from 2001, shortly before the first movie, for nineteen series until 2006. It was then restarted in 2009 by Hasbro once they had attained the license.
This black costume version was one of the first four produced in the first assortment . He was released alongside regular Spiderman, Venom and the terrifying Man-Spider.
These guys came with mini dioramas replicating the streets and mini posters to display with them. With this figure you got some brickwork, with a malevolent alien symbiote creeping out to envelop our hero.
Bases and dioramas are expensive to produce, using more plastic and increasing the shipping weight, but they do add a sense of value and distinction to an otherwise standard, if iconic figure.
As you can see it was sealed inside this clamshell packaging, which the spin-off series Marvel Legends soon shared.
On a personal note, I hate clamshell. It makes it near impossible to neatly remove a figure without ruining the box. You pretty much have to attack them with scissors and tear your figure free.
However, the boxes are heavy with weighted bases which makes them great for display and the figures inside are posed for action which makes the visual aspect more dynamic.
Out of the box he would be pretty much identical to the next figure I’m reviewing so I’ll leave him in there.
Suffice to say, like the Mego, this is a wonderful piece of Spider-Man figure history. Having said that, there are dozens of black costume versions out there and I actually like what Hasbro did with the paint scheme and sculpt of their more recent Legends figure.
They are, of course, building on this design and elaborating, which is how it should be. You can pick up this figure for about $15 plus shipping.
This brings me to Movie Spider-Man.
Now this guy is date stamped 2003 so that means he came out between the first and second movies. We’re looking at all the articulation from the Classics line, plus an enormous amount of texture and detail, tying him in with the real-world depiction on screen.
Just look at the scales on the dark blue panels of his costume. All the webbing is raised and delicately painted silver. He holds his pose well and I love the two middle fingers that fold in for his signature web-launching hand gesture.
This is an exemplary movie tie-in figure and really holds up today, especially as the Amazing Spider-Man movie line from the fourth film are in the titchy 3.75 inch scale as opposed to six inches here, which tends to make for a classic and ideal figure size, balancing play, display, detail and pricing.
In 2008, after Sony’s CG Spider-Man animated show, loosely tied in with the first film, proved unpopular and after Spider-Man 3 emerged to make $890 million despite being a bit rubbish, a new animated show was released which, to my mind, is the greatest depiction of Spiderman ever on big or small screen, or even the printed page.
It was called Spectacular Spider-Man.
If you haven’t seen this I deeply recommend tracking down the first series on DVD. It can usually be found at a bargain price and focuses on characters, stunning action and some surprisingly emotional developments.
These two figures are from the short-running toy line that accompanied it. The super-poseable Spider-Man is highly sought-after, especially with interchangeable Peter-Parker head, but what I have here appears to be a Spider-Man that used to drive a car or something. It drives me nuts when toy lines do this. Defying all logic to give Spidey a mode of transport that’s actually slower, more restrictive than his own webslinging and only serves to distract little kids easily pleased by a motorbike from the elemental simplicity of the totemic Spider-God Anansi that we’re seeing playing out here… sorry wrong meeting.
Anyway, after the super-posability of the last two reviews and a mere five points of articulation here, shoulders, legs and neck, this seems like a massively missed opportunity. The sculpting is neat and distinctive to this series but there’s not really a lot of play to it.
He just sort of stands there holding invisible ski poles. The sculpting on Venom, however is quite extraordinary. They really went overboard on his upper body. He has ball-jointed arms with enormous muscles and a hulking, threatening gait. A spring waist allows for a Masters of the Universe style swiping action and that menacing head seems to always be looking in your direction.
They went for the curious decision of a dark blue blend for the colour scheme in both metallic and matt finishes. Neither encapsulates the plain black of the cartoon, but they do make the figure more appealing, as though rippling with alien power.
His legs are a little loose and due to his upper weight it gives you only a small range of standing poses that will hold but he makes for a brilliant display piece and as my daughter will attest, some exciting play.
Unfortunately the scale is wrong between these two with Spider-Man uncharacteristically towering over Venom. Venom will set you back about $15 loose or carded.
More in the UK where these figures were never released.
Spectacular Spider-Man was cancelled after two short seasons. It was replaced by Ultimate Spider-Man which dispensed with characterization and emotion and replaced those with awkward, forced humour. It’s utterly tedious, and these Lego figures are based on those designs.
Like the Lego Superman talked about in the Superman Collectors Guide, this Spider-man action figure is rendered in cute, iconic fashion.
However, due to a more complex costume the figure is lacking in detail. Missing the red arm stripes, longer gloves, midriff and boots and resulting in an overly simplified look that suggests Spidey is dressing as himself for Hallowen. I do, however love the back detail, and especially the long Lego webs provided.
Venom is just the right colour, with a gruesome head and a weird, removable accessory to represent his flailing alien tentacles.
These come in a set with Lego Nick Fury and his flying car, along with, you guessed it, Spider-Man’s flying motorcycle. This was actually incorporated into the Ultimate show to give the toys some basis in Spidey lore. You can decide for yourself whether that strengthens a toy or weakens an already dismal cartoon.
Spiderman is to Marvel what Batman is to DC. He has made enough of an impact on our pop culture history that he can outlast any feeble depiction of him, and despite hundreds of toy incarnations, we’re really just scratching the surface on how versatile the character can be.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane but if you still want to find out more about our webbed Hero, stay tuned and follow the links below.
Now you know a little bit about what's out there take a little time to learn a bit more about the figures out there starting with the Toy Biz collections...