It seems ToyBiz loved Spiderman as much as Spider-Man has been made into plastic more times than any other Marvel hero. Thanks to the folks at ToyBiz, collectors have a huge representation of the Spider-Man universe available. This archive spotlights all the good, the bad and the downright ugly!
Unlike today's "toys", that seem to target the 'collectors' market more than it does the children's market, in the 80's and 90's however action figures were generally targeted for young children with many variants of the main characters and all types of "action" features. Many of the characters, accessories and features had little to do with the series or comic books but were designed to appeal to the younger audience.
Toy Biz produced and manufactured Spiderman Action figures between 1994 and 2007. During this period they released more than 20 lines of Spiderman figures with literally hundreds of variations.
Most of these figures were generally massively over produced with poor sculpting and paintwork and as a result remain fairly easy to get hold of even 30+ years later. Also nearly every series, except a couple, had two or three different Spider-man figures, which were essentially the same. The only difference between them was generally the included accessories, the paintwork or the action feature. Some had a different hand different hands, but on the whole the bodies and head-sculpts remained the same. About the only plus side was that they were great fun to play with and were immensely popular with kids. Each of the figures in series 1-7 of the line also had a Bonus Collectors Pin.
The backing cards were fairly generic also to keep down costs, with a cartoon style Spider-man logo (see above) at the top. Below this the left hand side of the card featured a cartoon style drawing of the figure on the card, and on the right hand side was the bubble containing the figure, which took up approx two thirds of the card.
The top half of the back of the card featured the Spider-man logo at the top and the same image as on the front with a short bio of the character. The top left hand side shows a diagram of the figures 'action' feature.
The bottom half of the consisted of photos of each of the characters in the current series and the previous series, e.g. series 4 had photos of the series 3 and 4 characters on the back.
The first line of figures released by Toy Biz was the Spiderman Animated Series line which ran from 1994-98, which in turn was based on the long running Spider-Man comic book titles.
The first few series of the Spider-man line was modeled after their appearance in the animated series. This also influenced which characters would make it into the lineup.
The first seven series came under the general “Spider-man Animated” title but from mid-1996, i.e. after series 7, they decided to give each release a sub-heading. This was mainly to assist retailers differentiate from each series, as there were a total of 18 by 1998, when ordering, re-stocking and stocktaking etc.
Spiderman web racer – This action figure slides back and forth on a string. Has strong sculpting but fails on points of strong articulation. This figure also came with a special Spider-man collectors badge.
Spider-Man Web Shooter- This was the second Spiderman figure in this series. This was the first variant of Spiderman released under Toy Biz, and the second "real" spider-man figure in the wave.
He had a regular red and blue glossy paint job with a black spider on the chest and on his right arm, was an embedded web-device, which protruded from his palm. When you flipped the switch, he would launch webs from his wrist.
Smyth – This is the Smythe transformed version. Smyth featured very good articulation and TV series accurate sculpting. He also had a removable ponytail adding a touch of bling for collector’s fun and a double punch ability when flipped.
Venom – This was the first action figure of Venom and was a decent sculpt of the animated series character and featured a movable head with chomping jaws.
The big bad black symbiote, Venom, was a fan favorite and this figure looked cool with its jet black and white color scheme. When you brought his legs together the jaws would open and close in a chomping motion.
Carnage – Also, a symbiote, like Venom, there was Carnage, painted red and with patterns of plack all over. This figure proved to be a popular character for Toy Biz, with snap on weapon arms and decent articulation the figure was a hit from the time it hit the shelves. He came with several accessories that could be clipped on, i.e. a claw and an axe. For his “action feature” when his waist was turned his arms moved in a punching movement.
Dr. Octopus!- Almost as famous as the hero himself, Spidey’s oldest foe Dr. Octopus was second in the line and featured whipping tentacles and great articulation and a fairly accurate sculpt. With a bright color scheme; green and yellow, and four mechanical arms which were moved by a cord in each arm and a "knob" at the back, which was pulled to manipulate the arms a simple yet elegant action feature.
Hobgoblin When released, most people didn't know the character, but the CEO of Toy Biz, back in the day, instructed them to include it as a part of the first wave since the figure had already been created. Hobgoblin came with two accessories; the goblin glider and a tiny pumpkin grenade. However, the face sculpt wasn’t one of the better sculpts in this series. He featured a spring-loaded arm to help hurl pumpkin bombs, a glider and cape to complete the look.
This was another excellent line of figures introducing some of the newer characters from later episodes of the Animated series. The villians in this series were some of the more popular characters, which made this series very popular with fans. Carnage was originally due to be in this line-up but was dropped to shorter the number of figures to help keep costs down.
Six Arm Spiderman- This was quite a unique and popular figure of Sider-man. On this figure Spiderman had six arms that were a result of a failed science experiment. All the arms had articulation, as well as the legs, bendable knees and neck movement.
Also the figure came with a webbed up punch glove and webbed up club with spikes. A cool, weird "action" feature was that all the arms rotated at the shoulder when the legs were squeezed together.
Battle Ravaged Spiderman- The Battle Ravaged Spiderman featured our hero wearing a ragged, torn and dishevelled looking outfit. He looked beat up, with claw marks on his thigh, a torn mask and hair tuff sticking out from the top of the mask and a removable camera in his belt. He also came with what seems to be a ripped up tentacle from a fight and a soft webbed backpack that split opened when squeezed. He had the usual joints in the neck, shoulders, elbows, legs, and knees.
Spider-Sense Spiderman- The overall costume on this figure was painted black with red spider web patterns and blue leggings. The figure also had a large peg at the side of the for his web crawling action!.
He came with a web-hook and cord that attached to his wrist, then when the peg was pressed, his arms would move up and down, to climb. Which, realistically, is kinda weird because, with his abilities, why would he need this?
Articulation: neck, shoulders, elbows, knees and legs that could kick out.
Nick Fury- dressed in a blue outfit with white boots, gloves, and an eye patch Nick Fury is an imposing with a "Missile Launching Jet Pack" with shooting missiles that plugged onto his back and a side-arm that attached to the side of his waist.
Articulation: arms, legs, knees
Punisher- AKA Frank Castle was a popular character in this line, painted and designed in great detail. One of the best figures made in the entire lineup. He possessed very strong articulation and a sculpt with a strong resemblance to the animated series character. The Punisher came with a removable plastic shoulder belt, a headset, an ankle knife and a gun with yellow glue shooter effects that could be added to make it look like his gun was spitting out bullets.
Articulation: head, shoulders, elbows, legs and bendable knees.
Morbius- This was another fierce-looking character from the series but lacked the blood-sucking holes in his palms. He was painted wearing a black dinner jacket, red shirt with white veins running across his arms and blue pants. He also had piercing red glowing eyes, a goatee beard and long black hair. To complete his vamperic look he came with a scary looking bat that could be attache to his forearm. This figure allso had the added feature that when his likes were squeezed together his face changed from vampire to Morbius.
Articulation: Arms + legs