The mammoth comic book giant that is Marvel has a history of creating awesome superheroes and spectacular supervillains with their own respective superpowers, mutations and character traits. As comics progressed, so did the need to satisfy their fans with real-life role-playing toys and action figures. ToyBiz produced and marketed the very first Marvel figures in 1990 under the “Marvel Super Heroes” moniker, giving us collector favorites like Captain America, Dr. Doom, Silver Surfer and Hulk. The first X-Men line would follow in 1991, which included a few X-Factor characters. From there, ToyBiz had a hit, and soon it was series after series after series, culminating in 2001 with its X-Men Evolution figures. ToyBiz would also go on to produce the Spider-Man Classic and Marvel Legends series.
There’s nothing like holding in your hands your favorite comic book character, be it in the box or loose, to display or play with your friends. But, in all its greatness, Marvel has had its share of misses to go along with the hits. There are some characters that fans downright hate and others that have soured a storyline or two. What’s worse is sometimes these characters see the light of day in 3-D form. What’s even worse than that is sometimes the characters we love also see the light of day as action figures, and are a complete letdown for one reason or another. What follows is a countdown of the top 15 worst action figures that Marvel has ever produced, some obscure and some best left forgotten.
15. PROFESSOR X (X-MEN SERIES 5)
How dare we put the leader and creator of the X-Men on a worst figures list, you say? Hear us out. This figure is straight-up boring. Professor X’s power is his mind; there is no external visage or mutation that makes one say “Wow,” like you would for Wolverine’s claws, for instance. When you played with Professor X, you just moved him around in his gold chariot and pretended he mind-controlled your Magneto figure. Fun.
Oh, don’t forget, he might have flipped up and pressed buttons on his “Secret Control Panels,” too. All this Professor X figure is good for is satisfying those completists out there, the ones who scour eBay, Amazon, Craigslist and vintage toy stores to complete their ToyBiz X-Men collection. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and so is your money on such an “action” figure.
14. TOAD (MARVEL LEGENDS SERIES 1)
This looks like a 3-D depiction of some 16th Century painting your grandma has in her parlor. The figure is packaged with a swamp base and a frog for him to hold in his hands. That’s it? A frog? Perhaps we can blame the artists who drew him in X-Men #4 in 1964 for the awful color scheme, but this looks like a dirty circus clown. It looks like some demented Scarecrow waiting to kill you in your sleep.
All this figure does is stand there in its dumb Iron Sheik shoes, holding a frog and grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The figure doesn’t even leap or have any other kind of action, which is Toad’s whole “thing.” What a waste of plastic, creativity and shelf space. Do you know what happens to a Toad figure that is struck by banality? It ends up on a worst figures list!
13. THE PUNISHER (MARVEL SUPERHEROES)
Let us preface this by confessing that we love The Punisher. We love the violence, we love the backstory, we love the vengeance, and we love Garth Ennis’ run over two volumes. That being said, the action figures produced are usually spot-on, with great sculpts… except for this one. Our loathing is thanks to just one reason: He’s smiling.
Frank Castle doesn’t smile. Frank Castle AIN’T GOT TIME TO SMILE, with all the punishin’. How are you going to make Punisher figure look happy? Do you know what this guy went through? Vietnam. Family murdered. Wiping out the mob. Tying up Daredevil. A couple of Ma Gnuccis. Dying. Resurrecting. Franken-Castle. Make the cap weapons this sculpt came with as loud as you want — if he looks happy doing it, we’re not happy playing with it.
12. LUKE CAGE (MARVEL’S GOLD COLLECTOR’S EDITION)
If you were looking for the bright yellow open shirt, bare chested, jacked Power Man of the `70s, keep on keepin’ on, because this isn’t it. Instead, this is a roided-up Luke Cage in an oversized jacket. The face sculpt is a bit off-putting too — we mean, they made him angry, but, like, Grace Jones angry. And what’s with the cloth costumes for these action figures?
We want cool features and stuff that shoots off and electronics and color-changing stuff — not the joy of dressing and undressing our toys. The “Marvel’s Gold” was a one-shot series that produced figures that otherwise may not have seen the light of day. This one shouldn’t have. One would think ToyBiz would have put a little more effort into such a premise of an action figure line.
11. J. JONAH JAMESON (SPIDER-MAN MONSTER MAYHEM)
For the first J. Jonah Jameson figure, it sure is a let-down. The figure comes with clothing that is so oversized and ill-fitting that it looks like Jameson is taking part in some vaudeville act or part of a Dollar Store dress-up doll kit. Not much thought went into this character, as the face sculpt is mediocre and there is poor articulation for a character who is always written and drawn as super animated.
In general, it’s a quite embarrassing debut for such an iconic character in the Spider-Man mythos, who’s been a part of Peter Parker’s life since Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #1 in 1963. In fact, the figure looks like it was created and designed in 1963. ToyBiz couldn’t even debut the figure solo, but packaged him along with five other poorly-dressed and designed figures.
10. BROOD (X-MEN SERIES 5)
The X-Men Brood figure is one that everyone else before you left dangling on the display rack and was the only choice left. It’s the one in the discount toy bin, along with 75 others. Its marketed features are its flapping wings and swinging tail. That’s about as exciting as it gets. We’d rather have a Wolverine Brood figure, or Storm for that matter, and not some plastic incarnation of the insects we can find in the heat of summer in the Poconos or the swamps in the bayou.
The 8-foot-long Brood debuted in Uncanny X-Men #155 in 1982 and have since had a long history in Marvel Comics, especially in its battles with the X-Men and the Shi’ar. The least ToyBiz could have done was make his figure in exclusive 12-inch version in special packaging, due to the level of badassery that comes with the insect-like creatures. Even a 2-pack with Captain Mar-Vell or Deathbird would have been awesome.
9. WHAT IF? CAPTAIN AMERICA (MARVEL SELECT EXCLUSIVE)
What if this figure didn’t look like a depressed robot? What if Diamond Select didn’t package the shield in a way that it wasn’t slightly bent upon opening? The color scheme on the Diamond Select What If? Captain America is just off. The Stars and Stripes scheme looks great on the real Cap, but not so much on this figure. Furthermore, the pedestal resembles a volcano and some pebbles, and not a realistic exhaust plume, which is what the sculptors intended.
Based on the 2008 variant cover to What If? Civil War #1, the figure is a far cry from the artwork, looking too skinny and the armor sculpting too humanoid, not to mention the red shoulder pads. Heck, an Iron Patriot figure is 100 times better than this, and actually fulfills our desires. What if Captain America did dress in Iron Man armor? Then maybe he could have avoided that gunshot.
8. BANSHEE (X-MEN SERIES 2)
We’ll give ToyBiz credit: the 1992 Banshee figure from the “X-Men” line focused on the character’s two main traits, which are his sonic scream and his cape. Unfortunately, the toy company sacrificed practicality for aesthetics. For starters, this figure was a glorified whistle. There was a whistle stem right in his back and the noise came out (if it ever did) of his chest. You know what could have worked even better? Batteries and some electronics to make the sound.
Second, the figure lacked elbow joints, as, one could only guess, ToyBiz wanted to show off the cape opening and closing. Thus, it gave the figure one vertex and one ray on each side, no bending. Plus, there’s nothing like you and all neighborhood buddies blowing into and sharing the same toy whistle. Yes, that’s probably how you got Mono in 8th grade.
7. MORPH (X-MEN SERIES 6)
As a kid, we appreciated Morph in the X-Men cartoon series, a mutant that could shapeshift into anyone at-will, like the X-Men’s own Mystique (well, before she joined in the movies). It would be a cool power to have! You’d be a hit at parties! So, why couldn’t the toy do it too? They have a Batman figure in the early 1990s where you could add and remove the Batsuit. We can’t even get a Magneto outfit, or a Wolverine?
All Morph had were three interchangeable heads, one of which was just him making an angry face. No claws? Not even a Beast or Nightcrawler head? The figure could have been better if packaged in a 2-pack with Mr. Sinister. But, we digress. The lack of fun and ingenuity has landed Morph on the list.
6. BONEBREAKER (X-MEN SERIES 7)
Bonebreaker is half-tank, half-biker from an ’80s action movie. The character debuted in Uncanny X-Men #229 in 1988 as a member of the Reavers (you know, like the baddies in Logan). Unfortunately, Bonebreaker didn’t do much in the comics, and doesn’t do much as an action figure either. He came packaged in the 1994 X-Men figure line separated from his bottom half. Lose the tank, and all you’ve got is a tragic amputee with a gun. He went from Bonebreaker to just broken.
Plus, it looks like a toy that would have broken easily, too. What do you call a toy with no lower half? Awful. What’s a terrorist without his tank chassis? Nothing. Not unlike when you take away the Segway from a mall cop — what are you left with? Just a guy with a starched outfit, a cereal box badge and a Taser, chasing after a kid shoplifting candy. That is what Bonebreaker is, in toy form.
5. MARROW (X-MEN GENERATION X)
The Marrow figure from the ToyBiz “X-Men Generation X” line came with bone shards as accessories that you could shish kebab in her like some plastic voodoo doll. Unfortunately, the only hexes that would probably work would be the ones cursing the geniuses that pitched this toy. Look at this Morlock’s face — it’s almost as if she likes being speared by bones. We get that, as a mutant, Marrows’s power is that she can weaponize overgrown bones torn from her body, which have worked to her advantage since debuting in Cable #15 in 1995. But this just looks like she’s eerily enjoying it.
At least make her look more menacing and in pain, like some female Doomsday. This figure was a complete waste of money. Look, if you want fun stabbing a figure, might we recommend the Shish Kebab Beetlejuice figure from Kenner.
4. MADAME WEB (SPIDER-MAN SNEAK ATTACK)
Sneak Attack? How does a mute/blind woman conduct a sneak attack, exactly? We mean, physically. Can Madame Web sneak attack psionically? Certainly. Too bad we physically play with our toys. Of course, if anyone was unlucky to own this Madame Web, they probably didn’t. There’s nothing exciting about an action figure with no action. It’s like your buying the coma version of the figure after Juggernaut rips her out of her chair, following her debut in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #210 in 1980.
There’s no projectile, no fancy light-up feature — just a sticky web thing with mini-spiders. Maybe you can pretend a secret conference between her and any one of the thousands of Spider-Man figures out there, but other than that, Madame Web should get used to going nowhere.
3. SUGAR MAN (X-MEN MUTANT MONSTERS)
For a 7-foot, multi-armed villain that played a major role in the 1995 “Age of Apocalypse” storyline — fighting epic battles with Colossus and Callisto after debuting in Generation Next #2 — Sugar Man’s 6-inch figure gets four thumbs down. (See what we did there?) Marvel released Sugar Man under its “X-Men Mutant Monsters” line, but was it really necessary? He’s possibly one of the worst villains in an X-Men story, with a confusing name, and he’s not too menacing either.
Wouldn’t a larger version, at least, make it a bit better? After all, he can change his mass at will. He’s basically a walking, talking balloon. If the arms ever fall off, all you’re left with is a big head with a bad ponytail. Plus, couldn’t we at least get some kind of prehensile tongue for the figure? Just looking at this guy, you know he was top-heavy, which is annoying when displaying such a figure.
2. SHE-FORCE WOLFSBANE (MARVEL HALL OF FAME)
This figure has more tufts of hair coming out of her ears than your 86-year-old Uncle Joe. Instead of making a Wolfsbane figure all Masters of the Universe Grizzlor style, what we got instead was a lycanthrope with dabs of glue and hair in six places, like bad facial hair makeup in a middle school play. It would be cool to play with a werewolf figure, but not this. This is no way to honor a princess, we’ll have you know!
She looks like a milk chocolate candy bar that dropped on the couch where the dog always sleeps. We don’t know whether to brush this thing, play with it or give it a well-needed flea dip. She-Force Wolfsbane was marketed under the “Marvel Hall of Fame” series, which, we think you’ll agree, is pretty ironic.
1. AUNT MAY (MARVEL’S FAMOUS COVERS)
When someone says the old cliche, “It’s what nightmares are made of,” he or she is most definitely referencing this rare 8-inch monstrosity. Marvel released this ghastly Aunt May figure in 1997 as a mail-order-only offer, commemorating Amazing Spider-Man #115.
Look at this thing. Is this figure in mid-facelift? The original Poltergeist scared the living crap out of us when we were kids — so, no thanks, we don’t need an action figure of the old demonic reverend, especially one the height of a beer bottle. Imagine having that dead-eyed-looking Aunt May staring back at you from a shelf in the dark! Once out of the package, the figure — with its pastel apron and outfit — looks like Leatherface took a baking class. Truly haunting stuff.
What’s the worst Marvel action figure in your collection? Let us know in the comments!
** Special thanks to the following for images: a1toys.com, MarvelLegends.net, SpaceWizards.ca, thetoyscavenger.com, Terapeak.com, antiquealchemy.com, spideyscard.webs.com