While major studio film adaptations certainly act as the launching pad for many successful comic book franchises, the cornerstone to our beloved icons is and will always be merchandising. Mugs, games, T-shirts, and other tie-in materials all help usher comic book superheroes into the public consciousness, making their emblems and outfits ubiquitous with the culture from which they were birthed. It makes one wonder if Superman would be as popular as he is today if someone didn’t see a market for making toys based on the character. Marketing to a younger market is the key to longevity for comic characters. It gives those with the most active imagination to recreate adventures populated by our modern pantheon of heroes.
It’s no wonder that there are myriad action figures of most comic book characters marked to children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. You can’t walk down a toy aisle in any store without seeing dozens of superhero action figures lining the shelves. But sometimes, the influx of these plastic totems run off the rails. Overexposure runs rampant and eventually fans start getting more and more ridiculous versions of the characters they love. No hero is safe from this fate, but few have been subjected to it quite like Spider-Man.
15. MONSTER SPIDER-MAN
This one is so, so upsetting. There’s so much going on here with Monster Spider-Man and literally none if makes a lick of sense. There are limbs protruding from areas of the body that should not have limbs protruding from them. Other than the color scheme, it’s hard to relate this to Spidey. It’s as if someone took two or three figures, put them in the microwave and whatever melted together birthed this piece of nightmare fuel.
The anatomy alone is so confounding, it’s hard to say who this late ‘90s action figure was even for. Presumably it’s for kids who watched John Carpenter’s The Thing at a very young age and thought, “you know what would be cool? If Peter Parker was actually The Thing. That’d be cool.” Turns out, that would not be cool.
14. STEALTH NINJA SPIDER-MAN
It’s as if someone at Hasbro suddenly realized they had too many Ronin Warrior action figure bodies and instead of tossing them out, they repurposed them with a batch of rejected Spider-Man heads and a white spider stencil. Seriously, look at this guy. What exactly is stealth and/or ninja about this goober. If anything, this is Stealth Samurai Spider-Man(?). Maybe Hasbro hates alliteration.
If Stealth Ninja Spider-Man was not a product of necessity and cost saving tactics, it must have been the product of someone losing a dare, and then, presumably, their job. It would have been amazing to be a fly on the wall of the board meeting where this thing was conjured up. Whop thought it was a great idea for Spider-Man to have a serrated sword? What, with all the shogun adventures Peter Parker is always entangled in.
13. JUNGLE WEB SPIDER-MAN
It’s might seem a bit unfair to dump on toys targeted at toddlers to pique their interest in superheroes, but here we go: What is happening here? Jungle Web Spider-Man is part of a larger set, but even that doesn’t explain the craziness surrounding this tiny figure.
It’s hard to tell what is worse: the massive hiking books or the insane contraption slung over his shoulders like some sort of rejected torture device from a Saw film. We would almost turn a blind eye to the backpack, web launcher thing if it weren’t for those goofy clown shoes. We get that they are there for the practical use of balance, but why would Spider-Man need boots? Are the footy bits of his pajamas too thin to traverse rough terrain? He seems to get back the streets (and the sides of building) of New York just fine.
12. KA-POW SPIDER-MAN
Ka-Pow Spider-Man is one of the more recent atrocities on this list. Playskool released Ka-Pow Spider-Man and Ka-Pow Hulk (since, you know, presumably they’re rivals in the Ka-Pow Marvel Universe). Maybe when Ka-Pow Spider-Man was bitten by that radioactive spider, all the power went to his hilariously massive fists. Spider bites do tend to swell, after all. He should probably get that checked out by a physician. Those hands look infected (with Ka-Power!).
One could almost forgive the silly design of Ka-Pow Spider-Man if it wasn’t for how limited the playability of the action figure happens to be. This Spidey is basically one half of a way lamer version of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, a version of the game you would feel ashamed of asking a friend to play.
11. VAMPIRE SPIDER-MAN
Look, most of the action figures from Spider-Man Vampire Wars were pretty horrendous (don’t worry, more than one pops up on this list). But none are quite as upsetting as Vampire Spider-Man. During the height of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Toy Biz cranked out an unheard-of amount of Spider-Man action figures, and not all of them were great…most of them were not.
Vampire Spider-Man is one of the best manifestations of that foregone era of just making an action figure look like it was piecemealed together and shove it in a box under a familiar banner. Much like Monster Spider-Man, the proportions and design of Vampire Spider-Man boggle the mind (and churn the stomach). This action figure’s limbs and maw are so disproportions (even for a hyperbolic representation of a vampire), Morbius would tell it to reel things in a bit.
Sometimes, stuff that happens in comic books, should just stay on the page. There’s no reason to pay homage to certain events that occur. Such is the case with Spider-Hulk. It’s hard not to laugh at this thing. The way Spider-Hulk’s mask is stretched over his horrifyingly elongated visage is something that one could not describe to someone without chuckling.
While this action figure does technically makes sense seeing as how it is based on an existing creation from comic books, it doesn’t make it any less awful. The way Spider-Man’s suit tears and gives way to the newly increased body mass inside it is inconsistent. It would seem fingers and toes are the breaking points for articles of clothing wrapped around a hulked out hero.
9. ANTI-VAMPIRE SPIDER-MAN
“Watch out, here comes the Anti-Vampire Spider-Man!” That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Again, Spider-Man Vampire Wars action figures strike again. But this time they’re packing a spinning sunlight blaster and armor that looks like a cross between second hand hockey gear and a cheap knight in shining armor costume from Party City.
So many of these med to late ‘90s Spider-Man figures seem like they’re just reskinned versions of each other packed with some sort of launcher that is so far from ergonomic, it might as well belong to some other action figure and shoots a randomly colored plastic web-shaped projectile at less-than impressive distance. The Vampire Wars line is arguably the biggest offender of this lazy rehash of action figures that weren’t awesome to begin with. Someone should have told Toy Biz that it’s okay if they’re out of ideas.
8. AIR ATTACK SPIDER-MAN
So we meet again, Vampire Wars… What awful accessories do you bring with you to this entry? What’s that you say? A “wing attack back rack with missile launcher.” Perfect. Spider-Man definitely needs this in order properly battles vampires. When the spinning sunlight blaster just doesn’t cut it anymore, you gotta pull out the big guns…or missile launchers in this case. Wait, are vampires allergic to missiles? Maybe the missiles are filled with garlic…
What is most perplexing about Air-Attack Spider-Man is that he has a strange SCUBA system. Does Spider-Man plan of fighting vampires underwater? Or maybe the bubble helmet and life support airlines are for high altitude combat, what with all the vampires plaguing the Stratosphere. Nothing about Spider-Man Vampire Wars makes sense, but we sure are glad they exist with all their ridiculously awesome glory.
7. BEACH SPIDER-MAN
For some strange reason, Toy Biz got the idea they could treat Spider-Man like a Ken doll. Now, this isn’t too far-fetched of an idea. There have been dressup versions of Spidey with cloth outfits long before this, but what is far-fetched is the approach Toy Biz took with its line of Adventure Hero 10” Spider-Man figures.
One of the more ridiculous Adventure Hero dolls is Beach Spider-Man. It’s tough to find where to start with this one. Perhaps its massive calf muscles that get more sun than the rest of its body. Or maybe the sleeveless shirt with his name and a totally rad wave printed across it. Or maybe the completely useless baseball cap, which is worn backwards. Every facet of this action figure is insane.
6. EXTREME SPORTS SPIDER-MAN
Just how eXtreme is eXtreme Sports Spider-Men? So eXtreme that he needs goggles over his goggles whilst busting out rad move on his skateboard, which has clearly been designed to maim people. There are very few relics from the late ‘90s and early aughts that embody the time, sense of ridiculous style and shameless exploitation of counter culture of the era as eXtreme Spider-Man.
The clothing design is enough to pull chuckles and derisive comments from even the most diehard Spider-Man memorabilia collectors. The only real plus side is that you have some variety regarding accessories, even if all of them are horrendous. One thing is for sure, after finding this darling of an action figure, we’ll never laugh at that silly skateboarding scene from The Amazing Spider-Man ever again.
5. SAFARI SPIDER-MAN
As Safari Spider-Man, Peter Parker must traverse the harsh landscape and barren stretches of Manhattan, with only his wit and khakis to help guide his way. With such a brilliant disguise, not even Kraven the Hunter would recognize his web-headed nemesis. Parker would blend in to his surrounding as long as those surrounding were populated with nature show hosts or tourists.
Look, there really isn’t much you can say about Safari Spider-Man that the name of the action figure already says. Other than the fact that the Spider-Man figure itself, silly accessories aside, looks fine, nothing about this action figures screams, “play with me!” This is one of those action figures that isn’t for anyone. Only the most diehard, Spider-Man memorabilia enthusiasts need apply for this one. Yeesh.
4. SPACE SPIDER-MAN
The entire Adventure Hero line of 10” Spider-Man dolls is ridiculous. It’s hard to really gauge just how goofy each one is when compared to the others. But if we had to pick one that is the top of the garbage pile, it would have to be Space Spider-Man. Whoa, boy, just take a look.
It’s a well-known fact that all you need for space travel is one of those jumpsuits Earth, Wind, & Fire wore on Soul Train and an opaque red fish bowl. Also, don’t worry about gloves for your spacesuit. If you’re Spider-Man, you already have some, so you’re good. It’s really the complete lack of ingenuity when it comes to the outfit that really bothers us about Space Spider-Man. Sure all the other Adventure Heroes were awful, but at least they tried on some level.
3. BATTLE ACTION MEGA-ARMOR SPIDER-MAN
Battle Action Mega-Armor Spider-Man, that’s right, you read that right (now shout it really fast at the top of your lungs). This is what it might look like if Hideo Kojima designed a Metal Gear based on the description of Spider-Man given by a three-year-old kid, while Kojima was under the influence of some mind-altering substance. All the while, the language barrier was still firmly in place. This sounds like it might make for something cool, and on some level, it kind of does, much in the same way that the film Robot Jocks is cool.
There is so much going on here and none of it works. It’s hard to tell where Spider-Man ends and the Battle Action Mega-Armor begins or vice versa. Toy Biz released several of these Mega-Armor action figures because, you know superheroes just need mechs…for reasons.
2. STEEL-SHOCK SPIDER-MAN
Yeah, we’re just as perplexed by this one as you are. What is going on? Is Spider-Man a cyborg (no, there’s a whole separate Toy Biz action figure for that)? This action figure has worse proportions than a ’90s comic cover. Spidey’s arms are longer than they need to be and whatever in the world is going on with his feet makes us want to hunt every one of these figures down and bury them at sea.
If the aesthetics weren’t enough punishment, this action figure is also a product of the very short-lived era where kid’s toys literally sparked. Yeah, this thing was basically a lighter without a tank of butane. How this thing ever made it past quality control is beyond us.
1. FISTS OF FURY SPIDER-MAN
Oh, Adventure Hero Spider-Man series, just when we think we’re done with you, you pull us back in. It turns out Space Spider-Man wasn’t the worst you had to offer. Much like a daring explorer who discovers an ancient grimoire with incantations to destroy the world, we come stumbling across Fists of Fury Spider-Man.
At last, fans finally discover how Spider-Man trains to be so good at kung-fu, or at the very least, good at breaking logs and rocks and what have you. What truly makes this one king awful of the ridiculous mountain is that there isn’t even some sort of chopping action. At the very least, Toy Biz could have graced us with that. It wouldn’t have been enough to save this one from the depths of action figure oblivion, but it would have at least made it almost fun to play with.
Did you own any of these toys growing up? Let us know in the comments!
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