It's really easy to say "Boy, toys have come a long way, haven't they? Gee, I wish they'd had cool stuff like this when I was a kid." And to a certain extent, yeah, sure, kids have it better now than we did in the 80s and 90s in the sense that you can buy yourself a Batman that is all black and looks like Batman and not your uncle going for a run in the winter. While there were definitely some terrible action figures back in the day, there are just as many terrible ones now because companies still know that parents who don't know any better and kids with low attention spans will buy anything that reminds them of whatever pop culture thing is on their brains at that very moment.
With Marvel dominating the pop culture sphere now, it might be easy to forget one of the reasons the MCU is so popular is because Marvel has been working its way into the minds of kids and grown-ups alike for decades, and have the toys to show for it. Here's 20 of the worst, weirdest, and laziest toys ever sculpted, painted, and mass produced to resemble your favorite Marvel characters (and some that you'd never heard of).
As a bonus, I tossed in 10 toys that are actually so awesome, either from a nostalgia point of view, or a pure subjective collector's one. All my opinion, of course. Big thanks to OAFE for being such a great source for this one!
30 WORST: Aunt Potato Face
Remember that scene in Spider-man: Homecoming where Tony Stark is flirting with Aunt May, played by Marissa Tomei, and he can't get over how cute she is? He probably wouldn't have had that same reaction if he'd walked into Peter's apartment and saw this face greeting him at the door.
Man, Aunt May has had a rough go over the 100 years Spider-man has been a character. Depending on the continuity, her kid was ended and she had to adopt his son, then her husband perishes, then she's subjected to near-constant abduction attempts, house explosions, and general mayhem due to her nephew being the super-powered defender of Queens. On top of all of that, in the 90s she got turned into an action figure with maybe the worst face sculpt I've ever seen.
This Aunt May looks like a California raisin that's covered itself in foundation to try and escape the rigors of being a celebrity fruit. What's worse, whoever designed her outfit didn't even give her the benefit that maybe she knows how to dress herself. She's wearing a Salvation Army Grandma Halloween costume. Pink slippers over grey socks? A pink apron over a different color pink sweater? Plus, claw hands. She straight up has claw hands.
29 WORST: Ghastly Grin, Giant Gun
The ToyWiz site I found this figure on proudly proclaims "Only 1 available." As if there's been some kind of insane rush to own an oversized bobblehead of a depressed Captain America villain, specifically the one played by Hugo Weaving in a desperate attempt to shake the hordes of fans who say "Mr. Anderson" out loud every time he has a line of dialogue in any movie. I know it's not Funko's fault, their whole thing is making oversized head versions of pop culture characters because apparently there's an enormous market for that. There's something really gross about the, and I"m sorry for the word I'm about to use, veiny-ness of this toy that is truly disgusting. It's a shame too because the detail on his uniform is really good, but that face and the weird, sad look on his face really makes it look like you've just woken him up or someone cut in front of him in line at the grocery store.
He even comes with a handgun, which looks even tinier than usual due to the oversized proportions of the rest of him, and it's permanently pointed down as if to say "I think I have power, but I really don't."
28 BEST: White Mohawk For The Win
Punk Storm is best Storm. Created in the eighties to, I dunno, make Storm even more awesome than a weather-controlling African God who is also one of the leaders of the X-Men. Punk Storm sports a less disco-inspired outfit, swapping white for black, and, oh yeah, has a rock-awesome giant white mohawk on the top of her head.
Nothing says "respectable leader of a superpowered paramilitary force" like a mohawk.
While apparently a "bad joke" by outgoing X-Men artist Paul Smith, Storm's Brooklyn look struck a chord with fans and is all over the internet, even X-Men Apocalypse, which is a bad movie with a lot of great influences, borrowed her hairstyle. This figure, from Hasbro's Marvel Legends series, captures the best of both incarnations of Storm, with the gold-trim-on-black color scheme of the Punk design, the flowing capelets of her traditional look and, of course, that sick mohawk.
This figure was a Toys R' Us exclusive (RIP) but it easy to find online. The original package was also a "Build A Figure," meaning multiple different characters all came with pieces to assemble a bonus figure. Included with Storm is the torso of the excellent Generation X Jubilee, yellow trench coat included, of course.
27 WORST: Literally Just Clear Plastic
There are plenty of things I could say about one of the only early female Marvel superheroes being a woman whose only power is to vanish completely, but this is the internet and if you're looking for hot takes on pop culture, you can easily google them. What I will say about this figure is I don't think it's a bad idea in principle. If you're a big Fantastic Four fan and are looking for that deep toybox roleplay, you're gonna want two Susan Storm figures: one in her outfit and the other with her invisibility turned on.
Ideally, you'd want a transition figure too, but that's asking a lot of an 80s toy company
My issue with this figure is the execution. Look at those joints! Poor Sue would never fool the Kree with those dark rings around her elbows and knees. The one image I could find of this figure is so yellowed it's like it was being used as a pipe for twenty years and someone said "Hey, isn't that a lady?" then marketed it to Marvel kids. If you're going to do a lazy job of making an action figure of a character whose power is to not be seen, why not just sell kids an empty box?
26 WORST: Toothpaste Man
Along similar lines as the clear plastic Invisible Woman, which is a superhero name and not the title of a scathing indictment of the patriarchy, here's "Astral Plane Doctor Strange." Before Infinity War, I wasn't too keen on Doc Strange, as much as I enjoyed his solo movie. It's tough to give depth to a character who is 90% cape but Marvel has always done a good job expanding characters beyond the frenzied scribbles of an overworked New York writer that was eventually adapted into an off-market Jeffrey Coombs made-for-tv-movie.
God bless YouTube!
So, yes, Doctor Strange can visit the astral plane to do all kinds of things the plots of his comics require him to do, including selling ridiculous variants of his own action figure. You'd think whoever made this thing could have done something a little different than just not painting the thing. I guess it's not that bad, it's not entirely grey plastic, they at least dropped it into a blueberry smoothie or something to get that blueish tint we all know the astral plane possesses. And just look at the muscle definition on this ghost! Proof that, even in the spaces between worlds and time, you never skip leg day.
25 BEST: Sweet Jacket, Better Hair
This isn't just a great design of a character that has been redrawn and reinvented more times than his healing factor can handle, it's a great action figure of a great design. While the packaging doesn't explicitly say this is from the legendary "Old Man Logan" story by Mark Millar, the close-cropped grey hair and sensible but still masculine mutton chops give it away. While I miss the Western-style duster Logan sports on the cover for Old Man Logan, the quality of the leather bomber jacket he's wearing here is a fine replacement.
The detail in this figure is really astounding, especially when you use the Hasbro website's magnifying glass feature to really check out the little things. The engraving on his brass belt buckle, the individual teeth on the jacket, even the buttons on his shirt are rendered with care. The scowl on his face is perfect, not overdone or cartoonish, but the look of a man who doesn't have to try very hard to be intimidating.
My one complaint? Why is he wearing a polo shirt? I get that they can show his abs off more but this look is really begging for a Western-style button up. Am I fashion critiquing Wolverine? Yes, I am, I'll own up to that. Nice boots, though.
24 WORST: A Purple Man Being Eaten By A Snake
Listen, I love a good snakeman. They are really hard to pull off properly, from the original created by Robert E. Howard for Conan the Barbarian to the guys who guard Sen's Fortress in Dark Souls. There's something inherently creepy about a walking snake with a humanoid body, all scaly skin, and spears.
This purple man is not that.
This Cottonmouth is not to be confused with the Luke Cage villain Cottonmouth, played spectacularly by Mahershala Ali the same year he won an Oscar because pop culture is so weird right now. Our weird purple and gold snakeman is less a snakeman and more of a man snake, i.e. a regular dude who wears a Power Ranger outfit with a snakehead helmet, giving off the terrifying (?) impression that he is currently being eaten. I guess there is something scary in fighting a guy who cares so little for the fact that he's being devoured by a man-sized snake, or at least cares so little that he will gladly continue to fight you while being devoured.
Source material aside, this figure is bad because it doesn't come with any accessories. It's just a moveable sculpture of a victim of a terrible snake eating. Maybe that's understandable for a character whose main superpower is the ability, and willingness, to bite people really, really hard, but it doesn't make for much of a toy.
23 WORST: Jean Grey With Enormous Gun
Another unfairly maligned X-Men who, despite the Herculean effort of some writers to make her more than just a wife for Cyclops, Jean Grey just can't seem to catch a break from people who don't understand her character. Take this figure from Toy Biz, who are gonna show up a lot on this list, which totally misses the point and power of Jean in favor for some Rob Liefeld annoyingness. According to this Comic's Alliance article, this toy of Jean is just a repaint of an earlier Domino figure, and if you're like me and don't know who Domino is but know too much about Jean Grey, you'll understand why this is so upsetting.
This Jean figure has all the classic hallmarks of a bad 90s action figure: her proportions are way out of whack, she's got a ton of unnecessary flair on her outfit and, of course, she carries an enormous, impossible gun in her hand. Jean Grey doesn't need a gun! She's the Phoenix for crying out loud! She's one of the most powerful telekinetic mutants on the planet! She'll turn you into a gun with her mind and then throw you in the garbage because she doesn't need you.
22 BEST: Flaming Ghost Hog
Another awesome Marvel Legends figure, this time featuring the character beloved by 90s kids everywhere: Ghost Rider. Knowing it would be lame and pointless to make an action figure of Ghost Rider without his iconic bike, otherwise he'd just be a Ghost with nothing to ride, the figure just slaps that magnificent hog right there in the box, flames and all.
Rider comes fully flaming skullified, with absolutely no mention of his human alter ego, because who needs it? The detail on his leather is excellent, with just a little bit of blue on the black for definition. His only accessory, other than that sweet hog, is his chain which is already flaming and in mid-spin. This is a figure that is technically poseable, but is obviously designed for one singular presentation: on the bike, chain in the air.
This figure may have the most semi-transparent plastic flames of any toy ever. They're breathing his head, they've engulfed the chain, and they are vomiting out of the pipes of that bike. Even the wheels are an inferno. The bike even comes with an optional metal skull attachment for the handlebars, because maybe you want to have some subtlety in your flaming demon motorcycle.
21 WORST: Irish Whistle Boy
If it weren't for X-Men: First Class I would not be aware that Banshee existed. A classic example of Marvel picking a country out of a hat and then throwing a bunch of cliches at a mannequin to create a character, Banshee is an Irishman whose wife was endedanby a IRA bomb and is named after a particularly Irish ghost story of a wraith whose screams can destroy. Banshee can also fly by… screaming at the ground. Like a Harrier jet powered by horror.
So how do you translate this outrageously colourful millionaire/detective into an action figure? By slamming an actual, functioning whistle into his chest to simulate his mutant powers. Of course! What kid wouldn't want to recreate the thrilling battle of this apparently mega powerful mutant by blowing hot air into his backside while running around their backyard? What better way to exemplify how Marvel condenses hundreds of years of national trauma and simmering social tension into an easily digestible origin story then by simplifying that characters powers even more and turning a three-dimensional character into the musical instrument you give to kids who aren't smart enough to play the triangle?
20 WORST: Sugar Man
Someone turned my Uncle Barry into an action figure and I want royalties. The thin combover, the motorcycle leathers, the obscene tongue, the axe? Yeah, I used to go to BBQs with this guy. Another entry in the "Why would anyone want a toy of this?" Sugar Man's proportions aren't some kind of warped, action-figure scale to make him more fun to play with. This is what the actual character looks like.
Imagine trying to buy clothes? No wonder he only wears overalls and belts.
Sugar Man, whose name alone should set off alarm bells for sensible humans everywhere, was a prison guard in some kind of work camp during the Age of Apocalypse X-Men storyline. His mutant power, other than his ridiculously hideous appearance, seems to be the ability to control his size. He hides in Colossus' boot during a prison break, giving him another link to my currently incarcerated uncle and it's not the ability to change shape at will. Sugar Man travels back in time and conquers Magneto's Genosha island and creates an army because comic books.
The Marvel Wiki also helpfully notes that Sugar Man can use his tongue as a weapon because that's information you needed to know to continue your workday.
19 BEST: This Classic Wolverine
As much as I love a good casual, leather-jacket-wearing Wolverine, I grew up on the X-Men cartoon in the nineties and nothing beats the good old, classic blue-and-yellow spandex Wolverine, except maybe the yellow and brown, depending on how retro I'm feeling. This particular figure, another homerun for Marvel Legends, captures the three sides of Wolverine with optional heads, hands, and outfit accessories.
You've got casual, non-eliminating Wolverine. There are his hands, no claws, and his face which, although smirking with the knowledge that he could end you, isn't the usual snarl you'd expect. They even, thoughtfully, I think, included a version of his mask folded down over his back so you can really create that "smoke break" attitude.
No cigar accessory, unfortunately.
Then you slowly ramp Wolverine up. His mask is on now, look out, but his face is still pretty neutral so, who knows, maybe it's raining or something. Then, look out, put on the claws-out hands and he's ready to rumble. Not enough for you? Slap on the "battle damage" extra uniform pieces, featuring years and bullet holes in his shoulder pads and a shot-up, decidedly angry headpiece. Now you're in trouble.
18 WORST: Ear Hair Everywhere
The thing I've learned the most from researching this article is that there are so, so many X-Men, you guys. It seems like Marvel just walked down the toy aisle at a discount department store and slapped whatever weird monster they could with a blue and yellow outfit and a red X-shaped belt buckle. If you want more information than you could ever need about a character you've never heard of, here's Wolfsbane's X-Men Wikia page, which like most pop culture Wikis, is an exhaustive, beat-by-beat retelling of every appearance the character has ever made. Including the fact that she is a devout Protestant because she's Scottish, you see.
Not included in that "exhaustive" wiki is any mention of this action figure, which looks like someone dipped her in molasses and rolled it around on the chair the cat sleeps on. My first impulse one seeing the pictures of this figure is to blow on it and, even though I've looked at that pic a dozen times since writing this entry, I still have that impulse. Someone buy Wolfsbane a day at the salon for crying out loud, can you imagine how split those ends must be? This girl needs some Vidal Sassoon stat.
17 WORST: Ultimate Terrible Action Figure
As someone who grew up on the X-Men cartoon series and got really into the Bryan Singer movies, the Ultimate universe is a godsend. It came out at just the right time when Marvel had this influx of new, younger readers who were (rightfully) intimidated by fifty years of events, crossovers, history, and pass. The Ultimate universe was also edgier in the most late-nineties way possible, leading to character designs that were more 'realistic' and closely mirrored those of the Singer X-Men films, with yellow as an accent rather than the primary feature.
It also led to this abomination of a Wolverine figure. Logan looks like Billy Bob Thornton just bit his tongue and he has the posture of a 90-year-old Fortnite streamer. This figure also commits the cardinal sin of bad Wolverine representation: ridiculously long claws. Like making your Batman ears enormous, super long Wolvie claws don't look cool, they look ridiculous. I know I'm talking about a comic book character here, but I need a little more realism in my metal claws, especially from the universe that is supposed to be more grounded and edgy. The claws on this figure, in particular, are especially bad because they don't retract, so you're stuck with this hunched over geriatric on the spectrum Wolverine whose hand knives are stuck in life-ending mode.
16 BEST: Boring Movie, Awesome Spider-Man
If you're gonna do a proper Spider-man figure, you need to be able to twist and contort that guy into all the crazy poses Spider-man is known for. Always the most visually dynamic comic book character, the movies have done their best to recreate the dynamism of Spider-man but there are some poses that only really work as still images, like in comic panels or as action figures.
From a not-great movie, Amazing Spider-man, comes a really awesome Spiderman figure from Japanese company Figma. Due to those two movies being so dark, I never noticed some of the detail on this version of the character, like how his shoes are just red running shoes that happen to match the rest of his outfit. This Figma figure comes with a clear plastic stand so you can really capture some of the wild, iconic Spiderman poses as well as some webshots. He also comes with a few options for his hands, including the classic bullhorn web shooting hands, closed fists, and an open hand so he can hold his cell phone, because this movie was made in 2012. This figure also comes with a backpack, because I guess there's some kind of rule that Spider-man figures have to always be on the way to or from school.
15 WORST: Bone Spurs
Marrow is one of the classic tragic Marvel characters. In her early years with the Morlocks, those sewer-dwelling mutants who can't make a go of it in the wide world, Marrow was forced to endure her mutant "power" which is that her bones grow into terrible spears that she can't control. While she would eventually learn to control her powers, through a ridiculous series of events spanning years because that's how comic books work, this particular incarnation of the character comes from a weird in-between time before that happened. So here we've got an action figure of a character whose whole power is based on making spears out of her own bones and hurling them at people.
The design of this figure, apparently based on her appearance in Generation X, features her in a legless bodysuit with some armor on one shoulder but not the other. Her skin is all leathery, presumably because she's constantly healing the hideous bone-related wounds she inflicts on herself. Marrow was apparently created as an irredeemable villain that Storm would be forced to eliminate but was later given more depth and a second heart to explain why Storm tearing out her heart didn't end her.
14 WORST: Techno Moby Dick Villain
Writing for comics must be so weird. In a major storyline like Age of Apocalypse, you've got to come up with all these new characters and locations that, as far as you're concerned, only exist for a few pages to motivate the characters to travel through time or change the reality of whatever. Then, because whatever quick, one-line character description you whipped up is now part of a 'canon,' your dumb character now has a backstory and pathos and explanations for everything he says and does in three pages of a comic you wrote a decade ago.
So here's 'Ahab,' a cyborg mutant hunter named and modeled after the guy who hunted Moby Dick. This action figure is even worse than the D-tier villain it's based on, being painted the least menacing shades of the least-menacing colors ever made. If there's a color less threatening than Burnt Umber, it is for sure Light Lavender. They makers of this toy really tried to overcompensate for his superficial lack of fear by including a giant, futuristic harpoon gun and three missiles that the thing can shoot. Obviously one wasn't enough and I guess two just wasn't scary enough. Three is truly the sweet spot.
13 BEST: Taco Included
With Deadpool 2 just around the corner, here's probably the best Deadpool action figure you'll ever see, except for maybe the Nendoroid one. While the Legends Deadpool figure doesn't come with the option to have heart shapes blast out of his eyes, he does come with an appropriately ridiculous number of guns, (2 pistols, a rifle, and a grenade launcher) Deadpool's signature twin katanas, a rocket launcher with a… boxing glove on the end, why not? A smaller knife and the best action figure accessory in history, a taco.
Shouldn't he come with a chimichanga?
This Deadpool also has the hilarious detail of having his right pinky finger cocked, tea time-style, because Wade Wilson is a classy gentleman. Of course, you've also got a mask on, mask off option, revealing the classically grotesque "healing power without the handsome" Wilson burn scar face we all know and love. While the hardest thing to communicate in a static figure is the personality of the character, the figure does its best with that aforementioned cocked pinky and the absolutely manic grin on the face of the unmasked head. There is also a comic on the back of the box featuring Deadpool in a waiter's outfit serving the taco on a silver plate which I guess is funny in a "LOL so random" way that most people who don't write Deadpool think about Deadpool.
12 WORST: Spider-Sportsman
I actually can't tell if I hate this or love it. The sheer wall-to-wall audacity of someone at our old friend Toy Biz pitching, designing, molding, and selling not one but two 'outdoorsy' Spider-men is so weird and hilarious that I think I might be in love with them. The idea that Spider-man, not Peter Parker, but full, costume Spider-man would go out into the woods at all, and then, while there, fish and shoot a bow, is really, really funny. Who made those waders for him? Did he make them himself? They have his logo on them for crying out loud! Why does he have a hat? He's wearing a full face mask, is he worried he'll get a sunburn? Peter, if you're too hot, take off your mask! Who is going to see you?
This pack is from a line of Spider-man figures called "Adventure Hero" and I could have filled this whole article with entries from this toy line. Ironically, there's absolutely nothing adventurous about the Adventure Hero line, unless your idea of an adventure is similar to that of a 9-5 office worker in 1995. On the other hand, if you're Spider-man, maybe your idea of an adventure is something more mundane than fighting the Kree is deep space. The Adventure Hero line features Spider-man fishing, bowling, skateboarding, and playing baseball, basketball, golf, and soccer with a variety of really nicely branded accessories and outfits.
11 WORST: Wanda Maxim-Off Putting Action Figure
The look on this figure's face is so bad it's my new expression for when I'm feeling confused or lost or just unmotivated. "Man, I'm feeling really Scarlet Witch right now." I'll say, staring out the window with a cup of coffee in my hand while contemplating the futility of life and the difficulties of making it as a grown-up in 2018. "How was your day?," my partner will ask me, my eyes glazing over as I try to struggle how to articulate the mundanity of my existence, contrasting it with the dreams I once had as a younger man. "Oh, pretty Scarlet Witch," I'll say, wandering off to a corner of the house where I can sit alone in the dark and wait for an acceptable time to go to sleep and start all over.
There's just no reason to be this bummed out and lost when you're rocking a red swimsuit over a pink body stocking. Look at that headdress girl, you're killing it, don't give me a look that says "I've just wandered into this club and I don't know anyone but boy I sure am high!" This figure comes from the Legendary Riders series, which all came included with some kind of vehicle because I know I associate Scarlet Witch with a hovering Vespa/Segway.
10 BEST: Spider-Mash-Up Mayhem
One thing that made the superhero cartoons in the 90s so awesome, and I'm talking specifically about Batman: The Animated Series, X-Men, and Spider-man here, is how unashamed they were to explore all the aspects of their characters and source material. While Batman took this in a mature, slower-paced direction, and X-Men leaned more heavily into the social commentary of the best comics, Spider-man The Animated Series fully embraced the bonkers complicated continuity of Spider-man.
Hence, Spider-Carnage. Through a series of events I don't have enough space to explain (both in this article and in my own brain), Peter Parker's clone Ben is infected with a Carnage symbiote and turns into a vengeance-seeking mutation of the Scarlet Spider. Through a series of events involving alternate universes and dimensional gateways, 'our' Spider-man fights this Spider-man and through some smart brand synergy, we get this sweet, hard-to-find action figure. This sculpt of Spider-Carnage captures that raw, sticky rage that the symbiote characters possess which is so hard to convey in an action figure, especially since Carnage is so much "gooier" than, say, Venom. I can only find links to ebay and amazon resellers for this guy, so he must be pretty tough to track down, and goes for an average of $60 if you do manage to find a seller.
9 WORST: A Shrinking Man
I actually kind of love how terrible this J. Jonah figure is, especially because I can't figure out why anyone would want a Jameson figure that is clearly made from the same mold as the other anatomically impossible comic book characters whatever factory made him in. This Jameson is perfectly in line with a workaholic, drinking blow-hard who messes with his employees and solves everything by yelling at them. I can absolutely see this guy running the New York Post. He's so busy, he doesn't even have time to find a suit that fits him. It's like he's losing weight as he gets older and refuses to acknowledge it, he's even doubling-down on it. He looks like he was saved halfway through being shrunk by a shrink ray and there was no way to reverse the process. I can hear his voice getting higher as I look at this picture.
The absolute best thing about this figure? That suit comes all the way off, baby. I have no idea what's under there, I couldn't find any pictures, and I'm not 100% sure that those clothes are removable, but you don't make a figure with a cloth outfit to not have it be removable. Someone, somewhere, owns this figure and has lost the clothes, leaving Jameson lost in a toy box in nothing but his skivvies.
8 WORST: Tank Legs
The ever-informative X-Men Wikia entry for Bonebreaker says that he is the leader of a gang of criminals in Australia, living in an abandoned town. Okay, yeah, sounds good. His powers are listed as "augmented strength" and the fact that he can use a lot of guns. Cool, pretty standard D-tier 90s villain so far. In a separate entry underneath "powers" called "paraphernalia," Bonebreaker is said to have cyborg skin, whatever that means, and then casually mentions that his legs are a tank. He has a tank for legs. What?
Way to bury the lead, volunteer who spent a day writing this entry.
Considering all the info given above, the Bonebreaker action figure is probably the most accurate toy on this list. If you were a dedicated fan of Bonebreaker, so much so that you needed to own a tiny posable sculpture of him, probably your only criteria would be "does this toy accurately represent that this man has a tank for legs." Going solely on that criteria, the answer is a resounding yes. This particular version of Bonebreaker also comes equipped with a massive, impossible gun, because it was the 90s, a very bright blue scarf, and a white mohawk, because clearly Bonebreaker knows the importance of accessorizing.
7 BEST: Most Owesome Darn Oction Kigure
When I was a young lad, the first episode of the X-Men cartoon I saw featured this deeply weird floating giant wrinkly head, MODOK. Not to be confused with the other giant wrinkly headed villain on this list, MODOK is much more popular and beloved in the Marvel canon and has appeared in a ton of stories over the years. Even his acronym is bananas: Mechanized Organism Designed Only for [Ending], doesn't even shorten into an English word or anything. There's no reason why any of those letters have to match up to those words, or anything at all. We're not talking about WATCH, here.
This might not be the best figure on this list but I do admire the work that went into reproducing one of the most bizarre characters in Marvel, which is really saying something. They even did a decent job representing the weird energy that is always flowing out of his forehead by representing it with a… spiky yellow ball? I guess that works. This is from 1996 so we're not in the days of 100% accurate action figures yet. Still, if you're going to buy a toy of a giant-headed robot wearing purple pants in a floating orange space chair, you can't do much worse than this figure from Toy Biz.
6 WORST: Wheelchair Catapult
It's hard to translate a character that exists only to spew cryptic exposition at the main character, but Madame Web is enough of a force in the Spider-man universe that she deserves to be an action figure too!
Props to Marvel toys for not being the least bit ableist.
The comics have done what they can to make Madame Web dynamic and interesting, even giving her working legs and making her younger which is... something, but maybe not the best way to handle a character who doesn't need to be a sultry martial artist to be interesting. So good on the makers of this toy for not doing that, I guess, but they could have done a lot better than making her wheelchair into a spiderweb catapult. Sorry, it's not a catapult, it's "Spider Trapping Action" thank you very much 1990s toy copywriters for that scintillating bit of focus-tested nonsense trying to make something physically dangerous about a physic old lady. Progress is slow, but hey, at least we got a figure of her at all.
5 WORST: Firework Hands, Giant Rollerblades
Jubilee gets a bad rap and she's not even the first time Marvel made a fireworks-based superhero in an attempt to cash in on a teen fad. As a creation of X-Men gods Chris Claremont & Mark Silvestri, Jubilee is probably most famous for being the audience surrogate of the X-Men animated series in the 90s. She would go on to be Wolverine's sidekick, lose her powers, and get turned into a vampire.
"Turned into a vampire" is writer shorthand for "I don't know what to do with this character."
This particular toy by action figure manglers Toy Biz is based on her Generation X appearance, apparently, and you tell how edgy and fun she is due to her feet being permanently fused with a pair of jet black rollerblades because every day is 1994. Here we see Jubilee in her trademark bright yellow trench coat, which is so awesome, and the sculptures did a nice job with her fun, short hair and pink Terminator glasses. I don't love her pink jumpsuit but, whatever, this is a teenage girl from LA, I'm sure she knows more about fashion than I do. It's those blades, man. They just look so off, like poor Jubilee broke both her feet in combat and someone painted them to look like rollerblades to make her feel better.
4 BEST: Maybe This Is Cheating
Okay so maybe these next two entries are kind of cheating. I did the same thing in the GI Joe toy article I wrote a few weeks ago. While these are obviously extremely high quality, and expensive, models designed for grown-up collectors, they are definitely not static sculptures. These figures from Hot Toys are poseable and come with accessories and different head and hand options, making them definitely action figures, just ones that look like what you always imagined your toys looked like when you were a kid.
So, first up is a twofer. Both the Hot Toys Marvel Collectibles figures of Black Panther and his surprisingly sympathetic nemesis Killmonger are presented in blistering detail, giving you an amazing look at the care that went into designing what are, in my opinion, two of the best outfits in the current MCU. Looking at these figures I saw things I never noticed in the films: that Killmonger's suit has a subtle golden leopard pattern on the mesh, and that his mask has a Bane-like mouth covering that is painted to look like fangs. The Black Panther figure features luminous paint that make parts of the suit glow purple under certain light, and the facial sculpts on both of these are amazing. If you've got $600, you should buy these
3 WORST: One Of The Worst Toys Of The Year
On the surface, there's nothing wrong with this drone. As a Spider-man printed drone, this thing is exactly as advertised. It's a drone in Spider-man colors, relatively similar to the one that comes off Peter's suit in Homecoming, except using real technology and not that made-up Arc tech MacGuffin that powers everything in the MCU.
Put a blue light on that thing and it'll run forever.
No, the reason the Spider-man Drone is on this list is because it was named as a "Worst Toy Of The Year" by the consumer watchdog group World Against Toys Causing Harm, or WATCH, which sounds so much like a subdivision of SHIELD that I can't tell if this is a real thing or some kind of meta Marvel comics crossover event. Apparently, the "Spider-man Spider-drone" is prone to causing "eye and body impact injuries" in children as well as including small parts, which are choking hazards. WATCH isn't saying "Don't buy this drone." They're saying "Don't buy this drone for a baby." Which, fair enough. But I ask you this, World Against Toys Causing Harm, how soon is too soon to start talking to our kids about drones?
2 WORST: Boys Only
Again, an entry on this list that has nothing wrong with it on the surface. It's two toys in one: You're getting the awesome VTOL Quinjet from Age of Ultron, a staple of all Avengers-related films since the original film, and a sweet motorcycle that drops right out of it. The bike even drops out of the cargo hold of the jet, just like in the movie! And the jet is piloted by a little Hawkeye figure, just like in the movie! And the bike is driven by Captain America, just like in the… oh.
There's a lot of talk about there about breaking gender stereotypes in toys and in kids in general. The days of girls growing up playing with dolls and wearing pink and boys wearing blue and playing with guns, while both learn "traditional" domestic gender roles, are numbered. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with any of these, but limiting a kid's imagination to one or the other is damaging both short and long-term.
Marvel's gender representation is decent and the MCU has done a lot to make their female characters just as important to the story as the males, outside of giving them their own movies. In Age of Ultron, it's Black Widow who drops out of the Quinjet on a motorcycle, one of the signature stunts of the movie. Taking her out of the equation, on the assumption that boys won't buy a toy with a girl figure, is short-sighted and old fashioned.
1 BEST: Please Send Me $300 So I Can Buy This
I said that Black Panther and Killmonger were two of the best outfits in the MCU. The Spider-man Homecoming suit is the best, hands down. As much as I loved the Iron Spider suit in Infinity War, the update to the classic red-and-blue design in Civil War and Homecoming is perfect, especially since we've seen really good updates of that design in two previous Spider-man movie trilogies.
This figure is listed as the 'deluxe version' on the Hot Toys website and it's hard to imagine what else they could have included in the package. There are enough accessories to recreate that iconic poster image for yourself, and they show you that right away on the website splash page. Peter comes with not only that awesome new suit, including the web wings under the arms, but a maskless head, four different sets of those amazingly expressive eyes, his yellow school jacket, a blue hoodie, a pair of headphones and even a freaking science textbook. He even comes with Vulture's helmet, which is so nicely detailed it's almost worth the price itself, and yes, of course, he comes with a backpack. The only thing missing is a fully clothed Peter Parker so you can roleplay every aspect of getting him ready to go to work.