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Points of Articulation

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Marvel Legends vs. DCU Classics

This month we're starting our reviews of two major superhero action figure lines - the final series of Mattel's DC Universe Classics, and the rebirth of Hasbro's Marvel Legends - and that juxtiposition has got us thinking.

Since ML and DCUC are basically the standard-bearers of 1:12 scale figures, fans have always compared and contrasted the two, and had little nerd-fights about which one was better. (Note, we're in no way excluding ourselves from this silliness: we've argued about them just like you have.) You know, this line has better sculpts, this line has better articulation, this line has better paint, etc.

Well today we're going to lay out some emperical evidence. Not about which toyline is better at some abstract quality, because that's purely a statement of opinion, and you can find that in every review we print. No, we're going with cold, hard fact: character selection.

Below are two tables, covering the ToyBiz/Hasbro run of Marvel Legends, and all 20 series of Mattel's Universe Classics. The purpose is to see how many unique characters each line released, and how many duplicates, and then see what we can make of those numbers.

Marvel Legends
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
1 Abomination
2 Absorbing Man
3 Adam Warlock
4 Angel
5 Annihilus
6 Ant-Man
7 Apocalypse
8 Ares
9 Banshee
10 Beast
11 Beta Ray Bill
12 Bishop
13 Black Bolt
14 Black Knight
15 Black Panther
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
16 Black Widow
17 Black Widow II
18 Blackheart
19 Blade
20 Blob
21 Brood Queen
22 Bucky
23 Bullseye
24 Cable
25 Captain America
26 Captain Britain
27 Captain Marvel
28 Colossus
29 Crossbones
30 Cyclops
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
31 Danger
32 Daredevil
33 Deadpool
34 Deathlok
35 Destroyer
36 Doc Ock
37 Doc Samson
38 Doombot
39 Doop
40 Dr. Doom
41 Dr. Strange
42 Elektra
43 Emma Frost
44 Falcon
45 Fin Fang Foom
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
46 Galactus
47 Gambit
48 Genis-Vell
49 Ghost Rider
50 Ghost Rider II
51 Green Goblin
52 Guardian
53 Hank Pym
54 Havok
55 Hawkeye
56 Heinrich Zemo
57 Helmut Zemo
58 Hercules
59 Howard the Duck
60 Hulk
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
61 Human Torch
62 Hydra Soldier
63 Iceman
64 Invisible Woman
65 Iron Fist
66 Iron Man
67 Juggernaut
68 Kang
69 Lady Deathstrike
70 Lockheed
71 Loki
72 Longshot
73 Luke Cage
74 Magneto
75 Man-Thing
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
76 Marvel Girl
77 Mary Jane
78 MODOK
79 Mojo
80 Mole Man
81 Moon Knight
82 Mr. Fantastic
83 Mr. Sinister
84 Ms. Marvel
85 Mystique
86 Namor
87 Nemesis
88 New Goblin
89 Nick Fury
90 Nightcrawler
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
91 Nova
92 Omega Red
93 Onslaught
94 Phoenix
95 Professor X
96 Psylocke
97 Punisher
98 Pyro
99 Quicksilver
100 Red Hulk
101 Red Skull
102 Ronan the Accuser
103 Sabretooth
104 Sandman
105 Sasquatch
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
106 Scarlet Spider
107 Scarlet Witch
108 Sentinel
109 Sentry
110 Shadowcat
111 She-Hulk
112 Silver Surfer
113 Skarr
114 Snowbird
115 Spider-Man
116 Spider-Woman
117 Spider-Woman II
118 Spiral
119 Storm
120 Taskmaster
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM
121 Thing
122 Thor
123 Tigra
124 Toad
125 Ultron
126 Union Jack
127 Vengeance
128 Venom
129 Vision
130 War Machine
131 Wasp
132 Wendigo
133 Wolverine
134 Wonder Man
135 X-23
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WM H1 H2 H3 H4 WM Tgt FF Hulk SM

Now for the Republican response:

DC Universe Classics
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 PE
1 Alan Scott
2 Amazo
3 Anti-Monitor
4 Apache Chief
5 Aquaman
6 Aquaman II
7 Ares
8 Artemis
9 Atom
10 Atom Smasher
11 Azrael Batman
12 Bane
13 Barry Allen
14 Batman
15 Batman Beyond
16 Beast Boy
17 Big Barda
18 Black Adam
19 Black Canary
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 PE
20 Black Lightning
21 Black Manta
22 Black Vulcan
23 Blue Beetle
24 Blue Beetle II
25 Blue Devil
26 Booster Gold
27 Brimstone
28 Bronze Tiger
29 Captain Atom
30 Captain Boomerang
31 Captain Cold
32 Cheetah
33 Cheetah II
34 Chemo
35 Commander Steel
36 Copperhead
37 Creeper
38 Cyborg
39 Cyborg Superman
40 Cyclotron
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 PE
41 Darkseid
42 Deadman
43 Deadshot
44 Deathstroke
45 Desaad
46 Despero
47 Dick Grayson
48 Donna Troy
49 Dove
50 Dr. Fate
51 Dr. Impossible
52 Dr. Mid-Nite
53 Eclipso
54 El Dorado
55 Eradicator
56 Etrigan the Demon
57 Firestorm
58 Firestorm II
59 Forager
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 PE
60 Gentleman Ghost
61 Giganta
62 Gold
63 Golden Age Atom
64 Golden Pharaoh
65 Gorilla Grodd
66 Green Arrow
67 Guardian
68 Hal Jordan
69 Harley Quinn
70 Hawk
71 Hawkgirl
72 Hawkman
73 Hourman
74 Icicle
75 Imperiex
76 Iron
77 Jemm
78 John Stewart
79 Joker
80 Jonah Hex
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 PE
81 Kalibak
82 Kamandi
83 Katma Tui
84 Kid Flash
85 Killer Moth
86 Kilowog
87 Kobra
88 Lex Luthor
89 Magog
90 Major Force
91 Man-Bat
92 Mantis
93 Martian Manhunter
94 Mary Marvel
95 Mercury
96 Metallo
97 Metamorpho
98 Mr. Mind
99 Mr. Miracle
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 PE
100 Mr. Terrific
101 Negative Man
102 Nekron
103 Obsidian
104 OMAC
105 Orion
106 Parademon
107 Penguin
108 Power Girl
109 Professor Zoom
110 Question
111 Raven
112 Red Arrow
113 Red Tornado
114 Riddler
115 Robotman
116 Samurai
117 Sandman
118 Scarecrow
119 Shark
120 Shazam
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 PE
121 Silver Banshee
122 Sinestro
123 Solomon Grundy
124 Spectre
125 Stargirl
126 Starman
127 Starman II
128 Steppenwolf
129 STRIPE
130 Superboy
131 Superman
132 Tim Drake
133 Toyman
134 Trigon
135 Tyr
136 Ultra-Humanite
137 Validus
138 Vigilante
139 Wildcat
140 Wonder Woman
141 Zatanna
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 PE

So, the first thing you'll notice is that DCUC put out more characters than Marvel Legends - 141 to 135 - and they did it in a smaller number of series: between ToyBiz and Hasbro, there were 25 series of Marvel Legends, while Mattel only made 21 series of DCU Classics.

Note that we're including the themed tie-in series, like ML's Fantastic Four or Spider-Man series, and DCUC's Public Enemies, but we're not counting ancillary offerings: so no DCSH or Green Lantern toys from Mattel, and no Spider-Man/X-Men/FF/Hulk Classics from ToyBiz. If we did that, Marvel probably would have won by a landslide. Additionally, Marvel's numbers would have been higher, but we chose to count alternate-universe characters (eg, Ultimate, movie, etc.) the same as their 616 counterparts, so that's 15 potential "new" characters who are instead listed as repeats.

We also didn't count exclusives and two-packs. Had we, it would have added 22 more characters to DC's tally, and more than 40 to Marvel's. Criminy!

But enough padding the numbers. What do these charts tell us?

  • Well, to begin with, Mattel released a lot more characters only once: 129 for them, vs. 107 for ToyBiz/Hasbro.

  • The most Legends series in which a specific character appeared was eight - Iron Man and Wolverine. Technically there were more Wolverines though, because four of those series gave him variants, and Iron Man only ever had one. If you don't find Wolverine's unmasked variants (ML3, ML12) significant enough to count toward the tally, he still has two: Days of Future Past/Civilian (ML11) and burned/unburned (MLWM).

  • The most times a DCU character appeared was three - Superman, Batman, Barry Allen and... The Atom? Unexpected!

  • Unlike ToyBiz, Mattel never released the same figure in back-to-back series. Hasbro never did it, either. ToyBiz did it, naturally, with Iron Man (ML7/8, ML14/15) and Wolverine (ML6/7, ML11/12).

  • Four Marvel characters were released under different names: Hank Pym was available as both Yellowjacket and Giant-Man; Bruce Banner was both Hulk and Maestro; Logan showed up as Wolverine and Weapon X; Magneto also masqueraded as Xorn. (If we were counting two-packs, Hawkeye/Ronin and Phoenix/Marvel Girl would also count.) The only DC character to get the same treatment was Dick Grayson - Robin and Nightwing.

Fans may forever debate the merits of Marvel Legends and DC Classics, picking favorites based on sculpt, articulation, quality control or any other criteria they want. (I know we certainly will.) But when it comes to the sheer numbers, the two lines are pretty much a wash. In a sample this large, being separated by less than 10 figures is statistically insignifcant - particularly when you consider the many figures we didn't count, for one reason or another.

Which is better, Marvel Legends or DC Universe Classics? No matter which one you prefer, we should all be able to agree that they were both really good superhero toylines with a vast selection.

Note: to see these charts arranged in order of release, rather than alphabetically, click here for Marvel Legends, and here for DCU Classics.


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