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Death Row Marv

Sin City
by Shocka

We've talked at length before about how a bunch of idiots have gotten up in arms about various "violent" or "gruesome" toys under the incorrect impression that they're aimed at children, and unsurprisingly Todd McFarlane often bore the brunt of this, leading to massive sales thanks to the media attention said idiots brought to his once-great product.

Outside of the more obvious targets, like the Spawn zombie Hatchet with the removable guts, and the grotesque Barker collaboration series Tortured Souls, one of the biggest scandals Todd was ever associated with was Death Row Marv, based on Frank Miller's comicbook series Sin City.

If you haven't read Frank Miller's seminal Sin City, stop what you're doing and nab a copy. Alternatively, watch the sensational feature film based on the series - you should probably do this anyway in anticipation of the upcoming new one.

And you should probably read the original graphic novel again too, as it harkens back to a wonderful age when Frank Miller wasn't completely insane. An intelligent, gritty, modern spin on film noir (neo-noir), Miller's Marv is the antihero protagonist of the original Sin City serial "The Hard Goodbye," in which the big Frankenstein-like tough-guy lug takes it on himself to avenge the death of a hooker who showed him kindness and ends up deep in a conspiracy involving the patriachs of Sin City.

Sold in a large window box, his action figure depicts Marv's last moments, in which he gets the electric chair; fortunately or unfortunately for him, the thing isn't very effective, giving him a chance to spit out "Is that the best you can do, you pansies?!" before they hit the switch a final time. The front panel allows you to see Marv sitting there waiting, while the top flap and the left side have art from the comic's pages. The rear has some examples of McToys' usual artsy photography, and the right-hand side of the box features a photo-negative version of Frank Miller's art for the cover of Dark Horse Presents #62.

Marv is permanently attached to the chair. The toy is sculpted with more detail than Frank ever drew in the scene it depicts. Seriously, in the comic the chair was just a black shape, but Todd's sculptors went one better: the chair appears to be built from large beams of wood held together by giant nails, and it sits on a platform that has been completely invented for this toy - it holds the action feature mechanisms (which we'll get to in a moment) and makes the entire piece ridiculously heavy. Sculpted leather straps are bolted to the beams to hold the prisoner in place. Coiled rubber hoses run from the platform to the metal cap that goes on top of the sentenced man's skull. The full thing is 7¾" tall and has a 5"-square footprint.

Four Horseman Eric Treadaway was the sculptor, so Marv's looking quite nice. He's dressed in a prison uniform rather than his usual tanktop and trenchcoat, but he still gets big lace-up work boots? Seems like an oversight, but that's in the book, so blame Miller. He has cuts on his hands, and his head is bald. The uniform bunches up around the straps.

The action figure features very minimal (and useless) articulation, with Marv's hands a little bit moveable in their leather straps and a bit of side-to-side for the head, but that's not what anyone comes to this for - you come for the action feature. Normally collectors shy away from this in a toy, but here it's the main selling point. Flip the switch at the end of the wire and Marv vibrates, his eyes flash red and he delivers his last words:

This is what got everyone up in arms; because even though the insane Fox-News-correspondent Michelle Malkin is completely okay with the death penalty in real life, she just doesn't want it on a fictional toy clearly meant for adults from a fantasy comic series - a toy that wasn't even sold at mass retail! It was only available through Diamond Comics (and stores that ordered from them).

We won't get into the whole hypocritical nature of this nonsense - rather, let's talk about the action feature itself. It's fine, but only fine - it works, but it doesn't work as well as it could. For one, the switch is on the end of a plastic tube that just kind of hangs in the ether, looking a little ridiculous. This is just poor foresight on McFarlane's end - clearly they weren't sure how the toy was to be displayed. But the most prominent complaint is that Marv delivers his speech (which is pretty nicely voiced by fans' old mate Steve "the Victim" Hamaday) while the toy is still shaking, implying the electrocution is still happening, rather than after. It also muffles the voice, which is otherwise very cool, avoiding the usual tinny sounds that small speakers usually suffer from. Plus, whatever "rumbling" mechanism it is inside the base that makes the figure vibrate is designed in such a way that if you've got Marv sitting on a hard surface, the entire piece agitates around in a circle like an unbalanced washing machine.

So, Death Row Marv is not a bad toy, but he's not great either. The fuss around him was as ridiculous as anything you'd expect from Fox News, who this week tried to link Russia's meteor to an Obama global warming conspiracy. They need help. Anyway, NECA would later school McFarlane yet again with their own version of Death Row Marv from the film, which includes the switch on a proper stand for display, Marv's line previous to the execution attempt ("Get a move on, I don't have all night!") with a better blue-flashing-light electrocution effect, and then the subsequent last words after the vibration and light has finished. If you're chasing a Death Row Marv, that's the one to get; the amazing makeup work on Mickey Rourke makes him look nigh-identical to the comic Marv anyway, so he looks fine alongside any other incarnations of the character, be it McFarlane's earlier toy or the Legendary Heroes figure ToyBiz did. Still, I'm happy to own Death Row Marv, if only to stick it to those dorks who feel that this is something worth getting up in arms about.

-- 02/24/13


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