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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

There's one Marvel Legend that even the most die-hard completist probably missed. It wasn't released in any normal series, and it wasn't available at the usual retail outlets - not even as an exclusive. It wasn't advertised before it was released, and to this day most fans don't even know it exists. No collection can be complete without Marvel Legends' first CAF, Flatman.

Dr. Val Ventura is a founding member and deputy leader of the Milwaukee-based would-be super-team originally known as the Great Lakes Avengers. The most level-headed member of the team, Ventura has often been mistaken for world-renowned scientist Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Though he is an accomplished scientist in his own right, Ventura is rarely taken seriously by his peers, which has led to him being eager to cooperate with authorities, such as when he and his teammates assisted SHIELD in an attempt to apprehend the then-fugitive Thunderbolts in the Colorado Rockies.

Flatman is 5¾" tall and features - according to the promo copy - infinite points of articulation. How's that possible? Well, because he's a CAF: the first Clip-A-Figure. In the Great Lakes Avengers GLX-Mas Special, the final page featured "an X-Mas treat for all of you GLX fans": a Flatman action figure; you just had to cut him out and tape him together.

The Great Lake Avengers started out as the logical extension of the Avengers east and west coast branches - they protected the "flyover" states. When the Avengers were seemingly killed, they briefly changed their name to the Lightning Rods; but when they found out their new inspiration, the Thunderbolts, were secretly villains in disguise, they changed back. When they were sent a cease-and-desist order from the Maria Stark Foundation, they had to drop that name; realizing that all the surviving members were mutants, they dubbed themselves the Great Lakes X-Men. Marvel Girl nixed that, and Dr. Strange rebuffed the idea of the Great Lakes Defenders. After Flatman won the Thing's poker tournament, he renamed the team the Great Lakes Champions - a name to which Hercules briefly objected, until She-Hulk and Luke Cage pointed out that no one was using the name.

The figure is based on the artwork of Mike Wieringo - which is easy to say, because it is the art of Mike Wieringo. This is Flatman's classic look, a blue bodysuit with black boots, gloves, trunks and a stripe down the center with a big white F on his chest. He's kind of got a goofy look on his face, for a scientist. Well, if he actually is a scientist.

Though he's supposedly an astrophysicist, Val's scientific background is suspect at best. He doesn't seem to have a degree and when he was asked about his doctorate, he replied he was a doctor of "stuff." He's not dumb, by any means - he just hasn't shown any particularly advanced knowledge.

Flatman includes three accessories - action phrases you can say with your own voice! He says "Let's go, team!" "That's Flat-tacular!" and "I'm not Mr. Fantastic!" The fact that he's a CAF means that the figure duplicates Flatman's two-dimensional body perfectly, but they didn't try to do anything with his stretching powers. If you really want that, you can make some copies and paste them together.

In addition to being a mutant (one who survived the effects of M-Day unscathed), Val is a gay hero. He originally denied any queries about his sexuality, but when a potential recruit showed up thinking that the GLA stood for "Gay & Lesbian Alliance," Val found the courage to come out of the closet. Although most of his teammates had already figured it out for themselves - the fact that he recognized the style and manufacturer of a woman's shoe at a glance and referred to a man he was rescuing as "sailor" might have had something to do with that.

Some people will doubtlessly claim that Flatman isn't a "real" Marvel Legend, but consider this: since Marvel owns ToyBiz, Marvel is ultimately responsible for making and releasing Legends figures (at least before the Hasbro switch); Marvel made and released the comic this was in, and it has the official Marvel Legends logo on it. So it's from the same company and it bears the logo? It's a real figure. Stop by your local comicshop and ask for the GLX-Mas Special to complete your Legends collection.

-- 01/30/07

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