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Marvel Legends 20 Years
by yo go re

While working at a nuclear research facility, scientist Bruce Banner was accidentally caught in a gamma bomb explosion. The blast transformed him into the monstrous, rampaging Hulk, a creature with childlike intelligence and superhuman strength, which he often directs against those that would threaten him or other innocent beings. Ever since, when enraged, Banner turns into the Hulk and stays that way until the raging giant calms down and reverts to his normal human form.

That's the text from the 2002 Marvel Legends Series 1 figure, because these 20th Anniversary releases don't have any of their own. The sculpt is reused from 80th Anniversary Hulk, because why wouldn't it be? ML1 Hulk was big for his time, 7½" tall, but this mold adds another inch on top of that. The muscles are all around thicker here than on the original toy - Phil Ramirez made him absolutely ripped back in the day, not swole like today's unknown sculptor. (Side note: if this is you, come forward; we love crediting artists for their work.) His pants have a fabric texture, and ragged edges where they've ripped.

One sculptor we definitely can identify is Paul Harding. Like this series' Tony Stark, Hulk's head is based on Harding's "Marvel in the '70s" series, so he's got a big, wide sneer and shaggy hair straight from The Monkees. It's not my preferred look for the character, but there's no denying it's good. And just in case that one's too calm for you, we also get a second head where his mouth is open in a furious growl.

The 80th Anniversary Hulk was a bright lime green, while this one is a darker shade, closer to Face-Off Hulk than Marvel Legends Hulk, but that's okay; it's a better choice. His purple pants get white paint apps along the edges of the rips, adding some extra contrast and helping justify the price of the toy.

2002 Hulk had decent articulation, but with one major flaw: the hands. They were designed to have bendy fingers, but the wires that would have gone inside the rubber to actually make them move were missing, so he had permanently flat hands with splayed fingers. It would have been funny if Hasbro had sprung for new hands to reference that, even if they were just designed to be "clapping" style, but all we get are the usual pair this mold comes with. Hulk moves at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, neck, and head, plus those pec hinges that only move back for some reason, not forward. They remain weird.

Surprisingly, this figure gets some accessories! The original sure didn't two decades ago. First, there's a Mandroid head, in its appropriate yellow rather than grey this time, and also a new display base. It's a strip of rock or pavement, smashed at one end and jutting up at the other, with a flash of green energy showing the power of the impact. There are three footpegs on the base, but it also looks great if you have Hulk punching it.

Why does Hulk get a new piece like this? All the Marvel Legends 20th Anniversary figures get a cardboard rectangle that can stand in the included logo base, with a comic cover on one side and artwork referencing the 2002 display base on the other - in this case, a wall Hulk has just burst through. An actual wall would have been better (especially since, at $43.99, Hulk costs over $10 more than the already-inflated price of the "standard" three figures), but this is fine. The question is why Hulk also gets an entirely new-mold piece to go with him. New molds, plural: the top is hard ABS, but the translucent green spikes and the base are soft PVC. If it's included to ease the blow of him costing more, then why not lower the price? If he costs more because it's included, then why not leave it out? It's defintely a fun little piece, but we should not be paying nearly 50 goddamn dollars for a 6" scale Incredible Hulk.

Hasbro could release another version of this toy if they wanted to. Here's a throwback trivia fact a lot of you may not remember: when Marvel Legends came out, Walmart had a policy of not carrying any (character) toys that weren't based on a movie or TV show: since ML was just based on the comics with nothing else to support it, WM declined to sell the line; but when they saw how massive a hit the first series was despite its high price ($6.99 at the Big Five, and an exhorbitant $8.99 at Market Six), they wanted in. So ToyBiz made a special "Series 1.5" just for Walmart, featuring variations on existing figures: Stealth Iron Man, Trenchcoat Thing, and a version of Hulk with blue pants and a white softgoods shirt. So all Hasbro would have to do is change the color of this figure's legs and throw in the already-existing tattered shirt remnants, and call it a reference to that obscure exclusive.

This is certainly a good Hulk, incrementally better than the last one, but that price is more monstrous than the character is. We'd tell you to wait for a sale, but that would require these toys to be in actual stores.

-- 07/25/22

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