When the original Marvel Legends came out in 2002, the last figure I got from the series was Toad (at GameStop, for an exhorbitant $7.99) - he was less articulated than all the rest, so there really wasn't any big appeal to picking him up. That means there's a kind of fitting poetry to the fact that he was the final 20th Anniversary release to ship, months after all the rest.
Mortimer Toynbee was a greedy, pathetic little toady
when the genetic evil mutant known as Magneto took him in as a member of his original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But years of hard knocks toughened the Toad's hide, and the once-sniveling creature grew a spine. Now, a leaner, meaner Mortimer stands poised to exact revenge on all those who mistreated him.
That bio (copied from the old toy because Hasbro didn't put any on the card) certainly works a lot better for this version of Toad than it did for Phil Ramirez's original. When he first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #4, he was a short, ugly, tubby little weirdo who could jump good - it wasn't until decades later that he bacame skinny. In fact, it actually happened twice: Jim Lee was the first to start drawing him that way, for no real reason, but it didn't stick until X-Men Forever decided to make several characters more like their live-action movie counterparts. Now it tends to swing back and forth.
This toy definitely aims for the "slimmer" end of the spectrum. The ToyBiz figure had a large pot belly and deeply stooped shoulders,
while Hasbro's is much more average - he's short (just reaching the 6⅛" mark when he's standing straight up) and doesn't have much discernable muscle tone showing through his wrinkled outfit, but he's no more "fat" than Reed Richards is. There are sculpted wrinkles on the knees, hips, and trunk, but the fact that Hasbro needs to be able to reuse these molds in the future mean he doesn't get anything like the kind of texture or stitching that made the older ML Toad so great. His booties have pointed toes, and the bits of cloth around his ankles and wrists are separate pieces. So's the jester collar he wears, though it gets glued on rather than just being held by the bodyparts in front of it.
The head is weird. Like the body, it seems to be based on Jim Lee's art - or rather, like Scott Johnson's re-do for Marvel's licensing department:
narrow jaw, pointy chin, floppy hair, Joker smile, all that. You can definitely see what they were going for, and it's entirely possible whoever was hired to sculpt this was given that exact piece of art as a reference (and perhaps this one, which is also based on it). But here's the thing: that doesn't look like Toad. At least not 616 Toad. Ultimate Toad? Sure, we could buy that, if he were green. Todd Tolansky, from X-Men Evolution? It's a stretch, but even that's closer to this look than comicbook Toad is. He needs a big round face, not a small pointy one.
Like we said, X-Men Forever opted to make comicbook Toad more like his movie counterpart, which meant making him look like Ray Park. It also meant giving him new powers. When he was introduced in the '60s, his only power was super-strong legs, which is what let him jump everywhere; the movie kept that, but also gave him a prehensile tongue and the ability to secrete some kind of sticky resin, and both those features were adopted by the comics. To show that off, 20th Anniversary Toad has a second head with his mouth open and several feet of tongue whipping about. We'd be happier if both heads looked better, but this is still a good thing to include.
Making up for Toad's scrawny body (and the thing that ultimately kept him from a 2022 Worst of the Year nomination) is the fact that he's one of the most poseable Marvel Legends there is. He has a balljointed head, pec hinges, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps,
double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a balljointed chest, hinged stomach, balljoined hips on hinges, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. Hasbro, really busting out their best for this little guy! The hinges the legs are mounted on let you create enough clearance between the legs and the body that you can get the toy into a really deep squat, exactly the way Toad is often depicted. If there was some sort of swivel in the shin so we could have his feet point different directions, it'd be perfect! His shaggy hair does keep his head from topping up very far, something he needs to be able to do if he's going to be looking up at everyone around him.
At a glance, Toad looks a lot like Wild Child, thanks to the tan suit (though Kyle wasn't anywhere near this poseable, even if he should have been). His jester details are pale lavender, and he's wearing a brown belt. There's a brown wash around his hips, knees, and ankle to accentuate the sculpted wrinkles, but the leg in between them is plain mustard yellow, so he ends up looking only half-painted. Not good.
Toad is packaged with his hands balled into fists, but you also get a pair of fully splayed fingers to swap out. His upgraded powers
allow him to stick to walls using that resin of his, so this Spider-Mannish kind of pose is suitable for him. Adorably, he also includes a pair of little toads to be his buddies: a brown one that's fully at rest, and a green one that's lifted itself up slightly. The ToyBiz Toad had something similar, but his was permanently attached to his left hand, not a strong, independent amphibian who don't need no man!
The thing that finally prompted me to buy 2002 Toad was partly a sense of completion, and partly his cool base. Yes, it was mostly reused from the 2001 Spider-Man Classics line, but it was still enough to help sell the toy. Sad, then, that these 20th Anniversary figures, with their already-inflated prices, only come with a carboard backdrop. It measures 5" wide x 7⅝" tall, and can fit into a slot at the back of a black plastic rectangle with the old Marvel Legends logo molded on top. There's a comic cover on one side and art on the other that at least homages the ML1 base: a dirty swamp with the sun coming through the trees overhead.
That first ML Toad was a holdover from the Evolution of X line, which is why its style was so different from all the other figures; allegedly Dr. Doom was supposed to be in Series 1, but wasn't ready in time, so Toad got slotted in instead. This new one doesn't live up to his predecessor's sculpt or design at all, but he does set a new high bar for articulation. And he's the only release in this anniversary collection to be a new sculpt, so that has to count in his favor, right? The toy's good, even if he doesn't fit what you normally think of when you think of Toad. Plus, between the Maximoff twins and Mastermind, we now have the entire original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants lineup! Neat!