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Iron Man

Marvel 80th Anniversary
by yo go re

It's time to redefine the gold standard.

Genius industrialist and inventor Tony Stark creates a suit of armor for himself, powered by the arc reactor in his chest, becoming the hero, Iron Man.

Iron Man first appeared in 1963's Tales of Suspense #39, but this figure does not represent his appearance in that comic; nor is it the way he looked a month later, when he painted it gold to impress a girl; rather, this comes from a couple models later - Tony had been building toward this look for a while, but once he got there, it stuck! Through various tweaks and minor alterations, this is the Iron Man armor Tony wore from Tales of Suspense #48 (1963) to Iron Man #200 (1985). Nearly 20 years? These days the comics can barely go 20 months without changing his design! So fas far as trying to pick an iconic Iron Man armor goes, there's no better pick.

By virtue of being the classicest of classic armors, this figure is technically the same as the Iron Man we got in the original Marvel Legends Series 1, which really allows us to see how toymaking has progressed in the last 16 years. (Hasbro has made this armor before, but it was before they got really good.) The body proportions are better, with limbs that are thick enough without looking too long for the torso. The chest is sculpted with the rings around the shoulders, the unibeam in the center of the chest, and the two little knobs up by the collarbones.

Rather than having highly defined muscles, like most superhero toys, there's just the basic hint of anatomy; think of the way a real (hypertrophied) human - say, a successful bodybuilder - would look wearing a spandex suit: ie, you could see the shapes of a lot of muscles, but not the muscles themselves, yeah? So to show us that Iron Man is wearing something thicker and sturdier than all his coworkers, Iron Man's limbs are less detailed. The boots, gloves, and underwear are sculpted with horizontal bands, just as was seen in the art, and the weird pods on his hips are right there, too: they just started appearing with no explanation; Tales of Suspense #56, for instance, has no pods on the cover or splash page, then they randomly show up between one panel and the next on page 2. The forearms of the gloves seem too thin to actually have any body inside them, which will lead us handily to our next point of discussion.

When Iron Man first donned the red and gold armor, the helmet he wore with it was the "horned" version, something this toy does not include, sadly. Four issues later, that was replaced by a smoother one with rivets on it, a look which no one ever thinks of. Finally, in Tales of Suspense #66, the rivets were dropped, at last giving us the classic mask as everyone remembers it. The helmet on this toy has a pointier jawline, making the head look more like a mask than a helmet.

By 1974, Stan Lee was no longer editor-in-chief of Marvel, but he still tried to give input on the comics when he could. Looking over an Iron Man cover that year, Stan felt the head was drawn so small that it looked like it might as well be Tony's actual head, not something worn over it. So he commented "shouldn't there be a nose?", which was taken out of context to mean "give Iron Man a nose." The creative team complied with Stan's "edict," giving him a nose even though they didn't like the idea (Iron Man #72, for example, has a scene where the character himself attends SDCC and all the fans make fun of him), and all because the armor in the art, like the forearms on this toy, looked too small to have any human parts contained within. And while this toy may not have the horned mask, it does include an alternate head with a nose.

Technically it includes two alternate heads with noses, because there's also an unmasked Tony Stark head. Since this is a toy that represents the comics' history, not the movies, he's got the little Errol Flynn mustache and not the Robert Downey Jr. goatee. He has stylishly tousled hair, cut short enough to keep him from looking like one of those damn beatniks a 1960s industrialist would have hated so much.

Iron Man moves at the ankles, shins, knees, thighs, hips, waist, chest, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, neck, and head - no surprises in the joints, but that's okay. The colors are good, with gold for the limbs rather than comic-accurate yellow, and a red that's metallic without being "swirly." The golden faceplate on the red helmet is a separate piece glued in place, because that allows them to make the mouth and eye slits actual hollows revealing the blackness within, thereby creating a more realistic sense of depth.

In addition to the alternate heads, the accessories here include open hands or fists, plus a few blast effects. At first glance, they appear similar to the ones we've been getting for a few years, just done in yellow and not translucent. You know, the kind that can plug into the palms or the feet. But there are also larger "flare" effects with holes in them that the blasts can fit through, allowing you to chose what level of power you want him to be displaying. This is the same sort of thing Transformers are going to be coming with soon.

In concept, this Iron Man doesn't feel different from ones we've had before, making that $25 pricetag hard to accept. Five bucks more with no BAF piece? Not an easy sell. But the toy turns out to be a lot better than expected, definitively doing things better than either of the previous attempts. If it had included a horned helmet as well as all the rest, it might be the last Iron Man toy you'd ever have to buy.

-- 09/23/19

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