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Savage Land set

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

In 2006, Diamond Select Toys offered an exclusive bust of Shanna the She-Devil at SDCC. It was nice, but her fans were still lacking a real poseable figure. Well, for SDCC 2008, Hasbro delivered - and even took things a step further.

Stranded in the Savage Land as a young boy, Ka-Zar first encountered Zabu when the saber-toothed tiger rescued him from an attack by the vicious Man-Ape tribe. Unusually intelligent for his species, Zabu took the boy under his protection, and raised him as his own into a man feared and respected across the primitive land they call home. When Shanna came to the Savage Land, drawn by its purity and primitive beauty, she and Ka-Zar first became a team, and eventually married. Together with Zabu, they protect the Savage Land from outsiders that would exploit its vast resources, and from the corrupting influence of modern technology.

The set is sold in a nice box with Frank Cho artwork. The front shows Ka-Zar, Zabu and Shanna, while the inside flap shows a pack of dinosaurs facing off against cavemen and Sauron. The X-Men's Sauron, not Tolkien's. The pterodactyl guy. You know who we mean. The figures are posed dynamically, so you're presented with a nice scene when you open the front flap. The tray behind the trio is printed with the same image as the front of the box - but minus the three characters, so the actual toys can take their place.

You probably know that Ka-Zar is a Tarzan knockoff. He's Lord Kevin Plunder, a white British dude who lives in the jungle - it doesn't exactly take a huge leap in logic to make the connection. What you probably didn't know, however, is just how old the character is. The name first pops up in the story "King of Fang and Claw," by Bob Byrd, printed in Ka-Zar #1, a pulp magazine from 1936. That's not a typo: 1936. That means the character is older than Namor, older than Captain America, and yes, even predates the publication of Superman by two years. And who released that magazine? Manvis Publishing Company, one of the names used by Martin Goodman before he decided first on "Timely," then on "Atlas," and finally on the name "Marvel" Comics.

Technically, this Ka-Zar isn't that Ka-Zar: though that version was one of the features in Marvel Mystery Comics during the late '30s and early '40s, he was reimagined for his Silver Age debut in Uncanny X-Men #10. It's sort of the same way that Alan Scott turned into Hal Jordan, or Jay Garick swaped out with Barry Allen. So the figure in this set is the one created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1965.

Befitting his ancient origins, Ka-Zar uses an old-style ML body: specifically, the Face-Off Punisher body. It was hard to place at first, but the small cloth-style wrinkles on his legs gave it away. On the plus side, the difficulty we had identifying it means you probably won't notice. It's a good choice, anyway, muscular enough to suit a man who lives in the jungle. Ka-Zar is 6¼" tall and moves at the ankles, shins, knees, thighs, hips, waist, torso, forearms, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. Kind of surprising that he doesn't have any sort of wrists, though.

Ka-Zar gets a new head, which looks very nice. The face is distinct from previous ML figures, so he doesn't end up looking like a long-haired Captain America or anything. The hair actually prevents his neck joint from tipping backward, so he's constantly looking at the ground in front of him - probably doesn't want to step in any dino poop. He is barefoot, after all. The feet and hands (entire forearms, really) are new sculpts, unique to this figure.

His loincloth is a separate piece, floating around the waist, but it's not removable. His only true accessory is a nice hunting knife, which fits in the sheath on his right leg. It's rather loose, so be sure you don't lose it if you have Ka-Zar doing any flips while he runs through your jungle. There are non-removable knives on his left shin and the back of his loincloth. Additionally, the re-use of the Punisher's body makes this the first Hasbro ML figure to have a Doop hole.

Shanna the She-Devil was one of three characters introduced in the early '70s when Stan Lee had the idea to introduce some comics designed to reach out to female readers. Shanna is the daughter of diamond miner Gerald O'Hara (no relation), and spent most of her childhood growing up in Zaire. When she was six, her father accidentally shot her mother, and Shanna was sent to live with relatives in America. Because it wouldn't do to have a character who's less than perfect at everything she tries, Shanna was an Olympic champion (in swimming and trck and field) and worked as a veterinarian at the Central Park Zoo. She could also spin straw into gold and her farts smelled like fresh baked cookies. Okay, not those last two.

Anyway, when the leopard she was caring for was killed by a guard, Shanna took the leopard's cubs to a game reserve in Africa to care for them. She also started parading around in a bikini made from their mother's pelt, possibly to remind them who was the boss. Meanwhile her father was killed, her two leopards were killed, her husband was killed, her boyfriend was seemingly killed... basically, the girl is a jinx. Now she's married to Ka-Zar: if I were him, I'd watch my back.

Shanna shares the lion's share of her mold with the Savage She-Hulk figure from the concurrent Hulk Legends line-up, but it seems likely this body was designed with Shanna in mind - the texture of her bikini is more like what we see on Shanna in the comics than anything Shulkie ever wore. Her figure is wide enough side-to-side, but front-to-back she seems a bit too thin to be proportional. Shanna's just a tad shorter than her husband, but her articulation is much lower. As a Hasbro-designed body, all her movement is accomplished by balljoints, and the lack of double-hinged elbows and knees really hurts her poseability: she's typically shown in a cat-like squat, and that's impossible here. Double-hinges remain the ideal for this sort of joint.

The angle of the figure's neck means she seems forever to be thrusting her head forward, but at least she can look straight ahead. Her head is new, of course, and though her blonde hair is swirling out to the side, it doesn't block the joint at all - that's good design! The face is nice, avoiding the poor proprotions of the Emma Frost figure; and from the right angle, Shanna manages to look more like Tricia Helfer than the Cylon Six figure does.

Shanna has two accessories: one that makes sense, one that doesn't. The good one is a big machete, just over 2" long, which she can hold in her right hand. The left hand is molded to hold the other accessory, a 3¾" rifle. The rifle has a decent sculpt: why's it a bad accessory? Because her father shot her mother! She hates guns with a passion! This accessory would belong with the Frank Cho version, but not the mainstream Marvel version.

By the way: her family is from the US but she was born in Zaire? That means Shanna is African-American.

The original Ka-Zar palled around with a lion named Zar, but the updated version gets a much more exotic animal - Zabu, the smilodon. That's a sabertooth tiger to the small segment of non-paleontologists in our audience. "Sabertooth," by the way, is what's known as a "bahuvrihi compound," which is kind of like synecdoche in that it describes something by naming a feature of one of its parts: a sabertooth is neither a saber nor a tooth, but is instead a specific kind of large cat that has teeth which are somewhat similar to sabers. Get it? There you go, that's your English lesson for the day. Feel free to skip class.

Zabu is an insanely clever example of re-using a mold. There's never been a Marvel Legends cat (or any animals, for that matter), so they had to get creative. The solution? The tiger from the "GI Joe Sigma 6 Adventure Team: Danger in the Jungle" set. A tiger sized for an 8" line becomes giant when it's put in a 6" line, so this is perfect.

The cat is 8" long from nose to tail, and stands 3¾" tall. He moves at the jaw, head, brisket, shoulders, elbows, pasterns, torso, hips, hocks, fetlocks and tail. Most of those are balljoints, but the torso and jaw are hinges and the head is a swivel. Zabu is painted nicely, with orange shadows on a yellow base, off-white claws, black paw pads and green eyes. His head and tail are new molds that make him look more like a sabertooth and less like a tiger.

Compared to the Sigma 6 tiger head, (other than the teeth, of course) Zabu's nose is wider, his ears are smaller and flatter, his nose is wider, there's less fur around his eyes and cheeks, and his lips are pulled back in more of a snarl. The lower jaw is a new mold, as well. His tail is short and fluffy, which is true to real-world smilodons. Since the animal's mold originated with Sigma 6, its design is somewhat chunky or cartoonish, but not so much that he'll look out of place next to his family. Using the existing mold was an inspired choice.

The Marvel Legends Savage Land set was available at SDCC '08, and also on HasbroToyShop.com after the show. It's a great set, with three brand-new Marvel characters using unusal molds - it's nice to see a repaint that doesn't use the Bullseye or Black Panther bodies, you know? None of the figures are without flaws, but all three are worth adding to your Marvel Universe. Hasbro's really put together a clever exclusive here, one of the summer's best.


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