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Sandman

Spider-Man Retro Collection
by yo go re

Here's to second... third... maybe fourth chances.

A massive dose of radiation bonds petty criminal William Baker's body to sand, creating a massive threat to Spider-Man!

Yes it did, but not on the cartoon whose toyline this Retro Collection is supposedly honoring. James Cameron was planning to make a Spider-Man movie, with Electro as the main villain (reimagined as corrupt corporate executive Carlton Strand with data-controlling powers and a taser-like death touch) and Sandman as his enforcer. Marvel, optimistically believing the movie would happen, forbade the Spidey animated series from using those two villains to avoid brand confusion. Things fell apart when the guy who actually owned the movie rights sold the theatrical, home video, and television rights to three different studios, and Fox (who had an exclusive contract with Cameron) wasn't interested in buying them up, but by that point it was too late for Sandman to make it into the cartoon before it ended.

Hasbro got the Marvel License just in time for Spider-Man 3, so Sandman was among the first figures they ever made. Of course, that was the Thomas Haden Church version, not the comic version, but they did eventually get around to doing that one... a full decade later. As a Build-A-Figure. Now they're trying again, with a version that's the size of a human.

The first time ToyBiz made a Sandman figure, it was a repaint of Hydro-Man. Fitting, then, that this figure gets its mold from the same place as Hasbro's Hydro-Man: namely, Luke Cage. It's a smart choice, since every time he gets a new costume, he eventually ends up returning to his original: brown pants and a striped green T-shirt. Possibly because that's what he was wearing when he got be-sand-ified, so everything else is something he has to really concentrate to maintain? Either way, it's good they've got this sculpt in their parts library. Billy-boy gets new arms, with the sleeves ending just below the elbows instead of being typical short sleeves like Luke's (or water like Morrie's). Sadly, a reused mold means he can't have the pitted texture that helped ToyBiz's 2005 Sandman be the Toy of the Year.

But he's not just a plain dude in a T-shirt, either. Hasbro's given us extra parts to portray his powers, similar to what they did with the BAF. In fact, a few of the parts are very similar: one hand becomes a big spiked ball, and the other a giant fist with lines of sand pouring off it! They're new sculpts (the hand is a fist, rather than open for instance), but the idea remains the same. Since his arms are totally human, just swapping on new sandy hands would look weird, so they also included bits that slip over the forearms, both bulking them up and hiding the normal skin. That is a hell of a smart solution, and Hasbro deserves a lot of credit for coming up with something so clever. There are no hinges in the alternate wrists, just pegs to plug into the forearms.

The Build-A-Figure also showed his powers by coming with two heads, and this figure follows suit. The normal one is fully human, with an unmistakably angry look, while the alternate is calmer, but is half turned to sand. The effect works better here than on the bigger BAF, in part because the sand color chosen is more yellow and less tan, so it won't end up looking like a beard or buzz-cut spot on his scalp, but mainly because of the way they've designed it: instead of just being a rough patch in the sculpt, this sand head has a hole going all the way through it, almost like when the T-1000 got shot in the eye. That's not what it's meant to be, though. Do you see what they were going for? It's a spot for Spider-Man's fist to punch straight through him! Take the Spidey of your choice, pop his hand off, put the wrist through the hole, and put the hand back on. This is so awesome! The sculpt on the human parts of the head(s) is a little soft, like it should have been exaggerated just a bit further before molding, but that's our only complaint.

Although he's a classic Spider-Man villain (appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #4, so only Dr. Octopus, Tinkerer, Vulture, and Chameleon are older), Sandman proved to be a good guy. Both kinds of good guy: a "good" guy, in that he let Spider-Man and the Human Torch escape when he could have killed them, and actually made friends with Ben Grimm over time; and also "a good guy," in that he eventually received a presidential pardon and became a reserve member of the Avengers, so literally a hero. (He only returned to his evil ways when Mr. Fantastic's enemy, the Wizard, used technology to reprogram his mind.) So whether you want this to be heroic William Baker or villainous Flint Marko, you've got a great figure with a bunch of fun playability. It's almost enough to make us wish they'd skipped the Retro Collection line and just done him as a deluxe with more sand pieces to go around his legs and a wider selection of hands.

-- 02/13/22


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