By now, everyone knows how awful Hasbro's Spider-Man 3 toys were - and if they don't, all it takes is a trip to the toy aisle to see the damn things clogging the shelves because no one wants to buy any. Hasbro absolutely dropped the ball on what should have been one of the best toy lines of 2007, turning it into one of the worst. Way to go, guys. Anyway, the tried to make up for it in a couple different ways, but none of them achieved very good market penetration. For instance, the "Unleashed 360" figures.
Flint Marko grew up rough. Abandoned by his father and ignored by his mother, he stole and cheated his way through school.
After school, he ended up in prison for a few years, but after that, life out in the world really didn't offer him much until the birth of his daughter. The first time he held that little girl in his arms, he swore he'd do better by her than his parents had by him. Since then, though, nothing's gone right. He didn't mean to hurt anyone, and he sure didn't mean to get turned into a walking pile of sand. But if life has taught him one thing, it's that the past is in the past. What's happening right now is important, and right now Spider-Man is in between him and being with his wife and daughter.
This is an odd line. "Unleashed" originally refered to the big, unarticulated plastic statues of Star Wars characters, and then to the small (still unarticulated) Star Wars battle packs, and finally to double-sided spinning Transformers statues. Now the name is "Unleashed 360," and it features Spider-Man figures and boasts of "ultimate posability [sic]?" What the hell, guys? You're sort of all over the place, here.
Anyway, the first of these Unleashed 360 figures are all based on Spider-Man 3, which means we get a Sandman. I was really looking forward to getting a movie Sandman toy, which is why the insipid 5" scale was so frustrating. That's one mistake the Unleashed figures definitely don't make - Flint, here, is 8¾" tall, which still isn't great, but it's better.
After all, he can absorb mundane sand to increase his bulk, so just pretend he's bulked up for a fight; that's probably not far from the truth.
The sculpt on this guy is... really impressive. Like, "above and beyond the call of duty" impressive. Remember the Spider-Man Classic Sandman with the fine, grainy texture all over? That pales by comparison. Most of his clothes are smooth, like you'd expect, but there are sections there are several sections where the surface has worn away, exposing sandy pits beneath. Ever seen a sand castle start to fall apart? Then you know what we're talking about.
Sandman's face doesn't really resemble Thomas Haden Church, but neither do the 5" figures. Half his head is turning to sand, and his arms and legs are following suit. His feet are just piles of sand, and he's turned his arms into different shapes: a giant fist for the right hand, and a huge block for the left. Sure, he doesn't have any plain replacement arms, but that would look completely out of place on this figure.
The articulation may not be "ultimate," but it is damn good. Pretty much everything is a balljoint, but it's not the usual Sigma 6-style joints Hasbro developed. Sandman has balljointed ankles, double-balljointed knees, balljointed hips, a swivel waist, hinged torso, double-balljointed elbows, balljointed shoulders, a balljointed neck and one more balljoint for the head. The elbows and knees are weird, in that they're similar to ToyBiz's double-hinges, but turning them into balljoints makes up for the lack of any kind of swivel in the biceps or wrist. It can be difficult to keep Sandman's "sand dune" feet flat on the ground when you pose him, but it's not impossible.
Sandman's paint is decent, but it has some definite problems.
First, though, the good. The sand is a slightly lighter shade than Flint's pants, which would have been an easy corner to cut without anyone noticing. The green stripes on his shirt have sculpted edges, so they're all straight, and the sandy spots on his torso blend expertly into the greens. His skin is pink, and his belt buckle is silver. So that's all right, what's wrong? His upper arms should be flesh colored, not tan. The stripes on his sleeves ignore the sculpted lines, and the stripes on his belly don't match up with the rest of the shirt - the lights and darks are reversed. They also missed a patch of sand under his right armpit, so what should be yellow is instead flat, stripeless green.
If that's all this set included, it wouldn't be worth buying. But Sandman has a display base/accessory thing that pushes his value way up. The base is a swirling pile of sand that stands over 12" tall. The sculpt is good, and truly looks like a combination of piled and flowing sand. Stand Flint in the middle of the swirl, and it looks like the sand is spinning around him - a very cool visual, to be sure, but there's still more.
The base separates into three parts, and the figure separates into five: Sandman's head and arms are removable, and he comes apart at the waist; the sand base splits in the middle, and has a removable "neck" at the top. What does that mean for us? Variety. There's never been a Sandman figure that could represent his powers in so many different ways.
You could just put his arms and head on the swirl, and make it look like he's reforming his body for the first time. Or attach the top of the swirl to the figure's legs, to make it look like he's dodging to the side to avoid a punch from Spider-Man. Or leave his head and arms attached to his torso, and put that on the lower half of the swirl, as if he's rising up quietly behind some unsuspecting foe. You may not notice it at first, but the upper half of the base is sculpted to resemble a chest and shoulders, and there are faint stripes of darker sand to suggest his shirt.
The Unleashed 360 figures retail for $20, which is too much, but Sandman ended up on "clearance" for $13 - not a big discount, but enough. It's less than you'd pay for a Marvel Select or DC Direct figure, yet you're getting more toy.
The other 360 figures don't offer as much value, however: it's the sand base (and the play options if offers) that makes Flint Marko worth it.
It's a shame that Hasbro has chosen to make these figures in the Unleashed 360 style. They've branched out beyond the Spider-Man movie costumes to comic based guys like Doctor Octopus and even the modern costume Green Goblin, but the fact remains that they're still the wrong size. Fans don't want 5" movie figures, Hasbro, and they don't want 8" ones, either. What we want is figures that will fit with the collections we already have, and that means 6". One odd-scale figure has to sell based only on its own value: one that fits with the rest has a whole team of friends helping consumers decide to lay their money down. Sandman can fit with the real figures with a bit of imagination, but he's the only one; the rest are just disappointing.