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Legendary Heroes
by Poe Ghostal

The emergence of Image Comics in the early '90s led to a number of oft-parodied cliches of superheroes of the period, thanks to the stylistic similarities between the superstar artists who made their names during this time. The best example is probably Cable, whose design (by Rob Liefeld) featured segmented bionic limbs, huge shoulder pads, belts of pouches everywhere, and lots of huge guns. (You know, just once I would have liked to see Cable pull something out of those pouches. What did he keep in there? Ammunition? Condoms? Tic-Tacs?) The rise of Cable and his clones may have been due to a natural effect of taking Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns to its illogical extent. This all became the subject of the satire known as Kingdom Come, where Cable is represented by Magog.

But while Cable is the de-facto representative of the period in both design and attitude, there are plenty of other contenders, including Erik Larsen's SuperPatriot. Take it away, packaging!

SuperPatriot was once Johnny Armstrong, a soldier in World War II. He was captured by the enemy and used as a guinea pig for scientific experiments, which gave him superhuman powers. He destroyed the enemy’s base, donned an American flag-styled costume and defended the world against evil as SuperPatriot. After a savage attack by one of his foes, his body was taken to Cyberdata, a corporation of underground scientists who transformed him into a powerful cyborg. He continues to use his powers to save the world.

With his bionic limbs, blazing weapons and kill 'em all attitude, SuperPatriot is a classic example of the superheroes of the early '90s. It's like they got their Cable in my Captain America (OK, that analogy didn't work out as planned, but it's funny so I'll let it stand). He appeared early in Larsen's The Savage Dragon and is probably the best-known member of that universe after the Dragon himself. As such, he was the first character after the Dragon to make it into ToyBiz's Legendary Heroes line.

ToyBiz was often hit-or-miss in the days of Marvel Legends, but for the most part their LCBH sculpts are top-notch, and SuperPatriot is no exception. Very little of the Paul Harding sculpt is a re-use from a Marvel Legend figure, with the (possible) exception of his chest and upper arms. I like the chaotic design of the arm-cannon, which looks just as crazy as any "Cable gun." The variant features the gun on the other arm, with longer "claws" on the fingers of the other hand and an unmasked face that lets you admire SP's freaky visage.

ToyBiz's product probably has the best paint applications for a mass-market line. I'm especially impressed by the wash on the shirt. The bright and clean red, whites and blues on his mask, shoulder pads, and crotch(?) are accurate to the comic. The bionic parts are molded in silver plastic, and while they look just a tad too toyish for my taste, it's not a significant issue.

Like all ToyBiz product, SuperPatriot is super-articulated. We've got balljoints at the head, shoulders, and hips; double pin joints at the elbows and knees, as well as a pin joint at the base of the fingers; full ankle articulation; and peg joints at the biceps, wrists, waist, shins, and ponytail(!).

Accessories? Well, the SuperPatriot is a walking weapon; his arms and legs are a mass of nanorobots that can reconfigure themselves left at will to form any shape or weapon (kind of like the T-X from Terminator 3). So SP's only accessory is one of Pitt's arms, and hey, that's pretty cool. I hadn't originally intended to pick up the entire line until I opened up the Dragon and checked out Pitt's leg; when I saw how cool it was, I decided that maybe I did have room in my collection for someone like Ripclaw.

SuperPatriot, like Cable and Deadpool, has become a surprisingly interesting character since his rather one-note debut. Also like Cable and Deadpool, he was originally going to be a Marvel character. That didn't happen, but he's had several miniseries penned by Invincible and Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. Like Deadpool, SP's stories have shifted from violent and grim to humorous and action-oriented. It seems that even the lamest characters (and yes, SuperPatriot was lame) can be saved by good writing. (Just ask Supreme...)

-- 09/28/07

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