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Image 10th Anniversary
by yo go re

Though the California dock strikes are ultimately to blame, there is absolutely nothing more fitting than Image's "10th Anniversary" toys shipping three weeks too late to be in their tenth anniversary year.

Formed when some of Marvel Comics' hottest young talent jumped ship, Image was more an artist's commune than an actual business. Left to their own devices and finding themselves for the first time in charge of more than just their art, the group began to miss deadlines, squabble, and generally make asses of themselves. Some still do.

Most of the guys eventually got their acts together, but it's appropriate that figures meant to commemorate the Image Comics of September 1992 would ship in January 2003.

When Todd McFarlane decided he wanted to turn his hot comicbook property, Spawn, into a series of action figures, he shopped the idea around to the major toy companies. Dissatisfied with what the big boys had to offer him, Todd decided to form his own company in 1994. Calling the company Todd Toys, the figures he produced (six in the initial line) were much different than the other superheroes on the market: at 5½" tall, they towered over the competition; the detail in the sculpting blew collectors away; even the accessories were cool.

Of course, by today's standards, those figures from almost a decade ago are nothing special - almost a joke! With each new line of figures, McToys has increased the level of detail and raised the bar ever higher. McFarlane set out to make the best figures he could, and he's brought the entire toy industry up with him. For that, we thank him.

But recently, other companies have been nipping at his heels. Art Asylum, MAC and Mezco all appeared on the scene, and even ToyBiz stepped up to the plate with their Marvel Legends line. McToys' forte was always a wonderful sculpt, but now companies were mixing a great sculpt with massive articulation. Every month, Todd's toys looked more and more like sad little statues.

2002 was the year that Todd struck back. Though in-roads had been made to the articulation lovers, it wasn't until Spawn Series 22 that they really pulled it off. Every figure in the line had more than 20 points of articulation, yet none of the sculpts suffered. Still, was this something they could manage regularly?

If Spawn 10 is any indication, the future's looking very bright. As articulated as anything on the market, Spawn stands 7¼" tall. Gone are the severely limiting attempts to "hide" articulation, making this the first real Spawn toy McFarlane has released since Series 12's "Arsenal of Doom" Spawn, and easily the best ever.

Spawn comes with a large display base cross. 12" tall and 5⅜" wide, the cross pushes into the dome base for support. There have been many complaints that the cross began to lean when Spawn was placed upon it, but that's only if you've assembled it incorrectly. The "stone" part of the cross (above the black) fits down into the dome about half an inch before it comes to a stop. If pushed in as far as it will go, the cross will not bend.

Spawn's cape, looking like the folded paper Todd always drew, is composed of 12 individual pieces of soft PVC, held together in some cases by glue, by mainly by peg joints that allow the individual bits to swivel (though early in the design process, the cape would have been a solid piece with hinges, much like Spawn 1 had). Every section is covered with ridges to suggest cloth, and all the shadows and highlights are painted. If you choose to take Spawn's cape off (it's glued in place by a large square block in his back), you'll really be able to appreciate the figure beneath.

Spawn has 32 points of articulation: swivel/hinge neck, swivel shoulders, unique rotating pectoral hinge joints, swivel biceps, hinge elbows, swivel forearms, hinged wrists, balljoint chest with ratcheting up/down motion, swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinge knees, swivel/hinge ankles, and hinged toes. Then, of course, there are all the joints in the cape.

The stupid thing is that despite all this articulation, Spawn doesn't have balljointed shoulders. For some inexplicable reason, he's just got standard peg joints, which limit his limbs' poseability. Yeah, you can do a lot with him (as seen in all the photos farther up the page), but not everything.

McFarlane's (as always uncredited) sculpting team turned in their usual fine work for Spawn. He's gangly yet muscular, though his legs seem a little too long. All the detailing on his costume is raised rather than just painted on, which will protect his looks.

This is the first time a McFarlane toy has actually lived up to the "Ultra-Action Figure" moniker printed shamelessly on every package. He's big, he's bad and he's articulated the way he always should have been. Yes, he costs $11.99 (or up to $14.99, depending on your store's standard markup), but he's worth it. This is a beautiful figure. If McFarlane keeps the standards this high, they'll stay on top of the toy world for years to come.

-- 02/21/03

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