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Stan Lee

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

A while back, we had a thread on our message board about the Marvel Legends line, and what figures we'd thought we'd never get to see. One of the suggestions that came up? Stan Lee. It seemed like an unrealistic idea at the time, and yet? A year later?

Guess somebody out there was listening.

At SDCC '07, Hasbro took advantage of their first summer with the Marvel license to deliver a pair of con exclusives. One was the half-lawyer, half-FF exclusive She-Hulk, and the other was Stan the Man. The figure is sold in a white box with printed line art of Stan opening his shirt to reveal Spider-Man's costume, along with a reproduction of Stan's signature. The interior box looks like the page of a comic, with a panel of Stan carrying Spider-Man in an homage to the classic Amazing Fantasy #15. The figure is displayed behind a clear window, and if you raise the flap on the left side of the box, you'll see a short comic and the figure's accessories. It's a nice presentation, but a pretty box isn't why we're here, now is it? Of course not! We want what's inside!

Stan Lee first met Captain America when he was 19 years old, and just getting started in publishing. It was a short meeting, just long enough for Cap to flesh out a few details for the story Stan was covering for Timely Comics, but it made a lasting impression. There were great men out in the world, and Stan Lee resolved to tell their stories. Later in his career, he became the official memoirist of the Fantastic Four and one of the few citizens to meet Spider-Man face to face (though it was always difficult to get interviews with the webslinger). During the height of anti-mutant paranoia, he was one of a very few writers with full access to Charles Xavier's X-Men. He is the only human writer ever to secure an interview with Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans (famously short though it was). So famous is he as an accurate, impartial teller of tales of derring do that even Dr. Doom is rumored to desire his services as ghostwriter on the inevitable biography. He has been a friend, advisor and confidant to the superhuman community of Earth for 65 years now, a man without whom many of history's most significant events would long ago have faded into obscurity.

Given that that massive block of text is followed up by a list of Stan's "powers" which includes "stunning humility and good looks," you get the feeling that Stan wrote the bio himself. What can we say? No one ever accused the guy of being succinct. Stanley Lieber planned to make his fame as a novelist, and since he didn't want that work to be associated with the comics he was writing to fill the time, he split his first name in two and started writing as Stan Lee.

The figure is packaged in an action pose, with a coil of twist-tie standing in for one of Spidey's webs. That's a clever move, and it's one numerous fans have done before - consider it a shoutout to the customizers and diorama crowd. The figure is held in place by the rubberbands Hasbro loves so much (but he stays in the tray well even without them) and the background is a halftone print of a city street at rooftop level.

Stan is weaing khakis and a blue jacket - and since they're both cloth, there's no sculpt to speak of. They look about as good as any "softgoods" items look on a 6" figure - which is to say, pretty bad, but not terrible. The jacket has stiched panels to represent pockets and cuffs. What little bit of this figure has been sculpted looks good. The hands have that "old man" appearance, and his penny loafers - with real sculpted pennies! - are worn over black socks.

The likeness is close, but not perfect. Yes, it looks like Stan Lee, but it looks more like a Stan Lee than the Stan Lee, get it? We've seen movie figures with an uncanny likeness, but this is more of a passing similarity. Stan has a bit of a grin underneath that gray mustache, and his blue eyes are behind gold-rimmed glasses (which are glued to the ears, for security). The head looks slightly too big on the body (though there's a joke in there somewhere about Stan Lee's ego and a swelled head), and the hairline isn't right: it's not hard to find a picture of Stan Lee, and the hair on this figure looks too full and slicked back.

Pop off Stan's hands and feet, and you can take off his clothes. Why would you want to do that? No, it's not so you can re-create some of the more graphic anecdotes told by X-Play's "Roger, the Stan Lee Experience" - this figure is actually two-for one!

The body beneath the windbreaker and trousers is taken from ML10's First Appearance Spider-Man, so if you have that figure, you know what to expect. If you don't have that figure, go read Monkey Boy's review. The only real difference between that figure and this one (other than the lack of the stupid web-shawl) is that the Stan Lee Spider-Man is light blue, rather than dark. The sculpt is the same, as is the articulation: balljointed neck, hinged laterals, balljointed shoulders, peg biceps, double-hinged elbows, peg forearms, hinged wrists, individual fingers, hinged torso, peg waist, balljointed hips, peg thighs, double-hinged knees, peg shins, hinged ankles, and hinged toes (the Stan Lee pieces are unarticulated). The knees and elbows feel a bit soft, but not as bad as some "real" releases.

If we stopped right there, this exclusive would already be good enough, but this figure has two more accessories: an empty Spider-Man mask that can be clutched in his hand, and a bare Peter Parker head. This isn't the same head that came with the Secret Identity Spider-Man: that was the young "Ultimate" Peter Parker; this one actually looks more like Steve McNiven's version of Peter, as seen in Civil War. Hey, think that's why he's unmasked? Just like Stan Lee, Pete's head is too big for this body - just compare it to the properly sized Spidey head.

Given all the different accessories that come in this set, you can really make three figures: Spider-Man, Stan Lee, and civilian Peter Parker. And that's not even counting "unmasked Spider-Man" and "Stan Lee in Spider-Suit!" This isn't just a cool figure of Stan Lee (though it is that) - this is a two-in-one set of Stan and his most famous creation. But more than that, still: thanks to the addition of two new accessories, this may just be the best Spider-Man figure we've ever gotten.

Stan "The Man" Lee is the father of modern comicbook storytelling, and one of the architects of the Marvel Universe. It is absolutely fitting that he was the first real person to become a Marvel Legend, and a great tribute that his figure is so good. This exclusive is one of this year's must-have toys, so if you don't already have him, head over to Hasbro's online store and get ordering.

And Hasbro, get cracking on a Jack Kirby figure. With a chair and a drawing table. Excelsior!

-- 12/28/07

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