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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Hank Pym has an interesting history as a character. When he first appeared in Tales to Astonish #27, superheroes didn't dominate the genre the way they do now (the sales figures from the previous month's Fantastic Four #1 wouldn't even have been in yet), so he was just an average scientist in a sci-fi plot: man shrinks himself, fights bugs for survival. Eight months later, after the FF hit it big, the scientist was re-imagined as a hero, thrown in a costume and given a helmet that let him talk to ants.

Of course, a shrinking superhero was nothing new - there were already a handful of them around by that point (and a handful's a whole lot when they're that small), so about a year after he put on the Giant-Man costume, Ant-Man hit on a new gimmick - he'd reverse the process, add two letters to his name and become Giant-Man! Good thing, too, since the same month Hulk quit the Avengers, leaving Hank as the team's muscle.

Hank Pym started small. After shrinking his way to worldwide renown as the super-heroic Ant-Man, founding member of the mighty Avengers, he ascended to even greater glory in the guise of Giant-Man. Now he continues to prove that size matters: His greatest asset is his big brain and knack for invention! Due to years of exposure to the size-altering properties of Pym Particles, Giant-Man can increase in stature at will to a maximum height of 100 feet or shrink to the size of an ant. He grows by drawing additional mass from an extra-dimensional source, to which it returns when he reverts to normal. Goliath can shrink an entire laboratory or an array of firearms to the size of a microchip when not in use. The various compartments on his uniform straps contain a wide variety of miniaturized equipment.

ToyBiz has made a legitimate Giant-Man figure before, in the Classic Avengers box set from 1996 and that mold was rather clumsily repainted as the ML4 Goliath chase figure. However, he only stood about 8" tall, which was fine for a 5" scale figure, but mixed in with Marvel Legends he just looks too small. When the first BAF, Galactus, came out, we commented that it was a shame ToyBiz hadn't come up with the idea in time to handle Giant-Man. Well, if all the other early figures can get updates in later series, then it stands to reason that GM can, too.

Between the releases of ML12 and 13, Wal*Mart offered an exclusive Legends series. The series comprised nine figures (with two variants), most of which had yet to see the plastic love as a Marvel Legend. To keep the costs down, since there would only be one retailer supporting them, most of the figures are repaints of existing molds with new heads, but they were done well. If you bought all the figures (and, unfortunately, one of the variants) you could build your own Giant-Man, capable of dwarfing his fellow heroes.

Unlike the three previous Marvel Legends Build-A-Figures, Giant-Man comes in 10 pieces, which is why you have to buy the Wolverine variant: nine figures, 10 pieces, you do the math. There was some discussion that the tenth piece would just be doubled into the package with one of the figures (for instance, one figure would come with both hands) but that did not turn out to be the case.

Giant-Man is, as he should be, friggin' HUGE! Or maybe not. He's certainly not the biggest BAF, at 13½" tall. That makes him the same size as Apocalypse, and therefore taller than Galactus but shorter than the Sentinel. But the important thing is that an important spot on your Marvel Legends Avengers roster has finally been filled, and filled well. Since he'll be fighting alongside Earth's Mightiest Heroes and not just standing in the background, GM's got plenty of articulation: toes, ankles, boots, knees, hips, waist, torso, fingers, wrists, gloves, elbows, biceps, shoulders (both balljoints and lateral slides) and the neck. The major joints are ratcheted, so he'll stand up to the passage of time, and his hips are especially firm. Luckily, they're not as prone to breaking as Apoc's were.

The sculpt is excellent. Despite his huge size, Giant-Man's musculature Hmm, what should I hit her with tonight? is nicely understated. He looks like an average guy who gets a lot of regular exercise, not a super-strong 'roid freak. There are spots where we can see the leather texture of the costume, and his gloves look like they've actually been assembled, not sculpted. He's got crazy pads over his ears, for some reason, and I never understood why Hank still had antennae when he was Giant-Man - it's not like he still needs to worry about talking to ants at that size. The face is great. He looks almost serene, except for the slight squint. That's the look of a guy who's pissed, but trying to hide it: he's thinking about how he's going to beat the hell out of Wasp when they get home.

A lot of fans (with no sense of history) were pissed when Giant-Man was revealed as an abusive husband in The Ultimates #6. They thought it was a cheap attempt at adding "modern drama." Hate to break it to you, fanboys, but that idea wasn't Mark Millar's: it was Jim Shooter's, in Avengers #213. And when was that? November 1981, a good 20 years earlier. So suck on that!

There are a few problems with the idea of the WML. Put aside the fact that you're required to buy one of the variants in order to complete your Giant-Man. Ignore that for now. There are actually important things to complain about.

First of all, the limited availability, at least at the outset. WML began to show up at the end of April, in large PDQ boxes, but was quickly sold out - a few hours at most stores. It was two months before even the smallest restocks began to show up, and we won't see these in truly strong numbers until after the stores do their seasonal reset in August. Wal*Mart really should have planned this better - normally, when a new Legends series drops, it's available at several sources, so the demand at each store is lessened.

Say ML18 comes out, and it's on the pegs at Target, TRU and Wal*Mart. To make the math easy, pretend there are six people in your town who want to buy the figures. That means if each store only puts out enough product for two people, the demand is still met and everyone goes home happy. However, this line's only at Wal*Mart, so now only two people are happy, while the other four get more and more frustrated. Jesse Falcon says that the WML were produced in huge numbers - on par with any other Legends line. Well, if that's the case, Wal*Mart should have had them ready to go from the outset. A lot of fans got really nervous about the huge lag between the first reports of figures found and the time that they managed to find any, leading to rumors that the line was sold out and no more were coming.

Another complaint with the WML was the choice of host store. Even putting aside the dislike many people have for Wal*Mart, the store isn't everywhere. It may be fairly ubiquitous, but some people have to make a special trip to find a Wal*Mart, and how are they going to feel if there's no product on shelves? But hey, at least those people have an outside chance - overseas ML fans are getting shut out unless they can get someone in the US to buy a set for them. That's led to a lot of ire from the foreign fanboys, and quite a few of them are dumping their collections because of it. It doesn't help that so far, Wal*Mart hasn't listed these for sale on their website, either - and that goes back to the problems with the slow restock we've seen in physical locations, too.

Though Hank Pym first appeared soon after the Fantastic Four, there was some evidence that he may have actually appeared before the fabled foursome. In Tomb of Darkness #22, there was a reprint of an old Marvel monster story about a diminutive scientist who was obsessed with height. The story was called "I Created Grutan," and the doomed scientist (he eventually locked himself inside a giant robot) had a young research assistant named... Hank Pym! Too cool! And also not real!

Yes, the story was a reprint from Strange Tales #75, which was released in June of 1960 - more than a year before FF #1 - but a few things had been changed. The original title of the story was "I Made the Hulk Live" (changed for obvious reasons) and the story had been relettered to change the assistant's name to Hank Pym. Cheaters. So while that particular story has been retconned into Hank's personal history, he wasn't there originally. But really, that's okay - he's still one of the first Marvel heroes, and though his flaws may be worse than some, he's still good. Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, Dr. Henry Pym... whatever name he's going by this week, this is a nice figure, and a very good update.

Sentry | Sabretooth | Captain Britain | Kitty Pryde
Ant-Man | Thor | Havok | Ms. Marvel | Weapon X

-- 07/04/06

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