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Spider-Man Classic
by yo go re

This is the one villain I've been waiting for since Spider-Man Classics debuted (and was promptly cancelled) several years ago. We've gotten, on average, one villain per series in the replacement Spider-Man (Classic) line, but Sandman finally got the respect he deserves in Series 12.

When escaped inmate Flint Marko felt the police dragnet drawing ever tighter around him, he decided to hide out in the one place no one would ever look: an atomic testing range. Lying on the beach when the reactor blew, the molecules of his body merged at that radioactive instant with the sand beneath his feet! Sandman possesses the ability to transform his body into a malleable, sand-like substance that can be hardened, dispersed or shaped according to his will.

Okay, now before we get into the review, there's some question as to what Sandman's real name is: Flint Marko or William Baker. For whatever reason, the guy ended up getting named twice: though Stan Lee gave him a perfectly servicable name in his first appearance, apparently Roy Thomas couldn't be bothered to look that up when he was writing the premiere issue of Marvel Team-Up in 1972. The official story is that Baker, not wanting his mom to know what kind of jerk he'd become, adopted the name Flint Marko as his underworld alias.

The figure stands 7⅛" tall - these guys just keep getting bigger! He's even bigger than the already-huge Scorpion! That may seem a bit much for a guy who's supposed to be 6'1", but remember that Sandy can incorporate regular old mundane sand into his form to grow larger. Pretend he's beefed up for a big fight.

Articulation is great: head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, forearms, wrists, fingers, thumbs, torso, waist, hips, knees, ankles and toes. ToyBiz never disappoints, do they? The thumb joints are particularly nice: both of them move different ways, designed to make the hands look good in multiple poses. ToyBiz has started using more ratchet joints to make sure their figures can hold the wild poses they can get into, so Sandman's joints click as they move, giving him more stability.

The sculpt is fantastic. This is the work of Phil Ramirez, who also made the last good Sandman figure in the ancient Spider-Man Flip n' Trap line, one of the few pre-Legends figures I've held onto. Sandman's looking pretty impressive in his usual costume - none of that crazy "Frightful Four" crap for him. It's the brown pants and the striped green shirt that fans will always associate with the character.

Just doing that much would have been enough to make a good toy, but the detail doesn't stop there. Almost every inch of Sandman's body is rough and pitted, giving him a sandy texture that is absolutely perfect. From a distance, this is just a guy in an ugly shirt. Up close, he's made of living sand. Wonderful work, that; Todd's got nothing on ToyBiz. Best of all, this detail continues on the shoulder and hip balljoints, spots that usually get the shaft when it comes to intricate sculpts.

Even the face is great. Sandman's got a smug look on his face, and his hair is in those crazy little sideways cornrows that he was always drawn with. Since he's switched back and forth between good and evil a few times in his career, the more neutral expression lets you decide whether to stand him with the Sinister Six or the Avengers.

ToyBiz always has good paint apps, so Sandman's looking good. The colors look like they came straight out of the comics and there's a slight yellow wash over the whole thing to suggest sand. His skintones are a nice bright pink, and his sand parts are a dark tan.

Wait, sand parts? Yes, to duplicate Sandman's powers, the figure comes with four interchangeable arms. His human hands pop off at the forearms, and the new pieces plug in easily. You get your choice of an axe, a spiked ball, a clamping cylindrical claw or a giant hand, all of which can be fitted on either arm. Though the pieces look like they would be bendy, they're just molded that way - you'll have to decide for yourself which arms look best on which sides.

The only weakness with these extra limbs is that the line between them and the sleeves is so obvious: it would have been better if the yellow faded into green like the arms on McFarlane's T-1000, to show that his clothes are shifting as well.

Since Sandman debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #4, he's walked on both sides of the law. Like Kingpin, he soon left Spidey behind, taking on other foes more regularly - there was a huge stretch of time there when you were more likely to see Sandman brawling with the Fantastic Four or the Hulk than Spidey, but eventually he came back to his roots - "eventually" being 1990, giving him a nearly 20-year gap in his grudge. The last time we got a Sandman figure, it was one of ToyBiz's best. Must be something about the character, because once again ToyBiz has given us some of their best work on this great toy - in fact, it's 2005's best Toy of the Year!

-- 01/18/05

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