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by yo go re

Welcome to the beginning.

Incredibly strong, virtually invulnerable, and with a body almost bursting with evil mutant power, Juggernaut is the ultimate mutant battering ram. Juggernaut is unstoppable... he can smash his way through anything, even a mountain! His skin is so tough that not even Archangel's paralyzing darts can penetrate it. The only way to defeat him is to tear off his helmet and knock him out... something that, thanks to his battering-ram-like fists, is almost impossible!

In the early '90s, a little-known company named ToyBiz began releasing Marvel action figures. The only things of note they'd made before were a notoriously bad DC line that used bootleg Super Powers Collection molds, and the first Batman movie toys. Their first effort, Marvel Super Heroes, was an assortment of random heroes and villains. Their second was all about the X-Men.

As a comic, The Uncanny X-Men had grown immensely in popularity through the '80s, but it was still mostly unknown outside the world of comic collectors. Spider-Man was a household name, but only nerds knew the X-Men. Still, ToyBiz gambled on a themed line of toys, and their timing couldn't have been better. Soon after the toys hit shelves, X-Men #1 came out, becoming the best-selling comic in history. The mutants were finally jabbing their way into the public consciousness, and on the back cover of that comic was an ad for the X-Men toys. The next year came Fox's cartoon, and the rest is history.

There were nine figures in that first X-Men assortment, and I had seven of them. [Try to guess which two he skipped, kids! --ed.] There should be no question in your mind that one of the ones I did get was Juggernaut. I've said before that one of the first two action figures little yo ever owned was Ram-Man, and though I certainly wasn't consciously aware of it at the time, it's not hard to draw a straight line between "love for vintage Ram-Man" and "love for Juggernaut." They both wear red armor and bash things with their head - is it possible I'm a Juggalo today for no reason other than his appearance tickled something in the back of my brain? It certainly seems that way.

This figure stands just over 4⅞" tall, which was pretty much standard for the time - superhero figures were a little bigger than GI Joe or Star Wars (though it would be a few more years before Star Wars came back), but they hadn't yet started the slow creep toward 6". By any standard, the sculpting on the toy is very simple. I mean, sure, it's better than I could hope to do, even now, but ToyBiz had one hell of a learning curve - Series 2 already showed a marked improvement over Series 1, and by the time Series 3 came around, the toys were already showing the quality we'd expect from then on out. Juggernaut is muscular, but not "defined." They sculpted the rivets on his helmet and the stripes on his stomach, but otherwise he just looks lumpy.

The figure isn't particularly thick from front to back, either. This works out well for his helmet, which stretches from shoulder to shoulder, but doesn't have to worry about covering any depth. His eyes and mouth are visible through the holes in the helmet, but they're just sculpted - it would be 1996 before we got one with a removable helmet.

Juggernaut's articulation is sparse. The original plan for the X-Men toys was that Nightcrawler would be the only one with knees or elbows, since he's acrobatic, but before going into production, most of the other figures got them as well. Poor Juggy missed out, though: he has swivels at the hips and the shoulders, and that's it. That can probably be chalked up to his "Power Punch Action" feature: press the lever on his back, and his right arm swings up while his left arm swings down.

He also came with an accessory: a big red and silver battering ram that he wore over his chest. You know, for those times when being mystically empowered to be literally unstoppable just wasn't enough. To help show the way he can run and never stop, the figure has wheels on the bottom of its feet - yes, Juggemaut is wearing roller skates. Considering that Cain Marko is canonically a big fan of Dazzler's music, maybe he's wearing them as an homage! Okay, probably not. They're probably just a goofy action feature.

In a way, it's a bit ironic that Juggernaut and the other X-Men toys were able to take advantage of the record-setting sales of X-Men #1: the previous record holder was Spider-Man #1, and Juggernaut was the reason Todd McFarlane decided to leave Marvel. See, he felt stifled by the restrictons of the Comics Code, and hated that he was constantly being asked to redraw things without anyone checking to see whether or not the Code was actually being broken. In Spider-Man #16, a crossover between Spider-Man and X-Force, Todd drew Shatterstar stabbing Juggernaut in the eye. Leaving aside for the moment that that's not how Juggernaut's powers work, the editor made him change the art so we weren't shown the sword going in. Todd agreed, but said it would be the last change he'd make and quit Marvel.

The Juggernaut in this review is the same one I've had since 1991. It wasn't really the "beginning" of my action figure collecting (I never really stopped getting toys, so I never had to get back into them), but it's still a pretty important piece. And while we've certainly had many better Juggernauts since, I wouldn't give this one up for anything.

-- 02/13/17

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