Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tobe! Beetle!

Sometimes I fear that my blog conveys the impression that I collect only stupid expensive vinyl toys. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. The problem is that most of my plastic and die-cast toy collection is still in the box or heat-sealed to a cardback (vinyls are a lot easier to de-frock) I either haven't decided whether I want to crack it open, or haven't gotten around to doing so. I know, I know.

So I have a bunch of unopened toys that probably don't make for very exciting reviews. But I'm going to write about them anyway.

Spider-Force - Beetle

The Beetle, formerly known as Abner Jenkins, is an old villain from the Marvel universe that tangled frequently with such heroes as Spider-Man and the Avengers. Initially a petty criminal with a sort-of-cool suit, Jenkins has since become a hero in the Thunderbolts with his MACH armors, changed his race and dated a female wrestler supervillain. Times are good for the former airplane mechanic turned crook. (Yes, I just got that all off Wikipedia.)

Beetle was one of the first characters that I was exposed to when poring through the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe as a kid. So it's gratifying to see a few toys made from his armors- although I can understand why the toy companies weren't in a rush to make toys of a two-bit villain.

Spider-Force Beetle was a product of Toybiz in the late 90s. Marvel Legends had not been created yet, so they were still in the process of designing toys with increasingly over-the-top gimmicks. And thus we had Spider-Man Spider Force whereby Spiderman and select other insectile superbeings were given giant insects that transform into suits of armor. This was frankly not Toybiz' worst idea of the time. The toys themselves are even remarkably good- if you close your eyes to the fact that none of it makes any sense.

This toy represents the Mark II armor for Beetle. I still find this costume rather cool- sort of a mix between 80s-era Marvel and Kamen Rider- as dated as it has become. The toy reflects the character well, as Beetle is given the lean, muscled physique befitting a guy with no real super powers.

Spider-Force - Beetle

Beetle is packaged with his Spider Force companion, who seems to be a giant cockroach. (Don't worry, the missing wing is at the bottom of the card bubble.) The roach can be disassembled to create armor for the 'Dangerous Beetle.' It is pretty good for a random gimmick- this is true for all toys in the line, really- and you can tell the designers put in real effort to make an appealing armor design that also transforms into a believable insect.

I also took some photos of the "Exicting" co-sells on the cardback, since you don't see too many images of them out there.

Spider-Man Spider-Force

Tarantula was another kind of crappy character who had his day with Spider-Force. His armor is one of the best in the line.

Swarm is a character with which I was not previously familiar. He is a Nazi scientist who was transformed into a swarm of hyper-intelligent bees. And his armor turns him into a bigger bee. Yeah.

Spider-Man Spider-Force

Believe it or not, this is Wasp of the Avengers. I had to actually look this up because I thought it might be a different character. The orange skin and antennae are uh, a bit outside of canon, but really, WHAT is going on with her HAIR? At least it draws attention away from her enormous, muscular thighs. Erm, yes.

And here is the token Spider-Man figure. He turns into a cybernetic Spider-Man. I totally did not see that one coming.

Not the finest hour for superhero toys, but they are well-designed and still sell for around $10 a pop.

Spider-Man Classics - Buzzing Beetle

Toybiz produced several other toy lines during the Marvel Legends era that roughly matched Legends figures in scale, typically referred to as the "Classic" lines. Buzzing Beetle was included in Spider-Man Classics in 2005.

This Beetle reflects the Mark III armor design from Thunderbolts. It is an enormous toy and seems to be an excellent approximation of the armor design. Detailing is achieved through a black wash, as was done with many of the Legends figures, but it is not heavy-handed and the look is not bad overall. If I remember, the eyes light up and the wings attachments (hidden in back) flutter through an internal mechanism.

With the new Iron Man movies, there is an abundance of armored heroes in the toy aisles, but not so many armored villains (apologies to the 50 Iron Monger toys in the clearance section). Beetle is certainly a nice addition to their ranks.

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