HeroesArentBorn.com Review: Iron Man (1st Comic Appearance)
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: April 1, 2010
While certainly not as old and pervasive in pop culture as superhero stalwarts Superman and Batman, Iron Man has been a major staple of the comic book industry since his introduction in the March 1963 issue of Tales of Suspense (Issue 39). By the time Iron Man made his live-action cinematic debut in May 2008, the character had been around for 45 years and undergone countless transformations—most notably in the design of Stark’s fantastical armor. At one point in the past decade, Iron Man even grappled with a version of his armored suit that had become sentient!
But his first suit—the Mark 1 version he built to escape his captors in Vietnam—was truly an “iron man”, a hulking, seemingly stone-chiseled concoction of metal, rivets, and reverse magnetism technology. This very short-lived suit was the inspiration for the cinematic Mark 1 armor. It is also a fitting place to begin our series of Iron Man product reviews, which will have a heavily emphasis on Hasbro’s brand-new Iron Man 2 toy line.
Hasbro wisely categorized their plethora of Iron Man 2 products into three distinct assortments or series: Comic, Movie, and Concept. Obviously, the “1st comic appearance” Iron Man figure reviewed here is part of the “Comic Series”. Without further ado, HeroesArentBorn.com is proud to present our very first product review.
Hasbro came galloping full-speed right out of the gate with this figure. Iron Man’s original armor is simplistic and crude in its design, and the sculptors understood and captured that aesthetic in this figure. The result is a very accurate and beautiful product (in its own way). The proportions are mostly faithful to its illustrated source. The torso looks a bit too thin, but the extremities are thankfully very clunky. The helmet looks fantastic as well. The eyes are perhaps a bit too elongated, but Hasbro still succeeded in capturing the original helmet’s brutish yet simpleton-like facial expression. Without any familiarity with the character and looking at the helmet for the first time, it is difficult to discern whether the Mark 1 Iron Man is friend or foe (in fact, Stark quickly fashioned the golden Mark 2 suit partly because he realized this version made people afraid of him).
Kudos to Hasbro for imbuing their figure with the same fear-inducing uncertainty.
The Mark 1 suit is even more impressive than its helmet. Hasbro’s sculptors did a fine job with applying realistic depth to the various layers of the armor. The chest plate at the heart of all Iron Man designs rises above the armor like the porthole on a ship and appears to be proportionately accurate to the comic version. The two hexagonal bolts flanking the abdomen effectively convey the illusion that they are separate pieces attached to the figure rather than sculpted on it. The cummerbund (belt) and the two large discs on the armor’s love handles sport cleanly sculpted lines as well as excellent symmetry. The standout features on this portion of the figure though are the dents on the upper torso. When combined with the surrounding paint applications, these sculpted blemishes look just like the real things—even under the uncompromising scrutiny of a macro lens. There is a macro shot of the arc light four pictures down. Take a close look at the rim around it. It is actually riddled with a rough texture that simulates worn metal!
With regards to the arms, Hasbro appears to have taken some artistic license. The cover of Tales of Suspense #39 shows a Mark 1 suit with smooth pieces of armor fitting together seamlessly. The figure, on the other hand, has a design best described as a medieval knight’s armor if it were built in the late 19th century. Adorned with tiny prickly rivets, the arms appear to be covered by half a dozen separate pieces (although this is just another illusion created by the sculpting). The upper arms have a layered appearance that would allow the wearer some degree of flexibility if it were a real suit, and the shape of the forearm armor does a decent job of concealing the ball-hinged elbow joint. Moving down to the hands, the sculpting remains amazingly detailed. Case in point: there are sculpted cracks above the middle and index knuckles on the closed fist!
The legs are far less detailed and more in line with the comic book design—right down to the ridged texture on the soles of Iron Man’s feet. The downside to this simplicity and accuracy is that there is nothing to help conceal the knee joints, and that does disrupt the overall aesthetic of the lower body. Of course, this is a $7 action figure, so it’s hardly a reason to cry foul.
PAINT APPLICATIONS: Excellent (Bordering on Above Average)
It’s hard to believe that a figure featuring a simple grey suit of armor would yield such phenomenal paint applications (save for one exception that will be addressed later). The key to Hasbro’s success here is the weathering effects applied to the armor. It is undoubtedly the most realistic weathering this reviewer has ever seen on a 3.75 inch scale mass market action figure. As for the primitive “arc light”, Hasbro has adopted a standard method for painting it that encompasses all arc lights in the Iron Man 2 action figure line. Under normal observation, it appears to be nothing more than a mix of blue and white paint. Under a macro lens, however, the elaborate nature of the application becomes visible. The best way to describe it is to compare it to a newspaper or magazine photo when scanned into and blown up on a computer screen.
The exceptional work on the weathering and arc light effect allows the figure to cross over from being a simple kids’ toy to becoming a miniature work of art. There is zero hyperbole here, and there are pictures to prove it.
Now a word of caution to consumers (the aforementioned exception to the “phenomenal” paint applications):
The amount of weathering varies greatly from sample to sample. The one photographed and reviewed here strikes a fairly good balance between base gray, scraping, and rustic effects. Had the rust effects been toned down, this particular item would have received a full “Excellent” rating. Still, it remains one of the better samples on the market. There are production pieces currently on store pegs that have so much “rust” that the figure looks more like Copper Man. Fortunately, the line is still so new that consumers should have no trouble going down their local toy aisles and finding several samples from which to choose.
This may be the first of this site’s product reviews, but it is only one of several Iron Man variations that this reviewer has already worked on for future reviews. Thus far, there are two constants in the area of articulation. First, the joints are extremely tight, which is a good thing because it allows the figure to keep a wide range of nuanced poses. On this figure, only the ankles are on the wobbly side, and that is likely a sample-specific issue. The second constant is the tremendous amount of poseability hidden within these sixteen points of articulation. The head and mid-torso joints have minimal ranges of motion, but this is a good thing because it mirrors the restrictiveness of the suit were it real.
The ball-jointed hips can be a bit puzzling. Each leg only moves laterally on the hinge, but the ball can be rotated to allow full 360 degree motion. To maximize the articulation, one must rotate the ball, flex the hinge, and turn the swiveling thigh joint. It sounds complicated, but it becomes rather intuitive after understanding the mechanics of it. Learn it well because this is how the legs work on many of the other Iron Man variations in this product line.
The comic book Mark 1 figure is very light on accessories as one can see in the Figure Specifications at the top of the review, but this is quite understandable because there is very little that could have been included with this particular incarnation of Iron Man. As seen in the Star Wars product line, Hasbro has a sketchy track record with using energy effects as accessories. However, this figure’s energy blast effect is a simple yet impressive accessory—although there is some unintentional and dubious suggestiveness in its shape.
Made from a rubbery plastic, the orange-yellow energy blast sports sculpting that very effectively simulates an explosive energy source, a pulsating trail, and a focused projectile-like “energy bullet” leading the way. Hasbro wisely molded the cavity at the base in the shape of the clenched right hand, providing a snug fit on the figure. The only drawback is the material is a bit too heavy, resulting in some sagging. It’s likely that this sagging will grow worse over time. Fortunately, the figure truly looks better without it, so the blast effect won’t be missed.
The second part of the accessories is the standard pack-in for this figure line—a generic unmarked figure stand with slots to display character-specific “Armor cards”. There is little to say about the stand except that it does take some effort to get the figure on the stand as the peg is a tad too large. Once secured though, the stand does a good job supporting the figure. Of course, Hasbro’s excellent job in designing the figure means it is quite stable on its own.
The cards are comprised of a base card made of a thin glossy paper stock and two additional cards made of transparent plastic. Layered properly, these three cards show the character’s complete armor. It is very reminiscent of the scene in Iron Man where Stark layers his blueprints together to reveal the full design of the Mark 1 suit to Yinsen. It’s a novel idea and far better than some of the pack-ins used in the past with the Star Wars line, but the cards are ultimately inconsequential.
Additionally, the presence of an Internet URL on the side of the card (www.ironmancard.com) suggests that these cards are part of an on-line game. Sadly, that is not the case. Entering the URL only redirects users to Marvel Comics’ official website (www.marvel.com). It is a disappointment and nothing more than a misleading gimmick to draw people to Marvel’s home on the web.
OVERALL RATING: Excellent
This is a figure that looks bland and inconspicuous at first glance—especially when it shares shelf space with more colorful variations of the Iron Man armor. Do not let this deceive you. Pull one off the pegs. Take a closer look. Then you will see how visually impressive it really is. Buy it. Open it. Then you will discover just how dynamic it really is.
With its jaw-dropping craftsmanship and impressive array of articulation, Hasbro’s action figure rendition of Iron Man’s original form sets the standard for this newborn product line.
Hopefully, they continue to live up to such standards.
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