Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Part 5: 1996 DR STRANGE “Spider-Wars” Action Figure
(Spider-Man Animated Series – ToyBiz)


Welcome to another entry in the long-running “IDOL PURSUITS” series (and of the “Master of the PLASTIC Arts” sub-series {a complete run-down of previous entries can be found [HERE] or individual links can be found at the end of this post})!

Today’s entry features the DOCTOR STRANGE Action Figure from the “Spider-Man: the Animated Series” line. (AND all its VARIANTS!)

Released from ToyBiz in 1996, as a part of the “Spider-Wars” assortment (along with BLACK CAT, HYDRO-MAN, DOPPLEGANGER SPIDER and CYBORG SPIDER-MAN), this is the first true DOCTOR STRANGE action figure! *(See footnote below)

This figure, like most in the "Spider-Man Animated Series" line, is based upon the guest-appearance of the character (in this case, Doctor Strange) in an episode of the 1990's era Spider-Man animated cartoon. Doctor Strange appeared in the first episode of the "Sins of the Fathers" story arc, appropriately entitled; "DOCTOR STRANGE".

Also appearing in the episode are Wong, Baron Mordo and Dormammu (who, while Doc and Wong are in but this one episode, the two baddies both reappear numerous times over the story arc).
While neither Wong nor Mordo ever got a figure, Dormammu would indeed (at a later time, and not quite as a part of this line, which we'll get to in a near-future post).

I’ll confess, while there have been several other Dr. Strange action figures released after this one – some with far greater detail and points of articulation - this figure is my personal favorite. **(See the 2nd footnote below)

Doctor Strange possesses 10 points of articulation (neck, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, ankles) , a dynamic sculpt and clean, crisp paint applications. This figure also features a “super-power”: via a specially-designed Cloak of Levitation, due to a clip that fits around his waist and a hidden metal wire in the base of the cloak (billed as a “Mystical Morphing Cape”), the cloak can support the weight of the figure, allowing for “gravity-defying” poses.

Also included are two accessories: a plastic pin / standee, and an “Orb of Agamotto” crystal ball.

The “pin” features a Doctor Strange logo superimposed over the Doc’s head and hands, and a clip on the back that pivots out to act as a stand (or clips back down for use as a pin {one of the many pins and buttons showcased in a previous post [HERE]}).

The “Orb” is a clear ball on a sculpted base that features a demon’s head (as if being scryed upon or summoned by the good Doctor).

Early versions had a monochromatic all-yellow "demon" head in the orb.
The final version had a green head with a full paint scheme.
But I'll get to that in a moment while discussing "VARIANTS".

While variants are a common and popular practice today, they were seldom seen in 1996. Some variants are intended as such; “chase” figures which are short-packed in assortments. Others are the by-product of mid-run alterations. This is the sort of situation that garnered this figure not one, not two, but THREE additional “variants”!

The original-run figure had clear/white joint-pegs in the articulation points of his limbs and the “orb” included a yellow base-color demon-head.

The first adjustment saw the arm joint-pegs colored blue to match his tunic, but the legs pins in his knees and ankles were overlooked and they remained the original clear-white. It still had the one-tone yellow demon head in the “orb”.

The next alteration gave the figure joint-pegs appropriately colored to the paint application where they were located; blue for his arms, black for his legs. However, it still had the yellow base-colored demon head in the “orb”.

The final tweak had not only the appropriately colored joint pegs, but a new green plastic mold and a colored paint-application for the demon head.

Of course… I have to have all four... both IN package as well as loose.
Such is the collector-monkey on my back.

The paint application seemed to start off excellent (the face is exceptionally detailed in the 1st run; his eyes have been outlined and the mustache is perfectly painted. Each subsequent alteration saw a decline in paint apps. By the 3rd version, the paint application is a spotty mess. Luckily, by the final version, they seemed to care again and with the appropriate colored pegs, and the painted demon head, the paint application for the main figure also saw a raise in quality.

Designed by famed artist Michael Golden, the figure was originally intended to have an additional accessory: snap-on magic spells, made from translucent vac-formed rubber. In the design notes, Golden also suggests light-up hands and a glow-in-the-dark Eye of Agamotto amulet (both of which would have been awesome additions to an already great figure).

With design drawings by an illustrator of Michael Golden’s magnitude, why his illustrations were not used for the package - instead of the sub-par artwork that did make the card - is a mystery.

I have seen notations that the design of this sculpt won awards, yet I have yet to discover what awards that might be. Most likely, some toy industry award of which I am unfamiliar.

*Footnote # 1 (FUN FACT: )

After multiple entries in the IDOL PURSUITS series (and of the “Master of the PLASTIC Arts” sub-series {a complete run-down of previous entries can be found [HERE]}) we are FINALLY able to showcase a Doctor Strange figure that is BOTH an ACTION figure AND made of PLASTIC (as opposed to rubber, metal, or paper as have come before). Sure, the 1991 Doctor Strange PVC figure (seen [HERE]) is technically made of plastic, but it is in no way an “action” figure. Oh, I hear you matter-of-factly reminding me that the MEGO Doctor Strange figure was both “action” and plastic, but sadly, while it was originally intended to be a Doctor Strange figure (to cash in on the hopeful success of the Dr. Strange TV movie pilot in 1978), it was never released as such, and became instead (in 1981) a Jordache Male Fashion Model figure (as sadly related [HERE]).

As opposed to the failure of the Dr. Strange TV pilot securing an ongoing series, Spider-Man has always had better luck at mass media exposure. Thus, when the 1990’s SPIDER-MAN: The Animated Series was on the air, it was able to secure a plethora of ancillary wares of the star and his numerous villainous and heroic guest stars – which luckily for us included Action Figures!

**Footnote # 2 (FUN FACT of  a FUTURE FEATURE):

As a testament of how much I love this particular figure, come back NEXT time to see all the CUSTOM action figures that I made using it as a base. Back in the late 1990’s I was dead-set on producing a custom of every costume and appearance of Doctor Strange. While not every custom used this figure as a base, many did. Come check them out – NEXT TIME!


Previous entries in the

Part 1) - 1979 Ben Cooper “dangler-jiggler” figure – [HERE]

Part 1a) - ADDENDUM:  The pre-“Action Figure” figures
(Marvel World standees and "Rub-n-Play" standee) – [HERE]

Part 2) – The DOCTOR STRANGE MEGO figure that almost was – [HERE]

Part 3a) – Gaming figures: TSR Standees – [HERE]

Part 3b) – Gaming Figures: TSR Metal Figurines – [HERE]

Part 4) – The PVC Figurines: DOCTOR STRANGE – [HERE]

Part 4a) – The PVC Figurines - addendum 1: “MAN-THING” – [HERE]

Part 4b) – The PVC Figurines  - addendum 2: “DEFENDERS” – [HERE]



Idol Pursuits: ROM SPACEKNIGHT "action figure" toy – [HERE]

Idol Pursuits: ROM SPACEKNIGHT model kits: full size and bust - [HERE]

Idol Pursuits: DR. ORPHEUS bobblehead - [HERE]


Of course, there were OTHER entries in the IDOL PURSUITS series (mostly ancillary and preview posts), but if you want to see ALL of the entries in the series (in reverse order) just click [HERE].


Howard Hallis said...

Of course you have to have one of each variant figure, both in and out of the packages. A great find Peter, one that truly takes a collector's eye and sensibility to notice! Where was the Michael Golden design sketch taken from?

~P~ said...

The "strange" thing is; I had SO MANY of these figures (which I bought in bulk when they first came out - buying whatever came in to the shoppe I used to frequent back then [for use as base figures for Doc customs] that I had purchased each of these variations without knowing it.

It was purely by LUCK that I noticed the differences, and even then, only recently!

I had always noticed TWO variations, but only when pulling out figures for this photo shoot did I note that I had a 3rd variation!

But, I had already taken all of that style out of the package, and so had to hit eBay to find a replacement.

Now I have one of each in pack and had already had all 4 loose (just without knowing it).

The Golden sketch came from secret and arcane sources.
I'd LOVE to find the 3-view drawings.

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