We've made no secret of how much we like Mattel's DC Universe Classics, DC Comics' licensed action figure line and answer to their cross-town competition's Marvel Legends. But we've been rather mum about Legends itself, and that's our bad in more ways than one. DC Universe Classics owes many of its concepts - and perhaps much of its quality to Legends. After all, when it comes to collecting action figures in 2010, Marvel Legends is, well, legendary.
As you can tell from our crowded little pic above (especially after your right-clicking mouse transforms it into a crowded super-huge desktop wallpaper), Marvel's Legends has been hanging around the toy aisle for quite some time -- 2002, to be exact. Toy Biz, the small toy manufacturer that merged with Marvel in the 90's following the publisher's declaration of bankruptcy, gained exclusive rights from the partnership to turn Marvel's entire comics Universe into toys, and did so in a manner that has since become the industry standard. The Legends line of six-inch action figures came packaged in large clamshell-type packaging (that also included a comic book featuring that character plus a base stand) making the figure easy to display in or out of the package. These considerations were very popular to collectors, and Toy Biz's later innovations - short-packed and therefore more rare figures (or chase variants) with each new Series and their subsequent incorporation of the Build-A-Figure concept - became wildly so.
Marvel Icons X-Men: Cyclops
Legends collectors may not have been as surprised as the rest of us were by Marvel's acquisition by Disney last August -- after all, when the price of oil (and therefore plastics) began to rise, Marvel sold off their master toy license in 2007 to Hasbro for $205 million and took themselves out of the game -- and the risk. Hasbro continued the line, but without Toy Biz' attention to detail while reducing selection and increasing price. While improvements have been made (such as the addition of the 12-inch Marvel Legends / Marvel Icons ) Hasbro's focus has been on developing their 3 3/4" Marvel Universe figures as well as figures based on Marvel's movie machine, satisfying their target market of young families' demands for more wallet-friendly Marvel superhero toys while keeping their own petrol prices at a minimum.
We all know that oil is the cause of too many wars involving action figures of a more human nature, and it's evident that oil also brought the Marvel Legends into the Collectors War. Unlike Hasbro's Marvel Universe, Legends made a comparatively very poor showing at last month's Toy Fair in New York City, and as recently as this morning, one despondent collector asked Is Marvel Legends dead? in a posting on Marvel's website message boards.
The answer is likely Not Dead Yet -- but the writing is on the wall and it looks like Galactus himself may have been the tagger. Whatever the future holds for Legends, the line's ongoing collectibility won't be a part of it. Still, Legends past contributions can't be ignored. Toy News International and several other industry websites named Legends the most influential toy line of the past decade, and the more collectible toys of today - DC Universe Classics, among others - are selling like gangbusters as they carry on the Legends torch.
At least, they are - for now.