Friday, 12 May 2017

Minifigures: X-Men, Part 2 - All-New! All-Different!

Of course, famously the original X-Men were something of a damp squib and after a few years the title turned into a reprint book. However, Stan Lee was never one to accept the unpopularity of his creations (see: Namor) and in 1975 Giant-Size X-Men #1 launched with a new-look team and would kick off an era of huge popularity for the mutants that has continued since. Sadly not all of the new team have yet been represented by Minifigures, unofficial or otherwise - the complex designs for Banshee (with so much of his classic look dependent on his unusual cape) and Sunfire (with his unique helmet) currently being impossible to find. Which leaves...



Like Banshee and Sunfire, Wolverine was already an existing Marvel character before joining the new X-Men line-up, having appeared as a guest adversary in The Incredible Hulk. Naturally he would go on to be a fixture for decades, a genuine breakout character who is alongside Spider-Man, Batman and Superman for recognition by the general public. Even Lego's odd relationship with X-Men figures couldn't stop Wolverine; a generic-ish version appeared in one Marvel Superheroes set and another shorter version with in a Mighty Micro while the brown/yellow uniform appeared in a retro-styled Sentinel-themed playset.

However, the original uniform (frequently revived, most notably for the nineties where it graced the mega-phenomenon era of the comics and the Fox Kids cartoon) has been the preserve of customisers. They've done more than a simple recolouring too - the Lego version of the helmet has been retooled for a smoother look and lines up with a standard head more cleanly, meaning Logan can take the mask off and sport hair if desired, while there are also shoulder pads and chromed claws. The paint apps are comprehensive too, though go a bit far on the arms - while the gauntlets so often missed off Minifigures are welcome the attempt to portray (cuts? straining muscles?) on his arms don't come off, making it look more like he's being attacked by leeches.


One of four new characters introduced for Giant-Size X-Men #1 and one of three who would go on to be the backbone of the franchise for decades, Colossus was always more of a fan favourite who just failed to make the crossover into the mainstream - always the first to be cut from the line-up for cartoons or films, both of which have largely relegated him to a guest character. In the comics his very dependable niceness became something of a weakness, leading to some outlandish attempts to shake him up.

Minifigure-wise there's been no official product but three figures - a Minifigure featuring his classic costume, a Big Fig featuring the same and a Minifigure featuring his more recent status of possessing the Phoenix Force - produced as customs and bootlegged. The former does a fine job of producing his classic costume; naturally it's based on his metal form (what would be the point otherwise?), complete with flat-top haircut and some decent detail. A chrome version would be nice, though, if any of the Chinese bootleggers who seem to be adding chrome to anyone going is reading. I've considered the Big Fig but it's the same old problem - while Piotr was a big tall guy who then gained another foot in height when he transformed a Big Fig twice the size of everyone else would be too much.


Another to debut with the new team, Nightcrawler was similarly important to the team for years, staying with them for the cream of the Chris Claremont era before being injured, separated and founding Excalibur. He stayed there for a decade until the title finally pined away and he was subjected to Claremont's underwhelming return and then Chuck Austen. Like Colossus, Kurt was always well-received by readers but often didn't crossover, X-Men Evolution aside. However, he did make positive impressions in a couple of film appearances.

Two Nightcrawler figures have been issued by the usual unofficial channels - one based sort-of on his live action appearance and the other on his original costume that served the character from inception basically right up to the black uniforms of the 21st century (a short-lived modification in Excalibur aside). Sadly while the basic design is good it suffers from the frequent bootleg problems of the paint apps just not being thick enough, the white on black used for the feet and wrists especially. Also while the film version has a painted tail on the rear there's no such addition here, which is a shame as it's one of the character's key features. A fumbled opportunity.


Also making her first appearance with the new team, Storm went on to be the backbone of the team for a quarter of a century, rising to team leader despite spells without powers and then later being reduced to a child - all while being a trail-blazer as a black female character in a lead role of a mega-selling comic. Ororo also had a key role in the various cartoons, though the films never really knew what to do with her despite the presence of Halle Berry. She did get an official Minifigure, however, in the retro-tinged Sentinel playset.

It's a really solid figure on the whole with a great representation of the classic black costume, complete with a specially cut "3"-shaped cloak that attaches to Storm's wrists as per the original design, which is a great bit of detail. The only flaw is no head-dress, a common problem for female Minifigures. Be wary when buying the bootleg, though - some have the correct cloak but others replace it with the standard cloak template, which does hurt the look; make sure the one you're buying isn't just a stock picture.


After adding five characters to the team roster that would go on to play major roles in decades of mutant comics (the one other exception, Sunfire, returned to occasional guest star roles but also didn't actually join the team) Len Wein could perhaps be forgiven a dud. Thunderbird was basically a stereotype native American and Chris Claremont seemed to realise this, killing the character off at the first opportunity and in a dumb fashion to boot. The most telling thing about John Proudstar is that - zombie resurrections aside - he's since stayed dead.

Instead he was succeeded by brother James, who started off in the same Village People outfit before gradually attaining credibility. This version of James, a.k.a. Warpath (eventually), had been turned into a custom figure by Penzora and as the brothers intentionally used the same costume makes a great basis for a version of either Thunderbird. I've added a more stereotypical native American hairpiece and feather from the Lego Western line because, well, John was a walking stereotype.

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