?Marvel has been around for over 70 years, and there’s been an incalculable amount of toys based on the companies various properties over the years. With that in mind, today’s Daily List is an admittedly foolhardy (and subjective) attempt to figure out what Marvel toys are, well, truly marvelous. Because action figures could and have merited entire lists of their own on Topless Robot, they were removed from the running straight away. Likewise, the decision was made to try to focus on as wide of an assortment of characters from the Marvel Universe as possible. This in itself proved to be a Herculean task thanks to the fact that Spider-Man toys take up most of the Earth’s mass in and of themselves. Ultimately, what I came up with were 25 items that are just plain fun. Each of these stirred both my inner child and my desire to collect. Perhaps they will do the same for you. Excelsior!
25) Marvel Super Heroes Colorforms
?Of the many Colorforms sets based on Marvel Comics characters over the years, this particular release stands out as the best. Highlighting Spidey, Cap and the Hulk, it features a three level backdrop that kids could use to bring whatever comic adventures they desired to life. Want to make Spidey fight the Leader of have the Hulk take on the Rhino? Go for it. I won’t tell anyone. Best of all, you can still land one of these cheap on eBay.
24) Spider-Man and Friends Superhero Playset
The above commercial raises a few questions. First off, this playset seems geared to preschoolers, so why are the kids in this ad tweens? And more distressingly, where exactly do superheroes go to have fun? My money’s on either Emma Frost’s apartment or Hedonism II.
23) Thor Helmet & Mj?lnir
?Hopefully people were buying these more out of their love for the God of Thunder than for use in Adventures in Babysitting cosplay sessions.
22) Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends Fisher-Price Cartoon Viewer ?
?Like the Ideal Pocket Flix toy before it, the Fisher-Price Cartoon Viewer featured a variety of cartridges — sold separately of course — that could be used to transform anytime into Saturday morning (as a kid I had one of these with a Sesame Street cartridge that I would spend hours playing with because watching Paul Bentley fall down never stops being funny). There was a surprising lack of merchandise from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends during the show’s run, with this being one of a handful of items that were actually released. It’s unclear exactly why that is, though that bitch Ms. Lion is probably involved somehow.
21) Power Putty
?Due to the subjective nature of lists like this one, there’s bound to be some heated debate in the comments. That’s just the way the Internet works I suppose. Yet with all of its firsties and lolz, one thing people can still all agree with online (and off) is that Silly Putty is a tremendous toy. It’s perfect in fact. There’s seemingly no way it can be improved upon. Yet the toy-schilling madmen at Gordy International did just that when they released Power Putty in the late ’70s. It has all the properties of good old fashioned Silly Putty with one special advantage: it comes packaged in a replica of a Marvel character’s head! With great Power Putty comes ever greater copyright infringement I suppose.
20) Spider-Man Machine
The Spider-Man Machine billed itself as “the riding sensation of the year” (insert joke about your favorite pop culture whore here). Children who received this certainly agreed with this sentiment… or at least they did once they stopped questioning why the hell Spidey would need a big wheel in the first place.
19) Thor Super Van
?If the Thor van’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin! Before this entry completely devolves into a That ’70s Show punchline, let me just say that there were many different Marvel-themed Hot Wheels released over the years — all of which were varying degrees of terrific. Thor’s Super Van is worthy of getting singled out because you can totally imagine him driving around in this while hunting for broads and blaring a Bread 8-track.
18) Mega Bloks Fantasticar with Thing Playset
?Again, I am a sucker for head-shaped carrying cases. So it’s little surprise that I am especially enamored with this Lego-esque version of the Fantasticar that comes complete with a mini version of the Thing. Speaking of which, just look at cute the widdle guy is! Aww. Choking hazards are rarely so adorable.
?Although the Ben Cooper company is primarily known for their Halloween costumes, they did occasionally release toys as well. The best of which were jigglers, cool (and somewhat bizarre looking) rubber replicas of pop culture characters. These shaky playthings were the toy equivalent of Jell-O, thus their name. Like all things of beauty, jigglers deteriorate over time. As such, they become rarer every year. If during your nerdy travels you find one, purchase it immediately. But more importantly, cherish it.
16) Weapon X Lab Playset
?Playing God was never more entertaining than with this playset that let users create little Wolverine skeletons. After turning the included “admantium powder” into goop, kids could infuse a body with the same shit that caused Logan so much grief. What a bunch of sadistic bastards.
15) Marvel Scooters
?Apparently these offerings from Marx Toys have crossed over into our reality from an alternate universe in which the action in Marvel comics primarily takes place in Portland instead of New York City.
14) Spider-Man Vs. the Hulk Race & Chase
After a drunken evening spent watching The Fast and the Furious, Spidey and the Hulk decided to race through New York City. The resulting carnage was replicated in this racing set from Matchbox. Somebody call Damage Control, they’re gonna need some overtime.
13) Daily Bugle Playset
Released in conjunction with Fox’s 1990s Spider-Man cartoon, this massive effort from Toy Biz delivered hours of web-slinging merriment. Sturdy plastic construction and some nice sticker detailing resulted in this being a welcome throwback to the sort of playsets Mego was releasing in their prime. Ask any toy nerd and they’ll tell you this is high praise indeed.
12) Iron Man 2: 3-in-1 Repulsor
This replica of Iron Man’s power glove allows kids to torment the living shit out of their siblings and/or pets. Well, at least until their parents get sick of the shenanigans and take it away.
11) The Amazing Spider-Man Webmaker
?Clearly parents in the Jimmy Carter era didn’t give a single shit about what their kids were up to. Why else would they allow them to play with the Amazing Spider-Man Webmaker? If you can overlook the small figures it comes with — all of which are conveniently sized to fit snugly inside a toddler’s trachea — there’s still the matter of the contact high that comes from making the webs with the included fluid (worth noting is that the manufacturer of this product is Chemtoy, and I’m pretty certain that it’s one of the Joker’s front companies). If you can somehow get over this toy’s bloodlust, you’ll see that it is actually quite wonderful. On the back of the packaging there’s even a cityscape that you can pose little yellow versions of Spidey, Mary Jane and Green Goblin on before you cover them in goo. So playing with this is just like a nerd’s typical Friday night really.
10) Mega Blast Web Shooter
Fuck and yes. There are times when life beats me down and I feel like curling into a ball and weeping quietly. But instead of doing that, I think of this toy and the realization that such a perfect object exists makes me dust myself off and get on with my day. The Mega Blast Web Shooter: cheaper than therapy and way more effective. Thwip!
9) Hulk Rage Cage
In 1978, Funstuf released this toy that allowed tots to transfer their anger onto the Hulk (hey, it was the ’70s, child psychology was big). Around the same time, a Thing version of the Rage Cage was issued that is equally cool and nearly as expensive to track down these days. Throughout the years, other companies have released their own Hulk Rage Cages. The original is still the best, so don’t settle for any imitations. Trivia: “With a few pumps of the Hulk inflator you can make the Hulk grow in size” is the filthiest sentence ever to be uttered in a toy commercial.
8) Heroheads Game
?Like the aforementioned Power Putty, the Heroheads Game takes a pre-existing concept, adds a Marvel twist and passes it off as an entirely new creation. In this case, inspiration came in the form of the classic Barrel of Monkeys game. But instead of linking together simians, players have to latch Spideys together. What follows is both a good time and a celebration of unscrupulous business practices
7) Super Zap Sticker/Super Wall Crawler
?Sometimes, shameless rip-offs actually improve upon the thing they are exploiting. Enter LJN’s Super Zap Sticker and Jotastar’s Super Wall Crawler. Both of these are really just Spidey versions of Mattel’s Suckerman (which features suction cups on its backside so it can cling to various surfaces). Don’t get me wrong, Suckerman is a wonderful toy in his own right. But a Spidey take on the Suckerman formula? That’s pure bliss. I’m not sure which of these came first and I don’t even care. It’s just endlessly amusing that one of them is a rip-off of a rip-off.
6) Scene Machines
?Each Scene Machine was a Hot Wheel vehicle that featured graphics depicting a specific Marvel character. What made these special was that when you held them up to a light source and peered through a peep hole on the back you would see a drawing of whomever was on the Scene Machine you had. Simple and elegant.
5) Marvel Flyers
?In 1966, Topps released foam airplanes shaped like the Hulk, Daredevil, Captain America, Spider-Man, Human Torch, Wasp, Iron Man, the Thing and others in the Marvel Flyers line. For a mere 10 cents you could have your favorite character soaring through the air…and then subsequently crashing to the ground in several pieces. The sheer inventiveness on display with the Marvel Flyers is beyond impressive. Sadly, the fragility of each toy means that they are increasingly tough to find. But all hope isn’t lost. Using an original that he purchased on eBay as a guide, Etsy user CreativePal has constructed his own Marvel Flyers replicas out of balsa wood. The items even come complete with reproduction box and wrappers. Purchasing these will set you back $80, but can you really put a price on magic like this?
4) Superhero Finger Puppets
?I have a very vague memory of being a child and playing with Big Bird and Spider-Man finger puppets. I’m not sure what the reasoning my prepubescent mind had for having the two properties crossover, but I’m sure it was a good one. Years later, I buried Big Bird in the backyard of my childhood home for no reason other than to fuck with my future self. (I have no idea what became of Spidey). The point I’m making here is that finger puppets are an inexpensive and totally fun way for children to idle away the hours. This is exceptionally true if said puppets are based on everyone’s favorite wallcrawler and his buddies Thor, Captain America and the Hulk. Just for the love of God don’t bury them. I beg you.
3) Hulk Hands
The biggest (only?) success to come from Ang Lee’s Hulk film was the cultural phenomenon known as Hulk Hands. When Toy Biz released these in 2003, the company couldn’t have guessed how well they would be received — not only by kids but by the general public. Their success is easy to explain; everyone loves green foam rubber hands that make smashy noises (avoid the shitty fabric ones that were released in conjunction with The Incredible Hulk). Before long, Hulk Hands became a symbol of arrested development within pop culture. Everyone from John C. Reilly in Stepbrothers to the Monarch on The Venture Bros. got in on Hulk Hand mania. And the world was all the better for it. Toy Biz scrambled to recapture lightning in a bottle with their Thing Hands and Thing Feet, but they just weren’t as cool. I’m happy to report that to this day, Hulk Hands retain a valued place in toy boxes and college dorms across our great land.
2) The Mangler
?Insanity is the only word to describe The Mangler. Mego’s vehicle serves only one purpose — to allow Spider-Man to brutally murder the Green Goblin. The front of this psychotic plaything captures, or, if you prefer, mangles Gobby. In the ensuing terror, a surprisingly nonplussed looking cardboard corpse of the character is then spit out the back of the vehicle in a condition that the packaging eloquently describes as “flat as a green pancake.” It is unimaginable that such a toy was ever released (what with it existing purely to kill and all), and there’s no way such a thing would even make it out of a pitch session these days. Mego went out of business before they got around to selling Mr. Fantastic’s Eunuch Machine, so this sadly remains the most unreasonably sadistic toy ever released.
1) Marvel World Adventure Playset
?When compiling this list, there was no doubt what would take the top slot. You see, Amsco’s Marvel World playset isn’t just the greatest Marvel Comics toy, it’s the best toy ever released. Period. I truly believe that without even a hint of hyperbole. Marvel World is just what it suggests, cardboard replicas of the people and places of the Marvel Universe. (Well, the ones that were popular when this was released anyways). The Baxter Building, the Daily Bugle, the Avengers Mansion, Dr. Strange’s crib, Peter Parker’s house, etc. They’re all here, reproduced in excruciating detail. To inhabit these buildings are 36 mini figures of everyone from Aunt May to the Hulk. Due to the sheer number of pieces this set came with, complete versions of the Marvel World seemingly don’t exist anymore. What was originally an $8 toy now sells for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market. Which seems totally reasonable to me. As a Marvel lover, I would happily throw down some serious money at the chance to own this. This is more than just a toy or a collectible. It’s a fever dream of the magic that Stan Lee has brought into my life. So if you have an extra one lying around, feel free to send it to me, okay?