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By Thomas Wheeler

While most super-heroes have a gallery of super-villains, there is generally one that stands out among all the others. Superman may fight Brainiac, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Metallo, but there's always Lex Luthor waiting in the wings. Batman has to take on the Penguin, the Riddler, and Two-Face, but there's no doubt that the worst of the lot is the Joker. And Spider-Man may have to face Dr. Octopus, the Lizard, and Venom, but his worst enemy would have to be the Green Goblin. And the Goblin has certainly earned that distinction. Over the years, he's made the battle increasingly personal.

The original Green Goblin was Norman Osborn, a wealthy if somewhat corrupt industrialist. Osborn co-founded a major firm what included chemical research, along with one Dr. Mendell Stromm. Osborn found Stromm had been embezzling from the company, and searched his possessions, discovering an experimental strength/intelligence enhancement formula. When Osborn attempted to create the serum, it turned green and exploded in his face. The accident greatly increased his intelligence and strength, but also drove him insane.

Osborn adopted the bizarre identity of the Green Goblin, with the goal of becoming the boss of New York City's organized crime. He intended to cement his position in the city by defeating Spider-Man in order to enhance his reputation. To this end, he created a personal flying device, which evolved into his Goblin Glider, and hand grenade-like explosive weapons resembling pumpkins, and gloves which fired energy blasts from the finger tips. Thus equipped, the Green Goblin set out to achieve his twin goals, only to be frustrated at every turn by Spider-Man.

Over the years, he turned up every so often, but his most vicious deed and the one that apparently resulted in his death was when he kidnapped Spider-Man's love, Gwen Stacy, having long ago learned Spider-Man's secret identity. The Goblin pushed Stacy from the top of the George Washington Bridge, and although Spider-Man was able to rescue her from the fall, the shock of the incident claimed Stacy's life. Spider-Man went on a rampage, and nearly killed the Goblin, but backed off at the last second. The Goblin, meanwhile, had summoned his Glider, whose bat-ear like points had become misshapen in the battle, and now presented formidable spears. He planned to stab Spider-Man in the back, literally, but Spidey sensed the approach of the vehicle, ducked, and the Goblin was impaled on his own vehicle.

This was not, however, the end of the Goblin. Norman Osborn's son Harry, who had struggled through drug addiction in the past, took up the role of the Goblin and attacked Spider-Man. Defeated, Harry underwent therapy, and incredibly enough, Harry's therapist, Dr. Bart Hamilton, decided to take on the role for himself. Harry didn't much care for this, and tried to enhance his own strength with a revised version of the original serum. Hamilton was killed, and Harry became amnesiac. But he later died as a result of the enhanced serum.

A fourth Green Goblin, not resembling the other three, was Phil Urich, the nephew of Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich. Phil discovered one of the Goblin's stashes of weapons, including a new and advanced costume, and for a brief time took on the role of a heroic (if still rather maniacial) Green Goblin, but the costume was damaged in battle against the Sentinels during the Onslaught storyline.

An additional Goblin character has been the Hobgoblin, real name Roderick Kingsley. For a long time, the identity of this new Goblin, who was more or less a substantially recolored Green Goblin costume (Kingsley was, of all things, a fashion designer) was unknown, and speculation ran wild in the comics for a time.

Ultimately, Norman Osborn returned. Somehow he had survived being impaled on his own vehicle. It was astounding to fans that Norman Osborn could possibly have still been alive, especially after an absence that may be a record for any deceased character in Marvel Comics short of Bucky himself. Apparently Osborn had been manipulating matters behind the scenes for years, including during the Clone Saga (like fans wanted to be reminded of THAT), as well as financing the origins of many of Spider-Man's foes over the years. After battling Spider-Man once again, Osborn escaped to Paris.

Overly convoluted story short (and thanks to Wikipedia), Osborn was eventually captured by SHIELD agents, and is now on medication that supposedly controls his more maniacal behavior. In the aftermath of the Civil War, he has been placed in charge of the current incarnation of the Thunderbolts, which is probably a little like giving an arsonist control over a can of gasoline. He seems stable enough in public, but in the privacy of his office, he's been known to break into maniacal laughter over anything remotely resembling Spider-Man. The very mention of heroes with similar names, such as the long-gone Scarlet Spider or the third-rate hero Steel Spider, send him into a cold sweat and chilling laughter. I doubt we've seen the last of the original Green Goblin.

Figurewise, it's certainly no great surprise that when Hasbro decided to produce a line of 9" cloth-costumed figures as part of their Spider-Man Origins line, that the Green Goblin would be a part of it. The thing is, the Goblin is not an easy character to do an action figure of.

First off, there's that -- face. Okay, technically it's a mask, but the image of it has a more distorted face than the Joker, and pointed ears that make Mr. Spock's look normal by comparison. Throw in that long purple cap and you've got a sculpting nightmare.

There have been Goblin figures before. One of the first was from Mego, back in the 1970's. Mego did a capable enough job, although the cap was a little short, the eyes were too big, and the facial expression bordered on the friendly. Toy Biz made a 9" Green Goblin as part of their Famous Covers line, and it's an interesting comparison to make with the new Hasbro one. Toy Biz went for an overall brighter color palette on both the green and the purple elements of the costume. Amusingly, since I'm sure it was a coincidence, the trailing point of the hat trails off in the opposite direction of the Hasbro one, and the satchel which contains the Goblin's weapons is slung over the opposite shoulder.

As for the head sculpt, the Toy Biz Famous Covers Goblin manages to look mean enough, but the face is almost too angular, and almost looks comical. It's as though the sculptor was creating his own interpretation of the Goblin, with only limited references to established artwork.

Arguably the best ever Green Goblin figure came in the 6" size, as part of one of the last assortments of Toy Biz Marvel Legends figures. This amazing Green Goblin figure has a headsculpt that looks like John Romita, one of the best-remembered Spider-Man artists of all time, sculpted it himself, and the costume design is absolutely perfect. This particular Goblin is not going to be topped.

However, the Hasbro 9" version is superior to the Toy Biz 9" version in quite a few respects. The darker color scheme makes the character look more malevolent. And the head sculpt, while not exactly right off of Romita's drawing board, is more rounded and honestly more plausible, and somehow less comical, than the Toy Biz version. The Famous Covers Goblin looks insane. The Hasbro Goblin looks downright mean.

The rest of the costume presents its own unique difficulties. Although the purple tunic, gloves, and strange, pointed, almost elf-like boots can be carried out easily enough with sculpting, the green legs and sleeves of the costume have always been portrayed in the comics as rather scaly. Whether this is chain mail armor or just part of the costume design I honestly do not know. But it does present a potential problem when you're working with fabric.

Mego and Toy Biz pretty much solved this problem the same way -- by printing a straight pattern of scales across the entirety of the fabric. This works, but it almost looks too patterned. It almost seems as though the Goblin is wearing some sort of outlined checkerboard. Hasbro was a bit more innovative, and the end result works astoundingly well. They printed a pattern of scales across the green fabric, but it's not that different in color from the fabric itself. Then they went back and printed a second pattern of scales, in a somewhat darker color, but only in certain highlighted areas of the fabric. This looks good, and also reflects the appearance of the character in the comics.

One thing I must comment Hasbro for especially, in contrast to the Toy Biz Famous Covers version. Toy Biz GLUED one of the Goblin's pumpkin bombs to the figure's glove. Although the Hasbro Goblin does come with two pumpkin bombs, as well as his Goblin Glider, none of this equipment is actually permanently attached to the figure! THANK YOU, Hasbro!

The Goblin Glider is a nice piece of work, with a wingspan of about 7 inches, and two elastic straps for the Goblin's feet.

The body of the figure, of course, is the same one Hasbro is using for all of these figures in this line, and which had its start in the mid 1990's, when Hasbro had the DC license and was making al ine of 9" figures for that particular comics universe, around the same time as the Famous Covers line. Don't get me started on irony. The body is well-made and very well articulated. If there is one minor point I disagree with about these figures, though, it is Hasbro's practice of sewing the figure into the costume. There are no snaps or velcro to remove the costume should the figure need any sort of repair.

However, this is a relatively minor point, especially if one takes proper care of the figure. This initial series of Spider-Man Origins "Signature Series" figures seems to have come and largely gone from most stores, and in fact I had a heck of a time finding this Goblin -- but if you're still trying to track the series down through other sources and are wondering if the Green Goblin is worth it, then I have to definitely say "Yes!" It's a good representation of the character, well-made, appropriately villainous in appearance, and superior in many respects to its Toy Biz counterpart.

The Spider-Man Origins 9" GREEN GOBLIN definitely has my recommendation!

But really, what's the Green Goblin without Spider-Man? For that matter, what would be the Marvel Universe without Spider-Man? The Fantastic Four might have been the start of the Marvel Universe back in 1961, but let's face it, and no disrespect intended towards Marvel's First Family, the best known representative of the Marvel Universe is unquestionably Spider-Man.

Spider-Man has been part of the pop-culture landscape for over forty years. Apart from multiple comic books, he's had a wide range of animated series, starting with one in the mid-1960's whose theme tune is still familiar to this day. Throw in the 1980's "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends", the superb animated series in the 1990's that ran concurrent with the equally excellent X-Men animated series (and even guest-starred the X-Men at one point), a series which probably stayed closest to Spider-Man's comic book storylines, at least two other animated series of which I am aware, with yet another one potentially in the works; plus a decent if short-lived live-action TV series in the late 1970's, and of course three very well-received live-action movies in recent years, and well -- yeah -- you've basically got a legend. Heck, he was even the blatantly obvious choice for the first Marvel-DC crossover that featured characters from both universes, teaming up with Superman.

I almost feel embarassed to present the background of this character, but, just for the sake of proper information -- Spider-Man is Peter Parker who, while still a high school student, and a scrawny, nerdy one at that, was bitten by a spider during a scientific demonstration at which the spider was accidentally exposed to an unknown form of radiation. This affected Parker, giving him the proportionate strength of a spider, enhanced agility, the ability to climb sheer walls, and a unique "spider-sense" warning him of immediate danger.

Initially, Parker thought to cash in on these new abilities, and became a costumed performer. This was going well, until one evening when Parker was leaving a performance, and failed to stop a criminal that ran past him in a hallway, feeling it wasn't his responsibility to do anything about it. The criminal escaped, and in a tragic turn of events, later tried to rob the home of Peter's aunt and uncle, where Peter lived, and killed Peter's beloved Uncle Ben.

Parker learned the harsh lesson that "with great power comes great responsibility", and went out as Spider-Man to capture the criminal himself, stunned to learn that it was the same man he had allowed to escape earlier.

Spider-Man went on to become one of the Marvel Universe's finest heroes, although he's always had trouble getting respect. Long sought by the police as a vigilante and possible criminal himself, his life has never been made any easier by the printed diatribes of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Over time, the authorities have learned that Spidey is on their side, and have generally cut him a measure of slack, and more recently, Spider-Man garnered a greater level of respect by joining the Avengers. That ended badly, however, in the aftermath of the Civil War, and Spider-Man has found himself hunted once again, even as he continues to try to do what's right with the great powers he has been given.

I was surprised, when Hasbro acquired the Marvel Comics toy license from longtime license-holder Toy Biz, that one of the first things they did was to come out with a line of 9", cloth-costumed figures. Certainly Hasbro had the body molds for it, having done a similar line of figures for the DC Comics universe when they held that license. But there hadn't been any such figures for quite a few years, not since Toy Biz had ceased its own 9" cloth-costumed Famous Covers line, and Mattel had acquired the DC license from Hasbro. Mind you, I wasn't complaining, either.

There are some problems inherent in doing a cloth-costumed action figure of Spider-Man. For starters, his costume is all-covering. His mask covers his entire head. Secondly, you've got a very ornate and complicated costume. Spider-Man's costume is an alternating pattern of red and blue that doesn't really follow "traditional" or "basic" super- hero costume lines of a shirt and leggings being one color, and trunks, gloves, boots, and maybe a cape being another color. Spider-Man's costume features a red hood, with a mostly red shirt except for some blue on the sides and part of the sleeves, blue leggings, and red boots and gloves. That's tricky enough, but when you throw in the web patterning on all of the red sections, as well as that big red spider symbol on the back, you've got something that's hard enough to draw on a printed page. Translating that into a cloth costume for a mass-produced 9" action figure has got to be a logistical nightmare.

Certainly there has been no shortage of Spider-Man action figures over the years. Most of these have been all plastic, which is doubtless a little easier to work with, although the web patterning still presents its own challenges. But there have been such figures from Mego, Mattel, Toy Biz, and now Hasbro, ranging in size from 3-3/4" all the way up to a massive 18" Spider-Man figure that Toy Biz turned out for the second Spider-Man movie that -- frankly, is probably more articulated and flexible than I am, and is almost certainly the first "human" action figure ever made with individually articulated finger joints of each segment of the fingers.

But a Spider-Man figure with a fabric costume presents its own challenges, especially for mass production purposes. How do you design it? How do you do the web patterning? How do you handle the all-covering mask and gloves?

The solutions over the years have been interesting ones. The first cloth- costumed Spider-Man figure was actually a costume set for the popular Captain Action figure in 1967. I honestly can't comment on how Ideal Toys accomplished the fabric costume itself, since I've only ever seen pictures of it. A superb book entitled "Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure", by Michael Eury, from TwoMorrows Publishing (I highly recommend this book for any fan of Captain Action) states that the Spider-Man costume was a "one-piece, red-and-blue cloth jumpsuit". But "one piece" could just as easily mean that it was still stitched together from several red and blue sections into one piece. I do know that the costume set featured a rubbery-plastic hood, separate plastic boots, no gloves, and a utility belt, an unusual accessory.

Mego took a relatively easy way out, not to malign their Spider-Man figure. For the time, the early 1970's, it was a very decent figure. Mego made a one-piece suit on white fabric, and then actually printed the Spider-Man costume design onto it. This actually worked surprisingly well for the most part. They molded the head as the mask, and sculpted the web patterning into it, leaving it unpainted, but anybody with a really steady hand and a pen that would work well on the plastic could line them in if he wanted to. The hands were molded in red plastic to look like the gloves. This was actually preferable to the plastic "long mittens" that Mego had given to some of its DC figures, such as Batman and Robin, or ignoring the gloves completely, as they had done with Captain America. Mego, for whatever reason, always seemed to have a little trouble with gloved characters. The only other one they really did a decent job with in this respect was Green Arrow.

Toy Biz, in their Famous Covers line, went for what I might call slightly excessive authenticity. They decided to sculpt an actual Peter Parker head, and make the costume a one-piece all-covering costume. This ALMOST worked, but it had its problems. While I may not be entirely crazy about Hasbro's practice of sewing its figures into their costumes, making them completely unremovable in case repair needs to be done, the velcro strip on the Toy Biz Famous Covers Spider-Man that not only went down the back but halfway up the head looked like heck from a profile angle on the figure. Additionally, since Toy Biz couldn't do individual fingers on the fabric gloves, Spider-Man ended up looking like he was wearing cute mittens.

There's one thing about the visual appearance of Spider-Man, as well, that got somewhat messed up by the Toy Biz version. You don't really see a lot of facial features when he's wearing his mask. It's basically an oval with the mask details in it. On the Toy Biz figure, you could clearly see the Parker nose, jaw, and molded hairline.

Toy Biz was a bit more sensible when it came to their figure of Spider-Girl, a popular character set in an alternate timeline, the teenaged daughter of a now-retired Spider-Man, in that they made the hood a separate piece, and molded the hands as the costume's gloves, but you can still see too much of the figure's "non-Spider identity" through the fabric hood, just in its shape.

To Toy Biz's credit, though, they didn't just print the Spider-Man costume onto a single piece of fabric. The red and blue segments of the costume were separate pieces. Indeed the costume was a fairly complex but of design work, whose only real fault, and this is certainly the most difficult aspect to overcome so I'm not going to blame them for it, is that some of the printed black web lines on the red segments don't quite line up on joined seams.

Now we come to the Hasbro edition. And I have to honestly say that I think Hasbro has done the best job yet of a cloth-costumed Spider-Man figure, nicely overcoming many of the problems that this design presents. The figure's not perfect. It has a few minor glitches that I will discuss. But it's still the best I've seen to date.

The uniform is composed of properly colored red and blue segments. The red segments have what I sincerely believe to be the most intricate web design ever yet attempted on a cloth-costumed Spider-Man action figure. There is much more "webbing" outlined than on the Toy Biz version, and it's a thinner line, as well. The Spider logo on the chest is excellent and distinctive. Sometimes it's easy to lose this amidst the webbing. The only real seams anywhere in the red segment are are the waist, which comes across fairly well, and in the back, which also comes across nicely. This must have taken some serious design work.

The head is molded plastic. No fabric cloth here. The same for the gloves and boots. All have been distinctly molded with web lines engraved into them, and then these parts were "paint-wiped" with black paint to flow into the web lines, and then cleaned off across the red surface. Normally I dislike this practice, since it's often used for dirtying a figure that would look better clean, but in this case, it just about works. The only problem is that I saw a few figures on the shelf where the black paint hadn't been wiped off as entirely as it should, and it does also inevitably darken the plastic somewhat compared to the red fabric. Granted also, though, red is a very difficult color to match, and even the cleanest areas of the red plastic are slightly darker than the red fabric.

The costume is sewn up in the back, but interestingly, unlike most of the figures Hasbro has made like this, the figure is sewn across, at the point where the red meets the blue, not with a vertical seam. "Dressing" these figures must've been a real joy for the factory workers. However, the end result looks superb, and best of all, it makes the red spider-logo on the back of the costume look excellent, since every previous cloth-costumed Spider-Man figure has had to split this. It also looks a darn sight better than the huge velcro strip of the Toy Biz figure.

Hasbro's 9" Spider-Man is highly articulated and nicely poseable. The right hand is posed with the "web-firing" action, which somewhat limits its poseability in the fingers group, but it's not bad, and an appropriate "pose" for Spidey. There's a little detail on the wrists, a little silver circle that is supposed to represent Spider-Man's web shooters. It's a nice touch, and one I haven't seen before. About the only problem with this is that apparently they didn't get the news that Spider-Man can now shoot natural webs from his forearms, much like his movie counterpart.

On the whole, this is really a superb figure. Hasbro has done a great job with a very difficult costume design, and the figure poses well and is certainly highly-articulated. Although this assortment of figures seems to be gone from most stores, I'm sure it can still be found in the secondary market, and if you're looking for a really good, cloth-costumed Spider-Man figure, this is the one you want to have.

But he wasn't the only one in the series. Some super-heroes change their costume designs fairly often. And in more recent years, it's become increasingly commonplace. Iron Man seems to get a new set of armor every time Radio Shack has a sale. The X-Men seem to change their costumes with every new crisis that comes along in their lives -- which is about every other week. The Wasp doesn't like to be seen twice in the same outfit.

Other heroes, it's hard to imagine them in anything other than their best-recognized uniforms. One can't really see Captain America in anything other than his red-white-and-blue, although for a time he did adopt a different costume when the United States government told him he could no longer be Captain America. And then there's Spider-Man.

For close to twenty years, Spider-Man wore pretty much the same costume, the red and blue uniform with the web lines spanning across the red portions of the outfit. And even though in more recent years, Spidey has had a number of different uniforms here and there, when the infamous black costume was first introduced in 1982, it was such a drastic development for the Web-Slinger that it actually made news outside of the comic book world.

In 1982, it was announced that Spider-Man would be receiving a radically new costume, and indeed he did. Gone was the red and blue. Instead, Spider-Man was now garbed in an all-black uniform, that only had white "Spider-Man" style eyes, small white markings on the wrists where his web-shooters were, and a huge white Spider-emblem on the chest and back. It was a radically different look for the Web-Slinger.

But where had the costume come from? It was more than just a case of Spider-Man wanting to change his duds after all those years. In 1982, Marvel Comics presented a twelve-issue limited series. The very notion of a limited series was considered something very experimental at the time, even though it's considered fairly commonplace today. This story would bring together a huge number of Marvel heroes, and villains, and put them in a cosmic contest of good vs. evil on a remote, patchwork planet, at the behest of an enigmatic being known only as the Beyonder. The series was called MARVEL SECRET WARS, and it arguably paved the way for every limited series since then, even if it was eclipsed in notability a few years later by DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Over the course of several issues of various regularly published Marvel Comics, heroes from across the Marvel Universe encountered a strange construct within Central Park. They were then instantly transported to a similar structure in the depths of unknown space. Spider-Man, the Hulk, three-fourths of the Fantastic Four, and contingents of Avengers and X- Men, all came along for the ride.

Their regularly published titles picked up the month after, in several cases with drastic changes. She-Hulk had joined the Fantastic Four, and the Thing had stayed behind on the Beyonder's planet. The Hulk, who had entered the Secret Wars with the intellect of Bruce Banner, was starting to blow his cool a lot more often. And Spider-Man had a radically new and different uniform.

It would take quite a few issues into the Secret Wars to reveal the origin of this costume. The heroes had found a massive building to serve as their headquarters. Alien in design, they gradually came to understand a fair portion of its technology. Following one battle with the villains, Spider-Man's costume was pretty well trashed. He encountered a group of his fellow heroes in one room of the headquarters. They had discovered a machine that could make clothes, and had repaired or replaced their costumes. Spider-Man decided to do likewise, but neglected to learn from the others just which machine in the room had made their new uniforms.

Selecting one more or less at random, Spider-Man activated the machine, and a ball of black glop dropped out. Spider-Man picked it up, and it soon engulfed him and transformed into his new costume. Although surprised, Spider-Man was pleased with the new outfit, although a little uncertain as to its design, although he chalked it up to being influenced by the arrival among the heroes of a new Spider-Woman, whose costume greatly resembled Spider-Man's new outfit.

Spidey discovered that this new costume responded to his mental commands, altering its appearance as he saw fit, to a point. When he asked the others if their costumes had similar capabilities, they replied that they didn't. But there was little time to ponder the potential problems of that situation, because the Secret Wars resumed and the heroes had to resolve the matter once and for all.

It wouldn't be until well into Spider-Man's own title when the truth of the Black Costume would be revealed. Precisely how it came about I'm not certain. I believe that the new costume wasn't entirely well-received by the fan community, and the decision was made to return Spidey to his traditional outfit. But not without doing something pretty spectacular to the Black Costume. What was its true nature?

It would turn out to be an alien symbiote, and a pretty greedy one at that. It didn't want to let Parker go. Fortunately for him, the symbiote was vulnerable to extreme sonics. With the help of Reed Richards, and a church bell tower, the symbiote was removed, and supposedly imprisoned, although it soon escaped, and subsequently hooked up with one Eddie Brock, becoming the villainous Venom. But that's really a lengthy story for another time.

Since that time, Spider-Man has worn a standard fabric black costume on occasion, initially as an aid for night-based patrols, and later as a reflection of a particularly dark and grim period during his life. Recently, and no doubt as a result of the appearance of the Black Costume in the third Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man is, as the promotional material read, "Back in Black". Storywise, it's a result of the aftermath of the Civil War, which was particularly unkind to Parker, as well as his friends and family.

Whatever the initial mixed reaction may have been to the Black Costume, there's no doubt that it has become a firmly entrenched part of the Spider-Man mythos, so it's no great surprise that when Hasbro decided to do a line of 9", cloth costumed figures under the banner name of "Spider-Man Origins Signature Series", once they had obtained the Marvel license from Toy Biz, that a black-costumed Spider-Man figure would be part of the deal.

This is hardly the first black-costumed Spider-Man figure. That distinction goes to a fairly scarce specimen from Mattel's Secret Wars action figure line, based on the comic book mini-series. (Honestly, the way the DC and Marvel licenses have changed hands over the past 25 years is a story in itself. Mattel had Marvel, then Toy Biz had it while Hasbro had DC, but Toy Biz had DC briefly until Hasbro got it, although that was technically Kenner at the time, and Kenner had the DC license while Mattel had Marvel, and then Toy Biz had Marvel while Hasbro had DC after Kenner became part of Hasbro, and now Mattel has DC and Hasbro has Marvel. SHEESH! Anybody miss the days when Mego had both of 'em?)

This isn't even the first 9", cloth costumed, Black Costume Spider-Man figure. Toy Biz made one as part of their Famous Covers line. And a comparison is inevitable.

While you don't have the same level of difficulty with the black costume as you have with the intricacy of the red-and-blue costume, there are still some decisions that must be made as to how the figure is going to be carried out. One of the biggest involves the fact that, like the red and blue, Spider-Man's black costume is all-covering, including his entire head. How do you choose to accomplish this?

Like their standard Spider-Man figure, Toy Biz chose to accomplish this by sculpting a Peter Parker head, and making a cloth hood. Unlike the red-and-blue Spider-Man costume, which was basically a one-piece outfit with a strip of velcro up the back that extended all the way up to the back of the head, and frankly looked like heck in profile, Toy Biz wisely chose to make the black costume with a separate hood that could be placed over the Parker head and tucked under the collar of the rest of the costume. It looks a lot better, but there's still a bit of a problem.

Ultimately, the shape of the Parker head is going to show through. And one of the more notable bits of artistic license when it comes to drawing Spider-Man is that you don't really see much in the way of his facial features when he's wearing the mask. A fabric mask over the headsculpt of a human face, with sculpted hair, as well, just isn't going to be able to compensate and reflect that artistic license all that well.

Additionally, the Toy Biz figure extends the fabric costume all the way over the hands. It was just not possible to sew individual fingers into the gloves, and for that matter, the plastic hands didn't have distinctly separate fingers, so the result looks like Spider-Man has a couple of socks over his hands, that are just part of his overall costume. I'm not saying that the Famous Covers Black Costume Spider-Man is a bad figure, but some of these design elements should have been taken into consideration.

Fortunately, they were taken into consideration by Hasbro, and the result is a superior figure. I honestly think the costume fits better, for one thing. Secondly, the head is molded AS the Spider-Man head. It's not a Parker head with a hood over it. It's molded in black plastic, and has the white eyes both sculpted and painted into it. Also, the hands are molded in black plastic, and the costume ends at the wrist. Similarly, the feet are molded in black, and the costume ends at the ankles.

There are also fewer seams on the Hasbro version than the Toy Biz version. The only noticable seams are where the legs are attaches, and where the figure is sewn into the costume, which appears to be along the back of the figure, at the top of the arms. This is an interesting switch from the usual "vertical up the back" seam that Hasbro tends to use. Frankly, I'm not fond of the fact that these figures are sewn into their costumes. It makes repair, should it be necessary, impossible. However, in the case of this Spider-Man, there's a reason for the "final" seams to be in a different place -- it allows the white Spider insignia on the back of the costume to be free of any such stitching, and it really looks good as a result.

I should also compliment the alignment of the front and rear "Spider- limbs" along the sides of the costume. This probably isn't as difficult as trying to align the more intricate webbing of Spider-Man's more traditional costume, and honestly, the Toy Biz Famous Covers figure did this just as capably as the Hasbro version, although the spider on the back is broken up by a velcro strip, but it's nice to see this sort of alignment carried out this effectively on a mass-produced action figure like this.

The figure itself is, of course, very well articulated and nicely poseable. Granted, it's different than the movie version of the Black Costume, which is essentially an all-black version of Spider-Man's traditional costume, but then this figure isn't supposed to represent the movie incarnation. It's intended to represent the comics version, and it certainly does that admirably. And this IS the black costume which Spider-Man has, as of this writing, recently returned to in the pages of the comics, both in his own title, and as part of the New Avengers.

This series of figures seems to largely be out of the stores at this time, but I am sure that there are still means by which it can be obtained, and it really is an excellent figure. This 9" Black Costume SPIDER-MAN from Hasbro definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation, as do the others!