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by Thomas Wheeler

Last year, Toy Biz introduced a series of SPIDER-MAN figures designed to have the highest articulation level ever seen in an action figure in the 5-6" range -- and who better to offer this articulation to than the agile,
wall-crawling web-spinner himself, Marvel's popular SPIDER-MAN!

The two best-known Spider-Man versions, a pretty-much "straight-forward" Spider-Man, and a second version of Spider-Man in his black uniform with white trim, the sentient costume he discovered during the "Secret Wars" which would later become an aspect of one of his greatest foes, Venom, were the first two "Spideys" offered in this series. Later on, a "battle damaged"
version and a "Classic" Spidey, from his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15, would also be offered.

Certainly the articulation was remarkable! No less then thirty points of articulation allowed these figures to be posed in downright inhuman, but not impossible for Spidey, positions. And overall, the figures were well made and looked very nice. The only mistake Toy Biz made in my opinion was in carving Spidey's webbing into the most basic figure, and then trying to color in
the webs with paint-wipes. It didn't work, and generally made him look like he hadn't washed his suit in far too long.

Recently, two additional SPIDER-MAN figures have turned up, exclusive to K*B Toys! They retail for $7.99 apiece, which is very reasonable for K*B, especially considering you get the figure, a display base, and a reprint comic book of a prominent issue featuring the character.

First up was SPIDER-MAN 2099. This Spider-Man, written by Peter David, one of the most talented writers in the business, was the foundation for a sadly short-lived alternate-future concept developed by Marvel that featured futuristic versions of some of Marvel's mainstays. During its couple of years of existence, Spider-Man, Doctor Doom, Ghost Rider, the X-Men, and others all got the 2099 treatment. There was even an assortment of X-Men 2099 figures from Toy Biz some years ago, and an earlier version of Spider-Man 2099.

But given that virtually nothing has been done with the 2099 concept in several years, it was something of a surprise to see this figure turn up at K*B! Even more amazing was that a small boy standing in front of the
display recognized the figure. He called to his father, "Hey, Dad! It's Spidey 2099!" I thought, "The kid's got to be kidding." Then I saw it for myself. Fortunately there were plenty of them there, so I was able to get one for
myself after the kid convinced his father to buy one for him.

Clearly, the "black-uniform Spider-Man" molds have been used here, as those were the ones without the carved webbing, or for that matter, lacking any other carved-in markings. And it's an excellent figure of Spidey 2099. The colors are right on the money, and they even added the rather shredded-looking web cape that the character wore. He comes with a reprint
issue of Spider-Man 2099 #1. Unfortunately, the character's origin was a multi-parter. Time to go visit the back issue section of your local comics shop.

The other K*B exclusive is an interesting choice. It's SCARLET SPIDER, the identity assumed for a time by the clone of Peter Parker during the "Clone Saga", which may well go down in history as one of the most confusing and drawn-out storylines ever created, Spider-Man or otherwise. It got so bad that even other Marvel writers started making fun of it in their own titles.
Marvel's Merc-with-a-Mouth, Deadpool, once commented, "Just don't tell me she's a clone. The readers'd kill me if I had a clone in this book."

What's interesting about this figure is that Scarlet Spider was originally intended to be one of the regular-release figures, until he was abruptly and oddly replaced by Daredevil. Here's your chance to finally complete your
collection of wall-crawlers. Once again the "black-uniform Spider-Man" molds have been used, but not entirely. New lower legs have been sculpted to allow
for the pouches this figure wore on his uniform. The visible web shooters have been snapped on his wrists, and the figure is wearing a blue fabric pullover, which is a very nice touch in my opinion. Overall, Scarlet Spider
is an above average figure. Really, both of them are.

The one interesting point I find about these figures is that when you pose them in a basic standing position, arms at their side -- and this goes for all of these high-articulation Spider-Man figures -- they look somehow
uncomfortable. Their molds are not in the least pre-posed. You don't throw 30 points of articulation into an action figure and pre-pose the thing. It's just that somehow, they look more natural and more at ease somehow when they've been put into an action pose -- and the potential in that area is practically endless.

I don't give Toy Biz a lot of credit these days. In the early to mid 90's, they ruled the super-hero world with a wide range of figures based on Marvel's stable of characters. Something happened along the way, though, that
sent them plummeting, and I've never been certain what. Perhaps they made too many obscure or short-lived characters. Perhaps they threw in too many oddball gimmicks. Perhaps the overall quality of the toys was regarded as less than what some other companies were starting to achieve. Whatever the case, Toy Biz's place in the toy world sank, and has never quite

I always felt that their best products were the 9" Famous Covers figures. That's not to say I disliked their other toys, I just felt that these were truly excellent action figures, heads above a lot of what was out there then
or now.

Toy Biz will doubtless get a boost this summer with the SPIDER-MAN movie, and indeed, movie-related toys are already out there, and they have carried over
the high level of articulation. But that's no reason to overlook these two figures. Toy Biz has done a superb job with both the SPIDER-MAN 2099 and SCARLET SPIDER figures, and I recommend them both. Find the K*B Toys nearest you and pick them up. You won't be sorry you did.