Toy Biz first really broke into the toy world in a fairly major way with a line of action figures based on Batman and the DC Super-Heroes. When that license found its way back to Kenner, subsequently Hasbro, Toy Biz picked up the license to Marvel Comics, starting off with lines of figures based on the X-Men and on Marvel Super-Heroes. Toy Biz would continue with this for many years, eventually changing its company name to Marvel Toys. However, not long after, Hasbro would pick up the Marvel license, much as Mattel had acquired the DC Comics license from Hasbro several years earlier.
But the upshot of it is that Marvel Toys, formerly Toy Biz, found itself bereft of a super-hero license. Hasbro now had Marvel, Mattel had DC, and Marvel TOYS had all of these talented super-hero designers on their staff and nothing to give them to do. They had also assuredly found a major niche in the action figure world with their ling running and hugely popular "Marvel Legends" line of highly detailed, highly articulated super-hero figures. Those, too, were now the province of Hasbro. What to do?
Well, although Marvel and DC are certainly the two "400-pound gorillas" of the comics world, they're also not the only game in town. There are an astonishing number of independent creators who, either on their own or through other publishers besides the "big two", have managed to make enough of a name with their characters so that action figures of these individuals would probably fare rather well.
Thus we come to Marvel Toys' new LEGENDARY COMIC BOOK HEROES line. Marvel Legends-level figures of characters from a wide range of other creators and publishers.
I'll admit, I don't know a whole lot about most of these characters, and I don't really expect to collect most of them. I do tend to read a fair amount of Marvel and DC, and most of my other comics reading is devoted to comics based on concepts that have their origins outside the comics world, which I also enjoy -- G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Transformers, etc.
But, it's hard to be even reasonably knowledgable about modern comics and NOT be aware, at least by name, of many of the characters being brought into the Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. I might not know all that much about them, but I've at the very least HEARD of the likes of Judge Dredd, Madman, Witchblade, and of course -- Savage Dragon.
I wanted to buy at least one figure from this line and see if the company that gave us Marvel Legends was maintaining their same high standards with this new line. I chose Savage Dragon for two main reasons: I had heard of the character, even though I wasn't a reader, and of the other characters I had heard of, the only other one that sparked enough recognition to me was Judge Dredd, and to be honest, I liked Dragon's overall look better (apologies to Dredd fans).
I was aware of Dragon on a fairly limited level due to several team-ups with more major characters in the comics, and the fact that Dragon managed to secure an animated series for himself in the mid 1990's. In the comics, Dragon had a team-up with Superman, and what might be called a "near-miss" with Spider-Man and Howard the Duck. Explaining THAT would take way too long.
I didn't catch much of the animated series, but one episode was a particular standout. In the mid 1990's, the USA Network created an animation block called the "Action Extreme Team" which aired on weekends. The cartoons in this block really didn't have a whole lot in common with each other, other than they were action-oriented. They didn't even come from the same production studio. But one notable event took place that I find fascinating to this day...
There was a special series of episodes, one from each show, that followed the same storyline. A warrior king, voiced with Worf-like authority by Michael Dorn himself, from another planet was in pursuit of a powerful orb, which was an object that helped to maintain his planet, as well as representing the warrior kig's rule. It had been cast into some sort of dimensional vortex, and the chase was on. Astoundingly, the "chase" ran through all four of the shows in the Action Extreme Team block at the time, which consisted of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Wing Commander Academy -- and Savage Dragon. It was, really, a remarkable bit of work overall.
Dragon, for the record, was voiced by Jim Cummings, with a rather impressive retinue of guest voices over the course of its run, including not only Dorn, but Mark Hamill, Rene Auberjonois, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Robert Ito, and Tony Jay.
But, I had to admit, my knowledge of Dragon's overall history was a tad vague. The text on the back of the figure's package reads as follows: Dragon was found by Lieutenant Fred Darling in a burning field in Chicago, with no memory of his past. Darling was taken by Dragon and offered his friendship. He knew Dragon's superhuman strength, bullet-proof skin and ability to regenerate would help combat Chicago's criminal gang, Vicious Circle. He attempted to recruit Dragon into the police force, but he declined. When the Vicious Circle attempted to extort money from Lt. Darling, Dragon leapt into action and easily defeated the gang's thugs. When Fred lost his life in an explosion at the scene, Dragon decided to reconsider the offer to join the police force. He stepped into the role of the city's premiere hero, pitting himself against the Vicious Circle and all other criminal threats, while he seaches for details of his past.
Turns out Dragon's been around for a lot longer than I thought. He is the creation of Erik Larsen, a notable comics creator, who came up with this mean green fighting machine way back in 1986. But it wasn't until 1992, when Larsen left Marvel to co-found Image Comics, that he reworked Dragon into his current format, and launched him in his own title. According to Larsen, the series is aimed at "older Marvel readers who are about ready to throw in the towel on comics altogether. It's the missing link between Marvel and Vertigo. More mature than Marvel, less pretentious than Vertigo. The kind of comics I want to read. This book is really self-indulgent."
Dragon's stint in the Chicago Police Force, which also the focal point of the animated series, since they took place at about the same time, has only been part of the character's very bizarre history. In summary, he's been a mercenary, apparently ended up in Hell for a while, was a major player in a "Mars Attacks" storyline, destroying the Martians in the process, was approached by the United States government to form a superhuman task-force to replace a team called Youngblood which would be dubbed the Special Operations Strikeforce, has ended up in space, and on an alternate Earth, described as a Jack Kirby-inspired post-apocalyptic/ dystopian story with the Dragon stuck in a new reality he created by killing the infant Damian Darklord, and thus prevented him going back in time, and with most of the mutated and monstrous populace of this world trying to kill him.
Oh, well, at least his life hasn't been boring. He's also had more team- ups than I realized. Some of these have been within the Image company, as one might expect, but not all of them. Over the course of his adventures, he's encountered Spawn, Hellboy, Madman, and has had two team-ups with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Honestly, with those credentials, I'm almost surprised there hasn't been a movie of this guy.
And his full origin has been revealed, in the pages of the "Image Comics 10th Anniversary" hardcover book, in November of 2005. The collection featured the four remaining Image founders (Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Valentino) returning to the characters they first created for the company. Each founder wrote and illustrated a full-length story.
Larsen's story featured Savage Dragon's origin. Dragon used to be an evil tyrant named Emperor Kurr who led a nomadic race of aliens that live in a starship. They have spent thousands of years searching for a suitable new homeworld, and Kurr had chosen Earth. He wished to go against his people's peaceful ways and slaughter all humans. Two scientists named Rech and Weiko conspire against Kurr, giving him brain damage that erases his memory, and implanting his head with five days' worth of satellite television broadcasts from Earth. Kurr was then sent to Earth to live, while his race moved on to search for a new planet elsewhere.
So, instead of an alien invader, we got a large green cop. I can live with that.
As a side note, I should mention that this is NOT the first Savage Dragon action figure ever created. Playmates Toys once did a line of action figures based on some independent comics characters, and Dragon got on on that act. The figure was decent, fairly well detailed, dressed in his police uniform, but wasn't all that well articulated.
So, how did Marvel Toys do with THEIR Savage Dragon? Let's just say that they haven't lost their touch since the Marvel license went to Hasbro.
Dragon stands a little over 6-1/2" in height -- not counting the huge fin on his head. Throw that in and he's almost 7-1/2". This places him well in scale with the Marvel Legends figures from both Toy Biz and Hasbro. By comparison, he's a little taller than "average" individuals like Quicksilver or Yellowjacket, and certainly bulkier, while not quite as tall or powerful-looking as the likes of Thor or Hercules. This is as it should be, in my opinion. His skin tone is a fraction of a shade darker than She-Hulk. Also not inappropriate.
The figure is not dressed in his police uniform. That's not inappropriate, since that's only been a portion of his existence. Dragon is shirtless, and is wearing a pair of blue jeans and sneakers -- unbranded but fairly fashionable looking. The level of sculpted detail on the clothes is excellent. The jeans had a sculpted rough texture to them, and you can see lines representing stitching. He has a belt with a nicely detailed buckle. The shoes also have a sculpted texture to them, and have superb detail, including laces and a tread design underneath.
The detailing on Dragon's upper half is also very well done. The eyes and eyebrows are very nearly painted, as is the body hair on his chest and arms. And thankfully, Marvel Toys avoided the practice that they sometimes have of dirtying the figure. There is some paint smeared into the blue jeans, but honestly, it just makes them look more denim-ish. Dragon's upper half is clean, thankfully.
At first glance, and in comparison to a more traditional super-hero, Dragon would seem to be rather disproportionate. His torso seems quite large compared to the rest of his body, and his arms are truly massive. Indeed, his arms are larger than his legs, which seem to be about "average" in size. But, study any Larsen artwork of the Dragon, and you'll see that this is how the character was designed -- a fairly large torso with huge arms, and relatively average-sized legs. Since it's been determined that Dragon is actually representative of an alien species, perhaps this is normal for them.
One might expect that the figure would be top-heavy and difficult to stand up, but actually, Dragon stands quite well. It's a little tricky to get his legs and feet posed so that he's not going to be prone to tipping over, but it's far less of a challenge than I anticipated.
So, how's the articulation? Nothing short of incredible. Here, Marvel Toys has not only maintained the standards established by Marvel Legends, but Dragon's massive arms have allowed for an increase. Of course, the figure is poseable at the head, arms, upper swm swivel., elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, ankles, feet, etc. -- but the articulation in the hands is what really sets Dragon apart.
As big as his arms are compared to the rest of his body, Dragon's hands are even larger. By comparison, Dragon's hands are only slightly smaller than those of the 12" Marvel Icons THOR figure produced by Hasbro, obviously a rather considerable physical speciment in his own right.
Now, I pretty much expected for Dragon's fingers to be individually articulated at the point where they meet the hand. This, late on, was not an uncommon practice for Toy Biz Marvel Legends figures if the character had hands of sufficient size, which Dragon certainly does. But what I DIDN'T expect was for each finger to have an additional articulation point at the next "knuckle" up the finger, and for the thumb on each hand to have its main "knuckle" articulated as well!
Find one small enough and if Dragon had the talent, he could probably play the piano. The last time -- and basically the ONLY previous time -- I saw an action figure with this level of articulation in its fingers was the 18" Spider-Man figure that Toy Biz produced in conjunction with the second movie. Granted, that figure had EVERY finger joint articulated. Also granted, that figure was a lot bigger than Dragon. For a figure in this size range, even with distinctly large hands, to have this level of articulation in those hands, is nothing short of truly incredible. And my sympathy to the assembly workers.
Dragon doesn't come with any weapons or accessories. He does come with the left leg of the "Build A Figure" in this assortment, a rather large and scary-looking creature called "Pitt". I'm afraid I don't know much about him, and I'm not going to get into an extensive character review over just a leg. For what it's worth, the leg seems well made, well-detailed, and well-articulated.
As for Dragon himself, I'm impressed. Marvel Toys clearly intends to maintain the same high level of quality and articulation with their Legendary Comic Book Heroes line as they did with Marvel Legends, which fortunately continues well under Hasbro's direction. And all one needs to do is page through a Westfield Comics catalog to realize that there is no shortage of independent publishers out there for Marvel Toys to work from to bring future characters to the action figure world.
Meanwhile, for fans of Erik Larsen's SAVAGE DRAGON, who have wanted a really good, really well-made, really well-articulated action figure of this distinctive hero -- good news! Here he is! And SAVAGE DRAGON definitely has my highest and enthusiastic recommendation!