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By Thomas Wheeler

There really haven't been very many Spider-Man figures in the Marvel Legends line. This may seem somewhat surprising, but one has to remember that Spider-Man has his own action figure line, and many of the figures in that line are just about as well-articulated as a Marvel Legends figure.

Indeed, while Marvel Legends may have started out as a means for presenting super-articulated versions of popular Marvel heroes, and the first assortments did include prominent names such as Wolverine, Captain America, and Iron Man, the line has since become a place for characters that couldn't likely carry their own toy lines to finally be rendered in plastic, while the articulation level that was initially the hallmark of Marvel Legends has been carried over into other Marvel-based action figure lines. Hopefully this will continue to be the case once Hasbro takes over from Toy Biz.

But there was one recent Spider-Man figure in the Marvel Legends line, that I felt was worth a review. He's designated "First Appearance Spider-Man."

Now, while I'm sure I don't really have to go into any great detail about the origin of Spider-Man, a little review never hurt. Spider-Man is Peter Parker, at the time of his origin a scrawny high-school student, a complete bookworm with a talent for science, who was attending an exhibition that day when he was bitten by a radioactive spider. This gave Parker certain spider-like properties, including the ability to scale and adhere to sheer walls, massive super-strength, and a "spider-sense" that alerted him to the proximity of danger.

Parker created a costumed identity, calling himself "Spider-Man", and developed his famous web-spinning devices. But he didn't set out on the super-hero path right away. He became a celebrity, and a fairly popular one. He also got a bit arrogant, and on one fateful evening, let a petty crook get past him, figuring that it wasn't his job to do anything about it.

That same crook later killed Parker's beloved Uncle Ben. Parker was shocked when he tracked down the criminal who had killed his uncle, only to discover it was the same man he had allowed to escape. He realized, coining a phrase, that with great power also comes great responsibility. The super-hero Spider-Man was born.

More recently, Parker has been a school-teacher, while still doing some freelance photography work for the Daily Bugle. He was fired from the Bugle, though, when as part of the Superhero Registration Act, within the "Civil War" storyline, he publicly revealed his identity on television. Parker also recently became a member of the Avengers, and was hired on the side by Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, who saw in Peter a potential protege. He created for Parker a new costume, a somewhat armored one (big surprise), with greater protection and certain additional enhancements -- some of which Parker is getting a little suspicious about, when Iron Man recently let on that he knew about Spider-Man's "spider-sense", something Parker had not revealed to Stark. As ever, even with the legal sanction of the Registration Act and membership in the Avengers, Parker's/Spider-Man's life is not at all an easy one.

But let's go back to his earliest days now. Some might wonder if there's any great reason to do a "First Appearance Spider-Man". Except for the infamous "black costume" that later became Venom, and his current semi- armored outfit, Spider-Man's costume has been pretty much unchanged for over 40 years -- except, hopefully, for occasional washings. Right? Well, right -- sort of.

Different artists will inevitably portray characters somewhat differently based on their own artistic styles. This isn't so much to put their own personal stamp on a character -- although that can be a factor -- as it is just simply how they draw.

Steve Ditko was Spidey's very first artist, and his initial rendition of Spider-Man, while certainly recognizable, also had some very distinct differences from his he is more readily recognized today, and these are reflected in the figure.

Most obvious are the eyes. Spider-Man's mask eyes are one of his most obvious features, and they've generally been portrayed as these angled- at-the-outward tip ovals, white with a wide black border. They're large, and one sort of has to assume that the white portion is some sort of lens through which Parker can see. Their size and the glaring white against the red and dark blue of Spidey's costume tend to make them stand out.

Well, they're present on this First Appearance Spider-Man, but they're also a lot more narrow, and not quite as upswept. Rather than the large white area, they seem almost like large slits, and somehow look a little more menacing because of it. They also seem to be spaced a little further apart on the face.

Then there's the web design on the costume. Everyone knows that he red areas of Spider-Man's costume have web patterning in them. One can also surmise that this sort of thing takes a while to draw. Now, some artists are detail freaks, and will try to put as much webbing in their as possible. Others are more inclined to simplify it just a bit. While there have certainly been bigger detail freaks than Ditko, he also certainly fit into that category, and the webbing design on the initial Spider-Man costume was pretty intricate, and this is reflected on the figure. There's a lot of sculpted/painted webbing here, especially on the face. But it's really all over the red areas of the costume, right down to the fingers. Not sure how they did it, but I'm glad it wasn't my job.

Speaking of webbing, through, there's those underarm webs. This has, perhaps, been one of the more controversial parts of Spider-Man's costume over the years. He has these sheer webs underneath his arms. Artists for years have wondered how large to make them. Some have left them off entirely. For my part, I always thought they were a silly part of the costume. They served no useful purpose, added nothing to the overall design (I mean, if this was what it took to figure out that this character was called Spider-Man...!), and depending on how strong a material they were made out of, it seemed to me that Spidey was just asking to get hung up on a flagpole while swinging past if they got caught on it. Nice way to dislocate your shoulder or bruise some ribs.

But they are certainly present in Spidey's initial appearances, and Ditko tended to make them rather large. This had to be reflected on the figure, and if this Spider-Man really falls short in one respect, it is this. Now, granted, putting webs under the arms isn't going to be a thing easily done. But the end result is really overkill.

Toy Biz took some fabric netting, a stretchy sort, fortunately, at least, and ties it off around Spidey's wrists, waist, and neck. The end result almost looks like a cape, is far more webbing than Spider-Man has ever had, and actually obscures some of the painted detail on the back of the figure. My honest recommendation here, if you get this figure, is to just remove it. I suspect Toy Biz did the best they could with what had always been a difficult feature of Spider-Man's uniform to translate into action figure form, and they should be commended for making the attempt, but this just doesn't work too well.

The final difference is a relatively subtle one -- it's the Spider insignia on the front of the uniform. Although this has been open to some interpretation over the years, the most familiar version has a relatively narrow spider image with the front four legs pointing upwards, and the rear four legs pointing downwards. This image is a little "fatter" and has all eight legs pointing down. Similarly, the Spider insignia on the back of the costume, which is most recognizable as an oval with four downwrard-pointing legs, has a bit of a "head" this time. Granted it's hard to see underneath the fabric webbing, but it's there.

The overall figure is somewhat on the slender side, and the costume even shows some sculpted wrinkles, but let's remember that early on, Spidey was a pretty skinny teenager. It wasn't until some years into the game that he started to put on some decent muscles -- climbing buildings and swinging on web-lines will doubtless do that for a person.

The articulation for the figure is excellent, and I was truly amazed that the fingers were individually articulated! While this is an occasional feature on Marvel Legends figures, it generally turns up on characters who are rather bulky to begin with, and have large enough hands to make individual fingers plausible. Spidey's fingers aren't much thicker than toothpicks, and certainly far shorter. And they even have webbing painted on them! This is an incredibly intricate assembly piece, these hands.

It should be mentioned that Spidey comes with a display stand, the head and upper torso of the Build-A-Figure Sentinel, and a reprint of Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man. Granted this story has appeared in print any number of times over the years, but given the value of the original comic book these days, this reprint is probably the closest most people will get to it, so it's nice to have it included.

Overall, the First Appearance Spider-Man is a very decent figure. Granted the differences in his appearance compared to the modern Spider-Man might put a few people off, but for really longtime Spider-fans, they'll doubtless be impressed by the figure. The only real glitch is the webbing, and for those who so desire, it's easily removed.

The Marvel Legends First Appearance Spider-Man definitely has my recommendation for longtime Spider-fans!