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By Thomas Wheeler

There's been several interesting entries in the 9", cloth-customed SPIDER-MAN ORIGINS line, characters that don't quite fit into Spider- Man's universe, and yet are still popular enough characters on their own to warrant being included in the series. This review will take a look at the character backgrounds and figures of three of them.

WOLVERINE: Is it odd that Wolverine should turn up as an action figure in a line whose official name is "Spider-Man Origins Signature Series"? From a conceptual standpoint, yes. Up until both characters ended up in the New Avengers for a time, Wolverine hadn't really had all that much to do with Spider-Man. And then one of the first things he did was make a pass at Spider-Man's wife, Mary Jane Watson. Granted Wolvie has always had a thing for redheads.

From a marketing standpoint, Hasbro was introducing a new line of 9" cloth-costumed action figures, a format that hadn't been seen in the world of super-heroes for quite a few years, and Wolverine's popularity is certainly legendary. It'd be pretty danged silly NOT to include him.

There are some characters in the world of comics (and elsewhere), where one feels sort of silly repeating their origins. Anyone who's even interested in the character is going to have some idea of their origin. Wolverine, on the other hand, is another matter.

Comics-wise, Wolverine was first introduced in a two-issue storyline in the pages of The Incredible Hulk, where the character faced off against the Green Goliath as he invaded Canada, Wolverine's home turf. Not long after, Wolverine was brought into the initial revamp of the Uncanny X- Men, and has, to one degree or another, remained with the team ever since.

Certain things were known about Wolverine. He was a mutant, possessed of a healing factor that allowed him to rapidly heal from almost any injury. He had heightened senses, especially his sense of smell, and could readily scent out almost anyone he was on the trail of. He had an unbreakable adamantium skeleton, and adamantium claws, three on each hand, that emerged at will and could slice though just about anything. He also had a nasty temper and a tendency to fly into a murderous rage.

Some things were speculated. It was suspected that Wolverine was far older than he appeared. An aspect of his healing factor was likely that it had considerable slowed his aging process. He had received his adamantium skeleton as the result of an experiment by a covert agency operating in Canada, his mutant healing factor being the one thing that had allowed him to survive the process. He had likely worked, before and after the experiment, in a number of highly covert pseudo-military projects. But even Wolverine himself didn't know his entire past. Repeated procedures had robbed him of much of his memories, and others had been implanted. He gave his only name as "Logan", and didn't seem to recall much else. He had clearly had experiences in Japan during his life, and was knowledgable in the ways of the ninja and the samurai.

One of the greatest shockers came at a point when Magneto literally liquefied Wolverine's adamantium skeleton and pulled it out of him through his pores. It was suspected that this would have cost him his claws. And yet some time later, they emerged -- as bone! Although Wolverine later regained his adamantium skeleton, he had always believed that his claws were strictly metal, and had never been a natural part of him.

After over a quarter-century of confusion, hints, clues, retcons, speculations, and detours, the truth was finally published. A six-issue mini-series, entitled simply "Origin", revealed Wolverine's past for the first time:

The series, set in 19th century Alberta, Canada, also as such giving a clue to Wolverine's true age, depicts Wolverine as James Howlett, the son of John and Elizabeth Howlett. In contrast to the quickly healing Wolverine, James is a sickly youth who requires round-the-clock care. His parents hire a young girl named Rose to watch over James and keep his spirits up.

On the rare days that James is allowed to go outside he and Rose spend their time playing with a young boy they know as "Dog" Logan, the son of Thomas Logan, groundskeeper of the Howlett Mansion. Thomas and Dog live together in a small shack on the poor side of town. Thomas is an abusive alcoholic and is highly resentful of the Howletts, particularly John Howlett. At first his resentment seems rooted in the fact that he and his son have nothing while John Howlett has everything, but it is later revealed that he has been carrying on a secret affair with the lady of the house since before James was born.

After Dog commits such heinous acts as trying to force himself on Rose and killing James's pet dog, John Howlett fires Thomas and has him thrown off the property. This only adds to Thomas' hatred and, in a drunken rage, he and his son break into the Howlett Mansion at night armed with shotguns. Thomas finds Elizabeth in her bedroom and tries to convince her to run away with him when they are both confronted by John Howlett who gets into a fistfight with Thomas.

Awakened by the noise, James enters the bedroom just in time to see Thomas shoot and kill John. Enraged and horrified at seeing his father murdered, James extends his claws for the first time. He kills Thomas, slashes Dog across the face, and passes out. Rose, blinded by fear and not thinking straight, takes James and runs off into the night. The police are summoned to the mansion and they question Dog, who blames the killing entirely on Rose.

With Rose blamed for the death of the Howletts and James exiled by his bitter grandfather, the two friends set out for parts unknown. They join a mining colony in British Columbia where James (who has lost all memory of his parents, his childhood, and his name, due to his trauma) adopts the name "Logan" and struggles under the harsh working conditions of the mining colony. As his mutant abilities develop, James becomes strong, acquiring the nickname "Wolverine" from his fellow miners. During his time at the mining colony, James speaks less and less of the past to Rose, often immersing himself in hunting and the physically demanding work of daily life in the colony.

Unbeknownst to James and Rose, Dog has tracked them to British Columbia. On his deathbed, James's grandfather had a change of heart and asked Dog to find his grandson so that he can see him one last time. However, Dog is still nursing a deep grudge against James for killing his father as well as scarring his face and against Rose for spurning his advances. Following their trail, Dog finds Rose and James at the mining colony and attempts to beat him to death in front of a large crowd. Just as James prepares to extend his claws and kill Dog, Rose is accidentally knocked into the fray by the crowd. Impaling herself, she dies in James' arms. Driven mad with grief, James becomes feral, living in the woods with wolves.

After an unrevealed amount of time, Logan returns to civilization and works as a soldier in the Canadian military during World War I. After the war, he embarks on a series of adventures leading him around the world. He sees action during World War II, participating in D-Day and the liberation of the Netherlands.

In another story, the serialized "Weapon X", Barry Windsor-Smith creates the backstory for the man who would become Wolverine. Taking place prior to his first appearance, Logan is revealed to be a drifter who was discharged from the army for wounding another soldier on a firing range. Unaware of his past and suffering from long-term memory loss, Logan goes to a bar where he is drugged and taken to the Weapon X facility in Canada, run by the mysterious "Professor" and Dr. Abraham Cornelius, along with a secretary, Carol Hines. Wolverine is shaved, and the pair realize he is regrowing his hair at an accelerated rate, and their drugs wear off too fast due to his healing factor. After the group tranquilizes him further, they begin to transform Logan into Weapon X, reinforcing his skeleton with adamantium, brainwashing him into a killing machine and giving him false memories. The Professor eventually discovers that Logan is a mutant, a fact that was not disclosed to him by his superior, whose identity is never revealed. Shortly thereafter, Wolverine escapes the facility, killing nearly everyone except for the Professor, Cornelius, Hines, and Malcolm Colcord, a soldier. He flees into the wild, where he encounters Canadian government employees James and Heather Hudson, who enroll Logan in Department H. This would eventually lead to his fight with the Hulk, and his subsequently being contacted by Professor X, and joining the X-Men.

Along the way, throughout his early adventures, he would meet and work with Captain America, Ben Grimm, Richard and Mary Parker, the parents of Spider-Man (so I guess there is a connection), as well as Sabretooth, who would ultimately become his deadliest enemy.

Although all of this was presented in the comic books, it remained unknown to Wolverine until the "House of M" storyline. One consequence of that event was that Wolverine regained all of his memories. All of them. That realization was shown in one comic book as causing secret agencies all over the world to destroy records, entire complexes to be burned to the ground, and more than a few agents to commit suicide rather than face the consequences of Wolverine with total recall of his past. The storyline "Origins and Endings" showcases Wolverine tracking down his past to settle old scores.

Despite his gruff demeanor and somewhat feral appearance, Wolverine is actually highly intelligent and highly skilled, and honestly doesn't enjoy killing, or slipping into the berserker rages that cause him to run wild. Wolverine is a master of virtually all forms of martial arts and fighting, both armed and unarmed; as a samurai, he is especially skilled in the use of the katana. Wolverine has also received vast training as a ninja thanks to his mentor Ogun and and trained for 5 years with Bando Suboro at the ninja villiage in Jasmine Falls. He can also use nearly all types of weapons, traditional or modern, long or close range. Wolverine is an extraordinary hand to hand combatant with sufficient skills to defeat the likes of Shang-Chi and Captain America in single combat. He also has a wide knowledge of the body and pressure points. He is also an accomplished pilot and highly skilled in the field of espionage and covert operations.

Due to his increased lifespan, he has traveled the world and amassed an intimate knowledge of foreign languages and cultures. He is fluent in English, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Cheyenne, Spanish, and Lakota; he also has some knowledge of French, Thai, Vietnamese, and German.

When X-Men ally Forge monitors Wolverine's vitals during a Danger Room training session, he calls Logan's physical and mental state "equivalent of an Olympic-level gymnast performing a gold medal routine while simultaneously beating four chess computers in his head."

Logan adheres to a firm code of personal honor and morality, despite often displaying a rebellious and irreverent attitude, much to the frequent annoyance of more straight-laced X-Men such as Cyclops and Professor Xavier.

I'm not even going to try to list all of the Wolverine action figures that have come about over the thirty-plus years of the character's existence. The first was a Marvel Secret Wars figure from Mattel, but there have been plenty since.

Of course, Toy Biz made Wolverine as part of their Famous Covers line, but comparisons here should be more limited than in the cases of some other heroes, because to a fair degree, Hasbro's Wolverine is wearing a different costume.

The two Famous Covers versions of Wolverine featured Wolvie's two best- known costumes, his original blue-and-yellow, and the orange-and-brown costume developed for him by John Byrne, who more or less made the comment, "Since when are yellow and blue colors for a wolverine?" Obviously he's not familiar with the University of Michigan. However, both costumes are well-known Wolverine costumes.

Toy Biz designed the figures to have removable plastic masks. This made sense from one standpoint, in that Wolverine's unmasked face is just as well-known as his masked face. The strange, upswept hair, the furry sideburns, and the bushy eyebrows are just as much a hallmark of the character as the mask with its dark, upswept sides. However, translating a removable "helmet" with its own distinctive features down to a 9" action figure level and enabling it to fit over a molded plastic head, with rigid hair that certainly has its own distinctive features, is not easy. No real fault on Toy Biz's part, but the fit is not all that great.

Hasbro, conversely, designed their 9" Wolverine with his mask molded as part of his head. While as such we don't get the treat of Wolverine's unmasked face, given that the figure is otherwise in full costume, this was certainly the right course of action to take.

Wolverine's costume is his most recent one. Like most of the X-Men, Wolverine has been through quite a few costume designs, especially in recent years. At one point, Marvel seemed to be trying to base the X-Men costumes on somewhat more super-heroic-looking versions of what they wore in the movies. Unfortunately in Wolvie's case, somebody thought it would be a good idea for him to wear an open jacket with his hairy chest hanging out. Come on, already, some of us may be trying to read and eat at the same time!

Fortunately, the comics got past this, and returned most of the X-Men, including Wolverine, to more appropriate costumes, and Wolverine's current garb is a good one. It is an updated version of his classic yellow-and-blue outfit. That costume had yellow shirt and legs, blue trunks, and black sharp-pointed striped along the sides. The new uniform is mostly yellow, with blue running from the shoulders to a point just above the knees along the sides, with yellow pointed stripes along the sides in the blue area, and at the shoulders. Wolverine's belt, mask and gloves are black, and his boots are blue with black trim. It's worth noting that Wolverine's glove and boot tops are distinctly sculpted just for this figure, as they have additional detail sculpted into them. Wolverine's face is am appropriate scowl.

Wolverine, like the other Hasbro 9" Marvel figures, is sewn into his costume. It's not a practice I especially approve of, but I can't deny that it makes the figure look good, not having a proportionately too large strip of velcro protruding from the back. Just hope I don't ever have to do any repair work on the figures.

Certainly one of the trickiest things to accomplish with a Wolverine figure is the claws. They can't be made from too rigid a plastic or they might live up to their reputation a little too well. Unfortunately, this has resulted in very soft claws in a wide range of Wolverine figures over the years -- Famous Covers, Marvel Legends, and just plain run of the mill X-Men figures -- that have sort of flopped all over the place.

Hasbro, I honestly believe, has created the best Wolverine claws I've yet seen on an action figure. They're fairly rigid, but I have to assume they met safety standards or the figure wouldn't've been released. They're evenly spaced, slightly curved as they should be, and of a good length.

Any downsides to this figure? Hardly. About the only very vague visual remark I might make is that Wolverine almost looks too "typically superhero". In the comics, Wolverine is a rather short and fairly stocky guy. He's muscular, and he's powerful, but he's also a bit stocky. This figure, using the same body molds as everyone else Hasbro has produced in this series, is almost -- ALMOST -- too thin. But not really. The shoulder pads jutting out help compensate for this, and honestly, he doesn't look bad at all.

Really, I think Hasbro has done an outstanding job with this Wolverine figure, and any fan of the X-Men in general or Wolverine specifically will enjoy having him.


Although in recent times he was responsible for the recruitment of Spider-Man into the Avengers, prior to the Civil War, and he has, on occasion, teamed up with the Web-Slinger and stated on various occasions that he had the utmost respect for Spider-Man and his capabilities, and has clearly never believed the bad press levied against the Wall-Crawler, Captain America hasn't exactly been all that frequent a presence in Spider-Man's world.

Not that this is a complaint with regard to getting a new figure of him. Certainly Cap is one of the major players in the Marvel Universe, and is actually one of very few characters active in the Marvel Universe that pre-dates the Marvel Universe.

Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, he first appeared in Timely Comics' Captain America Comics #1, dated March 1941. Timely was the precursor to Marvel Comics.

Steve Rogers was a scrawny 4-F, unfit for military service in the days of World War II, but determined to somehow serve his country. He became the subject of a dangerous experiment called "Operation Rebirth", which involved the development of a so-called "Super-Soldier Serum" that, if effective, could transform even the most hapless weakling into a fighting man in top physical form. Rogers would be the subject of this experiment.

The experiment worked, and Rogers was transformed to a man in peak condition. But before the Serum could be widely manufactured, its creator, who had kept the details of the formula secret in his own mind, was gunned down by a Nazi spy. There would be no super-soldiers. There would be only one man -- Steve Rogers.

President Roosevelt determined that the country needed a patriotic symbol to rally around, and so helped devise the Captain America identity for Rogers, including a circular, perfectly balanced shield that was made of an indestructable alloy. Much like Rogers himself, the development of the special material was a one-time deal and could not be duplicated.

Rogers also received intense training in all forms of hand-to-hand combat, including a wide range of martial arts and acrobatics, and has extensive training and experience in tactics in battle.

Rogers would continue to fight the Nazis over the course of World War II, either on his own or with a team of super-humans known as the Invaders, which featured British hero Union Jack, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch, and others. He would also gain a sidekick named Bucky. James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes was essentially a camp mascot where Steve Rogers was posted in his non-Cap identity as a bumbling Army private. When Barnes stumbled across Rogers' secret identity on one occasion, Cap trained the young man in the same forms of unarmed combat that he himself had learned, and gave the lad a costumed identity.

In 1945, during the closing days of World War II, Captain America and Bucky tried to stop Baron Zemo from destroying an experimental drone plane. Zemo launched the plane with an armed explosive on it, with Rogers and Barnes in hot pursuit. They reached the plane just before it took off, but when Bucky tried to defuse the bomb, it exploded in mid-air. The young man was believed killed, and Rogers was hurled into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Neither body was found, and both were presumed dead.

In 1964, when Marvel started to publish their new "team" title, The Avengers, it was decided to bring Captain America back. He was discovered in a primitive form of cryogenic suspension, frozen in a block of ice. He was safely thawed out, and joined the modern world to the best of his ability. He has served fairly regularly with the Avengers ever since, and maintained his own adventures over the decades in his own title.

Captain America is arguably best presented as an unwavering, heroic icon of the American ideal, and until recently, served this role effectively and with distinction. However, in more recent issues of the comic book, the writers chose to take Captain America in a different direction, weaving more socio-political commentary into the title, and making Cap more of a soldier than a super-hero, giving the character a harder edge, and taking away much of the idealism that made the hero what he was.

In the course of the Civil War, Cap was one of the focal points, resisting the idea of government registration of super-heroes, and gathering a small army of like-minded super-heroes to his side to fight the pro-registration forces. In the final issue of the book, when Cap realized that the ongoing battle was causing more damage to civilians and their homes and property than resolving the issue, he surrendered to authorities. Following his surrender, Steve Rogers was indicted on multiple criminal charges. As he was brought to a federal courthouse, a sniper shot him in the back. In the crowd chaos that ensued, he was wounded an additional three times by gunshots to the stomach and chest. Rogers was taken to a hospital, where he died. The assassination was orchestrated by the Red Skull, his longtime foe from the days of World War II.

This was, in my opinion, a sad ending for one of the finest super-heroes ever created, who had been horribly misused in recent years. Marvel Entertainment Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada has commented that a Captain America comeback is not impossible, although it would not be Steve Rogers wearing the mask. The character's death came as a blow to co-creator Joe Simon, who said, "It's a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now." The comic book series continues.

Personally, I don't think Captain America has a very positive future ahead of him in light of these developments. If it's not Steve Rogers under the mask, it's not Captain America. Granted also, nothing is forever in comic books. Heck, they even brought Bucky back after 60 years.

There have certainly been a wide range of Captain America figures over the years. The last 9" cloth costumed one was from Toy Biz's Famous Covers line. And a comparison between that one and the new Hasbro one is not only almost unavoidable, it's fairly interesting, as well.

In the 1990's, super-heroes in many comics took on rather exaggerated bodily proportions. "Massively muscular" seemed to be the order of the day, and to a fair degree, Toy Biz duplicated this in their line. The Famous Covers Cap seems almost cartoonish compared to his newer Hasbro counterpart. The upper body is implausibly wide, if nothing else. But there's more to it than that.

One thing that Toy Biz did with these figures which I always found annoying as heck was that many of them were sculpted with these wide- open "screaming" mouths. Cap, unfortunately, was no exception to this. It just doesn't look very good. Worse than that, though, is the star on the uniform. Cap's costume is undeniably patriotic without precisely ripping off the American flag. The costume is mostly blue, with a single white star on the chest and back. There is a band of red and white stripes around the stomach and lower back, and the lower sleeves are also white. Cap has red gloves and boots, small white "wings" on his mask, and the letter "A" on the front of his mask.

The star on the Toy Biz Famous Covers figure is downright ludicrous. It is this massive, five-pointed white blotch that is so huge and used such a massive load of what I assume was rather thick, white textile ink, that I distinctly recall having trouble finding one at the time where the star didn't have some significant crack in the dried ink! It really looks like a caricature of the figure. Additionally, the red and white stripe section is a little small, and the stripes too narrow and numerous.

Here we reach something of a point of contention. How many stripes should cap have on his uniform? It's never been established officially, and has depended considerable on the artist. But in my opinion, the Toy Biz Cap takes this to excess almost as much as the star.

Now let's consider the Hasbro figure. This Captain America has a much more reasonable facial expression. If anything, it almost goes too far in the other direction from the Toy Biz extreme. The face is almost bland. But at least his mouth is closed. If the Toy Biz Cap has one advantage over the Hasbro Cap when it comes to the headsculpt, it's in the eyes. There's a fierce determination in the figure's eyes that just somehow isn't quite there in the Hasbro one, and I almost think it has to do with the placement of the mask's sculpted and painted eye holes. On the Toy Biz figure, they're upswept somewhat. On the Hasbro figure, they tend to come down under the eyes more. The Toy Biz Cap's eyes are also a paler blue.

However, on the whole, I have to give the advantage to the Hasbro Cap figure. The facial expression is far less exaggerated, more reasonable, and the "A" is more neatly done, as well.

Then we have the star on the uniform. Hasbro, thankfully, knows what a star is supposed to look like. Both the front and the back of the uniform have a very nice, evenly rendered, proper, five-pointed star. No exaggeration here. No huge blotch of white. Just a nice, properly designed star. The uniform is sewn up the back, but not in a single vertical right up the middle of the back. This would have damaged the star on the back. Instead, there are two seams along the back of the shoulders. While I am not fond of the fact that Hasbro sews these figures into their costumes, making them unremoveable in case repair is needed, at least they're doing a really nice job of it when it comes to accommodating any ornamentation on the back of the costume.

Cap has plastic gloves and boots that secure the costume at the arms and legs, and a plastic belt. And, of course, he has his shield. And if it weren't for the fact that the Toy Biz Captain America's shield has two elastic straps on the back of it and the Hasbro Captain America's shield has a large plastic clip, I'd almost think they came from the same mold. The two shields are almost precisely the same diameter, and even the stripes look to be the same width. The only real difference, other than how the shield attaches to the figure, is that the star on the Hasbro Cap's shield is very slightly smaller. I also gave the shield a gentle toss. It flies well, but I wouldn't recommend doing this in a room of fragile breakables. Cap might be able to fight the Red Skull, but you're on your own if you break your grandmother's favorite vase.

The Hasbro Captain America also has a far less exaggerated physique than his Toy Biz counterpart. Although the body molds used for these Hasbro figures was originally created for a DC-based line that came out around the same time as Famous Covers, that DC line was largely based on classic DC characters that were drawn before everyone in comics turned into steroid cases for a while. And that era, to a fair degree, has passed, thankfully. So a more agreeably proportioned Captain America looks entirely appropriate.

On the whole, I am very impressed with this Captain America figure. He looks good, is well-made and well-articulated, and is certainly superior in almost all respects to his Toy Biz predecessor. It's a shame what's been done with the character in the comic books, but that's nothing to fault the action figure for, and if you're any sort of Captain America fan, you'll like this figure.


Daredevil is one of those characters that sort of straddles the fence as far as fitting into Spidey's universe is concerned. He has a lot in common with Spider-Man. Like Spidey, he tends to be a more "street- level" hero who tries to stay out of the more cosmic-level affairs of some of the more powerful heroes and villains -- and he's generally been more successful at it. He's also, like Spider-Man, pretty much a loner. Daredevil has never been much of a team player if he can help it.

Daredevil is one of those characters that -- well, you sort of hate to consign him to the B-list, since he's been around for over forty years, but it's hard to envision him as one of the A-list players. One doesn't really tend to think of Daredevil in the same breath as Spider-Man, Captain America, the X-Men, or the Fantastic Four.

Maybe if his movie had done better...

Daredevil is Matt Murdock. Matt was the son of "Battlin' Jack" Murdock, a champion prize-fighter who by the time Matt was a young man, was well past his prime. Jack Murdock didn't want his son to grow up to be a dumb pug like he was, good for nothing but sparring in the ring and eventually getting used for a used-up punching bag. He insisted that Matt study every chance he got, and make something better of himself than a boxer. Matt complied, somewhat reluctantly, although his devotion to his studies earned him the derisive nickname "Daredevil" among his peers in the tough neighborhood in which he lived.

One afternoon, Matt saw an elderly blind man crossing a street in front of a large truck that had lost control. Without hesitating, Matt shoved the elderly man out of the way. The truck careened and missed them both, but not before its cargo, a dangerous radioactive substance, was loosened. Directly exposed to it, Matt Murdock was permanently blinded.

He continued his studies, learning Braille, and going on to graduate and then on to study law. But the substance that had robbed Murdock of his sight had given him some interesting compensators. All of his remaining senses were heightened to super-human levels. He could hear a person's heartbeat with such precision that he could tell if they were lying about something. He could taste the number of grains of salt on a pretzel. He could pick out a single person's perfume or cologne in a crowded room.

And, he had gained a "radar-sense", an ability to detect the contours and shapes of everything around him, and how far away they were from him.

He also learned that, apart from all of this, while he had never been encouraged to build up his body as he had his mind, he wasn't in bad shape, and had a punch almost as powerful as his father's. Seeing no reason not to keep in decent condition as long as it didn't interfere with his studies, Murdock embarked on a physical training program that soon had him in top form.

It was right about this time that his father made a grim deal with a corrupt boxing promoter known as "The Fixer". Murdock would be paid for his fights, but also directed as to their outcome. One time, when he knew his son Matt was in the audience, Jack Murdock was directed to take a fall. He ultimately reneged on the deal, refusing to disgrace himself in front of his son. He laid out his opponent and won the fight -- but lost his life when The Fixer had him killed.

A grieving Matt Murdock swore revenge, and designed a costume for himself. He took the mocking nickname that he had been given in school, "Daredevil", and used it as his new identity, chasing down The Fixer and his cronies.

Over time, Daredevil continued to improve as a crime-fighter. He developed a perfectly-balanced billy club to use as his sole weapon. He became an expert acrobat, able to bounce across buildings almost as well as Spider-Man. And while he never quite garnered the same level of accolades as the Avengers, he became a respected and noteworthy crimefighter in New York City, even as his "secret identity", Matt Murdock, went on to become one half of Nelson and Murdock, a legal firm with a sterling reputation, founded with longtime school-friend Franklin "Foggy" Nelson.

Daredevil's adventures in the comics over the years have been considerable. Among his most ardent enemies have been the Kingpin, and the assassin Bullseye. The Daredevil comic gave artist Frank Miller his first major break in the business. He has had a romance with the ninja assassin Elektra. And despite a visage and a name that some might consider questionable (I do sort of wonder why he was left off the recent Marvel Comics based set of United States Postage Stamps -- along with Thor -- given a few of the names that made it), he remains a well- regarded hero in the Marvel Universe.

As with a number of these 9" cloth-costumed figures that Hasbro is making, there's a Toy Biz Famous Covers counterpart to compare it with. And frankly, in this case, it's little contest. The Toy Biz version comes across pretty poorly in most respects.

For starters, the Toy Biz version has that annoying, wide-open, "screaming" mouth. I would dearly love to know someday what Toy Biz's rationale for this was. It looked ridiculous on everybody they did it to, and they did it to a lot of characters.

Secondly, the Toy Biz Famous Covers Daredevil has these mitten-like gloves. At least one of them has a separate thumb, for the hand that isn't clenched in a fist, I'll give it that much. And I sort of like the faux-leather glossy red finish they gave the gloves. But it still doesn't look all that great. And then there's these great big plastic boots. It looks like he's prepared for an arctic hike in these things.

But the one, major, glaring goof on the Toy Biz Famous Covers Daredevil, that was pointed out at the time it was first made, is that Toy Biz messed up the uniform's insignia. Daredevil's logo is a double "D", two letter "D"s, interlinked. The one further to the left is higher than the one to the right. Toy Biz got it backwards, so that the "D" to the left is lower than the one to the right. All the way through whatever stages leading up to mass production that this figure went through, and nobody caught something THAT obvious.

The Hasbro Daredevil figure is vastly superior in a number of respects. For one thing, he's a bit more muscular. Toy Biz had several "male" body molds that they tended to use in their Famous Covers line, most of them somewhat exaggerated to one degree or another (such was the style of the times), but for whatever reason, they chose the skinniest one for their Daredevil figure. I'm not saying DD is a powerhouse, but he's not that thin. The Hasbro body is also somewhat better proportioned in the chest and shoulders. If I have one minor complaint about the Hasbro body in general, it's that the lower legs tend to look a little short and skinny compared to the rest of the body.

The fabric, although almost precisely the same color red as the Famous Covers version -- something I consider rather unusual given how hard it is to match colors sometimes -- seems to be generally smoother and perhaps of a higher quality.

The gloves and boots, typical for the Hasbro figures of this line, are molded to the arms and legs and help secure the fabric uniform in these areas. Additionally, the hands and "boot feet" are molded in the proper color, articulated, and attached to the figures arms and legs directly. Such is the case here.

The "horns" on DD's mask are also a little more pronounced. Don't read too much into this. "Daredevil" is just a name, and the costume reflects that. It's one of those "inspire fear in the criminal element" bits. There's never been anything to indicate that Murdock has any connection with anything satanic.

And, certainly of note, Hasbro got the logo on the chest right.

The one area where the Toy Biz figure comes out a little bit ahead is with regard to the billy club, and its holster. The Toy Biz billy club is a two-piece unit, just like Daredevil's, and it can be assembled into a single length, as well as separated into its two pieces, and actually stored in the holster attached to Daredevil's left leg. By comparison, the Hasbro Daredevil's billy club is just a single piece, and the holster on the side of Daredevil's leg is strictly decorative. However, given the overall superiority of the Hasbro figure compared to its Toy Biz counterpart, I consider this a decidedly minor point. And, given the articulated fingers of the Hasbro Daredevil figure, he has absolutely no difficulty gripping the billy club firmly and effectively.

On the whole, Daredevil may seem like a slightly odd addition to this line. He's not really as major a player in the Marvel Universe as some characters. And yet, the flip side of that coin is this that one can imply by the name of the like -- Spider-Man Origins -- that it is at least supposed to feature characters that have at least some connection to Spider-Man's universe. And Daredevil has turned up there from time to time, more often than some more prominent Marvel characters that one might expect to see as action figures sooner in a general Marvel line. It's worth mentioning here that this 9" figure line has recently (as of this writing) undergone a name change to "Marvel Legends Signature Series", at least for one entry, a Cyclops figure exclusive to Target. Where the line goes from there is anybody's guess, but that name change does open up the possibilities.

Still, Daredevil is a reasonably prominent part of the Marvel Universe, and this is certainly a very agreeable 9" cloth-costumed action figure of him, and superior in almost all regards to his Famous Covers predecessor (which is a decent enough figure and I don't want anyone to think I'm outright slamming it on principle). Although this 9" Spider-Man Origins Signature Series seems to be out of most stores at this point, it should still be possible to turn it up, even on the secondary market, and any of these figures -- Wolverine, Captain America, or Daredevil, are certainly worthy entries in the line, and all have my definite recommendation!