In 1996 an unusual event occurred: in a hobby oversaturated with model cars and planes, there appeared a new line of plastic figure kits. These were superheros taken from the pages of the Marvel Comic Book universe, and immediately caught everyone's attention. We all had fond memories of the old Aurora figure models we built way back when, but since those days the whole genre had been abandoned by the companies that produce plastic models, and for a while the only way to get something like this was in vinyl or resin.
There were two series, each divided into categories of difficulty. The second series appeared in 1998, and that was it. The level one (beginner) kits were snap together versions of Spider-Man, The Thing, Silver Surfer, and Venom in the first series with Beast and Rhino added for the second. The level two (intermediate) category was the Hulk, another Spider-Man, Storm (the only female figure offered), and Wolverine. For the second series, Thor and Captain America were added. The level 3 (advanced) had only one model, a Ghost Rider on his bike in a cemetery.
These were snatched up, and the initial enthusiasm faded when the reviews started coming in and problems were noticed as soon as the box was opened. Modelers who regularly paid $100.00 and more for vinyl and resin model kits of their favorite spandex clad hero expected a kit where the parts were finely molded, fit together well, and accurate in the sculpting. Boy were we ever surprised. Let's explore each of these areas:
Molding: Whatever type of plastic was used, it certainly isn't the usual styrene. It's soft and not suited for molding fine details, and every edge looks rounded. If you compare these parts to the typical Aurora or Polar Lights model, you immediately notice the difference in detail. One of my kits (The Captain America) had a large part where the plastic didn't fill in the mold, and I've gotten similar reports from other modelers. Plastic cement does seem to work well, but the clunky molding means a lot of putty work on the seams.
Fit: A lot of carving and sanding required on places like where the arms and legs attach to the body, I eventually learned to grind off the huge locater tabs and take extra time here. There weren't a lot of gaps in the normal seams, just parts where the seams didn't line up right.
Accuracy: Where to start? I haven't built every model, but the ones I've wrestled with so far have all had problems. I go into more detail on the pages that feature the particular models, but they range from errors in the instructions to missing details to just plain stupid blunders like one leg being longer than the other. The Thor model has an outfit that bears only a passing resemblence to any found in a comic book, and the level two Spider-Man has a trash can on the base that seems to have melted into the sidewalk. Each model has its own particular point where you just have to shake your head and wonder who was in charge of approving these things.
Now that I've passed out all the gripes about these model kits, I have to say that there are three reasons why I feel you should still buy and build a couple.
1. They're available, and they're cheap. It's not like you have a lot of model companies producing these figures, and at under $10.00 you can put up with a lot. A lot of us just can't afford the prices of the resin kits, and even if you could find vinyl kits of these figures, I prefer to work in a smaller scale. In my neck of the woods I can still find these Toy Biz kits at the local TRU stores and the Meijer department store chains. Of course, you might not be excited about building lame characters included in the series like Rhino or Beast. A few more female characters or more popular ones like Iron Man or Dr. Doom would have been appreciated.
2. You can end up with a nice looking model. In particular, the Captain America is a nice scene, as is the Ghost Rider. These are great models to experiment on, customize, and combine. If you're going to put all this work into a model kit, you might as well practice some kit bashing. I've done one fight scene between Hulk and Silver Surfer that came out well, and most of my builds included small customizing changes of one sort or another. Use your imagination and create something unique. Have fun with these.
3. Build for the learning experience. After carving, grinding, sanding, and puttying one of these into shape, you'll laugh at the few small problems encountered in the typical Polar Lights or Revell model. You'll appreciate the extra care and quality put into producing something that's finely detailed and well sculpted, and not gripe so much at the $25.00 or more price tag that goes along with it.
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