The good news is that ToyBiz action figures are getting better and better thanks to new high tech imaging equipment and an increasing willingness to hire top sculptors, but the bad news is that the first wave of Spider-Man Movie Action Figures showed up in Wal-Mart (and reportedly in Toys R Us) a month before other channels.  A spokesman for Diamond Comic Distributors told ICv2 that ToyBiz had informed Diamond that it was just 'testing' the Spider-Man movie toys in a number of high profile markets at both Wal-Mart, where the figures were heavily discounted, and at Toys R Us.  Of course not every mass-market retailer and discounter will carry all the ToyBiz Marvel lines, so there may be more opportunities for other retailers on some ToyBiz creations that are not tied to high-profile movie projects, like the Marvel Legends line-up and the collector-oriented Marvel Studio Figures.


Marvel Studios Line

The high-end Marvel Studios Line is aimed directly at collectors.  The superbly sculpted figures stand 12' tall and feature expertly tailored costumes, 25 points of articulation, a collector's stand, and a reusable package that doubles as a display case.  The Marvel Studios Line ships in early October and the figures have a suggested retail price of $39.99.  The first three Marvel Studio Figures are: Blade II, a laser-scanned likeness of movie superstar Wesley Snipes, who comes complete with a die-cast sword, retractable boomerang blade, pump-action shotgun, and Uzi submachine gun; the Punisher, who comes with an entire arsenal including a Gatling gun, M16, shotgun and 2 Walther P99s; and Wolverine, who sports an authentic leather outfit, removable cigar, dog tags, and three sets of hands.  The removable costumes that come with these characters include coats with wire armatures which allow fans to create dramatic poses with flowing action, but it's the realistic sculpting that makes these figures so special, something that is apparent from a close-up of the Punisher's twisted visage.


Marvel Legends

 The Marvel Legends are six-inch action figures of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe, who appear in their original classic forms and costumes.  The figures are painted in bright primary colors that reflect their four-color origins, and each figure comes with more than 30 points of articulation and a unique wall-mountable diorama-style base.  Each figure, which has a $6.99 suggested retail price, also comes with a special 32-page comic featuring that character in one of their most famous adventures (no further info available at this time).  The first assortment, shipping in April, includes: Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and Toad.  The second assortment, which includes The Thing, Namor, Dr. Doom, and the Human Torch, will appear in August.


Spider-Man Classics

Also scheduled for a fall release, the Spider-Man Classics line includes two series of figures that are geared for interactive play with lots of action features and character- specific battle actions.  The first of two series of Spider-Man Classics 6-inch Action Figures includes Magnetic Spider-Man, Web Splasher Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus (with pose-able tentacles), and the Lizard, while the second includes Web-Climbing Spider-Man, Water Web Shooting Spider-Man, Web Blast Spider-Man and Hobgoblin.  The action figures all have a $6.99 suggested retail price, but the Spider-Man Classics line also includes playsets and a 12-inch Spidey-Alive Figure, which thanks to the latest in speech recognition technology, can respond to a child's voice with more than 48 short stories and over 100 different phrases.  This figure even moves his mouth when he talks and shoots web projectiles -- all for a suggested retail price of $29.99.


Spider-Man & Friends

With sales of action figures dipping significantly in 1999 and 2000, many in the industry felt that video games were stealing the attention of older kids (10-13) away from action figures.  One approach to combating this trend is to aim action figures at younger kids, which is what ToyBiz's Spider-Man & Friends does by targeting pre-schoolers with a line-up that includes Spidey as a policeman, a firefighter, and a deep sea explorer.  These oversize 6-inch figures will hit the market in August along with several playsets and related quasi-educational toys.


Spider-Man Movie Toys

Representatives from Diamond Comics have told ICv2 that the unfortunate 'test marketing' of Spider-Man Movie toys at Wal-Mart and Toys R' Us won't occur again, and that Diamond customers will receive shipments of subsequent series of Spider-Man Movie toys at approximately the same time these toys hit the mass-market.  This doesn't take care of price competition with the category-killing Wal-Mart, but it will hopefully cut down on the month-long lag between when the first wave of figures hit the mass-market and when Diamond received them.  Once again the ToyBiz Spider-Man Movie Figures look great.  The laser-scanned likenesses really resemble the actors, and the Battle-Ravaged Spider-Man and Green Goblin reflect the continuing influence of the superb sculpting that McFarlane Toys and other companies have brought to the industry. In addition to the first series that is already out, ToyBiz is planning two additional waves of Spider-Man Movie Action Figures with Assortment II shipping in March, and Assortment III in August.



Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

ToyBiz's LOTR figures are once again laser-scanned images of the actual actors from the film, so the quality is strong through both series of 6-inch action figures, which are set to release in the fall of 2002.  The figures have specific battle actions, which allow kids to restage key scenes from the epic film.  The regular LOTR action figures have a suggested retail of $7.99, with other figures available in Twin-Packs for $14.99.  ToyBiz also has two series of high-quality 12-inch figures planned.  Like the Marvel Studios Line, these figures feature authentic fabric costumes, superb sculpts and carry a retail price of $19.99.  One of coolest of the new LOTR toys is the Balrog, based on one of the most ferocious monsters of Middle Earth.  Priced at $29.99, the Balrog includes light-up eyes, a mouth that opens and closes, battling arm action, and roaring sound effects.