I recall a couple of years ago when Hasbro took over the license for action figures based on Marvel Comics characters, after this line had been in the hands of Toy Biz for a very extended period of time. One of the first lines Hasbro came out with was a series of 9", cloth-costumed figures which were mostly under the banner name of "Spider-Man Origins", which, it could be argued, was the blanket name for a number of action figure lines by which Hasbro brought their Marvel offerings to market as quickly as possible.
These 9" cloth-costumed figures resembled, in basic theme, Toy Biz's popular "Famous Covers" series of Marvel characters from some years prior. In a staggering bit of toy irony, Hasbro used the same basic body molds -- head, costumes, and other details notwithstanding -- that they had used in the mid-1990's, when Hasbro had held the DC Comics license (which was by now in the hands of Mattel), to create a line of 9", cloth-costumed DC Comics characters.
This Spider-Man Origins 9" line understandably featured characters that were fairly directly affiliated with Spider-Man -- for the most part. There were a couple of stretches. The line consisted of Spider-Man, black costume Spider-Man, "Iron" Spider-Man (the release of the toys being right around the time preceding the Civil War when Peter Parker accepted a job from Tony Stark), Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, and three characters that it could be argued were not directly tied to Spider-Man, but had their own level of popularity -- Wolverine, Daredevil, and Captain America.
I reviewed these figures at the time, and have always found them to be an impressive collection. Two of them in particular, Daredevil and Cap, I regarded as improvements over their Toy Biz Famous Covers counterparts, and two of the figures -- Dr. Octopus and "Iron" Spider- Man, were never made by Toy Biz.
This 9" line had two additional figures, both of them Target exclusives. One was the Punisher, which ironically was supposed to have been done by Toy Biz but the plug was pulled on Famous Covers just before he was scheduled to appear, and Cyclops. The Cyclops figure was interesting in that even though the shape of the package was still the same, the informational material was different. Rather than "Spider-Man Origins", the package was listed as "Marvel Legends". One had to wonder if Hasbro was planning to continue the 9" cloth-costumed line, and expand it further beyond Spider-Man's boundaries.
The official answer turned out to be "No". In fact I recall hearing or reading somewhere that Hasbro distinctly had no plans beyond the Target exclusive Cyclops figure, and that was the end of the line.
We all know that there's a pretty considerable "lead time" in the manufacture of an action figure. Sculpts have to be made, designs approved, molds created, packaging developed. While this might be somewhat easier in a line that makes use of some existing molds, there's still going to be a fair amount of development time involved. And as abrupt as the cancellation of this line seemed to be -- maybe I should have wondered a little more if something just didn't quite make it out.
But I didn't. I had the complete collection of Hasbro's 9" cloth-costumed figures, was glad to have them, and didn't really give it a second thought. Until I walked into a K*B Toy Store and got one of those increasingly rare toy surprises I was talking about. There on the shelves, in plain view, and alongside a considerable supply of Cyclops figures, was -- MISTER FANTASTIC!??!?
I could practically hear the files in my brain sorting through this. No, nope, nope, never saw this before, never heard of this before, it's in a Marvel Legends box, not a Spider-Man Origins box, and the only other one to have a Marvel Legends box was Cyclops and this sure as heck isn't him -- where the heck did THIS come from!??!
And it's one of the reasons why I was terribly aggrieved about the closure of K*B Toy Stores. As such, I lose one more place to check for toys -- and they weren't doing too badly in Star Wars, G.I. Joe, and DC Universe lately -- and unusual stuff like this is really going to go hunting for a home now. The closure of K*B is a tragedy and a major loss to the toy collecting world, and I shall profoundly miss it. :(
So, who is Mister Fantastic? His real name is Reed Richards, and as leader of the Fantastic Four, he is part of Marvel's First Family, the team that ushered in the "Marvel Age of Comics" in 1961, which shortly thereafter led to the development of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Men, and basically put Marvel on the map and gave DC Comics its first real competition in the super-hero world. They're still the two biggest guns in the business to this day.
Richards is arguably one of the three smartest people in the Marvel Universe, alongside Tony Stark and Victor Von Doom. For further details into the characters history:
Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) is a fictional character, a Marvel Comics superhero and a member of the Fantastic Four. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, he first appeared in Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961).
Possessing a mastery of mechanical, aerospace and electrical engineering, chemistry, all levels of physics, and human and alien biology, Richards is often considered one of the most intelligent human beings in the Marvel Universe, alongside Bruce Banner, Hank Pym, Professor Charles Xavier, Doctor Doom, Tony Stark, M, Henry Philip "Hank" McCoy, and a few others. He is the inventor of the spacecraft which was bombarded by cosmic radiation on its maiden voyage, granting the Fantastic Four their powers. Richards gained the ability to stretch his body into any shape he desires.
He is the leader of the Fantastic Four, although his methodical manner sometimes makes him seem cold and distant to his teammates, particularly best friend the Thing, who somewhat blames Richards for his transformation into a large, rocky creature. Whenever he is confronted with a scientific challenge, his attention can be so focused that he can neglect even his own family which has caused marital problems between him and Sue and has put his family in danger on rare occasions. He is, however, the husband of Susan Storm, father of son Franklin Richards and daughter Valeria Richards, and mentor of his brother-in-law, the Human Torch. According to BusinessWeek, Mr. Fantastic is listed as one of the top ten most intelligent fictional characters in American comics.
Born in Central City, California, Reed is the son of Evelyn and Nathaniel Richards. Nathaniel was a scientific genius, and Reed inherited the same level of intellect. A child prodigy with special aptitude in mathematics, physics, and mechanics, Reed Richards had enrolled in college by the time he was fourteen, attending such prestigious universities as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Columbia University, and the fictional State University. By the tender age of twenty, he had several degrees in the sciences under his belt.
It was at State University that he met and became the roommate of Benjamin J. Grimm (after a highly unsuccessful attempt at having Victor Von Doom as his roommate, in the continuity that I remember best). Reed had already begun designing a starship capable of traveling in hyperspace. Sharing his plans with his new roommate, Grimm jokingly volunteered to pilot the craft.
When 19-year old Reed continued his education by attending Columbia University in Manhattan, he rented a room in a boarding house owned by the aunt of a young girl named Susan Storm. To his embarrassment, the girl, who was 13, instantly fell in love with him. Even though Reed had to move on, they continued to carry a torch for each other.
Moving on to Harvard, Reed earned Ph.D.s in both physics and electrical engineering while working as a military scientist, all this by the age of 22. He also worked in communications for the army. Three years later, now in his mid-twenties, Reed then began using his inheritance, along with government funding, to finance his research. Determined to reach the instellar regions of Mars and beyond, the fateful project began, based in Central City. Susan Storm, now a young adult, moved into the area and within a short time, found herself engaged to Reed. Due to her family's lucrative savings and involvement in charitable foundations, she provided more funding when his money ran out. Likewise, Reed's old college roommate, Ben Grimm, had gone on to become a successful test pilot and astronaut and was indeed slated to pilot the craft.
All seemed well; however, when the government threatened to cut funding and cancel the project, Reed, Ben, Sue and her younger brother Johnny, all decided to sneak aboard the starship and take it up immediately. They knew they had not completed all the testing that had been planned, but Reed was confident they would be safe. Ben was initially skeptical about the unknown affects of the radiation levels, which Reed theorized that their ship's shielding would be adequate and protect them.
It was on Reed's initiative that the fateful mission which had Susan Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm accompanying him into space took place. When their ship passed through the Van Allen belt they found their cockpit bombarded with nearly lethal doses of cosmic radiation. Reed had somehow neglected to account for the abnormal radiation levels in the atmosphere. The cosmic rays wreaked havoc on the starship's insufficient shielding and they were forced to return to Earth immediately. When they crash-landed they found that their bodies were changed dramatically. Reed found that his entire body was elastic and that he could reshape any portion of his body at will. It was at Mister Fantastic's suggestion that they decided to use their new abilities to serve mankind as the Fantastic Four. Mr. Fantastic was chosen to lead the group.
This history has obviously been changed over the years in order to keep it current. In the original comics, Richards was a veteran of World War II who had served behind enemy lines in occupied France, and the goal of his space mission was a manned space flight to the regions of Mars before the Communists were able to. This was later changed to getting there before the Chinese Communists and to explore the instellar areas of the red planet and beyond.
As to his powers and abilities: Richards has the ability to convert his entire body into a highly malleable state at will, allowing him to stretch, deform, and reform himself into virtually any shape. Reed Richards has been observed as being able to utilize his stretching form in a variety of offensive and defensive manners, such as compressing himself into a ball and ricocheting into enemies or flattening himself into a trampoline or a parachute to rescue a teammate. He can squeeze through openings sometimes even as small as one molecule's breadth. He can twist or reshape his body or stretch roughly three miles fully extended before physical pain. He can flatten himself to the thickness of a sheet of vellum. Due to Reed's distaste for violence, he will usually wrap an opponent up in his body to attempt to control and compromise with them. To trap an opponent, he can also flatten his body and smother his opponent until they give in. Other applications of his powers include expanding his lungs allowing him to hold his breath longer, adjusting the distance between his cornea and retina to allow for natural ocular magnification, and in at least one case shortening the distance between the synapses in his brain allowing him to process thought at impossible speeds.
Because of his elastic nature, Mr. Fantastic cannot be harmed by traditional bullets or most other projectile weapons, including knives, missiles, darts, etc, and has superhuman durability. He can often cause projectiles to rebound back towards the attacker. Despite this, Reed is not completely invulnerable. His skin has been cut at least once by an evolved form of a Brood queen; he once inexplicably suffered a broken arm, although the circumstances were highly unusual; and on occasion if he suffers a large amount of head trauma he'll lose consciousness. He has also shown to have all the weaknesses of rubber, as he melts and weakens when exposed to extreme heat and will freeze and crack when exposed to super-cool temperatures.
He has also occasionally demonstrated other applications of this molecular control. While imprisoned by Psycho-Man, meditation allowed him to reduce his body to a nearly liquid state in order to flow out of a glass encasement specially prepared by the villain to have only the most infinitesimal of openings.
Reed's elasticity makes it extremely difficult for attackers to hold or pin him, as his body can become slippery or so thin that he can slip out of a grasping fist. However, Reed is vulnerable to types of energy weapons, and even to taffy-puller-style machines that forcibly stretch him to the limits of his tensile durability eventually causing physical pain, as well as the temporary loss of his solid state due to the mental stress.
Reed can alter his physical makeup as well. He can, for instance, disguise his appearance to mimic another person, an inanimate object, or even, in one case, mimic the physical form of an extra-terrestrial. He can also concentrate his mass into a single body part, such as when he enlarges a fist into a solid hammer or mace-style weapon. All of these feats require extreme concentration but thanks to his training, and mental discipline, they can be performed rather quickly.
Despite this, Richards' strength comes more from the powers of his mind than the powers of his body; indeed, he once told Spider-Man that he considers his stretching powers to be expendable compared to his intellect. Reed Richards is a visionary theoretician and inspired machine smith who has made breakthroughs in such varied fields as space travel, time travel, extra-dimensional travel, biochemistry, robotics, computers, synthetic polymers, communications, mutations, transportation, holography, energy generation, spectral analysis and more. Richards has earned Ph.D.s in mathematics, physics, and engineering. Dr. Richards is often known to rewrite works of Stephen Hawking and decode alien languages. He is considered by many in the scientific community to be the greatest intellect on earth (much to Doctor Doom's consternation).
Not only has Reed proven himself to be a genius in virtually every science native to Earth, he has shown himself to be more knowledgeable than even some of the most highly advanced alien civilizations in the known universe as well. Reed's patents are so valuable that he is able to bankroll the Fantastic Four, Inc., without any undue financial stress. Some writers have shown that Reed's intelligence was expanded by the cosmic rays that gave him his elastic powers, and that, when his powers are nullified, he is not as hyper-intelligent. Mind control is rarely effective on him and when it does work, it wears off sooner than it would a normal person, due to what he describes as an "elastic consciousness".
Mr. Fantastic is, however, not without flaws. The accident that resulted in the Fantastic Four gaining their powers was the direct result of a hasty miscalculation on Reed's part.
Yeah, that was a bit of an "oops"... Still, for a magazine like BusinessWeek to acknowledge the intellect of a fictional character -- that's pretty impressive.
So how's the figure? Well -- interesting. Pretty cool, but interesting. Obviously, and perhaps more often than not, action figures have a hard time imitating the powers of the super-beings upon which they are based. You might get a Cyclops figure to look like it's firing eyebeams by putting a red LED in its head, but it's not going to fire a beam that's going to punch a hole through a wall -- which is probably just as well. A Spider-Man figure is not going to be able to climb walls on its own unless it's got some little suction cups attached to its hands and feet.
And until Marvel makes a deal with the company that made "Stretch Armstrong", you're not really going to see an action figure of Mister Fantastic that can really do what its comics counterpart can do. Now, certainly there have been Mister Fantastic figures over the years. One of the first was from Mego, and they didn't even try to have the figure stretch. It was still an impressive figure, and even to date, I think that Mego figure had the best facial likeness of Reed Richards of any action figure ever made of the character.
Some smaller-scale figures have had either fixed, exaggerated limbs, or "stretched" limbs that could be exchanged and swapped out with more normal ones.
Now, since these 9" figures from Hasbro all used the same basic body mold, and since cloth doesn't stretch as well as Reed Richards' wondrous "unstable molecules" which explains how his costume can stretch, how his wife's can turn invisible, and how the Torch's can survive flame, it really would have been hard for Hasbro to come up with an action figure that mimicked to any significant degree the powers of Mister Fantastic.
The figure uses MOSTLY the same body molds as the other figures in the line. Of course, it has its own distinctive headsculpt, which, after the Mego one from the 1970's, I think I would say is the SECOND best action figure likeness of Reed Richards that I've ever encountered. Hasbro really did a good job here.
The figure is wearing a cloth costume that accurately reproduces the classic Fantastic Four outfit. It's mostly a nice medium blue in color, with black collar, a wide black belt, black boots, and black gloves which are actually the molded hands. The costume is sewn up in the back and not removable, a practice which goes back to the DC figures that Hasbro produced using these body molds and which personally I find moderately annoying. If something inside the figure needs a little work, there's not much you can do about it. Okay, there's a degree to which it LOOKS more authentic, but still...
The figure is very nicely articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, and ankles.
Which brings me to the arms. Clearly, Hasbro decided that Mister Fantastic had to be demonstrating his power somehow. I can understand that. These figures never came with much in the way of accessories, and in this gimmick-filled world of action figures, an -- unstretched -- Mister Fantastic might have come across as a little dull. The end result is effective, if moderately silly-looking in some respects.
The arms of the figure are the standard arms for these 9" figures are the shoulder and as far as the upper-arm swivel. After the swivel, there's about six inches per arm of rubbery, wire-filled "bendie", right along with just as much fabric sleeve. The right hand ends in a fist, the left arm ends in a huge, outstretched hand with looong fingers.
Gotta give Hasbro a lot of credit for pulling this one off. Demonstrating the stretching powers of Mister Fantastic on a CLOTH-COSTUMED figure is a first. Mego didn't do it, and neither did Toy Biz when they made a Mister Fantastic figure as part of their Famous Covers collection (which was frankly IMHO, was a pretty cheap piece of work since it used a repainted Peter Parker head...!).
Although you have to deal with the fact that this figure is, shall we say, permanently stretched, it's really pretty much worth it.
Any complaints? No, not really. The torso articulation is a little loose, but this is a situation that dates all the way back to the DC figures that used these body molds. It may be slightly exacerbated in Mister Fantastic because those long bendie arms do make him a little top-heavy compared to anyone else.
The only thing I would mention is that if you're looking to buy one of these figures, check the arms visually in the package. I saw a couple on display that looked as though the "bendie" part had become separated from the upper arm, a sort of jagged misalignment under the fabric. In fairness, these figures have likely been in storage for quite some time, and additionally, they've also been put into packages that are the same dimensions as any of the other figures in this series, and that package wasn't really designed with someone with arms like these in mind. It's a little cramped.
However, that's merely a cautionary note, NOT a complaint. The headsculpt is nicely done, a good likeness of the character, and nearly painted. The uniform is superbly well done, with a cool "4" logo on it, and my distinct credit to the factory seamstresses who had to deal with a whole lot of really long sleeves!
This figure is definitely a clearance item, and appears to only be at K*B for the moment, and that's as of this writing. What will happen when those supplies are gone is anyone's guess. But as I often say when it comes to sometimes hard-to-find toys -- if it EXISTS, it can be FOUND. And if you're a fan of the Fantastic Four, or impressive cloth-costumed super-hero figures, then you'll definitely want to add this one to your collection.
The MARVEL LEGENDS 9" cloth-costumed MISTER FANTASTIC figure definitely
has my highest recommendation!