REVIEW: MARVEL LEGENDS TIGRA
I really didn't expect to see this last assortment of single-packed Marvel Legends figures. I'd pretty well given up on it and assumed that Hasbro had given up on the Marvel Legends line, which they'd pretty much inherited from Toy Biz when they picked up the Marvel Comics toy license. And inasmuch as Hasbro did a more than capable job with a number of excellent Marvel Legends assortments that brought some very interesting characters into the line that Toy Biz never got around to, it has seemed in recent times that Hasbro is putting forth a greater effort into the 4" scale Marvel Universe series.
Then I found a wild beauty. Her name is TIGRA, and while she's not exactly one of Marvel's major players, she has been an occasional member of the Avengers, and as one might expect even from some of Marvel's lesser lights, her history is about as convoluted as anyone else's. She's also been around a good bit longer than I thought, having first been introduced in 1972. But I think I'll let Wikipedia spell out her background from here.
Introduced as the non-superpowered crime fighter The Cat in Claws of the Cat #1 (Nov. 1972), she was co-created by writer-editor Roy Thomas, writer Linda Fite, and penciler Marie Severin. She mutated into the super powered tiger-woman Tigra in Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974), by writer Tony Isabella and penciller Don Perlin.
The Cat was introduced in one of a trio of Marvel Comics aimed at a female audience, alongside Night Nurse and Shanna the She-Devil. The series lasted four issues, each with a different art team. Severin was teamed with acclaimed artist Wally Wood as inker for the premiere, followed by Severin and inker Jim Mooney in issue #2; newcomer Paty Greer co-penciling with 1940s Golden Age of Comic Books legend Bill Everett, who also inked, in issue #3; and Jim Starlin and Alan Weiss co-penciling the finale, with Frank McLaughlin inking.
The Cat next appeared alongside Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #8 (April 1973), but was soon revamped as the super powered, part-animal Tigra in a two-part story in Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974; "Giant-Size" refers to the comic's page-count, not giant creatures) and Werewolf by Night #20 (Aug. 1974). Tigra made her solo-feature debut with a 15-page story in the black-and-white horror-comics magazine Monsters Unleashed #10 (Feb. 1975), followed by a brief run in the umbrella series Marvel Chillers #3-7 (Feb.-Oct. 1976), and one more solo story in Marvel Premiere #42 (June 1978).
Tigra went on to guest star throughout the Marvel line, often appearing in issues of the superhero-team comic The Avengers and later in the cast of the spin-off West Coast Avengers. She starred in the four-issue miniseries Tigra (May-Aug. 2002) by writer Christina Z. and artist Mike Deodato, and has since guest starred in She-Hulk, Civil War, various Avengers comics, and elsewhere.
As to her personal history, Greer Grant was a native of Chicago, Illinois. She was a sophomore at the University of Chicago when she met her future husband, policeman Bill Nelson. She left college to marry him. The marriage was a strong one, flawed only by Bill's overprotective nature. Bill was killed in an off-duty shooting, and Greer had to find a job of her own. After weeks of searching, she ran into her old physics professor, Dr. Joanne Tumulo.
Dr. Tumulo was working on the human potential experiments that turned Shirlee Bryant into the super powered villainess called the Cat. Not trusting the test subject chosen by her financial backer, Malcolm Donalbain, Greer persuaded Dr. Tumulo to let her undergo the experimental treatments as well. She emerged with superhuman physical and mental capabilities. When Donalbain had Dr. Tumulo's lab destroyed with dynamite, Greer donned one of dozens of the Cat costumes that he had created and the doctor had appropriated and set out to put an end to his scheme. With her new abilities, she adapted quickly to the strange garb and wrecked Donalbain's headquarters. Rather than let himself be touched by the Cat's raking claws, Donalbain committed suicide. A fire set off by the ruined equipment destroyed Donalbain's headquarters. Greer embarked on a brief career as the Cat, mostly battling old Daredevil foes.
Another of Donalbain's Cat costumes surfaced years later, when Patsy Walker discovered it while accompanying the Avengers. She donned it and dubbed herself Hellcat. Don't even get me started on her...
As for Greer becoming Tigra, "The Tigra" is the historical defender/champion of the Cat People, a humanoid race created by sorcery during the Dark Ages. Concerned about the Cat People's uncontrollable population growth and savagery, a community of sorcerers eventually banished the entire original Cat People population to a demonic netherworldly realm.
The two very first Cat People, who were themselves very capable scientists and sorcerers, were able to evade banishment through their magic. They continued to live amongst humanity in secret and worked to refine the Cat People's biology to make a peaceful integration into the human population possible. However, they were constantly persecuted and required a protector. Discovering that the original spell for transforming cats into Cat People like themselves had been rendered inoperative, they created a process combining science, sorcery, and focused mental power that could transform a human female into a "Tigra," a being with abilities that far surpassed those of either race.
This unnamed first Tigra defended the Cat People with great effectiveness, and allowed a new community to establish themselves on Earth, separate from the group that had been banished. This new population continued to live amongst humanity in secrecy through the present-day, relying on enchantments that cast the illusion of a human appearance.
Dr. Tumulo was revealed to be one of these modern Cat People. When members of HYDRA tracked Tumolo down, Greer once again donned the Cat costume and drove them off. However, she was mortally injured by a blast from one of their alpha radiation pistols.
Greer regained consciousness in a cave, surrounded by a gathering of Cat People summoned by Tumolo. Rapidly dying from the radiation's effects, Greer was offered one last hope of survival: a combination of ancient science, sorcery, and mental power that would transform her into Tigra, the Cat People's legendary half-human, half-cat warrior. She readily consented, began wearing only her black bikini from this time on, and arose from the ceremony as a superhuman-powered human-animal hybrid. Striped fur covered her entire body, her hands and feet bore razor-sharp claws, her teeth became long and pointed, and her eyes were now cat-eyes. In addition to superhuman strength and senses, she also gained many of the drives and instincts of a cat.
Though initially unable to change back to her human self, the Cat People ultimately gave her a mystical cat-headed amulet that allowed her to change at will. She seldom made use of it, however, preferring her feline, super powered form and mostly abandoning her life as Greer Grant-Nelson.
Greer resumed her superhero career. She fought alongside most of Marvel's heavy-hitters in wide-ranging adventures. She teamed with Spider-Man against Kraven. She also became a friend and associate of the Fantastic Four.
When the Avengers found themselves shorthanded, Moondragon used her mental powers to compel a dozen unaffiliated heroes (apparently selected at random) to travel to Avengers Mansion and audition for the vacant position. Though he disapproved of Moondragon's methods, Captain America offered Tigra a spot on the team.
Although Tigra's first tenure with the Avengers was brief, she served well. She also aided the X-Men against Deathbird. Her time with the Avengers was highlighted by her single-handedly saving the world from destruction by the Molecule Man, who intended to consume the planet's energy a la Galactus. Alone among the Avengers, she was able to get close enough to him to talk him out of his plan.
Ultimately she resigned her membership, leaving the team on good terms. She resumed her solo career, eventually settling in San Francisco where she had a series of adventures with Jessica Drew (the then-depowered Spider-Woman), who had gone into the detective business. Before long, The Vision recruited Tigra to become a founding member of the Avengers' new west coast-based team. Alongside the new West Coast Avengers, she fought Graviton, and became a close friend of Wonder Man. She also began a flirtation with Henry Pym.
However, the cat-like aspects of her personality had begun to dominate her human intellect, causing her increasing distress. She sought help from her Avengers teammates in overcoming the "cat" side of her personality (I personally recall a sequence where she was chasing mice through the kitchen of Avengers Mansion...!)
She was transported with the West Coast Avengers by Balkatar to the realm of the Cat People. Ultimately, she came into contact with the banished colony of Cat People, whose king agreed to resolve her crisis in exchange for carrying out her historical function by murdering the Cat People's longtime foe, Master Pandemonium. Though she initially accepted their terms, when the critical moment came at an arena in the Cat People's realm, Tigra refused to violate the Avengers' code against killing. The Cat People stripped her of her "Tigra soul".. She was reduced to her normal, pre-transformation human state.
Hellcat, who had accompanied Greer and the West Coast Avengers, lent Greer the super-suit that she used to wear as The Cat, and a battle ensued. As the tide began to turn against the Cat People, their leader released the "Tigra soul" as a means of confusing Greer. The tactic backfired. The cat-suit had been designed by a Tumolo specifically to amplify Greer's human capabilities. So instead of Greer being dominated by the "Tigra soul" as before, the suit caused her human and feline personalities to successfully integrate together.
This time, Greer's transformation into the legendary cat-warrior was much more complete than before. Her strength and abilities were far greater than they were originally. Her appearance became more feline, however, and she grew a tail like the rest of the Cat People. She also lost the ability to shift back to a human form, though as before she showed no sense of loss for her human identity.
Her transformation was so complete and the Tigra legend was so strong amongst the Cat People that they immediately ceased hostilities. The transformation also resolved the conflicts between the human and feline aspects of her personality. Tigra could now exploit the full range and ferocity of her abilities without fear of going so far that she would lose control of her actions.
She continued with the West Coast Avengers off and on, but after the West Coast Avengers disbanded, Tigra resumed her wide-ranging adventures. Though no longer an active Avenger, she continued to participate in Avengers operations when needed, as a member of the team's extended family. She even joined the New York City Police Department for a time, and later went into space (perfect place for a cat-lady, right?) alongside the "Avengers Infinity" team.
She has been active in most of the major storylines in the Marvel Universe since then, including Civil War, The Initiative, and Secret Invasion. Most recently, apparently as sick and tired of how things were going for the Marvel Heroes as I myself have been, she went on the run and co-founded the Avengers Resistance, choosing its name as a means of restoring honor to the legendary team's traditions.
Tigra's powers are the result of a combination of science, magic, and mental energy utilized by Dr. Joeanne Marie Tumulo and other Cat People. Her physical appearance is distinctly cat-like. A thick, sleek coat of orange fur with black stripes covers her entire body. She has pointed ears, sharper-than-normal teeth with pronounced upper and lower canines, eyes with enlarged irises and vertically-slitted pupils, and retractable claws on her feet and hands instead of nails. Her claws and teeth are sufficiently strong to puncture sheet steel, such as that found in a car body. Tigra also has a long semi-prehensile tail, and can willfully contact (but not grasp and lift) objects with it. Tigra's feline physiology grants her various superhuman attributes including superhuman strength, speed, stamina, agility, reflexes, and resistance to physical injury. If she is injured, her physiology enables her to heal much faster and more extensively than an ordinary human is capable of. Tigra's senses of sight, smell, and hearing extend far into the superhuman range and are also superior to those of ordinary cats.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. Ironic as it may be for an action figure line, arguably a "boys toys" line, I believe that Hasbro honestly does a better job with the admittedly limited number of female figures in this line than they tend to do with the males. I was certainly highly impressed with their She-Hulk figure a few years ago, and Tigra also impresses me.
The main reason is design and articulation. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of a well-articulated figure. However, when the design and extent of the articulation in a given action figure begins to adversely affect the look of the figure to the point where it looks less like a reasonable representation of a human being -- even a fanciful super-heroic one -- and trades off a decent appearance for a level of poseability that is far too glaring in my opinion, then I think that's a problem.
And, unfortunately, it's been a periodic problem in Marvel Legends. Fairly early on, Hasbro crafted a fairly standard male hero mold that's been used on probably half a dozen or more figures. It's certainly a well-articulated design. But it leaves a little something to be desired from an appearance standpoint, regardless of whose head is put on top of it and who it's painted up to look like.
I believe there's a point at which articulation has its limits, and that point should be when it has a noticeably adverse effect on the figure. Granted that point is wildly open to interpretation, but in my opinion, some of the Marvel Legends figures push it too far.
This is not the case with the female figures. They may be slightly more limited in articulation, but they certainly look good. I have no complaints about the She-Hulk figure from a couple of years ago, and I certainly have none about Tigra.
A quick aside. The articulation design used by both She-Hulk and Tigra can be translated over to the male figures, and has been, on at least one occasion. There's a great Namor figure that was offered as part of the Fantastic Four line -- I think marketed under the marvel Legends banner -- that used this same articulation design, and it's really a great Namor figure.
The Tigra figure is certainly well-articulated. Tigra is poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists (pivot as well as back and forth, which actually puts her ahead of Mattel's DC Universe Classics), mid-torso, legs, knees (including a swivel) and ankles. Oh, yes, and her tail rotates, but so few figures in this line have tails (I think Toy Biz did Nightcrawler, right?) that I nearly forgot.
So, articulation aside, how impressive is the Tigra figure? Very. The headsculpt is nicely done, although I might have tried to make her look a little more feline. Tigra's appearance is such that her face could almost lent itself to a near-anime appearance. Hasbro, had they chosen, could have gotten away with slightly larger eyes and a slightly smaller nose. However, the headsculpt they have designed isn't bad at all, and the painted detail around the eyes, including bright green irises and distinctly upswept eyelashes, is very impressive.
Tigra's hair, a light golden brown, has been very elegantly sculpted as a separate piece and glued into place. It has a wavy look to it, and while it does restrict head movement a bit, the head moves well enough, and the overall look is very impressive.
Tigra's most notable paint detailing is, of course, her tiger stripes, which run down both arms and legs, on her back, and on her tail. This has been done with great care and detail. Somebody must have consulted the people who used to do G.I. Joe's Tiger Force.
There was a time when I might have been concerned that these stripes might have been hand-painted on, although that's probably taking that concern to excess. It's a practice I don't approve of whenever it turns up, but on Tigra, it would have been impossible. Needless to say, the stripes are fantastically well painted.
Her bikini, listed by Wikipedia as "black", on the figure is more of a very dark, slightly metallic blue. It, too, has been well painted, with the additional details of the "fangs" around the lower piece, and the little silver cats-head in the middle of the top.
Also of note is the fact that Tigra's fingernails and toenails, her "claws", have all been painted. Moreover, her right hand has actually been molded to have entirely separate fingers. They're not articulated, although her hand has been molded from a slightly flexible plastic that allows them to be moved a bit, if gently.
One thing did surprise me, and that was the tail. One might have expected it to be molded from a slightly flexible plastic, as well. Possibly even have a wire installed and make it a "bendie". But it isn't. Okay, I can live without the "bendie" part, but the plastic that the tail is molded from is surprisingly rigid. There's more flexibility in the fingers, and even the feet, of Tigra, than there is in the tail. I don't think it's brittle or at risk of breaking, but it was a little surprising.
So, what's my final word here? I'm extremely impressed. Tigra may well be the most impressive figure in this entire, and likely final assortment of individually carded Marvel Legends figures (although reports are the two-packs will continue, which would be cool). She looks great, is well made, well-articulated, and superbly detailed.
Maybe she's not the most major player in the Marvel Universe. But this is a very cool figure of a very striking and impressive young superwoman from Marvel. If you've been and continue to be a fan of the Marvel Legends line, or just happen to be a fan of Tigra, then you'll certainly want this figure.
The MARVEL LEGENDS figure of TIGRA definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!