Marvel Legends is an action figure line based on the characters of Marvel Comics, initially produced by Toy Biz, then by Hasbro. This line is in the 6-inch (150 mm) scale, with spin-off lines in the 4-inch (100 mm), 8-inch (200 mm), and 12-inch (300 mm) scale.
The Marvel Legends line is a spin-off of the Spider-Man Classics line also produced by Toy Biz. At its inception in 2002, the Marvel Legends line took over the clamshell packaging and the included comic book that had shipped with the Spider-Man Classics line. The first Marvel Legends series included representations of the Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, and Toad.
Beginning January 1, 2007, Hasbro was the new license holder of the rights to produce toys and games based upon the Marvel Universe, while Toy Biz was renamed Marvel Toys. The new Hasbro packaging did not include a comic. In recent years, production on the Marvel Legends line slowed down to the point that it was rumored it would be cancelled, but Hasbro employees revealed at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con that due to fan requests and upcoming movies based on Marvel characters, the line would be making a comeback in 2012, and in January 2012, Marvel Legends returned to store shelves. At the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, Hasbro announced Marvel Legends would be re-branded into lines specifically for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
From the beginning, the Marvel Legends line has used the "chase" concept to introduce figures based on less popular or recognizable characters. These got their nickname by being shipped in fewer quantities than the rest of the figures, thus causing collectors to chase after them. Eventually, rather than entirely new figures, the chase concept was limited to variations (such as an alternate head or a different color scheme) of a figure released in that same series. These figures became high in demand by collectors.
In 2005, Toy Biz introduced the "Build-A-Figure" (referred to as a "BAF" in the collector community) to the Marvel Legends line, starting with series 9. Each figure in the series was packaged with a piece of a larger figure—in the initial case, a 16-inch (410 mm) tall figure of Galactus. A consumer who bought each figure in the assortment would then have all the complete components to assemble a character unavailable in individual packaging.
With the release of the Giant-Man BAF, Toy Biz packaged smaller parts with each character, requiring 10 figures to be purchased to create the BAF (including one of the variant figures).
Starting with the Onslaught BAF and continuing with the Mojo and MODOK BAFs, Toy Biz returned to the six-piece formula. Hasbro continued the six-piece formula with the Annihilus BAF in its first series, and temporarily moved to an eight-piece formula with the Blob BAF in its second series, but switched back to the six figure format in series 4.
NOTE: Neither version of the Human Torch is a variant. Human Torch was originally distributed with the 4 on his chest, but some collectors asked for the 4 to be removed, since it would be more comic accurate. So as a running change, later shipments had the 4 removed. At the beginning, the figure with the 4 was plentiful, but as time went on, it became more common to see him without it, and eventually it became rare to see him with the 4.
NOTE: There were several running changes to the Daredevil figure(with or without beard), but no true variants. Some Wolverine figures came with a small poster of Wolverine, rather than the comic.
NOTE: The early shipments of ML8 had a paint error on the Captain America figures. The Ultimate Captain America was supposed to have grey paint on his pants, while the Classic Captain America was not. When the toys were first released, these paint apps were reversed. A running change later corrected the error.
This line introduced what would become a long standing feature of the Legends line until plastic was deemed too expensive: Buying the full line would result in a Build-A-Figure that towers over the rest, marking the inauguration with Fantastic Four character Galactus.
Continuing the tradition, this line introduces a Sentinel figure, and from hereafter, nearly every Build-A-Figure would be lifted from the X-Men villains roster. To complete the robot, only Mystique or Omega Red needed to be purchased, as both have the same piece.
NOTE: Some Maestro figures were packaged without the hose for connecting the left arm to the Apocalypse torso piece.
Giant Man Series (Wal-Mart exclusive) (2006)
This Wal-Mart exclusive built the largest Build-A-Figure for the entire line, Avengers founding member Giant-Man. This series was found internationally in the UK and other stores, such as Woolworths and Canada's Toys R Us. Sentry would ship in a tan-and-blue uniform that was later corrected to a brighter yellow-and-blue color. Both hues have been used in the comics.
After Hasbro gained the rights to produce Marvel toys, the company continued with the theme of smaller figures as the bonus one, in this case, Annihilus, a Fantastic Four nemesis. Also, Hasbro's new molds eliminated finger joints, a mainstay of the Toy Biz era, and the comic book pack-ins. Annihilus pieces came in a pastel color for his armor, and later, a more comic-accurate version.
Fantastic Four - Ronan the Accuser Series (2007)
A Marvel Legends series that focused on Fantastic Four characters only. This Fantastic Four-focused line included Ronan the Accuser as the Build-A-Figure but was perhaps most noticeable for splitting weapons and cape as Build-A-Figure pieces, another casualty of plastics cost.
Figures from the Epic Heroes series were shown at the 2012 Toyfair. This is the second series that does not include BAF pieces since figures began to form Build-A-Figures. Instead, each figure came with a display base, just like in the early series of Marvel Legends, though these bases included much less detail and all were the same. The variant versions of Dr. Doom and Deadpool as well as Danielle Moonstar and Blade have not been released, but Hasbro have confirmed the figures are ready and that they're considering release options, possibly as a Toys "R" Us exclusive.
Released to coincide with the third Iron Man film, this series includes only Iron Man-related characters. It was split into two waves, each including three figures and three pieces of a comic-style Iron Monger Build-A-Figure. The second three figures are due out in May 2013.
Figures from Series Four were shown at the San Diego Comic Con 2012 and will be available in Spring 2013. This series introduced the Mini Build-A-Figure concept, a much smaller BAF in scale with figures. This series will have Hit Monkey as the Mini BAF. As a change from previous series, only three of the six figures contain a Build-A-Figure piece, as the BAF figure is much smaller in this series. Oddly, it is the three in this series which have variants. Iron Fist, Savage She-Hulk and Sentry have not been released, but Hasbro have confirmed the figures are ready and that they're considering release options, possibly as a Toys "R" Us exclusive.
Moonstone was also shown at San Diego Comic Con 2012 as an upcoming figure, but the wave number was not specified. She was released in the SDCC 2013 Exclusive Thunderbolts Boxset, and is also set to be released single-carded in the upcoming Jubilee Series.
Released to coincide with the second Wolverine film, this series includes only X-men-related characters. The wave will include Alpha Flight's Puck as a Mini BAF, shown at Toy Fair 2013. Phoenix Five Cyclops has been canceled. Rogue will not be in this series either, but Hasbro have said she may appear in the X-Men: Days of Future Past line in 2014.
A Marvel Legends Flatman "figure" was included as a joke cut-out in the GLX-Mas Special (2005). It featured "infinite" points of articulation and three action phrases (to be said with one's own voice).
In October 2005, pre-production promotional material for Series 13, "Bring on the Bad Guys," was leaked to the Internet. These materials depicted a seventh figure, Crimson Dynamo, and also advertised that each figure in the series would come with a supplementary "henchman" generic figure. However, neither the Crimson Dynamo figure nor the "henchman" pack-ins reached production for Series 13, though the HYDRA Soldier was released in Hasbro's third wave and Crimson Dynamo in Hasbro's second wave of Iron Man: The Armored Avengers series. Furthermore, the Brood alien and Skrull sculpts were later released in a two pack set under the Marvel Select toyline.
Non-articulated, one-inch X-Babies pack-ins, a Thunder Frog (Thor turned into a frog by Loki), and Forbush Man (Marvel's unofficial mascot, a character from the Not Brand Echh! humor book) were displayed alongside the henchmen prototypes at the Comic-Con International in July 2006. The X-Babies were originally planned for release in Wave 14, alongside the Mojo BAF.
Hasbro, along with ToyFare magazine, held a poll for which figure would be released as an exclusive on HasbroToyShop.com. Although Age of Apocalypse Sunfire won, it was stated that the other unreleased prototypes would find their way into future wave assortments (either as single carded figures or in two packs). The other prototypes included:
On SDCC 2009 Preview Night, Hasbro exhibited prototypes for upcoming characters in the toy line. Based on the results of a fan poll, the top three choices (Black Widow, Deadpool, and Valkyrie) were scheduled for release. In addition, three other figures (The Hulk, Winter Soldier, and Warpath) were eventually released as well. The other prototypes included:
Classic Ms. Marvel
Spider-Man as The Amazing Bag-Man
Later Released Prototypes:
Constrictor (later launched in 2012 Marvel Legends first wave)
Fantomex (later launched in 2012 Marvel Legends second wave)
X-Force Wolverine (later launched in 2012 SDCC Exclusive X-Force 3-Pack)
Toy Biz had several lines of toys which are related to Marvel Legends in that the toys are Marvel characters, often exhibit comparable articulation, and are similar in scale. With the exception of Spider-Man Classics, which actually pre-date Marvel Legends, these lines do not include comic books and do not ship in the same clamshell packaging. The figures in these related lines also usually include some sort of "action feature," sometimes limiting their articulation and ostensibly intended to make the toys more appealing to children.
Several popular characters (usually villains) that have not appeared under the Marvel Legends brand have made appearances in these lines, and thus are usually the most desired among collectors. These include most of Spider-Man's rogues gallery, as well as some of the Hulk's, Fantastic Four's and X-Men's.
Marvel Legends Showdown is a collectible tabletop game in which the primary component is 4-inch (100 mm) action figures and cards. It was a collaboration between Upper Deck Entertainment and Toy Biz. Originally known as Marvel Superhero Showdown, it was renamed Marvel Legends Showdown to tie it in to the Marvel Legends line. The line did not continue when figure production switched from Toy Biz to Hasbro.
The "Icons" series includes 12-inch (300 mm) articulated figures of various characters from Marvel. The Toy Biz Icons each came with an "Evolution of an Icon" comic sized book including a history and stats of the character as well as artwork. These books are not included in the Hasbro Icons.