Thursday, February 16, 2012

1999 Hasbro JLA Justice League of America Martian Manhunter 9" Doll

Allow me to introduce you to my little friend-- my favorite ever J'Onn J'Onzz toy, the JLA nine inch action figure DOLL. That's right-- you heard me-- it's a freakin' doll. "Action figures" peak at about seven inches, do not have removable cloth accessories, and should probably have some sort of weapon to enforce their manliness. If I can strip a figure buck-nekkid, it's a doll, and as you'll see later, the Manhunter from Mars qualifies.

The figure was a K·B Toys exclusive, and I bought it when it first came out for $14.99. Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and Superman Blue were part of the same line, but I don't recall their being exclusive. KB overstocked the Martian Manhunter for sure, and they routinely sold for considerably less than the initial retail price (probably right up until the chain's closure.) Even today, twelve years later, you can find them on eBay for less than I paid. Heck, I'm tempted to buy some for custom action figures, but I'm too old, impatient, unskilled, and time-strapped for all that. An abused friend shot the above picture around the year 2000 with a digital camera. I don't think they were so hot back then.

As announced on the box face, the doll is "FULLY POSEABLE WITH ARTICULATED FINGERS!" Let me just say, articulated fingers are the best! I loved Mego-style dolls growing up, but a kid will invariably try to put a weapon in their hand, and off comes their thumbs. Instead of wedging hunks of plastic into the single weakest point on a figure until it snaps, these newer dolls can actually open their hands and grasp things. In this case, J'Onn is constantly tugging on his cape like a security blanket, and I love it!

I no longer have my box, so I pulled a bunch of these pictures off eBay. As I recall, I kept mine folded up for a while, but I think it was eventually water damaged and discarded. Anyway, the interior was notable for its lack of being notable. That bland yellow really highlighted the impossible number of twist-ties binding J'Onn onto the card, including little plastic staple thingies in the cape. The twists also had plastic coverings over them plus box tape, so you basically needed a knife and a good 5-10 minutes to liberate the Alien Atlas. Looks a bit like King Kong, all trussed up as he was.

As best as I can tell, the art on the sides of the box was by Eduardo Barreto, drawing in a slightly more '90s style. Likely thanks in part to American Secrets, Barreto drew most Manhunter-centric licensed product around this time, including the 1999 Hasbro Justice League of America Monopoly Game, 2000 DC Super Heroes Magic Effects 500 Piece Puzzle and 2000 Warner Bros. Studio Store Exclusive JLA Mug.

The back of the box starts with JLA line boilerplate recycled from the standard figures...


The mightiest heroes in the universe
join forces to combat the world's
most diabolical villains!

...followed by...

This immensely powerful and strikingly quiet
hero is one of the DC Universe's most
powerful figures, and a founding member of
the Justice League of America. Born on the
planet Mars as J'onn J'onzz, the Martian
Manhunter has telepathic powers, massive
super-strength, and the abilities to both fly
and completely alter his appearance.
When the rest of his race was wiped out, he
came to Earth, where he adopted a new
identity as Detective John Jones.

There are so many things to love about this figure, the first being that you could fold the collar on the cloth cape. The 1998 JLA figure had an enormous plastic collar that stuck up, and '99 J'Onn still rocked the Dracula while imprisoned in the box. However, the cloth collar folds naturally, holds position, and looks fantastic. The plastic clasp goes through the mystery fabric, literally clasping through a teat and slot. In a rarity, the sculptors managed to give J'Onn a massive brow that still looks realistic and does not overwhelm his face.

Upon removing the cape, you can see J'Onn can move his head from side to side. The combination hinge and ball & socket joints at his shoulders and hips allow a full range of motion while providing enough resistance to insure the figure maintains a secure pose without a stand (not included besides.) J'Onn can pivot at the biceps and wrists, with an additional hinge in the wrist, plus at the knees and knuckles.

Like his cape clasp, J'Onn's harness secures at two points on the belt and the straps connect at two other points. The harness is flexible but firm and generally well made enough that you can remove and replace it without fear of tears. You can now see that the figure has both a pivot and hinge concealed in the folds of his boot at the ankles. There are slots where the figure could be placed on a stand, but I assure you, it stands exceptionally well under its own power. The right foot has a DC Comics copyright, and the left a Hasbro one (made in China.)

Here's the head in profile, displaying what I feel is the finest Martian Manhunter sculpt to date (even over the 13".) How many ways can I count the win? The slight furrowing of the brow and crinkle above the nose are perfect for indicating intense thought (telepathy?) or just irritation with the antics of the JLI. The beetle brow is thick, but phat rather than fat, distinctive while still appropriate hanging off somebody's face. There's some fine detail around the eyes, both gentle/human and glowing an unnerving red. The prominent cheekbones and facial lines are heroically handsome, yet severe in a way inappropriate for more traditional heroes. Really nice chin, well-sculpted ears, and a perfect Silver Age head shape (the wrinkles at the nape of the neck a nice touch.)

Without his easily removable doll trunks, you can get a better look at the figure's versatile hip joints. The only problem with the harness is that it restricts movement in the abdomen to an extent. In its absence, we find that J'Onn can maybe do a few crunches with effort, but he can readily pivot at the waist either way.

There really isn't any new information in this picture. I just threw it in for the ladies (and manly man-hunters.) I think these last two pictures do make my point about it being a doll, though.

Click To Enlarge

My friend Dave indulged me during the earliest days of the blog way back in the fall of 2007 (and a few score pounds ago) by taking pictures of me and this doll. He also worked out a few "special effects" shots that I decided to allow to be enbiggened. I think that's J'Onn landing on the roof of a Chipotle Mexican Grill off Richmond. It damned sure wouldn't be a Subway, with his getting left out of their recent tongue-in-cheek Justice League campaign.

Click To Enlarge

I'm not quite sure how I was holding the figure, but Dave clearly did an excellent job "removing the wires," or in my case the fingers, especially for his "ancient" 2007 technology. Dynamic pose. no?

Click To Enlarge

Here, the DC Direct Atom demonstrates how awesome articulated fingers can be! However, we'll close on a hero who is among the closest friends to the Martian Manhunter out of the classic Justice League, Aquaman. Today is a crossover with my Justice League Detroit blog, where I'll be covering the 1999 Hasbro DC Super Heroes Silver Age Collection Aquaman!

Before you go, here's another post with more animated photos showing love for this figure at Super-Duper Toy Box. Finally, a video on the figure, from a guy more knit-picky than me...


Tom Hartley said...

And the boots are wrinkly, just like Joe Certa drew them in Detective Comics #225. But it looks like the belt buckle doesn't have the pie. I like the pie, so I can't give this doll an A+. Definitely an A, though.

Are you old enough to remember GI Joe with the kung-fu grip? Now there's a man who could hold a weapon.

Diabolu Frank said...

I've heard the kung-fu grip referenced many a time, but it's second hand to me (rimshot.) I didn't actually come along until Mego's latter days, when Pocket
Heroes were easier to find than the real thing.

mathematicscore said...

This is a great head sculpt. I agree with the video that the torso/brief ratio is a bit wonky. Otherwise, pretty damn cool. Any chance of a an Anj stile Martian Shrine?

Diabolu Frank said...

What do you mean? Like, showing stuff on a bookshelf or something? I'll run any pictures I get along those lines...

mathematicscore said...

Oh, Anj has a Supergirl Shrine or something as I recall; I think it would be interesting to see a lotta MM merch in one place. Perhaps you're like me though, and just pick and choose.

That said, as a kid I had a veritable fleet of Batmobiles.

Diabolu Frank said...

If my desk area wasn't such a mess, I'd consider it. I've got framed MM commissions flanking a window. The DC Direct MM bust, the custom B'rett action figure, the DC Direct pewter figurine, the boxed Eaglemoss lead figurine, the 9" JLA figure, and the tiny Super Powers era pewter miniature line shelves to my left. My New Frontier figure must have fallen over somewhere. Further over, atop IKEA DVD shelves, are the packaged First Appearances Coneheadhunter, the Alex Ross "invisible" Justice figure, the '98 Kaybee Toys JLA figure, and the 13" Manhunter.

Tom Hartley said...

I imagine Frank keeping all of his Alien Atlas memorabilia in a secret locked room, just like Ned Flanders' Beatles collection.