As the year winds down I should give yet another shout-out to my pal Seth for bringing these guys up in conversation on a regular basis. If you like these reviews, thank/blame him. I always do!
Since his debut in arguably 1988, Venom was something of a weird stroke of brilliance. In the old Spider-Man comics, Peter Parker gets a new black suit, but it's really an alien that's making him evil, so he rings a bell and gets rid of it, but it gloms on to this other guy Eddie Brock, and now you get a new villain. Or antihero. Or a new t-shirt logo to sell nerds at conventions. Whatever it is, Venom missed the 1980s Marvel cartoons but popped up in the 1990s and starred in video games, movies, and other projects. Toy Biz even made a talking Venom figure that said "I want to eat your brain!" that you (or, let's be honest, your dad) probably played with at Kay-Bee Toys a million years ago. There was no Venom figure in the 1980s - so Hasbro made one up following the pattern of its other bulky Kenner Marvel guys from the 2020s.
He's good, I recommend him, particularly since the price seems to dip below $10 online. Totally worth it.
Hasbro did a good job here. The figure looks like they took the old Todd McFarlane art and crammed it in a Kenner fun factory, resulting in something that looks a little less puffy but just as strong, complete with a big giant toothy grin in a different shade of white. (That's very un-Kenner, they'd give you one shade.) The teeth actually remind me a lot of the Isz from The Maxx, but it could just be the transition to the third dimension that did it - they're kind of nasty and mean-looking, with big white eyes that look a little bit like an alien and also a lot like an orca. With a big giant white spider logo, Venom looks like a pastiche of things kids would recognize as being nasty, evil killers during the time the comics industry really started to pivot away from that sort of thing. Venom looks almost preposterously strong, but that's the idea.
Like The Thing, he's got two big hands that can grip accessories or the limbs of other figures. His joints are sturdy and he's got a great center of gravity. He's cleaner, before he got the giant tongue and huge mouth and generally goopier demeanor. Venom was a product of the 1980s that absolutely grew into the gross-out exaggerated aesthetic of the later 1980s and 1990s, so I really appreciate that Hasbro's "Kenner" Venom reels all of that in and gives us something that's very specifically not in the later style.
At a hair under 4 1/4-inches tall, he's a big figure. He's wide, he's tall, and he's painted on both sides with added detail on the back of his hands. The white paint is by no means perfect. Older fans may recall a lot of 1980s action figures where you have a dark plastic figure with bright or at least light paint over it that was so thin, you'd see the plastic poking through it. There's a tiny bit of that happening here - the white needed to be applied a little thicker, and given the figure's price, should have been. You're paying $10-$12 for a figure with no paint and no accessories - this figure probably could have been brought in under $8 with no problems. As an early version of the character, without the baggage and increasingly silly-sounding backstories and side-symbiotes, it's real easy to want a simpler figure from a simpler comic continuity. I haven't read the Knull comics, but everything I hear sounds very silly.
Having said that? I like the figure. The packaging is beautiful. The figure itself is charming, chunky, and sturdy. He stands, he sits, and despite his general wideness he'll still fit inside a bunch of old Kenner Star Wars vehicles without too much of a fight. While the sculpt on the teeth is arguably too good for the 1980s, everything else about him is "cheap" enough to look like he came from the dawn of MTV. If you are interested in this style of action figure, you owe it to yourself to buy this figure. Clearly Hasbro had a lot more fun with the likes of the big guys - Venom, Thor, The Thing, Hulk and their ilk all look and feel amazing. Get 'em if the price is right. And if you see them on clearance, buy two. They're that good.
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