The Eleven Greatest Black Action Figures of All Time

By Luke Y. Thompson in Daily Lists, Toys
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 6:00 am

4. Spawn X (McFarlane)

Spawn X.jpg

When Spawn mentioned in one of the earliest comics that he was a black man, it was a deft example of prejudice challenging - most of us, most likely, had assumed this masked antihero was as white as so many others underneath, and had no idea until he spoke up why he was upset at reconstituting his "hamburger head" face into a blonde surf-dude. Still, while Spawn may have been made into more different figures than any other African-American character in fiction, it's a stretch to say anything about his skin color when he usually doesn't have any skin. For The Adventures of Spawn, however, McFarlane Toys reimagined the character as he might look like in a Saturday morning cartoon, complete with handsome human face that leaves his race in no doubt.

And no, the X isn't a racial thing; this was merely the tenth different version of Spawn in his primary costume.

3. 200X Zodak (Mattel)

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He-Man.org

This, folks, is why we don't always use the term "African-American" - the continents of Africa and America do not exist on Eternia. Racial switcheroos on characters can be a point of controversy - Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin was not a choice that pleased hardcore fans, though it's likely that kids today think of Nick Fury as being Samuel L. Jackson rather than David Hasselhoff, which is as it should be. But nobody really minded when Mattel took the most confusing Masters of the Universe character from the original toy line and gave him both a pigment change and an interesting backstory. Previously, he had been sold as a bad guy but presented as neutral-to-good in the cartoons and tie-in books; the 2002 cartoon made him a wounded hero with a vendetta against snakes and some badass tattoos and weapons; a significant, major character, whereas the only black figure in the vintage line, Clamp Champ, was fairly obvious tokenism. When the Classics toy line revived Masters of the Universe, the disappointment was palpable that they came out with lame, white Zodac first, versus the awesome black version (who did show up eventually, being an easy repaint and all).

Want to be a truly nerdy stand-up comedian? Start honing your "White Zodac does this, but black Zodak does THIS!" routine.

2. Lando Calrissian in Skiff Guard Disguise (Kenner)

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While waiting for this figure to come out, I wondered how they'd make him. Would he be helmeted, as he was in Jabba's palace, or unhelmeted and recognizable as the Lando we all knew? This was a big deal, since he was my favorite Rebel at that point - moral ambiguity was always more interesting to me. Anyway, when the toy finally showed up, and it had a removable helmet, mind was blown. This was a totally new gimmick in 3-3/4 scaled figures, and it hadn't occurred to me that one figure could incorporate both looks. Plus the ultra-cool skiff pike weapon beat the hell out of the three or four generic guns that came with most other figures - I cried and cried when a friend's dog jumped up on my lap and broke the darn thing.

1. Blade (Toy Biz)

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eBay

The very same character who proved that Marvel movies could be good was also the one who proved that Marvel movie toys could be amazing. Featuring more articulation than most toys had then and now, he came with a flamethrower weapon and gun that could be holstered around his waist, plus a boomerang, spring-action crossbow, sword, and removable sunglasses that looked good both on and off the dead-on Wesley Snipes likeness. All of which could hide underneath his soft removable trenchcoat. Regarded by many as one of the greatest figures ever, he still fetches a decent price among collectors. It's too bad Snipes himself didn't stockpile a few to get out of his tax troubles.

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