Daredevil in plastic – an action figure history of the Man Without Fear
It’s a great time to be a Daredevil fan.
Fresh off a thrilling NYCC that showed off footage of the new Netflix series that’s already
garnering impressive praise, Daredevil is poised to become a household name in a way that he hasn’t
been since Ben Affleck donned a leather cat suit and stood in the rain. To say I’m excited about
the upcoming Netflix series would be a massive understatement…after all, we’re about to get as
much (if not more) Daredevil media content than the entire Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
combined! How is this even possible?!
Now for Daredevil fans who also love action figures, it’s been a weird and bumpy road for our
favorite hero. Surprisingly, he’s been pretty well represented in plastic form throughout time,
and it’s interesting to look back at the long and rambling history of the Man Without Fear.
1 – Secret Wars
For a Marvel Comics fan in the 80s, the Secret Wars toyline was where it was at. Sure, every
figure was built on the same basic (horribly articulated) buck, but there was a simplistic charm to
these figures, and Daredevil was no different.
2 – Toy Biz Marvel Super Heroes
Little would comic fans know in 1990 just how much Toy Biz was poised to change the action figure
landscape. Sure, they weren’t Marvel Legends, but in 1990, Toy Biz launched their pivotal “Marvel
Super Heroes” line and Daredevil was part of the first wave. Again, he had pretty bad
articulation, and the sculpting looks dated now, but back in 1990, when Secret Wars was all we had
to go on, this was a pretty impressive step forward. This figure was even repainted a few
assortments later into the 90’s “Armored” Daredevil version.
3 – Spider-Man Classics
Long considered one of the best Daredevil representations action figures have seen, the second
series of Spider-Man Classics (a line that would later be re-invented as everyone’s favorite,
Marvel Legends) featured a Joe Quesada themed version of Daredevil that represented the character
in high articulation and modern sculpting aesthetics. He also came with a terrific wall-mountable
display base, billy clubs, and trademark scowl.
4 – Famous Covers
I love this figure (and the entire Famous Covers series, for what its worth) simply because of the
crazy vintage aesthetic, and the terrific articulation. Very much “Mego” in spirit, the Famous
Covers line featured some great looks at classic Marvel characters, including Daredevil in Series
3. From the open-mouthed snarl to the big red oven mits, this figure is awesome in its own way.
Hasbro would sort of recreate this theme with their “Spider Man Origins” line a few years later,
but it lacked that old school charm that made Famous Covers so intriguing back in the day.
5 – Spider-Man: Web Force
In that strange “middle time” between Toy Biz Marvel Super Heroes and the full-blown Spider-Man
Classics/Marvel Legends there was the Spider-Man: Web Force toyline that brought us a brand new
Daredevil figure as well. You can see from the looks of the figure that Toy Biz was already
starting to experiment with increased articulation, using ball joints in the shoulders and hips.
While the “Tank Attack” feature was a bit silly, thankfully the figure inside could be utilized
6 – Marvel Legends
Yes! Finally! Daredevil comes to Marvel Legends!
Except… it’s the Ben Affleck leather catsuit version… waah.
By its third series, Marvel Legends was already making big waves with collectors, and Daredevil
made an appearance in that series, but unfortunately it was at the time of the film’s release and
instead of a true comic version, we got the movie version. But as far as movie figures go, it
still has terrific detail work and great articulation.
But even if collectors were upset about the Marvel Legends Daredevil featuring the movie version,
they wouldn’t have to be upset for long, as Daredevil would become a staple throughout the Legends
line going forward.
7 – Marvel Icons
Using a lot of the Marvel Legends aesthetic, Toy Biz released a series of 12″ figures under the
“Marvel Icons” banner, and Daredevil (both in red and his original yellow/black) was one of the
showcases there. He even made an appearance in the Marvel Studios 12″ line a few years before this
(again, with his film appearance as an inspiration).
8 – Super Hero Showdown
As a collector who had always followed the 1:18/3.75″ scale, the Super Hero Showdown line from Toy
Biz was a dream come true. Finally, for the first time ever, I could have highly articulated
Marvel Comics characters interacting with my G.I. Joe universe! It was amazing. I find it so
incredible that here, almost a decade later, everyone seems to take that for granted. Back in the
early part of this century, a 4″ highly articulated Daredevil was an awesome and incredible
novelty. In fact, the only way Toy Biz was able to market and sell this line at first was by
including a funky card battle game with it.
Now here we stand several years later and we’ve got a plethora of great 4″ Daredevil figures to
Heck, as you can see above, it was even just announced at New York Comic-Con that the infamous 90s era Armored Daredevil figure would be featured in an upcoming 4″ Hasbro toy line!
9 – Marvel Select
As an odd companion to the Marvel Legends line, the Diamond produced Marvel Select line features
figures just a little bit larger than Legends, and with their own unique aesthetics. Daredevil
appeared in this line as well, and is a pretty fantastic representation of how action figure design
has evolved over the years.
In fact, looking back throughout this list, it’s amazing to look at stuff like Secret Wars and the
Marvel Infinite line and then see what the current Marvel Legends offerings are. The way sculpting,
design, and production has grown over thirty years is really pretty amazing.
Believe it or not, I started this article along the perspective of how Daredevil fans might be
short-changed on the action figure front, but wow I found out quickly that this is not the case.
There have been a number of great Daredevil figures over the years from different eras and in
different formats, and I think that’s pretty fantastic. With the Netflix series now on the horizon
(and with Sideshow Collectibles now actively marketing Marvel themed 12″ action figures) one has to
wonder what else is to come next year.