And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... Black Cat (Spider-Man) by: Wes

A lot of heroes have sexy, cat-themed villainesses in their rogues galleries. Batman has Catwoman. Wonder Woman has Cheetah. She-Ra has Catra. Wolverine has... Sabretooth well, one's not coming to mind, but I'm sure Wolvie faced off against some mutant cat lady at some point. (Dude's fought pretty much everyone in Welcome to Spider-Man's undersea adventure!the Marvel universe, after all...) And Spider-Man has the subject of this action figure review: Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat. From the cardback:

As a friend to SPIDER-MAN, and one of the premier private detectives on Earth, BLACK CAT gets plenty of chances to use her catlike martial arts and gymnastics abilities in the fight against crime. She learned her skills as one of the best burglars in the business, and uses what she learned then to stop bad guys now. She's one of the closest friends SPIDER-MAN has out on the streets. If the web slinger ever needs help, he can count on the BLACK CAT for a team up!

While admittedly I don't remember too much about the Black Cat from my childhood, that sounds about right... even though it leaves out the romantic stuff (much like Catwoman and Batman, Black Cat and Spidey made with the smoochies from time to time). See, as a night-prowlin' jewel thief, Felicia was technically bad at first, but not so bad that Spidey was repulsed by the thought of making out with her and/or letting her go free after a successful team-up against a bigger bad. Like most characters of her ilk, she flops back and forth between good and evil for reasons cribbed from soap operas, but Black Cat's generally regarded as a soft force for good... so yeah, feel free to ignore the opening bit about cat-themed villainesses. Black Cat's recent appearances on "The Spectacular Spider-Man" were pretty cool, too.

Anyway, we're here to talk about the toy! Hasbro released this figure in 2007 as part of a 5" "classics" line that followed on the heels of Spider-Man 3. However, unlike most such Spidey lines -- which take their cues from the comic books -- this one followed the movie aesthetic and reimagined the characters in a more "realistic" style. For some characters, this meant appearing in their Ultimate costumes; for others, it meant significant costume overhauls; and for others it meant almost no changes at all. Black Cat falls somewhere in between the latter two categories, though of course her design still borrows heavily from the comic version. When you're dealing with a character as hawt as Felicia Hardy, it's best not to muck with things too much.

Oh, about the packaging. I like that the image of Spider-Man is a sticker (if I were still in grade school, it would so be on the front of my Trapper Keeper), but it's far too large for the figure inside -- that space at the bottom is totally wasted -- and seems way too blue for a Spider-Man line. Namor, however, would be impressed.

Sculpt: 9.0 out of 10

Let's not mince words: Black Cat is among the sexiest comic-based figures I own. She's got that perfect action girl body, complete with a plunging v-neck that shows off her lovely breasts. What's not to love? I particularly like the way her left leg looks. I'm not sure if it's warped or not, but -- since it reminds me of the leg curvature comic artists employ to convey sassiness and confidence in female characters -- it imbues Marvel's favorite fetching feline filcher with a welcome touch of "I'm too sexy for the law" personality. Her determined face is also quite pretty, and the hair, with its bangs in front, various and varied indententations that give the illusion of a mass of strands, and flowing ponytail in back, is dynamically sculpted and looks natural enough (assuming the presence of a strong breeze). And although Felicia only stands 4.75", her costume's got all sorts of seams and stitching and even a belt that -- while you probably wouldn't miss them if they weren't there, especially since the comic Black Cat wore what appeared to be plain black spandex -- add to the "realism" of the figure and help to mark this figure as a movie-style incarnation of the character.

Lookin' good, baby.Lookin' *real* good.Okay, that's a little weird.

But as great as it is, the sculpt isn't perfect. The hips look a bit awkward and the crotch is a little wide, though these are perhaps necessary evils required to support the leg articulation. There are a few seams showing here and there, particularly near the neck and shoulders. And like many female figures (particularly DC Direct ones), Felicia appears to be thrusting her chest out when viewed from the side -- such that her head seems much too far back, her back arches sharply, and her tight little backside doesn't extent back as far as her... back. (Wow, that sentence got "back"!) You can attempt to correct for it by leaning her forward a bit, but then she just looks like she's suffering from painful cramps. In short, the toy has the odd female spinal curvature that appears in many comic artists' work. It doesn't necessarily look bad, and when viewed from certain angles it's negligible or even kinda hot, but it can often look pretty strange and unnatural.

One of these Black Cats could care less about PETA's anti-fur campaign.Looking at this image brings a Devo song to mind...

Finally -- while it's not really a problem with the sculpt -- it's worth noting that this figure arguably seems more like an incarnation of DC's Catwoman than Marvel's Black Cat. Granted, the two characters are very similar (at least superficially, with respect to their modi operandi, and in light of their playful and flirtatious friend-or-foe interactions with their primary heroes), but Miss Hardy's huge mane of white hair and fluffs of white fur on different areas of her outfit always helped to distinguish her from Miss Kyle in a visual sense. Those costume elements are absent here, with the hair in a ponytail and the furry bits replaced by a slim collar at the neck and bands at the tops of the gloves and boots. Sure, it makes sense that a movie-style Felicia would have her hair styled more practically and dress less like, well, a comic book character... but the more realistic getup also detracts from her Black Cattiness. She's still damned sexy, though.

Plastic & Paint: 8.0 out of 10

Black Cat will take your dignity, but I doubt you'll protest too much...Every sexy photo shoot should have the model leaning against a cougar.

As expected, Black Cat is mostly black. Her body is cast in black plastic that's either naturally glossy or sports a glossy finish, and in either case it looks great. The few painted elements on the costume -- the bands around the wrists and boot tops and a collar at the neckline -- look good enough as well, though the edges are sometimes a bit fuzzy and don't perfectly align with the indentations on the sculpt. My biggest issue with them, however, is that they're a fairly obvious grey (as opposed to the hair, which is also grey but seems more like a muted white). I'm not sure if it's intentional or if it's just the black plastic beneath showing through due to poor coverage, but white or a brighter grey would have been more appropriate for the character.

The paint from the cleavage up is fairly good, though again not perfect. The flesh-colored paint overlaps the sculpted edge of the costume just a tiny bit at the V, but the flesh tone used on the exposed skin is a decent match for the flesh-colored plastic of the face. Unfortunately, the paint radically fails to mask the black seam where the two halves of the torso were glued together (particularly on the left side), and the black collar around Felicia's neck is sloppily painted. I'm in love with her face, though. Sometimes less is more, and the only paint there graces her full lips, her fairly cartoonish but fetching green eyes, and her impressively clean black mask. And then there's the light grey hair, which is a good choice, I think, as it looks white while avoiding the more "toyish" appearance that might've resulted from gleaming white paint. Aside from some overlap on the tops and backs of the ears, it's painted well. In short, Black Cat sports about the same quality of paint that you find with G.I. Joes -- which isn't surprising given that she's a relatively small Hasbro figure.

Articulation: 7.0 out of 10

Only 13 points of articulation? SERIOUSLY?!

Looks pretty uncluttered compared to most of our other articulation layout images, doesn't it? Yes, Black Cat's comparatively lacking in the articulation department, with absolutely no arm joints below the shoulders -- no bicep swivels, elbow hinges, wrist swivels... nada -- no waist joint, and nothing below the hips except the double knees. I assume this was done to preserve the sculpt and avoid potential breakage issues, as her limbs are quite thin, but then again Hasbro manages to include a whole lot more articulation on its Joe females and they're even smaller than Felicia here. And while I could accept the absence of many of these joints, the lack of elbow hinges in particular really limit Black Cat's ability to look natural in various poses.

Whips are great supports when doing the squats!This would've been SO much less time consuming with the aid of a base.

That said, I can't bring myself to score her lower than a 7.0 because she remains quite poseable even without the aforementioned joints. The ball-jointed neck works great, allowing for a lot of expressive tilt and a good angled look -- Felicia can't really look down or straight up, but if you set her down on your desk you'll have no problem meeting her tiny green gaze. The hips have great range as well, and I love how the double-hinged knees enable the figure to get into some fairly fetching ground poses (see the photo a ways below). And while Black Cat's tiny feet and lack of additional leg articulation can make it difficult for her to maintain her stance in more dynamic poses, the whip is hard enough that one can use it to help keep her upright. A base would have been useful in this respect as well, but unfortunately she doesn't come with one. In fact, since Felicia doesn't have holes in her feet, one can't even use another base with her without doing a bit of dremeling. Doh!

Accessories: 7.0 out of 10

Black Cat comes with two accessories. The first is her trusty whip, which she can hold in her right hand (the left is sculpted in an open position). It's basically made out of the same kind of plastic as those cheap spider rings you can get around Halloween time -- it's solid enough that it holds its sculpted position but remains pliant enough that it won't break if you move it around. It will, however, always return to its original position. Anyway, the whip is an appropriate accessory and works well enough, and I like that it's molded in this dynamic, partly spiraling, half-cracked sort of "pose" rather than a limp curve or being made out of rubber (a la Catwoman's whip above, which is incapable of holding any particular pose). I do wish it looked a bit smoother -- as it is, the whip kind of looks like a twisty tie that had been used more than a few times before being manipulated into its current position -- but it's still not bad.

Well, that was anticlimactic.

And then there's Black Cat's pet cougar. Did she even have a cougar in the comics? I don't remember Felicia ever working with animals... or using a whip for that matter... but there you go. The cougar is about one part cool and one part suck. Cool because he's a fairly decent-looking toy cougar and is roughly as big as Black Cat herself. The back of the package describes him as being "super detailed," and, while I'm not sure I'd go that far, it's entirely possible that he would seem that way with a black wash -- there are definitely enough sculpted pits and grooves on the animal to give the impression of detail (kind of like how furry animals are rendered in claymation), and his collar even has some tiny spikes. The few touches of paint on his face and collar are done fairly well, too -- his collar is painted more cleanly than Felicia's, for what it's worth, though his is admittedly larger. And the cougar's ball-jointed neck and swivel tail also give him a touch of poseability, which is more than we can say about most animal sidekick pack-ins.

The suck comes in with his "leaping attack." See, he would have even more articulation -- swivels at the top of each leg -- except they're connected to some internal springs that cause him to pop up when you push him down flat. But since there's not enough follow-through on the legs to actually propel him forward, all the cougar ends up doing is springing to his feet. It's pretty useless and adds almost no play value to the toy, though I guess a kid could have him bash an opponent with his tiny limbs. At any rate, even with the craptacular action feature, Black Cat's "leaping" cougar is among the best animal friend accessories I've seen in a while.

Fun Factor: 8.5 out of 10

A sexy girl with perfect breasts and long, limber legs is the very definition of fun. Add in a whip and a skintight vinyl outfit and... oh, why couldn't I be 4.75" tall?! Anyway, yes, Black Cat is a very fun toy, though perhaps more for an adult than for a child. I mean, look at that pose in the right photo below! Fun. And then there's the cougar, which can be wicked fun despite its weak action feature. After all, it doesn't have to be able to leap for you to imagine it mauling the heck out of your Marvel Universe figures!

Mummy companion or giant Cobra thief?"You know you want me, baby."

That said, the fun to be had with Black Cat is diminished a bit because she's out of scale with most figure lines today. She's ostensibly in a 5" scale, and the reason I got her -- the main reason I cherry pick most 5" lines today -- was so that she could pal around with my Doctor Who figures. Unfortunately, Black Cat is noticeably smaller than them with respect to both height and proportions (see the photos below). She's also smaller than the 5" The Dark Knight Batman figures and the Power Rangers. And while female figures are usually smaller than males in a given line, poor Felicia is even dwarfed by the RPM Yellow Ranger and Rose Tyler. Really, besides (presumably) the other 5" Spider-Man figures, Miss Hardy seems to go best with toys from older lines -- she looks great next to Mummies Alive! Ja-Kal and Rath, and she'll fit into an old ToyBiz Spider-Man collection... though she'll look way better than her shelfmates. (Which, as seen in the comic towards the end of the review, will result in most of the other figures wanting her hot body.) Heck, considering that the size of her head, hands, and feet are fairly close to that of a G.I. Joe or other 3.75" figure, you could theoretically place her alongside them. I'm sure Cobra isn't above employing Amazonian dominatrices...

Value: 10 out of 10

Black Cat's shorter than Batman and the Doctor......and most other 5" figures today.

I'm not exactly sure how much Black Cat originally retailed for -- I'm guessing $8.99, since that's what other figures in the movie-themed 5" line went for -- but I got her for just $3 at Marshalls. Considering that Hasbro's 3.75" figures cost between $7 and $9 in stores these days (and even more online), that's a fantastic price for a 4.75" figure with above average articulation, decent accessories, and what's arguably the sexiest Black Cat sculpt yet (she certainly owns the Legends version)! Yet while you'll probably find Black Cat on clearance if you encounter her in an actual store, prices are online are more in the $10-15 range. I'd pass at that price, but if you don't think Marvel Universe figures are prohibitively expensive you'll probably find her to be an average value -- maybe 6 or 7 out of 10. At $5 or less, however, Felicia easily gets a perfect score.

Overall: 9.0 out of 10

Peter Parker always puts hos before bros.

Admittedly, a lot of this final score has to do with the price -- with the lacking articulation on the arms, I'd have a hard time scoring Black Cat this high at $8.99 or more. That said, her merits -- a super sexy sculpt, decent paint, acceptable articulation, and fun (if questionable... seriously, when did Black Cat ever use a whip or pal around with a pet cougar during her heists?!) accessories -- more than outweigh a few missing joints. As far as I'm concerned, her biggest flaw is her size. I mean, I like Felicia quite a bit as is, but I'd positively love her if she were large enough to stand alongside Doctor Who figures or serve as a Power Rangers villain... to say nothing of fitting with the 6" Marvel Legends. If you can find her at a decent price and don't mind the scale incompatibility with other lines, however, Black Cat will make a pretty cool hawt addition to your collection.

Black Cat
Spider-Man (Movie Classics)
This figure is hawt. Seriously.
Plastic & Paint:8.0
Fun Factor:8.5

-- Wes --

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