Welcome back to Consigned, Cool, & Collected, where we look at the history behind the cool stuff we sell here at Back to the Past. Everybody knows that Marvel is owned today by Disney and have, as such, positioned themselves as the kings of the summer blockbuster and streaming TV. In the 1990s, however, they were owned by a toy company and a king of the action figure aisle.
Getting Into The Toy Bizness
Toy Biz was founded in 1988 by Canadian conglomerate Charan Industries. The following year, 1989, saw the company enter the superhero business. Just in time for the release of the Batman movie, Toy Biz picked up the license dropped by rival Kenner and released toys to tie-in with the film as well as a DC Comics Super Heroes line. Both ended production in 1990, right about the time Toy Biz entered a partnership with Marvel. 1990 also saw the company purchased by billionaire Ike Perlmutter, who would remain a key player through the Marvel era.
1991 saw Toy Biz launch the Marvel Super Heroes toyline, which would release three waves before being canceled in favor of focusing on more narrowly targeted lines. The first such line was 1991’s X-Men, which was followed in 1992 by a sister line based on the brand new blockbuster comic series X-Force. They would drop the DC Comics license around the same time, effectively sending it back to Kenner.
A Marvelous Era
1993 would see the relationship between Toy Biz and Marvel get even closer. Marvel sold Toy Biz a perpetual and royalty free license to make toys based on their comics and other media tie-ins (as well as a seat on the board of directors for Perlmutter) in exchange for 46% of Toy Biz’s stock. While the company would produce action figures based on Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,and various video game properties after this, most of their production was geared at creating toys of Marvel characters.
Toy Biz even weathered Marvel’s 1996 bankruptcy quite well, producing Marvel toys without missing a beat and actually merging with their partner in 1998 to bail them out. The new company was named Marvel Enterprises, and maintained the Toy Biz brand as their toy label. Ike Perlmutter was now effectively in control of the company, having pushed any rivals off the Board of Directors. It was around this time that Toy Biz picked up the license to make toys based on The Lord of the Rings, their last major non-Marvel series.
The End of an Era
The mid-00s saw Marvel develop designs on independent film production, which lead to Toy Biz (now called “Marvel Toys”, but only when producing non-Marvel toys for some reason) being placed on the back burner. It was effectively killed when Marvel signed a licensing agreement with Hasbro to produce Marvel toys in 2006, leading to its complete shuttering in 2007.
Perlmutter became CEO of Marvel Entertainment in 2005 and remained in the position even after the company’s sale to Disney in 2009. Marvel Studios, the company’s film production branch, was removed from his control in 2015 after highly publicized clashes between the micro-managing Perlmutter and the Studios’ head producer Kevin Feige. Particularly, Perlmutter opposed expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include characters like Quicksilver & The Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel, reasoning that they wouldn’t make for good merchandise licensing opportunities. Perlmutter was removed from the company entirely in 2019, being replaced as CEO by Feige after the films Perlmutter had opposed proved to be major successes. The Toy Biz era at Marvel was officially over, and, frankly, we couldn’t be happier to have seen Perlmutter relegated to the trash bin of Marvel history.
Toy Biz was effectively Marvel Toys long before it was rebranded with that name, and its huge array of Marvel Comics character toys were many millennials’ introduction to the world of Marvel. The toys from that era are poseable pieces of comics history, and more than worthy of being Consigned, Cool, & Collected.