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Spider-Man Action Figure as an Artists Reference - Who Knew?

Updated on May 18, 2011

I've been looking for an artist's manikin - a small model of a human figure that I can twist into realistic and varied positions in order to use it as a reference for drawing realistic poses. At first, I was excited to find a wooden manikin with over 30 points of articulation called the Art S. Buck anatomical manikin on sale at Dick Blick (for whom I am an affiliate.) I had never ordered from them before, so I placed an order - but I ended up not buying the wooden manikin, but a Spider Man action figure on eBay instead! What brought me to this pass?

Desperate for A Fully Articulated Artist's Model

I needed an artist's model in the first place because I am trying to illustrate a children's book I wrote. Although I could not find a manikin that is proportioned with a child's measurements, I figured I could make do: I'd squish a grown-up-proportioned manikin a bit at the neck, bulge it out in various places, that kind of thing. The important thing was to get the proportions in common poses.

But the problem was that I wanted the model to be able to look up - tilt the jaw up at the neck - so I could get an idea of the line of the jaw, nose, ears, etc, which have very wonky proportions in this position. I also wanted a crouched down position with the knees angled up. Both these positions are common to kids.

No manikin I found, even the Art S. Buck anatomical manikins (one male, one female), which seemed to have the most points of articulation of any non-life-size articulated artist's model (there are life size ones that are hundreds of dollars, not in my price range), could assume those positions. At best, the neck just swiveled and the crouch was not low enough. In many situations, this wouldn't be a problem. But I wanted realistic, active looking illustrations with these poses. So I kept looking elsewhere.

Spider-Man to the Rescue

In searching for articulated artist's manikins, what I found, to my amazement, was a 2004 Toy Biz action figure of the Marvel Comics character, Spider-Man. It's 18 inches high and sports an unbelievable - and, I believe, unmatchable in any commercially available figurine - 67 points of articulation. That's 67 places where the joints and body parts move in realistic ways. Even Spider-Man's fingers move! As if to reinforce the feasibility of my crazy idea, on, I found this figure with reviews by artists who happily used this very Spider-Man as a reference.

I also found that the action figure was, unfortunately, no longer being produced (I believe Toy Biz is no more). I should not have been surprised that the figure is collectible now - very collectible. As in, pricey. So I went to eBay and bought my "manikin" for $60. Still too much to pay for a toy, or even a superhero manikin in a distracting red suit, but much better than prices I'd seen elsewhere.

So now I'm waiting for it to arrive. Waiting eagerly. Will it solve all my problems? I suspect not all of them. From my research, I know already about some of the cons of using Spider-Man as an artist's manikin:

  • The figure might not be very easily posed because the joints are either too tight or too loose, and because of its weight.
  • I know the neck moves in three different ways, but I'm not sure the head will tilt up.
  • I don't know yet if Spidey can be crouched down fully - that's the problem with all those bulgy muscles!
  • I'm also forced to get a smaller, more manageable Spider-Man action figure for my young child, who is 100% certain to want to appropriate my artist's model when he sees it.
  • The toy is new, sealed in the box, never been used. Alas, I plan to rip Spider-Man right out of its collectible packaging the minute I get him. Seems a shame. But then again, I wouldn't have bought him to collect. These things are too cool not to use!

But even with all the negatives, I cannot argue with 67 articulating points. If that's not fully articulated, I don't know what is. I'm excited and can't wait to get this figure. I will report back here when I get it.

Pictures of the 18" Super Poseable Amazing Spider Man

The super poseable Spider Man action figure is kneeling here.  Look at the toes...they bend.
The super poseable Spider Man action figure is kneeling here. Look at the toes...they bend.
Spider Man looks like he's giving a lecture here.
Spider Man looks like he's giving a lecture here.
His fingers move really well in multiple joints.  They just don't spread apart, which is true of actual wooden articulated model hands made for artists.
His fingers move really well in multiple joints. They just don't spread apart, which is true of actual wooden articulated model hands made for artists.
This one is to show Spider-Man looking up.  That's about as high as his head will go.  It's better than any other model that I know of.
This one is to show Spider-Man looking up. That's about as high as his head will go. It's better than any other model that I know of.
Spidey is real relaxed here...
Spidey is real relaxed here...

Update: Got Him

I didn't expect to get the figure the very day I wrote this article, but - woohoo - he came!

He's even better than I expected. The moment he was out of the package, which I picked apart carefully with some vague idea of re-selling the packaging, at least (my thinking was, surely that's collectible, too!), my husband grabbed the figure and began yanking it into different contortions.

Now, my husband's a strong guy, but he had a hard time moving the joints. I was later to be glad he was the first one to test all the joints - he softened them up for me!

Tight at first, the poseable Spidey's joints became easier to move over the course of the day. And yes, my child is besotted with it, but pacified for the moment with the working web shooter that came with the figure.

But the question of the day is, will he work for the purposes of an artist's manikin? Oh, yes. His head tilts up - not very far, but enough for my purposes.

Unfortunately, Spider-Man does not crouch down with his knees to his chest as I'd hoped. And I can't seem to get him to cross his arms over his chest or sit fully tailor style, with his legs crossed, or bend to touch his toes with legs straight. But he can move in a LOT of natural ways, as you can see from the photos.

He only stands independently on the floor in certain balanced poses - not, for instance, in mid-stride, which only makes sense. One of the advantages of a real art manikin is that they come with stands. I can live with this, though.

I expect that some poses will be harder to maintain over time as the joints loosen up - but that's what tape is for, right?

His proportions are, of course, those of a superhero. Neck abnormally long, ultra long legs, and more more musculature than a normal guy. But we're not talking the Hulk, here.

All in all, I'm thrilled and can't wait to start making sketches. The only problem is, I get a little too distracted putting the figure into poses. It's fun. Plus, I have to admit I've always been a secret Spidey fan. I love geeks; what can I say?

Here the action figure is kneeling as though he were looking for his contact lenses.
Here the action figure is kneeling as though he were looking for his contact lenses.
Another pointing Spider-Man...
Another pointing Spider-Man...
A slightly cleaner shot of the model's hand.
A slightly cleaner shot of the model's hand.

Art S Buck Anatomical Manikin for Artists

Amazing Spider-Man Action Figure on


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    • lcbenefield profile image


      8 years ago from Georgia

      I enjoyed reading this hub. The pictures are great. I can't wait to see some of the illustrations you create using Spidey for your model.


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