Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Marx's Curiously Passive United States Marines

Considering the Rising Sun butt they kicked all across the Pacific Theater - and the losses they absorbed in the process - the U.S. Marines, as sculpted by Marx, are a weirdly Quaker-like set of fighting men. In terms of pure combat poses, Marx's Marines are as tepid as Marx's Germans. We have scads of running men, squatters and beach combers, but little in the way of trigger pullers.

On the left, we've got 'Radio Guy with .45." Top center: "Kneeling Guy Waiting for Developments, Be They Hot Chow or An Enemy Attack.' Bottom: "Prone Guy Observing/Trying Not to Get Shot." It would have been so cool if the radio operator's gun arm had been sculpted into a "Firing Straight Ahead' position. Thus positioned, he would have been the go-to guy in the sandbox crater when a squad of banzai zanies spilled over its lip in search of Yankee blood.

"The Running Men: Part One:" A pair of Leathernecks - an enlisted man (L) and his Colt-clenching company commander - dash across the beach. These gallant lads are clearly game for any kind of brawl, but have been relegated to "Let's get the blue hay off this beach!" postures. They're engagingly animated, as are many in this particular Marx offering. But neither are capable of putting a new hole in Tojo's samurai. Optimally, the officer is about to slap a Spock suppression hold on Marx's "Japanese Guy Attacking With Knife Raised Over His Head" figure, before bringing up the Model '11 to perform the aforementioned ventilation process.
"The Running Men: Part Two:" As the son of a Korean War combat vet/machine gunner (45th Division, 180th Infantry, First Battalion), I am admittedly partial to this air-cooled Browning MG team. They've got flair, grit and the martial goods to dish out a heaping serving of piping hot, .30 caliber lead to anyone foolish enough to get in front of them. The problem, once again, is that they're not open for business. Like their mates from "The Running Men: Part One," this pair is simply sprinting. They are moving targets, which any lashed-to-a-palm-tree Jap sniper could easily take down. God, how I loathe those palm tree marksmen! A Pacific plague, by gar. Nonetheless, the four running men create a dramatic scene when posed together hurtling off the BMC Higgins landing craft. I should probably take a photograph of that very vignette. Stay tuned.
Another view of the MG team. The sculpting IS excellent, particularly on the guy running with the Browning. He's emotionally and physically harassed - but determined to get his burdensome weapon set up and chattering. The detail and scale of the ammo box is also nice.
All four "Running Men" figures dash from the maw of a BMC Higgins boat and onto a bullet-lashed, mortar-pulverised tropical beach. BMC tormented us with a legion of feeble figures, but its accessories are often first-rate. As a kid, I would have certainly packed this particular vessel and taken it on vacation. It would have looked magnificant pulled up on the shore of Lake Chetek (Wisconsin) or one of the Ozarks lakes my family frequented in my youth - to disgorge a platoon of brave G.I.s or Marines onto the battlefield while my brother and I tossed firecrackers and smoke bombs in their midst to simulate the sound, smells and sights of martial struggle.
An expanded vignette: In the foreground, a Higgins purges its all-Marx company of fighting men and equipment onto the builder's beige beach, whilst from a sister boat, a combined kommando of Classic Toy Soldiers and Toy Soldiers of San Diego fighters storms into the ominous jungle.
 "Afraid of Water Officer/Higgins Pilot Guy" and "Firing M1 Garand from the Hip Guy": On the left, clutching either an over-sized .45 or a flare gun in his tiny, green hand, we see one of Marx's odder creations. I remain undecided about his intended role in the sandbox wars of olde. Is he a sailor or a Marine combat commander who can't swim? The presence of the pistol would seem to indicate that the individual is a non-swimming officer of some type who has disembarked. I don't, however, recall ever seeing a photo of a Marine in full-bore, storming-the-beach mode clad in such a garment. Assuming, then, that the man serves in the navy and steers wooden landing boats into the fires of hell for a living, why would a combat savvy old salt choose to pad around a hostile beach with all of his vitals wrapped in a sniper-attracting life jacket? Perhaps his boat was shot to pieces on the beach approach, and he's pictured at the very moment he lands on terra firma after escaping the flaming vessel. To the right of the mystery man, behold one of the few, pure fighting poses in Marx's U.S. Marines set. This particular guy, in fact, represents the ONLY trigger-pulling Leatherneck of the entire group. Think about that: out of an entire set of fighting Marines, only one member of the plastic platoon is depicted in the act of firing a rifle. Extremely peculiar. Was Marx's sculpting bureau rife with pacifists? Irony. Pacifists Create Largely Inoffensive Pacific Warriors.
Rounding out the set's slender combat pose offerings: (L) Tiny Flamethrower Guy and the (to me, at least) iconic "Underhand Grenade Tosser/Tommy Gun Guy." Although noticeably undersized, the human Zippo is a welcome addition to any battle - able to scorch enemy infantry down to black nubs, whether they're storming his position in a banzai attack or holding out in a bunker or behind a sandbox rock. "Grenade Guy" is a Marx classic - a bunker busting, tommy gunning killer of all things nasty. Heave the canteen-sized iron pineapple through the bunker aperture and hose down what's left with .45 slugs. 
Our final entry can be seen on the right (above): "Just Been Hit Guy". His body buckling from the shock, this poor fellow is captured at the moment a chunk of Nippon lead pierces him. It's unclear if "Just Been Hit Guy" will recover from his wound, but he's a logical inclusion to any U.S. Marine fighting force. It's just regrettable that Marx didn't provide him with more mates posed to extract immediate revenge for his hurt.