In 2008, Robert Downey Jr. lit up the silver screen as what was – at time – a B-list superhero. While Iron Man was a moderate success at the box office, it was only the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – an approach to filmmaking that would change superhero movies forever. The LEGO Group jumped on the bandwagon four years later, with a range of sets launching alongside Avengers Assemble in 2012.
While Joss Whedon’s team-up movie was the initial inspiration, a broader LEGO theme – LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – was swiftly established. The LEGO Marvel Super Heroes range now covers over 200 sets, with models and minifigures from across film and comics history.
LEGO Marvel history
Marvel Super Heroes wasn’t the first time the LEGO Group had made Marvel merchandise. It had actually touched upon the world of Marvel almost a decade ago, thanks to 2002’s Spider-Man. Sam Raimi’s movie trilogy inspired a number of tie-in sets, which drew inspiration from the first and second movies in the series.
The 2012 Marvel range, however, took a broader look at the Marvel universe; it had to, considering the interconnected world Marvel Studios was creating. The result was a range that drew inspiration from many more characters and vehicles than the initial Spider-Man range did.
The LEGO Group’s first dive into a broader Marvel theme took an interesting direction. Instead of conventional LEGO sets it launched a trio of action figures, depicting the Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. These followed a similar format to the LEGO Group’s Hero Factory range, although they would prove short-lived. The 2011 New York Toy Fair and San Diego Comic-Con also received exclusive minifigures, released as prizes for attendees.
A set of Avengers tie-in sets came out the same year, bringing a range of Marvel minifigures to a mass audience for the first time. While the MCU would serve as primary inspiration for Marvel sets, it wasn’t the only one. Cartoons like Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble soon inspired further sets, bringing the likes of Spider-Man to a new generation of fans. Other fan-favourites such as the X-Men would also make sporadic appearances, albeit without a direct link to the movies they inspired.
The LEGO Marvel range would continue along a similar trajectory for several years after Avengers Assemble was released. In recent years it would even double back on itself, producing sets for some of the early Marvel movies it missed out. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe in full swing, it’s likely we’ll see new Marvel Super Heroes sets for some time to come.
LEGO Marvel sets
The ever-shifting nature of Marvel movies – new characters, vehicles and locales regularly appear – has given us a diverse selection of models. That said, some have proven a little more resilient. Iconic vehicles such as the Quinjet and Milano have received multiple versions over the years, while Tony Stark has a veritable arsenal of Hulkbusters and similar models.
However, the steady pace of Marvel movies has also demanded some outside-the-box thinking. Almost every Marvel movie since Avengers Assemble has received at least one tie-in set. This has inspired several sets with unusual connections to the movies that inspired them. 79060 Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum provided a tentacled terror to battle, while 76039 Ant-Man Final Battle went a little more meta and provided enlarged, brick-built LEGO elements to play with.
At the extremes of the Marvel age range, 76052 The SHIELD Helicarrier is the crown jewel of adult collections. Its large model, attention to detail and motorised turbines make it a splendid display piece. At the other end of the scale, the Mighty Micros – cartoonish minifigures with accompanying vehicles – were an ideal entry point for both the young and young at heart.
LEGO Marvel minifigures
By far the biggest draw for fans, the Marvel Super Heroes range has given us plenty of Marvel LEGO minifigures. Upon its launch LEGO fans received minifigures of the core Avengers cast, as well as other favourites such as Spider-Man and Wolverine.
The ongoing release of Marvel movies would help LEGO fans swiftly expand their superhero collections, as well as differing versions of certain characters. Tony Stark’s constantly-updating suits provided plenty for LEGO fans to collect, with 76125 Iron Man Hall of Armor making for an ideal display stand. However, he wasn’t alone in this. Spider-Man would also enjoy – and continues to enjoy – gradually-improving versions, as well as several other members of the Spider-family.
The most enduring legacy of the LEGO Marvel minifigures may be the challenges they pose for character design. The Avengers Assemble tie-in sets, for example, demanded a new bigfig for Hulk. While the LEGO Group had explored bigfigs before (in ranges like Rock Raiders and The Lord of the Rings), the Hulk version was much more humanoid. As such, it’s proved a useful template for other larger figures beyond the Marvel ranges, including DC Comics Super Heroes and NINJAGO.
Other innovations came in sets like 76051 Super Hero Airport Battle, which demanded a Giant-Man figure. The result was a larger, brick-built figure that maintained rough minifigure proportions – something we’d also see reproduced elsewhere.
That said, the Mighty Micros minifigures may prove to be the most unusual move. Before the arrival of the Mighty Micros collection LEGO minifigures had established a coherent visual style, regardless of the theme they starred in. Mighty Micros threw that out of the window in favour of more exaggerated facial expressions, and simpler torso printing. While not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, these minifigures are certainly distinctive, and offered a great way for children to acquire some of their favourite characters.
The new crop of Disney+ Marvel shows has inspired a dedicated Marvel Studios Collectible Minifigures range – a first for Marvel. Encapsulating Wandavision, Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and What If…?, these offer unprecedented detail and even a few new elements – surprisingly rare amongst Marvel minifigures more broadly.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Given Marvel’s popularity, a dedicated LEGO Marvel game was an obvious move. 2005’s LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game had created a solid template for LEGO games. It offered humorous approaches to classic IP, drop in/drop out puzzle platforming gameplay and the timeless LEGO aesthetic. As such, games inspired by Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings all followed.
Even within this template, 2013’s LEGO Marvel Super Heroes was very well received upon release. It drew some inspiration from the Avengers movie (both Phil Coulson and shawarma make an appearance) but broadly speaking, it celebrated everything Marvel – comics, cartoons, movies and more. As such, its story threw together heroes like the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, with obscure characters like Kraven the Hunter and Beta Ray Bill also popping up.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes built upon the foundations of the earlier LEGO games in other ways. While games like LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes gave us a city to explore, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes populated it with a few more tasks and diversions than its predecessor. The linear levels also made it over. Across both sections players could also use the abilities of Marvel’s heroes to trigger switches, pull down walls and uncover dozens of secrets.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 expanded its horizons, even as the Marvel movies would more explicitly shape its character roster. With time-hopping Kang the Conqueror as the villain, LEGO Marvel 2 throws together multiple Marvel worlds and eras in a single locale. Players can continue the brick-breaking, puzzle-solving gameplay of the first title, with even more tasks in the open-world section to explore. While it didn’t exactly rewrite the LEGO rulebook, it proved a popular all-ages title, and a goldmine for the Marvel nerd.
LEGO Marvel Avengers
If the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes games threw everything Marvel in the mix, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers was more discerning. Unlike the first LEGO Marvel game, this title drew explicitly from the MCU instead of the comics that inspired them. It even featured archival audio from the movies for that added lick of authenticity.
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers gave players the chance to jump into key moments from Marvel’s movies, like the Avengers helicarrier attack and Age of Ultron’s highway chase. It also shook up combat with multi-character attacks; any two of the 100+ playable characters could pull off a combo move to defeat enemies more easily. Like previous LEGO games, it also made ample use of Free Play – hiding off level sections until the right character was unlocked to access it.
Preserving the open-world environs from earlier LEGO games (as well as offbeat characters like Squirrel Girl and Fin Fang Foom), LEGO Marvel’s Avengers was a solid option for both LEGO and Marvel fans. It also appeared in a bundle with the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes titles thanks to the LEGO Marvel Collection on PC and consoles.
LEGO Marvel Infinity Gauntlet
It’s one of the most iconic items in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the thing all the Marvel movies would (in one way or another) eventually revolve around. The Infinity Gauntlet is famously used by Thanos to reshape the universe to his liking. As the LEGO Group shifted to producing more and more sets aimed at adults, a full-scale LEGO Infinity Gauntlet was a sensible choice.
Released in 2021 and boasting almost 600 pieces, 76191 Infinity Gauntlet followed similar products like the Star Wars Helmet Collection. It’s designed for display rather than play, and the gauntlet measures about 30cm long with its stand. As befitting a display model, the gauntlet also uses a number of drum-lacquered gold elements, which were previously used to great effect in the Monkie Kid theme.
Of course, a little bit of interactivity isn’t out of the question. The gauntlet’s fingers are all fully posable, allowing Marvel fans to recreate the famous ‘snap’ (albeit in a safer context than the real thing). 76191 Infinity Gauntlet has been joined in the same year by busts of Venom and Carnage, the infamous symbiotes and Spider-Man enemies. It’s possible that more sets capturing iconic Marvel objects aren’t far behind.
LEGO Marvel Daily Bugle
Of all the locales in Marvel comics, the Daily Bugle offices are amongst the most recognisable. A frequent employer of Peter Parker, the newspaper is ruled with an iron fist by J. Jonah Jameson – one of Spider-Man’s most enduring detractors.
The LEGO Group had actually produced a model of the Daily Bugle (76005 Daily Bugle Showdown, complete with J. Jonah Jameson minifigure) back in 2013. As the Marvel range continued to mushroom in popularity, a more ambitious model was called for. The result is 2021’s 76178 Daily Bugle, which takes a much deeper dive into the Marvel universe.
Models like the Daily Bugle offer multiple benefits for Marvel fans. Their higher piece counts allow for larger, more detailed models that balance both play and display value. The higher age range may also facilitate more niche characters that would struggle to find a place in cheaper sets.
The Daily Bugle ticks all of these boxes and more. Bringing an unprecedented sense of scale to its source material, the model offers a detailed slice of Marvel’s New York with offices, newsstands and a classic yellow cab. Eagle-eyed Marvel fans can find plenty of references to the comics and movies that the building helped inspire. Crucially it offers a whopping 25 minifigures, including the debuts of Blade, Daredevil and even The Punisher.
As a clearer indicator of its target audience, the new Daily Bugle is also compatible with LEGO’s Modular Buildings Collection. For Marvel fans wanting a bit more sophistication, the Daily Bugle is an ideal starting point.
LEGO Marvel Sanctum Sanctorum
Translating as Holy of Holies, the Sanctum Sanctorum is the residence of Marvel hero Doctor Strange. The New York Sanctum is one of three such buildings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, helping to protect Earth from interdimensional threats.
Given its importance in the Marvel movies, New York’s Sanctum Sanctorum has appeared several times in LEGO form. The original version of it is 76060 Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, released to accompany the first Doctor Strange movie in 2016.
The set depicts a small chunk of the Sanctum, recreating the famous round window. Rather than a bespoke printed element, the set uses blade elements to approximate its design. It’s an impressive bit of ingenuity, but one that later LEGO sets would not repeat.
The set also includes a small table, some bookshelves and a magical portal. A tentacled monster is rearing out of it, in a rare break from the movie’s events. A gear on the back can be turned to make the tentacles move.
Three minifigures are included in this set: Doctor Strange, the Ancient One and Karl Mordo. While versions of Strange and Mordo have appeared in other LEGO sets, the Ancient One remains exclusive to this set. She features a colourful outfit and wields fans printed with magical runes, making her one of the theme’s more attractive inclusions.
Doctor Strange himself also comes with two dish elements printed with magic symbols. This helps to distinguish him from later versions, which would use more generic elements.
When you’re ready to fight, two minifigures can be attached to transparent pieces built into the Sanctum walls. These can be raised up and down to simulate movement.
The next set to depict the Sanctum Sanctorum was 76108 Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown. Released in 2018 alongside Avengers: Infinity War, the set depicts the entire Sanctum building. However, its relatively small scale means there’s little detail inside.
The Sanctum interior includes various bookshelves and weapons, as well as another desk for Doctor Strange to stand at. There’s also a transparent dish piece printed with the Sanctum’s window design, and the Time Stone is hidden behind a removable wall section. A pizzeria and Peter Parker’s apartment can be found in the adjoining building, as can characters like Cull Obsidian and Ebony Maw.
76185 Spider-Man at the Sanctum Workshop (released in 2021) is inspired by Spider-Man: No Way Home, and recreates the Sanctum’s basement. Doctor Strange reappears in this set, and is joined by Wong – who has proven rather rare in LEGO form.
The workshop is filled with items both magical and mundane including tools, crystals and a treasure chest with two green tendrils. There’s also a brick archway decorated with lined patterns, and a small stone shrine positioned behind it.
A particularly odd feature of the set is a green creature with large black claws. It’s suitably fearsome, although – like 76060 Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum – it seems to be an invention of the theme rather than the movies.
The most appealing LEGO Sanctum Sanctorum is (naturally) 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum. It debuted in 2022 and offers a large-scale recreation of the building. Like 76178 Daily Bugle before it, the set is compatible with sets in the LEGO Modular Buildings collection.
The model takes inspiration from the original Doctor Strange movie, as well as Avengers: Infinity War and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This can be seen in its minifigure collection. Doctor Strange and Wong are obvious inclusions, but they’re joined by Iron Man, Spider-Man and Ebony Maw. All of these have received new designs, although Ebony Maw is – ironically – less detailed than his original version.
Other included minifigures include undead and evil versions of Doctor Strange, as well as Scarlet Witch and Karl Mordo. The latter is particularly interesting thanks to his sand green outfit and new hair element. However, Scarlet Witch also benefits from a new head element, which depicts both serene and angry expressions.
Like most Modular Buildings, 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum is built over three levels. The ground floor features the Sanctum’s grand staircase, as well as various movie references. These include an X-ray of Strange’s hand, a framed medical degree and a pocket watch – a possible reference to Strange’s time manipulation in the first film.
The first floor features various bookshelves and a magical door. Sliding a piece on the outside of the building allows you to change the destination behind it, with three different options available including the Dark Dimension.
The second floor features the familiar window and various magical artefacts. Interestingly, a red and gold staff can be found here. This is probably a reference to the Monkie Kid theme, although its design varies a little from the theme’s interpretation of it. Pictures of Karl Mordo and the Ancient One can also be found here.
In reflection of the building’s magical occupants, three sections of exterior wall can be repositioned. These contain a poster for a Captain America museum exhibit and two portals – one open, one containing Gargantos. Moving these around the set allows hidden areas of the Sanctum to be revealed, including a chamber containing the Time Stone.
LEGO Marvel 2023
2023 has brought a range of new Marvel sets for us to enjoy, which include a few reimaginings of some old ideas. A quartet of new mech armor sets (which give LEGO minifigures small, themed mech suits) have appeared, each of which uses angled elements for easier assembly and posing. Like their predecessors these closely mimic the appearance of their pilots, making them an intriguing alternative to the bigfigs of older LEGO sets.
76242 Thanos Mech Armor is an obvious example of this idea, taking inspiration from Thanos’ appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. Purple elements are used on his upper arms, with dark blue and gold elements used on the rest of him. The Infinity Gauntlet is naturally attached to his left hand; it includes all six Infinity Stones, saving LEGO fans from collecting them across multiple purchases this time.
76241 Hulk Mech Armor takes a similar tack, recreating his green skin, purple trousers, and stocky build. His hands are also suitably large, and can hold a chunk of debris for use as a weapon. A stylised radiation symbol on his chest references the gamma radiation that brought the Hulk to life.
This Hulk bears both angry and smiling expressions; while the set isn’t explicitly connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the franchise’s more intelligent, peaceful Hulk may have served as inspiration here. This Hulk minifigure also comes with chest hair – a relatively uncommon feature amongst LEGO minifigures.
76243 Rocket Mech Armor is inspired by the Guardians of the Galaxy, nodding to Rocket’s orange outfit from the first Guardians movie. It’s a little lankier than the other 2023 mech armor sets, referencing Rocket’s wirier frame. Interestingly, one hand is replaced by a six-barrelled stud shooter – a nod to Rocket’s love of powerful weaponry. A bush element on the mech also references Rocket’s raccoon tail, although ironically the mech’s design means Rocket himself is tail-less in this set.
76245 Ghost Rider Mech & Bike mixes up the form factor by pairing Ghost Rider’s mech with a rideable vehicle. The mech itself offers a striking black and orange colour scheme (mirroring Ghost Rider himself) while the accompanying motorcycle features an oversized design and flaming exhausts. The mech can sit astride the mech, grip the handlebars and even wield a silver chain as a weapon.
76244 Miles Morales vs. Morbius is similarly ghoulish, although it stands out for its debut of Morbius in LEGO form. This pseudo-vampiric being is an enemy of Spider-Man, with the 2022 film Morbius introducing a new, live-action version of the character. It’s possible that this set is inspired by that film’s arrival, even if (like some of its predecessors) there are no direct links between the film and the toy.
The main build in the set is a black and red sports car, which is designed for use by Miles Morales’ Spider-Man. It features Miles’ Spider-Man logo on the hood, and transparent blue exhausts reference his bioelectric ‘venom blasts’. However, the black and red colour scheme makes it – with some modification – an ideal vehicle for Morbius himself.
Morbius is accompanied by two vials of blood and a pair of bats, while Miles can fire a venom blast to defend himself. With a relatively low RRP, this is an excellent opportunity to pick up two interesting Marvel characters in LEGO form.
Two other Marvel 2023 LEGO sets recreate scenes from older films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 76247 The Hulkbuster: The Battle of Wakanda references the thrilling battle towards the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Its centrepiece is the Hulkbuster itself; while this particular Hulkbuster has appeared in LEGO form before, this version is much more accurate. It better mimics the onscreen version’s bulky shoulders and colour scheme, with plenty of articulation on its limbs.
New versions of Bruce Banner and Okoye are included with this set. Both are highly desirable to minifigure collectors, thanks to their higher levels of detail; Bruce features an alternative expression with a reluctant Hulk, while Okoye’s head markings appear this time around. Two Outriders are provided for them to fight.
76248 The Avengers Quinjet is the largest of these new sets, and probably the most desirable. It recreates a Quinjet from the original Avengers movie, complete with the all-grey colour scheme that it sported.
While Quinjets have appeared in LEGO form on multiple occasions (dating back to 2012’s 6869 Quinjet Aerial Battle) this may be the best one yet. It features plenty of interior space with a rear loading ramp for easy access, as well as retractable landing gear for when the Quinjet is in flight. Like 76193 The Guardians’ Ship before it, the aircraft comes with a display stand to show it off more effectively.
In a nod to its roots as a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft, the set comes with two sticker sheets: one with S.H.I.E.L.D. branding, one with Avengers branding. It seems that you cannot easily switch between the two, which means you might need to invest in some additional elements if you later change your mind.
Minifigures of Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Thor and Loki are included in this set, each of which takes inspiration from their appearances in the first Avengers movie. Loki is particularly interesting thanks to his more accurate facial expression and metallic outfit. However, his sceptre is notably simpler in design this time – while its shaping is reasonable, older LEGO fans may miss the jewel integrated into previous versions.