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 Black Friday
An obvious candidate for price reductions is retiring sets. 20 are leaving shelves this year, including 76165 Iron Man Helmet and 76174 Spider-Man’s Monster Truck vs. Mysterio. If you can bear to wait, Black Friday might be the ideal time to score a sale on these.
Even if sales aren’t forthcoming, the LEGO Group’s current crop of sets is worth looking at. Promo sets have become a recurring part of Black Friday, and both cheap and expensive sets can help you hit those targets.
As one of the biggest models in the Marvel range, 76178 Daily Bugle is a safe bet for promo model thresholds. If that doesn’t take your fancy, there are plenty of cheaper sets to choose from. 76171 Miles Morales Mech Armor features a rare appearance from fan-favourite Miles Morales, while 76173 Spider-Man and Ghost Rider vs. Carnage features a new Ghost Rider for your collection.
The new Infinity Saga and What If…? sets are ideal if you’ve been enjoying Marvel’s output for some time. 76190 Iron Man: Iron Monger Mayhem is the first set for the original Iron Man movie, while 76201 Captain Carter and the Hydra Stomper is perfect for alternate-universe shenanigans. If your tastes run more expensive, check out 76193 The Guardians’ Ship – a new interpretation of Infinity War’s Benatar.
Whatever your interests, 2021’s Black Friday falls on November 26 this year. The LEGO Group has also confirmed a VIP weekend for November 20–21. Click through for details on this year’s VIP Weekend, Black Friday and Cyber Monday events, and click here to check out Marvel-specific Black Friday deals.