I’ve only been to a Build-A-Bear Workshop once in my life–for my niece’s birthday many years ago at the store’s King of Prussia location. While building her birthday bear was a perfectly lovely experience, I’ll admit, as a childless man in his 30s, I haven’t had much reason to think about Build-A-Bear since.
That is, until a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon an adorable image on my X-Men-friendly Twitter feed. A teddy bear wearing Jean Grey’s iconic Phoenix costume.
NEW! Warm up your telekinetic powers with #PhoenixForce Bear! Our fiery new arrival is a must-have addition to any Marvel fan’s collection. #Marvel US: https://t.co/BLqY81zN5r UK: https://t.co/3xOj7pUxNL pic.twitter.com/JOZKxMTNdm
— Build-A-Bear Workshop (@buildabear) November 26, 2019
Which version of the costume, you ask? Well, after digging deeper… both! This bear could wear the heroic green costume and the chaotic red made infamous by “The Dark Phoenix Saga.”
Honestly, I thought it was a joke. Sure, there’d been a Wolverine Build-A-Bear, but that’s Logan, bub! He’s up there with Spider-Man and Iron Man in the instantly recognizable category. The Phoenix, though? And the comic book version–not even a tie-in to the months-old Dark Phoenix film? It was a bold move on Build-A-Bear’s part. And, the kind of move that grabbed the attention of myself and countless other X-Fans (based on my aforementioned Twitter feed). I had to know more. I had… to have one?
We’ve entered day 2 of me being amazed this Phoenix Force bear from @buildabear is a thing. Would #XMen fans be mad if I dedicated an entire #XMenMonday to this cosmic bear? 🔥🐻🔥 pic.twitter.com/vlVbaBu24c
— Chris Hassan (@ChrisAHassan) November 27, 2019
Fortunately, Build-A-Bear Workshop was kind enough to send AIPT a review copy of the Online Exclusive Phoenix Force Bear Gift Set and boy oh bear did it not disappoint!
Standing at 16 inches tall, this cuddly cosmic creature’s vibrant fur is super soft and perfect for snuggling. If a Cyclops bear existed, the Phoenix bear’s big green eyes would surely freeze him in his bear tracks. From afar, the bear appears to be orange, but up close, you see that the fur has a marbled mixture of orange, red and yellow, which creates a perfect flame effect. Upon further inspection, you’ll actually see flame shapes and what appears to be two upside-down Phoenix symbols on the back of the bear’s head. It’s quite cool.
Without the Phoenix costume, this bear has the iconic red-and-black X-Men logo stitched into the left side of its chest, the Build-A-Bear stamp of authenticity on its right paw and two images of Jean in her two most recognizable Phoenix costumes on its feet.
OK, let’s talk about these images for a second. Initially, I thought the feet images were each by RB Silva, pulled from his Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey one-shot from a few years back. However, they’re actually straight from All-New X-Men #5’s iconic two-page spread illustrated by Stuart Immonen.
Using actual images from Immonen and Brian Michael Bendis’ Marvel comic is a nice touch. And it serves as a reminder that this bear could go dark, burst out from under your bedsheets, soar into space and consume the sun. But really, you control this bear’s destiny–thanks to its reversible costume!
Thankfully, 20th Century Fox didn’t create this bear’s costume. No long coats here–when it came time adapt the Phoenix costume, Build-A-Bear did so pretty faithfully. We’ve even got the sash! Sure, Jean’s hands and feet were never showing when she wore it… but Jean was also never a 16-inch bear, so please let it slide, X-Fans!
The costume’s material is smooth, shiny, easy to pull off, reverse and slide on (it’s got Velcro in the back). The red-and-yellow Dark Phoenix costume is a bit less accurate to the comics, simply because the chest symbol typically doesn’t have the black background. But that type of thing has changed many times since the costume first appeared several decades ago depending on who’s drawing it, so again, not the biggest deal.
So, who–or what–exactly is this bear supposed to be? Is this Phoenix-powered Jean Grey in bear form? No. Despite what the bear’s feet suggest, this is not Jean–in my humble opinion.
After all, if this was meant to be Jean, wouldn’t Build-A-Bear have just named it after our beloved Jeannie? I think we need to assume this bear is exactly what we’re told it is–the Phoenix Force. And, I’m going to assume, this bear is a construct composed of pure cosmic energy. Rather than risk being corrupted by the emotions of another human host, the Phoenix chooses to navigate the cosmos in the form of this flaming bear vessel. It’s the only possible in-continuity explanation for this bear’s existence.
And yes, of course I want this bear to exist in the Marvel Universe.
And yes, of course Jonathan Hickman can have that back story and run with it.
And yes… of course I truly believe Jonathan Hickman is going to read this review.
I make no secret of my love for Jean Grey (as a character! A character! I don’t need Cyclops and Wolverine coming after me…), so it’s hard not to love this bear wearing one of her best costumes (sorry, X-Fans, I do love that green dress). But most of all, I just love that a product this random exists. A lot of terrible things happen around the world each and every day. But the next time you’re feeling down, just remember–someone at Build-A-Bear agreed to green light the production of an X-Men-themed bear dressed like the Dark Phoenix. The same Dark Phoenix that committed such unforgivable cosmic crimes in the eyes of then-Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter that he told Chris Claremont and John Byrne she had to die at the end of “The Dark Phoenix Saga.”
I love it.
So, what’ll this adorable sun-eater cost you? Well, if you want the full package featured in this review, you’ll want to purchase the gift set, which includes the bear and its spiffy outfit for $45.50. But, if you want to buy one or the other, the bear itself will cost you $29 and the costume will run you $16.50. Buying just the costume also means you can turn all your bears–from the Star Wars Rey Bear to DC’s Joker Bear–into Phoenix-powered mammals. Crossovers you won’t find anywhere else!
The holiday season may be winding down, but it’s never too late to gift the Jean Grey (or X-Men) fan in your life with a super-powerful new friend. Or, if you fit that description yourself, head over to buildabear.com and order a Phoenix bear for yourself today!
Who knows… your personal connection to this bear may just prevent the destruction of the universe. Ya know, just in case this bear ever get corrupted. Please, Build-A-Bear–Do not make a Mastermind bear!