We’re in the middle of a blizzard, and it’ll be a miracle if I’m able to finish this article before the power goes out. If I sound like I’m rushing… I am!
So, onward with the thirteenth edition of Five Random Action Figures. I took these photos over the weekend, hoping to capitalize on a picturesque snow dusting. Little did I know that I’d have forty feet of it to work with just two days later.
Cornelius the Samurai
Stone Protectors, 1993
Stone Protectors was one of several toy lines made to swipe glow from the Norfin Troll craze, but it was also arguably the best of them. Boosted by an animated series and a Super Nintendo game, this was the story of a shitty rock band turned into screwy Troll superheroes by the power of five magic stones. (I’m serious. That was the concept.)
Most Troll-themed action figures were made on the cheap, relying on poofy hair to keep people from noticing a lack of articulation and other finer details. That wasn’t the case with Stone Protectors, which would’ve been right at home in Playmates’ old Ninja Turtles line. The figures were bright, detailed and poseable, and they came with plenty of accessories. Of course, no Troll is complete without funky “real” hair, so Stone Protectors had that going for ‘em, too.
Cornelius here was the team leader, and probably my favorite from the set. How can you not love a Troll with electric yellow hair who is both a rock vocalist and a goddamned samurai? Is that what they mean by a slash career?
In a neat touch, you can move Cornelius’s arm to make his chest jewel “spark.” (Picture a lighter that can’t maintain a flame. Cornelius’s sparking jewel worked something like that.)
The line wasn’t a big success in its day, and hasn’t caught on with collectors since. That’s good news for you, because Stone Protectors figures are absolutely boss, and you should have to pay three times more than you’ll actually need to. Act fast, before everyone smartens up.
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Monster Force, 1994
I wasn’t even aware that Monster Force had a cartoon series, but apparently it did. I only remember it as a fantastic series of action figures cursed to spend eternity with nearly no notoriety. Even recently, I’ve seen packaged figures go for pennies on eBay, owing less to merit and more to the fact that only four people in the entire universe have ever heard of Monster Force.
Get with it, people! You’re missing out on some of the best-ever “classic monster” figures. The line included “extreme ‘90s” versions of many of your favorites, from Dracula to Frankenstein. Of course, the one featured here — the Creature from the Black Lagoon — was the obvious chaser. (After all, since anyone who wants to use that character needs to pay handsomely for the privilege, it doesn’t happen often.)
While there have certainly been better Creature figures, this one scores major uniquity points. No longer the skinny plodder of yesteryear, this version is essentially Brock Lesnar meets Gill-man. Also, if you look at his chest and pretend it’s a Magic Eye puzzle, it will ultimately reveal a giant false face. By that point, tossing a real firing harpoon into the mix was just gravy.
Star Wars, 1983
Ah, the Emperor. Another of my famous “boss” characters, which I’ve mentioned before. (In summary, a loosely organized team of villainous “mafia bosses” who co-owned all of my action figure playsets. You wanted to set up shop in the Fortress of Steele? Better run that shit by Emperor Palpatine!)
Back in the day, Kenner frequently ran promotions for fans to get “special” Star Wars figures by mail. I can’t remember the exact specifics, but it was one of those deals where you mailed in proofs-of-purchase and then chained yourself to a mailbox to 6-8 weeks.
The Emperor starred in one such promotion. Like most of the Star Wars mail-away figures, he came bagged in a plain white box. Not that a master of evil like Palpatine needed the boost, but getting him in such unusual fashion made me put the figure on such a pedestal. I remember being weirdly obsessed with keeping the Emperor clean, which I guess is ironic now that I’ve noticed the concerning grime covering this figure’s legs. I don’t want to know what that is.
I’m a sucker for bad guys in gothic bathrobes, and I love how Kenner shaped his left hand to suggest the capability of Force Lightning. In my view, the first Emperor figure is still the very best of ‘em.
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, 1994
I’m not terribly versed in Power Rangers, but I know that Lord Zedd is my favorite thing to come out of it. He’s like Skinless Frank from Hellraiser, accessorized with aluminum foil. Visually speaking, I can’t think of a more impressive villain. The fact that he sounded like Galvatron mixed with a vacuum cleaner only sweetened the pot.
This version of Zedd is from the MMPR “Deluxe Evil Space Aliens” assortment, where the figures were bigger, but made from a hollow, lightweight plastic. Size matters, but the truth is that the “standard scale” Zedd was far cooler and definitely better made.
Among this version’s more notable flaws is a way-exaggerated codpiece, making Zedd look like he’s wearing some kind of steampunk diaper. I’m willing to overlook this, because he’s still a living steak covered in Betty Crocker String Thing.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1989
Fun fact: That same General Traag figure scored a cameo in the first-ever Dino Drac article. The more you know.
On the Ninja Turtles cartoon, General Traag was a stoic servant of Krang who looked way less nutty than the associated action figure… which is saying a lot since both versions were still monsters made out of rocks. Playmates really outdid themselves with this one. They could’ve easily gone with few colors and details, but instead we got this messy beast covered in snakes and spiders!
Playmates also maximized his scale. If Ninja Turtles figures were made with size and weight restrictions, Traag definitely pushed them to their limits. He’s heavy, he’s bulky, and in a pinch, you could probably kill someone with him. I remember being confused by the comparatively plainish cartoon version, but happy that the one I had looked so much more like a fever dream.
Thanks for reading about yet another five action figures. I still have power as of this writing (duh), but if you don’t hear from me for a while, assume my lifeless body has been stuffed into a dead Tauntaun’s viscera. See you when it’s sunny!