Welcome to the 29th (!!!) edition of Five Random Action Figures, posted during the busiest holiday weekend of the year. If you’re reading this between now and July 5th, congratulations, you are one of the lucky dozen to do so.
Below: Five more action figures from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Had I planned this better, they’d all be holding those toothpicks with the little U.S. flags on top. There’s always next year. I’ll be 73.
Emperor’s Royal Guard
Star Wars (1983)
Wow, has it really taken me 29 editions to cover this guy? As a kid, the Emperor’s Royal Guard was my absolute favorite action figure. It wasn’t even a close race.
While future lore would make more of their story, these were the seemingly ceremonial guards first seen in Return of the Jedi, flanking Emperor Palpatine and adding splashes of color to the otherwise drab Death Star. They only served as set dressing in the film, but I was immediately taken with their flowing robes, slick helmets and apparent dedication to the mafioso principles of omertà.
In action figure form, the Emperor’s Royal Guards looked just as regal, and kicked off my near-lifelong obsession with toys that utilized real, actual fabric. Seems that most collectors prefer molded clothing these days; I can only assume that they never tore the robe from an Emperor’s Royal Guard to make a fancy finger puppet.
On that note: I went through a dozen of these figures as a kid, and it had nothing to do with army building. As much as I loved those robes, I loved tearing them off even more. Underneath the main cloak was a crimson cocktail dress, which worked great whenever I staged some grand toy gala complete with Gravy Train steak dinners.
I’d end up tearing that robe off, too, and then begin begging for a new Emperor’s Royal Guard. Really couldn’t name many other figures that were worth picking twelve times. Kudos, Kir Kanos!
The Real Ghostbusters (1989)
Yep, this really happened! Fearsome Flush was easily the strangest Real Ghostbusters figure ever, and it’s exactly what you think it is: A plain old toilet that supernaturally transforms into a shit-eating spectre with undead Muppet eyes.
Given the public’s propensity for complaining about things that are even the tiniest bit edgy, I’m shocked that Fearsome Flush was ever even approved as a concept, let alone left on store shelves without some resulting news piece about whether toymakers had finally gone too far.
In non-ghost form, Fearsome Flush acted as a figure-scale toilet, and could even fit snugly inside the old Firehouse playset. Oh, those poor Ghostbusters. It’s a special kind of hell when the only toilet in your whole universe grows a Fruit Roll-Up tongue whenever you try to shit.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
Genghis Frog was one of the earlier TMNT figures — second wave, I think — and since he was the very first to apply Ninja Turtle sensibilities to an entirely different animal, the dude was a big deal.
Though the figure was one of the line’s simplest, I think that’s become part of its charm. Genghis is just this bright, happy frog guy, unburdened by erratic appendages or superfluous bells and whistles. He’s a five foot frog wearing swim trunks and a bowling shirt, and honey, that’s enough.
I dig his warty skin, and have long believed that it’s hiding some world-altering message in braille. When the dark times come, I need only to read Genghis Frog’s bumpy forearms. History will remember me.
WWF Hasbro (1991)
The Ultimate Warrior had at least three different figures in Hasbro’s old WWF collection, each in a different outfit and with a different action feature.
This “white trunks” Warrior employs the “Ultimate Slam” — a move where he holds another figure over his head and then hurls him across your floor. It’s a neat trick, but the tradeoff is that Warrior’s hands are permanently posed in a “oh God I just touched something super gross” position. Which I guess maybe works, considering the sorts of crotches Warrior often dealt with.
The figure came out in ’91, when Warrior was either the #1 star or jussst starting to slide back down the pole. I’ll be honest: As awesome as it was to watch Warrior beat Hulk Hogan cleanly at WrestleMania VI, I never bought him as the company’s leading face. Really, his best moments happened before he won the belt, and then after he lost it. Some wrestlers are just more interesting when they’re not on top, I guess.
I remember little about the Thundercats cartoon, but I know that Ratar-O was one of the bad guys, not quite on the level of Mumm-Ra, but still a few rungs up from guys like Slithe. He was a sub-boss, like Abobo or Dark Link or Tatsu.
(Abobo, Dark Link, Tatsu and Ratar-O. I finally understand the squad goals hashtag.)
Like most vintage Thundercats figures, Ratar-O is big, bulky and weighty. The Thundercats line felt heftier than normal even in its time, but by today’s standards they might as well be bowling balls.
Ratar-O is one of the few action figures that I’ve managed to hold onto since childhood. The one pictured here is a duplicate, but I still have my original, which now lacks its tail and ratty mustache, and is sticky enough to double as an ornamental flytrap.
When I make my two Ratar-O figures fight, I imagine the floor as an ethereal plane, with the avataric Ratar-Os fighting for the real Ratar-O’s soul. And only when I’m done do I open the blinds.
Thank you for reading about five more action figures. Now go do stuff with sparklers and gin.