Here are more of my favorite spooky action figures from the ‘80s and ‘90s, photographed in a moldy forest:
Shish Kebab Beetlejuice
By far the best figure from Kenner’s Beetlejuice collection, Shish Kebab Beetlejuice also wins the award for weirdest. His “scary skewers” impale everything from chicken legs to alien rats to Beetlejuice himself, and best of all, they’re completely removable.
(If you’ve ever seen a beat-up Beetlejuice with a bunch of holes in his chest at a yard sale, that was this one.)
As a kid, I found the Beetlejuice line a little too gimmicky. With their weird features and removable heads and turning knobs and hidden buttons, they almost felt more like gadgets or puzzles than action figures. But now that I’m sitting here playing with Shish Kebab Beetlejuice and realizing that nirvana is this and it was always this close, I wanna warp back to ’89 and beat the shit out of me.
There’s just something so artful about this guy. By “artful” I’m of course referring to the fact that you can pop off his head to reveal a smaller head that’s actually just one big spinning monster eye. Everybody needs a Shish Kebab Beetlejuice. Only then will the world begin to heal.
Masters of the Universe (1985)
You could make a good argument that Mantenna was the single most disturbing Masters of the Universe figure, and given that he was up against lobster men and a guy whose body was secretly composed of snakes, that’s saying a lot.
The design draws on too many concepts to make any concrete attributions, so let’s just say that he’s kind of a bat, but also kind of a bug, and definitely alien, and maybe part-elephant. He has four legs, and his mouth looks like a squashed spider from a Garfield strip.
The MOTU toy line had incredible synergy with its associated cartoon, but this was one of the odd figures that didn’t look much like its animated counterpart. Appearing as one of Hordak’s minions on Princess of Power, Mantenna’s toon form was way cutesier. He still had the buggy eyes and all that, but he hardly looked like someone who would literally blend you in an oversized steampunk NutriBullet.
I like him better the scary way.
WWF Hasbro (1990)
Smash was part of Demolition, one of the most badass tag teams in WWF history. Though partly inspired by the Road Warriors (a popular team from a competing fed), Ax and Smash had their own aesthetic: Biker Cenobites covered in body glitter. It worked better than it reads.
I started watching wrestling right around the time that Demolition debuted, so I had a sadly-not-literal ringside seat for their meteoric rise. It wasn’t uncommon for “monster wrestlers” to get the big moon push right out of the gate, but what made Demolition so special was that their push lasted for-fucking-ever.
It felt like years before Demolition ever lost a match. Not fully understanding that wrestlers were only as unstoppable as their bosses allowed them to be, I grew up believing Ax and Smash to be real life Terminators who just happened to dress like fetish clowns. It worked better than it reads.
Little Dracula (1991)
I remember very little about the Little Dracula franchise. I know it had a cartoon and obviously a toy line, and I’m pretty sure it was about a kid version of Dracula who for some reason looked like a bald space alien, but beyond that, nada.
I didn’t collect Little Dracula figures as a kid, but I definitely noticed them. It was hard not to notice them, since the toy commercial aired 5x per break on every channel at every hour for a full year. The line seems more appealing now than it did in the ‘90s, but even back then, I knew that Garlic Man was the shit.
He was Little Dracula’s archenemy, which I suppose should be obvious considering that his head is actually just garlic. Something about this guy always grabbed me. He felt like Boba Fett mixed with one-off villain from Darkwing Duck. I’m ready to give him Jabba’s dais and let him drive the Cobra HISS. Take it all, bulby.
I’ve already covered Mumm-Ra’s final form, but this is the little grandpa version, which I strongly prefer.
Don’t get me wrong, the big, Hulk-like Mumm-Ra was an absolute 10, but I always liked how this one had the air of a Palpatine or a Serpentor or some other “big bad” — the kind of dude who could kill you with his bare hands, but never did because he had 10000 troops or robots or giant frog-bats to take care of things.
While sold in stores, Mumm-Ra was more famously available by mail, for a discount price and a few proofs-of-purchase. The figures were shipped in plain plastic bags inside even plainer cardboard boxes, and many years ago, I was able to acquire a full case of those figures. So if any of you bought a Mumm-Ra from me and were wondering how the hell that happened… now you know.
There were tons of mail-away offers for “special” figures in the ‘80s, and people like me tend to crowd them on a pedestal. Hey, when you stare at a mailbox for 6-8 weeks straight, it leaves an impression. So what if Mumm-Ra had no knee joints? HE CAME IN A BOX WITH MY NAME ON IT.
Thanks for reading about five spooky action figures. Stay tuned… more are coming! For you!