Jeez, it’s been over a year since the last edition of Five Random Action Figures?
On it, chief. Here are five more toys plucked from my shelves and bins. Some of them hold deep, personal meaning for me. Others are just cool killer robots.
The Real Ghostbusters, 1986
While I’d argue that Stay Puft was the quintessential Real Ghostbusters figure, I think Slimer (alternatively, “Green Ghost”) was a close second.
I got him on Christmas Eve in 1986, along with several other RGB “ghost” figures. If I’m remembering things correctly, and that’s likely as I’m infallubel, those were the very first Ghostbusters toys I ever received. So began a love affair!
Kenner’s Real Ghostbusters stood apart from every other line of its era. The toys felt brighter and inexplicably higher-tech than competing action figure sets, and the play value was simply enormous. The good guys came with accessories that actually did stuff, and even if some of the ghosties didn’t, they were so big and neon that nobody noticed.
This is actually the same Slimer figure from that fateful Christmas Eve. I’d recognize that chipped tongue anywhere. Slimer originally came with three pieces of rubber food, marking this as the only action figure in history whose “weapons” were meat, pizza and watermelon.
More intensely detailed Slimer figures arrived in the years that followed, but I’ll always prefer this one to the rest. Mainly because you can hold him like an ice cream cone.
Dick Tracy, 1990
I’ve referenced this plenty of times, but I was a major, MAJOR fan of the Dick Tracy movie, exclusively because of its villains. The bad guys were human, but many of them looked like creatures straight out of The Twilight Zone. Seriously, watch that movie again, and pretend it’s about monsters forming a monster mafia. You’ll love it so much more.
Even though Itchy is one of the least “alien” of the bad guys, he was always my favorite. Honestly, I just loved his fashion. Specifically his geek glasses and cobalt blue trenchcoat. I desperately wanted to dress like Itchy, and went as far as buying non-prescription no-tint glasses. (If you’ve ever wondered why convenience stores have no-tinters on their spinning racks of sunglasses, they’re for people who want to dress up like Dick Tracy villains.)
I even tried to adopt “Itchy” as a nickname in school, which went about as terribly as you’d expect. The matter was quietly dropped after a girl implied that I had “itchy nuts.”
I collected the hell out of these figures, and that was the last time I really felt like a “kid” when I got a new toy. Like, I didn’t just fiddle with them for a few minutes (the figures, not my itchy nuts) before throwing them aside. I really played with them. Action! Adventure! A clever recast of Pruneface as the top villain, because that Big Boy figure sure looked stupid!
Of course, Itchy was the first Dick Tracy figure I got. His weapons included a tommy gun and a lead pipe, which seems excessive until you remember that Itchy constantly struggled with the desire to scratch himself. Keeping both hands occupied was a good thing.
Robo Force, 1984
Cruel was a second string villain in the almighty Robo Force collection. If you’re too young to remember those, it’s time to visit Zoltar or something. My God, what great toys!
Robo Force consisted of good and evil robot figures, each with extendable arms, a neat head, and a huge ass suction cup instead of feet. They were bulky and weird, but Ideal still figured out how to make them feel like real action figures. (And yeah, there’s a difference. Barnyard Commandos and Tacky Stretchoid Warriors were technically action figures, but in another sense, they kinda weren’t.)
A line filled with robots of the same build sounds tough to pull off, but with the right use of colors and head sculpts, Ideal gave every one of the figures personality. You only felt like you were “army building” if you intentionally bought the same figure twice. Cruel wasn’t among the figures I had as a kid, but since he so perfectly represents what I’d imagine a mutant vacuum cleaner to look like, I’m very happy to have him as a 577 year old man.
Oh, and PS: Robo Force is back in business today. The toys have new gimmicks and are of a different scale, but since they’re made by someone who holds the legit license (hi, friend), the classic characters and their likenesses still play a big part. Check ‘em out!
Masters of the Universe, 1985
If you didn’t grow up with Masters of the Universe toys, you’d probably assume that Moss Man was dopey. Trust me, he wasn’t! A master of camouflage, Moss Man was covered from head to toe in artificial moss, using the same material you might have had lining the deck near your pool. He also smelled vaguely like one of those tree-shaped things you hang from your rearview mirror.
The mossy gimmick worked better than it sounds. On some long ago afternoon, I chucked Moss Man across our front lawn, determined to find out his camouflage was “suggested” or “actual.” Boy, was it actual! I didn’t find him until the next day, and brother, that figure was made to live indoors. Moss Man was ruined.
The figure pictured above isn’t the same Moss Man from my childhood, but he’s almost as ruined. You’ll notice that Moss Man attracts cat hair as if by some mystical force, and that his former owner apparently burned half of his face off. (Not as sadistic as it sounds. I too have employed lighters as “showier” weapons for my action figures, and when you’re trying to handle Skeletor, Moss Man and a small fire simultaneously, it’s easy to fuck things up.)
Panthro was one of the heroic Thundercats. I think he was the guy who fixed their vehicles? Maybe the second-in-command, too, depending on how you rate Cheetara.
I’m including him for a special reason. Panthro sparks memories of one of the best “toy days” I’ve ever had.
I’ve mentioned my love for the original Transformers Metroplex figure before. He was the best birthday present of 1987. A giant robot that turned into a small city. Delicious.
Well, a day after I got him, my sister — obviously not knowing that I’d just received one — came home with another. My initial thought was “OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING, TWO METROPLEXES HOLY SHIT,” but my family talked me into exchanging the extra for Geoffrey money. (Toys “R” Us store credit.)
My sister took me to TRU, and because a kid’s universe is governed only by the laws that are most desirable at the time, I insisted that I spend all of the store credit at once. No “coming back another day.” No “waiting for something I really wanted.” Right then and there, and all of it.
I can’t remember exactly what Metroplex cost, but he had to be at least forty bucks. In the late ‘80s, forty bucks went a long way in a toy store. It was like I’d won one of those legendary Toys “R” Us shopping sprees, albeit on a much smaller scale.
My goal was to stretch that money as thinly as I could. I didn’t want one big thing. I wanted lots and lots of little things. I recall buying the Star Wars Max Rebo Band three-pack, in a damaged box that had been severely marked down. Then there was the stack of Wheeled Warriors accessory packs, which were on clearance for virtually pennies. Finally, one of those fancy larger Gobots that had the chicken legs in their robot modes.
Panthro was in the mix, too. He was probably the most expensive thing in the shopping cart.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been happier in a toy store as I was that day.
Of course, my original Metroplex broke in half less than a week later. Panthro and the Gobot lost a lot of their shine after that. 🙁