Since we’re up to the seventh installment of this series, I guess I can skip the preamble. Here are random action figures. Five of them!
Star Wars, 1983
Behold, one of my favorite figures from Kenner’s immense Star Wars collection. Something about the Biker Scout’s boxy head appealed to me in a way normal Stormtroopers didn’t, and excluding the Emperor’s Royal Guard, this was the Star Wars figure I bought most often. (Sometimes I needed to replace a lost figure; other times I just wanted more Biker Scouts.)
Critics be damned: When I hear “Star Wars,” my mind jumps to Return of the Jedi. It’s fitting that my most beloved “Imperial” characters were exclusive to that movie.
The biggest reason to own a Biker Scout was to have an appropriate figure to place on Kenner’s “Speeder Bike” vehicle. (The one that blew apart with the push of a button… which was an awesome feature until you realized how easy it was to hit said button by accident.)
Speeder bikes featured prominently in ROTJ, of course, and I grew up wanting to ride one more than any other fictitious vehicle. Every time I was in my parents’ car, stuck in Jersey shore traffic, I’d imagine myself on a speeder bike, casually zipping to Wildwood just above the many hoods. In those dreams, I’d be dressed in the Biker Scout’s uniform.
I ignored Hasbro’s WWF figures as a kid and as a collector, and it’s one of my biggest toy-related regrets. What a great line this was! For as much as I’ve championed LJN’s older, larger set, Hasbro made much more “traditional” action figures — the kind that could cross swords with Cobra and the Decepticons a little more realistically. (Ever tried bringing a LJN figure into your “regular” action figure stories? It was like Attack on Titan.)
In fact, I think I’ve come to prefer Hasbro’s take over LJN’s. The figures were colorful, bashable, and out there in serious volume. No stone was left unturned. Every wrestler got one. While objective spectators may have questioned how well a “Repo Man” figure could’ve sold, those who lived and breathed wrestling in the early ‘90s knew how important it was for it to exist.
FYI: I like Hulk Hogan just fine today, but I never liked him much as a kid, and I especially didn’t like him in the early ‘90s. Despite the fact that this is the only Hasbro WWF figure in my collection, it’s actually the one I would’ve been least likely to choose in 1990. Sorry, but he fucked with Macho Man one too many times.
Super Naturals, 1987
If you’ve been with me since the Dark Ages, you know how much I love Super Naturals. Made by Tonka, the series included good and evil warriors, each with a spooky slant. Every figure’s torso was composed of a holographic image, which generally alternated between the particular character’s “human” and “animal” modes.
The best figures in the set actually had feet, but these “Ghostlings” were nearly as desirable. I can’t recall the story specifics that explained why half of the characters went without legs, but the real reason Tonka did it was to save on production costs with less (and often repurposable) materials. After all, most kids only wanted the holograms, and every figure had a different one of those!
The holograms were much crisper than suggested by my crummy photo, and I can’t exaggerate how high-end they seemed back in ‘87. People were paying hundreds of dollars for framed holograms of boring clowns, and there we were, getting the same technology for a few bucks at Toys “R” Us. Awesome.
There exists not one second of Congo that I couldn’t write a tribute to. Perhaps this summary will explain why: In Congo, Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson battle against maniacal grey gorillas. I know it was based on a book, but the script for Congo could’ve just as easily been formed by giving a bunch of second graders a Mad Libs book.
Despite whatever box office success the movie had, I don’t believe it translated to merchandising success. That was unfortunate, because man, there was a lot of Congo merch. At the top of the list was Kenner’s action figure set, which for some reason included Kahega but not Tim Curry.
Obviously, the most interesting figures in the series were the grey gorillas. Mangler was as close to movie-accurate as he could’ve been without fake fur, with all the right scars and weird teeth. Speaking of teeth, they apparently glow in the dark. That never happened in the movie, but I think “glowing teeth” is an excellent reason to editorialize.
Ravage was one of the Decepticon cassettes, those being small Transformers which switched from fearsome robots to cute little tapes that could fit right inside of Soundwave. It occurs to me that the previous sentence is only processable to people who already knew that. Sorry!
I’ve mentioned this before, but some action figures had the right size and look to become our own little “pets,” or “mascots,” or whatever you’d call the toys that came with you everywhere. My other figures had to be so jealous of Ravage, who so often traveled out of my bedroom, and even out of state. This little monster was always in my pocket, ready to hear the things I could never tell real people about. If this action figure could talk, no court would look favorably upon me.