We spent the weekend at the headquarters of Freddy In Space, taking years off of our lives with a mix of pizza, pumpkin beer and Crayola crayons. I suspect I’ll be fully recovered by Christmas.
The best thing about John’s house (aside from Mothman the cat) is his absolute swarm of horror memorabilia, permeating literally every corner while still somehow staying completely organized. I could blog for weeks about his collection, but for now, I’ll just focus on a few random action figures.
Yes, in this edition of Five SPOOKY Action Figures, the toys actually don’t belong to me. These were all found on John’s shelves, and hastily photographed on the steps outside his house. I normally prefer to stick with what’s in my own collection, but these weirdos were cool enough to break that rule.
World Wrestling Federation, 1992
WWE has unleashed dozens of Halloween-appropriate wrestlers, from giants who control fire to absolutely literal vampires. Still, few have been as on-the-nose as Papa Shango. WWE may have been a bit more diplomatic in their wording, but Papa Shango was a basically a cliched voodooist who defeated his opponents with BLACK MAGIC.
(Actually, he defeated his opponents with inverted shoulderbreakers, but let’s not get too technical.)
The tricks usually occurred during interview segments, and man, they were out there. Best among them was the time Papa Shango caused the Ultimate Warrior to throw up on everyone backstage. (Some wrestlers got a push by being scripted to win matches. Others got it by making their opponents vomit.)
The height of Papa Shango’s chicanery didn’t last long. He ultimately became “just another guy,” who rarely backed up his look with any B movie nonsense. Fortunately, he did stick around long enough to score a Hasbro action figure, with a weirdly irremovable top hat!
FYI: Charles Wright, who played Papa Shango, would eventually find much bigger success as “The Godfather” — wrestling’s most lovable pimp!
The Real Ghostbusters, 1988
Granny Gross was part of the “Haunted Humans” branch of Real Ghostbusters baddies. In that subset, everyday humans transformed into hideous monsters, with the figures acting almost like bizarre Transformers.
There was a garbage man ghost, a construction worker ghost, and others who looked mildly intimidating even in their human forms. And then there was Granny Gross. A sweet old lady whose entire body became one giant jaw. (I’m not showing you the full reveal in this photo, but you can still see the start of her transformation. Check out that giant third eye!)
Granny Gross has become something of a fan favorite on the secondary market. Ironic, since one would assume that she was among the poorest selling RGB toys back in the ‘80s. I guess people needed that extra decade’s worth of life experiences to truly appreciate the idea of Grandma turning into a giant mouth.
Masters of the Universe, 1985
Next to Modulok, Hordak might be my favorite figure from the vintage Masters of the Universe collection. Arriving late to the party, Hordak and his cronies could only be seen on She-Ra’s cartoon. Even so, He-Man reaped the bigger rewards: Horde action figures were firmly a part of his world, and nothing freshened up a stale line faster than a new army of brightly-colored monsters.
Associated with Skeletor and presented as kind of an uber version of him, Hordak’s figure looked positively regal. (More regal than this photo indicates, because a complete Hordak would have a swank plastic cape.) He quickly became one of those “boss” figures I’m always writing about — the ones who controlled everyone, even if they weren’t from the same line. In my bedroom, even Luke Skywalker kowtowed to Hordak.
You could argue that The Horde was Masters of the Universe at its creative peak. Hordak led the charge, but every one of those figures was top notch. Between them, their Fright Zone and the incredible Slime Pit, I was never as much into MOTU as I was when Hordak ran amok.
Gremlins 2 by Applause, 1990
Thanks to NECA, today’s Gremlins fans are absolutely spoiled. We have beautiful action figures representing nearly every Mogwai and Gremlin from both films, and even a few that never appeared in the movies. With NECA’s line being so sprawling and long-lived, it’s easy to forget a time when Gremlins toys were few and far between.
The original film inspired a few playthings, but with Gremlins 2, there was almost nothing. So don’t discount this cheapish little Lenny figure, because in 1990, toys like this were our only recourse. Made by Applause, the line included a handful of Mogwais and Gremlins, all in this small, non-poseable style.
As I recall, you couldn’t buy them at regular toy stores. You had to randomly land in a card shop that just happened to be selling them. True fans persevered, because if you were a nine-year-old who considered Gremlins 2 your own personal Citizen Kane, there was absolutely no way to live without these figures.
While Beetlejuice eventually became a proven “kiddy commodity” with his own cartoon series and whatnot, Kenner’s toy line was actually based on the movie. (Kind of a risky venture, if you think about it. A lot of kids loved the film, but you can’t argue that it was in any way made for them.)
The action figures were seriously inspired, almost feeling like they belonged to The Real Ghostbusters collection. Maybe it’s no coincidence that Kenner produced both lines? The chief gimmick involved removable heads which revealed tiny heads underneath. (A nod to the “witch doctor” scene from the movie, and yes, “Showtime Beetlejuice” does have a tiny head under his regular one.)
The collection featured many characters, but since Beetlejuice was the big draw, it made sense that he’d get more than a single figure. Actually, “Showtime Beetlejuice” is just one of at least five! (And as good as he looks, he ain’t my favorite. That distinction goes to “Shish Kebab Beetlejuice,” who came with various skewers of alien meat that you could stab right through his heart!)
Thank you, John, for letting me raid your house for old toys. I only stole a few.