Growing up, one of the best things about getting a “big toy” had nothing to do with the toy itself. If you were lucky, your new treasure came with one of those booklets. You know the kind.
This Kenner Action Toy Guide, from 1992, is just one of the countless “catalogs” that made getting a new vehicle or playset so much sweeter. They were simple tools meant to raise awareness about a particular company’s other toys, but when you’re eight-years-old, there are no finer pieces of literature.
No matter which company made them, the catalogs all shared a number of traits: They were small, in color, packed with photos, and printed on expensive-seeming paper that made us feel way lucky to get them for free.
Some limited the products to whatever line your new toy belonged to. (Like, if you bought a Star Wars vehicle in the early ‘80s, it’d come with one of these books, but the products inside would only be Star Wars-related.)
Those were great, but the best of them featured all different lines, with the only link being the company behind them.
Such was the case with this Kenner Action Toy Guide, which had us salivating over everything from Batman figures to Nerf balls. Below are the highlights!
Batman Returns “Penguin” Figure!
I’ve mentioned it before, but Batman Returns is my favorite “Batman thing” ever, and nothing will ever change that. Chris Walken won’t live forever, and there will never be another.
Naturally, the movie brought a ton of toys with it. Most interesting was perhaps the Penguin figure, if only because it looked nothing like the movie character.
The rumor is that Danny DeVito’s slime-spitting spin was deemed “too grotesque” for a kiddy line, so Kenner simply repainted an old DC Comics Super Heroes figure – one that portrayed Penguin as he looked in the comics.
The blue-and-purple suit was made into a black tuxedo, but other than that, the figure wasn’t film-faithful at all.
Personally, I never bought the excuse that “DeVito Penguin” was too gross. Repaints were a common cost-saving measure, and it’s not like there weren’t other Batman Returns items with the DeVito likeness clear as day.
Savage Mondo Blitzers!
In the spirit of M.U.S.C.L.E. and Battle Beasts, Savage Mondo Blitzers was a line of tiny figures sold in multipacks. Presented as teams of skateboarding freaks and monsters, each was incredibly detailed. I honestly can’t find a single dud in the entire set.
These figures were an obvious labor of love for the geniuses behind them. When you get giant lines full of “monster” figures, a lot of them tend to be derivative. Here, not so much. Even the figures that could be counted as “tributes” were still somehow unique. (“Tyrannosaurus Ax” may have looked like Godzilla, but I’ve never seen Godzilla wield an axe while riding a skateboard.)
Poring over the three pages dedicated to Savage Mondo Blitzers, I think my two favorites are “Head Alert” and “Big Hans.” Head Alert has a comically oversized head, while Big Hans has… comically oversized hands. It seems I have a gigantism fetish! Action Toy Guides are so educational.
Nerf Turbo Football!
I’ve made many jokes about how I never played sports, but they were only half-true. The gods of demography truly hated me, because I grew up surrounded by kids who were interested in baseball and football and nothing but those two things.
It was awful. Typically, I’d sit on the sidelines like the world’s most disinterested cheerleader. Other times, I’d play, but play so terribly that to have me on your team was as good as being short a player.
I’m not sure what endeared me to my peers less: Being the guy who sat on the sidewalk while everyone else played football, or being the guy who actively encouraged interceptions because he didn’t want a pigskin to hit him the face.
Point is, Nerf was a godsend. A temporary respite. My friends usually played with “real” equipment, but every now and again, Nerf entered the fray. Since the whole point of Nerf was to laugh in the face of injury, I could play more easily. It’s not like Nerf made me drop less passes or run faster, but at least I didn’t dodge flying footballs like they were ballistic missiles.
Thank you, Nerf Turbo Football. Thank you for not being as painful when you Marsha’d my nose.
Starting Lineup Figures!
Oh hey, let’s keep with that me-awkward-sports theme.
It won’t surprise to you learn that I was the last of my friends who collected action figures. At least, that’s how it seemed. Even by the end of the fifth grade, “toys” had become a dirty word, and even my fellow Ninja Turtles addicts wouldn’t openly admit to chasing down a Fugitoid.
And by junior high? Forget it. Even mentioning toys was instant leprosy. I endured those years with so many Skeleton Warriors in my closet. Ironically, I’m more at ease at Toys “R” Us now than I was in the sixth grade.
Still, many kids made exceptions for Starting Lineup figures. The one line that I had absolutely zero interest in, and of course, it’s the only one that was “socially safe” to collect.
Like Don Mattingly could hold a candle to “The Brow” from Dick Tracy.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves “Sherwood Forest” Playset!
Hah, Prince of Thieves. I’ve never seen that movie in full, but it’s not like I never tried to.
Two friends and I went to see it in theaters. I guess it had passed its peak, because there was nobody in that theater except us.
We were bored out of our minds. I don’t think it had anything to do with the movie, really. The theater was surrounded by a bowling alley, an arcade and all sorts of fun things to do, and the thought of spending two hours with Robin Hood just wasn’t as appealing. After shouting “AZEEM” at the top of our lungs for twenty minutes, we split.
I’ve never attempted to see it since, and so, my strongest memory of Prince of Thieves is how the corn “arrows” its limited edition cereal looked just like tiny penises.
But my second strongest memory… is of this.
The “Sherwood Forest” playset.
BECAUSE IT’S THE GODDAMNED STAR WARS EWOK VILLAGE.
No really, it is! The repainted a few things and added some greenery, but it’s still the same old Ewok Village playset that was made almost a decade prior!
As a kid, I loved that playset more than anything else in the world. Even with a Robin Hood rebrand, it was still aces. Three trees held a platform in place, which was large enough to “carry” at least two dozen action figures. (They’d be squished, but they’d fit.)
In my earliest toy adventures, the Ewok Village was THE PLACE. Everything happened there. Everyone wanted to be there. The parties were legendary, and any figures that couldn’t fit on the platform welcomed the chance to get stuffed down one of the tree’s hollow trunks, just so they could be close to them.
Terminator 2 “Bio-Flesh Regenerator” Playset!
This Kenner Action Toy Guide came with that giant Terminator figure I wrote about yesterday, so it was only fitting that a few of its pages would be devoted to, you know… Terminator stuff.
One of my biggest toy-related regrets is that I never owned the T2 Bio-Flesh Regenerator. How cool is this? You’d put a Terminator endoskeleton into the chamber, mold rubbery “flesh” around it, tear it off, and start the whole process all over again! (Kinda reminds me of the much older “Manglor Mountain” playset.)
Of course, the risk with toys that looked this good on paper was that they were rarely as neat in person. If you owned a Bio-Flesh Regenerator, speak up in the comments. Was it really as blessed as it seemed?
I hereby vow to track one of these down for a full review, someday. It’s easy to make promises when you don’t set time limits.
Oh boy, this thing. If you’re around my age, you probably remember “The Animal,” an electronic 4×4 that had big, protruding claws built into its tires, which — at least in theory — allowed it to climb over any obstacle.
We can definitely consider “The Claw” its spiritual successor.
This time, gone are the crude, protruding claws, replaced with tires that split apart to reveal that they themselves are the claws! I’ve never seen one in person, but since it had years to learn from The Animal’s mistakes, I bet “The Claw” performed its tricks in a much smoother way.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at, uh, footballs and repurposed Ewok Villages. The Kenner Action Toy Guide had more pages than this, of course. I’ll throw a few more scans on Mummy Shark later today.