Welcome to the second edition of Tiny Tributes to Minor Monsters, starring creatures of all sorts and from all walks.
Picking which five monsters to feature is always the hardest part. Am I in the mood for giant spiders, or is it a techno-organic robot hitman kind of day? If I take both, will there still be room for that Cenobite with the two heads? Gah!
Dick Tracy (1990)
Dick Tracy was a covert horror movie, where most of the mobsters doubled as monsters. Some of them were so deformed that they looked less like comic villains and more like the demons from Jacob’s Ladder.
Case in point: Little Face, whose facial features were disquietingly scrunched together. He was the spookiest character in the whole film, even if he was only in it for like ten seconds — mostly as a wink to old school comic strip fans.
I’m still ticked that Playmates didn’t include Little Face as part of their Dick Tracy action figure line. You can’t even argue that he wasn’t important enough, since three of his similarly-shortchanged poker buddies got the nod.
Maybe he was just considered too grotesque? Even among dudes who had snakelike lips and fat rolls for foreheads, Little Face was a lot to handle.
The Goblins of Nilbog!
Troll 2 (1990)
I have genuine affection for Troll 2, a movie famous for being “bad.” I grant that it takes several viewings to dull the effects of the screwball script, stilted performances and sketchy effects, but once you get to that point, it’s actually kind of… effective?
The scares in Troll 2 won’t make you shiver, exactly, but the concept is disturbingly interesting: A family visits a weird town that’s secretly run by vegan goblins, who use magic to transform humans into edible vegetable matter.
You can call Troll 2 many things, but don’t you dare call it boring.
I’m even okay with the oft-criticized goblin costumes. They weren’t objectively good, but the fact that they weren’t is what made them scary. Goblins only improve when their faces are locked in a single grimace, and here it added a sense of soulless utilitarianism to their villainy. (Or maybe I’ve put too much thought into this?)
Silver Surfer: The Animated Series (1998)
If you’ve ever even remotely kept up with Thanos in the comic books, you know that he’s spent most his career pining for Mistress Death, who basically acts as Marvel’s grim reaper. To win her love, Thanos is totally cool with blowing up galaxies.
As one of the Silver Surfer’s most memorable enemies, it was natural that they’d work Thanos into his 1998 animated series.
Since this was a kid-targeted show with strict standards, Mistress Death couldn’t join Thanos. In fact, they couldn’t even use the word “death” on the series, irrespective of whether they were talking about a pretty lady or someone actually dying.
Instead we got Lady Chaos, an obvious stand-in.
Lady Chaos was more of a prop than a character — a literal statue that Thanos constantly tries to bring back to life. In one episode, Thanos has a strange sort of dream sequence that finally shows Lady Chaos in the flesh. She looked like Emperor Zurg mixed with a Jello mold.
I’m a huge mark for Mistress Death in the comics, and I love that there’s an aged-down version hiding in this little-celebrated series.
Pro Wrestling (1987)
Pro Wrestling was one of my first Nintendo games, and it’s still one of my favorites. I most often chose to wrestle as the Amazon, not because he was the easiest to win with, but because he was… well, Gill-man.
Naysayers would claim that the Amazon was just a guy in a mask, but let’s not forget his official description from the game manual: “HALF-PIRANHA, HALF-MAN.”
I’ve spent three decades taking that literally, and you’re never gonna change my mind.
The Amazon was the only wrestler with a borderline-illegal moveset, too. His best maneuver was the Piranha Bite, where he’d try to literally chew his opponents’ faces off. Other wrestlers were stronger and more elegant, but man, I’d rather be the loser who bit a face than the winner who didn’t.
Pamela’s Alien Fan Club!
Pamela, The Living Doll Commercial (1986)
In 1986, Worlds of Wonder introduced us to Pamela, the Living Doll, a lifelike toy that said cute things when you squeezed its belly. For reasons I’ll never understand, they chose to advertise Pamela in a TV commercial starring space aliens.
I can’t imagine that there was any big crossover between kids who enjoyed hyper-realistic space aliens and kids who enjoyed little girl dolls. The aliens weren’t meant to be scary, of course, but this was some straight-up Best of Sightings shit.
I’ve never taken a formal poll, but there’s no way this commercial didn’t give hundreds of kids nightmares. (I also suspect that it made some children deathly afraid to ask for a Pamela doll. If you see this commercial and you’re six, wouldn’t you worry that the doll might act as a beacon for extraterrestrials?)
Thanks for reading about more minor monsters. Missed Part 1? It’s over here!