Certain Dino Drac features take a break during the Halloween Countdown, but not Five Random Action Figures. I know where my bread is buttered.
But since we are in the spooky season, any editions published between now and Halloween will feature scary monsters exclusively. That’s partly to maintain the theme, but mostly because I love photographing action figures over beds of cheap phony moss. You can’t do that with or in April.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1994)
Ah, my favorite MMPR monster! I haven’t seen the episode featuring Pudgy Pig since high school, but even after 20 years, it’s hard to shake the visual of a bulbous piggy head in a legionary helmet strolling around on showgirl legs.
I thought the first few waves of Power Rangers toys were a mixed bag. The line’s most popular and/or expensive offerings generally struck me as being the most cumbersome, with the more intricate ones working under the same principle as Jenga stacks. On the bright side, Bandai almost never messed up the monsters.
Could there have possibly been a more perfect representation of Pudgy Pig in action figure form? So good. Dig the pig. Fine swine.
Toxic Crusaders (1991)
Ah, it’s about time I mentioned Toxic Crusaders in one of these articles! I’m not sure if I’ve seen even a single full episode of the cartoon, but I was all about its corresponding toy line.
Toxic Crusaders figures were released by Playmates in 1991, and man does it show. Playmates was still killing it with TMNT figures in ‘91, so it kinda made sense that Toxic Crusaders shared the same scale, colors and even design sensibilities. They looked and felt like extra horrifying Ninja Turtles figures, which was a plus in the early ‘90s and an even bigger plus in 2016.
Featured here is Dr. Killemoff, the show’s lead villain. I don’t remember the scoop on him, but if I said “mutant spider vampire who breathes garbage,” I’m sure I’d be in the vicinity. I’d call him the second coolest figure in the set, and since a mutant spider vampire who breathes garbage is only the second coolest figure, you know that Toxic Crusaders was hot shit.
I’m totally in love with those random splatters of neon paint. Even the higher-end action figures of today rarely get that sort of detail. We had it made! There isn’t a boy alive who wouldn’t trade his 128GB iPhone for an action figure with more paint.
Super Naturals (1987)
I’ve mentioned Super Naturals in previous editions, but there’s no such thing as too many Super Naturals references. This was the 1980s action figure boom at its peaky peak peakiest.
Super Naturals was a line of gothic warriors with a marked horror slant. Each figure’s torso was actually a hologram, which alternated between the particular character’s mortal and monster forms. To the six-year-olds of 1987, Super Naturals felt like they should’ve cost hundreds of dollars a pop.
Course, with the figures being so cool as-was, they hardly even needed the hologram gimmick. Shown here is Skull, the leader of the bad guys, who looks completely badass even without his grim reaper headdress and skeleton-themed chest armor.
Super Naturals figures have somehow remained affordable, but this is one of those lines that will quietly quadruple in value literally any day now. It’s a minor miracle that it hasn’t happened already. If you’re thinking about completing a set, don’t wait!
Leo as The Wolf Man
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1993)
“Wolf Man Leo” is from the first of two TMNT spinoff sets that blended the lean, green fighting machines with Universal Monsters. Playmates may have gone to the “let’s turn the Ninja Turtles into other things” well a little too often, but when the idea worked, it worked like crazy.
Most of the figures from those sets were 100% aces. Even the ones that were only 80% aces got a pass, because the one thing you never do is thumb your nose at a Michaelangelo figure with Frankenstein’s hair.
Wolf Man Leo is far from my favorite from this series, but he’s still way great. Dude has all the right rips and all the right teeth, and his “turtle fur” has a texture pleasantly similar to that of a textblock. (Why there was no “Skin Feels Like Textblock!” burst on the packaging, I have no idea.)
The TMNT monster figures somehow seem more popular today than they did in the ‘90s, with even incomplete, well-worn figures fetching high prices on eBay. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been outbid on the “Mummy Raph” figure, if that’s any indication. Like if you’ve ever heard me scream “fuck” and make it sound like it has six syllables, losing another Mummy Raph auction was probably why.
G.I. Joe: Manimals (2000)
Slythor was one of the three G.I. Joe Manimals, a series of actual literal aliens that switched between humanoid and monster forms. For a franchise that began with a guy in army clothes asking kids to donate copper, we sure ended up at some strange places.
If I’m remembering the story right, the Manimals collection was conceived in the mid ‘90s, but never made it past the prototype stage. Hasbro eventually released retooled versions of certain characters in 2000, where they then languished on clearance racks at KB Toys until the chain went kaput many years later. (In fact, I purchased Slythor from KB Toys mere months before its death!)
The execution of the Manimals’ monster forms was a little half-baked (you’ll notice that Slythor’s lacks a lower jaw), but the concept is just too neat for me to care.
Slythor’s canonical bio paints him as both a bounty hunter and a “galactic attacker,” but it also mentions his talents as a pilot. The idea of an alien ogre who can transform into half of a snake piloting anything, let alone a starship, makes me so unshakably happy.
PS: If you missed it on Monday, the latest episode of The Purple Stuff Podcast has dropped… along with a special bonus show that we’re selling on the side! Get all the details, over here.