It’s been over four months since the last edition of Five Random Action Figures. Which is disgusting. Let’s fix that.
Marvel Super Heroes (1990)
Man, that first wave in Toy Biz’s Marvel Super Heroes line was just phenomenal. I’ve occasionally criticized Toy Biz’s lean on quantity-over-quality, but it’s not like they didn’t have the talent to make really great action figures.
Silver Surfer is my favorite figure from that wave, which is saying a lot. He’d later get re-released with a shiny chrome finish, but I much prefer the “flat” look of this version, which better reflected the Surfer’s old school comic appearances.
For me, this was one of those “transcendent” action figures — meaning I never felt particularly beholden to what the character was supposed to be. If you gave me a Spider-Man figure, he was going to be Spider-Man proper, no matter what. By contrast, the Silver Surfer was a blank canvas: I could make him good, bad, all-knowing, innocent, fiery or restrained.
I loved figures like that. Little five-inch vessels, as malleable as my own emotions.
Masters of the Universe (1986)
I was a huge mark for the Snake Men, a splinter group of Masters of the Universe villains. Between them and the Evil Horde, you had tons of bad guys who’d just as soon fight each other as they would He-Man.
I preferred the villains in virtually every toy line I’ve ever collected, but the factions in MOTU made them doubly fun to obsess over. Making He-Man and Skeletor punch each other was great, but making Skeletor, Hordak and King Hiss try to out-Machiavelli each other could eat up an entire afternoon.
Tung Lashor was one of the Snake Men, obviously, and also one of the most colorful MOTU figures ever made. That purply pink skin seriously popped back in the ‘80s, when those sorts of shocking colors were more infrequently used.
“Brick shithouse colored like cotton candy” was reason enough to want Tung Lashor, but if you were somehow on the fence, his flicking tongue pushed you over.
Star Wars (1980)
Dengar was one of the bounty hunters briefly seen during The Empire Strikes Back, and arguably the most “ordinary” among them. Picture your grandpa mixed with a tattered version of the bad guy from Tron.
Even factoring in Dengar’s cameo in Return of the Jedi, he was hardly an important movie character. He shined in the novels and comics, though, as “nobodies” from Star Wars movies always did. There we rediscovered Dengar as this perpetually tragic dude with random glimmers of hope. In some stories, you even root for him.
Dengar’s original action figure was small, but the details kicked ass. He looks exactly as he did onscreen, right down to the weird dots on his outfit. (I’m especially impressed with how they nailed the scarring on his right cheek. Dengar wouldn’t be Dengar without it.)
Even in figure form, Dengar totally comes across as a damaged, grizzled veteran who’s seen some shit.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1991)
Wyrm never appeared on the original TMNT cartoon, but if I’m reading his file card correctly, he wasn’t so much a “mutant worm” as literal mutant garbage with a worm base. (Which explains why he looks more like a Toxic Crusaders character!)
I love how wild the TMNT toy line became in its later years. Compare Wyrm to some of the first wave figures, like Rocksteady. It’s hard to believe that they’re from the same line.
We rarely see mass-produced figures with this many paint apps and points of articulation anymore. The longer you look at Wyrm, the more you notice. (Like, are those leeches sucking on his leg/tail?)
Despite his grotesque appearance, Wyrm was actually one of the good guys. Come to think of it, so was Muckman. The secret-best thing about the TMNT universe is that two heroes sprung from garbage.
Transformers: Beast Wars (1996)
Even if you were never into Beast Wars, you’re probably aware that the Megatron of that universe transformed into a Tyrannosaur. Less known is the fact that Beast Wars Megatron was originally an alligator!
This small figure was released before the TV series launched, and existed outside of the show’s continuity. Whereas Beast Wars Megatron was famously NOT the same Megatron from the ‘80s, this earlier version apparently was.
Gator Megatron was sold in a two-pack with a bat-themed version of Optimus Primal, which was again not something represented on the show.
The neat thing about both figures was their scale. While teensy by Beast Wars standards, they were basically the same height as G.I. Joe and Star Wars figures. You could sit Gator Megatron down with Cobra Commander and it’d all feel pretty natural. (Course, it might make more sense for Gator Megatron to hang with Croc Master.)
Thanks for reading about random action figures for the 43rd time.