We’re now stuck in a weird situation where Halloween feels like it’s already happened, but clearly hasn’t. Pretty much everyone I know did their big celebrating over the weekend, and now we’re kind of puttering toward the finish line.
Hey, whatever. We’ve all done plenty these past two months. You’re allowed to take it easy this week, if that’s what you want. There are no rules to Halloweening, except to have fun in whatever form “fun” takes. Go big, go small, doesn’t matter. By this time next week, you’ll be eating Stove Top.
…but I’m not giving up on the black-and-orange until October 31st, so here’s another thousand words about spooky junk. Get set for the latest edition of Five Random Action Figures, which isn’t normally a Halloween subject, but magically becomes one when I feature nothing but ugly monsters:
Serpentine King Hssss!
Masters of the Universe Classics (2015)
You don’t need to know a thing about Masters of the Universe to recognize this living pile of snakes as a Very Cool Creature, but that’s only the half of it. The vintage King Hiss figure was one of my childhood favorites, and this extreme take on his “snake form” would’ve been beyond my wildest dreams as a kid.
The general line on King Hiss (here stylized as “Hssss”) is that he’s at least equal in rank to Skeletor and Hordak. I love the fact that a guy with eight snakes replacing a proper head and torso is actually a brilliant tactician who gets to ussse big wordsss while ordering everyone else around.
Bonus points: I don’t know what this figure originally sold for, but I got him for just five bucks during one of GameStop’s “we have too much shit in our storeroom” sales.
This technically isn’t an action figure, but I definitely used it that way. Count Creepyhead was the star component of a spooky Play-Doh set from the 1980s. Think of him as a Play-Doh Fun Factory shaped like the Grim Reaper.
That set had a few magic tricks, but most notable was Count Creepyhead’s ability to ooze Play-Doh out of his facial orifices when you pushed his arms down. It was as if Conal Cochran worked for Kenner.
He’s more of an armature than a complete figure, but not while he’s wearing that awesome black cloak. I had this set as a kid, but I only messed around with the actual Play-Doh for one afternoon. After that, Count Creepyhead lorded over my other action figures, looking and acting like an extra goth version of Prime Evil from Filmation’s Ghostbusters.
(Looking back, several of my favorite action figures weren’t really action figures. There was Count Creepyhead, of course, but also the bishops from our old wooden chess set, and those tiny ceramic animals that used to come in boxes of Rose Tea.)
Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994)
I remember next to nothing about Spider-Man: The Animated Series, so I’m in no position to tell you about Lizard’s role on the show. Actually, I only bought this guy because I fell in love with his plastic jacket.
If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m a huge sucker for action figures with removable clothing. Cheap pieces of cloth and scrunched sheets of plastic rule my world. Most collectors seem to prefer molded clothes, but not me. I want my figures to look like they’re dressed in recycled Hefty bags and strips of pool table felt.
In the case of Lizard, the coat means everything. Without it, he’s just a too-happy snake-guy with mismatched clothes and no swagger. Add in the jacket, and suddenly my Bespin Leia is trading up from Han Solo. You’re my style icon, Lizard.
Star Wars (1983)
Nikto was one of the least-important characters to get an action figure in Kenner’s Star Wars collection, but we all needed cannon fodder, right?
If he’s news to you, Nikto was another of Jabba’s skiff guards from Return of the Jedi. (Actually, “Nikto” refers to his whole species, but I’m going by the Kenner playbook, here. I believe his proper name was Lathe. He had four seconds of screentime, tops.)
This is one of the few figures I’ve held onto since childhood, which has more to do with happenstance than any special affinity. I can still remember the night I picked Nikto up at Toys “R” Us. He wouldn’t have been my first, second or tenth choice, but on that night, he was the only Star Wars figure in stock that I didn’t already have.
I ended up liking Nikto more than I’d anticipated, I guess because he was a blank slate. With such a limited role in the movie, it’s not like I felt beholden to it. As I recall, Nikto’s weirdly cute turtle face made me see him more as a good guy. He wasn’t the star of my bedroom floor, but he got to do more than fire one laser and die.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m SO MAD at myself for ignoring Kenner’s Aliens figures during their loooong stay on KB Toys’ clearance shelves. (Some of you must remember that. They were 3-for-$10 for like ten years straight. What was I thinking?)
To beef up the collection’s size, Kenner merged Xenomorphs with a number of “everyday” animals, from scorpions to gorillas. I think I’d call a Xenomorph mixed with a praying mantis the line’s crowning achievement, even if only for that silver/jade color scheme. There’s a certain elegance to this figure that you wouldn’t expect when you hear “space alien mixed with giant bug.”
I never bothered with this line as a kid, and that’s especially disappointing because I was a “mixer.” I never played, say, “Star Wars” or “Ninja Turtles.” All of my figures intermingled as a rule. It would’ve been so badass to introduce these large, terrifying creatures and then figure out how guys like Donatello and Snake Eyes could deal with them. I totally blew my chance to stage little horror movies, right there on the tan carpet.
Thanks for reading about old spooky action figures. Now go eat your candy corn before it goes bad. You have six years.