Continuing with my “Five Random Action Figures” series, I thought I’d make this edition a little more appropriate for the Halloween Countdown. This time, our five random action figures are all TERRIBLE MONSTERS!
Camouflage Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing, 1990
This toy series found root (heyoooo) in the Swamp Thing animated series. Good lord, what fantastic figures! Most notably, the villains came with what were essentially finger puppets, which they could (loosely) wear over their heads to become “monsters.”
There were several different Swamp Thing figures available, of course, and Kenner did a great job in differentiating them. One Swamp Thing glowed in the dark. Another had his left hand attached by a string, to serve as an organic snare. A third could actually fall apart, into what was supposed to look like a pile of harmless branches, even if it really just looked like a dismembered Swamp Thing.
The guy pictured here is Camouflage Swamp Thing. With a little cold water, all of his green parts will turn brown. (I guess to assist him with sneak attacks from the mud?) It was the same gimmick that those old Matchbox cars had, but it was a hell of a lot cooler to do it to Swamp Thing.
Monster Armor Mystique
I’ve written about the glut of X-Men figures that cluttered toy stores throughout the late ‘90s before. Since I wasn’t a collector, I admit that I resented them, partially with the notion that they were taking shelf space away from lines that I actually was into.
On the other hand, it was pretty awesome when KB Toys started liquidating them. First it was 3 for $10. Then 4 for $10. Then 5 for $10, with a free massage. I think everyone even mildly into toys ended up with a hundred X-Men back then, sometimes because they wanted them, but often because they’d fallen to the price of a Snapple.
The line’s incredible size can be attributed to Toy Biz’s willingness to try anything. For example, the “Monster Armor” series. Wow.
Here, a normal Mystique figure mutates into the SHE-BEAST, thanks to a bunch of snap-on monster parts. She looks like Gwildor mixed with Bebop mixed with the Grey Lady from Ghostbusters. (Other figures were equally impressive. Rogue was a dragon long before internet doodlers made her that way.)
I have no idea if this storyline actually happened in the comics. If it did, please tell me so I can buy thirty copies of the graphic novel.
Remco Mini-Monsters, 1980
You may remember this as one of my summertime yard sale finds, but it’s way too seasonally appropriate not to mention again.
Remco made various uses of their Universal Monsters license, but I think their “Mini-Monsters” figures got the most mileage. In a 3 ¾” scale that probably took a clue from Kenner’s wildly popular Star Wars collection, they’re to this day some of the “truest” Universal Monster action figures I’ve seen.
All of the top dogs were represented, from Dracula to the Wolf Man, and even the Phantom of the Opera. Most appealing was Remco’s Creature from the Black Lagoon, which even now ranks as one of my favorite figures.
As for Frankie, he has an appropriate hint of friendliness behind his monstrous facade. Note the faint smile and clueless eyes. This guy was only bad if he was forced into it. Victims of circumstance were so much fun to play with!
Apropos of nothing, one of our cats just jumped on my desk, stole a Cheeto and ran off. So now I have to go chase a cat.
Spiked Tail Predator
Ever since reviewing Lava Planet Predator almost two years ago, I’ve developed something of a passion for the series. I completely ignored it in the ‘90s, and what a mistake that was! With Kenner’s Aliens serving as a sort of “sister line,” each series took one “creature concept” and expanded it with all sorts of weirdly specific offshoots.
On the Aliens side, you got extraterrestrial menaces based on everything from panthers to wild boars. With Predator, the differences between the figures were more… recherché. The fact that there was a “Cracked Tusk Predator” explains it better than I ever could.
Really, with Predator, the unique identifiers were only there to make them easier to name. Kenner’s actual goal was to create Predators with all sorts of crazy poses and color schemes, and to give each of them wildly different weapons. As a result, no two Predator figures looked even remotely alike.
This Spiked Tail Predator was sort of the “Boba Fett” of the line. Easily the sleekest in the set, Spiked Tail Predator seemed more technologically advanced than the others. With three “assault disks” pegged into his back, I see this guy as a more “to the point” kind of hunter. No senseless boasting or bravado. No roaring out of context. Zip in, chuck saw blades at dudes, and zip out.
I doubt he ever used that spiked tail for anything besides balance. Why bother?
Skeleton Warriors, 1994
…and speaking of toy lines that I was a fool to ignore, holy shit! If Aracula is any indication of how awesome Skeleton Warriors were, I’ve found my new hobby.
The storyline, in basic terms: Baron Dark, a villain who is somehow even higher in rank than Aracula, uses his dark powers to create an army of skeletal warriors. The only thing keeping them from global domination is the Legion of Light, a ragtag bunch of super-powered humans who couldn’t possibly have been as fun to play with.
My photo doesn’t do Aracula justice at all. He’s big and bulky, with a “physical madness” that’s reminiscent of Norris-Thing. A figure this absurd needn’t have come with any accessories, but Aracula came with several, including a multi-pronged axe and a gun in the shape of a giant spider. JESUS.
Aracula, where have you been all my life?
Skeleton Warriors had a corresponding animated series, which affords me the chance to end this article on the brightest possible note:
The Skeleton Warriors intro. Watch that, and your entire worldview will dramatically change.