One of the greatest tributes to a pop culture character’s popularity is to be made into the immortal idol known as an action figure. And while many characters have been so blessed, there are still many deserving characters who remain un-sculpted in plastic.
And yet, while we have no figure of Dutch Schaefer from Predator, Rasputin from the Hellboy comic or Buzzard from The Goon, we do have these obscure or unwanted characters who not only got their own figure, but were given spots in action figure lines that ended immediately after their appearance, thereby preventing a more desirable figure from getting made.
I had to draw on my own knowledge of toy collecting to come up with these, so I may have missed some doozies. I’ll happily do another list like this, so feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
Adult Swim Series 1 [ Palisades Toys ] by Leandro [ Egon ]
5.) Mothermonsterman (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Palisades)
Palisades Toys’ [adult swim] toy line lasted just one series (consisting of a few different shows) before Palisades went under. The unproduced second series is worthy of its own Forgotten Lore post, but what we’re discussing here is the first wave, and specifically, Mothmonsterman.
As we’ll see as we move down this list, from 2000-2006 or so, many of the smaller toy companies–particularly Mezco, SOTA and Palisades, and to a lesser degree, NECA and Diamond Select–created a number of figure lines that were based on relatively small, infrequently-produced waves that featured 2-4 figures each. In order to maximize the life of the toyline, they spread the “A-list” or most popular characters of each property out through a number of waves, while sticking in an obscure, ostensibly fan-favorite character to help pad out each wave–or at least, that was the plan. Unfortunately, time and again these lines failed after one or two waves.
And here’s Exhibit A: Mothmonsterman. A relatively minor character on the popular [adult swim] cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Mothmonsterman is the only other official 6″-scale Palisades ATHF action figure aside from Master Shake. I mean, really–Mothmonsterman? Why not at least Carl, or the Mooninites? How many waves did Palisades really think they were going to be able to squeeze out of ATHF? Now fans have Mothmonsterman, but no Frylock or Meatwad. Sad.
4.) Golden Pharaoh (Super Powers, Kenner)
Both Golden Pharaoh and Cyclotron–the two brand-new characters created solely for Kenner’s Super Powers line–were pretty lame. But while Cyclotron was mildly cool by virtue of being a robot, there was no such luck for King Tut here.
Why Kenner felt the need to pad out the Super Powers line when there were plenty of popular DC characters left is a mystery that may have been solved at some point, but not as far as I know. (Anyone?) But because Kenner had plans for a never-produced fourth wave of Super Powers, we do know exactly who Golden Pharaoh and Cyclotron crowded out of the line, including:
- Blue Devil
- John Stewart
- Reverse Flash
- Kid Flash
- The Black Racer
- Mister Mxyzptlk
Again, Kenner also had plans for more crappy new characters (Howitzer–bleh). But the one thing we can say for sure is that Mr. Goldenbaldy here and his pal Cyclotron took up two spots that would have been better given to a real DC hero or villain.
3.) April O’Neil (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, NECA)
NECA is usually pretty good about getting the most-wanted figures out first in a toy line. Look at their Bioshock line–not a Jack or an Andrew Ryan among them. They gave fans what they wanted: Big Daddies.
But NECA seems to have gone through a lot of turmoil regarding their license for the TMNT Mirage toys. After releasing some of the finest action figures ever made and showing off incredible sculpts of Shredder, a Foot Soldier and a UTROMS during SDCC ’08, NECA’s TMNT plans seem to have stalled completely. There are various rumors as to why. In any event, they did manage to get one last figure out: an exclusive April O’Neil for SDCC ’09. She was also supposed to be released, in green and yellow variations, at comic shops in October, but that never happened.
That seemed OK at the time, but now that it appears the NECA TMNT line is dead, it’s very clear that the exclusive figure should have been Shredder, not April O’Neil. Like Mezco’s comic Abe Sapien, Shredder would have brought a sense of closure to the TMNT line that April certainly does not.
2.) Joey the Ball (The Goon, Mezco)
The top two spots on this list belong to Mezco, who seem to have applied the same logic to both lines. That logic goes like this: let’s not release all the iconic characters in the first or second wave of toys, because then we’ll sell any more waves.
I’ll give credit to Mezco for putting the Goon, Frankie, and the Zombie Priest in the first wave. That’s three of the four iconic characters from The Goon (it would have been tragic if they’d held Frankie to wave 2). But who got that fourth spot? Joey the Ball.
Joey the Ball?!
Joey the Ball appears in all of two pages of the one of the earliest Goon comics. No one, and I mean no one, needed a Joey the Ball figure. He was obviously included in the line so that Mezco would have a headliner for the second wave. But the line didn’t sell well enough for Mezco to produce a second wave, and thus, we never got a Buzzard action figure.
The Buzzard, who’s so popular he has his own spin-off, was the obvious choice for that fourth spot. If he’d been made, Mezco could at least have given us what was nearly the definitive Goon line. Instead, I have Joey the Ball, a character I care nothing about, wasting space in my display.
I think Mezco’s mistake here was thinking they could even get more than one wave of action figures out of The Goon. After Buzzard, there are really no more toyetic characters. But you can at least maximize the profit from that first wave.
1.) The Alien (Hellboy Comic, Mezco)
It’s important to note that as a standalone figure, the Alien doesn’t suck. In fact, he’s quite good, yet another example of Dave Cortes‘s amazing ability to translate Mike Mignola’s artwork into sculpted form. There’s little question that, in a general sense, Joey the Ball is a more worthless figure than the Alien.
The problem is the Alien cost us a much better figure from a wonderful, diverse franchise.
The mysterious aliens are barely a footnote in Hellboy lore. They show up completely out of the blue in a few panels of the first Hellboy graphic novel, Seed of Destruction, and make a return cameo in Conqueror Worm. To my knowledge, they’ve never popped up again (unless it was in an issue of B.P.R.D.–I’m not caught up on it yet). They’re interesting-looking, to be sure, but are they deserving of an action figure in a line that had, to that point, a mere ten figures (three of them Hellboy)? No.
The proposed third wave of Mezco’s comic Hellboy line would have included Rasputin and a Frog Monster–A FROG MONSTER, the only toy I want more than a yellow-and-green war ape. Both Rasputin–one of Hellboy’s greatest nemeses, if not his greatest–and the army-building-potential Frog Monster would have been a far better option than the Alien. And there are countless others–the Baba Yaga, Hecate (or the Iron Maiden), Kroenen, Abe (who we barely got as an exclusive), Kate Corrigan (who could have been Liz with a new head–I would have accepted that!), the werewolf from “The Wolves of St. August,” Vladimir Giurescu, the chain-arm-wielding Unmensch, or the creepy old hunchback (a.k.a. Giurescu’s father)–all from Wake the Devil, the Nazi techno-zombies from Conqueror Worm…the list goes on and on.
So why did we get the Alien? I assume for the same reason we got Joey the Ball–Mezco believed they wouldn’t be able to sell future waves without some headliners, and so they padded the second wave with a super-obscure character. I get the appeal of putting a fan-favorite like Lobster Johnson in the first wave of Hellboy figures (rumor is Mignola himself requested that), but the Alien is not a fan-favorite. He cost us a more interesting figure, and as such, he’ll always be a bittersweet part of my Hellboy collection.
HONORABLE(?) MENTION: Bob the Goon (Batman Movie Line, ToyBiz)
One Poester offered Bob the Goon from ToyBiz’s seminal Batman line, based on the 1989 movie, as an example of a figure that robbed us of a better one. I and a number of other collectors came to the defense of Bob, but he incited enough controversy that I decided he was worth bringing up here.
I can understand the argument against Bob’s inclusion–there were few enough figures in that line, and Bob seems like an odd choice. The problem, of course, is who’s a better choice than Bob? No kid wanted a figure of Vicki Vale, and the world did not need a figure of Robert Wuhl. So who’s left? I suppose there are the Joker’s mimes from the City Hall attack–they’re a tad more visually interesting than Bob–but no one likes mimes. Ever. So who does that leave? Alfred? Commissioner Gordon? Those guys are even more boring than Bob (who at least has, famously, a gun), and besides, it made more sense to increase the odds on the bad guys’ side than the good guys’ side.
But apparently I could go on about this all day. I leave it to you to decide Bob’s worthiness.
Thanks to Poesters Onigaijan, Fengschwing, Novelty, PrfkTear, Doc Thomas, Newton Gimmick, barbecue17 and FakeEyes22 for their assistance in writing this article.