It’s no secret that the 1980s through the early 1990s were an important period for toys. It was a period of immense creativity in toy-making, often in conjunction with hypnotically entertaining television shows that left lasting impressions on the youth of the era (and I’m obviously one of them). What I find interesting lately, though, is the two properties that seem to be seeing a surprising amount of love: M.U.S.C.L.E. (and its spiritual successor, Monster In My Pocket) and Battle Beasts.
I’m going to save the Battle Beasts discussion for a later article, and just briefly touch on M.U.S.C.L.E. and MIMP. (Fair warning: what you’re about to read was cribbed from Wikipedia. There could be inaccuracies.) M.U.S.C.L.E. (Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere) were originally a type of collectible eraser called kinkeshi in Japan, and were associated with a popular manga and anime franchise called Kinnikuman about professional wrestling. Mattel imported the figures, made them plastic figurines instead of erasers (as they accurately judged that American children thought of erasers as disposables rather than collectibles) and jettisoned the entire Kinnikuman storyline to make up their own. The resulting toy line proved quite popular with kids and became one of those major nostalgic properties from the 1980s. And it had some memorable weird figures – there was the “pyramid guy,” the “hand guy” and the “screwhead guy,” for example. Funny thing is, all these characters had (in some cases extensive) back stories in Kinnikuman.
Monster in My Pocket was a similar line of small collectible minifigures, but as the name implies, it featured more than just wrestlers – there were dinosaurs, vampires, werewolves, aliens, etc. Both lines have their own incredibly rare figures and diehard collecting communities devoted to keeping the memory of the lines alive.
Others, however, have tried to resurrect these lines in various forms. One of the most prominent is October Toys, who created the MIMP-like Z.O.M.B.I.E. (Zillions of Mutated Bodies Infecting Everyone) [review] and the more recent and more M.U.S.C.L.E.-like OMFG! (Outlandish Mini Figure Guys!) [review]
Z.O.M.B.I.E. in particular is interesting here, because it marries 1980s nostalgia for M.U.S.C.L.E. and MIMP with the seemingly endless popularity of zombies. Other manufacturers seem to have either noticed what October Toys did or came up with a similar idea on their own (I’m being intentionally circumspect here), because similar products have appeared with Box O Zombies and, on a much larger scale, JAKKS’s S.L.U.G. Zombies (Scary Little Ugly Guys). The S.L.U.G. Zombies seem to have proven popular with collectors.*
Anyway, the idea is simple: it’s zombie versions of characters from folklore, pop culture, and everyday life. (And yes, there’s one based on Evil Dead‘s Ash called Sawblade Sampson) They’re done in a cartoonish style, and at about an inch tall the figures are slightly taller than the other products I’ve mentioned. The bad-guy zombies are green, while the good guys are pink, covering both the MIMP and M.U.S.C.L.E. bases.
I’m honestly not much of a minifigure collector. I think at this point it’s been made pretty clear that my preferred type of toys are between 6″-8″ in scale, are fully articulated, and are based on or have available some sort of story-based media. By definition, minifigures fall outside almost all of those parameters.
However, there is one big exception to this rule: holiday toys. I will buy a holiday version of anything. One of my favorite holiday traditions of recent years is perusing the Christmas toys section of Target for holiday exclusives. Some are better than others – I generally prefer that the toy actually try to reference the holiday and not just be, say, a vaguely winter-related repaint of a character (I’m looking at you, Batman).
JAKKS seems to be pretty good about these holiday exclusives – I picked up a cool Smurfs one a while back. This year, JAKKS has four sets of holiday S.L.U.G. Zombies, each featuring two unique new zombies and a re-used “good guy” from the regular line.
I believe they’re Target exclusives. Update: Apparently they’re not exclusive to Target.
They come in special holiday packaging, which is always a nice touch. I must say I really like the S.L.U.G. Zombies packaging – it’s fun and colorful, with some great graphics. Inside there’s a neat poster showing all the figures and giving their “vital information.” For example:
Previous Job: Drummer Boy
Likes: Fresh cut grass
Dislikes: Rain on his parade & broken drumsticks
Favorite Food: Carcass casserole
There are some great character choices here, from Santa (natch), to an evil Snowman (not sure how the zombification infection works on supernaturally-animated snow but it’s Christmas, a time of miracles), to an elf, to my personal favorite, Ebenezer Scrooge (a.k.a. “Hungry Humbug”).
I love the sculpts, though the production process seems to soften the sculpts more than, say, the OMFG! figures’ does.
It’s a bit disappointing that they couldn’t spring for some new “good guys,” but the zombies themselves are great. On a side note: in the 1980s, S.L.U.G. Zombies would have gotten a cartoon show. There’s no question in my mind.
Anyway, there’s not a whole lot else to say about these, so just enjoy the pics! (Mouseover a thumbnail to see the figure’s name.)
*I’m basing this claim entirely on anecdotal evidence, i.e., a friend on Facebook was excited about these enough to post about it, and Drs. Mrs. Ghostal and I were lucky to find the last of the Santa Claws set at my local Target. It appeared to be fine, but was marked down from $3.99 to $1.29 on an “as-is” sticker; and then, for whatever reason, the sets weren’t ringing up except for that one, so the cashier gave us all four sets for $1.29 apiece.