Poe’s Evolving(?) Thoughts on Bios

I’ve been going back and re-reading some of my oldest toy reviews lately (partly in an effort to get my reviewing mojo back, I’ll admit). In the course of doing so I came across some statements I made that, in light of more recent developments, seemed pretty amusing.

From my review of the Spawn: The Viking Age Skullsplitter figure from McFarlane Toys:

I actually find it rather interesting; if McFarlane can take these characters, change their names and cook up a new back story, why can’t I? I think action figure collectors should reject messy, half-baked biographies and come up with their own stories.

This was followed by a review of Bluetooth from the same line, where I wrote this:

[…] more importantly, why is there a need for a backstory at all? This complaint isn’t so much directed at McFarlane Toys at it is toy collectors in general. I know that McFarlane put out several lines without the backstories – it was the fans who demanded they be brought back, feeling that they had no connection with the figures without some sort of understanding of who or what they were. All I can say is, that’s a little sad. It seems  collectors are ready to come up with potential storylines for their toys, but they’re incapable of characterizing them.

I can’t decide whether this is consistent with the things I’ve written since then or not. I’ve always said I make better connections with figures whose characters have some sort of story or franchise behind them, but at the same time, I’ve rejected many of the bios created for MOTUC. (I still think Gygor is good, for example. I don’t care how many people think he’s cool as a bad guy. In my universe, he was a heel who made a face turn.)

I think I like to have some sort of character bio – at least the barest outline of one – but I also want the option to create my own stories with them. That may actually be what bothers me most about the MOTUC bios. While I’d like nothing more than a brief background and some information about the character’s personality and abilities, Mattel’s effort to tell an ongoing story within the bios often shortchanges all of that.

13 Comments »

Comments now closed (13)

  • I like it when there's a story, but I also like it when there's something there that I can do my own thing with. It's one of the reasons I've really got into ROTU, it gives me some basis and then pretty much opens the door for anything. I think that's what I liked about vintage MOTU. The modern MOTUC stuff, seems to trying a bit too much to be like Star Wars' updated mythos. Where everything is connected and every character is somehow central to the universe. Which I find annoying.

    Granted that's not always true, I think Vykron's bio was pretty bad as I recall. He's just like some great fighter who is randomly killed. But in general, it seems that MOTUC is doing a lot of that, inter-connectivity stuff that works for some characters, but not every character.

    • I do sometimes miss the days between the original trilogy and the prequels – the days before Wookiepedia and official continuity staff, when you could read one origin for Boba Fett in an RPG book and another one in a comic, and you could pick which one you liked or ignore them both.

      I agree – I like something to start with, but then I want to develop my own ideas.

  • Don't overthink it, Poe. The primary problem with the MOTUC bios is that they are horrifically bad.

  • Just out of curiosity, were you ever into MUSCLE? And if so, what kinds of stories did you make up for those guys? And also if so, how did you respond when all the Kinnikuman info came to light?

    And, uh… that's an openj question to everybody. I guess if you were never into MUSCLE back in the day, this doesn't apply very much.

    • I had a bunch of M.U.S.C.L.E., but I don't remember really knowing much about the stories. I remember finding Muscleman(?) and Terri-Bull interesting solely because they had been given actual names and characterization.

      I didn't find out about Kinnikuman until long, long after – sometime in the early 2000s.

  • another counterpoint, how do you feel about the backstory for the 4 horsemen in house properties, like gothitropolis? to me, those bios feel like enough to intrigue me to want more, but not so much as to feel burdensome (which some of the spawn bios did and motuc… don't get me started.) the bio tantalizes, the figs delivers, and i'm left wanting more… i think that should be the goal for a figure bio, right? but hitting that golden median is a tough, tough endeavor.

    a good bio helps a figure connect, but like garnish next to a steak, it can't make the sale or take the focus off a bad steak.

    • Well, as I said above I think that's ideal – enough to stimulate your imagination but not the character's entire life story.

      On a related note, It always seemed weird to own a toy of a movie character who died before the end of the film. I'm talking about original characters – so, not so much the Joker, because you could always imagine your action figure was of the Joker from the comics. But as fun as he was, it seemed a little ghoulish to have a Bob the Goon toy.

      • How I loved my Bob the Goon figure.

        As one of the few who actually enjoys the MOTUC Bios, I think one

      • How I loved my Bob the Goon figure.

        As one of the few who actually enjoys the MOTUC Bios, I think two of the best parts about them is that they do allow room for our own interpretations of the characters’ personalities in many instances and that there is still a great deal if wiggle room to weave in our own adventures and tales.

      • Bob could have lived, it was only a single shot! To his chest at point blank range, I'll grant you but Bob falls off camera! Maybe he was wearin' some kind of body armor. He's human after all.

  • The collision of two separate concepts is what creates this confusion.
    The bio card, in the day of Gi Joe's heyday, was not tied to any of the media that surrounded the line.
    It gave you just enough information on Lonzo Wilkinson AKA Stalker so you could use him in your Joe adventures. The comics later made him a 'Nam compatriot of Snake Eyes and so forth.
    The bio cards on MOTUC and the Spawn lines, to some extent, have to function as both the bio card AND the media. Ideally there would be a "clean" Vykron bio card – he is the tough warrior gladiator of the jungle colosseum! – and a comic/animated adventure that showed you his final battle with Gygor (validity of the story not something I'm going to debate – doesn't matter if it's TG or Hama or Furman, there will always be some story element people don't enjoy). Even when TG gets the space to do a comic or a couple of comics, there are literal shoehorned-in scenes because he just doesn't have enough space to cram everything in that he wants.

    I think bio cards are pretty essential, but there is a magic to them that gets compromised when they are the only outlet a company has to tell the stories of those characters.