Pretty much every team of heroes has one: the big guy whose chief role is to lift stuff, smash things and hit people. The Avengers had the Hulk, the Fantastic Four has the Thing and the A.B.C. Warriors have Mongrolâ€¦
In the late 20th century a fascist uprising in the Volgograd area of Russia turns to a full blown coup and the Volgan Republic of Asia is born. Soon the Volgans begin a rapid invasion of the rest of Western Europe, including the British Isles, igniting a third world war.
The United States retaliates but quickly realises that 21st century combat requires a new kind of soldier to deal with the atomic, bacteriological and chemical threats on the future battlefield. The A.B.C. Warriors were born.
The A.B.C. Warriors had a convoluted birth. Their genesis came from a number of strips running in a fair glut of action- and sci-fi-oriented British weekly comics in the late 1970s. Back then, our comics were printed on newsprint, mostly in black and white, nearly three times the physical size of the glossier American monthlies and containing maybe five or six strips, each continuing a weekly story.
Of them all, only 2000 AD has stood the test of time. Back in 1978 it introduced the evil alien Volgans in theÂ Red Dawn-like strip “Invasion!” Â Meanwhile, over in 2000ADâ€™s short-lived sister title, Starlord, a strip entitled â€˜Ro-Bustersâ€™ Â saw a bunch of ex-army war surplus robots pressed into service as disaster recovery agents.Â Chief protagonists of the Ro-Busters were Hammerstein (an ex-army war droid) and Ro-Jaws (a cocky sewer droid). It was quickly established that Hammerstein fought in the Volgan wars and was an A.B.C. Warrior. The idea stuck and proved popular enough with readers to create a third series: The A.B.C. Warriors.
The plot was simple and appealing stuff–classic World War II themes dressed up in a sci-fi coating. The A.B.C. Warriors were essentially The Dirty Dozen.Â The Volgan war storyline was a hit and after the war, the A.B.C. Warriors relocated to Mars in an effort to enforce frontier justice among the fledgling human colonies.Â Giant, rusty robots traipsing around Mars? Perhaps itâ€™s only right that Ashley Wood, creator of the Mars-bound World War Robots, should be the first to bring the A.B.C. Warriors to life with his ThreeA toy company.
Mongrol was the second 2000AD character to be announced (the first, fittingly, was the comics fictional alien editor, Tharg). He went on sale at the end of February 2011 at $250 including shipping.Â When the box finally arrived in October, I couldnâ€™t believe how big the damn thing was.
Inside the plain mailer box is a beautiful red cube telling us this is Mongrol, A.B.C. Warrior 1 of 7. This isnâ€™t strictly true, but weâ€™ll get to that later.
At just over a foot tall and the same again wide, he’s a beast.Â You can pose him so that he stands a lot taller, but Mongrol is typically hunched over in an ape-like pose and heâ€™s even packed that way.
Articulation is plentiful with double ball joints at the neck, shoulder and wrists and plain old ball joints at the hips and ankles. He has a hinged jaw (although this can be quite delicate) and swivels at the bicep, mid-arm, waist and chest. And finally hinges at the elbows, knees and toes.
I had no trouble with any of his joints at all, they were all nice and tight but not so tight that they wouldnâ€™t move freely. There were a few squeaks and creaks from his hips, but nothing too alarming. Iâ€™d rather have a slightly tight ball joint than a toy that flops around like a rag-doll.
The pipes on the arms move nicely and donâ€™t impede any movement at all, they also look like they are firmly attached and wonâ€™t be going anywhere soon. Rubber tubing like that is always a worry for me on an action figure.
Also worthy of note is the carapace-like armour on his shins. Itâ€™s segmented and jointed on pivots so it sort of flexes up and down. Itâ€™s difficult to describe but looks and moves fantastically. There have been some reports of this area breaking, although Iâ€™ve had no trouble with it at all.
The hands too, have a plethora of ball joints and hinges, allowing for a great deal of poses. His hands are so large he can easily shake hands with me on equal terms, but this is fitting as his â€˜power-pawsâ€™ are his chief weapon. They look like old bits of industrial farming machinery too, with their yellow paint, exposed wiring, exhaust pipes, ports and, of course, the flexible hosing.
The detailing all over the figure is, as you would expect, excellent, helped by threeAâ€™s customarily amazing paint-job. Mongrol looks like he has seen combat, with plenty of wear, rust and oil stains all over his body.Â His military star is a sculpted element on the forehead and he has â€˜ABCâ€™ on his crotch, both in yellow.
Some folk have expressed disappointment that Mongrol’s trademarked mouth cannon isnâ€™t in some way included, but I think thatâ€™s just nitpicking, besides, engineering that would be a bit of a pain with the jaw hinge being a little delicate.
In terms of accessories, there are only two, but both are quite key.Â First we have his chin chain.Â Thereâ€™s plenty of it and itâ€™s formed of light, plastic links. Again, each one is weathered. It attaches by means of one link with a slight split, enabling you to slip it through the eye link on his chin. This can be a pretty weak area on the toy, so you need to take care not to yank on it too hard. There have been some cases of it eye link shearing off or even that delicate hinge in the jaw giving out.
As for the second accessory–remember that writing on the box–Mongrol was 1 of 7? Well, technically you have two A.B.C. Warriors here.Â One member of the team was a war droid called Steelhorn, forged of an utterly indestructible alloy, he joined the team pretty late in the Volg war if memory serves. Unfortunately Steelhorn was pushed into a furnace and melted into a pile of hot slag but even this didnâ€™t stop him. He became a sentient mass of molten metal, nicknamed “The Mess.” Only Mongrol seemed to have any affinity for the wretched creature so the Mess was sealed into a vacuum flask which Mongrol wore on his shoulder. Itâ€™s only fitting that this should be Mongrolâ€™s second accessory.
The flask is a lovely, slightly distressed amber colour with a detailed and weathered top. It fits into a diamond shaped hole on Mongrols shoulder by way of an unobtrusive tag on its back. Whatâ€™s also very cool is that Mongrol has been designed with the hole on both sides of his body, so it looks like a feature of his armour rather than an obvious port, so to speak.
The Messâ€™s jar opens and you can remove the Mess himself, a small, bubbly mass of amber rubber with two little golden eyes. He rather looks like a bunch of evil grapes and thatâ€™s very accurate to his look in the comic. Of course, on the page, once free, he would quickly expand into a whirling maelstrom of liquid metal death, but thereâ€™s only so much you can do in vinyl and plastic.
There have been a few QC issues with some of the Mongrols (the aforementioned jaw and ankle armour and some ball joints being a little too small for the sockets), but it seems that threeAâ€™s customer service has been pretty much universally excellent, with them dispatching replacement parts to customers if and when needed. It just goes to show how a relatively small company can really take the likes of Mattel to school over these things.
As with pretty much any figure these days, there was also a variant available; the Black Hole version.Â This was still the same figure but with a black paint job and it was only available to threeA members. It was a very nice look but as a traditionalist, I wanted a Mongrol that looked how he did on the cover of my comics all those years ago. Â Ashley Wood has stuck close to the original Mike McMahon design and as such has finally produced an action figure I have been waiting for since I was eight years old.
Mongrol is the centerpiece of my collection and is thoroughly recommended to anyone who loves a big robot and has the money to track one down.