In the early 1980s, Mattel famously passed on an action figure line for Conan the Barbarian after seeing just how violent the R-rated film really was. Meanwhile, Kenner was still making money hand over fist off their massively popular Star Wars toys.
But by the end of the decade, the Star Wars boom had subsided in the absence of new movies, so Kenner began casting about for new licenses. Having found such success with one science fiction film, it’s not surprising Kenner picked up another one. What is a bit surprising is that it was the R-rated Robocop, a film that was initially given an X rating for its graphic violence, including a scene where a police officer is brutally shot to death and a man is exposed to toxic waste and subsequently splattered across a car’s windshield. (To be fair, the toy line coincided with a cartoon by Marvel, and both followed the pioneering Rambo cartoon and toyline from the mid-’80s).
In the early 1990s, Kenner also picked up the rights to Terminator 2 (and later, Aliens and Predator).*
As a kid, I was really into Terminator 2. You’re never really as obsessed with anything as you are when you’re 11-13, are you? I was so into the whole thing, I styled my hair like Schwarzenegger’s in the film – and trust me when I say that I did not have the type of hair that could do that.
Terminator 2 was the first R-rated movie I saw in the theater (I was thirteen), and I managed to see it twice.
The next step, obviously, was a trip to the toy store. And being me, I wanted an action figure of the Terminator that, y’know, actually resembled the most iconic look of the character in the movie – leather jacket, leather pants, sunglasses. Not terribly complicated, right? Unfortunately, Kenner had evidently left that sort of attention to detail behind when they stopped making Star Wars figures.
The closest one could get was this fellow here, Power Arm Terminator (Amazon). He’s not quite what I wanted back then, though. He’s kind of wearing a leather biker jacket, but his sleeves are missing and he’s tossed on a fuchsia turtleneck. He looks like he should be hanging around Polk Street looking for an entirely different “john.” Oh, and half his damned face is missing.
During this period, action figure producers often followed the lead of the best-selling lines. Shortly after Kenner introduced their 3¾” Star Wars figures there was an explosion of toy lines in that scale. A few years later, everyone started copying the bulky Masters of the Universe figures – even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles showed vestiges of MOTU’s influence. So it’s not surprising Power Arm Terminator, who stands about 5″ tall, somewhat resembles Playmates’ TMNT figures in his size, detailing, and slightly cartoonish sculpt.
This figure has a pretty fun gimmick – interchangeable robotic arms. If I may put on my Huge Nerd cap for a moment, it’s obviously very non-canonical from the film (at least until the T-X in Terminator 3, a movie that, as far as I’m concerned doesn’t exist). But as action features go, this is pretty fun. The “grabbing claw” and missile launcher arms are obvious (and that missile goes quite a distance), but the regular arm’s action feature is a bit mystifying.
Yes, Power Arm Terminator can flip you the robo-bird. As a kid, I carved that rounded tip into a pointy one, because I liked my toys to have at least the possibility of piercing my retina.
But what the hell was this feature supposed to be anyway? I have two theories. One: it was inspired by Kenner’s famous slide-out lightsabers in their SW figures. Or two: a few years earlier, Kenner had made action figures of Robocop, who had a hand that could eject a spike, and for whatever reason the Kenner designers remembered that and decided to implement it here.
It would be nearly two decades before I got the Terminator action figure I’d always wanted. But I have fond memories of this guy, and I still have one in my collection today.
*In fact, Kenner had dipped its toes in R-rated toys a decade earlier with the notorious 1979 12″ Alien toy – and its famously unproduced 3¾” line, which will finally see release this fall from Super7.