In the spirit of the season, we here at PGPoA have been thinking a lot about horror. There have been plenty of horror-themed toy lines over the years, from Aurora’s monster models in the 1960s to Remco Universal Monsters in the 1970s, from the Real Ghostbusters and Super Naturals in the 1980s to Skeleton Warriors and Movie Maniacs in the 1990s, but most action figure lines don’t center around gore or guts.
However, many toy lines often feature one or two characters with a horror theme. Often the characters in these toy lines are based on some sort of gimmick (be it an action feature or simply an aesthetic), and for certain characters, that gimmick is “horror.”
In honor of All Hallow’s Eve, we put together a list of eight characters from more mainstream lines who are still pretty horrifying. We could only come up with eight in time for the deadline, so please feel free to post your own suggestions in the comments!
8.) Super Powers – Parademon
Nemo Eight: It’s been suggested that since Jack Kirby received so little money from his comics work, he totally redesigned some of his Fourth World characters for the Super Powers toy line in order to collect extra pay. Whatever the cause for the departure from the established comic designs, our collections are the richer, though our fragile psyches were the worst. No other toy in the ’80s came closer to fulfilling the Ultimate Evil niche of being the Devil himself than this guy. Huge white claws and talons, spike-like shoulders, batwings, high pointed ears, snarling fangs and the unmistakable red skin – this is the ’accidental’ monster figure of the era. Be it an army of demons to battle the Joes or a singular Satan to bitch-slap the Emperor into submission, this figure was a very welcome harbinger for the countless horror figures that would one day fill my shelves.
7.) The Muppets – Uncle Deadly
Doc Thomas: Inclusiveness was always a major factor in the worlds of Jim Henson; between the many different animals and creatures in the worlds of the Muppets, and the many monsters that live on Sesame Street, Henson’s worlds are ones in which differences and uniqueness are celebrated. Thus we have Uncle Deadly, “the Phantom of the Muppet Show,” a scary blue reptilian-looking creature who “haunted” the Muppet Theater but was still part of the Muppet family. Joining Palisade’s terrific Muppets line in 2005 as an exclusive, Uncle Deadly got not one but three unique action figures, all of which were clever variants based on his character.
The one I got, and definitely the most spooky of them all, was the awesome “Flashback” variant, in a black and white movie style. All three Deadlys shared the same sculpt and the same accessories – a terrific hovering ghost and a skull – but this was the only one to GLOW IN THE DARK!! His spooky accessories glow as well, and between the classic-horror-movie paint and the fact that he glows, he is one of the best Halloween action figures of all time!
6.) Go-Bots – Vamp
Poe: Some of the more memorable Go-Bots were the “monsters” that appeared late in the line. There were five of them, including Creepy, Scorp, Bladez, and Pincher, but arguably the coolest one was Vamp, a green nightmare that transformed into a sleek car/spaceship/something. According to the cartoon show, Vamp was female.
5.) Transformers – Bludgeon
Poe: In the history of the Transformers’ endless innovations and reinventions, few are as odd as the Pretenders. While the basic premise remained the same – a robot that could transform into something else – the Pretenders characters were then encased within the shell of a (usually) humanoid “action figure.” We don’t have the slightest idea what market need drove this line, unless Hasbro was looking at lines like the Centurions and the Inhumanoids and figuring kids were done with robots and wanted big, vaguely doofy-looking humans now.
Whatever the reason for the line, it did give them the chance to create the most horrific Transformer of all time. Although in his robot form he was merely a robot who turned into a tank, within his Pretender shell, Bludgeon was an incredibly badass undead samurai, complete with a Skeletor-like face. Much like Grimlock or Ratchet, Bludgeon became a favorite of Transformers comic book writers and became a fan favorite in turn. He was also rather a popular subject for the Marvel comic’s artists, what with being so badass and all.
4.) Secret Wars – Hobgoblin
Nemo Eight: Comic books have a long history of folding in monsters and ghouls, so it’s no real surprise that Spider-man has no less than four enemies whose name includes the word “goblin.” What is surprising is that of all of them, Mattel went with Hobgoblin for their second series of figures loosely based on Marvel’s epic mid-1980s Secret Wars crossover. Maybe it’s his cool color combination, the fact that he gets both his glider and cape, or the bizarrely large, triangular head, but this is one heck of a cool toy. He’s got a giant, Joker-esque grin on his lips and an insane quality to the bulbous red eyes. Doom and Zemo had relatively faceless masks, Doctor Octopus and Magneto were just white guys with head gear, but this dude – no sir! This is the one that you did not want to meet on a dark alley. He was the wild card in the collection, the guy that not even Darth Vader could trust in the epic backyard battles of my youth!
3.) G.I. Joe – Golobulus
Poe: Seriously, how screwed up is the G.I. Joe movie?
I’m talking about Rise of Cobra of course, which was terrible.
On the other hand, the 1987 animated film (not released theatrically after the dismal performances of Transformers: The Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie) had some really weird stuff going on.
For those of you who haven’t experienced its profound craziness, G.I. Joe: The Movie introduces us to Cobra-La, an ancient civilization of lizard people who live underground and, it turns out, were the motivating force behind Cobra Commander and the creation of Cobra itself. Golobulus is their leader, a hideous half-man, half-snake (voiced by Burgess “The Penguin / Rocky’s coach” Meredith in the film). He’s easily the most horrific G.I. Joe character ever created.
2.) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Mutagen Man
Poe: There are a few good candidates for this list in Playmates’ vintage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, but we’re going to go with Mutagen Man. Here’s his bio from his toy packaging:
Victim of Krang’s insidious experiments, Seymour Gutz woke up from a lab table only to find himself hideously transformed into Mutagen Man – a pathetic, dripping, ever-changing mutating monster. Confined to a mechanical life support system that holds his mutating body together, Mutagen Man is now dependent on Ooze to replenish his deteriorating form. Forced to do Shredder’s bidding in exchange for Retromutagen Ooze, Mutagen Man reluctantly performs dastardly deeds to get the substance his body so desperately craves.
Armed with his Mutagen Machine Gun, Mutagen Man relentlessly tracks down the Turtles and their allies. Head for the sewers and hide your Ooze! Mutagen Man’s on his way – and you just know he has the guts to get you!
Wow. This dude woke up in a lab, completely dismembered, disemboweled, and reduced to a handful of vital organs. It’s like that urban legend about kidney thieves crossed with The Incredible Melting Man. And then he has to commit crimes for the people who mutilated him just to stay alive! It’s like what OSI did to Steve Austin, only instead of being better, stronger, faster, Seymour Gutz is worse, weaker, slower…and a living pile of viscera. He’s a cautionary tale whose message is simple: never fall asleep.
1.) Masters of the Universe – Scareglow
Poe: Yeah, this one’s obvious. Almost everyone on Eternia had a gimmick, so you just knew there had to be one whose gimmick was “being scary.” And that’s Scareglow.
In toy form, his “action feature” was that he glowed in the dark. He had an eye-catching design, with a painted-on skeleton body and fetching purple cape, with a neat sculpted skull-head complete with a fissure. In his accompanying mini-comic, Scareglow’s power is that he can glow and make people really afraid by doing so, sorta.
Of course, MOTU already had a creepy skeleton-guy in the form of Skeletor, which may be why there was some confusion among young fans as to whether the description on Scareglow’s packaging, “Evil Ghost of Skeletor,” meant Scareglow was actually Skeletor’s own haunted soul (you know, from the future or something). Turns out not.
And that’s our list! Happy Halloween! Get lots of candy, candy, candy, candy, candy!