7 Action Figures That Managed to Ruin Great Characters
Sometimes, the writers of a show, movie, comic book or whatever will put a lot of effort into creating an enigmatic character with an air of mystery surrounding it ... only to have the marketing department kill all the mystique by putting out a stupid action figure.
This happens way more often than you'd think, like in ...
The Blair Witch
Whether you think The Blair Witch Project is one the creepiest movies you've ever seen, or one of the most pointless (there's surprisingly little gray area on that scale), the one thing that made the movie stand out is that you never actually see the Witch herself. She doesn't appear anywhere in the 90ish minutes of the movie, nor the sequel, nor the piles of documentaries, video games and books that you never knew/cared about.
Above: the Blair Witch.
So when you really think about it, it's a bit creepier than, say, Jason or Freddy, because the likelihood of a sequel including a scene where she kills someone with a video game substantially decreases. It's a pretty solid movie monster premise -- each of us is forced to draw from the dark corners of our own psyche to imagine the horrific thing lurking in the woods. What could be scarier than that?
Except the marketing folks had to have an action figure.
We feel the need to apologize for this.
So much for avoiding all the horror movie cliches. Fangs? Check. Claws? Check. Glowing red eyes? Check. Standard movie monster weapon? Check. Looks like the old lady that lives at your grandma's nursing home who always asks you to take care of her long-dead cats? Double check. To be fair, that's technically an "interpretation" of the Blair Witch designed by Spawn creator, Todd McFarlane, for his Movie Maniacs series. This was part of the fourth Movie Maniacs set, and that's clearly about the time he started running out of ideas.
Someone paid him to make the most boring, uninspired and disappointing representation of a horror icon ever. Maybe someone mentioned that, though, because he later released a second, even more WTF version.
It's like Treebeard got it on with Swamp Thing.
Maybe the logic behind this one was that she could have been hiding in the background disguised as a tree the whole time, like Elmer Fudd or something. We also like the implication that this huge, monstrous tree-being goes around picking up twigs and leaving little signs on the ground to freak people out, as if she couldn't do that by just standing in front of them.
Cobra Commander, Destro and Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe
Typically, the G.I. Joe cartoons and action figures existed in a symbiotic relationship. The cartoon sold the toys and new toys meant new characters on the show. But while the show wasn't airing new episodes in the early 90s, Hasbro needed a new way to print money. So, they came up with the G.I. Joe Hall of Fame series -- 12-inch-tall throwbacks to the original 60s era G.I. Joe toys but with characters from the 80s.
"The best part is that we don't have to come up with any new ideas."
And to keep the money wheel turning, they came up with a pretty clever gimmick: A major selling point for the figures was that that the Cobra Commander, Destro and Snake Eyes figures had removable masks. You could finally find out why they hell these guys needed to wear masks every damn place they went.
And yet no one gave a shit about Beach Head.
So if you (read: your parents) shelled out the money for them, what did you get? Behold the true forehead of Cobra Commander, international terrorist leader:
... a goofy looking dude who apparently thinks he's a Wild West bandit giving a Spock brow. OK ... uh, so, how about Destro? Destro's got to have something cool under that chrome helmet, right?
No, nope. He looks like the long-lost brother of Mario Lopez.
Which one is truly made of nonliving parts, here?
But surely Snake Eyes has something impressive going on. He's a good guy! Good guys are always handsome and awesome looking!
Goddammit. It's a massive freaking cocktease. Thanks for the money, kid! Though it's probably for the best, because this is what Snake Eyes looks like without a mask in the comics:
"We'll make him into a toy and then make parents pay us to take him back!"
Speaking of horribly disfigured faces ...
Despite what you may have seen in the Fantastic Four films, Marvel actually has a strict moratorium against showing Dr. Doom's disfigured face in the comic books. Usually, when someone gets to look under his iron mask they end up regretting it.
"Also to clean all the puke from all the times I gross myself out."
Dr. Doom's origin establishes that his once handsome face was scarred in a college campus accident that he blames Reed Richards for; in some versions this was only a small scar at first, but he made it worse by stupidly placing the iron mask on his face before it cooled. So, why doesn't he just ask a doctor to fix him up? Well ...
Science has officially declared him hideous beyond repair.
So for 50 years they've never, ever, shown Doom's real face -- they've shown (in flashback sequences) the version with the little scar, and the movies showed his face literally turning into metal, but the disfigured version remains a mystery.
Unless you count action figures, that is.
This Dr. Doom action figure has a fully removable mask and comes with three different faces: one is a robot face (that's actually one of Doom's robot duplicates), then there's the version with the small scar, just like in the flashbacks ...
Which makes him look like a 1920s gangster.
... and finally, there's the mythical disfigured version, which is actually ... you know what, it's not that bad.
OK, sure, he's pretty ugly. But after all the buildup we sort of expected him to have a dick on his forehead or something. As far as horrible, unsightly disfigurements go, he got off pretty lightly -- compared to the Elephant Man he's still an Adonis. Turns out all those people screaming in terror at the sight of his face simply didn't like looking at chewing gum. There's actually another action figure that also reveals his face, and that one just makes him look like he has psoriasis.
"Feast your eyes upon my slightly enflamed rash!"
The Cloverfield Monster
While Cloverfield may have borrowed its marketing strategy from The Blair Witch Project, they did at least give up the goods with the monster a little bit. Throughout the movie, we get a couple of brief glimpses of the thing, but we never really get the whole shebang. The best look is at the ass-end of the movie (where the giant monster with Earth-shaking footsteps is somehow able to stealthily sneak up on our heroes), and even then, we only get an extreme close-up, and only for a few seconds.
But with the $150 collector's edition figure, you can look at it as much as you damn well please.
And then you can think about how you just spent a month's worth of groceries on that.
It's kind of ... not as impressive without the camera work and the selective lighting and the touch ups and oh god it sounds like we're talking about a fashion model. Except fashion models don't usually look so angry and spindly and oddly dirty. (Well, OK, maybe spindly).
It even comes with an extra head so you can give it that disappointed spouse look:
"I thought I asked you to take out the garbage yesterday."
The good news for weird fetishists everywhere is that it has tentacles. The good news for Internet comedy writers who go for cheap laughs is that from the right angle, they kind of look like they're coming out of its crotch like two tentacle-dicks.
In case you hadn't met your imagined monster-dong quota for the day.
One of the main reasons comic book fans hate the 90s film adaptation of Judge Dredd is that the filmmakers not only dared to show the titular character's full face for the first time ever - for some reason, he barely even wears his iconic helmet in that film.
We're sure it had nothing to do with freakin' Rambo being under the helmet.
But the comics are a different story: To this day, they've never shown his face, and in fact there's an actual rule preventing writers and artists from doing it. Dredd's creator explains that "it isn't necessary for readers to see Dredd's face, and I don't want you to" and also says the Stallone movie "had little connection with the character we know from the comic." Since the comic was originally in black and white, for a while they even hinted that his race wasn't necessarily white.
Dredd is actually a very well disguised Mexican woman.
Even when he takes off his helmet, there's always a convenient shadow or object blocking the viewer, exactly like with Austin Powers' privates. So his face is never visible anywhere in the comic, and that's true for the action figures too.
Or so everyone thought, until action figure collector Russ Knifton pried Dredd's helmet off and found something weird:
Special thanks to Russ Knifton and the Figurerealm Forums.
For some reason, the company had sculpted and painted a full head on Dredd anyway, even though the helmet wasn't meant to come off at all. They never bothered to paint his hair, though - which, oddly enough, makes him look like Peter Weller from RoboCop.
We always wondered what the immortal RoboCop would be up to in the 22nd century.
This wasn't an advertised feature: Nothing in the box art encouraged fans to take the helmet off and find out Dredd's real face. In fact, the collector who sent us these pictures couldn't do that without causing some minor damage to Dredd's hair.
This really makes you wonder what sort of pop culture mysteries could be solved if only more toy collectors were be willing to take a pair of pliers to their action figures . Master Chief's face? The protagonist of V for Vendetta? Barbie's unused vaginal tract?
The Phantasm from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
And then there are action figures that just don't give a shit about spoilers.
In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (the theatrical film for the acclaimed animated series), Batman spends the entire movie trying to hunt down the grim reaper-esque vigilante killing off high-level mob leaders all through Gotham. At the same time, Bruce Wayne has to deal with the return of his first love and one-time fiance, Andrea Beaumount.
After a lot of twists and turns, within the last 10 minutes of the film we learn that (spoilers for an 18-year-old film you'll probably never see if you haven't already) Batman's beloved and Batman's enemy are actually the same person, which is kind of shocking because the "Phantasm" getup totally made her look like a dude.
Batman was suspicious when he heard Phantasm complain that her boobs were all squashed.
Of course, this crucial-to-the-enjoyment-of-the-film revelation wasn't so shocking if you happened to see the following action figure:
"With Careless Spoilery Action!"
What the hell, Warner Bros., you big jerk? Why would you even do that? Was it so hard to cover her face with a sticker or, you know, maybe leave the damn mask on? Instead, it's like they're openly mocking us by proudly announcing, "AS SEEN IN BATMAN: THE ANIMATED MOVIE! OR NOT, SINCE WE JUST RUINED IT FOR YOU!"
This sort of thing doesn't just happen in America, though: Japanese animation series Saint Seiya may not be very well known in the U.S., but it back in the 80s and 90s, it was a huge cultural phenomenon in places like Europe and South America. The action figures based on the series were also massively popular in those countries, so stores were often importing them directly from Japan. Like this one:
Unfortunately, this particular figure gave away the end of the 73-episode first season when it revealed that (spoilers for a Japanese cartoon you statistically don't care about) those two characters in the box are actually the same dude. Learning that when you were halfway through the series is the cultural equivalent of that time your roommate walked in while you were watching a movie and casually asked, "Is that the one where the bad guy turns out to be Kevin Spacey?"
Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget
One of the more awesome things about Inspector Gadget (besides how monumentally dumb the titular character was) was the fact that you never see Dr. Claw's face during the show. All you saw was his gloved hand and the cat sitting on his lap.
We've established by now that awful movie adaptations don't count.
Dr. Claw practically made the show because he could be whatever evil criminal you could think of, with his 10-packs-a-day smoker's voice and compulsive cat-stroking. Even after the series' original run, fans never gave up speculating on who the mysterious man in the chair was. In the age of the Internet, some enterprising folks have even cooked up bizarre theories involving Dr. Claw and Inspector Gadget.
Ever wondered what his other hand was doing?
The creators of the show knew all this, and that's why six years after the show stopped airing new episodes, they actually released a Dr. Claw figure that wasn't just a hand and a chair. They even put a sticker on the box so you couldn't see his face unless you bought it.
Or, you know, looked at it from the side.
And if you spent your (parents') hard-earned money, you'd get to see ...
What the fuck? That's Dr. Claw? No wonder he couldn't kill off a tremendous idiot like Inspector Gadget -- he looks like an even bigger moron. That's a face that belongs on a sex offender registry, not the leader of a respected criminal organization like M.A.D.
Also, he looks like they took that picture while he was riding a rollercoaster.
This wasn't just a one-off thing, either. They showed the same face in the Super NES game released in 1993 and an iPhone game released last year. You know what? Suddenly the movie doesn't look so bad.
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