Toy companies know the score. They're aware that most kids want a real-ass Indiana Jones action figure and not Idaho Thompson, Fist Archaeologist. In fact, toymakers know people are so hungry to see their favorite characters as fun-sized homunculi that, over the years, they've flooded the market with plastic crapola that should've never gone past the drawing board.
But today, we're not going to talk about those toys. No, we're going to talk about those toys that were so shittastic that they were left on the drawing board to die, alone and scared.
DC Comics has an impressive stable of superheroes, though they've often struggled in their efforts to capitalize on these heroes outside of comic books. One example of this involved toymaker Kenner's efforts to release a line of "Anti-Heroes," which featured gritty, post-apocalyptic versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Robin. We weren't sure if DC was going for "the end of the world" or "1980s Dusseldorf sex club."
"You know what kids want? S&M gear. Economic stagnation and S&M gear."
But the weirdness didn't stop there. Kenner also developed cyborg versions of said superheroes, including a Batman wearing a halter-top bikini, for some reason. The designs ultimately never made it out of the conceptual stage, though don't be surprised if some turn up in your dreams tonight.
The heroes you deserve (for not calling your grandmother and thanking her for the birthday check).
And speaking of Wonder Woman, if you're a girl who likes comic books, it wasn't long ago that Wonder Woman was basically the only game in town. At least she's a good one; Wonder Woman kicks incomprehensible amounts of ass (or at least, she does when the writers aren't hamstringing her with ridiculous weaknesses). In any event, Wonder Woman gave girls the opportunity to have their own action figures so they could play "Mass Murder in the Name of Justice" with their brothers. That is until the early '90s, when a Mattel executive looked at all the girls happily playing with their ass-kicking action figures and said, "You know what? I'd bet they'd like it if Wonder Woman was more like Barbie."
"You mean like the toys that these girls intentionally passed up to play with Wonder Woman instead?" asked the sweaty, doomed intern.
This is how Mattel released Wonder Woman and the Star Riders, which can be best described as the result of a teleportation accident involving Wonder Woman and My Little Pony. In addition to replacing Wonder Woman's invisible plane with a winged unicorn ...
Extremely visible. Conspicuous, even.
... Wonder Woman and her pixie-dust-smoking crew would square off against the villainess Purrsia, who rode a fabulous panther. These toys were announced in conjunction with a new animated series, but the whole thing was ultimately shelved, sparing Wonder Woman both a great deal of embarrassment and hours of apocalyptic grooming at the hands of babbling giants.
Imagine how many minions died trying to get those bangles on that cat.
Up until 1992, Troll dolls were traditionally found loitering nude in the bedrooms of young girls. To expand their appeal with boys, Hasbro released Battle Trolls, which were essentially the same as regular Trolls, only with edge. But rather than develop anything too original, Hasbro leaned on some nice, cheap, public domain IP to base their designs on, releasing figures such as Count-Trol-Ula, Nunchuck Troll, Touchdown Troll, and Franken-Troll.
Or, to be technical, Franken-Troll's Troll.
Those actually were released, and the following year, Hasbro planned to up the ante with licensed (or at least liberally grifted) Trolls, such as a Joker Troll and a Xenomorph Troll:
Still a better Joker than Leto.
While these dolls were introduced at the 1993 New York Toy Fair, they were never released, possibly because someone realized that the sun would explode before anyone bought one. Sad, though it saved at least a few children the terror of trying to sleep with one of these in the room with them.
If there was any justice in the world, that thing would have sprayed acid when you cut its hair.
Despite what Big, your mom, and your own childhood delusions told you when you were young, kids suck at designing things. And even when they do have a good idea, they typically lack the artistic and communication skills to effectively get that idea across. Yet in 1985, Mattel looked at their booming line of He-Man toys and said, "Hey, why don't we let the kids take a whack at this?"
"What's the worst that could happen? Cracked might make fun of us? HAHHAHAHHAHA."
Contestants submitted their ideas to the Masters Of The Universe magazine, from which five finalists were chosen. Along with the thrill of seeing their toy manufactured, the winner would receive a trip to Disneyland and a $100,000 scholarship, which ... holy shit, can they open this contest up again?
Anyway, the winner ended up being 11-year-old Nathan Bitner from Illinois, who won with his design of the Fearless Photog:
"Noooo! Dust on my lens! My only weakness!"
While having a cannon for a face might seem kinda cool, we should point out that it's meant to be a camera. Photog "focuses" on his enemies and drains them of their evil, leaving behind the good inside them. His vanquished foes would then be displayed on the zoetrope on his chest. Nathan's toy was never produced, presumably because at some point an accountant got wind of the project and said, "Come on. No."
Still, Nathan's design was genuinely the best. Have a look at his competitors.
Terrible concepts, but the origin stories have to be incredible.
We have Netta, the only female entry, whose superpower is holding down bad guys until a man can come and take things over. And then there's Compactor, a cyborg that is infinitely less capable than a normal human being due to his hands being swapped out for suction cups.
That eyeball does not skip leg day.
And here's Eyebeam, who is an enlarged version of one of the weakest and most easily injured points of the human body. And finally we have Brainwave, who has a giant brain that is mostly outside of his skull, widely considered to be the worst place for a brain to be.
Seriously, Hasbro, run this contest again and open it up to millennials with student loans. We could crush this.
If there's any franchise that has turned merchandising into a science, it has to be Transformers. Heck, the merchandise preceded the TV show. Like any good toy manufacturer, Hasbro tried to keep things fresh by periodically offering alternate styles of their toys, and as with those Troll dolls, at one point they decided the best way to do that was to mix Transformers with classic and extremely free movie monsters:
"Blah! I vant to eat all the copper vire in your house!"
That's Dracula transforming into a bat, because this clearly wasn't an operation where anyone was trying that hard. In the same vein we have the Fly, who would transform from a fly into a ... fly in a lab coat:
Hopefully someone lost their job over this.
Finally we have the Creature from the Black Lagoon, who transforms into a salmon or trout or whatever, which ... OK. You tried. Take a lap, then hit the showers, tired Hasbro toy designer.
The Star Wars merchandise empire, has, in a manner not dissimilar to the movies themselves, made a lot of crap along with the good stuff. And that's just the stuff that was made; the stuff they didn't make is insane. You can find a treasure trove of rejected Star Wars toys here, here, and here. For example, here's a Dagobah pencil sharpener:
"Excitement. Adventure. A pencil craves not these things."
Or this Anakin-Vader-Anakin Russian nesting doll.
You could replace the entire prequel trilogy with this picture and walk away happier.
Then we have this life-size 3D action figures of Jar-Jar Binks, which would only have been purchased by people wanting to practice hate crimes, and a Jabba the Hutt, whose life-size figure would have had to weigh at least 10,000 lbs, right?
Seriously, what's the shipping cost on seven tons of Hutt?
Or there's the Death Star grill, which ... actually looks pretty sweet.
Just be careful of the thermal exhaust ports.
And then there's the AT-AT couch caddy, which looks ... about exactly as precarious as a real AT-AT would be.
A brave place to set your drink, in any event.
But let's circle back to something more familiar: the action figures. Did you know that Kenner's original plan for the action figures was to release 12-inch versions? The deal with those, and large action figures in general, is that you can change the clothes on then, as seen by all the fun outfits on Leia here:
Those heads aren't meant to be detached, incidentally, suggesting this collection probably belongs to a serial killer.
The line got the ax because it was worried it would cannibalize sales of the smaller action figures. Probably a good thing, in that it saved us all from having to come to terms with the sight of Han Solo and his smooth, genital-less crotch.
When he's not designing rejected Star Wars toys, Chris can be found on Twitter .
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