Saturday, August 27, 2016

Plastic Swampy: Kenner's Swamp Thing Toy Line, 1990-1991

Based off the very short lived Swamp Thing Animated Series (Fox, 1990-91), Swampy, Anton Arcane, and the rest of Louisiana swamp crew were reproduced in a glorious 5’’ plastic action figure toy line, each complete with multiple accessories and varied features. Created by Kenner Products, a toy company best known for their original Star Wars toy line and its many spin offs, the Swamp Thing cartoon ran for just five episodes with the corresponding Kenner toy line featuring twelve figures, three vehicles, and two playsets.

Six different Swampy action figures were released to coincide with the animated series; all with different features, color schemes, and battle actions for kids to imagine and play with. Bio Glow Swamp Thing featured a glow in the dark body and wielded an axe and mace when you squeezed his legs together. Snap Up Swamp Thing sported a neon color scheme and could be broken down into connected pieces of his body supposedly resembling logs.

Snare Arm and Capture Swampy both featured similar battle actions and were probably the best looking and executed figures in the entire line. They also looked the most like Stephen Bissette and Alfredo Alcala’s 1980-90’s rendition of the Swamp Thing.


Capture Swamp Thing came packaged with an “organic net” and a “Cypress club” to apprehend and then pummel his Evil Un-Men foes into submission. The Snare Arm figure had a retractable arm which could drag enemies into the reach of his “monster trap”. Climbing Swampy featured a length of string wrapped around his torso which could winch him across obstacles, his accessories included the “Bayou Staff” and “Shield of Reeds”. Camouflage Swamp Thing changed color under cold water and was packaged with quite a cool looking vine snare weapon. This figure was released with two, albeit minor, color scheme variants. Two allies were created for Swamp Thing as well, Tomahawk and the Vietnam veteran, Bayou Jack. There were several unreleased figures that were teased in a spring 1992 Toy Fair catalog, including the Alligator and Constricter Swamp Things and one additional Un-Men, the Scorcher. At least one additional Swampy was put into prototype but unfinished. See John Boylan's Roots of Swamp Thing for more.

Arcane’s Evil Un-Men consisted of the voodoo-snake doctor Deemo, Weed Killer, and the undead Skinman. Each were packaged with a “BioMask”, a rubbery monster head which fit over the figure’s head, transforming them into terrifying apparitions of various sorts. Arcane was packaged with a skull tipped cane and spider themed BioMask. Weed Killer was armed with a chintzy looking gardening instrument and the Bogsucker BioMask, whilst Skinman wielded a pickaxe and came with the FangBat BioMask. Dr. Deemo had a serpent themed mask and was packaged with the coolest accessory of any of the figures in this entire line, a miniature Swamp Thing voodoo doll.

TRandsucer playset.jpg

Swamp Thing’s Bog Rover and the larger Marsh Buggy were the most recognizable vehicles, the latter of which was complete with “giant grabbing claws” to snatch up all of Arcane’s mutants. The bad guys had the Bayou Blaster at their disposal, a weaponized beach buggy and armored airboat.

The playsets designed by Kenner for the Swamp Thing toy line were some of the most well designed of their time. The Transducer Bio-Mutator playset which appears in the animated series, “changes men into monsters”, allowing Arcane to transform his Un-Men into a giant mutant mantis (included with the playset) by strapping a figure onto the table, closing the chamber, and then rotating the “Geno-Fluid” container to lock or unlock the Transducer. A separate port allowed the owner to “recharge” the BioMasks. The final and holy grail of the produced toy line was the Swamp Trap; Swampy’s hideout and a living organic weapon. This playset could hide one Swamp Thing figure inside and was complete with a hidden elevated platform which could raise him through the playset itself to ambush any foes, a giant venus fly trap, and vine snare to drop captured Un-Men into the venus fly trap.

Though ultimately underwhelming in terms of overall sales, Kenners’ Swamp Thing line was still moderately popular with kids upon release in 1990-91 and remains endearing to many collectors around the world today. This toyline extended itself to various memorabilia, including a board game, a rather hard to find Nintendo (NES) cartridge, school supplies, clothes, and Halloween costume. As Swamp Thing himself says at the end of the cartoon’s first episode, “I have turned their fear, into friendship”.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Aliens Transforming Action Set Galoob Micro Machines Collection 1997

Galoob Toys is best known as the creator and original license holder of the Micro Machines miniature toy car and vehicle toyline from c.1986-c.1998. The company also found success with several licensed film subset Micro Machine lines consisting of figures, vehicles, and playsets, known as Transforming Action Sets, all of which were inspired by various sci-fi movie film franchises. Ridley Scott's Alien film (the original 1979 film and its sequel Aliens) was one of the most memorable sets produced under this license and is a moderately collectible line in today's vintage toy market.

The most popular of these licensed series was undoubtedly Star Wars and its Expanded Universe, certainly the most numerous, it was in essence a separate toyline in and of itself. Predator, Terminator 2, Starship Troopers, and Star Trek had there own series amongst a dozen others comic book and cartoon series subsets.

 Beautiful Box Artwork, Galoob-20th Century Fox 1997

Outside of the Aliens Transforming Action Set

Both the Predator and Terminator 2 series featured Transforming Action Sets but the Aliens set was far better implemented and certainly more polished than the Predator set. I feel these Micro Machines Action Sets were in part inspired by the successful early 1990's run of Mighty Max (Bluebird Toys-Mattel) miniature playsets, themselves inspired by the popular girls line Polly Pocket (Bluebird-Mattel). Three scenes from the original film feature in the Aliens Action Set of 1997, the Kane chestburster scene aboard the Nostromo, the Aliens usage of the air ducts, and the discovery of the derelict space ship and the Alien eggs on planet LV-426. Crewmembers Captain Dallas (in spacesuit), one of the ship's engineers Parker, and the derelict space ship were the three exclusive figures included. Both Kane and the Alien are pieces of the Action Set itself.

Inside the Aliens Transforming Action Set

The Micro Machines Action Fleet subset showcased vehicles in the licensed subsets. Three different Action Fleet vehicles were created for the Aliens series. These included the Narcissus space shuttle which the character Ripley used to escape from the Nostromo in the first film (1979) and the USCS Marines Dropship from the second film, Aliens (1986). The design of the Narcissus small interstellar shuttle & lifeboat was quite extensive and yet very sleek; including a detailed cockpit, main opening lock, a secret stowaway panel to hide the Alien, retractable landing gear, a hyper sleep chamber for Ripley, and a display stand as well.

Narcissus Aliens Action Fleet, 1996

Two figures were included with the Narcissus, the original Alien creature and the sole survivor, Ripley

Amazing Design & excellent presentation of the ship on the back of the box

Aliens Micro Machines Collection #1: USCSS Nostromo, Alien, Kane with facehugger, & the Narcissus lifeboat

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Warlord REMCO 1982 DC Comics Action Figures

The DC Comics character The Warlord (Vol. 1, 1977-1988), spawned a small scale but surprisingly well crafted toyline created by REMCO and released in the year 1982. Set in the underground world of Skartaris, the Lost World of the Warlord: Battle Beneath the Earth toyline was a sword & sorcery, lost-world story that was equal parts Conan the Barbarian hack-n-slash adventure and He-Man & The Masters of Universe (MOTUS) fantasy. The figures themselves were similar to the MOTUS action figures of the same period in size and function but were more detailed and better  made. Interestingly enough, REMCO released similar lines of figures with the same body sculpts including Conan (1984) and the Warrior Beasts (1983) but all of these lines failed to reach the sales of He-Man and his large cast of Eternian warriors.

This Warlord figure was purchased by me on ebay for about $45, the card is slightly wavy and bubble has yellowing. Mint on card (MOC) figures from this toyline can go from anywhere $90-$175 ungraded, though they are slightly overpriced on the vintage market in my opinion. This is most likely due to their scarcity.

The rest of Skartaris warriors included Hercules Unbound and Arak Son of Thunder, both of whom appeared in early 1980's comic series of their own which were published by DC Comics as well. The villain Deimos and the heavily armed Mikola and Machiste were supporting characters from the Warlord comics series who also had figures in the Lost World of the Warlord toyline. Two "vehicles" were produced for this line, the Warpult and the Mighty Stallion, the latter of which was akwardly packaged as the "Warteam" and included the "Warman" figure, the eponymous Warlord (see above).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hail the Usurper! 25mm Miniature Warriors By Bloody 'Ell Miniatures

Hail the Usurper! is an original tabletop role-playing game created by Old Baldy himself 2012. Utilizing a very simple d12 system, this tabletop RPG takes place in the year 1093-1099 A.D. and details a historical-fiction conflict for control of the Scottish crown. The game has elements of both (basic) small scale military tactics and hack & slash adventure.

Miniatures by Reaper Miniatures. Sculpted and painted by Peter at Bloody ’Ell Miniatures. Click the link to go to his Etsy site. He does amazing work and I cannot recommend him enough. 5 out of 5 Dwarve Skulls.

King Macbeth in his youth, the "mascot" of Hail the Usurper!

King Magnus Barefoot, a daring warrior, King of Norway & Western Isles

Edgar the Valiant, young knight and would-be king of Scotland

Beautiful detail and base construction by Bloody 'Ell Miniatures

Siward Jarl of Northumbria, Danish Warlord of old North England

His personal sigil-the black boar can be seen on his shield on his helm

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Warhammer 40k Chaos Space Marines Booster Pack

I got this Warhammer 40k Chaos Space Marines booster pack several months ago and finished putting a quick paint job on them last night. This is good option for people looking to get into the expansive, and expensive Warhammer 40k universe. If you haven't heard of it, ie. you've been under a rock hidden from table-top gaming for the past 40 years-the Workshops science fiction and fantasy tabletop rpg stretches back to the late 70's and includes volumes upon volumes of lore and gameplay rules. Games Workshops is a UK based company.

This booster pack was just 7 dollars and gives you three paintable Chaos Space Marines figures in order to boost a already standing force. If your like me and just want to give 28mm painting a shot; this pack is perfect. Some minor assemblage required with glue to attach each demonic and corrupted backpack to the back of each Space Marine miniature. 4 out of 5 Dwarve Skulls.