Don’t call them dolls – every man that grew up in the '80s and '90s knows that they’re action figures. But for every timeless classic like G.I. Joe there are dozens of also-rans and failures, and some of those got pretty bizarre. In this feature, we’ll run down ten of the weirdest action figures of all time.
Indiana Jones "German Mechanic"
Merchandising the Star Wars series made George Lucas a kazillion dollars, so naturally he wanted the same from Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, that franchise doesn’t have quite as many visually recognizable supporting characters. So we got things like “German Mechanic” – you know, the dude in Raiders Of The Lost Ark who boxes with Indy before getting chopped to gory chunks by the propeller of a Flying Wing. Unfortunately, his 1981 Kenner action figure doesn’t come with that feature. Hilariously, Hasbro even brought the character back for a second action figure as part of their 2011 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive set.
Jakks Pacific got the Rocky license in 2006 as a tie-in with Rocky Balboa and proceeded to milk the franchise dry, putting out dozens of action figures of just about every character to ever appear in the six films. Apollo Creed? Sure. Clubber Lang? Of course. Thunderlips? Hell yeah. But the absolute weirdest thing they tried to sell was…meat. Yep, the side of beef that Balboa batters in the first Rocky was given its own plastic replica, complete with a blood-stained butcher’s jacket. The saddest thing? They never got around to making a figure of the robot Rocky gives Paulie for his birthday.
Spider-Man “Soccer Adventure Hero”
One of the biggest problems that toy manufacturers face is how to sell the same character multiple times. A popular solution is to create different outfits and accessories for special missions, like a snowsuit Batman or what have you. Toy Biz took that philosophy to the danger zone with the “Adventure Hero” Spider-Man action figures. Why they thought that somebody would want to play with poor Peter Parker dressed up like an off-brand David Beckham (check out those leg muscles) is anybody’s guess.
Rad Repeatin’ Tarzan
One thing that keeps toy designers busy is trying to think of new “features” to add to action figures. We’re talking about the motions, electronics or other gadgetry inside the plastic shell. The minds behind Disney’s Rad Repeatin’ Tarzan probably should have gone back to the drawing board. Released to coincide with the company’s 1999 animated version of the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, this 12 inch action figure had a battery-operated feature triggered by pressing a small lever on his back. When it’s pressed, it makes Tarzan let out an excited yodel while his right arm moves up and down like he’s… spanking the monkey, shall we say.
Kiss Players “Convoy”
Transformers are a pretty dependable toy line, right? Robots that turn into other things. Nice and simple. Don’t tell that to Takara, the Japanese company that originally produced them. In 2006, they decided to diversify the line by introducing “Kiss Players,” which took things in a weird direction. “Convoy,” as Optimus Prime is known as in Japan, now has the ability to become even more powerful than ever before – if he’s kissed by a teenage girl. Whether this was an attempt to make the line girl-friendly or just more Japanese sexual weirdness, they bombed pretty quickly.
Masters Of The Universe “Stinkor”
The Masters of the Universe toys were characterized by each one having a bizarre gimmick. Some were cool, like Trap-Jaw’s cyborg parts. Some were lame, like Grizzlor’s… excessive body hair. And then there was Stinkor. The “evil master of odors” had a selling point that he actually smelled awful and nobody wanted to be around him. Stinkor’s funk was generated by a mixture of patchouli oil, better known as the signature scent for unwashed hippies who sleep in their van. Amazingly enough, they even brought the character back for a 2002 remake, still smelling the same.
Jurassic Park “Dennis Nedry”
Dennis Nedry, of course, was the guy in Jurassic Park who deactivated the security system to steal some embryos and kicked off all of the chaos. He was memorably played by Wayne Knight, aka Newman from Seinfeld, and was basically a fat creep in a Hawaiian shirt. Not exactly the kind of character that kids would demand an action figure of, but Kenner decided to make one anyways. They also slimmed down Knight to more standard action figure size. The real draw of this figure is that, for some reason, both of his arms can be torn off. None of the other human figures in the line are dismemberable except for poor dumb Nedry.
Superman “Justice Jogger”
So you’re the last son of Krypton, rocketed to Earth where you gained powers far beyond those of any mortal man. You can run at supersonic speeds – hell, you can fly. So why exactly do you need a “Justice Jogger?” This bizarre accessory was part of Kenner’s “Super Powers” line that featured the heroes of the DC universe. Most DC heroes – with the exception of Batman – don’t have much in the way of vehicles, so they had to improvise a little bit. So we got Superman in a wheelchair with robot legs for some unknown reason.
Doctor Who “Destroyed Cassandra”
Lady Cassandra was a character from cult British TV show Doctor Who – the last native Earth-born human, her life was extended through 708 plastic surgeries that left her as a paper-thin sheet of skin with a face on it hooked up to a brain in a nutrient tank. In the episode “The End Of The World,” excessive heat causes that skin to crack and tear, killing her. For some reason, Character Options not only made a regular Lady Cassandra action figure but also a “Destroyed” version – i.e. just the metal frame that her skin was stretched on. Hours of fun for the whole family!
Next: 10 Insanely Valuable Childhood Toys
Punisher “Shape Shifter”
Of all the comic characters that probably shouldn’t be marketed to kids, the Punisher is near the top of the list. Marvel’s iconic skull-shirted vigilante has been responsible for hundreds if not thousands of deaths, after all. Things got even more confusing when Toy Biz brought out their “Shape Shifter” lines, featuring heroes and villains that could change form. The Punisher, of course, could morph into a handgun, but if you caught him mid-transformation, well, it looks more like he’s been woken up from a particularly nice dream.