McFarlane Toys' first series of "Monsters" figures was a mixed bag, ranging from the truly amazing to the amazingly awful. Still, the line proved popular enough (and was enough of a generic clearinghouse) to warrant a second series. Rather than the classic monsters of cinema, however, Series 2 would draw its inspiration from literature; specifically, L. Frank Baum's "Wizard of Oz" and its world.
Dubbed the "Twisted Land of Oz," the figures reinterpretted the characters from the stories with a more horrific bent - these were no longer innocents, but sinister beings who belonged with the rest of McFarlane's Monsters.
As usually happens, the fanboys began to complain - the same ones who said that "Movie Maniacs" only referred to horror slashers were up in arms over the "corruption" of the Monsters line. Apparently growth and change are strangers to some people, and these characters had certainly been changed: changed into something monstrous.
The Lion's change came mostly in attitude - no longer cowardly, he was a warrior who had been torn to shreds in battle, but still kept fighting. The Lion has obviously been through a battle: he's been gouged, stabbed, flayed, eviscerated and his bones are poking through his flesh. He's holding his entrails in his left hand, and one of the fingers on his right hand looks painfully broken.
For years, fans have been asking Todd to make a Gladiator figure. Judging by the Lion's garb, he's finally answered that request: he's got a blue loincloth hanging from his belt, as well as tassets over his hips; there's one metal greave on his right leg, a vambrace on his left arm a couter on his left bicep. The sigil on the Lion's belt looks to be some kind of gryphon-type beast, with the head and front legs of a lion (or other predator), big wings and a fish's tail.
Oh, geeze, wait a minute. It's a gryphon with a fish tail? If a woman with a fish tail is a mermaid, then a gryphon would be a mer-gryphon. Or, in game show parlance, a Merv Griffin! Ha!
No? Then maybe it just represents beasts of the air, land and sea rather than any specifc creature.
You can just picture this Lion prowling around some Ozmic Colluseum, fending off scores of heavily armed assailants for the pleasure of the spectatorial crowd. The gladiators circle around this champion of the arena, ready to finally dethrone him. He attacks with savage fury as they pile on him, felling one after the other until only one combatant remains alive. Ignoring his many wounds, the Lion turns toward the royal box, looking for the thumb up or down that will seal his last opponent's fate.
(Yes, I realize that the official story says something entirely different, but the fun of toys is that you get to make up your own tales. Mine involves a really cool gladiatorial melee.)
The Lion comes with a few nice acessories. He has a spear, 6 3/8" long, that slides through his torso. This is the weapon that dislodged the poor Lion's entrails, which are a separate, rubbery piece that plugs into both his abdomen and his hand, so you can remove them if you so like. The spear is a tight fit, and may take some work to get through the figure, but it does fit. There are two swords included with the set: the broken blade juts out from just above the Lion's shoulder, while the other jabs through his thigh. Together, these three weapons make a great scene for a lion that is anything but cowardly.
The last accessory is also the largest: a rusty steel trap, little bits of meat stuck to its bloodied teeth. This is a pretty good representation of a bear trap, though the jaw is too thick to allow the locking arm to reach the coil pan. A trap of this sort is powered by springs: when something steps on the trigger, or "pan," the trigger shifts position enough to release the long metal arm that extends over the jaw of the trap. Without that arm holding the jaw down, the two large springs on the sides are free to slide up, forcing the jaws closed as they go. The process is nearly instantaneous, and will typically break the leg of whatever was unlucky enough to find the trap.
The Lion is a big, massive figure - he stands 7 1/2" tall, all hunched over as he is, and moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and waist. There's no articulation in his legs, which is probably a good thing, given McToys' track record of broken and useless joints. His tattered tail is bendy, so you can position it however you like. His mass does make him a bit top-heavy, which sometimes causes some breakage problems - the waist on mine snapped before I even got it out of that accursed clamshell. It wasn't worth sending back to McToys for replacement, since some glue took care of the problem easily, but it did give me the chance to see how this beast looks au natural.
There is a Lion "variant" out there - a substantial number of figures missed their last paint app, and so shipped to stores with a noticably lighter torso. These "Blonde Lions" don't look as good as their completed brothers, since the sculpt really needs that final black wash to bring out the detail.
All the Twisted Land of Oz figures come with a yellow brick road display base - the stones are jagged and uneven, looking just as unkempt as the characters themselves. It's the perfect addition to cap off the line. Printed on the insert with each figure is a chapter of the Twisted Oz story that (generally) fails to explain anything about the character in question - you have to read to the very end to find out why anyone looks the way they do.
What's your story for Oz? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.