Points of Articulation
They say that after you move, if there's a box you haven't unpacked after three years, you can just go ahead and throw it away because there's nothing in it you actually need. Obviously, there are some exceptions to that rule.
In the year 2000, I moved to Boston, because my girlfriend was going to school there. We got a decent little apartment that we had to pay too much for, and settled in. It was a great building, great part of town, but there was one problem: it wasn't rent-controlled, so after our first year there, the rent was going to go up hundreds of dollars a month. We couldn't afford that, so we had to find a new place to live (which presented a whole different group of problems, because the company that owned that second building were a bunch of cheats, but that doesn't have anything to do with toys, so you won't be hearing about it here).
We'd moved into Boston on or about the Fourth of July in 2000 - I remember because after parking the Uhaul in front of the building with plans to unload it in earnest the next morning, we went up to the roof and watched some of the fireworks with our new neighbors. Anyway, that meant our one-year lease was up at the end of June. So, it was time to pack.
I had some decent displays set up, despite our lack of space, including a fancy curio cabinet filled with my actual "collection": anthropomorphic creatures. You know, werewolves and various other animal-men. Well, I carefully packed up those figures, and taped their box shut... and that was it. I never got around to opening the box at the new apartment, because space was limited and I really didn't live there very long. Didn't open it the next place I lived, or the place after that. And now that I own a house, I still haven't opened it. The toys in that box have been untouched since the packing tape sealed it sometime in June 2001. Ten years ago. Today, you and I are going to open it.
The first thing I notice upon cutting the tape? Obviously this is before I started using Ziplock bags to hold all my figures. They're all just in the box with bubble wrap (at least by now I'd learnt not to use packing peanuts, because they can react with the paint or plastic and "melt" onto the figure).
We start with two "Arsenal of Doom" Spawns - not because I think he's anthropomorphic, but because he was in the same display case. This is really that last great Spawn toy McFarlane made - yes, Spawn 10 came out later and was better articulated, but by then Todd was following someone else's gameplan, trying to play catch-up with the industry. This figure came out in 1998, right before he took the wrong fork in the road, sacrificing articulation for sculpt. Spawn Series 12 was one of the best assortments in the whole line, and AoD Spawn was its star. The masked version I picked up at Babbage's in the mall in 1998 - the unmasked version was a variant at the time, but I got him in a fishtank released two years later, which is why he doesn't have the eyepiece.
Ah, this big fishy guy is the Hierophant, from House of the Dead. This version, with the battle-damaged head, was a Tower Records exclusive, so I may have bought it while I was working there. He came with a trident, a Mofish (whatever that is) and a House of the Dead base. Amusingly, while Palisades released the figure, SOTA sculpted it - this is a mashup of two great companies! The Hierophant has an excellent sculpt, of course, but even its articulation is very good for the time.
Next we have the Maxx - not Shocker Toys' version, McFarlane's. He was part of Spawn Series 4, released in 1996. I got this figure at the Toys Я Us half an hour away from my home. I once saw a second figure at KB Toys, and was holding the package when another collector came into the aisle. He was disappointed that he'd missed his chance, but elated when I handed him the figure. After all, I already had one - why would I need two? Maxx wasn't even a particularly good figure for the time: he only had six points of articulation, all swivels; his popularity was due more to the novelty of seeing an indie comic character on store shelves, and the fact that the sculpt was so true to Sam Kieth's weird art.
The Werewolf was also a McFarlane creation: he came from the first series of Wetworks toys. For those who don't remember the comic, it was Whilce Portacio drawing robot-skinned people fighting monsters. Monsters like this werewolf. This collection started with werewolf toys, so he's one of the oldies. Wetworks Series 1 came out in 1995, making it one of McFarlane Toys' first expansions beyond the Spawn brand. The wolf itself is decent enough, but the armor he's wearing is a little weird. He's already got claws, right? And what's with the bone spikes strapped all over him? Articulation isn't tremendous, but it's enough to have him stand upright or pose on all fours.
Ah, the anthropomorphic plant. I know he's from Resident Evil and I know he came with Ada Wong, but I don't remember his name - I had to look it up to find out he's Ivy. Or maybe "she's Ivy." This is from the Resident Evil 2 line that ToyBiz did in 1998, so I can't say for certain where I got the set: ToyBiz was good about getting their stuff into stores, so it could have been TRU, GameStop, Software Etc., Electronics Boutique, Babbages... but for some reason I'm leaning toward KB Toys. The arms are bendy, and if you press the button on the back of Ivy's head, the mouth splits into three to nom any hapless victims.
Wow, a bag of Iszs! These were sold through the McFarlane Toys Collector's Club, for people looking to bump up their army of little monsters to surround the Maxx. I thought I owned one of these, but had no idea where it was! And it's unopened, too, so how the heck was I displaying this? The bag has seven white Iszs, seven black Iszs, and one super-rare red Isz. How unexpected!
Beta Ray Bill was in Silver Surfer Series 1, in 1997. He's very preposed, but he's done in a 6" scale, so he looks good next to Marvel Legends if you never got the ML15 version. A lot of his costume details are vac metallized, as is his hammer, Stormbreaker. Really an excellent sculpt, especially for the era, but the (removable) cape makes him very back heavy, and he wants to fall over.
This Venom, based on the Venom: The Madness limited series, is from 1999's "Planet of the Symbiotes" series. He fills the "spider" slot in my collection, thanks to his extra four arms. He truly is a massive beast of a figure, almost as large as the Marvel Select Ultimate Venom. When you push the button on his back, three of the tiny heads pop up off his shoulders. Two of the other ones have neck swivels, in addition to the main head. Really nice paintwork on this guy, too. Apparently there's a translucent yellow variant of him, as well, but this one's better.
Uh... huh. What is this manta ray guy? I have absolutely no recollection. Let's see, the word "Everbright" is stamped on his ass, but that doesn't mean anything. So we check Google for "everbright toys" and-- ah-ha! Sharkman! They made the terrible Sharkman toys that you may remember seeing on clearance at KB Toys for, like, five years. Sharkman was the mascot for Maui and Sons surf wear, and apparently in the back half of the '90s, they decided to try merchandising him. Unsuccessfully, obviously. This figure is Green Manta, one of the villains. If you press on the back of his neck, his head raises and his jaw opens. There's a battery compartment molded into the figure, but no electronics - obviously someone realized these toys were 100% going to end up in the water.
Panther Prowl Catwoman comes from Series 2 of Kenner's Legends of the Dark Knight line. Her "titanium" exoskeleton armor is removable, and can be converted into a freestanding Battle Stalker Panther. And heck, it's got better articulation than she does!
The rhino is from McFarlane's "Total Chaos" line, but I had to look up his name. Surprisingly, while there's a character called "Gore," it's not him - he's Hoof, which calls into question how much the namers actually know about rhinos. He was one of the tougher ones to find, though not as hard as Poacher would be in Series 2. Hoof can be posed standing on two feet or four, thanks to a huge slot that allows you to reposition his armor and head.
I knew this was from one of the Spawn Dark Ages line, but I didn't know which one. Turns out he's from Series 14: Dark Ages 2. His name is Viper King and he's a wildly unbalanced figure. That's not a comment on his personality or anything, he's literally unbalanced - he falls over a lot. They tried to design him so he'd stand, but it didn't work. I remember always keeping some folded paper or the edge of a different figure's stand jammed under him to keep him upright. Getting the chains on the six bendy snakes untangled is like trying to solve one of those "bent nail" puzzles they sell in the gift shop at museums. This is actually a repaint - the red, yellow and black works much better than the original blue and gray.
Viper King wasn't the only snake in the collection: from Spawn Series 13 comes Medusa. She originally had two little demon guys, who are around here somewhere, but they weren't in "the decade box." Her staff and several of the snakes in her hair are bendy, and she has a removable tail. It's hard to keep her standing, because she really wants to fall forward, thanks to the weight of her head and the fact that her tail keeps her from leaning back at all to counteract it.
This is Swarm, a low-tier Spider-Man villain. His body is made entirely of bees, which is why he's cast from translucent yellow plastic. He was part of 1997's "Spider Force" line, which was stocked with insect-themed characters. They all came with extra armor that truned them into giant versions of their totemic bug, or could be assembled into a little "sidekick" thing. I don't know why I didn't have the armor on display with the figure. Swarm's cape is removable, and so is his hood if you're willing to work damn hard at it. Swarm became one of my favorite characters after Mike Wieringo drew him in Sensational Spider-Man #9 and 10, so I loved that he got a toy so quickly after that. I remember getting him at TRU, where the Spidey figures were on an endcap. He suffers from the same pre-posing as a lot of ToyBiz figures of the era, but the body has a really great texture all over.
Man-Bat comes from the Legends of the Dark Knight line. 1998's Series 3, to be exact. He has no action features, just a 15" wingspan. LODK was all about "extreme" characters, but for Man-Bat, that refers more to his wild pose than his design. So he's got this weird wide-legged stance, but otherwise looks just like the comic version. He has balljointed shoulders, too, so you can pose those humungous wings.
Sansker was... not an important character. He's better known for having this toy than for anything he ever did in the comics. Basically, he was an alien vampire, and when threatened he could turn into this giant snake. There were two colorschemes available, as well as a variant with a stupid human face. He was released in 1996's Series 6, and has a large bone spike as an accessory.
Okay, this buffalo was obviously a McFarlane release, but when? Had to look him up. Turns out he's Sabre, from Spawn Series 8. He appears to be the enemy of Renegade, Series 8's "Indian Spawn." This is very much a 1997 McFarlane toy: the sculpt was intricate, but the articulation was an afterthought. Of course, it's still better than what we'd get from them in the next few years. This is the first release: you can tell because he's brown and tan; the second version was two tones of gray, and included a hatchet that this one lacks.
Cy-gor was a hugely popular figure, so I was never able to find the first release: I had to settle for the re-release with the gold armor. I didn't much care for that, so I customized him to look more like the original. I did later get the super-rare white version, but nothing compares to the real thing.
This is the second version of Mangler, a wolf given the powers of a Spawn: the original was dark grey with a few light bits, while this one is brown. You can just make out the Spawn-style patches around the eyes and the big stylized M on his torso. There's even a skull stamped on his butt! He originally came with a stick and a horned skull, but they're not in the box.
The Heap is in here as a living pile of man-shaped garbage. Not an animal, no, but he still fits the theme. Heap is actually an old character that Todd bought the rights to, and the original was the inspiration for both Swamp Thing and Man-Thing. He has an outstanding sculpt, covered in all sorts of detritus, with even more that he can hold in his pelican-like jaw.
And finally, PigCop, from ReSaurus's Duke Nukem line. I bought him at GameStop, which was upstairs in the mall next to Camelot Music in the LS Ayres corridor. The display was set up near the front window, but the figures were on the back of the display, so could only be seen from inside the store. They had the entire range, but PigCop was the only one I was interested in - only one I ever got, too. I loved my PigCop, and I knew he was in this box; in fact, it was the release of the new Duke Nukem figure from NECA that made me think of it, and inspired this article.
So, that's a box that's been closed for more than 10 years. It's a look at what I had on display in the year 2000. I'd say there were only six figures that I definitely knew were in there, three that I forgot existed, and one that I didn't even recognize when I saw it again. There were 22 figures in the box (counting the bag of Iszs as one), and it was great to open it up and see all these old friends again. Going forward, I'm going to break this collection up, so everybody can be stored with their proper lines, but thanks to this list, it'll be great to look back and remember the decade they spent together as an eclectic, unseen part of a larger group.
So, would you like to see full reviews of any of these figures? Stop by our message board and let us know which ones! Maybe we'll slot them into the next Old Toys Month.