Spotlight On

Throughout the 80s and into the 90s, many companies produced Masters of the Universe/Wrestling figure knockoffs. These tend to look alike, with some being better than others. Often they sort of resemble a real wrestler or character, but none of them are quite as egregious as this “Hulk Hogan” figure. Bootleg-a-mania is running wild, dude!

The head sculpt here is so blatantly supposed to be Hogan, it’s a wonder that the real Hulkster never sued. The likeness is just as good as the Cocoa Pebbles character that Hogan took to court a few years back. I suppose the real issue would likely be tracking down just who is responsible for making this figure.

You see this toy has no identifying marks. Even if you find one in package, this same sculpt including the Hogan head, has been used on dozens of figures through the years. Wrestling Champions, Sun Gold, Muscle Warriors and various others all seemed to “borrow” the same sculpts from one another. This guy probably comes from the Super Champs or Wrestling Champs line. There were several versions of him.

Unfortunately this Hogan isn’t as good as some of the rest. Phony Hulkster lacks leg articulation. I sort of hate these bootlegs/knockoffs without the leg articulation. It makes them less poseable and it just shows corner cutting. I know, I know, it’s a bootleg. Still I prefer a bootleg with a little pride, ya know?

He’s also considerably smaller than some of the better knockoffs and he’s dwarfed by Remco’s AWA figures. Still I have a place in my heart for little bootleg Hogan figures. I wish they still made these.

Today’s bootlegs tend to be of the Mexican wrestler variety, such as these guys. I’d say around 1996 or so was the last time I saw this type of figure on the market. I’m not sure why they stopped showing up, but I would buy a ton of them if they showed back up in my local dollar stores… Of course, they’d need the leg articulation. A Hulkster that can’t do the leg drop is a deal breaker for me. This Hogan knockoff isn’t too hard to track down in some form or another if you’re in the market for one.

In the mid 1980’s Imperial toys held an impressive number of licenses. They had rights to most of the Universal Studios monsters, Godzilla and King Kong. What’s so interesting about that, is that Imperial did not make “good” toys. Sure it was the 80’s and toy sculpts weren’t perfect, but Imperial seemed particularly behind with the times. I can only assume that the licenses for these brands weren’t particularly expensive. How else can you explain a company with such inept toys holding the keys to so many brands?

In fact all of their Universal Monsters were particularly bad and it makes you wonder why they even bothered to license these toys. Most of these guys look vaguely like what they’re supposed to, but no better than say the Mego ripoff Dracula or Frankenstein. To the untrained eye, the Imperial Mummy would likely be the WORST of the Universal Monsters in terms of likeness… But tonight in the 31 Days of Halloween we actually pay tribute to the best of the Imperial Universal Monsters… The Mummy!

The first thing you have to realize to appreciate this Imperial Mummy figure is that it’s NOT supposed to be Boris Karloff’s Imhotep. It’s not even supposed to be Lon Chaney or Tom Tyler’s Kharis from the Mummy sequels. Instead, this is supposed to be the parody Mummy, “Klaris” from the Abbott & Costello film where they meet the Mummy.

Yes he does sort of look like Super Dave Osborne or some other stuntman after a bad accident…

But that’s how Klaris looked in the film. In fact Klaris, the so called “Prince of Evil” was actually played by stuntman Edwin Parker. Parker had previously been the stunt double for Chaney in the Mummy films when the action got too hot and heavy or when Chaney was too drunk to lumber around properly. In the Abbott and Costello film, he got his chance to star as the titular monster. Once you realize who this Imperial Mummy is supposed to be, it immediately makes all the difference.
Continue reading

Space exploration was really big in the 1960’s during the great space race. Science fiction was huge during this time, but by 1969 once man landed on the moon, interest began to wane. Lots of space programs were canceled, toys which had once been hot properties were destroyed and space was no longer of much interest to most people. Fast forward a little less than a decade to 1977 and space science fiction was hot again. Star Trek had become so popular in reruns that Paramount was planning to re-launch the show and make it the flagship of a network and Star Wars was bursting onto the big screen changing the landscape of the genre and much more.

Which led small toy company Ideal, to dust off some of their old 1960’s space toys and rebrand them all under one big generic umbrella. S.T.A.R. Team was just that, using a NASA-like logo and a variety of repuprosed old toys like Zeroids to serve as a catch-all to the popular trends of the day and draw in new fans who liked space and sci-fi again. Their most interesting creation however, was a reworked Captain Action figure, who became the chief villain of the toy line and was named Knight of Darkness!

S.T.A.R. Team had a variety of toys, which were mostly old space exploration roleplay toys reworked to be slightly more sci-fi. However the S.T.A.R. Team action figure line was much more creative in it’s scope. In addition to the Knight of Darkness, there was Zem-21, who was sort of like C-3P0 and the re-released Zeroids who were a bit like R2-D2. There was also a goofy guy named Kent, who showed up at the tail end of the line.

The real star of the line to me is the Knight of Darkness. He is definitely inspired by Darth Vader, but has a more phallic design that likens him a bit closer to Darth Helmet. While his design is definitely different, it’s not hard to imagine many parents being confused by this character and giving them to a youngster thinking this was the Sith lord. Kenner was barely cranking official Star Wars toys out at this point and those early Kenner Vader dolls didn’t exactly look like on screen replicas either.

Over time the Knight of Darkness has gotten a bad reputation by collectors and fans alike as just a poor ripoff of Darth Vader. Personally I think he has a lot of charm. Vader himself is nothing more than a mishmash of previous villain ideas all rolled into one. So why is the Knight of Darkness so bad?

This guy can usually be found loose on Ebay for about $20, but rarely complete. He came with a Captain Action Flash Gordon gun and Captain Action boots. These items have usually been lost or taken from him. No matter, I found an old pair of boots and an even cooler space ray gun for mine. If you’re looking for one MIB, you can expect to pay over $100 and have to search a lot more.

His chest typically has some deterioration as the silver has a tendecy to fall off with age. Beyond that, these guys hold up quite well. Since this is using a black version of the Captain Action body frame, it’s actually much more poseable than any actual Star Wars figure of the era.

According to the official Marvel Comics promotional book that came out featuring this character, the Knight of Darkness is an evil overlord of the Shadow Warriors. They have come from the Black Nebula to take over Earth. Pretty simple stuff, but classic and fun nonetheless.

The S.T.A.R. Team line only lasted a little over a year and despite Ideal’s best efforts, wasn’t enough to make the company a player in the toy business again. Ideal would be sold in 1982 to CBS Toys and eventually to Tyco, who would then be sold to Mattel. Interestingly the rights to the Zeroids along with Captain Action are now owned by a new company which is once again bringing Captain Action to the market… Could the Knight of Darkness follow suit?

Speaking of suits, George Lucas actually tried to file a lawsuit against Ideal over the S.T.A.R. Team and the Knight of Darkness in particular. However the case was almost instantly thrown out because 95% of the toyline was simply repurposed old toys. The Knight of Darkness defeated George Lucas… If that doesn’t make him a badass, what could?! I love the knock-offs with charm and the Knight of Darkness is that, plus much more.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan character was created in 1912 and is nearing his 100th birthday in various forms of media. Throughout his long history, he’s had quite a few action figures. One of the most unique of those figures, is Mego’s World’s Greatest Super Hero version. Today we’re taking a spotlight look at this jungle adventurer.

Tarzan is one of my favorite figures in the Mego WGSH line. That may sound strange, as he’s arguably one of the weakest of the figures in many respects. However, what Tarzan lacks in brand appeal, he makes up for in oddity. Tarzan was a hugely popular character throughout the 20’s-60’s but was definitely starting to wane in popularity by the 1970’s. Today he seems downright antiquated, best left to Disney cartoons and black and white movies… But there was a time when Tarzan was badass.

That’s not to say Tarzan wasn’t still popular to an extent in the 1970’s, as he would receive a Saturday morning cartoon and eventually a toy line by Mattel in the decade. However it’s his 1974 debut in Mego’s line that’s perhaps a testament to his uniqueness. Mego was beginning to crank out a variety of big name superheroes from DC and Marvel in their 8 inch line, and out of nowhere comes Tarzan. To say that he didn’t fit would be an understatement.

While the WGSH assortments are known for some strange choices, many are more logical when you examine them. Falcon as an example, would appeal specifically to the African American demographic. But why Tarzan? As it turns out the late Neal Kublan, former Vice President of Mego, was a big fan and licensed the character for the line simply because of that.

Aside from being an oddball character in the line, Tarzan has a lot of interesting choices in his design. His hair is more like that of a shaggy Beatle than the long mane that Tarzan was often known for. His hair didn’t even look like Ron Ely’s more manicured 1960’s Tarzan. The different look is one of the things that definitely attracts me to this toy.

His outfit is similar to the old circus strongmen and this was a look that had been phased out for Tarzan by the 1970’s. Perhaps this is how Kublan had remembered Tarzan. He even has a flesh bodysuit on, reminding me of Jack Benny’s portrayal of the ape man. In fact I have to wonder if Jack Benny as Tarzan wasn’t the model for this figure. His bodysuit runs right down to his feet, giving him a pajama-like look.

He’s hardly the most imposing figure in the line, but there’s something just so corny and camp about the character that works. This version is a Type 1 body which makes him even less dynamic in look. This is a pretty common body to find Tarzan on. Incredibly, despite being nearly 40 years old… This figure has tight joints and stands on his own in a variety of poses with absolutely no problem.

He’s also one of the few World’s Greatest Super Heroes from Mego that includes an accessory. A single, rather unremarkable black knife. These are much harder to come by these days, as they were often lost by kids. Any small GI Joe knife, or Action Jackson knife will work as a decent substitute, though.

It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Tarzan doesn’t look more like Conan, but I figure it goes back to Kublan’s preference. Even the artwork used in the Tarzan package shows him with nothing but animal pelt shorts. Tarzan isn’t super hard to come by these days, but he’s a little rarer than some. Mego lost the rights to him in 1976 and many kids likely didn’t take as good care of an offbeat character such as this one. However I’m certain that kids in the 40’s-50’s would have flipped for a Tarzan this cool.

I’m not sure why I like the Mego Tarzan so much… Perhaps it’s because he’s an underdog. Maybe it’s because he’s just such an odd toy. Maybe it’s because you can take him out in the backyard and instantly have an adventure… I don’t know. Whatever the case, I think he’s one of the more fun additions to the line.

Tarzan is an eclectic representation of the character and a truly different choice for the Mego line. However, he’s a really fun figure and one that I am definitely glad to have in my collection. To many people, Tarzan is the lamest member of the WGSH, but to those who can see beneath, you’ll see one of the brightest spots! WGSH wouldn’t be quite as fun without Tarzan.

Ahh, the good ol’ days. It was 1988 when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy line came to fruition and it would be that same year that I discovered them. My first TMNT acquisition was also my introduction to the TMNT. My brother walked to the store with my great grandmother (who did not drive), which because I was considerably younger, was not allowed to do. Often when they would go, he would have her pick out toys for my cousin and us. All three of us stayed with my two grandmothers during the summers.

This would be not only where I first discovered the TMNT, but it would be the only time for decades that I would see a Shredder figure. They stopped into a place called Wicklows, which had once been Gillam’s World. There he picked up a figure for each of us, from the brand new Ninja Turtle toy line. My brother got Leonardo, which became his favorite Turtle. I got Mikey, who became my favorite. My cousin ended up with Shredder. My cousin hated this, enough that I actually recall him crying about it. We quickly convinced him that Shredder was really cool and as it turns out, Shredder was pretty darn cool. He was also impossible for me to find.

The cartoon had not aired yet in our neck of the woods. I recall it airing shortly after we had the figures, but we learned of the TMNT through the back of the package bios. It was great. It showed you just how cool that toy line was. Sure, Shredder may not look like much now… But back then? That was one of the coolest action figures I had ever seen. Of course, I was really glad I had gotten Michelangelo, but I couldn’t help but think how cool Shredder was too.

Of course what made Shredder legendary in my mind was the simple fact that I never saw him again. I had a TON of Turtles figures as a kid. Shortly after those original purchases, I was able to get Rocksteady and Bebop. Eventually along came Baxter Stockman and a whole host of other characters. Shredder and the Foot Solider were figures that I so desperately wanted, but always eluded me. This was a repeating theme in our household as we always seemed to never have the main villain. Not having the Foot Soldier? It wasn’t a huge deal (and that’s really a story for another time) because I had tons of bad guy figures and mutants… But not having Shredder?!

The Turtles without Shredder was like a sandwich without bread. This meant that Baxter Stockman had to be promoted to leader of the bad guys in my TMNT world, since clearly Rocksteady nor Bebop were equipped for the job. Heck, I wouldn’t even get Krang for many more years as well… So it was hard times. Eventually I made a makeshift substitute as documented in a previous post (Meet Shredder Circa My Youth) and it seemed as though my cousin was intent on never bringing Shredder around when we would play. He always had some excuse. I think he did it just to torture me.

And then of course, when he did bring him around, he was missing his head! I wrote about that before, but suffice to say, I was even envious of headless Shredder. Around 1993 or so I would finally get a Shredder… Super Shredder. It was bittersweet at best, even though I really like that figure. I still wanted that original Shredder.

Eventually Ebay would come around and sure enough, Shredder would be mine. As it turns out, this is a fairly below average figure. His body is contorted in such a way that he can’t do a whole lot of posing. Hell, just STANDING is nearly impossible for this guy. And he’s missing a shirt… I don’t know why.

I guess it could be worse. When Playmates first started tinkering with their 25th Anniversary re-release of the figure, they nearly omitted his pants!?

[For the record, the 25th Re-Release did come with pants, but why they actually used a non-pants proto on the back as opposed to using the classic figure is a bit of a mystery.]

It’s a strange figure, though. The spine is all contorted and he sort of looks like Zelda from Pet Semetary from behind. The blue armor doesn’t do him any favors, either. Of course this figure was repainted into Toon Shredder and that figure actually looks a billion times better, just by having a more accurate paint job.

It seems that Playmates would pay tribute to that pronounced spine in their late 90’s release of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation Shredder figure.

Interestingly, that Shredder figure would become my favorite for many years. Although I don’t think that design has aged particularly well either. C’set la vie, Shredder.

Whatever the case, I have fond memories of this Shredder figure. Even if I never really had him as a kid. He was a big part of my childhood, without ever actually being in my collection. I’m glad to have him now, even if he sort of sucks outside of that time capsule. Now if you excuse me, TONIGHT WE DINE ON TURTLE SOUP!