10 Characters Whose Existence as Action Figures is 1000% Baffling
Toys are basically a no-brainer as pieces of ancillary merchandise for comic books. Ideally, they help fire kids’ creativity as they imagine themselves in the roles of their favorite heroes and villains, sculpting scenarios that could develop the minds that will one day shape the future of our favorite characters’ fictional lives; more realistically, they look okay standing up on shelves in the basements of thirty-somethings, next to their 1/6 scale statue of Faye Valentine. But not everyone who pops up in a comic stands out as an obvious candidate for the translation to the medium of plastic. Here are 10 characters, obscure or otherwise, who will make you scratch your head when you see them on the rack at Target.
Number of issues he appears in: 20ish
I’m putting this one first because I want to make a point: this list is not about characters I think are lame or stupid and so here I am making fun of them. You can get that lazy business literally anywhere else on the comics internet. And so I’m kicking off my list with one of my all-time favorite characters, Kylun, who was a supporting figure in Alan Davis’s return to Excalibur in 1991. A little Scottish kid with cat’s eyes who got shunted off to a crazy Robert E. Howard dimension by a malfunctioning robot to escape mutant hunters, he came back as a hardened-but-gentle fur-covered warrior with magic swords that can only cut evil. Oh: and his mutant power is being the world’s best impressionist. He’s awesome, but he completely disappears basically the second Davis leaves Excalibur. Nonetheless, he will live on in plastic—and in my heart—forever.
Number of issues they appear in: a million-ish; that’s not the point
A few years ago, Walmart carried a number of exclusive two-packs of Marvel figures which were intended to help recreate classic battles from well-known comics. This particular pairing comes from a scene in Marvel’s Civil War #4. In case you’ve forgotten the scenario, I’ll refresh your memory: a robot clone of the Aryan god Thor, created by the authoritarian elite of the pro-registration forces, calls down the lightning to murder an enormous black man in front of God and everybody. Then, to add insult to injury, Bill Foster (Black Goliath) is buried in a comically over-sized grave, wrapped in chains, while Hank Pym, whose WHOLE DEAL is making things big or small or even REGULAR PERSON GRAVE SIZE, stands around moping, in a sad metaphor for the way mid-list characters, many of whom were and are people of color, were treated in mainstream comics in the 00s. Anyway, have fun recreating that one, kids.
Number of issues he appears in: 20ish
In 2012, Dreamworks released a holiday family film that by all rights should have been toyetic as hell: recognizable cultural figures in fun, unique, easily-branded variations, swords, staffs, yetis, elves doing various things, a good, striking villain, and so on. The adventure was rousing, there was a series of books on which the film was based, everything was looking pretty good. But with the exception of a line of Happy Meal toys of questionable quality, there were never action figures for the underrated Rise of the Guardians. You cannot—and more importantly, I cannot—purchase a badass Cossack pirate Santa to stand on your desk to watch over all your doings, nice or otherwise.
Anyway, my point is: here’s an action figure of the bad guy from the Jonah Hex movie.
Number of issues he has appeared in the background of: 30ish
Quick: name all the Green Lanterns you can. Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Alan Scott. Okay, you got the easy ones. Kilowog, Arisia, Katma Tui, Tomar Re, Mogo. Nice. Got any deeper cuts? Oh, dang, okay: the F Sharp Bell one, the basketball-looking one, Neckbeard Werewolf. Not bad, but you forgot The One Whose Head Is a Broccoli. Good news: you will never forget him again, because now he lives on your shelf, in plastic form.
Tusk was a member of Apocalypse’s Dark Riders and was appearing as a background character in various X-Men comics in the early 90s, and he made a non-zero amount of appearances on the X-Men cartoon, so it’s not completely surprising that he might be considered for a figure in the rapidly expanding X-Men figure line of the early- to mid-90s. (Although, if repeat appearances on the X-Men cartoon is the only criterion for a figure, where are my Gorgeous George and the Nasty Boys figures, dammit?). What’s weird is that his power does not exactly lend itself to a cool action figure feature. He doesn’t shoot lasers, or crush rocks, or ooze slime out of his mouth when you pour it into a trashcan on his back.
No, like the Living Doll of Decency Squad, he is full of tinier men. And so, he comes packed with a tinier man.
Number of issues he appears in: I dunno, a lot
Don’t get me wrong here: it’s not weird that there’s an action figure of Obsidian. He’s the son of original Green Lantern Alan Scott and the brother of kind-of Green Lantern Jade, as well as a member of Infinity Inc, the Justice League AND the Justice Society. In addition to that, he was one of the most prominent gay superheroes in the DC universe, until he got disappeared in the New 52 reboot, in which his father was shunted off to another universe and retroactively made gay himself (as a…consolation?). So, no. It’s not that weird that Obsidian would get a figure.
What’s weird is that, presumably due to some kind of licensing or trademark issue, they couldn’t call him Obsidian; they had to call him by his real name, Todd Rice, on the packaging. Look at that figure, dead on in the face, and then just imagine him saying, “Yes, father. I shall become…TODD RICE!” Then imagine a child writing a letter to Santa in which he says, “Dear Santa, I have been very good this year. Please give me Todd Rice for Christmas.” Reward yourself with one Fig Newton for every second you can hold these images in your head without giggling.
Super-Hero Squad Punisher (Captain America variant)
Number of issues he appears in: 4ish
“Okay, so here’s the scenario: Captain America has just been brutally murdered by the love of his life, and subsequently his iconography has been adopted by a white supremacist who is probably a clone of Hitler, except with a soul patch, who has been killing off immigrants along the US/Mexico border. A serial mass murderer and psychopath is mad about seeing a racist appropriate the imagery of the only other human being he ever respected, so he himself then puts on a variant of Captain America’s costume, except with skulls instead of regular stars, and then goes and does one thousand murders in a Captain America costume.”
“Sounds perfect for our line of two-inch smiling chibi figurines aimed at five-year-olds. Go ahead and print those up. And see if you can’t also package him with another serial murderer.”
Number of issues she appears in: N/A
Look, I get that there are completists out there. They want a piece of plastic that looks like every character from That Thing They Like. But come on, man. Buffy’s mom? As an action figure? Does she come with super action slacks? Press a button and she puts on a stern look of concern about what kind of shenanigans are going on down at the Bronze?
On the other hand, she does look like she has exactly the right amount of articulation for lying completely still on the carpet, in case you wanted to recreate notable scenes from the show.
Number of issues he appears in: 4ish
Just in case it wasn’t weird enough that you can buy a toy of Buffy’s mom, good news! Here’s one of Alex Ross’s dad. He comes packaged with a naked ghost.
Spat and Grovel
In 1998, Marvel released a line of figures called Marvel’s Most Wanted. This line featured the characters Blink and Nate Grey, both of whom were breakout stars of Marvel’s hugely popular X-Men crossover, the Age of Apocalypse. But who rounded out the line? Spat and Grovel, a pair of bounty hunters sent to capture Gambit because of something about the Marauders and a shiny chromium cover; who can remember? Grovel was a giant space lizard and Spat was a young woman in a fur bikini who looked like a little girl because she got splashed with de-aging juice that was meant for Gambit back when they were partners. Here’s a video of Scott Lobdell explaining that he and Joe Madureira basically created these characters as a triple-dog dare to the toy division to make figures of this strange concept:
So the question is: “most wanted” by whom? And the answer is: 18-year-old Benito, who snatched those figures up the second he saw them in the clearance barrel at Kay-Bee toys. Grovel sat proudly on my computer monitor all throughout college.