10 Infamous Action Figure Variants

By Jason F.C. Clarke in Daily Lists, Toys
Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 8:02 am
Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of being an action figure collector is the dreaded "variant"--a version of a figure that's somehow different from the "regular" version. Sometimes these variants are intentional, like a Batman figure with an unmasked Bruce Wayne head. Other times it's a factory error, like a Batman figure with a Superman head. In either case, most of the time the variant is relatively rare or virtually impossible to find, which can drive the price up to ridiculous proportions.

When this happens with official variants -- where the company limits the figure to drive up hype -- it's annoying enough. But when it's a factory error, and collectors start coughing up hundreds of dollars because an assembly line worker wandered away from his paint station for 10 minutes, then you've reached another whole plateau of geek ludicrousness. This type of collecting largely died out when the action figure market tanked in the mid-'00s, but as our one example from 2010 shows, it still does happen from time to time. Here's Topless Robot's list of 10 infamous action figure variants.

10) Black Jimmy Hart
Jimmy Hart is a professional wrestling manager with a storied career, having worked for the WWE, WCW and, currently, TNA Wrestling. He's been the manager of such high-profile wrestlers as Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler and Ted DiBiase.

He is not, as it happens, black.

This 1994 figure was only one of countless factory errors on Original San Francisco Toy Makers' short-lived WCW line; for example, the figures were so often on the wrong cards that some wrestlers were reportedly never packaged under their own name.

9) Iron Cross He-Man
When Mattel attempted to bring back He-Man for today's kids in 2002, they hired the Four Horsemen, former sculptors for McFarlane Toys, to create the figures. Using the original designs as inspiration, the Horsemen created brand-new, heavily-detailed sculpts of all the classic MOTU characters. He-Man himself got quite a makeover: he was given anime-style hair, a sporran (pouch) was added to his familiar furry underwear, and his harness straps were changed to a more realistic-looking leather instead of the plain gray of the vintage figure.

The first run of He-Man figures featured the familiar iron cross symbol of the vintage He-Man. However, later on Mattel decided to change it to a stylized "H" (often referred to by fans as the "asterisk" symbol). It was rumored that Mattel's brass were worried about the potential Nazi connotations of the iron cross, but what's far more likely is that Mattel simply wanted a unique symbol they could trademark.

8) "Mickey Mouse" Cobra Commander
What do Mickey Mouse and Cobra Commander have in common? Aside from the fact they're both figureheads for ruthless organizations with designs on world domination, of course.

After witnessing the success of Kenner's Star Wars line, with its many vehicles, huge character selection and smaller size, Hasbro decided to revamp their G.I. Joe line by shrinking it from 12-inch to 3.75-inch in 1982 and introducing a slew of characters. The villains were led by Cobra Commander, whose distinctive blue suit was emblazoned with a red Cobra logo. Well, the logo on the earliest figures was poorly painted and lacked detail, and the head of the cobra looked less like a fearsome reptile and more like a certain corporate mascot. Soon Hasbro began producing Cobra Commanders with more accurate, detailed logos, and CC's bizarre cross-promotion came to an end.

7) Flocked Ears Moss Man
When Mattel unveiled their updated Masters of the Universe Classics (MOTUC) version of Moss Man in 2010, fans were quick to point out that while his face wasn't flocked, his ears were, creating a rather odd look. Mattel agreed with the fan assessment and asked the factory not to flock the ears, but not before a few thousand flocked-ear Moss Men had been made. Mattel sold these figures separately on their Mattycollector website, and once again, fans bought right into it, with many picking up both a flocked-ears and unflocked-ears Moss Man.

6) Vinyl-Caped Jawa
If you owned any Star Wars figures as a kid, chances are you owned at least one Jawa. While most of the Jawas produced by Kenner in the late '70s came with brown cloth cloaks, the one people seem to remember is the one with the vinyl cape, which came with only the earliest Jawa figures. Silly, cheap-looking, and easily outclassed by the material cloak, the vinyl cape is still so coveted that diehard collectors will pay top dollar for them (and are often hosed by fakes).
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