?The United States Postal Service is always complaining about how they get ignored for email and UPS and FedEx. It’s why they raise prices on stamps every day, and are very, very surly when you do actually need to mail something. But is the problem really the rise of electronic mail, or is it the fact that there’s aren’t any mail-away action figures anymore?!
Probably the former, actually, but mail-away action used to be an important part of every young nerd’s life. Before build-a-figures were a twinkle in a greedy toy executive’s eye, the best way to ensure kids bought lots and lots of your toys was to have them collect proof-of-purchase seasl, and mail them off in return for another action figure! It was like a free toy, if you ignored all the money you’d already spent, and the waiting by the mailbox was delicious agony for many children. Of course, not all mail-away action figures are created equal, and there’s probably a few crates of unsent toys collecting dust in some Rhode Island warehouse. Here are five mail-away figures that had us hugging the postman when he delivered them… and five that had us kicking his shins.
5) Cyber Link Batman and Superman from Total Justice
?If there is something that the world probably didn’t need, it’s more crazy variantaction figures of Superman and Batman. Especially when their power seems to be an armor that lets these BFFs stay in constant communication with each other. “No, you hang up first Clark!”
4) Belloq in Robes from Adventures of Indiana Jones
?Kenner’s Adventures of Indiana Jones line of toys didn’t quite have the same zest that Harrison Ford’s other popular franchise did. Kids often only bought the Indy figure, leaving less popular characters such as Cairo Swordsman and German Mechanic to wither on the shelf. So when it came to their mail-away figure, Kenner offered a second figure of villain Andre Belloq in his ceremonial robes from the movie’s end, which wasn’t really a big motivator to order him. When you choose to offer a French archeologist over, say, Sallah or a melting Nazi, you’re just not going to get a win.
3) William “The Refrigerator” Perry from G.I. Joe
In the 1980s, Bears mania was everywhere and not even Hasbro could resist the sweet siren song of Mike Ditka. Thus was born a member of the Joe team they no longer like to talk about, William “Refrigerator” Perry. The 335-pound defensive tackle was given a more svelte look in 3 ?-inch format, but any ground gained by that was lost by his loud jersey and his ridiculous “football on a stick” weapon that gave you the feeling that the guy handing out weapons on the Joe team was a Vikings fan.
2) Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars: Power of the Force
?As the popularity of the original Star Wars trilogy was winding down in toy stores, Kenner (a company synonymous with mail-in action figures) decided to offer kids the redeemed soul of Darth Vader. Seen for a fleeting moment at the end of Return of the Jedi, the Anakin Skywalker figure is an interesting novelty but essentially it’s a middle-aged man in a robe who is now dead. To add insult to injury, the character in this form has been retconned out of existence by the forever tinkering (and quite mad) George Lucas. You know you’re a problem when you make Admiral Ackbar look exhilarating.
1) Aunt May from Marvel Famous Covers
?In the mid 1990s Toy Biz decided to pump up interest in their Mego-like “Famous Covers” like by creating a mail-in premium of a character absolutely nobody wanted. Peter Parker’s Aunt May is more of a plot device more than anythin,g and to top it off ToyBiz made the figure as frightening looking as possible. With her gigantic hands and terrifyingly tiny head complete with death mask grin, Aunt May will haunt your nightmares until she eats your very soul. Most Famous Covers fans wished for one more day, where they could change this into a J. Jonah Jameson or even an Uncle Ben.
The better mail-away figures are on the next page.
5) Clark Kent from Super Powers
?The Kenner Super Powers collection is one of the most fondly loved superhero action figure lines of our age and rightly so, as it captures a wonderful moment in time for the DC Universe. During the second wave kids could send away for a cool figure of Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent, a figure that actually increased the line’s play value as it provided something most toylines never get — regular people.
4) Ambush Predator from Predator
?It’s a clear figure of Predator. If there was anything that deserved a “clear variant” this character is it.
3) Boba Fett from Star Wars
Teased to children everywhere as the new character from The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett has become one of the most popular mail-away action figures in pop culture history. An entire mythos was born in the schoolyards and still surrounds this character to this day. The only thing holding him from being #1 was the fact that adults took away that rocket firing mechanism. That’s right, Kenner, we peeled back that black sticker and saw the goodness denied to us. Bastards.
2) Hooded Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe
?Not that he needs an introduction, but hooded Cobra Commander may be one of the few examples where the mail-away variant actually looks cooler than the regular released figure. The shiny face mask is okay, but there is an extra level of menace to a figure where you can see his beady little eyes.
1) The Star Wars Early Bird Kit
So you’re the president of Kenner, you’ve got the hottest movie license the world has ever seen, but there is no way in hell Hong Kong is going to have a single toy ready by Christmas. What do you do? You sell the world an empty box with a hastily written “IOU” in it, which vaguely promises delivery the February after Christmas, and then go back to drinking scotch and smoking cigars in your wood paneled office (this was 1977 after all).
That’s exactly what Kenner, did and a nation of kids bought an empty box with both hands, in the history of time there has probably never been a more anticipated figure than the first four Star Wars characters. Mail carriers still refer to the winter of early 1978 as the “Kenner curse.”