?If there’s one thing that collectors know, it’s that action figures are serious business. Intense work goes into developing lines of toys, ensuring that each series contains the optimal mixture of characters, with the right balance of sculpting and articulation, to be sold to the right audience at the right (or most profitable) price point. Sometimes everything is a complete success and toylines last for many years. But they can’t all be Star Wars, Transformers, or Masters of the Universe. Some die after a single wave, or a single figure; and some never even get off the ground.
There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the company goes under; sometimes production costs prove too expensive; sometimes behind-the-scenes politicking kills the deal. Here are eight notable toylines that never got the full treatment they deserved.
8) The Goon
?A fan favorite, Eric Powell’s paranormal crime comic got an amazing figure line from Mezco in 2005. The first wave included four characters — the Goon, Franky, villain the Zombie Priest and Joey the Ball — all immortalized in plastic using Powell’s distinct style. Each figure even included a part of a zombie build-a-figure! We waited gleefully for a second series — but a second series was never to be. As important characters had been left out of the first series to make way for the future, fans are forever without a Buzzard, or an El Hombre de Lagarto, or just more zombies.
7) Magma C.O.R.P.S.
2005 saw the Four Horsemen, sculptors of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics, producing their own line of action figures for the very first time, creating their own concept and bringing it to life in toy form entirely on their own accord. The result was the very cool Magma C.O.R.P.S., whose first figure, Commander Argus, debuted at the San Diego Comic Con. A whole line was planned, as well as animation and other tie-in material, but it all ended too fast: with the exception of the Commander, none of the other characters were ever made. This cleared the way for the Four Horseman’s future projects such as FANtastic Exclusive, but it’s still disappointing that their full concept line was never released.
6) Avatar: The Last Airbender
?If you haven’t seen the entirety of Nickelodeon’s stunning Avatar: The Last Airbender, stop what you’re doing, go out and buy the DVDs, watch, then come back. You’ll thank me. Oh, and forget that horrible film exists.
Now that you’re back, join me in bemoaning the insanely disappointing action figures produced by Mattel, who in their infinite wisdom decided that no one would possibly want to buy toys of girls from a show full of smart, developed, interesting and strong female characters. Instead, enjoy multiple awful Aang and Zuko variants. If any Mattel executives are wondering why this line didn’t do well, and why it died long before the show did, maybe take one of those workplace courses on equal opportunity and think really, really hard.
5) Carnage Dinosaurs
?Though forgotten by many now, Resaurus was one of the biggest players in the late 1990s action figure boom. They were arguably the first to see the potential of action figures based on videogame properties, and their first big success was their Duke Nukem line. They followed it with popular figures based on Quake 2 and Street Fighter II before beginning to branch out into other licenses, such as the movie Virus (remember that?), the cartoon Speed Racer, and the comic Bone. Resaurus went under around 1999, and as such, one of their best action figure lines barely made it into stores.
Called “Carnage,” it was a line of realistic, well-articulated dinosaur figures. After decades of hollow rubber dinosaurs from Imperial or dinosaurs that with extra parts (like Dino Riders), a company was finally offering straight-up articulated dinosaurs. The first wave included such favorites as Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor, and Triceratops. And to be fair, the line technically made it to a second wave, which featured two more dinosaurs, but the figures were produced in limited numbers and poorly distributed, and many collectors never even knew they existed. After Resaurus went under, another company bought some of the molds and produced them under the name “Dinosaur Kings” for the Discovery Channel — but again, these are hard to find.
4) Transformers: War For Cybertron
?Activision’s incredibly popular Transformers game War for Cybertron hit home with fans, and for good reason: finally, a Transformers game that isn’t totally awful! With excellent character designs somewhere between G1 and Bayformers, action figures seemed like a given — the game’s art was even designed alongside Hasbro, seemingly with toys in mind.
So, where are they? Mixed in with the 2010 Transformers Generations line, for no good reason that anyone can fathom. Collectors are crying out for a full line of these excellent character designs, but instead have to pick them from the first few waves of a different line. It’s rumored Hasbro has plans for a more focused toy line for the game’s sequel, Fall of Cybertron.
3) Adult Swim
?When it comes to deciding which characters to make in a new action figure line, the casting can be both a blessing or a curse. Mixing up the popular and important characters with the lesser known, less important individuals either ensures a line’s longevity or, more often, dooms collectors to miss out on major players when the line ends.
No line illustrates this better than Palisades’ extremely short-lived Adult Swim toys. Produced in sets of two with an abundance of accessories, the action figures mixed major and minor characters so that collectors could acquire the more important characters across the line along with fan favorites. Instead of getting Harvey Birdman immediately, collectors could get his crazed boss Phil Ken Sebben and the Bear. Aqua Teen fans could buy one of the Hunger Force, Shake, as well as villain Monster Moth Man, and (theoretically) buy the others later on. The only problem is the line ended before you can say “Number 1 in the Hood, Gee” — which means we’ll never have an entire Aqua Teen Hunger Force, nor a Carl for them to annoy. It means we have the Bear, but no Harvey Birdman! Instead, we have a random mixture of characters who, without their surrounding players, don’t really fit anywhere. That’s really sad.
2) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
?NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys are amazing. Sculpted by the Four Horsemen, they’re an example of NECA at their absolute best and are beloved by collectors everywhere: their sculpting, their accessories, their articulation, and their paint applications are superb. The Horsemen expertly captured the look of the turtles from their very first comic, with an assortment of perfect accessories and bases, all distinct from the look and style of the ’80s cartoon and action figures.
Future figures, including April, Shredder and a Foot Soldier, were shown at conventions, but only April was ever released. The line ended without seeing any of the other great characters sculpted in their original form, and we weep.
1) Sesame Street
?You knew this one was coming. Palisades’ amazing, flawless work on the Muppet Show line put it in the action figure hall of fame; it’s one of the best toylines of all time. After nine series and multiple playsets, the natural progression of this line was to work on another amazing Jim Hensen property, and one which had crossover with the Muppets: Sesame Street.
The plans for this line were amazing: each series included a mixture of well-known characters with minor-but-still-loved individuals, each packaged with a letter or number amongst other accessories, and a part of Sesame Street as a base. When the whole line was collected, you would have had a diorama of the entire Sesame Street as well as all of the numbers and letters.
But when Palisades died, so did the line, and all that was ever released was the exclusive Super Grover, complete with his telephone box and his disguise. It’s a gorgeous action figure, amazingly sculpted and fun to play with — it exemplifies the ingenuity that went into Palisades’ action figures. No other company has stepped up to the plate to take on their unique and divine vision of this property, and we’re all worse off for it.