From the early 1980s through to the mid ’90s, Topps released a variety of products that placed candy in the noggins of pop culture’s best and brightest. A cross between an action figure and a paperweight, these cool dispensers were fun impulse buys for kids who already snatched up all of the company’s ubiquitous trading cards.
From a 2012 point-of-view, Alf
is a hacky sitcom whose greatest cultural contribution may be that National Enquirer
article about how the dad from the series smoked crack and had sex with random bums. This is a fair assessment to be sure. You have to remember though, the 1980s were an era when the catchphrase “Where’s the Beef?” had its own line of bubblegum. Things were way different then. So when a show about a smart-ass alien who wanted nothing more than to eat cats debuted, America responded with the same kind of unthinking acceptance that inspired John Carpenter to fast-track They Live
. Whether singing along with “Melmac Girls” at the local Burger King or laughing like a loon whenever Alf said “before you get up for that final snack I want you to know I’ll be right back,” the general public couldn’t get enough puppet mayhem. Even if you never spent a lonely Saturday night wondering what Anne Schedeen was up to now, you have to admit that some of the Alf
merchandise was pretty fun. Case in point, this plastic doppelganger of Paul Fusco’s meal ticket that, in a nice touch, came with little candy cats you could scarf down before Blossom
came on. As I said, it was a simpler time.
4) The Rocketeer
Hoping for a Batman-sized hit, Disney released The Rocketeer upon a disinterested public back in the summer of 1991. Over the years Joe Johnston’s excellent adaptation of the late Dave Stevens’ adventure comic found its audience. The same can’t really be said for the merchandise that movie spawned, much of which can still be found dirt cheap on eBay. Those looking for a great cult movie tchotchke, would be hard-pressed to do better than some of these goodies. Topps originally gave consumers the choice between a replica of the Rocketeer’s helmet and his upper torso (the company also offered a larger version of the character that included bubblegum). Of these, the art deco-influenced helmet is still your best bet. Owning this sturdy and stylish collectible tells the people in your life that you appreciate underrated movies…and the forgotten ancillary products that came with them. Nerdy status symbols are status symbols nonetheless.
3) Audrey II
Back in 1986, Topps was the only company making Little Shop of Horrors products, namely a line of trading cards that is most memorable for featuring images of the original ending in which mean green mothers from outer space destroyed Earth, and the above Audrey II treat dispenser. (Milton Bradley’s Feed Me game is also worth mentioning, even though it wasn’t technically based on the movie). Awesomely enough, opening Audrey II’s mouth revealed the candy pieces — which unfortunately weren’t shaped in the faces of the plant’s various victims. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go waste a few minutes making this thing pretend to sing “Suppertime.”
Not as popular as Boba Fett nor as much of a laughing stock as Dengar, Bossk remains the most underrated bounty hunter in the Star Wars universe. As part of their The Empire Strikes Back collection of candy heads — a line which was Wampa free, dammit — Topps released the beauty you see here. With a mischievous smile and a twinkle in his eye, Bossk is ready to take on whatever the day throws at him–which now usually involves some fat nerd pulling off his head and wishing his neck was still filled with sugary yumminess.
It’s still baffling to me that Robocop inspired a cartoon series and a toy line given that it was an R-rated sci-fi bloodfest filled with murder, death and gore. Did I say baffling? I meant to say awesome. So too is the corresponding Topps candy figure which comes complete with an action accessory that makes Robo’s arm move up and down threateningly and candy pieces resembling a mutated Emil Antonowsky. Okay, I made that second part up. Still, I think we can all agree that we are looking at the defining moment of candy history here. Why? Because it gives you the future of law enforcement IN YOUR BELLY.
Hit the jump for the worst collectible candy heads ever made.
E.T. gets a lot of abuse around these parts, and it’s easy to see why: he’s an alcoholic troublemaker who terrorized a generation and he also inspired Neil Diamond to write a really shitty song. Frankly, it’s a wonder that he didn’t crash the candy heads marketplace the way he did the videogame industry. (If such a thing exists). Topps released two E.T. candy items, the one you see above and another full-body model. This one is getting singled out because of the creepy paint application that make E.T.’s eyes seem deader than usual. Seriously, when you go to sleep tonight that image will be burned into your brain. It’s also worth mentioning that this monstrosity looks vaguely phallic. Of course that may just be my own demented mind projecting and have nothing to do with Topps.
4) Max Headroom
Just so we are perfectly clear here, there is nothing lame about Max Headroom. Both his Cinemax interview show and sci-fi series helped propel their respective genres forward and influenced a generation of viewers and creators. That said, the character is impossible to merchandise. Max is all flash and visuals. To try to reproduce his fren
etic nature in a physical form is a futile effort. It’s no surprise that eBay is littered with tons of unsold Max Headroom candy heads. Without motion and Matt Frewer’s performance, the Max magic just doesn’t exist. Topless Robot arts and crafts tip: paint Max’s hair black and you’ll find yourself with a tiny replica of famed Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.
3) Howard the Duck
As someone who has declared his love for Howard the Duck on this site several times, even I will be quick to point out that this one is a, um, turkey. My apologies. The main problem here is that Howard looks more like Rodney Dangerfield than his cinematic counterpart. (Point to ponder: Did someone on Topps’ design team notice how movie Howard didn’t resemble comic Howard and create this thing as a statement on adaptations always betray their source material?) At least Topps had the cojones to give Howard his trademark cigar. Or at least that’s what I think that’s supposed to be. Eww.
2) Sy Snootles
Wait, H.R. Giger worked for Topps? I had no idea.
1) The Joker
Drawing influence from the works of Frank Stella and Robert Mangold, this Joker head released in conjunction with the 1989 Batman film is a study in minimalism. Either that, or the folks at Topps were just phoning this one in. Just like Nicholson’s performance as the Joker. Zing!