I gotta admit...I love the 1990s comics! There was a lot of new and exciting stuff going on, with many new companies starting up and creating their own new books, with the boys at Image Comics leading the pack. One of the founding members of Image Comics was Todd McFarlane, who set records with his best-selling title Spawn. McFarlane was one of the most popular comic book creators at the time, and he wanted to see if it was possible to create another iconic character, with a massive merchandising line behind it. After a feature film, and animated series, video games, countless comic books & graphic novels, and more, he found a way to achieve his goal.
Then there's the toy line. Originally named "Todd Toys", this line included characters from the comic, as well as some original creations that started off as toys, and later became part of the story. Due to a "Todd" character from Mattel's Barbie line, Mattel feared there would be some confusion with the new company. So, a quick name change to "McFarlane Toys" came the following year.
Whatever the name, the toys themselves changed the entire toy industry. Although it's not immediately noticeable in this initial wave, the attention to detail in both the sculpting and the painting stages truly set these toys apart from the competition. After the SPAWN toys came out, other toy companies changed to match what was being done: the scale got a little bigger, the sculpting and painting improved, and even the packaging became much more elaborate over the years.
For this first wave, my then-roommate and I were instantly hooked. We hunted down each figure when we found them, and we had them on display throughout our apartment. While we didn't get into the playsets and vehicles, we loved the action figures. While each character has been updated (some of them several times!) over the subsequent years, here are the original versions of the line that started an empire.
Here's an action figure that has a crazy action feature: the body splits in half to allow the head to rotate around, changing from "Clown" to "Violator". The figure comes with a turkey leg (at least I HOPE that's a turkey leg....you can never tell with this guy!), but really the exciting part is just to make him change. A couple times, anyway...then it gets old.
At the time this figure came out, he had yet to appear in the comics, so we kind of wondered just who the heck was this guy? He did appear in the comics eventually, revealing the long history of the Hellspawn characters. But at first, we didn't know much about him. The figure itself is pretty sweet, loaded with spiked armor and spinning shield, he just looked damn cool.
This cyborg soldier was created by Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld, during an interview with Stan Lee. There was a really cool video released showing it all go down, although the original name was "Overkill"...as in this guy had so much gear, it was totally overkill...how could he even stand with those shoulder pads? Plus, there was already a character called "Overkill", so the name had to be changed (he was also referred to as "Overt-Kill"). The figure has a neat little feature: you can launch his head as a missile!
The main character himself, Spawn was a former assassin who made a deal with the devil (Malebolgia) to return to the love of his life. Of course, these things don't always go as planned (what kind of story would THAT make?) and if you read the comics, saw the movie or animated series....you know the rest. Since this was the main character, it was a no-brainer that we'd pick him up right away. Although this was a much more smooth costume that we'd later see, you can still see the attention to detail here. The folding cape is a pretty cool feature as well, and there's a special support underneath so that the figure will stand up! The board-with-a-nail is a funny feature, since these types of accessories were pretty much unheard of back then.
Spawn ("Hamburger Head" variant)
As an added bonus, here's one of the many variants to the Spawn figure: the "Hamburger Head" version. This was really cool not only because it shows Spawn without his mask, but it's also a nice nod to the classic crossover comic book where Spawn crossed paths with Batman (who threw a batarang right smack into Spawn's face, forcing Spawn to use a old shoelace to sew it back up!) The regular comic series explained it away as Spawn getting shot up with bullets, but true fanboys know where it all went down!
Here's another cybernetic character that eventually appeared in the comics..but initially we wondered who was this guy? Sure, he looked cool, and his spring-loaded fist was fun for knocking over other figures, but without the backstory he just wasn't all that exciting. And you know what? He still isn't...
Now HERE's a character we loved! The Violator was one of the most insane characters in the comics. Proper anatomy be damned...this is a demon from Hell! He lived by his own rules, although of course he had to answer to the devil. This figure however....well, he left a lot to be desired. We'd eventually get a much better version, but this guy was kind of a disappointment. You could bend him every which way, and make some neat poses, but really...he could barely stand up and his action feature was goofy, when it worked. As an added insult, he's not even shown on the packaging (it's actually a small PVC figure shown in the photo)! Since I customized my original figure years ago, I had to get a new one for this feature, which is why this is the only figure shown carded today (one day I'll dig out my old cardbacks and comics).
So there you have it! As I said before, there have been a number of updates over the years for all of these figures, but this is the original line that started it all! And trust me when I say....we collected them all! (I'll get around to photographing them eventually, but since I've been shooting SPAWN figures recently, I thought it would be fun to showcase the first series.)
I'll be taking a few weeks off, but when I come back, we'll take a look at one of the classic toy lines that got me into collecting in the first place! See in a few weeks!