Monday, 16 May 2016

Spawn Spree I*

I’ve been neglecting this blog a little the last few weeks, I’m sorry, in exchange for that have another segmented article about toys that I now own.

I’ve recently had my love of Spawn and McFarlane Toys rekindled, I didn’t expect it to ever happen and I’m sure if anyone read this, the serious adult toy collectors would scoff so hard they’d lose an eyeball. To recap those not in the know, McFarlane Toys are usually credited with revolutionising the toy collecting world by producing their ‘Ultra Action Figures’, with a higher level of detail, (intended) quality and being aimed at adults some claim the pretty much invented the Adult Collector’s market. That’s not quite true but they did create a new age in collector’s figures, for better or worse, and actually laid out various things that are still being used today.  So there was a time when Spawn and McFarlane Toys were the centre of many a toy and comic collector’s world, but of course they were by Todd McFarlane with all the trappings of his style and ideas about what was cool, and that dates them, and I’ve noticed a big turnaround in people’s opinions on what was once seen as the best of the best, maybe it’s changing tastes, maybe it’s their general lack of fucking articulation, maybe it’s just embarrassment that we were all so all in on it but they have fallen so far from grace you can get once ultra-desirable variants for a tenner on eBay. My falling out with them has less to do with my changing opinion on lots of black, chains and spikes or on what constitutes a good collector’s action figure and more to do with them being all tied up with my early teens, my comic collector years and years a senior school or THE DARK TIMES, a time I have a lot of bad memories from (most of them are not connected to Spawn toys) but to my surprise enough time has passed that I can now separate Spawn from that time period, how strange.

 As such I’ve been on a bit of a Spawn spree, one of the real benefits of the line is you can get big, awesome looking figures, carded, for pretty small amounts of money, the most I’ve spent so far was £24 (after postage) and that was for the boxed, deluxe Cy-Gor II (though that’s not the average price for that toy, I just caught a good deal). So I thought I’d just use the blog to highlight the figures in batches of six, unlike Crap I Waste My Money On this isn’t really just me showing off crap and/or writing silly stuff about it, but more spotlighting toys that aren’t really spotlighted enough online I find, plus upload a decent unboxed photo of them (and not he prototypes on as those are apparently a bit scarce. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin:   

Spawn (2nd Edition)
Spawn Series 1 (1995)
So this is the original Spawn figure, but it’s not the first Spawn figure, because that’s the way McFarlane Toys rolls, this is the second edition of the first figure which is in fact the third version of the toy. Confused? Good, it proves you’re still sexually attractive. Sadly I am not and can explain it from memory. The first Spawn action figure released from Todd’s Toys (as McFarlane Toys was called initially) was Spawn in a blue costume, released to celebrate the new company and sold exclusively via Diamond Distributors. McFarlane Toys would do a lot of exclusives during their heyday, both retailer exclusives and event exclusives; it’s still done today with perhaps the most famous at the moment being the San Diego Comic Con exclusive items, but McFarlane really liked doing it. The first wave/series of Spawn figures came out in winter 1994 (most sources say December though they could and probably were out earlier in some areas) and then in early 1995 (probably February) the first wave of 2nd Edition figures were released. What is a 2nd Edition? Well although they wouldn’t be given an official name for a few waves they’re basically the second print run of a series of McFarlane Toys figures, but instead of just being a new run of the toy they’re slightly different – usually this is just a repaint with colours chosen more because they look cool than because of any ties to comic continuity (or logic) but in the case of the first Spawn figure instead of repainting the figure they released it with a new, unmasked head.
I didn’t expect any of these to go to two paragraphs, fuck you Todd McFarlane. Anyway why did I buy the unmasked version? Because I in fact own the original version but I haven’t been able to find his cape for a while and so he’s just been sitting around pissing me off and I’m sick of the sight of the bloody thing, but of course I need a Spawn for display if I’m going to have a Spawn shelf and the first wave of Spawn figures is my favourite so I compromised and bought the variant, makes sense? No? Makes me sound mad? Yeah that usually happens. Anyway this should show anyone who’s not familiar with Spawn toys how usual the first wave of figures were, though they were bigger, brighter and marketed towards adults the early Spawn toys certainly lacked the heavy detail and huge paint applications that later defined them, and not only that they had both articulation and, as we’ll see with Tremor, action features! Really they’re not much more than big Toy Biz X-Men figures and that’s probably why I like them so much, one of my problems with later Spawn releases is that they don’t feel like toys and I distinctly remember some Spawn collectors being rather aloof about his, that they weren’t simply ‘toys’ but something more, something superior – what’s wrong with being a toy? I love toys, I write thousands of words about them because they’re great fun. I’m not doing down the quality of later Spawn sculpt and paint – they’re fantastic – but they don’t feel like toys, not even collectors toys, they feel like little plastic sculptures, I like a little toy in my toys thank you, I like the little weirdnesses, things like say, Spawn’s weapon being a giant piece of wood with a giant nail in it that looks like processed chicken.  

Wanda & Cyan
McFarlane Toys Collector’s Club Exclusive (2000)
The Collector’s Club was effectively a fan club for McFarlane Toys that gave you various perks and allowed you access to exclusive figures (if you paid for Gold membership anyway), strangely I wasn’t ever a member, I wonder if it was America-only? Anyway this is exactly the sort of exclusive things like the Collector’s Club or online exclusives should be; a figure of Spawn’s ex-wife and her daughter would never fly at retail, even if it is perhaps the most attractive plastic woman ever sculpted, but fans undoubtedly want such characters for their displays (and displaying being what Spawn figures were meant for), I want a perfect John Romita Snr Mary-Jane and Gil Kane Gwen Stacy and one of the very first figures I thought of when I decided to expand my Spawn collection was Wanda and child here. However she’s also an example of the things I dislike about her era of Spawn figures: 1) she does have articulation but it’s sparse and feels like an afterthought, a concession to shut people up almost, and doesn’t allow for more than her intended pose really. 2) She is a beautiful (Cyan is fucking terrifying) and realistic rendering of a black woman but well, she doesn’t look like Wanda, who at the time was being drawn in the rubbery, exaggerated style of Greg Capullo and had previously been drawn in the rubbery, exaggerated style of Todd McFarlane, she has never looked this realistic anywhere else, not even in the live action film, but because the sculptors could make a realistic figure they did, sacrificing accuracy to show off, later they’d sacrifice articulation to show off, but whatever they sacrificed it always seems to be to say ‘look how awesome we are’ and they were awesome but it’s not something I prefer is all.

Spawn Series 1 (1994)
Ah look a standard release; this is just the basic Tremor from the first series of Spawn figures and it’s also a good look at what was the same and what was different when Spawn first hit stores. Tremor has most of the sort of things you’d find on Toy Biz’s X-Men, Playmates TMNT or even earlier figures like Masters of the Universe: limited articulation, texture randomly not being sculpted on some parts, action features for no other reason than to have cool action features (not a bad thing), in this case Tremor’s hand shoots forward BUT he’s bigger, sturdier (closer to a Street Shark than anything else at the time) and every little wart is painted in, paint apps are usually the first thing to get cut (or not included at all) to save money and keep the figure in budget, so the more paint the higher the perceived quality of the figure often is, and Tremor has a shitload of paint. But I suppose the real question is – who the fuck is Tremor? Well Tremor did appear in the comics before his figure came out – Spawn #25 came out in October 1994 – but as far as I know he was the first character to be created solely for the Spawn toyline, he’s a criminal engineered by scientists under orders from Tony Twist, a New York Mob Boss and reoccurring antagonist, who turns to the side of good after he’s made into a monster. He’s a pretty shallow character who never really had a decent story but I have a very strong attachment and it’s solely because I thought his first toy looked cool when I was about 11. But sadly I never owned him at that time, Spawn series 1 figures were expensive back when people still cared about them and I had fuck all money, because I was 11, so sadly Tremor never won out at birthdays, Christmas, treats or pocket money spend-ups at comic shops, especially as I had Tremor II, but now all is better yes? Well I’m still gonna buy his 2nd edition cos it’s green (yes that’s enough to make me spend £12 plus postage) but yes, things are better now I have a black and orange bull cyborg monster thing, doesn’t that improve everyone’s life?

Hoof (2nd Edition)
Total Chaos Series 1 (1996)
Total Chaos was pure indulgence and I love it for it – I wish I was in a position where I could produce a line like this – it was just two waves of Todd McFarlane designing what he thought would be cool looking toys, he didn’t always succeed (Gore and Smuggler, for instance, fail for me) and the figures didn’t sell well enough to last more than two waves, but how fantastic must it have been to be able to just release waves of toys that were just whatever you wanted and have them sell at least enough to make a 2nd run of the first series? This is the 2nd edition simply because I don’t care what colour it comes in it is an armoured rhino man with multiple cannons attached to him, badass ungulate-men are the second coolest thing to make figures out of, and the best type are the battle worn heavily armed versions, and cowboys, anything wild-west themed is also good. As an additional bonus this figure can be shifted between upright (shown) or all-fours, his guns and head even shunt back so they face forward, given that McFarlane toys often barely had five points of articulation, it’s almost miraculous to see a figure with a basic transforming action feature.    

Spawn Puzzle Zoo Exclusive Figure (1995)
I had no idea until about two weeks ago what Puzzle Zoo actually was. I knew its name because McFarlane produced a couple of exclusives for them but I had no idea what it meant, as a stupid tweenager I thought it was just a name for a type of variant, since then I honestly haven’t thought about its meaning at all. Turns out it’s a retailer that’s still going today (as and this was made for them, I’ve dubbed it Peppermint Flavour Violator. Vertebreaker was created for the toyline but has ties to the comics, he’s one of the Phlebiac brothers, a concept created by Alan Moore that included Violator and four characters Moore devised – Vacillator, Vandalizer, Vindicator and Vaporizer, and apparently Vertebreaker. The comic book Phlebiac brothers are hilarious (read the Violator mini-series by Alan Moore and Bart Sears) but they’re not very different from Violator – Fly Eye Violator, Chunky Violator, Big Violator and Eye-Lashes Violator – Vertebreaker is a far better design than any of them, he looks like a creative variation on Violator’s design and looks like he could live up to his job of keeping Violator in line, of course he also looks minty flavoured but this is a variant. Which is a point, why have I chosen to buy the mint-scented variant rather than the easier to find first version, or the rare and collectible 2nd edition? *sigh* because I want a group of all the red versions of characters (they did a few of them after the success of Red Violator) to stand with Red Violator (a long-time favourite toy of mine) and to satisfy my self-diagnosed OCD that means that the regular Vertebreaker (who’s red) would stand with the variants, but I wanted a Vertebreaker to stand with the regular Violator and other monsters and demons, so I bought the variant to act as the non-variant because the non-variant has to stand with the variants otherwise it WON’T BE RIGHT. I need help.

Total Chaos Series 2 (1997)
Badass Elephantidae-men are the single coolest thing to make action figures of. This is one of my favourite action figures (I’ve had it less than a week and it’s joined that pantheon already, previously only Red Violator was on that list from McFarlane), it’s seemed that I’m not alone in my adoration for Poachey as he seems to be the only Total Chaos figure to retain any sort of respect (and thus costing more than a budget DVD), in fact I’d say it seems to be one of the most respected McFarlane figures period (others seem to include Manga Spawn and Cy-Gor II). This is because he’s a giant (and he is big, certainly for a standard figure, which he was) tribal elephant, the concept is pretty hokey – an elephant that poaches humans – but the sheer design of him elevates him above such a cliché, he’s also totally packed with accessories to add to the feel and perceived value of him, oddly his packaging has instructions for making him hold a shotgun on the back of the box and promotional shots come with him carrying a gun but mine didn’t come with one yet it wasn’t resealed and didn’t seem to have space in the bubble for it. Poacher, btw, subsequently got two later versions, even though there was no 2nd edition for Total Chaos series 2, a deluxe version with lights and sounds and a second figure, Poacher II, in Spawn series 34, both of these are far more expensive than the already comparatively pricey first version here, but the Series 34 version is so good I will be paying out for that sometime in the next few months.

And there you go, aren’t you glad you spent this time reading about figures? You’re not? No wonder no one reads this shit, that’s most of what I write about lately! Thanks for reading if you did though, as a treat, here are the bio cards for Poacher, Vertebreaker and Hoof (the only three that had them), click to enlarge:

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