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The Curse of the Variant

By: raptor

I doubt there are very many of us who haven’t owned a Michelangelo figure, or a He-Man figure, or some other similar and much beloved toy from our childhoods. But, how many of us will admit to owning a “Sewer Surfer Mikey”, or a “Thunder Punch He-Man? Folks, variants are the spawn of overactive marketing goon minds and have been the curse of death for many a product line. Here, I’ll explore some of the worst variants ever thought up in a smoke filled conference room full of stuftshirts.


Samurai Armor Iron Man (Toy Biz, 1996)


This is just awful. I can just picture the conversation that took place that birthed this ridiculous creation. “Hey you know what kids love? Samurais…..right??? So hear me out. What if Tony Stark made himself a Samurai Armor!!! With shurikens and katana blades that can pop out!!! This is going to sell like hotcakes!”


Maybe to a certain extent there is some truth in there. Kids probably did (and do) like Samurais. Kids did (and do) like Iron Man too. But to put them together into one package is….. well….. it’s this…..



Slam Dunkin’ Don (Playmates, 1991)


Pretend you live in a world where mutant turtles are going around the city saving you from other mutant creatures, burnt guys with metal masks, nerdy dudes who make tiny killer robots, and aliens that hang out in fat dudes’ guts. Sounds pretty sweet right? Now pretend that they decide they would rather play basketball. Yeah. Not so great. But that didn’t stop some chump at Playmates from convincing his drunk boss that it was actually the greatest idea since “New” Coke.


That’s right ladies and gentleman, the brainy turtle who “does machines” can now be seen performing slam dunks at the local arena. C’mon, you knew he was really a jock in disguise, right? RIGHT!!!???



Optimus Primal (Hasbro, 1996)


I’ll probably catch some slack for this one, but I don’t care! I have always despised the Beast Wars line of Transformers. And none offends me more than the main man himself, Optimus Primal. There is just something degrading about going from a highly advanced robotic life form to a monkey. Not only that, but it is extremely difficult to make a toy that can accurately portray the look of an ape AND an advanced robot. I also didn’t care for the cartoon either, so I was (and still am) an all around Beast Wars hater.


I could have easily gone the route of Megatron and his various “tank” modes (which I despise almost as much), but this Optimus Monkey just can’t be topped in lameness.



Disks of Doom Skeletor (Mattel, 1990)


Skeletor is one iconic bad guy. To me, he is up there with Darth Vader and Godzilla in terms of sheer bad guy star power. But this next variant is the ultimate low for the “Lord of Destruction”.


I am the anti-fan of “The New Adventures of He-Man”. To me, it was a feeble attempt to re-capture that audience that they milked dry of cash in the early 80’s in hopes of lining their pockets JUST A LITTLE MORE. Skeletor in particular was just horrendous to look at. His character design is that of a poorly executed foreign knock off figure. But the creative minds behind NA He-Man weren’t content to stop there. Oh no, they were going to do whatever it took to make Skeletor the most ridiculous character to ever grace a tv screen. And so was born, Disks of Doom Skeletor.


In the cartoon, Disks of Doom Skeletor is created from a magical surge of sorts. He shows up pretty frequently in various episodes. Each appearance more cringe-worthy than the next. In the ultimate irony, this figure is actually quite valuable in the marketplace.



Shape Shifter Punisher (ToyBiz, 1999)


Some ideas can only come from the minds of people who have not touched an actual toy in 40 years, and even then it was just a top or some marbles. That had to be the case here. There are just no words….. nothing I can say that can explain in what reality this could have ever been a good idea.


Why must we find ways to transform everything? What is it that drives us to see fantastic merchandise and want to make it “better” by making it capable of transforming into something else? It’s an illness. It has to be.




These were only 5 of the hundreds of products out there that have watered down the toy market to the point of oversaturation. When toys like these are displayed on the shelves, you know that particular toy line has jumped the shark. But it almost seems like the manufacturers and designers embrace the jump. Like they want to jump that shark and they want to do it in the most gaudy possible fashion. These ideas are what “kill teh lien!!”

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Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 04:44 PM

Now that you mention it... yes, that Iron Man does look like a alternate color Dead Pool. LOL. I'll never get over the shape shifting Punisher image though.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Sep 17, 2014 at 04:46 PM

Great topic for an article. That Samurai Iron Man looks like a turquoise Deadpool. Oh I remember the disappointment of that New Adventures of He-Man toy line and cartoon. In retrospect it was my first experience with a re-boot where they sucked all the magic out of the characters. They might as well have called it "The Adventures of Generic Space Adventure Guy".

MatuX2 Posted on Mar 27, 2013 at 02:14 AM

Hey , this is a very good article , I know a lot of these look pretty awful but I kind of like Optimus Primul , But all the other ones look Horrid , I actually do have Disks of Doom Skeletor but he is in a very VERY bad Condition

Fulton4V Posted on Feb 14, 2013 at 04:35 PM

The Skeletor one kind of looks like a home made creation. I liked your article.

AceNThaHole Posted on Feb 12, 2013 at 05:22 PM

Im going to have nightmares about that Punisher figure.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:56 PM

I had a few of the Iron Man line from Toy Biz in the mid 90's, though they were the 10" scale figures. I believe one was called "Steel Tech Iron Man" and the armor was a slightly different design than that which he wore at that time.

I can't agree more with the idea that variants water down a line with poorly designed or executed products. It's discouraging at times. The 200X MOTU line suffered from this. Just google "Disco Skeletor" and you'll see what I mean. Ugh.

vkimo Posted on Feb 11, 2013 at 07:45 PM

Punisher's penis gun is hilarious.

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