When I was a kid I had a plastic 3" version of Carrie Fisher I wouldn't go to bed without. Star Wars action figures were the best thing in the world, second to nothing. Every birthday or Christmas, if anyone asked what I wanted, it was just Star Wars figures. This went on for years. And years. Too many years. My mom's insistence on calling them "dollies" pissed me off, especially as I got older, since these clearly aren't dollies for hugging, they're figures for action--action figures, if you will. Anyway, they've progressed a lot since then. Todd McFarlane upped the stakes with beautiful, intricate, brilliantly articulated figures which made everyone else step up their game. Go into Forbidden Planet now and you'll find lovingly crafted figures for just about anyone and everything. For better or worse. Here are the most ridiculous ones on the market.
A company called Accoutrements make a few historical figures (Einstein, Freud, Jesus: all the greats) which are clearly supposed to be humorous, but in actuality are just kind of lame. I can't think of anybody I've ever met who would want one. The website boasts the Mozart figure has "movable arms and legs" which allow him "to sit on the 1-1/2" plastic piano bench included". Which isn't totally pointless because the plastic chap "comes with instructions detailing how to download the amazing fold-up paper piano from the internet for free!" Naturally, the fold-up piano is just a picture of a piano that you just print off their website (but it's free!). I like that Mozart looks a bit psycho here, like he's suddenly going to pick up that piano stool and smash it over someone's head. Salieri's, I guess.
STAR WARS CHOPPERS
Remember that bit in The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader got some of his Romford mates to modify his motorbike to look like his TIE Fighter? Hasbro did, and in 2006 they released such bikes for Vader, Luke, and Boba Fett as part of their Star Wars Customs line. The Star Wars Customs ideas meetings are the ones where they have a good laugh coming up with the stupidest toys they can get away with selling. But Star Wars fans get what they deserve. They have a love/hate relationship with George Lucas, in that they hate him but can't resist giving him all of their money. It's one step away from having a financial domination fetish. STOP PRESS: I just found this. I take it all back.
ROCKY: THE MEAT
Is this a tiny plastic representation of a piece of meat an action figure? Unfortunately yes, because it's on the racks with a price tag, in between little figures of Carl Weathers and Dolph Lundgren. The meat is from the scene in the first Rocky where Stallone punches a carcass in Paulie's meat-packing plant. I applaud whoever came up with this idea. If I worked for that company I wouldn't have the balls to say, "How about we do the meat?" for fear of being fired. Someone did though, and probably got a promotion.
A Connecticut company called Hero Builders will make any figure you want. Send them a photo of your face and a voice sample and, for $375, they'll make your own talking action figure. This would have impressed me greatly 20 years ago; now I just find it greatly depressing. Hero Builders make figures of famous types as well, and they're pretty terrible. Saddam on a rope, Joe the Plumber, even the "Don't taze me, bro" guy. The Mrs Obama one (because nobody visiting Hero Builders will know her first name) comes with "the fantastic evening dress". Not "a" dress but "the" dress. You know the one. That dress she wears. The fantastic one. They do five Sarah Palins, including a saucy schoolgirl version and the confusing Palin Action Girl, which has her wearing some sort of felt tracksuit. Unlike their other Palin ones, Palin Action Girl is limited to a run of 2,000, so you better get in quick before everyone else shells out their hard-earned $35.95.
SPIDER-MAN ADVENTURE HERO
Some years ago, the bright sparks at Toy Biz decided that what we really wanted from our favorite web-slinger was to see him in everyday situations. Not as Peter Parker, but as Spider-Man. Spider-Man on the beach. Spider-Man on safari. Yeah, he swings around town shooting webs from his hands, climbs walls, battles villains and saves lives, but how would he cope if he became a fireman? What would he look like in a baseball outfit?
Incidentally, Batman was similarly humiliated when Hasbro unleashed their New Batman Adventures range in 1999, giving the world the gifts of Slalom Racing Batman, Cave Climber Batman, and Jungle Tracker Batman.
PREGNANT WONDER WOMAN
Some guy custom-made this. In his own words, printed on the Figure Realm site: "This came across my mind when my wife been pregnant. I was thinking that may be it's good to see a pregnant woman figure superhero, so I looked for a character that could have a reason for pregnancy. Then I remembered the epilogue of Kingdom Come... so I choose Wonder Woman. Happy enough with the results, although in that condition still looks pretty and strong as a superhero character. I dedicated this to all the women out there who had been in a labour just to have us in this world, and especially for my wife for giving me my son. Thanks."
Made by Japan's Gamu-Toys, this appeared when Obama was still seen as Jesus XL, before disillusionment set in. It looks great, and I've never seen such an array of accessories for one figure. How many interchangeable hands? And look at all the things he can do: from delivering speeches to waving flags to whipping out guns and swords. And after a hard day's work sorting out the world's problems and fighting Darth Vader, of course the president needs a rest, so he comes equipped with a kotatsu (which is like an electric blanket with a table attached to it) and some satsumas.
Gay Bob was, in 1977, the world's first gay doll (note the use of the word "doll", as opposed to action figure). Sold for $14.95, he was reportedly a cross between Robert Redford and Paul Newman, although he's clearly just Action Man with hair dye. He was also touted as having "private parts", and after a few seconds of hot Google action I found a photo of said parts for you. Didn't do much for me. The tips on the box of how to "enjoy" Gay Bob mostly consist of just showing him to people and waiting for the ensuing laughter. "Take me to parties, I am great fun," it instructs, although it also suggests you talk to Gay Bob, as he is very understanding. Like all gay men. That's what gay men are: understanding.
Incidentally, 2008 saw the arrival of Dyke Dolls, which were equally stereotypical lesbians, with the added bonus of strap-ons. The Dyke Dolls website seems to be out of action now.
SIENNA MILLER AS THE BARONESS
This brings us full circle. Hasbro invented action figures with the original GI Joe toys in 1964, and last year's big screen "blockbuster" provided an excuse for a new bunch, including a likeness of Sienna Miller, who plays someone called The Baroness. "I got measured in the pod so the doll is exactly to scale, every nook and cranny," said Sienna before the doll hit the shelves. "They showed me my bald head before it was painted and it was me! That was weird... My Baroness doll is so flexible too. Her foot can even flex 360 degrees. Kids will be killing me though because I'm the baddie." Yeah. Because every child dreams of sending Sienna Miller plummeting from the top of their family's fridge. Tragically, when Sienna saw the final product she wasn't too happy. "My doll is cross-eyed and has the biggest chin you have ever seen," she told The Sun. "Front on, she looks sort of possessed."
And this is where action figures ate themselves. George Lucas secured his fortune early on when he blagged the licensing rights for all the merchandise from 20th Century Fox before Star Wars exploded. He is single-handedly responsible for the action figure phenomenon, and although he was officially immortalized by Hasbro in 2006 for a special edition Stormtrooper figure, China went one further with this effort from the semi-legal (i.e. not very) Hot Toys line. Officially titled "The Director", (presumably to avoid being sued) this is the most telling of action figures and ownership of it should negate your electoral rights.