During the 1990s, while comic books in general were dealing with a sales boom, an even bigger one was happening with the X-Men as licensed characters, as they had a hit animated television series on Fox. As such, they also had a massive audience waiting to buy “X-Men” related action figures. However, after initially being able to sell whatever new “X-Men” characters that they happened to turn into toys, ToyBiz soon learned (after a rough sales period in 1994) that they needed to come up with themed releases with their new toys. The initial one was a basic “Dark Phoenix” theme, with toys tied to that storyline.
As time went by, though, the themed releases had less and less to do with the actual “X-Men” comic books, and as a result they got weirder and weirder. They were not bad toys, as most of the new ideas were designed specifically with coming up with fun ways to appeal to kids interested in “X-Men,” but some of them were pretty weird. Here are the 15 strangest ever.
15. METALLIC MUTANTS
A popular idea that ToyBiz had was to do “deluxe” versions of some of the more popular regular “X-Men” action figures. These 10-inch toys would be much sturdier and, of course, it allowed ToyBiz to basically sell two copies of the same toys; the molds were the same, they were just produced in a larger size. That was a normal enough idea, but then there was the issue of K•B Toys.
K•B Toys was a popular chain of toy stores in the United States that went out of business in 2009. Before then, they were right up there with Toys R Us in terms of the amount of locations around the country. ToyBiz naturally wanted to keep them happy, so they did a special variant edition for them. The variant edition, though, “Metallic Mutants,” was literally just the regular 10-inch toy set painted with metallic-looking paint. That was it. Not much of a variant line of toys! “You might have a Wolverine toy, but I have Wolverine painted with metallic-looking paint!”
14. BATTLE BLASTERS
One of the biggest ways that toy companies came up with new ways to use old figures was to simply say, “Hey, let’s give them guns!” And that was the basic approach behind the “Battle Blasters” line of “X-Men” figures. You do have to give them credit for at least sort of coming up with a reason for why the X-Men are all packing heat, and that’s that this was an alternate universe where the X-Men were forced to use a different approach (the alternate universe angle also allowed them to use re-painted “Age of Apocalypse” figures for some of the figures, such as Jean Grey).
Still, Cyclops rocking a giant cannon is quite a weird little sight. Storm, for her part, did not have to get a gun, as she instead came with a spinning cloud formation platform. Oddly enough, the Wolverine figure for this series was a re-painted Sabretooth figure. The “alternate universe” angle explained that, we suppose, but it’s still a weird idea, since they had so many different actual Wolverine figures to chose from!
13. ROBOT FIGHTERS
Another idea that ToyBiz came up with to keep the X-Men going as a line of toys was that, increasingly, the actual action aspects of the toys would not be with the X-Men themselves at all, but rather with the accessories packaged with the X-Men. That way, you could just have a regular X-Men figure and then spend your time on the accessory, which often could accompany just about any character.
A notable example of this was “Robot Fighters,” which presumably was based on the fact that in the Danger Room, the X-Men sometimes had fought against robotic test subjects in the past (in the days before they had Shi’ar technology creating lifelike holograms). So with that in mind, each X-Men hero was paired with a robot that did stuff. For example, Storm’s robot fired off “electrical bolts” (really just standard plastic projectiles). At least Jubilee got a rare toy in this release!
12. COMBAT CAVE
One of the key ways to expand your toy line is the concept of play sets, as even if the kids have all of the action figures, he or she might want something for the figures to play inside of, and the X-Men were perfectly set up for something like that with the built-in concept of the Danger Room, where the X-Men went to train.
However, while this toy ultimately was released as part of the “Danger Room,” the “Combat Cave,” as described on the packaging, was, “Wolverine’s secret training complex in which he works to improve his formidable fighting abilities.” And really, come on, how awesome is the notion of Wolverine having a secret cave that he goes to to train apart from the rest of the X-Men? It’s as if he wants to surprise them with some new move that he worked on in the cave. “Wow, where’d you learn that kick, Wolverine?” “I just figured it out on my own. I wasn’t in my cave for weeks or anything like that.”
11. POWER SLAMMERS
Perhaps the peak of the era of “X-Men” figures where the figures themselves were just sidelines to the “real” toy was the “Power Slammers” series of toys. Bizarrely enough, there was a whole other series of toys released around this same time that were also called “power slammers,” but they were wrestling action figures.
In this series, each of the figures came with a cannon that would shoot out discs when you “slammed” on the launch button. In other words, nothing connected to the X-Men or any of the individual figures at all, just basically a disc-shooter toy plus an “X-Men” action figure. The Wolverine in this series at least looked really cool, even though his costume was nothing Wolverine had ever worn before in any comic book. The villain in this series was the Master Mold, who at least did shoot out little Sentinels, so at least it was kind of-sort of tied into his background.
10. MISSILE FLYERS
Missile Flyers were all sorts of weird. The concept was that the four figures in the series (one bad guys and three heroes) would have wings and the wings would shoot missiles. However, the reasoning behind the characters all having wings is that their adventures were set in the future, so as a result, they figured they had to use characters from the future. Thus, it featured Apocalypse (in the armor he wore in “Adventures of Phoenix and Cyclops,” where Scott Summers and Jean Grey travel into the future to raise young Nathan Summers), Bishop and Shard, who join Wolverine in the series.
Yes, we’re talking about Shard, Bishop’s dead younger sister who lived on as a hologram. She got her own action figure. In order to get Wolverine to fit into the theme, they decided to make Wolverine a “futuristic” version of Wolverine with spikes all over the place. Cable was going to be part of this series but he got cut at the last moment.
9. X-MEN PROJECTORS
Early on in the success of the “X-Men” line of toys, ToyBiz came out with the bizarre “X-Men” toy projectors. The concept was that they were action figures, but they would also projected slides through a projector in their chest (powered by batteries). We’ll let you take a moment to think of why a kid would want to have an action figure that could also project three slides of scenes from the “X-Men” animated series.
Figured anything out yet? Us neither. In fact, even ToyBiz didn’t seem to have a good explanation themselves, as the commercial for the toy projectors almost reads like a couple of people brainstorming ideas on what kids could do with something like this. For “action,” the kids could move the images of, say, Wolverine and Sabretooth on to a wall and sort of kind of make them fight. Plus, if you project the image on to the wall, you can stand in front of it and “be in the image”! Yeah, we don’t think any little kids were buying into that, either.
8. MUTANT CYCLE
A common area where you would often find odd superhero-related toys is when it comes to vehicles, as some superheroes lend themselves more to vehicles than others. Thus, coming up with vehicles for, say, Superman, can lead to some hilarious ideas (like the infamous “Justice Jogger” walking machine for Superman). However, you would think that things would be easy with the X-Men. They famously have a vehicle: the Blackbird. Plus, Wolverine is often riding a motorcycle, so making a motorcycle for Wolverine shouldn’t a problem, right?
Then you see the Mutant Cycles and you realize that things are just never as simple as you hoped. The Mutant Cycle is such an over-the-top monstrosity of a vehicle that it makes you want to live in a world where such a vehicle exists, and a guy could drive down the street with a motorcycle with claws on the sides swiping away at pedestrians.
7. MUTANT MONSTERS
We can really appreciate “Mutant Monsters” a bit just for the fact that it did not even try to explain away the concept. It’s just, “Yep, this is Wolverine as a werewolf. We know Wolverine has never been a werewolf in the comic books or the animated TV series, but what are you going to do? He’s a werewolf now.”
However, it’s also a really weird concept overall for a series since there are three figures in it, and two of them are just “Age of Apocalypse” figures who never got made as figures when the “X-men” line did their first “Age of Apocalypse” series of figures. Dark Beast and Sugar Man are basically just depicted as they are in the comics, not as monster versions of themselves (although Dark Beast looks a bit different), so there really is no connection at all in this series between those figures and Werewolf Wolverine. But hey, they all growl when you press a button, so who needs a connective reasoning for them to be together when you have something like that?
6. SPY WOLVERINE
If there was one golden rule of the ToyBiz era of making “X-Men” toys, it was this: “Thou shalt always have a Wolverine figure in every series.” Wolverine was pretty clearly the golden boy of the “X-Men” line of toys, so ToyBiz made sure to have a new Wolverine released with every new series. As you might imagine, however, you quickly run out of normal-sounding variants of Wolverine.
In this case, the spy version of Wolverine was one of the earliest variations of the character. Here’s the weird part, though: the toy comes with a bunch of different knives, and the “action” that this particular toy does is well described as “knife thrusting action.” Yes, this toy’s special ability is to stab stuff. Granted, Wolverine is a guy who walks around with metal claws in his arms, but it is still quite a sight to see a kid’s toy with “knife thrusting action.”
5. SPACE RIDERS
While most of these toys did not even attempt to come up with a story reason for why, say, Wolverine now has a cannon that shoots out discs, one of the areas where the toy release followed closely with the actual comic book came with the “Space Riders” series, which came out around the time that the X-Men were actually having an adventure in outer space alongside Deathbird.
The concept of “Space Riders” is that the five figures are each decked out in a space suit along with a small spacecraft. All five spacecrafts can be put together to form one large space craft. That all sounds pretty cool, right? We agree, but one little detail that they failed to pick up on is that, while four out of five of the characters are dressed in actual space suits that could protect them on their “space rides,” the Beast’s spacesuit barely covers any of his skin! The answer is clear — it’s a conspiracy to kill the Beast!
4. SAVAGE LAND
Going along with the robot accessories and the disc shooter accessories, the “Savage Land” series of toys has the X-Men all paired up with their own personal dinosaur! The dinosaurs had no real connection to the X-Men (although one of them is oddly named Colossus), but we presume they were included as an attempt to approach kids from all different directions. “You like the X-Men? Buy this toy! You like dinosaurs? Buy this toy!”
The Wolverine in this series (who is paired with an adorable baby T-rex called Crawler Rex) is from the era where Wolverine began to devolve and artists started to draw him without a nose. While his basic look was the design for the toy, it is interesting to note that the toy Wolverine is decorated with the skulls of dead people, which is not something that Wolverine ever wore in the comics. This series also gave us a toy for Joseph (originally thought to be a de-aged Magneto) for the first time, who was one of the weirder members of the X-Men.
When it comes to weird toys, one of the go-to weirdest was Marvel’s “Shapeshifters” line, where they would mix together Marvel superheroes with the concept of the Transformers toys. The figures can be transformed into different things, with most of the figures transforming into weapons that shoot projectiles. The weirdest one was the Punisher, since the projectile launching apparatus was located in his groin.
In the case of Wolverine, he transforms into a wolf for some reason, rather than a wolverine. Once he is done transforming, he gets his own rocket-laucher to boot, as we couldn’t have Wolverine walking around without the ability to shoot projectiles, now can we? Thanks to likeits1985 for the image of the transformed Wolverine. The other two figures in the series were Juggernaut, who transformed into a tank and Morph (presumably chosen because he is an actual shapeshifter), who transformed into… a mega-missile? Seriously?
2. MARVEL’S MOST WANTED
Towards the end of their original stint of releasing Marvel action figures, ToyBiz came out with an odd series of toys called “Marvel’s Most Wanted.” It was weird because the toys in the set were Blink (from “Age of Apocalypse”), X-Man (also from “Age of Apocalypse”) and Spat and Grovel, two bounty hunters who only appeared in print in one storyline in “Uncanny X-Men” right before both Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira left the series.
The idea, then, of an obscure pair of bounty hunters being part of a series of toys dubbed “Marvel’s Most Wanted” is too deliciously weird for us to ignore. Things get even crazier, though, once you learn that Lobdell and Madureira actually made a point to see if they could design Spat and Grovel to look so weird looking that Marvel would never give them a toy — and then Marvel gave them a toy right away!
1. MONSTER ARMOR
The weirdest “X-Men” toys, though, still have to be the “Monster Armor” series. First of all, the very name of the line is weird. The toys in the line are Cyclops, Rogue, Wolverine (naturally), Mister Sinister and Mystique, and each of them came with these additional pieces that you could place over the characters head, arms and feet to “transform” them into monsters.
The toys are described as Cyclops, Rogue and Wolverine running afoul of Mister Sinister, who transformed them into monsters. That makes sense as an idea, but then why call them “armor” and not just a mutation? In addition, if they were mutated by Mister Sinister, they’d still be themselves, right? Cyclops and Rogue, for instance, don’t change their names when they transform. Wolverine, though, he becomes “Fangor.” When you couple those odd pieces of information with the fact that Wolverine looks hilariously weird when he puts the “armor” on, you get a delightfully odd series of toys.
What’s the weirdest X-Men action figure that you can remember from your youth? Let us know in the comments!