While it was hardly uncommon for movies to have toy lines, the Kenner "Aliens" series was unique. Based on the 1986 movie of the same name, the line wasn't released until 1992. The line was meant to coincide with a Saturday morning cartoon, which was unfortunately scrapped, most likely due to the reception of "Alien 3." The cartoon and toys were based on the more popular "Aliens," so they were successful enough to spawn four lines full of slimy monsters and heavily armed marines.
The real shame of the Kenner "Aliens" line was that the cartoony nature of the toys was actually a much more entertaining direction than anything in the future movies. Starting with "Alien 3," the films are generally agreed to have taken a downward turn in quality, while the toys presented an alternate universe where everyone's favorite marines hunted down wave after wave of varying types of xenomorphs.
15 QUEEN HIVE PLAYSET
During the finale of "Aliens" (1986), Ripey has to storm into the xenomorph's hive to rescue Newt before she's implanted with a chestburster. While in the alien's home, she discovers the horrifying Queen. A massive beast, she sits on a 'throne' and lays the eggs, but she's also intelligent and even more fierce than the regular drones or warriors. Kenner released a single carded Queen figure, but to be honest, it didn't truly capture the majestic terror that this beast brought to the screen.
This playset did the Queen justice. Not only did it provide a much more accurate and menacing Queen figure, it also gave her a throne. Also, because it was an action figure line in the early '90s, it came with slime. (There was just something about that time period in which all the toy manufacturers fell in love with slime.) Since the alien xenomorphs were known to be a little gooey from time to time, Kenner couldn't resist adding some slime action to the Queen's playset.
14 FLYING QUEEN
As previously stated, Kenner's initial Alien Queen figure was underwhelming. That doesn't mean the alien egg layer didn't have any good showings in the single figure line up. In the movie, the Queen is a giant alien with extra sets of arms and legs, and has a large "crown" protecting her head. So, what could be more terrifying than that? Well, Kenner answered that question when they released the Flying Queen.
She's just as deadly as a regular Queen, except she has wings (hence the name, Flying Queen). Now, there's no escape for the marines, not even when they make it back to their dropship. The concept of the Flying Queen wasn't just used for toys, she also made an appearance in the 1993 SNES game "Alien vs Predator" as one of the bosses, and she also showed up in the "Aliens" arcade game. Unfortunately, as far the films are concerned, xenomorph queens are all landlocked and wingless.
13 SPACE MARINE POWER LOADER
The finale of "Aliens" (1986) is famous for having one of the most epic action moments ever. After the Queen stows away on the dropship and ends up on the Sulaco, she rips Bishop in half and corners Newt. Just as she's about to go in for the kill, Ripley shows up wearing one of the ship's power loaders, a mech suit designed for heavy lifting, and fights the queen, eventually knocking her out into open space. While this scene cemented the power loader in sci-fi history as one of the coolest tools ever, it's still just a tool designed to pick up heavy boxes.
Kenner gave it an upgrade for their "Aliens" series. To be honest, it's mostly similar to the power loader from the movie, except that it has an added "alienator" missile attached to the top. Is this a new type of missile designed specifically for blowing up xenomorphs or is it just a regular missile with a cute name? Either way, it's fun to think of the marines sitting around and thinking up fun puns for their alien killing tools.
While the first Kenner "Aliens" series took some liberties with the Xenomorphs, when it came to human characters, it stuck to people who appeared in the movie. With the release of the second series, Kenner debuted their first original human character with A.T.A.X., which stands for "Alien Tactical Advantage Explorer." According to his card back, A.T.A.X. has the highest possible mission success ratio when it comes to taking on the xenomorphs.
The marine achieves this by wearing a xenomorph disguise. He literally dresses up like one of the aliens and apparently, that's all it takes to fool the universe's deadliest species. His alien costume comes armed with an "alienator" missile attached to his head, because that's obviously the best place to launch a missile from. According to his card, his mission is to put on the disguise, walk into the hive and shoot the Queen, and his catchphrase is "trick or treat, your Highness!" Apparently, this guy is a big fan of cool catchphrases but also doesn't really understand the concept of trick or treating.
11 KING ALIEN
If there's a Queen Alien, then shouldn't there naturally be a King Alien? Well, no, that's not how the animal kingdom works. The xenomorph reproduction cycle revolves around the queen laying eggs, which then hatch facehuggers, who insert an embryo into a living host, where it incubates. There queen isn't actually royalty, so there's no room for a king. Which, as far as the science behind fictional aliens goes, makes sense. In terms of toys, however, there absolutely needs to be a king, and Kenner delivered.
The King Alien was originally released as part of the fourth wave and was then re-released as part of the "Alien vs Marine" Kay-Bee Toys exclusive wave, packaged with Hicks. Like the Queen, he has an elaborate crest on his head. Unlike the Queen, however, his 'crown' can be used for offensive purposes and has moveable pincers attached to it. He also 'spits' acid (actually water) because the aliens are gross and can't help but spit on everything.
10 O'MALLEY WITH CAPTURE CLAW
When it came to the "Aliens" line, kids were obviously more interested in buying the alien figures as opposed to the human characters. This led to Kenner making many alien figures based on concepts that never appeared in the films, while many human characters never made it to toy form. Obviously, this meant that almost no original human characters made it to the toy line, aside from A.T.A.X. (who could disguise himself as an alien) and space marine O'Malley.
He was the part of the third series, and was incredibly hard to find. Which is a shame, because he shows how much fun Kenner could have had with unique human characters. The beret wearing marine comes with a giant capture claw, which he can grab aliens with before shooting them. The look of the figure seems like he'd defected to Aliens from the "G.I.Joe" line, but the idea of the real American heroes fighting the aliens seems like a pretty great idea.
9 GORILLA ALIEN
While the "Alien" movies only briefly toyed with the idea that the xenomorphs share genetic traits with whatever life form they hatch from in "Alien 3" (1992), the Kenner toy line went crazy with the concept. The first series included three animal-based aliens, including a bull, a scorpion and a gorilla alien. While all three figures are cool variations of the classic design, the Gorilla stood out the most.
Each of the alien xenomorph toys in the series came with an action feature and the Gorilla Alien came with the strangest. While the Bull Alien could 'charge' its head forward, and the Scorpion Alien could 'blow apart' into multiple pieces, the Gorilla Alien could be filled with water so it could spit 'acid.' Which is strange, because gorilla's aren't really known for spitting. Still, the idea of the already deadly xenomorph being upgraded with the added strength of a gorilla makes this a terrifying addition to the xenomorph family.
8 STINGER XT-37
The "Aliens" film series are all claustrophobic thrillers with varying degrees of action. The stories all take on cramped spaceships or space stations and colonies all built with the tightest hallways ever. That being the case, the movies never got to really explore the sort of vehicles the marines would use. In "Aliens," the marines have their dropships and the A.P.C., but Kenner expanded the vehicle line up for the toy line.
First up is the Stinger XT-37. While it seems like a typical early '90s vehicle, thinking about in the context of the "Aliens" universe is pretty crazy. It comes with more 'Alienator' missiles (Kenner really loved that name) which makes sense, but it also has a giant trapper snare. This means that the Stinger was meant to be used to capture the aliens. It's like the Weyland Yutani company learned nothing from all of the catastrophes from the films and is still obsessed with bringing home a live specimen. It's either that or the marines are planning on capturing an acid filled alien and holding it a few feet in front of them before shooting a missile at it.
7 SWARM ALIEN
While the idea of aliens based on various animals gave Kenner plenty of options, by the fourth series of "Aliens" toys, they had to step their game up. At that point, they couldn't get away with just combining the xenomorph with a scary animal, add an action feature and call it day. The Swarm Alien is a perfect example of this. It's clearly based on a flying insect of some kind, and it looks like a combination of a bee and a dragonfly. The figure gets the name Swarm from its ability to break apart into multiple creatures.
This is a great example of what Kenner could do with the "Aliens" line. The figure isn't just cool looking, its unique design makes it stand out on the toy shelf. Granted, the fact that it's based on an insect design implies that a facehugger somehow impregnated an insect. The answer is that the facehugger probably attacked an insect-like alien creature, but it's still fun to think of a bee being the victim of a chestburster.
The second non-film based vehicle on the list, the Hovertread's box describes it as the "fastest assault vehicle to ever attack aliens by land or air." Apparently, the marines have some super-fast underwater alien attack vehicle, but that's not important for this entry. The point is, the Hovertread is the fastest way to go on a bug hunt. It comes armed with two automatic machine guns, a double laser for "bug zapping" and a long range cannon.
It's nice to see Kenner skip an opportunity to use tack on an "Alienator" missile launcher and use something different. Also, there are adjustable turrets and extendable wings, making it possible to quickly change land and air attacks. The only real design flaw is that the marine manning the machine guns has to sit in the open. Wouldn't it have made sense to put some sort of acid proof cover over the guy shooting at acid filled aliens?
5 RHINO ALIEN
When it comes to animals, rhinos are already terrifying before being combined with a xenomorph. That's not to say that rhinos are monsters or anything, but being charged by one with one of those horns pointed forward would be a nightmare. To be honest, the Rhino Alien figure is very similar to the Bull Alien figure. They both walk on all fours and even feature the same "head butting" action feature. So, aside from the number of horns on the head (one large horn for the rhino, two curved ones for the bull), what's the difference?
Well, to be honest, the Rhino Alien feels like a better representation of the combination of animal and alien. The Bull Alien has the horns and hooves on the back feet, but other than that, it looks like a generic xenomorph bent over and walking on all fours. The Bull Alien has stubby legs and it stands out more from the other xenomorph figures.
4 SNAKE ALIEN
In all fairness, some animals are easy to combine with the aliens. As long as it has four legs (or two legs and two arms or wings), then it's pretty easy to take that body shape and slap an alien head on top of it. The Snake Alien, on the other hand, is a completely different story. This is one of the truly odd looking monsters from the line, and it really shows how imaginative the concept could get. Also, it was gross and scary, which is exactly what kids and collectors were looking for from the "Alien" line.
The Snake Alien had a long, limbless body covered in spikes, which could be coiled around an unfortunate marine (or any other hapless toy that crossed paths with it). The best feature, however, was how Kenner handled a snake's ability to unhinge its jaw. With the mouth all the way open and the giant secondary jaw fully extended, this was one truly terrifying beast.
Early on during the mission to LV-426, Ripley discovers that the USS Sulaco crew member Bishop, played by Lance Henriksen, is actually an android when he cuts his finger and bleeds white blood. Initially, she distrusts him based on her experiences with Ash in "Alien" (1979), but she eventually comes to trust Bishop when he helps save the surviving marines by risking himself to remote pilot a dropship down to the planet surface. After escaping the planet, however, Bishop's body is ripped in half by the stowaway Queen during the final act of the movie.
While the movie version of Bishop is just a regular looking guy, Kenner's toy version received some upgrades. His body has been armored up, which makes sense considering he's now an alien-fighting robot. Also, his head has received some armor as well, which also makes sense. The best part, however, are the added sunglasses, which were clearly just added because they look cool. It's a shame that Bishop ended up looking like a mess of wires and goo instead of this in "Alien 3" (1992).
2 MANTIS ALIEN
The final animal-themed alien on this list is the Mantis Alien. There were a lot of hybrid xenomorphs to choose from, and the reason why the Mantis sits at the highest spot is because it is the perfect combination of creepy and scary. While some of the other animal combos were cool, they could sometimes look a little silly, or even worse, kind of cute. The Mantis Alien, however, looks like pure nightmare fuel, which is exactly what the "Alien" series needs.
There's no need to explain why the long arms are terrifying. This looks like the sort of creature that could just hide in the darkness of the hive, and without warning, reach out and grab a marine and drag him or her back to the Queen without ever getting too close. Once again, however, the question must be asked: how did a facehugger impregnate a praying mantis? Not every Earth animal can have a giant version of itself living on an alien planet, can they?
1 EVAC FIGHTER
While Kenner could have delivered a simplified toy version of the iconic dropship from "Aliens" for the marines to fly around in, they instead decided to design a brand new toy: the Evac Fighter. At first glance, it looks like it could belong to any generic sci-fi themed action figure wave, even if it is armed with "alienator" missiles (admit it Kenner, those are just regular missiles). Also, with only one seat for the pilot, it doesn't really seem like it would be any good for evacuating a squad of marines, so what's the deal with this fighter?
Well, it's clearly designed with Weyland Yutani's greedy intentions in mind. In the back, there's a capture pod for a xenomorph instead of seats. This vehicle was clearly built so that whatever spy the company sends out on a mission, they can "evacuate" safely with a live specimen for the company! It's either that, or this is just a cool-looking toy with a slightly misleading name.
Did you own (or still own) any of these action figures? Tell us your favorites in the comments!
"Alien: Covenant" brings the franchise back to the big screen on May 19, 2017.