After a brief period in the late 1980s where there really weren’t any Marvel-related action figures, things changed in a big way in the early 1990s when Toy Biz cut a deal to do Marvel toys. Beginning in 1991, they started a line of X-Men toys that continued through 1998. This line of action figures was an iconic part of the decade for comic book fans.
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However, the line of toys was so popular and widespread in scope that Toy Biz soon began to run out of the most famous X-Men heroes and villains to turn into action figures. Therefore, the 1990s were filled with some very obscure characters getting action figures. Here are the most obscure characters who somehow got an action figure as part of Toy Biz’s X-Men line of toys!
16. ALBERT (ROBOT WOLVERINE)
One of the key things that Toy Biz had to do with their “X-Men” line of toys is that every time they did a new release (which was sometimes twice a year), they made a point to make sure that the X-Men’s most popular character, Wolverine, was included in the release. Early on, this was achieved easily enough by just having Wolverine wearing different costumes (the very first alternate Wolverine figure was him in his tiger stripe costume, which he had just gone back to using after wearing a brown costume for years).
Later, though, they had to get more creative, and one of their most creative choices was the Robot Wolverine, which was the name that they used for Albert, a robot version of Wolverine that was designed by Donald Pierce as part of a plan in which the robotic fake would draw the real Wolverine in to investigate what was going on, and then a second robot designed to look like a little girl would then explode, killing Wolverine. The little girl, though, became sentient (she took the name Elsie Dee) and she and Albert decided to off on their own. They have pretty much been in character limbo for the past two decades.
Generally speaking, if you were a member of the X-Men at any point in your comic book career, then you were guaranteed an action figure. That’s fair enough, and because of that, it is pretty hard to really be an obscure superhero in the X-Men figure line, because nearly all of the heroes featured were members of the X-Men at one point or another. So really, you could hardly call them “obscure” since most of your target audience still knew of them. One of the rare exceptions was Kylun.
Kylun was a minor character from the pages of “Excalibur.” As a child, he was brought to another dimension and became a powerful warrior there. He returned to our Earth having aged into adulthood. He had strange mutant powers in that he could use his vocal chords to replicate any noise that he had ever heard. That was secondary to his main abilities, which was that he was an excellent fighter. While he was only briefly a member of Excalibur, his cool swords likely made him an appealing target to make into a toy.
The early 1990s were a fascinating time for the comic book industry due to what is referred to as a “speculation boom.” So much attention was being paid to how notable comic book back issues were selling at high prices that people were trying to buy comic books as “investments,” which was, of course, foolish, since the drive for finding comic books to invest in was leading to such high print runs that the books were inherently devalued.
One of the other aspects of the speculation market was that people would seek out back issues that might contain important first appearances or otherwise notable firsts. For a while there, the villain Ahab, who showed up from the future in a crossover between the various X-books and “Fantastic Four” in the 1990 annuals, was thought to have a connection with the red-hot character, Cable, so there was briefly a lot of interest in Ahab. It turned out that there was no connection there at all, though.
13. TREVOR FITZROY
Few characters had quite the negative amount of importance from their first appearance as a character up to when they died as Trevor Fitzroy. He was introduced in the first issue of “Uncanny X-Men” that came out during the period where Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio were the driving forces behind the “X-Men” line (which had just expanded to a second “X-Men” ongoing title). He was part of a group of evil young mutants known as the Upstarts, who each had to prove that they were better than the other, so they did so by striving to make notable kills.
Fitzroy debuted by killing off a number of members among the Hellions, the Hellfire Club’s equivalent of the New Mutants. He then seemingly killed Emma Frost. It turned out that Fitzroy was on the run from the future, and that Bishop had come into the present (and was then trapped here) in an attempt to capture him. Fitzroy then basically did nothing since.
In “X-Force” #8, we discovered that before Cable was on the run from G.W. Bridge and Garrison Kane and working with Domino (who later turned out to be a shapeshifter, but that’s a whole other story), he was in a team of mercenaries with all three of them. Initially dubbed the Wild Pack, they were later renamed the Six Pack (likely because Silver Sable had her own comic book called “Silver Sable and the Wild Pack” starring her and her own group of mercenaries).
The two remaining members were Hammer and Grizzly. Grizzly was a mountain of a mutant, but he was very sweet at heart. He was originally part of a S.H.I.E.L.D. team designed to take down Cable and X-Force, but he later patched things up with Cable. Tragically, Cable’s adopted son turned out to be a villain and he twisted Grizzly’s mind until Grizzly became a serial killer. As a result, Domino was forced to kill Grizzly. She made sure not to let Cable know what happened to their old friend, because that’s what Cable’s son wanted to have happen, to see Cable sad over his friend’s demise.
As soon as he joined “New Mutants” as the new penciler, Rob Liefeld was overflowing with ideas for the title, including a veritable treasure trove of new characters he wanted to introduce in the series. At least one of these characters (Cougar) ultimately was held back by Liefeld and was later used as part of his creator-owned series, “Youngblood.” Outside of Cable (who was one of the characters Liefeld had designed for possible use in the series), the first big addition to “New Mutants” after Liefeld joined was the Mutant Liberation Front, a group of mutant terrorists led by Stryfe.
One of the more unusual members of the M.L.F. was Forearm, who was named that because he had, well, four arms. That was about the extent of the character development behind Forearm, but hey, at least he had an interesting visual! Forearm somehow managed to make it out of the 1990s alive, which was a rarity for minor characters of the era. He was later killed, though, in an issue of “Wolverine” that featured villains fighting each other in battles to the death.
During the “Dark Phoenix Saga,” the X-Men were captured by the then-newly introduced villains known as the Hellfire Club. Wolverine was seemingly killed while the rest of the team was being captured. Instead, in an iconic shot, Wolverine turned out to be alive. He then fought his way back into the Hellfire Club’s headquarters in order to free his friends. Along the way, he seemingly killed a number of Hellfire Club guards.
Later, however, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter decided that Wolverine could not kill people, so those guards had to be shown to be alive. Thus, they were revealed to all be still around, but now they were all cyborgs (due to their severe injuries). They eventually began to work together as a team called the Reavers. One of them, Bonebreaker, was just a torso on a small tank. He was a very odd choice to then turn into an action figure.
9. THE PROTECTOR
Generally speaking, when it comes to the audience being directed at for the “X-Men” action figures, the ages were roughly the same as the people who the comic books were being pitched to (this was back when all Marvel comic books were subject to approval by the Comics Code Authority), so there rarely was any problems with a character being considered appropriate for a comic book but not a toy. However, one of the rare exceptions is when it came to names used for the characters.
The villain known as the Orphan-Maker was a child who had a powerful suit of armor and went around kidnapping children for its master, who was known as Nanny. The pair had deluded themselves into thinking that they were being good guys. They were prominent in the “X-Men” comics around the time of “Inferno,” but were very minor characters by the 1990s. However, the name “Orphan-Maker” wouldn’t fly with Toy Biz, so he became, instead, the Protector.
One of the oddest comic book plotlines in the “X-Men” comics of the early 1990s was the concept of Externals. It seemed as though that there was a subset of mutants who were also immortals. These mutants were known as Externals. It appeared as though the former New Mutants member (and then-current X-Force member) Cannonball was one of the Externals when he was stabbed to death by Sauron, but then later popped up alive and well. We even learned that Cable specifically traveled to this point in the past because he wanted to work with Cannonball, to help shape him into the great leader of mutants that he was destined to become.
On the other end of the Externals spectrum was Krule (often spelled “Crule” in the comics), a former Nazi who ran gas chambers during World War II and literally carried shrunken heads with him! In the end, the villainous Selene revealed that Externals weren’t real and she killed off a bunch of them, Krule included.
An amusing thing to sometimes follow with comic book characters is when comic book writers wind up using names that later become famously associated with other products (or other people, occasionally), and then when the other products or people become famous, it makes the comic book character now look odd because of the shared name. That was the case with Commcast, a mutant who was introduced right before the regional cable operator, Comcast, began to dramatically increase their market share in the cable business, eventually becoming one of the biggest telecom providers in the entire country.
Marvel naturally then changed Commcast’s name later on to Black Box, which probably better describes his mutant power anyways. That power is sort of a telepathic ability to be able to maintain essentially every electronic communication ever. As one of the greatest repositories for information in the world, Commcast/Black Box mostly used the information he obtained via his power for nefarious purposes, which was shown in the first “Deadpool” miniseries (where Deadpool fought against another character who got their own action figure at the same time as Commcast, Slayback. Slayback almost made the list, as well, but he got a little bit more attention back in the day, so we excluded him).
When the second “X-Men” ongoing series debuted in 1991, the initial story arc was about bringing Magneto back to being a supervillain or, if not an absolute villain, at least more of an adversary to the X-Men. One of the ways that this was done was to introduce a group of mutants who decided that they wanted to serve under Magneto. Dubbed the Acolytes, they allowed the “X-Men” writers to write more actively evil mutants for the X-Men to fight without Magneto having to necessarily do any evil stuff himself.
One of these Acolytes was Senyaka, who had the ability to train people’s bio-electric essence through wrapping his coils around them (is it odd that a character with those powers debuted right around the same time as Omega Red, a mutant who could drain people’s life essence using coils? Yes, it is). However, Senyaka was amusingly enough killed off just four issues after debuting, because he killed some humans without Magneto’s permission. Despite being around for just a couple of issues and then dying, Senyaka was featured in more than one release from the “X-Men” action figure line. I guess they thought he looked really cool (he has since been brought back in the comics repeatedly, including just a year after he died the first time).
After a lackluster release in 1994 that saw a bunch of minor figures sitting on shelves (including three from this list: Senyaka, Kylun and Bonebreaker, plus two minor Starjammers characters, Ch’od and Raza), along with a Rogue figure and a street clothes Wolverine, Toy Biz regrouped by deciding to make the releases themed ones going forward and not just a generic “X-Men” release. The first one that they did was based around the “Dark Phoenix Saga,” primarily the end of that storyline where the X-Men had to defend their teammate in battle against the Shi’ar Imperial Guard.
One of these Imperial Guard members was Warstar, who is not just an exceptionally obscure character, but rather one that was even created as an in-joke reference to an even more obscure source. Warstar was made up of two characters, a small one who rode the back of the larger one. The characters were named B’nee and C’cil, which was a reference to the Bob Clampett 1960s cartoon series, “Beany and Cecil.” Holy obscure action figures, Batman!
As noted earlier, after the Wild Pack/Six Pack broke up, G.W. Bridge began to hunt down Cable for S.H.I.E.L.D. As part of his time at S.H.I.E.L.D., he was able to work with Department K to organize a group of mutants who all owed Cable for something that he did in the past. This group was called Weapon P.R.I.M.E. (it is unclear if P.R.I.M.E. actually stood for anything) and they showed up a couple of times until they finally just vanished.
A few of the members were given such little development that we really don’t know what their beef was with Cable. One of those characters was named Killjoy and then Killspree. Very little is known about Killspree, but what we do know is that he has awesome blades on his arms and, when it came to picking characters to use for action figures, looking cool and having cool blades was held at a much higher premium than having any sort of back story or appearing more than five times.
What’s fascinating about Tusk is that he was released as part of the fourth series of X-Men toys, which was the most popular series of the entire eight-year run of the toy line. Obviously, it was just a case of being in the right place at the right time, but it is still interesting to note that such a minor character as Tusk likely ended up entering the collective consciousness of a whole generation of little kids who loved the X-Men due to his inclusion in the Series 4 release.
Tusk was a member of Apocalypse’s Dark Riders, who were designed to test the mettle of other mutants. He was called Tusk because of the large tusks on his shoulder. He could also create smaller duplicates of himself. Despite getting a toy, he didn’t even really appear that much in Dark Riders-related stories over the years. We suspect that Warstar (which, like Tusk, had a smaller figure to go with a bigger figure) got made as a direct result of the success of Series 4, as someone likely said, “Hey, maybe Tusk actually helped the line! Maybe kids like smaller figures to go with their bigger figures? Let’s try it again!”.
As we have seen so far on this list, being an interesting looking figure often was a bigger determination for whether you made it into the toy line than if you were actually A. an important character or B. even much of an “X-Men” character to begin with! Quark was a friend of Longshot on Mojoverse. He helped Longshot in the rebellion against Mojo in the original “Longshot” miniseries. He then didn’t make any appearances for years.
His first appearance in an actual “X-Men” comic came during a crossover in the 1992 “X-Men” and “X-Force” Annuals, where the mutants got caught up in a battle in the Mojoverse, in which Quark had been brainwashed by Mojo and briefly fought against Longshot and the X-Men. Luckily for him, appearing in an “X-Men” and/or “X-Force” comic book in 1992 meant that you were prime material for a toy line. So despite only appearing in just three “X-Men” comics (and not even regular issues), he got a toy. He’s barely made a handful of appearances since. He does look cool, though, so we have to give Toy-Biz that!
1. SPAT AND GROVEL
We almost kept these two off of the list because they technically were not part of the official “X-Men” line of figures, but were instead included as part of Toy Biz’s broader Marvel Comics line of toys, specifically 1998’s “Marvel’s Most Wanted” series, but then we decided that it would be a disservice to not show just how bizarre it was that these two characters got an action figure.
Spat and Grovel appeared in only a single storyline in “Uncanny X-Men” (the farewell story for both writer Scott Lobdell and penciler Joe Madureira). They were bounty hunters sent to capture Gambit. The pair had some sort of unknown history with Gambit (that was never gotten into because, again, they only appeared in one story). Grovel was a space lizard. Spat was a woman who had been de-aged so that she looked like a little girl. They were bizarrely awesome characters, but also so bizarre that it is just bonkers that they had their own action figures. Naturally, they’re the clear #1 pick for this list.
Who was your favorite X-Men action figure from the 1990s? Let us know in the comments section!
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