You only have to walk through any comic convention to know that toys have been a massive part of geek culture since before there even was a geek culture. To many, picking up a bunch of action figures of your favorite superheroes is as essential a part of the culture as reading the comics and watching the movies. It can also be an extremely expensive hobby too: high end collectables such as the ones released by Sideshow and Hot Toys (to name but a few) are less action figures and more artistically crafted sculptures.
With any collectors market, however, comes the unsavory bootleg side. Just ask Lego, itself a manufacturer of highly sought-after collectables: for every rare, genuine, mint-in-box set on sale on Ebay, there are a dozen knockoff mini-figure sets flooding the aftermarket. Often these bootlegs are indistinguishable to all but an expert, but there are also those that fall hilariously short of perfection. We here at CBR like to think we have a discerning critical eye for forgery, and as such we have the strongest suspicion that the following “collectables” might not quite be the real deal.
Is it a nerd, is it a crane, no it’s Specialman! What looks like a fan reimagining of a universe in which Sylvester Stallone was cast in Superman, the Mighty Specialman action figure comes with only one accessory: an extremely ironic name. Is it just us, or does this also look a bit like Nicholas Cage from the unfortunately doomed Tim Burton reboot, Superman Lives?
Either way, clearly this figure falls short of the mark, choosing to be one of the only action figures that looks like the least action-packed being in the universe. It also looks like Specialman is his last name too, like this is a guy called Bob Specialman, forever immortalized in action figure form as that one time he went to a costume party as Superman in an effort to get over his girlfriend breaking up with him on the same day he lost his job.
14 BEAT MAGNUM KING
Look out gang, it’s the Superlor (sic) Champion and member of the Super Avengers: Beat Magnum King! Now with removable mask so you can really see those perfectly sculpted eyebrows. Seriously, why would you manicure your eyebrows so thoroughly, when all you’re going to do is fight crime with a mask on? The King also comes with his trusty gun and what may or may not be his actual pet bat.
This is clearly meant to be a Batman figure, although quite why he’s called Beat Magnum King is anyone’s guess. It’s also confusing as to why he’s in Avengers packaging, but just in case you were thinking of returning it for false advertising, along the right hand side it clearly states “specifications colors and contents may vary from illustrations!” so don’t say you weren’t warned...
13 SUPER BAT
Now with spectacular Non-Fall Action, it’s that man of Justice, Super Bat! While some of these others may be mislabelled or straight-up wrapped in the wrong packaging, there’s no way that a vigilante dressed as a bat, fighting crime on a skateboard with what looks like two radio antennae for ears could be called anything but “Super Bat.”
To be fair, this is pretty great packaging. The colors are vibrant, there’s a little description to get you invested in the character in a way that doesn’t instantly scream “It’s NOT Batman guys!” and there’s just enough resemblance to the Dark Knight to draw kids in, before hitting them with the perfect one-two punch that is “skateboard” and “non-fall action.” Don’t pretend you don’t want one, if for no other reason than to see if he actually does go forward and turn right automatically as soon as comes to an “edge.”
12 SUPER HEROES SAVE THE WORLD
This won’t be the first time we see a mashup super-team on this list, but it’s one of the only times where the packaging actively works against the contents. The Superman logo makes this look like it’s called “Supers Heroes,” and the inclusion of “Save the World” along the bottom feels less like a statement of intent and more of an instruction. “Go do anything that isn’t buying these bad toys. Save the world, we don’t care just put us back on the shelf.”
Spider-Man is looking to his left at the clearly jaundiced Batman standing next to him, when in actual fact he’s ignoring the strange, hooded Superman to his right. Is that a hood, or is it a being with a void for a head wearing a creepy human mask? Who knows, but “All Heroes Come” apparently, apart from Mr Incredible, who’s on the box but suspiciously absent.
11 BAT HERO
If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you could get deceived by this Bat Hero two pack. If your Grandpa was out shopping for your Birthday present, armed with the knowledge that you love those superheroes, and stumbled upon this, it would be the wonderful mixture of disappointment and joy that most of these unintentionally brilliant creations become. Unlike a lot of the bootleg toys on this list, this one feels like it was really trying to be accurate too, but in a way almost designed to confuse parents.
Quite why the manufacturers thought that breaching copyright when it comes to action figures, costumes, package design, images and logo was fine, but actually calling the piece Batman was a step too far is anyone’s guess, but we end up with Bat Hero, figures so poor even the Dark Knight himself can’t maintain eye contact with you.
10 OUTDOOR HEROES
Potentially one of the most troublesome ones on the list, as it not only uses Marvel’s branding (and characters etc) but states Toy Biz as the manufacturer. Aside from that though, as a consumer, this is a pretty fun toy! Unless they’re being held together by the packaging, they look pretty good quality too. You know, for bootleg action figures. (Okay, these may actually be legit licensed products, but they're just too zany not to include.)
The best thing about this set -- much like a lot of toys, legitimate as well as knockoff -- is imaging the scenario in which Peter Parker would have an adventure that would necessitate him wearing fishing or archery gear over the top of his Spider-Man suit. Not only that, but it happens so often, he’s made a set of Spider-Man emblazoned waders and tackle box for his many in-costume fishing adventures. The hat is exceptionally choice, though.
9 JUSTICE HEROS LEAGUE
“Collect them all heros” the packaging tells us, but if you buy this one set you already own all of the heroes you’ll ever need: Batman, Spider-Man, Mr Incredible, Superman and Batman again! It’s cool that they give you two different Batmen, yet they’ve managed to craft two versions of the Batman costume none of which are anything like any Batman costume we’re familiar with.
Neither Superman nor the two Batmen have capes included, so perhaps Mr. Incredible has passed on the wisdom of Edna Mode (“NO CAPES!”), but it’s more likely that capes were an extravagance too expensive for these bootleggers. Unlike other knockoff toy boxes, the packaging here at least seems to be an accurate representation of the characters involved, even if they’re throwing literally everything at you: “Batman Begins,” “New Arrival,” and the awesome “Collect them all heroes.”
8 SUPERMAN BIG ALLIANCE
In what is frankly a better name for a team than “Justice League,” the “Superman Big Alliance” seems suspicious for the absence of its titular hero. That’s not the strangest thing about this superteam, however, because obviously one of these things is not like the other.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but we can all see an unusual addition to this team. Despite our belief that anyone can be a superhero, someone seems a little out of place. Let’s just lay it out there, clearly the odd one out is Donatello. Yes he’s a team player and yes he’d perfectly suit the rest of the more traditional superheroes on this list (Shrek for example), but there’s no way that Donatello would abandon his fellow Turtles to join the “Superman Big Alliance.” What’s that you say? That wasn’t the odd one out you were thinking of?
7 KNIGHT RIDER BECAMES ROBERT
Much like the “Super Bat,” also on this list, “Knight Rider Becames Robert” actually comes in some pretty amazing packaging. The bright florescent rainbow and the windowed section showing off the toy practically ensures that, bootleg or not, this is catching the eye of every kid that walks past it.
The only thing criminally missing from this image is any information on the legendary Robert that Knight Rider turns into. Let’s not split hairs here, it’s clearly a mistranslation and as such, we’re fully aware that this is not the real Knight Rider. Who this Robert character is though, and how he acquired such powerful skills allowing him to turn into a talking vigilante car that solves crimes with David Hasselhoff, that’s the real adventure here. Maybe we’ll have to wait for the movie?
6 POWER RANGERS IN SPACE?
With so many bootleg toys on this list containing Power Rangers characters in teams where they aren’t usually found, it seems completely bizarre that in the one instance where the packaging clearly states “Power Rangers in Space” there wouldn’t be a single Power Ranger in sight. Instead, we’re treated to what can only be a multipack bulk deal for five green Batmen.
If you and four of your loved ones ever wanted your own individual green Batman action figure, you can not only satisfy that (frankly bizarre) desire, but you get change from $3 for your efforts. What a deal! If only they’d painted these figures black, that would be something: black suit, black cape, lose the packaging and you’d have a figure that’d fool your friends. As it stands, though, if you brought this into school you’d be known as “the kid who collects Boogerman” before you know it.
5 COLLECTION MARVEL HEROES
You were so very close, you guys... you very nearly produced a toy that would have drifted by unnoticed as a genuine article (to the untrained eye at least). You know who notices everything though? Captain America notices everything, and he is giving major evil-eye to the imposter of the group.
Yes, Cap has accurately identified that the weird-faced Superman does not belong here, despite being on the packaging (it’s covered by a price tag but it’s clearly him). It’s not even like this is a random mashup of heroes from all over pop culture, it very purposefully states “Collection Marvel Heroes” on the box, so really there’s no excuse. Aside from being taller than Hulk, this version of Superman looks like he’s wearing a strange human mask to cover whatever dark evil resides where his face should be.
4 SUPERMAN COME BACK
If you don’t want an action figure of Superman and also another action figure of Superman riding a sweet robot velociraptor then maybe we’re completely different people. This set, while clearly a bootleg, holds a special place in our hearts, if for no other reason than imagining the packaging writer pleading for Superman to Come Back, oblivious to the fact that their work will be going onto a toy that has twice the amount of usual Supermen contained within it.
And is it just us, or is there a third Superman creeping into the left of the shot? Three Supermen AND a sweet robo-raptor? That’s insane, bootleggers. If only the picture was a little wider, we’d be able to truly appreciate that it looks like it says “Collect Them Supermans” on the top left which, with three in the pack, you’re already well on your way.
3 POWER HEROS
As a reliable source of inspiration for bootleggers, the X-Men don’t seem to get picked as often as your standard Superman, Batman or Spider-Man. When they do make an appearance though, it’s a real treat. This is also one of those occasions where the packaging is way more enjoyable than the figures themselves.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to love about the toys. While Cyclops seems fairly standard, Wolverine has had a change of outfit (loving the baby blue boots) and his arms seem shorter to accommodate his claws, which isn’t really how it works. The real treat is the box art though, as there are two separate purple Wolverines, one emerging from a portal with a gun, and a strange figure that looks like a mix between a Crash Test Dummy and Krang’s android body from the Turtles.
2 SENSE OF RIGHT ALLIANCE
While the “Sense of Right Alliance” is certainly a better name than “The Avengers” (you know it’s true) we admit it is rather a mouthful. Still, what else would you call a super team that includes both DC and Marvel heroes, the talking cars from Cars, Power Rangers, Mr. Incredible, Shrek and Donkey?
The team may be super, but the action figures look anything but. The Shrek figure looks like a novelty candle rather than a toy, and while it’s always a good idea to include a vehicle in your sets (just ask Lego), this car is completely the wrong color for Lightning Mcqueen. It is pretty fun to see who else makes up the team but didn’t make the cut for this set though: neither the Turtles or Mr Incredible were good enough for this collection.
1 SUPER MAN
It’s another case of so near yet so far: this knockoff figure would have been less obviously a fake if only they’d gotten the name of the hero in their set right. There’s even four of him, making it even more obvious, but no: Superior Performance, Super Power, Super Man.
Only one of these Spider-Men comes with a web accessory, so just keep that in mind when handing these out to friends and family. Again, why you’d really need four identical Spider-Man action figures is anyone’s guess, but if you removed the packaging you’d probably convince your friends this is the real deal. Once they see the big “Super Man” logo on the top though (not to mention the pictures of Power Rangers on the pack that seem completely out of left field) then it’s game over.
Which of these knockoff toys do you wish you owned? Let us know in the comments!