One of the most fascinating things about toy lines in the 1980s and 1990s is as they wind down, nobody really knew what was going on at the time. The final series of Star Wars, Battle Beasts, and other lines were tough to tell because with no real marketing support, no internet, and no resources, rumors and "my cousin got this somehow" were our main sources of intel. As such, I have vague memories of the final US series called "Shadow Warriors" (Laser Beasts in Japan) and I didn't really have much of awareness of the line (beyond it existing) until recently. Heck, I didn't even intend on getting Spark Shark until he showed up in a collection with a bunch of rubsign figures I was after. By himself, he sells for $15-$20 (no weapon) and $30-$35 (with weapon), and he's probably the cheapest and seemingly most commonly sold Laser Beasts figure.
Spark Shark is cool. Like, really cool. It's rare that I get to jump into a toy line which I like and find several figures I didn't really know about, so this was a real treat. Depending on who you ask, he's an Ichthyosaur or a Sawtooth Shark, and I'm leaning toward the shark due to the little crinkles on the figure's nose. He's brown, with green armor and some orange highlights. Under his arms, it looks like the sculptors meant to incorporate gills, and (unless I'm mistaken) the paint department just considered these part of the armor and made them green.
The 2-inch figure was released without his name on the packaging, and after the poster which was released to show "all" the names-- so "Spark Shark" comes from a translation of his Japanese name, and it's not known what he was meant to be called in the USA as far as I can tell. The little guy came with a gun (the previous three series did not) and the Japanese fiction says that these guys with the orbs were an ancient race of Beasts trying to claim back the planet from the usurpers, the rubsign figures. It's a nifty idea, having a line of figures where everybody fights, and continuing the line by giving them a new common enemy with superior firepower.
While the other figures had rubsign stickers, this guy had a small "orb" which was quite the clever design. A hole in his back let in light to illuminate a small fire/wood/water image, which was magnified by what was essentially a magnifying glass in his belly. If you line it up just right, the image really pops. It's magical.
Rounding out the figure was his gun. The neat thing about the Laser Beast guns was that they're modeled after their owners, so while a penguin just had a spear, Spark Shark has a gun with fins and a chainsaw nose. The silvery plastic has tons of swirls and feels a little chunky, making me slightly fearful it could crumble if improperly handled-- although I don't know of many reported complaints of such a thing as of yet. The fishy gun reminds me a lot of the Gears of War weapons, but with a shark motif. The downside? It's big. It feels just a smidgen too large for the figure, giving it a slightly overpowered look as opposed to the less bulky weapons of the other 76 earlier figures.
While these figures are getting a little more expensive, there's no denying that they're quite nice and (if you can afford it) a great way to continue the basic line some of us remember from the 1980s. He seems to show up somewhat often on eBay, but it's pretty uncommon for there to be one (or all) of these figures up there all at the same time, unlike, say, pretty much any other collector's line. I like him a lot-- he aged well, he looks good, and he's nifty. What more could you ask for, beyond a lower price?
Trivia buffs and number freaks, take note: Hasbro released 76 Battle Beasts with the Fire/Wood/Water rubsign stickers over 3 series. About 12 "Shadow" Battle Beasts with orbs in their bellies were definitely released in the USA, and all of these-- plus more-- were released in Japan. (Even dinosaurs, damn those lucky kids.) 12 of the remaining 24 Laser Beasts were released in Europe, and US packaging samples exist but they're so uncommon it's assumed they were not released widely here. Not counting premium mail-in figures or other variations, a grand total of 112 Battle Beasts figures were produced as well as a handful of vehicles and playsets, placing its figure tally on par with the original Kenner Star Wars line in terms of overall variety. It would be dwarfed by other similar collectible mini-figure lines like M.U.S.C.L.E. and the runaway success of Monster in my Pocket, plus the more recent phenomenon of Gormiti. (Which, again, had a strong life in Europe after the USA dumped it after a couple of short series.) I hope you enjoyed Beast Week 2012 and I hope the recent news in the world of beasts keeps you excited for next year's Beast Week!
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