How better to pay tribute to the 1980s than with a hoard of undead pop culture references you can't keep away? I heard whispers of S.L.U.G. Zombies late last year and despite not being a fan of the mindless undead I picked up Macho Mangler, Flesh-Eatin' Phil, Buck Wilde when the opportunity presented itself. (I luff the concept. At press time I've not seen series 1, this is a series 2 set.) According to a poster checklist at Slugzombies.com there are 100 of these little guys so far, and the interesting thing is that it's a tremendous mix of pop culture references and parodies mixed with the traditional wide-ranging figures you might expect in a line like this. I'm also not sure if the entire series is one big in-joke and the ones that I don't see as references are just outside my ignorant field of vision. In terms of size, these guys are fairly meaty-- smaller than October Toys' Z.O.M.B.I.E., bigger than M.U.S.C.L.E., and actually about on par with the bulk of O.M.F.G.. The wrestler figure in this set, Macho Mangler, is about 2 1/8-inches tall and the closest thing to a Hulk Hogan M.U.S.C.L.E. figure I've yet seen.
In this pack, the bizarre Flesh-Eatin' Phil is the shortest figure at 2-inches, and it was actually the reason I picked the set. A crazy person crawling out of a mailbox? Sold. It's partially hollow (see below) and has a bizarre undead eagle drawing on the back as a parody of the USPS logo. The sculpting is very clean, and I'd say sharper than their 1980s ancestors. The green color really brings out the detail nicely, from the messed-up hair to the crazy eyes to the screwed-up fang-like teeth chomping on someone's bills. Phil is lacking in too much blood and guts, he could just as easily be an insane person or a fairly rude depiction of a hobo. Sculpted rivets and metal place make the mailbox look super-cool, and there's a printed black series of letters and numbers that I assume are some sort of date stamp. Kindly tell me if you know what it means - 1532SG01.
Macho Mangler is unquestionably a thinly-veiled parody of Hulk Hogan. The facial hair, bandanna, pants, and long flowing locks are hard to mistake for anyone else, and he has a fair amount of "damage" on his person. A banged-up shoulder reveals a little mangled flesh, his spine is exposed, and he's missing a couple of patches of flesh on his arms. One eye is bruised shut, and he's missing a few teeth. He has no problems standing, no articulation (obviously, a slug figure has no articulation) and well, what you see is what you get. It ain't bad. After getting my hands on this, I hope it's true that Mattel is considering doing a similar line of WWE wrestlers in the near future, particularly if it included classic WWF-era wrestlers from the early Wrestlemania events.
I don't know who Buck Wilde is supposed to be. I assume someone will do an annotated list of these guys some day. Maybe it's Buck as in "My name is Buck, and I'm here to party." He seems like a western cop type and for all I know is a reference to Walking Dead as I do not follow zombie lit as much as others. He's holding a pistol, wears a duster and a hat, and sports a badge. There are little spurs on his boots and a grim sneer on his face. I can't help but wonder if Jakks designed the characters first and decided which ones to zombify later-- he looks like he could be easy made undead with a few minor tweaks. Granted, zombies don't use tools, right? Is that how it works?
As anyone who has followed me on Twitter or heard me rant this year, I'm enamored with the return of low-cost minifigures as a kid-driven collectible. It's cheap and affordable. M.U.S.C.L.E. men were about $1 for 4 in 1987, so these new figures do not compare favorably for inflation. I like the idea of a themed line with flesh-colored heroes (although I guess it's kinda ignoring the fact there's more than one color of flesh to be had) against green hordes, pitting action heroes against an unnatural army of the dead gives the creators a massive play area and countless designs to parody. As of my writing this, I'm on the fence on if I will (or can) collect them all, but I'm definitely interested in buying a few more. Well done, Jakks Pacific, you've got some creative people there.
Line notes: 100 figures were shown, and they get pretty astonishingly close to recognizable movie characters. "Sawblade Sampson" is Ash from the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness, "Mini-Gun Max" is Blaine from Predator, "Hot-Headed Harriet" is Ripley from Aliens, and "The Dead" is The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Six series were solicited to online retailers like Entertainment Earth and S.L.U.G. Aliens and Monsters were mentioned at Toy Fair 2012. At press time, figures from the first three series are in circulation. Packaging is simple for today's standards but the quality is too high for a "cheap" product. Both sides are full-color printed on a nice heavy glossy stock, there's a cardboard insert for the logo masking a checklist with bios for the figures in the series, and a sticker with names on the front of the bubble. I bet they could get it down to $3 or $3.50 if they cut some corners, and made the packaging more like a Hot Wheels car. (Read: junky.) That's what I would do, anyway, lower the price and encourage more impulse buys.
Collector notes: So far these have appeared in 3-packs, 12-packs, blind-boxed singles, and carry cases. I do not know yet which ones are exclusive to which configuration, but I did notice that in series 2, you can't collect them all without duplicating figures. Each 3-pack has at least 2 figures from the 12-pack. The 12-pack has a few figures not in the 2-packs. See where this is going? Series 2 has 16 figures, and if my math is right you must buy 24 figures to get all 16 series 2 figures.
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