I picked up the S.L.U.G. Zombies set of Santa Claws, Eli the Expired Elf, Gator Jones for a couple of bucks when my friend Shaun was visiting back in 2012 - I photographed it with the intention of reviewing them for Christmas every year for a few years, providing an update on how the format has fared. There was a brief promise of a surge of the slug figure - M.U.S.C.L.E.-style toys are cheap and easy to do. There was a wonderful surge of indie toys in the wake of OMFG, and like S.L.U.G. Zombies, those lines are done - but you can buy licensed M.U.S.C.L.E. sets now. Sure they're a little more expensive - but they're fun, and good licenses.
While many of the figures in Jakks Pacific's line of figures orbited parody or recent pop culture figures, Santa Claws is a twist on an obvious classic - unfortunately so is the name, which probably comes off as a nod to The Nightmare Before Christmas' "Sandy Claws." The figure has no claws, but it's Santa and it's not like "Santa Corpse" or "Korpse Kringle" or "St. Deadredfatman" would be appropriate. The sturdy green figure has a shoe torn away and ripped sleeves, plus there are some bites out of his outfit. This could just as easily indicate a dog attack, but his extended, creepy fingers really do a good job of telegraphing that something is wrong with jolly ol' St. Nick. The sculpting is good and comes off cleanly in the green plastic, with lots of sculpted hair, a fur trim, and wrinkly or decaying skin. There's a hint of a malevolent smile and the detail in the face is really remarkable - the bags under his eyes, the big cheeks, and the creepy eyes all look just perfect.
A repack from a previous series was the Crocodile Dundee-inspired Gator Jones, complete with a knife. He's gaunt and frazzled, with a freakish closed-teeth grin that shows tenacity and a probable brush with death. The texture on the vest is scaly, but it's worth noting that he could probably be released in green and sold as a zombie - there are some tears on his outfit. If there were exposed bones or missing limbs, it'd be even easier - but this is the closest thing to a figure that looks like it could be in the process of turning. Also, it has nothing to do with Christmas. So let's move on.
Since there's no such thing as a Christmas Croc, it makes sense that Eli the Expired Elf completed the set. Like Santa, his arms are out and his toes are pointed in - it almost looks like he could be dancing. He's not, but you could see how one may make such an assumption. He clearly turned before Santa with a grotesque, open jaw and tons of damage. His tights are slashed, his coat is torn, and his exposed arms have small bite marks. This one almost tells a story with the strange frozen scream of pain with ears that have seen a few nibbles. The designers are clearly experts in the format as they all seem to be molded as a single piece of flexible plastic - there are no obvious glue or assembly marks here.
If ever there was a reason for the season beyond the one originally inspiring the season, it's probably wacky holiday tie-ins. These are a thing that I wish were trotted back out every few years in the stocking stuffer section of our local stores, simply because they're so cheap, so goofy, and arguably more exciting than Elf on the Shelf. The Christmas sets of the zombies were the last thing available in the line - future series were planned and some even got as far as packaged samples for series 5, but as far as I can tell none ever escaped to the wilds of retail. A pity, but such is the fate of countless wonderful toy ideas.
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