The '90s were, overall, a great time for boys toy lines. Marvel and DC got their first figures since the heyday of Secret Wars and Super Powers, Star Wars returned, Ninja Turtles were everywhere, and McFarlane Toys upped the ante on sculpting, opening up a whole new niche for older collectors and even R-rated toys.
But you don't get good without making mistakes along the way, and the road to collector heaven was paved with terrible intentions and even worse executions. While some toys were getting better and better, others were so terrible that even though you bought them then, you'd love to go back in time and tell your past self to save that money. Dumb '90s toys for boys were a figuratively a dime a dozen, but much more expensive in a literal sense.Frankly, there was just a whole lot of bullsh*t going on.
Lara Croft (Toy Biz)
When the first Tomb Raider game came out, heroine Lara Croft became an instant pop-culture superstar. She was everything everybody liked about Indiana Jones, but with breasts. And even in a game world that was years away from photo-realism, hackers came up with "nude codes."Toy Biz tried to move quickly to capitalize on the love, and while the action figure they made sold quickly, it's a misshapen mess with an ugly caricature of a face and an awkward, bowlegged stance inherited from the Marvel figure whose parts she was reusing. Many, many toys of Lara have come since, but only this one actually made her unattractive.
G.I. Joe: Street Fighter II
Street Fighter II was a hot property in the '90s. Even as its graphics may not have been as eye-popping as rival Mortal Kombat, Capcom's constant upgrades with new characters and new moves kept the game fresh and complex. And in an era when arcade versions were still always superior to the home cartridge version, kids stocked up on quarters for their next bid at buttonmashing supremacy.
Toys should have been a no-brainer. Instead, the first Street Fighter II figures on U.S. shores were designed by someone seemingly without a brain. Repainted G.I. Joe bodies that sometimes bore no resemblance to the game designs combined with newly sculpted heads, and racks full of weapons that were in no way game accurate.A second series actually included some original sculpts, and a few more were added for a tie-in with the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. But compared to what fans got years later from companies like ReSaurus and SOTA, these really were a scam. Ha-BOO!-ken.
Sgt. Savage and His Screaming Eagles
Before Star Wars figures returned and made it okay for figures to be under four inches again, G.I. Joe was getting awfully lonely in the early '90s, as various Kenner movie lines and Toy Biz superheroes had bumped the "standard" scale up to around five inches.
Hasbro attempted to rebrand and resize the Joes to be compatible with other popular licenses, and came up with Sgt. Savage, a thinly veiled rip-off of Captain America who had been frozen in ice since World War II. His arch-enemy? An evil German scientist, still alive in the present day, who calls himself General Blitz.Cap vs. Skull minus the cool costumes, supplanting the popular G.I. Joe characters? Kids said yo, no.
G.I. Joe Extreme
EXTREEEEME! Following the misfire of Sgt. Savage, G.I. Joe received another '90s-style reboot. The result was probably exactly as stereotypical as you'd imagine from the name: hugely 'roided-up, overmuscular heroes with "Ultra-Slam Fire Power!" taking on terrorists in skull masks led by the evil Iron Klaw. Also - and this hurt the most - they had barely any articulation.Rob Liefeld gets away with this aesthetic because he created it. Hasbro doing it felt like cynical trend-hopping. Kids bought Toy Biz action figures of Deadpool and Cable instead.