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)Photo: eBay
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.Was this a ripoff?
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.Was this a ripoff?
Everybody thought it was good news when Hasbro announced they were doing Mortal Kombat figures. Surprise! They ended up being bullshit G.I. Joe repaints! This time around, though, at least they weren't branded as G.I. Joe, so that venerable toy could be spared one embarrassment in a decade otherwise full of them.Kids bought them anyway, mostly just so their bullsh*t Street Fighter Joes could fight them. RIPOFF-ALITY!Was this a ripoff?
WWE (Jakks Pacific)
Fans who were despondent at the demise of Hasbro's World Wrestling Federation (as it was then known) figure line were initially delighted to see a new company pick up the slack and bring popular new stars like Diesel and Goldust to toy form. There were just two problems:
1. In order to try to create a "bone-crunching" sound, the company (Jakks Pacific) made figures of a flimsy, rubbery material with plastic joints inside.
2. After the initial series, which actually looked like the superstars, Jakks started to crank out figures that looked like they'd been drawn by inattentive grade schoolers. Power-lifter Ahmed Johnson got man-boobs, Sid Vicious arrived with eyes that looked like fried eggs, and all the title belts were tiny.It would take Jakks years - and the invention of laser-scanning - to make figures that actually looked like the real people. And then they started cheaping out by just using the same bodies over and over. You kids today with your Mattel figures have no idea how good you've got it.Was this a ripoff?