With the substandard fare McFarlane Toys is producing nowadays, it’s easy to forget just how important Todd McFarlane’s contribution to the action figures industry was. When he decided he wanted action figures based on his own comic, Spawn, he approached various toymaking companies to see what they could offer him. But as one would expect with someone who left Marvel to forge a new creator-owned comic company, McFarlane didn’t like the lack of control he’d have over these toy lines. What else was there to do but create his own toy company, dedicated to making better action figures than the industry had ever seen before?
In the first decade or so of McFarlane Toys’ existence, they produced very few licensed toys (aside from Movie Maniacs, but even that didn’t start up until 1998). So most of what was produced was either based on the Spawn comic or were a product of Todd’s or his sculptors’ fevered imaginations. And of course, we’re talking about a guy who made comics about creatures from hell, so it’s perhaps no surprise that McFarlane produced a wide array of awesome, bizarre creatures as part of its own lines. Here are 10 of the best.
10) The Jackal King
This amazing figure was a diamond in the rough at the ass-end of Todd’s Spawn line, back when the company was still switching over from articulated figures to what were more or less just plastic statues. As part of the “Age of Pharaohs” ancient-Egyptian-themed Spawn line, what the Jackal King lacks in articulation he makes up for with an amazing sculpt and paint job.
9) The Horrid
The Horrid is an easy sell for fantasy fans: he’s a huge, fully-articulated dragon that fits into nearly any fantasy display. The figure was absolutely squashed into its blister card. Thanks to his articulation, many fans consider him superior to McFarlane’s later line of statue dragons because he can actually move. He does have some of the durability problems that plagued McFarlane Toys around this time (his wings tend to break off) , but he’s still one of the best dragon action figures ever made.
8) The Viper King
The Viper King first appeared in Spawn Series 14: Dark Ages Spawn 2 (that’s a wave of toys, not a comic or a movie). He’s a big blue-green serpentine lord who barely fits in its packaging and looks like a cross between a gorgon and a mer-man. His top half was that of a menacing snake man (no relation to Kobra Khan), and his bottom half split into six chained serpents, all bendable and durable. The figure slots right in alongside any fantasy figures, especially those of Greek mythology (like God of War’s Kratos). There was a variant in yellow and red, then a Spawn-colored variant years later.
A comparatively early figure in McFarlane Toys’ history, Sabre is a minotaur who still looks awesome today, especially alongside other mythology figures. He’s an ideal addition to a collection of mythological beasts or for recreating that neat S6 episode of Doctor Who. And he may be the first-ever action figure with a nipple ring.
6) Manga Cyber Violator
He’s not just a “manga” version of the Violator. He’s not just a “cyber” version of the Violator. He’s MANGA. CYBER. VIOLATOR.
One of Spawn’s primary nemeses, the Violator was a disgusting clown who could transform into a skinny, toothy demon. McFarlane Toys has made countless versions of the character, but perhaps none as memorable as this one. Part of the second Manga Spawn series, it annihilates the far crappier NON-cyber Manga Violator. The only reason this figure isn’t higher on the list is because of its very flimsy limbs. The truth is, this figure will eventually fall off your shelf, taking your Hot Toys Keaton Batman with him on the way down.
5) Berserker the Troll
A different breed than the Lord of the Rings‘ memorable Cave Troll, Berserker is a really more of an orc. He’s got a well-detailed sculpt with a great expression, and he’s incredibly articulated – the second Viking Age line of toys was really McFarlane’s last hurrah for putting useful articulation into their figures. Never mind creatures – Berserker is probably one of the best action figures McFarlane Toys ever made.
A character from the Curse of the Spawn comic, Raenius was damned by Zeus to Hades, where he made a deal with Malebolgia (who’s really more of the Christian Satan than Hades, but whatever, moving on) and was returned to the surface a horrific monster, where he killed Zeus and became King of the Gods. His action figure is a wide-awake nightmare featuring exposed muscle, stretchy goo coating his limbs, worms spewing from his mouth, bendy tentacles flying in all directions, exposed guts, and a little Tinkerbell-like sprite just to make it all seem ironic or something.
3) The Heap
Topless Robot covered the history of the Heap in an earlier list, but basically, he started out as a regular vegetation-based swamp monster. When Todd got the rights to the Heap (sort of… it’s a long story) in the 1990s, he decided to update the character by making him a sentient pile of garbage, because why not?
The figure is reminiscent of Muckman from the old Ninja Turtles line — it’s green and slimy-looking, and its body is covered in trash. It includes bits of plastic designed to mimic broken glass that would probably injure any kids who, for some reason, were given this abomination to play with. It has a gaping, articulated mouth that could store some garbage accessories (“Mouth drops open to spew out garbage!” the packaging exclaimed). Easily one of the weirdest and most fun creature figures McFarlane made.
McFarlane Toy’s Medusa is a gorgeous, fully-articulated gorgon. It wonderfully renders the horror of the snake-haired monster while also oozing the sex appeal that sold many a McFarlane-sculpted female figure. Like the Viper King, the lengthy snakes that make up her hair are all very durable bendies and can be posed in any direction.
The artistic liberties make her design both instantly recognisable while unique from other interpretations of the character – she’s not Ray Harryhausen’s Medusa from Clash of the Titans, for example, but she’s definitely Medusa. She even includes two little skeletal minions.
1) Cy-Gor II
Cy-Gor is a gigantic cyborg ape. McFarlane has made a few Cy-Gor figures over the years, but this one – part of the twelfth series of Spawn figures – is unquestionably the best. It features great articulation, rubbery “wires,” real metal chains, interchangeable hands (a robotic hand and a pirate-like hook), and a chest panel that pops off to reveal a poseable robotic monkey inside.
There’s no part of this paragraph that isn’t awesome.