TOYS ARE US : Super Scary Howlers

 I'd never been inside a Toys 'R' Us store until they incorporated one into my local mall in the very early 90s. Not that I'd been deprived up until that point - this was a time when there were still many toy stores to choose from - but after a lifetime of catchy commercial jingles and cultural significance, I was pleased to finally be a part of the fuss. But it wasn't without its exquisitely frustrating irony: my real interest in traditional "toys" had expired roughly 5 minutes prior to the store's grand opening; I had reached a point (roughly 10 years old) where my obsessions weren't conveniently packaged as articulated likenesses with noted exclusions of batteries. 

No big deal, except that I got a gift certificate to the place for my birthday, so now I have to somehow get turned on by this mecca of merchandise to which I feel no connection. And as I drag my father around this emporium of outdated childhood, both of us on the verge of tears, nearly succumbing to holding my nose and prepared to just love the one I'm with, I come across these:
Monster In My Pocket Super Scary Howlers from Matchbox.
These were where I was at - these were me.

Miraculously (and sadly) I had never really been aware of the Monster In My Pocket toyline - which was peculiar because they were all about everything I was about. But it didn't matter, because this otherwise obscure set of 4 "super scary" noisemakers were like Super Shredder-versions of the original figures; each one "howled" in a manner respective to their sculpt, and their eyes would light up with enough wattage to illuminate a modest room. But that was all secondary -- I never cared too much for what toys did, as I typically wouldn't play with them as much as display them like trophies - and these guys displayed nicely.
They were released in 1992, so it conveniently coincided with my Bram Stoker's Dracula obsession and all things "monster." And sure, without hesitation, I nominated the "Vampire" as the clear winner, with his bright white Nosferatu-esque complexion against the contrast of his standard Dracula Halloween costume. Naturally, I applied some of my mother's bright red nail polish to his mouth and chest as a touch of gore (this was not an uncommon thing for me to do).
But that's why these are important; there really is no second place because they're all so good, and each one compliments and accentuates the others. The "Werewolf" is so comfortably traditional - with its torn white shirt/blue pants ensemble, posed in a stance of equal parts hunger and agony - he's practically one set of nards away from some copyright infringement. 
And then there's the "Monster" - which is obviously you-know-who, but that's why I've always loved unlicensed Frankenstein spinoffs; whether it's a toy, a mask, a film or TV depiction, or anytime the Creature's likeness is fashioned without permission, we're treated to yet another depiction of the Doctor's creation. I don't know that I'm a huge fan of this Incredible Hulk/WWE depiction, but it definitely strips away a lotta that "sympathetic" stigma he's typically tethered to.

And then, there's "Swamp Beast."
You all know "Swamp Beast," yeah?
Seriously, though: an obvious and risky descendant of Swamp Thing that raises some questions... "Hey Mr. Bennett Media, what's a 1970s Comic Book hero doing alongside these classic monsters?" Well, kid, if I had to guess, I'd attribute it to the unpopular Swamp Thing cartoon series that ran shortly before this, but the otherwise popular line of action figures it produced.
But my real answer is: who the hell cares? Apart from vaguely resembling Fulci's Zombie from the neck up, look at that color! Were he flavored, I'd imagine he would be some green apple/watermelon combo (which would be so 1992).
And that's it, really; this monster mash ended up being a celebration of my retirement from the toy store scene (for a few years at least). There were other horror and gross-out-related playthings around that time, but most of them were intended for a slightly younger crowd - by design and purpose. These gothic statuettes better suited my Fango frame of mind at that time - particularly the packaging that closely resembled a 1962 version of Castlevania; they were a harmonious balance of Saturday Morning Cartoon and Midnite Monster Movie -- and that's an atmosphere I still inhabit to this day, with no plans of moving.

- Paul

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