Monday, March 21, 2011

Outer Space Men

I’ve been struggling a bit with how to write about these guys. I didn’t want to do regular toy reviews since they sort of defy standard conventions. I also didn’t really want to just write about them as a whole because 1) I am not as familiar with their history as some other corners of the internet and 2) there are four distinct characters to discuss (so far) and each of them is very unique despite sharing formats and even specific parts. Certain other lines I cover do the same thing (DCUC and MOTUC), so it didn’t seem fair to treat the Outer Space Men any differently. But I’m going to anyway.

The Outer Space Men are produced and sold by the Four Horsemen. If you aren’t familiar with them, the Horsemen are a group of wrestlers who dominated the NWA/WCW throughout the 80’s and early 90’s.
Led by “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – who created the stable to surround himself with the best of the best (for the most part) and have cronies/allies to protect his World Title.
HA! That’s just my little joke.
These Four Horsemen are actually servants of the first mutant Apocalypse; who genetically…
Okay, okay. That’s enough. The Horsemen are a group of (more than four) toy designers who made their mark working for McFarlane Toys when the company first started and essentially creating the toy boom of the late 90’s. The Horsemen are known for sculpting and designing some of the most exciting, dynamic, realistic and often gruesome action figures ever released (while McFarlane is known for producing some of the most fragile, unarticulated action figures ever released. McFarlane figures are like reverse models. They come assembled but eventually fall apart into tons of individual pieces).
Several years ago the Four Horsemen created their own company in order to – much like Ric Flair – surround themselves with the best of the best.
In addition to a lot of work for Diamond Select Toys, the Horsemen designed the awesome figures for the Masters of the Universe reboot in 2002, as well as the current online exclusive line. The Horsemen also create and release original properties under their own banner. These are available on their retail website, StoreHorsemen.com. And this is where you can find the Outer Space Men.
The Outer Space Men were originally created over forty years ago to be an 8” scale line of bendy figures. You can read all about their history and even see comparisons between the original toys and the new ones here. That’s the stuff I didn’t want to get into because it’s outside of my personal experience and I try not to mess around too much with stuff I don’t know. Which encompasses a much broader range of subjects than I’ll ever admit.
Instead, we’re just going to take a look at the modern figures themselves.
I don’t remember exactly when or how I first became aware of these guys. I think it might have been through ToyFare, but I’m not sure. I just know they were on my radar before toy aficionado Adam Pawlus mentioned them on 16Bit.com. The guy had received his in the mail and had a lot of enthusiasm for them. He tends to like what I like on his excellent Star Wars Figure of the Day blog, so I thought they were worth investigating.
I visited StoreHorsemen.com and looked over what was available. The figures looked really neat and ten bucks apiece seemed fair for independently produced novelty figures; I just didn’t want to start yet another line in yet another scale. I’ll tell you right now, if they had been the same scale as my Doctor Who figures I would have ordered them in an instant. The Outer Space Men really fit that aesthetic (which is part of what won me over in the end anyway).
I kept them in mind but didn’t order.
Then, not more than a few weeks later, Pawlus posted that his Holiday Edition Outer Space Men were on the way. Holiday Edition. As in Christmas. I wasn’t sure I could pass up Christmas-themed Men from Outer Space. I returned to StoreHorsemen.com and checked out the Holiday Edition Outer Space Men:
Now, you might think it’s a stretch to relate these four translucent space monsters to the Holidays; but I saw it immediately with my (always looking for an excuse to throw money at cool new toys) mind – the red and green ones are clearly (pun intended) Christmas. The blue one is Chanukah. The clear one is… uh… ice. Or something. See? Holidays. And their weapons being molded in vac-metallized silver or gold just adds to the spirit.
Note: The website states that your set will be randomly packed with gold or silver weapons – they aren’t separate SKUs. I don’t know if your whole set will always match or anything. I just know that I included a request with my order for silver and that’s what I got. I don’t know if it just worked out that way or what, but I figured it was worth a try. I’m not a big fan of gold.
Naturally, I couldn’t just order the Holiday Editions. If I was going to get those I might as well order the Infinity editions, as well. So I did.
Note: The website also states that they only ship once every two weeks, so your order may take up to five weeks (I think) to arrive. Mine came in just over a week. I don’t know if I got lucky, but don’t let the longer ship time put you off. Your aliens may arrive more quickly than what the site says. And they may not. I might have happened to get lucky with the weapon color and the ship time, which would make this one of the greatest Phantom Troublemaker toy purchasing experiences ever.
So the small box containing eight alien invaders finally arrived and they ended up being awesome. Here’s sort of a general review since the figures each hold the same high level of quality and the pictures will tell the rest of the story.
What we’re looking at are:
Inferno, the Flame Man of Mercury in Infinity and blue
Astro-Nautilus, the Man From Neptune in Infinity and red
Metamorpho, the Man From Alpha Centauri in Infinity and green
Xodiac, the Man From Saturn in Infinity and clear
First Glance: The Infinity versions just look amazing. The colors are solid and bright and make you want to play with these guys. The Holiday Editions are admittedly less exciting, but it is nice that they have painted eyes. The artwork on the packaging is wonderful. I want to buy a van just so I can have a guy airbrush the Outer Space Men on the side.
Sculpt: For the most part the figures all share the same design. Using a system of connection called “Glyos” (which is apparently shared by some other toy lines), the Outer Space Men can be disassembled and reassembled in a variety of ways. The figures come apart at the ankles, knees, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows and neck. 
Some have more parts, such as Astro-Nautilus’ tentacles or Inferno’s fiery back piece. Aside from being able to rotate at any of the connection points, the figures’ meaningful articulation is basically the same as old-school Star Wars figures – hip, shoulders, neck (well, and waist). The connection system is a simple peg-and-hole that works very well thanks to the sturdy but pliable plastic used to mold the toys. They are difficult to get apart the first time, but fairly easy after that; with no degradation that I can detect. Any part can be plugged into any hole, so you can make some really crazy and surreal combinations. 
If I didn’t work with such a bunch of stiffs I could definitely pass a couple hours a day just taking these guys apart and putting them back together.
The actual sculpt of the toys is simple but awesome. They all have the old-school accordion-style space suits that vary slightly from figure to figure. Each Outer Space Man has his own distinct chest piece and head. Some have helmets and some have different gloves and feet (Inferno has little flames on his). The heads all look very nice, with detail you have to see up close to truly appreciate (Metamorpho has three faces – a concept used years later for Man-E-Faces).
They can all hold their weapons exceptionally well and their helmets fit perfectly where they should. Metamorpho’s head-turning action works very well for such a small figure. I had expected it to be an issue, but it isn’t at all.
Design: Each Outer Space Man has his own simple color scheme. The paint apps are basic but well done, giving each character a distinct look and personality.
Accessories: The Infinity editions’ weapons are molded in a clear plastic and the Holiday Editions come with vac-metallized versions. I actually prefer the metallic ones, but they all look nice. Honestly, the most impressive thing is how well the figures can hold them. We all know Kenner couldn’t manage that back in the day (and Hasbro still can’t sometimes), so this impresses me. The Outer Space Men can hold their weapons and point them at you.
Packaging: While the Holiday Editions come in easily transported convention-centric baggie-with-card-stapled-on packages, the Infinity releases come in that wonderful and most-rare variety of toy packages: resealable. The plastic of the blister is designed to fold over the cardback and hold it and the figure in place. It is simple and ingenious, just like the toys themselves. Honestly, there’s no reason every internet-exclusive toy on the market shouldn’t come exactly like this. Matty. The graphics on the packaging are awesome. I can’t wait to see future waves’ artwork and would love to see an accompanying comic – or even a children’s book – done in this style. How awesome would it be if the Horsemen could produce some sort of Outer Space Men encyclopedia with a hard cover (holy crap – I just looked and THIS IS BASICALLY SORT OF HAPPENING)?
Overall: I really like these toys a lot and find them to be a good value. Once you factor in the play value and exclusivity of the figures, forty bucks for a set doesn’t seem too bad. If you need a gift for a toy nerd who has it all, the Outer Space Men would be ideal. Chances are your toy nerd doesn’t have them, and even if they do another set just means more parts to make crazy aliens. 

I’d love to have another Infinity Astro-Nautilus just so I could give him crazy, extra-long tentacles.
Each of the figures has its own merits, and while I love Astro-Nautilus I think my favorite is Xodiac, the Man From Saturn. 
His colors look so good together (and are Syracuse’s colors, which Mrs. Troublemaker approves of) and I am a huge sucker for big, translucent space helmets. I’ve bought many a figure from lines I don’t collect just because I couldn’t resist a guy (or girl) with a big fishbowl on their head.
So I managed to write a post about the Outer Space Men and do a full review without really doing a satisfactory job of either. Oh well, at least you got some nifty pictures and maybe even an urge to order some Outer Space Men of your own. I think the Four Horsemen are supposed to be officially announcing the second series any day now, so keep an eye out!

Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

2 comments:

  1. Four Horsemen are having a 50% everything in stock sale right now, making a set of 4 figures $25. In case you're interested.

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    1. I just saw this. I ordered several things last night. Thanks for the heads up, though!
      Also, this is a really good post. I'm pleased with myself.

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