No, not those pocket monsters...these pocket monsters are set of twelve rubber toys that have been
distributed as party favors, arcade prizes and vending machine trinkets for decades without any official name
or copyright information. I first encountered them - with a disproportionate level of excitement - at a very early
age in a grocery store vending machine, and must have convinced my family to pour $20 into the stupid
contraption until I had what I believed to be the full set. They are currently available at ustoy (just put
"monsters" in their search engine) but who knows for how long. The pocket monsters come and go like the
wind; one day you might see them as Halloween cupcake toppers. Years later, you may find them as cereal
box prizes. They are usually sold with the same set of vibrant color schemes, though they've also circulated in
more minimalist versions with paint on the eyes and claws alone. At some point in the 90's, they were even
offered as "official" Goosebumps merchandise.
While probably only interesting to a handful of people, I feel it's high time that somebody talk about these
creatures in excruciating detail on the internet, and it looks like that somebody is going to be me.
I probably had between 30 and 40 pocket monsters from that aforementioned
vending machine, and this was the one I had the most duplicates of. I'm not
complaining, since it's definitely one of the cooler designs. With its weevilish nose,
penetrating stare and spidery fingers, it's one part both creepy and one part comical,
my favorite combination!
Now, this little guy is a lot like the first monster if you cut off his ears and made him
sad. I can't fault him for being less elaborate, as I find his pose and expression quite
endearing and I even love that his nose is more segmented than the other guy. He's
also directly reminiscent of Kilroy, who was still a fairly common icon when I was a
child, at least with my older family members who had him on all sorts of fridge
magnets, bumper stickers and baseball caps.
We're going to get this guy out of the way early, because I have virtually nothing to
say about him. He's the most unremarkable of the set, though I'd rather call him the
"default" than the "plainest," since it's impossible to outright dislike any of these guys.
Possibly the deadliest looking of the pocket monsters and definitely one of the most
striking, this guy appears to be some sort of clawed arthropod with a wicked pink/red
motif and cold, alien eyes. It calls to mind a martian invader, mutant parasite or even
some deep-sea crustacean and would be right at home in one of the Metroid video
The "largest" by token of covering the most area with his dangly appendages, this is
the sort of monster that the very word "monster" immediately conjures in the average
subconscious. Triple eye-stalks, jagged fangs and a snakelike tongue all contribute
to a maniacal, ravenous expression perfectly suited to some closet-dwelling
This is another "generic" one, but generic in a good way. Sometimes you need a
recognizable monster archetype to round out a band of total freaks, and this angry
green skeleton does the job well. His left hand is sculpted too high to actually hook
onto your pocket, but that's just how he rolls.
The widest and skinniest pocket-monster appears to be hiding most of its face, but
what we can see of this wrinkly tentacle-beast is pretty slick. The tentacles are nicely
detailed and always painted red in the standard color set. I also dig his raised
eyebrow. He doesn't usually care about the world outside his pocket, but it looks like
you've aroused his curiosity. Always remember to exercise caution when arousing
any aspect of a tentacle monster.
When I first encountered these guys, this was the one I wanted from the vending
display card, but wound up with only one of him. Certainly a contender for the
weirdest member of my mummy collection, you gotta love the single, staring eyeball
and curious asymmetry. His pose doesn't even make sense to be climbing out of a
pocket, and I can't help but see this as his entire body. Many of the other monsters
are obviously only showing us their faces and arms, but I like to think that this guy is
just a one-armed, one-legged, peanut-shaped cyclops.
This is both the smallest and cutest of the pocket monsters, resembling some sort of
baby alien Jabberwocky. I really like its wormy little fingers and cheesy smile, actually
the only happy expression in the entire set. I think it's safe to assume this little guy is
the deadliest, most fearsome of them all. Also that he likes to eat cheese and talks
about it in depth.
Like the skeleton, this straight-up spider monster is just sort of obligatory, and still
does justice to the concept with its spooky owl-eyes and pleasing coloration.
As JUST a head and arms with no proboscis, tongue or even antennae, this guy is
probably the most minimal of the bunch, but the simple face that his arms are
dripping red goop is enough to make him one of my favorites. It looks like his mouth
is just a flap of goo as well, or maybe he has tiny buck teeth. His expression is even
more pathetic than Kilroy up here, and I can't help hearing the voice of Droopy dog
when I look at him.
Here we have the very last pocket monster left to review, and the very last to ever
enter my possession. I did not get this one out of the vending machine in my youth,
and had no idea he even existed until many years later. Do I even need to tell you
that he was my instant favorite? He's nothing but a pair of bulging eyeballs with
hands, but one of those hands is emerging from his head and holding his left eye. It's
as if Mantenna had a baby with Deathface after too many hard drugs.
|- The Other Pocket Monsters -
Interestingly, an entirely different set of pocket monsters enjoy the same diverse circulation, appearing
similarly in vending machines and party stores. I most recently found these at K-mart, but they also turn
up once in a while at Toys R' Us. As a matter of fact, I've encountered this set a lot more frequently in
retail stores, but your mileage may vary.
Here's the most basic example of the set, a razzing, long-limbed Martian looking
creature. These pocket monsters come in a wide variety of colors but only their eyes
ever seem to be painted. I also seem to recall seeing them with glued-on plastic
googly eyes, but maybe I imagined it. They are also made of a denser rubber than
the set we just reviewed, and the part that hooks into your pocket is flat, rock-hard
plastic glued to the monster's back.
This guy is one of the coolest, with armor-plated tentacles and an abstract face with
at least five different orifices that might be its mouth. If these guys came fully painted
in nicer rubber, they'd be easily tied with the other set for overall coolness.
Not much to say about this guy. His sculpt gives him a hairy texture, he has a spooky
round mouth and his tendrily fingers are kinda neat, I guess. Why do I call all these
things "he?" I do that a lot, don't I? I think everybody tends to.
This fanged, crazed-looking monster always gave me a tiki-like impression, despite
having no explicitly tiki-like characteristics. Actually, the elaborate and wrinkly faces of
this whole set make me think of "tribal" designs, though they're clearly more in
science-fiction territory when you get up close. Check out the claws on this guy,
which appear to branch off from the tentacles at will!
The simplest member of this group is once again a sort of human-like ghoul, though
only his arms are bare bone. He almost doesn't look like he belongs with the rest of
this set. I kinda like his sickened expression.
This long-tongued monster appears somewhat generic at first glance, but on closer
inspection appears to have been patterned directly on the face of a cicada. Quite
unexpected and specific for these generic little toys. If you squint, you can see that
his eyes are supposed to be shut, as indicated by their horizontal creases, but I've
always seen them painted over anyway.
Once again, I save my favorite for last. I'm always fond of grossly asymmetrical
monsters, and this thing is even harder to describe than the tentacle guy. The mouth
is obviously where the tongue is snaking out, but what's that coiled trunk on top? And
is that a second mouth underneath it? Flip him over and you get a completely
different face! If anything ever crawled out of Salvador Dali's rotting corpse, it was
probably something like this.