|Kenner's Wacky Aliens Toys
Some of you may find this a bit hard to swallow, but as an unbelievably squeamish child, I was
never really exposed to horror films until nearly my teens. I would learn about them in books and
the occasional odd bit of merchandise, but I generally knew nothing about the movies
themselves other than that they were "R" movies, and "R", as far as I was concerned, stood for
Rampant graphic horror beyond anything I was capable of imagining. Even my own parents
would try to desensitize me from time to time, but for the first six or seven years of my life, I
KNEW that one glance of an R-rated monster movie would be a ghastlier fate than death itself,
and even the cases at the video store demanded a sort of profound respect, as though they
might leap from the shelves and gnaw my face off at too close an inspection.
...But of all the morbid, maniacal characters snarling down at me from TV ads and theatrical
posters, none filled me with more curiosity and intrigue than H.R. Giger's world-famous
masterpiece, THE ALIEN, which I had personally named "The Banana Head". Too wicked for a
real name, my first encounter with THE ALIEN was actually in the form of an arcade game, in
which I recall blasting my way through hordes of green facehuggers before having my ass handed
to me by a blue, crablike boss. Later, I would get ahold of a rather crappy board game based on
the first film, but it still did nothing to explain what the big deal was with these baffling,
funky-headed bug men. It wasn't until I read a "younger reader's" paperback entitled "Movie
Monsters and Creature Features" that I would finally learn, amidst a wealth of other cinematic
horror trivia, that my mysterious friend the Banana Head spent its early years exploding out of
As a kid who would run screaming from the sight of a papercut, the notion of a gigantic parasite
tearing its way out of your innards was more mind-boggling than anything I could have expected,
and not only cemented my phobia of the dreaded "R" film for two more years, but damn near
tripled my morbid fascination with horror. In no time flat, I was drawing cute, magic-marker pictures
of aliens bursting forth from frowny-faced hosts, and even coming up with my own weird variations
of Giger's classic design.
And then, in 1992, something BIG happened.
No, not Alien 3. Alien 3 was such a half-assed film that I didn't even notice a single advertisement
for it and didn't even know it was released that year until I looked it up five minutes ago. No, what
happened in 1992 was the airing of a toy commercial - the creepiest, foggiest, most INTENSE toy
commercial I had ever seen. One that would have me bouncing off the walls all the way to Kiddie
City (now a Goodwill)...
Now, in the aforementioned pile of mediocrity they called "Alien 3," the titular creature
wound up hatching not from the rib cage of a hominid, but from a canine, and thus
developed into a much smaller, thinner, quadrupedal variant of the alien in the first film.
Possibly 3's one and only saving grace, this new take on alien biology was, I must admit,
pretty damn original. And to toy makers, it was the franchise's most exploitable marketing
Each of the original basic aliens included a differently colored face-hugger, sized just
right for most standard action figures (yeah, take that April O'Neil! That'll learn you a
thing or two!) but only the "deluxe Queen" came packed with a rib-cracking alien larva:
Many figures also came with a Dark Horse "mini comic," encouraging kids to
complete their collection and piece together the ongoing, poorly written story of
Ripley and her friends who should really all be long dead:
...Uh, yeah, remember what I said about marketing and creative liberties? By the second
wave of figures, Kenner had already taken the "animal mimicry" premise to crazy and colorful
new heights, churning out zoological xenomorphs of every shape and size...
Recycling the torso and "gripping" action of the Gorilla Alien (see package back, above), Mantis was
a monumentally cool-looking toy to my young mind, and for the longest time was one of my favorites.
Now, as a more mature toy-collecting nerd, I can only wonder how in hell a chestburster ever fit down
the throat of a four-inch predatory insect. Were they spawned on a planet where the insects grow six
feet tall? Were there special, tiny face-huggers just for invertebrates? I suppose the latter is the most
likely scenario, since Mantis here shared its set with a hugger that could take on a hippo...
Having never been anywhere near the movies themselves, I actually had no idea that
creatures like the "Bull Alien" were the product of some serious creative liberties, but I
wouldn't have cared either way. This, at the time, was the darkest and sleekest set of figures
EVER to hit the aisles of a toy store, from their gruesome package art to their sharp, metallic
paint jobs. And as innovative as the figures were, their accessories were truly the icing on the
|The Giant Face-Hugger Alien:
How this actually fits into the alien life-cycle is anyone's guess. The comic features an entire hive of
these things instead of the "normal" bugs, and the name specifically calls it a giant face-hugger Alien,
not just a giant face-hugger. Whatever the case, it was a figure as cool-looking as it was breakable, as
you can see from my own specimen. The frailty of this toy was probably due in part to being stuffed
with not one, but THREE action-features; a pull-out/reel-in tail, spring-loaded "capturing" legs, and a
tiny mouth that could open and close with the pull of a trigger.
I seem to recall giving one of these to another child as a birthday gift, only to hear that it was thrown
away when its features stopped working. I think it's more likely that his mother disapproved of it, since
every single toy I ever saw at his house was either Star Trek or Captain Planet.
Actually one of the last new aliens before the line finally fizzled out, but I'm not really doing these in
chronological order. I was strangely indifferent to the Wild Boar when it arrived in stores, perhaps still
too enamored with the Flying Attack Parasite to be impressed with this prickly porcine parasite, but it
definitely has a nice color scheme and some interesting proportions going on. I also appreciate the
lack of overly obvious wild-boar traits. It would have been easy to just slap some tusks on the thing,
but the designers at Kenner instead produced something that, while having little in common with an
actual wild boar, truly looks like something that chewed its way into the world through a wild boar's
sternum. As you can see, it actually uses the same mechanism as the Panther alien to pull off its
super-fun head spike attack.
There's something about the shape and color of this figure that I found extremely pleasant as a child,
though what made it an instant favorite of mine was its special little friend...
This wasn't just a "projectile" to me...this was an entire,
second figure. A sentient symbiote with a mind of its own
that would even wind up on a few solo-adventures
completely unrelated to my Aliens themed playtime. What
stories I came up with for a small flying fish-monster, I
cannot recall, but I know I played with the "parasite" on
multiple occasions without even involving the panther alien
The figure would later be re-painted and released under the
name "Night Cougar Alien", but its all-black body and
sparkly, metallic head were nowhere near as tasteful.
By pushing the panther down on its front legs, a hidden mechanism would simultaneously lower its
head and fire THE FLYING ATTACK PARASITE, a concept I immediately considered the very epitome
Having wasted the name "scorpion alien" on a perfectly normal alien drone in the first wave, Kenner
whipped up this distinctly scorpion-shaped beastie and labelled it a "killer crab." By then, the toys had
stopped coming out with little comic-books to explain their characteristics, which is a real shame
because if any "Aliens" action features demand an explanation, it's the Killer Crab's "dual launching
Chest-bursters"...do the aliens infest themselves now? Or are we supposed to believe that the Killer
Crab produces unviable offspring for the sole purpose of self-defense? You probably think I should
have better things in life to question, but look at how far YOU just read in an article on Aliens toys.
Now this, without a doubt, is one of the coolest-looking figures in the series, with its wicked-looking
fangs, spiny rib-cage and long, bendable tail. It's also the longest figure in the series, and came
awkwardly bent into the standard-size blister package. Unfortunately, the bendy feature is so stiff that
the above photo captures its full range of flexibility, and good luck making the damn thing stand up.
This sad, unloved little mutant came out on the tail-end of the line's last legs, completely failing to
impress children who already had enough giant, mutant bugs to choke a giant, mutant horse. It's also
the only figure to have "Alien" for a first name, and I'm inclined to question the whole "arachnid"
aspect. Is it a vinegarone? An amblypigid? If they were trying for a spider, why couldn't they just say
It was also another figure boasting three "action features", and two of them could have been planned
a whole lot better. The head was a water-squirter, but kids were advised not to get the body wet due to
the metal components of its other features. This problem was solved by making the head removable,
but it's so "removable" that it immediately falls off when the figure is tipped over or shaken vigorously.
The other major feature was supposed to be a "jumping" action, with legs that could click into an open
position and snap shut at the touch of a trigger. In theory, this would make the figure "jump" if you
didn't have to hold onto it in order to press the button. Luckily, the jump trigger made itself useful in
the end by simultaneously operating its cool, spiny pincers. As professional turtle stalker O'Neil once
again demonstrates, you definitely do not want to tangle with banana-heads; even those who fail at
Kenner produced many more aliens than the loveable freakshow I've prattled on about here, and they
were even joined at one point by a bunch of crazy Predator subspecies, but I feel I've covered the
line's most interesting extremes for the time being.
I've shown you the "Bull" alien from wave one, but didn't really go into specifics. This is because the
rhinoceros here is a rehash of the same exact action features, and nobody should have to write two
identical paragraphs about plastic aliens shaped like barnyard animals. Both figures sport a pair of
switches on the back; one to shoot the head out on an elongated "neck", and the other to jerk the
head up and down in a "gouging" motion. The latter is a little more effective with the rhino, but as nice
looking as the figure is, it's easily overshadowed by its devilish-looking bovine counterpart.
In fact, the rhinoceros here is the one and only Alien I do not currently own, having traded it for some
other toy I can no longer remember. Previously, it was one of two creatures missing from my old
collection, but the other has at long last fallen into my clutches...
|The Electronic "Swarm" Alien (click artwork to enlarge):
This is the only alien I never even saw in stores way back when, but for the sake of
this very article, I've tracked one down off ebay...a victory nearly ten years in the
making! Yeah, that's right, Swarm Alien; I WIN.
As you can see, the Swarm Alien consists of two figures in one. The lower half is easily the
coolest-looking, but doesn't actually do anything. The wasplike flying portion, on the other hand,
houses the only electronic feature in the toy line. When its wings are flapped with the button on its
back, it emits a screeching sound and a pair of tiny, red lights blink in the back of its transparent
head. We all know that giving eyes to an alien is an abomination unto the natural order, but I think we
can forgive something with "Swarm" in its name.