Written by Jonathan Wojcik

The Lost GERMS!

   We've looked at a number of pathogen-based creatures this season, as well as a number of vintage toy lines, and today, the two cross over. Produced by Worlds of Wonder back in the eighties, the GERMS remain not only one of my favorite toy lines, but generally some of my favorite character designs, which I've reviewed before HERE.

There were twelve different germs in the original line, with names like "Yoggayoggyitus" and "Hackahackasilliae," not representing any actual diseases or parasites, mind you, but more general bodily functions like "a yawn" or a "a burp." Thanks to our friend Astronit, I was even able to include a couple of completely unproduced designs in my original article, but they weren't the only two in his vast, incredible collection of pop culture paraphernelia. Opening up his Scrooge-McDuck-Sized vaults of forgotten toys and cartoon characters, he's allowed me to share with you guys another fifteen Germs who never saw the light of day, and we're going to assign every single one of them a theme fitting the original line.

Let's start off by dubbing this thingamabob a toothache. "Bellyache" was the only pain-inducing germ in the original line, so we're already getting a little more malevolent here, but I feel like this fanged creature with a hole through its body really looks like it gnaws cavities in teeth. There were several such ring-shaped designs, and it's a shame none of them made it into the final line; they would have been mighty fun figures to chomp down on your other toys.
This germ looks like an early design for the finalized "yawn," but a little sleeker and more aggressive looking. What's a sleeker, more aggressive yawn? I'm going to go with a gasp. The kind of gasp you emit when you're just shocked and appalled by someone's socially unacceptable behavior, hence the germ's angry eyes. You can probably come up with something that makes a little more sense than that, probably, but you're too late!
Obvious, right? I'd wager halitosis was exactly what the artist had in mind, between the "rotten egg" and "dragon breath" references you can glean from this. It's also the only germ I've seen, produced or otherwise, with a seemingly vertebrate-like body plan, though only from what little we can see. Who knows what sorts of suckers and tentacles are in that egg.
A direct fart reference wouldn't have flown in the eighties, but now we have an actual "Diarrhea" character in The Trash Pack, so I think I'm in the clear, and what else do you call a googly-eyed worm with a sphincter for a face? I adore just how parasitic this one looks, even among the other germs. It totally uses that pincer-tail to grip the inside of your colon and ingest nutritious intestinal gases through its puckered face, right?

This is one of the most menacing and violent looking of the germs, with its massive fangs, pharyngeal teeth and fanged, Opabinia-like trunk. I don't think any of the germs would have represented "bloodlust" or "cannibalism" but we'll go with just a plain old nasty mood.
Oh man, really eerie for this line. What incredibly unsettling eyes and teeth, really reminding me of the game Abadox. I like how this design works either horizontally or vertically, and how much it also kind of looks like a pool of colorful barf. Seems like a good candidate for the creature that causes nausea and queasiness, right?
This one's creeping, six-limbed design doesn't really communicate anything too specific to me, but it looks like the kind of mean, sticky thing that might personify a flu, so let's go with a fever for this one. I guess it's high time I mention that the original germs all had absurd, cartoonish pretend-latin names, like Sweatystinkyosis and Muggywumpyitis. I don't really have the energy to make up more of those myself, but you're welcome to take a shot at it all the same.
This germ is one of the simplest, just a puffy sphere with a monster face, but it's another one that would have been fun; kind of Madball-like. They might just need to put a few more features on it to match the quality of the other germs, like maybe even additional faces scattered around. We're gonna pretend it represents hunger because it is fat. I'm sorry I'm not always a creative mastermind.
I love this one. It looks like an anemone or fungus sprouting from a wad of slime, it has that sphincter mouth that makes a lot of other germs so hilariously weird, and I love how the tentacles can be either eye-stalks or just hollow tubes, extruding what are either puffs of vapor or translucent, greenish tongues. Its oily, slimy pinkness makes me think some sort of blemish or skin condition, so maybe these are the microbes that clog your pores and give you zits.

Another ring-shaped germ, and an especially mean looking little thing, with almost insect-like jaws. I don't know why I felt like this germ would cause blisters, but in my head, it just works. I like how the "jaws" don't appear to be fused together at any point, however, like it can actually straighten out into a sort of prickly "worm" with a single, stalked eye at each end!
Man, it's getting hard to come up with themes for these. The produced figures didn't always fit their titles all that closely, though; it was a fairly subtle connection for most of them, really. With eyes looking in so many different directions, we'll call this "dizziness." I really enjoy how much these designs look like they were probably just scribbled out as random, thoughtless shapes and field in with facial features and appendages in oddball places, a design strategy I really need to try more myself.
Finally, an easy one. What else would this thing do with all those pink, poofy polyps? It totally has the skeevy face of something that would tickly you from inside your own body, too. That's probably the most frightening notion out of all of these.
Another easy one, and even something we can directly associate with disease, for once. A simple, flat puddle of ooze with a couple of protruding eyes isn't as daring as the other germs, but it's a lot of fun in any case. Many of these drawings probably came before they decided the figures would be packaged in test tubes, since a lot of them just wouldn't have easily fit in a tubular space.
I dare you to come up with something better than "snoring" for this grumpy collection of fat, green tubes. This absolutely looks like the physical embodiment of the sound of snoring to me, and even has a look of agitated restlessness in its eyeballs. This design probably evolved into the "burp" figure, but I think I actually like it a little bit more, for whatever reason.
I think this is actually my very favorite design of the entire series. I automatically love any monster with eyes peering out of some sort of hole, but I've never seen one where the hole was just sort of a "missing chunk" out of its flesh. That just looks so incredibly appealing to me, you can probably brace yourself for a similar feature to show up in one of my own monsters some day. This thing's sucker-tubes are almost as cool as its bitten-apple face, with the menacing little needle at the center of each one. I can think of nothing more fitting, by "Germs" toy line standards anyway, than the sensation of pins and needles for this prickly, bagworm-like cutie.

We now have just one more germ to review, but it's by far the spookiest of the bunch....

   Yikes. This thing is awesomely creepy. It's like a cross between a crinoid and a taloned, alien hand, with multiple layers of toothy, ring-shaped mouths and eyeballs unwholesomely rolling back in a way that, for me, implies it's in the middle of some ghoulish moan. I feel like I just have to tie this one in to fear somehow, but it still needs to fall within the line's established level of cutesy, so maybe this is the "bad dream" germ, or the "heebie jeebies" germ, or maybe just THE CREEPS. I think I like that the most. This is the thing that tickles your spinal column when you're all alone and just start imagining how you might feel if a bone-white, bug-eyed face peered just inches over the edge of your bed to silently watch you reading this, returning to wherever it came from by the time you've turned around.

I would give just about anything to see a Germs revival, but it never seemed to be quite popular enough. It's a line beloved by those who do remember it, but it didn't exactly take the toy world by storm. Maybe it was just too ahead of its time? The Trash Pack is now selling like hotcakes, and we've got things like Kickstarter around for smaller, independent projects...maybe some day, somehow, more of the Germs will see the light of day.

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