Today's post is probably going to be one long self-indulgent string of childhood memories, but you're the kind of person who clicked on an article about toys, so there's at least some chance that's exactly the kind of thing you're looking for.
I reviewed my favorite Mini Ghosts a million years ago and the Haunted Humans earlier this season, but the next best thing about this line were its less categorizable monsters, built around gimmicky action features and sometimes large enough to swallow most of your other toys.
For years, I held off reviewing these because I simply didn't own them all, and I had something against using images that didn't elegantly match one another. This is far more care than probably anybody thinks I should be putting into internet articles, so... I'm just gonna scavenge photos off of old, ended ebay auctions for whatever I don't have and get this party started.
THE BOO-ZOOKA AND BOO-LETS
I feel like the single most appropriate one to start off with is the Boo-Zooka, functionally a ghost that is also a gun that shoots smaller ghosts. What you'll probably notice about these toys is that their action features were clearly conceived first, and the characters designed backwards from there. This results in some fantastically weird forms.
I love the tubular, maggotlike shape of the Boo-Zooka, the twisted chewing-gum texture of its tail and how all four of its limbs are connected to its head area, which is also some buggy-eyed, nubby-horned dweeb with a perfectly round, toothless mouth for regurgitating its "Boo-Lets."
These little guys are among those few ghosts in the toy line that look almost like "traditional" cartoon ghosts with their tattered, sheet-like lower bodies, one with a protruding tongue and one with pretty dangerous looking teeth.
What are Boo-Lets, though? What role do these three specters occupy in the supernatural realm? Does Boo-Zooka generate Boo-Lets like offspring? Are they symbiotic ectoplasmic species? Are they demons created as weapons against the human world?
Or, if we take "ghost" literally, were these critters actually human beings, once? Maybe they were a mobster and his two flunkies who died in a shoot-out, or something. Now they're a couple of phantom bullet goblins who live in the sweaty fleshlight mouth of their former boss. This writes itself.
There were three large "Gooper Ghosts" in this line that we'll get to soon enough, all designed to interact with slime in different ways. Then you had the "mini" Goopers, Brain Matter and Stomach Stuff, who were packaged together and basically function as fancy containers. I really wish they'd done more with that idea, given us more ghosts who just stored our slime instead of all those plastic cans.
I always really loved how complementary these guys were. Brain Matter is a menacing thing with six legs, like some sort of brainy beetle, and really looks like a conniving mastermind. Stomach Stuff, on the other hand, is an armless, cycloptic pig-goblin who looks like he's probably zoning out and thinking about hot dogs while Brain Matter describes his nefarious plans in intricate detail.
Of course, no matter how many times Stomach Stuff ruins the entire plan, Brain Matter would just be far too lonely without him.
Released alongside the mini-goopers, the "mini traps" would imply that there were any larger trapping-oriented poltergeists in the pipeline, but if there were, they may have never seen the light of day. Unlike our previous duo, these creepers didn't get names of their own, but I always thought of them as Claptrap and Snaptrap, respectively. Press down on their tongues, and they close with enough force to actually hurt quite a bit if they get your knuckles just right.
"Claptrap" was originally my hands-down favorite of the two. Child-me automatically preferred creatures as far as you could get from a human or even a mammal at all, so this one-eyed, crinkly crocodile-head appealed to me quite a bit. It's still my favorite, but I've definitely grown to appreciate the freakiness of "Snaptrap," whose pleading eyes and human nose on a hippo-horse head are remarkably disquieting.
My favorite thing about both of them, though, is just the whole aesthetic of something that's entirely a big-jawed head with little legs along its lower jaw, just enough anatomy for something that crawls into place and waits for prey.
This was another two-for-one deal, but this time, the two ghosts could combine together into one ghost, known as "H2GHOST" in a weird, awkward pun on "H2O." It's a fun feature in general that these guys stack together into one body, though I've always been a much bigger fan of them separate:
"Upper" H2 is nothing but a gross ogre head with a ring of fat fingers, like a big, stubby octopus made from human body parts, while the "lower" H2 is a wonderfully big-mouthed, warty cyclops. Their strikingly intense blue and high quality sculpting really stands out, and of course, both of them are also rubber water-squirting toys. One from its nostrils (ewww!) and one from the very middle of its pupil, which is less repulsive to me but perhaps more alarming from a medical standpoint.
As mostly just a head, the upper ghost was another one I thought fit a "mastermind" role as a kid. I recall that I actually didn't stick them back together all that often, and just sort of played with them as unrelated characters.
BUG EYE GHOST
I did own this one, but I'm not sure I brought it with us in our last move. Bug Eye's hollow, rubber body could be squeezed to launch his humongous eyeball like a pop-gun, which was very satisfying when it actually worked. Mine always leaked air before actually firing its eye.
I also recall wishing as a child that the launching eye was its only eye. As much as I appreciate the concept of it having a complete face underneath, I feel like this purple slug-demon would have been adorable as a true cyclops.
As more of a scowling jerk, though, I kept interpreting Bug-Eye as having a Jabba the Hutt kind of persona. I sure did take a lot of these ghosts to be "bosses."
Another fun thing about Bugeye: once the eyeball was out, you could actually stuff a ghostbuster headlong into his rubber socket.
This sideshow raises easily weirder questions than the Boo-Zooka. He's just one massive, furiously angry green head whose exposed brain is made out of smaller ghosts. That is bonkers. I'd assume each ghost represents a different facet of his personality, but their expressions only range from "smug jerk" to "screaming jerk."
When rolled along the floor, Brain Blaster's "Mini Lobe Ghosts" as they are called would bounce up and down for a while before finally erupting clear out of their cranium in all directions. I figure at that point, Brain Blaster itself actually becomes fairly friendly and harmless. It's only those screwball brain-gremlins that make him so hostile.
PULL SPEED AHEAD
Some of these are kind of oddly named, aren't they? I remember getting this ghost as a kid, but I have no idea what happened to him. His design is pretty fun, just a reddish-purple tadpole-lizard with a horrible man-face and sneakers. He's accompanied by a lovely little blue devil whose long tail also functions as a ripcord, which sends Pull-Speed racing forward as his mouth sparks, an action feature that's become quite in kid's toys since stricter safety concerns.
I mentioned not really liking human or mammalian features as a kid, and this was no exception. The toy was fun, but I didn't find his face all that appealing. Nowadays, the blend of reptilian and human details is exactly what I love most about this line, which really feels like it used Slimer as its aesthetic baseline.
I'm going to say Pull-Speed-Ahead was a track runner before he died, perhaps in a fiery explosion. Who would that make his little devil companion, though? His manager? His killer? Maybe it's his dog.
One of the best-remembered toys from this line, a toilet that turns into a monster was controversial enough in the 80's to earn a fair share of parental complaints, and I've known more than one person who remembers that they weren't allowed to have Fearsome Flush.
It is pretty alarming that this toilet's main feature is a giant tongue, and I can only imagine what unspeakable hijinks it gets up to by disguising itself as an ordinary commode.
I was always rather intrigued by the purple flesh pattern on the underside of the lid, which took me until very recently to realize is supposed to be a nose. Fearsome Flush is a toilet ghost with a huge nose on the inside of its lid. No wonder it's in a perpetually bad mood. Is this the ghost of another human being? What the hell did he do to earn this afterlife??
...Or, more disturbingly, is this the afterlife he chose?
THE FINGER POP FIENDS
What? Really? These are more interesting for how unbelievably cheap they are than anything else. These might be cool toys to get out of a vending machine or in a big bag of party favors, but Kenner really had the nerve to stick some plastic faces onto slices of pool noodle and put them in a blister package like an "action figure." Granted, those are fairly delightful faces they have, but still. More amusing is the artwork implying that these ghosts really, literally have big spongy cork-shaped bodies. What the hell ARE they.
Perhaps this should have been in the Haunted Humans review, since it sort of feels like it was marketed alongside them. This exceedingly cool toy went from a yellow Volkswagon Beetle - large enough for your Ghostbusters to ride in - to a mechanical demon with frog, gecko and preying mantis vibes. For good measure, you could pop open its trunk to reveal a little haunted engine ghost, or put whatever else you wanted in there.
I like how it also has the Ghostbusters logo on it, implying that this is a car owned and operated by the ghostbusters. What happened to the Ecto-1? Was this their crappy back-up vehicle before it was possessed by the ghost of a lizard?
Squisher here is one of the three giant-sized "Gooper Ghosts" I mentioned earlier, which have always stood out in my memory as the faces of this series. Each was designed to be filled with slime and unleash it upon the Ghostbusters in a different way, with Squisher being the most straightforward. Put a figure in his mouth, fill his spinal cord with ectoplasm, and press down on his head, causing the slime to dribble down from the roof of his mouth and his nostrils. Gross!
Actually, seriously gross to me as a kid. I was actually mortified by the sight and touch of real slime or anything slime-like at that age, but I wanted the Gooper Ghosts because they just looked so cool.
Then one morning, my mom had Squisher all set up with the slime and tried to get me to overcome my fear by playing with it. This did backfired terribly and I remember gagging. Thinking I wouldn't want Squisher at all anymore, she returned him to the store and had me pick out something else.
As a character design, Squisher captures that uncanny "human-lizard-troll" effect I was just talking about, and always looked a great deal to me like the gruesome, mutant bosses from darker and grittier NES games such as Contra and Abadox.
One of my favorite things about Squisher, though? His lower jaw was connected to his tail so you could operate it from behind, but it wasn't permanently attached anywhere. It just sort of rested in a slot and could be freely taken out, making it look like a separate ghost in itself. This wasn't the intent, but it sure was what I did with it.
This is the only one of the three Gooper Ghosts I don't own, and the most divergent of them, a tadpole-shaped "dragon" with beautiful scales straight out of a medieval bestiary, hairy pterosaur wings and an almost frog-like spherical head, the whole thing like some horrible mashup of bat, chicken and amphibian.
Naturally, BB's huge mouth could hold a whole canful of slime, and with the touch of a button, his jaw would spring open to dump the whole load on your victim of choice. So we've got a ghost that just "drops" slime and a ghost that lets slime squelch out of his face-holes...what else did they come up with?
For whatever reason, "Sludge Bucket" was the toy I wanted but could never seem to find as a child, and once again, it wasn't even for his slime-related action features. I just thought this was one of the coolest-looking monsters I'd ever seen. There was something I just adored, and still adore, about that warped little E.T. cranium above a comically gaping underbite and lolling tongue, not to mention the beautifully coiled tail, maniacal eyes and novel banana yellow color scheme. Even the name, "Sludge Bucket," immediately captured my imagination.
...But how about that action feature? Sludge bucket's ingenious gimmick was to blow your slime into giant bubbles, something I've seldom seen done in the world of slime toys since. Granted, the toy couldn't actually form a bubble completely around another toy like the artwork implied, but the idea was still there, and how creepy is it that this pelican-slamander-man just wants you in his mouth while he bubbles? I always wondered what any of this was supposed to accomplish. A feeding mechanism? A nasty kink? Both? It always seemed like a lot of these ghosts existed purely to unnerve, startle and disgust humans, perhaps outright sustained by negative emotions, or something.
A million years ago, I actually did a video review of this toy, but I eventually got tired of my dumb videos and dropped them.
Since this is a special occasion, however, I'll bring back a famous clip in which I use one of the only "human" action figures I had handy to demonstrate what actually happens to an action figure in Bucket's throat:
I've been sent fan-art of this clip multiple times, and I can't show you most of it.
What's also interesting about the Gooper Ghosts is that they were eventually joined by none other than Slimer, though for some reason, the toy line just kept calling him "Green Ghost" across multiple iterations. Was there some sort of weird copyright issue going on?
It was only the addition of slimer Green Ghost that it finally "clicked" in my head what the Goopers were supposed to be. Just looking at them, or at least Sludge Bucket and Squisher, you can see the taxonomic relation to whatever the hell sort of phantasm Slimer is actually supposed to be. They're his bigger, meaner, even gooier cousins, and when you line them all up, you even get a gradient from green to red. Neat-o!
This was not, however, the only instance of Slimer in the toy line, nor even the first.
Two other "green ghosts" were made, one simply a soft, rubber figure with food to munch on, and the other a hard plastic motion-action figure on wheels.
In all three cases, the "Green Ghost" was as large or larger than any of the Ghostbusters themselves, so if you ever actually wanted to play with Slimer in the context of the official Kenner action figure line, you had to either ignore or embrace the fact that he was now inexplicably gigantic.
We now come to the very last wave of ghosts ever released for this line, which is sad, but it was a pretty decent last hurrah. The "GOBBLIN' GOBLINS" were a trio that, now I think about it, pretty much feel like those larger counterparts the mini-traps seemed to be missing, albeit under a more interesting name. The idea behind the GOBBLIN' GOBLINS was that they start out "cute" or "harmless looking," only to reveal some secret horror when approached by an unsuspecting victim.
It was an interesting idea, but it didn't totally work in practice. I don't think anybody is going to look at Terrible Teeth with its mouth just mostly closed and think "that's definitely something friendly, and harmless, and I'd be very surprised if I'm wrong."
It didn't matter, though. This was still a great looking monster, clearly related to old Claptrap in some way, and a heck of a lot of fun to play with. For once, the design of the toy itself is also a whole lot more fun than the artwork on the box. Teeth seems like an almost generic big-mouthed demon in the illustration, but the toy itself has a wonderful pac-man-gargoyle feel to it and lovably goofy, expressionless little eyeballs.
Our second Gobblin' Goblin was the weirdest of the three, perhaps even boasting the weirdest physiology of any Kenner ghost, and that's really saying something. On the front of the box, we just assume a sort of bruteish, red and purple ghoul with a big, giant tongue, but there's a lot more to it than that:
Terror Tongue almost does succeed at looking relatively sweet and gentle at rest, though it's still a fanged saurian the size of a cow. "Oh, don't worry, this big hellspawn here has pretty eyes and only SOME giant teeth. It's probably cool."
So then this ting's entire head peels like a banana into the huge tongue of a scowling, hungry humanoid face nestled in its chest cavity. Yeesh!
Our last Goblin is also the only one I own, and while the other two have a flashier sort of menace to them, Nasty Neck is definitely my favorite. It's just so uniquely strange, slightly horse-like, slightly dinosaur-like, peeking out from behind a sort of oozing stomach-pouch or fleshy, turtley carapace. I guess you're supposed to mistake its nose for a toothless, beaky little mouth while it pretends to be more afraid of you than you are of it, UNTIL...
I've always loved monsters with extending necks, and it was fun to have one to play with before his neck finally broke in half. I actually finally glued him back together just for this photograph, and he probably waited almost twenty years for that...though he wound up breaking again almost immediately.
This sort of slimy, hairless, garishly colored mutant donkey-thing is also pretty much how I always pictured the Jersey Devil through a Ghostbusters lens, and certainly closer to it in spirit than the more stereotypical Satan-looking interpretations I see everywhere.
I also really appreciate that Nasty Neck, while being a bite-oriented monster, has the horrible flat teeth of an equine. I feel like Nasty Neck could mess you up far worse than most of the other monsters we've seen here.
BAD TO THE BONE GHOST
So, this was actually one of the first toys released chronologically, but we're ending on it for two reasons: one, I just reacquired it this week after losing mine in the 90's, and two, it's a spookular skellington. Not just any mundane skeleton, either, but an abnormally large skeletal monster with weird, tapering phalanges instead of legs. I love those. This is just the sort of weirdness I expect from the words "bone ghost."
Bony even has an eerily large, elongated head adapted to fit over the head of whatever poor fool gets trapped in his snapping rib cage, like Weed Killer here from the Swamp Thing toy line. This in turn causes Bony's jaw to open and his wildly bloodshot eyeballs to go full Rat-Fink, all nicely demonstrated by another wonderful box illustration:
They may not look it, but we can be sure everybody in this scene is having a good time.