Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Somewhere around 2005, a routine google search for "brain monster" (the sort of thing I routinely search google for) brought me to an online store called "Buck Bean Novelties," whose vast array of toys, gags and knick-knacks included a STUNNING set of plastic body-part monsters sold as key chains.
Words fail to capture just how much I adore these bizarre little figures, who so perfectly encompass everything I love about creeping, crawling, bug-eyed mutant beasties. Sadly, while nine varieties were offered through Buckbean, I only purchased five before store closed its e-doors, and nobody could tell me where their supply of spider-legged entrails originally came from.
Let's start off our review of the line with good old Brainy, the one who started it all. I actually purchased my first Brain Monster to use as an actual keychain,
but it got so worn and torn in the line of duty that I still regret the decision. I purchased this pristine
back-up just in the nick of time, and promptly removed the metal keychain part. As you can see, it's
a pretty straightforward monster creature, brain on top, bug on
the bottom, but anything more would just be too many bells and whistles anyhow. I appreciate the fact that the
optic nerves cross one another, which is exactly how our own eyes are placed in our craniums, and that crustacean mouth is too cool!
The lung monster was initially my second favorite, but I honestly can't rank these guys anymore.
Every one of them is a precious snowflake. This monster combines several of my favorite creature
features, including tentacles, scattered eyes and a vertically-aligned mouth. The silvery tentacles
encircling the windpipe are an interesting feature as well. Is that another mouth in the center? I also
really love the color schemes here. Orange and purple are a nice, gross combo, and go well with the vivid green and yellow eyes all these monsters were given.
Buckbean's original photograph of the Mouth Monster didn't look that great, but I bought it on a whim and definitely wasn't expecting it to be this cool. Once I saw it in the flesh, I instantly fell in love with its
perfectly round, warty body and stumpy feet. It's like a more disturbing Pac-man, and you can
easily picture it closing up like a perfect fat little bumpy clam. I find those little pink tubes fascinating, I
guess they're probably breathing appendages. I am speculating on the biology of toys.
Finally, we come to the last one I managed to bring home, the eyeball monster, an even simpler design than the brain. He's basically just a
very accurate severed eyeball - complete with stumpy optic nerve - but a wicked little sculpted
mouth and a few metallic tentacles remind us that this is indeed a monster. One thing I immediately
noticed about these guys are the repetitive tentacle arrangements. The triad tentacles on these guys sort of allow them to stand reasonably well on 5-6 different sides. You could practically use these little bastards as dice.
THE "LOST" BODY MONSTERS
Like I said, I didn't get my hands on any more of these figures, but I did keep the images off
Buckbean's website. You can see what poor quality they were, and you can tell that they hide a lot
of details. What could be lurking on the other side of this crazy foot-creature? What's coming out of
the top? They could be anemone-like tentacles, bright green claws or even slime. Maybe there's
another mouth up there, I wouldn't put it past these guys. I love the whole cartoony boot-shape of
this thing, its veiny pink skin and its little wiggly caterpillar feet!
The ear monster was another one I thought was sort of boring from the photo, but now that I can never have one, I wish I had ten of them. That's always how it goes. The red, almost bloody looking mouth looks so disgusting at the center of this veiny ear, which appears to be
lined with a second set of blunt teeth.
Eye-stalks are always a plus, and the arms are rather interesting. I wonder if they're just smooth,
green rods or have claws on the other side?
I'm not really sure how I feel about the "hand" monster. It has personality, sure, but the way it just cuts off at the bottom seems a little cheap. What happened to spider legs, tentacles and suckers? This guy just doesn't live up the standard we've established here, though I do love that weird, asymmetrical face.
Last but certainly not least, we come to this unfortunate freak. It's probably intended as an upside-down nose creature (with reptilian booger eyes!) but due to the mouth, Buckbean sold it under "vagina monster - not for the kiddies!" It was already one of my favorites at first site, but by the time I discovered these things, every last one of these were sold out. Forever. Snapped up by people who likely only cared about the "hilarity" of an alleged vagina monster. Hurr durr. Gettin this fer muh brah. You would think people never saw a vertical mouth before.
Luckily, this wasn't the last I would hear of these magnificent fiends...
THE WIND-UP ORGANS
These glow-in-the-dark, vinyl wind-up toys were available for years at , but for a price that kept putting me off at the last minute. I'd almost place the order, only to decide that I didn't really need three of the same exact monsters with wind-up feet more than I needed to eat for a few more days. I was intrigued by their slightly different looking sculpts, but I chalked it up different materials and possibly a secondary molding process...until, near Halloween of 2012, Agin put a few sets up on ebay and I finally broke down. It's a good thing I did, because once they arrived, I discovered why they were once so pricey...
These weren't just different molds...they were giants. Glow-in-the-dark albino titans on mechanical legs. Had I realized they were this big, I'd have never risked skipping them over for so long.
The sculpt differences are especially apparent when we compare the finer details of the heart creatures, evidence that the small figures and larger wind-ups must have been produced independently of one another, but following the same design notes. "Off-brand" toys like these are often modeled after stock art stored in vast libraries by overseas manufacturers, and whoever truly devised these gorgeous beings will, unfortunately, more than likely remain unknown and uncredited.
Steve Agin was even nice enough to make the box available, and I'm sure this gorgeous artwork likely accompanied the original character designs - especially since we can see some crab-like limbs, even though "Fun Base" left those off the wind-ups. The worms are a nice touch...could it be that some of the "tentacles" we've seen are just erupting parasites? The mysterious of the body beasts multiply by the minute...and we're still not done with them!
My nice internet friend Emily B (because anyone who bothers to e-mail me with awesome things like this is a friend) brought to my attention that, at some point in the distant past, the organ creature keychains were available at Claire's, of all places, in gaudier, totally unnatural color schemes! If you're not familiar with Claire's, it's a constant of shopping malls that caters primarily to little girls. It sells stuffed animals, lip gloss, make-up and pink things. Lots and lots of pink things. To learn the same store ever stocked bug-eyed, tentacled guts really brightened my day, proving that sometimes, yes, marketing execs really do know what little girls like the most.
Emily's mouth monster was one of her favorite childhood toys, and she named it Ippy, because what else would you call a walking disembodied head with giant orange lips and gold teeth?
Wherever they've reared their membranous heads, these little weirdos are some of the coolest, most unique toys I've ever had the good fortune to encounter, and I don't doubt that there may still be more to uncover. If you own or have seen any of these guys lurking about, have any trivia to share or can even get me more, you are a total jerkface for not e-mailing me yet. What are you waiting for?!
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