Written/Created by: Matt
Originally posted on 1/23/03.

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Everyone always speaks with a hint of jealous when talking about the youth of the 60s. All this carefree, promiscuous sex. All those carefree, who-cares-if-they-kill-me drugs. For a dramatic twist, all the riots, dangerous protests and war woes are romanticized, but rest assured, there's been no teen generation since who didn't wish they could grow up in that decade. Still, it wasn't just the teens and twenty-something who got to enjoy such beautiful and bohemian experiences back then. Even the kids were having fun. They weren't taking drugs or fucking each other, but they had some of the coolest toys of the whole damn century.

Colorforms, the company best known today for their colossal army of scenic cardboard backdrops and paper-thin plastic cartoon character dolls, tried to stake a claim in the era's action figure boom. Toy lines like G.I. Joe spawned a seemingly endless spinoff string of boy-version Barbie dolls, all of which needed to come equipped either with a rifle, a bayonet, or one of those extra-cool man-killing weapons that combined a rifle and a bayonet together. There were few 'pansy' boy toys back then. The only way a male child was gonna own any pink action figures is if the toys' painted-on blood lightened in the sunlight. All the toys seemed almost 'macho.' I guess it took a few decades for the men in the world to become in touch with their feminine side just enough to allow their sons to play with action figures that didn't have any connotations to murder, boxing, or the armed forces. Though Colorforms' figures fit the stereotype, I have to admit that they're way more fun than Sweet Secrets dolls.

They were called The Outer Space Men, a line of truly inspired and very unique alien characters each representing a different planet in our solar system. We're not talking about you're typical little green men with bulging black eyes. The Outer Space Men featured characters that were half-octopus, characters with two heads, characters with ape faces, and even characters from the fourth dimension. This was serious stuff. I honestly have no idea how rare these guys are today, but considering the time frame and how highly sought figures of this type generally are, I'd bet that they cost somewhere in the realm of sixty-five trillion dollars a piece. And double that if packaged. So, while none of us who were born too late to experience them the first time can afford to try it out now, at least we can look at the pretty pictures and wonder what it would've been like to chew their tiny plastic fingers off one by one like Larry Drake from Darkman.

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So, before I go off into a fifth preliminary paragraph, which is rather pointless since 88% of you probably skip all this 'hi how are you' bullshit and move right towards the paragraphs under a colorful picture, today's article is my tribute to all thirteen figures created for Colorforms' The Outer Space Men series. I'd promise not to play favorites, but I'm a sucker for Saturn. And I've got a thing for Uranus. OH HO HO HAAAAA. Uranus jokes are so retro.

Though I scanned the packaged-toy pics, I should thank this fansite for some of the other pics and loads of great info on the line. If you like what you see here, go there next. And then after that, ride a pony.


COMMANDER COMET: There's two things about Commander Comet that makes me believe he's the closest thing to the line's hero character. First and most obviously, he received the 'commander' moniker. It's hard to argue with concrete salutations like that. More importantly though, Commander Comet is the only one in the set who's even remotely close to looking human. I mean sure, he's got his head stuck in a fishbowl and he flies around using angel wings, but other than that this guy could've been your next door neighbor. Unfortunately, Commander Comet doesn't represent Earth - none of the figures do. No, apparently, this guy's the heavenly ambassador from Venus. Comet comes dressed in a gold spacesuit, and the figure appears to be sucking in its stomach to hide its beer gut during the promotional photo shoot. Colorforms maintains that Commander Comet is a direct descendent of Zeus, but offers no proof to support such claims.


ALPHA 7: Alpha 7, the man from Mars, is the only one of the Outer Space Men who really looks the part. Almost all accounts of alien abductions taken from trailer whores and X-Files fan clubs paint a picture of extraterrestrial like appearing not unlike Alpha 7. The only real difference is that Alpha is much shorter, almost like a prepubescent baby alien who doesn't even know how to administer alien ass probe tests yet. The figure looks cool, but it's just way too much smaller than the others to be a favorite. I understand the need to mix things up a bit, but we're talking about a pretty big size difference here - some of the others are nearly three times Alpha's size. It seems like a gyp, but now I'm remembering that all action figures cost like thirty-nine cents each back then anyway. Who gives a shit? He was still a good deal. Like Comet Commander, Alpha 7 subscribes to the theory that you're not an alien unless you've got a goldfish tank on your head.


COLOSSUS REX: Colossus Rex hails from Jupiter, and shares his home planet's penchant for being really, really large. Looking sort of like an android version of that nasty Creature from the Black Lagoon, Colossus' bio-card mentions that he's an explorer, not a conqueror. I'm not sure I believe that, though. Shoulders don't get that broad unless someone's planning to start some trouble. The biography also mentions that he's invincible - totally impervious to pain. He's obviously never been forced to sit through that episode of Coach where the doctor tells Hayden that all those post-game whirlpool baths did a serious number on his sperm count.


XODIAC: I'm not sure how you pronounce that. Is it like 'Zodiac,' or maybe 'Chrisodiac?' See, that's why this line should've had an accompanying cartoon. They could've staged an intergalactic phone conversation between Commander Comet and Xodiac so the toy-buying public would know how to pronounce the guy's name when asking the staff if he was in stock. Xodiac represents my favorite planet, Saturn. His bio-card is marred by ridiculously obscure vocabulary words that were discontinued in the late-70s, but I think they were trying to say that he was the smartest of the Outer Space Men. I hope that's true, because he ain't gonna win any trophies with that physique. Xodiac is pencil thin throughout his entire body, with the only thing retaining a width larger than a tenth of a centimeter being his huge, red, ghastly head. I don't get the impression that Xodiac was one of the top players, which saddens me. Saturn deserved someone a little cooler. Why couldn't the gold lifeguard with the angel wings come from here instead of Venus? It ain't fair.


ORBITRON: Orbitron looks a lot like the famous Meluna Mutant, in fact seemingly too much so to be a coincidence. Then again, maybe it's not such a stretch for two completely different minds to hatch up an alien character with brains on the outside of their skulls. Orbitron comes from Uranus. You know, in typing that last sentence, I'm really starting to see the benefits in doing audiotape versions of these articles. As a figure, Orbitron is rather boring. He's got a skinny, bland body free of any creative juice, and a head that makes him look more like an inside-out pimp than something truly otherworldly. On the plus side, he might have the best name out of all the figures. But cool names won't win you any hearts unless you're currently looking for that special someone on the Love@AOL message boards. Orbitron sucks, just like a man from Uranus should.


ASTRO-NAUTILUS: Astro-Nautilus is probably the most inspired figure in the series. Admittedly, it wasn't a huge leap of faith to create an ocean-inspired monster coming from the planet Neptune, but it's so rare that the world becomes graced with the presence of action figures that are half-astronaut, half-octopus. No, it's actually even better than that. While a first glance suggests this guy as an octopus, he's really based on an even neater sea creature, the nautilus. What a shock, right? I mean, the only preliminary clue about that was the fact that they repeat the word 'nautilus' in its entirety in the character's name. I apologize for my temporary fall from grace, it's been a long night. According to his bio, Nautilus is one of the 'Triton people,' who secretly landed on Earth to inhabit its oceans. For further validity on that, I remember reading the same thing in my sixth grade social studies textbook.


ELECTRON-X: Pluto's entry into The Outer Space Men is one of my faves, mixing elements from classic aliens to The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man. Research reveals that Electron-X and others of his kind are actually made up of pure energy. That means he's the only toy in history who can keep up with the trendsetting, ultra-quick breakbeats in Darren's Dance Grooves. I'm more concerned with his cool purple head and that weird button in the middle of his chest which probably makes him explode. For added mystique, Electron-X comes with a gun so perfectly shaped like a dick that I can't believe it's not meant to be just that. Come on, it's not impossible that the guys on other worlds have removable dicks. And let's not discount the benefits of that, either. I know I'd take mine off before going to a funeral, because god forbid you get hard at one of those things. There's just no way to justify it no matter how much you try. I'm jealous of Electron-X. I have removable-penis envy.

That's the first series of Outer Space Men figures, and the only ones who ever hit the toy stores. The second series could be viewed on the packaging and in catalogs, but they never made it onto the shelves. Still, they're really interesting characters and since there's enough info out there to confirm their existence, I'm including them with this tribute. Just keep in mind that there's no way you could actually buy these figures. I love crushing your spirit.


INFERNO: Finally, someone from Mercury. The hottest planet gets the hottest figure, as Inferno was said to be composed of living fire that burned forever. Of course, the dumb idiot conceals all that cool stuff with a dumb gray spacesuit. If I was made of fire, I wouldn't hide it with all that crap. That's the kind of thing you'd want to show off. Inferno was to be released with a light-up head, and was surrounded by a background 'mane' of plastic flames. Now that all the planets besides Earth were covered, the remaining figures represented odder corners of the universe...


CYCLOPS: You'll love this one - a giant, one-eyed troll from the Milky Way. Cyclops seems to be the godlike entity of the series, supposedly the most powerful of all the figures. Too bad he's got one eye. That decreases his property value more than having a neighbor who paints daily greetings to the street on the side of his house using dark brown liquefied horse shit. The figure would've came with various extra sets of armor, and he ended up having more accessories than anyone else in the set. I guess Colorforms didn't think a one-eyed bull-man was enough to inspire sales on its own. They underestimate us.


GEMINI: If Gemini would've been released, I'm positive he'd have been every kid's favorite. Coming from the 'twin star Algol' or some shit, Gemini is the only figure that had two heads. And best of all, they're really great heads. Elongated, bulgy green heads. He would've had the coolest torso area even with one of those heads, but with two? He's a pure treasure. They so should license these guys out for a re-release. Even if they just sold a few hundred thousand in comic book stores with inflated prices, I think they'd do pretty well. If there was Gemini figure laying out in the middle of the street, I don't believe there's a person in the world who wouldn't pick him up and take him home after coming across it. Gemini figures could've easily replaced those collision ball sets as the desk toy of the century.


GAMMA-X: Gamma-X comes from the 'fourth dimension,' and they tried to illustrate that by affixing translucent plastic parts on the figure, making it look like it's JUMPIN' RIGHT OFF THE PACKAGE AND INTO YOUR MIND. The bio-cards for the would-be second series were somehow even more ridiculous than the first set. When referring to Gamma-X's powers of switching between the 3rd and 4th dimensions, they use terminology that makes a Sly Stallone interview read like Grover's There's A Monster At The End Of This Book. Gamma-X's super power was said to be the ability to walk through walls and other solid objects. I still don't think that's anywhere near as cool as Commander Comet's angel wings. But in Gamma-X's defense, I really don't think anything is as cool as Commander Comet's angel wings. They remind me of the first time I received the Body of Christ. I thought it tasted like those containers McDonald's shoves their breakfast value meals into.


MYSTRON: Mystron is from Hollow Earth, which is a lot like Regular Earth, only hollow. I guess that Hollow Earth's mantle is made up of packing peanuts, with the crust being a huge mass of crinkled-up newspaper. As a figure, Mystron doesn't hold a candle to his compatriots. There's nothing particularly 'special' about him, unless you count the head's vague resemblance to a giant vampire bat. While that's cool, it's not enough to pull him out of the series' Loser Pile. That aside, the back stories of these characters were pretty interesting. I don't think they were based on any existing lore, and it's surprising that they didn't at least try to get a comic book out of the license. Actually, it's pretty surprising that the line itself wasn't more popular than it was. The figures were terrific, and they came out in a time where there was a huge interest in anything having to do with UFOs. I guess Colorforms just didn't know how to market 'em. They should've paid a skywriter to decree their greatness over the football field during the 1970 Superbowl.


METAMORPHO: Metamorpho hails from Alpha Centauri, which I'm pretty sure is located just outside San Diego. His gimmick is the ability to mimic the appearance of any creature he meets, so the figure was able to switch between a few different alien faces. If that wasn't enough for you, he also came with two count 'em two intoxicating laser rayguns. Kind of looks a guy with elephantiasis of the head shoved into a Stormtrooper outfit, but the face-switching feature set the template for many action figures to come.

The Outer Space Men are almost forgotten today, the remaining figures being far too rare for a lot of people to collect. Despite that, I'd have to consider them about as perfect an action figure series as they come, combining every great and necessary element to create one of the most interesting, colorful, and fun series of toys I've ever seen. I've always thought of my generation as the ones who got the really cool toys, but even going back 15-20 years earlier, these were even better. I suppose I'd be more upset about it if I wasn't about to turn 24. I'm practically biting off my Lee Press-Ons with frustration, here.





 


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