Obscure 80s Toys
A lengthy look at some of the weirdest toys from X-E's favorite decade, including one that ties into this article, 'Manglor Mountain'.
In the 1960s, Colorforms entered the fray with a series of really cool alien spacemen figures. Some had helmets!
When you drank V8 in the 1940s, you had the chance to get a free moon rocket. It kept your diet straight, too.
Vast riches await anyone willing to wear a gaudy pendant shaped vaguely like a pyramid.
Manglors, a mid-80s attempt from Ideal to tap into the action figure market they enjoyed so much success in during previous decades, isn't a line remembered by most. The toys were fun and unique, but Ideal made a critical marketing error by putting them out during a time when flippant robots that turned into cars and sword-wielding muscleheads led the popular trends. Kids had already been spoon-fed the current in-things, and Manglors were far too different in style to soar with the hot-selling angels. Though incredibly obscure and tough to locate, (even by today's 'find anything on the web' standards) Manglors are still worth tracking down if you've ever wanted to rip the arms off your action figures without permanently ruining them.
Consider yourself lucky if you can even find them, let alone find them at a price that isn't curiously high to pay for a gooey rubber toy demon. There were around a dozen or so different types of Manglor toys, but today we're gonna focus on the three that allegedly hatched from eggs. This is partly because I know a little more about the egg guys than the rest, but mostly because egg is a fun word to type and I'll enjoy typing it over and over again throughout this article. Go ahead, try it. Type 'egg' with your index finger. See how much it's like tapping your finger to a great jazz beat? Those of us fortunate enough to work the word 'egg' into our daily keyboard routine have way more soul and funk than the rest. We're the elite.
Coincidentally, it just so happens that the Manglors who hatched from eggs looked much cooler than the ones who didn't. That's kind of a waste; Ideal should've put the more stupid-looking figures inside the eggs. Kids were gonna want anything that came in an egg-shaped container anyway, so why waste your top guns? Isn't that like, I dunno, putting all your eggs in one basket? Ha! Eggs, eggs eggs, eggs eggs!
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Now, don't deny the power of an egg-shaped container. You know you love 'em. Back when Leggs used to sell their pantyhose in 'em, I forced my mother to buy new stockings every time she brought me food shopping. (pantyhose: a supermarket staple) Truth be told, I had little concern about the appearance of her legs, and was more interested in having an oversized, pull-apart egg to play with. Sometimes I'd have my Star Wars figures recreate the opening credits from Mork and Mindy, while other times were designated for putting little notes in the egg before burying it in the backyard. I was always fond of those 'man finds ten-year-old note in a bottle at the beach' stories, but I was too young to understand the importance of the 'at the beach' part.
I'm pretty sure that if I spent enough time digging up my old backyard, I'll find several drawings of my second-grade teacher with her head in a vice, complete with blood droplets in red crayon for added effect. Resealable toy eggs open plenty of doors for playtime activities.
The Manglor monsters had eggs of particular interest, each adorned with some kind of Japanese hieroglyphic which probably had something to do with karate. Despite the testimonial I've just supplied in favor of toy eggs, Manglors were marketed on other merits. As great as the containers were, Manglors didn't necessarily need 'em. The figures themselves were more than good enough on their own...
Of the three, 'Manglodemon' was easily the purdiest. The other two, Manglodragon and Manglizard, didn't have the same quaint appeal as a stretchy action figure based on Satan. They all stood around seven inches tall a piece, surprisingly well-molded considering the materials they were made from. See, these Manglors weren't created with any ordinary type of rubber. They were made from special, pliable rubber. From Mars. There's a reason for this, too, but we'll get to that in a minute. The figures had an unmistakable odor about them, sort of like rubber cement if rubber cement was typically spiked with a few drops of liquid bat shit before going into the post-production phase.
The end results didn't make the Manglors smell too terrific, but that's okay. They're bad guys, I think, and bad guys should smell bad. It just makes them more evil overall. It'd be pretty tough to consider a villain 'villainous' if he smelled like lavender seeds, so if you ever land yourself a Manglodemon, don't hate him if after noticing that he smells like a barrel of old lady feet.
Before we tackle the upsides of action figures made from soft rubber, let's talk about the downsides. The Manglors are an inspired line, but with one tragic flaw: kids had to take really great care of them if they wanted to hold on to 'em for long. The materials used were porous and almost sticky, so if you dropped Manglodemon on the carpet, you had to be prepared for the onslaught of floor fuzz, dirt, and dog hair that'd be stuck to his body for the rest of eternity. If you were the type of kid who liked to keep your action figures clean and pristine, Manglors would've given you a Danny Tanner complex. And nobody, nobody wants to be associated with Bob Saget, even during momentary lapses into the world of self-loathing.
Then there were some display issues. Most kids liked to line their action figures up in battle poses across their bedroom shelves and atop dressers. You couldn't do that with Manglors, since their bodies were too soft to stand upright without the aid of a grubby eight-year-old's hand. These guys were deceptive invertebrates, and the importance of having a backbone never became more clear to me than while trying to get Manglodemon to stand under his own power. Unless you were willing to affix translucent marionette strings onto the figure's shoulderblades, chances were good that he was gonna look absolutely dead without your hands helping out.
Still, considering the payoff, those are minor grievances. Soft rubber action figures that can't stand up do have some plusses on their side...
The gimmick behind the Manglors was that they were stretchy - very stretchy. You could torture the holy hell out of 'em without any fear of retaliation, or at the very least, you were afforded the chance to make your new toy temporarily appear a lot taller than it actually was. You could also tie their arms into pretzel knots and put on little puppet shows where the Manglors complain that they've lost their ability to applaud. You've gotta admit, most figures didn't give you options like that.
The truth is, kids love anything with stretchy qualities. If a child could conceivably make something grow to an enlarged length, they were all for it. Little boys were amused by their erections for entirely different reasons before hitting puberty, and the Manglors just played on our natural inclination towards anything that could be pulled and stretched at will. Factor in that they all looked like bloodthirsty creatures from Hell, and you've got yourself some seriously cool toys.
Plus, no matter what position you put the Manglors into, they would always return to their original shape. These guys were the most blindly resistant warriors in history, and you could finally kick the shit out of your toys without feeling like you've just wasted some cash. As an example, you could literally squeeze the Manglodemon into the same shape and size of a baseball, throw it at a wall, and walk over to find him on the floor in his original form. Injured and pissed off, but still in his original form. They couldn't be killed by natural means. Yes, you'd technically be able to destroy them by cooking the figures in a microwave, but that certainly doesn't fall under the 'natural means' category. So, even during times when you had Manglodemon's neck twisted around fifty times over, the dude still had your number. You were probably better off befriending the Manglors; these guys made for some impressive allies. Plus, if you got on their good side, they'd let you play with those neat egg-shaped houses more often.
It gets better - notice how one of the Manglodemon's arms seems to have taken a powder? I know what you're thinking. The kid must've gotten a little too overzealous with the stretchy stuff. And while you're not entirely incorrect, the Manglors could even recover from being mutilated. So, the arm fell off, huh? No problem!
If you ripped one of Manglodemon's body parts off, you could stick it right back into place. It wasn't a cheap fix, either - it really went back into place, and it really stayed there. It wasn't a case of putting his arm back on and proceeding to watch it fall off five minutes afterwards, so Ideal obviously got their hands on some kind of experimental, and perhaps toxic, mutagenic rubber to make these beasts.
Ahhh. Finally. An action figure that you could safely rip the head off of. I can't believe Manglors weren't more popular with a perk like that, but in truth, the gimmick wasn't as effective as they'd like to you believe. For instance, if you stabbed Manglodemon with a sharp pencil, the pock marks would remain on his alien torso forever more. And I hate to expose the awful reality of all this, but the poor thing's head never looked quite right when you ripped it off after the sixtieth time. You had to keep your desire to maim and kill 'em at least a little bit in check if you wanted the toys to last very long. Still, it's nice to know that there's a figure out there which we can repeatedly rip in half. It's no fun to just do that once - the figure dies and you don't get to see the painful reaction. Now you could torment your toys by saying things like 'behave, or I'll put your legs in the closet again.' Everyone loves playing God, and it's so much more fun to rule over monsters who can be killed over and over again than lowly, one-death-only humans.
One of the other kids shows off his fake smile and the Manglodragon figure, which wasn't anywhere near as cool as the Manglodemon. Look at the jealousy in his eyes. He wants Manglodemon, not some stupid dragon without long legs to stretch out and pull off. Poor kid. As for the Manglors, they seemed to disappear just as quickly as they came. They have no name value at all, so don't expect these creatures to be re-released anytime soon. If you've fallen in love with 'em over the course of this article, your only shot is an online auction site or a genie lamp. Sorry.
Oh, and about those egg containers. They served a purpose, believe it or not. Manglors weren't too wet or sticky, but the rubber would lose its natural pliability if left out in the open for an extended period of time. Yes, unless you made sure to tuck Manglodemon into his eggish bed at night, he'd get all crusty and ugly. So if you ever do find yourself one of the Manglor figures, don't feed 'em after midnight and don't decide to use the egg house as a change purse instead.
If you want to see Manglodemon get stretched and destroyed live, follow the above link to download the original commercial from 1985. It's a full thirty seconds of toy-bashing action, set to a Sinatra score and plenty of artsy fade-outs. Enjoy.
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