Suckerman is a sentimental fave of X-E alumni and current Retrocrush webmaster, 'Juiceman' Robert Berry. His feelings on Sucker: 'You'd just get him wet, then throw him on the wall, and ... he'd stick there! Just like a puppy, only without the annoying whimpering sounds and blood stains.'
Suckerman, released by Mattel in 1978, was a huge hit among kids and adults alike. A quintessential time piece, the all-vinyl toy reminds us of a simpler era where 'fun for sale' didn't necessarily need to be souped up and overdone. As basic as it was, Suckerman charmed millions and has remained fresh in fans' minds for all these years. Now enjoying a re-release by another company who saw its potential, Sucky is sure to thrill a whole new generation of children who like their playthings with a little traction. But what was he?
Suckerman was an odd looking fellow - a pliable figure that mixed elements from bats, monsters and octopi. Though flimsy and with a body width of less than an inch, the toys were over a foot in height, totaling in at almost sixteen inches. Sucky's grace was undeniable: his 'skin' felt creepy and lifelike, his face was decidedly ominous, and that scary mouth played host to more fangs than a giant, novelty shark jaw. At first glance, he might not have seemed like much, but few kids were willing to go on living without owning the thing themselves. Just on the merits of his appearance alone, Suckerman was a winner. No one could turn down the chance to get their very own rubber Satan, much less a rubber Satan who came in a variety of colors. Still, there's more to Sucky than meets the eye. It isn't uncommon for a toy to employ an as-of-yet unheard of gimmick, but Suckerman's special feature was the stuff of legend and caused the toy to be one of the elite that warranted rounds of raucous applauding and cries for encores. Suckerman really sucked!
Yes, lined with twenty-eight suction cups, Suckerman would stick to practically anything you threw him at. Except sand. Mattel used the right kind of material to make the feature work, and kids everywhere delighted in chucking poor Sucky at anything and everything with a flat surface. Now, we've all had toys, and we've all thrown our toys at the walls as hard as we could. Problem was, most toys weren't suited for that kind of activity. Our heart told us to do it anyway, but a lot of broken toys laid in the wake. Not Suckerman, though - you were supposed to beat the Hell out of him. Mattel always knew how to cater to our barbaric instincts - no wonder they're still doing great business.
Today, we celebrate Suckerman's past, present, and future. 'Basic Fun,' the toy company responsible for all those keychains featuring miniature board games and Nickelodeon characters, bought the rights from Mattel to bring Sucky back into the spotlight for one last run. Before we find out how time's treated the toy, let's revisit Suckerman's checkered history, complete with a look at his colorful cousins of the same name...
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Generally, all Suckermans came packaged in a nifty window box, complete with a painting of a kid enjoying the throwing process. We know he's enjoying it because of the Jokeresque smile painted on his face, but also because he appears to be doing some kind of Hawaiian hand gesture of happiness with his left hand. I've often spoke of the importance of packaging, and it's never been more true in Suckerman's case. In reality, the toy is just an oversized, glorified vending machine toy. It's great fun, but even a five-year-old could tell that the thing must've cost Mattel three cents to make. In a less intricately detailed box, Suckerman could've never fetched a retail price similar to other action figures who were made from much better material. Oddly, it was only during the very height of his popularity that Sucky appeared in the Holy Window Box. When he was just starting out, Mattel threw the guy on a cheap blister card. To boost the price once the thing caught on, he switched to the box. After sales began dying out because most kids already bought the thing or were otherwise distracted by newer toys, they went back to the cheaper package. It's sort of like how pro-wrestling shows use a lot more fireworks and pyrotechnics during their hot periods, only in Suckerman's case, there's no chance of your mind wandering to the topic of Kamala, the Ugandan Giant. The blister cards were also almost exclusively used for overseas sales. Stingy limeys.
Keep in mind, Suckerman's reign of terror didn't last long. Plenty of kids had him, but the franchise's boom period only lasted a scant few months. The original version came in three colors - red, black and green. Obviously, when you're purchasing a toy that's supposed to be a mutant hybrid of scary animals morphed together into a monstrous form, the darker the color the better. I'd definitely opt for the black version. There was just a much greater chance of me needing the toy to employ it's camouflaging abilities at night rather in the jungle or someplace really red. Still, none of these three originals were the coolest of the Suckermen.
Pictured a few paragraphs above was the best Suckerman of all, a special glow-in-the-dark version that performed its function as advertised while retaining a wonderful, marbleized milky skin tone that looked way creepier than any primary color ever could. If you're lucky enough to find a vintage Suckerman, they rarely go for more than 40 bucks still sealed in their original boxes. Considering the age and the comparative price of the other collector's toys of the era, that's pretty cheap. Typically, the glowing Suckerman go for a little more than the rest. It's understandable. If you went to the pet shop to buy a parrot, wouldn't you pay a little more if some of them glowed in the dark?
Keep in mind, you'll rarely if ever find a loose (unpackaged) Suckerman for sale. The vinyl was stable enough for the first few years, but not many examples could live for over two decades without the safety of their shrink-wrapped sanctuary.
Okay - so Suckerman, he's not really the kind of thing we review here on X-E. I wasn't alive during his heyday, so most of the facts in this article were pretty much made up on the fly to fill up extra space. I'm not saying I'm wrong - I've got good instincts about this crap, but it's not like I peered my unformed spermy head out of my father's navel in '78 just to see what Mattel was up to. One thing's for sure though - this is not the kind of toy that should be limited to those of us stupid enough to pay its increased 'collector's rate' price. How much would the world suck if the only way you could enjoy Silly Putty was by paying 75 bucks for a sealed one from the 50s? It's not a happy thought, but my fears were demolished at a certain strangely placed toy shop in the mini-mall of Grand Central Station - a new Suckerman for a new era!
They call it the 'original' Suckerman, but really, it's not. It's a pretty good representation of the original, but neither the size nor quality matches the glory of the original. Don't take that to mean it's a bad toy, because I'd strongly recommend picking one of these up even if you have to kill for it. There's just something magical about Suckerman, no matter how tall he is or what kind of toxic plastic they used when molding his torso.
Regardless, it certainly looks like the guy. Same face, same arms, same overwhelming sense of impending doom. Basic Fun did well enough with the package, cleverly listing Sucky's many comical attributes while maintaining the idea that CRAZZZZY FONTS are what really sells an item. It's true, too. And too true. Choo choooo. They also make use of imagery that brings to life our most latent and subconscious Suckerman associations -- those arms look just like a squid's tentacles. Who doesn't get hot over squid tentacles? Calamari Cara Mia! Cough.
Well, I've never held a real Suckerman in my hands, but there's no way they used the same type of great vinyl so many enthusiasts have glowingly written about. The material used now is much harder, and all but robs Sucky of one of his best former attributes: feeling like he was made up of actual alien skin. There's four less suction cups, too. You'd be surprised at how much of a difference four suction cups can make. If I had to take a stab, I'd guess that the new Suckerman has been stripped of some of his past leg length. He's a little more stout these days. Still can't stand the fucker up now matter how hard you try, though.
On the plus side, the doll smells fantastic. It's this awesome rush of plastic and suction and cherries and cream and mint julep honeypies. And if I smell it for long enough, Suckerman starts serenading me with theme song from The Heights.
One of the best reasons to pick up Suckerman: Version 2 is the clear look you'll get of his mighty face. It's not the kind of thing that translates well in a photo, so no matter how many Suckerman pictures you see, you're still getting only half of the effect. To me, he looks more like the Super Skrull than anything else, but I can see where all the 'bat' commentaries tie in. His eyes are haunting, very suggestive of either sleep deprivation or cold thoughts of murder. In certain parts, his 'skin' is lined with reptilian scales. This guy so should've had a tail.
Unfortunately, he doesn't stick to things anywhere near as well as the originals, with or without your magic saliva. With the old versions of Suckerman, you were told to wet the suction cups before making the legendary throw. They don't mention it on the new package, but it still helps a bit. He doesn't do any sort of 'splats' as suggested, but I was able to make him stick to a mirror after Take 146.
My gripes are washed away with a low retail - the 'new,' 'original' Suckerman will only cost you seven bucks, if not less. We've all spent seven bucks on worse. I've only seen varieties in red and green thus far, and while I wouldn't rule out of possibility of a few black ones existing, I don't think Basic Fun went the whole nine yards by recreating the glow-in-the-dark version. Basic Fun is living up to its name. :( Overall though, it's definitely worth the cash -- I can't really put into words what it is about Suckerman that makes the thing so enchanting, but he's a serious drug. I'm going to take him everywhere I go, even to weddings and that shack in the woods where I pay some old lady to suck my feet. Suckerman's back, folks. And he's still sucking.
Click here to see the cardback of Suckerman's new package!