In 1989, CAP Toys revamped and re-released a toy that had been popular in the decades prior, appropriately named Stretch Armstrong. The large rubber doll had amazing elastic abilities that enabled kids to make it almost as tall as they were, but even if that didn't work, you could tie Armstrong into pretzel knots, thereby creating the most unique and subversive way ever to receive a Cubs Scout badge. Looking like a cross between Flash Gordon and Hulk Hogan, Stretch was a Plasticman at heart who etched his way into the golden annals of action figure history. Or at least some achievement that's a reasonable facsimile of that. In any case, the line's best figure wasn't Stretch Armstrong, but rather his mortal enemy and reddish demon, Vac-Man.
Combining his nemesis' stretchy abilities with an even greater power, Vac-Man came with a little pump that let you suck all the air right out of his body. After that, his pliable foamish rockish flesh could be pulled and posed to a much more permanent degree than Armstrong's. Only after you pushed Vac's secret button would he revert to his usual form, with the only downside to this cool beast being his apparent rarity. Vac-Man could never match the commercial reach of Stretch, and much fewer kids got to delight in his gimmicks. Until now...
ToyQuest's series of Electronic Morphman dolls borrowed a page from Vac-Man's book and brought back the superior technology of sucking oxygen out of our toys. These came out a few years ago, but never really caught on. I found this one on clearance for fifteen bucks, marked down almost 50% and covered in the kind of dust typically found on toys nobody wants to love. While ToyQuest's very similar line of Stretch Screamers dolls lit up the charts, our fabled Morphmen went virtually unnoticed.
Still, unlike the seven-year-olds these figures were made for, I was no stranger to the Morphmen's powers. Fondly recalling the days when I'd suck the air out of Vac-Man and get all giddy over the satisfying 'crackling foam' sounds he'd make as I beat the shit out of him, I grabbed the toy and paid the cashier. As suspected, Electronic Morphman was worth every penny. Or at least 80% of 'em. Okay, more like 75%, but the point is, he didn't disappoint. Comma, comma, comma period. It sounds right but it looks all frigged up. Ah well, now's not the time -- we've got bigger, more pliable fish to fry.
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As I opened the box, the amount of security measures taken by ToyQuest were surprising. There were at least fifteen of these unholy twisty ties keeping him in place, and each of those fifteen strands of plastic Hell took half a minute to unravel. Quick math tallies the total time taken to open Electronic Morphman at seven and a half minutes. This isn't even counting the several minutes spent knifing all the Scotch tape around the edges of his box. This process is sort of like the pre-event video package in the world of toys -- the more time spent building up to the unveiling, the more you expect from the figure. By the time I got Electronic Morphman open, I would've been disappointed if the guy wasn't able to walk under his own power while juggling oranges. While he couldn't do that, his concessions more than made up for it.
As you can see, Morphman comes with a pump. Not just any pump -- a 'Morph Pump.' In ToyQuest's words, you can use the pump to 'morph him into a hideous monster.' I think you could argue that he was already fairly hideous, but really, it's all about perspective. The pump comes complete with an attached clear tube that flows ominous green liquid as you vertically gyrate the handle, proving once again that the only true 'given' in the realm of boys toys is that anything gross will probably sell.
It takes around a dozen pumps to fully complete Morphman's transformation, turning his once-smooth rubbery skin into a bumpy, rocky rubbery skin. It's still rubbery skin, but now his arms look like perfectly rendered pieces of gray dog shit. Taking things a step further than Vac-Man, this guy's head is even affected by the process...
I'm not sure why they thought making Morphman look like the pope would increase his outward villainy, but it's still adequately creepy. When finished, his entire upper body will be covered in wrinkled old lady skin.
This is actually one of three different Electronic Morphmen -- mine's named 'KastIron.' As detailed on the box, KastIron is an evil monster with skin of steel and an oversized brain. Seems like he's cornered all the markets, this guy's the perfect bad guy. The other Morphmen are named 'BlockJaw' and 'Rockster,' looking not too unlike KastIron but arriving in more pleasantly human skin tones. Though sufficiently monstrous, none of the other Morphmen can match KastIron's dark appeal. If you're going to buy a toy like this, you've gotta pick the ugliest and most unearthly. It's the law.
When unpumped, KastIron's elasticity is phenomenal. You can stretch him for several feet, but his included instruction sheet warns against pulling him too far. Compared to Vac-Man, this is where Electronic Morphman fails. After he was pumped, Vac could be posed marvelously in his rocky state, like the third section of a bendy straw. KastIron loses much of his stretchiness after the air's pulled out, so all you can really do is look at him while exclaiming 'oooh he's gro - oh - OSS!'
The entertainment reaped from that wanes after a minute or so, but there's still a few fun features left up KastIron's bumpy sleeve.
He's still a bit posable. You can adjust KastIron's spine, making him look like he's in the midst of the world's most gratifying back-crack, a distinction that seems wasted on a toy that isn't alive enough to appreciate all those tension-releasing bone noises. Then again, for all the crap we're putting the guy through, he deserves a little something.
KastIron's last gimmick is his most impressive -- the thing talks to you as you attack him. Seriously, look...
See? Big speaker on the ass, brought to life by two 'AA' batteries which were thankfully included and previously installed. You can't believe the vocabulary this ass has -- KastIron's posterior knows more words than even the most adventurous parrots, and if you can get past all of his agony-indicating groans and screams, you may even here him string together a few sentences.
Wait...no, it's just groans and screams. The biggest variety of groans and screams you'll ever hear. KastIron really suffers for his art.
When you're finished playing with an Electronic Morphman figure, you need to be sure he's reverted back to his common form. His skin will lose its rubbery luster when stuck in rock mode for too long, so don't skip this part of the process. Problem is, the button that releases him from pain is located right in his crotch. Some of us have complexes about that, and I don't doubt that there were several buyers who avoided that crotch button, ultimately ruining their new toy. Personally, I just used my tongue. For those with misgivings, I think I've found a solution.
THE ZIPLOC FINGAAAH.
Now you could just pretend the Ziploc Finger was doing your dirty work. This trick also works when you've gotta clean cat puke or have foreplay with really disgusting pleasure zones. After holding KastIron's cockbutton down for a few seconds, the air will flow back into his veins and he'll morph back to his softer self. I'd say that he's appreciative for it, but the thing's still groaning and screaming just the same. Ungrateful prick.
Ziploc Finger: I saved you!
KastIron: Hogwash. I was performing an extended yoga exercise.
Ziploc Finger: Then why were you screaming?
KastIron: I never said it didn't hurt.
Ziploc Finger: Then why did you look so relieved?
KastIron: You're the first person to touch my crotch in years.
Ziploc Finger: Oh. So, what do we do now?
KastIron: Rinse and repeat.
Overall: Worth the money, especially now that they're almost universally marked down. ToyQuest's Electronic Morphman line isn't exactly 'new,' but you should be able to find one of 'em in stores. If not, they're criminally cheap on eBay. Never buy from yard sales because it's definitely the kind of toy kids would've chewed on and slobbered all over. We'll never see a re-release of the infamous Vac-Man, so this is about the closest you'll get. 7 out of 10.
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