REVIEW:
THE MISSING MANIMALS

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In 2001, Hasbro and K*B Toys teamed up to finally deliver the MANIMALS, a team of evil aliens that were to be a part of the G.I.JOE toy line in 1994, part of the STAR BRIGADE collection. However, as a result of the cancellation of the Joes that year, the Manimals never surfaced, and only a handful of collectors (myself included) were ever able to procure a set of these extremely rare figures.

So Hasbro and K*B believed the time was right to release them. The molds still existed, but the colors would be changed. They would also be divided into two assortments, with WARWOLF, SLYTHOR, and IGUANUS comprising the first batch, with SPASMA, ZIGZAG, and VORTEX, an especially complex figure who ultimately would not have even made the cut in 1994, coming later.

Unfortunately, for various reasons which I won't go into here, the MANIMALS would once again meet a grim fate. While the first assortment would emerge, the second would not. There was some debate as to whether the second assortment had even reached any level of production. I was not convinced that they weren't out there to some degree -- somewhere. Recently I was proven at least partially correct.

A friend of mine turned up a couple of eBay auctions, based out of the Phillippines (the stuff that turns up in this part of the world -- the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia -- is simply unreal at times). The auctions were for two production-level second assortment recolored MANIMALS -- Spasma and Vortex. No sign of ZigZag, but no big loss there, either. He was
always the oddball of the lot anyway.

My friend and I discussed the auctions. Fortunately, he was more interested in Vortex, and I wanted Spasma. As it worked out, we won the item and for a time, I had both of them in my posession.

VORTEX is a structural improvement over the original, but most emphatically not a color improvement. Manimals have a limited transforming capability. Vortex's is for his torso and head to open up along multiple sections to reveal a smaller alien within. The original Vortex which I own is rather loosely-articulated in this respect. The recolored Vortex is much
tighter. But then there's the color scheme...

The original Vortex was predominantly dark blue with bright green highlights and grey trim. The new Vortex is a rather sickening light brownish green with burgundy highlights and a bit of blue on him. But that basic brown-green color is really repulsive. There's also a black overspray on the figure that just doesn't work. On the plus side, the internal alien has a good bit more detail in his paint work, especially around the eyes.

SPASMA is a distinct improvement colorwise. The original Spasma was molded in yellow plastic and given sprayed on tiger-like stripes. He had green trim and a black helmet. I could never figure out the tiger stripes. Was it a uniform design? His skin? It just looked very odd and not quite right. The new Spasma is predominantly black, with blue sleeves and helmet, and some dark red trim. It looks more like a spacesuit, which with that helmet (which has a visor that opens up to reveal a small alien face that squirts water), I always felt it was designed to be anyway. The figure also has a slight silver overspray, which on the black plastic actually works pretty well.

There is no question in my mind that these are production level figures. The colors of paint are clearly sprayed on, not hand painted. The limited overspray is something of a dead giveaway, although in and of itself it's a little curious, since the first assortment of re-released Manimals to K*B Toys did not have this feature. Also, the lower arms of these two figures are made from the slightly more flexible plastic presently being used on the lower arms of 3¾" G.I.Joes. That was not the case with the original 1994 Manimals. These two figures are not mock-ups or prototypes.

So, clearly, the second assortment of Manimals re-releases did reach some level of production. This doesn't surprise me, as far in advance as toys tend to be created before they actually reach the stores. But it does beg the question -- what level of production did they reach? What happened to the supply? Are there more out there? Is ZigZag out there? The auctioner has not run any further Manimals auctions that I know of.

But, meanwhile, I am pleased to have Spasma join his three friends, and I know Vortex has a good home with a friend of mine. And I also am pleased to know that the second assortment of Manimals re-releases -- did happen. I have learned the truth about these aliens. Think we can get David Duchovny to play me in the X-Files episode about this? What do you mean the show's wrapped up?! Aw, darn it...