XODIAC the man from Saturn
If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you can probably tell that I love all of the popular boys toy properties from the 80s like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Masters of the Universe. Those properties and others like them had cartoons and comic books to support the toy line. Kids in the 80s like me had G.I. Joe lunch boxes, Transformers curtains, and Star Wars themed Birthday parties. That stuff was everywhere. Now that those 80s kids have grown up and become men (like me) those properties have all reemerged, capitalizing on our nostalgia for those things that we loved as kids. And I couldn’t be happier about it. I cannot believe that in 2012 I still have the opportunity to eagerly anticipate the release of new Joes, He-Men, Transformers and Battle Beasts; it’s awesome.
But as a kid I loved more than just those properties that had a Saturday morning cartoon. I also loved the toys in my drawers full of nameless, random figures that I had accumulated over the years, many of which I had no idea of their origins. Things like Turtle Man, Georgie and Mack the Mouse were just as loved as say Optimus Prime and Cobra Commander. One of the things that Doug and I loved to play with back in the day were playsets that included a number of figures, some props and a playmat. The figurines technically weren’t action figures, they were more akin to those small plastic army men that everyone had as a kid and which received a boost in popularity in recent years thanks to the Toy Story films. Between Doug and I we had a Western set complete with cowboys, indians, horses and a whole town of buildings, a dinosaur set with various dino types, trees, and a forked river nature playmat, a Dungeons and Dragons type set with knights, ghouls, wizards and a labyrinth playmat, and of course we had plenty of those green army men. We may have had more than just those sets but those are the ones that immediately spring to mind. Another one we had was an outer space themed set featuring aliens and astronauts. The astronauts were pretty plain but the aliens came in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. My favorite one was this tall creepy grey one. He was lacking a mouth and seemed completely devoid of emotion. He looked cold and scientific, like he would dissect you without flinching just to find out what made you tick. He carried a large scepter and a retro cool raygun.
As with many of our childhood toys unfortunately there came a time to say goodbye to these astronauts and aliens. I’m not sure if that set found a new home at a yard sale or ended up in the trash but once they were gone I probably never even thought about them for 15 years. But then one day a few years back an article was published about the Four Horsemen in an issue of ToyFare magazine . I’ve made mention of them here before but to recap the Four Horsemen are a group of famous toy sculptors responsible for the early greatness of the McFarlane Toy company, and later the revitalization of the Masters of the Universe and DC super heroes lines. This article told of them acquiring the rights to one of their favorite toy properties from their youth, The Outer Space Men. I had never heard of these things before but right there on the page staring back at me were those aliens from that old playset Doug and I had as kids. This article educated me on an entire corner of toy history of which I was not familiar.
The Outer Space Men first appeared in the 1960s. They were made by a company called Colorforms and meant as an unofficial companion collection to Mattel’s Major Matt Mason astronaut toy. Their construction was designed similarly to his with bendable wire joints as opposed to the jointed articulation you see on most figures. The figures were some of the first to be released in the 3.75″ scale (predating Star Wars and G.I. Joe) and one of the first toy lines ever to feature villains. The series was apparently quite popular but not enough to warrant producing the second wave of figures. After one wave of figures and a few related product tie-ins, the Outer Space Men fizzled out.
Lucky for me there were some toy companies out there not willing to let the brand die completely. Bootlegs and knock-off versions of the 7 alien characters starting popping up in various unlicensed sets. Sets like “Alien Attack” produced by Toyco in the early 80s which was the one that Doug and I owned .
The ToyFare article stated that the Four Horsemen were teaming up with Mel Birnkrant, who had originally created the Outer Space Men, to release new versions of these figures. In a matter of just a few pages the Horsemen’s enthusiasm about the OSM had spread to me like an airborne virus and suddenly I had to have these figures. Especially that creepy guy with the scepter, who I now knew was Xodiac, the man from Saturn.
Well it took a while before the actual figures came to be. So long in fact that I kind of forgot about them. ToyFare magazine got cancelled so I wasn’t getting regular updates on the line and the figures never showed up at any of my local shops so I was completely oblivious to their release a couple of years ago. It wasn’t until this past July when I was on ebay searching for San Diego Comic Con exclusives in hopes of scoring a Shockwave/HISS tank for a reasonable price that I came across a SDCC 2012 exclusive set of Outer Space Men. This set of 4 figures had apparently been releases a couple of times before via the Four Horsemen’s website but this set featured a new color scheme. Rather than pay the inflated ebay/Comic Con price I decided to head to the FH online store myself to see if I could buy one of the previous sets. As it turned out they had a few SDCC sets for sale directly on their site at a cost of about $20 a figure. Of course I bought them right up.
So my 4 Outer Space Men arrived in the mail last week. There was Metamorpho from Alpha Centauri, Inferno from Mercury, Astro-Nautilus from Neptune and this guy, Xodiac from Saturn. Each one of these figures came on a retro style card that was signed by the Four Horsemen. On the back is a picture of the vintage figure on which the figure is based and a short character bio. Xodiac’s bio says that he is the wisest man on his planet and that he can use his staff to play music on Saturn’s rings. Interesting. A great feature of the packaging on these figures is that they can be opened and resealed without any tearing allowing me to alternate how I display them. Of theses four figures it’s hard to pick a favorite as they’re all so cool but I think I’d have to say that it is still Xodiac. His bright metallic green spacesuit and translucent green accessories (the scepter and raygun) look fantastic. He has a removable dome helmet made out of the same translucent plastic as his weapons. It can be removed to reveal that weird mouthless purple head with fleshy sacks around his neck. On the old solid grey toy I used to have I couldn’t tell if these growths on his neck were intended to be part of his body or his costume but this figure makes it clear. These figures are lacking in articulation but their bodies can be broken up and their appendages swapped which gives some added playability. These are awesome looking figures whose uber-bright colors really stand out in my collection. I will definitely be getting more of them. 8 out of 10.