Monday, October 31, 2011

Under the Man-croscope: Halloween Edition! Supernaturals!

Behold the Man-croscope! A finely tuned device that allows the user to carefully scrutinize your childhood memories with the cold, cynical eye of an embittered adult! Remember that thing you loved? Not any more! What will the Man-croscope's roving gaze turn on this time?

Well, it's Halloween, and although we don't celebrate it in Australia, I still want you to brace yourself for an extra spooky instalment! I've reached deep into my memory banks and pulled out sinister shape-shifting short-lived eighties toy line Supernaturals! WoooOOOOOoooooOOOoo! (That's a ghost sound - but don't panic, I'm just making it with my keyboard).

Image from the awesome The Yellowed Pages blog which has a full scan of spooky Supernaturals comic!
Don't remember Supernaturals? Weren't even born then? Don't give a crap? Regardless, I'll assault you with my regrettably limited knowledge AFTER THE JUMP!

Okay so Supernaturals were a total gimmick, designed to cash-in on this crazy new technology called "holograms" which were threatening to replace the humble telephone. The figures themselves were clunky and cheap looking with basic sculpts and limited paint and articulation, but the spooky thing about them was that each contained a flat screen-like surface that contained a futuristic transforming 3D hologram! SpooOOOOOoooky!

That probably sounds a lot cooler than it actually was. But before I show you photos of them, how about we hold and hands and watch the vintage commercial together because then we'll have a pretty good idea of how they worked...

I remember that commercial vividly. And it must have worked, because although it wasn't based on any cartoon or film - and as far as I'm aware only lasted one wave - I still bought three of these things. And then proceeded to never, ever play with them.

Did I have the badass pirate that turned into a frightening skeleton? No, of course not! As I always discover when writing these articles, I had the shitty ones. There were two types of figures. The taller ones with legs and holographic weapons, and then the smaller, crappier, legless "ghostlings" which were all the exact same sculpt but with different holograms and colours.

My first one is the unimaginatively named "Spooks". Essentially the Jar Jar Binks of the Supernaturals, he was a court jester who transformed into a comical ghost...

Toy images from the sparsely populated Supernaturals Wiki.
You know what still bugs me about these assholes? The caped figure has arms, but then the hologram image also has arms. How does that work? Are they two separate entities? It just doesn't make sense to me that you have a small holographic guy floating inside a ghostly shell with arms and a sword. Which means that it's the outer shell that's doing the fighting, and the character inside is completely superfluous. Am I rite, guyz? 

Even as a kid I couldn't reconcile this. I just had no idea how to play with them. And, of course, the hologram transforms depending on the angle of the light, so if you were performing an animated and hilarious jester scene then the ghost kept appearing and ruining the punchlines. Plus there's little aesthetically pleasing about an action figure that's flatter than Sarah Michelle Gellar eating a pancake.

Admittedly, the hologram technology was pretty great, but once you'd seen it, that was it! It was useless after that. Kind of like the Nintendo 3DS. ZING. Around the same time as Supernaturals came out , my grandfather had an issue of National Geographic which had a hologram of an eagle on the cover. That was cool too, but ultimately had about as much play value as these stupid figures.

But I had two more. I had this guy who was a punk-rocker who turned into a werewolf...

Actually, he was legitimately scary - in both forms. Eighties movies and cartoons made punks just as threatening as vikings or Frankensteins in the eyes of a child.

They did a far better job with the larger figures. I had the leader of the good guys, Lionheart...

With his chestplate on and his visor down he almost passed for an actual action figure. One that didn't have a face and couldn't bend his knees. He transformed from shining knight into a man-eating lion, and thankfully his only arms were the big plastic ones on the side of his torso. He also had a lion hologram on his shield - which I guess, by the logic of the other holograms - was also an actual lion. Or some shit. I don't even know any more.

Did I mention these were made by Tonka? Stick to trucks, doods!



  1. I remember a toy very much like these but it was a top hat magician guy and when you opened him up there was a hologram of a giant bunny.

  2. No, I remembered it completely wrong! It's actually one of the Supernaturals (Mr. Lucky) and the hologram is a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat and then it's an evil rabbit pulling out a tiny magician out of a hat!
    But his actual body is one of those short weirdos.

  3. I had about a dozen of these (carded!) a few years back. They sat in a box for years, and I may or may not have sold them in a yard sale.

  4. I'm pretty sure I had some of these when my cousins past on their lego collection to my brother and me. It's like they snuck them in there to get rid of them.

  5. Wow. Tonka must have done a bit of a hit and run and unloaded a ton of these on unsuspecting children and then got the hell out of there. I was actually pretty amazed to discover there were playsets and vehicles! And the vehicles are TRUCKS?

    What the truck!?

  6. I remember picking one of these up at a school garage sale. I think it was a purple guy, with some sort of demon in him or something.

    But again, no context for what it was supposed to be, so it confused the hell out of me.