Kenner Swamp Thing Action Figures, 1990-1991
Like so many of the fun, memorable Swamp Thing collectibles from the early ’90s, this toy line was released in conjunction with the short lived Swamp Thing animated TV series. For better or for worse, the five episode cartoon ,much like the recent series of 2019, wasn’t given the chance to spread its wings. But, that didn’t deter the powers that be. Thanks to all the fine folks at DC, LCA, Kenner, Noteworthy, etc. for marketing the living hell out of it. The toy line outshined the animated series so much so that many fans don’t realize there was a Swamp Thing cartoon. I’ve met a number of fellow Swampy fans who enjoy sharing fond memories of growing up with these action figures. In this post I’ll be sharing the action figures. Next post, I’ll share all of the vehicles!
Snare Arm Swamp Thing – Starting things off, the original Swampy action figure! Sure it only comes with that weird looking trap you’re not sure what to do with, but it’s the fun figure we’ve grown to love. I consider it to be the classic Swamp Thing figure. It was rumored, and since proven wrong, that this figure was intended to be part of the Super Powers action figure toy line.
Bio-Glow Swamp Thing – The figure wielding the most weapons is Bio-Glow Swampy. Don’t be fooled by his charming glow in the dark features, this figure is equipped with an axe and mace. I really like this design. The cactus texture is a really fun addition.
Snap Up Swamp Thing – Snap Up Swampy is a fun concept but rarely would Swamp Thing need to play dead or need to hide as a pile of logs. When not playing dead, Snap Up Swamp Thing enjoys log bazookas.
Camouflage Swamp Thing – Camo Swampy comes with a Vine Snare (plastic branch with attached string) for lassoing villains. Sure it’s weird that Swamp Thing would use weapons made of wood but every action figure needs frivolous accessories.
Camouflage Swamp Thing – This version of the camouflage Swamp Thing figure was released in ‘91 while its predecessor reached stores in 1990. Whether it was due to a manufacturing error or production cost, this figure features a larger and simplified painted/textured chest.
Capture Swamp Thing – This figure includes a club and a net. It’s the Snare Arm Swamp Thing with a new coat of paint and a fishing net (confirmed by Tomart’s Action Figure Digest #5 – 1992). Kenner-or whoever called the shots at the time-probably wanted to add as much variety with the least amount of expense to the short lived toy line. Since the five episode animated series had little to offer in regards to new content/visuals to help drive sales, throwing a coat of paint and some repurposed accessories isn’t a bad idea to boost sales.
Climbing Swamp Thing – This figure comes with a staff, shield and rope. The back of the packaging-like most action figures-has high hopes for the capabilities of Swamp Thing’s accessories. Tomart’s Action Figure Digest reported that the Climbing figure is nothing more than the Camo figure with a paint job.
Bayou Jack – Bayou Jack and Tomahawk were not part of the Swamp Thing comic book canon but they accompanied Swampy in his animated escapades. The Bayou Jack figure comes with a water blaster that actually shoots water.
Tomahawk – Swamp Thing’s friend, Tomahawk comes equipped with a crossbow you flick to fire.
A few Swamp Thing figures were in the works for the second wave of action figures to be released in 1992, as you can see in the Kenner Spring ‘92 Toy Fair Catalog. The figures never saw the light of day but their elements/parts were repurposed. The Alligator Swamp Thing figure design (below, left) was eventually re-purposed for the limited GI Joe toy line, Manimals. The Swamp Thing figure transformed into alligator form can be seen below on the right.
The GI Joe Manimals figure that ended up with the Swamp Thing alligator body design can be seen below, left.
Another unreleased figure featured in the Spring ‘92 Kenner Toy Fair Catalog is Constricting Swamp Thing, seen below. It’s perhaps the most unattractive of concepts. It looks like an afterthought with its coiled, turd like feet.
The most interesting and ambitious of the unreleased Swampy figures has to be the Extending Swamp Thing. You may have seen this prototype figure featured in Holland Files #3. As you can see, Swamp Thing’s torso can telescope/extend in length. His accessories help to make his arms look extended as well. This prototype never made it into Kenner’s catalogs, previews or advertisements.
Swamp Thing Evil Un-Men Action Figures – If you have action figure protagonists, you’ve got to have antagonists to battle against. That’s where Arcane’s three evil Un-Men come into play. Each of the Evil Un-Men Figures feature glow in the dark eyes, an accessory/weapon, and a rubber monster head (playing off of their abilities to mutate in the cartoon). The rubber heads work well for thumb wrestling with your friends. Besides Anton Arcane, none of these specific Un-Men from the Swamp Thing toy line appear in DC books, except for within the hard to find DC/LCA Entertainment Style Guide.
Anton Arcane – Swamp Thing’s nemesis Anton Arcane comes equipped with a staff and rubber head!
Dr Deemo – To make the Deemo figure more creepy, a miniature Swamp Thing figure with a noose around its neck is included. The little Swamp Thing figure alludes to a voodoo doll.
Weed Killer – Weed Killer comes with a small spray gun. I wonder if the character’s outfit is a nod to Anton Arcane’s henchmen in Return of Swamp Thing. They wore similar orange jumpsuits.
Skinman – Skinman is equipped with a pickaxe. His rubber head features wings so that he can take flight.
Like the Swamp Thing toys, the Un-Men figure line was also hoping to expand in 1992. In the Kenner Spring ‘92 Toy Fair Catalog, Scorcher and Defoliator Arcane were advertised to be released. Neither character appeared in the cartoon and they never made it to stores. The body of the Scorcher figure was repurposed from the RoboCop Ultra Police action figure of the same name. The Scorcher’s weapon came from Claw Callahan, another figure from the RoboCop Ultra Police line that was available sometime around 1990. Both figures are pictured below for your reference. In the past, I’ve read accounts that the Swamp Thing figures were repurposed to be used within the RoboCop toy line. But, that wouldn’t make sense. The first wave of RoboCop figures were released around 1988 and the toy line died out in the the early 1990s. It would make more sense if the RoboCop figures were repurposed for wave 2 Swamp Thing action figures.
Defoliator Arcane was nothing more than a repurposed Toxic Waster, a Vandals RoboCop figure shown below.
French Figures & Vehicles – The Swamp Thing toy line was also distributed outside of the US, available in French packaging. I believe the figures were available in Canada as well as Europe. I’ve been able to procure a French Swampy figure as well as a couple French Swamp Thing action figure vehicles. I’ll be sharing all of the vehicles in my next post! Below is the French Bio-Glow Swamp Thing figure. Notice that the backing card uses the Camo Swamp Thing artwork. I believe all of the French Swampy figures are attached to the same backing card.
Swamp Thing Weapon Variants? – Nope! For a while I assumed that Swamp Thing weapon variants were kicking around online and on ebay. Tomahawk’s crossbow can be found loose/out of package but with a green arrow. A couple of Swampy’s weapons can be found loose/out of package as well, but in orange. Turns out, these different colored weapons don’t belong to the Swamp Thing toy line. The weapons were repurposed, much like they were in the RoboCop toyline, for the ’92-’93 Battle Trolls toyline. I suppose meaningless weapons and accessories can be reused for any toy line.
Stayed tuned for the Swamp Thing action figure vehicle line!