The 1990s were an interesting time. For the entertainment industry, especially comic books, it was the age of dark and gritty storytelling. This was an era when comic book superheroes went dark, way dark, to capitalize on the works of Frank Miller and Alan Moore. You had The Death of Superman over at DC, the X-Men spin-off The New Mutants at Marvel, and Image Comics, which were pumping out Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld comics that symbolize everything wrong with ‘90s comics for their over-the-top dark nature.
It was a turbulent time for superhero toys, too. Many of them reflected the darker tone their comic book inspirations followed. Also like the comics, many of these figures and toys from the ‘90s were also a mixed bag in terms of quality. Marvel went bankrupt in late 1996, saved from extinction by toy creator Toy Biz.
Toy Biz created many toys based on Marvel properties over the years, so it makes sense they would rescue them from the grave. Though the partnership wouldn’t last, obviously, with Disney acquiring Marvel in 2009. But when Toy Biz had Marvel, they pumped out some hilarious and awful Marvel toys. Now, all these years later, we're left with the aftermath. Oh well, at least it gives us something to talk about (and laugh at).
30 Famous Couples: Cyclops And Jean Grey (1997)
Here’s something kids love: romance. For some reason, Toy Biz thought it would be a grand idea to release a new line of toys called Famous Couples, based on couples within Marvel comics. The line didn’t last long, but Cyclops and Jean Grey were "lucky" enough to be included.
The figures come in a lurid pink box with a giant heart sitting behind the characters. This was a limited edition kind of thing, only 24,000 of these were made, but still. Wait, does it come with a gold coat and… chains? What are you supposed to do with those? On second though, don’t answer that.
29 Invisible Woman, Invisible Toy (1992)
Like Trevor Fitzroy, the Invisible Woman has a difficult power to demonstrate in toy form. How would you represent her power? Well, in the 1990s (and still to this day), companies decided that they should just make the figure 100% clear.
So we have a completely see-through figure along with two “invisible” shields. The thing is, it looks terrible, like some unfinished, prototype figure that could be anyone or anything. Is that Sue Storm, or is a mold of some other random female character they had lying around? Was this released just to save money on paint?
28 Secret Weapon Force Wolverine (1998)
Okay, “Secret Weapon Force” is already pretty funny on its own, but combine that with this terrible looking rejected WWE (WWF, at the time) wrestler that’s supposed to be Wolverine, and you’ve got something truly incredible.
Everything about this figure screams “1990s,” from the fabulous hair, the blue leotard, the mean face, the random bits of red war paint, and the rips in the clothing. Best of all though, it comes with a “vehicle.” Yes, you can put Wolverine in a chair that fires missiles. You know, just like he always did in the comics.
27 Bride Of Venom (1997)
We take a brief detour from hilarious to horrifying. This is the Bride of Venom, a.k.a. Anne Weying. There's nothing spectacular about her backstory; she’s the female equivalent of Venom (even going by the moniker She-Venom), because that’s what you had to do in the ‘90s. But the figure itself, oh boy.
Frozen in carbonate like Han Solo, we see the horrified face of Weying as the alien Symbiote grabs hold her for the first time. And that’s it, that’s the figure. A frightened woman being consumed by an alien that wants to control her. Cool. Oh, there’s also a giant spider included, in case you weren't frightened enough.
26 X-Men Space Riders Beast (1997)
The Space Riders was a strange line of toys for the X-Men in the late 1990s. The premise was (obviously) the X-Men… BUT IN SPACE! It also had them riding around on these bizarre hovercraft toys, apparently representing space ships. Well, they were all terrible, but Beast’s figure might be the worst.
You can barely tell it's him with all that weird yellow armor that seems to be making up his body. But instead of one of the hovercraft toys, he instead gets another bit of metal to strap to his body. It’s some kind of over sized jetpack, with a green spinning wheel on the back with what might be a gun on the front?
25 Beach Spider-Man (1999)
This sounds like the start of a joke, “Why did Spider-Man go to the beach?” We do mean Spider-Man, not Peter Parker. For whatever reason, Spidey thought it’d be a good idea to have a day of fun at the beach, wearing a new “costume” that can only be described as "dad fashion."
He’s got his mask and gloves on, Spider-Man themed shorts, and a shirt that says “Spider-Man” over a picture of the sunny sky and a wave. The figure also came with a beach ball, a baseball hat, and… a red thing? Cool.
24 Marvel Universe: The Spot (1996)
We can’t lay the blame entirely at the feet of Toy Biz for this The Spot toy. Part of his silly design comes down to how he was originally envisioned. This is just a silly character, straight up. He’s a dude in a white unitard with black spots on it.
However, it’s the face on this particular figure that really cements The Spot’s place on this list. It looks like they tried to make his eyes and mouth look like spots too, but it didn’t quite work. Even with the mask, it looks like he’snot really all there.
23 Marvel Vs. Capcom: War Machine Vs. Mega Man (1999)
What a great idea on paper. The Marvel vs. Capcom games, especially the second one, are considered some of the best fighting games of all-time. Plus, it’s a great, wacky concept anyway. Why these two franchises? Why are they fighting? Who knows and who cares, it’s fun!
But then there's this particular set of figures, War Machine and Mega Man. Specifically, we’re talking about the old blue bomber, Mega Man. What is wrong with his face? He looks like The Dummy from that episode of The Twilight Zone. Why does he have rocket launchers strapped to his shoulders? Is that why he’s pulling that face, because he fired them and now he’s gone deaf?
22 X-Men’s Bonebreaker (1994)
Bonebreaker is part of the Reavers, a group of Wolverine’s enemies who cybernetically enhanced themselves to destroy their sworn enemy. For whatever reason, “Bonebreaker” decided to turn himself into the evil equivalent of Professor X, by sticking his upper body onto a tank he uses as a wheelchair.
Again, you can’t really blame the makers of this toy, they were working with the best they had. It’s just the concept is so ludicrous it's hard not to look at this (and the character’s name) and laugh.
21 Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Mary Jane (1996)
Where do you start when critiquing this 1996 figure of Mary Jane? The cold, empty, and for some reason yellow eyes? The open mouth bearing frightening teeth? The overly bright, almost glowing red hair? The articulation point on her neck that makes it look like her throat’s been slit?
This toy is based on Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which ran from 1994 to 1998. The show has its fans, but it wasn’t always the peak of quality, and the toys based on it prove that. Mary Jane really got the short end of the stick.
20 Jean Grey’s Got A Gun (1996)
Remember in the comics when Jean Grey ran around with guns? Yeah, neither do we. For some reason, as part of the Hall of Fame toy line in 1996, Toy Biz decided to give Grey two guns to wield. Maybe as an apology for that terrible Famous Couples set from earlier on this list.
If that were they case, then they’ve made it worse. Again, we have another figure with cold eyes, and a Stepford Wives grin on her face. Except this time she’s got two guns and is covered in holsters. The guns don’t even look good, they’re those super fake looking ones you always get in these cheap toys.
19 The Uncanny X-Men Ahab (1993)
Boy, this is a bad figure. From the weird look on its face, the massive gap in the joint where his legs and his torso meet, and his weapon that just looks like a lump of red plastic. But really, like many figures on this list, it's the face that says everything you need to know, which is “look how hilarious I am.”
Based on one of the more obscure characters from the X-Men, Ahab is a villain who generates energy harpoons. Yes, seriously. He’s also a cyborg, because every villain from the ‘90s (Ahab was created in 1990) also had to be a cyborg.
18 Amazing Heroes Ghost Rider (1997)
It is amazing how many of these figures came from 1997. Case in point, the Amazing Heroes range Ghost Rider, which is a sight to behold. Really rocking the hourglass figure with that massive chest and those unpainted weapons must really give him a workout.
But the first thing all of us can see are those flames. Holy guacamole on toast, the flames around Ghost Rider’s head look terrible. It looks like a hood, or a kerchief an old Ukrainian woman would pull around herself. Then there’s the one flame on his left leg that looks like he spilled spaghetti sauce on himself and doesn’t realize it.
17 Sugar Man (1996)
Sugar Man is one of those characters that’s so weird he’s come full circle to not being that weird anymore. He’s got a giant face for a torso and is called Sugar Man, for some reason. That’s about all there is to him.
The design of this toy is just so absurd. How many teeth does it have? Why does he have four arms and horns? He’s definitely rocking the 90s aesthetic with the spiky harness and wrist bands. It’s let down somewhat by the giant lever in its back that moves the tongue up and down, though. Okay yeah, this is weird.
16 X-Men X-Force: The Blob (1995)
The Blob has always been one of the worst characters Marvel’s ever created. The “gag” is that he’s a mutant whose power is that he’s morbidly obese. Why anybody would make that into a "super power," who knows, but why did they make a figure out of it too?
In 1995, Toy Biz blessed us with this beautiful Blob figure as part of their X-Force line. As you’d expect, the figure is grotesque with the lovingly rendered flabs and muscle coming together to create something that’s not quite human.
15 Monster Spider (1997)
This Monster Spider toy is a weird one, as it’s not based entirely off a pre-existing Marvel character. Instead, it’s loosely modeled after Man-Spider, a mutated version of Spider-Man that appeared in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Where Man-Spider had six eyes, two legs, and six arms, Monster Spider instead has two eyes, four legs, and four arms.
For whatever reason, it also comes with a giant spider. And one of its arms is a claw. What exactly were Toy Biz thinking when they created this monster? Did they think parents would look at it and say “yep, my kid needs this in their life, ASAP!”
14 Wolfsbane (1997)
Another hilarious disaster from 1997, Wolfsbane joins the long list of figures that just don't work conceptually. Wolfsbane is a wolf-like creature, obviously, so what’s the best way to convey that in an action figure? Apparently, Toy Biz thought the answer was to make it hairy.
As you can see in the picture above, Wolfsbane is covered in hair. Arms, legs, and even her ears have strands of hair shooting out. She also comes with a set of bones, to reinforce how stupid all this is. But like with so many other figures, it's the eyes that really makes it stand out. No pupils, no problem!
13 Marvel Superheroes Bop Bag (1990)
It's always a little strange seeing punching bags marketed towards children. Don’t parents always complain about violent media? Surely giving your child a literal punching bag is worse, right?
Well, the message is all the more muddled by the Marvel Superheroes Bop Bag. There were several of these over the years, but this one in particular is head-scratching. It’s a punching bag, and you punch it. Fair enough. So, why are Marvel’s heroes the ones printed on the bag? Why is little Timmy supposed to be punching Hulk in the face, or Spider-Man in the groin?
12 Trevor Fitzroy (1991)
This Trevor Fitzroy figure, released in 1991, isn’t too bizarre on its own. He’s got a clear plastic box on his head, but other than that, the figure looks solid. The thing is, nobody knows who Trevor Fitzroy is. Part of that is because he had a short run in the comics, part of that is how stupid his concept is, and part of it is because he was only introduced in 1991, the same year the toy came out.
Fitzroy’s power is that he can open portals through time and space. That’s it. How do you make a toy based on that power? Well, obviously you give him transparent plastic armor and call it a day.
11 Wolverine & Crawler Rex Dino Jaw (1997)
If it wasn’t about cyborgs in the 1990s, then it was probably about dinosaurs. Enter X-Men Savage Land, part of the overall Savage Land series Marvel had going on at the time. A major part of this series was Wolverine, though he looked a bit different back then.
He still has his yellow spandex suit, but he’s a caveman with bone claws and skulls for knee and shoulder pads. And he’s got a pet dinosaur friend, with “Jaw Chomping Action.” I take back whatever I said before, if this isn’t peak 1990s, I don’t know what is.
10 Incredible Hulk Rage Cage (1991)
There are so many questions with the Incredible Hulk Rage Cage. Why is the Hulk wearing a yellow shirt? How did Hulk get in the cage to begin with? What made anyone think this would be a fun toy?
The Incredible Hulk Rage Cage is a toy featuring a Hulk figure in a cage. You press a button on Hulk’s back, and he breaks the cage. That's all it does. That’s the entire point of the toy. The cage doesn’t even convincingly break apart, the bars just neatly fall to the side on their own.
9 Spider-Man (Web-Suction Hands) (1990)
On its own, this Spider-Man figure from 1990 isn’t anything special. A bit bland and cheap looking, but for the time that was more or less standard. But there's one feature on this toy that takes it from boring to side-splitting hilarious.
It has giant suction cups on its hands. This “Web Suction Action,” as the box calls it, is just two big suction cups permanently attached to Spidey’s hands. Is that how Spider-Man does it? He doesn’t actually have any super powers at all, he’s just glued suction cups to his hands, he just did a better job hiding them than this toy did?
8 Captain America Turbo Coupe (1991)
Ah, the staple of action figure manufactures, everyone— giving a character a car for no reason. There are any number of stupid and funny cars that could go on this list, but the Captain America Turbo Coupe deserves a place pretty high up there.
For a start, Cap’s shield sits in the front and extends out on a pole to… shield things further away? It also has glider wings, as you’d expect from a car. But best of all is where the Captain America figure sits. Not in the driver seat like a normal person, no, instead, he sits on the top of the car in the back, right next to the jet engines.
7 Thing II Undercover Disguise (1997)
Take a second to let the above image sink in. Yes, that is the Fantastic Four’s Thing (called Thing II in Toy Biz’s toys) wearing a trench coat, with glasses and a fedora accessory.
Why? Why is he wearing a trench coat, and where did he find one big enough for him? Is this a reference to an obscure comic moment? Even if it is, what’s the point of making a figure out of it? What can you do playing with this? Why would a kid, or anyone for that matter, want Thing (I or II) in a trench coat?
6 Hardee's Incredible Hulk Bulldozer (1990)
Kids Meals toys at fast-food restaurant are always low-quality. This Hardee's/Carl's Jr. toy from 1990 of the Hulk is truly something remarkable though.
Hulk is in a bulldozer. The blade has “The Incredible Hulk” written on it. I’d leave it at that, because this doesn’t need any words, but I’m contractually obligated to write a certain amount per entry, so let’s all marvel (ahem) at the beauty together. It’s the Hulk. In a bulldozer. Why? Why does it matter?
5 Famous Cover Aunt May (1998)
There’s only a small chance you haven’t seen a picture of this monstrosity somewhere on the internet before. The zombie-like face of an angry WWE wrestler will stick in our minds forever, but there is a story behind the figure.
This version of what is allegedly Aunt May came about during the “Famous Cover” line of figures. This line took art from classic comic book covers over the decades and turned them into toys, exact expressions and all. This version of May comes from The Amazing Spider-Man #115, in which May can be seen on the cover pointing a gun at Spider-Man.
4 Magneto Mobile (1994)
It doesn’t get much more ridiculous than this (except it does, because there are still three more entries on this list). The Magneto Magnetron was released in 1994, a few years after Captain America’s own absurd vehicle. Like the Captain America Turbo Coupe, the Magnetron has a forward facing weapon, this time a catapult, one of Magneto’s most famous weapons. Also like that car, the Magnetron has wings and a seat in the back for Magneto to fly it.
We’re all thinking the same thing though. Why would Magneto ever need his own combat vehicle? He can control all forms of metal, including his own car.
3 Whistlin' Banshee (1992)
The Whilstin’ Banshee doesn’t seem like a terrible idea on paper. Banshee is a character with a sonic scream ability (much like Black Canary) who fights crime in a fluorescent green and yellow spandex suit. This figure nails the look pretty well…
Except for the massive hole in its chest. The idea behind the toy is that you can throw it and it’ll glide, but it’ll also make a whistling noise that’s supposed to emulate the character’s power. In reality, it’s really annoying, and to work, leaves the character with a gaping hole right near his heart. The whistling sound must be his screams of pain.
2 Shark Trap Spider-Man (1997)
Conceptually the dumbest toy on this list, Shark Trap Spider-Man is what the name suggests. It’s Spider-Man, wearing a green scuba diving suit, with a trident and shark cage. Why does this exist, you might be asking? Well, to fight Black Sea Venom, obviously, another toy created for the most ill-advised line in comic book toy history.
It’s hard to know what to make of this. On one hand, it’s ridiculous, but on the other hand, it’s stupid. Points for innovation, I guess, but who thought kids would want to play with an underwater Spider-Man figure?
1 Shape Shifters Punisher (1998)
On the surface, this Punisher action figure from 1998 looks pretty good. The facial expression is a bit much, but it is well painted and sculpted, and can pull off some cool poses. So why is it #1 on our list?
Because this Punisher toy is part of the Shape Shifters line, meaning it can transform into a gun. Just like the real Punisher! The gun barrel comes out of his groin (off to a great start), and then you have to snap his spine back and pull the barrel out through his butt. To fire, you pull on his leg, which also has to be moved into a squatting position.