Monday, October 11, 2010

31 Favorite Monsters: Mutagen Man

My single favorite mutant from the 1990's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" toy line and cartoon show, Mutagen man is surely one of the most grotesque and inventive designs for any children's action figure, consisting only of entrails in a glass tank with rotten, cybernetic limbs. He even had garbage inside, too! As I talk about here in greater depth, he's also one of the franchise's darker characters, working for the evil Shredder only because his body will fall apart without a steady supply of Mutagen Ooze.

Mutagen Man's design for the cartoon was a little toned down - I particularly miss the eyeballs being on stalks, like in the figure - but at least the basics were all there. He's restored to human form in the end, but with a pretty cute twist. Track down the episode, or at least read my above link!

31 Favorite Monsters: Ickis, Krumm and Oblina

Ickis, Krumm & Oblina

These three are so complementary to one another that I couldn't just pick one over the other two, and they're technically all the same vaguely defined species anyway, so let's pretend they count as just one entry. Nickelodeon's "Aaahh!! Real Monsters!" told the story of three students attending a school for monsters in the sewers beneath a garbage dump, where they were taught by the perpetually (and lovably) furious Gromble in the art of scaring humans, which is later revealed to keep the entire monster race from fading out of existence. The show was loaded with creative creature designs, but our three central characters were appropriately the most iconic and in some ways the most bizarre.

Panicky, geeky Ickis is often thought of as "the" main character of the show, though wasn't focused on significantly more. Rounding out the excessive oddness of his two classmates, Ickis is often mistaken by humans for some sort of unusual "bunny," but has the power to menacingly increase his size, which makes him a "loomer" in their terminology.

The brainy, responsible one of the trio, Oblina was also probably the most surreal monster in the whole series, with huge lips on a flexible wormlike body, usually held in a candy-cane shape. Her scaring tactic was definitely my favorite; she would reach into her mouth and pull out her own guts to show people, or in some cases flip completely inside-out into a pulsing, slimy mess!

The lovably simple-minded Krumm might actually be my favorite of the three, and in my opinion the one genuinely unnerving design, thanks to his eerily human anatomy. Lacking a head, he carried his own eyeballs around in his hands, a feature the show had endless fun playing with - he could, of course, see through them no matter where they were. His specialty was his horrendous, unbearable stench, which may sound more gross than scary, but when a hairy humanoid head with stubby limbs and disembodied eyes jumps around a corner to stink at you, you're bound to have a bit of a Lovecraft moment.

31 Favorite Monsters: Weed Killer

Society has a long history of turning dark, violent and cerebral comic books into corny, more innocent children's cartoon shows, and DC's Swamp Thing got the treatment back in 1990, complete with a toy line and a slew of more marketable new characters, including a great trio of bungling henchmen for Swamp Thing's rival, Anton Arcane. One of these was Weed Killer, an oddly blue-skinned "herbicide specialist" who constantly wore a gas mask, and like his fellow henchmen, had an alternate "un-man" form represented by a creepy rubber mask, in this case, a giant mutant leech:

Believe it or not, I had no idea what a leech actually looked like when I received this toy, but I had heard of them and always wanted to see one; I even asked older kids to describe them for me, and they just snottily responded "WORMS WITH SUCTION CUPS," as if that were remotely enough of an explanation. Seeing a rubber toy of a "leech" with insect limbs, pointy ears and eyestalks didn't help matters much, though even as a kid I kinda knew it must have been exaggerated.

Either way, Weed Killer's design is pretty awesome...the cartoon version was more expressive, but I really love the figure's blank, beady eyes and emotionless howl. What isn't cool about having an entire gigantic leech for a head?

Though referring to a leech as a "bogsucker" is unique to the packaging of a single obscure action figure (it wasn't even uttered in the show), it stuck with me enough to partly inspire the name "Bogleech" for my first email address and eventually my website.

31 favorite monsters: The (original) Mutant Chia

This slimy, scuzzy, bug-eyed monstrosity was introduced on nearly a decade ago - and removed only a year or two after that, callously "updated" into an entirely different design that the site staff believed would be more "marketable." I already wrote all about this here, but what I never mentioned was just how much I owe to this turn of events. My immediate response to my beloved, gooey mutant's awful makeover was to begin designing a "virtual pet" game concept of my very own, with the sorts of creatures I would find interesting, and though I never did get a virtual pet project off the ground myself, my concepts for it eventually evolved into my Mortasheen universe, which has a very special secret to be revealed next year.

31 favorite monsters: Nuppeppo

Like the kappa, tanuki, tengu and hundreds more, the nuppeppo or nuppefuhofu (roughly meaning "blobby" or "lumpy") is one of Japan's widely recognized youkai dating back to centuries-old artwork.

Originally lacking much context or explanation, "blobby" has picked up a variety of recognized attributes about as delightful as you would expect; it likes to wander graveyards at night, it enjoys startling humans with its grotesque appearance, it stinks of (and is sometimes said to be composed of) incredibly rotten meat, and according to some, the consumption of its stinky, flabby tissues can grant a person immortality - if they can stomach it.

31 favorite monsters: Eraserhead's Baby

For those who haven't heard of it, David Lynch's Eraserhead is an artistic psychological horror film carefully constructed to feel uncomfortable and oppressive; droning sound effects, sparse dialog and long sequences in near total darkness all contribute to an experience not unlike a fever dream, and tying it all together in a perfect little package of disgust is the baby. Our unfortunate male protagonist is left all alone to care for his perpetually sickly child, and though it's only said to have been born "premature," the film portrays it as an utterly inhuman being, a puppet so grotesquely lifelike that it's incorrectly rumored to have been an actual animal fetus. Unable to do anything but sob and whine continuously, the tiny, harmless infant manages to be one of the most repulsive and maddening creatures in cinematic history. As far as the film's plot is concerned, it's just a human child, but to the viewers and its own tortured father, it's a monster through and through.

...Only slightly exaggerated from actual babies, really. Shudder.