Life In Plastic: Retro Review: Alien Spawn II (McFarlane Toys)

AlienSpawn

Legend has it that in the mid-’90s, Todd McFarlane shopped around his ideas for a Spawn toy line, but felt dissatisfied with what any of the major distributors had to offer, so he started his own toy company. As time went on, McFarlane Toys redefined the whole industry in terms of sculpting detail, adult subject matter, “grownup” collectibles, and even articulation. Of course, this came at a price, as his toys tended to be more like immobile statues than action figures, and a lot of his “original” work was just ghastly (seriously, look at those Tortured Souls sometime!).

AlienSpawn-Red

Oh, yeah, that’s the thing – his toys. Sure, there were licensed lines like Movie Maniacs or the Matrix line or his sports figures (or the modern Walking Dead and Halo toys), but the vast majority of McFarlane’s output at its heyday came straight from Todd’s own line. His Spawn series ran for years! His concept lines kept pushing every envelope they could! In fact, even his Spawn line departed from the comic pretty early, focusing on some crazy concepts like Mandarin Spawn.

AlienSpawn-Side

Released in February 2002, Spawn Series 21, “Alternate Realities,” specifically explored this by recasting Spawn in a bunch of new personas… or perhaps just showing different Spawns, as the comics made it clear that there were tons of Hellspawns in the universe. It had the seventh version of “regular” Spawn, She-Spawn, the medieval Raven Spawn, Pirate Spawn, Wings of Redemption Spawn, and the second Alien Spawn. Most of those came from the comics, but Pirate and Alien Spawn were pretty out there. The first “Alien Spawn,” released back in the mid-’90s, just looked like a bulkier Spawn with robot tentacles.

AlienSpawn-Darkness

The new one was clearly a different beast, a gigantic, demonic, giger-esque fiend. And this just brings up questions! What is he? Is he “if Spawn were an Alien?” Or “What if an alien were made a hellspawn?” Or “What if an H. R. Giger Xenomorph became a Hellspawn?” or something else entirely? Some questions don’t have answers. Alien Spawn came in two color variants – an orange version that was featured on the official site, and a green one that was never mentioned or featured or previewed anywhere. They seem to have shipped in roughly equal numbers and cost the same, so it’s honestly a mystery. I own the green one. Anyway, on to the figure!!

AlienSpawn-Packaged

PACKAGING: ***

The packaging is one of Todd McFarlane’s famous clamshells… though it felt easier to open than his later works, at least. Alien Spawn is really clearly visible in the tray, so you know which color you’re getting. He’s also secured with a ton of twisty-ties, including a few that carefully hold his pose. Getting him out is a little irritating, but worth it – the paper insert is actually a mini-catalogue!

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SCULPT: ****

Welcome to McFarlane’s specialty. The sculpt on this toy is insane, better than most stuff on the shelves nowadays! Alien Spawn doesn’t look much like a normal Hellspawn – in fact, he lacks any real identifiers. No black and white uniform, “M” pattern, or anything like that, which puts him closer to Raenius or Mandarin Spawn than any of the other Hellspawn out there. The overall design is a lot like one of Malebologia’s henchmen, or one of the Phlebiac brothers, or something.

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He’s a tall, lanky demon with massive horns, strangely ribbed wings, and a thorny exoskeleton. The carapace is where I got the Xenomorph idea from, because it’s really, really clearly based on the Alien design. He’s even got those weird, ridged patches on his arms and legs!

AlienSpawn-Wings

Aside from the obvious inspiration, every square inch of Alien Spawn’s body is textured, whether ridged or wrinkled or cracked or rough. They spared no detail, and it’s great – this guy just doesn’t look like a “toy!” his wings are an oddity, as they are these odd, ribbed, vestigial cages, as if he tried to grow wings but didn’t know how. They help push the “alien” concept forward, and are a cool swerve from the type of look you’d expect.

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His face lacks the typical McFarlane Overbite, and he’s also got normal feet – no One Big Boot syndrome – so there are a few things about this design that just don’t seem to fit the normal Spawn aesthetic. But I really don’t mind – dude is awesome.

AlienSpawn-Face

PAINT: ****

As I said before, there are two paint variations of this monster. Orange, which I do not have, and green, which I do. I like the look of the orange version from every picture I’ve seen, and that’s all you’ll hear right now…

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The green variant is fantastic, but that’s not to say that the paint is precise – there is a measure of slop all over, but for a creature like this it totally works. Mostly it’s a level of fade in the orange sections of his arms and legs, but that’s fine.

AlienSpawn-Spotlight

His face is absolutely precise! Aside from the muddy translucent green of his body, Alien Spawn has orange ridged sections on his arms and legs, black horns and spikes, and some black and white washes covering everything to bring out the details. It’s really, really good – this thing looks like it stepped out of a movie with a good effects budget, and manages to not look like a toy up close. That’s harder than one would think, but the necessary detail is there, and the paint really compliments the sculpt.

 AlienSpawn-Reach

ARTICULATION: ***1/2

The weird-ass articulation on this monster is weird. Seriously. By 2002, McFarlane Toys was known for producing action figures that basically amounted to immobile statues, and you can tell that with this figure at least, there was a definite effort to get away from that. Alien Spawn has a swivel head, wrists, mid-heels, and right elbow, ball-and-socket shoulders and right elbow, hinged left elbow, right knee, knee pads, and left toes, double-hinged left knee, and ball-jointed hips and torso. It’s uneven! The double-jointed knee is incredible, as that joint really wasn’t common then (it’s still kind of rare)… but it’s not shared with both knees!

AlienSpawn-Hang

The articulation serves really well in getting Alien Spawn to kneel for his “official” pose, but you can also stand him straight up without trouble, and he’s got several natural-looking poses. This figure is way more articulated than he looks, and I greatly appreciate that. Some of the joints, like his shoulders, seem a little awkward, but you’ll get the hang of them before long. Just beware one thing – like any McFarlane toy, Alien Spawn tends to come with stuck joints. For me, it was the head, right elbow, left shoulder, and right hip, but some hot water and patience helped get ’em all moving. The plastic is flexible and durable and can survive a lot of stress, but it was still worrisome.

 AlienSpawn-VsHudson

ACCESSORIES: N/A

McFarlane toys almost always come with something – weapons, henchmen, or even terrain to stand on. Alien Spawn does not, which is sad. Maybe it’s because he’s kind of huge, as he stands at like nine inches when fully on his feet, or maybe not. You could count the wings as accessories, since they are detachable, but I’d rather not. If only he came with something, anything…

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VALUE: ****

Alien Spawn II should cost you about $10-$20, and either of those prices are well below what it would be worth nowadays. Back in the day, it was $10, and we thought it was expensive, and I miss those days.

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THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

Beware stuck joints on this guy, and use either the freezer or hot water to unstick them. His plastic is pretty flexible and durable, and will survive a lot of stress, but I wouldn’t want to test it. once you get everything working, though, you’re golden.

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WHERE TO BUY:

Old toys are old…. but Amazon and eBay have ’em. On Amazon, you won’t know which color you’re buying till you get it, but you can tell on eBay. Have fun!

 AlienSpawn-VsXeno

OVERALL: ****

I’ve got some minor nitpicks, but most of them have to do with things that are a matter of its era, like articulation. Really, this figure is a lost gem in McFarlane’s library. Sure, it’s not Mandarin Spawn, but I’d put it in a similar tier – and it’s more of a toy than old Mandy, terrifyingly enough!

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Whether you want an alien or a demon or like orange or green, Alien Spawn II is a nifty nightmare that deserves space on your shelf.

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3 responses to “Life In Plastic: Retro Review: Alien Spawn II (McFarlane Toys)

  1. Pingback: Life In Plastic: Why Retro Reviews? | Nerditis·

  2. Pingback: McFarlane Toys Alien & Predator Box Set Ad from 2002·

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