Life In Plastic: RETRO REVIEW: The Heap (McFarlane Toys)


Now that I’ve defended Retro Reviews, you’ve got no choice but to see another one!

Comic books are full of ripoffs. Whether it’s Captain Marvel ripping off Superman, or Fighting American ripping off Captain America, if something looks popular, chances are it’ll have twenty imitators by Tuesday. So, who ripped off whom? Swamp Thing (the mystical plant swamp monster created when a guy got mutated) or Man-Thing (the mystical plant swamp monster created when a guy got mutated)? Neither! They both ripped off The Heap – a mystical plant swamp monster created when a guy got mutated. The Heap debuted in 1952 in Hillman’s Airboy Comics, and was a mutated pilot-turned-swamp-monster.


Hillman eventually went under, and Eclipse bought The Heap. Then Eclipse went bankrupt, and Image Comics bought the property. And so, Todd McFarlane, now with actual ownership of the character (For real. He DIDN’T steal this one!), wasted no time in adapting The Heap to Spawn. Instead of a pilot mutated with swamp muck, it became a hobo mutated with garbage and Malebolgia’s necroplasm – and thus, part of the Spawn universe! Although this new Heap barely resembled the original, it took part in a few cool scenes – apparently, whenever it ate Spawn, it magically teleported him into a strange verdant green dimension. That’s weird.


The Heap received a figure in 1998, and was popular enough to spawn several variants and even a collector’s club repaint in 2004. It’s another one of those figures that is kind of well-known as one of the greats, but doesn’t seem to get much coverage (though at least it’s got a review at OAFE). So, for the sake of newcomers (people who started collecting toys more recently than 15 years ago), why don’t we take a look at the original muck monster, The Heap?



As this was 1998, the figure is in a blister, not a clam shell. It’s a huge blister, as the figure is pretty big, and although it’s serviceable, in this case a clam shell would have served better. The Heap’s weight is going to eventually tear that bubble off, so this toy is not good for people who like to keep their stuff mint on card.


SCULPT: ****

Now here’s the reason why people liked McFarlane Toys! The thing about garbage monster toys is that they give sculptors a chance to go nuts – have you ever seen the TMNT Muckman figure? And although there are plenty out there, The Heap is miles ahead of all of them! Detail-wise, it actually doesn’t look much like the comic version – the Heap in Spawn was an amorphous beast, and wouldn’t translate well into plastic. So this version has a clear body, with detailed musculature and veins – for what you can see under all the garbage.


The amazing thing is the trash. Rather than just sculpting details all over the body, they chose to make every piece of garbage as a separate piece and glue it in! This means that stuff sticks out all over The Heap’s body in ways that would never have fit into a single mold. The glass is transparent like glass, the solids are opaque, and the pieces of newsprint are actual paper (slightly laminated, though they feel crinkly) with full headlines printed on them! That is incredible.


As for the non-garbage parts, The Heap is kind of like if Oscar the Grouch had a baby with the Rancor. The hulking beast has a definite body shape with a huge head and lots of yellow, crooked teeth. Its wrinkly, muddy hide is really well-defined, complete with pitted and cracked fingernails, veins on its hands, and even somewhat of a pot belly! There is so much detail on this monster that you can spend hours looking at it, and still probably miss a few things. About the only complaint I can think of is that some of the seams are visible, but I didn’t notice it until I looked over these photos.


The thing is, this figure is also BIG. height-wise, it’s somewhere around 7″ tall, but it’s pretty deep and heavy, and takes up a lot of space. It just feels like a titan that should be stomping cities, and I love the fact that it brings a lot of heft to the table. It must have cost a lot more to produce than most toys in this scale, just from the materials and complex construction alone.


PAINT: ****

Garbage monsters are hard to paint right. It’s tempting to just do a layer of brown or green and call it a day, but The Heap goes way beyond that. Its body is layered in lots of shades of the above colors, with highlights and paint washes used to bring out the detail. Because most of the garbage pieces are separate and glued in, they each get their own paint apps. Nothing is “overlooked” or just left the color of The Heap’s body!


The inside of its mouth is bright neon green, in contrast with the mucky body – that’s the color of necroplasm, so it’s nice to see that. It isn’t just flat green, either, and is instead shaded. Heap’s teeth are nicely yellow, too, and its eyes are either white or blue depending on the variant. Mine has white eyes.



The Heap’s articulation definitely would not fly today, but it is almost good for the era – ALMOST. It has swivel shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hips, with a ball-jointed midsection and a hinged jaw. The good news is, all the joints are really tight – The Heap’s legs WILL hold its weight!


The bad news is, that huge chunk of rebar in its left arm makes positioning that arm really tricks – the rebar will be blocked by The Heap’s body most of the time, and that’s this figure’s biggest flaw. That one arm. Other than that, I’m fine with it – I’d gladly sacrifice some leg articulation to keep it stable on its feet. The hinged jaw is also awesome, but I really need to handle that in the Accessories section.



The accessories follow an interesting idea that makes me wonder if I should rank this really high or really low. What they did was pack four random pieces of garbage with every Heap figure – pieces taken from his body. I got the tray from its knee, the half-tire from its head, and two pieces of pipe from its left shoulder. I’ve seen people get bones, bottles, the shovel piece, and some tools, too – the idea is awesome, but there is no way to get more trash pieces without buying another Heap, and four doesn’t feel like enough. Somebody could easily get four pipes and feel shafted – I want more! MORE!!! That’s actually a sign that this is great, though.


The Heap’s hinged jaw is meant to work with those garbage pieces as kind of an action figure – fill his mouth with trash, and then open his jaw to spill it out. It’s simple and to the point, and works pretty well – I can actually pack more garbage into The Heap’s mouth than what I got, and two of those pieces are pretty big. The Heap looks great with pieces of trash sticking out of its mouth, and you won’t even mind getting half-pieces with pegs sticking out of them.


VALUE: ****

A lot of McFarlane stuff is surprisingly affordable, and The Heap will likely run you about $10. No kidding. It’s the same on eBay as it is at a toy show – pay a cheap price, and get a gigantic fun toy. How much stuff on the shelves right now goes for $10, huh? Anything?



Watch out for some of those pieces of trash – the glass feels sharp, and I won’t be held responsible if you cut yourself. Also, it can be easy to lose some of the included garbage pieces, so be careful with them.



Like any old toy, you’ve got Amazon or eBay, or one being sold in person.



Sure, it doesn’t resemble the original Heap in any way, and doesn’t even look much like the Spawn version, but this is a really awesome toy. It looks fantastic, it plays well, and it’s even got a creative set of accessories. When it comes to trash monsters, this guy’s the top of the heap (ha, ha).


I would recommend the original version over the 2004 repaint, though – that one didn’t come with the extra trash pieces. But I do recommend this figure wholeheartedly – it’s fun AND it looks awesome, too!


6 responses to “Life In Plastic: RETRO REVIEW: The Heap (McFarlane Toys)

  1. Pingback: Odds ‘n Ends > Robo Force, SWB6″ Han Solo production pics, Castle Grayskull :·

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