You know what it’s time for? Something weird and old! 2011 old, actually. MUSCLE is aproperty that lends itself to lots – and by that I mean crowds, scores, and legions – of bootlegs and knockoffs. Just take a look at the University of MUSCLE for a more in-depth study, because… well, wow. And back in 2011, I came across a sealed pack of a very specific bootleg brand which had not been properly documented before. I posted it ona forum, but… y[know, this needs to be a little more permanent than a forum post. So, let’s roll the clock back four years, and take a look!
Recently (note from 2015: Four years ago), I won an auction for a bootleg 4-pack for The Wrestlers Lutteurs, some Canadian MUSCLE knockoffs that have been commented upon on this board (note from 2015: this was the original auction picture).
And after I got the pack, I thought to myself: “The only info we have on these is really scattered and kind of blurry. There is one good photo of the six-armed dude, and one blurry one, and another figure kindasorta identified on UofM. Somebody’s got to bite the bullet and open a pack, so it may as well be me.”
And thus, it is opened! Don’t worry, there will be other MOC Lutteur packs on eBay in the future (note from 2015: There have been). Anyway, let’s dissect this.
Firstly, “Lutteur” just means “wrestler” in French. Therefore, these are “The Wrestlers,” or if you want to be fancy, they are “The Wrestlers Wrestlers.” And according to the package, they are wild! They are bad! They are good! The cardback is blank (as to be expected), but they did a pretty good job knocking off the MUSCLE 4-pack card, although I must say that neither of the wrestlers pictured on it showed up in this 4-pack. Supposedly, these four figures were the only ones available, too, although I could see knockoffs of some specific MUSCLEs looking like those two cartoon guys. The fact that it was just this four and they resemble 4-pack MUSCLEs says that the company probably bought a single 4-pack and then had their sculptors go to work.
These figures were made by Tootsie Wootsie toys in Ontario. I’ve tried to track down at least some information on them, but have so far been unsuccessful. Likely, I would have to actually go to Canada and look up hard copies of their business records. I’ll just assume that they made dollar-store toys, and leave it at that.
The next thing I noticed is that THESE ARE NOT DIRECT COPIES OR RESCULPTS OR ALTERED SCULPTS. These are not bootlegs, i.e. direct copies of a preexisting product (often using the other product as a mold). They are knockoffs, direct imitations. Each Lutteurs figure is clearly based on a specific MUSCLE, but they do not reuse any parts. Rather, they are simply scultped to copy them. I have to give Tootsie Wootsie’s in-house sculptors some props here, because they look pretty good. They are also pretty much the exact same shade of pink as MUSCLEs, although the rubber is glossier and a little softer (it still feels durable). This produces a very interesting effect. Remember the days before Google when we just had our childish memories of MUSCLEs we didn’t own? Perhaps a few we saw at a friend’s house, or ones in 4-packs we did not buy? These figures have that slightly distorted, “wrong” look that those memory-figures would have. Six-armed Goro, finless Mariposa, uneven and horned Ninja, tall Wood guy… it’s there, and it gives me kind of a creepy Deja Vu feeling. Also, they lack all identification, not even a “HONG KONG” marking on them.
Now, let’s look at these four figures:
First up is the six-armed #077, the most famous of this group. And why not? He has the most immediate and striking difference from the original, which makes this a desired piece in many collections. Look! He’s got six arms! However, this is a complete resculpt, not just a frankenstein kitbash. The head is shaped differently – it not only lacks 77’s headband, but the expression is somewhat different, the knees and mouth are smaller, and the nose is sharper. His torso is longer and flatter, and his pecs are a little, well, “perkier.” He also lacks the typical MUSCLE “soft” texture – those tiny little dots used for certain surfaces or shading. From the waist down, the shape is similar, but he has no belt, shorts instead of sweats, and different shoes. The arms are the most similar to 77, but even when you point out the four arms that are direct parallels, there are differences. For the upper-right arm, their thumbs are in different positions, the arm musculature is different, and the wrist is not the same thickness. The same applies to the lower arms – they are very similar, but they’re just not the same.
This next one most closely resembles #100, Bam Bam Ji, and has also appeared on UofM as a curiosity. Well, now the mystery has been solved – its one of the lutteurs! This figure has the most obvious changes from the original sculpt – and by that, I mean that it’s most obviously an original piece, not a kitbash or frankenstein. It certainly LOOKS a lot like Bam Bam Ji (the subject of a piece of very early MUSCLE fanfic, BTW) (note from 2015 – there was a MUSCLE fna zine in the late ’90s which included this. It involved a guy getting cut in half in a sawmill, and reconstructed with parts of a tree), but all of the proportions are different. Individual costume details also don’t match up, like his sculpted hair, or clearly-outlined mask, or tiny little belt. The belt is great, by the way – it shows a surprising amount of quality for a knockoff. Interestingly, the injection point is on its shoulder, exactly where 100’s little leaf is. Perhaps it was originally meant to include a leaf, but they decided not to for the sake of the mold.
This figure most closely resembles #096, The Ninja [B], but with a rather important and obvious difference: One arm is longer than the other! Oh, and he also has a giant horn on his head. Discounting the horn, which could have been Frankensteined from anything if this were not an original sculpt, you can again compare each part to the original. His shorts, legs and boots seem incredibly similar to 96’s, but if you look carefully you can see different proportions on the feet, different ankle width, different musculature on the legs (96’s are a little “baggier”), and different creases on the shorts. The shorts are amazing, as they are almost entirely alike except for those creases. The torso is more obviously new – different musculature, different cross-hatching, and the aforementioned issue with arm-length. As for the head, there are differences besides the horn. His face is not remotely the same, with a completely different brow, eyes, nose, and mouth. But at a quick glance, it can easily be mistaken for a kitbash with an extra horn.
This figure is the closest to its original, #166 Kinnikuman Mariposa [A]. In fact, I had to analyze it the longest before determining it to be a new sculpt, and not a modified copy. Ignoring his slightly concave face (a problem that many MUSCLEs share, most notably #1), there are several definite differences between this figure and 166, besides the missing head fin. Firstly, this figure has a belt that is not present on 166. It’s quite a nice little detail and, much like the #100 belt, is well-sculpted. The figure’s arms and legs lack the “soft” texture mentioned before, and are instead smooth. Its legs are more truncated than that of the original figure, and the shape of the Batman-esque kneepads is different (the prongs are slightly longer). His shirt’s wrinkles are almost exact, but if you look, they are different. It’s almost like looking at a drawing somebody made of the figure – all the details are “right” (two creases in the middle angled roughly the right way), but not exact. And likewise with the arms. Ignoring their length, 166’s unique musculature is almost, but not quite, reproduced. Again, every curved line is “correct,” but it’s not a mirror, as the shapes aren’t perfect, and his fists are different (different arrangement of skin creases near his index finger and thumb). The head is more obviously different, with a wider, pumpkin-esque nose. The pattern around his face is very faithfully reproduced, although again, the prongs are not the same. They may have the same number, but their length and arrangement is slightly different. Finally, the collar is entirely different. Make no mistake, this is a completely new sculpt, but the person who made it was fairly talented at copying the original. (note from 2015: The last time I visited the eye doctor, they told me that my vision had improved. Things like this probably explain it)
NOTE FROM 2015: Tootsie Wootsie Toys went bankrupt a long time ago, so there really are no answers. Still, this set reminds me of some of the really curious Japanese Kinnikuman knockoffs, like one figure who resembles Mickey Mouse. I still wonder what the exact story was behind these guys, though my assumptions probably were correct. What do you all think?