Life In Plastic: RETRO REVIEW: Monster Heads (Mighty Max)

Once upon a time, there was a toyline called Polly Pocket.  Polly’s product line looked like makeup compacts, but you could open them up to reveal entire playsets full of terrain and small figures, with Polly going to the pet store, or the hair stylist, or school, or the mall, or whatever toy company execs thought appealed to little girls the most.  And then they decided to make similar toys for boys.  Of course, they couldn’t look like makeup, but surely some tiny playsets could be boy-themed, and thus:

Yeah, boys’ toys were hardcore back then.  Mighty Max more than most, with ample blood, corpses, implements of destruction, and working iron maidens.  The property eventually got a cartoon, which was surprisingly dark for the time, but the toys remained on their own track, only mildly influenced by the show (a few designs changed a bit).  The mighty Max line consisted of the following:

Doom Zones, larger compacts with multiple figures and play features
Horror Heads, smaller compacts with a couple of figures and usually no play features
Playsets, gigantic set with tons of figures and play features
Shrunken Heads, tiny compacts with only one figure
Monster Heads, which did not open up, and contained two figures
Dread Heads, which did not open up, did not come with any figures, and had rooted hair.
Battle Warriors, action figures that opened up into playsets with mini figures
And one Mega Head, which was somewhere between Doom Zone and Playset.

That’s pretty nice, come to think of it.  The figures were tiny, too – like, it’s hard to picture this at times, but you could fit two Maxes on a penny, easily.  Since everything ws so small, completed sets tend to run for a pretty penny these days, but the line is doable if you really want to collect them.  And maybe I’ll toss a few Mighty Max reviews up in the future, just to show why this is a good idea.  I had a lot back in the day, though not many of them are exactly complete anymore, for obvious reasons.

Late in the series’ lifespan, they tried to shake up the formula a little.  Shrunken Heads and Monster Heads were smaller than even Horror Heads, and each one excised one particular feature.  Shrunken Heads only came with a Max, with the monsters just sculpted into the playset inside the super-tiny case.  Monster Heads didn’t even open up instead including one Max, and one monster that formed part of the head.  Yeah, both of these kind of lost the point of Mighty Max, though they were much better than Dread Heads, which had nothing.  Monster Heads had a much smaller release than Shrunken Heads, with only six kinds produced, and they tend to fetch suprrisingly high prices (you’re not paying less than $25 for one).  I’ve got three, so this is technically Part One if I ever manage to snag the others. My three sets are the Basilisk & Zilard Beast, Mecha Crawler & Octoslime,
and Gorillabat & Ape Warrior.

For some reason, I can’t find a picture of this set carded, so I can’t quote the bio in the back – but basically, it said that Basilisk and Zilard Beast were leaders of the “Zilard” tribe, enslaved by the Skull Master’s Crystal of Souls, which was a pretty blatant reference to the cartoon. None of the other Monster Heads were that explicit, interestingly. The only other time Zilards appeared in the toy line was with the Dragon Island large playset, too. The Basilisk is a pretty striking, grotesque creature with some leonine featured mixed in with its neon-purple lizard motif. Note how it looks almost as if it’s got other monsters attached to the sides of its face – that’s because one of them is the Zilard Beast.

And here it is, looking like a spiky lizard-tiger. Some of the Monster Heads were clearly separate entities (such as Mecha Crawler and Octoslime, or Iperial Dragon and Samurai Serpent), whereas others were just as obviously meant to be the same creature (such as this one, or Gorillabat and Ape Warrior). It’s pretty clear that this is meant ot be the Basilisk, and maybe both are just Zilard Beasts. Still, for such an amazingly simple mini figure, it looks pretty cool.

It’s also completely unpainted in the back, which is hilariously cheap. Not every figure in the line had this issue, but there you go.

Monster Heads don’t open the way other sets do, but the inside is sculpted – in this case, it looks like a cave filled with snakes or worms. Pretty strange, as there is no way for Max to interact with it.

And here is your incredibly tiny Max, wielding a flashlight to fight the Basilisk. I can’t emphasize how small this figure it. He could fit on my thumbnail.

All of the Monster Heads were this simple – head, mini-monster, Max. It’s a surprisingly nice formula, considering how they technically cheap out on the whole thing.

Next up is Mecha Crawler, a cyborg fishman-octopus-Gollum hybrid who lives in the swamp! According to the cardback, Mecha Crawler and Octoslime wait for victims in the Slime Swamp, but Mighty Max is out to stop them. That’s all the backstory you get. It’s a little hard to tell if Mecha crawler has a thing on his face, or it’s part of th emask, or just his own texturing, but that’s how he is, high-tech rebreather and all.

Octoslime appears to be entirely mechanical, and is constrained somewhat by its shape – in order to fit onto the monster head, it’s stuck in sort of an odd V-pattern. Upon close inspection, it seems to have the body of a beetle.

Octoslime is really small, and nothing sets it apart from some of the monsters even in a few Horror Heads. Some of the Monster Headfigures are great, but others are lazy (Jack Knife is a really lazy one, for example). Still, a robotic octopus isn’t the worst theme imaginable.

Inside Mecha Crawler’s head is a morbid swamp, littered with the bones of his many victims. This is one of the tougher sets to retrieve Max from, as you’ll need to shake it for a while to dislodge him.

The Max in this set has a baseball bat, which is a pretty direct method of violence.

And finally, we’ve got Gorillabat. Pretty self-explanatory name, there. Gorillabat and Ape Warrior stun their victims with an ear-shattering shriek before tearing them apart – that’s a direct quote from the cardback. And man, one look at this vicious face, and I could believe it!

Hilariously, a lot of sources on Google and eBay seem to think that the head should be assembled this way, which is wrong. it leaves gaps in the sculpt, and gives Gorillabat a random extra face. Sure, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Guardian Legend box art, but at what cost?

Ape Warrior is pretty clearly just Gorillabat. You can tell from the generic name. Still, it’s one of the best figures in this set, arguably ranking up there with the best Doom Zone monstrosities. Ape Warrior is also fully painted front and back, as his red wings create eyes for the main monster head.

Here he is next to the other giant vampire, Nightwing.

And here he is with Dreamblade’s Octorilla for the best SyFy movie idea ever: Gorillabat Vs. Octorilla: Apeocalypse Now. Give me money, SyFy.

Gorillabat’s insides could be either stalactites or blood, it’s hard to tell at this scale.

The included Max has a sword. Other Maxes have gone unarmed, or wielded slingshots, flashlights, baseball bats – nope. He’s got a sword.

As you can see, this Max isn’t taking prisoners. he has some trouble fitting inside the Gorillabat head, but it’s really a great figure. Most Mighty Maxes might as well be victims, but this one is pretty clearly the hero.

I love the Castlevania vibe that this set projects. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the concept art meetings for this one – Gorillabat & Ape Warrior clearly got a ton of the love and budget among all the Monster Heads, and it’s not hard to see why.

Well, there you go. The secondary market prices can be prohibitive for these sets, but they are nice little touches of random monsterly chaos. Of these three, Gorillabat is the clear winner, though Basilik brings some unique things to the table, and Mecha rawler has its own charm. The same can besaid for the other three – and will be, if I ever obtain them.

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One response to “Life In Plastic: RETRO REVIEW: Monster Heads (Mighty Max)

  1. Pingback: Life In Plastic: RETRO REVIEW: Mighty Max vs. Zombies (Zomboid, Corpus, The Hand) | Nerditis·

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