In 1994 there were action figures that projected adventures from their chests and I just found out about it…
As an adult, did you ever come across something in the toy aisle you just knew you’d love when you were a child? I ask because in my internet wanderings, I discovered ToyBiz’s Marvel Comics Projectors action figure line circa 1994.
Ultra–dope, right? But what really toasts my Pop-Tarts is that I was prime age for these. Yet for whatever reason, I missed them. Unfortunately I do not have a time machine to correct this…but I do have money and an eBay account…which is almost the same thing.
I purchased Magneto, Cable, and Wolverine. Cable still had a Walmart sticker on the box from ’95 retailing for $9.95 ($16.65 with inflation). I honestly just wanted Cable but the same seller offered me a deal: All 3 for $35 including shipping. I couldn’t turn that down. That’s why you’re getting a pointless longwinded article.
Like a ton of X-Men merch from this era, all the packaging was made to look like a comic book cover. Which makes these action figures an eye-catching thing of beauty. Cable’s packaging is different because it came from a later line that offered weapon accessories and “Action Phrases!”. I thought that meant Cable talked…but all it means is the projecting slides have speech bubbles. Well alright.
While unpackaging these figures I imagined an alternate universe where the X-Men were vain narcissists that went around projecting pictures of themselves out of themselves onto other X-Men as a way to assert dominance. I mean, what better way for Wolverine to show he can beat up Cable by simply projecting a picture of him beating up Cable ON Cable himself? Checkmate, y’know?
Anyway, that’s right the toys. Each figure comes with three plastic adventure “reels” the size of a quarter. You pop two AAA batteries into your favorite mutants back, pull on the projector to snap a reel into their chest, press their butt button to light it up, and click the knob to change the image.
The process is pretty dang simple. I was gettin’ all tingly about lighting this bad boy up. I’m quarantined and the only thing I have to look forward to is showers and making coffee, so this was pretty big for me. And the result is surprisingly satisfying. I say “surprisingly” because it’s a tiny 25 year old lightbulb shooting out of an action figure. I wasn’t expecting much…so how good can it actually look?
Obviously, the closer your X-Man (?) is to the wall the more vibrant…but if you use this in a room that’s completely dark, the projection actually looks really awesome. And if you have multiple figures? Well…it’s a party folks. Each reel is a different adventure (the one pictured features Wolverine battling Omega Red) and each package came with a mail-away slip where you can receive an X-Men poster and 5 more reels for just $4.25. Ostentatious, dudes! All of the reels are basically fight scenes and X-Men poses, which is to be expected, but I found a sweet Genosha reel…which is great if you’re an old school X-Men-head like myself.
I remember as a child my fear of the dark made my cousin gift me a Batman nightlight to “protect” me. And it was little things like that which made me feel better. To have a parent leave Wolverine to “protect” you at your bedside where you can project his pure “Bezerker Rage” taking up a whole wall in your room is a genius idea. It also makes me seethe a little more missing out on these when I was a child.
Other than reseller listings, there’s not much information on these action figures. Which, in our age of nostalgia gauging, surprises me because the idea and execution are uniquely AWESOME in their own right. Some browsing reveals ToyBiz produced Power Rangers Projectors around the same time…yet that’s where it seemed to stop.
It started out as just X-Men but soon expanded to Spider-man‘s cartoon as well as the short lived Fantastic Four and Iron Man cartoons. Iron Man is about the only character aesthetically that fits with the Projector line. Yet there is something intoxicating about a giant Lizard man that shoots images from his chest.
- Awesome vibrant packaging
- Figures are large and sturdy
- Each worked out of the box 25 years later
- Good selection of characters for the time
- Projector effect is decent
- Slides have a slight blur no matter how much you focus
- Very basic detail for such large figures
- Would’ve liked some actual comic panels instead of just frames from the cartoons
- I’m bummed this line never quite took off
The creative possibilities for a toy like this seems endless. I definitely would’ve longed for a Batman that projects the Bat-Signal. Yet the biggest missed opportunity, for me anyway, would be STAR WARS. An R2-D2 that projects Princess Leia or Darth Vader that projects a “hologram” of The Emperor? Take me now. Star Wars characters could project their assigned ships in which you could have them “fly” and “battle” on your wall with appropriate sound effects! Please. I’m dying.
While bummed I didn’t come across just one of these figures as a kid, I’m very grateful to have stumbled upon them decades later and had the opportunity to “play” with them. These are the first toys that come to mind that actually disappoint me with how cool they are. I can’t help but look at them and think “What if?”...which is I guess is fitting for Marvel Comics history. All in all, if you’re into this sort of thing I recommend you pick one up. They don’t go for too much currently, though they might now since my website has such massive influence over the collector market. Thanks for reminiscing over a decades old dead toyline involving spandex clad mutants that shoot pictures from their chests.