The 60's "monster craze" had run its course by the end of the decade.
Nevertheless, monsters still enjoyed a steady level of popularity among many
youngsters. Famous Monsters was still hitting the magazine racks every
month. Every local television station had its own version of "Creature Feature"
or "Chiller Theater" to broadcast old monster movies every weekend. Aurora
re-issued their 60's monster models in 1972, and introduced a new line of
"Monsters From The Movies" models in 1975.
But Aurora now had serious competition from other companies like MPC and
Fundimensions. The classic Universal Monsters were now joined by the
50's sci-fi imagery of the Gigantic Insect Scenes, and the gothic funhouse
of Disney's Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. If anything, there
were probably more monster models produced in the 1970's than there had been
in the 1960's.
But kids did not have to settle for rigid, unarticulated models anymore.
The 70's saw an explosion in action figures. Thanks particularly to Mego
and their 8-inch super-heroes, action figures came to dominate the toy market.
Never before had there been such a wide variety of characters, sizes, and
styles for kids to choose from. Practically every comicbook hero, TV personality,
and historical character was available.
At last, the first true monster action figures emerged. 1973 saw the release
of 8-inch monster lines from Mego and AHI. The following year saw the release
of the Lincoln monsters. Monsters were lurking everywhere in the toy aisles,
drug stores, and gift shops of the mid-70's. They may never have enjoyed
the same sales levels as the popular super-heroes, but at least they were
available for those kids who wanted them.
The surprise success of Star Wars in 1977 brought an end to the super-hero
era. It also brought about an end to the lingering, yet fading interest in
monsters. Kids wanted science fiction, spaceships, and lasers. The "Creature
Features" began to disappear from television screens. Famous Monsters
began to feature Yoda, Superman, and James Bond on its cover. The "monster
generation" gave way to the "Star Wars generation." The great age of monsters
was coming to an end.
MPC "Pirates of the Caribbean" Model (1972)
Mego Mad Monsters:
Mego became the action figure king in the early and mid-70's based on the
massive success of their 8-inch "Official World's Greatest Super-Heroes!"
line. Mego branched out into other characters from movies, television, and
history. In 1973, Mego produced what was probably the first true line of
articulated monster action figures: The Mad Monster Series. This unlicensed
set included The Monster Frankenstein, The Human Wolfman, The Horrible Mummy,
and The Dreadful Dracula.
These were untraditional, "mod" versions of the familiar characters.
Most unusual was the Wolfman, who looked like he stepped out of Little Red
Riding Hood. The toys featured glow-in-the-dark eyes and hands.
They were sold in four different package styles: solid boxes, window boxes,
Kresge cards, and Lionrock cards. The Kresge cards were found only in Kresge
discount stores. The Lionrock cards appeared overseas. Rare variations of
the Dracula have red hair and slightly different features. Rare variations
of the Frankenstein have blue hair.
In 2004 a small company named Classic TV Toys reissued the Mad Monster figures.
The company announced a second series, including a Witch, Devil, Ghost and
Ben Cooper Rubber Monster
Rubber toys, or "jigglers," are known for their jiggly movement, oily texture
and strong odor. They were sold in dime stores and small retail outlets.
Some stores arranged several rubber toy display boxes along an aisle,
creating a rubber toy "bazaar." Children followed their nose to the rubber
aisle, where they found characters ranging from zoo animals, to super-heroes,
Ben Cooper built its reputation on manufacturing Halloween costumes and
novelties. Its dominance in the rubber toy market began in the late 1960's,
when it released the Flying Fun Things. These crudely sculpted super-heroes
were molded in a horizontal flying position and dangled from an elastic band.
Ben Cooper built on the success of the Flying Fun Things by releasing a broad
range of rubber figures over the next decade.
In 1973, Ben Cooper introduced its rubber monsters. It marketed them under
different names and styles, the most distinctive being the "House Haunters."
Characters included: Witch, Devil, Scarecrow, Black Cat, plus generic versions
of Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, and even Aurora's Forgotten Prisoner skeleton
model. In addition to the House Haunters, Ben Cooper produced the "Creature
People." These half-human, half-insect creatures captured the essence of
1950's B-movie mutations. A purple male and yellow female were produced.
A Mummy, Hunchback, Caveman, smaller Frankenstein and Lugosi-like Dracula
were often sold alongside the Ben Cooper monsters. But these do not
possess the Ben Cooper copyright. It is unclear who manufactured them, but
they seem to have been distributed by Ben Cooper.
One of the last Ben Cooper rubber monsters was Godzilla, released in 1980.
Like the Mattel Shogun Godzilla of the late 70's, this toy did not
possess Godzilla's famous stegosaurus spines.
Ben Cooper re-issued many of its rubber toys in the early 80's, this time
in bags with header cards. By the late 80's, the rubber toy market had dried
up. Competing companies such as Imperial switched from rubber to stiff vinyl.
Ben Cooper opted to drop their rubber toys altogether, concentrating instead
on their Halloween costumes, which were now being sold on plastic hangers
instead of cardboard boxes. The Halloween toy market changed considerably
during the last 30 years. But the original Ben Cooper rubber monsters continue
to stand among the all-time classic Halloween novelties.
Children's Chewable Monster Vitamins, Bristol Myers (1972)
AHI Official World Famous Super
The best monster action figures ever made. Period. Manufactured by Azrak-Hamway,
Int. from 1973-1976, this set of 8-inch action figures included Frankenstein,
Dracula, Wolfman, Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. All except
Dracula were officially licensed by Universal Studios.
These serious-looking, gothic toys closely resembled the classic Aurora monster
models of the 60's and 70's. The back of each card even featured artwork
"inspired" by the Aurora Glow-Kit boxes of the early 70's. The AHI figures
did not glow in the dark like the Aurora models, but the famous glow-kit
box art was reflected in the AHI Mummy's yellow head and the Creature's bright
yellow body paint. AHI changed the molds and paint schemes several times
during the series, resulting in a dizzying number of variations. The links
below reveal three-to-four versions of each character, plus the card back's
The hot pink bubble cards, similar to Mego Kresge cards, stood out in a toy
aisle. Some AHI cards bear a Kresge imprint, though AHI monsters were sold
in a variety of stores. The wide-waist Creature from the Black Lagoon is
easily the rarest of the set and one of the most sought-after action figures
of all time. In 2004, a mint-on-card wide-waist Creature sold on eBay for
nearly $6,000. The thin-waist version, often called the "female" Creature,
is also rare but not as highly prized. When it comes to AHI monster toys,
the 8-inch figures represent the tip of the iceberg. AHI was the era's premiere
monster toy manufacturer, producing monster water guns, wind-up walkers,
flashlights, wire bendies, rubber jigglers and many other playthings for
the 70's monster kid.
AHI Creature from the Black Lagoon Squirt Gun
One of the rarest of the many Universal Monsters toys and novelties produced
by AHI from 1973-76.
(Courtesy of David Villiard)
AHI Rubber Monsters:
In addition to the 8-inch Super Monsters line, AHI also produced rubber versions
of the monsters. The AHI Monster Bend Em's stood about 5 inches tall, and
were sold on bubble cards. These rubber figures contained a flexible wire
core, enabling the toys to be posed like action figures. The set included
the same five characters as the 8-inch line, with the addition of King Kong.
AHI also produced five solid rubber, non-posable monster toys similar to
the Ben Cooper rubber monsters. Unlike the Ben Cooper line, the AHI rubber
monsters were licensed by Universal Studios (except for King Kong,
which was licensed by RKO). The rubber line included Frankenstein, Creature,
Wolfman, Mummy, and Kong. They were sold both loose and tied to cards. Smaller
versions of the rubber monsters were re-issued in 1979 by Vics.
Fundimensions "Haunted Glo-Head" Mummy Model (1975)
Perhaps the oddest, most idiocentric monster action figures ever made. These
off-brand, cheaply-made toys were marketed primarily through gift shops and
catalogs in 1974 and 1975. Their crude design and child-like expressions
give them a sense of humble charm that is seldom appreciated in today's slick
world. The monsters were sold on individualized cards, each depicting that
monster's "habitat." (A forest for Wolfman, and Egyptian landscape for the
Mummy.) The cards' moody, "impressionistic" artwork added to the Lincoln
Monsters' trick-or-treat quality.
Six 8-inch action figures were produced: Frankenstein, Wolfman, Mummy, Dracula,
Huchback, and Phantom. A Mr. Spock knock-off called "Mr. Rock" was also marketed
along with the monster series. In Europe, the six monsters were sold in Mego-like
A shipping case containing 24 carded figures surfaced in 2004 in England.
These UK figures differ in many ways from their American counterparts. Unlike
the American versions, the UK figures wear unhemmed jackets with sawtooth
edges cut by pinking shears. The UK Frankenstein's head is molded in green,
whereas the American version is molded in flesh and painted green. The
links below include photos of both American and UK versions.
General Mills Cereal
In 1975, Product People, Inc. released a line of 8-inch vinyl squeeze toys
called the "Big G Product People." These were advertising toys were based
on General Mills cereal characters of the era. They were sold through special
mail-in offers on the backs of cereal boxes, as well as in stores. Packaged
in white window boxes. The set included characters such as the Trix Rabbit;
and Snap, Crackle, and Pop. But of interest here are the four cereal
monsters produced: Count Chocula, Boo Berry, Fruit Bruit, and Franken-Berry.
These toys were molded in one piece of soft vinyl, except for Franken-Berry,
who featured a swiveling waist joint. Charlie the Tuna and other non-cereal
characters were produced by the same company and marketed separately.
Matchbox Ghost of Cap'n
Matchbox released a line of pirate figures in 1975 as part of the "Fighting
Furies" line. These 9-inch action figures were very similar to Mattel's Big
Jim series. The stand-out of the Fighting Furies pirate series was the Ghost
of Cap'n Kidd. This glow in the dark figure was molded in white, with a skeletal
pattern painted over his head and body. The painted bones were not clearly
visible until the toy was viewed in the dark. The effect was clever and creepy.
Cap'n Kidd was only available as a mail-order figure in the United States.
But in Europe he was available in stores, sold in a coffin-like box.
Mego King Kong Toys:
In conjunction with the embarrassing Dino De Laurentis 1976 re-make, Mego
produced a line of assorted King Kong merchandise. The toys were probably
better than the movie. Mego produced at least two sizes of adorable plush
Kongs, a couple of model kits, a vinyl Kong figure (sold only in Japan),
and a very impressive three-dimensional game, called "King Kong Against The
World." This game had a plastic Kong figure that stood atop a World Trade
Center playset. The object of the game was to knock Kong off the tower. The
game is now highly prized among collectors.
Famous Monsters of
This obscure set of 8-inch monster action figures was produced circa 1977-1978
by Tomland. (Some cards may be stamped "Kresge" or "Combex," but the figures
themselves bear the Tomland bunny logo on their backs.) The 8-inch
line featured characters that had never before been produced as articulated
action figures: The Abominable Snow Man, The Fly, Morlock, and Cyclops. A
paragraph describing the "legend" of the monster was printed on the back
of each card.
The same figures were also packaged as "Star Raiders" space aliens to take
advantage of the Star Wars phenomenon, but the Famous Monsters versions are
far more scarce and desirable.
Additional Famous Monsters of Legend characters were apparently marketed
in Europe. A loose Frankenstein and carded Mummy are known to exist. The
Mummy closely resembles the Lincoln version, with card artwork similar to
that of the boxed Lincoln Mummy. A FMOL Sasquatch figure is also rumored.
The figure, as described by an eyewitness, is a Star Raiders Flash (Chewbacca
ripoff) on a FMOL "Sasquatch" card.
Tomland Star Raiders:
As stated above, Tomland produced a line of 8-inch generic aliens to cash-in
on the success of Star Wars. Kenner did not have its official products on
the store shelves until months after the film's release. This enabled companies
like Tomland to fill the void with cheap, quickly-produced toys like the
Star Raiders. There are few action figure lines as lovably cheesy as these
ridiculous alien characters. They were produced in both glow-in-the-dark
and non-glow versions. Four are pictured here, but several more characters
were produced. The same figures have been released under different names,
such as "Creatures From Other Worlds."
Kenner Stretch Monster:
Kenner launched its innovative line of stretchable action figures in 1976
with Stretch Armstrong, a Nordic-looking circus contortionist/muscleman clad
only in dark shorts. The doll could be stretched to nearly four times its
normal size, a feat made possible by a clever design that incorporated a
latex rubber skin filled with concentrated corn syrup. A dashing hero like
Armstrong needed a nemisis to wrestle, so Kenner gave him a scaly, green
playmate - Stretch Monster. He may have looked mean, but as the instructions
indicated, Stretch Monster was really a very nice monster. Except when he
got angry. And Stretch Armstrong made Stretch Monster very, very angry! Kenner
followed up with Stretch X-Ray, a translucent alien with exposed brain and
visible organs. Next came Ollie and Olivia, the Stretch Octopi, then their
enemy, Cecil the Stretch Sea Serpent. Most stretch toys are found solidified
today, though rare boxed examples may still be supple. Boxed Stretch Monsters
from Mexico and England are more common than boxed American specimens, though
boxed examples of any kind are scarce and pricey.
Though Godzilla toys had been common in Japan since the 1960's, it wasn't
until the late 70's that the first Godzilla action figures appeared in the
United States. Mattel produced its Shogun Godzilla in 1977. This toy was
marketed as part of the Shogun Warriors line of 24-inch robot warriors. Unlike
the traditional movie character, Mattel's Godzilla shot off its right hand
like a missile, and lacked the Stegosaurus-styled plates that ran along the
movie character's spine. Despite these innacuracies, the toy became of favorite
of kids who used it to stomp on make-believe cities. Mattel also released
a large Rodan as a counterpart for Godzilla. Though not officially part of
the Shogun Warriors line, the big Rodan was obviously meant to be used in
conjunction with the Shogun toys. The flying monster had a 38-inch wingspan.
The Mattel Rodan stands out as one of the best, and most under-appreciated,
toys of the 1970's.
A Saturday-morning Godzilla cartoon and a Marvel Godzilla comic book led
to the release of more Godzilla toys. Mattel followed-up their big Godzilla
toys with a set of small ones. Godzilla's Gang was a set of eight articulated,
6-inch vinyl dolls manufactured by Popy of Japan, then distributed in the
US by Mattel circa 1978. Except for Godzilla himself, the rest of the characters
were actually from the Japanese TV series, Ultraman. Each toy was
sold bagged with a header card. Packaged specimens are much harder to find
today than loose ones.
Mattel was not the only company that produced Godzilla toys in the 70's.
GLJ Toy Co. produced a well-sculpted 5-inch wire and rubber bendie figure
called "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" in 1978. The toy was packaged on
a colorful bubble card. Loose specimens turn up, but carded ones are very
Kenner Six Million Dollar Man "Bionic Bigfoot" (1977)
Kenner 18-inch Alien:
The 1979 Kenner Alien is one of the most sought-after, highly-regarded action
figures ever made. It was the first mainstream toy ever produced based on
an R-rated movie. The popularity of science fiction sparked by Star Wars
in the late 70's enabled thousands of children to talk their parents
into taking them to see the movie Alien. Those who did not get to
see it heard all about it from their friends at school. Never before had
so many children been so familiar with an R-rated film. This led a few toy
companies to test the marketing waters by releasing Alien puzzles
and games. Kenner, riding high on the success of their Star Wars toys,
decided to take the bull by the horns and produce a full-blown action figure
- and what an action figure it was. Standing over 18 inches tall, the Kenner
Alien toward above other large-size action figures, even Darth Vader. GI
Joe didn't stand a chance against this creature. Its skull and "brains" glowed
in the dark beneath a see-through shell on top its head. A button at the
rear of the head opened the Alien's mouth to expose its retracting inner
jaws. The toy's design set a new standard for realism and authenticity. Whether
Kenner's decision to market this toy should be considered daring or cynical
is open to debate, but in the end the marketplace decided to reject the toy.
Aliens sat for months on the clearance shelves. Finally, the unbought stock
was sold to stores such as Children's Palace and Ben Franklin, where it continued
to collect dust. Only years later did collectors re-discover the Kenner Alien,
making it one of the most popular collectible toys ever.
Fun Stuf Expanding
These are among the very few large-size classic monster toys made prior to
the 1990's. At about 12 inches tall, they were just the right size to fight
your old GI Joe. And not only did you get the monster, but you also
got his "home." Frank had came with a spark-throwing laboratory table. Dracula
came with a big, black coffin. Both monsters had weighted plastic legs and
a soft vinyl upper torso. A pump filled the torso with air, causing the head,
chest, and arms to expand. This made Frankenstein burst from his table straps,
and Dracula open his coffin. The shift in weight made the reclining
monster tip forward to a standing position. Both monsters glowed in the dark.
Frankenstein is licensed by Universal Studios, as can be seen by the beautiful
Karloff graphics on the box. Dracula is generic in design. A label applied
to Dracula's box indicates that the toy is based on the Bram Stoker novel,
not on any motion picture. These under-appreciated toys earn their name,
Fun Stuf Frankenstein (1979)
Fun Stuf Dracula (1979)
Mattel has produced a number of unusual, original toy over the years, and
this is one of them. Released in 1979, Krusher was a 14-inch reptillian monster
that could be wadded up or squashed flat. It would remain in its smooshed
state until a valve on its belt was released, allowing it to return to its
original shape. Krusher was sold in a large box, and clearanced out very
cheaply by Sears after Christmas of 79.
A large, realistic, vinyl vampire bat produced by Mattel in 1979. A pump
on its back made blood flow through its trasparent chest, similar to Mattel's
Pulsar action figure from the same era. There have been thousands of rubber
vampire bats produced over the years, but none of them hold a candle to this
bloodsucker. Sold in a colorful box.
Copyright 1996 Monster Castle Productions, Inc.
Creature From The Black Lagoon "Overview" image prepared by Kerry Gammill.
Created by Raymond Castile using