In the 1990s, Kenner was a ubiquitous brand in the world of action figures. Though they’re probably best remembered for their Star Wars and Super Powers toys, they also produced figures based on delightfully child-friendly movies such as Aliens, RoboCop and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
I had quite a few Kenner figures as a youth in the 1990s (mostly Star Wars: The Power of the Force), and though many were pretty ordinary but today’s standards, they were fantastic at the time. Sadly, Kenner is no more – bought out by Hasbro some years ago, the brand has long since been absorbed into its parent company, the licenses it once held divvied up among other companies. But its legacy still lives on today, in some small part, every time an adult movie like The Dark Knight Rises or Van Helsing gets a toyline intended for children. But it’s rarely as off the wall as it was back then…I don’t think so many people see ultra-violent movies as potential kid’s cartoons, and that’s probably for the best.
I guess if you had to sum up Spiked Tail’s aesthetic very briefly, you’d say “Steampunk Predator”. Fortunately this is not as terrible as it sounds. The original Kenner toy was very heavily armoured and cyborg-esque, but also kind of plain, with the unusual helmet/facemask combo and odd colour the main selling points. In a line that seemed to have two ugly toys for every good one, Spiked Tail stands out as being almost aggressively unmemorable.
But NECA have outdone themselves with this update. It’s clear that the bulk of this series’ tooling budget went on this guy; though not all of his accoutrements are new tooling, most of them are. As a result, he has a nice, chunky feel to him – though I’m definitely putting him on a stand, as that gigantic dreadlock ponytail thing does leave him a little unbalanced.
Now lest you fear that I gush too much, there are some problems:
- The armour really hinders the articulation all over the body – given some time you can work with it, but straight out of the box you’re probably going to keep him in fairly vanilla poses.
- The gun falls off the backmount quite easily
- The mask doesn’t quite stay on his face as it should
- His left forearm popped off when I tried to plug the gun in (though could be popped back on)
- Paint is a little thick on his armour and bionic hand
- The “pistons” on his left leg weren’t glued on properly when he came out of the box, and thus don’t sit quite correctly.
Interestingly, the copy on the back also gives us a bit of a taste of some potential future Preds, with mention of the Lasershot and R’Zor Predators. Lasershot was a previously released Kenner design that looked a bit like a modified Scarab/Nightstorm Predator. It sounds okay…but the mention of R’Zor is particularly intriguing. Information online is scarce, but it seems that he was a cancelled figure that was actually a human marine disguised as a Predator. Some sample figures did make it out into the wild, but they’re definitely few and far between. NECA already has a lot of tooling from the Marines in the Aliens range, so I’m hoping we do eventually get this figure in some kind of official form.
When I reviewed Nightstorm Predator almost three years ago, I noted that I probably would have hated it back as a kid, and noted that the Kenner Aliens and Predator lines typified some of the worst trends in 1990s action figures – namely, a thin basis in source material, garish colours, little to no resemblance to the “real” character/s and ultimately quite gimmicky. But now, as then, sometimes something will grab me. I was going to pass on this guy when I first saw the promo images, but in person he really popped off the shelf. And so I decided I had to own the whole series, instead of just going for the glow-in-the-dark Stalker Predator.