island of misfit toys: american gladiators zap (mattel)


American Gladiators was a syndicated game show/competition series that aired in syndication for the better part of the 1990’s. The game pit contestants against both each other and a team of muscle-bound “gladiators” with colorful names and determined personalities. The real draw of the series were the elaborate “events” designed as challenges for the competitors, most of which took the shape of a crazy obstacle course.

The format of American Gladiators was similar to a lot of game shows from the 1980’s and 1990’s designed for children including Double Dare and Finders Keepers but AG kept enough edge to be paired regularly with professional wrestling…. which probably explains why Mattel took a run at a series of action figures featuring the titular gladiators.

I’m taking a look at Zap, one of the female gladiators.


Fairly standard. The front of the blister card displays the toy, the AG logo and name of toy. In the upper right corner, a somewhat weirdly chosen picture of Zap herself – instead of opting for a straight-on shot of Zap, Mattel chose to display her almost from behind.


The back of the card DOES give us a good look at the person this toy is based on, as well as showcasing the entire American Gladiator action figure toy line. Other Gladiators included Gemini, Turbo, Nitro, and Laser. Zap looks to be the sole female gladiator in the line.


It looks as though Mattel made a couple of playsets for the line based on the events people in which would compete, including my favorite of all of ’em… Assault!


Eh… what can I say about this? Here’s a close-up of what Zap looks like on the back of the card.


Here’s what she looks like in toy form.


Besides having a gigantic pin head, the actual sculpt on the head is rather man-like. It’s clear from looking at the back of the card that there was a lot of sculpt reuse in the American Gladiators toy line – most of the male characters are basically the same body with a different head sculpt. Zap definitely has a different chest sculpt to accentuate her breasts but that seems to be all Mattel was willing to splurge for with this release. The arms are the same as the men in the toy line… and a little disturbingly, so are the pelvis and legs. To wit, Zap seems like she’s packing a lil’ “American Gladiator” in her pants.



Paint application is pretty sloppy, although fairly standard for a toy released in the early 1990’s. The white on Zap’s Gladiator costume bleeds everywhere and although there is a nice AG logo tamped on her back, a lot of the other details (the stars on her chest, the gold “ZAP” lettering on her boxers) is sloppy.


Four points of articulation on Zap: swivel joints at the neck, waist, and both shoulders. Not much to say on this account, although I will point out the lack of articulation does seem to accommodate the many playsets offered on the back of Zap’s packaging.


Zap comes with two accessories, both taken from what was the most well-known of all the American Gladiator events: the Joust. She comes with a jousting stick and some protective headgear.


These are good accessories that make sense for the character but I feel compelled to point out… if I position Zap in ANY other configuration besides the one I have her in in the above picture… she cannot stand on her own. The weight of the jousting stick topples her over! This is already a pretty awful action figure but not being able to hold her accessories makes something bad even worse.


This toy is not fun at all. I suppose Zap could have had some play value if she had come packaged with one of the playsets. As she stands (or doesn’t stand) now, the toy is pretty boring and unremarkable. Back in the nineties, I actually bought a couple of these toys for a friend’s birthday – he was very into the show. Checking this toy out in 2013, I almost want to track that guy down and apologize to him for choosing such a turdy birthday gift. Truly a Misfit Toy, Zap deserves to be remanded to the island in perpetuity.

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