Island of Misfit Toys: Skeleton Warriors – Baron Dark
This week on the Island of Misfit Toys, we’re looking at Baron Dark from Playmates Toys’ Skeleton Warriors line of action figures.
Skeleton Warriors was a property that filtered quietly through pop culture in the mid-1990’s. They were featured in a 13 episode animated series and some ancillary merchandise (comic books, trading cards, and so on). The concept seems pretty unremarkable, a retread of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe featuring more skeletons this time around. The concept seems like something that was brainstormed in committee rather than any real artistic intent but I guess that’s how it is with most children’s toys.
I was interested to see Playmates Toys’ name attached to these figures. Playmates became a BIG toy company in the 1990’s. They had the stewardship of two of the biggest properties going in toy aisles at the time – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Trek. While TMNT were toys primarily for the kiddies, Star Trek was one of the first modern lines I remember to become INSTANTLY collectable amongst adult collectors. Trekkies all over the world were looking to complete their Enterprise Away Crew or whatever. While Skeleton Warriors is firmly aimed at children, there are some aspects of Playmates’ approach to the concept that lead me to believe they were also hoping to hook in older toy enthusiasts as well.
The blister card features some nice graphics on the front, as well as a cardboard insert which gives the good Baron a short bio: He’s the “Powerful Warlord Leader of the Skeleton Legion.”
The back of the blister card includes a lot of information, including a rundown of the basic story behind the Skeleton Warriors concept…
A photograph of all the toys in the series, including the three hero characters…
The “Arsenal of Darkness” explaining the types of weapons Baron Dark employs and that old standard, the “cut out and save” collectors card with some vital stats.
Finally, it should be noted: Playmates has numbered the packages in individual assortments.
This was an attempt at catering to the collectables market. I find it hard to understand why a mass-marketed action figure would be deemed more collectable based on its’ stock number and Assortment number but this was the 1990’s. The toy collectable market was absolutely insane. I am sure there was some person out there in ’94 who was buying Skeleton Warriors based on a low SKU number or some other nonsense.
Like I said, the mid 1990’s was an interesting time for the toy industry, most notably because of the influence Todd McFarlane’s Todd Toys/McFarlane Toys began to have on consumers. The Spawn line of action figures featured an amount of sculpting detail unprecedented in most toy lines of the time. Playmates often did some detailed sculpting on their Ninja Turtles figures but I see a lot of McFarlane influence on Baron Dark.
There’s lot of nice detail on the face and other skull accessories.
It’s cool to see a toy from a major company in this era getting SO much attention to detail. Unfortunately, a lot of that detail meant sacrificing playability. The toy has been sculpted in an overly-rendered “advancing” type of pose with both legs bent at odd angles to mimic walking. Getting Baron Dark to stand normally is a challenge. Further, the action figure includes a sculpted plastic cape, which not only blocks out a lot of the detail, but hinders articulation.
Much of the toy remains in the original plastic color, but washed with sort of a dirty paint to bring out the sculpted details.
The toy is highlighted in the eyeballs and on the feet with vacuum-sealed gold paint, simulating a metallic effect. There’s also a purple diamond embedded in Dark’s head; this is the “Lightstar Crystal Fragment” which I guess gives him his magic skeleton powers or some such thing.
Baron Dark has six points of articulation, all cut joints: one at the head, one at either shoulder, one at the waist, and one at either hip. Again, the overly generous cape with its’ weird shrunken head shoulder pads greatly restricts almost all this articulation, which is a shame. You can argue there is a seventh point of articulation in the bearded skull Baron Dark wears on his chest; a separately molded piece, it spins in place but doesn’t offer much playability.
Baron Dark comes with three accessories: A gun, a weird sort of axe, and Baron Dark’s “sword” which is more of a projectile weapon.
Although the back of the packaging shows these weapons cast in a gold and black manner, green, purple and red seemed to have been swapped in. They look a bit incongruous in the Baron’s hands.
After taking these pictures, I immediately handed Baron Dark over to my 3 year old son Henry and he’s been playing with him quite a bit. He’s a good all-purpose bad guy… which some have hypothesized might have been the problem with Skeleton Warriors in the first place. The first wave of these toys consisted of nothing but bad guys, as they’re by far the most interesting looking characters in the property. That’s all well and good, but without heroes to fight… well, Skeleton Warriors was a bit of a non-starter in the toy aisles.
While there are things to like about Baron Dark, I can see why Skeleton Warriors was a miss as a ongoing property for children.