Tools of the Imagination – Ripley

Space Marine Lt. Ellen Ripley
by Kenner, part of the Aliens toy line, produced 1992

The Cart Before The Horse

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(Image courtesy of collectiondx.com)

Aliens is one of the best movies ever made.
It’s an intelligent action movie. It’s an ambitious visual tour de force. Good acting. Great sets and special effects. Nominated for everything from Academy Awards to passing the Bechdel Test. Pretty much, the question is just ‘how much does someone like aliens’. It’s never a matter of whether or not they do like Aliens.

In the wake of the 1986 film, the franchise had become a staple of science fiction, especially comics. Dark Horse Comics had produced a slew of titles for years, each more popular than the last. With the 1992 third installment, it seemed the franchise was going to heat up all over again, and so it’s little surprise that merchandisers would want to get in on it.

What is a little surprising is that those merchandisers would include children’s entertainment.

Background

The Aliens franchise is fairly straight forward. A monstrous alien colloquially called a xenomorph (which is actually a geological term meaning a stone or substance does not have its usual form) that kills everyone in sight. The first and third movies of the franchise were, essentially, horror movies that tilted slightly towards the slasher side of the genre.
The second movie, Aliens, was an action movie following a team of Space Marines sent to a terraforming planet that had gone silent. With them is the sole survivor of the first movie, Ellen Ripley, to advise and eventually save the day.

One thing you don’t usually associate with horror movies is kids’ cartoons, and yet that is just what was being slated. Pre-production was underway to develop an Aliens cartoon, not unlike GI Joe and Thundercats from a decade before.
The animated series never manifested (thank goodness!) but the toy franchise gave it the good ‘ol college try. The initial run was full of characters from the movies (reimagined in Saturday Morning Cartoon goodness) as well as an array of surprisingly true-to-the-film Alien figures, while subsequent lines would flounder until the entire toy line closed down in 1995, leaving us with a very enigmatic collection.

Appearance – 4 out of 5
Ripley looks like a woman.
While that seems like a trivial success, when it comes to most toy lines, it sadly really is quite a triumph. Look at Lady Jaye or Scarlet from GI Joe or any of the Power Rangers, and they all are shaped like men. Often their faces even look masculine. Ripley is anomalous because she is, more or less, the main character of this series. That enough is worth noting but that they actually gave her a respectable female build, face and all, is deserving of some attention.

Construction – 4 out of 5
It would be easy to write Ripley, and all the human figures in this line, as unremarkable. They aren’t REAL rugged, but they’re just a little sturdier than usual, just a little heftier than usual. They don’t redefine what it means to be a ‘sturdy’ toy, but breaking these figures would take some considerable effort.

Movement – 2 out of 5
The figure has six joints; hips, waist, shoulders, and neck. No elbow or knee joints, rendering the figure remarkably unposeable. In fact, in a lot of ways, the joints all stem from the primary weapon, the flame thrower (more on that below).

Extras – 4 out of 5
Ripley comes with a primary weapon (her flame thrower), her secondary weapon (a rifle with bayonet), and a face-hugger (the impregnation method of the titular aliens). The rifle has no real feature but it sticks on Ripley’s back when not in use. The flame thrower has a neat feature where it can be hooked into Ripley’s leg and when her torso is turned back and forth, the flame comes out. The flame is a little short and dinky but it’s still a novel element.
The toy also came with a mini-comic. Each figure in the series had a different installment of the story, meaning only with all the figures would the entire comic make sense.

Packaging – 4 out of 5
The toy packaging was quiet good. The black-with-green highlights made he toys stand out on the shelf, and each package was distinctive to the character. This made identifying who was on the shelf very easy. The packaging also came with an ID card that gave us information on the character as well as vital statistics. It also explained the basics of the plot and showed other figures in the line. If you hadn’t seen the movie, the packaging alone gave you enough to jump right in.

Overall – 4 out of 5
While it would have been nice to have some more posebility to the character (are knee joints really too much to ask?), this really is a solid toy. The packaging, the extra weapons and the comic, the sturdiness, all of it, makes this toy line really stand out, and makes this rare well-made female action figure all the more remarkable.

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Author: Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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