Toy Vault made its first impression on the action figure industry back in 1998, when it released a number of action figures based on J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. They got the license through the Tolkien Estate, as opposed to ToyBiz, who had the rights only to the movie figures. Unfortunately, Toy Vault's figures were soon overshadowed by the movie trilogy and the merchandising juggernaut behind it.
So Toy Vault moved to other literary niche markets -
specifically, the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Instead of action figures, Toy Vault chose the ironic route, producing lovable stuffed animals of Lovecraft's evil deity and his brethren - everything from your standard Cthulhu to Secret Agent Cthulhu and Dracthulhu, and even plush Shoggoths and Gugs.
I remember reading some time ago that Toy Vault was planning to produce a cute little plastic figure based on the design of the plush toys. I waited. The stars wheeled across the sky, the earth revolved on its axis, generations of insects rose and died, the galaxy drifted farther and farther from the universal core... and then I found myself in a science fiction-themed store, quite a distance in space and time from where I'd been when I first read of the Cthulhu plastic figure, and there he was.
Let's start with Lovecraft's description of Cthulhu (really, a description of a statue of Cthulhu):
A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings [...] It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence [...]
Obviously, Toy Vault's figure is intended to be a "cutified" version of Cthulhu. But it does retain most of the iconic features, particularly the tentacled head and the big bulbous eyes. I'm not quite as fond of the vampire wings or the Pokemon-style claws, but on this sort of figure I don't need it to be too textually accurate (the SOTA stuff is a different matter, but in the case of Cthulhu at least, they seem to have it covered).
The little bugger is just under 4" high and, being made of solid rubbery plastic, he seems to weigh about a third of a pound. However, he's well-balanced and stands fine on his feet. This ancient one does take a hit in the paint department, for two reasons. First and foremost, the majority of the figure is painted a pastel blue. Why is Cthulhu blue? All of Toy Vault's plush figures are bright green, and green is the color generally associated with Cthulhu. The gentle blue greatly increases the Pokemon similarity - he looks vaguely like Squirtle.1
Aside from the color choice, I had another problem with my figure's paint: it scrapes off the hard plastic a bit too easily, and mine now has a small bare spot on his bulbous noggin.
Sadly, the Cthulhu Plastic Figure has no articulation at all. I thought at first he'd have at least arm articulation, but nothing doing - this is nothing more than a solid hunk of plastic.
Despite the lack of articulation, I wouldn't give Cthulhu a zero for playability. As a wee lad, I had many toys that couldn't move much - for instance, those plastic dinosaurs by Imperial, which used to be in every boy's toybox - and the Pokemon toys are often just non-poseable plastic. I can see a kid - maybe a kid who loves Pokemon - playing with this toy. That said, I don't think kids are the target audience anyway, and collectors aren't expected to play with their toys (whether they do or not) - just ask Kevin Smith.
I've never been one to care much about packaging, since I open all my toys, but the Cthulhu Plastic Figure has a surprisingly attractive clamshell package, with some nice graphics on the front and an amusing little description of Cthulhu on the back. The figure is prominently displayed, and the graphic of Cthulhu has some great color - this should please any MOC collector.
I bought my figure for $10, which I'm guessing is the suggested retail price. That's just too much for this figure. $5 or $6 for a niche market toy like this would be fine.
While it might seem like I'm giving this figure a bad rap, I actually consider it a solid middle-ground item. It takes some big hits from the price and the lack of articulation (particularly the former). But I love Lovecraft and Cthulhu, and that, combined with the childhood nostalgia I get from holding this solid plastic beastie (it really does remind me of those old Imperial toys), make this a figure worth purchasing for Lovecraft fans.
And how can I not have this figure to take a photo with it alongside SOTA's figure, once that comes out?
1 For the record, I didn't know that off the top of my head. I had to look it up. I knew there was a Pokemon who was pastel blue/green, but couldn't remember which. back
Was it ToyBiz's LotR line that caused Toy Vault's to fail, or the fact that they were generally terrible? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.