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Creature from the Black Lagoon variants

Universal Monsters
by Rustin Parr

NECA tackling the classic Universal Movie Monsters was always one of my absolute dream toylines and it is so exciting that it actually happened! Of course, as soon as they made the announcement, we were all eagerly awaiting the beloved and titular Creature from the Black Lagoon. NECA certainly made us wait, slotting the Gill-man in toward what unfortunately appears to be (at least near) the end of the line as the eighth character released. But they certainly went all-in, with him getting out three variants within about six months of the standard figure's arrival: Black & White, Glow-in-the-Dark, and Translucent!

Monkey Boy already covered the standard release of the figure, so check that out for the basics on articulation and sculpt - but to paraphrase, it's great! So, let's take a look at variants here.

The first variant released, which was also the first Creature NECA released, was this Glow-in-the-Dark version that is an homage to the old Remco figures of the early '80s. This was, surprisingly, a $30 exclusive at San Diego Comic-Con 2023! I suppose that just indicates how poorly Series One of the Remco variants (Frankenstein, Wolf Man, & the Mummy) did at retail, that they would put what seems a bulletproof variant as a convention exclusive. The figure comes on a (12.5" x 8.5") blister card of hefty 2mm thick cardboard just like the others in this sub-line, which perfectly recalls the Remco ones. Being an 8" tall figure, the scaling of the card is obviously different than the vintage ones lest it become impractically large, and is fairly sparse but shows all six of the Remco homage monsters (including the NYCC '23 Phantom and a NecaStore exclusive Dracula).

This Glow Creature is cast in unpainted, opaque glow plastic with an interesting shade of green that makes me think of, like, retro diner Key lime pie? It's sort of vaguely neon green and dull mint green all at once. The figure seems to hold the glow reasonably well, given all the articulation and variety of plastics in use (which are more evident immediately after shining a UV light on the figure and seeing the range of glow brightnesses). Unlike the standard figure, there are no accessories here, alas. "Glow-man" uses the hands with splayed and slightly bent fingers along with the closed-mouth head. It feels like a missed opportunity for an easy value-add by using the hinged-jaw head, which would give us more display options; but I assume there is method in the madness. The head does get the only paint on this figure: white eyes with red irises and red lips with two little white buckteeth/fangs - just like the Remco figure.

Next up was the Black and White version, which technically beat the standard edition to retail by a couple of weeks (I certainly received my B&W preorder before the Color one). Like the other B&W Universal figures this release was open to all retailers, but Target had it as a $35 first-to-market pseudo-exclusive. Given how omnipresent the original Creature poster is I'm genuinely impressed NECA was able to dig up an alternate for this release! This poster seems to be a reworked banner, effectively moving the art and elements from "landscape" to "portrait" here. It's an interesting sort of watercolor affair, with a slight sense of those international handmade custom/bootleg posters that are so meme-able. It would have been easy enough for NECA just to grayscale the rest of the original packaging, but the sides, back and inside-flap all have unique figure photography.

The figure itself is, as expected, a straight reissue of the standard color version, but now in grayscale. The figure, its three heads and four pairs of hands are all in a gray base coat and a light gray drybrush over it. The lips and eyes have some darker and lighter shades as needed, and somewhat impressively the belly scales are slightly different from the body shades as well! It all makes for an appropriately nuanced figure and justifies the proverbial "double dip."

Last to come out was this unpublicized Loot Crate exclusive translucent green Creature which homages the old Burger King toys from the '90s. I only found out about this sub-line because someone posted the Frankenstein image after it had gone up for preorder - nobody covered this line at all. Loot Crate is certainly... a thing. Ultimately this was less painful (i.e. not as long of a wait) than the TMNT one awhile back, but certainly just as little communication as with that one. I have more connection to the BK figures than Remco so it would have been nice if these were more widely available. Released under the "Loot Fright" banner, they did Frankenstein with translucent green head and hands, generic-head Dracula and then this Creature (no clear word on Wolf Man that I've seen). Each "crate" was available to order for about six-to-eight weeks, then shipped sometime afterward. I think I heard Frank shipped shortly after the order window closed, while this Creature took a couple months. We received no notice, just one day a plastic mailer bag showed up at the door - so much for the box/crate! This Crate cost $35 ($47 after tax and shipping) and wound up including this Creature figure, a Ben Cooper woven blanket and an Exorcist pin. Best of all, I was able to "subscribe" for just the one crate, so no longer having to exceed your budget or commit to the unknown.

The figure comes in a clear, resealable bag with a graphic print on the front that perfectly homages the Burger King polybags that those old figures came in. They even reworked the "Burger King Kids Club" logo into "Lootcrate Crypt Club" down at the bottom. Packed inside, behind the free-floating figure, is a small 3.5" x 2" black and white sticker and a 6.75" x 5" card that very closely (is it identical art?) recreates the colored side of the instructional insert - nice!

This Gill-man comes in entirely translucent swamp-y green plastic, except for the articulation pins and discs. He gets the same, slight-bend-finger hands as the Glow figure but now with the open-mouth head - an allusion no doubt to the Burger King figure's water squirting play feature. Again, the hinged-jaw head would have added more sense of value/​fun (especially since there are no accessories) but this works nicely and we appreciate it's not a wholesale re-do of the Glow one. This guy has a bit more paint, with yellow eyes and translucent emerald green on the oval-scales running down his belly. In fact, the different densities of plastic and various articulation breaks all channel light in their own way, giving him a surprisingly nuanced sense of color variation throughout the figure - very cool!

Much like the Creature From The Black Lagoon himself, all three of these variants are pretty darn cool and very fun in their own way! Creature seems to be a very (maybe even the most) popular classic monster with collectors so I certainly wouldn't begrudge some more variants (a lighter green "the way we all picture it" paintscheme version would definitely be welcome, to better match our collective impression of the suit, and without the red lips that were apparently unique to the Life magazine photoshoot). Heck, even an all-metallic "silver screen" edition would be cool! And that's before discussing the possibility of a Revenge Of The Creature From The Black Lagoon figure that could reuse this body with some new hands and heads. Man, I really hope NECA isn't done with the Universal Monsters - I desperately would love so much more from them!

-- 06/06/24

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