The Tortured Souls series is the brainchild of Todd McFarlane, legendary toymaker, and Clive Barker, one of the most well-known horror writers/artists in the world. Designed by Barker then sculpted by the talented team at McFarlane Toys, the Tortured Souls became the biggest risk of 2001 for a toy company whose toys, normally designed for the adult collectors' market and normally termed risqué enough as it is, took a big new step into the world of sadism, torture and bondage.
Clive Barker's work has always had an obvious sexual tone, and it's never been more present than in these action figures. Each one is clad in leather, belts, blades and chains, with flesh missing or deformed, bloody and torn - this is doubtless a line not for children. When the first previews were revealed to the Spawn Message Boardians, the response was a mix of delight and disgust - a tone which remains today with the upcoming Tortured Souls 2. The figures quickly gathered controversy, much like the previous controversial toy Death Row Marv, which later led to each figure having a "17+ Only" sticker, and was confined to comic and collector store sale only, keeping the kiddies from stumbling upon them in Toys R Us.
The series consisted of 6 figures, each packaged in a clamshell similar to the packaging McToys uses as standard nowadays, with a novella written by Barker, designed to give a back-story to the figure. All of the novellas went together to create a bigger story, a clever marketing move in attempt to get collectors to buy the whole series. The website feature offered a sample of the stories, plus concept pictures, designs and backgrounds to feed the hunger of the gluttonous collectors awaiting the figures, and also to feed the anger of those who hated the things.
Undoubtly my favourite Tortured Soul is Agonistes, the first in the series and the creepy, no-faced guy with the coolest back-story: He is a transformer of human flesh; a creator of monsters. if a Supplicant comes to him with sufficient need, sufficient hunger for change - knowing how painful that will be - he will accomodate them. They become objects of perverse beauty beneath his hand; their bodies remade in fashions that they have no power to dictate.
Agonistes' novella is the only novella in the series that can be read on its own - it details a short history of the creature that has come to be known by the first name he was ever given. As written, The Book of Genesis is wrong in parts - God did not rest on the seventh day, rather continuing to work to create creatures that did not walk the perfect Garden of Eden, rather ugly demons and destroyers, like that of Agonistes. As a surgeon, he is a monster that appears to those with the most desperate need to be altered, altered into creatures of only death - assassins who feel only pain. In the full story of the Tortured Souls, Agonistes plays a central role in the moulding of the next two characters from their original forms into something more, but I'll get to that later.
Agonistes stands just over 6" from his leather boots to his deformed skull, a further 2" including his headgear and the hook/blade mechanical things. His sculpt is deadly impressive, making him perhaps one of the most beautiful figures I've ever laid eyes upon. As described in the novella, Agonistes is a perfect creation of God - and, compared to the latter in the TS series, it looks that way. His entire body is clad in leather (some sculpted from soft, movable plastic), except for his head, right arm, and the occasional bit where skin can be seen. It's quite a sight - there's dozens of belts, straps and blades hanging from his body, including his lower body where a strange symbol cast on leather is displayed, presumably over a place where Agonistes has no flesh, as seen from the torn skin above (held in place by belts). The skull/head of Agonistes is delightfully sick - a piece of messed up muscle tissue with empty eye sockets and a creepy mouth peering out. Below, on his articulated neck, his throat is slit and opened so one can see the bloody insides. The paint application is almost flawless - aside from a bit of overspill here and there, the figure looks great, and it compliments the horrific sculpt. I can't really describe all the detail here - there's far too much to talk about. Like the skinless arm with bloody bone, or the half dozen chains hanging from his back, there's so much to talk about.
The head gear and mechanical hooks above his head are great - Agonistes includes dozens of blades all over his body, no doubt to operate on the Supplicant - but his headgear is the most impressive and creepy of them all. He includes a strange round metal piece that wraps around the top of his skull and appears to store an arrangement of scalpels, blades and scissors -
behind that, two long metal pieces which rise above his head to attach many blades and machinery, including a long blade with a working pneumatic device which stabs into his right eye, and then two stands which hold a removed face, most likely the face of one of the Supplicants being operated on, leading up to two hooks at the top, articulated with further pneumatic devices. The whole things looks great, adding further to Agonistes' beauty, and it's also articulated and can move - the face, for example, comes off and feels nice and rubbery like you'd expect of an actual removed face.
Agonistes is clearly a display piece, though he's articulated at 9 places on his body, particularly his arms and hand, which hold his hooks and blades to operate with. It's unlikely that he's to be played with, but it's nice all the same. His various blades are also articulated, with joints enabling them to be moved and use to cut your other toys up - lovely. Like the rest of the Tortured Souls, Agonistes comes packaged with some hooks on chains (which can be held by him or hung from a Tortured Soul display) and he also includes two (kind of) surgical blades, which he can hold. The headgear and mechanical blades are also removable, although not really accessories. Overall, looking at Agonistes is a real sight to behold - he's so enormously detailed and beautiful, he's a delight for someone who likes the Tortured Souls line. Although not for all tastes, those who appreciate Barker's art will be impressed with this figure, my favourite of the line and with the most interesting back-story.
Overall Rating: A+
Shocka's Placing in the Line: 1st
Agonistes | The Scythe-Meister | Lucidique | Talisac | Venal Anatomica | Mongroid
How do you say Agonistes? Play the Tortured Souls pronunciation game on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.