Part of my affection for these figures comes from the great backstories, written in novellas by Clive Barker, the writer of The Hellbound Heart and Cabal, and the critically acclaimed Books of Blood, as well as writing/directing horror classic Hellraiser and executively producing Candyman, both movies based from his books. Although the Tortured Souls story may not be his best writing, it is still an entertaining read and a story that compliments the figures.
"Then - once his client is soothed - Agonistes continues his work, cutting, infibulating, searing, cauterizing, stretching, twisting, reconfiguring."
Each figure comes with a novella next to the figure in the clamshell - the first, Agonistes, is a story on its own, the history
of the creature called Agonistes. The second begins a longer storyline, starting with Kreiger and his assassination of the senator of who is Lucidique's father, continuing to the creation of the Scythe-Meister, then Lucidique's transformation, to the introduction of Talisac and his creation. These novellas are part of a clever marketing campaign by McFarlane Toys, created to sell more toys - with the unveiling of the figures, much of the reaction was confusing as to what was actually happening to these twisted, "tortured" characters who looked in such pain. With the introduction of the novellas, this gave the collectors a new incentive to buy the series - not only to get the wonderful, artful, disgusting new set of action figures, but they could also get the background behind them in a new story by Barker. Upon release, the website featured teasers to the stories, a select paragraph or two to further lure us into buying them. This was marketing that I appreciated, and it suckered me in just as much as the rest, and I'm appreciative for it.
"...there were parts of both their transformed bodies that were designed to never heal..."
The plot is essentially some kind of love story, tinged with revenge and pain: after finding Kreiger having killed her father, Lucidique tricks him into going to Agonistes and being transformed into the Scythe-Meister, who overthrows the evil ruling of the town of Primordium and then comes to Lucidique, not to kill her, but to show her his new, twisted form, and to utter the words "...you cannot imagine..." After this, Lucidique is captured by the former employer of Kreiger and taken to the desert, where she is killed - but not before calling forth Agonistes, who transforms her.
"They bled as they rose from their nuptual sheets; but smiled, kissing one another's wounds as though they were inconsequential."
After her revenge on the gangster who almost murdered her, Lucidique finds a lover in the man who she once fooled, in the creature that previously murdered her father, and they are together - but not for long, as the new leaders of Primordium take it upon themselves to rid the city of them, using the devices of a man named Talisac. The story is cleverly written, and although somewhat short, still very entertaining. I like the romantic themes underlying the bloodshed and abnormalities, and the Biblical references are well incorporated into a story for adult readers, giving further meaning to the figures.
The design of the novellas is great, too - the novellas have the Tortured Souls logo on the front with the name of the figure and the "symbol" of the character, displayed in rich dark colors appropriate to the theme. The inside is composed of more artwork and imagery, which unfolds into the novella with a border of smoke and blackness, with small montages of action figure pictures and detail. If you line the six chapters up, the artwork on the font and back merge together to form one unbroken image:
It's very well done; my only complaint is that I would have preferred some of Clive Barker's own art illustrating the story, as that would have been an excellent addition to the very cool novellas.
Following up to this, the Tortured Souls story is currently being made into a motion picture with Barker at the helm - after reading the novellas, I can't imagine a way this would not be NC-17, so it should be very interesting. The sell-out success of this action figure series has led to the sequel, Tortured Souls 2 - The Fallen (which currently has a feature up on Spawn.com) as well as 12" versions of five of the characters from this original series, leaving a lot for the fans to look forward to.
For many, this series of figures just isn't their cup of tea - for myself and others, this is a great collection, and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested.
Agonistes | The Scythe-Meister | Lucidique | Talisac | Venal Anatomica | Mongroid