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Exo-Skeleton Spawn

Spawn Series 4
by yo go re

This past weekend at New York Comic Con, Todd McFarlane announced that he's planning to begin offering toys direct-to-consumer, instead of going through retail outlets; the idea is that, without needing to sell Walmart or Target on a major brand, McToys can go back to trying crazier things and more niche properties. Including, perhaps, some more Spawn.

Spawn disguises himself in the exo-skeleton armor as a means to breach the territory of Violators and other creatures of the darklands. By camouflaging his appearance, Spawn can attack his enemies off guard while at the same time using parts of his costume as weapons of defense.

Exo-Skeleton Spawn was part of Spawn Series 4, released at the beginning of 1996 alongside such other noteables as Cy-Gor and The Maxx. And also Clown II and Violator with Cybernetic Parts, because no series is all winners. Anyway, the concept is a pretty cool one: Spawn, wearing the bones of his enemy as a disguise. Apparently the denizens of Hell have pretty bad eyesight, if this is actually going to fool them, though. I mean, if a horse walked up to you wearing a set of human bones strapped to its body, you wouldn't mistake it for your grandmother, would you? Not again. And yet that's Spawn's master plan.

The body at the center of this mess is reused - it first appeared as Series 3's "Spawn II," because if there was one thing Toddy Mac understood, it was the value of paying off expensive molds through the magic of repaints. It's posed with a drastic squat, because the first signs of "sculpt over articulation" were already rearing their ugly heads. He has a swivel neck and waist, swivel shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, and a T-crotch. If you look at the prototype images for this mold, he was originally planned to have hinged knees as well, but those didn't make the cut. The costume is a dark grey, rather than the black of the previous figure, and the red sections are a dusty, desaturated shade.

The original Spawn figure had his mask on, and a variant with his mask off. "'Hamburger Head' Spawn," they called him. Spawn II split the difference, giving the figure half a mask, just covering the right side of his face. What, are his Spawny Senses tingling? It's ridiculous, and of course, this figure copies it over directly. There are also variants with full masks or no mask at all.

What truly sets this figure apart are the accessories. Spawn II's cape-wings are gone, and instead we get the bone armor: feet, hands, skull, and spine. The feet are huge, since they need to fit over Spawn's already comically inflated boots, and his gauntlets just clip on over the spiky gloves. There are also three big claws that slide forward on each of the gauntlets, because this toy was made in the '90s and Wolverine was popular. The spine, which plugs into the holes previously used for the cape, has six large spikes on the shoulders, then turns into a tail with a thagomizer on the end.

The skull is impressive. It's done as two pieces, allowing you to hinge the top half up so you can see Spawn's stupid demi-mask. Hooray. Can't miss that! The skull has eye sockets longer than Spawn's upper arms, big spikes jutting out of the cheeks and what would have once been the scalp. And you can tell this used to be a Violator (is that right, by the way? "A" Violator? Violator is an individual demon, not the name of his species. His brothers had definitely been introduced by the time this toy came out. Maybe the bio saying "Violators" was just a typo?) because the lower jaw reaches down to Spawn's knees, much much farther than the upper jaw goes. Such a weird anatomy - like, if those teeth are just hanging in mid-air and unable to grind against any others, what good are they?

The version of Exo-Skeleton Spawn in this review is not the only one available - like we said, Todd was ahead of the curve on the repaint front, so even before they came up with the "R3" scheme, you could regularly find at least two different versions of most of the figures. So there's this one, in his black(ish)-and-red costume, with bone-colored bones, and then there's also one in a white costume with white bones. Plus, a running change saw this one released with bones that were more gray than tan, and Target had an exclusive with a pinkish-red costume and green bones. Add in the variants based on the heads, and differences in the paint apps on the hands (costume color or skin color). Lots of options, is what we're saying. And despite the vintage style of articulation, this is still such a wild, oddball design that the toy's still fun. If McToys can do things like this again, then we'll be glad to give their DTC rebirth a chance.

-- 10/11/18

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