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King Sphinx

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
by yo go re

Japan's take on The Riddler is definitely a departure!

King Sphinx only appeared in a single Power Rangers episode, yet remains one of the series' most iconic villains. How does that work? It's certainly not his unique look - as a fan with only a minor, passing familiarity with MMPR, I literally thought this toy was a new release of Goldar when I first saw it in the store. (Yeah, yeah, I'm dumb, I never hid that fact.) And King Sphinx only ever appeared in one episode, so that wouldn't make him particularly famous, either. So why's he stand out? The merchandise. King Sphinx was the villain in the unaired version of the pilot, so when companies started making merch - books, games, toys - he was what they were working with. His episode, "A Pressing Engagement," eventually aired fifth (because episode six got bumped up to #2), but he was already being ensconced in kids' minds because licensors didn't know who else to include.

The King does not look particularly sphingian: sphinges (yes, that's the plural form) are traditionally a female human head on a lion's body; this is a humanoid body with a leonine face. It would be like if Lightspeed Rescue's mermaid Marina had a fish head on a pair of human legs. Man legs, no less. If not for the nemes and pharaonic beard, you'd think he was a... whatever Goldar is. A reverse-manticore? What is it with Power Rangers and backwards mythological monsters?

Actually, you might mistake him for a gargoyle, since his body is concrete-gray and his anatomy is very blocky. He's got legs thick enough to share tights with Chun-Li, and his pecs are nearly square instead of being rounded at all. His abs don't match any known anatomical structure - he appears to have a seven-pack, somehow - and there's an eye right in the center of his sternum that's probably meant to be an Eye of Horus but doesn't actually look like one. He's wearing a short yellow skirt with a long loincloth, layered shoulder pads, and even has a couple of cartouches on his chest. There are hieroglyphs on the clothes, but they don't translate to anything - at least, not anything we can recognize. Qleouqu? Qqolshys? Tpn? We'd really need the help of a Japanese Egyptologist to know for sure.

Despite dressing like an Egyptian, King Sphinx is closer to the Greek style, because he has wings. In fact, in the discarded pilot, King Sphinx would have been known as "Fly Guy," alongside Goldar as "Flydar." Side note: the idea that there's such a thing as a distinct "Egyptian" style of sphinx is based on the famous statue - but judging by the proportions, the difference in weathering patterns, and the fact the thing was mostly buried until the 19th century, it seems more likely that it was originally just a lion (perhaps Sekhmet) and the exposed head was re-carved to represent the pharaoh Khafre; then, a few thousand years later, Greek visitors cross-identified it with their mythological creature (a common practice among humans seeing something new: musk oxen are technically ice-age goats, neither panda bears nor koala bears are bears, a flying fox is a bat, dolphins used to be called meerschewin ["sea pigs"] in German, etc.) and the name stuck. KS's wings are packaged separately in the box, but plug in easily. The feathers on them are nearly as large as a human hand, and definitely look more stylistic than anatomical. Between those and the tail, he has a little more articulation than average, though it's all still good.

The name "Sphinx" comes from the Greek sphingein, meaning to squeeze or bind (sharing a common root with the word "sphincter") because she would strangle and devour anyone who couldn't answer her riddle. King Sphinx does have a pair of open hands, but they're not open far enough to grab anybody's throat. He has an alternate fist and a hand shaped to hold his Sphinx Scepter, a dual reference both to a pharaoh's hega staff and to an eroteme. [that's "a question mark" to you and me --ed.] That's a blue and gold piece, and the set includes a translucent orange energy effect to fit on it - just like in the show, he fires ?-shaped fireballs. The original Japanese version of the character also had the ability to assume a human form (which looked like Peewee Herman wearing this same headdress) and pester children with questions, but that ability was excised from the US episode.

One area where this toy suffers is the paint. Like Pumpkin Rapper, he seems to be short a black paint app on the face - in Pump's case, that meant the eyes and mouth under-detailed, but in King Sphinx's case it means he's completely missing his nose! What did he, catch "Ajani Goldmane" disease? The design doc for the figure specifically called out the face paint (along with the black wash on the chest, thighs, and shins, and the blue airbrushing on the forearms, abs, and thighs), so what happened? Technically the hieroglyphs on his chest should be picked out in red to contrast with the yellow backgrounds, but it doesn't look like that was ever planned.

King Sphinx is one of the "deluxe" figures, so he costs ten bucks more than the plain figures... unless you buy him at GameStop, where the deluxes are sold at the normal price. Shhhh, nobody tell them! King Sphinx may not look very traditional, but pair him up with other mythologically inspired toys, like a gryphon or minotaur, and his strangeness will fade in due time.

-- 04/10/21


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