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When Bongos Collide

World of Springfield
by yo go re

Playmates' Simpsons figures have been a big hit with collectors; they've snapped up the figures of our favorite family as well as the fringe players. Playmates has released a variety of exclusives, as well, which have gotten... well, a mixed reaction at best. While some fans love the limited edition figures available through select retailers, others hate that the figures sell out so quickly so consistently. Where do I fall? You'll have to keep reading to find out.

As told in the Simpsons Comics saga "When Bongos Collide," Kang and Kodos bring Itchy and Scratchy to life with their Trans-temporal Reality Integrator Cannon. The madcap cat and mouse cause chaos and maniacal mayhem in the streets of Springfield. Their catastrophic conduct leads to an atomic explosion at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, and everybody in town is transformed into costumed superheroes.

Playmates' newest exclusive set was not based on the show, but rather on the comicbooks from Bongo. In fact, three specific issues: Itchy And Scratchy #3, Simpsons #5 and Bartman #3, from way back in 1994. As explained above, these three issues saw the entire population of Springfield gain superpowers. Originally intended to be a continuing series (and a KB Toys exclusive), "When Bongos Collide" was cancelled just as the first offering was shipping, so it looks like this selection of three figures will be the only ones we get.

Rather than individually carded figures, or even a boxed set (like the Treehouses of Horror), this set has all three figures side by side on one big blister, with a cardboard insert with drawings of the characters and their names (both regular and superheroic) below. The red and yellow layout clearly mimics the other toys' packaging, but is different enough to be instantly recognizable as an exclusive. The drawings of the characters are all-new: the comic art wasn't quite this on-model, as you'll see below - just click on their names for pages from the book.

First we have Homer Simpson as The Ingestible Bulk. What would a Simpsons set be without a Homer? Well, typically, we'd say "more diverse," but this Homer was a great choice. Based on the Incredible Hulk, Homer's clothes are shredded and his skin's gone green. Despite being the 16th Homer figure, absolutely none of his parts are reused from earlier versions; he's got an angry face with tousled hair (not "hairs," "hair"), his arms raised in anger (one with clenched fist), and his bare feet set wide for stability.

A bit of a departure with those feet, incidentally: like all the WoS figures, Homer's articulated at the neck, shoulders, and waist. However, his feet and legs are separate pieces - though they're not articulated, this is the first time a figure has had anything but solid legs.

Our next figure is Mrs. Krabappel as Vampiredna, rather an esoteric choice; she's based on Vampirella, a '50s horror character unfamiliar to anyone but comic geeks. Of course, the Simpsons have given a nod to Vampi on the show as well, in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge" - Becky was wearing a similar costume when Marge burst onto the set of Bart's video.

Vampiredna has the same expression on her face as standard Edna, with the addition of two small fangs. She's got a big black bat bodice and giant red wings that plug into her hands. Actually, the out-stretched arms and holes in the hands make Vampiredna the apparent Christ figure (no pun intended) of the World of Springfield. She moves at - no surprise here - the neck, shoulders, and waist. Four points of articulation. Again.

And finaly, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon as Captain Kwik. Again, no parts reused from either of the first two Apus. Based on the Flash (or, you know, pretty much any other speedster), he's got a lightning motif happening; yellow bolts at his waist and ankles, a cut-out bolt in his grey shirt that reveals his curly little chest hairs, and a jagged green mask. He's shorter than the other two, only 4½" tall to their even 5", and has the Springfield Four as articulation. You can approximate a good running pose with Apu, as he's got one arm bent and the other thrusting forward with fingers splayed.

This set is also a major first for the World of Springfield line; the first time (in the US, at least - this isn't anything terribly new in the UK) the figures don't feature the Intelli-Tronic chips that allow them to "talk." Bulk, Vampi, and Kwik are silent, perhaps because never having been on an episode of the show, Playmates would have to pay the voice actors to record new lines. The plastic used also seems a bit softer than usual, but that may be because there are no electronics inside to protect - PVC rather than ABS.

Homer's inclusion will definitely help this set sell. Not only is he the most readily recognizable character, but Homer actually appeared on the show looking like this, in the Season 13 episode "I Am Furious Yellow," which guest-starred Stan Lee. This set isn't priced considerably higher than a purchase of any other three WOS figures, which I suppose is pretty good for KB Toys. Of course, if they could talk, things would be even better.

Remember when Tim Burton flipped the hell out about the fact that the ending of his Planet of the Apes was lifted from an issue of Kevin Smith's Jay & Silent Bob comic? Remember how he insisted he would never ever read a comicbook? Well check this: the "When Bongos Collide" crossover ended with a sonic attack shattering Kang and Kodos' helmets and turning their heads to jelly - the same thing, you'll recall, which happened in Mars Attacks (just the movie, not the original cards). Yes, the Mars Attacks that came out two years after this comic. And was directed by Tim Burton. Make of that what you will. At least when "Treehouse of Horror IX" had Itchy and Scratchy coming to life in Season 10, The Simpsons was just ripping off itself.

-- 09/26/02

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