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Number One

World of Springfield
by yo go re

The Simpsons, today, is known for its celebrity guest stars. Some folks portray themselves (Stan Lee, Stephen Hawking), some play characters (Johnny Cash, Joe Mantegna), but all of them have contributed to the world of Springfield.

Of course, it wasn't always this way.

When Leon Kompowski thought he was Michael Jackson, the (contractually unrevealed) mask-wearing, child-dangling pasty freak behind the microphone was credited as "John Jay Smith" - the actual voice actor remains unrevealed to this day. When Lisa had a crush on substitute teacher Mr. Bergstrom, it was "Sam Etic" who provided the voice, not Dustin Hoffman. Albert Brooks was voicing characters as early as season one, but his name never appeared on the show.

At that time, The Simpsons wasn't the smash hit it is today. Appearing on a low-rent children's cartoon could have been career poison, so the big names lent a hand on the condition that they not be associated with the show. How encouraging. This soon changed, however, and guesting on the show became a benchmark of success, not failure. In fact, now only The Love Boat has had more celebrity guest stars than The Simpsons. Quite a distinction!

When Homer joined the Stonecutters, he was inducted to a world of weird, strange, sick, twisted, eerie, godless, evil stuff. Well, that and keggers. The leader of the Springfield chapter of this world-spanning organization was the stoic and imposing Number One.

Voiced by Star Trek and X-Men's Patrick Stewart, Number One was a commanding figure; now, thanks to Playmates Toys, Number One is a collectible figure.

And yes, according to the front of the packaging, this figure really is "Number One." Not "Number 1," or even the more sensical "Stonecutter Number One," just "Number One." That's why the title of this page and the header at the top of the review don't include the word "Stonecutter." But since we think people are more likely to search for Stonecutter Number One than only Number One, we're going to go ahead and say Stonecutter Number One a bunch of times in the body of the review, to cover all the bases. (See, it's thinking like that that's made us #1.)

Clad in the maroon robes of the Stonecutters, Number One is dressed a bit more regally than the average member: he wears a blue apron with the Stonecutters' insignia, large purple shoulder pads and an ornate headdress. He moves only at the Springfield Four. There is a ring sculpted on his right hand (likely a Stonecutters' membership ring), but it is unpainted. That's kind of an odd oversight from Playmates.

Number One's accessories include a small beer stein with blue shields painted all the way around it; a Stonecutters handbook that has an inset circle for the logo, rather than merely a sticker; and a small yellow paddle, perfect for initiation rites such as "The Wreck of the Hesperus," "The Unblinking Eye," "Crossing the Desert" and "The Paddling of the Swollen Ass With Paddles." Ow.

Like most World of Springfield toys, Number One talks when connected to the appropriate playset. As of this writing he is compatible only with Bart's Treehouse, where he says two phrases:

  • "If you survive this five-story plunge, your character will be proven."
  • "Welcome to the club."

Why Bart's Treehouse? No idea.

One of the coolest features of this figure is the headdress - a separate piece, the hat can be removed to reveal Number One's full head. Never seen on the show, this is fully conjecture on the sculptors' part, but it's still good: Number One is as bald as the man who voiced him, and has the same sort of distinctive facial features. "Number One" was never given any other name; is it possible that Patrick Stewart really was the leader of the Springfield Stonecutters?

Stewart was anything but embarrassed by his role as a cartoon. As he has said, "Actually, I think my appearance in The Simpsons and an appearance that I did on Sesame Street - in praise of the letter B - were perhaps the two most distinguished bits of work that I've done in the United States." He lent his voice to a fun character, and now we've gotten a fun figure out of it.

I'm glad to see, after the Hank Scorpio debacle, that the celebrity figures are becoming easier to find. Now get us a Mulder and Scully!

-- 06/10/03

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