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Sea Creature playset

McFarlane's Monsters
by yo go re

So it turns out that, contrary to previous reports, not everything is better down where it's wetter.

As far as the classics go, Series 1 of McFarlane's Monsters only delivered Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein, which meant that there were still a few great ones left for Series 2.

When Todd McFarlane released a Sea Creature in his 6"-scale Monsters line, it was basically a trout with legs - very bestial. This one is much more in the mold of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It's a fish-man, but the emphasis is on the "man" part more than the "fish."

Really, he feels like a missing link between the classic Gill-man and Todd's version - he's got an upright, humanoid stance, and is covered head-to-toe with repetitious scales, but he also has hands and feet that are much larger than usual. The hands are webbed, and he has massive fins on his calves, arms, and down his back. He has a T-crotch, swivel waist, and swivel/hinge shoulders, plus his neck used to be a swivel before it sheared off (a problem so common that you can find carded figures where it's already fallen off in the blister).

A monster without anybody to terrorize is as useless as a #GamerGater without a woman to abuse, so the Monsters playsets include a victim/monster-hunter to go along with them. The Sea Creature's swim buddy is a dude in a diving suit, the kind you'd see in the deep ocean - it's thick and slightly wrinkled, and there are big heavy weights on the soles of his boots.

He's wearing a big, old-fashioned diving helmet, the kind you'd expect to see in the 1890s, not the 1990s. It's bronze, with cages on the front and sides, and there are two nozzles in the back where air hoses would be plugged in (though the toy doesn't come with any, so you'd better be good at holding your breath, little nameless dude). He stands 4⅛" tall, is armed with a big knife, and moves at the Big Five: neck, shoulders, and V-crotch.

The neck only moves if you remove the helmet - good thing he's got a removable helmet! The diver is bald, but has reddish brown eyebrows and mustache. The set was sculpted by Eric Treadaway, so it's possible this face is based on a real person, but we've never heard who. Apparently the original plan was to give him rooted hair, but that didn't happen.

Much like Steve the Victim and Frankenstein had pull-apart features, Holey Diver comes with an alternate damaged left arm. While the normal arm is bent at the elbow, the replacement hangs straight down limply. It's possible this is a symptom of the giant bite that seems to have been taken out of the arm.

The wound is slathered with bright red paint, but it appears the humerus is broken in half in there, so it's just a bit of muscle and the remains of the rubber sleeve that are holding his arm on. Youch! Ever watch the animated version of Beowulf? Remember the part when he's fighting the dragon and has to cut his chainmail? Yeah, like that. The arm has a sizeable peg, so it's unlikely to tear off when you're swapping it out, which already makes him better than the other attempts.

The diorama in this playset always reminded me of a piece horror artist Kelley Jones did for Wizard magazine back in the day. It presents a two-level scene, with the ocean floor on the bottom, and the surface a few inches above. The base is a triangle of sand with a few wooden planks, a skeleton, a treasure chest and even some loose coins sculpted on for good measure. There's one bit that was clearly intended to be a ship's cannon, sunken partially in the sand, but it wasn't given any paint, so now it's just a ridge. Three rough, barnacle-covered pylons with clawmarks stick out of the sand and lead us to the second story of this playset.

The upper level is a thin sheet of translucent blue plastic that serves as the surface of the water. It's squarish, and has notches in three corners where the pylons poke up. It's sculpted with all the appropriate ripples and waves, and there are a few spots where bubbles are hitting the surface. There's an oddly shaped hole in this layer, which allows the included half-a-boat to slip in.

Yes, we get the front of a small wooden boat, complete with a firing harpoon and a turning wheel. The boat has been broken apart by something, and is now sinking into the water. A pair of planks continue to float on the water's surface behind it. The detail is very impressive, both in the cracked, weather-beaten sculpt, and in the simple paint, which is mostly gray, but has a wash to bring out the details and also a darker line around the bottom of the craft, suggesting where it's been in the water all this time. The silver harpoon gun pivots and tilts, and the harpoon is spring powered: pull back and let it go!

This set was prime for a partner like Frankenstein got - the back half of the boat has to be somewhere, doesn't it? And who was manning the diver's pumps? Give us a mermaid or a siren basking on a rock, and a sailor in a life jacket, and you'd have a winner. But alas, it was not meant to be. Series 2 was the end of the McFarlane's Monsters playsets, and we'll probably not see their like again. Neither the Sea Creature nor the Diver are terribly interesting figures, but pair them with this amazing diorama and you've got yourself a winner!

-- 10/10/14

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