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Christmas Series 1

SLUG Zombies
by yo go re

There's something of a minifigure renaissance going on right now. It's mostly confined to fan-made projects like OMFG, but there's at least one real company that's in on the action: Jakks Pacific, with their S.L.U.G. Zombies!

You may have seen the SLUG Zombies at Target - you know, over in the "secondary" action figure aisle, where the Power Rangers and Bakugans and stuff like that live. They're sold in three-packs and in coffin-shaped 12-packs that would probably earn them a spot on Reverend Rose's Warped Toys list if that thing still existed.

"SLUG," in this case, stands for "Scary Little Ugly Guys," and that seems right on par. The line must be doing pretty well, because it's up to Series 4 now, and that's not even counting this bonus Christmas series. On the normal three-packs, the blister card looks like a cracked tombstone, complete with grass along the lower edge. The Christmas ones change things up a little, covering the grass with snow, running Christmas lights along the top of the curved card, and putting a Santa hat on the green man in the logo. It's seasonal, and makes it easy to spot the holiday series when digging through the pegs.

There are four three-packs, each with two new Christmas zombies and a repackaged human from Series 2 - that's a bit disappointing, since 1) that means we're missing out on four potential new creations, and 2) anybody who bought Series 2 is now being forced to double-dip. Not cool! Anyway, rather than draw these reviews out all month, we're going to break our rules and review all four sets at once.

Previous Job: A cumulus cloud
Likes: Skiing & bird watching
Dislikes: Springtime
Favorite Food: Spleen sorbet

Yes, they all have little bios like that. And yes, we'll be printing all 12 of them. This is Frozen Fright, the zombie snowman. How does a zombie virus infect a creature of living snow? Best not think about it. This is a traditional three-ball snowman, but he's also wearing a pair of boots, a jacket, scarf and hat. The right side of his coat is torn away, as is the... flesh? beneath it. Somehow, this snowlem has a ribcage that's been exposed. He leans toward that side, and his face is partially melted. Jakks sculpts pupils on these figures, so we can say with certainty that his eyes are just lumps of coal. The pinky finger on his left hand is broken, as well, poor guy.

Previous Job: Drummer Boy
Likes: Fresh cut grass
Dislikes: Rain on his parade & broken drumsticks
Favorite Food: Carcass cassserole

Other than being a little drummer boy, Johnny Hammer-Stix is not particularly "Christmasy." The song is about a Middle Eastern kid beating a drum at the two people in the world best equipped to appreciate it, a newborn baby and a woman who just went through unmedicated labor alone in a barn. This toy, meanwhile, is quite clearly a drum major. He's got the tall feathered hat, the fancy epaulettes, and shoes with large buckles. This is a "toy soldier" type drummer boy, which does show up at Christmas, but could have easily gone into any SLUG series. His drum is pretty well broken, and instead of sticks he has bones to strike it. There appears to be a bite taken out of his right kidney, and his face is just rotten.

Survival Skill: Quick on the Draw
Likes: Rounding up Rascals
Dislikes: The Undead, Especially Brain-Eatin' Brandon
Favorite Quote: "I'm about to get buckwilde in here!"

That sounds obscene, somehow. I'm not about to Google it, but I'd lay good money that there's a porn star named Buck Wilde somewhere out there. Many of the SLUG characters are based on pop culutre references, but others (like Buck here) are just stylistic releases. Buck Wilde is a cowboy sherrif, complete with duster, tin star and spurs. His coat and pants are tattered at the lower edges, probably because it's hard to keep things in good condition when you're fighting for survival. He's armed with a double-barreled gun - the exaggerated proportions of the toys make it hard to tell whether it's meant to be a pistol or a sawed-off shotgun.

Previous Job: Millionaire
Likes: None
Dislikes: The Ghost of Christmas Future
Favorite Food: Shepherd's thigh

Hungry Humbug, clearly, is Ebenezer Scrooge. He doesn't look very zombie-ish, honestly - he's already a decrepit old man, so turning into a zombie isn't a huge change for him. He's missing teeth, but who's to say that wasn't the case before? He's wearing his dressing gown and slippers, since the three ghosts came for him in the night, and is carring a candle. His posture is bent and crooked, his left cheek seems to be torn away, and there's a big round bite on his right arm. His hair is long and stringy, and his bushy eyebrows poke up above the edge of his night cap.

Previous Job: De-sheller at Hudson's Nuts
Likes: The ballet
Dislikes: Squirrels
Favorite Food: Macadamia membrane

Is that "Hudson's Nuts" supposed to be a reference to something, or is it just named after someone who works for Jakks? Whatever the case, this is a traditional Christmas-style nutcracker, so if you were wondering before how zombies could infect snow, now you get to puzzle out how it can infect wood. The image of a soldier nutcracker was popularized by the German story Nussknacker und Mausekönig, which was the basis for Tchaikovsky's famous ballet. Nutty Nate is sculpted with curly hair and a big mustache, and his lower jaw hangs open - just like a nutcracker's should. He has wild eyes and his uniform is ragged.

Survival Skill: Blending in with nature
Likes: Weapons of mass destruction & explosions caused by those weapons!
Dislikes: His peripheral vision
Favorite Quote: "The harder the hunt, the sweeter the catch!"

See what we mean about pop culture references? This is clearly and unabashedly a tiny pink figure of Rambo, complete with long hair, bandana and a bandolier of bullets. Yes, he's added an eyepatch to the ensemble, but you have to figure that fighting zombies is more dangerous than fighting Brian Dennehy and his redneck police. Captain Payback, as he's known, is wearing big thick boots that come up to his knees, has a knife sheathed on his left ankle, and is (awkwardly) carrying a bazooka, which seems like a less-than-ideal choice to kill the undead. It's going to be wasted against anything but the largest groups.

Previous Job: North Pole petting zoo
Likes: Guiding Santa's sleigh, going down in history, playing reindeer games
Dislikes: Going to the vet
Favorite Food: Berries in brain broth

An evil Rudolph? Haven't seen that before! This is Ralph Reindead, which is not a great name. Why Ralph? Why not Rudy, since this is clearly Rudolph? There's being original, and then there's changing things to the point that they make no sense. Ralph has an exposed humerus and the skin around his abdomen has been stripped away, exposing muscle and bone. His teeth are very sharp, considering that he's a herbivore. His left eye is half closed, and his antlers are small and stumpy. But not broken? Missed opportunity! He's standing in a pile of snow, since his hooves wouldn't adequately support him.

Previous Job: Host of children's tv show
Likes: Practical jokes on his co-workers
Dislikes: A bad sense of humor
Favorite Food: Funny bones

That description doesn't really seem to apply to anyone real - at least, if it does, it's obscure enough that we don't get the joke. This is Surprise Demise, and he's bursting out of a wrapped gift. Bursting out so fast, in fact, that the bow from the top of the box is still stuck to his head. Is that the sort of prank he played on his coworkers, jumping out of boxes? He's wearing a sweater. Was that the gift in the box? Is he supposed to be Mr. Rogers? This guy is just kind of all over the place. He's a zombie in a Christmas gift box, and that's all.

Survival Skill: Handy with an axe
Likes: Fire poles, dalmatians and pottery
Dislikes: Hot headed zombies & spicy food
Favorite Quote: "Is it hot in here, or is it just me?"

Blazin' Basel is another "generic" survivor, a fireman armed with an axe to chop down the undead. He has a Florian cross badge on hi helmet, is wearing a jacket with reflective stripes (just sculpted on, not actually reflective) and has an air tank on his back. This is a nice minifigure of a firefighter, but a bit dull when it comes to a zombie fighter. His pose, with the elbows tucked into the sides and his fists akimbo, really recalls the way a lot of the MUSCLE toys were posed, but that's not enough to make him interesting. He doesn't look like a threat, you know? Brandish that axe, Basel! Also, what kind of name is "Basel?"

Previous Job: Father Christmas
Likes: Online shopping with free delivery
Dislikes: Small chimneys & picking up reindeer poop
Favorite Food: Cartilage cookies with sour milk

Ah, here we go, now we've got the big guy: Santa Claws. Yes, they really used that hackneyed name for the figure. He is looking nicely zombified; although, being a mystical, immortal being, he's not decaying as fast as most others. He looks rough and rumpled, and reminds me quite a bit of the sickly Santas seen on Family Guy and American Dad. He's not been ripped to shreds, but one look at his face makes it clear he's infected. There's a hole in the back of his coat - maybe somebody tried to shoot him and only hit the body, not the brain.

Previous Job: Production Manager at North Pole Industries
Likes: Buttons & shiny things
Dislikes: Height requirements
Favorite Food: Candy brain canes

Santa's nothing without his little helpers, and for that we get Eli the Expired Elf. He's dressed in typical elf regalia - you know, pointy shoes, hat with a ball on it, big collar on his dress, all that. He looks like he was raiding Hermey's closet. He's knock-kneed and howling, and the muscles in his neck are straining like a Rob Liefeld drawing. Eli is the same height as all the other characters, which seems kind of uninventive to us: imagine if, instead of a single giant elf, this was two small zombie elves, one standing on the other's shoulders.

Survival Skill: Can skin a gator in 16 seconds!
Likes: A sharp blade & Walkabouts
Dislikes: City Folks & Cell Phones
Favorite Quote: "He'll be sleepin' with the gators in no time!"

Back to pop culture for this survivor, who those of us who are old enough cannot help but immediately recognize as Crocodile Dundee (even if the packaging calls him "Gator Jones.") He's got the hat with the croc teeth in the band, the leathery vest, and the weapon that may or may not be a knife. It could be a spoon. If they'd molded this guy in green in stead of pink, he could easily have passed for a zombie, thanks to his sun-dried Australian skin.

The SLUG Zombies are fun little figures, and these holiday versions are a handy remedy for the typical glurge of sweetness we get this time of year. No, the zombies aren't as zombified as they could be, and yes, the re-use of all the survivors is disappointing, but that doesn't mean any of these sets is bad. If you want to spice up your display, pick up some Christmas SLUGs at Target. After picking these up on a whim, we're hoping there will be another set next year.

-- 12/15/12

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