Written by Jonathan Wojcik
If you've kept up with the various toy reviews this season, you've seen how colorful, gross-out monster toys reigned supreme in the early 80's, petered off through the 90's and 2000's, and have basically come full circle again with series like The Trash Pack and Slimy Sludge. Today, we'll be looking at another fine example, just recently released in Australia: STINK BUGZZZ! This humble line is starting out small with only four main figures, but you can't go wrong with rubber insect creatures who spray noxious chemical concoctions as an action feature. It's bioterrorism for kids!
Since I had to import her all the way from Australia, I only bought my singular favorite figure, but that's fine. The others are cool, but can never be as cool as Swampy Skeeter here. I almost didn't even want to open this package, with all its gorgeous colors and gooey, rancid graphics. At least her cute little name card is its own separate piece you can keep, and so is the "Stink Bugzzz" title logo! I totally stuck it onto an aquarium I have which contains actual, real bugs that smell funny when they're upset.
Yes, I have the real thing and I still buy the toy version. Like you ain't never had no stuffed animal of a cat or a dog.
It was a humid, grody Florida afternoon when I got around to photographing swampy, resulting in this bizarre, ethereal quality, like she's an angel from heaven, and with those dreamy, half-lidded, multifaceted red eyes and blood-stained proboscis, what else would she be? And yes, I know, my thumbnails grow like weeds between gnawing them off.
Inside Skeeter's hollow, orange abdomen is a hard ball that rattles around when shaken, and would be the source of her "swamp water" stench. Squeeze her butt, and the rancid smell of sour vegetable matter spurts from a hole in her face, just like me! It doesn't smell like "swamp water" so much as a mix of trash juice and pine forest, and I guess kids wouldn't really care about the difference, but I'm glad there was at least SOME effort here to connect a mosquito with something that makes some sort of sense.
Like I said, there's just three other characters in the line, and none quite as perfectly appealing to me as Skeeter, but all with their unique charms. "Muck Maggot" is the best of them all in concept - a maggot who allegedly smells like rotting fish - but a little disappointing in execution. This is more like a caterpillar with the head of a wasp. Will no toy designer ever take advantage of the way an actual maggot looks like a walrus with boob eyes?
Next up is "Trashy Turdmite," which I guess represents a termite. I'm not sure why a termite is eating "turds" or why it smells like "rancid garbage," or why it looks like a fat grasshopper, but maybe that's just what a "turdmite" really is. A garbage-smelling, feces-eating obese Orthopteran. Cute either way, even if it's not quite the coolest of the bunch.
Finally, we have "Skunk Mantis," a skunk-colored preying mantis which smells like a skunk. This is rather out of left field, I have to say, it's not based on any wordplay or any real-world connection between the insect and the stench, but this is by far the cutest design in the series. Yes, even cuter than Swampy, but I'm a little more partial to blood-sucking Diptera than almost anything else, Swampy is my Stink Bugzzz figure of choice unless they add a nice blowfly, louse or flea in a second series. We're not quite done, though!
That's right, there's also a Stink Bugzzz "parasite pack," with four additional mini-bugs, and an insidiously fun and clever "Master Blaster" modeled after those old pesticide sprayers. Load it up with a parasite, and use it to blow your chosen stank farther than ever!
The parasites themselves are an oddball bunch. "Nasty gnat" looks more like a bee, "Scabby Stonefly" is clearly a mantis, "Puke Pincher" is some sort of adorable stalk-eyed ant, and "Icky Itcher," whose name implies some sort of mite, louse or tick, is clearly a pseudoscorpion. A totally accurate pseudoscorpion, something I've never before seen in toy form, here in a line of bugs that otherwise only loosely resemble anything real. Huh!
Stink Bugzzz is a mixed bag, but the real problem is that I'm a grown adult who typed the sentence "Stink Bugzzz is a mixed bag," so instead I'll just say how glad I am that kids are getting into goofy looking monsters again over grit and grunge, and I hope this series is successful enough for a second line. You all know what I really want out of it is a fly, which would obviously smell like feces, or better yet, a semi-accurate flea, which could smell like a wet dog or something. Maybe they could even get away with a louse that smells like B.O.? A dust mite that smells like a moldy basement? These things write themselves!
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