The Trash Bag Bunch probably needs little explanation besides its truly insipid commercial. A truly insipid commercial that had my seven-year-old jaw dropping in immediate, rabid excitement. A promise of "monsters, robots and aliens" is a difficult promise to screw up. Even the most haphazard effort to deliver some combination of the three is usually bound to delight somebody, and I could already catch a few quick glimpses of the treasures offered by these magical, bubbling packets. Being reasonably cheap, I was allowed to get two bags at once on my next visit to Kiddie City, a now defunct Toys R' Us competitor, and all the way home, my little eyeballs pored feverishly over the spoilers printed on their card backs:
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I lit up at the sight of such beauties as Muckoid, Slobber and my god, Liceplant. Even his name! The entire lower half of the set - the evil Trashors - were either must-haves or at least would have felt acceptable. That was a 50% chance of getting something good per bag, and with two bags, that meant 100%, right? That's how numbers make a math, isn't it? In any case, the odds of getting Whitewasher, the dumbest looking nobody in the whole line, were incredibly slim. Which two would I find when I at last dipped their sacks? Every minute in the car felt like thirty, my dumb little butt bouncing with impatience until I could finally fill the bathroom sink with hot water, and unleash...
It couldn't be...
I...I played the odds!
WHITEWASHER? TWO OF HIM!? Why would I even want one of these smug, probably racist jerkwads?! I would have to wait a whole week for another big shopping trip and another chance to ask for more Trash bags, and my luck, unfortunately, wouldn't improve. Not with the bags, anyway. I would eventually get many of my top picks second-hand, though at least one has evaded me even to this day...one from the first series, that is. The harsh realities of gambling were only one of the Trash Bag god's cruel jokes, which we'll get to shortly.
Our first order of business, of course, is to review my top favorites from the original line. Thanks again to Toyarchive.com for these!
We'll start with the only heroic "disposer" I acquired and found halfway interesting at the time; this sad, tripodial robo-crab was the only non-humanoid good guy, which always earned some special points with me, and something about his sullen, elderly looking face turned him into a kind of yoda-like character in my mind, a wise and mystical robo-crab with many lessons to impart. And heads to snip off. Just because he's cute doesn't mean he's a pushover.
While Klutch was the only Disposer I both had and wanted, Vac-U-Ator was the only Disposer I didn't have and wanted. It kind of passed - he doesn't seem all that exciting, anymore - but when I was more into robots, a frog shaped robot with a garbage disposal for a face seemed like one of the coolest things ever. I guess it still is, but now that I've grown so biased towards organic forms, it can never be as cool to me as an actual frog with a garbage disposal for a face.It's nothing personal, Vac-U-Ator...I just wish you were made out of meat. I wish that about lots of things.
We now delve into the overall superior Trashors, alien villains who for some reason like to damage ecosystems. Or maybe not? "Cleaning" everything can certainly be taken too far...a biome can't function without bacteria, fungi, insects and parasites. How do we really know the plutors are the "bad" guys? What if they're just making things as filthy and toxic as they're naturally meant to be?
I like to pretend the skull in Plutor's chest was his true form, controlling a big robot body. Fight the power, Plutor!
This was one of the first Trashors I finally got out of a bag, but initially didn't find all that special. He's grown on me a lot in the years since; what's not to love about a blood-red, yellow-speckled man-bat with a bright blue loincloth who apparently bludgeons people with a faucet? I love the dramatic pose, like he's hiding around a corner and should really be unsheathing an assassin's dagger, but elegance and subtlety are kind of lost on Sewerbat. Cut him a break; he lives in poop.
This hairy dog-bear-goblin is another I didn't feel really strongly about when I cut him loose from a fresh bag (I'd be damned if I was going to keep riding all the way home just to be let down) but what he lacks in exotic anatomy he makes up for with a liberal helping of personality. If any actual animal reeled back and made that face, it would be a youtube sensation of dramatic groundhog caliber. This guy supposedly lives in and enjoys garbage, but he just smelled something he does not approve of.
From here on, we're in full-blown favorites town, which, now that I look at it, isn't even all that populated. The few original figures I considered must-haves were simply so memorable, the whole set sticks out in my mind as one of humankind's finest accomplishments. Slobber here was one I was fortunate to obtain fairly quickly, and even still own! With his rotten-looking limbs, warty toad-skin and ridiculous teeth, there's simply nothing you can't love about this sickly reptiloid, who really looks like he should be part of a whole gibbering horde of...whatever he is.
Everything about stink buzzard is awesome. He's a pebbly, scaly dino-bird from the waist down and a rotten, alien bat with an obscene underbite from the waist up. His color scheme, from the bleached white chest to the yellow splotches on his wing membranes, somehow communicates immediately that this thing lives on a diet of festering corpses. It does for me, anyway. Many things do.
Bad. Ass. A mere skeleton dog would be reasonably interesting, if conventional, but with veiny pink flesh and, we can safely assume, viscera still clinging to his bony frame, Junk Jackal is basically just a skinned dog monster, which is something I have absolutely never seen since in an actual children's toy.
Damn you, Muckoid. A close contender for my wave one favorite, Muckoid is like the beautiful lovechild of Slimer, the Sarlacc and the Dianoga. That's 50% Star Wars, 25% Ghostbusters and another 25% unparalleled joy. I love the blank stare of those four eyes, the monodactyloid forelimbs, even the "flipping a card table" pose. Unfortunately, not only did I never obtain a Muckoid, but I've never even seen one. I'm going to get you, Muckoid. One day. Some way. If you ever see my ghostly visage wandering my own burial site, you'll know exactly what business I left unfinished.
Happily, the Trash Bag Bunch figure I yearned for the hardest did eventually fall into my clutches, albeit long after the line was discontinued. Having prayed innumerable times to beings I never even believed in that I'd just get a freaking Liceplant out of a pretend trash bag, I positively flipped my lid when I found him buried in my cousin's Legos and was allowed to take him home; an anticlimactic but nonetheless happy ending to a long, desperate and fruitless hunt.
Need I even explain why I so coveted this particular hunk of plastic? The instant my eyes met his on the back of that first cardboard sheet, it was true love. That huge, vertical maw, packed with yellowed and needly fangs like some deep-sea fish and flanked by alien yet sympathetic eyes would have touched my heart on just about any possible body, but for the rest of him to be all leaves, roots and tendrils felt like the only appropriate fit...and tying it all together? The name. Liceplant. With no individual context given for any of these figures, my mind was free to conclude exactly what I'm sure you've guessed I concluded; that this shambling mound was positively crawling with and had special dominion over lice. It's a word we apply to a lot of unrelated, tiny insects, but I liked to think these were "universal" lice. Alien, mutant lice that sucked fluids from plant and animal alike, and their master, with vampiric fluid-draining fangs, was clearly a titanic, half-plant space-louse himself!
My acquisition of this floral fiend marked a happy ending to my experience with the Trash Bag Bunch, or should have, at least, if the Internet didn't rear its ugly head some time later. The internet and its words and facts and pictures of things I was and may forever be denied by our cruel and heartless cosmos. The internet and its dark secrets that were never meant for mortal eyes.
These dark secrets:
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W...what? What am I looking at, here? When did this happen? When did Liceplant become Mighty Lice? Why is Muckoid Yellow? And w...what are....THOSE!?!
Yes, Unbeknownst to me - and in fact, to most of the general public - a second wave of Trash Bag Bunch figures were released in a limited test run just a year after the first, featuring a mix of series one rehashes and brand new, never-before seen monsters designed by a true visionary, a mystery man after my own heart. According to toy magician Mel Birnkrant, who helped market the original line, these and many more design sketches (which you can see under the above link!) were faxed to the company not long after the first series was a hit, conceived by an artist neither of us have been able to track down. One look at his genius, and you can see why Galoob chose so abruptly to immortalize a few of them in plastic:
I don't remember what fateful day I learned of all this, but I do remember my inner child's heart imploding. Even Liceplant, my holy grail since age seven, never inspired as much awe as half of these stealth-additions. Don't ask me how, but series two failed to ignite a fiery passion in enough of America's plebeian youth market, and quietly ceased production before a wider distribution. Today, these figures - when they rear their heads at all - fetch sums so far beyond what even I'm willing to shell out for children's toys, I wish I could just trade a few organs for one.
It is thus with the heaviest of first-world manchild hearts that I continue our look at the Trash Bag Bunch; at these glorious plastic angels I may be forever unworthy of experiencing.
I'm going to ease very gently into this with my "least" favorites of the second generation, which is to say, the ones I don't love quite as much as my top four or five from the first. "Skankor" is a pretty interesting blue lizard-man, I guess, with a little dash of fishiness about him, though the purple, no doubt poisonous tubes on his back kind of overshadow the rest of him. I'm not sure what he's supposed to be doing, either. In his design sketch, he's just kneeling. In the figure, I get the weird impression that he's holding a lighter. Maybe he has to light his tongue to get the stink-gas going.
Muck Mangler, too, is a neat one, but I'm not about to promise my first born for it. He at least shows off the much more refined detail of these newcomers; look at those delicate little wrinkles of flesh! Those bony joints and reptilian scales! Muck Mangler is also one of the few explicitly female figures, at least according to the original production sketches, which threw in eyelashes and called it "Miz Charlene." Can you believe she's not a misses yet?
It's rare that saurian monsters aim to be gruesome, but Barfo succeeds beautifully. This warty blue dino really looks like he's getting ready to hurl, and best of all, his appendages imply close relation to Slobber! The two would make beautiful music together as video game enemies, with Barfo either the slightly tougher upgrade or the sneaky, ranged attacker of the phlegmy lizard empire.
You know we're in for untold delights when I rank an eyeball guy this "low." Blobeye is another one that feels a little enhanced by his name; nothing about it is exactly blobby, but I get the impression that eye probably oozes something.
This cutie looks subtly related to Miz Charlene, with the same sort of hammerheaded bug-frog look, though several leagues more adorable. In fact, this is just about the most darling little guy in either wave; he looks so, so innocent, just staring wide-eyed and content as he munches neon fish-guts!
Also chowing down on rotten seafood and who knows what else, Trasheeter marks that point in our review where series II grows exponentially more desirable to me. Rubbisher is a cutie-patootie face, don't get me wrong, but Trasheeter is just killer. Another monster that looks straight out of Ghostbusters, the grody yellow teeth and beady eyes stand out gorgeously against his slick, inky blue, purple-spotted flesh, and I love those perfectly circular, custom fitted wooden sandals! Is he some kind of trash-eating martial artist? The slobber actually supporting the figure is also a great touch!
Referred to as "bonedog" in the sketches, this thing looks more like the fusion of a mummified armadillo with a precambrian invertebrate like Anomalocaris. At least to me, anyway. That cute little underbite between those tubular eyes is instantly endearing, and it really looks like a monster that evolved just to collect and gnaw upon bones! I could see a whole pack of these things roaming the dusty wastes of some Scorched, dying alien world. Maybe that's exactly what they do...after the rest of the Trashors have had their fun.
M...mud grub? I...okay, it's getting harder now. Like I said, exponentially more desirable. Look at this thing! It's a long, tapering, slimy, warty, slug-maggot-caterpillar with a gigantic fang-lined mouth and then it just keeps going. It keeps going into the most hilarious anteater-snoot-neck, ending with eyes like bonepicker and a second mouth with a dangling puppy-dog tongue. They did the only possible thing they could to make this design perfect, too; the paint job. That exact shade of seaweedy green, fading to lemony yellow, is so beautiful I want to bite it. I want to eat Mud Grub as much as I want to snuggle it.
...I'm sorry. I need a breather. Things are about to get so much worse. I need to remind myself that I still have Liceplant. There was a period where I wanted Liceplant more than anything in the world, and then there he was. He is a plant of lice, and he was there for me when none of these other jerks could even be bothered to visit my marketing range.
Damn, this guy is intense. He continues the emaciated, slimy alien look of both Slobber and Barfo, but if they're basic foot-soldier and gunner material, this is that enemy you come to dread around every corner. Dump Crusher does not mess around. His tiny, shrieking head gives him an overall impression of hugeness, and he's got fanged mouths all over the place - including his crotch. The pits in his chest give his whole torso the look of an angry, meaty dinosaur skull. He's exactly the kind of thing that chews out of spacemen in lovably shameless Alien ripoffs...or Japanese schoolgirls in gore-porn anime. And I could have played with this thing at eight years old.
Oh my gosh. TWO freaky mutant bugs in one, and each is somehow more darling than the other, in a vicious vortex of eternally escalating darlocity. I don't think I've ever seen a figure of an insectoid monster half-way through a metamorphosis. It's genius, and leaves you wondering if the "emerging" form will even be the last. The pink, knobbly little maggot-body somehow looks delighted that it's molting into some kind of metallic fish-fly torso-man, who just sort of looks totally pleased with himself, eager to get in on whatever action he's been missing all this time without arms. They kinda both look like they're laughing, but I might just be losing my marbles at this point.
FILET O' FILTH
OUCH. I've been trying to cut back on the casual swearing in these articles but god damn it why wasn't this ever mine. Fish with people-legs are up there with living garbage heaps, walking insect swarms and reanimated entrails as monsters I invariably adore, but don't get to enjoy nearly as often as I'd like, and as far as people-legged fish go, this is one of the finest examples I have ever laid eyes upon. The clownish lips, nasty teeth and perfectly soulless fish eyes enhance an already comical, yet disturbingly surreal image. What could possibly be more perfect?
This. This is more perfect. There are few items in my possession I wouldn't trade for the rest of these guys, but I might trade all of them for sweet, flawless Scum Slug. Literally the one and only greater combination than a creepy fish with human feet is clearly a sad, droopy snail with chicken claws. Mel Birnkrant compared the Series II Trashors to the demons of Bosch, and Scum Slug really drives that point home. I don't even know what else to say, so I won't say anything at all. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Here are 30,000 words worth of Scum Slug:
Where are you, Scum Slug? It's time to come home. Nobody could ever love you like I could.