The crafting of action figures is a business usually reserved for world famous comic book superheroes. These are the make-believe characters posessing super powers, characters posessing a selfless desire to change the world and who all types of people can admire.
Now, a few toymakers with their ear to the ground have taken these simple principles to heart and have decided to make action figures based upon glorious the likeness of rock musicians. Of course, this follows in the footsteps of marketing strategies of bands like KISS, who, starting with the 70’s, focused heavily on the merchandising side of their business. KISS dolls are one thing. But, some of the other action figures available to the market for fervent collectors, tread the line between the weirdly uncomfortable and the down right fun.
Iggy Pop is represented, naturally. (Note that while I understand that there’s a difference between dolls and action figures, I’m not entirely clear on the details). It makes perfect sense that he should. One look at a towering performance of the great man and visions of superheroes are instantly drawn up by the imagination.
Described by fans and peers alike as the godfather of punk, seen by Henry Rollins as the Bruce Lee of rock and, to some, even worshipped as the king of rock n’ roll (a statement I would back up gladly) it makes sense that a larger than life character such as Iggy would be bestowed with the honor of having his very own action figure.
The character of Iggy Pop has become akin to a myth of folk tale. It now belongs as much to the world as it does to its creator Jim Osterberg. For those interested in the toy, web sites still sell it for around $15 in all its chiselled glory.
There are action figures you would hardly be surprised to be flooding the market. There is a Johnny Cash action figure, as there are numerous other products endorsed by the Cash estate. There are AC/DC and Jimi Hendrix figures.
But, there also exist action figures of musicians from the alternative spectrum of the rock world. Given their stance against commercialism some may see this as disrespectful. Of course, others aren’t keen to take this as seriously and would rather regard this as another piece of merchandise, not unlike a poster or band shirt. There are a couple different versions of a true to life Kurt Cobain action figure. In the mode seen beloe, the Nirvana siner/guitarist is seen wearing the attire from the Smells like teen spirit video and with his trademark Fender Mustang guitar. Fame comes with its consequences as Cobain himself would certainly know.
Punk rock fans can delight in a number of action figures centred around legendary bands in this genre. There are action figures depicting the Ramones (below you can see two very determined looking Joey and Johnny figurines). In all fairness we tend to feel that these are rather tactful and in keeping with the image of bubblegum meets biker gang that the Ramones created for themselves.
However, it should be noted how commercial opportunities for the Ramones have been never ending in recent years, with the members unable to benefit from them. Instead, at their peak the band enjoed far less success than some of their New York peers and were routinely snubbed by mainstream music industry. Oh, well.
Metal fans can get their holly as well. There are action figures depicting the late Lemmy Kilmister, Slash, Metallica or Zakk Wylde. Frankly, they all look terrifying and ready to kick up a Jack Daniels fueled action figure fistfight.
Ownership over image rights for action figures
We know how musicians control their compositions, but what about their distinctive looks? An interesting judicial case sprung up in 2011 which dealt with artists’ ownership of their image.
The bass player and singer of the psychobilly band the Horrorpops, Patricia Day, sued the company manufacturing the famed Barbie dolls over a model that the singer claimed was directly nased by her image.
Allegedly, the toy company had decided to market a set of dolls that featured a rock theme. They had obtained the permission from the likes of Joan Jett and Debbie Harry. However, for their rockabilly/psychobilly styled doll they had not spoken to or their Patricia Day, the musician they had based on the doll’s look on. The singer claimed that the company had, in fact, used the cover of one of the band’s albums as inspiration for the doll, something you may judge for yourself in the picture below.
The tiny rock action figures, the curiosities and general monstrosities
Bobbleheads of rock musicians also exist. Some look more convincing than others. The company Aggronautix makes bobbleheads specialized on alternative and punk rock. One of the ones easiest to acquire is that depicting punk rock agitator, the late GG Allin. In all fairness, even a superficial glance at this show that great work seems to have been put into the making of this. Allin’s unsettling stage presentation is displayed together with the filth, blood soaked skin and indecipherable tattoos . The company also designs models depicting card carrying members of the indie rock elite, such as Mojo Nixon, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, Keith Morris or Wendy O. Williams.
Moving forward, recently it was announced that Steve Ignorant of punk rock collective Crass would be getting his own action figure. The news was greeted with strained amusement by some given tf the anarcho-punk group’s legacy. If that wasn’t a problem, than the extremely passing resemblence to Ignorant may be something to get worked up about.
Mike Patton, a man of many talents and many strange, important bands such as Faith No More and Mr. Bungle decided to use the action figgure concept as a marketing ploy for his roster of artists featured on the Ipecac Records which he owns and runs. The models, as the man himself, look odd and great. If the forums are anything to go by, they have been received well by fans, who’ve seen it as an innovative promotional tool, rather than a just cash grab scheme.
The world of music merchandise is alive with ideas, some great, some not. Whether a consequence of music sales plummeting, or the proud results of artists imagination, the action figgures are rock n’ roll’s final legacy: a small, plastic ode to the hero worship of musicians.
Eduard is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications including FootballCoin, Extra Time Talk, Fanatik, Sportskeeda, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc.
He runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com
Eduard is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.