By Zack Smith
As we saw at Toy Fair, NECA has a new action figure of Sylvester Stallone as Rambo in First Blood. At 6 ¾ inches and 25 points of articulation, it’s one of the most accurate examples of everyone’s favorite mentally-unstable victim of America’s indifference to Vietnam vets turned over-the-top action hero. In addition, Hot Toys just posted a look at a new 1/6 scale doll of Barney Ross, Stallone's Expendables 2 character, that is the next-best thing to having Sly himself on your shelf.
These announcements led us to a realization – Sylvester Stallone has had perhaps more action figures made of the characters he’s portrayed than any other actor. So, we decided to take a look at some of the many, many, Stallone-based toys over the years. Some of what we found was, put bluntly, things we cannot unsee.
Rocky was one of the films that ushered in the blockbuster era with Jaws and Star Wars, so it’s unsurprising that the Italian Stallion would move to plastic form. Rocky III in 1983 saw Phoenix Toys and Appleworks release a series that saw Rocky, Mr. T as Clubber Lang, Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed, and even Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips. There was also a die-cast Rocky figure from ERTL, if you wanted a Rocky you could chip a tooth on.
Jakks Pacific did a whole line of Rocky figures that includes many of the crazy outfits Rocky wore in different films, from star-spangled shorts to the Tarzan-type outfit from the commercial in Rocky II, along with such supporting characters as Paulie and Tommy Gunn from THAT SEQUEL THAT NEVER HAPPENED.
NECA has done its own line of Rocky figures more recently, including Ivan Drago if you want Dolph Lundgren to battle Aliens, Predators and other NECA-rendered monsters.
Rocky also had a near-miss with another major line – he was almost part of the G.I. Joe team! There were plans for Rocky to help train the Joes, and he even had a rival in Cobra, Big Boa. However, licensing rights for Stallone’s likeness for the Rambo cartoon (which we’ll talk about in a minute), meant that Rocky never got to join the likes of Sgt. Slaughter and William “Refrigerator” Perry on the Joes…though he did appear in a Marvel G.I. Joe comic before the license was yanked, though Big Boa wound up being made as a figure anyway.
You can read the bizarre story and see some of the concept art in this “Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed” column.
In addition, there were some really, really horrible unlicensed puppets of Rocky back in the 1980s, including this one, which is perhaps one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m afraid any language I could use to describe this would not be acceptable by the standards of MTV.com’s content monitors, though I do expect to see this in my nightmares for years to come.
Though Rocky never made it into the G.I. Joes, Stallone appeared against their cartoon in some syndicated markets with a cartoon of another of his characters: Rambo: The Force of Freedom (Rambo himself was not voiced by Stallone). Because of course, a psychologically-scarred killing machine is a great character to entertain children.
The show, which pitted Rambo against the not-at-all-like-Cobra forces of S.A.V.A.G.E. and their sunglasses-wearing leader General Warhawk (who kinda looked like Uncle Duke from Doonsbury) replaced Rambo’s assault rifles with lasers that were considerably less fatal than his movie weaponry. Each episode also featured an extended bit with Rambo suiting up and tying on his bandana, as seen in this title sequence.
The only episodes I can recall were the later ones involving the mad scientist Doctor Hyde, perhaps the single most hideous villain in the history of 1980s cartoons. Seriously, he was ugly as hell.
Rambo had a whole toy line (Doctor Hyde, alas, was one of the shorter-packed figures from Coleco – yes, the makers of the ColecoVision video game system. The weirdly two-toned plastic take of Rambo earned that figure a place on one of the “worst action figures of all time” lists.
Frankly, what bugs me more are the sets of assault weapons from Remco– hey, "Children 6 and up," can try this 1:1 scale 9-mm Uzi with “real” sounds and an ammunition clip! Or this "Assault Target Set" with handgun and serrated knife!
A number of Stallone’s less-financially-successful movies also made it to figure form. Lamentably, none of them were Rhinestone.
In 1987, Lewco created a line of figures based around Stallone’s father-son arm-wrestling saga Over the Top. The smaller figures featured, yes, actual arm-wrestling action, because what’s more fun than having action figures that let you pretend to do things any person with two arms could do in real life?
Despite my sarcasm, I’m going to have to say these actually had a pretty good likeness of Stallone, and I appreciate the sheer strangeness of having real-world arm-wrestling champion John Brzenk immortalized in plastic.
Fun fact: The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz is a fan of Over the Top and has had references to it in several of his shows, including naming a band in Gossip Girl “Lincoln Hawk” after Stallone’s character Lincoln Hawks.
It’s not sad at all that I know this.
A couple of Stallone’s 1990s projects made it into plastic as well, including his blasphemous take on beloved British futuristic uber-fascist comic book anti-hero Judge Dredd. While we can debate the merits or lack thereof of the 1995 film (just see last year’s Dredd instead), the mini-figures made for the film at least allowed fans of the comic to possess plastic effigies of such comics regulars as the ABC Warriors and the Angel Gang.
Also, God help us, it resulted in the only known action figure of a Rob Schneider character. Someone get me some string and a firecracker.
Mattel put out an entire line of toys based on Stallone’s underrated Demolition Man, about a cryogenically-frozen cop released to take down Wesley Snipes’ psycho in an ultra-PC future. While Snipes got his first figure with the line, sadly Sandra Bullock’s character received no figure as well. Here’s a rarely-seen commercial for the line, complete with a “Bola-Jet” that I believe was later recycled in another line of figures.
I’m sure this article will be massively incomplete, but there’s some other Stallone toys I want to note – as mentioned above, his character in The Expendables has gotten a few toys, and for fans with money to burn, you can get some super-accurate, super-articulated 1:6 scale dolls from Sideshow Collectibles’ Hot Toys.
And for sheer strangeness, it’s hard to beat the figure of “Weaver,” the CGI character he played in DreamWorks Animation’s first film, Antz, which was based on his likeness and facial movements. If you’ve ever wanted to own a figure of Stallone as a mud-colored ant, here’s your chance.
Sylvester Stallone’s had an odd career of hits and misses, but his iconic visage and proliferation of big-budget movies has made him a mainstay of the action figure age – and with all these toys, he might well have been rendered in plastic more than any actor this side of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Still – no figures of Cliffhanger? No Cobra? NO STOP OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT?! I call RIP-OFF!
Well, maybe if we petition NECA or Hot Toys...
Do you have a favorite Stallone figure, or maybe one we left out? Let us know!