If there’s one thing nerds of a certain age universally agree on, it’s this….Toys (for kids and young adults) these days SUUUCK! Oh, sure–today’s younglings have video games that would make 8 year old, Atari 2600 playing me drop dead of a pleasure-induced brain hemorrhage. And there will always be timeless classics like LEGO (and by the way: CURSE, children of today, for having LEGO Stores!). But as far as action figures–and their accompanying vehicles, playsets, and other miscellany go: The playthings of my 1980s childhood beat the piss out of anything the 21st century has yet to come up with–it’s not even a contest. But this feature isn’t about how much new toys blow (that’s another feature), instead, the old and decrepit among the Nerd Bastards staff have decided to present you, the reader, with a series of tributes to the overpriced hunks of plastic of yore. Magnificent toy lines that make us forget how lonely and miserable our ACTUAL childhoods were. This week I’m back again to show some much needed love to an unsung–well, less than sufficiently sung–toy line of yesteryear: Ideal Toy Company’s ooey, gooey, awesome Manglors. WHAT ARE THEY? Sticky–that’s what. Manglors were made from a viscoelastic urethane polymer that goes by the commercial name Sorbothane. Sorbothane was invented in 1982 by British scientist Dr. Maurice Hiles. He created it while experimenting with the similarities between certain polymer structures and human tissue. It’s still used today as a shock absorber in some sports equipment. Why would Ideal choose to make action figures out of this goop? Well, let’s let Dr. Hiles himself answer that question:
The resulting solid polymer behaves like a quasi-liquid, being readily deformed by an applied force and slow to recover, although in the absence of such a force it takes up a defined shape and volume
That’s science-talk for being stretchy and squeezy–but when you cease “mangling” it (hence the name), it returns to its original shape. This property was one of the chief selling points of these figures made from the “Strangest Stuff On Earth”. The Manglor line was Ideal’s attempt at cashing in on the 1980s’ action figure boom. The company was best known as the maker of board games and dolls…they gave the world such classics as the Rubik’s Cube and the Magic 8-Ball, and were actually founded way back in 1907 by the (I’m serious) inventors of the Teddy Bear. They were bought by View-Master, who was then bought by Tyco, who then merged with Mattel. Manglors failed to become Ideal’s answer to MOTU or GI Joe, but there are more than a few children of the 80s who remember them fondly. Above are the six Manglor figures that were released: Manglord, Manglosaurus, Manglodactyl, Manglodemon, Manglizard, and Manglodragon. The latter three came packaged in plastic eggs. I had Manglord and Manglodemon–and according to fellow toy nerds on the internet, they were the most popular, probably because they were released in 1984–the age of action figures–and nobody was interested in playing with sticky lizards. The only reason I could see for any kid to want Manglodactyl would be to steal its wings for their Manglord (more on that shortly). Oh, and those blurbs underneath each figure describing them are all the back story or character development the Manglors ever got: There was never any media created of them or for them–no cartoons, tv shows, films, comic books, or novels. These figures weren’t sold on the strength of character recognition–they were sold because they were squishy and gluey…That was essentially their whole thing. That’s the famed Manglor Mountain–the only toy in the line made from normal, mundane plastic, meaning it’s the one toy in the line you have a chance of finding out of the box in decent shape. The purpose of the Mountain was to lower the Manglord (the only figure that would fit in the accompanying plastic iron maiden, by the way) into a pit of goopy, slimy lava…though it’s hard to tell if this is supposed to be torture, or the Manglord answer to a day at the spa. Toy slime is–of course–awesome beyond words, and I could probably pay off my student loans if I had back all the money I blew on myriad varieties of the stuff in the 1980s. I actually had Manglor Mountain–I bought it at the same outlet mall my Dad bought Paul Atreides at…may even have been the same trip. I don’t remember how much it cost–but it was cheap enough that my dad bought it for me without it being my birthday, Christmas, or any other normal gift-giving occasion. The slime it came with was nothing like MOTU slime, The Real Ghostbusters Ecto-Plasm, or any other slime on the market. it was mostly clear, and strangely lumpy. Still a kickass toy, though 🙂 WHY WE MISS THEM Children–boys particularly–love gross things, and there was nothing quite like toys that allowed us to indulge our penchant for the disgusting in a safe and parent-tolerated manner. Manglors were sticky and gooey–and could be stretched and twisted and tied in knots–but would always return to their original shape, ready for more punishment. The line’s most famous feature was the ability of the Sorbothane they were made of to re-adhere to itself: You could tear off a Manglor’s limbs, or head, or even rip his whole bod in fucking half–then re-attach the dismembered body parts, and (given a little time) they would “heal”, sticking completely back together. Now, this feature was controversial–and became part of the line’s downfall eventually: While I never had trouble sticking my Manglors back together, apparently a number of people did. Problem was this–if you tore off a Manglor’s arm, then stuck it back where you tore it from (as shown above), no problem. Unfortunately the advertising claimed that you could reassemble a mutilated Manglor any way you pleased, in total mockery of God and nature should you have the urge to do so. This was less successful–as was the claim you could mix and match Manglor parts between different figures and create your own horrible chimeric abominations (see below). This would have been totally badass were it true…it’s not, really. The children’s magazine Penny Power infamously attempted this, and failed utterly. They then publicized the results of their test–seriously hurting sales of a toy already considered a bit too weird to be successful. The transplanted Manglor parts never truly adhered as well as advertised–and even putting a severed arm back where you removed it from means that you could no longer stretch that arm the way you could originally. Despite all this, I still remember them quite positively….I mean anyone who thinks they can tear up a toy then reassemble it PERFECTLY, without consequence is an idiot, anyway. I miss Manglord–in all his sticky, stretchy, squishy glory…even if I couldn’t successfully tear off his leg and permanently graft it to his ass LET’S TALK MONEY Obviously, simply by their nature Manglors do not lend themselves to collectability the way figures made of more “stable” substances do. Any Manglor removed from its packaging–assuming it was still in one piece–would likely have totally dried out by now…unless it’s been carefully maintained in a way even we Nerds would consider eerily obsessive. As for still in the box Manglors–get out the checkbook. There is currently only ONE for sale on eBay–and as of Saturday night it’s going for 75 bucks. It’s Italian–released by a company called Harbert under the name Vulcalors. Manglor Mountain is also available–opened, but with box. The accompanying Manglord has seen better days, unsurprisingly, but the whole thing’s only $21.50 (This ISN’T the Manglord in question…but it’s probably a good indication of what many of them look like after 30 years) Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little history lesson. I leave you with the original Manglor commercial. Cheers, all!