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.
In this weeks Toys We Miss column, I take you back to a marvelous era, when a toy’s worth was measured in how likely it was to put your little sister in therapy. We check out the creepy faced hand puppets known as Boglins.
WHAT ARE THEY?:
Meet the BOGLINS!
Creepy, ugly, unpleasant latex puppets that had a surprisingly long run of popularity for such a simple toy with little backstory, and no accompanying media (cartoons, movies, comic books, etc…). They were marketed by Mattel, but produced by a company called Seven Towns, which was actually a combination of Action GT and Ideal (we’ve discussed Ideal in the past).
As implied, the main selling point of the Boglin line seemed to be their capacity to frighten and/or disgust: A selling point that would go on to be used in lines like Creepy Crawlers, Mad Scientist, My Pet Monster, Madballs, and others.
Boglins first appeared on the scene in 1986, and were discontinued in 1994. An attempt was made to revive the line in 2000 (for the British and French toy markets, anyway), but we’ll get to that later.
These are what most folk picture when they reminisce about Boglins (and who doesn’t reminisce about Boglins?) . These are the three original large models: Dwork, Vlobb, and Drool–shown here under their British names: Dwork, Plunk, and Flurp. Why Britain felt they needed different names is beyond me, but the line did extremely well in the U.K., perhaps even better than it did here.
Large Boglins were memorable for their unique, cagelike packages–one of the few toys out there whose boxes were essentially another toy–the plastic bars could be raised or lowered. Also, their glow-in-the-dark (80’s Toy Rule #1: If any part of the toy glows in the dark, it is automatically at least 70% cooler) eyes could move left to right thanks to a small lever that could be actuated with a finger while operating the puppet.
Small Boglins were kinda the redheaded stepchildren of the Boglin extended family: Less detailed, unmoveable eyes, barless cage boxes, The originals were called Splat, Blap, Bonk, Doink, Klang, Squidge, and Squit in the U.K. and Europe–and Squidge, Shlump, Shlurp, Sponk, Squawk and Squeel in the USA.
I never knew anyone who had or wanted a small Boglin. With larges being the obviously preferable option, I imagine these little bastards existed solely for parents who wanted a really asshole way to tell their children they were adopted.
These are the Soggy Boglins, and they strike me as a good example of a toy company trying desperately to fix something that wasn’t broken. The original Boglins were just fine the way they were (the large ones, at least). But for some reason, Mattel insisted on ramping up the weird. The Soggies weren’t even the only subspecies of Boglin that was created: There were several other varieties produced over the line’s 8 year run, but most are so rare and forgotten as to not really deserve discussion here.
The Soggies, along with being modeled after aquatic animals, each had their own little special feature: Snish the fish squirted water, Slogg the frog had a sticky tongue, and Slobster the lobster’s claw opened and closed.
Mini Boglins were the line’s attempt to cash in on the minifigure craze of the late 80s (M.U.S.C.L.E., Monster In My Pocket, etc…). They were sold in blister packs of 3 or 5, and boxes of 5, 10, 20 or 100. You could also buy them individually in little opaque packages–no way of telling what you’re getting (like trading cards or other collectable minifigure lines)
The minis had a relatively more developed backstory than the Boglin puppets, and were separated into tribes and ranks (see below)
Probably the most memorable addition to the Boglin line was the two Halloween Boglins shown below: Blobkin and Bog-O-Bones. They are popular with collectors, and came with Trick-Or-Treat bags.
WHY WE MISS THEM:
Perhaps it would be trite to say “They don’t make ’em like this anymore” (yes…yes it is), but it also happens to be true. All we’d need is ONE kid startling his mother with one of these, and Mattel would be sued for endangering the poor woman’s health (WHAT IF SHE’D HAD A HEART CONDITION OR SOMETHING???). These innocent little rubber monstrosities, who only wanted to bring good cheer to the world, would be pulled from shelves faster than you can say “Lawn Darts”.
But I digress.
The Boglin history and “Bogology’ primer, shown on the back of the large Boglin box, is some of the most entertaining advertising copy ever conceived for a toy line. Though the idea that repulsive, goblinoid swamp demons taught humanity how to laugh, cry, and love seems a bit farfetched.
As a footnote, I’d like to mention that I was indeed the proud owner of a large Boglin: Dwork, to be specific. That is, until my 1o year old curiosity got the better of me, and I tore my little latex friend to shreds just so I could see how that eye-moving mechanism worked.
LET’S TALK MONEY:
Boglins are a pretty hot commodity where toy collectors are concerned. Given the relatively fragile nature of the latex they are composed of, a Boglin in mint condition can bring in a pretty tidy sum, and even “gently used”, out of the box Boglins are pricey.
EBay has boxed large Boglins in various conditions for between $100 and $200 a pop, and boxless larges for between $30 and $50. Boxed smalls seem to be unavailable on eBay at the moment–save for a complete set of factory sealed smalls for, get this, five hundred bucks plus shipping! Unboxed smalls vary widely in price–from as cheap as a buck or two to as expensive as $40. Soggy Boglins also seem to be unavailable in box–there’s a lightly damaged loose Slobster currently up for bid at just $5, and a loose Snish for $85, so Soggies appear to be a crapshoot where profitability is concerned.
The Halloween Boglins are comparable in price to the other larges.
Minis also appear tough to find in their original packages. Loose sets of a dozen or so will run you about twenty bucks.
But the repulsive jewels in the Boglin collector’s crown are definitely these suckers:
Meet Belcher and Gangrene: These fellows are updated versions of two of the original large Boglins–Vlobb and Dwork, and part of an attempt by 3 companies: Lansay, Awesome Toys, and Vivid Imagination to revive the line for the British/French toy market in 2000. There were other models as well, but these two stand out: This time they were battery-operated. Not only did their eyes glow and move as per usual, they made a variety of fun, unpleasant sounds.
Why are they so sought after? Well, not only were they only released in the U.K. and France, a design flaw meant that they were too large for their boxes–most were slightly flattened, squished, or otherwise disfigured by the time they made it to stores.
In other words, if you get your hands on one of these–and by some miracle it has NOT been deformed by it’s own shoddy packaging, it’s worth a King’s ransom.
As a footnote, it should be mentioned that “Bat” Boglins–Boglins with wings were designed and intended for release, but never made it to stores. near as I can tell, no one has ever seen one outside of promotional pictures.
But you never know….