Ginger Nuts of Horror
“The evil that lies within!” So proclaims the tag line of this fairly obscure but fondly remembered toy line of the mid to late 1980s.
Like Transformers, MASK, Visionaries and numerous other lines of the era, Inhumanoids was a franchise that experienced a media blitzkrieg during the era of its release, the original toys inspiring everything from a (remarkably atmospheric) cartoon to a short lived comic series that served as a secondary, “back up” strip in the latter day issues of the UK Transformers comic.
Whilst quite popular in the US, the line experienced an extremely limited release here in the UK, and little to no media attention or advertisement (my first exposure to the franchise came in the form of a VHS that contained a single episode of the cartoon which, insofar as I'm aware, had nothing in the way of a dedicated broadcast on UK television, which immediatey set it on a lower tier market-wise than the marketing juggernaught that was The Transformers and its contemporaries).
This is an enormous shame, as not only is the cartoon of a (generally) far higher quality than most derived from toylines of the era (the vast majority serving as little than twenty minute long toy commercials), the figures themselves are enormous, of enormously high quality and beautifully designed.
Like so many toy lines of the era that got parents a little agitated about their children's media consumption, The Inhumanoids is a line designed to appeal to a somewhat boyish love of the horrific, grotesque and monstrous, its core mythology one of immense and ancient creatures released from their kingdoms and prisons beneath the Earth, set to rampage across the surface world and bring humanity's civilisations to their knees.
Easily the largest and most iconic figures in the line are those of the Inhumanoids themselves; titanic monstrosities, each with their own motifs and idiosyncratic designs: from the demonic master of the Inhumanoids and central antagonist of the range, Metlar, to the “Day of the Triffids,” plant-like creature Tendril, these are monsters inspired by very particular archetypes that pervade horror and monster cinema, with more than a little of the Godzilla about them in terms of apocalyptic potential and mythological significance.
Perhaps the most iconic of the three central monsters is the decaying hulk D'Compose; the monster that is often most vividly recalled from the TV show, not only for his iconic, screeching voice (ably provided by the late, legendary Chris Latta of Starscream fame) but also for the fairly horrific scenes in which he occurs: D'Compose, as well as being fairly grotesque in and of himself (resembling an immense, shambolic thing of decaying flesh with an exposed rib-cage and a fleshless, dinosar-like head), D'Compose has the ability to induce rot in anything he touches, reducing metal to rust, rock to dust and flesh and blood living things...well, some of the scenes that likely account for the show's lack of distribution, certainly here in the UK, are somewhat explicit in this regard: men and woman touched by D'Compose not only rot; they swell into immense, undead creatures enslaved to him, resulting in a fair few “Night of the Living Dead” scenarios.
As for the toys of these entities, it's a wonder they don't rank somewhat higher amongst the echelons of 1980s nostalgia, if only for their incredible size: these toys are HUGE. Even the smaller, humanoid figures in the range are several scales up from your standard G.I.Joe human figures of the era. The Inhumanoids themselves are immense; truly titanic, as well as being comprised of a very high quality plastic, meaning that they are dense and heavy and have genuine weight to them.
Each of the central three Inhuanoids is rife with detail and their own quirky gimmicks (Metlar, for example, launches spiked balls from his fists, whereas D'Compose can open his rib cage and contain smaller figures in the line). This is also one of those rare, rare toy lines where the human figures are not given short shrift; each member of generic “good guy” organisation Earth Core comes equipped with a beautifully designed and detailed exo-suit, so as to help them go toe to toe with the otherwise unstoppable Inhumanoids, all of which have their own gadgets, gimmicks and particular characters.
Along with the Earth Core figures was a range of smaller, monstrous entities that were either sympathetic to their cause or unalligned, including living trees, rock-men and the Inhumanoid's principle rival for control of the subterranean realm of Infernac, the twin monsters collectively known as Magnacor (arguably the least impressive figure in the line; billed as being two figures in one; actually consists of a hollow shell and an interior figure that can be separated or combined).
Barring a few hiccups and notable exceptions, the line is of a surprisingly consistent quality for the era, each of the figures interesting and characterful; the kind of eye-catching items explicitly designed to catch children's eyes on toy store shelves but also to ignite the imagination. The horror motif of the line is also as explicit as any could be without breaching certain standards and parameters concerning children's media, the toy line itself containing homages to numerous horror and monster film conventions, tropes and cliches (Metlar is essentially Satan), the cartoon it inspired taking things that one step further:
Almost every episode of the cartoon contained at least one image or situation that would have made Mary Whitehouse's eyes boil and brain explode, from scenes of D'Compose rotting his victims with a touch to a particular gruesome moment that lodges firmly in my mind concerning two of the series tertiary villains (Blackthorn and Nightcrawler) attempting to uncover a mythic beast that might give them a chance to fight and conquer the Inhumanoids: finding a nest of the creatures in an active volcano, they watch as the creatures hatch from immense eggs, the eldest specimen graphically tearing apart and devouring its victims.
Unlike many explored in this series, the line has only loose affiliations with my own childhood, consigned exclusively to random episodes of the cartoon series and scattered specimens of the comic.
A shame, as I have no doubt it is one that would have exercised obsessive fascination for me, and a great many others with a developing taste for the horrific.