|Just another day on planet Glowgon: Heroic warrior Ronin takes on Froggacuda, Monster of the Red Lake!|
As you might have already gathered, I tend to have a weakness for cheap-looking toys. Especially ones that involve any combination of monsters, fantasy and the 1980s. Crappy paint jobs? No problem. Bizarro, sort-of-unfinished-looking sculpts? Cool with me. That's probably why I love The Other World--an early 1980s budget toy answer to Masters of the Universe--so much. This line featured a host of fantasy warriors and strange creatures, and was released by Arco as part of the '80s fantasy craze. Whatever the line might have lacked in production quality, it made up for tenfold in pure charm.
First, let's cover the basics. The Other World premiered in 1982 and included a couple different kinds of figures: standard bendable heroes and villains around 4 inches tall, and larger monsters. Most of the figures came with glow in the dark weapons and smaller companion creatures (Jipps and Mogs). There was also a playset available called "Castle Zendo," which consisted of a plastic castle front and a thin plastic mat depicting the terrain of planet Glowgon, the setting of the line's story.
The initial series (pictured above) consisted of about five different standard bendable characters and five larger monsters in addition to the castle playset. From 1983-1984 there were additional figures released--which are rarer than the Series 1 toys today--rounding out the line with about five more standard characters and four more monsters. For a comprehensive list and photos, check out the Other World section of the Action Figure Archive.
To further add to the appeal of the line, the good people of Arco also created a story surrounding The Other World. To summarize, some good guys--lead by king Raidy--and their loyal Jipps (really short club-wielding orange dudes basically made up of arms, legs and a huge conehead) had to take on the evil Zendo and his minions the Mogs (like the Jipps only purple and meaner-looking) to locate something called the Pir'Ankus, which would apparently give Raidy the power to restore peace to planet Glowgon. You know, your typical fantasy stuff. The toys were packed with mini comics that detailed the story. Here's an example of one:
Having two older brothers who were prime age to want these sort of toys when they came out, I remember a bunch of them around the house in the late '80s and early '90s (which I kind of stole for myself and still have...I doubt they miss them). At that time I desperately wanted more (especially the Froggacuda, which I only knew from the artwork on the packaging), but they were already off store shelves for a few years by then. Needless to say, as soon as the Internet became a household thing and I was old enough to buy stuff on it, I started to seek more of these badboys out!
Now, let's take a look at a sampling of The Other World's denizens:
RAIDY, KREENA and RONIN are the three main heroic characters of The Other World. Blonde barbarian Ronin ("The Hero") fills the He-Man role, Kreena ("The Princess") can be likened to warrior goddess supreme Teela, and Raidy, well...he's a dude with bear feet. But Raidy is also "King of the Jipps," so I guess having bear feet doesn't hold you back from positions of power on Glowgon. In any line of bendies the human-type characters are naturally going to look a bit awkward, so characters like these are no doubt the lesser-desired pieces from the line. But we do need them to fight the guys below.
ZENDO (red guy) and HONDU (green guy) are the two main baddies of the line, spreading terror across all of Glowgon. Zendo is "Evil King of the Mogs" while Hondu is "The Hatchetman," Zendo's right-hand (four-handed) man. They don't look all that evil or intimidating, but then again, there's only so evil a bendy can get. If you ask me, Hondu is actually the cooler figure of the two, but I guess the sidekicks often are.
Here are the JIPPS and MOGS, good and bad minions. Well, the good warriors are probably too nice to call the Jipps their minions, but let's face it--they're minions. Their purpose is pretty much to jump in front of Ronin, Raidy and Kreena when the bad guys come charging, just as the Mogs serve to protect Zendo and his horde. These came packaged with the main figures as companion figures, so the more characters you got, the bigger Jipp/Mog armies you'd build. I think I prefer the Mogs because they look creepier and more detailed.
Every '80s fantasy land needs at least one dragon. If it's two-headed, even better! GAIFAND here operates on the side of good, serving as trusty monster steed to Ronin. With two heads, he can burn two of those pesky Mogs to a crisp at once! Well, assuming he's a dragon of the fire-breathing variety. His arms and heads/necks are bendable, while the rest of him is made of solid, harder plastic. He comes with brown plastic reins and a saddle that are removable (they break really easily, so the removing thing is probably often not by choice).
Orange beast KAMARO is "Roaring Guardian of the Jipps" while green beast SHARKOSS is "Daring Demon of the Deep" and serves as a steed for Zendo, as shown in the mini comic. These were marketed as "motorized," since you could pull them back and release to see them zip forward. I guess that was a big deal in 1982. I've always wondered how Kamaro got his name. My guess is someone with naming duties at Arco had a Camaro and thought, "Well, why the hell not?" In any case, these guys are pretty cool monsters, with rubber heads and tails, firmer plastic bodies and removable saddles.
Here we have one of my favorite toys ever, the FROGGACUDA--"Monster of the Red Lake"! This amphibious monstrosity is the one I wanted the most as a kid every time I would look at the packaging artwork from my brothers' Other World toys. I finally got one off eBay many years later, and it's one of my most prized toys. It pretty much encompasses everything I love about '80s fantasy toys. I could be wrong, but I don't think the Froggacuda has any particular alignment in the Other World story--he just enjoys killing and eating everything he encounters! At least that's how I like to imagine it.
KONTORY is the line's bird monster, dubbed "Flying Beast of Prey" on packaging. As with a dragon, every fantasy toy line could use a proper flying beast. Kontory fills that role nicely with long, bendable wings and a saddle that holds the standard bendy figures, so you can use him as a vehicle for Ronin or other heroic characters to make a narrow escape during battle or swoop down and pick up Mogs to drop on Zendo from above.
WEAPONS MASTER and SKITZO are a couple of the later figures in the line, from Series 2. The former is an anthropomorphic wolf/dog character that apparently guards and/or dispenses a bigass pile of weapons (I believe he came packaged with a weapon rack), and with a name like Skitzo, the two-headed yellow dude is here to remind us that the world was a lot less PC in the '80s (surely people with Schizophrenia enjoy being likened to two-headed monsters, right?). Seriously though, these are a couple of my favorite figures from the line and perfect examples of why I wish The Other World would have continued for even more series.
LAVA MAN is kind of like series 2's Froggacuda, in that he is a bendable monster that's somewhat larger than the basic bendable figures, but smaller than the other monsters from the line. Another way he's similar to Froggacuda is that he's freakin' awesome. Although kind of simple, the sculpt has a lot of appeal to it, added to greatly by the vibrant neon-orangey red color of his material. Plus, you've just got to love the idea of a monster made out of lava. This guy came packaged with some plastic glow-in-the-dark boulders to toss around, which sadly I'm missing.
Finally, we have SIR'COBRA, "The Strangler." Yet another in the canon of awesome monsters released in The Other World, this guy is a really long snake, complete with forked tongue. He also has legs and feet. Talons, to be exact. I love how he looks so gleeful, as if saying "I'm a big snake monster and I'm going to kiiiiiill yoooooou!". Without having him in front of me to measure, I'd say he's at least 14" long and fully bendable, which probably makes him the tallest piece in the line. Sir'Cobra was also one of the later released figures, a monster from Series 2.
So there you have it, a true classic in my book when it comes to '80s toy lines, even if one the majority of collectors probably don't remember or care too much about. What do you think about Arco's Other World? Do you have any memories of this line?
For more on the toys, check out these links:
TOW at the Virtual Toy Chest
TOW at the Action Figure Archive
Action Figure Archive forum discussion on TOW