One of 2015’s most promising action figure Kickstarters was Fresh Monkey Fiction’s Amazing Heroes, a line of retro style super heroes. Taking direct inspiration from Mattel’s iconic Secret Wars, these figures feature a design aesthetic sure to be recognizable by many Marvel fans growing up in the 80s. The Amazing Heroes employ a shared base buck, with unique head sculpts, overlays, and some very bold and concise paint apps.
The crafting on these guys is solid; I picked up the entire Wave One through the Kickstarter campaign, and each figure feels sturdy, with very few stuck joints (my Captain Action has one frozen arm) and no overly loose pieces. As retro figures, the sculpted details are fairly simple, but this base body is very authentic to the Secret Wars toys.
Not every figure gets a unique headsculpt– a few are repainted and shared– but I’m honestly okay with this choice. The Amazing Heroes first launched as a toy line for Golden Age super heroes, such as the Black Terror, DareDevil, Stardust the Super Wizard, and the Green Turtle. The charmingly generic nature of the figure’s head sculpts actually fits perfectly into the Golden Age aesthetic, making these retro figures based on retro characters… they’re double retro!
What really makes Fresh Monkey Fiction’s project interesting, though, is how it morphed and expanded to become something even bigger than a Golden Age toy line. Pulpy heroes like Champion of Mars and Silver Streak have many fans to this day, and inspired many of today’s comic creators over the years. Some of those creators have offered their services to Amazing Heroes, which added new figures to the lineup, as well as some very awesome card art, courtesy of iconic artists like Mike Allred and Erik Larsen.
The more modern additions to the lineup saw Captain Action and Madman added to the mix, along with a bad guy for our heroes to face, the Blank Slate. These extra figures add another dimension to this fun, pulpy toy line, and some of the newly sculpted parts– like Captain Action’s hat and gun and Madman’s perfect portrait– proved any simplicity in the sculpts of this line is clearly intentional.
Fresh Monkey wisely rolled with all these changes, and the love their concept was getting from all over the comic industry. As a result, the final product is a great artistic expression in terms of both the toys themselves and even the packaging, which is among the best designed and coolest I have seen in any retro line. The seeming blister cards are actually clamshells, which hold the figure securely in place while spotlighting the eye catching backer cards.
What’s truly unique is that most figures feature two swappable backer cards, a feature I have never seen before in a toy line. The basic card art again draws inspiration from Secret Wars, spotlighting small images of every hero on the weathered and slightly yellowed front side, while the back of the card features a comic strip that sets up our story– the heroes of the 1940s have all been transported to a mysterious environment and pitted in combat against their fiercest enemies.
Each figure’s alternate card is more character specific, featuring a big, bold illustration of the hero by a special guest artist. These card backs spotlight the specific hero, with some stats and history of the character, as well as a small bit of a comic starring him. The design is very cool, and I love that the clamshells can be opened and closed easily, and multiple times without causing any wear or damage.
And the artist list is really impressive! In addition to Allred (who provides art for Madman as well as DareDevil) and Larsen (who tackles Stardust), we also get all new art from Tim Seeley (Silver Streak), Sonny Liew & Gene Luen Yang (Green Turtle), Phil Hester (Captain Action), Reilly Brown (Champion of Mars), and Tom Fowler (Black Terror).
I’m an opener. I keep the packaging I really like, but I’ve always been a firm believer that toys should be opened and played with to be truly appreciated. Honestly, Amazing Heroes is one of the first lines I’ve ever seen that has challenged this belief. The figures are totally great to play around with– pitting The Black Terror and Captain Action against my old Secret Wars Doctor Doom was definitely more fun than I should probably admit– but they look so awesome in this packaging that I ended up putting them all back in the boxes to be displayed on-card.
Fresh Monkey has already teased two more waves of Amazing Heroes, and I’m interested to see where they take this line. It’s cool to see the often overlooked heroes of the Golden Age get the toy treatment, and I think this retro format works very well for their simple, striking costumes. Adding more modern characters to the mix shakes things up, but I like that what Fresh Monkey is trying to do here is attracting the types of creators who share the sentiment and adoration for the Golden Age that makes Amazing Heroes so special.
If you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign, Fresh Monkey Fiction is currently taking preorders for Amazing Heroes Series One on their website. Click here to order yours.