The Outer Space Men was a toy line created in the 1960's by Mel Birnkrant. It was at the height of the space race, and at a time when kids all over the United States were fascinated with the idea of space travel. Sci-Fi movies were still at their height, and featured lots of crazy looking aliens that no doubt helped fuel the concepts behind the toy line. Unfortunately, the original run of figures never made it past a couple of waves. However, toy sculptors extraordinaire The Four Horsemen have brought them back. The first waves started back in 2010, and are now starting to go past the original figures. The Four Horsemen plan to bring to life all of the original concepts that never made it to production, and Birnkrant himself has created a new female character named Terra Firma, which is set to release in the hopefully not too distant future.
Here, I'll be taking a look at the reissues of the Infinity Editions of series 1 and 2. I'll also be taking a look at the Alpha Phase editions of series 5 and 6, which feature three all new characters to the line (one of which is a deluxe).
The characters from series 1 and 2
The Man From Saturn
The Man From Alpha Centauri
The Man From Neptune
The Flame Man of Mercury
The characters from series 5 are:
The Man From Uranus
The Man From the Twin Star Algol
And series 6
is taken up completely by one deluxe figure:
Giant From Beyond the Milky Way
So join me as I take a look at the latest set of figures from The Four Horsemen.
- The packaging has a very retro feel to it, and is in fact a great recreation of the vintage packaging from the original toy line. I totally dig the retro look, too. There are some great photos that show off the figures on the front, with bios for each on the back and a general description of the toy line. The single best thing about the packaging is it's completely collector friendly. The card is held in with 4 tabs on the back. You can easily slide it out, play with the figure, put it back in the blister, and slide the card back in place and it would look like you never opened it.
I'm always impressed when a toy line incorporates this type of packaging, and not nearly enough do it. The Four Horsemen knew that collectors would want to play with these guys, but the card art is so great that there's no way anyone would want to throw them out. It should be noted that only the series 1 and 2 reissues come in this packaging. The series 5 figures come in plastic bags, and Cyclops comes in a white box with his picture on the front.
- The sculpts on all the figures are great. They look like perfect modern updates on the vintage sculpts, something the Four Horsemen should be used to doing by now. There's a lot of great detail, such as the ridges of Astro-Nautilus' head and tentacles, and the suction cups on his tentacles as well. Even in areas that look completely smooth, there are some negative relief panel lines and sculpted rivets that you hardly even notice, and wouldn't miss if they weren't there, but there they are. There is some reuse in the sculpts though. For all of series 1 and 2, they share the same upper legs and thighs. They all share the same feet too, except for Inferno who has his own unique feet. All of them except Xodiac have the same lower torso, and all of them except Astro-Nautilus have the same upper arms and forearms. The reuse looks to be right in line with the vintage toys though, so there are no real complaints with that.
Series 5 and 6 seem to have all unique pieces, which is what the characters would call for. Orbitron and Gemini are sculpted in the same updated retro style that fits them in with the rest of the characters. The armor has a classic "space man" feel to it, while the heads have a surprising amount of detail, such as the ridges in Orbitron's brain, and the wrinkles and bulges throughout Gemini's faces.
The Cyclops also fits in with the other figures perfectly. Similar styled suit and armor, with a beautifully sculpted head. You may have to work just a bit to find his balance when posing though, due to his top heaviness and the fact that his lower legs are slightly warped inward, making it hard to get his feet to completely touch the ground.
- All of the figures in series 1 and 2 feature very vibrant color schemes that seem to reflect the retro feel. The series 5 and 6 figures are not painted at all, since they're all just cast completely in one translucent color. Through my research, I've found that series 1 and 2 aren't just straight reissues of the original releases, but there have in fact been updates to the paint scheme to help bring them closer versions of the characters. Such changes include Inferno's head, gun, torso, and back flames have now been cast in translucent red and orange, as opposed to being painted. There are other small changes with the other figures that help bring them closer to the original prototype, or to the original concept that Mel Birnkrant had for the characters. All the paint on my sets were smooth and featured crisp edges.
- This is a tricky one to cover with these figures. They don't exactly have a standard joint system, but I'll give you a brief description of how they move. They're all able to turn their heads (except Xodiac, due to his head sculpt conforming to the shape of his shoulders, restricting the movement). They each have shoulder cuts, wrist cuts, waist cuts, and hip cuts. In addition to the basic joint cuts, this toy line works on the Glyos joint system. That is, every part that moves and can be turned, can also be popped off, including Orbitron's brain! Each joint is held in with a peg that pops out easily, but holds in very firmly. I've actually heard that with the reissues, the joint system had been improved and they hold tighter now. That, in addition to the updated paint and plastic schemes, means that even people who own the first releases would probably be interested in picking these guys up.
- Xodiac comes with a ray blaster, and a staff adorned with a small version of his home planet Saturn. Astro-Nautilus comes with a blue translucent trident; Metamorpho comes with a ray blaster, and some kind of small scepter. Inferno comes with a flame themed blaster, and with the exception of Astro-Nautilus, each of the series 1 and 2 figures come with interchangeable arms, so you can pose them with their elbows bent inward and outward for either arm. Orbitron comes with a blaster and a shield, Gemini comes with a blaster and a staff with another small head on top, and the Cyclops comes with two blasters, removable armor, a removable space helmet, a removable battle helm, and two alternate open hands.
Each of their accessories are easily held by the figures, the only one that it's even a little difficult is getting Astro-Nautilus to hold his trident. It's not so much a tight fit as a balancing act, getting his tentacle to thread through both loops. The Cyclops's armor is easily two pieces that snap on around his torso. It holds firm, and snaps off easily, and you can holster his blasters at his side for when you want to pose him with his open hands. His space helmet is held on the same way and snaps off easily. I was surprised that his battle helm is also removable, but glad that it is, since it allows you to get a better look at the ugly mug underneath. The accessories all reflect the characters' planets of origin and all have those random retro rings that all classic sci-fi ray blasters had.
- These guys are certainly fun, though not for the articulation factor. They are obviously made for collectors, but they FEEL like toys, just good old fashioned fun. Inferno has a light piping feature that looks awesome when he's backlit (as I've demonstrated in the photos), and Metamorpho has a very familiar feature. The dial on top of his head can be turned to reveal three different faces for the character. One is reptilian, another looks like some red demon with bulging eyes and sharp teeth, and the last one looks humanoid with purple skin. I don't know for sure, because I believe the original Metamorpho never made it to market (though apparently it did make it to prototype), but I can't help but wonder if this character influenced Mattel with their character Man-E-Faces in the Masters of the Universe. If anyone out there knows for sure, definitely let us know in the comments.
Anyway, the absolute coolest thing about the figures is the fact that you can completely take apart each figure and mix and match their parts to make all new characters. This feature never existed in the vintage line, though it feels like a retro play feature, since so many toy lines from that era had similar play features. The Four Horsemen clearly wanted to add an extra level of play to the figures and they succeeded. The only downside at ALL to this is that it's very easy to forget what goes to who, and if you're putting things on the wrong way or not. So definitely keep track of that. But as I said before, you don't have to worry about anything falling off. The joints hold tight, and I checked and yes even the Cyclops' joint pegs are the same size as the others, so even his parts could theoretically be mixed and matched as well (though I'm not sure how well that would work out in practice due to his larger size).
- These are excellent collector figures. If you're looking for super articulation, you won't find it here. What will you will find is a set of superb revivals of a very old toy line that stays true to the vintage figures and keeps with the retro vibe all throughout. The retro packaging is very attractive, and the fact that it's collector friendly is a bonus. The small play features such as Inferno's light piping, or Metamorpho's changing faces are great, but what really raises the bar with these is the Glyos joints that allow for complete customization of the figures.
While I wouldn't recommend giving these expensive figures to kids, I feel that they would have a lot of fun playing with these guys. Heck, I'm sure collectors get a kick out of it too. I know I do. This is the sort of thing that's refreshing to see in modern toys, when somebody can make fantastical characters and make them interesting to collectors, but also just make them genuinely and unabashedly FUN to play with. The Outer Space Men were far before my time, back when my father was just a kid, but even so, playing with these makes ME feel like a kid again. They're just fun, crazy, space aliens. I understand that the lack of articulation and the retro theme will not be for everybody, if you have any interest in this area at all, I really think you'll enjoy having these guys on your shelf.
FINAL SCORE: 4 / 5
Check out hi-res images below in our GALLERY
. Figures shown here were provided by Four Horsemen Studios.