We've all known the joy and insanity of action figure addiction. When you really love a particular superhero comic or TV show, there's nothing cooler than owning a tiny plastic approximation of your heroes. But you know you've hit rock bottom when you start amassing figures that have absolutely no purpose, and no way to play with them.
Here are 10 of the most pointless or useless action figures ever made. We've celebrated the most inappropriate toys of all time before — but there are some action figures that just have no good reason for existing.
1) Star Trek: Voyager — Mutated Tom Paris from "Threshold"
This is the one that made me think of this topic. Let's commemorate the worst Star Trek: Voyager episode ever, with a completely pointless action figure! For those who missed it or chose to repress it, "Threshold" is the episode where Janeway and Paris manage to go faster than Warp 10 in a shuttle — but going at such fast speeds causes them to hyper-evolve into weird amphibian people. And then the mutated Paris and Janeway have sex, and produce three amphibian babies. Which Tuvok then shoots with his phaser. In any case, here's a Tom Paris figure, complete with his three babies. They never made a mutated Janeway figure, so you can't even act out scenarios where the two of them take care of their mutant offspring together. We asked Robert Duncan McNeil if he had this action figure, and he said he probably has one in a box somewhere. Even the guy who played Paris doesn't love this figure.
2) Doctor Who — The Flesh Goo Pod
I have to admit I'm biased, since the "Flesh" two-parter was probably my least favorite Matt Smith storyline. But let's suppose you loved the episode where people use vat-grown duplicates, or "Gangers," to do hazardous tasks, and then the Doctor miraculously gets a "Ganger" of his own. I'm still not sure how you play with this action figure, or what the point of it is, even if you keep it mint in the box. It's a mass of goop, probably similar to the kind with eyeballs and stuff in it, except that it's white and milky, and it has Matt Smith's head and part of his arm floating around in it. (Actually, the box says "Random 'The Flesh' Parts!". So maybe each box has different random parts, and you have to buy a bunch of them to get a complete Matt Smith? That would be sort of interesting.) In any case, this is a toy that commemorates the split second when a duplicate melts down into snot, or a sentient being dies. I'm just not sure how you imagine the half-snot, half-Doctor creature going on adventures. Update: And commenter Schardy mentions an even more pointless toy: the "Destroyed Cassandra" figure, which is just an empty frame. I love that the packaging says "fully poseable."
3) The Real Ghostbusters: Screamin' Janine
Arguably, this belongs more in the category of "inappropriate," but I'm including it here because it's also totally pointless. Kenner put out a line of "Screamin' Heroes" toys for the cartoon show The Real Ghostbusters, the idea being that you could wind up their torsos and then they would spin around really fast when you pushed a button. Like, they saw a ghost and got really really scared. Not nearly as cool an ability as, say, Kung-Fu Grip. So the whole line was pretty pointless — but then there's the Screamin' Janine figure. When you wind up her torso and press her special button, her skirt flies up. (If you hold her by her legs instead of her torso, I'm guessing this doesn't happen. But still.) As various people have pointed out, Janine is actually quite fearless on the TV show. But also, why is her skirt flying up exactly?
4) Legends of the Dark Knight: Assault Gauntlet Batman
Legends of the Dark Knight was actually a quite good comics series, in which some great creators told one-off stories about Batman — originally, they were all about Batman's early years, but eventually they branched out a bit. And then the Legends of the Dark Knight action figure line came out and... it was kind of weird. This is the most ludicrous example, but I remember when these toys hit the stands and it was like, "Why would Batman ever wear this?" Given that Batman's main goal is usually Ninja-like stealth, the red cowl is kind of awesome — and then there's the "missile-strike gloves," which are basically like huge guns on his hands. There are lots of terrible Batman action figures out there — here are 10 more — but I remember this entire toy line being kind of useless and missing the point of Batman.
5) Battlefield Earth figures
Somebody, somewhere, probably loves Battlefield Earth, John Travolta's misbegotten adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard's novel about aliens who've conquered Earth only to be bested by ancient fighter jets. But the whole notion that a toy company thought there would be a huge demand for Battlefield Earth figures — among kids? Among collectors? — is kind of scary. Like, people are going to want to relive all of the great moments from the film, like Travolta saying, "Exterminate all man-animals at will, and happy hunting!" Pictured at left: Jonnie in the Learning Chair figure, complete with history book and "psychlo-blaster." Hours of fun.
6) Aunt May from Marvel's Famous Covers line
The cover of Amazing Spider-Man #115 shows Aunt May in a frilly apron, menacing Spider-Man with a gun — and for some reason, the Toy Biz folks decided this was an iconic enough moment to include as a mail-order figure in their "Famous Covers" line. With the advertising tagline, "Special Offer for Marvel Maniacs!". And maniacs are pretty much the only people who would love this toy — she's got a tiny head on a huge body, with freakishly elongated arms and hands that could tenderize meat from a distance of twenty yards. Her facial expression is also horrifying, with one eye squinting and the other eye bugging out. Check out some more alarming photos here. But there's also the question of why anybody would really want a Spider-Man-shooting Aunt May figure — there are lots of great reasons to have an Aunt May figure generally, but why this particular moment in her life?
7) Star Wars: Spirit of Anakin Skywalker Figure
Remember at the end of Return of the Jedi, when the Ewoks are jammin' out on Endor and everybody's feeling the Yub-Nub vibe, and then Luke sees the ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin? Except Anakin is now Hayden Christiansen? Me neither. Basically, this is a toy designed to commemorate Lucas screwing with the original trilogy. Ghost Anakin has a gauzy silvery cloak, that's supposed to approximate his happy Force Halo, and which would probably be gone in five minutes if you actually tried to play with this thing. And a "Jedi Spirit" coin, which he got from jumping over a Jedi mushroom. I'm guessing. Even if you preferred the revamped version of RotJ, I'm still not seeing what the point of this toy is — is Ghost Anakin going to go on adventures? Is he going to appear to Luke throughout his post-RotJ travels and tell him all about the Lake on Naboo? Actually, that would be sort of entertaining, now that I think about it.
8) Dennis Nedry from Jurassic Park
Nedry is the shlubby guy who agrees to steal some embryos from Jurassic Park and sell them to Biosyn, only to wind up getting killed by a seemingly harmless Dilophosaurus. He's played by Wayne Knight, aka Newman from Seinfeld. Of all the characters from the first Jurassic Park movie, he seems like the worst candidate for an action figure — and apparently, the makers of these figures agreed with that, because they chose to make the toys look nothing like Wayne Knight or Dennis Nedry. The Nedry figures are well-built, square jawed and rugged-looking, with a nice shoulder holster and (in one case) cool sunglasses. It's like they're advertising the fact that they had no reason to make an action figure of this guy.
9) The Rock Lords
This is sort of a gimme, but we actually asked Doug Goldstein, the former editor of ToyFare Magazine and a writer for Robot Chicken, what the most useless action figure ever made was. And this is what he came up with: The Rock Lords. They're robots that transform... into rocks. And then once they're rocks, they just sort of sit there. Maybe roll around a bit. It's stealthy, I'll give you that. Nobody ever suspects that rocks will suddenly bust out into robots. But it's not quite as cool as turning into beasts or cars or whatever. As Goldstein says, "I guess it's the fun of having a rock on the floor that you know is secretly a robot, and you get to imagine that for however long the dumbest of kids could possibly imagine such a thing. There was a robot form. I'm sure the robot was very proud of being able to turn into a rock."
10) Shannon from Lost
This is one of the most inexplicable action figures ever made — basically, it's Shannon sunbathing amidst the wreckage of Oceanic Flight 815, with her eyes closed. She has a bottle of suntan lotion and another bottle of water. And she comes with Danielle Rousseau's map. Her joints don't move, so all she can do is lie there looking kind of comatose. There was also a Charlie figure, showing him going through heroin withdrawal, which at least offers some interesting scenarios. But the Shannon figure has zero playability — she literally can't do anything but sunbathe, while the action happens around her. She should at least be able to use sex to get Sayid to kill random people.
Additional reporting by Rob Bricken