And now, Scary-Crayon reviews a... Creatology Halloween Vinyl Decorating Toy

In one of the more baffling -- at least from my perspective -- trends among toy collectors, designer vinyl toys were really hot for a while. I could never fathom why collectors, who are known for being pretty demanding when it comes to their purchases, were willing to pay comparatively high prices for oddly shaped figures that shared the same body, had minimal poseability, and were exceedingly lacking in sculpted detail. But hey, some things are not meant for me to understand! And while there are a few notable latecomers to the game -- just as the Mighty Muggs presence has almost completely died out on discount store shelves, the Funko Pop! line is starting to appear in force at "standard" retail outlets -- it does seem that these kinds of figures are considerably less popular now than they've been in recent years.

Still, there are a couple of consumer groups among which the popularity of vinyl figures seems as strong as ever: kids and customizers. Whereas I was confused by many collectors' dedication to vinyl toys, it makes perfect sense that children and creative types would find them interesting -- kids because they're hardly as anal about sculpt and articulation as some action figure collectors can be, and customizers because a smooth and often blank canvas can be very appealing to novices and more skilled action figure artists alike.

A vinyl decorating toy! Who'd ha' thunk it?He's a pretty cute little pumpkin-headed fella.

So when I stumbled upon these Halloween vinyl decorating toys from Creatology, they seemed like a pretty brilliant way of appealing to -- and even merging -- what I viewed as the most obvious audiences for these kinds of products. For just $1.99 -- an excellent price compared to the $10+ that more collector-oriented vinyl figure lines want for their blank offerings -- Creatology gives you a small, blank vinyl figure with a Halloween-themed shape. (I've since learned that there are a lot of blank vinyl figures in the children's craft aisle of Michaels, which I rarely travel. I only saw these because I'm all about Halloween merchandise.) It's nothing amazing, but it's a pretty cool find that should appeal to customizers and figure artists of all ages.

Obviously, I haven't done anything with mine yet, so I can't speak to how well it takes paint -- which is probably the most important thing about it. But I have played around with it a bit, so I can speak to its other virtues and flaws. The best things about it are probably the sculpt and size. Granted, the sculpt is very plain, with a smooth, portly little body, but at least each of the four figures in the line gets a unique head! One is a cat with a witch hat; one (the one I got) has a pumpkin-shaped head; one has a Frankenstein head with a caveman brow and neck bolts; and one is a bat-like head with two pointy ears. (The bat apparently also differs in that, instead of arms, it gets wings -- but unfortunately, the bat is also the one figure in the line I have yet to encounter, despite checking multiple stores in the area over the last several weeks. And y'know? It feels really weird to be hunting for a figure at Michaels. Sure, I've been there once or twice when they've been sold out of an item I wanted, but it's always been restocked the following week. This thing, however, is proving exceedingly difficult to find, which frustrates me. I want to make a tiny Bat-Wes, darnit!) All of the heads look good, or at least as good as a smooth, simplistic, unpainted head can look. It'd be nice if the pumpkin head had a flatter area designated for the face -- I imagine kids might find painting facial features over and in the pumpkin ridges to be a bit difficult -- but aside from the alignment of the hands (which we'll get to in a bit) that's about the only criticism I have regarding the sculpt.

Fits in well with those odd designer toylines that everyone except me loves...

As I mentioned above, the size is also pretty neat. At 3.5" tall, it's notably smaller than many vinyl figure lines -- so if you're a parent of a younger child, your kid could use one of these to represent him or herself amidst adult superheroes and monster characters. Heck, if you want to make yourself from a taller vinyl figure, you could even use a Creatology figure to customize a family vinyl set (albeit with a monster version of your kid... which might not be too far from reality). Or one could have them be giant monsters attacking Minimates or Lego people. The possibilities are endless! Well, they're endless with any toy, but they're even more endless here because you can paint this toy however you like.

Hold on, pal... you could probably carve yourself a face with something less dangerous.He stands now, but gravity can be a treacherous thing.

The Creatology Halloween vinyl figures have three points of articulation -- swivels at the neck and shoulders. That's not terribly impressive, but it's no worse than most other vinyl figures (even when they add swivels at the legs, they're rarely useful for posing). However, whereas the hands are sculpted in a gripping pose that will accept outside accessories, the palms face downward. As a result, most accessories will look awkward in the Halloween vinyl figure's hands. Also, because it's holding the accessory out in front of it -- and because the figure is fairly top heavy and leans forward a bit anyway -- most action figure accessories will cause the figure to fall flat on its oversized face. (The sword in the above-left picture is pretty light, but I had a great deal of difficulty getting this guy to stand for the photo! Your mileage may vary with other figures in the line, though, and the elusive bat presumably can't hold any accessories at all.)


So this pumpkin-headed Creatology vinyl decorative toy isn't a perfect figure. But aside from having better balance and upright hands, it's hard to see how it could be a whole lot better given what it is -- and what it is is still very cool, especially for only $1.99. It's also worth noting that I've only seen these at Michaels, and Michaels has 40% off coupons in the paper nearly every week; I paid $1.20 plus tax for this dude. Considering what some companies charge for less interesting (though admittedly larger) vinyl blanks, that's a great value.

Anyway, if you've got artistic kids or are a customizer who either enjoys working with simplistic vinyl figures -- or are someone who just wants to have a bit of painting fun with toys! -- I definitely recommend grabbing one or more of these little fellows. (That is, assuming they take paint well. I see no reason that they shouldn't, but one never knows.) Apparently you can find similar figures all year 'round in the children's craft aisle of Michaels -- but obviously, because the world doesn't work like Scary-Crayon, the Halloween guys will only be around for a limited time. So if you want one, you'd better hurry! I'm already starting to see vinyl turkeys, snowmen, and reindeer crowding these poor little guys out... :(

-- Wes --
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