And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... Human Disguise Invader Zim by: Wes

I'll begin this review by paraphrasing a quote from a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode: I've been critical of a lot of toys. I've never hated one before. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word, but I definitely strongly dislike this toy. Which is a shame, since I enjoyed "Invader Zim" on television. It was a pretty creative and amusing cartoon in which -- in a delightful twist on your standard alien invasion show -- the focus was on the alien trying to take over the world rather than the humans trying to thwart the invader's efforts. In addition to other humorous elements, IZ was a great deal of fun due to the antics of his Zim's defective and dysfunctional SIR (Standard-issue Information Retrieval) Unit (it called itself GIR despite having no idea what the "G" stood for) and his human opposition, which took the form of a highly excitable, conspiracy-theorizing kid. Also? Humans in Zim's world were hilariously stupid -- just look at the disguise he used to pass as human!

Invaders' blood marches through his veins!Zim will now unleash the monkey.Oh, such tacos he will give!Zim knows all kinds of things about you. Pretty creepy, huh?

Yes, in the world of IZ, an alien only needed to don an Elvis wig and pop on some oversized contacts in order to pass as a convincing human. What happened when people noticed the green skin, you ask? Why, Zim would just assert that he had a skin condition! See, the show even worked as a commentary on how people consistently overlook strange and unlikely things in their midst rather than consider anything that might upset their comfortable worldviews. Anyway, I don't have the IZ DVDs to do direct screen capture comparisons, but comparing the above images to the screencaps that appear among the results of this Google image search for "zim human disguise" should be sufficient to convince you that the figure admirably captures Zim's look on the cartoon. The head is appropriately oversized, the limbs are appropriately spindly, the shirt is appropriately red and segmented, the backpack is appropriately pink dotted, and the cunning, gleeful expression is completely in character (assuming that Zim's latest world takeover scheme is proceeding according to plan). There's even a gloss finish on the gloves, shirt, and pants, which add to the visual appeal. The visible seam down the sides of Zim's head and neck and the copyright info on his butt do detract from that, but not enough to keep this from being an attractive 3D representation of our Irken invader in disguise.

But ah, looks are not everything! If they were, toys would be posters and Human Disguise Invader Zim would be getting very high marks from me. My greatest problem with Zim is yet to come, but I'm also deducting a significant amount of points due to the annoyance factor. If you've read my previous, occasional rants in the SC blog (or on the several toy forums that I frequent), you might remember that I flipping hate build-a-figures -- you know, the ones that come packaged, in pieces, with other figures, such that you have to buy every figure in a given wave in order to assemble the BAF. Most of the time, I have neither the money nor the desire to purchase all of the toys necessary to build these figures, so I have several baggies full of useless limbs that take up space and aren't doing anyone a whole lot of good. This annoys me considerably.

YOU WILL RELEASE ZIM FROM THIS PLASTIC PRISON!!!Zim comes with a *lot* of stuff.

Human Disguise Zim, however, takes the annoyance to a whole new level. On the surface, it implements a more palatable idea: instead of building a figure from separate pieces packaged with each toy in the wave, you build a playset -- in this case, Zim's house. I find this more acceptable since, while I was compelled to hunt down every figure in that darned DC Universe Classics Wave 3 to build Solomon Grundy, I can certainly live without Zim's house. That said, when buying figures from BAF waves, at least you only end up with one or two extra limbs or other body parts per figure (which can sometimes be rather large, but still) -- it's the buildup of these over time that's most irritating. And sometimes (but not always), this annoyance is even lessened by the inclusion of additional accessories on top of the BAF piece.

Now, look at Human Disguise Zim in the package above. You see that guy in the upper left-hand corner? That's Zim. He takes up roughly 1/6th of the size of the bubble in that image -- and that's not even accounting for depth, since the piece of the house is clearly, in part, behind him. In the second image above, you see Zim with all of the included... stuff in the package. That sure is a lot of stuff! And here's how much of it does not go with the damned build-a-house. (I guess technically that's not true, since the base actually does go to Zim -- but since Zim can't actually stand without it due to his oversized head, I'm counting it as a necessity rather than an accessory.) In other words, all of this crap is part of the house. It's not even as if it works well as a display background, since the side of the house is missing whatever base component it needs to stand on its own and the numerous tubes connect to some other piece of Zim's residence. Likewise, the flag can't stand upright and the Irken scanning device attaches to another part... even the darned remote control is useless since apparently the TV came with another figure. I do like the gnomes, but they, too, are undeniably meant to go with the house. I guess the box of candy bars could possibly be said to go with Zim, though he can't even hold it and I don't remember him particularly enjoying the sawdusty treats on the show. However, because it's really just a useless brick with text printed on it, I'm not counting it as a valid accessory either.

I included the "accessories" just to busify the image.

And, finally, here's the articulation breakdown. It sort of goes without saying that Zim's not superarticulated, and what's here is serviceable enough -- or at least it would be if the figure weren't so damned fragile. Which brings us to my final complaint with the toy! Or perhaps I should call it a "fan/collector display piece," since this is not a toy. See, with the exception of the carded image, Zim has appeared with his arm glued back together... because I literally broke him within two seconds of taking it out of the package. I took him out, saw the awkward curve of the arms, and thought, "Hm, I wonder if these are bendy?" And just after I gripped the limb and applied the slightest pressure to it to test its elasticity, I found myself holding the greater part of Zim's broken arm in the palm of my hand. (I've read that the wrists are articulated, but -- considering how easily that arm snapped -- I'm afraid to exert the force necessary to change their position.

While Zim did not cry out once and retained his scheeming grin throughout the experience, inside my heart I wailed in anger and sorrow. Even if Palisades wasn't going to make the arms bendy -- which really would have been ideal in my opinion; imagine the nifty poses Zim might have been able to assume then -- a more resilient plastic than balsa wood would have been preferable for a kids' toy. The package designates the figure for children ages eight and up, but this toy wouldn't stand up to twenty minutes of normal play with a cautious twelve-year-old. An eight-year-old would almost certainly break this toy. But then, that's part of the problem I have with the Nightmare Before Christmas figures, and the Corpse Bride figures (Zim holds the record for the fastest figure I've ever broken, but Corpse Bride gets the silver), and the other fragile toys based on media that appeals to the Hot Topic crowd -- they're not making them with the right audience in mind.

Yes, older goths enjoy this stuff too, but these are, by and large, children's media. Yes, there are plushies for the (much) younger set, but I don't see why companies can't make action figures that don't fall to pieces at the slightest touch. All spindly limbs should be bendy, or at least made of a plastic with some give to it. Oversized heads? Hollow, so that the characters can actually stand upright without display stands. Or, if display stands are necessary due to the designs of certain characters -- Jack Skellington, for instance -- why not make them more interesting? I have a Jack Skellington that came with several carved pumpkins, Zero, and, to help him stand, a boring black oval. Instead of the pumpkins, I could've done with maybe a base designed to look like a piece of Halloween Town's pumpkin patch. Or perhaps the included pumpkins could've Bacardi loves GIR too!had foot pegs on them, such that Jack could have effectively used them to increase his footprint and assume a greater variety of poses. In any case, there's no obvious downside to making figures that are more amenable to play than the more fragile products that companies like McFarlane and NECA and Palisades have released in the past. It might be part of the reason that I was able to pick up all of these fragile figures on clearance... and that Palisades is no longer with us. Even collectors prefer a figure that can handle the occasional, accidental shelf dive.

Anyway, final verdict on Zim: even though he only cost me $5.99 (a couple of years ago; you'd probably have to pay at least three times that amount on eBay), I dislike this toy for its unnecessary fragility and inclusion of a bunch of useless junk I don't need. If you can find it cheap and plan to get the rest of the figures necessary to build the house, though, you'll probably be pleased with the set... so long as you're very careful with the individual figures. Other folks in need of plastic IZ merch might be better off with the PVC figurines. And for the GIR lovers, there are always the oh-so-huggable plushies!

-- Wes --
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