If you’ve walked into a Wal-Mart this Holiday season you might have been surprised to see a forgotten 90’s icon on toy shelves. No, not Furby. Not a GigaPet. Not even the juggernaut that was Tickle Me Elmo returning to cause a frenzy. The toy I’m speaking of is the one and only TurboMan!
Yes, the jet-pack wearing hero who fought for justice during the Christmas of 1996 in the film Jingle All The Way is back in stores thanks to the folks at Funko and probably getting about as much attention as the original Tiger Electronics version did in 1996. Which is to say, not much. The whole movie revolves around a father trying to obtain a TurboMan action figure, but the character never caught on with anyone I knew, even younger neighbors and cousins.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t see Jingle All The Way in theaters or even select it as a video store rental back in the day. By 1996, I was 14 and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s output since Last Action Hero (which I liked) had left me cold. The film lived on as more of a joke in my mind as a “terrible” Christmas film that I didn’t need to see. I may have caught clips here and there, but never gave it a full watch until now. I didn’t realize what I was missing.
Don’t misunderstand, the movie is pretty lame, with a lot of forced heartwarming moments and embarrassing slapstick comedy that barely keeps your attention. What I’m talking about is the fact Jingle All The Way is full of vintage comic book based action figures from the 90’s! As an avid collector who stalked the shelves of my local Target, Toys R Us and Kay-Bee Toys during this era, I couldn’t believe the nostalgia induced by seeing these figures in their natural habitat once more. So join me as I take you on a Jingle All The Way comic book action figure hunt.
Before we get into the figures themselves, I just have to point out that Jake Lloyd’s character has an over-the-top comic book themed bedroom with a massive Captain America mural taking up the entire wall behind his bed. Plus, Marvel comics bed sheets. The odd thing is, Captain America was kind of a non-entity to kids, even those who had been watching the mega-popular X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons on Saturday Mornings. He was always a guest star, but never headlined his own animated series. Even among die hard comic book readers, Cap was always a B-tier character. So it’s kind of an odd choice. There also seems to be a Xenomorph from the Kenner Aliens figure line on his night stand.
For those who need a reminder, Toy Biz was the company that produced all of the Marvel Comics based action figures from 1990 into the mid-2000’s. In a scene where Arnold gets Jake Lloyd to reveal his most desired toy for Christmas we see his desk is littered with Toy Biz X-Men figures.
From Left to Right on the desk we find an obscure sword-wielding X-Men foe named Kylun, a Marvel Super Heroes Cosmic Defenders Deathlok, a purple X-Force villain named Krule, Cyborg Cable and the cool only because he had tank treads for legs, Bonebreaker. Of these loose figures, I only ever owned Deathlok, who was 5 years old in terms of his life on retail shelves at the time this film was released.
We also get a shot of a Deluxe Edition 10 Inch The Thing figure in the background at one point. These “giant” figures were a regular offering from Toy Biz in the 90’s and it always baffled me. Who wanted to pay more for a larger figure when you could get 2 standard size for the same price? They took up a lot of space on the shelves, but always seemed to stay on shelves in my experience. More on these 10-inchers later.
Finally, as Arnold celebrates his promise to find a TurboMan, swinging Jake Lloyd around the room, we see the kid has also placed some toys in his window for decoration. There’s a bunch of these I can’t make out (especially that winged creature at the bottom left), though what I can see are Red and Blue Mighty Morphin Power Rangers bendable figures from the era where the Rangers were in Ninja outfits and what I think could be a The Rocketeer Bend-‘Em next to a Dane from WetWorks action figure by McFarlane Toys. The figure on the far right I believe to be the whip-wielding X-Men villain, Senyaka based on the large shoulder pads. What else do you see?
When Arnold goes to the first toy store to find TurboMan, he immediately runs to the action figure aisle with Sinbad on his heels. It’s here we get a really good look at some Toy Biz Fantastic Four and X-Men: Age of Apocalypse figures hanging from pegs on an endcap display. A sight that warms my heart. On the Mutant front we have Apocalypse, Sabretooth with WildChild and Weapon X (which was Wolverine minus a hand). For the Fantastic Four we have The Thing, The Human Torch and the blue, bearded baddie, Blastaar.
Farther down the aisle, as Arnold’s stunt double climbs the shelves, we catch sight of a few more X-Men figures that may not be clear to all. I can see Cameron Hodge, Wolverine in Fang costume, Savage Land Wolverine, X-Force Commando, and X-Men Classics Gambit amongst some Micro Machines. There are couple more, but there’s so much glare it’s hard to make them out.
Arnold’s failure to secure a “TurboMan Doll” leads to a montage of the beleaguered father traveling from store to store in his futile pursuit of the hottest toy of the season. In one store he is mockingly laughed at by a toy store employee in the Action Figure department and we can plainly see more 10-inch Toy Biz figures. This time it’s Iron Man, The Mandarin and War Machine from the Toy Biz Iron Man line, which was based on the 90’s animated series and paired with Fantastic Four as the Marvel Action Hour.
I actually received the 10-inch War Machine from a friend on my 13th birthday, along with Apocalypse from the X-Men series. But as mentioned above, I didn’t have much use for them and the pair ended up in the bottom of my closet, not even getting the dignity of becoming display pieces.
Speaking of the Iron Man figures, there is another moment where Sinbad is passing through the store and we get a look at a rack of off-brand figures that are some type of “Commandos”. To the left of the end cap is a very visible Hydro Armor Iron Man, one of many armor variants for the titular hero. This was long before Tony Stark became a household name. All the finds up to this point have been fun, but this moment from the montage is the motherload.
Just look at all these pegged 90’s action figures! (Sorry it’s kind of blurry, but this is a panning shot that fades in and out very quickly). From Left to Right we have Emplate from the Generation X line (and right above him the big, yellow boots of Phalanx), Minotaur from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Ghost Rider II with Transforming Action, the heavily armed Clown II figure from the Spawn line by McFarlane Toys and above him an unidentified Youngblood figure! I could watch footage of cameras panning across old toy store shelves as my only form of entertainment and likely be satisfied for a lifetime. So beautiful.
So there you have it, a hardly comprehensive, but still fun look at the 90’s comic book action figures hiding in plain sight as part of the set dressing in Jingle All The Way. Before I close however, special mention has to be made of the Stretch Armstrong and Vac-Man display wedged between the TurboMan sign and Lunch Boxes. I had both of these stretchy studs as a kid and loved them, but as anyone who ever owned toys from this line knows, they were not the most durable playthings on the market.
May your holiday be filled with more excitement than Arnold had hunting down TurboMan and may your action figure collection grow in the New Year.
And if you want to hear me talk more about comic books of the 90’s and the associated toys, check out my podcast WIZARDS The Podcast Guide To Comics here on The Retro Network or available through any of your favorite podcast streaming apps.