Still Evolving
December 31, 2009

Last year we began an anthropological study focused on the evolutionary changes visible within the species parumplasticus populus (little plastic people). Over the last several months I undertook to reexamine the fossil record. The findings range from predictable to surprising. Whereas today’s parumplasticus populus is more sophisticated in many ways, its ancestors maintain the genetic “nostalgic variation” advantage.

The purpose of the following visuals is not to crown either the ancestor nor the modern incarnation “better.” Yes, in many ways the more recent representations are more detailed and articulated but this does not necessarily qualify them as superior. What is better: a chimpanzee or a human? The question itself is incomplete. An improved inquiry would look like this: which is more intelligent? or, which is better at climbing trees?

For many action figure anthropologists more detail or more articulation or larger scale do not always equate with a more cherished figure. Nostalgia aside, some enthusiasts just outright prefer basic and simple. The popularity of the Justice League Unlimited subspecies is a glaring example. Then again, some of the evolved subspecies available for inspection demonstrate that progress does not have to exclude charm.

Allow me to present a few more examples of evolved plastic people culled from the Action Figure Observer’s Field Manuel.

fig 1. rexrgis mare, "Aquaman"

 fig 2. scumethicus mercenota, "Bounty Hunters" 

fig 3. kungfustris gripimus, "G. I. Joe" 

fig 4. homo accipiter, "Hawkman" 

fig 5. boomopaeus jackolanternolus, "Hobgoblin"

fig 6. aurospeedocetus manialis , "Hulk Hogan"

fig 7. homo piscari, "Merman"

fig 8. itstimetogetthingsstartedulus hensonapra, "Muppets"

fig 9. vipera ninjaris, "Snake Eyes"

fig 10. unumbrachiis yeticus, "Wampa"

As you can see from the examples above many of the ancestral examples retain a dignified charm appropriate for a child’s plaything. In that regard I often contemplate the following: does a more basic toy foster a more creative imagination? Does the design maxim “less is more” find relevancy with parumplasticus populus? Regardless of the multiplicity of our individual opinions one fact remains: it is great to have so many examples to study!

Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.





  • VERY cool shots, Dan! Can’t wait to see what else you come up with!

  • The Superfly says:

    excellent blog, love the comparison pics! I’d like to see a follow-up blog focusing on how female figures have evolved over the years. Make it so!

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    That was beautiful, man. Your blogs are too good for words. Aquaman to Wampa? Awesome and insightful as always. There’s a lot to be said for both sides of the argument, but I agree that having so many examples to work with just plain rocks. I hadn’t seen those 70’s Muppet figures in ages! Absolutely loved the great pics and commentary.

  • chad says:

    nice article for the second version shows how much the figures have improved if nothing else new paint jobs and better material like on snake eyes though the second Wampa looks smaller then the original and hawk man towers over his super power counter part not to mention better features like he stepped out of the comic.

  • Jason Geyer says:

    I can’t get enough of this stuff!

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    GREAT Blog as usual Dan!

    I LOVE comparison shots of toys then and now. Some older toys really hold up well while some new toys look very different alongside their ancestors.

    I never realized how small the heads on Sigma 6 Joes can look until I saw your pic!

    I personally thing most 60’s-80’s toys hold up well and have a really fine toy like charm when compared to modern toys. The 90’s though are a real dark era for action figures IMO and I think those would compare much less favorably to recent offerings. For example I think in a lot of cases Secret Wars figures and Marvel Legends beat the snot out of most of the 90’s era 5″ Marvel Figures.

    The exception to my 90’s opinion though is Star Trek. The Playmates figures beat the toys from the recent movie, hands down, lol.


  • Wildcard says:

    Love the shots. I would buy prints of those if they were available.

  • CornboyMayse says:

    Wow Dan! This is awesome! You really need to put together a whole book of this stuff! I’d definitely buy it. The only thing I’d suggest is to use multiple versions (like you did with Mer-Man) when possible instead of just two.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Lightsource says:

    Have to share in the sentiments here. Awesome blog and great pics. Although I would have put the Spiderman Classics Hobgoblin in place of the Marvel Universe one as the contrast would be even more dramatic. I still consider that Hobgoblin to be one of the best designs Toybiz came out with. ‘Course Cornboy’s idea would work too — do all three!
    Would luv to see Mego Hulk next to a sampling of Hulks up to now also – what a comparison that would be! You really could do a whole book of these.

  • NoisyDvL5 says:

    This is awesome, Dan! Great job!

  • sam moreno says:

    Very nice job. I prefer the newer models myself, but it’s undeniable that the older toys have a certain charm to them.

  • bnjmnrlyr says:

    Thanks for inclusing the 1978 Muppets. Now I have ANOTHER toy from my childhood that I absolutely HAVE to track down. I used to have them all with the big white stick in the back and everything.


    I agree whole-heartedly by the way

  • Mario says:

    Toys, I love ’em!

  • stewbacca says:

    itstimetogetthingsstartedulus hensonapra, “Muppets”

    Its good of you to note this most people get these confused with

    the Danceyourcaresawayacus hensonapra or the Sunnydaysweepingthecloudsawayus Hensopara which although they have been known to cross genus mate– rarely do they produce any offspring— well except for that gonzo thing.

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