Friday, March 18, 2011

Forgotten Toy Lines Part II: Skeleton Warriors

A doomed toy line from day one
Skeleton Warriors had the marketing potential to become the next He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. It had the toys, the cartoon series, the trading cards, and even the video games. Unfortunately, the Skeleton Warriors brand soon found itself buried by an overwhelming legion of competition.



This would make a great movie poster
Skeleton Warriors is a prime example of how poor marketing and bad timing could kill a great idea. The premise of Skeleton Warriors was simple enough - two rival forces, the Legion Of Light (the good guys, obviously) led by the heroic Prince Lightstar,  his half-human/half-skeleton brother - Grimskull, and their sister, Talyn, take on the evil forces of Baron Dark's Skeleton Warriors for control of the planet of Lumimaire.

The aptly named Baron Dark
Set in a futuristic world, Skeleton Warriors incorporated advanced technology with mystic overtones - just like Masters of the Universe. However, it wasn't nearly as well received by viewers. Why? Because the odds were stacked heavily against it right from the beginning.

Talyn in action
Released in 1994, the Skeleton Warriors cartoon was shuffled around the Saturday Morning lineup like a hot potato - making it difficult for kids to tune it at the right time. Not to mention that Skeleton Warriors was far darker in tone than many of the other shows at the time, save for Batman: The Animated Series (which already had a built-in fanbase). What also hurt Skeleton Warriors was the premiere of Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Like Batman, Spider-Man already had a following due to the comics, and Spidey's toy line came out in '94 in full swing, effectively overshadowing Skeleton Warriors' own.

But, perhaps, the final nail in the coffin for Skeleton Warriors was the live-action Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, which was still on its way to hitting the peak of its popularity by 1994.

Skeleton Warriors lasted 13 episodes, effectively ending the first season with a thorough plot resolution.

"Bone-Smashing First Issue!"

For the Legion of Light!
At the same time, Marvel Comics' had been releasing a Skeleton Warriors comic series, which failed to garner a decent reader fan base. That being said, '94 was a low-point for comics. A couple of years prior, the much talked-about Death of Superman storyline had devastated the comic industry due to every comic-title now searching for a premise to somehow top it. Not only that, but the collector's value of comics were dropping due to people purchasing comics solely for the purpose of collecting. At the time, Marvel was having its own troubles just keeping many of their titles afloat, and were becoming notorious for making questionable decisions with many of their top heroes (like the despised Spider-Man Clone Saga). Skeleton Warriors only lasted a few issues before being canceled.

At a time when superhero trading cards had reach their height in popularity, Fleer Ultra released a Skeleton Warriors trading card series that not only featured impressive artwork, but was one of the only Skeleton Warriors products that proved to be well-received.  

Artwork that wouldn't be out of place on a cover of Heavy Metal magazine

Skeleton Warriors PS1 Game
A Skeleton Warriors video game came to the Sega Saturn and later to the Playstation. It failed to make a splash with gamers and no sequels were ever produced. A handheld game was also released.

Crappy Handheld games ruled the '90s
And finally, the greatest sin committed against Skeleton Warriors was due solely to Playmates, who produced the toy line. The first batch of figures released consisted of only the shows villains, not including a single one of the heroes. By the time they got around to releasing the good guys, the show's ratings were winding down and the toy line had tanked.

Baron Dark, leader of the Skeleton Warriors
Dagger, one of Baron Dark's lackeys
Too little, too late for the Skeleton Warriors toy line
Despite their lack of popularity, no one can say that the figures didn't have great detailing
The unproduced Talyn figures
The Skeleton Warriors cartoon was well done, the toys were exceptionally detailed, and the merchandising avenues were in place. Nevertheless, it goes to show just how marketing can make or break a concept. Aside from that, the show and toys may have been too 'dark-in-tone' for younger children and maybe some parents didn't want their children playing with 'scary skeletons'. Also, the toys lacked the colorful paint-schemes of the Spider-Man and Power Rangers figure lines.

Maybe one day we'll see a remake of Skeleton Warriors in one form or another (perhaps a live-action movie!), though it does seem rather unlikely.

1 comment:

  1. If Anyone knows where i can get a Talyn figure sealed or prototype or like the one above loose please email me i will Buy it!! have yet to have found one but i know they exist out there.

    -Ruben
    narnajera@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete