FIGURE FLASHBACK: Mezco’s Cryptozoology

An unexpected and elusive assortment of action figures...

Cryptozoology! It’s an exciting-sounding word, isn’t it? For those who do not know, ‘cryptozoology’ is the science (or pseudo-science, depending on who you ask) of hidden animals, which is to say, animals that have not been accepted and described by science as yet. This can actually be remarkably mundane; the possibility of, say, new species of songbird in the Amazon rainforest, or the study of the new varieties of goat-like animals recently found in Vietnam, are of great interest to cryptozoologists. But when cryptozoology gets exciting, it gets really exciting – it is this discipline that concerns itself with Bigfoot, sea serpents, the Loch Ness Monster, and so forth. And it sometimes ranges past the exciting, into the surreal, with sightings of spectral or biologically impossible entities like the Jersey Devil or Mothman. You may think what you like of cryptozoologists, that they’re inspired explorers or self-deluded fools, but either way, a lot of the animals they seek are awesome. Whether they exist or not.

And awesome, possibly-mythical animals deserve, nay, cry out for action figures. So in the early part of the third millennium c.e., two companies endeavored to give us some. Nevermore Creations planned a series called “Legendary Monsters,” and produced prototypes for a wave of four creatures, each packed with a terrified human. But it never came to pass, for reasons unrecorded by history, or by the Internet anyway. More successful, or at least more existent, was Mezco’s Cryptozoology line. Even this line had problems getting to the shelves, though; it was delayed for quite awhile – due to licensing issues over a tie-in videogame that never did become real, according to some – and when it did come out, the figures were much smaller than had been anticipated. Why, do you suppose, has making Cryptozoology figures been so difficult? A conspiracy, perhaps? Probably not.

The Toys

The Cryptozoology figures turned out to be on a four-inch scale, and their number turned out to be three. One depicted Bigfoot, the hairy wildman of the Pacific Northwest; another was the Jersey Devil, the winged and hoofed monster of Pine Barrens folklore; and the third figure was Mothman, the centerpiece of the high weirdness that went down in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in 1967. The articulation on the figures was fair to middling, considering their small size, but the real standout was the sculpts. These were detailed and bizarre and eye-catching. Little effort was put forth, to be honest, to have the figures resemble the creatures of the sightings; Bigfoot generally doesn’t have claws, for example, and the Jersey Devil usually has a tail and a long snout, and Mothman in fact (or supposed fact) does not particularly resemble an insect. But Mezco went for dramatic, artistic designs over folkloric accuracy. Their Bigfoot was a hairy ogre, their Devil blood-red and demonic, their Mothman a terrifying insect-man. And they were great-looking little pieces.

Regrettably, a fourth figure – a huge, eely Loch Ness Monster – never came to pass, in spite of appearing in early advertising for the line. There was a fourth member of the line nevertheless, however, in the form of a Mothman variant, which was a 2002 Toy Fair exclusive. Unlike the regular Mothman, which was grey with red eyes, in accordance with the sightings, this one was pale yellow and translucent. An appropriate variation; Mothman always did seem more of a wraith than an animal. It also came with a dog carcass, with the innards ripped out; presumably a victim of the monster. This carcass was also yellow and translucent, as though it was the ghost of the dog’s corpse, which was weird. Perhaps the regular Mothman figure, which was released well after this one, was originally intended to come with its own disemboweled dog? Only Mezco knows for sure.

The Memories

Mezco really pushed this series, before it came out, taking out full-page ads in trade magazines and the whole bit. So when it finally did, small and free of Scottish lake monsters, I was a wee bit disappointed, as were many other people. But when Cryptozoology hit the shelves, it ricocheted right off of them, to extend the metaphor. Which is to say, it sold quickly, at least in my town. I started my collection at my local comic shop, as I usually do with Mezco products, but finished it some weeks later at a Toys R Us. It was, perhaps, no surprise that the latter store hadn’t had its stock of Cryptozoology cleaned out as quickly; people probably weren’t looking for Mezco product there. I hadn’t been.

In spite of this seeming success, the line was immediately discontinued, and we’ve heard nothing from it since. Accoutrements – the makers of the figures of Sigmund Freud, Rosie the Riveter, and that sort of thing – has since made a fairly decent Bigfoot figure; but it’s not enough. Mezco: Am I wrong? Did we not buy up Cryptozoology eagerly and speedily? And if we did could... could we have some more? Please? The list of possibilities goes on and on, but even just a release of the Loch Ness Monster would be very welcome.

The Present

If this series was hard to collect when it came out, it’s considerably more so now. It has precious little presence on the secondary market, though it does not retail for very much when it does appear there. Check eBay, of course, and also check your usual retailers, online and otherwise; it’s a fairly recent line, and still might be available from primary sources.

Cryptozoology may not have been what we were anticipating, and it may have been short-lived, but for all of these things, it was pretty great. These were some very handsomely sculpted little figures of some very interesting creatures. It’s a great pity that it ended so quickly. But in a way, maybe the altered expectations and scarcity on the pegs were only appropriate. What is a cryptozoological creature, after all, but unexpected, and elusive?

Article and Photos by Matthew Kessen

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Jeff Saylor (Editor)
on 06/17/2008
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