There are four kinds of toy stores I frequent: The major ones, like Toys R Us, Woolworths, and so on, for all the popular, new, expensive toys that I rarely end up buying. Then there's the discount stores, like TK Maxx, which just have clearanced toys as an extra to all their clothes and garden accessories and whatnot, and although it generally isn't too exciting, sometimes you find a good ol' bargain (two Cybertron Dark Scorponoks for £13 each, baby!). That's followed up by obscure stores, which are located like a million miles away from me yet manage to have astounding wares, like a whole wall of Transformers Classics deluxe-size figures, all for £8 each. You would not believe how far I've lodged a foot in my rectum over failing to nab up more than one of those.
And finally, there's the pound stores, which I like to refer to as "good crap." They still have Pirates of the Caribbean toys and your typical die cast cars, but on occasion they have some good stuff, like Mega Man, McFarlane Hanna Barbara statues and Plasma Tech, and for this very reason, if I want a quick, cheap and easy way of finding some rambling material, I hit these places.
But you know that saying about something lost or being looked for is always in the last place you imagine? Well, yeah, I can't say I thought I'd find much worth writing about in TK Maxx. Cheap superheroes and dodgy board games aside, it's not somewhere I go for inspiration.
And then I found the
just sitting on a shelf, and I could provide no other reaction but to stop, stare, and laugh at the sheer absurdity.
Just look at this thing. Oh, it's a beaut, innit?
Honest to God, just... wow.
When you see something like this selling for a mere £5.99, how do you pass up an opportunity like that?
Seriously, wow. I'm probably just being overly biased here, but to me, this box is a work of art. If it didn't have a frickin' crocodile monster truck contained inside it probably wouldn't be quite as beautiful, but in its current state, it's just plain joyous. The photo of Steve Irwin expressing shock and awe at how the vehicle has Free-Wheel'n Action, the tire tracks beneath the behemoth, the fact that Action Figure Steve is surprisingly upbeat despite sinking into cardboard quicksand... it's just a wondrous piece.
Sadly, the back of the box doesn't have a list of any other potential action figures with a vague suggestion of checking them all, but instead features an advertisement for the Australia Zoo. Which is quite understandable, really - they want you to see the real animals and provide them with more blatant money in person, rather than shelling out meagre amounts to play with these fictional interpretations that provide the creatures with motor-based movement. Still, even with just the toy, you are supporting the Zoo by some means, as apparently "with the purchase of any Steve Irwin Wildlife Adventure Series product you are helping Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo to achieve exciting new territory in wildlife and wilderness conservation." Hot damn! Of course, I doubt it's still in effect when I bought it second hand from TK Maxx, but it's the thought that counts.
The box also claims that itself and the product are made of materials completely free of phthalate. I've no idea what on earth that is, but I'm under the assumption it makes your eyes bleed and your nose to clot. Let's see if I'm right!
People are commonly exposed to phthalates, and the majority of Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine. Diet is believed to be the main source of DEHP and other phthalates in the general population, although inhalational exposure is also significant. Baby care products containing phthalates are a source of exposure for infants. The authors of a 2008 study "observed that reported use of infant lotion, infant powder, and infant shampoo were associated with increased infant urine concentrations of [phthalate metabolites], and this association is strongest in younger infants. These findings suggest that dermal exposures may contribute significantly to phthalate body burden in this population." Though they did not examine health outcomes, they noted that "Young infants are more vulnerable to the potential adverse effects of phthalates given their increased dosage per unit body surface area, metabolic capabilities, and developing endocrine and reproductive systems."
Some vendors of jelly rubber sex toys advise covering them in condoms when used internally, due to the possible leaching of phthalates. Other vendors do not carry jelly rubber sex toys, in favor of phthalate-free varieties.
In a nutshell, it messes up your pee-pee, and sometimes your liver. Good save!
If I may say one last thing about the box before moving onto the actual figures inside - the mildly albino Steve on the peg flap appears to be scaring the box.
Okay, totally definitely opening the box now, and for certain going to look at the fig--
Oh wow! There's a comic on the inside!
Sadly, not only is it merely a mosaic of random, unrelated panels, but whoever manufactured these thought it'd be a good idea to put sticky tape on this. It's obviously to hold it in place to decorate the box nicely, but this is a disgrace to a work of art. I don't know how plucky ol' Steve goes from lying in a swampy marsh to dangling over a waterfall, but hey, rule of cool, right? I'd love to see a full issue of this, out-of-sequence panels and everything.
Released from his cardboard prison, Steve Irwin and his Xtreme Machine are a sight to behold. The Xtreme Machine is layered in deliciously sculpted scales, and although they're not given a dirt-wash for extra emphasis, the remarkably simple paint job makes wonderful work of highlighting it. The tires are plastic and the underside of the vehicle is one large chunk, meaning there's no axels for the wheels to turn with, though I would be genuinely surprised if such a feature were included. After having fiddled with so many Transformers that are just ever-so-slightly uneven to prevent all wheels from rolling, seeing the Xtreme Machine roll across a flat surface so smoothly is a sight to behold. It rolls like a dream on wheels.
But despite his awesome car, the toyline is all about Steve Irwin. So how he does he fare?
Well, not too bad. For being such a small scale, the attempt to mimic the real deal's face in a plastic incarnation is pretty decent; his hair is slightly more tamed than it really was, but he's got his wide nose, his goofy smile and his signature outfit. I could nitpick and say that his cheeks are probably a little too puffed and his chin needs to be longer, and perhaps he's in need of differently coloured shorts, but really, the fact such a figure even exists is enough to satisfy me.
He stands around 9 centimetres / 3.5 inches, roughly about the size of your typical no-name-brand poseable soldier figures. Considering he comes with a vehicle, this is quite understandable, as although it prevents him from interacting realistically with the 5 or 6 inch Marvel Legends and Doctor Who figures, it gives you a neat little figure and awesome car at a convenient and portable scale. Besides, it means he's perfectly in-scale with the Transformers Action Masters and can make use of that line's range of vehicles! It does completely ruin the fact that they're meant to be robot cars and jets, their height ranging from equivalent to two-story houses to as tall as a city is long, and here's Steve actually standing ever so slightly taller than them. It's just a little level breaking, y'know.
Steve Irwin isn't quite as flexible as the Action Masters, unfortunately. He has a swivel neck, swivel hips, swivel shoulders, and his bent elbow on his left arm can swivel; no ball-jointed hips or bending knees here. His hands are sculpted in the same manner as most figures of this scale, so although he has got any accessories packed with him, you can very well fit him with a sniper rifle or some other utility of violence. It won't hold well, mind you, as he's completely incapable of seeing through the scope (not that the original owner of that gun could do that either), but the simple premise of seeing the friendly neighbourhood crocodile hunter packing heat is crazy enough to make it forgivable.
The sculpted detail isn't quite as awesome as the Xtreme Machine, but again, the scale forgives it, and it's not like his uniform demands much more than a few creases, some pockets and an exposed chest. I've got a strange fascination with his wristwatch, though. I never really envisioned him as the person who, in the midst of battling luminescent mutant fungi while plummeting down Niagara Falls to ponder "crikey, I wonder if I'm late for me tea?" Not that I ever envisioned him as the person who would battle luminescent mutant fungi, either. That seems more like fodder for an episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. A league of cybernetic alligators would be more up Steve's alley, I believe.
Finally, we have the combination of the two items: Steve Irwin driving his Free-Wheel'n Action Xtreme Machine!
Well, driving in a very loose use of the word. I'm not sure if the Xtreme Machine is sort of like a pickup truck, the driver's seat on the inside and the part on the back for hauling around angry rednecks, as if that's not the case I can't explain why it lacks a steering wheel or anything there at all.
No, really, it's just a flat tray. Steve can't bend his legs forward enough to sit up straight, unfortunately, so he always runs risk of falling off the back. Heck, he can't even hold onto the bars properly without just leaning forward and draping his arms over them.
What kind of freaky-ass car is this? Was Steve just too much of a cheapskate to buy a more expensive model, so he got one with no means of steering the damn thing? Is the only means of turning it just stopping and pushing it from the side? Or is it, quite literally, a humongous alligator that was merged with a downscaled monster truck in some freakish genetic experiment? One thing's for certain is that should Steve land himself in a car chase, he's going to be pretty screwed.
"I can't explain the circumstances leading up to this situation or how I'm going to get out of it!"
"And now I'm dead!"
The sad thing is that the tyrannosaurus only wanted to exchange insurance details with him.
The Steve Irwin Xtreme Machine is a shining beacon of absurd, inexplicable wonderfulness. It's cheap, the money goes to a good cause, the box is a work of art on its own, and the crossover potential is just limitless. However, if there's one thing I've got to criticise it for... there's nothing for Steve to capture!
I mean, come on, he's Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter. He is a hunter of crocodiles and his surname is Irwin. He might have a completely badass set of wheels and a blingtastic wristwatch, but he's left without antagonists. It's like if a Batman toyline that had no villains, or even villain-capturing outfits, but merely Bruce Wayne in his variety of casual wear. There's no goal in sight!
You could say that the Xtreme Machine could stand in for a real crocodile, but come on, that's just plain ol' absurd. You can't stuff a monster truck into a burlap sack.
You could turn Steve into some kind of superhero who beats up people taller than him, but that's really just stretching things. Obviously if you had a real crocodile this would be so much easier, but although I once had a rubber bath toy of a crocodile, the closest I've got to anything long and reptilian is...
Wreckloose, from Transformers Cybertron. And, really, despite the fact he's meant to be a bad guy, he's just too calm and intelligent-looking to appear like one. When was the last time you saw an evil lizard with such a fancy hat? Never, because it's only sophisticated ones who have nice hats like that, and they're sophisticated enough to know that violence solves nothing. He's downright embarrassed with this encounter with Steve Irwin. Poor Wreckloose. And poor Steve. He's got nothing to wrangle.
If you see the Steve Irwin Xtreme Machine for sale, for the love of God, pick it up. If helping Australia Zoo isn't enough to float your boat, then maybe the greatest car known to man will convince you.
Some images I couldn't work in without making my already-ugly layout even more unsightly. I mean, I could've tried, but that would've required effort, you see.
Some glamour shots of the Xtreme Machine.
Steve Irwin's back. It's got a screw hole in it! If I had any Action Masters with back-mounted accessories I could try pegging one of them in there, but I don't, so I'll remain unknowing of whether or not Steve Irwin can wear a jetpack or not.
More wristwatch action.
I took a photograph of the cardboard stand they're packaged in. It's got tire tracks!
And I also took a photo of the little cardboard piece holding Steve's feet in place. Yeah, I don't know why either.
It took forever to get those two bastards to photograph properly. Damn you, back garden!
Look, I don't know. I was excited to finally get to photograph this guy, so I went nuts. CUT ME SOME SLACK YOU GUYS