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Environment-Specific Action Figure

The tendency for toylines of Merchandise-Driven (and sometimes otherwise) shows to also contain variations of the characters made up out of, er, whole cloth. Most variations fall under Stylish Protection Gear, and virtually every toy line has at least one of these:

  • A snow version, with skis and a white winter outfit. Often called "Arctic Action Whatever."
  • Desert version, usually just the regular one with a desert hat and brown or desert camo clothes.
  • The underwater version, which sucks, and in some toylines will actually be made for play involving water. (See the Marvel example below.) Fires torpedoes.
  • Some sort of big backpack/shield device that fits over the shoulders that usually fires missiles.
  • A rocket pack or spacesuit. It may also fire missiles.
  • Vehicles for every superhero popular enough to have their own toyline, even - no, especially ones that have no need for one. Fires missiles.

Additionally, these extra designs will almost always go way off color scheme or character concept: it's not unusual to see Batman sporting bright blue, green, red, orange, yellow or pink armor covered in rocket launchers, or to see melee or magic-based characters with assault rifles.

They did do the research... market research. (And, sometimes, environmental research.)

Some Merchandise-Driven shows will introduce these sorts of 'gear', like the snow gear in The Batman (though in this case, the villain that justified its creation and inclusion already existed in the mythos), the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode with the backpacks, or just about any Power Rangers episode with the new bike or Super Mode.


Examples:

  • The Street Fighter GI Joe line all had a standard assortment of GI. Joe weaponry such as rifles, handguns, knives, etc. The Street Fighter line had an Arctic Action Guile and a Swamp Guile. At no point does the movie ever leave a tropical climate.
  • G.I. Joe does this all the time for their regular characters. Average soldiers get jungle uniforms, space uniforms, toxic waste uniforms...despite the large number of characters who are specifically trained to deal with these environments. In many ways this is justifiable—when they wanted to go into space, Hasbro hadn't really produced any astronaut types. When they have too few such characters and have to go up against entire armies of Vipers encroaching on the Amazon, you gotta expect that Snake-Eyes (and Duke, and Scarlett, etc.) are going to end up fighting them right alongside specialists like Recondo or Tunnel Rat. The real justification problem comes from why Cobra, a terrorist organization, even goes to these remote, non-urban environments in the first place when they already have excellent hidden bases of operation.
  • Batman toys have so many technicolor backpacks that shoot missiles that it's surprising to find a toy without one. Not to mention the fact that he has a costume for every single biome on this planet and a few others. Perhaps the only justified example of this trope on recordaccording to the Internet, anyway. For some reason.
    • Annoyingly, this makes it very hard to find a Batman that actually looks like Batman. Removing the snap-on armor and missile backpacks and such usually just left you with a white Batman or Batman with yellow stripes or metal waffle armor. Yes, metal waffle armor. Additionally, many of the accessories replace the cape, so you're missing that too if you remove them.
    • LEGO Batman: The Video Game even acknowledged this when the game forced you to at least once per level change your suit to one of Glassbreaking-Batman or Thermosuit-Batman and Magneticfeet-Robin. The LEGO toyline the game was based off only had Batman in his standard grey/black, grey/blue and all black costumes.
    • To give you an idea of how bad this is: "Combat Belt Batman" is the ONLY regularly-colored Batman from the 90's animated series, released in the first of around twenty waves. A low bid for one on ebay is $80.00!
    • Parodied in Batman: The Brave and the Bold where Bat-Mite gives Batman a Neon Talking Super Street Bat-Luge, along with a red and yellow outfit, and a blue and white Alpine Ice Climber Batman outfit.
    Bat-Mite: Let's see how you like the Dark Knight in another one of those hideous variant Batman costumes you only find on store shelves!
  • You can buy toys of The Flash on a motorcycle. Buh. Let's not get started on Superman's flying car, (Muh?) which has grabbing arms extending from the sides that clearly have about a billionth of his strength. Like the Spider-Car mentioned below, this originates in the comics in defiance of all logic.
    • Superman's Supermobile only appeared marginally earlier in the comics at best and was obviously put there for merchandising purposes. The comics tried to explain it away as best as possible; basically, he could use the car to shield himself from dangerous things and it didn't actually have an engine; he just powered it himself, including the flying and the fists.
    • The Flash in Justice League bought a van at one point. Green Lantern John Stewart wanted to know why the world's fastest man would need a van. To pick up chicks, of course.
  • Also, Incredible Hulk on ATV Trikes
  • The Iron Man toylines (1990s, Movie and the recent Animated one) do this, with the caveat that some of the armors actually do appear in the comics, especially the Hydro, Space and Stealth models. In fact, a great many of the comic and cartoon armors do not have toys yet. Some of them would be nightmares even to adventurous toymakers.
    • Also a bit justifiable, in that it's somewhat in-character for Tony Stark to make ARC reactor-powered, gold-titanium alloy racecars and jetskis for himself.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender had this completely ridiculous line of non-canon animal armors that showed up at one of the toy conventions, but it probably never got released. They did have the missile-shooting backpack type, as well as a non-canon ice outfit for the main character, though - and for extra silliness, released most of the variants instead of releasing any female action figures, despite the female characters having equal participation in all fight scenes.
  • Semi-averted with Star Wars, where although there are a ridiculous number of versions of each character, most actually are from one of the movies or Expanded Universe. But we say "most": there's a Han Solo figure with a back-mounted... thing... called the Smuggler Flight Pack. It resembles Ripley's Power Loader that is too heavy for his weight to support and has a hair trigger that will make its limbs deploy at the lightest touch. Also looks dumber than hell.
    • While, again, it's true to the universe, Star Wars produces a number of figures that use the same basic mold and look very similar to each other, but are in fact different characters and have different specialties. For instance, it's hard to tell the differences between the regular Clone Trooper and a "Coruscant Landing Platform" Clone Trooper. (The answer: unit colors, amounting to a couple of small stripes, and an antenna on the backpack.) See also Transformers below.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has more toylines than one would consider to be strictly necessary, so they had to fill them up somehow... The first cartoon's toylines, in particular, absolutely reveled in this sort of thing. Never mind noncanonical armors, the turtles were out there getting every conceivable job, from Green Beret to stage magician to, yes, Starfleet officer. (Fans would probably be concerned that Raphael is the medic.) There were movie monster Turtles, dinosaur Turtles, even clown Turtles. They're probably the Trope Codifier for this one. Interestingly, it took toymakers until about 2009 or so to actually make toys based on the 1st comic book incarnation of the Turtles...and they're all overpriced figurines marketed to the enthusiast collector market rather than kids, which makes sense if you consider just how those versions were written.
  • While Power Rangers has begun integrating some of the armors from the toyline into the show, some of them are bizarre powerups and vehicles that never appear anywhere — and thankfully don't. (Skateboards? Seriously?) Really, if you think some of the armors that were used were insane, swing by the toy aisle next time you're at Target.
    • The series took it a step further for Power Rangers Jungle Fury, creating whole new Rangers for the toyline and producing them with every armor variation that the canon Rangers get - that is, the male canon Rangers. The female Rangers aren't so lucky. And there's even a handful of Red and Sixth ranger only powerups, too. (The new Rangers have made a handful of appearances on the show to justify the toys' existence. RPM had its own toy-exclusive Rangers, but no variants for them and no TV appearances.)
    • In 1993, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had a toyline of relatively sensible weapons, villain figures and Rangers. Fast forward to 2010's reversioning and Bandai gives you cycles, playsets, dragons and things that would give Tony Oliver nightmares.
    • For Power Rangers Samurai, the "Mega Mode" armor variant is given priority over the regular suit in the merchandising. In the show, it's special armor for piloting the Megazord. Later on when the proper Super Modes started coming out, each of those got its own Mega Mode variant as well.
  • For a hero who primarily swings around urban cities, Spider-Man gets an unusual amount of themed outfits that don't quite fit in with his usual antics, including desert camo (over his regular oufit), an entire line of water themed toys, and several Spider-Cars and AT Vs for...when he's not in the city? Ceremonial occasions? But it doesn't stop there. His "Adventure hero" line puts in a strong running for most hilarious toys ever, featuring him as, among other things, a baseball player (Worse, it's not quite the stupidest outfit on that page), a lifeguard, a golfer, a boxer, a snowboarder, a fisherman, and even an archer. Even crazier is the fact that someone made bootlegs of an already crazy toy line, and they're just as hilarious.
  • Speaking of which, Marvel put out an entire toyline that consisted of nothing but The Underwater Version of their characters, which were also designed to be played with in water. Included a green-veined Venom toy with webbed parts and fins that actually was really cool.
  • Similar to the billion stormtrooper/clonetrooper variants mentioned above, sort-of a reversal in Transformers: characters that are completely different from one other can be the same toy with a different colour scheme/minor gimmick/face sculpt.
    • Played straight with the Transformers movie and Transformers Animated lines, in which toys that might have been presented as new characters in years past instead became "Nightwatch Optimus Prime" or "Bandit Lockdown" so as to preserve the relative uniqueness of the main characters, though they do sneak in a few new-character redecoes (for instance, both lines' Bumblebees have been turned into Cliffjumper).
    • Transformers Generation 1 turned an (originally) smallish couple of toylines into Loads and Loads of Characters through repaints, sticking new heads on otherwise identical figures, and occasionally putting the same parts in a slightly different configuration. Later lines follow suit, even if the character the new paintjob represents isn't actually in the show or comic. (For example, Transformers Generation 1 had a white Optimus Prime called Ultra Magnus. Transformers Armada doesn't, but one of Armada Optimus Prime's toys got rereleased in white with the name Ultra Magnus anyway.) Therefore, where there's a Starscream, you can bet a Skywarp (black repaint) and Thundercracker (blue repaint) won't be far behind, on the shelves if not in the show. Lately, the radioactive berserker Sunstorm from Dreamwave Comics has been added. note  (Strangely, though, there are not nearly as many cases of this as there could be. Prowls don't get repainted into Bluestreaks, or Red Alerts into Sideswipes. In fact, Transformers Armada has a Sideswipe and a Red Alert who look nothing alike, though both of them have gotten repainted into other folks.) Oh, before anyone says it, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are not a case of this. The twins both turn into the same kind of car, but are not based on the same toy. The same actually goes for all Transformers who are considered twins (Save for Jetfire and Jetstorm and Skyquake and Dreadwing).
      • Interestingly, members of the Hasbro Transformers team have repeatedly pointed out that they never expected anyone to actually buy all the redecos made. Aaron Archer (former lead Transformers designer) was apparently baffled by the premise. They were just as surprised as anyone that it became such a cash-cow.
    • Similarly, any construction vehicle will be painted green and purple and called a Constructicon.
    • It extends to different toylines than the one the original design was created for, leading to some interesting questions, like "What is the significance of a Mini-con in the Movieverse?"
    • A more literal example of this would be Movieverse Brawl; both the Deluxe figure and the Leader sized one got a Desert Cameo style repaint.
    • This also one of usual causes of shelfwarmers/pegwarmers (toys don't sell well and take up space). Bumblebee has become a huge offender of this as of late. Fans have dubbed the phenomena "The Hive".
    • The weaponry of the Transformers has also seen more variation; as recent toylines have built themselves on unified accessories. Notable examples include the Mech-Tech line of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the Weaponizer line of ''Transformers Prime."
  • Doctor Who has a similar semi-aversion as Star Wars above: if a variation of a given character exists in the show, Character Options has made a toy of it. This is quite logical for monsters such as the Daleks and the Cybermen who have existed for over 50 years and thus have had many designs as time passed, but then you get such toys as the corpse of Lady Cassandra (read: an empty steel frame) and, to represent the cliffhanger of "The Rebel Flesh", dismembered Matt Smith body parts lodged in a mass of sticky white goo.
  • Though this trope happens in most Spider-Man lines (as noted above), it was somewhat averted for the first two Spider-Man movie lines. Every Spider-Man figure had a different action feature or gimmick (yes, that includes "web shot" missiles and firing nets and all that), but they all had the same regular costume. By contrast, the villains only got one or two figures for their lines, making it hard to find someone for the various Spider-Men to fight. Somewhat played straight in the Spider-Man 3 line, which added different variations of "black suit" and "sand damage" and such, but justified (in the same Star Wars/Doctor Who way above) in that they were all actually in the movie.
  • Mocked thoroughly in Watchmen. Night Owl (who is a both a Gadgeteer Genius and a complete and total dork with a costume fetish) is shown to have a closet full of different-themed Owl costumes, and is thus prepared for anything. Like underwater work or protection from radiation. Like having to visit the Arctic circle, for which he has a snow owl outfit and matching snow scooters. Which still work perfectly twenty years after he's stopped fighting crime. Of course, he does mention doing routine checks and maintenance on all his equipment. His Powered Armor never actually worked, though.
  • The Real Ghostbusters had this when their toyline was big. The first season gave them their standard uniforms; later iterations featured different costumes and "fearful" expressions, different equipment (often bordering on the implausible), color-change paint, and glow in the dark features.
  • Gundam SEED Astray is an amusing example of this trope occurring within canon. The Astray series Gundams of the title have, between the 6 or so of them, literally dozens of Midseason Upgrades, Mecha Expansion Packs & Meta Mecha. This is justified by saying that Blue Frame's computer contained the blueprints for all this gear and its mercenary owner recognized how valuable they were. As for Red Frame, well, its owner is an overly energetic and creative Gadgeteer Genius who'll take any opportunity to build something new and cool.
    • Heck, Gundam in general has this in spades, especially in the Universal Century. They even have a term for it: "Mobile Suit Variation" is a model line specifically for environment- or mission-specific variants and Super Prototypes that don't appear in the series, such as "Aqua GM", "Desert Zaku", "Gelgoog High Mobility". Many of them even become Canon Immigrants and appear in a sequel.
  • The figure line for Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures didn't even have "regular" versions of the characters. You could get Race as a skydiver, Johnny as an astronaut or Jessie as a cape-wearing, catsuit-sporting ninja, but good luck finding them in anything they actually wore on the show. The closest to being vaguely accurate were the Quest World figures, but these featured candy-colored paint jobs that were in stark contrast with the dark-colored suits on the show, and featured a toy of the motorcycle from one sequence with giant yellow training wheels.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog toy line has an "invisible" (transparent purple) Espio, a Sonic with Wisps, a Sonic with Caliburn the Talking Sword, and a Shadow who comes with his bike. Plus more Werehog merchandise than is really justifiable. That's not even getting into the plush line...
    • The Archie comics provide an in-universe example, strangely enough. One issue involved Sonic racing across the world with a chaos emerald in order to reverse a time paradox. At first Sonic goes into his usual super forms, but he starts changing based on what environment he's in, with Solar Sonic for deserts, Eco Sonic for forests, and Polar Sonic for the arctic. Sadly we don't get to see what any of them can do.
    • For Sonic Generations, there is a load of figures from all the characters from their incarnations from The Nineties, Turn of the Millennium, and The New Tens, including a few designs that weren't present. Justified in that it's a Milestone Celebration and a fair number of characters were hard to find in toy form.
  • Though not action figures, Neon Genesis Evangelion has become infamous for a merchandising empire built, largely, on figures of Rei and Asuka doing...well, anything. Yes, even that.
    • For those who prefer outies, there's Shinji and Kaoru. If your interest is less prurient, there are even moe versions of the angels. Yes, even Leliel.
  • Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad was particularly horrible with this, considering all the variants of Servo were mere Palette Swaps of one another, with no different gimmicks. They even tried to pass off some alternate paint jobs as superhero versions of the supporting cast - including a pink and purple one as the girl (despite the figure having a very male Heroic Build).
  • When Hasbro had the license to make Pokémon toys, the waves for Kanto consisted of little more than importing Tomy's Monster Collection figures and plushes. When Johto came around, battle action Pokémon and Deluxe Trainers with the obligatory backpacks ensued. It went even further when the reins were handed to Jakks-Pacific; as their lines for the Unova region include dozens of figures, ranging from basic Pokémon, Deluxe Pokémon, battle action Pokémon, and at least two different lines of Pokémon packaged with toy Poké Balls. Target locations also carry Ash figures packaged with several of the region's Pokémon; and similar Deluxe Trainer figures of Iris and Cilan have yet to see the light of day.
  • Even pro wrestling action figures weren't immune to this trope. WWE had the S.T.O.M.P (Special Tactics Operations Military Police) series. It started out fairly normal, with wrestlers in their out of ring gear, but including snap on bulletproof vests and assault rifles. By the end of the series, wrestlers were sold in combat SCUBA suits with laser guns and snap on robot exoskeletons. WCW had a similar line where they took wrestler's gimmicks literally. This led to Bret "Hitman" Hart being sold with a pin striped singlet with Tommy Guns and and fedora, "Lion Heart" Chris Jericho being sold with a house cat sized lion and whip, Goldberg being sold as a shirtless construction worker (including a hard hat) with a jackhammer accessory, Hollywood Hulk Hogan as a full on movie director with director chair and movie camera, Lex Luger as an executioner (with hood, axe, and torture rack), and Rick Steiner with an actual dog faced gremlin. This doesn't take into account the multiple, multiple vehicle based figures released by both major companies.
  • Pretty much the entire second series of Stone Protectors figures.
  • A Disney Adventures comic spoof of this concept.
  • This was intended to be done with the action figure tie-in with the Mega Man animated series. The second season of the show put Mega Man in an assortment of suits and vehicles with the intent of introducing them into the toy line. However, a falling out between Capcom and Bandai led to the TV series and the toy line being cancelled, so this never saw the light of day.


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