The tendency for toy lines 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 action figure line has at least one of these:
- A snow version, with skis and a white winter outfit. Often called "Arctic Action Whatever."
- A 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.
- A "night ops" version where the character becomes a Stealth Expert who wears a Spy Catsuit, or a darkly-colored Palette Swap of their regular outfit.
- A beach version, where the character wears a swimsuit, Stripperiffic or not, Fanservice ensues.
- A Christmas version, where the character wears a Santa outfit or any other Christmas-themed outfit. May or may not overlap with Sexy Santa Dress.
- A Halloween version, where the character wears a ghost or monster costume, or dresses as an Elegant Gothic Lolita.
- An existing character remade with a new gimmick, such as a glow-in-the-dark or vacuum metallized version.
- Vehicles for every superhero popular enough to have their own toyline, even - no, especially ones that have no need for one. Fires missiles. The vehicles themselves may also have additional parts sold separately to tailor them for various environments.
The longer a figure line continues, the more likely that it'll add some of these variants; after all, as long as the kids keep buying, the toy companies are happy to keep selling. 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. Also expect these figures to not make sense within the internal logic of the property, such as the stealth-based Batman in highly-visible gear, The Flash driving around in a racecar or Spider-Man with very lethal and very expensive rocket launchers. Many however can be internally justified by characters who have a habit of making many bespoke costumes, such as Batman or Iron Man.
They did do the research... market research. (And, sometimes, environmental research.)
Some particularly Merchandise-Driven shows will devote whole episodes to introducing 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.
See also Mecha Expansion Pack.
- The Street Fighter GI Joe line all had a standard assortment of GI. Joe weaponry such as rifles, handguns, knives, etc., despite the video games exclusively revolving around martial arts and hand-to-hand combat. The Street Fighter line had an Arctic Action Guile and a Swamp Guile. At no point does the movie ever leave a tropical climate, and a tank was briefly added to the movie as an excuse to have one as a figure.
- 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 record—according 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 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 has 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!
- Taken to an extreme with Hasbro's Batman Beyond figures. The closest thing to a regular Batman in that line is translucent. Or the commemorative 200th Batman action figure produced by Hasbro or Kenner, which does look right but is permanently mounted to a base and has for sole articulation arms that would raise at the push of a button.
- You can buy toys of The Flash on a motorcycle. Buh. Let's not get started on Superman's flying car, (Muh?)note 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 flyingnote 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.
- There's also the Justice Jogger...
- Also, Incredible Hulk on ATV Trikes
- The Iron Man toylines (1990s, Movie and Iron Man: Armored Adventures) 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.
- The toylines for the movies, Armored Adventures, and Avengers, Assemble! stretch the credibility by giving him vehicles to operate while wearing the armor. The environment-specific armors make sense and are true to the comics. Iron Man needing to drive a car, ride a motorcycle, or pilot a personal jet when he's effectively wearing a jet already? Not so much. But it is 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.
- After IM's animated show in the 90s was canceled, the toyline was too.... but they'd already planned a fifth wave of figures. They took the molds and instead turned them into new figures for the Spider-Man and X-Men lines instead. Spidey got himself a radiation suit (Radiation Armor IM) and had one of the Guardsmen from the superhuman prison the Vault (Lava Armor IM, albeit with the Radiation Suit's intended head) in the "Techno Wars" assortment. As for the rest, they formed most of the "Mutant Armor" X-Men subline (Magnetic Armor IM became Battle Armor Wolverine; Living Laser became Astral Armor Professor Xnote , and created-for-the-show villain Dark Aegis became Heavy Metal Beast).
- Avengers: Age of Ultron merchandise made a huge deal of the giant "Hulkbuster" armor that he wore in a single scene in the movie. The Centerpiece Spectacular, sure, but still a single scene. The same thing happened for Avengers: Infinity War, when the Hulkbuster was brought out for use during the climax.
- The 2.5 inch line Hasbro made for Captain America: Civil War has snap-on battle armor for various characters, even those who are already wearing body armor like Iron Man or Black Panther.
- 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. Fun fact: According to the art book, the show's Take That! at Scary Impractical Armor was in part a shot at toymakers' requests for armored variants.
- 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... In particular, the toylines for the first cartoon absolutely reveled in this sort of thing. Never mind non-canonical 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, Rangers, and vehicles from the show. Fast forward to 2010's Re-Cut and Bandai gives you cycles (besides the official ones), playsets, dragons, and things that would give people nightmares. There are also no less than three versions of each Ranger - The basic ones, ones that came with wing packs and claw(?), and simpler ones with weird weapons from other series sold in discount stores. And that was just for the 4 inch figures.
- Then again, both the 1993 toyline and the 2010 toyline have roughly the same stuff - basic figures, play weapons, zords, and mini figurines. Yeah, the 2010 line has more vehicles and figures that transform into dragons(?) and stuff, but it's hard to get that worked up when the 1990s version had a girl's fashion assortment.
- For Power Rangers Samurai, the "Mega Mode" armor variant was 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. (Power Rangers Dino Charge and Power Rangers Ninja Steel later got their own Megazord-only armors, but had the sense to keep them as secondary merch in the toylines.)
- 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 ATVs 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.
- Another oddity was the "Insect Armor" line, where each figure came with a robotic bug that could transform into a suit of Powered Armor. This was the only line that ever featured a toy of The Wasp's horrible 90's bug-lady redesign.
- The short-lived Spider-Mobile from the comics was actually an attempted aversion of this trope. Stan Lee had wanted to pitch Marvel's characters to toy companies, so he asked Gerry Conway to give Spider-Man a Cool Car that could easily be replicated as a toy (despite Conway's assertion that Spidey needing a car made absolutely no sense). Ironically, while Mego did eventually produce two Spider-themed vehicles (the Spider-Car and Spider-Mobile), they were both released a few years after the Spider-Mobile had already been abandoned in the comics, and neither toy really resembled the comic version anyway.
- 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.
- Though this trope happens in most Spider-Man lines (as noted above), it was somewhat averted for the first two Spider-Man Trilogy 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.
- While Ultimate Spider-Man is already extremely toyetic (Iron Spider and Spider-Cycle, anyone?), the toyline for the show take it Up to Eleven. In addition to all the vehicles and variant costumes taken from the cartoon, there's a bunch of ridiculous stuff like a "Web-Copter" or "Turbo Racer Spider-Man."
- ToyBiz's X-Men lines are somewhat notorious for this.
- After the cancellation of the popular X-Men cartoon in the 90's, the company began coming up with increasingly ludicrous gimmicks to try and maintain interest in the franchise. These included sub-lines like X-Men: Water Wars (figures with water guns), X-Men: Monster Armor (figures with snap-on pieces that transformed them into grotesque monsters), X-Men: Space Riders (figures with personal space vehicles), Battle Action Mega-Armor Wolverine (a Wolverine figure piloting a Mini-Mecha) and X-Men: Battle Blasters (figures with spring-loaded weapons).
- The Battle Blasters line was only one of several instances of ToyBiz making a figure of Cyclops that included a firearm or other projectile weapon. Again, this would be Cyclops, the guy who can shoot concussive blasts from his eyes.
- Likewise, their X-Men Classics line featured a number of silly armors and weapons, such as Magneto wielding a magnetic gun.
- Even while the cartoon was on the air, there were some definite head-scratchers being put out, such as Wolverine's clawed motorcycle.
- The toy line for the first X-Men movie was an interesting attempt at averting this trope while also embracing Wolverine Publicity. Wolverine was the most well-represented character in the line (appearing six times in the 6" assortment alone!), but because the toymakers were trying to stick to the movie continuity, this meant making figures of his various outfit changes, no matter how minor. Hence, they ended up releasing a figure of Wolverine in jeans, a shirt and a jacket, and then a separate figure of him in the same outfit, but this time without the jacket. The toy line for the sequel had much the same problem, though thankfully they didn't create as many figures that time.
- Transformers: For a franchise built upon redecos and remolds of the same toy, very rarely is this trope actually played straight. More often than not a redeco of a character is either a brand-new character or simply a new deco.
- The Combaticons from Transformers: Robots in Disguise received not one, but two redecos as a desert camo group and an urban camo.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. He even has a set of Powered Armor (which never actually worked). The big joke is that, as Dan himself notes, none of it was really necessary to fight street-level crimes.
"I mean, who needs all this hardware to catch purse-snatchers and hookers?"
- The Real Ghostbusters had this when their toyline was big. The first series gave them their standard uniforms; later iterations featured "fearful" expressions, color-change paint, and glow in the dark features. The original figures were often reissued with new paint jobs and different equipment (often bordering on the implausible).
- 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, Jonny 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.
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- The 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...
- For Sonic Generations, there is a load of figures from all the characters from their incarnations from The '90s, Turn of the Millennium, and The New '10s, 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.
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Interestingly, the LEGO licensed lines usually avert this, because there's usually one minifig per character (with rare exceptions), but the LEGO Adaptation Game series uses it a lot. You'll get a lot of versions of one character, especially in LEGO Harry Potter. These in-game minifigs are often not available in actual LEGO sets.
- The "one minifig per character" thing has become less common since Lego started making licensed sets based off Marvel and DC productions. This means that they're now making multiple variations of the same characters to tie into the various comics, cartoons, and movies. For instance, they had lines for both the Avengers, Assemble! cartoon and the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie, as well as their Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice line, which was launched in addition to their existing comic-based Batman and Superman stuff.
- BIONICLE: 2007, set in the underwater Mahri Nui, featured the Barraki, warlords mutated into sea-creatures, and the Toa Mahri, altered into scuba-themed water-breathers. 2008's first half, set in the skies, featured three of the Toa Nuva with various flight systems and the bat-like Makuta, while the second half was set in the swamp, resulting in a more "hover" themed aesthetic for the other Toa Nuva, and the insectoid Makuta.
- Hero Factory: Savage Planet featured a wave of animal-themed armor for the Heroes, while Breakout featured multiple themes; underwater for the fire-themed Furno, space for Surge...
- In-universe example in the Toy Story comic "The Return of Buzz Lightyear". The duplicate Buzz sent by Andy's grandmother was desperate to avoid getting returned because he'd been overlooked for so long by kids wanting all of the variant buzz toys. There were a wide variety of them: Arctic, caveman, cowboy, ninja, undercover Buzz in drag, and the "All knowing Buzz from the future" supposedly tied in with the end of the series. That last one wanted to avoid all the adult collectors looking for rare variants because he wanted to be played with, not stuck on a shelf. He almost gets picked by a kid, but then is passed over for the second Buzz, who the kid thinks is a "battle damaged" Buzz due to the scratches he got fighting the "real" Buzz.
- Played for laughs by Haley in The Order of the Stick, where, as part of the preparations for the party's venture beyond the Dwarven Lands in the frozen north, the topic of changing from their desert outfits into more environmentally-appropriate attire comes up. Figures of her wearing outfits from previous volumes of the series are featured behind her as she discusses this trope as a possible source of income.
Haley: I was freezing my butt off in my desert outfit, and it was only going to get worse as we headed north. Plus, as the lead woman in this comic, I think I'm contractually obligated to switch costumes at least once per volume. It's rough now, but it'll be a gold mine if we ever do action figures.
- The Beavis And Butthead figures made for adult collectors included "radioactive" versions of the boysnote with glow-in-the-dark skin.