Toy Tribute: Sneagator Mini-Figures (M.U.S.C.L.E.)

One of the coolest things about M.U.S.C.L.E.s was that they were so ambiguous. When Mattel got the rights to distribute Japanese Kinnikuman figures in the U.S. as M.U.S.C.L.E.s, they did so without including the accompanying storyline, leaving most of us in the dark as to what the figures represented. I always enjoyed the apparent randomness of M.U.S.C.L.E.s, not knowing when you bought a blind 10-pack what sort of weirdness you would end up with. Some seemed to have some sort of connection with each other, like these reptilian dudes wearing sneakers, but without the source storyline it was impossible to tell what that connection was. Were they all part of the same team? Maybe an alien race? It wasn't until the Internet hit the scene that I could research the Kinnikuman manga and learn that these shoe-wearing reptiles were actually all one shape-shifting character: Sneagator.

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In the manga, Kinnikuman (Muscleman in the U.S.) was an intergalactic wrestler. One of his opponents was Sneagator, who climbed into the ring as a weird alligator thing with a cobra hood and laces down his chest. As the match progressed and Kinnikuman got the upper hand by splitting his crocodilian jaws apart (the Kinnikuman series didn't pull the punches in terms of violence), Sneagator unlaced the strings on his chest and shed his skin to reveal another reptilian form...

M.U.S.C.L.E. #204

...a Sea Turtle! This dude was part of the Mighty Maulers 28-pack, my very first M.U.S.C.L.E. purchase, and he quickly became one of my favorite "hero" M.U.S.C.L.E.s. (He also went on to be prominently featured on my M.U.S.C.L.E. web site.) But back to the match: Sneagator in his turtle form slapped the snot out of Kinnikuman until Kinnikuman kicked his legs out from under him. Sneagator turned into a snake and slithered away, then went on the offensive as...

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...a Frilled Lizard, with a spinning buzz-saw frill! After Kinnikuman tore off the frills (which looked very painful by the way), he shed his skin yet again to reveal...

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...a Chameleon, with the power of invisibility! But Kinnikuman managed to find the invisible Sneagator when his own blood spattered on him, betraying his location (again, no punches pulled). So Sneagator sort of inverted into himself, becoming a literal shoe. Kinnikuman unlaced the shoe to reveal Sneagator's final true form...

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...the Hand! The Hand was one of the most coveted M.U.S.C.L.E.s of all time, thanks to his idiosyncratic design and prominent placement in the M.U.S.C.L.E. commercials.  I always thought he was some sort of mutated human hand, but in the manga, he was actually the hind foot of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. That's kind of a stretch since the sculpt has clearly humanoid features like a thumb and palm, but that was the idea anyway.

Of course, Kinnikuman ended up winning the match by tearing off a finger and pile-driving Sneagator, but not before we got 5 awesome Kinkeshi/M.U.S.C.L.E. designs. In a way, it's disappointing to know the real story behind the figures. There was always something wonderfully mysterious about M.U.S.C.L.E.s, a mystery that's spoiled when you know the actual Kinnikuman storyline. But it's also fun to finally learn where these guys came from.

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DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.