Tortured Souls - a toy too far?
Posted 04/11/01

There's been a bit of a debate in the action figure collecting world over the new line from McFarlane, Tortured Souls.  This line is designed in conjunction with the horror master Clive Barker, and reflects the style of images we've seen in his other works.  Once this line becomes part of mainstream knowledge, I suspect the controversy will increase ten fold.

Of course, McFarlane is no stranger to controversy, and many of his figures have raised the eyebrows on the more conservative sections of our society.  But this is really the first time that he's produced figures which have caused many collectors of his other lines to take pause and wonder if he's gone too far.

There are to be six figures in the line, and each will come with a couple thousand word story.  Put all the stories together, and you get a little novella on their origin.  That's a neat concept, and shows the willingness of McFarlane to be innovative.

When I first saw this line, I was taken aback.  This is odd for me - I collect horror figures, and have always loved the 'monster'.  I think the Movie Maniacs line is a fantastically good idea (with good reason), and I don't agree with the right wing crowd that would have us ban all toys they find disgusting or perverse.  That doesn't mean there aren't things that are disgusting and perverse, just that I don't think that justifies censoring them.

However, when I saw this line, I was repulsed.  Rather than simply condemn the line, I decided to try to understand why I would react that way, and why these figures, at least in my gut, are different than, say, Freddy Kruger.

If you consider the violent nature of many other toys, including war toys, it becomes apparent to me that this certainly can't be the driving force behind my gut reaction.  Violence has a place in the world, and I have no problem with figures like Scar and Carlos from BBI who represent the evil side of violence as well as the good guy side, like G.I. Joe.  I also think that figures like Freddy or Michael Myers are quite acceptable, and do not represent anything that I find bizarre.

When I look closely at the entire line, I can also see that only two figures really push my buttons - Agonistes and The Fix.  The other figures, while being disgusting, are all simply monsters in one form or another.  They represent the bad guys, and while you might find them less than appetizing, that's really the point.  If they looked like Fluffy the cocker spaniel they wouldn't illicit much fear.

On the other hand, Agonistes and The Fix strike a different chord.  These figures don't appear to be evil.  They don't appear to be bad guys.  They appear to be victims - the victims of 'torture' (hey, tortured souls!  I get it!).  These figures don't represent good and evil, but victimization.  Even most soft core depictions of S&M focus on the dominant aspects, not the victim, and I think this is the key distinction for many people.

By making these figures appear, without the benefit of background or additional information, as the victims of torture, helpless in their current state, McFarlane has crossed into a realm that may be too much for even he to handle.  Only time will tell - but at least I fell slightly better knowing that for me there really is a distinction here, and it's not that I'm just getting old.

If you'd like to check these figures out for yourself, go on over to the McFarlane news at
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