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Thursday, June 1, 2017

THE TOP 20 GREATEST STRETCH FIGURES OF ALL TIME

THE TOP 20 GREATEST 
STRETCH FIGURES OF ALL TIME

 

By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino 


Back in 1974 toy creator James O. Kuhn invented the all time classic toy, Stretch Armstrong. When Kenner released this latex corn syrup filled super figure to toy stores in 1976 the reaction was extraordinary. A year later due to popular demand Kenner released Stretch Armstrong's arch-nemesis, the Stretch Monster. After more figures got released Mego Corporation decided to copy Kuhn's idea and create their very own line of stretch figures in 1979 (check out my full analysis here: The Mego Elastic Superheroes: A Complete Collector's Analysis). Throughout the years other toy companies would often try to duplicate these figures with all different shapes, sizes, and fillings (although most are famously known for being filled with corn syrup that a lot of kids secretly ate). Sometimes the results were good and other times the results were bad (really, really bad). But they all had one thing in common: strrrrretching fun! So in honor of the hundreds of stretch figures that have come since Stretch Armstrong's beginnings, I (who has been a stretch figure collector, dealer and historian for decades) have decided to rank the best of the best!


Legendary toy creator, the late-great James "Jeep" O. Kuhn. He created Stretch Armstrong as well as other notable toys such as the Easy Bake Oven. Simply put, this guy was a toy genius and a corn syrup manufactures dream.

But how does one rank a stretch figure? Well, I based each figure (plus variations) on character popularity, head-sculpt, body, color, detail, tones, chunkiness, authenticity, and overall fun. Not to be biased on my favorites (because I would've been), I also asked a few fellow collectors, dealers and friends to help me put this together. Together we ranked all our favorites in the stretch world and put together a pretty solid list. So sit back and enjoy the 20 greatest stretch figures ever!



20. KING KONG BUNDY
LJN (1987)
Cracking into the top 20 is the King Kong Bundy stretch figure! Ironically, this figure was not filled with corn syrup, “The Wrestling Superstars Stretch Wrestlers” figures were filled with a powder substance. Because of this and the weak latex skin they had (which made them burst apart when they were stretched too far), they didn't stretch as well as their corn syrup counter parts. But even with these flaws the stretch wrestlers were still just as fun as any stretch figure especially when you put them in a ring and tied them into wrestling holds. The figure itself looks authentic to the actual wrestler in head-sculpt, body and outfit. But its best feature is the overall thickness (Bundy was the chunkiest wrestler along with George “The Animal” Steele in this 8 figure set).



19. MR. FANTASTIC (1st version)
TOYBIZ (2005)
A stretch toy is a perfect gimmick for a Mr. Fantastic toy because the character has the power to... well... strrrretch. So this figure is as authentic as you can get. That is also why the 1st version of this figure makes the list (even though the outfit design is based on the 2005 movie with the “4” symbol in the upper right-hand corner rather than the center), it has the feel of the original classic suite with colors and tones. A 2nd version exists that had an updated paint job to resemble the movie's costume and later in 2006 a 3rd version came out to resemble the animated series that was on television at the time. But all in all, this figure is the best of them because of how close it looks like the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comic-based original. The only reason I ranked it as low as 19 on this list is because the head-sculpt bears the likeness of actor Loan Gruffudd (who played Mr. Fantastic in the movie) and not the Reed Richards of the comics and he sucked... NUFF SAID.



18. THE MASK
HASBRO (1995)
With a very limited release many people never got to appreciate this stretch figure. The head-sculpt of  Jim Carrey portraying Stanley Ipkiss is this toys biggest asset with dead on color, big teeth and smirk likeness. The body, even with it's limited detail and paint job (some figures don't have any paint detail while some do) is still pretty close to the overall look of the character. Plus, the Mask is a perfect choice for a stretch figure due to his powers to change shape and put himself in extreme positions.



17. STRETCH X-RAY
KENNER (1978)
While the UK version had a Stretch Armstrong see through body and was pretty cool, it's the American version with it's long and lanky frame that exemplifies the true horror that is Stretch X-Ray and gets him into 17th place on this list. The head-sculpt is so full of alien evil that even his enemy Stretch Armstrong has to be rolling in his sleep at night in cold sweats. And you can't go wrong with the overall quality, durability and lasting power of a Kenner stretch figure which are by far the best made of the bunch.



16. DONALD DUCK
MEGO (1980)
Mego did a great job on the design of all their Disney characters and this rare Donald Duck stretch figure is no exception to the rule. It possesses a great head-sculpt and outfit that resembles all the lovable goodness of the character. While it lacks the overall size and chubbiness that makes a great stretch figure great, you can't deny the relevance and pure fun of this toy. Mego had a tough time trying to mimic the quality of the Kenner stretch figures back in the day so finding this toy in good shape is a very tough task to accomplish.



15. RANDY SAVAGE
LJN (1987)
Randy Savage was one of the most popular wrestlers from the '80s and had a bunch of figures based on his likeness released during that period. It was no surprise that LJN released a stretch figure of him and did a fantastic job (matter of fact LJN did a great job with every stretch figure from this line). But the Macho Man is just on another level than the others with a fantastic head-sculpt, outfit and body that resembles the wrestlers exact detail. The only knock on this figure is its powder substance and weaker latex skin that hurt its stretching ability. But that by no means can keep this figure out of the top 20 and rank well among the others.



14. STRETCH SERPENT
KENNER (1978)
The mega-rare and mega-valuable Stretch Serpent is a cool and unique looking stretch. It is one of the true holy grails of stretch collecting and locating one is harder to find than the actual Loch Ness Monster of Scotland. A Stretch Serpent that was repaired and complete with box and instructions sold for a hefty 12,500 back in 2008 and it's head appeared on an episode of Pawn Stars. But this list is not based on value and rarity -- it's based on playability and greatness. The Serpent looks great in every way with it's big yellow eyes and green scaled body with  long flowing tail. But it's lack of versatility hurts this figures overall ranking to be higher up on this list. Most stretch figures have a little more to offer with play value due to their arms and legs. The mighty Stretch Serpent has no such luck and that's the reason it is kept out of the top 10. Even so, this stretch figure is an all time classic and will always be sought after by collectors.



13. MICKEY MOUSE
MEGO (1980)
As one of the most enduring and iconic characters ever created the Elastic Mickey Mouse is second to none when it comes to popularity. Mego did a fabulous job and made this stretch totally authentic to the character in colors, shape, outfit and head-sculpt. What holds this figure out of the top 10 is it's overall size and chunkiness (it's a tad on the light side). But this stretch is still a thing of beauty to behold and something all Disney collectors cherish. How can you not love those cute red shorts?



12. STRETCH ANDRO
TSUKUDA (1977)
The Stretch Andro (nicknamed the Tsukuda Monster) is actually a Japanese import version of the Stretch Monster made by Kenner. It has the same body as the Monster but a brand new head-sculpt that gives this version a life of it's own. Variants historically are cheaper knock-offs of the original but this figure is anything but that and clearly has a place in the top 20. There is even a scarce smaller 6 1/2” variant of the Stretch Andro available that lacks the overall detail of its 13” big brother. His enemy is the Tsukuda version of Stretch Armstrong named “Mr. X” that was also available but that version falls flat and cannot crack the top 20. A superb job from Tsukuda on this stretch for making it original and fun.




11. BATMAN
MEGO (1979)
By far the most important and valuable stretch figure in existence and one of the most rare is the Elastic Batman! A mint one sold for a whopping 15,100 in 2006 and single-handedly started the stretch figure phenomenon. Another one which was damaged but complete sold for 7,500 in 2008. But once again, scarcity and value have no place here when ranking a stretch figure. Mego did a great job with the Dark Knight Detective in outfit, color and tones but it's the lack of expression in the head-sculpt that keeps this stretch out of the top 10. He needs to be more menacing -- it's Batman for god sake!! Not to mention the blocky bat symbol, gloves and boots with no coloring or detail hurt its overall appeal. But even with those negatives, the Elastic Batman cannot be denied in the fun department because of the characters sheer popularity and greatness. It also remains one of the top 10 most wanted Batman toys ever made so it will always be a treasured toy among collectors.



10. HULK HOGAN
LJN (1987)
Breaking into the Stretch Top 10 is the most popular wrestler ever -- Hulk Hogan! There is no doubt he is the absolute best and most valuable stretch figure from the LJN “Wrestling Superstars Stretch Wrestlers” line. With a perfect head-sculpt and body this stretch cannot be denied it's ranking. Sure, his boots should have been yellow instead of black and it's weak latex skin with powder substance filling make this toy lack “full stretch fun," but this is Hulk Hogan! And the Hulkster is the most collectible wrestler ever! Back in 1987 when Hulkamania was running wild all over the world, this was one of the best Hulk Hogan toys to get period!



9. SUPERMAN
MEGO (1979)
The Mego Elastic Superman had some of the same negatives as the Elastic Batman figure (which ranked in at number 11 on this list); blocky “S” symbol with no color separation, no boot detail and color, plus no skin color for his hands. But this figure also has a few things that give it total authenticity and flying it into the top 10 faster than a speeding bullet! A sticker decal of a yellow “S” to be stuck on the back of the cape, a great outfit with perfect tones and colors, and a fantastic Christopher Reeves-like head-sculpt that captures all the magic that is Superman. And being a Superman toy, how could this stretch not be popular and fun for eager kids?



8. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
DENYS FISHER (1979)
The ever elusive UK exclusive Denys Fisher Stretch Hulk is a variant of the Mego Elastic Hulk. Denys Fisher was a company in Europe licensed under Kenner and Mego which produced versions of Stretch Armstrong, Stretch Monster, and the like overseas. In 1979 they went after the Hulk's popularity pie that was all the rage in the late '70s and made a stretch Hulk figure that was only available in Europe. This Hulk has a flawless head-sculpt that is true to the Green Goliath with traditional trademark snarl. His colors and outfit are top notch and make this figure as authentic as they come. Denys Fisher also produced this stretch with great quality so it's much more durable and reliable for hours of stretching fun. The only knock is the overall size of the Hulk. Denys Fisher used the same mold as Stretch Armstrong to produce the body and thus he lacks his Hulk-like mass that fans expect. Still, this figure remains as one of the most wanted Hulk collectibles ever.



7. HOMER SIMPSON
CHARACTER TOYS (2005)
Being the star of the greatest animated series of all time, Homer Simpson does one better than a lot of the other stretch figures just on popularity alone. Looking at this figure you can see it's as authentic as you can get in head-sculpt, body, colors, tones, and outfit (which is hilarious to see Homer in his “tighty whities”). However, the underwear is molded onto the body and not cloth (which would've made the figure more fun when stretched). But Homer's biggest asset and jettisoning it into 7th place is his hilarious bulk. This guy is thick and so stock full of corn syrup that he's a stretch figure lovers dream!



6. CASPER
MEGO (1980)
The only thing hurting Casper from entering into the top 5 is that he's not as popular as a few other big names on that list (to be honest, Casper's greatest popularity was during the '50s and '60s which was a looong time ago). But this stretch figure is better than most of them because Mego did such a great job on the head, colors and body which is made into lovable chunkiness with his plump round belly. It's totally authentic to the character in every way and yet remains true to what a stretch figure should be. It's such a shame that this Casper figure is so rare because anyone who loves a stretch figure should have one.



5. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
MEGO (1979)
And now entering the top 5 is the Mego Elastic Hulk! This may surprise many of you readers out there because anyone who knows me knows I'm in love with this toy (read my story about it here: In Search of the Holy Grail of Hulk). But, like I said in the intro, I had to be unbiased when ranking these stretch figures and I had to take into consideration what other dealers and collectors listed. So may the stretch gods have mercy on my soul because the Elastic Hulk is not the greatest stretch figure of all time!!

Mego was always known for their excellent head-sculpts with amazing detail and this one is no exception. This Hulk figure could well be the best Hulk ever produced by Mego (all their Hulk figures have been top notch). It is totally authentic to the character in colors, tones, outfit, and body with the sheer size that only the Hulk could pull off. This stretch remains one of the biggest and heaviest figures ever made and is also one of the most in wanted. It is widely recognized as one of the true holy grails of all Hulk collectibles and considering how rare it is, it will always sell for big bucks in the collectors market (a mint one sold for 7,400 back in 2006 and totally damaged ones go for no less than 1,000 each).



4. PLASTIC MAN
MEGO (1979)
If there was any character that would be a perfect fit to be a stretch figure it would be Plastic Man (believe it or not, this was his first figure ever made and that's pretty surprising since the character has been around since the '40s). Mego went all out in the authenticity of this figure with head-sculpt, colors, tones, outfit, and body. It is probably the most perfect stretch ever made based on a character and remains one of the most elusive. It's anyone's guess which figure is more rare; Elastic Plastic Man, Elastic Batman or the Stretch Serpent, for they all are impossible to find. While he's not as wanted as the other heroes from the Mego “Elastic Superheroes” line, he can still command a hefty price tag (a mint one sold for 5,800 in 2008).   



3. STRETCH ARMSTRONG
KENNER (1976)
The vintage original and founding father of all the stretch figures is the wrestler known as Stretch Armstrong. He has many variants in other countries (some having different names like “Elastic Man” from France or “Mr. X” from Japan). Later in the '90s CAP Toys remade Stretch Armstrong while introducing new characters to the toy line, unfortunately it didn't last long. But you can never keep a good stretch down! In 2016 Hasbro brought back the original Stretch Armstrong because, let's face it, the original was always the best. It's really hard to rank this figure because he is basically the measuring stick to all the others figures. Stretch Armstrong is essentially the quintessential stretch! His only knock at not being the top dog on this list is his cool factor. Sure, he looks cool for what he represents (a blond-haired muscular man) but the other two above him just look cooler.



2. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
MEGO (1979)
The Elastic Spider-man was the most produced and most sold figure in the entire Mego “Elastic Superheroes” toy line. That's because the popularity of everyone's favorite wall-crawler is second to none (he's easily one of the top 3 greatest superheroes ever created). Plus the figure just looks super-jazzy cool in every way so kid's had to have one. It's totally authentic in colors, tones, outfit, design and possesses the best head-sculpt Mego produced in the entire line. It's constant demand makes this toy sell regularly in various conditions with prices ranging between 400 to 4,000 dollars depending on condition. It also ranks as a premier Spider-man memorabilia piece to collectors and despite the few that are still available, it's very difficult to find in flawless condition. As amazing as this figure is only one other stretch can claim to be greater than Spider-man...




1. STRETCH MONSTER
KENNER (1977)
When Stretch Armstrong hit the shelves in 1976 as a stretching wrestler, kids couldn't get enough. Who would've thought that a year later Kenner would produce an adversary for that hero to fight and take it to such extremes in creativity. The Stretch Monster was totally different in every way and looked so incredibly cool. The head-sculpt is second to none in detail and expression, the body is flawless and it's scaly skin just adds to the terror that this monster can strike into the hearts of innocents.

A year later Kenner tried another attempt at making another villain for Stretch Armstrong to fight named Stretch X-Ray (who ranks at number 17 on this list) but that figure was no where near the level of the Stretch Monster. There were a few oversea versions of the Monster made (such as the Stretch Andro from Japan ranked at number 12 on this list) due to it's popularity. He was also remade by Hasbro in 2016 but that figure comes no where close to the originals overall look.

When you look at the rankings on this list you could always make an argument for the stretch figures between 20 thru 2. But there can be no doubt that the menacing and desirable Stretch Monster ranks as the greatest stretch ever made! It should be noted that when I was asking for a top 20 list from others, the Stretch Monster was almost unanimously voted as the top stretch. And even in today's market the first stretch figure a collector wants seems to always be the Stretch Monster so there can be no denying this figures influence and greatness in the world of stretch.

My baby Bryn with a whole lotta stretch!


Check out other Hero Envy "Top" Lists:


Top 50 Greatest Marvel Slugfests of All Time (1961-1999)
Top 10 Most Evil Villains in Comics

Top 10 Superhero Capes of All Time
Doctor Who: The Top 5 Greatest Doctors Ever

   John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John still thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.

www.heroenvy.com

12 comments:

  1. I remember seeing the Mego stretch figures on the shelves when they were released, looking at them and wondering: What the heck were they thinking? Poor Batman was laughable. No wonder they're so rare, nobody wanted them. I was only maybe 7 or 8 years old and laughed at them

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  2. Great list. I still have my Macho Man!! OOOOHHH YEAHHHHHH!!!

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  3. I loved the King Kong Bundy figure.

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  4. I always thought Mego should've made a Mr. Fantastic figure.

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  5. Lol. In all honesty I didn't even realize that many were even worthy of being produced

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  6. Stretch Monster. All. The. Way.

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  7. I just couldn't wrap my mind (pun intended) around stretch versions of non-stretchy heroes like Superman and Batman as a kid, but I loved my Stretch Armstrong and Monster back then. I remember I even took Stretch Monster to show n' tell in Kindergarten a few years later.

    My son still has the Ioan Grufford Mr. Fantastic figure somewhere in the house. Last time I checked his corn syrup had hardened and he was like a brick!

    Nice list! I had no idea some of these existed.

    Chris

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    1. Funny, I got my daughter the Ioan Grufford Mr. Fantastic stretch figure for my daughter when it came out and it was hard and tough to stretch. Toybiz did a bad job with whatever chemical corn syrup mix they used on that figure.

      Needless to say it was thrown out about a month after it was bought.

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  8. Never had any or even saw any for sale in my childhood, but I stared at that Elastic Superheroes ad in many a comic book. I always thought the Plastic Man sounded perfect but was nonplus about Batman or Superman in that style.

    At the very least, I'd have loved to have seen an Elongated Man bendy.

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  9. I never knew there were so many stretch figures made. I'm wondering what the rest look like that I've missed on the toy shelves.

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  10. Great list. I still have my Macho Man


    goldenslot

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