Twisted ToyFare Theatre
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Twisted ToyFare Theatre is the most popular feature in the monthly magazine ToyFare. Originally titled Twisted Mego Theatre, it is a humorous comic strip done in the fumetti style by photographing toys on sets built by the magazine's staff, and using Photoshop to add effects and word balloons. The strips predominantly feature a line of toys called Megos (a line very popular in the 1970s, during the youth of much of the magazine's staff), and principally those based on Marvel Comics characters, such as Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. Collectively, the strips take place in a fictional world called Megoville. The series is well known for its bizarre humor and pop-culture references.
Megos based on other properties, such as television shows like CHiPs, Star Trek, and The Dukes of Hazzard make frequent appearances alongside the Marvel characters. Originally, Megos based on DC Comics characters also appeared, but there were certain legal issues brought up which led to their removal. Reprints of strips featuring DC characters have been edited so that now other characters appear in their place.
The broad scope of the writers of TTT has called for the presence of many characters which were never officially released under the Mego toy line to appear. This has led the creators of the strip to commission the creation of customized figures for those characters, or to do their best with existing figures, the latter case resulting in such "customized" characters as "John Denver" (actually a Bo Duke Mego figure wearing glasses) or Iceman's "snowman" incarnation represented as a Mego figure rolled in shredded coconut.
Additionally, a large variety of other toy lines have been featured, either independently, or alongside the Megoville characters. These lines have included Star Wars, Smurfs, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Gobots, and a host of others. The Marvel Mego characters have also met their "evil twins" twice, in the form of the other toy lines based on Marvel characters, such as Marvel Legends.
While Twisted ToyFare Theatre features toys based on pre-existing characters, their personalities are usually caricatures of the original:
- Spider-Man (referred to as "Mego Spidey" by fans and ToyFare staffers) often acts as the central character. Sarcastic and slightly self-centered, he remains aloof of the troubles of others and usually wants nothing to do with whatever craziness is affecting everyone else (in stark contrast to the real character's motto of “with great power comes great responsibility”).
- The Hulk is Mego Spidey's dim-witted and childlike constant companion (much to Mego Spidey's annoyance and disgust) and is usually a source of scatological humor. During the Megoville Civil War, Hulk was launched into space by Iron Man in exchange for Mego Spidey siding with the pro-prohibition heroes. In a parody of the Planet Hulk storyline, it was revealed in the July 2008 issue that Hulk became King of the world he landed on but returned to Earth after his newfound wife was killed in an explosion (which he caused by placing metal in the spaceship's microwave).
- Aunt May is a senile and slightly overbearing old woman who refuses to die, much to Mego Spidey's eternal chagrin.
- Conan the Barbarian is a sometime companion of Mego Spidey. At times he fights to control his rage, but ultimately fails, with bloody results.
- Thor frequently appeared alongside Spider-Man and the Hulk in the early strips, but later virtually vanished from the series (the reasons for which was the focus of a later strip). He constantly refers to himself in the third person as "The Odinson" and spouts mangled archaic language in a parody of the source character's manner of speech. He is often intimated as being homosexual because of his long "girly" hair and tendency towards flowery dialogue. During the Megoville Civil War, a clone of Thor was created by Iron Man and Mister Fantastic to fill in the ranks of the pro-prohibition heroes who, in a reference to the Spider-Man Clone Saga, was dressed in the same sweater worn by the Scarlet Spider.
- Iron Man is a comical drunk, and is rarely seen sober, a parody of the fact that the real character is a recovering alcoholic. However after going to rehab and recovering he attempted to reinstate prohibition which caused a "Civil War" to break out with most of Megoville joining Cap's Secretly Drunk Avengers. Iron Man returned to his usual drunk self however after Hawkeye shot him with a booze arrow.
- Captain America is presented as a nationalistic, slightly bigoted man out of touch with the current generation. Following the real Cap's death in the Marvel Comics, Mego Cap was accidentally killed by Red Skull, Mysterio, Electro, and the Lizard during a drunken binge. However he later appeared alive and well two issues later albeit without an explanation for his resurrection.
- Bucky is Captain America's sidekick/errand boy. Most of Megoville considers him nothing short of a loser and joke. After Cap died, Nick Fury taught Bucky to be a gritty anti-hero; despite his incredible ineptness; to the point that even the Megoville villains considered him to be not so much of a twerp.
- Daredevil is a bungling blind man, with much humor coming from his blindness, and has unknowingly revealed his identity many times. He also sued Ben Affleck after he "saw" Daredevil. His girlfriend Karen page is a porn star.
- Captain Kirk is an unrepentant womanizer whose shirt keeps disappearing and reappearing.
- Spock is totally exasperated, sighs frequently, and realizes the futility of talking sense into Kirk.
- Doctor Doom is a pompous megalomaniac who only speaks in the third person and is quick to yell "Curse you, Richards!" (in reference to Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four) when his plans fail. He has launched the Baxter Building into space several times (So many that, at one point, he launches one into space and another falls on him). The word "accursed" is a trademark registered in his name.
- Sue Richards is frequently intimated to be sexually promiscuous and has presumably cheated on her husband (Mr. Fantastic) on many occasions (although one TTT strip declared their original marriage illegal, prompting a new ceremony that ultimately was not completed).
- The Thing is the "bully" of the Fantastic Four and often plays pranks on other Megoville citizens, generally taking his responsibilities as a superhero far too lightly and often ignoring alert signals and cries for help. He is the constant (albeit usually unknowing) tormentor of a lone creature living in the Negative Zone.
- Reed Richards is an egotistical super genius who doesn't understand the physical and emotional cost of his work. He is also something of an ass, which seems appropriate for one who calls himself "Mr. Fantastic."
- Wolverine is constantly overworked and wishes he was less popular. He tends to get into lengthy monologues about how he's "the best he is at what he does...."
- Doctor Octopus is a glutton who is rarely seen not eating. He sometimes uses his tentacles to steal from vending machines.
- The Defenders, which include Hulk, Silver Surfer, Namor, and Dr. Strange, are Megoville's most pathetic superteam, and are only called on for menial tasks like getting a cat out of a tree.
- The X-Men and the Avengers have starred in strips on occasion, but other than the individual members listed above, are most often used to "fill out" crowd and fight scenes.
- Northstar, a Marvel character well known for being an outed homosexual, is usually the target of stereotypical gay jokes. A recent recurring theme has the X-Man Banshee berating Northstar for being a "poofter" (a slang term for homosexual).
- The Troopers, a quartet of Imperial Stormtroopers which consists of a regular Stormtrooper, a Sandtrooper, a Snowtrooper and a Scout Trooper. In marked contrast to the military bearing and attentiveness to orders of actual Stormtroopers, the Troopers are lazy, sarcastic, and unconcerned with anything except when their shifts end so they can go to the bar.
- Green Goblin, working with the publicity and success of the Spider-Man movie, becomes a rich rap artist referring to himself as 'Griz-een Griz-oblin', and performs with his Green Goblin Mask on over more traditional rap attire.
- Cobra Commander of G.I. Joe fame seems to have set up a secondary headquarters in Spider-Man's house, much to Spider-Man's frustration and annoyance. He has a regular Wednesday night game of Risk with Gargamel, Megatron and Skeletor and is a comically inept leader to the point that the other members of Cobra like to draw mustaches on his faceplate while he's sleeping. In an early 2008 issue, Cobra Commander joined G.I Joe after losing control of Cobra to Dr. Mindbender's fastfood mogul/world conqueror clone BurgerMeister, and changed his name to Private Commander. Predictably, his ineptness caused the Joes more harm than when he was their opponent and Duke sent him to go undercover with the Decepticons in order to get rid of him.
- Alan Moore has appeared several times in the comic (with TTT making a great exaggeration of his hair). Several times he has corrected others for mistaking Man-Thing for Swamp Thing. On few occasions he has stated his displeasure about the possibility of writing 'Watchmen 2'.
- The Gobots appears from time to time as the pathetic second-stringers of the Transformers. Usually posing as second-stringers to Transformer characters. Cy-kill has been shunned from Cobra Commander's Wednesday night game of Risk.
- George W. Bush is the current mayor of Megoville.
- Charles Xavier appears to be able to walk just fine, thank you very much.
DC Comics controversy
Many early TTT strips featured several DC Comics characters, though an early strip entitled "The Super-Friends" featured Spider-man insulting the DC heroes for their ridiculousness. DC later filed a cease and desist order, preventing TTT from ever using DC characters. TTT writers not-so-subtly poke fun at this with rare appearances of "Bat-Pumpkin", a Batman Mego figure with a costume recolored to orange and purple and a pumpkin image replacing the Bat-symbol; even rarer are appearances of a similarly-altered Robin figure as Bat-Pumpkin sidekick, "Squash". At other times, Marvel characters have shushed DC references ("Ix-nay on the DC oke-jays!"), while in a Matrix parody, Mego Spidey encountered a "Crippled, web-savvy, redheaded secretary." who he mistakenly thought was the Oracle; she was quick to correct him by saying "Heavens, no! That would be too close to a DC Comics copyright infringement."
The strips have also been reprinted by Wizard Entertainment, the publisher of ToyFare, in collections separate from the magazine. These contain additional content, including behind-the-scenes information on how the stories are written and photographed, and Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe-style biography pages about featured TTT characters. As of 2012[update], there are twelve of these collections available (eleven regular collections and a special 10th anniversary collection). Several toy collecting celebrities have provided introductions for these volumes, including Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Stan Lee, Paul Dini, Mark Hamill, Rob Van Dam, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Patton Oswalt, and Joe Quesada. Jeph Loeb provided the introduction for the Twisted ToyFare Theatre 10th Anniversary Collection.
The writers (current and former) include:
- Justin Aclin
- Rob Bricken
- Douglas Goldstein (Co-head writer, Robot Chicken)
- Bill Jensen
- Jon Gutierrez
- Andrew Kardon
- Pat McCallum
- Zach Oat
- Tom Palmer, Jr.
- Tom Root (Co-head writer, Robot Chicken)
- Matthew Senreich (Co-creator, Robot Chicken)
- Chris Ward
The television show Robot Chicken, which features animated action figures, had its roots spring from Twisted ToyFare Theatre (quite literally, as former TTT writer Tom Root is now the head writer for the show, along with fellow TTT alum Matthew Senreich). Series producer Seth Green is also an avid toy collector and long-time friend of the magazine. He wrote the introduction for one of the Twisted ToyFare Theatre collected editions. Actor Mark Hamill is a frequent voice actor on the show, and has also written such an introduction.