“Mortal Monday” was a weekly feature about all things Mortal Kombat–the most popular and longest-running video game franchise developed in Chicago–from back when Chi-Scroller was a Chicago-focused blog.
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The Mortal Kombat series only existed for about two years before the first action figures were released based on the characters, and they’ve been accompanying the franchise ever since. Here is a look at MK toys and collectible figures through the years, with Sub-Zero used to represent each toy line in order to best illustrate the changes between them (he is the only character to have been represented in each and every company’s line).
The first MK toys appeared in 1994 courtesy of Hasbro, the company that brought us G.I. Joe. Unlike the previous year’s Street Fighter II figures, which were released as an official part of the G.I. Joe line, Hasbro’s Mortal Kombat figures were their own separate entity, with packaging that made no mention of G.I. Joe and are not considered a part of the line. However, like the Street Fighter figures, Hasbro used existing G.I. Joe molds as the basis for the MK characters. All seven original playable kombatants were featured, plus Goro, Shang-Tsung, Reptile, and Smoke. There were also additional variants of Johnny Cage (bundled as a 2-pack with Goro, the only way to get the Goro figure), Shang-Tsung (included with the Dragon Wing vehicle), and Kano (included with the Kombat Cycle).
The following year, Hasbro released new variations on their MK figures to tie in with their movie counterparts, with Shang-Tsung and Raiden getting the most drastic makeovers.
In 1996, UK company Toy Island took over MK action figure duty. Their line was based on Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and they released both 6- and 12-inch figure lines. Johnny Cage, Raiden, Scorpion, and Sonya from the first series of 6-inch figures looked almost like replicas of their Hasbro counterparts, and only Liu Kang and Sub-Zero (unmasked MK3 version) stood apart. The second series introduced Jax, Cyrax, Jade, and Shao Khan into the world of plastic.
The 12-inch series brought back Johnny Cage, Liu-Kang, Sub-Zero (masked version), Scorpion, Cyrax, and Jade, and expanded the MK toy universe to include Sektor and Kitana.
In 1999, short-lived company Infinite Concepts took a stab at it with their series of 7-inch figures. According to the Mortal Kombat Wiki, these figures were based more on the characters’ visual design in the Mortal Kombat comic book series than the games themselves. The six figure set included one new MK figure, Mileena, as well as yet another different take on Shang-Tsung. Rounding out the lineup was Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Liu Kang, and Sonya. A second series of six more figures were planned and prototyped but never released.
The following year, another now-defunct company stepped into the MK figure arena. Palisades Toys, who was a well-respected company among serious toy collectors, had also produced figures for nearly 30 other licenses (including video game franchises Final Fantasy and Resident Evil). Their contribution to the MK toy universe, however, wasn’t considered their best work. The series only included four standard characters (one with a misspelled name): Rayden [sic], Sub-Zero, Sonya, and Goro.
In 2005, Jazwares, Inc. began their run as MK‘s longest-running (and current) toy-maker with a line of figures based on Mortal Kombat: Deception. Baraka made his debut with this highly-detailed set, which also included mainstays Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Raiden.
That year, they also released two special independent variants: Scorpion with exposed skull head, and an ice-covered Sub-Zero.
A year later, Jazwares followed up with their second series, this time based on the MK spin-off action title Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. Of course the game’s two playable heroes – Liu Kang and toy newcomer Kung Lao – were featured, but although many MK characters make appearances in the game as enemies and allies, the series was rounded out with go-to (but redesigned) characters Sub-Zero and Scorpion. They clearly were quite fond of the yellow and blue ninja rivals, as that year they also gave the two another special re-release, this time in the form of a two pack available only at Hot Topic. Because if anyone is in the market for Mortal Kombat action figures, it’s teenage girls shopping for Jack Skellington corsets. The only thing “exclusive”, however, was the fact that they were packaged together – there was no difference in the figures themselves.
In 2011, the most recent MK toys were released by Jazwares, both to coincide with Mortal Kombat 9 and also to honor MK‘s history. The 4″ set included – wait for it – Sub-Zero and Scorpion, in addition to Baraka, Raiden, and for the first time, Reptile in his more lizardy appearance. The 6″ set was similar, only with Johnny Cage taking Baraka’s place.
Jazwares also released the “Klassic” collection, inspired by the characters’ look in the early games (largely MK3), with Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Reptile (original human-like form, yawn), and the first toy based on Noob Saibot.
It’s easy to assume that there are going to be more MK figures as long as there are more MK games. Hopefully some more of the astonishing 50+ characters that haven’t been made into figures yet can eventually be brought to plastic-based life. Even if they have to be accompanied by yet another version of Sub-Zero…
A huge thanks to the following websites for their images and comprehensive information on the history of MK toys (and action figure collecting in general):