Love and marriage, love and marriage, it’s an institute you can’t disparraige….unless, of course, you’re the topic of this week’s column: Married with Children!
This week, we’ll be taking a stroll down memory lane to one of my favorite sitcoms growing up, which most importantly, recently resulted in an action figure four pack from our friends at Funko. I was fortunate enough to snag the set from Target.com a few weeks back, as these were originally intended to be the exclusive offering of the 2018 New York Toy Fair.
I’m still cursing missing out on last year’s exclusive: a four pack Golden Girls set that will now set you back a pretty penny on the aftermarket. Still, I now have Al Bundy immortalized in action figure form, and that’s pretty cool.
First, a little history on Funko. Funko, primarily known for creating bobbleheads and later on their vinyl Funko Pops!, started into the 3.75 action figure market a few years back by teaming up with the folks at Super7 and releasing a wide variety of licenses under their ReAction line. The ReAction line greatly benefited from Funko’s superpower: they produced figures from a wide swath of beloved franchises, a few that had figures produced before, but many that had not.
They started with a previously unproduced Aliens movie line of figures, but quickly progressed to licenses with a variety of movie figures from places like the Universal Movie Monsters, Gremlins, Freddy, Jason, Scream, Jaws, and even expanding into TV licenses like Firefly, the Flash, Buffy, etc. Eventually, they expanded so far as to include cult movies like Fight Club and Rocky Horror Picture Show. The figures had a great packaging aesthetic, including vintage style card-backs. Some would come with accessories like cameras or popcorn or weapons. There were three notable downsides as far as I was concerned: their insistence on the original Star Wars-style articulation (no knees or elbows), the sculpts were on the soft side, and the poor quality glue they used to attach the blisters to the cards. You couldn’t win on either front. Most figures would fall off the cards so you couldn’t keep them as in-package display pieces without taping them up or re-gluing them yourself, and the figures themselves were so limited in articulation and sculpt that once they were out of the package, the coolness factor dropped by more than half.
I should note, I was always more of a G.I. Joe kid growing up over the Star Wars toys. There was just so much more you could do with a toy that could bend and twist. When universes were combined, the Joes always got the drop on the Star Wars guys because they could turn to the side. To this day, my parents (and a few neighbors) are still finding Star Wars toys I discarded in the yard because they moved so awkwardly. It broke me up inside that this ReAction line got all of these great licenses, but the figures they made were so subpar. I understand the appeal for a set audience of Star Wars fans, but for me, an action figure fan, they were sub-par. Star Wars fans can be dumb sometimes. Then, Funko and Super7 split. Super7 is still out there making Star Wars style figures out of licenses like He-Man, which are cool, but would be waaaaaaay cooler if He Man could finally bend his elbow to swing his sword.
Funko started making figures on their own, first for their subscription services and then 3-packs for lines like Stranger Things and It. The best part: they incorporated elbow and knee articulation into their new lines! The plan is for me to give these figures their due at some point in the future, so I’m not going to go too far into these lines today; just know that Funko is one of the few companies carrying the flag for my beloved 3 ¾ inch scale.
Instead, we’ll dive in depth on this Married…With Children set.
I’ll start off with my airing of grievances. The box art is wonderful, with the brick wall framing the open box view of the figures that keeps with the great display aesthetic Funko and the ReAction line were known for. That doesn’t sound like a grievance until you realize that the figures in the box are obviously representing the characters very early in the show’s run, as noted by the young mulleted Bud Bundy, or Al with his full head of hair. The art on the back of the box, which has also shown up on dvd sets and various other media, displays the MwC cast at a much later point in the series’s 11 year run. Note, even though Bud Bundy remains a similar height, he now sports the creepy moustache of the young adult Bundy, late of his Grandmaster B phase. If you’re going to make season one versions of the characters, why not use season three promotional pictures?
Personally, I would have preferred the set take on the later characters, as the series really reached its potential in my eyes after Steve left for Yellowstone and Jefferson D’arcy came in to play against both Marcy and Al. Maybe someday, I’ll get another 4 pack with Al, Jefferson, Griz, and Officer Dan in their NO MA’AM shirts. It would help ease the loss of my own NO MA’AM t-shirt from years back. The wife claims she didn’t have anything to do with its disappearance. I’m not buying it.
Anyways, my other major grievance with these figures is the paint applications for the eyes. The small details are obviously the most difficult to replicate at this scale, but the eye paint application make Bud Bundy’s eyes look beadier than usual.
Enough complaining, onto the positives!
These figures kick the butt of the ReAction series. They have the minimal acceptable articulation in my eyes because they can bend at the knees and elbows. The articulation isn’t so advanced that you’d see Peggy Bundy in yoga poses, but that fits the character. Peggy didn’t do yoga, she ate bon bons. Al could bend down just as awkwardly to sell shoes in action figure from as he could in the series. Also, the sculpts are tighter than those from the Funko Reaction figure days, too. I’ve seen folks complain about the Al Bundy figure sculpt, but I feel those complaints are based more out of the fact that the box advertises a much later appearance for Al. This figure is spot-on for early Al Bundy, including Ed O’Neil’s classic “Why does the universe hate me” smile. He still had a full head of hair and no idea of the misery the universe had in store. He’s yet to reach his peak “A fat woman clip-clopped into the shoe store today” desperation of the later seasons, but this is a great representation of an American icon. Al Bundy serves as a crass reminder of the everyman with a crappy job, a family that doesn’t appreciate him, and a life that continually kicks him in the groin every time he’s brazen enough to think things are going to get better. If only I had known as a kid laughing at Al Bundy that one day I would become him. Sigh. Forget “we are groot;” we are Al Bundy.
Up next is the representation of Katey Sagal’s Peggy Bundy. If Al Bundy is the everyman, Peggy Bundy is the overshopped, undersexed, bon bon eating succubus who loves him–just like the American dream promises. The figured does a great job capturing Peggy Bundy’s likeness, which, unlike her costars, remained fairly constant throughout the series. Even today, 30 years later, Katey Sagal still looks fantastic. I don’t think she ages. She defined stretch pants fashion decades before Lulu ever thought to Laroe. With all honesty, I don’t think the series works without Peggy Bundy’s character holding it together, and I never thought Katey Sagal got nearly enough credit. It’s nice to have such a faithful representation in action figure form to stand beside, belittle, and occasionally double cross her husband.
Next, we get to the kids, Kelly and Bud. Kelly is awesome because no only does she stand in as “Daddy’s girl” for Al, but she also can serve as the metal-obsessed 80’s airhead beauty. When Chris Farley’s security guard explained to Wayne Campbell as he tried to get backstage that “a lot of guys’ girlfriends are back there,” he was talking about the Kelly Bundy types. Ed O’Neil was in Wayne’s World, too, so it’s all related. Christina Applegate made playing clueless look easy, and now that’s finally celebrated in 3 ¾ inch glory that fits in with the family or as a groupie for those KISS action figures I have sitting around here somewhere.
Bud, on the other hand, doesn’t make anything look good. He’s got the unfortunate half spike, half mullet haircut, and those beady eyes that are only partially true to his character. The younger Bud barely reflects the unfortunate mess he would grow into. Just like his action figure, Bud doesn’t fit in. His character was always too smart to belong with the rest of the Bundys, but he was too impulsive and hormonal to ever escape the Bundy fate. David Faustino grew up on the series and truly embodied the essence of the Bundy family. Even today, while Al is off with his newer, more Modern Family, Peg is running with motorcycle gangs, and Kelly is starring in movies, David “Bud” Faustino travels to conventions, signing headshots, and living off of his past glory. It doesn’t get much more Bundy than that.
Ok, maybe I’m being a bit harsh with Bud. I’ll apologize the next time he comes to a convention in town. My own situation doesn’t make me any better, unfortunately. Still, it’s a blast to get a set like this from Funko. These figures are great together, and since they are mostly representative of average folk, they can stand in during crowd scenes or as civilians when the superhero or monster action figures come out to play. As action figures, these are perfectly acceptable in terms of sculpt, paint, and articulation. There is definitely room for improvement on all three fronts, but considering where they come from, these are a definite step in the right direction. I can enjoy these figures in or out of the package, which thanks to box set design instead of the blister packs–I can do both! From the pop culture perspective, these are great. If you’ve got a Married with Children fan in your life that’s wearing out their dvd sets, first, I’m sorry. Secondly, you should consider tracking down this set for them for the holidays.
This just barely above the minimum standard set is the set the Bundy family deserves, and it’s the set all the cool kids will want this holiday season. Harken back to a time when misogyny was played for laughs, but family was still the most important thing. Get them online from Target while supplies last.
And if you run into David “Bud” Faustino, let him know I’m a big fan and no, I won’t pay for his autograph ;-).
Until next time, I’ll be flipping back and forth between Married with Children and Modern Family reruns!