“You wanted the best, you got the best!”
That’s a phrase that KISS fans know very well, both as a rallying cry for the band itself, and as the title of its 1996 live greatest hits album. “You Wanted the Best” is also the title of a song from KISS’ Psycho Circus (1998) album, which makes it a fitting introduction for the latest batch of 3.75-inch KISS action figures from Bif Bang Pow! For the past five years, Entertainment Earth‘s house brand has been serving up choice cuts from the KISS catalog, each having been carefully curated to pay tribute to a specific album cycle and era.
Series 4 focuses on two periods more than 20 years apart: the Rock and Roll Over era (1976-1977) and the Psycho Circus era (1998-2000).
Cracking into the Rock and Roll Over figures, I’m taken straight back to a simpler time. I distinctly remember seeing KISS on TV for the first time while hanging out at my cousin’s house. If it wasn’t a rerun of The Midnight Special, it was certainly something like that. As a kid, it was simultaneously terrifying and incredibly badass. These figures capture some of that magic, and it starts with the packaging — vintage style, weathered cardbacks that would’ve looked right at home on the pegs at Zayre or Toys “R” Us next to the Kenner Star Wars collection.
Packed with 11 points of articulation, KISS can properly hold their weapons — in this case, guitar, bass, drumsticks — and one element that makes it work is another throwback to a classic line: the swivel elbows that were made famous on Hasbro’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero figures. The classic lineup of The Demon (Gene Simmons), The Starchild (Paul Stanley), The Spaceman (Ace Frehley), and The Catman (Peter Criss) are all here and looking fantastic.
The Psycho Circus set flashes forward a couple of decades to when the band — fresh off of their mid-1990s reunion tour — decided to give it another go with the classic lineup, one last time. In “collectible” form, The Spaceman and Catman are essentially repainted versions of their 1976 counterparts with subtle differences here and there.
Gene is a full repaint with a different head sculpt, and the addition of his famous Axe bass. The weak point is The Starchild. For some reason, the shirtless version of Paul Stanley just looks off. His face and neck appear elongated. What redeems it is the inclusion of his “cracked mirror” Ibanez Iceman guitar.
Collecting the full run of 3.75-inch KISS action figures can be a little daunting at this point for those entering the arena late in the game. Secondary market prices for the early series’, box sets, and variants can be at a premium, but the good news is that focusing on a favorite album or era offers casual fans an easy entry point, especially now. The collection already includes Destroyer (1976), Love Gun (1977), Alive II (1977), Dynasty (1979), and Unmasked (1980). With how prolific the band has been there’s still a lot of ground to cover and that leaves some intriguing possibilities left to be explored.