Mortal Kombat Liu Kang (1994)
1994 was a bit of a weird year for Hasbro, in terms of its use of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero molds. As the line was ending, they sought to put their molds to other purposes, namely the toy tie-ins to the premieres of two live-action movies based on two very popular video game franchises: Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Street Fighter was one they had already done, first in 1993 with their subset for G.I. Joe, and then in ’94 with the tie-in to the movie. For Mortal Kombat, they released the first toys in 1994 and a more movie-based wave in 1995, both to minimal fanfare (like the movies they were promoting) and eventually leading to the clearance bins of many a toy store.
The first Liu Kang figure of the series came out in 1994, and unlike its movie version (which used the mold of the never-released “Ninja Commandos” Road Pig), was an action feature-less figure made up of reused Joe parts and a new head. Liu Kang must be one of the few figures in the series with the least amount of paint used, since all that’s painted are his hair, eyes, and eyebrows. While some of LK’s contemporaries from the line saw their heads (mainly with the case of the MK ninjas and Sonya Blade) reused for Joe characters during the o-ring era, Kang’s was the only one to be used (or reworked slightly) for a modern era figure, as the head for the Collector’s Club’s Dr. Venom figure. While the torso came from Road Pig and the arms from the 1991 Dusty (ironically, the same upper-body combo used for the Guile figures Hasbro made earlier), the waist and legs are the same ones used for the ‘ninja’ figures from the MK series, those of 1992’s Ninja Force Slice. In my personal opinion, I think they could have used a smaller torso, as the Road Pig one looks to ‘buff’ for a character who is supposed to be the game’s answer to Bruce Lee. Anyway, the torso, arms and head are cast in the same color plastic as figures like Johnny Cage, Shang Tsung (head-wise), and Sonya Blade (head-wise), while the waist and legs are cast in black plastic. This plastic I’ve heard is a little bit brittle, so take care when trying to fit weapons into the hands.
Speaking of accessories, Liu Kang came with silver versions of the swords of 1992 Ninja Force’s T’Jbang, along with a silver version of the Battle Corps Launcher found with the following figures from 1993-94: Gristle, Headhunter Stormtroopers, Star Brigade Astro-Viper, Balrog, Blanka, and Battle Corps Major Bludd. The missile itself appears to be a sculpt created specifically for the Mortal Kombat line, as I have not found any in the Joe line of 1993-94 that matches it. I find it odd that figures of characters who mainly do hand-to-hand combat were given accessories like those, but hey, I’m no marketing expert.
Overall, if you’re looking to add some of the more oddball cornerstones of the Joe line’s history, I recommend keeping your eyes peeled for figures like this–especially if you’re a video game fanatic. But, if you’re favoring the Jazzwares 3-3/4″ line that has been recently released, then this can be passed on.