Tiny head-shaped cockpits ARE the 80s…


By Shawn Robare

It’s kind of strange sensation, but there are a lot of toys that should scream “80s” for me, but don’t.  Stuff like G.I Joe and the Transformers are in that group, most likely because I never really stopped living with their branding over the years.  But there’s also stuff like the Thundercats or the Smurfs that also don’t really “bring me back” all that much even though they haven’t been in the forefront of my mind in awhile.  I think this stuff is just too popular and therefore it never seems dated.  More and more I’m finding that the stuff that really epitomizes the 80s for me are the obscure toy lines that I had some familiarity with at the time.  The Robo Force toys do this for me, as do Kronoform watches, and the Visionaries toys.  But one of the most “It’s from the 80s…” inducing is the Starriors line of robot action figures from Tomy (pronounced toe-me), which really send me right back to 1984…

I saw this guy sitting in a display case at HD Comics and Toys in the N. Georgia Pendergrass flea market and for a second I felt like I was 7 years-old again. 

As a quick aside, if you’re in the Atlanta area, or if you’re traveling through Georgia and have a chance to stop at the Pendergrass flea market, do youself a favor and check in on Steve and Billy at HD Comics and Toys.  The place is a wonderland of stuff (Bravestarr, Tundercats, Silverhawks, G.I. Joe, Go Bots, Starriors, Food Fighters, Supernaturals, Lone Ranger, Super Powers, tons of Marvel and DC figures, Masters of the Universe, the original Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Who, original Indiana Jones and Star Wars figures, and six million other obscure and interesting toys from the last 40-odd years.)  If you stop in, tell ‘em Shawn from Branded in the 80s sent you, they and I will appreciate it!

Anyway, when it comes to the nostaliga factor of these guys, it’s all in the head/cockpit (because as a kid that’s all I had.)  I have no memory of where I came across it, but at some point I ended up with a little Starriors cockpit/head that just fascinated the crap out of me.   First of all I had a weird thing for clear plastic cockpits on toys when I was young, in particular the larger triangular, clear blue Lego window pieces from the Space Police series.   I almost always started construction of a new Lego creation around these hinged window pieces, but I also loved this functionality in all of my toys.  Between the translucent yellow chest-flaps of the Insecticons, the plethora of canopies and cockpits in the G.I. Joe vehicles, and the awesome pink cockpit of Miles Mayhem’s Switchblade vehicle from M.A.S.K.  I was enthralled by this idea in design and it carried forth to the detachable heads of the Starriors (and Zoids, it’s sister toy line) toys from 1984…

  

I think part of my fascination was the included little silver and gold pilot figures, what I understand now is actually a bunch of circuits made in the image of men that forms the brain of the Starriors characters.   First off, these little chrome figures reminded me of Twiki from Buck Rogers, and second, it just looked so damn cool to have these tiny, little, shiny guys in a small cockpit.  Keep in mind that this was before Micro Machines.

Overall the design of the Starriors figures is just really fun.  Sure, they maynot have a ton of articulation, and no paint, but there’s a lot of molded detail that I really dig.  My wife made fun of me a bit for buying a robot with chrome laser boobs, but I didn’t even see that until she pointed it out…

 

This particular figure is named Hot Shot, and he’s the leader of the Protectors faction of the Starriors robots.  I’m still digging into the back story behind the toys and comics, but the general gist of the story revolves around the human race going into a self-enforced hibernation.  Before hiding away the humans built a couple armies of robots, one called the Destructors to fight against their enemies in their absence, and the Protectors to rebuild the Earth and keep it running smoothly for their eventual return.  Very biblically epic in scope, the story of the Starriors unfolded in six different mini comics that were packaged with the figures, as well as a four-issue series from Marvel comics.

  

Again, the toys themselves are actually kind of cool even though they’re limited in movement.  They’re built to be taken apart and reassembled into different combinations, a feature that works very well in conjunction with the Starriors fiction which has characters “killed off” and then reborn (by having their circuits/consciousness transferred to new bodies.)  It also provided a similar play feature to the transforming function of the Go Bots and Transformers.   In addition, all of the figures had some sort of wind-up functionality.  Hot shot could be wound up causing his chest lasers to rock back and forth in their housing as if they were firing repeatedly.  Unfortunately, even though this guy was still card-fresh when I got him, his simple motor abilities didn’t survive the last 26 years intact.

Also, very much like the transformers (and a lot of other toy lines from the 80s), there were a limited number of molds for the figures, so the heroes and villains were essentially mirror images of each other in different color schemes and with slightly different accoutrements…

If you’re into collecting expensive geeky fine art, the iconic artist Bill Sienkiewicz, has a couple of his Marvel comics Starriors covers for sale on his website (both of which heavily feature the Hot Shot toy I just bought…)

 

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  • Slick McFavorite

    Thank you so much for this article. I had a ton of these, including Hot Shot. I had the same experience with misplacing everything except the cockpits and “”pilots”". What even more amazing is Deadeye is perhaps one of my most favorite toys ever. As a kid I loved remote controls, projectiles, robots and dinosaurs. Deadeye was the most perfect combination of all four. I’m off to eBay to find one. Thanks again…Jason

  • Esteban

    As a little kid I was scared of Bill Sienkiewicz’s cover art on New Mutants because it was scary. But man did he take toy robots comics to a level no other artist ever dared. The debut covers of the Transformers and Starriors comics are the most epic looking robot art ever. It was like nobody told him he was only working on silly toy robots and he did these awesome images that looked more at home on movie posters than comic covers. The way he drew a 5,000 foot tall abstraction of Optimus Prime standing over a highway for TF #1 still astounds me today. The Starriors cover is equally absurdly epic, with those three planet sized Starriors. They’re just Starriors-goofy little wind up robots and here he elevates them to gods of the universe and Hot Shot’s stepping on the earth. He was crazy! He’ll be at a convention next month down here in Miami and I’m really excited to see him. He took toy robots more seriously than I think they had a right to be taken and gave the most important Transformers comic ever a cover that stands the test of time.

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