Category Archives: The League

G.I. Joe, a Real French-Canadian Hero!

6883501769_16f5716f51_oI thought I’d take a crack at this week’s League topic (simply: Yo Joe!) since it’s both something I’m interested in (G.I. Joe obviously) and it just so happens that I have something new in my collection that fits in perfectly with the subject.  Not that long ago I was happy that I could provide a friend (the ultra rad Sarah Szefer) with a much-needed toy accessory that she’d been missing for awhile, and as an unexpected “thank you” she sent a small care package.  Since she lives up in Canada, specifically in Quebec, she thought it would be awesome to gift me some cool 80s era French-Canadian ephemera.  One of the bits that caught my eye was this awesome comic book advertisement from 1984-85…

French Canadian G.I. Joe Ad 1985

I’ve never personally seen an English version of this ad, so I’m not sure if it was strictly used in foreign markets or if I just missed it.  Either way this is a really neat ad that is way more in line with all those cool diorama set-ups you’d see in the old Sears Wishbooks.  I always loved the creativity in those since they tended to utilize natural materials mixed with art for the setting like the sand and rocks above.  I love the addition of the fake aquarium vegetation and the awesome impressionist forest fire depicted in the background painting.  Too cool.  I think I also love these types of play set-ups because I spent the majority of my G.I. Joe playtime as a kid setting up battles like this and then never actually acting them out.  It was all about setting the stage for me, and these sorts of advertisements (or the wishbook spreads) were sort of like toy porn in my eyes.

So thanks a million for sending me this Sarah, it totally made my week!  If you like what you saw here and would like to see more League posts about G.I. Joe, check out these other great sites…

Stacey, Geeky Vixen, is waxing nostalgic about old friends and discovering badass Ladies in G.I. Joe!

Michael, Retromash, takes a look at Joes from the UK perspective with Action Force!

Jathaniel shares some artistic Joe pictures from his instagram account!

Derek, Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, shares some awesome G.I. Joe kid’s picture books (Earl Norem Art!)

Erik Johnson talks about Joe Gibken from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger!

Brian, Cool & Collected, talks about his Joe team, those 82-85 characters!

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I’m obsessed with the LoEB’s return!

6883501769_16f5716f51_oThe League of Extraordinary Bloggers has been on hiatus for a while as Brian over at Cool & Collected has been “extraordinarily” busy with his C&C print magazine project, but it’s finally back this week with a new topic. To kick things off again Brian asks what our current obsessions are, and this just happens to coincide with a slight shift in my personal 80s collecting habits of late. Outside of a few sets of Garbage Pail Kids, I really didn’t start buying up stuff from my in and around childhood until I started work on this site. Then for the first 7 years or so of running Branded I focused most of my efforts on acquiring all sorts of ephemera, be it stickers, old magazines, or trading card wax pack wrappers that spanned all sorts of pop culture subjects from cartoons to food. I love talking about the 80s, specifically the marketing and “branding”, and I wanted to touch on all sorts of stuff from Sizzlean to amazing Return of the Jedi Jungle Gyms. Needless to say, digging up all of this stuff wasn’t cheap, so finding content to talk about on the site sort of dominated my collecting. The majority of the stuff I was hoarding storing in my flat-file, while awesome, didn’t necessarily always reflect the stuff I personally had as a kid.

Over the last year though I’ve decided to concentrate on rebuilding a small collection of things that I actually had as a kid.  Whether it’s the reproduction Masters of the Universe figures Mattel put out just after the millennium…

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…or picking up the occasional mint on card vintage toy like the super cool Transformers Afterburner I recently found.

Afterburner 1

I think this all started just over a year ago when I managed to get a hold of my original childhood Atari 2600 system.  Reconnecting with that faux wood-paneled beauty really got me thinking about where I really wanted to spend my money when it came to my collecting habits.

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Lately this turn towards reacquiring treasures from when I was a kid has morphed into some more obscure purchases.  Instead of trying to get all the actual toys I had I’ve been cherry-picking specific pieces I owned from various toy lines, stuff that when put out on a shelf illustrates my childhood experience.  This has led to some more obscure toy hunting leading up to snagging stuff like a Demon from Blackstarr, Warduke from the D&D line, and Tonto from the Gabriel Legend of the Lone Ranger line

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I’ve also started following this urge to round out my collection with more offbeat stuff by picking up some weirder childhood reading material.  For instance, I was just recently reminded by my mom during one of our weekly phone calls about a cookbook she gave me when I was eight, the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls (a version published in 1985 by Golden.)  I immediately flashed upon the iconic cover and felt an insane desire to pick it up and hold it again.  So I logged on to eBay immediately after the call an proceeded to track down and buy a copy…

BCCookbookForBoysAndGirls 1

I must have stared at those disturbing cheeseburger people a million times as a kid.  Even though this isn’t my original copy (which is probably no longer in existence or mostly disintegrated in a landfill in Florida somewhere), mine was as beat-up and well read as this copy I now have on my shelf.  Clocking in at just under 100 pages, this cookbook was my go-to tome when learning the basics of recipe-reading and trying my hand at some culinary concoctions that were always just this side of edible.  Though I learned a lot from watching my mom in the kitchen, I always took pride in exploring on my own and trying to make lunches or breakfasts on the weekends, and a lot of that inspiration came form the dishes in this book.  Speaking of, the recipes range from the ridiculous yet fun arrangement of canned fruit on a lettuce leaf like this Friendly Dog Salad below…

BCCookbookForBoysAndGirls 3

…to the surprisingly difficult to master (as a kid) Eggs in Bologna Cups.  Mine never tasted right.  In fact they were pretty noxious if I remember (probably due to over-use of the paprika which I practically caked on top of each cup…)

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The book is filled with glorious 70s/80s era design, from the style and color of the cookware depicted in the recipes to the bodacious font choices.  I actually kind of love it to death and am curious about seeking out some other more standard 80s era cookbooks for my kitchen…

BCCookbookForBoysAndGirls 2

Reading back through it I was surprised at the level of complexity in some of the recipes (like a giant baked ham loaf that required grinding up smoked ham steaks), and some of it actually looks like stuff I’d love to try today as a way more accomplished home cook.  In fact I’m toying with the idea of trying to replicate all 120 or so dishes in the book at some point.  I mean a lot of this stuff is pretty simple, but I remember it being sort of like comfort food.  It might be easy to turn one’s nose up at it as an adult, but stuff like this Polka Dot Pizza (aka Hot Dog Pizza) looks like the perfect comfort food for a lazy Saturday afternoon…

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If you enjoyed reading about my currently 80s collecting obsession, why not take a moment to check out some of the other League participants to see what they’re focusing on like…

Brian at Cool & Collected who is currently binge watching Band of Brothers and True Detective

Lee & Linz at Pop Rewind who are obsession over McDonald’s Orange Drink

Derek at Really Rather Random Guy who is having a an existential obsession crisis

Victoria at Vikki Verka who is glad she found the sci-fi series Charlie Jade

Tim at Flashlights Are Something to Eat is listening to the Scorchers, watching Breaking Bad, and buying some Atari games!

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So, I don’t go to yard sales but…

this week’s League topic is all about that one great yard sale or flea market find.  Though I do enjoy perusing the aisles of antique stores and the occasional flea market, it’s super rare that I ever find anything I really want to plunk some hard earned money down on the counter to own, let alone something I’ve been actively searching for.  Maybe my focus is too narrow (I want some pretty damn specific stuff) or my cheapness keeps the purchasing in check (I’m super unwilling to buy that specific stuff if it means spending more than $10-20 bucks!)  Either way, I don’t really have a great “wow, lookit that, how much, screw it I’ll pay it…” kind of story.  Yes, I loved finding a bootleg double-logo Spiderman.  Sure, it was rad finding an in-box Robo Force Enemy toy and a carded Starriors Hot Shot.  And yes, it was pretty damn cool to spot this bottle of G.I. Joe Bazooka shampoo/bubble bath while hanging out with the amazing Jaime Hood the first time we met in person (though I didn’t pull the trigger on buying the little guy.)

bazooka clean

No, the only item that I have in my collection that gives me that “holy crap I can’t believe I found this” feeling has to be my almost complete set of 1st series Garbage Pail Kids.  I didn’t buy them; they were given to me by a super awesome co-worker out of the blue who didn’t know or really care what they had (not that they’re even worth much in their condition), but all the same it evokes that feeling.  That one big score, that awesome relic I’d been looking for for almost 30 years, the Holy “Crap I Found This” Grail.  I wrote about this incident shortly after it happened back in June of 2010, and honestly, I’m still pretty proud of what I wrote.  So I’m going to lay it our for you again because it’s still my favorite “I found that” moment (collecting junk-wise that is…)

“I’ve talked a lot about collecting here at Branded, and on a few occasions I’ve discussed how the hobby leads to certain unobtainable “holy grail” items. The hobby is, by nature, goal driven; when you find one thing, one object that you desired and enjoyed, as a collector you’ll inevitably seek out another item linked to the first and so on. It’s these goals that keep you going, looking for the next piece to acquire, and the beauty of most collections is that there is usually one item that is really hard to obtain. Personally, though it’s frustrating during the hunt, this unobtainability is what keeps the fire stoked; it’s what keeps it interesting.

dirty gpk

Though I’d consider myself a collector, I’ve always been hampered by my own frugality. As much as I’ve wanted certain expensive things over the years I’ve found that I have a hard time paying much more than bargain prices. If I can’t find it cheap, then it can wait. So even though some of my “holy grail” items are available, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever add ‘em to the collection based on crazy high collector’s prices. I’d resigned myself to the fact that no matter how much I wanted a set of 1st series Garbage Pail Kids stickers, it just wasn’t going to happen. The set runs upwards of $300 on eBay, which is roughly $280 more than I’d ever be willing to pay for 82 sticker cards. But the hunt kept me searching. About seven months ago I stumbled across a single 1st series card, 36a Wrapin’ Ruth, in a comic shop. I was so stoked because I’d never seen one up close, and it was only a buck. I snatched it up and put it proudly at the beginning of my collection, just waiting for the other 81 stickers to eventually join it. I wasn’t holding my breath.

Then, just a couple weeks ago, a co-worker came in with a big bag of miscellaneous Garbage Pail Kids cards. Her son had just gotten into the newer series and one of her friends had given her a bunch of their old stickers to pass on to him. Since they were older and because she knew that I collected them myself, she gave me first crack at them considering that her son would be more interested in using them as stickers than collecting them. This has happened before, people have given me a stack of cards to rifle through, either to help them find anything “worth some money” or to add to my collection. Typically there isn’t anything of value, and usually the cards are in pretty bad shape. This stack was no different as you can see in the 1st picture above…

Some of the cards looked like they’d been dipped in beef stew, while others suffered from the normal issues; checklists had been ticked off and there was a fair share of cards that were either written on or were missing borders. But as I started sorting the stickers into piles (beef stew, border-less, doubles of stuff I already had), I found a pocket of cards that were stuck together. As I carefully pried them apart I realized that they were 1st series cards, and they were in pretty good condition. Well, they were actually pretty bad in that they all had a thick line of residual tape glue on the backs where they’d been taped into a picture album, but none of them looked like they’d been dipped in stew.

I decided to take my lunch so that I could concentrate on the stickers, and a half an hour later I was staring at a sight that I honestly never expected to see, a near complete set of 1st series Garbage Pail Kids stickers! I kept muttering, “Holy crap…” under my breath as I was sorting and I found more and more of the set.

All told, the set was only 14 stickers short (including my Wrappin’ Ruth), and whoever had collected these as a kid had managed to at least get at least one of each of the A&B stickers except for one set. So even though the set isn’t complete, all but one of the John Pound paintings are accounted for, as well as most of the Tom Bunk illustrated certificate backings.

After spending a good four hours rubbing off the residual tape glue, and putting them into card pages that evening I was finally looking at something I never thought I’d have. Granted, the cards aren’t in the best condition, but who cares!

Not to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a Potty Scotty sticker. Growing up, though I never managed to see any of these stickers firsthand, I was aware of a handful of the cards based on other GPK merchandising. In my eyes there were six main cards that sort of defined the series and Garbage Pail Kids as a whole, Adam Bomb, Dead Ted, Nasty Nick, Bony Joanie, Brainy Janie, and Potty Scotty. In fact, any GPK that featured a toilet was sort of like the equivalent to Boba Fett or Wedge Antilles in the Star Wars Universe. I’m glad I snagged a Jason Basin though…

This is kind of a silly thing to admit, but for years I used to have this reoccurring dream where I was in an orchard of trees that had GPKs instead of leaves. It was perpetually Fall and the stickers where falling to the ground in big heaps and I’d spend the whole dream raking up the cards and sorting them by series. I’d always get so depressed after waking up and realizing that the big pile of 1st series GPKs weren’t real. The past two weeks have felt like that dream. I guess in some way, as glad as I am to have finally scored these stickers, it’s sort of anticlimactic in a way. The hunt is mostly over. Sure, I can pick up the missing 14 stickers over time (if I can find the damn things cheap enough), but I almost don’t want to.

I did decide to go ahead and order one sticker, 35b Rockin’ Robert. Seemed like a shame to be missing the one John Pound painting. I think I’m going to have to consider Potty Scotty as the new holy grail for my GPK collection…”

As a post script to this story, over the past three years I’ve manged to plug a few of those missing card holes in the set.  Of the original 13 missing cards I actually found 9 of them during an antique market trip.  I’m still missing 4 cards (12b, 25a, 27b, and the all important 14a, Potty Scotty.)  I’m not trying too hard to get them, keeping the hunt alive and all, and as much as I would absolutely love to have him, I’ve seriously considered specifically not getting the Potty Scotty card.  I have one of the over-sized ones framed at Branded HQ, and I can always look at his twin, Jason Basin, and well, pretend.  That way I’ll always have my GPK holy “crap I don’t have that” grail.

So, if you enjoyed reading this tale of the ultimate rad vintage score, why not check out some of the other League members to see what they found on their hunts…

Jaime, Shezcrafti, doesn’t do yard sales either, but if she did she’s be on the hunt for some electronic radness

Eric, Toyriffic, shares his epic Masters of the Universe haul

Patrick, Nerd Out with Me, found an amazing Sith Lord that can hold up his pants

James, James Abels dot net, uncovered some rad top secret NES passwords

Grey, Achievements in Gaming, found an amazing deal on the rare Dark Tower game, he then in a very classy move, gave to a friend

 

With a handle like Smurfwreck you’d think blue would be my favorite color…

…but it’s not, it’s hot pink.  Now that, that random bit of trivia is out of the way, I wanted to take a second and tackle this week’s League assignment where we’re charged with taking photos highlighting the color blue.  Last time we had an assignment like this (with Red), I totally didn’t notice the photo assignment and wrote and essay about blood and how it worked into my first and only fight as a kid.  This time I paid better attention and collected some of my favorite blue stuff from around Branded HQ.

First up, one of my two favorite blue t-shirts, and the classiest one I own for sure…

Top Hat Sas

Next up, some chilly and wet stickers from my favorite vintage collection, Garbage Pail Kids…

GPK Blue

I was surprised at how many blue robots I had within reaching distance…

blue robots

Posing my Soundwave statue it occurred to me that there were a hell of a lot of blue villains in the 80s cartoons and toy lines I loved.  Like Fakor, Skeletor and Trap Jaw!

blue fakor

Not to mention the supreme blue badass that is Mumm-Ra!

blue mummy

And who can forget the rad blue fashion sense of Cobra!

blue terrorist fashion

But by far, my favorite blue thing is the totally amazing birthday gift I received this year, my very own furry blue My Pet Monster!

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Oh, and there’s my other favorite blue t-shirt, DeLorean represent.

If you like all the blue-i-ness you see here, why not check out some of the other League members to see what blue caught their camera eye…

Jaime, Shezcrafti, shares 21 (not) boring blue things about her

Dex, AEIOU and Sometimes Why, opens a vintage pack of Blue Star Wars Topps trading cards

Miss M, Diary of a Dorkette, gets blue with her Dorky Snaps

Derek, Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, shows off his very impressive blue toy collection

Laura, Boo Bobby, shows off her Boglins, Gonzos, Rad T-shirts, and Turtles, oh my

Todd, Neato Coolvile, has quite an impressive collection of vintage blue wonderful

Tommy, Top Hat Sasquatch, is feeling blue, so Batman made cookies!

Chris, Garage Sale of Awesome, shares their super rad blue M.A.S.K. bedsheets!

Mourning the Loss of a DVD Player with the Illegitimate Child of Maria and C3P0…

So, as I mentioned earlier in the week my DVD player of the last decade decided to go and die on me, and it’s been more or less in the forefront of my mind.  See, I don’t subscribe to a cable service and my TV is sort of ancient, so I’m not readily streaming Netflix to it or anything.  I’m sort of at a crossroads since I have to make a decent-sized purchase.  Do I get an el cheapo DVD player or do I finally pop for a Blu-Ray player?  If I buy a Blu-Ray, shouldn’t I get an HD TV as well?  Stands to reason right?  While thinking about my options I was thumbing through some 32 year-old issues of People magazine that a very gracious co-worker recently gave me and I stumbled upon a pretty nifty Hitachi VCR advertisement.  What does all this have to do with this week’s League assignment?  Well, this week’s theme just happens to be robots, and the ad features a pretty awesome looking droid…

Hitachi Ad 1981 Small

This sad little guy was introduced in 1981 during the beginning of the Home Video boom.  Folks were starting to adopt the technology, and as with any expensive electronics purchase long-lasting equipment was top on many consumer’s lists of desirable qualities.  Trust me, I’m debating that same question right now.  I’m still of the ilk who looks for hardware that will make it in the long haul.  My TV is almost old enough to enlist, and I have a boombox that’s been able to vote for as many presidents as I have!  Sigh.  I’m slowly being pulled, kicking and screaming, into the new millennium.

Back to this Hitachi robot pitchman.  Not only was he featured in their print campaign, but he was also in their TV commercials, like this from the same year.  Also, It doesn’t escape me that the design of the Hitachibot looks a hell of a lot like C3P0 and Maria from Metropolis had an illegitimate kid who never quite reached the peaks of success that his parents did…

C3MetropolisP0

If I had to guess, I’d bet he was probably hanging out with other robotic flash-in-the-pans like Twiki from Buck Rogers and Vicki from Small Wonder, sucking down antifreeze and boosting car batteries for fun and profit…

Wondering what the other League members are talking about?  Well, transform and roll out to some of these sites…

Rich, The Nerd Nook, lists his top 10 favorite pop culture bots!

Goodwill Geek, Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, breaks out his impressive robotic toy collection!

Charles, Geek Show Ink, shares his thoughts on the Rascal Robot!

Victoria, Vikki Verka, talks a bit about the Chōjin Sentai Jetman!

Jamie, Whatever I think of!, talks a bit about Hymie from Get Smart!

 

I’m Down With OPP, er, Coveting Other People’s Property…

This week The League is hosting another virtual shopping spree through a very real (and pretty darn awesome) auction being held over at Hakes.  In the last auction I put in my bid on a set of Sanrio prototype aquatic action figures that never saw full fledged production.  It was pretty rad stumbling across the archeological remnants of proposed and designed toy line that sadly never came to be, and there are some more rare production prototypes and carded figures for some rares 80s toy lines in this new auction.  But I wanted to take a slightly different slant with my shopping spree this time.  In fact, I don’t really want to go on a spree at all.  There’s one item in particular that I have my sights on, but I’ll get to that in a moment.  First I wanted to highlight a few items that I would have, um, virtually bought, had I not put put the brakes on my fake spending.

Hakes Stuff

Pictured above are a few of the 80s centric items that caught my eye in the most recent Hakes auction.  There are some pretty cool Flintstone Kids Pizza Hut premiums that I would proudly pin to my messenger bag (not to mention that I sort of have a fetish for pinback buttons.)  There are a handful of rad and kind of rare Infaceables action figures released by Galoob in 1984.  I love the idea of action figures built around transforming from human to monster and back again.  And last but not least, a seriously awesome Street Hawk lunchbox.  I came pretty darn close to winning the original artwork for this lunchbox back around the time I started this site and I’ve always been a little miffed at myself for not bidding just 20 bucks more, ’cause if I had it’d probably be framed and hanging in Branded HQ right now.  As it stands I’d love to have the actual lunchbox as a memento of balking at the auction price 7 years ago…

But as I mentioned, I had to take a trip back around the virtual auction house, virtually putting all these cool things back on the virtual shelves.  Why you might ask?  Well, because as I was browsing through all this neat stuff I was feeling a little bit like I was walking through someone else’s house full of bitchin collectibles.  I can’t explain it, but I get this vibe a lot when I’m hunting through flea markets and picking through antique stores.  All these things came from someone else’s childhood or estate.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not going all Mikey from Goonies here.  I’m not saying we should all thROW back the rich stuff from the bottom of the wishing well.  It’s just a thing I struggle with from time to time.  What cemented it for me was stumbling upon this next item, a toy that I have a very covetous history with, the Star Wars Return of the Jedi At-ST Scout Walker released by Kenner in 1983

At-ST

Now I had a lot of Star Wars stuff as a kid, a ton of the action figures and my fare share of vehicles including not one, but two At-At Walkers.  But, as it goes, and like I mentioned in this post a couple weeks ago, it’s always the things that you don’t own that seem to be what’s coveted the most.  In the case of the At-ST Walker, well, I never came across one in the store or at any of my friend’s houses.  I saw my first and only AT-ST toy back in the summer of 1983.  My family was picking up stakes from our home in Tampa, FL to move a couple hours due east to Orlando.  I had just turned six and my folks decided to let me tag along on some trips out of town while they did some house-hunting.  On one of these excursions we stopped at a house that still had a family living in it, and while we were taking a tour I spotted the above toy sitting on the bureau of some strange kid’s bedroom.  Being six, the thought hadn’t occurred to me that the stuff in the house wasn’t part of the bargain.  In fact, I spent the next three hours trying to convince my parents that out of all the houses we’d looked through to that point, this last one was obviously the one we should go with.  I mean it was two stories, had hardwoo…screw it, it was because there was an AT-ST in one of the rooms that I really freaking wanted.  After it was explained to me that buying a house didn’t quite work the way I’d hoped (and boy was I a tad relieved when they pointed out that if it had I’d be losing all MY STUFF), I was a little crushed.  Hungry Howie’s Pizza later that night didn’t make it better.  Getting to listen to my Michael Jackson Thriller tape on infinite repeat during the two hour trip back only helped a little.  If I have to be honest I’ve always sort of had an AT-ST-sized hole in my heart over the years.

Seeing that piece up for auction, well it both reminded me that I still kinda sorta (read – desperately) want this toy and that even if I don’t get it, wanting it still feels pretty good in it’s own weird way.  So that’s why if money were no object, I think I’d walk away from the auction with just this one treasure to fill that mechanical chicken-shaped hole in me…

So, check out the Hakes Auction, pick out your own weirdly shaped coveted item and fill in that hole that’ll make you feel a bit more, well, whole.  When you’re done, check out these other League posts to see what they found…

Jaime, Shezcrafti, seems to have some pretty damn similar tastes in stuff as me

Dex, AEIOU and Sometimes Why, picks some choice items

Chris, Random Nerdness, has a basket full of, well, random nerdy things

Victoria, VikkiVerka, has a taste for BLOOD, well, books about blood and guts

RobotPJs, Robot’s Pajamas, runs down some fun bad Ditko artwork

I’ve rigged all the cabinets so you won’t need tokens…

Getting back into the swing of things around here and as luck would have it this week’s League assignment is a real peach!  Submitted by Jason over at Rediscover the 80s (who just started a pretty rad podcast that I totally am way behind in pimping), the topic is all about building a dream arcade in our homes.  Though I’m not much of a gamer these days, I did spend a decent amount of time playing the stand-up cabinets at the local pizza joints, mall arcades, Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheese’s, and even in the converted utility closet of the 7-Eleven that was in my neighborhood growing up.  That being said, my dream arcade would probably fit in a utility closet now that I think about it…

So what would be in my dream arcade closet?  Only four cabinets.  Well, three cabinets and one cocktail table unit.  First up, the classic (at least for me), Galaga…

Galaga Small

This is my go-to game when I’m in the mood for a truly old school arcade experience.  It’s also the game I judge most pizza places on.  Sure, if a place makes a good NY style pizza, that’s good, but if there are arcade cabinets in the joint and Galaga is missing, so too will be my patronage.  For my money (and I will drop a considerable amount of coinage in a Galaga cabinet when I have a belly full of pizza) there no better combination than securing that double spaceship with the taste of sausage and onion in my mouth that was just recently washed down with coke sipped out of a clear red plastic cup.  Just a bit of heaven if you ask me.

Plucking some similar pizza place-centric nostalgia heart strings would be securing a Mrs. Pac-Man cocktail sit-down table.  Faux wood grain trim would be essential too…

Mrs Pacman Cocktail

Can’t count the number of times I played a unit that looked just like this while waiting for my personal pan pizza at my local Orlando area Pizza Hut as a kid.  Did I mention that the personal pan pizza in question would have invariable been free based on my appetite for reading and the Pizza Hut Book It program…

Now the next cabinet is not an arcade game in the strictest sense, but it did provide an arcade experience, and that’s the Nintendo PlayChoice-10…

PlayChoice-10

This unit was basically a way for Nintendo to “advertise” for the NES system by housing it and 10 games into one arcade cabinet.  We had one in my local 7-Eleven when I was growing up and it’s where I spent a good deal of time playing games like Ducktales, Goonies II, and more importantly Lifeforce.  I also learned a neat trick where if you could pull both of the joysticks to the right and mash down all the buttons you’d get free timed play on a handful of the games in the cabinet.  I used this method to play a shitton of Lifeforce before breaking down and begging my mom for an at-home copy of the game.  In other words, mission accomplished Nintendo.

Rounding out my dream arcade would be my favorite arcade game ever, a 6-player X-Men game cabinet…

X-Men Small

Not only was this game based on Pryde of the X-Men, my favorite X-Men cartoon of all time (the one-shot failed pilot produced by the wonderful folks over at Sunbow), but it features one of my favorite X-Men characters, the much underrated Dazzler.  My four friends during middle and high school were all X-Men nerds like me, so between the five of us we used to rock the crap out of this game at our local arcade/go cart track called Malibu Grand Prix.  All of us would beg our parents to go there for birthdays just so that we could spend a couple hours plunking quarters into the above machine.  I’m pretty sure we even came close to beating it one or two times.  Hands down some of my favorite arcade experiences surrounded time at the joystick playing either Wolverine or Dazzler.

About 10 years ago I ran across a very reasonably priced 6-Player X-Men cabinet, but was plagued with the ultimate nerd conundrum of how to justify a car payment on something so big and loud that would be next to impossible to move without a professional team and a forklift.  In the end I passed, but there has always been a part of me that regretted it…

So there you have it.  The Branded in the 80s Arcade.  Small, sure.  But for me, arcade heaven.  Pass me a slice of sausage and onion, and don’t worry, I’ve rigged all the cabinets so you don’t need tokens!

If you liked my shenanigans this week, why not check out these other rad League participants…

Pax, Cavalcade of Awesome (and my rad Cult Film Club co-host), lists his top 10 arcade games!

Classick Material, Cold Slither Podcast, goes the extra step and makes a fantasy show about his favorites!

Rich, The Nerd Nook, Moonwalks over to the 7-Eleven to play some Street Fighter II!

Kal, Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool, has a bone to pick with Dragon’s Lair!

Where do you let King Kong Sleep When He Visits?

So recently Brian over at Cool & Collected got the idea to start up a new community toy project called the King Kong World Tour.  Basically Brian has sent one of his Kong Imperial action figures on an extended vacation traveling around the world.  I took part in a similar project with a Spock Mego figure a few years ago and had a blast hosting him, so I thought it would also be fun to show Kong the sites in Atlanta and at Branded in the 80s HQ.  Here are some of the highlights…

kingkongworldtourlogo

First off, no visit to Branded HQ would be complete without taking a gander at the action figure wall.  Kong really wanted to join the ranks of the Joe team, but Cobra always ended up picking him first…

Joe Kong

Kong also Mumm-Ra.  You think the two would pal around, but that ancient spirit of evil is kind of a nutty fruitcake…

KongderCats

I had to show Kong my framed Crestwood Monsters book as it’s sort of like a high school yearbook for him…

Crestwood Kong

Now as far as Atlanta goes, I took him to some of my current favorite spots, and it wasn’t until I was processing the roll of film that I realized I apparently love places that start with the letter “V”.  Case in point…

Vortex

…the Vortex (my favorite Atlanta building and a great place for Fried Pickles)…

Varsity

…the Varsity (great hot dog place)…

Videodrome

…and Videodrome (one of the last surviving mom & pop video rental places in the southeast)!

Anyway, head on over to Cool and Collected to check out more pictures from Kong’s stop in Atlanta as well as the other stops on the tour so far!

Reunited with an Uncanny piece of my past…

Been a lot of personal “behind-the-scenes” stuff going on at Branded this year, but I’m doing my best to bounce back and get to some more regular posting soon. In the meantime I wanted to tackle this week’s League assignment as it touches on the very subject I’ve been meaning to write about for the past couple months, comic books. Remember when I talked about the awesome gift, my original Atari 2600 game system and original eight games, a long time friend (D) gave me recently? Well, not only was he gracious enough to restore one huge chunk of my childhood, but he also returned another important part of my past that’s been MIA for over 18 years, my run of Uncanny X-Men comics that I traded him out of desperation in high school.

X-Men 1

At the end of my sophomore year of high school my Dad was laid off from his position as a salesmen for a large semiconductor and telecommunications company. I’ll be honest, he made some pretty decent dough back in the day and throughout all of my life to that point we lived very comfortably. It wasn’t lavish by any means, but we weren’t hurting and there was always a decent allowance that I used to keep myself in toys and comics. When he lost his job though, we were in sort of a pretty tough situation as his company had moved my family across the country twice in the space of two years, so they had fronted my Father a large portion of the down payment on the house we’d been living in. After they laid him off they wanted that money back and it forced us to regroup as a family, cut costs as much as possible and move into a small two bedroom apartment. None of this really mattered to me, but I did lose the bucks that I needed to keep me in comics, so I started to cannibalize my collection, selling off whatever I could to get the money to buy new comics. As any collector knows, this can be very dangerous and usually leads to losing everything, which is basically what happened in my case. There were a few runs that I held off on, stuff that was really personal to me, books like The Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine, and X-Factor. As I started to chip away at the “money” books in these runs my friend “D” made me an offer on my collection of Uncanny X-Men books that I couldn’t refuse so I traded him my run, issues 196-281.

At the time I was sort of relieved because those books were the cornerstone of my collection, the stuff that got me into the hobby, and by parting with them I felt the need to collect comics sort of die. It’s not that I wanted to stop collecting and reading, but it’s an expensive habit and at the time I kind of wanted to just take a break. Well, over the years I’ve drifted back into collecting, though nowhere near as fiercely as I did during that time between 1988 and 1995, and big reason for this is that without those original X-Men comics I sort of feel disconnected from the hobby. More importantly, sort of like Scrooge McDuck has his Number One Dime, the most important piece of currency in his fortune, I had my own lucky book, Uncanny X-Men issue 242. This was the first comic I bought back in 1988, and it’s always been the center of my collection. I’ve picked up copies of the book over the years, but not having the actual copy that I purchased from a grocery store spinner rack back in the day has always been a little pin prick of loss and remorse when it comes to my comic collecting.

x-men 2

That all changed earlier in the year when “D” regifted those books to me along with my long lost Atari. There aren’t even words for how happy I was to reunite with this stuff. Again, I don’t have a ton of surviving stuff from my childhood and so this pile of comics is just beyond amazing. There was a time when I felt like the stories that Chris Claremont wrote in these issues defined me. Like a lot of kids I heavy related to the characters, Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Longshot, Dazzler, Colossus, Psylocke, and Havok. These were “my X-men”. Later, I fell in love with Gambit, got acquainted with Polaris and Forge, was only mildly annoyed by Jubilee, and dreamed of what it would be like to step through the Siege Perilous. I did a quick tally to see what these books retailed for, not because I give a damn what they’re worth monetarily (they’re priceless artifacts as far as I’m concerned), but I was curious what my friend potentially gave up to reunite me with these books. Let’s just say that at market value was about a month’s rent, and I know that he knows that. Egads, can’t thank “D” enough.

Like what you read here?  Why not visit some of the other League members to see what they had to say about this week’s comic books topic!

Big J talks about the Desert Peach

Eric talks about Plastic Man

Rich talks about Superman

Yelinna talks about a bunch of comics and toys

Tim talks about bird poop and Iceman

Feeling a little guilty that I’m not a Mom from the 80s…

This week’s topic from the League is all about opening up about our guilty pleasures.  This topic is insanely hard for me to tackle because I’m pretty open about all of the stupid or weird stuff I’m into, and I don’t feel particularly guilty about any of it.  After doing some soul searching I guess the thing that most qualifies as a guilty pleasure for me would be the enormous thrill I get when buying and cracking the cover on a vintage Mom magazine.  You know the ones, McCall’s, Woman’s Day, Working Woman, Woman’s Week, any of the tabloid supermarket checkout magazines aimed at the modern woman in the 80s.

Over the last 4 years I’ve culled a decent amount of content for this site from my rather large “archive” of these magazines.  Return of the Jedi jungle Gym ads?  Check.  Pudding Pop ads?  Check.  Sizzlean and Frank ‘n Stuffs ads?  Check, Check.  I’m not apologetic about this collection in the least, but even I have to admit that I get a little too excited when I scope an eBay listing for a large lot of these cheap.  There isn’t uncontrolled squealing mind you, but there is usually a contented sigh when the auction ends at a reasonable price.  Also, though the intent is to pick these up for use with Branded, I will admit that I scrapbook a ton of stuff from these magazines that’ll never make it to the site because I am well aware of the limits of what is considered interesting.  No one wants to see me write two thousand words about my nostalgia for the Fresh’n Up fragrance towers or how awesome the airbrushed artwork is on the Hanes Comfort Slacks advertisements.  No one.  Also, on a similar note, probably the thing I enjoy the most about going out of town on vacation is visiting the local grocery and super stores hunting from products that I don’t have in my neck of the woods.  There are probably thousands of picture files on my computer of cans of soda, store brand boxes of cereal, snack products, and candy.  I’m pretty sure I’m the antithesis of the “life of the party”…

Wanna know some other hidden secrets of teh League?  Head on over to these sites and read their diaries…

Goodwill Geek, Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, shares some dirty movie secrets

Tim, Flashlights are Something to Eat, shares some dirty Vanilla Ice secrets

Jaime, Shezcrafti, shares some dirty Ace of Base secrets

Brian, Cool & Collected, shares some dirty Survivor secrets

Dex, AEIOU and Sometimes Why, shares some dirty secrets about Britney Spears

Cody, Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, shares some dirty typography secrets