Category Archives: Toys

Voltron Assembler < Voltron Giant Commander

It was nearly impossible to be a kid growing up in the 80s suffering through the onslaught of product merchandising and not have a moment of pure greed and weakness where you simply just “had to have” some ridiculously expensive and outlandish toy.  Whether it was the elusive Transformers Devastator gift set, the shimmering She-Ra Crystal Castle, or the juggernaut that was the G.I. Joe U.S.S. Flagg aircraft carrier.  You begged, pleaded, bargained, and schemed in order to score that thing you just couldn’t bear to live without regardless if your parents could afford it, or in the case of the Flagg, if there was even room to house it!  Whether or not you managed to secure your grail, I have to assume that there was an epic battle of wills with the parental units when attempting to acquire it, and years later the scars of that battle are probably still healing.

For me, that battle was fought in the attempt to get my grubby little hands on what I considered the most epic toy of all time (or at least the years between 1982-1988), the Voltron Giant Commander!  Released in 1984, it was almost 24 inches tall, had nine brilliant points of articulation, came with his patented flaming sword, and best of all, it was freaking motorized!

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That 2lb hunk of beautiful plastic was what I considered the pinnacle of toy technology as a kid and I coveted it something fierce.  What’s weird is that even though I watched the Voltron cartoon from time to time I was never really a huge fan of the show.  But the design of the Lion Voltron completely knocked my socks off and it was one of the sets of toys that my parents never saw fit to pick up for my birthdays or Christmas.  That just added fuel to the fire of my lust after I saw the commercial for the Giant Commander on TV, most likely in the middle of watching Saturday morning cartoons.  I used to lay in our den and daydream about how much more awesome my life would be if I had a two-foot tall Voltron at my beck and call.  Sure, it wasn’t strictly a remote control toy as the control box was connected by a three foot length of wire, but that almost made it even cooler in my mind as if that wire were a leash, and the Voltron was my motorized pet!

I seem to remember pleading my case to my parents for at least two solid years straight at every chance I got, much like Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB Gun shenanigans from A Christmas Story.  Needless to say, unlike Ralphie, I never got my wish, and even though as a kid there was always a hole in my heart for that toy, I did eventually get over it.  And bless his heart, there was one time when my Dad attempted to “get my that damn toy” I was always harping about, but in pure parent fashion he sort of completely missed the mark.  My father was a fiend for visiting our local flea market where I grew up.  It was (and still is) called Flea World and was located out on 17-92 just outside of the Orlando area.  It boasted a hundred stalls located inside an air-conditioned space (which was actually 3-4 trailer units, like schools use, jury-rigged together), and he loved seeking out deals on off-brand golf equipment and getting burgers from the food court.  Well one day he came home from Flea World and told me he got me that Voltron I wanted.  To his credit, he did but A Voltron…

Voltron Assembler

Five inches tall and made of cheap, hollow plastic, this Voltron Assembler was not at all what I had in mind when he said I could go grab it out of the car.  As a kid it sort of felt like my dad was messing with me on purpose, but he was very earnest and proud that he managed to find that “damn toy robot”.  I never let him know I was disappointed, doubly so when one of the arm and leg connector knobs each broke off after only ten minutes of play (which I masterfully hid by inconspicuously Super Gluing it back together, as well as gluing my fingers together in the process.)

Looking back, I’m actually glad I never managed to win my parents over because I’m sure the Giant Commander was a let-down.  A couple years later then ended up getting me that monstrosity that was the U.S.S. Flagg (for the record I never asked for it) and it was such a waste of their money.  Sometimes those huge, expensive toy holy grails are just not what they’re cracked up to be…

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Monster Merch!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nThough the theatrical release of The Monster Squad was an unfortunate failure (grossing around $3.8M against a estimated $12M budget in its two week big screen run), looking back I’m surprised that there wasn’t even a miniscule attempt to merchandise the film.  Most of those decisions and all of that work typically comes in the year leading up to a movie’s release, and seeing how this was made at the apex of 80s era merch and branding when even films specifically aimed at adult (Robocop, Rambo II, and The Toxic Avenger) were getting toy lines, branded school supplies and lunchboxes.  In my eyes The Monster Squad is a licensing goldmine.  I mean there are great creatures to make action figures out of, there are a ton of catch phrases worthy of t-shirts, and they had a deal in place with both Burger King and Adidas, I mean come on, where are my BK Collector Glasses featuring the monsters or my navy blue satin Adidas jackets emblazoned with the Monster Squad logo?!?  Speaking of Adidas, I love this Monster Squad tie-in poster that was used in shoe stores back in 1987.  I wish I could get a better scan of it, but alas, this is not in my personal collection (I saw in on ebay years ago and stupidly passed on bidding…)  I would kill to have this on my wall now…

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Anyway, getting back to the point, in the years since the movie came out and the cult and fandom have been increasingly growing, we would eventually see a handful of products produced.  The two main ones that spring to mind are both related to Stan Winston, Steve Wang and Matt Rose’s interpretation of the Creature, and both of which were high-end and limited releases that a lot of folks may have missed.  The first one I want to highlight is an official model kit of the Gillman designed by Steve Wang and sold by Kaiyodo in Japan around the mid 90s…

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Kaiyodo Turnaround

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Amazingly badass, this kit would look great on my shelf if I had the budget for buying such things.  the original model was not painted and is made of solid resin.  The example above was assembled and painted by Tom Gilliland (Sideshow Collectible’s creative director) and Don Rutherford and can be yours if you have $500 burning a hole in your pocket

The next item is another resin model, this time a full, to scale bead bust of the Gillman sculpted by Jeremy Bohr for Black Heart a few years ago…

gillman Black HeartSpeaking of the Gillman, back in 1988-89 we almost got an unofficial Monster Squad Gillman toy as a part of the doomed Mattel MaxFx line of Barbie doll-sized action figures.  You may have seen the MaxFx Freddy Kruger figure that was eventually released, but basically the concept of the line was to have a standard human doll on whcih you could preform your own special effects horror makeover.  The line was planned to be much larger than the figure or two that were eventually released before it disappeared from toy shelves, and part of that proposed line was a Creature From the Black Lagoon style figure that used the Monster Squad Gillman as it’s inspiration…

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The figure’s sculptor Mel Birnkrant details the whole sordid story over at his website and you can see some of his other figures in this youtube video he uploaded…

Now let’s take a look at today’s Trading card…

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Today’s card is #24, Behind the scenes with Stan Winston and team!

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The 5 Monster Sickness…

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nNot long after I left the theater when I caught my first screening of The Monster Squad the film began to worm its way into my psyche in some strange ways.  One of the most notable is in how I choose to collect certain things, specifically monster memorabilia.  Since 1987 I’ve become a huge fan of the original Universal Horror films and own practically all of them on DVD and love finding variations of the monsters in any form of be it toys, soda cans, ephemera, or what ever.  But when I collect it’s hard not to try and put together a set of the monster rogues gallery from The Monster Squad.  I partially blame the iconic Mount Rushmore of monsters painting that Craig Nelson did (which you can see in this month’s Branded Halloween banner), but honestly no collection of any one iteration of monsters is “complete” for me unless at least the five main characters are there.  It’s a sickness really, but still I embrace it.  Here’s a sample of some of the toys in my collection that reflect this…

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When Lego started issuing their blind bag minifigs a few years ago I was super stoked to see them including some classic monster figures.  Not only was it cool to see my favorite genre represented, but as the sets progressed there were more and more popping up and my secret wish of having a set of Monster Squad Lego was coming to fruition.  Of course, for a while there were only four of the five monsters I wanted available.  Like in most monster toy sets the Gillman was noticeably absent and just to make myself feel a little better I ended up sticking in a weird mutant fish creature Lego from the Atlantis set to fill that hole.  Then three years ago the collection was finally “officially” completed when Lego began releasing their Monster Fighters sets and one of the first to hit toy shelves was a small Gillman play set.

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Though I completely missed out on Monster In My Pocket figures the first time back in 1990 (and the M.U.S.C.L.E. figure craze that spawned MiMP), I have since been scouring junk bins and yard sales looking for a handful of figures that would represent The Monster Squad for me.  For years I was short one minifig, the Wolfman/werewolf, but I lucked out recently and the super gracious and badass Stacey Rader happened to have an extra in her collection and she helped my monster team feel complete!

Though the above sets are pretty darn awesome, there are a number of collections that I have that are still short one monster, but I’m always holding out hope that I’ll one day be able to fill in the gap.  Like I mentioned it’s almost always a variation on the Creature From the Black Lagoon Gillman, and sometimes I find a fun way to find a substitute for him like in this set of monster Smurfs that were issued five or six years ago…

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Around 7 or 8 years ago there were a series of Universal knock-off toys that were popping up at dollar stores around the country that I fell in love with.  Again though, no Gillman…

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Like I mentioned above, my collecting isn’t just limited to toys, for a number of years I was also collecting monster themed soda cans and for the past 6 years or so the 7-Up company has been putting out a set of monster mini-cans for Halloween.  But who was always absent?  Yup, the Gillman…

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After years of collecting, dusting old cans and worrying that one day I’d find a pool of soda all over my shelves when one of the cans sprung a leak (as my friend Paxton has said, it’s not if, buy when), I finally decided to take a bunch of pictures and then empty and chuck the cans.  Of course the very next Halloween we finally get a Gillman can…

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This also effects some of the ephemera in my collection. I love trading cards and stickers, and “the sickness” has invaded these collections too, like these Universal Monster trading cards that were issued in a six card packs by Impel in 1991. I stumbled upon these in an antique store last year and loved that I had an “instant” Monster Squad Monster collection…

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Sure, The Bide is butting in on the Frankenstein’s Monster cards, but it’s close enough. I also have a set of the ’91 Pepsi monster cards…

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Man, the monster push in 1991 by Universal was awesome and I wish they’d do that again during another Halloween soon.

Last but not least on the trading card front is this collection of some of my favorite Garbage Pail Kids stickers. Of course there isn’t a Gillman GPK, so I had to improvise…

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These collections were also a bit of the inspiration that drove me to making my own set of Monster Squad Topps-style trading cards for this year’s Countdown, and by the end of this month everyone will be able to have a digital set of those monster cards!

Speaking of stickers, I’m also always on the lookout for some neat monster stickers, especially if all five of my favorites are represented. The really swell artist Sabrina Parolin illustrated and printed up these swell Monster Squad stickers a few years ago…

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Like I said, this weird collecting is a monster sickness, a Five Monster sickness…

Now, onto today’s trading card…

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #4, Patrick Rhodes!

4 Patrick Rhodes F-B

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Awkward Toy Family Photos…

Though I’ve been more or less away from the site for the last few months, I’ve still been mucking about with some geeky nostalgic stuff.  In particular I’ve been having some fun on Instagram taking a series of photos of my current toy collection.  Since I’ve broken down and started picking up some more vintage toys lately (ones that I used to own not mint on card or in box), as well as picking up some modern nostalgic figures here and there, I thought it would be cool to jumble these up and create some goofy Awkward Toy Family photos to document the collection.  That’s one of the things that I enjoy about Instagram is that it only takes a few minutes to grab a few toys from the shelf and snap a picture before heading out to work.  It’s never going to replace Branded, but when I’ve got a crap ton of real life things eradicating my time to write, it’s a great way to still feel engaged. So, with that in mind, here are some of the photos I’ve shot over the summer…

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This is one of the first I shot, and it was just totally on a whim.  I love the idea of Faker giving piggyback rides.  My good buddy HooveR had sent me this Captain Power figure and that small act of kindness is pretty much what helped me break through my aversion to procuring loose, used, old toys.  I had forgotten how cool the Captain figure was and had a blast pairing him up with my Masters of the Universe figures, so I just said “screw it” and started hitting up eBay.  So thanks Hoov! ;)

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Speaking of the Captain, here’s a photo for a failed 80s band that could never reproduce the popularity of their first and only major label record.  Emmdubs, a swell dude I follow on the social media was kind enough to send me his old Miles Mayhem figure, and I had just recently picked up that sweet Tux Go Bot mint on card at a local antique shop for only $7.

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I envisioned this photo as three hard working dudes getting together after a tough day of doing whatever jobs requires wearing these cumbersome masks.  Emmdubs has also sent me this Matt Tracker figure, and I went ahead and pulled the trigger on two of my favorite childhood action figures from the Star Wars and G.I. Joe lines (the AT-AT Driver and Wet Suit.)

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Next up is my cadre of feathered heroes including Quicksilver from the Silverhawks (the only Silverhawks figure I owned as a kid), Jason from Battle of the Planets, and Gizmoduck from DuckTales.  I had this GD cereal premium as a teen and cherished it so much that I turned it into a lucky necklace and wore it to my high school graduation.  Some ridiculous teacher saw it and snatched it away from me and I never found her to get it back.  By the by, man is it ever hard to find a decent condition Silverhawks figure.  The chrome plating wears off so easily so 97% of the loose figures I’ve seen look terrible.  Took forever to find this one…

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Here’s a weird toy robot family photo including my all time favorite Transformer Sideswipe, Cliffjumper, a cool Decoy of Smokescreen, and my favorite Go Bots toy, the Super Go Bot Psycho!

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Switching gears a bit, here’s a picture of some of my favorite childhood motorcycles (Sly and Piranha & Brad Turner and Condor from M.A.S.K. along with Afterburner from the Transformers.)

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Here’s another early one that I’ve posted before featuring a D&D Wardule, Tonto from the Gabriel Lone Ranger line and a demon from Blackstar.

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For those of you who are longtime readers you’ll know that I love Robo Force and I REALLY love their sweet hugging action feature…

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Remember that time He-Man and Teela ended up in the spirit world and really needed some help getting the new tenants of Castle Greyskull to move out?  Beetlejuice was not the greatest option, but they had to try…

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Some of my favorite super hungry and ornery aliens and ghosts!

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Hands down, my favorite G.I. Joe figure had to be Dial Tone.  Such an under appreciated figure and character.  He’s posing with a sweet water color portrait by the kickass Christopher Tupa!

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I also ran across some of my Micro Machines star wars tiny mini figures, so I did a couple of shoots with them and their larger counterparts.  Admiral Ackbar can not repel cuteness of that magnitude!  As for the Gamorean Guard and Greedo, I think the guard got the better end of this trade by far…

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And speaking of Greedo, last but not least, Greedo playing Space Invaders (which was what I was fiddling with while recording a recent episode of the Nerd Lunch podcast with the Retroist as a guest…)

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So check me out over on instagram.  I try and post regularly and do my best to keep it fun!

 

Knights of the Holographic Light!

After I started reacquiring some of my childhood toys recently, specifically picking up a number of the more obscure figures from the less popular lines, there have been a few figures that have rocketed up to the top of my to-find list.  Taking a break from the more well-known properties like G.I. Joe, Transformers, Masters of the Universe & M.A.S.K. and focusing on the lesser known stuff has been kind of liberating as my personal shopping list has become way more manageable and compartmentalized.  Instead of trying to track down affordable bulk lots or prioritizing my favorites from one of the larger lines I can focus on a single figure from a specific series since I tended to only have one or two figures from each of the weirder properties.  Happening upon a carded Gabriel Tonto figure, a Blackstar  demon, or a Dungeons & Dragons Warduke has been a really fulfilling experience, so when I went on the hunt for the next childhood treasure I had my sights set on a very specific action figure, Witterquick from the Visionaries!

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Released by Hasbro in 1987, the Visionaries were sort of like a mystical, fantasy version of G.I. Joe.  In fact, not only were the toys manufactured by the same company, with similar designs (similar articulation and size), but the accompanying animated series was also produced by Sunbow with a number of the same voice actors and writers and had very similar animation.  Though not as popular, the toy line only had one wave of figures and the animated series had just a single 13-episode season that aired on Saturday mornings.  Though I have very fond memories of plopping in front of the TV and watching the cartoon, I only managed to acquire one action figure, the scarlet speedster who calls upon the power of his totem deity Light Speed by proclaiming “Sheathe these feet in the driving gale, make swift these legs, o’er land I sail!”

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One of the main conceptual draws of this toy line was the inclusion of holograms both in each character’s armor and in a totem staff.  There were two opposing forces, the Spectral Knights (with a unicorn as their group totem) and the Darkling Lords (who have a dragon totem.)  Holograms were pretty darn popular in the 80s and early 90s (as seen in these amazing Lazer Blazers stickers), and as far as I know this was the main toy line that incorporated the technology into the figures.  Though it could easily have come across as super gimmicky, I really love the way they’re used as the holographic images are a great stand in for the magical energy that the characters exhibited in the cartoon series…

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Not only were the holograms pretty darn awesome, but all of the characters had cool removable helmets, which was always a plus in my book.

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I feel pretty lucky that I managed to not only find a complete Witterquick (so many of these figures on the secondary market are missing their chest plate holograms and helmets), but the guy I bought the figure from kept him in very good condition and even had the original filecard clipping!

Witterquick Filecard

I’m glad the I got that as well because it has a some of the original packaging artwork intact.  Like the other Hasbro 80s offerings, the Visionaries boasted some amazing airbrushed artwork.  I also felt pretty lucky as I found this figure at a very reasonable price.  These tend to sell for pretty ludicrously inflated rates, between $50-$120 carded, and even upwards of $30-$40 loose and complete.

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Now that Witterquick has joined my collection, there is only one main obscure action figure left that I need to kind of complete my vintage toy collection, Quicksilver from the Silverhawks.  The hunt is on…

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 having a nostalgic ReAction to these toys!

If the 80s was all about an insane amount of merchandising and toy branding, there was one small place where we were all sort of collectively let down by this blitz and that’s movie-themed toy lines.  Sure, we had a ton of Kenner Star Wars figures, there were a handful of Raiders of the Lost Ark toys, and we even got four Legend of the Lone Ranger figures from Gabriel, but there were so many hugely popular flicks that never had lines released.  I’m looking at you Ghostbusters.  Most of the toy lines were tied into either cartoons, or cartoon spin-offs of movies (okay, we did have Real Ghostbusters toys, but it’s just not the same.)  It really wasn’t until the 90s when we started to see movies regularly getting their own short run toy lines (the Shadow, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, and Dick Tracy all spring to mind.)  So for years us 80s kids had to really concentrate, evoke the theme song of the Muppet Babies, and use our imagination (said with all the extra syllables baby Piggy added in the cartoon.)  I distinctly remember using my G.I. Joe and Star Wars figures to play V or the Last Starfighter (the B-Wing pilot from RoTJ made a good stand in for Alex from the Last Starfighter, and if you turned his head around he makes a nice Shocktrooper from  V.)

In the past couple of decades a lot of toy companies have done some fun work addressing the lack of 80s movie toys, but the figures are usually in the 6-8″ scale and are sculpted in such a way where they tend to only work as one-pose plastic statues.  Again, fun, but it they never really hit that “action figure” nostalgia I have for Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures.  Well, last year a couple of companies teamed up (Funko and Super7) to release vintage Kenner-style figures based on original molds for the movie Alien.  These were a huge hit with really fun retro inspired cardbacks and limited articulation and detail in the sculpts.  Sure, it’s a little gimmicky and it evokes a false sense of nostalgia, but who cares, these figures are a lot of fun!  Based on the success of that line Funko and Super7 have launched a much larger line of these ReAction figures that will start hitting stores this month.  Most of these toys feature characters from movies which either never had toys or never had complete lines, but there are also a few sets of TV Show figures thrown in as well.  There’s a lot of great stuff in the line including stuff from the Terminator, Predator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, Halloween, The Crow, Escape From New York, Pulp Fiction and the Rocketeer, but the two lines that have really grabbed my attention are a series of Goonies and Back to the Future figures!

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I can’t even express how long I’ve wanted to have vintage style Goonies figures.  In this first wave there are five figures including Sloth and the kids (Mikey, Mouth, Chunk and Data), and I hope they sell well enough that we can get a second wave featuring at least Stef, Andy and Brand, but I’d love a set of Fratelli’s for sure.

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I know a lot of folks have been bummed that the sculpting and paint apps are super simple, but I actually like that.  It reminds me a lot of the original Star Wars figures and honestly these toys aren’t about photo-realistic accuracy, they’re about having fun toys to have further make believe Goonies adventures with.  Besides, if you’re like me then you’ll want two sets, one I can open (and have fun with) and one to hang on the wall of Branded HQ.  The card art alone is worth it for me on these.

I’m not quite as jazzed about the BTTF figures, though mostly this is because the design team at Funko/Super7 chose to use one standard image for the card art (and in doing so chose NOT to license/use the bitchin’ Drew Struzan poster art.)

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It’s not a huge deal, but because of the repetitive card art these won’t look as good on the wall, so I’ll probably just end up opening a single set…

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Again, I hope these sell well enough for a second wave because I’d really like to have a Loraine, as well as a Marty in the radioactivity suit as Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan!  As it is, at least I can re-enact George punching Biff in the parking lot of the Enchantment Under the Sea dance…

The Goonies figures are slated to be released in October while the Back to the Future figures should be hitting pegs in June.  They’re all up and available for pre-order at Amazon right now!

Apparently 8 is the magic number…

So, in just a couple of weeks Branded in the 80s will turn 8 years old.  Though it’s kind of arbitrary, we tend to focus on the “big” anniversaries in the five-year increment territory, but I had a couple of milestones I really wanted to hit when I started this project.  The first was making it to the seven year mark because I have a special fondness for that particular digit.  The second is marking the 8th birthday of the site because again, it has a special meaning to me.  I first dreamed of having my own little spot on the internet back around 1998.  I’d been farting around the interwebs via AOL and Compuserve and I really wanted to stake out a small piece of the digital landscape to do something.  My best friend, who was in the midst of getting his computer science degree at the time, had just recently built a website for a class project and he promised me he’d help me build one of my own.  It never materialized, though a lot of that had to do with my not knowing exactly what it was that I wanted to do with a website.  Regardless, that marks the beginning of what would eventually become Branded, and it took me eight long years of brainstorming and procrastinating before I eventually settled on what I wanted to do.  So in the back of my brain I’ve always hoped that I’d be able to keep this thing going at least as long as it took me to get it off the ground.  Well, mission accomplished I guess.  As for my next milestone, well, I don’t really have one I guess.  I’m kind of curious to see what will happen at the eleven year mark considering that will mean that I would have spent slightly more time talking about the 80s than the decade itself lasted.

Anyway, when I look back at where the site started and where it really took off for me the one aspect that kind of changed everything was when I started investing in a pretty stupidly large collection of 80s stickers to scan and share.  Part of this came out of wanting to acquire a bunch of the stickers I had as a kid, but another was that there was a distinct lack of sticker scans floating around on the internet and I felt like it was an opportunity to contribute a small portion to the digital nostalgic pop culture zeitgeist.  One of the aspects I love about the nostalgia-minded community is the eagerness to share the cool junk that we love.  So it was pretty neat timing that while I was thinking back on all of this I was approached by the cool lady behind the rad RainbowBrite.co.uk website with to help share some fun stuff.

cologo01She obviously runs a pretty neat Rainbow Brite fan site, so she acquired a bunch of info and ephemera to post up there.  But in her research and collecting she’s amassed a bunch of other cool non-RB stuff that she felt needed to get out there.  So she graciously offered to send me some scans of a pretty neat 1985 Mattel Events Guide to share here at Branded.  Tying this in a bit more into my silly milestone is that I just happened to turn eight the year this Event guide was published (seriously, there has to be something to this, numerology-wise…)

Mattel Events Guide 1

These event guides were sent out to retailers as a way for Mattel to bolster excitement for their product lines and I’m sure to secure a larger market share of the retail market by encouraging stores to increase orders and devote more shelf and peg space to Mattel stuff.  They did this by helping to host local in-store meet and greet events with some of Mattel’s most popular brands and characters.  So if you were lucky enough to shake hands with Skeletor at a Toys R Us back int he day, most likely this was one of the guides that the store had to help them schedule and promote the event…

Mattel Events Guide 2

It’s really cool to get a glimpse into this aspect of the marketing and promotion of some of our favorite toys from back in the 80s.  Not only is it cool to see some rad artwork that only exists to promote these in-store events (like the neat illustration of the Hot Wheels play area that was shipped to the store), but it’s also awesome to see and read about some of the swag for the event that was either given away (like the Hot Wheels kid’s drivers licenses) or became a “free item with purchase” like the super cool Hot Wheels combination watch/wallet below!

Mattel Events Guide 5

1985 was also a great year for Mattel toys because they were hip deep in the Marvel Secret Wars toy line…

Mattel Events Guide 4

What really struck me about this Secret Wars event is that it wasn’t just geared towards boys.  Mattel makes it clear that “boys AND girls” will received a free water color poster.  That kind of inclusion back in the 80s seems pretty rare, but then again, Mattel worked on some pretty progressive toy lines like these two favorites, Princess of Power and Masters of the Universe!  I mean I know most of the boys who were into He-Man were also secretly into She-Ra…

Mattel Events Guide 3

Man, I feel like I missed out so much on these in-store events.  I never managed to attend one and after reading through this guide I feel like I missed out on some amazing experiences and swag.  So, I wonder if a little boy could have been initiated into the Legion of Good receiving a free golden power ring and poster?  I sure as hell hope so.  Also, holy crap, a 15 foot high replica of the Crystal Castle?!?  How awesome would that have been to see?  I wonder if the stores had to ship them back or of they were ordered to destroy them.  I have to imagine that one of these must have made it into a private collection.  Hell, at that size it would practically be big enough for kids to play in as a fort.  The mid boggles at the possibilities…

Mattel Events Guide 6

Apparently for ’85 Mattel introduced new full body costumes for He-Man and Skeletor.  I’ve seen photos of buff guys in the He-Man duds before, but never a full body costume like this complete with toy-accurate mask and all.  I like that they even managed to replicate the spiny fin on Skeletor’s wrists (like on the toy…)  Sadly there was no 15 foot Castle Greyskull or Snake Mountain, but there were some pretty rad glow in the dark posters!

Mattel Events Guide 7

A lot of this stuff has to be pretty rare.  I searched for awhile and couldn’t find and example of the glow in the dark Masters of the Universe poster (not even on He-Man.org!)  So it;s cool at least to get a glimpse into this promotional world to know that this stuff exists.  FYI, there’s a bit more to this Event Guide, specifically the Rainbow Brite section, but if you want to see that head on over to the cool RainbowBrite.co.uk to find out what was in that in-store event.  Thanks again to them for sharing this rad piece of 80s toy ephemera and helping to make the nostalgia community that much richer!

Mattel Events Guide 8

 

Reclaiming my Childhood: Miscellaneous Edition

So I’ve written numerous times about how much I want to rebuild the toy collection I had as a child and how difficult that is for me because I’m not all that fond of buying loose used toys.  I have a  mental block against buying another kid’s memories if that makes sense.  So my stance has been to patiently wait until I find min on card (or mint in box) versions of the stuff I want.  Again, this comes with its own set of hurdles, mainly monetary in nature.  As much as I want to re-collect these treasures, I find it next to impossible to fork over much money to procure them.  Same story told a million times by other toy collectors and nostalgia buffs.  Lately my tactic has been to ignore the really popular toy lines, the Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Star Wars and M.A.S.K. in lieu of searching out the more obscure stuff.  Depending, the prices can be much cheaper and there aren’t quite as many 30-somethings clamoring for them so they’re easier to snag without getting into bidding wars on eBay.

I was pretty excited this past weekend when I stumbled upon one of these slightly more obscure toys at the local vintage toy shop I’ve been frequenting.  Sitting there in a glass display case was a single carded Tonto action figure from The Legend of the Lone Ranger line by Gabriel from 1980…

Tonto 3

Sure, the card was pretty beat up with a huge crease across the top, but this is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for on my vintage toy hunt.  The intention isn’t to keep the figure hermetically sealed on the card anyway; I want to open it up and hold it again.  So for $10 how could I pass this up?

Tonto 4

I originally had both Tonto and the Lone Ranger from this Gabriel line based on the 1980 film.  I honestly don’t think I ever saw the movie but I did catch the old black and white series on reruns and loved the Filmation cartoon, so at some point I must have begged my parents for these.  I must have been 3 or 4 at the time.  Though I’d love to reacquire both figures, Tonto was always my favorite because he came with both a pistol and a really neat buck knife.  I wrote about this action figure line awhile back as well

Tonto

I also vividly remember loving his purple belt/sash.  Even as a kid I appreciated fun color matching in my action figures.  With both of the figures I had, my favorite aspect was that you could actually holster their pistols and sheath Tonto’s buck knife.  This was pretty advanced for action figures this early in the 80s.  I mean aside from some removable helmets and the lightsaber action on the early Star Wars figures most toys weren’t that intricate.  These also had knee-joint articulation as opposed to the Kenner figures, a stepping stone that would lead to the broader range of joints that Hasbro would use with G.I. Joe.

Tonto 2

I love the card art for these toys as well, working in the tone and style of the movie’s poster art, but instead of just cloning the painting they did a new piece just for the toys…

Tonto 5

lonerangerposter3

I also love the Silver Bullet on the back of the card.  I’m not positive, but I wonder if the idea was to treat the bullets like the Kenner Star Wars points (or the later Robot and Flag points that Hasbro offered with Transformers and G.I. Joe) so that kids could save them up and use them to mail away for special promotional figures or sets.  There was actually a mail-away cardboard playset for these Gabriel figures, but weirdly enough the form requested that kids cut out the character names from the cards to act as the proof of purchase?!?  Check out this ad my good friend Paxton posted on his site The Cavalcade of Awesome when he was taking about the similar Kenner Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid toy line from the same year…

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Total missed opportunity to use the Silver Bullet Points!  Just another example that I was born too late to make awesome branding decisions for these companies.  Gotta work on that time machine…

Anyway, over the past couple of months I managed to pick up some more slightly obscure action figures I had when I was a kid.  I thought this would be a fun time to share those as well.  My parents took some chances on odd toy lines and I’m curious whether they thought that I wasn’t interested in them or if they just bought them as a fluke?  I had a bunch of figures in which I only owned one or two of the toys like the ThunderCats (just had Mumm-Ra and Slithe), Silverhawks (just had a Quicksilver), or Tonto and the Lone Ranger.  In this same camp were Warduke (from the LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) and some miscellaneous Blackstar villain figure (which I must have quickly rejected or lost) because I had one of the little included neon green demon PVC figures…

Blackstar Demon

I’m really loving picking up this miscellaneous figures since they’re basically one and done.  They really feel a lot like a true missing piece to my past being put back in place.  I will say that I broke my normal loose figure buying rules with these.  I saw the Galoob Blackstar Demon at a toy show up in Baltimore and I couldn’t beat the price.  Besides, it’s not like I want to shell out the moolah for a mint Blackstar villain on the card when I’m not even sure which one I had.

DandD Warduke

As for Warduke here, well, I recently won a D&D Dwarf figure from this same line from The Garage Sale of Awesome and it felt weird owning that and not my long lost Warduke.  I had some Amazon cash burning a hole in my pocket so I picked one up blindly from a third party seller for a couple bucks.  He’s not in the best shape (mostly some gauntlet paint wear and he’s missing his rad shield and ice sword, but I’ve researched MOC prices for this little guy and man, that is just never going to happen on my budget!

All in all these guys make for one awesomely Awkward Toy Family Photo!

Awkward Family Photo 80s Toys Edition

They also look great in my collection that adorns (read: is taking over) my entertainment center…

Toys

Now, if I can just find a cheap Quicksilver figure from the Silverhawks line…

Geeky Valentines weekend shenanigans

This past weekend my girlfriend Jaime and I took the opportunity of some downtime to check out a couple of cool sites in and around Baltimore.  I’m still seeing a lot of the city for the first time and we lucked into a pair of free tickets to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum right across the street from the Orioles Stadium, so we thought it would be fun to head downtown and check it out.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.  I only heard the words comic museum and toys, but I was intrigued.  When we pulled up to the building on Saturday morning it was a little unassuming, but as soon as you walk inside you’re bombarded by large-scale banners of all sorts of pop culture fun from 50s era tin toys to recreations of famous comic covers done in a more modern style.  Once you get past the front desk you’re greeted by an amazing hallway covered from floor to ceiling with rare film one-sheets, product merchandising ephemera, and some pretty inspiring artwork (including a couple breathtaking conceptual pieces from the ’66 era Batman TV series!

museum

The museum is broken up into a series of seven or eight individual exhibits including a comic book retrospective, a turn of the century comic strip showcase, a local Baltimore pop culture collection, a collectible and art show centered on African American works, and a number of rooms full to the brim of collectibles and antiques divided by decade.  There’s so much amazing stuff on display that you could probably spend an hour in each of the rooms and not see everything in one visit.  The comic retrospective alone is worth the price of admission as there are some truly “amazing” pieces in the collection including copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 and Action Comics #1!

comics

shawn Jaime

In addition to some of the heavy hitter powerhouse comics above, there was a really nice collection of 50s & 60s era EC, Atlas, and Dell comics, as well as a bunch of those really cool mini hardcover digests from the 30s and 40s featuring The Shadow, Buck Rogers, and Tarzan.  There were some nice Esiner Spirit inserts which I’ve also never seen in person before.  I loved getting a chance to see some of the rarer formative books in person for the first time, but it was also rad to see copies of more modern books like issue one of Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the wall of 90s era books featuring all sorts of gimmicks and cover enhancements (that I bought into back in the day hook, line, and sinker!)

In the comic strip exhibit I was a little bummed that there were no copies of Little Nemo in Slumberland, but there was a surprise that totally made up for it.  I was really excited to see a couple of Winsor McCay Gertie the Dinosaur drawings.  I mean talk about animation history!

gertie

All of the comic book stuff was really neat, but the rooms where my eyes really lit up were the rooms dedicated to pop culture collectibles and toys.  From Disney, Popeye, and Little Orphan Annie all the way to the Transformers, Masters of the Universe and (gasp!) Vanilla Ice, there was something for everyone on display.  

girly

Some of my favorite older pieces included a LOA decoder pin (which of course elicited a series of A Christmas Story quotes from both Jaime and I) and a really nice collection of vintage PEZ dispensers (featuring three of my favorite Universal Monsters)…

pez

There was also a display of Monkees memorabilia, teen magazines and and a sweet insulated lunchbox that I would have killed for as a kid.  I grew up watching the series on Nickelodeon and for all intents and purposes they were my first favorite band (with a little competition form the Beach Boys and Weird Al.)

monkees

As far as the more recent stuff, the toys and collectibles that I have some true nostalgia for, Geppi’s did not disappoint.  Though I wouldn’t call the collection exhaustive, it was diverse enough to be really fun and it featured items that don’t tend to get the same spotlight shown on them.  So whereas they had a very nice mint in package Transformers Jetfire, as well as an Optimus Prime and Grimlock, I was honestly more excited to see their collection of Super Friends (Nabisco) and Star Wars cookie and cereal boxes!  I remember collecting the Super Friends boxes for awhile around the time that the first Burton Batman film hit theaters…

cookies

There was also a nice collection of vintage MOC Dukes of Hazzard toys.  Not quite as obscure, but still not as popular as the Transformers.

dukes

I loved seeing these because of it just drives home how cool the impending Funko/Super7 ReAction figures are that are about to start hitting the pegs.   In addition to all this there were also some weirder pieces and arrangements in the collection that showcased the sense of humor of the curators.  Whether it was the BFF placement of the Buger King and Ronald McDonald or the oddly suggestive C3P0 tape dispenser, Geppi’s surely has a lighter side to their exhibits…

best buds

C3P-Wow

If you’re in the Baltimore area and you want a fun place to spend and afternoon I’d highly suggest stopping into Geppi’s Entertainment museum.  There’s a to to see and they also have a pretty decent pop culture gift shop.  I could leave with out a swell ThunderCats Mumm-ra vinyl Funko Pop figure!

On Sunday we braved the icy streets and made our way further south into Washington, DC, specifically the Georgetown area so that we could visit a cinematic landmark I’ve wanted to see for a long time.  For those of you that are horror fans, you’ve probably already figured out what I’m talking about by the mere suggestion of film and georgetown, but for those who might not know, The Exorcist was filmed in and around this area back in 1972.  I’ve wanted to visit this town and walk the staircase where Father Karras took his fatal plunge in the film…

excorcist 2

Let me just say that picking the dead of winter to visit this site was a precarious decision indeed.  The streets leading to the steps were on steep hills and coated in inches of thick slippery ice.  Luckily the steps themselves were pretty much ice-free, so we could still traverse them.  Also, in an odd turn of events, Jaime had secretly cued up the Exorcist theme so she could be set to play it as we walked the staircase, and before she could actually play it it automatically started playing as we approached it!  Maybe there’s a weird hidden glitch where based on your GPS Spotify will surprise you with rad music cues.  Or maybe Pazuzu possessed her phone :p

excorsist 1

All in all is was an amazing Valentines day weekend…