Category Archives: Toys

Spotting some fun stuff in the new Robo Force comic!

So, as I mentioned last month the 1980′s era toyline Robo Force has made a triumphant return with new customizable figure sets from the fine folks over at Toyfinity.  Along with this relaunch of the toys, head honcho John Kent has tapped Jerzy Drozd to help him bring the story of the new Robo Force to life with a webcomic.  The first handful of pages have begun to update and the latest page is slap full of some fun, hidden, 80s cartoon and toy homages!  I thought it would be fun to break them down and see all the cool stuff Jerzy packed in the panels…

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1). First and foremost there’s a little bit of foreshadowing on this page.  In the large middle monitor you can see the shoulder spikes, arm, and chest of Robo Force villain Hun-Dred!

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2). Speaking of 80s Robot Evil Villains, there is a decimated Slaughter Steelgrave on the floor.  Arch nemesis of Hot Shot from the Starriors figures by Tomy.  I’ve talked about my love for these rad interchangeable wind-up figures before

Slaughter Steelgrave

3). Now I didn’t catch this at first (I needed a hint from Jerzy to figure it out), but up in insert panel you can see the avian hood ornament from the Masters of the Universe Wind Raider!

Wind Raider

4). Speaking of cool animal-themed 80s vehicles, jutting out from underneath that insert panel is none other than one of the arms from the ThunderCats Thunder Tank!

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5). But not all of these references are from the far flung corners of the galaxy, off to the right in that above mentioned insert panel you can catch a glimpse at part of Cobra’s Weather Dominator from G.I. Joe!

Weather Dominator

6). If you’ve been following this Robo Force comic then so far we’ve seen a very wrecked looking Wrecker and the sad sight of Maxx Zero (Maxx Steele from the original toys) in pieces.  Looks like he could use this next item to light his darkest hour, the Autobot Matrix of Leadership from the Transformers!

Autobot Matrix

7 & 8). The next two hidden items get a little more obscure and are linked to the same character.  The helmet and power staff of the villainous Cravex from the Visionaries!

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9). This last hidden item made me blush, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that… ;)

So, if you’re a fan of 80s toys and haven’t had a chance to pick up one of the rad new Robo Force figure sets, keep your eyes peeled on the Toyfinty site for an announcement on the next drop of new stock.  In the meantime head on over to their comic and keep up as the story of the new Robo Force unfolds with a new page each week!  I’ve known Jerzy for a number of years, have tabled with him at conventions, talked at length with him and other friends about 80s cartoons and have loved reading his comics work over the years so believe me when I say that he’s putting his all into this new Robo Force comic and it’s well worth your attention!

 

Cheestroyer is eating his way into my heart…

You ever stumble upon a piece of art that feels like it was designed specifically for you, the artist tapped into your brain and cherry-picked a bunch of cool imagery that you love and mashed it up into something new and incredibly awesome?  Well, for me that piece of art just happens to be the Cheestroyer, a rad independent toy created by the fine folks at Bad Teeth & Double Haunt.  He’s a little Mayor McCheese (cheeseburger head), a little Gamera (turtle kaiju), and a little Skeletor (the skull and furry underpants) with a dash of cephalopod for good measure!

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Hailing from Australia,Bad Teeth & Double Haunt are preparing to unleash their Mini-Cheestroyer figurine in 2014.  Their recent resin releases have all sold out, so the guys have decided to produce the “little cheeseburger monster” in a vinyl edition, but they need a little help to get everything up and running so they set up a Kickstarter for the production of the toy.  The first planned wave will consist of Glow in the Dark, Crystal Clear vinyl and Clear with Guts editions! Other pledge rewards include hand-painted resins, clear resins and copies of the Cheestroyer comic book.  I mean seriously, look how ferociously cute this monster is!

Cheestroyer

There’s only one week left to get this rad little creature funded and unleashed on the world, so if you dig art toys and turtle monsters with cheesburger heads, go pick yourself up a Cheestroyer!

 

The Return of Robo Force!!

As a kid growing up in the 80s I felt pretty lucky when it came to be exposed to all sorts of different toy lines.  I was pretty obsessed with a lot of the usual suspects, G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Masters of the Universe and Transformers of course, but also got into some of the smaller or more obscure stuff like Dungeons and Dragons, Blackstar, Go Bots, ThunderCats, Silverhawks, Air Raiders, Starcom, etc.  In this more obscure subset, one of the toys I had that I’ve developed an amazing appreciation for over the past decade of reveling in nostalgia is Robo Force.  I only had one figure as a kid, Wrecker, the black and yellow muscle of the heroic robots.  In fact, I ended up finding Wrecker in the woods behind my house, caked in mud with his chest sticker half torn off.  I wiped him down and added him to my collection, fascinated by the intense hugging crushing action of his bendy straw arms, and his huge suction cup feet (foot?)  I’m pretty sure he acted as a stand-in for one of Skeletor’s minion robots when I played with my Masters of the Universe figures, but I never dug into the line enough to really realize what he was or that there were other toys in the line.  If I had to guess it’s because the line was never merchandized well, not like practically every other property in the 80s.

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Sure, there were bedsheets, baseball caps, watches, stickers, a lunchbox and even a magazine, but the line failed to really penetrate the marketplace with the absence of a syndicated cartoon.  There was a single episode produced by Sunbow that aired only once in the evening back in the winter of 1984, but it was never picked up for a full 65 episode run and thus the toy line sort of died on the vine.  A few years ago, when guesting on the early episodes of the Saturday Supercast, the little under-appreciated robots came up in conversation with Jerzy Drozd and our pal HooveR.  Ever since I’ve been really been addicted to the toys and have been picking up mint figures here and there whenever I can find them in the wild, like this Enemy figure I found at a local flea market.

Well, earlier in the year I caught wind that the rad John Kent and his company Toyfinity had purchased the rights to the line and was planning on relaunching it for a new generation of toy collectors.  We’ve seen all sorts of toy line relaunches by the large companies, G.I. Joe, Transformers and MOTU in particular, as well as designer toys heavily influenced by older lines (like the Weaponeers of Monkaa which riffs off of Crystar and the Trasformers), but how often do we ever see fans grab up the official lines and do an actual relaunch of the property?  Not very often, if ever.  To say that I was excited for the possibility of a Robo Force relaunch is putting it mildly, and this past October I finally managed to get my hands on one of the Genesis editions of the new figure kits!

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The first thing you’ll notice is that these new figures are a little different than the originals.  In particular the “action” features of the originals have been dropped in lieu of a more modern modular approach to the design, taking a page from Onell Design’s Glyos system, with which these are completely compatible.   I’m fully in favor of this switch as it both plays into the robotic nature of the characters and I really love the crossover it presents with other independently created figures like the Weaponeers and Glyos.  The ability to customize Maxx, or down the line to mix ad match eventual colorways is super intriguing and opens the line up to all sorts of fun ideas.

So, what’s included in this initial Genesis Edition launch?  The kit comes geared towards making a Maxx Zero figure with the 25-piece build shown above and below…

Roboforce 1

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But there are also 14 or so other pieces that will enable you to change out the tank treads for legs and switch out the hands, heads and weapons.  In fact you have enough pieces to build three other classically inspired Robo Force characters, The villain leader Hun-Dred, Enemy and the heroic Sentinel.

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The additional heads are subtly crafted (much like the heads of Glyos figures) to be multipurposed by twisting them around so that in one direction the head looks like the original Enemy or twisted it becomes Sentinel.

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John and the sculptors even managed to get the effect of Hun-Dred’s raised dome to expose his laser gun eyes!

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Getting back to the launch of this new line, when I first found out about it I immediately wanted to tell a handful of other Robo Force fans that I’ve met over the years, in particular cartoonist Jerzy Drozd who I knew would be over the moon.  Secretly, what I really wanted was to see Jerzy get a chance to bring the characters to live with a comic, and lets just say that all the pieces manged to align just right and that has become a reality with the launch of an online story this past week!

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I’m really excited to see where this line goes, and am eagerly awaiting new sculpts and colorways that I hope will be coming down the line in the near future.  If you’re looking to pick up one of these kits, they’re currently sold out at Toyfinity (a very good sign), but keep your eyes peeled as I’m sure there will be more figure drops soon.  In the meantime, Toyfinity also has a line of rad Mordles minifigs that are pretty darn cool!

 

 

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!

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

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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!

Thrashor is the Master of the Radical Universe

So this summer has probably been the most insane I’ve dealt with in a very long time, mostly of my own doing. Not bad stuff per-se, just crazy happenings going on behind the scenes that have me scrambling and changing things up all over the place. That being said, I feel like I’m finally getting back to being on an even keel and will hopefully be back to being a more productive website writer/maintenance/person guy. Or whatever.

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So, first things first, I wanted to write a bit about some of the super rad stuff I’ve picked up over the last few months. In particular I’ve been meaning to write about 8 Bit Zombie’s last merchandise drop, the one I mentioned a few posts down. I was really excited to see the new crop of T-Shirts, Hats, and swag, but in particular there were a couple items that really knocked me for a loop. Spinning off the popularity of the themed Power Packs (that I raved about awhile back), 8BZ head honcho Ross and his talented artists put together a really cool Garbage Pail Kid inspired pack Garbage Bag!

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Featuring four die-cut stickers GPK style stickers, a random giant print, a large scale “create your own” sticker set, and a collector pin, this $15 package is a love letter to pop culture and Garbage Pail Kids nostalgia. For folks like me who have a mostly complete vintage GPK run, these rad homages are the perfect way to both celebrate and add the collection. In fact, I could easily see myself buying a whole 40-card set of these inspired sticker cards.

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The coup de grace from this past drop though, is 8 Bit Zombie’s first toy, Thrashor, an amazing collaboration between owner Ross, artist Matthew Skiff, Shinbone Creative and True Cast Studio. Thrashor is totally the master of the radical universe made from solid slime-green resin. Based on last year’s Masters of the Universe inspired T-Shirt design, the figure features zero points of articulation, and yet he still manages to be a way better skater than I ever was.

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Not only is this a rad MOTU-inspired inaction figure, but there are a lot of fun little details that I really love including his Power Glove gauntlet and his super cool 8-bit Skeletor skateboard.

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Though the figure sold out of its first production run super quick, fret not as he’ll be back in a new edition soon.

I am a pretty huge fan of what Ross and artists like Matthew Skiff are creating over at 8BZ, pulling the nostalgia heart strings while providing all sorts of cool clothing, gear, swag, and now toys. I’m pretty sure the next step is world domination.

Checking out Funko’s Batman Vs. Joker Throwdown, or Smurfwreck Vs. Shezcrafti…

So, being that the site is called BRANDED in the 80s, it should be pretty evident that branding and package design is something that’s pretty close to my heart. I mean, easily, 50% of the nostalgia I have for 80s is (if you’ll pardon the pun) literally wrapped up in the food packaging, toy card/box art and VHS cover art. So I try and stay pretty hyper aware of what’s on store shelves these days to see if I can spot the stuff that I know I’ll have wistful feelings for down the road. Sometimes I’ll pick stuff up based purely on the design aesthetic alone, especially if I think the company really did something interesting or novel. So I was pretty excited when I saw the reveal of Funko’s new Batman Vs. Joker Throwdown board game during SDCC this year. I’ve been picking up a number of the company’s nostalgic vinyl Pop figures over the past couple years, so they’ve already won me over with their arty interpretation of pop culture characters. Add to this the idea of mashing up a board game with collectable figures and some really awesome packaging and I was hooked.

Batman

So when I had the opportunity to check out Funko’s new game I jumped at the chance. This first game/set centers on DC Comic’s Dark Knight, and is packaged in a giant foot tall hollow Batman. I’m really intrigued by the idea of making the game packaging into a display piece. Not only does it look rad on the shelf, but it ensures that it’ll be sitting out in view instead of ending up being stacked in a dusty closet, sandwiched between old hand-me-down copies of Monopoly and Clue. It’s sort of like bringing the idea of those old Darth Vader action figure carrying cases to the world of board games.

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So what about the game itself? Well, I got the chance to sit down and do some play testing with my BFF Jaime Hood during a trip to the beach this past Labor day. We cracked open the packaging (i.e. ripped off Batman’s head) to get at the game pieces inside. The set up is pretty simple and consists of a game board, two vinyl character figures (Batman and the Joker, but I noticed that expansion packs are planned for a later release), 4 battle dice, some combat cards (including 4 character specific cards for both Batman and the Joker and 8 community mystery cards), and a handful of power-up coins. The general idea is taking turns attacking and defending. Each player starts with 10 life, and whoever can dish out 10 points of damage the quickest wins.

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Though each character has their own specific hand of cards (that they can play after they’ve collected 3 power up coins), the function of the cards is identical for each player consisting of two attack and two defense cards. The only difference is in the theming. The game is designed to be quick and relatively balanced, so it’s more akin to tic tac toe than chess, but there is an element of strategy in when to utilize the limited character attack and defense cards. The wording of some of the cards and rules could be a little more clear, as there where points concerning when one could and couldn’t defend against damage that were a bit murky, but overall it’s pretty easy to pick up and play.

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With all of the pop culture properties that Funko is currently licensing I’m really curious to see if there are more editions of the board game on the horizon. I’d love to see a General Mills Monster Cereal edition packaged in a giant Franken Berry or better yet, a Gremlins edition complete with a little Gizmo and Stripe packaged in a giant Mogwai.

Also, as far as the play-testing went, and for the record, Jaime slaughtered me both times we threw down.

Thinking About Becoming a Professional Podcast Guest…

So, diving back into the online world after the last couple of months not only means more articles in the works at Branded, but I’ve also switched back on my microphone and honored to be asked to guest host (or take part on a panel) on a number of podcasts.

First up, I was part of an 11-blogger panel on the first episode of the Rediscover the 80s Podcast (and I’ve been remiss in getting the word out as this show went live at the end of May!)

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The brainchild of Jason Gross, this is one mammoth show done in the style of VH1′s Do You Remember series where the panel discusses all sorts of 80s pop culture facets and we provide a running commentary.  From Ghostbusters to Turbo Teen there’s a lot of ground covered and pretty darn fascinating getting so many of us pop culture histories talking about these movies, cartoons, commercials and musical acts!  Gross is currently hip deep in putting together the 2nd and 3rd installments and I can’t wait to hear them!  So head on over and give it a listen, well worth your time if you’re a child of the 80s…

Next up (an a much more recent announcement ;) ), I was asked to come on to the Forgotten Filmcast to discuss one of my top ten favorite flicks from the 80s, Streets of Fire!  I chatted with host Todd all about Walter Hill, Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Willem DaFoe, the rad music (in particular the work of Face to Face as the real band behind Ellen Aim and the Attackers), and some spiritual film connections!

Forgotten Filmcast

Todd is a really knowledgeable and charismatic guy who knows his cult films!  I had a blast on the show and can’t wait to hear what he covers next.  Check out episode 8: Streets of Fire and tell him Branded sent ya!

Nerd Lunch

Last, but certainly not least, a new episode of the Nerd Lunch Podcast dropped today, episode 91, where I joined hosts CT, Pax, and 4th chair guest Howie Decker to discuss the 80s era G.I. Joe A Real American Hero toyline!

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We discuss what we had, what we coveted, what we lost, and what we’d like to acquire in our collecting over the past 30 years.  Head on over, give the episode a listen, and weigh in on whether or not Crystal Ball, Raptor, and Dr. Mindbender need to reunite for a soul singing trio called No Shirts Required!

A Good Thing About Moving…

So I recently moved house, which is part of what’s been keeping me so silent on the internet these past few months, but in the process I found some treasures I didn’t even realize I had!  A little while after my sister passed away I took charge of all the family photos so that I could organize and scan them all so we’d have an easy to share set of digital snapshots.  My main focus was getting to all the pictures of my sister, but I kept a stack of photos of myself as a kid that I haven’t had a chance to look through until this past month.  One of the awesome side effects of a move (seriously, you have to try and look on the bright side right?) is that it forces you to take stock of everything you own.  It all has to be packed up, moved and unpacked, so you get a couple chances to find things that have been lost or discover things you never realized you had.

One of laments about my childhood is that by the time I came along my parents had lost a lot of the zest for taking pictures that they had with my sister.  So I don’t have any Halloween photos, or all that many Christmas morning shots.  Well, apparently my parents had been sitting on some pictures that are exactly the kind of things I’ve been dying to post on Branded but thought didn’t exist.  There weren’t a ton, but there were a few really cool snapshots, like this one of me and my friend Timmy playing with his Millennium Falcon sometime in 1982…

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Man, how I remember coveting that thing!  I had some really cool Star Wars junk as a kid (a couple of At-Ats, an X-Wing, Snow Speeder, and a Y-Wing), but isn’t it always the case that the stuff you didn’t have always seemed cooler than the stuff you did?  Well, at least I got a chance to play with it and wasn’t just drooling over the pages in the Sears or JC Penny Catalogs…

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…

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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…

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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…

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

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…the Varsity (great hot dog place)…

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…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!

My Trap Jaws are Ver-Clampt…

So while taking the below picture this morning I realized two things.  One, I need better lighting in Branded HQ, and two, I think Trap Jaw might be edging out Merman as my favorite character design in the Masters of the Universe toy line.  It worries me a little as I wonder if I’m falling into the Boba Fett trap (no, not the pit of Carkoon, the one where he gets a lot of love based on his design and not the actual character.)  Think I need to watch some more MOTU episodes this weekend and reacquaint myself with the character…

I just got my new 2000-era Trap Jaw in the mail and it seemed like an opportune time to snap a picture of it with one of Jerzy Drozd’s awesome crayon-colored sketches I have framed.  One of the things I’ve been trying to do this year has been changing the way I spend my Amazon Associates kickbacks.  Instead of just buying DVDs, I’ve been saving them up and buying some of the 2000 reissues of the MOTU toys for the walls at Branded HQ.  They go great next to the 25th Anniversay G.I. Joe figures and the vintage-style Star Wars toys.  Love starring at this stuff while I podcast.