I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Gamer & Other Strangeness

Recently while organizing one of my bookshelves I found myself reminiscing over a stack of my old RPG game books.  I haven’t gamed in well over a decade and a half, but I’ve clung to the various modules, rulebooks and expansions because I spent so much time pouring over them I can’t imagine not having them around.  I first discovered table-top gaming as a dorky teen.  My father had just recently moved our family across country twice within a year and I felt disconnected from everything save what was going on in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine.  It was the end of 1990, and having just turned thirteen I was also caught up in the whirlwind hype of another group of “teens”, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, thanks to becoming slightly obsessed with the first live action film that was released in theaters earlier that year.  I was basically living exclusively through and for the fantasy worlds of cartoons, movies and comics having had to leave my friends and sister in Florida, and then not even getting a chance to connect with any other kids while I was up north for 9 months.  Our family ended up putting down roots just outside of Atlanta and after scouting out a local comic store where I could get my monthly sequential art fix I began to feel at home.  At the time comics were my lifeline for sure…

AmazingSpider-Man328It wasn’t long after that I was enrolled in the local middle school, finally starting my eighth grade year of school about three weeks late.  I spent my bonus summer vacation time in an extended-stay suite while our family was waiting for our new house to be finished being built, and I was suffering from terrible case of cabin fever and feeling utterly disconnected from other kids.  Though normally an extreme introvert, when I first started riding the bus to my new school I was kind of dying to break out of my shell and meet some new kids.  One afternoon I was sitting alone behind two guys that were having an animated conversation about comics.  I wish I could remember exactly what they were talking about (if I had to guess it was probably McFarlane’s art on issue 328 of the Amazing Spider-Man featuring the “Mr. Fixit” grey Hulk), but whatever it was I was so happy to have found some other comic readers that I did something I had never done before.  I butted myself into the conversation telling them all about my comic collection and how one of my favorite comics was issue 8 of Wolverine that also featured a guest appearance by Mr. Fixit.

51a588cfa953c84589

I offered to bring in doubles I had for that issue for both of them the next day, and thus started a friendship with a group of local misfits that lasted all through high school and college.  It wasn’t long after this that they introduced me to another friend of theirs and before I knew it we’d sort of formed a tight nit group of four, like the Three Musketeers and d’Artagnan, or more appropriately, the TMNT.  We all watched the Fred Wolf cartoon and had a smattering of action figures, but after a chance encounter with another local teen on the bus that winter we were introduced to the glue that would keep our little cadre together for years to come, the core rulebook for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness…

TMNTandOS

There was a couple of older kids that were a grade ahead of us (in high school!) that we kind of knew and traded comics with occasionally and one day they brought the above book on the bus and it kind of blew our 8th grade minds.  I think we’d all heard of Dungeons & Dragons, but none of us was really all that into high fantasy and never contemplated that there might be role playing games that were outside of that genre, let alone based on a comic/cartoon series that we all liked.  Within the week all four of us had manged to secure copies of the main book and we were all on the lookout for sets of non-standard dice so we could start creating characters and figure out how to play this game.  I remember bugging my parents relentlessly to find a place where I could get some role playing dice, and after consulting the phone book I found a store in a ritzy mall 30 miles away called the Sword of the Phoenix that specialized in stocking all sorts of dice and game books.  That weekend we made the trek out and I bought my first two sets of clear gem dice (one purple and one blue.)  I only have a couple of these left in my collection (two four-sided) that you can see below…

donnydice 1

Looking back this entirety of the experience is kind of a blur, but for about three or four years we had a standing Saturday gaming session that rotated between a handful of our houses.  Typically these involved a metric ton of Cheetos, Cool Ranch Doritos, white cheddar Smartfood popcorn, yellow vanilla Zingers, and gallons upon gallons of store-brand soda.  At the time these weekend meetups seemed so epic in scale.  We’d all take turns acting as the gamemaster, writing what we thought were magnum opus stories to test the intelligence and mettle if our group, though in reality only a couple of us were semi-decent at running the campaigns (certainly not me) and the rest of us were more concerned with equipping our characters with stuff and jukeing up their abilities.

The basic concept of TMNT & Other Strangeness is creating mutant animal characters that exist in same world of Eastman & Laird’s creations.  It’s sort of like combining the A-Team and the Turtles, where the game master creates environments for a group of characters to have an adventure in.  I say the A-Team because the game is sort of geared towards creating mercenary-like characters in battle-torn militant environments.  It didn’t help that we all read comics like the X-Men and were well versed in the Star Wars universe, so when we wrote stories they tended up feature a tyrannical villain with hordes of nameless soldiers put in the story specifically for our characters to annihilate.

TMNT Space

It’s actually funny that we ended up playing as long as we did as we all kind of sucked at the core concepts of role playing.  We all tended to try and shoehorn the play into a more hack and slash video game experience, and we very rarely worked together as a team no matter how hard we tried.  When it was all said and done, each of us was way more interested in creating a whole bunch of characters, outfitting them, and doodling pictures of them, rather than actually playing them in a game.  It wouldn’t be until a few years later when we all made the switch from the Palladium gaming system (the publisher of TMNT and other games like Robotech and After the Bomb) to the more story-oriented system published by White Wolf (Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, etc.) that we’d evolve a bit.

After the bomb 2

In fact, it got so bad in our group that we all became game-lawyers, spending hours debating and arguing over rule and character creation minutia.  All of our copies of the core rule book were heavily underlined, with highlighted passages and notes in the margins.  We probably spent more time arguing than we did gaming, yet it still kept us regularly meeting up and “playing” for years.  Over time we also drafted other friends into playing with us, and at one point there was about 10 of us rotating in and out of the group.  The fighting between the group became so fever pitched that it eventually came to a head and it formed a schism between the founding four members and we split the group in two to play separately, complete with spying between the two factions and a whole bucket-load of hurt feelings.

Weird TMNT

I hate to admit it but at the end of the day we all sucked at role playing.  Even so, I wouldn’t have changed a single second of the experiences I had being a part of that group of friends.  When I look aback at these books now I get a visceral sense of what I felt like at the time, a mix of heady nostalgia and fear that I’ll have to try and create a campaign all on my own again!  I also fondly remember what it was like finding a group of friends and what it felt like to be included.  To have our own little clique where it was us against everyone else.  Back when we first started hanging out we all chose one of the Turtles as our mascot.  Over the years my recollection of who picked who was kind of hazy, and I would have sworn that I picked Donatello since he’s my favorite character.  But while flipping through my copy of the book last night I was greeted by some very awesome notes that were scribbled in the book that reminded me that I was totally a Raphael guy…

TMNT Friends

Just four geeky teens against the world.

 

Vintage Electronics Art and a Contest!

Lately I’ve been thinking about some of the cool electronic gadgets from the late 70s and early 80s, stuff like Simon, Speak & Spells, and those neat mini table-top versions of games like Galaga and Pac-Man.  It seems like I keep coming back to them, whether it’s after spotting them in the Awesome Bedrooms I’ve been dissecting lately (like the Speak & Spell in Poltergeist, the Super Simon in E.T. or the table-top Pac-Man in Flight of the Navigator), or after getting my very first Simon as a gift from my girlfriend’s parents this past Christmas.  So I was pretty stoked when I stumbled upon this rad series of screen printed posters from Boiling Point Creative called *Batteries Not Included…

Boiling Point 4

Highlighting such great games like Parker Brother’s Merlin, Texas Instruments’ Little Professor, Mattel’s Electronic Football, Coleco’s Galaga, and Milton Bradley’s Simon, this series of three prints is packed with nostalgic eye candy.  Though I never had most of these as a kid (I had a damaged Speak & Spell that I got in a trade for a bit before it stopped working), I used to drool over and covet the few my friends had.  In particular I remember I was always finding an excuse to being up math questions at my friend Ajay’s house so that he’d let me use his Litter Professor to find the answer.

Boiling Point 1

My favorite in this series is the table-top arcade games though.  I think I’d actually love a single print highlighting just that Galaga game as it’s probably my favorite video game of all time…

Boiling Point 2

This series is also available as a series of hand-printed greeting cards too which would be an awesome way of keeping in touch with your vintage-minded gaming friends…

Boiling Point 5

Contest!

So, I’ve partnered with the nice folks at Boiling Point for a little contest.  They’ve agreed to give a lucky Branded reader one print of their choice from this series!  To enter all you have to do is, like the Branded in the 80s Facebook page and then E-Mail me a picture of yourself with your favorite vintage handheld or table top electric game (it can be a picture from when you were a kid getting them for a birthday or Christmas, or a picture of you with your favorite piece(s) from your vintage collection.)  I’ll do a followup post showcasing all the images sent in and I’ll pick one lucky entry at random on Wednesday the 26th of February.  So get digging though your childhood pictures, break out your phone and take a selfie with your vintage game and good luck!

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…

Pop Culture Cartography

I was recently flipping through a few of my issues of ThunderCats magazine (as you do) and decided to finally remove and unfold some of the included posters that each issue contained.  Most of them are pretty bad, awkwardly painted versions of the characters in a sort of collage, but one of them kind of blew my mind.  It was a full on map of 3rd Earth!

Map of Third Earth

It looks like it’s pretty much strict to the season one stories as there’s no mention of the Lunataks, but it’s still pretty damn amazing.  I love knowing that the Ro-Bear Berbil village was right behind Cat’s Lair and that Castle Plun-Darr is out in a little peninsula.  I shared this scan on the Branded facebook page and on Instagram and when I was talking to folks about it, it reminded me that I had a couple other pop culture maps in my collection.  The first one that sprang to mind was another magazine centerfold, though this time it was from issue number four of Muppet Magazine from 1983…

Fraggle Map Muppet Magazine Issue 4 Fall 1983

The lands of Fraggle Rock!  Of course, this is just the immediate vicinity of the day to day Fraggle wanderings and doesn’t account for the vast lands of “Outer Space”, but I have to assume that Uncle Traveling Matt has this covered and is working on more maps…

Of course, my favorite map in my collection is a replica of One Eyed Willie’s treasure map from the Goonies.  I have it handing on my living room wall right next to a nifty portrait of the Fratellis by Matthew Luxich, a replica of the doubloon, and a print by Scott Fuller.

Goonies Art

goonies map

After wracking my brain I also realized that I had a map of Nockmaar from the film Willow that was in an old Sourcebook that I used to have….

Map of Nockmaar Willow

…as well as a pretty rad map of the Smurfs’ village that was an insert in the really cool World of the Smurfs book I reviewed a few years ago!  Though the Smurf book is out of print, it’s is still pretty easy to snag over at Amazon.

Smurf Village Map

Talking about these on Facebook, the super rad Douglas Bodine sent me scans of an amazing map of the world of The Dark Crystal!  The map was included in an old storybook called The Tale of the Dark Crystal

Dark Crystal Map

The last piece of pop culture cartography that I have is the map that was included in William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (which I totally forgot about until my girlfriend Jaime pointed it out…)

princess bride

I bet these would look pretty awesome framed and on the wall (well, I know the Goonies map does for sure.)  It also has me wondering what other cool pop culture maps are hanging around out there.  I know that a series of maps for the lands in the Masters of the Universe were just released with the MOTU Classics figures including Eternia and Etheria.  I’d love to get my hands on those.  So, any other cool pieces of cartography that are 80s-centric?

A Super Fun Show…with Learning!

I recently stumbled across a pretty fun web series created by and staring Lexie Kahanovitz called Super Fun Show with Learning!  It’s a weird mix of animation, puppetry, and live action comedy that takes a dystopian, cartoon-addled look at the millennial generation’s experience.  Imagine Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by way of Kidd Video filtered through the lens of David Cronenberg.  After being downsized by a cyberpunk middle manager who only talks in corporate-speak, Sandy Childs, the heroine of the series, has to figure out how to survive with no money, mounting debt, and an addiction to personal electronics.

SFSPromoStill

There series homages Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Videodrome, with a little bit of Who Framed Roger Rabbit thrown in for good measure (specifically the tone of the shoe-melting scene.)  With an NES chiptunes soundtrack and the a color palette straight out of Windows 95 MS Paint, the first episode is a trippy look at modern problems with a playful injection of 80s/90s era nostalgia.  It reminds me a lot of another independent film project I had the opportunity to preview recently, Don Thacker’s Motivational Growth (which I’ll be talking about in more detail over at the Cult Film Club soon.)

The first episode is available for free on youtube, and Lexie and crew are hard at work on the second installment and have a kickstarter going to try and secure some funding.  I know I’m curious to see where the series goes, an she totally secured my dollars when she states in the KS video that the second episode will feature a sequence inside the TV that they need “…to make an amazing Tron suit…” for, so I backed the project.  If you dig what you see maybe you’ll be interested in helping to fund it too.  I will say, though it’s more or less pg-13, it’s more on the Videodrome side of things than say Kidd Video, so be warned ;)  If you decide back the project, leave a comment and tell ‘em Branded sent ya!

Is it worth revisiting 80s films on the big screen?

It may sound weird, but I find myself asking this question a lot.  Over the past decade I’ve noticed that a lot of the films I grew up loving have started seeing revival screenings in movie theaters.  It actually probably started in the late 90s with the 20th anniversary of Star Wars and the special editions that were re-released on the big screen.  Not long after there was a 20-year anniversary screening of Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut of Alien, and eventually there was the 2002 special edition of E.T.  At the time I was in college and hitting the theater multiple times a week as it seemed like I had tons of free time and extra money for catching movies.  These days both time and money seem to be vanishing into a black hole and I barely make the room in my budget or schedule for new movies, let alone flicks I’ve seen dozens, sometimes (gulp – I’ll admit) hundreds, of times.  I tend to throw on 80s flicks while I’m farting around home, doing chores, cooking, or just for background noise while I’m working on the site.  So I feel like I’ve seen so many of these movies to death, and when the opportunity comes for catching one of them on the big screen I always find myself wondering if it’s really worth it.  I found myself skipping out on a lot of opportunities to catch these flicks in the theater until this past fall when I snagged some unbeatable deals.

There’s a small theater chain in my area called Studio Movie Grill that’s been hosting a series of semi-monthly $2 screenings featuring one-night-only engagements of some pretty cool 80s flicks like Ghostbusters and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.  At two bucks I couldn’t pass up on the chance to see both of these on the big screen again (both of which I saw back in the early 80s, E.T. during both it’s initial run and when it was brought back into theaters in 1985.)  I had a lot of fun reliving the theater experience with these, both of which were filled with families that were exposing their kids to them for the first time (as I gleaned from overhearing parents explaining the various plot points during the movie), but would I still go in the future if I wasn’t getting such an awesome deal on admission?

Short answer?  Yes.  Emphatic yes.  If you would have asked me before I went into both of these screenings if I thought I’d learn or experience anything new about these movies that I’ve seen so many times I stopped counting, I would have chuckled and said no.  I mean between the ability to practically get the theatrical experience at home on a 60-inch screen with surround sound, or slim likely hood that I’d notice anything that hasn’t already been documented a million times on the internet, what new could I really get from seeing these in the theater?  Well, I would have been wrong for dismissing the experience because for the first time in a very long time I saw these movies with totally fresh eyes.  I’m sure part of this is the communal theater-going vibe, but I noticed so many little details that I never noticed before.

For instance, in Ghostbusters I never noticed how many times the Stay Puft brand is peppered throughout the film before we get to see the form of the Destroyer that so innocently just pops into Ray Stanz’s mind.  When Dana comes home from shopping she unpacks a bag of Stay Puft marshmallows for one, but there are also mural advertisements on the sides of buildings in some shots!  Also, did you know that none other than Ron “The Hedghog” Jeremy has a cameo appearance in the crowd scene right after Walter Peck has the containment unit shutdown?  Yup, he’s there in the crowd.  I also never noticed the Chinese hat Ray is wearing as a thank you gift in the montage sequence when the Ghostbusters’ business is taking the city by storm (when they apparently helped a restaurant rid themselves of a spook.)

As for E.T., I took extra special care to keep an eye out for details in Elliot’s room since I’d been having so much fun analyzing the bedrooms in 80s kid’s flicks recently.  I already did an examination of his room a while back, but damn if I didn’t find more stuff!  First of all, when I originally dissected the room there was a weird dart board cabinet that I couldn’t identify (number 15 in the below picture…

ET 4

Well, it was as plain as day on the big screen.  #15 is in fact an Artful Dodger dart board cabinet from Oliver Twist!

artful dodger

Now that I’ve identified that it doesn’t do much to explain why the Artful Dodger is on a dart board cabinet, but still, mystery solved.  In addition to this I also noticed some more toys in Elliot’s room, as well as in their living room!

ET 1

1). Chutes and Ladders boardgame

2). Magic 8 Ball

Magic-8-Ball-Fortune-Teller-Alabe-Late-1960s

3). Lego Universal Building Set

4). Empire Strikes Back Twin-Pod Cloud Car

cloud car

5). Super Simon Electronic Game

super simon

Though the Super Simon box is in the screen shot above (in Elliot’s room), the game itself is actually on a shelf in the living room…

ET 2

But for the first time I noticed that there are also some other fun things in the living room like…

6). An Atari 2600

7). Big Trak from Milton Bradley

big trax

There were also a bunch of other small, fun things I noticed throughout the film.  Little details, like how John Williams drops into Yoda’s Theme for a could of beats during the Halloween scene when E.T. sees a kid dressed up in a Don Post Yoda mask…

ET 3

…or the fact that Dee Wallace is wearing a really weird handgun pin on her vest in one sequence…

ET 4

Sure, these things haven’t radically changed my outlook on the film, but any time I have the opportunity to learn something new about a film I thought I knew everything about, well that’s worth a full-priced movie ticket if you ask me.

I’m actually pretty excited as the Studio Movie Grill has announced their 2014 schedule of $2 revival screenings and there are a bunch of flicks I can’t wait to see in the theater (and for some it will be the first time I’ve seen them on the big screen.  There are two categories of events, the Brews & Views and the Family Rewind.  The former features some more recent fare mixed in, but there are a few flicks I’m looking forward to catching…

Bews and Views

Totally looking forward to catching Alien, Temple of Doom, and Jaws.  As for the Family Rewind, there’s way more on that list that I’m going to try and catch…

rewind

I mean, holy crap, I never got a chance to see The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, Goonies, Annie, The Princess Bride, and Gremlins in the big screen as a kid, and I can’t wait to see Back to the Future and Big on the silver screen again.  All in all this looks like it’s going to be a fun year at the movies catching up on all my favorites from the 80s!  So seriously, if you get a chance to catch a revival screening, or you have a Studio Movie Grill near you, it’s totally worth seeing these flicks in the theater again.  You won’t regret it!

Rebuilding the 80s, brick by brick…

So it was announced today that the 7th official Lego Cuusoo project is going to be brick artist Brent Waller’s Ghostbusters play set.  I was pretty excited when I saw the news because the work he did on his Ecto-1 is kind of beyond superb…

1549310_10152217027712328_111670752_n

Not only is the Ecto-1 really beautiful, but his minifigs of our four heroes managed to really nail the personalities of Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter.

77167_10152217027727328_1524457537_n

For those unfamiliar, Lego Cuusoo is a community-building based platform to submit ideas to Lego.  These projects are put out to the public for support, and if they garner enough attention and votes the project is submitted to a review board for the possibility of becoming a production set.  The set that drew my attention to this concept was the Back to the Future DeLorean submitted early last year…

thumb640x360

The DeLorean wasn’t the first “branded” Cuusoo project, but it’s the first older property that I’m sure fans have been making builds of for years to finally see an official release.  I haven’t picked it up yet, but it sure is tempting.  The final build is slightly different than the proposed version above, a little blockier and a bit less sleek, but it’s still pretty fantastic…

81Wx-muW+dL._SL1500_

Coming hot on the heels of M. Togami’s Back to the Future DeLorean, this new Ghostbusters project got me thinking about what other possible 80s era projects builders have in the works.  I mean with two major 80s properties now available you know folks have to be scrambling to showcase their skills on other franchises.  It reminded me of a pretty rad series of Goonies sets I saw up on the site recently designed by a builder that goes by the handle Lyonsblood…

goonies 1

These Goonies sets manage to capture the adventure and aesthetic of the film in a very condensed format.  Take the organ of bones play set he calls Skeleton Scare.  The slide, the pit of spikes and the overall design of the cave are very rad and easily evoke the flick.  He’s also designed a set for One-Eyed Willie’s pirate ship…

goonies 3

But what really sold me on the Goonies designs were the minifig sets of both the Goonies gang, as well as Mama Fratelli and her boys.

goonies 2

goonies 4

As neat as these were I figured they’d probably never see the light of day, but after seeing Funko release a series of vinyl Pop Goonies figures there might be some hope just yet!  So, what other fun 80s-centric projects are floating around on Lego Cuusoo?  How about this rad large format build of the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee by artist Kenta974!

Dukes of Hazzard 1

Dukes of Hazzard 2

I love how he rendered the rebel flag on the roof, though it’s a design element that is the nail int eh coffin of this project never coming to fruition.  I’d have a hard time seeing Lego seek branding approval for such a controversial symbol as that iconic flag.  Even so, the build is awesome.  While we’re on the subject of rad cars, how about this super cool rendition of the Knight Industries Two Thousand by StevesXD

Knight Rider

He really managed to nail K.I.T.T.’s sleek curves and I think any Knightrider fan would love to have this on their shelf…

How could we have the Ecto-1, BTTF Time Machine, the General Lee and K.I.T.T. without the A-Team and B.A.’s super cool van?!?  Thanks to Isreal Lemus, we can take a look at a possible design as well as Hannibal, Murdock, B.A. and Faceman…

A-Team

Are we likely to see these other projects coming to full Cuusoo fruition?  Probably not.  I’d have to hazard a guess that the A-Team is too violent a property, the Dukes of Hazzard too controversial, and Knightrider not quite popular enough on the pop culture spectrum to garner enough potential buyers, but I think that the Goonies set has an honest to goodness shot if it can manage to get enough votes to put it in front of the review board.

The only build that’s absent from this list that really surprises me is Airwolf.  I must have spent two solid years trying to perfect my own “Lady” out of my rag tag mix of Space and Town sets as a kid.  I’m really kind of flabbergasted that no one has submitted a build for one on Cuusoo yet.  I couldn;t close out this post without one though, so here’s a beautiful build of the “Lady” by artist Orion Pax

Airwolf

small_IMG_0078

 

Shuffle them Duke boys good Rosco…

I mentioned in this past weekend’s Battle Cat toddler hopper piece that I found something pretty nifty and cheap at a local vintage toy shop.  I went into Billy’s Toys expecting to come out with something, I mean with the sheer amount of cool vintage stuff he has on hand it’d be hard to leave empty handed.  I had expected that item to be a toy though, since that’s what he specializes in.  Though I had my eye on a couple carded Bionic Six figures and a pretty rad Tonto figure released by Gabriel back in 1981, as I made my way through the store a number of times I just couldn’t decide what I wanted.  That is until I spotted a small orange box in the back of a glass case which featured some very familiar faces…

Dukes of Hazzard Card Game

It had to be kismet as I was just lamenting last week that there didn’t seem to be enough 80s era properties being used to make board and card games.  With my girlfriend Jaime I’d just picked up a copy of Looney Labs Back to the Future card game released in 2010.  We’d had fun learning the mechanics and playing that, and though I’m looking forward to breaking out that deck again I was kind of hoping that there were more games out there that were similar branded with some of the other movies and TV shows I grew up loving so much.  So when I laid my eyes on this Dukes of Hazzard card game box I was pretty darn excited!

Dukes of Hazzard Card Game 3

Though the box was a little beat up, the cards were all accounted for and in really good shape.  After reading through the rules a few times I’m still kind of confused on how exactly the game works (it never states how many cards can be played per turn, or if there is a strict hand-size, etc.), but I’m still champing at the bit to break this out during our next game night.  Even of the game itself isn’t a hit, I’m pretty enamored by the artwork on the cards which was well worth the purchase price alone…

Dukes of Hazzard Card Game 2

Of course, once I realized these cards existed it eventually led me to eBay so see how many other 80s era, vintage, branded games were floating around out there.  I knew there were several board games (Knightrider, Goonies, G.I. Joe, Indiana Jones, and the Silverhawks just to name a few), but I was more curious about card games.  Let me just say there are A LOT of them and I kinda went nuts picking up a bunch that were pretty reasonably priced.  Soon copies of the E.T., Return of the Jedi, G.I. Joe, A-Team, and Transformers card games should be winging their way into my collection and I have my eye on the Gremlins, Munsters (granted, it’s from the 60s, but I still grew up on them), Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, and Masters of the Universe games as well.  Some of these are pretty basic from the descriptions and consist of standardized decks built for playing run of the mill games like War or some form of picture puzzle matching, but others seem a little more original.  Either way, I’m pretty sure Jaime and I have some fun game nights in our future.

Which reminds me, in addition to breaking out that new Back to the Future game we recently bought, Jaime also introduced me to the insanity that is Electronic Mall Madness!

mall madness

I think we’re definitely going to have to breakout my copy of Go For It! soon as well…

 

And then there’s that time you almost spent $600 on a toddler toy…

So, felt a little listless hanging around the apartment this weekend and decided to make the 45 minute trek up to my favorite local vintage shop called Billy’s Toys.  I just recently picked up an almost min-on-card Transformers Afterburner there and I was curious about some of the store stock that I probably missed on my first visit.  The place is literally packed floor to ceiling with toys, statues and comics.  They’re hiding in buckets and boxes, tucked in-between shelves and even slid underneath some of the glass display cases.  It’s kind of ridiculous in the best way imaginable and feels a lot like falling down the rabbit hole when you step inside the small store.  I decided to give myself a strict budget of $30 because if I didn’t I’d probably end up signing over my bank account and all future earnings with the sheer amount of stuff that I want to take home from this place.

There were a few things that caught my eye in the $20-$30 range (in particular a couple of mint carded action figures including Rock 1 from the Bionic Six and a Gabriel Tonto) but I restrained myself and ended up leaving only ten dollars lighter in the wallet.  I’ll be taking some pictures and scanning in some amazing artwork for a piece later in the week to share my new treasure, but I have to share something else I saw in the store today, something I’d only heard rumors about and have never laid eyes on until today.  Much like the supremely rad Star Wars Speeder Bike Jungle Gym, the following holy grail item is proof that there are kids out there that had a way better childhood than I did.  Behold, the Masters of the Universe Battle Cat toddler hopper!

Battle Cat Hopper

This piece was truly a thing of beauty.  It’s easily three feet long, four feet high, and 2 and a half feet across.  Seriously, this would be like having a baby Battle Cat as a pet, it’s that large.  I can’t even count the number of times I daydreamed about hopping on Battle Cat’s back and riding him through the woods near my house, chasing down all the older kids who picked on me and giving rides to all of my close friends.  To find out that I could have had that experience as a kid (well, more or less) is kind of mind blowing.  I have to be honest.  Even with my very strict budgetary limit set, I seriously mulled over the idea of dropping six bills on this guy if only to mount him over my bed or couch.  I practically had to drag myself out of the store!

I wonder what other amazing pieces of ride-able pop culture amazingness I missed out on in my childhood?  Was there a coin-operated Airwolf ride in malls?  A fully decked out Street Hawk BMX bike?  A Transformers Sideswipe Power Wheels?!?

Teeny Tiny Thunderhawk

Things have been pretty nuts this week, but yesterday there was a slight calm in the storm with a very fun mail day.  Last week I showcased my collection of pop culture 1:64th scale die-cast vehicles and in the comments my good buddy Jason Gross of the super cool Rediscover the 80s website and podcast (of which I was a guest) pointed me to something I didn’t know existed, a Hot Wheels-sized Thunderhawk from the cartoon/toy line M.A.S.K.!  It didn’t even occur to me to hunt for 80s era action cartoon vehicles in this scale, and after a quick scan of eBay one of these little beauties was purchased and making its way to my pop culture parking lot…

photo 5

According to the original baggie it came sealed in this was a premium offered by Kenner in 1986 and produced by Yatming Diecast, a Chinese toy company that has since moved from 1:64th scale offerings to more upscale adult collectors cars.  I have no idea what the promotion consisted of to snag one of these back in the 80s, but from what I can tell there were no other M.A.S.K. vehicles produced in this size.

photo 4

I was so stoked to open the box and release this car from the original baggie.  Though it’s cool having the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine and Flintstones family car in my collection, this is more in line with what I really want parked in my tiny pop culture garage.  If only there were some G.I. Joe, Transformers or Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors vehicles available in this scale!  I suppose I could pick up the Hot Wheels Retro Entertainment release of Ren’s yellow VW Bug from Footloose and add an Autobot symbol to the hood for a makeshift Bumblebee…

photo 3

This toy isn’t an exact replica of Thunderhawk unfortunately.  For one, it’s missing the rad spoiler with the purple grid pattern, but more importantly the doors are in the classic style of a standard 1983 Chevy Camero instead of the super cool gull-wing doors from the cartoon and standard M.A.S.K. toy…

photo 2

THAWK LWB

Even though it’s slightly different, it’s still close enough for me, and it’s official!  So happy to add Matt Tracker’s ride to my collection…

photo