Tag Archives: hasbro

The Official Unofficial Visionaries Collectors Guide & Contest!

4461391534_02cce86892_oFor fans of 80s era cartoons and toys it’s hard to argue that we’re truly living in a Renaissance that is seeing so many of our beloved properties being celebrated.  Not only are a lot of these brands being re-envisioned with upgraded “classics” style product launches like the new Mattel Masters of the Universe figures, Transformers Classics, and the recent 25th anniversary G.I. Joe line of action figures, but there are also a lot of outlets focusing on the original toys and animation who are producing some amazing stuff like the 3D-Joes Carded Figure prints or the recent Masters of the Universe and Transformers art books.  If you’re a fan there are literally thousands of cool and eclectic collectibles on the market to quench your nostalgic thirst.

Sometimes it even feels like there may be too much new stuff, like there’s a tidal wave of products about to come crashing down on the fandom, drowning us all in an ocean of cool stuff.  I know that probably sounds a little dark, but it’s honestly how I feel at times while trying to keep up.  That’s why I often find myself tuning out and just try and focus on one interest at a time.  It’s why I was never all that interested in treating Branded as a hub for 80s fan news as it’s just too much work for one person to stay on top of everything.  Hell, even focused sites (like the ones concentrating on singular 80s era brands like YoJoe.com or or any of the million Star Wars sites) must have a hell of a time keeping up.  Luckily though I’ve met a lot of amazing people over the years through Branded, and they’ve been super cool tipping me off to cool new relaunches and products.  One of these folks has always gone above and beyond, the witty, kind and super gracious HooveR, and I feel lucky to call him a friend.

IMG_5423

Hoov recently sent me a couple copies of the official, unofficial Visionaries Collectors Guide that was published this past April by Punch Party Press, a small two-man outfit out of the UK.  Though I was a huge fan of the cartoon as a kid I only manged to get my hands on a single action figure, Witterquick (I wrote a piece about re-acquiring him after 25+ years), and I’ve always been a little surprised that the Visionaries seemed like they didn’t have the same sort of fan love that other similar b-level properties have (like the ThunderCats and the Silverhawks.)  So when Hoov told me that there was a small press company working on a collector’s guide I was pretty darn excited.

IMG_5426

The book was crowdfunded on Kickstarter this past year and somewhere along the way Hasbro (who produced the original toy line and own the rights to the property) stepped in and sort of changed the focus of the book in terms of how it would be marketed and released after publication.  Christopher Ibbit and Gemma Tovee came to an agreement with Hasbro that would let them print and distribute the book, but they were only allowed to sell it for 1¢.  I don’t know the specifics of the deal, but I’d have to assume that they were allowed to keep and use the money raised on Kickstarter to fund the bulk printing and shipping of the books to the backers.  Since the books were also available for a time after the crowdfunding ended, I’m also assuming that the pair had more books printed than were needed to fulfill the backer pledges.

IMG_5424

The volume itself is really cool and focuses strictly on the 2 waves of the original toy line, the 1st originally released in 1987, and a second that was designed and marketed but ultimately never released.  Clocking in at 54 pages, the full color guide is printed on heavy matte cardstock and is about the size of a standard DVD case, almost like a pocket guide.  The book also features a couple of cool single-color neon ink cover illustrations by Bob Hall, that are really bright and vibrant.  All of the action figure photography in the book is excellent with a mixture of views for each figure including action poses as well as front and back shots with the accessories.  The pages are also complete with all of the bio and flavor text from the back of the toys, which was a really nice addition.

IMG_5425

For me the book works as a collector’s guide (as intended), but it’s also sort of an unofficial art book as well as Ibbit and Tovee took pains to find unaltered versions of the packaging artwork for the majority of the toys in the book, even the unreleased second wave of figures.  I have to wonder if they had access to this via the connection to Hasbro or if there were other sources for the action figure card art.  They even managed to devote a two-page spread to the original hologram illustrations for this second series as well, which was a really awesome added bonus.  There’s even a scan of a later comic book-style ad featuring some of the unproduced toys as well.

IMG_5427    IMG_5428

Though I would have loved to see the book be a little more comprehensive and also tackle other Visionaries merchandise like the short-lived Star comics series or the Marvel Big Looker Storybooks, I know that for a small press run of books like this that was probably impossible.

Visionaries_books

In fact my only real gripe would be that there are a couple of major pieces of card art missing from the first series of toys.  I’m not sure if this was a mistake or if it was a challenge to nail down nice artwork, but the cards for Leoric & Darkstorm are missing.  Considering they were able to provide nice imagery for the rest of the line (including vehicles and the second unreleased wave), these missing pieces stand out and keep this volume from being a perfect guide for the line.

All in all, considering the issues with Hasbro limiting their ability to sell the book, and the relatively obscure nature of the line it’s simply amazing to see a book this nice being released.  For Visionaries fans this is a must have collectible and unfortunately if you didn’t manage to get a hold of one via the Kickstarter or through their site after the campaign, it’s now out of print.  Well, as I mentioned above, my good buddy HooveR was super awesome for sending me not one, but TWO copies of the book!  So I’m going to give away my extra copy to one lucky Visionaries fan.

IMG_5429

So, what do you have to do to win this awesome book?  Well, for starters it would be really cool if you follow me on twitter (@smurfwreck), like the Branded Facebook page, and follow me on Instragram (@smurfwreck), but I’m not going to make those mandatory.  Instead let’s make this a fun exercise.  Below I’m going to post a very cool piece of Masters of the Universe artwork by the amazing Earl Norem (who sadly, just recently passed away.)  This painting was featured as a puzzle in an issue of the Masters of the Universe magazine and contains 16 intentional errors in the artwork (in the original magazine there were 17 errors, but one of them is kind of ridiculous so I’ll use it as an example below that doesn’t count.)

What I would like you to do is to send me an e-mail listing all 16 errors, your name and the name of  your favorite Visionaries character.  The contest will end on 8/2/2015 at Midnight est, and I’ll pick a winner at random on August 3rd and notify them via e-mail.

So the example of an error in this painting (that doesn’t count for this contest), the Land Shark is literally depicted as being in the water (and we all know it’s an evil land vehicle.)  So, find the other 16 things wrong with this picture and win a copy of the Visionaries Collectors Guide!

MOTU_Lake_of_Mystery_Contest

Click on the image to make it bigger!

Transformers & G.I. Joe, finally the shared universe I always dreamed of…

As an 80s nostalgia nerd it’s kind of hard to pick a favorite brand or property from my childhood. There are just way too many fond memories and of the thousands of things that I love from that decade each and every one of them has the power to take me back and give me the warm fuzzies. However, looking back and remembering how I felt at the time, if I had to nail down the stuff that I considered my favorites it would unquestionably be G.I. Joe and the Transformers. Not only was I completely smitten by both toy lines, I was also heavily invested in both cartoon series. Between the ages of 7 to 13 almost every afternoon you could find me in front of the TV after school emersed in the worlds that the Sunbow animation staff created, or in our dining room setting up epic battles with my collection of Hasbro toys.

9

Those two universes were practically sacred to me and they felt very interconnected. As I grew older and started digging into the background of the properties it downed on me that there were a lot of reasons for this. I mean the toys were all developed or marketed by Hasbro, the cartoons were both handled by Sunbow/Marvel Animation utilizing the same pool of voice talent, show runners and writers, and much of the periphery merchandise was also handled by the same companies (both comic book series were Marvel for example.) At the time I didn’t realize this and as I sat in rapt attention during the cartoon or when coming up with stories to play out with my toys I always chose to entertwine the universes. The idea of Cobra Commander and his legion of terrorists and Megatron and his armada of Decepticons teaming up to face off against the Optimus Prime and the Autobots and the entire roster of G.I. Joe was always a go-to story for me. Even though I planned out a ton of epic battles in my head there was always a part of me that was bummed out because this crossover universe wasn’t official. It never stopped my from day dreaming about it, but I always felt a tinge of sadness because what I really wanted was to see some actual “official” crossovers and for the most part it never really officially existed until now. There were a handful of teases, specifically in the Sunbow cartoons that stoked the flames of my crossover desires like the time that a character who was for all intents and purposes Cobra Commander popped up in a season three episode of Transformers titled Only Human

10

This character was named Old Snake in the episode and is almostly undeniably Cobra Commander as he was voiced by Chris Latta (who provided the voices of Cobra Commander and Starscream on the Sunbow cartoons), was the defunt leader of a one great terrorist orginization and even has the iconic mirrored face plate. But as they never referred to him specifically as Cobra Commander, nor did they evoke Cobra or even feature a Cobra logo insignia, it leaves it up to question enough that it feels way more like an homage to me than an actual crossover. There’s also an episode featuring an older version of the Joe team character Flint (whose real name is Dashiell Faireborn) in that thrid season of Transformers. But again, the connection isn’t explicit. He’s not refferred to as “Flint” and there are no G.I. Joe connections beyond inferring the identity of that character through context clues based on his appearance and the fact that, that character’s daughter’s name is Marissa Faireborn. The closest connection between the universes in the cartoon series is the appearance of a newscaster named Hector Ramirez that pops up in most of the Sunbow series set in modern times (G.I. Joe, Transformers, Jem, and the Inhumanoids.) But as solid a connection as this is, it doesn’t have the panache of seeing Autobots pop up in an episode of G.I. Joe.

11

800px-WorldOfHectorRamirez

Now, there is a very popular and very explicit connection between the two universes that I’m sure readers are screaming about right now, and that’s the Marvel comics crossover G.I. Joe and the Transformers that was published back in 1987. You know, this is about as clear cut as you can get in terms of universes crossing over, and I’ll agree that it’s cool and groundbreaking, but there are a couple of reasons that I kind of dismiss these comics. For one, I never stumbled upon those comics until well into my adulthood, and two, the comics always seemed like they were outside of the official continuity to me. Much in the same way that it’s arguable whether the Star Wars novelizations are cannon, or if it’s just a product to enrich the brand which is the officially released movies. For me, when it comes to G.I. Joe and Transformers the official continuity begins and ends with the cartoon series, animated films, and the toy lines. Again, I’ll be the first to admit that this is more or less just my weird way of perceiving the universes, but it just feels right to me. So I’ve been waiting for over 20 years to see something released in one of these two realms that unites the properties.

6

So when I learned that Hasbro was releasing an official crossover toy in the new Transformer Combiner Wars line I was absolutely floored. The toy, a hybrid Decepticon/Cobra jet named Viper that was modeled after a variation of the Cobra Rattler and it’s main pilot Wild Weasel, is one of the first pieces of widely released Hasbro merchandise that finally officially merges the universes of G.I. Joe and the Transformers. As soon as I laid eyes on grainy pictures online I knew I had to get my hands on one asap, and I want to give a huge thank you and shout out to my buddy HooveR for hooking me up with the toy of my dreams.

1

Now, as far as I’m concerned Viper is (for me) one of the most important pieces in the modern Hasbro offerings because it acts as a link that has the potential to spark an entire line of toys that I feel are in a way tailor-made to fill a void in my nostalgic past. Now, I know that there are still folks out there that are going to want to point to earlier examples of the G.I. Joe and Transformers universe’s crossing over in toy form. I mean there are a couple of specific examples that spring to mind, namely the 2004 Transformers Energon figure Snow Cat which is an homage to the G.I. Joe vehicle of the same name and general design. But again, as cool as an homage as this is, it’s not explicitly a crossover. There’s no G.I. Joe logo and storyline attached.

SnowCat

A more apt example would be the SDCC exclusive release of the Starscream decoed Sky Striker set that was released back in 2011. The set came with a Cobra Commander pilot figure armed with an appropriately-sized Megatron laser pistol. Again, this is a super cool set that I really wanted to get my hands on, but there were some aspects to the release that again make me feel like it’s outside of an official crossover. First, the set was a limited edition only sold at the SDCC which means that most folks couldn’t get their hands on it, and second, even though the repainted Sky Striker looks really awesome as “Starscream”, it was just a repainted Joe toy. They didn’t re-tool it so that it could transform or anything. So as cool as it is, it doesn’t feel official to me.

8

Viper on the other hand is about as official as you can get, widely released, branded with both G.I. Joe and Transformers insignia logos, and functions as both an action figure, vehicle (with the ability to transform.)  It may be a narrow view for some, but for me, this is the toy I’ve been waiting for for over 20 years!  Here’s some more views of Viper….

2

4

3

I love the way they made Viper an homage to Wild Weasel too, a really nice touch…

7

I have no idea whether Hasbro is testing the waters with a figure like Viper, but I hope they are.  I’d love to see a whole line of hybrid releases like this.  I can totally imagine transformer Hiss Tanks, Vamp jeeps, or Tomahawk helicopters.  I can even see a combiner made out of the various Dreadnok vehicles.  The possibilities are limitless!

 

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!

Witterquick Filecard 2

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!”

witterquick 1

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…

witterquick 3

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.

witterquick 4

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.

witterquick 2

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!

leaguelogo_medium