Tag Archives: Masters of the Universe

Peel Here 123: The Local Chicago Affiliate edition

4560287382_404990f06c_oOne of the things that I talk a lot about when it comes to the 80s is this idea that because the pop culture of the decade was so loud, syndicated and homogeneous no matter where you lived in the United States, it’s like everyone who grew up through those years had a shared childhood.  We all watched the same cartoons, read the same comics and ate the same prepackaged,, processed foods.  And I love that about the decade.  But there’s also something to be said about regional nostalgia.  For instance, growing up int he southeast I was bombarded with local television commercials that featured Jim Varney doing his Ernest character for our local Fox affiliate channel.  This was something that he did in a lot of regions, but the commercials were all localized, so only the folks growing up in those areas got a chance to see those spots.  There’s something really cool about the idea of having a more focused, obscure nostalgia that ties you more closely to your hometown, but it also very much a part of the pop culture zeitgeist.

That’s why I was super stoked to find the below sheet of stickers that were promotional giveaways for Chicago’s local Fox affiliate WFLD TV 32 back in 1985.  Granted, I didn’t grow up in this area, but I love the idea of the local station putting together sticker sheets to give away to kids which illustrated their after school cartoon line-up…

WFLD TV 32 Cartoon stickers Fox Chicago 1985

I also love seeing this hodge-podge of cartoons together all on one sheet mixing some very 80s properties with older series like Tom & Jerry and the Flintstones.  I wonder how many other stations put out promotional items like these geared towards their cartoon line-ups?

Parents just don’t understand…


The Fresh Prince said it best when he declared…

“So to you all the kids all across the land
Take it from me, parents just don’t understand

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love pouring over old issues of various “mom” magazines from the 70s and 80s.  Not only are they chock full of insanely outdated recipes and fun advertisements for products that no longer exist, but they’re also a goldmine for goofy old articles about the latest childhood fads at the time.  Whether it was the lead up to Christmas and the staff editors were putting together articles about the latest toys or hard hitting (LOL) exposes on the popular trends in cartoons comics.  I love getting a chance to look back and see what was on parent’s minds when I was growing up.  What was concerning them about the toys and cartoons I loved playing with and watching on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

I just recently stumbled on this short piece in the September 1987 issue of Working Woman (aka Working Mother) magazine that centers on kid’s fascination with gross and scary toys and collectibles called “Why Kids Love Yucky Stuff” by Dave Jaffe.  Jaffe was a writer and news editor for WGN in Chicago at the time, but he also had a tenure as a sketch comedy writer for the beloved Chicago area Bozo Show, as well as a stint as an editor at the National Lampoon.  The piece has some fun, though albeit harmless theories as to why kids in the 80s loved playing with stuff like Hordak’s Slime Pit from the Princess of Power/Masters of the Universe Mattel toy line or AmToy’s My Pet Monster.  Aside from the concept that kids loved slime because it literally feels good (and I’m not even diving into why that slick, gooshy, tactile sensation might be pleasing), or that they like monsters because they work as an outlet to get out their anger and frustrations, the article doesn’t really say all that much that hasn’t been stated a million times in a million clichés.  Boys like to scare girls with plastic bugs because they like, like them, or what is gross to an adult is titillating to kids…

Working Woman Sept 1987 1

But what I feel this piece was really lacking was that simple idea that kid’s love things that are forbidden or taboo.  Plop 10 kids down on a are of shag carpeting and give each a He-Man and Skeletor action figure and I can guarantee that most of them will drop He-Man in a heart beat to play with Skeletor because he has gnarly, clawed fingers, webbed feet, and a skull for a head.  Skeletor represents to many things to a kid on a subconscious level, fear and aggression (just as the article points out), but his design is also just so much more fun because it’s different and weird.  There’s an air of mystery about Skeletor baked into his design.  Why does he have webbed claw feet, what happened to his face, and why is he blue?!  He-Man on the other hand is pretty much all there on the surface.  He likes to work out, appreciates furry underwear, and could probably use a haircut.  If I hard to hazard a guess I’d say that this applies to almost all toylines.  What was more popular in the Real Ghostbusters toy line, Egon, Ray, Winston, & Peter or the transforming ghosts?  Yeah, the ghosts.  Boba Fett, Darth Vader, & the Stormtroopers or Tatooine Luke & Hoth Leia?  Yeah, the former in a heartbeat.

Working Woman Sept 1987 2

Again, this article is pretty harmless, but it is a pretty amazing time capsule for all of the icky, gooey, gross stuff that was available at the time including Madballs, My Pet Monster, the Real Ghostbusters, the Masters of the Universe Slime, Slime Time Watches, Nickelodeon Green Slime shampoo, Garbage Pail Kids, the Inhumanoids monsters, those weird Hasbro Belly Buttons, and Mad Scientist Monster Lab playsets.

The All New Branded in the 80s podcast, Episode 7!

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On this episode of the All New Branded in the 80s podcast I spend some time talking about what it’s like to be a nostalgia addicted guy in the world of pop culture collecting.  Though I adore most all 80s nostalgic kid’s stuff, these days it takes more than a tub full of Masters of the Universe figures or a wall of Nintendo NES cartridges to get me excited about collecting.  No, to really make my head spin the stuff that I love to find has to be the kind of things that simply just should exist anymore.  So join me as I talk about a few items I’ve stumbled upon in the wild that really made my eyes bug and gave me that metaphorical punch of nostalgia to the gut.

Here are some pictures of the stuff I talk about in this episode…



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You can find the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, the Branded Facebook page, or you can also stream it directly from the handy player below, or download it directly by right-clicking and saving here.

You can subscribe to the podcast here!

If you want to chat about the show or other fun 80s junk, you can send me an e-mail to smurfwreck@gmail.com

Cartoons on Pause…

Though I spend most of my time here at Branded writing about all the vintage cartoons, merchandise and toys from the 80s, I’m not blind to the huge resurgence in popularity all these brands are experiencing these days.  There are a ton of great visionaries and artists that are breathing new life into the characters that I love with all sorts of cool new toys, stickers, art prints and even lunch boxes.  I love seeing how the kids who grew up loving this stuff, process it and repurpose it as adults.  Whether that comes in the form of new homage stories and brands, like my bud’s Jerzy Drozd and Mark Rudolph’s bitchin’ Switch Runners comic or 8-Bit Zombie’s rad line of clothing, stickers, toys and lunchboxes.

11149505_10155363857225315_6699139800315850568_n       switchrunners01

Though I might grumble at times at the plethora of remake movies, or get a little cranky that the big companies can’t seem to figure out how to not piss off the fans that support them (*cough*MattyCollector*Cough*Hasbro*Cough*), I just have to keep reminding myself that there is some really kickass stuff being made by some awesome independent artists.  One of those artists just so happens to collaborate a lot with the 8-Bit Zombie brand, and in particular I fell in love with his work on the amazing lunchboxes pictured above.  Matthew Skiff has a style that is as much his own as it is a callback to all the 80s era cartoons and toy lines we all grew up with.  His immaculately clean line style belies a very expressive range of emotion and energy that equal parts exciting and frozen in time.  Sometimes I find it difficult to express my thoughts when it comes to art, but what I’m trying to get at is that his work is so clean and exact that his illustrations would look perfect on product packaging, yet at the same time there is a story going on in those lines that makes me feel as if his drawings are alive, as if they were animation that was paused and would spring back to life if you just pressed the play button on a remote.  Cartoons on pause.


This leads me to the gist of this piece which is highlighting Skiff’s new one-man gallery show that opened recently at Gallery 1988 called “Best Friends”.  Skiff created a very rad illustration a few years ago that posed the question, what would it look like if He-Man and Skeletor were actually best friends.  That piece served as the basis for a whole series of new illustrations where Matthew took inspiration from a bunch of other 80s & 90s era cartoons.  I can’t even begin to get across just how much I love this theme and all of the awesome new pieces he created for this show.  In addition to Masters of the Universe, Skiff also dipped into the worlds of the Real Ghostbusters, DuckTales, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Gargoyles, Jem and the Holograms, the Toxic Avenger, Skeleton Warriors, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Here’s a handful of his new pieces…

best_friends_template   best_friends_templatebest_friends_template

Probably my two favorite pieces in this collection are the above Sunbow cartoon character portraits featuring Jem & Pizzazz and Duke and Cobra Commander (featuring the fun variation of CC masks.) Part of this is because I love that company and those cartoons pretty much above all other 80s era cartoons, but there are also a lot of fun details in these.  Whether it’s Rio on the cover of the Tiger Beat magainze that Jerrica is holding or the very playful Cobra Cola and Joerittos chips in the Joe-themed illustrations.  Again, these drawings are so on-model that they could easily be used in officially promoting the brands, but they are also unmistakably Skiffs style.

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All of these and more are available as beautiful signed and number screen-prints on the Gallery 1988 website.  I’ll be honest, it’s going to be hard, like Sophie’s Choice hard, for me to pick just one of these for my office (I wish I could afford the wall-space for all of them, as well as had the bucks to snag them all.)  Head on over to the G-88 print shop and gallery and check out the rest of the pieces, and then if you get a second seek Matthew out, either at his site or on twitter.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!


The Official Unofficial Visionaries Collectors Guide & Contest!


**CONTEST UPDATE**  And the winner of the Visionaries Collector’s Guide is… Ryan, @no_thriller!  Congrats Ryan!

For 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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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.


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.


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!


Click on the image to make it bigger!

Awesome 80s Bedrooms: Who’s the Boss Edition

While writing about a bunch of these awesome bedrooms from 80s movies I figured at some point, if I want to keep finding new rooms to deconstruct I’d eventually have to branch out into TV series as well.  I was actually kind of psyched about this because I remember there being some amazing bedrooms in shows like Silver Spoons and Punky Brewster, and while both of those series do feature neat bedrooms (Rickey has a race car bed and Punky slept in a freaking wheel barrow/carriage) surprisingly there really is little to no actual pop culture junk to dissect.  Then the other night the girlfriend and I were watching some old episodes of Who’s the Boss when a bunch of fun stuff caught my eye in Johnathan’s room.  Enough that I felt like it warranted a bit more examination, so let’s take a closer look at Johnathan Bower’s awesome bedroom…



As you can see in the screenshot above the majority of the stuff in Johnathan’s room is pretty generic kid’s junk ranging from the super cheapo carnival stuffed animals to over-sized novelty sunglasses.  But the Darth Vader Star Wars action figure carrying case caught my eye which is what prompted me to take a closer look at the room, so let’s start there…


1). Kenner Darth Vader Star Wars Collector’s Case from 1980


2). Giant Crayola Crayon Plastic Novelty Coin Bank

Crayola Crayon Bank

3). Imperial Dragons & Daggers Battle Sword from 1983

imperial-1983-dragons and daggers battle sword

If ever there was a product in the 80s that I coveted hard core and never managed to procure it was those damn giant crayon banks.  At some point I managed to get my hands on a giant Coke bottle bank, but what I really wanted was the crayon bank because they looked so cool.  I remember seeing over-sized stuff like this in flicks like The toy, Big, and Jumpin’ Jack Flash and for some reason felt like my life wouldn’t be complete without one.  Guess I managed to survive alright though.  As for that Imperial Battle Sword, one of the set designers must of loved that line of toys because as you can see in this next shot Johnathan had practically one of every release from that series…


4). Imperial Dragons, Knight & Daggers Sabretooth Serpent from 1983

imperial dragons knights and beasts sabertooth serpent

imperial dragons knights and beasts sabertooth serpent 2

5). Imperial Dragons, Knight & Daggers Battle Beast from 1983

imperial dragons knights and beasts battle beast

6). Imperial Dragons & Daggers Fantasy Creatures from 1983

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7). Imperial Dragons, Knight & Daggers Rhino Revenger from 1983

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From what I can gather on these Imperial fantasy toys, they all came in multiple color combinations, so there were green and orange Sabretooth Serpents with red saddles as well as Purple and blue with gold (or red) saddles, and ever combo in between.  Any which way you cut it these were cheaper Masters of the Universe knock-offs that are pretty damn awesome for what they are.  Basically they were designed to be interchangeable with the MOTU figures as animal beast accessories that all came advertised with “12 Warrior Weapons” that you could use for your existing Masters figures.  Kind of ingenious.

Speaking of Masters of the Universe, the last main thing I wanted to point out in Johnathan’s room is a pretty super rare sought after item….


8). Spectra Star Trap Jaw Kite from 1982

MOTU spectra star kites

These Spectra Star kites were freaking awesome and featured an almost 5 foot full body version of the character.  I love that Johnathan has his hanging on his wall (as it’s what I would do with one if I could get my hands on a cheap one now.)  From time to time you see the He-Man and Skeletor kites pop up on ebay, but I’ve never seen a Trap Jaw.

Huge thanks to Liz Vitale from the rad Puppatoons site for identifying a couple more toys!  When it comes to stuff like plush dolls and horses, unless they’re Ewoks or 30-30 from Bravestarr I’m pretty clueless, so thanks Liz for adding a bit more info!  Here they are…


9). JC Penny Exclusive Breyer Chestnut Stallion from 1982

Bryer Stallion 1983

10). Giant Pink stuffed Snake from Kay Bee Toys

Pink Stuffed Snake from Kaybee Toys

Be sure to check out all the other Awesome 80s Bedrooms I’ve deconstructed

Deconstructing the Monster Squad Clubhouse

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nFor this special edition of Awesome 80s Bedrooms I thought I’d change things up a little and try my best to do a breakdown off all the cool stuff in the Monster Squad Clubhouse.  There is so much stuff in there with every flat surface literally wallpapered with movie posters and stills.  I’ll be honest, 60% of it I can’t figure out, or can’t see well enough to make out.  Either way there is still a ton of fun stuff I can identify.  First up, a nice shot of the clubhouse and the description that was in the script to set the mood…


Script Description

Let’s start with probably the most famous shot of the Clubhouse which appeared during the scene when the Club was giving Rudy the Monster Test…


1). Return of the Living Dead movie poster (which is obscured by another poster that’s overlapping it on the bottom that I can’t identify…)

2). Hammer’s Vampire Circus movie poster

3). Movie still of Bela Lugosi as Dracula

4). The Being movie poster

5). Inhumanoids D’Compose action figure

So, technically, this next picture of the clubhouse is a “behind the scenes” photo (which I sourced from an issue of Fangoia), but I wanted to include it for completeness sake because it’s the only shot I know of that includes the ceiling.  This shot isn’t in the movie (that I’m aware of) but it includes some fun stuff like…


6). Frightmare movie poster

7). Movie still of Jerry (Chris Sarandon) from Fright Night

8). Movie still from Critters (Couldn’t find the exact still for this one, but you get the idea)

Up next I’m gonna jump to a shot inside the clubhouse right after Dracula shows up to blow the thing to smithereens (a single tear just fell down my cheek)…


9). Dr. Jekyll Aurora Monster Model Kit

10). The Hunchback Aurora Monster Model Kit

11). Famous Monsters of Filmland Issue 28

12). The Mummy Aurora Monster Model Kit

For 13, there are two posters I want to identify.  On the left is…

13a). Zombie (Zombi 2) movie poster

Then to the right of that in the shadows is one that I had a terrible time trying to figure out.  I reached out to the horror community, even to Fred Dekker (who was super kind with his time to answer, though he was stumped too.)  But my good buddy Ben Rollier of BatFan.com stepped up, tapped into his well of Batman detecting skills and solved the mystery!  Man I love the community on the internet…

13b). Hannah Queen of the Vampires movie poster from 1973

14). Movie still of the Ray Harryhausen Cyclops from the 7th Voyage of Sinbad

Next up…yet more movie stills and posters and stuff ;)


15). Movie still of David Niven in Old Drac

16). Some of the club’s monster drawings including illustrations of the Gillman, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s Monster

17). Finger wall hook (these are seen ALL throughout the clubhouse…)

18). Godzilla, War of the Monsters movie poster

19). Movie still of Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolfman

There’s a closer look at that Godzilla poster in this next screen capture…


20). Blood of Ghastly Horror movie poster

21). Assorted Garbage Pail Kids and GPK puffy stickers…

22). Movie still of Sissy Spacek from Carrie

We get a few different angles in the scene when Rudy and Patrick are blackmailing Patrick’s sister to help them with some virginal German linguistics…


23). Ultraman Toy

24). Metaluna the Mutant Model Kit by Tsukuda

25). Movie still from The Creature From the Black Lagoon

26). B&W Promo still of Robert Englund as Freddy Kruger

27). Inhumanoids Tendril action figure

I was really surprised to spot the next three toys in this scene with the Monster learning to talk…


28). Roboto Masters of the Universe action figure

29). Mantenna Princess of Power action figure

30). Leech Princess of Power action figure

There are some more toys in this scene, as well as the boxes for those Aurora model kits of Dr. Jekyll and the Hunchback.  There are more toys on that makeshift shelf that I can’t identify…


31). Remco 3 &  3/4″ Dracula action figure

32). Gillman model kit by Tsukuda


33). Movie still from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera movie starring Lon Chaney Sr.

34). Movie still from the 1931 Dracula featuring Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan


35). Sssssss movie poster



36). Still from Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein starring Christopher Lee as the Monster

Curse of Frankenstein


And finally one more movie poster…

37). Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors movie poster

Dr Terror

Now, I need to print out a bunch of these photo and posters and start building my replica clubhouse!

As an added bonus, here’s an ACTUAL bedroom breakdown, a quickie featuring the only shot of Sean’s room from the film…

Seans Room

Sean’s bedroom appears for a split second in the film at the very start of the Rock Until You Drop montage sequence and even though it’s really quick there are a number of cool things lying about.  I can’t identify all of it unfortunately, like what appears to be a Creature From the Black Lagoon toy/statue on his dresser, or the specific issue of MAD magazine all the way on the left.  That being said, here’s what I could figure out…

1a). Famous Monsters of Filmland Issue 28 (he obviously brought it in from the Clubhouse…)

1b). MAD Magazine issue 199

Thanks to Erick of the rad Wonderful Wonderblog for identifying the issue of MAD magazine to the left of FMoF #28!

2). Inflatable T-Rex (for the life of me I couldn’t identify the specific model or maker)

3). MAD Monsters Issue 5

4). “This Place Gives Me The Creeps” mini poster

5). Fantastic Four Issue Number 1 Poster

6). Famous Monsters of Filmland Issue 29

7). Plastic Frankenstein’s Monster statue (again, for the life of my I couldn’t figure out the year or maker…)

Before I close this out, here’s today’s Monster Squad trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #21, E.J. & Derek!

21 EJ and Derek 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…


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! ;)


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.


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.)


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…


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!


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.)


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.


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…


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…


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


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!


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…


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…)


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


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


Awesome 80s Bedrooms: Big Edition

It’s been a little while since I sat down and dissected an awesome pop culture bedroom so I thought I’d dive back in by taking a closer look at Josh Baskin’s childhood room in the 1988 movie Big.  First off I love this movie to death, and love all the little details and weird merchandising (like the wacky comic book adaptation.)  This movie is literally bursting at the seams with amazing 80s toys, I mean between all of the Masters of the Universe, Bravestarr, and ThunderCats posters up in the cubicles where he works at MacMillan Toys, all of the stuff in the Photon Showdown scene in the toy store (Fireball Island, StarCom, Pound Puppies and giant kid-sized Lamborghini’s), the plethora of stuff in his office (including MOTU, Silverhawks, G.I. Joe and M.A.S.K.), or all the junk in his apartment (Thundercats sheets, Inhumanoilds and giant Gumbys) you can kind of go numb trying to spot all the cool stuff.  Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula did a fantastic job of breaking a bunch of that stuff down.  But I’m gonna concentrate on some of the stuff in Josh’s bedroom in his house at the start of the film…


The flick opens up with some great shots of Josh’s room and in the mess there is some pretty neat stuff…

Big 1

1). Galoob Power Machines Flex

Galoob Power Machines Flex

2). Bravestarr Stratocoach from Mattel

Bravestarr Stratocoach

3). G.I. Joe Devilfish


4). Garbage Pail Kids school folders

GPK Folder

I had a few of those GPK folders and man I wished I’d hung onto them.  For awhile it was the only way I could get a glimpse at some of the 1st series John Pound artwork since those stickers were near impossible to find when I started collecting back when the 2nd and 3rd series were just coming out.  Also, you gotta love that Galoob Flex motorized truck.  From the same folks that brought us The Animal and Leader 16 (aka Truckapiller!)  But, from a slightly different angle we can see Josh also had some Masters of the Universe stuff…


So it was killing me the entire time I wrote this post.  There were a couple of toys that I just could not place for the life of me.  But finally after an exhaustive search I finally found them!

13). Gold Chrome Variant Laser Force Spaceship from Gay Toys 1983

gay toys laser force rocket


14). Green Laser Force Tank from Gay Toys 1983


These were apparently available in many different color schemes with various colored attachments and canopy colors.  There, now I can rest easy tonight… :p

Big 2

5). Laster Tag bed sheets and comforter

6). Masters of the Universe Bashasaurus

MOTU Bashasaurusus

Josh was also a fan of Spider-Man as we can see in this next shot…

Big 3

7). Power Tronic Secret Wars Spider-Man Walkie Talkie

Power Tronic Secret Wars Spirder-Man Walkie Talkies

8). The Amazing Spider-Man light switch cover

Spiderman Light Switch Cover

What I totally forgot was that Josh shared a room with his baby sister, and thanks to my girlfriend Jaime I now know that, that huge toy in the crib with her is a Pillow Person!

Big 4

9). Pillow People Sweet Dreams doll

pillow people

There are a couple of other things I wanted to mention from Josh’s house, namely his super rad taste in, um, undergarments…

Big 5

10). Kellogs Strawberry Squares cereal

Kellogs Strawberry Squares

11). M.A.S.K. Funpals/Underoos


You know, I’ve wanted to do an advertising retrospective on Underoos for years.  I have a bunch that I’ve found in old issues of McCalls and Woman’s Day from the 80s, but do you have any idea how hard it is to write and article about kid’s underwear, no matter how freaking awesome the branding might be, without feeling like a skeezy perv?  It’s next to impossible.  I mean just putting all the imagery from the advertisements together, all the kids prancing around super happy in their underwear, well it’s more than a little weird.  Sigh.  At least this movie gives me a good excuse to finally talk about it a little.  And now that I am, um, how mind-meltingly awesome is it that we live in a world where a two-time Oscar winning actor has been caught on film sporting a pair of Underoos featuring one of my favorite cartoons of all time?!?  And people wonder why I love the 80s…

Big 20

12). Silverhawks Underoos

15). Tyco Zero Gravity Cliffhangers Slot Car Set (which you can see under his bed in the first screen shot above…)


16). Etch a Sketch


So, thanks to The Navigator for pointing out that there are more shots of Josh’s bedroom in the recent Extended Edition of Big which features 20 minutes of additional scenes Penny Marshall added back in to her director’s cut of the film!  In a screen shot from the below scene we can see that Josh had more Bravestarr toys than I first realized…


17). Bravestarr Neutra-Laser

Bravestarr neutralaser

18). Bravestarr 30-30 action figure


There’s also some sort of boxed robot toy underneath the bed in the light blue/teal box.  I can’t make out the text completely, but it looks like “… Man” and it appears to be some sort of gold Gundam-esque mecha or robot.  Anyone have any ideas on what this might be?

Also, after watching the Extended Edition for the first time last night I was trying to be hyper aware and for the first time I noticed a rather awesome piece of pop culture ephemera in Josh’s supremely UN-awesome NY hotel room.  I’m labeling this as “negative one” because that room sucks!


-1) Mr. T Air Freshener

$_57Last but certainly not least, I wanted to leave you all with this other neat item that I think gets overlooked in the movie.  In the famous boardroom pitch scene where we’re introduced to the delightful if rather pointless transforming skyscraper (“I don’t get it…”), there is another interesting and totally pointless prototype transformer in the background…

Big 7

The Car-nimal!  Seriously, it’s a car that transforms into a car with legs instead of wheels.  The irony isn’t quite as astounding as a transforming skyscraper, but it’s still pretty silly and dumb.  Love these little details in the film.  You know, now that I’m thinking about it, is the Sky Scraper Bot really all that dumb?  I mean, we did have Fortress Maximus and Metroplex.  Think about it…

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliott’s room from E.T. Part 1    Elliott’s room Part 2

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride