Tag Archives: mattel

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.

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.


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!

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

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


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!

He came, he saw, he podcasted, He-Man.

Recently the kind folks over at The Nerd Lunch podcast invited me back on the show to geek out on some more of our favorite topics.  The show features NL alums CT and Jeeg, as well as Paxton from Cavalcade of Awesome, and once again I had a blast!

We spend the episode discussing the classic Masters of the Universe toy line from Mattel.  From our first memories of the toys to how we feel about them almost 30 years later.  If you want to hear me wax nostalgic on MOTU, then head on over to Nerd Lunch and give the episode a listen.  You can also find their show on iTunes.