Tag Archives: TMNT

Retro Con or Bust…

A couple weekends ago my girlfriend Jaime and I made the trek up to Oaks, Pennsylvania for Retro Con, a relatively recent toy and pop culture convention that I’ve wanted to check out for a few years and I had an absolute blast.


There was a time in my life when I never missed a local comic or pop culture convention that was within sane driving distance, usually Dragon Con in Atlanta which I hit up every year between 1994-2009 or so.  As I get older though, my tolerance for waiting in 4-hour ticket lines, browsing over-priced dealers rooms, and wading through sticky, sweltering masses of humanity to get access to bathrooms or food stalls has almost evaporated.  Honestly, there’s usually not all that much that entices me to come out.  So when I first heard about Retro Con I was a feeling pretty dubious about attending, but after hearing a bunch of online friends raving about the show I decided it finally time to check it out.


First and foremost, the thing that had me the most stoked about attending was finally getting the chance to meet a bunch of folks who I’d only known through Twitter and Facebook that I knew were going to be at the show.  Upon reflection I’m bummed that I didn’t have the presence of mind to take pictures with all of the folks I met, but at least I got to pop into this pic with the really swell Classick of the Cold Slither Podcast (@classickmateria – and I totally swiped that picture from him!)  I also got the opportunity to meet and chat with Dean Schaeffer (aka @LamarRevenger), who has been endlessly cool and supportive of Branded pretty much since it’s inception (he was just as rad, jovial, and gregarious as I’d imagined.)  I also had the opportunity to rub elbows with a bunch of other swell folks like John Kent (aka @JohnDoctorKent, indie movie producer and the new caretaker of Robo Force), @MeisterShake (who has one hell of an impressive collection of toys), Jonathan Zelenak (aka @TheSewerDen, a very dapper man with an awesome take on TMNT fandom), the very cool @NecroticDoctor (who also have a very cool toy and pop culture collection), William Bruce West (aka @WilliamBWest whose trivia skill is basically like that robot on Jeopardy, only he specializes in arcane pop culture knowledge and sitcoms), Jason Gross (aka @RD80s) & Wyatt Bloom (aka @infamouswb) the duo behind Agents of Mask, not to mention Jason’s badass nostalgia site Rediscover the 80s!  It’s been a few years since I was able to meet a bunch of online folks in real life like this, so that was a pretty awesome experience and now I can totally put faces and names to Twitter handles.  Next time I’m gonna have to remember to get more pictures…

As far as the convention itself, there were a couple of things that I was getting excited about before the show.  Though the announced guest list was pretty short, there were a handful of folks attending that were instrumental in making my childhood 2000% more fun.  In particular I was really looking forward to meeting Michael Bell, the gentleman who provided the voice acting for a ton of my favorite cartoon characters.  He’s probably most recognized as the voice of Duke on the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon, but he also brought life to a ton of other characters including Grouchy Smurf, Sideswipe & Prowl from the Transformers, and Hiro on Spiral Zone just to name a few.  And as much as I love those cartoons (and his Duke was basically the voice of my internal monologue moral center as a kid), the one project he worked on that means the most to me, the one that fills me with the most nostalgia for my childhood is the work he did on the 1977 A&M Halloween Horrors story and sound effect record.


I’ve written at length about this album before, but the 14 minute Story of Halloween short on Side A is something that I’ve listened to hundreds of times over the past 38 years.  My parents picked this record up the year I was born and it was a staple of every Halloween season all throughout my childhood.  I used to drag this album and my portable record player into my closet as a kid and listen to it over and over in the dark, to a point where I practically know every second of it by heart.  So when I read that Bell would be attending the show I knew that if nothing else I had to track him down, shake his hand and get him to sign my copy of the record.


The look on his face when I handed him the record was worth the 4-hour round trip to the convention alone.  I can’t be sure, but I have a feeling that I may be the only person who has ever brought this up to him to sign, and I’m so happy to have gotten the chance to tell him thank you for the years of entertainment.

Again, though the guest list was short, the folks that made it out to the show were pretty damn cool.  Not only did I get to meet Duke in person, but sitting just a couple tables to the left was the legendary Rankin/Bass voice actor Larry Kenney, Lion-O himself!


Aside from the DVD collection and a couple action figures I don’t have a ton of Thundercats stuff that I could get him to autograph, so I thought it would be fun to bring the first issue of the Thundercats magazine.  As much as I like vintage toys and DVDs, and even though Kenney had nothing whatsoever to do with the publication of the magazine, my heart really lies with vintage ephemera so that seemed like the perfect thing to bring.  I’m glad I did too, because after shaking his hand, saying thank you and asking for an autograph, he picked up the magazine, flipped through it, and then opened it up to the middle and took a really big whiff before signing it.  I guess Mr. Kenney appreciates the smell of vintage paper as much as I do!  There were a few other cool actors on hand, Doug Stone who played Matt Trakker on M.A.S.K. and John Moschitta, Jr. who starred in the 80s era Micro Machine commercials as well as voicing Blur in Transformers: The Movie.  There were a couple other voice actors and puppeteers on hand, but none that I had the opportunity to meet on Saturday.

When I wasn’t hanging around the back of the con blathering about the 80s and cartoons to Michael Bell, my girlfriend Jaime and I had a lot of fun perusing the dealer’s room.  Unlike most conventions I’ve been to, Retro Con’s dealer’s room was packed to the gills with vendors selling vintage toys and ephemera.  I mean, I was kind of blown away by the selection and the prices.  Usually it seems like dealer’s rooms are seriously overpriced as the sort of unspoken agreement is that the attendees are traveling out to attend a show to find stuff they don’t normally find in antique and comic shops in their area, then they’re willing to drop a little more cash than usual.  I didn’t get that vibe here at all which was pretty damn refreshing.  I mean I saw a vintage Metroplex on one table that was only missing a couple of accessories for $10!  I also found that most of the vendors I chatted with were willing to haggle, so if one was inclined there were a ton of good deals on vintage toys to be had.

Jaime and I both walked away with a few small treasures, but by far the coolest thing we found on the floor that weekend was a booth that specialized in custom built light boxes that had vintage arcade game marquees.  When Jaime saw the marquee for the TMNT game we knew that piece was going home with us…


Rounding out our experience was the fun of people watching at the show.  It’s pretty common that a bunch of folks will cosplay at conventions these days (heck, I see Stormtroopers, Ghostbusters, and Klingons doing Toys For Tots outside of Toys ‘R Us each year), but the folks who decked themselves out at this show seemed to focus their creative efforts more on 80s era cartoon properties.  I saw a really nice Miles Mayhem from M.A.S.K., a whole squadron of Cobra characters from G.I. Joe (including a Serpentor complete with working air chariot!), and a few other fun costumes, but hands down, my favorite cosplayers of the event were the Misfits…


Stormer and Roxy even stuck the familiar box art poses for this shot which was a nice touch. All in all, if you’re looking for a show that caters more towards the 80s era nostalgia and toy crowd, Retro Con is a much better answer than the typical Wizard World and Comic Con shows.  Not nearly as congested with people, but still a lot of good deals and fun to be had on the floor.  I’m really looking forward to hitting up the show again in 2016…

I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Gamer & Other Strangeness

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

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


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


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

donnydice 1

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

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

TMNT Space

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

After the bomb 2

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

Weird TMNT

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

TMNT Friends

Just four geeky teens against the world.


Thrashor is the Master of the Radical Universe

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


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


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



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


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

3      4

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

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

TMNT memories, or tapping into my absurd inner Michelangelo…

Digging through a box of keepsakes this morning I stumbled upon a couple fun Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles items.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that cartoon and comic recently what with the new Nickelodeon series, Playmates toy line, and my near obsession with locating and snapping pictures of all the new Turtles merchandise in stores.  It certainly is a great time to love being a Turtle again.  Below is one of my favorite drawings as it was one of the first times I actually sat down and tried my damnedest to draw something that was truly fridge-worthy as a kid.  This is from 1988.  I was laying in bed sick and I had a stack of comic books and the first VHS release of the TMNT cartoon to keep me company.  I’m 99.9% sure I copied this Michelangelo drawing from the cover art on the VHS tape…

I was so happy with the outcome that I seriously considered sending it in to the local news station who would post art on the 5:30 news from local kids.  In the end I greedily hung onto it fearing that it wouldn’t be accepted and I wouldn’t have the magnificence of the drawing to bask in.  I was so proud of drawing all the links in the chain on his nunchucks.  Note, because the cover artwork from the VHS didn’t have the full body of the Turtles on it, I had to improvise and I totally put Mikey in the swamp.  Also, quarter sun in the top corner for the childhood drawing win!

The other treasure I uncovered was this home-made button I constructed out of a bored French Class doodle from 1993.  Our language teacher was a huge fan of drawings and art and would give tons of extra credit points for doing little art projects like making button and junk.  A friend and I managed to get a pretty decent grade in the first semester by wallpapering the room with out goofy drawings featuring our inane French witticisms.  This button roughly translates to “The Eggs are helping.”  How absurdly funny I thought I was being at the time…

Also, as a postscript to this, you know the new cartoon is a hit when you start seeing displays like this one popping up in stores…

Just playing with some toys…

Been rearranging the toys on my bookshelves in Branded HQ.  Though I don’t have a ton of vintage 80s stuff, there is a little bit peppered in with the more or less retro themed toys…

Some of my favorites are the Transformers Classics Jetfire (just a great toy all around), the new Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my Weaponeers of Monkaa Crystar custom build, and my ginormous Mumm-Ra who is currently the king of my collection…

What are some of your favorite toys?