Crazy F*#%king Toys

     Perhaps I was a weird kid, or maybe I just got caught up in a lot of the cartoon merchandising hype, but I remember playing with a wide array of odd toys throughout my childhood, in some cases, crap that you rarely hear about nowadays.  I of course had my main staples like the Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, and my Star Wars stuff but there were a few toy franchises that made it into my playtime repertoire that were a bit more madcap.  It’s important to note that I had a lot of toys as a kid, hell who am I kidding, I still have a lot of toys!  I just never really grew out of the toy phase and though as time went on I gradually played with them less, I’ve always harbored an appreciation for cool and interesting toys.  That being said, my collection throughout the 80’s and 90’s gradually became an eclectic mix of freaks, weirdos, and mutants and I’d like to share just a few of those lovable misfits with you now along with my thoughts on what made these toys so cool.

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Ketchuk and Dr. Gangrene. One of the basic AOTKT toy packs.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes– Yes this was a line of toys based on the B-movie parody of the same name, well actually it was based on a cartoon which was derived from the sequel to the B-movie parody of the same name, but let’s not get technical.

What can I say about Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?  I remember the cartoon series being highly ridiculous and entertaining, I’d be really interested to watch a few episodes now to see just how it holds up.  Overall this was just a zany concept and back then, as today, I love well executed, self aware, crazy humor.  I remember renting the movie around the time when the cartoon and the toys were hitting it big, and though I might not have quite understood all the jokes (or the actual concept of the movie for that matter) it was able to spark some awkward kind of devoted fandom within me.  Maybe because it looked like a movie that I could have been able to produce as a kid.  Whatever the reason I was tomatoes obsessed for quite some time.  It didn’t help that my father is notorious for growing tomatoes which kept me supplied with a surplus of actual tomatoes to perform various mad scientific experiments on.

I remember going through a scientific phase around this same time where many of my toys and action figures were put through the rigors of various medical experiments, generally resulting in their detriment.  Now that I think about it, it’s probably good I didn’t go with a career in science, I’m sure we would have all been destroyed by cyborg-zombie toenail clippers by now.

Anyway, these Killer Tomatoes toys, brought out by Mattel, were simplistic and insane and I owned all the main tomatoes from the show.  The best part was that these toys could easily be integrated with most of my others in order to create such exhibitions as Turtles VS Tomatoes or the Tomatoes Take Tatooine!

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A sampling from the buffet of Food Fighters.

Food Fighters – Seriously though, I for one loved these things.  These guys were like playing with G.I. Joes during an LSD trip at a Denny’s.  You want to talk about ridiculous toys, look no further.  The tagline for Food Fighters was “Combat At Its Kookiest!”  Verily I say!

With names like Burgerdier General, Taco Terror, and (I’m not making this up) Mean Weiner how could you not love these crazy bastards?  These were around during my elementary school years and I only ever actually owned but one Food Fighter, Short Stack, the angry looking stack of pancakes topped with butter, syrup, and an army hat.  I did however have a couple of friends who had some as well and we’d do battle on the lunchtime playground.

There were two divisions of Food Fighters, the Kitchen Commandos and the Refrigerator Rejects.  Short Stack was a member of the Refrigerator Rejects, who apparently were the bad guys but I ask you, how can a stack of pancakes be menacing?

Whatever the story line was for these guys they had great designs, and were just all around cool and interesting toys.  One question though, why did they have human arms and legs?  We may never know.  The toy line also had a few vehicles that were amazing, one in particular was a tank made from an egg carton with a bottle of ketchup strapped to the top.  Unfortunately there was never any type of media outlet for the Food Fighters and as a result they were only around for a few years which make them all the more alluring, an unexplained flash in the pan (pun intended) which had a lasting impression on my school days.  Sadly Short Stack was stolen at some point in elementary school, and was never heard from again

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Toxie from the Toxic Crusaders line of toys, now with 95% less sodomy.

 

The Toxic Crusaders – This show was right up there with Rambo and Robocop for the worst source material to derive a cartoon from.  The original Toxic Avenger movie produced by Troma was full of gory deaths, boobs, sex, and more gore.  Troma isn’t known for their wholesome, high quality, family entertainment but somehow somebody got it into their head that these guys could be the next Ninja Turtles.  I mean a mutant’s a mutant right?  It’s all the same.

The Toxic Crusader toys were produced by Playmates, the same company that made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures and as a result they were very compatible in scale and design to the Turtles.  Toxie and his pals fit in quite nicely.  Even as a kid I knew the Toxic Avenger movie was forbidden fare, spoken of only in hushed tones and cryptic riddles.  I recall some friends trying to rent it for a sleep over but being denied by the video store clerk when they took it to the counter.  Though it wasn’t until many years later that I actually got to see the Toxic Avenger in all its ultra low budget glory, I always felt that I was pulling one over on my parents by owning these toys, because my folks had no idea what the Toxic Crusaders were.  As far as they knew Toxie was just another one of those weird Ninja Turtles, and I felt like some kind of ten year old rebellious badass with such clandestine contraband in my possession.  Dork.

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Death to the forces of R.A.M.S.!

Barnyard Commandos– The ceaseless battle between the P.O.R.K.S. and the R.A.M.S. for control of the farmstead was given form, the result being Barnyard Commandos.  Pigs and sheep armed with military equipment, what more is there to say?  Any badass street cred I received from my Toxic Crusaders figures was completely evaporated by owning these things.

These came to my attention when one was given to my grandmother (who loves pigs) as a gag gift.  It was obviously one of the P.O.R.K.S. commandos, Sgt. Shoat N. Sweet, who came with a machine gun barricade.  What really got my attention was the small “Code Book” that was included with the figure.  Inside the code book were instructions on how to speak Pig Latin, which I quickly became fluent in, there was also some general information about the pig side of the fight, and a bit of history about why the pigs and sheep were warring.  Well I am a sucker for a good toy narrative.  Simple in design the Barnyard Commandos were soft plastic pig and sheep figures that had removable weaponry for which to do battle against the opposing faction.  Not very complex at all.

I guess what I found so great about the Barnyard Commandos was the back-story.  Unlike most toys of the time the manufacturer didn’t take sides, neither the pigs nor the sheep were portrayed as the “bad guys”, the whole thing was just portrayed as ridiculous.

Each character had a file card on the back of their packaging with a brief history and such, and the code books were just cool little pamphlets that really added something to the toys.  A friend of mine had several sheep and I had three or four of the pigs and we had some good battles with those goofy farm animals until they lost their limited appeal and then abruptly the war was over.  My pigs had a hard time readjusting to civilian life but they found cameos in some of my other toy adventures and I remember them regularly floating around my toy landscape even after the height of their coolness.

One question remains though, what was in the R.A.M.S. code book?  If you have any answers please let me know, because I don’t think I ever got to look at one!

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How many points is Bulbasaur worth?

 

Monster in My Pocket – Monsters in every sense of the word, Monster In My Pocket was a collection of small rubbery monster figures with varying point values assigned to them depending on how tough and/or epic the creature was.  Something like a run of the mill Witch was only worth 5 points, while monsters such as the Great Beast of Revelation were worth 25 points.  Apparently there were at least two board games that were compatible with Monster In My Pocket but I never got that deep into it.

These guys were another holdout from my elementary school days and at that time we would rather make up our own rules for playing with toys, instead of letting the man tell us how to do things!  We would just keep our monsters in our pockets as it were, draw one at random, compare the numbers and proceed with battling them out as deemed by our imaginations and the point values.  Ironically it was not all that different from what would eventually become Pokemon, right down to the obsessive collecting element of it all.  Funny story, these guys are the reason Pokemon is called Pokemon in the USofA and not simply Pocket Monsters as it is in Japan.

Matchbox found a real winner in Monster in My Pocket which went on for several years and involved cartoons, games, and comic books.  The monsters had partners in the earlier M.U.S.C.L.E. Men who were basically the same thing except instead of monsters they were extreme wrestlers.  To me it seemed like Monster In My Pocket was able to compile a complete list of every monster, ghoul, cryptid, and mythological creature ever known.  More importantly the figures informed me, with what I assumed to be complete accuracy, which monsters could defeat the others.

I learned a great deal about new and interesting monsters and my encyclopedia of horror was expanded exponentially.    Unfortunately I made some bad investments in the Monster In My Pocket stock exchange, and over the course of several bad trades I lost most of my monsters.  Today I am left with but a handful of low point rejects like the Phantom of the Opera and a mummy.  Oh well, I learned quite a bit from my time with those tiny pocket monsters.

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So you wear a high-tech power suit fueled by . . . . wood?

Battle Beasts -Sounds exciting doesn’t it?  To be honest I have absolutely no idea what the story was with Battle Beasts.  What I do know is that they had a crazy mix of animals from lions and apes to crows and anteaters, all dressed in high-tech futuristic suits.  Often the Battle Beasts would have hands, or entire arms replaced with some sort of blunt force weaponry like morning stars or scissoring blades like Edward Scissorhands.  Most importantly the Battle Beasts were marked with thermal activated stickers like those found on the old Transformers toys.  Once you placed a finger over their chest you would be able to discover what elemental power individual Battle Beasts possessed, water, fire, or wood.

Of course you can figure out how that works out.

Much like Monster In My Pocket and Pokemon much later my friends and I would put together teams of Battle Beasts and line them up for individual battles revealing at the last minute which elemental mark each beast bared.

I still have quite a few of my Battle Beasts; the stoic faced little creatures remain awesome to this day.  Unfortunately due to the constant rubbing of their element signs, many of my Battle Beast’s thermal stickers have fallen off (good thing that doesn’t happen with everything, am I right? Zing!), but other than that they are still in pretty good shape.

It’s been awhile since I’ve sorted through my BB horde, but I remember having some goofy ones; the frilled lizard and the three toed sloth come to mind.  Really?  A Sloth?  Though I suppose it’s no stranger than a stack of pancakes wielding a gun or a pig with a flame thrower.

Perhaps in the near future I will go over to my parent’s house and round up some of these crazy toys and see just what I have left and take inventory and some pictures of the ol’ gang to share here on the blog, until than . . . . .

That is all!

Terrordrome Renovation 2011: Stage 4

      Things are moving right along with this little G.I. Joe project I’ve undertaken.  This stage of the cleaning was marked by the last of the vehicles being spruced up, which leaves only the Headquarters Command Center and the Terrordrome itself still to be worked on.  This may have also been the most complicated the restoration process has been thus far.  There wasn’t anything too difficult, but up until now the main effort on my part has just been to scrub these things down and search through the loose pieces I had to see what accessories went with which vehicles.  This time however I dabbled a bit more in the actual restoration of some of these toys. 
 
     First of all I was able to completely repair the two figures I thought were completely out of commission, Xamot and the D.E.M.O.N Driver.  Just as I was about to glue the figures legs on in order to at least make use of them in vehicles or the various bases I happened to come across a small screw driver I had which was the perfect size to undo the figures tiny screws.  This was a breakthrough and meant it would give me the opportunity to perform some . . . . surgery.  Xamot suffered from the most common G.I. Joe ailment, a blown o-ring.  The small rubber band that connects his torso to his pelvis and legs snapped causing him to fall apart but leaving him otherwise in good shape.  The D.E.M.O.N. Driver actually had a broken leg hook.  The small metal piece that attached to the legs and which hooked onto the o-ring was corroded and somehow broke.  Long story short both figures were saved by cannibalizing parts from other Joes.  There were several random figure parts and broken characters floating around in the bottom of the box where these toys were stored, from those loose and busted parts I was able to find a new leg hook for the D.E.M.O.N. Driver.  The o-ring for Xamot was a little harder to find considering that rubber can degrade pretty quickly, the only o-rings I was able to find from the random parts were shriveled up and brittle.  That component had to come from a Duke repaint which was nearly identical to another I had so I took him apart and extracted his fresh rubber band, I figured it was a worthy sacrifice to make.
   
     Next I attempted to move a few decals around on the D.E.M.O.N. itself which has some very cool stickers decorating it.  One in particular is an image of Destro’s head in gold with his name printed in gold letters underneath, which is just great.  I don’t think you can see it in any of the pictures below but when I examined the D.E.M.O.N. the sticker was in a completely wrong place where it could not be fully appreciated.  After giving the zany vehicle a good cleaning I ran the sticker under some hot water and was able to pull it off with no problem.  I tried to flatten it out as best I could and applied a latex based adhesive to it that dries clear which I figured would be similar to the original type of adhesive on the decal.  Because the sticker was folded and bent from where it was originally placed it doesn’t lay perfectly flat on the front of the vehicle but it’s worth it.  I just really like the idea of villains being cocky enough to plaster their faces and names across their fleet of war machines, especially Cobra, who are not known for their stellar victories.   Anywho the real challenge with all of this is yet to come however in the form of the two bases which will require major cleaning, some complex assembly, and minor detail restorations.  The G.I. Joe Headquarters shouldn’t be too troublesome to clean since it’s completely disassembled into flat plastic walls.  The Terrordrome though, is much larger, and short of taking the Cobra base apart it will have to be cleaned either in my garage or outside and hosed off.  That however requires for some decent weather, instead of the 40 degrees and rain we’ve had for the past month!
 
Finally as a last little tid bit I’ve identified all of the characters and compiled a list of figures that I have now, both from my previous collection and those acquired from this new cache of toys, check it out.  Following that it’s the before and after shots of the last four vehicles and the rest of the random items that were in need of some cleaning.  
 
Cobra:
Headman, Voltar, Cobra Commander (several versions), Destro, Firefly, Stormshadow, Baroness, Serpentor, Major Bludd, Zartan, Dr. Mindbender, Crystal Ball, Scrap Iron, A.V.A.C., Laser Viper, Cobra Officer, Air Viper, Star Viper, Shadow Viper, Fast Blast Viper, Rock Viper, Paraviper, Xamot, and Ferret (D.E.M.O.N. Driver)
 
G.I. Joe:
Gung Ho, Torpedo, Duke, Wild Bill, Big Bear, Deep Six, Mutt, Big Ben, Shockwave, Clutch, Crankcase, Major Storm, Road Block, Mercer, Airborne, General Tomahawk, Rock n Roll, Snow Job, Snake Eyes, Path Finder, Wet Suit, Scarlett, Surefire, Zap, Doc, Low-Light, Salvo, Ambush, Sneak Peek, Crossfire     
 
 

A fully repaired Xamot!

 

The mobat tank fairly clean but not in great shape. Broken canon and missing wheels.

The mobat cleaned up with Major Storm.

 

Disassembled bridge layer. The bridge portions were pretty gross underneath, something was living in them . . . .

 

The cleaned up bridge layer in undeployed mode. Still missing are the side guns.

 

The bridge layer fully deployed with the vamp making a cameo. Clutch, Mutt, and Doc pictured.

 

 

Destro's D.E.M.O.N. missing a few parts and dusty.

 

The D.E.M.O.N. cleaned up and the missing parts found and replaced.

 

D.E.M.O.N. in its elevated position, showing off the various moving parts. Iron Grenadiers Ferret (D.E.M.O.N. Driver), Destro, and Voltar in the cockpit.

 

The Terrordromes attack ship, firbat, in need of some thorough cleaning!

 

The firebat all cleaned up and the missiles attached. Firebat pilot A.V.A.C. at the controls.

 

Wind-up motorized accessories and a random unknown gun that were among the vehicles and other toys

 
 
That is all!

10 Underused Characters I Want to See More of!

     So the other day I was thinking about the actor Michael York.  He’s had a fairly significant career and if you’re a geek such as myself you should be at least somewhat familiar with him either from his movie career (Logan’s Run, Austin Powers), his varied television appearances (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Knots Landing), or his cartoon voice work (the Clone Wars, Justice League).  Specifically I got to thinking about his character from Austin Powers and how I always wanted to see more from Basil in the zany James Bond parodies.  This then got me thinking about other characters that I feel I haven’t seen enough of, or wish had bigger roles in their various genres.  Always on the lookout these days for blog fodder I decided to compile a list from some of my geeky interests, of fictional characters I wish had a bit more screen time, or were present a little more on the page.  The underdogs and the unappreciated, the forgotten and the mysteriously unexplained.  Characters I can only describe as underused, and who if I had my way, would have a slightly longer moment in the spotlight!

     Of course I don’t really cover all of the characters I’d like to see more of in this short list, and there are certainly many other fictional universes for me to choose from but I decided to go with the characters that directly sprang to mind when I chose this topic, and doubtlessly my choices have been influenced by my current activities.  If there are some characters you think have been criminally underused leave me your lists in the comments!  But without further ado, here’s the Ten Underused Characters I want to see more of!

#10 – Luigi: Mario Bros. Video Game Franchise

     The younger brother of the heroic Mario, Luigi is the oft overlooked second half of the Mario Bros. duo.  Luigi is controlled by the second player, a position that is not often taken up without some modicum of contention.  As such Luigi is generally looked down upon as second best, and not at all as desirable as his elder sibling Mario.  As the franchise has evolved over the years Nintendo has played up this aspect of Luigi portraying him as a bashful, reluctant hero forever eclipsed by the shadow of Mario.  It is for this precise reason that I love Luigi!  He is hilarious.  Modern video games have allowed the characters to portray more emotion and personality then they could in the early 8-bit Mario games and for my money Luigi is where it’s at.  In the various Mario themed sports games for instance Luigi’s lack of confidence is always emphasized making for humorous moments when he surprises himself with success.  Luigi of course has had the opportunity to headline a game of his own with Luigi’s Mansion placing the younger Mario brother in a haunted house and pitting him against an army of ghouls and Boos, the perfect setting for the Don Knotts of the Mario universe.  Although he’s had a big presence in almost all of the Mario games, I feel there’s always more room on my shelf for another solo Luigi game, I demand a follow-up to Luigi’s Mansion and perhaps a game involving his evil counterpart, Waluigi.

#9 – Marcus Cole: Babylon 5

     Unfortunately many reading this probably don’t know who this character is at all, and I contemplated simply adding Babylon 5 in general to this underused list, but I decided against it and stuck with only characters.  Continuing my quest to revive an interest in Babylon 5 just let me say that if you’re not familiar with this show, and you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy, then you really should check it out.  It’s currently on Netflix so you really have no excuse.  Anyway on to Marcus Cole.  Marcus was a regular character on the show for two seasons and became the face of the mysterious group known as the Anla’shok, or the Rangers.  Coming from a tragic background Marcus joins up with the Rangers who are a joint Human/Minbari organization who are keeping an eye out for dark, lurking things in the farthest regions of space.  Marcus eventually comes to Babylon 5 and has a significant role in the show’s unfolding story, however by the time Marcus arrives on the scene there are already a great number of other important characters vying for face time.  As cool as Marcus was, I always felt that his story was often pushed to the periphery and after every major appearance he made I was always left wanting to know more.  I believe they could have gone farther with his storyline and I think he had potential for a far greater story.

#8 – Basil Exposition: Austin Powers

     This is the one that sparked this list.  Michael York as Basil is hilarious, he really does a great job in comedic roles and he can actually harness a real zaniness as evidenced by his cartoon voice work in the Clone Wars and others.  I think Basil was best featured in the first Austin Powers movie where we got to see him in the retro 60’s scenes and the modern-day goofiness.  His stifled, almost naive acceptance of Austin’s shenanigans are spot on and York’s subtle style really plays off well with Mike Myers outrageous Austin.  However when the other two movies came out I felt that Basil was sort of pushed aside in order to introduce more characters and allow for more Mike Myers.  Don’t get me wrong I still think the Austin Powers movies are great, but with a talent like Michael York among the ranks I thought they really could have expanded his role slightly, giving him a bit more room to flex his comedic muscle.  Although I suppose Michael York has made a career out of underused characters, taking on small, but memorable roles and giving them his all and Basil Exposition is just another entry on that list.

#7 – Animal Man: DC Comics

     When it comes to DC comics, Animal Man is the number one hero I want to see get more attention.  One of DC’s more obscure characters Animal Man clearly doesn’t have much in the way of name recognition, but once you familiarize yourself with the character you will find that he does have one hell of an interesting history within the DC universe.  Introduced in 1965 Animal Man only made a handful of comic book appearances throughout the silver age, and it wouldn’t be until the 1980’s that he would begin to rise in prominence.  Finally getting his own title written by comic book legend Grant Morrison, Animal Man underwent a tremendous character change and definition taking him from a typical superhero, to a galaxy spanning man in search of a greater understanding.  It really is quite hard to explain here in a single paragraph, but the Grant Morrison run of Animal Man is arguably the single biggest improvement to happen to any individual  hero ever.  After the Morrison storyline and a brief stint with the Justice League International Animal Man’s popularity faded once more.  It wasn’t until the weekly comic event 52 which featured Animal Man and a small group of heroes trapped in outer space as one of the many ongoing storylines in that series, that Animal Man again found a major role in comics.  Truly an underdog, and certainly unappreciated, I believe Animal Man is one of the most interesting characters DC has in their arsenal and I would love to see Buddy Baker have more of a presence in the DC universe.

 #6 – Kremzeek: Transformers

     I don’t claim to know all that much about the entire continuity of the Transformers or their universe, but I do know one thing.  I.  Love.  Kremzeek.  I was introduced to this character several years ago now and I have been a fan ever since.  In the original cartoon series Kremzeek was created by Megatron as an ultimate weapon for the Decepticons, or something along those lines.  Kremzeek is a bio-electric creature that can travel through, disrupt, and control electronic circuts and devices including the Transformers themselves.  After devastating the Autobot base little Kremzeek sets off for Japan to wreak havoc by jumping through trains, walkmans, and factories until finally one of the Transformers tries to destroy him with a high dose of energy which results in Kremzeek multiplying in a tribble-esque variety of colors.  Eventually the multiple Kremzeeks are reunited into a giant Kremzeek which the Autobots turn back on the Decepticons before begrudgingly destroying electricity monster.  Of course one little Kremzeek manages to escape and the episode ends with the Autobots chasing him down.  As far as I know this is the only appearance of Kremzeek in the cartoons, however there have been several homages to the little guy in other episodes and throughout the various Transformer series.  I for one would love to see more of the tiny electronic terror, there should be a return of Kremzeek in the new Transformers Prime series!

#5 – Deathlok: Marvel Comics

     Don’t know Deathlok?  Think Robocop mixed with the Punisher, and a dash of Marty McFly.  Any of that sound like something you’re into?  Then check out Deatlok, not to be confused with Dethklok the cartoon heavy metal band of Metalocalypse fame.  Deathlok, like Animal Man, has a bit of a confusing back story and a varied interdimensional continuity that sometimes places him in the normal 616 Marvel continuity and other times sets him apart in an alternate reality.  Wherever in time and space Deathlok resides however, you can count on him to bring the pain.  Basically an amped up cyborg zombie with a computer companion in his brain and a high-tech blaster in his hand; Deathlok has been known to seek revenge on the government that turned him into the undead robot he has become as well as team up with other heroes on occasion when it suits him.  There is an element of mystery to Deathlok along the lines of Wolverine, with his origins tracing back to shady government military programs coupled with a loss of memory.  A loner seeking revenge, Deathlok had a brief solo title career in the comics, but has now been relegated to a supporting role popping up on rare occasions as a surprise guest, most often being reactivated by some villain who rattles his sporadic memories and puts him to use in some dastardly scheme.  I think it’s time Deathlok gets called up from the bench and put to use in this more mature comic book day and age for some truly gritty and dark anti-hero storylines!

#4 – Crystal Ball: G.I. Joe

     This guys inclusion on this list is clearly influenced by my current Terrordrome Renovation project, but after doing a little research I believe he genuinely has a right to be here.  Crystal Ball heralds from one of the earliest G.I. Joe toy lines way back in 1987 yet as far as I can tell had no presence in the G.I. Joe cartoon at all.  His file card explains that Crystal Ball is a top Cobra agent and a dabbler in the dark arts who is a master hypnotist and mind reader.  All of those sound like qualities I would think Cobra might want to employ against the Joes in order to force them to give up their plans and secrets.  Also, according to urban legend, Crystal Ball is also connected to Stephen King, the master of horror himself.  Supposedly King’s son was a fan of the cartoon and somehow through his fathers connections was able to write-up the biography for Crystal Ball lending a bit of sinister occult flair to the Cobra forces.  As a side note, from another source, Crystal Ball supposedly was one of the worst selling G.I. Joe figures ever, many of which remained on toy store shelves for years!  Rumor has it that as a result of his poor toy sales the makers of the cartoon deemed him unpopular and thus never included him in the show.  That seems like the completely wrong thing to do if you want to sell toys, personally I would have gone the opposite route and included Crystal Ball in the show and made sure he was awesome, thus making him more desirable.  Alas ol’ Crystal Ball has been relegated to running gags and parodies among toy collectors as seen in Toy Fare magazine and he is widely known as one of the worst toys of all time.  I for one love magical elements involved in any story, especially when used by the forces of evil, it just makes for some good villainy.  Aside from a few cameos in the G.I. Joe comics, Crystal Ball was never given a fair shake and I think it’s time he took his rightful place in the hierarchy of Cobra!

#3 – Every Bit Part and Background Creature in the Neverending Story

     There are so many interesting creatures and odd folks in the Neverending Story that I could make a list of underused characters just from this movie alone!  The racing snail, Night Hob the bat rider and all the other crazy bastards wandering around the Empress’ court were all so wild and exotic to me as a kid.  I couldn’t get enough of this movie when I was growing up, and it had a similar appeal for me as Star Wars did, packed with strange creatures and places the world of the Neverending Story seemed so much deeper and more complex than the movies plot revealed.  One reason to rewatch this movie is just to look around during different scenes to get a better look at the costumes and creature designs that were standing around in the background!

#2 – Mon Mothma: Star Wars

     The supreme leader of the Rebel Alliance, this is Princess Leia’s boss and the heart and soul of the entire Rebellion to Restore the Republic, but we don’t get to see her until Return of the Jedi!  Like the Emperor, the leader of the Rebellion goes unseen until the end of the saga.  Unlike the Emperor however, Mon Mothma has only a brief inconsequential scene where she sets up the attack on the second Death Star, and then disappears not even returning for the ewok celebration at the very end.  There were to be scenes in Revenge of the Sith that showed the first hints of the Rebellion and featured a young Mon Mothma, but those scenes were ultimately cut.  Because of the focus of the stories in Star Wars we never really get a good look at the Rebellion other than our brief time at Echo Base on Hoth and so we don’t really have a chance for more Mon Mothma, but it would have been awesome to maybe see some hologram communications between Leia and Mon Mothma similar to the conversations between Vader and the Emperor.  Leia is supposedly a prominent political figure among the Rebel Alliance but we never really get to see her do much in the way of leading the rebellion, she generally just gets taken prisoner a lot.  A few transmissions with the rebel HQ between Leia and Mon Mothma might have helped maintain Leia’s leadership position beyond the first movie.  Oh well, I’m not really complaining at all, just saying that I like Mon Mothma, she actually reminds me of my aunt, and I would have liked to see more of her and the Rebel command structure in the movies, but I guess that’s what the EU is for right?

#1- The Duchess: Alice in Wonderland

This might seem like an odd choice for my number one spot but I’m a huge Alice in Wonderland fan, it was one of my first literary obsessions.  Alice in Wonderland is one of the few books I can read over and over again.  As such I was very disappointed in the recent movie which drastically departed from the style and story of the books and tried very hard to make Alice in Wonderland into something it was not.  Alice is not a hero per se, but a traveler and a discoverer.  Like an explorer from history charting a course through an insane realm.  One of my favorite encounters Alice has in the book is when she comes across the Duchess’ house, the pepper tossing cook, and the transforming pig/baby.  There’s just so much going on there, and the original drawings of the Duchess are just great, such a lovely woman.  This moment in the book seems to often get bypassed in other adaptations and I always feel let down that I don’t get to see the startled look on Alice’s face as the baby’s upturned nose becomes a snout and the squirming child trots off a pig!  I suppose it all boils down to the fact that few movies are ever as good as the book, as true as it is with most works, it is especially true with Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  The Disney cartoon is probably still the best but I have always kept my hopes up for a live action big screen adaptation that remains loyal to the books, or perhaps focuses on Through the Looking Glass entirely (which seems to never get much attention.)  All in all there are a great many characters that pop up in Alice that I would like to see more of but the Duchess takes the top spot, I suppose I will just have to sit down grab a corner of mushroom, and make my own trip to Wonderland where I might not only meet the massively headed Duchess but perhaps all the other underused characters as well.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

That is all!

Terrordrome Renovation 2011: Stage 3

So the clean up effort of the recently acquired G.I. Joe toys continues. 
 
Yesterday was a fairly straight forward round of detailed cleaning.  There were one or two decal scares where I scrubbed some of the vehicles a little too hard and nearly lost some of their decal stickers, but thankfully everything is still intact.  Good decals were the best, I always loved putting them on vehicles and toys as a kid.  It could be a maddening process sometimes, trying to get those tiny stickers to line up properly, or working to fit them onto awkwardly angled surfaces.  I would occasionally take some liberties with my decal placements moving them around if I didn’t think they looked good where the instructions wanted me to put them, but only occasionally.  Star Wars vehicles often come with great stickers, one of my favorite examples is the recently rereleased B-Wing bomber which came with squadron markings, and little kill tally counters for the side of the cockpit in three different shapes for TIE fighters, TIE bombers, and TIE interceptors.  There were quite a few of the markings so I put some on my B-Wing and used the rest to decorate my X-Wings, A-Wing, and Y-Wing with some kills as well.  Ninja Turtles toys also had great decals, those toys were just fantastic and the stickers were ridiculous and awesome.  There was one figure in particular, Mondo Gecko, which was a skateboarding gecko who came with a small sheet of stickers to decorate his shirt and board with.  Good times.

Anyway!  Back to this G.I. Joe cleanup project.  Thanks once again go out to YoJoe.com for their great site that had the visual aids I needed to make sure these things were put together as much as possible.  I have a small box full of missiles and rockets that go to the various vehicles and having those visual references has been invaluable in pairing them up.  As another quick tangent I always liked the ridiculous amounts of missiles G.I. Joe vehicles had attached to them.  The missiles very rarely actually fired from the vehicles, they were just attached on pegs and you’d have to pluck them off and toss them over at the enemy.  I  suppose it added a bit of strategy to the play of the toys perhaps?  You couldn’t just point the vehicles and push a button you would have to create some type of rule for your battles, such as: “You have to flick the rockets with your finger and however far they go is it!” or “You can only throw them with your throwing hand touching the vehicle!”  Again I have to say I didn’t have these toys as a kid so I didn’t play with them that often but I remember arranging these mini Geneva Conventions beforehand on the rare occasions I did play with Joe toys at friend’s houses.  Maybe it was just me?

Also as a side note I learned from reading some posts on YoJoe.com that hydrogen peroxide can be used to whiten plastic on toys that has gone yellow over time.  I’ve had this problem with some of my Stormtrooper toys in my Star Wars collection and I know I’ve heard other toy collecting comrades complain about the same thing on Transformers toys and others.  The posts did mention that hydrogen peroxide should only be used on white plastic parts, and could fade the colors of other parts, so be careful to use it delicately around those colored sections. 

Ok tangents ended.  Below are some before and after pics of what I cleaned up this round.  From the  G.I. Joe Battle Force 2000 collection the Marauder and the Eliminator.  From the Cobra fleet of vehicles, one of my personal favorite names of all time, the Stellar Stilleto, and I also washed a couple of the smaller vehicle accessory doohickies.  So take a look!

 

The Marauder cleaned up and fully assembled.

As you can see the Eliminator was one of the grimier vehicles.

 

The Eliminator ready for battle after it is cleaned up.

The Eliminator in transport mode.

 

The Stellar Stilleto was in pretty good shape, just needed cleaned and have it's missiles attached. My favorite Cobra, Firefly, at the helm.

 

Some of the other vehicle accessories that I cleaned up. The two HALs, and some trailer that transforms into a command center, I don't know that is.

Terrordrome Renovation 2011: Stage 2

Well I’ve gotten a strong start with this G.I. Joe project that I’ve undertaken.  I’ve gotten everything down in my basement now and (mostly) sorted out.  Thanks to the resources at YOJOE.COM I was able to determine what all I’ve got on my hands, and whether or not I’ve got all the required bits and pieces needed to fully get these things back together.  Here’s a quick list of the major items I’ll be working on.

The Terrordrome – This of course is the big one, it has the most parts, it’s the biggest and it will take me the longest to get cleaned up I’m saving this one for last.

G.I. Joe Headquarters Command Center– After taking a look at yojoe.com I think I might actually be missing a few parts for this, it looks like I’m missing some jail bar sections for the brig, which is a shame cause that’s the coolest part!

MOBAT– A big ol’ tank for the Joes, it was actually motorized and battery powered but the battery cover is missing.  I think there might be a hatch cover missing as well, but regardless this thing looks cool and is in good shape.

VAMP– A typical combat jeep for the Joes.  This is one of those toys I remember a lot of people having as a kid.  Nearly complete just missing the pivot for the rear turret!

HAL (x2)- There are actually two of these things they are big artillery guns that can be hooked up to other vehicles and towed into battle.

APC– The big daddy.  A troop transport.  Every toy group had one of these back in the day, the vehicle that held a ton of figures and could double as a type of carrying case.  Good stuff mostly intact only missing the top gun.

Dragonfly– Another G.I. Joe classic, this was Wild Bill’s helicopter.  Unfortunately this one has been marked with a “BR” on my list, meaning Beyond Repair.  The blades are snapped off, the rotor is bent, the cockpit cover is missing and the landing skids are gone.

F.A.N.G– Looks like Cobra won’t have much luck in the air either.  The F.A.N.G is a small Cobra helicopter, but this one is also marked BR, the blades and rotor are missing, and the cockpit cover is MIA.  Not in bad shape otherwise . . .

H.I.S.S.- The iconic Cobra armored vehicle.  It looks like a Jawa sandcrawler with guns mounted to the top.  This is also not in good shape, but not hopeless.  The cockpit cover is missing, and the guns for the turret are gone but I have a plan to perhaps improvise some guns.  We’ll see.

Rattler– This one is BR also unfortunately.  This was one of the coolest Cobra planes.  Bent wings that could rotate for a vertical takeoff.  All I have of this one however is it’s shell, everything that could come off of this one is gone and nowhere to be found.

Bridge Layer– One of the coolest Joe vehicles I never knew existed.  It’s an armored treaded vehicle that has a big folded bridge section resting over it and which can extend to unfold the bridge out in front of it to make a field crossing, pretty rad and mostly intact.

Eliminator– This is an ominous sounding Joe vehicle from the Battle Force 2000 fleet of vehicles.  Apparently there were six different vehicles in the Battle Force 2000 group which could be taken apart and reformed as the Future Fortress, a base for the Joes.  There are three of the Battle Force vehicles in this collection and they are 100% intact!

Marauder– An armored three wheeled motorcycle with removable gun platform.  Part of the Battle Force 2000 group.

Sky Sweeper– A mobile radar and anti-aircraft platform with a deployable guard post.  Part of the Battle Force 2000 group.

D.E.M.O.N.- One of the craziest vehicles in the collection, this one is of course on the Cobra side, specifically it is part of Destro’s Iron Grenadiers.  It has two sets of treads, an offset cockpit, surface to air rockets, golden guns mounted all over the thing, and the treads can come together elevating the vehicle in the air!  Zany.

Swampfire– Another one for the Cobras.  This one is a small aquatic helicopter with floater skids and a forward mounted gun.  This vehicle belonged to the Dreadnoks.  It is in great shape and 100% intact.

Stellar Stiletto– Although this sounds like the name for some kind of drag club, this is actually a Cobra vehicle.  A slender rocket ship, this vehicle is actually also complete and in great shape.

As I’ve been looking these things over during my initial inspections I’m finding quite a bit of evidence of the mice that once made their home among these toys.  Aside from their general filth, the mice apparently enjoyed gnawing on some of the plastic parts.  As I’ve been cleaning them I find more and more chewed sections or whittled down parts.  It’s pretty entertaining really to see where they have chewed, and it’s not like I was ever planning on trying to sell these things or anything, so it all adds a bit of character for whatever kids play with these next!

Crystal Ball was severely mauled by the mice

 

This chair from the Terrordrome also incurred the wrath of mice

I’ve had to make a few repairs so far but nothing major just some quick gluing.  There was a guard tower with a few cracks in one of its legs which were easily repaired.  Also sadly some of the figures have fallen apart as G.I. Joes tend to do.  The rubber band rots inside those things and then they’re done for.  Unfortunately it just so happened to be two of the coolest Cobra figures that were among the boxes.  Xamot (yes I looked it up to see which twin it was exactly) and the Iron Grenadier driver for Destro’s D.E.M.O.N.  I’ve glued their asses to their torsos but their legs will either have to be glued or just remain loose.  Either way both of them will permanently be in a seat for the rest of their days, which is a shame, Tamox and Xamot were two of the few Cobra high command I never had as a kid, oh well Xamot will at least be able to man one of the many computer stations in the Terrordrome when it’s done.

Xamot and the D.E.M.O.N. driver will never walk again.

So now I’ve finished all the washing of the small weapons and removable base parts.  The figures that were still in one piece also got a thorough washing.  All that remains are the many vehicles and the large bases, which won’t be as quick as it sounds.  However I have gotten a good start, and the first of the vehicles have been scrubbed down and reassembled.  Here’s what I’ve got so far, take a look.

The Swampfire before it's cleaning, not bad.

The Swampfire after its cleaning, and fully assembled.

Cobra's H.I.S.S. was pretty grimy

The H.I.S.S. is now clean but not very effective without any of its weaponry.

The G.I. Joe VAMP in need of washing.

A clean VAMP. Though I have the gun for the VAMP there's no pivot for it, so I laid a gurney across the back.

The Sky Sweeper was pretty much together when I found it. Here it is cleaned up and all together.

The APC was pretty gross when I found it.

The APC cleaned and loaded up.

Cleaned and put together. You can see here that the turret is missing and toward the back there is a section where the mice chewed on the plastic top.

 

So for the most part a pretty successful start to this little project, five of the vehicles done, all the small parts cleaned, and all the figures washed.  There are still several more vehicles to go and the big bases.  Like I said before the Joe base shouldn’t be too difficult it just consists of a floor and several flat wall sections, but the Terrordrome looms on the horizon still . . . . 

That is all!

Terrordrome Renovation 2011

Well what an interesting day I’ve had, through a series of serendipitous events I have all new blog fodder directly related to my last blog post about He-Man and my childhood toys in general.  After posting the previous blog I went to run some errands, one of which was picking something up from my cousin’s house.  When I got there I found both my cousin and her husband doing some hardcore spring cleaning, pulling things out of their garage and shed and tossing anything that was taking up too much room.  After chit chatting with my cousin-in-law for a bit he snaps his fingers and tells me he has some stuff I might be interested in, some of his old toys, namely some old G.I. Joe stuff including “The Cobra headquarters.”

“What?!? The Terrordrome??” I asked agast.  To my delight he climbed up into the rafters of his shed and handed down a couple of huge boxes which we promptly cut open and started sorting through.  As promised the first thing we pull out is the one and only enormous Terrordrome, from my initial inspections the Cobra base seemed to be completely intact, a great find.  As we continued to look through the boxes we pulled out tanks, jeeps, planes, choppers, artillery, various Joes and Cobra goons, but then we started pulling out flat wall and floor pieces, ramps, more walls, and various other building type pieces until I realized we were looking at the G.I. Joe Headquarters Command Center!  Hotchi Motchi!  Double rainbow!  Although it wasn’t as assembled as the Terrordrome the Joe HQ also seemed to have all its parts at the ready for reassembly.  Most the vehicles weren’t as lucky when it came to completeness, they clearly had seen some action, most of it full of heavy fighting. 

The only downside to all of this is that the huge boxes that were storing the toys had also been home to some rodents at one time, with plenty of evidence for the rodent residency in among the Real American Heroes.  My cousin-in-law tells me it’s all mine if I want it, he wants to get rid of the stuff and clear things out, and would probably just wind up tossing it all eventually.  He of course knows this stuff is right up my alley, and I was more than happy to take it off his hands.  He has two daughters, neither of which seems that interested in the ongoing battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra, so I packed up the goods and hauled them back home to unload and inspect them in my garage.  Among the cool things I found, were three awesome G1 Transformers in great shape and an original Boba Fett figure, which I of course already have but a great find nonetheless. 

I of course had a few G.I. Joes growing up, you’d be hard pressed to find a guy in my age range who didn’t, but they were never one of my main toy universes.  I however loved the cartoon but because I never sought out any of the vehicles or accessories for the Joes and Cobras in my possession they didn’t ever see much action aside from cameos in my Ninja Turtle adventures or in some quick skirmishes in my backyard where inevitably one of their comrades would be buried.  That’s not to say I didn’t think the toys were cool, I particularly liked all things Cobra especially the B.A.T.S, the Cobra vehicles, and Cobra Commander himself.  I however was content with what I had, and though I might have swooned over some of my friends cool G.I. Joe swag, it never went beyond envious stares and a few hours of letting my lonely figures mingle with the better equipped platoons.  The toys I now have in my garage are items of childhood mythology, only whispered about, and once thought to be only speculation.  I have spied these treasures however and I am going to restore them to their former glory.   

Now what all this means for me, and you loyal readers (ha ha!), is that I have a new ongoing project to tend to which I am calling Terrordrome Renovation 2011!  A project that will consist first and foremost of a thorough cleaning of everything to remove the grime and gunk from its storage in the rafters.  I’ve already started with this project by gathering up all the small arms, missiles, helmets, backpacks, and other miscellaneous accessories I found and gave them a good scrubbing with a tooth brush, a dunk in a bleach/water mix, and a good rinse.  I scrubbed the Transformers with the tooth brush as well, skipped the bleach with them, gave them a good rinse and dried them well.  Normally I wouldn’t be so anal with this type of thing, I’d just swiffer them off and be done with it, but there is some real ghastly stuff on some of the parts and when it comes to cleaning off things that have lived with mice, I don’t fuck around.

So here is my two part strategy as of now, first the cleaning.  Dust, wash, and sterilize every part.  It will be fairly easy with the vehicles and larger stuff but the small parts from the bases are gonna be time consuming, like I said it’s an ongoing project.  Second, the restoration.  Putting all the parts together with the correct vehicles and bases they go with.  Luckily I do have the instructions for the Terrordrome which should help, but pretty much everything else will have to be referenced from the internet in order to put it all together.  I will be posting my progress here and showing pictures of the fully restored goodness.  Some folks restore historic cars or polish antiques I plan on restoring a few historic toys.  Long story short I will be in my basement playing with old toys if anyone needs me and if anyone wants to lend a hand come on over and grab an old tooth brush and lets clean up Cobra!

That is all! 

One of Destro's vehicles along with a pile of parts.

 

The vehicles in the acquired collection, some in bad shape

 

Slag, Astrotrain, and Hook the newest additions to my small Transformers collection

 

Parts for the G.I. Joe Headquarters Command Center, it's no USS Flagg but it's still pretty rad!

 

What I've cleaned so far, some G.I. Joe weapons and accessories.

 

Behold the Terrordrome in disarray

 

Cobra Commander says hello from the Terrordrome

Masters of the Universe: Caverns of Fear

Have you ever spent hours working at something only to realize when you’re done that it was all just a waste of time?  Yeah well I just had that happen to me.  Whompers.

I was at my parent’s house the other night and I came across a cassette from a read along He-Man book entitled Masters of the Universe: Caverns of Fear.  A very compelling title to say the least.  Well anyway I had the brilliant idea of recording the tape to my computer and making a simple movie of it to post and share here on my blog, why not?  I didn’t have the book but I was able to find scans from the pages on He-Man.org and so I was set, all I needed to do was time the page images with the recorded audio and I’d be in business!  So I did that, I recorded the tracks with a little editing at the beginning and end to cut out the cassette play button noise then just added the pics and stretched them out to go in time with the narration.  Although this is all a pretty simple project it took an hour or two, I’m only working with Windows Movie Maker and it’s not the smoothest of tools.  Anyway I get it all done up, publish it, load it to YouTube no problem.  Then I decide to do a quick search to see where it would end up in the hierarchy of search terms only to find that, yep, you guessed it, there were already about three other versions of Caverns of Fear up on the site. 

Ah well just goes to show you that there are very few original thoughts.

Regardless I had a good time putting this together, looking over the pages and nostalgically reminiscing about my homemade Masters of the Universe adventures and the memories of reading this book as a kid.  At the time when He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was hitting it big (1983 or so) I was still rather young and wasn’t playing with those types of toys, but just a few years later when I was about 5, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of an entire MOTU collection including Castle Greyskull!  Some older kids who were friends of the family were getting rid of a bunch of their toys and somehow I was lucky enough to be next in line for the hand-me-downs.  I still don’t know how or why this happened, but I was of course extremely appreciative, and this encouraged me to add to the collection afterward asking for He-Man toys for all major gift giving holidays.

In my mind this was my basement playroom as a kid.

 

Toys have always been my thing, as a kid I loved setting up complex play landscapes in my basement with opposing bases set up across from each other composed of officially licensed toy accessories and my own homemade additions.  Filling the expanse between such fortresses were epic battlegrounds populated by vehicles, cardboard ramps, innocent bystanders (usually some other random toys who somehow became part of the storyline) and the discarded weapons, unattached arms, and other carnage one would expect to find in such an environment.  This was the case not only with my Masters of the Universe toys, but my Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Star Wars, Crash Dummies, and whatever other toys I dealt with.  However I believe I can trace it all back to He-Man and his pals and their unexpected arrival on my doorstep, it was like a real life Toy Story moment.

Ah childhood memories.  I guess it’s not really just a childhood memory, seeing as how I still collect Marvel Legends and Star Wars toys to this day, some habits die hard.  I don’t know what it is about cool action figures, but I’m a fan and they only keep getting better and cooler as time goes on!

Maybe in an upcoming blog I’ll talk about how I’ve recently discovered that I had the worst Transformers as a kid, really.  But that is a topic for another day, in the mean time take a look at my redundant video compilation of the Masters of the Universe: Caverns of Fear!  Enjoy!

A favorite Transformer of mine as a kid, though now I realize he is pretty lame as far as Transformers go.

That is all!