Thursday, March 23, 2017


The breaking of the 85th seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse is the sound of Larry Hama playing guitar at Toylanta 2017! Yes it's the post TOY/JOE/BOT-lanta episode and it's packed with all sorts of stories about toys, joes, bots, and lantas. Join the Nostrodomatron as he realizes that after this convention, he's a lanta, she's a lanta, and you probably would like to be a lanta, too. How did my very first ever successful awesome wonderful toy robots ad panel go? Did Derek Yaniger finally bring comic pages to a convention? How much for that Zartan crotch in the window? And would I rather ride a strong donkey or hump an old unicorn? Hear these and other horrible revelations in this MAMA WE'RE ALL LANTA NOW edition of the podcastalypse!



The Combaterwars Combinecons popped up at military bases during the holidays. I noticed the shelf warmers at the nearby Army PX were the flying Combaticons and the shelfwarmers at the Air Force BX were the ground based Combaticons.


No trip to Atlanta is complete without a quick swing by the old abandoned Lionel building. This visit ended up a little more exciting than the last time I was here.

Marten Jallad (left) Toylanta organizer, Derek Yaniger (center) artist illustrator, and Rob Springer (right) Botlanta track organizer


The Saturday night parachute drop was as surreal as ever, with 12 inch Joes and other figures plummeting 14 stories to the waiting attendees, elevators, and carpet.


I got to kickoff BOTLANTA with my overhead projector, showing and telling the Toylanteans about Jetfire mockups, Lionel Playworld, red cab Ultra Magnus, and unused Micromaster card art all from old toy robots newspaper ads.

FINALLY, after chasing Derek Yaniger all over Florida and Georgia, finally he brought comic pages to a con. I was so happy. I got to man his table while he was in his panel, AND I bought page 27 from G2 #1. I dug it the most, to say the least!

It was a weekend of toylantastic overload that will live forever so long as freedom exists. Legends of panelanta were born, a new convention experience was forged from the united titans of Joe and robot fandoms, and I almost got arrested. Plus I got some crotches for my Snake Eyes and Zartan. What more can a man ask for than Larry Hama guitar solos and a dependable 50 year old overhead projector. We shall remember you, Toylanta 2017, we shall remember.


Thursday, March 02, 2017


The breaking of the 84th seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse is the sound of the clock tick, tick, ticking down the seconds until JOELANTA 2017! Listen 'n fun as the Nostrodomatron rushes to get a bunch of broken toys in beat up boxes all dressed up like it's 1985 again! Thrill 'n anxiety as I prepare for my Joelanta panel that's more than meets the price in hopefully enough time to more than beat the clock! Will I peel the stickers off 33 year old Transformers so they'll look new again? Will I open brand new reissued Transformers so they'll look old again? How tough is it to match the photography of toy ads from 1984? Am I committing time crimes against nostalgia when my ad recolorizations show up in google search results for old store circulars? AND IS THIS THE END OF THE PODCASTALYPSE? ONLY SHIA NO-NO-NO-NO-NOs!

download it here



This paragraph was supposed to be a deeply insightful, behind-the-scenes exploration of how I take pictures of toys and turn them into pictures of toys with little prices and Hasbro logos on top of them. And also how I learned that it's pretty hard to take pictures of toy robots as halfassedly as most product photographers did back in 1984, but there's no time! I need to go finish my JoeLanta panel so you can see my naked seeker jets and hear how thirty three year old Dinobot ads confuse me! Or actually I think that's what this episode is about. So listen and find out how getting bitten by radioactive Google search results gave me the proportionate strength and speed of a time travelling K-Mart ad.


Eckerd 12/09/84


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rainchecks from Cybertron

Target 11 Nov 1984


One thing I love about old newspaper ads is how they can tell stories if put in context over periods of time. One such story involves a series of Target ads run in late 1984 that illustrate how tough it was to get deluxe Autobot cars that holiday season. The first was run on November 11th and featured a pretty neat setup with the Lamborghini bros Sunstreaker and Sideswipe in front of a Mirage box. It was a fantastic choice of the sportiest Autobot cars and a really pretty ad if you ask me. Oftentimes I'll look at an old Autobot ad with the more mundane, boring looking cars like Trailbreaker or Ironhide and I'll wonder if the store really wanted to sell Transformers at all!

Well the sporty cars of the first ad may have worked too well because when Target next advertised Autobot deluxes on December 5th they had to run a disclaimer in the body of the newspaper. It announced that they wouldn't have any in stock due to overwhelming response from the last sale they were still trying to fill rainchecks for! So here I can glean a little insight into the process of how newspaper circulars were made back then and how demand far outstripped supply that first Transformer year. The circulars obviously must have been planned and photographed well in advance of their distribution in papers. In Target's case it was before they could have anticipated the amount of stock they had on hand. I like how their explanation laid blame for the scarcity squarely on Hasbro who wouldn't be able to deliver more Autobot deluxes in time for the December 5th ad. I guess you could say when it came to filling orders for Transformers in 1984, Hasbro completely missed their Targets.

Target 05 Dec 1984

NOTICE: Ads in this post are colorized recreateAtrons based on black and white scans and are not the originals (but they're probably pretty close).

Monday, January 23, 2017


I wrote once about how in 1986 my mom bought a Matchbox Lion Voltron and hid it in my sister's closet, only to tell me after I found it that my cousin would be getting it instead because I did not deserve it. What I don't think I ever revealed was that along with Voltron she'd also bought a Jazz. A pristine 1984 era possibly pre-rub Jazz. Ever since then Jazz and Voltron have been the physical toy incarnations of unworthiness and shame for me. Psychologically I could never get over my label of being undeserving of those two toys and that has followed me all my life. Even 30 years later I've never bought myself a combining Voltron toy of any kind. Although I must admit that in my rebellious teens I did buy myself a G2 Jazz when it came out in a Hasbro fueled wanton act of teenage defiance. Yeah I was a wild one in the nineties.


Well now that I've started my new old ad restoration project I found need for a G1 Jazz box. There's a certain ad from Target that I am trying to recreate but in it is a boxed G1 Jazz. My unworthiness be damned, I had to finally get one and move on with my life. Unfortunately, nice Jazz boxes are expensive even in this age where prices for loose G1 on the secondary market are totally in the gutter. But I did find one auction for a busted up Jazz and its horribly mutilated box. It was as if destiny united me not with the Jazz I wanted, but with the Jazz I could afford. Although it looked like it had been run over by a garbage truck, when I saw the auction photos I figured two things: 1) that even with a gigantic tear in the corner and all smashed up, I could still probably make that box look good enough for what I needed, and 2) considering how I treated my childhood toys, that old 1984 Jazz in my sister's closet was better off without me.


The Jazz in my $28 box-and-Jazz auction was in the shape you'd expect for a Jazz that came with a box for 28 dollars. If you know how G1 Jazzes are made, you know that pin lying alongside the body means only one thing-major structural damage. That's the pin that the chest swivels on, so it being outside is a clue that this Jazz had a lot in common with Jazz in Michael Bay's movie. It was actually kind of fun to hold the two halves in my hands and say 'Aww, Jazz' over and over again. One odd thing I noticed was how the obligatory broken windshield was broken. Usually they're broken at the neck, but this one looks like it was deliberately cut at the roof, as if someone were trying to make Jazz a convertible!

I researched online about flattening old documents and adapted a technique used to unroll rolled up photographs. I put an inch of water in a plastic tub, suspended the Jazz box above it on a platform built from a tv dinner tray and a stack of CD covers, and snapped the lid on. I took the box out after two days. The humidity inside the container caused the paper fibers to relax so the box was really soft and limp.


Getting the box flat enough so that it would photograph well was a little bit of a challenge. I've got a couple of messed up Transformer boxes but I've never really tried flattening them out. In Jazz's case I pretty much had to do something because the box wouldn't sit square due to some massive bowing out of the top and bottom panels. It had to be flattened and I had to figure out how to do undo 30 years of whatever forces smashed it into such sorry shape. But I tried a technique involving a mini humidifier and a couple days of drying and flattening and the box flattened nicely. You basically have to get the box fibers to relax by keeping it in a humid environment for a couple days, then you have to flatten it in layers of tissue paper and grocery bags for a couple more. Of course there has to be some weight applied while drying, so I used an entire year's worth of Hobby Japans from 1997. I figured nothing on earth is heavier than a couple thousand pages of super robots.

Now that's flat! I've tried flattening out similar materials before without applying humidity but I never got results this flat this fast.

Here's the before & after on the box's most damaged corner. It's still total garbage but at least now it's square and flat garbage. Note how the bowing on the top was completely eliminated and the crushed flap edge has totally smoothed out.

The rest of the box doesn't look too bad, either. Waviness and major curving have been almost completely eliminated. The worst of the bowing on the bottom panel has disappeared enough so that the box sits square. I can't do much about the whitening on the creases as they will remain even after the bends are straightened out, but this is good enough for physical reality. The rest can be cleaned up digitally when it's time to recreate the ad.

The final touches. I determined that the rear quarter panel decals are not factory applied from studying actual sealed Jazzes and the ad I am attempting to recreate. So I removed the one that will show most prominently through the bubble. Speaking of bubble, I bought a reprobubble and insert materials from ebay seller reprobubbles. I had to cut and fold things to fit how I needed them but they worked well.


The car ends up looking good enough for my purposes after just a little cleaning and some hot glue to get that roof back together. I was pretty happy with how the box turned out as well. Lucky for me the ad I am attempting to recreate positions Trailbreaker in such a way that he covers the majority of the most damaged box front. At this point a little GIMP photo manipulation will go a long way. So in the end this beat up 28 dollar Jazz will be a good enough stand in for the day a Target photographer shot one case fresh back in 1984. Now if I could only get Trailbreaker to smile...

Monday, January 16, 2017

Macrocranios Jones and the Kingdom of the Brutal Dark Microfilms

I think so far my attempts at colorizing old Transformers newspaper ads have come out pretty decent. They're kind of tricky to execute but the latest ones I wanted to do were supposed to be a piece of oil cake. Whereas the Devastator giftset and early Zayre ads required actual toys and photo manipulations, my latest targets should have been straightforward because those ads used existing catalog photography. Since I had the catalog source material I thought it would be a super simple matter of cut and paste and I'd be done. But of course with old Transformers ads nothing is what it seems and colorizing them would be like fishing out Burmese ruby crystals from the La Brea tar pits.

Hardware Hank 30 Oct 1984


The two ads I wanted to colorize were both from regional chains that ran them as part of their circulars back during the holiday season of 1984. One was from Hardware Hank, a store that still survives to this day in Rapid City and Sturgis, South Dakota. The other was from a now extinct midwest toy store chain called Toy Kingdom. Both of them used the Autobot cars spread in the 1984 Hasbro Toyfair catalog that I'd written about back in 2009. I was familiar with that particular photographic layout so I immediately figured these would be a snap.

Hardware Hank 30 Oct 1984 colorized

Colorizing the Hardware Hank ad did end up being as easy as I envisioned it. You can see in the original underexposed black and white scan that the robot names are superimposed over the photograph and there's even a seam going down the middle of the image, meaning this was a direct copy of the '84 Toyfair catalog pages. The only things added were the Hasbro logos at the bottom right. It was very easy then to take the catalog and crop the pages down to match the Hardware Hank layout. But things would not go so well with the next ad....


I freaked out royally a couple years back when I first came across Toy Kingdom's November 01, 1984 circular on Google's newspaper archive. But I only seized upon it that time to illustrate how 1984 Transformers newspaper ad line art originates from photography in that year's Toy Fair catalog. Now that I was trying to color the thing I found there was a lot more to that tiny little picture than met the eye. Upon closer examination I think that one ad may be the most historically significant piece of Hasbro marketing material ever published in newspapers, or at least the photograph in it is.

At first glance the small rectangle with the blurry toy images seems to be an exact match with the '84 Autobot car spread. But it actually differs in a lot of ways. The most obvious is that it does not have the inset rectangle with the Autobot minicars. Instead there is a blacked out area there. The other differences are more subtle but give clues as to what this picture really is. There were no superimposed toy names next to each robot, and the image's southern border extended further than the Toyfair version. Simply overlaying the Toyfair pages on top of the ad wasn't going to work. That approach would not produce an exact match because the Toy Kingdom ad was the original uncropped, raw photo taken for the '84 Toyfair catalog photoshoot!

Overlaying the catalog pages over the ad image gives an idea of how much more area the original photo had versus the cropped version. The complete reflections of Ratchet, Trailbreaker, and Hound can be seen plus the bottom edge of the photo itself. Then there's the matter of that mysterious dark area...


Ultimately the colorization of Toy Kingdom's November 01, 1984 ad fell short because I did not have the original uncropped, unmodified deluxe Autobot car spread from Hasbro's '84 Toyfair catalog. It would be kind of hard to pull that off since I imagine only one of those exists and I don't have the means of acquiring it. For now I am left with a partial color reconstruction and a whole lot of questions any sane rational person would have. How did the Toy Kingdom ad photographer get the image? Other stores used the Toyfair catalog as source material, so why didn't these guys do the same? Those will probably remain mysteries to me. I am grateful to have a glimpse of the original picture and were it not for this ad I wouldn't even have thought this much about its existence.


However, on the subject of questions insane and irrational, why did they blot out the bottom right hand corner of the photograph? Upon magnifying and level balancing, more details appear in that mysterious dark area. That was the space eventually occupied by the Autobot Minicars sidebar in the Toyfair catalog but this photo was not of the catalog pages, so why did that portion get blacked out? Why not just run the whole photograph with the original dead space there? Or was there any dead space there to begin with? As I was messing with the levels on GIMP I started seeing what I take to be vestiges of an unidentifiable form hiding there in the blackness. Is it just light glare reflecting off the original surface or could it be an entirely other Autobot car? Am I going crazy here or is there more to this picture? My investigation into this particular image is not yet over.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fantastic TransFormers ads and Zayre to find them

The breaking of the 83rd seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse is the sound of a time machine set for a collision course over Zayre! Yes about the worst, most wonderful terrible thing that can happen to a Monochromatic AdstroNaut like myself is to find the long buried mircofilm remains of now extinct retail store chains I never got to
visit when I was a kid. And it is doubly fantastic awful when I find out a certain store I never knew existed regularly ran amazing Sunday circular ads during the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. Well that's exactly the case with the long gone retail chain Zayre-a store whose ads were wonderlands of MotoBots, Diakrons, TransMobots, RoboForce, GoBots, and of course TransFormers. In fact, Zayre's TransFormer ads are legendary (to me) for many reasons, all of which will take a good forty five minutes of me driving back and forth to the library while recording in my van to explain. What is the secret source of the Zayre toy photographer's prototype action figures? What does a time machine set for April 29, 1984 sound like? How much spaghetti did you have to eat before Devastator had lunch with you? I don't know the answers but I got some ideas in this THE NEXT BEST THING TO BEING ZAYRE episode of the podcastalypse!

download it zhere

Zayre April 29, 1984
Colorized Zayre April 29, 1984


Zayre may be gone but it left behind a treasure trove of TransFormer ad mysteries. One of the things I like about trying to colorize the old ads I collect is that I find out new things about them I'd previously overlooked. It happened with a Target Devastator giftset ad and it happened again here with Zayre. A problem arose when I was trying to get the proportions of my Starscream photograph to line up with the one in the legendary April 29, 1984 Zayre ad that I first talked at length about in episode 50. For some reason, no matter what angle I took Starscream's picture from, the right wing wouldn't line up correctly to match the proportions of the one in the ad!


That's when I noticed the tip portion of the wing forward of the arm joint in the ad photoshoot Starscream extended just a little bit longer than the same part on my childhood Starscream. From what I understand this variation is a vestige of the ad toy's origins as an actual Diaclone F-15 Jetrobo. That mold had these elongated wings and a few other differences from the actual production toy. They really aren't the mass retail versions at all, but Japanese release toys with Transformer stickers on them Hasbro slapped together for promotional photography. These Diaclones with Transformer stickers were used in early catalogs including Hasbro's '84 Toy Fair book and the pack in toy checklist that came with the original first few waves of Transformers. To realize I was seeing a dressed up Diaclone in a Zayre Sunday circular surprised me. But I guess the ad was prepared so relatively early in the line's release that Zayre may not have had any retail samples available to photograph so they had to arrange something with Hasbro I guess. That's just speculation on my part. I don't know how they ended up with these particular toys in their ad.

SpaghettiOs May 11, 1986
Victor Caroli narrated Zayre commercial

Here's the May 11, 1986 SpaghettiOs ad I was talking about. I never heard of those cups before so I was excited. Equally exciting was finding out that Zayre once got Victor Caroli to do a voiceover in their commercials!

Zayre November 25, 1984
Zayre March 10, 1985

The November 15, 1984 ad up left is one of the few times robots (TransFormers in particular) dominated the front page of Zayre's circular. Note the yellow Cliffjumpers. The March 10, 1985 page up right shows how Zayre would give equal time to robot lines in their ads, even if some of the also rans weren't as popular as the big lines.

Zayre November 30, 1985
Zayre February 16, 1986

November 30 1985 up left was the only other time Transformers got on the front page of the Zayre circular. The February 16, 1986 ad up right features a rarity in TransFormers ads-Special Team leaders not wearing their super robot helmets!

Zayre June 8, 1986

The Ultra Magnus cab in this June 8, 1986 ad confounds me so! It's obviously not white as a normal production version Magnus' would be. Is it just a red Optimus Prime cab? Is it a blue Powered Convoy cab? How did Zayre even get this particular trailer/cab combination in their photoshoot?

Zayre June 29, 1986
Zayre June 29, 1986 colorized
Sky Lynx is sad he was mistransformed so badly in his Zayre ad debut. This ad also marks the end of Zayre spelling 'TransFormers' with a capital F, which they had done from the beginning.

Zayre July 20, 1986

I like to call this one 'Wreck-Gar's Bad Day'. It has the highest Decepticon-to-Autobot ratio of any ad I've ever seen!

Zayre August 31, 1986

It's the return of Ultra Magnus to Zayre ads and this time he's got the correct color cab. This begs the question of what happened the first time and where does Zayre get the toys for their photoshoots if they're not the same ones every time?

Zayre October 12, 1986

Zayre's record of correctly transforming the Scramble City leaders goes out the window with Silverbolt wearing Superion's head here. Speaking of transforms. Metroplex and Ultra Magnus never appeared as robots in Zayre ads, despite the photographer trying to represent both modes for every other assortment. Trypticon is mentioned in this one but not shown.

Zayre November 9, 1986

These '86 Zayre ads were marvels of composition considering how many elements the photographer had to cram in to each shot. What at first seems like a mistransformation is probably just the photographer trying to keep the toys representative while still not blocking out or getting in the way of anything near or behind them. Sky Lynx's alternate mode is correctly transformed here but offset in a separate graphic. I am noticing a trend where they didn't include doubles of the higher price point toys alongside themselves for display in both modes in the same physical space. It may have been a cost issue, who knows?

Zayre December 7, 1986

Background stars are appropriate as this is the last of the great Zayre Transformer smorgasbords. After 1986 Zayre just did not devote as much space or background rocks to their Transformer ads. At least in the end Metroplex did finally get to have his tallest tower attached in a Zayre ad after having to have them all removed or repositioned to get everything to fit during the previous photoshoots.



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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.