Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Micronauts was what your grandparents bought you in 1978 because they thought it was Star Wars. Oh they were awful. I knew better than to show up at recess in kindergarten with Micronauts toys. All the other five year old kids would be like, "Oh, we'll be playing over here in this corner with actual Star Wars toys our smart grandmas gave us, recreating actual movie scenes that can only be recreated with official Star Wars figures while you can go over there and fuck yourself with Micronauts that are not based on a fantastic space opera movie." To celebrate the suck of this horrible toyline I have an ad featuring two Micronauts toys. It was from the store Lewis Osco and it ran on December 6th, 1978.
Although this ad describes the toy illustrated as the Micronaut Biotron, what's actually illustrated is the Giant Acroyear. Giant Acroyear was a Micronauts combiner robot whose combined form was made up of two smaller Micromen, a mobile cannon platform and a jet. At first a combining jet/cannon/robot team sounds cool but in reality it pretty much sucks ass like all the other Micronauts toys. Micronauts had a lot of cool ideas but they physically looked so not like what a robot should look like. Micronauts were spindly and anemic. They were the nerd robots who got beat up by the jock robots in junior high. So while the cool robots like the Shogun Warriors were out there getting laid and fighting Godzilla, Micronauts was getting its glasses broken and its underwear pulled up in gym class.
As a kid I had the Micronauts Gammatron and god it was so friggin retarded. It was sort of motorized-I can't really explain what was supposed to happen when the Gammatron worked. The only way I can describe the Gammatron is that it looked like a dildo with wheels and skinny robotic arms that flailed about wildly. It was like if Gumby ate a toilet and started moshing. Toys like that didn't stimulate my imagination-they kind of sat my imagination down and then had seizures in front of it.
There was one absolutely decent Micronauts toy and it was the Battle Cruiser. The Battle Cruiser was a bunch of smaller misshapen Micronaut hubris that when combined sort of looked like a space ship made of junk with laser guns for wings. The laser gun wings were the only thing that made this toy almost cool, because if your Grandma got you the Micronauts Battle Cruiser for Christmas thinking it was the Millenium Falcon, you could bust out the laser guns and pistol whip her then pretend to kill yourself in front of the Christmas tree.
Monday, November 27, 2006
As a kid I thought these cards were a huge hassle, an obstacle to be overcome. I felt like just to be in the store I had to have paperwork on me in case I got carded by the TRU I.D. card nazi giraffes. Why would they do this? My life at 12 years old was complicated enough without this layer of bureaucracy.
After many deep thinking periods spent over multiple bowls of C3PO's cereal, the card didn't seem so bad. I noticed from observing my dad that one thing that makes a boy a man is having a lot of papers in his wallet. For most people "papers" means money. My dad mostly had pictures of his old girlfriends but since I was a toy robot nerd that kind of action wasn't going to happen until I was 25. So I needed something else.
It was then that I decided the card represented a rite of manhood, allowing me the ultimate freedom to be able to walk into the world's biggest toy store by myself without my mom. Kick ass. Forget a driver's license, when I was 12 I wanted one of these "My Kid is not an Idiot" cards from TRU. Only then, when I could buy He-Mans unassisted by my parents would I be a man myself. I just needed to trick my mom into trusting me enough to sign one of those cards.
I didn't want the card just for the doorway to adulthood it represented, though. For various reasons (mostly because I was stupid) I thought the card was some sort of credit card. Like having one meant I had a line of credit at Giraffe Bank. So when my mom filled out my card with a $300 spending limit I figured successfuly amassing the Teddy Ruxpin army of my dreams was just a matter of time. What I didn't understand was that the card didn't mean I could load up $300 worth of talking robot bears and walk out the store with them. But whatever.
Once the depressing truth set in and the laughter of the cashier girls subsided, I wondered why my mom would play such a horrible joke on me. Then thanks to Sunday school I remembered that baby Jesus hated me because of the bag of peanuts I stole from the grocery store when I was five, damning me to an eternity of hellish torment. So it all evened out and as I collapsed onto my knees sobbing furiously outside the Toys R Us while my cart of Teddy Ruxpins was returned to the shelves, I was able to smile a little through the tears of confusion and embarrasment.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
This is all very fantastic for Herz and his fans but I showed up to dinner late and I ate nothing. Fuck. I guess I should stop showing up to dinner late. It is easier to blame Werner Herzog than to accept responsibility for my famine-tasticness. He is after all a super cool cinematographer dude of some sort but I'm too much of a retard to comprehend even the opening credits of his movies. His storytelling greatness is nigh incompreshensible to someone like me whose idea of good character design is a talking rain gauge.
Speaking of which, I decided I will kill myself at 50 years old and here's why you should, too. I hear that suicidal people experience an overwhelming wave of calmness and peace once they've decided to do it. The trivialities of this pointless existence all fade away once you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are in control of your own demise. No more worrying about the horrible future or those damn regrets about wasted potential or all the girls you could have banged but didn't because you were afraid of what exactly is inside a vagina. It's all gone once you have the guts to take control and off yourself. By putting a distant future cutoff deadline on my life I effectively cap the shitstorm of shittyness my twilight zone of a life is.
Plus there is no greater legacy than the unrealized expectations that everyone has for you once you've splatted your brains all over the mirror in the ladies room at McDonalds. I've heard Jimmi Hendrix wasn't really all that great a guitarist but he died young and now his fans ponder the potential wonderfullness he had yet to achieve. Same thing with Buddy Holly. Who cares if they would have actually made shitty music if they really lived, it's the fabulously overblown expectations others have of these ghosts that generates their post mortem fame.
Me, I have no fame but to my soon to be born kid I will be the most wonderful dead father in the universe. No parent is so beloved as a dead one. Trust me. Ask anybody whose now deceased mom or dad anal raped them with Pokemons. They'll just remember all the happy times their parents took them to McDonalds and bought them the McNugget Happy Meal in the plastic carton shaped like Pikachu or whatever passes for acts of kindness with the kids nowadays. Plus killing myself at 50 offs me around the time my kid is in his late teens and he hates me anyways. It's easier to say goodbye to your embarrasing waste of a life dad and all that.
All in all my last 18 years should be pretty good. I'll start playing guitar and will no doubt do shittily at it but my kid will grow up thinking I would have been the next Hendrix. Plus thanks to my self imposed death sentence I won't sweat it too much when I see a movie poster for a Werner Herzog film and my stomach starts grumbling uncontrollably.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
On my way down to the ice I got to spend about two days in New Zealand, which was fantastic as usual. So green and so alive it was, which stands in stark contrast to Antarctica where I'll spend the next three months. New Zealand is a place where people live in perfect harmony with nature, while in Antarctica nature tries to face fuck you with ice balls.
New Zealand is lush greenery, countless birds flying in formations across the deep blue sky and breathtaking foresty landscapes where the land meets the sea. Oh god I wish I had a flamethrower. I would burn it all down, painting the New Zealand hills red with the blood of a thousand seagulls. I would bury every last square foot of exposed earth in two feet of broken mercurial thermometers, dead double A batteries and roadkill. Then I would rechristen the resulting charred hell "New Toasterland". I would build a castle out of penguin skulls called Mount Cranios. It would be my base of operations where, like Skeletor, I would fight off He-Man and the forces of good.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
These K-Mart ads are from October 10, 1984. They feature Optimus Prime, Starscream and Soundwave. Originally they were all in a row in that order in the ad. They're my favorite kind of ad in that each toy gets its own description. They're somewhat brief blurbs about each toy but it's better than what we get nowadays when you're lucky if you get the robot's name next to it. (See? I'm not totally stuck in the 80's. I do look at and collect ads for Transformers from the present, too.)
I remember that Optimus Prime was the first Transformer I took a screwdriver to back in '85. I was a big fan of the Marvel comics as a kid. When Prime got captured by the Decepticons and beheaded in the comic, I had to take my Prime's head off, too. So I did it and I noticed there was an extra little peg underneath his chin that kept his head locked looking straight forward. That was one of my biggest gripes as a kid. The vast majority of '84 Autobots didn't have swivel necks. They all were stuck looking straight ahead. Wheeljack and Hound were the only ones who could look over their own shoulder. If you broke that little peg off, Prime would have neck articulation allowing him to swivel his head left and right. When it was time to return his head, I broke the chin peg so my Prime could look around. In my childhood continuity he was tired of Megatron sneaking up on him from the side. It was his only weakness!
The text of the Starscream ad calls him an "unassuming plane" that "flies in low and fast". While it's great imagery, I don't know how "unassuming" a low and fast F-15 armed with cluster bombs is. If it were a Cessna or some other kind of civilian prop job that flew in low and fast over me and transformed into a killer death robot, then I'd say that was an unassuming vehicle that surprised me. But an F-15?
Did I mention earlier that my sister got Starscream while I got Thundercracker and Skywarp for Christmas of '84? One thing I remember about the jets is that I broke the pegs that attach the rear horizontal stabilizers early on. So early in fact, that years later I saw somebody else's Starscream with all the parts and I thought they had some sort of deluxe version with extra wings. I don't remember much about the day I broke and lost those tiny stabilizer wings shortly after playing with the toy. My brain must have repressed the trauma. Later I would try to sculpt new wings out of Sculpey clay and attach them, but the experiment failed miserably. They looked so retarded. My broken Decepticon stabilizer wings were a secret shame I had to carry with me for years.
Hey check out Soundwave the "Secret Commmunicator". I wonder where K-Mart was getting their ad copy. I had a cousin who didn't have Megatron but he did have Soundwave, so he promoted Soundwave to leader and instead of calling them Decepticons he called them "Soundicons". Since I had Megatron, by his logic I should have called my Decepticons "Megatronicons". But whatever.
Soundwave is slated for rerelease next month at Toys R Us in a box that includes Ravage and Laserbeak. I can't wait for all the internet nerd kids to start posting pictures of Ravage saying "I'm in UR Soundwavez recording UR Transmissionz". You can preorder it online now at TRU.internet or something.
So that'll be it from me for a while. When next I post it'll be from Antarctica. I will be posting new secret transmissions in about two weeks or so.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
It's that time of year again. This Sunday I leave for my summer job in Antarctica. Most blogger types would use the experience as an excuse to post about ten thousand pictures of penguins and write about how seeing a seal roll over gave them a new perspective on life. Just because I'm going down there don't expect me to get all emo over snowflakes. If you want to read about the snowy adventure of a lifetime or any other hardcore outdoorsy Antarctic adventure crap, go somewhere else. This blog will continue to focus on truly important and fascinating stuff like toy robots I had in 1984.
My job isn't glamorous down on the ice but it sure is fun. Most importantly, it affords me the opportunity to score mad robots at various cities along the way. Last year on my way down I bought Alternators Meister in the Singapore airport. Then when I left, I found the Madman DVD release of TF:TM while I was in New Zealand. I hear Australia is getting a lot of Alt Nemesis Primes lately. Hopefully I'll score something on my way down. Plus there's the yearly tradition where I shave all my pubic hairs in Christchurch. I call it "giving myself a New Zealander".
I'm packing right now and deciding which robots will be coming with me. I can't take much but I will bring Alt Prime because he's a red Dodge Ram, which kind of looks like the trucks they drive at McMurdo. So for the next three months Prime and I will be hanging out down on the ice and missing out on times that are traditionally spent with family like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. If you're a traditional family that sucks, but after spending so much time in the military and being married to it, we've learned to be flexible and adopt alternative celebration traditions.
Then there are the holiday events I'll miss out on no matter what. There's black Friday sales, the Wii launch, the Playstation 3, Toys R Us reissue Soundwave, about three months worth of podcasts and other trivialities I'm sure would have pointlessly consumed my life. In the end I won't feel very bad about missing out on that stuff at all. I gladly give consumer culture up. They stopped making anything I liked 20 years ago anyways.
I think it's partly due to the timeless bland look the Rapid City public library has. From the outside it looks modern enough, but parts of the inside might as well be from any time and any place. The area that has the microfishe readers is seperated from the rest of the library. The furniture is especially generic looking. Nothing looks modern. The microfishe readers themselves are technology that has existed since the 70's. There is no hint of what year it is when you sit there in front of those machines.
So when I sat down last night and pulled up 1974 it was like going back in time. I clutched my iPod tightly to remind myself that I wasn't in 1974. It was like that old Christopher Reeve movie where he goes back in time by emptying his room of all objects from his current time period and then he looks at the wall and concentrates on the year he wants to visit. The only difference was he really wanted to be back in time. As I looked at the pictures of the high school football players in the sports sections I thought about how they were all probably in their 50's or even dead by now. I did not want to be in 1974, especially at my current age.
[Although I guess it would be cool having knowledge of future events. Of course everyone would try to beat George Lucas at creating Star Wars if they went back to 1974. I probably wouldn't be able to create a movie, but I could write approximations of the Star Wars speaking lines off the top of my head and animate it with clay puppets and cardboard spaceships on public access television. Then when he comes out with it three years later I could sue him for ripping off my public access puppet show, thus toppling the Star Wars empire and preventing the creation of about ten million nerds.]
I always think about going back in time but as it was happening last night at the library, instead of feeling nostalgic and happy I got all bummed out because 1974 kind of sucked. There was very little toy robot action going on. I searched hard for any hints of the eventual robo awesomeness that the world would develop, but no traces of robot culture were evident in 1974. Nothing seemed familiar. It was a desolate time devoid of internets. Was I really born that year? Where were the robots? I was freaking out. 1974 was scaring me. The ads had no robots of any kind. I drowning in a sea of Evel Knievel wind up motorcycles and Snoopy radios. Please save me robots from the strange toys of 1974! Oh god somebody invent the internet already!
I was all freaked out so I jumped ahead and loaded up the reels with years I was more comfortable with-1977 and 1978. Maybe one day I'll have the guts to load up '74 through '76 but that'll have to wait a while. And guess who awaited me in the newspaper ads from '77 and '78? Those goofy crazy robots with lots of metal and little articulation-the Shogun Warriors.
Like I've said before, my recollection of the toyline is bad because I was only three to four years old when they were at their retail heyday, but hell, they were robots and I was glad to see their ads. It was years later that I started watching their cartoons but for some reason the names of the Shogun Warriors toys were different from the cartoon names. Like I remember the Mazinga toy as Tranzor-Z because that's what the cartoon was called. And Dragun was known to me as Star Dragon from Starvengers, part of the Force Five block of japanese robo cartoons in the early 80's.
TERRIBLE COOL NEWS!!! I just found out that there is a company making DVDs of the Force Five cartoons and you can see clips from Starvengers at their site! DREAM COMES TURE!!!
Damnit, I was supposed to talk about Shogun Warriors in this post but I spent it writing about how 1974 scares me. So without further adeiu, the first ad waaay at the top is from a store called Gambles. It was published November 20, 1977. I like it because somebody hand drew Dragun to fit the layout of the ad instead of using stock images. The one that reads "Invincible Guardians of World Freedom" is another Gambles ad, but from December 11 of 1977. The "Almost 2 Feet tall" ad is from Mill's Drug Store published 28 November 1978. "Shogun 24" Warriors" is a JC Penny ad from 21 December 1978. The final ad is for the three inchers and it came from JC Penny's 28 November 1979 newspaper ad.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I was at a Transformer convention named Cybcon this past July when a resin kit manufacturer named Hal asked me if I'd do some sculpts for his line of kits. I said okay and he told me, "Well my customers want some obscure spaceships that only appeared in a few panels of some twenty year old robot comics." I said, "You're in luck. Obscure robot rockets from twenty years ago comics are what I'm all about!"
And so began my latest month long project where I'd sculpt two robot rockets named Kranix and Arblus. In a nutshell, Kranix and Arblus were two robots with bit parts in the animated Transformers movie from 1986. Their planet of Lithone was destroyed in the first scene of the movie and later on they both are fed to robot sharks in a big pit. So in the hundreds of hours that is teh Transformers cartoon history, these guys appear for a total of about two minutes, then they die horrible gruesome deaths. To me, short lived robot characters that got fed to shark robots just scream out for action figures.
Kranix is seen transforming into a rocket in the comic adaptation of the movie, which is something that never happened on screen. The comic is based on an early draft of the movie that has certain scenes and concepts that were cut, rewritten, or never got animated. So you have a situation where the comics canon has the robots from Lithone able to transform, which doesn't work in the context of the final animated version of the movie. Since character models exist for the alternate modes of the Lithonians, there are Transformer fans out there who would like a three dimensional representation of those robot rockets. And who you gonna call when you want crap like that? Me!
I personally think that the concept of transforming Lithonians was eliminated from the movie with good reason. If the Lithonians could transform into rockets, they could have all escaped from their planet when Unicron ate it. Plus, the murderous robots that threw them into the shark pit did not bother to give Kranix and Arbulus laser manacles. When Hot Rod and Kup were thrown into the pit, they got the laser manacles. Once they were able to free themselves of the manacles, they could transform into space cars. So the lack of laser manacles on Kranix and Arblus indicates that the murderous robots weren't worried about them turning into rockets and flying away.
So I pulled out my comics from 20 years ago and I turned to the pages with the rocket alternate modes. Whenever I'm starting a sculpting project I gather as much reference material as I can, but these two guys were somewhat obscure so there's not a lot to go on. Earlier in the year I made robot figures of both of them so I was familiar with their overall body structures. In doing the research for the figure versions, I came to the conclusion that if they transformed, the character models of their robot modes suggested they turned into open cockpit cars, not rockets.
There are certain elements of their bodies that hint at being wheels and seats. I came to the conclusion that if Kranix and Arblus were ever meant to transform by the person who designed their robot forms, they'd have four wheeled alternate modes. It's my theory that the person who designed the movie characters, a man named Floro Dery , only created robot mode model sheets for Arblus and Kranix, then when Marvel did the comic adaptation, a Marvel artist came up with the vehicle modes. There is such a huge disparity between the physical attributes of the rockets and the robots that I think it's impossible for those robot s to turn into those rockets. But with the pressure on to complete the comic, the artist had to come up with rocket alt modes to fit in with the script he was given.
In the Transformers Universe comic that serves as the only source of the rocket mode character models, the basis for the designs is credited as "model sheets from Marvel Productions". No one person is given credit, possibly because Floro Dery wasn't known to the Marvel Comics staff since he worked for the animation side of Sunbow/Marvel. This shoots a hole in my theory because you'd think Marvel would credit the artist who drew the rocket mode of Kranix in the movie adaptation (Don Perlin, I think) in Kranix's profile. I just find it really hard to find any correlation between those spaceship looking alt modes and the robots they are supposed to turn into. I find it hard to believe Floro Dery designed those alt modes.
So if I have these objections to the existence of these rocket modes, why am I selling out and sculpting them? Well duh, money. But aside from that they also follow in the category of cool robot ships that I always wanted as a kid but that Hasbro never made. In a way they are the kings of obscure Transformers character models, with Kranix's ship mode appearing in only two panels of one story, and Arblus's rocket mode only existing in the TFU profiles book.
When I was at Botcon this past September, Transformer designer Aaron Archer mentioned that he really liked the ships in the Transformers the Movie after he watched it during Botcon. Aaron's Transformer kung-fu is very powerful so if he's interested in creating something, chances are it will be made at some point. He specifically was turned on by the Decepticon flagship and he mentioned how that would look nice in the current Transformers Titanuim line.
I had the Lithonian rocket robots in mind before Botcon and I thought it cool that Aaron was thinking along the same lines as me. I doubt that he'd seriously consider producing ships of the Lithonian character models, but it would be funny if he did. I'm sure the professional Hasbro toy designers and Takara's sculptors could blow my work away.
But until that day, until all the obscure characters from the Transformers universes are made into toys, we'll have these rockets I designed. Hal will be putting resin kits of these spaceships into production on or around the beginning of the year at his site, Rabid Squirrel Productions.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
So we got there tonight and when my wife took the picture of me holding the shirt, a Wal-Mart employee lady came up to us and asked us what we were doing. All I could think to ask was, "Does this Nazi shirt make me look fat?" She tried to stop us on the grounds that taking pictures inside Wal-Mart is against the law. I asked what law that was and she said it was enacted because people were perpetrating eBay scams with pictures of Wal-Mart merchandise. Oh whatever.
So we started talking to this obviously insane lunatic and sure enough, she kept saying more and more weird and outrageous things. When I explained to her I just wanted a picture with the currently interweb infamous Nazi shirt, she said that was cool as long as we weren't eBay scammers. WTF? After we discussed the controversial image she said she didn't think it was all that bad of a logo to have on a shirt compared to some of the other crap they were selling. Awesome! Forget Nazis, she was more concerned with the messages Wal-Mart was sending by selling shirts that promoted the evil Texaco corporation and the sexually promiscuous Smokey and the Bandit.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
In the sixth grade I still wasn't combing my hair but since I had the highest grade point average of my class, people didn't give me shit. I wasn't gay-I was an eccentric smart weirdo. But the girls question came up again one day when at lunch another sixth grader named Laura Uribari flat out asked me, "When are you going to start liking girls?" She seemed a bit frustrated and upset with me. WTF? I gave her the stupidest answer imaginable because of course I was a sixth grade nerd who hadn't gotten laid yet like all the other promiscuous 12 year olds. I put down the Transformer comic book I was reading (I was a little pissed off that she was bothering me with my robot studies) and I told her "Well, maybe when they start smelling better." At that point females still didn't appeal to me, but I was holding out hope that one day I would find a girl my age who smelled as good as Optimus Prime's rubber tires.
So fast forward to last night and I'm 32 and I'm looking at the library archives of newspapers from 1979. I'm still wondering if 1979 was as cool as I remember it being when I was four. After reading the horrible Shogun Warriors comic I found my faith in my memories shaken. I knew Shogun Warriors were kick ass toys as a kid, so surely the other toys from that time were equally awesome, right?
BOY WAS I WRONG. HOLY SHIT BATMAN, WHAT THE HELL ARE THESE THINGS? MY EYES ARE MELTING!!
Welcome to this Lewis Osco ad from November 27th. Welcome to the suck that was 1979, folks. Welcome to the era of the Starroid Raiders. Possibly the most bizarre line of molded plastic humanoids ever made by man. What toy company marketing executive on crack thought this was a good idea? Were they knockoffs? Did anyone buy these on purpose? And most importantly, how did they know what the demons in my head look like? As my mind locked up in terror at these horrible horrible plastic people, the first thought I had was, "What kind of sick fuck finds those attractive?"
I was mystified. Surely nobody in the history of mankind who was a kid in 1979 would remember having these. Surely nobody would admit that Santa Claus hated children enough to get them Starroid Raiders for Christmas. But guess what? Thanks to the power of the intertron I found out that these cheesy Village People from Mars were actually the coolest toys ever made.
I am envious of fans like Doctor Squid who paid attention in 1979 and who actively pursued a collection of Starroid Raiders. Doctor Squid, I salute you and your love for these crazy outer space mutant teletubby action figures. Once I got over the shock of their horrid deformity I realized that I was being as closed minded as the fifth and sixth graders who thought that heterosexual reproduction should have been the singular aim of my life as a pre-pubescent child. Rock on, you crazy Doctor! Up the Irons!
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Did you ever know what it was like to want something above all else, to long so deeply for something that your existence felt incomplete without it? Like you simply could not exist without that one toy robot that made your life worth living? I felt like that back in '86 when I was twelve and I first saw Metroplex in the 1986 Transformers catalog. I wanted that thing so bad! He was Autobot City! The last line of Autobot defense (even laster than Omega Supreme who was their other last line of defense in 1985)! He was a giant robot so big that even his accessories had accessories! So big that other Transformers hung out inside him! He was the giantest of the giant robots. He was the king of the toy robots parking garage dollhouses.
05 October 1986 Sears
Is that all you see me as, my fellow Autobots? Someone who folds out to form roads?
PAINT ME LIKE YOUR HASBRO ROBOTS
Or maybe I was just in love with the idea of Metroplex. The back of Metroplex's box had a furious battle scene painting showing him in city mode making Transformers like Ultra Magnus look tiny. There were explosions everywhere as the Decepticons attacked and Metroplex looked too huge to fit on the small planetoid he was resting on. He was so huge that other robots like Hot Rod and Springer were driving down his enormous ramps. Yet in reality he was only a little taller than Ultra Magnus in robot mode and only the smallest Transformers could roll down his ramps. But the disconnect between product and package art didn't bother me much. I think as kids we knew the Hasbro's toy robots couldn't live up to the impossible fantasies they were portrayed as on their boxes. I know the art pissed off consumer advocacy groups and disappointed parents, who viewed it as nothing short of false advertising. But as a kid this false advertising was a big part of my fun! I knew those transforming plastic robot bricks couldn't really be made to stand in the furious action poses shown on their boxes, just like I knew they didn't really say those things on their tech specs. Complaining about Transformers not living up to their packaging was like being upset that these little plastic robots didn't actually have all those mental disorders.
|07 December 1986 Lionel Playworld||06 December 1986 Toys R Us|
BEING DUMB JUST MEANS EVERYTHING ELSE IS THAT MUCH MORE AWESOME
These ads show what I fell in love with in the parking lot of the Bag 'n' Save grocery store as I looked longingly at my Transformer catalog while my mom went inside to buy groceries. I remember looking at those toy catalogs as if I were Bob Lazar trying to reverse engineer a UFO. Metroplex's transformation in particular blew my mind. Of course now as an adult it's easy to realize that all you do to transform him is sit him in a jumping jacks pose and press his head down. But as a kid I was totally confused and amazed. I remember looking at pictures of his city mode and thinking that black block looking thing in the middle couldn't be his head, because when he was a robot his antennae were vertical, yet in city mode those antennae are horizontal! How did they do that? What unholy secrets of space and time manipulation did these Hasbronian wizards conjure up in their experimental toy engineering laboratories? And how did his chest unfold into that helipad? Holy hell, forget magnets, fuckin' hinges-how do they work?
12 October 1986 Zayre
09 November 1986 Zayre
07 December 1986 Zayre
AN ARM AND A LEG? WHAT A BARGAIN!
I wanted a Metroplex so bad. My twelve year old brain thought that if only I could have Metroplex I would never want for anything ever again. I meant it, too. I would be willing to give up food, shelter, sleep and clothing if it meant I could have that friggin' toy. Unfortunately my mom had an anti-shoplifting rule so thievery was not an option for me like it was for my peers. So instead of getting a job I always daydreamed about God coming down and making me deals where I would give up one necessity of life in exchange for the toy I wanted that week. I contemplated various disabilities like losing the sight in one eye or not being able to smell anymore if I could just get God to fork over that one robot I wanted. With Metroplex I upped the ante and figured I would be willing to give up both parents and be forced to live in a dumpster behind Bag 'n Save. I really thought this out. If I'd gotten my way, at twelve years old I would've been a deaf mute blind quadriplegic with a collection of four Transformers. Unfortunately my secret toy trades with God failed and I kept my sight and family and I never got Metroplex. It was left to me as an adult to find one, which I did ten years later in a trade with someone who was not God and had more reasonable terms.
|20 November 1986 Toy Wizard||29 October 1986 Toys R Us|
Of course no obsessive rumination on Metroplex of mine would be complete without observations on what old newspaper ad line art from 80s grocery stores tells us about life and the universe. One thing that trips me out about Metroplex is that two different robot modes exist in his ad line art. The first is an arms raised in the air pose (above right), and the second is a 3/4 view of the robot standing looking off to the right (above left). Usually the line art from ads is based off of Toy Fair catalog photography. This is the case with the arms in the air pose-it comes straight out of Metroplex's pages in the Hasbro's 1986 Toy Fair catalog. But the original photography for the 3/4 view isn't so easy to track down. It isn't based on the '86 Toy Fair catalog or the '86 pre-Toy Fair catalog (Metroplex isn't even in that one). I guess Hasbro did a shoot with the prototype for line art purposes and then for whatever reasons never used the photos. And how do I know it was a prototype the line art is based on? Well it has something to do with the city mode as depicted in these old ads...
|Toy Wizard 11/20/86||Cut Rate Toys 12/07/86|
TANK TOWER POWER
Metroplexes came with a little tank named Slammer who split in two. The bottom treaded Slammer half then unfolded to make a spire that got used as a tower in city mode. The other Slammer half (its turret) also resembled a tower, except it didn't have a peg to plug into anywhere. So in the vast majority of production Metroplexes, only one tower is made using Slammer parts. Yet the city mode line art in Metroplex ads shows the two Slammer spires used as towers. Now in Remy the Reminator's review of Metroplex at reminator.com, there are reports of some early 80s Metroplexes coming with a pegged Slammer turret for use as the second tower. And an owner of an original prototype 80s Metroplex has stated that the proto had the pegged turret as well. But for whatever reason, only city mode Metroplex line art shows this dual tower configuration. It doesn't show up in the Transformers pack in catalogs, the '86 Toy Fair pages, the '86 battle scene, or the toy's box. UPDATE: When Metroplex was reissued by Takara in 2008, the reissues came with the two pegged Slammer.
BIG PITY NIGHTS
Back when I was a kid I didn't know where Metroplexes went once they disappeared off the retail shelves. As I saw them gradually disappearing I wondered what was happening and I assumed audacious people were buying them. Metroplex was a gift to me from Hasbro-how could lesser mortals assume it was for them to buy? I was a connoisseur, an appreciator of the finer things in life like $30 robots. No one else but I could possibly appreciate his black and grey plastic with chrome highlights and mysterious transformation. How could anyone but me meet the criteria of a) wanting Metroplex so badly and b) having thirty dollars? But I never found myself in the range of 26 to 35 bucks, which was the ticket price to robot parking garage heaven. The cost of Metroplex was an astronomical figure for me to contemplate as a kid without a job (and who was bad at math). I couldn't figure how all that money could be in one place at the same time. Surely El Paso's economy was not large enough to support multiple families who could afford a thirty dollar toy. All I knew was that my mom was mean and wouldn't get me a Metroplex. Consequently my Autobots would remain homeless.
|Children's Palace 11/26/86||Carrs 11/30/86|
IT IS BETTER TO HAVE NEVER LOVED THAN TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST THE ACCESSORIES
I guess you never get over not having that toy you always wanted during your childhood. Getting it decades later doesn't feel the same. As an adult I appreciate things more so the Metroplex I have now will always be in great shape. In some ways that's a shame. I imagine that if I got one as a kid I would have destroyed it just like all my other toys. In a way it is for the best that I didn't get a chance to destroy the mighty Autobot city. I would rather live with the feeling of missing out than with the regret of owning a mutilated Metroplex I mangled as a kid. But did this mean that other kids just ended up doing the mangling? Was it the tragic ultimate destiny of all Metroplexes to be crushed and crumpled on the floor by the day after Christmas? Or are certain toys fated to be owned by certain kids and when they never meet, the toys never get opened? If that's how it works then somewhere out there is an unopened king of the toy robots parking garage dollhouses that I never had as a kid, still waiting for me to come along. Maybe some kid will eventually own him. If I die before we meet I hope some day he gets taken out of his box long after I've been put in mine.
Target 30 November 1986
Monday, November 06, 2006
Robot cartoons in the late 70's and early 80's kicked lots of butt. One of my biggest regrets was not being born a little hawaiian boy about 5 years earlier so that I could really understand all the bastardized english dubbed anime cartoons from Japan that aired on TV when I was five years old. If only I was just a few years older I would have really been able to comprehend how mind blowingly awesome this crap was. I got to watch Tranzor Z, Starblazers and the Force Five block of robot shows as a kid so I guess I can't complain, but watching a show at 4 years old doesn't have the same effect as watching a show at 10. It's like the difference between being a fan of Tranzor Z and having a doctorate in Tranzor Z.
I really started paying attention to these crazy syndicated robot cartoons in El Paso when I was going through a weird time in my life, also known as 1983. It was a transition period for me. My old likes were no longer fresh and new. I had to find new likes. My Star Wars was old and busted and my mom stopped buying He-Man because she thought it was satanic. Transformers hadn't hit yet. I thought GI Joe was lame because it had people in it. I wanted to watch robots. And sure enough, thanks to KCIK, the UHF station channel 14 in El Paso, there were robots to be watched. Channel 14 was my favorite as a kid growing up. They have since sold out and are now whores of the Fox corporation, buck back when I was a kid they were the ass kickingest, Japanese robot showingest channel in El Paso.
The thing about the Force Five robos was they weren't commercially available as toys this late into the 80's. They were sold as Shogun Warriors in the late 70's. I was able to watch the shows in the early 80's, but I had missed the boat as far as toys. I don't think Starblazers ever had toys. So here I am at 8 or 9 years old and the only Shogun Warriors stuff I had was a small 3 inch Dragun (who I broke a face spike off of when I was 4) and that legendary two foot tall Godzilla, who I still have. I got that for Christmas in the late late seventies when I was four or five. So by the time I was 9 and thought this stuff was cool, it was all over and the weird robo lull of 1983 settled in. As a kid I didn't have the resources to really commit my life to Shogun Warriors and try to hunt down their merchandise. The next best thing was the fights I would get into in the 3rd grade pretending to be Mazinga or Dangard Ace and then getting my ass kicked by little girls smaller than me.
So fast forward to 2006 and I'm going to Kmart last Saturday and I find a new little bookstore in the seedy little shopping center where KMart is here in Rapid City. Amongst the piles of sports memorabilia, records, paperback books and other assorted crap are three boxes of comics. I love Rapid City because almost every mom and pop antique shop and bookstore will have comics. And holy hell, this guy had a buttload of Shogun Warriors comics. Here at last was my chance for redemption! My 8 year old self may have been too lazy to get a job and track down old comics, but now at 32 I had $20 in my pocket and I was ready to roll!
So I bought the last six issues of the book just to see what it was like if I knew how to read in 1979. I was learning letters back then. I was just in kindergarten. I don't even think I was housebroken by then. I had a lot of trouble with that. Thankfully, after reading these books I realized that the Shogun Warriors comic had a lot in common with my kindergarten pants-they were both steaming piles of crap.
I thought this book was supposed to be the American equivalent of the Japanese manga for these robots. Maybe a loose translation of some wacky zany adventures these guys were going on in Japan. But nope, Doug Moench the writer just made crap up that had nothing to do at all with anything that these robots were doing in Japanese fiction. It's kind of like when I'd take my He-Man figures and pair them up with my Maxx Steele Robo Force and call them Prehistoric Robot Dinosaur Humpers Force. So although the toy companies invested millions of dollars establishing elaborate mythologies for the characters these toys represent, in my house they'd go on adventures humping plastic dinosaurs I got from the swap meet. In a fantasy setting represented by my toilet. I was a four year old Doug Moench.
Shogun Warriors the comic book is also some of the most racist offensive stuff ever. There's a black guy robot pilot in the book whose first name is unpronounceable so they call him by his last name all the time, which just happens to be Savage. So they call the black guy "Savage" all the time. Plus there's a story where a rat accidentally gets teleported into one of the robots. Then a little while later, the same accident occurs except this time a little mexican boy gets teleported into the robot. I understand the literary device of foreshadowing, but I also sensed a bit of racism here. Does this mean the writer was trying to equate Mexican boys with rats? I think so. What's up with that.
In the end, Shogun Warriors the comic sucked total ass and I guess I'm a bit better off for not knowing how to read or poop yet in 1979. My ignorance saved me. But sometimes when you're a kid, crazy crap like big gold racist robots named Megatron that want to stomp little Mexican boys have a strange appeal. Who am I kidding. It was robots. I would probably have loved reading it back then no matter how much it was calling me a rat boy.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
One day back in 2002 I decided I wanted to take up resin casting, which is a hobby where I make little figures out of plastic. Usually my subjects are little plastic futuristic jets, little plastic robots, little plastic sharks, and little plastic robot sharks piloting little plastic futuristic jets. Unfortunately I knew that I was about as skilled at sculpting as a Jawa who wants some hot Jawa on Ewok porn but doesn't know how to use the intertron because that invention is still a long, long, time away from being invented in a galaxy far, far away from him. Sculpting all these little figures in plastic can't be done with normal household items like sandpaper and sharp rocks. You need a personal rotary tool.
One company has come to define the industry standard in personal rotary tools with their name-"Dremel". Even I as a young naive 28 year old at the time knew you don't just go to the store and say, "I need a personal rotary tool". That would be confusing to the employees and they'd think you want a vibrator or something. You say, "I need a Dremel". Dremel is the awesome hand job from that smokin' hot hooker who you couldn't believe was only charging $20 and she kind of looks like the japanese cartoon girl you really like. Dremel is what every plastic shark making guy needs.
So I bought my Dremel at a Wal Mart in Tucson, Arizona one night in 2002. It wasn't the top of the line model. I didn't even know if it was what someone at my pathetic skill level needed. But I chose it and in the thousands of hours since then, the little plastic robots I made have delighted toy robot nerds like myself worldwide. That Dremel has been with me in Tucson, in crappy hell world (aka Turkey), at every Botcon and Transformer convention from Los Angeles to Kentucky and I'm even thinking of taking it with me to Antarctica when I go back to work this month. We've been through a lot together. I think that sometimes my Dremel is the only one who really understands how much hard work it was to make all those plastic robot shark hookers.
Now four years later my Dremel is dying. The motor sputters and doesn't run at full RPM and it's just a matter of time before it can no longer be used. I still have a few projects to finish and I'm sure they'll be the last ones for my Dremel. I'm getting a little sad about this. It's like seeing your old dog suffering from that condition where they hack and cough a lot because their lungs are slowly filling with blood and there's nothing you can do about it, but you still go to the park every weekend and pretend that everything's okay.
I can't believe I'm so worked up over an inanimate object that has a part on top that goes around and around really fast. I searched through my thoughts for a parallel in all of the television shows I used to watch as a kid. Did the Dukes of Hazzard ever drive so recklessly that they got in a fiery wreck and Roscoe P. Coltrane used the jaws of life to retrieve their mangled bodies, destroying the General Lee in the process? No. The General Lee was always there for them, even during that one season when they had the funny looking brothers that I swear I saw making out in one episode.
But you know who did have to lose his favorite inanimate object that had parts that turned around real fast? K.I.T.T., the little robot that lived in Michaels Knight's car. I remember there was an episode of Knights Riders where K.I.T.T. got all smashed by that Goliath 18 wheeler robot and they had to take his brain out of his body. They had to make him a new body. His old one was gone like the lawn. K.I.T.T. is my spiritual robo-brother in these trying times.