Monday, February 12, 2007

Dude, what's mom for Soundwave?

If you were a kid in 1985 you understood that parents spoke a different language when it came to toys and they couldn't be trusted to buy the right ones if you simply asked for character names. So what kids would do is learn to translate robot names into words their parents could understand. Being able to translate from mom to robot was a necessary and valuable skill. I couldn't just say 'Soundwave' or 'Megatron' because that would be confusing to a mom level person. Thankfully in 1984 there were only like 28 Transformers and if I asked my mom for 'the gun' or 'the radio' there was a 100 percent probability that she would know which one that was.

Since there were no toy robot internet sites telling me what robots were being made in Japan that week I had no idea what to expect when we went to the store. I thought I was pretty on top of things in '85 when I scored the individually packaged Constructicons, but they didn't come with a catalog. They were the first new Transformers I'd found that weren't in the 1984 catalog, which was my only source of information. Until I got my first boxed 1985 TF I was living day to day in terms of toy robot knowledge and let me tell you, that was scary times. It was also full of potentially fantastic surprises because you'd go to school and a kid would bring Shockwave, explaining how all he asked for was 'the gun' and he got a kick ass robot laser pistol with lights and sounds when all he expected was Megatron. Spotting new stuff like that was exciting but also sort of unsettling because it meant your mom/robot vocabulary had to be updated and you didn't know if asking for the same old things applied anymore.

Back then shipping and distribution was pretty crappy so there was no guarentee you'd ever see all the toys from any line in your lifetime. Like when Star Wars would put those pictures of all the figures on the backs of the cards I would kind of laugh and say whatever. Like I'll ever see a 4-Lom or 2-1B. Because catalog reality was way way different from in the store reality. I don't care how cool IG-88 looked, as far as I was concerned the whole Empire Strikes Back line may as well have consisted of 200 ATAT Drivers judging by what I actually saw on the pegs when I was 8. And so it was with Transformers. It was scary and exciting not knowing what TFs were out or if the line even existed at all past whatever I already had. If Star Wars could die as a toyline then I had to accept that other equally horrible things could happen to the toy robots.

BlasterBut then the 1985 Transformers assortments happened and the many different new toy robots came out. While that was cool because it meant more robots, it also kind of complicated everything. If you didn't have Soundwave by 1985 your chances of mom getting it right when you asked for 'the radio' were halved because of the introduction of Blaster. Blaster was the 'other' Transfomer cassette deck. I guess Blaster was cool enough in his own right but his toy always lived in the shadow of the infinitely cooler Soundwave and his cartoon character played a sort of second fiddle to Jazz, the previous pop culture obsessed, super cool urban stylin' robot. Oh who am I kidding Blaster sucked. He was horribly out of scale with the other TFs, towering over the guys like Superion who were supposed to be giants. That alone was total imagination rape right there. It was hard to pretend Devastator was all tough shit when the Autobot's little red radio was bigger than him in robo mode. Plus his tape door got stuck all the time and that pissed me off.

So I had Blaster which meant my mom couldn't find Soundwave but I survived. In the comics around issue 18 Bob Budiansky started developing Blaster into an interesting character so that helped. But man, there was a time when having a Blaster pegged you as a kid who didn't know he was supposed to ask for 'the BLUE radio'.


smurfwreck said...

One of my now favorite memories is from around high school when apparently every word in the English language was Mom for "Buy me Lando Calrissian figures". I received a Lando toy for every gift giving holiday for two years. What fun.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Whoa! Lando for your birthday and Lando for Christmas for two years! And it's not like today where I think they make Lando in all sorts of different outfits and maybe even a white version. Back then all you could have gotten was that one Lando figure. Holy crap! I guess Lando was the gift that keeps on giving at your house.


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