Monday, February 02, 2009

Did GoBots write "Don't ever change" in each other's high school yearbooks?

I saw Bruce Springsteen do that song "Glory Days" during the Super Bowl halftime show and I laughed because I hated high school and never understood the extremely strong nostalgic feelings some people have for those years because for me it sucked sucked sucked. If Glory Days was instead a sentimental song about being ten years old in 1984 and playing with toy robots, hell, that would be the ringtone on my cell, doorbell on my house, horn honk on my truck, the song embedded in my myspace and the soundtrack to countless other pretentious annoyances forced onto others within earshot like second hand smoke. Second hand nostalgia. That's what listening to that song is for me and I hope Bruce Springsteen feels just as confused and unable to relate when he watches the Transformer movie and all its sequels. The smoke from flaming Michael Bay robot asteroids streaking through the sky is my dirty, filthy, stinking secondhand nostalgic revenge on Bruce Springsteen for all the years I've had to endure his horrible Glory Days song.


MileHigh Hobbies 12/06/85
The glory days for me aren't high school, they're 1984 and 1985, and this week I'm putting some new* Transformers ads from those years up at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. Working on the VSTP is like putting a toy robots high school yearbook together. The ads are pictures and drawings of these toys when they were young and in their prime-in their glory days-before they graduated and went on to careers of getting the crap beaten out of them by me and a million other kids. But before that happened, you had these toy robots yearbook pictures meticulously prepared by photographers from K-Mart and Walgreens and a million other stores showing Transformers not only individually, but also in their little cliques hanging out and generally having a good time. Like the Dinobots would be the wrestling team and the Constructicons would be the science club and the electric racing slot cars would be the track team. But damnit, I still cannot find any good ads with line art of just the first four Decepticon cassettes. They're the kids who were too cool for yearbook pictures so they ditched that day to go "sow panic" and "destroy what's below". Hooligans!

Amazing Worlds 12/05/84


My established procedure when searching through newspaper microfilms at any library is to not only find ads I don't have, but look for better versions of ads I already have. So I effectively end up re-photographing the entire Vintage Space Toaster Palace everywhere I go, or at least big portions of it. It wasn't a good day at the library if I didn't leave without bleeding eyes. It'd be so much easier to skip over ads I already have but all microfilms are not created equal and sometimes I may find an ad in Denver in horrid quality, but then I'll find that same one much in more readable shape on the reels in Houston, which is exactly what happened with this Target ad from November of 1984. As with most Autobot car ads, Sunstreaker is clumsily mistransformed, reminding us that Transformer high school is that awkward adolescent time when our bodies are changing...into Lamborghinis.
Denver Target 11/11/84
Houston Target 11/11/84


One of the reasons I look back so fondly on '85 was because that was the year my parents sent me to live with my aunt in Los Angeles during summer break. It was during that vacation that I went to the Transformers Base Camp at Universal Studios with my uncle who has since lost all the pictures he took of me there. Not only does this lack of pictures from the greatest day of my life leave me feeling incomplete and unable to cope with life, it leaves me unable to confirm that the guy wearing the Grimlock suit was not there the day I went. I've been comparing notes with other internet people who went to this and they remember Grimlock while I only remember Jazz and Starscream. Why is that? Is me memory bad? Or was Grimlock somewhere else?

El Paso JC Penny 11/23/85
Denver JC Penny 12/06/85

I've been finding ads that show the Grimlock costume was touring the US making appearances at malls and toy stores during at least the latter half of '85. In addition to these JC Penny ads I found in El Paso and Denver, Dr. Geektarded found a Toys Plus ad putting Grimlock in Nebraska in October of 85. The El Paso JC Penny ad doesn't explicitly state it was Grimlock appearing but the Denver one does say "special appearance by the Transformer character Grimlock" so I'm assuming that's who it was at both JC Pennys. It took Grimlock four days to tour all of the Denver stores and he never appeared at two stores simultaneously, which hints to me at the existence of only one costume. I'm theorizing that the further east you go you'll find the Grimlock costume making store appearances earlier and earlier in the year, like a 1985 Grimlock tour of the US. I figure it started somewhere around the east coast and ended up in Los Angeles at Universal Studios. All of this assumes there was only one Grimlock costume in the world and it had to be shipped everywhere-or even better-there was only one guy in the world capable of wearing it and he had to travel the country making store appearances. But if you check out the pictures at the Base Camp page they clearly show multiple Jazz costumes so I am probably full of crap.


12-n-Under 12/12/85

This ad from a Houston store called 12-n-Under is like that picture at the end of the yearbook with the homecoming queen and king together, except if the queen was that sexy transfer student from Japan and the king was a tall skinny kid that only had one eye, and he was a purple robot. When it comes to clarity I've found better Jetfire line art and I've found better Shockwave line art, but this ad is special because it does what no other ad I've found has done before-put these two guys together. I especially like how the two alternate modes slightly overlap. It's a beautiful composition. An "Autobot Commander" is mentioned but thankfully not pictured. I guess nobody wants to share a picture with the guy who the class of '84 voted "Most Likely to Crash us all Into a Volcano". Man, they just don't make ads like this anymore. Sometimes I wish someone could come up with a good term that encapsulates that fondness I have for that special period of time at the height of the Toy Robots Wars of the eighties when I was a kid and newspaper ads were creative and interesting. Sometimes I wish I could crash Bruce Springsteen into a volcano.

*25 year old


Heavyarms said...

Wow. Looking at the prices on these, I'm going to quit bitching about walmart raising the prices on deluxes to 13 bucks and voyagers to 22 bucks. Deluxe figures JUST attained the price that a triple-changer would have cost you, and I paid less for Classics Jetfire than I would have for G1 Jetfire.

agentmorris said...

Heavy, you are absolutely correct. I think those upset by the price hike on Deluxes need to break out the ol' inflation calculator to put things in perspective. We still pay much less for TFs than when we were kids.

Besides, the most probably crappy new Movie toys are coming so they shouldn't worry about it too much.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

To be fair, JC Penny and 12 n' Under were department stores. Department stores always had significantly higher prices until the discount toystores like Playworld, Children's Palace and TRU came along. If you shop around in the other ads from that same year from different retailers you'll find there was quite a range of pricing. The problem was that until the discount retailers arrived, department stores were oftentimes the only ones with decent selections. My mom ended up paying 19.99 each for the Dinobots because she could only find them at the department store in the mall. The Playworld arrived in our town in late '85 and she'd never have to pay that much again.

deadbeat Senna said...

To be fairer, at least you got something different a lot of times with the mall stores. Like the Micronauts had different colored Montgomery Wards exclusives and the GI Joe Sears recolored tanks. They didn't ever do anything like that with Transformers, did they?

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Yeah, there's a good article in Tomart's 147 (part of the Kenner Legacy series) where it is explained that department stores like Sears were trying to compete with the freestanding toy discount stores despite not being able to match their prices and that's where these exclusives came in. The department stores would ask toy manufacturers to give them something special and that's where the Sears exclusive Star Wars and GI Joe sets came from. But as their toy aisles shrunk to near nothing the practice stopped. Transformers came along late in the game near the death of the department store toy section and didn't get those kinds of exclusive recolors and repackagings like Star Wars, He-Man, Gi Joe or other toylines.

deadbeat Senna said...

so there were no G1 store exclusives ever?

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Well, no, there were the K-Mart Legends which were just the inner robots of the Classic Pretenders Bumblebee, Grimlock and Starscream on blister cards. And that Ultra Magnus with no die cast or paint applications is said to be a Kay Bee exclusive. But those are sort of the reverse of the early 80s department store specials where some sort of value is added to the figure instead of taken away.

Paul said...

"I hated high school and never understood the extremely strong nostalgic feelings some people have for those years because for me it sucked sucked sucked."

I hear you, my man. I had a high school teacher that said that we should enjoy High School because it will never get any better. I thought that was the saddest statment I had ever heard.

Anonymous said...

IIRC the unpanted Ultra Magnus was not a store exclusive. The unpainted Magnus was that came with a glow-in-the-dark poster. No-poster Magnus had paint aps and chrome.


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