Monday, March 02, 2009

I'm Not O.K., I'm ELEGANTLY WASTOR'D



This guy named Gerard who sings and writes songs in a band I like just happens to be a big comic book fan. Back in January he did a guest stint on an internet comic book review show and he recommended an obscure 1994 comic called "The Biologic Show". I was getting ready to order some Starriors comics because I had to do background research before I added a couple dozen new* ads to the Starriors section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace, so I figured okay, Gerard, I'll order an issue of "The Biologic Show" but it better be goood. (And then I thought, FUKC YEAH! I'm having imaginary conversations with rock stars who are giving me comic book recommendations and I'm not even smashed or anything!)

DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME ALWAYS SEARCHING FOR THOSE WASTOR'D YEARS
Children's Palace 10/28/84

Starriors and "The Biologic Show" were two comics I missed out on when they debuted because I was so consumed with my primary obsessions (The Transformers in the 80s and and Iron Maiden in the 90s) that I simply did not have any time, money or energy to spend on anything else. And as I cracked open each Starriors comic I was dreading not that they'd be terrible but that they'd be totally fantastic and my blind devotion to more commercially successful toy robots and European metal bands cost me the enjoyment of being in on these more obscure recreations when they first came out. I'm a total sheep for mainstream entertainment but I'm a wishy-washy one, so much so that at any given moment I am always wondering if I've missed out on something that would connect with me deeper than the adventures of Hasbro's 25 year old toy robot Volkswagens and their transforming dinosaur cohorts. Although I never paid any attention to them, Starriors had toys and commercials and comic books in 1984. What if Starriors was really great and because of millions of 10 year old Transfridiots like me it died through lack of support? Before I read the comics I wondered if I would regret that I hadn't Wastor-ed my childhood.

I CAN HANDLE ROBOTS IN LOVE BUT BLIND ROBOT POET TYRANNOSAURUSES IS PUSHING IT A LITTLE
Wal-Mart 11/27/84

I read one issue of Starriors each night just before I went to bed and just after working on the ads for the site so I was really Starrior'd this week. The comics had a lot of the basic elements I demand of great entertainment-a bleak post apocalyptic setting, conflicted machines going against their programming in a race to revive or destroy mankind, and giant talking robot Tyrannosauruses. In an interesting character quirk, the Starriors Tyrannosaurus was blind and he depended on his robot pterodactyl friend to tell him where to go. (Why is it that robot Tyrannosauruses in the 80s always had speech impediments or other handicaps?) This is actually an ingenious incorporation/characterization of the toy's relationship with its radio control remote. Deadeye the blind Tyrannosaurus robot was also quite eloquent and had a great vocabulary, and oftentimes was described as a poet. But Tomy misjudged the market here because what kids really wanted in the 80s was RETARDED robot tyrannosauruses. The newspaper ads for Deadeye are my favorite in the Starriors line and I can't believe a radio controlled, plastic disc shooting robot Tyrannosaurus retailed for only 20 bucks. I think Deadeye is the best figure in the whole Starriors line but unfortunately he goes down like a total bitch in the opening animation of his commercial. There's this other Starrior half his size that just pushes Deadeye right off the screen. Physically assaulting a blind robot cartoon Tyrannosaurus is very rude but I guess that's how they roll in Starrior World. After seeing that commercial I got the feeling that other Starriors probably don't respect handicapped Tyrannosaurus parking spaces.

Toys R Us 11/22/84
Lionel Playworld 12/06/84

"-OR" IS THE NEW "-TICON"
Shillito-Rikes 11/11/84

Deadeye's commercial highlights a lot of things I felt were confusing about the way the Starriors line was marketed. The biggest problem I have understanding any of Starrior world is that names of the individual robots are rarely ever used in the newspaper ads or TV commercials. Instead they call them by a different sort of designation each robot has depending on their size (I think). Starriors can be Wastors, Strazors, Vultors, Stalkors, Cosmittors or a lot of other things that end in "or". Then on top of that you have the good guy and bad guy designations, "Protectors" and "Destructors". So while Wastors and Strazors could be Protectors or Destructors there couldn't be a Wastor Protector that was also a Strazor, but Strazors could be Protectors. I think. Some newspaper ads would just forgo the Starrio-logical technobabble and just call them robots. Maybe I'm too old for all of this and when I was younger I could sort it all out, but right now Starrior designations seem like quantum mechanical string theory. But ask me to explain the relationship between a Megatron, Constructicon and Decepticon and I'm all over that.

Lionel Playworld 12/01/85
Revco 12/18/86

IN THE POST APOCALYPSE TWO OUT OF THREE IS ACTUALLY BETTER

After reading the whole four issue Starriors comic miniseries I slept soundly at night, knowing that if I couldn't understand these toys at 34 I probably wouldn't have as a ten year old, mostly because I am dumb. A lot of other kids probably figured that out, too because by 1985 the Starriors were hitting the clearance shelves. '85 saw Tomy abandon the Starrior concept in favor of the more traditionally Zoidy approach with their RoboStrux line of model dinosaurs (that could presumably see but not write poems). I think Starriors proved that sometimes complicated mythical backstories and angsty conflicted personalities could hurt the marketing of a toy robots line more than help them. Although Starriors didn't click with me, Tomy has done a lot of other robot stuff I liked. I kept that in mind when I ended up not liking The Biologic Show that Gerard recommended. After thinking about Starriors I figured that The Biologic Show's author might be the Tomy of alternative comics so I dug around a little and sure enough I found a different story by him that I absolutely loved and consider greatly entertaining. It is a bleak story in an apocalyptic setting about the destruction of mankind. It doesn't have giant talking robot Tyrannosauruses, but I think after all of this I'll just let that go.

*25 years old

5 comments:

agentmorris said...

I probably had at least one of every Starrior as a kid. I still wish I had them now. I have no idea what happened to them. The reason I say at least one, is that one year for both Christmas and my birthday, my relatives didn't talk to one another and bought me duplicates of "the drill guy" and couple others.

What was really great about these toys, was just like Zoids you could dismantle them and simulate battle damage.

They were pretty awesome and the wind up features were, as the kids say, "the shit."

Evil King Macrocranios said...

I've noticed that people who had these don't talk much about the fiction. I think any money Tomy spent developing the mythology of the line was wastor'd.

I'd like to see a 25th anniversary line this year but I doubt that'll happen. Or maybe it is happening and I don't know about it.

deadbeat Senna said...

Hasbro IS doing a 25th anniversary Hotshot, but I don't think it's how you mean.

agentmorris said...

EKM: Fiction? Man, that shit was FO' REAL!
Honestly, I have, I think, two of the limited series comics by Marvel, and I don't remember anything about them beyond the awesome Bill Sienkiewicz cover art.

I seem to recall making up my own fiction and characters when I played with them. And by the way, Wastor'd could be the title of a fantastic metal song.

Rob said...

Gerard Way? Nooooooo!

 

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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.