Sometimes I'm at the library looking through old newspapers and I'm not finding any good 25 year old toy robots ads and I'm all hating life in that special way that only a hobby can make you do. And just when it seems like I've blown a good five hours that I could have spent playing Turbografx-16 I come across that one ad that makes not just the wasted day worthwhile, but also reaffirms that being a crazy idiot can be rewarding and enjoyable sometimes. This weekend was like that because near the end of my library visit all I had to show for my time was an accumulated big fat nothing but disappointment and regret I'd found in the pages of some 25 year old California newspaper. And then with minutes running out before the library closed I made one of those types of discoveries that is so pioneering and revolutionary to the field of toy robots archaeology that I forgot to get excited because "pioneering and revolutionary" is also rather terrifying and troublesome. When I realized what I'd found I almost wanted to go back to finding nothing. I wished they would have closed the library and thrown me out before I gazed upon this most inconvenient of truths. I wish I would have realized what a sweet sweet blessing it was to have wasted five hours whether it be at the hands of a microfilm scanner or the controller of a 16 bit gaming console. Discovery and knowledge is great and all but at least being bored and dumb is a lot more comfortable.
TILTING TOWARDS YES
The ad in question was from a retail chain called The Broadway. It was published in newspapers from February 20th, 1985 and being a toy ad it had all sorts of the dolls and action figures you'd expect to find in an ad from back then. But what I didn't expect to find among the Barbies, G.I. Joes, He-Mans and GoBots was one single solitary Robo Force robot. Not because it was unusual for stores to advertise Robo Force in early '85, but because this was a Robo Force robot that I didn't think was ever released. What was worse, it was a picture of one of the previously thought unreleased Robo Forcers. It was an ad for Tiltor the Changer! This was an ad that should not exist for a robot that should not have been released. The accepted wisdom was that Robo Force was canceled in '85 before Tiltor and the other proposed figures, vehicles and accessories from that year were released. But evidence has been popping up that may prove otherwise. A little while ago I came across an ad from May of '85 featuring line art of two other '85 series Robo Force figures I thought never came out. I brushed that off because it was just line art (although line art in itself is pretty conclusive since stores just didn't get line art for robots they didn't order from the manufacturers). Still I was willing to dismiss it simply because that ad didn't use an actual picture. Well here Tiltor was staring me in the face in all his black and white 25 year old glory. I had to accept Broadway used an actual picture of one of those pesky "unreleased" Robo Force robots. It wasn't just a stock photo taken from a catalog or anything like that-these Broadway ad creators had to have had this figure on hand to photograph it like this. It was proof that somebody outside of CBS and Ideal Toys got hold of a Tiltor. It was exactly the sort of evidence I needed to change my mind about the release of these figures at retail 25 years ago, short of somebody producing an actual figure.
So where do I go from here? If I accept that some of the 1985 Robo Force line came out then it only leads to more questions like how much of it was actually released? Did just the robots make it or does some grandma out there have an unopened Nazgar in her attic that she bought from the Broadway in 1985? Were there more comics made beyond the ones that came out in '84? And why the heck haven't I seen any of these unreleased Robo Forcers on eBay? It's enough to drive me crazy. In the absence of released production versions I am left with only theories and speculation and a vague hope that somebody knows or has seen something that would prove the existence of these robots beyond a couple crappy monochrome ads. I can't expect anyone will believe me otherwise. I could see these unreleased robot figures being the tail enders (end-ors?) of the Robo Force line shipped in very small quantities in '85 before the line was canceled. And since Robo Force was so unpopular, whatever robots from the '85 line did make it out there more than likely ended up unsold and dumped at some clearance outlet or thrift store or tossed in the garbage unopened or even worse-got played with by little kids! Oh, the horror! Damnit, why didn't I pay more attention to the toy robots I never cared about in 1985?! Or actually, damnit, why didn't I stay home and play Turbografx-16 more in 2010!
A Tiltor was found on ebay and I got to talk to the guy who bought him!