Thursday, July 31, 2008

JUST SAY ALOHA! OR:There is only one place on the internet you can hear me say "Galvatron in my butthole" while imitaing Meatwad

Check out my podcast guesting debut over at Mick Aloha Adventures! It's over an hour of me and Mick talking about why Boba Fett is overrated, why toy marketing can make me buy anything, and of course, roboplasticos. (It is unedited and uncut so cover your virgin ears. I think at one point I said I raped my own childhood.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I am so retarded at internet searching that it's a miracle I find anything. It's not as easy as just typing in what you're looking for, you have to put yourself in the mind of the person that has posted the information and figure out how they would describe it. Then you have to hope that Google has indexed it and that the webpage still exists because everybody who knows HTML is emo and they always pull their sites down in fits of self-loathing, low site statistic-based webpage suicide. It's getting to the point where I don't even google for pictures of old toy robots because the best search engines for doing that are YouTube and eBay.

Skaggs Alpha Beta 04 December 1985
My inability to mind meld with google search algorithms was driving me crazy because I was trying to look up something I found in an old ad last month. It was some sort of GoBots molding set from 1985. With it you could make little clay figures of GoBots, kind of like Play-Doh but more permanent. The GoBots mold and paint set looked like it made robot figures using a process similar to resin casting, which is something I'm into. As a kid I was familiar with molding techniques people employed like using Plaster of Paris to make artistic stuff like Bigfoot feet or, WELL YOU KNOW.

If I had only known GoBots mold and paint set existed back in 1985! Applying the molding and casting concept to toy robots was something I would not do until 17 years later. When I saw that ad for the first time I felt as if a major turning point in my life was never experienced. How would I be different today if I had been exposed to toy robot oriented molding techniques in 1985 when I was eleven? Would I have become an experienced and famous sculptor by now? Would I have gone on to great things if I realized my love of making plastic things decades earlier? Would I possibly have become the Constantin Brancusi of the toy robots sculpting world instead of the burnt out 34 year old resin casting amateur I am today? (Honestly I think the only difference starting earlier would have made is I would have gotten burnt out when I was 12.)

After blowing lots of googles I finally came upon a site that had some pictures of the GoBots mold and paint set or mold and color set or whatever it's called. What I found doesn't even have the same box as the ad but it's the same concept so whatever. I am not surprised that the site where I found the picture is an archive of eBay auctions. To archive eBay auction pictures is to create the Smithsonian of pop culture consumption history. Ebay auctions are after all the greatest repository of human knowledge.


This thing is cool beyond my wildest dreams. I would love to have had it as a kid. Hell I would love to have it now. It made 14 bas-relief style GoBots figures and not only that, it also came with glow-in-the-dark paint. Then just to twist the knife in my heart a little more, it came with extra stuff so you could also make the figures into refrigerator magnets! Now I'm not sure if the average guy would go crazy for glow-in-the-dark GoBots refrigerator magnets, but I think I just found my next resin casting project. Is the world ready for the return of Leader-1 refrigerator magnet? Well considering it wasn't ready the first time I guess the answer is no.

Sometimes life is like looking for stuff on Google that you can't figure out the correct search terms. But if you keep trying you just might find what you weren't looking for, and in a different box. THIS IS ME BEING PHILOSOPHICAL.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I LOVE TRANSFROMERS-VSTP Update (emo meltdown edition)

I HAD A MOMENT of weakness that lasted about a month as I was working on adding some more crap to the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. I let the backlog of Transformer materials build up to the point where I had over a hundred of those ads to catalog and process. I don't know why I waited-Transformers ads are my favorite ones. But getting caught up on the Transformer ads seemed like a huge chore so I put it off and the longer I waited the more I had piling up. What a drag. I guess I lost my Trans-boner.

But spending precious vacation hours in the various Bumfuck, USA's main libraries searching through old newspapers on microfilm for twenty year old toy robots ads wouldn't be my favorite hobby if it were a rational, productive and fulfilling expenditure of my time. So now there's a buttload of new ads from El Paso, Anchorage and Los Angeles over at the VSTP Transformers Page. I still got more crap but before I put up other stuff like Starriors, Robotech and Wheeled Warriors I want to go over some highlights in this Transformer themed super emo installment of VSTP UPDATE.

Whites 25 October 1984 El Paso, TX

Service Merchandise 13 December 1984 Los Angeles, CA

What kid didn't pretend to be a radio DJ back in the eighties? And what kid didn't also pretend to be a Walther P-38 carrying death squad soldier in 1943 Nazi Germany's armed forces? With Megatron microphone you could do both! Megatron microphone combines a child's fascination of AM radio with the excitement of killing stuff. Nasta Industries really did their homework on this one, creating a wireless AM radio transmitter of the robot most famous for doing radio related stuff killing. I love how third party licensees used to combine the Transformers with products that didn't readily lend themselves to the characters. Megatron microphone ranks right up there with the greats like the Skywarp soap dish and the Prowl kite. I wish they would have made a Soundwave BB gun so I could've blown my brains out with a micro cassette recorder when I was 12.

Wal-Mart 27 November 1984 El Paso, TX
This next one from Wal-Mart in my hometown of El Paso, Texas is just one of the prettiest ads I have ever seen in a newspaper. It doesn't matter though, because I never went to that Wal-Mart. We lived on the poor side of town and Wal-Mart was on the upper west side, which is where all the rich people who could afford to save money lived.

Did you know my mom used to use layaway to buy us our toys? Of course it's not possible for anyone to know that. Why am I asking? The point is she really scraped and saved so I could have Transformers. And you know what happened last Mother's Day? The flowers I ordered for her got lost but I didn't know because she was too modest to tell me they never arrived. Plus it really pisses me off when people don't transform Sunstreaker right, like how they totally fucked up his feet in this ad. If his feet aren't completely separated before they're rotated then it strips the pegs that keep the hood aligned correctly and it totally ruins the toy after about ten transforms. Barbarians! (But more importantly-Idiots!) If I had Soundwave BB gun I would go back and take out as many Sunstreaker feet molesters I could find before committing BBcide.

These next two ads for Auto-Ceptor the transforming robot watch are pretty cool because this Transformer figure straddles the line between the categories of "extremely rare merchandising tie-in" and "who gives a shit it's just a watch".

Carrs 11 December 1985 Anchorage, AK

Meijer 10 November 1985 Cincinnati, OH

Lionel Playworld 01 December 1985 El Paso, TX
This is an ad for the VHS version of the Transformers stories "Satellite of Doom" and "When Continents Collide". I've already written about how I grew up watching the Spanish dubs of the Transformer cartoon because Transformers wasn't shown over the air in El Paso and my dad wouldn't pay the cable bill so I couldn't catch it on the Los Angeles station. My only chance to see the cartoon in English was if mom bought VCR tapes of it. One day she found this abomination disguised as Transformers entertainment and I was so excited I could hardly wait to pop it in the VCR. It contained the first Transformers cartoon episodes I would ever get to watch in English! Finally I could be like all the other kids and have Transformer cartoon conversations at recess. And the next day at recess everybody laughed when I asked if Megatron really had an English accent. Then I couldn't decide which I hated more-the other kids, my dad or Transformers.

10 August 1986 Anchorage, AK
Unlike Megatron microphone, Ziploc sandwich bags from 1986 were a great tie-in to the Transformers movie. Not only did they come with iron-ons of the new 1986 Transformers, but you could use the first bag to hold your tears while you wept uncontrollably in the theater as all the 1984 Transformers die in the first ten minutes of the movie. Then you could use the second bag as you barf and barf once you realize the Autobots new leader is a Winnebego. With any leftover bags you could go home and watch season three of the cartoon where emo Rodimus runs the Autobot organization into the ground. Unless of course you were me in 1986 who did not get to see season three when it first came out in English. Am I bitter? Well right now I feel like smashing some Sunstreaker feet. Holy hell with all these bad memories it's a miracle I got through posting 100 Transformer ads without killing myself. Heck, I'm surprised I got through the eighties without killing myself.


Friday, July 25, 2008

A toy robot is a wish that your butt makes (The Ghost of Alternity)

One cold snowy day I finally put my toy robots away
when my real truck broke for like the ten thousandth time
I popped open the hood, looked at the engine real good, and thought
This crap never happens to Optimus Prime

The starter had to be replaced and with snow and ice falling on my face
Under the truck with my ratchet I was loosening silver bolts
Looking back it's plain to see I should have disconnected the battery
Cause the starter fell on me, shocking with a thousand silver volts

And I came to and with a fright I viewed a ghostly sight
It was a car parts robot phantom with an alternator head
He had fenders in his thighs and bright fiery red piston eyes
and Hasbro copyright stampings on his tire treads

At first I was scared but he seemed familiar as I stared
and I recognized within him a long lost affection
Seemingly sad he said to me, I'm the ghost of Alternity
I am the part of you that loved your robot plastic collection

As I slowly rolled my eyes he said he just wanted to know why
So I broke it gently to my oddly emo robot ghost
I said I'm okay, I'll be fine, I'll still dream about Optimus Prime
But I've finally figured out that you should know

A toy robot is a wish that your butt makes
When you buy one you ain't thinking with your head
You might think it makes you feel like you're a kid again
But at thirty it just makes you feel retarded instead

He saw I no longer cared and he needed to get out of there
but he wanted to thank me for the last twenty five years
So we talked of the fun we had when I was ten in G1
and I saw him cry a bright fiery red piston tear

Then I changed out my starter and for the ghost it got harder
to leave, but I told him hey, you'll be just fine
I said dude don't be bummed, I still see you when I see my son
And my truck started the very first time

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Some people have a face for radio-I have a voice for blogging

Greg and Rob from The Paunch Stevenson Show invited me to be their guest. I've never done that type of thing before so this will be a first for me. Their podcast is best described as a mix of topics from current pop culture to 80s/90s era nostalgia. It's not unusual for them to talk about Steven Segal's action movie career one minute and then Doctor Phil the next, all the while doing impressions of Louie Anderson. We're going to record tomorrow night and over the past few days I've been kinda nervous about the whole thing. Rob has assured me that the discussion we'll have will play to my strengths, which is cool but holy crap what if the conversation veers off a bit into areas I don't know about (which is pretty much everything except old newspaper ads of toy robots).

To soothe my anxiety I asked for advice from the only people in the world that I trust-my wife and The Moon Masters. My wife told me it's a good thing if I get the chance to talk outside of my established comfort zone about subjects that I may not be an expert in. But then she kind of just rolled over and went to bed without telling me why. The Moon Masters told me to just be myself and don't try to be funny or it'll come out sounding forced. So best case scenario would be I mesh well with Rob and Greg and we may have interesting discussions about video games or other such topics and worse case scenario would be I start doing Voltron episode reviews in a Louie Anderson voice.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This concludes the Voltron portion of YOUR LIFE or: The first rule of Voltron is you do not talk about Voltron

Back in 1986 when I was twelve years old, department stores like Sears used to hang Voltrons from the ceiling in the toy section. Not just any Voltrons, but the big expensive Matchbox die cast deluxe Voltrons. Those Voltrons were so heavy and metal they could have opened for Iron Maiden. Oftentimes I found myself standing directly beneath the mighty metal lion Voltron watching him hang there all heavy and mighty, just as God's balls hang heavy and mighty in the sky above mankind.

I was sure that one day I would have that heavy ass $40 Voltron. It wasn't any sort of premonition or any backdoor deal I struck with God-I had seen Matchbox Voltron in my sister's closet so I knew my mom was hiding it from me. All I had to do was wait until Christmas, but then in a cruel twist of fate my mom confronted me one day and said that she knew that I knew it was there but it didn't matter. In her mind I was a bad boy or something and she was going to save Voltron to give to my little 2 year old cousin instead. I thought it was some sort of cover story she was using to throw me off the trail. Then in November another bombshell dropped like a load of giant robot lion poop all over my life. Matchbox Lion Voltron got recalled due to lead paint issues. Even if my Mom was lying about giving Voltron to my cousin, she still couldn't give it to me anyways. Or could she? WHat would happen if she did? Would the Voltron police bust in on our Christmas and send us all to Voltron jail? I hoped against hope that she wouldn't let a little thing like toxic lead paint get in the way of the meaning of Christmas (which was giving me robot lions). But sure enough Christmas came and I didn't get jack shit for Voltrons. Even though I was just twelve years old I vowed this would be the last time I let a woman control my supply of toy robots.


From that point on Voltron would be nothing but a source of shame and self-loathing for me. For the rest of Christmas vacation I pondered my worthless Voltronless existence. How could I face the kids at school whom I had already told I was getting a Voltron? How could Voltron come to my house but not hang out with me in my room? How could Voltron decide not to defend my universe? Some questions I still ponder to this day, like where did that Voltron go anyways? Did my mother keep it or did she really give it to my cousin? I would never know the answer because from that Christmas onward I never ever mentioned Voltron around my mother again. There's just some subjects sons don't talk to their mothers about. Subjects like sex. With my mom and me that subject is Voltron.

Our Voltrons were our models for God. If our Voltrons bailed, what does that tell us about God?

Last year my wife brought a friend from work over and I showed him my robot collection in the laundry room. He said he noticed a conspicuous lack of Voltron. All these tons and tons of robots I have and all he could focus on was my not having that one. It just about drove me nuts. I asked him if a Voltron hanging from the ceiling was a necessary part of a well rounded robots collection. He said that in some people's minds it is. And all I could do was stare at him really really hard and I noticed that his right eye was a little wobbly, as if he had mild neurological damage. Neurological damage that could only have come from being lead poisoned about twenty years ago. MY COUSIN'S EYE IS THE SAME!

Friday, July 18, 2008

VSTPs3 talky talky

It barely now occurs to me that I can use the Playstation for something other than watching porn in high definitions. If anyone out there has a PS Eye and wants to do video conferencing my PSN id is KingMacrocranios. I'm usually free after 8 pm mountain time and I can discuss a myriad of topics so long as they are all toy robots ads from 1984.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More than meets the price!

Many specific details of the period I call "The Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s" have been lost over time. This is partly because many toy robots historians of the present were mere children during that era and their half-remembered recollections are little better than speculation and conjecture. Of course the Transformers with its legion of present day fans has had a wealth of research done on its history but there is still much unknown about it and some fans can't even agree on what an Autobot car cost in 1985. It also doesn't help matters when Hasbro, the victor of the 80s Toy Robots Wars, rewrites history on their website to make it seem as if they singlehandedly invented the very concept of transforming toy robot vehicles. Why would they do this? Well mostly because a) nobody gives a shit and b) Hasbro is a bunch of fuckers.


Hell, Hasbro isn't the first or only player in the toy robots wars to put their spin on how things went down. I found one ad from 1984 where one store claims Bandai invented Transformers. Yeah I know I'm making it seem like this is the biggest geopolitical scandal of the 20th century and these marketing people are committing war crimes but believe me, I'm not crazy. Nor am I afraid of exposing the conspiracy to cover up the truth about what happened during the Toy Robots Wars of the 80s. God gives me secret information when I listen to my Soundwave and he says if the bad men from Hasbro come he'll send an Autobot space shuttle full of Leader-1 and the rest of the good Go-Bots to take me away to moon base two. Tell me where you live and I'll see if he can send one for you, too.


Now I can't do anything about the propaganda meted out by the corporate overlords of Optimus Prime, but I can at least shed some light on the cost of toy robot cars in 1985. A while ago I wrote about an argument two internet professors of toy robots were having about whether or not Autobot cars ever cost $15 back in the day. Basically one guy thought they were ten bucks and the other guy said Jazz cost fifteen, but nobody had any proof of either claim. I seriously doubted the $15 Jazz claim because based on my experience with toy robots ads a $15 Autobot car was unheard of. I considered the possibility but I put $15 Jazz up there with chupacabras and missile launching Boba Fetts-I know they exist but I ain't never seen one. Since that webpage's comments section has been locked by the site administrators I couldn't go back and ask each of the arguers for more details on their claims. In order to finally resolve this debate I will have to proceed on two key assumptions: a) that the debaters were talking about the price of Transformers in the United States and b) that anyone gives a crap.


Oftentimes when I'm collecting ads for the Vintage Space Toaster Palace I'll find that some libraries have better quality microfilm than others. If I find an ad that's too dark or blurry sometimes I can find it again in another city and they'll have a better copy of it. This was the case with one Sears ad that ran 01 December of '85. The first few times I found it in Pittsburgh and Houston I couldn't get a good copy of it. I kept trying in other cities and eventually I did get a decent enough picture. While I was collecting this same ad over and over I was also inadvertently collecting a record of the differences that Sears charged from region to region. Talk about Mighty Shifty Robot Prices!


Cincinnati's Sears prices were the same as other Sears in cities like Houston, Pittsburgh and El Paso. The Autobot cars were in the $10 range in those places and even Fort Lauderdale stayed in line although their prices on minicars, Dinobots and Decepticon planes were $1 to $1.50 higher. But then we have Sears in Alaska going $2 over the Cincinnati prices on minicars and Dinobots and $4 higher on Decepticon planes and Autobot cars! I had finally found the elusive $15 Jazz. It kind of ticks me off because I had to go all the way to Alaska to do it when a simple bibliography at the end of that Jazz article would have worked.


So after much congratulating myself on solving the greatest internet debate of our time (or at least the greatest debate of my living room in the last few months) I am free to pursue the truth behind many other untold mysteries of the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. Did the GoBotron Fortress playset ever get released? Was there ever a yellow Diakron DK-1? HOW MUCH ROBOTECHS CAN I BUY FOR TEN BUCKS? I am sure that the answers to these mysteries and more await me, buried in the microfilm reels of some run down library in the ghetto of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It is not easy being the seeker of such arcane knowledges of roboplasticos but I do it because it must be done (also because God in the Soundwave tells me to).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


It is not possible to spend countless hours at a library in front of a microfilm reader watching dozens of 23 year old newspaper ads for Voltron toys going by without suffering some sort of brain damage side effect. That was the situation I found myself in one day last month in the Anchorage library. As I saw ads for everything from remote controlled Voltron to Voltron ViewMaster reels to Voltron underwear and Voltron dress up sets I started wondering, "Who was Voltron anyways? What do I remember about him?" And most importantly, "How can I have a personal relationship with Voltron so that I may spread the word to others about how he is defending the universe?"

It was weird but the more I thought about it, the more I could not recall the specifics of the Voltron story as I experienced it during my childhood. I didn't remember a single plotline or ongoing story arc. All I remembered was Voltron had about ten thousand episodes and they all went something like a) a robeast showed up, b) the lions got their asses totally handed to them by said robeast and then c) in a brilliant show of strategy they decide to form Voltron and they slice the robeast in half with the Blazing Sword (which is what they should have done in the first place). Somewhere in the english lexicon there should be a catchphrase like "Fucking form Voltron already!" It seems dumb now but when I was a kid that robeast/lions/Voltron formula must have been storytelling gold because I kept watching all ten thousand episodes.

Voltron was one of those Japanese robot casserole shows where they took a couple of unrelated existing cartoons and mashed them together to make enough episodes for a US syndication run. This method of creating a show requires lots of editing to make the individual source cartoons gel together and also to appease the US censors. Consequently Voltron suffered from some odd pacing and strange character dialogue. Even when Media Blasters began releasing the original Voltron on DVD back in August of '06 I was reluctant to pick it up because that cartoon has problems. But back in May of this year Media Blasters began releasing on DVD the uncut original show from which Voltron was made-Beastly Beast King GoLion the King of Beasties. I got volume 1 at Best Buy last month and it was definitely worth the 20 bucks. I dare say, It is GoLicious.

I will admit that at first watching GoLion was shocking to me. Not just because all the characters have funny Japanese names with twice as many syllables, but it's pretty much gratuitously violent. They really go overboard in trying to paint the character formerly known as King Zarkon as a terrible space bastard doing awful things. In Voltron they never show how the parents of the character formerly known as Princess Allura died, but in GoGo Beasty GoLion that camera is all up in their faces as Zarkon cuts their heads off. Maybe that's why Princess Allura has such a friggin' potty mouth in Battle Beasty Go Lion King.

One thing that took some getting used to is how Zarkon's henchmen are constantly whipping the alien slaves in Zarkon's slave camps. At first it seemed extremely brutal and sadistic how they'd whip out the lashings at any moment, but after a while I kind of got tired of those slaves doing things to piss off their captors and I stopped feeling sorry for them. I mean, seriously mister alien slave guy, if you know that talking about Voltron will piss off the guy with the whip, why do you keep doing it? The beatings kept coming so often that not only did I become desensitized to them, I began looking forward to seeing those dumbass aliens get the beat down. The whippings eventually became comedy relief and it seemed like the more the aliens screamed the more I laughed. I thought it was funny how my reaction to the beatings went from "Holy crap how can they show this in a kids' cartoon!" to "Oooh that's gonna hurt tomorrow, ain't it, Mork?"

The DVD packaging for King Beast GoLion of the Beasty Boys totally sucks. There's no booklet or liner notes or any extras. Each volume is just three discs in a fold out cardboard case with some of the worst cover art I have ever seen for a robot show. But what you're paying for here is content. Sweet, sweet, head rolling, slave whipping, robeast slicing content. I'm sure that if Voltron aired unedited back in '85 when I was eleven years old I would have remembered more about it today. I also would probably have grown up to be a serial killing cannibal cat rapist. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Monday, July 14, 2008

From old newspapers of long ago, from uncharted libraries of the universe, comes a legend

I just finished putting up around ninety new ads over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace and I'm still not even halfway through the backlog. That's a whole lot of toy robot Volkswagens let me tell you. The breakdown is approximately seven new Zoids ads, seven new Shogun Warriors, twenty five new Transformers 1985 and fifty five new Voltron ads. And by new of course I mean over twenty years old.


Part of the fun of collecting old ads for me is trying to find one ad for every toy from a given toyline. For example, the original American release (OAR) of Zoids was seven toys. There were five little ones, plus the Giant Zrk and the Mammoth. I got the Zrk ad in Cincinnati. In Alaska I found a really nice ad with lineart of the duck, elephant and Tyrannosaurus and in El Paso I found a December '85 Radio Shack ad for the Mammoth. The Mammoth is considered by some to be the tail end of the OAR. Design wise it marks the transition where Zoids went from skeletal looking animal robots to armored exo-skeletal looking robots. When they changed the look like that they renamed the line Robo Strux and to me they jumped the roboshark. I found lineart of the spider in a Robo Strux ad so now that leaves me with only the frog to complete my OAR ad collection. This is how burnt out you get after 30 years of being into toy robots-my holy grail is a grainy line drawing of a plastic robot frog.


A toy robots line is just not legitimate until it has its own transforming watch. Transformers and GoBots had a watch and even the third rate Zybots had a watch (although I'm still not sure how the fuck that happened). In what I was hoping would be a toy robot archaeological find of the century I uncovered a Wal-Mart ad from December '85 for a Voltron watch. Unfortunately it turns out Voltron watch is rather well documented in the annals of toy robots history. Also it is nowhere near as cool as South Korean Voltron .45 BB gun. Nothing really beats the idea of Voltron capping some robeast from 200 yards with his .45.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vintage Space Toast Tour ALASKA-Strange Ads in a Strange Land

Last month the Vintage Space Toast Tour took me to the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage, Alaska. When I was there Anchorage was getting nearly 22 hours of sunlight a day (and those other two hours weren't all that dark, either). Mostly I felt like I was at a Martian Barnes & Noble. I could be leaving the library at 9 p.m. and there would be just as much daylight outside as there was when the library opened at 10 a.m. It was a surreal and otherworldly place, and I'm not just saying that because the library architecture looks like it was designed by drunken Micronauts.


The small room with the microfilm readers was in a wing of the library only accessible by navigating a complicated maze of hallways and elevators much like the Micronauts Rocket Tubes. Speaking of which, whoever put together this Rocket Tubes ad for JC Penny in 1979 wasn't paying attention because they used a line art drawing of the Millennium Falcon. Yeah I totally remember that Death Star trench scene in Star Wars when Vader was about to blow up Luke's X-Wing and Han saved the day flying in on his Rocket Tubes. But were these JC Penny ad guys morons or brilliant marketers? Was this a simple mistake or something far more sinister? I needed more data.


It turns out these Alaskan newspaper guys had been preying on the public's love of Star Wars to sell all sorts of other toy robots stuff for a while. Check out this Shogun Warriors ad from November of '79 that tells people to buy Shogun Warriors to complete their Star Wars collection. Kirk Demarais the Secret Fun Guy coined this tactic "StarWarsploitation". Remember that weird Alaskan transfer kid in kindergarten everyone laughed at when he said the Jawa Sandcrawler was all gigantic huge because it was piloted by 80 foot tall Shogun Warriors robots? That kid was merely a misunderstood victim of StarWarsploitation.


But that wasn't the only 'sploitation conspiracy I was able to uncover in Alaska. I also found that in the eighties there was much 'sploitating of gummi candy. You're probably already familiar with gummi bears, worms, butterflies and other gummi roadkill, but this ain't no outdoor wildlife blog I'm running so you know what kind of gummisploitation I was excited to see. This Safeway ad from October of '85 features gummi Transformers . For me much of the allure of old ads is the lineart and I was really excited to see art for the Autobot guy that turns into a Honda City Turbo. I guess gummi candy really hit the Skids.


Skids wasn't the only thing being hit in Alaska-so was Leader-1. I was bowled over when I saw a store called Pay 'n Save ran this ad for an inflatable GoBots bop bag back in November of '85. I rarely come across ads for GoBots novelty items beyond the Power Cycle so when I find ads for somewhat obscure stuff like the GoBots watch or model kits I get excited. I was looking for any mention of this particular artifact on the internet and I couldn't find a single webpage with any info about GoBots bop bag. (Actually all I did was look for it on the GoBots novelty items page at Is this proof of the existence of one of the rarest GoBots artifacts in the history of mankind? When I first saw this ad I felt chills and I heard the Indiana Jones theme song go off in my head. I expect to be knighted by the GoBots archaeological society for this.


Look at all those Robotechs! Alaska continually surprised me with ads that had new lineart I'd never seen before. I was pretty excited about this ad featuring the Excite Cyclones and Alphas from Robotech. The story behind the large Alpha is pretty interesting. The Japanese company Gakken got the license to make and release the larger transforming Alpha under the Robotech brand name in the US. They did so and their boxes have the Excite logo on them. The Alphas were made in three different colors. Matchbox also had US distribution rights for the Robotech brand name since they were the master license holder and they took the same Gakken Alphas and put them in their boxes. Matchbox Alphas have totally different boxes that say "Collector's Series" on them. So in this case you have the exact same toys made by the same manufacturer but in two different boxes. The Matchbox box versions are stupid rare and coincidentally there's one on eBay right now. I expect it to go for no less than $200. There's also an online store with a Gakken/Excite Alpha and they want $155 for it. I think that's a bit high but here's the link just so you can see the different box.


I ended up finding a great deal more than I expected in Anchorage-the final total was somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 new ads. That's a pretty good roundup for a place that I wasn't even sure had retail stores in the 80s. I hope I can get it all up at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace within a month or so. I had fun. I will certainly not forget the Z. J. Loussac Public Library / Rocket Tubes Complex (mostly since I tried to keep my eyes on the microfilm reader screen the whole time because I was afraid if I looked at the other people in the room I would see them taking off their fake rubber human masks and revealing their leathery reptilian faces with big lizard eyes and long flicking tongues.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Coo-Coo for Coco-Bots

I had this idea for a post where I would put up some interesting old newspaper ads I've found that weren't related to toy robots. When I'm looking at the old newspapers I see a lot of ads for 80s toys that don't fit into my criteria for the Vintage Space Toaster Palace but if I like them I grab them anyways. I was going to do a sort of "Top Ten Non-Robot Ads I Like Even Though They Don't Have Robots" countdown bit here and number ten was going to be an ad I found for G.I Joe cereal. But I'm looking at this ad that shows some kid and his mom at the table eating G.I. Joe cereal and I'm wondering what could I write about it to make it interesting. So after writing down dumb ideas like "BREAKFAST IS HELL", I thought screw this crap I wonder if they ever made Transformers cereal. (Actually, wondering if they ever made Transformers cereal is the default thought in my head all the time anyways no matter what I'm doing.)


I did some internet searching and I found a thread on a cereal box collector message board where a guy is letting people know that he's put up for sale a rare prototype Transformers cereal box on eBay. The thread was from March of this year and as I read through the two pages of posts I found out that back in 198X, Ralston (the makers of G.I. Joe cereal) decided not to go through with Transformers cereal because they felt the fad was dying. So the box is a prototype of a cereal that never hit the grocery store shelves. The seller put up pictures of the front and back of the box on his Flickr and I'm surprised there aren't already ten Tryptzillion hits to them by all my fellow Transformers historians. It ended up selling on eBay for $349!! For that price I could pay Peter Cullen to come to my house and make me breakfast, while doing his Optimus Prime voice as he asks, "Now what kind of cheese do you want in your omelette? I've got cheddar and mozarella here so you're gonna have to make up your mind."

Monday, July 07, 2008


As I was digging up old toy robots ads I ran across a newspaper article from December of 1986 about an anti-war toys protest organized by a freelance artist named Bob Staake. Staake had a very ambitious idea in that he tried to get a bunch of cartoonists to wage war on war toys in the comics sections and editorial pages of newspapers across the country. (His assembling of specifically talented individuals to wage battle is not unlike what the Beyonder did in the first Secret Wars, which was one of my favorite war toy lines.) Usually I wouldn't give a crap, but one cartoonist mentioned Voltron in his strip and when you mess with imaginary robot lions from 1985 you're messing with me.


I found the idea of political cartoonists uniting against the evils of plastic toy Rambos fascinating, but why exactly were they doing this? Weren't there better things to political cartoon about in '86? The reasons for the protest are not explained beyond some vague speculation about "damaging effects" Staake thought these war toys would have on children. Staake asked "What's going to happen to these kids?", which reminded me of the arguments that brought about censorship of comic books in the 1950s in the name of preventing juvenile delinquency. We all know how that turned out. Since I was 12 years old in '86 I think I'm qualified to answer Staake's question now almost 25 years later. And the answer is-thanks to Voltron war toys I am better prepared to defend the Earth from King Zarkon's impending robeast invasion.


I did a little internet digging and found a Time magazine article mentioning Staake's boycott where he explains a bit more about his underlying motivations. "Our art asks America to put Gumby, not Rambo, under the Christmas tree. At a time when we are supposed to be celebrating peace, it seems insane to turn war into a Christmas present." I'd empathize with his fight if Staake had made his arguments more about the overt commercialization of Christmas instead of Plastic Rambo=Satan. He kind of lost me when he made his battle against Voltron a big Gumby commercial.


So was it successful? Did the artists bring about any sort of social change? Was the cartoonist war on war toys even necessary? All these years later it seems rather pointless and silly to me. I will say now that I'm a dad I'm really sick of not being able to find a children's book that isn't officially licensed propaganda advertising for the latest computer animated movie featuring talking teddy bears. One thing that came out of me reading about Staake's crusade is my discovery of his website and his line of children's books. I think I really like the kid's book he did about robots and I will definitely be buying it. I'm a little unnerved by how he portrays robots as indentured servants of mankind, relegated to lowly maintenance and service jobs. But hey, it's not like robot cartoonists are going to be rising up against Bob Staake anytime soon.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Blasto from El Pas(t)o

My head only has a memory buffer of ten years. Any memory older than that gets written over and that sucks because nothing all that great has happened since about 1989. I have lost most all of my childhood memories from the eighties unless they are extremely memorable historic events in the course of human history, like when the space shuttle exploded in '86 or when Empire Strikes Back came out. When I was a kid these things made an enormous impression on me. Thanks to my crappy brain storage limits these memories are the only surviving remnants of my childhood so I worship them in my head and nothing else since has impressed me as much. That's probably why the Star Wars prequels didn't seem as spectacular or exciting to me, which oddly enough is also how I feel about the more recent space shuttle explosions.


I was born in El Paso, Texas in 1974, which was the time just before the first Star Warses were fought. And I grew up during the toy robots wars of the mid eighties so you would think I have a lot of great memories but I don't. My childhood was a fantastic time but my recollection of it is fuzzy at best. It was like if somebody gave you roofies but instead of raping you they took you to Disneyland, then you woke up the next day feeling like something awesome happened but you couldn't remember what exactly.


I left El Paso 13 years ago because King Zarkon needed to be defeated and those robot lions weren't going to pilot themselves. Last month I went back to El Paso for a week and I found that a lot of the old places my mom used to buy me toy robots from went out of business after I grew up. COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT. Thankfully a bunch of the places I used to eat at are going strong. I wish a lot of those old toystores were still around today, but just because they died out didn't mean the end of toy robots. By contrast, a lot of the food I love is very much dependent on the survival of the restaurants that make it. I don't care how super rare the latest toy robot of the week is, a well made gordita is way tougher to find. The bottom line is I can buy an Optimus Prime anywhere but there ain't Whataburger in South Dakota.

Just like my brain, El Paso has been busy writing over itself in the name of economic development but I won't let a little thing like going out of business keep me from showing the internet those old toystores I used to love. Although some have died off or relocated I still have my fuzzy half remembered memories of where they used to be. So in total defiance of the march of time and progress I took a picture of the greatest of those old toystores that aren't there anymore. I don't care if I have to photoshop that picture of me standing in front of the building that used to be Lionel Playworld, I will have a picture of it as it used to look.


Unfortunately a lot of my most cherished memories are not so easily photoshopped. Although my mom kept a lot of stuff from when I was a kid, a couple of key pictures from my childhood have been lost. But while I was in El Paso my uncle assured me that he does at least have the negatives of the pictures from the time he took me to Universal Studios to meet the Transformers in '85. I hope he finds them because shaking hands with some guy in a Jazz costume was like the highlight of my life. Little by little through the acquisition of old photographs I will get some more of my past and my memories back. Thankfully my sister said the picture of me peeing myself in front of Darth Vader is still lost. Some things are better left forgotten.

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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.