Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jesus cut the brake lines when I was driving myself crazy in Optimus Prime

There is trouble brewing in the desert forest farmlands of America
what's the weather doing and something's bad about the economy
and I'm preparing for armageddon here in South Dakotica
building my midlife crisis fueled plastic robot army

I give up on you, world, I give up on your worries
My giving a crap dies here in my South Dakotic thirties
Don't care about money or taxes or massive economic collapses
I'm retreating to my world of toy robots with plastic asses

Once again their fortunes gone in stunning Dow Jones losses
when what they should have invested in all along was toy robotses
Forget those stocks and bonds if you want to make big money
I have never been let down by eBay's nostalgia based economy

Oh Wesley would you write me a song
about Voltron and how we're all gonna die
because I'm growing numb to all that's going wrong
Jesus cut the brake lines on my red robot semi

I don't care about McCain picking running mate Sarah Palin
I care about the ice cream truck Michael Bay picked for Transformers Revenge of the Fallen
I don't care about messages of change from Barack Obama
the only change I care about is from tank to jet to robot

I don't think you want me voting for the presidency
I pick my president based on their roboplasticity
Hey Barack you want my vote, then help me understand
Where do you stand on shipping charges from Hobby Link Japan?

Oh Wesley I wish you would've written a song
about Voltron but we're all gonna die
I've gone numb to all that's gone wrong
Jesus cut the brake lines on my red robot semi

Optimus was my world and in his trailer he hauled my hopes
but like the world he transformed and where did that trailer go?
The world's a runaway robot semi and it's totally out of control
in our lives there's nothing to look forward to except the next exciting episode

I'll do the world a favor just before I go
I can solve all the problems! Tranzor Z told me how
The economy, the war, the herpes, hey just give me a list
There ain't no problem can't be fixed with a flying robot fist

Oh Wesley you can't write me a song
about Voltron because we've all got to die
and I just don't give a fuck about all that's gone wrong
since Jesus cut the brake lines on my red robot semi

Friday, September 26, 2008

eat it!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The son has become the Vader and the father has become...well, kinda just not really into Star Wars right now

Tuesday was the big day. Finally after a year of delays the new Star Wars video game came out. I went to Toys R Us to get it because they were giving $20 gift cards with every purchase of The Force Unleashed. TFU was one of the main reasons I bought a PS3 last year. For me TFU was the most exciting thing to happen in Star Wars since the first movie-without-a-movie multimedia merchandising event, Shadows of the Empire. Finally after all the hype and delays and expectations I found myself in the video game aisle at TRU and it was like that graduation theme song was playing in my head. After all this waiting and anticipation I grabbed the little Force Unleashed ticket and I had it in my hand. Then the unbelievable happened-I chickened out! I choked! I force choked, like, my own chicken!


I started thinking about how much time a game takes to play and how little time I have nowadays. I started thinking how I'd have to stop writing about toy robots on the internet for at least two weeks while I was playing the game. (Actually that was pretty appealing to me because there's always this voice in my head saying "Fuck the internet! You're not making a difference or curing cancer here with your 900 word emo robots essays!") But it's my time and how I enjoy spending it that matters. I started thinking about how I'd really like to get the Vintage Space Toaster Space Palace back up but I've only got 200 of the 600 ads watermarked so far. I started thinking about how far $60 would go during my upcoming trip to the Denver main library for Vintage Space Toast Tour '08. But most of all I started thinking how Transformers the game cost $60 on release day and now you can buy it new for $30. That pisses me off! I decided I would unleash the force some other day when saving the galaxy would be less expensive. So not only am I a nerd for wanting to spend my time at the library instead of playing video games, but I'm Darth Cheap-o, too.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

25 years ago in Transfomrers PART 3: WE'RE SCARED OF GUNS AND MONEY!

Off the top of my head if you were to ask me how the Transformers came about I'd say Hasbro thought it up in '83, got Marvel to do the comics and cartoon and then everybody lived happily ever after. That would be good enough for most people but I'm finding lately that my version omits a major player in the story and also doesn't take into account that prior to 1984 Hasbro management weren't the brilliant marketing titans I gave them credit for. In actuality Hasbro was unsure that toy based cartoons would work in the first place! HERE IS THE STORY OF SOME GUYS WHO WERE AFRAID OF MONIES.


Griffin-Bacal was Hasbro's advertising agency during the development of the Transformers. Sunbow Productions was a subsidiary of Griffin-Bacal that produced and distributed live action and animated shows. Sunbow would co-produce the 1984 Transformers cartoon with Marvel but Hasbro and Griffin-Bacal/Sunbow were working together on children's programming well before then. I was doing a little research on a Sunbow show from 1981 called The Great Space Coaster when I came across an interview from the Just My Show Podcast with some of the GSC cast that included puppeteer Kevin Clash. Kevin was the man behind a Space Coaster character named Goriddle Gorilla (incidentally, he's also Elmo). What Kevin had to say about the relationship between Griffin-Bacal/Sunbow and Hasbro was pretty interesting-

"They (Griffin-Bacal/Sunbow) really wanted to get them (Hasbro) enthusiastic about doing half an hour commercials, like My Little Pony and Transformers and stuff like that. Since they couldn't get them to do that at that point, they sold them into doing this children's program, and it got their foot in the door to go in and do these half an hour (commercials like) G.I. Joe and all those things. Once they got Hasbro convinced of that, we stopped doing Great Space Coaster."

So here we have Kevin Clash explaining that Hasbro at one point wasn't sure that animated tie-ins used to promote their product lines was a good idea! Transfomer nerds everywhere owe a great debt to Griffin-Bacal. In the book Toy Wars, author G. Wayne Miller describes Griffin-Bacal as an ad agency "which did Stephen Hassenfeld's bidding". Hassenfeld was chairman and CEO of Hasbro at the time but to imply that Griffin-Bacal were mere puppets of Stephen Hassenfeld is to vastly underestimate the amount of influence and input they had on the company. Were it not for Griffin-Bacal there may not even be a Transformers cartoon!


"We don't believe in guns for kids. That one scares me." -Alan Hassenfeld

I love this quote because Alan was Executive Vice President of Hasbro in 1983. This doesn't sound like the kind of company that would give the world Megatron. Alan's emphasis that Hasbro didn't sell, make or distribute toy guns in a December 1983 Multinational Monitor article echoes a similar sentiment that his brother Stephen had when it came to play guns and children. Stephen would absolutely not allow toys that shot projectiles during his reign as CEO. The little cannons and missile launchers on G.I Joe and Transformer toys never fired while he was in charge-they just held their projectiles in place. Stephen's policy on shooting projectiles is most likely the reason that US released Megatrons did not fire bullets while their Japanese counterparts did. It wouldn't be until after Stephen died and his brother Alan "toy guns scare me" Hassenfeld took over that missile firing projectiles would be introduced in Hasbro action figures. It must have taken a lot of convincing to get the Hassenfelds to go along with a Walther P-38 being in the line at all with Alan the executive VP of the company so scared of toy guns. Or maybe it wasn't that hard to convince them, seeing how the alternative would be to have the leader of the evil Decepticons be a microcassette recorder.


Was Hasbro management afraid of making money? Of course it's easy to second guess them now with 25 years of hindsight, but did everyone at Hasbro not see the popularity of the Transformers coming? Bob Prupis was Hasbro's associate vice president of marketing in 1984 and at Botcon 2004 he stated "...in the first year I had forecast a potential sales volume of 30 million dollars. Management fought me on this and they decided that as a new line it was too aggressive and they cut the forecast down to 15 million dollars." By February of 1984 Hasbro would have 100 million dollars in wholesale orders.1 Prupis estimated the backlog of unfilled orders to be in the range of an additional 70 to 100 million. Once they hit the shelves in May, Hasbro asked Takara to increase production but it was too late. I would not get a Soundwave that Christmas. Is it too critical of me to blame the Transformers shortages of 1984 on Hasbro management's lack of confidence in the line in 1983? Could anyone have seen the popularity of toy robots coming? I don't know but I can't think of anything more heartbreaking during Christmas 1984 than a little boy with four fake toy robot cassettes and no fake toy robot cassette player to fake play them on. THAT'S WHY I'M ALL WEIRD NOW!

1Kathy Hacker (1984, November 23). ROBOTS GRIP THE IMAGINATION. Philadelphia Inquirer,C.1.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wicks Fulfillment OR: I now realize that 1985 was the start of a lot of people's bad habits

In the last few years I've been looking back and getting all emospective about life and wallowing in my own personal feelings of disappointment over what I have or haven't accomplished. But I've never wished I was someone else, although I joke about it a lot. I stopped wishing I was a rock star or a millionaire or getting free cable a long time ago. I'm not like the normal American toy robots nerd who wishes he was Japanese. Actually I've been wishing a lot lately that there was a Japanese me so I could see his website of old Japanese toy robots ads.


No, what I really wish is that I was born just a few years earlier than I was. Mostly so that I could be a little more sentient when all those things that formed my childhood years happened. So that I could be young during the 80s and have the presence of mind enough to appreciate everything as it was happening. Of course one more go around would be fantastic, but I don't necessarily have time travel fantasies so much as I have appreciation fantasies. I wish I would have realized how great I had it back then, you know, before the world turned into its current state of total crap.


My latest attempt at self diagnosis and treatment of my toy robots fixation had me reading up on a similar condition called infantilism, where a person becomes infatuated with reliving their babyhood so they collect and surround themselves with baby items and sometimes even go so far as to wear diapers. Infantilism is essentially the same behavior as toy robots collecting but it skews towards a slightly earlier period in life and has a different wardrobe.


I've found an essay titled "What is True Infantilism?" that explains the difference between people who get off sexually on wearing diapers and people for whom the diaper is used as a comfort object of sorts to help them regress to an earlier time when they felt more comfortable and loved. That's all this toy robots hobby is, really. A collecting of comfort items that bridge the transition between the current suck of today and the wonderful gloriousness that was 1985. I think the way RoboPlasti-Holism works is the more robots I have the more my happy childhood memories are supposed to surround me, just like the more diapers you wear the more shit you can carry around with you. Something like that.


This all came to a head today when I read a book called Too Cool to be Forgotten. It's one of those hardcover comics that's a little over a hundred pages with one single self contained story. Other people have done better reviews than I ever could but the basic premise is that a forty year old guy named Andy Wicks tries to quit smoking by trying some regressive hypnosis therapy that ends up sending him back in time to 1985 when he was 17 and in high school. This comic character does all I fantasize about doing every minute of my existence-he tries to kill off a retarded habit and he goes back to 1985. Plus he's just a few years older than I was in 1985. Some kids wish they were Peter Parker but hot damn I'm wishing I was some balding forty year old comic character named Andy Wicks.


If you look around on the internet you can find previews of almost the entire First Two Chapters of the book and that's what I was doing one night last June. My wife remembered I liked it and today in the mail I found she ordered it for me. What a surprise that was! I feel bad because although the preview pages were too cool, I had sort of forgotten about it. If my opinion matters to you, my fellow Macrocranians, then I want to say this book is nothing short of fantastic. It is my ultimate personal wish fulfillment realized and written in such a way that I felt changed for the better as a person after having read it. There are truths within this story that apply to anyone afflicted by any sort of shameful adult behavior, be it diaper wearing or toy robots collecting (which are pretty much equally embarrassing).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

There is much to be learned here about the maturity level of these toy robots fans

Do you remember when I posted that video of the Botcon organizer asking people in the 2006 Transformer customizing class to please not sell those unassembled bags of toy parts on ebay? Do you remember how he said these were the rarest Transformer items in existence outside of the Chinese production facilities and Hasbro PR would have a fit if they were sold publicly? Do you remember love?

Well someone recently eBayed one of those bags of Transformers parts and got $152.50 for it. Judging from the item description I don't think the seller was in the customizing class. They probably got it from the Botcon 2008 charity auction. I am not sure if the scout's honor pledge was taken by the buyer. Or maybe they were at the class and they called skinchies!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Okay so my favorite Voltron fan of all time has done one hellacious job of trying to make amends for that time I got all pissed off at him. He just would not give up trying to prove that he was not the scummy asshole bastard Galran deathblack beastman I told the internet he was, and amazingly he more or less kind of succeeded. Before we parted ways on pretty much mutually respectful terms, he asked if I could give him tips on doing the ads collecting thing I do. That was pretty astonishing because he's only the second person I've known to express any interest in ads collecting. The first guy was Dr. Geektarded and boy did he run with it. Dr. G never asked me for help, though, so I never thought about what I would say to someone who wanted to spend hours searching through microfilms for toy robots ads besides GET AWAY FROM ME YOU CRAZY WEIRDO!

So thanks to the most stubbornly determined Voltron fan in the world it dawned on me that there may actually be other fans de los roboplasticos interested in looking through their local library's rapidly deteriorating and incredibly boring microfilm reels. So I thought I'd write an article for the VSTP with some pointers on how to be a crazy weirdo. This is the rough draft and if anyone has any questions, ask now. Otherwise the test will begin never because I don't expect anyone to really be interested in this boring crap anyways.

1. Find a library, duh

There is usually only one library in any given city that keeps microfilm rolls. In my experience it has always been the main library or as it is sometimes called, the central branch library. Microfilm archives in smaller cities tend to only contain newspapers from that city. Libraries in medium to large population centers will carry microfilm from other cities. For example, I know that the El Paso, Texas and Tucson, Arizona libraries carry copies of the Los Angeles Times dating back to 1984. Even if you live in bumfuck, South Dakota like me and your library doesn't have much by way of microfilm you may be able to request microfilm rolls from other libraries at around $8 a pop. It's called the inter-library loan program or somesuch. I've never done it because I require so many rolls that just searching one city would cost me $100 for the minimum number of microfilms I need just to get a decent number of robot ads.

Don't be discouraged if you're currently living in a small town thinking there couldn't possibly be much in the newspaper archives there and you can't afford $100 to rent microfilm because that cool new Star Wars game is coming out on Game Boy. The retail scene twenty years ago was much different than it is now and just because your town may not have had a Toys R Us or RoboDepot or other large retail chain doesn't mean you won't find something. Oftentimes the best material is from now extinct retailers or small regional stores that nobody outside the city has ever heard of.

2. Know your microfilm readers

Once you're at the library you may find that time limits are put on how long you can stay at a microfilm machine. Very rarely is there any sort of waiting list, though. The only people who use these resources are usually old guys that can't stay sitting for long periods before they have to get up and leave. Who are these people, why are they so old, why do they leave so fast and what are they looking for? Who knows? I'm just glad they leave so I don't get kicked off before I find that elusive ad for Gay helicopter. I've been at libraries where there are only two machines and I've stayed on one for hours without getting kicked off while the other machine gets used by multiple other mysterious old weirdos. I shouldn't goof on them because that'll be me in five years.

Different libraries have different microfilm readers. The models range from loud old clunky machines with crappy high glare glass screens to state of the art whisper quiet scanners with widescreen anti-glare displays. The usual setup has a machine hooked up to a printer for which they charge if you want a copy of what's on the screen. The printers are usually horrible and you'll waste a lot of money that way. The quality of printout depends on the condition of the microfilm and the settings of the machine, two things you may not have any control over. You can see an example of some good quality printouts at Geektarded. Microfilm copiers usually do a very bad job at reproducing greyscale but if the ad is composed of mostly lineart then printouts work fine.

I take a digital camera and a few packs of batteries so that I have more control over the image I capture. I'm satisfied with taking pictures at 1024x768 and anything higher is usually unnecessary unless I want a copy of a full page ad. I've heard that newer sexy machines have USB ports for directly downloading images but I've never seen one of those myself. Sometimes the only thing to do if the image isn't to your satisfaction is to ask for a different lens. The library help desks in charge of the microfilm readers always have multiple lenses for different magnifications and sometimes that's all you need.

3. Put aside some time

Your time is the most valuable resource of all. I know this because Rob Thomas said so at a Matchbox Twenty concert once. To get the minimum acceptable results in terms of robots ads, I allow for at least five hours straight of reviewing microfilm. Budgeting my time for this usually wreaks havoc with the rest of my life but hell, if it were easy everybody would be doing it. In order to make the most of your search you have to be dedicated enough to set aside at least a full afternoon. This is because each roll usually takes me one hour to search through, and each month of newspaper is comprised of at least two rolls depending on how many pages the paper has. I've seen monster rolls in some cities that only covered two weeks of papers but were larger than whole months from other cities. I really feel for the guy who worked at the library making microfilm for all 30 pages of the Sunday television guide so that twenty-five years later I could find out what time exactly Knight Rider aired in Rapid City, South Dakota back in '83.

4. Know when to look

I don't mean when as in what time of day, I mean what months and weeks to look for in the past to ensure you find what you're looking for. Typically the best months for toy ads in the early to mid eighties were during the holiday season. Then after about 1987 it started being more evenly spread throughout the year. For 1982 through 1986 I've found the period from the last week of October through mid-December usually contains the highest density of ads. Concentrating your efforts on those weeks will guarantee the highest yield of toy ads for that year. Ads can come from any time throughout the year, though, and it is not uncommon to see an occasional relevant-to-your-search ad that ran in September or earlier.

LaBelle's 29 Aug 1984
For fans of a specific franchise, the search parameters can be narrowed depending on when those toys were released. For example, GoBots hit the market in January of 1984, Transformers in May of '84 and Voltron in March of 1985. Knowing this kind of information can be helpful if a more thorough search is desired beyond just the holiday season. You don't have to be happy with just October through December and there's more out there if you're willing to look. The earliest Transformers ad I've found so far is from August of 1984. Hot damn I would love to find one from May. A little research beforehand can really pay off and save some time when you're sitting in that chair. Don't go looking for GoBots in 1982!

Knowledge of the geographic region a toyline started out in is also helpful. Diakron was a Toys R Us exclusive line in '83 and at the time TRU was mostly concentrated in the eastern half of the US. So if you live in Colorado where TRU didn't open until 1990, don't expect to find Diakron ads. Also, distribution was a major problem in the 80s so it helps to know for example that Matchbox first test marketed their Voltron toys in Detroit at five K-Mart stores. You could conclude that Voltron most likely hit the Midwest first that spring and then penetrated through to the east and west coasts eventually later. So newspapers in Michigan are theoretically more likely to have earlier Voltron ads than say, Alaskan ones. Know your robots history!

5. Have fun

Being a toy robots archaeologist is rewarding but it's also time consuming and a pain in the butt. I always have an MP3 player with me so I can listen to Information in the Form of Audio delivered over the Internet when I'm looking for ads and hating life. When I'm searching through rolls and rolls of microfilm for hours I do get tired and bored and that's why I don't have a complete ad collection of any given toyline throughout every year of its release (well except maybe for Zybots and other one year wonders). Ultimately this is supposed to be a hobby, not work, so I do have my limits and I stop when it's no fun anymore. Sure it would be great to have ads for every Transformer size class from every year they've made them but I'm not that big of a fan. I have limits and I have to balance my dedication to this ridiculous hobby with other more important things like playing video games on the toilet.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Ack! Tonight's blog time was supposed to go towards writing "25 years ago in Transfromers part III (or IV or whatever)" but instead I got the idea to watermark all of the ads from the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. There's a little over 600 of them so this is going to take a little bit. I did a hundred tonight and it took three hours and my brain is fried. Do you have any idea what watermarking 60 GoBots newspapers ads does to a man? Tonight I will probably be dreaming about Scarlett Johansson selling me GoBots.


In the meantime the VSTP is offline but hopefully everything will be back up shortly after I return from Vintage Space Toast Tour: Denver next month. I was initially against watermarking because I see it as DRM, which goes against my ideal of presenting this information on the internet as unobscured and unobstructed as possible. When it comes to theft I know that watermarking is about as effective as pissing on scraplets but I think it's about time I get with the program and join 1999.


When it comes back, the Space Palace Vintage Toaster Place will also be redesigned. "Redesigned" is probably too strong a word for someone with my retarded HTML skills, so don't expect much my fellow macrocranians. All I want to do is add in some robot drawings between each section. ("Drawings" is also probably too strong a word for someone with my retarded skills.) The VSTP will never approximate anything near web 2.0, but I would like for it to look less Web 1985.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ask not what you mean to Darth Vader, ask what Darth Vader means to you

I related a theory I had once that collecting toy robots (and action figures in general) is a search for a father figure more adequate than the one we were born with. I was very proud of that one because it marked the point where I stopped letting Darth Vader tell me how he was going to run my life. I think what happened is I saw Empire Strikes Back when I was six and when Vader told Luke he's his father, I felt like he was talking to me. This was because I was so emotionally invested in the story I thought I was the mexican Luke Skywalker. This was also because at six years old I was an idiot. NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED.


That scene was where Darth Vader figuratively replaced my real dad and made me his consumpto-slave. Who's real life dad can compete with a guy that is endlessly being made into in plastic dolls with lightsabers, black capes and removable helmets? Vader may as well have said (in that sexy James Earl Jones voice of his), "I am your father. Now go out and buy every goddamned action figure of me you see at Toys R Us for the next thirty years". And that's what I did because holy hell I love Darth Vader action figures. The problem is this love is not inspired by respect but by fear. Yeah sure Hasbro may not be pumping out battle damaged versions of my dad, but at least I don't piss my pants everytime I see him in real life UNLIKE CERTAIN PEOPLE NAMED DARTH VADER.


Earlier in the week I got upset about a scene in The Force Unleashed -don't read further if you want to keep this plot point a surprise- where Darth Vader kills a Jedi hiding out in a hut. We've seen him kill countless times before but what makes this different is that he kills the Jedi in front of a little boy, the Jedi's son. I guess it's because I'm a dad now but that really got to me. I've seen Darth Vader kill tons of people but this was the one time that had me thinking, "Man, that Darth Vader-what a bastard!" And then I realized-hey wait Jedis don't have sons. The hook that had me emotionally invested in the story ended up being a misunderstanding on my part of how fondly Jedis enjoy the company of little boys. Maybe Vader wasn't all that bad now that I think about it. Maybe the first level of The Force Unleashed is actually the Star Wars version of To Catch a Predator.


Earlier this week I was consumed with my own anger and butthurt and I wondered if this must be what Darth Vader felt like at any given point during his day like breakfast or whenever. I now understand how Vader rage consumes every facet of life. When I was Vader raging I wondered if Vader could have any hobbies that would effectively blow off steam involving anything less than blowing up planets. When I was that mad I changed from sensitive father upset at a scene in a video game to guy wishing he had his own private Alderaan full of puppies and teddy bears to blow up. When I was that mad I really wanted to see Vader kill kill kill Jedis in front of little boys and even their mommies and Oprah and everybody. I wonder if when Vader thinks of Alderaan he thinks, "God I hope there were lots of puppies on that bitch."


Now that I am older Darth Vader isn't just a reason to go to Wal-Mart. Now that I am older I see I can use Darth Vader as a gauge of my emotional state of well being. I think of him when I'm angry. I still feel like he talks to me but instead of saying, "I am your father", he's more asking, "Are you wanting to force choke someone today? Are you so mad you want to use the Death Star laser beam or would throwing a TIE Fighter at somebody be enough?" And then maybe I can act accordingly in dealing with that anger. Owning Darth Vader has little to do with buying a doll of him for five bucks. Owning Darth Vader is about listening to the special message he has for me and how it can help me run my life. NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Talk about wardrobe malfunction!

I have such a hard on right now for the Force Unleashed video game coming out in a few weeks. The demo was released a couple Thursdays ago and even though it's only one short level I never get tired of throwing Tie Fighters at people. The way the main character gets to use the force in this game is so ridiculously over the top that this one element makes a mockery of all the Star Warses that came before it. (Which is to say it does pretty much the same thing every Star Wars movie has been doing since Return of the Jedi.)


The best thing is that at some point in the story of The Force Unleashed, Darth Vader totally gets his ass kicked and big chunks of his armor fall off and you can see his head. Of course this being Star Wars, Hasbro made an action figure of Darth Vader's Bad Day which features removable armor pieces and all sorts of battle damage and the helmet comes off partially so you can see his head. It's awesome. I went out and got it last week and Darth Vader's Bad Day is easily the best figure in my entire Star Wars action figure collection. Keep in mind that my entire Star Wars action figure collection consists of four other Darth Vader figures, a Tauntaun and an R2-D2. IT IS REALLY HARD FOR ME TO DO SCENES THAT AREN'T DARTH VADER GANG RAPING A TAUNTAUN.


I'm a really big fan of this figure because I happen to find battle damage a little bit sexy. I don't know if this makes me gay but I get slightly turned on when I see a half-man half robot all roughed up and showing some boob with his robot parts exposed and his wires all dangling. Aside from that what I really love about Darth Vader's Bad Day is that when the helmet is on, the eye sockets are asymmetrical due to the removable nature of its engineering. I always wanted an action figure representation of the asymmetrical helmet used in the first three movies. It's a nice touch but you know what would really be great? Assless chaps.


This all reminds me that a while ago there was a guy that made a Baroness figure with sexy battle damage. Her armor was all torn up but thankfully her frilly panties survived. I was thinking battle damaged Baroness would make a fantastic Halloween costume seeing how the trend with women nowadays is to dress up as slutty versions of old cartoons. And then I noticed that not only are women sluttying up traditionally female characters, but they're dressing up as hot slutty versions of traditionally male characters like Freddy Krueger. Then I thought, well hell, if they're gonna do that then screw dressing up like slave Leia (the reigning ultimate Star Wars nerd wet dream). If all you women want to FORCE us to look at your UNLEASHED boobs, then get with what's hot in the Star Warses now!



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

VSTP could stand for many things-Very Soft Toilet Paper is one

Personal free time is getting more and more scarce around here in the Kingdom of Macrocrania-or more accurately-personal time to do bloggy reminiscing about old toy robots ads is getting more and more scarce around here. I still have a lot of ads to put up at the Toaster Vintage Space Palace but between watching GoLion volume 2, downloading episodes of Macross Frontier, playing the demo for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and complaining all day about the VSTP ad backlog, I hardly have time to do actual updating. I swear though, this week I will at least get some Very Soft Toilet Papering done and the following four ads are highlights from the batch I'm working on.


This Ace Hardware ad from 1978 features The Star Team, which at first glance seems like a cheap knockoff of Star Wars. It actually was but when a lawsuit was filed against Ideal (the makers of Star Team) they won because Star Team was based on toy designs originally released up to a decade earlier. Star Team is actually the final mutation of a line of toy robots called Zeroids that were originally introduced in '67 or '68 depending on who you believe. Zeroids were definitely a product of their time and the robots had a charming sixties sci-fi look. "Charming sixties sci-fi look" is my polite way of saying they looked like a vacuum cleaner fucked a Christmas tree.

Zeroids is the toy robots equivalent of Freddy Kreuger or Jason. It's a novel idea that was cool maybe once but it keeps coming back. After Zeroids died its natural death the first time, Ideal repackaged some of the figures in a Star Warsy way and called it Star Team, hence the lawsuit. Then years after that horrid bastardization, Ideal came up with RoboForce in 1984, which featured pretty much the same outdated Zeroids robot styling just recycled for the eighties. RoboForce robots had many of the same design characteristics like vacuum hose arms and lack of discernible heads and legs. Unbelievably a company called Captain Action Enterprises is bringing back the original Zeroids again this year! Don't they know that rereleasing antiquated toy robot designs that have outworn their welcome is just embarrassing to themselves and their customers?


Ads for the original Battlestar Galactica ships always creep me out when I come across them. This Joske's ad from December of '78 is really cool though because it's for the Cylon Raider, which I had when I was a kid. Recently I came across some lawyer blog where they wrote a snarky post about what they consider the ten most dangerous recalled toys of all time. A guy claiming to be the brother of the most famous choking victim in action figure history responded with a comment on the lawyer blog. In the list was a mention of the 1979 Battlestar Galactica missile fiasco, which I thought was pretty interesting because I know the internet is full of crazies but who's going to spend time impersonating Jay Warren?

Those lawyers did a good job writing about the recall. Except they got the year that the kid died wrong. And he didn't choke on the missile launcher itself as they state, but the missile that got lodged in his throat. And they incorrectly stated that the recall was for "all BSG models" when it was actually just the missiles that got recalled. And the part where they state that production was suspended was incorrect because Mattel continued manufacturing the toys, just with modified missiles. Overall it was a decent effort, but please, if you're an unfrozen Cylon lawyer leave the toyblogging to the professionals.


What can I say? This is the most fantastic toy robot newspaper ad I have ever seen. It's not just because it's a full page in the Los Angeles Times from November of 1984. It's not just because it features wonderful lineart of some of the greatest toy robots from the 1980s. It's not just because it features classic GoDaiKins like Goggle V, Voltes V and Daltanias. It's all those things plus I finally get to see retail prices for many of these legendarily expensive toy robots. I've run across a handful of GoDaiKin ads before but they've always been in the $35-$40 range. Finally I get to see that Robinson's was charging $85 for the 13 inch tall Voltes V. By comparison the Transformers' Fortress Maximus was a two foot tall robot that sold for $89.99 at Toys R Us. Voltes V may seem expensive until you realize he's wearing a cowboy hat with bananas coming out of it.


Sometimes I'm spending hours looking through miles of microfilm for old toy robots ads (and praying for death) when I come across one that makes it all worthwhile. Such was the case when I found this Ben Franklin ad from December of 1984. It's an ad for a nameless, brandless five dollar robot watch (on sale for $3.44). Normally I HATE HATE HATE toy robot watch ads. They're always the same dumb robot watch in the same dumb pose because it can't do any poses except Frankenstein arms. But check this out-Ben Franklin decided to draw up some killer art that looks like it could have been drawn by the Japanese artists who did the robot drawings on the Transformer boxes (if they were drunk and in third grade).


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

25 years ago in Transfomrers PART 2: People are always asking if I gnu about 1983

If you go to Botcon you'll meet guys born in the early eighties that can trace their involvement with Transformers all the way back to when the franchise started in 1984 and they were 2 or 3 years old. This never ceases to amaze me as I don't remember anything from when I was 3, however, I do think I was still crapping my pants. But at that age these people will tell you they were busy establishing worldwide Transformer penpal networks and other miraculous feats of fandom and sentience. Hell the only thing I clearly remember from when I was 9 in 1983 was how I thought Gary Gnu was a real person.

For this, the second installment in my 25 year retrospective on toy robots that came out 24 years ago, I want to take a look at what was going on toywise in 1983. I consider '83 to be the first year of the great toy robots wars, although the dominant trends in toys that year had nothing to do with robots. Ask people to name popular toys from 1983 and you're more likely to get Cabbage Patch Kids or He-Man before robots get mentioned. 1984 and 85 are often looked back upon as the years that toy robots took off in America, but their success wasn't an overnight sensation. It was during 1983 that a handful of obscure toy robot lines would begin laying the groundwork for the impending roboplastic invasion.

Children's Palace 27 November 1983

The boy's toylines of 1983 were legendary. Action figures from both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were in stores, Masters of the Universe was still going strong in its third year and G.I. Joe's incredibly popular relaunch was in its second year. These toylines supported by movies, comic books and cartoons were colossal merchandising juggernauts. All of these properties were developed by American toy companies working with American advertising agencies who knew how to market to American children. Owning licensed properties with syndicated television shows was an advantage that toy robots from Japanese toymakers Bandai and Takara didn't have. Consequently the transforming toy robot lines they introduced in the US during 1983 were doomed from the start. It would have been impossible to predict in 1983 that 1984 would be the biggest year in toy sales to date largely because of those same transforming toy robots made by Bandai and Takara that were so forgettable in 1983.

Whistle Stop 05 Dec 1983
In 1982 Bandai introduced their GoDaiKin line of giant die cast robots, many of which featured combining gimmicks and spring loaded rocket fists. (GoDaiKin is notable for introducing GoLion to the US before Voltron ever aired.) It wasn't until 1983 that GoDaiKins really began getting significant distribution. The GoDaiKin robot transformations mostly revolved around combining three or more smaller mecha so they weren't really transformer style robots so much as they were partsformers. Still, the GoDaiKin line is so significant that I consider its introduction to be "the rocket fist heard 'round the world" that kicked off the Great Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s.

The first toylines consisting of a majority of non-combining transforming robots released in the US were Bandai's Machine Men and Takara's Diakron. Both were released in 1983 but I haven't yet figured out which one arrived first. Robots from both of these lines would eventually go on to greater fame as GoBots and Transformers in 1984 (once Tonka and Hasbro licensed them from their respective Japanese owners). But upon their initial debuts in 1983 without cartoons or comic books to help them out both lines hardly registered a blip on the American pop culture radar. For what it's worth, both Machine Men and the Diakron Power Dashers (which can be seen at the bottom of this page) did get mentions as "Best Buys for Under $5" on the Americans for Democratic Action's 1983 pre-Christmas toy survey. Those dudes must not have had very high standards if they were impressed by Power Dashers and $3 GoBots.

I didn't have a Toys R Us where I grew up until 1987 so I missed out on Diakron which was a Toys R Us exclusive line. I also never bought any Machine Men in '83 either. Finding newspaper ads for either of those lines is a personal holy grail of mine. I don't feel too bad at having missed out on Diakron and Machine Men when they were in stores because over the next two years there would be ample opportunities to overdose on all sorts of robots. Back in '83 I was very much into Masters of the Universe but I wasn't totally out of the roboplastic loop. I do remember getting my first Zoids that Christmas and those little robot dinosaurs might have been what triggered my roboplasti-holism. They really blew my mind with their menacing mechanical look. I guess the whole concept that robots didn't have to be wussy pansies was gnus to me.

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