Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NO WEBLOG FOR OLD ROBOTS part 3: Please Save Me He-Mans!

Although I consider myself the Indiana Jones of toy robots archaeology and I romanticize my hobby with terms like Roboplasticology, the truth is that all I'm doing is looking through trash as I go pop culture dumpster diving in the library microfilm archives of America. And although my search focuses on the roboplastical, I do on occasion come across ads for toys I remember that played a much smaller role in my robot obsessed 80s childhood (and a much larger one in the childhoods of kids not afflicted with roboplasti-tardation). So join me all this week as we take a non-robot oriented look at a couple other toylines that also made an impression on my Scraplets riddled brain.

JC Penny 24 November 1982


Albertsons 11/30/84
He-Man! Just thinking of the name brings back memories of the booming bass of the announcer's voice in the opening seconds of that cartoon. I will never forget watching that show everyday after school in late '83 and playing with the assloads of He-Mans my mom had been buying me since '82 (although I must admit I never had Barrie Cat). He-Man also consumed large amounts of my time while I was in school because I was always drawing him on my notebook paper while the teacher was talking. And until the sad day that my mom cut off our He-Man because she thought the toys were getting satanic, He-Man was all that got me through after Return of the Jedi left me cold. I guess I was on the rebound after Star Wars ended, stuck between toylationships and He-Man was there and I was weak and vulnerable. He had big muscles and a nice house. He had all sorts of cool rides and he was even a cat guy. We were just using each other when all along I should have been hanging out with that cute little red Lamborghini from Japan!

Murphy's Mart 21 November 1984


Before I go further, I have always called the line "He-Man". When I look at somebody's Masters of the Universe collection I always think, man, look at all those He-Mans. I know the correct term has got to be "Masters of the Universe" or "Masters". Even "MOTUs" would probably be more acceptable. Hell, even the retarded sounding "He-Men" would be a more proper plural but ever since I was a kid I have always used the silly sounding and grammatically incorrect "He-Mans". But hey, with names like Spydor, Panthor and the Attak Trak, He-man wasn't exactly a toyline for budding grammarians or orthographers.


Albertsons 11/30/84
You gotta have a bike! Transformers and GoBots were both rather unimaginative with the naming of their plastic tricycle bikes. Both of their bikes shared the generic name "Power Cycle". Voltron did a little better with the "Lion Cycle". But before all these rather generic and uninspired attempts at plastic bike branding, there was the brilliant and magical moniker used for the He-Man bike-THE MIGHTY CYCLE. Man that name had balls! It's what I imagine Evil Kinevil wished he would have called his bike. Tell me this isn't the greatest plastic bike commercial you've ever seen! Okay, honestly I was a little disappointed in the commercial because I was expecting He-Man to show up at some point and shoot his sword lightning at one of the kids as they're riding, instantly vaporizing the boy and turning the Master Cycle into a robotic Mecha Battle Cat that would transform into a suit of armor for He-Man to wear as he leaps into space and kills the sun.


My focus when searching though old microfilms is entirely on toy robots ads and if I stray from that it's usually for good reason. One great reason came up when I saw the Gimbels ad below. Amongst all the other Mattel toys they were advertising for their "Mattel Week" was a three pack that is something of a holy grail for He-Man collectors. I found the Lionel Playworld ad next to it interesting because it's from late 1986 and by then toystores had stopped advertising He-Man as much as they used to. To see an ad with so much Masters of the Universe line art love in one place was rather novel, even if it was within the context of a liquidation ad. The characters shown illustrate why He-Man lost favor in my house. Mom thought the Snake Men were a bit over the top and I thought Snout Spout and the Comet Warriors were a bit over the shark.

Gimbels 11/20/83
Lionel Playworld 11/28/86


Playworld 11/18/87
The most powerful clearances in the universe handed He-Man his butt in 1987. Although I jumped that sinking ship early, He-Mannerisms would stay with me. Even decades later my love of He-man would make me both famous amongst literate toy collectors and an object of ridicule amongst hipster Antarcticans. I once started a thread on the Usenet group where I remarked that the 2000 reissue Teela looked fat. I was credited when that comment made it into the following month's Toyfare magazine, which makes me a famous published guy or something. Then once during a poetry slam in Antarctica I introduced myself as "Esteban, prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Greyskull". I could tell by the rolling eyes and stunned silence that those Antarcticans weren't exactly the kinds of people who posted to I took comfort in knowing that even though I was considered a weirdo in Antartcatica, the last refuge of social rejects and outcasts from all corners of human civilization, it was geographically impossible to kick me off the planet. THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I READ GREEN EGGS AND HAM TO THOSE FUCKERS!


Paul said...

Dude, He-Mans is almost the only thing to call the He-Man toy line.

So your mom thought He-Man was satanic? More on this?

Evil King Macrocranios said...

We grew up very superstitious. I almost want to say all the hispanic people I knew growing up were that way, but you know, ooh-stereotyping so I won't. But we did and it was somewhat extreme to the point where we couldn't drink water left out in cups overnight because grandma said ghosts got in the water and stuff like that. I grew up believing toys were especially prone to possession by evil forces. There was even one girl at school I remember who said she was attacked by her Papa Smurf doll which jumped up and tried choking her in her sleep.

I was subscribed to He-Man magazine, which usually featured covers with He-Man heroically fighting whatever bad guy. Mom started disliking He-Man around the introduction of Hordak because he was quite scary. The straw that broke that camel's back was the summer '86 issue with King Hiss in snake mode with the rest of the Snake Men. Any strong snake imagery was the doorway to satan I guess.

Heavyarms said...

You're bringing up all kinds of memories for me now. I loved He-Man and read those little mini-comics that came with the figures religiously. My best friend had just about every He-Man figure ever made, and he would never take them out and let me play with them when I came over. My best friend was an asshole, I guess. Well, maybe not, because I did get to smell Moss Man one time.

That Mighty Cycle commercial reminds of a Big Wheels-styled bike my brother wanted when we were kids. There was a commercial that showed a kid doing a "Rockford", he just HAD to have it.

Have you seen the new He-Man Classics figures?

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Yeah I got a flyer or something about those in the last DVD set of the 2002 series. But I thought they were already out by now.

Those DVDs were nice but now I feel dumb for buying one since I saw all of them collected in one box at Sam's Club. That's why I'm not buying the new Transformers cartoon. Eventually they are bound to collect it all in one box.

Weasel said...

Steve, maybe your mom saw this. I'm honestly surprised that my own parents didn't stop me from watching He-Man, since it was so very eeeeeeeevil! (Apparently, so is Voltron.)

Never had any of the toys, though I'd love to chase down a vintage Orko and Sorceress.

Your grandma's warning reminds me of an old protection spell: It involves leaving out cups of water to trap evil spirits that may roam during the night. Discard the water afterwards to get rid of negative influences. And never ever drink the water! (Yeah, I read about a lot of old time religion. I'm weird like that.)

John K. said...

Great retrospective on He-Man and the declining prices in the end of the line.

Have a mission for you - there is a great debate that there was a mailaway He-Man with brown hair, that possibly could have come from a newspaper ad in the 1981 timeframe, where sending in proofs of purchase would get you a free MOTU figure. If you ever come across this ad, let me know! Might solve a decades-long mystery.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

That would be a great find but I generally stay away from 1981 because my newspaper looking is very toy robot oriented. In '81 there just wasn't anything going on robot-wise besides Star Wars so I concentrate my efforts on other years where the payoff in what I'm interested in is higher.


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