Friday, February 27, 2009

Transfromers 1988-You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself be made into Mister Potato Heads

Back in the 1980s we did not have Thoroughly Informative Transformers Themed Internet Entertainment Sites so excitement about a given toyline spread via the internet equivalent of my youth-the elementary school playground. I remember there were very distinct phases in the progression and decline of playground buzz surrounding The TransFormers (or any other fad or toyline or whatever else was popular amongst ten year olds). I've named these phases of buzz after the response one kid would get if he showed another kid a GoBot or Transformer or Voltron or whatever. The first phase of buzz was the "What is that? Nobody's into that!" phase, which for toy robots took place from I'd say 1982 to mid-1984. With He-Man and Star Wars being so dominant in the pop culture at that time it was unusual to see a kid talking about or bringing GoBots to school. Not all toys progressed past this first stage, as anyone who owned a Rocklord can attest to. Then there was the "That's awesome, dude! Everybody's into that!" phase from about mid-1984 through mid 1986 when The Transformers became the definitive embodiment of the toy robots trend. Note that GoBots skipped the "That's awesome dude!" phase. Then there was the, "Dude, you're still into that? Nobody's into that anymore!" phase that all popular toylines eventually succumb to. I'd say Transformers entered this phase from 1987 to 1988 when 99 percent of kids moved on to Nintendo and Ninja Turtles. Finally the toys get canceled and there comes the "You're still a virgin, huh?" phase that I was stuck in throughout all of high school.

ToysRus 12/08/88

I added about a dozen new* ads to the Transfomrers 1988 section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace and I realized '88 wasn't really all that bad in terms of what Transformer product was on the shelves. If you were that one guy in eighth grade choosing robots over girls there was still much robot fun to be had. Of course '88 is probably best remembered as the year Optimus Prime came back, but it was also the year of the last great combiner giftset Piranacon and Fortress Maximus the biggest Transformer ever got carried over from '87. 1988 would be the cartoon's final season and though they made no new episodes, the season five reruns featured new bumper sequences starring an animatronic Optimus Prime and some little kid. The death of the Transformers cartoon wasn't even really tied to the popularity of the franchise so much as it was a result of toymakers across the board ditching the toy tie-in cartoon concept altogether.1 Heck, in 1988 the Transformers comic book was barely halfway through its 80 issue run. (The comic was really where it was at for me anyways, especially since the editors had impeccable taste in choosing which letters to print in the letters column.) The line may have been fading in popularity but in '88 it still had a lot of fight left in it. Unfortunately it also had a lot of Pretenders in it, too. I may have survived a lot of imaginary toy robot battles in my childhood, but I wasn't Pretending! (Or would that be Pretendering?)

Toys R Us 12/08/88
Kay Bee Toys 10/06/88

Circus World 10/09/88

Everybody has their own little subgroup of Transformers they didn't like so I'm not going to waste space elaborating on why I hated the Pretenders with their bloated, organic looking shells that split apart to reveal anemic looking, spindly little robots inside. But I give Hasbro a lot of credit for the Pretender concept because it turns the cliched fantasy of wanting to be a robot inside out. Instead of playing with little pilot figures pretending you were vicariously controlling the robots, Pretenders asked the philosophical question, hey-what if a robot is inside controlling you?! What if instead of you turning into their head, they are in your head already? What if deep inside we are all robots? It was an interesting reversal of the male power fantasy where instead of being a little kid wishing you could be that 2 story robot, you could instead as a little kid realize the potential to be something great was inside you all along. But then there comes a day when you grow up and realize life is random chaos and we're all just broken cogs in a malfunctioning runaway Zoid and nobody has robots inside them except Arnold Schwarzenegger. But at least for a little while in 1988 we were young and hopeful and we believed all that crap about freedom and sentience on Optimus Prime's tech spec and Hasbro inspired us with the hope that there was a figurative robot Volkswagen in us all. To paraphrase my Air Force recruiter, I may not be able to get you into a toy robot, but I can get a little toy robot into you. Whatever that means. And speaking of little robots...

ToysRus 10/20/88

My absolute favorite ad from 1988 is this ToysRus Micro Transformer one I found in the newspapers of both Houston and El Paso, Texas. It's pretty special for a couple reasons, one of which is that it's an ad that contradicts the conventional wisdom that Micro Transformers were first released in 1989. That's not really a big deal, though, because I've found at least two other 1988 Micro Transformer ads from Children's Palaces in various cities so it's not like these Texas Micros were some rare early trial test market in only one city. No, this ToysRus ad is unique because it has some sort of crazy mockup packaging totally different from any Micro Transformer package ever released. I'm pretty sure the card art is of the Autobot Off Road Patrol but the little drawings of the robots on the card are entirely different from any character art released on production packages. When I first noticed the card art was unusual it really tripped me out. It's as if these Micro Transformers had the power to surprise or something! You could write paragraphs about this ad and I did when I took it to the playground of today and asked men way more knowledgeable than myself in the area of tiny robot Lamborghinis to take a look at it. They confirmed my suspicions that this all was pretty weird. I think it's strange how I've never found prototype packaging in Transformer ads during all my previous searches, then of all eras it pops up in an ad from 1988. Discoveries like this are what makes me glad I've decided to collect Transfomrer ads from the years beyond just 1984 and 1985. It's rewarding. I guess I can say it's the little things (in prototype packages) that make it all worthwhile.


For me personally my tour of duty in the Toy Robot Wars of the 1980s ended in '88 when I got my first pack of Micromaster airplanes and they were too hard for me to transform. Looking back I'm glad that these ads reminded me 1988 wasn't all that bad and I left Transfomrers on a high note of sorts. At 14 I figured it was time to let go of the whole toy robot thing regardless of how good they were and just move on. I still occasionally bought the comic but I quit with issue 75 back in late 1990. Then in the early 90s Transformers started coming back and I found out there were a lot more additional phases beyond "Dude, you still into that?" Here we are now two decades later with Optimus PotatoHead and new toy homages to those first Micromaster planes with "MM-89" tribute tattoos on them and all those other countless strange reiterations and mutations of the toys I used to feel so all alone for liking back in junior high. Dude! It's crazy, isn't it?

*21 year old

1Toy Makers Lose Interest In Tie-Ins With Cartoons. (1988, April 28). Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And as he clipped out the ads he thought, "Well, isn't this nice?"

1987 was the year that I turned 13 and like most young men that age I found myself wanting to be more than just a little boy playing with toy robots. I wanted to advance, to mature, to take life to the next level. For every other kid in my peer group this meant putting away the kiddie toys in favor of pursuing more adult interests like heavy metal and the Nintendo Entertainment System. Video games never really appealed to me, though, and I was still very much in love with the Transformers. Unfortunately my generation was giving up on Transformers and even Hasbro's advertising support of the line began declining. I should have realized I was retarded when in seventh grade the only other kids who were into the same things I was were fifth graders. Deciding to step it up and be more of a Transformers dork at a time when the line had already jumped the Sharkticon was a little ironic in that Alanis Morissette kind of way. Which means it's not really ironic, it's just bad timing.


Walgreens 12/02/87

The journey from fanboy to fanMAN meant I had to be a more mature, more grown up toy collector because you know, chicks love it when you take good care of your Rodimus. Instead of mutilating my Transformer boxes by cutting out the tech specs and robot points and then throwing away the mangled packaging, I started saving everything. I still opened them but I carefully cut the plastic bubble trays open so that I could return my toy robots to their boxes. Well except for the Throttlebots. I had this weird notion that someday the Throttlebots would be worth something so I never opened those, but stuff like Targetmaster Hot Rod got opened immediately. Actually Targetmaster Hot Rod was my sister's. While she was having a blast playing with her toys I was just telling myself over and over that I will be grateful one day for putting everything back in their boxes and not opening those Throttlebots. Honestly the truth is I still beat the hell out of my Transformers so putting their broken bodies back in their good condition packages just made me (and them) look dumb. It was an exercise in irony not of the Alanis Morisette kind. But hey would you rather be buried in a nice cardboard box or one with the robot points cut out.

Lionel Playworld 12/13/87

ToysRus 11/26/87

Probably my favorite fanMAN thing I did in 1987 was clipping out Transformer newspaper ads. It was what got me started with toy robot ads collecting. Although I lost interest in doing it after a few months I still kept the ads and the Vintage Space Toaster Palace grew out of that small envelope of clippings. What sucks is that as a kid I did not have the foresight to write down what date the ads came out or from which store they were from, so all these years later I am going back to libraries and looking through their microfilm reels and piecing that information together bit by bit. It was really exciting during Vintage Space Toast Tour El Paso 2009 when I'd come across an ad on microfilm that was one of the ones I clipped out as a kid. Speaking of which, last week I added a little over a dozen new* ads to the Transformers 1987 section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace including a couple more full color clippings from my childhood collection. I really hate putting ads up without all of their associated information so I've held back on my no-date 1987 ones for a while. Now the whole internet can marvel at how Throttlebots are worth the same 4 bucks today as they originally cost at retail. That's not really ironic, that's just the Throttlebots sucking.

Toys R Us 11/18/87
Toys R Us 11/22/87


Circus World 10/11/87

One notable ad from the recent update not from my childhood collection is this Circus World ad I found in Houston. What's interesting is that although it's supposed to be about the $10.99 Special Team leaders it includes line art of the super robots Menasor and Computron. I have never seen line art for those two used in ads before. In 1987 Toys R Us was heavily advertising their giftset for my favorite chicken tasting combiner team the Computrons, but the line art they used was derived from a photo from one of their other ads. What throws me about this Circus World ad is the use of illustrations for the combined robots when the ad is not about the combiners at all. It's the Alanis Morisette of giftset ads! I'll bet some people went looking for an eleven dollar Menasor based on what they saw in this ad. Even decades later it leaves me with so many questions. If Circus World had this art does that mean that somewhere out there there's an ad from them for these giftsets? Why didn't they just use art of the actual robots being advertised? Did they not have graphics of Onslaught, Motormaster, Hotspot and Scattershot? Where are the ads for the giftsets? If this is a councillor ship where is the ambassador? Are we humans or are we dancers? HOW MUCH ROBOTECHS CAN I BUY FOR TEN BUCKS?

*22 year old

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Astro Major starring in: "Curse of the 1986 Clearance Robots!"

I visited a store called Pamida back in October as I was driving through Hot Springs, South Dakota on my way to Vintage Space Toast Tour Denverado. Pamida is a regional retail chain with stores that look like small Targets. When I go into a Pamida I imagine this is what Target looked like in 1986 except without Blu-Ray players or Wiis or all the other highly definitional advances in electric couch potato-ery that we have today. As I left I picked up a copy of their weekly sales flyer because even to this day I still hope against hope that there will be fantastically illustrated and wonderfully worded toy robots ads like stores used to do 25 years ago. I'm sure when the toy robots see me coming down the aisle they wish I was someone 25 years younger, too.

Pamida 10/04/08
Instead I found an ad with Prowl the police car robot sandwiched between some sort of green outer space alien circus freak elephant-man and a doll of that psycho Christan Bale in black Bat-man underwear. I'm sure all these different kinds of toys appeal to their own specific niche of little kid but it makes me wonder what kind of child lunatics people are raising nowadays. This is why Michael Bay is a genius. He knows today's toys are missing that special something that appeals across the board to all of today's child lunatics, so he created a black clad psychopathic outer space alien circus freak police car robot that knows your ebay user name.


But what is most frightening to me about the Pamida ad is not that Hasbro made a baby version of Princess Leia in her slave costume, it's the really short shelf life of Prowl the police car robot. I remember first seeing it in Rapid City around late July and by late November they were gone. Prowl even shipped in a couple of consecutive waves and he still didn't stay on the shelves longer than six months. Compare that to Jetfire, the toy robot jet that first started hitting shelves in 1984 and was still around by Christmas of 1986! Although stores like Playworld and Best were clearancing him like crazy that holiday season, Children's Palace was still advertising Jetfire in their October '86 fliers at full retail. That's a solid two years of shelf life. When I was a kid parents could count on this longevity and they'd say things like "We'll get if if it's still there next payday" or "We'll get it if you get good grades on the next report card" or "We'll get it if you're good for Christmas", because in the 80s we took it for granted that the hot toys from the established toylines would still be available beyond a week or six weeks or six months. Now it's not that way at all. Everyone is so addicted to owning the freshest, newest hotness in the latest paint schemes that two year old toys are either vintage secondary market collectibles or yesterday's trash.

Children's Palace 10/19/86
Lionel Playworld 10/22/86


I was adding around 48 new* ads to the Transformers 1986 section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace when I noticed I now have more 1986 Transformer ads than I do from 1984. It's an interesting milestone because whenever I go to a library I always hunt down 1984 and 85 but not necessarily other years because I'm usually short on time. 1986 eclipsing 84 in terms of ad volume is not altogether unexpected. 1985 was a phenomenal sales year for Transformers and it makes sense that Hasbro would try to follow that with an expanded product lineup. 1986 was the year there were more individually packaged Transformers than any other time, and every retailer from department stores to grocery chains would be advertising Transformers heavily in 1986 hoping for a repeat success.

Lionel Playworld 12/07/86

Unfortunately 1986 was also the year that toy robots popularity began to wane with the toy buying public. Voltron was dead, the GoBots were dying and the Transformers weren't doing all that great either with their box office bomb movie and decreasing sales. Toy industry trade publication Playthings ran an article in their December 1986 issue analyzing the top selling toylines of 1986 and Transformers isn't even on their top ten list. Exactly how badly Transformers did in '86 is hard for me to figure out. I do know that in 1984 wholesale revenue for the line was 115 million dollars1. In December of 1986, the Wall Street Journal reported that Stephen Hassenfeld (Hasbro's chairman and CEO at the time) estimated that "sales would fall to $195 million this year from $335 million last year."2 But then in February 1987, Al Carosi Jr., corporate vice president of marketing services for Hasbro told the Wall Street Journal that the line "brought in some $500 million in its three years on the market."3 If you do the math that means according to Carosi's numbers Transformers in 1986 earned wholesale revenue in the neighborhood of only 50 million. That can't be right, though. It seems low and I think it depends on what exactly he meant by "some $500 million". Oh, those wacky millionaire corporate vice presidents and their fuzzy rounding of tens of millions of dollars.


Toys R Us 11/30/86

Although in 1986 there were more Transformers than ever and lots of ads dedicated to them, not everything manufactured got featured in the weekly sales flyers. Some Transformer ads remain extremely rare and difficult to find. I've found that ads for the Autobot and Decepticon cassettes from any year are very rare and second only to those are ads for the non-Devastator combiner giftsets. In 1985 there were several stores that advertised Devastator but for some reason Toys R Us is the only place that advertised any sort of giftset after that. The absolute highlight of Vintage Space Toast Tour Houston was finding this ad for the Arielbot giftset from Toys R Us. It's the only giftset ad I've found from any store that year. I don't understand why there is this lack of giftset ads when there were more of them made in '86 than any other year. Were the post-Devastator giftsets all Toys R Us exclusives? I don't remember seeing them at Lionel Playworld but given enough time and enough libraries I'm sure I'll figure it out. What remains a mystery to me is why giftsets for Bruticus or Predaking were never released. Given the scarcity of the Menasor giftset it seems that the Decepticons got shortchanged that year. With Superion, Defensor, Metroplex and Sky Lynx it seems like the balance of the big price point Transfomrers was heavily concentrated on the Autobot side. Maybe since "bad guy" figures usually aren't as big sellers as "good guy" figures I can only conclude that Bruticus and Predaking being Decepticons might have been what made Hasbro hold back on releasing them as giftsets. It sucks how for all their menacing awesomeness, in the eyes of little boys Predaking and Bruticus were only slightly more appealing than girl robots.


Randall's Food & Drug 11/19/86

Popular opinion be damned, as a kid I thought 1986 was a fantastic year. There were all sorts of crazy and diverse Transformers from the Special Team combiners with their Takaran design origins to Hasbro's new movie character toys and stuff like Astro Major and Predaking designed by companies outside of the Hasbro/Takara partnership. It was awesome in terms of variety. I still remember the first day I saw Astro Major at Lionel Playworld. I was so impressed with how the transport part turned into a lynx and the shuttle part turned into a sky. My aunt got me that one for Chirstmas and I really regret how I cut up that box just for the character art. I recently bought a really beat up Astro Major box from an internet guy just so I could relive the magic. This time I will use sharper scissors! But what is really cool is that all these years later Astro Major got reissued and now internet stores can't give him away. Not even adjusting for inflation 44 bucks in 2009 money is within five bucks of his original 1986 retail. Jetfire is finally dethroned as long term deep discount clearance king of the roboplasticos. It is only fitting that a toy robot from 1986 did it. Or maybe given the overall unpopularity of the 1986 line it was inevitable.

*23 year old

1Hasbro Bradley Inc. Expects to Report Net Tripled in 1st Quarter. (1985, April 24). Wall Street Journal

2Hasbro Inc. Estimates 8.5% Rise in Revenue In the Fourth Quarter. (1986, December 12). Wall Street Journal

3DINOSAURS THUNDER BACK AS TOYS (1987, February 12). Pat Widder, Chicago Tribune.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm still preoccupied with toy robots ads from nineteen, nineteen, 1985...also 1984, 1986 and 1987, and to a lesser extent 1988 through 1990.

Like Chargertron, the Vintage Space Toaster Palace is always changing, rearranging. Last week I did a slight formattical adjustment that I hesitate to call a "redesign" because that would imply a) I know about web design and b) there was a design in the first place. I did what I should have done a long time ago and split off every different robot brand into its own page, including the individual years of The Transfrormers. This restructuring may affect the tiny number of people who bookmarked the old VSTP Transformers page (which now doesn't exist) and I know it throws off Google's cachebots but the internet will survive. The VSTP is still pretty unknown to the greater online toy robots fandoms so this doesn't affect anyone outside of its core readership, which is made up of the ten or so people who occasionally read PSMR plus a bunch of Netherlanders and that one guy from New Caledonia.

King Soopers 12/22/85

I didn't realize I had such a big backlog of Transformers ads but last week I added around 120 new* Transformers ads spanning every year from 1984 through 1989. It is very dangerous spending so much time working on so many old Transformers ads before I go to bed because it gets me dreaming about 1985 constantly and it's all very depressing. There is a terrible price paid in sanity for every grocery store ad with transforming toy robot Porsches that I raise from their microfilm tombs. The more I save these ads from the dead obscurity of being filed away on some library's aged microfilm reels in some forgotten drawer, the more they pull me back to the time from whence they came. My very earliest memory is from when we moved out of my dad's apartment in '77 or '78 and I'm three or four years old looking out the back window of the car as the apartment fades into the horizon. Well in the middle of Transformers ad processing last week I dreamt one night that it was 1979 and I was renting my dad's old apartment but I was an adult (or as close as I'll ever be to being one).

And I knew of the coming Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s and I was preparing for them, making sure I had a good 1979 job and eliminating any unnecessary luxuries like furniture or clothing that might take up apartment space I could better use to stockpile all the robots I was going to buy. And I remember waiting, waiting, waiting in my empty dream apartment with a calendar on the wall that just said 1985 on it, thinking, 'Okay, now I'm ready'. I faintly remember my dream life's routine was going to my good 1979 job and being in a hurry to come back each day to this empty apartment to wait for 1985. Waiting for 1985 became the whole point of my existence. Then as I started to wake up, my dream self was screaming I'M READY THIS TIME! I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK! I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK! I have never had a nightmare before where I woke up feeling sad that it couldn't nightmare me more. Know this-that there is a dream monster more frightening than Freddy Krueger and his name is King Soopers.

B Dalton 12/08/85

One thing I hate hate hate is how much I still don't know about the specific timeframe of many aspects of toy robots history. Today we have sites archiving information like incredibly specific release dates for every toy robot line that comes out of Japan, but such information gets fuzzier the farther back you go in time. And if you go far back enough, virtually nothing is known save that the toys exist. With lines like Shogun Warriors or Micronauts the best many sites devoted to those lines can do is give approximations regarding release dates like "in the late seventies". The Transformers is just on the cusp of being forgotten history, as is I'd say every toy robot line from 1984. Still there are some historic elements about even the Transformers that seem to be lost forever. When I got to this B. Dalton ad for the VHS releases of first season Transformers episodes by Family Home Entertainment I wondered if specific release dates for these videos could be figured out. Videophiles and the consumer video market have existed since the days of VHS so I thought this information would have to be somewhere on the internet but I could not find it. The best I could do was a couple of VHS best sellers lists from articles written in the Los Angeles Times during late 1985 mentioning the first few volumes of these F.H.E. tapes sold in the top ten of kid videos. I couldn't find specific release dates for each volume, but from the ads I've found I know that at least up through volume seven was released by October of '85. I was able to find out that in February of 1986 F.H.E. announced it would be lowering the retail price of these tapes from $14.95 to $9.95. This price drop announcement and the B Dalton ad were clues in a puzzle I'd been wondering about-the puzzle of why these old Transformers VHS tapes exist in two different sizes of boxes. You can see scans of the larger boxes here and ebay oftentimes has some examples of the smaller ones. I wondered if the lowered price coincided with the release of the smaller boxes. But again, that information is not easily Googled. I guess there are some factoids too insignificant for even the most obsessed internet documentarians of imaginary cartoon robot penises.

K-Mart 10/09/85



*over 20 years old

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Of trails long since cold (and broken)

I am never ever ever the guy who gets the good deals. You know the stories of that legendary little old lady at the indoor swapmeet selling her son's still sealed Autobot cars from 1984 for whatever the original price tags said? I met one of those types once back in '02 at a toy show in Tucson. By the time I got to her table she'd already sold all the good stuff and caught wind of what she was doing wrong. But her remaining selection of one Jumpstarter didn't really justify the crazy markups she instituted after she saw another dealer got over a hundred bucks for the sealed Sunstreaker she sold him for 9 dollars. But its not like being at the right place at the right time would have mattered anyways because I am legendarily cheap and wishy washy. If I would have come across nine dollar sealed Sunstreaker the idiotic internal monologue in my brain would have been, "Hmmmm. Nine dollar sealed Sunstreaker. I already have a couple nice broken ones. Do I really need a sealed one? And nine bucks? They cost that much new 20 years ago and this box has some dents and tears and a hellacious flap crease." And I would probably only have five bucks on me anyways. It's like if Scarlett Johansson was giving out free blow jobs and all I can think about is how her lips look kind of chapped and if she cared about me as a person.


Yesterday I was in downtown Rapid City at the library trying to get some pictures of K-Mart newspaper ads from 1987 for the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. It wasn't going good because I think the microfilm machines are going bad so I decided to give up and go home. But the meter where I parked still had twenty minutes left on it and I really didn't want to waste that extra dime worth of meter time. I decided to walk over to the antique store where I saw G2 Optimus Prime for 20 bucks a couple months ago to see if he was still there. You know, to say hi to an old toy robot friend. Talking to the robots must be all the antique store people think I ever do because I'm so cheap god knows I never buy anything. And when I went to the glass case to catch up on old times with my favorite toy robot semi from 1993, he was gone. I was slightly annoyed. That antique store has a plaque on the wall that says "The thing you are thinking about coming back and buying tomorrow is the thing someone else is coming back to buy today". Okay, so I never intended to buy it but I will miss all the imaginary conversations G2 Optimus Prime and I had together through the display case glass. At my antique store the sign would say "That toy robot you are buying today is something someone will want to talk to tomorrow". Good times.


Instead there was a different toy robot truck where G2 Optimus used to be. It was a pre-rub Trailbreaker from 1984 still sealed in the box. It didn't make sense to me that something of this caliber would be at the antique store. Sure I've found old Robotech figures and lots of beat up vintage Star Wars and even a three inch Shogun Warrior there before, but a sealed Autobot car from 1984? That was pretty wild. And the kicker was the price-$40.50! I looked at that thing over and over to make sure it wasn't $140 or $405, which is what something like that usually pulls on eBay. But no, it was $40.50. A sealed Trailbreaker from 1984 for $40.50. Hmmph. My idiotic internal dialogue kicked in. Although the box was bright and glossy it had a hellacious flap crease and various nicks and dents and honestly, Trailbreaker isn't anywhere near as sexy as the yellow toy robot Lamborghinis from 1984. He was the four wheel drive black camper truck with crappy seventies pinstripe graphics on the side. I was thinking, $40? That seems kind of high. I've seen Sunstreakers go for nine. But I didn't have time to deliberate because the meter where I parked was ticking. I had a nickel's worth of time to make a forty dollar decision. I realized not everybody is as cheap as me and at that price I don't think Trailbreaker would have lasted long in the store, so we'd probably only get one or two conversations in before someone bought him. In the end I decided I'd take him home so we could discuss at length little old ladies with nine dollar Sunstreakers and theoretical Scarlett Johansson blowjob scenarios. He is quite the conversationalist.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


It's the SNO-Wing! I've read online that there's supposed to be a snowspeeder, too, but they didn't have that one.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

NEW WEBOMIC-"The Witty Wickies" starring Sparky Wicky and his son Willy: Episode YOU CAN'T TAKE YOUR TOYS WITH YOU TO HELL

This episode inspired by episode 6.5 of Talking Toys with Aries0083.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Did GoBots write "Don't ever change" in each other's high school yearbooks?

I saw Bruce Springsteen do that song "Glory Days" during the Super Bowl halftime show and I laughed because I hated high school and never understood the extremely strong nostalgic feelings some people have for those years because for me it sucked sucked sucked. If Glory Days was instead a sentimental song about being ten years old in 1984 and playing with toy robots, hell, that would be the ringtone on my cell, doorbell on my house, horn honk on my truck, the song embedded in my myspace and the soundtrack to countless other pretentious annoyances forced onto others within earshot like second hand smoke. Second hand nostalgia. That's what listening to that song is for me and I hope Bruce Springsteen feels just as confused and unable to relate when he watches the Transformer movie and all its sequels. The smoke from flaming Michael Bay robot asteroids streaking through the sky is my dirty, filthy, stinking secondhand nostalgic revenge on Bruce Springsteen for all the years I've had to endure his horrible Glory Days song.


MileHigh Hobbies 12/06/85
The glory days for me aren't high school, they're 1984 and 1985, and this week I'm putting some new* Transformers ads from those years up at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. Working on the VSTP is like putting a toy robots high school yearbook together. The ads are pictures and drawings of these toys when they were young and in their prime-in their glory days-before they graduated and went on to careers of getting the crap beaten out of them by me and a million other kids. But before that happened, you had these toy robots yearbook pictures meticulously prepared by photographers from K-Mart and Walgreens and a million other stores showing Transformers not only individually, but also in their little cliques hanging out and generally having a good time. Like the Dinobots would be the wrestling team and the Constructicons would be the science club and the electric racing slot cars would be the track team. But damnit, I still cannot find any good ads with line art of just the first four Decepticon cassettes. They're the kids who were too cool for yearbook pictures so they ditched that day to go "sow panic" and "destroy what's below". Hooligans!

Amazing Worlds 12/05/84


My established procedure when searching through newspaper microfilms at any library is to not only find ads I don't have, but look for better versions of ads I already have. So I effectively end up re-photographing the entire Vintage Space Toaster Palace everywhere I go, or at least big portions of it. It wasn't a good day at the library if I didn't leave without bleeding eyes. It'd be so much easier to skip over ads I already have but all microfilms are not created equal and sometimes I may find an ad in Denver in horrid quality, but then I'll find that same one much in more readable shape on the reels in Houston, which is exactly what happened with this Target ad from November of 1984. As with most Autobot car ads, Sunstreaker is clumsily mistransformed, reminding us that Transformer high school is that awkward adolescent time when our bodies are changing...into Lamborghinis.
Denver Target 11/11/84
Houston Target 11/11/84


One of the reasons I look back so fondly on '85 was because that was the year my parents sent me to live with my aunt in Los Angeles during summer break. It was during that vacation that I went to the Transformers Base Camp at Universal Studios with my uncle who has since lost all the pictures he took of me there. Not only does this lack of pictures from the greatest day of my life leave me feeling incomplete and unable to cope with life, it leaves me unable to confirm that the guy wearing the Grimlock suit was not there the day I went. I've been comparing notes with other internet people who went to this and they remember Grimlock while I only remember Jazz and Starscream. Why is that? Is me memory bad? Or was Grimlock somewhere else?

El Paso JC Penny 11/23/85
Denver JC Penny 12/06/85

I've been finding ads that show the Grimlock costume was touring the US making appearances at malls and toy stores during at least the latter half of '85. In addition to these JC Penny ads I found in El Paso and Denver, Dr. Geektarded found a Toys Plus ad putting Grimlock in Nebraska in October of 85. The El Paso JC Penny ad doesn't explicitly state it was Grimlock appearing but the Denver one does say "special appearance by the Transformer character Grimlock" so I'm assuming that's who it was at both JC Pennys. It took Grimlock four days to tour all of the Denver stores and he never appeared at two stores simultaneously, which hints to me at the existence of only one costume. I'm theorizing that the further east you go you'll find the Grimlock costume making store appearances earlier and earlier in the year, like a 1985 Grimlock tour of the US. I figure it started somewhere around the east coast and ended up in Los Angeles at Universal Studios. All of this assumes there was only one Grimlock costume in the world and it had to be shipped everywhere-or even better-there was only one guy in the world capable of wearing it and he had to travel the country making store appearances. But if you check out the pictures at the Base Camp page they clearly show multiple Jazz costumes so I am probably full of crap.


12-n-Under 12/12/85

This ad from a Houston store called 12-n-Under is like that picture at the end of the yearbook with the homecoming queen and king together, except if the queen was that sexy transfer student from Japan and the king was a tall skinny kid that only had one eye, and he was a purple robot. When it comes to clarity I've found better Jetfire line art and I've found better Shockwave line art, but this ad is special because it does what no other ad I've found has done before-put these two guys together. I especially like how the two alternate modes slightly overlap. It's a beautiful composition. An "Autobot Commander" is mentioned but thankfully not pictured. I guess nobody wants to share a picture with the guy who the class of '84 voted "Most Likely to Crash us all Into a Volcano". Man, they just don't make ads like this anymore. Sometimes I wish someone could come up with a good term that encapsulates that fondness I have for that special period of time at the height of the Toy Robots Wars of the eighties when I was a kid and newspaper ads were creative and interesting. Sometimes I wish I could crash Bruce Springsteen into a volcano.

*25 year old

Sunday, February 01, 2009

THE EMPIRE BUYS IT NOW: The story of a boy, a girl, a galaxy, a couple of beanie hats and some mittens

My dad and I were watching Star Wars on VHS for the 38 millionth time during my last trip to Texas for the holidays. He considers those tapes family heirlooms that he wants passed onto my son once he's old enough. Usually family heirlooms would have some sort of legitimate historical value outside of just sentimentality, like suppose if my dad owned the super rare very first 1982 rental-only VHS version of Star Wars by Fox. Instead, my dad's copies are the VHS Special Editions released in '97. In pan and scan. Oh, and just Star Wars and Return of the Jedi get passed down. When I asked him why not Empire Strikes Back he said because that's the worst one-nothing happens in that one. I'm not going to make fun of my dad because god knows I treat 1984 like it's the goddamn tenth dimension, all mysterious and distant and wonderful, but I think therein lies the problem. We are the biggest bunch of overly sentimental, super nostalgic, Antiques Roadshow watching, old toy robots preserving losers on the planet. And I'm really hoping this crap isn't genetic.


Back in late October I bought my son some Transformers beanie and mittens sets on clearance at K-Mart for 6 bucks each. One had that Bumblebee guy from the new cartoon and the other had a really great design with big Autobot insignias all over and I really loved that one. Well while we were in Houston riding the city bus I lost the Bumblebee beanie hat. I left it on one of the buses and by the time I realized it was gone the bus was blocks away. I figured this was a good lesson in just letting go of attachments to things. I think on one of the DVD commentaries George Lucas said Anakin's problem was attachment-that he would not let go. I was not going to let the loss of that beanie turn me to the dark side, so I let go. I let it slide. Besides, going back to downtown Houston where the lost and found was would be like venturing to the village of the savage sandpeople just to rescue Bumblebee hat.

Well last weekend we were at the mall here in South Dakota visiting Gamestop and Hot Topic and all the other places geared towards 34 year old dads with one year old sons and just as we were leaving I realized the unthinkable had happened. Somewhere along the way I lost that beanie with the Autobot insignias. I was devastated. I backtracked as best I could along our path and revisited all the stores and the Hot Topic girl said maybe I could go to the lost and found in a few days and it would show up. But I knew it was gone forever. Nobody in their right mind would return such an awesome beanie hat. I was Anakin who had lost his Padme. I was Darth Vader who had lost his mind.


On the ride home I felt my anger boiling over. I had to do something. I had lost my favorite Autobot hat and K-Mart had run out of them a long time ago. What should I do? What could I do? And then it dawned on me that I could use this galaxy's equivalent of the force-eBay. Suddenly letting go seemed highly overrated. Using the force was all about recovering things you dropped in the snow, right? Should Luke have just resigned himself to his fate and got eaten by the Wampa? I understand letting go was important to George and Yoda, but when should we let go? I had lost my Padme. I had to use the force to get her back even if it cost me my soul. Or worse, Paypal fees.

So we went home and I knew I would get totally butt raped but I got on ebay and I found the Bumblebee set, the Autobot logo set and a third set I'd never seen before that looked pretty cool. I bought them all immediately for what ended up being $10 each. I was Yoda lifting the X-Wing out of the swamp, I was Superman flying backwards around the world. I know I should have just let go but I can't let go, Yoda, I can't let go. I know it was wrong and I set a really bad example for my son in light of all I think is bad about my dad's attachment to VHS copies of the Star Wars Special Editions. I do not want the legacy my son inherits to be this empire of materialistic sentimentality and couple hundred ebay feedback. Maybe one day he will redeem me. Hopefully it will not involve cutting off my hand.

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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.