Thursday, July 30, 2009


This week saw a gigantic DVD release of epic importance in the sci-fi/action genre. I don't mean the final movie in the Fast and Furious quadrilogy, I'm not talking about the Drangonball:Evolution DVD, I don't even mean the final season of Battlestar Galactica came out. I mean VOLTRON: FLEET OF DOOM! This is the legendary meeting of the two Voltrons! It's so legendary I didn't even know what it was when I saw it on the shelves at Best Buy. Honestly I've never even seen it before and didn't know it was coming out. I think that's partly because this 44 minute "movie" is the Voltron equivalent of the Star Wars Holiday Special. The Voltron media overlords haven't exactly tried to keep its awfulness hidden and suppressed but they weren't in a rush to get it out there either. Last night over dinner I was telling my wife I needed to seriously do this Voltron movie post I've been meaning to do because people everywhere will be clamoring to find out about it! Then she spit all her food on the table laughing because she said using "Voltron" and "serious" in the same sentence was an oxymoron. I FORGET SHE IS NERUO-TYPICAL.

WARNING: Roboplasticos on your TV are larger and more colorful than they appear here


That Media Basters put this out on a wide release DVD is a big deal because "FLEET OF DOOM" hasn't been available at brick and mortar stores before and this release is different from the previous online exclusive DVD which got pretty bad reviews. Aside from problems with the quality of the cartoon, what really irked some people was how the first FLEET OF DOOM didn't work in older DVD players. Even DVD players hated it. But this time around those problems have been overcome and there's even a 5.1 track on it. It looked really good with crisp, vibrant colors when I watched it and even the normal stereo track I used sounded great. Before I start I need to make clear that I'm only a casual Voltron fan and I'm not much of a DVD reviewer either, so this is going to be a really unprofessional post with mostly uninformed opinions and some poorly taken low resolution pictures I shot with my camera on the wrong color and brightness settings. Pretty much the same crap I always do. Also in the interest of full disclosure: I still don't own any Voltron toy robots.

WARNING: Contains four times the recommended daily allowance of Peter Cullen


It is necessary to understand FLEET OF DOOM's place in the pantheon of Voltronology if one is to understand why it falls short of greatness. I wrote before about how excited I was that Media Blasters released the original uncut GoLion-the series that got edited and dubbed to make the first season's worth of lion Voltron episodes. Unlike those early lion episodes, FLEET OF DOOM isn't a re-editing of a pre-existing Japanese animation. The vehicle and lion Voltrons were never in the same cartoon in Japan because they were two entirely separate series when they first started out there. FLEET OF DOOM's storyline was written by the American writing team at World Events Productions, but then they left the scripting and animation to the Japanese animation studio. It's a combination of combining robot cartoons that took the combined efforts of people over two continents. It's production rivals the complexity of building the large hadron collider, and like the large hadron collider it will leave you wondering if turning it on was a good idea.

Worship at the altar of Cullen voiced characters!
The best way I can explain it is let's say someone made a television show out of spliced footage of T.J. Hooker episodes and lots of commercials. Then they got everyone together to do a brand new original 44 minute super episode where T.J. Hooker and the Priceline negotiator team up and half the cast was William Shatner. That's exactly what FLEET OF DOOM is, except Shatner is Peter Cullen. I know what you're thinking-How can you go wrong when half the cast is Peter Cullen? Plus it's Voltron! How can you go wrong with TWO Voltrons? How is FLEET OF DOOM not the Citizen Kane of combining space lions and spaceships space operas in space? Well the problem is a) the Voltrons are barely even in this at all and b) the other half of the cast is not also Peter Cullen.

Lotor ponders whether his dynotherms are connected and his mega thrusters are indeed "go"


Unfortunately FLEET OF DOOM is not 44 minutes of two Voltrons being doomed by various fleets, like all Voltron cartoons it is instead 43 minutes of humans and aliens coming to grips with their emotional problems and crap like that, plus one minute of Voltrons and fleet dooming. This is why Voltron is not taken seriously. This is why Voltron totally dropped the ball in the genre of cartoons with multicolored combining space robots made up of public transportation vehicles and/or robot zoo animals. Damnit, I don't care if Hagar the witch wishes she was pretty again or Commander Keith wet the bed when he was little, JUST GIVE ME VOLTRONS AND FLEETS WITH LOTS OF DOOM! If they wanted to do drama and add emotional weight to the story they could have given Lion Voltron the space rabies and have vehicle Voltron put him down. Damnit stop trying to be Saturday morning Shakespeare and just give me the roboplastic apocalypse already!


As far as DVD extras, FLEET OF DOOM contains the first episodes of lion and vehicle Voltron, plus a two minute 'bloopers' reel. Instead of bloopers it's really a series of short comparisons between finished and unfinished animation sequences. They'll show a brief scene as it originally aired then follow that by the same scene but with some animation elements missing or altered. It's not really bloopers as in "ha ha funny mistakes", it's more like "ha ha boy if you thought the animation sucked now you should see how bad it really was before we fixed it".

What should have happened was the lightning was white, but once it was blue! Hilarious!


The only appeal here is the novelty of having this previously super-rare chapter of Voltron history on a DVD that actually plays in DVD players. Even then it's hard to recommend-the story takes so long with setup that nobody even forms Voltron until over half an hour into the 44 minute feature. They spent most of the time with the lion team's human characters and villains so it feels like a lion force cartoon with a cameo by the vehicle guys and not a true two Voltron movie. Getting the two Voltrons together is an ambitious idea but 44 minutes was not enough to do justice to all the human and alien subplots and still have time for lots of robot lion and spaceship battles. This should have been a 5 part miniseries like GI Joe so the characters could be fully explored while letting the Voltrons see some action in all their forms. For $14.99 it's too much, especially for such poor quality animation. The final climactic battle with both Voltrons looked so poorly animated it was like I was watching someone reading a Voltron comic book or playing a Voltron RPG or just flashing storyboards on the screen. It would have been nice if FLEET OF DOOM were an extra on the Voltron series DVDs. Heck, it would have been nice if it was a cartoon that had some actual animated Voltrons in it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To 'FO or not to 'FO?

Another anime convention called Anime Festival Orlando is happening this weekend about a four hour drive from where I'm at. I'm pretty excited about being in a place with so much convention action and I would really like to go. The problem is IF I went I'd only be able to do Saturday so they'd have to have a bunch of roboplastic content to justify me spending the over $300 for food, the one day pass, hotel and shuttle ride to and from Orlando. Not to mention going would cost me time I could be spending at the library looking for old toy robots ads. So the question I'm needing to decide tonight is should I stay or should I 'FO?

The panel schedule's been posted and I've narrowed down what I'd be interested in seeing Saturday:

10am - Giant Robots, Old and New / Palm Salon F,G - Carlos Romero
DESCRIPTION:"Remember when children had to pilot the super robot from the outside? Remember when that disgruntled German girl had to mind-meld with her robot to get it to operate? Super robots have been around for a long, long time. Join us for a super robot-powered trip down memory lane!"

This one sounds pretty good but I wonder if it'll be more than a clip show that doesn't do much beyond showing the opening credits of a couple famous robot cartoons from the early eighties. This is the weakest draw for me but at least it's robots.

2pm - Collecting Chokogin and other Precious Metals / Oleander A - Carlos Romero
DESCRIPTION:"Chokogin toys have been around since the '70s in Japan as a series of highly detailed die-cast robot toys. Join Carlos as he shows off pieces from his collection and discusses collecting these finely crafted machines."

This one sounds like the best reason for me to go. I would love to see someone who knows what he's talking about explain the Chokogin lineage from the very beginning, including stuff like Shogun Warriors and the Soul of Chokogin line.

4:30pm - Transformers Panel
/ Biscayne/Siesta - Tom Croom, Chris Duplis
DESCRIPTION:"Join Tom Croom and Chris Duplis discuss the past and future of this classic anime franchise.

I don't see how Transformers is anime but if these guys got a panel about it in an anime convention that's cool with me. I looked online to see what kind of background the panel hosts had in the Transformers scene. I guess their credibility is important to me because to me anything less than Botcon may as well be a couple guys reading Transformers message boards out loud. I found that Tom Croon has been doing this panel at multiple cons before and he even got to sing background vocals for Stan Bush earlier this year. CREDIBILITY ESTABLISHED!


While I would really like to, I can't justify spending that much money for one really strong panel about Chokogins. The other two would be cool, but I wonder how much better they could be than an evening watching YouTube Super Robot clips or listening to my own Botcon panel recordings. So for me it's no go on AFO. Thanks for reading me think this out loud!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The Gundamn! podcast released the audio of their panel at Yasumicon which I mentioned attending a couple posts ago. During the audience Q&A portion I asked what would be the best way for human characters to interact with robots in Michael Bay movies and if watching Gundam conditions people to think humans should only be pilots and robots shouldn't think for themselves. At least that's what I intended to ask-it may have come out stupid. I haven't listened to it so maybe they edited me out.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

GET IN THE CAR, MARTY! WE'RE GOING TO GET SOME WINDEX! OR: Interdimensional travel is the only way I will ever experience being gainfully employed

I was reading an advice column about a guy who was cleaning his house and he rubbed his hand near a wall socket and it transported him to another dimension. And I thought, that's all it takes? My ticket back to 1984 was a hand rag, a can of Endust and the wall outlet all along? Those things aren't easily accessible to me because I'm living in a hotel right now so acquiring them would involve complicated secret missions to infiltrate the maid closet. Still, I was excited because this method is much more easily attainable and cost effective than DeLorean based time travel.


If I was that guy I would be worried that cleaning the wall just gave me time travel powers and how could I control them and what should my superhero name be. But then the advice columnist told the guy that more than likely what happened was he got high on the cleaning chemicals he was using and no interdimensional time traveling occurred. The mind just does weird things when it's deprived of oxygen due to chemical interference (or in this case, when you're high). But it seemed so real to the guy that even if it was a mind trick, it was as genuine a reality as any other he'd experienced. If perception is reality then how can anyone tell him what he experienced was not 'real'? Reading all this led me to the obvious conclusion that dreaming may in fact be interdimensional travel and I should be careful what I do in my dreams because who's to say that I am not visiting other dimensions where fantastic incredible things really do happen like flying cars and I actually have a job.


The other night I dreamt I was working as a stock boy at a Target in Antarctica and the guy helping me stock the automotive section was a six foot tall Soundwave the Decepticon cassette player. Then an awkward situation arose when Soundwave tried to take me to the back room and get me to smoke crack with him. I thought, I need to be careful what I do in this dimension because it might be actual events. Then my cell phone rung and it was a chicken. I started thinking this might be a dream but I'll be damned if I'm not gonna find a way to bring chicken phone back with me when I cross through the stargate and get back home as proof of interdimensional travel. So I stuck the chicken phone in my pants and started smoking crack with Soundwave. Oddly enough he sounded like Clint Eastwood. He told me, "You can't take things of this dimension back with you" and I told him, "What do you know? You're just a crackhead robot stockboy working at Target." Then our supervisor caught us and I was shocked back into this reality. I immediately woke up and reached for my chicken phone, only to find that in my bed I was not wearing pants. Apparently clothes do not pass through the stargate. Soundwave may be a crackhead Target stockboy but he sure knows his interdimensional physics.

Friday, July 24, 2009

25 Years Ago in Transformers Part 7: The 1984 Hasbro Toy Catalog (but actually just pages 64 and 65)

The words "1984" and "Hasbro" and "toy" and "catalog" are pretty awesome separately but to put them together is to name one of the Holy Texts of Roboplasticology. There are several of these tomes in existence-sacred books published annually during the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s, but the 1984 edition from Hasbro is the Alpha and Omega Supreme of them all. For to gaze upon the 1984 Hasbro Toy Catalog is to witness the birth of all things Cybertronian (and also to know the terrible, fiery embrace of Glo-Worm). These books were not meant for perusal of mere mortal eyes-they were made by Hasbro so that wholesale level toy buyers could decide where their toy budgets were to be spent. And therein lies the reason these sacred pages are among the most beautifully crafted marketing publications in existence. The Transformer related material within wasn't just a clone of the blandly composed fold out flyer catalog packed in with boxed Transformers that year. No, Hasbro knew that if you got one of those it meant you already paid your ten bucks and bought in to the roboplastic fantasy. The 1984 toy catalog's purpose was to sell the concept to a much tougher audience-toy dealers with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend. These buyers had to be dazzled and amazed so that Transformers could even make it to the shelves in the first place. Hasbro's marketing presentation had to be up to the task, and a bunch of tiny pictures of toy robots on a solid color background wasn't going to do the trick. It had to be big and bold. It had to be more than met your consumer level eye because it had bigger eyes to meet!


Indeed the contents of old 80s toy manufacturer catalogs are revered and shrouded in mystery because as industry trade publications they're quite rare and hard to find. It is not unusual when they pop up on ebay for them to fetch hundreds of dollars. Hell, I paid $15 once for just two pages of the 1985 Mattel toy catalog so that I could get pictures of the unproduced Mighty Orbots toy. When Hasbro catalogs pop up they are very rarely from the early years of the Transformer line and when they are, sellers expect to get hundreds of dollars for them. So imagine my surprise a couple months back when I scored the 1984 toy catalog for only 45 bucks! As the Indiana Jones of toy robots archaeology I was ecstatic. Maybe I'm overstating the value and rarity of this artifact but I was expecting to have to travel to the far off land of Rhode Island and break into the house of some old retired toy executive and steal his copy, replacing it with a bag of sand and dodging his giant rolling boulder security system as I made my getaway. I wonder how the real Indiana Jones would feel today if all he had to do was wait for the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail to pop up on eBay with a decent Buy-It-Now.


I really admire certain webpages made by Jem fans and Care Bears fans that have exhaustive online collections of pages from dealer toy catalogs relevant to those toylines. I've always wanted to see or do something like that for Transformers but I don't have the resources to pay hundreds of dollars or spend every waking hour on eBay to get the seven holy G1 Hasbro catalogs when they pop up. Plus (and most importantly) I am lazy. But this being the 25th anniversary of my favorite talking robot Lamborghinis and their transforming Volkswagen cohorts I can do no less as a fan of grainy pictures of toy robots than take some low resolution pictures of a couple of pages from the '84 Hasbro catalog and call it a blog.

The Transformers portion starts with a two page splash on pages 64 and 65 featuring that now classic 1984 battle scene that everyone's seen a million times before-or have they? The version here is a variant where the Autobot and Decepticon logos are missing from the individual robots. Those sigils would be added eventually on the toy packaging and most other places this promotional art was later used. It's strange because even the ads Hasbro ran in trade publications as early as February of '84 had the completed art. I've only seen this scene with a lack of logos once elsewhere and it's on an item that actually made it to retail. The "Attack of the Decepticons" LP record sleeve featured a mirrored version of this factionless art. Why exactly these versions exist without the faction symbols on the robots is unknown to me. My guess is that the Transformer portions of this catalog were rushed into production before all the specifics of the marketing were ironed out. It's not unusual for things like that to happen in manufacturer catalogs and part of the allure of these books is seeing product concepts and ideas in their earlier stages. But why the factionless art on the record sleeve exists is a bit confusing. Hey I never said the roboplastic apocalypse was going to make sense.

Let's check out the text that started it all...

Prepare for out-of-this-world sales excitement!

Imagine strange metallic beings from a war-torn planet able to transform their bodies into awesome weapons. Imagine that these aliens have landed on Earth and continue their battle here. Imagine Heroic Autobots and Evil Decepticons. Imagine The Transformers!

Imagine reading this for the first time in 1984! Imagine a world where nobody had ever heard of Autobots or Decepticons! This first paragraph establishes the basic and enduring premise of the Transformer mythology-a premise the Michael Bay movies so elegantly distilled to "Their War/Our World". It's interesting that the Transformers' home planet isn't named outright but I don't know why that is. Maybe all the names hadn't been established by the time this catalog went to press. Or maybe given that the audience was toy dealers, Hasbro may not have wanted to get too technical too early? If you mention Cybertron maybe the buyers would expect to see one later in the catalog?

The Transformers are incredibly powerful and intelligent robots-controlled by logic centers and microchips-who can convert themselves into mechanical creatures. Autobots and Decepticons transform into sports cars, trucks, planes, guns and more-then back to robots again!

Now 25 years later it's amusing to see the intention was that the robots be these incredibly intelligent beings because Transformers has given us some of the biggest robot idiots of all time. The statement that they're robots that turn into mechanical "creatures" instead of "vehicles" or "devices" or "vehicles and devices" is also interesting. It implies that the alternate mode is the creature. But when I think about it how else could I describe a talking Porsche?

Advertising and promotion

The Transformers are backed by a powerful multi-million dollar TV and print media campaign.
An action-packed comic book series from Marvel will hit the stands this spring.
Major licensing activity is planned for 1984.

While I think much of the credit goes to the fantastic design of the toys and the way they were marketed as alien sports cars from space, licensing and promotion were a big part of the success of the Transformers. Although GoBots had a nearly six month head start on the shelves, the amount of money Hasbro spent on advertising the Transformers won many retailers over. In the March 19, 1984 edition of Discount Store News one toy buyer for discount store chain Clover said he thought Transformers would beat GoBots in popularity based on the amount of money Hasbro was spending on advertising in 1984. I haven't been able to find solid figures but I do remember one newspaper article that said Tonka put 8 million into Gobots ads and promotion in '84 so that would put Hasbro's Transformers ad budget at somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 million dollars that first year.

"Robot Points" printed on each Transformer package will encourage kids to collect the entire line. They'll save these special points, then send them in for exciting and exclusive premium offers.

Ah, the beginnings of the Robot Point based economy. Those early days were good before the big Robot Point recession of 1988 when millions of kids' life savings in Robot Points became worthless overnight due to excessive Robot Point inflation.

Each Transformer comes with a bio card and a Tech Specs chart, which rates its strength, speed, skill, etc. Kids can decipher the specs using the special decoder found inside Transformer packages!

And now this post ends with an homage to the tech specs decoder entitled
"I Wish I was not Still a Nerd of Ten"

Tech Spec Decoder, red plastic emoter of aspects of toy robot degree
Just red cellophane but to me in the fourth grade, marvelous modern technology

Held up to the package, revealed in frenzied red line a message-
the scale of toy robot relativity
Within decoded squiggly line you helped me to finally define
how much robot my mom got me for eight dollars and ninety nine

Were you a product of M.I.T. or the Roswell UFO recovery?
Like Leo Da Vinci, you helped me to see the secrets of the Budiansky code
Told me things I'm not meant to know, special secrets from Hasbro
washed my brain in your red glow until I'd know what only Teletrans know

You are the greatest invention, even if your original intention
was just to show me Starscream's rank was five
I love looking through your crimson the world's different within robovision
I will tape you to my head to see through you all the time

If I were king of the world I'd hand every boy and girl
a Tech Spec Decoder and make everything okay
There would be no war or famine with tech spec decoders we'd examine
where mankind went so horribly astray

Oh say I can't see so Tech Spec Decoder talk to me
Tell me what's wrong from what's right
Let me see the truth, tell me what's the use of life
but mostly what lotto numbers to choose tonight

Tech Spec Decoder, red plastic emoter of aspects of toy robot degree
Just red cellophane but you take away the pain when life starts getting to me

Tech Spec Decoder I still keep you in a folder
Because there's one last thing I'll be needing you for
When the time comes for my demise
I will put a Tech Spec Decoder to my eyes
and breath my last breath in 1984

Tuesday, July 21, 2009



Last Saturday we checked out the opening night of the new "Stitch Wars" exhibit at the Bear and Bird Art Gallery (also known as the second floor of Tate's Comics) in Lauderhill, Florida. I don't really need a reason to go to Tate's as it is one of the best comic book stores I've ever been to, but a Wired Magazine blogger said Stitch Wars "looks like a must see exhibit". Now "looks like a must see" doesn't exactly sound all enthusiastic. It's the kind of half-assed praise I hate, but after that first prequel movie I can see why people are cautious about recommending anything Star Wars related. So I went!

Wow, it's just like being at a Star Wars convention (or an anime convention, or a comic convention, or Botcon, or the swap meet or everywhere else I see multiple guys in Boba Fett costumes)

Since it was opening night there was quite a crowd, with Star Wars lounge music and cosplayers and the sort of atmosphere you'd expect if someone threw a Star Wars convention in a small club. A small sexy exciting club. My cosplay count was 1 Boba Fett, 1 Jango Fett, 1 TIE Fighter Pilot, 2 Princess Leias (one white dress Death Star prisoner and one slave outfit), 1 Tusken Raider and 1 Han Solo (small head variant). And of course assloads of stormtroopers. Or maybe there was only one Stormtrooper and one Scout Biker but holy hell Stormtroopers are so played out that when I see any my mind does a Special Edition edit and all of a sudden I see dozens more that weren't there before.

Is this a) the art show at Celebration IV, b) the gift shop at Star Tours, or c) an elaborate viral marketing scheme for a new line of Star Wars sexual aids

The theme here was cloth interpretations of Star Wars. One might think that in this Lucasfilm dominated retail reality where every last character and creature from Star Wars has been licensed in a million different ways and been made into a billion different toys that there aren't any original expressions of the brand left. And yeah, maybe some of these ideas have been rendered a little less original by existing licensed products, but the spin these artists put on their creations is what makes them unique. This exhibit says yeah, you may have seen a plush Jawa before, but have you seen a HIPSTER plush Jawa?

I hope George Lucas cross stitch becomes my generation's equivalent of the velvet Elvis painting.

So I say go check it out if you're in southern Florida because you can never have enough excuses to do something Star Wars (or visit Tate's). I can't promise there will be real life Slave Leias like when I was there, but you might find a plush crack whore Leia that'll make you think.

The Prince of Macrocrania, the Queen of Macrocrania and two Princesses of Leia

Friday, July 17, 2009

Vintage Space Toast Tour Miami part 1: I went to 1984 and all I got were these lousy toy robots ads

I've been thinking a lot lately about the nature of fandom and how the way a person participates in their hobby can show their obsession may actually be something else entirely. The old saying that comes to mind is how sports card collectors aren't fans of sports, but statistics and numbers. I've been thinking about this because I've noticed that the majority of people who go to libraries to look at old newspapers on microfilm fall into two groups-fans of death and fans of numbers. One type is the sports fan looking up old scores, usually from high school games of decades ago when they themselves played. Those guys are a little sad to me because they're stuck trying to relive their glory days one microfilm roll at a time. They are the fans of numbers. The second and by far largest category of people I encounter are the fans of death-little old ladies looking up obituaries. Usually it's for family genealogy projects but I've met some of them and the enthusiasm with which they talk about obituaries is frightening. As I spent last weekend looking through old newspapers for some new* toy robots ads from 1984 I wondered what the fans of death and numbers would think of me if they knew I was right there amongst them, spinning through the reels with my own sad nostalgic frightening enthusiasm with a Playstation 3 duct taped to my chest and a Happy Meal box on my head. More importantly, what would they think if they knew I was wearing homemade GoBots underwear.


Zayre 11/11/84
I figure I'll be living in southern Florida for a while so I'll take things slow and just concentrate on one year at a time during my weekly library visits. This lets me do a more comprehensive search than if I was just visiting for a few days, as is usually the case during any regular stop of the Vintage Space Toast Tour. The focus of this past weekend was 1984, the last best year for being a toy robots fan before Optimus Prime convinced everyone that freedom (to buy only Transformers brand robots) was the right of all sentient beings. In '84 the toy robots scene was still quite a diverse mix of brands and there were no clear winners yet. So if you wanted to rock out in your GoBots pajamas there was no shame for not being on the winning team. And if wearing GoBots pajamas didn't put you to sleep you could always watch their show! HEY NOW!

The more ads I find for promotional GoBots tie-ins the more I am amazed at how well a small toy company like Tonka was able to get its brand out there. They did a great marketing job and this next ad that ran in the Sunday comics section during October of 1984 is an example of that. I've previously found ads for the Challenge of the GoBots cartoon and the GoBot watch but the following ad is a combination of those two, plus it's also an ad for the GoBot cereal promotion tie-in. The dirty little secret of the cereal industry is that Cookie Crisp was playing both sides of the bowl back during the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. In '84 GoBots teamed up with Cookie Crisp to get GoBots propaganda pamphlets into cereal bowls across the nation well before Cookie Crisp and Transformers teamed up for the Jazz mail away offer later on. Although Leader-1 lost out in the end, he can take comfort knowing that when it came to cereal Optimus Prime got the soggy seconds.

21 October 1984


TG&Y 11/11/84
This next ad is the toy robots equivalent of a grainy, blurry picture of a Chupacabra. Back in '84 there was a b-list line of toy robots called Convert-A-Bots made by a company called Village Toys. One of the figures in that line was a transforming robot laser gun named N-4-SR (alternatively, the robot also known as Shockwave in Transformers). That toy was Korean in origin so variations and knockoffs of it are plentiful, but for some reason pictures of the Convert-A-Bots Shockwave still in the box remain elusive in my searches. The only evidence I'd ever seen of the N-4-SR's existence was from the cross sell illustration on the side of other Convert-A-Bots packages. Recently Nala at Plastic Crack was able to find one but it came in a strange, mail-away style cardboard box. So I was excited to come across this TG&Y ad from November of 1984 for what the description calls the "ToBot Laser Blaster". Normally I'd take their word for it but even though the picture really sucks I can tell from the packaging style and graphics that this is instead the best evidence I've found of a boxed Convert-A-Bots N-4-SR. The placement of the gun mode drawing at the top and the grid graphic on the packaging combined with the specific way the text is laid out scream Convert-A-Bots. Plus there's also guilt by association. I've cropped out the ad next to it but when I put this up at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace you'll see that it ran side-by-side with an ad for other Convert-A-Bots figures that had nearly identical packaging motifs. Mystery solved? Not really, but I'm hopeful that proving one of these exist might be accomplished by the right eBay search one day. Hell, proving Chupacabras exist might be accomplished by the right eBay search one day.


Zayre 10/14/84
ToysRUs 11/08/84

I look at these ads for two long forgotten and extinct Takara toy robot lines and I realize there is absolutely no difference between me and the little old ladies obsessed with death and obituaries...


...and nothing makes me feel like those has-been high school sports stars reliving their glory days like a good 1984 Transformers ad. The next two from Toys R Us and Jefferson Ward are very special because they're chronologically the earliest Transformer ads I've ever found. They both ran August 19 of 1984, a full ten days earlier than the current earliest TF ad I have up at the Transformers 1984 page of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace.

ToysRus 08/19/84

This Toys R Us ad appeared in the main body of the paper where the print was in black and white so they had to go with line art. Jefferson Ward meanwhile was able to use a picture of Jazz, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe in their color circular. I'm personally intrigued by these two types of ad (line art and color picture) that were so prevalent in the late 70s/early 80s. I wish I knew more about the process by which line art and ad text was distributed by Hasbro and other companies. To see them both in use in my earliest found examples of Transformer ad was interesting and I hope one day I'll get some answers on line art. An upcoming post I'm working on is an examination of 1984 Transformers line art and where it comes from-or more accurately what the visual basis was for the drawings. This leads me to the conclusion that just as I have found the underlying motivations of the little old ladies and sports enthusiasts, I have never been more sure that I am best defined as a fan of grainy pictures of toy robots instead of the toy robots themselves.

Jefferson Ward 08/19/84
You may notice the Jefferson Ward ad's price is blackened out. This is due to the low resolution of my camera and the microfilm transfer process, which renders areas of deep color as unreadable blobs. But never fear, my fellow Macrocranians. I looked really hard at the microfilm scanner screen and was able to make out that the price was $8.99. (Dedication like that is what sets me apart from the average toy robots obsessed weirdo library patron.) Documenting the price at $8.99 was important to me because there's a point in my 1984 Transformers page where I stick my neck out and write that on average, Autobot cars cost $8.99 back in '84. I know that's a controversial stance to take in the current global economic crisis but I'm not running for the supreme court anytime soon so I can have wild outspoken ideas like that.

Finding further support of my $8.99 average in the October 1984 Richway ad below was a bit of a bonus. The only problem I have with it is its composition. If it were me I would have put Wheeljack in front of Trailbreaker for the vehicle mode picture because the white of the Lancia Stratos Turbo would have contrasted nicely against the black of the camper. Judging by the way they positioned the cars I think somebody at the photo shoot lost Wheeljack's spoilers or didn't know how to put them on. Idiots! This is why I don't spend much time hating on Michael Bay. I'm still stuck having roboplastic apocalypses over the incompetence of a toy robots photographer from 25 years ago.

Richway 10/07/84

The final ad I'd like to highlight is this super collection of '84 Transformers lineart from Super Rx, which I think was a pharmacy of all places. I don't think I've ever seen so much TF lineart in one ad before. Nearly every 1984 size class is represented here-the only ones missing are the Decepticon cassettes and Shockwave/Jetfire. The ad is also unique because it has some strange mistakes in the text like the repeated use of the term "Autobats" and the mention of a tractor trailer in Megatron's flavor text (where they refer to him as a "weather P-38"). The copy writers also went a bit crazy with the usage of trademark (TM) annotation-they put it after every item description. Usually I see the TM only after "Hasbro" or "Transformers" in these old ads but holy hell these guys put it everywhere, even after words like "Autobat Cars". This sucks because their typo mistake trademarks that term forever and prevents me from making my epic movie about evil vampire Lamborghinis. Evil sexy exciting vampire lambos.

SuperRx 10/03/84

Ever since I hit up Fortlibrarius Maximus in Fort Lauderdale back in '07 I knew southern Florida had a great mix of 80s toystores and other retailers running toy ads. I just didn't have the time to look through all the microfilm during my first go-round. Now that I'll be living here for a while I hope to bore myself to tears looking through all those reels of grainy robot chupacabra ads with hard to read prices. Oooh what fun. I have never been more sure that I am best defined as a fan of crazy little old ladies at the library. STAY TUNED NEXT TIME SPORTS FANS FOR ANOTHER NUMBERS FILLED EPISODE OF MIAMI ROBOTS WEIRDO LIBRARY ADVENTURES!

*25 year old

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Cardboard Robot Beings

In my life there has been a disproportionate amount of me going to Botcon instead of other conventions so when I found out there was going to be a free anime convention called Yasumicon last weekend I went. Transformer content at anime conventions is usually pretty low so I go to them for different reasons, namely to learn about toy robots not from Cybertron and to check out all the people wearing crazy costumes. I look forward to a wide diversity of wacky outfits but I've been to a few anime conventions before and cosplayers disappointingly fall into two basic themes: a) jailbait Japanese cartoon character prostitute and b) Stormtrooper. Toy robots costumes are usually very rare. Any guy dressed as a robot is way outnumbered by 16 year old hooker Pokemons. This sucks for me because at 35 I'm getting too old to waste time being surrounded by people not dressed up as robots.

Thankfully Yasumicon wasn't just a bunch of Japanese lingerie maids and Boba Fett. It was a pretty good sized show and there were a couple guys dressed up as robots. The two standouts (for different reasons) were the guy who made that Gundam Heavyarms outfit I showed in the first picture (it had opening chest bays!) and another guy who wore a cardboard box and some ligtning bolts and called it at Zambot 3. Those two guys were pretty popular wherever they went. Toy robots fans were so hard up for old school robot costumes that you could probably have gotten laid if you duct taped a Playtation 3 to your chest, put a happy meal box on your head and called yourself Voltron.

The main reason I went to Yasumicon was because there were some robot related panels that appealed to me. The first one was held by the staff of the Gundamn! Podcast, which I had never heard of before. I've checked out their podcast since and they remind me of that Saturday Night Live "Schweddy Balls" skit. They have those NPR style voices but they talk about mecha anime. I thought the panel was great because for two hours they discussed Gundam and also the Transformers Revenge of the Fallen movie. They recorded the whole thing so it'll be up at their site and best of all is that I asked a couple of questions during the audience participation segments. Once they put that show up I'll link it here and you'll get to hear me ask if everybody hates Shia LeBouf because they watch too much Gundam (or something like that).

Then I went to a really great panel where this one guy talked about his experience being a fan of Gundam models while his wife sat in the corner and put one together. He's been modeling Gundams for over a decade and he had a lot of stories. The best ones to me revolved around the more robotarded aspects of Gundam model fandom, like the one about the guy who would buy $200 model kits and then put them together half-assedly and leave tons of sprue bits and flash on the parts. He also discussed the history of Gundam kits and he had some Revoltech figures on display like the YF-19 from Macross Plus, a Gurren Lagan and a black recolor of the King Gainer (which is pretty rare). He even had a model kit from the next Gundam cartoon which is going to be called "Gundam Unicorn". It's a white with pink highlights robot. When I saw it I was reminded of another Saturday Night live skit-the one Adam Sandler and Chris Farley did for "Schmitt's Gay" Beer.

The last panel I went to didn't even happen! It was called "Anime of the 80s" and I sat in a small classroom waiting for 30 minutes with 20 kids who I was old enough to be their dad. I must commend the youth of today on their patience because I tell you, if a bunch of us old guys sat for 30 minutes waiting for a panel to start at Botcon, chairs would be flying and it would be Lord of the Flies in no time. What ended up happening was the panel got hijacked when two young podcaster guys showed up and decided to take over. They tried to save the day by starting a conversation about 80s anime and amazingly it worked, if just for a short while. It seemed like I was the only guy there who was alive in the 80s so I ended up telling everyone what it was like watching old cartoons like Tranzor-Z, Transformers and Mighty Orbots. The concepts of VHF and UHF stations and changing the channel on my dad's old TV that had big circular knobs was foreign to most of the kids there. After a bit I started feeling self conscious and uncomfortable about how old I was. I went to that panel hoping to see someone else squirm uncomfortably about being an old toy robots cartoon weirdo! So I left because it was already past 10 pm on a Saturday night and I wanted to get back to my hotel before the Pokemon hookers got back on the streets.

I put up some more redundant convention pictures in my Yasumicon set at Flickr Macrocrania

Thursday, July 02, 2009

RINGTONES OF THE FALLEN: Contemplating death and supertarded robots in the aftermath of 2009's double Michael armageddons

Well I made it to Miami but it's been two weeks and we still haven't found the place we want to live. Despite this annoying homelesness problem I've managed to keep my priorities straight and find time to see the Transformer movie, hang out at the library and go sightseeing at abandoned warehouses. But while I was living it up as Florida's modern day Obi-wan Kenobi, Michael Jackson did his own Obi-Wan Kenobi impression and died. The biggest impact his dying has had on me was all those annoying "Thriller" and "Beat It" cellphone ringtones going off at the library while I was trying to look at old toy robots newspaper ads. But that's not nearly annoying as every internet movie critic howling endlessly about how Michael Bay put them on a big jumbo jetplane full of flaming christmas trees, lite brites, humping Chihuahuas and a million GM car parts where every other passenger is Linkin Park wearing Optimus Prime voice changer helmets and crashed it into a clan rally at Toys R Us. Hell, I don't have to jump into a volcano to know it will be terrifying and awesome except for the dying part. Hopefully we'll all be able to work through the pain inflicted upon us by what the two Michaels did last month. Although I never cared much about The King of Pop I think I can understand what his fans are going through and I empathize. Michael Bay is my own personal Michael Jackson-it is because of him that I too think about 25 years ago and cry a lot.


I remember one day in 1984 I was in 4th grade waiting in line to get back in class after recess and some little girl in front of me was talking about Michael Jackson. I guess she was talking to me because she asked, "So what is your favorite Michael Jackson song?" and I said I didn't like Michael Jackson I liked toy robots instead. Then she asked me if I was a racist, because apparently her litmus test for racism was one's devotion to Michael Jackson. Or maybe she was implying liking toy robots more than Michael Jackson was racist. Now 25 years later the subjects of racism and its connection to toy robots is being brought up on the playground of the internet and hell, I've had a 25 year head start to sort this all out. My fellow Macrocranians, I think racism is a sort of reverse fandom-a bunch of people united not by their love of a common interest, but by their hate of it. (Actually this describes toy robots fans pretty good already). Since people have multiple interests there is bound to be some demographic overlap between the fandom of toy robots and the reverse fandom of various racisms. So indeed there must be millions of racists who like toy robots but the overlap cuts both ways so I'm sure there are lots of racists who are also Michael Jackson fans. If Thriller is the biggest selling album of all time then there has to be at least one guy in a hate group out there who has hummed Billie Jean under his hood. But are toy robots themselves racist? Well, no, toy robots cannot be racist because the only thing humming under their hoods are little plastic engines.


I may not be a psychiatrist or a movie critic or a veterinarian but I think all the negative reviews of the Transformer movie stem from how we as mammals perceive giant computer generated robots on a subconcious level. Like the Velociraptors from Jurrasic Park, the Transformers robots instinctively trigger flight or flee responses in our brains. I'm not saying Roger Ebert dislikes Transformers Revenge of the Fallen because his cavemen ancestors ran from giant robots and evolution has imprinted on him a genetic aversion to transforming robot Camaros, I'm saying the human mind is incapable of empathizing with inorganic, non-fleshy creatures as story protagonists. Our furry mammal minds are hardwired to not be able to emotionally invest in towering super realistic CGI robots when we see them in movie theaters because Michael Bay's characters are innately terrifying on a primal level. Unfortunately the best way around this hardwired evolutionary programming is to have a "differently enabled" mind, meaning the only people who can truly appreciate Transformer movies are the retarded and those with Aspergers Syndrome. They are the lucky ones. Even after centuries of evolution, the human race is not ready for Michael Bay and his movies about sentient, physically superior to us robots that look like flaming barbeque grills. Except maybe when they blow up. I may not know a lot about psychology or professional movie critisism but I've never met an exploding robot I didn't like.


I remember reading back in '07 that Michael Bay prophecised the first Transformer movie would make toy robots fans cool in the eyes of the public at large but now after he's unleashed this roboplastic apocalypse I'm wondering what he expects them to think of us now. It's like he's some vengeful old testament god breaking the second seal of toy robots armageddon because mankind didn't appreciate his first toy robot movie. I'm no bible scholar but I did see Raiders of the Lost Ark and Da Vinci Code and you know those bible prophecies about God destroying humanity first by water then by fire? I've been thinking they really mean God would destroy pop culture first with James Cameron's movie Titanic (which was water) and then with Michael Bay's Revenge of the Fallen (fire and explosions). Like vengeful old testament god smiting sodom and gomorrah, I feel like Michael Bay has smoted and flame broiled my reputation as a fan of toy robots like a double stackticon burger with his fire and explosions. And although God gave us rainbows as the promise he'd never use James Cameron to destroy us with water again, unfortunately the bible contains no firey exploding rainbow assurances that Michael Bay won't make another Transformers movie. So the next few years are pretty bleak for people who like singing Thriller while wearing Optimus Prime voice changer helmets in public, but do not despair my fellow Macrocranians. You should see the great things the Koran says about the upcoming Voltron movie.

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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.