Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Mizu more than I thought I would

My plan for last weekend was to hit the library again repeatedly, looking not only for old newspaper microfilms but also for fellow vagrants and vagabonds willing to learn the ways of the force if they are to come with me to Alderaan. It was also the weekend of the Mizucon, one of those Japanimation conventions that I was hoping would be like most anime conventions I've attended and not actually be about anime. Although I don't watch Japanimation anymore I still like going to Japanimation conventions because they usually cater to a wide enough group of people that I can find something unJapanese I enjoy, like panels about 80s cartoons or Transformers or hot sluts dressed like slave Leia. Unfortunately at Mizucon my luck ran out and it ended up being an anime convention that was about anime. All was not lost, though, because I at least ran into one guy in a cardboard robot costume for my "pictures of me with guys in cardboard robot costumes" collection. Also, one beggar I ran into outside of the Wendy's did express some interest in going to Alderaan.


The Mizucon crowd skewed waaay younger than me and I found other people my age were there not as attendees but in the capacity of convention organizer, convention guest, guy selling stuff in the dealer room and somebody's mom. However I can get away with hanging out amongst the 12 year olds in Iron Maiden shirts and the slutty teenage girls dressed as Pokemon hookers because my hair is mulletic enough that people might think I'm cosplaying as a rockstar from 1983 or as a beardless Billy Mitchell. If I knew Iron Maiden shirts were cool again I would've worn mine, but I stopped doing that because lately Iron Maiden shirt wearing doesn't mean you're a fan of Iron Maiden so much as it means you shop at Hot Topic.

I spent the weekend hopping between Mizucon and the library where I was looking through the old newspaper ads. I found one for a store appearance by Darth Vader in 1983 and it got me thinking about fandom and how fortunate kids are nowadays to have conventions like Mizucon. When I was a kid someone dressing up like a cartoon character for a guest appearance at the mall was as close as you'd ever get to meeting your cartoon hero in real life. Nowadays kids are really lucky because they can go to these conventions where the actual people who do the voices for their cartoon heroes attend as guests. The opportunity to interact with these people in a meaningful way is usually lost on the average attendee who is not mature enough to ask anything beyond retarded "Order something from Burger King in your cartoon voice" dialogue requests or the same "How do I get into anime voice acting" question that got old in 1999. I'm a dork for criticizing the kids today though, because when I was a kid my most meaningful interaction with my hero Darth Vader amounted to me peeing my pants.


I went in the dealer room with the false hope that dealers at an anime convention would have cool new imported stuff like Shin Mazinger on DVD or the recent plastic Voltron but the dealer room ended up being what I imagine a really bad Japanese pawn shop looks like. They were selling shogun era melee weapons, realistic toy guns, Pocky that tasted stale enough to be from the shogun era and hats that look like Pokemon is eating your head. There was also cartoon porn which I thought was pretty wild but apparently was disappointing to some attendees because it was all old stuff. I knew I wasn't at Botcon anymore when one Pocky eating kid with a hat that looked like a Pokemon-shaped brain tumor looked through the porn DVDs and said, "I wanna get something but I've seen all of this already". (I usually reserve the term "kid" for children under ten but I will make exceptions for 20 year olds wearing Pokemon hats.) I wondered how it was possible he'd seen it all given that there were hundreds of DVDs and he didn't look like he'd lived long enough to have that many hours not just of free time but of years above the legal age to watch that stuff. I looked over at him and thought he should be a guest of honor based on his Japanese porn expertise, or at least put on display as "20 year old guy who masturbated more last year than most people do in a lifetime".


Since I'm not much of an anime fan I didn't think I'd find any of the guests interesting so I skipped their panels except for "American Cartoons and Japanese Anime" which I thought was going to be a fan panel because the schedule didn't say who was running it. It turned out to be a full hour with guest Mike Sinterniklaas, an industry professional who not only voice acts but also directs. It was great because Mike was animated and enthusiastic and his experiences on both sides of the microphone were fascinating to listen to. There were only around a dozen other people in the audience so I was able to ask a lot of questions, which I did once I realized this guy was really interesting. I've only seen a few episodes of anything he's voice acted in so I didn't know his work from a character standpoint but I was still totally captivated by the guy because of his perspective of the industry. He's like five guests in one because he's worked in many different aspects of animation. After spending the whole weekend avoiding the guest panels I felt huge amounts of regret once I realized how great Mike was. There's some consolation in knowing his time at the con was mostly in panels alongside the other guests so I probably got the highest concentration of Sinterniklass possible without having to visit the North Pole.


For a fringe fan of anime who didn't really go to Mizucon I sure had a good time at Mizucon. I'm sure that real anime fans and people who dress like cartoons would love it so I say it's worth the $35 pre-reg I paid. Being several heads taller and a couple decades older than the other attendees didn't matter because who pays attention to me when there's so many Pokemon hookers anyways. My one regret is not doing my homework beforehand. I should have researched the guests and gotten more of a background of their accomplishments to properly appreciate them. I also want to say the staff was terrific and not at all like the people running Otakon who I got a real adversarial vibe from. There was one Mizucon door guard guy who worked with us when my wife (who did not register) wanted to go buy Pocky in the dealer room (which was only for registered attendees). I won't say how he resolved our situation because I don't want him getting into trouble but the guy was proactive and resourceful and we were very thankful for his help. On the down side I wish they would have stuck to the video schedule as posted on their website and not pulled all the cartoons I wanted to see from the video rooms. Thanks to that I mizzed out on seeing GI Joe Resolute. But I'll see that stuff eventually and I'm happy with what little time I did spend at the show over the course of the weekend. Next up is Animation Supercon in October and this time I'm a little more familiar with who those guests are.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The wages of Shin is about 35 dollars

A new Tranzor-Z cartoon in Japan came out called "Shin Mazinger Z-Hen" and I know you're thinking, Hey that sounds like it translates into 'Tranzor-Z Chicken Show'. I was thinking the same thing and that's why I haven't seen it yet but it comes highly recommended by a blogger I like who's smart about Japanimation. The big news is it's getting shown at the convention I'm going to this weekend. Yeah, I decided to pre-reg for the Mizucon because although I am 35 and have nothing in common with the anime crowd and I have no idea who the guests are and me attending this convention sounds like a big train wreck, the programming in the video room looks robotastic. With two days to go the organizers still haven't uploaded any panel info so I don't know if I'm going to have a reason for going beyond cartoons and the dealer room. Hell, I don't even know when the convention is starting. It sounds like chaos but don't worry, my fellow Macrocranians. Even if I have to bribe a Pokemon hooker I will figure out where I need to be to watch Tranzor-Z Chicken Show and two other Japanimations I've been interested in seeing at the con-Detroit Metal City and Gundam 00. It may seem kind of dumb to pay what comes out to 12 bucks a day to sit in a room watching cartoons that might suck (and that I could torrent for free) but I will keep an open mind. I don't want to rocket punch my chickens before they hatch.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Rocketfistoral College! (asking not what Godzilla can do for me, but what I can do for Godzilla)

There is a looming crisis on the American political horizon and it affects anyone like me who has ever written crappy Shogun Warriors blog entries on the internet. I first became aware of it as I was comparing my age with how old other people were when they accomplished great things like setting the record for winning money on Cash Cab or creating Star Wars or becoming President of the United States. Someone's already beat me to the first two but I just noticed our current president is 48 years old and the youngest (Roosevelt) was 42 when he took over. So it is very possible that within the next decade we will elect someone of my generation who grew up playing with Micronauts, Shogun Warriors, GoBots and/or Transformers. Hell, knowing my generation we might actually elect a Micronaut, Shogun Warrior, GoBot and/or Transformer. Even scarier is I fall into the age window and meet the minimum toy robots collection requirements necessary to become the future roboplastic president. I realize there are people with lots better roboplastic collections than me (and better grasp of English) but I think what it's going to come down to is how good a presidential candidate's toy robots blog is. I tell you this now-if I get beat out by some robotard who writes shitty blogs about Shogun Warriors then America gets what it deserves, but if I win I'm sending that dude and all his blog followers to Guantanamo.


A realize a president of the United States has a lot more serious stuff to worry about like health care reform, overthrowing the alien bases on the moon and building a fleet of spaceships so we can conquer the universe but I swear the first thing I'm taking on as president is really trying to sort out the history of the Shogun Warriors. Have you noticed what a mess online Shogun Warriors information is? Trying to find out even simple stuff like what year they first came out can yield different answers depending on the site visited. If you google for behind the scenes, investigative reporting style Shogun Warriors info it's actually very difficult. I think it's because in the decades after the Shogun Warriors toyline died its fans became fickle widowers, either forgetting it existed at all or elevating its faults and weaknesses to legendary extremes with their fuzzy memories. (Those who forgot it went on to become Star Wars fans, but instead of "fickle widowers" I'd call those guys cheap slutty fan whores.) So what I am currently doing is amassing a list of people on the internet who know what they're talking about when it comes to Shogun Warriors. It is a short list but when I am president those people will comprise my full cabinet of toy robots coaches. This is not unlike my collection, which is comprised of cabinets and couches full of toy robots.


I am entering a new era in my blogging where I want to be taken more seriously and not just because I might be appointed some future president's Secretary of Rocket Punching or whatever the joke was last paragraph. I have a post coming up where I'm going to be taking a hard look at some of these mysteries surrounding the Shogun Warriors line and I don't want dumb jokes and snark to ruin it. Shogun Warriors deserves better because so few people write about it that anything written carries lots of weight. My post needs to read like it was written by the Tom Brokaw of toy robots journalism. I am feeling a bit self conscious because I lack the credibility that comes from having a big collection-the entirety of my shrine to Shogun Warriors is one Godzilla and a three inch Dragun with a broken head spike. If some guy who owns a 23 1/2" inch Dragun swears Shogun Warriors came out just last year I'd run away and hide and never respond to his comment like someone with a really small Dragun. Yet these mysteries must be confronted! Mysteries like what year did they really come out? How much did they cost? How tall were they? Why were they canceled? Is Dragun a cross-dresser? I will very soon examine and attempt to answer these questions with well referenced, irrefutable proofs like old newspaper ads, links to Plaid Stallions and even shocking eyewitness accounts. To give you a tantalizing taste of the incredible informations I've uncovered I'll answer the Dragun one right now! YES HE IS.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My favorite Transformers podcast is not actually a Transformers podcast

I want to quickly mention that Greg and Rob over at the Paunch Stevenson show have been hitting it out of the park lately with the segments they've been doing on Transformers. They're not a dedicated Transformers-only podcast which means they have a different and I think fresher perspective than the other hardcore Transformer shows. I like to joke that what makes them different from Transformer podcasters is Greg and Rob actually like Transformers. Of recent shows I'd say episode 134 where they discuss Rhino's and Shout Factory's DVD releases and episode 137 where they slow down Unicron's lines from the 1986 movie are my favorites.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vintage Space Toast Tour Miami part 3: The Decline of Micronautern Civilization


Last time on Vintage Space Toast Tour Miami I touched briefly on the popularity of the Micronauts toyline during its debut year of 1977. During my last trip to the library my focus was on collecting Micronauts ads from 1978 through 1980, which is a period encompassing both the height of the line's popularity and its demise. These 3 years are also well known as the debut of the Kenner Star Wars action figure line. With both lines being primarily science fiction themed assortments of spaceships, robots, action figures and aliens it is obvious that there was competition between the two.
Lionel Playworld 12/10/78
It is easy to jump to the conclusion that the decline of Micronauts was somehow linked to (if not directly caused by) the rise of Star Wars. This is a popular belief as evidenced by sites that make statements like "the Micronauts were quickly eclipsed by a line of toys that Mego turned down, Star Wars figures" and "Micronauts simply could not compete with the Star Wars juggernaut" But is this really true? Did Star Wars really kill the Micronauts off and was the end of the Microverse as swift as some Star Wars historians think? As we look now at some of the highlights I found from 1978-'80, the newspaper ads will tell a different story entirely. I know Ben Kenobi says many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view, but that's because he's never been face to face with the irrefutable truth of a 1979 Lionel Playworld newspaper ad for the Micronauts Mega City.


If anything the explosion of Star Wars onto the pop culture scene helped the Micronauts and every other toy in the sci-fi/space toy genre on retailer shelves in 1977, especially since there were no Star Wars action figures on retailer shelves in 1977. The public loved Micronauts as evidenced by how much money they made for Mego that year and how much advertising the line saw from major retail chains (like this K-Mart ad from 24 November '77). Nothing better illustrates to me the popularity of the Micronauts and their elevation as a favorite seventies pop culture franchise as the following October 1978 Woolco ad for Ben Cooper costumes. In it there are all the big children's stars of the 70s. In the company of the Micronauts' Baron Karza are Spider-Man, Pink Panther, Holly Hobbie, Mickey Mouse, the Shogun Warrior Great Mazinga and of course Darth Vader. Somewhere along the way history has forgotten that Micronauts was just as big as all these other licensed properties. Why are the Micronauts today perceived as being so unpopular back in the seventies? I think Star Wars is being given too much credit here.

Woolco 25 October 1978


Then 1978 came, the first year Star Wars figures were available at stores. If it was true that Star Wars brought a swift and total end to the Micronauts franchise then 1978 would be the year it happened with the public's appetite for Star Wars at its absolute peak after the drought of '77, right? NAUT! Instead what I saw in newspapers from '78 was retailers running not just more Micronaut ads, but the biggest, most extravagant Micronauts ads I've ever seen. I was absolutely elated to find the following Lionel Playworld ad from November '78 because of the huge assortment of Micronauts it shows. Most of the line art here exists in other ads but this is the only place I've found line art for all three die cast vehicles and the two Micronaut horses.

Lionel Playworld 30 November 1978

Micronauts was still very much alive during the holiday shopping season of 1978 as evidenced by all the great ads being run for it well into December. One ad run by the Gimbels chain of department stores on December 15 of '78 comes to mind as evidence that retailers were still very comfortable spending lots of their ad space on Micronauts. If Star Wars was the sure thing and Micronauts was such a loser, I guarantee retailer support of the line would have dropped by October. But here they were still running big Micronaut ads. One could argue that strong wholesale orders of the line in '78 were due to its success in '77 when there was no competition. I'm still willing to examine the supposed catastrophic impact Star Wars had on the line even if it means discounting the first two years of Micronauts' success. So would 1979 be the year Star Wars finally killed the Micronauts? To paraphrase Ben Kenobi (badly) I'd say even in 1979 Micronauts were not dead – at least, not yet.


In my experience there is a somewhat diminished ad volume in '79 but that's not to say 1979 was devoid of new exciting Micronauts ads during holiday season advertising. There's a Gold Circle ad from November 25, 1979 that features new for '79 toys like the Hornetroid and the Mego designed Alien Invaders. There's also this Lionel Playworld ad from October featuring the Terraphant and the Micropolis Mega City, which at 579 pieces was truly the Omega Supreme of Micronaut city playsets. This ad is somewhat interesting because the Mega City is supposed to have been a Sears exclusive playset according to all the online Micronaut resources I've read. For it to be sold at Playworld would place it in the "ads that should not exist" category like the Micro Transformers ad from 1988, the Diakron ads not from Toys R Us and the Combattler V Zargon ad. Speaking of things that should not exist, this ad also features Karrio the infamously awful carrying case. My favorite online criticism of Karrio was from one guy who wrote "Krappio would probably have been a better name."

Lionel Playworld 25 October 1979


Zayre 11/09/80
1979 stands in stark contrast to 1980, which is the year Micronauts just about disappear from newspaper ads. This may not be retailer apathy towards the line so much as it was a symptom of Mego's financial difficulties. Micronaut fansite Innerspace Online reports that although Mego had toys ready for release they couldn't get them to the retailers. This is supported at least circumstantially from the lack of newspaper advertising in 1980, indicating to me that retailers either didn't get the toys or didn't advertise that they had them. This is really sad, especially coming off of '79 which saw the release of some of the biggest Micronaut sets ever. Until I find more, the only 1980 ads I have are two from Zayre that ran on 09 November. One was for the Battle Cruiser and the other featured the Rocket Tubes as shown here. Both ads state the toys are "special purchase" items which is a term that usually indicates a one time, no raincheck situation where the store will not be getting anymore from the manufacturer. Once I get these ads up at the Micronauts section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace these two will represent the end of the road for Micronaut empire. (Or would that be the end of the tube?)


Seeing how Micronauts lasted for three very strong years mostly in the shadow of the Star Wars empire it is very hard for me to conclude that it was killed off by competition from any competing action figure line. To say that Star Wars was directly responsible or even played any significant part at all in the demise of the Micronauts is to look for connections that aren't there. I think a more accurate assessment of the situation would be that Mego's own financial problems did the line in. Micronauts "died" at the height of its popularity just when it was shifting into high gear with new original designs and a lot of retailer support. Mego had yet to exhaust Takara's designs and was coming up with their own. It seems to me the line had staying power and a bright future especially since Takara would eventually develop the toys that would come to be known as Transformers from the same product line that birthed the Micronauts. Micronauts was aborted by Mego's bankruptcy, not murdered by Darth Vader movies. To say otherwise is simply naut thinking!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Robotardation without representation! OR: Talking not about my generation, but about what my generation's not talking about (and then getting them to)

This weekend I went to the library to look through newspapers from the butt end of the 1970s for old toy robots ads. Part of my pre-library preparation is finding podcasts to listen to that are related to the stuff I'm going to be researching but I knew in the back of my mind I wouldn't find much when I googled stuff like "Shogun Warriors podcast" and "Micronauts podcast" and "Microsexuals" hoping to find discussion about late 70s toys. The retro toy podcast conundrum is that the kids podcasting about toys today aren't old enough to be interested in talking about toys from before 1984, but the podcasters my age are mostly interested in talking about cooking or their babies or how movies today aren't as good as Star Wars was in 1977. To my surprise I did find one episode of a thirtysomethings-hosted podcast called TV Ate My Dinner where the topic included ROM and Shogun Warriors. It started out awesomely enough with the audio to ROM's commercial, but it didn't get very deep into the toys beyond talking about how "Spaceknight" would be a really cool thing to name a baby. Their toy episode may just be an aberration, though, because I've listened to some of their earlier podcasts and those have in-depth, well researched conversations on topics like surviving zombie attacks, the Smurf/communist conspiracy and how Harry Potter movies aren't as good as Star Wars was in 1977. It's kind of what I expected (and honestly kind of what I was hoping for).


I think if podcasts were around in the late 80s/early 90s then podcasters would have discussed Shogun Warriors, Micronauts and ROM the Spaceknight all the time (or at least as much as Transformers and Star Wars are podcasted about now). It's frustrating to me that nobody's done comprehensive, in depth podcasts about late seventies toy robots newspaper ads. This is the part where most people would transform their dissatisfaction into motivation to do their own super retro Shogun Warriors/Micronauts/ROM themed toy robots newspaper ads podcast. Not me, though. This is the part where I transform my dissatisfaction with podcasting into motivation to finish my time machine so I can send Adam Curry back to 1985 hoping he can invent podcasting twenty years earlier than he did. Displacing Adam Curry in time like a Terminator seems like a dangerous idea but I figure the worst case scenario is we end up living in an alternate reality where there's only one podcast ever-THE HEADBANGERS BALLCAST.


There is another option if I want to make the podcast dimension I'm currently living in more Micronaughty with little to no effort on my part. I think I will search out podcasts run by people my age that are accepting topics suggestions and then I'm going to demand Shogun Warriors and Micronauts. I don't care if their podcasts are about cooking or naming babies. Worst case scenario is I end up getting a cooking podcast about making cakes shaped like Dire Wraiths or a show about which Shogun Warrior name is right for my baby. Pretty much the same situation I've got now, just more of it. It's kind of what I expected (and honestly kind of what I was hoping for).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dinner and a Show

I was planning on going to a comic shop this weekend to buy that plasticpiece Voltron I've been thinking about getting since it came out. Then I came across a piece of Voltron art being exhibited at a gallery in Columbus, Ohio next month and it made me think twice. At first when you look at Scott Campbell's "Super Hungry" you may see a simple cute rendition of green lion munching down, but I believe there is deeper meaning here. I think the artist is communicating a message of how toy robots are like pets in that they are a tremendous responsibility. You have to care for and maintain them and they become a burden on your life, but unlike living animals who do you the favor and die, you're stuck with your Voltron forever.

[I know I've got a couple readers and friends in the Columbus, Ohio area-Dave and Todd (and I think Will)-so you guys may want to check out the 80s cartoon themed exhibit at the Rivet Designer Toy & Art gallery starting September 5th.]

Monday, August 10, 2009

VSTP UPDATE: I think for me nostalgia don't apply, but if I'm not nostalgic what then am I? (This is the part where the audience yells "ROBOTARDED!")

Ever since we moved to Miami I've been living the life of a rock star, except without the music, fame, money or the groupies. I guess all I really have in common with rock stars is I'm staying in Florida hotels and I'm playing video games all day and when I wake up I don't know where I am. Actually that sounds less like a rock star and more like a lost Japanese tourist.


Bumblebee's uncle
I am in good company because "lost Japanese tourists" describes the three toy robots lines whose pages I'm updating over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. I'm talking about Mego's Micronauts, Mattel's Shogun Warriors and Hasbro's Transformers from 1984. It's been a challenging update because Transformers 1984 is the only one of these three old toy robot families that I know anything about. Shogun Warriors and Micronauts are still largely outside of my area of expertise, which makes sorting and arranging their ads like constructing a detailed family tree for lost Japanese tourists I've never met. For Shogun Warriors this was pretty easy because there weren't that many different figure assortments but holy hell Micronauts had me hating my hobby, my life and everybody who has ever worked at Mego.


I was wondering why I was going through all this trouble for the Micronauts because like I say, I don't even know those people. Sorting Transformers is several orders of magnitude more complicated than Micronauts but I deal with them just fine because that was an obsession born of childhood. I thought this newspaper ad project was motivated by nostalgia but that can't explain my current devotion to chronicling toys I only had a tangential interest in 30 years ago. This had me questioning the nature of nostalgia and wondering if I'm as stuck in the past as I initially thought I was. What can explain now my fascination with ads for 30 year old Micronauts I never owned or cared much for as a kid? Is a 10 year old boy of today who likes 80s Transformers a nostalgic? You can't exactly go up to a kid like that and rant about how he needs to grow up and stop living in the past (although it would be kind of funny). I have always wanted to be in a situation where I could tell a little kid, "You need to let go of the 80s, Charlie Brown". I think now I understand young people who like 80s Transformers even though they weren't even born yet, or anybody my age who likes Led Zeppelin. This new insight makes it okay for me to like Micronauts and not be saddled with the "nostalgic" label. It also makes Baron Karza the Robert Plant of toy robots rock and roll.


What started all this roboplastic introspection was how I've totally overhauled the Shogun Warriors and Micronauts sections over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. Previously they were just chronologically listed dumps of ads with no real arrangement, but I figured they were getting too big so I gave them table formatting so the information would be more understandable. Now they're broken up into assortments by size or type so that figures and vehicles are separate from playsets and licensed merchandise. Plus I have attempted to write a few paragraphs long introductions for each of these series as I have done for the various Transformers sections of the VSTP. Except you might notice that the paragraphs I've got for the Micronauts section are actually Lorem Ipsum text (I learned this from Nala). This is because I'm waiting for my next trip to the library to get more Micronauts ads. As it stands now I can't really do a good overview of the line's history in newspaper ads because most of what I've got is from '77. I also wanted a break because sorting through all the Micronauts made my brain melt as I tried to figure out whether some toys in that line were action figures or vehicles (or both) and where to put them. Classifying robots that had "tron" in their name like Biotron and Microtron and other toys based on them but not having "tron" names was also a nightmare. Determining what exactly a "tron" was and which characters qualified as "trons" was equally confusing but hey it's not like I'm working at the Micronaut social security administration figuring out benefits for retiring trons so it's no big deal if I get it wrong.


K-Mart 12/12/84
That's a quote from Raymond E. McDonald, Tonka's director of marketing in 19841. He was talking about how he felt GoBots would outpace Transformers in sales in '84 because Tonka's supplier Bandai was a larger company than Takara who was producing Transformers for Hasbro. Although Transformers ended up edging out the GoBots in sales I think Mr. McDonald was right about the supply issues. It became very evident to me as I was uploading a dozen new* ads to the Transformers 1984 section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. I've become aware of patterns in how retailers advertised action figure lines in newspapers during the holiday shopping seasons of the early eighties. Usually what would happen is stores would start their toy advertising during the latter half of October and most toylines' ad volume would peak right after Thanksgiving and stay very strong through the first two weeks of December. But Transformers peaks after Thanksgiving and then virtually disappears while GoBots maintain their ad frequency through Christmas. This is because stores would completely sell out of Transformers and Hasbro had already set allocations on wholesale orders for the '84 assortments so retailers knew they couldn't get anymore. All but a handful of retailers stopped advertising Transformers figures in December but ads for licensed Transformer tie-in merchandise continued strong through the Christmas season. This is why the majority of the dozen new Transformer '84 ads I've found are not for Transformer figures but Transfomrer Halloween costumes, coloring books, radios and velcro ball darts. I'm glad I've gotten these Florida ads up anyways because we're approaching the 25th anniversary of the first Transformers ads I've found. Just like I had KRON-DAY to celebrate my earliest Diakron ad, I guess it's time to get ready for TRAN-DAY!?!


That about does it for this VSTP Update. To see the new ads just go to the Micronauts, Shogun Warriors and Transformers 1984 sections and do a CTRL+F search for "Miami" and "Tampa" and you'll find them. There should be about two dozen new Shoguns, and a dozen each of Micronauts and Transformers for anyone keeping count. My next few library visits will concentrate on '78 and '79 unless I get all excited about Tran-Day and want to do something special for that. We'll see how it goes. The one thing I've learned is that lost Japanese tourist rock stars don't have a plan, they just rock on wherever they are. I wonder if anybody ever started a band so they could have an excuse to visit libraries in different cities, secretly working on amassing a toy robots newspaper ad collection. IF YOU MEET THAT GUY ASK HIM WHAT A TRON IS.

1Sari Horwitz (1984, September 2). TOYS WITH DOUBLE THE FUN. The Washington Post (DC).

*25 years old

Friday, August 07, 2009

23 years ago tomorrow Peter Cullen's car payments get a little bit tougher

07 August 1986

Get Get Animated!

In 2004 I was lucky enough to stumble upon the site of an animation pro named John Cawley. He was selling copies of his 80s animation fanzine "Get Animated!". I was drawn to it because issue #3 had an article on one of the greatest toy robots cartoons of all time-Mighty Orbots. I was blown away by that issue of "Get Animated!" so I bought a couple more issues and each was just as incredible.

John has been in the animation business for decades and "Get Animated!" is special because he produced it during the 80s. Reading it is like going back in time and re-experiencing happenings in the animation industry
but from an insider's perspective. I don't have my issue #3 with me but I remember the Orbots article was credited to Fred Patten and Darrell McNeil who are respected historians of animation. It included excerpts from an interview with Orbots writer Buzz Dixon done in 1985 during a meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization. Other issues of GA were full of awesome stuff like that-holy hell even Osamu Tezuka is listed as a contributor! I am amazed that John still hasn't sold out of these after 25 years.

I just found out John has a CD of the collected "Get Animated!" for sale. I cannot recommend this highly enough if you're into 80s animation like He-Man and/or The Mighty Orbots. Actually if you're a fan of animation in general I'd say go through John's site and buy everything.

New Mizurable Experience

Optimus Lime broke down again so I've been using the bus and metrorail train to get back and forth from the library. Saturday night I got off the train and found I had to decide between waiting an hour for the 15 minute bus ride home or I could just walk an hour and 15 minutes myself. Either way would take an hour and fifteen minutes. Just waiting an hour doing nothing seemed like an enormous waste of time but walking three miles in the steamy hell wasn't exactly my idea of fun, either. I decided to walk. The situation paralleled how I would like to go to an upcoming anime convention starting August 28 called Mizucon but they haven't put up their panel schedule yet. I can either keep that weekend open in the hope they have roboplastic related stuff, or I can plan now to do something else with that weekend like take the family to the aquarium. I've always said being 35 with the hobby of a ten year old is harder than it looks.


I don't know why but panels always end up the last thing conventions reveal about their programming, and usually only a week or two before the show. Boy was I shocked when I found there's another nearby convention called Chibi-Pa starting September 4 and they already have their panel schedule up! I can see right now they'll have a Gundam model building class run by a guy called Skippy. Not only that, but they'll have a furry-themed subset of panels in a special room called the FURRICANE SHELTER. I'm honestly interested in some of these panels like "History of Furry" and "Saturday Morning FurToons" (and to a lesser extent "How to Make a Fur Suit"). Plus they'll also be showing the classic movies "Animalympics" and "Rock-A-Doodle". Any Transformer fans goofing on these guys need to shut the hell up because in 10 years it'll be Beast Wars being shown at Furricane 2020.


Remember how I made the decision to walk home from the train station? Well 20 minutes into my walk the bus I needed to be on passed me by. It wasn't the bus I would have waited for, it was a late one I thought left already. Boy was I pissed off as I walked for the next hour. If I commit to going to the aquarium August 28 before the panel schedule shows up and Mizucon ends up being awesome I'm going to be equally pissed. Right now that panel schedule is like a renegade bus going by when I'm already walking home. Also when I was walking home I found one of those Burger King cups with an unused scratch off Transformer game piece lying on the side of the road and I scratched the correct side and I won. I don't know how that fits within the Mizucon analogy but I thought it was pretty cool. Except the Burger King game is over.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Vintage Space Toast Tour Miami part 2-High rollin' 24/77

A library is my casino and when I sit at the microfilm machines looking at old newspapers I'm a high stakes gambler at the slot machines, popping in reels and hoping I strike the jackpot. While "real" gamblers are blowing their hard earned money, what I'm gambling away is my precious precious time. Every reel I pick up is not guaranteed to contain tons of exciting toy robots ads, just like not every lottery ticket is a winner. And if the hours start ticking away and I'm not finding anything then it's just like sitting at a stingy slot machine. But I was feeling lucky as I sat down this weekend with some reels from the year I consider the dawn of the Modern Roboplastic Age-1977!


Do you remember back in 1977 when the question on every young boy's mind was 'How do I join Star Team?' No? That's probably because it was really WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL THE STAR WARS TOYS? Toy company Ideal must have been looking to capitalize on Kenner's post '77 Christmas season launch of Star Wars when they released Star Team, a line of figures using their Zeroids robots. Zeroids are officially recognized by the Kingdom of Macrocrania as the first roboplastic toyline ever!Now Star Team may not have been anywhere near as good as Star Wars but people were desperate. This Jordan Marsh ad from 13 December of '77 fantastically illustrates not only that desperation, but also how awesome the 70s used to be for toy robots newspaper ads. It's a gigantic ad taking up half a page and it's devoted almost entirely to Star Team. Why did an obscure toyline like Star Team get half a page? I think retailers were eager to cash in on the sci-fi craze unleashed by the debut of Star Wars that year, but there were no Star Wars figures on the shelves in time for Christmas. Star Team was as good a stand in as any so it got some undeserved showcasing as retailers tried to fill the void. This ad more than any other I've seen emphasizes the overt Star Warsiness of Star Team and even goes so far as to include a Star Wars board game alongside the Star Team figures, as if they were all products of the same brand. Would anyone remember that C-3P0 didn't have a green alien head or that R2-D2 wasn't an upside down garbage can on wheels? Hopefully, but if you were a kid in '77 and you liked Star Wars, the terrible reality was Star Team was as close as you were gonna get.

Well not directly. The only reason this Star Team ad is cool is because of how it's presented. However, while writing this I checked up on Moonstone, the company doing the comic book relaunch of Zeroids and I found out they're also doing the awesomest book I've ever heard of-M.I.L.F. Magnet! I scored some great booty there!


While Ideal was infamous for putting Star Wars-ish toys on the market in '77, it was rival toy company Mego who was infamous for passing on the Star Wars license when it was offered to them! I need to track down the source where I read the reason they did so was because they couldn't handle both Star Wars and their own sci-fi action figure line the Micronauts. Micronauts was a joint venture between Japanese toy maker Takara and Mego, much like how Transformers was a Takara/Hasbro team up seven years later. But imagine if the Mego/Takara team worked together on Star Wars! Could Mego have gotten Star Wars figures to the shelves by Christmas season 1977? Imagine how much money they would have made. Would it have saved the company? Imagine if a joint Mego/Takara juggernaut stayed solvent through Star Wars, making figures from Empire Strikes Back then Return of the Jedi, all the while keeping Micronauts alive. When it came time for Takara to export their transforming robots from Diaclone and Microman would they have taken them to Mego for the US? If the Transformers were a Mego property would they have been an extension of Micronauts? What would they have been called? Microtrons? Megotrons? Autonauts? Sweathogs? We'll never know.

Playworld 12/01/77
But I do know Mego's Micronauts were really popular with retailers as evidenced by all the ads I've accumulated in the Micronauts section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. The bulk of the 42 Micronauts ads I've found though are from 1978 and '79-only four of them are from 1977. This is mostly my fault since I never spend much time in 1977, but I got a little lucky in Miami and found some new* Micronaut ads from '77 with line art I've never seen before. Take for example this Baron Karza ad from Lionel Playworld. What I find extremely intriguing is how I can come across so many different examples of line art for the same Micronauts figures and vehicles. I remember writing once about the Battle Cruiser having multiple different line arts. Now I'm finding evidence of that being the case with Karza. Yet some figures like Time Traveler, Biotron and Acroyear had the same line art used by multiple different retail chains. It's confusing to me because other toy lines from around the same time like Shogun Warriors and Star Wars had consistently uniform line art shared by all retailers instead of different illustrations for the same figure coming from individual stores. Maybe what I'm noticing is the evolution of action figure marketing in newspapers as line art goes from retailer generated to made by the toy manufacturers. Or maybe I need to get outside some more! Holy hell!


KMart 11/30/77
Back during Vintage Space Toast Tour El Paso I got extremely excited over a K-Mart ad from late November '77 featuring line art of the Space Glider, Galactic Warrior, Galactic Cruiser, Acroyear, Hydra and Biotron. Well since then I've found that K-Marts nationwide ran variants of that ad during the same time period. Sometimes I'll find either that exact same arrangement of Micronaut line art or they'll mix it up a little depending on the city. Well here in Miami not only did K-Mart run that one but they also ran this fantastic collection of Micronaut line art featuring the Crater Cruncher, Photon Sled, Ultronic Scooter, Warp Racer and Time Traveler. What sucks is that most of the ad is darkened out and I can't read any text. I am going to try to find a better copy of this particular K-Mart circular for the Space Toaster Palace or see if I can channel Photoshop Jesus to tweak the hell out of it and get some product descriptions.


KMart 12/21/77
Rounding out the Nauty bits is this ad from late December '77 also from K-Mart. What makes it unique is its use of Hydro Copter line art I've never seen before and I think it's the only time I've found the Strata Station in a Micronauts ad. Unfortunately it suffers from really tiny type. Usually if you can't read an ad in these highlights posts I do it's because I only use low res previews and the much better, super legible versions go up at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace, but this ad had type so tiny it caused eyestrain even when viewed at its original newspaper size. Maybe this was a promotional gimmick and K-Mart wanted me to use a magnifying glass to read a Micronauts ad. I'd rather not have to enter the microverse just to see what's on sale, though.

Well these early Micronaut ads are cool but I could name a couple other Micronaut vehicles that I'd really like to see ads for from the tail end of the line. Like the Zeroids I came across something I thought was cool while doing some background checking-the Micronaut Emperor! If that guy doesn't look like a Mego Darth Vader then the secret rebel base isn't on Dantooine.


JM Fields 11/24/77
JC Penny 12/01/77

It looks like a Shogun Warriors dance party, but that first ad above left from J.M. Fields is actually showing off the articulation of the Shogun Warriors action figures. It's exciting to me how this is just black and white line art but you can still tell these are first release versions by how the figures are bent at the knees and have stickered details-Poseidon has the black "V" below the belt and Dragun has those bands above his arms, etc., etc. The JC Penny ad above right is notable not just because they goofed up the name but because JC Penny in the 70s used to do their own line art different from any other retailer. By now if you're familiar with the Shogun Warriors section of the VSTP you'll have noticed there was some pretty standard line art used no matter what retailer was advertising their selection of large Shoguns, but I guarantee you will never see the illustrations JC Penny used here in any other store's ad. That's probably a good thing if you hate drawings of robots that look like they're wearing bell bottoms. Ah, the seventies.

JM Fields 12/11/77

Zayre 11/27/77
J.M. Fields again comes through in a big way with this 11 December 1977 ad featuring Shogun Warriors model kits. I don't usually find ads for Shogun Warrior merchandise that is not the figures so this was really exciting. Finding anything that isn't the 2 foot jumbos in an ad from 1977 has been uncommon in my experience. I think between this ad and the earlier one for Shogun Warriors dance party, J.M. Fields may be the only retailer I've ever seen advertising non-jumbo Shogun Warrior merchandise in 1977. And speaking of the 2 foot jumbos, this next ad from Zayre is my all time favorite Shogun Warrior ad ever. Again we have evidence of first release versions-Mazinga has the full compliment of 14 rockets with triangle vanes and Raydeen has the red diamond stickers on his thighs. Actually I'm not sure if the red diamond stickers are exclusive to the first release only but there's an example of a second release Raydeen at Collection DX and it doesn't have them. It wouldn't surprise me if after 32 years the stickers on any Shogun Warrior just fell off and the glue disintegrated so it looked like they were never there. There are more definitive ways to tell if a Shogun is first release like the pointedness of the corners and the softness of the heads but it's hard to make out subtle details like that from a grainy black and white microfilm image. Still, it's a beautiful ad from the early days of the line and when the full size version goes up at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace you'll see why it's my favorite.

Yes, most definitely! The jumbo Shogun ad stuck out in my mind as the best thing I found from 1977, followed closely by...


The impact Star Wars made on pop culture is extremely evident in the newspapers of 1977. It was everywhere. It is only fitting that I wrap up here with something Star Wars action figure related, especially after I wrote about the effects its existence had on other lines like Star Team and Micronauts. But I knew there were no Star Wars action figures in 1977 so the last thing I expected to find was this ad that ran in papers on 11 December! It's a newspaper ad for the famous empty box of Star Wars promises that was all Kenner was able to deliver to stores in time for the holiday season of 1977.

DID I HIT THE JACKPOT HERE? You know, at first I thought I did. I was blown away by this ad, especially since in every writeup of the early bird kit the exact date of release for these first figures is never given. People always write things like "they were shipped in the spring" or some vague generalization like that. But here I had proof that the early bird packages made it out by February 15th of '78! It was the best documented evidence of the "birthday" of Star Wars action figures in history! I thought I found something really special that nobody had seen before. But how likely was it that I had really unearthed something not previously known to the collective intelligence of the billions of Star Wars fans on Earth? Not likely at all. It turns out that if you're into Star Wars this ad is old news. But since I never knew about it I figure it must be the Star Wars nerd monolith one must find in order to advance to the next level of Star Warsiness. I may not have made any new Star Warsian discovery, but after accomplishing the feat of finding this on my own I am pretty sure I AM NOW A MEMBER OF THE STAR TEAM! Also possibly, a MILF magnet.

* 32 year old

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The 1984 Hasbro Toy Catalog part 2 (but actually just pages 66 and 67) OR: Whose line art is it anyway?

Transformers newspaper ads that have line drawings instead of photographs of the toys are my favorite kind, and line art of the earliest released Transformers is my favoritest kind. Among my favoritest favoritest kind are line arts of the deluxe Autobot cars from 1984.
JC Penny 11/18/84
Not all stores used the same Autobot art in their ads-different stores tended to use different figure art. So I've had to journey to different libraries across the US to try to find ads so I could "catch 'em all" and get a complete set of line art for every deluxe Autobot car from 1984. So far I'm just missing ads with the line art for Hound, Sunstreaker and Skids. I've found some Autobots got featured more often than others-Trailbreaker comes to mind as one line art that Toys R Us and other retailers loved using commonly. I got lucky during Vintage Space Toast Tour Alaska when I found one JC Penny ad that had a couple of Autobots I'd never seen in line art before like Bluestreak and Ratchet. Unfortunately the ad was rather small and crammed so not much detail of the individual robots could be made out, but I thought nothing of it at the time. I should have looked closer!


Clark Drug 11/21/85
During Vintage Space Toast Tour Pasadena I came across an ad that really tripped me out. It was from Clark Drug and it ran November 21 1985. It featured Bluestreak but the shading looked all wrong. It looked like Bluestreak but the hood was darker than the rest of the car. Now we've all seen the 1984 catalog that came with boxed Transformers and shows the infamous 'blue' Bluestreak. That toy has dark sides and a light hood, but this line art Bluestreak was the chromatic reverse-a dark hooded Datsun with light sides. Was this some sort of loony line art mixup-a printing error of sorts? Or was the toy this line art was based off the often overlooked and lesser known black hooded Diaclone Fairlady Z? How would that even be possible? Why were his arms drawn all stupid? Where did this drawing come from? WHOSE LINE ART IS THIS ANYWAYS?


Seemingly miscolored or strangely rendered line art is not uncommon. It's just the nature of the newsprint process coupled with the added image modification necessary to preserve the images on microfilm in black and white. Some weird looking renderings are just par for the course, like when I came across a Toys R Us ad seemingly featuring a 'white' Ironhide. Of course since this ad was in the main body of the newspaper where there is no color it is much easier to just go with stark black and white lines, just like how every other line art rendition is done. Even the line arts that originated from color newsprint don't necessarily prove the existence of strangely colored Transformers. Once I found an ad from a store in Alaska featuring a Sideswipe with what appeared to be a dark hood. Without the original color newsprint in front of me it is impossible to tell what that Sideswipe actually looked like or what colors it was, but I'm sure it wasn't meant to portray an actual black hooded white Sideswipe.


What haunted me about the Bluestreak was that there was precedent for that color variation but I'd never seen official Hasbro Transformer materials, promotional or otherwise, that used the black hooded Fairlady-Z. (Except of course for how he was portrayed in the cartoon.) I also noticed something else about the line art for all the different figures-no matter how they were colored the toys were always in the same poses! It never changed from store to store and chain to chain-everybody was using the same line arts all over the country. I don't know how line art was made but this all points to the existence of some central source for these images. There had to be some master diagram or picture reference from which these newspaper ad drawings were made. Once I found that I would know for sure if it was indeed a black hooded Bluestreak depicted in that ad. But what were the chances that a total nobody like me with no connections to anyone in the toy industry would ever come across official, behind-the-scenes Hasbro documents from over 25 years ago like the basis of the advertisement line art drawings? WELL ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD THANKS TO EBAY.

Man if you thought pages 64 and 65 of the 1984 Hasbro toy catalog were cool, imagine my surprise when I turned the page and there were all the answers I'd been searching for all laid out in a two page spread. Every Autobot car from the initial assortment in '84 were all there in the same poses I'd seen countless times before in newsprint ads. And there amongst them was the black hooded Bluestreak in that same awkward pose with his arms all stupid. I am hesitant to state that this is the only instance of the black hooded Fairlady in Hasbro literature because a) I'm sure there's one guy somewhere who would point out that it got used all the time in catalogs from New Caledonia and b) I am dumb about Transformers as evidenced by this whole episode.


Although I still don't know anything about how the 1984 Transformer line art was made, I'm pretty sure all those drawings came from these pictures. I think what happened was Hasbro generated the black and white line art and product descriptions and sent copies to all the toy shops and retail stores that sold Transformers back in the day. Then the individual stores would pick and choose which figure illustrations and text they wanted to use in their ads. Some stores might only use one robot drawing with a large description while other stores would use multiple robot drawings and no description but everybody was picking from the same set of drawings and descriptions originated from Hasbro. This two page spread from the '84 toy catalog was the genesis of all those deluxe Autobot ads. Actually I think all of the Transformers pictured in the '84 catalog are the basis for their line art counterparts. Mysteries solved! Or are there now more questions?

I think what we're mostly seeing here are toys from Takara's Diaclone line dressed up as Transformers. That's why black hooded Bluestreak is included. But there are still other little idiosyncrasies about these Autobots that are harder for me to explain. Like why does Sunstreaker have red shoulder missiles and why does Ratchet have a chubby little cross? The Japanese Diaclone versions of those two figures don't match up exactly and neither do the later US releases, either. I try not to think too much about this stuff because a total nobody like me with no connections to anyone in the toy industry would ever come across official, behind-the-scenes Hasbro documents from over 25 years ago that could explain it all. But you never know.


5750 The Transformers Autobot Cars

Cool, sleek cars that transform into robots! They're powerful, fast, and smart. Pull out the wheels, open the trunk, swing out the doors and they become mighty warriors!
Each Autobot comes with attachable weapons, bio card, Tech Specs chart and decoder. Assortment includes two of Mirage Autobot, and one each of the 10 other cars.

8 1/2 x 2 3/8 x 7 1/4"
PACK: 12
WT: 8.6 lbs.
CU. FT. : .75


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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.