Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the seventh day of GoBots, BnB Hardware gave to me...THE KING OF GOBOTRON

It was absolutely heartbreaking to see my favorite GoBot of all time sell on eBay the other day. Yes, a pristine example of the greatest GoBot and largest toy robot ever sold at retail went up on eBay and only pulled 26 bucks. I was so sorely tempted and yet I had no practical use for it because although my son is two he's more into his electric powered ride on car (that doesn't turn into a robot). Although I've loved this GoBots thing since the day I first found an ad for it, I felt like if I got it for the Prince of Macrocrania I would be forcing the robots on him which I really don't want to do, plus if I were to buy it for me I really have no room for this toy that's larger than Fortress Maximus. What's a 35 year old guy gonna do with a ridey toy for toddlers anyway? But oh well. At least I will still have this great ad I found for the GoBot ride-on from a store called BnB Hardware that ran December 19, 1985. OH WHO AM I KIDDING OF COURSE I WOULD HAVE TRIED TO RIDE IT.

Monday, December 28, 2009

On the sixth day of GoBots, Spencer gave to me...a twenty five year GoBot mystery

Some U.S. toylines from the eighties had a "toy that should not be"-the figure that got shown in catalogs but for whatever reason was made in such tiny numbers that none survive to this day. Or in most cases wasn't even released at all, yet everybody knows a guy who says he had one when he was a kid. For Micronauts it was the Gyrotron, Shogun Warriors had the mythical Combattra Zargon, for Transformers it was the blue colored Bluestreak and for GoBots it was the Renegade named Snoop. Snoop was an awesome toy that turned into an SR-71 Blackbird and got released in abundance overseas under the name Sky-Spy. GoBots collectors have resigned themselves to believing Snoop was not released in the U.S. and that only prototype carded samples exist. Since I wasn't paying attention when I was a kid I have no reason to doubt the established line of thinking, but boy finding this Spencer ad from December 12, 1985 messed with my head a little. At first I couldn't figure out what that thing was in the line art-was it some sort of space station or generic robot or maybe a stationary set? When I'm taking my pictures of these ads at the library there's no time to contemplate what I've found so I don't give it much thought and I move on. It was only later when I was processing the ad for inclusion at the GoBots section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace that I realized it was line art of the unreleased Snoop! Now I don't believe this means Snoop was a Spencer exclusive and saw release through that chain of mall stores. Nowadays that would be like Hasbro releasing exclusive Transformers at Hot Topic (or Spencer since they're still around). Yet it kind of bothers me how unofficial and not as professional the art looks compared to standard GoBot line art-as if someone at Spencer was drawing it themselves based off a toy they had in front of them. Heck, I don't know what it means. I'm not going to worry about the implications of line art existing for a toy that there isn't supposed to be line art for. I'll just be happy having an ad that should not be.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

VINTAGE SPACE TOAST TOUR FORT LAUDERBRUTAL: I have been to the past and what I saw in 1977 was so horrible it would give Darth Vader chlamydia

And so Vintage Space Toast Tour 2009 draws to a close with an unexpected visit to the place where in a sense it all began-Fort Lauderdale. I'd been visiting libraries for years before I went to Lauderdale that first time back in '07 but it was during that visit when I got the idea to blog afterwards about the stuff I found. So was born the Vintage Space Toast Tour-the name I came up with for what other people would call going to the library when they're on vacation. Alas, the last two weekends have not been kind to our hero and the Fort Lauderdale microfilm reels have proven dastardly opponents unwilling to give up their old toy robots newspaper ads without first subjecting me to all manner of mayhem and cruelty. As I've written before, anyone who dares revisit the newspapers of the past subjects themselves to headline after headline of horrific cruelness and calamity. For every rare gem of a toy robot ad I found I had to endure countless pictures of dead bodies, car crashes, plane crashes, toddler pool drownings, suicides, explosions and worse. Just when I thought I'd seen it all and couldn't take no more, there on the front page of one paper from 1977 was a puppy about to be given a lethal injection at the pound! I mean sheesh, I thought seeing that one article detailing partial birth abortion procedures was the emotional equivalent of sticking my head in a blender but SO BE IT! I never said there wouldn't be puppies going to hell during the Roboplastic Apocalypse.


Initially when I went back to Lauderdale I tried to revisit the 80s but I'd already found most of the good stuff back in 2007. I decided to change my focus and concentrate on the late 70s-an era dominated by the influence of Star Wars. If you read this blog at length it may seem like all I ever find in the seventies are ads for Micronauts and Shogun Warriors but that's not the case at all. A truer representation of what the toy pages in newspapers from '77 to '79 were like is the following three ads for Star Wars, the Star Bird and Battlestar Galactica:
Super Rx 11/26/78

The Treasury 11/25/79
Jefferson 11/23/78
These three are only the tip of the iceberg when it came to toylines with the word 'star' in them. The seventies also had Star Force, Starroid Raiders, Star Team, and Star Command. It's obvious Star Wars created such a strong demand for space themed sci-fi toylines that toy companies tried to hop on the bandwagon. Yet there were other instances of stardation like Star Trek, Paul Stanley the Star Child KISS doll and Coleco's TeleStar video game system that make me think people in the seventies had an outer space fetish even outside of toys and waaay before George Lucas came along. I don't underestimate his influence, though. I wonder how the toy scene would've changed if he named his movie 'Fart Wars'.


KMart 11/30/77

There was nothing new by way of Micronauts ads but as often happens I got something better than what I had. Back in August I found what I thought was a fantastic Micronauts ad from K-Mart in a Miami paper but because of how the ad was formatted and the nature of the microfilm archiving process, all the text got blotted out. Well guess what I found in Lauderdale? It was the same ad but the microfilm transfer was much nicer. You'll have to take my word for it that it's readable but once I put it up at the Micronauts section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace at a larger resolution and photo manipulated a bit you'll see how nice it is. In fact a lot of 70s ads I'd already seen before I got to reshoot and get better results because the Lauderdale transfers were really nice and that library had some nice scanners with bright screens. It was Naut too bad at all!


Quite literally the big story during my trip to the Fort Lauderdale library was a newspaper article from titled "Space Toys-Star Wars Won't Make It To Store Shelves In Time" about the lack of Star Wars action figures immediately after the film's release. So rabid were people for anything space after Star Wars that Shogun Warriors would often get shoehorned into the space toy category when they really weren't. I'd see that done in ads all the time but to see a newspaper reporter call Dragun the "creature from outer space" was kind of funny. There was also a shot of a 3 year old little boy named Darren Esan standing next to a loose Dragun standing on top of a boxed giant Shogun and to see the kid dwarfed by 4 feet of roboplastic awesome sure brought back memories. I'm his same age! You know who's not our same age? Dead puppy from page one.


There was also one pretty cool Shogun ad featuring line art of the Grendizer Saucer that I'd never seen before. What was cool about some stores like Britts and JC Penny in the seventies was that they'd come up with their own line art. I've seen the official standard line art for the Grendizer Saucer in other ads and it's not as detailed or dynamic as what Britts did for this ad. I am really glad it survived to be unearthed all these years later.
Britts 11/23/78
As shown with the earlier Micronauts ad, just because something existed in newspapers doesn't always mean it still exists on microfilm in a readable state. These old ads are all at the mercy of the many factors conspiring to keep them buried and forgotten. There's the quality of the microfilm transfer, the image coming off the scanner reading the reels and ultimately the choice of the archivists to scan the newspaper ads in the first place. Lauderdale in the late 70s was the perfect combination of scan quality and archive policy allowing me to rediscover these ads 30 years later. Unfortunately at some point in the 80s the quality of the Lauderdale transfers degrades to being hardly readable sloppy blotches and by 1990 they weren't archiving their weekly retailer circulars anymore so I won't be going back much after this. That said, I'm happy with what I did find-the ads part, not the concentrated dosages of death and destruction one experiences from reading four months of papers in a six hour period part. I can find no better way to explain my satisfaction with the toy robots ads I got from the late 70s Lauderdale papers than to say they almost made all those dead puppies worth it. Almost.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On the fifth day of GoBots, Sears gave to me...someone else's slogan copied

Remember when Shia LeBouf had that girl in his car and he told her she was more than meets the eye? He was remembering this Sears ad from December 20, 1985.

Friday, December 25, 2009

25 Years ago in Transfromers CONCLUSION: Sounds like chicken OR: In the dark no one can hear you communicator

So here we are at the end of what some people may know as 2009 but what I more accurately refer to as the 25th anniversary of 1984, the year which officially kicked off the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. I celebrated with my appropriately titled "25 years ago in Transfromers" blog postings where I examined the origins of the greatest transforming toy robots toyline Hasbro ever introduced 25 years ago named Transformers as only I could. I knew nobody else on internet could or would dare to (be stupid enough to) write a hard hitting expose of the true origins of probably the most important roboplastic toyline in the history of people who weren't ten year old Japanese boys in 1984. I was thinking, how do I cap off a series of robotarded writing excellence that featured highlights such as a poem dedicated to Tech Spec Decoders, probably the worst audio recording of a Botcon panel ever and an eyewitness account of the origins of the franchise as related by Elmo? Well how about THE 1984 SOUNDWAVE COMMERCIAL! (But before you get excited, it's more like a barbecued version of the 1984 Soundwave commercial.)


To say I am disappointed with how badly this video came out is an understatement, especially considering the historical significance of the material presented. My fellow Macrocranians, that this is perhaps the only copy of the original 1984 Soundwave commercial on the internet is truly sad but hey it's something. I don't know why this particular ad is so hard to find out there but I've had a copy for a little while so I figured I'd use my grasp of advanced computer technologies such as hypertext transfer protocols and USB ports and the video encoder thingy my wife got me from Bed, Bath and Beyond the other day to save the internet from its lack of Soundwave commercial. Unfortunately my grandiose plans fell victim to my technical ineptitude and my reliance on crappy free video editing software. This resulted in not a super clean transfer of perhaps the rarest Transfromer commercial in existence but instead an experience akin to watching the perhaps the rarest Transfromer commercial in existence on a dying Sega Game Gear with sunglasses on. At night. Underwater. While wearing a welding helmet. And your eyes are made of chocolate pudding.


To say I don't know why this commercial is so hard to find is true but I do have my suspicions. I wrote my in-depth dissertation on the subject over at my second favorite place on the internet, Alt.Tarded.Transformerfans. In a nutshell I believe Hasbro pulled this and the first Transformer commercial under pressure from the National Advertising Division of the Council of
Better Business Bureaus. The NAD's job was to review kid's TV commercials and get ones that didn't meet certain criteria pulled. It is my theory based on newspaper articles and an interview with Paul Kurnit, former executive vice president of Griffin-Bacal during the Transformer launch, that the NAD called Hasbro out on Soundwave and the first Transformer commercial and they both got pulled. They probably aired for such brief periods that nobody had their VCRs on those days and subsequent generations of YouTube viewing Transformer fans have since suffered. Until now! Or maybe they're still suffering because I'm not going to YouTube this unless someone makes available a free video brightener program that my cheap butt can use.


Christmas of '84 was truly the birth of my love of toy robots and the beginning of the Roboplastic Apocalypse. It was then that all over the U.S. a bunch of kids were getting the mother load of toy robots that would make an entire generation fans for life of Optimus Prime and by extension-Peter Cullen's unwanted children. But most importantly it would make 5 or 6 people twenty five years later readers of my blog about toy robots that's less about toy robots and more about my view of life being on the whole intolerable without my refusal to live in any year that is not 1985. SO MERRY CHRISTAMS FROM HELL and I hope you got whatever Hasbro branded variant of entertainment you needed to be happy and not go on shooting rampages.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On the fourth day of GoBots, Toys and Gifts Outlet gave to me..something that kind of looks like Boba Fett humping a Gobotronian sewer drain unclogger

Sometimes the best looking newspaper ads are for the worst looking toy robots. This has been historically true for the line of GoBots guns made by licensee Arco. Their gun modes had all sorts of great role playing functionality that went way beyond what the Transformers had in Megatron and Shockwave. The Arco GoBots were cap guns and water pistols. They were a lot of fun to play with but they looked ridiculous and the robot modes were awful.
Yet for some reason these toys had ads that made them look awesome. A while ago I was blown away by a beautiful line art rendition of the three Arco robots in a Tuesday Morning ad. I realized then that maybe the robots weren't as terrible as I thought and it was just their colors that made their design unappealing. They probably look great in ads because the black and white line art medium reduces these horrible multicolored robots to their most elegant mechanical forms. This December 15, 1985 ad from a store called Toys and Gifts Outlet makes Hot Chamber the GoBots cap rifle look pretty awesome to me, although I can see where Alex Bickmore from the Super Toy Archive is coming from when he says it looks like an alien butt probe.

Happy Holidays from a long time ago in the December 23, 1977 newspaper movie section

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On the third day of GoBots, Consumers gave to me: Leader-1 stickers applied correctly

Old newspaper ads for Super GoBots are rather common. Old newspaper ads for Leader-1 and Cy-Kill are extremely common. But old newspaper ads for the Super GoBot versions of Leader-1 and Cy-Kill? For some reason those have been extremely uncommon in my experience. Usually Staks and Spay-C are the guys showing up in Super GoBot ads. Also uncommon in any medium is to see a Super Leader-1 with his stripes applied correctly. Nowadays the one or two or three sites that have pictures of it show examples of the toy with stickers that are all over the place. Ebay auctions are the same way, too. But lo and behold whoever hooked up the Consumers camera guy got it right. I am certain this ad has the sticker placement correct because that's the way the stickers appear in the '86 Tonka toy catalog. Isn't it strange how as kids we could transform anything correctly and our parents couldn't but when it came to stickers it was the adults who got it right while we were about as skilled as tarded aardvarks?

I feel like there's a joke dying to be made about a store called Consumers selling stuff for $6.66 but I'm playing video games right now so you're on your own, my fellow Macrocranians.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Florida manages the trifecta of Robotardation! First I move to Miami, then Star Wars Celebration 5 comes to Orlando in 2010 and now this. I have never before been so sure that my life is a hallucination and I am actually 10 years old and in a coma in 1984.

On the second day of GoBots, TG&Y gave to me: a Cy-Kill sweater made of fleece

When it comes to Transformers clothing I've found ads for everything from Optimus Prime fuzzy slippers to Omega Supreme hats to Dinobots pajamas to Metroplex Halloween costumes. But GoBots clothes ads are extremely rare (either that or I'm not looking hard enough). When I get around to updating the GoBots section of the VSTP I will have two or three new* ads for GoBots clothing. It's more common to see ads for licensed clothing from every other 80s toyline before I find any GoBots. Even Voltron gets seen on everything from pajamas to underwear. That's why this TG&Y ad from November 3rd, 1985 is very special-TG&Y could have gone with the more popular Transformers prints to run in the ad but they went with GoBots instead. Maybe they felt the Cy-Kill design was more dynamic than the Voltron and Transformers fleece tops. Or maybe they were just dumb like the Maas Brothers.

*25 years old

Monday, December 21, 2009

On the first day of GoBots, Maas Brothers gave to me: a Tank for the memories

On December 7th of 1984 a store named Maas Brothers ran this ad where the GoBot named Tank dominates the page. They've got other hugely popular boys toys in there like He-Man and GI Joe, but who do they devote the majority of space on the page to? The toy robot with the lamest transform ever. Tank is notorious for his conversion in which all he does is bend over. Did Maas Brothers believe that even the most craptastic toy robot ever was better than any He-Man or G.I. Joe? Probably not. BUT IS IT TRUE? HELL YEAH!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is that a monolith in your evolution or are you just happy to see Action Masters? OR: If this is enlightenment then why does my butt hurt so much?

The greatest challenge of having a hobby or interest is finding some fresh new aspect of it to keep that interest alive. There comes a time in a man's toy robots collecting hobby/career/fetish/sickness when the allure of owning the latest sexy exciting transforming robot Tyrannosaurus begins to fade. This happens to all men-some cultures call it "coming of age" or "Pon Farr" or simply "growing the hell up". My love for toy robots began dying out sometime around 1989 when I hit ninth grade and it never really recovered but I've been able to keep it on life support with the whole newspaper ads collecting thing ever since. Even that's getting kind of old, though, and unless I tour the country spending the rest of my life looking at library microfilm I'm running out of new newspaper ad discoveries to make. The problem essentially is what do you do if your hobby revolves around the years from 1984 to 1987? They're not exactly making any more 1985 if you know what I mean.


This year was when a new hotness entered my life and made 25 year old toy robot Volkswagens and their transforming dinosaur cohorts interesting again. During 2009 I was re-energized by the slow but steady acquisition of the seven holy Hasbro tomes of Roboplasticology otherwise known as the Hasbro Toy Fair catalogs from 1984 through 1990. These are the years known to Transformers fans as "Generation 1" (and to the rest of the world as "around the time we started playing Nintendo"). The appeal of these books to a toy robots fan is mostly in looking at all the pretty pictures of robots. Hell, the appeal of almost everything about toy robots is looking at pictures of them. I've always felt that the core of this hobby is not the acquisition of toy robots but just the act of looking at pictures of them and these books bring back the days when as kids we'd repeatedly obsess over and abuse the old catalogs that came with the toys to the point that they'd be falling apart and all beat to hell. What I've realized after all these years is that those toy pack in catalogs really sucked because the pictures of the robots were so tiny and the backgrounds were usually very bland (with the exception of the 1985 one). But the Toy Fair catalogs are nice and big with magazine sized pages and a good amount of space devoted to each robot. Plus the backgrounds aren't just solid color mattes as with the toy pack ins. One of my problems with the toy pack in catalogs were the sterile environments used as backdrops. Instead the Toy Fair catalog photographers went through great pains to photograph these alien toy robot Tyrannosauruses in their natural habitats, which were volcanoes and on the moon. I don't understand why a bowl of fruit is most often the object of artistic appreciation when a Volkswagen robot in outer space standing on an asteroid is also rather inspiring.


Usually when a Hasbro Toyfair catalog goes on eBay the cross-franchise appeal of the contents draws every G.I. Joe, Inhumanoids, Jem, My Little Pony, Wuzzles and Transformer collector into a bloody hellacious bidding war and the winner ends up paying hundreds of dollars for a single book. I'd never bid on them because I wouldn't pay that much but earlier in the year I got lucky and won the 1984 catalog for 45 bucks and scored 1985 for just under thirty. Then some guy was selling 1988 for $38 so how could I say no. A couple months ago I got '89 and '90 for $30 each. I was on a roll. The problem was 1986 and 1987 would not be so easily attained and I got boned and ended up paying $70 for '87 and a terrible amount for 1986 so horrible that even I am ashamed to admit it and I usually tell you guys everything. But I just had to complete that set. I don't know how much proton torpedoes cost but I'm sure Princess Leia wasn't sweating the cost of the one that blew up the Death Star. I just had to get it over with and finish it off at all costs and just get it done. I wouldn't be so bothered about it but it comes down to either I won or some guy who collects Jem or G.I. Joe would, and those dudes don't give a crap about Transformers. I'm not saying I deserve the books more, but I would definitely appreciate certain pages more than Joe average Jem/Joe collector. I also feel guilty for owning pages and pages of GI Joe catalog that I don't care about. I guess the moral here is nobody will ever love the things you love as much you do, but they will love them just enough to screw you over by bidding 2 more bucks than you on ebay.


I am not the first guy to have these books and I won't be the last but what I didn't understand is why established Transformer people with these kinds of resources hadn't made their contents more available. Aside from the pictures there is other information contained within them that would be interesting in a toy robots enthusiast/obsessive compulsive kind of way. Well after tracking them all down I think I know why these pages aren't already plastered all over the internet and it boils down to a) scanning a couple hundred pages of catalog to share for free on the internet is a lot of work, b) there are issues with copyright violation in reproducing content from these books and c) in the world of online toy blogging where everyone is essentially bragging about what they own there is no way to write about anything of worth without seeming like a totally enormous galactic douchebag. Actually the first two are the only legitimate concerns-the douchebag writing style is an affliction only I have. I prefer to think of it as a skill.


There is also the possibility that everybody already knows everything and that's why there isn't a site with all these Toy Fair catalog pages. Honestly there isn't much in these books that hasn't already been made well known over the past 25 years. About the only somewhat interesting things are the large pictures of the prototype wave 3 Action Masters (the Transformers that didn't transform) featured in the 1990 catalog. They were very different from the actual production figures, especially one guy who looks like a cross between a Macross VF-1 Valkyrie in super armor and a Gundam. But after looking around on the internet I found there were other pictures of this prototype out there already and those parallels had already been drawn. After all that money I spent and all the obsessing I did over collecting these books I stand here on the other side of these seven monoliths of toy robots enlightenment and I'm feeling a bit burnt out again. It's great to finally know what was in them and I'm glad I went on the quest to obtain this peculiar brand of essentially useless enlightenment. But I wonder what the future of this hobby holds. How many more newspaper ads will I find, how many more magazines will I track down searching for knowledge, how many more Botcons do I have left in me before my enthusiasm flatlines? How much more 1985 is there out there for me to find? Luckily I am not immortal so I need only stay interested in my hobbies a couple more decades. I don't want 1985 to last forever, I just need to make it last until I die.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Death takes a holiday (and then goes to the library to look at toy robots ads)

It was about a year ago that my wife got the news we were moving to Miami so to introduce me to the area we started watching a tv show she liked called Dexter. I don't know if she was trying to make me feel comfortable or scare the crap out of me because Dexter is about this cereal killer guy who goes around Miami serial killing people without ever getting caught. Despite the specifics of the subject matter there are many close parallels between Dexter and anyone who lives with an overriding obsession that consumes their life-especially an obsession like looking at old toy robots ads in library microfilm archives. Dexter's constant struggle to maintain a normal appearing life while balancing the roles of father, husband, serial killer and guy with a job are much like my own juggling of life and collecting old toy robots newspaper ads at the library. Except without the serial killer part. Or job.


Today the Queen of Macrocrania wanted to take the family to the big snow carnival for kids at the park but I wanted to go to the Fort Lauderdale main library to look for old toy robots newspaper ads. Lauderdale's library isn't open Sunday so the only shot I had was to hit it Saturday, which was the same day as the snow carnival. Snow carnival also only lasted for four hours and this was the one day it would be in our area this year. After consulting with the Queen we compromised on a plan where they would go alone without me and I would get to do what I wanted. But like Dexter what I really wanted was to do everything.

So we went to snow carnival and we waited in the hellaciously long line to dance with the Prince of Macrocrania on the snow hill and we got some pictures and I was satisfied with myself for doing the dad thing. Then I got on the bus just outside the gate of snow carnival land and went to the library, leaving my family behind. You know how the most overused self justification for engaging in retarded behavior is "Well at least I'm not doing drugs?" I wonder if serial killers think that.


I was on the bus and I started wondering if I had done the right thing. Regret started welling up in the back of my mind. Not because I had abandoned my family but because I have such a huge backlog of old toy robots ads on my hard drive I haven't yet gotten up at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. Knowing there's so much work to be done is overwhelming and it almost kills the fun of the hobby. Should I really have been looking for more ads when I have literally hundreds that already needed processing? Another thing I wonder about serial killers is if they find themselves in large crowds and feel overwhelmed by all the people there are to kill.


I don't even care where this came from
This trip marked my return to the library I was once so impressed by I called it FortLibrarius Maximus. But now lots of stuff has changed. The rows and rows of easy access microfilm reel drawers are all gone, hidden behind a booth. I have to ask the librarian for rolls and I can't get more than 4 at a time. Plus the whole visit was a total waste of time. I didn't get any new ad that really caught my eye. The most interesting one was for some obscure robots called Super Changers but even that was scraping the bottom of the barrel. The whole trip was real disappointing. I haven't had a library visit where I came out so let down. As I rode the bus back home I wondered if Dexter ever had one of those days where he really busted his ass to make his family happy and then later he killed somebody but felt disappointed. Disappointed that the guy he killed wasn't really that interesting. Unfortunately robots ads and murder are the kind of hobbies you can't complain to people about without them looking at you funny (and possibly calling the police).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Watching Shin Mazinger, reading Fred Patten

Here in my head (otherwise known as the Kingdom of Macrocrania) I often throw around terms like "Toy Robots archaeologist" and "Star Wars historian" and "Indiana Jones of Toy Robots Newspaper Ads" to describe the kind of person who has studied, researched and written at length about those very narrow fields of expertise. Now imagine if there existed someone who was a historian of not just one franchise but an entire genre or possibly even an entire pop subculture. That's the best way I know how to describe Fred Patten-a man who has not only documented the birth and evolution of anime fandom but lived it from the beginning. Words fail to describe the importance of his involvement in and contributions to the anime and science fiction fandoms. It is not exaggerating to say Fred Patten is not just the Indiana Jones of anime but the living embodiment of anime fandom made incarnate by a benevolent anime god who so loved the world that he gave us Fred Patten so whosoever readeth him would not perish in ignorance but have eternal anime knowledge.


I came across a Google preview of Fred Patten's "Watching anime, reading manga: 25 years of essays and reviews" when I was doing my research into the Shogun Warriors product line. The book is a compilation of many of the essays and articles Fred wrote over the 25 years from 1979 to 1984. For examples of how Fred was on the front lines during many of the most significant battles of the Toy Robots Wars of the 1970s and 80s you can read excerpts from his
articles "Force Five: Previewing an Ambitious New Animated Science Fiction TV Series" and "Dawn of the Warrior Robots", two now classic essays that originally appeared in 1980. The more of his articles I read the more I realize this man is the Walter Cronkite of the Super Robots Wars.

The best thing about "Watching Anime Reading Manga" is that it acts as a roadmap to Fred's writing. Originally his articles were accompanied by lots of pictures and illustrations, many of which could not be reproduced in the book due to licensing issues. So one thing I'm doing with the help of the book is tracking down the magazines they originally appeared in. That's how I knew to pick up an old issue of Fanfare at Animation Supercon that had Fred's very first article when I saw it in the $2 bin. I've since ebayed a couple old issues of Fangoria (issues four and eight) to get his early articles on Super Robots cartoons and the US debut of Force Five. It is really awesome to see his writing alongside pictures of the toys and stills from the cartoons. I am grateful Fred survived to report on the war with the Hundred Demon Empire.


Fred didn't exclusively write about anime robots but his body of work is so enormous that just the robots themed fraction of it is big enough to keep me busy collecting magazines for years. There are also mentions of significant events in toy robots history among his other essays, for example his "Fifteen Years of Japanese Animation Fandom 1977-1992" labels 1984 as "The 'False Dawn' of Transforming Robots". That line at first may seem contentious to the multitudes who think 1984 was the year toy robots started in the US, but to those with more than a superficial knowledge of the subject it belies a deeper knowledge of toy robots history. Fred's writings are valuable because not only are they from the perspective of someone reporting the events as they unfolded, but from someone with the experience and knowledge to put those events in perspective. The American education system will only have succeeded when every child knows what Fred Patten knows about toy robots cartoons. What's even more fantastic is that the book includes annotations updating information in each article to correct or supplement what was originally written. It's like reading along with Fred as he talks about his writings and how in retrospect some things he wrote at the time may be wrong but he gets to explain where he was coming from.


Tonight I will be finishing off the last few episodes I haven't seen of the Shin Mazinger cartoon. It got me thinking about Fred Patten and the time I got in contact with him. The entirety of my interaction with Fred Patten was one email exchange we did in 2004 when I wanted to know more about Mighty Orbots. He'd written an Orbots article in issue #3 of John Cawley's Get Animated and it absolutely floored me. So I wrote him some questions and didn't expect anything but Fred responded right away! It was like writing with a personal fan hero. He's not doing much writing anymore but it would be interesting to get his point of view on the updated Mazinger-Z and how far super robots have come. Fred is amazing unlike any fan of anything I have ever seen and Watching Anime, Reading Manga gives a glimpse into why that is and what it means.

In other words, I really really like Fred Patten.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


When I was a somewhat emotionally mature twentysomething with my life more or less in order I could never shake the feeling that buying toy robots wasn't normal no matter how much I enjoyed it. There was always that twinge of self consciousness that has since become the inspiration for countless Usenet and other message board discussions all over the online adult toy collecting community. That different manifestations of these feelings were being discussed told me I was not alone but that wasn't very comforting. So in order to cope I did what all disenfranchised misfits do and made up a disorder to legitimize my "condition" in the eyes of mental health professionals and to rationalize my fear of the hot cashier chicks I wanted to bang. I came up with what I called Treatable Adult Roboplastico Disorder Syndrome, the earliest symptoms of which are intense feelings of shame and embarrassment experienced at checkout counters resulting from being an adult male buying toys. I hypothesized that guys afflicted with T.A.R.D.S. feel conflicted between the biological urge to bang the Toys R Us cashier and their instinctive drive to make Peter Cullen's retirement as comfortable as possible by buying every latest little plastic toy robot tractor trailer. I really do think there were some psychological issues at play contributing to the excessiveness of my toy robots obsession but who wants to spend money on psychiatrists when you could be buying robots? Thankfully for robotards like me, I found that do-it-yourself validation is only one made up disorder away.


TG&Y Family Center 12/15/85

I thought my T.A.R.D.S. was in remission after I stopped buying toy robots as much as I used to. Plus constantly moving around the country like a fugitive helped because it's hard to make progress when you see those same cashiers all the time. I thought the days of feeling humiliated by a toy robots based hobby were behind me. Boy was I wrong. The other day I found myself in a situation reminiscent of those early encounters with cashiers but what happened recently made those feelings of humiliation seem like total amateur hour. In addition to collecting old newspaper ads for lines like Transformers and GoBots and Voltron, I also collect ads for ancillary merchandise featuring said toy robots franchises-stuff like toothbrushes, electric racing sets, power cycles, sleeping bags, tents and radios. Part of this miscellaneous merchandising includes children's clothing like hats, shoes, shirts and even underwear and pajamas. What I never realized until last week when I went to the library was that collecting these ads for the Vintage Space Toaster Palace means that at times I am taking pictures of ads featuring little boys in pajamas. So there I am a guy in my thirties hunched over the microfilm machine monitor trying to get a good picture with my camera of some little kid dressed up in Dinobot pajamas in 1985. I never realized this might be creepy until I was getting some good Dinobot pajama ads and I got up from my chair and there's some teenage looking chick at the computer station directly behind me giving me a smirky look like she's caught me in some sort of compromising position but I'm all, DINOBOTS, BITCH!

K-Mart 10/09/85
Montgomery Ward 11/13/86
Sears 12/12/85

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Cheapness: How I became Darth Vader's Stingy Apprentice

Today was a triumphant day in the Kingdom of Macrocrania as a saga that has played out for over a year has finally come to an end with my armies of patience and cheapness victoriously overcoming the manipulative marketing practices of the mighty Lucas empire. My fellow Macrocranians, this is not one of those "look what I found at Wal-Mart" self congratulatory wank off posts I goof on others for doing, nor is it a "look how awesome this game is I beat it in 35 minutes on super hard Jedi level OMG TROPHIES ACCOMPLISHMENTS" game review. It can't be any of those because I got it at Best Buy and I suck at games anyways. This instead is a self congratulatory wank off about how I waited so long to buy the Force Unleashed that not only did the price eventually come down like I wanted it to, but as if to appease me and admit defeat in the face of my unending fountain of patience and cheapness the Lucas Empire reissued it with extra levels and a shiny tin box. Although "The Ultimate Sith Edition" pissed off countless Star Wars historians who bought the game the first time, it made my victory all the more sweet. Kind of like how if Darth Vader didn't explode Alderraan then blowing up the Death Star would just make Luke a gigantic a-hole. I salute you, pissed off original Force Unleashed buyers-you are the Alderaanian consumer sacrifices that make my victory over LucasArts all the more sweet.


But to understand why I am so brilliant we must first go back to my choice to buy a Playstation 3. I did so for the same reason I bought every other post Turbografx-16 console in my life-I was hoping for a Transformer game and a Star Wars game. Well the Transformer game based on the first Michael Bay movie came out and I paid 60 bucks for it. Then after a while that same game was selling at Toys R Us for 20 bucks! I thought to myself-at 35 years old why am I still acting like a rabid teenage consumer zombie who has to have everything the first day? That behavior just cost me 40 bucks! So I swore that when the Star Wars game I wanted came out, instead of buying it the first day I would wait. That's not to say I wasn't tempted from day one because I was but then in just a few short months stores like Target began discounting the price to as low as $40 right after last Christmas. I had faith my strategy would work. Then the unbelievable happened and it was announced there would be a super special "Sith" edition of the game with a few extra levels and I thought-HOLY HELL A SPECIAL EDITION OF SOMETHING STAR WARS? HOW DID I NOT SEE THAT COMING?


Starting last month "The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition" began showing up in stores around here. The kicker was that it was a super bonus edition of the original game but it only cost $40! I guess they made their money. I was still reluctant to buy it because the possibility remained that they'd release an even more super duper limited edition that would eventually go on clearance, but I had waited long enough. I began noticing that stores still had so many copies of the original Force Unleahed and the new unspecial "greatest hits" reissue version of it that "The Sith Edition" was looking way underordered. I never saw it at Toys R Us or Target (whose site says it is not available in stores), FYE sold out of it almost immediately and recently Best Buy pulled the PS3 version from their site altogether. Then they began disappearing from the shelves locally and I started freaking out. I consider myself lucky for finding a copy in this post Black Friday consumer wasteland where stores stop getting merchandise I guess because they think nobody's shopping so close to Christmas. Some people who bought the original game think the new version will be around long enough to go clearance but I really really doubt it. If you thought Darth Vader was pissed off when they told him he killed his wife then you should wait to see Star Wars fans when the stockboy tells them there aren't any more Forces Unleashed Sith Edition. Stuff will get broken. Robots will be smushed.


So all ends well in the kingdom thanks to my new economic policy of cheapskate procrastination. I picked up the very last copy from a Best Buy 15 miles from my house, which was kind of a pain but hey you don't get to be hero of the galaxy if you never leave Tatooine. The next two weeks will be most enjoyable as thanks to Force Unleashed Super Special Sith Edition I finally get to beat Luke Skywalker's ass, making myself (the mexican Luke Skywalker) the predominate Luke Skywalker of this dimension (or at least of South Florida). I will miss my family as every second of my free time gets swallowed by the Sarlaac Pit of Star Warsian adventure trying to discover who let the Force out. But most of all I will miss you, my fellow Macrocranians. However do not fear! I shall return on Christmas like Jesus did hopefully with a little something special for everybody (unless I don't and then the only Jesus I will be like is Disappointing Jesus). But at least I will be happy playing Star Wars and that's all that matters.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

C'mon baby give me a Whirl (and a Roadbuster, too while you're at it)

Vintage Space Toast Tour 2009 came to a grinding halt in September when I lost my camera. It was the replacement for the original Vintage Space Toast Tour camera that died after taking over 5,000 pictures of old toy robots newspaper ads and me standing there. Unfortunately VSTT Cam II did not get to die of old age like his predecessor but instead fell victim to my forgetfulness and the possible thievery of certain trailer park residents. The last memory I have of the camera was putting it on the roof of Optimus Lime and then driving off after delivering some cardboard boxes to a trailer park. I thought about calling the park and seeing if they had a lost and found but that camera had a smudge inside the lens that was affecting its performance so I let it go. Then last week I realized that the SD card inside not only had all of the pictures I took at Mizucon but it also had all of the 1987 newspaper ads I had collected so far from Miami. Reaccomplishing 1987 was going to be a lot of work and just thinking about it got me real down so absolutely no progress was made over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace since August. I felt overwhelmed like I just fell off a Tyrannosaurus but they always say when you fall off the best thing to do is get right back on that Tyrannosaurus.


Then Black Friday came along and Office Depot was having a doorbuster sale on some incredibly crappy camera for just 50 bucks. Black Friday doorbuster camera sales are always underhanded marketing trickery designed to liquidate terrible cameras so I feel really bad for anyone who buys Black Friday cameras non-ironically. All I needed was something that could take pictures of toy robots newspaper ads off a microfilm monitor at 1024x768. I don't do the wake up early thing so I went in at 1 in the afternoon, confident that even that late on the biggest shopping day in the galaxy they would still have them because a) they were crappy cameras and b) nobody shops at Office Depot.


So I got the camera and last weekend I made the trip to downtown Miami and spent a couple hours at the main library breaking in the new camera, which after a rough start ended up working really great. I forgot how disheartening it is to sit in front of a microfilm scanner and look through reels and reels of newspapers full of 25 year old plane crashes, murders and car accidents just to find one or two ads for Dinobots. Perhaps the hardest part of my hobby is revisiting the terrible catastrophes and all the evils that men do I thought forgotten to me until I cracked open those microfilm rolls.
TG&Y Family Center 12/15/85
But I also forgot the joy and elation I experience when I unearth a pretty good toy robots ad that hasn't been seen in decades, as was the case with this TG&Y ad from December of '85 for the Deluxe Autobots Whirl and Roadbuster. It was a big deal because I've never found an ad featuring Whirl before. Heck, Deluxe Autobot ads are pretty rare in the first place-I've only ever found two and they both show Roadbuster line art. But with every great toy robot ad triumph there is always some huge downer in the rest of the paper like a school bus getting murdered by lions and I feel bad. Bad because all those kids never got to grow up to appreciate the joy a deluxe Autobot can bring, but more importantly they will never get to read my blog or see the next update over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. This holiday season as I complain about having to ride my time traveling Tyrannosaurus all the way back to 1987 a second time I will be appreciating that I did not die in a plane crash murder car accident in 1985. Most of all I will be grateful that neither did you, my fellow Macrocranians. I LOVES ME READING DEM SITE STATISTICALS.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nothing says Merry Christmas from 1985 like a battery operated transforming toy robot Uzi

About the only thing more wonderful, iconic and fun than a toy robot in 1985 was an Uzi. Kids of all ages thrilled to the television adventures of their favorite Uzi toting heroes like Snake Eyes, Rico Tubbs from Miami Vice and future president of Texas Chuck Norris. Hell, when I was a kid I even had a battery operated Uzi water pistol that I totally rocked out with as I pretended to be every bad guy ever on the A-Team. The children of the 80's love affair with uzis and toy robots were two great tastes that were destined to go great together like stalled school buses and railroad tracks.
Toys and Gifts Outlet 12/15/85
So after my initial reactions of shock, horror, dismay and denial at finding this Christmas season 1985 ad from a store called Toys and Gifts Outlet from Tampa, Florida, I was not at all surprised that somebody actually made a battery operated toy robot that turned into an Uzi. Part of me wonders if this was all a big misprint or other sort of mistake and there wasn't actually a toy robot Uzi but when I think about it, toy robot Uzi totally falls within what I call the Evil King Macrocranios Intergalactic Governing Rule of Inevitable Fuckuppedness. I came up with it after watching the news and just generally being alive for the past 35 years. The Intergalactic Governing Rule of Inevitable Fuckuppedness states that over the course of the thousands of years of human existence and the infinite number of human interactions every person who has ever lived has had with every other person who has ever lived, every good wonderful positive thing you could possibly imagine has probably not happened, but every horrible fucked up thing you could possibly imagine definitely has. So I can guarantee for example that in the entire history of humanity nobody has ever invented a teddy bear that could make me a sandwich, but convertible Uzi robots? Oh hell yeah. So although I have never seen an "Uzi convertible robot" I am sure they exist or at least existed at one point but probably don't exist now because they were all destroyed in a hail of gunfire when the little boys who had them were all shot by the cops.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I do a lot of walking and biking and I always keep my eyes peeled for loose change on the ground. I'm usually able to collect abandoned pennies, nickels and dimes at a rate of about 7 cents a week. This is in addition to the naturally accumulated pocket change that piles up around the house. Once I get about fifty bucks worth of change in the piggy bank I go to the corner grocery store where they have a machine that converts loose change into real money-paper money. The drawback is that this change machine charges eight cents for every dollar of paper money it gives me. It sucks and it makes no sense because the machine does the same amount of work whether I'm cashing in one dollar or a hundred dollars. It's a total ripoff, which is where the pennies come in. I love the sense of accomplishment when I cash in my piggy bank at the change machines and the extra pennies I've found on the floor everywhere partially pay for the change machine commission. Well the other day my son and I are driving around in Optimus Lime and he throws a quarter out the window, effectively undoing 25 days of abandoned penny collecting. I was like DAMNIT!


The only thing that kept me from spazzing out and doing a u-turn on the highway to get that one quarter back was remembering how I screwed up and lost 300 quarters earlier in the year, which brings me to this week's entry in the House of Unpacked Horrors. I was on ebay back in June when I found an auction for what the seller called a "Hasbro Takara G1 TRANSFORMERS Display Set 1985 MINT". [He's been selling more of them lately with the exact same description.] It looked to me like some fantastic SUPER RARE VHTF Transformers store display with all sorts of Transformers standing around looking Transformery. I didn't know what the heck the thing was because the description was rather vague but he used a lot of different sized bolded fonts and many of the words were in bright colors. If there's one thing that I can't resist it's an auction with bright colors and crazy fonts. So I stuck to my rare store display theory and I got in a bid war with another bidder and when all was said and done it ended at 73 bucks! What a steal! NO, MORE LIKE WHAT AN IDIOT!


So then the thing comes in the mail unassembled on sheets of cardstock with a sheet of photocopied instructions and as I'm putting it together I see "ISBN 0-087135-077-7" on the instructions. I thought, Hey! What kind of SUPER RARE VHTF store display has an ISBN? And then I look it up and to my horror I realize what exactly this thing I paid 73 bucks for really was. It was a Transformers punch out book from 1985, just missing the cover. This guy scammed me to the tune of 290 quarters with something that sells on ebay and Amazon for usually under 20 bucks! It's really embarrassing and I feel totally stupid for not being able to recognize every piece of licensed Transformer merchandise from 1985 off the top of my head. I'm trying to come to terms with being duped so I figured I'd trade in my 73 bucks and the shame for some stories to tell and a blog post.

Nothing says advanced alien robot technology like a 70 inch plasma TV and giant chrome knobs

And so my fellow Macrocranians I present to you the fully assembled contents of the 1985 Transformers Punch Out book as the latest entry in FlickrMacrocrania's House of Unpacked Horrors photo set. It's not a horrible thing, but seeing it brings to mind horrible memories. It's actually a pretty cool little stand up diorama with all sorts of quirky details. There are jets with strangely colored wings and strange off model renderings of Bumblebee and Ravage that are kind of crazy. Optimus Prime's trailer has a fold up panel so you can see inside of it and marvel at the awesome home theater on wheels he keeps in there. Once I get my robots collection up how I want it I'll put this little diorama on top of one of the robots cabinets. Maybe one day it will stop reminding me of how with one bid I undid 25 years of being smart about toy robots like a quarter flying out the window of my truck.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Attack of the 45 millimeter robots ad

The first wind up toy robots I ever had as a kid weren't the Tomy Zoids I got for Christmas in '83. They were another kind of wind up made by Tomy that I got four Christmases earlier. They were called Rascal Robots and they were tiny windups that looked like a cross between R2-D2 and the “Danger, Will Robinson!” robot from Lost in Space. They had a strong late sixties sci-fi design to them but the real crazy thing about their design was their size-at only 4 1/2 centimeters tall they made Bumblebee look like a giant. Although they were tiny they were still a lot of fun when you wound two up, put them on a collision course towards each other and played robot fight. One would usually knock the other down. Tomy eventually perfected the wind up robot death battle idea with their Robo Strux line of big menacing looking motorized robot dinosaurs with laser guns. Yet Robo Strux looked like they were made for war so they lacked the ironic fun that comes from seeing cute things like Rascal Robots fight each other. I think it's hilariously entertaining to see two pissed off R2-D2s trying to beat each other up.


You'd think a four centimeter toy robot would be entirely forgettable when it came to marketing, but incredibly not only have I found newspaper ads for Rascal Robots, they are among some of the wordiest most descriptive ads for any toy I've ever seen. It's insane the amount of text devoted to such simple little toys in this one ad I found from December of '79. Here's the over ninety word(!) paragraph written to describe the Rascal Robots:
Gibsons 12/20/79

"Wind these little rascals up and let 'em wander, they look like they came from way out yonder. Rascal Robots are the cutest little wind ups to come along this century. They toddle along with a great walking action, are easy to wind, have the famous Tomy wind-up mechanism, are long running and have a metalized finish that will take a lot of flights into space and a lot of falls to earth. These little rascals sure aren't commonplace, they look like they came from outer space. For young astronauts ages 3 and up."


Generally in the seventies and early eighties toy robots newspaper ads were a lot more descriptive than what we have today but this one is extreme even by those standards. I've seen ads for the GI Joe aircraft carrier that don't have that many words. It even opens and closes with poems! What really impresses me was how even the most trivial detail of the toy's construction was turned into a selling point. About the only things they missed were the see through dome and how Rascal Robots were ribbed for your pleasure. Yet this is easily one of the best marketing jobs ever. This ad masterfully balances equal amounts of hyperbole and accurate product description. The addition of poems is genius. I have never ever seen poems in a toy robots ad before and will probably never see one again. Even Hasbro-the kings of made up stories about transforming alien toy robot space Volkswagens-never came close to this level of hype and BS. Sadly, little to no promotional flavor text was written for Tomy's later Zoids and Robo Strux ads. The wordy style of the Rascal Robots ad fell victim to space constraints as retailers began cramming more and more products on every page. But I promise the legacy will live on once I put this ad up in the Miscellaneous Robots section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. Then we can all relive the days when not a lot of robot got a whole buttload of newspaper ad.

Friday, December 11, 2009


ToyCity 11/21/85

This ad I got from Pasadena is kind of weird because of the added Autobot sigils in the line art and how his right foot looks like it's melting away in robot mode. I suspect what happened was the dino mode was originally oriented facing the opposite direction and the tip of the tail slightly overlapped the foot of the robot. When the ad was laid out the dino mode was clipped off and then mirrored to fit the space better, leaving the robot foot looking misshapen. Aside from that the pose seems really familiar but off the top of my head I can't place the source photograph used to do the line art. I'm intrigued by this one and will have to do more research. Of course I don't have to point out anything because Dinobots do not need explanations for how they are interesting.

------------------UPDATE! UPDATE!--------------------------

Playland Toys 12/07/85

In an unbelievably fortunate coincidence I found a different version of the same line art in an ad from Playland Toys in Tampa, Florida. Sure enough, the dinosaur is connected to the robot and overlaps a little at the foot just like I predicted. I've seen so many instances where retailers cropped the Hasbro produced line art that I wonder why Hasbro didn't separate the robots from their alt modes in the drawings initially. Some retailer edits were so extreme they looked like limb amputations. I guess it wasn't a big deal since line art dwindled away as time went on and retailers shifted towards photographs of figures, leaving mangled robots drawings a quirky footnote in the history of toy robots newspaper ads.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The trash of Con!

While I was reminiscing about Fort Hood last month I briefly mentioned going to my first anime convention there. Well guess what I found buried in the attic tonight-the flyer for "DEFCON 2:The Wrath of Con!" Whoa these dudes were my kind of corny writers. I would have subtitled it "The Con of Wrath" and expected people to figure it out. Actually if I was running an animation convention I would title it "JACRAPAMATION WORLD" and the subtitles every year would be the names of old Tranzor-Z episodes. DUDE ARE YOU GOING TO JACRAPAMATION WORLD: THE AMUSEMENT PARK OF TERROR? OH HELL YEAH!

Looking at the flyer I was surprised to see it was in 1996 instead of later as I thought. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised since I don't remember much about it at all. When it comes to anything I did in the 90s I'm kind of like Princess Leia remembering her mom-all I have is images and feelings. There was the awesome Robotech poster I remember seeing that might have been at the Antarctic Press booth since '96 was around the time they were granted the comic license from Harmony Gold. I remember how the building was a giant sports bar with a boxing ring right in the middle and that's where they put the half dozen or so dealers. Talk about intimidating. I didn't step into the ring because I didn't know much about anime and I suspected the whole thing may have been an elaborate cartoon schoolgirl porn sting operation. Plus I've always been cheap. Hell, I think this flyer is the only thing I got from the show. Here's to the days when 10 bucks could get me lunch, some comics and admission into a convention. (Most of all here's to not throwing crap away!)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

HOUSE OF UNPACKED HORRORS II: You're a SuperStar, that's what you are! (and a tank and a gun and a robot and a jet and an armored car and a girl lion)

I've bought a lot of dumb and ugly toys in my life so to celebrate them I've made a new set at FlickrMacrocrania called House of Unpacked Horrors. Eventually I'll add more and more and it won't all just be robots but I will write about whatever I add here because they illustrate the extent of my dementia and the first step to getting help is admitting you have a problem.


I lived in South Korea for a year from '98 to '99 back when I used to do the Air Force thing. From a political point of view I felt the US military presence there was kind of pointless but I was really glad we were there because I got to buy a lot of robots. Boy did those dudes love their toy robots and video games. They were my kind of people. Plus since there was no notion of a secondary market I could buy some really old stuff at the same price it cost when it first came out. It was fantastic but when I say old toy robots I don't mean the officially licensed stuff, I mean grade A authentic South Korean bootleg. These weren't just straight up identical knockoffs of existing toys, they were masterful Warholian reinterpretations of toy robots. They would do things with plastic that would be outright blasphemy to people who take their robots seriously. What I saw there had me questioning what exactly it meant to be a Transformers fan and what a Transformer even was. Is Transformers just a brand and some color schemes? Are you still Optimus Prime if you turn into a dump truck? Thank you, Kim Jong-Il. Thank you.


The inaugural induction into the House of Unpacked Horrors is Super Star, a South Korean knockoff of the robot otherwise known as Sixshot. As a kid I could appreciate the novelty of a robot that turns into six things but thanks to SuperStar I can appreciate the work that went into creating a unifying color scheme for a robot that turns into six things. SuperStar and Sixshot have the same color pattern but they use different colors. The parts where Sixshot is green SuperStar is red, where Sixshot is greyish white SuperStar is yellow, where Sixshot is purple SuperStar is blue, etc. SuperStar is the most bizarre and terrifying multicolored robot I have ever seen and compounding the horror is that it turns into six things. As if the color scheme wasn't enough to make this the most non sequitur robot ever, it comes with a Korean dub of an Astro Boy cartoon on VHS and two plastic robot cats. Thank you, Kim Jong-Il. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

GOOD BYE PS3 CONCLUSION: Welcome home old...stranger?

Well I got the Playstation Sony sent me yesterday and just as I feared it was not my original one but a new (to me) and most likely refurbished 60 gig launch SKU console. I was happy to get all the same features like the extra USB ports and multiple card slots and my son's DVD back. I'll be checking the backwards compatibility tomorrow but it looks like they did just as they said so there were no surprises, just disappointment that they couldn't (or didn't even try to) save my old machine and all the data on my hard drive. But it is holiday season and I would really like to play The Force Unleashed and the Revenge of the Fallen games so having a rePlacedStation is better than no 'station at all.


So then resumed the long and arduous process of getting everything back to how I had it on my old machine, from retyping all my favorite internet bookmarks to redownloading all the games I had and most importantly-reloading the Peter Porker wallpaper. Starting all over from ground zero took a lot of time. This machine was outfitted with Firmware 3.0 so I had to start by reactivating my account and downloading firmware 3.1. Firmware always takes a while so that wasn't fun. Then the nightmare of reloading all my stuff and realizing I didn't have copies of game save data made for a bad day. I think I did copy a game save for the first Transformer movie game but if I don't find it I'm back to square one with nothing unlocked on any of my games. No way am I going to replay all the hundreds of hours it took to get as far as I did in those games. Boy does that suck. I feel like a douche for complaining about stuff like this when there are probably people out there that just found out today they have cancer, but those cancer dudes at least have the slightest infinitesimally small chance they can beat it whereas I am not so sure I can beat Megatron again in the last level of Transformers:The Game.


And speaking of cancer, boy do I feel dumb for ever contributing computing time on my PS3 to that Folding@Home project. I know the idea was that Playstations could harness massive amounts of computational power to help Stanford cure cancer but as it turns out I was only killing my Playstation leaving it on like that. Maybe if Sony could guarantee their products won't self destruct after two years I would feel comfortable leaving a Playstation 3 on for more than 30 minutes at a time now. As it is I feel like an idiot for wasting away my $600 machine thinking an already super rich college couldn't afford their own calculators.


As soon as I turned on the new (to me) PS3 that fan kicked in and started roaring. I am not surprised. Other gamers have said their PS3s are whisper quiet but every console I've had roared like a lion. It doesn't matter. I will do things differently from here on out now knowing this Playstation will eventually self destruct like the first one. I won't stand it up on its side so the chips won't slide off the motherboard like lava down the side of a volcano when their solder melts from the heat. I will save every game data file from here on out and no way will I ever do any folding again. Folding is like duct taping a lit stick of dynamite to your PS3 and using the lit fuse to light cigarettes for cancer doctors on their smoke breaks. BUT NO MORE! If my next PS3 is going to die, it's going to die benefiting me and my terminal medical conditions-chronic robotardation and addiction to topless Disney actresses pictures. EXCUSE ME I THINK IT IS TIME TO UNLEASH THE FORCE NOW IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Target 11/08/87
Some of my favorite Transformers were the ones where five or six robots would combine to make a larger robot. Usually the larger robot's head was a separate piece. The middle robot-the one who formed the torso of the big combined mode-had to have the big robot's head slipped over his own to complete the transformation. If you were buying the individual team members separately the big head always came packaged with the guy who formed the torso. The big head only belonged on the torso in the combined mode. Despite this concept being clearly illustrated on the robots' boxes in pictures and language that five year olds could understand, retailers still screwed this up repeatedly in their ads. If a store ran an ad for the middle robot, they were constantly putting the big robot head on it even though none of the other team members were there to complete the combined form. So if you didn't know any better you'd swear from newspaper ads that there were these really strange new Transformers with gigantic heads. Talk about headmasters! LOL ROFLCOPTER LOL

Children's Palace 09/13/87

Target 09/28/86


As I search through old newspaper microfilms I've kept track of how many of these "Macrocranicons" I find. Of all the robots that fit this descritption I think I am only missing two-Motormaster the Stunticon leader and Snaptrap the Seacon leader. (Not pictured here but over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace is my ad for Scowl the Monster Pretender with Monstructor hat.) I'm sure I'll find the last two someday because an actual correctly transformed torso robot guy without the huge head is the rare exception in newspaper ads. It amazes me to no end that this is how the toys were photographed, especially since whoever prepared the toys for photography would have to have seen the very obvious small robot head with eyes and nose and other obvious cranial features just before they slipped the big robot head on top of it. What kind of idiot could make this mistake? That may be the reason I find these kinds of ads hilarious when I see them-not because the robots look all that funny but because it showed whoever transformed these robots didn't have their head on right. HA HA "HEAD ON"! OMG LOL!

Hardware Hank 11/16/87


Longs Drug 12/02/86

I was very excited to find the following ad for Razorclaw the Predacon from a Longs Drugs in Pasadena, California. It is one thing for a store to take their own pictures of robots they mistransformed themselves, but it's entirely another to have line art that has such a screw up. Line art like this came from Hasbro the vast majority of the time so this ad with Razorclaw wearing a Predaking hat would mean Hasbro goofed up their own robot. But that's not why the Predaking head in this ad is great! What tipped me off that something strange was going on was when I noticed that little upside down "T" shaped bar hanging underneath Razorclaw's neck in lion mode. I've blown it up a little in the picture below and compared it to the Razorclaw prototype as seen in the 1986 Hasbro ToyFair catalog:

Although the lion in the ad is a somewhat simplified line drawing, enough similarities exist to establish that it is in fact a line rendering of the prototype Razorclaw. This version is significantly different from the production toy in the shape of the lion head and the way the stickers are cut and of course the inclusion of all that extra stuff on the bottom hanging off the upside down "T" bar. As is somewhat common knowledge, Razorclaw was originally designed with a transforming robot head so that the Predaking head wouldn't have to be a separate piece. Razorclaw's robot head would transform into it. The problem with the '86 Hasbro ToyFair catalog is that the Predaking pictured has a severely mistransformed head as seen below:

I saw a conceptual drawing for the transforming Predaking head transformed correctly at Botcon 2006 during a panel called "From Drawing Board to Toy" run by my friend Maz and all around great guy Paul Hitchens. Now Paul said the material shown at the panel would eventually make it to his site, spacebridge.net, but soon afterwards Paul got married and other priorities took over and the site went down. So I never got to see what the correctly transformed prototype Predaking head looked like ever again. Until this ad, that is. If the Razorclaw lion line drawing in the ad is the prototype then it stands to reason that the line drawing of the robot is the prototype, too. So that means the Longs Drug ad is the only representation I have of the transformed prototype Predaking head. Now some people might say that ad is too blurry and indistinct to make any detail out but I have looked long and hard at it and compared it to the production toy head and I swear I can see differences. What would settle this once and for all would be the public release of the 1986 Hasbro pre-Toy Fair catalog, which I do not have but I suspect the line art for many of the 1986 toy ads came from it. If anyone out there wants to make this the best Christmas ever you could buy it for me on ebay for only $500. I would be eternally grateful for all the big and little robot heads in that book, plus you would get that great feeling of knowing you just gave someone $500 worth of head(s)! LOL ROFLCOPTER LOL OMG LA LA

NEXT TIME ON HEADTASTIC ARCHAEOPTERYX: Monstructor? I barely knew her!

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