Thursday, September 29, 2011

Full On Triple Tronians All the Way Across the Page!

SNOOP AROUND Check out the line art of the thought-to-be-unreleased GoBot SR-71 Blackbird Snoop! She has appeared in ads from U.S. stores before.
I found this wonderful Bradlee's roboplastic smorgasbord buried in the back pages of a newspaper from December 23, 1985. It was rather impressive because it was so tall I think it took up three quarters the height of the page! It had all my favorite tronian lines of 1985-the Hasbronian Cybertronians, GoBotronians and Voltronians (sorry ChargerTronians)-and they were all at near clearance level discounts. A 25% off sale on the big three robot toylines of the 80s just before Christmas '85 is pretty crazy if you think about it. '85 was the year Transformers and GoBots peaked in terms of sales-what were they doing at near clearance markdowns before the hottest Christmas ever? Why did Bradlee want all them sold so badlee? This was 1985! Stores were supposed to be having hard times keeping robots in stock, not trying to clearance them out. What exactly was going on here?


But before I ponder the pop cultural ramifications of the Christmas Eve toy robot pricing policies of extinct retail outlets I wanted to mention a few things about the ad itself. At first I thought the art was all new and original because the lines were so loose and the renderings lacking in detail in some places. There's lots of strange perspective shifts and scale inconsistencies, like Sunstreaker being smaller than Long Haul. It looked only slightly better than coloring books in some parts. After closer inspection I noticed the vast majority of these drawings were line art I'd seen before in other ads. Somehow Bradlee's managed to take existing line art and arrange it in a way that made it all look unfamiliar to me. That's when I realized line art in newspaper ads was traditionally used in a stand alone fashion where one drawing got one description and rarely did multiple drawings exist in the same ad overlapping each other. The majority of retailers avoided this sort of line art arrangement and that's what makes this ad so unique.


When I was a kid I became a little wary of sales like this after I saw Star Wars toys drown in a sea of red tag reduction stickers before they disappeared from toy shelves forever. Had I seen this ad when it came out in '85 I probably would have been a little freaked out because deep discounts usually meant either stores were going out of business or the toylines were running out of popularity. Now that I've found quite a few ads like this with stores liquidating more robots than a smelting pool I'm having to reevaluate just how big the toy robot craze really was back then. Case in point is the following BEST ad from December 18, 1985 where the discounts are super deep. Shockwave for $7, Robo Forcers for $1, GoBot Power Suits for 2 bucks. I get the impression that '85 didn't end on a high note for robots like I thought it had. It's just so hard for me to grasp the possibility that kids wanted to play with something other than cartoon robot Volkswagens and their transformable talking Tyrannosaurus cohorts. I know it seems like blasphemy to other toy robots historians but apparently there were more years in the 80s than just 1985 and I'm also starting to realize there may have been more aisles in a toy store than just the one with all the robots.

BEST 12/18/85


There are two articles available online that provide evidence of a huge slump in toy robot popularity during the 1985 Christmas season. The first is from the February 1986 edition of Discount Store News in an article titled "Toy retailers predict return to basic buys". One point that article makes is that toy fads were cyclical. It goes "The cycle is always the same. A year of innovative product entries followed by a year of oversaturation and eventual overkill." For toy robots, that initial year of innovation was 1984 and the oversaturation hit in '85. They quoted one buyer as saying Voltron started strong in the first half of the year and "was nothing at Christmas". An August 18, 1986 article from The Pittsburgh Press names names and takes no toy robot prisoners. It stated GoBots and Voltron were down sharply and Robotech was an outright flop. Only the Transformers were reported as still doing well after Christmas 1985. This all correlates completely with what I see play out in the newspaper ads but I still have a hard time accepting it. I guess my childhood memories are of a robot party that lasted forever, or at least a little bit longer than 1987.


In the end it is better to have gone on clearance than to never have sold at all. It's kind of hard for me to accept that what I remember as an eternal golden age of childhood and toy robots prosperity was actually just a 2-3 year long fad during the 80s. What's really interesting is that something like Voltron which was a flash in the pan during the 80s still remains cultishly popular and even has a cartoon nowadays. It gives me hope. That's either proof of Voltron's enduring underground appeal or a testament to the power of having your robot on shirts at Hot Topic. Somewhere out there there's a pre-teen boy who's a big fan of Voltron and thinks that we're in the golden age of robot space lions. I'm glad for his sake that the newspapers nowadays aren't written by a bunch of Voltron haters like the Pittsburgh Press used to be when I was little. With Mattel's upcoming Voltron line hitting stores soon hopefully the dozens of other Voltron fans out there will get the chance to see their favorite robots on clearance in a newspaper ad one day. All fans of tronians non-Hasbronian should be so lucky.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The days of fans and robos

AND SO IT WAS FORETOLDETH that Robotastic Armageddon shall descendeth uponeth Irving, Texas this October 8th and 9theth via a thunderous sky shattering roar courtesy American Airlines. Henceforth I forehence accomplished various pre-registrations and securedeth hotellish dwellings in grateful anticipation of the coming of our droid, R2-D2. Yeah I registrated myself into Fan Days which is some kind of Star Warsian convention in disguise or something. And much like Jhiaxus tried to terraform every planetoid worth bombing into some sort of mini Cybertron, I continue on my quest to transformerate every convention I go to into a kinda sorta mini me of Botcon, except if Botcon was actually about Shogun Warriors and Voltron instead of just Hasbrotronians. Actually this is all about me getting the chance to meet the legendary Herb Trimpe, who penciled all of Marvels' Shogun Warriors comic and also some of my favorite Transformer covers of all time (like the ones for issues 12 and 18). Plus a there'll be artists who had work in Voltron United and Drawn like Mark McHaley and artists who have done recent Transformer work for Hasbro like Brian Rood. It should be a great show for podcastalypsing and interviewing and all sorts of robo techspec-spectating!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rudolph was a Cylon!


Santa's piloting a Colonial Viper in this Hecht's ad from October 25, 1978. And what an ad it is. It's got a great riff on the Santa reindeer roll call and some great toys from Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Micronauts and they even threw in a StarBird. I think it's the only ad I've seen for the Star Wars three packs. Also cool is how they call a spade a spade and describe the Micronauts as "dolls".

Monday, September 12, 2011


The 33rd seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse lay burnt and broken, as if mauled by great flocks of dragons and other vast predatory birds! Yes it 's the DragonCon 2011 edition of the Roboplastic Podcastalypse and this time the Nostrodomatron finds himself in Atlanta, Georgia amidst all manner of madmen, machines and mad machine men in a quest to find some dudes to talk some robots with. Have you ever wondered what inspired the look of the Transformers Generation 2 comic? Is our government working hard to keep us entertained? What size diaper did Darth Vader wear when he was a baby? Find out all this and more in this HERE THERE BE DRAGONCONONIANS edition of the podcastalypse!

Or download it directly


Okay let's get this out of the way first. No recollection of DragonCon would be complete without pictures of lots out of shape Darth Vaders and hot chicks in slutty cartoon costumes. I expected people to show up wearing (or barely wearing) stuff that was not at all appropriate in public or even appropriate at other weirdo conventions where people usually show up dressed like space hoochies and obese Darth Vaders. This was DragonCon-the most extreme, vile, wretched, scummy hive of vile wretched scummy hives and it did not disappoint. These people really kicked it up a notch and took it to eleven. This wasn't just sexy, obscene, bizarre and disgusting, this was DragonCon brand sexy, obscene, bizarre and disgusting and that meant nothing was sacred. Everything from sci-fi to PBS kids' cartoons to Nickelodeon game shows was fair game to be cosplayed and fetishized. It was awesome and beyond my ability to record all the wonderful debauchery so I highly recommend checking out rhysfunk's DragonCon 2011 photo collection on Flickr.

The unlikely combination of Pokemon and hookers. My deepest most heartfelt thanks to all the convention hoochies that make that possible.


I came to DragonCon with a single goal in mind-to hit artists' alley and meet as many people who have worked on licensed robot properties as I could. There were supposed to be a few there who worked on either Voltron or Transformers books and comics and I wanted to meet them all. I descended into the complicated labyrinth that was the deepest bowels of the Hyatt and found lots of incredible artists and writers from within and beyond the world of robots like Peter David and Bob Burdenall. It was overwhelming. Just the Artists Alley alone was enough of a convention to eat up all my time and it pretty much did. I want to thank the anonymous guy who took this picture of me outside the entrance because he really did a great job.


This is Mark Brooks, an artist who has done lots of robot work including drawing a ton of profiles for Dreamwave's More Than Meets the Eye Transformer character encyclopedia. He also did covers for Image's G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers and the Devil's Due Voltron from 2003. He was sort of a last minute addition to the show so I was unprepared to ask him for an interview but I got this great shot and he signed a couple comics. Check out his DeviantArt where he goes by Diablo2003.


I'd be lying if I said I wasn't there just to meet Derek Yaniger. Getting to talk to and interview the man who established the gritty, gory look of The Transformers Generation 2 comic was the entire reason I flew out from Miami all the way to Atlanta. I will always remember how he was just one of the nicest, most patient people I have ever met. I can't thank him enough for agreeing to talk with me a few minutes for the Podcastalypse. I can't believe every artist I've ever asked has agreed to talk to me in the first place and then for them to be so cordial and gracious throughout always makes me feel like the luckiest obscure toy robots blogging guy in the universe. You can check Derek out at his site and he's also got the DerekArt Facebook fan page (that I also happen to be a member of).


One thing that really strikes me about Derek's booth at conventions is that you'll be hard pressed to find licensed characters of any sort throughout his displays. Were it not for the DragonCon 2010 prints he was selling I don't think he'd have any material that wasn't 100% totally original. He's really unique in this regard. A lot of other artists will have tons of established licensed characters dominating their tables but here's Derek doing his own thing and in a really wild way. That sign with his name was so gigantic it could be seen from nearly every part of the convention floor!


This is why I loved Derek Yaniger on Generation 2. Every cover was a hellacious vision of robot armageddon. It was Transformers from hell and it was awesome. As you can tell by the signatures I love me them scribbles. Here's my G2 #1 and #7 signed by both Derek and Simon Furman. Talk about great convention memories.

Here's my Derek haul. I had to get the "Peepshow" print he made of the art he created for the DragonCon 2011 official hotel keycards and program covers, especially since my program got messed up and I didn't stay at the official hotels. I also wanted that "Throttlejockeys" poster for my wall and his book Wildsville: The Art of Derek Yaniger is something you can just stare at for hours.

Shawn Robare and me

Thank you, your government!

  • Everyone at DragonCon is looking at me!
  • The allure of things DragonCononian
  • Derek Yaniger bringing an extreme edge to Transformers comics in '93
  • This line is really dragon!
  • Even the cars and trucks are cosplaying
  • RedNeckNoks
  • DragonConfusing
  • Dommo no got no Mister Roboto
  • Thanks for the Pokemammaries
  • It's like R-rated halloween for kids
  • Break-Madame Kamay's Filipino Palace
  • Pocket program protection problem
  • Derek Yaniger's great taste in t-shirts
  • Optimus Prime cosplayer avoiding me
  • Break-DragonCon Commercial
  • Vintage Space Toast Tour Atlanta!
  • The 40 minute search for 40 year old Lionel Playworld ads
  • Awesome 8 year old artist alley table hijacker
  • Losing my DragonPass at DragonBreakfast
  • The relative rarity of Estebans in Atlanta
  • Almost losing my Voltron virginity in the DragonCon dealer room
  • Kabillion dollar animation cells and other stuff in the dealer room
  • Not a M.A.S.K. collector, a M.A.S.K. rememberer
  • Interview with Derek Yaniger
  • Where the Transformers Generation 2 style came from
  • The influence of Simon Bisley's ABC warriors art
  • Where Derek's original G2 art is now
  • Derek's progression through comics, animation and then in the retro scene
  • The DerekArt Facebook fan page
  • Early art influences in Derek's life
  • Derek's art in the Nickelodeon cartoon Good Vibes
  • Whatever flips your switches!
  • Closing thanks (including baby Darth Vader and Bender)
  • Don't Rocket Punch Your Friends!

Also check out my Not Enough Pictures from DragonCon album over at Flickr!

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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.