Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome to Sloppy Shoguns Episode 36 with George and Bobbay

It kind of figures that only well after I finished my last big Shogunianpalooza podcastalyspe I'd find some more Shogun Warrior ads and come up with additional brilliant thoughts perfect for that show. It's like when the right thing to say pops into your mind days after the conversation. Except in the world of blogging and podcasts there is the advantage of being able to edit material in afterwards to make it seem like I was actually prepared with good material the first time. So I suppose through the magical power of computers I could just retroactively sneak in this additional stuff and add it to the show like it was always there, kind of like how George Lucas does it. But I'm not going to do that because I know I would hate to live in a world where George Lucas does podcasts of him talking to himself about Shogun Warriors for 45 minutes. Well actually that would be pretty cool but I wouldn't like the eventual Special Edition George Lucas Shogun Warrior podcast where he goes back and re-edits so it sounds like Bobba Fett was there with him the first time. Hell, that would be pretty awesome, too. That would actually be the greatest Shogun Warrior podcast ever. (Honestly the main reason I didn't want to go back and ad this stuff in to my last show is because I am tremendously lazy.)

Venture 12/10/78
My house 10 minutes ago


The Venture ad from December 2, 1978 up top to the left is something I was really excited about finding recently. I've only ever seen one other ad for the 5 inch Shogun Warriors so finding a second one featuring Raydeen and the super rare Gaiking is really awesome. The five inch Shogun Two-in-Ones were a tremendous milestone in American toy robots history as they were the first line of transforming robots in the U.S. that converted without extensive parts swapping. It's frustrating that I don't find more ads for this line but I think they just got drowned out in the contest for ad space by Star Wars and Micronauts. I've noticed that although line art exists for the first four non-transforming 5 inch die cast Shoguns (Mazinga and the Getter Robos) I have never found ads with line art for the Two-in-Ones. A lack of manufacturer supplied line art may be the culprit in why ads for these Shoguns are so rare. Actually, with the exception of the jumbos Daimos and Gaiking, line art for the later waves of all Shogun Warrior sublines is practically nonexistent. I don't know if this is Mattel's fault for not creating it or if retailers just didn't run it in their ads. Who knows. Oh hey heck out how the packaged robot is actually Gaiking in a Raydeen box!


Up to the top right is a demonstration of one other thing the Shogun Warriors did before the Transformers-flappy boxes! I personally hate boxes with those easily bendable flaps on top. I know Shogun warriors didn't invent this kind of packaging, but they did do it before other robot lines so I thought I'd mention it. What's interesting is how although Shogun Warriors and Transformers were packaged in the same kind of box, the windows are on opposite sides relative to each other. So what would be the front of a box for a Transformer is the back of the box for a Shogun Warrior. Plus the Shogun boxes were meant to be stood up vertically instead of laid flat like a Transformer. Yet there are enough similarities that I wonder if Hasbro was taking notes when Mattel was marketing the Shoguns because they did so many things similarly. Still I wonder what's the point with box flaps anyway. Maybe it's the extra square inches of promotional printing flaps allow or that that the extended portion makes better use of existing shelf space by making the packages look bigger than they are or something psychological like that. All I know is from a practical collector standpoint I hate box flaps and Shoguns did them first before other robots (which isn't exactly a good thing in my book).


And finally, speaking of ads for super rare stuff I hardly ever see, here's another Combatra giftset ad, this time from Wieboldt's. I knew I'd come across another Combatra giftset ad almost immediately after telling the world how virtually non-existant they were in the last episode of the podcastalypse. Wieboldt's also had the same regular retail of $49.99 as Hechts but their sale price was an impressive 20 bucks off, bringing Combatra down to $29.99. That's still $99.10 in inflation adjusted 2010 money so they weren't really doing you any favors. My opinion is changing on how extravagant the purchase of a Combattra giftset was back in '78. Sure it was a week's groceries but even nowadays it is not all that unusual to see $100 robots made of combining vehicles live and die on the shelves during the holidays. I guess that's one other thing Mattel did before Hasbro.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oh please ghost of Christmas past take me back to 1978 I have been a bad boy

So the other night I was watching that musical version of "A Christmas Carol" where Sir Alec Guiness played Jacob Marley and I realized that going to hell is actually not a bad price to pay for time travel. When I got to thinking about it, Scrooge accomplished what Einstien and eveybody else who wishes they could relive the 1980s could only dream of. He traveled through time both backwards and forwards and all he had to do was be cheap and a little stingy for most of his adult life. Hell I can do that and I'm already pretty cheap. Somebody tell me how bad do I have to be for Obi-Wan Kenobi to give me a ride to 1978?

Carsons 10 December 1978


Here we have a really cool ad from Carsons (they're still around!) that is unlike most of the ads I've seen for old robots in a lot of ways. Not only does it qualify as a robotastic smorgasbord as defined in episode 32, but it also has a bunch of loose robots hanging out AND there's an actual kid in the shot. It's more than an ad-it's a vicarious 1978 Christmas experience. This must have been what it was like to be a dad during Christmas Day of 1978 looking down on all the money you blew on robots as your kid gently breaks their arms off one by one, loosing all their pieces while you dread how much of a pain in the ass it's gonna be to put that Micronaut Microrail City together. I once read that Baron Karza's motivation for being evil was he wanted to become immortal by committing such horrendously inhumane atrocities that he'd loose all his humanity. But I think the real reason was he just wanted Ben Kenobi to give him another crack at Carson's tremendous Micronauts sale that ended December 17th all those years ago.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

How to make Rocket Punch (and other lessons in Combatra-tive Dissonance)

The 36th seal of Roboplastic Apocalypse gets ground into a great big juicy super alloy flavored smoothie like a giant robot's arm caught in a blender! Yeah it's another round of Heavy Mattel Mania in the Kingdom Roboplastico as we fire up the GoBackatron 1978thousand on a mission to complete my list of 10 things Shogun Warriors did before or better than the Transformers any other American Toy Robots of Japanese Toy Robots! It's a celebration of everyone's favorite invincible guardians of world freedom and all their milestones in engineering, marketing, cross merchandising, and even porno magazine appearances. What cost more in 1978-a Shogun Warriors Combatra giftset or the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars? What costs more now-a 1978 Combatra giftset on eBay or a $375 fruit juicer from Bed Bath and Beyond? Find out all this and more in this ARE YOU READY FOR SOME ROCKET FISTING edition of the Podcastalypse!

Or download it directly


Today's podcastalypse was inspired by the life changing event also known as eBay Auction 250943800281 where some guy decided to sell five toy spaceships in a box, causing me great emotional distress and much retreating deeply into the pages of my intro to psychology textbook. The psychologists who wrote it have a term they call "cognitive dissonance" which describes the tremendous feeling of mental anguish brought about when your actions must conflict with your beliefs. There are many great examples of cognitive dissonance throughout history, like when Jesus had to go through with the crucifixion, when Lee had to surrender to Grant at Appomattox, when Luke had to fight Darth Vader, and when I had to not bid on eBay auction 250943800281 because I was saving up money to get my wife a fruit juicer for Christmas.


Of course like all American toy robots of Japanese toy robots, the Shogun Warriors has their roots in Japan where all great toy robots start out with better cartoons and better names. One robot in particular, the 5 spaceship combiner Combattler V, was created by the same guys who would go on to do GoLion. It's like vehicle Voltron done right-only five vehicles and some really fantastic ship designs. Plus in the cartoon he does some crazy things with lightning and yo-yos. But the greatest significance of Combattler V was that unlike the three spaceship combiner Getta Robo which preceded it, Combattler's combination was physically possible and could be adapted into toys. By the time Popy's DX series Combattler V was imported into the US in 1978 under the Shogun Warrior line as the U-Combine Combatra, the Micronauts' combining spaceship robot Giant Acroyear had already been released. So Combatra wasn't technically the first robot combiner in the US, but Giant Acroyear's individual components were never released separately. Combatra then was the first combining robot spaceship team to be sold both individually and in a giftset, which would be the traditional method of packaging combiner teams from that point forward. That is why Combatra is historically significant and highly sought after on the secondary market and why in my household kitchen appliances are named after him.

Hecht's 13 December 1978


This Hecht's ad from the Washington DC area came out in newspapers on December 13, 1978. I call it a "high fiver". High fivers are those rare ads I come across every now and then that are of such great roboplastilogically historical significance that when I find them I get so excited I want to run around the library giving high fives to all the homeless people, vagrants and college kids there with me. It's truly a rare piece and one I didn't think I'd ever find given the Combatra giftset's extreme rarity. Finally I have evidence of at least one store's original retail price for the Combatra giftset, which is quite elusive in old newspaper ads. Considering that $49.99 when adjusted for inflation is $165.19 in 2010 dollars it is not hard to imagine why these are so rare nowadays. At regular retail of $49.99, the Combatra giftset is not only the most expensive Shogun Warrior of the 70s, but the single most expensive action figure of the seventies!

Meanwhile, back here in 2011, individually packaged Combatra vehicles have been popping up on eBay. This boxed Battle Jet went for $135 on November 18th. The seller also linked to a nice gallery of big clear pictures of the box and the toy, which is essentially the dismembered head of Combatra. I find it interesting that the Battle Jet from the auction was originally sold at Macy's, which further supports my theory that only upscale department stores carried this subset of Shogun Warriors. I don't think it's coincidence that all the ads for Combatra vehicles I've ever found come from those kinds of hoity toity stores instead of discount retail outlets like Kmart. Also worth mentioning is that recently a Battle Tank went up on eBay but only pulled $61.

May Company 17 October 1980


Sadly, Combatra's final battle was fought in the clearance aisle as shown by this May Company ad from October of 1980. I've found one other deeply discounted Combatra vehicle clearance ad from a Los Angeles area store called the Broadway that ran in March of 1980. It's kind of crazy now to imagine these toys just sitting on the shelves at super deep price cuts all year long waiting for someone to buy them, but such is the power of the Force I guess. The individual vehicles were probably a hard sell since they didn't do much on their own and the only fiction supporting them was the Marvel Shogun Warrior comic, which wasn't mentioned at all on the boxes. You pretty much had to complete the set to get the most fun out of them, which was still relatively expensive even at clearance. To complete the set you'd still have to pay 20 dollars and who wanted to pay that when you could get all sorts of cool Star War stuff for around half that.

The Broadway 30 November 1978


Speaking of The Broadway, they ran this absolutely gorgeous ad back in November of 1978. It's a celebration of Mattel's two big science fiction/fantasy toylines of the time-Shogun Warriors and Battlestar Galactica. I find it interesting that the Battle Jet and Battle Tank are priced slightly less than the other three. This would lead me to believe all the vehicles may have been shipped in their own separate case assortments instead of together in the same case. Back when I tried to construct a chronology of release for the Shogun Warrior line I hit a wall trying to figure out exactly how these Combatra vehicles were shipped and I still haven't got it straight today. If it is true that the ships shipped in separate case assortments I wonder how the stores were able to ensure that enough of each vehicle were stocked so that people could complete their Combatras. If most customers were buying the ships separately it wouldn't make sense for stores to order more of one kind of ship than the other. But if you've ever seen the individual boxes for the vehicles you know they are all different sizes and it'd be difficult to fit multiples of complete sets of the ships in one shipping case without doing some serious cardboard voodoo magic.

Before we leave the subject of Combatra, here's some great covers of the theme song from Combattler-V. (You gotta skip to the 1:04 mark on the one to the right.)


Back in 2009 I started a list of trailblazing events in toy robots marketing and merchandising that all first happened in the Shogun Warriors line, or at least before they happened in Hasbro's Transformers. But I only got halfway through the 10 things Mattel's Shogun Warriors did in the 1970s before or better than Hasbro's Transformers did in the 1980s (but just the first five) before I realized I was dumb about Shogun Warriors and I ran out of ideas. I figured I'd need to do some more research and get a little more experience with the line so that I could do the list justice. Well it's two years later and I'm still dumb about Shogun Warriors but I'm finishing the list anyways because I found this inspiring ad from the now defunct retail chain Barkers that ran 26 November 1978 featuring some truly incredible Shogun Warriors artifacts. Shogun Warrior bop bags! I saw that ad and I immediately knew the time had come to finish that list (or at least get to number six). And so without further adieu, here are the ten things Shogun Warriors did before or better than the Transformers (and almost any other line of toy robots, too!):
Barkers 11/26/78

  • #1-They sold the same robot character in different sizes-This is a no brainer nowadays but Shogun Warriors were the first to have the same robot characters concurrently on the shelves with larger or smaller versions of themselves.

  • #2-They took robots from different Japanese licenses and marketed them all together under one banner in the US-The Micronauts were Japanese but they were all from Takara's Microman (before the aliens). Shogun Warriors were each stars of their own cartoons with their own merchandising empires in Japan.

  • #3-The Shogun 2-in-1 subline introduced transforming robots to the US, including Raydeen the first transforming toy robot ever!

  • #4-Combiner robots-Combattra may not have preceded the Micronauts' Giant Acroyear but Combatra's combined mode and individual component vehicles were way nicer designs. Since the list is "before or better", combining is included here.

  • #5-Comissioning new robots-Mattel had the three inch line of Collector's Shoguns made to fill out the line, much like Hasbro would have to do when they ran out of original Takara molds in the third year of the Transfomers.

  • #6 Bop Bags-This one is a bit of a personal indulgence due to my fondness for toy robot themed bop bags, but in the Barkers ad from 1978 we are shown the first toy robot based bop bags released in the U.S.

  • #7 Zargon-The mechanized, self propelled, battery operated robot death machine released years before Omega Supreme! Of course pretty much every toy line that had robots pre-1978 had a mechanized guy like Zargon so it's not really that big a deal. Heck, the Micronauts Biotron and Microtron precede Zargon and even remote controlled R2-D2 came out the same year as Zargon, but were Micronauts and Star Wars truly toy robot lines? Discuss amongst yourselves!

  • #8 First (and probably last) toy robots in a porno magazine!-Gallery magazine's October 1977 issue features some real rocket fisting!

  • #9 The first combiner giftset made up of toys that were also sold separately-Sure the Micronauts' Giant Acroyear's arms and spaceship torsos separated and turned into robots or vehicles but they weren't sold separately! That counts somehow I think.

  • #10 Beastification-Shogun Warriors was the first robot line to jump the shark by letting animals in as part of the line. Thankfully Mattel canceled everything before Godzilla and Rodan could do much damage.

This auction put the MAN in Mazinga


  • A very CombAttractive CombatrAuction
  • The (rocket) fists and firsts of Shogun Warriors
  • Being thankful this holiday season for Shogun Warriors
  • Making Godzilla American
  • Chronological irrelevance
  • Auction update-$371 w/ 55 minutes to go
  • Predicting what the end price will be
  • The most expensive Shogun Warrior at retail in the 1970s
  • That Hecht's ad with Santa on a Viper
  • The danger of becoming a Combatra museum
  • Auction update-$371 still w/ 43 minutes to go
  • Shotgun Warriors
  • The crown jewel of Combatra ads
  • The hoity toityness of old department stores
  • Auction update-$371 still w/ 26 minutes to go
  • Finishing off the list
  • Visiting the Mcallen library on its last day
  • Shogun bop bags-technological breakthrough or toy robot blow up dolls?
  • Auction update-$430 w/ 17 minutes to go
  • How to make a fruit juicer with common household materials
  • Shogun "Bob" bag featuring ROBERT PUNCH!
  • Mr. Machine vs. Mister Zargon
  • Invincible Guardians of World…Vagina?
  • Auction update-$520 w/ 8 minutes to go
  • Combatra cost all your groceries in 1978
  • Auction update-$597 w/ 6 minutes to go
  • Pulling auction pics from eBay at their original resolutions
  • Great Mazinga was just regular Mazinga with cheese
  • Auction update-$618 still w/ 51 seconds to go
  • The end of the auction
  • BREAK-Combattler V Opening English ver.
  • The perspective dangers of being too Shogunny
  • Early Shogun Warrior memories
  • BJ and the Bear vs. Godzilla
  • Merry Godzilla Christmas
  • There should be a Shogun Warriors Thanksgiving
  • Don't Rocket Punch Your Friends!

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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.