Sunday, February 26, 2012

RETURN TO THE PLANET OF THE RETRO ROBO PLANET PEOPLE (and other 11th dimensional unicorn conspiracies)

Special guest super villain Jack Fields destroys the 40th seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse wearing only a speedo, go-go boots and a gold lamé shirt! Thrill in vinyl fury as Jack and the Nostrodomatron do an hour long recap of their epic life-or-death battle across several dimensions, a storage locker in Florida, multiple planes of existence and a Hooters restaurant all last Saturday at Robot Japan Summit 2012! What secrets lie buried within the mysterious and terrifying toy robot collection of Ed, our host with the alluring smile? Which religion lets you take your toy robots with you to hell? If you could fight one of Ed's toy collection cabinets which one would you fight? Find out all that and more in this HONK IF YOU LOVE GARAGES, GODAIKINS, AND GAZONGAS edition of the podcastalypse!

Or download it directly

Between the Planet Retro Gallery and Ed's house I have never seen so many robots in so few garages.

Professional artist Robby Musso's work was stunning as usual. That's my favorite Carly ever and this year's RJ poster was great, too.

Summit organizer Ed demonstrates how before global Starcraft domination, South Korea's greatest accomplishment was a green teapot head robot show guy.

Anime cel enthusiast Brian Powell shared some great mecha and comic art during his presentation.

The mysterious dealer/collector known only as Lunchtime Charlie had much for sale and on display.


I want to thank everyone at Robot-Japan for making the Summit a great time, from Jonathan who gave the heads up about Planet Retro on the Robot-Japan Facebook page to Myles for reminding me the Summit was coming up in the first place. Of course Ed thank you and your family for opening up your home and letting me charge my computer and camera while I was there. And of course thanks to Jack for helping me do this show. Thanks to everyone who bought some stuff from me, too! Also thanks to Robby Musso for talking robots, Botcon, Transformers and black repaints with me. You guys all made the trip up to St. Petersburg really awesome.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

ALIGNMENT OF THE RETRO ROBO PLANET PEOPLE PART 1: This is the planet I wish I was from

This weekend saw not one but TWO St. Petersburgian events of great interest to toy robots historians and other retro roboplastic enthusiasts. Yes the Planet Retro Gallery was open for business Saturday and Robot Japan Summit 2012 was happening not very far away. Planet Retro is an interesting hybrid of action figure store and vinyl record shop with a retro focus in both areas. Robot Japan is of course an interesting robot themed website also with a focus on vintage action figures, but of the Japanese robot variety. The summit only happens once a year and Planet Retro is only open for a few days every month so to have them both happen on the same day was like a planetary alignment of robotastic proportions. (And you don't have to be a Nostrodomatron to know nothing kicks off a roboplastic apocalypse like a good planetary alignment.) Here's some highlights of my trip to Planet Retro Gallery and the full dump of all the pics I took there is over at the Robofacial Bookocalypse.


On the outside, Planet Retro Gallery looks like a store run from a storage locker unit but on the inside it's what I imagined heaven looked like when I was a teenager in the 80s. It's half full of vinyl records and the other half is loaded with toys from the 70s, 80s and 90s. I've never seen a record store combined with a vintage toy store before and I wonder why there aren't more like this because it makes so much sense. It's an awesome idea. When I was growing up I was always either into music or toys and this place is those two things combined. There's really no other place outside my own bedroom in 1989 that I've ever listened to Love Gun while playing with toy robots. All this place is missing is some posters from He-Man magazine on the walls and a dresser drawer full of Iron Maiden shirts and it'd be my bedroom circa 1988.


Ever since I got to talk to Michael Golden I've wanted an A.F.C. Blinky figure from Bucky O'Hare. Unbelievably, Planet Retro had not only Blinky but all the other Bucky O'Hare figures ever released. I didn't think the store owner would be willing to break up the set but he did. I almost regret not getting the rest of them but my goal in coming to St. Petersburg was to sell robots and not buy them. For someone who was trying to cut down on buying stuff I sure was in the wrong place. Still, I never in a million years thought I'd be staring a complete set of Bucky O'Hare in the face (or a Charlie Tuna, either).

GRENDIZER TEST-if you noticed the hula girl I've got some bad news for you...


The selection of albums dominated the vinyl side of the store but there were a couple boxes of some great 45s. There were singles from Metallica, the Anti-Nowhere League, Madness, the Beatles, and all sorts of other British and American punk, metal and rock bands. There was even a single from the Banana Splits! It was great going through all those. The only thing Rob the owner didn't have was Whitney Houston. (I know because I asked)


Well there's a ton more pictures of the Retro Planet Gallery over at the Robofacial Bookocalypse. I still didn't get pics of everything but you can get a good idea of what it was like. I was impressed by the wide range of mainstream and lesser known items there in both vinyl and plastic. Seeing the gallery and getting myself a Blinky (and a Conky wind up from Pee-Wee's Playhouse for my son) was a highlight during my trip to St. Petersburg. It was a great lead-in to Robot Japan Summit 2012, which I will have pictures of later. The Gallery will open its doors again in two weeks on March 2nd and 3rd. If you go, tell Bucky O'Hare hi for me and have a great roboplastic apocalypse.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

I WANNA ROBOTIX ALL NIGHT (and RoboForce every day)

The 39th seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse is erased from existence like the brain of your giant talking robot Tyrannosaurus bulldozer! Yes it's a Robotixciting edition of the Podcastalypse as guest co-host Colin from and I fire up the GoBackaTron 1984thousand to talk about the intriguing early years of the part robot, part action figure, part construction set toy line Robotix. Was the interfacing of humans and robots in Robotix the inspiration for the Transformers' Powermaster engines? Was Herb Trimpe the Bob Budiansky of Robotix? More importantly, is Paul Stanley the Stan Bush of Robo Force? Find out all this (or don't) in this I'M SO ROBOTIXCITED AND I JUST CAN'T HIDE IT edition of the podcastalypse!

Or download it directly


Before I got on with the Robotix portion of the show I wanted to share a couple ads that support my theory that Robo Force wasn't immediately cancelled in 1985 but lived long enough that at least a few cases of the 1985 assortments depicted in the 1985 Ideal Toy Fair catalog made it out. So I spend a couple minutes on the show discussing the two ads below from a store called Dart Drug that use line art and descriptions of the "unreleased" 1985 Robo Force figure assortments. It would kind of help me out more if Dart didn't put a picture of bad guy Hun-Dred in its ad for the Heroic robots and do-gooder Maxx Steele in the ad for the Defiant robots. But hey if the supporting evidence were totally solid it wouldn't be a good conspiracy theory.

Dart Drug 01 December 1985
Dart Drug 10 November 1985
The case assortment numbers in these ads match the assortment numbers listed in the 1985 Ideal Toy Fair catalog


Note the early box art for the first two Robotix sets
What happened with this show is I started recording it back in October during a bike ride to the comic shop near my house, on a hunt for Robotix #1. Snagging the book was a crucial part of my preparations for not only this episode but also for a convention I went to later that month. Although it was more of a Star Wars con, I was really excited about going and getting to meet one of the guests who also happened to be the artist/writer that worked on the Robotix comic book, Herb Trimpe. He rarely comes down south and although Texas is 1,300 lateral miles from my house, based on his appearance alone I bought tickets and went over there hoping to see him and maybe ask a couple questions about Robotix. The first 25 minutes of this show were recorded before I went to the convention when I was all hyped about the con. It was a time of high hopes which of course were dashed the first day of the convention when Mr. Trimpe couldn't make it because he missed his plane to Texas. Although I'd recorded 25 minutes of show, my enthusiasm for completing it alone waned. Then one day action figure customizer/toy robot blogger/giant Robotix fan Colin aka "Commander X" got in touch and said hey, let's do the Robotix show! So my huge thanks go out to him for rescuing this idea from the abyss of my hard drive and making my Robotix episode dream come true. Without his expertise and catalog page contributions this show may never have come out and definitely wouldn't have been as good.


What I find fascinating about Robotix is that it began as a construction set and stayed very true to that concept in its first year of release in 1984. The sets came packaged with G.I. Joe scale pilots in astronaut suits and no reference was made to the actual constructed machines as independent, sentient entities. Then with the 1985 release of the line the boxes get redesigned with dynamic painted artwork, the line gets a cartoon tie-in where a sci-fi fantasy adventure background is established, and the machines are all given character names. You can see how what began as a simple construction set idea got shoehorned into a more mainstream action figure line with the marketing of the day, even though the sets themselves weren't as action figure like as depicted on the show. Colin believes Robotix would have worked great as a crossover with G.I. Joe where the Robotix vehicles would have had Joe pilots. I wonder if this idea was ever considered by Hasbro/Bradley back in the day because it does seem like the Robotix vehicles would have made awesome bad guy monster machines for 3 3/4 inch figures.


Just last night I was in Toys R Us in the Transformer aisle when I overheard a lady ask a TRU employee if Transformers were the only robots they had. "These are all robots but they don't do anything. I need a robot that moves by itself." I watched as they both searched the action figure aisle for a couple minutes but I knew they wouldn't find anything. Robots just don't move by themselves these days. I went to the construction toys section to see if the concept of Robotix has survived in some form and I found one single solitary robot kit that I think was a Lego Technic set. It was kind of sad to see how the once vastly diverse selection of robots and robot based construction vehicles from the 80s has withered down to its current sad state where you can have any robot you want as long as its a Transformer. Transformers are great but long gone are the glory days of motorized walking robots like Trypticon, Sky Lynx and Omega Supreme. That poor lady was in the right aisle, but just the wrong decade. I say judge not a society's scientific and technological greatness on what they have put into outer space, but judge them by what they have put in their motorized robot toys aisle at Toys R Us.

Maybe trying to market Robotix as a traditional action figure line wasn't exactly a perfect fit with what the product actually was but it sure was an interesting try. In 1985 sentient robots were all the rage. I can't blame them for trying to say each set was actually a robotic character. The problem is those astronauts the Robotix sets came with. It's hard to come up with a convincing argument for why a sentient robot needs a human pilot. We discuss that a little in the show. Should Robotix have been spun as a more G.I. Joe/Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors type concept or was it truly a GoBotty, Transformery one? We'll explore these ideas more thoroughly in the next Robotix themed Podcastalypse when Colin and I go over the Robotix cartoon.

ToysRUs 12/04/85
ToysRUs 12/11/85


Of course no Podcastalyptical look at a toyline is complete without some mention of what was going on in the newspaper ads of the day. I tend to describe Robotix as "obscure" a lot during the show because it seems that way in the lack of mainstream action figure fandom its garnered over the years. But back in the day Robotix was actually very prevalent as evidenced by all of the different stores that ran ads for it. Robotix ads could be found in the circulars for the big toy discounters like Toys R Us, Children's Palace, and Lionel Playworld in addition to running in the circulars of retail chains like Bradlee's, Venture, and even rocery stores like Osco. (I posted some additional Robotix ads from many of these stores at the Robofacial Bookocalypse.)

GemCo December 9, 1985


This Gemco ad illustrates why Robotix wasn't as collector friendly as the other action figure lines it was marketed alongside. Jetfire up top was the highest price point Transformer in 1984, with a regular retail of anywhere from $25-$30. But spending that much only got you the lowest priced Robotix set. Marketing Robotix as a more traditional action figure line was like asking people to collect only the most expensive Transformers. So imagine watching the cartoon as a kid and wanting multiple Robotix sets because of all the cool looking robots, only to find owning just four Robotix-Venturak, Tyrannix, Bront and Argus would end up costing more than $180 1985 dollars! (That's $360 2010 dollars.) The Toy King ad snippet below right is from November of 1986 when the popularity of the line at retail was on the decline and stores were beginning to liquidate their Robotix stock. Even with discounts of $15-$30 off regular retail they were still on the expensive side for action figures, but those are pretty good prices for motorized construction sets with so many pieces.


Toy King 11/26/86

Bradlee's 12/08/85
  • The hunt for Robotix #1
  • There's enough 1985 to last a lifetime
  • BREAK-Robotix Commercial
  • The robotastic aspects of Herb Trimpe's career
  • BREAK-Robo Force Commercial
  • Did Paul Stanley sing the Robo Force commercial promo?
  • The beastification of Robo Force
  • Fangar line art in a newspaper ad (and Mary Fury & Deena Strong, too)
  • The case for the cases of Robo Force asst 48273
  • Live by the grocery store ad, die by the grocery store ad
  • You better go and cry now
  • My homogenized Hasbro childhood
  • My massive abyss of Robotix unknowledge
  • 80s attempts to combine robots with construction sets
  • Milton Bradley's reputation before Robotix
  • Colin's Robotix introduction
  • Colin's disappointment with owning the non-cool Argus box
  • Robotix on the secondary market
  • The 99 cent Argus on eBay
  • The evolution of the line
  • Robotix concepts preceding similar ones in Transformers
  • New Robotix still being sold online
  • The high price points of the original line
  • Toylines that start with one backstory and change it later
  • Star Brigade, Star Command, Legion of Power, Bionicle and other Robotixish lines
  • Robotics and Things Robotix Dog
  • Toyline attempts to explain sentient robots with human pilots
  • Logical inconsistency in Robotix cartoon
  • What if we had Robotix conventions?
  • Herb Trimpe fleshing out the Robotix universe
  • Asking Peter Cullen about character motivations in Rainbow Brite
  • Why can I haz Michael McConnohie at conventions?
  • Another Robotix-tastic podcastalypse in the future
  • Robot Japan Summit February 18th
  • 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.