Monday, February 28, 2011

Dinosaur Robo

A Rare opportunity to own a truly rare graded boxed Pre-Transformers Dinobot   An awesome graded example of a Pre-Transformer Diaclone Dinobot has cropped up on Ebay. You won't see this very often although I remember their availability a little differently. So I can remember breaking a classmate's Dinobot in grade school. I thought I was up a creek b/c I had to shell out like $16 to replace it. Instead he agreed to accept a replacement that my mom had me pick out at Just Closeouts. I recall a decent sized shelf space full of these nearly dead on "replica" Dinobots, made from the same mold and everything. They were $4 each. I can remember the graphic on the box, and I think it was one of these Diaclone toys seen in this auction. If not one of these, then either an Italian Gig or a knock off. Although I looked at some knock off boxes and they don't seem to have the grid I remember on the box front. Either way they are all worth beaucoup bucks. I'm pretty sure my mom asked me if I wanted one, and I think I declined. All the better b/c I would have probably sold it or traded it off and be more angry about it than I am amused at what they are worth.

Another mysterious Takara Robot with the Diaclone pilots

Another great toy I got when I exchanged my duplicate Ultra Magnus was this guy. it is also made by Takara of Japan and included 2 of the little pilots that also fit in G1 Transformers. I can't remember whether or not it actually had spring loaded fists or missiles, but I highly doubt it. The robot forms three vehicles, the coolest of which was the head. The head turned into a little Penny Racer sized wheeled vehicles with that cool clear dome, and a pull back friction motor so it could zoom around. I also loved the antennae on this guy. Somehow he didn't survive my youth even though most my other toys did. I can only wonder about what his final fate was. Image is from The Pre-Transformers page, check them out for the scoop on where the Transformers came from, and who didn't make the cut.

"A Totally Unique Space-Age Concept"

One of my favorite experiences as a kid revolved around getting a duplicate Ultra Magnus, the Transformers City Commander from the original Transformers movie. I had gotten a second one of these for Christmas from my god-parents, and so I got to go to Children's Palace and exchange it. The coolest thing was I had all the time in the world to plot out what I would get in exchange since my family was a few doors down from the store at the Chuck E Cheese, and I was told just to go there after I picked out my exchange. Although Transformers is by far one of the coolest properties to ever exist, there was an unbridled level of envy for kid's who owned the Mighty Voltron. I wanted the most bang for my dollar though, and I looked up and down the action figure aisle. Bear in mind, as a kid I rarely had the opportunity to go to the toy store, so I didn't really know much of what existed other than what was on TV. I certainly didn't know much about alternative generic toys, except for the ones that did measure up to the full priced licensed properties they were ripping off in the first place. After what seemed like hours of decided what I could get with $25 in mid 80's cash, I finally walked away with a few things, one of which was either the Kronoform or DiaKron Multi-Force 14. Check out CollectionDX for the low down. A robot comprised of 14 smaller spaceships that were piloted by a handful of inch tall robotic pilots with articulated arms and legs, similar to but cheaper than Voltron. These guys fit perfectly into into an assortment of Generation One Transformers cockpits, including Ultra Magnus, StarScream, and the Insecticons. I would later discover these were in fact the pilots of the pre-Transformers Diaclones from Japan, which included the above mentioned Transformers, and the rest of the Seeker Jets, The Autobots, and the Dinobots. Multi Force 14 was manufactured for that line but never brought to the states for Transformers. Hasbro dropped the Diaclone pilots, because the vehicles were changed into the heroes and Hasbro felt the pilots were not needed. I assure you, my Transformers adventures were much cooler after I got these drivers/pilots. I can remember at least one other item I got on this heady exchange trip, more on that later.

The Hot Wheels meet their maker

Like any young kid I had a number of Hot Wheels and/or other diecast cars. I think I would be remiss not to mention that I did at least at a very young age have an interest in them. I can remember how the one with opening doors suddenly gained the ability to fly. I was fascinated by the moving parts, like the opening doors or the opening hood. Otherwise the static ones that just rolled didn't appeal to me too much. Perhaps this was because I didn't have any race tracks, but my brothers did, So maybe my mild interest had more to do with my brothers using the plastic tracks to whip the sh!t out of me. In turn my Hot Wheels soon found their way outside on one fateful day. I dug a small tunnel a few inches down into the flower bed and one by one the cars I did own proceeded down said tunnel. Unfortunately for them, after they got into the tunnel, I buried them with dirt, never to be seen again. I think that marked the end of my interest in die cast cars. Hot Wheels, it's logo and likeness are property of Mattel and are used here for educational or entertainment purposes only.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Review of LEGO Atlantis Manta Warrior (8073)

Originally submitted at Toys R Us

Treasure-seekers beware lurking behind this seaweed-covered rock is a fearsome Manta Warrior, prepared to battle anyone who dares to search for the long-lost sunken city of Atlantis! Includes Manta Warrior with trident.

You may know that the original LEGO brick building sets was patente...

The perfect troop builder

By L Whip from Cleveland, OH on 2/27/2011


5out of 5

Pros: Durable, Sturdy, Colorful, Easy To Assemble, Fun

Best Uses: Imaginative Play, Young Children, Motor Skills Development

Describe Yourself: Collector

Was this a gift?: No

The Manta Warrior is a nice little set for the LEGO Atlantis fan in your house. The minifig itself is a great little troop builder to add to any undersea enemy army. His head also makes for a great alien. The dark blue pants make for a rich denim color if used on a town figure. The extra few slope bricks and seaweed sprout offer a little more play value than just a collectible minifig. I bought these on a "buy 1 get one 50% off" sale which made it a value at about $2.99 average price. Even at $3.99 or $4.49 its worth owning at least one. A great set introduced late in 2009, works well with the Atlantis theme that is running at least until summer 2011. Get one before its gone.


Awesome Rise of Cobra deals & Tasty Vintage Chips

Well I went on a little toy run today. Stopped by Target. I can't believe how fast they processed a return I had, they simply scanned my receipt and the two items I brought back, and bingo, a credit was issued to my card. That was crazy streamlined. Next I stopped by my local Gabriel Brothers, the Easter stuff was not set up yet, I'm looking forward to some possible Hasbro exclusives to pop up there. I stopped by Ollie's the not so discount, "discount retailer" I picked up the former Walmart exclusive  Snake-eyes vs Storm Shadow Rise of Cobra boxed set for a friend of mine for $12.99. I then picked up a handful of Rise of Cobra single carded figures at the real discount store, Marc's (a Middleburg, OH based company) for $2.99 apiece. I ended up with six figures for my friend Kev, who's got a birthday coming up. I bought 1 more for my friend Cam in sunny Arizona. I got myself 3 Ice Vipers & a Duke in Reactive Impact armor. I noticed while I had the stockpile of figures in my arm that some of the packages looked a little odd. I turned them over to discover they were Multi-lingual packages, most likely intended for a foreign market, possibly Europe. In the end of the day I had a store exclusive pack, 3 Ice Vipers, 2 Duke in Delta 6 accelerator suit, 1 Duke in Reactive Impact Armor, 1 City Strike Duke, 1 City Strike Snake-eyes, 1 Jungle Strike Ripcord, 1 Paris Pursuit Baroness, 1 ParaViper, and two vintage style full size bags of Doritos Original Taco chips. So that's 11 figures that had been $6.99 each so $76.89 MSRP value, that I got for $32.89, a boxed set that was $19.97 for $12.99, and two bags of limited edition Doritos for $4.98 instead of $7.98. A decent haul for the day.  Later this week I'm going to check out the Toys R Us 2 for $10.99 sale on current G.I.Joe figures.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Robotech + Transformers = Roboformers?

If there is anyone slightly older than me in the audience, you may be wondering, why am I skipping over Shogun Warriors and Force Five animation. The answer is simple, I didn't discover them until around the launch of Final Fantasy VII. I personally had no interest in FFVII but my co-worker at KB, Mitch, did. He had heard of a store in Columbus, Ohio that might have merch related to the game, and knowing that I liked Sailor Moon, he convinced me to make the trek with him down to Columbus from the Eastern suburbs of Cleveland.  It was on this trip that we stopped at an unassuming Wal-Mart. There in a dump bin of VHS tapes I found a $2 video called "RoboFormers". Mitch saw the image on the front of the box, and despite being a few years younger than me he seemed to recall owning a toy similar to the Giant Robot pictured on the cover. My interest was piqued and I bought the tape. Upon viewing the tape I discovered that it wasn't really about a show called RoboFormers, but rather about a show called "Star Vengers". The show was a bit of a cross between BotP, Tranzor Z, & Voltron. From the style of the animation it was clear this was a 70's Anime. It revolved around 3 primary characters and their jet aircraft which could combine into one of three different Giant Robots: Star Dragon, Star Arrow, or Star Poseidon. The three main characters were a charming lead male, a roguish secondary male, and a fat guy. At their base was an older mentor figure, a female character, and a young boy..... hmmmmmmm.... this is all starting to make sense in some weird way. I spent the following months sifting through video bins at any Walmart I could find looking for more tapes of the series. I successfully found several more. I would later discover that these were bootleg tapes of one of the five shows that made up a daily serial program referred to as Force Five animation, and tied directly to a Giant Robot toyline, of 2 feet tall toy robots, known collectively as the Shogun Warriors. I was about 1 or 2 years too young to have seen this on television, and the 2 foot tall toys somehow never made their way into my home, even though I had two older brothers. This particular story will undoubtedly be broken down into several other posts in the near future. Image provided by Amazon.

Tranzor Z!

The guys over at Retrojunk have a nice detailed entry on Tranzor Z. Piggybacking on the success of Voltron in the US, this wicked ass awesome show with horrible dubbing and corny dialogue was brought to US airwaves. Based on a slightly simpler concept than Voltron, this show had a couple of things going for, namely another Giant Robot. Here the team dynamic was replaced with a singular hero, and his mighty robot was not comprised of smaller vehicles that joined together. Somehow I liked this show more than Voltron as well, maybe because it's based on an earlier 70's series like BotF. There's something to be said for the bold stylish look from these earlier shows. Also there was a female Giant Robot whose breasts shot out as missiles. You heard me, breast missiles!

Voltron, wait a second this seems familiar.

The next Anime series I would encounter in syndication was Voltron. There was something strikingly familiar between Voltron and Battle of the Planets: An older mentor, a charming leader, a stand offish second in command, a female, a fat guy, and a young kid; Civilian outfits, and color coded helmeted hero costumes. Voltron helped shake some of the cobwebs loose about a show I had watched when I was younger, oh yeah, the aforementioned Battle of the Planets. But now instead of a command ship that deployed each heroes unique vehicle, there were 5 robotic lion vehicles that could form into one Giant Robot. Voltron did have some advantages over BotP, but even with a Giant Robot, it didn't live up to the action packed battles seen in BotP those few short years earlier. Thankfully with the massive popularity of Voltron another hidden gem rose to the surface... tune in next post for the startling revelation.

Battle of the Planets

The earliest show I recall enjoying besides Sesame Street, was G-Force Battle of the Planets. Although I don't recall specifics about episodes, and I completely blocked 7 Zark 7 and K-9 from my memory, every morning before I caught the bus to kindergarten I would religiously watch BotP. I can recall the show airing on UHF channel WUAB 43 broadcasting from Cleveland, Ohio. Airing in the same time slot on UHF channel 61 was Star Blazers. I would flip channels during the credits to watch the credits of Star Blazers where they would mention what was in the next episode and how many days it would take to get to Iscandar... now that I think of it, I may have also watched the opening title sequence for Star Blazers on occasion. The weird things that these shows had in common that I would come to learn later in life, was that they were both Anime. I wouldn't realize exactly what Anime was until sometime in the 90's. Even though Anime is the norm now, in the 80's there was just sprinklings of it with no clear delineation between it and other cartoons, but somehow my young brain knew these shows were different in some special way that made them palatable.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"We really do care!" -Kenner Customer Service Motto

So before 1995 when Cincinnati, Ohio based Kenner toys was absorbed by Pawtucket, Rhode Island based Hasbro, their customer service motto was "We really do care!" I for one am inclined to believe this. Kenner brought us a sizable group of popular toys in the 1980's from Star Wars to Strawberry Shortcake to Care Bears and more.

One of the neatest things as a kid was getting a mail away premium. These usually involved sending in a handful of proof of purchase seals, and a nominal shipping and handling fee. There are two specific Star Wars figures I was keen on getting that I think my mom couldn't find in stores, R2-D2 and Yoda. I think my mom must have contacted Kenner's CS desk to arrange for these two figures to be mailed to me on two seperate occasions. From what I can tell from online resources, neither of these figures was a widely advertised promotion, suggesting they may have been courtesies by the CS department of Kenner. It's neat to think that a company that really does care can team up with a mother who does the same.

Master of Disguise

Although vac-metal chrome figures like Star Wars' C-3PO were amazingly cool, a new type of toy would put it to shame;. color-changing plastic. The first toy I ever had a chance to own made of this space age material was G.I.Joe's Zartan, the master of disguise. Zartan's character was established in the animated mini-series as a roguish, Australian accented, all around scoundrel and mercenary. The biggest promise I ever broke happened one fateful day at Children's Palace. I encountered the Zartan with swamp skier box at a pricepoint of about $4.99, which as I recall was a little over twice what a carded G.I.Joe figure sold for at the time. I had to have him, but how could I convince my mother to buy him, I was already invested in LEGO, & Star Wars. So I asked my mom if I could have Zartan, and in a contract I ended up breaking, she had me swear up and down that I would never want another G.I.Joe toy as long as I lived. I suppose my life would be quite different if I hadn't started down the long dark road which was G.I.Joe. My life would have been forever changed if I had kept my promise, as Star Wars and LEGO would fade into memory and I would grow into a normal adolescent who had no time for "childish" toys. For the most accurate archive of G.I.Joe figures and vehicles visit

Transform and roll out!

So let us continue on my journey of toy "firsts". The Golden Age of Transformers was a wicked time. The toys were so hot that stores had a nearly impossible time keeping any stocked at all. One lucky day I came across Wheeljack at either my local Gold Circle or Zayre store. I asked my mom if I could have it. She agreed. However there was a problem, the box on this toy was open. So my mom and I proceeded to customer service. She had them open it to discover the accessories were missing. She then proceeded to talk them down on the price. They ended up slashing $2 off the price. Which at the time was a hefty sum. I think that the price was initially either $8 or $6, but whatever the cost I got him for $2 cheaper. Turns out this was a rather favorable find, as Wheeljack was one of the few first generation Transformers whose fists were part of the body instead of detachable. Otherwise I would have had a sad sad fist-less figure as my first Transformer.

"He's no good to me dead." -Boba Fett

My first Star Wars memory was watching the "Making of Star Wars" at my local library. I was most likely around 5 years old. The next  memory was my mom bestowing upon my older brother and I a small handful of action figures, possibly a pair of figures for each of us. They were most likely Boba Fett, Bespin Luke, Hoth Han, and C-3PO with removable limbs. My two older brothers were always more "outdoorsy", going around and getting into and out of trouble in the neighborhood, so it wasn't long before all the figures were mine. I took a liking to the figures, so much so that my older brother threatened to destroy Boba Fett with a lighter, that figure has a partially melted foot to this day. I would go on to have quite a few Star Wars figures, especially from Return of the Jedi. Out of the first batch though I have to admit that the C-3PO was my favorite. He had a few things going for him as far as an action figure is concerned: 1. He was a frickin' robot 2. you could take off his arms and legs without destroying the figure & 3. He was vac-metalized in a gold like finish. Plus at this time I hadn't seen a movie to know just how much of a crying sissy-pants the character was. A wealth of information about Star Wars, toys past and present, is available in the photo archive at

Living in a world of Plastic

 I will gladly admit I'm adult who still enjoys toys. When I started getting disposable income, rather than drinking socially, or smoking, or doing drugs, I spent my time buying toys. I had never really gotten away from toys, as a bit of a social outcast in high school, I can recall still buying G.I Joe figures and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even though I may not have fit in at the time, the 90's would usher in a collector frenzy over toys, trading cards, comics, and more. It wasn't really until the mid to late 90's that I found there was a like minded group of adults also "collecting" toys. I became friends with a good number of local collectors that I would often run into while I was out looking for toys. Nearly everyday I would stop into my local stores to check and see if anything new had arrived. Luckily for me I didn't have to go out of my way to stop at these stores, they were simply on my route home. Then finally late in the decade I managed to land a dream job as a clerk of my local Kay Bee Toys. I spent a number of years there being a cashier, then an assistant manager, then as a night stockist, back to being a cashier. It was good times, and I was the central rallying point for local collectors exchanging information not only about toys we got in the store, but also finding out which other chains had what on any given day.

In the Beginning there was LEGO, and it was good

So it starts. The earliest "action figure" style toy I remember getting was the LEGO Mobile Lab. Check it out at Peeron. I must have been about five when I got this revolutionary LEGO set. The revolution was that instead of just containing the interlocking bricks I had come to know and love, it contained two spaceman minifigs. I probably had some Fisher Price "Little People" or "Adventure Men" prior to this, but my love affair with owning little plastic men most likely started with these two unassuming little LEGO men. I only came to call "LEGO guys" by their collector name "minifig" in the last decade, after discovering it as the norm on the internet. I also found a boatload of online resources for LEGO enthusiasts. Peeron is excellent as it includes a brick by brick inventory of sets, a picture of the set or original box, and a listing of the original year of release and original retail pricepoint. Another great site for finding everything from complete LEGO sets to individual bricks is Bricklink.