Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blurr reincarnated, with Arcee to boot

In either 2009 or 2010 I found a new version of Autobot Blurr that I felt ,finally, truly was an homage to Blurr seem in the original Movie. I knew that there was a Toys R Us exclusive Arcee that would complement Blurr if I ever found her. Both of these new versions of classic characters were from the aptly named, Transformers Animated series. Blurr was once again a elegant and sleek toy in both robot and vehicle form. His articulation was of modern quality meaning as a robot he was allowed the free flowing movement of an action figure. This is of course leaps and bounds over the vintage Transformers who basically, merely resembled robots, but failed miserably on the articulation front. I'd say that within 6 or 7 months of finding this Transfomrers Animated edition of Blurr, I found the elusive Arcee exclusive. These two bots form the core of my limited modern collection of Transformers. I think they are probably two of the best Transformer toys I have ever owned thanks to their sleek forms, clever Movie homage robot forms, and nicely designed packaging. I look forward to owning them for decades to come.

Blurr, the fastest talking Autobot ever

In Transformers the Movie (1986), the character Blurr was voiced by that fast talking guy from those classic Micro Machine commercials. Blurr was probably my second favorite Autobot next to Wheeljack. As I seem to recall, though I may have things out of order: Blurr appeared in an episode of Transformers before the movie came out, that was set in the future. It is more likely that if this episode exists it was aired after the movie. I also seem to recall the day I got him as a gift was the Easter before the Summer release of the movie. My dad had taken me to the company Easter Picnic. I may have either found some money in an Easter egg hunt, or my dad simply promised to buy something for me. After the picnic we went to a Kmart somewhere in the vicinity of the event. Kmart, by the way, was one of the companies my dad worked for, and was the sponsor of the company picnic. I found a Blurr figure on the shelf, and read his bio, Autobot Courier, that made sense as he was so fast. I think the figure was around $11.99 though it may have been a dollar or two difference. Well my dad bought him for me, or used that money, if I had actually found some (Though I don't really remember finding an egg with money in it) It's far more likely that this was a consolation prize from my dad for me, since I likely got nothing at the picnic. Though the transformation of Blurr is rather simple, his robot form was elegantly sleek and natural looking. He bent at the knees, which was nice as earlier Autobots really didn't have leg articulation. He overall was a cool character, which made the Movie all that much cooler for me when I watched it, since I owned one of the main characters. His gun and shield were great accessories. It would take over two decades for Hasbro to make a Blurr figure that I felt was a true homage to this movie classic.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sailor Moon Adventure Dolls, and a plush kitty named Luna

I think I may have first read about Sailor Moon coming to the US in a copy of Toyfare or Wizard magazine. They spoke of a threat to the reign of Barbie. Although hugely popular in Japan from its inception, American audiences warmed up to and cooled down from the paltry selection of Sailor Moon merchandise in the US. The first Sailor Moon merchandise I ever found was some 6 inch "Adventure Dolls" at the old Kmart in Euclid, OH. I can't remember if I bought these or not. Over the years I would buy and later sell a few groupings of Sailor Moon Dolls and other merchandise.

I was really looking forward to ever finding a Luna plush, but signs seemed to point away from that ever happening. In the first few years I would find a few dolls on clearance at different Toys R Us stores. I would buy these as I found them. Then one day in the mall, during a sidewalk sale, Sam Goody/Camelot/FYE or whatever it was called at the time had a plush Luna for like $8 or something. I naturally snagged it up, and felt satisfied. I had originally heard there might be a plush from an article either in Animerica or Protoculture Addicts. These were both excellent Anime magazines for their time. I normally bought the more colorful Animerica whenever there was a Sailor Moon feature, but on one or two occasions I got the more text intensive Protoculture Addicts from Comic Heaven of Willoughby, OH.

I would later find different Sailor Moon merchandise at various stores before the big relaunch at the turn of the millennium. My own Kay Bee ended up getting a shipment one cold winter morning, of which I bought everything except perhaps the moon cycles. I got both 6 inch and 11 inch dolls at different Toys R Us, KB Toys and Toy Outlet, and oddly enough Walgreens. I ended up also finding some plush of the main characters at other KB's that our store never had shipped to them. At first the merchandise was handled by Bandai America. Then after the initial launch petered out but renewed interest started to gain, Bandai's Canadian branch "Irwin Toys", which had stocked Sailor Moon (up north) from the onset, helped get merchandise onto US shelves.

In or around the year 2000 there would be two package design changes, one with stark yellow boxes, and one with smooth light blue boxes. I can't remember but these packages represented basically 2 distinct restocks of merchandise. At this point I believe Irwin Toys, now "IT", was handling Sailor Moon distribution in the US. The first few years early in the 00's were probably the best time to be a fan of Sailor Moon if you didn't have access to Japanese imports or anime conventions. Hot Topic ended up carrying a wide selection of Sailor Moon merch, that was questionable at best in its authenticity. Nevertheless, one of the coolest SM items I ever had was a transparent wallet with a Sailor Moon inlay and a nice rugged chain riveted to it. This wallet lasted me a good number of years, probably through the bulk of my early Sailor Moon phase.

Cardzillions, hey they only cost a quarter....

So after the first attempt to launch Sailor Moon in the US, I begin to notice a four bay trading card vending machine at Toys R Us. Each of the four properties in a bay was some Bandai property like Sailor Moon, Masked Rider, and Power Rangers. Just put in a quarter and turn the dial and a little folded over white cardboard holder slides out of the slot containing 1 of 42 cards in the series. The neat thing was, sometimes a foil card would come out. It wasn't long before I would fork a couple of dollars at a time into the machine per visit, up until I would hit a foil card.

Then it wasn't long before I discovered the cards were basically assorted in such a way that if you put in say, $10, you would get the main set of cards and 2 foils, so for about $30 you got 3 sets of regulars and if you were lucky, 6 out of the 6 foils in a set. So to resell the sets on the newsgroups (yes this was before ebay) if you sold foils at $5 each, a set of regulars at $10, or a complete set of foils and regulars for between $20-30, you started either breaking even or turning a profit.

With the lack of merchandise support in the US in those first few years of Sailor Moon, these cards were an easy sell. Most people I think labored under the impression that these card machines, called Cardzillions, were totally random. I had had enough experience with trading cards in the past to notice a pattern in the distribution of cards. By the time series 2 came out I had a few other fans lined up to buy sets off me. The same with series 3.... with series 3 I think I got my complete set with foils, a complete set for a buyer, and sold a few foil-less sets and got my $50 initial investment paid back practically overnight, as I had the sets pre-ordered from me.

I was surprised that when the Pokemon phenomenon hit about 5 years later that they didn't have machines similar to these in the US cranking out special vending series cards. I think Japan did have some vending machine exclusive cards, that probably functioned a lot like these Cardzillions machines. Unfortunately by the time Sailor Moon's resurgence hit near the turn of the millennium, these machines were long gone. Oh yeah, I nearly forgot, something the Cardzillions would share with Pokemon cards was that the corners of the cards were rounded instead of squared off, making the cards stay in better condition with less bent corners than regular trading cards.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sailor Moon returns to print this Fall

As a long time fanboy of Sailor Moon, I must admit I never really read the manga. Nevertheless I am excited to hear of the return of Sailor Moon manga to print on American bookshelves this Fall, after a six year hiatus. My love affair with Sailor Moon started in the mid 90's. After almost a decade with little to no anime being broadcast in syndication, and the home VHS anime market costing something like $25-30 a cassette, Sailor Moon brought affordable anime viewing back to television. Though a little mixed up from the easy formula we saw in the late seventies early eighties, some of the classic themes ran through. With Sailor Moon you again had color coded uniformed heroes. You had a team of five heroes, although this time they were all girls, a singular male did replace the "princess" role of the older anime, as the smart alec Darien, or mysterious Tuxedo Mask. Luna the cat acted as the wise old mentor. Much like the evil forces and villain of the day we saw in Battle of the Planets, the Negaverse, Queen Beryl, her generals, and the villain of the day followed suit in season one of Sailor Moon.

So with a new twist on some very classic themes Sailor Moon thundered into the US marketplace..... well actually, that's not quite how it happened. Sailor Moon was a complete unknown for its time and so the syndication networks put little faith into it, relegating it to such horrible times slots as 5:30AM weekdays or worse. Within about a year the show was no longer being broadcast in the states, but a trickle of merchandise including dolls and VHS tapes were on shelves in the US. Thankfully, there was a much warmer reception to Sailor Moon in Canada on YTV. They kept the show going strong and I believe even had some more episodes translated., while keeping the dolls and such on the shelves. Sailor Moon fandom in the states struggled against all odds. The only new domestic merchandise was cardzillions trading cards available for a quarter each from vending machines at Toys R Us stores.

Then after what seemed like an eternity, Cartoon Network salvaged Sailor Moon for broadcast near the turn of the millennium. Tons of new merchandise was put out on the shelves in the early part of the 00's. The missing episodes were broadcast for the first time in the states. However, in the end of the day, not all Sailor Moon animation ever got translated. The movies, and several episodes for mature viewers were published on VHS. These were in no way grossly adult in nature, but stronger fair than television with a better translation (I think). It's weird sometimes how I collect, for example I don't own all the different tapes, but I owned multiples of the early doll releases. Sometimes I wish I had more devoted fandom practices, although then I would be out of even more money. Hopefully in conjunction with the new release of the comics we might see a definitive, complete Sailor Moon animation video release. If we're lucky, a new wave of merchandise will be gracing shelves for a new decade.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Have you considered pants?

So even though I travel to the far reaches of toy stores all over, I sometimes find it hard to purchase the necessities of life. One of these things I've been slacking off about for a good 6 months or so, is buying some new pants that fit me. I managed to gain a good amount of weight over the last year, and have been stuck with a two pairs of slightly tight at the waist pants and a mess of pajama pants. So the other day I went online to Target and found some pants in a size that should fit me better at $4.98 a pair. I ordered six pairs, and to cover the slack to get up to the free shipping with $50 mark, I checked with another friend who is a bit lazy about getting new clothes. I ended up ordering him 2 pairs of another style that were $12 each. Then I managed to find a coupon that took $5 off and I still got free shipping. So finally after procrastinating for way too long, I will be able to wear some nice new black pants shortly. I almost feel civilized. Note: if you have never seen the sketch "Pants" from the old MTV sketch show "The State" I recommend you dig it up.

New to my collection: Mattel's Monster High Clawdeen Wolf doll

I've been keeping an eye on Mattel's Monster High doll collection since it's release last year. There are several things going on in this line that are cool, firstly it isn't Barbie. Secondly they have kinda a cutesy non proportional head and body which isn't as garish as Bratz, kinda anime-eque. Thirdly, in some way they remind me of Sailor Moon which I have always been a fan of. Lastly, I think the idea of trendy, high school themed Horror movie inspired characters is pretty cool.One thing I noticed about the toys was that I never saw a Clawdeen Wolf on the shelf.

About two months ago I saw two new series of the doll's at a Walmart when I went to scope out Christmas clearence (btw these were not clearenced, my finding them just coincided with looking for clearence; otherwise I rarely shop at Walmart anymore). The dolls were from the new "Dawn of the Dance" and "Gloom Beach" assortments. Clever names for a line of dolls whose characters are the High School aged offspring of the classic Movie Monsters. I'm not sure what it is about this doll line that appeals to me, even though I only ever collected Sailor Moon dolls before (note: some people consider action figures dolls, in which case I've always collected dolls.)

I weighed my options after I saw the new dolls, and since Clawdeen Wolf was available on and, I figured I could get everything else in one swoop and order Clawdeen. Sure enough between a couple of Targets and 1 Walmart I found the 3 other dolls from the first series, the 5 "Dawn of the Dance" dolls, and the 5 "Gloom Beach" dolls. I passed on the first series 2 pack as it is readily available and I expect to see it marked down eventually.

I did hit a few glitches in purchases. First at Walmart the dolls were magically $1.02 higher at checkout then they were marked on the shelf tag, so rather than holding up the checkout line, I went over to customer service to get a price adjustment refund. Secondly, after I got home I ordered Clawdeen Wolf off of to complete my collection. I ordered it for pick up at my local Kmart. I ended up getting a call claiming they didn't have the doll even though it was available from the website. They ended up cancelling my order within a day or so. This was not the first time I've had problems with Kmart/Sears, I don't think I will be doing any web purchasing from them in the future.

So I checked out Mattel's main site and somehow they had Clawdeen available even though I had never seen her in store. As a new customer I got a 10% discount and I could get free shipping  with a purchase over $50. I mulled over the purchase and decided to delay it for something better. Then the other day, March 15th, they had a 20% off sale for nine hours. I ended up just ordering the 1 Clawdeen I needed, and she came out to under $20 shipped, which I feel was good for a doll that retails for $17 at Target but $20 at Toys R Us. Although I don't have the product in hand just yet, it was the score of the week.

Then & Now, Round 5: Nikto '84 vs. Vizam '99/04 vs. Nysad '09

Well the original Nikto Jabba guard does not have a direct remake as such. He has two followup figures from the same species and occupation. The original figure did a good job of bolstering my Jabba's guard ranks. The same can be said of the two newer figures. It's surprising how much headway was made between the launch of the modern line in '95 to '99 when the Vizam figure was released. It holds up to the latest figures so well that it was reintroduced in '04 with only minor paint application changes. The Nikto Gunner of  '09, Nysad, is also another welcome addition. It is a well executed figure from the paint scheme & application, to the detail of the belts, to the removable helmet, which is always a welcome feature, down to the well sculpted face. I can hope Hasbro can move a remake of the original Nikto up in the ranks of figures to be done soon. Who knows, one might be announced as soon as San Diego Comic Con 2011, but I doubt we'll see anything earlier than Toy Fair 2012. I'm surprised that Hasbro still hasn't remade all of the original characters that Kenner released in the vintage line. (My continued thanks to for allowing me use of their photo archive)

A bit under the weather

I don't often get sick with the cold or a flu or whatever. Naturally however since I'm on Spring Break, I somehow manage to catch a cold. I've been feeling sh!tty the last couple of days at least. I hope to catch up on some new content today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Review of LEGO Ninjago Ninja Training Outpost (2516)

Originally submitted at Toys R Us

LEGO Ninjago Ninja Training Outpost (2516). A calm, steadfast and strong Ninja, Cole spends much of his time mastering the Spinjitzu element of Earth. Help him learn to fight using all the weapons in his collection, so that when the time comes, he is ready to face the evil Skeleton army!

A starter size set every LEGO fan should

By L Whip from Mentor, OH on 3/14/2011


4out of 5

Pros: Easy To Assemble, Fun

Best Uses: Imaginative Play

Describe Yourself: Collector

Was this a gift?: No

At $5 this set is a great jumping on point for getting a taste of Ninjago. With 1 Black suited ninja, Cole, you can either just do target practice, or begin your Ninjago Army. As a long time LEGO fan, I don't think any LEGO fan should go without having the experience of owning at least 1 Ninja in their lifetime. The scorpion and extra weapons are a plus.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Then & Now, Round 4: Wicket W Warrick '84 vs. Wicket '98 vs. Wicket '10

The day I got Wicket (W. Warrick) holds a place near and dear to my heart. Besides being the Ewok that introduces Leia to the Ewok Pack, he was the first of many Ewoks I owned as a kid. In a touching story, my mom came home one plain old shopping weekend (not being a holiday or anything) with a gift for me. My mom always did all the shopping for my army sized family on the weekends with her lady-friends, Kathy and Connie. So she says to me "I got you a figure, I hope you don't mind its a small one."  while holding up a figure with the cardback facing me. Then, wait for it, she turns it around for the big reveal...... WICKET! A fricking Ewok, my mom bought a fricking Ewok.... and unlike most naysayers in Star Wars fandom, I don't mean "fricking" in a bad way, I mean it like "frickin awesome"! The Ewoks had made Jedi for me. A ragtag bunch of little vicious tribal warriors who helped overthrow the Mighty Empire. I was gushing with surprise and happiness at this particular selection my mom had given to me on what would have otherwise just been a ho hum day in my life. My mom went on to buy me nearly every Ewok that came out, 6 of the total 8 released in the vintage line. I think the only reason she didn't buy the last two was because she didn't have an updated Power Of the Force cardback depicting the 7th and 8th Ewoks. So when Wicket had his update in 1998 I quickly snapped up him and the Ewok Medicine Man Logray, who came in a two pack. I was a bit disappointed by the modern incarnation as it seemed a bit over-sized. After more than another decade, in 2010, a new truer to form, smaller screen accurate Wicket has finally been released. I am very pleased with this rendition, and it brings back fond memories of that day long ago! (Queue Ewok Celebration song, yes for the second time today!) Again, many thanks to Rebelscum for granting me access to their extensive photo archive to all me to continue with this series "Then & Now".

Return of the Jedi, words cannot describe the experience

Now that the air is cleared about the “ET/Empire” we can continue to the religious experience that was watching Return of the Jedi in the theater in 1983. Since I managed to have a few more movie-going experiences in the early 80’s after ET without any further trauma, I was permitted to venture out to watch Jedi on its release date . I can remember my dad doing like 60 in the parking lot of the theater. We then had to wait in a ticket line that wrapped around the building, a movie first for me. The movie was like none other in its scope and grandeur, well at least at my young age. I cannot put into words in one post all of the feelings I had during this movie.  My memories of the greatness of Return of the Jedi will likely be spread out in details over different entries on specific toys and characters from the film. After  beholding the spectacle of ROTJ,  I can recall my brothers telling me how six more movies would come out, three to take place before the existing movies during the clone wars mentioned in A New Hope, and three to come set after the original trilogy. My brothers told me the next film would be in three years time, in the amazing future year 1986. I spent the intervening years acquiring and playing with a virtual plethora of action figures and playsets by Kenner.  By 1986 however it was clear we were going to enter a “Dark Time” for Star Wars fandom, as George Lucas reneged on his promise to the fans. The first film of the prequel trilogy as we know it now, was delayed by 13 years from 1986 to 1999. Star Wars toys went to the wayside (although I always knew where they were) as I moved on to more LEGO, then Transformers & G.I.Joe, and other toylines through the ‘80s into the 90’s.  (Insert Ewok celebration song)

ET stops Empire

Before I can go on about the glory that is having seen Return of the Jedi in the theaters in 1983, it must be explained why it wasn't Empire Strikes Back, that I rave about. The story starts oddly enough with ET. There was always something deeply disturbing about ET. Lets start with how ET is abandoned by his fellow aliens due to them being chased off by some weird government shadow agents. Then we have Elliott out by his garage after dark, when ET decides to start a mutual freaking out session. Imagine being a kid and thinking, next time I'm out after dark I may encounter a freaky alien being chased by government weirdos. It also doesn't help that later there's some kind of mind melding, and befriending of ET only for him to be found nearly or all dead on a river bank. When the government inexplicably figures out you've been harboring an alien they cover your house in some quarantine plastic, and begin to run medical tests on you and your dead alien friend. Then the alien comes back from the dead and leads you on a chase from the shady government guys only leave you behind so he can flee in his ship never to be seen again. Needless to say this lead to months of childhood nightmares. I then perpetually needed the lights left on so ET wouldn't find me. I also would freak out randomly at the beach thinking ET's corpse might be under the surface of the water brushing against my legs while preparing to wash ashore. Needless to say, my phobia was generalized by my parents as not being able to separate films from reality. The reality was that ET failed to use a "science fictiony" world when depicting their alien, and went so far as to have you identify with Elliott, just an ordinary young kid in suburbia; before ensnaring you in a web of totally freaky events that could happen to anyone if they decide to befriend a lost alien. Meanwhile, Star Wars was about adults in a fictional universe mingling with equally fictional aliens. So the night my brothers left to see Empire Strikes Back at the drive in with my father, they left me in a crying fit in  the drive-way. They claimed that I would be too scared to watch ESB because it was filled with aliens scarier than ET. I remember watching them pull out of the driveway laughing and pointing fingers as I cried with disappointment about being left behind.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The 24th Upper Deck Test Market Gormiti 4 pack

Gormiti are kinda like Battle Beasts from the mid '80s. They have been a huge craze in Italy for about 5 years. They were official launched in the USA in January 2009 by Playmates Toys. However there were two distinct test markets conducted in 2008. On was by Playmates who won the license. The second was by Upper Deck in the San Diego area. Upper Deck did not end up as the USA distributor. Although Playmates actually made new packaging for the USA test market that was different from the mass release, Upper Deck simply rebranded the UK packs packaged by Flair. To this end they simply placed a sticker in the upper left hand corner denoting Upper Deck. The four packs of figures each came with 1 Lord figure, and 2 visible figures, and a 4th obscured secret figure. This method was also used in the Playmates test market. However the obscured figures were dropped from the mass release, and the four packs no were only in 10 styles, unlike the 24 styles with repeats that the blind package version had. The blind package version was intended to get kids interested in trading figures to complete a set. Also of note 2 characters that were scheduled for the 1st series mass release but were left out, were featured in the blind packs. I managed to acquire 23 of the 24 variations, and tonight I bought the final 24th pack. I look forward to receiving it and hope to god it matches the picture and has the Upper Deck sticker.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Then & Now, Round 3: 8d8 1983 vs. 8d8 1998

8D8, or eight dee eight, was a neat droid when I was a kid. As per usual it was cool he was from Jabba's palace or more specifically Jabba's dungeon. The '98 version had the advantage of coming with a torture rack that would be compatible with a Gonk droid that would be released shortly afterward. The idea of torturing droids is fairly amusing. Perhaps it leads to the inevitable robot revolution. The wiry frame of the droid was fairly skeletal, a cool upgrade from droids that were clearly actors in costumes. There's not much else I can think of in regards to this character, between the two releases I say the '98 scores slightly higher for having the rack accessory. Again photos courtesy of, used with permission from Philip Wise.

Then & Now, Round 2: Klaatu (In Skiff Guard Outfit) '83 vs. Klaatu '99

Well I suppose this series of reviews isn't so much a direct comparison of figures as a group of thoughts and memories about the two separate figures. Both these Klaatu figures are based on the the same Jabba sail barge character in the film. Jabba Guards were a favorite of mine, both in my youth and until this day. There were so many aliens involved with Jabba in Return of the Jedi that it was hard to keep track of them all. I think this chaos is where the appeal comes from. Lucas was quoted as saying in an early interview that Jabba's palace was the alien showcase he had wished the Cantina could have been. Later around the time of the Special Edition of the original trilogy Lucas changed his story claiming that the Jabba's palace didn't live up to his vision and the new Jabba's scene was how he had envisioned it. I digress. The paint application on the face of the original figure kinda smooths over the detail of the sculpt, making the figure seem a little primitive by today's standards. However the '99 version captures Klaatu nicely. For a while the '99 boxed set of Skiff Guards was very difficult to locate. As luck would have it I ended up getting box set when it showed up with clearance merchandise at Kay Bee toys around the time of the launch of Episode I the Phantom Menace or within a few months later. The other chain stores stopped ordering any other merchandise at the end of 1998 before ordering the Episode I toys for the May 1999 film premiere. As a result tons and tons of remaining toys showed up at Kay Bee with prices slashed at least in half. I think the boxed set of guards was $7.99 at first but since the clearance toys were selling so fast KB adjusted the prices making them slightly higher. Although the case with the Skiff Guards in it came off the truck with $7.99 stickers on it, by the time it was to be put on the shelf, and I had an opportunity to buy it, the price went up to $9.99. Nevertheless it was a great deal on a three figure box, reminiscent of the vintage price of a single figure when averaged out over the three figures. Vintage figure photography by D. Martin Myatt, images courtesy of

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Then & Now, Round 1: Pruneface '84 vs. Orrimaarko '98

Pruneface was always a bit of a mystery for me. I'm pretty sure I got it in an overstock baggie and not on a cardback. I don't think I knew his name for quite a while. I think he was a figure my mom got from a traveling mall vendor or at a flea market. Nevertheless I did have both his cloth cape and his rifle. Since I grew up owning mostly Return of the Jedi figures, I have fond memories of cloth accessories. Anyhow, like most kids of the time I always assumed he was one of Jabba's Henchmen. When they introduced the new version in '98 it was revealed he was in fact a Rebel, dressed for a mission to the surface of Endor. Since the original came late in the Kenner collection, his sculpting holds up particularly well, especially compared to the decent but off scale sculpting Hasbro used from '95-'99. If I had to choose one version over another, I'd probably vote in favor of the original. Pruneface is not only a figure I had in my youth, but I also acquired a nice carded sample of the original sometime in the past few years. He is one of my prized pieces, I hope to send him off for grading later this year. The photos above are courtesy of the definitive source of modern Star Wars toy collecting news, and home of an in depth photo archive. Vintage figure photography by D. Martin Myatt.

Return of the Jedi figures, then and now

Well I cooked up a little idea to help keep me on track with regular postings. I hope to compare the Kenner vintage incarnations of Star Wars Return of the Jedi characters with their modern Hasbro incarnations (95-now) one at a time. The included low quality checklist photo is just another reason I need a scanner. This cardback image is off a Rancor Keeper that my friend Brodie gave me last year.

The Autobots take to the skies!

As a child I was rarely taken to the store, which was most likely a good strategy by my parents. However I think my mom would sometimes take me just to get an idea of what I'd like for my birthday or for Christmas. On one such scouting mission to BEST, I stumbled upon the Aerialbots gift-set. There were a number of awesome things going on with this set. First off, the Autobots were primarily automobiles, the Aerialbots were planes. Secondly, up to this point in time only the Constructicons formed a larger robot when combined, so it was cool that the Autobots would now have a combiner. Third, this set was honking huge compared to almost any other Transformer I had seen to date. It was an impressive sight, and I had the opportunity to hold it in my hands. Later the 5 Arielbots in this set would be sold seperately like all the combiners that would come afterwards. So to have them all in one huge box was astounding. After some time alone in the toy department drooling over what I found, my mom came back to check up on me. With this Superion Giftset being $29.99 I knew there was no way I was getting it on that visit to the store. I made my sales pitch nevertheless of how cool it was that it was airplane autobots, how they formed a giant robot, etc.  I would later discover my sales pitch was compelling enough, when I unwrapped the giftset as a Christmas present. Mom you are still the greatest, and I miss you.

Form arms and legs, and I'll form the head

Bruticus was the second combiner Transformer for the Decepticon ranks after Devastator. Where Devastator was a unique combiner made of six individual robots, Bruticus would follow a new standard of 5 combiner robots to form one might Giant robot. Bruticus would share his basic combining style with the Aerialbots, the Stunticons, the Protectobots, and the Technobots. The limbs of each combiner could form either arm or either leg, they were also compatible amongst all the groups listed above. Bruticus had a military theme to him, hence the name of the combiner parts as the  Combaticons. He was comprised of a jeep, a  tank, a helicopter, a space shuttle, and a truck with a double cannon on it. Similar to the Aerialbots, the main vehicle, Onslaught, had a ramp attachment so that he could load on wounded vehicles for repairs. Although I had received the Aerialbots first in a box set, the Combaticons that formed Bruticus would be purchased separately. I remember the acquisition of two of the parts of Bruticus. One of the limbs, Swindle the Jeep, was an amazing coup. I found it at a gift shop at Sea World and although it was overpriced by about $2, my mom got it for me. Probably because it actually fit in with the Transformers I was collecting, and wasn't just some cheesy, shoddy souvenir that would normally be found at a gift shop in a Theme park. The other Combaticon I remember getting was Onslaught, the main body of Bruticus. I am pretty sure my dad bought it for me at BEST, and it was $2 off and only cost him $8. My dad is a sucker for good prices, he was probably pleased I saved him some dough. The final fate of my complete Bruticus, as mentioned in another post, was as a trade on the bus in grade school to get some shady second hand G.I.Joe figures and vehicles. I was very pleased when Bruticus reappeared for the 2001 Robots in disguise line as Ruination. Although the name and color scheme had changed, he was still Bruticus to me. This reincarnation was the perfect replacement for the Transformer i so hastily traded away in my youth. I would later give stronger consideration to any trades I would make.

You're in for Trouble, and make that Double!

An affordable early vehicle for the Cobra ranks was the Flight Pod. Nicknamed the "Trouble Bubble", it was fairly iconic as well. A simple one man flying vehicle with a white/grey coloration and a clear bubble shaped canopy. It was well weaponized with two missiles, and a gun. It may have come with a hovering mine, but I don't recall that. I got one of these in a trade I made on the bus in grade school. I for some reason was so desperate for G.I.Joe stuff that I traded my ridiculously awesome Transformers Bruticus combiner for a handful of used Joe stuff. I would much later get a replacement Bruticus combiner in the Robots in Disguise 2001 Transformers line (renamed Ruination at that time). I am still a huge fan of the Trouble Bubble. I got two over the summer from the 25th anniversary line on a shopping trip to TJMaxx, when  I was on vacation in Washington DC. I acquired 2 more of these a few weeks back at a local Marshall's or TJMaxx. Another cool coloration of the vehicle in black with a translucent crimson canopy has recently surfaced from the cancelled 3rd wave of Target exclusive Rise of Cobra deluxe sized vehicles. A friend of mine has acquired me a pair from his local discounter Ross. Thanks Dave. Actually all three of my G.I.Joe collecting buddies who live outside Ohio have local Ross stores, which does not exist in the NE Ohio market. We currently are in a trade circle, buying each other whatever we need, from what we can find. Yo Joe, or should I say, Cobra!

High Speed Sentry, the backbone of Cobra

The Hiss tank is a classic Cobra vehicle. By the end of my first G.I.Joe collecting era, which was some point in high school, I think, I had three of these in my possession. I don't recall ever getting this item new, and I may have had 1 driver to go along with them. If I had to wager a guess I'd say the first one came from a garage sale. The second two most likely came from a large batch of toys I bought for $40 from a high school classmate. It was definitely an iconic vehicle from the comics and early in the animated series. I was always a fan of its design, and it was often featured in my one page doodles in grade school. It's second incarnation, as the HISS II, had a two man cockpit, that flipped down to allow you to load the drivers. It also had a flip down door in the back to allow 4 soldiers to be loaded into it. Overall it was a good redesign, the grey/blue coloration is probably its greatest flaw. I feel that Cobra vehicles should have remained either black, white/grey, or a dark blue I refer to as Cobra blue. Of the earliest vehicles the Hiss, and Stinger jeep were black, the Claw and Flight pod were white/grey, & the Rattler and ASP were Cobra Blue. Another good coloration for Cobra vehicles is Crimson. Cobra Commander's personal Elite Guard were the Crimson Guard. In the 00's a nice set that was exclusive to Kay Bee contained 3 Crimson Guards with removable helmets, a crimson Hiss tank from the original mold, and a crimson ASP. I'm not sure yet about the Hiss tank produced for the newest toy line, Pursuit of Cobra, at $25 I can't yet justify buying it.  One of the features that appeals to me the most is that it finally has movable rubber treads. The first version was in a burgundy color which wasn't too distracting. A second version of this newest incarnation is in classic black. I hope to have one of these in my collection within the next quarter. I hope to post a review after I own one. For the scoop on the first Hiss and later incarnations visit YoJoe.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Let Mama Joe know her boys are coming home for dinner.

Well I'm happy I had two auctions end and get paid for via buy it now. I was able to justify today's purchase of 8 G.I.Joe Pursuit of Cobra figures (and Wreck-Gar). All three of my friends who are into G.I.Joe and who now live in different parts of the country will each be getting a new Low Light figure. I'm surprised I found 1 of these yet alone three. I called Dave, Kev, & Cam and let them know I got them their figure. I also got the new Predator inspired Cobra Shadow Tracker, and the Joe HALO diver SkyDive. SkyDive was going to be a version of Ripcord in the initial planning stages, but after Hasbro decided to separate the current POC line from Rise of Cobra, things got changed up a bit. After the shake-down, Ripcord was no longer in the mix, but the neat HALO figure was given a new head and (an Aerialbot) name, SkyDive. All in all a nice little run, fitting keenly in budget.

Wreck Gar lands from the planet of Junkion

Well I was out at Toys R Us today to see if any G.I.Joe Pursuit of Cobra figures came into stock. To my utter astonishment there was a fresh case on the shelves. While I was debating whether to pick up the new Destro or the older Dusty figure to even up my score, since it was 2/$10.99, I came upon Wreck-Gar. Wreck-Gar was voiced by Eric Idle in Transformers the Movie (1986), and hailed from the junk planet, Junkion. This "reveal the shield" incarnation is a decent homage to the original design. Actually probably more than decent since I don't buy many Transformers these days. Upon spotting him I had to bring him home, and heck he was on sale for $7.99. I haven't opened him just yet, but I think he will fit in nicely with my Blur and Arcee from Transformers Animated (which are also both nice tributes to their original movie forms).  Now I need a good Hot Rod, Springer, and Kup to round out my modern collection.

First 26 colorations

Alright let me start the tracking of the G2 Go-bots to TF2000/RID2001 spychangers, & Jusco exclusives. In Generation 2 the six molds were used to make 14 characters. G2 Go-Bots Megatron from TFW2005, G2 GO-Bots Optimus Prime also from TFW2005, the 3rd picture is from the TFWiki the top row shows the six spychangers from TF2000/RID2001 & the bottom 12 are from G2 Gobots, the next 6 recolors are from the Japanese Jusco store promotion for TF2000. Okay so this covers the first 26 incarnations of these Transformers. So I was just searching around for images of these spychangers when I discovered a mirrored copy of my old RID2001 website from Geocities. Many thanks to whoever preserved this rudimentary site. Feel free to check out my 10 year old site here. I thought this site was deleted, I'm so happy to find this copy of it.

An amazing array of colors, G2 Go-Bots reborn

The Transformers Go-Bots from the mid 90's returned in Japan as the "spychangers" in the Transformers Car Robots 2000 toy-line. This line would launch the following year, 2001, in the states and replace the slow moving Beast Machines line. The US version of the line was called "Robots in Disguise". The supporting cartoon was classically animated instead of computer animation. Unfortunately due to censor screening related issues the show aired out of order, which really hurt the performance of the line. The recolored G2 Go-Bots as TF2000 spychangers would undergo even more recolors. In Japan they were recolored for a promo at Jusco stores. A few years later they would be recolored and have variants recolors in the Lottery Spychangers blind-boxed series. These were trading figures, whereby you had to open sealed boxes to determine which character you had. The primary colorations were the "Super" designation, and each vehicles had a secondary "Chase" variation that occurred about 1 in six cars, increasing the rarity of these colors. In the US the spychangers were first recolored in Robots in Disguise packaging exclusive to Kay Bee Toys, later they would be recolored a another time in Armada style packaging, with only the Transformers logo on the card (omitting the Armada designation). The Spychangers also released several cars that were due in the 90's but never released. These would also be recolored as Generation 1 characters. A handful of new molds were made for characters specific to Robots in Disguise. There were also recolors of these molds that were exclusive to Walmart, with paint schemes matching Sam's Club exclusive full size Robot in Disguise. I personally lost track of all the repaints so I don't have an exact number at this time, I may do some more research and specific focus on these in the future.  Visit TFW2005 to see the initial Japanese Car Robots 2000 multi-pack.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Smallest Transformers leaders herald the coming of KB Toyworks

Back in the mid 90's an independent toys store known as "The Amazing Toystore" opened in the sleepy Shoregate shopping plaza in Willowick, Ohio. It wasn't opened that long before the incoming product started having Kay Bee stickers on it. Soon the store would be re-branded as KB Toy Works. One of the earliest and oddest things I found with the new stickers on the box was a case marked "Transformers Go-Bots". Go-Bots had been the competitor to Transformers in the 80's, so to see these two brand names on such a small case of toys got my mind whirling. Inside the case were small Hot Wheels sized Transformers. They were called Go-Bots since they were intended to race on Hot Wheels scale tracks. In this case were a silver Porsche that was Megatron and a red car that was Optimus Prime. I quickly dismissed these oddities as I was heavily into other action figures by this time, and had no room to collect any Generation 2 Transformers. It's a shame though because these little guys that were either 2/$5 or 3/$5 were tail-enders. A tail-ender is a toy produced in much smaller quantities near the final days of a given toyline. They often times rapidly rise in secondary market price. By the early 00's these guys were up to $50, now their asking price is closer to $100 in package. UltraConvoy has a nice collective shot of the Generation 2 Optimus Prime releases. Soundwave auction can be found here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The snake canyon motorbike race

Snake Canyon is a nice little LEGO set. One good guy, one bad, & two cool motorcycles. The trickiest thing about this set was applying the little flame stickers. At ten dollars its a good value. If you can get it any cheaper its a steal. I managed to get mine from Gabriel Brothers for $7.99. The flick missiles are a nice touch. I like the color scheme as well as the goggles on the one helmet. This definitely gets a complete 5 stars out of 5.