September 17, 2011

Sometimes it takes a while for the show to turn itself around

Filed under: Toys, nostalgia — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 11:52 pm

So today was the latest (and rumoured final) of the Landsdown Flea Markets (owing to the unfair takeover of public land by a private consortium that managed to bully and sweet talk the city of Ottawa just right). And I’ll be sad to see the end of what has been a consistently good source of finds over the past number of years.

Today’s adventure started slow though. Following my standard pattern of attack (walk in, turn right, loop left for second row, loop right for third row and circle around to get the other half of the first row missed in the initial assault), I first stopped at the table that brought me a Great Mazinga only last spring. There were a few junior talking Animated Transformers that I passed on at $5, although I was tempted by the Mego-style K-9 unit at $15. Then onto the Lego table which is sometimes good for Transformers or other items, but, other than a $10 Optimal Optimus on which I passed, nothing of note at this point. Second row was a strike-out, as was the third, aside from an Energon Scorponok on whom I passed at $10.

Maybe I’m getting too picky in my old age.

Anyway, I was already writing off the show in my head when I return to where my standard trajectory forced me right, intent on finishing the first row. In this area, there’s always a toy table staffed by a couple who know their toys and whom I speak to at every show. Their prices are reasonable and sometime I find something to repaint or round out a line, but at the same time, it’s not a great table for “oh my god” kind of finds because they know what they are doing. So I’m poking through the Transformers box and opted to buy a Leader class Animated Megatron (for kitbashing purposes, perhaps) at $6 and a white 3″ titanium movie Ratchet repaint TRU exclusive I’d been eying for awhile (but reluctant to buy at full cost) at a buck.

And then lady luck shined on me for the first time.

Some time ago, back in the days of the Alternators, there was an odd little Transformer who hit the market called Swerve (and known in the community as Chevrolet Swerve). He was the oddest of Transformers: an official product produced by Hasbro, never distributed at retail and never repainted or retooled, and only available a giveaway through GM / Chevrolet dealers in Europe around 2008. He could be categorized as a price point below the standard alternator, owing to his size (so a deluxe compared to a voyager), but a real treat owing to his original form and difficult to obtain. At the time, there was a way to order Swerve from one of GM’s european websites, but the cost of shipping made him prohibitively expensive and out of price range at the time. Eventually, the European sighting fell off, the website link went dormant, and Swerve became an eBay only-Buy It Now at the $100 range.

Fast forward to 2009. Somehow, for some unexplained reason, Swerve showed up in Canada, in the Greater Toronto Area at least, at Chevrolet dealers for a limited time. Again, he was a giveaway. And despite my efforts to track him down short of driving to Toronto myself to get him, he eluded my grasp. Now the folks at TFCon were not as unlucky and managed to get a number of the toys, which they used as giveaways and door prizes at their Botcon booths. This is how I ended up getting my very own Swerve, for $40, at Botcon 2011, one of the last of this collection.

So a pretty hard toy to find, and not one you expect to find sitting in a miscellaneous Transformer box with a sticker that say $6…

Yes. Six dollars.

Swerve suffers a bit because, despite his full formed head and unique robot mold, he resembles a certain shelfwarmer Transformers Swindle in vehicle mold. I presume what happens is that these folks, finding him in car mold and having somewhat less than a complete encyclopedic knowledge of the Transformers, presumed he was Swindle and priced him at a fair price for such a toy. And so I scooped him up, none the wiser, a little disappointed that I’d dropped major quid on the one at Botcon, but nonetheless pleased that my toy eye remains as sharp as ever.

So clearly the show was worth attending to this point, and I round the corner to find a new table populated by cheap DVDs and video games (aside: I always wonder, when I’m looking at bargain basement priced DVDs if I am looking at stolen merchandise…) What drew me to this table, the kind of which I usually avoid, were some Real Ghostbuster toys in their sealed boxes. Not a line I collect (and in fact one that I am trying to unload for a friend), but a sign. If there are boxed vintage toys, there might be toys to my interest.

And lo, lady luck shines for the second time.

Under the table are a number of boxes. In the boxes are a lot of Star Wars (both vintage and new) and other toys. Including, I am pleased to report. Transformers. A lot of them. Bagged in assortments at $10 a piece, I found the following bags (all G1 unless noted):

  • Point Blank and Ultra Magnus white cab (with rubber wheels, good chrome and one white fist)
  • Punch/Counterpunch, RiD Mega-Octane, Top Spin, and (blue) Energon Strong-Arm (missing one arm)
  • Micromasters Tailspin, Stormcloud, and the Hot Rod Patrol (Greaser, Hubs, Trip-Up and Big Daddy)
  • Micromasters Tailspin, Powertrain, Barrage, Slide, Blazemaster (no propellor) and Tread Bolt
  • Costco Bendy Prime (cab only at $5)

Total price. $45. Even better? Another collector found a bag of Transformers in the box (likely one of the few bags that I left behind because it either didn’t have Transformers I wanted or ones I thought I could sell) and asked the vendor if he had any more. The vendor, from whom I’d yet to buy the toys, said he did but had seen someone going through the box ahead of him. Which means I outwitted a fellow collector. Sweet!

Satisfied the day had been worthwhile I set about getting ready to go and made one more pass through the show, and returned to the Lego table to find a small box of G1s (Scourge @ $75, Sandstorm @ $25, and Wreck-Gar @ $40). Not bad prices but not steals for sure for toys I had. Anyway, what caught my eye was a decent looking Slag for $10. Chewed at the tail and at least one arm, with broken horns, Slag would have been unremarkable except he was the red faced, white legged variant. I’d never seen him before, and didn’t actually know he existed. In fact I was so certain he was a fake I had to consult TFU.info and search out the Takara-Tomy imprint.

But sure enough, I had a variant in my hand. And still I balked. The teeth marks and broken tips really made me question the purchase. And I still don’t actually know if he is all that valuable (particularly in that condition). But then lady luck appeared for a third and final time, and I got talking to the woman who runs the table, and gave her some advice on the G1s (basically confirming her prices were fine and she should put them on eBay if they didn’t sell, but that she should also be willing to be $10-$20 flexible on price for Scourge, but not $50 flexible). Anyway, she ended up giving Slag to me, which is awesome. I’m still unsure if he is valuable in this condition, and whether or not I should simply get another G1 Slag and do some part swapping. But I know he’s a fun variant for the collection, so valuable or not, he’s going on the shelf.

And that was how I spent the possibly last Landsdown Flea Market. On a high.

July 23, 2010

Friday ComicCon is Love!

Filed under: ComicCon, GIJoe, Shogun Warriors, Toys, Transformers, collecting, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 12:31 pm

I’m back from TFCon. The fabled Munny draw will take place this weekend so if you’re watching this space, watch this space this weekend for the winner.

In the meantime, Friday and ComicCon is barely underway and yet the pictures and information are coming fast and furious. Too much to tweet really, so I’m putting it all together in a post.


Transformers: Prime looks nice style-wise. Now let’s see if it has the heart of Animated, or the soul of Beast Wars…

However, these movie two-packs are just hitting the shelves. I have to say I like them. I thought 2010 was going to be a safe year for me in the toy isle…


With the new Renegades cartoon coming, there certainly is good Joe potential. But looking at the clip from the cartoon, a very Resolute story, I am wondering if the toys will be in the same style (so like TF: Animated was in comparison to the movie line). It would be cool but will cause some astetic issues. Anyway, some toy highlights:

Mini-Hiss Tank. What is nice about this is that it’s another opportunity for the HISS driver, a perrenial favourite.

Alley Viper. You can’t be released soon enough!

Lowlight in the RAH style. Nice.


It seems to be a good year to be a Lantern. Could there be a movie coming?

A five pack of Lanterns, plus a new (two-ups are yum!) DCUC Kyle in the foreground.

It’s DCUC Alan Scott!

No! He’s only available at Wally-Town!

It’s DCU Power Ring. I’m in! (And the Reddy looks awesome!)

Manhunter? Looks more like the Ultra Humanite. Whatever. Want!

Hey I just bought this set at TFCon. Go me!

I love the McGuinness-style toys. So Hal and company make me happy!

More Metal Men in the DCUC style. Fantastic!

Epic Win, Epic Fail!:

I think for me the big news is to see a resurgence in Shogun Warriors. Check this out!  I am totally getting this!

But, is this a Battle Beast? Can’t tell. Hope not.

January 25, 2010

Damn the Cereal! Give me the Flicker Stickers! - Collectible of the Week Pt. 4

Filed under: Collectible of the Week, Toys, Transformers, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 11:58 pm

Collectible of the Week Part4


-Special Features: Transforming Before Your Very Eyes
-Manufacturer and Year: Kellogg’s, 1985 and 1986
-Key Words: Transformers, Lenticular, Motion, Flicker, Stickers

The Story So Far:

I can honestly say that I’ve been waiting 25 years to tell this story, and practically envisioned this whole Collectible of the Week column to give me means, motive and opportunity to post this story.

But let’s start from the beginning. The year is 1985 and Transformers are marketing gold. Literally, any opportunity to put something related to Transformers on the market is tried and that includes cereals. Now it may seem hard to believe from cereal packaging these days, but back in the 1970 and 1980s, you couldn’t escape cool promotions just waiting inside the packaging of your favourite cereals. A perennial favourite for me was Sheddies with their Black Hole pencil holders. That is, at least, until 1985 and Kellogg’s introduced a series of eight motion stickers.

Flickering Away My Days

Measuring about one inch cubed and based on the line art associated with each character’s two modes superimposed on a blue background, the stickers were thicker than the usual decals of the day to allow kids to transformed the character in question from robot to vehicle with a flick of the wrist. The sticker set was equal representative of each factions, with four Autobots and four Decepticons. Of course there was going to be an Optimus Prime and a Megatron, and it’s really no surprise that Bumblebee and Soundwave also made the cut. What’s interesting then is, like other promotions of the day, which other characters were seen to have high marketability. In this case, it was Laserbeak (posing in Buzzsaw colours) and Skywarp, Prowl and Sideswipe that ultimately won the day.

The promotion must have been successful because Kellogg’s returned the next year with another series of stickers. Once again, both factions found equal representation. What was curious about this line-up though was the choice of characters. First, Kellogg’s was clearly drawing on source material pointing to Ultra Magnus as the next leader of the Autobots, as Rodimus Prime is nowhere to be found. In fact, Magnus and his counterpart, Galvatron, were the only 1986 characters included in the set, with the rest of the assortment drawn from the 1985 line-up. Even here, it is a curious choice of characters. Omega Supreme was paired with Swoop and Beachcomber, both of whom are surprises from a toy assortment that included the likes of Grimlock and Jetfire. The Decepticon assortment ignored the chance to add Starscream or Shockwave, and went instead for Kickback, Mixmaster and Astrotrain.

Just a Marginally Taller Version of My Twelve Year Old Bad Self

In any event, both assortment led to much encouragement for my mother to buy Kellogg’s cereal, so clearly the promotion was a success, with the spoils ending up in a box where I kept various paper promotions and tech specs, where they remained until I found a way to put them in with various card sets gathered over the years. But I cannot take credit for the entire collection. As difficult as it has been to round out the numerous holes that existed in the collection for decades, I was able to virtually double my collection overnight when a fellow traveller gifted me her collection some years ago (still in their original wrappers I’m astonished to report). That said, finding the remaining four flicker stickers has proved elusive indeed, primarily I suspect because of the lack of a common terminology for the stickers, a problem I believe originates from the absence of original packaging.

That is, until now!

This is one of those occasions that the obsessive collector of today is grateful for the somewhat-less-meticulous-but-nonetheless-obsessive collector of his youth. You see, I didn’t just save the stickers from being applied to items lost in the winds of times, I also thought it was a good idea to squirrel away the packaging for the 1986 promotion. Why I only put aside one such box and neglected to take similar care to retain the 1985 cereal box is lost to me, but I can relate the reason why the promotion is in the piece meal form it finds itself today. Boxes were to be thrown out, so the only way to spare the information and pictures a similar fate was to break them down for a possible entry into a scrapbook along the way. So like all my cards and boxes of the day, I cut the cereal box apart, threw away anything that my younger self didn’t deem to be relevant, and put the remainder in a box.

Now this is where things get particularly exciting for me. I’ve known for a long time that I salvaged most of the back of the box in question, because I’ve kept it pretty close to the top of the pile. Some years ago, I even photocopied the artwork and sent it off to Raksha for her interest. But it’s the other pieces of the puzzle that fill me with glee. You see, as I was expressing my love of this collection, I was also lamenting the fact that I didn’t have other pieces of the puzzle. And then it hit me, that maybe, just maybe, I saved more than just the back of the box.

So I went to the basement to take a look. And sure enough, I had saved three more pieces to the puzzle in the box containing my earliest paper collection. In typical cut-what-is-important-style, I saved the front advertisement, a copy of the small Transformers logo on the box, and a picture of the mail-in promotion from the side of the box. Because Kellogg’s also managed to find its way to offer the deluxe Insecticons to kids at the same time as it promoted its flicker stickers. While the details of the offer have yet to surface, beyond the assortment of characters available, it’s incredibly likely that it involved box-tops from the cereals in question. Given I was able to locate these bits after literally a quarter century (!), it’s probably worth it a second, more thorough examination to see if I have the actual text.

Did I Really Say Four?

Excluding this long-overdue review and particularly tonight’s discovery, information on these stickers was almost as hard to come by as the stickers themselves, even on the internet. What information is out there seems to be confined to a few historical sites like Raksha’s site and TFMuseum.com. The most organized source of information, however, really has to be Lui’s Transformers page, which somehow manages to effectively tell their story in a very few words and some very successful links. (Clearly I could learn a thing or two from Lui.)

This link came to my attention when I decided I should do a thorough check to see what was actually written out there on the subject. Before that day, I honestly thought I was dealing with a mostly Canadian phenomenon, three-quarters of which I could lay claim.

Then I learned of the Ralston promotion in the U.S., and suddenly the number of missing stickers doubled over night.

Now it’s probably not surprising that I didn’t put two-and-two together and realize there was a U.S. component to this story. When even finding hardcore fans look confused when you raise a topic is usually a sign of some level of exclusiveness. But the signs should have been there, given that I was well aware of the Cookie Crisp Jazz, and should have deduced a promotion associated with him.

But what is so striking about this new information is the particulars of the U.S. campaign. Running in 1985, Ralston relied for the most part on second wave characters. Keeping its promotion to six characters in a two-to-one ratio this time, what is striking is that there are only two stickers that are duplicated across the promotions: Soundwave in Kellogg’s wave one and Omega Supreme in wave two. Of the remaining four, Blitzwing makes a great complement to Astrotrain, just as Slag and Snarl complement Swoop. Perceptor seems to be there as a foil to Soundwave more than anything.

And there we have it. Twenty stickers (excluding duplicates) little seen and known. And the hunt continues…

January 23, 2010

Goodnight Coco and Good Luck

Filed under: nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 1:24 pm

It’s done. And we’ll see what happens in the fall. But in anticipation of NBC taking down the site, a few screen captures for posterity:

January 18, 2010

Beasties! Eat them Up Yum! - Collectible of the Week Pt. 3

Filed under: Collectible of the Week, Transformers, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 1:18 am

Collectible of the Week Part 3


-Special Features: Autographs Not Included
-Manufacturer and Year: Alliance Atlantic, 1997
-Key Words: Transformers, Beast Wars, Placemat

The Story So Far:

To promote the 1997 release of “Beast Wars: A Feature Length Beasties Adventure” on VHS in the Canadian market, Alliance Atlantic had an interesting promotion. If you bought the VHS tape and clipped the proof of purchase located on the back, and sent along a defined amount to coverage postage ($2.95, if memory serves), they would send you a bilingual plastic dinner place mat feature all your favourite Maximals and Predacons.

What can I say? Having infrequent viewing patterns, I took advantage of the chance to bring home a video cassette of my favourite beastformers, clipped the POP and sent the cash. Four to eight weeks later, I received my placemat, which promptly was put back in the original bubble envelop and buried in with other memento gathered here and there. Which is pretty much where it lived for the next half dozen or so years, coming out occasionally during a move, and then going back into the original bubble envelop until the next time it saw the light of day

So that’s I came to get my hands on this particular artifact. The story of its defiling is a little more interesting.

Fast forward to 2002 and the first Canadian Transformers convention takes place in Hamilton, Ontario. Having never ventured to the U.S. for a Botcon, how could I not go to a TF-focused toy show literally in my own backyard. And it was such a good time that I went to the next two, in 2003 (in Hamilton) and 2004 (when TFCon made the switch to Toronto for the first time). Two years later and attendance and space had tripled, and the con was able to bring about its first real guest, the voice of Beasties Megatron myself, David Kaye. Needing something to have autographed, so I of course grabbed my Complete first season on DVD to take with me for David to sign.

I completely forgot about the placemat. Dummy.

Fast forward again to September 2006. I had seriously considered going down for Botcon 2005 in Texas. But I just couldn’t quite bring myself to part with the money required, particularly having just come back from a month long trek in Europe in the Spring (that prevented me from attending that year’s TFCon and affording me the chance to have Gary Chalk’s autograph on the DVD package.) In the end, the events and Fresco weren’t quite enough, and I stayed put. But 2006 was a different story for three reasons. One, the toys (which to be fair had been pretty enticing in 2005 with Ironhide, Ratchet and Deathsaurus) blew me away. The theme was pre-Beast Wars and, having been lured back into Transformers by Canadian produced Beasties, I could not resist the theme. Two, they were going to have the first of their customizing classes and I was keen on picking up new skills. And three, to go along with the theme, they were bringing in Beast Wars guests by the (not quite half) dozen in the forms of Scott McNeil (Rattrap, Dinobot, Silverbolt and Waspinator), Richard Newman (Rhinox), Blu Mankuma (Tigatron, Tigerhawk), and Pauline Newstone (Airazor).

So off I go to my first Botcon, but not before dragging out the DVD collection to get autographed. And somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, I remember the placemat. Truth be told, I’d remembered it in 2004 too, but I think I was in the hotel room getting ready to go out to see Danko Jones at Lee’s Palace and four hours away from doing anything about it. But the fates were kind to me, I was able to remember this time, and the results were pretty cool. There were quite a few impressive noises from the cast to what turned out to be a relatively unique artifact. So I was pretty pleased with myself.

Of course I was now completely hooked on Botcons, so there really wasn’t much discussion about attending the next one in 2007, at which David Kaye (by now having added the voice of Animated Optimus Prime to his considerable repotoire) was in attendance. So I got to make up for past mistakes and add his autograph to the lot.

Suffice to say the bubble envelop is long since lost, and the placemat hangs in my overcrowded study for all to see.

(And if you really want to see the fun that this crowd of actors can have, check out this video I took of them goofing around in 2006: On the merits of a hammer, a ferret and a roulette wheel.)

January 11, 2010

Of Fates Found and Corgis Too - Collectible of the Week Pt. 2

Filed under: Collectible of the Week, Transformers, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 11:11 am

Collectible of the Week Part 2


-Special Features: Choose Your Own Adventure. Paint Artwork
-Manufacturer and Year: Ballantine Books (US), 1985-1986;
Corgi Books (UK), 1985-1987
-Key Words: Transformers, Books, Choose Your Own Adventure

The Story So Far:

This is one of those times when the pictures really speak for themselves. With Transformers a big hit, it wasn’t long before every possible licensing opportunity came to the forefront. So it’s no surprise that a number of books for young readers came onto the scene.

Find Your Fate: Ballantine Books

In North America, these books took the form of choose your own adventure-type books under the banner, Find Your Fate. There were nine of them produced in North America, featuring painted covers and black and white art work in the interior. If memory serves, there was even a nice little collector’s sleeve for the first six books.

The interior art was based completely on the line art of the actual toys. If the character in question had to move, it actually looked like an outline of the toy was making the movement. And because it used outlines of toys, the toys actually resemble the toys. Jetfire* is actually drawn like his toy namesake rather than as “Skyfire”, while Ironhide is drawn as if he was pulled from a Diaclone back catalog.

Even better, these books did not guarantee a happy ending. You could royally screw up and let everyone die if your choices were wrong. Of course, you could undo the mistake by starting again but still, it was a nice touch.

One more interesting piece of trivia: the story arcs for the last three books features the Autobot’s leader, Ultra Magnus, with no mention of Rodimus Prime. In fact, it’s not clear from a quick skim what actually becomes of Optimus and Megatron after the sixth book, something that needs further investigation. Given my newfound involvement in the tfwiki project, a full read of these books will be useful to fill in the background for their respective entries, although given what I’ve seen so far, I also expect it to be somewhat painful.

Young Corgi Books: Adventure Game Books

Same concept, different publisher and market, the Adventure Game Books were released in the U.K. Although there are six in the series, I’ve only been able to obtain the first four in the series over the years. They seem to have come out in pairs, with the first two issued in 1985 and the second two issued in 1986 (with presumably the last two from 1987.)

Although the covers are attractive and rendered in a similar style as the Find Your Fate collection, the interior art is much different. There are less pictures involved and the renderings are more stylized than simple outlines. Although somewhat cruder, they have a spark of originality missing from their Find Your Fate equivalents.

The other thing worth noting is that YOU are in charge of this adventure. Instead of sitting back directing the actions of Optimus or Sparkplug, the reader is in the driver’s seat and it’s his (or her) decisions that will win or lose the day.

But enough rambling. Bring on the pictures!

November 22, 2009

Part 3: A S.N.A.K.E. on the BarBie

Filed under: GIJoe, collecting, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 1:07 am

Part three is about my first foray (should that be Moray?) into the world of the Rise of Cobra toys.

I have come to love the 25th anniversary line of G.I. Joe toys as I believe I’ve expressed on more than one ocassion. Modern technology + classic figures = win. In fact, under construction is a comparison offering of how to round our the first six years of Joes as if it were 1982 through 1987… But while I miss the classic body types of old, you can’t go wrong with the chance to bring home an original ‘83 style Snake Eyes or never-before-released-on-card H.I.S.S. Driver, Mint on Mint Card!

Now that G.I. Joe has gone the way of everything movie, Hasbro has taken some liberties with the Rise of Cobra line to use it as a backdoor to some of the figures or characters it didn’t get to put out as part of the anniversary line, primarily through exclusives. Charboil is one of these cases. Unlike some other current or pending releases (like Heavy Metal… er… Rampage), Charboil does not exactly mirror his 1980s counterpart as much as pay small homage to him. But I’m a sucker for a blowtorch and so, on sale this week at Zeller when I picked him up on Friday (November 13th), I brought him.

He came home much easier mind you given the appearance of a certain piece of recoloured armour on the right. The S.N.A.K.E. armour has been white (and probably yellow by now in a lot of collections), rarely blue, and red overseas (except when it was aging grey) but it’s never been black. Before now. As far as I can tell, this is the original, and joining a series of toys to come including a Crimson coloured Mobile Missile System and a repainted Firebat.

Given that I am in the middle of playing through the Rise of Cobra game with Kirilaw (which gets great nostalgia points but is a game that someone should have put better functionality into the save points and camera mobility), it’s Joe-tastic here right now.Now can we get us a Terrordome? Pretty please?

November 21, 2009

Part 2: Who are You… Do Do, Do Do…

Filed under: Toys, collecting, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 2:15 am

Part two deals with my love of the super deformed characters that are increasingly everywhere.

It’s true isn’t it? The cute super deformed characters are really everywhere you look. Multiple lines of G.I. Joe and Transformers, to say nothing of Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Marvel Heroes. But if there was one series that overwhelmed me when they were discovered, it was him.

The Doctor.

Doctor Who products tend to show up mostly in specialty shops in Canada, so you can forgive me for being completely blown away when, checking out sale G.I.Joe figures at the Nepean Comic Book Shoppe (where I grabbed Major Bludd, Tiger Force Duke and Flint as Cobra Officer), Kirilaw tapped me on the shoulder and showed me these.

Time Squad.

There is a funny thing about this line of fifteen figures, and it is evident in the first part of this sentence. Fifteen. Why on earth would a series of toys that come in sets of twos have an odd number of characters (which in fact led to the inclusion of the 10th Doctor in two sets)? Because the sets were originally released in the U.K. in three sets of five.Presumably they were repackaged for our market to resemble domestic examples. The benefit is that you have two different ways to get the Doctor, if you are not a completist. Or you have a Doctor to spare.

For now, I am not a completist, and held myself to the three sets that really interest me. So I have a Cyberman, two Daleks, a Clockwork Man, the Doctor, and a character I just haven’t met yet. Awesome - pure awesome - at $12.99 a pop.

November 20, 2009

Part 1: Dressing Up Is Hard to Do When You Wear Yourself on Your Sleeve

Filed under: GIJoe, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 1:06 am

Thought I’d shake things up a bit here at the blog and tell you the tale of five recent purchases in serial style. This is part one.

Back in the 1980s, there were a number of licenses granted to the likes Collegeville and Ben Cooper to make Halloween costumes of your favourites characters, from Gobots to Strawberry Shortcake, Micronauts to Star Wars. What they all head in common was the style. Instead of today’s style where you look like you came right out of the cartoon, you wore a costume that made it seem that the character came right out of you.

Yes kids. The 1980s were a time just like those described by Jerry Seinfeld, with rubber bands and Superman flying right off your chest. And let me tell you it really did suck when it rained on the big day and you had to wear your snow coat over your once-a-year danger suit.

Having said that, having survived my own experienced as Yoda, Darth Vader and Stormtrooper (possibly Boba Fett too - those Star Wars costumes were awesome!), the old and highly flammable costumes of yore hold a special place in my heart. Yes, they are plastic pictures but the masks are often brilliant. So I’ve been tracking them slowly on eVay, but tend to balk at the shipping prices. So when I saw two of the eight Collegeville Transformer costumes* (Megatron and “Jumpstarter”) in tiptop condition, I jumped at getting them sent to me. At the same time I put a bid in on a third costume, that of “G.I. Joe”, or as he was represented in 1982, Grunt. I then forgot about the auction until it was too late to rescue my bids. No formers for me.

But I still won G.I. Joe.

This was a mix-up really. Grunt was only on the list because the shipping of three suits would be negligible. Now I was shipping just one suit. But a bid is a bid is a bid (particularly when the seller is fair about shipping rates) and Grunt arrived Monday (November 9th). He’s in incredible shape and even the elastic holds firm. As you can see, it amazingly still fits almost thirty years later.


*(Collegeville Transformer costumes included Optimus Prime, Megatron, “Jumpstarter” (Topspin), Snarl, Superion, Silverbolt, Ultra Magnus and Metroplex. They weren’t much for villains apparently, and you could go as Superion and your brother could go as your chest piece (coming out of his chest piece…)

September 22, 2009

Take your Munny to the Slaughter

Filed under: GIJoe, collecting, custom, munny, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 2:04 am

I’m still pretty exhausted from the past weekend’s activities but I really need to get them down for posterity. And to show you pics of course. So I am holding off sleep to give you the important news. Which I’ll make properly rambly in any event, but still, it’s worth holding out on sleep to note properly.

This past weekend, you see, I took the opportunity to go down to Toronto for the 6th Annual Canadian Action Figure Expo. Seemingly hosted by a lot of the usual TFCon suspects, it seemed like a good reason to get out of the city for a break. Now I’d never been to the Expo before, but experienced a bit of what I thought it would be like with the newly-added second day of TFCon, where the show was expanded to include other toy lines.

I collect other toy lines. Such is my cross to bear.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to see what I could gather up. Of course, I attended this event like I do any other event - with a mental checklist only. Which doesn’t help when it comes to getting parts but isn’t bad in terms of eye-candy (which of course has implications for the pocket book, but no surprise there). Admittedly, there was another draw too. I must confess that an appearance by Sergeant Slaughter, former WWF wrestling champion, current WWE ambassador and past pitchman for G.I.Joe, was the icing on the cake. As a kid, I use to watch WWF and Grand Pre wrestling with my grandfather, so I got to know all the superstars of the day. So I have a healthy dose of nostalgia there too. And I actually own the original mail-away Sergeant Slaughter figure (although could I find it for the show?… not on your life…)

So I chance to blend my love of toys (or as my grandfather use to call them, “dolls”), with our past shared interest in lazy Saturday afternoon watching wrestling was too rich to pass up.

I’ll get into more about the Expo (what I call the good, the bad and the dumb) in the coming days. But let’s talk about Sarge. He was basically running a Q&A session from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and then signing autographs afterward. The Q&A was quite good. He’s a really affable fellow and quite interesting with his various stories from his wrestling days and his days as a Joe. And of course, it’s always appropriate to have the last question prompted by Cobra Commander. Later, I waited in what was a very efficient autograph line to dutifully get my item autographed (in my case, the Warthog, the big amphibious vehicle which he piloted in the late 1980s in the toy line) and then back in line for a picture with the Sarge.

While I think having a picture of little me and big him together would have looked cool too, how could I turn down his generous offer of his signature move, the Cobra Clutch?

But then, I had a surprise for him.

At heart, I am a big fan boy. By big, I mean massive. So I am going to Toronto for a toy show and the big push over-the-top in terms of rationale is to meet Sarge. Of course, I have to bring something with me as a gift. The adult in me cringes even admitting this, and yet I cannot help but think it was appropriate to undertake such a last minute project as an adult in appreciation for bridging my toy world with my grandfather’s wrestling world. Something appropriate….

And that’s when I decided to create the Sargeant Slaughter munny.

That I have to wait until the night before I leave to have this realization, while trying to find something for the autograph line meant that the effort did not leave a lot to error. I wasn’t bringing a close to final piece. As with Botcon 2009, I was once again embarking on a project that I would kick myself for not finishing but which might end up impossible to do in the time frame allowed. So I am still a little surprised how (relatively speaking) easily it all came together.

Before I left Ottawa, I grabbed a pre-dyed black 4″ munny and quickly spray painting the flesh parts, I wrapped up the required paint colours, necessary line art for the original mail-in edition (which is also very much his pro-wrestling attire) and accessories, and took it all with me to work on into the wee hours of Saturday morning in my hotel room. Time meant I couldn’t do a fancy box, but having the idea worked out at home meant I could whip up more than just a figure. I was able to use a standard 4″ munny cowbow hat, with the edges removed and replaced with an epoxy brim, for Sarge’s ubiquitous stetson. His staff was an altered pinwheel handle. And rather than paint on the trademark glass, I used the 4″ versions to complete the look. The rest was standard line art and paint applications, except for the whistle which is added with epoxy.

Given the advantage of a dyed body and the spray-painted fleshtone, Sarge Munny came together reasonably easy (with the exception of the hat, which took more effort because I lacked wax paper and a solid plan for working it out in advance) and I’m very happy with the overall effect. In the end, I went with a cartoony look for his face because, well, I’m better at that look than I am at hyper-realism. And I put the GIJoe logo on his back, as opposed to his leg, for space advantages.

So after he released me (you don’t escape the Cobra clutch; the Sarge lets you go…) I mentioned I had something for him and brought out the munny. I really wish I’d had more forethought to tell him the story about papa and I watching wrestling together or even explaining about the popularity of vinyl toys. But I did get out enough to say it was to thank him for coming and could I get a picture.

He was gracious to oblige.

Part of the reasoning to get this post up and printed was in case Sarge checked the site. I did put one of my remaining first-run cards in the box. And I didn’t want to take the chance that he might skip by without seeing a more detailed history. But in the end, even if the munny ends up in one of his boxes of souvenirs that I’m sure he’s picked up at events over the past quarter century, it made all the effort worth it. Thanks Sarge!

Yo Joe!

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress