So I went to the ToyCollectors Fair in Birmingham last weekend, it was great, it had a load of stalls, a good variety of wares and a lovely atmosphere and so I spent over £400, seemed only right to do so. So of course an Examples of Crap I Waste My Money On was coming but this one’s going to be a big different, usually I just ‘spotlight’ whatever crap I can wrestle a semi-entertaining paragraph or two out of regardless of their quality, desirably or credibility. I do this for four reasons: 1) because I enjoy it 2) because it gets the things I spotlight a bit more internet presence which might be of use to somebody 3) to brag to people who can’t just get up and walk back to the bar and 4) to help justify buying this shit. Mostly it’s number 4. But here’s the thing, this time I don’t need to justify any of this:
Well ok, I probably need to explain the blue Batman thing (I had one when I was a kid, my dog ate it) but I don’t need to justify it. Everything I bought was a winner, not just from my point from of view but from the point of view of whatever fandom or collectors community the above merch belongs to – sure He-Fans and She-Ravers might not understand why anyone would want an old Sooty toy or a Womble (if they even knew what Sooty or Wombles were) but Sooty and Wombles fans will. So instead I’m going to use this post to spotlight some incredibly cool toys (and Blast Attack) and tell you a bit about them rather than just writing allegedly funny paragraphs about other people’s old crap, you probably won’t notice the difference. Got it? Good. So are you sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin:
Shish Kebab Beetlejuice!
Beetlejuice, Kenner, £7.50 ($9.71)
Kenner dropped their first wave of Beetlejuice action figures (of which this was a part of) in 1989, pretty much kickstarting Kenner’s strange (yet incredibly successful) strategy of marking toys for kids of things kids really shouldn’t watch, which would carry on throughout the 90’s and give us baby blue Xenomorphs, ketchup flavoured Predators and glow-in-the-dark Robocops. While you could argue that Showtime Beetlejuice is the best Beetlejuice figure in the line, bedecking the Ghost with the Most in his classic black and white striped suit and directly referencing a moment from the film. the figure that had the most work put it into, that went above and beyond what one would expect from a tie-in toy is Shish Kebab Beetlejuice here. SKBJ comes with 9 um…I have no idea what they’re called…9 pokey things, each with a uniquely sculpted ‘handle’, it probably didn’t cost a penny extra in tooling but someone had to sit down and design, then sculpt each of those weird little hearts and gargoyles and shit – I think one might be a hamburger. If you want to know what people go on about how cool retail action figures used to be, SKBJ is a great example, no one would put this much effort or paint apps into, I dunno, a Hotel Transylvania figure today. Finding one of these loose with all 9 pokey things (like I did, suck it) is damned difficult, the best way to ensure you get them all is to buy a carded example, but that costs more and you get that weird tingle of guilt for depreciating the value of a collectible when you tear the blister off so you can get little rubber pokey things with hamburgers on the end so you can use ‘em to stab the cat.
(Though really the best thing about the line was how compatible it was with Kenner’s Real Ghostbusters toys - the Neighbourhood Nasties figures are pretty much just ‘wave 2’ of RGB’s Haunted Humans)
The Other World, Arco, £12.50 ($16.17)
You know I just, as in ‘just as I was typing this’ just, realised that Froggacuda’s name is a combination of ‘frog’ and ‘barracuda’ – sometimes I’m particularly stupid.
So do any imaginary Americans in my imaginary audience remember Arco? The gas company? They got bought up by BP? Well they genuinely made toys for a while and their big line was a sword and sorcery endeavour that was nothing like what Mattel was debuting the same year (some He-Man shit), it was called The Other World and was made up of bendy toys and was fucking great, but it’s weird right? It’d be like Esso putting out a line of adolescent radioactive samurai frogs. Anyway this line had a surprisingly deep backstory but it boils down to the allies of Prince Raidy and the minions of King Zendo fighting to complete a Maguffin called the Pir’Ankus and all the accessories glowed in the dark because it was set on planet Glowgon , Froggacuda was one of Zendo’s bastard squad and was the ‘Monster of Red Lake’ which just makes him sound so damn cool. What I like about him though is how he manages to sit somewhere between cheap rubber dinosaur-monster and big-budget mainstream toy and somehow have the charm of both, he stands about a head or so taller than the regular Other World figures and is all bendy.
He’s also a bit of a bugger to get a hold of, though not as bad as the later series 2 and 3 beasts (I would sell your mum for a Sir’ Cobra and sell mine for a Yurus), I blame this one sod who was buying up every Froggacuda that came onto eBay. I think he may have stopped doing that now but the frogman’s still a bit tough to find at an affordable price, generally I see him boxed (which of course sky-rockets the amount sellers want for him).
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Flexies!
LJN, £10 ($12.94) the lot
Can we all agree that Judge Doom is one of the scariest villains in movie history? He’s a fucking eye-popping, shoe-killing, helium-sucking, remorseless monster and I’d’ve paid 10 quid just for his Flexie. Actually I pretty much did: Roger’s got some wires sticking out and someone seems to have rubbed the paint off one of Jessica’s boobs, I wonder why? Anyway I don’t think enough people know about this line but they damn well should. These bendies are the equivalent to a vintage Roger Rabbit action figure line, this isn’t all of ‘em: they made a Baby Herman, Eddie Valiant and one of the Weasels plus a Bennie the Cab (he wasn’t bendy to my knowledge) and they were put out in ’88 to promote/leech off of the movie’s first release. If you like Who Framed Roger Rabbit as much as I do, and like action figures as much as I do – like everyone does (shut it) – then this line is your only option. Which is a good point; there has never been a Roger Rabbit collector’s line! Why hasn’t Neca got on this shit? The part reuse from the Weasels would offset the likes of Roger and Jessica and just think of the accessories! Doom could come with his toon head and that poor shoe (which was voiced by Nancy Cartwright btw), Eddie could come with the singing sword and the cartoon gun that shoots cowboy bullets (hell, they could make a replica of that gun and bullets – I’d pre-order that!), they could make the gorilla bouncer from the Ink & Paint Club as a deluxe boxed figure and Bennie as a boxed vehicle, they’ve done boxed vehicles before and none of them could even drive themselves!
Back on topic, there was a giant ‘Super Flexie’ of Roger (which I own) and smaller bendies called ‘Animates’ of Eddie, Roger, Doom and the Weasel, this line was gold.
Maxx Steele and Hun-Dred!
Robo Force, Ideal, £6 ($7.76) the pair
If you bothered to look at the group shot above you’ll notice that in fact bought four Robo Force toys, in fact I bought every Robo Force toy at the show but we’re just dealing with these two because they’re the He-Man and Skeletor of the line and they managed to have that ‘thing’ that makes a good design for a lead hero and lead villain, that ‘something’ that makes them stand above even amongst similarly designed characters, the ‘Optimus Prime and Megatron spark’ if you will and quite frankly no collector of 80’s toys should be without these two. Ideal debuted Robo Force at the 1984 New York Toy Show, unfortunately that was the same show that Hasbro showed off their new line of toy robots – The Transformers. Even if you don’t think that Robo Force were a knock-off (as near as I can tell they weren’t, it was a complete coincidence) suction cups and bear hugs were never going to compare to transforming into a goddamn luger and they got trampled under the huge money juggernaut that was the Robots in Disguise. Maxx was a determined (and kinda adorable) badass who’d fight any time, anywhere and Hun-Dred was a merciless conqueror and leader of his own robot cult and they duked it out in the ruins of civilisation, it was like if R2-D2 fought the Daleks on the Planet of the Apes. As someone who’s never been into cars or guns I actually like Robo Force much better than Gen 1 Transformers but I fully respect I’m in the minority here and I will concede that as badass as Hun-Dred IS he isn’t as cool as Soundwave.
One of the geezers from I-Mockery made a full-on Robo Force fanpage, check it out.
Axlon, £20 ($26.87)
Yes! Ok, for the confused: the runaway success of AmToy’s Madballs caused balls with gross faces to flood the toy market in the latter half of the 1980s for the exact same reason that so many dodgy Asian companies pumped out He-Man knock-offs, it was a formula that was easy to copy but impossible to patent. Unleashed in 1986(ish) Axlon’s Rude Ralph was the pinnacle of this blatant act of cashing in on someone else’s idea, not quite as big as the Super Madballs but towering over the regular toys Ralph had sound (activating by pulling his eyeball out! it’s a mix of farts and screeches), real hair, paint-apps all over the shop and a face even a mother couldn’t love, he was the god of gross-out toys! He’s also really hard, if you threw this bastard at your little sister you’d’ve killed her, I assume a lot of concussions were sustained in the back gardens of nice American suburbs (rather than the usual mix of adultery and weed smoking you find in those places). This guy seems to be a must-have for Madball and 80’s Gross-Out Toy fans and if you can’t see why then you’ll never appreciate him like I do.
Masters of the Universe, Mattel, £50 ($64.66)
This was the most expensive thing I bought, I regret nothing. Mantisaur is Hordak’s Battlecat, though unlike said tiger and Skeletor’s Panthor he never really seemed to become synonymous with the character (the same thing happened to King Hiss’s steed Tyrantisaurus Rex, but at least that had the excuse of coming out right at the end of the line, Hordak was the main villain in a top rated cartoon show). For reasons that are beyond explanation I always think of Mantisaur as being made of flat pieces, like he’s built from Meccano or like the original Buckaroo – he isn’t, obviously, while he is flatter than, say, the Battle Ram he’s very 3D and easily one of the most high-end feeling of the MOTU beasts (Battlecat may be a lot of things, ‘the best’ for a start, but he’s still a cheap hollow tiger with no points of articulation reused from a toyline that came out a decade earlier).
And now a quick lament: it really is frustrating that we never got Mantisaur and Tyrantisaurus in MOTU Classics, instead we got Battle Lion and Arrow: far less essential beasts that far fewer fans wanted simply because they were cheaper to make. I’m sure there’s an argument that these cheaper beasts ‘balanced out’ the cost of their years and allowed for new tooling heavy figures like Lizard Man, Blast Attack or Multi Bot to be made but we still ended up with two faction leaders lacking their steeds and a shitload of Arrows on eBay. Oh, speaking of Blast Attack…
Masters of the Universe, Mattel, £1.50 (£1.95)
Blast Attack was my best deal of the show so damn right I’m gonna brag, of course only about 100 MOTU fans will know who he is or why he was such a good deal but I never claimed to be cool. Blast Attack came out in the final full assortment of figures (1987, a year after Mantisaur) - this was the year Mattel killed the line stone dead in America by flooding stores with a load of earlier releases everyone already had - and he is straight-up an Eternian suicide bomber. His gimmick is that he’s a robot that explodes and reforms – which I think technically makes him a Voltorb – and that’s his action feature, basically what the Incredible Crash Dummies would do but years before they did it. But would you believe this fella, who most people have never heard of, was the source of a long running debate in the fandom? See some He-Man media said Blast Attack was one of Skeletor’s lads while other media said he was a Snake Man, and thus the fans did argue about which faction he should belong to. Mattel took the third option for their Masters of the Universe Classics line by saying he was built by the Snake Men but defected to the Evil Warriors but by then fans were more interesting in arguing about the merits of Masters of the Universe Classics anyway.
Hasbro Softies, Hasbro, £15 ($19.51)
I know he looks a bit like he has something wrong with him and this picture was taken before the thorough wash he’s now gone through but trust me when I say this was the Gremlins plush that I, as a Gremlins fan, needed to own. There are dozens of Gizmo cuddly toys around yes, but all of them bar this one (and the one Applause released for Europe) were released well after the first movie came out, this is the Gizmo that kids were hugging when they went to see Gremlins for the fourth time at the theatre or sat down to watch it for the first (or five hundredth) time on video, before we’d even got the film at the cinema here in England, this was the first Gizmo plush. He was also offered as a mail-away for Ralston’s Gremlins cereal [https://dinosaurdracula.com/blog/gremlins-cereal/] (they sent him in a shoe box with breathing holes cut in it! Ralston knew their audience!) but as this was one of the many amazing breakfast stuffs that never crossed the Atlantic, This is just a standard retail version (no shoe box for me).
And yes I am going to buy, import and display an empty box of Gremlins cereal one day.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, McFarlane Toys, £20 ($26.01)
If you’ve never seen Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit then go do it right now, it’s a wonderful send-up of Hammer Horror and their 60s and 70s peers and it features this motherfucker. I’m not going to spoil the film for you but there IS a were-rabbit and it IS adorable and intimidating in equal measures. This is from McFarlane Toys well into their ‘licensing era’ where they stopped simply being a vanity project for Todd McFarlane and his mates at Image Comics that just so happened to sell lots of toys and became focused on current licences or franchises with proven fanbases (they’d had Corpse Bride the year before and put out Lost and The Simpsons the next, for instance) just like a real toy firm. Their lines seemed to either put out way more figures than was necessary (like with this film or Little Nicky) or be disappointingly short and producing only a fraction of the characters (like with Lost or Guitar Hero).
This bunny is BIG btw, and HEAVY. Carrying him around feels less like you have a toy of a lyncanthropic lapis and more like you have a rabbit shaped rugby ball filled with sand. He doesn’t fit on the pegs on his base but then it wouldn’t be a McFarlane figure if something didn’t fit on or stay on like it should and luckily he doesn’t need a base to stand, the hoppy bugger’s so sturdy I don’t think a car would unbalance him. Oh and he has a whopping three points of articulation, which may well make him the most poseable figure McFarlane released in 2005.
Movie Maniacs, McFarlane Toys, £40 ($52.02)
Save the best ‘till last they say, and you really can’t top a huge, fully articulated, fully detailed King Kong complete with poor innocent victim to chomp on and stand made of little iron girders, even if he does need ANOTHER wash (he was so dusty it looked like ol’ Kong had gone grey). Buuuut I don’t have much to say about him, I mean his awesomeness is apparent, he’s a big fucking ape made with McFarlane Toys’ attention to detail and slightly exaggerated style so he’s easily one of the best Kongs out there but really all you need to hear is ‘big monkey big’ and be done with it so I’m going upstairs to watch Tom & Jerry
Thanks for reading, my imaginary chums!